When Truth and Fiction Collide

I found myself recently asking this very question and I was actually a shade concerned when I did. Now, I had known I was on a time-limit to get the PRELUDES of Enoch out and ‘live’ as it were. I’d known I had to get them uploaded before the events I predicted (not by magical powers, incidentally, by observation, deduction and experience) came to pass, before I could be accused of simply plagarising reality rather than creating it as I’m supposed to.

UPDATE; I was going to write a scene where Lucifer, working with Penumael, formulates a plan to discredit his puppet, Krampus (mimicking the President), using the outbreak of a disease. He was going to step in as the hero, exposing the intentional mismanagement and inadequacies of the former and take over in a suitably muscular and efficient fashion. Then I decided that this is probably what is going to actually going to happen before I reach that part of the book…also, considering recent events, it would be in rather bad taste…

But a writer cannot copy stuff that’s already happened, right?

I’d like you to stop for a moment and roll that question around in your head a few times; savour it, consider it and taste it well. It’s a stupid question isn’t it? Not a completely, throw someone out of the window stupid but, perhaps, more of a badly worded one. Plagarism. It is a word we have all dreaded since we started writing, back at school. It means we didn’t do the work or, at least, people think that. It means we stole what someone else created and took a shortcut. It means not only did we do that but we got caught and, as anyone who watches the news these days knows, getting caught is the really important part. If they don’t catch you, then it never happened!

Well, perhaps that is true….

A small nugget of interesting here. The Preludes of Enoch have been called, by some, a little prophetic.

Well fill me with radon, connect me to a battery and call me a lightbulb!

Can it be true? Well it certainly wasn’t intentional as such. I may have chosen to satirise, lambast and make light of a certain man who lives, shall we say, in a house of a shade produced by the reflection of almost all colors. That big one in America they make such a big deal about living in for 4-8 year periods! I may have objected to several aspects of him and thought to humourously present them in the PRELUDES. I may also have used certain events related to said fine gentlemen and statesman to illustrate key points Asmodeus was making and provided both examples and contrasts for he and Julian to talk about.

Shock. Horror. Fire. Fear. Foes. Awake. I just ‘borrowed’ from somewhere else right there. Anyone have an idea where?

Ten bonus points to the first correct guess. No I am NOT a prophet of any kind who sees the future. I may look toward the future an awful lot but I tend to not go further than either the coming Friday or my next payday (the one where I get money, not that lovely peanut thing I praise America for inventing). I have written some speculative fiction and wanted to make sure He-Who-Is-Named-After-British-Slang-for-a-fart didn’t self-destruct before I got the stories on the internet! Now of course I may gain some enemies from this course of action but who ever said it was a writer’s job to be popular with the establishment? I may even gain some nice letters on White House stationary. I may well do.

If you ask me, I might even admit to loving the idea of that prospect… How can I write a series of books which have, as one of their background themes, the actual end of everything without at least referencing the real world events which might well bring about such an apocalypse about before I am actually able to get the darn series finished?

The truth is stranger than fiction, they say and I often feel like I’m playing catch up with the real world! I’m not actually sure what I’d do in those circumstances. Probably look for a chisel and nice quiet cave to carve in…isn’t that something a prophet or at least a hermit would do? They ask.

Now, wouldn’t a prophet actually deny being a prophet just in case his prophecies go wonky and people blame him for that? Look at that dead French bloke! Someone claiming to be a prophet these days would be considered nuttier than a squirrel banquet.

Soooo, a real prophet would pretend not to be one in order to throw people off and have them not call him or her a nutter, right? So he said….ohhhh! Winky, winky, eh? EH?

Now, let’s move towards shall we say, the meat (sorry non-carnivores) of the proposal. This is one I see a lot of questions about and also insecurities from many in reference to. People ask me what they should write about for one. They ask me ‘I saw a story which was very similar to mine but I didn’t copy them’, they ask about fan-fic, about conforming to popular genres and tropes. “How to be original, how to be original, how to be original!” Goes the cry. “When it appears to have been done before?”. Easy answer to that one. Do it anyway.

There are truly no original ideas left, none. There may well be several unique interpretations, combinations and representations though. Every storyline is recycled. Every event, trope or situation already used. Some genres thrive on such predictable repetition, others really don’t. If you put your heart, your soul and, more importantly, your honest commitment into it, you’ll create something unique.

How many times has the mousy, overlooked and badly-treated young person shockingly turned out to be the only being capable of supposedly changing the world for the better and saving whatever species that individual belongs to from a variety of terrible things. Four or five allies will dramatically die along the way and many moments of self-discovery will take place but the Evil One will be destroyed and peace/prosperity/a New Order will result. The Chosen One will either fade into the shadows modestly or have an important role in the new government.

Sometimes there is even a twist when said Chosen One realises that the Just Change they fought for isn’t and the New Boss they trusted is just like the Old Boss; so they unexpectedly rebel against the New Boss in a dramatic finale never meant to be resolved.

Don’t write the sequel, please, let it hang!

Take a moment to make a list of just how many books, book series and movies I have just described the basic storylines of. Take ten, go for a snack, smoke, whatever you fancy but make sure you can write while you’re doing it ok? Now go over your list and count the entries. Multiply it by your birth year, add the number of times you were scared by the neighbour’s dog as a child (be honest) and divide the result by the sum of your list minus your birthday. I know what your answer is going to be, I know it exactly.

More of my secret hidden prophet abilities coming into play… Your answer was an awful lot, quite a few or lots. Maybe even loads and loads if you’re ambitious or old. I am truly amazing, right? Thank you, thank you, I know! Thank you.

Joking aside, almost every popular fantasy, YA, Sci-Fi and possibly romance book ever written, right? All those popular movies that start with a weak, ugly, overlooked or maltreated fellow/fellowess who develops godlike powers and…all that other stuff happens.

Most food is made of the same basic ingredients but the number of dishes which can be made from it are truly many! Same with writing. Look at the one with that young bespecktacled fellow who finds out he can do magic and even go to school for it and compare it to the young blonde fellow who harvested dew on a desert planet with two suns. One fights a snake faced fellow with an insecurity complex and the other an asthmatic bloke in a robot suit. Both win (oh crap! Spoiler alert, sorry!) and make their respective lands better places for almost everyone who lives there.

Except most of the ones who fought with or agreed with the bad guy…but we don’t talk about them really, do we? The point is this; people watched the movies, bought the books, became nerds for the story and mythology and so on. Nobody crossed their arms and harumphed about how like that other movie they’d seen the other occasion it was. Well, maybe there was one. There’s always one isn’t there? Are you ready? Here he is;


You can just feel that aura of the easily impressed one, can’t you? That is, indeed, the face of a man well-pleased with his entertainment choices! Or maybe not.

How would you guys describe his expression? He’s probably upset because that thing he automatically hates because young people like it made more money than he can even imagine how to fantasise about while being sure to be accurately representing it in the correct denominations and the right amounts thereof.

We just broke the poor fellow’s brain! He’ll be alright, he’s just gone for a quick lie down, after which he’ll find his box of blue biros, yellow legal pad and the contents of his wallet; currently some old receipts, an expired voucher or two and exactly $17 and 45 cents in mixed currency. Fifty bonus points for telling me what this fellow, let’s call him Earl, has in his wallet. What is the most likely or best combination of bills and coins for a man of Earl’s age and demeanour? What else is hiding in there that he forgot about? See what we’ve just done? We made Earl a person. We invented a character!

He is a stereotype but people like those, especially if you make them funny enough. Think about all the angry old man characters you have read about and seen in movies for a few minutes…they all turned out to be big softies in the end don’t they? Not Earl; Earl is an asshole and will never change.

Only kidding, Earl is decent enough really. Your story might have been done before, in it’s essence. It may have been done more times that Earl has itemised the contents of his wallet since he retired, twelve years ago.

More times than he has saluted the flag in his eighty-five years of life. More times even than he has complained about his left leg in winter. He nearly lost it to shrapnel and actually counts his blessings often. Same as he counts his shoes when he puts them on as well as the fact that he still possesses a foot to place inside each.

Motivations and backstory right there, see? If you wish to develop this budding Earl, I gift him to you. Treat him nicely and please don’t kill him off thoughtlessly, he served and was wounded for his country with honour.

He’s actually not a bad old sort when you get to know him. He loves pistachio nuts and if you bring him some of those or, better yet ice-cream in that flavour, he will regail you with many a stirring tale of his own! Brew him coffee with a pinch of salt in it and he will bless you as a brother. OK, let’s allow Earl his rest for now, we could pass all day learning about him.

