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Ary's Blurbs

Ary the Grey

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A thread for random creative writing blurbs written by yours truly. These are going to be mostly random, I think, some may tie together. Mostly to flex my creative writing muscles and write what's on my mind. Comment if you want, but this thread is mostly here for therapeutic reasons, so to be honest I might ignore feedback. Want to pseudo RP and 'reply' to what I wrote? Go for it, I might write back, I might not. Send me music to write to. I like turning song into stories. Probably the only 'requests' that I'll do. There are no rules or expectations here.

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A Series of Gears - Part 1

The fusa slowly wandered into the clearing, its breath making large puffs of fog in the cold morning air. Arin watched the large creature from the spot he had chosen, a well-hidden spot behind some bushes, obscuring him enough that the fusa hadn't noticed his presence yet. His own breath barely left his face, the wrappings draped over his nose and mouth helping to trap the tell tale fog closer to his body so as to not give him away. Quietly, slowly, he tensed, nocking an arrow and sighting in on the perfect shot.

The fusa stood at an angle facing away from him, which was less than ideal, but with just a little movement Arin would be able to perfectly send his arrow into the kill zone, hitting either the heart or both lungs. For now, the fusa had found a small patch of greenery it was munching on, not moving until it was done. Arin would let it have the meal, partially out of respect as a last meal, partially because he knew it would move just enough when it was finished to give him a clean kill. Patience would reward him this morning.

A guttural rumble suddenly broke the quiet as the fusa raised its head in terror, already bucking and kicking away into a failed sprint. A srissh leapt from the far woodline at the fusa, the muscular six-legged feline reaching its prey before it even had much of a chance to flee. Blood sprayed in the air and the fusa cried out in pained braying as thick fangs ripped into the back of the fusa's neck, sealing its fate. All Arin could do was watch quietly, his stomach churning at the thought of losing such a prize. The Arborea was a merciless place, and the fusa would have fed him and Jett for a couple weeks, long enough for them to easily find more food. Slowly, Arin moved back, giving the gorging srissh space as he retreated. Even if he was noticed, he knew the srissh would likely not see him as a rival, and it was already preoccupied with its kill. The only thing he had gained from this hunt was an empty stomach.

Hours later, Arin returned to the small cave he and Jett shared. While he was out she'd picked some berries, and was currently setting up a fire outside to roast what little meat they had left. Her gaze met his and his immediately darted down and away, his shoulders hanging in shame. Sadness welled in her eyes for him, but she didn't speak. She knew better than to touch his likely already bruised pride. Instead, Arin walked past her, slipping through the narrow entrance to the small cave they shared, and laid down on the bedding pelts. Soon, sleep took him.

Arin awoke late at night, Jett softly snoring near him. His dreams were troubled, filled with death. He got up and left the cave, restlessness having set in and denying him a swift return to his slumber. The stars were bright that night, the sky clear, the moons softly casting their glow onto the nearby creek, skittering reflections across the nearby rocks. As he gazed skyward, Arin saw a star streak across the sky briefly, an omen, for certain. He walked to the creek, crouching down to cup some water to rub on his face. As he looked up, he saw the srissh across the creek from him, crouched near a bush, eyes firmly transfixed on him, pupils dilated. He was too far from the cave where it would not be able to follow him through the narrow entrance, and had foolishly left his weapons behind. It was too fast for him to outrun.

For a while, the creek ran red, but it would stop. Eventually, the srissh would be killed by a rival or yet another larger predator, nourishing in death what was left in life. Life always found a way, but often that way was at the misfortune of other life. The cycle was endless, older than time, older than the memories and stories passed down by the elders. The Arborea was merciless, but it couldn't help it, it was simply the way of things.

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The Grind

4:00 AM - Alarm. Get out of bed. Or hit the snooze and risk oversleeping. Again.

4:05 AM - Snoozed alarm. Can't risk it happening again. Get up. Rub crust from eyes. Glare at dog who only wants to go outside but is being annoying about it.

4:07 AM - Bathroom. Check phone for messages. Check weather. Check social media. News outlets still preaching political doom. Nothing really new. Wipe. Flush.

4:15 AM - Shower. Brush teeth. Comb hair. Stare at self in mirror until the contemplation to quit job passes. You need the money.

4:25 AM - Get dressed. Underwear and socks. Bra. Work shirt. Pants. Shoes. Don't forget your glasses again.

4:33 AM - Fix breakfast. Two slices of toast. Can't really afford more. Need to save money anyways to take out girlfriend.

4:45 AM - Dash back in house to put on the deodorant you forgot. Nobody likes a sweaty barista.

4:50 AM - Leave for work. Drive like a maniac or be late again. Can't be late again. Almost hit a homeless guy in a crosswalk. Mouth "Sorry!" at him as he flips you off. Brush it off. Can't dwell on it.

4:59 AM - Pull into work. Clock in just in time. Prep for customers. Kendra didn't clean yesterday again. Rush through minimal necessary cleaning while performing other duties. Make a mental note to talk to Chad about it. Nothing will happen. Again. Perks of sleeping with the boss.

5:30 AM - Open for business. Three cars already in drive through. Second customer is a soccer mom with a bad mood. Her excuse would be she hasn't had her coffee. The bad mood rubs off on you anyways. Super great start to the day. Put on the customer service face. Hide the frustration.

7:15 AM - Smoke break. Customer asks to bum a smoke. Well dressed guy. Business type. Sure dude. He makes five times your annual salary. That's okay. Oh. He wanted to hit on you. Not really your type. Overhear the "bitch" under his breath as you walk off. You're welcome for the cig.

9:00 AM - Chad walks in. Ignore some snide remark about actually being on time today. Like he hasn't been skimming from the tips jar anyways. Customer service smile. Screw yourself Chad. Back to work.

9:12 AM - Child makes mess in bathroom. Parent leaves with them quickly. Didn't clean up at all. Thanks lady. Stellar example of humanity. Fill the mop bucket. At least it's a break from customers.

10:15 AM - Lunch. Peanut butter and jelly. Grape jelly getting old. Maybe try strawberry next time. You can't afford lunch here. Chad took away employee discounts last week. Bad economy my ass.

11:13 AM - Text from girlfriend's mom. Traci is in the hospital. Chad skeptical. Typical ass. Lets you go when he sees the text. Your shift is done in two hours anyways. He wants you to clean on your way out. You blow him off.

11:27 AM - Traffic is garbage. Everyone wants lunch. Nobody knows how to find their gas pedal. Anxiety building. Keep your cool.

11:41 AM - Arrive at hospital. Finally find a spot in the parking garage after an eternity. Receptionist is nice. Good customer service face. You can tell after a while when someone is using one.

