This is what I remember.

I wasn't really paying attention to all the festivities, but at the very moment the countdown ended, the streets suddenly got a hell of a lot noisier. The fireworks were set off, impeccably timed as they'd promised, people were cheering and using those godforsaken contraptions that looked like party favors – the ones with rolled-up snaky things that extend and let out a particularly loud toot! when you blow on them. Everywhere, people were yelling "Happy New Year!" as the jazz band in the middle of the square started playing Auld Lang Syne.

But then the noise took on a different tone, and I heard women screaming and calling for help. At that time I felt something twist in my gut – I was actually hoping that I had only been imagining it. But when the crowd quickly started thickening around the tall glass and concrete apartment building I had been staring at since "thirty-four" on the countdown, and when policemen started running towards it too, I knew it was real.

Apparently, I was not the only one who had noticed the boy jump off the building.

By this time sirens were wailing, there was a lot of commotion on the streets and the police were starting to bring out their yellow tape. The band stopped playing; people were running away now, and even the fireworks display was cut short because of this…accident. The crowd was getting thinner and thinner, and although I really did not want to see what was left of the boy on the ground, I couldn't bring myself to move. And I looked anyway.

And I saw…


Sorry, that was totally screwed-up. Not that it wasn't real – I was there and it happened, fireworks and screaming and blood and guts and all. But I get the feeling that if I continue from there, nobody's going to understand.

People were saying afterwards that it looked like a suicide, though some others said maybe he was pushed off (so it was actually a murder.) Or even that it was a murder deliberately done on New Year's Day, to scare off as large a crowd of people as possible and leave a message of warning (so it was actually a terrorist attack.)

Well, they're idiots. It was a suicide, that's it. But it's a bit more…complicated than just that.

So I'm going to start at the beginning, where all of this began around four weeks ago. Maybe that way it'll be easier for me to explain. Or not. You'll have to forgive me. Some things I'm about to say here might not be easy to digest at first. And from what's been happening this past month, I'm probably as messed-up now as I'll ever be in my entire life.


"Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,

And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor."

- 'The Raven' (Edgar Allan Poe)

The Forbidden Fruit

.: chapter 01

Four weeks ago, I knew something was up when I slid the key into the doorknob of my apartment and heard voices coming from the inside. I thought maybe I might have left the TV on, but that excuse quickly evaporated when I opened the door and saw three rather…strange-looking men inside, all looking up at me and obviously quite at home in my apartment; none of them bothered to even so much as pretend they weren't there.

"Good evening, Luke," one of them said, a man dressed all in white and with shining silver hair that hurt the eyes if you stared at it for too long. He was sitting at the table (my table!) across an old man so thin his cheekbones were poking out of the sides of his face. He was wearing a gray cloak that was way too long and gathered around his feet, and nodded his own greeting to me, fixing me a hard stare with his ice-blue eyes.

And then there was the third – a tall man dressed in a dark red turtleneck inside a spotless cream suit, with a sweep of red hair and glinting eyes, he had been reclining on my sofa before I arrived. When I entered the room he jumped up and grinned broadly, revealing flawless rows of white teeth that also hurt when the light hit them. His grin quickly vanished though, giving way to a look of disgust as he flung up his arms into the air and shook his head. "Ugh…no, no, no, no! Honey, that sweater does not go with those jeans!"

Maybe now is an appropriate time to explain a…teensy-weensy fact about myself that I haven't really mentioned yet. You see, since as far back as I can remember, I've been "open" – that is, I see things and beings that other people don't usually see. And no, I'm not talking about ghosts (they don't exist – or if they do, they don't usually walk around Manhattan, at least), aliens (you'd think if there were any, we would have found out by now) or monsters (except maybe a professor I had for Anthropology in freshman year.) It's a bit more specific than that. And it's not really so much as just 'seeing', but more of 'interacting' with them, so I'm a bit more involved and they know it.

So basically these men who had just let themselves into my home really weren't strangers to me at all. The first one is Samuel…my guardian angel.

The skinny old man at the table with him is Death.

And the last guy, the redhead on my couch with looks that I would kill to have, is the Devil, himself.

