I’m Broke

Hurt, lost, feel that dirt.
I’ve been dragged so far,
Forgot that northern star.
Beaten, laughed at, and forsaken.
Can’t you see the blows I’ve taken?
Course’ you can’t,
I’m just here for you to rant
All your anger and grime at.
Tryin’ to fix all those wrongs
By wishing on that star so high.
You don’t see me when I cry.
I’m sobbing while I lie in bed
Mounting up the fear and dread.
What will today bring?
Absolutely nothing!
I’m used to it though.
Now I can stand toe to toe,
With the beasts in my mind.
They understand my daily grind.
I’m afraid of what’s to come.
I can’t feel when I’m numb;
Feel so dumb,
Run
To the same drum.
That beatin’ music with bad vibes.
Just a bass and a face–
A face with no eyes.
Me, myself, and I.
No one-fits-all size.
I don’t like their beats,
Not a single free seat.
I won’t give reconcile
I’ll create my own denial–
Alone but not lonely,
Only because I can’t see–
I can’t see their vision.
I don’t get their decisions.
Let me shake and shout.
Let me shake off my doubt.
Let me dance to my own life.

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The Beginning of the End

This is our second to last post of Life 2.0!!! So excited. It’s been fun to get to share this story with you, and I think we’re ready for a good final blow. This installment was especially fun because we did it as a collaboration. See if you can tell what’s Peter and what’s me ;-). You can learn more about Life 2.0 here.

The woman’s voice enveloped him, as if it were a gentle tug of wind causing his entire body to shake with its force. He was still kneeling by the bed, crouched on his knees, with his head between his fingers so he could hardly see her.

He could feel a slight breeze in the room though, and her dress swished against his body. He could also feel a cold hand touch his shoulder.

“I—I don’t. . .” He hated the lack of confidence in his voice. “I really don’t know you.”

She caressed his arm, and he shifted away from the touch.

He coughed. He thought he liked the woman. He thought he wanted her to come closer even if she wasn’t his mother, but he never trusted his feelings.

“I. . .you know,” he started again. “Well, you seem okay,,” he blurted out. “Like maybe I could trust you, but lots of people have been saying stuff like that: Oh you know me, Julian. Blablabla. And it hasn’t turned out good. I don’t really know who to trust.”

He could hear the soft trill of a laugh that made him look up. The woman was standing next to his backpack, arms widespread, with her gold hair falling behind her.

“Oh, I don’t either.”

Now, she started pacing around the room.

“You’re right, Julian. You can never trust anyone. You can only trust yourself.”

She paced in silence several times, towards the window, past the computer, towards the door and the My Years of Hearthrob poster. Back. She slowed in front of the computer.

“I learned that lesson with my family. They always had a rocky relationship with me, but it got so bad. . .I can’t even say if I ran away or got kicked out.”

Julian’s eyes were now fully fixed on her. She seemed to know the room.

He had no doubt that at this moment, she could put in his password, find out what he actually used his computer for, and expose him to his parents. But she wouldn’t.

“I did some stupid things,” she said. “But I have changed. Even though I apologized for things and try to keep reaching out, they won’t have me back, and it hurts.”

Julian nodded. He could see the pain in her eyes reflected on the black computer screen.

“I know how that is.”

“My brother also rejected my family’s beliefs.” The woman sighed. “But for some reason, they still talk to him, when they won’t with me.”

Again, Julian nodded. He felt uncomfortable. She wasn’t telling her story. That was his.

“Same.”

The woman pressed the spacebar on the computer.

“I should have told you. My name is Arianna.”

For a second, Julian flinched. It was the name that both Vivek and Sophie had spoken in a mix of fear and disgust, but then, Vivek and Sophie had both betrayed Julian. This woman, Arianna, wouldn’t.

“I am sorry for intruding in your room, and,” she tapped the password into his computer and opened his account. “Your computer, but I need some advice. . .and I think you have it inside you.”

Julian rose and walked over to Arianna. She opened a webpage, and he almost went cold. It was the messaging sight he used to text his friends behind his parent’s back.

“What do you need?”

“No, Jules.” She stilled and turned her head slowly towards him. “It’s not about me. It’s about you.”

Julian shook his head.

“But you just asked for advice?”

Her eyes bubbled over with a silent laugh before she turned back towards the computer, scrolling through his messages.

That normally would have made Julian tight and uncomfortable; he knew he had secrets on there, or at least his younger self had.

But his fear was more than that this time.

He was afraid because he didn’t feel that kind of fear. He completely trusted this woman, and again, he didn’t know why.

She gestured to him.

