Wednesday, February 29, 2012

short story: Introspection In The Preservation

“The sum of man's problems come from his inability to be alone in a silent room.” --Blaise Pascal; consistent with Carl Jung

“You’ll have to get rid of your gun,” ordered Nicolette Adams, matter of factly.
Wayne Gordon stared blankly at her, confused. On the verge of agitation.
“Wha- why?!” he wondered aloud, his brow contorted in apparent bafflement, and suspicion.
“Nightshade has no use for guns,” she instructed him. “If we are going to work together, the first rule— the first lesson, is no guns.”
Arms distance across from her, Wayne stood there, mouth hung open, unsure what to say.
He would have to get rid of his gun?
The gun he’s carried the last 10 years like a precious family heirloom? The gun that has faithfully served him so well, for so long? The gun that has been instrumental in saving not only his life many times, but the lives of his Unknown X teammates AND civilians? Maybe even the whole world?!
His beloved black with silver trim 9 millimeter Beretta?
“Despite common opinion,” she advised, hoping to ease his discomfort and transition, “The Gun is not a sign of power.”
When she said ‘The Gun’, it was capitalized by her tone.
“It is a sign of weakness,” she lectured with hands linked behind her back, pacing in stentorian tones like drill sergeant, “The Gun becomes a substitute for strength. In our society, The Gun is regarded as a tool and symbol of power. But that’s an illusion. The Gun is for manipulating or neutralizing others because you lack the power to do so without a gun. The Gun is used when negotiation is untenable. If you really had power, you would not need a gun. The only proper use of a gun is defense and survival. If you wield a gun offensively, you are doing it wrong. The Gun is a weapon of choice for thugs, the insecure, the dimwitted and the desperate. The Gun is fear based, too easily becoming a crutch, a cop out, a cheat of expediency. I will teach you how to not rely guns, to not need to use them, to be more clever and resourceful. What happens if you lose it in a fight, or run out of ammo? Where are you then? What if The Gun isn’t enough? It provides a false sense of security, a tenuous illusion of control. It is true that guns don’t kill people, people do. In using a gun, you do not have the power. The Gun doesn’t even have the power. A person’s fear of what guns can do has the power. Guns have no power, give no power. We give The Gun its power in the assumption, the belief in its power. When you imbue guns with power, they attain power over you— whether they are pointed at you or by you.”

Why did Nicolette adopt the Nightshade crusade? She did not trust law enforcement and the legal system— which was clearly more interested in harassment, punishment and incarceration than justice and rehabilitation, serving and protecting.
When police can legally rob and harass you on a whim, for not having a sticker on your car, or a broken tail light, or not telling them where you live… when the intent of the law is crushed by the word of law, then the law becomes a fraud, invalid. They— the laws and those who enforce them-- do not deserve our respect, cooperation, compliance or honesty.

