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The Art of Characters

The Art of Characters

F. Scott Fitzgerald got it right when he spoke these words. Writers are many people in one body. To develop, create, craft, mold, and imagine characters up from bits and pieces of our daily encounters with people, shreds of ourselves, things we see everyday, and build them from the ground up in our imagination as people. People of whom become as real to us as flesh and blood. Friends, enemies, children, etc. We all have deep roots with our characters. In a way, it’s like childbirth; we go through the mental “pain” of giving them life, so that they can entertain our reads with their journeys and life stories. We become attached to them and we know them better than anyone else in this world. They essentially become a part of his, a part of our own personal history. We see through their eyes the world, their thoughts, their joy, their pain, their fear, everything. The real challenge is finding ways to make these characters relateable and telling their stories well enough to paint vivid pictures in our readers’ minds. That is the challenge every writer, beginner or master, has to become the victor at.

Chapter 9 and 10 of Path of Shadows

Chapter Nine: Stone’s Throw (Diana’s Point of View)

“How much longer until we reach Pittsburgh?” Raphael asks the next morning as he walks up behind me.

The map is placed on a table in the kitchen of the church. I hover over it and try to count the miles from here to Pittsburgh in my head. I count the days and divide them by hours of daylight. “A few days by foot. Maybe five or six days tops.” I look up. “Where’s Emma?”

“Outside taking a walk. I would’ve accompanied her, but she’s safe in the daylight,” he says and leans against the counter with one leg lapped over the other. “I was wondering what you plan on saying to your Aunt when you find her. Have you given any thought to what you’re going to say?”

I don’t know what I’m going to say to my Aunt. I haven’t really thought that far ahead. Now, it does make me wonder. “I’ll figure it out when I get there.”

“You have a few days to think about what you’re going to say to her, but you should really think about it.”

Hurrying footsteps get louder the closer they get to us. Emma runs in the kitchen and over to us with a huge grin on her rosy face. “You guys’ll never guess what I just found,” she says. Her voice is high and giddy.

Raphael and I stare at her, confusion on the both of our faces. I question whether or not she’s finally cracked.

“Come on,” she says and pulls me along with her by the arm. “Let me show you what I discovered.”

Raphael’s right behind as Emma leads us out of the church through the front doors. We make our way around the side of the church and over to the wooden garage in the backyard. She pulls the garage doors open. Sunlight seeps inside and lights the garage up.

There inside sits an old green Chevy truck with the logo of the church on its side doors.

“See,” Emma points at it and almost bounces on her heels.

“How do we know this old thing still works?” I don’t want to give myself false hope, though I can feel it blooming inside against my better judgement.

Raphael walks over to the truck and pops the hood open. “Let’s find out,” he says and takes a look under the hood.

Beside him, Emma and I watch him pull tubes, nozzles, and wires out. He open them and look through every little part inside the engine. Satisfied, he walks over to the driver’s side and opens the door. We see him hop into the driver’s seat and have a look around. A few minutes later, we hear the rattling of keys. A moment after that, the rough sound of the engine comes to life.

“It works,” I whisper in disbelief.

The engine dies down and quits. Raphael hops out and walks over to us with a smile on his face. “The truck runs fine,” he examines. “There’s enough gas to get us to where we need to go.”

Emma and I share a look.

“Do you know how to drive it?” Emma asks him before I can.

“Yeah,” he answers and looks between us. “Don’t you two know how to drive?”

“In this type of economic downfall people don’t really drive cars,” I tell him. “No, we don’t know how to drive.”

He nods like he should’ve considered that. “Okay. You both go get your stuff and we’ll head out. I can drive.”

With his reassurance, we run back inside the church and pack up all of our stuff. It’s not much, only two backpacks full of clothes, bottles, and hunting equipment. We had to pack light when we left South Dakota because we were travelling by foot and didn’t want to be weighed down.

Raphael places our bags into the bed of the truck while we get into the passenger side. Packed and ready to go, he gets back in the driver’s seat and shuts his door. He puts the key in the ignition, turns it, and brings the old beast back to life.