11:57 AM - Find Traci's room. Bandages on her chest. Otherwise she's okay. Supposedly she slipped in the shower. Nurse comes by. Apparently her boyfriend that was in the shower with her is in the next room over and to just hit the buzzer if she'd like to be wheeled over to visit.


12:05 PM - Leave Traci's room. Not much was said. Not much needed to be said. She knew how important loyalty was to you. It's not the first time this has happened though. You need a smoke.

12:15 PM - Light a cigarette outside the hospital. Need to collect Traci's things. Burn them maybe. You're not sure. Doesn't really matter. Take another drag. Slow exhale. Blood vessels constrict. Nicotine hits your brain. Nerves you didn't even know were frazzled begin to calm. You're not okay. But that's okay.

1:12 PM - Get home. Let dog out. Light another cigarette. You're smoking more than normal. Mom is going to nag you again. Doesn't matter. Not today. You watch the dog pinch a loaf like it isn't even happening. Your mind is elsewhere. You miss the smell of Traci's hair.

1:23 PM - Chad texts. Needs you to take a Saturday shift. You leave him on read. You know full well he can see that. You do it anyways to piss him off a bit. He deserves it.

1:32 PM - Chad calls. Sure Chad. You'll take the shift. You need the money. You don't say this. He knows it anyways. Prick.

2:45 PM - You wonder if Netflix and chill should refer instead to watching crappy old romance movies while eating ice cream in your sweatpants. It makes more sense.

4:14 PM - The dog breaks a vase while playing with his toy. It was Traci's. She'll likely blame you. Whatever.

5:29 PM - Upstairs neighbors fighting again. Boom boom boom. Mental note to buy a bag of peanuts for their herd of elephants. Married couples are so dysfunctional.

6:28 PM - Frozen pizza again. This one comes with something that resembles sausage. It doesn't look like sausage. You eat it anyways. It pairs nicely with the vodka you bought for your date with Traci.

9:00 PM - Bedtime routine. Let the dog out. Lay down. Scroll through social media on your phone.

11:12 PM - Can't sleep. Not good. Less than five hours until your alarm. Nobody likes a cranky barista. There's only one thing on your mind. You can't get her off it.

1:18 AM - You give into the urge to scroll through social media. You can't sleep anyways.

1:47 AM - There's nothing really on social media. It's two in the morning. Go figure.

3:49 AM - Alarm goes off in eleven minutes. You wonder if power napping will help at all. Sleep seems like it would come easy now. Where the hell was the sandman earlier? Probably with Traci.

4:00 AM - Alarm. Get out of bed. At the least you can make yourself a drink when you get to work before anyone else shows up. Quad shot espresso should do the trick.

5:03 AM - Clock in. Chad's going to bitch again. Kendra didn't clean again. You grind the beans. You pull the shots. You take that sip.

Bittersweet salvation in a cup.

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To Whom It May Concern:

As I translate thought to word and word to paper, my hands slightly tremble. I am terrified.

I am not afraid of what I need to say, I am afraid of how it will be received. I am afraid of how other narratives will eventually obscure this one, either through volume or simply by subtle changes over time. But these things must be said, and I will forge on. To be silent is to contribute to the slow cancer encroaching upon us, a quiet acceptance of that comfortable death that comes only from giving up. I cannot be silent any longer; knowing what I now know I realize that I must face my fears and the uncomfortable truths that lie in front of me, as to go back is not an option and to stay put only sinks me deeper in the quicksand with the rest of us.

Growth is not comfortable. Change is not comfortable. But they are necessary to foster progress, not the kind of the co-opted definition some would have you believe and label themselves as, but real, true progress. A famous man once had a dream. We all know who he is. We were taught that dream came to fruition. That was a lie. We were taught that he was a man of upstanding principle, that he wished for peace and calm discussion more than he would for breaking the law. That was a lie. We were taught he was a binary opposite of a similar man who taught similar things but spoke in a slightly different way. He was of a different religion. A foreign religion. He doesn't have a holiday, but we all know who that man is as well. That he represented evil in a sense to oppose the first man's good like two sides of a coin was a lie. These men taught almost the exact same things, and yet they were divided and conquered, their narratives silenced, all from a simple re-framing of the story. All from edits to history books. All from the lie that the dream had come true. It is this fate that I fear for my own story, silenced by the very slow moving but very much alive forces that are still silencing these men today.

I was told recently that I'm a narcissist. This is true. I can't really help it, I tend to see and relate things from my perspective. It is as natural to me as a fish swimming in water. As such, I will attempt to relate myself as much as I can. I am, however, not vain, I am perfectly capable of seeing myself for who I am and criticizing myself when necessary. This isn't comfortable for me, as some of these things shouldn't be comfortable for you. Many of you are probably wondering what I might be talking about by now, especially about the two men. We will get to that later. But right now realize that this criticism, which you will surely feel, is the point. That criticism in and of itself is not a bad thing, a synonym for negative insults and degradation, conversely it is merely a contrasting perspective that allows us to better see ourselves. It's like a mirror that tells truths instead of simply being another pair of rose-colored glasses. Discomfort, too, is also the point, because if you are comfortable then there is no motive to change, to drive forward and improve. And if any of you think that you can't improve or otherwise are perfect, please let the rest of us know. We're dying to see what it looks like.

For a long time, I was blind. This is not to say I could not physically see, I mean this in a metaphorical sense, in that there were perspectives and worldviews I was naive to. There is still much I am ignorant of. I write this not as a master, but as a novice, opening his eyes for the first time. And for the love of god, I do not consider myself 'woke', rather I despise the arrogance of the term. We are all still learning, even the most accomplished masters. The more you know, the more you understand and realize how little you actually know. For me, this catalyzing event occurred in the field of rhetoric. Don't worry, I'm not going to get too deep into technical terms. I am still a novice, and I do not wish to speak to those who already know what I write here.

In rhetoric, which basically refers to how language is constructed and used, there is the idea that different narratives, different stories exist not only for each person, but each perspective and object they encounter and event they experience. Individually and collectively, there are an infinite amount of these perspectives. But there is also the concept of using language as a weapon. To persuade and manipulate others, deceiving them into believing or doing something they might not otherwise do. This involves supplanting one narrative for another, altering how they see things until it aligns with these manipulative goals. I will not lie, this is similar to what I am doing here, but I hope that in being open and honest about it I can garner the trust that I am not attempting to deceive.

