League of Justice #0.2: “To Take Arms”

In the beginning as the universe coalesced, when all was wild energy and expansion, there arose the Guardians the first beings to inhabit space and time. The Guardians were wise with new wisdom, were strong with new power, and were alive with new life. For the first million years they watched stars and planets and moons and nebulae take shape. Over the next millions of millions of years, they watched life evolve in all its forms and wonders.

Of all peoples and forms of life that sprung from the fertile universe, the Guardians were the eldest and the first to die. Though their civilization endured long, it could not endure forever. When the first sun collapsed into a black hole and began to suck everything into its dark maw, the Guardians knew that they too would pass into darkness. They bent all their will, all their thought, all their knowledge into safeguarding the universe.

With a science that none since has learned, the Guardians manufactured a source of creation which they called a lantern, a caster of light. With this lantern they forged rings, small portals that were linked to the lantern. Each ring, when activated, drew upon the lantern. The function of the rings was to draw energy from the universe, energy that had been consumed by black holes, and make it useful again. The rings could convert the energy into matter, or matter into energy, and thus were unlimited in the scope of their power.

The Guardians long studied the beings of the universe throughout every galaxy and solar system. To those who were deemed worthy they entrusted a ring, that thereby they may guard their corner of the universe.

Each being who received a ring was called a Lantern, symbolizing that as the one great Lantern guarded the universe, they were to be a smaller lantern to guard their space. In the beginning all Lanterns were white, as light that is combined of all other colors and wavelengths is white. As time progressed, Lanterns chose methods of protection that to them seemed more fitting to their race, or their culture, or their strength, and they chose for themselves new colors. As time progressed, the Green Lanterns guarded justice throughout the universe. The Red Lanterns inspired growth and progress in the universe. The Blue Lanterns worked to heal the hurts of the universe. The Black Lanterns guarded the sanctity of death in the universe. Still there remained the White Lanterns, who to all others were looked to as the wisest, and eldest, and in all matters the ones to uphold the tradition of the Guardians.

Thus the Guardians died, content in the knowledge their time was full, and that the universe would be protected for the billions of years yet to come by the Lantern’s light.

The Guardians were wrong.

As eons passed and the universe grew old and worn, the light of the Lantern waned. The purity of its light was corrupted. Its true purpose was forgotten. In dusty corners of distant galaxies legends of the Guardians remained, but few remembered where to look, and even less cared. Science passed into legend and myth and became magic. The Black Lanterns soon courted death and waged wars in her name. The Red Lanterns built to themselves monuments and great halls and honored their own grandiosity. The Blue Lanterns receded into mist, content to heal themselves for eternity. The White Lanterns vanished in the expanding blackness of space. The Green Lanterns endured to their purpose, but each to his own understanding and knowledge of morality. To most they became haughty, self-righteous, and capricious enforcers of galactic law and order. Some were no better than thugs.

As each Lantern, according to their species, died they passed on their ring to a successor. Some chose heirs, some left the rings as heirlooms to be found, others hoarded them in secret places. The light of the Lantern diminished further.

And yet there were a few who organized themselves into the Green Corps. These rebels still remembered the ways of the Guardians and held to the true Lantern’s light. Relentlessly they waged war against their fellow Lanterns, but not a war of death and destruction rather a war of ideals and understanding. Slowly they conquered the wayward factions. Slowly they rebuilt the Lantern’s light.

The eldest of the Green Corps, the leader who first waged war was named the White Lantern and to him it was given the task of governance. He made the Black Lanterns into the Black Corps, an army of last resort when a plague or injury too grievous to heal emerged. As a surgeon amputating a part to save the whole, the Black Corps was to purge the universe. What could yet be saved, the Blue Corps was tasked with restoring. Remaining secluded as monks, they came forth at times of great need. The White Lantern made the Red Corps agents of advancement, tasked with aiding only the most advanced of societies with reaching heights of which they could not yet conceive. They became scholars and masters of knowledge. The Green Corps stayed as they were, guardians of justice and order in the galaxy, mandated to be pure of purpose and will.

Such were the grand designs of the White Lantern. And as man seeks to reach and a child grasps, the various Corps stood to their purpose yet imperfectly. The light of the Lantern shone half brighter than it used to yet still only half as it should.

