Going Berserk

(The following is an excerpt from an upcoming sci-fi/horror novel of mine, the first of a series, which will be called Berserkers.  In this excerpt, we see how people are either taken over or destroyed by an alien entity.  Those taken over will be called ‘Berserkers’, for they will run amok and attack people just like the old Norse warriors; they are named Berserkers also because the Scandinavian countries are among the first to manifest them.)

Slowly approaching Earth’s orbit was a glowing yellow ball of light, no bigger than a peanut.  It went undetected by any of Earth’s satellites, by NASA, or even SETI’s technology, so effective was the alien entity’s ability to infiltrate the civilization of any planet’s life forms.  It entered our atmosphere from space, pushed on by the solar winds, and came in completely unnoticed by us; it was extremely cognizant, however, not only of the life forms it was about to contact.  It also knew which one would be ideal to touch first.

That first contact was a ten-year-old by in Reykjavik, Iceland: Jonas Ericson.

He’d been running down a street in his neighbourhood, crying.

“Jonas!  Get back here this instant!” shouted his mother from the front door of their large, almost palatial house.  “Get back here and do your homework!”

Knowing he’d get worse than a spanking if he returned, he just kept running through the neighbourhood, approaching downtown Reykjavik.

I don’t want to be a businessman, like my mean dad, he thought; I don’t care about good grades at school.  I don’t want to obey anyone’s rules.  Not my parents’, not my teachers’.  I just want my own life!  He just kept on running.

He didn’t see the yellow glowing light any more than anyone else, but it was now hovering a few feet right over his head.  He tripped and fell, cutting his arm near the elbow.

“Oww!” he groaned, lying there on the ground.  Blood came pouring out of the wound, and the little golden ball slipped in, entering his bloodstream, before he’d even seen it.

Sensing the aims of the alien entity, and sympathizing with them, the boy showed no resistance to its presence inside his body.  In fact, Jonas welcomed it.  So when it took him over completely, making his skin turn yellow and his eyes, teeth, and fingernails glow an eerie golden, he felt no pain at all.  In fact, his cut healed instantly, and he felt his strength, speed, and agility grow exponentially.  His body was vibrating with thrilling energy.  His suppressed pain also came out in an explosion of rage.

He quickly got up, started making a kind of growling noise like the sound of scraping on a metallic surface, and looked around for someone to assault.  He saw a somewhat overweight man in an Armani suit, in his forties, walking with a briefcase in hand towards a restaurant, about twenty yards away.  Jonas shot after the man with amazing speed: he was easily running at about forty miles an hour, with no pain or injury to his improved muscles and bones.

A car came in Jonas’s way as he ran across a road, but his new superhuman agility allowed him to jump  onto and over the car effortlessly.  The man barely noticed Jonas when he was just about on top of him.  Kicking him in mid-air, the boy knocked him down onto the concrete.

The man yelled in terror, but all the boy did was scratch the man’s face.  Now, that was all Jonas needed to do, for the entity was already seeping into the man’s blood.

Unlike Jonas, the man wouldn’t accept the alien presence in his body.  Instead of turning yellow, he writhed in pain as he lay on the concrete.  He was screaming.  Jonas had acquired the ability to read minds by the touch of his hand on the man’s forehead; this way, the boy could scan for any information that might have been useful to learn.  He found no such information in the man’s mind, however, and he ran off, in search of more prey.

The man’s agony was just the beginning.  He gazed on his body in horror as he saw the skin on his arms slowly melting; the burning feeling was excruciating, and he just screamed louder and louder.  A crowd of people encircled him and watched in helpless shock.  The area on his face, where the scratch had been, was already melted down to the cheekbone.

“Help me!” he screamed, before his lips and tongue melted away, and he could no longer speak.

The crowd screamed for him, often looking away from the horrific sight.

By now, all his skin had melted off, revealing his now-melting muscle tissue.  He squirmed slightly, using what little life he had left in him.

The crowd groaned in disgust at the sight of his eyeballs melting into a milk-like liquid that poured down his face, now mostly only skull.  His ears melted away, his hair had all fallen out and disintegrated, and his melting brain was now oozing out of his eye sockets, looking like porridge gone bad.

Soon, only his skeleton lay there in his soaking Armani suit; then the skeleton began flaking and turning into an ash-like substance, which began to disintegrate.  The wind blew away the ash that hadn’t disintegrated yet; the ooze that had been his body was evaporating, a steam rising up in the air, and finally all that was left were his clothes and suitcase.  After the evaporation was complete, even the clothes were now dry.

The speechless crowd just stood there, too stunned even to notice the screams of terror in the nearby restaurant, where little Jonas had gone.

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In the Park, In the Dark

(The following is an excerpt from my upcoming horror novel, ‘Sweet’.)

Determined to stop that psychotic Connie from killing, cooking, and eating their baby, Larry rode into town within twenty minutes, frantically racing on his bicycle as fast as he could.

As he rode down Main Street towards downtown, he saw City Hall and the police station coming closer on his left.  Upset from how the authorities were giving him no help at all, he turned his eyes away and looked to his right, where he saw a Mac’s Milk store.

Exhausted from both his lack of sleep and his incessant riding, he knew he needed another coffee.  He rode over, parked and locked his bike, then went in.

All this caffeine is really bad for me, he thought, but I just can’t stay awake without it.

