Peddling Doomsday by Petra Jacob

Title: Peddling Doomsday
Author: Petra Jacob
Date Added: June 6, 2018
Date Started: June 18, 2018
Date Finished: July 3, 2018
Reading Duration: 32 Days
Genre: Fiction, Drama, Psychological Thriller

Peddling DoomsdayPages: 345
Publisher: Self
Publication Date: May 31, 2018
Media: eBook/Kindle


No matter where she is, Deirdre feels out of place. So when a cult known as the Center contacts her, wanting her join up, she’s intrigued. They say a terrible war is coming, humanity is in danger and without explaining why, say she’s needed for the fight. Suddenly the chance to be spectacular is within her grasp. With the charismatic Myra as the cult leader, and talk of prophecies and psychic abilities, Deirdre is soon seduced and ditches her humdrum life to join up. 

Once inside, her understanding of the world shifts. She learns the truth about the elite, a secret organisation that has meddled with humanity since the beginning of time. The elite use entertainment and the media as a constant distraction to stop people from reaching their true potential. To free themselves of this conditioning, the followers must give up ‘excessive’ food and sleep. They also carry out increasingly bizarre rituals under the critical eye of the Captain, a minor leader of the new followers. He seems to take pleasure from turning them against one another. 

Tensions increase. The followers gain odd new abilities, but bullying and hysteria also grow. Meanwhile Myra’s prophecies become increasingly extreme. As paranoia intensifies, Deirdre questions where the belief ends, and delusion begins.


‘I suppose life is just whatever stories we choose to tell ourselves at the time,’

If you ever want to dive into the machinations of how a cult can draw in and take over “normal” people, this second book from one of my favorite indie authors is the one you want to read.  From the outside, it’s painfully obvious what’s going on, but if you really want to be believe something or believe in something because you have nothing else to cling to, you will.  That’s how cults and certain religious sects prey on the most vulnerable.

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The First Tree Review

More video game reviews and analyses can be found here.

Title: The First Tree
Genre: Adventure/Exploration, Walking Simulator, Drama
Developer: David Wehle
Release Date: September 14, 2017

The First Tree cover

System: Nintendo Switch


The First Tree is a gorgeous, atmospheric game where you play as a fox hunting for her lost cubs through various seasonal landscapes.  In truth the fox and her search are the dream of the narrator as he attempts to work through childhood trauma culminating in one final blow.  As you, the player, control the vixen, the unseen storyteller talks to someone we assume is his wife about his father and childhood in the Alaskan wilderness, which the fox now explores.

Screenshot from The First Tree

Draped over the exquisite environment, the story intertwines with the vixen’s search in the dream.  Man-made artifacts and castoffs are strewn about, many of which the narrator will comment on if they hold some significance such as his sketchbook.  Others might be mentioned and discovered later like a lumberyard or abandoned police car, the latter which recalls a particularly offensive escapade.

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All’s Well That End’s Well by William Shakespeare (DNF)

Title: All’s Well That End’s Well
Author: William Shakespeare
Date Added: September 15, 2017
Date Started: January 26, 2018
Date DNF: March 3, 2018
Genre: Play, Classic, Drama

All's Well That End's Well coverPages: 336
Publication Date: 1602
Publisher: Latus ePublishing
Media: eBook/Kindle


Helena, a ward of the Countess of Rousillion, falls in love with the Countess’s son, Bertram. Daughter of a famous doctor, and a skilled physician in her own right, Helena cures the King of France-who feared he was dying-and he grants her Bertram’s hand as a reward. Bertram, however, offended by the inequality of the marriage, sets off for war, swearing he will not live with his wife until she can present him with a son, and with his own ring-two tasks which he believes impossible. However with the aid of a bed trick, Helena fulfils his tasks, Bertram realises the error of his ways, and they are reconciled.


This was the first play I finished in my goal to read/reread all of the Bard’s plays.  I didn’t finish it because it annoyed me, but apparently I also didn’t review it either, which is odd, since I usually still review literature I DNF.