And yet, to the darkness, even a weak light is a welcome illumination.

To remind themselves of their purpose each Lantern was given an oath to pledge. To this oath they held themselves bound and by this oath were they judged:

In brightest day, in blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight.
Let those who twist Lantern’s light,
Beware my power…
Great Lantern’s Might!

League of Justice #0.1: “To Be”

The summer night clung to the city like a warm, wet blanket. Tall skyscrapers and narrow streets cut off most of the inner city from cooling bay breezes. In the summer, downtown Gotham City was not the most comfortable place to take a walk, especially when one was confined to a uncomfortable suit, and one’s sweaty neck was nearly choked by an oppressive tie. Bruce Wayne would have rather been anywhere but where he was at that moment. Some friends at school were attending a baseball game at Heights Field, home of Gotham’s baseball team the Gotham Rogues. Bruce had an affinity for the sport, an affinity his affluent parents did not share. Instead, determined to infuse a higher culture into their son, Thomas and Martha had attended a performance at the Gotham Opera House, compelling Bruce to join them.

Bruce didn’t harbor any negative feelings towards his parents. He appreciated that they were invested in his life. He just sometimes wished they would invest in his interests as well. At the moment, anyway, he was much more interested in reaching the street. He knew that Alfred Pennyworth, the family butler, would be there waiting for them. The family Bentley would be rumbling gently, and Alfred would have the air conditioning tuned just perfectly. The car would provide a welcome refuge from the sweltering summer sauna. Also, Bruce hoped, he could talk Alfred into a bit of ice cream once the family returned to Wayne Manor, the mansion in which his family had lived for generations on the rural outskirts of Gotham.

Bruce’s formal shoes crunched on bits of glass and grit that had begun to form a jagged covering to the crumbling asphalt that paved the alley. The Wayne family had exited the Opera House via a back door so as to avoid the paparazzi spotlight. Thomas Wayne, while a practicing medical doctor, was also a businessman and one of the wealthiest persons in the nation. There always seemed to be someone who was hoping for a salacious story and a scandalous photo. The alley was lit only by a light at the Opera House door, a pallid pool of yellow luminance, a light now behind the ambling family. Ahead, at the entrance to the alley, the lights from the city streets streamed into the alley, broken occasionally by passing pedestrians. The resulting illumination jumped down the alley like gnarled, grasping fingers. In between was a hazy grayness. Little starlight filtered from the sky above.

Bruce was staring down at his formal shoes, ignoring his parents who walked a few paces ahead and talked quietly to themselves. He was lost in his own thoughts, and paying little attention to his dingy surroundings. He very nearly walked into his father’s legs.

Thomas Wayne had stopped abruptly. Standing in front of the family, appearing as a specter out of nowhere, was a thin, gangly man. He wore a hooded sweatshirt which was several sizes too large for his frame, and a scraggly beard reached out from his face like so many greasy tentacles.

“Your money. Quick.” He rasped. It was then that Bruce saw the gun. It was a .38 calibre revolver, snub nosed, not all that large of a gun, but to Bruce, it was a cannon. From between his mother and father he stared into the gaping barrel. The gun shook, the mugger apparently weak from malnutrition and nervousness. Martha Wayne had frozen in fright, neither speaking nor moving. Thomas held up his hands slowly.

“Take it easy. I’m reaching for my wallet.” Thomas, keeping his left hand aloft, slowly reached his right hand into his formal jacket, and withdrew his billfold. Betraying none of the fear he must have felt, he reached out his arm, offering the leather wallet to the mugger.

The ragged man groped for the wallet, not taking his eyes off the elder Wayne. His fingers brushed it, knocking it to the alley floor. With a muttered curse, he tried to reach down for the wallet while keeping his eyes, and gun, trained on his victims. He couldn’t locate his prize by touch. Looking down for a split second, he tried to spot the wallet on the ground. Taking advantage of the momentary distraction, Thomas simultaneously shoved Martha backwards while he stepped to the side. Martha, caught off guard by her husband’s split second defensive motion, shrieked. She also stepped inadvertently on Bruce’s foot, not knowing he was there. She began to fall. The commotion caused the mugger to snap his head up. Not taking time to realize what was happening, he panicked.