“Come closer, I want to show you something you sent to your first girlfriend.”

Julian progressed a few steps. He looked at the black box with the grey blobs he had sent her. Her name was Rosie.

Arianna read the words loudly and clearly. Julian’s eyes were fixed on the page.

“I resolve today that no matter what may happen, or what my father says or does, I will live in freedom.” As she read her voice began to change. To grow deeper. “I will not go back on what I have sworn to you.” It’s volume also rose into anger, but Julian couldn’t move his eyes from the words. He didn’t know why. “And I will reject this Islamic slavery and live for freedom no matter the cost.”

Arianna swiveled her chair around. The room went dark. There was only one light and it was on her, except it wasn’t her.

Julian saw before his eyes a middle-aged, tan-skinned man with angry, dark eyebrows. Abbi.

Julian went cold.

“What is this!” the man yelled. It echoed across the darkness, and Julian knew he was no longer in his room.

The man rose in silence, too silent. As if he were ready to attack.

Julian’s hands trembled.

Then the silence broke, not by a voice, but by Abbi throwing the chair across the room. It crashed into something.

“What is this!?” He yelled again.

“It’s. . .It’s. . .” a voice shook behind Julian. Julian’s younger self, he realized. He was still there.

Suddenly, three things happened in the space of a second.

First, Julian had the realization that his father was running. Not at the younger Julian. Abbi was running at him, hands in fists, screaming, actually attacking.

The second thing was that he thought he heard someone calling his name far, far away.

And third, he knew. He just knew. He felt resolved like he had never felt resolved before. His father hated him. And he hated his father. Arianna was right. Whatever had happened to her, she was right.

He kept reaching out. He had asked for forgiveness for how the break had happened. He wanted relationship with them. He had asked for it.

Yes, he might not have been perfect. He might not have invested in Marcus as much as he should have.

But every time he tried to go near the rest of the family, they wouldn’t come near. No contaminating Muslims with pagan swine.

Julian went in for the kill. Simultaneously, he and Abbi dove.

Their bodies crashed together in a whirlwind of hands and feet, as they awkwardly grappled for leverage in the tight space.

Julian felt the phantom Abbi’s fingernails dig into his biceps.

“I said, ‘What is this?’”

They gripped each other in a terrifying embrace. Abbi’s eyes appeared to be totally pupil, a void of blackness. He was a monster, not a man.

“It’s none of your business!” Julian screamed. “It’s my freedom and you’re not going to. . .”

Julian suddenly felt his foot slip on the wood floor. Abbi wasted no time, and with a supernatural strength he propelled Julian to the ground in a heap.

“None of my business, huh? Who’s your father?”

Desperately, Julian lashed out with his right foot.

“You’re not my father. You’re a. . .”

It met Abbi’s face with a loud smack, and a burst of pleasure coursed up Julian’s back.

“Monster.”

Julian struggled to his feet, the adrenaline pumping into his ears.

Blood, dark and shiny, was dripping from Abbi’s mouth, but he didn’t even notice it.

“Well then I’m a monster who owns you.”

For a moment, Julian felt like throwing out a snappy comeback, but before he could, Abbi rushed him with the strength of an elephant.

He threw his fists wildly at Julian.

“And you. . .”

Each one whistled by his head as he bobbed away. Not one of them could touch him. He never felt so good.

“Will do. . .”

Abbi swung again and again in frustration. He looked like the biggest fool.
Julian chuckled, shooting a cocky punch at Abbi’s side.

“Nothing.”

The man didn’t even react as Julian’s fist crumpled against his rib. All the confidence and brashness suddenly left Julian. Abbi snarled, blood smearing his teeth.

“Shut up.”

Both of Abbi’s hands seized Julian in a vise-like hold, and then he felt his body leave the ground as he was thrown into the wall.

His breath was swept from him and he felt his head crack against the wood. The room swam uneasily. What had gone wrong?

“Shut up.”

“I wasn’t. . .”

Abbi’s grip tightened.

“Before you die,” Abbi said. “I want you to think about how I raised you, how I loved you, how you could have made things easier for yourself, how you chose to rebel.”

Julian wasn’t listening. He knew he must have been tricked. Something had gone wrong. Abbi’s body slammed into his chest. Rage swept through Julian and he screamed into Abbi’s gnarled face with realization.

“You’re not real!”

Julian backhanded away one of the punches that was coming from the right, and twisted around so that his knee smashed into Abbi’s gut.

“You’re not real.”

He laughed with relief. The man doubled-over, but did not utter a cry of pain.

“You’re fake.”

