COL (Cry Out–Loud)

This week we’re taking a short break from Life 2.0 posts. Instead, I’m going to be posting a poem that I wrote more than a year-and-a-half ago. I’ve recently been reading old journals during my time with God, and came across this. I think it still rings true for now.

I smell like cologne.
I’m grabbing my phone.
I’m texting, “LOL,”
but I just can’t quite tell
if all this vanity
and the insanity of being a teen
Is really worth it.

All the worldly pleasures.
I’ll never count for anything
by these world’s measures.
I can always do more.
All the isles at the store
full of clothes and hair spray.

You make me free.
They make me bound.
I feel so lost,
But with you I’m found.

And you say
That I’m yours,
And maybe I hurt you when I run.
And maybe this isn’t all that fun.

I wear my hair up–my shirt unbuttoned with a T-shirt underneath.
I care about what they see.

But now I see you and it’s not about them and it’s not about me.
I care about what you see.

You make me free.
They make me bound.
I feel so lost,
But with you I’m found.

It might be absurd,
But I’m grabbing your Word.
And praying, “Save me!”
The world won’t make me free.
And you are all I need.

I can’t be defined by the lies.
Not by someone else, Lord, only by Your eyes.
I’m rubbish on my own,
But you promise to bring me home.
And you already payed,
And now I am yours.
I am changed by Your Spirit.
Not on my own merit.
The flesh says,
“I need more,
and this vain world’s lots more fun.”

But I choose to believe the Holy One.

You make me free.
They make me bound.
I feel so lost,
But with you I’m found.

I wear my hair up–my shirt unbuttoned with a T-shirt underneath.
I care about what they see.

But now I see you and it’s not about them and it’s not about me.
I care about what you see.

You make me free.
They make me bound.
I feel so lost,
But with you I’m found.
Continue reading COL (Cry Out–Loud)

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In The Act

Hey guys! This is the fifth installment in our Life 2.0 story series! For more information on Life 2.0, go to our Life 2.0 page here!

With this new installment, Julian and Marcus followed Gloria’s advice. Thanks for commenting, Gloria!

Vivek raced down the hall, turning back every few moments at the two boys. Where he was running to he had no clue. Arianna would kill him, but she couldn’t, could she? The boys were running his way. He had to get away from them. He couldn’t handle them until he knew what to do.

He put his back against the wall and tried to make himself look invisible. Tried not to breathe.

But they didn’t make it into the halls. The golden idols were surrounding them. He couldn’t stay to watch. Vivek raced down the dark halls. Took a left turn. A right. Another left. The thought shook him that he might be walking right into a trap, but he had to keep going. If he couldn’t lure Julian, then he might as well. . .but he should be able to control his mind.

He stood in the middle of a dark hall, completely winded. The walls and carpet were a dark shade of green and on the far wall was a family portrait. Julian, age nine. Marcus, five. The youngest brother had not yet been born. The parents stood over their two boys protectively.

Vivek gasped. This was the painting. His subconscious had taken him straight to this painting, assuming he had a subconscious.

He wouldn’t tell Arianna. Not yet. But this was so daring! He’d never rebelled against her before. Why should working with Sophia be rebellion? If Julian’s only human connection at the moment was Marcus, then what better tool to use than Sophia.

But he knew it was more than that. He wanted freedom, and this was his chance.

Each step towards that painting felt like it was in slow-motion. The green carpet made contact with his toes. He lifted his leg. Took a step. Made contact with the carpet again. And still the painting looked so far away.

He could see the father’s face glaring at him. The mother, with the same deep, peaceful eyes as Marcus daring him to come one step closer. She wore a black hijab and dress. Marcus smiled up at him.

But already, a battle waged in Julian’s mind. Even in those years. Vivek had had a desire to understand. Had had a desire for freedom, but it had only led him to further bondage.

He stared at the painting now, each step bringing him closer and closer, and he knew that somewhere deep inside of him, he loved Julian.

The candle trembled in his hand. This was a daring move. Communications had been caught off with the father, though Vivek knew there was still at least one gateway to the mother. He hadn’t tried Marcus. Not for years. Not since Arianna had come. Could he do it now? Should he do it?