Boom.

Boomboom.

His first shot was a bit wild, but it caught Thomas Wayne in the temple. The man went down without a sound, his body crashing into the brick wall of the alley, falling into a twisted heap on some garbage. The second shot went through Martha’s chest. The third her head. She continued her backwards fall, collapsing on top of Bruce.

Bruce’s world was suddenly one filled with noise and terror. While his father was talking and moving he had only been slightly alarmed by the situation. He never for a second doubted that his father would remain in control and keep him safe. His father had never once in Bruce’s memory been out of control. Everyone always did whatever his father wanted, usually as soon as he asked. The suddeness of the attack and the loud report of the gun startled him. He watched in horror as his father twisted and smacked against the wall, while at the same time his mother was crashing into him. He felt her body jerk under the impact of the bullets, and then he was crushed under her weight. Martha wasn’t a large woman, but Bruce was small for his age. He felt smothered. He could hardly breathe. The gunshots rung in his ears and he couldn’t hear. The world through his eyes smeared and seemed to jumble itself.

Bruce struggled to lift his mother and squirm out from under her. He pressed a hand into the ground and succeeded in scraping it against the glass and grit. With effort, he freed himself.

“Mom! Mom!” He started to shake her, but his hand slipped across her chest and he fell face first into something sticky. Pushing himself up, he stared into a gaping chest wound. He looked at his hands: they were covered in bright blood. He looked at his mom’s face. Her mouth was contorted, an expression of terror. The top of her skull was blown away and blood covered her face.

Bruce could make no sound. The terrible sight of his mother unnerved him. For a second the world stopped and all he could see was blood and death.

Then something heavy hit him from behind. Adrenaline spiked and Bruce flailed wildly.

“Get off! Get off me!” He struggled against a a firm grip. He was aware of a strong hand grasping each bicep.

Then he heard a whisper, the first sound he perceived clearly following the bang of the gun.

“It’s ok, Master Bruce. It’s ok.”

“Alfred…” The name was more sob than sound.

Bruce Wayne, orphan, crumpled into his butler’s arms. Burying his face into Alfred’s rough, woolen jacket, he broke down in tears. He wasn’t aware of the rush of police boots, nor the strobing of squad car lights.

Beneath Martha and Thomas Wayne, blood pooled, crimson glinting darkly in the dim light.

Disturbed by the commotion, a few bats who nested beneath an overhanging fire escape further back in the alley fluttered off into the Gotham night.

Death and Life

My name is Phil, and I am depressed. Search my blog tags for “depression” and you can read all about it.

Yesterday was an interesting day. I really don’t want to talk about it, but because I made one of the darkest parts of my everyday reality public, I feel like my friends and family deserve a little explanation.

The truth is I lie. A lot. You can be all shocked if you want to, but you lie, too. If you are reading this, I can assume a few things about you: you understand English, you are human, you lie. Our religious culture would have us believe that lying is an abomination before the Lord or a bad thing to do, but it is deeply human. Most lies are not harmful at all. Most lies are necessary. Colloquially, we refer to them as a social contract. I don’t tell nearly every single woman I meet that I admire the curvature of her breasts, or that I really want to have sex with her. I am not a sex fiend or a creep, I am a heterosexual male that is biologically programmed to find females physically attractive. But I lie by omission. And almost every single woman I meet knows this. Don’t ask, don’t tell: web of lies. And that is just one very, very small example.

A bigger example of the lies I tell: I am doing just fine. Yes, I am handling my every day reality. No, I do not want to kill myself.

Yesterday, I posted a suicide note to my Facebook page. I don’t remember what it said, and I have since deleted it. I then ignored my phone and my computer. Because I suffer from back pain, high blood pressure, and mental illness, I have a variety of medications available to me. I don’t know exactly how all of them work, and I have been assured that most of them work fairly well together. Being that I am an intelligent person, I know that becomes less true when you mix non-recommended dosages in non-recommended combinations. I dumped a few pills on the counter and wondered which cocktail would help end the pain the easiest. I’m no pharmacist, so I experimented. I don’t remember what I took, except that there were a fair amount of the pain killing variety included.