“Here we go,” he says as we pull out of the garage and head for Pittsburgh.

Sitting and looking out the window, I have time to think about Raphael’s question. Does my Aunt even knows of my existence, and if she does, would she want to know me. I’ve travelled across the country to seek her out. The least she can do is talk to me. But that’s if I find her. I turn to see Emma. She’s passed out with her head leaning on my shoulder. I hope we didn’t travel all this way for nothing. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to forgive myself if I’m wrong, and I’ve dragged Emma along with me. Sighing, I turn my head to look back out the window.

The day passes before I know it. Hours of sitting in the truck has time lapsing in my mind. I stare at the yellow and white lines painted on the roads blankly. The sky’s a deep shade of purple by the time I see a green sign that identifies the town we’ve entered as Coraopolis, Pennsylvania.

The truck comes to a stop in front of a library and the engine dies.

“Why are we stopping?” I turn and ask Raphael.

He points out the window at the descending sun. “It’s almost night. We’ll stay here and continue travelling at daybreak tomorrow.”

“We’re so close,” I tell him and remove my seatbelt.

We unpack for the night in the former library. There are shelves upon shelves of dusty books with yellowed pages. There are lines pressed into the red carpet of the floor where desks, chairs, and tables once sat. I breathe in the thicker air that mixes with the fresh air from outside now. The scent reminds me of an abandoned building. Emma falls asleep as soon as she lays down on the blanket. I sit next to her on the blanket and stare blankly at the dusty books.

“You need to stop worrying,” Raphael says as he walks over and kneels down beside me. “We’re only a stone’s throw away from Pittsburgh. We’ll be there in the morning. Just relax.”

I know he’s right. He always seems to be right. I lay down and try to relax my tense muscles. Noises outside of the library make me sit up with a quickness.

“Stay here,” he whispers and walks out of the library doors without making a single sound.

 

Chapter Ten: Family (Diana’s Point of View)

Raphael reenters the library and comes back over to me. He shrugs his shoulders as he sits down next to me on the worn-out gray carpet. “No one was out there. It must’ve just been the wind.”

I lay down on the blanket to sleep. The creeping feeling inside of me makes me feel we aren’t alone. Brushing it off, I close my eyes, and know I’m safe as long as he’s next to me. Within no time, I’m comatose.

The next morning we’re back on the road. I grow anxious in my seat as we enter Pittsburgh. Emma nudges me with her elbow and smiles widely; her way of saying we did it. Our premature excitement is thwarted when the truck begins putt, putting and comes to a slow stop.

“What happened?” I ask Raphael when we come to a complete stop in the middle of the road.

“The truck stalled,” he replies and opens the driver’s side door. “We ran out of gas.” He sighs and hops out of the truck. “We’ll have to continue on foot.”

Emma and I get out. We grab our backpacks and follow Raphael down the road. He has the map out again and looks it over as we venture. I try to stay in high spirits as we go. I can’t let one thing like a truck stalling completely destroy my excitement today. Not when we’ve come so far.

Almost an hour passes before we reach the neighborhood of Morningside. I check every street sign we pass by because I know we’re getting close to our destination. All the houses lining these streets are older, Victorian maybe, and once upon a time could’ve been historical houses.

“Wellesley Avenue,” I say under my breath as I stand before the sign.

We head down Wellesley Avenue, the street Thea’s supposed to live on. Rows of houses blur passed me in a haze as I speed walk towards the 1400s numbered houses. 1401, 1403, I think as I pass them. 1405, 1407. I stop in front of a three story reddish-brown brick house with a front porch.

“1409,” I say. “This’ it.”

Standing still, I take a soothing breath to counteract the anxiety. One step before the other, I suck it in and walk up the steps onto the porch. Emma and Raphael are with me as I’m in front of the door. My fist raps on the wooden door.

We wait, but no one answers.

I knock again, a little harder this time.

There’s only silence on the other side.

“Maybe she doesn’t live here anymore,” Emma sympathizes in a soft voice. “She could’ve moved.”

