A Peep Through the Keyhole

What a week. As a brief update, I’m still fighting the wicked clench of the illness that has overcome me, my horse is still lame (and for no apparent reason – expect a second update later, after the vet sees him this afternoon), and Lordy Lordy, the band’s back in town! Another exhausting, fun-packed, bittersweet weekend ahead for this dragon-kissed fiend. I must say, it’s a very good thing I have such an awesome God to carry me through this busy season, not to mention the amazing soldier-friends He’s granted me to bear me up on their shoulders. I don’t know how I’d make it without them. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I know how I’d make it. I wouldn’t. 

Anyways, my real reason for posting right now is that I have been challenged by my fellow scribes to share a sneak peek into my WIP. The complete challenge was to “give us a random sneak peek into your book. Go to page 7 or 77, and copy the first seven lines.” However, I have 5 current WIPs, and felt the random urge to give you a peep through the keyhole of this insane mind with just this small piece of all of them. Enjoy!

Breaking Shadows: Part One

I have the rooks full attention on me now.
Ben calmly takes a bite from the apple, then holds it out and nods. I bring the rifle to my cheek, let out a breath, and return the signal. He tosses the apple maybe a foot straight up, and I pull the trigger.
He catches the apple and tosses it to me.
I hold the gun in one hand, and catch the apple with the other, then look at the neat, round hole in the middle of the apple. I nod casually, and take a bite before throwing it back.
Ben laughs and steps back to the table while I again take my seat. 

Breaking Shadows: Part Two

The cabinet falls over, and glass breaks all over the floor. Mom curls around me, trying to protect me from the pieces flying through the air, and over her shoulder I see them. Five tall men with guns bust in, breaking the door too. When they see me, they start laughing and pointing fingers.
“You! Where does your allegiance lie?” They ask of my mother. She pulls my hands loose of her dress and stands up tall, facing them. I’ve never seen anything like these men.

Hostage 

Any who whimper from the pain are reproved by a swift slap to the cheek, and none dare to respond beyond that. We all know what happens then.
Shouting suddenly fills the room, the sound so loud and unexpected that my ears ring. Everyone turns to see a young girl, maybe 2 years younger than me, being held up almost above the ground by a large guard hefting her chain.
“No! Please! It wasn’t me! Please, you have to believe me! I didn’t do it! Please!” She cries, tears streaming from her eyes.
I look into her eyes, so full of helpless fear.
“Her chain was loose, Sir! Shall I take her to be examined?” He says, voice full of malice.

Silent Tears (bear with me… this was my first novel-length work, and requires a total revamp that I have not yet started. No laughing!)

It had big eyes, and a beautiful lengthy tail. But the tail wasn’t like that of a dog; it was more like, like, like how one of the nurses wears her hair. She holds it back with a rubber band, all of her hair in a bunch and loose at the end.
The creature was mostly a brown-ish coppery color, but its tail was black and it had black points on its legs, ears, nose, and the long hair on its neck. It had a long angular face with a white spot towards the top. As I remember these things, an image begins to appear in my mind. Not of that memory, but of the creature itself.

And, finally, my most recent WIP. It is as of yet untitled, and this is the very first sneak peek to reach the public eye!

I once more feel for the walls of the box, only slightly larger than a coffin. With my left hand, I touch the wood, following the grain, fingering the rough texture cautiously. In a moment, I’ve found a sliver of space, a tiny crack, where the wood feels slightly thinner. The weak spot. Just as I start to withdraw my fingers, something causes me to pause. Around the crack, the wood is wet. Shoot.

That’s all for now folks! Check back later for an update on the Moosketeer, and keep your fingers crossed and eyes closed in prayer that it’s nothing serious!

Where Does My Help Come From?

“I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip– he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you– the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm– he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”

Psalm 121

This chapter has been my very lifeblood this weekend, as I’ve muddled through stormy marshes of every kind.  I’ve been busy beyond my craziest nightmares, and while some of what I’ve been doing has been very fun and a blessing from God, there has been so much constantly going on that I haven’t been able to stop, take a breath, and appreciate it. I am mentally and physically more drained than I ever remember being, hurting for a friend of mine, praying over another who’s having both health problems and problems at work, missing my friends that seem so far away, and now caring for a horse that hurt himself out in the field. Again. 

Needless to say, there’s been a lot going on and I haven’t had any time. But even in this swirling, twisting, turning, painful mess of circumstances I’ve found myself in, God has held my heart. His arms that hold the universe have been wrapped around me in a warm embrace, and I’ve felt Him moving in everything I do. I can’t understand why He’s putting me through this from this side of the mountain, as I’m trapped in the valley, but as the psalm says, I can always raise my eyes up to the hills. And I can be confident that my Almighty God, the Lord of Hosts, is at work in me. Whatever it is he’s doing, it’s for the better, and someday I know I’ll look back on this time and say to myself “wow… God is so good. I never would have imagined that something as wonderful as this could have arisen from such a time as that.” God is perfect, and everything He does is for a reason. I may not understand His reasons until I’m standing on that mountain top, looking back into the valley I’m trudging through today, but I can find peace and strength in knowing that none of this pain is in vain.

