The Great Ziggurat | [Short Story]

Contextual background: Catharsis of Ur wakes to find himself in a room recovering from the attack of the Wahrlog, Specter. He was rescued by angelic sentries after trying to take his life in order to avoid the attack from Specter.

Suggested music track: Hunger, Amaranthe

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When Catharsis opened his eyes, he felt the dull stinging of burnt flesh on his face. He could smell it through the medicated jelly, covered by stained strips of papyrus bandages and mud.

In the candlelight, he slowly peered around the room, searching for Specter in the darkness. Expecting to see its hollow black eyes peering from the corner. Or to see the gleam of its incisors reflected in the muted light, lips pulled back over them.

Cautiously he searched the rest of the strange room and noticed that he was lying on a stone table of some sort, cushioned by a thick reed mat. Not much was visible to his hurting eyes, but on the opposite wall there was a window buttressed by two white sheers flowing softly from the warm desert heat, letting in the remaining rays of the setting sun.

Catharsis didn’t know what was happening or where he was, but he faintly remembered the angelic figures that saved him after his hut was lit ablaze by a surreal firestorm…likely where his burns had come from.

Trying to stand, he felt a soft hand on his shoulder.

He shuddered.

“Rest my son,” a voice whispered, “you are on hallowed ground and safe, I assure you, from any danger.” The weakness overtook Catharsis and he collapsed on the mat.

“There are probably so many, many questions you have. But you must know first that you are safe.”

The voice continued and the figure came to stand beside Catharsis as he spoke. “I am Enlil. The high priest of this temple. This is a sanctuary and place of healing.

“It seems you faced the Wahrlog of the Darkness, Specter. And were it not for the sentries that saved your life, you would not be here in our very presence.” Enlil motioned to the dark doorway and when Catharsis’ eyes adjusted, could see the faint outline of two stone statues that resembled the figures who had saved him, and defeated the Wahrlog.

“Whe-where am I,” Catharsis whispered, trying to swallow past the thick pain in his throat.

“You are safe inside the Great Ziggurat.”

Catharsis blanked for a moment then looked up, “Yes, I’ve heard of this place from others before. It is a sanctuary for those who have suffered with affliction.”

“Yes, that is correct, my child,” Enlil softly agreed, bowing his head.

As Catharsis’ eyes adjusted more to the room’s darkness he could see Enlil more clearly. The high priest’s head was smooth and he wore a simple white tunic that covered his hands, which were loosely folded in front of him. The tunic flowed down and covered his feet and was secured around his waist with a single purple sash. A necklace with a pendant hung from his neck and there was a strange marking on his forehead.

“This Specter, why does it haunt me so?”

“You have been marked since birth. He has marked you. Specter has marked you with an invisible illness that, though not visibly seen, has plagued man ever since the new beginning. He has marked you with affliction.”

Enlil continued, “Yours is the affliction of darkness. There are others, but this is yours. Each affliction is commanded by a Wahrlog. The Wahrlog that commands your affliction is…Specter.”

“Then what is to become of me?” hesitated Catharsis.

“You shall remain here until your health has recovered. You will be taught about your affliction so that over time, you may control and survive with it. So that it will not control you.

“You will be tended to by mediciners, who will prescribe certain elixirs for your consumption. Over time, these substances will help to quell the effects of Specter. They will lessen the darkness with which you live…with which you endure.

“Now it is time to rest, my son. Tomorrow you will meet the others and begin your road to healing.”

As Catharsis’ eyes became heavy and the last rays of the sun extinguished their light, Enlil bowed and slowly exited.


March of the Cybrids-Ch 11

“The new world is as yet behind the veil of destiny in my eyes; however, its dawn has been unveiled” ― Muhammad Iqbal

MOTC-11b

New Dawn

He sat at the table in the restaurant where he first met Gloria. Memories of her playful sultriness crept in his mind. Peter thought about how she played her part as his waitress and later moaned under the weight of his passion. He missed her clutching his back and locking herself to him with her legs as he lost himself in her embrace.  Peter wondered how duty and devotion came to mean so much that she would throw her life away. Continue reading “March of the Cybrids-Ch 11”

Brain Bugs

This morning, as I was drinking a cup of coffee, a day after my 43rd birthday, I felt a convulsive scattering across the roof of my mouth.