I was unaware that my Facebook posting had alarmed the people who saw it. I became aware when my Aunt Jane called me. I can ignore my wife, I can ignore my mother, I can even ignore my dog. I cannot ignore my Aunt Jane. She commands too much respect. All my life I have known two things about Aunt Jane: she is awesome. You don’t cross her. If she tells you to do something, you do it, no matter how much you don’t want to. If she asks you a question, you don’t lie. If she says something, she means it. So I had to answer the phone when I saw Aunt Jane was calling. She convinced me to live. Fortunately, I also did a bad job picking out pills because all I did was get a little fuzzy, dizzy, and sleepy. She may have convinced me to make it through the day, but it was my lousy attempt that made it possible.

Why did I try to end all things? I will try to explain, but it will be hard to understand. Most of you are normal. I am not. I have a mental illness. I do not want to die. Let’s be clear about that. I have many things I want to do, and experience, in life. I love my family and my friends. I love my puppy. I do not want to live. Every day is a constant struggle. Every minute is a battle. I am in constant physical and mental pain. Stress is destroying me. I barely sleep. I cannot relax. I hallucinate (mostly sounds, rarely I see things). I hear knocking at the door. I hear a phone buzzing, or ringing. I see bugs crawling on the floor. The problem is, there is no one at the door, my phone isn’t buzzing, and bugs don’t move that fast. Believe me, I have investigated rigorously. What I experience isn’t real. And that freaks me out.

The only peace I ever get is when I am in a movie theater watching a movie, or when I am building a LEGO set. Immersing myself into a film, in darkness, in front of a large screen, with loud surround sound makes everything else melt away. It doesn’t even have to be a particularly good film, but it makes everything else disappear. For those two hours or less, I am free. Similarly, when I bust open a LEGO set, spill the pieces in front of me, and start working through the instruction booklet, nothing else can intrude. Clicking one brightly colored plastic block onto another allows me to concentrate only on which brick I need next to complete the build. Seeing a building, or a robot, or whatever emerge from the chaos of scattered pieces fills me with ridiculous joy and peace. I cannot explain it better than that. But it is real. That is as close to relief from what I feel as I ever get and it does not last. I cannot build LEGOs constantly. I cannot go to the theater constantly.

If you know me, you might wonder if writing does that for me. Nope, not at all. You have to think to write. Writing for me is another compulsion. I can’t help it. Words beat at my brain demanding release until I get up and let them out. I have been woken up by words that demand to be written. In the middle of the night I will get up and go to my computer and type. Sometimes it takes five minutes. Sometimes it takes hours, but until they are all out, I cannot stop. That is not really much fun, relaxation, and it certainly isn’t peaceful. The only solace I get is that I am really, really good at writing. It is better to have a compulsion you are good at, I guess. But then, people with a cleaning OCD usually clean very well, too. So I’m not special.

Who wouldn’t want to escape my life? Does that sound like fun to any of you? To make matters worse, I am alone. The only other thing that usually distracts me is human interaction. But I have almost none of that any more. My wife left. She isn’t coming back, no matter how much I want her to. No one else is really eager to come over. Most people don’t enjoy hanging out with someone who lives on the ragged edge. I am angry, volatile, sarcastic, acidic, very awkward. I make people uncomfortable. I exude an aura of anger, or negativity. This isn’t intentional. Most of time I am unaware of it. I am just so uncomfortable I don’t know how to act, much less react, even around people I know well, even around my family. It is no wonder my wife did leave, I don’t blame her. I am actually surprised she managed to live with me as long as she did.

So, back to the suicide. I don’t say anything I’ve said to garner sympathy or attention or pity. I am merely trying to explain why yesterday morning, so many people became inescapably aware of the fact that I was actively seeking death. It was, as they say, a call for help. I wanted somebody to know that I was dying from pain.

