Category Archives: Stories

Mortal Kombat – “Just Because You Can, Doesn’t Mean You Should”

I’ve always been a fan of video games. It’s a form of escape to a different world where I am someone else, breaking the rules or saving the world. There’s science behind why it’s intoxicating, but that isn’t the point of this story.

Like most, I hung out with a core group of friends in high school. We all had similar interests: cars, video games, girls and partying. We raced each other around town, we competed against each other in fighting games, we chased the same girls, and we drank each other under the table. It was fun.

Mortal Kombat was our game of choice and the master of our group was Jacket. That wasn’t his real name, of course, but that’s what we called him because he always wore the same jacket and never took it off, even in the heat of a Texas summer. We suspected he even slept in it.

Jacket lived on the poor side of town in a rundown house that smelled of trash and cat urine. He didn’t have much. He drove an Omega, a crappy old beater, for the longest time and we teased him about it continuously. Actually, we teased Jacket about everything. Looking back, it’s hard to understand why he even hung out with us. He was the butt of every joke. We excluded him every time we did anything with girls involved. I mean, he stunk. You can’t have that around messing with your game, right? Plus he wasn’t very attractive. We didn’t want to scare any of the girls off. Still, we were the only friends he had. We were the only ones that gave him any attention.

When it came to Mortal Kombat, though, Jacket was a god. He was unstoppable and relentless. No one wanted to play Jacket and Jacket was not a humble winner. No way. He always made sure to verbally abuse us during and after every match. This was his arena and he made sure we knew it.

It pissed us off.

I decided to do something about this, to put him in his place. In secret, every night, I practiced alone in my room. Mortal Kombat 3 was the game of the time and Kabal was my favorite character. With Kabal, I could stomp anyone into the ground, anyone but Jacket. Since I was most familiar with Kabal, I choose him to begin my training.

The concept was simple, play the computer on the highest difficulty and never back down. Video games of the time did not have the advanced artificial intelligence that they do today. Computers can make calculations much faster than our squishy little human brains can. The idea is that to compensate for this, and to make games enjoyable, the clock speed of the computer was slowed down to match our level of skill. To increase difficulty, you simply needed to unleash the CPU. Playing the game on its highest difficulty was brutal. It seemed as if the computer was cheating. As soon as I made a move I was planted in the ground. Every time. It was daunting and seemed impossible, but I knew that to be the best, I had to defeat the best. My opponent knew what I was going to do before I did and knew exactly what to do to counter it.

I set a strict weeknight schedule of two hours a night, but on weekends I could put in more time. Soon I was wiping the floor with any opponent using Kabal. I learned the importance of spacing and placement. I learned how to counter anything. The computer couldn’t touch me. I was invincible. Then I thought, “Why stop with Kabal? To be a fair challenger, I must learn all the characters.” And so I did. In a months’ time, I was ready to compete against anyone and, in true Sun Tzu fashion, my enemy had no idea I was coming.

The moment of truth had come.

I went to my friend’s house where we all gathered and sure enough, everyone was there playing Mortal Kombat, but more importantly Jacket was there.

I asked to get next.

“Sure go ahead. We’re tired of getting our asses beat,” came the response.

Jacket was there with that snide look on his face. He was ready for fresh meat and he was confident. I picked up the controller and selected Kabal. I was nervous. My hands were shaking. This was the moment. All my time and training. This was the test. Fear, doubt, etc. I know it’s just a video game, but we all know these emotions and this moment was important to me. Someone had to put him in his place and it was going to be me.

The match began and quickly I realized something.

Jacket didn’t stand a chance.

The first round I tore him up like a rag doll. There was no mercy. It was embarrassing.

He was pissed.

The second round, I let up but allowed him to get some hits in. I let him win that round.

By the third round I had gained full confidence. I was no longer nervous. My hands were steady. I was in full control. I kept it interesting but knew I could win at any time of my choosing and the moment he got cocky, I finished him.

Jacket demanded a rematch. Now. “And you’re not pulling that Kabal shit on me either! Pick someone else!”

I was happy to oblige.

“Who do you want me to pick?” I asked.

“The indian!” he replied.

The Native American character he was referring to is named Nightwolf and was considered by our group to be the weakest character. Not because of his race, because his moves were hard to use, but I had studied every character and learned them all to prepare for such a request.

I selected Nightwolf and proceeded to destroy Jacket. There was no denying it now. I was the best.

Then I started to realize something…

Jacket threw the controller against the wall and started screaming and swearing at us. He completely lost it. It was a sight to behold. The boy became unhinged. Everyone else was celebrating his defeat and congratulating me the whole time he cursed us. Then he stormed out and peeled out in his car. He had gotten a Camaro by then, so the tires could actually break traction now. A car he bought to be just like us. As he sped off, crushed, my friends rejoiced and I learned a lesson I would never forget.

Jacket had nothing. His father had left when he was little. His step father was a drunk. He lived in filth. We all had fast cars and we all had girlfriends. We all had families. Jacket had no friends but us, and we treated him like dirt.

