Kindness: What separates us from animals

On a writing site, someone posted our ugliest trait is our ability to injure our own, and to kill without purpose. This post continued to tell us all how there is nothing like it in any other animal, and we should learn from them.

A tip to writers who are including animals: we learn all our worst traits from them. The difference is our ability at higher reasoning and logic which can lead us to dumber leaps.

Hyenas and lions have a vendetta on par with the Capulet and Montague families. Hyenas get a kick out of killing cubs. They do not eat them. Lions will assassinate the matriarch, literally running through a sea of hyenas just to kill that one woman. After making the kill? The lion walks off, head held high, like, “Who wants to replace her?” Real mature.

Ants invented trench warfare. Fire ants are even worse. These creatures regularly go to war with colonies that aren’t their own. Thousands die each day to these wars. Fire ants are so bad that they’ve even taken down other animals and humans. They kill more people a year than sharks by several times over. It’s all about territory, power, and breeding. The good news is they generally eat what they kill. Way to teach the hyenas and lions some decency, fire ants. Coral, that we see as so precious, pulls the same territorial crap. I highly suggest watching, as their wars are pretty cool looking.

Wolves are cruel and immensely territorial. One of the funniest videos my dad has apparently seen was when a male wolf entered another’s territory and started mating with the alpha’s daughter. If you weren’t aware, while mating, canines get stuck, as a bulb forms and they can’t remove it until that bulb goes away. When the alpha caught them in the act, he chased after as vicious as a dad with a shotgun, except in this case the daughter accidentally trapped her suitor. Could you imagine your girlfriend’s dad opens the door and there’s nothing you can do about it for another five to ten minutes? You’re stuck. This has a tendency to end with the infiltrator dying.

There are numerous animals which eat their young. The spouse needs to flee with the children, or risk infanticide. There are quite a few insects which kill their mate during sex. Usually the woman kills the male. Fortunately, in more cases than not, it’s only taken figuratively for humans. They destroy our hearts, our bank accounts, and our social circles.

You know a trait a human has that animals don’t? True kindness. We have pictures of animals getting along with each other, but in almost every case they’re in similar situations and so there is companionship. They understand each other. There is so much food, there’s no reason for them to eat each other. This is opportunistic kindness, and dare I say, most of humanity only takes it this far.

True kindness is the ability to show kindness when our fellow man is acting more like an animal. You were deceived and lost a lot of money? I’m talking to the tune of tens of thousands a year of income. Say hello to that person every time you see them. Smile. Invite them out. Do not gossip about the black soul within their husk of a body. Do not start rumors that they’re a body snatcher. You will be told that you’re justified in doing those things, and by George, Scott, Henry, and Mr. Clean, you would be justified in doing it. But any animal would take that path.

I’ve been wronged many times. I inspire people, people take it, and they ditch until they require another fill up. It’s like a gas station, but I have feelings and it hurts when people come to me just to top off. Maybe I should take a hint from my local BP and put up a sign, “Free coffee with fill up.” Maybe we could actually chat.

There is one friend who is in and out of my life at her boyfriend’s leisure. I stuck around for her when my ex hated her. If I ditched this friend, the fantasizing part of me believes there’s a chance I’d be married now, but if dreams were horses we’d all be riders. I stuck around because I’m an idiot. Fast forward a year and a half, my friend finds a boyfriend. He hates me. She cuts off contact, unless she’s having a freak out and needs a pep talk. Then we chat for half an hour, she feels revitalized, and I’ll talk to her again in a month or two.

A very large part of me wanted to text her, “I was loyal to you when my girlfriend hated you. You ditched me the moment your boyfriend told you to. Go away.” But there would have been expletives. I’m just not that good of a person, like last night in Destiny when a guy tea bagged me in a match. I hunted him down and killed him three times in a row and returned the favor. It was sort of like watching the lion take out the hyena. If you don’t know what tea bagging is, you’re a better person for it.

But I didn’t do these horrible things. I didn’t say she should fly a kite, I didn’t swear at her, I didn’t tea bag her. I thought it, aside from the last part. But I didn’t act on it, because I am human, and I am not a slave to my baser instincts of pride, anger, and so on.

So the next time someone says animals are so much more refined than humans, call them out on their bullshit. Sure our higher thinking power allows us to do far more damaging things than animals can, but we’re capable of actually acting kind, of helping someone who will not help us back.

This is what the church service was the other day, sans the animals. I add that in because of my disdain of hippies. The true kindness is a work in progress.

Do good works, act kindly to people randomly and without reward, do not gossip, smile in the face of pain (you can also cry first, this is healthy and normal and I won’t make fun of you, as I enjoy a good weeping now and again). Be better than animals, love like God loves you, love like humans are capable of, and try not to hate with that same overwhelming ability.

