Chapter 5- Ornament in The Distance

He felt queasy. He stared at the bleak ground as he staggered onward. The men behind him were silent, with the exception of the occasional rustle of gear. They left their companion where he lay and continued in pursuit of their remaining comrades.

The men were growing weary. Days of tracking without a positive result were draining them of their enthusiasm. To top things off, they were utterly outmatched. They had scared one away by surprise, but they could not fathom the damage which could be inflicted by a concentrated effort of the infernal creatures. They felt as if they were walking toward their graves.

They trod doggedly for hours. The sun was shining unobscured for the first time in days. Men raised their faces to the warming rays. It brought some energy back into their bodies, but mentally, some men had already accepted their fates. Some screamed out for the creatures to take them. Why should they prolong the inevitable? Their requests would be answered in a timely fashion.

The sun made the hardened snow glisten. Pristine white sheets stretched between the pines. The men were making their way through scattered trees, sloughing their way through deep snow. In the distance, something seemed out of place. A long, slender object was hanging below the branches of a tall pine. They were too far away to tell what it was, but a shiver went down his spine that warned him to prepare for the worst.

They approached cautiously, muskets at the ready. The men fanned out in a semi-circle, scanning in all directions. Striding across the clearing, they had a relatively safe line-of-sight. They did, however, have the previous encounter fresh in their minds. The creatures could be upon them in seconds, even from the distant treeline. At least a gunshot could warn the others, given they had time to pull the trigger.

As they neared the solitary tree, hues of red and pink could be seen shimmering on the surrounding snow. His fears were ratified. A skeleton, stripped to the bone, was hanging upside down from a large bough. It swung slowly in the breeze, the skull facing them, the hands reaching in their direction; a request for assistance that had come far too late.

The men came within a few yards of the tree and sat down. Some looked at the ground, while others couldn’t take their eyes off of the bare bones. The ribs had been removed, picked clean, and scattered in the snow. Large footprints encircled the tree and dotted the blood-stained ground. A condensed circle of prints packed the snow tightly under the body. They must have feasted on him in unison.

The man’s feet had been laced to the bough with stripped evergreen branches. They were pulled so tightly, that the only bits of flesh remaining were directly under the knotted wood. Even the toes had been picked clean. There was not a shred of flesh remaining aside from the middle of the feet. Their quiet investigation lasted a few minutes before the men stood, and began making camp. The sun was setting behind the mountains as the skeleton was cut down, and covered with a thick covering of snow.

Dusk was rapidly approaching, and storm clouds were brewing in the distance. The bassy echo of thunder met their ears, as lightning filled the sky. The wind came in frequent gusts, bringing the smell of precipitation along with it. The temperature dropped dramatically as the last light of day sunk beneath the horizon. Darkness was coming, and the men situated themselves as best as they could around the campfire.

Four faces were illuminated by the flames. The four others were facing away in the cardinal directions, muskets on their laps. Setting up camp in the clearing allowed for a clearer line-of-sight, but exposed them to the elements. The storm was moving slowly towards them, foaming and rolling with increasing intensity. The starry sky was blanketed by dark clouds, as the wind blew fiercely across the open plain.

Tents flapped noisily, the fire sprayed embers skyward, and the men huddled under their blankets. Thunder boomed overhead and flashes of lightning exposed their surroundings intermittently. Despite the weather conditions, they hoped the lightning would continue; the glimpses of the landscape brought them relief.

The men on watch swung back to the fire, and the others turned to continue the lookout. As the turnover completed, faces and hands warmed, as cold backs collected the heat. This exchange persisted for two more rotations uneventfully. The tents gathered snow, as the storm churned violently overhead. A flash of lightning suddenly revealed that the expedition was not alone.

 

 

 

Chapter 4- Feasting

The tracks maintained their standard length through the dense forest; twice as long as the average man. The group of men were well-supplied and well-fed but struggled to maintain a steady pace. Men were intermittently stopping to vomit or relieve themselves, cursing their over-consumption from the night before. As the alcohol’s effects wore off, the men became attuned to their surroundings.

A consensus was reached that the pace needed to increase, as they were not at risk of ambush. Whatever they were pursuing was heading steadily in one direction, and no other tracks could be found. The men broke into a run, and the remaining whiskey was flushed out of their systems. Sweat trickled down their backs, and across their faces. Puffs of steam billowed from each man with labored breaths. They couldn’t help but feel as if they were gaining ground.

They maintained this pace for several hours before cramps took hold of their stomachs and calves. Their muscles were burning, and their lungs were on fire. Exhausted, they took out canteens and provisions and rested. Crows chattered noisily overhead, and vultures were circling high in the sky. A carcass was sure to be nearby.

Stomachs full, they set out briskly once again. They did not have to go far before the atmosphere changed distinctly. Crows were hopping around them, carrying chunks of meat away from a thicket. Vultures fought with each other over scraps. A man’s scalp flew closely overhead, skin flapping,  hanging from a crow’s beak. The eight men stopped and held their breaths.

