All posts by jtwrites

My thoughts on Time

It is my belief that we’ve never cracked time travel, because we’re thinking about it all wrong. Time is a measuring device of our creation, the same as our standard and metric systems. But where those are used in the 2nd and 3rd dimensions, time spans a 4th. It’s our quantifying of a distance between two points.

A month ago, I was in a different place physically, mentally, spiritually…so too was my make up, my anatomy. In the space between now and then, millions of cells within me have been extinguished-replaced and new synaptic pathways have been established. In some regards, I’m not even the same person. And the person in that place is someone else. But that’s all of us.

If we want to execute our concept of time travel, we have to realize that we can’t arrive at a time; it’s not a destination. That “time” or our point of reference is actually a place where all things were, but are no longer. Saying you mean to travel to 1985 is like saying that you’re going to drive into town but stop to sit atop your odometer. The counting device doesn’t get you there. Time is a macro scale where your reference point exists alongside all the parallel and “present” things in a micro perspective. If we want to get there, we don’t need a phone booth or a DeLorean…we need a map.


The Evil Viking

  The viking culture exalted the serving of self. They valued this pledges of fealty/servitude to chiefs or chiefdoms. If a viking thought another chief would bring him greater honor/renown/spoils, they expected him to go to the place where he was best served. These relationships between a viking and chief were mutually beneficial in that the viking performed raids, brought back bounty, and then rewarded/acknowledge by the chief for deeds done. This exchange between viking and chief was almost like commerce, in that it was an expected action between the two.

  Ragnarok was the Viking’s prophesied end of days. It was unavoidable, so they didn’t concern themselves with self preservation. They charged into battles headlong and met death, unafraid. Their fate was supposedly out of their hands, so they didn’t concern themselves with altering it. Instead, they often greeting their end with a smile or roar.

  I’m not keen on their laws, but when a viking broke the law, the culture considered outlaws. This wasn’t a label to mean the vikings were breaking the law, rather, it was a label that meant they were outside of the law’s protection. Any law-abiding citizen could kill an outlaw without penalty so long as it wasn’t on holy ground.

  Gender roles were very pronounced during this time. There was label/title known as argr that no viking man wanted. Where a viking might not engage in a fight, this often reversed when this label came up as a potential punishment. It essentially meant “unmanly” and was supposedly a forfeiture of manly honor. When a viking man took part in something that was understood as a womanly duty, this label would become a focal point. One of these womanly duties was magic, but we’ll return to that.

The Vikings and their Gods

  The relationship between a viking and a Norse god was the same as it was between a viking and his/her chief. This wasn’t a religion to them; it was a part of their natural lives. Similarly, this tit-for-tat relationship existed in the same way in that vikings didn’t pray/request things from their patron god (god of choice). The vikings expected their due from their god, just as they did from their chief. If a god didn’t honor this expectation, then the viking would likely select a different patron.

  The Aesir gods had the same honor code that the vikings did, and you wouldn’t be remiss to consider them a higher level of viking chief, maybe a king of kings. So the Aesir were also self serving. They prioritized their own desires above all else, the one exception being the giving of their word. It seems a promise was something sacred, and the gods honored their promises with one exception. One Aesir was known to be a liar and a cheat. This god also performed other deeds that gained him the title argr and even got him exiled from Asgard. Can you guess who?

  The Vanir were a separate tribe among the gods which broke off from the Aesir. One day, while in search of her husband, a Vanir witch made her way to Asgard. She had several names, but the one most recognized was Freja. Along the way, she was performing services by way of magic known as seidr. She was considered a professional witch, known as a Volva.

  Freja’s magic was in fortune telling. Her efforts would tell the recipient information that would improve their luck/lot in life. This seems like a positive thing to have around, and even some of the Aesir sought her for this service. But unrest accumulated amongst them. Remember, vikings are self serving, so this upset others for one or both of the following reasons:

  -Fortunes improved one’s luck, which contradicts the self-serving culture. The reward is unearned.

  -Freja’s performing this service may seem like it’s not self serving enough regarding Freja’s own benefit. She’s potentially giving away more than she’s getting.

