Friday, November 30, 2012

Windows 8 stole my bike

Windows 8 is awful.

It is the single worst experience I've ever had with a non-broken computer. Nothing about it is good. Everything about it is bad.

It causes birth defects at 15 feet. It eats kittens and gets you pulled over by the cops. It pushed an old woman into the street in front of another old woman driving, sending her into the other lane to crash head on into a bus filled with, you guessed it, more old women. It is worse than gritty single ply toilet paper. It's like drinking asparagus urine. Windows 8 is the operating system equivalent of a bot fly.

It causes erectile dysfunction in men and hairy breasts in women. It rots your teeth. If Chairman Mao got Courtney Love pregnant in a lead paint factory insulated with asbestos and they aborted the fetus, Windows 8 would still be worse than that stillborn monster. It assassinated Kennedy (both of them), was the true Zodiac Killer, and is responsible for 83% of missing children.

It eats babies. Windows 8 rapes women, demeans them for the duration of their forced pregnancy, refuses pain medicine on their behalf during labor, and then eats that baby too. It hunts animals into extinction for fun. It litters. It litters in cemeteries. It litters in cemeteries for veterans. Windows 8 invented bedbugs. Windows 8 cannot stop inventing bedbugs.

It tells you about the surprise party your friends have been planning for months. It gives you worse diarrhea than Mexican tap water. When offered food if they would use Windows 8, third world children said, "No thanks, I'll go see if I can hunt up some beetles instead." It's like being gang raped by a pack of wild dogs if the dogs themselves were being raped at the same time by water buffalo.

It's a fart sandwich with a side of used tampon cole slaw. It’s powered by the ghosts of abandoned children who died of exposure. If you've ever woken up to find a bruise or cut you don't remember receiving, that was Windows 8. It slept with your wife. Don't have a wife? Windows 8 will find you one, pay for the wedding, then have a three-way with your new bride and your mom.

It's the number one reason alcoholics relapse. Prolonged usage results in a distended anus. Windows 8 is waiting under your bed right now. Every cancer cell has a little label on it that says "Running on Windows 8!" It's the preferred operating system of kidnappers, pedophiles, and people that don't silence their cell phones at the movies. Every time you use it the devil is invited into your home. In fact, its original tagline was, "Like a welcome mat for Satan!"

It is a member in good standing of Westboro Baptist Church. It periodically changes your background to naked pictures of your grandmother. It slowly replaces all your pictures with naked pictures of your grandmother. Windows 8 is your naked grandmother.

It puts expired milk back in the fridge. Windows 8 sells drugs to children in poor neighborhoods. It invented overdraft fees. It makes vending machines not accept 3 out of every 20 quarters. It gives you an instant hangover. It caused the recession and shot Bambi’s mother.

It wrote Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, Star Wars: Episode I, and Star Trek; Nemesis. It cancelled Arrested Development and Firefly. Superman’s weaknesses are Kryptonite, magic, and Windows 8. It’s currently developing movies based on Connect Four, Sorry!, and the feeling you got when school was out for the summer.

It cuts baby powder with cocaine, turning your infant into a junkie. If you try to register Windows 8 with an African or Hispanic name it changes it to John Wayne America. It’s why ice cream doesn’t taste as good as it did when you were a kid. Every Windows 8 disc is made from distilled orphan tears and packaged in the skin of widows.

It’s why you have to wait five minutes at a red light in the middle of nowhere with no cars coming. It's going to need you to come in on Sunday. Windows 8 crashed the Hindenburg, the Titanic, and Amelia Earhart's plane. It causes toothaches, hang nails, and papercuts. It offers you a choice between centipedes or maggots and then fills your mouth with both. Windows 8 drove the car that killed your childhood pet.

It punches nuns, strangles rabbis, and kicks imams in the crotch. It told parents vaccination causes autism, but this is a lie - Windows 8 is the true cause of autism. It raises the price of gas. It was the reason you got fired from your last job, broke up with your soul mate, and had that car accident. Windows 8 occasionally sober drives.

It never flushes, it farts in elevators and poops in the shower. It left a used Band-Aid in the lunch meat. It replaced all the lunch meat with used Band-Aids. For every thousand dollars in profit Windows 8 makes it ruins one well in Africa. It leaves HIV infected needles in the coin slots of vending machines. It steals the kidneys of drifters, murders teenagers with a hook hand, and calls from inside the house.

If you want a picture of using Windows 8, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever. Windows 8 meant to learn about computers someday but got distracted by a shiny pebble.

I don’t like Windows 8 very much.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Jane 26

There's a hiss of escaping air like the world's tiniest sigh and the cryopod opens at the end of the cantilevered walkway. I catch myself as I fall to the faux marble floor, whorls of mica glittering like gold flecks inches from my face. Chandeliers of fake crystal light the cavernous room, which is itself shaped like an egg, or an even larger cryopod. Mahogany panels - or some convincing synthetic - line the walls. I'm in the embrace of a mechanized orange, segments along the wall smooth except for crimson candelabras with flickering electronic candles.

The effect is cheap techno-boudoir, but I am not.

To read the rest, go to this page.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Sod Story

This story is by another friend, and was inspired by Nikolai Gogol's The Nose.

"Since they refuse to trust truth, they are banished to their chosen world of lies and illusions."

Light trickled from the horizon and slowly the sun rose until the rays warmed a small greenhouse. Mr. Sod stretched his long, scrawny arms out, reaching for the sky.

He enjoyed the energizing sun and thought about his day to come, “Yes, this is the day. This is the day I make a difference. I’m tired of working for that old man, taking care of his garden and whatever odd jobs he has for me to do. I’m going to go out and change things for the better!” Mr. Sod looked down and noticed he had stepped in some fresh dirt he must have spilled the night before. His tropical plants, which he loved because of their uniqueness, needed the best soil, so that’s what he got for them.

He watered his plants, speaking to each of them for a short bit. He knew that helped them to grow and be healthy. He was disappointed that they had so little to say back this morning, though; they didn’t seem as excited as he was about his plans for the day.

After making sure the plants had their fill, he poured himself a glass of water and drank it down. He left the greenhouse, enjoying the breeze, and made his way to his small dwelling attached to the rear of the glass house. He prepared for the day, putting on his brand new suit and grabbing a stack of business cards he had made for himself.

Walking outside, Mr. Sod grabbed his old bicycle and began to pedal towards the city, that huge, ironclad, depressing city.

Mr. Sod entered the suburbs, glancing about to make sure no troublesome children would harass him as they usually did.

The shrill screams reached Mr. Sod’s ears before he knew where they came from. He looked all around, wondering what could make such a terrible sound. Noticing a stopped lawnmower, he stormed over, trying to hold back his fury for the old man that was trying to get it to start.

“What do you think you’re doing?”

The man looked up, “Trying to get this thing to start up.” And scratching his beard added, “You want to help?” He went back to his work.

Mr. Sod had trouble not screaming. “Help? Are you kidding? Why would I do that?”

The man glanced at Mr. Sod, wiping sweat from his eyes he said, “Well, I reckon because I need to get this lawn mown.” The man stood up, apparently having some trouble doing so, and continued, “I’ll tell you what kid, you mow this lawn for me and I’ll buy you lunch. Anywhere you want to go. What do you say?”