These narratives, these lies have been told to our children, our children's children, and so forth, until they become gospel truth. One man was good. The other bad. Lies. Lies told so often and so softly that they whisper in our ear whenever we are confronted with an alternative point of view. We are creatures of habit, we do not want to leave the comfort we have built around us. We do not want to consider that truths we hold dear might indeed be falsehoods. We are generally unwilling to test our beliefs and go out on a limb away from the safety of the herd even when doing so could easily reveal greater truth. This is known as moderacy. If you are ever uncomfortable when faced with political rhetoric, that is your inner moderate talking.

Don't listen to them. They are softly killing you and laughing while they do so.

Let me be perfectly clear as well: moderacy in the sense I mean it does not refer to having a middle of the road opinion, seeing both merits and downsides and thinking a more complex but accurate solution lies at the middle of a binary debate, but rather choosing ignorance because the issue of the day is too hard to comprehend, that it is easier to spout the lines the media has trained you to repeat rather than taking a step back and attempting to put effort into analyzing the truths of the situation for yourself. Moderacy is saying it's not yet time for certain social discussions to be had, yet not ever giving a clear timeline of when that discussion should occur. It favors an unjust peace free of tension over a just peace achieved through the smelting fires of social turmoil.

I was a moderate. In many ways, I still am. I hear something and my emotions knee jerk towards those tendencies, shying away from discomfort. I am lucky. All my life I could do that, ignore injustice simply because it didn't apply to me. A friend once told me a joke: "What weighs more, a pound of feathers or a pound of steel?" I answered they both weigh the same. "False," he stated, "the pound of feathers weighs more, because you have to carry with you what you did to all those birds." But what if I could take those feathers anyways, and conveniently ignore what someone else did to all those birds? The concept is the same.

Today I am not a moderate. I do not consider myself an extremist, like the two men I do not favor violence. I feel that sometimes pushing that discomfort is necessary to force the hand of change. As distasteful as it is, it's merely a bitter pill that must be swallowed to get to our social cake. Today I will learn to use my language as a weapon, not to harm others but to guard myself and those I care about from the vocal barbs others would hurt us with. And I do care for my enemy. I have hope that hatred can be defused. It is defused when we learn to speak each others' language, when we can relate and open discussions on why we feel the way we do, and we gain mutual understanding of how our perspectives and personal stories are shaped and maintained. This is not easy. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X knew this better than anyone. But if we succumb to hatred and stop reaching across the aisle no matter how many times our hands are burned, then we will have accepted the same death moderacy affords, but on a much faster scale.

I implore you. Seek knowledge. Seek understanding of those you dislike. Seek to see through the eyes of someone vastly different than you. Yes, it's terrifying. But once your eyes start to open, it is that much harder for the hate and lies to stop you.

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For Delta:

Let go

The air was hot and smoky. It stank of battle, the sour smells of blood and the aftermath of death lingering in the wake of slaughter. One cannot fathom these odors if they have never experienced them firsthand, and yet they should also pray to whatever deity they wish that they should never have to. Elara stood next to her leader, Rhonen, dirt and blood caking their faces, just like the rest of those assembled. Her hands rested softly on Tain's shoulders, the boy nervously pressing back against her, as did the other children against their parents. Tain did not know what to expect, how could he, after he had seen his mother decimate their entire village.

Today was a special day, but it wasn't always like this. 

Once upon a time, Elara was the pride of her village and clan. Her skills far surpassed other warriors, and she was well known because of it. The elders had said that only one in seventy generations ever took to the Path like she had, claiming the gods had blessed her. Elara herself didn't quite understand it, all she knew was that when she drew steel, it felt like invisible hands guided her. She could tell which way her enemy moved before it happened. For her, combat was merely a complex and ever-changing dance. Each opponent, a dance partner. Sometimes they died, such was the way of things. That's what the elders had always said.

Now they were all dead. By her hand.

Rhonen wore a cheshire grin as her lieutenants stood before her in a circle, their firstborns all presented in front of them. For Rhonen, the day was glorious. It marked the dawn of a new era. For Elara, it was unsettling. Voices whispered in the back of Elara's head, questions that should have been posed long ago tickling at her thoughts, clawing at their cage. Rhonen had united the lands, true, but had left a trail of blood and sorrow so wide the land itself felt wounded. And Elara was her crown jewel, her most trusted. She was the soft whisper of wind behind the sword, promising death to those who dared oppose them. Unity would finally force the clans together, and they would prosper as one.

Well, most of the clans. Elara and Tain were now the last of theirs.

Rhonen had always talked of peace. Elara had always envisioned that peace as she brought war to those who refused to understand. It was an easy thing, to sacrifice others for the good of the whole. To cut a tumor out to save the host. But Elara's clan was not a tumor. This was one sacrifice she did not understand. She could stand against fifty men with an arm tied behind her back, but she could not answer the question the last asked her: "Why?" Her reply in her head as she slew him was simple, it was merely because he represented an obstacle on the road to peace. She had always felt the Path had guided her, but for the first time she wondered if instead she was being guided by it.

"Today," Rhonen started, "Marks a day of celebration. But also of sorrow...of somber loyalty."

Words were Rhonen's weapon. Elara found little comfort in deep thought, she would rather her mind be unburdened and at peace, leave the thinking to the scholars, and the dead to the gods. Such was the way of the world, eat or be eaten. But Rhonen had always made sense. She always spoke in a manner befitting a brilliant leader, one with a vision. That charisma and gravitas inspired Elara and the rest of Rhonen's lieutenants to the point that they had all elected to destroy their homes in a show of faith.

"This is the final test. All of you stand upon the door of greatness. But I must be sure of those who stand at my side, that they have cast off their shackles."

The whispers grew louder.

"I asked you all to bring the first of your blood to this, the last site of renewal. My own second has fulfilled her oath to me this day, but the final step is here, now. I tell you now that you cannot truly serve the greater good burdened by ties to this mortal plane."

Tain tensed in her hands. 

"I ask you now to trust in me, but moreover, trust in the vision I have shown you. Give unto the gods your firstbloods. Prove to them and to me that you cannot be swayed from your destiny, our destiny. Glory is in our grasp, we have but to close our hands."

The first cry came from somewhere on Elara's right. Her eyes darted to the source, a small girl whose father's twisted dagger now showed through the front of her chest, her life essence spilling onto the ground. It was withdrawn nearly as quickly, and the man dropped to his knees, hugging his daughter even as she died. Another sound, the wet snikt as a slender sword lashed out, separating a son's head from his body. Tain shook, but he was trained well; he did not run.

One by one, the children fell. With every death, the bars in her mind eroded, the grip on her son grew stronger. Finally, she was the only one left. She was always the last, it was her honor. But the moment came and passed, and she did not move.


