Oh, Selene

He let out a wince of pain, his aching joints reminding him of the follies of the previous night. His fingers brushed over the scars, and his breath hitched. It had been years, but her absence still hit him like a body blow. 

It was times like now, when sentiment snuck up on him, that were the worst. The physical scars were very obvious, but nothing could compare to the gouges she left on his heart. 

His foot struck a bottle as he made his way painfully to the balcony, staring blindly at the beautiful savannah landscape. His mind was elsewhere as he leaned over the dizzying drop, thinking maybe, maybe, this would be the time. 

As always, he withdrew.

‘Too scared to live, and too scared to die,’ he exclaimed, laughing wildly as he clutched his hair. Oh Lord, what was wrong with him. This was not how normal people lived, was it?

His mind reeled, and he was dragged along helplessly by the torrential force of his traumatic past. 


They were arrayed loosely around the table, their conversation breaking and shifting like an eddying stream. All of them were well to do, the cream of the crop. Each had traveled separately from their home countries. 

In this strange land, they gained succor from each other’s company. 

He enjoyed being with them all, but tonight, he had eyes only for Selene. A girlfriend’s girlfriend, she looked succulent and sparkling in her white dress. 

She blushed, even though she wasn’t looking at him, and he grinned wolfishly. She was his, and she knew it. He grinned again, realizing she might be very well thinking the same. 

He rose during a lull in the conversation. 

His foot struck a bottle as he lithely made his way to the balcony, staring wide-eyed at the beautiful urban landscape. His mind was crystal-clear as he leaned over the dizzying drop, thinking maybe, maybe one day it would all be his. 

A scuffing sound alerted him to her presence.

She walked over to him, and he shifted to allow her into his personal space. She fit herself in snugly, then turned to him expectantly. He laughed as he looked at her, falling a little more in love as he took in her sparkling eyes, her slightly parted lips, her figure-hugging dress. Her eyes sparkled stronger as she smiled, looking up at him through her lashes. 

“Shall we?”, he asked through the broad grin on his face. 

She linked her arms with his in answer, and as he walked, he turned inwards.

He couldn’t remember the last time he was this happy.


The couple strolled out of the club, alcohol adding zest to their gaits and giggles to their conversation. 

He was drunker than planned, carried along by her spontaneity. 

“We’re having Jagerbombs!”, she squealed, and the next thing he knew, he was drinking the digestif neat, herbs and spices mingling on his palate to create the smoky sweet flavor unique to the drink. 

Now he regretted the extra alcohol, especially as he’d driven to the club. He didn’t look forward to returning,  tired and hungover, for his car. He pulled out his phone to call up an Uber, but she was already waiting for him by his car. 

Pride, that ancient tormentor of mankind, rose like a sharp-fanged serpent in his breast, and he put his phone away. 



Engine roaring, wheels rumbling on the tarmac, music blaring from the car radio, wind whipping through their hair. They’re looking up, laughing, full of life and love and hope. 

An ancient drama plays out in the darkness of the Spanish countryside; a drama as cliche and unoriginal as it ever is, yet as unique and vivacious as it always is. 

Both harbor the desire for something more. Beneath the camaraderie and banter, both feel the ache in the other’s breast. 

Both know it’s not enough; both want more.

But for tonight? 

This will do. 

End of interlude.


It was dark, so dark, and he flailed, his mind reeling from all the stimuli. Discombobulated, he looked around him and noticed… an ambulance? 

Dread speared his heart with poisonous fingers. 

He couldn’t breathe.

 A pressure built up inside of him, and he felt he would burst. 

Something imperceptible popped, and memories whirled in through the crack in his subconscious shield. 


He was content, peaceful, and slightly drowsy. 

She was looking up at the stars, pointing out mythological figures striding across the firmament. 

He was half-listening, but on hearing the swell of excitement as she pointed out yet another one, he looked up. 

“That one?”, he queried, pointing up at the twinkling dot that went by the name Sirius. 

Something jerked his attention away from the star. 

Time slowed down, sickeningly syrupy before his eyes. 