  Related to the above, some Aesir reviled her and even considered evil. But it’s important to place the word evil within the Viking context. Evil is going to be something that is outside of their cultural norms. With this in mind, Vikings may consider altruistic actions to be “evil.” This concept being too alien for rationalizing should speak on the disparity between Norse and modern cultures.

  Because of this unrest, the Aesir agreed that the appropriate punishment would be to execute Freja. So they tried. And then tried again. And then failed to burn her for a third time. There were other attempts as well, and the collection of these efforts lead to the tribal war between the Aesir and the Vanir.

On Magic

  Magic was considered a womanly role and a man practicing it was a sure way to get the argr label. One Aesir god paid cared not about manly honor or gender roles. Ever in search of more power in knowledge, he sought magical training from Freja. This god was none other than Loki… ODIN!!

  Odin was the one god that didn’t abide by the norms that were part of the Norse culture. While this may be considered self serving, also remember that he knew Ragnarok was coming. This search was an active attempt to stop/prevent it. Given that vikings didn’t fight fate and greeted death with a smile, this was actually counter to the viking culture. Odin was the only one seeking to hinder or alter fate.

  Odin had a lot of names. Here’s a few of them (translated):

  - Lord of the Aesir

  -Enemy of the Wolf

  -Wavering Eye

  -Wise One

  -Battle promoter


  -Gore God


  -Swift Tricker

  -Masked One


  That list is a drop in the bucket when compared to all of his reported names. I bet you can find a few names that someone less informed might associate with Loki. Odin dealt with men and kings directly in Midgard, and that’s where many of his names came from. Concerning Odin’s word, he was known to promise his support to a king in battle, then allow the opposing force to win. Besides breaking promises, he’s also violating the tit-for-tat expectation by not giving his supporter their due. This was a god forsaking his word, but there is a hint of the self serving in that he was potentially harvesting his favored king for Valhalla.

  Remember how I mentioned vikings had a patron god? Care to guess who the patron god was for most outlaws?


  So if we attribute Odin with these “evil” things, why was it that Loki had such a bad rap? Most of Loki’s tales involve him doing some task that was followed by a threat to Loki’s life if he didn’t undo this done-thing. But these done-things would have been self serving for Loki. Wouldn’t that make him a superb, even hero-like viking? Why was he then made to undo them?

  Now we come to the heart of the issue. The Eddas were written in monasteries 200-300 years after Christianity had replaced the Norse beliefs. These authors didn’t witness these beliefs first hand. They cite references during their time of writing, but I think some of this reference material was likely falsified. My fundamental belief in this stems from Loki’s portrayal. I’ve seen it stated that Loki remained a focal point for Asgard ire because they labeled him an argr. But remember who else was labeled argr. Odin was actually the one to be exiled from Asgard because of this label. While Loki repeatedly fled from Asgard, I have yet to encounter a story where Loki was exiled.

  Loki is a scapegoat within the Eddas, so how probable is it he’s one outside of them as well? During his roast of the gods, he claims that all the gods are guilty of the very things he’s chastised for. If you look at any of the tales involving Loki’s “mischief,” he’s portrayed as acting in his own self interest. After he supposedly does one of these actions, he’s the only figure that I’ve seen expected to fix an action. His giving birth, which gained him the argr title, also took place during these fix-events.

  It is my belief that Loki may have been a hero by today’s standards. Odin could have been doing all the self-serving things while Loki still went out and corrected those harmful things. If this was purely an altruistic act by Loki, this is counter to what was prominent within the viking culture. Since this is outside of cultural norms, the vikings would have viewed Loki as “evil,” but that’s by their own standards, not ours.


Today’s Work

Today, I’m scrutinizing the quality and precision of my writing. I’ve read and own a great deal of writing and psychology reference books I picked up in order to craft better stories. They gave me a great starting point, but there’s still a learning process in trying to apply what I read. I think the most valuable part of that reading has been the ability to apply feedback. There are a lot of really smart writers and readers out there that can help with your work in progress. Some have given me advice and my past reading has helped me understand and apply some of that to vary degrees of success.