I choked. And spit.

I looked down and saw the bug lying upside down in the light brown liquid, its legs kicking profusely.

I stared at it.

I knew what it was. And I knew where it came from.

My brain.

The bugs had been with me for as long as I could remember. They are part of my life.  I don’t like it, they just are.

At first I was afraid of them. Disgusted.  I could feel them crawling over the surface of my hippocampus and through the channels of my amygdala.

I used to scratch my forehead incessantly because I could feel something crawling under my skin,  beneath my skull. Like something had burrowed into my nasal passages at night and worked its way into my prefrontal cortex. And laid its eggs. That’s what my brother always told me. We all heard those stories as kids,  right?

I didn’t know what it was, or if it was even normal.  I was a pre-teen going through a lot of weird changes. A lot of things didn’t make sense at the time.

I remember my first experience with the bugs. I was in middle school at a friend’s birthday party.  Introverted, standing away from the crowd. I didn’t know why,  and I know it sounds selfish, but I just didn’t feel like being there.  The thought of being around groups of people was daunting to me. I forced myself to go,  knowing I wasn’t going to have any fun. I just wanted to be at home,  locked away in the safety of my bedroom where no one could bother…no, harm me.

So while I was at this party,  I felt the itching again. More intense this time.  I was worried someone would see me scratching and scrunching my nose,  point it out to others,  and people would ridicule me.  I tried to hide it. I don’t know why I didn’t go to the bathroom before it happened,  I just stood there. To my complete disgust,  the bug fell from my nose onto my sleeve. I gasped and swatted at it but it just dropped and scurried away into the corner.

I don’t think anyone noticed because no one said anything and people were even coming up to me to talk.

That’s when I knew I was different than a lot of other kids at school.

That was when I knew I had something.

I couldn’t sleep at night.  I could feel the bugs scurrying over the macaroni-like canals of my brain as I tossed and turned.  I was exhausted during the day but couldn’t sleep for beans at night.

I later learned about something called cortisol, and that it made a part of my brain larger and more active.  This is what caused my disturbances – what made it impossible to sleep.

I think the bugs make cortisol in their bodies and then inject it into my brain like venom. It’s what makes me feel and act the way I do.

“It’s just a phase”, my dad said. “Probably from you starting middle school this year.”

“You’ll get better, honey”, my mom comforted.

They just didn’t know.

I didn’t know.

Eventually I came to accept that the bugs were there to stay. I somehow got used to the itching. What choice did I have?

My parents sent me to therapy with my ludicrous and unexplainable rantings of “brain bugs”. The doctor was gentle and understanding while I explained through tears and hanging my head in shame .

“They’re always there”, I sobbed.

“I know”, he whispered. “We’re going to help you.”

I didn’t really understand what the medicine he gave me did,  or what it was called.  It had letters though-I think an “s” or two,  an “r”, and an “i”, or something like that. I was desperate. I couldn’t live like this anymore. Especially when no one believed me.

I took the pills every day like he told me. After a few weeks, the itching began to subside. It was still there,  just not as intense.  Muted. I learned how to keep the bugs more-or-less contained,  though they were always there . At least the medicine helped prevent them from falling out of my ears or nose. I could still feel them moving back and forth inside my skull but I was numb at the same time.  I think the medicine made me feel that way – zombie-ish.

I remember that several months after I began therapy,  I noticed a girl standing by herself in the cafeteria. She was pretty so I didn’t understand why she was by herself. Probably just waiting on some friends I guessed.

Her eyes darted around the room, almost like she was nervous or didn’t want to be there.

And then I saw her scratch her forehead and wrinkle her nose a few times.

When I walked over to her,  she sheepishly looked at me with the one eye that wasn’t hidden behind her beautiful brown hair.

“I’ve got ’em, too”, I told her,  casting my gaze down to the ground.

A tear glistened down her cheek.

“Come on”, I nodded.