Best to leave him with his calculations and his list. He’s going to spend a good few hours on this one! Quite the perfectionist, this fellow. Funny how that happens, right? We don’t so much invent as discover some characters. I have been surprised at least once by how some of them turned out!

Someone wrote a story very like yours before. A lot of someones in fact. Did they have your characters, your setting, your skills and your humour though? Take Earl, I described him one way, you might detail other traits he has that I missed. He’ll still be the same man, only described from different points of view. Just like that man whose skin-tone is often compared to both a fruit and a colour at the same time. Some see him as a hero and great man, the unifier of their land and saviour of their way of life. To sensible and intelligent people, though, he is an idiot.

Ok, joking again, I can’t help it! Every writer tells their own story, I can’t get upset because it’s not the same as mine. In fact, in retrospect, I should be grateful that it is not, right? See how it works now? That’s right, you already knew, you just hadn’t realised it yet.

Off you go, I look forward to seeing you on the shelves. Well, your book at least. If I see you on some shelves I might consider you a little strange, perhaps. Go and write it, I challenge you. Just be nice and respectful to Earl, OK?

Reconstruction of A Shattered History

“History shattered. It was the only thing that could give. Very strange event. There were cracks left all over the place. The… oh, I can’t remember the words… the fastenings that tell bits of the past which bits of the present they belong to, they were flapping all over the place. Some got lost for ever…”

Terry Pratchett, Thief of Time.

This was, perhaps, the area of research which simultaneously offered the greatest challenges and most intriguing opportunities.

The deeper we dug, the further back we looked, the more we realised that a lot of what is considered “established historical fact” is so much guesswork, gossip, and what we might call ‘fake news’ in this age.

We all know the saying that “history is written by the victors” and we know this is true. The apocalypse of the Mayans, the holocaust of the Native Americans, the genocide of Columbus; history tried to hide those stories from us but failed in the end. Sooner or later, it seems, the Truth will turn up, mopping its brow and muttering something about the traffic.

Eventually.

A Hole on History

There is a great deal of History we know nothing about, that we make educated guesses, make educated stab in the dark (first establishing with what to attempt said stabbing and the correct intensity of darkness to attempt to at least wound), hold fingers of investigation to the wind, and so forth.

Up until quite recently, your average person want to school and was taught what we could call the consensus version which, obviously, they accepted without question. Then most people get on with their adult lives after school and leave history well alone. Those who maintain an interest or take history as a profession tend to not attract too wide an audience.

Those ‘In the business’ know which way the trench is dug (or better said, the budget granted) so keep their mouths shut about ‘the secret’, wouldn’t you?

The simple fact is that a lot of the historical record was commited to perishable materials because that’s all they had available at the time. Of the vast cache of documents recovered from Qumran in 1947, it is said that at least one third were used as fuel before someone told the shepherd those foreigners paid a fortune for that stuff.

So much could have been lost that way, or been sequestered away in private collections, locked away in the fabled Vatican Archives or similar hidden vault of Forbidden Knowledge.

We know that many Mayan books and scrolls were burned as “heresy”, Aztec monuments defaced. Early Islamic expansion contributed to the destruction of ‘haram’ or unholy items such as stuff the priests didn’t like or that disagrees with what kept them in nice clothes and palaces.

The library of Constantinople contained a lot of what was saved or recovered from the fire that destroyed the Library of Alexandria centuries before. In 1204 AD., the Library was burned to the ground by crusaders and, we hear, nothing survived.

How much history was lost due to ignorance, war, ideology, brazen stupidity and, perhaps, a bit of intent?

Stitching it Up

The possible irony of that heading is indeed intentional, thank you for noticing…

When it comes to studying the history I needed to in order to properly research both The Chronicles of Enoch and Hegemony, a lot of information was missing. The main source of material, The Bible (various versions), translations of the Torah and midrash, the Qur’an and other works, ancient codices, the Book of Enoch itself, and numerous works of ‘uncertain canonicity’ (apophryca etc).

I noticed a lot of missing information, contradictions, plot holes, and explanations lacking.

Now, I know Sir Terry’s works are as fictional as ours are (we think) but we wonder sometimes…we’ve often heard of something called ‘parallel creativity’; inspiration coming from…ah…somewhere else and fiction accidentally reporting reality. Sir Terry mentioned something called ‘unwritten books’ and has a magical library containing books that haven’t yet been written, implying that information can, perhaps, persist and ‘leak’ as it were.

We wonder whether some of this information and history was intentionally repressed and hidden as The Chronicles of Enoch assert. Has history been filled with individuals or groups that do not want the truth reported; not just Lucifer (and through him, The Vatican and other Church organisations) but others too? In The Chronicles, we have the Unknown Men, the Illuminati, and others we’ll stay quiet about for now.

Hidden History?

Each one of these organisations has an agenda and aims as well as being very keen to hide their existence from the world at large. 

In The Chronicles, we have the example of The Hidden War of 79AD. The world’s greatest Heroes gathered in Meggido valley to face down a horde of monstrous Nephilim led by Lucifer and his Horsemen. Sable, Conan, and Gilgamesh led the charge and, though countless heroes of legend were killed in the battle, Lucifer’s forces were decisively broken; two Horsemen were defeated and the others fled.

The world, however, did not end and the forces of Heaven were conspicuously absent. Everyone, except for the dead, simply pretended that the battle never happened. Asmodeus erased even the vaguest of references regarding the battle from history. They existed, of course, there had been mortals present in the fifty-thousand strong Army of Heroes, there were witnesses, there were armaments and weapons as well as bodies left behind. A great many of those bodies did not look even close to human; there were giants, orcs and goblins, beast-men, and dragons among them and their bones decorated the Meggido valley.

The scale of the operation he mounted in the 1960’s, the disinformation, the sequestration of both information and remains, the neutralisation of those that couldn’t be ‘financially convinced’, and the practical rewriting of some history books is almost impossible to imagine but he did it.

Fragmented accounts remain in folklore, mythical accounts of Heroes, strange legends, they are even encoded in the “Approved Modern Version” of the Book of Revelation. It is odd to think that the great Battle of Armageddon there mentioned refers to an actual historical event rather than a future one or (as many today claim) a more allegorical struggle.

The account in Revelation is said to have been Asmodeus’ greatest gamble and success simultaneously.

Conclusion

History is written by the victor and the most powerful; money and threats have made inconvenient pieces of the historic record disappear almost as well as accidental occuraces such as fire and misapplied zealotry can.

We know there are parts missing, we see repetions, fixes, and inventions applied over some of the holes and rarely do people question them. One has to be looking in order to spot the important ommissions and fabrications. One has to pay attention to the stories and folk tales for explanations at times, the evidence that should be there at others.

Sometimes the evidence or information is glaring in its absence.

We are not talking about those shows seen on a certain channel sharing a name with the field we keep mentioning. We are not talking conspiracy this time, we’re making logical and educated forays into what is so obviously there.

Or, of course, obviously not there but has left a hole like a missing jigsaw piece will…you can imply its shape in its absence.

Maybe not all of our fictional history is as fictional as we think it is…

The Forgotten War

The year 79AD is fraught with mythological significance. There was the destruction of Pompeii, terrible Norse rumours of Ragnarok from the frozen North to stormy Lindisfarne. Several prophecies hinted at dark events on the way.


According to history, the worst thing that happened that day was that two Roman towns were buried in ash, killing hundreds in mere moments. Terrible as this event was, it was not the worst thing that happened that year, it is simply the worst thing that people remember…


Asmodeus did a very, very good job in erasing the most significant historical event since, well since anything, from anything but Viking and Celtic legend, which nobody believes anyway.
On August 25th (modern calendar) AD 79, the world ended but it also did not. It was a very close thing.


This battle, called variously ‘Lucifer’s Folly’, ‘The Harvest of Heroes’, or ‘The Neverwar’ , depending on who you listen to, two vast armies faced one another in the shadows of the Megiddo valley in Isreal/Palestine. In the foremost ranks of one army stood the greatest heroes you have every heard of; Nephilim every one.

Opposing them, the seemingly unending ‘armies of Hell’; imagine orcs, kobolds, trolls, giants, ever type of monster you could imagine and some you wish you hadn’t…


“He was most amazed by the fact that it was a lot quieter than he’d thought it would be. He didn’t really know what he’d been expecting but not this. He heard the gentle ruffle of banners being pulled at by the wind, the jingle of harness as the soldiers around him moved from foot to foot or stretched to keep muscles from cramping on them.


