Why You Should Read Books

When I was a kid I hated reading. It was largely because I hated the books our school was making us read. While parents and kids are kind of losing their minds over the homeschooling situation, and this quarantine in general, I think this is actually an opportunity. Reading is obviously important. Books are our window into history, science, mythology, philosophy, and speculation, not to mention God’s revealed Truth, in a way that things like movies, documentaries, and YouTube can’t be.

As I said, I hated the books we were reading in school. All through elementary and at least through middle school, we read something every year about slavery in America. While it was unjust and cruel, by the time I was ten I just didn’t care any more. Homeschooling, I think, is an opportunity to teach kids once that slavery happened in America, but more importantly, it still happens all over the world. Use this as an opportunity to read together about different countries, different religious, and different cultures.

For history class, download some books on your computers, tablets or whatever, and read historical fiction about stuff your kids actually find interesting. For English class, read a couple of books, and have your kids compare stuff they actually enjoy reading to a piece written in the 1920’s that might be in the same or a similar genre. Have them write about what it might be like to have lived in the year 1020, or to live in 3020. Obviously scale these ideas to what is age appropriate.

I think, though, that traditional forms of teaching just won’t work. If your kid doesn’t like reading, but he/she is super interested in mythology or black holes, read books about mythology or black holes. I suggest all of this because I love to read, and I love stories, yes, but also because I think right now, reading and learning together is a good way to keep everyone a little closer together and a little more sane. I honestly do think that book club has been great for my family. I hated Pride and Prejudice, but I love seeing my extended family once a week, discussing the book for ten minutes (which was what happened, at least with the last book), and then complaining and joking for an hour.

I think it also gave us a sense of having a task to complete. We knew that it would take us six weeks to complete Pride, so we could think about those six weeks in terms of finishing a book instead of an indefinite abyss of “what’s next?” This summer, even when the official school year ends, I’d pick out two or three books, or one longer one, just for fun, that will be the kids’ summer reading, but will also be a time keeper. If you and your kids really honestly dislike reading, though, I saw that Harry Potter is on Spotify to listen to, and you can’t go wrong with that.

How To Erase The Smudge

Redemption stories are popular, but they’re usually more obvious or straight forward in fiction than in real life, and naturally, the main character is the focus. Real life redemption stories are usually much more nuanced because real life people are more complicated than they are in fiction. If a person messes up or does something that hurts them or others, it can take a lot to make things right. Furthermore, redemption doesn’t look the same for or to everyone.

More often than not, redemption is more like a web than a ladder in the sense that one doesn’t simply climb out of a mess they’ve made. It takes the assistance, and sometimes invasion of other people. From a quick Google search, I found this definition for redemption: “the action of regaining or gaining possession of something in exchange for payment, or clearing a debt.” For a kid, this usually translates to having to say “I’m sorry” to a sibling or a friend they’ve wronged in some small way. A lot of times for adults, the thing being regained might be their reputation, or in worse cases, their freedom after committing a crime and spending some time in prison.

Sometimes, redemption looks like regaining right-standing with a specific person or group of people who have been wronged. In this case really, the focus of a person’s real life redemption story seems to actually be the person wronged. Everyone is part of a redemption story, whether it be their own or someone else’s. It is easy to assume that one’s redemption has to be earned, and to some degree, I think it does because it involves regaining a person’s trust; but redemption is only possible when forgiveness is offered. This means that it isn’t always possible, and why forgiveness is so important.

The person wronged has scars, sometimes really terrible ones, but whether they know it or not, the person in need of redemption also incurs them as a result of what they’ve done. If someone asks for forgiveness, and it isn’t granted, their wound will likely be made worse. This can often result in them doing something else that hurts them or another person, or adopting bad habits. Sometimes someone will realize they have done something wrong to a specific person or group of people, but will attempt to redeem themselves in a way that does not involve asking for forgiveness. The problem with this approach is that a particular problem (a wound) is not engaged with, and cannot be solved (healed).

