Early Access evangelism….

Vance was ridiculing Alice for her bold suggestion that she might have received divine wisdom for their situation; “Let me guess, something about seeking forgiveness and apologising to the family? Get real Alice. I don’t think they operate their business profits on forgiveness currency!” Alice was undeterred by his provocative remarks as she instructed him to follow her into the study room where Katrya’s PC was set up. Seeing the jar and the memory of her Dad had got her thinking, perhaps it was divine inspiration and perhaps it was her own memory, either way it was their only real option: Alice knew that it was possible to still gain remote access to the family’s accounting system. They may have discovered her but it was unlikely they had updated their Firewall, leaving the back door vulnerable to her hacking methods. She viewed the exact amount of money, that had been siphoned off the accounts, £301,982.76. Saying it aloud gave a heavy weight to the atmosphere around them. “Great job Alice if you were looking to depress us further. I can see exactly how that is going to help us with our current predicament,” scoffed Vance, his disdain for her ‘help’ igniting a further barrage of ridicule.

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Alice was undeterred, deeply focused on her task she was unbothered about Vance’s sarcasm, she’d remembered something that Vance had said to her years ago, when he was busy having one of his ranting-sessions about his latest endurance tests at Christian Summer Camp. She began tapping so furiously on the keys that it appeared she was prospecting for biscuit crumbs and cat hair – the eternal quandary as to how these things end up under the keys! Vance was not interested in what she was doing, he was busy tormenting himself wondering how things could get any worse. Alice commenced taking pictures with her new Samsung S8 phone of the ‘work’ she had been engaged in, she shuffled nervously back in her chair as she ‘hit’ the send button.

“Come on V, we’re going on a road trip, we need to find a safe access point that can’t be traced. I don’t want to risk doing it here,” Vance tried to protest but she pursuaded him of the opportunity for a Starbucks visit. As they descended the stairs she boldly announced; “Us nerds need a supply run”. Before grabbing the shiny black case of awesomeness, named Bogdana.  Alice had found this amusing as she was looking for a name online, she came across the Polish name.  It gave her visions of this burlesque woman, roaming the streets looking to sling cow-poo through the windows of unwitting students!

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“Alice I’ve known you for long enough to know that we aren’t heading out to purely satisfy our caffeine demands. What are evil schemes are you concoicting now?” Vance demanded, expecting to receive some insight into the true nature of this road trip. He had been suffering from a bad headache all day and was in no mood for Alice’s retail therapy.” You need to just trust me V, I’m working on something that will see your Dad safe. All of your family. Except maybe your Mum, she can get her own ‘fixer’, I’m sure,” Alice furrowed her eyebrows, allowing herself a brief moment of doubt before nodding to assure herself. She pulled her knees up to her chest, resting her feet on the dashboard as they drove toward the motorway in search of a coffee establishment.

Vance stretched like a skulking Lion in his seat, having collected his hot beverage that sounded like it had undergone the same preparations as a steam engine. He tried to make shapes with the cappuccino’s froth but it merely ended up looking like something from the Necronomicon rather than the latte art he’d seen online. Alice fired up her laptop, refusing to make eye contact with Vance as she tried to stir her drink into sleepy submission. “So, the thing that I need to tell you,” Alice sniffed, “you need to look at this first so I can explain.” Her laptop was showing some information about a statement of account with a Bitcoin balance that could be traded-in.  What was a Bitcoin? “Those bottles that I mentioned to you, it reminded me of the things I did with my Dad before he died. We’d been arguing about Preppers and a zombie apocalypse, what we would do if it happened. The currency we use now would become redundant, Vance, so we decided to invest some money as a sort of bet. Dad thought you’d potential prosper more with smelted metals but I had found these,” Alice explained, nonchalantly. She turned the laptop to face him, showing the account balance. Vance challenged the cappuccino maker to a ‘steam-off’ with his high-pitched scream; “Alice there’s over three hundred and fifty grand in here. How did you even know the password details from all that time ago?” Alice sighed with an aggrieved look as she explained; “You take the piddle all the time, but I told you I had been given an idea from Jesus, I saw it in one of the bottles, a memory of the login details I always used with my Dad.” Vance merely rolled his eyes backward, not allowing himself to take this epiphany seriously.

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“Look, Vance, if you trade this in, it will be enough to set your Dad, Katrya and Anichka up for a few more years.” She continued typing in a focused manner as tears began to form in her eyes. He didn’t dare question what she was doing, Alice explaining it to him had resulted in a two day headache last time. What he could determine was that she was releasing a virus into the system, corrupting it and the information belonging to the family was starting to fragment. “You aswell, potentially,” Alice continued, “It was the only way V, I’m so sorry but I have to let me do this and you have to let me.” Alice sniffed as the tears cascaded down her face like a rejected X-Factor participant. Vance looked all-shades of confused as he solemnly said; “Fuzzygal what have you done?” Alice positioned herself for a closing statement; “You’ve always been there for me, your family saved me and treated me as one of their own and for that I am so grateful. I’m not scared anymore though Vance, I don’t need protection and I’m not scared of the family, of going to jail, of any of it. I’ll text you the logins, just do me a favour and get me a good lawyer, please. I’m going to need one”.
The coke-can fell to the bottom of the vending machine as Vance processed what she was saying. She’d destroyed the evidence of the family accounts and passed it on to the Police. She was handing herself in. Alice was going to be the scapegoat, she was going to sacrifice herself. He tried to grab her arm, pleading with her to reconsider as she walked away but he knew it was no good, he knew they hadn’t come up with a better plan and were rapidly running out of time. Vance had never before seen this level of valor or self-sacrifice and he made himself angry to fight back tears as he jeered; “You won’t get any anime there, ya’ nerd. I’ll have to send you the manga of Tokyo Ghoul finale instead. You better read it!” Alice nodded, waving herself away from the situation. Vance knew he had to let her go, he knew Katrya, Anichka and his Father’s lives depended on it. This was all for them now. The Police may have been made aware but they were still at risk and needed to disappear, fast.

