Reconciliation, Part 4

Before getting into this week’s post and since this is Thanksgiving weekend here in the USA I’d like to present a link back to a short story I wrote and presented here in 2013. For me It’s hard to believe that it was two years ago, yet it is so. It is titled Returning Home. Consider it a bonus if this is the first time or a nostalgic look back if you have already read it. https://windmillsmetaphor4writing.wordpress.com/2013/11/30/returning-home/

Conclusion – the end of the short story, and the end of the book Unexpected, Unplanned and into the Unknown.

Whatever our problems might be, work, maintenance, and life goes on. We might try to put such things on hold but eventually we have no choice. We must do what must be done. We begin the final part with the two out inspecting and repairing the hidden cameras that surround “The Deeps”. At least they are talking, and Elsa seems to be well on the road to recovery. With their plans of revenge now in the past they have yet to decide what they want to do with their lives. The one thing they know for sure, while the future is unclear, as are their paths, they have no plans to go the way of Ed and the many who had lived out their lives in “The Deeps”.

Many times we find that as we work through some routine chore that our minds have a tendency to drift away as we continue our work by rote. In truth this is probably not the smartest or safest thing we could do especially if what we are attempting can have some danger  attached with it. Meaning we should be committing our full attention to what we are doing. And so it is with the two as they work this routine job. With one guarding and the other inspecting it is easy to let their minds drift away. And while this is happening unknown to them a solution is forming that will fulfill their desires and what they will do with the knowledge they have been given and their lives. And now here is the conclusion of Reconciliation (And if this is the first time here parts 1 thru 3 can be found in the sidebar under November 2015 or short stories.):

Both were outside inspecting the hidden cameras that kept the area under surveillance, allowing them to know if any were passing through the area. The location of Helms Deep was such that it would be the last place any would look, so they felt relatively safe. Still it was important to keep the area monitored. After all, however it happened, Jay had stumbled upon and found this place, and if he did others could also. It was pushing midday when Elsa stood up and stretched. This particular camera was located inside a split in the rocks and required one to be bent over to insure everything was still functioning. Shaking her arms to release the tension she said, “That really sucks. I know we have to put these things in places where they can’t be found, but really? We know where they are since we set them up, but to go out here and maintain them is a bitch, a real bitch. Still, I guess it’s better than the alternative.”

Yeah, that’s true”, Jay replied. “I’d rather be aware of others around than be surprised.” He’d been acting as a spotter, a lookout while she worked on this particular security camera. The next time she’d be doing the lookout duty while he inspected the camera. He unconsciously looked out towards their late home with his mind drifting back to when it had been full of life, and they were no more than ordinary people looking forward to their place in life, with dreams all young ones seemed to have. Now all of that seemed more like dreams of fiction instead of being their true past.

Elsa, watching Jay could see that faraway look in his eyes and asked, “Penny for your thoughts?” She smiled inwardly as she realized that she had picked up phrases from the deep past that would have meant nothing to them a few years ago.

“I don’t know, just thinking back before the world went to hell for us. I know that you are still fighting those demons. And I have to admit there are times when I wake up from a nightmare of what I found when I returned to the village finding all the death and destruction there. Sometimes I really wish none of it happened and both of us were back there dealing with the normal stuff being ignorant of everything we now know.” He saw she was about to say something and he signaled her to wait. “Yes I know it’s something that’s impossible to do. Yet, I seem to remember our sires doing the same thing. You know something they wished they could change. I guess it’s just part of who we are.” He could see that somehow he had triggered something with Elsa as she suddenly appeared to be in deep thought. “What are you thinking sis?”

“I’ve never been back to our village, can we go?” Elsa asked.

“I guess. It’s been years since I was there. In fact the last time was when I resupplied, although, in the end, none of it was needed.”

She smiled, “True, but neither of us knew that at the time. We didn’t know The Deeps existed, and both of us, even though I was in worse shape then, knew we’d have to move on at some point. So when?”

“I guess we can do it tomorrow. There’s nothing on the schedule requiring immediate inspection and repair for a few days. Still it’s almost a five day round trip, and I’m sure there would be nothing left, which means we’ll have to carry everything we need. I guess sometime in the near future we need to see if we can get or build a desert buggy or something. It’d make traveling through the area quicker, although they do have their own problems. Still it would make a trip like we are planning much shorter. Something to think about I guess.”

* * *

The hot desert winds were blowing, with dust devils dancing among the ruins that had been their home. Simply, a village known as Sandy, and thusly their last name. There was a silence that spoke of honoring the ones who died here. Everywhere they looked there were piles of dust building against any wall still standing – speaking volumes of the abandonment, leaving only ghosts roaming this place. For Elsa this was the first time she had seen it since the destruction. It had still been burning when she had been abducted and hauled off somewhere into the desert where she and others faced the fate that awaited them.