What more can I do? I travelled across the country to get here. I’ve done all I possibly can. I nod slowly and feel my shoulders slump with defeat. I can’t believe we came all this way to discover no one lives here. I don’t protest when Emma leads me away from the door with her hand on my back guiding.

A loud crashing sound comes from within the house and alarms us. We stop and turn back to the door. Raphael puts his hand on the doorknob and twists it. It’s unlocked. He pushes the door open with a gentle nudge. It squeaks as it swings.

“Is anyone here?” He calls out inside.

No one answers again.

We go inside the house with quiet stealth. The three of us split up and have a look around the house to see if anyone’s here. I head up the stairs to the second floor. No one appears as I peek into the rooms: two bedrooms, a bathroom, a room filled with books, and a larger room with unopened boxes on the bare wood floor. There’s no dust. Everything gives me the impression it’s been used recently. The air even smells of Windex, polish, and potpourri.

Where are they at then?

Finding no one upstairs, I head back down to the first floor. Raphael’s at the bottom of the staircase when I get there. There’s a crease forming in-between his black eyebrows. I can tell he found no one either.

“No luck,” I shake my head in confusion.

“Someone definitely lives here,” he observes.

Emma’s voice calls us from below. “Guys, come downstairs. Please.”

We find the basement door in the kitchen. I go down the stairs with Raphael behind me.

“What did you find?” I ask Emma and pause in step as I see her in full view now. She has her trembling hands raised in the air. She’s as still as a statue. All I can focus on is the guy, a year or two younger than us, holding a shotgun. The barrel’s pointed in Emma’s direction.

 

Poem: The Sun and the Moon

Upon the Moon

You saw the Stars

The Sun’s aura reflected

the pull it held

 

Dawn settled and

Dusk came

The universe expanded

in your view

 

Time stood still

Yet everyone moved

except for the Stars

falling and rising

 

The silver thread weaved

in the design

A lifetime shall pass

another will come

 

And these two

the Sun and the Moon

will rekindle the Stars

etched in the night

 

Healing and burning

gravitating and releasing

The Life and Death of Flowers

These flowers have known decay

They have seen life

taken nutrients from the Earth

felt the rays of the Sun

and grew to blossom.

Their roots have sunken into the dirt

planted and stemmed

rose and stretched their leaves

so they may stand on their own.

A small beauty in a world of chaos

prospered against the odds

have eluded stomping and destruction.

And when they wilt and die

their scents, their essences

their aromas carry on

waffing through the air

filling our lungs.

These flowera have known decay

Thay have seen life

Poetry in the Works

Here are three unfinished poems that I’ve yet to complete. They may be done already and I just don’t see it. But is any writing ever really done, perfect, or complete. There is always room for improvement when it comes to writing.

The first one is about secrets, the second about a girl staring into the night sky, and the third about ghosts in a cemetery:

These walls tell legions,

Contained in their pigments

Memories were absorbed

Emotions consumed.

 

~~~~~~~

 

These eyes did wonder

They gazed upon the stars

Bright, glittering, shining

Into a future yet envisioned

A past that cannot be rewritten

The sun sets on another day

She stares transfixed

As the moon smiles upon her.

 

~~~~~~

 

They shifted in the night

like windblown leaves

coming and going

 

Never really here,

Yet never really gone

 

They observe the passersby

like shadows and phantoms and specters.

Desiring the figures’ vibrant light

 

Void of all life within themselves.

The Grand Rapids LipDub (New World Record)

Uploaded on May 26, 2011
This film is dedicated to the late Roger Ebert, who died at the age of 70, on April 4th, 2013. Ebert loved movies and even named our LipDub, “The Greatest Music Video Ever Made.”

I’m posting this video here to give you readers a feel for where I come from as a writer and as a person. This is my hometown and the people of this wonderful city.

Fine Line: A poem born out of movie viewing

I wrote this poem after I watched the movie Beautiful Creatures for the first time. I found it interesting that a movie and the movie’s theme fired up my neurotransmitters in my brain to create this poem. It’s interesting to me how the little things in life can provoke such a creative and powerful image or string of thoughts in a person’s mind.