Redemption is a relational matter. If a person attempts to redeem himself/herself without asking forgiveness, they are ultimately ignoring the real problem. This could be a simple matter of forgetting that they did something wrong, or they could not realize that there was a problem in the first place. In this case, it is a matter of perception. What might be a serious grievance to one person, might be trivial to another. Either way, the problem needs to be dealt with, and in that case, the person who has been hurt might need to be the one to initiate a conversation. Unfortunately, that means looking at old scars that don’t want to be looked at, and it might not mean that the person in need of forgiveness even asks for it.

Either way, forgiveness must be offered, and ultimately, regardless of whether the person in need of redemption asks for or even accepts it or not, for wounds to be healed, it needs to be granted. This is because, as already stated, redemption is a relational matter, and a person’s redemption story isn’t ultimately about them. A person’s redemption story is about the person wronged. When forgiveness is not granted, old wounds fester and remained unhealed. When it is granted, even if it takes a while, at least for the person wronged, the problem can be allowed to slip into the past, and no longer has to remain an ugly smudge on the present.

Certain Death

This is a fictional reflection of the Gospel reading from this past weekend: the story of the woman caught in adultery. Most of it I made up since only a small part of her story is told in the Gospel. I just thought it would be interesting to see what might have taken place after she walked away.

We had only just got married, Isaac and me. Then he left. He didn’t really say where he was going. Just on business. He was a merchant: had some things to sell. He was a smart man. He would buy things that smiths and carpenters and other people made or grown, and then sell them for profit, but he had to travel a lot. It made me lonely. So that was how I ended up with Michael.

We were only friends at first, but then we were more than that. People got suspicious since he would come to our house a lot. People started asking questions. I kept getting strange looks in the market, and our neighbors would even avoid me. I could tell they at least thought we were up to something. I told Michael that we had to stay away from each other for a while, and we did. It didn’t really work out, though.

He came to me late one night. We were both feeling lonely. The thing was, he had been set to be married a year before, but his fiance got sick and died. It would have been alright, except that my neighbors were noticing, and that night, Isaac came back. I didn’t hear him come in. I hadn’t expected him to be coming back in the night. He threw Michael out of the house, and he didn’t press charges against him, but he was very angry with me. He slept in a different room, and the next morning, he brought me to the authorities, and they took me to the temple. I was so scared.

There was this new teacher, though who was there, and for some reason, the Pharisees didn’t like him. I was terribly afraid of him because he seemed to have some kind of authority. They said to him that the law said they should stone me, which I knew was right, but they asked what he would say. I don’t know why they asked him, but then he did something scary and weird. He asked me my name. I told him it was Elizabeth. He wrote my name on the ground, and he wrote what I’d done. Then he said that if any of them didn’t have any sins, they could kill me. He gave them kind of an odd look, and I didn’t really know what it meant, but they started walking away. When maybe half of them were gone, he bent down to where he’d written, and wiped it away with his hand.

There were some people left, but they walked away slow, too. When nobody was left, I was still scared. I didn’t know if I should leave or stay or if he was going to do something or what, so I just stood there. I felt pretty awkward, and I was embarrassed of the whole thing, and I kind of wanted to cry, and I didn’t dare look at him. He said, “Hey, look at me.” I didn’t dare not, so I looked him in the face, and he smiled. “Has nobody condemned you?” he said, and I said, “No.” I looked away because I still felt bad. He walked over to me, and touched me, so I looked at him again. He smiled and said, “Neither do I. Now go. Make amends with your husband, and don’t do this again.” I nodded, but I couldn’t say anything. I just walked away.

It wasn’t normal, what he’d done. I was still really anxious while I walked home. I had to go through the market to get there, and I hoped I wouldn’t see my husband until that night when he got home, but he saw me at the same time I saw him. We both stopped for a couple of seconds, and then he started walking over. He didn’t look angry. I couldn’t really tell anything by the look on his face. I didn’t know if I should try and get away or wait for him, really. I didn’t have time to decide, though. He caught me, but he wasn’t angry.