His fury welled up within him! How could this man ask him to do such a thing? The man was clearly some kind of wicked man! He grabbed the lawn mower, throwing it on its side. “I’ll show you why you shouldn’t mess with my friends!” and acted as if he would attack the man. The old man hobbled away from Mr. Sod, flailing his arms somewhat and fell into his house.

Mr. Sod went back to the grass and dropped to one knee. He felt sorry for it. How could such a terrible thing happen? He then knew it would be harder than he thought to change this world…but it must be done! He could sense that the grass was upset, but he could not guess as to why, and, thinking it would be better to let the grass get over its trauma, decide to go on his way. After all, he had a busy day ahead of him.

As Mr. Sod neared the metal and plastic confines of the city he could feel the difference. The calming view of the landscape was leaving him and massive frightening monstrosities began to surround him. The buildings had less grass around them and concrete seemed to cover the entire Earth now.

He neared his destination, noticing an acquaintance as he did so. Mr. Sod walked up to talk to him, saying, “Hello Phil, how are you today?”

The low hedge he stopped to converse with sat as it had before.

“Really? That’s good.” Mr. Sod then noticed something different about Phil and, while taking a closer look, continued speaking. “Did you get in a fight? It looks like you lost some limbs.” Again the hedge held its ground. After a pause Mr. Sod continued, “You got trimmed? TRIMMED? That’s terrible…what? You didn’t mind? How could that be? Do I like how you look?” Mr. Sod took a step back, thought it over, and said, “I guess…you look…nice…I suppose.” With that Mr. Sod fled back to his bicycle. Peddling as fast as he was able, shocked by the conversation he had just had with Phil.

Strange thoughts started to occur to Mr. Sod. Should he believe Phil? Could having one’s limbs lopped off really not be that bad and make one feel better? How could that be…? Only one thing could be done, Mr. Sod would have to find out for himself.

Mr. Sod stopped his bicycle, feeling bad that he had left Phil so abruptly, and looked for a place that gave trims. He spotted a small shop that seemed to do so and set his bicycle outside next to a small tree, asking it to watch the bike for him.

Walking inside and noticing all the seats, he decided to sit in one and wait to see what would happen next. A woman walked up behind him. “Hi, how are you doing? I haven’t seen you in here before. How you want your hair cut? Any style in mind?”

“Oh! Well…just a...trim…I suppose…”

“A trim? No problem.” She turned him around. He looked into the giant mirror and saw that she was going through a bag…seemingly looking for something. He felt a lump form in his throat and sweat emerging from his brow. “So…what are you looking for?”

“My scissors of course.” Then he saw her pull out a small set of hedge clippers…she could have been the one that butchered Phil!

“NNOOO!!!” He screamed, leapt up and ran for his life, hoping she was not chasing him. After running for several blocks he stopped, hid in an alley, and caught his breath.

“She doesn’t seem to have come after me…good thing…that was terrible…what could Phil have been thinking? This must be more of a problem than I thought! Even the plants were turning against themselves in this city…not like the ones in my greenhouse…or maybe they are…the guys didn’t seem happy about my plans for the day this morning either.” Mr. Sod sat down on the ground, placed his head in his hands, “Could I be wrong? Could it really be that the plants are happy about all of this? That they not only don’t mind, but like it? How could it be? It can’t be true! Or else they have been tricked! Yes! That’s it…they have been deceived somehow…all they need is a strong voice to remind them…”

Mr. Sod stood up, brushed himself off and walked back to the little shop. He noticed his bicycle was missing, no doubt given away by the deceitful tree. It was sad indeed, that he would now have to watch who his friends really were.

He did not stop for anything else. Nothing distracted him from what he knew must be done. We walked to his destination, a super market. The Super Mart stood before him, with its super hero mascot sitting on the sign, smiling and waving, enticing people to come buy from them. Mr. Sod would not let this “super hero” scare him; nothing could stop him now.

He walked inside, grabbed a shopping cart and headed towards the vegetables. Of course he had grabbed one with a bad wheel and had some difficulty getting it there. Despite the trouble and the loud screeches, he made it, filled the cart to its brim and headed towards the door.

Just before he made it, a teenager in a store uniform, complete with Super Mart red and purple stopped him and said, “Umm…you need to pay for that dude…”

“Pay! Are you kidding? Get out of my way!” Mr. Sod then attempted to get by the boy, but the cart wheel had become stuck and refused to move. “…why do these things happen to me…?”

“Dude…you have to pay for the food. Just a minute…I’ll get the manager.”

Mr. Sod continued trying to push the cart, but it wouldn't budge. “Why won’t you move!?! GO!!”

After a few moments a woman walked out, looked at Mr. Sod and said, “Sir, could I help you?”

“What? Oh, sure! If you could just help me push this cart…”

“You mean to the cash register?”

“No…out the door. I have to rescue these guys.”

With that the woman walked away and the teenager came back over to talk to Mr. Sod. “You know, she’s calling the cops. You should get out of here. Is this a joke or something?”

“JOKE! This is no joke! This is a tragedy!” Just then Mr. Sod had an idea and went to get a new shopping cart, thinking he could transfer the vegetables to a new cart, one that would hopefully move.

He walked back just as the police were arriving. They looked at Mr. Sod and one of them went to speak with him. “Sir, are you planning on buying these vegetables?”

Mr. Sod began to sweat; he wasn’t worried about Super Mart Man, but he had not been prepared for the police. “Well…no…not so much really…”

“Sir, you can’t take these. You can either pay for them, take them back, or come with us to the station. Your choice.”

“Well officer…given the choices…” With that Mr. Sod grabbed an arm full of vegetables and ran out of the door, with the police in hot pursuit.

He ran as if his very life depended on it. He ran into an alley, hoping that he had lost them, but there the police officers were, still chasing him.

“What am I going to do? If only I could get out of this city…I could get away then…” He looked over and noticed Phil across the street.

Running to Phil he hopped over him, trying to hide behind him. “Thanks Phil, you’re a real life saver.” Mr. Sod stopped and glanced at the small hedge. “What do you mean they’re already dead? …you’re right…they are!” He threw down his fallen comrades and once again he ran, this time not looking back for several minutes. Eventually he noticed that he had escaped.

Mr. Sod decided to go home immediately. When nearing the suburbs he saw that a police car was behind him. He darted into a yard, tripping over a lawn mower that had been turned over. He looked down to see the grass he had rescued earlier that day. “Hello there, are you guys doing better now?”

We were shouting in joy...not in pain…

The words echoed in Mr. Sods head…and he ran, never looking back, leaving the city, not understanding what had happened or what it could mean.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Thief

This one was written by Jenny Mackiewicz following a very specific prompt. See if you can figure out what it was.

Ain’t all that much to say.  Bad times came for everyone, and I just had the good sense to see a way out.  Can’t say that way was one hundred percent above the board but, like I said, bad times.  Depending on who you ask- that is, just about everyone- bastard had it coming, anyway.

Every day of the week he had a routine he followed; wash on Sunday, grocery on Tuesday, drinks with the boys on Friday, that sort of thing.  For years, not a week had gone by he didn’t follow that routine to the letter.  Good for a man like him, with no patience for change and an inbred need for order, even better for me.

He was at Shaky’s Pub for cheap liquor and pool the night I came.  I knew what I was looking for, and right where to look for it.  Just like his routine was ground into him over time, obvious and reliable as the setting sun, so was his house and everything in it, unmoving and unchanging.