A fury of blows caused Abbi to drop to one knee. Bruises were forming on Julian’s knuckles with each punch. He ignored the pain. A smile creased his face.

He would make Abbi cry.

“Oh. You. Will. Cry!”

He uttered it over and over again as he beat Abbi. No mercy. No relent.

“You. Will. Cry!”

Abbi’s adam’s apple bobbed underneath Julian’s fingers as he reached for his throat.

“You. Will. Cry!”

He glared up at Julian venomously, red drool dripping down his chin. Drool that was the shade of Arriana’s dress.

The man’s face started to turn purple as it shook uncontrollably. Julian clenched his teeth until he felt like they were going to shatter.

“You. Will. Cry!”

He was so close. So close to what?

“Just… scream!” Julian sputtered. “No one can hear you.”

That wasn’t the goal anymore. He needed to end this life. So close. So close. And it felt so good.

“Julian! Stop Julian! You’re going to destroy yourself.”

A voice in the darkness. It was Marcus. Of course it was Marcus. Here to whine his way into things again. Abbi’s eyes were starting to droop. Just a little farther.

“Julian, you must stop. This won’t get you anywhere.”

Oh, it was so easy for Marcus. They hadn’t abandoned him.

Marcus was now shoving against Julian desperately. There was no stopping this. This was getting him to satisfaction. To freedom. To revenge.

“Julian! You can’t change the past. Stop wasting your emotions on something that isn’t within your grasp.”

A pained expression from Marcus was caught in Julian’s peripheral vision, and a sudden terror caught in Julian’s throat.

What was he doing? Abbi was only human. He had only made some mistakes. Julian should think about this.

Even if he hated him, he shouldn’t kill him. That’s what psychopaths did.

Julian still didn’t even know where he was. He wanted to let go. He even loosened his grasp, but he couldn’t. He just couldn’t.

“I’m sorry. I can’t forgive him.”

Marcus stared into his eyes.

“Then there’s nothing I can do. Goodbye Julian.”

What did Marcus mean? Julian spared a quick glance at his brother. He wasn’t there. Marcus had disappeared. He was alone again. Abondendend.

But this abandonment would end. Right now.

He looked at his dad with hollow eyes.

“I’m sorry, Abbi, but it’s been too long.”

He squeezed his hands around his father’s throat. Squeezed with all his might. His voice ripped into the air.

“I will have justice!!!!”

Abbi’s body went numb, but Julian didn’t look or let go. He only screamed louder, screamed himself into complete blackness and pain. Silence. Silence, with the whisper of his name.

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Palms Wide Open

If You have guided the entire existence of the universe,
How can I not trust that You will guide me?
If every good and perfect gift all come from you, then
Why do I live like this?
I’m terrified to lose it.
I’m clenching my fists.
I’m holding it close.
I won’t give it up,
And I won’t let go.
But you were the one who gave it to me in the beginning.
When I play tug-a-war with you, I know I’m sinning.
So help me trust you now.
Help me let it go.
I’m holding on so tight,
My knuckles turning white.
Let me have open palms,
You can calm down all my qualms.
All my objections.
Please re-order my affections.
Let me lay my hands out flat,
So You can give and take away.
I can’t receive
If I’m scared
To leave it up to You.
You.
Because You were the one who gave it to me in the beginning.
When I play tug-a-war with You, I know I’m sinning.
So melt my heart and hold my hand.
Let me sit down.
Just have my back.
And let me know Your love.
It’s real.
Help me trust,
And help me feel.
Help me know You gave this gift—
And You can give another.
Yes, Jesus, You’re my brother.
And You were the one who gave this gift in the beginning.
When I play tug-a-war with You I know I’m sinning.
You’re gift is better than my idol.
You’re arms are closer than this chokehold.
And You’re the greatest gift I could receive—
with arms— with palms— wide open.

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Sola

Hey guys, this is my first video post! And I am so excited.

In honor of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation (Tuesday, October 31st) I created a spoken-word poem called Sola (the Latin word for alone), referring to the five pillars, so to speak, of the Reformation:

1. Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone, as a final authority. . .as appose to the pope or the church)
2. Sola Fide (Faith alone. . .as appose to works)
3. Sola Gratia (Grace alone)
4. Sola Christus (Christ alone. He only can save us.)
5. Sola Deo Gloria (For the glory of God alone.)

If you want to know more about the five solas of the reformation, I would strongly suggest ZachPhilip.com, where Zach has recently been going through the five solas and applying them specifically to teens.

I hope you enjoy the video! You can find the words to my spoken word below.