“I’m so sorry for what I did,” he said. “Can you forgive me?”

I wanted to say, “You just almost got me killed!” but I didn’t. I told him what had happened. I said, “There’s a new teacher. He got even the pharisees to go away.”

“Who is he?” Isaac said.

“I don’t know,” I said, “but you could ask around and find out.”

“Okay,” he said, and then he said again, “Can you forgive me?”

I thought of what the teacher had done, and finally, I said, “Yes, I forgive you.”

It took us a little while, but eventually, things got back to normal. We found out that this teacher’s name was Jesus, and that he’d done quite a few strange things. I was glad of it, though. They were all good strange things. A few months later, by chance, Isaac had to go away again. This time he said I should stay with a cousin. I thought that was a good idea, so I did. It turned out that my cousin knew some of the teacher’s followers. That’s how I got to know some of his friends, and I finally got to know him.

A Thief Saint

I would like to preface this by saying that until this story’s conclusion, it is almost entirely fictional, and is written from the perspective of someone who says almost nothing in scripture and who there is only minimal historical background on. I wanted to write a story about the Penitent Thief who, in the Catholic Church, is known as Saint Dismas. He is a saint because he repented of his sins and, right before he died, Christ granted him salvation and promised him Paradise. I felt like he deserved a story, fictional or not, for a few reasons.

I hadn’t given Dismas much thought until a priest came to a church one town over from where I live. He brought with him a bunch of relics. These are objects considered sacred by the Catholic Church for various reasons; usually because they have some miracle associated with them. My dad and I went to Mass, and after Mass, we were allowed to go into a room connected to the main part of the church and look at, and even pick up some of the relics. One thing I remembered as I went in was that the priest had said to expect one of the saints to connect with us in some way. I went looking for something from Saint Faustina because I know things about her and I think she’s fantastic. I couldn’t even tell you what her relic was.

When I came across Saint Dismas’ relic, I felt a real connection. It just felt like he understood me somehow. His relic was an actual piece of the cross he was crucified on. I’ve done cursory research about him, and all that’s known is that he seamed to be a loner, and robbed, and even killed people that happened to cross his path. On Good Friday, though, he recognized that Jesus was innocent and he was not. More importantly, he was willing to acknowledge it publicly, and ask for forgiveness. What really compelled me to write this story, though was something I came across just a few nights ago. He was the only person who spoke up in Jesus’ defense. People mourned him, and his Mother and Saint John followed him to the cross, but even they were silent. It was a condemned criminal who actually said, out loud, that Jesus was innocent.

So without further ado, here is my rendition of how he got there.

He had a rough start. That’s no excuse for the things he did. Still, his life was not easy. Dismas was the son of a very poor farmer. His family managed, barely, until he was about thirteen, but then his father got sick. He did not suffer long. That was his only consolation. Death took him quickly, and he was followed soon after by two of his sons. It was just Dismas, his mother, and a young sister now. Dismas knew it was his duty to take care of his family, but he was young and had no real skills. He was afraid and felt he had only one option.

He waited until everyone had gone to bed one night, then left the house in a hurry. There was a small village nearby. That was where he would do it. Near the town was the house of a carpenter, and next to the house was a shed where he kept his tools. Dismas would test his ability here before he did anything drastic. He pulled out a knife he had brought with him, and picked the lock on the shed, a bit noisily, but with relative ease. He would get better at this over time. He crept into the shed and, though it was dark, took what he could find. He left in a hurry, leaving the door unlocked behind him, and making far too much noise as he ran back to his house, cursing every mistake he made. He hid what he had stolen under a pile of hey, and quietly made his way back to bed.