In some ways it was shocking, what she was seeing, how fully the destruction had been. She hadn’t even recognized the pathways through the town and the many gravel surfaces and paths that marked the division of the homes and businesses. And while some of it almost seemed familiar, it had taken her a moment to recognize where their home had stood. Now after all this time there was little to outline the actual structure. A little charcoal, a few odds and ends, and a broken cast iron stove that had been used for cooking of the meals, and very little else. It surprised her how small the area seemed to be. She swore the house had been so much larger than what this showed her.

She could feel a heaviness in her soul, and depression beginning to lay upon her. Now after seeing this, she yearned for those uncomplicated times when the outside world meant nothing to a young child growing up in a loving home. After who knew how much time both of them moved on and found a place to break and eat something. Their conversation at this point was subdued for obvious reasons as both of them were deep inside themselves. After all this had been the only home they knew until that fateful day. A day that ended all the innocence either had possessed.

So much had happened since then. And while those ignorant ones still existed inside of them, they now knew more than anyone in this world. Had even taken advantage of that new, to them, knowledge and had brought some payback to the raider clans. After the meal both of them continued to walk among the broken buildings remembering and talking about what they had done when this place still existed and was full of family, friends and townsfolk. It was then as if on cue both of them stopped and began to speak excitedly. Here Jay laughed and said, “After you, ma’am.”

“Well, thank you sir.” Again she laughed. “I guess we came up with the same idea, or at least I think we did. Look, we are only a few days out of The Deeps, which means we probably could use this place as a starting point.” She could see her brother smiling and nodding his head, encouraging her to continue. “Okay, we know that not only from the attacks made by the raiders, but other things happen to create orphans like us. So why not use this place as a gathering place to bring them all together. Make it a home where all orphans are welcome – even those young ones who may come from the raider clans. Only if they are young enough to not know the way of life that the raiders seem to prefer.

“Even though this place isn’t rich, one can still be comfortable here. And with ‘The Deeps’ so close we can augment the protection to prevent a repeat of what happened here in the past. Not directly, of course, but here we could begin the reintroducing of the old technology. And after a time establish a hidden town by using ones from this one to establish it. From that one we could begin to send out teams to begin the spread of what we have. You know how to improve agriculture, shelters, roads, schools, and so much more. What do you think?”

Shaking his head as Jay smiled, he said, “I’m all for it. But it won’t be easy, in fact it’s probably quite hard. And I’m sure we’ll have many problems and issues to face. But, in the end I think it will be worth it. And by keeping ‘The Deeps’ isolated and unknown, it will remain protected.”

And you know, that’s exactly what they did.

* * *

And there you have it. From beginning to end, the different episodes which I list here are: And the Sun Will Rise, The Deeps, The Past in the Present Seeing the Future, Changes, A Time of Learning Death and Revenge, and Reconciliation. As an author one always has hopes of seeing their particular story or novel in print and for me my hopes were high that the publisher who had requested the manuscript would take it. Alas, and in the end it was rejected. Still if anything is consistent in this field it is rejection letters. What this allows me is a chance to work the novel over again. So what has been presented here will change somewhat. Still for you as readers this has allowed you inside the creative process. Sometime in the future if you see this book on the shelves of your local bookstore you can remember back when you first had a chance to see it. And if you did pick it up to make it your own you might smile since you’d know the changes made from what is presented here to the final draft that became the book. God Bless! (fdbrant.com)

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Reconciliation, Part 3

Next Thursday here in the USA is the annual Thanksgiving celebration. A time to look back at the year and to find the blessings that has been given. It is a time of family and friends, and a brief respite from the daily grind that is part of the modern life. A time to enjoy the bounty, and reminisce of past celebrations. It is also a sign the this year is closing soon. May your time with family be full of joy, good memories, and that there have been many blessings in your life.  And now on to the introduction to Reconciliation Part 3:

In relationships problems usually do not go away on their own. Still in any of the situations that can arise it takes all who are involved to solve them. Even if both, or if more than two, are motivated  towards a solution, it still means reaching out and working through the issues. And many times these issues appear so overwhelming that to even begin seems to be impossible. In this short story Jay continues to try, but Elsa with her misery isn’t interested at this moment to reach for her brother and the help he’s offering. She is lost.

So what does one do? Do we give up and try to bury the past? Many times this is the route people choose, only to fail in the end. Unless a solution or solutions are found it will fester away building deeper resentments, and deeper and wider gulfs until one day there will be an explosion where the world can come completely apart. So Jay continues to work towards helping Elsa, but one can only do so much. (In the sidebar under November 2015 is parts 1 and 2, or they can be found under Short stories.) And for your reading pleasure is part 3:

Later in the day Jay approached Elsa once again. She was in one of the security offices monitoring the feeds from the desert, something both of them did at least once a day, and it was her turn. It seemed since their first successful attack on the raiders that a barrier had been building between the two of them and it was something that needed to be fixed. He could tell she was aware of his presence so he asked, “Anything happening or going on?”