Otherwise, silence, pretty much, which only made the waiting worse.
Across the other end of the valley, they were gathered. It looked like a huge wall of shadow from here, so large was the mass of enemies. Some early calculations based on what their local scouts told them, said that they were outnumbered somewhere between 450-1 and ‘it doesn’t really make much of a difference we’re all going to die anyway’.


Of course, thought Fionn, as he tightened then loosened the grip on his spear, they had almost every hero that had ever lived on their side so those were pretty good odds to some of them…but only if you actually believed the stories…


He smiled as he rotated his shoulders and looked around at the men and women beside him.


There was a knot of big Norsemen over there, all axes and hammers with their winged helmets and shiny armour. Big fella with the hammer had sparks jumping all over the place which was something Fionn considered unwise in the presence of so much nervous metal. They were clearly bonnie fighters though, he’d heard that the big one with hair and beard of the purest white had cut his way out of the dragon that’d tried to eat him. He caught Fionn’s eyes and cocked an snow-white eyebrown in greeting before turning his head back to the bigger fellow with the fancy hammer and sparks.


Fionn’s group of hairy, tattooed warriors stood in a loose knot of aggression, clustered around the Big Man himself, him as had brought them here from the Eagle Isles far away in the Mist.


The Wolf was big. He held a claymore casually over one shoulder, its metal full of strange blue reflections which danced along an edge that was, from certain angles, not entirely there. A large bearded axe, heavy with runes and knotwork designs, was being used to draw patterns in the dead desert dust.


Not a good place for fighting, Fionn spat in the dust and watched the moisture vanish almost right away. Already enough death here but he could feel the thirst for even more blood rising from the barren rocks like smoke.


The Wolf looked down at Fionn, or at least his heavily carved silver wolf mask did. Fionn never had figured out how Cú saw through those blue jewels his war mask had for eyes but on those rare occasions the Big Man felt inclined to speak, he’d said “clearer than you can imagine. Like eagles on the wing and wolves beneath a full moon see, I’d wager”.


The azure gaze lingered on Fionn long enough to cause the wiry hunter to finger his fine beech bow with a barely repressed shudder.


“Big Man likes you, so he does” Bran had said through bright red moustache. “The wee giant is his best mate, sure he is.”


At 5’10”, Fionn was small for a giant, slight of build and sparse of beard. His Da had been the giant that’d built the Causeway to get across to where his mother – daughter of some distant cousin of Bran Boru, a nasty lesser Lord of Ulaid- was being held prisoner as was the fashion of the time and Fionn the half-giant was the result.


The Big Man was near a foot taller than him and a great deal older, folk said. He came from the drowned lands under the Morimaru off the coast of Albion. They said he’d fought these fellas, the Fír Bolg and Bálor’s kin before. They said him and that blue-eyed devil with the two most beautiful swords Fionn had ever seen beside him went way back. Back even before the ice left and the sea came in.


“About bloody time,” the Big Man said to no-one in particular. He gestured towards the storm gathering over the Fír Bolg with his impossible sword held loosely in one hand. He bumped the blue-eyed devil, who appeared to be asleep standing up, on the leg with the flat of his axe. “That uncle of yours has decided to show up.”


The odd significance of those words made the hairs of Fionn’s heavily tattooed arms stand up and he gripped his bow even tighter.


“I know you’re in charge here, Sable,” Big Man continued all nonchalant as one of those priests getting off a boat in his dress to chase of the snakes Eíreann never had anyway. “But I’d suggest it’s time for that signal.


The one called Sable appeared to awake and look towards his friend. Fionn felt his gut tighten as those devil-blue eyes brushed his and fought the sudden wave of terror down with great effort. Sable nodded and waved one of his beautiful silver swords up in the air.


Far off, the deep growling scream of a war horn sounded, setting Fionn’s teeth on edge and his heart pumping harder. Another answered it, this one bright and singing like the way Fionn imagined a swan’s one and only song would sound. Across the valley, answering horns and trumpets winded, their discordant cacophony bouncing off the valley walls.


Big Man nodded and indicated the horizon with his sapphire wolf’s eyes.

“Here they come,” his normally booming voice barely above a whisper. “If you’ve any ginger on you, Atlantan, I think the men’ll be needing it soon.”


Sable nodded and rolled his neck, producing some fine crackles of bone Fionn most approved of. He said nothing and kept those eyes fixed on the black storm-front, crackling with lightning that could not be natural.
It took a moment for Fionn to see how right that assessment was…


The storm was no storm, it was…
In the boiling inkiness of the tortured air he saw them, colossal figures that were nearly not there. They looked like pictures of light projected into the storm…like…like…like ideas trying to take a shape.


They were like the star-creatures dropping from above, trying to become what men said they should be but struggling. He thought he could see four creatures slowly striding through the lightning but they kept blurring and changing like pigment in water, swirling and coming apart before reforming again.
Then, his temples pounding and his eyes threatening to turn themselves inside out, his mind let him see them. His béan sidhe heritage let things hidden from mere men reveal themselves to him.


There were four figures but, seeing them clearly now was not the blessing he’d thought it would be and he prayed for ignorance now.
As big as the sky and each filled with lightning, they strode over the innumerable Fír Bolg.


In robes the colour of the grave drifted the first, his raised hood empty and arm of bones holding a massive scythe whose blade was larger than the sky itself, it seemed. A smoke swirled around it and, as he felt horror knew at his gut, Fionn swore he saw faces in that smoke or, better said, the smoke was faces, millions of them. The scent of long abandoned tomb mounds drifted towards them.


As the second figure moved, the scent became stronger, richer and riper. This figure also bore a scythe in one emaciated hand but it looked normal compared to that which the first carried. The rest of the figure did not look normal. Every inch of its bare flesh not covered by crumbling rags was the deep black-brown of the long and dried up dead yet somehow it retained an unholy gloss to it . Atop stooped and bowed shoulders was the skull of a great ox or steer in place of a head, baleful and sickly fire burning from the eye sockets.


Compared to the bandy, famine-wracked frame of his neighbour, the next creature was a giant. Corroded heavy iron armour covered all but one corpse’s hand and splayed lizard-like feet. In one iron-clad hand, it gripped a vast bow of shining metal and in the pallid, diseased bare one it held an arrow from which unhealthy light did not shine so much as ooze, like pus from a wound. Its face was an outlandish mask of dull material covered in tubes and pipes with an opaque glass plate over its eyes and two great drums either side of where a mouth should be. From these drums a fog of a colour one could only describe as unhealthy huffed in and out periodically as if the creature were breathing it.


But Fionn had eyes only for the fourth figure for it was glorious. Behind it’s heavily armoured body spread vast wings of living flame. Where the other figures appeared to now be waiting and quiescent, this one was in constant motion. In one hand it held a whip which appeared made of broken blades hammered together and ending in a glowing skull of white-hot brass; it coiled and snapped with the sound of a heavy infantry charge with only the slightest movement of the creative’s right shoulder. In its left hand, it held a double-headed axe of molten iron easily as long as Fionn’s father had been tall. Upon its jagged armoured shoulders, brutal fire the colour of burning blood blazed from the dry sockets of the skull of a great ram. The eye wateringly bright fire that filled sockets and skull grew brighter and softer, brighter and softer…as if it were the breath of the creature. As it ‘breathed’, the stench of shit, and blood, hot iron, and fear sweat washed over Fionn and he was certain that the blaze of its gaze fixed upon him and only him within the multitude; weighing him up.


Fionn tore his gaze away, counted, and thought on his impressions of them; they scrabbled at and dug up something deeply primal within him and, when realisation finally broke the surface of his thoughts, the words fell from his quivering lips before he was even aware of the thought that heralded them.


“Oh shit, are those what I think they are?” he wavered. “Now we really are f-“


Sable, who it was now clear had been watching Fionn the whole time, cut in adroitly, his voice level and deep, filled with a confidence Fionn knew his lacked. “That’s them, half-giant,” his voice had a laugh to it for reasons Fionn could not fathom. “This is, indeed, IT”

Fionn said nothing but this time, when he met those blue eyes, it was not fear that he felt, it was hope. He licked dry lips and nodded.

“That one,” Sable indicated the burning whip cracker with one silver sword. “That one is mine, Conan.”


Such was Sable’s quiet assurance that Fionn felt certain that a million Fír Bolg would barely slow a man like that down.


“Everyone’s got to die sometime!” Big Man roared in reply, butting Sable with one shoulder, over the nervous clatter of a thousand suits of armour. “I want to see what colour that big sheepie bastard bleeds for myself!”