Quick slap-back, hash-tag, humble brag words.
I hear them all the time; not always what I think I heard.
Lying lips. Flashing faces. Quick tongues—with erasers.
And inside of me—
hum-drum, bad, dumb
Words.
Or emotionally ecstatic
Worlds.
But the big, gold-lettered black book sittin’ on my nook
Has to judge every word so that I ain’t shaken—cause it’s easy to be shook.
Scriptura.

Words floating five feet in front of me maybe minutes ago.
So many words. In my ears. In my head.
Hiding on my phone.
Whispering in my bed.
It’s what I shoulda’ done, or what I thought, or said.
Crumbling castles of the dead and dying demon who I am—
White-washed hands,
But I’m a broken man.
It can’t be what I do,
Cause I know what I done.
I’ll do the same again.
It’s what my soul-searching sadness seems to scream.
Instead of actions,
what my bent-back badness reaches to believe.
Fide—freeing me.

Fight to have the firm-footed, rock-rooted, deep-planted, unchanging faith to believe.
But I’m an empty shell with no love inside of me.
I’m really just in Hell, filled with dead despondency.
I can’t conjure up the courage of a kid—
like a funny fairy-story
Some bee-eating baptizer crazed in the cranium seemed to claim—
I can’t believe what I don’t believe.
I can’t want what I don’t want—wash me with the water of the wedding of the Lamb.
Cause I can only care enough to care enough to care,
If you be changin’ who I am and you be really there.
It’s a gift—not a game—like a life that He gave. It’s called grace.
Gratia.

Grace like a pretty word—
just like all those other words.
But it ain’t just a word.
Cause the Word became flesh.
He’s named Christ.
And He took my sin and death.
On the cross. At a cost.
Cause my sin ain’t gonna disappear.
Ain’t no art of misdirection.
It’s the art of bleeding tears.
Cause I look up at a person.
A brother, not a band-aid, came to my aid.
But He did it for his glory.
Christus.

I hear words. I say words.
I see sin. I do sin,
But that’s really all so thin cause it’s Him.
Not the words that I say.
Not the good that I do.
Cause this ain’t the story of the words that I hear.
It’s about the love that finds me
And the love that I hold dear.
The main man in the middle of his plan,
In the center of his love,
In the center of the world
Is Himself.
Not nobody else.
Cause I see myself and say, “Who can save me from that self?”
He’s not saving me for me. He’s saving me for Him.
It’s the story of a robber and a thing.
But the robber was the thing, and the thing was the robber.
And the robber robbed the thing from the King.
It’s the story of a dragon and a Lover and a war.
And He bought back his bride,
So He’s the one we’re for.
All for His glory.
The words and the story.
Sometimes, it got gory,
but He conquered all the evil by Himself. For Himself.
He don’t need nobody else.
Deo Gloria.

And this is why it’s all about sola—cause there’s only one way.
Hey guess what?
The sola means I ain’t sola anymore.
Cause I know Who I am for, alone.
Sola His.

Video | Posted on by | 6 Comments

I Am Not Free!

Hey guys! This is the eighth installment of our Life 2.0 story series. For more information on Life 2.0, visit our Life 2.0 page here. Hope you all enjoy!

Sophie, the strange woman who claimed to be from next door, set a punishing pace as they sped through the halls.

Her white hair flowed behind her in a billowing manner, almost in reach of Julian’s arm length.

They were blindly following her through a nightmare, on a whim that she really knew what she boasted.

Julian shook his head. They really were desperate.

Maybe she would lead them out of this place, or maybe she would be like Vivek, deceiving them.

Putting a sneer on his face, Julian despised the thought of being so easily tricked.

This truly was an act of faith.

Back home in Sixeko, faith was of no consequence to Julian; a subject that distracted him from real work. But in the past, Julian would have also called himself sane.

There was no shred of sanity in this.

Twists and turns in their path disoriented any sense of direction that Julian had gained. He felt totally lost physically, but also mentally.

Where were they going? Was this Hall of Remembrance a safe place?

Yet, Sophie seemed to know exactly where they were supposed to go. Unless she was faking it.

“Marcus, be careful of her tricks,” his brother glanced over at him curiously, his lips pursed. “You never know with these strangers.”

Marcus sighed and said without turning his head, “Didn’t I tell you that when you were so confident about Vivek?”

Julian didn’t snap back at his brother. He bit his tongue fiercely. There was no arguing with that. He had allowed himself to believe in someone, and gotten bitten in the process.

As Julian ran, every breath became harder.

The distance they were covering wasn’t even a small portion of the ten-mile races that Julian had completed in the past, but he was losing his strength with every step.

Julian let out a small whimper; this hell-hole was a paradox.