Proverbs 17:3 tells us that “The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the LORD tests hearts.” The fires of life may burn and scar, but the purest gold comes from the hottest furnace, and the most beautiful metal sculptures were hammered again and again to reach their state of perfection. God puts us through these trials to form us into his perfect, shining image, and for this reason I can be proud of my scars. There is no greater honor than to suffer as my Savior suffered for me, and in His strength I can push on through anything.

So, the reason I post all of this today is to, hopefully, encourage you in your own valleys of persecution. I’m going through some hard times, but I know I’m not the only one. I can only pray that perhaps this post will speak to one of you, and help to ease your burden just a bit. In closing, I’m sharing two songs that have spoken to me, and served as beautiful reminders that God is with me and working on and through me.

.

Flattery, Fun, and Pain

Tonight will have to be a quick one, but I wanted to post a quick update on life in general.

The last weeks have been long ones, hot ones, but mostly good ones. I’ve fed a couple Country stars, interviewed Judas, worked my rear end off, taken care of my horse who has thrown three shoes in the last two weeks, worked my rear end off, started writing a new book, held the first summer chirp meeting, and much more. God has sustained me, even as I’ve healed (miraculously quickly) from a strange foot injury the last few days. Today, he brought me a great source of encouragement. One of my fellow writers and wonderful friends came to me for help with a character biography she was writing, as well as help titling one of her works. She then told me that she has stalked my blog for inspiration and ideas for a while now, which is one of the greatest compliments a writer can receive. This was a major lift to my spirits.

This weekend holds great promise of good times and memories. As I type, I am hanging with the always wonderful Reilly band, who is spending the next two nights with us. We’ve already had a fun night, eating, swimming, and quoting Brian Regan and Jim Gaffigan. The night holds ice cream, movies, laughter, coffee, and fellowship. Tomorrow we will embark fairly early for the ALIVE Festival, where they have two sets to play. I’ll be driving behind their band bus to the festival, watching their first set and hanging out for a little while afterwards (backstage of course), before driving my brothers and I back for work. They’ll be back to our house about 1am after playing the late cafe show, we’ll play some Rock Band and probably swim some more, and bid them farewell Saturday morning. Sunday, I will be hanging with some OHVA friends at my first Summer Outing. This will be an absolutely smashing time, especially with the voice-less RoboPrez making an appearance after ALSO hanging out at the ALIVE Festival. I’m hoping perhaps we’ll run into each other there as well.

So, all this to say that God is good. Life is hard at times, but it’s far better than I deserve. And though I may fail, His strength will always shine through me. I just have to live my life striving to glorify Him, and trusting in whatever He has next for me. How about you, precious readers? Has God been your stronghold in the last season of your life? What trials have you piggy-backed through on your Saviors shoulders lately?

Shadow Future Blog Tour! {Stop #8}: Getting to Know Zeke

Introducing Shadow Future by the wonderful Madison Louise, who has graciously asked me to participate in her blog tour this week! For more information on this tour, please visit her blog at http://madisonlouiseauthor.blogspot.com/2012/06/shadow-future-blog-tour-1st-stop.html

In Shadows Future, we meet young Pearl, a teenage girl whose life is about to take some dramatic twists. See, Pearl is no ordinary girl. She’s an OverShadower, forced into a life of relative isolation because of her strange powers. This life is normal to her, she understands it. But as secrets bubble to the surface, and those around her decide to show their true colors, she has some big decisions to make and a long, bumpy road ahead.

Madison Louise has done a marvelous job on this, her first novel. Aside from a very few grammatical errors, her writing is pristine, beautiful, and captures the heart and emotions of a hungry soul. She had me intrigued from cover to cover, and with a cliff hanger like that, I’m still biting my nails. The sequel can’t come soon enough. Her characters covered a broad spectrum, and each had depth and personality. Perhaps my favorite part of this story was her obvious longing to please God and glorify Him through it, something every strong Christian writer strives for. I’m so grateful that she presented me with the opportunity to read this book, and would highly encourage my friends to pick it up as well.  For more information on Shadows Future, or to pick up your own copy, give her a click! http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13628641-shadow-future

Now, as for this tour, I am beyond excited to introduce you to one of my favorite characters, the feisty Zeke! I had the pleasure of interviewing him, and I’m very happy to share with you today.

CCG: So Zeke, what’s it like being an OverShadower?