She smiled. Her eyebrow lifted.

And we turned and got into line to buy our food

March of the Cybrids-Ch 10

“Heresy is the eternal dawn, the morning star, the glittering herald of the day. Heresy is the last and best thought. It is the perpetual New World, the unknown sea, toward which the brave all sail. It is the eternal horizon of progress. ― Robert G. Ingersoll, Heretics and Heresies: From ‘The Gods and Other Lectures’

MOTC-10b

 

Heresy

The nurse studied the health monitor at the foot of the Dragon Creche and looked at the figure under the glass bubble. She felt a flash of anger thinking about the Cybrid getting the best care the Dragons could provide. The Cybrid rested peacefully while one of her Dragon sisters lay in a basement room secreted away in isolation like a lab rat with the plague. Continue reading “March of the Cybrids-Ch 10”

March of the Cybrids-Ch 9

“You can only be jealous of someone who has something you think you ought to have yourself.” ― Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

MOTC-10
Red Dress by Andre Kohn

 

Crescendo

The orchestra captivated her.  Music was a language all its own and Mariah understood it. As the symphony spoke to her in whispers and emotional shouts, she dreamed of living in the age of romanticism.  She saw herself in a studio as her artist labored to the flourish of the maestro’s baton. Mariah imagined her likeness on canvas in flowing strokes of Pianississimo and bold dashes of Fortissimo. Continue reading “March of the Cybrids-Ch 9”

March of the Cybrids-Ch 8

“My soul is a hidden orchestra; I know not what instruments, what fiddlestrings and harps, drums and tamboura I sound and clash inside myself. All I hear is the symphony.” ― Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

symphony II

 

Symphony

Alexa gathered Mariah’s hair from around her face with her fingers and ran the brush through her hair.  They sat on the floor, silk robes flowing loose over their fresh skin in pleats. Alexa’s smooth strokes of the brush soothed Mariah’s anxious heart as she held out her fingers and blew on them to let the French tips dry on her nails. Continue reading “March of the Cybrids-Ch 8”

March of the Cybrids-Ch 7

“Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.” ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

MOTC-7a

 

Acceptance

Mariah never grew tired of looking out the glass wall of Alexa’s waiting room.  The view from the window filled her mind with dreams as she looked out over the ocean. On the horizon, clouds lifted from the water and raced overhead on their way inland.  Waves rolled on shore and seemed to come toward her like the movies where lovers run to each other’s arms. The scene gave her a sense of flight and freedom. Continue reading “March of the Cybrids-Ch 7”

March of the Cybrids-Ch 6

“Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” ― C.G. Jung

introspection

Awaken the Cybrids

The blue skies painted a mesmerizing backdrop for clouds billowing up over the bluff by the sea. The sound of surf and stone in an ageless rhythm soothed the two most powerful women in the Black Dragon Society. The women conversed in the garden seated next to each other on the wrought iron love seat. Their conversation was unhurried in a laconic tone without inflection. Continue reading “March of the Cybrids-Ch 6”

March of the Cybrids-Ch 5

“The faintest cry is loosened from her in a lucid expression that does announce her bestirring itch. Over and under each other’s lips, we now find ourselves in each other’s recalescent and inundated Elysium. Our hips move in a natural sequence that gives sentience to the repressed soul.” ― Luccini Shurod, The Painter

MOTC-5

The Shore of Elysium

Shimmering eyes took in the man across the table. The waitress arrived with their meal. Gloria reached around Peter’s side and placed a dish in front of him. She touched his shoulder with her other hand as she brushed against him. Silk and soft skin brought memories of Gloria’s attention from other days back to Peter as he looked down to avoid Mariah’s questioning look. Continue reading “March of the Cybrids-Ch 5”

March of the Cybrids-Ch 4

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” ― John Keats, Endymion

MOTC-4a

 

Endymion

Mariah sat in a chair in the reading section of the old library with the works of the English poet, John Keats. She found herself absorbed in the study of his poem, Endymion.  She loved the thought of Hyperion’s daughter, Selene, Goddess of the moon, falling in love with the young shepherd, Endymion. Keats called her Cynthia. She loved Keats’ romantic retelling of the old Greek myth. Continue reading “March of the Cybrids-Ch 4”

March of the Cybrids-Ch 3

“Life is a book and there are a thousand pages I have not yet read.”

― Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Princess

Book of Life

 

The Book of Life

The books stacked on the shelves looked like soldiers standing at attention. Mariah was curious. She reveled in the old library’s solitude. It was more a mausoleum for discarded human history than a place to enrich the mind. Continue reading “March of the Cybrids-Ch 3”

March of the Cybrids-Ch 2

Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is.”  ― Hermann Hesse, Bäume. Betrachtungen und Gedichte

MOTC-2

 

Spark of Life

The view through the wall of glass eclipsed the silence in the room. Overlooking the Bay, high on the bluffs, Mariah felt in the clouds for a moment. Gulls drifted on the thermal currents along the bluff as white-capped waves ran in long lines up on the shore. Ambling winds hurried to push the clouds over the land, their shadows subduing the light that danced through the seams. Continue reading “March of the Cybrids-Ch 2”

Catharsis and the Angels

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Catharsis hung there.

Limp. Swaying from the rafter that supported his mud and straw-thatched roof.

He could hear the cord stretch and groan from his weight as his eyes became heavy.

Back and forth.

Back.

And.

Forth.

His eyes began to close as the cord tightened and choked off his life wind. Choking his hope. His will to live. His resilience.

He hadn’t the will to raise his arms and save himself. He could have he supposed. But he refused. He felt a calming peace blanketing him as his life energy fell through the soles of his feet, leaving his body forever.

Finally.

Finally he would be free of this torment.

Finally he would have peace.

Peace from this Wahrlog of the Darkness.

The Darkness. A darkness so consuming, so debilitating, that each day was a struggle. A struggle to rise each morning. A struggle to tend to his fields. A struggle to continue life. A life coated with apathy.

He had hid it well from his fellow villagers. Masked it behind his toiling in the fields. Masked it behind his inward solitude. Disguised it with the will to be alone. To remain undiscovered and unbranded with the Stigma.

He knew others who had been discovered. Who had been branded on their forehead with the seal of their affliction – their illness. He remembered seeing the searing iron hissing as it sunk into their flesh. Leaving a soft cloud of smoke as it pushed deeper into them.

And their screams.

Their screams.

They were forever labeled in society by those they knew. Those they loved. Those they had children with. Their families. Their neighbors.

Branded.

Shunned.

Stigmatized.

Some, like himself, afflicted with the darkness – the deep, dark, debilitating depression he knew since he was a child.

Others, afflicted with the fear – remnants of some past traumatic stressing life event that had ripped their soul in half, and forced them to relive their past horrors. Manifest in the forms of flashbacks and tortured by the night harpies of terror. He could hear their screams at night.

Alone.

In the darkness.

Others, afflicted with the rage – elevated, hyper levels of anxiousness brought on by some outside trigger. Issuing in a brain pandemonium of paranoia and irritability. Lashing out at those whom they held closest as they wandered through their personal fog of war.

Through his closing vision, Catharsis could faintly make out the Specter emerging from the darkness. Moving closer. Stretching his pale white claws from his cloak, his talons scratching the walls of Catharsis’ mud home. Digging into the hardened clay and leaving deep cuts as chunks of adobe were ripped away. In and out of his slumber, Catharsis thought how they resembled his fields that he had just returned from. Their perfect rows whose cast shadows aligned harmoniously in the setting sun.

This was his last thought of peacefulness as Catharsis’ eyes closed.

And Specter’s grip closed around his throat.

*     *     *

At the instant the beast secured his grip to claim his prize, a magnificent burst of white light flooded the room.

Specter shrieked like a hung pig being bled dry and lurched back from the blazon firestorm that enshrouded the hanging body.

Two forms took their place next to the body of Catharsis. On either side, like stark angelic sentries sent to protect him from the Wahrlog. They raised their hands and in a fluid motion brought them down, lances appearing and striking the mud floor.

Specter hissed and the sentries lowered their weapons, tips pointed at its open throat.

