Tuesday, 30 October 2018

My Grill'd Vegan Cheeseburger Experience

I saw a strange man today, and it bears discussion.

Finishing at a job, I drove to Highpoint for a quick dinner before my next appointment. Leaving my car, I saw a man in the distance. He was unremarkable in appearance, jeans and a shirt, a slightly unkempt look about him. Yet somehow I felt drawn to this strange man and his activities. He seemed distant, like his mind was haunted with terrible thoughts, and he wasn't quite there. His eyes looking down, yet nervously glancing left and right. What did he have to hide?

I found myself following him into Highpoint, the back entrance, though that isn't strictly a pertinent piece of information. He walked slowly, but intently, dodging people and looking away from them as he advanced. If I could have seen his eyes, I wasn’t sure if I would have seen fear, or just a dead, blank look.

Expecting something more profound, I disappointedly saw him turn into Grill’d, and stop a moment, perusing the menu like one might look down from a cliff, deciding whether one should jump. Yet after a moment, it was as if his resolve steeled, he pursed his lips in a stern grimace and his eyes fixed firmly on the man behind the counter. Was he here for that man? To kill him? To EAT him?

I felt odd stalking a random stranger through Highpoint, but I couldn’t help myself but to get close enough to hear, as he asked the person serving “One vegan ‘cheeseburger’ thanks,” – he accented the “cheeseburger”. He looked more confident now, certain of what he was doing, but I could see him quickly turning to wipe a lone tear that suddenly escaped from the corner of his eye.

He was assigned a table and took a seat, awaiting his meal. I simply stood, not far away, watching. I think he knew I was there now, but he didn’t care. It was like we had an understanding. I could tell something was off about him, and he knew it too – perhaps he felt somehow relieved having someone who was at least trying to understand who, or what he was.

Many minutes passed in silence, he simply sat, I simply stood. There was nothing to be said at this point.

Then a different man swept past holding a tray and upon in, the thing requested. Seeing it the man’s re-found strength clearly wavered a little. But he closed his eyes, held his breath and went for it, a large bite into that monstrosity. I tried to shout out, to tell him to stop, to save himself, it wasn’t worth it! I needed to save this man from himself, to tell him there is hope, that he doesn’t need to do this, but I was frozen in place, was it terror? Horror? Fear? I didn’t know.

The man kept going, he was committed now, bite after bite after bite, the burger quickly devoured, like a man hacking his enemy to death on the ground long after he was no longer a threat. But who was the enemy, the man, or the burger?

I wanted to close my eyes, but I felt I couldn’t take that away from this poor man, that I was there, that I saw and understood his plight may be the last slight relief he had before the end.

He stopped with only a fraction of the burger left to go, and it was as if a trance had been broken. He looked at the burger, looked at his hands and the horror became real. He opened his mouth to scream, but no sound came out. His eyes filled with tears as he gasped for breath. Finally, a terribly cry escaped his mouth, the cry of a man who had damned himself by his own hand. He clasped his face in his hands and sobbed uncontrollably, perhaps for minutes, perhaps for hours. I don’t know, I could only stand and stare.

And then he stood up, wiped down his face and simply left. As he walked past, he looked me in the eye, but I could see there was no man behind those eyes any more. All he had, whatever that may have been, was lost now. He was an empty shell, he looked me in the eye without any recognition that I had been there for him that entire time. He looked away, and left.

As I stood there, still frozen, still trying to comprehend what I had seen, the realization struck me.

The entire time. I, was that man.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

The Three Things I Learned In School

I recently read an article where some psychologist pondered why kids are increasingly bored, irritable and distracted in school.

The fact that there is a person alive who needs to ask that question led me to write this to try and expunge the horror and disgust from my body and soul.

I spent the requisite number of years slowly ageing in school, the sole manifestation of my completion being the time that had passed.  People have claimed to my face that I clearly learned something in those years, given that I am not entirely illiterate or innumerate.  This of course ignores the fact that while I was well above average in literacy when I completed school, that speaks only for the average state of literacy and nothing of my own.

What I did learn in school took the form of either accidentally noticing what the teacher was saying because I had nothing better to do, or noticing someone knew something I didn't that may be useful and so learning it myself.  I learned to read not when it was taught in school, but when I found out that some books had stuff about stars and planets in them - and that other kids could apparently read them - so I needed to learn to read if I wanted to know about those things, because of course teachers never knew anything worth learning.

Yet the title of this post is "The Things Things I Learned In School", so on to the topic at hand.

My first lesson was on my very first day.  At least I can't accuse school of being slow in imparting the first basic truth!

