Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Month: August, 2009

Ariel’s Story #4 – A Wedding and a Funeral

    You wouldn’t be able to notice unless someone pointed them out to you.  Everything seemed vague in the burnt-out penthouse.  Nothing was fully recognizable.  Most furniture had been reduced to piles of ash; the bodies, made of much softer stuff, just blended away amid the debris.  The layers of fat that Domos had been storing all her years had added to the fire consuming her.  You’d never think that the pile of ash in the southern corner was once her; that it once had life and even a small spark of God within it.
    The blazing fire had reduced Domos to what she really was, in and of herself.  Without the spark of life she disintegrated into the inanimate pile of ash and shadow.  Nothing good.  Nothing original.  Nothing fundamentally different from a burnt chair or table.
    Something stirred, though nothing moved.  A shadow.  A flicker.  You’d never notice if it hadn’t been pointed out to you.  A darkness lifted off the pile.  A shadow.  A tinge of black that seemed to seep out like tea seeping from a bag.  It grew and spread, faint and hardly noticeable.  Searching.  Reaching.  Almost yearning, but never truly desiring.
    It spread across the penthouse, brushing the charred remains of the lives it had consumed.  It grew as is spread, sucking shadow from every body it floated by, taking back what it had given to the daughters of Domos.  Taking back the taint, the curse.  Leaving empty shells behind.
    Under a large pile of ash it found what it was looking for; a body.
    Somewhat protected by the ashes of its sisters, the headless corpse lay burnt but intact on the floor.  The Shadow centered on it, gathered its tendrils and poured itself in.
    The arm moved.

    I woke on the third day of my time in the village.  The smoke from the top of Domos’ building still rose.  I supposed it always would.
    I got up quickly.  Shaking my limbs awake as I walked, I went toward the cistern in the middle of the park to wash and drink.  It was already hot.  The air glistened above the paved paths that connected the street to the cistern in the center of the park.  Villagers and children wandered around, mopping their brows with dirty rags.
    The cistern was crowded, like always.  But it was also massive, so the crowd didn’t matter so much.  Countless archways opened the way to the cistern, each doorless and tall.  Each painted a different color but fundamentally the same.  The arches were not separated, and you could easily access the cistern from any side once in any arch.  The matte, dark water rippled thickly.  It looked lower today than the day before.  I didn’t think that mattered, what with the many selfless souls arriving daily to pour their own water in.
    I walked through one of the arches, a red one, I think, and went down the stairs to get to the water.  It was crowded, but not overtly.  At the water a few people bathed.  Some washed clothes.  Others drank.  I crouched and cupped my hands.  The water was warm to the touch.  Translucent.  The first morning I had been bothered by its filth.  But since the entire village seemed to rely on it for their drinking and washing I assumed there was nothing fundamentally wrong with it.
    I drank.  It was salty and a little fetid.  I had been told that I’d get used to it.  At least it didn’t kill me.  I took another handful and drank again, while the man beside me stripped and lowered himself in for a bath.  I myself had not bathed in it.  And I didn’t plan on it until my own bodily stench was at least equal to the smell coming from the cistern.
    A commotion to my right caught my attention.  A girl.  She looked homeless, wearing nothing but a single canvas rag.  Young; maybe in her teens.  She was crouched beside the pool in the same way I was, her empty hands cupped to take some of the water.  An old woman was yelling at her.
    “Oi!  Back up!  Out of here!” the old woman had raised her hand to strike.
    “Thirsty…” the girl whispered, touching her throat, eyes down.
    “Not here!  Not here!  You quench your illegitimate gullet somewhere else!  Not through this arch!  Scat!”  She slapped the girl’s face to punctuate her words.
    The girl stood, not fully upright, clutched at her rag and ran up the stairs, getting out of the same arch she had come in.  She tried to enter through the next one, only to be stopped by a strong man who acted as a guard.  She was able to get through the next, but the thick crowds on that side prevented her from getting to the water.  And on she went, from arch to arch, trying to get to the murky water.
    “Who is that?”
    “Sume.”  A voice to my left said.  I turned and saw Digue, another homeless man who had befriended me.  “Sume the illegitimate.  Sume the unloved.”
    “She looks familiar,” I said, still watching her.
    “Yes, you’ve seen her before.  She lives in the building between Marasia and Domos, may she rest in peace.  Sister to both.”
    “Oh!  Yes, I have seen here.  I believe I saw her when she was born.”
    “Aye, that you did.”  Digue crouched down beside the water but did not touch it.  “A hard start and a hard life.”  He stared at her with me, run off from every arch.  Alone.  Thirsty.  After a time she gave up and left.

