Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Divine

The Sophie Chronicles
Book One: Deception
First Prologue
“The Divine”

Pizu sighed and looked out at the world. It was a beautiful, uncorrupted place, but so boring. There were only animals and growing things, none of which could talk.

“Even if they could,” her brother Orzu said, “they would have nothing intelligent to say.”

Pizu just nodded. “I already asked Mother to let us give them both the intelligence and ability.” She smiled sadly. “She said no, as always.”

Orzu gently rested his hand on her shoulder. “Why don’t you just ask Mother if you can create beings who can talk,” he suggested, “rather than change those that can’t?”

Pizu’s eyes lit up. Without another word, she took off running, her bare feet gliding over the grass. Situated in the middle of the grassy plains of Obein, the realm of the Divine Ones, was the house of Neru, Mother of the Divine. Pizu ran straight in and searched the grand palace. She finally found Neru in her chambers with Toru, Father of the Divine.

“Mother! Father!” Pizu called. Neru and Toru both turned to her, smiling.

“What is it, Pizu?” Neru asked.

“I want to create, Mother!”

Neru looked into the eyes of her daughter. Normally a bright green, they were ablaze with the fire of passion. Neru laughed softly. She knew that look.

“I put you in charge of creation, my daughter,” she said. “You may create.”

“Thank you! I won’t let you down!”

Pizu hugged her Mother tightly and ran out, feet padding softly on the marble floor. As she ran through the palace, the other Divine saw her and began to follow one-by-one. She eventually stopped at a small stone pedestal on a cliff overlooking the sea. The top of the pedestal was fashioned into a bowl. She waved her hand, filling the bowl with cool, clear water.

The other Divine had gathered behind her: Neru and Toru, Mother and Father of the Divine; Pizu’s brothers, Orzu the god of stone and Zuzu, god of conflict; Nalynn and Norynn, twin goddess and god of love and friendship, respectively; Dufor, god of the sea.

Pizu projected an image into the thoughts of her family: tall, pale-skinned beings with long, white hair and bright green eyes, like hers.

“These I will call the Mumari. They will live long and have great knowledge.”

She closed her eyes and waved her hands, and on the world the Divine created two of these new beings were slowly formed from nature. She stood in spirit by them and blew life into their faces. Both woke suddenly with a gasp. Pizu turned to the first, a male.

“I, Pizu, created you, and I love you. Your people will be called Mumari, and you will have great knowledge.” She smiled and touched his heart. “Your name is Baldur.”

She turned and touched the female’s heart. “And you are Leia’nah.”

The two new beings joined hands and walked away. Pizu opened her eyes, back on Obein with the Divine. Neru smiled.

“Your Mumari will find friends in my creation, the Elves,” she said. “I have made them fair beings, also of long life, who can learn from the Mumari.”

Orzu stepped forward and waved his hand. “And I create a short, stocky people to help tend to the mountains and stone places. I will call them Dwarves.”

Zuzu stood away from the others, jealous. This always happened. Pizu would think of something to create, everyone would like it, and he was left unappreciated. Not this time. Zuzu would bring war upon their creations. He stepped forward and waved his hand.

“I, Zuzu, god of conflict and now war, create the race of Man to embody qualities from the Mumari, the Elves, and the Dwarves,” he said with a wicked smile. “Ever shall they be at odds.”

Pizu sighed sadly and looked down. Neru was angry, but let the matter die. The deed was done, and all the Divine sat back and watched as their creations became numerous peoples.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Crater of Nuhen

Long ago in the Before Times, the world was empty of life. The gods and goddesses of the Upper Realm desired creatures to rule over. Pizu, the Creator and Mother of the Divine, created tall, pale beings with green eyes and long, white hair. She called them the Mumari, and gave them supreme knowledge and long life. The other Divine were impressed with Pizu's creation, and happy. Neru, goddess of knowledge and learning, desired to give companions to the Mumari, and thus she created the elves. The elves, under the guidance of Neru, learned from the Mumari and came to honour and revere them, as they honoured and revered the Divine. Orzu, god of stone and metals, created the dwarves to also learn from the Mumari and to help him tend to the mountains and the deep places.