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As he entered the house once more with tear-stained clothing Vance could barely form the words, and when they did escape from him they seemed to be meek mutterings; “Alice is gone. We need to phone….gather your things. We’re not safe here.” Anichka’s mother was familiar with this expression and had learnt not to question it, she simply obliged gathering a couple of small rucksacks, her daughter and some shopping, attempting to juggle all four things. Allen was not so complacent demanding; “Where is Alice?”….


Author’s Note – Alice has done an incredibly nobel, brave and loyal thing here and is perhaps illustrating some of the characteristics of Jesus in her willing sacrifice. She may not realise it but in simply talking about Jesus she is evangelising. She is also sacrificing her own selfish desires for this money in order to help someone else. Luke 16 speaks of the wise use of our money as stewards and how we should view money. It was a rather sober thought for me to realise I don’t treat money as if it belongs to God and I place too much value on it. It is a little thing to God yet it’s such a big thing to us. I used to believe that abundant life meant that God would always provide above and beyond what I needed (a supremely powerful PC) but if I’m honest with myself I know that what I value as a need, God perhaps doesn’t – not in the way I expect anyway. When I spoke with God about this recently I really felt that he was asking me: “If I were to give you 100k right now, how would it affect you? What would you do with it?” I had the maturity to realise that after perhaps buying a nice PC rig for myself and a few games, I’d be lost and the remainder would cause me a lot of stress, worry and anxiety. I recently saw a picture of someone who was really pleased with their new set-up (and it was a thing to behold) but I found myself thinking; that’s great, now how are you planning to use it to further the work of the Kingdom? As believers we should be using our money to invest in the financial success of the gospel. We cannot serve both money and God, one will rule us, there’s no middle-ground.

For those of us who perhaps are yet to believe in Christ Jesus as a personal saviour, it may present an opportunity to consider the finality of money; you can’t take it with you and even if you could, it wouldn’t mean anything. We can perhaps also ask ourselves about the value and worth we place on money. Does it define our identity? In a society that is so consumed with materialism, we must ask ourselves where are worth is to be found as a human-being. Are we just worth a few wads of cash? I used to believe that I had no worth, but that was a lie. I was looking for my worth in the wrong places. I now frequently tell people in a way that resonates with me as a gamer, that God views people as being worth more than all the DLC for every game ever made. I believe we need to understand not just how much Jesus loves us, but for this era, we need to understand our worth. In the online communities in which I operate I see so many youngsters struggling with low self-worth, low self-esteem and completely confused about what they want. And yet we live in times of such prosperity, so what’s going wrong for these youngsters that despite being raised in comfortable environments it seems they’ve never been more desperate in relation to their identities and security? If we choose to believe, we can know that we have been purchased with the blood of God’s own Son. The Bible speaks on the worth we have, the worth of our souls. Matthew 16:26(New International Version (NIV)); “26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”

A collection of mini-stories: Tales from the Quagmire (Part II)

They often amused themselves with tales of their most recent feat of devious intention, trying to always outdo the other; devising ways to collect more screams and find more ‘participants’. It gave them both some twisted sense of purpose and a sense of fulfillment at doing the work of a Deaedric Prince. How clever they were; and yet, having devoted themselves fully to the craft (meticulously planning, calculating and implementing their machinations) they fell into deception themselves. So tuned into the ‘veil’ were they that they failed to see that they themselves were victims.



*Screenshot taken from Elder Scrolls Online (Grahtwood area)

Aunt Lydia was the first to fall, and fall she did. She’d never experienced love, only the sisterly variety. This bond they shared had bound them together, in the darkness having gazed into the abyss together, they were bound by it. She’d experienced moments of lust and on occasion, gave into them, but Mother always called Lydia back to the ‘mission’. Galvin had been different though, she had tasted lust but she kept wanting more. He was an Elfling, the son of a beautiful Elven girl that had been wooed by a Human, a rare occurrence in our lands. Galvin had promised Lydia much, knowing of her craft. He wooed her with enticements to his Elven birthright secrets of magic and lavished expensive tomes on Lydia. Galvin had been gifted into witch academia and was training to be a conjurer. He knew that Lydia’s line of magic came not from study, but of the natural flow of the veil and his family wanted to siphon her essence in a ceremony for their own purposes. The Elder Spirits contacted my Mother, Aethenar and warned her of the family’s intentions. They forewarned her that in order to save the life of her Sister, a child of unknown blood must be sacrificed in an ancient ceremonial ritual, ‘Dreamers Unity’….


A collection of mini-stories: Tales from the Quagmire.

