Fourth Week of Advent: Love

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Fullmetal Alchemist is by Hiromu Arakawa. I’m just playing in their world for a bit. Also, the pic is not mine, if you know who made it, please let me know.

All of this happened because of love.

We wanted her back because we loved her so much. Then we found out about the cost.

I don’t know, Edward…

Maybe if we had loved her better, or I had loved you both better, things would have been different.

I’m just a man, though, and I’m not perfect. Why you still stay with me and love me is something I don’t fully understand.

You should be mad at me. By all rights, you should have left me to die.

But somehow, you still love me.

You love me, even though I failed.

Edward, that means more than you will ever know, and I promise I’ll make things right.

Because you are my brother, and I love you.

Third Week of Advent: Joy

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Art from here. Ouran High School Host Club is by Bisco Hatori. I’m just playing in their world.

“CAKIE! CAKIE! CAKIE!” Honey-kun cried as Haruhi brought the cakes to the table. The girls surrounding Honey-kun and Mori giggled while they watched Honey-kun dive into the cakes with abandon. Haruhi walked back to the prep area.

As she got out the kettle to heat the water for coffee, Haruhi mused about the mass of contradictions that each of the Host Club members were. Fierce, kind, loyal (in their own ways), and sometimes mean. But through everything, she can respect that they all remain true to themselves. (Even if they are still making her pay for that vase.)

She stopped to watch Honey-kun and Mori as they talked (well, Honey-kun talked) to the girls at their table. Haruhi couldn’t help but smile. What is it that just makes her smile when she watched them?

“Shouldn’t you be making some coffee?” Kyoya asked as he came up to stand beside her.

“Ah…right…yes, senpai…” She sighed as she plugged the kettle in. Back to it, I suppose.

“It’s amazing, you know…” Kyoya said.

“What is?”

“Just how much joy Honey-kun can bring.” Kyoya pushed up his glasses. “It doesn’t really take much, does it?”

Haruhi thought about it for a minute. “You’re right. It’s almost as if his karate skills morphed into expert-level loli-shota joy skills.”

Kyoya looked at her, wrote something in his notebook, and said, “Good observation. Hmmm…maybe we could sell that for the Christmas Host Club Picture Book!” He walked away mumbling to himself.

Haruhi shook her head and went in the back to make sure they had enough instant coffee left.

Second Week of Advent: Peace

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Naruto Fan Art by Svertz on Deviant Art. Naruto by Masashi Kishimoto. I’m just playing in his world.

“Hey, Kurama!” Naruto whispered.

“Shouldn’t you be sleeping?”

Naruto looked up at the ceiling. “Can’t sleep.”

Kurama let out a long suffering sigh. “You’re not going to make me tell you a story, are you?”

“Uh…no…”

They were both quiet for a minute. Naruto closed his eyes and saw himself in the inner space he shared with Kurama. The Nine-Tailed Fox eyed him for a moment. “You’re getting better at that.”

“Huh. I guess all that sage training paid off. It’s easier to do this stuff now.”

“What do you want?”

Naruto stood in thought for a moment. “You don’t mind being my friend, do you?”

“I don’t know if ‘friend’ is the right term…”

“Kurama!”

The fox looked at him. It was one of those times where it seemed that Kurama looked through him, rather than at him. It made Naruto feel weird sometimes, but tonight, for some reason, he didn’t mind.

“No, Naruto. I don’t mind.”

“Thanks, Kurama. I think I can sleep now.”

Kurama put his head down on his paws as the inner-self Naruto faded. No, Naruto, he thought, I don’t mind. You may be an idiot, but because of our friendship I now have found peace…and purpose.

First Week of Advent: Hope

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gif from here. Sailor Moon Crystal belongs to Naoko Takeuchi and I just get to play in her world briefly.

It’d been not quite a week since they found out about Usagi, and Rei’s visions were getting darker by the hour. It also didn’t help that she now had memories of a life that was so alien and foreign to her current human existence on top of everything else. Some days, she wasn’t sure where her human memories ended and Sailor Mars’ memories began. Even the broom in her hands felt distant.

As if that thought reminded her hands that she had responsibilities, she began to sweep the leaves in front of the temple again, this time with a bit more enthusiasm. She tried to let the swish swish swish of the broom calm her mind, but her anxiety was getting the better of her training.

“Hey Rei, I think you’ve got them all!”