Zeke: It has his perks, Hannah, but if I had to choose between being an OverShadower, and human, I’d go for the human. Adskhan never lets us have any fun. But I do love having the power to control shadows and see in the dark. It’s pretty darn awesome. And the whole Fastening thing is just lame, I’ll have some girl stuck with me for the rest of my life…But, that’s just the way things are.

CCG: Does Josh ever get on your nerves? What’s the worst fight you two have been in with each other?

Zeke: Heck yes! He’s the most annoying…*grumbles* Sorry, what were you saying? Oh, well…we don’t really have much to fight over, being cooped up in this mansion all our lives, but I think the worse fight we got into was when Adskhan took away our games, and I had them back, but Josh wouldn’t play them, he’s such a goody goody. So I told him I would never talk to him again. But that was when I was younger…

CCG: What is it like, living apart from humanity?

Zeke: It sucks. We never get to have any fun! We barely got a chance to play video games, it’s always study, study, and learn how to use your powers. And there’s only Pearl around, there aren’t any other girls. So it’s pretty lame. But Josh likes it, so I pretend I do too.

CCG: How do you feel about all that’s happened?

Zeke: It’s kind of overwhelming, you know? One second, life was just the way it should be and BAM! It’s not. I kinda just wish things would go back to normal again…

CCG: Why were you so willing to help Max and Pearl?

Zeke: Hey, Pearl’s the sister I never had, and she deserves some happiness. And it was fun to annoy the heck out of Adskhan.

CCG: Are you afraid of the Undimmed? If no, what do you feel about them?

Zeke: Nope. They don’t scare me. But they scare Josh. He’s such a wimp. How do I feel about them? I think it’s pretty cool having someone else who could kill you, I mean, it’s like a superhero video game. Our powers don’t like each other.

CCG: Do you have anything to add?

Zeke: Nope. It’s been great being here, Hannah!

Well, that’s about all I’ve got for you today folks, but before I go, there is one more important thing to cover! Madison is hosting a giveaway on her blog, and to enter, you must have the secret code. So, for this stop, your clue is: from you. You can also enter one of her other giveaways below. Have a great day everyone, and be sure to check out all the other blog stops!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Fireside Chats: Meet Judas Part Five

At last, the last part of this exceedingly long interview is here! My apologies for not getting it posted yesterday, it was a very long day in which I had not a single moment on the computer.

I take a deep breath, hoping to clear my mind a bit. One thing’s for sure… I’m never interviewing Judas again. I hope.


“Alright Judas, here’s another question from Nathanael… though we’ve pretty much answered it already. Do handcuffs work on you?” He stares blankly at me, glances down over his shoulder at his hands, and looks back at me.

“You’re kidding, right? I’m strong. But I’m only human.” That’s a matter of opinion. I see a slight glimmer in his eyes, but he quickly covers it over. Oh yeah… Colleen. 

“Yeah, Nathanael doesn’t know about your… previous failure we’ll say.” My voice catches a bit, remembering the one and only time Judas actually appeared to be human… and how it turned out.

“Don’t. Ever. Mention it.” Judas hisses, an unmistakable shudder rippling down his spine, shadows falling across his face.

“I wouldn’t dare. At least, not here. I don’t care if you are cuffed, I’m not stupid. Okay, these next question are from Elizabeth Lewis. How did you feel about having to move after your father died?” Again, I hope to bring back Jude with this question. Judas is on edge, and the tension around us is so thick, I can hardly breath. Thank God we’re almost done.

“I didn’t like the idea of course. The ranch had always been my home, and I had so many memories there. Moving meant leaving them behind, and really accepting that dad wasn’t coming back. But I understood it. We couldn’t keep it running on our own. And hiring help is dangerous. It took a lot of getting used to. We had to sell the livestock and many of our possessions. I even had to give up dad’s horse, Gamgee. Whenever dad was off with the army, I took care of that big lug, worked him, fed him, groomed him, rode him over every inch of that land. Watching him walk away from the auction in the hands of strangers was a hard blow to both of us. When we first moved into the townhouse, I hated it. It felt cramped and caged in amongst the other houses, where I was used to miles of open space. But I still had mom, that was all that really mattered.” His voice is calm, filled with nostalgia.Well. At least I have Jude back.

“And of course, that was before Judas was around. Before you were afraid of loving anything. Alright Jude, take a deep breath. Do you have any phobias? And let’s omit that of love, since we’ve spoken a lot of that already.” Hopefully that will keep Judas from snapping again.

“I’m not a big fan of fire. Or restrictions.” He rolls his shoulders a bit, hinting at the handcuffs. “Ever since the ‘rescue mission’ the army sent for me, I’ve hated them. A small flame, like my cooking fire, I’m alright with. But even that took a long time to face. And I can handle cuffs… but not my legs or feet being bound in any way.” He tries to hide the pain and trembling from his eyes, his voice, and just hardly manages to cover it. Again my eyes stray to the scars that cover his exposed skin. How on earth anyone can face nightmares of a day like that, or even survive the day itself, I’ll never understand.

