The beast that lurks below

Tonight’s topic and/or jumping off point and/or random cosmic ray that hit my brain and made me say things is : my bloodthirstiness.

Because here’s the thing : I really do love to fight. For as long as I can remember, I have had this desire to grapple with others in a way that lets me express my power fully without having to worry about holding back for fear of destroying my opponent.

When I was young and dumb and full of myself, I sought this out by taking any chance I could to argue with people. Words are, after all, my weapons, and I was eager to test myself against others and find out what I am capable of and what I am made of.

As patient readers know,. I had not had much in the way of challenge in my life and, not being a born go-getter [1], it did not occur to me to go out and look for challenge, let alone cop an attitude and get all up in people’s faces in order to force them to deal with me and hopefully fight with me.

Kind of wish I had thought of it, really. I mean, I was already unpopular in school. At least if I had been a cocky teenager who thought he was the smartest guy in the world and dared people to prove him wrong, I would have been able to respect myself.

And yeah, I could do that now, but I know too much. I would know exactly what I was doing and why I was doing it, and it would be hard to escape my own judgment.

I envy people who can act on emotion without hating themselves after.

Anyhow, I had some people take me aside and teach me that there is such a thing as verbal and intellectual bullying and that I was being obnoxious and, and this is the crucial one, my desire for an argument doesn’t morally justify dragging someone else, someone who does not have my gifts, into a sparring match with me.

Even in a forum where debate is encouraged, like a college philosophy class, I have to restrain myself or be responsible for trampling over others just because, in the schoolyard of debate. I am way bigger and stronger than them.

And I am so glad I listened. I was on the verge of being really obnoxious. I had taken my first sips of the elitist Kool-aid, thinking that I was just being “honest” and “expressing myself” and that if people couldn’t take it, tough.

It’s a very seductive line of reasoning if you are someone who has been helpless at the bottom of the totem pole all your life and you are only now beginning to realize that there are realms in which you wield enormous power.

Learning the truth of my situation saved me from becoming a real asshole. And that made my ego and superego very happy.

But it made my id very sad. It had to go back into its box again. It had been denied the opportunity to express itself and grow stronger and I think that had a lot to do with the depressioin I fell into when my parents yanked me out of school.

I had just started to truly blossom – I was mid-blossom, really – when I got yanked out of the sunshine and thrown into a life where I was once more powerless and hopeless when I was in no way ready to face the real world.

How could I be when I thought I had two more years to get there?

And I think that was the gross and catastrophic injury from which I have not yet recovered. Being yanked out of school pulled me out of the flow of life and put me literally and figuratively back where I had started : living with my parents in Summerside, with no job skills and no social skills and with a depression so crippling that I was genuinely insane there for a while.

It was far more than hypochondria. I had tactile hallucinations where I felt germs crawling all over me. I had filter hallucinations where everything seemed black or red or glowing at the edges. I washed my hands ten or twelve times a day, often for five to ten minutes or more, because the moment I stopped washing them, I could feel them start to get dirty again and it felt like I was being physically violated.

I honestly should have been in the psych ward. And yet, I bet it never even occurred to my parents that it was all their fault for taking me out of universiry just so my father could retire a few years early.

All he had to do was hang in there at work for two more years and my brother and I would have gotten the degrees we’d been promised our whole lives, the degrees our sisters Anne and Catherine got. the ones that let them go on to lives far more successful than what my brother and I ended up with.

But no, he was too rotten and selfish for that. Plus, I think he wanted us back under his thumb because he wasn’t content only abusing my mother.

Not that I’m bitter.

Oh, and of course, it was only after all four of us kids were out of the house and my father only had my mom to pick on that she found the strength to divoice him.

Clearly, the safety of her four children she gave birth to was not enough. He verbally abused us on a daily basis and she didn’t do a goddamned thing to stop him.

But when it was all directed at her, well, that was different. Now it was affecting her and clearly that could not be tolerated.

How do you think that makes us feel, Mom?

If your answer was “pretty awful”, you are right.

But I bet I am the only one willing to say it.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow..





Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. More of a “stay-here-and-do-without-er, really.

At the Monster Party

Well dressed and well groomed yet somehow still looking disheveled, I greeted the guests at the door.

The first was my Social Anxiety. Always the showboat, that one. He’s tghe biggest and strongest of them and has had the biggest effect on my life. and he knows it. It would have killed him to have anyone else be first through the door.

Might have been worth it.

I greeted him like an old friend. After all, we’ve been together since I was a child. I remember when he was just a tendency towards nervous shyness.

Those were the days.

True to form, he showed off for the crowd, duing his signature bringing and covering his face and pretending to flee into the shadows. The crowd ate it up.

I knew what was expected of me.

“I’m working hard to get rid of you! ” I said with exaggerated exasperation, shaking my fist at him.  “Some day I am going to leave you behind forever!”

“Yeah yeah. ” he said loud enough for the crowd of onlookers and papparazzi outside my door to hear. “You keep saying that but I’m still here and I am still in charge. ”

“You know I am going to win. I have time on my side. You can’t hold out forever!”

“I don’t have to. ” he replied. “I only have to last until the day you die, and that’s like, what, four years away at most? ”

“Touche’. ” I said. “You look good, by the way. Have you lost weight?”

That cut him to the quick. Because we both knew he was a lot smaller than he had been in his heydey, when he had me all to himself. I might not have him on the ropes but the trend clearly favored his doom, and he knew it.

He really should have seen that coming. After all, he is part of the mind that planned it. But that’s the thing about fears :

They’re really quite stupid.

“Whatever. ” he retorted lamely, and swept into my home.

