The sea churned and boiled as the Galleon lurched forward and back, seafoam being cast to the winds as the storm carried on, seemingly endless. Bodies were tossed about the deck; sailors on a final journey; not toward peaceful shores, but the solemn, sandy graveyard depths below the thrashing waves. The man at the helm gripped the wheel tight, a lone soul on the bridge of a ship, being carried through a storm in unknown waters. As the mast came tumbling down, tattered black and green banners whipped about the deck, illuminated with each bolt of lightning. As if guided by the steady hand of fate, or the careless hand of fortune, the sound of wood splintering against rock signalled to the crew the hopelessness of their situation.
Flooding immediately took hold of the bow of the vessel, the murky liquid filling the cabins, and bringing immediate darkness to the unfortunate souls trapped below. It wasn’t long before the bubbling ocean clawed its way towards the stairs leading to the deck, swallowing lives indifferently, and rushing to meet the base of the bridge.
Cries of loss, and anguish were drowned out by the howling wind; the sound of agony and despair giving way to each gust as if the sea’s pain was unmatched by the plight of man. Pulling the brim of his cavalier’s hat down, the captain leaned hard to his left, bringing the wheel spinning with considerable force. As it resisted, so did he, dragging each of handles harder than the last down to the port side. It was the only side left to rely on. Pools shifted directions, and poured off the bridge, into the ocean. This was it. No turning back now.
“Abandon ship!” declared the captain, thrusting his finger outwards at the remaining lifeboats, now being tossed about the deck. “Save yourselves, you silly bastards! FLEE!” The remaining pirates aboard looked to each other, a look of grim understanding on their rain-battered faces. Another swipe of his hand through the air as the captain attempted to reiterate his point, all the while clutching the wheel in its resting position. “There’s no saving her! Don’t you understand that?! You all don’t have to be here! I can finish this! None of you have to be here! Leave with your lives! Does that mean NOTHING?!”
The ship rocked, and they all erupted into laughter, shaking their heads furiously at the bridge. There was still a job to be done, and the hounds of death had not yet come calling. The captain’s brow softened, and in that moment, he grasped perfectly what was not just poetic, but necessary. Cupping his hand to his mouth, he called out to the sailors, “OKAY LADS, WE CAN MAKE ENEMIES WITH DEATH, ONE LAST TIME! ON MY MARK!” The men watched eagerly, awaiting the signal. As the captain’s hand fell sharply, they all rushed to the port side railing. The galleon, suddenly forced onto its left side despite taking on water, spat a series of cannons and supplies out its port bays.
Instantly, the ship lifted up by several meters, gaining speed and flushing seawater as if in revolt. The captain grinned, releasing the wheel long enough to gain stability. As the crew returned to the deck, they hoisted two long oars off each railing. Upon each was a long, wrapped emergency sail, fastened by a series of hooks. The crew held fast to the oars; there would be only one chance at survival, and it was growing slimmer by the minute. As they stared with morbid fascination at the bridge, the crack of thunder shook the wood violently, causing them to shiver in place. With every flash in the night, the silhouette of their man at the helm appeared again, hardly discernible behind a curtain of darkness and water. The captain’s hand swept upwards, and the winds blew forth his long coat as though the elements had heard his pleas. With the faith and hopes of the crew on his shoulders, he loosed his grip on the wheel. Spreading his arms far, he prepared to grab the furthest two handles, positioning himself for quick turns.
Calling out to the closest man on his right, he ordered them to the bow, as vision was key now. As the officer reached the bowsprit, they saluted the captain, knowing this was a mission they couldn’t return from. The man reached to the deck, pulling a rope about his waist, then winding it up and around his shoulders. He then brought the end of the rope to his eyes, tying a knot that wouldn’t budge. Securing it to the bowsprit, he gripped the front railing tight; it was his job to be the eyes of the ship, and he would not fail. With bolts of lightning serving as his temporary lantern, the sailor made a map in his mind, plotting a course through the field of rocks ahead. Arms shifting rigidly like the hands of a clock, the ship swayed to his will.
Hands raw and blistered, the captain pulled desperately at each wooden handle, sending the heavy ship lurching to one side. With each close encounter, the hearts of the crew rose and fell together, treating each fleeting glimpse of death as a blessing. Another show of hands catches the captain’s gaze, and he swings his arms across the wheel. It’s too late. With a grinding screech against the starboard hull, the spotter up front is thrown from his harness, the railing cracking under the immense pressure. Cries of terror fill the air, and the handful of remaining crew members rush from the deck to the bridge, knowing that he won’t be able to steer by himself for much longer.
As they rush the helm, a flurry of hands reach out, pulling the captain up from his knees, and onto the closest two pairs of shoulders. From his elevated position, he could see the enemy. In waves, large rocks came flying past the borders of the ship, coming closer with each pass. The captain arched downwards, relaying directional advice with each looming threat.
Leaning back up, his eyes caught sight of their next opponent. Preparing to warn his men on the wheel, he pulled his head down towards the ears below. With a halting gasp, he met with a shocking revelation. The rock ahead was not a rock, but the shadowy, protruding form of a reef. With grim urgency, the captain shoves off from his seat, immediately clawing at the wheel.