The following day, Dismas and his family worked the fields as best they could, but with just the three of them, they didn’t get much done. Plus his sister was still quite young, and was easily distracted and slow. That night was uneventful, but Dismas got up much earlier the next day, took the stolen things into the market as quickly as he could, and returned to his farm. His mother and sister had already started work, and his mother was suspicious. She asked where he had gone, and in the end, he told her the truth. She was indignant. How could he do such a thing? Instead of feeling shame, however, Dismas was angry. What other options did they have? His mother made him promise not to steal again, and for a while, he did not.

Dismas worked as hard as he could, and perhaps harder, to keep his family afloat, but eventually there was nothing for it. Their only options were theft or slavery. Dismas could not allow his mother to make that choice. He would not see his mother become a slave, and he would not let his sister be used, which was all too likely. Once again, he waited until his loved ones had gone to bed. Then he took a knife, and silently killed them both. Neither had time to react. He was precise. In fact, his own precision surprised him. Between sobs he said to each, “I’m sorry. I love you.”

His heart felt like led as he gathered some provisions and headed for the desert. He was homeless now, and would likely have to remain homeless. The first few times he robbed, he felt a bit guilty, but the feeling subsided, or at least became numb over time, especially as he became better at what he did. The first few times he killed, it hurt; it deeply hurt, but his heart darkened, and something strange seamed to grow in him, as though it fed on the blood. He both loved and hated the monster, and increasingly so as he realized that it was his only friend.

What he didn’t know, was that his reputation was growing. When it finally did come to his attention, it seamed that he was out of practice. He wasn’t used to having to evade people. He wasn’t used to people looking for him. Usually people were just trying to survive out here. Finally he realized that the smart thing to do would be to sneak back to a town in the middle of the night, strategically sell what he had on him, and disguise himself. Maybe he could just wait this out.

For some time, his plan worked–mostly. He was occasionally recognized and he was forced to move around quite a lot. This ultimately forced him to be more violent, and his reputation continued to grow. He tried to justify it all to himself, saying that it was all in self defense, but really, no one could justify the things he did. It was hopeless. There was no going back–not that there was anything to go back to. The memory of the night he had killed his family was fresh in his mind nearly twenty five years after the blood had been spilled.

Finally he decided to head for Jerusalem. He had heard talk of this zealot called Jesus. Some people called him a prophet. Others called him a heretic. Some said he was just crazy. What was important to Dismas was that this guy was causing mayhem, and he could use that mayhem to cover his own tracks. What was even more advantageous was that it was nearing the Passover, and the city was totally crowded. He could easily hide here. For several weeks he did so, and he heard a lot about the antics of this Jesus guy. He sounded weird, and kind of interesting, if nothing else. Then he apparently went berserk in the temple, why Dismas didn’t know, nor did he care. The authorities were on high alert after that, though, and Dismas knew he had to get out.

It was too late, though. More guards were brought in after that to keep the peace until the Passover was over, and Dismas could not hide. He had to do whatever it took to escape. There were people everywhere, and he spent several days simply getting lost, and occasionally doing what he did best–killing, stealing, or inciting violence among others. On Thursday, he was imprisoned and simply left to rot. Despite his own reputation, the authorities were more interested in this weird zealot. Dismas didn’t understand religious people. His family had not exactly been devout.

Almost before dawn the next morning he was wrenched from sleep and dragged to Pilate. This was it. He was doomed. He was surprised to see the crowd there. Then he realized that the zealot had been caught, along with another criminal. He and the other criminal were almost immediately sentenced to death. No surprise there. Then they were forced to watch this lengthy trial against Jesus. It was downright weird. Pilate pronounced him innocent three times, but because of the crowd, he was sentenced to death anyway. What was weirder still was that the crowd wanted some murderer called Barabbas released instead.

Then the three of them were taken away to endure everything these people had to throw at them–or hit them with. They shouted insults, and he shouted back. When the three of them were sent to be beaten by the Roman soldiers, he did everything he could to fight back, despite having his hands and feet bound. Yet eventually he noticed that, not only was Jesus putting up with it without a fight, he seamed to be asking for all they could hit him with. They were more than willing to hit him with it, and it felt to Dismas as though that monster inside of him was changing. It was as though the monster could see something that he himself could not.

