Rebels of Darkness, Chapter 7

Argh!” Gwynivara summoned all of her frustration and disappointment and let that energy flow to her arms. It guided her arm and clenched fist like a current in the ocean, which made her punch almost effortless. Each time she struck the bumpy rubber, a piece of her stress chipped off, so it gave her a small sense of pleasure to bash it over and over again. She didn’t think any amount of this could fully release all of the pent up emotions, but it gave her a little satisfaction, something she desperately needed right now.

Emorick walked into the training auditorium, and when he walked up to her, she didn’t give him any indication that she recognized his presence. After a moment of watching her scrap with the punching bag, Emorick inquired, “How you doing, kid?” She gave him a quick glance that suggested she couldn’t believe he just asked her that question, and without speaking to him, she went right back to punching the bag. “I guess that was a dumb question.” Gwynivara didn’t acknowledge that statement. After a moment, Emorick then probed, “So, how long are you gonna keep punishing yourself?”

She stopped in mid-action. Those words echoed deep inside of her. She hadn’t left the training room since they got back except to change out of that uniform, casting off the reminder of the fiasco from earlier that day. The thrill of surviving washed away as the facts started to flood in. That mission was her idea. Everything that went wrong fell on her. She thought she had everything figured out! In a matter of minutes everything had fallen apart. She didn’t want to face the other rebels, especially not the officers! She knew that there would be questions, and she didn’t want to relive that day. She could feel tears start to well up, and she refused to let herself get upset enough for her Venenatus Sanguis to kick in, so she started punching the bag again, though her jabs were less forceful than before.

Emorick pulled the bag out of her reach, which forced her to stop. He addressed her, “Let’s get one thing straight-missions almost never go exactly as we plan. Sometimes you do your best to anticipate all of the possible outcomes and unforeseen circumstances still blitz you out of nowhere. That’s life! When plans go wrong, the most important thing to focus on is getting your men out alive, which you did. You did well! Perfection is impossible! Mistakes happen, failures happen, but one loss doesn’t mean you don’t have the skills to make it happen next time! Right now, your job is to show your team that when you get knocked down, you get back up! Learn from the experience and move on! You’ll gain more respect by how you recover from a setback, but you’ll never get there if you let this thing defeat you! Shutting yourself out from the world isn’t gonna fix anything! Don’t worry what others may judge about your actions-you still did better than those who didn’t even try! Take some pride in that! “

How?” Gwynivara desperately asked. His words were empowering, but she didn’t know by what means she could forget everything. A future victory could say people’s opinions on her leadership skills, but what was she supposed to do until then?

Emorick answered simply, “By walking out that goddamn door with your head held high! Don’t you dare give a shit what people think! Life moves on, and so must we!” Gwynivara realized that he was right and nodded in agreement. Emorick concluded by directing her, “You’re going to take over door guard duty tonight. Head over there now, and I’ll send someone over shortly to train you on it.”

“Thank you!” Gwynivara said appreciatively.

“Don’t thank me!” Emorick advised. “I’m just doing my job.” Gwynivara smiled in gratitude, and before she headed out the door, he mentioned, “I meant it; you did a good job today!” Gwynivara stopped to absorb it for a moment. She didn’t believe it, but she appreciated the gesture. She half smiled, but it quickly vanished. She took a deep breath, held her head high, and walked out the door.

Gwynivara didn’t realize how long she had been at that punching bag until now. The hallways were virtually empty, and the few people in the halls walked around in a half sleepy daze. She thought she saw those people give her a peculiar glance. She kept her head held up high as Emorick suggested, but she did question the people’s reasons for those looks. They could’ve been judging her for the things that went wrong in the mission as she feared, but maybe it was all in her head. After seeing a clock in one of the shops, she noted that the hour was late enough to naturally wonder why someone would be awake at this time. Everyone she passed definitely seemed tired. Actually, now that her adrenaline wore off, she felt exhausted herself!