“I know how hard that was for you Jude. Let’s take Elizabeth’s last question… it’s a bit lighter. How do you feel about talking on the telephone?” Has he ever even been on a telephone? Hmm…

“I’ve never actually been on one, as only the most privileged military personnel and government officials have them. However, I have used a radio on rare occasion, and while it is nice to not have to walk the miles between bases or wait for written word to come, I don’t really like it. As I said before, nonverbal communication is one of my specialties. I always know when I’m being lied to. But over a radio, I lose much of that ability.” He says, looking a bit more calm. Wow… another thing we have in common. I don’t think I like this.

“Agreed. So much is lost in voice-only communication. Now, we have only 6 questions left. The last question Amanda has for you is does your name (being Judas) portray anything about your character?”

“Well, as you’ve heard, it does fit at least half of me very well. It’s my biggest regret… I’ve let my mother down. But at least my reasons were greater than just greed.” His voice is a bit strangled, and I refrain from any further pressing.

“We wont dig any deeper there Jude. These next few questions are from the awesome and incredible Jillian Ickes. And… Jude… she has read the book. She’s still a bit… ahem… bitter about it. First question: what was your family and home like?” Start with the easy ones. We don’t want Judas showing up again.

“Well, this one doesn’t seem too terribly dagger-like. I’ve told you some about it… but we were farmers. I fed the livestock and managed our small herd of cattle, dad plowed the fields, mom managed the house and our small flower garden. Dad wasn’t around a lot, but when he was, he took great care of us. He wasn’t a touchy-feely man, but he loved us dearly. His personality and emotion showed through in his music. And I’ll never forget the day he and mom got in a big fight… I think about him re-enlisting. I was young, and it scared me. I ran to my room and packed my sack full of things that would be important to a little boy, then took off, convinced I could rough it out on my own. My dad rode all through the night on that big-chested chestnut horse, found me half-frozen in a tree. It was the only time I’d ever seen him cry. After dad passed, I helped with the cooking and mom did odd jobs around town. It was a cozy life.” He remembers the times fondly, and I’ve never seen him this close to happy.

“Very good. Next question: what do you think of the other rebels in this group?” Here come the tougher ones.

“Most of them are just your typical rebels, all passion and a bit of aim. But there are a few here that have impressed me. Most of all the leaders. They play it smart… not like most groups. They’re content to bide their time, grow strong before striking, and they plan their attacks. Most gangs just go in guns blasting, hoping to get something. But Ben is rather talented with strategy, and Jesse is one of the best leaders I’ve ever seen. Cool, collected, sure of their strengths, and willing to give everything for her men. Which, really, is how I found them.” I struggle to read his expression, and notice his careful sidestep around Colleen and Mason.

“I’d have to agree with that summary. Now brace yourself Jude. Here’s where Jillian is going to push you a bit. But… I want honesty. I will not leave until I get it. Because I know what it is. Have you really fallen in love with Jesse.. or is it all just an act?” Please don’t let Judas come out… please don’t let Judas come out!

He sighs, a long, deep, drawn out breath. His eyes close, and slowly, he responds.

“It started as an act… just like it always does. And Judas has jumbled, contaminated, twisted my thoughts so horribly that I don’t know what to feel any longer. At times it’s like… it’s like my past is wiped away. All that I know, all that I want is right there with her, up on our little hill. But others, I want to shoot her then, before it’s too late to recall my feelings. I don’t know what it is to love or be loved anymore. But when I can push Judas aside… she feels right. She’s an amazing woman… that’s for sure. But I couldn’t possibly fall for a rebel.” The battle rages on his face, twitching beneath his eyes and around his lips.

“Hmm… I guess that’ll do. Here’s Jilly’s last question. If it hadn’t been for Judas and you fell for Jesse, what kind of future would you envision for the two of you?” This should be interesting.

“Well, besides the fact that I wouldn’t have met her if it wasn’t for my quest for revenge, I don’t know. I’ve never allowed myself to think about it. But, I guess in an ideal world, if everything was the way it would have to be for us two, I would actually join up with the rebels, fight alongside her, protect her. And if by some miracle we both made it out the other end alive, I’d go and buy back my family’s ranch, and we’d run it together. But that’s a dream for some weak-minded fool.” Again, he masks his face, not allowing me to read it. His voice remains monotone, not giving away any of his true emotion. I sigh.

“It’s such a shame you’ve given up Jude. But, on to our very last question. This one comes from Connie Wolters. What is it about Jesse that attracts you so much? Because as much as you try to hide it, you’re smitten. And we all know it Jude.” Maybe, just maybe we’ll finally get his real feelings on this one.He glances at me disdainfully, shakes his head, and gathers himself.