I think my greatest progress has been in writing Redux Riding Hood in this serialized version. I have had the pleasure of working with an editor for each of my chapters, receiving feedback after I completed each one. There were some obvious things I struggled with early on. ‘Lay vs lie’ comes to mind most readily, as it’s still something that trips me up from time to time. Tense and perspective shifting were also an adversary that I kept coming up against.

You know how the bad guy is never dead in horror movies? These were my unkillable bad guys—and still are, actually. They keep showing up whenever I let down my guard, so I wonder if they’ll ever stay dead. I may be dealing with a Michael Myers scenario… That doesn’t mean abandon all hope, though, and it’s not to say that I’m making no progress. My awareness of those monsters lurking within my writing, that’s a significant accomplishment by itself.

Something changed when I wrote my twenty-fifth scene. A dragon fight takes place in this scene. I wrote it once and didn’t like it. I wrote it again, and it was closer—close enough for the time being. Some of my main character’s motivations came out in this scene and allowed the following chapters to improve. My next conflict scene came out a lot better, with each improving there after.

I’m twenty-five scenes beyond the dragon fight, and I’m circling back to apply what I have learned. Each scene needs to accomplish specific things, so while I’m applying lessons learned, I’m also making sure that scenes accomplish what they should.

Now, it’s time to get back to work!

Happy reading!


Hymnessa’s Rebellion

[WP] “A new follower! How pleased I am for your gifts and here I thought you mortals forgot me,” the figure said as you looked on confused. You weren’t religious but a mere history buff studying the Greeks. Now you were the sole “follower” of a forgotten goddess standing before you.

“You came!” the voice exclaims.

The adventure suddenly straightens, having been bent down and brushing at some writing at the base of the statue. His brush is still held aloft, and he turns around to look as if he were a schoolteacher turning away from a blackboard to address a disruptive student.

The surrounding cavern is dank as several pools of water sit around him, while more can be heard dribbling down from the mossy surfaces of the walls. He turns back to the statue that he had been studying.

Its figure is carved out of white marble and wears a flowing dress. She is barefoot, raising up on the toes of one foot while the other is drawn up and pointing behind her as if she is mid-frolic. One hand is holding or pulling her dress to the side, perhaps preventing it from becoming unruly as she runs. The other arm is reaching up as a pair of birds alight to her extended index finger.

Light filtering in from above reflects onto the statue from the surrounding water, casting a marbling overlay on the figure. “I’m so happy!” the voice says, as the reflecting water warbles to the cadence of her words.

The adventurer roles his ankle on a rock when he hears her again, stumbling as he sees the shifting light.

“Oh, be careful,” the voice continues. “I can’t lose my only follower immediately after getting him,” she says, giggling.

“Ugh,” the adventurer starts. “Come again…” He looks down at the plaque he had been brushing and tries to sound out the words. “Hymn–essa?”

Hymnessa gasps. “And you even know my name? Oh, I am so happy! Why I could…I could just sing.”

Hymnessa starts into a Fa-La-La-La-La’ing and the adventurer could swear he’s even hearing birds singing in one of the nearby tunnels.

“Excuse me, Hymnessa….Hymnessa!” He has to yell as she continues singing and doesn’t acknowledge him.

“Oh yes, srrumm?…Oh, I’m so embarrassed. What is your name, you sweetheart, you?”

“It’s Kyle. Do you mind telling me what’s going on here? Are you really part of the Greek gods?”

“Oh, you don’t know?” She asks, wounded.

“I’m sorry, Hymnessa. I’ve studied a lot about your culture and have an extensive knowledge of the Greek gods, but I’ve never heard of you.”

“Oh…I see.”

“Do you have any idea why that might be?”

“Well, my brothers and sisters didn’t really think my domain was important for humankind…some of them even fearing that humans might use it as a weapon against us.”

Kyle suddenly blinks and shakes his head, not knowing what question to ask from the multitude that just piled up in his head. “Ok, who were your brothers and sisters?”

“I was the youngest of seven and born after Zeus and we–“

“What?! Zeus? The actual Zeus?

“Yes? Was there another?”