Bertram, the son of a countess, is a snobbish ass and Helena, the low-born ward of the same countess, could do so much better.  He refuses her marriage offer even after the king of France says he’ll fix any title issues Bertram has with the union, which seems to be the only problem: he doesn’t want to marry below his station.  Helena has fulfilled her promise to the French monarch in healing him, and the king has the power to raise her beyond her “low breeding as a physician’s daughter,” which is (ironically for that judgment) the reason she was able to cure him in the first place!  Granted, at this point in history, doctors weren’t looked up in high regard, so this assessment wasn’t inaccurate.  If this is Bertram’s only reason for not wishing to wed Helena, it’s a poor one at that.  Obviously, no one should be compelled to marry against their will, regardless the cause, and that’s exactly what the king forces Bertram to do.  While he weds her, he doesn’t bed her, instead sending his unwanted bride back to his estate and informing his mother how much he hates her.

Excuse me what the fuck meme with very wiggly, grey guyI became bored with the story at this point and decided to DNF it, but thanks to the internet I know what else happens, and yes, it is twisted.

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The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare

Title: The Winter’s Tale
Author: William Shakespeare
Date Added: August 24, 2014
Date Started: August 14, 2017
Date Finished: September 11, 2017
Reading Duration: 28 days
Genre: Drama, Tragedy, Comedy/Romance Classic

The Winter's Tale by William ShakespearePages: 171
Publication Date: May 15, 1611
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services LLC
Media: eBook/Kindle


One of Shakespeare’s later plays, best described as a tragic-comedy, the play falls into two distinct parts. In the first Leontes is thrown into a jealous rage by his suspicions of his wife Hermione and his best-friend, and imprisons her and orders that her new born daughter be left to perish. The second half is a pastoral comedy with the “lost” daughter Perdita having been rescued by shepherds and now in love with a young prince. The play ends with former lovers and friends reunited after the apparently miraculous resurrection of Hermione.


The cover I used above is not the cover of the version I read, but since that one is boring (it’s just the play’s title and the Bard’s name on white a green.  Oh hell…

The Winter's Tale (boring cover)See.  Boring), I decided to use a festive piece.

The Winter’s Tale has a tragic/dramatic beginning and a comedic end, comedy, in cases like this, meaning there’s a happily resolved romance, as opposed to his more famous Romeo and Juliet, which while possessing a romantic element (if you want to call it that…), is generally classified a tragedy.  I’m unsure how comedy and romance became conflated, but in examining The Seven Basic Plots, that is how it’s described.

Hero and Heroine are destined to get together, but a dark force is preventing them from doing so; the story conspires to make the dark force repent, and suddenly the Hero and Heroine are free to get together. This is part of a cascade of effects that shows everyone for who they really are, and allows two or more other relationships to correctly form.

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What Remains of Edith Finch

More video game reviews can be found here.

Genre: Walking Simulation, Puzzle – Drama
Developer: Giant Sparrow, SCE Studio Santa Monica
Release Date: April 25, 2017
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

What Remains of Edith FinchLet’s Player: Cryaotic


There will be another to these shores to remember me. I will rise from the ocean like an island without bottom, come together like a stone, become an aerial, a beacon that they will not forget you. We have always been drawn here: one day the gulls will return and nest in our bones and our history.

-Dear Esther

Part walking simulation, part puzzle, all bittersweet, What Remains of Edith Finch is a deep plunge into the tragic history of the Finch family by Edith, the last daughter of the clan.  Equal parts history and mystery, the the game follows Edith as she wanders through the halls of her family’s lopsided home, recording the lost stories discovered behind sealed doors.  Named for her great-grandmother, Edith chronicles the lives and deaths of her family members who all succumbed to a mysterious “curse” her great-grandfather Odin brought with him across the sea.  Every member of the Finch family found an early quietus save for one child of each generation who survived long enough to make the next.

There’s an eeriness about the game that doesn’t quite border on scary with many of the deaths occurring under potentially supernatural circumstances (e.g. Molly and Milton), and the beauty of it is that the true or false of such is left for the player to divine.  Since I watched the game, I can’t speak for the details of gameplay, but had I the time, I would’ve been able to play through it (and I may possibly do so for a future Let’s Play or stream).  There are no enemies to vanquish nor points to score, and the puzzles are not only intuitive, but intricately connect to each relative’s story.

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Rakuen

More video game reviews can be found here.

Genre: RPG, Adventure – Drama, Fantasy/Magical Realism
Developer: Laura Shigihara
Release Date: May 10, 2017
Platforms: Linux, Mac, PC

Let’s Player: Cryaotic


Note: Per my addition of Let’s Player information, I watched this game and did not play it myself, so I won’t be talking much about gameplay mechanics.

