New Project: Children’s Writing

So this Puggle Fish thing today just got my head spinning a thousand times an hour. I think its time for a new project: Children’s Writing.

Something I never even considered. But truthfully, that’s the best way to help shape the future! To help children understand and perceive the world in a certain way, right? So I think writing a book that children can read which will mold their minds into something that promotes generosity, goodness, compassion, etc. is the most substantial way to effect the future. And if it catches on, who knows – maybe it could change the world.

Anyway, I’m going to use this page to post poems and whatnot that are catered to children until I get enough material to compile and send something for publication. I’d really like to be able to create some sort of “coming of age” universal book that all children could read to get a grip on how a true, just, fair, good world should work. Wouldn’t that be cool?? To start with a blank slate and train every child, from this day on, to be GOOD? So! This page shall be my home plate for this project.

Oh, one last thing. I’m gonna go ahead and preface this with the fact that my view of “right” and “wrong” obviously isn’t like a universal law in my eyes. Clearly the way I think is my own opinion, and you might disagree with my stances on one thing or the other. If that’s the case, know that I respect your point of view and by no means think my beliefs trump yours. Cause I hate when people do that. Its very disrespectful. So anyway, let’s do this.

Mr. Puggle Fish

Quietly swimming, all alone
Through a sea of madness and blue
A tiny creature sighs to itself
And wishes it’s dreams would come true

“What’s wrong?” You might ask
“What makes this fish sad?”
“Oh why does this creature feel blue?”
It’s simple, my friend
This fish is alone
Just one, out looking for two

Struggling, searching, with tears in its eyes
The creature has only one wish
To someday be whole, to one day be loved
To find it a Miss Puggle Fish

“How sad!” You will say
“This cannot be so!”
“We must find a two to his one”
You’re right, I would add
So what do we do?
Oh what can be did or be done?

Well while he was swimming, just darting about
Our Puggle swam into a girl
Who stopped on the spot, and lovingly thought
“He’s cute, let’s give him a whirl”

“At last!” We all cheer
The fish has found love
He’s filled that small void in his soul
Alas, all my friends
This Puggle Fish tale
Illuminates life’s greatest goal

Hey Johnny

 

“Hey Johnny!” They shout

Their toys all about

The chaos of footballs and feet

The playground’s abound

There’s kids all around

Who try to be sly and discreet

“Its time!” They all say

They’re ending their play

The test on their lessons they meet

Do right, don’t do wrong

As life leads you along

And gain knowledge, with no need to cheat

On the Eve: 8

Antony – Commander of Queen Jocasta’s Army

I am conflicted.

Queen Jocasta has recalled our armies to Clarmont. All of them. Each and every weary, exhausted regiment is to report to this tiny speck of a village in an attempt to regroup and finish what we began. My conflict stems not from my duty to my Queen, but from my fading confidence in victory. I fear our armies are not yet strong enough to launch another assault on King Jordain and the Eastern Lands. Lest the Gods invoke a miracle, I cannot foresee this ending in triumph for my Queen.

Hadrian’s reinforcements from the North shall prove invaluable, to be certain. His armored mares are legendary; their riders even more so. It is my sincere hope that Jocasta utilizes this rare advantage most efficiently. I cannot imagine that Jordain could expect Hadrian to have lent such a force to an army opposing the East, much less that of Jocasta’s. I was under the impress that years ago, the three were quite close to each other. But alas, I shan’t divulge rumors or delve in gossip. The politics behind this campaign are beyond me. My only purpose is to serve my Queen, and to that end I shall uphold my duties with utmost honor.

She is this land’s Radiant Beacon of Benevolence, and to the end of this Earth we shall follow.

The Revolt Returns: 9

“Hey guys! Has anyone seen my jar of annoying whispering wisps?”

Approaching the Lenghornian village’s central meeting area, Dustin the Determined asks his co-workers where his pets might be.

“Oh yeah, we actually threw them out.” Chris the Comical tells him. “They all died. Did you not feed them?”

His quizzical stare slowly fading into a devious smirk, Dustin chuckles under his breath.

“Wait. Those things eat? I thought they were like…spirits or something. Well maybe not spirits. But ghosts. Or demons. Or something like that. Ya know? Like sometimes I wondered if they were even real cause sometimes I think I see things that aren’t there and then I’m like”

“DUSTIN!” The servers collectively shout, ending the rant and refocusing his attention.

“Forget them dude. They’ve joined our fallen comrades in peaceful slumber beyond the veil,” Chris assures him.

“Huh. Imagine that.” Dustin dismissively says, shrugging his shoulders. “Sucks to be them! Stupid wisps.”

“Right.” Chris says with a subtle laugh, putting his arm around Dustin’s shoulder to usher him into the meeting that was already taking place. “Johnny, please continue,” he says, looking toward the slightly introverted, usually soft spoken Giver of Speeches.

“Anyway,” Johnny the Jovial shouts to the villagers, “here is the plan. Our Barfly Gnat scouts have caught wind of Spam’s battle plans. We must break this wind! Let me tell you, faithful companions, these are sinister plans indeed. For Spam intends to secretly use her brainless Chilian soldier-slaves to mount a massive assault on this very village. But this shall be merely be a diversion for her true intention: sending her disgusting, uncontrollably hairy minion Will the Wolf to assassinate our village leadership!”

“GASP!!”

Collectively inhaling with such ferocity that Jade the Painfully Attractive Lade’s server apron almost falls off, the Lenghornians express disbelief of their oppressive manager’s intentions.

Confidently raising his hand, Johnny the Gentleman calms his loyal subjects.

“My friends…” he softly asserts, using his other hand to unsheath a blade so powerful it nearly blinds the crowd, “worry not. For I wield Steakscalibir!! I shall embark on an epic mission along with our brave cohort Dustin the Deft and end this treachery before it has a chance to take root!” He shouts, raising the fabled blade in triumph.

“HUZZAH!!” The Lenghornians cry in excited elation. “All hail Johnny! All hail Dustin!!” They cheer.