The Tower

It was just a dream.

The hive landed seeders in the City. Thousands of thralls poured out as shock troops, ripping the people apart. There were too few Guardians, too many seeders, and no perimeters could be formed. Families were slaughtered in their homes, buildings were burned to the ground, and the seeders did not stop releasing the Darkness.

When the thralls thinned, acolytes and knights came out. They entered building after building to clear locked doors, destroy the few military checkpoints capable of withstanding the thrall. Then the wizards, with their dark magic, came to maintain dominance against the tide of Guardians spilling from the Tower.

It was night, and the usually golden glow of the City was slowly consumed by shadows as the power grid was taken out. Dozens of Guardians were at the power plants, but it didn’t matter. Their Light gutted.

The Tower stood firm, a hundred Guardians fighting to survive. A seeder even landed on top the place we call home, and the Guardians, ancient and experienced Guardians, threw the infestation from the terraces and fed them to their own flames below. The Tower would not crumble to the hive, but it would crumble.

Shaxx, the great warrior of the Crucible, sent out a missive to all Guardians: Return to the City now, or never return. He wasn’t threatening us. There would be nothing to return to if we did not heed his warning.

The hive released abominations the like we had never seen, the like we never knew crawled around the depths of the Moon. There just wasn’t enough time to explore it all, to wipe it clean of this cancer. Maybe they didn’t even come from the Moon, but unknown colonies farther out. My mind could only process they existed. It could not give them shape. Perhaps they did not have one.

The shadows pounded against the city, and the city was reduced to dirt and ash. The Unspeakable advanced upon the Tower, killed a thousand Guardians, but the Guardians would not fall. The Unknown fell before the Light, and the Tower would stand for another precious hour.

Clouds appeared across the City and time and space were distorted. It was traversed as a child walked across the street or a man would take a shuttle to Mars. The vex appeared in the City, under the City, around the City, and the Darkness had never been so present in her streets. The organic robots struck at the few strategic holds allowed to stand, and then they were ash in the wind. Some disappeared as if they never existed, defeated in a battle fought hours ago, yet we only realized at that moment in time it had been lost.

Then the fallen, our enemies since the Traveler stopped speaking to us, breached our unmanned walls, but they did not attack us. They did not strike down the Tower. With four arms, they tore the hive apart. With spears, seeker rifles, and arc power, they halted the vex here and now, for the fallen had no love for the Darkness and knew our fates were linked.

This did not stop the Darkness, though. It only caused it to ebb and flow with more tendrils than we imagined possible, and it went to the base of the Tower with power we could not conceive. They built constructs at the doorstep and used technology so advanced our greatest cryptarchs could not conceive what they saw, and the tower was breached.

The Tower fell. A million Guardians dropped into orbit, from planets far away, to watch. I was there, in orbit, watching. We watched the Tower topple over and crash against the mountains with a great howl. The City was lost. The Tower crumbled. But there were still people, there was still an army of Darkness never before seen, and there was still an armada of Guardians so large it radiated with the Traveler’s Light.

We swooped in and landed in the City. We pushed back the Darkness, dismantled the vex, and burned the hive from the City. People were brought into perimeters fortified by a hundred Guardians, and taken away to old installations around Earth, far from the fighting. Man was scattered, and as we fought in the City, under the Traveler who was dying, he only watched. Not once did that orb burn brilliantly to show us what we faced. But we faced it bravely, and though a thousand Guardians fell, a hundred thousand were behind them.

That day we destroyed the hive and the vex. We put out the fires of our City. We cleared the rubble of the Tower. We rebuilt, though the Traveler did not shine down on us to thank us. He did not give us guidance. He remained silent, and the council which spoke for him was dead. We are the Light. We are the Traveler. It is by our hand the Darkness will fall. The orb in the sky does not care.

But it was only a dream and I woke up.

The Future War Cult warns against this dream. They’ve heard it a dozen times. Today I join them. I will pledge my guns and grenades to their cause, because when this day comes I will be there, and we will push back the Darkness.

futurewarcult

First Step

I woke up at 5:45 this morning, just like the previous morning. I actually woke up at 5:38 because my body already likes this new schedule. Stupid body.

As I laid on my couch, because I left the sheets to my bed at my parents’ house, I thought, “I can go back to bed. I really don’t need to be up until 7.”