Here it is:

Fine Line

 

Darkness,

Hollow and deathly, filled with Turmoil.

 

Light,

Euphoric and lively, pure with Love.

 

The fine line between

A thread that balances the two,

 

An intricate design weaved

Into the puzzle, the mystery.

 

Two halves of the same whole.

Are they not the same?

 

Strong in their intent,

A gray cloud forms at the centerfold

 

But both are lost in the Haze.

No more potent than the other.

 

Both are claimed,

Yet only one is considered

 

Rational.

Poetry Overload

Here are some poems that I worked on over the summer folks!

Where I’m from 

I am from overalls,

from french braids and ponytails.

I am from the grass field across the street.

(Evergreen, shining,

it smells like morning.

I am from quiet streets

the weeping willows

whose windblown tendrils I recall

as if they were reaching for me.

 

I’m from child’s play and wonder,

from cops and robbers.

I’m from the told-you-sos

and the I-dare-yous,

from Speak up! and Shut up!

I’m from She who gaveth me life

with hours of pain

and willpower I can say grateful.

 

I’m from Donna and Wilbur’s roots,

antiques and concrete.

From the clocks my grandfather fixed

to the streets he paved,

the frogs my grandmother collected to fill her yard.

 

Under my window was a steep hill

filling with rain,

a sea of adventure

to play with my brothers.

I am from those memories–

budding before I bloomed–

branch from the family tree.

 

 

The Return

I’ve been on break from writing on my blog for a long time it seems. I’ve taken the time to pursue my educational interests over the summer and now that I’m back into the swing of things, I promise great things and new posts to come real soon. I’m back, and better than I’ve been in years.

Sands of Time: a poem

Sands of Time

 

The sands will blow.

They will move and flow

through the times passing.

They will contain in its grains

the memories and impressions

of a life withdrawn from

one era to the next.

 

Skyscrapers and buildings

will stand erect, reaching

up into the heavens.

Flowers will bloom from a seed,

budding and growing from

the roots buried deep within

the foundation of the Earth,

seeking the nourishment of the sunrays.

 

But when the sands sweep over

and the hands of time tick on,

those skyscrapers and buildings will crumble

Those flowers will wilt and shrivel.

In their demise, the grains will

consume their existence

and the cycle will begin again

in the sands they were created and destroyed.

Chapters 7 and 8 of PATH OF SHADOWS: a young adult novel

Chapter Seven: Grounded (Diana’s Point of View)

We walk under cloudy skies down street after street. Raphael walks ahead of us, looking over my map to keep us moving in the right direction. Emma walks beside me and keeps her eyes trained on him. I can’t force her to like him, but I hope she comes to terms with him being here with us.

“How much longer until we reach the border?” Emma asks me without looking away from him.

“Two days, or so. Why?”

She stops walking and pulls me aside. “Diana, are you 100% sure we can trust him?”

Am I 100% sure? No, but I can’t tell her that. If I did, she won’t ever trust or tolerate him. I say the only fact I’m sure of instead. “He saved my life, Emma. That counts for something.”

We continue walking, so Raphael doesn’t notice we stopped in the first place. Emma doesn’t ask me anymore prying questions about him, but she still doubts trusting him.

“What have you been doing since you were grounded on Earth, Raphael?” Emma asks during a momentary break from walking.

I give her a look that tells her not to pry.

“I can ask him a question or two, can’t I?” She raised her eyebrows and arms.

I shake my head in reprove. I know why she’s asking. She wants to know if he’s changed sides. She wants to pick his brain to figure out what he really wants with us. I haven’t told her about Raphael and my arrangement yet. I don’t want her to grow any more paranoid, or concerned, about me. As much as I disapprove of her prying, it does have me curious about his possible answers.

“It’s alright,” Raphael assures me and doesn’t sound irritated or like his privacy is being invaded. “In answer to your question, Emma, I’ve spent most of my time travelling.”

“Yeah? Where to?” She continues questioning.