Rei started and turned around and saw Mina standing there with her usual mischievous grin. Phobos and Demios squawked from their perch in the trees above the yard. “You scared the heck out of me! Make some noise next time!”

Mina frowned as she walked closer to Rei, “I did make noise! I’m not that quiet! You were off in space somewhere!” Mina stopped, opened her mouth, then closed it again. “I mean…uh…”

Rei shook her head. She knew what Mina meant, and knew why this was awkward now. “Come on. Let’s go in. I’ll get us some juice.”

***

Both of them were sipping their drinks and not talking. There was so much that she wanted to ask Mina about their past lives, but now that she had the chance she didn’t know what to say. It was all too confusing and too much. And to think that Mina had to bear it for all of us for so long…

“Rei, you’re doing it again.”

“Sorry.”

“No, I’m sorry. I couldn’t tell you because we had to protect her identity for as long as possible. I wish I could have told you all a long time ago, but…” Mina looked away for moment.

“I can see why. That much power…in the wrong hands…but what is she really?”

“You’re the priestess, you tell me. You know more things about the spirit than I do.”

Rei stared at Mina. “I…I can’t explain it. I can’t explain what she felt like or what I felt inside except…”

“Except?”

Rei looked inside herself, remembering in slow motion the tear that came from Usagi and how bright and warm the light shining from it, from her, was. Even though they had lost Mamoru, that light still shone…

When Rei’s voice finally came back to her, it startled Mina. The look in her eyes wasn’t completely of this world. Mina remembered that look from their time in the Moon Kingdom before everything happened. The Sailor Venus part of her smiled to see Mars’ powers growing again.

“She brings the light of hope…she magnifies Spirit….”

Mina nodded. “And we need to make sure that she can continue to bring that light to the world. Rei, I’m worried about her. She hasn’t been to school for a week!”

Rei’s eyes returned to this world. “What?! Really? All right! We’re going over today to cheer her up! Let’s call the others.”

Mina knew that there was more to come their way, but seeing hope return to Rei’s eyes lessened her worry. She pulled out her phone.

Fiction: Orlando (Revised)

I became blessed at that moment, or so I thought. The moment where time stood still. The moment where I knew everything had fallen down around me. The moment I was made.
It is the heart of what I became.
Whatever possessed me to take up the burden of this life, I will never know, but it was done, and now I cannot go back.
I can never go back.
I am the Earth’s servant. I bring Death and I exist nowhere.

Here is the scene:
The sand, cold underneath my feet. Quiet, everything quiet. The water pounding against the sand in rhythmic time. Slowly, the sky becomes lighter, the blue coming out of the blackness of night. Time moves again, and there is a sliver of light over the water. The orange brighter than any other light, hitting my eyes and making me squeeze my eyes shut in response.
I am awed by the first light of day. The morning.
Because I have not slept in a thousand years.
The sun rises while I am lost in thought, and the fire of it inflames me to more than just a spectator.
But I cannot move from here. I must watch it all. The coming, the dawning, the fire. I don’t exist here because this is how I am supposed to be. I sit until I start to burn.
The dead have no life, yet they revere it.

Later, now. Something calls to me. A memory, perhaps, of when I was alive. I remember touch and feeling. I do. But now, it is almost impossible to feel anything. I have existed too long in the shadows of life, only to be seen as something different. Something not to be loved. Something unclean. Unholy.
So I strive to find that holiness. That which makes me exist here hasn’t let me find it yet. The churches won’t let me in to feel it, either.

Then she came to me.
I didn’t know when I first saw her. It was while I was standing somewhere. I remember that. But she came up to me and asked me for something inane, like a cigarette. I remember telling her that it was bad for her.
She said she didn’t care. I think I loved her when she said that she didn’t.
She smoked, and watched the waves with me. Yes. That’s where we were: the beach. I was watching the sunset this time. I always did prefer the night to the day. In the daylight you are so exposed. People can see you, and I did not want that.
But she did it anyway, while I was sitting there contemplating more about life. I did that from time to time.
And then she asked me why I came here.
She said she had been watching me. She asked why I came here every night to watch the sun set. What is it, she asked, that made me come to the same spot every night.
I had no answer.
I told her that I was looking for the answers.
The answers aren’t found here every night, she told me. They are found in being with others.
Something broke loose at that point.
I left her staring at the waves, smoking her cigarette.