It’s easy to give up. It’s easy to not show up for your battles. The world isn’t making you face most of them. The world is perfectly content with me sleeping in, eating crap food, leaving my apartment dirty, not finishing my novel, if my faith dwindles. Whatever your struggles are, they’re content with you giving up, too. Not showing up to a kid’s game. Not getting flowers for a loved one. Not trying for a better job. Not getting the degree you actually wanted. Not trying for your dreams because you have so much already on your plate.

There’s a song that makes me cry every time I hear it. Not full out cry, but the tears form. I can visualize a thousand scenes through it. The scenes are so clear because I understand, and we all understand. We understand the struggle of taking that first step, of continuing to fight through mockery, unwanted burdens, poor decisions from ourselves and others, obligations, and hundreds of others. I hope you enjoy the song. I hope you take that first step. Tomorrow morning, at 5:45, I’ll be taking my third. You can do it, too.

NaNoWriMo approaches

I hate weddings. They make me dour and for the next week I’m in a melancholy mood. The reception puts me on edge and gives me anxiety. Sure I can have fun, but most the time I feel sick.

Every other weekend there has been a wedding, and it’s taking its toll. I’m maxing out. Add to it a date that gave me even more anxiety (even though it was boring and uneventful and we’ll likely never see each other again), and I pretty much feel like someone’s standing on my chest. Why? Long story. The awesome single uncle is sounding pretty good, though.

To say I’ve been on edge has been an understatement. When I saw my Facebook news feed this morning, however, things changed. On Sunday, NaNoWriMo.org relaunched their site!

What is NaNoWriMo you ask? Actually most of you likely aren’t wondering considering how many posts about it are littering WordPress. For the sake of knowledge, though, it’s the challenge of writing 50,000 in 30 days, during the month of November. National Novel Writing Month.

I’ve done this for three years now. I won last year. When they relaunch the site, it means you can update your next novel. It’s up. It’s ready to go. I’m giddy. Rushed right in when I saw it was live to put in my story synopsis. Want to read it? I knew you would.

An empire strikes out on the continent of Ji-Wei. G’desh, the southern desert has fallen to them, the great lake giving the denizens life now dried up and barren. Now they turn their sights to Hurskfjell, the northern mountain range. Rumors abound of runes with the power over life and death, and with these artifacts they would be unstoppable.

Explore the final sagas of Hurskfjell before their age of heroism falls to order.

The Song of Melna’s Vengeance will tell the tragic story of a teenage girl struggling to make life better for her family when faced with immense loss. However, the death of her mother weighs heavily on her, and all other obligations take second to killing her vile step-brother.

The Death of Edmun the Traitor takes a look at Melna’s betrothed as he struggles to make sense of life. Having his hero turn on him, Edmun tries to discover where his loyalties rest, compared to where they should rest.

The Legend of Aradn the Nude King follows a bereaved leader of a small nation. Quick to smile in front of people, he does his best to avoid personal attachments. In his battle to protect a dying race of craftsmen against the violence of his own people, he and his pet bear ride into battle for likely the last time.

The Saga of Hendr the Goat-Defiler picks up in a destitute village where Hendr, a misunderstood hermit, must face his greatest temptation. As he travels with a young girl, he does his best not to let her see his dark secret.

The Dirge of Hurskfjell faces down the great foe, Vitr. As Vitr makes a final attempt at consuming the mountains in eternal winter, the Empire attempts to claim the north as their own. With everything at stake, will the north freeze over or become enslaved? Freedom for the northsmen is no longer an option.

I love a little hopelessness. So in the sea that drowns me, I have a small life raft. Along with swimming at 6am. That’s my new habit. Should give me enough time to get into work and edit for an hour before the doors open.

Speaking of habits, and because I like coming full circle to why weddings instill anxiety, I found this incredible song playing on the radio. Fortunately I didn’t fall into these habits (granted, I also didn’t realize there are sex clubs outside of grungie futuristic movies, so we’ll see where that knowledge gets me). Anyway, again, awesome song.

Shattering the Vault of Glass

The Vault of Glass is a raid in Destiny, a science fiction shooter MMO kind of thing. It’s difficult, requires a coordinated and skilled group of six, and has only been finished by 4.8% of all people who popped destiny into their PS4 console. I’m guessing the demographic is similar across all platforms. While this customarily takes 3-4 hours to finish, I put together a personally picked crack team on Wednesday. What comes next is our experience as experts in this time and space traveling hell known as the Vault of Glass.

We flew towards Venus, chatting it up before we made landfall. I asked for a moment of silence. “You were all picked for a reason. The Vex are hiding something down here, something we believe could alter the course of history. Not just our history to come, but it could distort time and space, making it that humanity never even existed. We cannot let this happen.