A sentry stepped forward a crouched in the dirt, bracing itself with its weapon. Slowly and deliberately it scratched a line across the floor, fire following in a steady trail.

It retracted and regained its position.

“Though shall not pass” the two sentries whispered.

Specter lurched through the flame and in one swift movement was impaled on their spears. Instantaneously, Specter disintegrated into the light, taking with him his shadows and his darkness.

*     *     *

As one sentry held fast the body of Catharsis, the other swiftly swung its lance at the noose, cutting him free.

Lowering him to the ground the sentries whispered, “you are safe child.”

Love and the Maiden

Before Catharsis passed through his Breaking Point against the Wahrlog of Darkness, there were many days his mind would wander.

One thing he thought about was love.

He wondered…wondered if he was ever capable of it.

He thought he was. Or rather, many paths in his life supported that he was capable of what he thought was an elusive emotion:

Ages ago he had been married. Wasn’t this love?

He had helped bare a daughter into the world. Surely this was an act of love.

He often stopped along the rocky roadside to help strangers whose carts had succumbed to wear. Or those who had been bogged down in the tumultuous weather and storms. This had to be love.

Or when he could, he offered what he had to his neighbors or friends in need. Without doubt, this was love.

Wasn’t it?

It seemed he could go on and on with these proofs and until the settling sun descended over the city wall, and the moon ascended with its blanket of darkness, enshrouding Ǚr and the surrounding countryside. Tucking it in.

He could summon endless proof of love.

But he could find no proof in feeling it. The Darkness muted it.

Often times those three words felt empty. He wanted to feel them. But for some reason he couldn’t feel them.

He could only act them out.

Perhaps that was enough in itself.

Perhaps love was not a feeling.

Perhaps it was a choice.

*          *          *

Many years after the loss of his marriage to the Darkness, he had experienced intimate Relationship with a woman who suffered with Affliction as he did. It was the first time in a long time he held this communal bond with another.

Someone who understood his life with clarity.

It was upon this last thought on which his mind wandered…

Her struggle was not with the same beast as his – this Wahrlog of Darkness.

No, hers was with other beasts; these Wahrlogs of Affliction who exacted their punishments as Rage and Fear.

Yet she, she seemed so oddly capable of love and tenderness. Regardless of the terrors and harpies she battled every night. So inclined to it with all her humanness and personal torments. Greater than Catharsis himself had ever dealt with. So much greater than he was capable of.

It came so naturally to her.

She tended to him and more importantly, understood him. She validated his misgivings and second thoughts.

When they both were strong, they were both strong. But when they were weak, they were oh so weak. So weak that no force could bring them back after they had been ripped asunder. She always seemed to bring them back though.

It seemed over the years that he had lost love. Lost it to the damned Darkness.

Lost it to apathy.

Lost it to lethargy.

Lost it to reclusiveness.

Lost it to the punishment of the relentless Specter – that Wahrlog of Darkness that scratched the walls of his soul with its sinister talons. Torturing him from the dark recesses of his mind.

Relentlessly.

When he pushed back to fight for what he wanted, It dug its claws deeper through the flesh of his back. Injecting the venom of lethargy and apathy until it dripped into his soul. Sedating him from the surrounding world. Wrapping its free arm around his neck in a stranglehold. Choking off his breath. Choking off his will to pursue what he had wanted.

And then Catharsis would succumb to the Darkness yet again.

Until he made himself alone.

It made Catharsis do things he didn’t want to do. It made him hurt those that were closest to him. It made him callous. It incited him with irate intolerance. Sometimes causing him to lash out in a sleep-deprived state. Venomous forked tongue. That’s what the Darkness did to his soul.

And so it was that at just the time he believed he was beginning to live a normal life. A life consistent with his fellow citizens in the village. It was about that time that it all fell apart.

It was an unfortunate fact of his life.

But.

Sometimes love does not win.

The Ivory Tower | [Short Story]

Across the plain of Ǚr, far away from the citadel itself, there stood a shining tower of polished limestone. It was a colossal structure. Towering over the fields below. Dominating the landscape to the horizon, over which the plain’s namesake kingdom lay.