“REEF, RIGHT AHEAD!” he exclaims, throwing the handles to the port side. The men, knowing the gravity of the situation, force the wheel as hard as they can to the left, and then commence throwing themselves at the railing, hoping to gain a turn so sharp they miss their date with destiny. It’s not enough. The end near, the captain calls out to his men: “It has been an honor gentlemen. Brace for impact. I’ll see you on the other side.”
As per tradition, he threw his arms around the wheel, embracing death. With a deafening burst of chaos and splinters, the ship exploded against the coral reef in a triumphant show of nature over man.
Bodies soared over the opposite railing, thrown by the impact. As the shower of wood and dust came raining down on him, the captain climbed slowly to his feet. Hearing the rushing sound of the sea climbing the stairs to greet him, he removed his hat, a gesture of respect to the crew he had lost.
Looking down at the puddle growing around his feet, he stepped onto the railing of the bridge, turning backwards to face the storm, and the horizon. As he did, the bow of the ship began to sink into the depths, bringing the stern of the ship up to greet him. Resigning himself to the sea, he stared downwards at the black, swirling pool coming up to claim him. As his eyes closed, and his grip grew slack, he was tossed from his seat, face first into icy water.
He rose to his knees, wiping soaked eyes with his sleeve, swinging his head around wildly. Puzzled, he crawled to the starboard railing of the bridge. A small pocket of moonlight reflected off the sand bar on the other side of a thin reef, littered with the fragments of his ship and the unconscious bodies of his crew.
Filled with boundless joy, he wailed into the night, flinging his hat from the railing like a disc. Howling in a fit of ecstasy, he reached down, plucking a large, loose rung from the railing. He sprang to the outside wall of the bridge, reaching down over the rails to grab their crew’s banner, bathed in the green and black colors they embodied.
As it unfurled, a slot on the inside opened up, revealing a reversible white flag within. After all, there would be no use getting rescued if your ship of saviors knows you’re a band of pirates, is there?
Dedicated to The Sic gaming community. Thanks for not leaving me there.
Cool water rippled around my feet, as a brisk autumn wind thrashed my hair about.
The day was September 26th, 2014. I felt right at home here. I wasn’t home, however. I was a thousand miles north, with my legs hanging off a pier into clear water, in Lake George, New York.
Four years had passed since my ominous date with destiny. With everything crumbling around me, I didn’t have time to reflect on how it had changed me. While staring into the beauty of that emerald lake though, I lost myself. I had been through hell and back, and had done my best to try to shove as much of it as far down in the grave as it would possibly go. This day was different, though. Sitting peacefully with the chill of autumn whipping me in the face, it all came flooding back as if it had clawed right up my legs. It was the pain of remembering how much ground I’ve lost; a continuous sting of watching members and loyal bodies walk away without looking back. It was the multiple connections with women in the vain attempt to find love again after burying it myself, years earlier. It was compounded by the deaths of my last two grandparents, whose bodies were slowly taken by the crippling effects of living in a world where the vices and vigor of a person are two paths leading to the same end. It was the lack of vocational purpose, brought on by my own career suicide years earlier. It was the slow desertion of friends who had lost their zeal for the pact of kinship we had all signed in blood, and sweat.
It was my funeral, and every new defeat was another layer of dirt shoveled on top of me.
As my feet swayed back and forth in the water, waves swished in either direction. Flashes from the past year, and the past month still echoed. They were both realizations, and ones that had left me no closer to figuring out who I was, what I wanted or when I wanted it. But here I was, away from home, my family, and even the life I knew. This was the odd direction I had chosen to go.
My computer’s monitor was off, but I could hear the sounds of annoying children bickering at each other through my speakers. They were discussing angrily the aspects of restructuring their gaming community. That’s why I was there. What had initially been an easy task of cleaning up their member inactivity, designing a simple website with forums, and creating a communication server for them had turned into a month-long ordeal where I was made to babysit these kids every time they had a spat. One side of them argued that their glorious leader was being tyrannical, a common complaint among people in a power struggle. The leader was coward though, not an autarch. He hid behind a series of diseases and disorders that were more than likely fiction, and when it came to significant decisions, he deferred to my judgment, regardless of the fact I was an independent party in their silly online passion play. I understood my position, and the people had a respect for me that I neither deserved nor demanded. Their gaming guild was pathetic, and one that, despite my best efforts to clean up, was doomed to fail within six months if they didn’t stop acting like children. I hated them. I hated all of them, and my fake smile was held up only by the sheer miracle that I was being paid for my assistance. I wished a swift death to their community, as it was a toxic environment that bred everything I couldn’t stand for. I longed for the days where my friends were right there with me; our legion’s influence both unpredictable and powerful, forcing people to question the nature of the world around them. It was a better time. I couldn’t stand to listen to the incessant whining anymore. I clicked the sound off, and sat in silence. There wasn’t a point in announcing my departure. They wouldn’t care anyways.
