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  1. The beginning half is mostly background information, barring the prayers, leading up to a better understanding of the character. The real story begins where he leaves the road into the dunes. As usual, the story is a depressing one but sees some ray of hope in the end. That's typical of my writing, although sometimes I hide it in the story. This all occurred yesterday. He set out to walking on the snowless but cold day, taking a main road he didn’t want to because the air was so unclean. God, I’m just… I’m just both feeling dead and wanting to cry. I know it’s a sign of living, a sign that I feel something… and I thank You for that, but…. I don’t want to feel like this, God. I want to feel alright. I want to no longer hate myself. I want to feel alive. I don’t want to be selfish, but I want to not be what I am. I just want to be happy, but happy never lasts. It doesn’t for so many people, maybe even you. What is real happiness? It seems to just be something so quickly forgotten. Today’s the day the World celebrates Your birthday, Jesus. People are laughing, singing, dancing, making merry like they should in celebration. People are with their families, with friends, playing games and enjoying each other and the smiles on the faces of everyone around them. But not here. So many homes, so many drives overflowing with cars as people hosted get-togethers to have joyous celebration. God, why does home feel so cold? I look at the warm glows emanating from a hundred windows, but our own windows give off a harsh light or nothing at all. The house never feels warm and the air seems oppressive. Yet it’s a Christian home…. He lives with his mom in a small house they were able to get after most of his life in debt and moving-- the first house they had bought since he was born, as they had lost that one when he was 5. The earthy-toned home’s exterior looks cute and full of life with a beautiful garden and pond out front, birds singing and feeding from the feeders, Jack Pines towering up off to the side and the Scotch Pine nearest the house decked out for the holidays-- and the bushes nearest full of bright red ribbons. And even with fishtanks and reptiles, cats and dogs, decorations and painted rooms, the home was still in want of something. I successfully made her Christmas go well, so thank you, God. I’m glad she liked it, and I’m glad the party we threw went well for the others a few days ago. The party was with his sister’s ex-husband, who was dragged there by his current wife, because she came with the children from their former marriages to spread a little joy during a small potluck. Amusingly, they left their gifts and her purse there when they left, thus returning to claim them. But where is Todd, God? You know I want to love him, but I feel neglected…. 4 weeks, God. Where is he? It takes two to make a relationship. What went wrong? I want to give up. I want attention from someone who will actually love me, who will give all I give because I give all I can. And what went wrong the years before I was born. Why did my sister leave when I was born? Why did father beat me, want me gone? Why did You lead me to isolation from a World gone wrong, so that I could not function in it when I tried to return? Why did you take all my pets away so young? Why did you take Steve away? Steve’s death is where his life branched out in 2011. He had been happy with that dog. But as soon as he died, everything came crashing down-- indeed it did as it set off Major Depressive Disorder, Intermittent Explosive Disorder, worsened Anxiety, etc. Nothing went right, and two years went by before any help was given to he who hid it all-- and by then the help was too late and, as he wrote once, “They don’t know that their ‘help’ actually hurts.†He abandoned his own friends-- the ones he had left since the others had left-- who themselves were not very real, as he one day discovered-- the day his dog died, actually. But he tried, a few years later, to make friends and thus be the normal kid he always wanted to be. But it never worked out. I feel abandoned, God. I hate to admit it, but it’s true. Joe had been such a good friend, but he claims to the world that all of his friends were fake and never cared. But I tried, God. I did all I could. but nothing is ever enough? And Todd… Where is he? Why can’t I find him..? Am I not enough? And I help find Jon a companion, and he leaves me? I try to make friends, but they ignore me? My “brother†abandons me a few weeks before Christmas, again, and acts as if all we’ve been was nothing? All others I try to befriend just… go away? He left the road and began climbing a dune, the sand cascading down behind him till he reached the knee-high grasses that hold it all in place even when wind tries to whip it away. The dune swelled with its own life, young and old pines and other evergreens, leafless grey-brown trees reaching out for a soft blue sky with wisps of white painted in by