It was no longer the voice of righteousness Elara heard.

"My second, why do you hesitate?"

Slowly, deliberately, Elara's hand dropped to the hilt of her sword. A moment passed. The air thickened as the rest looked to her, waiting. Slowly, she moved Tain behind her.

Elara drew steel, and fell into the Path. 

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"L-337-01, stand and present."

Elwun stepped forward, holding his hands in front of him with palms open and faced upwards. A fine mist sprayed over him from the nearby walls, purifying his skin from any contagions that might have lingered. It was standard procedure before meeting with the overseers, as their immune systems were genetically compromised generations ago. The mist stopped, and Elwun grabbed a towel from the nearby rack, drying himself and tying the cloth around his waist. His other clothes would wait at the entry until he left. The overseers left little to chance. No doubt the sensors in the hallway had scanned him by now, revealing nothing of interest. While some might seek to harm or even assassinate an overseer, especially the terrorists in the southern borders, Elwun wouldn't harm Cronus. Why would he?

The thick metal doors swung open, revealing the pallid old man dressed in simple white, his face adorned with makeups and the various fashions of the month. Overseers were wealthy, above the workers and the church, often owning large swaths of society. Some owned land, others the various burgeoning medical corporations that made their society possible, yet others like Cronus owned smaller holdings like governances and entertainment sources. They existed in a delicate dance outside what most would understand, but Elwun understood that it was often as deadly as his games.

"Elwun! My boy, come closer. Tell me, how goes the arena?"

Elwun walked closer, taking up a matching gait at the old man's side.

"It goes well, honored one. The last match was close, but I managed to deliver for the crowds."

"Indeed! You have done well for yourself."

Cronus chuckled a bit at this, and Elwun was nervous about how he should respond. He opted that silence was the best answer, as it often was, and he was not wrong. Finally the old man spoke up again as he led Elwun through the spacious residence.

"You must be wondering why I called you here today."

"...Forgive my impertinence, honored one, I do not pretend to assume your machinations, but if I were forced to guess I would say it has to do with Fordee Two."

Cronus snorted in irritation, but nodded. They reached a doorway, which Cronus opened with a keycard hidden within his robes to reveal an elevator. They stepped in, and Cronus continued as they descended below the living areas.

"You are correct. Ikol and his 4D series have posed a significant threat to the balance of the arena, and your successes. You will face him soon, yes?"


"I will not lie, Elwun, I fear your streak may run short."

A moment of silence. Cronus's lack of support dealt Elwun a gut blow he had not expected. The overseer spoke again, oblivious to Elwun's thoughts.

"Have you given thought to retirement?"

The elevator stopped. Its doors hissed open and the old man led them forward as Elwun pondered the question.

"I have given it some thought, yes. I do not particularly relish the idea."

Cronus led Elwun past several cylinders, each housing a sleeping man, all of them sharing his face. Different numbers marked the bottoms, denoting batch and serial numbers. On the outside, Elwun could join the working class, but he'd heard several times how gladiator clones were treated. They lacked the prestige the arena granted, just being another face in the crowd. Worse, even, as the public considered them a dime a dozen. Elwun was a hero in the arena, but outside...he was nothing. Their procession stopped in front of one of these tubes, the base marked L-337-02. Cronus's eyes seemed to sparkle as the overseer stared intensely at the vat, as one would stare at a beloved child. His response was oblivious to Elwun's intonations or feelings, the old man's thoughts far and away.

"You may not have a choice, my boy. Your successor will be ready after your next two matches. You should prepare your things for relocation."

Elwun had seen his own face many times in the mirror. A borrowed face, really, but he knew the one he saw to be his. To him, the other clones were distinctly separate entities. They may looked alike, but they all could tell each other apart.

The face in front of him did not share that quality. Elwun saw himself, and for the first time in his life, he hated that face. Deep inside, he was screaming. If he'd had is way, if the overseer were not here, he would smash the cylinder with something, anything. Pull out its wires. Punch his fist through the controls. It was not just the threat to his future, but the realization that this one would also be born into his shoes, as he was born into his predecessor's. There was no escape, only the arena. Briefly, as Cronus cackled nearby, Elwun considered visiting violence upon the old man. It would be easy.

But it would solve nothing. There would always be another Cronus, just as there would always be another of himself.

The rest of the visit was hollow. Elwun found himself at the entrance, putting his clothes on, and later, at his house. Other events were a blur. Elwun didn't know what to do. What he even could do.

So he packed. 

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A Series of Gears - Part 2

A loud crack echoed across the ravine, and the paranthur fell to the ground in several spasms that eventually slowed and stopped. Red watched the spectacle through the scope of his rifle, as his guide clapped him on the shoulder in congratulations. "Very good, mistah Dontah, not many get paranthah with first shot. You be proud!" The guide's accent grated a bit on Red's ears as he wasn't fond of the natives, but he ignored the feeling over the overwhelming sense of satisfaction from his kill. This beast was a veritable trophy animal, something he could actually brag about to his colleagues at the hospital. 

Red Donter stood up with a big smile on his face, stretching. Laying in that spot was excruciating, but it had paid off. This, surely, was the sport of men. It required patience and skill. The guide gestured, leading him forward as one of the guide's assistants pulled out a toolkit, ready to skin the feline predator. As they walked, he looked to the guide, shooting him an absentminded question. "Don't you people have another name for them? Slaash or something?"

"Srissh, sah. It mean ending. Fuh us, srissh ah the huntahs that complete the cycle, revered sehvants that bring us back to the allmothah." There was that damn accent again. Red kicked himself for asking the question. And honestly, he didn't really care. The fur of the large six-legged predator glistened in the sun, a beautiful array of greens and deep midnight hues, perfect camouflage for hunting in the jungle. Something the guide had said did click with the doctor, however, and he let out a soft chuckle, thinking to himself how he had now killed death itself. What a story that line would make.

"You want keep meat?" The assistant spoke with even more broken language than the guide did, but Red simply shook his head. "No, I just want the pelt. You people can take the meat."

The guide smiled wide, bowing shortly. "Much appreciated, mistah Dontah, but we cannot. It is illegal among Zwausi. Bad omen." 

Red frowned, relenting. "Fine. Package it up then, maybe I'll grill some for the guys back home." The assistant nodded, getting to work. God, it's hot here, Red thought to himself. This hunt had been exhausting. The thought of an air conditioned hotel room, even a low quality Zwausian one, began to preoccupy his thoughts. They had water back at the truck, but that was still a bit of a hike. No matter. Red was tough, and while the rifle bag was heavy, he would live.