He bought a hot coffee and got two creams, a sugar packet, and a stir stick.  He took them over to a table by the window, sat, and mixed the cream and sugar in.

He took a small sip, but found it uncomfortably hot; so he decided to get up and look around while his coffee cooled a bit.  He went to the magazine stand across from his table and noticed an issue of Psychology Today.  He picked it up and began flipping through the pages.

He found an article on psychiatric drugs and their relevance in therapy.  Interested, he began reading.  Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed the automatic door to the store opening, and a person with long, black hair coming in.  Not bothering to see the person’s face, he kept reading, then reached over to take another sip of his coffee.  Still too hot.

He went back to reading the article, standing by the magazine stand.  He heard someone pass behind him slowly, but never looked away from his magazine.  After reading a little more, he took the magazine with him back to his table.

He read some more, snorting with disgust at the author’s recommendation of certain psychiatric drugs, ones Larry felt were especially bad for patients in terms of side effects.  He took another sip of his coffee: it wasn’t so hot now, so he began drinking it faster as he continued reading.

A few minutes later, he’d finished drinking his coffee, wincing at its oddly bitter taste.  He also finished reading the article, sneering at the author’s advocacy of the use of other psychiatric drugs.

When am I going to find a psychiatrist who advocates natural settings for patients, instead of chemicals? he wondered.  Am I the only one?

He put the magazine back on the stand, then left the store.  He unlocked his bike, got on, and started riding, continuing toward Connie’s house, where he was ready to risk everything and get their baby daughter from her.

It was a dark night, with clouds covering the stars and cutting across the quarter moon.  Only the street lights gave any substantial visibility.  He rode on.

He crossed the road and passed the elementary school.  Unless I can save you, Candy, you’ll never see one of those, he thought.  I must hurry and get to Connie’s house.

Now he’d got to that park, with all its tall trees and their foliage blocking what little light was coming from the moon.  The street lights weren’t working around the park, so it was practically pitch black.

And it was here that Larry started feeling dizzy, light-headed, and unable to concentrate.  What little he could see was blurry, and he felt a quickly growing lethargy taking him over.

He fell off his bike.  Landing on the park grass, he didn’t hurt himself, but he hadn’t the strength to get back on his bike.  He clumsily tried to get up, stumbling and staggering.  He felt like a drunken man, though he’d had not a drop of liquor that night.

“Larry,” a voice whispered.

He was too disoriented to figure out where it was coming from, but he was pretty sure whose voice it was.

“Larry, I’m over here,” the voice, female, whispered again.

Thinking it had come from behind, he swung around, then fell on the grass.  He could feel his consciousness fading away, but he fought as best he could to stay awake.  Remembering when Connie had tried to bury him alive eight months before, this was the scariest sleepiness ever.

He clumsily got up and tried to focus on anything visible in the darkness.  He could see nothing, but he couldn’t be any surer than he was of who was with him.

“Didn’t see me in the Mac’s Milk store, did you, Larry?” she said softly, her voice seeming to rotate in all directions around him.  “I was counting on that when I dropped the pill in your coffee.”

“Connie…you…crazy…bitch,” he slurred, trying desperately to stay standing.  “You haven’t…eaten…our daughter yet, have you?”

“No, no,” Connie said.  “She’s at the house, the babysitter taking care of her.  I’ll make sure the babysitter is gone when we’re there, though.  Don’t want her to see what I’m gonna do to you and Candy.”

“Don’t…hurt…the baby.”

“Why don’t you just let yourself lose consciousness,” Connie said, apparently walking in circles around him, for her voice seemed to continue moving that way around his head.  “You’ll be knocked out in a minute anyway, no matter how hard you try to resist.”

He kept trying to stay awake, building anger and fear to give himself adrenaline to counteract her drugs.  He was standing and moving with the clumsiness of a man who’d had over a dozen glasses of whiskey.

“Oh, well,” she said, tapping something in her hands that was obscured in the darkness.  “You’ll have to be knocked out in a more literal way.”

He then felt a wooden stick crack against the back left corner of his head.  He fell on the grass, and everything went black…

************

Larry woke up, tied to a table in a room in Connie’s dimly-lit basement.  The fibres of the ropes binding him were digging into his bloody wrists and ankles as he struggled futilely to break free.

Connie was standing to his right, looking down on him and holding little Candy in her arms.  Connie grinned as she watched him blink his eyes to focus better.

“See, Larry?” she said, bringing the baby up close to him.  “This is our baby Candy.  Candy, look down at Daddy.”  She held Candy so she could see Larry, who tried to hide his fear and despair with a loving smile.

“Connie,” he said with a raspy voice.  “Or should I call you Wilma Sweeney?”

“Oh, so you’ve done a little research on my past, eh?” she asked, walking away with Candy and placing her on a table by Larry’s feet.  Then she picked up a butcher’s knife.

“No!” he screamed, and began crying.  “Don’t hurt her!”

Connie put her finger to her lips to tell him to be quiet.  Candy began crying, and Connie calmed her with caresses on her belly, gently shushing her.

“I guess that farmer dug you out of the hole I put you in,” she said, grinning down at Candy and swinging the knife in the air in a chopping motion.  “Lucky you.”

He strained his neck so he could see Candy on the table.  The baby smiled and giggled innocently as Connie tickled her belly and smiled lovingly down at her.  “Please, Connie,” he begged.  “Don’t.”