I was so young when I was sold to a wealthy family. I had been raised by my Mother and Aunt and I had never known anything about my Father. I stayed with them until I was aged nine on that dreadful day. When I dream, I still see their faces, screaming out to me. I can smell the flowers combined with the potions that were being used for the ceremony; that horrid melding of toad skin, tree bark and sea water. Even now, the ocean makes me nauseous.


*Image by  Elder Scrolls Online (screenshot of Grahtwood zone with filter).

Both my Mother and Aunt were dedicated witches, experts of their craft. They worshiped the Daedric Prince, Vaermina the Dreamweaver. This was in part due to their heritage of being born in the Quagmire, but also they were determined that their worship and ongoing sacrifices would give them the key to immortality when Vaermina found them worthy. They dedicated their lives to this pursuit and it became, ultimately, more important than I. I think they also actually enjoyed the methods that Vaermina ‘instructed’ them, psychologically torturing their adversaries in the hopes of practicing their craft. They considered the screams of their victims had currency within the veil and if they collected enough screams they would be sufficiently rewarded.

Dad got defenestrated!

Vance made a sweep of the apartment, he’d watched enough Spooks to be a dab-hand at spotting listening devices. He was confident in what he was searching for and was able to pin-point the exact spots that the devices would be hidden (he was actually clueless as he started checking really obscure places like mixing bowls and underneath the shoe racks). Do you mind, I’m telling the story! (Apologies, you were informing us about what a super-sleuth you were..) Vance’s search ended in vain as he decided to grab a packet of crisps, looking out of the living room window and down into the street he saw the usual parked cars with a TV Surveillance Van seemingly hanging around. Vance found this amusing as he imagined the multiple occupants being found guilty of not having the correct license for their viewing material, it tickled his sense of superiority.

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After two hours of ‘hiding’ in his room, playing too much Pokemon Go he had ran out of Pokeballs and needed to visit the nearest Pokestop. Stupid phone, it never displays the GPS correctly, the stop is right next door. Such incompetence. Who designed this system? There had been no sign of either his Dad or the “pizza” arriving and Vance knew from watching The Sopranos that this was usually used as a threat of impending visitation, why on his answer phone though? It could have been a wrong number as they mentioned Frank and he didn’t know a Frank, thus Vance decided it was safe to risk popping out briefly, just so he could get the supplies he needed. It would only take a few minutes.

Reaching the bottom of the stairs, he noticed the same van approaching and looking like it was about to have an encounter with the streetlight. It mounted the pavement with a crunch of it’s wheels as the back door was opened, a man being thrown out of it onto the pavement. Ooft poor guy! Vance’s duty of being an upstanding citizen demanded that he help the poor chap. He went running towards the discarded man at an enthusiastic pace, pulling out his phone ready to deal with the hands-on horror of the situation he was about to embark on: “Dad? Dad! Are you..? What was that?” Vance screeched as he tried to process the event. His Dad was attempting to regain his dignity, enduring a fight with the laws of psychics that demanded he stay seated. He got up unsuccessfully as he collapsed against Vance. “Don’t even try to tell me this is nothing, Dad. I’m calling an ambulance”, Vance demanded. His Father shook his head, daring Vance to challenge his authority and Vance knew better. When his Father made his mind up on a subject, it was case closed. “Let me at least get you fixed up, upstairs Dad. What happened, who were those people?”, Vance tried to investigate. It was clear his Father wasn’t going to be overly joyful at explaining himself but Vance wasn’t about to drop the subject.
“Look, I’m in trouble, it’s complicated…We can’t talk here…Get Alice, she’s at risk too”, Allen stuttered, the blood dripping down the side of his head. The crash between his head and the pavement was making forming those word things rather difficult. “Alice, what’s this got to do with Alice, are you sure you don’t want me to call you an ambulance?” Vance confusedly enquired. His Father kept shaking his head as if he had suddenly developed an aversion to the medical profession; “No, just get me upstairs and then collect Alice, there’s some urgent business we’ve got to attend to”. Vance knew better than to question his Father at this point, it was his choice phrase for there being no further point arguing. Vance was beginning to wonder if he should have elected to go into the medicine profession as he performed his second procedure of the week, cleaning a significant gash and applying a bandage to Allen’s face. He certainly had the stomach for this kind of work.

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The beep of Alice’s apartment bell was an unwelcome visitor in Vance’s inner-ear as he realised his brain had been running through scenario C. He liked Scenario C, it had comforted him on his journey to Alice’s ‘Furrotopia’ and it wasn’t a great stretch of the imagination. It made sense that his Father would be working for the Central Intelligence Agency: He had always been working late for as long as Vance could remember, was often gone at short notice for business trips, was excellent at playing Poker and acquiring information from others. Those are the usual ‘tells’ for discovering whether your relative is working for the CIA according to Conspirer2050 on Utube. Still, it didn’t explain why Alice would be at risk. Why you got to play me like this, Scenario C, we had such a good thing together. Alice’s voice pierced the daydream; “Password, nerd”. Vance didn’t have time for this, his thoughts taking maximum capacity of his brain’s load-processing.

Alice was clearly on edge from Vance’s impromptu visit as they made their way to the car, asking questions that Vance wasn’t able to answer. “Alice, please, I’m freaking out myself. I’ve told you all I know; he was thrown by those weirdoes in a Taxi and he said to fetch you because you’re in danger”, pleaded Vance. As they pulled up outside Vance’s apartment block, his Dad quickly came into view with two large luggage bags. Shoveling them into the back of the car, he quickly followed-through with himself, acknowledging Alice as he directed Vance to drive with no further instruction.


