What You Think

What’s in your head right now?
What are you thinking about?

Is it good?
Is it bad?
Does it make you feel sad?

Does it bring about hope?
Or a bitter expression?
Is it something sating your obsession?

Is it causing you to spiral?
Or making you smile?

Whatever the thought
It can make or break the day
It could be something to make you go astray

Astray from the now
Astray from all meaning
Astray from the world if there’s no intervening

Whatever the thought
Or things you might think
Don’t let them take you straight to the brink

The brink of depression
The brink of all rage
The brink of the shadows that shove you in a cage

Take hold the thought
Seize the negative
And remember where your faith is

The power to choose is all up to you
Whether hope or despair
Or a wayward prayer

Take a moment
Just a moment
To ponder your think
And don’t let your thoughts make you sink

So, I will ask with softened brow
What are you thinking of right now?

Happy Little Red Bird

Happy little red bird sitting in a tree
Happy little red bird waiting for free meat
Stealing all the food that belongs to the storks
Taking it away without bothering with forks
Happy little red bird lives by the zoo
And knows all the exhibits where it can possibly find food
Steal from the dogs before the pack starts its run
Steal from the hornbill while they look after their son
Happy little red bird sitting in a tree
Knowing full well to keep it’s eye on me
I do my best to care for the zoo
And you’re stealing lots of food that doesn’t belong to you
Happy little red bird, I’d chase you away
But you keep coming back every single day
Happy little red bird leave some for my storks
And watch out for the hornbill and the dogs, of course
Happy little red bird hanging out in the tree
Singing his song as joyful as can be
Always shows up without missing a beat
Because every single day he steals our meat

Morning at the Zoo

Walking the chimp exhibit
Making sure they can’t escape
As dawn breathes on the horizon
And morning starts to break

Wind rustles the trees
And squirrels scatter undergrowth
But off in the distance
Make sure you listen real close

Noble roars take the air
As the lions announce their presence
They need to make sure all know:
On these acres, they take precedence

The chirping yips of painted dogs on the hunt
Chatter giddily as they enjoy their breakfast and lunch
Then the crowned cranes call out like a horn
As they wait for their little hatchling to be born

Across the lagoon,
A silver-cheeked hornbill laughs out
As red ruffled lemurs rebuttal from long snouts

The cheetahs chirp,
calling for their brother
They’d been separated a moment
So they don’t steal food from each other

An elephant cries out
in response to a keeper
And the hippo wheeze-honks
As the pool fills deeper

Such a special magic
Before the guests arrive
As the zoo world wakes
And morning calls breech the skies

I grab my gear
Head off the exhibit
And the chimps all start hooting in excitement

The weather is warming
It’s nice enough, they can go out
No more seasonal depression
Holding keeper and animal in pout

The all clear is called
The chimps are off to seize the day
Hooting and running
To see what forage we’ve laid

Good morning from the zoo
And every animal in our care
If you haven’t been in a while
Come on over. We’ve lots to share

Mwezi Hu; The Death House pt. 5

A vampire. The man who stole me from my hunt and brought me to this dark realm is a vampire lord. I can’t help but growl at the statue of Strahd. It didn’t matter if he was lord or a fledgling. A vampire was a vampire and I needed more fangs to add to my collection.

“You alright, Mwezi?”

Vayne asks, but I can’t reply. I can’t get over the way Strahd’s hand lays on the wolf’s head. It was like he stopping it. Controlling it. Did Strahd think himself better then the wolves? Did he think he ruled them?

The thought ticked me off. I grab my morning star and cleave Strahd’s head straight off the statue. The same moment, Bree grabbed the orb in the statue’s other hand.

Vyke groans. “Was that really necessary? Look, I get it. I don’t like the guy either, but don’t you think we risk ticking him off by desecrating his statue?”

I smash the statue’s head into splinters on the ground. “Let him know we’re coming. Then he’ll know what I’m going to do to him.”

“Uh, guys…” Vayne points a claw at the headless statue. Shadows were bubbling out of the top of it like blood from a wound. We back up when they spill onto the floor. I catch the orb in Bree’s hand flash black.

Vyke rounds on me. “What did you do?!”