“I will, Larry.  You won’t stop me.  Just accept it.  Then I’ll kill you; but this time, I’ll make sure you’re dead.”

“How?” he sobbed.

“I’ll eat your flesh after I eat hers.  That way, the whole family will be together, in my belly.”  She gestured with her arm, about to bring the knife down on Candy.

“No!”

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Adding As Many Anarchists As We Can

It’s great to talk about anarchism with people who already agree with us, but how about persuading all those people out there who don’t agree?  With all the government and corporate corruption, which is spreading like an infection all over the world in various forms, causing so much disaffection among the people, there seems, paradoxically, no better a time than now to convert as many people as possible to the anarchist cause…and not just to agree, but to take action.

So how do we do that?

I don’t have anywhere close to all the answers to that question, but I’d like to suggest a number of ideas we can use.

1.  Appeal to the workers.  A no-brainer, of course.  Still, I’ve noticed some ‘anarchists’ on the Facebook discussion groups who seem more interested in ‘theory’ and politically correct orthodoxy than in dealing with this all-too-obvious concept.

In George Orwell’s dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, Winston Smith says, “If there is hope…it lies in the proles.” (George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, New York: Penguin Group, 1981, p. 61)  The proletarians have the sheer numbers to overpower the elites.  They need to “become conscious of their own strength.” (ibid.)  The rich and powerful know how to control them, with distractions: “films, football, beer…filled up the horizon of their minds.” (ibid., p. 63)  You can get the people all worked up about nonsense like that, but how is it “…they could never shout like that about anything that mattered?” (ibid., p. 62)

Unionism has been flagging recently, in no small part due to corrupt union bosses.  We need a resurgence in legitimate syndicalism.  If we can swell up the membership of the IWW (to my understanding, a much better organization), that would help in a big way.  We need to pluck up the workers’ courage (especially in Asian countries, where there’s far less unionism of any kind), and get them to strike more, including in the offices.  We all must remember that the ultimate goal is to seize control of the means of production, not just put pressure on bosses, and certainly not suck up to the State, even if the government is left-wing.  The workers must become the bosses.

2. Avoid divisiveness.  Anarchism is about equality for everyone, without exception.  No one gets preferential treatment of any kind.  It’s contrary to the principles of anarchism to say that one sex should have privileges over the other, or that certain racial or ethnic groups should have entitlements over others, or that there should be any special treatment based on age, sexual preference (of consenting adults), religion, or physical or mental disability.  (The examples I’ve given are not meant to be exhaustive, so please forgive any oversights here.)

Not only is such favouritism obviously unfair (regardless of whether rationalized by supposed superiority, which no anarchist believes in; or by a bogus compensating for past grievances, for the establishment of total political and economic equality for all should be sufficient to redress wrongs), but it will cause resentment and division in the anarchist community.

A lot of people seem to think ‘avoid divisiveness’ is a cleverly-worded excuse to tolerate or even encourage such unacceptable nonsense as ‘manarchy’ or ‘anarcho-capitalism’.  Though some supporters of that rubbish use those kind of honeyed words, I’m not doing anything of the sort here.  I assure the reader that I am not one of those slick-talking phoneys.  I understand that anarchy means no ‘archy’ or any kind: no patriarchy (or theoretically possible ‘archies’, like matriarchy, for that matter), no capitalist exploitation, no hierarchies of boss/employee, nor of any based on race, ethnicity, religion, creed, or sexual orientation.

That said, we must eliminate our enemies or rivals through reasoned argument and persuasion, getting them to give up their irrational attachment to capitalism, sexism, racism, or any other form of bigotry.  Hostility, personal attacks, four-letter words, and name-calling will be counter-productive, as it will harden their hearts against us, and make our job more difficult.  We want to convert them to our cause, not strengthen and ossify their resolution against us.

The mainstream media are masters in manipulating public opinion and stirring up divisiveness to distract us from the more pressing matters in the world.  The Zimmerman trial, for example, deftly swayed people’s attention from the trial of Bradley Manning , whose conviction was the elite’s retaliation against him for exposing their war crimes in the Iraq War, etc.  I don’t like verdicts that are biased in favour of whites over blacks any more than any other anarchist; but we’ll do a better job of helping the black community by focusing on bringing down the whole system, government and corporate, that hurts African Americans, than we will by letting the media get the masses mad at each other.  The elite is the enemy; they conquer us by dividing us.

Similarly, the media used the gay marriage issue to distract millions of people from noticing the passing of the Monsanto Protection Act several months ago.  Again, I want gays to have the freedom to love their partners in every way straights do, as does every other reasonable person, but we mustn’t let the media distract us and polarize us.  Gay rights will be best protected after–not before–the anarchist revolution finally happens, when we won’t need a government to give gays, or anyone else, permission to marry.

One other thing: don’t feed the internet trolls on anarchist Facebook pages, etc., when they say bigoted things.  A lot of them work for the governments and corporations to undermine us and  the work we do.  We mustn’t let them bait us, as I’ve seen them do many times online.  They thrive on our indignation and anger.  Ignore them, delete their posts/comments, and ban them from our discussion groups.