Wayne Gordon (age 34) sat gazing at the large, elegantly framed photo of Nicolette Adams beside her former mentor and partner, Natori. He knew they were partners-- in every sense of the word; married in every way that matters (which is to say, not legally).
What he did not know, could not know (because Nicolette has had no reason to mention it) is that although Natori was just as much a lesbian as Nicolette, she was also hermaphrodite.
Their mutual affection was obvious, radiating from the picture like sunlight… giving Wayne a case of warm fuzzies.
In frame, Nicolette’s dark hair exploded from her head like a glorious mass of twisted confetti, interspersed with deviant strands tinted blue and gold. Her skin is the hue of chocolate milk, and Wayne loved the color-- and flavor-- of chocolate milk.
You might say she looks like actor Jasika Nicole, except more buff.
Her companion had the lighter skin of Caucasian, and shoulder length deep brown hair, looking much like actor Caroline Dhavernas, and even more muscular than Nicolette. Vacillating between Victoria and Natasha, Natori’s parents could not decide on a name for their daughter.
So, also being the kind of eccentricity that only comes from the prerogative of being insanely wealthy or insanely liberal (of which they were both), they chose both names, combining them into Natori Victasha.
Back in the day, Natori and Nicolette were the double Ns; their mutual pet name became Dublin.
Even though separated by space, time and circumstance, they still loved each other.
Neither of them were in costume.
An amateur photographer, in the sense that she is not paid for it, Nicolette had taken the picture in her intrinsic style. She is professional in artistic skill, she would say, but not in vocation.
“You’re awful quiet, over there by yourself,” Nicolette (now age 36) commented from the periphery, as she finished watching the newest LonesomeGirl episode online, disrupting his silent reverie (Wayne had already seen it). There is the inherent— though perhaps unintentional-- insinuation or presumption that being quiet or alone means something must be wrong.
“Harrumph,” Wayne Gordon harrumphed snidely, “interesting choice of words.”
“How so?” she asked, maneuvering her wheelchair over to where he sat on the couch in their shared studio loft apartment. These days, she wore her hair nearly sheered slightly longer than Wayne’s (who resembled actor Brian Austin Green). He did not think it coincidental that she cut off her hair almost immediately after she got in that wheelchair three weeks ago. After having her back indefinitely broken when she was traumatically thrown off the roof of a three story building while grappling with one of the bad guys. Usually, annoyance would probably follow such a disturbance, but he made an exception for her.
Despite her current physical infirmity, her indomitable spirit remained intact.
She exuded a natural effervescence and kindliness that acted like a non-addictive air borne narcotic, infusing most people in her vicinity with a sense of calming bliss.
You might say that amity was her mutant power. They had developed an affinity for each other, these last few years.
Staying mad at her, or in her presence, was exceedingly difficult and short lived.
“What’s so awful about quiet?”, he answered, shifting his posture and attention toward his friend and colleague. She opened her mouth to speak, but he interjected pre-emptively, guessing her forming rebuttal.
“I know you didn’t mean anything by it,” assured Wayne, waving his hand in a dismissive halting motion, assuaging any possibility of accidental hurt feelings, “but the popular belief that there’s something innately wrong with being quiet is a pet peeve of mine.”
Wayne Gordon is what is commonly described as the strong silent type. In many ways his opposite, she was extroverted, whereas he was not.
“Ah, that,” she understood, “society’s implied bias against introversion.”
“Yes, that,” he groused insolently, aware that she already knew about the inciting phenomenon, but not of his grievance, denouncing in further elaboration, “in contemporary society, life is increasingly cluttered with egotistical chatter. The ideal self is portrayed as outgoing, outspoken, comfortable with social interaction and attention. In Westernized society-- especially in America-- schools, work places, religious institutions… even our stories are designed to favor extroverts, and aligned against introverts.”
“Much like women throughout most of history,” Nicolette noted, in consolingly sympathy, “introverts are treated as second-class citizens, and somehow defective. But by sidelining and demeaning introversion, we invariably neglect and abuse half the population. Another form of prejudice akin to misogyny and homophobia, devaluing introversion is a waste of untapped talent and energy.”
“Huh,” Wayne vocalized his pleasant surprise, with a grin, at her commiserate insight, “I like that metaphor.”
Nicolette was the rare kind of person with a unique knack for nurturing; she could make you feel relevant and accepted and appreciated just by giving you her attention, by caring about you.
“Ya know,” she observed, “you’re right. We’re losing the ability to self- edit. There is way too much talking and not enough listening. Not enough thinking before speaking. Or instead of speaking. We live in a society that prizes and promotes action-oriented people, and being in motion, participating and connecting; there’s a presumption of guilt or fault assigned to inaction, contemplation and solitude. Which is clearly nonsense. Even inaction can be a valid form of action. Thinking is not the same as doing nothing. Throughout history, our greatest thinkers and artists have usually created their best work in quiet solitude.”
“Trueness. Most of the time, I’d much rather,” Wayne volunteered, “sit and read or think about things or watch TV than talk to people. If I don’t want to talk to someone, it isn’t necessarily about them. It’s exhausting and frustrating for me, as an introvert, to force or be forced into extroversion. Especially for extended time.”
Thinking this might be a hint that Wayne wanted alone time, and she wanting to not intrude on her friend, Nicolette started to turn her chair away and leave him to his privacy, saying without malice, “I can go if you want to be alone.”
But she stopped when he spoke up again, protesting, ”No, wait.
I didn’t mean for you to go away. It’s ok, you’re not bothering me. You can stay. If you want.”
“Sure,” she consented, with a friendly smile, “I can do that.”
Anticipating he had more to say, she waited.
“I was thinking about origin stories,” Wayne revealed, after a few seconds of companionable silence, referring back to Nicolette’s initial concern about his quietude, “particularly yours. And mine.”
“Oh?” said Nicolette, her eye brow raised, implying curiosity and encouraging him to explain.
“Do you know what’s like,” Wayne inquired with a somber sigh, sounding tired, “to forget yourself? When you wake up? Recently, I feel like I’m carefully boarding a bus, trying to not touch anyone… so as to not disintegrate them.”
She sat quietly several seconds, staring at her lap, diligently pondering the enigmatic analogy.
Wayne could see she was contemplating the addlepated puzzle, and patiently waited as she thought it over, not disturbing her concentration.
Then, after nearly two minutes, she looked up at him and offered a riddle for his consideration, “Return to where you will be. Return to where you’ve never been.”

