I’ve finally scene the trailer for the long awaited King Kong vs Godzilla movie. But, before this heavy weight title fight between the two biggest creatures from the MonsterVerse, it’s only fair to reflect on the path each contender took to reach this battle for “Beast Mode” supremacy. Before the giant gorilla could claim the title “King Kong,” he had to confront numerous apex carnivores in the form of Tyrannosaurus rex, “King of Lizards.”
The movie is set to open on Wednesday, March 31. Since I don’t have a Godzilla action figure of my own, I will be unable to simulate the upcoming epic battle. I guess we’ll find out together which titan will reign supreme!
I recently celebrated a birthday. Hold old am I, you ask? Well, I’d love to tell you. But on one condition. Let’s not measure my age by the number of candles on the cake; because there would be so many too count yet the number would say so little about me. Last summer, I began a series of fictional short stories under the theme “Lorraine has Fallen.” I’d like to demonstrate my journey to improved emotional maturity in the most fitting way possible: by sharing the FINAL CHAPTER of the series.
LORRAINE HAS FALLEN: THE FINAL CHAPTER
There was no point in placing the proper number of candles on my birthday cake. There would be too many to fit anyway, & prove too difficult to blow out to boot. Plus, with the Covid-19 global pandemic, who would want to eat cake that the birthday boy just blew out the candles on? No. Given the circumstances, it seemed best to celebrate my number of years on earth with representative symbolism. I placed a single candle on a single piece of cake placed in front of me & blew it out. That lone act provided the metaphor behind our celebration. In doing so, I acknowledged another chapter of my life, promising to never forget it; while also turning to the next unread page. Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. At least, that’s how the lyrics to a song I heard in my young adulthood went. Those lyrics stuck with me, although at the time, I didn’t really know why. But now, after so many candles, so many heartbreaks . . . I truly understood.
When Lorraine broke my heart by failing to uphold this standard of purity that I had thrust upon her several months ago, my sky came crashing down. I know it didn’t for everyone else. The world didn’t end; but something almost as big had ended for me. Lorraine was Purity’s Last Stand to me. I never intended to date her, but just knowing who she was & how she was validated how I had lived my life. My friends would admonish me for acting too passively, my family for being too picky; even my female friends for being unrealistic & remaining needlessly loyal to a person or ideal when such commitment was unwarranted. I was faithful to a flaw. But I couldn’t change; even when I felt out of place in time . . . a old-fashioned soul trapped in a modern world that scorned tradition, choosing instead to celebrate every single act as a “celebration of liberated thought”.” I was an artifact from another time in the dating world; a figure better suited for an epic poem from literature class than a legitimate suitor in this Brave New World. But when I met Lorraine, & watched how she behaved for several years; how a girl that beautiful could remain so modest & willing to go extended periods without needing a relationship–she reminded me why I am the way I am. There are people who are worth it; there are people who understand. Lorraine validated my choice to live life as a nice guy & still believe I wasn’t doomed to finish last. She was the last remnant of Eden on earth; a metaphor for my vindication. I had been right all along; everyone else had been wrong.
When Lorraine broke my heart, in large part unbeknownst to her, she sucked the color out of my world. All I saw was black, white, & grey. Every time I looked up at the sky, it seemed to be raining. It wasn’t quite Hell, but an emotional version of Seattle inside a black & white TV set at least; and that’s bad enough! And that’s where I was. All the while, as I pined for freedom from this oppressive disappointment, I’d tell myself that I’d live to see the day the rain would stop. Even when it seemed it would never end; even when I thought a thousand forevers would pass before the day would finally arrive–I told myself, even LIED to myself, that I’d see the sun again. And when I did, that day would be one of dramatic triumph.