He was finally at the painting. He put the candle down.
Quietly, he put a hand on Julian’s boy face. So soft. So scared. He hadn’t changed that much.

He moved the candle away, close to the left wall and as far from the portrait as possible. He heard his heart pound in his chest. What if someone found him? What if Arianna found him?

His hands shook. He forced them to stop and slowly, cautiously grabbed the painting and lowered it to the floor.

He breathed hard. What if they caught him? What if the communications were tapped? He narrowed his eyes and spoke to himself now.

“Do this. For Julian’s sake. You live for Julian. Now die for Julian if you have to.”

He looked at the wall now. Underneath the painting, just as he had expected, now open for the world to see was the small microphone connected straight to the wall. It was still there, and from the light on the side of the microphone, he knew it was still on and in operation.

“Sophia,” his voice quaked. “Can you hear me?”

The other end was static.

“I’m here,” she said. “What do you want?”

Her voice was cold. She didn’t trust him. Just like Marcus didn’t trust him. Of course. What should he expect. He pressed on.

“Marcus and Julian are here. I think it’s time. I want to be free. Can you help me?”

Vivek could imagine her, rolling her eyes deep in their wrinkled sockets.

“Only a miracle could rescue you, but I’m coming. Does Ariana know?”

Vivek glared at the mic.

“You fool! Of course, she doesn’t know,” he hissed. “Can you imagine what she’d do to me if she knew?”

“Good,” Sophia whispered. “I’ll be there soon. I think it’s the only way.” She paused, cleared her throat, and then spoke, more loudly now but somehow, also more gently. “I want you to know you’re not the only one who loves Julian. We’ve been praying for him.”

Vivek breathed slowly at those words. Marcus was praying for him? Really? And he loved him.
“Over and. . .” Sophie started to whisper, but she was cut off with a buzz.

A voice hissed from behind him.

“Oh no. Of course, she doesn’t know. Can you imagine what she’d do to me if she knew?”

The voice sent a chill through Vivek’s spine. He felt like vomiting. Slowly, he turned around.

Arianna was walking towards him, donned with a golden sleeveless dress and shiney silver slippers.

Vivek stood frozen.

Arianna smiled at him, and her finger smoothed his beard.

“Oh Vivek, what have we here?” She looked down at the painting and candle on the floor. “Has someone lost their marbles.”

Her face was inches from his own, and she kept brushing his chin with her smooth fingers. She looked about ready to bite him and near enough to do it too.

“Come with me, Viv. I have something to show you.”

She laughed and turned around, her golden hair falling over her shoulders as she rocked her head back with each eruption of laughter.

Vivek didn’t move.

She turned her head back to glare at Vivek and screamed.

“I said, ‘Come with me!’”

Should Vivek. . .

Follow Ariana to try to stop her? Run away? Or something else?

Comment below and join the adventure!

Without a Doubt

Hey guys! This is the fourth installment in our Life 2.0 story series! For more information on Life 2.0, go to our Life 2.0 page here!

With this new installment, Marcus followed Gloria’s advice. Thanks for commenting, Gloria!

He would buckle. He had to. There was no one more dependent than Marcus.

“Come on Marcus! Vivek knows more about this,” Julian threw his hands into the air, slicing through the tension filled atmosphere, “stupid place than we ever will. We’re lost without him!”

As he presented his case to Marcus, who stood with one foot precariously on the dark step, Julian felt like a thread between him and Vivek, turned into a triple corded rope.

Without Vivek, there was no survival.

His countless wrinkles held wisdom, and wisdom was a treasure. Wasn’t that from somewhere in the Bible?

“Julian, he’s not what he looks like,” Marcus stated strongly, dark eyebrows creased.

The surety in his tone was like a slap to Julian’s face. He chuckled nervously. What had come over the guy?

“What. Are. You. Talking about? He looks like our life line!”

Julian spared a glance at the man and caught a fleeting expression of regret on his face. It disappeared quicker than Julian’s parents had disowned him after learning he was an atheist.

What was that about? Gulping down the bile of nervousness that had collected in his throat, Julian turned firmly towards Marcus.

“Please don’t be stubborn!” Julian’s frustration grew as Marcus shook his head, almost like he was empathetic. “You need to follow Vivek and I! We need to get out of here!”