I scoff. “Me?” I point at the orb. “How do we she didn’t do it? That orb’s probably magic.”

Vyke sniffs. “I’m blaming you.”

The shadows start collecting together and form five skeletal spirits. We draw our weapons.

Already weakened by the ghouls we fought earlier, I’m not much help to the others. Since I desegrated the statue, I’m the main target. One sinks its claws right into my chest and the familiar sensation of draining lifeforce rushes out of me. Bree comes to my rescue, dicing up the spirit with her daggers like it’s made of cheese. Blue Onesie covers my other side, pulling out his strange weapon and firing shots through the skull of a different spirit. At the last shot it falls apart. Vyke and Vayne finish off the others.

Vyke turns on me while the remains of the spirits dissipate through the air. “How about no more destroying statues?”

I grunt and drop to one knee with my weakened strength. “I can’t make any promises.”

We silently agree to remain here and rest until our strength returns. Blue Onesie found a chained skeleton in the corner and cuddled against it for a nap. Bree checks out the room, but caught her stumbling over some debris. Vayne stands guard while Vyke scouts ahead.

When I get some of my strength back, I return to the headless statue of Strahd. It’s made of wood, which I feel is fitting. Without checking in with the others, I start smashing it, leaving only the wolf, free of the hand that held it. Out of the statue of Strahd, I’m able to make five decent wooden stakes.

Vayne walks over to me. “Couldn’t help yourself, could you?”

I shrug. “What can I say? I hate vampires.” She raises an eyebrow and I can tell she wants the story behind it, but I won’t give it her. “I need a nap.” I toss her one of the wooden stakes. “Wake me if something interesting happens.”

I don’t know how long I slept, but Bree shakes me awake. She motions to Vyke. “He thinks he found the cult leader’s den.”

Gathering our gear, we continue on through this creepy crypt. Vyke leads us to the cult leader’s den and it’s not as impressive as I thought it would be. There’s a rotten desk. Broken furniture. Nothing too exciting. Bree checks for clues, but there’s nothing to indicate what’s going on this freaky place. While the others poke around, another rotten scent catches my nose. It leads to a door on the other end of the room.

I call to the others. “Hey, something ain’t right over here.”

Blue Onesie raises an eyebrow at me. “You mean with that freaky strong nose of yours?”

I ignore the insult and nod. “There’s another rotten smell. It’s different from the ghouls, though. I can’t place it.”

Vyke walks up to the door and points at it. “From behind there?” When I nod, he draws his weapon. I back up and pull out my crossbow. The other prepare themselves. Bree slips her tiny self into Vyke personal space with daggers in hand. Vyke grabs the doorknob, but when he pulls it, it comes with him. The door morphs over his hand, grappling him.

I curse. “It’s a mimic!”

Moonlight’s haze. I hate mimics almost about as much as vampires. They’re monsters whom no one knows what their true form looks like. Many a adventurer has lost their life to mimics posing as treasure chests, furniture, or–in this case–a door.

Vyke curses and raises his free hand. It glows with a reddish aura and the same color aura surrounds the mimic. He managed to hex it. Bree tries to cut Vyke free, but her daggers don’t penetrate deep enough. One of my crossbow bolts pierce into the mimic’s wooden shell and it lets out an ear-piercing screech. Blue Onesie rushes forward with a machete, trying to help Bree cut Vyke free, but his weapon lodges into the wood. The mimic screams again. It dislodges from the passage it guarded and horror drops like a stone in my gut when the mimic swallows Vyke whole.

“Oh my god!” Vayne’s as frozen as I am. “Vyke!”

Blue Onesie and Bree back away from the mimic as it lashes out and I don’t blame them. I wouldn’t want to get grappled and eaten either. I raise my crossbow. “Don’t stop fighting. He could still be alive in there.” If we can kill it soon, we could gut Vyke out of there before the acid of the mimic’s stomach boiled him alive.

I was waiting for to fire my shot straight into the mimic’s mouth when it suddenly stopped. A burp of smoke escaped its throat. I exchanged a confused look with Vayne. The mimic began whining and stumbling about, more and more smoke spilling from its mouth. A loud pop echoed through the crypt as fire flared from mimic. It exploded and pieces of the monster scattered about the room. Vyke stood in the middle of it all with magic cast in hand and his eyes widened. “I. Got. Eaten!”

