Life is Strange

consequences

The most memorable games are those which are story driven and demand emotional and intellectual investment on behalf of the player, and this is exactly what I got from Life is Strange.

lifeisstrangeIn this Butterfly Effect meets Donnie Darko story you are drawn into the life of Maxine Caulfield, a high school girl and photography student who learns she has the ability to turn back time and change fate. She is plagued with visions of a sudden and unseasonable storm which threatens to consume her entire town of Arcadia Bay, Oregon.

Reconnecting with her best friend, Chloe Price, the pair find themselves investigating the sudden disappearance of Chloe’s long time friend, Rachel Amber, while Max seeks a way to deter the coming storm looming in her vision.

Through five nail biting episodes you will be taken through a world of conspiracy, heart wrenching plot twists, and the applied philosophy and theory of time travel. Each and every choice you make on behalf of Max will come with its own set of consequences which will play out over the course of the game.

In the end you are left with a choice guaranteed to break your heart.

The game play is smooth, and it is accompanied by a unique soundtrack which fits the setting well. You may even find yourself (like I did) downloading the soundtrack on your preferred music listening device (in my case, on my phone).

The story is unfolds in a cinematic style of play similar to Alan Wake, Indigo Prophecy, and other similar story driven games. This approach gives the game an interactive movie feel. The voice acting is well performed adding to the immersiveness of the game.

The game can be completed in just a couple of days, but will leave you wanting to play it again to explore other options and opportunities. Best of all Life is Strange will haunt you long after the console is turned off.

(I’m not saying this game made me cry, but I did get something in my eye towards the end.)

life-strange

 

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Monsters and Fathers

He speaks like an exploding dictionary,
Picking out the meanest words,
Arranging them
In the worst order.
Prides himself on dumb.
Smart
Is for “college boys.”
And “he ain’t no college boy.”

I can still hear him
Echoing through my mind
Like nails
Scraping against chalkboards.
Reverberating and replaying
In awful pitch.

Timeless.
A tantruming child
In aging skin.
Wasting away
And lonely.
Pushing away everyone
Who cannot bend
To his demand for authority
Without responsibility.

Shouting at walls.
Captivating an audience
Of hallucinogenic mice.
There is no question
That cannot be answered
By violence.
It was his answer
To every question.

He taught me
That God was a weapon.
A means to an end;
Control.
Relinquishing him of all guilt.
“If you don’t like it,
Take it up with God.”

To him,
Everything is evangelical black and white.
The white,
Always the measure of what was right.

I keep him in a cage.
Bind him in chains of
“I will be better than this.”
Speak over his screaming with
Our Fathers,
Hail Marys,
And pleas for grace.
But his face manifests in the mirror.
Reminds me that no matter the binds,
He is never far from the surface.

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The Point of Honesty

“When I learned to love myself, to accept all the broken parts, the ghosts of my past could no longer bind me; could no longer hold me in so much stagnant water. I was at last free.”
-Basil Fish

It has taken me years to write these lines with any honesty. Over a decade of internal warfare, wrestling demons, letting go of lies and bullshit, to finally look into the mirror without hate. Without contempt.

It feels like I’m putting the pieces back together, but in truth I’m putting my life together. I’m peeling away dead skin and uprooting the deeply sunken in bitter roots which ran my life in cycles of hurt and recovery; hurt and recovery; hurt and recovery.

The scar tissue is no longer shame, but beautiful. A road map of origin and destinations; and I am going places.

I had to learn to love myself. I had to learn to see me as God sees me. Eyes filled with grace and forgiveness. Compassionate and filled with purpose. Loving for love’s sake.

This love has poured out into the lives of the hurting. Given strength to those who could no longer walk; sight to those who refused to see. Manifested itself in the form of forgiveness for them and for me.

Them. They told me what their god expected of me. When I couldn’t fit that cross shaped box, I was shamed, and I lived that shame. Calvary Chapel, that church on the hill where they crucified the unworthy over and over again.

The weight of their nails heavier than a father’s distance and heavy hands. I couldn’t let that shit go. My grip ruined me. Drove me to deepest hate. Sent me on a journey of journal entries filled with verse and passage sworn to unwrite myself.

But God.

Snatched me away like a thief in the night.

Took captive my grip that I might finally let go.

When I learned to love myself, to accept all the broken parts, the ghosts of my past could no longer bind me; could no longer hold me in so much stagnant water. I was at last free.

I am at last free.

 

 

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Crossroads

crossroads

In an odd sort of way, I have been involved in ministry for the last 13 years. My work mainly consists of logistical support, program management, information and referral, appointment scheduling, building management, and supervising/office management. I also provide crisis response, professional counseling, and security. All of which centers around the religious setting in an operational context.