Julian forced himself to look at his brother, who was still running strongly.
Why were they running? It seemed that they were in a rush to get away.

If anything, Julian knew that he and Marcus deserved to know if they were being chased.

Sophie looked wary. The new possible threat nagged at the back of Julian’s mind as he ran.

His legs shook as he tried to force them in front of each other. He knew he must keep going. If he stopped, he would be lost and alone. No comfort would come to Julian, only the knowledge that he gave up. He gasped for breath.

“I can’t. Please… stop.”

His eyes bulged as he tried to talk to Marcus, whose gaze, and apparently all his senses, were set on Sophie. How could he not see Julian’s pain?

“Marcus! Slow down,” it sounded like a chicken dying underneath a tractor-trailer’s wheel.

Instead, Marcus ran further and further away. The flapping back of his baggy grey hoodie started to blur in Julian’s vision. Then he disappeared.

The realization that he had turned a bend was lost to Julian in the moment, and he didn’t process the solid wall in front of him until he had slammed into it.

He bounced off the wall and onto the floor, pain rocketing through his body.

Julian lay on the icy cold ground. He felt like he was going to have a heart attack any moment. He stared at the seamless floor, fighting the urge to throw up. How could Marcus not see that he had fallen behind?

Julian could see little now. His surroundings seemed dimmed, and he couldn’t even hear footsteps anymore.

Spread-eagle with his limbs flopped all over the place, Julian finally was able to find air in his lungs.

Darkness surrounded him. The meaty thunk of Julian’s fist against the floor fell flat.

Sophie had planned this. She had blatantly tricked him. She had made sure he was left behind, alone again.

A throaty scream erupted from his exhausted lungs.

Sophie’s intentions were lost to Julian, but he could feel in his gut, quite literally, that they weren’t to benefit him. Somehow, she had made him fall. Somehow, she had caused him to fail. It wasn’t Julian; it was her.

He knew this feeling. He’d felt it before. Abandonment.

Suddenly, Julian could see the wall next to him in further clarity.

A faint light started to rise around him.

To his total shock the floor no longer felt smooth; it was rough pine-wood.

Sitting up abruptly, Julian jerked his head around the room. His room. This had been his bedroom in that ancient house placed at the end of a cul-de-sac.

How was this possible? It couldn’t be.

But nevertheless, a large My Years of Heartthrob poster hung from the far wall. That was his favorite band when he was fifteen.

Perhaps Marcus’s proposition, that this box of paradoxes was in fact connected to Julian, wasn’t so crazy after all.

Standing up slowly, Julian took the whole room in like a breath of nostalgic air.

He missed this place. It had been his safe haven. Now, this room didn’t exist.

When he had been kicked out- no, when he had left- Abbi had removed all his stuff and thrown it in the trash.

As Julian walked around the space in wistfulness, he unconsciously closed the door that was hanging ajar. Ammi’s words rung in his ears, almost like she was here with him.

“Please don’t close your door, Julian. Don’t shut yourself out.”

He had always closed the door. No one needed to know what he was doing. Julian muttered his faithful response.

“Why? This is my room.”

But the words had come from somewhere else.

He bolted to see himself sitting on the rickety bed that was shoved into the corner, except he was fifteen.

All the blankets on the bed were thrown about carelessly, like the owner was in a constant rush.

Julian’s four years in highschool immediately came to mind.

The boy scowled, working at a cube puzzle held in his tan fingers.

“What is this?” Julian asked to the air.

There was no response whatsoever from the younger version of himself, not even a flinch or gasp.

Julian walked over slowly and waved a hand in front of the boy’s eyes. He continued working on his puzzle like nothing was there.

Was he always this oblivious?

Suddenly, the door creaked open slightly.

The thought of hiding crossed his mind, but he abandoned it as Ammi’s form squeezed in.

Her raven hair flowed smoothly over her shoulders, and her full lips were pressed together firmly. She frowned, her body tight, but her eyes looked sympathetic. There were no gray streaks in her hair like there were today.

“Ammi? What are you doing here?” His voice was strained.

Julian’s mother didn’t even turn to acknowledge him.

He involuntarily reached out to touch her arm, but his fingers passed through. There was no real substance to her body.

What was this? This scenario seemed so familiar.

Her eyes flitted to the green backpack that was carelessly thrown onto the floor, and the disappointment in her face deepened. A can of pink spray paint was peaking out of the zippered top.

Suddenly, recognition swept across Julian.

This was the day that Abbi had found out about his late night rampages and stolen his only freedom.

Julian scowled. He remembered the disgust that had crossed Abbi’s mustached face.