Quickly I shut the door behind me and rubbed my temples – I was feeling the beginning of a headache forming somewhere in the back of my brain. "Okay, first of all…Sam! Human form!" I think I failed to mention that my silver-haired guardian angel also sported a floating golden halo and large, thick white-feathered wings that arched up behind his shoulders, over the top of the chair's backrest and almost touched the floor. "Your holiness is giving me eye cancer. Death, your scythe is parked way too close for comfort to my computer. And you," I said, pointing at the Devil. "What did I say about shoes on my furniture?"

See, this is how close we are. Any one of them could have reduced me to ashes if so desired (except maybe Samuel wouldn't do it, because that's not quite in his job description, although I'm sure he was more than capable if ever I pissed him off a bit too much.) But I've known these three for almost twenty years. Ever since I realized that I could see them, and that I could talk to them, we've become friends…or at least, what we have is as close to friendship as humans can ever have with them.

It has its up-sides, of course. I get to see how things usually attributed to either fate or destiny really work. I've seen the Devil pose as a beggar, a policeman, a prostitute, even a little girl – getting people to cave in to immorality using his gift of gab, anything from threatening, to cajoling, to sweet-talking. I've had Samuel frantically pushing me out of the way in more than one instance of (my) stupidity in crossing the road.

When I was eleven, I was at my comatose grandmother's bedside when I first saw Death: he held his scythe with one hand and placed the other on her cheek gingerly, as gentle as the kiss of a butterfly's wing. And with that, her heart stopped. As I watched the doctors struggle to revive her, I felt Death's hand on my shoulder; he was careful not to make contact with my skin. That was as much sympathy as I was ever going to get from the old man, even as I broke down and cried.

Okay, I'm getting carried away now; I didn't realize I was rambling.

As for me…well, I don't really know for sure what they get out of this, but I'm probably their link to the mortal psyche. I'm not being egotistical and saying I'm the only one of my kind, but if there are any other "open" people out there, they have yet to mention them. So besides hanging out with me for kicks, I guess being with me gets them to be more understanding of people, or at least sheds some light on "why you poor hapless souls are the way you are," as the Devil once said, referring of course to humans.

So these three men have basically been with me all my life; the closer I got to them, the more time they spent hanging out with me. Most of the time they're fun to be around and impose only two things: one is that I don't tell a single living soul that I can see them (and that if I do, Death will immediately appear out of nowhere and touch me, or shove his scythe up my ass.) The other is that I don't get cocky enough to ask for an audience with God Himself; they say in theory, since I can see the Devil I can also see God, but that if I ask for it I'll probably only get a split second of gleaming holy blinding white light (Samuel is bad enough already) before Death promptly touches me, or shoves his scythe up my ass.

Other than that, they're a lot less intimidating than people might dream them to be.

"I beg your pardon?" the Devil gasped, placing a hand to his chest and fluttering his eyelashes indignantly. "My shoes are immaculate, cleaner even than your own closet! And look at you: brown checkers and faded blues – you dress as though you don't even know me! Now if you had something in khaki, though…"

Since he began talking the Devil had begun pacing around the room, and now proceeded to rifle through my wardrobe. With a sigh I looked at the two men still seated at the table. "Sam, level with me," I started, addressing only my guardian angel. I'd long since given up on trying to talk to Death ever since I learned he was mute. "Why are you all here?"

Poor Samuel was actually the only one who paid any attention to my earlier outburst, and in a flash of light had changed from an angel to a seemingly ordinary blonde boy about my age, those billowing white robes changing into a more ordinary-looking ensemble of a simple white shirt and white slacks. "I'm surprised that you're surprised. I thought by now you'd be used to us dropping by all the time."

"Well, yeah, but all of you at once doesn't happen everyday."

Samuel tipped his head thoughtfully, looking at me in a funny way. "Luke, are you all right? You do remember what today is, don't you?"

Today is a Friday and it snowed like hell, I thought. Glancing at my watch, it took me a few seconds before it finally registered. "Oh."

"It's the first of December!" the Devil cut into my thoughts in a very high and lilting drawl from where he had his head still poked into my closet; I swear if he had been human, he would instantly be branded as flaming gay. "You are the only mortal I know pathetic enough to forget your own birthday, sweetie, besides of course those who are dead, retarded, or were born in a dumpster." He pulled his head out of my closet and carelessly threw in my direction a black T-shirt with its sleeves ripped off. "Lose the sweater and try that."

"It's freezing! And stop mutilating my clothes without my permission!"

"Honey, I hate to break it to you but your fashion sense is already mutilated beyond repair."