I had left my Jeep parked in the elementary school’s parking lot 500 feet away. Leaving it alone at night wouldn’t harm it, as this was my old school, and I knew the area better than most. I strolled around the side of the building, staring into the large windows as I passed them. They had the intentional design of being able to see from one end of the building to the other, straight through the upper walkway of the cafeteria. The school was showing its age, but it smelled the same; a mess of weathered brick and mortar, an old library full of books in poor condition, and the rusting sheets of aluminum from the portable buildings fifty feet from the side doors. This was definitely the same place I had been less than fifteen years ago. It brought back bitter-sweet memories of self-worth, from reading to kids in higher grade levels, as well as my first kiss. Things were simpler then, and I longed for a person to communicate my frustration to. They never came. I trudged out to the school playground, past the cracked blacktop of the basketball court. It was a larger than average park; one that kids would drool at out their passenger side windows as they drove by it. In the center was a dome-shaped jungle-gym that reached at least eight feet into the air. I scaled up the hexagonal bars on all fours, recreating my childhood internally in that hope that I could escape the life that had somehow strangled me. I laid there and planned at the top of the dome. Staring into the light polluted sky above me, I realized I couldn’t even see the grandeur of the stars if I wanted to. It had all become hopeless, and I came to terms with the idea of ending my life that night. There was nothing left for me, and not a thing that could bring me joy again. In that moment, I hit my lowest point.
My head hanged low. I leaned up, my hands moving to wipe hot tears from my cheeks. I pulled my shirt collar up, drying my face and clearing my blurry vision. As I pulled my shirt back down, my hand brushed against something small and rectangular in my pocket. I struggled with the object momentarily, having to force it from its now lodged position. It sprang from my pocket with a push of my index finger, and though in the dark I could tell instantly that it was my iPod. The earbuds had been wrapped around the case as usual, and had become tangled in the confines of my pocket. I hated knots, and I decided at once that I had to fix this issue. In the process of untangling, I accidentally hit the “play” button, and the screen illuminated with the image of Disturbed’s album cover for Asylum. I had been listening to the album earlier that evening, and had stuffed the device in my pocket on pause as I left the house. Untying the last knot, I clicked the back key six times from “The Animal”, to “Remnants”. I slid the earbuds deep into my ears, and cranked the volume to a degree that would drown out the noise in my head. The guitar solo ended, and the BOOM of the track change signaled that “Asylum” was starting. I banged my head. Hard. It was all I could do to make the pain subside. It was the only reasonable action, and I committed to it like a ritual. When the song finished, I listened to the next track, “The Infection”. Then the next. Another. When the album finished, I threw on “Indestructible”. Three more albums went by, and when I finished, the sun had begun to creep over the Eastern horizon. I climbed down off the jungle-gym, and began a jog to my car. I had to get home. There was no time to waste on any of these thoughts, anymore. I still had one thing to be grateful for. Disturbed as a band had freed me from bullies in the past. Now they had saved my life once more, by reminding me that I still had something to live for. If I left now, I could never listen to Heavy Metal again. I could never go out and find the person I want to be with. I could never reunite my friends under one roof. I could never recover from my economic depression. I could never inspire someone again. My chest pounded with the words that begin Asylum. They’re two powerful words of defiance, proclaiming one’s will to survive. On my birthday of 2014 , I declared my insecurities, my fears, my weaknesses, and my despair to all…
In Asylum (I live a lie)
I let go
Now it’s dragging me into your grave
For Asylum (Relive a lie)
Overcome by the feeling that I won’t get to join you in time
(without you) this world is not fulfilling me.
There are many tales of tragedy and woe, but none I know quite as well as the tale of my gaming community.
The tragedy of my clan is not of the sort where death and painful misfortune strike incessantly, eventually bringing the protagonist(s) down to a point of inconsolable misery. It’s not of the hero who marches onward towards their demise, knowing that glory and certain defeat await them. This story revolves around a self-inflicted wound, and the irreparable damage caused by the inaction of many.
Though it has decayed into the city of Terminus, The Sic originally was a flourishing haven for the weary soul; those who had been out in the purgatory of the average gaming group, and had experienced for themselves the lackluster attitude of those whose entire frame of reference was built around statistics, and dull number values. They came to us with the hope of belonging. We gave to them a purpose, and a potential to thrive so long as they were willing to commit to the cause. This presented people with a unique opportunity to actively become social with others from our legion, and work together to accomplish goals thought unobtainable by most others. For a time, we not only proved this true; we set the bar for other groups to follow in suit.
Despite the greatest efforts to keep a sense of stability within our walls, the group has collapsed on itself. The reason? One could make the argument that we no longer had anything left to offer people, and people have attempted pushing that story. That however, is only a half-truth. Another tale woven is that we’ve switched theater of operation too often. Notable, but also false considering it was the only aspect that allowed us to retain a large base of operations for each game we entered into. The actual reason is hilariously simple, and in retrospect I lose my mind thinking about the one word its anthology of examples demonstrates:
An infuriating pattern has emerged over the past couple of years, that has slowly killed off the remainder of my team. While I believed they all fully understood the necessary actions that are required to maintain the status quo of the clan, I no longer believe this to factor into their decision-making abilities. There are only a few facets that require attention from high-ranking officers within the group. The first, is a reasonable rate of activity. This is simply a reassurance for the sake of your members. The second action, is organization. Whether we’re talking members and ranks, game branches and items, or website users and backgrounds, people take a person seriously who can at least be counted on to have a checklist completed by the end of the day. The last action, is of course, recruiting. Without getting people in the door, your gaming clan is doomed to fail.
Therein lies the issue. If you have a gaming clan who isn’t willing to recruit, organize the assets or follow the protocol of the clan, let alone show up at all, then you’re better off throwing in the towel. That’s not a team-effort; it’s a sign that they’re digging your grave.