Ammi wrinkled her nose and placed her hands on her hips.

“It smells like a dead animal in here.” The other Julian turned his head towards her, and she raised an eyebrow. “Have you retrieved those dirty shirts from under your bed?”

Smiling to himself, Julian remembered his mom’s icebreakers always involved the smell in his room. The fifteen-year-old version of Julian sighed heavily and flopped back onto his mattress.

“No, of course not! I have too many shirts already.”

Ammi put on a tired smile. She perched on the edge of Julian’s bed and ran a hand through her long, raven hair. Unconsciously, Julian realized he was doing the same thing. She dropped her hands into her lap in the awkward silence. Young Julian continued to stare up at the ceiling.

“So,” she looked around the room, “Which one of your brothers is going to get your room when you go off to college?”

The young Julian rose his eyebrow. In his mind, he probably wished he could leave sooner than going to college. He would get his wish, but not in the way he was thinking of.

“Neither Marcus or Damian deserve their own room,” he muttered, “They have enough trouble cleaning up the room that they share. When I move to college, this will be my room when I visit on weekends.”

Ammi’s relieved expression made Julian laugh bitterly. There would be no visiting on weekends. There would barely be any interaction. When he had left the house at the end of the cul-de-sac, Ammi had not tried to stop him. That day he had left the home, her final words were like a knife in his side.

“Why Julian? My little malak. My angel. Why do you hurt me so?”

It hurt her terribly, Julian knew, though she had no idea how much torture he’d gone through.

The past Ammi leaned forward uncomfortably, trying to formulate her next words.

“Julian, you know that we’re just looking out for you. Your father and I are concerned with how much time you spend away from us.”

He flinched at the response he knew would come. Julian had never been looked out for. His other self sat up abruptly, eyebrows creased tightly.

“Ammi, did you know that other, normal kids spend days away from their family? They do something special; it’s called having fun.” The sarcasm laced his voice like a deadly poison. He threw his legs off the bed and pointed out his narrow window. “I’m concerned about how much time I’ve wasted in this room, typing endless papers about the Muslim faith, social justice, and all the stuff that Abbi wants me to work on! Every once and awhile, I just wish I could do something for me.”

Julian stared at the clunky desktop computer that sat on a squat bureau in the corner. That computer was his oldest friend and biggest nightmare. There could have been so much more that he might have achieved.

As calm as ever, Ammi nodded her head in response.

“I understand where you’re coming from, but that isn’t an excuse for sneaking out at night.”

Julian clenched his teeth tightly. They always pulled out that one. His feelings and struggles “weren’t an excuse” for his rebellion. It wasn’t an excuse; it was an explanation.

Young Julian rolled his eyes. He stood up and gestured to the window.

“If you just let me have a little leeway. . .” His tone turned negotiable, “some space to breathe then I might feel more obliged to actually listen to you.”

Ammi’s mouth hung open as she thought. She glanced at the door, obviously thinking about Abbi and his dedication. She knew the right thing to do, yet she couldn’t do it. Young Julian’s face held expectation, a hope from the person he loved.

Ammi’s expression hardened. “Your father is doing all he can to make sure you follow Islam faithfully-”

The current Julian punched the wall; it always came back to what Abbi wanted.

“Think about your son, woman!” he pleaded with the past.

Ammi continued, and her fifteen-year-old son balled his fists till they were white.

“He understands how defiled the world is. How difficult it is for a man to live righteously.”

He whirled on his mother. “The world is a place where there is freedom! In this home, I do not feel free. I am not free.”

Ammi’s head drooped. Part of the current Julian wanted to slap himself. He was oblivious to the fact that Ammi was trying her best. The rest of him knew how he felt. This was him after all. He did not feel loved, and he was not free.

Ammi closed her eyes and took a breath. She was fighting back tears. The younger version of Julian crossed his arms tightly, looking at the ground.

“Please Julian, promise me you’ll at least think about how your example will affect your brothers. Marcus and Damian are so young; they need to have an older brother to follow.”

The plea of his mother hit Julian straight in the heart.

He knew both of his brothers were taken away from him when he left.

They had grown so much. They had grown so fast. Where had Julian been?

Even when Marcus had gone to the same school as his brother out of his free choice, Julian had distanced himself.

Damian, now a nine-year-old boy whom Julian barely knew, was being raised into the religion that had destroyed Julian’s faith.

Young Julian’s shoulders slumped a little. He rubbed his head slowly.

“I guess I can try to.”

Julian scoffed at his younger self. Try to? He barely tried! For some reason, he had tried instead to make two lives for himself; one without his family, and the other that included the problems that came with them.