I was at least partially looking forward to school.  I had been told there was a person there, a "teacher" who knew a lot of things and I'd be able to ask them questions and learn about all the things I wanted to know!  What an exciting notion!

I arrive on my first day and we go through the expected orientation, are seated at our tables and handed pieces of paper with outlined fish on them, along with piles of coloured pencils.  "Colour in the fish to match the colours" the teacher said.

Now looking back I understand that the purpose of this was for the teacher to evaluate what level each kid was, who could read and identify the different colours, who could hold a pencil properly and so on.

But when I was 6, all I knew is that this was a stupid waste of time, because I wasn't retarded so obviously I already knew how to do this and so it clearly wasn't going to teach me anything new.  I asked the teacher why we are doing it and she said "Because that's the task for the class this morning."

This confused 6 year old me, because I was told school is a place where you learn, and I didn't realise that not only had I been lied to, but that even teachers themselves were deluded enough to not know how worthless school actually is...

I asked again and as you'd expect the teacher just got annoyed with me and said "All the other kids are doing it without a problem, so you should too."  I looked around and surely enough all the other kids were either happily colouring in, or looking confused and watching the kid next to them to work out what to do.

My heart sank.  I realised that not only were my entire class retarded sheep, but that school was a place to enslave retarded sheep into doing menial tasks.

Lesson 1:
"School is a place to enslave retarded sheep into doing menial tasks."

It only took about a year to get onto the second lesson, which is pretty good by schooling standards!

In first grade we were assigned a task to write a story.  It could be about anything we wanted, a real story or made up.  So we all wrote our little stories and the teacher had us read them out to the class.

One by one we all get up telling our predictably poor 7 year old kid stories.  The teacher then telling each kid what was good and what needed improving about their story.  I don't remember what she said about most stories, but I could probably safely assume everything she said was wrong given what I've seen about teaching writing since then.

Regardless, up comes one girl, I believe her name was Emily, and reads out her story, which at least to my young mind was quite fascinating.  It was the only story in the class that actually qualified as a story, rather than just random statements about nonsense strung together.  It was certainly better than my own, and the only one that was.  I was curious what the teacher had to say about that!

"You started too many sentences with 'and' instead of using proper punctuation, you need to use full stops more."  And that's it, not one positive comment, unlike every other student.

So I'd already learned that school was for enslaving morons, now that was re-enforced by learning that it was also intended to degrade able people to reduce their ability over many years.

I went from just resenting school and being bored at that point to despising it and wanting desperately to escape.

Lesson 2:
"School is a place to degrade able people to force them down to the average standard, and in turn force the average standard as low as possible."

It took a while for me to learn my third and final lesson at school, all the way until grade 4.  I was a good student up until then, simply because being a good student took about ten minutes a day and shut everyone up so I could mess around the rest of the time.

But in 4th grade, I learnt the lesson that I took with me all the way through the rest of school.

After lunch one day, our teacher assigned us a bunch of seemingly random work to do for the rest of the afternoon.  It was painfully boring, starting with copying nonsense off the board, then doing a bunch of simple math problems.

Finishing after about half an hour (and so with several hours to go), I handed in my work, only to be handed more work.  So I finished that and handed it in, and was handed even more work.

Now I'll admit I was very slow and stupid for taking until this occurred to learn this lesson.  But I sat at my desk with this latest pile of work, realising that if I just didn't do it, I wouldn't have to do any more work.

Then I realised that if I'd never done any of the work I'd ever been given and never did any work ever again, it would make absolutely no difference to anything, ever.  I didn't need to learn anything, because anything I wanted to learn I could learn on my own in 1/100th the time they waste teaching in school, so if I ever found something worth learning I'd just do it myself.  And the assignments of course did nothing for anyone, they were just arbitrary menial tasks for us slaves.

Lesson 3:
"Never doing anything is as productive as doing everything, because all work serves no actual purpose."

And then for the rest of school I basically did nothing and learnt nothing new, and was all the better for it.

Of course the first two lessons were correct, but not good things to be correct.  The third lesson was entirely false in real life, but that's what kids are taught to believe throughout their schooling, so that by the time they are in the "real world" they are typical adults who are happy to work in menial, middle class jobs that achieve nothing of worth, because that's what they are used to.

So when someone has the audacity to complain or question about kids being bored, irritable and distracted at school, I find that rather galling.  If a kid isn't bored, irritated and distracted at school, they have probably already died inside (or weren't alive in the first place).

As a side note, it is well known that in high living standard nations, along with broken families, low literacy and illiteracy are the main factors behind illegal drug use.  And given that schooling seems to do its very best to prevent literacy from being achieved, then it would be fair to argue that school is basically the reason most kids in well of countries end up on illegal drugs.  There's no other way to escape the torment after all, and no one to talk to about it, because it's considered perfectly normal to go to school.