It was not even that funny, Fionn reflected as his voice joined the rising roar from the rest of the army, but he laughed along with the rest of them.


“This blue-eyed bugger has killed giants for fun so I’m for getting to that shiny bastard while there’s still big fekkers left to fight!” He roared even louder and stabbed claymore at sky. “Who is with me?”


In a wall of noise; terror transformed into desperate bravado, screams of rage, swords beating shields, and the sounding of horns from a hundred nations which filled the plains of Meggido from end to end, fifty thousand men and women told him that they were.


As they charged forward into certain ruin, the battle at the end of the world began…

The End of All Things

The signs are all there, there is more of this and less of that than there used to be, these people are doing the things this culture or prophet predicted and it is only a matter of time before the rest of the thing he/they predicted will also happen and *poof*…


…..


You can clear all appointments for next week because, well, there won’t be a next week…


Of course, people do rather disagree about the method the Earth will decide upon for her Big Exit or, at least, ours but we all know it’s coming, right? Stands to reason doesn’t it? Bound to happen sooner or later…


I hardly think this is a new phenomenon…


Simpler Times


Back when the world was, at least from a matter of the perspective of most people, a smaller place, the End of All Things could happen fairly often. People did not know anything about other countries; gosh some people didn’t know about cities even! If the river burst its banks and flooded a fertile little valley, killing everyone except a few (who’d die later of disease), that’s the end of the world. It’s certainly the end of it for them.


The Romans were convinced that civilisation would just stop if their Empire ceased to exist to, in a manner of speaking, the world would end because, so they said, all would descend into barbarity and chaos, ultimately ending all people worth thinking about.


Smelly tribespeople who couldn’t speak Latin did not count, apparently.

This raises the question which we think is a vital one to consider and, perhaps, answer;


WHAT WOULD WE HAVE TO LOSE IN ORDER FOR IT TO BE CONSIDERED “THE END”

  1. All the humans die or, at least, most of them.
  2. Civilisation is destroyed and our comforts with it
  3. The internet goes down for more than a day
  4. Our environment is wiped out and there is nothing of natural beauty left

These are, I think, the Big Four. A fitting number, I feel, because we also have the Four Stereotyped Animal-Riders of The End Bit. The role they will play in final events does vary. Will they just ride around and watch? Will they get involved directly? Are they simply good metaphor? Nobody really knows because they only show up the one time and do not, it would appear, carry out drills or rehearsals.

The Big Show is, it would appear, very hush-hush and need-to-know.
Now, I know what you’re thinking; there are countless ways the world could end, is not the above list too simplified?


No. It is not.


It doesn’t really matter how all the humans die out; be it aliens, pandemic, natural disaster, getting dinosaured into fossils; they die out. Gone.


Whether civilisation is ended by a zombie plague, another less virulent pandemic, talking apes with great charisma, different aliens, a robot uprising or any combination of the above, it is also gone.


If rebooting the router or unplugging it then plugging it back in again 30-60 seconds later does not work then it truly is a lost cause.


However the environment is ravaged and destroyed, it will simply be a matter of deciding who is to blame. If they are dead then it makes the process much easier, utlimately.


The fact that there are so many ways, scenarios, and methods it is considered are ‘canon’ or ‘popular’ for the Big Finish should, perhaps, set your mind wandering towards where I think it should.


A Popular Passtime


Take a look inside of a bookstore, on Amazon, on Netflix or similar, at the movies or at videogames. We do love a good apocalypse don’t we? The most popular forms of entertainment all focus around either;

  1. An imminently arriving disaster that only the heores can avert.
  2. A disaster already happened and survivers are trying to rebuild
  3. Clues to a previous disaster ae uncovered and the heroes must tell the world to prevent a similar thing happening again.
  4. The hero knows what’s going to happen but no-one believes them then it either; gets averted dead on time or happens anyway.
  5. Fantasy or Steampunk or Mad Max style world arises from the ruins of the old world.
  6. Vampires or other mythical/magical creatures regain dominance with less humans around.
  7. Totalitarian regime arises “to protect” survivors of said disaster or previously benevolent organisation/government goes that way, drunkon the power of how much humanity needs them.

In essence, we do love a good disaster or look at what might happen to humanity after one. It could be said that humans are rather a dramatic species.


You see, they are rather obsessed with the extinction of their species or, at least, the extermination of a large proportion of it. We wouldn’t really call that a great survival instinct…


Imminent Doom


This past 50 years alone we have had;

  1. Global nuclear war any time now, you wait and see
  2. Terrorist apocalypse and “Holy” war
  3. The Millennium Bug
  4. Predicted year 2000 one-time meteor, magnetic field polarity switch/other
  5. Predicted year 2012 Mayan apocalypse
  6. Various delayed Raptures
  7. Various global pandemics

Yet here we remain. Of course it has also been a period of near constant wars in the Middle East that people do not really talk about any more; the lives and worlds of a great many have ended as a result of those.


The point is that it appears that humanity actually wants some dramatic event with stirring orchestral music to unexpectedly occur to the world in spite of the fact that it would kill millions including some people they know or care about. Seems odd to me.


Either that or that is what “they” want us to be thinking about. As we have mentioned in previous articles, “they” control our governments and our media; they control what we see and even what we think. Of course, we can no more agree on who “they” are than we can on how the world will end.


There is a serious point being raised though; we watch for patterns and concordance and wonder whether any of you have noticed anything recently? We’ll leave it there for now because we do not wish to repeat what we covered in other articles.
However our sense of always living under the weight of imminent but nebulous doom is created, we cannot deny that it is there and could, were someone of a mind, be made use of…


Conclusion


The world is going to end just like everyone is going to die. Sooner or later it is the one fact of which we can be certain. What each of us considers “the world” will end and none of truly know what comes next.

Therein lies, perhaps, the root of our fascination; the potential for our very personal world to end quite abruptly one day.


So, we face that fear by entertaining ourselves with disasters averted or a better life for all on the other side.

Subverting the Genre

The Wordsmith’s Anvil


It is tempting, as a writer, to conform to one of the popular genres; fold together the de-rigeour plotlines, bend and hammer in reader’s favourite character types, heat and finally temper it into a shining example of sure-to-sell. It is so easy to do.


If you do it right then you may have a functional knife, decent sword or even another hammer to shape more words on your anvil. You may well be successful. That is good, do you not think? Maybe. Molten Words Cast Out of the mould it pops. Smooth off the cast lines and flash, polish it into… …into what?


Exactly what the mould tells it to be. You see, you take your mould, fill it with the molten result of your works and leave it to cool. After a time, you crack it open and out comes….an exact copy of what the mould was made from. Vampires who have various existencial crises. Angels who, in spite of having god-like powers, still chase after a much ignored young girl who secretly has reality shattering powers.


The all-powerful evil overbeing who commands legions of fanatical followers and can murder anyone they like with a mere thought with the hidden weakness that everyone had forgotten about, killed by a precocious pubescent… Funnily enough nobody asks what happens once the hero and love interest share a kiss and the final page is turned.
The vast army or empire does not simply shuffle it’s feet and decide that unfettered evilness was a poor career choice. Will the minor villains and henchpeople turn good and they live in the cliche everyone loves? What do you think?


A Mighty Sword Forgéd


Yes, the accent is intentional for we are about to enter into a fantasy-based extended metaphour…(spelling intentional for pedantic accent)
The hero of the tale will often be seeking a weapon of some sort with which to end the Evil One forever.
No simple sword, hammer, arrow or pointy-murder-thing will suffice: a simple and enthusiastic poke into a convenient soft bit will not end the threat which means to end everything that is Good forever! It is never that easy.


A Quest must be undertook, many dangers faced and disparate characters who do not get on will find common ground and form an incredible team. Some of them might die, a traitor will be uncovered, maybe a deathbed (or death rock) redemption or two might take place. All good and fine.


The weapon being sought will be of incalculable power meaning that the Bad Fellow will be utterly destroyed by it. It might be somewhat harmful or devisive to our Bold Adventurers too but that adds to the depth and drama does it not?


A Sword is not Simply a Pointy Metal Stick


Now, not to bore you with the technicalities involved in turning non-sword-shaped metal into edged death, it is a long and arduous process.


One must select the metal, have a picture of the end result in one’s mind. One must bend, fold, hammer, smooth, beat, heat, temper and quench just right or one’s weapon will break the first time you try to beat someone with it.


For this example, too, one must also enbue the item with magic, secret knowledge or really, really fancy ornamentation in order to make sure said Evil One becomes the requisite number of Evil Pieces (none of which will be placed in a microwave oven to burn the hero’s house down and kill his parents).