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(Thanks Simoniona on the Sims Community for this amazing house from The Conjuring. Had to change the front as I am missing a few of the packs required)

Eventually instructions were delivered to Vance over which direction to take and when. His Father was nervously checking his watch and Alice was also starting to show signs of her anxiety levels rising as she began constantly fiddling with the air conditioning controls. Vance was instructed to turn down a long grass track, just outside of a small farming village affectionately named Beltinge. It looked like something from the horror movie The Skeleton Key, the track looked like it hadn’t been used by someone living anytime recently and the sign for the house was barely hanging on to the post due to rotten wood. 02-02-18_1-06-05 PM

(Same creator as above)

As they arrived, a small girl emerged from the house. She had the most immaculate pigtails he’d ever seen as she came running up to the car, shouting; “Daddy, Daddy I did a new thing today, look!” She was waving a piece of paper, the colours flashing past Vance’s face making him feel disoriented in his state of shock. It was an appropriate image for how his head felt; a Spirograph drawing. He had had one when he was a young child, but these things had a way of coming back into fashion. Still dazed his thoughts raced over the proceedings of the past few days and he wondered that if there was a God, he must be busy slowly turning Vance’s life upside down. Vance was only able to offer an obvious fact; “Thanks Universe, another curve-ball, a half-sister!”

Author’s Note – Sometimes we try and take on the world alone. We think to ourselves, I will protect my family, I will get fit this year or I will successfully lose weight. Perhaps, we even make a commitment to be more giving or loving. Often, it’s not until we stumble and fall on our face that we wonder if we were doing it in our own strength, rather than resting in the Lord’s strength. We never seem to get very far on our own. The key to this, for us is humility and to know that we may want to be the gods of our lives, but we aren’t. I’ve recently been attending Weightwatchers to do the very thing I write about and although I’ve had some success, I’ve fallen flat on my face with it and hit a wall. Today, I’ve repented and given it to God as I know my issue with weight is a heart problem that can’t be fixed by the system of Weightwatchers, no matter how much success I might have there. It will never address the real problem which is that I use food as a way to both punish and comfort myself.
Having studied some of Luke 6:20-29 today (the Sermon on the Plain) it offers us a tough choice: Are you going to be your own god, relying only on yourself, grabbing everything life has to offer, with no hope of your eternal future or are you going to acknowledge your deep spiritual need for God? Are you going to not follow the ways of the world, looking instead to the hope of the future we have in Christ Jesus? For me, it’s not about trying to live a life of piety and missing out on various things that the world can offer, but it does make me think carefully on the value I place on these things that are temporary. If my fulfillment comes only in them, I will be hungry always. I see this so much in the gaming industry, there’s always a new DLC, game or Add-on to look forward to and I’ve been at a state of my life where all of my fulfillment came from this one game. It left me void, depressed, anxious and lonely but I didn’t realise it. Solomon spent years of his life acquiring wealth, material possessions, status in life only to realise that it all held so little value and he had only an inheritance that he could be robbed of. I want to invest in things that have eternal value and cannot be stolen and with God’s help, direction and guidance (daily renewing my mind) He’s getting me there in His strength, not mine as I walk with Him.

Alice was not alone, she had Furry friends

Childhood years..

My impression of Alice at a young age was that she was overly-concerned with the impressions others formed of her. She said she felt like an ‘outsider’, making her try harder. She was driven to make a significant impact on the world around her, but her efforts went unrecognised. Alice was never popular, nor was she unpopular. She was a dreamer who liked to argue (still does), had creativity in abounds and a caring personality. She would often tell me her dreams, and honestly, I’ve watched less scary Horror films! Her creativity never found a sufficient outlet because her imagination sure kicked her up the pants at night!

We met in our third year in detention. Alice was a regular there, her tempestuous nature spilling out by arguing with the Teachers (authority issues if you want my opinion). In fairness, of the outbursts that I witnessed, she often had something pertinent to offer. I digress; Alice was restricted with her leisure time for another attempt at distracting the flow of education and I was In situ for an exchange with my friend, Jimmy. It was over a trivial matter, but Jimmy was acting strange; a look in his eyes as though he was drug-induced. Adrenaline caught me off guard and I tackled him to the ground. As we went down Jimmy had an encounter with the concrete step, splitting his head open. I read on Facebook that he’s still got the scar and attributes his “mental personality” to this incident. So in detention, Alice comes over, smacking me upside the head (I hate that) and screeches in my ear; “S’up nerd, let me play Animal Crossing on your phone!” How she knew I had it, I never discovered but it broke the ice and formed a bond between us. I still text her pictures of Cherry when Alice is down.