Alarm bells blared in his mind, and he was reacting before he knew what he was reacting to. His hands on the steering wheel spun hard as he watched, disembodied, as if they belonged to someone other.

In the same slow motion, her focus shifted from the sky to him, sensitive to the alteration in his attention. Her mouth opened, her eyes flicked to where his faced, and she aborted her own question with a rising scream. 

The massive headlights were barreling closer and closer. In his disjointed mental state, he saw large, demonic eyes, heralding the approach of a monster that would inevitably consume him.

A massive horn bellowed once, twice, thrice, and he knew, he knew he could not escape this demon. He looked at her, disappointed in himself at the terror in her eyes, and mouthed the words ‘I love you’. 

Then, impact.

Motion. Violent, jerking, snapping motion that lasted forever before stopping abruptly.

The world spun in front of his eyes, and he closed them before vomiting out of the open window. His vomit fell past his head, and he realised he was upside down. 

He cataloged his bodily functions, relieved that everything appeared fine. The effects of the alcohol long forgotten, he replayed the events of the last three minutes, swiftly exculpating himself in an impromptu mental courtroom. 

The truck driver was driving on the wrong side, weaving erratically. He was drunk, which would complicate things, but he was sure the other guy was drunker. The car might have to be written off, but insurance would take care of that. 

Relief flooded through him. It was going to be alright.

He turned to his right, his eyes meeting her sightless ones. 

Something broke in his soul.

Everything went dark. 

Author’s Notes

  • This story is inspired by ‘Tender is the Night’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Some elements I borrow from the novel are:
    • An attractive, charming, and ultimately tragic protagonist
    • The use of flashback and in media res to create a nonlinear narrative
    • The descriptions of social interactions, although I do not claim to match Mr. Fitzgerald’s ability in this regard. 
    • An attractive female character who (arguably) leads the protagonist to his doom
  • To the Lady B, it had to happen. I’m still open to another collab. Hmu.
  • Last but not least, don’t drink and drive, people!

A Dragon Awakens

This article was originally published on Medium on Dec. 18, 2019. It was originally titled ‘The Awakening’.
**End Note**

My cave trembles under the tremendous assault of battle magic. I instinctively barrel outside and lash out both physically and magically. Bodies and blood fly, and I realize I am under attack by humans.

I curse my luck.

The damn vermin will never leave me alone now. I will either have to kill all of them or relocate my cave. They may be tiny and underpowered, but we dragons have always admired their tenacity.

But why do they attack me?

I will probably never know — the motivations of the tiny creatures are as alien as those of the starriders.

My throat constricts as a powerful force clamps around it. I laugh in disbelief. We discovered the three magicks, developed them for centuries, built our cities around them, and these creatures think they can fight me using it? They would have a better chance of defeating me if they threw pebbles at me.

Perhaps one would hit me in my remaining eye and blind me.

Behind my incredulity, I feel another emotion rising — one I had thought lost to me. Anger comes slowly to me but I know from the old days that my rage is something to be feared.

Dark thoughts tumble through my mind, memories I have suppressed for all these years.

I remember the last battle of the Second Drakonian War. I remember my fall from the sky. I remember seeing my mate fall after me and the ambition in my heart turning to horror. I remember the crater I created when I let loose, the cries and screams as I lost my mind and killed without mercy or compunction, reason deserting me as I slaughtered friend and foe, dragon and human. I remember the horror in my brood’s eyes as I killed them one by one.

I did not care.

I had just lost my love.

I remember the pity tainting the air as my friends looked upon my flight from the great roosts of Dawnflight. The great dragonlord himself, exiled from the same city he ruled for a thousand years. An unprecedented event, but an unavoidable one. I had proven myself unstable, erratic. Who knew when I would lose my mind again?

The council spoke, and I left Dawnflight in disgrace.

All this flashes through my mind in seconds. The old anger rises in my breast and I know that my passion is not dead yet. I am no mammal, to cower under attack. I shall not run.

Not again.