The era of the poignant, indie video game is in full swing, and Rakuen is ahead of the curve.  Another masterpiece made with RPG Maker, it ties together two settings: one depressingly real and the other beautifully fantastic in order to fulfill a child’s dreams.  You play as the Boy in the paper samurai hat whose favorite story is eponymous to the title of the game.  From the Japanese for “pleasure garden,” Rakuen splits its time between the hospital populated with characters colorful despite their infirmaries and its fantasy counterpart populated by leebles (little cat people), talking animals and animated plants.

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Borrowed Lives

A short Final Fantasy VII fanfiction pairing Aeris and Sephiroth that occurs mid-canon at the juncture of the Sleeping Forest.  The fated pair have history, and the flower girl demands a sacrifice the Great General cannot refuse.
Disclaimer: Final Fantasy VII, its characters, and settings are all property of Square Enix so I can take no credit nor claim any ownership of that. I do take some credit for nuances and additions to the story’s plot.
Artwork Disclaimer: I do not own the below work of art or the artwork on the banner.  The original picture source for the below is located here.  The original picture source for the banner is located here.

For as I live this borrowed life,
This silence I shall keep.
Today I breathe until I die,
But never let me weep.”
-“Borrowed Life”

Aeris Among Flowers

The Sleeping Forest awoke to the step of the Planet’s dearest child.  Ever fragile but never afraid, she ran without pause towards her fate.  Soft bangs brushed wind blossomed cheeks as the trees turned from grey to pure white.

Lonely…

Yes, but never alone, she said without word to the breeze.  It joined sea and sky and all life between to be part of that intricate dance.  Beneath high hanging boughs she sank to her knees and the grass below bent without rue.  She was praying in the position she knew she would die as starlight white lilies grew round.  Not meaning to call them, she felt swift regret to be squandering such precious gifts, but the pulse of life was too great in this instant, knowing it soon would be silenced.

She squeezed her eyes shut, shielding the green that had always marked her as different.  No common hue, they shone with the color of the tide that dwelt inside all.  The memories were hard, but the prayer came easy…strength, light, and hope above all.  It would not be enough.  Not this last time.  Not enough to quench the darkness.  Her people’s last city awaited her shade, and she needed more than courage.

There was no sound for warning or herald, but the maiden knew that he was there.  Opening her eyes, auburn veiled her vision to his sturdy, black boots standing close.  Their proximity startled though she hid the gasp as she lowered her hands to her thighs.


In awe she looked up, lips pink and parting.  She always forgot just how tall…but more than that she forgot he was beautiful, despite darkness that ate as his heart.  A winter angel draped in black with moonlight swirled around.  His skin was whiter than alabaster cold as if the sun were too frightened to touch, and the hollows dark beneath his eyes were spilled with emerald light.  She remembered again how to breathe through her awe and wished memory would grant her this grace.  As though in his absence there was a forgetting cast upon like a spell.  The wind then in mocking blew silver strands forward so they barely brushed her cheeks.

He was looking down at her with face still as marble, clenching gloved hands into fists.  The living heat of those green eyes could bring grown men to their knees, and slit pupils to shame the king of cats cut sharper than the sword at his side.  Behind dark lashes longer than hers, the Mako light sheared through, and though she knew she had no choice, the fragile maid still shook.

“You know I will not do this.”  And she quivered all the more.  His low voice awakened deep heat in her skin, and she blushed to suppress the plea.  It was almost enough to abandon her purpose and give into her shameful desire.

“And you know we have no choice.”  It had always been there.  The unspoken arrangement.  Ever since he’d protected her long ago in the labs before they could make separate escapes.  Though neither one was truly free.  All the players knew the farce, the jailers and the jailed.  A bigger cage was still a prison even if it contained the world.

“The darkness is coming.”  She held taut his gaze, though blinked as he did not. “And the light will soon be veiled.”

“This is madness, Aeris.” He turned away, ripping fingers through silver hair.  No matter how ripped how flung or torn, it always fell in perfection.  The high bangs ever cross his face were just the same as hers.

And no matter how blood soaked, she thought without willing, it will always shine so fair.

“No, Sephiroth,” she said aloud but so softly, “the madness is yet to come…”

He glared at her over his shoulder, staining armor with verdant light.

