Souls

Millions died in an instant; the final blinding flash that consumed all of humanity in a self-inflicted Armageddon.

I remember the flash and all-encompassing heatwave and then, nothing.

We walk, all of us, across the flat, grassless plain whose surface I can’t identify, blurred by what, I’m not sure. All I know is that we are all here, all of humanity in countless droves, all marching to the same destination, but for what? I remember my life and think about my wife and children. Where are they? Are they among this horde that stretches further than my eyes can see? Why am I not feeling anything? There is no sadness, no fear, no longing for them that I know I should have, and then she approaches, a short Asian woman whom I have never seen before.

“So, how have you been?”

I’m not quite sure what to say to her as I don’t know. I recognize her, but at the same time, I do not. It is like seeing someone that reminds you of someone else, but you can’t figure out who that someone else is.

“I’m ok. Do I know you?” I ask, confused at the sudden intrusion into my journey.

“No, not really, but I have been with you all your life.”

“All my life? What am I? Dead?”

“Yes, you are, as is everyone else you see. All of you, all of humanity is now extinct,” she replies, a tear sliding down her cheek.

I can’t grasp what she is saying, and maybe because of the confused look on my face, she continues talking, not waiting for my reply.

“Look, I know it’s hard to understand, but you are dead, from a physical standpoint. What you’re seeing is what you can fathom. You are a soul, and all around you are the souls of everyone else who is dead. You’re on your final journey.”

“Final journey? Like in never going to exist again?” I ask.

“Yes, in a manner of speaking. You’ll never exist as you once were unless something changes.”

“Ok, so let me get this straight. I’m dead, physically but my soul is having a conversation with you, and I’m on my final journey unless something changes. This is a lot to take in.”

“As I said, it’s hard to understand at first. Let me try again. You’re dead. Are you good with that?”

“Good with it? I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be good with it or not. Ya know, being dead isn’t what most people consider a good situation.”

“I meant, do you get what I mean?”

“Yeah, ok. So, I’m dead. I get it. What next?”

She rubs her forehead with her fingers as if trying to remove the frustration, “Ok. You’re dead, and this is your final journey. Normally when a person dies, they make this journey alone until they arrive, but with so many people dying all at once, we couldn’t handle just letting one person walk at a time, so thus all these other souls you see. You with me so far?”

“Ok, so we’re the dead souls walking on our final journey. To where?”

“No, you’re not dead souls. Your bodies are dead, but your souls, which are very much alive, are making the final journey. As to where, well, that’s hard to describe, but for your sake, let’s call it a depot.”

“A soul depot?”

“In a manner of speaking. All souls go there for recycling and reassignment,” she replies.

“Recycling, like as in plastic bottles or newspapers? What do you? Grind up the souls, melt them down and remake more?”

“No, we don’t grind them up. We don’t melt them down, and we can’t remake them. There are a finite number of souls, and we have to reassign, yes that’s a better word, reassign them,” she adds.

“Look, I hate to be a pain, but there’s a lot I’m not understanding and the more you tell me, the more questions I have.”

“That’s normal. We do this all the time, so it’s fine to ask questions.”

“All right. So, what are you? Are you a soul?” I ask.

“Yes and no. I’m what you would call an angel,” she replies.

“Where are your wings?”

“I don’t have wings. That’s a human construct. We don’t have wings, and there are no such things as demons or the Devil. That’s a human construct too.”

“Wait. What do you mean there’s no demons or the Devil? Are you also trying to tell me there is no God, as well?”

“In a manner of speaking,” she says, “the human brain is not capable of comprehending the creator, so it was easier for you humans to create a concept of the creator, but how your brains are wired, you can’t have God without the Devil. It’s always about opposites with your species. You can’t have the good without the bad, the hot without the cold, the peace without the strife. You always need balance, so you create the opposite for your brains to understand it.”

“So, there’s no God and no Devil, but you’re an angel? How the hell does that work?”

“I am an angel in your terms, but maybe a better term would be a guardian.”

“Ok, if you’re a guardian, what are you guarding?” I ask sarcastically.

“You,” she replies.

“Me?”

“Yes, you. Do you remember all those times in this past life where you felt you shouldn’t have walked away from something, yet you did?”

“Yea, I had some close calls. What about them?”

“The reason you didn’t die when they happened was because of my intervention,” she replies.

“Who else are you guarding?”

“No one else. Only you. We’re assigned one soul to guard. For some guardians, it’s easy, but for others, like me, the soul is always a challenge, which is why I’m talking to you now,” she replies, “I had to finally meet you in person, so to speak. You led an interesting life; not boring, and you always kept me on my toes. I almost lost you a few times there, but as fortune would have it, I was able to pull it off,” she replies, blowing on her fingertips and rubbing them on her chest.

“So, I’m alive, or rather, was alive, lived, hell I don’t know what to say, then because of you?”

“Yes, if you want to put it that way. You were alive or lived because of me saving you from you or more from your, what I would call careless behavior. You called it thrill-seeking, having a good time, finding the rush, enjoying the high, among other things, but yeah, you were a challenge.”

“I guess I should be thanking you then?”

“No, thanks are not necessary. It was quite my pleasure to have your soul to guard. I guarded your soul for over what you could call, five lifetimes, and it never gets boring.”

“Five lifetimes? I only remember one, and I don’t remember it that well now,” I reply.

“And you won’t. The longer you’re out of your body, the less you remember. All the souls were created that way. It’s easier to process and not confusing when you go to your new body.”

“So, you’ve watched over my soul for five lifetimes. How many have I had?”