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Alice repeatedly attempted to intervene in fights, wishing to rescue the victim being bullied. I assumed this personality trait would lead her to becoming a Social Justice Warrior or activist. I’d been bugging her to invite me to her house and ‘hang’ for months, I knew she had a new Xbox and I was desperate to play some games with her. She’d kept giving me excuses, but this time I was not being deterred. It was to prove successful this time and Alice relented. She warned me that her Mother would be in, though. Later that evening, Alice and I had been having a great time when her Mother burst into her room, swinging a bottle of Vodka at her side, clearly intoxicated. She spat in Alice’s face shouting; “Get me some voddy, Mumma’s feeling all the sads, you goo’ for n’ffin twix!” Alice tried to plead with her and swiftly her Mother’s fist interlocked with Alice’s jaw, making her fall backward onto the floor! I was horrified, all my illusions of Alice’s wonderful home life were shattered. I chipped in; “Let’s go, Alice, I’ve got money we will get your Mother what she wants”, offering her a reassuring smile. Her Mother slithered over to me, touching my face with the back of her hand, her foul breath inches away as she slurred, “What a good boy, why can’t you be more like him, y’a little witch? Got a girlfriend sweet-cheeks or you waiting for a real woman?” I backed away making my distaste for drunk women obvious. Her Mother sneered before leaving in search of cigarettes. As her Mother left, I whispered to Alice to quickly and calmly grab some clothes; “You’re not staying here. Come with me, you can stay with me”. Her face said it all and I realised that Alice had never been as accident-prone as she’d claimed. She’d defended the victims because she was one herself.

We headed straight to McDonalds (our usual place for deep conversations) and Alice told me everything, all the details pouring out of her like a chocolate fountain that’d been switched to max setting. Alice’s upbringing had been traumatic, her Father had been serving in the Army overseas and Alice only saw him in the holidays. He’d spoil her rotten though, bringing her cool gadgets, even at a young age she was such a nerd! One holiday he’d not arrived, Alice had waited for hours. When she heard the doorbell, reaching the door she screamed “Dingbats say hello” (I don’t understand either, some repartee between her and her Dad)straight into the Army Captain’s face as he stood there perplexed and cold. She cried almost constantly for three days when they told her and her Mum the sad news about her Dad’s patrol group not returning back from their mission. Her Dad’s team had set up vital transmission signals and were able to get sensitive information back to base due to his heroic actions but they never made it back themselves. Alice tried to be a rock for her Mum, but Kay slowly chose the bottom of a bottle over Alice’s comfort and as her alcoholism got worse, Alice stopped making excuses for her and living quietly in an abusive household.

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(McDonalds community lot. Thanks to @Zita1966 for their excellent re-creation of this)

Alice flourished at my parent’s apartment and they doted on her, they’d always secretly wanted a daughter and Alice was looking for replacement parents. While her caring trait remained, Alice developed this “quiet anger” at the world. We had that in common, at least and we remained BFFs.

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(Spare room which was to become Alice’s room)

Alice was now so determined to “make something of herself”, showing the world she wasn’t beaten and hadn’t backed down. Both Alice and her Father had been really capable with technology and Alice just seemed to know stuff, like it was a second language to her. She’d spend large amounts of time in the Virtual World and I often joined her. In college we didn’t see as much of one another, her electing to study Computer Science and I chose Journalism, so our paths only really crossed for the odd ‘cheeky Nandoes’ at lunch or we’d hang out with Netflix at home. Alice got into anime, her favourites being ones that anthropomorphized animals. They were reasonable, but I was more of a Death Note fan. We used to discuss anime at length and although our opinions differed, we both unanimously agreed that Grave of the Fireflies was the single most iconic film of it’s age. In those years, I really fell for Alice, but she never returned my affections. I looked on her laptop once, I wanted to watch some of the new anime and she had a Crunchy Roll sub. Instead, I found the pics of her and this other girl. I recognised her from College, one of the cosplay crowd. I think I was more bothered about her interests than the intimate pictures I was viewing. I considered I’d never get a chance like this again and so I took my pen drive and made copies. I hated the cosplay crowd, they were such elite snobs, so I decided to use the journalistic skills I was learning and put them to use to investigate. This was a stupid mistake, as I snapped the pics it dawned on me that Alice was not just interested in intimacy with this girl, there were drugs involved.

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(College community lot.  Thanks to @Jordan_Aslett for their lovely build)

Alice convinced me to watch one her animes with her, Polar Bear Cafe, she’d had it recommended within the depths of that human depravity that is, the Reddit forums. I though it was lame, but she was transfixed.

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The next day she comes home as if she’d won the lottery; “If you laugh, i’ll fite you, nerd, but check this out”, Alice grinned as she rummaged around in her bag, pulling out a mask that looked like a Polar Bear. I laughed so hard I nearly cracked a rib. I teased her relentlessly for weeks but she seemed unphased. She came into my room once, smacking me upside the head as her usual greeting (why did she have to do that!) “Come on, nerd, if you sit there any longer you’re gonna turn into a Weeaboo, you’re coming with me”, her cheerful voice being hard to ignore. I rarely argued with Alice when she had a plan, I enjoyed her devious imagination. I asked many questions but she wouldn’t tell me anything, just kept smirking as she casually draped her legs over her suitcase. “A furry convention, Alice, seriously, are you out of your mind, you can take all of my no”, I was annoyed, but she refused to take any obstruction to her plan.

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(Convention community lot.  Thanks to @Notsoswiftly for such a brilliantly detailed build)

We entered the building and she dashed off to the loos while I contented myself with Gaslighting people on Reddit on my new Samsung. Suddenly I was being molested from behind but it was so warm and fuzzy, being held in a bear-like grip. The “mewing” sounds did nothing to disguise the fact it was Alice and I simply offered her my normal moral support, “What a nerd!”. We met loads of people she’d been in contact with, over the internet and we hung out. This was like a Mecca for the Furry community and I was transfixed by their warm acceptance and friendliness. I didn’t think anything of it when Alice slipped people packages, thinking she’d brought them some sort of Tribal offering, assuming that was a thing.