“I’m leaving,” Natori announced to Nicolette without ceremony.
Caught in a miasma of conflicting emotions, unsure what the proper response should be, lacking context, Nicolette inquired warily, “What do you mean?”
“Oh, I’m not leaving you,” assured Natori, “I’m just leaving.”
“Well, that clarifies everything,” sarcastically exclaimed an exasperated Nicolette in a snarky grin, not quite getting what must be some kind of joke.
“I’m not breaking up with you,” explained Natori, “but I’m going away. Permanently.”
“What’s the difference?” pleaded Nicolette, perturbed, worried about where this was going.
“You have the potential to be an extraordinary Nightshade,” she informed her beloved. Better than me, even. But as long as I’m here, you’ll always be in my shadow, always depending on me to guide you, always subservient. I’m standing in your way. I’m a distraction. You need to learn to stand on your own. For the sake of the mission. So… I’m leaving.”
To say Nicolette was shocked and dismayed by this news would be the proverbial understatement.
Intellectually, Nicolette could comprehend and appreciate that Natori was right.
But emotionally, she was torn apart… ripped inside out, upside down and crossways.
She stood there, staring at her partner in disbelief, eyes shimmering, jaw clenched as she tried-- and failed-- to hold back tears. She struggled to quell her anger and confusion, to keep in control of her emotions like Natori taught her. Her ambivalence was palpable, floating in the air.
She would gladly and willingly give her partner whatever she wanted. She wanted to be able to. But she didn’t want to have to. Not this.
Natori glanced away, so as to spare Nicolette the indignity of an audience.
And to keep herself from crying as she blinked away her own tears, clearing her throat awkwardly. Natori was always the stronger of the two of them.
Nicolette drowned in quiet resignation for several seconds that seemed much longer, then said, “Where will you go? What are you gonna do?”
“I think it’s best if you don’t know,” replied Natori, “I don’t want you following me. You should find your own way. Without me. I’ve taught you all I can?”
“So all this time,” Nicolette preposterously blurted out through delicately tumultuous disposition, “I was just your--” she scrambled clumsily for the right word, and came up feebly with “your sidekick?”
This valediction of Dublin was exerted, she realized, because Natori loved Nightshade, Natori’s vigilante crusade, more than her. What she was saying, is that Nightshade was more important to her than their relationship.
Natori simply tilted her head and gave Nicolette a condescendingly withering, chastising glare of incredulity; as if to say: Really, Dearest Dublin? You know that’s not true.
“I’m not saying forget about me,” apprised Natori with stoic, but tender, resolve, “or that I’ll forget about you. Only that I want you to go on without me, now.”

:::Back in 2007:::
“When she left,” Nicolette thought out loud, gesturing to her lady friend in the photo, “she was as old as I am this year.”
Wayne nodded in quiet assent, looking into Natori’s bright eyes in search of some elusive and mysterious clue about the woman who had mentored his mentor.
This amazing person whose legacy he helped carry on.
“Hey,” declared Nicolette, excited by her imminent suggestion, and inspired to create something, “let’s do a photo of us!”
“Really?” mused Wayne, stunned by the honor of the sentiment in that offer.
“Yeah,” she approved, enthusiastically, “I’ll hang it beside the other. It’ll be a thing. And maybe some day you can add to it.”
the power of introverts...

As introvert advocate Susan Cain would tell you, one third to one half of humans are introverts – that’s one out of every two or three people you know. From a very young age, we categorize children as social or shy, usually privileging the social designation.
In a society that prizes the bold and outgoing, introversion is perceived as disadvantage. However, the disposition that stops to consider stimuli rather than rushing to engage with them is associated with intellectual and artistic achievement.
Most schools and workplaces typically organize workers and students into groups, misguidedly believing that creativity and productivity come from a gregarious place.
When you’re working in a group, you are not only distracted by the concerns and expectations-- or mere presence-- of others in that group, but also it’s hard to know or determine what you truly think independent of group influence or interference.
Most creative people in many fields of study and enterprise are usually introverts. This is probably because introverts are comfortable spending time alone, and solitude is a crucial (and underrated) ingredient for creativity.
If you want to do something that requires sustained performance and paying attention for long periods of time, introversion is beneficial.
Introversion is often considered synonymous with shyness, but they are not interchangeable. Shyness is the fear of negative judgment; introversion is simply the preference for less external stimulation. Shyness is indicative of inherent discomfort; introversion is not.
One of the greatest misconceptions about introversion is that they are anti-social; they are not—actually, they are differently social.
Introverts prefer quiet, internal, minimally social environments, while extroverts want higher levels of outward engagement to feel their best. Stimulation comes in all forms – social stimulation, but also lights, noise, activity.
Many introverts feel there is something wrong with them (are made to feel deficient by societal expectations), and try to pretend to be extroverts. But whenever you try to pass as something you’re not, you lose a part of yourself in the process. Instead of going to parties and socializing and networking, introverts would really rather be alone doing any variety of quiet and worthwhile activities: reading, watching movies, studying, thinking, creating, meditating, cooking, exploring.
An aptitude for methodical process often gets mistaken for lack of ambition or, worse, laziness.
Introverts are more likely to be misunderstood for wanting, and thriving in, quiet solitude. They don't talk as much as extroverts, and they're not as visible interpersonally. Because introverts tend to be more socially aloof, it is frequently erroneously associated to certain types of psychological disorders.
They tend to be motivated not by ego or a desire for attention and recognition, but by dedication to their larger goal. They encourage others’ ideas instead of trying to put their own stamp on things.
The 1900s saw a shift away from a “culture of character” to one of personality, much of it aligned with the rise of the salesman.
This mentality has fostered the corporate and consumerist mindset of selling and favoring short term results over long term, i.e.- instant gratification.
Introverts are not designed for small talk and multi-tasking.
They are not as good at processing a rapid-fire stream of information intake. They’re much better at isolated intellectual situations where they can focus more extensively and thoroughly on one subject. They prefer real, genuine conversation over meaningless chit chat.
Our culture suffers greatly from a loss of solitude, silence and simplicity.
All traits of the introvert.