Glancing over the crowd to witness Brittany the Beautiful deliver a patron’s Blue Moon well after the beer’s expected arrival time, Johnny returns his gaze down to his fellow servers as he gracefully nods in appreciation of their support. Subtly glancing at Dustin, he slyly winks, smirks, and nods in silent acknowledgemnt of the legendary quest on which they shall soon embark.

A quest, as it were, which will define the future of the Lenghornian village for ages to come.

On the Eve: 6

King Jordain

She knows exactly where my heart lies. Buried deep within that sheath of angst, she knows the truth.

She knows I cannot raise my blade to her. This foolhardy campaign is fueled by her insatiable desire for revenge; her misguided malfeasance. Yet reality continues to elude her. The entirety of her army’s morale rests upon the simple assertion that I, King Jordain, committed the treacherous act for which I was accused. Why choose now to invade – does she wish to reunite East with West? Her accusations, ones which she herself believed to be true, were the very catalyst that ripped these lands apart to begin with.

And now, here I sit with the watchful eye above penetrating my soul. On my honor, woman, nothing occurred between the vice-regent and myself those many years ago. This divisive plot was a meticulously crafted story by that scum of a Hand, Ulric. The same Hand who deceived her, my Queen, for all these years. Slicing his throat was the greatest gift our God could ever bestow upon me, and for that I am eternally grateful.

We will hold these lands. God willing, we will reunite.  Jocasta shall at last hear the truth.

I Want to Play a Game

I’d like to try a thought experiment.

This might be weird; but just bear with me. You’ll need to pay very close attention to the things you’re about to read. More importantly, you’ll need to truly, truly, visualize and imagine what I’m going to say.

I want you to imagine yourself plugging your ears. Sound strange? Well it shouldn’t, because if you did it right you wouldn’t be able to hear it. Your ears are plugged, remember? Step one, imagine all the sound around you is gone. 

Step two. Think of the smells you’re experiencing. Then, imagine them going away. Close your nostrils if it helps. You can no longer smell.

Three. Cut your tongue out. Not literally! But imagine it disappearing into the same realm your other senses have traveled to. You can taste no more.

Four. You no longer feel anything. Your sense of touch is gone. Poof. Out the door. No more feel.

And last. Five. If you did it right, the only thing you have left….is this. You can see. You can read the words you’re reading right this very moment.

Now – close your eyes. Nothing. You should see, hear, smell, taste, feel….nothing. You should be nothing.

Okay, experiment over! If I had to guess, you’re probably thinking I’m a freaking nutcase right now. I, however, would say no; this is a thought process that has plagued me from the first time I considered it. I really, really want to know if there’s life after death. And no, I don’t want a feelgood story to make myself sleep better at night. I want to actually consider what really happens when we die. 

The above exercise is what I think about. Why don’t I remember anything before I was born? Seriously. Doesn’t this seem sort of obvious? When I was created, I gained the ability, through biological synapses and impulses that I won’t ever understand, to perceive reality. I was given hands, eyes, a nose, tongue, and so on to then be able to process the stimuli that is the universe. 

And you know what? When I’m dead, I bet I lose that ability to sense things. I bet I go right back to the blackness that was before I was born.

Now. Please. If there exists an individual who can tell me, in any logical manner why I should think otherwise, I’m begging you to do so. Because I’m going to be one hundred percent, completely real here: that scares the shit out of me. Wanna know why I quit insurance and write now? Well, here’s why folks. It doesn’t get any more real than this. I honestly believe that when I’m dead, that’s it. I don’t get another go around. So each and every second of my life, I want to make meaningful. And the worst part about this, believe me – the part that hurts the most, is thinking about Mom. That she may not be out there anymore. And that’s why I’m so torn, because the easy thing would be to say yeah of course she’s still there and so on. I really, really, can’t stand thinking this way. 

So. In summation. If someone can give me a rational, real explanation other than “faith” or “you just have to believe” or anything, please for the love of the ironic god I’m trying to find, tell me. 

That is all.

On the Eve: 4

Favian, Royal Record-Keeper & Historian of the East

The West shall never comprehend the world the way we Easterners do.

What ire could have possibly made Jocasta think she could overtake us? The East and West have co-existed, as agreed, for twelve winters now. Why is she suddenly afflicted with the desire to destroy? I cannot make sense of it.

I desperately long for the sensibility which we enjoyed many years ago. An era of peace. A time when Jordain and Joscasta ruled with the passion and love that this world deserves. Their deep affection for one another poured out over all these lands. It was a time of joy; true, unabridged happiness.

And then that awful, destructive separation. To this very day, I still find pause when asked if my recollections of the event are truly complete. The realm relies on my accounts for candidacy of what transpired, but I shall forever foster my internal doubts. I have written what I know to be true; Jocasta assuming the role of primary aggressor. She betrayed Jordain, this is well known. Yet it is a reluctant truth that confuses, for I still do not fully understand his decision to allow her sovereignty in the West. The splitting of these lands was perhaps a more hurtful dagger than the one Jocasta cast into the heart of my liege through her betrayal.

I have seen families ripped apart. I have witnessed brothers fighting brothers; sons fighting fathers. The darkest depths of depravity, all surfacing in the name of East versus West.

The gaping wound which separates these lands must once again be mended, this much I know. We cannot go on as warring factions.

The clarity of this shines with blinding abundance.

The Revolt Returns: 8

“Hey, what was the name of that new girl again? You know, the brown haired Lenghornian with the exquisite…personality?”

Back in Spam’s newly reconstructed Tower of Management, Will the Wolf ponders the assets of a Lenghornian newcomer with Chilian manservent, Quesadilla.

“I know not, my Lord.” Quesadilla replies. “I am but a lowly Chilian. Our ribs and terrible 2 for 1 specials in those tiny mugs pale in comparison to you Lenghornians. You know I am not savvy to such information. I am nothing if not a loyal subject of my dear, sexy Spam.”