Allow me to explain what it takes to keep an organization that you care about running. Whether that is keeping your business afloat, trying to promote a cause that you believe is worthy of public attention, or even something as trivial as a gaming clan- this rule still applies. You can’t half-ass your endeavors of any size, and you can’t just sit idly by and hope someone else will do your job for you. If you want a task completed (especially a large one, mind you), it takes more than just what you can offer “when you have time”.
It takes SACRIFICE.
During my eight years managing The Sic, I’ve learned the hard way a dozen times that you have to give up quite a few things that you normally wouldn’t if you want to succeed, and in the process I may have given up a couple of things I probably shouldn’t have. For the sake of continuity, I’ve skipped countless amounts of social engagements that friends had invited me to, as well as a handful of events that these people considered important. I’ve let go of multiple opportunities to network for my career in a new environment, with new people under new circumstances. I’ve willingly buried a fairly successful relationship, and almost another that was my final straw before I finally took my leave. All this I did for the “greater good”, but in reality it was out of a vain sense of responsibility, resting on a mantle that I alone did not have to carry. Only now do I come to accept the sad truth that perhaps I had a misplaced sense of trust, because I presumed others cared as much about our survival as I did.
I know now that people don’t want to sacrifice. They claim they have no time, and conjure outlandish narratives to make it seem as if there is nothing more they could do to show their faces than what they already are. They present apologies, and deflect when presented with inquiry, all while shielding a surreptitious agenda. Most insulting of all is this facade that I’ve never seen end; this cruel world in which no one can just inform me that they’re finished, and that it’s best to simply mark their journey as completed. I have learned my lesson, and thus have played Captain for the last time. If people understand that you’re willing to take the helm even when they’re not there, they feel no remorse about abandoning their posts. It’s the insecurity of not being able to step up and take the wheel when another crew member falls. It’s the shame of calling others your friends, just to leave them to their devices when the obstacles become too great to climb, and it’s the cowardice of not being able to face them, as you run away from your shared problems and pretend you’re too busy to notice the flaming hulk of the ship you’re escaping.
I never left the helm of my ship. I might’ve stepped aside, and even sat back to observe others as they tried their hand at steering, but when the lifeboats were all gone and the crew was sailing furiously into the darkness of the night, I somehow still managed to find myself clutching onto a burning bridge. Much as you start with nothing in the field of leadership, so do you end with nothing.
The dust has settled in
The broken structure
Is now one with
This shattered beauty
In timeless indifference
Become one, become none
This pale room, illuminated only by the streetlamps through the window, provide a charcoal outline to my settings.
The walls, seemingly metallic, have long since corroded; corridors leading from the room give way to rusted architecture. The ceiling is within arm’s length, yet my surroundings cast an air of reluctance on the notion to touch anything at all. While the faint, white light dimly shines into the room through a dense fog outside, an internal glow can be seen emanating from the floor. As if the entirety of the surface was a radiant source of power, a strange sort of understanding came as to the catalyst for such a crude home.
The floor, a sheet of knee-deep water, soaked everything in sight. It ran through the main room, and down a long hallway like a river. At the end of the hall, the light faded into darkness; this mysterious void seemingly devoid of all furnishings, decorations, or doors. Perhaps it was the door, and the room was just all that could be seen from where I was standing. A voice called out from behind me, and there on a small beige couch she lay. Curled up beneath a pile of black fleece, her soft, pale form could hardly be recognized. My confusion obvious, a slender forearm and hand extends outwards towards my position at the edge of the room.
“What are you doing here,” I ask from my corner. “…and where are we?”
Her hand beckons me over, as fingers one by one curl back towards her palm. Doubt, clawing at my mind for such an inviting gesture, freezes me in place. A second, precautionary glance down the long corridor allows me a moment to question the decision. Upon returning my gaze to the plush couch though, I notice a strange occurrence. The water line, previously up to the arms of the chair has now receded, allowing for what seems a safe haven from the tide. As I stride over, the ripples reflect parabolic waves of light off the ceiling and walls. I pull my legs up over hers, attempting to settle in a comfortable position closest to the wall. As I nudge my way under the covers, I place my head on her shoulder. Immediately, the familiar scent of complacency and repose penetrates my senses, lulling me into a trance-like state. While the waves and white noise churn in the background, momentarily I am lost within the confines of warm serenity. This feeling, a much longed for event that I have since been robbed of, brings me to the verge of joy. However, it becomes painfully evident that events are unfolding around me. Almost like a collage of scenes I’ve never witnessed, a story is written that consciously I’ve never recognized.
An assortment of shops, all colored in various bright hues, is sprawled before me. As I walk down the sidewalk with her, peering in all of the windows and chuckling to myself at the people inside, my face begins to fade from my body. My features, all slowly disintegrating into dust are replaced by new ones. Colorless, shapeless, soulless; the new form of myself carries with it a hooded menace who I can’t recognize, and don’t want to. It’s a distorted shell of who I represent, and I avert my eyes to the opposite end of the room, where another vision takes place.
I’m driving down a long suburban road, at nightfall. My black hoodie, zipped up high to stave off the cold only provides insulation for my frustration. As I turn my eyes towards the passenger seat, she sits with apologetic eyes staring out the window. Dead pools of limitless resentment, I struggle to comprehend why we’re angry in the first place. As I scan over the panorama, I turn towards her, seemingly ready to reiterate the same question that curses my speech day after day.
