From Future Days

To escape the law, 30th-century resident Isak Mehari jumps into a time slip where he meets a daring young woman who manages to save him from a terrible fate.

Due to the length of this short story (28 pages), please upload the PDF version here:
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Winter – Book Review

All Romance Reads

winter

TITLE: Winter
AUTHOR: MarissaMeyer
GENRE: YA Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Romance
PUBLISHING DATE: November 10, 2015 by Feiwel & Friends

Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend—the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.

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How I’ve Learned to Manage Emotional Reaction

Reaction. This word carries more weight than its placid eight letters demonstrate. It is the last straw that turns a tranquil mother into a raging lunatic. It is the crossed line which surges forth the amicable pup, now frothing and growling his well-placed warning. Since I was old enough to know what it meant, it was the word that I feared most of all.

Emotional reaction, I figured early on, was a loss of control. It suggested I no longer decided how things would happen around me. I simply couldn’t live with that, so I invented a method not to react at all. I still engaged in conversations and laughed at jokes, but I learned not to allow my vulnerability to present itself.

The first time I remember this show of force happening was at the tender age of ten years, upon hearing that my father had just passed away. It would be a lie to say it didn’t affect me. After thirty-two years, I still remember the moment playing in my head like a well-watched film. There exists the familiar sensation of seizing in my gut, like someone had dropped rocks down my throat. When I saw my mother and sister embracing as they shared their despair, I turned away. In my young mind was only one thought: I have to be the strong one. So, I didn’t cry, even though I felt the sting of tears trapped behind determined eyelids. I heard the adults talking, the words they said—that I was too young to understand. A false presumption. At ten years old, I understood far more than any child should. I think their view may have saved me from a far bigger struggle in a silver-lining kind of way. People didn’t try to comfort me through my grief—a grief they didn’t know I had. I felt this was good. I didn’t think I had the strength to hold my chin up if people showed concern. Better that they simply ignored the little girl with no tears.

The ability to prevent reaction grew stronger with the years. It helped me laugh off hurt feelings caused by fair-weather friends and dismiss cheating boyfriends with little more than a shrug. It gave me the tenacity to bear three children without screaming once because, even then, my control was indispensable. I would die before anyone heard me scream.

Little did I realize that it was nothing more than a coping mechanism. Eventually, I discovered I was highly sensitive and, as my empathy grew more potent, my resolve began to waver. Being in a crowd of people was torture. Every emotion felt by every person oozed from their core and stuck to me like tar. I felt it all at once—the joy, the anger, the sorrow. It was unbearable. The grief became the worst emotion of all—perhaps because I had been denied my own as a child. The death of a friend or family member still sends me into a state of terror, as I know what to expect; sitting in a room with dozens of people wrapped up in their own lament…each one compounding my own raw feelings. I often avoid funerals, expecting that people will wonder why I wasn’t there. Wishing I could make them see.

I built a protective wall around me, withdrawing from a once vivacious and outgoing girl to someone shy and pensive—an introvert through and through. Despite all, I still fight to keep my control—to avoid a reaction. I’m not perfect, and I’m certainly not a soldier…some days I lose the battle and serenity gives way to madness, but I recover and repair my wall, brick by brick.

I created a harmonious refuge with green grass and gardens in bloom, but people keep knocking down my walls and stepping on my flowers. They haven’t learned to control their reactions, so I take a deep breath and remind myself that I am still in command of my own.

My Love Affair With the Oxford Comma

The Oxford comma; a great debate. It’s something you either love or hate.

If I come off as waxing poetic about such a trivial thing, it’s only because I am passionate about it. You see, I’m an avid user of the Oxford comma. Many editing programs offer their suggestions to remove the tiny character when it is deemed unnecessary, but I won’t allow the red squiggly line to dictate for me what is fundamental punctuation.

Is it really such a big deal? Oh, my goodness! Yes!

I love my cats, chocolate, and ice cream.

Now you know that I love my cats as well as chocolate and ice cream. If I remove my Oxford comma, it changes the phrase and the reader now thinks that my cats are named ‘Chocolate’ and ‘Ice Cream’ (we won’t get into the intricacies of capitalising proper nouns—let’s pretend I’m not a grammar nazi).

I love my cats, chocolate and ice cream.

Of course, the sentence can be rearranged to make better sense, but a simple comma strategically placed makes the phrase perfectly coherent.

It’s safe to say that I often mentally insert Oxford commas into sentences I read. It gives me pause, as is its intention. It forces a reader to slow down and enunciate words with clarity, rather than skimming along, uttering sounds that vaguely resemble the English language.