Picture it later now.
I am working for a protest group; making signs, hanging posters, sharing of myself, giving back to humanity what I have been taking from it. I protected them in the square at night when the cops try to take their tents.
But I still wasn’t happy.
I gave of myself so much that it hurt (I even fed for the cause) and still the answers didn’t come.
Where was my self?
This question disturbed me greatly. I had become lost in other people.
And then someone told me: Don’t be a hero. You need time for yourself.
I had had nothing but time.
I turned to them and told them I was leaving.
They watched me walk out the door and down the street.

Now?
I can see something else in the sunrise, when I watch it. There’s more to me than what is wanted of me. I exist nowhere except in my own soul, and that is how the universe will see me in the end. Timeless.
And the answers don’t come easy, but they are felt.
I took up this burden.
So I must live with it.

(This story was inspired by the film “Orlando” starring Tilda Swinton.)

Interstitial

When you work in a lab, there’s significant down time in which one has no other purpose than to think. Honestly, there’s not much else to do when you have a thirty minute incubation and you’ve completed all the paperwork that your test requires. It’s not even time to surf the ‘net properly (although you’re not supposed to technically do so, per company policy, but everyone does it anyway). The only other option left is to play a game of Solitaire, but when it’s a Friday night and you’re a bit punchy because it’s been a long week, even Solitaire isn’t enough. However, I’ve been in the biotech industry for a number of years now and thus have learned to accept a life with many periods of “hurry-up and wait.”

So on this particular Friday night as I sat on my lab stool pondering the fact that it’s 6 o’clock and I’m still at work, I start to stare at the timer in my hand. At this moment, it’s the only thing that is remotely entertaining. It’s amazing, actually to realize just how long a minute can be. People don’t ever really remember just how long a full minute is and always get it wrong. It reminds me of when I realized that I could pipette a plate, cover it, and write down the time I finished pipetting in less than thirty seconds. I have a bit of pride at that, since, well, that’s a lot to do in thirty seconds (and I’m pretty sure I could still do it if I had to). So, while I’m waiting for this plate to come out of the incubator, my mind drifts and the timer becomes increasingly hypnotic. As each minute counts down, I find that my breath becomes slower and slower. I dwell on the time that passes between each second. A part of my mind was wondering how many seconds I’ve wasted in the lab. How many of those seconds could I have spent doing something totally different?

This then lead me to think about how much time there is in between each second. I remember from my physics class that there are infinite bits of time. What if, like atoms, there are smaller and smaller particles of time that go beyond nano- and Pico-seconds? Quark-like bits of time where I could look out from and wonder why the rest of the world is moving so slow? In the dorky corner of my brain I wonder if it would be just like that Star Trek episode where Kirk gets caught by people who got stuck moving faster than normal time. (Wow, I think, that is a really nerdy thought.)

Then I think that perhaps, if you got to that Quark-time place, you could see God, or Goddess, or whatever it is that moves the Universe. Would you be able to stay long enough to ask questions? You know, the really interesting questions like how the big bang started or how DNA works or why humans evolved at all. (Of course, that same part my brain that thought about the Star Trek stuff also realizes that the answers to these questions are probably only interesting to me, and intellectually, I know that these aren’t questions that most people would ask when suddenly confronting deity.) Would whatever-it-is in that space actually answer? That’s when the other part of my brain, the one that tends to send me ear-worms, chimes in with lyrics from a song that I can never remember the band’s name for: “This is ponderous, man. Reeeaaalll ponderous…”

You know, I think I ought to give these thoughts a moment of silence out of respect. They are the big thoughts, after all.

But that’s when I notice that there really is silence.

Complete silence.

The machines have stopped humming, there are no lab doors banging, and even the smell of the 70% ethanol that I was wiping the counters with is gone. There is only a complete and utter silence.

What the…?

I open my eyes (though I don’t quite remember closing them) because now I’m a kind of freaked out. I feel a little queasy. Right. I know it’s been awhile since I’ve eaten, so maybe I should check the timer to see if I have a few minutes to run out and eat some candy. I stand up and make my way to the door. My hand goes for the handle and, to my shock, goes right through it.

WTF?

I turn around and my body is still sitting on the lab chair, staring at the timer.

