Light and Dark

Based upon the writing prompt located at A Writing Prompt a Day

They say that in order for there to be good in the world there must be evil. Balance must be maintained. The creation of the most vile causes the birth of the most holy. Sinner begets saint. Darkness begets light. Whereas most people are grey – light souls with a streak of darkness – there are those for whom there is no light or dark. And there are those that go beyond, those for whom the words light and dark have no meaning. The darker the blackness of the damned, the brighter the light of the redeemer. My wife, Miranda, was a soul of blinding light. I was not.

Miranda would stop to talk to people who appeared lost, sad or confused.  She would help people cross the street, reach items on high shelves and carry parcels to their cars.  Children flocked to her as if she were the only light in a darkened room.  Everyone loved her, but no one more than I.

In a bleak and angry world of my own creation, she appeared as the lighthouse to anchor my soul and keep me human. She reached out to me, to me!  The blackness within my soul was a searing cold that burnt all that touched it and yet, when Miranda held me close there was no cold nor black, no depths of despair, only bright glorious love.  She showed me the heights of love and how two people,  so different in temperament, could find a common ground, could find solace and comfort with each other.

She gave me so much that given an infinite amount of time I could never describe the gifts that she left me with every single day that we were together.  She gave me the gift of compassion, the ability sympathize with my fellow human beings and express my concern for their sufferings.  She gave me the gift of altruism, where I truly felt concern for others and strived to make their lives easier.

She gave me love.

A love that I had never known existed, that I had never known could exist.  A love so pure and free that I drowned in its expression and was reborn a better man.  I strove to make myself worthy of her love.  I did my best to return her love in every way I could.  I felt that my love for her was never what she gave me in return, falling short of what I wanted to give her, but she didn’t care.  She loved me for the person I was, the person I wanted to be and the person that I would be.

She was, most assuredly, the brightest star that banished all shadows.

But, as darkness begats light, so does light begat darkness.  As Miranda dragged me from the screaming abyss of darkness the universe was out of balance and, in an effort to balance the universe, a new evil was born.  An evil that made my previous self seem pale in comparison.

All of this came to me as I stared down at the still, cold form of my wife, her head nestled in my lap.  The sounds of sirens approached, police and ambulance coming together.  They were too late, both of them, for my wife was gone, as was her killer.  The darkness that Miranda had kept at bay in my soul leaped upwards and threatened to consume me, threatened to fill me with a burning cold of hatred.

But, within that void, within that black soulless night that filled me there lay a shining beacon of light.  My memories of her would not fade.  My memories of her would keep the darkness from completely filling me.  She would survive, within me, I would survive because of that.

Revenge is black.  But justice?  I do not know if justice is dark or light, but I intend to find out.

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Review: Unseen

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Unseen by Amber Lynn Natusch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

*** Reader copy obtained through the publisher ***

Unseen the second book in the Unborn series by Amber Lynn Natusch continues the story of Khara and her discovery of who/what she is. Written in the same style as the first book, the characters are somewhat stuck in the same mold as they were in the first book. While only a brief period of time has passed since Unborn, the main characters, with the exception of Oz, have not changed that much and as a result the novel is depending upon the storyline to capture the readers attention. And, for the most part, it does.

The story is different enough to keep your attention and yet familiar enough not to require you to think too hard while reading the novel. To be honest, my novel reading time is done in 15 – 30 minutes chunks of time so the novel needs to allow me to read in small segments of time and not feel lost or out of touch. Unseen allows me to do that.

My biggest complaint is that the ending did not feel like an ending. Like some other novels I have read recently, Unborn seems like part of a larger novel and not necessarily a completely self contained story. The last chapter is most definitely the setup to the next novel and could have actually been used as the opening chapter of the subsequent novel.

That being said, it was still an enjoyable read and I look forward to the next novel in the series.

Review: Unborn

Unborn

Unborn by Amber Lynn Natusch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

*** Rated 3.5 / 5. Rounded up for Goodreads ***
*** Copy provided by the publisher ***

The Unborn by Amber Lynn Natusch is an interesting book in that one of the major premises in the book is the fact that Hades is actually a good father while the goods that we traditionally associated with “good” aren’t necessarily that good. Up is down and left is right and nothing is every as it seems.

One of the difficulties in writing a novel is being able to give each character his or her own distinct voice such that the reader is able to immediately identify the character by what they say and how they say it. Ms Natusch does a good job of differentiating the different characters within Unborn and imbuing them with a distinct personality. The only character she has trouble with is Ozereus and, unfortunately, this is one of the main characters.

Because she knows the changes that Ozereus is going to go through the character is somewhat muddy in the beginning and never really crystallizes into a unique character until closer to the end. Our protagonist, Khara, is also a bit confusing in her reactions to Ozereus (Oz) and this also shows throughout the novel.