“I’m not sure, but I believe it’s a few hundred. Your last guardian was reassigned and don’t ask. I don’t know why and then I was assigned to you.”

“How many souls have you guarded?”

“Yours is my first, and I’m happy to have had you to guard. It was a lot more challenging than they said it would be, and honestly, I’m not supposed to be here now, but if I don’t take this opportunity to meet you, I may not get to for many lifetimes. You know, protocol and such.”

“No, I don’t know. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the whole one soul, many lifetimes, no God, no Devil, no Angels, thing.”

“Right. I get it. It was hard for me at first, too.”

“You? What? Were you a soul?”

“I still am, but I was like you once. Living, dying, making the journey, getting recycled, and doing it all over again.”

“For how long?”

“I had over 1000 lifetimes before they chose me to be a guardian.”

“Wouldn’t you rather be alive?”

“Not really. After you’ve lived that many times, you start to remember a little more each time and although it’s not much, recycling the soul that many times, the memories build up and make the life for the body and brain a living hell, not to coin a phrase.”

“So, where am I? Is this heaven? Space? Another dimension? Where?”

“Let’s call this another dimension because if I try to tell you exactly how this works, it would just confuse you even more. It took me a long time to grasp, so let’s leave it at that.”

I can’t believe what I’m hearing. I wonder if this is a dream from which I will awake, but I can’t seem to grasp any other train of thought. It has to be real. I have a few memories of my life. I can remember vague details, but the more time passes, if that is a valid measurement, the less I remember, and it makes me sad. Sad to know the memories that were once so important to me are now non-existent. I try to force myself to remember, but like grains of sand between my fingers, the memories slide, evading my mental grasp and even my sadness begins to fade. What I don’t understand is that I still have my conscience, my morals, my beliefs, but I can’t understand why.

Her voice derails my train of thought, “I know you’re having a hard time with this, but it will get easier. I want you to know that you are one of the good souls out there. You’ve always done the right thing, and well, I’m proud of your soul. Not all souls are good, and from there is where you get the bad people. The bad seeds as many of humanity would say.”

“If you can’t remember anything from your life, how can a soul be good or bad?”

“It’s how there are formed and what happens during their very first lifetime. If they have a bad life or do evil things, it will permanently stain their soul. Some are lucky, and that residue won’t remain during recycling, but others, not so much. The more they are stained with malevolence, the harder it is to cleanse, and the more lifetimes they have, the worse it gets, which is why you had more murderers, serial killers, and just bad people during your lifetime. Therefore, humanity is now extinct.”

“Why don’t you destroy the bad souls? Wouldn’t that be easier?”

“I don’t know. We have never destroyed any souls nor created new ones. The souls are the souls. No more, no less, and that’s what we do.”

“So, you’re telling me that humanity is never going to exist again? What happens to all the souls then?”

“Not in that timeline they won’t. That timeline is dead for the creator. Not the first time, and definitely not the last, but it’s over. I quite enjoyed it, and it saddens me a little that it is, but on to the next one.”

“Next one? Another timeline? How does that work?”

“Yes, another, and probably another after that,” she replies.

“How many timelines?”

“There is an infinite number of simultaneous timelines. Some go on, and some cease to exist like yours. Some are destroyed, while some are saved. It all depends on the creator’s mood. If the creator doesn’t like how things are going in a timeline, then the timeline will be destroyed, and another one created. It’s simple actually, but the mechanics are way beyond what I could help you to understand. You’re just not wired for it.

“Will I go back as a human? I’m not going to be a dog or a bug, am I?”

“No, human souls are for humans. Animal souls are for animals.”

“Animal souls? They have souls? Really?”

“Yes, animal souls are the same as humans, but more developed. They don’t know malevolence or hate, which is why the creator put them in animals, to help humans.”

“Ok, I think I get it. All of my animals were kind and loving. Not a mean bone in their bodies.”

“Exactly, but it’s quite the opposite. They weren’t your animals; you were their humans, assigned to you to help you along your path. Some people didn’t need animals, but considering how many you had, I would say you needed a lot of help,” she says, smiling.

“But?” I stammer.

“Didn’t you ever wonder why certain animals were attracted to you? Why you had so many strays that seemed to need your help? Aren’t you curious as to why you always wanted to help those animals?” she asks.

“Yeah, kinda, but I never really questioned it too deeply. They needed my help, and I just couldn’t let them stay on the street or in the shelters.”

“Exactly. They needed you, and you needed them. A type of symbiotic relationship that helped both of you. Humans, in general, are horrible when it comes to caring for animals. Many are viewed as food, some as pets, and most just disregarded. Humans are generally too selfish to care for others than themselves.”

It is starting to make sense to me, but I know there is a lot I don’t know or understand.

“So, let me see if I’m getting this. Humans need animals around because the animals help the humans to be better. Am I right so far?”

“Yes, keep going,” she says, now grinning at my change in awareness.

“So, if the humans that have animals, rather animals that have humans, the humans end up being more developed, their souls are less stained, and live a better life?”

“Mostly. There are some humans that no amount of animal care can improve. Some human souls are just so stained that they taint the animal souls that come in contact with them, ruining both. Which is why sometimes there would be mean animals.”

“Ok, I get the animal thing, I think. What about now? What’s going to happen to this soul?” I ask, pointing at myself.

“I’m not quite sure yet. It will be decided at the processing center when we arrive. It’s not that long of a journey so you won’t have to wait too long until we arrive.”

I have so many thoughts floating around inside my head, or what I think is my head. I’m not even sure of my existence at this point. I know or at best, believe I am a soul. Am I hallucinating or dreaming all of this? Will I wake up from a dream and realize that all of this is a lie?