He, Jesus and the other criminal, whose name he had learned was Gestas, were then led away, but not before some soldiers made a crown of thorns, placed it on Jesus’ head and mocked him as a crazy man and as a false king. Dismas and Gestas even joined in, though, for some reason, this made Dismas feel slightly uncomfortable. Then crosses were laid on the three of them, and they were told to march. Jesus had said nothing through this whole ordeal, and as the three of them marched toward Calvary, he noticed that people wept for the guy. No one wept for him. No one would.

When they reached the place where they would die, the three of them were nailed to their crosses. There was, of course screaming, but Dismas was astonished at the words that came from Jesus’ mouth: “Forgive them, Father. They don’t know what they’re doing.” The monster hated those words. The monster, Dismas realized slowly, and between waves of agony, was afraid of those words. The crowd and even Gestas continued to mock Jesus, who hung there, with his eyes fixed on heaven, and occasionally turning back towards a man and an older woman at the foot of the cross.

Slowly, it dawned on him. It was making him angry that Gestas was mocking this man who was dying. Gestas said through labored breaths, “If you are the son of God… get us down!” Dismas shot back, “Do you not fear God…? Jesus… remember me… when you come into your kingdom.” It was desperate, yes, but Jesus was who he said he was. Dismas knew that none of them were getting out of this, and he knew that he deserved to rot. All he could ask was that this King–the King of the Universe–remember him. If he couldn’t ask forgiveness from any of the people he had wronged, he could at least ask Jesus. In fact, Jesus had been beaten the worst of the three of them. He was bleeding and dying quickly, but he said, “Truly I tell you… today you’ll be with me in Paradise.” With that the monster died.

Dismas wanted to say, “Thank you.” He wanted to say, “I love you.” It had been years since any semblance of love had come anywhere near his heart, but Jesus had loved him. He had forgiven the unforgivable. Dismas could barely breath, and Jesus died before he could say anything, so he waited. Eventually the crowd dissipated and he was left alone with nothing but the sound of his own dying breaths. He was almost relieved to see soldiers coming.

The Sky Did Not Fall

I’ve written about half of my mythology. Yesterday, a file went temporarily missing, which constituted a significant portion of what I had written, as well as a log of what I had finished. I had finished half a book. I thought I had lost nearly all of it. After an initial panic attack, I did something I normally never would have done. I looked for it for a bit, but then I gave up. It wasn’t the kind of giving up that feels like ultimate defeat, though. I decided that this was God’s book, and if it was gone, I would just start over. There was nothing else I could do. It seemed simple enough. Don’t get me wrong, I thought I had lost a year’s worth of work, and it sucked, but I realized that I couldn’t hold onto something that was presumably gone.

This is my fourth attempt at writing a book, and I wasn’t just going to drop the project, so I prayed. I said, “Father, this is your book. If it’s lost, then I don’t see much I can do about that, but I will start over because it’s yours, not mine, and I want to finish it for you. Maybe you have something better in mind that I haven’t even come up with. I really want to get this thing back, but your will be done, not mine.” I knew I might be able to get it back if I had help, but I’m technologically inept, and my brother and my dad were both out of town last night. There was literally nothing else to do, so I prayed the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, read some scripture, and waited for my friends to come over, since we had made plans earlier that day. We hung out, talked about Star Wars, and watched the latest episode of Runaways, then they left, and I went to bed. I ended up having insomnia last night, so I slept very late today. My dad had got an early flight home from New York, and got to the house before I was awake, which was around three thirty. He did some work stuff, Mom and I went to get coffee, and then he helped me rescue my book. The sky did not fall.