He stooped, grabbed a large branch, and threw it into the thicket. Birds jumped and scattered with surprise, screaming about their disturbed feast. Something had not budged and could be heard gnawing on the carcass with vigor. Flesh ripped, bones cracked, and a sickening chewing could be heard. There were no growls, barks, or yelps, just a steady devourment.

Heart racing, the man crept forward, with the party a few paces behind. As they came within a few feet of the thicket, the devouring stopped. Something dark grey was stooped over the bloody scene. He could barely see through the dense foliage, but there was certainly something there. He slowly cocked his hammer, and it clicked into place.

At the sound, the creature flashed out of the thicket and bounded through the trees in a blink; clearing forty feet at a time. He was dumbfounded. Never before had he seen something move with such swiftness. There was no time to pull the trigger. He turned, and the slack-jawed men stared blankly into the forest, muskets hanging at arm’s length. However briefly, they had finally seen one of their tormentors in broad daylight.

With the creature gone, the birds once again took their seats at the table. The men did not move. They stared in awe in the direction of the grey streak. It cleared a few hundred yards in a matter of seconds and was out of sight. It did not disturb the snow, merely bounded with extreme athleticism through gaps in the trees. It was a terrifying display of prowess. Mere mortals drooling over their superior opponent.

They looked around, some rubbed their heads to ensure that what they had seen was not a dream, as one man let out a hysterical laugh. “Did you fucking see that?” Another bout of hysterical laughter. “We’re doomed. There’s no way we’re making it out of here alive.” He grabbed the man by his collar and told him to be quiet. They weren’t sure if there were more of them nearby, or if the creature would return with the overwhelming haste that it had displayed at departure.

When the tension had lowered, and the hysterical man had returned to his senses, the group walked hesitantly towards the thicket. He pushed aside the curtain of shrubbery with his musket, revealing a ghastly scene: the remnants of a man torn to pieces. The blood-soaked snow was laced with organs, bones, and scraps of cloth. The men covered their faces in the crooks of their arms and turned away. It was the man who had been kidnapped the night before.

Their companion had been devoured. By what, they were not sure. The only thing they were sure of was his death. Had this happened to the first two men who had disappeared? Were they still being carried to their demise? The men sat in a warm bath of hopelessness. How could they possibly defend themselves? It was only a matter of time before they too were being torn to shreds by these mysterious creatures.

 

 

Chapter 3- Down to Eight

He woke in the darkness. The faint glow of starlight exposed only the treetops. The fire had been extinguished by the falling snow. Men were snoring in quasi-unison. His head was pounding, and his mouth was sweating. His overindulgence was coming full circle. With his body shaking, he crawled in the opposite direction of the snoring and vomited violently.

The liquid bile came out hot and putrid. The acidic taste in his mouth was washed out with a handful of snow. A cold sweat had broken on his forehead as chills shook him from head to toe. He crawled toward the snoring men and shook them awake one at a time. The men groggily came back to reality and stumbled towards the tents, feeling their way through the darkness.

No fire, no moon, no light whatsoever. The darkness had crept into the campsite while they were sleeping. It was suffocating him. He thought only of seeing the treeline. Were they watching? Had they already snatched someone else? He had not taken a body count and was now scrambling to account for every man. He stuck his head inside of each tent and grabbed two pairs of boots; all of the tents except for one.

His cold hand grabbed a pair of legs, and as he moved it towards the other side of the tent; it was met by cloth. Empty space where there should have been a companion. He began to panic. He scurried towards the campfire hoping that he had passed over them by mistake. Maybe they had fallen asleep while relieving themselves elsewhere. He called out in a hoarse voice. No reply. The wind howled and the cold rattled him to his core.

He anxiously made his way to his tent, kicking himself for not being more cautious. The expedition was now down to eight men. He shoved himself under the fur blanket and pushed the arm of his bunkmate to the other side. The man groaned, rolled over, and began snoring. The rhythmic breathing, although strained, lulled him into a deep slumber.

He awoke to the shrieking of a man outside of his tent. He heard a dull crack, and the screams stopped abruptly. A gurgle leaked out of the man’s mouth as snow crunched steadily in the opposite direction. Each step quieter than the first, the steps finally became inaudible. His racing pulse thumped in his chest and through his temples. He couldn’t move.

The sounds of men leaving their tents to investigate filled the air. He was not the only one who had heard the shrill cries of pure terror. The scream echoed in his mind. It made his blood pressure surge. He roused his bunkmate, and the two cautiously poked their heads through the tent flap. Men were howling in the direction of the kidnapper. No response came.

They gave up calling, and the group gathered together in the darkness in a tight circle. They counted off by name. Seven men were present. They did their best to shake off the alcohol. Most of them were still fairly intoxicated despite the sobering incident. They were made aware that a man was missing before the screaming had started. This caused an uproar among the men. He defended himself as best as he could, claiming that the man could have wandered off in the middle of the night.