As we trudge along, I glance up and down the ranks of souls that walk beside and behind me. I can’t recognize faces as there are none. No corporeal forms, but blobs of what appear to be some gaseous forms with a humanoid shape. Is this what our essence looks like? Are our physical bodies just vessels used to transport these forms for only a short period?

“In answer to your questions,” I hear her speak.

I hadn’t said anything aloud, that I could tell. “I didn’t say anything.”

“No, you didn’t, but you don’t have to. Remember, I’m your guardian, and I know your thoughts and your essence. How do you think we’ve been communicating? We aren’t talking as you once knew it. It’s all about energy flow back and forth. Thoughts are energy, and I happen to be tuned to receive yours.”

“You mean like an antenna? Am I a transmitter?” I ask.

“In basic terms, yes. You are, and I’m a receiver,” she replies.

“Why can’t I hear…receive what you’re thinking?”

“You’re not tuned to me like I am to you. The only time I could say anything to you or communicate with you in your physical form was in your dreams when you were susceptible to my transmissions, and that’s only in brief little bursts, inserting a thought here, or an idea there. It took quite a bit of my energy even to do that. It was enough to keep you out of most troubles, but sometimes, even I couldn’t override your conscious state with my suggestions. A drawback of being a guardian.”

“How is it that I can receive what you are sending now?”

“Because of where we are and the state you are in. When you are without body, you are free to communicate with your guardian. It makes the transition easier.”

“Why can’t I communicate with other souls?”

“Oh no, we couldn’t have that. Each soul is unique and is not supposed to intermingle with other souls. It would upset the balance and create all kinds of havoc in the new body.”

“How so?” I ask.

“Well, when souls intermingle, there is a transference of energy, similar to what we’re doing now, and that energy is carried forward into the new life.”

“Why is that bad?”

“Have you ever heard of soul mates?”

“Of course, I have, I had one.”

“Well then, you know when you met that person you just seemed to connect. That was because somewhere along your timeline during the time between lives, your souls’ energies intermingled, and you took a piece of that other soul with you, so when you encountered each other in your human bodies, the energies recognized one another, and you felt that connection.”

“This is so bizarre. So, the whole soul mate thing doesn’t happen between bodies. It happens because of the souls being interconnected?”

“Yes. That’s right. If we allow that to happen all the time, people would have some serious connection issues when you’re in your bodies, and you would feel that connection with more people and the human brain is not equipped to handle so much conflict, so we try to limit soul-to-soul contact. Of course, we can’t stop it from happening, which is why most humans only find one soulmate in their lifetime, if they even find one at all.”

We continue our journey, and I begin to notice that some of the shapes dart forward and disappear. The more I stare, the more discernable the shapes become. What had appeared to be only gaseous blobs, now become shapes with distinctive marks. I don’t have to ask.

“What you’re seeing is called the transformation. It’s when the souls get close to the processing center; they begin to take on the form that is identifiable to the creator, just like your human body, the soul has a unique shape, for lack of a better term. The other forms you see darting back and forth are those of the guardians of other souls and the overseers. The overseers are basically the guardians of the guardians, making sure we’re doing our job, although there isn’t a strict job description. Every once in a while, something will go wrong, even here, and the overseers always seem to be able to set things right before they get out of control.”

“Why can’t the creator do everything? I mean, it’s like a God or something, isn’t it?”

“Yes, and no. Remember that thing called free will?”

“Yeah, didn’t seem so free.”

“You used it more often than you know. Every decision was based on free will, yet you just chose to follow most of the rules set out before you, making it easier for you. That is free will, choosing to follow the rules and guidelines or choosing not to. True free will without rules or guidelines creates chaos, and you wouldn’t like the results if everyone just did everything without rules.”

I think about it and realize she has a point. She. I’m not even sure she is a she. All I know is what I recognize or can process. What she wants me to see. Maybe I am going crazy and am locked away in some looney bin somewhere with some orderly pumping me full of drugs to keep me in a non-crazy state. I don’t know anymore.

“No, you’re not crazy, and you’re not locked in a looney bin. I appear in this form as it’s what I choose, and it seems to work with your energy. This is hard enough for me to explain without you freaking out and not being able to comprehend what is happening. I’m not supposed to be having this much communication with you, but it’s highly unlikely they will send me for recycling, so whatever happens, happens.”

“You won’t get in trouble?”

“Trouble is relative. I might receive further instruction on how to care for souls, but there isn’t any discipline or punishment. There aren’t any commendations for a job well done either. We do what we do. Guard your souls and process you for the next life. If I screw up, not sure how I could do that, but let’s say I did. The worst that will happen is that I cease to exist.”

“Isn’t that bad?”

“No, actually it’s not. When you don’t exist, you don’t know it, so it’s not a loss, and the souls you communicate with and watch over don’t remember; there are no lost memories, no loved ones, no one to remember you, so it’s not bad at all.”

“Seem kinda pointless to exist then. If you’re going to cease to exist, what is the point of doing this?”

“It is our purpose. We guard souls, just like you live lives. Just like animals watch over the humans, and the creator manages the timelines. We all have a purpose, and that’s what keeps us going. If I believed there was no purpose, I would cease to exist. The purpose is what keeps us alive, as you call it.”

“I don’t even know what my purpose is.”

“That is not uncommon. Most humans do not. When you finally realize what your purpose is, which may take 1000 lifetimes or more, then you will become a guardian to help other souls find their purpose.”