He shrugs, reflecting. “Everywhere. I was in Europe and Asia for almost fifteen years. The Europeans aren’t fairing much better than the people here in the territories.”

“I wonder why Lucifer chose to make the United States his home instead of another country in Europe or Asia?” I say, verbalizing my thought.

He folds up the map and lowers it to his side. “I guess because countries in Europe and Asia are older, with a deep rooted mindset. Whereas, the United States’ still young. This country is easier to shape and mold into his image than others.”

“So is that all you’ve done?” Emma narrows her gaze. “You’ve just been travelling.”

“Not in the beginning,” he admits. “Weeks after the battle I met a woman named Willow. She took me into her home. We guided each other through hard times. She was the reason I begun travelling.”

Emma loses her edge and grows with fascination. “Did you love her?”

Raphael smiles and looks at the ground as he speaks. “Yes, I loved her. She showed me how to find a new path. I travelled the world to help others and destroy demons. My world had changed, yet my mission to help protect mankind hadn’t.”

The interrogation is over. Emma watches him with curiosity instead of suspicion. Her face softens. The rest of the walk is peaceful, except for my legs wanting to give out beneath me.

Twilight hovers in the sky as night is close approaching. Raphael finds an abandoned house for us to stay the night in. Emma and I set up camp for the night in a windowless bedroom upstairs while Raphael does his patrol outside. Emma and I lay on the blanket. My tired legs relax.

“We’ll make it to the border by tomorrow evening,” I say to Emma excitedly.

Her eyes are ready to shut. “We’re almost there.”

 

Chapter Eight: Borders (Diana’s Point of View)

Exhaustion weighs me down as we travel at daybreak. Hours of walking wares on me and takes a toll on my leg muscles. Emma drags her feet beside me as she pushes on. She flashes me a tired smile and returns to taking in the scenery. I can barely make out the sounds of Raphael’s light footsteps behind us.

The street is almost vacant, except for a family of four scurrying off down a side street. Two guys are on the sidewalk trading poultry. A woman in her mid-forties is on a porch step yelling at her young son for walking off too far. I glance over at a yellow shuttered house and catch the eye of an elderly woman. She locks her window and draws the shades close.

Further down the road no one’s insight. Day is slowly fading with night blooming soon.

Raphael looks over the map and folds it up. “We should be at the border by now,” he says more to himself than us and shakes his head.

“We are,” Emma clarifies and points down the street.

I follow her direction and see it. A rectangular, metal green sign that says Now Leaving Ohio and across from it is another sign saying Welcome to Pennsylvania. I enrapture in excitement. Our long journey is almost to an end. Emma shares in my thrill, but Raphael doesn’t. He has a serious look plastered on his face as he motions for us to follow him with the wave of his hand. We follow behind him and end up behind a bush to a duplex building.

“Stay here,” he orders us.

I don’t understand. “Why? The border’s right there,” I say, pointing in its direction. “If we go now we can make it there before its dark.”

“Exactly,” he replies. “The border’s right there. The demons guarding it are going to be right there too. Let me go check it out. I’ll try to find a safe way across. Unless, you want to take your chances and go now?”

His tone makes my cheeks burn in anger. I don’t like that he’s looking down on me. Like I can’t handle taking care of myself. I exhale my frustration and let it go because I know he’s right. “You go. We’ll stay here.”

He nods and walks off.

Emma and I kneel down and hide behind the bush. My heartbeat quickens and pounds harder with each beat against my ribcage. Sweat makes my hands clammy. Fear prickles up my spine, but I try to keep my face composed for Emma’s sake. She doesn’t appear any more confident than me.

“What if we don’t make it?” She asks in a quivering, small voice minutes later.

I don’t want to answer her question. The very thought of one of us not making it across makes my stomach twist into knots. “We’ll make it,” I tell her in a façade of bravado. “I promise you.”

“Hey,” Raphael whispers from beside us and makes the both of us jump with fright. “It’s clear. Let’s move.”

We stand and distance ourselves from the bush. I feel like a spy as we move along the buildings incognito and inch our way towards the border. The signs are almost in reaching distance now. Relief awaits me on the other side.