One day I'd like to see schooling reformed so that it actually achieves the vital goal of proper education.  I don't know that it will be done in my lifetime, but it would be so easy with only a handful of changes to turn schools into useful places of learning.  Instead we just throw lots of money at them, pretending that will make a difference.

Maybe one day...

Sunday, 7 October 2018

The Eternal Empire

I've had a bunch of stories I've wanted to write for a while, but procrastinated.  So I've finally forced myself to make at least a start to each one, and will continue them depending on which one I find interests me most (and gets the best reaction from readers).

My latest first chapter is for The Eternal Empire and it is going to differ from my other works firstly in that it will be largely a pure sci-fi, with no real fantasy elements, and secondly it will focus a lot more on positive things, rather than my usual darker themes.

I'll probably have to modify the first chapter a bit as I flesh out the full plot, but it will be more minor details, not the overall chapter.

And just to link them all in one place, my other stories are:

A Step Too Far:
The first book of this series is complete and for sale at Amazon.com, but is also available on Wattpad for now at least.  It's the darkest of my stories, but was my favourite to write so far, as I enjoyed writing both main characters and the themes I will be exploring more in part two interest me.

The Edge of the Battle:
For now this is just a completed short story that I wrote for fun.  I do have a plot outline for a complete story with that as the first chapter, though I'm not currently working on it.

Downfall:
This is the big one I'm working on, but I have no idea how long it will take to finish.  First three chapters are up, but the story is a lot bigger than anything I've done before, so even the plot outline is a significant task.

If you enjoy any of the stuff I've done so far, remember to Like and Share, or if on Wattpad, vote and comment, so more people can read them!

Friday, 5 October 2018

The Edge of the Battle

Standing at the edge of the cliff, the icy wind blew harshly against his exposed face.  Gredharm noticed the cold for the first time in three days, and with it, his own exhaustion.

Hundreds of meters above the main battlefield, there was no doubt the battle was over.  The number of bodies were uncountable.  They somehow seemed more than the numbers of the armies in the first place.  Jaina’s lifeless body lay on the ground near the base of the cliff, a few meters separating it from the rest of the carnage.  Some people had already pulled her aside and lay branches in lieu of flowers around her body as a sign of respect for her heroism.

In any other time, on any other world or place he would have loved Jaina, and her him.  But there was no possibility of that in the world that has been until now.  Love took time, and brought with it weaknesses that could be exploited.  Instead they could simply admire each others’ strength, intelligence and courage.  Now all that is over, perhaps they could have been together.  But they always knew there was no chance they’d both make it out alive.

Almost a kilometre away, Doran’s body still stood, but frozen in place.  His sword still in hand, piercing right through the skull of an enemy general.  It would have made for a beautiful statue, were it not the real man, frozen by some power or other that still lingered, and likely would for days without interference.  Doran was a great man, and a good friend.  An unparallelled general, with unwavering personal integrity and, although he covered it well, a deeply caring heart.  He would have done well raising a family after the war’s end.  He’d only once dared say aloud to Gredharm that’s what he really hoped for, it’s not something that was worthwhile, or safe to discuss otherwise.

A dull pain seemed to echo from place to place around his body. An arrow, obviously enchanted by some powerful enemy, managed to pierce his armour on both sides of his left shoulder and got stuck there.  Looking down he saw the deep gashes in his belly on the right and blood oozing from his side on the left.  He didn’t realise how tattered his once unnaturally white clothing and armour had become.  Strips of cloth were torn from the sleeves and legs, nothing could stain the material of the clothing when intact, but the frayed edges were all red with blood.  He didn’t even remember, or notice getting many of the wounds.

He wasn’t meant to survive this final battle.  The truth he denied even to himself, was that he fully expected this was the end and that loss was inevitable.  He fought on, because everyone relied on him to give them hope and courage, and so he did his duty as best he could.  And somehow, that was enough, he’d won.  They’d all won.

Jaina and Doran.  They’d won too.  He looked back down at Jaina and saw several soldiers kneeling, crying and praying around her body.  People loved her as much as they respected her.

He didn’t realise how much energy he was using just to keep his body alive with all those injuries, but there was no point in exerting himself any more, so he let go and the blood suddenly flowed more quickly from his wounds and he fell to his knees in the deep snow.

He realised it was really his choice at this point.  He could call for assistance and some healer or another would rush over and restore him.  In a week or so he’d be good as new.

And what then?  He was no great leader to the common man.  He was the best killer that had ever lived.  He was the best at training others to be the best killers.  He was the best at leading killers to kill.  These weren’t talents that rebuilt a nation, let alone a dozen nations.  He was supposed to have died here today, win or lose, it was supposed to have been over.