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(Same creator as above.  Thanks also to @Cuddlytish for their amazing Furries)

Over the weeks, Alice tried to get me to attend again but although I enjoyed it, it really wasn’t my scene. The more I declined, the more pushy she got. I confronted her after she’d asked way too many times, demanding to know why this was so important to her. She got really angry with me; “You have no idea, Vance, you’re so naive, you think life is just a bed of roses because you’ve been protected by your parents with this fake bubble they allow you to exist in. You don’t even know the truth!” Truth? What truth? I pressed her for more information whilst trying to comfort her in her tears. She said she needed my help, she had to get out, get her own place and the convention were her way out. She showed me the money that she’d stashed away, explaining that it was nearly enough for the first two months deposit on a nice apartment but I wasn’t following at all. I was absolutely confused and trying to process what she was saying. “Look, your family aren’t who you think they are, ok! I’m grateful for what they’ve done but this is my way out, my chance to get out and I’m taking it”, Alice stated emphatically. My brain was working overtime, trying to assemble a picture from a hundred pieces, Alice had been dealing! She wanted me to go as a lookout, but why? What was so terrible about my parents that she needed to “get out”?

I pleaded with Alice to tell me what she was talking about but she wouldn’t say, she only said: “Look, your Dad isn’t who you think he is, I know you worship the ground he walks upon but..” Alice trailed-off, refusing to fill in any more gaps. Alice never did explain more. I tried all sorts of tactics but she wouldn’t divulge more. I didn’t find out what this truth about my Dad until many years later.

Author’s Note:

More recently in my walk with Jesus, I’ve been searching for purpose. I knew that God had plans for me and wanted to use me (Jeremiah 29:11) but once I thought I knew what some of them were, I began to doubt. Doubt can rob you of joy and I started praying “What is wrong? I was so convinced”. I felt like I needed more from God; more obedience, more inspiration and more conviction. While I was praying I just got the sense of God saying I wasn’t ready for the next step. How can we be trusted with more when we don’t appreciate what we have already? It will only harm us, which isn’t love. I think we’re all a little guilty of sometimes using God as a wish-granter but God wants so much more from us than that. He wants us to trust him with all that we have. As I typed this, I flicked over to my Daily Devotional (1 Corinthians 1:27) it couldn’t be more relevant for the situation! God wants to use the people that are weak, those that are insignificant and frail, those that have vices and those that have no hope.
Often we only want to dip our toes into God’s love, we come against feelings of being so unworthy/unlovable and we often can’t process or cope with God’s immense love for us, but God is inviting us everyday to go deeper in relationship with him. His love is like a vast sea, sure you can dip your toes in and have a paddle, but you can also swim out so far that you’re utterly dependent on Him. If you don’t yet know Jesus as your personal Savior I would encourage you to simply “consider Jesus” today. Perhaps you just have questions you want answering, you’d be welcome to join our discord and ask away. Here’s a link to follow: Walk in Obedience Community Discord We’d love to welcome you and get to know you, no matter what your questions are or what beliefs you have.


The Gospel according to Vance Zepeda (Part I)…

If one more thing goes wrong, I’m going to…Why have you got it in for me? What did I ever do to you!? It was about time that the Universe heard Vance’s side of the story. It had been pushing him too hard and too fast recently and it was time to be put on trial! He pushed hard down on the woman’s chest, the combined actions of memories of the course he took at Christian Camp and the instructional words of the emergency services operator. The operator’s voice was low and soothing as it vibrated through the speaker of the phone; “Keep going Vance, you’re doing a great job, We’re almost with you now, keep-…” Her words drifted off as Vance used the remaining strength he had, trying to keep up the rhythmic pressure on the Engineer’s chest They don’t make it look this hard in NCIS! His thoughts were interrupted by the heavy clunk of footsteps entering the apartment and the reassuring voice; “Fantastic….We’ll take….great job” Vance’s brain was struggling to process all the information that was currently happening, filtering out some supposedly non-essential functions.
“You better sit down, mate, you look green. We ain’t got a bed for you an’all” the Paramedic tried to interject some humour into the situation. Vance meekly nodded, exhausted from his efforts. He was relieved to see them attaching various lines, wires and an oxygen-bag over the face of the woman. The Paramedic nodded towards Vance confirming that things were looking hopeful; “Do you know what happened? Did she take anything?”. Vance immediately shook his head, having been befuddled by the situation. Then he reconsidered, Stupid, stupid, how could you have forgotten and been so careless! The realization smacked him in the face like an overloaded lorry trying to squeeze under a bridge as he concluded there had previously been a full bowl of spaghetti on the worktop that he had cooked earlier. Why would you have thought that food was for you, I paid you to fix my computer, not eat my food. In a few seconds his mind played out various scenarios; not saying anything, pleading ignorance and the possibility of repercussions, wanting to save his own skin and just out rightly bolting for the door. A fear like he’d never known before abruptly gripped his chest in a vice-like grip and before he knew what was happening his body was betraying him, confessing to his sins of the laced-food and trying to sedate his neighbour! Shutup, Vance, shutup you idiot. Why are you telling them this. You’re doomed now, they will throw the book at you, that’s the end of your career! The only critiquing you will be doing is of the prison slop!
Vance would never forget the look on the Paramedic’s face, not one of judgement but of simple information being processed in a blank stare. His lips twitched, into a half-smile trying to express sympathy; “I have to notify you, Sir (suddenly it was Sir?) that I’m required to call the Police”. Vance nodded acknowledging the statement as he simultaneously pondered on the likelihood of escaping, living a life on the run in southern Italy and sipping Rioja for the remainder of his days.