    Sume stumbled in the streets, the soles of her feet burning on the pavement.  Her throat ached.  How long had it been since she had a drink?  A bath?  A piece of cloth with which to cover herself?
    She came to the building she had inherited.  Falling apart, empty.  The front door were missing.  Dry grass grew in the lobby.  She came inside.  Fell on the floor.  Lay still.
    She couldn’t cry – no water for tears.  She could hardly move; even when she heard the heavy footsteps behind her.  Drawing near.  More neighbors come to abuse her?
    “Sume,” a deep voice said.  A familiar voice.  “Sume, it’s time.”
    She tried to move.  Tried to will herself to look up at whoever was speaking.  But she couldn’t.
    She felt a hand on her back.  Soft.  Firm.  “I take you now.”
    Strong arms lifted her.  She was pressed against a warm body.  The man smelled of musk and myrrh.  She tried to look up into his face, but couldn’t.
    The man walked toward the elevators, which had never worked, and pressed the button.  The middle doors opened immediately, but not to an elevator.  An open park was spread out, green and lush.  Trees and flowers and birds lived and rejoiced in the cool, bright garden.  A fountain stood in the center, crystal water bubbling and dancing in the sunlight.  The man walked in.
    He took Sume’s rag away and threw it to the wind.  She saw it no more.  Gently he laid her in the fountain, under the water.  The waters surrounded her, pulled at her.  The blood and dirt was ripped off her body, leaving her skin pale and lush.  It tickled her and warmed and cooled her all at once.  from beneath the water she saw the face of the one who had carried her.  A man with a simple face and eyes as deep as eternity.  He wore a white robe that seemed to move against the wind.  His smile spoke of love, desire and joy.
    “Come out,” he commanded, holding out his hand for her.  She took it.
    He dried and dressed her.  Rich embroidered clothes.  The finest leather sandals.  Rings for her ears and for her nose.  A jewel for her forehead.  Bracelets and necklaces.  All beautiful.
    A crown appeared in his hand.  He spoke as he placed it on her head.
    “I make my covenant with you, Sume.  Your mother and your father abandoned you.  Your neighbors hated you.  From the day you were born you were cast off and unloved.  But I have loved you.
    “From before you were conceived I have loved you and decided to make you my wife.  Today I make my covenant with you.  You are mine and I will have no other.  You are mine and I will be always faithful to you.  I am strong and I am wise and no one will take you from my hand.  You are my wife, my beloved.  I give you this crown as a symbol and this fountain as a surety.  Drink deeply from it.  Bathe daily in it.
    “And from this day forth you are no longer Sume the illegitimate.  You are Sume el Raj, my wife.”
    The crown sparkled on her head.  A glorious smile transformed her face.  She clung to her husband and wept tears of joy.  And the Man sang over her a glad wedding song.

    In the bushes outside the lobby a headless corpse watched, perceived, waited.

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The E-Warrior

     Volume: 6
     The sounds from outside disappeared, washed out by the drums and guitar rushing through the earphones. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
     In.
     Out.
     In.
     Out.
     He opened them. The bad feelings past. Good.
     The screen was on in front of him. His battlefield. The place where he waged his Holy War.
     He opened his Bookmarks folder and picked a random web forum, trusting the Spirit to lead him. It was an atheist community.
     Fresh Meat.
     He signed in: JesusLvr223
     No new messages.
     A smirk pulled at his mouth. They were afraid, of course. Afraid of the Spirit-filled words he threw at them. It was time to throw some more. Casting fearsome light into the shadows of midnight, the screaming music reminded him. Encouraged him.
     Click, click. Open thread.
     His fingers danced over the keyboard. Different sites cited. Logic backed up. A healthy dose of anger and righteous indignation. Done. Beautiful. He asked for a blessing on the post and hit Submit.
     A clamor from outside tried to catch his attention. He reached for the dial on his earphones.
     Volume: 8
     Next.
     A homosexual community. He suppressed a shudder as he opened a new thread there. A treatise of anger calling for love, filled with Scripture and cynical arguments flowed from his inspired fingers. This one was longer, more passionate. Passion was good. It focused the thinking and made sure that he stayed on topic. Without passion it would be hard to convert anyone.
     Submit.
     An Islamic Bulletin Board. A JW Community. Hindu. The Golden Compass Fan Site. He fought on all these fields. A lone warrior brandishing his sword made of words and pixels against the unevangelized masses of cyberspace. It was impossible to know how many he had already saved. Or how many seeds planted would grow and produce fruit. It hardly mattered. He was fighting, and that was noble in itself.
     The clamor outside grew louder. Steel clattered against wood. Shouts. Screams. Cries.
     Volume: 10 – Maximum.
     He entered the chatroom. Real-time battles against democrats, Harry Potter fans and other infidels. He was cussed at. Insulted. Belittled. In short, horribly persecuted for his faith. They called him a fool. He replied that the foolishness of God was wiser than men. They called him closed-minded. He said their minds were so open that their brains fell out. They called him blind. He just threw that one back at them, cautioning them to avoid the ditch they were headed for.
     He smiled, the light from the screen dancing on his pale face. Persecuted for Christ. Could there be anything better?
     The noise from outside grew again. He didn’t turn to look out the window behind him.

