Amber’s Ride

Amber looked at herself in the mirror for a long time. Eventually she said a quiet goodbye. Talking to yourself must be the first sign of sanity, she thought.

She locked the shabby studio apartment behind her and headed on foot to the bus station. She put her hand over the $178.50 in her pocket, just to be sure it was still there. She had heard of golden parachutes, but her pocket full of cash was more like a frayed rescue line.

She didn’t stop by the diner where she had worked. There was nothing in this town she would miss. Not her apartment, not her neighbors, not her co-workers, not her customers. Most of all, she wouldn’t miss the person she had become. She herself, was the only one she had said goodbye to.

Amber was going home. Home where she had been miserable under the constraints of decent society. Where her mother tried to run her life and succeeded in sheltering her from every bit of fun she had ever tried to have. Home where the rules felt like a strait jacket on her free spirit.

She had left to try and get away from all of that. Now she was hoping to find it again. All of it.

She had left with an abundance—savings account, credit cards, even a trust fund once she turned 21. She would return with nothing but tough lessons learned. After buying the necessary tickets she had $5.37 left for meals along the way. Hardly enough to cover the five meals over the two days of cross country repentance.

On the bus she read a pocket New Testament. She ordered off the dollar menu at stops. She avoided talking to the other passengers. And she cried, quiet tears, full of old sorrows and new joys. But mostly she planned how to not be the person she had said goodbye to back at the studio.

When she reached the city, she realized she had made no arrangements to get from the terminal to her home. She had no cab fare, no remaining friends, no means but her restless feet. So she walked, it must have been about four miles. Each block passing a little faster than the ones before.

At the door she grabbed the knob and turned, but of course, it was locked. So she rang the bell. She couldn’t stand the wait so she started knocking, until her mother opened the door.

For a second they just stared at each other. Then they embraced, cried, and finally, they spoke. At first both were cautious, but soon there was no stopping the flow. They kept on speaking for the next thirty years, and when it came time to bury her, Amber did so, without regret.

 

This is the first week in a long time that I have been able to post every day except for today. So I went looking for an old story that I had never published on my own blog. I wanted one I couldn’t locate, but found this one. I remember that I originally wrote it for a weekly challenge called Midweek Blues Buster. If I remember correctly it was well received. As always if you like it and want to leave a comment you are more than welcome. 

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The Repentance Paradox

Repentance is a paradox. The word describes a change of pattern based upon a change of direction.

The Christian use of the word describes turning away from sin in order to turn toward God. This change of direction is initiated by your human will, but empowered by God.

The change of pattern is another problem. We habitual creatures have a way of returning to our past patterns. And hence the reason why I call repentance a paradox. We make a commitment to God to turn from sin, knowing full well we will continue to sin despite our efforts.

But don’t take my statements as asserting there is a falsehood in repentance. It is a real and necessary part of the Christian experience. We make a decision to turn our lives over to God. God then gets a grip on us. His actions place us into His family and kingdom, but they do not remove our humanity. Our free will is a major ingredient in our humanity so removing it would be making us something less than human.

This paradox is necessary because it is God’s desire to have a relationship with humanity. Not creatures without free will, but real people with all their failings. For this reason the Christian life is more one of grace and forgiveness than the conquering of sin.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying sin all you want, or sin doesn’t matter. I want you to work hard to battle sin. In this battle you can expect to gain ground. You can expect to prevent sin from overtaking you and robbing you of your freedom or usefulness to God. But you cannot expect to gain absolute victory by never sinning again.

The Pirate’s Life

The next episode for Jamison’s Battlefields. Here are the previous episodes in order. Zilkas Asteroid Belt, Jamison’s Rescue,  Dinner with an Alien, Dibolocos Attack, Departure Orders, Homecoming, Into the Darkness, The Family BusinessJewel’s Place, Shanghaied, and First Mark. Like any story you will get the most out of it by reading it in order.

On that next attack their number was cut down by two thirds, and they would have all been killed except for a larger group of pirates were transported aboard trapping the defenders in a crossfire. So there were other boarding parties.  Jamison again used the stun setting, but as he counted the dead men around him, he made up his mind to stop this practice.

A couple days later he went on his first raid with the kill setting. It was a small barely defended vessel. He almost got by without firing a shot, but a stowaway in a cargo hold jumped out at him and fired a projectile between his arm and his chest. Without thinking he dropped the man. If the shot had been a little to the left or right Jamison would be among the dead or worse yet dying without medical assistance.

He spent a long time staring at the man’s lifeless frame. For Jamison it was a defining moment. Who knows how long he would have stayed but the signal to gather up for transport home was given. He didn’t sleep after that raid. But he spent the time awake recounting the reasons he had no other choice but to embrace the life of murder. He could enumerate them, but would he believe them?

His descent into the lifestyle and habits of a pirate had begun. He would go through a couple of dozen more raids in the next two months. Each time he became a little harder. Soon he began to embrace cruelty. He was beginning to wonder why he didn’t help himself to the women on the marks as other pirates had done. It just went with the territory.

With each raid the humanity of the victims became less and less real to him. He understood their terror, but he had his own to worry about. He understood their pain, but he had his own to worry about. He understood their desire to survive, but he had his own to worry about. The pirate’s life was becoming all he knew. Or all he allowed himself to know.

Even in this condition there was some distinct hints he was really not reconciled with his buccaneer’s ways. One night he startled awake in the middle of sleep cycle, he jumped to his feet and fired three random shots around the room before realizing what he was doing. After that incident Tyler had suggested he sleep without his weapon in his hand.  Jamison had indicated he would gladly kill anyone who tried to take it from him.

The men had seen his skills with a weapon and nobody was going to challenge him. In fact, his skills were beyond exceptional, and seemed to improve with each raid. On the first few raids he killed two or three people. But after a month or so the number increased to six or eight. Then in another leap of ability he might come away from a raid with over a dozen kills.

He had even been seen to fire backwards over his own shoulder and kill an opponent he had never faced, pinpointing the victim by sound. Stories about the pirate, who was such a remarkable marksman had begun to circulate among the shipping companies.

His skills were scary good. He scared the victims on the mark ships, he scared his fellow pirates, but most of all, he scared himself. But the defense mechanism he had chosen, never showing weakness forced him to internalize every bit of his anguish. So he slept poorly and sometimes, not at all. At times he barely ate anything, then he would binge, eating his portion and the portions of whoever else he chose. His insides were constantly fighting back with pains and spasms. The only time he was not aware of the pain was when the adrenaline of battle drowned it out.

So he began to long for battle. He fully expected that one day soon his lifeless body would be piled on the floor of some abandoned and newly derelict vessel. But he didn’t care, one way or another he would find relief in battle.