Everyone told me I would “find someone” again–someone “better.” Well, if those same people only bothered to count the candles on my cake, they’d realize how disingenuous their pep talks sounded. If they had known Lorraine for themselves, they’d realize how insulting their assessment of finding “someone better” was. Lorraine was special. On her worst day, she was still one in a million; & I don’t know if I will have spoken to a million girls in the span of an entire lifetime. Find someone else? Sure, maybe. But someone better? How ignorant. And then, my birthday came.
By the time I blew out that single candle on that single slice of cake placed in front of me, I had actually met someone new. She’s more of a friend, really. I had known her for a couple of years already. But just recently, we started talking outside of our normal circle of acquaintance. The way she reacts to me now is different from anything I’ve experienced in recent memory. It’s something about the way she looks at me when I talk to her; her eyes seem some attentive, as if what I’m saying is actually important. I’m accustomed to feeling unimportant. There’s also something about the way I don’t seem able to do anything wrong in her presence, even while I’m not striving to be perfect in front of her. I remember when I first noticed it, I paused. My alarm bells went off. That moment had a hint of connection that felt only remotely familiar, like a pleasant scent from a holiday dinner in my mother’s kitchen as a child . . . in a past life. It actually felt uncomfortable at first; mostly foreign, but faintly familiar too.
I don’t mean to get ahead of things; she’s not my girlfriend, for sure. But she has gradually begun replacing all the blocks of time that have for so long been the exclusive domain of Lorraine. I questioned what it is that I feel for her; at first. I was convinced that it couldn’t POSSIBLE be ROMANCE. Although she always cheered me up when I saw her, our interactions didn’t stun me into inaction–didn’t render immobile—didn’t rob me of the talent of speech. I didn’t yearn to kiss the ground she walked on–and, for those of you who have endured my incessant discussions about Lorraine, this yearning isn’t THAT MUCH of an EXAGGERATION!
I was born on Valentine’s day. I had always been a bit melodramatic, especially when it came to romance. While my interactions with my new friend feel positive & wholesome, they lack that sensation of “God placing all of existence on pause for a moment” when I see her. I don’t feel “newly born” when I see her like it felt with Lorraine; it’s more the feeling of your blanket when you wake up cold in the middle of the night, or your favorite hoodie when you’re sick on the couch–comforting. It feels less like a movie–or, more befitting, “an epic poem;” & more “every day”. While my interactions with Lorraine has always carried a greater deal of drama with them, they also proved utterly exhausting. It was as if every little thing she did, every little chance encounter, would either hype me up until I’d exhaust myself on the excitement, or drain me of my energy when she disappointed me. While less “epic” than my interactions with Lorraine, my interactions with my new friend seem more sustainable. If this isn’t attraction, isn’t romance . . . then WHAT is it?
By the time I was to blow out the candle on that single flickering flame before me, I had the answer. My whole ordeal with Lorraine, while intoxicating, was all fantasy. What I was experiencing in the moment with my new friend–that was real life. I’ve never used drugs; but the one time I got high was as a patient in the hospital. I had been admitted for severe dizziness & nausea. The nurses injected something into my arm. I could feel the cool fluid ease into my vein at first, then quickly disseminate. Inside of two seconds, they had me transferred to another dimension. At 00:1, I was lying in bed, groggy with pain, vaguely aware of three nurses standing to one side of my bed. At 00:6, I couldn’t stop laughing, still vaguely aware of the three nurses standing by my bed. At 00:9, I was traveling through a tunnel of fast moving flashing lights, similar to the sensation of riding Space Mountain at Disney World. At 1.9, I was aware of my sleepiness despite laughing hysterically. And in my next sentient moment, it was morning. I won’t lie about this–it was FUN! But I wouldn’t want to remain permanently in that state, much less make important decisions while in that state. It’s horrifying to think that, during this entire Lorraine ordeal, that’s essentially what I had been doing. I had been at the wheel of my own life while intoxicated, making decisions about my employment status, my reputation, & other matters of far-reaching import while intoxicated by an emotional high, at best–and a deep emotional low, at worst. I had told myself this before; but sometimes, we even have to remind ourselves of the lessons we’ve already learned. “If every day is a holiday, then there are NO holidays.”