Most of the men were too cold, drunk, and tired to argue at the moment. They scoffed at his lack of effort, and the planning began shortly afterward. They were discussing their next move and the importance of starting another fire when the crunching of snow was heard nearby. Their hairs stood on end, and each man was waiting to hear the screams of a bystander.

A pistol hammer was cocked and a low voice said, “It’s me. Don’t shoot. It’s Tom.” He approached cautiously and joined the circle of men. There was a collective sigh of relief among the party. “What the hell’s going on? What was that god-awful screaming about?”, Tom asked. They explained that they weren’t sure and that another expedition member had been taken away. Tom’s inquisitiveness turned to fear as he said, “I went to take a piss and fell asleep in the bushes. I don’t know how I’m still alive.” Nobody slept the rest of the night.

Sunlight finally started to illuminate the campsite. Tired, hungover faces stared at each other in disbelief. It had happened again, and right under their noses. A single set of large, smooth footprints leading deeper into the wilderness. The campsite was once again broken down and the eight men gathered together to determine the plan for the day.

It was hotly debated as to whether or not they should continue the pursuit. Three men were now missing, and one had been mauled to death. The missing men could still be alive. He decided to keep the dull cracking sound he had heard to himself. He was almost positive that the man’s neck had been broken. Two men disputed the decision and said that there was no point in continuing. There was no sign of them aside from a single set of footprints, so what was the use?

They were outnumbered in the end, and the decision was made to continue tracking the prints. The party outfitted themselves and headed out in the direction of the long-striding tracks. They were overloaded with supplies, not knowing how long they would be stuck in the wilderness, as hundreds of miles now separated them from civilization. The crunching of snow continued through the pines, as the eight men pursued the trail of their missing companions once again.

 

Chapter 2- Tracking

The forest was quiet. The crunching of footsteps on wet snow and the occasional readjustment of gear were the only audible sounds. The snow had ceased, and the sun was blotted out by dense cloud cover. A light breeze shook snow free from the pines. The expedition moved forward with deliberate movements, and senses on high alert.

The tracks led to a small creek and ended with a solitary print. The far bank contained a solitary print as well, followed by the succession of alternating tracks. Had the creature merely skipped across without breaking stride? The unfathomable strength was cause for confusion. How was this possible?

The expedition laid thick saplings across the babbling stream and crossed one by one with relative ease. They continued on the trail of the prints which lead them further into the dense woodlands. The fear of wild animals was still there, but their main concern was encountering what they were following. Their desire to find their friends slightly outweighed their fear. The ten men huddled together, treading softly, and scanning vigilantly.

A few hours had gone by when the command to rest was given. Men swigged from canteens and chewed on jerky and biscuits. They sat with their backs against the trees and faced each other in a tight circle. All degrees of view were covered by one man or more. The expedition did not speak, and the anticipation was wreaking havoc on their minds.

The cracking of branches in the distance broke the silence. The men grabbed their muskets and turned towards the noise. Their breathing slowed as the intermittent sounds came closer. A massive frame broke through the underbrush a few yards away. A giant bear sniffed the cold air and paused.

The expedition fixed their aim on the creature, as they cocked their weapons. Time slowed as they waited for the bear to make its move. The bear’s heavy breath and low grunts grew louder as it charged forward. Its dense shoulders shook as it galloped with tremendous speed at the group of men; the large head barreling down with jaws lolling.

A musket shot was echoed by another, as a volley simultaneously erupted a few seconds later. The dense smoke wafted upwards as the bear disappeared briefly. Men frantically grabbed for hatchets and knives. The mangled face of the bear, sprayed with buckshot and dripping blood, broke through the smokescreen and crashed into the first man within reach.

The bear, oblivious to his wounds and to the surrounding men, tore at his victim as he let out a yelp of fright and pain. Claws ripped cloth, and jaws crunched windpipe while the man went limp. Knives, bayonets, and hatchets assaulted the bear before it could release its grip on the unfortunate man. The bear fell, groaned with obvious pain, staggered to its feet and fell once more, never to stand again. The carcass was pulled off with substantial effort, revealing a lifeless body pouring blood onto the surrounding snow.

The expedition examined the mauled face and red backdrop with a hushed reverence. A minute passed before men started to head in various directions. Some shuffled towards the trees to sit down, as others sat in place, gawking at the mangled man. A burial was ordered and a shallow grave was dug as the bear was skinned.

The ceremony was brief, and a toast was given in memory of their comrade. The sun began to set, just as the liquid courage was setting in. Some drank with disregard, as others prepped their tents, and armed themselves to the teeth. Small fires were set ablaze and encircled the camp. The men huddled close to the large fire amidst the tents. Nine of them watched the embers shoot sparks into the moonless sky.

The snow began to fall, and mother nature dusted the murder scene. The tracks they had been pursuing were filled, and the chase was over. They planned to head in the general direction of the prints at daybreak. That was the most they could hope for, as none of the men wanted to follow the trail by torchlight at night.