The sky didn’t fall for three reasons. The first was that I was prepared for the worst. The second was that I trusted my dad. The third is that I trusted the Lord. As a Christian, and really as a realistic, rational person, I can simultaneously expect the worst and hope for the best. I keep coming back to a very important lesson God taught me recently. He can take my almost nothing, and turn it into something awesome. He could take all the work I had done, and even the loss of that work, and turn it into something better than anything I had planned. Even recently with a supposed lost like this, I probably would have had the expected panic attack, and just given up, but yesterday, because I was able to give the disaster to God, I was able to look forward to the next step. I was able to think to myself, “Well, there’s one final thing I can do. My dad might know how to get this back. If he can’t, then I know now how the Abyss works, even if I can’t get all the actual content back. I can work off of what I have and let it go from there.” Today, hope and trust won out, and the sky did not fall.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Cake

Everyone, firstly, I want to thank you all for following my blog. I don’t say that enough. I really do appreciate it. As a writer, it’s really wonderful to know someone sees and knows about what I do.

Secondly, I want to announce some very exciting news. I’ve reached my goal of twenty stories. Of course my book isn’t even close to finished, but twenty stories has always been a goal of mine. I’ve come this far through small bouts of epilepsy, generally being a scatter brain, family vacations, road trips, self discovery, sin, love, faith, learning, and certainly with the help of my God, so this post is meant to say “thank you” to him, too.

I’m quite excited because my friend agreed that when I wrote twenty stories she would make me cake. She makes darn good cake. I would like to celebrate with you all, too by sharing, in a way, a metaphoric piece of the cake. When I wrote my Creation story, I didn’t even know this would turn into a book. Now the first draft of the book is about half finished. So without further ado, I would like to share story number twenty.

Feorolf

As one might expect, Ferolf’s mere name struck unease at the very least, into the hearts of even the bravest souls. He was not a creature to be taken lightly. He was stronger than any man, and smarter and faster than any wolf. Yet, he was neither and both. He fought without weapons, in fact, he hardly fought at all unless absolutely necessary. He simply hunted. He hunted fear. According to legend, he did not always live in the Forest, but once terrorized the towns of an infant Kingdom. Finally, after many eternities, however, he was driven away by the earliest hunters of Kich. Some of these hunters were rumored to be descendents of the King and Queen themselves. Many were nearly mortally wounded in the effort to track him down even, because in those times there were many strange and dangerous wonders, fully alive, and without thought for human life. Luckily, it was during those times, however, that humans were mysteriously protected from death by the Barrier created by the Exile at the moment of Creation. This was, of course, before the Change.

Still, there were scattered stories of Feorolf’s mercy, and even regret about certain things. He would not hunt very young children, and would not leave them orphaned far from civilization. That is not to say he would not leave them orphaned at all, for he could be cruel. Feorolf was not a simple brute like any average predator. Though his mind was certainly not human, he was intelligent. He was strangely trusting of humans who generally wanted to hunt him down, and creatures that no one else would trust; even making the mistake on several occasions of trusting the Faceless. This never turned out well for him, but he was a forgiving creature.

Oddly, it seemed that, in a way, Feorolf’s nature was like that of the Transient spirits. It was not that he often changed without explanation, but simply that he was unreadable. It was assumed that he had his reasons for acting the way he did, and he did not share them. The truth was he was alone, and he knew it, and regretted it for it was of his own doing. We know this because he shared it with the Wisdom who always shares her knowledge with us, especially knowledge of the Creatures of the Outer Realm.

The story goes that Feorolf was the second Creature to awaken in the Outer Realm, after the Falcon of Destiny. The world was young and fearless in that first eternity, before Reome and Fritam were made by the spirit Time, and Feorolf reveled in this fearlessness. When Time faded, and fear entered the minds of the first humans, it gripped Feorolf’s heart, and all he wanted to do was kill it. In that first eternity the Falcon of Destiny gave the first humans fire. They loved it, and it filled them with joy, but they became dependent on it. Without their fire, the fear returned, and all he wanted to do was kill it, so he attacked. He ripped to shreds some of the first made humans, but to his utter dismay, he realized that this only increased his hatred of fear and the human fear of him. He wanted to help them, but he had to stay away. Any time he came close to a human, two things happened. They panicked, and he almost always went into a frenzy; compelled to destroy the fear in their hearts. He knew how to bite, and tear, and rip, and shred with claws and teeth, and he knew only contempt from humans and Creatures alike. He was eventually forced into Thorn Forest, where he lived in solitude, and slowly even grew to hate himself because he could do nothing to destroy the thing he hated most.