In a distant voice that trailed off she responded by saying, “No, just sand, rocks, the wind, and dust.” She never looked up or at him.

“Look Elsa, we started something and we really do need to finish it.”

She rotated around in one of those swivel chairs with anger, “Finish it? How can we finish it? I believe we could do this kind of thing for the rest of our lives and there will still be bandits, thieves, and raiders. There have always been bad people out there, and I really believe there will always be. After we did what we did I realized that if we continued down this trail we’ve started on that in the end we would be nothing more than killers. I suspect that anything of what we were would be lost along the way.

“Yeah, in the beginning I was all for it, all in for revenge. I watched unspeakable things happen, was a victim of those same things, and the idea of giving back a little of my own to that scum really did appeal to me. It really did until I saw that little girl. You have to understand that she had no choice being there. She knew nothing of what her parents did, or what the people around her did. She was innocent. Innocent, don’t you get it? And we came in to avenge what happened to us and our town, all the people we knew and loved, but what did it prove? Did it bring any of them back? Did it remove what happened to me personally? No. Nothing can change the past, nothing at all.” She turned back to the monitors with the anger still showing in her posture.

Jay stood quietly as he absorbed all her anger and her words. He took time to think before saying anything. Somehow this impasse had to end. “So, I guess we are to become like Ed. You know, stay here until we die and let the secret of this place die with us. Is that what you are trying to say?”

He could hear her breathe out heavily and saw her shoulders slump, but she remained forward with her back to him looking at the monitors. Although he suspected she was probably looking at nothing. In a soft voice she said, “No . . . no that’s not what I’m saying. What is here should become available to everybody, but there’s a real problem thinking that way also.”

“Yeah, I know”, Jay replied. “With what this place holds it would be easy for someone to decide they needed to play god and everybody would have to answer to them. And they could find enough like-minded to literally control the world, with no one being able to stop them.”

“Yeah, exactly right. So do we destroy this place? Do we abandon it? Do we allow it to become a place where only the ghosts from the past roam?” Her voice was still soft and distant as if she was somewhere else.

“I guess it would be the easiest way, but can we leave it? Can we in good conscience do such a thing? I mean, think about what’s here. Yeah, we know and used the system to train for the fighting we did, but we also got an education that puts us centuries ahead of any out in the real world. It means we really couldn’t blend back into what we were before. It wouldn’t be possible. And I think I really wouldn’t want to give up what we have here anyway. Yet, there are those other dangers you’ve so aptly pointed out, or have been pointed out.

“So, if we aren’t going to seek revenge, or abandon this place . . .And one thing for sure, we can’t take the chance and bring others in here like Ed did with us – he really did take a great chance bringing us in – as he stated so many times, he really only had that brief time to make a decision about us. Yes, it worked out in the end because we really are just ordinary folk, but could we be that lucky again? I really don’t know, and I for one do not want to take a chance. Yet, we are sitting on the most important thing in this whole world, and I don’t know what to do?”

She slowly rotated around and looked up in her brother’s eyes, and shook her head. “No, I really don’t know what to do either. I know that once we went inside of the canyon and I witnessed what we had done that in the end it brought back all those nightmares, bad dreams, night sweats, the fear and foreboding that I had back when you found me in the desert. And what made it worse this time was the fact it had been my hands that had created what we saw.

“And like you, there’s no way I want to leave this place. And I agree, we can’t just bring others in here. And no I don’t want to stay here and die leaving the place to become a home for ghosts and only the past. And you’re right we can’t really become part of this world with the knowledge we’ve gained. Maybe we could head out find places that needs help, and work on giving them solutions, then disappear and return here. But I suspect this is something that wouldn’t work either.”

“It’s something I hadn’t thought about. Why wouldn’t it work, Elsa?”

“For the very same reasons we can’t bring others in here. Somewhere someone would want what we know and we would become their prisoners using leverage against us by using fear of one or the other of us becoming victims unless we cooperated.”

“That’s true. There’s always that minority that only sees personal profit in anything, and they could care less who it hurts. So, if none of what we’ve been discussing is an option, what is it you want to do?”

Shaking her head once again she said, “I don’t know. I really don’t have any ideas at all.”