Ammi put on a small smile. “You know that we love you, Julian.”

Julian looked deeply into Ammi’s eyes. Was that still true? Did he have any love left for them? He shook his head and muttered bitterly.

“No, I don’t know that you love me.”

She reached out to touch young Julian’s arm.

He jerked away from her fingers, “Don’t touch me!”

Ammi spoke over him, trying to get her words through, “We just want you to share the same beliefs as us, so that we may live in peace with each other!”

A fire snapped into his eyes. His lip curled. He stared ahead of him, and just shook his head several times in dead silence.

“Get out. Just. . .Just get out.”

At first, Ammi stared at him pleadingly. Determined, he thrust his finger towards the door. Julian wanted to break the stupid thing as it shook.

“I said get out!” He screamed hoarsely. “So move it.”

Julian’s mother backed away slowly, and he found himself reaching out for her. He needed her. She turned away, and the tears started streaming down her face.
He stared at her desperately, as the door clicked shut.

“Wait!”

But she didn’t, she couldn’t, hear him.

“Please. I can’t do this on my own.”

It was a whimper, a plea for help.

Julian slid to his knees. He looked down at his hands, and realized that they were wet with tears. He hadn’t cried in forever.

Through his tears, Julian could see that he was alone in the room again. It seemed to be his destiny. Could he be sick of distrust and loneliness? Ammi believed in him, and he had betrayed her. Or maybe she was just talking.

“What’s wrong, my darling?”

The suddenness of a voice made him jump. He was supposed to be alone. Julian darted his head around, looking for the source. It sounded like Ammi.

“Why are you crying?” Julian whipped his head towards the door.

Could it be Ammi again? Here to soothe Julian’s hurt? A slender hand reached in and pushed the door open.

“You’re stronger than this, Julian,” Ammi’s reassuring tone was replaced by a smooth, alluring one.

A tall figure stood in the doorway, wearing a sleeveless crimson dress. Her head was tossed back, and her long blond hair flowed freely. She gazed at Julian intensely.

“Who the-? What are you?”

“You know who I am, Jules.” She smiled lopsidedly. “Though you doubt me more than you should.”

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The Man Upstairs

Bloody footprints track downstairs,
Into a room full of fakers.
People just making due,
Dying with every breath.
Burlap sacks cover their faces,
A sacrifice worth making.
They are blind but can’t breathe.
Blind to the needs 
Of their very soul
They whisper, “silence is better.”
Than dare listen to their own gurgled voices.
Strangled by distorted choices.
What other life is there
Than to die slowly without purpose
Like a fly buzzing in circles?
Ignore the world all you want,
It won’t go away.
Ignore the desperate people.
They’ll die anyway.
Ignorance is bliss.
Guess what they miss?

They’ll drive over a cliff
Into desperate redemption,
When He comes around for them.
They’ll be reminded,
Of their deadly exemption.
They won’t be denying
That they stayed in their dying cave
Without a reason to leave.
They decided what’s best
Always failing the test
Till their souls laid to rest,
In oblivion.

And in the strange upper room
Lived the man,
Who died at high noon,
What if he had a story to tell?
About how He saved them from hell.
How could they dare sell,
Their fickle soul?
He was the one,
Who broke through the door
Leading upstairs
No one would dare,
But He was louder than ever
It scared our ears into deafness
Because we think we’re so clever,
We ran.
Guess where we’re going?  
Perhaps we think
This is our home forever,
But we’re really on the brink
Of the basement of darkness
Where we might find,
That breathing ain’t an option.
We suffocate there
Spewing senseless prayers of,
“Help us!”
The Man is here still
Bloody and torn.
He was reborn to
Help us.
 

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Desire of the Mind

Hey guys! This is the seventh installment of our Life 2.0 story series. For more information on Life 2.0, visit our Life 2.0 page here. Hope you all enjoy!

Vivek sat in a black chair in a black room, with a long, wide window spanning the entire length of the room. Arianna stood just above him.

But the window didn’t look out into the desert. Vivek knew this window. It depicted what he wanted to see.

Arianna looked down at him, with cold, calculating eyes.

“Look. Look out the window.”

Vivek’s frail body shook, but he obeyed.

Outside the window, he could only see grey, blank walls. Today he would see what Arianna wanted him to see.

She put a hand on his shoulder and hissed.

“What do you love, Vivek? What do you really love?”

And then on the other side of the window, he could see himself. His face, but it was not wrinkled, it was smooth and tan. His eyes were sharp blue. His hair was a strong dark brown. He shook his head. He thought that was himself, but he wasn’t really looking at himself. He was looking at Julian.

