A stranger I used to know

Its funny...
The day I saw you on the street, that day I think I remember having had a dream about you.
I dont recall what it was about or why you were in it, but I guess it was somewhat of a warning.

You had not changed at all, still all the same, nothing would change you.

I on the other hand was completely different, I had changed, for better or worse. Maybe that why you did not recognize me, you were, I guess, expecting me to be the exact same as back then, but I had moved on, I had done things, I had shaped my life in the way I wanted it to.

We crossed as any other two strangers cross on the street of a crowded city, but I knew that we were not just any other couple of strangers that pass each other on the daily.

We had known each other, shared memories, good ones, bad ones, but they were ours. They had no meaning now, though.

You passed me, did not even spare a second glance. And I made no effort to correct your mistake, what good would that have brought? It was over for a reason, and nothing would change that.

Before I realized it you were behind me, just like we were, in my past, and I would not dare to look back to get something positive out of it. It was my past and I vowed to leave you and everything else there.

Part of me would have wanted to grab a drink, ask about how you were doing, the better part of me kept me from it.

The duality of what we had been, what we could have been, and what we were still haunts me to this day, to this moment


The Solution

"But at the end of the day, there is not that much crime to be accounted for, people are unlikely to commit crimes"

'And how exactly does one run such a vast complex without much crime, it is a lot of people confined to a relatively small area'

"It was the 4s idea, one of the very first actually"



'Quite, to be frank'

"You see, the development of technology did not only bring with it the advancement of soul surgery, as we like to call it. We were also able to develop simulations so real, that the subjects were in no way able to discern between reality and fiction"

'I am acquainted with the advancements made by the enclave'

"No doubt you are. Anyway, the 4 decided to conduct a little experiment. They based the eventual positive results of their method on the premise that, once the soul has saciated its innermost, darkest desires, the mind is at ease and the individual can carry on with their normal life"

'Enabling their fantasies? That hardly sounds feasible, legal or moral'

"It is if their actions have no repercusion on the real world"

'Simulation of the crime?'

"Precisely. We would abduct the individuals that presented certain patterns of behabior associated with crime proneness and introduce them to a simulation tailored to their personalities in such a way that they would be enabled to act on their impulses without realising that what they were doing was part of a simulation"

'I have to admit that I am quite skeptical of the notion, yet it does seem to bear most satisfactory fruit'

"It is a costly and meticulous process, but I can assure you that it is worth every second and credit spent on it"

'There is one question that comes to mind though: Do you tell the subjects that their actions have had no repercusion in the real world?'

"We tend not to... that way they live in fear of getting caught and judged. They make model citizens after the crime has been commited"




I am the strenght needed to make the decisions that must be made.

I am the force that fights against the injustices in the world.

I am the fortitude against the odds, against the enemies, against ignorance.

I am the resolve necessary to take challenges head on and never waver.

I am the bravery in the moment of truth, the courage that fills you when you need it most, the valor required to take the step to a brighter tomorrow.

I am Fortitudo, one of the four heads of the Enclave.

I enforce the laws dictated by Iustitia, defy Temperantia while heeding the warnings of Prudentia.

I command the police force, the military

I praise those that, through me, achieve their dreams and desires, change the world for the best, fight for what is right. In moments of need, praise my name, summon me to your battlefield, no matter the time, no matter the place, let me aid you in your effort.

No battle shall be resolved without me by your side, no justice can be achieved without me.

For I am Fortitudo, bearer of truth.


Coming Clean

To whom it may concern,

I have done terrible deeds, betrayed, killed, stolen...

Betrayed my loved ones.

Killed my dreams.

Stolen someones heart.

But here I stand before you, with the firm belief that sin can go unpunished as long as there is a will to change and the determination to do it.

With the promise that I wish to make amends and to change my ways, prove useful to the world, prove useful to myself.

With the hope that one day not only justice, but also my loved ones will turn the other cheek and forgive my past mistakes, look forward to my bright future.

With the wish that there is no fate for any one of us, that we can shape both our and others´ future with the blood in our body and the sweat on our brow, the blisters on our hands.

With the plea that my past does not have to determine my future or the judgement thereof, that there is hope even for the hopeless, absolution for the sinner, a heaven for the unbeliever.

To whoever reads this I ask, do not judge me by the actions I took in the past, lest it is in its proper context and with a clear and sound mind free of bias and judgement. Things I did I am not proud of, but I would do again if the situation demanded it.

/ --- /

Four heads nod in agreement after reading the letter.

Judgement has been passed.



"Remember the day we got here?"

*Hard to forget...*

"We made it though, our strugles were worth it"

*Meh, we shall see about that, too much ahead of us, too many amends to make*

"True... True..."

*I had never seen such an intense rain. We were cold, starving, drenched, alone...*

"And yet we found kindness in those around us nevertheless, kindness we did not spare towards our friends..."

*What do you think has become of them?*

"I hope they are alright... The banshees... I dont know, I just hope they are fine, or at least alive. I want to share with them the grief my treachery caused both me and them. I could only hope for their forgiveness, though I certainly can not and will not expect it."