I serve those who serve, and I provide care to the caregiver. I have overseen thousands of religious services, managed thousands of various faith based programs, provided support for hundreds of memorial services, and have responded to more life-and-death cornerstones than I care recall.

I have been an advocate for religious groups seeking the opportunity to express their faith in the absence of official faith group representation. I have trained lay leaders in the proper conduct and practice in the confines of our organization.

I have instructed hundreds of newly christened members of my organization towards a path of success, professional growth, and transition.

In these things I have all manner of pride. I do what I do because of the positive impact I am able to leave with people from all faiths, creeds, nationalities, races, gender identities, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

But my organization is changing; dramatically. I don’t know how long I can stay here in good conscience. I stand at a proverbial crossroads filled with uncertainty, anxiety, and fear.

Lots of fear.

I am looking at career alternatives. I have spent the last year looking at where my skill set would fit outside of this organization. Religious ministry and counseling both appear viable, as well as teaching, but there are certain roadblocks (schooling, certification, etc.) which stand in my way. They are not impassable roadblocks, but roadblocks which present significant difficulties with the resources I currently have available.

An interesting prospect I have looked into is that of Funeral Services. Many of my specific skill sets, personal talents, and interests fall within the realm of funeral services. Being able to offer compassion, consolation, counseling, information and referral, are the very things I do now. Arranging services is another thing I do at this moment.

The practice of embalming and body restoration would be a new realm for me, but one I know I could handle. I have an interest in biology and anatomy which would bolster my capabilities with the not so “glamorous” side of mortuary affairs.

Yesterday, I took a bold step; one of faith and hope. I’ve applied to a college with a program certified by the American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE). Strangely, I have an overwhelming sense of peace with this step. It feels right. I’m scared, but it feels right.

An opportunity like this could change my family’s life for the better. And I would always be in a place to help others.

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And Sometimes Monsters Don’t Matter

colortimeThere are still monsters who find space in my mind. Even after clearing away all the dust and fog, they still find places to hide. They love the shadows; the dark places I fear to tread. And when I least expect it, they reveal themselves and beg to play.

Today was one such day. I had been battling these monsters through poetry. Struggling to keep them from taking hold and tossing me down a well of depression.

While I wrote (during my lunch hour) a woman came into the office with her children. She had an appointment. She set her kids up on her phone with a movie just before being called into another office.

The children were young. Similar in age to one of my kids. I could tell already the movie wasn’t going to hold their attention.

I set myself aside and engaged. Asked their names, their ages, what they like doing. In the course of the chatter they shared, in not so many words, how their world was falling apart. My heart melted.

I guided the conversation to what kinds of things they liked to do and what brings them joy. I then pulled out some extra pens and index cards. We drew, played games, and watched a few episodes of “Super Why.”

In that moment, I didn’t matter. My monsters didn’t matter. These kids mattered. Giving them a break from the cold reality they faced mattered.

After they left, I looked over the poem I had been working on and scrapped it. The whispers of old ghost didn’t seem so loud. And the monsters vying for my attention just seemed so trivial.

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A Peek Into The Writing Project

treefog

owlA grey mist stretched endlessly in every direction. Echo shivered uncontrollably. His teeth chattered in the bitter cold. Around him the world was cast in an unnatural darkness. Empty and void.

He wandered, naked save for the crucifix around his neck, through the darkness. He felt eyes as old as time watch him from a distance. From his lips fell ancient prayers invoking the names of saints and angels to guide his words to God’s ear.

Every footfall sent arcs of shooting pain through his body. He marched onward driven by instinct. Though he didn’t know where he found himself, he knew he was not lost.

He came upon a tree. It was diseased and bare. Charred black as if scorched by fire. Its branches weaved sharp and profane through the grey mists, stretching and winding until lost in the fog.

A sicking odor wafted from the tree. Smoke, brimstone, and human waste churned his stomach. Upon the lowest branch sat a great white owl. The creature, majestic and wicked, sat upon its perch in regal lordship over the mists.

“My child,” the raspy voice of an old woman emanated from the owl though its beak never moved, “your prayers are in vain. God has long since abandoned you.”

“T-the Lord does not abandon his children.” Echo said defiantly.

“And yet you wander my mists alone, hunted by ancient and terrible beasts, with only the weight of a dead god around your neck.”

“W-who are you?”

Echo trembled. Whether by cold or fear, he did not know.

“Mother. Giver of life and power. She whose lineage courses through your veins. Who guarded your ancestors in times of persecution. Whose gifts manifest in you, the last of your line. It is I who have given you eyes to see. Whose gifts you waste in the service of a God who doesn’t care.”