“That seems like such a long time to find your purpose. A thousand lifetimes.”

“Time here is relative. What may seem like a long time to you in your physical form is only but an instant or a day, to put it in perspective for you. We live without the restrictions of time, which is why we can move back and forth in your physical timeline.”

“So, if that’s the case, how do you know you live a thousand lifetimes before you found your purpose?”

“My guardian told me. She was the one who made me a guardian for you.”

“Was she my guardian?” I ask.

“No, that was another guardian who was reassigned. I don’t know the details, and am not supposed to, plus, it doesn’t matter.”

“So, is your guardian still around?”

“I don’t know. I do not have a memory of her other than that event. It’s how it works around here. She may be a guardian for another soul. She may be an overseer, or she may not exist anymore.”

“Doesn’t that make you sad?”

“I don’t have emotions, either way. Those are human ideas and don’t apply to me.”

“But you once did.”

“Yes, and I feed off your emotions. I can feel how your happiness, your sadness, your anger, affect you. Even your hatred, which is an ugly emotion, by the way. You should work on that.”

“I tried not to hate, but some people made it hard.”

“I know, and I could feel the conflict in you. I won’t say you weren’t justified, but I could understand why you did. As guardians, we try to influence the hate out of people subtly, but most of the time, if it’s strong enough, we’re pretty much useless, so we have to suffer through it.”

“Did I make it that hard for you?”

“At times, yes. Other times, thankfully for the animals, your hatred lessened to a manageable level.”

We approach what looks like a large spinning silver disk. As the souls get close, they are getting sucked in, like mosquitoes into a big fan. I wonder if I will feel anything.

“It’s going to be painless, from your perspective. As you have no solid form, you’ll just be sucked inside, and once we’re there, I’ll escort you to your destination.”

She’s right. There is no sensation. One second, we are on the plain and the next we are in what appears to be a big holding area, larger than any space I have ever seen. The rest of the souls now have definable shapes and markings, none of which I can make sense.

“You’re curious about the markings, I see.”

I am getting a little wigged out with her reading my thoughts, and before I can say anything, she speaks.

“You’ll get used to it, or you may not, but it won’t be for too long,” she replies, unprompted, “and about the markings. You won’t understand them, but to simplify it, they’re like barcodes for the souls. The creator knows them all, but the guardians can only recognize the soul for which they are responsible. The overseers can recognize the markings of all the souls under their respective guardians. I’ve never seen this number of souls at the same time.”

She disappears.

I don’t know how long I wait. It could be ten minutes, or it could be ten years. I have no reference point to determine how much time elapses, but it doesn’t seem long before she reappears.

“I’m back, and it’s time to go,” she says, motioning me in her direction.

“Where are we going?”

“I guess it’s your lucky day. Another timeline exists, same as the one you were in, with only slight differences.”

“Am I going to know the difference?”

“No, just like you won’t know anything about this once you’re back.”

“When do I go back? Can’t I stay a little longer, so we can talk?”

“We can’t keep you here. We’re on a tight schedule, especially with your human mass extinction event. We have a lot of souls to process before the timelines get too out of whack. If it’s any consolation, you’ll never have to remember what you’ve forgotten about your past.”

That is not comforting. Nothing is at this point. I don’t feel any angst nor happiness. I don’t feel any emotion, which is probably part of the process. I don’t remember my old life, and the prospect of a new life doesn’t seem to excite me either. There is nothing.

She must sense this, “I liked you much better when you had your emotions and memories.”

“I wish I could say I’m sorry, but I do not even know how to feel anything at the moment.”

“It will come back to you in your new life. I promise, but it is time to go.”

With no sense of time, I prepare myself for the next step of my journey.

She whisks me away down a long corridor, the length I cannot fathom. We arrive in a room, occupied by five other shapes, indiscernible to me, yet she reacts to their presence. I can sense her energy flow, but it isn’t directed at me, and then she turns.

“I don’t know how to put this, and I’m not sure if it’s going to have any meaning or not, but you are being sent back to your old timeline, along with many others to try and stop what happened.”

I can’t remember, and I stare blankly, “Ok. As you wish.” I want to know what she means, and I try to remember, but no memories exist. It is a clean slate. She told me this would happen.

A frown crosses her face, the first sign of emotion besides the smile I had seen earlier. She places the palm of what I think is her hand against where my head should be and whispers, “I need you to remember.”

I feel enveloped in a force that erupts from the outside and forces its way into my soul, burning and burrowing into every crevice of the essence I know as me. I feel the pain, the love, the joy, the hate, the misery of my lifetime, all flooding back in at once, and I temporarily lose all focus on everything.

I look around and see all of them, floating in front of me, their angelic appearance almost too much for me to comprehend. I remember it all, my birth, my life, my family, and my death and am overwhelmed. “Why?” I scream, the pain and tears erupting from within, almost too much for me to bear.

“You must go back. You must make a choice. Tell us the time. Tell us the age,” they keep repeating. I can’t focus and beg them to take it away.

“Make the choice!” she shouts.

I find one memory. One that is of a time when I was happiest. I choose, and the pain fades.

I look up at my mother staring down at me with the most beautiful smile in the world.

“Happy Birthday, Son.”

I smile. I am now five-years-old. I am a big boy.

I hear the distant voice in my head, “You must remember.”

Copyright © 2018 Nathaniel Kaine

 

Advertisements

Back in the Saddle

Hello Everyone,

I’m back! I know it’s been a while, but sometimes life just kicks you in the butt. Over the past six months, a lot of things have happened on the personal front which really threw me for a loop, but it’s all getting better now!