Our society has become lazy. Our desire to expedite tasks has resulted in a slew of conversational acronyms like BRB and IDK (granted, I use some of them myself from time to time, LOL). Understanding that, when I take the time to write a piece that I feel deserves a reader’s full attention, I want to make sure that they slow down, take a pause, and see each beautiful word in its entirety.

After all, I would rather people understand that I like bacon, eggs, and juice, not bacon, eggs and juice (juicy eggs? Yech!). But, it’s totally fine—you eat all the juicy eggs you like!

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When Women Lie About Sexual Assault

Women across our great nation are facing a dilemma. We have spent generations trying to develop our credibility, to show men that we are worthy of equality…that we are people. As a result, women have more power now than we’ve had at any point in history, but what some of us seem to lack is the responsibility that comes with our newly found freedoms.
Sexual assault is a sticky subject. It damages a woman’s security and her ability to trust. This degree of violation can leave her feeling powerless, vulnerable, and polluted. For many, it can take years to recover from…some never do. To make matters worse, victims are often not believed because some cases are difficult to provide evidence for.
A perfect justice system would see that sexual assault victims are listened to and their words are accepted at face value, but this system has a flaw—women who lie about their attacks are believed, while those who really endured it are having their cases thrown out. There’s no proper balance.
Within our ranks are groups of our sisters who use lies and falsify statements to their own end. Embittered, perhaps disregarded by their particular love interest, they take to the judicial system to plot out revenge for their battered hearts. Without a statute of limitations on sexual assault, “survivors” of a non-existent crime can come forward with their fabricated ordeals after months, or even years from any interaction with the accused. After so much time, evidence is not expected and the victim’s words are all there is to admit as proof of the incident. A manipulative woman (let’s call her Jane) can alter facts rather seamlessly and, too often, compassionate people who simply want to see justice done fall for the deception.
But what happens when the victim is the accused?
What defence does a man (let’s call him John) have against such a smear to his character when he is, in fact, innocent? Fighting the accusation in court can take years. This depletes his life savings, affects his health and mental state, and hurts the reputations of John’s family and friends. It takes a once vital and life-loving man and turns him into an introverted recluse, afraid to show his face in public where the judgmental stares and whispered accusations follow him everywhere.
At the end of it all, John is found innocent. People are outraged that the court system could allow this monster to go free, despite solid information proving he could not have done the things he was blamed for. They continue to slander his name, every minor blemish in his personality is blown up by the media in an effort to demonize him. Women won’t go near him. Being acquitted doesn’t change anything for him—John’s life is devastated.
And what if he decides, instead, to forgo the years battling the accusations in court and accept a plea bargain? Accepting a lesser charge instead of fighting for his innocence means John won’t have to sell his house to try and bear the cost of defending his name. This is not, by any means, a guilty admission to the charges he was initially given. This is nothing more than a man deciding to make the best of a bad situation. Still, an admission of any charge seems to be enough of a discredit for close-minded individuals to continue deprecating him.
And what of Jane—the woman who lied?
Absolutely nothing.
After completely crushing the man’s honour and defaming his family name, Jane walks away like it was just a minor inconvenience.
This woman is the reason we can’t be taken seriously. She is the cause of women’s rights to be set back fifty years. She is the reason why real victims are losing their voices. She tied up the judicial system, caused another person irreparable harm, and vilified our gender. Jane needs to be held accountable for these actions…she needs to be the example to other women who try to act like a victim when there is no just cause to do so.
We have to take responsibility for our own conduct to ensure that innocent people don’t suffer needlessly. It’s time to disprove the regrettable notion that bitches be crazy. But, thanks to women like Jane, we’ll never be taken seriously.

Image source: Kstudio / Freepik

Shifting David

David Stinson was a cautious young man. At twenty-four years, he had done little in his life without carefully weighing the pros and cons of each decision. Whatever led him into the dark backstreets of New York on a particularly cool October night remains a mystery but, in his haste to get home, he shrugged off the nagging threat to stay on the main streets.

On occasion, a cat would rummage through aluminum trash bins and startle him. He turned up his collar against the biting wind and carried on his way. Brittle leaves danced across his path, the scuttling sound they made reminded him eerily of rats in an attic. If it weren’t for the distant chaos of car horns and the loud ramblings of crazed homeless men, he’d be utterly alone in the world.

To calm his frazzled nerves, David escaped to the safe place in his mind that his high school counselor helped him create when he suffered from panic disorder. So in tune he was to his fabricated surroundings, he didn’t register the alien sound of footsteps swiftly closing the gap until they were upon him.