I chuckled. Bits of flames were still flittering about Vyke’s red skin. “You okay?”

Vyke shook his hands, ichor from the mimic flung off them. “I’m covered in goo!”

Blue Onesie walked up to Vyke and swiped some of the mimic guts off him with one finger before sticking it into his mouth. “Mmm.” Blue Onesie smiled. “Who knew? Roasted mimic tastes pretty good.”

Vayne and I exchange a disguised look at his actions. I walk to the passage the mimic was guarding. It extends to a fancy bedroom–which wasn’t what I was expecting to find in a crypt. The others and I slowly enter, Vyke grumbling about the mimic as we go.

I nod to myself as I get a look around. The fancy bed. The footlocker. A table. Leather sacks. “I bet my fur this room belongs to the cult leader.”

Blue Onesie gives me an odd look. “That’s a strange thing to bet.”

“Let’s see what’s hidden here, shall we?” Bree slips past us and heads straight for the foot locker. Before she can even touch it, two ghosts appear before her. Everyone grabs their weapons, but I stop them. One of the ghosts was a man. The other a woman. Their spirits were dressed with nice attire. Their postures were straight. Yet, their faces were tired and filled with sorrow. Much different from the painting of them upstairs.

“Lower your weapons,” I tell the others. “These are the spirits we’ve been looking for. Elizabeth and Gustov.” I nod to the ghosts. “They’re Rose’s and Thorn’s parents.”

Hold On

Holding on to hope
Cause its all that I got
Holding onto hope
Hoping that it ain’t for naught

Working toward a dream
To make it come true
Working toward a dream
Hoping not to be blue

Putting in effort
Until the day is spent
Putting in effort
Hoping to make a dent

Wanting to be useful
Make an impact. Make a difference
Wanting to be useful
Hoping to be referenced

Letting actions lead the way
In every routine
Letting actions lead the way
Hoping to be seen

Hearing of a chance
That catches hope’s breath
Hearing of a chance
To put doubts to death

Believing in possibilities
Waiting a little bit longer
Believing in possibilities
Knowing you’ll get stronger

So, hold onto hope
Because one day, it’s there
Hold onto hope
Like an already answered prayer

Mwezi Hu; The Death House pt. 4

There’s a hollowness in the air as we stand in front of Rose and Thorn’s coffins. None of us want to open them. They are–or were–just kids after all.

Vyke lets out a heavy sigh. He’s holding his hand out toward the coffins. “I’m detecting a lot of necromancy magic, but its coming from everywhere not just from the kids.”

Blue Onesie backs behind Vyke. “If we open them, they could be trapped.”

I take a step forward. “I want to know what happened. The nursemaid’s body I found upstairs was freshly killed. The parents of these kids have been dead a long time. We saw the kids’ spirits. They need to be reunited with their parents if they’re going to have peace. I want to know how long their spirits have been tormented like this.”

Vayne and Vyke nod in agreement. No one protests when I push the stone slabs partly off the coffins. The air feels colder, but that was due to my dread of looking inside. The bodies of Thorn and Rose are there. They’re nothing but bones. I sigh. “These poor kids.”

Vayne shakes her head. “So, they’ve been dead a while and the nursemaid is freshly dead. I guess she left at some point, tragedy befell the family, and when she returned, whoever hurt the family killed her.”

Bree nods. “That’s my best guess, but who hurt the family? Why?”

I shake my head and look around. If necromancy magic is everywhere. There’s no telling what we’ll find down here. “I get the feeling we’ll find out soon enough.”

Vyke steps over and grabs the stone slabs. “We should leave them to rest.”

“Wait.” I stop him before he can pull the covers back over the coffins. I dig through my pack and pull out Thorn’s favorite toy. Thanks to it, we found this crypt in the first place. I lean into Thorn’s coffin and lay it by his hands. “Thank you for help,” I whisper softly.

Vyke gives me a soft smile, approving of my actions, before I help him cover the kids back up. “We should keep moving,” I mutter.