“Ah, valid point, peasant.” Will says. “Perhaps I shall raid their pathetic village and take her for my own. Show her how a real wolf gets down,” he growls with a creepy glint in his eye.

Suddenly, a female voice echos from an adjacent chamber.

“I would find that most unwise, my hairy lover.”

Waltzing out of the nearby walkway, a majestically sexy fox with an inexplicable aura of sophistication joins the pair.

“Assuming, of course, you intend to keep that wonderful wolf manhood of yours attached to your body,” she adds with a wink.

“My love! You know I jest,” Will the Wolf says with a subtle adjustment of his woolly pants, effortlessly concealing his embarrassing blood flow as his gaze glides up and down Celeste the Sultry’s painfully attractive body.

“That’s what I thought,” she says with a smirk and a peck on his wolfly cheek. “Alas, where is our leader? Surely its time to finalize our plans for the assault on the Lenghornian village.”

Interjecting, Quesadilla angrily answers her query.

“Our beloved leader is seeing to her commitments in the North, fox,” he says with an annoyed glance toward Celeste.

As a dedicated Chilian, Quesadilla is fiercely loyal to none but his offensively nasty restaurant. Spam, being the conniving woman she is, wooed the slave and his compatriots through an ingeniously crafted plan to gain Chilian support. Simply put – she informed their corporate management to take the beef bacon ranch quesadilla off of their already disgusting menu. After her suggestion led to quadrupled profits, the Chilian constituents fell right into her perfectly placed trap. As intended, her army swelled and she inherited the mindless servant that is Quesadilla.

“When does she intend to return?” Will the Wolf asks, smoothly deflecting the obvious resentment Quesadilla had directed toward his foxy lover.

“Our liege is scheduled to grace us with her return on the ‘morrow,” the manservant sneers. “Now, you must excuse me. I am required for other, more pressing obligations. Since she has graciously deemed me worthy of such responsibilities,” he adds as a not-so-subtle slight toward Celeste.

Exiting the chamber, Quesadilla hobbles toward whatever tasks he undoubtedly had just made up. Left alone, Celeste grins as she hops into her lover’s hairy arms.

Turning her head toward the sky, she smirks.

“Its time to end this chapter, I think,” she creepily says to me. “I know you didn’t really develop the plot in any meaningful way here, but I’m seriously jonesing for this guy’s…service,” she says with a soft laugh and nod toward the wolf of her dreams.

Wondering how the hell a fantasy character became aware of its omniscient Godly creator, the author types the last few characters of his entry, closing the cover to his laptop with a confused, blank stare on his face.

Happy Birthday Shannon!

To our beloved co-worker

shannon

 

Shannon, oh Shannon, where goes the time?

Are you seriously entering year thirty-nine?

I think it’d behoove you to look and go see

If your card has arrived from AARP

Today marks a day that we all often fear

For every birthday adds yet one more year

Not all that bad when we turned twenty five

When nights would run late, we still felt alive

Now our old bones are starting to ache

When nine rolls around we can’t stay awake

But for you, my dear Shannon, at this time and stage

I can say with all truth you look half your age

Like the fanciest cheese; a sweet fine French wine

Your beauty increases and grows lovely with time

So today let’s rejoice and enjoy added worth

As we celebrate this wonderful day of your birth

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

 

Love & Loss

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Adalasia: First Entry

July, 1943. Sicily.

I hope I see him again.

It’s amazing how different things are, amidst the bombings and the shells and the shouting. A week ago I was making pies. Prepping soups upstairs in my father’s shop. My days were filled with that of cheer and joy. Now I find myself coddled in a corner, hiding in a dusty cellar.Trembling at the sound of footsteps approaching in fear that the invaders will find me.

They say this town is important for the supply lines. It seems to change hands every day, Allies by morning and Axis by night. I don’t know how to keep up.  The only knowledge of whats going on in the world is obtained through my inquiries during the requests handed to me by whoever happens to be occupying us on a given day. Today it is the Germans. They want rations, which we are able to supply as one of the only bakeries on this block. Tomorrow, for all I know it will be another from the US 7th.

There was a man, yesterday, who I truly hope returns. He was unlike the others. Usually the men offer chocolate or some sort of postcard of an American actress. But this one…he approached me directly, took my hand and looked at me straight in my eyes. Without pause, he told me he was sorry for the pain around me. He told me he was sorry that there were people in this world who could cause such atrocities to happen, and that we, at that moment, were stuck in a window of helplessness. He told me that he felt the pain with me. That he understood exactly what struggle I was going through. That he regretted every time he pulled the trigger, because he knew he was taking a life. A life that was raised somewhere else. By someone else. Someone who he would never know. I could see how much it hurt him.

He told me his name was Adam. And that he would find me, if God allowed, when this was over.

Adam: First Entry

July, 1943. Sicily.

I wonder if Father is proud of me.

He always told me I would grow to accomplish great things one day. Yet here I lay, cold and cramped in a cot hardly fit for a prisoner.

When I joined the US 7th, they told us we were undertaking one of the most important missions in history. That we were putting an end to the tyranny and devasting effects of Hitler’s Nazi regime. And while I still stand behind that sentiment, I find myself conflicted.

The things I have witnessed are unimaginable. The harsh realities of war are something one can never fully comprehend until they are experienced first hand. Loving sons stricken from their families. Kind fathers called to duty to fight for a cause with which they may not even agree. Why? Why must we occupy a world which holds such little regard for love and generosity?

It pains me to consider these things. I continue to fight, because the grander cause is one I believe in. Yet a profound agony courses through me every time I take a life. It plagues my mind as I lay here, trying to sleep so I can briefly escape this world of ours. Dreams provide my only solace.

There was one glimmer of happiness today, though, in the midst of this despair. My unit overtook a small portion of Sicily, and I was ordered to obtain food from a local bakery. As I entered, I found myself enamored by the beauty of the shopkeepers daughter. I could sense her pain, as she must have stood helplessly watching as the day’s battle ensued. I held her for a moment as I introduced myself, cherishing her embrace. For a short moment, we were two strangers sharing unspoken feelings of hope and compassion. Her name was Adalasia.