Almost there, I think as we approach the signs. I glance in all directions while Emma crosses over. I see nothing or anyone suspicious watching us.

“You next,” he tells me and remains vigilant.

One foot passes over, and then the other. I’m in Pennsylvania now. Raphael is right behind me. Now that we’re safe across, I exhale the breath I held in. Emma can barely contain her joy as we carry on.

I was worried for nothing. My disappointment and worry release from my body. The gravel crunches beneath my feet as we head down another road. Emma hums a song I can’t name. I can’t help but to grin at her. It’s the first time in a long while since I’ve seen her really happy.

Raphael’s long arm shoots out in front of us and blocks us. We all stop. He puts a finger to his mouth silencing us.

“What is it?” I whisper.

“Shush,” he whispers back. His head tilts in the opposite direction like he’s listening for something. A second later, his head snaps in our direction alarmingly. “Run! Run to the church!” He yells at us.

Emma takes off sprinting to the white church down the street off to the right. I run right behind her without any question.

Halfway to the church, I look back at Raphael. He’s still where we left him, standing in the middle of a three-way street intersection. Demons begin to manifest out of the shadows around him. There has to be twelve or fifteen of them. I know there’s too many demons for Raphael to take on his own and make it out alive.

This isn’t right. I stop dead in my tracks, almost spraining my neck in the process, as I glance in between Raphael and Emma.

She notices I’ve stopped and halts. “Come on, Diana!”

“No,” I tell her. “I have to help him.”

“I’m coming with you,” she tells me and tries to walk over.

“Stay,” I demand of her. “Get to the church and lock yourself inside.”

Our eyes meet for a moment. There’s a grave look on her face like she’s trying to memorize my face. Like this might be the last time she’ll ever gazes upon it. Emma turns and keeps on running for the church obediently without looking back. I won’t be able to help Raphael if I know she isn’t safe. I exert all of my muscles to run faster and get to Raphael in time. Fear envelopes me, but I can’t let it hold me back now. I have to help him.

Two demons hold him down on the ground while he struggles to get back on his feet. The others see me coming as I get closer. There’s no turning back now. I pull my sword out of its black sheath and raise it level to my arms. A growl almost like a cry gurgles its way up my chest and out of my mouth.

A demon with a sadistic grin on his face comes at me. Our swords make a clinging sound as they clash. Soon enough, I’m taking on three of them at once. I find an inner strength in myself hidden deep within I never knew was there before. An instinct, a drive, a light to defend myself from their attacks.

I barely notice Raphael’s standing as I destroy another demon. Movement from behind alarms me. Spinning around, I have my sword knocked from my grasp. It lands a few feet away on the ground. A bald demon shoves me and causes me to lose my balance.

The gravel and I collide hard as I fall. He lifts his sword high above himself and drives it down over my heart. My body reacts before I can think of what to do. I roll over and get to my feet. He’s just as quick. The cold metal of his sword is pressed against the flesh of my neck.

Frozen, I stare at him without looking into his black eyes. I know if I move he’ll end me.

His triumphant smile fades and his eyes round as he looks down. I gaze down too. The tip of a blade emerges out of his heart and drips with crimson blood. A sigh slips from in-between his pale lips as he falls to his knees. The side of my neck stings as his sword is removed.

Raphael pulls his sword out of the demon and grabs me by the hand. “We need to run. More of them are coming,” he tells me and pulls me along as he sprints.

The hairs on the back of my neck and arms stand on end as I run at full force. I feel the demons coming after us and move even quicker. I don’t look back. Cold, bone tingling chills crawl up my skin like spiders. Every fiber of my being is hypersensitive as adrenaline courses through mr. I’m still reeling from what just happened. I had no idea how strong I was in body and spirit before this very moment.

The arched church doors open as we near. Emma looks behind us and her eyes widen. I can only imagine what she sees. Raphael leaps in the doors with both of our swords in one of his hands. I take one big leap through; she closes the doors hard when I’m inside. Raphael holds the doors shut. Shadows flit and flash around the outside of the stain-glass windows.