Very little was said as the fire crackled in the quiet forest. Men peered wearily over their shoulders, expecting to catch glimpses of green eyes. Whiskey was passed back and forth which eased the tension in the air. The alcohol took hold, and boisterous laughter boomed through the trees as stars filled the heavens.

The men reminisced about their lost comrades. Stories poured forth between long pulls of whiskey. The men suckled the bottles to drown out the deep-rooted fear. Too afraid to wander to the edge of the wood to relieve themselves, the men simply turned away from the fire to do so. They began to sway and lean with intoxication. Not a care in the world.

A pile of bottles started to fill the campfire. They clinked together as another bottle was uncorked. The glass turned black and then began to melt. Too drunk to tend to the fire, the men passed out in their places, as the flames began to flitter. The last man awake leaned over onto the prostrate man next to him and fell asleep. The bottle in his hand tumbled into the snow and emptied itself.

 

 

 

Chapter 1 – Who are They?

The snow fell wet and heavy without mercy. A cold wind whipped the dense flakes into a swirling, white curtain. Trudging through the knee-deep snow was worsened by the lack of visibility. Dusk was giving way to darkness, and he was desperate to find shelter. He pulled at saplings and pushed past snowy branches, feeling his way through the thick forest.

The torment of the weather, his aching joints, and his empty stomach gnawing at his insides were enough to plant the seeds of quitting in his mind. He thought of curling into a ball, letting the snow blanket him, and falling into the palms of death. It couldn’t be that bad. Rest. A long sleep. Anything was better than his current predicament.

He had been traveling for days without sleep. There was no time for sleeping. Food was scarce, and he had finished the last of his rations more than two days ago. He was running on empty. Gulping stream water was his only respite in the unforgiving wilderness. Despite his hunger and fatigue, he could focus only on finding shelter.

The storm was becoming dangerous. The tall pines groaned under the strain, as the wind howled through the canopy. One foot in front of the other was the only order he could register. “I have to keep moving. I need to keep going. Just one more step, just one more step. I’ll find somewhere safe to rest.”

His clothes were coated in a layer of half-frozen snow, and crinkled with unordinary movements. The crunch of the snow underfoot and the relentless gusts of wind were all he could hear. This was a good sign. The sounds of those he was escaping from, were not within earshot. His exhaustion was taking hold, and he knew that the gap was closing. His tireless pursuers knew nothing but the chase.

They felt no cold. They did not grow tired. Their senses were finely tuned for tracking, stalking, and killing. He wasn’t quite sure what “they” were. Neither did his companions. They had discussed the matter briefly before his group had begun to disappear one after another. He was the last survivor of an expedition that had set out with a dozen men.

They had come one night, on the outskirts of the campfire. Their eyes glowing from the dense forest. Pairs of green eyes, eerily still and unmoving, about seven feet off of the ground. Blinking occasionally, but always staring in the same direction.  There was no sound of their approach, but an unintelligible hushed collection of whispers were passed back and forth as they watched.

He had been the first to see them, but not the first to hear them. One of his companions had asked the man to his left to speak up. “I wasn’t saying anything.” Almost instantaneously, the conversations around the campfire ceased, as the wind carried an odd mixture of sounds into the curious ears of the expedition.

It was unlike any language they had ever heard. It was a mix of clicks, single syllable mutterings, and low hums in a symphony of foreign accents. It made his hair stand on end. The men were frozen with fear. Fear of the unknown. Who could be approaching in this empty wilderness? What strange language were they speaking? How many of them were there?

The last question was answered as the men turned slowly to peer into the pitch black forest. The glowing treeline offered the only reference point, but they did not have to look long to count their visitors. Eight pairs of eyes in an equidistant semi-circle. Glowing green globes piercing their very souls.

Animals would have cracked branches, or at the very least paced to and fro; investigating the chance of a meal. These eyes were frightfully still. The men were stricken with fear. One man finally managed to utter, “who the fuck is that?” The whispering from the treeline stopped, as a silence swept over the campsite.

His heart began to thump in his coat. The blood in his face drained as he scanned the looks of terror overtaking his companions. They all knew that something was amiss. What was this mysterious gathering on the treeline?

He could take it no longer. Taking a branch from the fire, he raised it overhead and towards the treeline, and asked, “who goes there?” His slack-jawed companions stared with anticipation. The silence hung heavy in the air for a few seconds. The whispering from the outskirts broke out again.

Nobody moved a muscle. “What are they?”, someone finally managed to stutter. He threw the flaming stick towards the band of intruders. It tumbled end over end, hissing through the falling snow. The last second of its trajectory brought only more questions to light.

Before the torch extinguished itself in the snowy treeline, it had illumined the silhouettes of eight bodies, standing perfectly upright on two legs, with their long limbs hanging at their sides. They were unusually tall, with an athletic build. Their heads were more oval than round and showed no signs of hair. They were sleek, with no signs of clothing. How was this possible in the freezing conditions?