Several minutes later, the assistant had finished dressing the paranthur, wrapping the pelt and the body in a tough tarp designed to be dragged. The guide an the assistant took up two ropes attached to the tarp, and the trio began their uneventful hike back. Uneventful except for an insect stinging Red's neck, but the guide assured him the pain would go away soon. Finally they reached the truck, and Red helped the men load the beast in the back before grabbing the water jug and drinking deeply. After he'd had his fill he handed it off to the other heavily perspiring men. He wasn't going to say it outright, of course, but he didn't want to drink after them and catch a disease. Zwaus wasn't exactly known for being a 'clean' country.

In no time at all, they were on their way back. Red rode in front, enjoying the sights, what few sights there were in the jungle. Every now and then there was a nice view through the trees. Not to say the trees themselves weren't impressive, but after a while they tended to blend together. As Red admired a particular mountain in the distance, he was yanked from his reverie by the truck slowing and the guide and his assistant rapidly conversing in Zhosai. Ahead in the road there was a large military truck blocking the way, with several guerrilla-looking militants readying their rifles as Red's ride began to slow to a stop.

"Please, mistah Dontah, do not say anythin. With luck, we will pass." The truck rolled to a stop, and the guide and the assistant held their hands up, gesturing for Red to do the same. One of the militants, likely the leader, approached, barking orders and demands in Zhosai. After a moment, the men seemed to reach an understanding. The militant leader pointed at Red, yelling something back to his men, who laughed loudly. Red didn't like that. The leader saw the scowl on his face and mockingly made an over-dramatized scowl back at him, laughing while he moved to the rear of the truck.

Another short spat of Zhosai, and the guide got out slowly to join the militant at the back of the truck. Another short conversation later, and the militant sauntered to the side of the truck Red now rode in, a big smile on his face. "So. I heah you ah some kind of big-shot. You kill a srissh? You a bad mudda, huh?" Red darted his eyes back to the assistant in the reflection of the rear view mirror, but the assistant only slowly and subtly shook his head. "Yeah," Red slowly replied, "Yeah, I killed one."

The militant leader yelled another burst of Zhosai at his men, who all readied their weapons. The leader turned back to Red, a much more sinister look to his smile. Almost...predatory. "You know that bad omen, yes?" Silence. "Good for you. Brave. Strong. Good for us too." The guerrillas began walking forward, readying their weapons. The last thing Red saw was the buttstock of the militant's rifle impacting squarely between his eyes.

Healthy organs always went for a good price on the Zwausi black market.

Immediately reachable by  charlesjhall@gmail.com


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Written in response to "You Should Be Here" by Cole Swindell, a song submission by MSA.

Southern Spirit

Rich took a sip from his glass before returning it back to rest on the bar counter. The whiskey burned, but he still mulled it over in his mouth for several seconds before swallowing, enjoying the flavors, relishing the sting on his tongue. It was busy tonight, various patrons bustling around behind him, keeping Jerry more than occupied behind the bar. Every now and then Jerry would silently refill the glass in front of Rich, and shoo off the occasional newcomer who tried to take the seat next to Rich. It was a ritual. It was his ritual. Jerry never questioned that, and it was why Rich kept coming back.

"I saw Eveline today." Rich said, under his breath. "She came into the shop, needed her tires changed. You should have seen her. Hair like the grain fields, flowing and golden." He smiled, chuckled lowly and took another sip of whiskey. "Maybe one day I'll tell her. You always wanted me to."

"Hey, is this spot taken?" Some punk from the city, a college-age buffoon dressed in gaudy colors with a chain that said 'I'm poor but I want to look like I'm not.' Jerry glared, he left. Nobody questioned Jerry. He was bigger than his own bouncers and knew how to intimidate, but the truth was he was just a big teddy bear. It was something Rich had found out on his first visit to Southern Spirit, and it was the reason why he kept coming back. Every Friday after work, Rich would walk a few blocks from the auto shop and sit down at the same spot. Jerry eventually knew to keep the seats open for him. Rich thought it was because he got blackout drunk one time and had spilled his guts to Jerry, but he couldn't quite remember. 

Remembering hurt, anyways. Another sip.

It had been years now, and Rich had seen all kinds of things in the bar. Birthdays, holidays, celebrations of all kinds. Every now and then, there was someone else at the other end of the bar he saw a little bit of himself in, and he always asked Jerry to pour them an extra of whatever they were having, and put it on his tab without telling them who. David would have liked that. It always made Rich smile a bit seeing the person perk up a bit when Jerry told them the drink was 'on the house.' 

Liquor was something integral to their small town. No matter who you were, a farmer, a cook, a janitor, the mayor...you were equal in the Southern Spirit. It was something Rich appreciated about it. People could share stories over a beer just as easily as they could comfort each other. Some fancy writer might call it something like a 'social lubricant,' and they wouldn't really be wrong, but Rich liked to think of it more like a 'social glue.' And Jerry was always the professional, always ready to pour the perfect drink or lend a sympathetic ear. The man could have been a counselor in another life, but here they were out in the country. This is the life they knew, and this is how it was. That's all there really was to it, it simply didn't need anything more.

Rich looked up, catching Jerry refilling his cup and adding a few ice cubes to the mix to ensure it was still good and cold. Rich smiled, grabbing the glass and touching it with a soft clink to the one sitting at the spot next to him, and took another sip. Six years. It was six years today. Nobody knew, nobody cared to know. When you're gone, the world erases your name. You are carried on in the memories of those who knew you, and if you're lucky enough you might get your name written in some kind of history book, but even those warp and fade over time. David was no different.

David was more than a brother to Rich, he was his best friend. They did everything together, from helping out on the farm until their parents passed to becoming mechanics and even pining after the same girls. It was like Bo and Luke from The Dukes of Hazzard, absolutely inseparable. But then one day, Rich found out his brother had been diagnosed with cancer. Rich took a sip. He didn't want to remember. The long months of painfully waiting, watching the agony on David's face before he passed. The funeral was beautiful, what funeral wasn't? It was all a farce, gussied up and made beautiful to make people feel better about themselves.

Evelyn had been there, too. She was with Ted at the time, but that didn't last long. The first time she walked into town with a black eye Ted had practically been lynched. If he still was around, he hadn't shown his face in a long time. A few months later, Rich finally was able to bring himself to go through David's things. He'd kept a journal Rich never knew about before, and he wrote on just about everything. A lot of it had to do with Rich, but there were remarks in there about Evelyn and even Theresa, a waitress at Pop's Burger Shack.