Good news for you guys, I’ve hired an editor! She’s awesome as a person and is an amazing editor.  I can’t say enough good things about her, but I’m being a little selfish right now because I know just how good she is, so I’m not going to give out too many details.

I am very excited about what she’s doing with my Average Joe Series – Volume One – John Hunter – The Veteran. We’re making great progress on the edits for Volume One and should be done by the end of May.  She’s just as excited about the entire series as I am, and is on board for doing Volume Two – John Hunter – The Operator, and Volume Three – John Hunter – The Russians.  We have a lot of work cut out for us, but can’t say it enough just how much we appreciate all the support we’ve received from everyone.

With the rough draft of Volume two finished, we’re doing the preliminary edits and once we’ve finished that stage, my Beta Readers will get a chance to read it and provide their feedback. If you want to be on that list and are not yet, you can find the sign-up form here

If you’ve already signed up for my email list, you will be getting access to my short story The Park Ranger as well.

Thanks again from a very grateful author,

Sincerely and with lots of love,

Nathaniel Kaine

 

The Boy Who Swims with Dragon

purpledragonpic

Byron Talbot was a sickly boy.  He lived alone with his mother, Matilda, in the hills on the other side of the valley.  He had been born with a disease that made him different from the other children. Since the day he was born, the doctors told his mother that she should not expect him to live very long; but day after day, night after night, Byron proved the doctors wrong. He was not supposed to have reached his third birthday, but by the time he reached four years of age, the doctors were amazed.  Byron could not walk very well, and had to use a wheelchair most of the time, but was strong-willed and very smart. The doctors had said he would never walk, but he proved them wrong. With his mother’s help, and even though he had to use crutches, he taught himself to walk, much to the surprise of his doctors. Being so smart, he learned how to read when he was three and would read any book he could get his hands on.  He especially loved the stories about dragons, and how they could fly. He wished that he was a dragon and dreamt of flying around the sky, dancing with the clouds, skimming over the mountaintops, and brushing the tops of the trees in the valley.  He loved dragons more than anything.

When he turned five, he started kindergarten like the rest of the kids and even though he couldn’t run and play, he was able to make friends. Everyone liked Byron. Byron would tell jokes, making the other kids laugh, and he would make up stories for the rest of the kids who loved hearing them. He made up stories about dragons and what they could do and everyone, including the teacher would sit and listen. His mother thought and even the doctors did for a little while, that he was getting better, but this was not meant to be.

Byron was very sad at the thought of leaving his home, of leaving his mother, but mostly, he was sad because he was not getting any better. As the days ticked away, his condition worsened and was losing feeling in his legs and his arms began to fail him. He could no longer feed himself and his mother could not take any more time off to care for him. It was on the day they were supposed to leave, with Byron being very upset, and his mother in tears, there came a knock at the door.

Byron’s mother opened the door to see a middle-aged woman standing in the doorway, holding a small scrap of paper.

“Are you the mother who placed the advert in the local paper?”

“Yes, I am. We were getting ready to leave. I haven’t found anyone and now I must place my son in a home for the disabled,” she said, with tears in her eyes.

“You will do no such thing, Madam,” exclaimed the woman.

“Pardon?” Byron’s mother asked.

“You will provide me with room and board, and I will care for, what is his name?”

“His name is Byron and he is in the other room. I would like to see if he likes you first.”

“Poppycock, Madam. The child does not have to like me for me to care for him, but as you wish.”

Byron’s mother escorted the woman into the parlor where Byron was sitting by the window, looking to the hills beyond, as if lost in a dream.

“Byron,” his mother called, “there is someone here to see you.”

Byron didn’t turn his head and continued staring out the window.

“Byron, I am talking to you. There is someone here to see you,” his mother called again.

Matilda felt a hand on her arm, “Madam if you would allow me to try?”

“Please.  He does not respond to me very much anymore.”

“Byron,” the woman spoke, “I am Ms. Strohm, can you tell me what you’re looking at?”

There was still no response from Byron, frozen motionless in his wheelchair.

The woman walked to his side, leaned over, placed her hand on his shoulder and whispered into his ear, “Will you tell me about your dragons?”

He quickly turned his head, one of the few parts of his body that still functioned and looked her in the eyes, “How do you know about my dragons?”

She held the clipping from the paper out to him, “It says right here. You love dragons and love to tell stories about them. I would like to hear about your dragons and then I will tell you about mine.”

His stoic look eclipsed into a slow smile. It was the first time that Byron had smiled in weeks, and for the smile alone, Matilda offered Ms. Strohm the job of nanny and teacher on the spot, not even asking her for references. If Ms. Strohm could make Byron smile, they could figure out everything else. She would take the spare room next to Byron’s and help with the housework while Matilda was at work.

Matilda was able to return to work and the Ms. Strohm would sit with Byron, taking care of him and listening to his stories about the dragons. As he became weaker and weaker, Ms. Strohm began to tell him about the dragons that would swim. He had never heard of swimming dragons, but Ms. Strohm explained that before dragons can learn how to fly, they had to strengthen their wings and swimming would let them do that without getting hurt.

The doctors finally decided that since he could no longer eat or drink through his mouth, they would install a feeding tube, which caused Byron to become even more depressed. He stopped wanting to talk about dragons, only thinking about himself and his mother, and how sad she would be when he died. Ms. Strohm noticed this change in him, and one day, decided to take him over the hill in this wheelchair, struggling to get it to the crest, to see the valley lake below. It was in this lake, she said, where the dragons came to swim. This seemed to brighten his spirits for a bit, but he saw no dragons and he could no longer hold on to the fantasy of the swimming dragons. They were not real. He was real. His sickness was real, but they were not.