I rubbed my temples harder this time, hoping that the headache (and maybe the Devil too) would go away. I'd had a pretty long day at school – I'm a senior at NYU, majoring in Philosophy – and commuting back home had been neither easy nor pleasant, largely because of the snowstorm still howling outside. Maybe I could blame forgetting my birthday on the exhaustion. Maybe they would notice I was tired and leave me alone so that I could flop into bed and sleep until noon. Sunday noon.

Samuel cut into my thoughts. "Do you still keep that deck of cards around here somewhere?"

Then again, maybe not.

I began searching. This had been going on for quite some time now: every time my birthday would roll around, Samuel would shuffle a deck of cards, pick out ten of them and lay them out on the table, and Death was to choose one. If he won, that is if he got a certain card they'd agreed on beforehand, then he would be able to take me with him anytime that year, and Samuel wouldn't interfere. The first time I was old enough to understand, it had just been a joker. Every few years they would up the stakes a bit, probably to ensure that I didn't live forever.

"Got it!" I called out, tossing the pack at the table. Outside, the snowstorm still raged, and it was almost impossible to see anything beyond all the snow. I shivered, rubbing my arms and turning the heater up a bit before sitting down at the table myself. What positively sucked was that out of the four of us in the room, I was the only one who was even remotely affected by the cold.

"Okay, I get why you two are here," I told them. Then I jerked a thumb in the general direction of my closet. "But what's up with him?"

"Hey!" the Devil's voice called back, mocking offense. "I'm just here to wish you a happy birthday, is that such a crime? And," he pulled his head back just long enough for a suggestive wink, "to grant you a single birthday wish, if you know what I mean."

"Forget it," I shot back sourly. "You screw it up every time!" And it was true, too. The first time he'd offered, I was around eight; I jumped at the chance and naively asked for a million dollars, only to be swimming in a pool of Monopoly money (singles!) that flooded the street two seconds later. It took a lot of explaining, but was eventually dismissed as a hoax. Six years after that he offered again, so I asked for a million, legitimate US dollars that could be used as legal tender. He gave me a single million-dollar bill with the face of Jon Stewart in front and Radio City Music Hall in the back – "that might come in handy if ever inflation happens, and when it does it'll be enough to buy at least a pack of Ding-dongs!"

So it's probably understandable that I politely refused this time. "Hmph. Suit yourself," the Devil said, sticking his tongue out and returning to his self-imposed task of turning my closet inside-out. I, on the other hand, re-focused my attention onto the two other men sitting at the table.

"Last time it was a joker or a king," Samuel said, shuffling the cards in his hand. He glanced up at the silent old man. "Same deal this year?"

Death looked at him for a moment, before shaking his head.

"Why the hell not?" I demanded, glaring at him. Not that anything more would have been terrific odds in his favor anyway, but…still. The only reply I got was Death looking at me blankly for a moment, then pointing at me. Then he knocked over a dispenser of toothpicks I kept near the condiments on the table, selecting some and spelling out 'XXI' in front of me with slow deliberation.

He was right, I was twenty-one. I guess that was his way of saying I was too old to be pampered.

"Well, what do you want, then? A joker, a king, or a queen?"

Death shrugged.

"I think that's a bit too risky though," Samuel ventured. He dealt out ten cards and placed them face-down onto the table. "Maybe we can do that in three years. How about a joker, a king, or a red queen for now?"

Death seemed agreeable to this suggestion, and gave a nod. I smiled at Samuel, always looking out for me. Then again, that was his job so he couldn't just go screwing it up, especially since I was such a close acquaintance of Death himself.

"Fine. If you don't want to lose the sweater, at least change the pants." The Devil sashayed over to the table, plunking himself onto the same chair Samuel was sitting on, pushing him a bit much to his annoyance. He also dropped a folded pair of khakis unceremoniously onto my lap.

"Dee, I'm too tired to change," I protested, setting the pants aside and using the nickname I've had for him ever since I was a little kid. He didn't want to be called Lucifer – "Way too close to Luke, and I hate your name," he'd said before with a matching raspberry – and I couldn't exactly call him Satan to his face when we were in public, because he could change his form and be visible when he wanted to.

"Don't force him to change his clothes if he doesn't want to," Samuel said, squirming in his seat as the Devil kept on edging further and further to the center of the chair they were sharing. I made a mental note then to buy a new dining chair. "It's not like he's going out or anything."