"I'm sorry, is this seat taken?" The soft voice was one Rich knew well, and it snapped him out of his reverie. Evelyn stood there next to him completely innocent of what her question meant. The only reason she asked to begin with was because the rest of the bar was already full. Jerry stood nearby, tensely waiting on some visual clue from Rich on how to proceed. After a long moment, he pulled out the bar stool.

"No. You're more than welcome."

For a moment, the silence was deafening to Rich. But then, as he thought of David, he gained the strength to speak, grabbing the second glass that had occupied the spot.

"You don't happen to like whiskey, do you?"

"You know it's funny you ask, I actually do."

For the rest of the night, Rich simply let the social glue do its work.

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Six in the morning, Gerald woke up, just like every morning. The routine was the same for him as it was for all, sweep up, hygiene, then a morning meal at promptly seven. Boiled ash potatoes were tradition, though some ate them slightly under boiled. This morning, though, Gerald was the one to find his grandfather, who hadn't woken with the rest of the family. Or rather, he found his grandfather's remains. Mora, Gerald's mother, had worriedly found him standing and staring at the body-shaped pile of ash on the bed. She sighed, putting a hand on his shoulder, but not too hard.

"It's okay, son. We knew his time was coming. Sweep him up and come down for the morning meal."

She meant well, but Gerald knew she'd taken it rather hard as well. Still, he needed to attend to the task at hand, or he would be Late, and there would be trouble. Gingerly, he took hold of the grey sheets under the ashes, gently dumping them into a pile on the floor for him to easily sweep into the collection bin. They would need to inform the housing committee of the vacancy. 

Finishing his sweeping and hygiene, Gerald made his way to the kitchen, sitting down with the rest of the family at their dining table. It was at a perfect height of 76 centimeters, level and sturdy. The Orion Smithing Guild always produced quality work. They had to, anyways, it was the law. But Gerald always felt their table was better than some of the others he'd seen, and though he would never admit it, he was proud of the fact. Taking a potato from the tray, he struck up a light conversation with his sister, which was allowed under the housing bylaws.

"Grandpa became ashen last night," he said. There was a moment of quiet, the briefest of hesitations, before his sister, Sharon, responded. "Well, we knew his time was coming. The housing committee will need to be notified," she said, before putting a bit of the potato in her mouth. "Yes," he said, "I thought the same thing."

"Why don't we watch the morning broadcast?" asked Mora. Gerald and Sharon nodded, after all, it was tradition. Mora retrieved the remote and turned on the kitchen viewscreen. There was no need to adjust the channel or volume, as there was only one channel. They only needed one channel. It was a quarter past seven, and the morning broadcast began as it always did, the grey face of the newscaster materializing into view. His name was unimportant, he was selected by a committee because he matched the average look of everyone else in Orion.

"It is morning, Orion, and this is your news. All is well. All is normal. In today's obituaries we remember the following names," names began scrolling up the side of the screen, slowly dissolving by the time they reached the top. "We accept their ashes unto ourselves, that they may sustain us until we are one again. Notable contributions include Maribel One-Three-Seven-Seven, who was found staring at the wildlife yesterday, and Manus Five-Eight-Four, who was discovered attempting to write poetry. Unfortunately, it was discovered after Manus's contribution that he was writing a list of research materials he needed from the Orion Company Archives for his job, but this was later determined to be a waste of paper. And now, the weather."

Gerald tuned out the weather, it was the same as every day. Overcast with no chance of rain. This was due to the Orion Environmental Control facilities where Gerald worked, ensuring the perfect environment to sustain their society. Gerald asked once when he was a child why they kept saying the weather every day, but his mother slapped him and told him it was "tradition." They never spoke of that day again. Once, Gerald even thought he saw a sunbeam when repairing an OEC facility, something he'd read about when he was in schooling, but he knew better and averted his gaze. It was better this way, anyways. If the weather was predictable, it was easier to keep to the Plan.

At eight o'clock, Gerald left for work. It was quiet work most of the time, he had only had to change partners twice since he'd started last year, and his reviews from his oversight committee always came back normal. Monty Four-Five-One was his current partner, the rest contributing to the ash at various points. His job, he had found, had a high incidence of this, though Gerald relished the chance to become one with the rest.

As he arrived at his workplace, a small building off of Orion Company Road Four-Two, he gingerly swept out his vehicle with a small hand brush. He had ashed significantly this morning for some reason, his grey skin flaking away to unceremoniously dust the grey interior of his grey car. It happened sometimes, though none of Orion's residents quite knew why. They used to blame it on the weather, but that was many years ago before the OEC facilities were installed. Now, it was just a thing that happened, no more, no less. 

"Monty?" Gerald called out as he entered the small building, little more than an office space for two as well as a tool and uniform repository. Monty had been granted special dispensation from the housing committee to live here, and was responsible for tending to any OEC facility problems over the course of the night, one of a very small group that held the privilege. But this morning, there was no reply. Strange. Monty was never Late.

It wasn't long before Gerald found Monty, or what used to be him. The pile of ashes was thick on the chair and desk Monty chose as his own. On the desk between what were once Monty's arms was a simple drawing, crudely etched in the pencils provided on Orion Form Four-One-Five-Seven, Request for Plan Deviation, which was known among those who had contributed to the ash as the form with the largest area to make such a drawing. It was a crescent shape in a dark circle, a symbol Gerald did not recognize. It didn't matter, unauthorized uses of official Orion Forms constituted waste, which would mean trouble. 

Gerald walked to the phone, ringing a representative from his oversight committee and reporting the incident. He would have another partner by the end of the day. As instructed, he swept the ashes into the collection bin, and incinerated the form. It would all go to the ash fields by the end of the week, which was where the ash potatoes were grown. Eventually, they would all succumb as one to the ash, combining their essence in transcendence, but this would only come after they had left behind deviance. Still, one way or another, Gerald knew all would be reunited among the Ashen. All according to the Plan. 

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The Sunshine Cowboy and the Sweetpea Princess

A long time ago, before the records of men, there was a kingdom ruled over by a ruthless king. King Balachor had once been benevolent and good, but his queen had died giving birth to their only child, a beautiful daughter. The death of his queen took a heavy toll on Balachor, and though his daughter the princess was beautiful and pure, his heart hardened to the world, and became cold as ice. Out of fear that one day someone would come and take his princess away from him, Balachor had the princess locked away in his castle, giving her only enough freedoms as he thought were safe.

The princess grew up afar from the subjects of the land, only seen briefly through the castle windows, or from far below as she stood on high balconies. Despite this, rumors circulated that her beauty was legendary, and those who were lucky enough to catch these sights named her Princess Sweetpea, for those brief glimpses of her beauty were far sweeter than any food the subjects had ever tasted. Many suitors came from across the realm, lords and knights alike, to beg the king for the hand of the princess in marriage. But all of them were refused, and exiled from Balachor's kingdom. If any were to set foot in the lands Balachor controlled ever again, they would be beheaded. In this way, Balachor struck fear into the hearts of those who might take his Sweetpea from him.