     The Darkness was not still. It never was. Ballard gripped the sword in his right hand while his left checked the wound at his side. Still bleeding. Maybe mortal, but not for a while.
     His two companions crouched at either side of him, peering at the darkness and watching the princes and principalities it was spawning. They were uncountable. Long-toothed creatures of injustice stomped around, their massive arms crushing innocents and soldiers alike. The many-races of venomous serpents of Religion poisoned and ran, patiently waiting for their victims to die before fully devouring them. Orcs and giants spiders and wraiths, all representing a different side of the shadow, all worked together to expunge the light from the village. Few fought. Few ran. Many died.
     Ballard gripped his sword tightly. He felt the wound at his side split open again and ooze out, the fluid staining his tunic.
     “Are we ready?” he whispered.
     “Always ready,” the friend to his right said.
     The one on the left nocked an arrow and said a prayer as his answer. Ballard gestured to a particularity large group of serpents who had taken over an entire section of the village. Long and white, they went from house to house, taking entire families, searching for fresh prey with their large, moon-like eyes. His friends nodded. They attacked with a fierce cry.

     Back at the computer, the pale man had figured out how to turn the volume up to 11.

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A Stitch in Time

We were out on a family canoe trip this past weekend. We trekked in Six Mile Lake, over two portages and into Lone Tree Lake. Good times, for the most part.

On the first day at the camp site my little brother, Robert, and I decided to have some fun with gunwhale  bobbing. I won. But not without a price. Here’s the order of events:

We get into our positions and start bobbing.

I manage to cause Rob to fall into the drink.  I lose my own balance right afterward and fall in, hitting my leg on the gunnel as I go.

Feeling the pain build in my left left, I struggle to shore to examine the damage.

Ow!

It needed stitches, but this was the only trip where we didn’t bring needle and thread.  I tried to use fishing line and a saftey pin, but I couldn’t get the line to go through the holes I made.  I ended up just throwing a handful of bandages on it.  I expect a decent scar to show off.  Here’s a shot after we got home:Pretty, eh?
So, yay for camping!  Here’s a video:

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Up @ Night #8 – Mortality

Have you ever thought about mortality? That’ll keep you up at night, even if nothing else will. Doesn’t matter much if you’re thinking about your own mortality or someone else’s. Mortality is a sleep-killer.

The death of my father-in-law really brought the truths of mortality home to me. It became something real, not just the general, yeah-i-know-i’m-gonna-die feeling. More of a substantial truth, death-is-coming-for-us-all feeling.

Death is coming. One day, this body-machine of mine is going to stop working and my spirit will be violently ripped from it. It’ll probably hurt, too. And before that more and more of the people I love are going to slip away. One shot is all we got. One roll of the die. One chance at the wheel. One pitch at the plate. Once. It’s not like a video game, where, if you fail, you can always start over or try a different route. There’s no edit-undo button.

Jonathan Edwards tried to think about his own death a lot. I thought that was a bit creepy. I bet that practice kept him up at night a lot. And I bet it made him a lot more careful in how he lived. No screwing around with this game.

Mortality keeps me up at night. I get scared. Scared of dying. Scared of the people I love dying. And, most of all, scared of dying without having done what I ought to have done. Up all night long…

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