One among the Divine grew jealous, however. Zuzu, god of conflict and war, created Men with qualities from the three Elder races. Strength from the dwarves, knowledge from the Mumari, and fair appearance from the elves. He desired that his race would prove the superior and rule the others, but his creation rebelled against him and befriended the Elders. One Man alone continued to follow Zuzu, and cursed his kind for turning away. His name was Morhen, dark priest of Zuzu. Zuzu became drunk on the power and service he gained from his loyal servant, and a darkness grew in his heart until it overcame him, and he himself rebelled against the Divine. He commanded Morhen to wage war on the creatures of the other Divine, and corrupted the hearts of many Men to serve this purpose. Morhen formed a mighty nation of corrupted Men and made war on the creatures of the Divine as Zuzu made war on the Divine themselves. The beings of the earth met on the Plains of Gergyr, and far into the battle Morhen met with his brother Nuhen, king of the good Men. The two fought long, with sword and with magic. Their battle was so intense that their armies fled to a safe distance and watched as the powers of good and evil wrestled for control.

Finally, Nuhen realized that he could not prevail against the combined power of Zuzu and Morhen. He cried out to the Divine to use him as a sacrifice to defeat Morhen and Zuzu, and save the peoples of the world. The Divine granted his request and sent down their power in the form of a giant, glowing orb. The orb descended on the still-fighting forms of Morhen and Nuhen, and when it struck the ground, it exploded with such force as to leave nothing but a giant crater big enough for three of the largest cities to rest within. When the smoke cleared, the brothers were gone, and nothing but the crater remained. The armies of Morhen fled the battle in fear, and the Free Ones named the crater after their great hero, who saved them from the malice of Zuzu.

For now.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Lessons from Zoey, Pt. 4

The months passed slowly after that. Zoey remained vibrant and full of life. The first month passed, then the second. Slowly, I began to change. Zoey’s daily wisdom and constant happiness had a major effect on me, and I became happier as a result. Little by little, I stopped being mean to people and started being nicer.
A third month passed. Zoey had now survived four months when she was only expected to make three.
We sat now at the end of that last month, me with my back to our oak tree. She sat on my lap, looking out at the setting sun. Her brown hair blew gently past my face in the wind, slightly golden in the light of the descending sun.
“Ben,” she said quietly, “I think…I think my time is up.”
I just nodded.
“I accomplished something, Ben.” She coughed softly. “Doctor Thompson said I would only make it three months, but I made it four.”
She turned her head to look at me and smiled gently. I smiled back and took her hand in mine.
“You did good, Zo,” I said. We sat in silence the rest of the sun’s descent and then late into the night. Finally, she stood and hugged me, then went home. We did this every night for a week, and then Zoey went into the hospital. The cancer had finally taken its toll. I stayed by her side every minute of every day after that until the day came when she passed away.
I’ll never forget Zoey and the things she taught me. I visited her grave every weekend after that and told her how I was doing, what new books I was reading, new things I’ve written. I’ll read her this story, too, once it is finished. I know she would love it.

Lessons from Zoey, Pt. 3

She laughed again and got out her things. We spent the remainder of the sunlight working, finishing most of our homework. Then Zoey stood up on her tiptoes and looked out of the window. Her hazel eyes widened and twinkled.
“Ben! Let’s climb down and watch the sunset! It looks beautiful!”
We climbed down to the bottom of the tree and looked out on the horizon. She was right! The sun was slowly descending, a bright orange orb in the sky surrounded by fluffy, white cushions sparked with reds and violets and pinks.
As we watched the sunset, I was taken back to a time in our past when we always watched the sunset together. I could see little nine year old Zoey now, running across the field from her house to mine.
“Benny! Benny, come out! The sun’s going home now! We have to say goodbye!”
I dashed out of my room and through the front door. She grabbed my hand immediately and took off running, nearly dragging me along behind her. The little red dress she always loved to wear swished about her little tanned legs as she ran, barefoot as usual.
We finally arrived at the top of a hillock at the edge of our property. Zoey grinned and fell backward, scattering dandelions about her. She lay in the grass and looked up at the sky. I sat down next to her and hugged my knees to my chest. After a little bit, she sat up and pointed to the clouds.
“You know what those are, Benny?”
I nodded. “Duh, Zo! Those are clouds!”
She giggled and shook her head. “No, look past that. Think! They are cushions for the sun! They keep him comfortable so he can sleep well! Don’t you always sleep better when your momma tucks you in at night?”
I scratched at a little scab on my leg. “Well, yeah…”
She stood up quickly and spread her arms wide in the air, as if the sky were an exhibit and she was displaying it for the world to see.
“That’s what the clouds do for Sunny! They tuck him in so he can sleep better!”
I smiled at the memory. I turned my head just a little and watched her now. She just stared up at the sun, eyes wide and practically glowing, her face split in a huge, delighted grin. This was Zoey, the little seventeen year old wise woman. The sky was the limit for her. She used to tell me, “life should be lived to the fullest. Who cares if there’s a chance you can’t do something? Dream it anyway! A pilot does not think of landing before he takes off, he thinks of flying high!”
The sun finally fell behind the mountains, casting the world in darkness. Zoey gave me one last word of wisdom before going home.
“Don’t lose hope, Ben,” she said. “I am going to die, but I will always live…” Here, she lay her hand gently over my heart and smiled. “I will always live in here.”