In time he grew darker, seeking the company of Creatures like the Faceless and the Night Bearer. It is unknown whether he ever found the Night Bearer, and in fact, its existence is entirely unverifiable. However, It is believed that it was the Night Bearer that brought fear into human hearts to begin with and that it was a creation of Chaos. It is rumored that Feorolf found it, but could not kill it, but another story says that he defeated it, and it became his slave. Still, there were occasions on which Feorolf interacted peacefully with humans. He even helped those who passed too close to Thorn Forest find safety from darker beings, and he certainly had a sense of his own responsibility for their fear. He always felt it was his duty to protect them. Still, this was rarely possible due to the fact that their level of fear was usually too overpowering for him to handle.

Feorolf treasured brave souls. He had no true friends, but the memories of bravery kept him strong. He hoped for a day when someone would come who truly did not fear him, but he doubted that day would come. Sometimes, if travelers happened to be passing through or very close to parts of the Forest, and he could find them asleep and therefore unafraid, he would try to find and steal books. He needed food, yes, but he was fully capable of getting plenty on his own. He was not a normal animal, and could survive on nearly anything and almost nothing. What he really hungered for was the truth. He needed to know where fear came from. Through eternities, he had come to believe what many humans do: to defeat one’s enemy, one had to know that enemy.

Though he spent much time sneaking and thieving and learning, it seemed that he could not come to a satisfying answer. Then it occurred to him that the answer was simple. He did not need to know where fear came from. He simply needed to usurp its power, and he knew immediately just how he would do this. People were afraid of him, largely because of stories they had heard. He needed to change the story. Among the things he had taken in his time were notebooks, many of them filled with things he had written on his quest to discover the root of fear, but some, empty. He began writing his story, and this is how he told it.

“My name is Feorolf. I am neither man nor wolf. I am no beast that is known to humans. Some of what has been said of me is true. I have killed, but it is not for the reason people think. I do not need humans for food, nor do I hate them. In some sense, I fear them as much as they fear me. I was one of the first Creatures to awaken in this world. When this Realm was formed, there was no fear, but somehow, fear entered, and I hated it. I have always hated it. I sought to destroy it, but in doing so, I made a terrible mistake. I thought killing the first humans to fear would kill the fear itself, but it only made it stronger. I have been banished because of what I have done, and rightly so. I want to right the wrongs I have done. I want to change, if I can, but if I cannot change myself, if I cannot destroy my hate for fear, I must destroy it in a peaceful way. This is my gift to all who have been affected by the fear of me, and the fear of anything else. I shall take it away, as best I can, though I do not think it will ever be possible for there to be a true bond of friendship between humans and myself. We are strangers to each other, and our natures too different. I am not an animal, but I am a beast. I freely admit this.”

He then left this, attached to a tree with a sharpened tooth he had lost. Feorolf was accustomed to using tools, though not tools one might easily recognize. Then he left that place and went far away, so someone could find it, and he would not feel the fear in them. He then wondered if he could detect other feelings in humans since he could feel fear so strongly. He decided he would try, from a safe distance. He began practicing, and after a while, he realized that he could. The trouble was that, in the Forest, fear was generally the strongest feeling. Under the safety of night, he finally decided to venture into a town rather close to the edge of the Forest. It was late, but there were still people out. He stayed in the shadows, listened to conversations and tried to feel what people were feeling. The array was like a beautiful symphony to him. He felt everything from sorrow to joy, and hope. Very late that night, he heard a man and a woman talking to each other in an upper room of a house. He could tell from their emotions that they were the only two there. He was able to catch snatches of what they were saying. They were talking about “makers,” whatever those were, and of leaving and going to Kich. He heard one of them say the name “Lydia,” though that meant nothing to him, and he heard a mention of the Falcon. He felt for the first time what he later learned was love between them, and there was joy again, too, and he felt hope so strongly coming particularly from the man, that it brought him to his knees, and he wept.