“Ugh!” Vayne throws her hands up in frustration. “I swear, I’m going to kill him.” When the rest of us look at her in confusion, she motions around. “Where’d the guy in the blue onesie go?”

I try not to groan when I realize she’s right. Blue Onesie is gone. “Forget him. If he wants to get himself killed, he can. We need to find the spirits of the parents so we can free the kids from this limbo.”

Vayne grumbles incoherently, but we move on. A few corridors later, we come across a little dining hall. Blue Onesie is over by the corner with a sword in hand. Just as I step into the room, I catch him stabbing down at something.

An ungodly scream echoes through the crypt and a grick jumps out of its hiding spot. Blue Onesie’s sword stabbed into it’s tail. The beast is worm-like with a beak at its head and four tentacles surrounding it. Vayne calls Blue Onesie an idiot before leaping to action. She scores her dragon claws across it’s body, Bree slips under her and stabs it with her daggers, and Vyke jumps from one of the tables to stab down at it with his sword. The grick lets out a screech and thrashes its tentacles at them, but each avoid it with a simple dodge. When Vayne backs up, I spot an opening. I run forward, and bash the grick right in the beak with my morning star. It’s beak cracks and it falls to the ground.

Blue Onesie places his hands over his heart. “Aw! You guys came to my rescue. I knew you would, but you could’ve come a little faster though.”

Vayne rumbles with a growl, but Vyke gets between her and Blue Onesie, he frowns at the elf. “Do you just go around stabbing random things for the fun of it?”

Blue Onesie perks up. “Yup!”

I roll my eyes and walk over to a corridor on the opposite end of the dining hall. A horrid stench caught my nose. “Something isn’t right down this passage.”

Bree raises her eyebrow. “How can you tell?”

“The smell. It’s…” I shook my head. “Foul.”

Vyke scoffs. “This whole place smells foul.”

“From this direction is different.” I glance back at the others and they’re all staring at me in confusion. I can’t blame them. A human having a nose like mine isn’t very common. “I think we should go this way.”

Vayne walks up to me. “We need to be careful about it, though. We don’t know what else is down here.”

I nod in agreement. Making sure Blue Onesie is with us, we continue on.

I take the lead, and I found out what the foul smell was when we reach a hair pin in the corridors. Four ghouls dig themselves up from the ground like zombies. One grabs me by the ankle and lashes out. Like the spirit of the nursemaid, I feel my lifeforce sucked out of me. I manage to smack it off with my morning star, but another lashes at me from behind. I grit my teeth. I should’ve been more careful, but I got myself surrounded.

I’ve lost sight of the others. Our fighting echoes through the tight corridors and I grow too weak to fight at my top potential. One by one, the ghouls hit me, and drain my lifeforce with each cheap shot. Curse this crypt! I swing my morning star at one of the ghouls but it bends it’s spine backwards in a direction it isn’t supposed to go. “Stupid thing, just die already!”

A bull-rushing blast destroys the wall to my left, and the ghoul blocking that direction gets buried under the rubble. Blue Onesie stands where the wall used to be with a kid-like grin on his face. “Ha! Now, I can fight!” He had two swords in hand, but he looked down to see the ghoul under the rubble, he slumped with a pout. “Oh…he’s buried.”

I let out a huff. It was about time I had some help even if it meant structural damage to the crypt. I raise my morning star to the last ghoul, wincing in pain from my wounds. Yet, a little blur shoots past me. Bree uses her daggers to cut the ghoul’s spine and when it’s torso lands on the ground, she stabs it through the heart.

“Is everyone alright?” Vyke and Vayne round the corridor, their own blood leaking from their wounds. Vyke gives the collapsed wall a frown. He looks at me.

I shake my head. “Those wretches got a lot of my lifeforce. I need to rest.”

Vayne points ahead. “There might be a room up ahead we can rest in.”

Vyke takes the lead. “As long as nothing else is waiting within it.”

Vayne’s suspicions were confirmed. We find a small room with an alter within. The statue on the alter catches all of our attention. It’s made of wood and finely painted. It’s of a tall man with pale skin. He wears a long black cloak and red buckled vest. His clawed hand rests on the head of a white wolf. His raven black hair is pulled back and shiny, and his eyes are red. A growl escapes my throat as soon as I see it, and the dominating way the man’s hand rests of the wolf’s head royally ticks me off. The man’s other hand holds a crystal orb.