Lessons from Zoey, Pt. 2

The rest of the day passed without incident. I only had Spanish, chemistry, and English left. Mr. Sorrel, my English teacher, started us on short story writing. I think I’ll write about Zoey…
Finally, the end-of-class bell rang, signaling freedom. I got up and jammed my stuff in my bag and tore out of that classroom like the Roadrunner. Twenty minutes of walking later I arrived at the base of a small hill, at the top of which grew the large oak tree that held in its branches the treehouse Zoey and I called our Secret Place. I could hear the sound of her voice as I trudged up the hill. She was singing.
How that girl managed to stay so kind and so happy while dying was beyond me. I know that I don’t handle pain and suffering well. Quite frankly, I’m a jerk. I’m nice enough to my friends, and especially to Zoey, but I’m not so nice to others. Why should I be? Other people will only stab me in the back. I have only found pain and sorrow with them.
The singing had stopped. I looked up at the treehouse and saw Zoey looking down at me from one of the windows, her bright eyes dimmed with sadness. I mentally kicked myself for brooding around her and climbed up the ladder.
“I worry about you, Ben,” she said as I plopped down on the floor. I just nodded.
“I know, Zo. I worry about you too, too. How can you be so happy when you know you’re dying?”
“Well,” she said with a shrug, “we all will die someday. If I had taken the treatments and possibly survived cancer, I would still die.”
“But, Zoey, you could have had a better life once the treatment was over! Sure, you would still die someday, but you could live longer!”
She smiled gently and shook her head. “I could, Ben,” she said, and that was all. We stayed silent for a moment. I was deep in thought and she was just looking at me wisely.
“I don’t want you to die, Zoey.”
Her eyes turned sad. She nodded and stood, then crossed over to the window. The silence that followed descended on the treehouse like a thick fog, but I didn’t dare break it. After a long while, Zoey finally turned around and looked at me, and I was stunned to see that tears were filling her eyes. Her bottom lip quivered slightly, trying to hold in the cry that desperately wanted out.
“I…I don’t want to die either, Ben,” she said. She dived into my arms then and sobbed into my chest. I let her and did not disturb her. I just wrapped my arms around her gently and held her comfortingly. She finally calmed after a while and sat up, sniffling and wiping her eyes.
“I don’t want to die,” she said thickly, “but this is the road I have chosen, and it is too late to go back.”
Another awkward silence fell. Finally she turned and smiled gently, resting her hand on my shoulder.
“Ben, life is like a wave in the ocean. It ebbs and it flows, eventually coming to crash on the beach.”
I looked at her curiously. Every now and then, Zoey could say something really wise and I wouldn’t understand a word of it.
“What do you mean?”
She laughed gently. “What I mean is that life has its bad times and its good times, but the end is inevitable. You were right in saying that I could have lived longer had I taken treatment, but as I said, the end would still come. That is why we should not focus on the end, but on today.
Today, I am still here. Today, I am still your best friend. Today we still have, so why not enjoy it?”
I smiled at that. She was right. I pulled my notebook out of my bag and winked.
“Sounds good to me, but we should probably do this homework first.”

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Lessons from Zoey (Pt. 1)

"Zoey," the balding man in the white coat said, "I'm sorry. You have cancer."

I felt the air sucked out of the room at his words. Zoey had cancer? It wasn't fair! She was only seventeen, and had so much to give to the world.

I looked over at her and her parents. They looked devastated, but Zoey just nodded.

"How long do I have?" she asked.

"Well," the doctor replied, "if you go through treatment, you might come out of it and survive."

"And what if I don't?"

"Judging by how far along it is," the doctor said slowly, "you have three months."

That was one month ago. Zoey had decided not to go through treatment. I still can't understand why. We've been best friends all our lives, and I thought I knew her. I guess I have more to learn...

Zoey was always a very happy person. She was very rarely seen without a smile on her face and a spring in her step, even facing her death as she is now.