I hope I see her again.

Adalasia: Second Entry

July, 1943. Sicily.

He was here again today. Adam, the handsome soldier from the US 7th. I can still see his blonde hair, the sparkle, shimmering as the setting sun’s light reflects off his golden locks. He came into the shop today and asked for bread. His unit was most hurried, as there seemed to be another objective that was being sought after. It seems they are advancing further into the city.
But we were able to speak today. He had time to engage me in conversation. At first, he teased me that my English was broken, but he then put his hands on mine and smiled, telling me my words were as beautiful as the glimmer in my eyes. He gave me a bar of chocolate, laughing as he did so, saying it was cliche.

He told me that coming to our shop was the highlight of his day, and that he would do anything he could to be assigned to this particular task. Because he wanted to see me. He wanted to experience the same feeling he had the time before, when he held me and forgot about the terror surrounding him.

It was a powerful feeling, when he stood and grasped me. It was as if he was channeling his pain into our embodiment. I felt his love.

Please return, Adam.

 

Adam: Second Entry

July, 1943. Sicily.

I can’t wait to see her again.

Adalasia. Such a beautiful name. The dry spots on her hands told me that she’s willing to take on the burden of work. The city had a food cart stocked to try and provide help to the needy, and she was the first to volunteer her service. She cares about  people, I can tell. I watch her as her eyes follow the children of her house, playing and having fun. The smile that takes over her face as she sees how happy they truly are, without a care in the world.

And then the siren rings.

The piercing tone changes everything. The kids playing on the floor scatter to the underground cellar door. A door that will lead them underground, into a dark, cramped room where these feelings of love and happiness are absent. A room that houses the same fear, desperation, and hopelessness I’ve seen in the towns before.

These people. They’re innocent. They don’t deserve this.

A day must come that changes things. Good people have no place living like this. I wish there was more I could do.

I long to see her again. Adalasia, I mean. For the first time since landing in this Hell, I have found something which can actually coax a smile out of me.

I believe I shall “accidentally” find myself around the bakery tomorrow.

Adalasia: Third Entry

August, 1943. Sicily.

He might be the greatest man I will ever know.

Adam came by today. It wasn’t to see me, though. Not this time. He said he came because the Germans were expected to attack tonight, and he knew he would be launching artillery in this area. So he came to do everything he could to barricade father’s building. Then he showed us the proper places to hide when the fighting began. We are so very thankful to have someone care for our protection.

Before he left, I walked with him outside for a goodbye kiss. He stopped me at the door, firmly holding my waist as he looked at me with that bright hair and shimmering smile. He said that he would never let harm befall me. He said he would protect me that night, no matter what. That he would make sure the bombs landed far away. He promised to direct them away from us with his shelling.

And he did. He did exactly what he promised he would do. This was the first battle that hasn’t shaken this house.

All because of this Adam…a deeper love I will never find.

Adam: Third Entry

August, 1943. Sicily.

I do not know what to think.

I cannot decide what my disposition is to these Germans. We have been taught that they are all evil. That they are all terrible, horrid people who deserve nothing more than the iron fist of American judgment.

And yet, I am conflicted. Is it true? Is this entire army of Nazis truly evil? Or does good dwell amidst their ranks? Are there good men? Men who would pick up someone when they’re down? Men who love their mothers and children with all their heart, and truly want what’s best for their families?

These questions occupy the empty space in my mind, filling it with wonder and doubt. What is the truth? How can I be expected to blindly take the life of another human being without knowing their character? I cannot find reason to make sense of this.

Adalasia. She is my only release from this madness. Her innocence. Her beauty. Her kindness. It overwhelms me with emotion. She has a hold on my heart which I fear cannot be released. The subconscious, sublime cohesiveness that we share has taught me the true meaning of love. I love her. And I will do anything to shield her from this horrific world we have created.

This war has taught me one vastly important thing. There is no greater calling than to protect the people you love.

Adalasia: Fourth Entry

August, 1943. Sicily.

I know not what to say.

My mind is clouded by constant fears of the atrocities my love is forced to endure. The perpetual horror that he may never return.

I want to join his ranks. I want to fight the Germans with him. It sounds silly for me, a mere baker’s daughter, desiring to join the fight. Yet it is so. The message must be sent, my love. Let me fight with you.

Please, Adam…I can help.

Adam: Fourth Entry

August, 1943. Sicily.

My dearest Adalasia. How I love that girl.

Yesterday, I returned to her shop. She and I have grown quite enamored with each other. It is a deep love that we share. The kind that words struggle to describe. I’ve always wondered if I would ever fall in love, as I have put great thought into the topic. I find that love takes many different forms. There is, of course, the initial, shallow love. That which we feel by instinct. Some might call it simple attraction. And then there is the grander love that most spend their entire lives searching for. The one that causes us to wed, to have children, to enjoy life, and to be happy. The one that gives you meaning.

But then…then there is an even deeper, profoundly unique love. A love found only in times such as these. A love so visceral that it transcends outward description. The only way to comprehend it would be to feel the sensation. The kind of love that manifests when a grenade is thrown into a room, and your first instinct is to jump on it. That’s when you really know you love someone.

For that is what happened today. The Germans launched a small counter-attack this afternoon to take a portion of the city, the bastards. As Adalasia and I were having lunch in the apartment above her father’s bakery, I found myself caught at the front end of their assault. Captain said no one saw it coming. None of us did.

A pair of them came into the bakery. They must have seen my helmet on the post outside and decided they would take me by surprise. I would have never seen them had she not been standing by the window. Upon hearing them ascending the stairs, I fired a few shots through the wall. I missed. The cowards threw the blasted potato masher into the room close to Adalasia as they hid behind the stairwell. The two of us looked to her feet in horror, locking eyes in a brief moment that seems now like a blur. I don’t remember what went through my head, if anything. I jumped to cover it after shoving her onto the nearby mattress, and for my eternal gratitude to God it didn’t detonate. It was as if my body wasn’t under my own control, and some mysterious force had compelled me to sacrifice myself to spare her life. We were saved by some of my squad, who were having coffee across the street. It was the most horrifying twenty-three seconds I’ve ever experienced.

