Chapter Zero: Aakurai and the Devil

-Chapter Zero: Aakurai and the Devil

Just how did I end up in this situation… Aakurai frowned, his eyes sweeping across the circular room. It felt like a tower, with a winding staircase that led upwards into the sky, spiraling towards infinity, but he had no way of knowing. Where there should have been steps was only cold marble, shiny and slippery. Despite his efforts to climb, he could never get further than a few feet up. The tower was a sordid affair, with windows tinted in browns and blacks, none of the usual red or green you might expect from the Roman-style architecture. The room seemed to be 50 meters across, but there were no entrances or exits. The center had a raised circular section, about 30 meters across and rising off the ground about two or three feet, like a pedestal. Taking a deep breath, Aakurai gave a short scream and attempted to bound up the spiral staircase once more, gripping onto the edge when he stated slipping and attempting to pull himself up with his hands alone. With a yelp, the man’s hands came off the guard rail, swearing. His hands were bleeding freely now, punctured by the nasty bars that held up the rail. Rather than keeping people from falling off, it was more that it prevented people from advancing higher.

He buried his hands into his shirt, trying to keep the blood from soaking into the floor. The only light came from those stained windows, brown and black, and from the very top of the structure. At the very top of the spiral, a pinhole of light could peek through, and depending on the time of day, the light seemed to grow brighter or dim. He had been here for several hours, if the light was any help. It had gotten darker at first, despite it being bright. It made him think of dusk. Slowly, the light continued to dim, then slowly increase again. He could tell where the moon was, almost up to the very top now, by the general direction of all the light. Only a couple hours ago…

Only a couple of hours ago, he had fallen asleep at his desk, tired after a few long days. It had been around 6 or 7, and suddenly he had found himself on top of a building, surrounded by a post-apocalyptic landscape. The sky was brown, the earth was covered in muddy water, and buildings were desolate and broken, remnants of what they used to be. He could have sworn he saw a spark or two leap across a broken billboard, one of those fancy marquee-types, but before he could get a good look at everything, he tripped and fell backwards. No. His eyes clenched together, mind fresh from the pain, and he remembered. He hadn’t fallen… He had been pulled backwards. Something had been there. Something had been standing right behind him and had pulled him down, into this tower. He remembered his head hitting against marble and sliding… then darkness. When he woke up, he was here.

He grunted, tilting his head up to follow the echo as it bounded upwards, racing to escape this hole in the ground. Picking himself up off the ground, he cursed in his frustration again and launched his foot against the wall. How had he even ended up here, anyway? One moment he was home, in the States, and the next moment he was on top of that building looking out at the world, post-destruction. His ears twitched as a light hum seemed to resonate throughout the tower. Everything seemed a little brighter somehow, but not warm. Not like sunlight… No, it was colder somehow, more detached. There was something twisted about this light, as though it was only a copy, a reflection. Turning around, he found the pedestal bathed in light, a eerie blue glow covering the area. A solid mahogany desk was situated there, and as Aakurai stepped closer to the pedestal, he noticed that the edge of the pedestal, the 30 meter wide circle, seemed to have something scribbled across its border. With the moonlight shining its cold hand into the cylindrical cage, the man saw it more clearly. The border had depictions of skeletons and men burning in fires, of casualties, of riches, of royalty and of sorcery. It was a bit chilling, but he was intrigued. This was not something he had noticed before. Walking around the edge of the pedestal slowly, he continued to investigate the border, curiosity getting the better of him. Suddenly, his head jolted upwards as he stared across the pedestal. A desk? There hadn’t been a desk there before. The border for the pedestal was one thing, but an entire table appearing out of nowhere was another. His brown eyes narrowed, focusing on the man seated behind the desk.

He had a refined air about him, sitting comfortably and sipping red wine as he observed, his chocolate colored hat resting on his head. His face was angled, sharp and defined, with very short black hair and sharp brown eyes. He grinned a little, immaculate white teeth and pointy canines jeering Aakurai, mocking him silently. He was dressed in a suit, tie of dark red and pitch colored coat adorning his tall form. When he spoke, Aakurai wasn’t sure what to make of it. There was something sinister about it, but at the same time, something calming.