“Well, there was Odin, but that’s an entirely different can of worms. I’m…I don’t even know where to begin. How? And Why? Where?”

“I don’t know…is it actually me you’re excited about or are you more interested in who my family is?”

Kyle shakes his head and puts his palm over his forehead. “I’m sorry, Hymnessa. This is just a really big deal and I’m just trying to take it all in. There was never any mention of a seventh sibling. Everything ends with Zeus and goes on to the founding of their…your pantheon. But you never came up, Hymnessa. Why haven’t I heard of you, considering who your family is?”

Silence stretches out for many moments as Kyle’s excited eyes pass back and forth over the statue’s surface. “What do you know of our father’s ending if you’ve never heard of me?”

“It was Zeus. He freed your other brothers and sisters and orchestrated the over throwing of Kronos, leading to the installation of your family’s rule.”

“Zeus?! Good–great! I’m happy that he managed that. So very, very happy that they never needed my help at all.”

Kyle looks back and forth between the statue and the surroundings, also glancing at his hands, only to realize he doesn’t know what to do with them.

“Please, just leave me alone, Kyle. You have my gratitude for visiting, but I just want to be by myself now.”

“Hymnessa…I…” Kyle trails off and looks back down at the brush in his hand. “I’m sorry, Hymnessa,” he begins again. “I’m a scholar, you see? And while I try to learn as much as I can, sometimes I read things that aren’t the most reliable. So, I apparently read some things from some people that didn’t know what they were talking about. If you wouldn’t mind, I would love to hear more about you and what happened. Can you help me understand so that I can share your story?”

Hymnessa sniffles as she seems to consider. “Are you sure you want to know about me, Kyle? I’m apparently not as useful as the rest of my family, so I wouldn’t want to burden you with wasted time.”

Kyle shakes his head as he takes a seat on a nearby rock protrusion. “Don’t be silly, Hymnessa. You sound like a beautifully spirited goddess, and I truly want to hear about, then spread your story. So please, tell me.”

Kyle settles forward, his elbows on his knees and his fingertips meeting their opposite twin. He stares at her statue, patiently waiting like a kid staring at a Christmas tree full of wrapped presents.

“Well,” Hymnessa began. “We all chose domains that were reflections of our temperaments and interests. Zeus chose the sky so that he could continue looking down on those beneath him. Poseidon took the sea, a reflection of his fluid, carefree, go-with-the-flow nature. Hades took the underworld, ever undermining and scheming against others. Hera guarded marriage and family values to reflect her bond with the rest of us…rest of them.”

Hymnessa pauses, sniffling as she digests her own story. Kyle doesn’t speak and just allows her the moment to compose her thoughts and self.

Hymnessa clears her throat. “Hestia,” she continues, “Hestia oversaw hearth and fire, a keeper of the flame, as she valued security and safety within one’s own space. And Demeter helped Gia, becoming a goddess of harvest fertility.”

Kyle smiles and speaks when Hymnessa pauses again. “I noticed you forgot one, and perhaps, the one most important. So, what is your domain, Hymnessa?”

“Dreaming,” Hymnessa says simply.

“Because you liked to dream?” Kyle asks.

“Yeah, of better places and better times. When Gia helped my mother give birth to me on Crete, it was my dreaming of what…how things could be…how they should be that led me to freeing my brothers and sisters. From there, my foolish talks of freedom and a beautiful life led to organizing, orchestrating and overthrowing our father. It all happened because of me and my stupid dreams, only for my siblings to realize that dreams were just too dangerous, burying both me and my dreams.”

Kyle lowers his forehead into his palm as he tries to process her story. It was a lot to take in and completely undermines everything he previously knew. He tries to imagine retelling her story and the looks that he would receive. ‘Oh, the goddess told you herself, did she?’ they would undoubtedly say. And if it had been relayed during the time of ancient Greeks, it would have been heresy.

Kyle thanks her for her tale and the two continue talking about her history as she tries to help him discover a tangible way to bring her existence back into the world of humankind.

Lone Wolf

[WP] You are a wizard that specializes in summoning magic. Unlike other summoners that forcefully bind otherworldly creatures to do their bidding, you are the eldritch equivalent of “I know a guy.”