I did not realize until this evening the magnitude of what that action meant. We all say we would die for love. Now, I know. My deepest consciousness sought first to protect her.

The truest, most genuine love there can be. That’s the energy I share with Adalasia.

We share an iron love forged on the anvils of war.

Adalasia: Fifth Entry

September, 1943. Sicily.

My attempts to join the fray went unheeded. Father said I was crazy for suggesting such a thing. He says the passions of a baker’s daughter aren’t strong enough for war.

Adam makes it a point to make sure the bakery is well-guarded and equipped for whatever may come through. Or whoever, I should say. The chocolate he brings is always fresh. I adore him for the little things he does for me. We took a walk yesterday, through the market square and over to the theater.There was a play taking place about the American soldiers leaving their homes to come fight the war. Adam and I stood there, motionless, watching the actors and actresses pretend to feel the pain of loss. We did not condemn them. Instead, we applauded their efforts, because we knew that they were going through the very same struggle as we. They have lost loved ones, as we all have.

The pain of losing friends. The pain of losing family. The impact of which I cannot convey. Not through mere words. It must be felt to truly understand. Why must we continue to battle? Why? Will a day without hatred, without malice, without violence ever dawn? I so deeply long for peace, and happiness.

Happiness more so than anything. Oh Adam, how much I love you.

Adam: Fifth Entry

September, 1943. Sicily.

They’re coming.

We don’t know when, but we know. The Germans are launching a massive counter offensive. We’ve been expecting this for weeks, as it’s crucial that we maintain control of the supply lines. Sicily is too valuable a target, and we should have known they would defend it to the very last man.

Our intelligence officer has intercepted a telegram that we are to be assaulted in the coming days.

My time in this war has given me so much perspective. Some of the things I’ve seen are nightmarishly horrific. Seeing the atrocious ways a human being can treat another human being when under the guise of war is the most terrifying observation I’ve had. This isn’t a world that anyone deserves. I feel the heaviest weight on my heart when I see a little girl be saved from debris, only to find her parents dead from shelling. I feel the weight of the farmers who are being forced to provide rations to the Nazis against their will.

It hurts to think about these things. I must protect Adalasia. That’s the only thing I can hold on to in this world of chaos. She gives me purpose. I love her for that. And for so much more.

Why am I fighting this war? That was a question searing in my head for the longest time. But now I know. I’m fighting this war to preserve the short glimmers of happiness that my Adalasia provides. It’s what were all fighting for.To be happy. Life…the battle that shall never end until it ends.

I love her so much.

Adalasia: Last Entry

September, 1943. Sicily.

I cannot do this.

I can’t. I’m so afraid. They’re here. The Germans. They’re retaking the city. They’ve launched an overwhelming counter offensive to regain control of Sicily. I’m so scared. I don’t know what to do. My God please help me. Please, I’m begging you. I can hear the gunshots outside. I can hear the footsteps of the German soldiers. Oh my God please don’t let them find me. God, if you’re there, please, don’t let them find me. I do not want to die. I cannot fathom parting from this world without him.

Underneath the register. Hiding. That’s where I am. Please find me Adam. Please. Make them go away. I can’t do this. This cannot be the last night I see. Adam, please help me. Where are you? Please help me. I love you, Adam. I love you more than anything.

Oh my God. They’re coming in.

Adam: Last Entry

My dearest Adalasia.

You changed the world for me. There are so many things I want to write to adequately explain how important you are. But my words would never do it justice. I found myself when I met you. You were the most important piece of my life. I love you. More than anything in this God Forsaken world, I love you.

I’m bleeding, my love. There isn’t much pain. I was shot running toward the bakery when I heard the German attack. I fear I won’t survive, Adalasia. My body rests upon a small hill of broken cobblestone. You know the hill I speak of. The one where we chased the rabbit that day, until it slyly hopped under the cover of these stones. These very stones. I suppose this is a fitting place to die, as I am reliving that day right now as I write this.

I’m dying, my love. This I know.

I beg this: whatever unfortunate soldier finds my body; please deliver this parchment to my Adalasia. She lives at the bakery, just East down the road. Please. Axis, or ally. I beg you from the depths of my soul. Give this letter to my love so she knows how much she meant to me.

She changed my life. She breathed meaning into the emptiness that for so long defined me.

Adalasia. I love you so, so much. Please don’t forget me. You are my everything, and if there is another side to this life, I will turn this universe upside down until I find you.

Remember me, my love…and find happiness. For us.

Love & Loss: 11

I can’t do this.

I can’t. I’m so afraid. They’re here. The Germans. They’re retaking the city. They’ve launched an overwhelming counter offensive to regain control of Sicily. I’m so scared. I don’t know what to do. My God please help me. Please, I’m begging you. I can hear the gunshots outside. I can hear the footsteps of the German soldiers. Oh my God please don’t let them find me. God, if you’re there, please, don’t let them find me. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. 

Underneath the register. Hiding. That’s where I am. Please find me Adam. Please. Make them go away. I can’t do this. I can’t let this be the last night I ever see. Adam please help me. Oh my God Adam where are you? Please help me. Adam I love you. I love you more than anything.

Oh my God. They’re coming in.

Mack Lunn: Full Interview

Since the paper limits the word count, here is a full in depth look into what Mr. Lunn is doing.

What is the core mission of iCube?

The iCube is a multidisciplinary learning environment that makes it possible for any of our students to extend their learning into avenues that interest them outside of the classroom. We encourage personal learning, and thereby the pursuit of personal projects. We have a unique setup that intertwines different majors into working together on projects, and provide the capabilities to make sure they are equipped and knowledgeable.

We’ve received tremendous support from the administration at TTU to make this a reality. They repeat a mantra of “Imagine, Inspire, Innovate” as the three pillars of the iCube.  We are most well-known for our ability to create high-level virtual reality simulations, websites, 3D Printed projects, applications, and campaigns, but we work on a vast variety of projects applying technology.