Vayne steps up to the plague under the statue. “It says ‘Strahd, the Dark Lord of Barovia.”

Vyke pulls out the letters each of us received when we first came to this haunted land. “Like the guy who sent us these. Who invited us to dinner?”

I round on them. From their tones, I know they don’t realize the mess we’re in. “We are his dinner!” When I’m met with confused looks, I point at the statue. “Don’t you get it? Look at his skin, his fingers, and his eyes. Our generous host, Strahd, is a freaking vampire lord!”

Rhinoceros Iguanas

Down in the Caribbean there are a few islands that are the home to the rhinoceros iguana. These little reptiles have a lifespan of about 20 years. They can get up to 53 inches long and 20 pounds, and they’re endangered.

These iguanas live in rocky limestone environments like tropical dry forests, lowland shrubs, and coastal forests. They’re endangered because of habitat loss, illegal poaching, and non-native species like feral cats and dogs are killing them off. They also compete for food sources with livestock.

Rhinoceros iguanas are active during the day and they’ll spend their nights sleeping around warm rocks. They’re herbivores, the one we take care of at my zoo loves grapes and fresh leaves. Wild rhinoceros iguanas are important to their habitat because they distribute seeds throughout their island. They’re solitary animals and only come together for mating. Males will fight for dominance during the breeding seasons.

They need high humidity to help their shedding and a lot of basking time for UV light. We’re currently revamping the holding area for our rhinoceros iguana at my zoo. He’s been a bit lazy lately, so we’re hoping a change to his environment will help perk him up and help make him more comfortable.

Rhinoceros iguanas are really cool reptiles. If you ever get the chance to see one, take a good look at the pattern of its scales and the colors involved. They’re beautiful.

To the Collectors

So may people out there are collectors. I’m one. I’m sure you’re probably one. So what kind of things do you collect? I’m guilty of collecting a lot. I like collecting Zelda figures, animal skulls, Pokemon stuff, notebooks–bottom line: I’m quite the geek. I’ve got a brother who collects Dungeons and Dragons stuff and I know there’s a lot of people out there who collect sports stuff. You could be a bottle cap collector, a card collector, stamps, art, history etc. We all have our favorite things.

As fun as it is to collect, depending on what it is could be frowned up by society–especially if its expensive. Not a lot of people I know understand the geeky stuff and you should see the weird looks I get when I mention to anyone that I collect animal skulls. But, I could flip it around. You’ll never see me collecting sport teams stuff, but I know people who are really into it.

So, here’s to the collectors who like to show off and stare at their collection. To those who are willing to save up a bunch of money just to get the last piece in the set or the latest edition. Here’s to those that collect because they enjoy it, not because they know they can sell it off for more later. You’re not alone out there and don’t be ashamed. That collection of yours is a little peek into you.

Unicorns and Dragons

Writing Prompt: What would life be like if unicorns and dragons existed?

If unicorns and dragons existed, I fear they would’ve been hunted to extinction by now. Let’s start with unicorns. They’re beautiful creatures and often regarded as pure and magical with incredible abilities like healing the sick, and providing long life and happiness. Let’s not forget what they’re named after, their horn. The sad truth is that we live in a greedy world. One where elephants and rhinos are hunted due to their ivory. If ivory is so coveted, imagine how envious people would be of a unicorn’s horn. Yet, if people aren’t trying to kill unicorns for their horn, then they’re trying to traffic them for their powers. Large cats like leopards and cheetahs are trafficked for their pelts and sold as exotic pets. Yes. There are people trying to help these animals, trying to stop the trafficking and the black market, but if you consider all of history, would these advocates for animals risen up in time to save unicorns?

