A writer is never alone.

Bionic Commando. Copyright Capcom Co., Ltd.

Bionic Commando. Copyright Capcom Co., Ltd.

Stories, verses and prose decorate all rooms inside the House of Words. Today, we abandon the library for a tale forged over the workshop’s tepid fires. A fable inspired by true events and forever laser-etched behind my blue eyes…


A hot November morning after a humid evening of passing hurricane rain, we gather for English Lit. in one of the academy’s open-air classrooms.

“Come in. Good morning,” Mr. Torres says behind dark-rimmed glasses. “I have a surprise test for you today.”

Forty grumpy teenagers groan. Spanish, both proper and the street’s, travels the green concrete and blasts the aluminum windows.

The girls wear thick, burgundy, two-fingers-below-the-knee-long skirts and matching vests. The boys dress in brown, baggy jeans and white, emblazoned polo shirts. ‘Academia Santa María,’ the embroidery reads.

“Sit down, sit down.” Mr. Torres hurries us along as we drag our feet and exchange concerned glances. “I told you Friday there’d be a test this week.” He taps the forsaken paper stack and gestures to the first chair of each of five rows of creaky, metal desks. “Take one and pass the rest.”

I receive the document and a lone drop of salty dew finds its way underneath my shirt. Ranked #2 in the class, but still human; an impromptu eight-page exam is enough to jingle anyone’s medals.

I look up.

Our teacher, and tormentor, wears his customary blue polo in contrast to the blackboard, still chalked with hieroglyphics from yesterday’s algebra. He nods and offers me a mischievous grin.

“Don’t forget to read the test before you begin.”

I bite off the ballpoint pen’s cap and plaster true or false as fast as my pale, fat fingers allow it. Five minutes in, I turn to Viviana, one of the smarter students, on my left. The tanned girl with wet, curly hair sits cross-legged, paper down, and a half-smile on her face.

“Huh?”

Her brown eyes enlarge just the tiniest when she finds mine. The smile widens. I sweat again, then devour the next six pages so fast I almost start a fire:

‘Describe the theme.’

‘Discuss the protagonist’s conflict.’

‘What is at stake?’

One last swipe and the wretched words beam. Mr. T’s closing statement explains his grin:

‘Write your name, today’s date and place your test face down. I will come to your desk and grade you 100%.

Thank you for following instructions.

Enjoy your day – E. Torres.’

“Maldición,” I say, damning all, and break the pen.

Mr. Torres taught me a life-long lesson that day. And it’s not about following instructions. His advice later solved complex Calculus with me in college. Joined me for many insightful shower thoughts. And debugged crazy-difficult software glitches over a Microsoft desk.

‘You are not alone inside that head.’

The subconscious is a powerful tool. We don’t control the wonderful beast, yet there it is, gifting knowledge, perspective and wondrous creativity. Your brain quietly analyzes all you read and hear and see. Visualizing math problems iterates over memorized equations. Breaking for coffee from buggy code dreams up new threads to follow.

The subconscious even assists with programming interviews. Next time you schedule a field trip to the accursed whiteboard, bring a cup of something, anything. When the interviewer barks, lift the blessed holder of refreshment to your lips and sip. Every conscious micro-moment equals two laps around the Sun of behind-the-scenes computation.

The rule reigns true in creative writing as well. It is the reason many editors, literary agents, writers both published or starving – and published and starving – recommend we ‘Put down the manuscript for a few hours,’ ‘Read another’s book,’ or ‘Let the query letter breathe a week before re-reading the draft.’

Efficient proofreading and editing require perspective. Polishing manuscripts into art requires ruthless perspective. Dean Gloster shares this meaningful quote: “Write without fear; edit without mercy.” Separating ourselves from newborn prose gains us the mythical perspective writers valiantly seek.

Mr. Torres and I never crossed paths again. He was a wise one, that man and his mischievous grin. He was kind too; kind enough to gift me another blank sheet before the other kids discovered his shenanigans. With Viviana’s tip and a teacher’s clemency, little Alvin scored 100%.

Next time your fingertips crawl, or the muse huffs and spits out sand, don’t be hasty. Your brain already read the test. It wrote the damn thing.

Walk away. Try it. Walk away and let the subconscious fill your cup. Then drink and advance with caution, impartial and refreshed, as one with the monster inside your head.