"I don't have time to go out," I mumbled, resting my chin onto the edge of the table while waiting for Death to make up his mind and pick a card already. "I have a major paper due at the end of winter break, and the truth is I have no idea how to start."

While I was talking, the Devil had suddenly pushed Samuel off the chair using his butt, and the angel was now picking himself up off the floor and dusting his clothes off. "What's it about?" he asked, glaring at the Devil who was looking up innocently at the ceiling.

"Well…" I scratched the back of my head sheepishly. "There wasn't really an assigned topic, so we were free to choose our own. I guess I got kind of cocky…"

"Yeah, yeah, just spit it out," the Devil said with a dismissing wave. Upon seeing Death still deep in thought he rolled his eyes. "Oh for crying out loud, just choose a fucking card already!!"

I tried not to laugh as Death held up a gnarled middle finger without taking his eyes off the cards. "Well it's really ambitious, but I decided to write up a comprehensive discourse on the logos of truth and meaning."

Both Samuel and the Devil looked at me as though I had sprouted an extra head. Death, on the other hand, completely ignored me; he moved his hand as though to select a card, paused, then retracted it, once more deep in thought.

"Eww…" the Devil said, scrunching up his face and moving his hands in a motion that seemed to be shooing me away. "I swear Luke, you practically secrete philosophy every time you so much as blink. But this time you've really outdone yourself, honey."

"Discussing the logos of understanding is already problematic in itself," Samuel mused, looking genuinely concerned. "What more the logos of truth and meaning? Do you really want this, or are you just showing off?"

Well, it's actually a little bit of both. When I'd presented the topic to my professor he'd laughed at it, saying it couldn't be done. At first it was just an innocent idea, one I pulled from the air somewhere and translated into ink on paper. I'd actually forgotten all about it until I consulted my professor for its approval at the very last minute (and gotten something along the lines of "only an idiot would attempt something like this, yaddi yadda.")

That ticked me off. I felt as though he'd insulted me, or that he was looking down on me just because I was only his student. At that time, I didn't want to give him the satisfaction of backing down.

"So you decided to go on this either just because you found it too troublesome to think of a new topic, or because you felt the need to prove yourself a bigger man than your mentor?" Samuel asked, a single golden eyebrow raised in question.

"What?" Damn. I'd forgotten that whenever I think too hard, Samuel can actually read my mind.

The Devil laughed, slapped me on the back and effectively rephrased Samuel's entire statement in three words. "Pride and sloth! That's two out of seven, darling. Keep it up and we'll be together for a long, long time."

"It's not like that!" I say defensively, shuddering at the thought. "Well okay, maybe it was like that at first, but now I've been thinking: why not? Who's to say it can't be done?"

"Who's to say what can't be done: spewing the fundamental shit on truth and meaning, or going to hell?" the Devil asked sweetly.

If he weren't the prince of darkness, and quite capable of burning me to a crisp, I would have kicked him. Repeatedly. "Truth and meaning," I said. "I've done papers on knowledge, on justice, even on morality. Compared to those, these two sound pretty basic if you ask me."

"You have a cure for tuberculosis but not the common cold," Samuel pointed out. Damn smart angel. From the corner of my eye, I saw Death biting his lip as though trying not to laugh.

"This is different," I insisted. Deep inside I was secretly hoping they wouldn't ask me how, so I went on before they could get a word in. "I don't believe there's a glass ceiling when it comes to thinking in the abstract. I mean, why should there be? Limits are clear and definitive; in the abstract nothing is clear, much less definitive."

The Devil and Samuel exchanged a long look. At this time I noticed Death was actually waving a card: two of spades.

"Looks like you're in the clear for another year, honey," the Devil commented.

"Even if you say so," Samuel began slowly. "Let's say you were to make a discourse and truth and meaning…well, what about them? What exactly do you plan to say?"

…Actually I didn't know. I talked a big game, but in truth I had very little planned in my tired brain. Still, I didn't want to give up on the prospect. The mere fact that it was something that seemed so radical was exciting. It sounded like something that would easily become big if ever I succeeded. I didn't really know what was driving me, or whether it was selfish or senseless or stupid or whatever, but at that moment I really did want to push through with it.