 

For Jay to abandon the attacking of the raiders was frustrating. But at the same time he wasn’t sure if he could have continued either. He had to admit, even if it was only to himself, seeing women and children killed in their attack had been a shock. In his mind he had only considered the ones who carried out the attack. And as far as he knew generally it appeared to be men. He hadn’t considered the fact that these men would have had families – although, after the fact, it should have. And in some ways even after learning this he felt it important to carry on.

At least he was honest enough to know that he probably couldn’t do this himself, he could possibly carry on in a limited capacity. Yet, they were here in a forgotten and unknown structure buried deep in the earth whose purpose had never been fulfilled. And while it held promise for the future of them, and the rest of the world, it was also a curse. As both of them pointed out, if this place fell into the wrong hands it would mean the end of all that is good. So this couldn’t happen. So how did they avoid such a thing? And he knew from the conversation he just had with his sister they wanted to do something, but what?

For the next few weeks they continued in the normal routines of The Deeps. Both would eat their meals together and talk. Once they were finished and back to the work neither probably could say what they had said or discussed. What it did do was to bring them back together so the wall that had been building between the two of them was now gone, and while it could never be like it had been before the destruction of the village, they at least felt they were brother and sister once again. Still somewhere somehow soon they needed to come up with something that they could do. It would be easy to follow in Ed’s footsteps, and all the others who had lived here, remain isolated, live out their lives, and die, having the secret of this place remain with their deaths. But neither wanted that kind of future.

Still while the bad out there in the real world was in the minority, they still wielded a lot of power. So how did one keep this knowledge away from them, and make it a benefit for all the good? He didn’t know, and when he had asked Elsa she hadn’t any answers either. So both continued in the day-to-day routines and let the questions they had work through their subconscious mind. Maybe some idea or inkling would come to them, and they could begin to work towards those ideas and plans.

* * *

At least they have begun to talk once again. Still they are at a loss as to what to do. While her past will always haunt her, Elsa seems to finally be on the road to healing – being herself once again. Both are left with too many questions with no ready answers. So what does one do when they have the kind of knowledge they do? What would you do? Next week we conclude the episode Reconciliation. Have a great week, and for those who will be celebrating Thanksgiving may it be a wonderful time – God Bless! (fdbrant.com)

Reconciliation, Part 2

For the two – sister and brother, two words can describe what they are feeling – one for each of them. For Elsa it is haunted. Haunted by what they found inside that canyon, and haunted by her past which is dragging her deeper into herself and further from reality. Jay the word is helpless. He is seeing Elsa pull away from him, refuse to acknowledge him, and try as he may he cannot find any way to help, to reach beyond the barrier that is building between the two of them. He is losing his sister and he is helpless in preventing the loss. So the two go through the motions, while they work out what is happening with each individually.

Both might have regrets, and like all of us when we do, we know that there is no way to go back and undo what it was that led to these feelings. Remorse is a strong emotion and for some it is strong enough that they withdraw and leave the real world behind, lost within their minds, lost with the fear, the regrets, and guilt. With the history Elsa has personally it has led down a road that could destroy her in the end. Jay watches and can see the deterioration. Still life moves on and the routine of life within “The Deeps” is still with them. This week we begin with Jay and his day. And for your reading pleasure is part 2:

Jay continued to monitor the remotes they had set up at the canyon entrance, and the area around the camp. He needed to know if there would be someone coming who would be making contact with this particular raider clan. He figured they had to have some type of network, an underground of contacts that allowed them to keep in touch with others of their kind. No one lived totally isolated. Even their village had contact with the caravans and members traveled to the trading centers to buy and sell. These raiders, and their ilk, had to have something similar. Places hidden from the common folk, places where they did their trading, and the updating of information, and possibly to plan their attacks.

So far there had been nothing other than the carrion eaters. They would arrive tripping the alert alarm where he would come back to see what may have arrived only to find it to be some animal or bird taking a meal from what was there. As this continued he eventually began to ignore the alarms and come in periodically and run the recordings to see if anything had changed. It was late in one of the days where he had been eating the evening meal, and was running through that day’s videos when he stopped mid-bite. Putting his fork down, he stopped the playback, backed it up, and ran it at normal speed.

From the hidden cam set at the entrance of the canyon he saw three approaching. They appeared to be hesitant, and spread out making the approach as careful as they could. It was obvious they knew this place because they came directly to the entrance and did no searching as they approached. They stopped and the one who could have been the leader said something to the other two who only nodded. One of them remained out in the desert, while the other two began the trek down the canyon trail. Shortly they were out of sight from the one feed and it would be a short time before they reached the next one.

His concentration was interrupted when Elsa came in. He looked up at her and smiled. She still looked like hell, although she seemed to be coming around. Pointing to the monitor he stated, “Looks like someone has finally showed up to see what may have happened. I’m watching them now.” He could see some curiosity from her as she got close enough that she could watch over his shoulder, but she remained silent. With the way this had affected her he wasn’t sure what to do – whether to continue to track down the raiders or to leave it where it presently was. One thing for sure he knew he couldn’t do it by himself. And if she remained as she was, even if she went with him, he might as well be by himself.