Marcus didn’t see their obvious circumstance. And he called Julian blind!

Marcus looked so torn. Time passed without words as both of their minds raced for a better option. His breath steadily turned into a slow pant. Vivek fidgeted nervously behind Julian.

A cascade of doubt ran from Julian’s feet all the way up to the tips of his ears.

A desperate plea escaped his lips that made his stomach churn and head swim.

“Don’t be a stupid Christian!”

Abruptly, Marcus’ amber gaze hardened, and his fists clenched violently. Julian involuntarily took a step forward towards his brother.

“No!” Spittle flew onto Julian’s collared shirt, “I am not disillusioned to the threats that are in this place,” Marcus backed away from Julian’s out turned palm, “Whatever undeniable confidence you have in him,” he threw a shaking finger out at a wide eyed Vivek, “I do not share in the least. He’s not… trustworthy.”

Julian clenched his teeth against a rebuke. Marcus would vent, and then he would see that his brother was actually right. Almost audible, Julian could sense all of Marcus’s vertebrae cracking as he straightened his back.

A small comment, no more than a word, had almost left Julian’s cracked lips.

Marcus left no question with his own, “I’m going up these stairs, and nothing can stop me.”

Julian knew it was coming. Against what seemed possible, Marcus had stood up to Julian. The younger man had proven Julian’s logic wrong, perhaps for the first time.

Marcus’s sandaled foot hesitated at the first step, and he glanced at his older brother harshly. Julian could feel anger and confusion radiating from his gaze.

It was the same gaze that had stared at him while he strode away from their childhood home, all his earthly belongings packed away in a duffel bag hanging from his right hand.

Before Julian could do anything to stop him, Marcus was gone. There was no echoing of footsteps as he climbed the stairs. Only an empty silence that was about as inviting as a graveyard.

Vivek’s breath rushed over his neck, “We need to go now!”

The phrase was cut abruptly short, as the man standing directly behind Julian bit his lip unsurely.

“I know! But…” Julian gaped and struggled for an answer.

There was no way he could just leave Marcus. They were family, no matter what was in between them.

Staring after where his brother had just stood, Julian felt a deep bleakness cloud his head. He ran his hands through his thick brown hair. Vivek’s cheek twitched jerkily, almost in synch with Julian’s conscience. His grey eyes seared above his wire rimmed glasses. An aggressive step forward from the stranger, he was a complete stranger after all, caused Julian to flinch.

“The door will close soon, and guess where it will land?” Vivek’s bony fingers suddenly wrapped around Julian’s wrist in a vise-like grip. He jerked Julian’s hand up, pointing with the thick book at his tan fingers. A fierce heat radiated from the tome. “Right. On. Your. Spindly. Little. Fingers.”

Julian forcefully shoved away from the man’s grip, heart racing. His fingers felt burnt. Vivek’s lips were pursed so tightly, they had turned white. His chest heaved, like the act of onset had taken more effort than he had expected.

“Fi- fine,” Julian’s throat constricted with every passing word, “Lead on.”

Some of the boldness faded from his eyes. He had expected more.

As Vivek briskly turned to the starkingly black, fancily designed door to unlock it, Julian promised himself that he would go back for Marcus in fifteen minutes. Maybe ten. Already, a deep loneliness had settled.

The locks to the entryway loudly snapped open. Julian didn’t even know it was locked. Would he be able to get back out?

A white light filtered from the room as the door opened silently, piercing the shadows on the cold floor.

It only opened a few inches before stopping, not even enough for Julian to see what was inside.

Vivek slipped in quickly, like a rat that needed to get away. His now-annoying voice soon floated in a loud whisper into Julian’s tired ears.

“Please, this is the best way.”

Taking a deep breath, Julian squeezed through the gap. He felt the heaviness of the dark door, which didn’t even move as he pressed against it, brush against his ribs uncomfortably.

“Remember that your fingers aren’t titanium, that door won’t stay open forever,” Vivek warned.

A memory of Marcus and him riding bikes through the empty cul de sac they had lived on, flitted across his racing mind. Even after Julian had fell off and scraped his finger to the bone, they still had faithfully rode their bikes together every afternoon, sun or rain.