"Well, I'll think about it, for a very long time if I need to," I answered with a careless shrug. I gathered all the cards and shuffled them a few times before putting the entire deck back into the cardboard box. "I've got around a month, anyway. Maybe I can skirt around the idea for a while, then eventually get to the core of it all. No, wait…I've got it. I'm going to work around the existence of truth, and the essence of finding meaning. Then whatever I find, I'll say."

When I was done, all three of them exchanged glances this time. I guess this was a problem with friends like these guys; if I'd been talking to people from my class, or my sister for example, I'm sure they'd be all "oh, that sounds really deep, good luck," before promptly changing the topic. But them – well…

"There are limits," Samuel spoke slowly, "imposed upon mortals for their own good. Yes, the pursuit of knowledge is a noble one, but some things are best left untouched as they are. These matters you seek to understand and grasp fully, to the very root of their existences – truth, meaning – perhaps the understanding mortals were meant to achieve of them is, necessarily, an incomplete one. Maybe mortals just were not, and will never be, meant to see the whole truth. Similarly, maybe mortals were not meant to seek meaning in absolutely everything."

They were looking at me so intensely that whatever I was about to say next got caught in my throat. And then I realized why they were making such a big deal out of it, and why they gave so much of a damn – this was more than just a stupid term paper, more than a matter of changing the topic to make it easier. This was about me, maybe even humanity in general. I'd forgotten for a moment that these men weren't really men per se, but entities that embodied so much more than just humanity, transcending it completely.

"Well…what if they could?" I quipped, getting more and more excited as the thought sank in deeper. "What if we could surpass those limits you're talking about? What if it turns out that mortals could see the truth, could seek meaning in everything?"

"Oh, oh! You mean, as opposed to…not?" the Devil drawled on carelessly.

"Honestly, Luke, I am not liking your idea," Samuel said warily. "It's as though you're dangerously overstepping a boundary that's only there for your own good anyway. You know about the fruit of the tree of knowledge, right?"

"Oh, I do…" the Devil broke into a wide grin, looking almost…wistful. "Wasn't that a riot! Sometimes I still can't believe I pulled that off." He then stood up and posed dramatically, earning nothing but a blank stare from Death.

"I'm sure you enjoyed it," I muttered. Just then a bright idea came to mind. "Why don't you do it?" I asked eagerly.

The Devil snapped out of his reminiscing only to give me a look that mimicked Death's almost perfectly. "Did you say something?"

I pulled on his sleeve just as he promptly started to walk away. "I mean, why don't you make it possible? You did say I can make a birthday request, so this is it: make it happen."

"No. NO." Samuel shot me a withering look, reclaiming the chair the Devil had abandoned. "That is out of the question! This is the Garden of Eden all over again, only this time you're practically asking him for directions to the tree! Are you actually asking him to damn you?"

"Why?" I shot back. "It's not like it's evil or anything. I mean, how would I know? You say that we humans have a limit as to how much we can know and understand, and I guess it only makes sense since you obviously transcend that, which is the only way you'd be able to claim that there's a limit in the first place! But what if we could go beyond that limit? What if we actually could surpass your expectations of us mortals without necessarily giving up our mortality?"

"…Whoa, you lost me there, honey," the Devil shook his head with a grimace. "But you're all fired up. And all this just for a paper?"

I had actually forgotten about that. "Screw the paper! This isn't about that anymore. This is about the limits that you force on us. You say that it's not possible for us to comprehend truth and meaning in bare essence. Well, make it possible. If it doesn't work out, then you were right and it wasn't meant to be. But if it does…"

"Then what? You'll have proven yourself to us? You'll have chalked up a victory for humanity?" Samuel frowned. "The reason sounds respectable now, at least, but I still can't bring myself to approve of it."

I shrugged. "Hey, all I'm saying is…give humanity a chance. Just because nobody's been able to do it doesn't mean it can't be done."

"It only means they never tried." A slow smile spread across the Devil's face and he turned to me. "Yeah…you know what, sweetie? I think I'm starting to get your drift." This earned him a glare from Samuel and a thoughtful stare from Death, who had been understandably silent and unresponsive throughout this whole exchange. "I don't particularly see anything wrong with it…well, actually I don't see anything wrong with anything, but that's beyond the point haha." He looked at me with an ear-to-ear grin. "Luke, honey, you drive a hard bargain but if you want this so badly I don't see why not. I can't grant it to everyone in a blink, though – that might bring chaos whether it works or not – but if it's just you, I don't think there's much of a problem. And of course, if you do start wreaking havoc, we're here to keep things under control. Specifically, he's here." And he jerked his thumb towards Death.

