I have been feeling the need to clarify my stance on certain things lately.

I am not a democrat. I disagree with the party and its philosophies, and cannot align myself with it.

I am not a republican. I disagree with the party and its philosophies, and cannot align myself with it.

I do not belong to any official political party. I am an independent, and I support the people whom I feel will do the best job… Or the least harm.

In my opinion, Sanders is the best of the the candidates running right now, and although I don’t agree with all of his viewpoints, I feel like he would be better than the other two. I also feel like he has run a clean, respectable campaign.

The electoral system in this country is severely broken, and fraud and chicanery are rampant. The poor are marginalized, ignored, and not supported. The people are not represented. The parties ignore the people, the candidates pander to their supporters, and the states change the rules at a whim. Votes are counted before they are cast, and what the heck is the deal with super delegates???

Socialism is not inherently evil. We are a socialized democracy already, and everyone- EVERYONE- benefits from government programs. Ever received a tax credit for a house, baby, capital gains, or income tax bracket? If you have, then you should thank a social program. The poor aren’t the only ones that receive government money. Remember the companies that received bail-outs? Corporate welfare. Companies that get tax breaks? More of the same.

(And, by the way, Jesus commanded us to care for the poor and needy, widows and orphans. Hmmm….)

The judging needs to stop. The hating needs to stop. The killing needs to stop. I don’t care what God you worship, who you sleep with, or what sign is on the door you pee behind. I’m trying to live life better today than I did yesterday. I’m trying to honor my God, my wife, my kids, and the world as well as I can. Love does not mean judgment.

We are all equal. We were all born helpless, naked, and absolutely incapable of survival. We will all die. We will all make mistakes. We will all hurt people we love. We will all be faced with difficult choices. Nobody is better than anyone else.

If we could spend more time looking inside ourselves and judging what we find there, and less time blaming other people’s choices for our unhappiness, maybe we would have less headlines full of tragedy.

Disagreement and difference of opinion are going to happen, but reactionary, emotional driven, visceral, hate-filled responses are not the appropriate way to voice your disagreement. They only fuel the fire. We are not going to all agree on any topic. We don’t have to.

Basement

“I can’t believe you don’t remember! Ha! The room in the basement that was painted red. The circles on the ground? The skull in the the middle? You getting freaked and running upstairs and out to the forest? You can’t tell me you don’t remember that!” She laughed aloud? I took the skull and chased you!”
Mancu couldn’t bring this to memory. “I remember walking into the room… and then… I saw… ” He turned his gaze to Corona. “I remember… seeing… you.” Corona met his stare with eyes as hard as flint. “That is the first time I saw you.” Corona smiled evilly and placed her hand on Tristil’s shoulder.
Tristil looked ecstatic. “Yes! That was when you finally were able to see her! I had talked and talked about her, but she was always invisible until then! That’s why it was such a great day!”
Mancu was still looking at Corona, reading Tristil’s hands with his peripheral vision. Corona never blinked. Just stared at him with those black, black eyes. “You… you were there in that room. In the circle. I saw you. But how… “
Corona finally spoke to him. “I’ve always been here. Always with Tristil. When she took part of me out of the circle, I was finally able to appear to you. The gate was opened.”
Mancu remembered suddenly. His mind flashed back to that horrible experience with excruciating detail. He saw himself going up to the rotting front door, feeling the peeling paint rough against his fingertips. He heard the dry leaves crunch underfoot as he stepped inside the dank, dark house. He remembered the smell- mould and dryrot mixed with the horrible smell of death and acrid pine needles. The floor creaked as he slowly crept further in, hoping to find Tristil and lead her out of this place.
He peered through the dusty darkness, past the motes floating in the sunbeams. As his eyes adjusted, he saw the stairs leading down, and heard a creak from that direction. His heart started to beat faster as he looked at the stairs. The dark entryway seemed to loom out, calling to him. His feet felt encased in stone, and his throat was desert dry. He took one painful step, and then another, and the creaking of the floor spoke to him as he walked, almost unaware of his body movements. He seemed to be wading through mud, pressing inexorably toward the stairs. The inky doorway expanded, so that he couldn’t see anything else in the house. The door was everything. The stairs reached down to eternity. The blackness reached out and pulled him in. He was at the threshold.
He looked down the stairs, but could see only the preternatural darkness. He seemed on the verge of a great cataclysm, one that could only be averted by walking down into the waiting void. His mind started to shriek for him to NOT NOT NOT NOT go down the stairs, but he was helpless. A great THING was going to happen, and he needed to be there to witness it. His foot lifted, reached forward, descended, landed. The wooden plank groaned in protest as his weight shifted forward, and his other foot raised up. He reached out to his sides and found that, although he could not see the walls, they were present. His feet mechanically raised, lowered, raised, lowered as they had done effortlessly since he first learned how to use them to use them, twelve long years ago. Step by step he lowered himself into the abysmal emptiness.
As he walked down the smell of death and decay grew, became almost visible, and invaded his lungs like a cloud. He breathed in death, and exhaled his own life in short gasps. His eyes peered through the dark, looking for purchase in the solid blindness. He continued down as he had for (minutes? Hours? Centuries?) until at last, he saw greyness instead of ebony. He descended to the slight not darkness as parched lips descend toward a glass of cool water. he now could see the door frame in front of him and the floor of the basement beyond. He heard scuffling- was it only a rodent? or was Tristil (Who? Oh. Sister.) playing with a long-dead cat or owl? Mancu felt numb, empty, without a will of his own. He was approaching the Stygian border, crossing into Hades, and was relieved to be there out of the nothingness that he had been in since (forever?) he started down the stairs.
His foot fell onto concrete and he almost wept, so overwhelming was his arrival. He stood for several breaths (days) until his head cleared- stopped spinning- regained sense. He suddenly remembered why he had come into the house, and blinked in confusion to find himself at the bottom of the stairs that he couldn’t quite remember coming down.