It had been an escape from the strict atmosphere of their household. Freedom from the endless prayers of Salat, and the constant reminders to be a good Muslim boy. They had done everything together- inseparable.

Except… share their beliefs.

Julian tried to ignore the pull at his heart as he pushed his body through the final inches into the room.

He stopped abruptly.

Vivek’s desperate eyes stared at him. His fingers twitched against the book and his mouth gaped open in what seemed disbelief. His bony body covered all of Julian’s sight, but glimpses of the room showed gold.

“I can’t,” Julian uttered slowly, meeting Vivek’s stare, “Everything you say seems true, but you truly are twisted in some way.”

Vivek suddenly gasped, and his lip curled viciously. His eyebrows creased like paper. Julian could see a struggle happening inside.

Taking two steps backwards, the lanky man glanced around the room hesitantly. He stopped. One look at his precious book seemed to make up his decision.

“I need to be free,” his book suddenly transformed into a flaming torch, “And you’re the only way to become released.”

Vivek’s torch stretched towards Julian, and he felt the flames lick at his nose. Beyond the orange light, the phantom clenched his pearly white teeth.

There was a grinding that came from the door, and Julian felt another person’s coarse palm on his one hand that was still left out of the room. He held onto it for dear life.

Launching himself inside without a second thought, Julian felt a second body crash into his as he fell to the floor.

A tremendous blast of air whooshed over him as the door closed a split second after. The sheer force shook the room.

“Well that was close,” squeaked Marcus as he lay beside Julian.

A sigh and a laugh from Julian followed. He had actually made it. Reaching over, Julian hugged his brother tightly. When he pulled away, his brother’s eyes seemed troubled, a secret that could not be held any longer lingered underneath.

“You aren’t supposed to be here!” Vivek groaned.

The brothers leapt to their feet. They were in a golden walled room, with statues of the same hue lining the walls. Vivek stood in the middle, torch lifted high.

“Julian! Why didn’t you listen to me?” Vivek rubbed his brow like he was speaking to a toddler that had stolen another cookie, “I was so close…” His leathery tongue swept out of his mouth to moisten his lips, “Of all the times for you to ignore my insight! She will not be pleased.”

Julian caught Marcus’s eye as they watched the phantom talk to himself. They were both ready to pin down the man, and bombard him with questions.

But before they could, all the golden statues started moving. First slowly. Then more quickly, surrounding the brothers. It was like watching water flow across stone, their actions were so fluid. Each had a scowl on their chiseled features. Mindless obedience was their only preference.

Before either could react, Vivek ran down an unseen hallway to their right.

Should they…

Run as fast as they can after Vivek? Stay and figure out who the statues are? Or something else?

Comment below and join the adventure!

Leibster Blog Award

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Hey everyone! Jason and I have had a unique opportunity to partake in a supportive blogging community activity. How fancy!? Evelyn/Idazle from A Country Girl’s Writing, has nominated us for the Liebster Blog Award! Thank you so much Idazle.This Award was invented as a way for bloggers to support each other in their writing, and also build their following. Now, it is our turn to appoint other bloggers.

Here are some amazing bloggers that we are nominating!
Dylan Yarbrough – Lost in the Write World
Zach Phillip – Zach’s Musings
Rebekah – Stuffie Adventures
Kirstie Rhys – Father’s Joy
Gloria – Reflections
Kiki Stanton – Dystopian Logic
Melody Zimmerman – MelodyZimmerman.com
Rebekah Rosamilia – The Wanderer

Our eleven questions for you guys:

What do you most appreciate in a blog?
What inspires you most?
If you could choose to live in any particular year in history, which would it be?
Favorite animal, and why?
Which do you prefer to write on: computer, type writer, or pen and paper?
Which book of the Bible do you love most?
Who’s your least favorite author? Why?
What’s your biggest writing pet peeve?
If you could be any character from the Lord of the Rings who would it be?
What’s your least favorite thing about blogging?
What’s your favorite blog post you’ve ever published?