He loved hope as much as he hated fear, and he began to hunt it. He followed people cautiously, but more closely, to catch pieces of their conversations, and when he learned that they had lost something, he would seek it out, find it, and leave it somewhere with a note that read “From Feorolf.” Other times, if he learned that someone was hoping for something to happen, he tried to find ways to make it happen, and he would leave them messages, explaining what he had done. People still feared him, but slowly, outright terror morphed into cautious curiosity or perplexed wonder. The bravest souls wandered deeper into the Forest, and people in general seemed to travel with a bit more ease in their hearts. True to his nature, he still made mistakes. He still caused damage. In the worst cases, he still took lives, but he did his best to repent, and he always left notes; in many cases, leaving long letters lamenting his failure and begging the forgiveness of those he had hurt. Once, he received a letter back.

It read, “Feorolf, I’d be willing to bet you weren’t expecting a reply. I want to let you know that I forgive you, and I hope other people do, too, because I know you don’t mean to do the bad things you do, but I’m not sure other people do.” He didn’t know what he had done to whoever this was, but he was overwhelmed with gratitude. After much thought, he finally decided to leave another note for them to find. Again, he was not expecting a reply, and again, he received one. A strange correspondence grew between them, though he never learned who he was writing to. After the Change, he worried about them, but was very happy to learn that they were made young. When they grew old, he left things out for people to find, with notes explaining that the person he was writing to needed help. Eventually he received a note that read, “Feorolf, my name is Kyle. I recently learned that you were friends with my father who died several months ago. I am sorry if this is the first news you have received of his passing. His name was Andrew. I just wanted to say that you have helped us, and thank you.”

Not What She Deserved (Spoiler Alert)

My friend Julia and I have been watching a series called Once Upon a Time for a while now. I watched it for the first time with my friend Nick, and it was totally necessary to share. Eventually it becomes evident that the series follows a pretty basic good versus evil scenario, typical of any fantasy series, and rather apt, considering all the characters are, in fact, from fairy tales or Disney movies. Over and over again, the heroes are faced with a villain or several villains, and several problems that have to be solved. What’s great about the series is that it sometimes changes the nature of characters, so, for example, characters that were heroes in the original telling of the story, are villains in the “real world,” and characters that were once villains become heroes.

One might think that a series that follows a basic good versus evil plot like this where the situations simply get more and more difficult to handle might get boring. It doesn’t. Just when you think the heroes have won and it could never possibly be worse, it gets worse. From a writer’s perspective, it’s fantastic to see just how creative these writers are.

There is one part in the series where the heroes actually get sent into the Underworld–where the Greek god Hades lives. The afterlife system in this series is actually pretty interesting. Basically, one goes to the Underworld if one has unfinished business, and one has to stay there until one has taken care of whatever that may be. Once it’s finished, one moves on, either to a better place or a worse place; in other words, Heaven or Hell. There is one character in particular who definitely does not get what she deserves. She plays a significant part in the series, and she is utterly detestable, but because of something she does for her two daughters while she is in the underworld, she moves on to the better place.

I mention this because Julia and I had very different reactions to the scene. I found it rather satisfying, while Julia was thoroughly displeased. I don’t know all of Julia’s reasons for her reactions, but I could likely guess a few. I do know my reasons. To be sure, there is nothing redeemable about this character. However, she has a brief moment when she realizes how awful she is, and she freely and honestly chooses to help her daughters. I like it when people are given the gift of redemption. It doesn’t matter who they are or what they’ve done. This character didn’t have a long, drawn out redemption story. She simply saw reality for what it was, acknowledged that she deserved the worse place, and was given the better place because of it.

In real life that’s called Grace.