Was I really dying?
I could see them now, advancing on us, moving swiftly through the field, approaching the outcroppings we had taken refuge in and raising their guns to fire upon us once more. Not like this, I thought, I will not go out like this, laying here like a beaten dog! I rose to a knee for a second time, shouldered my rifle, and pulled ever so delicately on the trigger as I aimed down range towards them. The kickback on my uninjured shoulder felt good, like coming home from a long extended vacation or enjoying the company of a good friend. I smiled as each projectile careened away from me, searching the world for someone to hurt.
I looked over at Phoebe who was coming around and conveyed to me through one look that she would rather be anywhere else than here right now. The familiar explosions could be heard again, and I knew this time they would not be so forgiving. I smiled at her thinking that this day had started out too pleasantly to end like this. What a shame it would be to not see the sunrise with her tomorrow morning like we had been doing together lately. I crawled over to where she was and laid down next to her, holding her outstretched hand as she cradled my head upon her chest.
While listening to the sound of her heartbeat I thought, "Oh well, at least we will have this one last sunset..."
Then, the ground began to shake...
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The Fifth JournalBook One of the Sons of Sanhedrin Series
By Matt Sims
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Matt Sims
All right reserved.
Chapter One... Life Before ...
It is funny, I think, looking back at my life after the girl of my dreams walked away. I wonder why it is that there are moments in time one can look back upon with such pent-up frustration or emotion, even though they seem like, or even may be, eons ago. To this day the simple thought of her makes my heart want to blow out of my chest, the pounding within me is almost too much to bear. It's amazing really, that the simplest of things can take us back to the very moments for which we harbor such strong feelings. Sometimes it is as little as a scent in the air, or a song we hear on the radio that instantly teleports us backwards, to a time we most often would rather forget. I had set out defiantly to bury myself in things, hobbies, sports, goals, anything so that I could forget my past and all the heartache that accompanied it. The only problem with this, though temporarily successful, is that you never forget your past. You just learn to hide from it better; in the end though, it always catches up to you.
No matter how fast you run, or how good you get at hiding, you will turn the corner some day at a grocery store, or be stopped at a red light and look over, only to see someone you wished you could have gone without seeing. It's rather comical at times how all the individual paths in this life intertwine eventually; no matter how diligent one is trying to prevent it. Thinking back, I remember trying to date everyone I met just so I could forget her; the only trouble I had with that was almost every girl reminded me of her. The ones that didn't, however, made me only wish they did. I tried really hard for a long time to forget. After a while her scent faded from the air, her voice became a whisper, and her laugh blended with the wind. I found that forgetting her made everything worse, as I lost something that I had created with her. The pain that I had became the only thing that held me together, and trying to get rid of it started to pull me apart at the seams. A year went by and all my attempts at fixing it had failed. I decided then and there I needed a new tactic, something unconventional, and something inexplicitly new. I settled on the idea that instead of ridding myself of her, every memory, every vested emotion, that I should harness it and prove her wrong in some ways, and right in so many others.
She had faith in me and saw my potential in so many exciting outlets. She knew she had to complete her own path on her own, and in doing so would have to let me go. I lost my faith in her when she cut me off. I blamed her for my pain, and I hated her for it for a long time. She left me because she needed to heal herself from the pains of her family prior to meeting me, and that was something I couldn't help her with, or so she said. Once I realized and believed that she left because of circumstances beyond my control, it was only then that I was able to move forward and get beyond my slump. I found the ability to organize my feelings and thoughts into a constructive pattern, which in turn revealed my own potential. However, I moped around for a while, pitying myself and losing sight of what was important, and ultimately sitting on the ideas that could free me from my self-created prison. I was finally able to pull the crap from my eyes when my oldest brother came to me with an idea.
One thing I always liked about my oldest brother Eddie was that his ideas were always solid; they were well thought out and resembled a lot of how our father would think. When my brother proposed ideas, he did so after much thought of his own. He would spend countless days, sometimes weeks, researching and fine-tuning every conceivable perception of the idea before he would even dream of letting any of us in on it. Because of this formula to his plan he never once came forth with a shitty idea. More or less, his ideas were concrete and stable, and would always benefit anyone who involved themselves in them. Many of the ventures he chose to pursue over the years prior to the conflict resulted in a lot of his friends and family benefiting both financially and emotionally. He never made anyone rich, but he certainly did not make any of them poor. His current idea was the result of an inner passion he had kept dormant for so many years; fearful it would be frowned upon. When he came to me I realized that I was the first person he had talked to about this, and if I didn't approve I might be the last person he ever spoke to about it.