Then, there’s dragons. Incredible, large, fire-breathing, flying lizards with razor sharp teeth and claws, and wicked tails. These amazing beasts would definitely fight back against humanity, but I fear they would be too feared by rulers throughout time, that–for the good of the people–dragons would be hunted to extinction. We hear about it all the time in our fairy tales and legends. The knights go off to slay the dragon, save the maiden, and bring glory to the day. Then, you have the stories like “How to Train Your Dragon.” They teach that not animals–dragons–should be feared, but we can work and live alongside them. Well, if you haven’t seen “How to Train Your Dragon 3” stop reading right here, because at the end of the movie, Hiccup and his people give up their dragons because the world isn’t ready to accept dragons. There are too many dragon hunters, and people don’t understand that with mutual respect, dragons are nothing to be feared. I feel like those movies hit society on the nail head with that one.

Perhaps my response to this writing prompt betrays my lack of faith in humanity. I would love to be wrong. I would love for the existence of unicorns and dragons to teach humanity unity and goodness. Strength and compassion. However, there’s no way we could ever know for sure. All we can do is speculate, so your guess is as good as mine.

I would definitely try to befriend a unicorn or dragon though.

Hard to Get to Know

I’ve been watching an anime called One Piece lately. There’s like 1,000 episodes, but I’ve only seen what’s on Netflix and I really enjoy it. It’s about this young pirate captain who builds a crew to chase their dreams. The crew ends up having these incredible adventures and they become more than just a crew, they’re best friends with unquestionable loyalty to each other despite all the times they might not get along. That’s probably my favorite thing about the show.

Fast forward to several adventures later and the crew docks on a small island. While they’re sleeping, a creature on the island steals their memories. The only one not affected is the Bookworm who chose to stay up late and read a book instead (morale of the story: stay up late reading books and your memories won’t be taken). By the time morning comes none of them, besides the Bookworm, remember that they’re best friends. They revert back to who they were before they met each other. The Bookworm tries to explain, but as expected, she’s met with a lot of resistance. My favorite character in the show wakes up last. When the others realize he’s there, some of them freak out, because even though they don’t remember each other, they recognize his name. They know him as a pirate hunter, a renowned bounty hunter, and the most skilled swordsman of the East Blue. They’re wary of him. Before the Bookworm can explain again, the Swordsman bails. He goes overboard and swims to shore.

And no one stops him.

They all let him go, and breathe easier that he’s gone. In fact, throughout the plot they don’t go after him. Though the Bookworm brings it up, the others say he’s too scary, too dangerous, and too much of a jerk to be bothered with.

I watched that episode a while ago and it still bugs me. My favorite character, the one who showed the most loyalty to the crew throughout their adventures got brushed off by the others because he was too scary to get to know. It made me think about the sequence of the story. The Swordsman was the first person to join the Captain’s crew–the very first recruit–so when the others came along, they didn’t have a choice but to accept that he was a part of their crew. Had he not been the first recruited, would the others still have accepted him? He’s a standoffish character, honorable, and tough. He holds himself to high standards and doesn’t give a lick what other people think about him, so it makes him hard to get to know. The best way to get to know him is to let his actions speak instead, the only way to do that is to spend time with him. Time for different scenarios to see those actions. From what I’ve seen of the anime, no one would get past his hardened demeanor to give him a chance.

Now in the plotline of the missing memories, everything works out. The crew finds the creature stealing their memories and with every fight against it, they get their memories back and all returns to normal. The Swordsman rejoins the crew.

It makes me wonder of how many incredible and unique people do we miss out on knowing just because they’re too standoffish, quiet, distant, or just plain hard to get to know? Can you think of someone in your life? If you took a minute to get past their walled exterior what kind of person would you discover beneath? The Swordsman from the anime has a terrible sense of direction. When he isn’t training or defending his friends, he can be a bit of sloth, choosing to sleep a lot. He takes his commitments very seriously, and holds others to them as well. Nothing is fake or pretend with him, and as long as someone apologizes for their wrong, he’ll forgive them, and he gives them plenty of chances to apologize.

People aren’t always what you see on the exterior. You may see someone as quiet, standoffish, or reserved, but someone who got to know them might see someone passionate, kind, or even goofy. What you see from someone depends on how much you’re willing to get to know them. Maybe they’re like the Swordsman and don’t want to open up to start, but from my experience, a little patience and kindness can go a long way.

Featured Image snipped from the actual One Piece episode on Netflix.