Behind the red curtains, the person she was relieving had been resting on the cushioned bench by the stairs. He heard Gwynivara enter, and in a zombie-like trance, he left without saying a word. Gwynivara didn’t care though. After everything she went through, she knew she needed the rest. Her eyes felt heavy as she laid down. She fought sleep at first, but then she remembered that someone would be by shortly to train her, so he or she could wake her up…

On top of the stormy mountain, the sultry, green-skinned woman sat on her rocky throne. Two men came up the mountain. After walking past the chained and snarling beasts, they stood before the woman and kneeled. “Shouldn’t you be destroying evidence?” She regarded them in a stony voice and stared hard as if she knew they had come to deliver news of a grave mistake on their part.

“We will,” one man spoke. “But commander, you should know our operation has been compromised!”

“Compromised how?” Her eyes flushed as her inner ire got close to a boil. She clearly waited to unleash based on the severity of their response.

The other man revealed, “Some spies infiltrated our mark. Morfran is dead, and the infiltrators escaped.”

“What?” the lady roared. “You let them get away? Who were they?”

“We don’t know,” the first man replied. “We think they’re part of a rogue agency.”

“Find them!” she bellowed.

The second man assured her, “We won’t fail!”

Someone put a hand on Gwynivara’s shoulder, which made her gasp and bolt up in a defensive stance. She saw Kierram standing before her looking bewildered, and she snapped back into reality. “Sorry! I had a nightmare.”

With a dark sense of humor, Kierram replied, “Don’t talk to me about nightmares!”

“Oh yeah…” Gwynivara remembered. This triggered more memories, like their argument and their close call at the Public Health Center. As she slumped back down onto the bench, she avoided eye contact with him, hoping that he wouldn’t bring any of those topics up. “So, you must be really good at guarding the door since they keep assigning it to you!”

Kierram scoffed, “Only ‘cause he knows I don’t sleep much. Well, you saw what happens when I do. And no, I haven’t forgotten about that night.”

Gwynivara really didn’t want to have this conversation, so she changed the subject, “So, when you’re a door guard, you can’t fall asleep?”

“Not if you’re a deep sleeper,” Kierram answered her. “Niqun is a super light sleeper and will wake up if she hears any noise. Youll need to keep your eyes open.”

Gwynivara shifted awkwardly. He obviously still felt mad, and if they were going to work together, they needed to make amends. She felt compelled to gush, “Look, I’m sorry I didn’t plan out the mission better! I really screwed up! I took a mission that should’ve lasted weeks or months and made it last a day! One stupid day! And worse, my misguided judgment almost got you killed! I’m sorry! I’m so sorry! I won’t plan out any more mi-!”

“Woah, woah, woah!” he interrupted her. “What are you talking about? You didn’t screw up!” Gwynivara opened her mouth to object, but she couldn’t get the words out. She got so shocked by what he said that she couldn’t comprehend it. So he asked her, “You heard everyone calling the mission suicidal, right?” She nodded. “None of us had the guts, or the brains for that matter, to take on that mission, not until you came along anyway. We learned something new, and we came out alive. I’d call that a success!”

Gwynivara hadn’t considered this viewpoint and felt very flattered, but she didn’t totally believe it. “We learned the origin of the disease, big deal! We found out it came from another planet, so all I did was take us from searching the world for the cure to searching the universe! How does that help?”

Kierram laughed heartily at this. “We don’t have to search the universe! My dad centered the Rebellion headquarters here because the origin happened here, and obviously they stuck around if their henchmen are attacking us!”

“That’s true!” She hadn’t considered that before. She started to let herself feel a little better.