My attack is swift and deadly. Three out of the four battle mages lie dead, and a healer frantically attempts to revive the fourth human. Rows of soldiers start marching towards me, the ones in the front row shaking. I recall my studies on humans and smile as I realize the strange, single-scented creatures are scared. I roar in hilarity and several soldiers break and run as they realize I am laughing. They are scared?

They should be.

I pick up the healer effortlessly and levitate him to eye level. I search my mind for the Ariendale link and push into his mind. I overestimate my strength, and he screams, his head exploding into a red mist. My scales ruffle in disgust and I turn my focus to the surviving mage. The soldiers’ faces look whiter. Several more seem to be running away from me. Evasive maneuvers or retreat? I cannot tell.

I do not understand these mammals.

I flap my wings and soar over them and the soldiers launch massive bolts after me. I roar in amusement. I am no ordinary drake, to be brought down by mechanical ballistae.

I am a dragon and I show the soldiers the magnitude of their error. I unleash my full strength on the humans. Even a full-grown dragon would have difficulty resisting my attacks.

The humans stand no chance.

Some die where they stand. Others die running. Regardless, they die. Massive swathes of the ground are blackened by my fires. Great trees topple or explode into shards that cut through the corpses. I feel no satisfaction. They are too far beneath me to allow for any real battle.

The mage who first attacked me remains alive, but barely. Red liquid (blood, I remember from my human studies) spreads out in a perfect circle around him. I rack my brain for human healing spells, but I have never focused too much on healing. I have always been better at dealing death and destruction.

I try the Ariendale link again. This time, it works.

‘Why did you attack me?’

The human mutters something about a princess and kidnapping. Nonplussed, I toss him aside and crush him underfoot. I roar as the numbness in my heart lifts and I feel more alive than I have in decades. I know what I have to do now. Before I set out to Dawnflight, I glance back at the dead humans.

Strange creatures. What would I do with a princess?

Two Phantoms in an Inn

This article was originally published on Medium on Nov. 27, 2019.
**End Note**

Our tale begins with two friends sitting at an uncomfortably warm and poorly lit inn, sipping the watered-down ale that the bastard innkeeper is overcharging them for. They complain about the weather, their health, traders, and generally everything. You look at them once and nothing stands out. Like most people, you don’t give either a second glance. However, you notice some rather interesting details if you make it to the second glance.

While both seem animated at first, their arms are rather stiff for two conversationalists. Their hands hover around their belts. Their surprisingly hard-bitten eyes constantly search the room as they punctuate their conversations with uproarious laughter. If something gives them away, it is their eyes.

One lacks an arm.

Yes, it is strange to see a one-armed man seated at the inn buying cheap swill — the fringes of the Empire are not friendly to amputees.

The innkeeper lounges at the counter, continuously shooting dirty glances at the men — he knows they mean bad news. Further still, you see a man propped up on a corner seat, cursing incoherently and scratching his head as he holds a one-way conversation. The two friends take notice of him and, as they watch, he slowly turns to face them. Delight, indecision, and horror war on his face, and he stands up, seemingly unsure whether he wants to back out of the room or throw himself at the two men.

The inn is empty, setting the stage for the unfolding drama.

The innkeeper curses and starts as he prepares to intercept the madman, but a gesture from the amputee stops him in his tracks. The innkeeper’s face twists in an ugly grimace and he grudgingly spits in the amputee’s general direction — to be ordered by one who is not whole is degrading to him. He snarls and turns, leaving the madman to his fate.

The madman walks towards the two friends, his legs twitching and shaking as if he does not remember how to walk.

The air is humming with tension.

The man with both arms unsheathes his sword and places it on the table. The amputee cracks his neck and waits warily. Their conversation has died down — their target approaches them.

The madman continues gibbering but the anguish in his eyes belies the incoherency of his words. He knows something is happening to him. He knows he is not well. Tears well up in his eyes and he makes an attempt to regain control over his traitorous body. His lips trembling so hard he can barely be understood, he squeaks out a single word.

“Please,” he moans, before sinking to the floor in pain and weariness.

The amputee redundantly prompts his trainee to pay attention with a look. He squints and seems to move, although no motion is visible. The innkeeper cringes back, the trainee exhales as he sees the act, and the madman screams as the thing inside him comprehends the situation.