Whatever is happening between me & my new friend, whether it’s romance or whether it fizzles off into nothing–it’s real world, not fantasy. If this isn’t romance, then what is it? Well, I guess this is “growing up.”
Having thus concluded, I blew out the single candle on my slice of cake. I watched as the flame as it initially resisted, then conceded defeat. I saw the plumes of smoke, dark & fierce at first, lighten & then dissipate into nothing until what was left was just a candle that once carried a flame. I looked out the window & could see in the fading daylight that the rain had finally stopped. Come to think of it, it hadn’t rained all day & I hadn’t even noticed. Huh. “I knew this day would come,” I thought to myself. I just always believed it would feel different.” The greatest measure of emotional maturity is self-awareness.
“This was the best birthday gift ever (aside from life itself, of course),” I mused. “Freedom from the rain.” I had always expected that this day would arrive with an air of dramatic triumph; but felt just like an ordinary day. Ordinary by my new standards, at least; probably better this way.
How old am I? you wondered earlier. Well . . . old enough to have grown up, at least. Finally.
Maybe I was still right regarding Lorraine. Maybe I wouldn’t find someone “better ” than she is. But that’s asking the wrong question anyway. I just want to find someone “better for me.” And, in terms of everything else, outside of relationships . . . that should be my focus moving forward. I need to forget about achieving “better” & focus on achieving “better for me.” A better fit, a better attitude–just better for me.
After so many candles, so many heartbreaks—I finally understood.
Farewell, Lorraine. No hard feelings; just . . . farewell.
THE END . . . and yet, THE BEGINNING
Inspired, in part, by the lyrics of a twenty-year-old alternative rock song by Blink182. See lyrics below.
But everybody's gone And I've been here for too long To face this on my own Well, I guess this is growing up Well, I guess this is growing up.
Avians are one of the several human-like sentient races that inhabit Eternia. Stratos, an accomplished Security Team Leader of the Avian Kingdom, serves as defense direct leison from the Kingdom of Avian to the Kingdom of Eternos. However, Stratos is an aging warrior & the Avians hope to continue their alliance with the King of Eternos well into the next generation. As a result, Stratos has enlisted a young upstart known as Mysterious to
TO BE CONTINUED
This past Christmas 2020, I arrived at Christmas Eve looking for something. Christmas Eve was always a special time of the year for me as a child, & even long afterwards. But this year, I was entering the majestic holiday with a heavy heart. Earlier in the year, I had witnessed a person who I greatly respected behave in a manner that I found deeply regrettable. And, although I had taken significant action to remedy the aftermath as much as I could, I still found myself unresolved in the relationship to my one time friend. Although I would be completely alone this holiday, having chosen to avoid travel because of Covid, I decided to attend Christmas Eve service. It was still a holiday, & even when I’m down, I recognize the importance of taking the next step forward. It hadn’t felt like a traditional Christmas all season; but I had grown up attending Christmas Eve service so I saw no reason to ignore a tradition that was actually in my control.
What I experienced would go down as a litany of “firsts.” It was my first Christmas Eve service held outdoors under a canopy, again over Covid conerns. It was the first Christmas Eve service I had attended alone. And it was the first Christmas Eve service featuring a sermon involving the Garden of Eden. I thought to myself, “Garden of Eden? But this is Christmas. Isn’t that a little Old Testament for tonight’s occasion?” I consider myself a reasonably intelligent man; but my pastor has frequently proven himself to be just a bit savvier, especially when it comes to scripture.