What can you do to help? Very little. Do not call 911. Nothing makes me trust people less than people who call the cops on me but can’t show up themselves. If you are concerned for my safety, come to where I live. If you find me actually dying, then call 911, ride in the ambulance, and be there when I wake up. Do not tell me you struggle with depression. Unless what I have described is 85% of your daily reality, you don’t. Even if it is your reality, I find no comfort in knowing that other people are as miserable as me. That actually makes me feel worse. Do not tell me what you have endured. I know that my life, objectively speaking, is fantastic. It simply does not matter. Depression does not care about socioeconomic divisions. I gather from the news that a member of the Glee cast died of a heroin overdose. His life, objectively speaking, was better than mine. And yet the guy was alone with heroine and alcohol. In any case, reminding me that some people live worse than I do does not help. It makes me feel guilty, petty, and stupid, none of which relieve the depression. Do NOT tell me how upset I made everyone or how badly I scared X family member. First, I know. Second, I cannot care. It isn’t that I don’t care, I can’t. If I am at the point of trying to end my life, worrying about how my mother will feel is probably not on my mind. That would be on the mind of a rational person. Suicidal people are not, strictly speaking, rational. The decision of death is one made under extreme duress and not as the result of a logical thought progression (usually). Also: it doesn’t help me feel good enough about my life to stop trying to end it.

What can you do to help? Be here. Physically be here. Come to my house and hang out with me no matter how angry, bitter, dark, or un-fun I am. Deep down, I know you care enough about me to be with me, to make the effort to come to me and to stay there. Failing that, simply tell me you care about me. Period. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. Then I know that even if you won’t or can’t be with me, chances are you would if you could. That’s it.

And, while I appreciate the offer, no, I do NOT want to talk about it. I have a therapist. She is the only person on the planet I will tell anything and everything. I even tell her that I want to have sex with her because she is beautiful. She is the only woman on the planet that can move right past that and still talk to me about what really matters. The only social contract we have is that she won’t judge me and I can tell her anything. Unless you are her, no, I probably will not willingly talk to you. But I DO appreciate the offer. Just don’t worry or be offended when I don’t.

So that, right there, is the brutal honest truth about my everyday and specifically yesterday. Today, I’m ok. I am handling things. (Lying? probably a bit). The truth: I haven’t ODed today. I haven’t thought about driving my car into oncoming traffic. Physically, I am safe.

I’m depressed. Today isn’t as bad as yesterday. Today is a win.

a Villain-elle, Part 2

a Villain-elle, Part 2 (the Joker)

“He will shatter kings in the day of his wrath.” – Psalm 110:5

Never start with the head, the victim gets all fuzzy;
(The better criminal class kills the bus driver)
Madness, as you know, is like gravity.

Youʼre just a freak, complete, like me.
(I’m a dog chasing cars; a silly face carver)
Never start with the head, the victim gets all fuzzy.

Want to start taking things a little more seriously?
(Laughing, he takes the knife to her.)
Madness, as you know, is like gravity.

Do I look like a guy with a plan, really?
(I’m just ahead of the curve, not a monster)
Never start with the head, the victim gets all fuzzy

You’ll need an ace in the hole to face my Harvey.
(He blew him half to hell, a psychopathic murder.)
Madness, as you know, is like gravity.

Why so serious? Introduce a little anarchy.
(Whatever doesn’t kill you simply makes you stranger)
Never start with the head, the victim gets all fuzzy
Madness, as you know, is like gravity.

Read a villain-elle, Part 3 (Bane), here.

League of Justice #0.0: “Or Not to Be”

[Revised 29 July 2013]

Earth is not unique. Humanity is not alone in the universe. Logically, it is absurd that evolution could only produce one intelligent species in a plethora of galaxies and a myriad of planets. Practically, space is so vast that most intelligent life is too far away from Earth to make contact possible. Realistically, near-Earth intelligent life does not care to intrude into the matters of a backward, primitive population. Humanity will either grow up and stop killing itself long enough to look around itself and thus become worth the universe’s attention, or humanity will annihilate themselves and the universe will wait for the next intelligent species to arise.

On the outer edge of the near-to-Earth inhabited region of the Milky Way galaxy, a small Earth-like world orbits a red dwarf star. The star is called Rao by the inhabitants of Krypton, the planet which orbits the star.