The trainee hovers over the madman as the thing inside him tries to struggle, but it is far too late. He sees that the amputee too strong for the demon. He sees his superior capture it, absorbing it into his phantom arm. This is the first time he is seeing the process. Fear and awe course through his system.

Their job is done.

The amputee gestures to his subordinate and both men walk out of the door, the amputee tossing a couple of coins into the inn with his nonexistent arm. The innkeeper realizes they are gold coins, enough to buy his inn a couple of times over.

The ex-madman remains on the floor, gasping for air and crying tears of joy. The innkeeper mutters darkly and slams the door shut, all the while directing even darker glances at the man writhing on the floor.

Deep inside, under the layer of superstition and conditioning, a deeper fear begins to take root. What has he seen? What could it mean?

He knows he will probably never know, and the dissatisfaction pulls at his heart as he locks up and kicks the man out. He wants nothing to do with the magic of the Empire.

“What could it all mean?” he ponders, late at night, as sleep eludes his weary grasp.

“What could it all mean?”

“What could it all mean?”

The Day the Music Died

This article was originally published on Medium on Nov. 24, 2019.
**End Note**

When NASA first found out how bad the meteor strike would be, they kept it a secret from the general public. At least until a do-gooder decided that the information was too important to be hidden and leaked the news to the press.

Dozens of national space agencies counterchecked the calculations. The vice president looked like he was about to throw up as he announced what was basically the end of the world. He walked out of the conference room, pulled out an unregistered firearm, and put a bullet in his brain.

People noticed.

Panic and pandemonium erupted around the world. Social conflict rose on an unprecedented scale as people turned against each other, first on class lines, then on race lines, then on religious lines.

Civilization had collapsed. We slowly reverted to the beasts we had always been suppressing. The final paroxysms of the dying organism that was humanity were the worst. Cities fell, societies collapsed, entire countries turned into gigantic conflagrations in minutes.

The observant reader will even now be asking me about the enclaves, but keep in mind that almost nobody knew about them at the time.

A few humans survived. They were lucky, of course, that a group of intellectuals, activists, and general do-gooders across the world spent their last days deactivating the nukes.

Why they did that was a question nobody could answer. Why would you spend your final days disarming nukes when the world was going to end in a week?

I watched the mess from my satellite uplink and wept. BBC stopped broadcasting news three days into the chaos, but some enterprising soul kept up a constant stream of 80s and 90s hits that we listened to as we went about our daily tasks. There was little chaos amongst us, for we were the few who had renounced the earth.

We hadn’t believed it at first. Then we raged, first at each other and then at the world. We tried bargaining, sending messages to out-system AIs to no avail. We were in the penultimate stage now. Despair put dangerous questions in our minds, but we had been selected for mental toughness.

Nobody succumbed to despair.

One or two made trouble, but the psychologists rooted them out quickly enough. We forced them out of our little bubble with tears in our eyes.

As we neared the fateful hour, the chaos seemed to subside, as if humanity had exhausted itself with its death throes and was now merely waiting for the end. We watched with bated breath, hoping against hope that the agencies were wrong — but knowing deep in our hearts that the earth was doomed. Our physicists had confirmed it, and they were never wrong.

A few minutes to the end, as the faint strands of music drifted to my ears, I heard Jan scream in disbelief. I quickly made my way to my station, and the blinking notification icon almost knocked me to the floor. I had thought us forgotten.

My, my, Miss American Pie…

‘Open it!’

My sharp command snapped him out of his daze. As he clicked on the icon, the message loaded.

“However long it takes — save us.”

Jan stared at me, and I almost couldn’t bear the hope in his eyes. The others filed in, ready for anything after Jan’s scream. Whispers spread through the group as the message disseminated across the crew, and I could see everyone’s spirits rise.

We had reached the depths of despair, but the message gave us something that, at that moment, I felt was the most beautiful thing ever.


As Jan composed a reply, I heard the last strains of the song. I couldn’t help but feel their purport.

The day the music died…

As the music faded and the meteor hurtled ever closer, a second message popped up.