*I think they will forgive us*

"What makes you so sure?"

*She knows us, she has experienced other hardships with us, she knows we did not mean it*

"Not meaning it is not enough, we endagered them needlessly..."

*We have to get stronger*

"But how?"

*That I do not know yet, but I know we will find out together*

"That is certain"

We looked at the crowded street that lay beyond the end of the alley we had been living in for the past week.
We had a long way to go, but at least we had been able to finish this chapter of our lives almost unscathed.

With renewed vigor, hope and determination, we made our way into the new world that lay beyond our alley.


The golden oxen

We made away with the ever vigilant eye when we destituted the golden oxen.

We did not desire to be watched, to be controlled, to be judged at all times.

We wished for freedom, for the abolishment of the chains, for the fall of the giants, for the dawn of the era of man.

Instead we witnessed our efforts fade like sain slides between a childs fingers, evading their grasp.

Religions rose, controlling, contriving, cunning convoluted and chaotic contrivances.

Empires fell, dull, disastrous, despotic leaders torn down from their thrones.

Technologies evolved, teaching, telling, sharing, spelling the words for the future to come.

Ideas took over, better, worse, worst, best, some best kept under lock and key, some best shared with the world.

But in the end, even though we thought the golden oxen to be erradicated from the world, they had been biding their time, from the shadows, from the depths, like a titan waiting for the time of man to come to an end.

And they rose, magnificent, apparently magnanimous, promising freedom we already had, stability we had already achieved, security we had already made for ourselves. They coated, concealed, inscrutably and indeterminately hid it from us, told us it was for the best. It was in our interest. Meanwhile they moved with their maquinations, making the world a maquiavelian nightmare.

And we sat and watched.


Better suited purpose

"Oh, goodness, no, we do not employ the death penalty anymore."

"Then how exactly do you keep your criminals in check? I know that you sell the image of being a crimeless enclave, a safe haven of sorts, but you and I both know that just PR, you can not control everyone at anytime and things are bound to get dirty sometimes"

"Sharp as ever. Yes, we do have a contingency plan for those... unpleasant events. But, as you know, we do not have a prison either. Guess what our secret is"

"I could imagine you booting them out of the enclave. You do not have to worry about them anymore and the creatures outside these walls take care of the rest. It would be quite clever and quite truthfull"

"We did consider that solution in the first phases of the enclave, but in the end we opted for a... better solution. Optimal you could say"

"Please, iluminate me"

"They serve the enclave as its army"

"You surely must be jesting. How would you ever get them to agree to that, even less put their lives on the line for an ideal they have forsaken. How would that even work?"

"Quite easily my dear. The desire to live is both a powerful drive and quite an accesible one."


"Better. We convince them that, if they were to succeed in their tasks, they would get a clean slate. Complete erasure of their criminal record. A new beginning, free of the burden of their Sins"

"Is that even feasable?"

"Obviously not. Any citizen that has concerned themself with the enclave rules knows that their stay here is a priviledge, not a right, and that they are playing a delicate one strike game."

"So you lie to the convicts and play with their feelings in order to have access to the most loyal army this part of the world has?"

"Quite so, quite so..."

"It is as evil as it is brilliant"

"I can not take all the credit for it, we had the help of many external consultants that helped us draft the actual procedure and modus operandi."

"Still, enviable to say the least."

"Oh, and do not think of it as us taking advantage of their situation. Think of it as us giving them a purpose more suited to their skillset and condition."


At the End there is a Ribbon

In the time I had spent in the forest, how much I could in no way quantify, I had noticed funny things that were happening all around me.

Starting with the bizarre abundance of edible seeds and plants growing on the seemingly infertile soil. I had not experienced a single day of food shortage ever since I had left the rest of the group.

That was the least strange happening though.

After a few weeks of wandering in the woods, I started to notice that, sometimes, at the brink of dusk, I could see a red thread floating in the air, wriggling, worming its way between the trees, with no discernible beginning or end. I had thought many times of following the thread, but after consulting it with the Daemon, he had dissuaded me from taking that course of action. Our priority was to reunite with the rest of the group.

As time went on, the red thread started sporadically appearing throughout the day, wriggling in front of  me for a few seconds and then, as if to taunt me, rising into the threetops and dissapearing, escaping my reach.

Now it had even begun to appear in my dreams, which was a clear sign to me that we had to follow it.

"Im telling you, it is now even appearing in my dreams, there has to be a connection between it and the rest of the oddities happening in this forest"

*This much time alone in the woods has certainly taken its toll on your sanity... There is no thread and you are delusional*

"Fine, want to argue, then lets argue. How do you explain the abundance of edible seeds and plants?"

*You are not the only inhabitant of the forest, animals benefit from the same seeds you do*

"What animals? Have you seen just one mouse in the past weeks? I certainly have not"

*Taking into account that you are seeing the nonexistent I would not dismiss the idea of you going partially blind..."