No information is shared. A long pause takes place, where suspenseful dread creeps up between the seats. Trees and power-lines pass by continuously, providing a monotonous canvas for me to bide my time with. She turns her head slightly, her distant disposition flickering briefly to allow me one snippet of disdainful indifference to my inquiry.
“Nothing. I’m fine.”
From my place in the chair, I’m reminded at once of the loathing of that phrase that I possess. I crane my head to the center of the room, and catch one final frame placed directly in middle of the ceiling. As I strain to properly glimpse this image, I climb up from the warmth of the couch, leaving behind my comfort in search of catharsis. I gently step into the center of these decimated living quarters, and fixate my attention into this portrait of disgrace. Of what I should view as happiness, I can feel only hatred and abandonment.
A large beach towel is stretched wide on the sand. An empty, gorgeous landscape of exotic wonder lies beyond the towel, providing what can only be considered a perfect ending to a silly romance movie. It is the stereotypical cover of a vacation pamphlet, inviting all loving couples to spend their honeymoon, wedding, or anniversary there. Upon first glance, only peace could be found here. Of course, my nightmare was yet to unfold. As the camera panned downwards, allowing a look at the owners of the wide beach-towel, I am greeted by the face of betrayal. Their legs, entwined at the knees and ankles, immediately ignite my fury. Bare skin meets bare skin, in a union of lustful celebration. This strange man, unknown to me is an aggressor in my own fantasy, raping every joyful idea I had ever imagined. Envious disgust takes hold, and as the frame begins to zoom in on their arms and shoulders locked in horrifying embrace, I lose it.
With both arms outstretched, I claw at the edges of the picture frame. Regardless of the strength of its attachment, I pry at it with all my might. It gives, almost too easily, and rust showers me from above. Water begins streaming through the gaping hole in the ceiling, flooding the room in a current that flows towards the darkness. as I watch furniture, curtains, and terrible trinkets get carried down the hall, I throw the frame. A broken ornate harbinger of pain, I feel little remorse for the destruction I’ve brought upon it. There was no truth hidden beneath, only that which I rejected the most. This room contained no meaning, only the suffering I wished to evade. With eyes now red with malice, I spun around to the couch to voice my revulsion to her. I was not met by apologetic blue eyes, nor was I greeted by a satisfied grin. There she lay where I left her, the blanket now gone from the raging waters around us.
A stone sculpture remains in her place. With tears in her eyes, and arms reaching out to me, a yearning statue was all that was left. All at once, the weight of the torrent finally dragged the couch, and with it her effigy toppled over, smashing into pieces against the floor. They were then swept quickly down the raging river, and into the void.
“IS THIS WHAT THE FUCK YOU WANTED ME TO SEE?!” I called out after her shattered pieces. I felt empty, and lonely.
Forsaken and and crippled, I sank to my knees in the water. Chilling waves of horror swept past me, and there in failing light of the room, I threw myself at the mercy of the current. Freezing comfort filled my lungs, a moment that I have feared for my entire life. This end, no longer bearing pain for me, brought me into the shadows I dared not tread before.
Then I woke up.
Hold me near, my one friend and guide
As I drown through your fingers
Drown through your love
For you are the life that I hate
You are my… You are my…
Drag me down, in passionate sighs
With the ocean above me
And flames in my eyes
And grant me a life I can live
Take me away
From the life that I hate
Good day, children.
If you’re like me, then today is proof that the world around us is filled to the brim with people. People, who do some of the most absolutely ludicrous things on the planet. People who are perfectly willing to believe in superstitious, nonsensical folklore. People who would dare spend their life savings to attempt to escape an apocalypse… that isn’t going to happen.
Few things are as powerful as fear. The dread that comes with believing that one’s own life may end is sobering, and terrifying. That’s why millions of people around the planet have spent countless resources on building large bunkers, stockpiling weapons, hoarding non-perishable goods, and slowly building a surplus of items and useless trinkets in an effort to evade what they believe will occur today, which is what people would refer to as the “End-Times”. Now, if such an event were to take place, these people would control everything. They would be well-prepared survivalists taking charge in a world that would be devoid of all its conveniences, major resources, and currency. These people would undoubtedly live much longer than others, as people who had not equally given thought to such a cataclysmic event died off in rather tragic, and embarrassing events. These groups of people who have been dubbed as “preppers”, are known by many to be some of the most practical individuals to ever come up with a plan. They spend tons of cash in order to produce a stronghold of goods that can sustain a family and others for long periods of time, as well as produce a sizable arsenal of firearms and munitions. Sounds like a great idea, right? Wrong.