We continuously work to give back to the University itself and find ways to integrate our teachings into the classroom, wherever possible. We are a faction of the college of engineering and the college of business, but we have found ourselves deeply entwined in many other colleges on campus, specifically Education, Nursing, and athletics.

What is a general description of what you do?
In short, I provide opportunities to learn for the students at Tennessee Tech.

I am the Manager of Special Projects at the TTU iCube, which is a title that is just ambiguous enough to allow me the privilege of using the latest and greatest technology to solve problems. I work with a great team of iCube employees and an a multidisciplinary group of students with a high drive and interest for learning. My job is to find strategic projects that offer a unique opportunity for learning, put together teams to accomplish the goals of the project, perform any necessary training and provide leadership in getting things done, and go after grants and/or funding.

On any given day when I come into work, there are robots running around, drones flying, 3D printers humming creations into existence, students working in virtual reality headsets, and more. It’s a fast-paced, open environment that requires a lot of mental agility so as to maintain a competitive edge. Moreover, in addition to keeping a finger on the pulse of technology that exists, I closely examine what is needed. I listen closely to find out what it is that students want to learn, and then make a point to integrate that if at all possible.

 

mack2

Good with technology, but wait until you see the snowballs he can craft
What kind of projects do you work on that have societal benefits?
We have become lucky enough to be able to orient ourselves towards projects that serve a societal impact—a variety of public policy projects.

We have worked extensively with the Tennessee Aquarium at Chattanooga on some educational entertainment projects including:

* Making their electric eel power his own Twitter account, tweeting facts whenever he emits a surge of electricity.
* Implementing beacons on their mobile app that uses proximity-based notifications to alert users when they are near an endangered species while touring the aquarium
* A classroom simulation that uses VR to demonstrate the effects of pollution and other harmful behaviors on a river ecosystem
* A “Fish Finder” that is permanently installed near the saltwater reefs that allows children and their parents to deduce the species of fish they are looking at and learn more about them
* TNACIFIN – A network for field scientists that uses geo-location to map where endangered fish have been found to help with conservation efforts

For education:

* We recently launched a behavior monitoring app for the education department that allows future teachers the experience of being in a virtual classroom environment, charged with detecting behavioral issues. You can also play the role of a student -exhibiting– these issues, for fellow classmates to detect.
* One of my pet projects is MakerMinded, which is a multi-state, Department of Defense funded program aimed at integrating STEM and Advanced Manufacturing activities with middle and high school classrooms—we offer points for completing activities, visiting related facilities for tours, etc that can be used towards really cool incentives like winning a 3D printer or a virtual reality station for your classroom.
* In terms of healthcare, we have created a diabetes simulation to show what is going on inside your body to cause this disease, a tour of the heart and lungs that shows how blood becomes oxygenated, and more.
* We work closely with the Tennessee Highway Safety Office on their marketing—which has prompted us to create several educational simulations that showcase why its dangerous to drive while intoxicated, texting, or otherwise distracted or inhibited. One of the projects places users in a simulation of downtown Nashville, complete with an AI that controls the stoplights so that other drivers mimic realistic driving behaviors. The driver is then introduced to simulations of different substances to witness their effect on the driving experience.
* We are working with different research projects as well, that all hold environmental implications. One of our genius students has developed a mechanism for turning recycled water bottles into 3D Printer filament!
* We are working with the Cullman Dam, and also researching the Falling Water River, to generate both engineering and animated models to help decide what course of action will be the most beneficial

How can virtual reality help hospitals?
Hospitals are a unique environment for virtual reality development because it can be applied at so many different levels. From an entertainment perspective, patients who would otherwise be bedridden can now travel the world at a moment’s notice, or simply connect with their family and friends. From a preventative standpoint, VR offers a new tool in education to give patients an “inside look” as to what is going on inside their own bodies—a knowledge which has been proven to be linked to positive behavioral change. For future doctors—and even doctors themselves—VR serves as an interactive learning tool. We have created self-guided, narrated tours of many of the body systems that users can explore at their own pace—sort of in the same vein as the Magic School Bus, but on a much more detailed level.

As we move into the future, the impact on biomedical engineering intertwining with virtual reality has become a daily game changer—lives have been saved from this new set of tools.

mack3

No purrfect Christmas is complete without a tabby cat

People like to know what motivates others, and what their passions are. Why do you do what you do?

I truly love what I do. I’m living every technogeek’s dream!

I love figuring things out, and never quite having the whole answer available to me—which makes the utilization of cutting edge technology very appealing. I love helping others, and being able to do so on such a broad scale is heavily rewarding. We are in the unique position to mentor students from the time they are just entering college to truly fulfill their potential and wildest dreams at the same time that we are helping major businesses with major scalable applications. I’ve gotten to tour NASA and work with the Army and travel a great deal of the US in the pursuits of creating a more broad knowledge base for our students. At the end of the day, we’re representative of the university and we are here to bolster the educational experience, and I take that responsibility very seriously. I truly care about people, and one of my core duties is to listen to people’s needs and figure out how to deliver on them, which I love doing.

The main thing I try to stress to people is to invest a little bit of time to figure out how we might be able to help create new good together. We visit middle and high schools very regularly—not to recruit, but to encourage young minds to start thinking critically and creatively early on. We have a lot of free programs where you can do, see, and earn some pretty cool stuff!

We also offer tours for school groups (and, really anyone who is interested, though we emphasize learning programs!) so if this interests you, schedule a tour and come check us out!

The Revolt Returns: Ep 4

“Guys! Look what I’ve got!”

Hastily returning to the server village following the completion of his quest, Dustin the Daring waves his spoils in front of him as he struts through the village’s main street.

Hearing the commotion, the servers of Lenghorn gradually exit their huts one by one, finally meeting in the town square. As they all form a group in front of the square’s Breadboard Center Stage, Dustin takes his place in front of them as their new hero.