Keeping quiet, I crept my way in through the back door and headed straight for the washroom in the basement.  Last time I’d crept through that house, I had two black eyes and a bagful of clothes with me, though I was headed out, not in.  Memories of that time hustled me along and before I knew it, I was where I need to be, by the old water softener that sits alongside the washing machine.

Never been used, least not since the first month we bought it, when he decided he liked his water hard, never mind it wasn’t fit to swallow.  One quick call later and that water softener was nothing more than a giant, useless barrel full of salt, taking up space.  Paid a hell of a lot of money for the thing, and I was sure I’d get a beating for suggesting it in the first place, but he just smiled and nodded his head, said he had a fine idea what do to with it now.      

Quick and quiet, I lifted off the softener’s lid and set it aside.  Right as I expected, the damn thing was still chock full of salt, though it was turning yellow with time.  Settled atop it was a thin layer of dust, and I wondered briefly, horrified and a touch hysterical, if he made a habit of opening the softener and looking inside, to make sure that dust hadn’t been fussed with at all.

Time running short, I shoved both my gloved hands in to the wrist, dust be damned, and started rooting around.  Underneath the weight of it I found what I was looking for, a small box wrapped up in one, two plastic bags.  Very carefully, I shifted the salt around, made it lay flat as I could get it, and settled the lid back in place.  With the box and its two bags in hand, I shuffled out of that house as quick as I could manage, without creating too much of a fuss.

‘Xactly how long it took me to get home from there, I couldn’t say.  Your nerves can get the best of you, start to steal time, when you’re running from your bastard ex-husband’s house, with twenty thousand dollars of his dead daddy’s gambling money weighing on your wrist.  Zero regrets, no time for that now, only hope the bastard’s dumb enough to have forgotten about his hiding place, dumb enough not to see my part in this.

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Fall of Kittering

by Lee McLeod

The gates of the redoubt creaked open slowly. Behind the wall of mounded earth and stone ramparts, the tent city wrapped around the black basalt walls and turrets of the Temple of the Cudgel – its weary denizens huddled in dread and expectation as the representatives of Kittering walked through the gates and into the blasted no-man’s land between their walls and the trenches of the invaders. We walked cautiously through the maze of carnage, never taking our eyes from the thronging horde gathered at the opposition’s lines. Slowly, carefully, we made our way through the wreckage and rubble and piles of the rotting dead, marching on to hear what doom awaited our pitiful host. A city of twenty thousand souls, now little more than a smoldering ruin, streets haunted by the living dead, and a bare thousand men, women, and children, hiding behind the earthen mound and the walls of the Citadel.

The siege of Kittering began three month ago. The Horde rose in the east, and swept away everything in its path. We made a fierce stand upon our walls at the first. Our holy men’s blessings and the wizard’s fire held the ravagers at bay – at least until the fell beasts began their foul flights. Dozens of leather winged monstrosities flew over the walls, carrying with them smoldering pots of fire and destruction As the missiles fell on the city, whole neighborhoods were torn to pieces, leaving nothing but ruin, death, and smoke that belched thick, oily, and black into the air, staining the sky over our heads. They breached the outer walls. The flames found purchase in the city, and turn the port into a raging holocaust. The scent of ash, and sulfur, and death filled our nostrils, and was soon join by the rot of our adversaries. On and on they came, legion against our already wearied forces. With the undead at our throats and the inferno at our backs, we began our retreat.

The mages began erecting a rampart or earth and stone at the furthest southern edge of the city. Hemmed in and all sides by the sea, leaving only the narrow road over the lowland isthmus to channel the attackers into a narrow killing field at our doorstep, but sealing ourselves into a final holdfast. A small group of heroes held the forces of Night at bay while the redoubt was completed and the city’s survivors hurried behind its safe walls. And there we held, day and night, as the hordes of the undead flung themselves against our defenses. To the roar of the cannon were added the explosions of spell-fire and the incantations of our priests. The dead fell by the thousands and the tens of thousands in that narrow ground, and still they came.

Like a fetid flood they came on in seemingly endless variations of death and corruption, the isthmus turning into a morass of blood and bile, pus and excrement, the hordes charging onward upon the bodies of the fallen. Driven by the iron wills of their carrion-lords they came on. By night their screams tore at the air, the flames of the burning bodies, set alight by arcane fires, guiding their way. By day, beneath hooded helmed, they charged, their lords shielded from the burning touch of day by the oily-black film that still poured into the air from the craters left by the cauldrons that fell throughout the city in their first assault. A menagerie of horror assaulted our eyes at every glance. The mindless walkers, some little more than skeletons, others the ruined visages of once-neighbors, shambled toward the redoubt, moaning, shambling, and clawing. The phages, eaters with jagged talons, glistening fangs and empty eyes, sprinting and leaping, thirsty for the blood they smelled coursing through our veins. Liches and corpse-herders, carrion brutes and shrieking wraiths, bodies hanged and bodies beheaded – all rushing to join the fray. We saw the entrails of the fallen oozing toward our position only to watch them burst, flinging disease and destruction for yards in every direction, and sat bewildered as an angel descended upon the wall, only to see death dripping from the pestilence gathered upon its feet as it unfurled a grotesque mockery of wings made from the flayed flesh of its own body. There was no end to horrors we witnessed upon those walls.

Yet the wall held. And days became weeks became months, as we exhausted ourselves upon the defenses, holding off sortie after sortie – waiting, watching, searching for some sign of hope.  And then we heard of the Horde’s search for an ancient power, buried deep in the south. The bravest among us volunteered for the mission, leaving secretly by night, to begin their journey. If only we had known – if only we had moved more swiftly, perhaps the scourge might have been averted. Weeks passed, and hope flickered. A relief column, holy warriors and grey mercenaries, a strong host, approached from the west. The battle lines of the undead shifted to fight on two fronts. For the briefest moment we thought we would see them break. And then, deep in the south, a fire began to burn.

Flames rolled toward us, not upon the ground, but in the sky – a wall of flames, rushing toward us, fire stained with a deep sickly green of raw eldritch arcana, a poisoned flame that filled the air from horizon to horizon, and carried a scream of desolation on the wind as it came. The Red Lady appeared in our midst, carrying a white branch, which she planted in the midst of the redoubt at the steps of the Citadel. Round her gathered the priests and the mages, weaving their spells together as though to cover our holdfast in a hedge of protection. The flames raged, and the fire rained down on Kittering, the stench of death and decay overwhelming our senses. The Undying Host flung itself upon the Redoubt anew. They brought with them the animated corpses of behemoths, great monsters in the form of men, bent and twisted, and these death-bringers led, the charge. At their head came one of the Lords of Night, a woman garbed in glistening steel plate, her phage-guards circling around her, fangs shining in the fiery twilight. The gate could not hold against their assault.

Yet in that moment, as the gate fell and with it our hopes of survival, and strange calmness seemed to fill the Red Lady.  She turned, facing the Night-lord, and strode toward her, calmly yet with a purpose. The guards at the wall moved to strike down the phage-guard, as the two women crossed the field. The Vampire queen raised a blade high to strike, and in that moment the Red Lady held out her own hand and placed it against the enemy’s breastplate. There was a pulse of raw power and a calm flash of light – and in that light I saw a gleaming brilliance, as of the dawn, pulse through the form of the invader, and as it passed through, I thought I saw a shadow pass as well. The vampire fell to the ground, and uttering a final word known only to the Red Lady herself, she breathed out and the ravages of stolen ages passed over her, leaving nothing but hollow armor and dust.