He talked about two trees prominently featured in the Garden. One of the two, the Tree of Life, God had placed no restrictions on for Eden’s two inhabitants. The other, the Tree of Knowledge, God had placed a restriction on eating from. It appears that this mandate was the only restriction that God placed on Adam & Eve; and of course, because eating from that tree was the one thing they could not do–it became the one thing they did. Sound familiar? Not just the story, but the sequence? In my own life, specifically, in the event that I found so disappointing earlier in the year–that’s exactly what happens. I cherished my friend so much that she could have done literally anything else & I would have overlooked it. But she crossed the one line I could not forgive her for. It started to look as if the evening’s sermon would be an appropriate subject after all, & I began to brood over its implications on my own life.
But then, I heard something unfamiliar. For one thing, the pastor described the forbidden tree not simply as the Tree of Knowledge; but the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil. “Whoa,” I thought. “I guess I’ve always known the tree described that way, but I’ve somehow forgotten.” I was surprised at how easily I had overlooked such a critical detail. And the surprises would continue. The pastor explained that because of Adam & Eve’s choice to disregard the lone parameter that God had set for them, all of humanity is born flawed. None of us are perfect. While this statement failed to inspire shock waves within me, the next statement did. But by the same token, none of us are a lost cause either. The pastor continued to remind us that God can take bad things & make them good. So, even if we are flawed, our acceptance of God into our lives can redeem us.
Redeem us? That’s a concept I hadn’t considered throughout these last few months of reacting to the disappointment I had experienced. I thought of concepts like anger, rage, sorrow. I’d circulate terms like validation & vindication. My goals were to punish; to shame; to prove someone else wrong. But what I had really been seeking was redemption.
While what my friend did was bad, it didn’t constitute instant damnation. However bad her choice had been, my reaction to it made it worse. Instead of reacting to my disappointment from a standpoint of letting God in, I had tackled it head-on with my darkest emotions–jealousy, resentment, insecurity. But in the few minutes it took for me to hear my pastor speak these words, I suddenly achieved what I had been unable to for the past several months. I was ready to let it all go–and seek reconciliation. I had been looking to win; to conquer a depraved enemy. I had been searching for triumph! But on this evening, I realized that true triumph came in the form of reconciliation. God takes bad things & makes them good. I just hadn’t let Him do that.
As I mentioned earlier, I consider myself a fairly logical person. And maybe, just maybe, I had actually outfoxed my pastor with this next thought. He spent the sermon talking about letting God in; but I had an even better idea. I’ve always considered everyone to have some aspect of God within them; after all, we are told that He created us “in his own image.” But I’ve also considered all of us to have some aspect of the Devil in us, thereby explaining our flaws. My sister had mentioned a Native American proverb earlier in the week that I believe to have originated with the great chief Sitting Bull:
“We all have two wolves inside us. One that’s viscous & one that caring. And the type of person we become depends on which wolf we choose to feed more.”
I had finally put all the pieces of the puzzle together. I had been fueling the fiend in me during the recent past. It was time for me to feed the side that good. It wasn’t so much an idea of “letting God in,” but releasing the Godly aspect already in me.
On Christmas Eve 2020, I found the very gift I had been looking for. I received free; freedom from my anguish, from my hypertension, from my constant brooding. And to think, after all those months of extended suffering, I had held the key to my own dungeon the entire time. All I had to do was unlock the Godly aspect in me that my anger had suppressed. And if I could find peace, I’m sure you can too. Just let the part of yourself that’s like God out; try applying that approach to your toughest challenges & see what happens. Merry Christmas. And . . .
“God bless us–every one!”
Evil-Lyn is the most powerful witch on Eternia. She serves as Skeletor’s lieutenant, assisting him in designing strategy & frequently overseeing missions when her Overlord decides to remain at Snake Mountain. Out of all of Seketor’s vassals, Evil-Lyn is the most likely to question his choices. She is ambitious; realizing the breadth of her power while recognizing that Skeletor’s is greater. Many wonder whether she follows Skeletor out of loyalty or out of necessity. Silently, Evil-Lyn craves to rule Eternia herself.