One can make a sword mould and pour all the right ingredients into it. One can wait for it to cool and free it from its prison. One can tidy it up, polish it, give it a decent edge. One can even make it shine like a mirror.
One can do all of that but the first time your weapon meets a master (or mistress) forged equivalent, it will snap in two with a rather disappointing crack sound. The crack of disappointment, they call it.
Whomever it may be that they are.


Start with the Basics


As the metalsmith starts with – you got it – metal, what does the wordsmith start with? That’s right! With their brain! We got you, drew you right in and played one of those awful context jokes on you! Actually, some might call it inspiration, that ephemerous output of the Muses, others call it research. It is the same thing though, a wordsmith’s base material.


Words are, afterall, simply a process of re-arranging 26 letters into different configurations. This brings us to the First Contentious Moment; writers and storytellers. Anyone can be a writer but few have what it takes to be a story teller.


Five Minute Argument Break…

You clicked on it, didn’t you? I know, it’s an awful joke but it keeps me amused.


Author’s Self-Promotion Moment.


So, of course the author is going to mention his own work here. Why not? This is my Blog, thank you very much! In this case, I am using it as an illustration so please forgive my cupidity.


To those who have read either the current draft or the prequel: Collected Preludes one thing may well stand out. Not just the odd British spelling and strange sense of humour. What might draw the most inquisitive of minds is this; the subversion of assumptions, the twisting of expectations and the fact that the mountains of source material are questioned at each and every point.
All the stories are true, or at least that used to be. One popular genre these days involves the Bible of Christianity, just like The Chronicles of Enoch does.


This, in its way is a subversive genre started by that rather popular series of novels which started everyone wondering about what that ancient Italian Polymath was really up to with his religious paintings.


A whole sub-genre has since emerged, feeding on the doubts and controversy Mr. Brown stirred up. The good ones among therm ask the most important of questions; how did it truly begin and how did it change so drastically?


What would happen if we could prove that the carpenter from Nazareth actually meant something quite different to what was later attributed to him?


The Dramatic License

Oh, it looks like mine expired. That could be embarrassing (also I am not that young, please don’t tell)!

I have mentioned this before because, you might be surprised to learn, it is very important .


Dramatic license; not the terrible mockup I created for a few seconds of amusement but the less physical kind.
Storytellers predate writers because, should we believe the archeologists, speech predated writing. Before people discovered that making symbols mean words was the latest thing (all the other up-and-coming civlisations are doing it!) there was only one place to store all the important stuff and make sure it did not vanish forever.


The Oral Tradition.


Travelling storytellers would move from placed to place and, often for a space by the fire, free food and alcohol, would entertain their hosts with stirring tales about the exploits of some heroic figure or other.


Perhaps they would include religious or moral instruction into the mixture. They would leave but the story would remain behind, now resident in the heads of those who had just heard it.

The Travelling Story Now


Seeing as the storyteller earned their living from the quality of the stories they told, it was not unknown for a good one to…well…add bits to the original they had heard previously. Some local flavour, a bit of cultural relevence, seemingly casual observations made on their way into the village/homestead/farm/tavern as well as their own opinions and biases.

When they left and a copy of the story remained with the latest recipients thereof, the story may well not be the same as the last version told. In fact, the same story could be getting told, in a variety of slightly different incarnations, in a number of different places at the same time.


One day, newcomers would come the village or, gathered around and, lacking decent television and WiFi, the villagers would retell the story. Perhaps they would go to a local gathering and tell it there.


Storytellers being as they are, the urge to stamp their own individuality onto the tale was rarely easy to resist. Lessons and themes important to their culture and society would find their way in.


Names might well change in the process, locations, even the ending. The more the story travelled, from mouth to mouth, ear to ear, the more it changed, the harder it became to recognise the original from the new and shiny version. It is possible that facts were exchanged for the kind of drama which promised food, wine and a warm bed for the night.
Maybe the overwhelming need to ensure that an important lesson was learned or vital information passed on was factored in.


That favourite childhood game of “Ethinic Stereotype Whispers” is suddenly quite a significant learning experience. Gilgamesh became Noah and the list goes on and on.


History is as stable and as reliable as the human beings who study and repeat it.


The Point is Reached


It is easy to conform to a popular genre.


Anyone can, with effort and focus, produce a half-decent tale of what people on certain platforms like to read but will your story, neck-deep in the morass, ever be more than one of hundreds?


The point of this article was to illustrate how seemingly mundane and everyday events may well become something quite different.


A young boy on the way to market sell his family’s only cow returns with a handful of beans and concocts a fantastical lie.


Two children bearing bread through the dark forest get lost for days and agree on a spine-chilling tale to explain their absence and, to their thinking, avoid a good thrashing.


The human race prefers the gentle lie to the hard truth. That is, as writers, our job; to bear them along the path of a fantastical tale towards the final truth, the point.


Along the way, we entertain them, we show they joy, dispair, shock and perhaps horror.

We teach them without their even being aware of it and then, when they arrive at the final page and – in a mixture, we hope, of pleasure and sadness – read the final words they mutter


“Now it makes sense! Now I understand!”


And they smile as they stare off into the space you took them to.
They have accepted the truth without even realising it!

History #Villain #ChroniclesofEnoch #Discovery #PassionForTheArt #AlanJFisher #Religion #Creative #Philosophy #thoughts #Dramatic #ArtoftheStoryteller #Storytelling #WritingTips #WritingTropes #WritingMentor #Writinghelper #WritingCoach #BookWritingPixies #NewWriters #assumptions

The Thirteenth Watcher

A Short Story

A hilltop in the centre of the town which sat within a deep valley of impassible blades of rock. Upon its table-flat peak, were equally arranged 12 chairs and upon each chair sat a god. With exact regularity, twenty-four times a day, the gods would rise, turn to their right and bow to the next god, then each god would step to the right, bow to the 13th chair at the centre of the circle and sit in the next chair along. Stand. Turn. Bow. Step. Bow. Sit. Regular, even, predictable, unchanging. Stand-turn-bow-step -bow-sit, stand -turn-step-bow-sit, stand-turn-bow-step- bow-sit.  So passed the day, 12 times round, stand-turn-bow–step-bow-sit. So passed the night, 12 times; stand-turn- bow-step -bow-sit.

Twenty-four times a day without fail, without variance, without delay, stand-turn-bow-step-bow-sit. Twenty-four flights of wide stone steps wound up the hill from the town below, twenty-four turns of sixty steps each. The hill was tall but you could always see at least one god stand-turn-bow-step-bow-sit in their regularity for the gods were large and wore robes of deep red. Wherever one stood in the town, one could see at least one god stand-turn- bow-step-bow-sit, when the time came so you would know to lay down whatever you were doing and leave it, for the time for that task, had passed and it was time for the next task. 

Before the gods had come, this town was a different place. It was sung that the world had fallen into darkness and disaster that almost all the people on it had fallen to savagery and war. A great chaos and Great War had left few people remaining. It was told that the survivors of the chaos had found their way here and built this town, thinking themselves safe, but monsters had come, demons and twisted men to take what little they had remaining. They had fought, defended, and hidden here in the dark. 

The people of the town knew nothing of the outside world though; they lived in their valley and lived by their hill and their gods. No-one dared venture out into the wasteland beyond the walls of this green and fertile valley, for there was death, the elders said. There was no order, no gods, to be found. 

It was also told – not written, writing took too long and was a wasteful activity when one man could speak to another man, one woman another and communicate their message without first one having to compose their missive and take time, then another receive it, read it and compose their reply, what a wasteful foolishness. One could talk and tell tales of the other times while eating or relaxing at the end of a day’s work before bed, no need for one to write when one had a mouth and there was no-one outside of this valley anyway – that people used to waste time and had no disciple. They would do nothing all day and pay no attention to the passage of time, they had no gods or not real ones they could see at least, or they would waste time, spending all day on one activity and not pausing each time the gods stand-turn-bow-step-bow-sit to leave that task for ended then turn and start the new as seems sensible.  


They were fat and lazy and would then, after too long in their sloth, rush around like flies trying to get everything done in the turns which remained. Of course, they never got anything done right! Therefore, in this disorder and constant stress and rushing, they were always angry and so had wasteful wars, which ended their wasteful world. In addition, they, the darker stories told, are the ones who wait without in the darkness. 