The White Tree held the ravages of that infernal fire at bay, and seeing the Light of Creation, the lux aeterna, in the hands of the Red Lady, the Hordes of Night drew back, away from our walls, and waited. Days passed with no further attacks, as we drew the survivors of the relief column into our holdfast. We tended our wounded, repaired our gate, prepared our weapons, and waited. Then came the clarion call of a horn, sounding to us from across the no-man’s land. We all held our breath, watching. Soon we saw a small party of the enemy, no more than six, moving to the center of the isthmus, carrying a white flag, calling out to us for a parley. Their lord was prepared to offer us terms for the surrender of Kittering.

And now I, marshal of the city, find myself walking across the narrow deadly expanse. With me are the Ladies of Kittering, both Red and Gold, and the captains of the relief columns. We walk cautiously, watching for any sign of treachery. Our nerves are all on-edge, our senses keen, yet the enemy offers not so much as a snarl at our approach. We cross through the carnage, and begin the walk from the low hollow of the isthmus up the slight incline to the fortifications of the Host of Night. We have seen so many thousands of these abominations fall, and yet, standing here in the midst of their camp, it is impossible to count the number that remain. They press in tight order, yet give way to our party, as we walk to the pavilion erected in sight of our redoubt.

A woman greets us, another of the Lord of Night, and beckons us to await the arrival of their master. No less than four of the Lords of Night stand within arm’s-reach of our party, close enough to smell the blood on them, and see the glistening blood that still lingers on their lips and fangs as the talk quietly amongst themselves. And then the press of the Horde begins to give way to a growing shadow, as the air around us grows palpably cold. The crowd begins to part, and a chill sweeps up my back. Coming toward us is a jet-black throne, crafted from bone and adorned with gold, mounted upon a wheeled dais, ringed with runes and carvings depicting scenes of conquest and bloodletting. The profane carocchio is pulled by six dragonkin, their black scales glinting in the last lights of the setting set.

Yet it is not this spectacle, but the figure reclining on the throne that threatens to stop my heart within my chest. A hissing whisper of despair and doom rises within my heart as he draws near. The cold emanating from his presence turns hope to ice in my soul. Dressed in black robes that seem to hide and devour all light, he sits, regal and relaxed as a monarch in a palace, not a warchief on a battlefield. A twisted crown wrought of pale green silver and black gold twines round his head, and a cruel-edged sword rests at his side. At his feet are the crowns of a dozen kings, their ornaments rest upon his dais. A shadow, in waves and wispy smoke seems to roil before him, reaching and grasping, absorbing and killing every shred of light in its path, and filling the undead around it with a surge of vigor and strength.

Mercifully the cart comes to a halt just before the shadow reaches the pavilion where we stand – the faintest edges of its tendrils seeming to reach for us, the stroke the ground, to the caress the on-lookers. The sickly-sweet scent of death hangs in the air. The Vampire Queen turns to her lord, and it is as though I can hear them speak, though a heavy silence rests over the whole of the assembly. At last she turns, and begins to address us.

“My lords and captains, and you, Marshal – I greet in the name of my liege. I am his voice. We come to you with terms. We applaud your courage and tenacity in the defense of your city. No other township has so withstood our hosts…

“Hosts?” I think to myself, “then this is but a part of the whole? What fell power has been brewing for so long in the East?”

…But surely you must now see that your time is at an end. The water will be no barrier to the goblin-born or the dark elves you, even now, see gathering amongst our ranks. The White Tree has held the scourge-fire at bay in your township. Yet your scouts must have reported the truth of the matter to you. The curse has fallen, and the Kingdom of Shadows now controls every land south of the Brön Mountains. The Empire has fallen. The shreds of your relief forces now gathered within your defenses are all that remains of the Imperial forces. Your have fought valiantly and held your ground, but the time for struggle is at an end. You need not perish here, the memory of your courage lost to the ages. My father offers these terms…”

But her voice drifts off into the background. Instead, my attention is riveted to the figure seated upon the throne. Small, nearly imperceptible movements of his head seem to suggest that the vampire-queen’s words are not her own, but rather narrated through her lips. She dances like a puppet on a string. In the Kingdom of Shadows all wills are his will, and he who sits upon that throne, will court no discussion. These are not terms, these are a proclamation.

And then, as though sensing my own thoughts, his heads shifts again, and I find myself staring into the face of the King of Shadows. His face covered in a pallid mask, etched in runes and whorls, I find myself staring into the blackness within the mask’s eyes – and then the sensation of falling, falling as the darkness hidden behind that mask has swallowed me up entirely. And images begin to flood my consciousness. I see the King, unrobed, naked, floating like me in the black outer darkness. A flood of images – a stillborn godling, malformed, a horrible parody of life, floating, a font of endless un-life. I see fangs flash in the darkness. I see a new godling born in the midst of the chaos, emerging filled with the dying essence of the rotting deity.

Then I am standing behind him at the shores of a great lake. A warm breeze blows, and the tattered yellow hem of his robes flaps, as we stare into the blackness of the night sky. In the distance lies an ancient dying city, beneath the signs of the Hyades and Aldebaran.

Then I am standing facing him, the inky blackness around me alive with the sound of a subterranean world, the cracks, splashes, and haunting echoes of an immense cavern – a world that he has conquered and remade in his own image. A world of blood and terror. A world of vice and pleasure. A world of ecstacy and suffering.

And for a moment I see it – like the golden flash of dawn in my mind’s eye – a world in his own image. A caricature, a mockery, and mirror. But his parody of creation, hides our reality at its core. His hosts of malformed corruption gathered upon this field of battle, are lovingly created by a master artist – a sketch of our world through his eyes, a sketch that leaves us hollowed by the recognition of its accuracy.

I see the city through the eyes of the mask: I see a child trampled to death under the feet of the city’s fleeing denizens. I see the cannibals hanged two weeks ago at their grizzly feast in their tent. I see the dark souls of the men who came to rescue us, burning with hatred and malice, fueled by oaths made to ancient dark powers, oaths of blood and death. I see the poisoned soul of the assassin and betrayer, torn apart with hopelessness and despair as he tore out the throat of our greatest champion while she sat at prayer. I see myself, standing over the body of a heretic, skull crushed beneath my mace, and I see the contentment on my own face as I watch his body twitch lifelessly in the mud. I see the true face of the city, of the world, and suddenly I know the soul behind the pallid mask for who he is.

He comes only to reveal what is already there. Appearing like a Phantom armed only with Truth, the truth about ourselves, the truth of our world, leaving us standing face-to-face with the banal horror of our own existence, shocked by the truth and left with only madness or subservience to turn to.

And suddenly I feel my soul being pulled from my vision back into my mortal form, drawn back through the darkness and horror made manifest by the gilded sigil in the mask’s forehead into my own body. I find myself standing in the assembly again, staring into the empty eyes of that pale formless mask, looking into the not-eyes of a king; of a god – a god-king… the God-King of Night. His emissarie's words catch my attention again.