“Good evening.”

And that one statement let loose a fire in the brown-haired boy that was borne of hours of frustration. With a roar, he leapt up to the pedestal and over the desk, aiming to pin the man down and get him to explain. Slimy features or no, Aakurai was about ready to beat this high-class dumbass into the wall to get his answers. Unfortunately, when he grabbed, all he got was air. Tumbling into the ground, Aakurai jolted upwards and looked around. How could he have missed? Right before he had grabbed, the slime was right there, mere inches away. Spotting the suit across the pedestal, Aakurai was about to come up with some new plan, something else to deal with this whole situation, find some way to do this without raging. He was about to, except that the suit made a sound of derision, something like a ‘tsk’ or ‘tche’, as though he was disappointed in the man who stood before him. This suit had a file on him now, a manilla folder, with Aakurai’s face on it. Large, strong features hardened by years of life stared out, brown hair, brown eyes, and glasses. He was by no means a slob, but he definitely looked tired. It was, without a doubt, Aakurai. That fact alone made the captive’s mouth clamp closed, momentarily rendered speechless.

“Temper, temper… Well, M-, oh, sorry, Aakurai. Wouldn’t want to use your real name, now would we? Well, you’ll understand soon enough. Let’s see… Brown hair, brown eyes, decent height, a little underweight, poor vision… That all seems to fit the bill.”

Illuminated by moonlight, the man looked to be more like a beast, toying with his prey. Aakurai gritted his teeth and stood, his eyes narrowed. His focus shifted to movement in the windows behind this suit, startled to see any more movement than just this suit and himself. There had been no one else here, but that shadow was something else as well. Looking out at the window, Aakurai’s eyes widened slightly. What used to be tinted windows with strange depictions was now something else entirely.

All the windows were now dripping blood, crimson red drying to brown.

“So, Aakurai, how would you like to make a deal?”

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Cowardice

You know I have been searching for this one song/video on youtube for ages and I can not find the original version. Then I found it on my computer and now WordPress won’t let me upload it. Why do you do this to me, WordPress? Clearly, the solution is to go use the first video uploading site that comes up via google search. TinyPic, apparently.

Now then, onto the subject of cowardice. This is probably one of my more depressing entries, so if you’re not into that, are gonna freak out, or just don’t want to see this, skip it. I warned you.

Oh look Tiny Pic failed. Fantastic. Anyway, it is a good song I was going to link, but all the versions I found were either of sucky quality or did not have subs to them. Alas, woe is you.

So, onwards. Cowardice. I’m a coward. There, I said it. I’m pretty sure I am one, at the very least. I always can’t say what I actually think and my mouth says things I don’t mean. I’d like to say ‘I mean what I say’, but that’s not true. The truth is, ‘I occasionally mean what I say, but also compulsively lie’. But that’s a different subject. Much like how my writing style changed drastically in the month I haven’t updated. Strange. At any rate, back we go.

Cowardice. I can’t say what I think. I can’t say what I feel. I’m sitting here at 1:40 AM, hoping that someone will read this and hoping that no one will. I don’t know which is worse. I don’t know how to phrase what I feel, I don’t know how to say what I think. More and more, it’s easier to just let the ‘me’ that is me fade and simply slip right into the stream of people moving about their business. Then I wouldn’t have to worry about it, wouldn’t have to worry about my differences, wouldn’t have to worry about being unique. But that is cowardice.