He could feel Arianna breathe softly at him.

“You love yourself, Vivek.”

Vivek shook his head.

“That’s Julian. I’m not Julian.”

Throwing a hand in the air, Arianna laughed into the blackness, and the sound reverberated on the walls.

“Who is Julian? Who are you?” She rolled her eyes and put a finger at his chin. Vivek wondered if she would stab him with her nail. “You live inside Julian, and you are Julian. You might not be all of him, but he is all of you.”

Vivek tried to wrap his mind around that, while Arianna circled the table he was sitting at and sat across from him. Her gold hair and dress shimmered in the darkness, but Vivek’s eyes were still fixed on the window.

“What else do you love?” Arianna said. “What could you not live without?”

Outside the window, he saw the classroom. Professor Stanley standing at the front of the room in front of the chalk board. He was keenly aware of Kristen’s presence somewhere in the room, but he wasn’t really looking at her or the professor. It was what was on the desk in front of him, until it filled up the whole window, till it was the only thing Vivek could see behind its glass.

Paper. A number. A percent. 100%. Endless philosophy questions, and Vivek had gotten a hundred percent. This he knew wasn’t Julian’s doing. That was Vivek—all Vivek. He felt a pleasurable sensation rush up his back, like bathing in cold, refreshing water.

“What is your grade-point average?”

Vivek didn’t even have to think about this one.

“Julian has a 4.0.”

Arianna pounded her fists on the table.

“No! Not Julian.” She brought her face up close towards him, till he was staring right into her eyes. “You have a 4.0. When was the last time you got less than an A in any class.”

Vivek could feel his heart beating faster. His hands were actually trembling.

“7th grade. Pre-calculus.”

Arianna hissed and stabbed a finger at him.

“You failed Julian. His father was enraged. You remember, don’t you?”

Vivek’s voice squeaked.

“Of course I remember! He was in 7th grade. Taking pre-calculus. How can you blame him!”

Arianna laughed, revealing pearly-white teeth.

“I don’t blame him. I don’t even blame you. You blame you! It’s everything. What do you love most about Kristen?”

Outside the window, he could see her green eyes. Her smooth face. Her dirty-blonde hair. But she was saying something.

She giggled, and Vivek looked long into her eyes.

“Sometime you blow me away, Jule,” She threw her hands out. “Your mind’s crazy.”

Vivek could feel the smile spreading on his face. He felt so so good.

“You love it! You love it!”

Vivek rose and threw his fists on the table, glaring at Arianna just as she had glared at him.

“Who cares if I love it! What does that have to do with anything? What does that have to do with Sophie helping us?”

Arianna raised an eyebrow.

“Us?”

Vivek groaned.

“Us. Me and my Julian.”

A wide grin spread itself over Arianna’s face.

“You and your Julian. You and your 4.0. You and your Kristen. You and your everything. Don’t you see. You want to be God. You don’t want to be the slave of some God out there.”

Vivek shook his head and threw his hand up in exasperation.

“Why can’t this just be simple. I stop believing atheism and start being a deist.”

Arianna snorted a laugh.

“But you were always a deist. You have a God and his name is Vivek.” Arianna brushed off his shoulders and stared into his eyes. “I love you, Vivek. You’re my god, Vivek. And you can’t change that.”

Vivek tightened his jaw and shook his head several times.

“But Julian always said, ‘I wish I could believe, but there’s not enough evidence.’ Not enough evidence. Now, I’m saying there’s enough evidence.”
Arianna shook her head.

“I believe it’s quite the opposite. Julian knows the evidence. What can be known about God is plain to him, because God has shown it to him. No. You don’t need to change, Vivek. I’m what needs to change.”

“Julian disdains the idea of following his heart!” Vivek growled.

“And yet he’s a slave to his heart—to me. So ironic, isn’t it? Let Sophie talk to him. Let her ‘save’ him. If I don’t change, nothing changes.”

Vivek wanted to get out of here. He simply shook his head again. There was something that Marcus always said.

“But. . .But. . .Julian can be transformed. By my renewal. Marcus always said it was the renewal of the mind.”

Arianna started to turn around, away from Vivek. She looked over his shoulder at him.

“He also said, ‘the heart is deceitful above all things.’ I’m in control, Vivek. You can’t change that. And anyways, you’re not renewed. You still want to be god. If God, the real God, lowered you, enslaved you, would you still serve him? Would you give him yourself?”

Then Arianna rushed out of the room. Vivek wondered if he should follow her.

Should Vivek. . .

Follow Arianna? Go back for Julian and Marcus? Or something else?

Comment below and join the adventure!

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