Nikola Tesla: From childhood I was compelled to concentrate attention upon myself. This caused me much suffering, but to my present view, it was a blessing in disguise for it has taught me to appreciate the inestimable value of introspection in the preservation of life, as well as a means of achievement.
The pressure of occupation and the incessant stream of impressions pouring into our consciousness through all the gateways of knowledge make modern existence hazardous in many ways. Most persons are so absorbed in the contemplation of the outside world that they are wholly oblivious to what is passing on within themselves.
The premature death of millions is primarily traceable to this cause.
Even among those who exercise care, it is a common mistake to avoid imaginary, and ignore the real dangers. And what is true of an individual also applies, more or less, to a people as a whole.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

So You See...

They Grow Upon The Eyes : a compelling sci-fi thriller by Pete Worrall. Excusing the abundant typos and a few narrative/ structural errors (that would have been avoided if only Pete hired me), this debut novel presents a well written story and great authorly potential. The story is not ruined or invalidated by its many careless errors-- a credit to how solid the story is; which defies, and more than makes up for, those mistakes. Usually, such plentiful blemishing is indicative of a poorly crafted tale due to a lack of talent and aegis. But like my book But The Owl Knows—also regrettably tainted by several careless typos, these inconsequential marrings are not born from incompetence, but an eager passion to bring the book to fruition.

Story telling is an art form, though often unsung and under-rated; and blogging can be deployed as a kind of story telling. On Wil Wheaton’s blog , readers are gifted with amusing, insightful and brilliantly composed anecdotes, observations and social commentaries from his experiences as a writer, actor, father, husband, geek and decent human keen to remind us (in word and deed): Don’t be a dick!”.
Eric Freitas designs interesting steam punkish clocks

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Staying In Character

Considering that I’m an advocate for increasing diversity of characters in narrative fiction, it may seem odd or hypocritical that not only is my main character (Cassandra O'Brien) caucasian in my Arcanum fiction, but so are most of my "minor" characters. Why? How did this happen?
As much as I endorse and encourage increasing the prevalence and presence of non- white characters in our stories, I also believe we should not contrive them “just because”. Because if you force your characters to be something they are not, then they become false, inauthentic. Maybe it is due to my experience as a white male existing in white person dominated social circles, but I’ve always envisioned my white characters in Arcanum as white people. Cassie O’Brien appeared to me as a white woman.
To make her anything else would not be right; because “anything else” is not what she is.
I could have made her mentor Professor Nelson a woman. Indeed, ideally, I would actually prefer if that character were a woman-— putting an older female in a position of power/ authority, and contravening the "older man teacher" trope.
I would not have to change much of anything to make him into a her… but that is not how the character manifested in my imagination. Instead, I made his assistant not only a woman, but a white woman! Which, on a certain level, goes against my desire for a more diverse cast of characters, and to aschew tropes.
But that character is a middle aged white woman in my mind. Nothing I could do about that.
Coincidentally, Cassie’s friend Efram is a white male; not subservient to the main character, but equal.
Although Cassie is the main character, she is never portrayed or intended as superior to or “better than” the rest of the cast. When I initially made Cassie’s other friend Akasha another white female, she seemed off, didn’t feel right.
Not just because there was a sense of imbalance... not because there were too many white people--- but because I realized that Akasha was not white. She was supposed to be Japanese. Furthermore, unlike my other characters, she happens to be gay. The only gay person in the ensemble. Not because she is designed as a token homosexual, but because that is who she is. Or rather, part of what she is. Likewise with Cassie’s friend Gevrall, I didn’t make him black to be a token black guy, but because he came to my mind as a black man.
And as with Efram… Akasha and Gevrall are depicted as being on even standing with Cassie. Akasha and Gevrall are not less than Cassie or Efram because Gevrall is black and Akasha is female and Asian.
Also, Gevrall and Akasha are not victims or vehicles of racial or cultural cliche. Nor does Cassie suffer from female stereotypes.
And none of Cassie’s supporting cast are actually treated as support personnel; none are “less than” for not being the main character, nor for not being a dreamwalker.
By happenstance and not design, my cast has an evenly split ratio between male and female; one gender does not dominate.
I do have a variety of other races playing guest roles, but most of the primary cast is white.
Ultimately, what’s more important than diversity is making racial, gender or sexual characteristics irrelevant or moot as defining traits. It doesn’t matter what race, gender or sexual orientation they are.
What matters is that they be allowed and enabled to be themselves. I don’t want race, gender or sexual orientation be a major defining factor in who they are.
Just as you do not (or should not) put someone in a position merely based on their gender or race instead of based on qualifications and merit, you don't properly manufacture characters this way, either. They should be generated according to the story they develop from and within.
Always, Story is paramount, and should be developed organically… not dictated to or constrained by agenda.
As in real life, such details are—and should be treated as-- only pieces, not the whole of them.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Bursting Of Bubbles: Superhero comic books

Liberals speak of Conservatives as existing inside a perceptual “Bubble”, meaning those inside that metaphorical bubble only associate with conservatives, and therefore are only ever exposed to conservative political ideas—which are then, inevitably reinforced and perpetuated as truth.