Sorry to be the pessimist to eradicate this stance, but I grow weary of listening to people place these neurologically-disturbed megalomaniacs on a pedestal. I don’t truly understand why, either. These people are fear-mongering, apocalyptic wet-dreamers, who pine away for the day the system dies. Don’t give me that pathetic “I’d rather be prepared than not” argument. Chances are, if you had to witness the obscene amount of archaic thinking that these people force themselves, as well as their families into on a daily basis, you’d probably choose suicide as the worthy alternative. The vast number of things they give up to run useless fire-drills for ridiculous scenarios often tend to give anyone a headache. It doesn’t take a genius to become a prepper, either. A few how-to books, canned goods, hunting equipment, and a stupid amount of patience, and you can become an insane, pre-colonial merchant, with the mindset of an insane, pre-colonial merchant. What seems like a list of essentials to these people, is nothing but a Wal-Mart departmental scavenger hunt, to anyone else. This is all accomplished simply to look pretty as the items sit stagnating until lack of use, and the elements take them back to the Earth; more amusing, is the scenario where the prepper grows up, and starts to join the age of reason, where they don’t need any of that shit, and they aren’t preparing for the walking dead to come rip their faces off.
Now, it may seem like I’m picking on these people. This would be true, and absolutely unfair. I should discuss the other two groups that have led to the buildup of this ridiculous bedtime story:
Religious, and “spiritual” people.
To those of you who take your religion into perspective, I apologize on behalf of these lunatics who are making your religion look more insane than it is. They would apologize themselves, but they’re too busy waiting to re-enact the scene from Independence Day where they get blown up by the pretty disc-shaped, space-age battleship. I also wish that you all weren’t the easiest target, but religion helped craft this mess, so the burden lies on your shoulders. We already know that the Mayans who “ended their calendar on this date”, didn’t end it. It’s a cycle, therein providing us with evidence that something is meant to start after this date. We also know this date is painfully inaccurate, and we are currently at the end, of the end of the Mayan Long Count; not the beginning, which was the original prediction. This is due to the fact Mayans did not have Leap Years, which takes quite a bit of a chunk out of the evidence that some people claim for their time-frame calculations. We also can’t count on any large celestial objects striking us, as these would be visible years, and months in advance, which would be impossible to keep secret with the vast number of astronomers on the planet, both professional and amateur, who keep both eyes on the sky every night.
This hasn’t stopped masses of religious people from claiming that such an event is ‘foretold’, despite the evidence against it. To reiterate a useless quote that is unfailingly regurgitated to me by faith-based people, Mark 13:32 states:
“But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.”
This is obviously meant to be an end-all one-liner to the popular “The End Is Nigh” argument, but all I can see is another desperate cop-out to providing proof. To state that “oh well you don’t know but I know my God knows”, is the easiest way to make sure most people can’t retort. It’s a pathetic defense-mechanism to bring some form of false omnipotence to a sky-deity that they already have zero physical evidence of, but still wish to ascribe powers to, such as the one they invent in this case: foresight.
The lesser of these two evils, but still equally pointless, are the demographic of people who call themselves “spiritual”. These are people, who while they may not feel inclined to involve themselves with the complexities of organized religion, still feel that there has to be some sense of supernatural involvement in the world, therein they have caused a subculture to emerge from the religious, known as “spiritual”. With this line, I’m of course inviting every agitated person on the planet who has “eclectic” beliefs to throw a tantrum on me, as they attempt to explain how there is an actual discernible difference between the two creeds. Unfortunately, regardless of what nuance you’d like you use to justify it, you either believe in ghosts or you don’t. But I digress.
These “spiritual” people have joined together with the religious right and left in order to take away the doom and gloom that already didn’t seem to exist within the Mayan Calendar end, in the first place. The way they’ve abused this backpedal, is by informing others by stating ‘don’t worry, the end won’t come on the 21st. The Mayans said this is the start of a period of rebirth, and enlightenment!’
Once again, another shameless cop-out takes the place of just admitting that this entire belief system is founded on baseless talking points. Because the first one didn’t sell too well, they presumed it would be easier to make people think positively about the issue, so they spread that it should be celebrated, rather than feared. Why, you may ask? Because it’s so much easier to bring new blood into a circle of like-minded people if they are swayed to have good vibes regarding things that make one seem more worldly. In reality, they know nothing of the culture they’re all attempting to decipher through so-called “prophecies”, and have therein resorted to recycling trendy viewpoints regarding the date, using misinterpreted information from religious organizations, as well as science fiction authors, and various tourism agencies.
Today is the 21st. Today, I went Christmas shopping for people I care about, just like I do when I wait until the last minute to shop every year. Tomorrow will be another day of the same thing for others, as they complete daily routines and prepare for the holidays. That isn’t the case for some unlucky children, however. This year, some kids are going to be forced to suffer their parents, as well as their over-zealous religious bullshit, or their parent’s apocalypse-obsessed paranoia. Some kids, won’t receive a Christmas present this year, because their parents were too busy stockpiling arms and constructing useless architecture in order to escape an Armageddon that never came. I would love to say the culprits are the devoutly religious, or even these ‘spiritual’ half-assers, but unfortunately they only have one trait in common that makes them equally at fault:
These two people are grasping to some hope that perhaps something won’t come true, and yet some of them do. Quite a few of these people who would claim to be sane, still clutch to a vain desire to give their lives more relevance than they possess. It’s the single greatest power driving them to do idiotic things in the fear, or hope of their own demise. Many of these people believe strictly out of the desperation to cling to the idea that something grand, and awe-inspiring will happen in their time; whether that be a period of enlightenment and advancement, or the death of all living beings, they continue to pray it happens. Anything to give a bit of self-affirming confidence. It’s what they constantly ask for, and yet they’ll never receive what they desire. What they want can’t be obtained, because only in grand tales of myths and monsters do these occurrences come to pass.