For a moment, he was walking in his own little world and, the next, he lay face-first on the ground with the metallic taste of blood flooding his mouth. He rolled onto his back to cast a reproachful glare at a group of four men, but quickly changed perspective. The absence of light in the dim street cast shadows over their features displaying deep, obscure eyes and malevolent sneers. David swore they were demons. As they punched and kicked, they shouted out to him; aggressive, angry, and oddly joyful voices rang out, but he hardly registered what they said. He did understand one word–a name–repeated several times. Mitch. Desperation set in as he tried to guard his face with his arms. His muffled protests went unheeded. Efforts to convince the men that they had the wrong guy fell on deaf ears as his universe turned black and he fell blissfully unconscious.

Although David lay in the street for hours, lifeless and vulnerable, before anyone found him, he did have a visitor soon after his attackers left. He didn’t sense the man’s hand rummaging through his pockets to locate his wallet, nor was he ever aware of what the stranger left in its place. In time, David was rescued, and he came to several days later in a brightly lit hospital room. His throat was raw and constricted from the tubes running from his mouth and nose and a contraption reminiscent of many psychological thrillers secured his head. He had no idea how the rest of his body looked. An intravenous liquid pumped a narcotic through his veins in a steady rhythm and he felt gratefully calm. It wasn’t long before darkness overtook him once more.

When he woke again, it appeared that he had only just fallen asleep, but it might have been days. The only thing he recognized for sure was the instinct which alerted him that he wasn’t alone. His eyes darted around his limited field of vision, and a face came into view. His face. Blinking a few times to refocus, David stared back at his own image smiling down at him. Many thoughts ran through his head; at the forefront sat the possibility that this was a messed up out-of-body experience. The question flared in his expression and the “other David” seemed to have understood.
“You’re not crazy,” he assessed. “I’m Mitch Bailey. Or … I used to be.” His eyes shifted to one side as he deeply considered the statement. “I’m actually David now, and you get to be Mitch.” He walked around the bed, temporarily removing himself from the prone man’s line of sight. “I know it’s confusing, but I’ll explain. It’s the least I can do.” Mitch–or David, as he now called himself–shared this new information. Born identical twin brothers, David’s adoption happened early on, but Mitch faltered in the system and ultimately turned to a life of crime, making powerful enemies. He was aware David existed only because he saw him one day from a distance. With skilled conniving and a little investigative work, he learned what he had to of David’s situation. His brother’s current demise wasn’t a result of any plan Mitch had made, but it worked in his favor. He witnessed the assault David took on his account. When the group of men finished and left, he ran over and switched their wallets, so David would be mistaken for Mitch when the hospital checked him for identification.

“I have to admit,” stated Mitch, “I wish they killed you right away. I need Mitch to be dead now, or they’ll never stop looking for me.” David’s eyes widened in horror as his brother’s plan became clear. “Don’t worry about your folks, though, as far as they know their darling son is alive and well.”

David tried screaming out, but no sounds came through the tubes in his throat. With all his might he tried to move even a single finger, but his paralysis was enduring. The familiar beat of his ventilator pumping life-sustaining oxygen into his battered body suddenly ceased and his lungs began to burn. His eyes bulged as he struggled to breath, his expression pleading with Mitch to reconsider. No alarms sounded alerting the nurses that he was in distress … nobody was coming to save him. David’s brain fired off the last few occurrences of activity it had left and everything went dark. Vacant orbs stared into nothingness and Mitch gently closed his eyelids, delivering him ultimately to the unknown. Before Mitch slipped from the room, he methodically plugged David’s monitoring equipment back in and enveloped the room in high-pitched alarms. The nurses would think he simply passed in his sleep and think no more of it.

After all, David Stinson was a cautious young man.

~March 16, 2017

Frownin’ Red Ryan

Ryan was barely a man when he first climbed aboard the Sea Witch. Having been fortunate enough to be born into a family of nobles, his upbringing included etiquette and a finer education. To his parent’s dismay and utter humiliation, the young man had been expelled from the finest school in all of Britain, when it was discovered that he had repeatedly failed to attend classes, instead opting to hide away in the school library pouring over history books and news articles outlining pirate activity. Now, the shaggy red-headed eighteen year old stood tall among a line of ragged sea dogs, his inexperience doing nothing to diminish his pride.

“So, this be me new crew!” a deep, raspy voice bellowed across the poop deck.