“Many have tried. Many have failed. Tonight, we shatter this faberge egg known as the Vault. Tonight we feed the Vex cores to their time warping mothers. Tonight, we tell the Vex we’re tired of their shenanigans.”

The shouted, as I expected, and we dropped through atmo and landed at the entrance.

A spire would open the vault, but to do that we had to cut through the Vex, their most powerful minions trying to put an end to our life. Five minutes in: “Guys, I can’t get my area to respond. It won’t build the spire.”

“Spire’s built.”

“Wait, what? I fought like three guys.”

Next was the Templar, a super computer which could manifest sprites from the time stream. They could look into our past and cut us off before we arrived if they were given the chance to lock onto us. The computer foes would also attempt to build a great construct which ended all life within the vault. We would struggle, war with it, and fight our way through, as we had in the past, the difficulty almost impossible to fully describe.

“The relic spawned. Did we beat the first part?”

“Yup.”

“We died twice?”

“Yup. Middle got swarmed for a second.”

“It’s been like twenty minutes. This should take us an hour.”

“Not today, boys.”

The relic was a shield of light created with the life force of a Guardian when he died. It protects us from the reality attacks so we don’t die instantly. To lose hold of it is to be forsaken by sanity. It’s difficult to wield it. The Templar takes us head on, and the relic is the only way to bring down his shield, and then only for a short time. We fight like madmen, prepared to die for our transgressions against this constructed god.

“The Templar’s dead.”

“No way. We took his shield down five times? It’s been, what, three minutes?”

Then the labyrinth of the gorgons, who look at us, and with one gaze undo us. Four minutes.

A jumping puzzle where floating bricks phase in and out of reality. Two minutes due to a dance party.

Gate guardian where we have to go into alternate realities in order to retrieve items of reality which make us capable of sustaining even more powerful time/space attacks? Ten minutes. For the last three minutes, three of the six stood there to admire the carnage, pick our noses, get a drink, and pee.

Atheon, the great undoer of reality, the one who will collapse all space-time, the being who can regularly teleport us to alternate time lines for Mars or Venus? The time lord at the center of all things which are undone? Fifteen minutes.

“Are we done? How’d we kill him?”

“Sheer awesome, gentlemen. We killed him by flexing our muscles, pulling our triggers, and blasting him into the abyss.”

What had taken three to four hours, took us 45 minutes. Next is no deaths.

Atheon in all his glory. But in his reality, he's like 40 feet tall. Maybe 50.

Atheon in all his glory. But in his reality, he’s like 40 feet tall. Maybe 50.

This Little Ghost of Mine

This little Light of mine,
I’m gonna let it shine.
This little Light of mine,
I’m gonna let it shine.
Let it shine.
Let it shine.

-Children’s song from before the Golden Age

The Traveler overlooking the Last City.

The Traveler overlooking the Last City.

The Tower was supposed to be a place of comfort. It was a magnificent structure in the last City, hiding under the protection of an unconscious, crippled Traveler, his enormous white, spherical body broken as it hovered over the final place humanity could live safely in numbers. When I finished killing the fallen on the Moon, emptying Venus of the vex, or hindering cabal movement on Mars, it was supposed to be the home that gave me refuge from the horrors of Darkness I witnessed every day.

It didn’t.

I remember when I was younger I’d use a nightlight. You always thought there was something under your bed. A shoe moved in your closet, but in your mind it was a monster waiting for you to fall asleep. Now that I’m alive again, now that I’ve descended into the Hives of the Moon, that I’ve witnessed Darkness, I don’t give a damn how old I am, I’m using a nightlight.

My Ghost hovered next to the bed, giving a blue glow. “Would you like me to sing you to sleep, Kess?” The synthesized voice came from the blue eye which stared at me.

“You’re an ass.”

Ghost was open. There was the blue orb which was his core, the Light of the Traveler. then triangles which revolved around it. When he wasn’t lighting the way, the Light contracted and he looked like a solid, floating machine, with a giant eye. His eye was watching me. “I do not eat. I do not digest. I do not defecate. Your statement is untrue. Would you like a song?”

I turned away from him and from the city out the window. I could hear ships swoosh by, even at that late hour. The Tower never slept. The bed felt too soft, next to a cockpit seat. It felt too open, with too much room to move. All of it made me restless. “No song. I just want to sleep.”

The silence lasted maybe half an hour. I watched the ceiling, thoughts of battle running across the dark space. Fighting the vex as they defended the Nexus. Killing the giant hydra which kept guard of countless secrets, algorithms, and plans for the future and the past. To think it was possible, that these machines could be planning in our presence for their past and future goals, and that they can sidestep through time with a little effort. The struggle felt so hopeless.

Then Ghost said, “Why didn’t you go?”