Later on, at the Police Station…

01-17-18_8-33-20 AM

The Desk Sergeant’s tone was less than compassionate as he entered Vance’s particulars into the database. “Any outstandings?,” he queried, assuming that Vance would have any idea of what he was talking about. Vance tutted, his pride wounded. Can this cretin not see from my attire that I would not be the type to be known by local law enforcement? “Take that as a no then?” the Sergeant almost chuckled to himself, he always enjoyed insulting those he considered affluent within society and he could see from Vance’s dress-code that he fell into this category. He pointed toward the cells “Through there, please”, ever-ready with his extensive vocabulary.

01-17-18_8-39-37 AM

The interview took over three hours and Vance calculated how much income he had lost throughout this process as he had to keep repeating the same answers to their questions, over and over again.

01-17-18_8-41-00 AM

The fingerprinting made him feel as though his fate was sealed, they might as well have given him a name badge, Criminal.

01-17-18_8-56-45 AM

Vance sat, restless and watching an old lady delivering Bibles to people in the cells. She smiled sweetly as she approached Vance, offering him one, “You might as well, lovely.  Do what I do, focus on the juicy bits first, like a pear”. This appears to amuse her as she wanders off, chuckling to herself. Vance couldn’t recall the last time he’d met someone so quietly confident, but he wouldn’t allow his pride to win, placing the book far away from his reach. Don’t need to read that to know what it says. Same as the Christian Camp seminars, boring. Irrelevant. I’ve got enough problems in life without worrying about what God wants from me. No, there is no God, we simply are born, subjected to a life of misery and torment with brief interludes of enjoyment. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram-fudging social media everywhere, sharing every mundane detail of our pathetic lives in the vain hope that someone somewhere actually gives a snickers! Shameful work ethics, materialism and a thousand and one causes to support and donate to to distract you from the humdrum of your boring, mundane existence. The fight to do it all again the next day, next week or next year, to get more stuff so that we pass this messed-up attitute onto our kids, hoping they have the chances and things that we never did, along with the vain hope they will make it a better world than we ever did! There is no heaven, or hell, it’s just a method society uses to keep us all in order. We just die, that’s it, no do-over, no better luck next time, just the end, but everyone’s too afraid of that and so comforts themselves with…this! He sighs deeply, exhausting himself as a great sadness overwhelms him, deciding to lay in a fetal position on the cell bed as his only comfort.

You’ve been granted bail, but we have to ask you to surrender your passport….court date, the words seemed to spin around Vance’s head like a sucked-up teaspoon in a hoover, clattering around and destroying any state of peace. Exhausted from the day, Vance almost fell asleep in the lift as he entrusted himself to it’s metallic wall for support, the loud ‘ding’ awakening him before the spittle was able to depart from his chin for good. He sluggishly moved toward his front door, all his efforts being concentrated on the task of putting one foot in front of another, almost tripping over the yellow cautionary tape surrounding his flat. “Oh for the love of crisps, is this really necessary!? Why didn’t they just take out an advert in the paper – Vance Zepeda. Shame! He almost hit the Crime Scene Investigator with his own face as his pathway into his flat was blocked; “Sorry Sir, we can only allow you to grab a couple of things you might need for the night”. Vance blinked back, trying to process the information being given to him as he gathered his energy in which to engage in another heated-discussion; “What do you mean, things for the night, this is my flat, where else am I supposed to go?” Vance demanded. The Investigator thumbed behind him; “Not my problem, mate, we’ve still go hours of work to do here yet and you can’t stay here….risk of cross-contamination!” Livid, Vance just shouted “Fudge for you!”, slamming his door shut and promptly calling in the rescue-lifeboat.

The dial-tone interrupted his thoughts as Vance spluttered, his words being too energetic to be spoken coherently. His Father had terminated the call, offering Vance very little support. Go and get the solicitor details, they’re on the PC…No, in your mother’s room, he was triggered by his Father’s usual indifference about how Vance may be feeling, only focusing on the logical perspective. Vance’s cravings were also fighting for his attention, desiring both Alice and the substance she was able to offer him. The feeling was akin to a gnawing at his sides that was like a cat that refuses to accept it is not biscuit-time.