3. Plan the revolution.  We must learn from the mistakes of anarchists in the past, and also plan how best to prevent the misfortunes that befell the revolutionaries of the Paris Commune, the Free Territory of Ukraine, and anarchist Catalonia.

The points I wish to make here are by no means exhaustive, and for many readers, this will be little more than review of what they’ve already read many times before; but it isn’t enough merely to know of these cautions–we must always be mindful of them.  May my repetition thus be a helpful push in that mindful direction.

Plentiful food and supplies must always be available, to satisfy the needs of all when the revolution disrupts normal daily business for an extended time, as Kropotkin discussed in The Conquest of Bread.  (Peter Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread, New York: Dover Publications, 2011, pp. 61-95)

The revolution must be global in reach, and it must be permanent, until worldwide anarchy is attained.  The anarchist Catalonians and Ukrainians were defeated in large part because they didn’t go far beyond their domains.  Also, their attempts to associate with Bolsheviks, Stalinists, and other state socialists led to their downfall.  Compromise with their left-wing rivals, paradoxically, led to more divisiveness, and to their defeat.

Seize not only the means of production and the government buildings, but seize the banks, too.  The Paris Commune didn’t do that.

Get the police on our side.  If we can somehow convince them that the authority they’re loyal to is illegitimate, we can get at least some of them on our side, and reduce their ability to brutalize us when we protest.

OK, these are just a few thoughts of mine.  I’ll understand if you don’t agree with some of what I say, but in any case, I hope this can help in the fight against capitalism, the State, and all forms of inequality.  Peace and love, comrades.

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Detailed Synopsis of ‘Romeo and Juliet’

Act One: In the Prologue to Act One, the Chorus tells of two families in Verona, Italy, who have hated and fought with each other for many years.  The son of one family and the daughter of the other fall in love and kill themselves.  Their suicide ends the families’ fighting, and their story is “the two hours’ traffic of our stage.”  The Chorus then begs the patience of the audience for any imperfections in his synopsis of the play, promises that the actors will fill in any details he’s left out, and leaves.  (See my ‘Analysis of R&J’, first quote.)

On the streets of Verona, servants of the Capulet family discuss their hatred of the Montague family.  They meet servants of the Montagues: a Capulet servant bites his thumb at the Montagues to provoke them.  Tybalt, a Capulet, comes, as does Benvolio, a Montague.  Benvolio tries to stop a potential fight, reminding everyone that the prince has expressly forbidden any more fighting on Verona streets.  Benvolio says he only wants to keep the peace.  Tybalt says he hates peace, hell, all Montagues, and Benvolio.

The two families begin a violent brawl right there on the street.  Even Old Capulet and Old Montague call for their swords so they can join the fighting; Lady Montague forbids her husband to fight.  Finally, Prince Escalus and his men arrive, stopping the fighting.  The prince threatens death to the next ones to start another brawl.

After everyone leaves, Benvolio speaks with Old Montague and his wife about their son, Romeo.  Though glad that he wasn’t involved in the brawl, they worry about him, for he is always sad.  They see him coming, and Benviolio goes to talk to his cousin, to see if he can find out what’s troubling him.

After Romeo expresses his annoyance, in a plethora of paradoxes (see my ‘Analysis of R&J’, second quote), at the recent fighting, he tells Benvolio of his unrequited love for a beautiful girl named Rosaline.  She will live a chaste life, so Romeo has no hope of having her.

Meanwhile, in the Capulets’ house, Old Capulet is with Paris, a count, discussing a big party he will have in his house that night.  Paris hopes to marry Capulet’s daughter Juliet.  Capulet invites Paris to the party and encourages him to speak with Juliet, but reminds him that she is still very young, not even 14 years old.  It remains to be seen if she’ll like Paris.

Capulet tells a servant to go about Verona and invite everyone other than the Montagues to his party.  He gives the servant a list of the names of those invited.  Unfortunately, the servant can’t read.  He leaves the house and walks about the streets, confused.

Not knowing Romeo and Benvolio are Montagues, the servant goes up to them and asks if they can read out the names for him.  Romeo reads while the servant memorizes.  When Romeo comes to Rosaline’s name, he is intrigued, asking about the party.  The servant says it’s being held at the Capulets’ house, and as long as they aren’t Montagues, they’re welcome to attend.  The servant leaves.

Romeo wants to go there to see Rosaline.  Benvolio promises Romeo will see other beautiful girls who’ll make him forget all about her.

Back in the Capulets’ house, Lady Capulet has the Nurse fetch Juliet.  After the Nurse jokes about amusing memories of Juliet as an infant, Lady Capulet asks if Juliet thinks she can love Paris.  Both Lady Capulet and the Nurse speak glowingly of the count, but Juliet will have to see if she will like him or not.

That night, Romeo, Benvolio, their witty friend Mercutio (kinsman to the prince), and other friends go down the streets toward the Capulets’ house, merrily chatting.  Romeo stops, having premonitions about the night because of a dream he’s had.  Mercutio insists that dreams are idle nonsense.  Romeo insists they can presage the truth.

Then Mercutio says Queen Mab has been in Romeo’s dreams.  Mercutio describes her as a tiny fairy that could sit on one’s fingertip.  She rides a tiny chariot and goes into men’s noses, reaching their brains as they sleep.  In their dreams, she makes their wishes come true.  Again, Mercutio insists that dreams are idle nonsense.