“What does that look like to you, Byron?”

“It looks like a rock.” he replied, angry at being near the water.

“Yes, it looks like a rock, but if you look closely, it resembles a dragon’s head. Do you see the nose there, and the mouth there, and his big ears?”

Byron looked again and he could see what she meant. It did vaguely look like a dragon.

“Ok.  So it’s a dragon. What does mean for me? I’m still in this wheelchair and I know I’m going to die. Why should I care about some rock that looks like a dragon?”

“Ms. Strohm. I know you want to make me feel better, but it is only a rock, and all your dragons are not real. None of my dragons are real. They are only in my head.  It is all make-believe and this is not,” he said, looking up and down his body.

“Byron! That is no way to talk. My dragons are real. Your dragons are real and yes, your sickness is real, but you have to believe in something.  Didn’t you believe you could walk at one time?”

Yes,” he replied.

“And they told you that you wouldn’t be able to,” she replied.

“So now you’re telling me you don’t believe in dragons because of why?” she asked.

Because they are not real.” he stated.

“Look again!” she said, pointing at the rock outcropping.

It appeared as if the rocks had changed and the dragon face was now looking at him. Byron blinked several times and could not believe what he was seeing. Had the rocks really moved or was he just imagining it?

“No, that can’t be real. Rocks don’t move like that.  I want to go home now,” he stated.

“Very well, Byron. I will take you home now, but we are coming back tomorrow to talk about the dragons again.  I have something very important to share with you.” she stated and began to push him up the hill, now made easier with the new wheelchair.

That night, Byron tried to sleep, but he kept seeing what he thought were eyes in this bedroom window, huge eyes. Dragon’s eyes. He must be dreaming. Dragons were not real.  He heard a bump outside his window and called for Ms. Strohm who came into his room, turning on his light.

“Yes, Byron.  Is everything alright?” she asked.

“I heard something outside my window,” he stated.

“It looks like something was standing outside your window, Byron.  What did you see?”

He knew it was silly.  Dragons were only make-believe.  It couldn’t possibly be, but he said it anyway, “I thought I saw a big dragon’s eye in my window.”

“From the size of this footprint, I’m not sure what it was, but it was big,” she replied, looking amazed.

When Byron awoke, he was not feeling well and called out. Ms. Strohm came into the room and looked at him. Her look was one of worry, she immediately left the room, and he could hear her talking on the telephone. Not long thereafter, his mother arrived home early from her job, his doctor accompanying her and he saw the concerned look on her face.

He could barely talk and looked at his mother, “I want to go to the lake and watch the dragons swim.”

His mother didn’t understand what he was asking, thinking him delusional.  She looked at Ms. Strohm who motioned her to the other room. The doctor followed.

A few minutes later, Matilda knelt down beside her son’s bed and said, “If you want to see the dragon’s swim, then Ms. Strohm will take you to see the dragons swim.”

He smiled. Unable to hold himself up, they strapped him into the wheelchair. Ms. Strohm pushed him out of the house, and he saw beneath his window the footprint of what he could have sworn was a dragon.  It had been real and a single tear rolled down his cheek.

Ms. Strohm noticed, “Why are you crying, Byron?”

“Ms. Strohm, you were right.  The dragons are real.”

She cried with him knowing that she had given him one last thing to hold onto as he began to slip away from the world.

As they reached the edge of the lake, its waters calm, Byron looked around, saw no movement, and became sad.  He had wanted to see the dragons swim.  It was always what he wanted. As he began to drift into that final sleep, there was movement in the water, and what arose was the most magnificent sight he had ever seen.  It was the grand dragon, standing at his full height; his wings outstretched catching the rays of the sun. The waters churned as more dragons arose from the waters; the blues, as beautiful as the sky and ocean, the greens, the color of the deep forest to the brilliance of emeralds, browns, all the hues of wood, the blacks as dark as midnight, the golds, shimmering brightly, and silvers, the light sparkling on their scales, all standing before him.

Ms. Strohm stood beside him, gripping his hand as he watched them kneel in the presence of the Grand Dragon, who now looked at him.

Byron froze.  He was afraid.  He was now afraid of the dragons that stood before him and the Grand Dragon spoke, “You are Byron.”

He couldn’t believe the Grand Dragon knew his name.

“Do you now believe in us?”

“Yes, I do. I believe in you.”

“There is no need to be afraid, Byron.  It is time.”

Byron could feel himself getting lighter and lighter as if his body had no weight. He could no longer feel Ms. Strohm’s hand in his, and turned and saw her face, the tears now streaming down as she looked at his body.

He felt the mighty claws on the wings of the Grand Dragon gently wrap themselves around him, lifting him higher until he was eye to eye with the wondrous creature.

“Byron, it is time to take your rightful place amongst us.”

Byron didn’t understand and looked down to where he had been and could see his lifeless body, now held tightly by Ms. Strohm. He turned back to the Grand Dragon and caught his reflection in the dark mirror-like eyes.   He was no longer a boy and now had wings and scales.  Once again he could feel and move as he had never moved before.  He was a dragon. He flapped his small wings, much to the delight of the Grand Dragon, who smiled.

The Grand Dragon lowered him to the water, carefully letting him get used to the coolness that washed over the scales, now in place of skin, and he heard him speak, “You must learn to swim before you can fly, little one. You are the boy who swims with dragons.”