I appreciate the effort that she spent working on the character of Khara and how her upbringing has shaped her decisions and her attitudes. The pain of her early years, the agony suffered at the hands of others, all of these things combined to create the character that came to life on the pages.

I look forward to the sequel to see how the characters change and develop now that their big reveal has shown them for who they really are.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Review: The Fold: A Novel

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The Fold: A Novel by Peter Clines
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

*** Advanced Reader Copy received from the Publisher ***

The Fold: A Novel surprised me in many ways. Peter Clines previous successes revolved around the EX series of novels with superheroes and zombies. The Fold: A Novel is about ordinary people and how they change both subtly and, occasionally, in dramatic fashion.

A sweeping, world-saving epic, the novel is surprisingly focused on just a single individual: Mike Erikson, a man with the ability to recall anything that he has seen. But Mike doesn’t want this gift/curse, he just wants to be “normal”. And he is relatively successful at being normal until an old friend of his dangles a situation in front of him that they both know he cannot resist. Apparently a group of DARPA researchers have discovered something better than teleportation, the ability to “fold” space/time and create a doorway to another place. This doorway, dubbed The Albuquerque Door, is what forces Mike to use his perfect memory.

The characters in the novel are well conceived, quirky, and fit together like pieces of a jigsaw. I can envision the group working together towards a common goal as they feed off each other.

The novel, beyond the first chapter, has a slow build up, but by no stretch of the imagination is it boring. When the novel shifts gears there is so much momentum in the story that you are swept up and just hang on for the ride.

Combining the best of the twentieth-century disaster novels and twenty-first century writing, The Fold: A Novel introduces two new heroes into the world: Mark Erikson and Peter Clines.

View all my review on Goodreads

Flash Fiction – Death Personified

Based upon the writing prompt located at A Writing Prompt A Day

They said that the pain would go away in a few months as the bones knitted together. They said that the memory of that night would fade away and I’d be able to sleep better, hopefully without medication. They said that I would probably be able to walk again, with luck, and patience.  They said a lot of things, but they never said what happened to her.

I closed my eyes in order to concentrate better.  I let the sounds of the various machines around me fade into the background as I concentrated on remembering that night.  Remembering all of the details of Saturday night.  Last Saturday night?  The world faded, bit by bit, the sounds muted by his own breathing.

It had been a beautiful Saturday night.  The moon was out and warmth of summer kept the night comfortably warm, even down by the dock where Meghan and I were walking.  Hand in hand.  Almost looking at each other more than minding where we were walking.  I stumbled as my toe caught a raised board and Meghan reached out, faster than I would have ever thought possible and grabbed my arm, preventing me from falling.  We looked at each other for a moment before she laughed.

“You really need to watch where you’re walking Wade.  You can’t have women saving your butt all the time.”  The corners of her mouth inched upward in a little smirk, but the humour in her eyes made it all a playful jest.

“Maybe I did it on purpose,” I said, moving closer to her.  I took the hand that was still on my arm and placed it over my heart, letting her feel the rapid pounding within my chest.  “Maybe I did it in order to get close to you.”

I tilted my head downward slightly as I came in closer, looking in her eyes for any sign of rejection.  All I saw was the unadulterated love that we had for each other.  I put my hand underneath her chin and tilted her head up slightly.  I lightly caressed her lips with mine – the barest of touches, yet she breathed in quickly as if both expecting it and surprised by the tenderness.  I moved forward again and gently nibbled her plump bottom lip.  Her head tilted back and she pressed her body tight to mine.  I fed on her emotion and started kissing her along the chin, aiming for the spot on her neck below her ear.  Her weak spot.

I didn’t really register the sound of the footfalls or the sound of the gun being cocked, but Meghan did.  I found myself being thrown to the ground as Meghan tried to get me out of harm’s way.  My nose hit the wooden walkway and the sound of breaking cartilage penetrated my skull.  The sound of gunshots quickly followed.

I looked up in time to see Meghan breaking the neck of the man in front of her and using his body as a shield against the next attacker.  As she got closer she literally threw the bullet ridden body at him, causing him to pause in his firing.  Meghan closed in and quickly dispatched him as well.

I stood up, my hand reaching for my handkerchief so that I could plug the hole previously known as my nose and stop the bleeding.  The carnage before me was complete, but that’s what you get when you mess with my babe.  I started to smile at Meghan when I saw the third attacker throw something in our direction.  I had time to scream her name before it exploded and flew backwards, hitting my head on one of the pier posts.

I regained consciousness enough to see her body being dragged off before succumbing to the darkness.

They haven’t told me anything about Meghan.  I need to find her.

I will find her.

Flash Fiction – Home

Written based on the prompt at “A Writing Prompt A Day” for February 13th, 2015.

