What casserole do monster’s eat on Halloween?
What casserole do monster’s eat on Halloween?
Gratitude is too often a forgotten thing, easily put aside as we fill ourselves with misery and distractions. We forget to appreciate the simple things- a kind word, a warm smile, a simple truth, a reassuring hug. Instead we empty ourselves to become vessels of bitterness and selfishness, which slowly blinds us to the what is truly meaningful in this world.
The spirit lifts up and we create opportunities to enrich others when we live in a state of gratitude, finding the good in things instead of latching onto the bad things that drag us down and cause strife within ourselves, then ultimately without. Our world is duality, there cannot be good without bad; cannot be pleasure without pain; an upside without a downside. It has to be this way, otherwise we won’t know the difference in the paths that are within our power to choose. Living in a state of gratitude helps us make the correct choice.
Some will point out that this is naive, that there are those who have never known anything other than hurt and pain through abuse or drug addiction, who have no reason to be grateful for anything. It is a valid point and faced with these situations, it is very difficult to live in a state of gratitude, even for those who live a bountiful life. However, if they are grateful for each breath, for each day they wake up and have an opportunity to find help; are then grateful for that meal or soft bed; are then grateful for each step along their new path, I can’t help but believe that they will find themselves again and will thrive.
Constantly feeling gratitude for the things in our lives is probably one of the hardest things to do as we are pounded daily with negativity, but using perspective as a filter will greatly aid in that endeavor.
He preferred it that way, his breakfast in the morning out in the observation bubble, alone with a plate of synthesized bacon and eggs, and a glass of powdered orange juice. In silence he sat except for the hum of the environmental processors and the automated mechanical systems.
He preferred it facing outward towards the bleak landscape of the asteroid, the eerily still mining equipment in the distance, the brightly freckled and vast beyond mocking his isolation-for he was isolated and truly alone.
Neatly he finished his meal, touched his lips with the napkin, then glided back from the table with a gentle push. Standing, he tugged his jacket hem to settle it and smoothed back his auburn hair with a resolved hand. Formals he wore, dark blue with minimal gold piping with his Station Commander’s rank and nothing else, no medals. He thought it pretentious for this occasion.
Contemplatively he stepped to the edge of the bubble, his hands clasped behind his back as he stared out into the beyond. He had liked the assignment, the remoteness appealed to him and the crew a tight-nit family- one that he had never really had, but it was all gone now.
He supposed there was irony in there somewhere, an asteroid mining station struck by a meteor, but he failed to find humor in it, just a mild amusement at cosmic workings. Most had gone in the strike, hitting as it did the mess hall at lunch and continued through to destroy other vital systems. Others, off-shift were cut off as emergency systems activated to shut down damaged sections.
Over the weeks, systems continued to fail, more sections became graveyards, and efforts to repair were hindered by lack of sufficient materials. More died in repair accidents, others fled to the mining complexes that offered limited life support, but would eventually fail without sustenance support from the main base. A distress signal had been sent out but help was still more than half a year away. There was no hope there.
It was all failing, only he was left, in his commander’s suite with its autonomous life support system. He had worked hard till the end, but all for naught. He placed the palm of his right hand against the cold of the bubble, closing his eyes as he said a final prayer. Blaster suddenly in hand, he blew a hole in his bubble. The structure immediately collapsed, sucking him out into the vast beyond.
He preferred it that way.
He was not me, I was glad to know,
In the looking glass, the man so old.
He was not me, I knew the truth,
Before the mirror, the man of youth.
He was so short and I so tall,
He was not me, no not at all.
Shoulders slouched and eyes so rheumy,
Drooping cheeks and visage gloomy,
Red swollen knuckles on wretched hands,
Propped up on shaking legs stands.
This man whose youth had come and went,
On choices made and life misspent.
You are not me! I screamed at him,
His mocking smile spread tight and grim.
I begged, I pleaded, just a bit more time,
He shook his head of thinning rime.
My heart it beat, then slowed, then stilled,
To my knees, to the floor, I spilled.