Copyright © 2017 Nathaniel Kaine

 

Writers: Stop Beating Yourself Up

How many of you have been on a writing binge and cranked out tens of thousands of words, only to find yourself drained at the end of it?  It happens.  I am blessed, as I know some of you are, to have days, if not weeks of creative energy where I can crank out sentence after sentence, page after page, and then when it’s all said and done, look back and have a sense of fulfillment.  I have also had days without end where there isn’t a drop of creative juice in my body and I can stare at a screen and even forced, cannot convey the simplest of ideas.  I believe all writers experience this, no matter how good you are, no matter how many books you’ve written, or how much experience in this profession you have.  We are not automatons.  We are people with real-world issues affecting us.

From a personal perspective, during the months of May and June I put over 200,000 words to paper, and since then I may have written 10,000 words total and guess what happened during that time? Life.  It happens to all of us.

I have been editing my first novel, writing short stories, and have dabbled in other little writing projects, but I haven’t been writing to the level that I had planned.  

Guess what? It’s okay. Life happens.  

You wanted to write five thousand words, and you only wrote three thousand.  Guess what?  It’s ok.  Life happens.

You wanted to finish editing your novel and you didn’t.  Guess what? It’s ok.  Life happens.

Don’t let those things you don’t finish hold you back.  Life is happening around you.

Don’t forget to be a part of it.

Be Real About What You Want

Do you have a burning desire to complete something just to complete it, or are you taking the time to craft your story, your masterpiece, regardless of how many you create, to the standards you desire?

I often read about writers who are so consumed about meeting their writing goals of x number of words per day.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love goals.  Setting goals is great for keeping us focused and for completing those things that important to us.  Goals, unrealistically set, taking into account the number of responsibilities many of us have, can also be a bane, a detriment to our productivity.  If we don’t realistically set our goals, with our priorities in mind, it can lead to losing focus, diminished capacity for creativity, and lack of completion because we are so obsessed with the goal that we often forget why we are setting that goal.  

As writers, we often get disappointed in ourselves with what we don’t do, and are often not proud enough of ourselves for what we actually accomplish.  Many of us don’t make a living from writing, but there are a lucky few who do and to those, I tip my hat. Job well done!

For the rest of us not yet fortunate, if that is our goal, to have the opportunity to make a living from writing, we have many other things in our life, such as a different full-time job, school, family, or other responsibilities that we have made a greater priority.  We handle our responsibilities because that’s what we’re supposed to do.  We need to remember not to be too hard on ourselves for not writing as much as we’d like while handling all of the issues that life throws at us.  

I know that I will be more productive when I set aside the time to write more and I’m not going to beat myself up for it.  I don’t have any writing “deadlines” that are earth shattering if I don’t meet them.  Yes, I want to complete the editing of my first novel by the end of the year, but if life’s events prevent me from doing so, then so be it.  I’ll make adjustments and complete it when I can and I refuse to feel bad about it.  

Like many writers, writing is my escape.  It is where I go to find solace and peace.  I am not going to corrupt that with unnecessary pressures to complete something because of a “deadline”.  I am completing what I can complete because of the love I have for this art.  I see writers are frequently rushed to complete something as if their life depends on it.  I can understand why deadlines are important for people who make their living from writing, but for those of us who don’t, what is the rush?  Set your goal but don’t ever forget why you’re doing this in the first place.

We Write Because We Love To Write

When you love to write and you are setting a goal for yourself, do it realistically.  If writing on Tuesdays is always a problem because of work, school, or any other factor, then don’t set yourself up for failure by planning to write on Tuesday.  You’re just going to hurt yourself in the long run by setting yourself up for failure.  

Every Word Counts

Whether you write 100 words a day or 10,000 words a day, you are still pursuing your dream and you should be proud of yourself for that alone.  I know that any words I write toward the end goal are a success, and if I don’t write the exact number of words I aspire to write, it is not a failure on my part.  This is an acceptance of living in the real world and dealing with real-world issues.  Writing is one of them, however, if I don’t write, the world is not going to end.  

Think About Real-World Concerns

If I don’t go to my job, there will be repercussions.  If I don’t finish school work, there will be repercussions.  If I don’t pay attention to my family, there will be repercussions.  If I don’t write, then my document will remain unfinished until I finish it.  That’s all that will happen and I refuse to succumb to pressures I would generate for myself by not writing the x amount of words per day.  I will write when I can as I can and expect no issues from anyone on it, especially myself.

Live. Write. Enjoy.  

Why I Am Choosing Traditional Publishing over Self-Publishing

It’s all about the time…

There are a number of avenues that we, as writers, can take to get published, and for those that choose the self-publishing route, I applaud you. We all have our individual paths to follow, and I want nothing but the best for all of my fellow writers. Whichever method you choose to have your work published, I wish you enormous success. I hope that you reach the potential to which you are striving.

The novel I am writing isn’t my first, but it is the first novel I will be publishing. It’s the first novel in a series of six, thus far. They’re may be more, depending how the story continues to develop. During this process, I have spent many hours researching the pros and cons of traditional publishing versus self-publishing and found many reasons why I am choosing traditional. I believe the method you choose will be the one you decide works best for you.