The rules for the Award:

Acknowledge the blog who nominated you and display the award.
Answer eleven questions that the blogger gives you.
List eleven random facts about yourself.
Nominate eleven other bloggers that you think are deserving of this award (with less than 200 followers).
Let the bloggers know you nominate them.
Give them eleven questions to answer.

These are the questions that Evelyn asked us.

What do you like about blogging?

Peter’s response: Well, Jason actually asked me to help out with his blog. I really enjoy putting my work out there on the World Wide Web, so that others may tell me what they think.

Jason’s response: I like being able to share my thoughts and imaginings with the world. It’s a really exciting feeling to write a poem (or story,) and then be like, “Hey, look. Somebody liked it.”

Why did you start writing?

Peter’s response: It was really just a drive that I’ve had from a young age. I think I have to owe it all to my crazy imagination. I loved reading books like Redwall, and I tried writing on a laptop before I even knew how to type.

Jason’s response: I started writing after going to the a thousand islands in Canada when I was about 9. They were really beautiful and the architecture just sparked my imagination in such a way that I knew I had to make something out of it.

If you could pick anything to do what would it be?

Peter’s response: Jason’s wish is pretty sweet.

Jason’s response: I wish I could go be part of a revival here in America.

Favorite food?

Peter’s response: I’m a mint freak, so probably something with mint and chocolate. Pasta is also amazing (Italian roots)

Jason’s response: I love my mom’s empanadas.

Which season do you prefer: spring, summer, fall, or winter?

Peter’s response: Can I pick two? Summer and fall!

Jason’s response: Same as Peter. In summer you get to not have school. My birthday (and Peter’s) are in fall.

Who’s your favorite author?

Peter’s response: Ah! That’s always such a hard question for me to answer! I would probably have to say either Chuck Black, John Flannagan, Lois Lowry, or Ted Dekker

Jason’s response: Other than God, I would have to say this is a hard question. I love Lois Lowry and Madeleine Le’engle. Ted Dekker and Lucy Maud Montgomery are also very cool, but I could just keep on naming authors for a LONG time. Lewis’s nonfiction is amazing!

What is your favorite quote?

Peter’s response: “Yet do not cast all hope away. Tomorrow is unknown. Rede oft is found at the rising Sun.” ~ Legolas

Jason’s response: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”—C.S. Lewis

Favorite movie?

Peter’s response: The Incredibles or Spiderman: Homecoming

Jason’s response: Toy Story 3 or Frozen. (I know. . .but. . .) I also really love LOTR.

Favorite sport or activity?

Peter’s response: Dance, acting, and parkour!

Jason’s response: Dance and acting

What Bible verse comforts you the most?

Peter’s response: 1 Peter 2:9

Jason’s response: Philippians 1:6

Best loved memory?

Peter’s response: Staying home and eating monkey bread (basically cinnamon rolls), while opening stockings at 6:30 in the morning on Christmas day.

Jason’s response: SO hard! I love memories so much. . .maybe when I ripped my pants in front of my cousin and one of our other friends. I actually wrote a story based off of a different memory that I posted on here.

11 random facts about Peter

1. I chew mint (go figure) gum frequently
2. My middle name is “Thrasher”
3. Parkour is my favorite sport
4. I’m part of a Christian dance studio
5. I love cracking my knuckles
6. My favorite music genres are rap and rock
7. I do not play any instrument
8. I once had to help put out a fire that had started in our mower
9. I referee soccer
10. To me, organizing clothes is therapeutic
11. I’m terrible at most sports

11 random facts about Jason

1. I have to get implants for my teeth.
2. I love dramatic death scenes.
3. For a while, I was slightly koala obsessed.
4. I like outlining more than writing (I think. . .)
5. Brett Harris is my brother-in-law.
6. I’ve seen a bear just outside my front porch.
7. I’m terrified of bees.
8. My mom’s from Argentina.
9. My dad started flying ultralight airplanes when he was 14.
10. My book was originally based off of a world I created with my stuffed animals.
11. I’m the only boy in my family.

That was a ton of fun! Hope you guys enjoyed this, and please participate as well!

Jason and Peter

The Man Called Vivek

Hi guys! This is the third installment in our Life 2.0 story series! For more information on Life 2.0, go to our Life 2.0 page.