It had been almost a year since he approached me on the day she left. He ventured to guess that I had become quite good at writing and had at the very least kept a journal all these months. Being right wasn't something he was unaccustomed to and I smirked back at him when he asked, knowing full well he already knew the answer. I mentioned my journal and the many entries I had made, along with the long overdue need for a change in my life. With that statement of mine he smiled and said he had a proposition for me and the rest of the family, if we wanted in. He started off mentioning only a little, to feel out my reaction to the new idea he had. I was intrigued and a little overwhelmed at the venture, but, nevertheless, I wanted in. I desperately needed a change in my life, to apply meaning to it once again. I know looking back that it is always wise to say that "Nothing lost is nothing gained," but when you are buried under a pile of your own self-pity and remorse it is difficult to see the light even when you are sitting right underneath it. On that day my brother showed me the light and a list of goals I could set for myself. I was in, and I wanted nothing to do with any view in the rear view mirror; there was no looking back.
His idea was simple, prepare for the worst. That was it, there were no tricks, and there were no gimmicks or empty promises. He said it plain and clear, whatever you put into this is what you will get out of it. He wanted to establish a group of people that could rely on each other in anything, friends if you will, until the bitter end. He wanted each of his brothers to have a part in it, all five of us had something to bring to the table, and he wanted each of us to maximize our potential. There were several friends he spoke of that he knew would already be an asset and he envisioned there being many more people who would want to be a part of this. Granted, it might at first sight appear crazy, overly eccentric, and downright nutty, but beyond all the appearance of paranoia lay true wisdom that I am ashamed I overlooked for so long.
Preparing for the worst has become such a stigma in mainstream thought. People often see the guy buying fifty pounds of rice or twenty-five pounds of salt in the store and think, "What in the heck is this guy doing?" Then, some minor catastrophe strikes, an earthquake rattles some nerves, a tornado flips lives upside down, or rain seems to never stop, and panic sets in. People end up rushing the local grocery stores, causing ridiculous riots or killing each other over a sandwich. All of this could have been prevented with a little preparation and sound judgment. My brother had it in his head that with the combined effort of a few, they could provide for many. He turned out to be right yet again, and over the next several years we all pulled together to accomplish quite a bit.
My brothers were easy to convince; in fact, it didn't take convincing for any of them. Most were already doing some small part on their own without anyone else being aware of it. Each of my brothers had pursued a profession in government work in one fashion or another. As cliché as it may appear, they truly were America's heroes. Between the four of them there was the oldest Eddie, a firefighter/paramedic, the second oldest Chaz, a Marine Recon Sniper, the third oldest Dylan, a Police SWAT Officer, and the fourth bother Howard, an Air Force Pararescue soldier. Then, at the end of the line, there was a college graduate and aspiring writer, me. My name is James, and it's no wonder I felt the way I did at one point or another, slightly inadequate and the youngest of five boys. You stand me up next to them and we don't seem any different, all built the same and pretty much the same size, yet once you look at our résumés the differences become all too real. My mother always said that all her sons were just as capable and as brilliant as the other, however, our paths took us all in different directions.
She raised each of us in similar yet different ways. We five were every bit the same as we were different, which left a lot to the uncertain as to how we would all turn out. She mentioned to me once that it was always interesting when we were growing up to see the day we became bigger than she. Her years of discipline came to a grinding halt once the realization that we were now a foot taller than she and far stronger entered our minds. It was then that our father took us aside to have a word. He wanted to instill in us the knowledge of the responsibility that accompanied new attributes like strength and domineering presence. He made sure we realized that we were never to overpower someone or to, at any time, place someone in a position of subservience, unless to protect ourselves or the ones we loved. He wanted us to be servants of others and to constantly and everlastingly give until we could no longer give anymore. He entrusted us with our new abilities and told us that it was now our job to protect our mother just as she had protected us all our lives up to this point.
Now, all the servant-hood stuff aside, my father would be the first person to severely injure or kill someone that ever compromised his or his family's safety. This meant that he wanted us to feel the same way towards family and the importance of maintaining its sound structure. He stressed this to no end because without a family, one is alone, and survival is not a lonely operation. Sure, you may be able to last a little while, but the loneliness alone would drive someone insane. The sheer amount of time it took to maintain a proficient food supply and to guard that food supply would wipe one person out. There would be no time for rest, and in turn mistakes would be made and consequences would be suffered. With this in mind, my father took it upon himself to properly instill that awareness within his sons to never forget that life was to be tackled by a team and not by a lone soldier. My oldest brother took this to heart more than any of us, and he always seemed to carry that burden.