It mirrored the sun’s reflection as a fine gem in the crown of the king. Or a polished plate of glass in the courtyard at midday. It pulsed radiance and even from afar off, emitted a brilliance that was known across the plain.

Its alabaster skin was a testament to its beauty. Each stone finely blended and buffed with the other so that all chinked together like a single dragon’s scale.

It was embedded with many different shades of blue polished gems and minerals that blinked at every angle. Not so much as to overtake the gleaming snowy surface. But merely to accent.

Channels of soft, dark azurite ran starkly down its vertical edges, bordered by thin lines of fixed sapphire.

Thick lazulite crystals adorned its horizontal precipices, giving off a faintly cloudy deep green aura, comparable to the ocean’s depths as seen from the gull’s eye overhead. A halo atop the chalk white faces of the tower.

Many knew of its exquisiteness through story or song only, for none in numbers were allowed too close, nevertheless entrance. Only able to cast eyes on it from afar.

Despite all its beauty and grandeur, it became more intimidating in its features, as any outsider drew closer. One would rather call it a citadel than a tower, for it was well fortified and garrisoned many citizens. The same citizens who had built it over the years, enduring the cold winds, stiletto rains, and molten sun.

Though still opulent to the eyes, one could observe battlements and parapets atop the four megalithic walls. Flanking the spire that shot into the sky like a spike into the heavens. Or a compass point by which the rest of the land would calibrate its remaining three directional points.

A selfish, self-centeredness.

An arrogant and haughty feat of engineering designed to show all who gazed upon it the bigotry and seclusion of its citizenry.

A pinnacle of privilege.

The meters-thick walls of the gatehouse itself menaced any who approached its entrance. Appearing as a harbinger and to vex outsiders, warding them away from the inhabitants. Visitors were not taken kindly to.

Several less imposing, yet formidable keeps, buttressed the corners of the tower’s walls. Upon closer observation, the finer subtleties of the tower came into view – murder holes, curtain walls, and arrowslits. Accoutrements of defense and to prevent impregnation.

Of the songs sung and tales told of the tower’s beginnings, many knew. They had been passed down through the ages by bards, minstrels, and poets. Alongside firey pits and dusty roads.

*     *     *

Long after the world had been destroyed by Deluge.

And Fire had scorched the forests into plains.

Ages after Wormwood sheared the mountains to the earth.

And Plague had destroyed the animals and Famine had decimated humanity.

Many eons after the earth had been purified and reborn.

Just after man had begun to repopulate the earth.

 The tower’s beginnings coincided with The Great Departing. A time of schism marked by a splitting of the earliest members of the new humanity. Though not a splitting in the true sense.

Rather a leaving.

A departure of those from their young familial units.

Those who had a misplaced reality, replaced with a self-righteous bigotry. A skewed, inarguable view of observable facts. A non-acceptance of the world around them. Complete with all its imperfections.

They were the tower’s builders.

They built its four walls. Those gleaning partitions that separated them from the rest of humanity.

Self-righteousness facing the north.

Ignorance facing the south.

Bigotry facing the east.

And intolerance facing the west.

They insulated and protected themselves from their loved ones. Their soul mates. Their compatriots. Their mentors. And their confidants.

They betrayed them. And they established their new life secluded from any pollution from the outside world.

A holier-than-thou life of solitude.

In their ivory tower.

The Horseman Named Stonewall

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On the hinterlands of the dismal grey wasteland of Relationship, at the base of Cold Mountain, loomed a dark grey fortress known as Desolation.

Its colossal walls were miles high and meters thick.

The top of the wall was a foreboding omen to those who dared approach from across the tundra. Craggy stalagmites protruded at odd angles like dragons teeth and witches claws. Bones littered the parapet where vultures had dropped the leftover carcasses of their prey.

Vigilant gargoyles with ripped wings gazed out onto the horizon. They perched themselves every 100 yards, digging their talons into the chipped rock of the facade. The commander of the citadel called on their allegiance by name – Defensiveness, Frustration, Exasperation, and Malice. With glowing white eyes, they penetrated the darkness, letting out shrieks of alarm should life approach out of the black.