One day, a farmer from a neighboring kingdom visited Balachor's castle, looking for someone to buy his cows. He was a young and rugged man, used to having to work for his daily meal. His hair was a brilliant golden blond, and when he took off his hat on a clear day it lit up in the sunlight, as if he wore the sun itself on top his head. It was a warm day in the summer, and as he rode up to the gates, he noticed a fair figure looking down at him from a balcony far above him. The farmer was immediately enamored, and knew he must remember to ask the king about her. 

Finally, he was granted an audience with Balachor, and the farmer entered the throne room full of humility and respect, bowing and kneeling. "Your majesty," he began, "I am a simple cowboy from the next kingdom over, and I seek to sell my animals. But before we talk about this, may I ask about the fair maiden I saw high up in the castle while arriving here?" At these words, Balachor became incensed with anger. He gripped the throne tightly, and ground his teeth. Who was this boy to ask about his beloved princess when so many others above him had been rebuffed and refused? In his rage, Balachor began to have dark, twisted thoughts. A new example needed to be set, the fear of death no longer seemed to prevent these undesirable people from asking about his daughter.

With a sneer, Balachor responded to the young cowboy. "She is my daughter, the princess. Have you come to seek her hand in marriage as well?" Sinister and evil intent dripped from his lips with these words, but the sunshine cowboy, taken aback at the sudden question, spoke without hearing it. "I did not come seeking your daughter, your majesty, but I would be honored to be given the chance. In all my life I have never seen something or someone so beautiful and pure. I think I might die just to gaze upon her beauty again."

"Indeed," snarled the king, springing his plan into action. "Since you wish her so, you must complete many trials to earn the chance at her hand. She is dear to me, and I would not have just any man take her from me. Should you succeed, she will be yours, and you will have my blessing in marriage." But Balachor had no intention of letting that happen. This sunshine cowboy would surely perish in the trials Balachor designed, and his mangled body would be hung outside the castle walls as a warning to anyone else who dared follow in his naive footsteps.

"Your first trial is one of hunger. You will be locked up for thirty days and thirty nights, without food. If you survive, you may continue to seek my daughter." The sunshine cowboy's heart sunk at this news, and before he had the chance to protest, Balachor snapped his fingers, summoning guards to take him to the dungeons. The cowboy had been through famines before, sometimes going a week without food. But a whole month? He had never heard of anyone surviving that long.

The days passed as the cowboy sat in his cell, and hunger slowly ate away at him. At first it was not that bad, but it quickly became painful. He began to chew on the straw they had given him to sleep on, though it was dirty and tasted awful. Twice he managed to catch bugs, quickly swallowing them with what little strength he had left. But through it all, he thought only of the princess, and miraculously managed to live through his ordeal. Thirty days and thirty nights later the guards came for him, walking his weak and skinny figure to the throne room to kneel once more before the king. Balachor had expected him to starve, and was all the angrier he hadn't.

"So," the king said, eyeing the cowboy closely, "You lived. Do you still seek the hand of my daughter in marriage?" At her mention, the memory of her beauty came back to the sunshine cowboy, and he nodded, hoping that was all he needed to earn a chance at seeking her love. Surely the feat he had undergone was enough to prove his dedication? "Yes, your majesty," the cowboy weakly replied. But at this, the king stamped his foot in anger. "Very well! Then you must spend a day in the furnaces below the castle. If you have the fortitude to not burn to a crisp, you may seek my daughter's hand in marriage." Surely he would not survive, thought Balachor, who relished the thought of seeing his charred bones displayed as a warning to other suitors.

With a snap from the king, the guards carried the cowboy down into the dark passages deep below the castle. The furnaces provided heat to the castle and was also where the blacksmiths worked, heating up metals until they glowed and flowed like liquid. The main furnace was large, its fire chamber large enough to fit twenty men, but not with an enormous fire inside it. Before the cowboy even saw the light down the hallway, he felt the immense heat, made worse from his hunger.

The guards left the sunshine cowboy with the master blacksmith, instructing them what was to be done with the farmer boy. After they left, though, the blacksmith sat him down, letting him eat some of his lunch for that day. "I'm sorry, lad," spoke the blacksmith, "I don't want to do this to you, but if I don't, the king will have us killed. Worse yet, he has demanded thirty new swords be made before tomorrow, which means we must stoke the fires hot until we are done." At this news, the cowboy's heart sank further than he thought was possible. All seemed hopeless. "Do you think I can survive?" asked the cowboy. "There is a chance," replied the smith, "I will show you where to sit. It will be the coolest part of the furnace, but even then it will be murderously hot. Protect yourself as best you can, and you may yet survive."

The cowboy thanked the smith, who guided him over to the large furnace, opening the doors and pointing at the spot the cowboy needed to sit in. Immediately the cowboy began to sweat at the sweltering heat, but faithfully he walked into the furnace and sat down in a far corner the smith had pointed to, covering his face and mouth as best he could. After a few moments, even his sweat seemed to dry, evaporating faster than it came. The smoke was thick, but he was near a vent-hole, which gave him some clean air to breathe. And then, the smiths began the bellows, blasting the fires hotter than the cowboy thought possible. His hair and his clothing smoldered away quickly, leaving the rest of him exposed as he huddled near his vent.

Pain wracked the cowboy for hours. He could feel his skin charring, slowly peeling away, leaving the skin under that to char and peel away in turn. The sunshine cowboy truly thought that because of all this, he now knew what hell was like. It was worse than any torture he could have ever imagined, but he knew that if he survived he would be able to meet the princess, and with luck make her his own. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, the fires died down. The furnace door was opened, the flames dampened, and two of the blacksmiths came to fetch his burnt figure from the floor.

They provided him a set of their clothes and applied a salve to most of his wounds, which would help him heal. A message was sent to the king, who was furious that the cowboy had not burned to death. Balachor could not fathom a punishment more severe, but he did conceive one final devious plan he was sure the cowboy would fall for. The cowboy was allowed a few days to rest and recover while a call was put out throughout the land for all fair maidens of a certain age to come to the castle. 

A few days later, the cowboy, bandaged and weak, was summoned to the throne room. In it were maidens of all sorts, each lovingly made to look as beautiful as the next, each holding a goblet of wine. "Ha!" the king cried out from his throne. "You have proven yourself champion of hunger and pain, but now comes the final test. Drink from the goblet my daughter holds, and you shall have her. But be warned, the rest are poison! Choose now, farmer, and greet your fate." 