He stared at her white blonde hair cascading down her back.  In the dim early morning light that was all he could really see of her as the black jacket and pants she wore reflected almost none of the faint starlight that came through the clouds.  The desert had faded into rolling grasslands and the walking was getting more difficult as the hills increased in size.  He glanced at his watch, the glow in the dark hands telling it was 4:30.  Fifteen minutes to the apocalypse.

“Trin, we need to find some cover.  We’ve got fifteen minutes.”

“I know. We’re about to crest this ridge and at the very least we should be able to find some cover in the lee of the hill.” Trin didn’t pause or slow her stride, she kept on walking.

Race took a deep breath and continued following her away from Home, where he had spent all of his seventeen years.  He glanced back, but from this distance all he saw were evenly spaced lights stuck to a large black wall that rose from the ground high into the sky where a single beacon stood guard.

From the other side of the wall that black mass was painted and decorated with scenes from a world that no longer existed except in old books and movies.  Pine trees and waterfalls covered the wall and hid the sand and grassy plains that stretched in every direction from Home.  Until Trin had shown him the truth he thought that the walls were images of distant lands that he could one day visit.

When she told him the truth and proved it by showing him a window in the wall his world had collapsed. It had only been through her strength of will that he was alive.  He had spiraled down into a bout of black depression that had threatened to consume him and eat him alive.

But Trin had been prepared.  She kept him focused on living.  She kept him focused on wanting to live. She was the one thing in the mass of lies that he still believed in. Trin was not happy with just living with the lie, she wanted to expose the people of Home to the truth or at least get them asking more questions.

“Over here,” she said, moving towards a natural stone outcropping.  Neither of them thought that they would need the protection, but better safe than sorry his Dad always said.  He crouched down behind the rock, next to Trin, and stole one more glance at his watch.

Less than a minute.

“This won’t hurt anybody, right?”

Trin looked at him and for the first time since he had started asking this same question he saw doubt in her eyes.  She didn’t answer, but he didn’t need to hear her to understand that this tim she didn’t know the answer.  They both turned to face Home and waited.

The flash that erupted from the top of Home temporarily blinded him, and when he could see again the ball of light had faded but was still bright against the night sky. And then, as if a curtain was dropping down all of the lights of on the wall of Home started going out..

Trin stood and dusted off her pants. With one last look at Home, visible only due to the glowing ball at the top of the structure, she turned and started walking away from where she had lived all her life.

“Come on, Race, I want to be farther away when they find my message.”

“Your message?” He squeaked.

She paused and looked at him with a devilish glint in her eyes and then continued walking.

Review: Vision in Silver

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Vision in Silver is the third book by Anne Bishop following Meg Corbyn and the Others – following Written in Red and Murder of Crows – in an alternate reality where humans are nowhere near the top of the food chain.

Meg Corbyn is a cassandra sangue, a “blood prophet”, who, through cutting their skin and bleeding, can foretell a possible future. This makes the cassandra sangue and their prophecies a commodity to be bought and sold. The first book dealt with Meg and her assimilation into society, both the Courtyard of the Others and human society. The second book dealt with the cassandra sangue and their abuse at the hands of other humans. The third book deals with further repercussions of the actions in the second book as well as a continuation of the entire integration plot line.

Those who are expecting a lot of Meg Corbyn in this novel will be disappointed as the focus of this novel is not so much on Meg as it is on Simon and the Others. The interactions between Meg and Simon continue to change both human and Other as their relationship continues to evolve. For me, the loss of focus on Meg was something I was not expecting as the character of Meg was very endearing to me. Her childlike perspective on the world and her naive approach to everything made me want to care and protect Meg. Her maturity in this book has improved and it would have been nice to see how this maturity manifests itself in the new world that she is creating around herself. Alas, the author decided to concentrate more on Simon, the Others and the cast of characters that Ms. Bishop has added to the novel.

The cast of characters, while most are unique and disparate individuals within the novel, sometimes have a tendency of blurring together making it difficult to differentiate amongst the cast. The cast is definitely larger in this novel, introducing a number of new characters and increasing the complexity of the novel and the overall series.

That being said, the world that Anne Bishop has created is vibrant and full of wonder. As each novel progresses we gain a better understanding of the world that Meg lives in, but at the same time that it provides answers it exposes additional mysteries. The characters are rich and even those with what you would expect are straightforward motivations show surprising ability to adapt to the new order.

The story of the cassandra sangue and the Humans First and Last continue to intertwine and the results show the depth of cruelty in the humans of this world. The story also shows, however, the depth of resolve, understanding and compassion that humans have, exemplified by the one human who has been the most trod upon – Meg.

If you liked the first two novels then you should like Vision in Silver. If you have not read the other novels in the series then I recommend that you read them first and then follow up with Vision in Silver. While this novel could be read as a stand-alone story, it is best enjoyed with the background of the first two novels still in your mind.  And as always, the cover is exquisitely done and, to me at least, really makes Meg come to life.