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Simon’s Quest, Horror Story, Chapter 1

Night falls over Europe, Castlevania II. Copyright Konami Digital Entertainment Co., Ltd.

Night falls over Europe, Castlevania II. Copyright Konami Digital Entertainment Co., Ltd.


You find yourself alone inside the House of Words. The cold leather of an old Victorian sofa reminds your thighs they are sore. The stark grey of early morning penetrates the stained glass windows, but someone pulled the library’s thick, crimson drapes shut. Only a lone, flickering candle guides your eyes, its light the color blue.

You stand and walk the chamber, patting away the dust from your backpack and khakis. On the desk rests a rusted metal-bound journal and a quill, still wet with midnight prose.

‘To Anne Rice,’ reads the cover.

‘Thank you for inking my twenty-four-year-old mind with your lively fantasies and spirit-bending words.

This is one of five.

Wishing you also kindness – Alvin.’

“Oh, Alvin,” you say and slump over the plain, wooden chair. “What a perfect day to have a curse.”

You bite your chapped lips, ignore the thirst and open the book.

Simon’s Quest, Chapter 1


A field full of color, full of rain. The aroma of endless earth and grass overpowered everything across that New England summer’s day – not her.

I first saw her across a sea of tulips, orange and yellow, perfect companions to her crimson hair. Her face smelled of perfume and the ocean, and the smell carried down to her neck…

My father had said, “Simon, you must find a mate. You must carry the line.” The matters of the heart never captivated my interest. The rush of the hunt, and the art of death; those were the thrills for me. And yet, as I lay on the cold hospital floor, locked inside that dark room behind our hastily constructed barricade, my thoughts swooned to the overflowing life of her face, and the exquisite beauty of her neck.

The halogen flickered on and off. Something clawed behind the bathroom door. The din of nail on brushed metal penetrated my ears far more deeply than my human body remembered. I rose to my feet and turned to the stretcher. The labored rise and fall of her breast underneath the soaked, red velvet nightshirt – she still breathed.

I crossed the room, limping, but careful not to trip over the bodies festering on the once white and sterile floor. The stench of rotten blood overpowered my nostrils. I exhaled full of concern, balled my trembling hands into fists and kneeled next to her.

“Victoria…” the whisper of her name escaped my lips in a far more melancholic tone than intended. She lifted her powerful gaze, hidden behind hazel, glistening eyes; trying, but failing, to draw a smile on her gaunt face.

“P-promise me… luz de mis ojos,” she said in her country’s native tongue. More sweat trickled down her forehead. “Promise me you’ll live… both of you.” Her voice still carried the same sweet timbre I remembered from the night of our first union. I pressed a hand to my neck, trying to contain the red liquid. The wretched parasite’s heat had begun its course.

“I promise,” I said.

I lied.

A loud bang, like a semi-truck had kissed the walls, interrupted my introspection and whisked away any remaining guilt. Dust floated down the ceiling, flirting with the faint light of night peering through our four-story window.

“A yellow moon,” I said. “Not much longer now.”

Victoria raised a frail, lanky arm to my face, pushing away my long dark hair, once soft and tempting, but now smeared with the grease of the fight. I peered at the pool of blood gushing out her womb, then at the white-coated cadaver lying next to her bed, silver instrument of surgery still clutched in his hand.

Victoria’s eyes opened wide like a fish’s, both reddened and enlarged. How befitting, maybe even poetic I thought as I bent down to pry the device off the doctor’s stiff grasp, considering how Shakespearian it would be, even for my murderous hands, to gut my own wife. There are no more happy endings left to write.

“Y-you know… what you have t-to do…” she said. I lifted the disinfected tool, forcing my gaze upon her abdomen and inspected the puss-infested gash.

I failed to make the first cut.

Leave it to the future mother of my child to gift me one last selfless act before forever abandoning me, and this world. Victoria dragged her hands to her open wound and grabbed both sides of her flailing skin. Then she stretched. And pulled, and stretched some more, rupturing both flesh and blood vessels like a savage from the dark ages.

She let out one gasp: The final gasp.

My face filled with horror, and then rewrote itself in hunger as the smell of rust permeated the air.

Clang.

