“The War Prayer” by Mark Twain

It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and spluttering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spread of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory which stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts, and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country, and invoked the God of Battles beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpourings of fervid eloquence which moved every listener. It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety’s sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.

Sunday morning came–next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their young faces alight with martial dreams–visions of the stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender! Then home from the war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag, or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation

     God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest! Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!

Then came the “long” prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its supplication was, that an ever-merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory–

An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher’s side and stood there waiting. With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued with his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal, “Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!”

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside–which the startled minister did–and took his place. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes, in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:

“I come from the Throne–bearing a message from Almighty God!” The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. “He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will grant it if such shall be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import–that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of–except he pause and think.

“God’s servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two–one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him Who heareth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this–keep it in mind. If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor’s crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

“You have heard your servant’s prayer–the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it–that part which the pastor–and also you in your hearts–fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: ‘Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!’ That is sufficient. the whole of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory–must follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

“O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle–be Thou near them! With them–in spirit–we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it–for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

(After a pause.) “Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits!”

It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

"Answer" by Fredric Brown

Dwan Ev ceremoniously soldered the final connection with gold. The eyes of a dozen television cameras watched him and the subether bore throughout the universe a dozen pictures of what he was doing.

He straightened and nodded to Dwar Reyn, then moved to a position beside the switch that would complete the contact when he threw it. The switch that would connect, all at once, all of the monster computing machines of all the populated planets in the universe — ninety-six billion planets — into the supercircuit that would connect them all into one supercalculator, one cybernetics machine that would combine all the knowledge of all the galaxies.

Dwar Reyn spoke briefly to the watching and listening trillions. Then after a moment’s silence he said, “Now, Dwar Ev.”

Dwar Ev threw the switch. There was a mighty hum, the surge of power from ninety-six billion planets. Lights flashed and quieted along the miles-long panel.

Dwar Ev stepped back and drew a deep breath. “The honor of asking the first question is yours, Dwar Reyn.”

“Thank you,” said Dwar Reyn. “It shall be a question which no single cybernetics machine has been able to answer.”

He turned to face the machine. “Is there a God?”

The mighty voice answered without hesitation, without the clicking of a single relay.

“Yes, now there is a God.”

Sudden fear flashed on the face of Dwar Ev. He leaped to grab the switch.

A bolt of lightning from the cloudless sky struck him down and fused the switch shut.

Magnetic Poetry

I <3 magnetic poetry. It was one of the first things I got for my previous apartment (the very first I ever had on my own) to make it feel like home. It was only the basic set, so a lot of times I ended up snipping words into bits to make words I didn’t have. I actually kept a dictionary and thesaurus on top of the fridge, and a notebook so I could record poems as they were created. Just felt like sharing :)

8/16: #1
someday
they may ask
and we will tell them
how we were drunk on milk and honey
and the smell of storms
   and love made well

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Chardra: A Vision

“Have you ever seen anything like it before?” Chardra swung the beam of light at the grass, and it fell away in a sheet that smoked momentarily. An old woman sat next to her atop the hill. Graying blonde eyebrows rose in surprise, but her features remained otherwise impassive as she stared across the strange landscape. Snow drifted across sandy desert plains, and a rainbow-hued herd of horses appeared on the horizon.

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Taking the Leap

“It’s incredible,” she breathed into the sky. The precipice dropped away into the distance below her toes. She’d been terrified when the idea had first occurred to her weeks ago; as the time had grown nearer, she hadn’t been sure what she’d do once she made it here. But with the world laid out before her, stretching toward infinity, and breezes playing through her hair, the fear seeped away.

“No turning back now.” She closed her eyes and spread her arms in silent salute to the sun, a blaze of fiery color on the western horizon. Taking several paces back from the brink, she knelt and pressed her lips to the stone under her feet. “See ya,” she said to the earth with a smile, as she stood up into a sprint.

The world disappeared into mist below her, and she reached for the clouds.

Fever Dreams

She had been ill, Tressa remembered, recalling in that distant, fuzzy sort of way you do halfway between dreaming and waking. The winds that blew in from the wylds had brought the Icewalker village ghostly voices and an ague that mysteriously affected only those with the Sight. She’d lain shaking from fever and chills for a week, but now found herself walking alone outside in the moonlight, expectation hanging in the air like the world holding its breath.

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Entropy

The dials rolled slowly under Starkov’s fingers, alternating static and dead air. It’d been two weeks with no contact. Shut away in their dimly-lit listening post, reports from HQ were the only indication that the outside world still existed at all. Manning his station had become reflexive: turn two degrees; stop; two degrees; static; pause; nothing; continue two degrees. Day after day, it’d become easy to convince himself that the enemy might be gone for good, but he kept his ear to the air. There was no telling when a signal might pop up again.

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75 Words

“Don’t go,” she said quietly, and the rain pounded away the tears, leaving trails of it’s own.

He took her face in his hands and kissed her softly, a bittersweet sensation prickling where his lips brushed the corner of her own. The best and worst kiss she had ever been given. Then he turned and walked away, and she could do nothing but stand in the puddles and watch his back fade into the storm.

Dream Journal: 10/12/04

Note: This is a cleaned up/edited “flash fiction” version of a dream. Effort has been made to stay as true to the dream itself as possible.

Just when I thought we would never be done with walking, the undergrowth cleared, and there, finally, terrifying, was the beast. It stood watching us as if it had been waiting all along for our arrival. Its red aura painted a wicked, pulsing light on the trees around it, their bark seeming to ripple and wither away in its glow.

My body quivered with the instinct to flee. Jaren, unnoticing, stood ready to fight. But still the beast waited. I reached out and shook Jaren’s arm to get his attention. I don’t remember what I meant to say, but the words that came out were, “I’m going to run.” He turned then, shock raising his eyebrows, but he didn’t say anything.

“My powers won’t work here.” I held out my hands, a combined gesture of display and helplessness. The marks on my palms were already fading. Jaren saw and nodded, his face impenetrable once again. But for the first time since I’d known him, I thought I saw fear in his eyes.

I turned to go, the flight instinct creeping back in, but hesitated. I looked back to see Jaren watching me. His armored form eclipsed the waiting beast, a bloody corona casting his features into shadow. Feeling something more needed to be said, but not sure what, instead I closed the gap between us, and took hold of his collar, hauling him down into a kiss.

I had thought about what it might be like before, though in such girlish fantasies, it had always been him coming to me, my mouth yielding under his. I’m not quite sure exactly what I expected, but found myself more than pleasantly surprised when there was no hesitation in him. As our lips met, his kiss was soft and urgent — and over much too quickly. As he broke away, I placed both palms against the cool surface of his breastplate, pouring the remnants of my power into him.

He took my hands and squeezed them gently, and I could see the fear had melted from his face. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I wished that it might be because of more than my magic, and that I might see him again to find out.

But Jaren dropped my hands and turned toward the beast again. The last thing he said was, “I will find you. Run.

I did.

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