I smiled despite myself. "So you'll give it to me? You'll give me a chance to break that glass ceiling you claim to exist, maybe even discover or become something big?"

"Well…" the Devil raised his eyes to the ceiling for a second, before leveling them with mine. Then he stretched out a hand and curled his fingers inward. "Make it official. Ask."

"Fine." I stepped up to the challenge, clenching my fists at my side. "I wish humans could know what truth is, and be able to seek meaning in everything."

"Splendid!" he said, clapping his hands together. There was a particular gleam in his eye, and the way he had perked up so much and so suddenly that made me slightly uneasy. But I pushed it away – the important thing was that he'd agreed! He'd given me a chance to see if there really was a limit, to go as far as I could and maybe even discover that 'humanity' wasn't really as constraining a label as it was made out to be. "Give me a day or two, then you can begin. Of course, I'll have to be around practically 24/7 to see how this goes, right? Ooh, this will be interesting, I can't wait!" He snapped his fingers loudly. A pillar of flame suddenly shot up in the floor, engulfing him completely; in a second, he was gone.

I coughed, trying to clear some of the smoke he'd left behind. Samuel, unaffected by all of it, just stood up and looked at me sternly. "I do hope you understand what you've gotten yourself into," he said in a low voice. "Of course you know that whatever comes out of this request you've made, the Devil will just wash his hands; you will be held liable for any consequences that may arise, whether they are pleasant or otherwise."

"I know that, Sam," I assured him good-naturedly. "I don't want you to worry. What you said a while ago about wanting to prove myself – maybe you were right about that. It's just that…you three are so 'up there,' you know? Totally out of my league. I guess that gives you the right to look down on me, on us humans in all, but that doesn't mean you practically drew the line as to how far we can go, right? If there really is a line, as you say, let me find it. Just for peace of mind."

He looked at me for a while, before sighing and shaking his head. "Well as far as I know I'm not allowed to tamper directly in decisions you make, so I guess anything I say won't really matter. But I will still look out for you."

Aww. "I appreciate that," I said with a smile, one that probably went unseen as he'd reverted back to his angel form and vanished into thin air, all in a flash.

That only left Death, then. When I looked back at the table he was slowly getting up, walking over to the wall where he'd left his scythe.

"I guess you'll be leaving too?"

He nodded, picking up the scythe and holding it in one hand as though it were weightless.

"You think I'm crazy too, don't you?"

He stopped beside me, regarding me with a cold gaze for about half a minute. Then he just shrugged, holding up a forefinger of his free hand and shaking it at me. I guessed he was saying 'be careful what you wish for,' but then again it was hard to communicate with a mute old man who didn't even bother to try to learn any form of sign language whatsoever. That was what was so hard about trying to talk to Death – I could never really be sure what was on his mind.

But on the bright side, he didn't have any flashy exits – he simply walked to the door and left my apartment, closing the door behind him without even so much as a sound.

Just like that, I found myself alone in my apartment. I walked back to the table, rubbing my arms and shivering despite the heater. Both Death and Samuel didn't seem to approve of the request I'd made. Maybe it was because I'd asked the Devil, but then again, he was the only one I knew who could pull something like that off in the first place. Oh well. That didn't matter. I'd been given a chance. I'd show them. I'd show them all.


So I was feeling pretty good about myself…until the next day, when I learned from Samuel that the Devil had deliberately screwed up my request again – and with a little help from Death.


Author's note: This is an idea that came to me some time last month, one that I repeatedly tried to push away since I have another unfinished story ("Miasma") posted here and I didn't want to start on this in the middle of writing that. But it just would not let me go, so I relented. This whole thing is pretty much a major overhaul for me – this is my first time writing in first-person POV, using a real setting (New York City) instead of an imaginary one. And given how very heavily some concepts from this story promise to draw from philosophical arguments and ideas, I can already see the truckload of research in store for me.

Also, for those of you who have read or are reading "Miasma" – rest assured, I'm not abandoning that story. I wouldn't dream of it. It's just proven to be somewhat difficult lately, and whenever I try to work on it, I get stuck in writer's block. One of the reasons I actually decided to start working on this was to let off some tension resulting from that. But it'll pass. I'll update it as soon as I can – certainly, within this year.

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.