“I guess it’s foolish to think I can get away with a non-answer when it’s my author wielding the pen. So… here goes. Jesse is the strongest woman… no, strongest person I’ve ever met. She’s unshakably proud of what she stands for, and ever certain of her plan. She never backs down, no matter how incredible the odds against her. She doesn’t let her past hold her back, she just pushes onward, drawing from her mistakes, and instead of dwelling on the bad she lets it all improve her. She’s not afraid of anything… except for losing her brother. Her skills with a gun are awe worthy, and her hand to hand skills can only be matched by Ben’s. I’ve never seen such an incredible beast as her, such a worthy foe. And yet, when we come back to base, there is no one so caring, encouraging, friendly as her. She’s seen things as horrid as my own past, and somehow remains strong enough in heart to love her men. The gang is one big family to her, and they embrace her in open arms. She’s not foolish or naive… but she’s not afraid to love, to live life, to enjoy it while she has it. Nothing ever brings her down. And I guess I admire her for that. Maybe, maybe somewhere deep down, I envy her that ability. And even wish it would rub off on me. But Judas would never let that happen.” His voice can no longer remain monotone, and until his anguished growl on the last sentence, his love for her bursts forth.

“Thank you Jude. I appreciate your time, and I know this was hard for you. I’m sure you have a number of raging fans out there right now. Or not. But you have places to be and I have things to do, so, I shall bid you adieu… at least until I work on your story later.” He nods curtly, and I leave the room, nodding to the guard to release him. What a day.

END OF INTERVIEW

Well, I certainly hope everyone enjoyed! It was rather tiring for me. Later this week, you are in for a real treat. I will be posting a review of the all new fantasy book, “Shadows Future”, along with an interview of one of its most interesting characters! Keep your eyes peeled!

Now, as one last parting thought, I will close with a brief passage of the book Judas is involved with, “Breaking Shadows”. It comes from Jude and Jesse’s first encounter.

“We try to take a step forward, but he cries out in pain. It’s all I can do to keep him on his feet. I grab him around the waist, practically carrying him. I can feel him slipping away, the strength seeping from his body.
He begins mumbling weakly, and I have to wonder if I can even get him home alive.
“Come on, stick with me! It’s just a bit farther now.”
Its voice slowly changes, and something is knocking at the back of my mind, like a memory trying to break in. The soft voice, hardly audible, becomes more feminine, and then comes the word to unlock my puzzlement.
“Ben…”
The realization nearly knocks me flat. How could it be? A woman… No, a young girl holding off a good 15 seasoned soldiers? While wounded? It must be some kind of trickery, or else she’s some sort of devilish angel. From what I saw, I’ve never seen such skill with a gun. And she was clearly in charge of the rogue brutes, as it was her voice shouting orders.”

Fireside Chats: Meet Judas Part Four

Whew! I never thought Judas would be so popular! I could write a book just from this interview, I’m pretty sure. But, moving on. Forward, to part four!

Oh how I love it when the Scribes show off their crazy side. The characters never see it coming. Judas glances at me uncomfortably, sweat beading his brow, and a blend of worry and dread fills his eyes as I flip to the next page of questions. A wicked smile dances across my lips, and I laugh inwardly when I see the next question… and, perhaps more importantly, its author.

“Oh Jude, just wait until you hear this one! I think you’re going to like it.” Perhaps loath would be a closer fit… His eyes widen, and I can hear the rate of his breathing increase. I let the seconds drag past, slowly, tauntingly, until he can’t take it anymore.

“Well?!” He barks, slamming a foot down. I choke back laughter, clear my throat, and lift my notebook to read aloud.

“Ahem. This next question is from our beloved Scribe… Emily Bradburn.” I pause a moment, knowing my eyes are dancing from the laughter I conceal. But when I see the look in his smouldering eyes, all joy is wiped away. The cold, stony, seething glare flashes, appearing to shower forth sparks of rage. His muscles coil, bracing against the handcuffs as he lunges forward. Gone is the broken, emotional Jude. I sit in terror, watching Judas’s most violent show yet.

“That festering sore of a woman and her poison-laced quill! Eternal curses upon her wretched soul! Does she not know who I am? Has she not heard what I am capable of? How dare she…”

“Judas! Be still!” I shout, cutting him off. Emily had better watch her back tonight! He slumps back down in the chair, which he had somehow managed to leap out of in his rant. Thank God the handcuffs are still intact! “Emily is a friend of mine, and if you so much as look at her in a way I don’t like, you just might meet an early tragedy. Quit your grumbling, and answer. The. Question. If put on a deserted island with Melgred and Valentine, would you kill either of them, and if so, who first?” For a moment, I wonder if he could possibly even know who these characters are. But, our characters work in mysterious ways… and always seem to know about things we wish they couldn’t.