It was said the gods came to the hill to protect the town and the refugees of the fallen wasteful world, although it was never said where they came from, no-one seemed to care as long as they were there, protecting, in their stand-turn-bow-step-bow-sit rhythm. The gods never spoke and no-one seemed to know where the Rules came from, though everyone followed them because they worked. The Rules were not written anywhere, the gods never proclaimed them – for the gods never spoke, just repeated their stand-turn-bow-step-bow-sit rhythm – and none recalled ever being taught them, everyone just knew. The best defence is order. As the gods would stand-turn-bow-step-bow-sit you start your task and when they next stand-turn-bow-step-bow-sit you stop and begin your next. If you did not complete your task in that turn of the gods, you waited until the same turn the next day to carry on with it. A full cycle was the full twenty-four turns so if someone were to order a table and was told it would take three cycles, they knew it would take three cycles to arrive guaranteed, it was hardly complex it simply required efficiency and discipline.  

The system worked. The Rules made sure no time was wasted and made the people of the town very efficient at their daily tasks because their lives, governed by their silent gods were all about efficiency and good use of time. It was considered right and it was considered proper to not waste more turns on a task if it could be avoided. If was wasteful and everyone knew where wasteful led to. 

The town was quiet and industrious, everyone knew their tasks, got on with their lives and followed the Rules and learned to specialise so well in their field so they could effectively do things as alloted without stress. No-one rushed, that was wasteful and led to disorder.  Everyone make sure they did things right because, if you did it badly, that was wasteful because you have to do it all over again in another turn. So, not only do you waste one turn but you waste two! This is what led to the world to fall and order is the only protection from darkness. Therefore, everyone did their work well; bakers baked and made sweet treats, builders built, housewives housewived, everything in its place. It was all ordered, it was all right. 


Stand-turn-bow-step-bow-sit went the rhythm stand-turn-bow-step-bow-sit, start your task, stand-turn- bow-step-bow-sit, end your task. 

At night, the sickly sun would set but the townsfolk would not stop, they would continue and, with an instinct seemingly built in, turn their heads to watch the gods stand-turn-bow-step-bow-sit before going indoors or home to eat. They would then follow their tasks until the last stand-turn-bow-step-bow-sit of the day signalled sleep. Of course, after the sun went down one had to still see the gods stand-turn-bow-step-bow-sit and for this thirteen fires were lit on the hilltop. Children were chosen for this very important task for the night has the most terrors, needs the greatest protection; all must see the gods when darkness descends.

Those considered dangerous said there were voices out there, human voices. The same ones, those sensibly considered insane by all decent people, said the screams were human too; outside their safe valley, there was nothing but emptiness and death, they said to anyone who would listen. Which was no-one, of course. 

 As light failed, a child would arrive at the top step to wait. As the gods stand- turn-bow-step-bow-sit he will enter the circle of their chairs and light each fire, leave fresh fuel and matches and return to the first step. Counting in their head a fraction of a turn, they descend each of the sixty steps, count, step, count, step. As they reach the sixtieth – stand-turn-bow-step-bow-sit go the gods –  and they count again. Count-step-count-step sixty counts and sixty steps and stand-turn-bow-step-bow-sit. 

As they descend, as the sun rises, they will meet along the way she who is to light the flames for that next night, count-step-count-step stand-turn-bow-step-bow-sit. Up a child goes to light the night’s fires, down comes the child who lit them last, one ascending, one descending always. Count-step-count-step sixty counts per flight, stand-turn-bow-step-bow-sit for the next flight, twenty-four flights and twenty-four turns. The fires are always lit afresh each night as the fuel was exhausted when day dawned. This is important; the night fires must never go out. 

There is a thirteenth chair inside the circle of twelve. The figure in this chair does not stand-turn-bow- step-bow-sit, it does not move at all. It is silent, as are the other gods but it looks like a statue. Only the wind moving its robe, a darker greyish brown, .shows it is not of stone. No-one knows who this is. It sits, this figure, always facing out but as faceless in the deeply hooded robes as the gods are. The children who ascend light the fire at its feet and leave fuel and matches beside its seat but it acknowledges them not. 

A child has sometimes reported god number eleven nodded its hood at them or god number five made a sound but no-one knows for sure. No-one says anything about the thirteenth. The children whisper that they are afraid of it, the air feels  colder where it sits, they saw ice on its seat, at its feet. They say it is scary and they dare not look into the emptiness of its cowl. No adults ascend to where the gods stand-turn-bow-step-bow-sit as this is forbidden so such stories are dismissed as the imagination of children. 

There are nights when the turns of darkness are longer, the air colder, the stars strange, that strange stories are told in huddled groups in warm kitchens.  People hear things in the darkness beyond the valley that they try their best to ignore . Strange and frightening noises, noises one cannot describe. No-one knows what these noises are for no-one leaves the town, the valley, and the hilltop to investigate; at least none that might have returned. Many mutter that they have no wish to know what the noises are, if it is not of the valley then it cannot be good. Were it good, would not the valley and the gods welcome it inside?

Then, no refugees, no-one from outside the valley had entered the valley in the time of any currently alive, not the eldest of the elders had heard of such a thing. What is outside of the valley should remain there! They cry and mutter, shaking their grey heads. We do not want anything from outside in here. The outside is where everything went bad, before we had our gods, before we had order. 

One these strange nights, the girl or the boy who lit the fires at nightfall are sometimes heard to mutter, once they return down the steps the next night, of strange things above. The child who they meet on the way down (that child’s way up) have spoken of how pale and afraid the descending child looks, how they met not their eyes, extended no gesture of greeting. Speech is forbidden on the steps to the hilltop.  No-one knows who forbids it or why; it simply is the Rules. Among the children – for adults are quick to shush and reprimand the child who attempts to speak of their sacred duty – there is hushed and whispered talk of strange things indeed on that darkest and longest of nights. Some, in hushed and hidden groups, claim that they say the thirteenth move. 

The gods have completed their rhythm of stand-turn-bow-step-bow-sit to signal work is ended, the mothers or fathers are preparing the night meal, the children are, as children are wont, playing in the yard. Talking in whispered voices, giggles or exclamations quickly hushed by the others, a group often sits behind a storage shed. A bold child with dark hair, pale skin, one known for boisterous play, occasionally earning sharp  rebuke from an adult, holds his court. In an exaggerated whisper, he tells of his ascent and descent 2 cycles gone, for his duty fell upon the last long night. 

He had climbed count-step, count-step up the flights. Sixty steps, count-step, sixty more, it is such a long and far way! Thank the gods and Mum & Dad for the thick robes of the fire-lighter. 

He has a future as a story-teller, this boy.

Count-step, count-step, sixty more. On and on until the last count-step, count-step and the gods above made their last stand-turn-bow-step-bow-sit as the boy entered the circle to fulfil his sacred duty. The gods were seated, unmoving and silent, the wind fluttering their robes. Each facing outward, hands (if hands there were in those voluminous sleeves) on knees (or where knees might be). The thirteenth more silent and still he seemed. The stone by his feet was cold, as cold as the wood was arranged in the metal bowl, so cold that the matches in his shaking fingers would not light, and a whiff of wind would keep catching them and extinguishing them. He was counting in his head or trying to but the numbers were getting muddled. He knew he had little time left! 

The fires must keep burning, night after night and especially on the night when the long dark came. The noises from beyond the valley never came close enough to see what was making them but no-one wished to know. They shuttered their windows, locked their doors tight and tried to sleep, tried to block out and ignore the cacophony. This night it seemed louder than before, more intense, more excited 

By his count, the gods were very close to their last stand-turn–bow-step-bow-sit before he should leave and begin his descent. He has the fires of the twelve gods lit but he could not get the thirteenth’s to catch. All around the howls and the screams and the strange noises were getting worse and louder. He saw trees moving in a wind, which was not there. Of course, all of this was not making his task any easier! Cold numbs fingers, shaking, strike the match, it flares! A whiff of wind and it goes out…The twelve gods sat on impassively and did nothing. They were not moving … yet. 

Those same scandalously insane individuals to whom nobody listened said that humanity came to this place twenty generations ago. A great ship which sailed the sky had brought them here, it was said. That ship had crashed and blown up but had contained what was called a Beacon. This beacon was sort of a radio which people could hear from a long way off and, well They had heard it and come to investigate. 

Back then the gods were unknown to the people, the town not yet built, the valley not yet found. It is said that they found the valley by pure chance one day, fleeing from Them like their lives depended on it. Their lives really did depend on it as it as it happened. Only half those who were fleeing made it into the valley where the gods were waiting. It is said that the flying machines of Them fell from the sky and smashed in flames onto the floor of the valley, killing the horrid occupants instantly. That was the last time one of Their feet touched the soil of the valley.