“All the lands with fifty miles of the walls of Kittering will be held as a protectorate – to be governed as it’s denizens elect. Their annual tribute shall be paid to the Baron la Mierce, who will be the Kingdom’s regent within the Protectorate. Within the Protectorate, five laws will remain sacrosanct – the practice of ‘turning’ and the channeling of the lux aeterna is forbidden, as are the blessing of arms or armors; each year three hostages, one for each month of the siege, shall be delivered to the Kingdom’s regent at his manor at Theira;  that all arms are to be bound while in the townships of the Regent, and surrendered upon request of any Regents’ officers, nor may any arms be fitted with any form of true-death magic; that the Trees are to be left untouched, neither watered nor molested, nor may any portion be carried or transported for any reason. Finally, obeisance will everywhere be offered at the arrival of the Dread-Lord and before his Standard, on penalty of death.

So says my Lord. Agree, and this host will depart to the borders on this protectorate. Refuse, and we will erase the name of Kittering from the minds of men. We would have your answer now.”

We looked at one another for a long time. Standing, staring, wondering, watching. We can see the exhaustion of our people reflected in our own faces. We can see the smoldering ruins of our homes. The death of hope, of dreams, of joy. And then one by one, we turn to face the black throne, and fall to one knee, amid the ash and the blood, before the God-King of Night.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Penance

by Lee McLeod

The heavy scent of still, old air fills the tunnel. The only sound other than the soft slapping pats of dripping water in the darkness comes from the throat of the armored figure kneeling quietly before the door of the forgotten crypt. The quiet prayer in the old High Sylvan tongue drifts through the mausoleum, “Mighty Cudgel, hear my prayer. My blood cries out from the ground, mingled with my tears. I offer you, Great Avenger, my lifeblood as my libation before your throne. Grant me justice, and vengeance to those who have wronged me. Let not my blood be washed away. Let not my life be forgotten.” A mailed hand traces over the rune-carved door, as a soft blue glow begins to emanate from the sigils.

After a few moments, the figure rises, slowly, as the sharp pain in his lower back begins to scream. He turns to leave, only to find himself face-to-face with the thief. The priest quickly pulls his cloak more tightly around his shoulders, hoping to cover the stain of the blood as it oozes through the bolt-hole punched through the back of his breastplate. The thief’s eyes narrow with a spark of curiosity, before the old familiar haughty expression returns. "I'm not planning on murdering your friend,” he says quietly, but firmly. “You might want to try to talking him out of murdering me as well."

The priest’s brow furrows as he prays silently, “may the Avenger grant me patience and wisdom,” before answering the thief’s question.

"Tell me, thief - why are you here? Why are you traveling with us? It can't be for the pleasurable company. And it can't be because you think to somehow turn a profit from these pointless wanderings. Why are you here?"

The cleric’s abrupt response seems to puzzle the cutpurse. “What choice do I have?”

“You could left us at any time - in the Dales, both Kittering and the Cotting were large enough for one like you to ply his trade, or while we meandered through the hill-country. You could have left us at virtually any point in the last four weeks, and yet you continue to tag along. Why?

"It’s obvious that you aren't trying to help the council. You can't be doing to help the sellsword or the lady, or you wouldn't be so disrespectful to their beliefs. And I’m certain that you aren't here to help me track down my contracts. But you remain. Why, after all this time, are you still hanging on our heels?"

The thief stares at the priest for a moment, brow furrowed in genuine confusion, before he shakes his head. “You were present for the "puppets and pawns" speech, right?” At the reference, images of a sand-dry voice, a visage of dry cracked corpse-flesh, and the hollow glowing eyes sockets rush into the priest’s mind.  “I've apparently been picked for this. If I had my way I'd leave and never look back, but it doesn't seem like I've got much of a choice.” His tone seems to soften momentarily.  “Besides, even if I tried to run, where would I go?

Then shaking his head to snap himself out of his own introspection, he continues. “I could ask you the same question, cleric. It's obvious you've devoted your life to the fool's errand of revenge. Call them whatever you want, but I've seen the look in your eyes whenever you talk of the men you hunt. Why tag along with the witch and that unstable hick when you could be sating your bloodlust on those you chase? Why are you letting them slow you down?”

The priest’s sharp reply cuts him off, "Then you continue on this quest because that fool of a necromancer in the clouds told you too? His ploys to manipulate us and those fools on the council are as plain as the glyphs on that wall. We are no "puppet and pawns" unless we choose to bend our will to that of a corpse-herder.

"I continue on this errand because the council, for reasons unknown to me, asked for my help. And I cannot, in good faith, refuse aid to the innocent. The lady is here of her own accord. Her journey draws her is strange circles I do not understand. The sellsword has stood beside me as a brother-in-arms more times than I can remember. We may not always agree on the means, but our ends lie along the same path."

"I am here because I am meant to be here. I am a Harrier of the Council of Prelates. They hold my commission, my oath, and my allegiance. I hunt whom they direct me, where they direct me. And in all things, I serve the Cudgel. Those who I track now are of less value than the worms we crushed under the hooves of our horses on the way here. They sacrificed all claims to humanity and all pleas for mercy when they murdered women and children in cold blood on the steps of the temple in the Cotting. I hunt them at the pleasure of the Council, but sometimes,” a small gleam flashes in the priest’s eyes, “and take pleasure of my own in the hunt.

At the words, a twinge of pain races across his features, and the thief watches him shift slightly in his stance. After a brief moment, the priest collects his composure, and continues. "But none of that answers the question, thief. Why tag along? You wish to bend your will to the mad ravings of a decrepit old bone-hag? Leave his ramblings about “puppets and pawns” aside; he is as inconsequential as the weak spells which animated those poor bodies in these crypts. His kind are parasites. Ignore him. His only power lies in his ability to manipulate weak minds. You must decide for yourself what your purpose is. Choose your own fate, discover your own destiny."

A heavy sharpness enters into the cleric’s voices as he says, "It is for you to decide the whether and the why of your traveling with us. But if you are to continue along our path, we need to come to some agreement about acceptable and unacceptable behavior, beginning with the desecration of hallowed tombs!” The sharp rasp of these last words echo softly through the tunnel as the two men stand, toe-to-toe, staring coldly into each other’s eyes.

And then the silence is broken by the soft chuckle of the thief.  “A corpse-herder he may be, but a creature more powerful than you or those you serve could ever dream of being – unless, of course, you have to power to alter time and trick people, including delusional clerics, into doing your bidding? And you did his will before without noticing. What makes you think you'd notice it now? After all, you've dedicated your life to being the puppet of the church. And I know enough about magic to understand that you and he draw some of your spells from the same place. Unless you’d like to suggest that that little trick back there, making the hobs rot from the inside out, isn't drawn from the Void?

“So you do this because the High Council asked? I'm surprised you'd do anything requested of you by a group that includes that fat baron. I am here because I was asked as well. I've nowhere else to go, and I'm less likely to be found by the fanatics of the Blood Crescent wandering around in the wilds with you lot.

The thief’s eyes grow hard.  “But I may reconsider. You claim to want only justice, and yet when your friend threatens to kill me, you don't worry about stopping him from committing murder. And you have the gall to hassle me about why I'm here? I wonder, priest, if he did murder me, would you be able to punish him as you would any other murderer? Or would your principals be decayed by your friendship?”

The thief steps back, his hand moving, unseen, from the pommel of a hidden blade. “In any case, don't worry about me. I've no wish to have to try my daggers against your friend’s swords. I'll stay out of his way. You might want to keep him out of mine.”