Benvolio insists that they hurry on to the Capulets’, for they’ll soon be late and miss supper.  As Romeo goes, he prophesies this night will be a fateful one, ultimately leading to his destruction.  Nonetheless, he charges ahead, embracing his fate, whatever it may be.

Wearing masks, the boys successfully get in the house and look around.  Looking for Rosaline, Romeo sees Juliet instead, and instantly falls in love with her, saying he “ne’er saw true beauty till this night.”

Tybalt recognizes Romeo, and calls for a servant to fetch his sword, for he wants to fight Romeo right there.  Old Capulet asks Tybalt why he’s so angry, and he says Romeo has come to spoil their party.  Capulet tells his hot-headed nephew to be patient and endure Romeo.  Tybalt says he won’t endure him; Capulet, now angry, tells him he will.  Tybalt grudgingly endures Romeo, but secretly promises to have his revenge later.

Romeo, meanwhile, takes Juliet by the hand and compares it to a holy shrine; and though his own hand has profaned hers, his lips are two pilgrims, who will atone for the sin with a kiss.  She, now as in love with him as he is with her, accepts his kisses.

Later, Romeo learns from the Nurse that she, to his dismay, is a Capulet.  As he is leaving the house, Juliet has the Nurse go up to Tybalt and find out who Romeo is.  The Nurse tells Juliet what Tybalt knows: that Romeo is a Montague.  (See my ‘Analysis of R&J’, third quote.)

Act Two:  The Chorus recites another narrative sonnet, about Romeo no longer being in love with Rosaline, but this time being in love with a girl who returns his love.

As Romeo’s friends return home, he goes back to the Capulets’ house, jumping over the orchard walls.  Mercutio taunts him, thinking he’s still in love with Rosaline.

In the orchard, Romeo sees a light from one of the windows (see my ‘Analysis of R&J’, fourth quote).  Juliet emerges: thinking she’s alone, she declares her love for Romeo (quotes five and six).  Romeo is delighted to hear of her love for him.  He reveals himself, surprising her.  They declare their love for each other, then make plans to get married. As dawn approaches and Juliet is being nagged by the Nurse to come to bed, the young lovers say good bye and Romeo leaves (see the sixth quote).

He goes to the humble abode (‘cell’) of Friar Laurence, who’s been contemplating all the medicinal properties of herbs.  Romeo tells the friar he no longer loves Rosaline, but the Capulet Juliet instead.  Laurence chides him for his inconstancy in love, but agrees to marry him to Juliet, hoping to end the family feud.

The next day, on the streets of Verona, Romeo meets with Benvolio and Mercutio, who wonder why he didn’t go home with them the night before.  The Nurse comes to speak with Romeo, but Mercutio taunts and angers her first.  She reluctantly agrees to have Juliet meet with him in Friar Laurence’s cell to be married.

The Nurse goes back to the Capulets’ house, where Juliet is impatiently waiting for an answer from Romeo.  Still reluctant to help Juliet in marrying him, the Nurse delays giving her his answer, using her aches and fatigue as excuses.  Finally, after Juliet gets angry, the Nurse says that if Juliet is free to go to Friar Laurence’s cell that day, he’ll marry her to Romeo.

She goes there, and she and Romeo get married.  Friar Laurence, however, advises them to love moderately.

Act Three: On the streets of Verona during that very hot afternoon, Benvolio worries about getting into a fight with Tybalt, who’s challenged Romeo.  Mercutio would welcome a fight with Tybalt, who arrives with other Capulets.

They ask about the whereabouts of Romeo, who then arrives.  Tybalt calls him a villain, but Romeo, now secretly his kinsman, won’t fight him.  Angrier, Tybalt attacks Romeo, who still won’t fight back.

Furious about Romeo’s “vile submission”, Mercutio fights Tybalt in Romeo’s stead.  Romeo wants to stop the fight and comes between them, but Tybalt mortally wounds Mercutio, who, dying, curses both families (quote eight).  He’s taken away, and he dies offstage.

Enraged, Romeo wants to avenge his friend’s death.  He fights Tybalt, killing him.  He flees before the prince and his men can arrest him.  When the two families and the prince learn of what’s happened, Lady Capulet complains that Romeo must die for killing Tybalt; Old Montague reasons that, in killing Tybalt, Romeo merely did what the prince would have done anyway, as punishment for killing Mercutio, the prince’s kinsman.  Therefore, instead of using the death penalty to punish Romeo, the prince banishes him from Verona, threatening death if he ever returns.

Not knowing what’s happened, Juliet is at home in her room, thinking loving thoughts about Romeo.  The Nurse enters, telling her that Romeo killed Tybalt.  Juliet is torn between her loyalty to her husband, requiring her loving words, and her loyalty to her cousin, requiring her curses on Romeo.

Romeo is hiding in Friar Laurence’s cell, preferring death to banishment, since there is no life outside of Verona, without Juliet.  The Nurse visits, telling Romeo of Juliet’s tears over Tybalt’s murder.  Guilt-laden Romeo wants to kill himself; the friar chides him for his “womanish” tears.  Then Friar Laurence reminds Romeo of how lucky he is: he killed Tybalt, instead of vice versa; Prince Escalus could have had Romeo executed, but he’s had Romeo banished instead.