“Now that’s a nightmare of a situation. My instinct tells me both of them would be dead within a day, maybe two. Melgred would have to go right off. That conniving creature has no trust for anyone, putting me in danger as a known liar. Besides that, I’m sure if he didn’t go first, he would kill the fluffy redhead himself. Jabber Jaws on the other hand may be of some use to me in making camp or gathering food. But once his usefulness had run it’s course, I’d have to cut loose of him. Or, cut his tongue loose from him at least.” Happy thoughts Hannah, think happy thoughts. Not about this psycho path that could snap at any second. I shudder, a bit taken aback by how quickly and thoroughly he’d thought that through. Almost as though he’d pondered it before.

“There, was that so hard? Now. Take a deep breath. Good. Next question: What is the one thing you love most, besides yourself?” He looks up, the fire rekindled in his stare. Uh oh…

“Besides myself? Besides myself! Listen here, you diminutive swine, there is nothing I love about myself. If it was not for my vow, I would have blasted myself to the afterlife many and many a year ago.” He growls the words, a low, vicious rumble that rebounds from the walls, making the hair on my neck stand on end. A heavy silence hangs over the room, one I dare not interrupt. At last, he lets out a sigh, and a bit of the tension eases from his arms. I can almost see the fight behind his eyes, where Jude battles to come back to me. “There is nothing I love. Not truly. Not that I would admit to. For to admit it would be to accept it. And to accept it would be defeat. But I have loved, in days past, long gone and far away. I loved my mother with every fiber of my being. I loved poetry, until it brought back only memories of her. The same rings true for music. And as for any humans since then… I’ve learned my lesson.” His voice is weighed down, exhausted, broken. Judas must be ripping him apart in there. My eyes flutter to the just one of the many long scars, this one reaching from the top of his jaw line, down his neck, and vanishing beneath his shirt.

I cough, and hastily gather my thoughts. “Let’s move to a lighter topic, shall we? Jude, do you like puppies? Or are you a hater like Melgred?” He glances up quickly, another quizzical look on his face. “What’s that look for?” I ask in a teasing voice.

“Just… Just wondering…. Pondering really… How anyone could possibly be this crazy. You scribes…” He shakes his head, as most do at a writer’s antics. No one can understand the writer’s mind. “Puppies? I’ve never been against them. And, if I’m entirely honest… Charlie has grown on me a bit. That fuzzy little mutt. Just about got himself killed yesterday when Jesse didn’t tie him firmly enough.” I swear, his mouth is nearly smiling.

“Perhaps there really is a thin strand of humanity that still runs through your soul Jude. And now, the words you’ve waited for since we began this interview: Emily’s last question is…”

“FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! At last I’m FREE!” He shouts, sounding about as giddy as a school girl. That’s certainly never a noise I ever expected from Judas. Or Jude. In fact… I find it rather disturbing.

“Not quite yet Jude! You still have to answer the question.” His face takes on a glum appearance, and I continue. “If you are haunted by the people you have killed, does that mean you regret the things you have done?” Now I’m asking for it.

“I… yes. Every face, every one of them is etched within my mind. Judas’s memories… they haunt me. Zack, perhaps, the most of all. But It’s not the bloodshed I regret… it’s that I was weak enough to let myself love them. I let myself reach out to them, gain their trust, as per the plan… but always found myself becoming attached. Which only made the knife thrust all the more painful for everyone involved. Oh, shut up you weakling! I regret nothing. Those rebels asked for it the moment they laid hands on my mother. There is nothing to regret… only to revel in. No Judas! Jude, if I could have, I would have rid myself of you long ago. As I would have you. You idiot! With me, you’ve done things you never even dreamed of before! I am your strength! Strength isn’t the only thing I care about, you wicked, twisted little…”

“Alright, alright! Stop bickering you two, you’re giving me a headache!” Why did I ever think this was a good idea? “Let’s take the next question. This one is from Amanda. Do you think that your young age could hurt you? A lot of people wont follow someone of your age, even a powerful one.”

“It has caused some to doubt. But I do not want leadership. I want only trust. Many of the men in these rebel gangs are young, most of them around my age or just slightly older. The wonderful fact is, they don’t last much longer than this when they make the choice to become a rebel. As for this mission in particular, the two heads themselves are only 18 and 15. Those just below them are the oldest rebels I’ve ever seen, but because of the way I managed to worm my way into this army, I bypassed them. And I truly believe that, even had I joined in some other way, due to the way they work, it would have been simple to make the connections I need. For me, all I need is intel. If I am trusted enough for them to pass down information, I can pass that information to the military when it comes time to ambush them. In the same way, I forge ties with my largest targets, so that my revenge is more than surprise. It is pure, wicked, painful betrayal. For just as love always leads to pain, so betrayal is the fatal bane of human life. Nothing is more painful. And when joined with lethal force – and a jagged knife’s blade – the combination is the purest, most beautiful form of revenge there is.” His cat-like, evil grin and hateful, crushing words make my blood turn to ice, my heart nearly stop in my chest. Jude may be just a broken soul, but Judas… how could I possibly have created this monster?