Emma crouches down behind a wooden pew shaking and trembling.

A few moments later, there’s no noises coming from outside. No shadows pass in front of the windows. Raphael walks away from the doors and sits on a pew reclining.

“Where did they all go?” I ask him, but I don’t dare take my eyes off the doors.

He places the swords on the carpet in front of him. “They’re gone, but they’ll be back. We’re safe in here. Demons can’t enter a church that’s still holy,” he informs us.

I trust in his words, so I take a seat beside where Emma hides. “We’re going to have to camp out here for the night.”

 

Bullet: A short story inspired by the poem HERE, BULLET by Brian Turner

In a silent confines of his master bedroom, Trevor leans against the pastel yellow wall on the right side of his bed. The brain splitting headache cuts through his head like lightning bolts. He runs his shaking right hand through his short, brown hair and grabs at his head. A bone, cold shiver rises up his spine as memories –Memories he has tried with all of his willpower to repress. Memories of time gone, yet still as vivid as if they’re happening in this very moment– fight to the forefront of his mind. His heart drums on inside of his chest like bombs falling and exploding from sky against his ribcage. Each sharp, cutting breath brings the graven memories closer to being viewed in his head. Trevor slides down the wall shaking his head in an attempt to erase them, but as he sits on the carpet they shoot into his view.

“No, no, no,” he whimpers. The salty, hot tears roll down his cold cheeks, burning.

The flash of silver below catches his attention and he gazes down. The heavy weight of cold metal nestled in his hand can end this all. No more memories threatening to replay over in his head. His index finger caresses the trigger, the life-ending lever.

The yellow walls, king-sized bed with caribbean blue sheets, the wooden dresser and table ends, and the entire bedroom spin around Trevor in his view. Spinning, spinning, and spinning, until it completely deteriorates. In its place, an entirely different setting appears. A memory that Trevor has fought and failed to contain in the deep confines of his mind.

Either way Trevor turns there’s nowhere safe. On all sides of him, his brothers in arms block any form of escape as they trot and run with their black shiny boots slapping against the muddy ground slashing dirty water and muck on the fabric of their pants.

Across the field under gray cloudy skies their enemies run towards them with their faces distorted with pure black, primeval hatred. The yelling and war cries sweep through the air, yet are drowned out by helicopter wings beating against the wind as they turn. The slight whistling of bombs as they drop from the sky and crater the Earth around Trevor as they explode and expand, taking lives in their wake and ruining the only home these people have. His ears ring with a piercing never ending sound. His nose burns and his eyes sting as the smell of gas and rotting death blow passed him and into his airways. His lungs fill with the toxins and his breath grows harder with each intake and outlet. Yet he has to keep moving forward; fighting his duty will only prolong his time here.

Two forces collide with each other; his unit and the enemies like dominoes collapsing and hitting against each other. The booming, continued popping of bullets flying through the air ricochets around him. He doesn’t have time to stop and check himself for wounds. The enemy is here. His eyes round widely as he looks at the faces of his enemies; they’re just children. Children sent to fight a man’s war. The adrenaline and training hasn’t prepared him for this. He raises his gun on constant vigilant alert, yet doesn’t fire a round.

Around him, his brothers with their faces set in stone with determination are unfazed by their youthful enemies. One of his brothers thrusts the bayonet of his gun into the chest of one of the children, screaming into the wind as he does, and pulls the trigger back without second thought as he opens rapid fire on the child, turning the child’s chest into shreds in the process. The child’s eyes widen, yet he doesn’t have time to react as it happens.

In front of Trevor, a child points a gun at him, ready to fire as he smiles like it’s some game. There’s no time to pause as Trevor turns his gun in the child’s direction. He squeezes the trigger down. In a flash, bullets pierce the child’s chest. In that instant, he strips the child of his life and, in doing so, loses a piece of his humanity and his soul.

Turning away, he fights on. Numb to the death he just caused. Until another day.