He turned back to the monitor with his meal forgotten for now. It could always be reheated in the microwave later. He could hear Elsa breathing as she continued to watch and then suddenly she turned and left again with no word or explanation. He had a sinking feeling that once the discovery was made of finding the dead child, that her heart was no longer into avenging their family and friends. He could understand it. To not believe the raiders could have families was stupid. And yet when one saw what they did to others it was an easy conclusion to make. Why would any woman want to be a part of something so cruel and evil?

Maybe it would be something he’d understand later in his life. But for now it was an unexpected revelation. And no he hadn’t wanted to bring death and destruction down upon children. Most were innocent, unaware of what was happening in the real world. Still that didn’t change the fact that the adults were not innocent at all. So was there a way to take out the raiders themselves, and not touch their families? And if it came down to it, could they maybe rescue the children, the young ones who were completely unaware and eliminate the rest? He had no answers, but at least he could think about it. Yet, right now it was important to watch the feeds. He watched as Elsa disappeared through the doorway out into the hallway and headed in the direction of her room. Sighing he wished he could see his old sister once again, but the scars ran deep, and it seemed that they had come out again, once she had seen that dead child.

He found he had to stop the video once again and run it back so he could watch the two enter the camp area. When he did he watched as the two stopped in mid-stride, look around at the destroyed camp, make a quick circuit around the area and quickly leave. Soon he saw them meet up with the third, discuss something for a short time and then head straight out in the desert once again, and finally disappear from the view of the feeds. At least he had a rough idea of the direction. Not that it mattered at this time. There was a very good chance that in the end it would only be information, something that could have a future use. He truly suspected that their days of being avengers of the innocent were over.

He kept going over in his mind what Elsa had said about them being no better than the raiders, and while, during their attack, it had felt good to give back, he had to admit in some ways she had been right. Still what was one to do? How did one handle the bad element that existed in this world? If there was no one willing to take it to the raiders couldn’t they eventually destroy all that is good? He had no answers, only questions. So if, in the end, they couldn’t bring death and destruction down upon the raiders, what could they do to help? There had to be something, but what?

* * *

Elsa woke once again finding the pillow wet. For the third time this week she’d been crying in her sleep. The only thing she could attribute it to was finding that child dead, and knowing she and Jay had been responsible for her death. She suspected, when she had entered that silent dead camp it had triggered her own memories she had buried deep inside of her, when she had witnessed the destruction of their own town, followed by being captured by the raiders, and then all the unspeakable things they had done to her and the others that had been captured with her.

When her brother had presented the idea of giving back to the outlaws and what they were doing to others it sounded great. Yes, she had to think about it, but all along she knew she would be for it. After all, who wouldn’t want to get a little revenge against the ones who had hurt you, destroyed all you knew, and when they were finished, to move on and do it again? All the training they did should have given her a hint of what could come out of it, but when one’s mind is made up, the little details seem to be ignored. Little details like when one takes up arms in the end the innocent would suffer. It was part of life. There would never be any way one could guarantee that only the bad ones, the outlaws would suffer.

So when they returned to the encampment they had destroyed those little things were pointed out to her immediately, and she realized at that very moment she no longer had a desire to continue. She no longer wanted to bring vengeance down upon the raiders. Let others do it. She was finished, done, and she hoped somewhere in the near future the tears and nightmares would end and she could get on with her life, scarred as it was.

Sitting on the edge of the bed in her nightgown she could feel the redness and burning in her eyes, and she felt as if she hadn’t slept at all. Maybe a shower will refresh me. If not . . . I don’t know . . . maybe I’ll just stay in here today. No, I really can’t do that either. There’s a lot that needs to be done and I can’t just stay here acting like a spoiled brat because things didn’t go the way I thought they should. Still she couldn’t move. That took energy and right at this moment she didn’t have any.

Finally she pushed up off the bed, got her clothes together for the day, moved on into the bathroom, turned on the shower, disrobed and walked under the refreshing hot stream of water. As the hot water washed away the wariness that seemed to penetrate deep into her soul, her mind drifted in many directions never staying on any particular subject for very long. Eventually her train of thought moved in the direction of the fact that she and Jay were orphans, thanks to the raiders. She began to wonder what happened to others like them, and she had to admit she didn’t know.

In fact if she wanted to be honest with herself this was something she had never thought about. Since she, and her brother of course, had come from a large loving family, and the town had been almost family, so such thoughts of others without would have been something foreign. I guess it takes living it to understand it. I miss mother every day. I miss the spat my sisters I had, or the fights between us – my brothers and sisters. And the many times we came together as an extended family celebrating some important family event. All making me who I am, and in a short time having all of this stuff taken away forever.