“You are the one it will corrupt.”

“That will never happen.”  He stepped slowly toward her like a cat in the hunt.  Aeris just shook her head.  As though she had seen.  As though it had happened.  As though past and future had met.

“It will.”  Her own small hands clenched tight.  “Your very cells will betray your will.  Even now you fight…”

And in his eyes arose a gleam as though woken at those words.  It came not from the Mako that swirled in his veins, but from something far deeper and old.  The Planet’s dear child knew true fear then as the ground beneath keened lament.

“The horror that gnaws at the heart of the world.  The thing that we must stop.”  She could feel the touch of that terrible corruption trying to worm beneath her skin.  He blinked in that instant and the glow became true, though his jaw clenched on words to curse fate.

“You can rage against heaven.  Hate the gods if you must.  You know it will do no good.”

The maledictions he spewed were so coarse in their vehemence Aeris wanted to stop her ears.  When he was done, silence full reigned as if the forest were too shamed to echo.

Sephiroth walked slowly back to where she knelt, whispering, “Why me?”

The wrath made him paler as green light was swallowed in the darkness beneath his eyes.

“You’ve killed people before.  Women, children…”  She looked away for the pain of that truth and forced herself not to think.

“That was different.  That was war.” His voice was flat with no regret.  “And I have never killed a child.”

“There were children in Nibelheim…”

The general’s lip curled in a bitter sneer.  “That was different, too.”  Again he turned away from her.  Unable to witness the pre-gifted forgiveness as she begged him to do the most foul.  His hair swept soft against his coat like snow in the abyss.  Closing his eyes to what was unseen, even in pain he was nothing but beauty.

“Do you remember, Sephiroth?” Soft but relentless, and Mako swirled cold for the past.

“I remember…”  She froze to the sight of overlarge iris and slit pupil oh so spare.  “I remember watching from the outside as hatred and rage took me over for reasons that now seem so faint.  And when it was done and the world lay in ashes, the dead were still able to scream.”

“The reasons were for it alone and the cruel lies you were told.”

His hair washed his vision but still he could see her kneeling beneath the white tree.  Unknowing in her innocence how words could find old wounds.

“You know they were lies now, don’t you?”

Still as a statue Sephiroth stood, and his eyes lit the pale of her face.  Aeris sighed and clasped her hands tighter, praying pain give her strength to go on.  

“It is beyond that which is monstrous,” the general whispered, “but I’m a monster, too.”

“And you won’t even know that you’re broken.”

He asked once again, “Why me?”

Her neck ached to look far up at him, but he deserved to know all the truth.

“So that you can become the world’s enemy.  In this we have a chance.”

“By me losing my reason to utter insanity and by you losing your life?!  How Aeris?  How will my murdering you bring the faintest bit of hope to the world?”  He wanted to shake her, she looked so calm, hiding her turmoil well.

“Don’t think of it as murder.”  She trembled as the Planet softly called her name.  “Think of it as putting me where I must be.”

“You still have not said why it must be me.” He glowered still, unapologetic as she shivered in the cold green light.  “Why not the boy?”

Aeris never imagined a voice of such greatness could hold hollow desperation.  She tried to keep the same from her face, but it was impossible to hide the feeling there.  Agony, sorrow, and something more shattered his last ounce of composure.  The light in his eyes boiled over in spilling with terrible searing heat.

Sephiroth lunged for her faster than Aeris could blink, clutching her upper arms.  His hands slid to her waist as he lifted her up, envy near burning her face.  Like the truth of his beauty, she always forgot how incredibly strong he was until those powerful hands were upon her with no hope of any escape.

“And you think well of this boy, don’t you?” he hissed, though he kept his grip gentle around.  The heat from those eyes would’ve scorched lesser lashes, but Aeris did not turn away.

“He will lead the others against you,” she whispered, “but I think much better of you.  You are the one who will be vilified, and none will ever know the truth…”

She bit her lip as he stood tall with one arm around her waist.  Her feet hung dangling in their old boots as the maiden gasped to immense power.  Splaying her limbs on cold epaulets, Aeris was dual captured by angel’s face: the beauty, the darkness, the towering height wove silver binding spells.  Skin called to skin, and she looked in surprise for the gloves that had been swiftly shed.  Despite his past rage and fierce jealousy, beyond gentleness brushed at her cheek.  Always so careful, she wanted to weep.  Always so careful with me.  N-Not like the others with needles and tests, but they never shared what we have…

“Sephiroth…please,” Aeris near moaned, struggling to pull herself higher.  The hint of a smile shadowed his lips as he tossed the maid into both arms.  Effortless, easy, the grace of the strong, the song of the all-powerful.  Clinging to steel, she parted her lips, and his were as eager to meld.  He crushed her so close, the voice of her need vibrated through their tongues.