Mainstream comic book publishers— at least and in particular DC Comics— appear to reside in a similar bubble, where they are out of touch with the real world beyond their publishing offices.
For the last 30 years, in those offices, (judging by the books) a sort of temporal anomaly has formed, creating an atmosphere or impression of being eternally America somewhere between 1985 and 1995— with the simplistic storytelling and misogynistic attitudes inherent in that era.
Largely, they are still trying to produce comics as if it were still 1990, using outdated models.
In the millennial age, comic books are suffering from an extreme case of McComics—the McDonaldsification of comic books, in which material is standardized and simplified, rather than customized and personalized. And as with public education and any mass media, results are the same: mediocre crap.
The fundamental flaw that exists in the comic industry, especially within DC Comics… is they cater too much to readers who grew up (or maybe didn’t literally grow up) with their characters from the old days, instead of attempting to attract and appeal to new and younger readers who are growing up right now… instead of offering newer and contemporarily relevant characters.
They repeatedly continue to recycle and reboot the same characters for 50 years, instead of creating new ones, for a new age. I’m referring primarily to superhero comics; what most of us usually think of when talking of comic books.
We get a repetitive rehash of Superman, Batman and Spiderman… as if no new characters could possibly be devised.
These days, stories and "big events” are innately designed for and targeted to those who got into comics in the 1980s or 1990s-- not the younger readers that might become new life-long comic book fans today. Comic books themselves are also currently stuck in a kind of bubble, stagnating in the residue of yester-year nostalgia and continuity. A constant desire to chase or replicate past glories is inherently and inevitably aimed at those old(er) readers, not bringing in new fans.
Therefore, logically and regardless of intentions or declarations otherwise, comics publishers are generally going to attract the stereotypical comic book reader of the ‘80s.
Because comic book content is often and predominately aimed at the immature male demographic and ridiculous niche stereotype; under-sexed 30 year-old men still living in their parents’ basement who get off on naked female superheroes and characters getting shot up, cut up and blown up. Despite an erroneously persistent common conception of comic book readers, most of them are actually not children. Increasingly over the last 30 years, many of them are adults— as those who started reading comics as kids continued the hobby into adulthood. Compounding the sorrowful dilemma of children reading less books, comics are not really so inviting or interesting to most children anymore. Comics are not just for kids anymore. In many cases, alas, they are not even for kids at all. Frequently, nor are they designed for females.
Further alienating new/ younger readers is the unfortunate trend (in comics and cable TV) of narrative debauchery and debasement, with stories and subject matter written for (clearly depraved) adults, and inappropriate for anyone under age 18.
What rational and responsible parent would approve or encourage their kids, even teenagers, to read such gratuitously violent, over-sexed and demeaning material?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

You Also Get--

Jasika Nicole drawings . Plus, check out the remarkably poignant and intimately autobiographical portraiture in her High Yella Magic “graphic novellas”… in the artwork area of her site.

(a poem by me)
Ah, The Way
Look onward to where heart and mind are going,
For thou shall spend some time there,
If thou judge it well and good.
Kneel in contemplative thought,
Discover what thou shalt ought,
In comprehending and incomprehensible eyes.
Go your way.
--- The Prophet

95ers : ECHOES official movie trailer from Space Ace on Vimeo.

MANUAL FOR BORED GIRLS from Jesus Plaza on Vimeo.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

short story: “There Is No Absurdity So Obvious...