I was in class today… My 3rd class of the day is a little rowdy. In that class, there are three people in the audition only top-level of choir. Coincidentally,we all sit in a row, one on either side of me. It’s an AP class and we already took our test, so now we’re basically messing around for the last month. So it came to pass that we somehow got to the suggestion that the people on my right and left [the two other kids in choir] should sing, and that the class wanted to hear them sing. Only those two. I was invisible somehow, no one looked at me, no one mentioned my name, no one bothered with me. Sitting between two people like that makes you feel like you’re inferior. Like you’re the worst. I know I’m not great, but to not be recognized, to not be noticed, to be so completely ignored is a horrible feeling. I’ve felt it before, but today I felt it clearly. Was I so low as to not even be in the same league as those two? Perhaps that is the case. I said nothing, I only smiled and listened to the people around me egg on my two seat neighbors to sing. I do not mind so much, as they are both quite skilled, but I mind a little bit, I must admit. I am a little jealous. Just a touch. Perhaps if the reason was not, “But you’re in the top level of choir, right? So you can and should sing for us!”, I would not be so troubled right now. Am I not worthy? Am I not noticeable? Or have I built up a reputation that you would rather not deal with me at all? Perhaps that’s it. Perhaps I’ve gotten to a point where no one wants to ask me for anything, to talk to me about anything. I said nothing and smiled. To explain my distress to anyone isn’t something I can do. Cowardice. I’m too afraid to say what I think, I’m too afraid to even make a joke about it. What if they say, “Well yeah, but those two are way better than you are.” or “But those two are amazing singers” or in fact, much of anything. At this point, nothing I can think of as a response can’t be turned into an implied insult directed at me. It seems like I’m just no good. Cowardice.

It’s the same elsewhere too. Physics. I want to be good at it. I want to understand it. But now, I’m not sure if I’m asking questions to try and understand the material more, or out of fear that if I stop asking questions, people will forget about me. Is that all I am? That one person who asks questions in class and tries to answer all the prompts? Cowardice. I’ve felt like keeping my hand down and not asking questions, but that too is Cowardice. There’s no escaping for me. I guess that’s my problem. In my life, I just wanted to exist and go with what I believed in, but now that I’m older, it’s getting harder and harder to keep at it. Society is pushing me down, or perhaps I’m just letting it, because I’m too afraid to fight back. Cowardice. Perhaps I feel like enough is enough already. That I’m done with that “one more time”, I’m done with the “No problem”, I’m done with all of that… Or perhaps that’s just more cowardice.

The rest of this story should generally be kept secret, but I guess I feel a need to write it out. I have edited it out and password protected it in a new post, which can be found here.

And so the Coward’s story ends, at least for now.

Right, right, I almost forgot. I think I forgot while I was writing this, and perhaps you might have as well, but that Coward is me. All I can show for myself is a little bit more Cowardice.

Group Responsibility

Oh look it is freaking part two.

This is also known as ‘When they realize that this is their final grade and start caring’.

 

It’s true. It’s unfortunate, but it’s true.

Also known as 'You know it to be true'

Don’t even try to deny it. This is how it works, unfortunately.

 

Ain’t that just fantastic. It’s right about now that I wish WordPress had a spoiler thing. That image is too freaking big for my tastes and I can not stand it all up in my screen space.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So look I hit enter a bunch of times. Problem solved. Now then, onto group projects.

So, I assume that most people have been put into a group decided by the teacher, either with people they didn’t like or didn’t choose. Most everyone has. Oh well suck it up.

Seriously? I’ve been in groups that I haven’t liked before. In fact, I have been in groups I’m not fond of very, very often. Sometimes they don’t like me either. Perhaps it’s that elitist attitude and snobbish demeanor I give off that makes me not get along well with other people. Whatever the case may be, my stance on group projects is fairly simple. Do your share of the work. I do not care if you have a problem with me. Your social issues with me have little to no relevance to our project and our grades. And by the way, it is not only my grade on the line, it is also yours. So do the work.

I’m sure you’ve been in that situation. You’re in a group and people keep flaking out on you, not doing their share of the work, so you and maybe one other person pick up all the slack because neither of you want a zero on the assignment, right? So you do the work, and the teacher gives everyone in the group that darn B+. Oh man B+!That’s freaking horrible! Yeah no it’s not. Not when 2 people did the work of 5. So I guess I should just start listing off things at this point that annoy me about group projects. The first should be obvious. Not picking up your share of the work.