END OF PART FOUR

Fireside Chats: Meet Judas Part Three

Alright everyone, dry your tears and put your hatred aside. It’s time for part three!

We sit in silence for a few minutes, our individual trains of thought drowning out the haunting sounds of the prison. I battle with the idea of uncuffing him, but eventually decide against it. He might be gentle Jude now, but any second he could turn back into Judas. Safer to have him slightly uncomfortable than set loose. In a tiny room. With no way to defend myself. And no one to hear my cries for help. This was a horrible idea.

“Alright Jude. Lets continue. Neither of us wants to take any longer than necessary. The next questions hail from Mr. Nathanael Rebiger. Which side of your personality is aware of the other?” I ask, taking on a business-like tone.

“Well, as you’ve seen, we both know of the other. And fight. A lot. But the stronger of us is Judas. As I said, it didn’t used to be that way… but in my attempts to keep him in check, I gave him a foothold.” Something flashes behind his eyes, maybe remorse, maybe Judas trying to break in. Whatever it was, it disappears almost before it meets my glance.

“What a tragedy that is. Moving on. How did you get recruited?” I clear my throat, not wanting to dwell on Jude’s apparent innocence.

“To the army? Well, after it happened, the guards that saved me brought me to one of the small, run-down police stations in town. One of my dad’s old chums, from his army days, was there and recognized me. Said he owed my dad a solid, and that he’d find a place for me. I begged him to help me find somewhere that I could be of use putting down the rebellion, and found myself a servant in the home of the Leones. They were a family of undercovers, planted within the Resnik’s first army. They’d been lucky enough to come in early, and grew close to the leading family. Too close, in fact, for their girl Sasha. I learned the tricks of the trade there, how to keep a solid cover, hit a target, and stand my ground in hand to hand combat. After three years there, Mr. Leone sent me to sound the alarm on them. I was responsible for alerting the army and leading them to the ambush site, explaining the plan of attack as we ran. I was only eight, but even the soldiers saw greatness in me. I received numerous recommendations that day, and while I was much under age I had no family, nowhere to go. Under these circumstances, they made an exception. The law has always just been a loose guideline for them anyways. I spent three years at boot camp, training longer and harder than any other soldier until I was ready to wage my own kind of war.” Again, I can’t tell which of him I’m talking to. I suspect perhaps Judas has creeped in, but there’s no way to know for sure.

“They had no idea what they were getting in to, I’m sure of that. Now, this next question I’m almost worried to ask… but I promised to put forth all questions received. So, Judas, what is your greatest strength?” I almost whisper the question. Great. I think we all know exactly where this one is going. A flame springs to his eyes, and I can see the lion take over. Why on earth did I want an antagonist with a split personality again? I sigh, bracing myself.

“Well, me of course!” Yep. Judas is back alright. “Like Jude said, he couldn’t handle facing what had happened to us. So I came in. He handles the mushy, trust-growing stuff. I come in and take care of the rest. When things get tough, he runs and hides like the scared little 5-year-old we were that day. But me? Talk about a caged paper tiger on the loose.” He growls and scoffs, sounding quite like the tiger he declares himself to be. I try to keep a calm exterior.

“Alright, that being said, what specifically are you the most skilled with? marksmanship, hand to hand, etcetera?”

“I’m an excellent marksmen, but most of my kills are made with a knife. I prefer it that way. It’s more… personal. But my greatest skill is tracking… a very important one when it comes to implanting yourself in rebel gangs that want nothing more than to fly under the radar. I am also rather skilled in reading nonverbal communications. Body language. There is much to be learned about a person just in the way they stand, the way they speak, the look in their eyes. It’s a skill that my life depends on each and every time I infiltrate their ranks.” I try to hide my shiver. If only I could shut Judas up and keep Jude here with me, this would be much more enjoyable.

“That’s very…”

“Dark?” He interjects, a smirk dancing across his lips.

“Interesting. Next question: Does the army know of your condition?” I ask, just trying to get through this without chucking my pen at him.

“What? Oh, you mean Jude? Psh. They just think I’m a great actor. Which I am, but that’s besides the point.” I really hope I get Jude back soon. I can’t handle Judas much longer. I grind my teeth together and look back to my notebook for the next question.