Now, most people would panic at this point, seeing their body still in a chair, a vacant expression gracing their face with drool slowly pooling about their lips. Not me. Well, not completely. No, being the good scientist that I am, I begin to try and figure out how in the world I left my body. (It’s by no means a new concept, since I am a Wiccan.) Still, this is the first time I’ve gone fully out of body, nevermind the fact that I’m still at work, in a boring and empty lab waiting for an incubation to finish. Part of me is actually amused to realize that I’m getting paid for an out of body experience.

Suddenly my practical and logical self kicks in, that party pooper, and realizes that having an out of body experience at work is probably not a really good idea. There is also the matter of the assay in progress which needs to be completed before I go home. Sheepishly, my eyes fixate on the timer that my physical self is drooling at, and am shocked to see there is precisely one minute before I have to physically take my plate out of the incubator.

Before I completely panic, I notice two things:

1) My physical form can’t move, since I’m not “home” to control it.

2) The timer still says that there’s one minute left, but I’ve been staring at it for at least two minutes (maybe longer?).

Now the panic changes from freaking out about my assay (since I’ve concluded that time has indeed stopped) to freaking out about not knowing how to get back into my body. And I also realize that I really need to get back into my body as soon as possible, because who knows when this time-stoppage thing will end, and the thought of restarting the entire assay from scratch fills me with dread. It would really suck if I had to stay even longer on a Friday night because I got bored and stopped time!

Now that geeky part of my brain is thinking that this is like a Dr. Who episode and I’m wishing the Doctor would come and tell me how to figure this out. (Well, as long as it’s Peter Capaldi’s Doctor or Sylvester McCoy. I mean, if you’re going to have one of the Doctors with you while you’re stuck in time, you might as well have the most badass ones.) And to be honest, the silence is also getting a little creepy and I’d rather be back in my body, thank you.   But, since I don’t have the Doctor, I might as well buckle down and figure out a way to get out of this predicament.

So, I say to myself:

“Self, how did I get us into this?”

“Well, first you were staring at the timer.”

I nod.

“Then we started thinking about the time between seconds.”

I nod again, and then say “Oh, and don’t forget that we slowed down our breathing!”

I nod again.

“Right, then. So, maybe, if we start thinking of normal time and try and get our body to breathe faster, we’ll speed ourselves up!”

After this conversation with myself, I’m feeling rather clever and smart. Just in case my cleverness fails me, I rattle off a small prayer to whatever-is-out-there in the hopes that I really am correct about how to fix it. Mid-prayer, I remember that thought I had earlier of meeting whatever-it-is to ask some questions, and wonder Is It here? Do I have to call It? Or will It come to me? But when I look around, all I see is the same old boring lab with it’s beige and grey walls, and that’s not very interesting or mystical at all. In fact, I’m starting to get rather disappointed that I achieved this amazing out-of-body and out-of-time state and got no spiritual revelations for my trouble. Oh, well, maybe I’m not supposed to get a spiritual revelation at this time (positive thinking, you know).

I move over to my body, and when I touch it my hand starts to get sucked into my physical form. I start to think about how fast time can be and all the pleasures of being in my physical form (like food, and sex, and jumping in puddles), even though I’m getting older. I start to feel myself rushing forward and the seconds start to tick down on the timer again, slow at first, as if there was a full minute between each number, and then faster. And right before I fully enter my body, I see it! Out of the corner of my eye, there is a shining face; something there that is smiling at me and laughing at my notions of time and space. In that moment, awe and incredulous wonder washes over me and the world doesn’t feel quite real.

Like all interesting things, the moment comes to an end. Time suddenly rears up to slap me in the face in the form of a timer beeping at me to take out the plate from the incubator. My body is a bit numb from sitting in one place and being so still, but I do as the timer bids me, even though I’m still a bit disoriented. Sounds seem awfully loud now, considering the complete silence that I just came back from. While the next machine does it’s work, I ponder the presence I saw, trying to figure out what it means.

While I’m happily mulling the experience over as I’m pipetting the last reagents into my plate, one of my co-workers comes in, scaring the crap out of me. (Lucky for him I was between rows!) He asks me why I’m chuckling to myself. I think about it while I finish my plate. After all, how do you explain that you’ve been out of your body, stopped time, and saw what might be God (or Goddess, or whatever) in less than a second? There’s really no words for that kind of experience.

So, I smile and tell him that I’m laughing at a joke someone told me, which, really, is not too far from the truth.