Barossi had been the captain of the Sea Witch for over thirty years and had managed to retain most of the original crew during that time. A recent battle with his rivals ” the Diamond Sail ” left his ship depleted of manpower. Many came to the call of his recruitment and they hollered out the expected “aye” in response to the captain’s obvious statement. A high-pitched, cracked voice rose above the roar of men’s voices.

“Yes sir!” Ryan replied,

Barossi slowly made his way towards the boy. The heavy heels of his boots pounded against the wooden planks and echoed loudly across the bay. The ship’s crew was deathly silent. He stopped in front of Ryan and took him fully in from head to toe and back up again. Ryan was impeccably groomed. His tan waistcoat and matching breeches were perfectly tailored, and his polished knee high boots reflected the captain’s irritated expression. Ryan had a wide, toothy grim stretched across his pudgy cheeks. Barossi sneered.

“What’re ye smilin’ fer, boy?” he hollered. “Suren yer on the wrong ship. The fancy-pants crew is dockin’ from the other pier.”

“Oh, no sir,” Ryan replied proudly. “This is the Sea Witch. This is where I belong!” The boy’s smile never faltered. The old captain walked away, wide-eyed and defeated.

“This crew’ll be the death o’ me,” he muttered as he entered his quarters. “Well, get on it, then!” The ship ain’t gonna set itself out t’ sea you scurvy dogs!” He slammed the door behind him, ineffectually hiding away from the noise of his bumbling new crew.

They had their heading. The Sea Witch was on a direct course for a small uncharted island off the coast of Somalia. Barossi received word about a pirate’s bounty stored in a cave there, protected by a voodoo witch. He had his doubts, but the reports of the treasure were far too great to pass up.

The six week journey was uneventful. Some minor storms had hit in the second week out to sea, but Ryan smiled through each tribulation as the annoyed captain repeatedly threatened to wipe the grin off of the boy’s foolish face. The summer sun had turned Ryan’s cheeks into bright pink apples and that, along with his shock of red hair, soon earned him his pirate name, Red Ryan. He carried the moniker like a badge of honor.

The Sea Witch reached the island in record time, mostly due to Red Ryan’s knowledge of ships and because of his uncanny ability to mediate between the edgy crew members, preventing fights from breaking out. A happy pirate was a working pirate and little time was wasted in settling scores.

The ship was anchored and the captain set out with a small crew in a rowboat. Red Ryan, being the only one who could read other than the captain, was awarded a place upon that rowboat so that he could read the vague instructions printed lightly on the map.

The captain had been following the map’s general direction to the large red X. Near the marking, was a simple cryptic phrase.

The height of the X
When sun’s low in the West

After about an hour’s trek through the thick undergrowth of the islands forest, they reached a clearing. It was no more than a basin, surrounded by mountains and sporadically dotted with Acacia trees, some dead and bent over another as though they were looking for support.

“Well!” Barossi roared. “This be the spot on the map, so where’s me cave?” The men started scanning the base of the mountains surrounding them, looking for a possible entrance.

“Sir,” Red Ryan approached the captain, “I do believe this is a waste of time. We should instead be trying to decipher the meaning of the diction on the map.”

“Diction?” Barossi repeated the word cynically.

“Yes, sir. It means ‘phrase’.”

“I know what it means!” the captain bellowed, angry at the boy’s indignation. “Don’t be wastin’ yer prissy words on me, boy. Ye ain’t a pirate, and ‘til ye stop smilin’ like everythin’s a game, ye’ll never be a pirate…savvy?”

The corners of Red Ryan’s mouth dropped, but a hint of a smile still played upon his lips, as he went back to studying the map. A thought suddenly struck him. He walked to the west side of the basin and turned his back towards the mountains. There before him, stood two trees, crossed over in an X formation. He looked to the tops of the trees, the height of the X, but there was nothing indicating that a cave was nearby. His eyes fell to the ground, and that’s when he saw it ” a perfectly formed X created by the shadow of the trees. The top of the X pointed toward the base of an eastern mountain, but it had already been determined that there was no cave there. Red Ryan looked behind him and up over the top of the western mountain. The sun was still fairly high in the sky, so he sat down and waited, watching the shadow move as

the sun made its way toward the horizon.

Just as the sun was falling behind the western mountain the X shadow rose up to the highest peak of the eastern mountain. As it did, the sun shone brightly against the face and illuminated a small passage only visible within the sharp angel of the X shadow. Red Ryan jumped to his feet in excitement.

“Sir! There it is!” He ran over and grabbed the captain’s sleeve, shaking it violently. If it hadn’t been for the fact that Red Ryan found the cave’s entrance, the captain surely would have run him through for such an act.