"What animals have you encountered?"

*None, I grant you that point, which still does not in any way prove that there is a living thread trying to direct you somewhere*

"What do we have to lose? We have been aimlessly wandering the forest for way too long, we may as well try something new."

*I have been trying to guide us the best I can*

"I know and I appreciate it, but it has yielded no results as of now"


"We have absolutely nothing to lose by following the thread."


That night we silently sat around the campfire, inmersed in our thoughts and fears regarding the next day and the implications following the red thread might have. Unknown origin, unknown destination, not so different to the way of live we had experienced, yet at the same time a whole new challenge and range of opportunity for us.

Little was said that night, little was needed to be said. We knew each other well enough to make that silence a confortable one.


On how I started watching horror movies

I had never been much of a fan of horror stories. I remember not being able to sleep for a week after my cousins made me watch a Japanese horror film on a hallows eve. I never went to see any movie of the genre or read any book, heck, an adaptation of a book series that aired on tv when I was a child scared me to death with its intro in which a dog with glowing eyes scarily looked into the camera.It came as a surprise when I suddenly felt the urge to actually watch something of the genre, though I have to admit that, in retrospect, it could have been foreseen due to my love of the thriller, especially the psychological one. You see, I had an unrequited love with psychology: loved to study it, could never imagine myself working for it. But I digress.

I slowly crawled into the world of horror movies, foreseeing jumpscares, imagining how the plot would evolve, liking or disliking the villains of monsters. The usual.

I don't know and will never know whether my recent moving might have to do with what happened, but I wager it is most likely. I had no friends, no family there and my colleagues were distant to put it nicely. I was the perfect target...

I was not the first victim though, weeks before it happened there had been strange occurrences in the neighborhood, though they had scarcely been covered by the news, not like I really read them, though. Breaking in, robbing, mild aggressions and attacks. Never anything really serious like a murder, but it was disturbing nevertheless considering how quiet and peaceful this part of town used to be.

Nobody noticed the pattern involved in the crimes. Not even after what happened to me.

It happened on a regular Saturday night, I had made dinner, watched a movie and was getting ready to go to bed since I had to get up early on the next day.

A light tap on the window...

I swiftly turned my head, my eyes darting from side to side looking for the source of the tapping. I slid the curtains to the side and took a look at the balcony, but it was empty. I could have sworn it sounded like tapping on glass. I figured I was tired and starting to imagine things, not too strange considering the movie I had just seen and went to bed.

A slight tapping on the window followed by a tapping on the door.

This time I shook off the uncertainty of my judgment and quickly checked the balcony, which was obviously empty, and then proceeded to check the entrance. I lacked the courage to open the door and face whatever might be hiding behind it, so I just pressed my ear against it and tried perceiving what was happening on the other side.


A tap on the window, another and another.

And then I heard it: a whisper from behind the door accompanied by slow arrhythmical breathing.

I jolted from the door and made sure it was locked.

Unsure on where to go, I made the fatal mistake of locking myself in the bathroom.

In the dark, I could do nothing but listen to the slight tapping on the bathroom door. How they had broken in was a riddle to me, but there were more important matters at hand concerning my integrity.

The tapping stopped only to be replaced by scratching of the door and forcing of the handle.

I knew I would go insane if this were to continue for too long.



Forcing the handle


Forcing the handle


And then it stopped.

I stood up and got closer to the door.

I could hear nothing coming from the other side.

I decided to keep the door locked for a while, just in case.

I turned on the light and went to the sink to wash my face.

As I looked up I was greeted by my reflection in the mirror.

I was covered in blood, a sly grin painted on my face and the eyes of a madman piercing my soul.

The hunt had begun.



This was how it was supposed to be.
My fate, if you will. Though I did quicken it.

They is gone into the world now, a world which does not understand them but also does not recognize them.

It had been too long since a human had set foot in the kingdom, and when they did, they were quickly taken care of.

I could not stop him... I knew what he was doing to them was wrong and I did express my disgust, but he had already taken the decision and there was nothing I could do to prevent the gruesome actions he would make and the innocent lives he would take...

Already six of them...

It was always the same story, even though I tried changing my approach, warning them in different ways, trying to make them stay and thus avoid their fate...

They wanted to leave and I could not protect them once they left these walls

I swore I would not in my lifetime ever set foot in the kingdom were I not on my way to leave. The thought of meeting him again... I could and can not bear. Too much has happened, my love is almost extinguished, I have given too much of my flame.

Now I am starting to feel the cold. Both from having shared the last bit of the flame I had and from the wound in my stomach.

They have left with a clear purpose, with only one thing in their minds. Why were they so different from the rest? What was driving them to behave the way they did...?

I have an epiphany

It is you... it is both of you...

You are playing your game all over again, but this time insanity has stepped to the playfield and lay down its own cards and rules.

One of you will have to concede defeat... And the mere thought of any of you losing this macabre game pains me to no end.

At least it will be over now, no more games, no more heartache.