Evil-Lyn is a scholar in the history of Eternia, and, some say, of other worlds as well. An academic as much as a sorceress, she’s fluent in every known language currently in use on Eternia as well as a few arcane ones. She boasts a wide variety of spells at her disposal, frequently using her powers to levitate nearby objects as well as temporarily disguise her appearance or the appearance of those around her. While not a trained warrior, she is fit & experienced enough to evade a stronger opponent, using her light weight & smaller frame to her advantage. However, her powers diminish significantly when she’s separated from her magic wand & tends to panic in a physical altercation without it, even if she’s winning. Her primary weapon is an energy burst from her wand; which is powerful, but takes a moment to materialize. She can also create small force fields around herself or her companions for limited duration. Without her wand, Evil-Lyn’s best weapon is her power of levitation to draw the weapon back to her, provided its only separated by a short distance.
From the standpoint of personality, Evil-Lyn is bitter & sarcastic. She is arrogant & looks down on the other minions under Skeletor. Evil-Lyn scarcely has a kind word to same to anyone other than Skeletor, although she does seem to take a liking to Clawful. Beyond that, Evil-Lyn is as mysterious as she is powerful. Rumors abound that she & Skeletor were once involved romantically, furthering muddling the ambivalence of her motivation. As a witch, she prefers to operate at night although she’s not limited to doing so. As one of Skeletor’s allies, she’s as difficult to read as a moonless night: hence her nickname, “Mistress of the Night.” Where do her true loyalties lie?
I grew up Catholic. My family attended church most Sundays & I did my best to listen. One day I was disheartened by our priest’s disgust in the franchise name. He told a story about speaking to a young boy about the “Master of the Universe.” To the priest’s dismay, the young boy declared that he knew this person to be none other than He-Man. The priest was infuriated that anyone, even a child, would connect anyone other than God to such a title & recommended all parent’s to disown any affiliation to this toy line. I was a young child & had just begun collecting these toys. My mother brought up the priest’s suggestion to rid our house of the offensive toy line. While I wanted to adhere to the message, I explained to my Mom, along with my Dad’s help, that I knew that the “Masters of the Universe” moniker was just a commercial title for a toy; and that my playing with the toys never made me forget God’s place at the apex of every universe–although, perhaps not in these exact words.
I recognize the potentially offensive nature of the franchise moniker. However, just as I studied literature & Greek mythology in college, I know that I can enjoy a tradition based on pre-Christian themes without losing sight of the religion I follow in my every day life. If this weren’t the case, than why would we study opposing religious theories & literature from different eras & different continents in the halls of academia & not take similar offense to this practice. For my purposes, I consider the fantasy world of MOTU as much of a sin as reading the Odyssey is–which is a sin only against the quest for knowledge & the acceptance of imagination. I hope you feel the same way, as my purpose here is not to offend. I have simply stumbled upon an artifact from a brief but happy era of my life that was a simpler time; & I hope to flesh out some of these same ideas with the benefit of my hopefully more mature life experience behind it.
“Better to RULE in HELL than SERVE in HEAVEN.” —-From John Milton’s Paradise Lost.
Creative License: This piece represents a form of fan fiction. It takes a concept previously established in the public domain and, while maintaining much of the same fundamentals of the original idea, adds new material inspired by the the author of the fan fiction. This material, while consistent in many ways to the source material, is under no obligation to do so & will present ideas independent to the author. This material is not intended for commercial but entertainment purposes alone. Source material: MOTU franchise.
Skeletor is often described as “a demon from another dimension” hellbent on conquering the planet of Eternia. He already rules the Dark Side of Eternia, residing at his fortress Snake Mountain with a host of lesser overlords as well as a powerful witch as his vassals. Skeletor was once a skilled mortal warrior known as Keldor: skilled with the sword, wrestling, & melee warfare. However, just a few years into his legacy as a warrior, Keldor experienced a mysterious flash point that drove him to sorcery. Keldor quickly excelled, as he was highly intelligent. Still despondent, Keldor decided to pledge himself completely to darkness. He underwent a transformation & became the aberration known as Skeletor.