Church

Charles walked over to the preacher. “You did this, you know.” He spoke the accusation that had been percolating in his mind since he received the phone call five days ago. “You and your congregation. You did this. You made him do it.”
The preacher looked taken aback, and visibly paled. “What… What do you mean?”
“I mean, you accused him of being everything from a deviant to a killer. You people told him again and again that he was going to Hell, that he was a terrible person, that he didn’t love God.” Charles fought to keep his tones low and in control. “If you had just LOVED him, like the book you profess to teach out of…” He choked and stopped talking, turning away from the religious leader. “Forget it. Go to Hell your damn self.” he muttered as he started to walk away. Charles’ face was turning red, swollen from days spent crying.
The self-righteous man grabbed his shoulder. “You don’t understand. We were trying to HELP Daniel! We were trying to SAVE him!”
Charles shrugged the man’s hand off of him. “Trying to SAVE him?? From WHAT?” despite his struggle to contain his emotions, his voice rose. “He wasn’t in danger! He was only trying to follow God in his own way! Is that such a bad thing? Who are YOU to condemn him? What GOD gave you the right to tell him he was evil??” The preacher man was pitiful, a weak and judgmental man hiding behind his holy book He looked at the floor as if divining a message from the tiles. Charles continued to accuse. “He told me the things that you said to him. Did you know that? Did you know that he wept, night after night, trying to live a different life? Trying his damndest to become what you told him he should be? And that last meeting, that.. that RITUAL you performed!” Charles knew that people were staring now, but he didn’t care. “An EXORCISM?? What the HELL?” The preacher met his gaze. “What the HELL?!?” he repeated.
The preacher stammered, “We were trying… I. I was trying to help him. Daniel had something wrong with him, something deeper than you understand. He was…”
“I UNDERSTAND that he believed in things different from you, and that you couldn’t accept him the way he was. I UNDERSTAND that you tried to tell him that God wouldn’t accept him the way he was. I UNDERSTAND that you CHRISTIANS treated him like a pariah, and caused him to…” He broke off suddenly. over the preacher’s shoulder, a dark figure appeared to grow out from the corner. The room became darker, and the temperature seemed to drop twenty degrees. “Oh. My. God. Daniel?” Charles breathed.
—————————————————————————————————————————————-
Mark walked slowly across the room. His shoulders drooped, and he could barely keep his head up. He ached all over from the ordeal of the last week. Especially three nights ago. He didn’t notice the man crossing the room to intercept him. The words that the man spoke seemed to reach his ear through a different medium, as if the air had turned solid. “You did this, you know. You and your congregation. You made him do it.” Mark raised his eye to face the accuser, a solidly built young man. “What?” He shook off his lethargy somewhat, his mind struggling to find an anchor in the storm of clouds. between his ears. “What do you mean?”
The young man was visibly struggling to contain his emotions. Anger vied with sorrow and confusion as the dominant feeling written on that face. “I mean, you accused him of being everything from a deviant to a killer. You people told him again and again that he was going to Hell, that he was a terrible person, that he didn’t love God. If you had just loved him, like that book you profess to teach out of…” He broke off and turned away from Mark. Tears had sprung to his eyes, and he seemed ashamed to show them. Mark felt a deep swell of pity for the man. “Forget it,” the man said. “Go to Hell your Damned self.”
Mark suddenly knew who the man was, and with this insight came fear. Deep, deep fear. Could he be the One? Mark reached out and touched the man’s shoulder. “You don’t understand.” Mark’s thoughts started racing furiously. How should he best navigate this vitally important conversation? “We were trying to HELP Daniel. We were trying to SAVE him!” And save YOU, Mark didn’t have the chance to add.