The commander himself was the sole inhabitant of the fortress. A horseman who sat deep within the cold, grey rock of Cold Mountain.

His name was Stonewall.

He had built the fortress himself after subduing and slaying his enemies – both innocent and those wretches accused of treason against the crown. He displayed their crucified and impaled bodies outside the wall as a warning to his enemies. They flooded the plain as far as the eye could see until the tundra faded into the fog of war. He hung their decapitated heads and tortured bodies from the walls. Signs of failed attempts to gain entrance into his realm.

Sitting in his murky throne room, Isolation – a place of slate and rock, he slumped on his throne of dark cracked granite and twisted oak. The cold iron crown of Pride, atop his swarthy, creased brow.

Over the course of the hundreds of relationships throughout his time as a foot soldier and knight, he strategically and tactically built this place stone upon stone.

An impregnable keep from his witching enemy, Hurt.

He built it to protect him from Hurt and the outside world. A sanctuary where he would be safe and not have to fear about facing his nemesis, along with his chieftains, Regret and Resentment.

It was his last bastion of safety.

His refuge.

He never left. And he never had visitors…the last visitor he had was years ago. It was easier this way.

Less chaos.

Less struggle.

He remained in isolation without friends. Yet unimpeded by with burden of the outside wasteland of Relationship. Unprovoked by Hurt, the horseman maintained a rigid perimeter to be traversed in order to gain access to the outside world.

It both prevented entry and exit.

One moonless night, the harpies atop the walls wailed and shrieked. 

The horseman rose to his feet and stepped to the parapet of his throne room. Gripping his lance and torch, he glanced out into the wasteland.

Hurt was approaching on his steed and along with his chieftains.

Stonewall made his way to the rampart and silenced the guardians atop the wall.

“What is it you want my nemesis?” he shouted.

“I only wish to have a moment of your time my brother,” Hurt volleyed back.

“You have no business here, fool! Turn back and come this way no more! Before I command my beasts to lurch down from these walls and tear your skin off and feast on your bones and entrails.”

“YOU FOOL!” Hurt roared. “Do you think you can withstand my forces? I shall return with legions of my hordes and we shall gain entrance, tear down your walls, and feast at your table as you die.”

“These walls are impregnable and you would be fool to think you can circumvent them and cause harm. If you advance you shall receive no quarter.”

Suddenly, Defensiveness spread its torn wings and dove towards the invaders. Hurt raised his lance and caught the harpy in the throat, instantly dropping it to the ground as it choked on its own blood.

Upon seeing his guardian die, the horseman raised his fist and plunged it towards the ground, signalling Frustration to awaken from its stone shell and harass the invaders. With lances pointed at it, Frustration circled and when spotting his victim, he swooped down and ensnared Regret in his dagger-like claws. Sweeping back to the top of the wall, the harpy dropped his victim, impaling him along the rows of fierce spikes.

Frustration dove again.

Hurt threw out the net and caught the gargoyle in mid-flight, dragging it to the ground. And in one slash, decapitated the beast with his war cleaver.

The horseman summoned Exasperation and the beast dove to the ground below. In one movement, the seasoned guardian grabbed Resentment by his throat and soared back to his nest. By the time he had reached his perch, his victim’s life had been drained. Dropping the carcass, it lunged again towards its victims.

Hurt pulled his bow and an arrow from his quiver and drew on the advancing harpy. And at the precise moment, let his arrow fly, embedding it straight between the beast’s eyes.

No sooner had the guardian’s lifeless body crashed to the ground, then Malice gained flight and pursued Hurt.

As Hurt turned to reach for his sword, the harpy sank its claws into the enemy’s back and tore out his vertebrae, leaving his body collapsed on the ground.

As the raptor rose into the air Stonewall followed it with his eyes. He watched it until it landed on its pedestal and took its original stone form.

The war hardened horseman shifted his gaze to the plain below, pike still clutched in his fist. He had fought off Hurt and his commanders another day.

But at what expense he wondered.