With this new installment, Julian and Marcus followed Koryn’s advice (to have an argument,) which they honestly don’t find very hard to do. 😉 But the questions still up in the air as to whether they will actually, finally, split up. Thanks for commenting, Koryn!

Vivek stared at the newcomers for a full two seconds–his eyes drawn to the taller boy. He recognized him, as if. . .but it couldn’t be.

Their eyes had obviously still not adjusted to the darkness. The taller one was squinting, the younger craning his neck. He had a hoodie tied around his waist.

But the taller boy. Vivek felt he knew him. Was he the one they had waited for? Arianna would be so proud. Had Vivek found him? But she would kill him if he got it wrong.

Vivek waited in the darkness by the stairs, eyeing the lowest portrait. He couldn’t let himself be seen. Not yet.

His hands were wrinkled, and old. His face was caved in. He knew the dark, golden staircase behind him and the black door down in the Priority Room where the two boys had fallen just as well as he knew the back of his own hand. He also knew that at this precise moment his hand, which was holding the candle, was trembling.

He covered the flame and crept down the last few steps towards the door. When he was ready, he would uncover the flame and let himself be seen.

But not yet.

The taller boy pushed himself up to a sitting position and whimpered.

Vivek lifted his hand. The candle shone to illuminate his old, cracked face and long hair and beard. He fixed his glasses and watched, waiting for either boy to say something. Anything.

He could hardly hold the candle. The taller boy. . .could he whisper the thought. . .could this be Julian? Prince, no king, Julian? Julian, Vivek’s slave.

The boy with the hoodie crawled towards the one Vivek thought was Julian. He was pointing at him. Grimacing and pointing at him.

“Who is he?”

Julian shrugged, paused, and then spoke.

“Should we go deeper?”

Vivek had to force himself not to shake his head.

No. No. No. Don’t go further. Not without me. I need you. Here.

Julian was looking up at the staircase—Vivek wondered if he could see the pictures on the walls. It had to be. It had to be Julian.

The boy gave him a strange look. He had brown hair and deep, brown skin and eyes. No boy. He was a man, and he was staring as if he recognized Vivek.

A chill went down Vivek’s spine. How much longer could he be silent?

He wanted to say something. He had to say something.

Julian brushed off his clothes.

Vivek looked into his eyes. They were the eyes of a genius, of a soul with a mind. Vivek trembled as he realized who that mind was. . .

“Will you follow me into my home?” he said, lips still trembling as he waved over to the door, not wanting to lose hold of his candle. “It’s obviously your best option.”

He didn’t know why he said the last part. Probably because he wanted Julian to follow him so much. But it made him sound sketchy. The other boy, with the hoodie, how could he be here if he wasn’t Julian? But how could Julian be here at all?

Vivek didn’t know. Arianna would have to answer his questions.

Vivek waited for Julian to make up his mind. He couldn’t very well get out now, but he might try something risky. Vivek was risky, which meant Julian was risky—if Vivek was who he thought he was.

“You’re human?” Julian said. “You’re not going to hurt us? You don’t have any weapons?”

Vivek had to think hard about the answer to each question, except the second one.

“No. I’m not going to hurt you,” he said. His lip was still trembling. “I suppose you could call me human, though. . .I’m only part-human.” He held up the candle in his left hand. “I have this, but I won’t use it to hurt you.”

The last part was a lie.

Julian laughed a little.

“I like you. A book isn’t a weapon, old man.”

Vivek looked down at his candle, confused.

“A book?”

“That’s what you’re holding, isn’t it?”

The boy with the hoodie was silent the whole time. Vivek stared down to where he had been.

Actually, he was gone. He was on the staircase.

“Will you come with me, Julian?” Vivek said.

Using his name was risky, but it might prove worth it.

Julian looked up the staircase to see the other boy.

“Marcus! Come back here. We’re going to follow this man. He knows my name.”

Marcus! So that was who the other boy was. Not good. Well, not good unless Vivek could be freed, but who ever was freed from Arianna?

“I’m not going anywhere with that person. I think he’s dangerous,” Marcus called back downstairs.

“Fine! You go up that staircase by yourself, but I’m going with this. . .” Julian turned his head to Vivek. “What’s your name, sir?”