“Go?”

“When the other Guardians invited you out. Why didn’t you go?”

There were five of them. Some of them I went out and fought beside, others were idle in the Tower and wanted a good time so they tagged along. As I laid in bed, they would be drinking, dancing, singing, getting some. “Didn’t feel like it.”

“You never feel like it. Why not?”

“There’s a war to fight. If I’m here, I’m resting and resupplying. I’ll get drunk when the Darkness is gone. When all is Light.”

“What if there is no end to the Darkness? There is Light in dancing and singing. There is a Light in making love and partaking in drink. Muzzle flash isn’t the only kind of light.”

I laughed. “I don’t think they’re making love. I’d be surprised if tomorrow they remembered each other’s name.”

The room felt empty. It was empty. There was nothing in it, aside from a few weapons and an extra helmet I wasn’t quite ready to dismantle for parts. This apartment wasn’t my home. I was not to find the light in simple pleasures on Earth. I said, “Ghost, prep the ship. Taking a quick shower, then I’ll be there.” There was definitely a little bit of the Light in a shower. And with that, I would recharge and blaze brightly in the solar system, so that everyone can see the Darkness will not gut our lives without a brilliant fight.

Hide it in the Tower, no!
I’m gonna let it shine.
Hide it in a Tower, no!
I’m gonna let it shine,
This Little Light of mine.

Once upon a time on little Mercury

Changing how I write these. First, pretending I created a male. Second, first person. Third, this is how I’ll continue in the future.

Once upon a time there was a planet called Mercury. It was the closest planet to the sun, the smallest planet in the solar system. Before I died, I remember looking up at it as a child. My grandpa had a telescope. He said, “Kess, when I was your age, I looked at Mercury with my grandpa. And you know what he told me?”

I was nine. I shook my head, though he told me this story a dozen times. There was something about hearing of miracles that made my heart beat faster. He continued, “When he was your age, Mercury was a dead planet. There was no life on it. The Traveler wasn’t here yet, not when he was your age.”

No life on Mercury. No Traveler. We were colonizing Jupiter at the time, and here grandpa was telling me we once only lived on earth, in an age without miracles. People died before a hundred. I would live to three hundred, if the Darkness hadn’t appeared with its vast armies.

But at that time, when I looked up with my grandpa at the heavens and viewed Mercury, it was a garden planet. I wanted to go there for vacation when I was older. Was even saving up for it after academy. Then they appeared.

News reports told of a robot army, though they were nothing like the exo created long ago by man. The Guardians, soldiers sent by the Traveler, could not stop them, and soon Mercury went dark. They said it was being hollowed out, that the material was being turned into something both organic and machine. The Darkness was already approaching. Saturn was cut off, but we could still see it in the sky. Jupiter was evacuating. But what they did to Mercury?

When the news anchors appeared on that fateful day, the worlds paused. Each planet which remained in the Light was a still, dim flame. “It has been confirmed, the planet Mercury has been made into a machine by this unknown threat. We will keep you updated, but as of now, there is only speculation as to the purpose of this giant construct.”

She kept talking. Guardians were going. Why has the Traveler abandoned us? Is this the end of our Golden Age? When the invaders came in from the outskirts of our solar system we should have realized the age was tarnished.

There were murmurs in the tavern I sat in. It started so quiet. Then pleas and phone calls to loved ones. We had not heard from Mercury for months, but everyone wanted to try once more. Within the hour, Guardians took off to Mercury. A day later there was a small explosion in the night sky. It was followed by reports of victory, that Mercury had been destroyed, and this new threat was delivered a major defeat. We had to blow up a world we once inhabited, and then dared to call it a victory.

We had funerals the next two weeks for the dozens of Guardians who never returned from the planet. No one returned from the machine planet.

A few years later, when everyone was rushing for protection in the final defenses of Earth, when the Darkness cut off all planets and even clawed into the Moon, that’s when I died.

“Kess, you okay there?” Dart jumped off his Sparrow, and the speeder bike dematerialized. “Looks like you’re spacing out a little.”

We stopped outside the mouth of a cave on Venus. It led to the Nexus. Centuries later, we believe this is what turned Mercury into a machine. We were just beginning to resettle Venus, and now that threat was all too real once again. “Do you remember the tales of Mercury?”

Dart laughed, “Getting nostalgic? I remember us sending the vex back to hell. I think. May have been dead already.”

I remembered losing what we once called home. I remembered being helpless as I drove to the useless fortifications. I remembered dying.

But I wasn’t helpless anymore. I was a Light in the Darkness. “For Mercury,” I said, before dropping down into the Darkness, guns lighting the way.