He then turns to head back down the dark passageway, toward the redoubt erected by the party in an adjoining chamber. After a handful of steps, he stops and turns toward the priest, shaking his head slightly. “You know, you remind me of someone I met a long time ago. He was a priest too. His only purpose in life was tracking and killing those his god wanted dead. He lived only to bring glory to his god, and to serve his will. Like you, he found purpose only in obedience to his masters, and he enjoyed his work. Truly, I can find only one small difference between you and him - you worship the Cudgel. He worshipped the Reaper.” A sardonic smile crosses his features as he turns and disappears into the darkness of the tunnel, leaving the priest standing alone at the door to the sepulcher.

Sometime later, the priest steps into the room with the rest of the party. He closes the heavy wooden door behind himself, removing a hard iron piton from his satchel, and jams it hard in the door-jam, spiking the door shut. As he turns to the rest of the group, the sellsword steps toward him, holding one of the arrows out before him. The weapon is finely crafted, the head lined with cruel barbs, designed to sink deep, to cut and rend while they remain, and to rip and tear when removed. A greasy film covers the surface of the arrowhead. His back begin to ache again as he looks at the devilish implement.

“Tormond, the lady says she’s never seen an arrow like this before. Any idea where it might have come from? Not the sort of thing hobs usually carry.”

The priest takes the arrow, turning over in his hands. "Doesn't look like anything I've seen before. Not an assassin's weapon, more of a battle arrow...but definitely not hob-make. These must have been acquired from some other source.” His mind begins to sort through the possible means and motives for supplying a band of hob raiders with such weaponry. Recovering himself, he replies, "But what about you? How are your wounds feeling? Did the healing help some?"

"Yeah, I'm doing fine. Still missing a chunk out of my leg from pulling the arrow out, though. I won't be doing that again. Thank you. I was in bad shape. Did you get hit? The shots came from the dark as I started charging so I missed what happened."

The lady’s voice speaks from across the room. “Are you alright, Brother Tormond? You seem distracted.”

He turns slightly to face the elf, and a piece of his cloak catches for a moment on broken shaft of the arrow, where it punched through the thick steel of his cuirass. The brief movement of the arrow brings and explosive of pain that arches from his side across his entire body, making him wince with pain. He coughs, roughly, in an attempt to cover his agony. "I was wounded as well, but nothing too serious. I took care of it. Shouldn’t have let them catch us by surprise like that though. Doesn't speak well of our combat prowess to get chewed up in an ambush by a bunch of hobs. Ah well, such complaints are nothing but wounded vanity, and the beasts now swim in pools of their own blood and filth. More than they deserve.” He hides another cough within a rough chuckle, before continuing.

"And everyone else, are your wounds feeling better? Perhaps we'd best bunker down for a while - rest up before continuing on." The party nods in agreement, and begins to settle down for a long rest. The priest settles himself down in a corner, groaning under his breath as he tries to sit down. He begins packing a pipe-bowl and chars it, before taking a long pull. As the smoke begins to drift around him, his mind begins to wander.

Smoke and darkness. Too confident. Too hasty. Again. He hears an echo from deep within his mind, screams and cries of anguish, fires burning. He smells the bitter tang of blood and bile, hears the hoof-beats, and everywhere the sounds of death. We should have been ready. I should…again, it’s all happening again. Struck from behind, struck from the darkness, friends crying out in pain. I’ve failed again. When will I learn to open my eyes? How much more blood must be spilt before I wake up?

As if in answer, he feels a warm trickle running down the small of his back, and a strange coldness beginning to spread from the steady ache in my side. How much more blood must be spilt before you wake up, Tormond?

Guess who's back?

Hello internet friends! After a longer than planned hiatus, I've returned! Well, sort of.

While I'm finally moved, married, and gainfully employed, I'm in the process of turning the place I live from a sterile white box into a home where humans do human things. You know, like cook and respirate. Contrary to whatever farcical expectations I began this endeavor with (e.g. painting doesn't take long, the best position for furniture is self evident, nothing will be broken) yesterday was two weeks and I still have shit to do.

However, I want to start sharing all the guest content I mentioned in my previous post. No, not the one with the blood water. The one before that. If you saw a message in the blood water, please follow your destiny to whatever dark conclusion you were promised.

This afternoon I'll run the first story I received. It's titled Penance, and was written by my good friend Lee McLeod. I'll do two guest posts a week until I run out of material, at which point I hope to have something to put up here. It could be comedy, it could be horror, it could be a tapeworm fresh from a woman's throat doing a burlesque. We'll see.

The Microwave's Ghost, Batman's Day Out, and my twitter feed will resume Monday the 2nd.

Here are some dinosaur stickers for being so patient during my drastic life reorganization:



Please do not try to peel the dinosaur stickers off your screen as you will break your computer or laptop or mobile smartphone. Sadly, technology has not advanced such that I can send glue or other adhesives through interweb code.

The best I can recommend is for you to print the dinosaurs, carefully cut them out, and then use an adhesive of your choice (or tape! there is no shame in tape!) to place them where you would like. Then you may proceed to have whatever dinosaur themed adventures you can come up with. I'm not trying to limit your creativity, but here are some suggestions:

1.) One of the dinosaurs has become lost, and the others must find/rescue him/her.

2.) It is dinosaur Christmas and they are having a party.

3.) The dinosaurs find an abandoned theme park and go exploring.

4.) A mysterious figure offers one of the dinosaurs a trip in his van, but a police officer teaches them all a valuable lesson about strangers.

Thank you.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Too Sweet To Be Sour Too Nice To Be Me

I added some crude stick figure cartoons I drew a few years ago so that this wasn't a wall of text. You can thank me by not disappearing forever while I restructure my entire life.

Hello all!

As you may have noticed, my update schedule has slipped across the board. Luckily, I have three very good excuses reasons for this:

1.) I am looking for a new job.
2.) I am moving to a different state.

And most importantly,

3.) I am getting married.

In other words, not quite the vague “I’ve got some stuff going on” I was once worried I’d have to put up here to explain delays and/or lack of content. In fact, I’m “death of an immediate family member” and “birth of a first child” away from winning Change of Life Event Bingo.


I try not to let my personal life intrude on here, insofar as that’s possible when I’m busy telling you about how my family almost killed me by “teaching” me to swim or about all the sicknesses the Neti pot didn’t cure me of. Oh, and sometimes about how fucking depressed I get. That’s pretty personal right there.

This seems different, though. It’s too much like the popular notion of a blog, in which I tell everyone about my life and all the sandwiches I eat. Wait, we have twitter for that last part now. #mundane

Even so, I figured I owed it to anyone who regularly reads what I put on here to explain what was going on.

I’m busier than I’ve ever been in my life. This makes every finals week I’ve been through, graduate or undergraduate, seem like a cake walk by comparison. (Side note: what the hell is a cake walk?) With the exception of the sad/happy day when I do win Change of Life Event Bingo, I don’t expect to ever have more things going on at the same time.


There’s no time when there’s not something with an impending deadline that I could be doing. Those drapes gotta come down. Have I checked government jobs today? I need to call that restaurant and make sure we get our catering order reserved.

In the middle of that, writing has taken a backseat. It’s frustrating but true. I’m comforted by the fact that it’s also temporary. No one plans a wedding all the time, except for wedding planners, those sick freaks. This is your life? Really? Choke on a three tiered cherries jubilee cake with vanilla bean icing.