“Vivek.”

Julian shouted up the stairs again.

“I’m going with Vivek. You can either come with me or go by yourself and possibly get lost. It’s up to you!”

Something had snapped, and Vivek couldn’t say he didn’t like it. He had a thought. If he used his will, could he control Julian’s?

Marcus stood at the edge of the stairs. He looked unsure what to do. Follow Julian, his brother, who was lost because Vivek was locked up. . .or go up the stairs. He would see the pictures if he did that, Vivek realized.

Should Marcus. . .

Follow Julian and Vivek through the door? Go up the staircase—alone? Or something else?

Comment below and join the adventure!

The Better Option

Hi guys! This is the second installment in our Life 2.0 story series! For more information on Life 2.0, go to our Life 2.0 page. You can also find Julian and Marcus on the YWW community this week!

With this new installment, Julian and Marcus followed the advice of Gloria and Anna. Thanks for commenting, guys!

Bright and searingly hot, the desert sun beat down on the two brothers. Julian slowly rubbed his itchy eyes to distract him from Marcus’ scrutiny. He squinted into the horizon, and for the umpteenth time surveyed the two boxes. Neither looked particularly promising.

“Why me? Can’t you choose?” Julian snapped back at his brother, who still held a stupidly oblivious grin on his face.

Marcus flinched at the proposition. Of course he was unsure; he could never make a decision about anything other than following Jesus. Even Marcus’s own college was selected by their parents.

Running a hand through his thick hair, Marcus muttered, “That doesn’t sound like a good idea.” Julian snorted at that.

With a slightly hurt expression on his face, Marcus shuffled his sandaled feet through the sand. He shielded his brown eyes with one tan hand, gazing across the twenty yard expanse that separated them from the ominous boxes. That hoodie was still flung over his head, like it would protect him from any particular danger that came from this seemingly impossible place. Julian was starting to feel the effects of standing around for fifteen minutes in the baking sand. He was about to suggest they go into the white scraped one, when Marcus abruptly asked a pointed question.

“I wonder what that red substance is?” His voice cracked abruptly.

Julian had assumed it was blood, but it could be anything. Actually, he would quite prefer it to be something other than blood. Without another word, Julian started the dismal trek across the shifting sand towards the seemingly vague cubes. He could hear Marcus following him, his footsteps seemed lagging.

Julian slowed down during the last couple feet. Someone could still be in those buildings. The six-sided room wasn’t nearly as small as he had first anticipated. In fact, it was quite ginormous. Twelve feet on each side, they loomed overhead and the black peeling surface shimmered in the heat.

“That’s impossible,” Marcus approached with heavy breathing on Julian’s right side. He had finally taken off his hoodie and wrapped it around his waist, “It seemed only six feet on each side when I looked at it from back there.”

Before Julian could express his agreement, Marcus let out a gasp. The sand dune where they had just stood minutes before, was now replaced by a sheer ledge. The sand beneath their feet ended abruptly about six feet behind them. A flat faced cliff plunged into a black void instead of more sand dunes. It stretched forever downward, but not a single gust of wind swept up from it.

Julian let out a groan; his heart doubled its speed. Now they had no choice but to go into one of these boxes. This was all so terribly haunting. Perhaps they had accidently taken a large dose of drugs and were having hallucinations together. How did one unintentionally take narcotics? Whipping his head to look at his younger brother, Julian found him with closed eyes, breathing slowly. His face was at some amount of peace. He was probably praying to his god, madly hoping that he could retrieve them out of this unnatural occurrence.

“This could be your testing ground, Julian.”

The college student angrily turned on his brother. With a two inch advantage over Marcus, he stared into the kid’s eyes. They stared steadily back.

“This whole place has already challenged every bit of rationality that I’ve assumed was true,” he flung up his hands into the air, “Of course it has certainly tested my viewpoint, as well as my sanity,” Julian bit his lip unsurely, “I just don’t know if it will account to anything.”

Nodding slowly, Marcus thankfully didn’t reply with one of his spiritual tidbits. They needed to make a decision soon. Who knows what laws applied here? Julian started to make his way down the slope that led to the hut. It looked as if the whole cube had just been dropped in the middle of this vast desert, and created a gaping empty basin.