A single word.


Under a Moonless Night

This article was originally published on Medium on Oct. 30, 2019.
**End Note**

There was no moon, and the world was all the more beautiful for it.

Pinpricks of twinkling light punctured the utter darkness. He saw them everywhere he looked, ancient stars whose light had traveled an unimaginable distance to assail his mortal eyes. He gazed into the vast night sky, unlittered by clouds, and lost himself.

The constellations looked exactly the same as they had during those long nights he spent staring up as a child.

“It happens to all of us.

We grow up. We grow old. We remember our childhood. We remember the warmth and comfort. We remember the love and freedom. We remember how it was and compare to how it is.”

He turned his attention to the girl beside him. Her warmth astonished him every time he touched her. The blood pulsing through her body screamed to him.

“HERE IS LIFE, ” it bellowed indomitably, “HERE SOMEONE EXISTS.”

How could her very presence not amaze her when his own never failed to do the same? How often had he looked upon his own hand and marveled at the magnificence of him, the sheer artistry of his being, the interplay of muscle and vein and nerve that allowed him to function as he did?

This was why he came out here.

The wondrous joy of the night sky, untamed by artificial light for hundreds of kilometers in either direction. If he could, he would make it compulsory for every human, all seven billion of them, to visit this spot once in their lifetime.

“But humans take what is and make it theirs.

’Tis both their greatest strength and their biggest weakness.”

How he missed home. How he wished he could return. But there was no going back.

“Going back is an idea, a concept that never matches up to reality. It is the drive fueled by that most pernicious and tricky part of human nature: hope.”

What keeps us going every day but the hope of a better tomorrow? Why do we not collectively lose our minds, flip the world off, and go out in a defiant blaze of glory? Because we hope that tomorrow will be better than today.

And so Leo hoped.

Now her breath drew his attention. Her strong, steady breath. He hadn’t wanted to bring her here at first. But she had insisted, and he could find no reason to deny her except his own unease at the idea.

She didn’t get it. The entire idea was foreign to her. The night sky? Constellations? Why would anyone care?

Which made it all the sweeter that she had come all this way, sacrificed a tiny portion of her finite life, just to be close to him. It made him want to cry, but when he was out here, everything made him want to cry.

He never cried.

She murmured sleepily as he brought his lips to her throat. He felt the familiar stirring in his loins. Her breath quickened at his touch.

He couldn’t help himself. He couldn’t control himself. He bit deep into her neck and drank and drank and drank, oh the sweet sweet lifeblood that he lived for, he could feel it restoring him, he could feel the thundering roar of her heartbeat in his body and it grew and grew and consumed him…

And suddenly, it was over.

He inclined his head over her respectfully, thanking her for providing him with the lifeblood he needed to maintain his long and storied life. In this remote location, nobody would discover a body.

Just like that, she was gone. Snuffed out like a candle. No goodbyes, no tears, no last words. One moment she was, the next she wasn’t. The universe continued existing. The stars still twinkled, the planets still shone, comets and meteors still trailed under the dome of the night sky.

It made him want to cry, but when he was out here, everything made him want to cry.

He never cried.

Nuclear Magery

This story is the third of a trio I wrote in 2017. I originally titled it “The Mage”. I think this is easily the best of the three.
**End Note**

What would he do with it?

That was the question, wasn’t it?

It had taken him ages to pore over the dusty tomes in the Great Library, but he had finally stumbled upon it.

The books spoke of a time before sorcery, before Will-sapping magic was available to everyone – at least to some extent.

They spoke of tiny particles that made up everything. Different substances had different kinds making them up, and they combined in different ways to create different things.

He was skeptical at first – the old ones had certainly believed in these particles, but did they still exist?

The old ones had warped reality, allowing us to change existence with our very thoughts. Had they warped the nature of reality as well?

But he didn’t give up.

He was a mage, after all. Chosen as much for his sharpness as for his affinity for the talent, he was no ordinary person.

He stuck to his task long after anyone sane would have given up. But finally, his search bore fruit.