“Well, if this is your attempt at being charming, you highly overestimate your acting skills.” He glares venomously at me. “The next question, still from Nathanael. Does the army trust you?”

“They trust me to get the job done. But they’ve given up on special instructions. I do my job, I do it well. But they can’t tell me how to do it, because I do it for me. They’re just the medium through which I’ve chosen to do my work, and they know it. They only send me in when complete annihilation is the order of business. Because they will get nothing less.” This time, I can’t hold back my shudder. His voice chills me to my very core, and I know he’s enjoying it. How could I have created such a foul character?

“Okay. Last question from Nathanael for the moment. Do you have any hobbies?” This one should bring Jude back. I hope.
The tension leaves his shoulders a bit, and I see something in his expression… perhaps longing, maybe even a bit of joy.

“I play guitar. And write poetry. I guess they’re the two ways I can keep my parents alive. My father was a brilliant guitar player, one of the best. He was a military man through and through. Brainwashed by the government, just a pawn in their war. But the one time he really seemed human was when he picked up that twangy old guitar and played. So when I was little, and in need of a father’s loving touch, I begged him to teach me. I hated it at first… but then, one day, it just clicked. When I play, if I close my eyes, I can still see the pride in my mother’s eyes, hear it in my father’s encouraging words from behind. All that’s missing is his warm breath on my neck, his hand on mine, helping me finger the strings. And poetry… well, as I said before, my mother loved it. We couldn’t pull her away from her beloved books. She always read a bit to me, especially after dad died. And between the music and her reading, writing them just came naturally. It’s the one thing Judas can’t touch.” Tears glisten in his eyes, and his voice waivers. I almost want to reach across the table and pat his shoulder comfortingly… before I remember who he is.

“I must say, I honestly love your poems. They’re beautiful. I guess it goes to show… even the darkest things in life can shine. Now, let’s see if we can’t lift the mood a bit. The next couple questions are from our lovely Michelle Black. Jude, what do you do for fun?” He can’t make this answer depressing, can he?

“For fun? Well, like I said, I write poetry and play the guitar. Sometimes I’ll read one of the books I kept from my mother’s library. Then of course a training spar or run on the agility course, even an hour or two at the firing range is enjoyable, good for clearing the mind.” He says.

“What about Jesse? Would you consider spending time with her fun?” I ask cautiously. Bringing her up is risky, if Judas decides to take this one.

“I’d like for it to be. And when I can get Judas out of my head, it is. But it’s just so wrong… she’s my enemy. I can’t possibly love her. I can’t let myself enjoy her. Enjoyment leads to love. Love leads to heartbreak. No. I don’t enjoy being with her.” His voice is longing, and then assertive. What a twisted mind, so horribly shattered by loss, hurt, and Judas. Don’t you dare feel bad for him. You know what he is. What he’s done.

“I’m not so sure I believe you. But, let’s move on. If we don’t finish soon, the gang will wonder where you’ve gotten off to. This next question… well, brace yourself. What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?” I try not to laugh at the confusion that covers his face. This should be interesting.

“Ice cream? Wh… I…. Ice cream?! I don’t believe I understand the question.” He looks at me helplessly, the quizzical look in his eyes finally cracking my mask. Laughter bursts from my mouth, serving only to confuse him further.

“Ice cream Jude. I’m sure you’ve never heard of it. In your time, it hasn’t existed for decades. But, if I were to guess, it would most likely be mint chocolate chip. Just enough crunch to satisfy you, and a bit like the spearmint tea you’re so fond of.” He just sits across from me, staring at me as if trying to decide if I’m lying to him or not. I chuckle again.

“Alright Jude, here’s another one. Would you wear flip-flops? And because I know you’re clueless again, let me explain. It’s a type of sandal, with a strap across your foot and between your first and second toes to keep it on. I know you’ve tried them, but not by that name.” He nods appreciatively.

“That’s a very strange name… but to answer the question no. I’d rather walk barefoot over hot coals. They offer no support or protection, and make it difficult to maneuver. I’ve never understood why anyone would want them.” He glares at me condescendingly. I have to smile. I never thought I’d have something in common with Judas. Ever.

“As much as it pains me to say, I agree. Though, barefoot is often not an option for me… and it is nice to be able to just throw something on in a moments notice. Anyways, Jude, where are you ticklish?” That caught him off guard. He has no idea what’s coming! Again, I stifle a laugh. This is actually becoming somewhat entertaining!

“Ticklish? Well… um…” He shuffles uncomfortably. “I… I haven’t been tickled… not since my mother passed anyways… but I suppose my sides were where she always aimed for. If I recall, that’s where it worked. But that was a very long time ago.” I must say, I’m rather enjoying his squirming.

END OF PART THREE

(Note: Due to an increase in the number of questions sent in, there will be at least one more part to this interview. Possibly two.)