Salty sweat dripped into his eyes as the rough grained sand flowed into his new running shoes. Suddenly, he figured out he had too much momentum. Before he could slow down, Julian slammed into the dark door of the room. It felt like ice on his chalky skin. As smooth as anything he had ever felt, there was no apparent blemish on the solid entry path. Julian soon found that his right hand had dipped into one of the patches of red. It felt warm and almost… alive. The liquid seeped into the creases and cracks in his palm, flowing through the maze. A rusty smell emanated from it, like the odor of Julian’s old bike at home. There was an odd comfort in it, yet there was a loneliness that could not be quenched.

He gulped slowly, “It’s blood.”

Marcus approached slowly behind. He reached out and touched the dripping blood. A light dawned in his face. Julian wiped most of the liquid off his hands on his jean shorts, and started backing away.

“There’s no possible way I’m going in there,” he shuddered at the peeling black, with the stark white peeking through, “There could be thirty dead bodies shoved inside.”

With a furrowed brow, Marcus turned away. He still stared at his red finger intently.

“What-what if we just glanced in and checked to see what’s inside? It seems familiar,” the younger man’s voice shook as he spoke, “Yet I can’t quite grasp why.”

Julian slammed his hand against the sand as he tried to climb the slope.

“No! We’re going into the black one!”

Ignoring whatever Marcus’ next pathetic attempt at persuasion was, Julian struggled to the top of the crater. His breathing came in ragged gasps, but he pushed on. The fear of what would happen if they did not enter one of the cubes was like a whip to his back. As he got closer, a gentle pull started in his mind towards the vast darkened block. It was undeniable, and he had no doubt that this was the correct one. This one was even larger than the last, with edges as sharp as a knife’s blade. Like the last one, there was not a single blemish on the pitch surface. Marcus struggled behind, and cowered beneath the behemoth wall’s shadow. A large handle, which seemed incredibly out of place on the twenty foot door, protruded on the right hand side. Julian ushered Marcus over as he grasped the cold metallic surface.

“Quick, help me get this open!”

Fear and agony made Julian struggle as he pulled on the handle with all his might. Marcus had just arrived, grasping onto Julian’s shoulder, when the door suddenly disappeared. Blackness enveloped them. Julian could hear his brother’s panicked scream through the haze. He felt like he was floating, with nothing under his feet or over his head. His body was moving of no accord, and it seemed that he was floating above his own physical body.

Just when he was sure he would pass out, pain lanced up his cheek as it slammed into something. In fact, his whole body ached. He soon realized that he was lying on a hard, rough floor. Letting out a small whimper, Julian shakily pushed himself into a sitting position. Instead of the warm, resolved feeling he had been hoping to feel in this cube, absolute insecurity reigned. There was a cold light illuminating their surroundings, with no particular origin. It just was. There was a narrow stairway to the right, covered in rounded arches. To their left, was another intricately designed door. Blocking the fancily carved entryway, was a tall man with skinny arms. The presence of another human being was startling. A pair of wire rimmed glasses were perched on his thin nose, and his sparse eyebrows moved continuously. His back was leaned up against one of the dark walls, legs crossed. A fat book was balanced in between his fingers, and his lips moved silently.

The silhouette of Marcus shimmied rigidly over to Julian’s side. His breathing was shallow, and it was the only sound apparent. His face was carved in a grimace.

“Who is he?”

Shrugging distractedly, Julian tried to calm the ringing in his ears. It was like the whispers of a thousand demons.

Then Marcus asked the inevitable, “Should we go deeper?”

The stairway loomed darkly. Julian brushed off some of the dust on his clothes. His mind was racing, and he was trying to ignore the strange familiarity of the man that stood in the doorway. The old man swiftly looked up from his book, seemingly unsurprised at their arrival. His dull grey eyes pierced into Julian.

“Will you follow me into my home?” he waved dismissively over to the door, “It’s obviously your best option.”

Once again, Julian wasn’t sure what to do. Of all his life, he had never faced such uncertainty.

Should they. . .

Follow the man into the door? Go deeper into the cube and take the stairway up? Or something else?

Comment below and join the adventure!