 

Now don’t get me wrong. If you don’t care about the class, fine. You don’t really care if you get an A or a B or a C, alright. That’s your prerogative, not really my concern. If that’s what you want to do, then that’s your choice. Maybe you’ve got a home situation going on. Maybe you’ve got something else. Maybe you just don’t care and don’t think it’s worth it. Your call. Fine. Don’t do the work for your assignments. See, when you do that, it doesn’t affect me. You get a zero, I get a grade that is not a zero, we’re both still separate. When you put us in a group, however, there’s one thing you have to understand. You now have a responsibility to the rest of the group to do what you say you are going to do. You can not flake out. So that’s further subdivided into two parts. Not doing your work and not doing what you say you will do.

When you have a group project, you are part of a group. It is your responsibility to not take some of the workload. You do not get a free ride because you ‘got lucky’ and ‘got into a group with that nerd’. I have heard both of those phrases said in several occasions, both with people in groups with me and not. That is in no way fair. Do your share of the work. And do not half-ass it or basically make it useless. If you are in the same grade and taking the same class as me, what I expect is a basic level of competence in that class. Do your work and do it properly. So when it comes time to divide tasks, you have to take something. I don’t mind if you say “I’ll take whatever’s left.” I’ve done that on occasion, as it’s simple. It lets everyone get what they want, and if you have no preference, you still end up doing some part of the workload and fill up the empty space. Perfect. A good example of this not happening follows. It doesn’t even have to be in class. Here we go:

So I’ve gone backpacking before with a group. If you’ve ever gone backpacking with a group before, you know it’s a lot easier than going alone sometimes because the ‘crew’ divides the gear between each member so that all the necessary equipment gets transported, but at the same time, no one is overburdened. I was along with about 10 other individuals. So when it came time to pack up camp and head out, we had to distribute the gear for the day’s hike to the next spot. We had a bunch of crew gear stacked up, and it should have been split up. Everyone should have taken some part of it, even a smaller portion. Unfortunately, that was not the case. What we got were excuses. My backpack is too heavy, my backpack is too full, I carried it yesterday, etc.  Sound familiar? If not, let me show you. Watch: My backpack course load is too heavy, my backpack schedule is too full, and so on.

So who takes the gear or the work? That one guy or girl who knows it needs to get done. You don’t go anywhere unless someone picks up the extra load, whether it is actual gear or work for a project, and takes care of it. Now before you object and say “Yeah, but some people just take it before anyone else has a chance to respond or takes the whole project on their shoulders and don’t give us a chance to comment”, I know. I understand. There are some very domineering personalities in the world, but if you have a part you want to do, then take it. Do not complain because you were too chicken to raise your voice and say, “I can take care of it.” What, are you scared of responsibility? Commitment? See, that’s the exact same thing that those guys who don’t take anything at all probably feel, except they don’t try to cover it up by blaming others. At least the excuses they make are about themselves. Well, anyway. I do get there are some personalities like that and it’s hard to say anything. Fine. But not everyone is like that. Sometimes no one takes it and someone has to. So one or two members of the team carry the entire burden and support the entire group for that leg of the journey, or for the project. I don’t think that’s fair, but it happens. It bugs me, but it happens. Fine.

The second thing that really bugs me about this thing is the idea of doing what you say you will do. It’s bad to not take anything, but it’s just as bad to say that you’ll “take care of it”, and then you fall through. You don’t take care of your part, and at that point, everyone is scrambling to make up for your portion. This is a bit more of an overarching concept, the idea of keeping to your word. I think I may have mentioned this previously, but I’m a big believer in not making promises I can’t keep. It’s for the exact reason that I do not want to be the guy who falls through, who lets other people down. And that’s really the bottom line to this whole group thing.