Surreal it was my life’s reflection,
Before my eyes in ghostly surrection,
Of chances gone and moments remiss,
Of putting aside a life of bliss.
It seems he was me after all,
Revealed the mirror, the mirror on the wall.
Stones became his manacles as he felt the magic draining from him there in the courtyard of Ayr-kos-Laenryrl, Citadel of the Lumesti hidden in great height amidst the jagged peaks of the Croddestu-je-Vark mountains. In supplication he bore this divestment of all that made him hero and savior. Down on one knee, fisted hands adhered to stone and as his mind and body slowed, his head fell to rest upon a raised knee. Left for all eternity with the prospect of feeling ultimate betrayal, the last spark of awareness left him a statue before the mighty Lumesti with a final, forced thought clinging to a shred of his identity—I am Ruul.
They watched him turn to stone, the Lumesti did, filling the courtyard and encircling their instrument in his final moments, their concentrated focus and power stripping him of all they had granted. The tool was put back in the bag, put away for another time. A hero to the people, a means to an end to maintain order in the world for the Lumesti, he had defeated the Kregg-ah-krim while maintaining the anonymity of his investors- necessary to their purpose.
After granting him so much power with so little restrictions on its use—as was necessary to push back the agents of destruction—they could not let him simply roam wherever he liked, or speak words that would reveal their existence, so they were forced to lure him to their great citadel and seal him away. The earthforce was still there just beneath the stones, binding him, preserving him should they need to unleash him again. They had promised him eternal life for his sacrifice; they just hadn’t told him how that would be achieved.
But that tiny spark, that little wisp of identity was as though a crack in a stone filling with water then freezing, expanding that crack bit by bit over the years. It was enough.
Coughing she fell to the earth, to the deep snow through which she doggedly trudged, holding her worthless bandage soaked with blood to her ribs. Delirious with fatigue and pain she looked around and above, still lost as to her whereabouts. The sky was gray, the snow still fell, covering the tracks she had made. Slowly she toppled from her knees to her back, the snow falling on her face provided no succor to the raging fever that inflamed her, and her cloak would provide her no relief from the cold- she could go no farther, she knew she would die.
A week or more she had been aimlessly in the wild. Her father’s trading caravan had been attacked by brigands and she, knocked senseless in the fray, awoke to find herself in the bed of trade sled tipped on its side, her father’s dray horse fallen over and frozen to death. Gripped with fear and confusion, she jumped to her feet and gasped, pain ripping through her left side.
A careful inspection showed her bodice to be torn and stained with frozen blood, beneath it the gash under her broken rib still bled,-a rock also stained with her blood on the ground the cause of her injury. And around her, ten men in winter bear coats were frozen in place beside their fallen mounts as they sought shelter. The brigands, the ones that had stolen her away and possibly killed her father had found their death. Grieving cost her heat and time, neither of which she had to spare, and since she did not know his fate, she would stow it away for later.
Rummaging around she found clothes for extra warmth, something to bind her wound, make fire, and took whatever provisions she could carry. It wasn’t much, but she hoped it wouldn’t be necessary for long. The storm had hidden the tracks so she headed in the opposite direction of their travel.
But now she lay dying, her wound septic and no more found than when she awoke.
Except that she awoke again, a fire blazing in the hearth, and a women of stark-white hair dressed in an unadorned green robe, murmuring over her body while moving her hands the length of her naked form. She could not gasp, she could not move, she was rooted to table beneath, only her eyes could roll in her head to scan the room.
Dried herbs, lizards, and bats hung from the rafters; and crocks were neatly stored on the shelves, but her view was limited and that was all she could see- trademarks of the witch.
“Ah, I see you are a back from the veil, Nyliesia,” the woman’s voice greeted her warm and reassuring, rich in its gentleness.
With that her fear faded and she found it was only that which kept her speechless. “How do you know me? Where am I? Are you a witch?”
The woman stopped her ministrations and placed a soothing hand alongside Nyliesia’s cheek. “I know many things, my sweet child, you among them. You are in my humble home deep in the forest. And yes, I am a witch, a good one I hope, but a witch nonetheless. I have immobilized you so that you may heal, don’t be alarmed.”