To those of you who felt December 21st, 2012 held any relevance:
You are blind. Nothing has happened, nor will it. You’ve taken a leap of faith into another belief system that won’t grant you any prosperity, or results. You’ve allowed yourself a lapse of insanity that you should now take a moment to reflect upon. Your life is no more important than any other on the planet. You’ve wasted time, and precious resources on trying to gain some sense of enlightenment out of an ancient clock, designed simply to count forward far enough that there would no longer be a need for it. You should also be aware, that you’ve decided to roll the dice while betting on a group of primitive people who used ritualistic sacrifice to attempt to coax the deities they invented into providing rain, or growth for crops. If you didn’t feel ashamed of yourself before, you should probably start now.
How long are we going to permit people to continue to take wild guesses at the end-times, while scaring others into irrational actions? When will people come to their senses, and realize that human minds are the furthest from perfect imaginable, and the only thing our species is completely capable of doing, is manipulating others, and getting things absolutely wrong? At what point will we hold people accountable for proclaiming doom, and spreading fear to the masses? When will we finally drop the folklore of our time? Will we evolve to forget such tales, or much like the Mayans, will we believe it blindly up until the point we’re systematically wiped out?
I called this years ago, and today is the day I can tell all of my friends who were worried, all my relatives who became nervous, and all the strangers who were itching with anticipation…
You were wrong, and your disgraceful superstitions were worthless.
It’s tough being the new guy.
Nobody likes seeming as if they’re inexperienced. Unfortunately, we all have to start somewhere, and my somewhere was at Cinemark. I loved working for Cinemark theaters, and in my time there I learned all sorts of wonderful things, saw all kinds of excellent movies, and met tons of great people. However, being a timid young person at their first job is certainly something that can strike fear into someone, and I was no exception. I had been working for less than a month, and the daily routines of manning the concession stand had finally started to become a deeply-rooted part of my everyday life. I knew how to take an order from someone, while multitasking at the counter behind me. I could start the popcorn, clean off the counter, organize candy, fill drinks, unjam the hotdog cooker, and fix the credit card receiver (as it consistently broke), all while taking a large order from a family of five. I was nervous when I started, but I learned to take things in stride and gain wisdom from my small mistakes to not make large ones.
As I stood leaning against the tangerine-colored counter, I stared at the console in boredom. I didn’t like this POS (Point of service, not piece of shit) machine, and its only semi-cooperative touch screen. As I fiddled with the buttons, racking up totals and wiping them off the screen, I lost myself momentarily. Often times a single person is left at the counter in between the rush of people who show up to see movies during a round of movie start-times and end credits, and this person is usually responsible for taking care of the majority of orders while other staff members go on break. This day, I was handling this responsibility, but staring through the glass doors on the opposite side of the room made me long to be outside. Something about staying in a quiet lobby will make anyone stir-crazy, and I decided it would be best to stay busy until the others got back. I turned around to the tiny refrigerator housing the Dasani water bottles, and began to pull them to the front. This is a common practice used by most businesses to present the illusion of organization, and abundance. Since movie theaters make the vast majority of their profits from concession stands, as opposed to the tickets themselves, it was important to keep the stand as pretty, and presentable as possible. As I closed the frosty door, I slid over to the gigantic popcorn popper to tip the kettle over. A mass of beautiful, golden popcorn poured out onto the pile, and I closed the heat-sealing doors to the sound of someone clearing their throat behind me.
“Hello sir,” I greeted in a friendly manner. “What can I do for ya?”
The man was an aged gentleman, most likely in his late 60’s. His face was shrouded beneath a thick, grey beard. He wore a lose fitting pair of khaki slacks, and a black polo shirt, complete with a matching black hat, denoting his status as a veteran of the Vietnam war. Having only the utmost respect for any veteran, I extended my hand to shake his.
“Thank you for your service, sir.”
He returned the gesture with a smile and a nod, and held out his drink cup with the lid removed.
“Would it be possible to get a refill on this drink?” he asked while holding it over the counter.
I knew I wasn’t supposed to. One of our company’s policies, was that we were allowed to give a single refill on popcorn if they purchased a large bag, but for drinks we weren’t. The managers urged that it was more for a sanitation reason than anything else, but I’m sure it was undoubtedly costly, as well. However, I was also urged by my managerial staff to go to extraordinary lengths to please customers, as it built loyalty from them, and made them more inclined to return to a theater where they understood their patronage was appreciated. This man was also a war veteran, and I felt that it was only right to offer the man a damn fountain drink refill, at the very least. Compelled to fulfill my duties as a responsible customer service representative, but torn between policy and principle; I went with my gut.
“Well, we’re not really supposed to give drink refills,” I apologetically stated to him. “However, I think it’ll be okay this time, sir.”
He grinned, and handed the empty cup to me. As I grasped it, I stopped halfway across and halted my hand before it got to the fountain tap.
“However,” I weakly said before placing the cup on the drain. “If it’s not too much trouble sir, I’d like to hear a story from the war. If you don’t want to, I understand, of course.”
The man looked solemnly at me, and then mustered a chuckle.
“I’m afraid my experience wasn’t too exciting, but I do have one story,” he responded while leaning against the glass case on the opposite side.