Next, the friar devises a plan to help Romeo and Juliet.  Romeo will go to Mantua.  Friar Laurence will plead for the prince’s forgiveness for Romeo, and in time, Romeo will be allowed to return and be reunited with Juliet.  This gives Romeo hope.  Romeo will go to Juliet’s bedroom, lie with her that night and comfort her before he has to leave the next day.

In the Capulets’ house, the sadness of the family make it a bad time for Paris to woo Juliet.  Nonetheless, Old Capulet wants Paris to marry his daughter.

That night, in Juliet’s bed, she and Romeo have made love, and dawn is coming: Romeo must leave.  Juliet doesn’t want to admit that morning has come, and insists that it’s still night.  But he must go.  The Nurse comes in and tells them Lady Capulet is coming.  Romeo leaves, going down from her window into the orchard: Juliet has a premonition she’ll look down on him again one day, but he’ll be dead.

Her mother comes in, and after speaking of having someone hunt down Romeo in Mantua and kill him, she mentions Old Capulet’s plan for Paris to marry Juliet.  Juliet refuses to marry him, and when Old Capulet hears of her disobedience, he angrily threatens to disown her.

A tearful Juliet asks for words of comfort from her mother and the Nurse, neither of whom give her any.  Instead, the Nurse says she should forget Romeo and marry Paris.  After the Nurse leaves, Juliet no longer regards her as a friend or confidante.  She goes to Friar Laurence’s cell.

Act Four: At the friar’s cell, he and Paris discuss Paris’s marriage plans with Juliet.  When Juliet arrives, she and the friar find a private place to speak after Paris leaves.

Desperate to prevent this wedding, Juliet wants to die.  Friar Laurence has another idea to prevent it: if she would drink a medicine of his creation, it would make her seem dead in every way–no breath, no heartbeat, no movement from her body–but she’d really be fast asleep for 42 hours.  Her funeral would be held, and she’d be buried in the family tomb.

Romeo would receive letters from the friar, explaining the plan.  Romeo would sneak back into Verona and to the tomb, get reviving Juliet, and escape with her to Mantua.  She eagerly takes the vial of medicine.

Back at home, Juliet apologizes to her father and agrees to marry Paris.  After saying goodnight to her mother and the Nurse, Juliet is alone in her bedroom, holding the vial and fearing any possibility that the plan may not work.  Fearing marriage with Paris even more, she drinks the drug.

The next morning, with musicians and servants getting the wedding party ready, the Nurse goes to wake up Juliet, but finds her apparently dead.  She hysterically calls for Juliet’s parents, who rush to see her and mourn with the Nurse.  The wedding party has now become a funeral.

Act Five: On a street in Mantua, Romeo speaks of a dream he’s had of Juliet finding him dead, then of him reviving and being an emperor.

Balthasar, a servant to Romeo who knows nothing of Friar Laurence’s plan, tells him Juliet has died.  A mourning Romeo is determined to go back to Verona, to kill himself in her tomb so they’ll be together in death.

He finds a poor apothecary, and wants to buy poison from him.  The apothecary reluctantly takes Romeo’s money and gives him a powerful poison.

In Friar Laurence’s cell, Friar John comes to see him, after trying to deliver Laurence’s letters to Romeo in Mantua.  Laurence asks John if he received any letters from Romeo.  Friar John tells Laurence that he wasn’t able to get to Mantua, for he was detained in the house of a sick man believed to have an “infectious pestilence”.  He hasn’t given Romeo Laurence’s letters.  Friar Laurence must now hurry to the Capulets’ tomb.

That night, at the tomb, Paris goes to pay his last respects to Juliet.  Romeo and Balthasar also arrive.  Romeo tells Balthasar to leave; Balthasar does, but he hides nearby, worrying about Romeo.  Romeo comes to the tomb and confronts Paris, who assumes Romeo wants to do shame to the bodies.  They fight, and Romeo mortally wounds Paris.  Dying, Paris asks to be lain near Juliet.  Respecting his wish, Romeo brings his body near where Juliet lies.

During the fight, a page has called the watch, so a mob of people will soon come.

In the tomb, Romeo sees the bodies of Juliet and Tybalt.  He repents killing Tybalt, then looks on Juliet, amazed that, even though dead, she hasn’t lost any of her beauty.  He imagines personified Death is in love with her, and keeps her beautiful to be His lover.  Sobbing Romeo hugs and kisses her one last time, then drinks the poison, which kills him within seconds.

Friar Laurence arrives and sees dead Romeo, while Juliet is reviving.  The friar tells her the sad news and, saying he’ll make her a nun, begs her to leave with him, for a mob of people can be heard approaching the tomb.  Too afraid to be found there, the friar runs off.

Juliet notes that Romeo’s drunk poison, but left none for her.  She hopes to taste some on his lips; she kisses him, and feeling his lips’ warmth, knows he’s only just died.  This adds to her heartbreak.

Hearing the mob coming nearer and nearer, she knows she must act quickly if she is to die with him. She takes his “happy dagger” and stabs herself, falling dead on his body.

The mob arrives, along with Capulet, Lady Capulet, the prince, and Old Montague, who says that Lady Montague has died of grief because of Romeo’s banishment.  The friar also returns, explaining how Romeo and Juliet were secretly in love, and that he married them.