 

Chapter 4 of PATH OF SHADOWS

Chapter Four: Emma (Emma’s Point of View)

She’s alright. She has to be alright, I think repeatedly, praying these words are true. Diana’s strong. She got away from those monsters. If she got away from them than why isn’t she here? I wonder, but I ignore it and keep chanting. She’s alright. She has to be alright.

My heavy eyelids beg to be shut, and my body wants to rest, but I refuse to let it. I haven’t slept a wink all night. It’s amazing how my fear the demons will return out rules my exhaustion. The laundromat, our makeshift home for the night, is silent. The only noise is the buzzing I hear from the light bulbs. I sit on the drafty ground in a small room against a washer with Diana’s sword gripped tight in my hands. The sword shakes along with my trembling hands.

Diana, where are you? I wonder.

I need her here. I need her to be safe. I don’t know what I’d do without her. She has taken care of and protected me for months. She’s all the family I have left in this world.

Waiting for her, I think of the first time I met her almost two years ago in South Dakota.

I run and don’t look back. My family’s bloody screams echo through the woods from tree to tree and in the wind. Hot tears stream down my cold cheeks and my breath is visible in the cold weather. I keep running, afraid the demons will come after me next. Miles away when the bright sun dawns I force myself to stop running. I’m safe in the daylight hours from the night creatures.

Falling to my knees in the dirt, I cry. I weep for my mother, for my father, for my older cousin Cynthia, and my little sister Candice. They’re dead. Their lives stripped from them in a flash of violence. I’m alone.

Three days of solitude follow. I walk by day in search of people and food. By night, I hide in trees or wherever I can to keep out of sight. On the third day, I come across a white two story house in the midst of the forest. There are no lights on or signs of life inside. It’s dark and I must hide. I walk up the three wooden stairs, onto the porch, and try to open the door. It’s locked, so I walk over to the window and find it’s unlocked. I crawl inside as quietly as possible and make my way to the kitchen.

I find the kitchen and walk quickly over to the fridge when I spot it. I open it and I’m thankful when I see its stock full of food and water. My stomach growls. I pull out a big piece of deer meat and shut the fridge door as I bite it.

The lights in the kitchen flip on. I jump back and notice there’s a girl my age standing in the doorway with a wooden bat held tightly in her hand. Scared, I drop the meat onto the counter and back up towards the door I entered.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to break in and steal your food,” I babble to her. My mind swirls and my heart drums on. I feel awful for violating her home, but I don’t think I had any other choice. “I thought no one lived here. I was hungry. I haven’t eaten anything in four days. I’m sorry. I’ll leave now.”

The girl gazes at me for the longest time. She sits her bat on the ground beside her and takes two steps towards me. I don’t know whether I should run or continue apologizing, so I stay frozen.

“You can stay and eat if you want,” she offers and sits at the circular table beside the counter.

I pick the meat back off the counter cautiously and join her at the table.

“Thank you,” I say in-between bites.

She watches me plow down the meat and offers me more when I’m finished. We have something in common. We’re both alone.

From that day on, I never left. She had saved my life by offering a simple courtesy.

The bell ringing above the Laundromat door, signals that someone has entered, pulls me out of the past and back into the present. I get up off the ground and tiptoe over to the door, praying its Diana.

The backroom door to the room I’m in opens before I can reach it. A man enters the room and faces me. I swing the sword at him impulsively. He’s stronger and faster than me. He reacts quickly and knocks the sword out of my hands before it can touch him. I try to recoil from him, but he wraps his arms around mine and restrains me.

“Calm down,” I hear him say.

“Let me go,” I beg and try to wiggle free.

Diana walks into the room and smiles at me.

“Diana!” I say and he releases me. I run to Diana and hug her tightly. My fears are immediately dissolved by her presence. She’s safe. She’s alright.

“Emma, are you okay? I tried to get here as fast as I could,” she tells me and looks me over for any injuries.

“I’m fine. I was worried something had happened to you. What happened after I ran?” I ask her. I glance at the guy watching us. “Who’s he?”

Diana glances at him and answers me. “It’s a long, complicated story.”