“You did well on the mission!” Kierram told her. “And I don’t like saying that ‘cause I’m still mad at you. But I can’t deny it-you’re a good leader!” Gwynivara actually felt herself smiling even though she didn’t totally believe what he was saying. “At first, I only went back to training because you acted like I couldn’t do it, and I wanted to prove you wrong. I hated going there! The other officers are jerks, and it didn’t feel like we were going anywhere with this training. I volunteered for your mission ‘cause it got me out of training without making me look like I’m a coward or like I’m giving up, but now I’m excited that we’re actually going somewhere with this Rebellion! I don’t wanna go back to the way things were! Please, don’t give up planning missions!”

Gwynivara’s smile broadened at this. She felt so redeemed by this point of view! Before, she got so worried that people looked down on her for the things that went wrong that she hadn’t considered someone may actually admire what she did! She very appreciatively commented to him, “Thanks, Kierram!”

Half joking, he responded, “Shut up!” He pretended to pout. “‘Cause I’m still mad…”

“Right!” Gwynivara giggled. He laughed unwillingly, and Gwynivara couldn’t believe she went from sort of hating him to actually feeling a friendship! She didn’t know if he would ever forgive her for the beast incident, but it was nice to have someone show her loyalty despite his ill feelings. She thought about what he said, how the origin was close by to their location. She knew that she should cook up a plan to find the origin, but she didn’t have a clue how to find it…unless…”You up for another dangerous mission?”

“The more dangerous the better!” he exclaimed. “Lead the way!”

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Turning 30, Chapter 23

Cera cried her eyes out on Feliz’s couch. Feliz and Ashlynn sat by her to comfort her. Cera wailed, “I can’t believe I did that! I just abandoned my faith like it was…nothing! For what? Some uncomfortable, awkward interaction with a stranger in a dive bar parking lot! I’m a sinner!”

Feliz tried to reassure her, “Don’t beat yourself up! You didn’t actually do anything wrong. You’re still a virgin.”

Cera refuted, “I interacted with his…manhood! Even thinking about a man that way is a sin! I’m a terrible person!”

“No you’re not,” Ashlynn expressed, “You just had terrible sex!”

“But…but I…I…!” Cera stammered.

Davida came out of their bedroom in her pajamas. “What’s going on?”

Feliz explained, “Cera is drunk.”

“I’m not drunk!” Cera argued. “I’m sad!”

Feliz told Davida, “She is VERY sad.”

“Oh I see. Well, I can make her some coffee then.” Davida went into the kitchen.

Ashlynn stated to Cera, “Look, no one is perfect. It’s impossible to follow every single rule, and you should chastise yourself for not obeying every minute detail and technicality. The most important thing is to treat people with kindness, and as long as I’ve known you, you have always loved to help others. You can’t put so much pressure on yourself to be perfect. All you can do is try your best to be a decent person.”

Feliz added, “I consider myself to be a good Catholic, but I am not perfect. Like, last Friday, I had some steak, but we’re not supposed to have meat that day. Does that mean I’m doomed? I won’t get into Heaven for that? The little things won’t ultimately matter in the end, so I don’t fret about them. God forgives mistakes as long as the list of good you do for the world is bigger than anything else.”

Cera sniffed. “I feel like such a whore!”

“Mary Magdalene was an actual whore,” Ashlynn pointed out, “and she was one of Jesus’ best friends. She wasn’t perfect, but she was forgiven, and no one judged her. They moved on and did greater things. I”m not a Catholic. I had premarital sex. Do you think I’m going to Hell?”

“No!” Cera saw her point. “And Feliz, our religion is not kind to your people, but I won’t stop being your friend!”

“What do you mean by ‘your people?'” Davida probed. No one saw her come back into the living room with the mug of coffee, and when they realized she was there and that she heard that part of the conversation, they jumped out of their skins. Ashlynn looked nervous, Cera felt guilty, and Feliz trembled in fear. Davida noticed their reactions. “What are you hiding from me? I’m your wife, you owe me the truth! Be honest! Tell me, please! Why won’t you say anything? Speak to me!” Feliz tried to speak but could not get the words out. An email notification went off on his phone. Feliz tried to grab it, but Davida reached it first. She saw the title of the email and read outloud, “In response to Need Help Coing Out. Coming out where?” Feliz could not say it. She asked Ashlynn and Cera, “Do you know what this means?”