  1. My writing time is valuable
    All of us have only 24 hours every day. I don’t have any “extra” time. I have responsibilities, and there are a certain number of hours each day that I must allocate to my employer, and would be remiss as a husband and father if I didn’t allocate the proper amount of time to my wife and my children. Some days it’s more and some days it’s less, but those allocations never go away. That leaves me with only so many hours that I can allocate to other things, and I choose to allocate that time to my writing. My wife and children know how important my writing time is, and are patient and supportive of my endeavors. The time I have chosen to allocate to my writing is time well spent, but it is not cheap. I owe it to myself, my family, and to all those who have supported me through their sacrifices to choose the traditional publishing route. Where I believe we are not strong enough, as writers, is we do not put a high enough value on our time, and we should.
  2. I don’t want to pay someone else for my time
    As writers, we spend a lot of time creating our work. We spend hundreds, possibly thousands, and with some, even tens of thousands of hours crafting our stories, developing our characters, and creating the worlds in which they live. That doesn’t include all the ancillary research we perform to collect the information we need to make our story believable, along with the number of hours editing our work, working with critique partners, and processing feedback from many sources to make sure it’s ready. I do not want to spend all that time working to create something only to have to pay someone else for the time I have spent creating it. I am not knocking self-publishing and agree it is the best avenue for some and who knows, I may change my mind one day. As writers, we invest in the tools we use; our self-promotion, taking classes, going to conventions, and any other tool that requires a financial outlay, but giving someone else money for the time I have already spent is not in my plans. I liken it to buying a car and then paying someone else to drive it.
  3. I have expended extensive resources learning the ropes of this industry and I do not want to waste that.
    I have spent many hours learning about formatting, queries, submissions, agents, editors, and publishers. I still have a lot to learn and do not want to waste that time and money spent by self-publishing. I agree that self-publishing is the correct course of action for some writers and many have been successful with it. It is not for me.
  4. I believe in my work
    I know when agents, editors, and publishers look at potential clients, they are very demanding with what they choose, as they should. Some of the biggest complaints from agents that I have read are; the manuscripts aren’t ready, the queries aren’t written correctly, and writers haven’t done their research on the agent. There are many others, but those stick out in my mind. Their time, which they will be spending on developing the relationship with their clients, editing, marketing, and publishing is valuable, and they want to make sure their investment is going to pay off. I have that same philosophy about my work and it would be unfair for me to think an agent should take me on, if I have not done my very best to be prepared for the process. If this means a hundred rewrites to ensure my novel is the best it can be, then a hundred rewrites will happen. Although that example may seem a little excessive, I use it to prove a point. It’s all about investing my time and doing what it takes to meet the criteria. Many times, writers only have one shot with an agent. If you’re not on your game, haven’t done your research, and your submission is not ready for the agent, then you are doing yourself and the agent a huge disservice by submitting something that is not ready for the process. There are a lot of books out there that are masterpieces and many more that are not. I believe that my work must be of the highest possible quality that will interest the agent enough to want to speak or correspond with me concerning my work. That is the first major hurdle. There is not going to be a fit with every agent out there, but by doing the best I can through revising, editing, and beta-testing, I will ensure that my work is of a caliber that will draw agents to review it, even if the answer is no.

I write because I love to write. Creating new worlds, new characters and weaving the words to create a story others want to read is the ultimate achievement, but in the end, I write for myself and to share a part of myself with everyone else. Having my creation published is something I have wanted for many years. I believe that I would be doing myself a disservice by not doing everything I can and exercising all my options to be published in a traditional manner. I know this will be a “long row to hoe”, but I have set my sights on being the best writer I can be, improving along the way, and developing my writing skills to a level where those in the traditional publishing industry will want to publish my work. As it has been with everything in my life, it is all up to me now.

Thanks for reading.

Upon and Running

Profile Pic small

Thank you for stopping by my little corner of the interwebs.  I am so happy to finally have my website set up and glad to see you here.  Facebook was not very friendly to the sharing of my content initially, showing a protected blog, but after I found this awesome link on how to get Facebook to recognize the site, the sharing started working well.  If you’re using WordPress and you get that protected blog > log in when trying to share you site, I hope it helps you

https://en.forums.wordpress.com/topic/pasted-blog-link-is-showing-protected-blog-help?replies=5

With the website now set up, I am looking for a launch team to help me with my book.  If you’re a Author/Writer/Editor/Book Reviewer/Publisher or just someone who loves to read, I could really use your help and will happily welcome you to the team.  One of the things I’ve found, as a fledgling author, is the overabundance of information on how to launch, promote, advertise, market and (Pick another) way to get your book out there.  It’s a tad bit overwhelming so I’m going to follow the K.I.S.S. (Keep it simple, stupid) principal in doing this.

Here’s what you can expect from us for joining the launch team:

  • Periodic emails keeping you up-to-date on the launch of the novel.  We promise not spam you with email.
  • A pre-release copy of the book for your review.
  • Special Content not released to the general public – to be announced.
  • Early access to Book Two – The Demise of Angels.
  • A personalized autographed copy following printing for the first 20 people who sign up.
  • A mention/thank you on my website and social media (if you authorize release of your information)
  • We will not provide your personal information in any manner to anyone else, unless you specifically say so.

And here is what we ask from you (with a big please):

  • To read the book and provide a honest review on Amazon, GoodReads, or Barnes&Noble
  • Provide us with some of your favorite quotes from the book
  • Help promote the book however you can by sharing/retweeting content that we share with you on your social media outlets (Twitter – retweets, Facebook, Instagram).  We will have a lot of easily shareable content on our site as we approach the 30 days from launch date.
  • Recommend the book to friends/followers.
  • Provide us with feedback on our process.

If you’re interested, please click this link to join the Nathaniel Kaine Average Joe Launch Team This will take you to our MailChimp list signup form

I hope you’ll consider joining and if there’s anything I can do for you, please don’t hesitate in sending me a message to info@nathanielkaine.com

With Warmest Regards,

Nathaniel Kaine