Eternia is a realm of conflict. Unlike earth, everything is cut & dry; black & white, good or bad. The planet literally splits into two hemispheres; the northern one known as the Light Hemisphere, protected by Kingdom Randor; and the south being the Dark Hemisphere, ruled by Skeletor. On Eternia, everyone is either a champion or a victim; either strong or weak. The strong depend on either physical prowess or sorcery, but almost never both–or at least, never very well at both. Skeletor & his sorceress Evil Lyn are the only exceptions.
To the inhabitants of the Dark Hemisphere, admittedly sparse in numbers when compared to their northern neighbors, Skeletor is champion. He offers protection from the various pre-historic & even legendary beasts that walk the wastelands. But the price for his service is slavery; as Skeletor’s rule is absolute. He is both champion & villain.
Overall, Skeletor rules half of Eternia & strikes fear into the other half. As a dual warrior/sorcerer, not a single member of even the Royal Family can match his power. Arguably, Skeletor is already he most powerful person on Eternia–and yet, he never feels satisfied. So obsessed with what he does not have, Skeletor feels no satisfaction in what he already has. Skeletor is both a ruler & a slave–a slave to his infinite ambition!
In appearance, Skeletor is a walking contradiction. He boasts the physique of a strongman, but it’s marred by the pale complexion & hideous features of a monster. His body seems locked at the peak of life, but his face symbolizes death. But, for all the ambivalence in his outward appearance, the polarization on the inside is what defines Skeletor the most. The face of death blankly staring out from underneath his purple hood sets atop an immortal body. Skeletor cannot die! He is a man divided both on the inside & the outside; a body that cannot die yet lacks a soul. Poetically, there is no one more suited to rule Eternia than Skeletor–a divided man ruling over a conflicted planet–one split into hemispheres of both Light & Dark–ruled by a king who will liver forever on the outside but has always been dead on the inside.
From the notes of LCDR (Lieutenant Commander, USN) Robert Graves:
Hostage rescue is one of the two most likely scenarios within our CQB profile wherein Bravo Team is most likely to receive hostile contact. The second such scenario is the Jack-hammer–otherwise known as the “snatch-grab” or more formally worded as the apprehension of a high value target. The reason why a hostage rescue is such a risky mission is because before we’ve even been contacted, an armed group has forcibly taken a person of value to our cause and is guarding said person(s) with extreme vigilance. It’s essentially our enemy pulling a snatch-and-grab on us! And before Bravo Team is even notified, a lesser entity like a local police department or even a military GPF has failed to resolve the problem.
In such high pressure, high stress scenarios; it’s key for our operators to block out emotion & focus completely on the plan, the layout of the target area, & any unknowns that they observe after having entered the target area. Typically, as well-trained & equipped as Bravo Team is, we limited if any time to plan our response to a crisis in progress. And no matter how professional my operators are, the word’s of the great Mike Tyson still hold true: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” We want our guys to anticipate the enemy’s punch & pre-empt said action with decisive action of their own. Or if not, absorb that punch to the face & punch back even harder!
One: Contact 12 o’clock. Tango in sight.
Two: Drop your weapon now! Drop it or die!
One: One Tango down. One is up.
Two: One Tango down. Two is up. Package (hostage) secured.
Three: One Tango down. Three is up. Package secured.
Four: One Tango down. Four is up. Package secured.
L-T: Yes. Our goal at the end of every hostage rescue is to return the hostage back to where they belong: back to the people who love them. And back to the place where they can best contribute to the overall just cause.
What Mike Tyson said during his peak still holds true. Everyone–including the Tangos (terrorists) have a plan. And everyone eventually does get punched in the face. I guess our guys just have a jaw that our enemies don’t want to test. Because so far, Bravo Team has never failed a mission that it’s been tasked with. God willing; we never will. I just hope we manage to make the difference that truly matters.