A tangent to a tangent, wedding planning is hard. It in no way resembles what I had in my head. I expected Lord of the Rings, I got A Game of Thrones; I expected Mad Max, I got The Road.


Everything is much more complicated and stressful. For example, flowers. It’s like, “What kind of flowers do you want?” “I want red.” “There is no flower named red. Which of the available 34 kinds of red flowers do you want, in what size, in what arrangement, in wharrr raggga HRRRR GRAAAAA!”

At that point the flower lady turns into some kind of monster designed by Guillermo del Toro, one with mouths for eyes and genitalia that also function as wings. Tears of blood may be involved.

For someone who occasionally spends way more time than is rational trying to pick out salad dressing at the grocery store, or reading reviews of things like slotted spoons on Amazon, making all of these tiny decisions is challenging. There are a lot of decisions to be made, decisions that branch into other decisions like the tech tree in a turn based strategy game.


If wedding planning was as easy as researching ion engines and colonizing Beta Rygel IV, planetary class 29, I’d have conquered matrimony many months ago.

In addition to being logistically complicated, it's also emotionally involved. While the transistor radio I call a heart is only capable of feeling three and a half human emotions, all of those emotions pile on board the party bus when it’s time for wedding planning.

It’s more or less the same thing with looking for an apartment two states away and a job search in a depressed market. I have to remember not to get sick, and to try to move around or something, because everyone I’ve ever known will be looking at me in formal wear soon.

Lest I sound bitter, I am excited about all the things that are happening. The downsides of wedding planning do not translate for me into the downsides of being married. That part I am happy about beyond the telling of it. I am also looking forward to exploring a new city and finding something different to do with myself during daylight hours.


I told a friend that by October my life will be perfect, and that when she sees it in the light of the newly risen sun, she will weep tears of joy, the perfect ones where there’s neither strange hiccupping nor snot bubbles - just a single runner of saline from the corner of a perfectly moistened eye.

However, as an old farmer I just made up always says, “October ain’t tomorrow!” I’ve got a lot of month between now and then, and in that time I’ve still got to keep this thing going.

I’ve reached out to a few friends who are creative types, asking for some submissions. This place isn’t big enough for me to call it anything as fancy as “guest content”, so I’ll call it “People helping me out so this blog doesn’t go as fallow as a fictional farmer’s corn field.”


As for Batman recaps, I want to get back to regular updates. I’m not kidding when I say that I feel like I’m letting Batman down. I think he’d understand, but it really depends on which incarnation we’re talking about and which writer is filling his speech bubbles.

I know Frank Miller’s Batman doesn’t have time for my wedding shit; there’s a war on crime, on every sick necked junkie and two bit hood who thinks Gotham is a devil’s playground. I’m the devil in this concrete Inferno. I’ll dole out hell night after night, one broken bone at a time. I’m burning the trash, whether it wears a uniform or holds an office. So go ahead and have your little ceremony. Dress everything up in lace so you can forget this city is rotting.

Sorry, got carried away there. It happens.


As for fiction, there’s a lot I was working on. I’m excited about it. I keep getting new ideas, ideas that don’t care whether I have free time right now or not. They’re the chorus of voices I try to silence so I can measure my furniture or buy spackle. I’m having mixed success.

In closing, as this is way longer than I intended it to be, hang in there. I’m not done, but I am delayed.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

BEES

There are a surprising number of pictures on the internet of people covered in bees. Here are seven, but that number could easily have been seventeen or seventy. I feel I've only skimmed the surface of self-immersion in bees.







Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Slow

Does anyone else want to murder people at the supermarket?

Just grab a can of pineapple and not stop swinging until the man with the bullhorn tells you to put the weapon down? Who moves this slow without a reason? There are handicapped mosquitos trapped in amber that move faster.

I must be missing something. Maybe they have a new disability I haven't heard about because I don't pay attention to the news. Where I live the news is sports highlights that segue sans transition into yet another barn that burned down. In the almost eight years I've lived here, no one has found a way to keep barns from burning down. Additionally, no one has found a magic formula to regrow teeth, so the witnesses to said barn burnings continue to look like pale human jack-o-lanterns.

When I worked at a grocery store as a stock boy, I called the slow people "moths". They'd hover in the aisle, facing the shelf, presumably performing an incantation to find the cheapest kind of corn. I'd stand there, holding a pallet of product meant to go right where they were standing. Did the product packaging paralyze the part of their brain responsible for awareness? Was my work shirt an invisibility cloak? They must get bad reception on Planet I'm-The-Only-One-Who-Matters.

In moments of true honesty, which are rare, I realize I'm the problem. I have no patience. That's not the full picture, though; I have plenty of patience, but it's long term patience.

Long term patience is save your paycheck, gravy is not a condiment, you don't know that girl well enough to kiss her patience. I can live a successful life because I have long term patience, and I'm thankful for that.

Short term patience is what I don't have. What that means is that my brain, without asking me if it was okay, put together a list of things that should happen instantaneously. When anything on that list takes a single second longer than my brain decrees it should, adrenaline dumps into my system like I'm running with the bulls at Pamplona.

Single second is not an exaggeration. My brain is an arrogant bastard. "I move at the speed of thought," it says, "why shouldn't everything else?" Because of that unrealistic expectation, I get kicked around all day long by that high and mighty grey jerk.

If I open a tab, and Chrome gives me that spinning circle instead of the page I want...

If the light turns green, and the car in front of me doesn't slam on the gas immediately...

If I tilt my phone, and it lags as it switches from vertical to horizontal...

All of those first world problems tell my brain that it just got locked in a room with twelve naked rapists on crystal meth and it better pump out the hormones to deal with that problem. I instantly go from normal human being to normal human being trapped in a prison shower, incoherently shouting at a universe that wants him dead and defiled for reasons he doesn't understand.

There is nowhere worse for my short term patience problem than traffic.

The town I live in - burning-barn-jack-o-lantern town - has traffic that's disproportionate to its size. It takes me half an hour in the morning to drive five miles. Not hyperbole. Six minutes a mile, while an admirable target for a runner, is not acceptable for a city of this size. Los Angeles has traffic that bad or worse, but we have 3% the population they do. Again, not hyperbole - I did the math. I did the math while sitting in traffic, because it's that slow.

So I sit there, my entire being a boiling cauldron of rage, loathing, and impatience. I press the button on my gear shift repeatedly, praying to whatever god will have me that just once rockets will shoot out of the front of my car. Just once. I watch the blinking lights as they sync up, pass one another, and sync up again. I think about frequency, sine waves, and wish I knew enough physics to solve this problem.

It's too late, though- this city's streets were built by a hobo who had a bet with the Planning Commission, and by god, he won the bet - he could read blueprints while double fisting Mad Dog 20/20. Sucks to everyone who thought differently.

Sometimes, in traffic, I wonder if the streets weren't built this way on purpose, as opposed to in a drunken haze. They look kind of like a bicycle wheel from space, or maybe some kind of eye. What if they're a summoning rune, like those found in the Lesser Key of Solomon?

What if the roads, avenues, and boulevards are really the sigil of a demon lord, and the impatience, frustration, and accumulated dark emotions of a thousand drivers are fueling his advent? What if every day I participate in the dark necromancy of the transportation system, and when The Beast rises, I'll have no one to thank but myself?

I knew my impatience was going to kill me eventually.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Batman: 13 I've Got Batman In My Basement!