The beings in the treeline did not flinch as the torch came hurtling towards them. The glimpse the expedition had caught, was enough to send fear and panic rippling through the camp. Some men were frozen stiff, as others scurried to their tents. Two men grabbed muskets, as another began to add wood to the fire.

The eyes drifted slowly away from the treeline, and back into the depths of the forest. A musket shot cracked without reply. The man began to feverishly reload his weapon before falling to his knees and weeping. He picked up the weapon, fearful of his companion’s potential actions, and began rallying the expedition.

He went tent to tent, pulling out the shaking shells of the men he once knew. Some were unreachable; staring into the distance muttering to themselves. The others were silent, but were staring into the treeline as well. The remaining man kept his musket pointed at the forest, sweeping intermittently for something to take aim at. Nothing presented itself, and the group calmed enough to begin asking more questions.

“What were those things?” “What do we do?” “Why are they here?” “What do they want?” “Do you think they’ll come back?” “Should we leave tonight?” “Where should we go?” The campsite crackled with the shouts and retorts of terrified men. Panic had taken hold in some, and despair in others. A watch was ordered to be taken in shifts until dawn. The first two men on watch were given muskets after drawing the shortest straws in the stack.

The rest of the men returned to their tents to get what little sleep they could. The two men on watch were reassured of the best as they huddled by the fire. He stared blankly at the side of his tent, mulling over the recent events. He thought about the men on watch and was aware that his turn was soon to come. He prayed that nothing would happen to them and that the expedition would move forward as planned the following morning.

He curled under his fur blanket, and warmth began to course through his veins. Sleep crept into his body and took him asunder. He dreamt of sailing through clear waters, with the sun on his face. The sails fluffed, and gulls screamed overhead. His delusions of diving into the tropical waters were spoiled as he woke from his slumber.

The sun was peeking over the distant mountain tops as he exited his tent. His breath sent wisps of steam upwards on the cold breeze. A light snow was falling slowly as he approached the embers of the fire. The two men on watch were missing. There were tracks leading away from the campsite, but only one pair. The prints were large, with no tread, and a smooth outline.

He followed the tracks towards the treeline and paused. He was alone, had no weapon, and was unsure of what he was following. He retreated cautiously while scanning the forest. He could not hear or see anything notable. The camp began to rouse, and it was difficult to retrieve some men from the comfort and warmth of their tents. The men looked tired, and on edge. All of them had the memories of the night before fresh in their minds.

The discovery of the missing watch was relayed, and a new wave of fear washed over the men. Orders were made to break down the campsite, gather weapons, pack supplies, and extinguish the campfire. All of this was done while their eyes were cautiously trained on the treeline. The men had completed their tasks and packed together nervously at the start of the tracks.

They marched in two lines on either side of the prints. How could there be only one set of tracks? There were two able-bodied men on watch. Nobody had heard anything during the course of the night, and the following shift was never awoken. Thoughts zipped through his mind as they neared the treeline. His stomach began to churn, and a cold sweat broke on his forehead as he held his breath.

A massive pine tree stood in his path. He raised his musket, gave the signal for the men to stay still and crept forward. His steps were slow and deliberate. He was expecting the worst, but hoping for the best. He jumped to the side of the tree and swept in all directions looking for a target. Nothing.

The stride length was much longer than his own. He followed it intently as the group of men trekked further into the forest. They scanned the trees and pointed their firearms in all directions. Everyone was on edge. The only explanation so far, was that something walked into the campsite undetected, silently picked up the two men, and carried them into the forest. Impossible.

 

585 Days

It has been 585 days since I left home last March. I landed in Huntington Beach, California with a backpack, a carry-on, and the clothes on my back. I had no car, no bike, no skateboard…no means of transportation of any kind. I showed up to a house from a craigslist ad, not knowing if it was a legitimate offer. I took a leap of faith, and one ledge after another has continued to appear. I met the love of my life two days into the journey, and have never looked back. In the past 19 months, I have crammed in more experiences than I could have ever hoped for.

I have swum in the Pacific Ocean in Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Stinson Beach, and Kauai.

I have been back and forth across the Golden Gate Bridge countless times, and have walked the endless curves of Lombard Street.

I have worked in Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco, and all over the Bay Area.

I have stood at the top of Mt. Tamalpais and stood beneath the Hollywood sign.

I have had lunch in Beverly Hills and stood on the cliffs of Santa Cruz.

I have walked through redwood forests and Hawaiian jungles.

I have driven down the stunningly beautiful California coast on Highway 1.

I have been surfing in Hanalei Bay and have seen the grandeur of the Napali coast.

I have been to the leaning tower of Pisa and asked my fiance to marry me in the Coliseum of Rome.

I have stood in the midst of the Trevi Fountain and the Vittoriano Monument.

I have hiked between ancient, Italian seaside villages and taken a dip in the Mediterranean Sea.

I have walked through the natural serenity of Yosemite National Park and have sat beneath Halfdome.

I have taken a dip in the blue waters of Lake Tahoe on the Fourth of July.