Compared to the more primitive Earthlings, Kryptonians are gods. They live for ages. Their bodies are immune to most biological and environmental pathogens. Their living tissue and bones are nearly indestructible. They are highly intelligent. Ancient Kryptonian history, from before their star turned red, speaks of other innate abilities that Kryptonians once possessed: the power of flight. Hypersensitive sensory abilities. Heat vision. Freeze breath. Most Kryptonian scientists dismiss such claims as ancient evolutionary myth or as subspecies that went extinct long ago, merely tales of mutant variations, freaks of nature.

It is only a matter of time before the entire discussion will reside in the academic halls of some other galactic species. The Kryptonians are fighting a war that they are quickly losing. While the Kryptonians are known throughout the galaxy for their scientific advances, they are also known for their arrogance. Superior knowledge and understanding does not always breed superior magnanimity. While preserving their home planet, agents of Krypton spread throughout their corner of the galaxy as ravaging locusts. Every planet they encountered they exploited completely. Every natural resource, every unique element, every single thing of value they took. In the face of such ecological disaster, the leaders of Krypton were unapologetic. “The universe exists to be used” was their refrain. To their credit, Krypton’s mining crews left inhabited worlds alone, but any uninhabited moon or planet in their path was doomed. Other planetary societies were forced to mine their own planets to the point of disaster because there were no extra-planetary resources for them to cultivate.

There exists in the universe a military force whose duty is that of the preservation of peace. Their origins are told in other tales, but a corps of their ranks, the Black Corps, is tasked with death. When diplomacy and goodwill fails, when military intervention is necessary, the Black Corps advances. The Black Corps pursues total victory. Against them, there is no survival.

Led by the fearless and ruthless General Zod, the Kryptonian army has lasted longer than any other force the Black Corps has engaged. But it cannot last. Zod has ordered the full scale retreat of every Kryptonian warship. Amassed in orbit of Krypton, they make their final stand.

General Zod, assailed from without, is attacked from within. Leading the civilian population of Krypton is an elder statesman, and one of the top Kryptonian scientists: a man called Jor-El. From the beginning, Jor-El opposed war. When the diplomatic Green Corps first approached Krypton and demanded they cease exploitation, Jor-El favored acquiescence. Zod, a warrior from birth, argued for unlimited Kryptonian sovereignty. Zod persuaded Krypton’s ruling council to his way of thinking. Now that the war was nearly at an end, and Krypton herself on the brink of destruction, Jor-El cried louder for an armistice. “Surely we can yet sue for peace and save our civilization!” he cried. Zod was too proud to bow. Zod was ready for his last stand.

Jor-El is a man of peace. But even if he weren’t, he would still be fighting harder than anyone to ensure the continued existence of his planet for one simple reason: Jor-El is also a father. His unborn son will be born to a dead world. The pregnancy was a fluke, a one-in-a-million chance. Bringing a baby into a galactic conflict intentionally would have been unwise and cruel. But, life is not restrained by the eventualities of an impersonal universe. Life explodes wherever it can. At the moment when the Black Corps destroys Krypton, new bacterium will be created. Skin cells will regenerate. A flower will bloom. A seed will germinate. An insect will be hatched. Therefore, the unlikely fertilization of Kryptonian egg and sperm is no wondrous event. When Krypton explodes it will take with it a newly born baby boy.

“Fuck that.” Jor-El murmured to himself.

Jor-El strode with purpose down the deserted streets of Argo City, one of Krypton’s largest centres of population. Martial law was in effect. Every able bodied person was serving in the war. The young, the old, the infirm: they were sequestered in-doors. Jor-El was careful to remain undetected. As a member of the ruling council, Jor-El technically wasn’t under the military’s authority, but he could still be stopped and questioned. In these calamitous days, treason was a popular criminal charge, and Zod wouldn’t hesitate to remove Jor-El’s dissenting voice from the council.

Jor-El clasped his hands behind his back, beneath his cloak. The style of dress demanded a long cloak, or cape. It lent an air of regality, of formality. Jor-El’s cape was a deep crimson, contrasting with his long blue robes. On the chest of his robe, a stylized “S” character was embroidered. The crest of the House of El, it symbolized hope. In this case, hope for Jor-El’s unborn son.

Jor-El hoped he would not be the last son of Krypton.