None the gods forbade could enter.

Once, they said, a great bird of metal had come close to the edge of the valley; a great giant of a bird like none seen before, all fire and light. It had hovered, screaming like a menacing beast in the air before vanishing into the mountains. People had whispered about dragons before lowering both their heads and voices. Watching the gods impassively stand-turn-bow-step-bow-sit… stand-turn-bow- step- bow-sit and begin their next task.

They allowed no dragons in the valley either.

All around the town people wrapped themselves more firmly in blankets and tried not to look at their windows or even get out of bed. They must trust in the gods and not waste time, worrying was a waste of time, the Rules said, though no-one knew where or why it said that but the Rules were the Rules and the Rules kept them safe, just like the gods did. The noises would go away, the day would come and none of this would worry anyone. It sounded awfully close and loud though … sounded awfully, well, awfully human and like words…

Cursing was not allowed or encouraged, the Rules again but no-one was watching as the boy started to run out of both matches and time. The Rules don’t count if no-one is … the thirteenth was not looking outward impassively as he had been earlier, sleeves where arms should be folded in its lap. The thirteenth was looking straight at the boy. Or at least the darkness inside his hood was, for there was no face. He heard a shuffle somewhere and tore his gaze away from that shadow … the gods stood… 

It sounded awfully close now; there were different sounds now, crashes, rocks tumbling. Near one house a huge rock fell from the high valley wall right in their yard, squashing a half-finished table. All around the valley rim, there was noise, noise, noise… 

The gods turned.

The boy had passed through his entire – and by necessity, inventive – repertoire of curse words and was inventing several new ones, quite an achievement for a 6-year-old but he had always been an inventive child. He had very few matches left now and no fire whatsoever. Three matches left … flick… strike … flare … out. Two. Flick. … Strike … flare … out! One match. 

The gods bowed… 

Last match, oh gods oh gods light! Flick. .. Strike … flares … shit! No more matches. He’d gone through the ones, which had been here already, and the spares he’d brought with him, there were none left. The noises were reaching a feverous pitch and there were rocks falling into the valley, trees swaying without wind and falling over even… 

The gods stepped. .. 

He cast around for something, anything, any single thing to get this fire lit but he was running out of time… 

The gods bowed… 

There was a noise beside him and he caught a glimpse of light in the corner of his eye. It was a burning piece of wood. Who-? A hand held the wood. The hand was made of bones. The fire was clearly blackening the bone somewhat, but the owner of the bony hand appeared to neither notice of care. The boy numbly, silently, carefully took the burning wood by the safe end and dropped into the bowl by the thirteenth’s feet. The flame caught, the oil soaked wood in the bowl ate it up. He saw fingers of bone pointing somewhere over to his right, he looked. 

The gods sat… 

The noise started to die away as the flames rose and the gods silently watched but the thirteenth was still pointing. The boy, the danger over and his hide apparently saved, breathed. The thirteenth was now pointing with two fingers, he noticed. Curiosity overcame his fear for a moment and he looked right at the fingers, all bony and strange … at which point the fingers poked him in the eyes. His vision blurred with sparks and tears, the boy decided that leaving would be the wisest course and started for the stairs down to the village. 

He seriously broke the Rules many more times that night, stealing many a look look back as he descended. The thirteenth’s hood faced towards him a moment, seemed to nod and then turned back to wherever it normally looked at. He gathered himself and began his careful ascent down with eyes fixed ahead. He had broken enough Rules for one night; he decided and made sure to count-step, count-step being sure to be in time with the gods and their endless rhythm. He heard them shuffle and the gods stand-turn- bow-step-bow- sit and he progresses down the next flight… count- step, count-step… 

When the girl ascending crossed him on the steps, she was faintly surprised, though still very sleepy and not paying enough attention to ask too many questions, he looked both haunted and frightened though, which was odd. He was also smiling, which was odder… 

He remembered what he’d seen when the thirteenth had poked his eyes. In the explosion of stars which filled his vision, he saw inside the shadow and saw the face. It was a skull, it was a face, and it was a skull again…it was his face and it was not…it was the face of a boyishly beautiful man with eyes of different colours them it was his face…then it was nothing. 

The gods stand-turn-bow-step-bow-sit…stand-turn-bow- step- bow-sit… stand- turn-bow-step-bow-sit. .. Stand-turn- bow- step- bow-sit. … 

The Birth of Evil?

Is Evil born or is it Made?
 
 
Let’s talk about evil, about the bad guy, about the one True Embodiment of All Things Evil! Let’s talk about the antagonist only the Chosen One can defeat because narrative causality loves to leave anonymous Chosen One’s scattered around for Mentors to stumble upon by pure chance. It actually turns out that it wasn’t so pure after all…turns out there is no such thing as chance anywhere a writer has been!
 
Now tell me about your most memorable villain. Was it someone like Sauron that you knew next to nothing about? Was it that snake-faced fellow in Harry Potter? I will admit Rowling did quite well there; the faceless force of all evil with a later introduced back story. It was decently done. But it wasn’t enough on time, I feel.
 
I enjoy a quote which is somewhat popular
 
“No-one gets up in the morning and as, they they prepare their decaf and muesli, decide that today is the day they make the commitment and get that whole ‘Epitomy of all Evil’ thing started up…”
Maybe there are one of two who did but I doubt it. Think about this one too;
“No-one is ever the villain in their own story..”
 
This is also very true and, if you really want to get into it, profound. No-one is ever the villain in their own story. Do you realise the one difference between – aha – Readers and Writers? We writers tend to share our stories as an extended form of allegory.
Everyone is Writing their Own Story.
Every hour of every day, every single person on the planet is writing their own story. We could, at great depth, take a dive into the subject of consciousness. We could talk about our conscious narrator, or unconscious narrator and even the sub-conscious narrator. We could apply these to writing styles, we could even expound on how literature is a direct result of craziness but not today. You can do that if you like, we can use this as a prompt.
 
Let’s just leave it as an idea. We write our own stories in our own heads as we organise the events of the day. Those who tell lies, build a narrative to fit their lies into and even convince themselves it is truth in order to be able to tell their story convincingly. Today we might call such a thing FAKE NEWS or similar.
 
The take away from that is simple, though; ten people who experience the same event might later tell it differently. Even the one who is later labelled ‘Villain’ might have their own version of events which contains justification for that which others call ‘evil’ or ‘wrong.’
The Villain is Never Evil to Themselves.
Even someone like Hitler did not jump to his feet one morning and decide “I will become the most hated man in history today!” I am sure that he was convinced that he was doing good, that his course was right. He was probably sure that he was, in fact, the hero.
 
Look at all the serial killers who thought that God was giving them instructions. The murderers who were certain that they were eliminating evil. The war criminals who were convinced that they were saving their country. The list goes on and on. One could spend hours and days researching this subject and see the same thing, repeated over and over;
 
“I Did not know!”
 
I did not know…I thought it was right, I thought i was saving lives…I thought that if we took away the bad two-thirds of life on Earth, then all would reset and the good would rebuild…and end to starvation, war and want…I did not know the innocent would die…
 
One scene which strikes me is when Lestat goes to Hell in Anne Rice’s Memnoch the Devil. Almost all the guests of Hell are, when confronted by the reality of their actions, horrified. Once they see the consequences they scream as one “I did not know!” and beg forgiveness. Sooner or later, they will beg, it is said. Some, convinced of their Right, might take longer than others. Some might take forever.
 
We did not Know…
 
We’ve all done it, I’m sure. We all have. Ignored a person in need. Ended a relationship we could not handle. Spurned the attentions of a person we did not like. Said someone hateful and nasty. We did not consider the consequences though because we are convinced that we are doing right; our inner narrator told us so. We did not know…
 
There is a vital difference though.
 
In simple narrative explanation this quote surely applies;
 
“The hero is one who is aware of their failures and blames themselves for one failure or another and seeks to make up for it. The Villain is one who blames others for their failures and seeks revenge of those same people they blame…”
 
Simple right? Perhaps overly so but, as they saying goes, the simple truths are the the most powerful.I would like you, though, to revisit those villains I asked you to think about earlier. Tell me about about them.
 
The Villain who Stands Out
 
The villain who stands out is the one who is most memorable. The one who makes the reader uncomfortable, who squirms as he reads about them. She will get shivers and nasty feelings as she considers their thoughts. Why?
 