 

When you are in a group, other people rely on you and are trusting you to be in the group with them. They are believing in you to take care of the assignment with them, to do your fair share, and to cooperate such that everyone does an appropriate amount of work and gets a great result. When you don’t do your fair share, but expect a return, you are breaking that trust. When you commit to completing one portion, but fall through, you are breaking that trust. When you skip meetings, when you fall through, when you act irresponsibly, you are breaking that trust.

And for your group members, they can’t do anything but sigh and try to clean up your mess. They try to get the result, because they want the result. They need the result. In fact, you might need the result too, but no one wants to call you out on it. No one wants to be rude. No one wants to scream, yell, shout, kick and scream, to throw a fit and raise a ruckus when they know wrong has been done. No one wants to, because they should be understanding. They should be accommodating. They shouldn’t throw a fit over every little thing. They should be reasonable and not be upset that their group member let them down.

That sounds perfectly reasonable. Except it doesn’t. So why do we let it? I guess that’s what society expects of us, but I know I can’t be the only one who feels their blood boil a little when a group member fails. I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve done it to other people just to get back at them. It’s a little scary. I actually said, “I usually do all the work, so since I’m not going to be here on Thursday, I’m going to make you guys do all the work.” I did the work during that work day, but I didn’t really do much of anything else. And I’m realizing now that this is exactly the kind of thing that sparks drama and nonsense, whether it is at work, at school, or even recreational. It doesn’t make any sense.

 

So now you know. That’s what usually bugs me about group projects. But we have yet to get onto part two, the part known as ‘but these things really, really bug me’. I’ll talk about two things in particular now. First, complaining about a result you put no work into. Second, trying to jump into a project at the end.

So the first thing that gets under my skin. Complaining about a project you didn’t take part in. Remember those things I was complaining about above? Not doing any work on the project or saying you’d do work and then not doing it? That bothers me, but what really gets at me is when those people, those same freaking people have the audacity to complain about the grade we received. I don’t care -who- you’re complaining to, whether it’s the teacher or it’s to your group members, but if you didn’t do anything in the project and made everyone else pick up the slack for you, you have zero right to say -anything- about the grade we received. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not even your project. It just happens to have your name on it, because we’re nice or because the teacher has a list of groups, but that doesn’t mean it’s your group. This reminds me of one of those children’s book stories. I think it was Clucky Duck or Hen or something bakes a cake? Or maybe it was bread. Anyway, this anthropomorphized hen is making some tasty bread and every time she asks for help with one of the steps [getting the grain, grinding it, making the flour, making the mix, baking it, etc], the other animals say they are too busy for some reason or another. Yet, when the confection, whatever it was, is done, they all come crawling out of the woodwork looking for a slice of the pie, both figuratively and literally. That’s what this reminds me of. You can’t claim ownership on something once it is finished. That’s ridiculous. Either you claim ownership of it from the point you get involved [usually the start] right to the end of your capability, or you sit back and don’t claim ownership. Heck, even partial help is fine. If you do something while the product is being created and don’t come crawling out at the end when everything is finished just so you can claim credit for something you had -no hand- in, then fine. I’ll be slightly annoyed, but I’ll be more understanding and less likely to want to box you into a corner, smack you upside the head, and scratch your name off the project.