Once all has been revealed, the prince rebukes Old Montague and Old Capulet for the “scourge” caused by their hate; and because the prince has been too lenient with them, he himself has lost two kinsmen, Paris and Mercutio (quote nine).  The families repent of their hate, and the two grieving fathers promise to have monuments built in honour of each other’s child.

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Analysis of ‘Romeo and Juliet’

Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare’s first great tragedy (his very first being Titus Andronicus), was probably written around the early to mid-1590s.  Its plot was based on an Italian tale, translated into verse as The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet by Arthur Brooke in 1562.  Shakespeare expanded the plot by developing supporting characters, particularly Mercutio and Paris.

The archetypal young lovers have the bad luck of being born into two powerful families, the Montagues and the Capulets, who have hated and fought with each other for as long as can be remembered.  Romeo’s and Juliet’s love for each other is as passionate as their families’ hatred for each other is virulent.  Fate seems to conspire against the lovers.  Romeo is banished from Verona for killing Juliet’s cousin Tybalt, who’s killed Romeo’s friend, Mercutio.  (The latter victim is kinsman to Paris and the Prince of Verona, who’s tried unsuccessfully to stop all the fighting.)  The lovers’ misfortune continues with Juliet’s seeming suicide–misinterpreted as actual by Romeo, who poisons himself in her tomb–and her actual suicide on seeing his body.  With the lovers’ deaths at the end of the play, Old Montague and Old Capulet finally end their hatred.  The tragedy seems to be heaven’s only way of stopping the feud.

The play is set mostly in Verona, Italy, and briefly in Mantua.  Here are some famous quotes:

Two households, both alike in dignity,/In fair Verona where we lay our scene,/From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,/Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean./From forth the fatal loins of these two foes,/A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life;/Whose misadventur’d piteous overthrows/Doth with their death bury their parents’ strife./The fearful passage of their death-mark’d love,/And the continuance of their parents’ rage,/Which, but their children’s end, nought could remove,/Is now the two hours’ traffic of our stage;… (Chorus, Prologue, lines 1-12)

Why then, O brawling love!  O loving hate!/O any thing, of nothing first create!/O heavy lightness!  Serious vanity!/Mis-shapen chaos of well-seeming forms! (Romeo, I, i, lines 174-177)

My only love sprung from my only hate!/Too early seen unknown, and known too late! (Juliet, I, v, 136-137)

But soft! what light through yonder window breaks?/It is the east, and Juliet is the sun! (Romeo, II, ii, lines 2-3)

O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?  (Juliet, II, ii, line 33)

What’s in a name?  That which we call a rose,/By any other name would smell as sweet. (Juliet, II, ii, lines 43-44)

Good-night, good-night!  Parting is such sweet sorrow/That I shall say good-night till it be morrow. (Juliet, II, ii, lines 185-186)

A plague o’ both your houses! (Mercutio, III, i, line 103)

All are punish’d!  (Prince, V, iii, line 294)

Apart from the theme of fate, the most important themes of this play are those of dualism and duality.  The words in boldface in the above quotes give some of the many references to dualism, or opposites that either complement or do battle with each other, or duality, groups of two.

Significantly, the very first word of the play is ‘Two’, and the Chorus’ opening sonnet in the Prologue to Act One is riddled with references to ‘two, ‘both’, ‘pair’, and juxtaposed opposites, as well the doubled ‘civil’ in line four.  This emphatic reference to duality and dualism clearly establishes these central themes, right at the beginning of the play.  (Incidentally, there are two narrative sonnets that the Chorus recites; the second one, in the Prologue beginning Act Two, is usually omitted in productions of the play.)

Other examples of duality are, of course, the boy and girl who are in love, but from two families that hate.  Indeed, this is as much a hate story as it is a love story, the hate giving paradoxical intensity to the love.

Two other opposites, given shortly after the Chorus’ first narrative sonnet, are Benvolio (literally, ‘good will’), who is Romeo’s well-meaning, peace-loving cousin and friend; and Tybalt (the ‘prince’ or ‘king of cats’: I wonder, is his name, its spelling at least, a pun on ‘tyrant’?), Juliet’s fierce, belligerent cousin.  The cousins’ opposition is again highlighted in the opening fight scene, further establishing the dualism theme at the beginning of the play.

Other opposites are Friar Laurence, Romeo’s ‘surrogate father’, as it were, and the Nurse, Juliet’s ‘surrogate mother’, since their actual parents seem to show little interest in their lives.  The friar would have Romeo and Juliet married, for he sees in their union an end to the families’ fighting; whereas the nurse is reluctant to match the lovers throughout the play, fearing the ill consequences of their most unlikely match-making.

Of especial importance to the play’s symbolism is the opposition of night and day, of light and dark.  Interestingly, most of the wooing and love-making is at night, and most of the fighting in the day; this suggests a yin and yang-like intermingling of opposites.  The perfect mingling of opposites is in all of the many references to stars throughout the play, for stars are lights in darkness.  To a lesser extent, this mix of light and dark is also seen in the references to the moon.

The intermingling of opposites is also apparent in the many paradoxes heard in the play, such as the plethora Romeo gushes out in front of Benvolio when we first see them together (some of those paradoxes were seen in the second quote above).  Other paradoxes come from Juliet, when she reacts to Romeo’s killing of Tybalt: ‘Beautiful tyrant! fiend angelical!/Dove-feather’d raven! wolfish-ravening lamb!’  Indeed, she goes back and forth between cursing and praising Romeo in that scene.