It all began with a simple combination spell. A flash of Will burned hot in his veins, and he felt faint for a moment before the adrenaline kicked in. It was a simple enough procedure, designed to provide the caster extra energy after casting a spell.

And it wasn’t even necessary. There was no result. Nothing at all, as far as he could see.

But then why that flash of Will?

He went back to the dusty tomes. Days and days passed, and there were times when he felt his head would split.

But he didn’t give up.

He was a mage, after all.

Until finally, he understood. Something had manifested due to his combination spell, but that something was much too small to be seen or felt.

He tried again and again. For months he kept at it.

He poured all his Will into it.

He was one of the strongest, and he was unknowingly practising.

Until one day, he managed to do it. The flash of Will. The moment of faintness. The adrenaline kicking in.

He thought he had failed again until he looked down at his hands.

They were wet.

With concrete proof of success and countless possibilities before him, he ventured out into the world.

He gathered money and power, but always, he was learning more and more.

He built a circle – twelve people who he started teaching. Many did not survive and fell by the wayside, sapped and drained of Will. But he maintained the circle of twelve, and slowly started teaching them the basics.

Until one day, the emperor struck.

Shaken by the mage’s ever-increasing power, he ordered his chancellor to turn one of the circle. He knew he could not openly march upon the mage, for the mage’s power was formidable.

And one of the twelve was bought. Money, land, and a title was promised.

But the mage toiled on, struggling to unravel all the mysteries of the universe.

Until one day, the traitor smuggled poison into his mentor’s drink. But the drink did not reach its intended victim – instead, it killed another of the circle.

The mage was enraged, and he followed the poison’s trail to the traitor using far more mundane magical means.

He tore the traitor apart from the inside out, gifting him a prolonged and unmerciful death. But before the traitor died, he spilled all the secrets of the Emperor, hoping for mercy.

That day, no mercy was shown.

The remaining members of the circle watched as their mentor killed one of their own. They watched as he withdrew into a shell of his own making. They watched, and they feared.

But fear slowly turned to anger, and anger into self-righteous rage.

One day, they confronted the mage in their combined power, battering him back with waves of Will-shaped weapons. And while the mage could disintegrate them, he had no direct control over Will itself. For Will was of man, an ugly imposition on the nature of reality.

And when he realized he could not win, he wept. He wept as Will-cast attacks broke his body. He wept as Will-shaped weapons bled him dry.

He wept as he died.

And as he died, his mind started doing the unthinkable, the one thing he had sworn never to do. He had only a smidgen of Will remaining, but it was enough.

One particle was all it would take. One particle…

It was not an easy task, but he did it.

He was a mage, after all.

That night, the Empire fell. That night, the Great Library was torn asunder.

That night, the circle was crushed into actual dust, blowing past the remains of the once mighty Empire it could have ruled.

That night, a good man died.

The Urge

This story is the second of a trio I wrote in 2017. It’s interesting to see how my writing has developed in the meantime.
**End Note**

Who am I?

A question I asked myself often enough when growing up.

Do you normal people think of such things?

I am not normal.

The fact that I’m answering a question I asked myself should give you a clue or two. A clue or two… is that alliteration? Or rhyme?

Anyway, why am I abnormal?

It’s all because of the urge.

They all told me that it would end up hurting someone. But it’s an intrinsic part of me, so I guess that means I would be the one hurting someone.

They blabbered on about masters and servants but, truthfully, I wasn’t even listening. Why would it be a bad master? How would it even be my master?

Why would it be a bad master? How would it even be my master?

Right now, the very notion is laughable. But back then, it made sense. Perfect, terrifying sense. I knew that I was an abomination. I knew the madness that resided in my soul.

And sense wasn’t enough to hold me back.

It started small. Very small, with matchsticks and magnifying lenses. And that was normal. Every kid plays with it. Everyone is fascinated by the bewitching dance of destruction that fire portends.

But for me, it went further than mere fascination. It went deeper than a passing fancy.

Each time, I went a little further. First with pages out of a notebook. Then with old clothes and rags. Once an old car in the woods.

