Is This What You Meant?

Photo by Rakicevic Nenad from Pexels

Is this what You meant when You made me? When You formed me? When You planted the spark in my mother’s womb? 

Is this what You meant before the universe burst to life, when You chose this exact moment of history to place me within?

Is this what You meant, for me to flourish inside a marriage I never wanted nor sought, for which You had to painfully rip away the scar tissue so I could fit into this wonder?

Is this what You meant, this endless ache of distance from family and dear ones, to give me a tiny glimpse of Your time far away from home and the familiar?

Is this what You meant when You made me? This bag of aging bones, couple pints of blood, under-utilized brain and often half-hearted attempts to live? This imperfect image of You constructed from specks of dust?

I want what You meant. All You meant. All the life. All the breath. All the blood. All the gasping for oxygen as we wind up and up and up, drawing every day nearer to that highest, long-sought summit. Until finally we reach the pinnacle of the fullness of You in me, and we stand and gaze in wonder.

Notes from the Collective.

Volume 6: the Jacker Revolution in Branch 12, 384-412 PST

Photo by Sirma Krusteva on Unsplash


As mentioned in my previous volumes, this series is an attempt to provide as extensive a history as possible of the Jacker phenomenon, as witnessed in each of its various iterations throughout the 16 branches of our species.

Unlike several of our branches who broke from the Collective immediately, or others who swung from side to side each time a certain number of generations passed, Branch 12 has the unique qualifier of majority adherence to the Collective until approximately the mid-350’s, Pulse Standard Time (PST), when early reports began to surface about Jacking in the outer settlements.

There is some disagreement about the official start of the Jacker Revolution in 12 — I have chosen to date it from 384 PST when the first shots were fired. From that point the Jacked population increased rapidly until full scale war broke out in 401 (when the Collective made the decision to go lethal), which is the date others have used in the past. I respect that decision, but my choice makes more sense to me.

This report includes interviews with as many surviving members of the Branch 12 community who lived through the revolution as were willing to talk to me. I appreciate the honor they each showed me by allowing me to roam with them through their memories of that difficult time. Some of them were veterans with serious scars, many had lost close family and friends, and almost all remembered the period with deep personal regret.

Also integral to this volume was my search through the extensive archives maintained by Branch 12. Special thanks go to Julio Jackson Hussein, Head Archivist at Messages from the Collective. Without his assistance this volume would not have been as rich and detailed as I would have liked.

If there are errors, they are mine alone, and I accept full responsibility for them.

On a personal note, the research into Branch 12’s fall from grace was extremely challenging for me. As seasoned readers of this series already know, as a Branchless I was born without the inner ear, thus can neither receive messages from the Collective, nor be Jacked. I find once again it both saddens, and gladdens my heart, depending on which side of the war I’m currently researching. It does also aid my research that I am not subject to the Pulse. I hope both the Branched and Branchless find this volume as interesting to read as I found it to research.

Sarah Ellicott
623 PST
Branchless, Settlement Seven

Out of the Black.

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Something moves in the black. Shimmers. Squirms.

I’m used to the darkness, so the movement is startling and uncomfortable somehow, but also mesmerizing. There’s some kind of light, some slight gloss of reflection. It wiggles and twists and I struggle to make sense of it.

Is it a worm? A snake? The thought of it joining me here repulses, but I don’t think I’ve yet guessed right.

It’s changing every moment, struggling, growing in size and — pushing — somehow. Pulsing from somewhere within, it continually lengthens.

And then suddenly it’s changing in a different way and the picture clarifies. The color was off; that’s why I didn’t understand. I should have recognized it, but the environment threw me.

In my life there has been only blank gloom in this space that barred even the smallest fragment of light. I have grown accustomed to the silence. The still sadness of void.

I never expected to see growth here. I didn’t know new life was possible under these conditions. Yet here it is, and I am amazed.

It is a budding branch, green and new and strong. And it is growing fast.

Glimpse of a Warrior.

Photo by Maria Pop from Pexels

My eyes are drawn to the brief flickers of flame, well-masked by a tremendous amount of smoke. The bitter taste of it sits on my tongue as the awful sounds of battle clang in my ears.

Then she emerges. Staggers, really. Her arms are at her sides, her hands empty. Somewhere back there in the smoke she lost her sword and shield.

The remains of a helmet cling to her head, but there’s a significant chunk missing. There are so many injuries it’s difficult to know where to begin — the wound on her forehead, mixing a trail of blood and grime down her neck; the gaping tear in her side that she carefully favors; scrapes and cuts and bruises beyond number. She’s limping as she takes a few shaky steps, sways perilously, then stops.

I didn’t notice at first, but she’s crying. Now I can focus on nothing else, watching as big tears mingle with the blood and grime, slowly edging downward toward her torn clothing.

Her eyes seem full of an ancient sadness, and I watch as she begins to tremble. Her head turns side to side, eyes widening as they take in the battles raging in every direction. The trembling becomes stronger, rocketing through her whole body. Her knees give way and she falls to the ground as her head tilts back and she lets loose a roar of rage so loud it echoes over the battle sounds that have nearly deafened me.

Only then do I notice that she is on fire in a couple of places. As the last echoes of her roar fade into silence, I’m mesmerized by the way the flames seem to be devouring her, as she slumps to the ground in defeat.

There’s a beat, long enough for me to wonder if all is lost, but soon enough, I realize my conclusion was wrong — it wasn’t a slump of defeat after all, it was a roll.

Her face testifies that she is nearly unconscious as her body goes through the motions designed to put out the flames. She continues to roll, slowly at first, then gradually, gradually picking up speed. She spins faster and faster, until I regret the infirmity of my eyes. I can’t see clearly.

My mind can’t catalogue the moment it happens, but in a flash she emerges from the roll crouched on top of a dark black horse, gleaming in his purple silks, both of them powerful beyond measure.

Her clothing has transformed to match, purple silk flowing around her, and there is a long black cloth that is some kind of weapon trailing behind the enormous shield covering her back.

The injury to her forehead is patched, the grime and blood are gone, and from the way she holds her sword I know the wound at her side is mended. She charges past me so fast I feel the wind, her eyes blazing with such focused intensity I can still see them, long after she’s returned to the mayhem.