The man jerked his body, and Mark’s hand was flung off the man’s shoulder. “Trying to SAVE him? From WHAT? He wasn’t in danger! He was only trying to follow God in his own way! Is that such a bad thing? Who are YOU to condemn him? What GOD gave YOU the right to tell him he was evil?” Mark stared at the floor, trying frantically to find the words that would convey what this man must understand. How vital it was for Him to be ready for what had to happen next.
“He told me the things you said to him. Did you know that? Did you know that he wept, night after night, trying to live a different life? Trying his damndest to become what you told him he should be? And that last meeting, that.. that RITUAL you performed! An EXORCISM?? What the HELL? What the HELL?”
Mark looked up, searching the man’s face, hoping to find some compassion there.  “We were trying… I. I was trying to help him. Daniel had something wrong with him, something deeper than you understand. He was…”
Once again the man cut him off. “I UNDERSTAND that he believed in things different from you, and that you couldn’t accept him the way he was. I UNDERSTAND that you tried to tell him that God wouldn’t accept him the way he was. I UNDERSTAND that you CHRISTIANS treated him like a pariah, and caused him to…” As the man suddenly stopped his speech midstream, Mark once again felt the presence he had come to know and fear. He knew without turning that the creature had come back- and Mark knew that Daniel had lost the fight. They were now all at the mercy of the Beast- and this man, this MAN in front of him, was the only one who could save them. He saw the man’s eyes widen in horror, and heard him breathe, “Oh. My God. Daniel?”

Speak

I can take no more. I see him wilt, shoulders sagging, beaten, broken. She has won again. She has decided for him once again, against his desires. She is once again in control, master of the house, master of him. This good man who thinks himself evil. This beautiful spirit who can only see himself as sinful. The devil has buried that angel again.
no.
NO!
NO!!
I scream without a voice. I rage against the injustice. I cry out in anger, in frustration, and my voice is- heard?
Did they- did they hear me?
Why are they looking frantically around the room? I am not alive, only the remains of an animal. I can’t speak.
Or- can I?
I try again. Stop berating him! Quit speaking!
They look wildly at me. Their expressions are comic in their wonder.
Stop and listen. Apparently I have the stage.
Have you ever stopped to think about what your words are saying? What message are you conveying to this person you claim to love? What is it that gives you freedom to wound with impudence?
They look from me to  each other, and back. Wisdom from a boot. Heh. But wisdom nonetheless.
Have you ever thought that your perspective is not the only one that has validity?  Or, that the only reason this good man is still here with you is due to his sense of right and duty? That it is the purity of his compassion that gives you power over him? Any lesser man would have written you off years ago, and several have. You are bitter at the life that you build and are taking your frustration at that life, turning it into poison, and killing him with it in small doses. His tragedy is not that he is a failure, as you try to make it seem, but that he is too successful in his empathy and understanding, and takes his responsibility seriously. He gives without thought, and loves without guile, and you take every ounce of goodness given to you, sharpen it and sour it, paint it black, and send it back razor sharp.
Her eyes harden into that familiar look, even as her mind is trying to comprehend where the words come from. She suspects a trick, and looks at him with venom. He looks back at her, studying the lines on her face. Have my words had an impact?
I’m keeping the boots, he tells her. He says it with determination, with strength,  with steel. He walks over slowly, picking me up. He sits on the bed and pulls me on. He stands.
And Stands.