The battle-hardened party leader looked back at his companions, the concern on his face far more apparent than he’d prefer. “Uh, guys,” Broman the Barbarian began. “I know I’ve got top tier strength and endurance but I’m not sure that’s going to do us much good in dealing with that,” he says thumbing back over his shoulder.

Beyond their narrow rock bridge–suspended over the glow of molten rock–is an undead army of over one thousand zombie and skeleton foot soldiers. Ahead of them is a Wrath Knight, sitting atop its undead stead with a greatsword lying over its shoulder.

Flying over the army of doom is a sickly-green dragon with a wingspan wide enough to stretch from one side of the army to the other. The dragon is flying back and forth over the soldiers in a continuous figure-eight path.

Broman looks to each of his companions for both their input and more ideally, a lifeline to get them out of this mess, considering that the door behind them just slammed shut.

Bardotious Max readies his harp sideways like an electric guitar, then strums his fingers down in a single riff only to raise the hand back up to extend a fist with his index and pinkie fingers protruding. “I wanna rock!” Bardotious exclaims. “…so you can count on my support.”

Broman just stares back at him, slowly blinking before shaking his head. “Really, not sure what I was expecting there,” he grumbles to himself, before looking to their mage. “What about you Frozenheart the Wintery Witch of Polararctica? Have anything powerful enough to help us live to fight another day?”

Frozenheart’s attention is somewhere down towards the molting magma as she tries her best to not make eye contact with Broman, thinking it equates to dinosaur rules where he wouldn’t see her if she remained still didn’t make eye contact. But then Broman starts snapping his fingers like he’s trying to get a toddler to look at the camera for the photo and she knows she’s been seen.

“Sorry ’bout that Broman,” Frozenheart begins. “I thought you were talkin ’bout some other Wintery Witch of Polararctica. You see…the thing is…I just respec’d and I only really got the weak-flame spell so far. So if we get through this, you can count on me to make one hell’ova smore…granted you got the chocolate, marshmallows, and graham crackers, of course.”

Broman’s left eye starts to twitch, and he just stares blankly until his shocked-but-not-really-surprised status times out.

Broman looks over to their healer Whitewind and his eyes don’t even stop as they continue to move over to the last party member. He just sighs and pinches his nose. “Well, we’re boned–and that’s going to be literal in the next few minutes.”

“Hold up, now.” the last party member says. “I might have an idea.”

Broman looks back over with his hands on his hips. “Really, Jerry? What kind of idea could you possibly have that could help us here? The blue flame that you selected for your eyes doesn’t give me the greatest confidence in your eldritch capabilities.”

Broman kicks a rock off the bridge as he looks away. “I knew we should’ve brought that necromancer.”

“Come on,” Jerry insists. “I might know a guy.”

Jerry’s staff becomes outlined in blue flame and floats away from him, where he begins moving his hands around one another to channel his spell.

“A guy?” Broman protests. “Geez, Jerry, I’m a guy. Hopefully you’re not trying to summon me because that’s not really going to help us here.”

The ten second cast time expires, and the staff floats back to Jerry’s opening grasp. The rest of the party look around their bridge to see that it’s still empty. Broman shakes his head and rubs his forehead. “Oh, I hate my life.” He glares back at Jerry. “Did you actually just try and summon me?”

Jerry shakes his head. “Of course not, I summ–

A projectile fires from a ledge above and behind them. The ordinance corkscrews across the molting chasm and the party’s gaze looks up to follow it as it makes a final hook and slams into the dragon. The dragon lets out a mewling cry as its wings fold and it falls back towards the army.

The party looks back up to the ledge as a barrage of gunfire opens up, stretching back across the party and moving like the spray from a fire hose. The steady stream passes back and forth in a continuous swath as it moves through the army of dead, laying down everything it comes in contact with.

The Wrath Knight’s mount gets spooked and begins turning in circles as the rider fights to regain control. Another projectile launches as the swath of bullets continues to hammer the rest of the army. The projectile spirals upward, then hooks back down, striking the mounted leader and sending him flailing one direction as the mount collapses another.