For certain, all of the maidens were lovely to look at, rosy in the cheek and full in the chest. The sunshine cowboy, bewildered by this final test, slowly walked up and down the lines, carefully studying each of the young women, but while all looked similar to the woman he had seen from the balcony, he couldn't be certain that any one of them was the princess. After all, he had seen her once over a month ago, and had gone through hell and back just to get one more glimpse. Sighing, his shoulders sank, and he turned back to the king.

"I'm sorry, sire, I cannot tell if any of them are the princess. To be honest, none of them look quite like what I remember." At this, King Balachor grinned with glee. "But you must drink, young man," the king replied, "Either choose, or I will choose for you." At this, there was a commotion at the back of the room, and another maiden stepped forward from a side door, her radiant beauty eclipsing the others present.

"Enough, father!" the real princess stormed forward, furious. "I have heard what you've done to this poor man. How can you be such a wicked creature? Do you truly have such hate in your heart that you would drive this man to his death just to see me lonely?" At this, the king was dumbstruck. The cowboy was speechless, tears welling up in his eyes as the memory returned to him clear as day, this indeed was the princess standing before him. She approached him, softly caressing his face. "I am truly sorry for what my father has done. This was all a trick, and you, a poor victim."

The cowboy's throat was dry as he tried to respond, and his words rasped as he spoke. "Your highness, all I wanted was a chance to see you again. I think any other man in my situation would have done the same." The king, finding his words again, snorted at the cowboy. "You petulant peasant! You wanted to steal her from me, like all the others. And now, you have sealed your fate!" He snapped, and the guards at the edges of the room moved in, weapons drawn. But the princess stood in front of him, defiantly. "Listen to yourself, father! This man risked everything to only catch sight of me, and you would selfishly lock me away for your own good. You truly think he came to steal me away? I would rather die alongside someone of honor than suffer one more day imprisoned by a fool!"

The guards hesitated, and the king gestured for them to halt. He thought about it for a long moment. The princess was all Balachor had left of the queen, she was the light in his dark. But through her, the queen lived on, and for too long he had lost sight of that. At that moment his heart began to soften, and he realized the errors of his ways. With a short command, the guards were called off. "I...am sorry, my dear. And to you as well, farmer. From now on, the princess may go as she pleases, and may marry whoever makes her happy." At that there was a great commotion among the assembled maidens, cries of joy and happiness.

The princess turned to the cowboy, putting a kiss on his cheek. "I'm sorry to say, but...I don't know you. Your deeds are impressive and you will be well taken care of, but I cannot say my heart is yours. Still, thank you for what you've done. Maybe...in time?" The cowboy smiled, and bowed as best he could against the strain of the bandages. "In time, your highness."

After that, the kingdom renounced all its former exiles, and there was a grand feast every year celebrating both the princess gaining her freedom, and remembering the late queen. In time, the sweetpea princess grew more and more fond of the sunshine cowboy, and they all lived happily ever after.

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  • 1 month later...

The Phoenix Named Academia

In a class today we discussed the current college scandal surrounding the ACT and several prominent actors bribing their kids through programs to get college degrees and how all of that relates to brand and authorhood vis-a-vis Derrida. It's okay, take a breath, I ran out of air writing that as I'm sure you all ran out reading it. One of the main thoughts I had for that discussion that I didn't really bring up was how it is a large indicator of a coming implosion of the collegiate system. As I relate things best when I frame them from my personal narrative, I'll start there.

Firstly, I don't value my degree. I see college as mostly a scam, evidenced by tuition rates inflating far above the actual currency inflation rate. I could go into depth on what the economical implications are from all this, but we can skip that if you accept a simple premise: colleges are greedy and fleece their students for all they're worth, whether that be through federally backed student loans or hundreds of absurd fees inside and outside of tuition costs that all go to services you might not even see in your tenure at the University. I had to sit through so many classes that taught me next to nothing or were simply a reading list I wouldn't have otherwise bothered with with a bunch of empty discussions (not this class) or were designed for first year college students and catered poorly to nontraditional students like myself. On top of this the students get to deal with curriculum pushed on the University by lobbyists pushing sub-par material that look great on paper but sometimes function inadequately in the classroom. All of this costs me time and money, teaches me little of value, and serves to delay my ability to make money in the long run.

So, I don't value my degree. What I do value is the majority of potential employers who do value that degree for one reason or another, and are willing to pay me [more] as a result. That gives the degree value whether or not its actual tangible value is heavily watered down or not. It is thus worth examining why they value that degree. Many arguments can be made here as to why. It could be more a residual sociological function in that it once held great value so there is an assumption that even watered down it still holds significant value. It could be that many employers cling to the conception that college is still like when they attended: relatively cheaper and far more valuable. It could also be more of a pyramid scheme psychological effect, that because the last generation had to go through college, to keep their own degree valuable employers need to screen for one to thus maintain their own value. Whatever the reasoning (and there are many), the phenomenon persists, and because there is no regulation on rising tuition costs colleges are free to continue exploiting the system.

Here's where we get to legitimation and authorhood. What happens when degrees become so watered down that anyone can get one if they have the money (or are willing to take on the debt) to get one, regardless of if they learn something or not? What does that say about academia at large if they are willing to allow this erosion of their own institutions? Of course the counterargument here is that these people were caught and will be punished, but will it really come off as punishment for those who have the power and wealth to shrug it off? As I pointed out in class as well, cases like these are also the very tip of the iceberg. Guaranteed there are thousands if not tens of thousands of "students" pouring through colleges every year, getting "paper degrees," that is, degrees that only hold value in the paper they are printed on. These degrees serve no other purpose than to secure a cushy job in some business the family has pull in, and the dynasty cycle continues.

Eventually, this erosion will cause the system to collapse in on itself, and the institution of college as we know it will cease to be. It will either undergo vast reformation over a long period of years (more likely), or given a sifficient catalyzing event will collapse completely as the public loses trust in Universities and the degrees they offer. They will have delegitimized themselves, and their brand, their authorhood will become worthless. The real question then becomes how will we quantify knowledge and academic achievement? Who will measure what it means to be smart or an expert? I don't expect an answer to those questions, but if one pays attention to them and gets a proper feel for which way the wind shifts when it happens, they will likely stand to make a great deal of money. If there is so much money to be made from students, which is literally the money gateway helping to legitimize degrees, then guaranteed money will be involved in the new legitimation schema, whatever that schema winds up being.

Immediately reachable by  charlesjhall@gmail.com


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