I have flown back to the east coast twice and made visits to Washington D.C. and Annapolis.

I have been to the Dominican Republic and relaxed on white sand beaches, and swam in crystal clear turquoise waters of Punta Cana.

I have flown over the Panama Canal and driven through the vast expanses of Oregon.

I have had eight different jobs since I’ve landed. I have done everything from coaching, marketing, sales, food service, landscaping, and project management.

I have coached lacrosse at the youth, high school, club, junior college, and college levels.

I have met new people, visited new places, and have done so many new things. There are almost too many experiences to count.

Despite everything that has taken place, I am ready to go home to spend my days, months, and years with my family. I will soon be a father and I am looking forward to settling down, taking life at my own pace, and raising my children in peace and serenity.

 

 

In The Shadow of Mt. Diablo

Mt. Diablo casts a shadow into a valley where time stands still. It’s twin peaks are the backdrop for a small, junior college campus. A large student body floods the campus between classes, racing to complete the first leg of their undergraduate degree. A diverse blend of learners from all over the world, and right down the street, aim to finish a renowned co-educational curriculum.

The more modern center of campus is sandwiched between two outdated, dilapidated fringes. Separated from the rest of the campus by an artificial pond, walkways, and multiple sets of staircases, the middle of campus is the hub of activity. The buildings have the look, and feel, of a new college campus. Clean bricks neatly fitted with massive glass walls are the standard image. It gives the school an air of legitimacy. It almost feels like you’re in the center of a prestigious four-year school…almost.

A grand piano covered in student graffiti is situated adjacent to a gurgling fountain; free for anyone to sit and play. Narrow stretches of concrete, border the brick walkways between buildings. Two circles of low, wooden chairs are bolted in the midst of green oases. One needs only to traverse a staircase, in order to find the remnants of a bygone era.

The social sciences are situated at the top of campus, along with the business office, and the office of the president. They are housed within old, wooden structures laced between metal support beams; like adult tree forts. The courtyards between the wooden rectangles are overgrown and crawling with ivy. The sides of the buildings are engulfed by the creeping vines; as if the administration is hoping it will devour them.

The contrast between the upper and middle campus is stark but pales in comparison to the stunningly wretched state of the lower campus. Home to the athletic department and kinesiology, the lower campus could be used as a museum of sorts. Tours for curious groups of visitors could be given free of charge. “Come one, come all. See college athletics from the sixties and seventies first-hand. Nothing has changed here, folks.”

The dark grey building sits alone at the bottom of the hill. The ancient pool, windowless gym, brick locker rooms, and a cluster of playing fields surround it. Exposed, dull orange pipes line the ceilings, and shoot down the walls. Matte green beams support the ailing building. The interior walls are a depressingly stale brown, or a gaudy bright yellow. The color scheme is enough to make a person mentally ill.

The collage of inappropriate colors is accentuated by the nauseating smell of rotting wood, sweat, and feet. If the sixties had a smell, this would be it. Despite the unpleasant aroma, it is somehow fitting for the setting. A large oval table, much newer than the rest of the building, sits at the center of the ground floor, surrounded by high-backed office chairs; where the knights of the oval table come to discuss the predicaments of a declining department.

The upper floor is rectangular in shape, with an open view of the oval table below. The walls are jammed with one office after another. Sliding glass doors plastered with team portraits are indicative of the coach’s office within. Hundreds of faces from previous years, stare with forced smiles as you pass by. “So glad I’m here forever,” they seem to be saying through their teeth. This strange photo collection only adds to the odd mystique of the crusty building.

Dusty and forgotten trophies from previous decades hang crookedly along the walls. An out of date hall-of-fame boasts plaques and awards from the eighties and beyond. Rickety wall units noisily blast unfiltered air from every corner of the room. The building is depressingly outdated in every way, shape, and form. It is as if you have stepped out of a college campus, and into the open door of a time machine that has just arrived in 1967.

The break room looks like it could use a break. Cracked walls, stained ceiling tiles, and cloudy lights encase the room. A brown mini fridge hums in the corner, as rows of wooden-shelved “mailboxes”, jammed full of documents watch from the other end of the room. A dripping sink keeps the beat, as the copy machine groans with a constant workload. Paper. Paper everywhere. Stacks of it. Mountains of it. Everywhere you look…paper.

“What time is it?..no, the year?!”, comes to mind. What parallel universe did I just slide into, and how can I escape? I must be in an episode of “The Twilight Zone.” This can’t be real. People still use this much paper? I thought we were in the digital age. The methods must remain consistent with the state of the building, I suppose…how fitting.

The turf field is more than ten years old and looks like the patchwork of a hobo’s quilt. The stands on both sides are lined with rows of backless, metal bleachers. The press box is perched above the stands, with questionable structural stability. The track encompassing the field is in decent condition, but the whole facility is surrounded by tall, chainlink fence, which gives it the feeling of a prison yard of sorts.