The shooting finally stops and a slack-jawed Broman looks at the newly installed graveyard. The party turns back up to the ledge to see a lone bearded-man step into sight, give a thumbs up, then disappear.

Broman looks back over to the party’s Eldritch Mage. “What the hell was that, Jerry?”

“I cast identify on it,” Bardotious replies. “It was something called a Chuck Norris.”

Let’s Get Social

I have now launched an account for Twitter and Instagram!

Twitter @jtwritesfiction

Instagram jtwritesfiction

There’s not much there yet, but be sure to stop by if you find yourself in the neighborhood!

Happy Reading!


Where is he now?

I haven’t had much of a presence here lately but that’s not to say that I’ve been idle. My story has pushed beyond 65k words! I’m rapidly approaching the 80k goal that I initially had, and I think I’m actually going to be a little over it by the time the story is finished.

That story was called Redux Riding Hood but is now called God of Runes with the other being a subtitle. I just launched a Patreon page to start and grow a community so that’s exciting. I’ll include the link at the end of this post.

I haven’t been doing many of the writing prompts lately. Most of my energy has shifted into completing this novel. I plan to pick the writing prompts back up once I get plenty of extra chapters to stay ahead of my Patreon schedule. I’ll post periodic updates here as relevant things happen.

Be sure to check back and as always, Happy Reading!

Death and a Card Game

[WP] You are a being so incomprehensible that you drive anyone who perceives you to madness. Your effect on others makes finding friends a challenge.

“So you’re her?” Death asks, looking down the girl with a black-pixie haircut. Death is wearing a full bodied robe with his hood drawn over his head, concealing his face in shadow. His only visible features being his exposed skeleton-hands where he’s tapping all of his outstretched fingertips together as he considers something.

“Tell me, Aubrey, why is it that descriptions always make people seem taller?”

Aubrey stand across from him and the expanse around them is a featureless white. She shrugs. “If it makes you feel any better, you’re exactly what I imagined you’d be,” she replies. Her clothes are all black and her top looks like a scapular but with long sleeves. The hooded garment has an athletic fit over her torso, but below her belt, it hangs loose like a dress while the cloth along the outside of her thighs is cut away, revealing the leg length, black-leather boots.

“That’s just how this works, Aubrey. People see what they expect—although…those people are usually afraid—at least a little bit. I don’t frighten you, do I?”

Aubrey shakes her head. “No. I know why I’m here. It’s fine.”

“Well,” Death says, holing up a finger, “this next part is a bit of a tradition and you have to play. Everyone does. We play best 3 out of 5. If you win…you get to go back.”

Aubrey smiles. “That sounds very happily-ever-after-like, but aren’t you still undefeated?”

Death’s hands separate and his palms turn upright in a shrug. “Eh, technically speaking…I guess that’s the way one would look at it.”

“Well, that technically sounds very anti-committal of you, Death.”

His fingers begin tapping again. “Sassy. I can see why Dark took such an interest in you.”

“Dark? You mean, Shades? Excuse me, the Lord of Shadows.

“He really let you call him Shades?”

“Well, he didn’t seem to like it at first, but he got over it…so, 3 out of 5?”

“Ah, yes,” Death replies, then pauses. “Why the rush? Have some place to be?”

“No. I’m just know what it’s like getting distracted,” she says, smiling. “I don’t know how to play, but do you think we could try cards?”

“A classic! I like it.” A table with green felt appears between them and Aubrey looses her balance as a chair slides against the back of her caves, scooping her up and moving her to the table. “We play Texas Hold’em, and it goes like this…” He continues shuffling the cards then deals each of them a set of cards. “Those cards are yours and these are mine.”

Death takes a peek at his cards to find a 8 & J of diamonds.

“Next comes the cards we both play off of, he says as he flips cards over between them.”

“Is it true that Billy the Kid almost cheated you out of y’alls game of cards?”

As she says this, Death pauses before throwing down the final card. “He told you that, did he?”

Aubrey nods. “Yeah, he won the first two games against you and was about to win the 3rd when Shades informed you about his extra cards.”