Jacket only had one thing.

Mortal Kombat.

And I took that away from him. I did that.

The only thing that made him a winner, I took away. Why? Out of selfishness. To “put him in his place.” Who was I, but a stupid kid having no idea of how my actions affected those around me? I had to be the best. I had to beat him. He needed to suffer for the embarrassment he caused me. Someone had to pay. Someone had to show him. I wanted that. I wanted it and it was wrong of me.

I can still see them celebrating and laughing at him. I had been one of them, but not anymore. In them, I could see myself, but I had grown in that moment and their praises only brought me shame.

Jacket returned a week or so later and he too had been practicing in his absence. I had not.

He demanded a rematch and even demanded that I use Kabal. I had to honor his request.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that Jacket had not put forth the effort in his training that I had in mine. Even being rusty, he was no match for me. The challenge came in convincing him that his victory was earned. I’m not sure if it was right of me to let him win or not, but that’s what I did.

“I’m back bitches!” he exclaimed.

Everyone looked at me as if I had let them down.

I made excuses as to why I lost. I pouted. I threw a little tantrum. I made it convincing. I stomped off.

Jacket was king again and back to upsetting everyone with his smack talking and lack of humility.

Perhaps he had not learned his lesson, but I had learned mine.

Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.

– Charlize <3

Cover image credit: Unknown

The Sacrifice – A Story of Tragic Love

“There. That’s better,” she says as she places the rag back in the cool water after wiping the sweat from his brow.

“Thank you,” he says kindly smiling back at her.

She looks away from him and her face turns to that of deep concern. “You push yourself too hard sometimes and it worries me. I don’t want to lose you.”

Gently he turns her face back to his, looks into her eyes and says, “I have to. There is still much to do. In the end, I will be fine.”

“I know,” she replies.

She takes his hand and sits beside him against the rock, leaning her head on his shoulder.

“I would if I could. You know that too,” he says with the tone of a heavy heart.

“I do my Lord and I love you for it,” she replies closing her eyes.

He looks at her and says, “Without you, this journey would be unbearable and yet… I want to tell you…”

“Shhh,” she interrupts, “You must rest for now. If only for a second. Close your eyes just a moment and let us just be here. Just be here with me in this moment, please. Because later, ‘there is still much to do,'” she says mocking his serious voice.

At this they break into subtle laughter and he rests his head against hers, closing his eyes.

“Mary,” he says to her, “you are a good woman.”

She begins to cry and turns to hold him tightly as her tears fall on his chest.

“Thank you my Lord,” she says amongst her sobs and cries.

“Thank you Mary,” he replies while holding her even tighter, rocking her gently back and forth.

Someone approaches from a nearby group of men gathered at a large fire. Distantly, they look upon the scene. They try to hide their interest, but their faces give their thoughts away.

“It’s time my Lord,” the man says with his face turned away from them.

“Thank you Paul,” he replies, once again with a gentle smile. “Please tell them, I will be joining shortly.”

“Certainly,” Paul says as he turns away to rejoin the group, never looking at them directly.

He wipes the tears from her cheek and says, “I must go.”

“I know,” she says kissing her hand and touching his cheek.

As he joins the group and they begin their discussion, she looks towards the spot where he had just been sitting, touches the ground where he was, and with tears in her eyes says, “I know.”

 – Charlize <3

Cover image credit: Unknown

Domino Effect – How Your Actions Can Change the World

First thing when you awake in the morning, exclaim out loud to yourself and to the universe something positive that you know you will achieve that day, something that will inspire you. Be very careful that it’s something you can control and in case you didn’t know; there’s only one thing you can control…

Don’t say, “Today, I finally have a date and I’ve planned for a whole week now to make sure everything is perfect!” or “Today, I’m finally going to see that new movie that kept me on the edge of my seat by just watching the trailer! Luckily I got a day off before it left the theaters!” or “Today, I’m going to buy that dress I saw a month ago in the window of a fancy boutique downtown because I’ve finally saved enough and I deserve it!”

None of these things are within your control.

The date could fall through because of something that has nothing to do with you. They came down with food poisoning, legitimately and are sitting at home crying while their body battles the virus in disgusting and painful ways. What’s worse is that they haven’t been on a date for longer than you and are thinking that they may have missed out on the love of their life because of circumstances outside their control. To top it off, they know it looks like a blow off excuse on the first date and they’re so afraid you’ll never call back that they never do.

The movie could burn half way through due to a young projectionist who’s sleep deprived because they have to work three jobs to pay for their widowed mother’s health care so she doesn’t die of cancer and “I’m sorry but that was the last copy. You can get a refund though if you wait in line.”

“Oh that dress, I apologize but that was sold 30 minutes before you got here. So sorry honey, but you were right to catch your eye on that beauty. It was a one of a kind,” says the store attendant in response to your inquiry.

Now how do you feel just hearing these possibilities? How many times has this or something similar already happened to you? How did you react?