Stress- A Short Story

sit here listening. Listening to the man, passionate in his own right, trying hard to defend his ideals and desires. I hear him berated, belittled, broken down by the bitch who calls herself his wife. Wife. Hah. The ideas that word conjures up in most minds, ideas involving support, love, compassion, are absent in the extreme in this human. This Woman. The man who wears me- I have learned to respect, admire, and understand in our years together. He does what he does out of love and empathy. But this creature who shares his life- more of a harpy than a human.
This man has worn me for several years, almost every day. I am his favorite. He stand a little taller, feels a little more confident, when he pulls me on. He is not naturally self-assured, and struggles daily to find the good things in himself. He searches deep to find the crumbs of purity in a sea of dismay and self loathing. And I see his aches and tears. I feel his darkness, the clouds that hide the sunlight of his spirit from himself. Clouds that break occasionally in a small smile, a gently laugh. and then She walks into the house and her aura ushers the darkness back in force.
The latest argument is about me. She is trying to convince the man that I am outdated, worn out, worthless, and he is defending the decision to keep me as logical and frugal. That even though I am beat up and scarred, I can be repaired, kept, cherished further. I am sending strength, trying to encourage. She is tearing down, attacking, destroying with every word, every eye roll, even with silence. She can cut simply by breathing.
My sole may be worn through, but she is soulless.

Soul- A Short Story

I remember very little before I died. I seem to recall the presence of grass in abundance, and my mother nudging me into a wooden barn, and feeling sunshine across my back, but it’s all pretty blurry. I do remember dying, though. Very, very well. The pain, the agony, the noise- unbelievable cacophony of sensation racing through my dying brain, metal sheering through bone and brain, my body struggling to continue breathing, beating, moving, performing a grotesque dance. I remember the man who killed me, wearing a grey suit splattered with red gore, the steel tube in his hand, his gloved hand still on the trigger that allowed the steel to penetrate my skull. I fell heavily to the side, confused, weak, thoughts scattering, unable to scream, or to move, or to feel anything but pain and terror. Then the pain left, flowing out freely with my life blood. Blackness, calmness, serenity. yes, those things I remember very, very well.
The funny thing is, I have knowledge about what happened next, with no memory. I know that they took my body. I know that they cut me wide open. I know that they- and this is the worst- they cut my skin off. I always assumed one’s soul would be located- was stationed, was fused with, was associated with- the heart. Or maybe with the brain. I never even entertained the idea that the soul could be tied to the SKIN. But it makes sense that the organ that protects, that bears the brunt of the assaults of every day life, would be the most spiritual. The skin bears the scars of living, the wear and tear of aging- it makes sense that the skin would retain the tattoos of the soul as well as those of ink. So I knew when they skinned me. My soul is still screaming.
The art of tanning a skin is an ancient one. Eons before I was born, hunters would use remains of their kills to clothe themselves, to keep their sensitive skin protected from the elements. They used urine to condition skin, to make it supple and pliant, and would then cut pieces from the skin in specific patterns to sew together. I wonder if they realized back then, these early people. Did they know they were wearing souls? Did they feel that they were more protected, that they were taking on the soul of an animal? Was that their intent all along? I know that the man who wears me feels more self assured, and more confident. Does he feel my soul when he wears his boots? His boots that were once… me?