I can recall over the years seeing it truly take its toll on my oldest brother through many aspects, but most of all in his dating life. He never quite seemed to find the right girl or something would come up between them. There seemed to always be something with him, and I feel it had a lot to do with his belief that the outcome of his brothers resulted from his actions, like he was the overall representative of, "How to live one's life" to each of us. I do recall my parents telling him at one time that the younger boys look up to him as a role model, and that they in turn want to do anything and everything he does. I feel that really impacted him; perhaps he thought that one false move he made would in turn result in four other false moves by us, and we would all at once fall over this metaphorical cliff. Because of this, I think he always felt he must wait for that perfect girl that would come along and represent the ideal woman each of us should pursue.
That perfect girl never did come though, and as far back as I can recall, he was never with a girl more than a few weeks. I think this really saddened him at times, making him feel as though he was doing something wrong. Sometimes I think his expectations for what that girl should be like and look like were a tad bit to high; ultimately, the image in his head just never really existed in the real world. He eventually found peace though, and that much was visible in his eyes as he got older. He began to walk more upright and display a confidence that the world envies. He settled into his life and focused all his energy on helping those around him succeed with him, and in turn his rewards were endless. This was why I was so excited to pursue this new venture of his. Besides giving me a new and profound purpose, it was also backed by a man that, to me, had become a beacon of excellence and was the ultimate representation of success. I was proud of my brother, who he was, and who he had become in his life. He was someone you could always count on; by default he was way too reliable and when he said he would be somewhere or do something he never failed to follow through. His word, like the rest of my brothers, had always remained true and was the bond by which they valued their lives. In short, once I stepped onto this bandwagon there was no looking back, I was all in.
This journal of mine was never meant to be an instruction manual or some kind of "how-to" book on preparation, so forgive me for not going into detail about the training we went through. If you really are interested and want to travel down the same path we did, then have at it! There are tons of people out there ready to take your money and feed you a bunch of crap; it is up to you to wade through the bullshit and find the truth buried in it. My job is not to baby anyone, nor will I attempt any efforts to do so or make your path easier than mine was. You want this, you go get it yourself and suffer through it like we did. With that, I will step off my soapbox and get back to what really matters here, our story.
Like previously mentioned, I had been primarily unfocused in my life thus far. Of course, I was able to complete college and hold down a steady job writing for a local newspaper, but anyone can finish college. Just because you are able to take a class and attain a grade means nothing in the realm of responsibility and aspiration. What a grade or degree means is that you are simply able to put up with numerous self-centered professors and their idealistic, empty-headed student teacher aids. A degree means nothing on its own. I am sorry if that pains you to hear, but it's overwhelmingly true. Look at the statistics alone, they are leaning heavily in favor of my statement. How many college grads do you know who have degrees in Biology, Sociology, Math, English, and so on that are working in some restaurant, or an oil change station? The amount is staggering. It's not what degree you have or the major you pursued that defines you anymore, but what you decided to do with your life thereafter.
Due to the mind-numbing amount of pain I still suffered from after my heart was broken, I demanded from myself that I not let it ever happen again. A little over a year after she turned her back on me, she decided to revisit everything once more. I still to this day can't fully figure out why she even toyed with the idea of talking with me after what she had done. Who did she think she was, and why did she think it was okay to keep this charade going? Perhaps it was her way of finding peace with the whole ordeal by confirming if I had found mine. The letters she sent pried ever so gently into my life, weaving a new web of emotional instability within me and again causing sleepless nights and unsettling discomfort. I wanted her gone, forever, no longer deserving the right to do this to me. She was again continuing to take and not give back, causing pain, yet never trying to heal the wounds. All I wanted her to do was tell me it was over and to stop me from holding on to a hope that would never be fulfilled. She always managed to leave a door open, however, and this time I was shutting it. I would not let her avoid the issues any longer. She said her piece, and then I said mine. I slammed the door closed and figuratively walked away, hoping it was forever this time.
I think this is why I personally found such peace with my brother's plan. It wasn't a new plan or idea by any means, a very old one in fact, that many people for hundreds of years have already come up with. But this agenda offered the others, and myself, a foundation by which we could always turn to that we had otherwise overlooked. No matter what happened in the future, or where we ended up, we had a plan, we had a group of people we could rely on, and we would have the means to protect ourselves. A big part of me now can relate to the reasons why kids growing up fall into the gang style of life. That way of existence allows them to have a group of people they can rely on and a means to make sense of their lives when their families had fallen short.
Excerpted from The Fifth Journal by Matt Sims Copyright © 2012 by Matt Sims. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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