Shocked, and nearly unable to contain my excitement that he accepted my proposal, I dumped ice all over the concession floor. I quickly picked it up and trashed it, eagerly awaiting the man’s tale. He began:
“Well, the year was ehh…1968 or some time around then. Some friends and I were stuck on the offensive in this nasty lookin’ village in Nam’, and unfortunately we were fairly outnumbered at the time, and dropped on the ground by a chopper into this place with practically no reinforcements. Needless to say, things didn’t go so well. My buddies and I got taken hostage by the NVA, and they brought us to this even worse POW camp nearby that was stuck on the edge of this river. So, they bring me and one of my friends into this broken-down shack, and they sit us at this table. Then, they hand us a gun.”
My mind is racing at this point. I’m talking to a real, live veteran who has seen the horrors of war and has lived to tell about it. This dude is a hero, and he has no clue. My respect goes through the roof, as I finish topping off the man’s drink and I place it on the counter. Completely absorbed in the story, I stand with blank expression. He continued, a grim look of recounted stress as his visage.
“So, they pointed at the ugly revolver on this dirty table, and just started smackin’ me and my friend. They hit us again and again, until finally I picked up the pistol and placed it to my head. Knowing that they wouldn’t stop until I did it, and realizing I had a fair shot of winning, I pulled the trigger. I was so damn scared, but hearing the click of it told me I was still alive. They then handed it to my friend across the table, and hit him in the face twice. After putting it to his head, he couldn’t go through with it, and shot it upwards past his skull, which of course they weren’t happy about. Lucky for him though, because that one had the bullet in it, and it would’ve killed him. So, just to make sure he suffered for not playing, they dragged him outside and threw him in a cage in the water. You could hear his screams from outside!”
My hand moved to cover the appalled form my mouth took as it opened, instinctively. I was receiving way more than I bargained for. This man’s story was something tragic. It was horrible, and judging from the amount of detail he was putting into the story, I had just pulled up from the depths one of the most painful memories of his past. I wanted only for it to end, before he (or I, for that matter), had a nervous breakdown.
“On the way back in, this NVA guy drags my other friend in from outside and puts him at the table with me. They then start throwing their cash at the table… putting bets on us. Who was gonna live, and who was gonna die? That’s all we cared about, and we started to get desperate. That’s when I got the idea to start counting the soldiers in the room. So, there were four of them there, and probably only two bullets in the gun to make it interesting. I got their attention, and convinced them to let me put a third bullet in the pistol. Then, I had to play my other friend to get to the live rounds. I laughed off the first shot, knowing that there probably wasn’t a round in the chamber, that time. Clicked it, and nothin’. Then, I handed it to my friend and told him it’d all be okay. He did it, but not without gettin’ smacked a few times, and a lot of tears. It clicked again, so I knew it was time to make my move. I distracted them in the room by confusing them with hysterical laughing…”
Heat sprang into my face. My flushed appearance did nothing to hide the fact that tears were swelling in my eyes. I just knew he was about to tell me of the death of a comrade, or a serious injury. This entire scenario was a nightmare. I just couldn’t believe it happened to this guy, and he was willing to share it. Such intensity! Such drama! It was like the perfect climax to an action movie!! Almost… TOO perfect.
THEN I JUMPED FROM THE TABLE! SHOOTING ROUNDS INTO THE HEAD, AND THE CHEST OF THE TWO GUYS BESIDE ME! I COULD HEAR GUNSHOTS GOING OFF BEHIND ME AS-”
“HEY! WAIT A MINUTE!!” I cut him off as he began to perform the scene in front of me in the lobby. He stopped instantly, looking confused as I held my hands out to get his attention.
“Seriously?! The Deer Hunter?!” I asked in a loud, frustrated volume as he returned to the faded-orange counter.
He laughed and slid his drink to the edge, replacing the lid and straw on top, while beaming from ear to ear.
“Baaah- you never said it had to be a true story! Anyways, you seemed to be enjoying it,” he said in a matter-of-factly tone.
I was pissed. I felt betrayed, and wronged, and all sorts of embarrassed. In an exasperated tone, I decided to finish what I had started.
“Oh yeah? Then what really happened, huh?!”
I was glaring at him with full force now, but the man was not remorseful. He had gotten the best of a sixteen year old, and it was pretty comical.
“Meh, not much. Served my time, and went to some really god-awful places. Then I got home, and went to work. I had a family to take care of. Promised my kids during the war that if I made it home, I’d go and take them to every damn movie on the planet. So! Here I am,” He said cheerfully, while picking up his drink and turning to the corner. “You have a nice day, alright?” he exclaimed, while walking down the hallway towards his theater.
Defeated, and humiliated, I threw my face into my palms. As I stood at the terminal, clutching the machine in a death-grip, all I could think was:
Should’ve just stuck with “no free refills.”
After much deliberation, I have decided to open a secondary blog, dedicated strictly to the review, appreciation, and idolization of Heavy Metal (because that’s how I roll).
If you’re a fan of my writing style, can appreciate the messages in many of my posts, or can relate to Heavy Metal and wish to seek out various new bands and songs you may have never heard of otherwise, please check out my page! I will, of course continue to update this blog with my personal arbitrary observations, but this other page will be a progressive step towards bringing a positive light on Heavy Metal in a world where it has long since lost its resonance. Thanks people! The link for the “Messenger of Metal” blog is below!