...that it cannot be firmly planted in the human head if you only begin to impose it before the age of five, by constantly repeating it with an air of great solemnity.” -- Arthur Schopenhauer
The year: 2000
The place: Prometheus Institute; recreation room
(alternate reality)
“You know what I’d like to see?” Sarah Decker (age 28) asks— rhetorically-- her new best friend?
After a brief pause of consideration, Wayne Gordon (age 27) replies, in an attempt at humor, with a somewhat facetious non-sequitur, “uh, a unicorn sliding down a rainbow?”
(Humor= revelation of truth, expressed through incongruous absurdity or goofiness.)
“No!”, rebuffs Sarah, an amused smile and sparkling eyes brightening her face. Then, her expression changing with her mind, Sarah concedes, soberly amending her response with, “well, yeah, actually— but seriously…wait.”
Sarah stops, suddenly staring off into space in her own non-sequitur; he waits, wondering what happened. She slightly frowns, then, her eyes squinting suspiciously and brow wrinkled with an expression of confused frustration.
“What was I saying?” searches Sarah. “The unicorn distracted me, and I lost my thought.”
“What you’d like to see---?” Wayne reminds her.
If Sarah were beside actor Claire Danes, confusing the two of them for twins would be easy; the resemblance was uncanny. Inhaling and exhaling deeply, slowly, she bolsters her announcement with an air of great solemnity, declaring, ”I’d like to live long enough to see children get the respect in our society they deserve.”
During her sojourn here, this discourse is indicative and typical of their conversations. They don’t speak of inane or mundane trivia, like normal people would.
If you were looking at actor Brian Austin Green in dim light while squinting, Wayne would look just like Brian Austin Green if you saw him while squinting in a dimly lit room.
“You mean,” Wayne elaborates for her, next to her on the couch, deducing her line of thought, ”how kids are treated like property? Or accessories and status symbols for parents?”
“Exactly!” confirms Sarah, gratified and thrilled that she and he were on the same page. “Children are considered property--” she professes, earnestly, “--not people.” She shifts into a more comfortable position, and leans into the dialog.
“Or the way,” Sarah continues, enthusiastically, ”our society tries to conform and homogenize kids into the same mold of normal.”
“Normal is over-rated--” Wayne observes in annoyance, ”celebrated, promoted and rewarded in our media-culture as an ideal to strive for, to desire and prefer.”
“Our society seems intent,” reciprocates Sarah, disgustedly, ”—designed, even-- on eradicating and dismissing specialness. We insist on categorizing abnormal behavior or thinking as mental illness, and all mental illness as disease--- to be removed or cured. People who are not normal are considered broken, damaged, and need to be ‘fixed’. But they’re trying to fix something that isn’t broken--- only different. They insist on coercing conformity. Development and education of children is treated as a clockwork mechanism, uniform… as if--”
“As if—“ Wayne interrupts, anticipating and finishing her thought, “--all kids are the same,” affirms Wayne, ”interchangeable.”
“Our demented and perverted society,” Sarah is propelled by her passion and conversational momentum, ”measures— and values-- quantity of life over quality. Culturally, we are negligent and irresponsible in the corrupting environment we subject children to. We tell kids they can be whatever they want to be when they grow up, especially in America, knowing this is untrue... and then systematically proceed to indoctrinate them otherwise incapable.”
“Like In the news media— or The Catholic Church,” analogizes Sarah, invigorated by a symbolic revelation, “translators and editors deliberately altering the original meaning of text, promoting a point of view or agenda.”
“Ohh, great metaphor…” compliments Wayne, “very clever.”
Sarah merely nods, a subtle grin playing on her mouth.
“You need a license,” contributes Wayne, in agitated consternation, “to run a business, to teach, to council— even to drive or operate heavy machinery. And yet, for something so important as parenting-- anyone can become a parent, regardless of qualification or worthiness.“
Wayne Gordon is a security guard at a private paranormal research and development facility called The Prometheus Institute— where Sarah Decker arrived five days ago; part of a covert paramilitary group known as Unknown X, serving as protective escort for an experimental vaccine created by scientists at The Institute… to combat a recent outbreak of an accidental vampiric viral mutation beginning to spread throughout America. UX served as a task force designed to investigate and resolve paranormal situations and potential threats to public safety or national security.
“Well, there is the problem,” points out Sarah, ”of determining criteria of qualifications. And who gets to decide. How do you avoid a dictatorship?”
“Right. There is that,” admits Wayne, sighing reluctant conciliation, “But surely there is a way to moderate or mediate some kind of-- of quality control.”
“Also,” Sarah adds, “that sounds like a kind of eugenics. Selective breeding?”
“Well, in a way, I suppose it is,” agrees Wayne, “but that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing, right?”
“Not necessarily,” notes Sarah, “No. But it could be abused by those in power. Even if well intentioned or unintentionally.”
“Maybe”, allows Wayne. “But we speak in quaint colloquialism of ‘making babies’…when actually, what this really is--- is PEOPLE making. We tend to forget— or ignore-- that children are people. There are so many ways to ruin or damage a child— psychologically.”
“Exactly!” exuberantly remarks Sarah, ”society wants us to think the world we live in is real, definitive… but it is illusion— a masquerade. An undignified contrivance for the convenience of sustaining and perpetuating an inevitable society machine. In authoritarian absolutes, we impose and coerce rules and moralities— as if we have no choice but to mindlessly accept and obey! Instead of seeing what they want us to see, we should imagine the possibilities of what could be instead. This cavalier complicity of compliance is doing irreparable harm to kids, replicating the idiocy of adult obstinance. We pollute the minds of our children!”
“Basically erasing and destroying,” conciliatorily pronounces Wayne, “the unique perspective and cherished essence intrinsic in childhood. No one consults children. No one considers the wishes or perspectives of children. I don’t mean their whims, but what they really want and need. Adults like to assume children know nothing. Adults find comfort in believing children are stupid and… and nonparticipants.”
“Relegated to… obsequious non-entities,” interrupts Sarah, perturbed by the predicament, “susceptible to capricious vanity and ego of grownups.”
“Right,” vouches Wayne, ”but we both Know kids know a much more than most adults know. Both in the sense that kids know more than adults about the true real world, and more than adults are aware that kids are capable of knowing. More than adults are willing to give them credit for.”
“Indeed. I’m very impressed with the free school approach here,” Sarah compliments The Prometheus Institute’s innovative and democratic manner of curriculum. “I wish public schools were as open minded and flexible as this place, instead of the standardized and mechanized assembly line used in public education. After this mission, I plan on coming back soon… enroll in a few classes to refine my abilities.”
“And to hang out with me some more,” Wayne slyly states.
“And to hang out with you,” she validates, with a coquettish nod and smile.
Since she is a civilian consultant for UX, Sarah leaves the defensive aspects of their current assignment to the other four members of her otherwise all male team… allowing her the free time to explore the Institute’s psionic training venues. Of course, Wayne also likes to watch the students in training, so he and she were destined to meet. While he is on duty, Sarah audits and observes classes or wanders the facility; and when Wayne is off duty, she and he have become more conversant with each other.
Sarah pauses a minute or so to marshal her thoughts, as Wayne basks in her effervescent zeal, waiting in an unawkward silence the forthcoming— the oncoming-- procession of ideas.
Returning to the topic of discussion, Sarah confesses, “I never understood why so many people want to be like everyone else, and why society not only encourages that mentality, but expects it. Demands it, even.”
Affirming the sentiment, Wayne recalls and shares aloud, now, an epiphany from his teenage years, after an outstanding performance in a baseball game. As the crowd robustly congratulated him with cheers and adulation, he realized— in the overwrought approval of these people— the true error of his achievement. To be accepted, and applauded and accoladed by pedestrian people such as these was hollow and meaningless, and must surely denounce the erroneous virtue he had attributed such accomplishments.