My fingers involuntarily unclenched the scalpel. The liquid spewed out the belly of my wife like a Roman fountain. For a moment, I lost myself inside the red sea of her entrails; yearning, dreaming… but then-

A cry, and sweet melody to my new ears! My son wailed, beckoning for his first breath of life. I jolted awake from the stupor of dehydration. My human blood fought back against the disease’s pestilence. The tears poured down my cheeks and mouth, as the fatherly love common to all God’s creatures overpowered my new instincts.

Was I still one of His?

Before I realized it, my hands were rummaging inside Victoria’s womb, groping over viscera and mutilated flesh. Her arms fell to her sides, lifeless and limp, as if the Creator had designed this new boy to only ever be loved one parent at a time.

I lifted him, both freeing him from the fleshy prison, and myself, ever so slowly, from the garden of humanity.

Jacob was pale white, or more of a rosy gold, doused with a full head of black hair and covered in blood.

Covered in blood.

My mouth moistened.

I held him tight, with trembling lips, trying to say his name, but ashamed to utter the words. Instead I wept and howled, as the heaving of grief took over my shoulders and chest, shaking me to my bones. I had lost my wife, and one ever true love. Now, I would lose my firstborn.

A commanding blast resonated across the room. Two ghastly immortals stood behind me. I turned my head just enough to take in their form. These weren’t your typical infected hominids. I recognized the breed: forged with the stone dust of a gargoyle statue, and gifted of life from the Beast. Their wings, when stretched, expanded over a meter wide. Flight offered no advantage inside the closed quarters of that chamber. I knew this. They knew this, thus they coiled the ebony flaps around their chests, providing additional armor to their already near unbreakable skin.

“Soldiers of Ra,” I said, cursing under my breath. “Does the Devil never tire of the same tricks?”

They didn’t move, or say a word, barely acknowledging my presence. The insubordination didn’t offend me, but their eyes, their eyes infuriated me the most: no lids, no corneas, only two deep and hollowed-out graves, swallowed in shadow. And in their silence, the rage boiling, roasting me from afar.

How I wished for my satchel: Mother’s sketch of Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man embroidered on its flap and the weapons of my own devise overflowing to the brim.

My family’s craft, while designed for situations like these, wouldn’t exactly even out the odds. It would have to do. Just like it did the grunts. The ones whose remains pestered the floor, careless, void of armor and mostly irrational beings.

Not Soldiers.

I had never faced a Soldier by myself, let alone two. The obsidian helmets and masks of iron black covered everything except their eyes and mouth. I always preferred to go in through the mouth. Not because it offered advantage, but because I wanted them to watch; to witness the glorious moment when I banished their penitent souls to the land of Hell’s Lords.

I looked at Jacob and tried to force a smile. I’d have to do the deed with my bloodline’s archaic tools. I removed my shirt and bundled him nice and tight. The Kevlar threads of Aunt V.’s chain mail would provide adequate protection.

“The Greymont line ends tonight,” the creature on the right spoke to me in a voice I always thought sounds like a slab of metal against a stone grinder, grinding from inside a hollowed-out tree.

I ignored him, carefully inserting Jacob into Victoria’s leather-wrapped messenger bag. “When will you filthy beasts learn? You can’t kill Simon Greymont.”

“Simon Greymont is dead,” the gargoyle-man closest to the window said, his bird-like muzzle twisting into a grin with the words. “We come for the boy.”

Crack.

My broken leg had fully healed.

“Show me the power of the Greymont line.”

The accursed demon’s whispers visited my mind for the first time that night; he who had gifted the disease to the low-life who bit me. I knew then the metamorphosis would soon complete, and I, become a part of him.

I flung Jacob’s first Earth-side crib around my shoulders, let my black hair fall over my face and bare chest, and said: “If I were dead, would I dare do this?”

The tail of my father’s whip unfastened from my battle-worn belt and hit the floor with the finite snap of its wyvern scale tip.

“You wouldn’t dare, hunter,” one of them said. “Even the beasts of the underworld know the Red Fire of the Morning Star consumes everything unholy.”

The other brute scoffed. “You’ll destroy yourself before the first swing.”

I smiled, for the first time that night, tightening my grip over the leather handle. “Guess we’ll find out where exactly the Big Guy draws the line.”

I took a deep breath, thought of grass, tulips and dreams, and swung.

Then the air before me exploded into a black sun.


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