The second thing that gets under my skin. About three or four sentences ago, I said something about having some hand in the project. I lied about being less annoyed. I’ll probably be even more annoyed or just as annoyed under certain conditions. See, here’s the magic of projects. Sometimes, you have this project that comes at the end of the year. Or maybe it’s in the middle of the term. Anyway, it’s important because it’s worth a large part of your grade [or it’s important for your promotion, or whatever the case may be, but my major experience in this is with school work]. So you get on it and give it attention and care, knowing that this is going to be your final for the class, worth a large percentage of your grade, or it’s your ‘semester project’, which is basically the same deal, a large percentage of your grade. So you and your group members get working [At this point, I’m going to take a moment to thank the individual who was with me for my semester project in Government, 5th Period 2nd Semester Senior Year. You are the best for falling in zero pitfalls and being an amazing partner, one of the best I have ever had. We ended up with a perfect score, and that doesn’t happen unless you, my partner, care and put in effort. I was and am honored to have been your project partner for our semester project in that class] – Yeah, nevermind to that last sentence. See, I felt so strongly about this one partner who did right by me, and I truly hope that she feels I did right by her, that it sticks in my mind above all other projects and project partners. It may have been the fact that it was a more recent project, or perhaps because it was a pair assignment and I don’t remember the situations where I had a good partner, but it was 2 of us in a group of 5, but she did right by me. I won’t ever forget that. She is the standard to which I hold myself now, because I was stunned and impressed. Don’t get me wrong, she’s not a super-genius. She’s not daft either, but she’s intelligent and clever, like I know most people can be but for some reason refuse to be. The best part, however, is that she really does try. I can tell she tries. This is probably a weird place to say it, but wow. It was beautiful.

Anyway, back to the old topic and moving away from that aside about my awesome project partner that restored my faith in project partners, imagine you and your group members get working. That is to say, you and one other group member, plus a third group member who does an average amount of work [while you and the first group member are picking up the slack of the remaining two group members]. It’s been a month since the project started and the two group members who weren’t working well continue to not work well. It’s either one of them or the other, or if you’re really unlucky, both at the same time. So it’s been a month, there’s two weeks left in the project, and you get an email that basically says, “Hey dude I need to take part in the final so I can get my grade and raise my GPA/be eligible for sports/be able to attend State College/etc”. You hope you’re being bullshitted, but no. 2 weeks before the project is completed [or before the final is there or whatever the case may be], your classmate “sees the light” and decides that he must get in on the action and get a good grade. But for the month before, who cares. It’s just now that he’s feeling threatened, he’s getting involved. Selfish interest, 100%. But this selfish interest isn’t one that started from the beginning. I’ll admit I’m fueled by selfish interest for most of my projects. I want a good grade, so I put in the effort for a reward that goes to me. Selfish enough, fine. The difference is that this group member’s selfish interest spawns later on in the ball game, and you have no idea if he has any idea what’s going on. He wants to take part, but at this point, now that you’ve started to figure things out, he jumps in and makes waves. Of course, there’s no saying no to this kid. I don’t think most people can go, “I don’t care if you fail this class and can’t go to San Jose State. You didn’t take part in the project from the start, your problem.” It’s a bit of a dirty trick if used intentionally, but it works. That really boils my blood sometimes.

But oh well, what can you do.

 

Bottom line of all of this is fairly simple. When you’re in a group, be part of the group please. You’ve got more to worry about than just yourself and your actions affect more than just yourself. Remember that image I posted aaaaaaaaaaaaalll the way at the top? Strive not to be the reason your group members believe the bottom pie chart is true.

Please and thank you~

Triple Feature, Part I

Congrats, today I am about ready to chew someone’s head off, so you get the fantastic, amazing, triple feature!

That is to say all the usual stuff that gets put into one update spread across three because I feel like it. And so I shall start us off with the topic of depression.

http://taeshidiary.tumblr.com/post/22168835784

Go click that link. The image is very, very fitting.

This too. Don’t forget to turn on the annotations.

So as it turns out, I kind of get depressed and disheartened kind of easily. It’s a little stupid when I think about it, because all the things I worry about or get disheartened about are all in the past, trivial, or simply not worth getting worried about, but I get into those weird moods just the same. And then that devolves into what is known as the wondrous hate-spiral, where I call myself names. I’m very smart about the way I self-depreciate. I always say things that are true, but take a negative spin on it, so I can’t deny it or tell myself I’m overreacting. I seemingly filter out all the good and focus just on the bad, and when I try to counterbalance and go ‘no, look at these things that have happened’, I can’t think of anything. I think I’ve gotten to the point where I can’t remember good things about myself anymore. Well, I can, but eh.

Anyway, onwards! The triple feature may not exist, depending on when I need to get off my computer. But oh well. Onwards!