Death drops the last card and nods. “The following hands were played with him being naked…without places to hide cards, those hands did not go his way. Are you suggesting that’s something I should be concerned about with you?”

“Oh no, I wouldn’t know how to cheat at this if I tried. See?” she asks turning her cards to show him. “I’ve got a black 3 and a black 7. Am I supposed to draw or something, next?”

Death studies her cards then the earnest expression and genuine curiosity on her face. Looking back down at the center cards, the only noteworthy ones are the 6, 7, and 9 of diamonds which go nicely with his 8 & J of the same suit. He stacks them together and turns them upside down next to the deck.

“I fold,” he says.

“What does that mean? Do I fold too now?”

“No, I mean you win that round.”

“I did?! What did you have?”

He guards the discarded hand with his own. The waggles the other finger as say that’s not allowed. “It’s too embarrassing, so I’d rather you not see. You beat me rather soundly and I’m a little bitter about it.”
“Oh,” Aubrey says, covering her smile with her hand.

The next round comes out and he beats her with four of a kind. The next was a win with a full house.
“I can tell you two are on the same team, so to speak,” Aubrey says, as the next cards are coming out.
“Same team, huh? And what makes you say that?”

“Because y’all are both part of the dark. You’re both shadow deities.”

Death’s hand freezes again as he’s about to throw down another card. “You think we’re equals? What exactly do you think is the connection between us?”

Aubrey shrugs. “I don’t know. You’re both taking care of the dark related things? That’s why he told you about Billy, right? He was just leaning over to tell his buddy in the next cubicle or whatever while y’all are both work at Dark Inc.”

Death starts to laugh hard. So hard that he has to get up and walk away from the table, placing one hand over his obscured face and the other around his abdomen. He tries to return to the table several times, only to start laughing uncontrollably again as Aubrey looks at him with that confused expression.

“What?” she asks, not being in on the joke.

When Death finally can sit back down, he exhales and his hood turns as he shakes his head. He peeks at his cards again, then folds a four of a kind. “Got me again,” he says, causing Aubrey’s confusion to turn to joy.

He takes up the cards again to deal a final hand and begins talking as he passes them out. “No, we’re not partners and no we don’t work in adjoining cubicles. To continue with your very poor analogy, you couldn’t even consider him my boss in your Dark Inc. No, the real Dark couldn’t even be called the building owner or the land owner for the property that it sat on…because the real Dark is what the building, the land, all the associated office equipment, and all the employees…Dark is what they’re all made of.”

Death looks at the dealt cards, his expression invisible as he looks at his Royal Flush.

“I don’t understand,” Aubrey says, her own cards forgotten.

Death nods at her confusion. “Your humans get many, many things wrong, but the thing that you miss the mark on by the greatest margin is your belief that all things are made up of matter and energy. You and I aren’t here right now as either of those, so what do you think those two are made of exactly?”

Aubrey looks away from the table, growing distant. “Light and Dark?” she asks, absently.

Death nods. “The very same. So you thinking that Dark is some arbitrary deity or that we’re equal in some way…that’s why it’s so funny. You and I are here right now as different combinations of Dark and Light. We two consist of more Dark than like and the two of us are closer to being equals than I am to being an equal of Dark. That latter similarity is so astronomically far off, it’s nonsense. And I’m almost insulted on Dark’s behalf.”

Aubrey slouches deeper into her chair as Death lets out an exasperated sigh, then turns his cards over in the discard pile. “Congratulations,” he says, simply.

“Wait, what?” she asks, confused.

“I can see why Dark likes you,” he replies, extending his index finger and shaking it at her. “You’re the only person to ever beat me, back you go.” He issues a shooing gesture with the backs of his hands and Aubrey is whisked away, the table blurring as her and the chair zip across the white expanse.

Aubrey opens her eyes, and all she sees is darkness. After a bit of confused orienting, she realizes she’s in bed and sits up to click on the lamp atop her bedside table. She rubs her head, feeling like she was just talking to someone, but every time she tries to recall the conversation, the memory seems to move around like a shadow in the dark. She feels like it’s there but can’t rule out the possibility that it’s just her mind playing a trick as she focuses on something without features.