After a day of hard work, be it physical or mental, we all want the same thing… a little happiness to make it all “worth it”.

But it was already worth it anyway, whether you know it or not. Because everything we do is significant and changes the world. We’re not meant to know the full extent of our actions because we’re not supposed to focus on an event after it has passed. It takes from us our presence of mind and causes us to ignore the moment at hand, the now. It’s really all you have. Even this. You reading this is just a moment and when you finish that moment is gone forever.

Now, you could never call the date back because you’re sick and tired of being blown off and you made some awesome plans for this one didn’t you? Now your whole night is shot and you’ve got prepaid reservations you can’t cancel and an ego filled with enough pride to prevent you from calling anyone “last minute” for fear of being seen as desperate, dumped and a “loser.”

You could go to the manager of the theater and complain that your night was ruined along with all the others pinning their anger on another person. Due to complaints, the projectionist is fired and now has only two minimum wage paying; part time jobs and mother’s meds need a refill tomorrow. Looks like they will live on beans and ramen for another month. A fact they keep hidden from their mother so she doesn’t feel guilty. Even up to lying about going out with friends when the truth is they parked at the street corner and sat alone all night eating one peanut butter and jelly sandwich except there was no jelly and there was no bread.

When you leave from the apparel store, you could cry and say, “I never get what I want! I can’t have nice things! No matter how hard I try, someone always beats me to it. I’m worthless!” Then you spend the money on pizza and junk food which causes you to gain weight perpetuating your self-hatred.

That’s not to say that everything won’t go as planned. Things normally do except for those people that believe they always don’t, but do you see where the sabotage comes from?

You.

Challenge yourself. When you wake up tomorrow say out loud to yourself and the universe what you know can be only be stopped by you.

“Today, I’m going to be the best me that I’ve ever been. I will go places and I will have experiences. I will see them for what they are and not think in binary terms of right and wrong, or good and bad, but in terms of only how I can make the situation better. If I fall, I will get up. If I’m hurt, I will heal. If I believe, then greatness will come to me and through me. I will not be distracted from my purpose. When plans change, I will change plans. One thing today is certain, regardless of the world around me; today, I will be the best me that I have ever been.”

You choose. You always have. You are the lowest common denominator in every experience you’ve ever had. Throughout your entire life there has always been that one person who was always there and that person is you. Realize that you do have control, even when everything is crashing down upon you, you can look at the falling sky and say, “Wow! What a pretty color! I never would have seen that if the world didn’t end right in front of me.”

Emotions are a choice. I can say something innocent and it will make one person laugh till their sides hurt while another condemns me.

Every day is a new, unpredictable adventure. Savor it.

Don’t let negativity bring you down. Rise up.

Your date cancelled, but you decide to go anyway. There is a reason for everything and you can’t know it. You can’t calculate it. While you sit at the table all by yourself you realize someone very attractive is sitting behind you at a table alone. They are looking about the room as if searching for something that isn’t there and they only have a glass of water and bread sticks on the table. You lean back and say, “You too?” They say, “Yeah.” Three years later you two marry each other.

The movie burned up, so you go to find out what happened. People are yelling at this poor kid but you don’t. In fact you tell the mob to back off. You simply and compassionately ask the young employee, “What happened?” And this person begins to cry in front of everyone. They spill their sorrows on to a crowd of strangers because it’s been so bottled up inside them the pressure finally broke. An old man comes forward from the crowd and asks the mother’s name as the story seems familiar to him. Upon hearing it, he too breaks down in tears because that woman was his college sweetheart and he’s been searching for her for years. He did well for himself in the stock market, but his greed chased away the only woman he ever loved and now he can use the money to save her as well as enroll the now jobless projectionist in film school, where they become a famous filmmaker whose first movie centers around a person whose simple act of compassion to a stranger led many people to their dreams and their destiny.

You turn to the clerk at the store and say, “No honey, I’m one of a kind.” You leave and pass the pizza parlor to continue on to a museum you never knew was there. You decide to go in. A beautiful piece of art catches your eye and you stare at it immensely as you’ve never had a painting touch you so emotionally. Then suddenly you are startled as you realize a stranger has been beside you for some time, but is also mesmerized by the spirit of this glorious creation. They turn to you and say, “I’ve always wanted to create something like this, but my drawing skills aren’t the best. They’re fine for what I do. My art is my fashion, but I’m not well known, yet. Luckily a store down the street let me display one of my finest pieces in their window and someone bought it! My first sale! Honestly, I didn’t know how I was going to make rent this month. I have a master’s degree for crying out loud and when I leave here, it will be to take the bus home. Oh my, I’m so sorry, I shouldn’t be telling you all this.” To which you reply, “Would you be interested in making another one, but in a different color?”

You never know what will happen if you keep on keeping on, as they say. If you want to find out just how far you can go, you just have to do one thing that someone wiser than me once said:

“The only person you should try to be better than is the person you were yesterday.”

– Original Author Unknown

– Charlize <3

Cover image credit: WallpaperUP.com