Sarah eagerly listens as Wayne relays his anecdote for her; she, nodding her empathizing consent, a grin expanding across her face.
“Yes!” exclaims Sarah in approving affinity, ”Why should we care what ordinary people think about us? Why should we want to be like them?”
“Imagine a world,” proclaims Wayne, leaning toward his friend conspiratorially, “where being extraordinary or exceptional was genuinely cherished… fostered… commonly aspired to.”
When Sarah Decker first saw Wayne Gordon, she immediately recognized a simpatico, passionately embracing it— and him… literally, and metaphorically. Which was, initially, a pleasant, though somewhat awkward, surprise for Wayne— who soon realized a strange synergy and familiarity with this woman. She felt an instant connection to him-- as if she and he had been best friends for years. Daily, she astonished herself by her sudden capacity to be gregarious, since she met Wayne. Though Wayne has known her only a few days, Sarah trusts him completely and implicitly. And even Wayne acknowledged a bizarre sensation of déjà vu permeating the air around them… and that a day seems as a year with her; in the sense that he, too, feels a long forged and deep kinship with Sarah— innately comfortable and comforted with her. She confessed that this has never happened to her, and she isn’t normally so… extroverted.
She had many friendly acquaintances… but except for her parents, she never really had any true or close friends. Until now.
As a child, Sarah Decker was shy and inarticulate, and the remnants of that seeped into her adult life. She did not play well with others, generally preferring to be alone. And, as a result, was still somewhat, you might say, “socially retarded”. She should learn how to talk to people, to socialize more, people have said— to her, and about her. Yeah, that’s like telling someone in a wheelchair they need to learn how to walk.
Except for her parents, she had no real friends to speak of, or with. Gradually, Sarah’s exceptional parents understood and accepted that their daughter— as with most kids-- was not like other kids. But more than merely being different, Sarah was highly intuitive and empathic. Being around people, immersed in their emotions, was often too overwhelming, exhausting, disorienting.
As she matured, Sarah learned to endure exposure to larger numbers of people for varyingly short— though increasing-- amounts of time.
Although she is not exactly afraid of crowds, engaging with people usually make her uncomfortable, self conscious of her awkwardness.
So when she encountered Wayne, she is ecstatic! With Wayne, Sarah feels excitingly comfortable and secure enough to fully be herself with another person; becoming uncharacteristically liberated by his presence. For the first time, her true self is able to come out and play without inhibition or insecurity, having found a worthy playmate.
Outside of her writing, she has never been so verbose; not even with her parents.
She Knew— within seconds of meeting Wayne— not only that he had meta-human abilities, as well, but also what they were: enhanced agility and dexterity, plus low level capacity for psionic healing (of himself and others).
His precision marksmanship enables him an acumen with projectile weapons ranging from bullets to baseballs. And his athletic proficiency was nearly sufficient to earn him a chance in the Olympics— without extensive training.
Furthermore, she gleaned, in her ethereal way, that he was as fascinated by the paranormal as she was. He didn’t just work at the Institute, but was a student resident there since adolescence.
Entering puberty, Sarah’s psi abilities had expanded to include claire-cognizance and psychometry. She knew things she had no conventional means of knowing. But she could not control the mysterious insights or inspirations, nor when they arrived. Which further isolated her from normal human interactions.
She grew up a freak, generally disconnected from people… from the world.
Sarah Decker has always had trouble relating to others; and vice versa.
All of this contributed to make Sarah absent minded, with intermittent schizophrenic episodes and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Engendering a phobia of casual socializing and public speaking.
Even as an adult, a mild shyness persisted, which she often compensated for with an attitude of overconfidence and a strong will. People typically underestimated her, thinking her defective and deficient… unfit for public affairs. And in a sense, they were right— Sarah Decker was not fit for this world; she was more suited to a better world than this one.
Also, during early adulthood, Sarah acquired an absolute sense of direction; she always knew where she was and how to get anywhere from there.
As a teenager, influenced by her peculiarity, she became obsessed with the paranormal and occultism (fiction and non-fiction), and conducted an intense and extensive ongoing research into all related areas of the subject. She was also an exceptional writer, using her unique knowledge and experience to make a meager income as a freelance writer.
Sarah was trained by her parents from birth for induction into Lexiconus— an eclectic secret society of watchers who observe and preserve the truth of human history. A member for a smidge over three years, strings way above her pay grade were pulled, clandestinely inserting Sarah into a covert paramilitary agency called Project Unknown X eight months ago.
Principally, she was recruited as a civilian consultant versed in the paranormal, but secretly as a spy for Lexiconus.
Unfortunately, Sarah-- being prone to absent mindedness-- often forgot to submit regular reports— much to the consternation of her handlers. Even before she became a member of Unknown X.
With her Unknown X team, she was briefly assigned to Prometheus Institute as a protective escort for an anti-viral-vampire vaccine manufactured there.
“Imagine a world,” she adds, inspired by Wayne’s comment, “where adults preserve and curate childhood… where grown ups perceive and conceive the way kids do. Where reality is flexible and dynamic… instead of immutable and static. Where innocence and imagination dictate behavior. What if an increasing number of young people simply withdrew from the consensus of the common sense view that the world is market-based? What if, John Galt style, they left the older generations behind?”
WOW. Wayne sits attentively, transfixed in admiration and awe of her vision and world view… how kindred in spirit she was.
Urgently, Sarah proceeds, “Our society systematically diminishes imagination and curiosity--- our innate sense of wonder and adventure and open mindedness. I really hate that things have to be that way.”
“Yeah,” concedes Wayne forlornly, ”me, too. I totally support everything you said. But we can’t change it, so what good is complaining? Hating only makes us more miserable.”
“No, hate and contempt are legitimate responses,” asserts Sarah, emphatically. “If we strongly disagree with something, it is reasonable and appropriate to dislike it. And oppose it; even if only in passive resistance or tolerance. Complaining and hating are merely a sincere expression of our intense disagreement. Our dis-satisfaction.”
Sarah momentarily pauses to let Wayne consider her contrary council, which he diligently did. Initially, a residual twinge of insecurity had stung her at the first, though inevitable, point of divergence that had appeared between them, on their second day together, in the course of their camaraderie. Their mutual admiration society, potentially in danger of crumbling; their special bond, broken. But now, she was relaxed and assured enough with Wayne, with their relationship— and, by proxy, herself— to understand there is nothing to feel threatened by with him. From the beginning, he accepted and adored her as implicitly as she did him.
“We should dare to challenge and question illogic and ignorance,” she explains further.
“If we just accepted things and said nothing against them,” insists Sarah, determined to make her point, “then nothing would ever change for the better.”
“Yeah,” Wayne tentatively grants, “that much is true. But I’m not sure hate is very helpful. Or healthy. All the schools of wisdom teach forgiveness, tolerance… and positive thinking.”
“And those are all well and good--,” accepts Sarah, after a moment’s contemplation, “to a point. But so is contempt. Some things deserve our contempt. Wisdom also encourages: all things in moderation. There are degrees of hate. Both hate and acceptance can be good or bad, depending on how they are used. How you perceive them.”
“Well,” states Wayne, not entirely convinced, ”I guess that does make a kind of sense. I’ll have to think on that.”