She exited the shower, toweled off, got dressed, but all of it had been just going through the motions. Her mind was far away on those days in the past before the world had changed forever. As she walked down one of the hallways towards one of the kitchens to grab breakfast she found the beginning of an idea forming in her mind. She grabbed a bowl of cereal and went out to the tables, sat down, and began to automatically eat not really paying attention. She was deep in thought staring out at nothing when she realized Jay had joined her, and she had no idea how long he had been sitting there.

* * *

Jay had come out of his room a few minutes behind his sister and could see she was already in the kitchen. It would take a few for him to catch up with her, but wasn’t sure if he wanted to or not. She was like a dark cloud on a sunny day. He worried once again that all the bad that had happened to her was back and fresh in her mind. Again, like when he had saved her life, he still felt inadequate. He couldn’t fix it then, and he knew he couldn’t fix it now. Even with all the knowledge that was available and at their fingertips it really hadn’t changed anything at all. She still was that lost little girl with those deep scars and fears. And even after all this time she refused to say any more, yet he felt it might help if she could just talk it out.

But he understood why, or at least he thought he did. He was a male, and it had been males that had hurt her, so it was something that would be almost impossible to do, to talk to him even though he was her brother. She needed another woman, and he suspected the best for the job wasn’t available. She was dead, and had been for many years. He suspected the best for the job would have been their mother. And with them being the only ones here there was no other who could fill the bill, or help.

He finally reached the kitchen and saw Elsa was already sitting at one of the tables with a bowl of cereal, although it appeared to be mostly untouched. Looking closer he could see her staring out in the distance at nothing.

He thought a moment, grabbed a bowl of cereal himself, not that such a thing would hold him for long, and joined her, sitting opposite. He could tell she was completely unaware that he had joined her. Wonder what she’s thinking about? He smiled and asked, “Penny for your thoughts?” He knew it was an old saying, but to be honest he really didn’t know what a penny was. She looked at him and appeared to be surprised he was there.

“Jay? When did you get here? And what did you just ask me?”

“Nothing really. I could see you were deep in thought and wondered if there was anything I could do to help. And while we are talking I’ll ask, how was your night?” He could see the redness in her eyes and knew it had been another rough night, but again he was helpless.

She could see that lying about it wasn’t going to work. She really hadn’t looked too close in the mirror when she left and suspected her eyes were probably bright red. They sure were raw from her side. She shrugged and said, “Another bad night.”

He looked down at her bowl of cereal and found it had turned to mush from being ignored, stood up grabbed it and said, “Here, let me get another. This would taste horrible.” As he headed back to the kitchen he asked once again, “Is there anything I can do?”

She knew he meant well, but there wasn’t anything he could do to help, other than to be here for her, and he was. Shaking her head, she simply said, “No.”

He already knew the answer, since it had been the same one from all the way back. Still someday it might change. He doubted it, but at least, and as far as he was concerned, he would keep trying.

* * *

We’ve all been there, been in Jay’s shoes. Walking on egg shells attempting to find a way beyond the hurt and pain, to find a way to fix it, to only fail. For Elsa her life is one of sorrow, of pain, and horrible memories that are dominating and controlling her. Neither can reach the other, and this inability can lead to a break that neither will be able to mend. It can make a day seem too long, and nights a place to stay away from. Yet, time is unconcerned by such things and will continue to move whether our desire is there for it to stop. Next week we continue towards the conclusion of this short story and the book with part 3. Have a great week. God Bless! (fdbrant.com)

Reconciliation, Part 1

For me, as a reader, I find that as I approach the end of a book or story that there can be a sadness, since the fictional world I have been immersed in is ending. Many times I look for sequels, to continue enjoying these worlds authors have created. And I can be disappointed when I find that either there are none, or this one finishes the series. And if you, as the reader of this story had the book in your hand you would know that this story would be concluding shortly. That the world of Jay, Elsa, and Ed would be finished. And if you were one who enjoyed this world I know personally I’d be wanting to see more. At this time there is nothing beyond. There are two reasons for this – first it is unpublished and as such you as readers are the first, and secondly because of this there has been no time for a sequel to have been written.