The group started their steady climb into the mountain, and before long, they had reached the entrance. Barossi peered in and tried to adjust his eyes to the gloomy interior. It was a tunnel, and the treasure was surely somewhere at the end of it.

“Well, boy. Yer the one who found it, so ye should be the first one in.”

Barossi bestowed a great honor upon Red Ryan, and the boy beamed with pride. What he didn’t realize was that Barossi didn’t care to be the first one to meet the voodoo witch. They lit torches and followed the boy through the tunnel at a fair distance. It wasn’t a long tunnel, and they soon reached a chamber. It was empty except for a small coffer that sat alone in the middle of the cavern.

“Go on boy,” Barossi gave Red Ryan a nudge, “get it and let’s get outta here.”

Red Ryan took a few steps towards the chest when a cloud of black smoke temporarily blinded him. He rubbed at his eyes, and when the stinging dissipated, he found himself face to face with a short, round woman wearing a dress made entirely of dried branches and leaves. She crinkled her nose at him and her lips opened to expose several blackened teeth ” the rest were simply gone. Red Ryan jumped back a few paces before regaining his composure.

“Oh,” he said. “I am pleased to make your acquaintance, my fine lady.” He smiled widely and imitated a long sweeping bow in her direction. The witch regarded him suspiciously.

“Whaddya want?” she screamed. Red Ryan could hear the rest of the crew behind him, shuffling quietly as they back away.

Clearing his throat and attempting to sound as refined as possible he answered her.

“We have come from afar in hopes that you would be willing to allow us to partake in that lovely chest by your dainty feet.”

The witch lifted an eyebrow incredulously and looked past Red Ryan, to the captain who stood quietly by. Barossi only shrugged. Snapping her attention back to Red Ryan, a wide grin appeared on her hairy cheeks. It contrasted significantly with the smile the boy had managed to retain the whole time.

“And what would ye be willin’ t’ do t’ get yer hands on me treasure?” the witch asked. Ryan stuttered, unsure of what the homely-looking woman wanted in return.

“Would ye give an old woman a tender kiss?” Her smile widened and Red Ryan’s face blanched at the notion. He straightened his back and did his best to strengthen his resolve.

“O…old? M…my fine lady, you are not old,” his smile this time was notably fake and he glanced back to the captain who now glared at Red Ryan, warning him not to do anything stupid. “I would be most honored in sharing a tender moment with such an endearing young creature.”

“Lies!” the witch screamed again. “Ye dare to speak lies t’ me? Ye want t’ stand there, smilin’ in me face and mockin’ me intelligence? Fer this, ye will never smile again!”

The witch uttered a few unintelligible words and flung her hand out toward Red Ryan. He felt as though he’d been slapped hard in the face and fell back, landing on the ground with a thud. After he caught his breath, he lifted his hand to face and felt the corners of his mouth turned down into a scowl. He smiled ” he knew in his heart and his mind that he was smiling ” but on his face remained a frown.

The crew watched in fear, cowering by the cavern’s exit and hoping the witch would forget they were there. She didn’t. Instead of punishing them, however, she grinned at them sweetly as she walked over and placed a hand on the coffer.

“The chest be yers, capt’n,” she stated kindly. “Take it and go. Ye are never t’ return.” With that last statement, she disappeared as quickly as she came.

When the crew returned to the ship, Red Ryan went below to sit on his bunk and sulk while the rest gathered around the chest, eager to see what was inside. The captain broken the lock and slowly lifted the lid. As the crew drew in closer to get a better look, a vapor rose up from the chest and surrounded them. They didn’t notice it at first, as they admired the collection of gemstones contained in the chest, but one by one, the crew began to collapse. The vapor stole away their life force and within minutes, every crew member aboard the ship was dead…except for Red Ryan, who was safely

hidden below.

Red Ryan heard the thumping on the deck above and decided to stop brooding long enough to see what was going on. He reached the deck just as the vapor returned to the chest and shut the lid, laying in wait for the next victim to come along. The young man understood immediately what had happened here. He had read enough in books to know when a treasure was cursed. He picked up the heavy chest and hoisted it into the sea, hoping that it never found its way back from its watery resting place.

The crew was given a decent sea burial, and once it was done, Red Ryan stood atop the quarter deck with the captain’s wheel steady in his hand. He set his course toward the Caribbean. He would acquire a new crew and spend the rest of his days as Frownin’ Red Ryan, captain of the Sea Witch and the most educated pirate to sail the seas.

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