01-17-18_10-18-19 AM

Vance quickly made his way to his Mother’s room, turning on the PC he hoped she hadn’t been on one of her missions to update Facebook, which normally resulted in the entire computer being reworked and organized. How did someone in politics manage to exist in such disarray of computer aptitude? Spotting the information he needed, he almost cheered. Okay universe, you get upvoted for that at least, he thought as he grabbed his phone to take a screen-dump of the contact details. Vance was rudely interrupted by the click of the answer-phone, replaying a message from earlier; “We’ve got a job, need to discuss it with you, Pablo is bringing the pizza ’round, so don’t make any plans, Frank”. Frank? Who is Pablo? Mhmm pizza… Vance’s stomach rumbled in unison to approve with the idea but was sidelined by the consuming thought that his Father never ate pizza, he was allergic to cheese. Vance’s quest to earn approval with his Father stirred within him and he felt desperate to know what was going on. He checked his watch, then the battery on his phone as he planned where best to hide himself to watch the evening’s proceedings…

Author’s Note – Some of you may well be thinking that Vance’s views are rather harsh, and you might be right, but I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t ever experienced similar thoughts myself. I’ve walked away from the truth of who Jesus is several times and thankfully by his abundant grace, he has always gone to look for me as the Good Shepherd. There are two things in the Bible that, to me, show the relentless pursuit God has for us in wanting to find us and have a relationship with us; One is the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15:1-7 and the second is the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. Both parables show the lengths that the Father is willing to go to to pursue being able to know us. God’s rescue plan has been in action since the dawn of time but we see it fulfilled in the accomplishment of Christ on the cross where Jesus took all our sin upon himself while we were still deep in sin, so we could be free from the law of death (Romans 5:6-8).

Is God AFK?

The first view he caught of his Father annoyed him further, a typical gesture of his hands raised, palms outward-facing to indicate ‘stop’. Typical, he thinks I can’t keep it together for five minutes, Vance furies to himself. He strides confidently up to his Father, looking as though he may “bowl” him over. “What happened, I know she was ill but-…where’s the duty nurse I want to speak to her!” His Father tried to placate him, waving his hands toward the floor as if to steady himself; “Vance. You are in control of your emotions, take a few deep-…!” No sooner had he uttered the words before Vance charged past him, down the corridor like a walnut fragment that had been launched out of it’s shell by an over-enthusiastic, walnut-cracking granny! (We’ve all met one!)

01-11-18_3-11-38 PM

Vance re-embarked upon his collision course with his Father as he demanded information; “Where’s Mum, why isn’t she here?”. His Father made no attempts to soothe his temper, stating calmly; “She’s busy with her campaign, I spoke with her and she’s promised to come home in a couple of days after her meeting”. The laugh echoed down the hallway threatening to disturb other patients as Vance shouted; “Typical! Selfish through and through….I need to get out of here, call me when you have the funeral arranged” hypocrisy was a common trait that he shared with his Mother, although he was oblivious to it.

The nurse’s kind words invaded Vance’s mind as an unwelcome house guest as he made his way down the corridor. What is the matter with people…using religion to justify their own inadequacies because they can’t face the thought of taking responsibility for their own actions. Makes me sick! Vance outraged to himself. He had been packed off to Christian Summer Camp as a child and had had a terrible time resulting in him being sent home early (but this is a story for another time). Reaching the entrance to the hospital, he fumbled around in his coat pocket for his cigarettes and lighter; three times did he have to strike the Zippo upward against his thigh before successfully igniting the cigarette. Drawing the contents deeply into his lungs, he flicked the ash defiantly, announcing his violent intentions at the world. Even the sun seemed to be in dispute with him today and it bore down upon him, making sweat form across his brow line. He severed the phone from his pocket lining of his jacket, bringing shreds of the fabric along with it; “Oh for cheese and rice sake!”

He tapped his finger on the screen several times, moving the phone in front of him. Vance was so vexed, he just didn’t care; “Yeah, it’s me, I need to pick up the kids from school soon”. The voice on the other end of the phone, clearly female in origin was slightly muffled and hesitant; “You promised! Fine…’least let me get their stuff ready. Don’t forget they are bringing the gopher, Henry home from school!” Vance merely confirmed; “Yeah”, the utilization of drug slang being very familiar to the two.

Later on in the evening….


Alice always knew how to calm him, annoyingly so. Her presence to him was akin to sugar being attached to bacon, it both felt so very wrong and so very right! Why did she have to be a Lesbian, another unfair event that the universal had thrown at him. He enjoyed the challenge, but in his heart he knew he would never be able to “win” Alice, so Vance contented himself with the secret photos of her on his laptop. She really should learn to password her phone! He smiled to himself as he thought on this, the thought flooding his mind like a strong liquor that coats the throat with warmness and fuzzy feelings.

The events of the evening milled their way through his mind in his now calm state as Vance headed for the Monorail. He actually felt pretty good considering the earlier events of the day and entered his flat, depositing his jacket to the nearest surface that wasn’t littered with whiskey glasses and empty pizza boxes. Better check Reddit I bet some Donkeybutt has down-voted me for trying to educate people, Vance ruminated as he entered the room only to find someone collapsed on the floor, from this distance it didn’t look like they were breathing!


Author’s Note – Vance’s experience of Christianity has not been good. He doesn’t believe and argues that if there is a God, He is distant and unloving, not caring about us and leaving us to our own problems etc. I’ve struggled with similar issues myself in my walk with the Lord, but this couldn’t be further from the truth, God is intimately involved in our lives (Hebrews 13:5)even if we don’t see it or are far away from Him. We shouldn’t be too quick to ‘feel’ as though we are alone and thus, base all our evidence off of merely how we feel (Ephesians 2:8). Our feelings can often lead us astray. God is always with us and we are always benefactors of His love, even if we don’t yet know Him as our personal Savior (1 John 2:2). God doesn’t wander off distractedly having created the earth (Romans 8:19), He hasn’t left us to our own doom, rather He is working all the time (2 Peter 3:9) for the good of those he loves (which is everyone). In short; God is never AFK!