“Behold!” He shouts, holding the leather satchel carrying the fabled colors of Xavier the Rainbow Unicorn up so all can see. “See what I hath returned with!”

“Oh my goodness, he did it! He actually did it! Our hero!” The group of new girl hires that no one really knows yet but the guys still wonder if they party all say, batting their newly hired eyelashes.

“Yes, I did it!” Dustin valiantly shouts as he reaches into his satchel, seemingly to pull out the colors that were lost in the Forest of Broccoli Florets. Pulling out a glowing container instead, he holds it above to show the Lenghornians.

“Behold! A jar of captured will-o-the-wisps! We shall now have them as our pets!” He shouts with a gleaming smile.

Suddenly, the Lenghornians fall silent.

“What the Hell?” Chris the Comical asks. “Wisps?! We sent you after Xavier’s colors!”

“Oh, right.” Dustin says, quietly laughing to himself as he shakes the jar to stir the annoying wisps. “I just thought it’d be cool to capture these stupid things. They talk so funny, ya know? Hisssssssss. Ha! Stupid butterflies. Anyway, here ya go.” He adds, reaching into the satchel again and nonchalantly tossing the jar of colors to Chris.

As the Lenghornians see Dustin give Chris the colors, the excitement immediately returns.

“Our hero!” The girls say again.

“Quickly!” David the Hard to Come Up With An Appropriate Title says, “We must get these to Xavier!”

“Huzzah!” The Lenghornians cheer. “Long live Dustin!”

Forming a line, the Lenghornians all begin making their way East, just over the Potato Hills toward the land of Mystical Creatures. Xavier retreated to these lands after losing his colors, ashamed of being the only monochromatic Rainbow Unicorn in the realm.

As the group reaches their neighboring lands, they become awed by the fantastical beings they’ve never before seen.

“Look, Pip!” Rachael the Randy says. “Its a mythical Barfly Gnat! I thought they were only real in stories!”

Overhearing the two hostesses with the mostesses, Blake the Bartender leans down to tell them what the world is really like.

“Oh no, dear hosts.” He says. “The Barfly Gnats are very much a part of our reality. We simply choose to subconsciously ignore the little things even though we all know and laugh about them. After all, what could a Barfly Gnat do to us? They are no threat.”

“Wow,” Pip the Pretty Hot and Tempting says. “You are so wise.”

“Aye, he is indeed.” Chris the Comical says, holding his hand up to halt the group. “Stop! We’ve reached our destination everyone! Time to find our friend.”

Seeing the Lenghornians approaching from his Fancy Schmancy Unicorn Oasis, Xavier reluctantly begins to make his way toward them to say hello.

“Hey guys…” He says, his head hanging low.

“Xavier! Oh, how we have missed you!” Stephanie the Smart says, walking up and patting him on his shapely buns.

“Yeah, I’ve missed you guys too. I just…well, you know.”

“We DO know, my friend.” Chris says, approaching Xavier and resting his arm around him. “Which is why we brought you this!”

Pulling out the jar of colors, Chris the Comical unscrews the lid and shakes the magical greatness back onto the coat of the true Rainbow Unicorn.

“WOW!” Xavier suddenly shouts, obviously invigorated by Chris’ application of hues. “Where, how, why, guys?!” He says in bewilderment, shocked that the Lenghornians have gone through the trouble of finding his colors.

“Because we freakin love you!” Chris shouts. “Duh! Plus, how many Rainbow Unicorns do YOU know? You’re the only one I’ve seen, so I’d say that makes you pretty darn worth it.”

“Gosh. Thanks guys. Ya’ll are the best.” Xavier says in profound appreciation.

————————————————–

And so that’s how our hero, Dustin the Determined, saved Xavier the Rainbow Unicorn from losing his colors. Occasionally, the frequency of which depending on the cool down timer of course, our equestrian friend can now use his colorful flow to resurrect a select individual from beyond the veil. Yes, things in the Lenghornian village finally seem to have reached a peaceful, non-oppressive point. They may now enjoy life for what it is. Fun.

But wait.

There are wisps stirring. Rumors, brewing. An uprising, you say? It must be investigated. For all we know is the realm of Lenghorn. And this realm, we must protect.

Dum dum dummmmmm in a really deep base soundddddddd

 

 

 

 

Love & Loss: 5

July, 1943. Sicily.

He is the greatest man I will ever know.

Adam returned today. His first instinct was to barricade the wall, because he knew exactly what artillery strike would be taking place. He came in with that gleaming hair and shimmering smile and told me that he would never let me be harmed. That even though his unit would be bombarding this part of the city, he could not let harm fall to me. He came to me with such love, firmly holding the locks of my hair and kissed me so passionately that I will never forget his grasp. He said he would protect me that night. That he would make sure the bombs landed far away from me. And he did. The bombs landed further away than ever that night.

All because of this Adam…a deeper love I will never find.

Love & Loss: 4

July, 1943. Sicily.

I can’t wait to see her again.

Adalasia. Such a beautiful name. The dry spots on her hands told me that she was one that was willing to take on the burden of work. She was the first to volunteer her service, making sure none that followed had anything that needn’t be done.She cares about  people, I can tell. I watch her as her eyes follow the children of her house, playing and having fun. The smile that takes over her face as she sees how happy they truly are, without a care in the world.

And then the siren rings.

It changes everything. The kids playing on the floor scatter to the trap door that the Father has made. A door that will lead them underground, into a secret room where these feelings of love and happiness are absent. A room that houses the same fear, desperation, and, hopelessness I’ve seen in the towns before.

These people. They’re innocent. They don’t deserve this.

A day must come that changes things. I miss her. Adalasia. If you’re still out there…I love you.

Love & Loss: 3

July, 1943. Sicily.

He was here again today. Adam, the handsome soldier from the US 7th. I can still see his blonde hair, the sparkle, shimmering as the setting sun’s light reflects off his golden locks. He came into the shop today and asked for bread. His unit was most hurried, as there seemed to be another objective that was being sought after. It seems they are advancing further into the city.
But we were able to speak today. He had time to engage me in conversation. At first, he teased me that my English was broken, but he then put his hands on mine and smiled, telling me my words were as beautiful as the glimmer in my eyes. He gave me a bar of chocolate, laughing as he did so, saying it was cliche. 