This week we begin part one of the final episode, the final short story, the final chapter of Unexpected, Unplanned, and into the Unknown. And here we learn how their past actions affected them. After all it really is a serious thing to contemplate the taking of human lives. It is easy to be a pacificist when there are others who protect us from what evil exists in this world. Yet, when such protection fails can we still be pacificists when confronted with the type of violence as they were? Would we continue in those beliefs, or would we fight for our very lives? Fortunately, for many of us it is a question we don’t have to answer. Yet I feel the reactions of the two protagonists are realistic. (All the episodes or short stories can be found in the sidebar on the right under Short Stories) This week we begin the final episode, Reconciliation:

Both of them remembered how it was after their attack. At this point neither knew how successful they had been. It had been a night attack, and while the engagement appeared to be short, in the end, more time had passed than they thought. Neither got a lot of sleep being on an adrenaline rush. So the next day they remained where they were to see if any more of the raiders would be exiting the canyon. The sun was heading towards the distant hills marking the close of another day. Jay and Elsa remained there all that day continuing to watch the skies where the raiders had their hidden camp. The smoke that had come out of that canyon was finally beginning to disappear. And the silence that surrounded them was almost overwhelming. And while that last few hours in that silence seemed to drag, it continued to move on unconcerned by the amount of death and destruction that happened around it the night before.

It had been crazy there for a short period of time. Well, it seemed like a short period of time to them while they were involved in the fire fight. With the explosions, the mines being set off by the retreating and attacking raiders, and the attempt by both of them to keep all of this in their sight and not be flanked by someone who may have figured a way around the ambush – the night vision goggles had been the deciding factor. But eventually silence reigned supreme, the dust and smoke outside of the canyon, and here on the desert floor, settled down. The stench of death, of burned flesh, and the smell of the smoke from both the exploding mines and burning bodies drifted off as the desert breezes picked up in the morning sunrise and moved the odors away from the sight of destruction.

Both of them felt drained, tired, beat, and as the silence continued to assail them, they found their attention and alertness beginning to fade, with the need to sleep, to rest and replace their flagging energy reserves. Neither had expected this. Even with the descriptions of battles, the visual recordings they had studied back in The Deeps, none of it had prepared them for actual battle. Yes, the classes they had taken to prepare them for this had warned them that there were no way such things could actually prepare them, but they hadn’t believed it. Yet, now after living through their first, they had to admit the instructors were correct. The chaos, the noise, the smells, the intensity, and yes the sounds of death, and of the ones who died slowly, ate away at their humanity. Both wondered how the raiders, the ones they had just brought down, could do this. It made no sense.

Jay, looking at Elsa said, “Look why don’t you nod out for a few. I’ll wake you just before sunset. If nothing has happened by then we’ll recon the canyon and make sure we were completely successful. There can be no survivors.”

Shaking her head, “No, that’s all right. I think if I fell asleep right now I’d begin having those vivid nightmares all over again. This brought it back to me, even though we were the ones dishing it out. You really want to go in there?”

“Not really, but I really don’t think we have much of a choice. Someone could still be alive in there waiting for darkness and then try to escape, and we can’t allow that. If any of what we did here, and how we did it gets out then it will be close to impossible to do it again. So it has to be everybody period. And no I don’t look forward to the idea of being up close and personal to finish this, but if it is necessary I . . . we must. With this attack we’ve officially began our war against the evil in this world. Whether this is right or wrong doesn’t matter now, since it is done.

“If any are to escape and we have been seen then it will make us targets for any of the raider clans out there. And there is no way we can know every one of them or every individual who resides within those clans. So any time we take on a target like this it has to be total – no witnesses, no one left alive. And if either of us gets squeamish then all we have to remember is what these and others like them have done to our town, our village, and our people. In a sense we’re being generous by just killing them. You know personally that they have and will take it much further to include torture and rape. And however much pain and agony it causes their victims it doesn’t matter. All we’re doing is killing them as fast as we can.

“Whether this makes us better than they are, I don’t know. But I feel there has to be some type of justice in this world, someone willing to try and set things right. For whatever the reason we were chosen. We learned of the old technology which has allowed us a great advantage over these killers, rapists, and torturers. I just hope we are up to the task, and that in the end we do not become so hardened that such sights mean nothing.”

Shaking her head Elsa said, “Quite a speech, Jay. But how does one not get sick over watching people die like this? Yeah I know I was a victim of theirs and through whatever providence escaped. And I don’t know how or why I ended up finding you and where you had been hiding. So maybe this is what we are supposed to do. Still, as I just said, this makes me physically ill. I don’t care whether they were good or bad people, only that they were people. They had their lives and future ahead of them. And who knows, maybe some would have had a change of heart and left. But we’ve made sure that none of it is a possibility. We have made sure their future ended today.

“Are we right doing this? I don’t know. Do I feel good about doing this? To be honest I feel numb. I thought I’d feel great getting some payback to ones like this . . . but I’m feeling nothing, nothing at all. I know we’ve opened the war between us and the others, and probably there’s no turning back. Still, even now, I’m not sure about this. Can we go back? Of course not. But before we do this again I’m going to have to do some serious soul-searching.” She stopped a moment and saw the shadows lengthening. “I guess we had better go in and check our handy work. Looks like it won’t be long before the sun sets behind the mountains. I suspect the canyon is already deep in shadows.”