16 hours later… In a frantic, but ultimately futile, effort to flee the three voracious vampires jovially chasing her, halfway down a flight of stairs, Sarah Decker grips the railing on her right side, vaulting over to evacuated lobby floor below. She lands awkwardly, twisting her ankle and stumbling to the floor... losing the extra seconds she hoped to gain.
Almost two hours ago, in broad daylight, Unknown X had just begun guarding the loading of the anti-vampire serum into an armored truck for transportation… when a mass of vampires ambushed Prometheus Academy. Within minutes, they have penetrated facility defenses, overwhelming the UX team. In the hectic fray of that surprise attack, Sarah got separated from her teammates. You don’t expect vampires to come out during the day. But, apparently, these were not vampires of the usual kind. Clearly, the intel given to UX was, shall we say, faulty.
Now, lurching into the fall, she clumsily regains her footing, hobbling fecklessly a few feet before the assailants savagely plummet onto her, like a lion ravaging a zebra. Beneath terror and horror, a part of Sarah is gleefully giddy to be chased by vampires.
Though she could not run, her mind certainly did. One persistent thought.
The only thought in her mind, at what seemed to be the moment of her impending death, repeating on eternal playback, as they sink fangs into her: Where is Wayne?
Patterns of connection run through everything and everyone. There are no coincidences.
Cause and effect.
Sarah had to join Lexiconus, so she could become involved with Project Unknown X, so she could then guide UX to interdict a power struggle between immortals inside Lexiconus. By joining UX, she was positioned to meet and inspire Wayne Gordon to follow in her footsteps, recruited to replace her in UX when she was “lost in action”.