He told me that coming to our shop was the highlight of his day, and that he would do anything he could to be assigned to this particular task. Because he wanted to see me. He wanted to experience the same feeling he had the time before, when he held me and forgot about the terror surrounding him. 

It was a powerful feeling, when he stood and grasped me. It was as if he was channeling his pain into our embodiment. I felt his love. 

Please return, Adam. 

Love & Loss

July, 1943. Sicily.

I hope I see him again.

It’s amazing how different things are, amidst the bombings and the shells and the shouting. A week ago I was making pies. Prepping soups upstairs in my father’s shop. My days were filled with that of cheer and joy. Now I find myself coddled in a corner, hiding in a dusty cellar.Trembling at the sound of footsteps approaching in fear that the invaders will find me.

They say this town is important for the supply lines. It seems to change hands every day, Allies by morning and Axis by night. I don’t know how to keep up.  The only knowledge of whats going on in the world is obtained through my inquries during the requests handed to me by whoever happens to be occupying us on a given day. Today it is the Germans. They want rations, which we are able to supply as one of the only bakeries on this block. Tomorrow, for all I know it will be another from the US 7th.

There was a man, yesterday, who I truly hope returns. He was unlike the others. Usually the men offer chocolate or some sort of postcard of an American actress. But this one…he approached me directly, took my hand and looked at me straight in my eyes. Without pause, he told me he was sorry for the pain around me. He told me he was sorry that there were people in this world who could cause such atrocities to happen, and that we, at that moment, were stuck in a window of helplessness. He told me that he felt the pain with me. That he understood exactly what struggle I was going through. That he regretted every time he pulled the trigger, because he knew he was taking a life. A life that was raised somewhere else. By someone else. Someone who he would never know. I could see how much it hurt him.

He told me his name was Adam. And that he would find me, if God allowed, when this was over.

Good & Evil: Chapter 30

Hmm.

Seems our girl is in a bit of a pickle, wouldn’t you say? This is tough. What would you do? Mikal, the guy she’s spent pretty much her whole childhood life with, dealt with Hell and deceived his way out the bad hand that society had dealt him. Seemed to me he loved her quite a bit, from what I’ve read at least. Then there’s the other guy. The safe pick. The guy with the clean record, who has all the right connections and can undoubtedly provide a very comfortable life.

So which is it? Do we go Right or do we go Left? Do we attempt to break the system and rekindle a fiery love or do we simply let the cards fall as they will?

I suppose the ramifications must be considered first. You see, this society that these people created was intended to work seamlessly.These kinds of scenarios should have been ironed out, during the original Filing. A mistake has never been made. And yet now, on the dawn of the very first hiccup this Utopia has ever gurgled, we must consider the most profound decision one can make: who’s heart shall I tear apart?

One will see Good, another will see Evil, indeed.

Good & Evil: Chapter 27

I’ve done it.

I’ve been called the Office of the Overseers.They intend to evaluate me for the first Refiling ever. This is my chance. This is my opportunity to return to Estellla. The others have told me how misguided it was to conform to their system, to show appreciation for the hardened conditions we are put under. But I have resisted. I have maintained my strength. My Love. The desire to share my life with that of Estella.I have made history. And I’ve done it for the heart of my one true love. I knew I was capable. I knew it. I just had to persevere. I had to be patient. Now, all my work and sacrifice has paid off. I have controlled my inner thoughts to fool the technology of the Overseers. Now I can take my place on the Right, which has been justifiably earned.

I have outsmarted them, and it is a grand feeling. Tomorrow cannot come too soon.

Good & Evil: Chapter 26

Geez.

All these changes of perspectives keep confusing me. One second I pick up an entry from our girl, the next I’m reading something scribbled by our man. And then there’s a random Overseer entry sprinkled in every now and then. It’s hard to keep up, dammit!

Breathe. I should’ve known that this wouldn’t be easy. That I’d be spending all sorts of time trying to catalogue my thoughts and organize these events. Because it’s not easy, you see. No, not easy at all. As a matter of fact it’s taken quite some time in the warehouse of my fragmented mind to put together these entries in such a timely fashion. And I’m not even kidding. Can you imagine how difficult it would be if you stumbled upon a chest full of single journal pages, no order whatsoever and then to read them, file them by writer and then put them in chronological order?! It’s hard!

Breathe. Phew. But alas…this is the mind of a story teller, you see. It is the mining of thoughts from the deepest chasms of twisted and tormented minds. The perpetual search for the innermost truths, and the endeavor to expose them in the brightest, most radiant light imaginable.

That is the story of Mikal and Estella.

Because at the end of the day, who are we? Or better yet, what are we? Complex, certainly. We are our thoughts. That is our genuine self. And ironically, the only person who ever knows one’s thoughts…is one’s very own self. Sounds lonely, don’t you think? You will be the only individual who ever truly, viscerally knows you.

And for these two, their thoughts drift to each other even in the most unlikely of circumstances.

That is what it means to be truly, in love.

Good & Evil: Chapter 25

I’ve decided to go through with the wedding ceremony. With Donovan.

Father tells me that there is no better match for me. That Donovan is in a highly respected position, and is of Pure thought. And while that may be so, I dearly miss my Mikal. They continue to tell me that he misled me, that he only wanted to control me, but I cannot cleanse him from my mind. Mikal and I were friends. We loved one another dearly. I remember, as a child, imagining the day when we would join hands in our own wedding ceremonies. 

But now that image is gone. I am left with but one option; that of Donovan. He is a sweet boy, and there are no doubts to his intentions. But there is so much missing, so much more that I long for that my Mikal could provide. We had adventures! We took risks. Walks, runs. There was no obstacle we could not overcome. Until the Filing. That awful Filing.

Oh, Mikal…how I miss you.