“Okay, yeah you’re right. We have a lot to think about. So shall we see if this has been as complete as it needs to be?”

                                                              * * *

Two weeks had gone by since their successful attack on the raider camp. Elsa still was abnormally quiet, and had a white pallor to her. It was something that worried Jay, but he understood, not that it helped. This was something she would have to come to terms with on her own. Once they had gotten back to The Deeps, they had discussed what had worked and what seemed to be a little weak. But it couldn’t cover the shock when they entered that silent camp with the dead lying all around. Had it been only men then maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad. Still for both of them, other than when the village was destroyed, neither had seen so much death concentrated in one place.

Elsa caught her breath when she saw the dead child, a young girl. He could see that seeing this brought Elsa immediately back to the attack on the village, and the killing of everyone who was there, other than the ones the raiders had taken back to their camp for their pleasure. She froze and refused to go on, and there was nothing he could do to persuade her. So he had her rig up the sensors and small cameras, find a way up to the top where they had seen the lookouts, and find a place to place a small antenna so they could monitor the canyon entrance. He continued his search through the camp and found no one breathing. Even all the animals – pets and such – were gone.

He had to admit that this scene of destruction left its mark on him also. And if he really wanted to admit it, it brought images back from what he had found when he had returned to the town after its end, finding the town burning, and all the bodies lying as they fell. And what made this one worse – and he knew no one in the raider camp – lay in the fact that he and Elsa were responsible. He knew since they had been back Elsa had only been going through the motions. It seemed more like she was sleepwalking than living.

Like back on that day when he had left to find them food and other needs, he worried she’d go over the deep end and he’d lose her forever. Again, like that time, he couldn’t find the words to console her, to make her better, to help. She, like he, went into this with their eyes open. Still when someone had never done anything like this, how could one claim to know? He wondered, as he suspected she, how could the ones who were raiders do this kind of thing and not have it affect them? For who knew how many times he looked upon the haunted face of his sister and asked once again, “Elsa, are you okay, is there anything I can do?”

She would look through him as if he wasn’t there, just shake her head, and then leave. And every time she would leave he felt that she was withdrawing further into herself – not a good thing. Once he had finished working that camp, he didn’t pass on to her that there were other children, and not only that but many women – women who were probably the mothers of these dead children, that were scattered like fallen leaves in the fall. The one body of that young girl, probably three or four was enough for her.

Shaking his head he had no answers, and again hoped time would be the healer. Still with all that had happened to the two of them in the last few years, it just might take a lifetime for them to come to terms with it. With these thoughts, for whatever the reason, his mind went back to what Ed had shown them about their history or the time of what was considered the last days. What the ones in The Deeps witnessed should have been enough to drive any sane person crazy. And while what had happened here was by their own hands, in comparison, it really meant little in the overall scheme of things. Not that taking lives by their own hands was something to take lightly. Only that by doing this they probably had saved countless other lives – lives that would have been at the mercy of these raiders.

 

When they had carried through their plans and in the end been successful, Elsa felt only relief. What she had expected to feel, she really hadn’t known. Still she was sure it wasn’t relief – elation possibly, but not relief. After the fight, and the time they waited she found she was exhausted. So much so that the longer she remained in the ready position the harder it was to stay awake. She knew she had dozed a few times before Jay told her to go ahead and sleep. And when they finally entered that silent camp neither of them knew what they would find.

The last thing she expected was finding that dead girl. In her mind she was fighting raiders, the worst scum of the earth – ones who could care less about others, and would kill just for fun, or to watch the fear from their victims before doing to them as they pleased. All of these images were dashed when she saw her in death. It meant that no matter how bad these people were, they had families too. And at this point she and Jay had done to them exactly what the dead raiders had done to others. No, we didn’t torture and rape, but did this make what we did right?

At this moment she had no answers, and until she came to terms with what she and Jay did, she would forever feel remorse and guilt. Once they had returned she found the fears and nightmares which had faded over time had returned, and she would find herself waking up screaming as those images from her past, ones she thought were buried deep inside of her, would return – causing her to relive her own time of personal terror.

* * *

Many times within ourselves and our minds we build up an image of some future event imagining how we will feel, how it will be. Yet most of the time what we imagined and what becomes reality are far apart. Even past experiences don’t appear to help. So for our protagonists they learn that the outcome of their actions is vastly different from their expectations. In fact, for Elsa, it brings the past back, which is the last thing she wanted or expected. Next week we continue with part 2. Have a great week and God Bless! (fdbrant.com)

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