That was a bad time. It caused a forest fire that raged for half a day. Maybe not much in the grand scheme of forest fires, but still… how many animals died? Did any person perish in the fire I called up?

To this day, I don’t know. I ran. Ran and ran until I knew not where I was.

But then, everything changed.

The call came.

It came as a tingling sensation in my veins. A half-formed thought roaring through my body. A nascent power awakening.

You may laugh if you want to.

I would too, if I heard a stranger saying this. But I’m merely telling you what happened.

What was I saying?

Oh yes… pyromancy.

What happens when a myth materializes within you? What happens when the manifestation of that myth aligns with your deepest, darkest, desires?

What happens when a pyromaniac discovers pyromancy?

I happen.

This is my secret. No longer do I have to fear a flame. No longer do I have to hope for the best every time the urge calls. No longer do I have to worry about my loved ones.

It started small. Very small, with sparks bending to my will. And that was abnormal, very abnormal. Nobody can control that raging force of destruction. Nobody should be able to.

Each time, I went a little further. First with embers in my room. Then with fist-sized flames in the woods. Once I roamed an entire day with a ball of flame suspended in my pocket.

My power could be used for greatness. There would be countless applications. Not to mention that my very existence would imply the existence of others.

Others like me.

They could generate infinite amounts of electricity using our power. They would find dozens of medical applications.

But they would push us. Scientists and militaries alike are never satisfied with boundaries. There is always a great evil to conquer; there is always an end that justifies the means.

They would help me break my constraints. They would push me to near-infinite power.

They would turn me into a weapon of mass destruction.

And that I cannot condone. That alone, I fear.

But till then, till they find me, I live simply.

No heroics. No supervillains. No deaths of loved ones.

For I am selfish.

But even more than that, I am happy.

I am content.


This story is the first of a trio I wrote in 2017. It’s interesting to see how my writing has developed in the meantime.
**End Note**

He walked through the streets of the burning city, mind numb, body sagging.

If anyone had seen him, they’d have wondered how and why this once-revered defender of the city had fallen so far.

But he did not wonder. He did not think. He did not care.

For him, it was catharsis.

And under the excitement and exultation, a small part of him knew he wouldn’t survive this.

Was this madness? This bleak, desolate maze his mind wandered in, was it insanity?

It was just a dream. He would wake up any moment now and find himself with her. His baby. How he loved her.

But no. Even the bleakness was better than that.

He couldn’t bear the pain that ravaged him, worse than any of the physical injuries he had suffered. He couldn’t think of her, not now, not never.

He was old. And now he was broken as well.

He tossed his head back and laughed.


A loud laugh broke the silence that had settled over the burning city like a shroud over a corpse. An apt analogy, he thought, since the city was more dead than alive.

Those residents who hadn’t died in the initial waves of destruction had fled the hero’s wrath. All that remained were those too weak, helpless, or hopeless to run.

And then there were people like him. Those too mad to escape. He was mad, wasn’t he? That’s what they had told him in Hell. He hadn’t believed it at first, but they couldn’t all have been lying to him. Or could they?

The continuing laughter snapped him out of his reverie as it changed. It almost sounded like sobs. But beneath the sadness, the anguish, there was another note. What was it?



Was there another madman around? Maybe he ought to talk to him. Madman to madman. That would be fun.

He rose and walked towards the laughter.


A figure approached him. No fear, no anger, no judgement, nothing in his gait or face. He couldn’t see the stranger’s face.

The stranger peered down at him.

“Why do you laugh?”

He considered the question. His daughter was dead. His wife would have been better off dead. His beloved city in flames. And yet he laughed?

Was he insane?

“Because I’m mad.”

The stranger looked at him for a long five seconds. He idly wondered whether he should disintegrate the stranger. Why not?

As he began to form the thought that would accomplish the deed, the stranger did something entirely unexpected.

He broke into laughter. Low, pensive, chilling laughter.

But underneath the pensiveness, below the chill, he heard something else. What was it?



Finally, someone who understood. Finally, a friend. His old friends were de- no that hurt too much as well. Better to be mad than to experience such anguish. Was he mad?

He joined the stranger in his laughter.