The phrase “there, but for the grace of God, go I” will often fill the mind of the reader as they see what the villain who is written well. “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions” apparently and a good villain will be one who started out doing good. He or she will have had what they were certain were the best interests of all at heart but then they were faced with a choice. I call this choice The Hero’s Test. This choice; let us use a coin to visualise it correctly. Heads means you take choice A; tails elects choice B. What you may or may not know is that one choice may mean the complete and utter failure of your plans, the other their absolute success.
 
If you choose one, everything that ever matters to you might well be gone. Choose the other and you save it. not only do you save it but everyone knows that you saved it and they will praise you for the act.
 
At least that’s what you think. We all tend to believe that other people think as we do, don’t we?
 
The Hero’s Choice
 
The hero tends to be seen as the one who has it all together and is universally admired by all who meet them. They slay the bad guys and save the maidens or whatever male maidens are called. They slay the dragons and vanquish the darkness. They bring an end to horrors and smash the plans of the villain forever and ever! They are the business and no mistake! Right?
 
Not entirely, eh?
 
At some point the would have been presented with a choice and, chances are, that choice was not necessarily the right one. In the short term, that is.
 
In the long term, that choice made the hero into, in fact, the actual hero. The decision, the choice, taught them deep and important lessons. They may have wanted revenge at first and either sought out or encountered Wise Mentor. After finding Wise Mentor, they may well have learned what truly matters and might also have discovered their Chosen Oneness at the same time. They were then presented with a new choice and how they decided at that moment, placed them on the Hero’s Path.
 
Let us not forget they their earlier choice tends to result in the immediate deaths of everyone that they ever cared about.
 
The Villain’s Choice
 
Remember that coin we were speaking about earlier? I intentionally did not mention it again until now. What do coins always have? It does not matter where the coin is from, whose portrait it bears, of what material it is made and from what part of history it comes, all coins have this in common. It matters not their shape or value, all coins have two sides. The heads and the tails are it were.
 
Now what are good and evil but two sides of the same coin? What are the hero and the villain but two choices under the same circumstances?
 
Remember what we learned earlier about choices and blame. The hero will take one path because he blames himself, the villain another because she blames someone else.
 
The hero will perhaps begin with vengeance as his goal but Wise Mentor might teach him that there are more important things than bathing oneself in the blood of the guilty. Like saving the lives of the ones who are left, for example. Of stopping the Evil One from putting others through what the hero has been through.
 
The villain, though, has a different approach. he will make sure that the guilty pay and he will also make certain that no-one can hurt him again by taking over and passing laws about it, as well as surrounding himself in elite soldiers and monsters to make sure of it.
 
You see it is all a matter of perspective. I use one more quote which, I feel, shows the true difference;
 
“Remember the dead, but fight for the living…” (Hellgate : London, Flagship Studios)
 
See how neatly that encapsulates it? The villain will remember the dead and this will drive him to making sure he is able to control death by accessing secret teachings and powers. The hero will protect those left alive in honour of those who have died. She will never forget those she has lost but decides the best way to honour them and return to them as worthy is to save as many as she can can before she falls in their defense.
 
The villain, though, turns inward instead of outward. He takes the short cut, the easier way. He does not consider nor admit failure. Again, it’s about perspective.
 
This is what can make the villain interesting, though. The idealist, the shining light, the Greatest One, becoming the Shadow, the Evil, the Bad Guy!
 
Think about the most famous fall from grace there ever has been. One of the central characters of the Chronicles of Enoch in fact; Lucifer, the Light-Bringer, Star of the Morning, The Devil.
In the Chronicles, we meet Lucifer in Chapter Four and learn something vitally important about him. He is convinced that Mankind will disappoint his Father and dishonour Him. He has set out to create and refine the human race with his nephilim and has been improving the strain over the eons in order to create a race worthy of their Creator. A race in his image. Not the race in the Creator’s image which he started with but in Lucifer’s own image.
 
To Give what is Needed, not What is Asked.
 
Lucifer is certain that the Creator made him because of one vital difference he discovered in himself when he made his Choice. Intelligence and creativity. He compares himself to Michael who will follow the Creator’s orders blindly as he does when Judgement is brought to Atlantis and the world drowned.
 
He famously tells Michael “I am giving him what He needs, not what He asks..” to which Michael rages “who are you to deign to know the mind of the Creator?”
 
Who indeed? Lucifer, apparently, was made for that very purpose. Everything he does is to make his Father proud of him. He will bring the universe down to prove to his Father that he loves him! Look at how many sacrifices he is prepared to make in His honour! His own life? Why? Who then would make sure things are done right?
 
Lucifer will selflessly and generously sacrifice each and every life in the universe to show his commitment to his Father’s ideal.
 
To do What is Right no Matter the Damnation Awaiting
 
The we have Sable. Sable is the opposite side of Lucifer’s coin. Sable was also there when Michael delivered the Creator’s Judgement. he saw almost all his people wiped out. he heard the Herald declare all nephilim Abomination in the Father’s eyes. He expressed a desire to erase them – each and every one – from existence. Understandably, Sable was initially quite bitter about this. Then he saved Enoch’s life (again) from a group of marauding nephilim near Gemorrah and had a moment of deep epiphany that shocked even the Prophet who thought that he’d seen it all and was, therefore, quite unshockable.
 
Sable chose to focus on the Outward. He decided that it didn’t matter that the Creator had damned him and his entire race. He knew what Right was and he would be better off dead than to do Evil. He was already damned so what did he have to lose?
 
He’d already lost everything but had one thing of value left, his soul. He might as well keep that for however long he remained on Earth, right? He was sure to lose it when he eventually died but until then…he knew what Right was and to do anything other would be a lie.
 
A Necessary – ah – Evil? Someone Must Do That Which Nobody Else Dares To Do…
 
Of course we have black and we have white. We have light and we have shadow. We have a coin with two faces; head and tails. Yet we do, limited as we find ourselves to be, neglect that a coin is not, in fact, two dimensional. The coin was width, the coin has height, the coin (if circular) has circumference and radius. The coin, being a three-dimensional object, also has depth. It has an edge, that space between it’s two faces or ‘sides’. Between two sides, it would appear, there is an area which is neither side but also part of each…
 
“Suppose you toss a coin enough times, suppose that one day that coin lands on it’s edge…” Kain – Soul Reaver 2, Crystal Dynamics Games
 
So; we’re only allowed Hero and Villain then? Why? You’re so stiff and controlling that you might be turning into a villain at this point! How better can the difference between Light and Darkness be best considered than by observing the Eclipse? The Twilight, The Dawn?
We forget about Asmodeus but, then again, he likes it that way.
 
Asmodeus feels that he had the same Choice as Lucifer and Sable but he had to decide not selfishly for himself as they did. He had to make the choice neither of them dared to. The choice which made sure that they both survived long enough to let the two sides of the coin decide which one would win. To walk the edge and be the edge which held them together but apart long enough for the matter to be decided once and for all. Even if that meant the coin was destroyed in the process.
 
Asmodeus is a great believer in the saying “evil contains the seeds of it’s own destruction” but feels that, at times at least, the conditions needed for those seeds to germinate must be – ah – assisted.
 
“I am walking balanced on the thinnest and most dangerous line in existence. So narrow and thin I can barely see it unless I move my eyes just right. So dangerous because I must hide as I sway this way and that for on either hand there are hands which will pull me down..”
 
Someone has to do it though, right?
 
A Coin with Two Sides, then, but Also an Edge?
 
Real life does not contain simply two types of people. There are not just paragonic Saints and deplorable devils. Half of the problem with the world of today is the two-dimensional short-sightedness of the people and what they read. In the world of today; in politics mostly, we have One and we have Another. We don’t have in-between, apparently. We have no room for shades of grey between black and white.
 
Why can there only be one side or another in your story? In the real world you will have Us and Them; Them and Us, true. You also have the waverers, the undecided, the almost-rans, the apathetic, the no-ones, for silent and forgotten. You have so many classes or people that you forget the most vital lesson this life must teach us.
 
There are no classes, only people. People do not fit into boxes nor class. People are people and no two are the same.
 
Now, there is no reason to avoid archetypes and the odd stereotype here and there, people expect them. Equally there is no reason not to try and surprise them and break their expectations apart when you can now is there?
 
Hero. Villain. Anti-Hero/Almost-Villain. Why used a two-dimensional decision structure to represent the three-dimensional being? People indeed have three dimensions and perhaps they more than that.
 
What matters is that you give them something they want to read, something unique and completely new while still keeping it comfortingly the same where it truly matters.
Confused? Good!
 
Now it is your turn to do the thinking.
 
Go! Your thoughts in the comments, please or, if you like, drop us an email.