some master artist, tracks of deer being the only other prints, and grasses enrobing the dune in a tan-yellow as they wave dormant in a cold December wind. God, I hurt. What happened to a season of joy? Why are millions of people around the World hurting in a season supposedly of joy? Where is the peace you were supposed to bring? Why can’t I feel hope? If the gift you gave was to save mankind, why is it not working? You’re able to do anything, but…. I feel like You’re doing nothing because, frankly, everything is shit regardless of how f***ing hard I try. Nothing is ever enough for others, nor is anything going to be enough for me until everything is better. Where are You? I try to listen to You, so why aren’t You listening to me? We cry out to You and we’re saved, right? Then why are we crying like the children of Yours that we are, and You are not taking care of us? Your children die. Do You even care anymore? I try, God, but I’m always feeling ready to give up because I’m one of the dead too. My spirit may be alive but my body is in decay. There is too much pain, mine and that of others. There is little left, yet You wouldn’t even let me die when I tried. What are You? How can You want us to think You care? His whole reason for coming up here was for a cross. He needed the walk, didn’t know where to go, and ended up drawn to the cross-- the cross he made earlier that year for two dead fauns, stillborns, he had found whilst hiking. He left his prayer he’d been praying throughout the walk, and he asked that God had kept the cross intact; and he went about searching for it, losing hope as he thought he had passed the area, until finally there it sat up ahead-- in some disrepair, tilting at an angle from natural creep, the arm having twisted to the side as the knots of root and soft twig had loosened. But, still, it was intact-- and the symbolic wreath of evergreen still lay in it, dead-brown, but there. He looked out at the dune across the road dividing the area well down below. The neighbouring dune soared higher, waves of yellow grasses blowing in the wind, paths from man and beast ringing around it like garland on a tree-- and trees of green and trees leafless all reaching up, clawing at the sky, spreading wide their branches to celebrate their Creator. I asked to be able to be used by You for good of others and for You. I asked to be taken down the broken road to know what others feel, but I had also asked that you protect me so I’d not be struck down on it too and have to wait till some thing comes to rescue me, if anything would ever come. I wanted You to salvage others through me. But now I need salvaged. Is this why I’m so broken? Because I asked to know it? Is this all for me to learn from, that one day I’d heal and be able to utilize it for others’ eternal benefit or benefit to move them forward in life and out of their own pain? I asked to know exactly how it all feels, but to also be left intact. Is it that it is not possible to be alright when one knows exactly how it feels? Even for a moment, there is no alright, so that I will continually despair like this? God, is this what it all is? How does anyone survive? Oh God, this World is so destroyed! I need someone to come. I’ve been here too long. I know what it’s like. Where is he who will save me from myself and help me up when I cannot? Seemingly without thought, he turned around, knelt, and moved sand to find more stringy roots to repair that which his hands had created months earlier, that which God had let stand…. That which most people will never know, just like they know not that he built one right up here, in a less-hiked dune separating the road from the channel. And he set about repairing the cross. But no one will come, God. They all walk by, maybe stopping just to look and point and somehow benefit themselves for themselves in some unholy way. There is no good Samaritan anymore, for they were all struck down, weren’t they? Your World is in despair because it cut down every good thing, every thing of eternal benefit. We killed Your Son who we celebrate today. We killed Him-- I killed Him. We all killed Him! Did He feel like this too, God? Did He despair over His people, the people He came to save? How will anyone choose Him anymore? Anyone who tries is verbally slaughtered, sometimes physically slaughtered, because of Him. I tried, God. Heck, I still try-- even now as I talk to You and fix up what You have made last. And these pieces of wood and root feel like my only hope. Will You make it last the winter when it does snow? Will this cross, this common symbol now secretly overlooking a thousand people each day, somehow be used for others or for me? Does anyone even reach this far? Am I the only one who will see it? Is this really for all, or were those two stillborn fawns for me, so I’d build this, so there would be some hope in their own death? A reminder of you? Of innocence? I don’t know…. What are You trying to make me know from all this? I’m hurt, confused, feeling