He did his part for the world, he did everything he’d committed to doing, and succeeded where it should have been impossible.  The world can now rebuilt itself, by itself.

The excuses and justifications sounded empty, even in his own thoughts.  In the back of his mind he saw Jaina give a faint smile to him, like she would to a child acting foolish.

Were Jaina alive, she could have led the entire world to a glorious new golden age, but she wasn’t.  Were Doran alive, he could have brought men together and formed a stable and just system of government for all.  He listed through 10 other people in his mind - all dead.

In 700 years he went from a broken child to the strongest warrior ever to have lived.  Perhaps he had it in him to also become a wise and compassionate leader?

Steeling his mind, he slowed the flow of blood again and forced himself to stand.  The slight sense of renewed purpose gave him fresh strength and he turned and waved over to his men in the distance, calling for assistance.

It was only moments before a dozen people surrounded him, they were all waiting in the distance, hesitant to disturb him, but waiting for anything he needed.  They looked at him with a reverence he didn’t really expect, or desire.  Reverence can quickly turn to disappointment and hatred with the slightest change in the winds.

They immediately began tending to his wounds, as a ball of solid flame shot from hundreds of meters away straight at them.  Some suicidal remaining enemy throwing their life away because they really did lose everything.  Gredharm waved his hand and the flame fizzled to nothing before it reached them.  Normally it would have been effortless, but in his current state it made him slightly dizzy.  Others had already shown up to dispatch the straggler, so it didn’t matter.

“GREDHARM!” The booming, enraged voice came from a different direction.  “YOU DIE WITH ME!”  The first shot was a distraction, the second ball of flame from this direction was vastly greater, and faster.  Gredharm and the others went to deflect it, but before they could, it exploded brightly causing them all to flinch… but did no damage.

No one noticed the shimmering behind Gredharm as the gateway opened, they only saw the man flying straight for him and by then a full 20 of the elite soldiers had arrived.  They threw everything they had at the man as he crashed into Gredharm and pushed him into the portal.  Balls of fire, streams of ice, bursts of pure energy disintegrated the man and pummelled the gateway as they went through.

Gredharm fell through the sky, though it was clearly a different sky.  A warm, clear, moonlit night.  The man who rammed him was burnt to cinders, but as Gredharm continued to fall he realised that even without a fight, or without the fall, even if the intention was just to send him some distance away and not directly into a furnace or some-such, that was probably enough to kill him, as without aid he couldn’t keep going much longer.

He used what energy he could to slow his fall and look for the ground - he’d been falling several seconds already, and the slowing was just in time as he crashed into the soft, wet sand of a beach.  The impact jarred the arrow and for the first time Gredharm let out a yell of pain.

Looking up into the night sky, his body felt dead to him, numb.  The sand was warm next to the snow of the battlefield and it conformed nicely to his body.  Even the stars of this place weren’t familiar, and the moon, so large in the sky.  The gateway must have been struck heavily.  He could be just about anywhere.

He felt something in his right hand that wasn’t there before.  Holding it up to get a better look, it was a note that simply read “At least you will die alone and in pain. - Azrel”

Gredharm chuckled slightly, but the pain and blood coming out of his mouth stopped him.  The thought the fool went to the effort of writing a note just to taunt him as his last action was a little pitiful.

It didn’t matter if he died today, or in a thousand years.  He would have died alone anyway, without Jaina.

This wasn’t such a bad way to go.  It meant he didn’t have to worry about all the inevitable politics, the infighting, the responsibility of rebuilding entire civilisations and not making the same mistakes again.  He felt a sense of calm relief.  With him gone, others better suited to such roles would come up and take his place.  The world didn’t need killers, it needed builders.  He was the last of the great killers alive, and now he would die alone, safely, some unknowable distance away.

A tear flowed down his cheek as he felt himself begin to fade away, the first one since he was 7 years old.  He wasn’t afraid of dying.  Just sad that he’d never had the chance to live.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

First Short Story Completed!

I finally finished my short story "A Step Too Far", the one with Dave and Annie for those who were reading it early on!

Click to read the whole thing free on Wattpad.

If you like it, make sure to "Star" it, or share it so it can get some views!

For those who have no idea what I'm talking about, I really don't know how to describe it well without giving away spoilers.  It's about a crazy guy, and an awesome girl, and stuff happens...

UPDATE:
I wasn't getting any new views on Wattpad, so I've decided to unpublish it and just leave the first bunch of sample chapters on here.  That allows me to work on promoting it on Amazon and seeing how that goes.

Visit Amazon.com to buy it for roughly $3 (depending on where you are in the world).