Beneath the white tree, he laid Aeris down, as she smoothed back that moonlight hair.  His face mocked all angels, and she wanted to sear the sight into summer eyes.  Over his cheek, along his jaw line, the flower maid drew fragile finger.  Tracing the straps that crossed over his chest ‘til he drove his tongue in her again.

Pink buttons parted without a protest to reveal those cream white thighs.  He reaction was painted in Mako’s gleam as what he saw in her face spurred him on.   Voice a low song poured in her ear made her breath come too fast as she begged.  Her mouth opened like a flower before his tongue as the little maid whimpered her want.  He tightened his hand around her frail wrists, holding them over her head.  Aeris arched her back as his teeth scored her throat, his tongue playing patterns in swirl.  Each kiss a blessing descending down ‘til her breasts bore the brunt of that heat.  He gazed up with half smile, curling one end, as Aeris claimed them for her own.  He nibbled her lower, and she tangled her fingers in endless silken skein.

Her braid came undone at the touch of his fingers so moonlight and auburn swirled.  Laid in the lilies so called by her light, the Cetra framed the fallen’s face.  She was ready for him, overflowing, and willing, though pulled so terribly taut.  He dared not drive deeply.  That would come later… The light from his eyes cut enough.  Yet ever willing, her thighs more spread, and each tempered thrust brought a squeak.

When it was over and their clothes were straightened, she knelt now for she could not stand.  Salt covered red cheeks, but Aeris knew not if she wept for joy or rue.

“My heart was always yours to break.”  His low voice stirred the shadows that would not dare creep close.  The maid looked down at the hands in her lap, while the voice of the world murmured still.  A quiet tear slipped past her guarding, so grateful to not be forsaken.

“I suppose,” she said with voice now hoarse, “it is only fair I return the favor.”

He lowered his head accepting at last as dying day framed him in glory.  Then swift to surprise he knelt as she did, tilting her chin for a final kiss.  A slow caress of two tongues dancing as he smoothed that tear with his thumb.

Sephiroth stood still full of grace, holding to her like a wish.  She rose as far as her knees would allow with a whimper at the release.  He gazed down at the lilies bleeding their fragrance, crushed and dying at her feet.  “The things that are most beautiful die long before their time.”  He cupped the pale, well salted cheek with hands again cloaked in black.

“Some things were never meant to last…” Aeris answered refusing to let her voice break.

“I give you this promise then.”  He stood tall in his vow, the Great General again, and touched brief the Masamune.  “It is so sharp you will not feel it.”

All that he bore in these final moments was hidden in the light of his eyes.  He yearned for her still as Aeris believed him, waiting for what he did not know.  Perhaps for her to tell him that all was a farce and beg him take her away, but he’d seen too much in his hard life to not doubt the horror was true.

Aeris freed her tongue when the forest enclosed him, overjoyed but not proud she had held.  Memory would more than match what death could not take too soon.

*

Aeris was waiting in the position she’d die in on an altar made of light.  Nothing else mattered but the words of her prayer as she pleaded for hope to come true.  Not the hard sphere held between her soft palms, nor the boy with his sword raised in anguish.  The players in their places, she had to believe, or else it’s all in vain.

The thought came to him as he flew in the gleam of flawless steel…to miss, to falter, to strike the boy who he saw in rage threatened her life.  But Sephiroth knew he could not betray her, not on the oath he had sworn.

It was as clean as he could make it and her heart was split in two.  The red heat of purity washed the face of death, but winter could never be melted.  As the sword wept the blood of the innocent, its master shed tear unseen.  It swept away reason and sanity, sundering all memories so passed.  The horror then rose up to claim him, sword shedding gore like a second skin.  No more for his memory for lies were his mantra.  He did not even watch her fall.  Still in death, the murdered could smile, as the gates of the world opened wide.  The first wheel had been set into motion, and he had kept this promise for her.

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