A narrow strip of pavement separates the track from three beige trailers which are used as classrooms and a training room. A small, brick structure houses the bathrooms and what was once the concession stand. Goals for various sports are chained to the fences, awaiting use. On an average day, the sensation that it has been empty for years permeates throughout the arena.

The trip from one end of campus to the other only takes a few minutes. The pond has been infiltrated by migrating fowl, which scatter their droppings on walkways and grass alike. The artificial pond tends to perfume the air with churned bird poop. Despite the aroma, the pond can reflect the sunlight quite beautifully. Passing from the lower campus to the middle, and finally to the top, feels like a sigh of relief…followed by a slap in the face. Ah, out of the sixties and into the modern age…then back into the sixties.

If only the entire campus were up to speed with the center…what an institution it would be. I like to think that it would garnish more funding, more students, and better reviews. I am unsure of whether or not this would actually be the case, but it does feel as if the upper and lower campus, are somehow creating a regressive vortex. Update these two ends of campus, and perhaps the school will survive into the far reaches of the future.

 

 

Life in One Day

If life was lived in terms of one day, this is how it would play out in my eyes.

Your birth would be rousing yourself from a weary slumber in the early morning hours. Still in a dream-like state.

Your infancy would be those first few minutes of the morning, in which you’re too groggy to really be aware of what’s going on.

Your toddler days would be that first burst of shower water that awakens you to your existence.

Your youth would be the time spent prepping for your big day. Practicing hygiene, taking care of yourself, and looking forward to the day’s plan.

Your teenage years would be breakfast time. Experimenting with breakfast foods, and swigging coffee.

Your twenties would be feeling the caffeine, strapping yourself into the vehicle of life, and whizzing into the future. Finding your way.

You early thirties would be the arrival at work and settling into the office. Being polite to your coworkers, and forming a foundation for future success in the day.

Your late thirties would be the hours leading up to the lunch break. You’ve settled in, you’re grinding out work, and looking for some reprieve.

Your forties would be your lunch break. Secure in some spheres. Ready for the day to be over. Just a few more hours. Coasting.

Your fifties would be the hours just before the whistle blows. Cram some more work in. Finish what you need to, and get ready to end the day.

Your sixties would be from the time work ends to finding your way home. Get there, and you can do whatever you want.

Your seventies would be dinner. Feasting on the fruits of your labor. Plumping yourself on relaxation.

Your eighties would be the downtime before bed. Watching movies, or reading books etc.

Your nineties, if you don’t pass out on the couch before then, would be crawling into bed, and enjoying the comfort of knowing you’ll be asleep soon.

Anything beyond that, you either can’t sleep, or you’re trying to stay awake for as long as you can. Don’t worry, you’ll fall asleep eventually.

Life in one day.

Chin Scratching

We walk upright, have bifocal vision, and are relatively hairless. We have no armor, nor claws. Our canines are irrelevant. Our sensory perceptions are nothing out of the ordinary.  Our athletic prowess is overshadowed by our wild counterparts. We are out-sized, outclassed, and outmatched.

But, we have self-awareness, and foresight; critical components for living an organized, and goal-oriented life. We can contemplate, and act..rather than react to situations. We can plan for the future based on our current circumstances. These two pieces of the puzzle, allow us to take life step-by-step.

Does breaking it down actually change our path? Or is it a false sense of security? They make us feel as if we are in the driver seat. We can use probabilities, and past experiences, to help us predict where we are going. Is this really the case? Or has everything already been set in motion, and we are just along for the ride? The age-old riddle of free-will vs. destiny, I suppose.

Does it really matter if one, both, or neither is in play? The sensory experience must have a purpose..right? We have to be here for a reason. What’s the use of setting this grand scheme of things into motion, without a desired result? Is it our chance to bypass biological life? A stepping stone for our spirituality and/or consciousness?

If existence is cyclical, can we really ever break free? Or do we merely set ourselves up for a better experience the next time around? Is it entirely random, and no matter what we do, we will experience the exact same set of circumstances for eternity? i.e. the eternal recurrence? I like to think that my actions will have not only an impact on my current life, but will reverberate throughout a cyclical existence. This will compound over lifetimes, eventually freeing me from the cycle altogether, or so I like to think.

Pondering these questions are as old as existence itself. They are nothing new. It is just now coming to the forefront of my consciousness. Despite life’s fleeting nature, I can’t seem to bring myself to, “make the most of it.” Partly because I am unsure of whether or not there is such a thing, and partly because I am unsure of how to go about it. Wouldn’t “most” be a matter of perspective for every person?

Some people may enjoy sloth. Would napping, relaxing, and “wasting” their days be making the most of life? And for the people who race through life, from one goal to the next without taking a break, would they not be making the most of life as well? Who are we to judge? Everyone’s experience is different. Everyone’s life is tailored to their conscious vibration.

We sense, and experience, the things that are necessary in order to further our consciousness, and those things only. Our exposure to our world depends on what our soul needs, in order to progress; in this life or the next. We have the life that we do, in order to raise our levels of self-awareness, and spirituality. It is presented to us in a way that allows us to point our moral compass in the right direction. We can choose to accept that, or we can flick it into a tailspin, and see what happens.