“You…you lie.”

“Lie? How dare you! Mind to whom you speak, boy!”

The thunderous voice shook the ground beneath Echo’s feet, throwing him off balance.

“Pitiful mortal,” the owl crooned. “I forgive your insolence. I am gracious and kind to my children. Tear that fetter from your neck, and I shall guide you.”

Echo rose weakly to his feet. He could feel the icy hatred of the creature despite its words. It was devoid of any grace or kindness. He stared at the owl for a moment before speaking.

“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.”

“What did you say?” Every word from the raspy voice was sharp and carried an unspoken warning.

“I will fear no evil.”

“Foolish little man!”

The creature spread out its grand wings which spanned a breadth longer than a man was tall. With a powerful push it soared upward, disappearing into the mists. Echo searched the sky waiting for the owl to descend. His body trembled uncontrollably.

In the distance, far above him, beyond his vision, he could hear the cawing of crows. Thousands of black birds descended through the mists striking against his body. The vast murder scratching and pecking at his flesh.

He was thrown against the gnarled tree. Branches whipped through the air wrapping around him, binding him to the trunk. The crows relentlessly continued their assault.

“Will you let me save you?” The raspy voice spoke over the deafening caws of the frenzied black birds.

“Nnn…Nooooo!”

The murder of crows vanished in a black smoke. The branches coiled around Echo tightened splintering bones and cracking ribs. He let out a painful cry.

WitnessBefore him stood a girl in a floor length black dress. A leather mask accented with white feathers and forming the shape of an owl hid her face. She clasped her hands behind her.

“But you will be destroyed.” The girl said.

“But…” Echo panted and gasped for breath. “my soul will be delivered to God.”

The girl let out a long shriek like that of bird of prey. She brought a talon adorned hand across Echo’s face.

“God is dead. Let me save you!”

“N-n-no.”

The girl stepped back. The branches binding Echo gave up their grip allowing him to fall to the ground once more. Cuts and scrapes covered his body.

“You will let me save you.”

“No. No. No.” Echo panted.

“Enough!” The girl pulled Echo to his feet. With a free hand she drove her talons into his eye sockets. Echo screamed in agony. “I will open your eyes. You will see the horror around you. You will beg me for protection. You will call upon me to save you, and I shall come. And you will be mine.”

In a single motion she ripped her talons from his eyes throwing him through the air as if he were weightless. He crashed into the ground and rolled a few feet before coming to sudden stop.

The cold gave way to a blistering heat. The smell of smoke burned his is nostrils. He gasped feeling his windpipe closing off.

***

Echo bolt upright. He was in the kitchen of his childhood home. A fire raged all around him. Black smoked billowed throughout the house. He remembered Chris and the attack. He looked around and found his satchel was gone.

burninghouseHe scrambled to his feet. His body still aching from taser and Chris’s boot to the groin. Grabbing a kitchen chair he swung it desperately against the sliding glass door. The glass fractured sending a spiderweb of cracks out from the point of impact. He swung the chair once more shattering the glass.

Clearing away the large pieces of glass remaining in the door’s seized frame with the chair he stumbled into the backyard. Sweat beaded along his bald head and rolled down his face. He watched in horror as his home was consumed in fire.

“God. No.”

 

 

 

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To Feel It All Overwhelming

empath-and-narcissist-2

I feel everything. It’s overwhelming, and I can’t turn it off. I can’t make it go away. I don’t just see the hurt and brokenness around me, I feel it as if it were my own.

Maybe this is why I become so emotionally charged when I see injustice and cruelty on display. Perhaps it is the reason why so often I want to zealously reach out and cut the head off evil. The reason I become frustrated for being too small to save the world.

Leaving my home fills me with anxiety and anger. Walking through crowds I pick up on emotions, with the most negative sticking to me for a long time. I have a massive amount of compassion rolling through me like waves crashing upon the shoreline. As a result, I offer as many heartfelt smiles and greetings I can muster with the hope that it does some good – no matter how small.

I have been like this for as far as I can remember, but it is only recently that I’ve discovered the connection between this ultra sensitive empathy and my insecurities and anxieties. I wish I could better understand why this is. I wish there was a way to either turn it off, or at least minimize some of the intensity.

This intuition, instinct, or whatever one may call it, has not been a complete burden. It has allowed me to see through walls and illusions others in need have put up. It has granted me the opportunity to give comfort and aid.

I’ve had the opportunity to step in to prevent suicides, interrupt abuse, supply need in place of want and lack, and to give voice to the voiceless. It has been those moments which have encouraged me to persevere; to press on towards higher goals.

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