Batman is a DC Comics character, and Batman: The Animated Series is owned by Warner Home Video. If you'd like to purchase this episode, you may do so here; if you'd like to buy the DVD box set, you may do so here. The story was written by Sam Graham and Chris Hubbell and directed by Frank Paur.

Deep brass instruments contrast with heavy use of the xylophone to give us a score both ominous and playful. A closet door is open, the light diminishing with each step down.


The moon is high in Gotham's sky, and we pan to the world's toughest looking window cleaners. They stop on a floor with a scintillating egg and proceed to steal it with finesse. Changing out of their jump suits on a nearby rooftop, they stop to remark how easy it was.

The incantation is complete – Batman is summoned! He quips, but before he can get to disassembling criminals, a giant bird knocks him down. (Like they do.)

To read the rest, go to this page.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

In a Diner, Which is Every Diner

I look across the table at her, and she smiles at me. I smile back, and drop a too slow, overly suggestive wink. She cracks up, kicking my foot under the table. We finish our lunch in companionable silence and order dessert. A large sundae that practically swims in chocolate fudge is brought to the table, and we grin at each other like the children we are.

There is nothing between us for many minutes but the slow savoring of cheap ice cream in large quantities. Finally, I push back from the speckled Formica table with an appreciative belly pat. I close my eyes as the sugar races through my blood, enjoying the warmth of it. I feel her watching me. I enjoy that too.

When I open my eyes again, hers are on me. She looks around carefully and places one hand on the corner of her mouth. With a final circumspect glance, her pink tongue peeks out. I lean forward and cross my arms, bumping her elbow on purpose. Her spoon clinks against the now empty bowl of ice cream, the sound a tiny chime. She gives me mock disapproval under lowered eyebrows.

Our waitress appears then, and asks, “How was it all?”

My wife’s expression clears up like a sudden Florida rain. “A-mazing,” she says with a smile like a flashbulb, giving the first vowel a lingering hard pronunciation.

Yeah,” I concur. “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I trail off into the silence. I feel another kick under the table, almost a nudge.

You two,” the waitress says with a smirk and a gentle shake of her head. She places the check on the table and points at the front counter. “When you’re ready.”

All of this is lost on the people around us at the little roadside diner; all of this is lost on us.

I will never learn that my wife picked up the surreptitious raspberry from a boyfriend she had in high school; I've long forgotten that the telegraphed wink came from a college girlfriend. Faux anger she learned from her mother; the amiable elbow bump I absorbed from my father.

As we get up to leave with the slight delirium that accompanies the feeling beyond satiety, I hold her coat. She shimmies into it, giving a delicate little hop to let me know she’s situated. When she was in third grade, she saw another little girl do this when her mother held a purple parka open for her. I grab the check from the table and head for the register.

When the credit card receipt prints out, I sign it with a flourish copied from a man I saw when I was seventeen. The door jingles as I hold it open for her with one hand and make a doorman's sweep with the other, like my father's business partner used to do for clients.

Once inside the car, I fail to realize our marks on one another are as indelible as they are subtle. The idea that we are pieces of one another slips by me like the miles of lonely desert highway outside.

Our someday children might poke their tongues out in restaurants, imitating a man they've never met that used to kiss their mother. The suggestion that discrete segments of our personalities enjoy a faceless immortality, even after the initial actor is removed, never occurs to me.

I go through the rest of my life blind to the fact that these cadences and gestures and pieces are like social DNA, easily propagated. I never even dream that I and we and us together are repeatedly transmuted by the incidental alchemy of casual human contact.

Instead, I am always too busy looking at my wife’s face to discern the provenance of the motions animating it. Even now, I steal glances away from the road to watch her laugh. It is music, and in my blessed ignorance, I am the only one it plays for.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Chatting with Batman

Hey.

Hey Batman. I know you're online. Your little icon is green.





What do you want?






I can't do a recap this week. I've got to find an apartment.




Why are you telling me?






Well, I was kinda hoping you could do the recap. You know, sort of an "eyewitness" account? People would love it! All you've got to do is keep record of how many times you get sprayed with gas and knocked out. I've noticed it's been happening a lot lately.












Have you thought about covering the lower half of your face all the time, not just sometimes? It's worth thinking about.











Anyway, the Joker seemed pretty excited about the idea of collaborating with you on this. I gave him your contact info. He said he'd be in touch.




U MAD, DORK KNIGHT? lulz










Sorry everybody! New recap next week, I promise!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

April's Robot

You know what time it is, don't you? Robot time. (If the thought of robot time worries and/or dismays you, check out the introduction.) You can tell by the way April's robot uses his walk that he's a ladies man, no time to talk. As such, I have dubbed him BG-42.

BG-42, initiate stayin' alive protocol!



April's robot would hit the floor
Boombox blaring, a funky roar

Hip-hop, disco, he knows it all
Dancing now, in total thrall

He sways his arms side to side
His metal moves, bona fide

Look out now, he's coming through
the robo-bboy, BG-42



Friday, April 13, 2012

Batman: 12 It's Never Too Late

Batman is a DC Comics character, and Batman: The Animated Series is owned by Warner Home Video. If you'd like to purchase this episode, you may do so here; if you'd like to buy the DVD box set, you may do so here. The story was written by Tom Ruegger; the teleplay by Garin Wolf; and directed by Boyd Kirkland.

A lonely bullet train glides down the rail, its beacon like a glowing eye. A full orchestra gives the scene an undertone of loss.


In what must be the only quiet suburb of Gotham, a girl loses her ball near a gated mansion. Inside the house/fortress there's a newscast about a gang war. That’s the town we know!

Crime bosses Rupert Thorne and Arnold Stromwell are at war, and it’s the latter’s home that we’re in. The newscaster cuts to Commissioner Gordon, who’s of the opinion that Stromwell - the younger looking, yet older boss - is losing the fight. (I guess he moisturizes.)

To read the rest, go to this page.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

In Which Frank Wakes Up

"Spiders!"

Frank sat up in bed, blinking furiously. There was a taste like old milk in his mouth. No, that wasn't right - it was more like the rush of air from the cooler that the milk was stored in. He licked his lips to get the taste out, and came away with raspberries. No again. This was the artificial raspberry flavoring they used in candy, or lip balm. Frank felt like he should look to his left.

He did so, and found a girl there. "Huh," he thought, "that's not normally there."

The girl who was not normally there was very alert for having been just discovered.

"No, I'm not normally here," she said.

"Can you..."

"Read minds?" she asked, squinting meaningfully.

To read the rest, go to this page.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Batman: 11 Two Face, Part Two

Batman is a DC Comics character, and Batman: The Animated Series is owned by Warner Home Video. If you'd like to purchase this episode, you may do so here; if you'd like to buy the DVD box set, you may do so here. The story was written by Randy Rogel, and directed by Kevin Altieri.

We see a “previously on” clip show before cutting to the same title card. This time, the isolated xylophone strikes have unified into an ominous theme.

A Rolls Royce pulls up outside one of Rupert Thorne’s gambling establishments. In the back seat is what’s left of Harvey Dent. He flips a coin, and it lands bad side up - it’s time to dole out the punishment.

The Dent’s toothy chauffeurs kick the door down, brandishing Tommy guns. They look like larcenous versions of Howdy Doody.


The man himself walks in a moment later, pimped out in a half-white half-black suit.

To read the rest, go to this page.