Ashlynn shook her head, refusing to be a part of that argument. Cera, because of her lack of sobriety, honestly said, “We all figured it out, even before he did! You know! We don’t need to say anything. You know!”

Davida just looked angry, like she wanted to yell but didn’t know why, so she held it in. Feliz stepped up to her and softly said, “This isn’t how I wanted you to find out…” Davida had a look of denial on her face. She knew what was coming, and she knew she didn’t want to hear it but had to. Feliz took a deep breath and confessed, “I’m gay.”

“No!” All of the fight got drained from Davida. “I can’t believe it! Don’t you love me?”

“I do love you, but I’m not attracted to you,” Feliz told her.

Davida started to cry. “My husband isn’t attracted to me!” She sobbed, but when Feliz touched her arm to comfort her, she shrieked, “Don’t touch me, you pervert!”

“Pervert? I haven’t slept with any men yet!”

“You’re a pervert, and you will soon have to answer for your sin! What did your family say?”

“I…”

“When they find out, they will disown you!”

“I hope they will love me no matter what.”

Davida laughed derisively. “If I can’t stand to look at you, I don’t see how they could want you in their life still. I’m leaving, and they won’t be here for you either, so I hope you’ll be happy with these perverted thoughts because you’ll be all alone with them”

Ashlynn stood up and defended him, “He’s not gonna be alone! He has us! We’ve known this all along, but we never cared! He’s a loving, sweet man, and if you don’t want a friendship with him, it’s your loss! We don’t need your narrow-minded ass around!”

Davida gave her a dirty look and stomped into the bedroom to pack her bags. Feliz sank onto his love seat and cried. Ashlynn put an arm around him to comfort him. Cera stepped towards him, but her legs felt too heavy to move because the alcohol kicked in full swing at this point. She slurred, “You’re not a pervert, I am!” She pased out onto the couch.

That momentarily distracted Feliz, but after a moment, he buried his head in his hands. “I knew this would be horrible.”

Ashlynn responded, “How much longer were you planning to sacrifice your happiness for hers?”

“I wasn’t ready!” he lamented.

“No one is ever really ready. Life happens unexpectedly, and when the universe wants you to open up a new chapter whether you’re ready or not!” Ashlynn exclaimed. “When you get to that pivotal point in your life, you have two choices-drown in the ocean or surf with the tide. That thing you were dreading to tell her is out now. You’re free! You can stop worrying and move on!”

Feliz seemed somewhat appeased by her words. Davida came out with a suitcase. “I’ll be back for the rest of my things when you’re at work. Do your coworkers know?”

“No,” Feliz answered.

Ashlynn corrected him, “Yes, trust me, it’s obvious to anyone with half a brain!” Davida glared at her and left without saying goodbye. Feliz looked relieved that she did not have a stronger response. Ashlynn told him, “You don’t recognize a storm brewing, do you?”

Feliz shrugged. “Come on, I’ll take you home.”

“Are you sure? You probably shouldn’t be alone.”

“Cera will be here all night probably.”

They turned their heads to Cera, who was still passed out. Ashlynn gave Feliz a supportive hug. After a moment, she gathered her things so they could leave. She asked again, “Are you sure you’ll be okay?”

He answered, “It’s gonna be weird, but I’ll be okay. I think the hardest part will be letting go of that loving feeling towards her.”

As they left, Ashlynn looked over the balcony and saw something alarming. “Uh, Davida is smashing your car with a golf club!”

“WHAT?” Feliz ran to the balcony and perched, glaring towards the direction where he was parked. “That bitch! I’ll kill her!” He grabbed his phone and called the police. While he was on hold, he observed, “Oh, hey! The loving feelings are gone!” Ashlynn laughed, and Feliz grinned a little.