“How did you find me?”
Her ruby lips spread in a loving smile as she stroked the girl’s flaming red hair. “It was not hard, I brought you here. You fell only a short distance from my threshold. I guided you as best I could, but the injury slowed you. Unfortunate that, I had not intended it to happen.”
Nyliesia’s heart thumped faster at her words. She did not wish to be some slave to a witch, never to be seen again. Fearfully she asked, “What do you mean?”
“I caused the bitter storm that killed those barbarians to save you, although I could not account for that rock.”
“Why, why did you save me? I am no one, just a merchant’s daughter.”
“Ah, but you are everything to me and it was time for you to come home, to take up your purpose. You are my daughter.”
Nyliesia’s mind reeled as she gave protest. “No, I cannot be! I lived my life Aytheria with father and mother!”
“Your father yes, rest his soul, and now you are with me. You are a witch such as I am, from a long line, and I shall show you proof.” She pointed to a mark above Nyliesia’s heart, resembling the face of an owl. “This here is our sign, our trademark of blood and power.”
“It is just a birthmark!”
The white witch arched an eyebrow, “Is it?” she lowered her robe off the left shoulder and exposed her matching mark. “Welcome home daughter, now let’s get you fixed up so we can plot our revenge.”
Wisps of residual steam leaked out the tip of his Holston Arms PNP308 pneumatic pistol, its brass workings glinting dully in the dim light of a gas lamp. It was not his kill, he had only shot to chase off the scavengers pulling a body across the fog-damped cobblestones into the dark alley. He prodded the body with his booted foot, nothing, no movement.
Squatting down next to it he began his cursory investigation and then sighed. The glamour had begun to fade- it’s simple duster, suit, and top hat with goggles slowly shimmering away. It wasn’t a fancy glamour, just enough to pass in the night, and in its absence revealing a set of blue, iridescent wings attached to the naked sexless body of a five-foot tall faerie. It looked totally drained of its essence. The glamour had not been enough to fool a harvester.
Another one, he said to himself, finding the tell-tale extraction mark on its neck. Sixth one this week. Somebody is really stepping up production.
Swiftly, Tulloch MacTier slipped on his special gloves, feeling the energy tingling in his hands as the metal tips that ended like talons, clicked and clattered while he settled his fingers so that the nodes properly pressed into his flesh. He hated this part, because if he didn’t have it right, he would do serious damage to himself. Holding his hands apart and bending the fingers as if gripping both sides of a ball, he focused his sight and energy at the exact point in the middle.
Silent sparks of electric-blue quickly formed, swirling in the center. The sphere swelled, filling the empty space as arcing energy connected to his fingertips. Slowly and carefully he moved his hands apart as it continued to swell, only stopping when the sphere became about the size of a normal head, and set in on the belly of the deceased.
The ball burst apart and encompassed the entire body. The lifeless form arched its back, letting out a low sigh of remaining breath, then disappeared.
“Back to where it belongs,” Tulloch whispered harshly. “I just wish the cursed things would stay there.” Pulling out his pneumatic pocket watch, he checked the time then fished out his leather-bound journal, garnished with a brass clasp, from the left pocket of his black frock coat. Flipping through pages he found the one he wanted and listed the murder beneath the other ones, its location, and the time-10:33 PM. Always around that time, there was a clue there, he knew.
That was part of his job, hiding the faerie bodies, protecting live ones, and keeping the public ignorant. ‘Express’ they called it, what he did, sending them back that way. The express pass, the fast track, back to their realm for disposal, but they didn’t always have to be dead. That was the other part of his job; protecting his people from the other realm and express those who don’t return when they are supposed to or endeavor to cause mischief and harm.
Like those he called ‘harvesters’, for lack of a better term, as they were new to the scene and he had never seen one. They could even be human for all he knew, draining these faeries of their essence for some mystical purpose. Tulloch MacTier didn’t know the answer and that was one thing he hated more than anything- not knowing
The steam clock rang out the quarter hour, Tulloch turned his collar to the cold and damp and set out down the empty street. This was something he was about to set right.