The first two acts of the play are mostly happy, and could almost even be part of a comedy; the remainder is essentially sad and tragic–more dualism.  At the beginning of this ‘sad half’, we have two killings, the accidental one of Mercutio and the deliberate murder of Tybalt.  The play also deals with two marriages: the planned marriage of Paris and Juliet, and her real marriage with Romeo.  Juliet commits suicide two times, a fake suicide with Friar Laurence’s drugs, then her real suicide by stabbing herself with Romeo’s dagger.

As for duality, groups of two, there are two friars, Laurence, and Friar John, who was unsuccessful in delivering Laurence’s letters to Romeo in Mantua.  Indeed, there are two cities that the play is set in: Verona and Mantua.  Romeo has two romantic interests, Rosaline and Juliet.  There are two Capulet parties, the actual one in which Romeo meets Juliet, and the planned party for her marriage to Paris.  There are two drugs: Juliet’s, from Friar Laurence, fakes death; Romeo’s, from the Apothecary, causes real death.

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How Could a Mother Do That?

This is another excerpt from my upcoming horror novel, ‘Sweet’.  The narrator here is a reporter who has been hearing Larry’s story about the insane mother of his baby.

I just sat there, appalled at the story I’d heard Larry tell me.  I turned off my mp3 player and sat at my chair on the porch of his cottage with him, my jaw dropped and my eyes agape.  We were both silent for several minutes.  Holding Candy, his and Connie’s baby daughter, on his lap, he never broke the silence during that time, for, I imagine, he knew I’d felt the depth of the horror that he’d just shared with me.

I’ve been an investigative reporter for several years, and already I thought I’d heard it all–murders, government or corporate corruption, violent crimes of passion–but his story was just too much for me.

My husband, Jim, and I have a beautiful two-year-old son; we adore him, we dote on him, we’d do anything to make his life the happiest one possible.  When I was pregnant with him, and I felt him growing slowly in my womb, all I could feel was love and joyful expectation for the little one who was coming soon.  I’d bristle with excitement every time I felt him move inside me.  The miracle of life was something–and still is something–that’s never ceased to surprise me with delight.

With such a mother’s understanding, I now think of Connie–or Wilma Sweeney, rather, since that’s her real name–and I find myself totally incapable of understanding how she could have regarded babies, especially her own, as food.  How could a mother have such unnatural feelings for her own flesh and blood?  If I were to entertain such monstrous thoughts about my son, I’d feel more than nauseated: I’d feel sick all over, my body would ache, I’d get dizzy and lightheaded, and I’d probably fall down.

How could Connie have done what she did, what she’d planned to do with little Candy, that beautiful baby girl of hers and Larry’s?  Sure, Connie was horribly abused as a child: unloved by her own mother and repeatedly raped by her stepfather for years.  Her near starvation during her snow-in in that cabin in BC surely brought her to the edge.  But were all of those ordeals enough to make her want to practice cannibalism regularly, on her own babies?  I can’t believe that, nor can even Larry, and he’s dealt with lots of psychotics before.

Connie claimed that her cannibalistic urges could have been genetically influenced.  Apart from her mother saying she’d wanted to eat Connie as a baby, she said that whenever she, as a child, had cut her finger, or some other body part, her mother would suck the wounds and drink the blood.  If little Connie’s skin had peeled off, her mom would eat it eagerly.  Was her madness hereditary?  Of did seeing her mother eat flesh and drink blood make cannibalism seem acceptable to Connie when she was little?

All I can think is that if I’d gone through Connie’s childhood traumas, instead of carrying on those terrible traditions with my own kids, I’d be determined to do the opposite of what she’d done: I’d be the most loving mother I can possibly be, I’d hug and kiss my boy, I’d be patient when he’s difficult, and I’d intervene as soon as I saw any evidence of sexual predation on him.  And if I would do such things, could do such things even after suffering as badly as Connie–or Wilma–had, I still cannot see how she could have done what she’d done.

Finally, the silence ended.  “So, anyway, that’s the story,” Larry said, now holding sleeping little Candy more peacefully in his lap.  Obviously, relating those horrors to me had been cathartic for him; I could see it on his face.  “Do you have any more questions?”

“Only the obvious one,” I said, turning on the mp3 player again.  “With all your psychiatric knowledge, and with a knowledge of her life story, can you give me at least a theory as to how Connie could have done what she did?  How could a mother want to eat her own–and your–baby?”

He paused, then sighed.  “I don’t know.  I still don’t know.  What I do know is this: Candy will never be like her mother.  I, as her father, will make sure of that.”

I turned off the mp3 player.  He reached over on the table beside his chair to get his wine glass, but he knocked it over, spilling the red wine and breaking the glass.

“Oh, shit,” he said, spastically reacting and cutting his finger on a piece of broken glass.  “Oww!”  His fidgeting woke Candy up, and she began crying there on his lap.  He sucked on his finger a moment, then put his hand on Candy’s head, the cut finger a millimetre from her mouth, as he looked for a nearby cloth that he could use to wipe up the spilt wine.

As he was preoccupied with looking, he hadn’t noticed what I had: blood was coming out of that cut, mixed with a drop of red wine on the finger.  Candy’s tongue touched the swirled red.  She was tasting it, and smiling.

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