alone even though You must be there…. God, what…. And then he remembered what he was like when he built the simple cross: He was unfeeling, unresponsive to emotion from himself or others. Even as he built it for the two dead fawns he buried in the sand, a grave dug a few feet down to keep them from scavengers, and digging without a real shovel… he had felt nothing, but was doing it out of what he thought was a sense of duty-- but could he have been wrong? Still, he built that cross, and then he felt something; yet, he rarely remembered it save for when he passed the dunes every couple of weeks, wondering if it stayed intact or if hikers took it out. But in the end, there it stands. And, so, his hope also stands. His hope is still Christ, even in a world of his own lonely despair-- all in a world he cannot understand and misinterprets every day and refuses to even be a part of anymore. And tears came to his eyes. God, why do You do this? You lead me to doubt, lead me to despair, only to finally then answer me? I don’t know what You’re doing or when You’ll finally make me alright, but I guess You are keeping Your promises…. I know You never promised peace for us all in life. So how will Jesus bring us all peace? I know You answer those who answer to You, but can You please just answer before we despair? Why must we despair? Is it all to learn? Is it different to each of us? What are You doing with all this? Please reveal Your plans, God, because I just… I can’t…. I don’t know. I need more than this to hold onto. I’m weak. You give me the strength, but I feel like it’s hardly enough. Please, God…. What are You doing with all this? And he got up, looked down at his work before making a final adjustment for aesthetic purposes, and continued walking under the waning light.
  2. So Thomas Maltuin and I did a little bit of preparatory brainstorming for the collaboration idea that SalemPertaeus suggested and one of the things we realized was that we cannot get very far without everyone who is interested in being able to participate. That means we need to find a day and time when we can all get together for at least a little bit to decide on the genre and do some setting and character brainstorming. But before I get into that, allow me to go over some of what Thomas and I discussed and what each of us should prepare beforehand to make the meeting a bit smoother. First up is theme. Thomas and I thought that it would be cool for content to mirror form in that the theme be something to do with a group of people coming together. Ideas we tossed back and forth were harmony, reconciliation, and teamwork. Please try to think about those and decide if you like one of them as a theme or would rather have a different theme. Next is genre. We tentatively decided to go with fantasy as the genre because it is a genre we both liked writing in. However, this isn't set in stone as we want to make sure that the genre of the story is one that everyone who will be collaborating is comfortable with. So please come prepared to discuss our favorite genres in hopes of finding one we all like. Finally we talked about characters. The two of us made rough sketches of two characters that could be used in basically any setting or genre (with some tweaking). So please come up with at least a species, profession, and whether they are male or female. You can do more, but that is the minimum. Thomas came up with a male lynx (or was it ocelot?) hunter and I came up with a female fox city guard. While we are doing this for fun, this is a project that you should be willing to spare a few hours a week for. I doubt that we will meet weekly, but it is important for everyone to do a little writing each week. Granted, if work/school/illness/etc. is making life particularly stressful/busy/hectic/overwhelming I'm sure we all will understand and cut you some slack. Does the evening of the 6th of January work for a meeting time? We'll need to coordinate the exact time based upon timezones, but does that day work for all of us? As far as meeting place goes, I think Skype is a good choice because it is a fairly common program and allows us to do both voice and text chat. Does anyone have an objection to that? People whom it would be good to hear from: Salem--this was your idea, so being able to meet with you is key. Thomas--you are very gung-ho about this project, so it is key to make sure the meeting works for you JollyRancher--you expressed interest, so it would be good to know if this is still something you would like to do Zvoc--you also expressed interest, so do you still want to do this and how do we schedule things to accommodate your timezone? SleepySchizo--you, too, expressed interest, so let us know if you want to still be involved Myself--future Direlda, please get me a calendar with all of my other responsibilities written out so that I can better make schedule plans. And wibbley-wobbley it to yesterday if you can.
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