The flip-side of that argument is that our progression has been laid out for us, and our only duty is to endure. Our hand is held for the entire duration. We have no choice but to be pulled out of the darkness, by the guidance of a higher power. What we are shown, will eventually lead us away from the cycle of life. Are we all destined to break free from cyclical existence? Is it just a matter of time? How long must we hold on?

What more can I base these thoughts off of.. other than a diluted memory, my sensory experience, and the impulses of my reptilian brain? I think, therefore I am.. is all I have. I can think..the rest may be entirely illusory. Is there a way to actually break free? Do I actually want to? Will I always be here, no matter what happens? Do I only get one crack at this because of cosmic coincidence? No answers. Only questions.

 

 

Scatterbrained

What is a good mate? Traditionally, it is a combination of reproductive potential, physical health, and the ability to acquire resources. The landscape of the modern world has skewed this combination. We no longer hunt our food. In general, we are not exposed to extreme weather. Mankind has reached a comfortable stability in the developed world.

For most, resource acquisition means trading. We trade our time for the almighty dollar. We race to and from the workplace, doing menial tasks that keep the cogs spinning. How much is our time worth? This depends on our skills, knowledge, and ability to complete difficult tasks. Specialization allows us to find a niche.

Some people are brilliant researchers, educators, and scientists. Others are architects, engineers, and technicians that leave the rest of us in awe. Some are extremely talented athletes, performers, and musicians. How much longer will generic, manual labor last. Is the list of tasks that can be automated finite? Are we sure that human potential will always be required to keep society moving forward?

What happens when our technology bypasses our wildest dreams? Will it ever reach that point? Or will it be an uncontrollably destructive force, that we accidentally unleash? Will we integrate with it on a biological level? Is it our destiny? Can humans evolve without a constant improvement, and increasing usage of technology? If so, to what degree?

Would we be better off without our advances in technology? Would we be a more pure, natural species? Is our technological world making us weaker? Most of us certainly do not have the skills, knowledge, and ability to survive in the wilderness. We are dependent upon society to provide us with food, shelter, and clothing. The alternative will no longer exist in the coming centuries.

Maybe our widespread unrest comes from our disconnection from the wild. We were born and bred to be animals. “Civilized” is a matter of perspective. Have we really come that far? Yes, we have our precious technology, but does that make us so much better than our “primitive” relatives? Are they not happier with subsistence living? Maybe not as comfortable, but certainly more connected with the natural environment.

Isn’t that the whole point? Have we lost sight of what we were put on earth to do. Life has become an obscure illusion. We no longer interact with our animal cousins on a daily basis. We push them as far away as possible. We destroy their habitats for our “progress.” We slaughter them on an industrial level. We turn the world into our maniacal playground.

The disconnect we have created, has turned our lives into a vacuum. Something just doesn’t seem right, so we shove everything that we can, into the void. We work harder for the newest “things.” We must keep up with the trends, or what will people think? We cannot be outsiders in the hive. We must keep pushing ourselves to the brink of the social stratosphere.

Bigger houses, faster cars, nicer clothes, and more exquisite food. For what? Short-lived enjoyment? And at what cost? The fabric of our families, our mental peace, and ability to cope with life fades into a materialistic backdrop. As long as we can purchase shiny, new toys, life on earth will be manageable. “Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it certainly helps.”..until you’re taking your last breath and realize you’ve spent your whole life chasing something you can’t take with you.

Our inability to survive without society has been ingrained in us. “Off the grid.” What is the grid exactly?..aside from the complex social constructs that we shove down each other’s throats. The constant brainwashing. The daily exposure to nonsense to keep people fearful, appeased, and complacent. Sitcoms, cartoons, movies, athletics, music, social media: we are spoon-fed by mainstream media like brain-dead vegetables.

It’s our life support. We could not imagine life without it. What would we do with our thoughts? Mull them over, learn, and gain a better understanding? Become unhappy with our realizations and institute change from the ground up? No. We’ll watch more, and do less. Scroll more, and read less. Let books die, and put a smartphone in every hand. Know less about our history, than we do about our favorite celebrities. We will consume whatever is put in front of us.

It gets to the point that we no longer make decisions for ourselves. We do what we’re told without ever having to ask. Society makes sure we stay on the straight and narrow. Fall in line with the sheeple. Don’t ruffle any feathers, and certainly don’t offend anyone. Let everyone live the life they want to live, as long as it falls in accord with furthering the social agenda. Maintain the status quo. “Freedom” for all, and freedom for none.

We are all marching to each other’s drums. Look around. Look at the house next door. Look at the cars in the other lane. Look at your coworkers. Look at the office across the street. We are all one and the same. Droning for puppet leadership, and shadow governments that treat us like cattle. Big changes are heading our way, and we’ll never see them coming. We may not see them at all. The more it changes, the more it stays the same.