She was a bit short, around five feet and two inches. A petite girl of seventeen. Her hair was light brown and shone almost like gold in the sun. It extended down to the middle of her back. Her nose was small, yet strong, with a little bump in the middle of the bridge. Her bottom lip was slightly fuller than the top, and she had a well-defined cupid's bow. She had wide, hazel eyes that tipped more toward brown than green and always glinted with some hidden joke or mischief, perfectly centered and symmetrical on her face. Her cheekbones were high and pronounced, slightly pink with blush. She never wore make-up. She didn't have to.

I stepped into the school cafeteria and spotted her a few tables away, holding a spork loaded with sweet potato loosely in her hand. She took a bite and smiled softly. Nothing could bring her spirits down.

I walked over and sat across from her, setting my books down on the table. "What's up, Zo?" I asked. She looked up and smiled brightly.

"Ben! I'm doing alright. Just enjoying these sweet potatoes I made. Try some?"

I pulled my spork out of the plastic wrapping and took a bite. Tears came to my eyes as soon as those sweet potatoes met my tastebuds. I was in love with Zoey's cooking.

"Zoey, these are fantastic!" She giggled, and I took another big bite. She raised an eyebrow and smirked.

"I'm glad you like them, but at least save some for me, Benjamin Perkins!"

I blushed and set down my spork. "S-sorry, Zo. I got carried away..."

She looked at me seriously for a moment, then threw her head back and laughed gently.

"It's alright, Ben," she said as she pulled another container from her bag. "I made some for you, too!"

I smiled and thanked her. We ate together in silence for a moment before I spoke again.

"How are you feeling today?"

She shrugged. "I'm feeling alright. My chest has been hurting a bit lately. Otherwise, I'm fine."

"You'd tell me if you weren't, right?"

"Of course I would, Ben."

The bell rang. I packed up my stuff and gave Zoey a hug.

"Meet at our Secret Place after school?" she asked. I nodded and smiled.

"Of course, Zoey. I'll be there."

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Purpose of High School Education: An Essay

High school is a playground for intellectual adults, full of budding young minds waiting to come to full bloom or to be exploited. In Dead Poets Society, Welton Academy is one such environment. Principal Nolan and all but one teacher chose the exploitation route, raising up the boys of Welton to be robotic clones of themselves and their constricted and limiting ideology. One new teacher at Welton, however, took the road less traveled by. His name was John Keating, and he taught English at Welton. For the duration of his career at Welton, he taught the boys to think for themselves. This, not Nolan's way, is the purpose of high school. Unfortunately, society is permeated with the dingy filth of Nolan and the Nolanites, and we Keatingites are few and far between.

The Nolanites of society teach conformity to society. They despise individualism, because it is different. In Dead Poets Society, Principal Nolan has a talk with Mr. Keating that shows this attitude quite efficiently. Nolan tells Keating that some teachers and parents have complained about his "unorthodox" teaching methods and that he should stick to the Welton script. Keating says to Nolan, "I always thought the idea of education was to learn to think for yourself." Nolan replied, "At these boys' age? Not on your life!" Nolan recognizes that all people should think for themselves, but only after they reach that age where their minds can no longer be freed. Raise them up as programmed robots first, and they will never be free of thought. They will only, like Nolan, think they are.

On the other side of the spectrum, you have your Keatingites. For us, education is about freedom: sucking the marrow out of life, as Henry David Thoreau would say. Conformity is a disease that kills individualism and keeps a mind in bondage with the cold and heavy chains wrought by society. In Dead Poets Society, Keating has a student read the introduction of their poetry textbooks by J. Evans Pritchard. In it, Pritchard talks about "rating" poetry on a scale. Poetry must "follow the rules," according to people like Pritchard and Nolan. But as Mr. Keating did in Dead Poets Society, we must stand on our desks and remind ourselves "that we must constantly look at things in a different way."

Finally, you have your in-betweens. You have your Todd Andersons. At first, Todd stuck with conformity and the Nolanites, but he yearned to join the Keatingites. He just didn't know how. When Mr. Keating showed up, however, Todd discovered that it was quite simple: dream and look and think. As Thoreau said, "to put to rout all that was not life; and not, when I had come to die, discover that I had not lived."

Show me the heart unfettered with foolish dreams, and I will show you a man in bondage. For only in their dreams can men be truly free. 'Twas always thus, and always thus will be. Stand on your desk and look all around you. There is so much worthless stuff in this life. "What good amid these"? "That we are here - that life exists, and identity." The show must go on and everyone of us can contribute a verse. What will your verse be?