Next in line was my Claustrophobia. I noticed how badly his clothes fit, and felt a little pang of guilt. After all, it was my own mental instability that caused him to change size all the time.

“Sorry about your clothes. ” I said.

“What?” he said distractedly as he looked all around as if measuring every surface and using it to judge volume.  “Oh, right. They’re fine. Listen, your house… it’s pretty big, right? On the inside?”

I had anticipated this. “Yes, Claus. It’s as big on the inside as it is on the outside. The hallways are spacious and wide, and the balloom has room for three hundred and I’ve only invited my biggest issues, so there shouldn’t be more than 24 or so of us. ”

He smiled in gratitude and shame, but added “It’s just that,. when parties get too crowded I start freaking out and it doesn’t matter if I am having a wonderful time, I have to leave, and… ”

“Shhhh. ” I said. “This is me, remember? I understand. You don’t have to justify yourself to me. Just go on in and if you start to get uncomfortable. one of my servants will show you the shortest route out of the building immediately. ”

He smiled with great relief, and went inside.

The next guest bristled with resentment and paranoia. No, he wasn’t my Rage… he’s far too big and malevolent to fit in any home.

It was my Social Damage, and I knew he’d make things difficult for me.

“So this is a real party?” he asked.

“Yes, SD. ” I replied. I’d anticipated this too. “It’s a real party with people who came here to have a harmless and peaceful good time. ”

“Who’s here?” he said. “There better not be anyone who wants to beat me up. ”

“Trust me. ” I reassured him. “The guest list is very small and I only invited guests I trust to be able to control themselves for an evening. I guarantee that you will be safe inside, and if anyone gets out of line, they will have to answer to ME, and this is MY party inside MY mind, and nobody is going to spoil everything by being mean tonight or they will face my wrath. 

He pondered that for a couple of minutes. “So you’re saying that you will beat up anyone who tries to hurt me?

“Absolutely. ” I said with rock-solid. certainty. ”

“Well okay. I guess I’ll go in. ” And, glowering, he cautiously went inside.

Next up was my Inner Accountant. “How much is this costing us? ”

“Nothing. ” I replied. “It’s all in my head. All it is doing is stretching my imagination a little more than my usual blog posts. ”

He scowled. “Are you sure we can afford that? ”

“Positive. ” I said. ” We’re running at a substantial surplus, remember?”

“Still. ” he said crakily. “Must I remind you that everything in the universe is finite and there’s never enough of anything and to waste any amount of anything ever is the worst sin possible and means you are a big stupid idiot who doesn’t deserve anything?”

I rolled my eyes. “No, you don’t need to remind me, because you have never stopped telling me for twenty years!”.

“Well when I stop, you forget!” he said accusingly, wagging a finger at me.

“God forbid. Now please, go inside. I’ve got plenty of optimization exercise inside to keep you busy for a while. ”

“Really? Wonder what the optimal way to solve them is…. ” he said, and entered.

And so it went, guest after guest. There was the kaleidoscopic shimmerimng mist that was my Mental Instability, the emaciated child that represents my Lack of Nurturing, the over-friendly horrifying  insectoid that is my Alienation, the frazzled hen that was my Overdeveloped Sense Of Responsibility (screaming “Their PAIN is all your FAULT!” like usual. “: and all the rest.

In fact, I was just about to go inside and shut the door when a quiet yet bonechilling voice said “Haven’t you forgotten someone?”

Slowly, I turned around and looked down at a five foot man dressed in simple black and wearing enormous mirrored sunglasses that, for some reason, I was too scared to look into for more than a second.

I glanced at my guest list, then at him. “I’m sorry, and you are…?”

“You know who I am. ” he said, in a voice as cold as the tomb. “I’m you. I’m your fear of yourself. Your power. Your strength. Your vision. Your intellect. I am the part of you that knows how much damage you can do unless you are very, very careful all the time. ”

“I see. ” I said. “I don’t recall inviting you. ”

“Since when do I need an invitation? ” he asked.

And we locked eyes for a long, long minute.

But eventually, I turned away and let him inside.




Victory of the White Wizard

“I warn you, ” said the White Wizard to the Young Duke, ” that any harm you visit upon me will only make me stronger. ”

The Young Duke sneered with contempt. He had a lot of plans for the old man and none of them involved making him stronger. “We’ll see about that, old man. ”

“Indeed we will. ” said the White Wizard. “Because despite my warnings, you will be unable to resist doing that which will doom you utterly. ”

“Screw you, old man. ” grated the Young Duke. “I do what I want. ”

“Exactly. ” said the White Wizard. “And that is what will defeat you. I will leave you with two gifts : the first, a prophecy : you will know I have won when you come for my eyes.

“Pure rubbish. ” said the Chancellor Exchequer. “Why are you even listening to this peasant’s lunatic ramblings, my Duke?”

“They amuse me. ” said the Young Duke. “And the second gift?”

“This symbol. ” said the White Wizard. He waved his hand and a coat of arms featuring a dragon with the tip of its tail between its teeth appeared above the gate of the White Palace. “Its meaning will become clear, and yet you will not heed its warning. You are not capable of it. ”

“Don’t you…. ” started the Young Duke. “No. I will not let you bait me. Not when I have triumphed over you and you are powerless against me. ”

The Young Duke took a few steps back from the gate, and eyed the symbol critically. “You know, I rather like this symbol. I think I will make it the coat of arms of my new kingdom. So much for your childish parlor tricks, old man. ”

“So much. ” said the White Wizard. “And so little. ”

“I tired of your babbling. ” said the Young Duke. “Guards, take him away. ”

And as the Yong Duke’s brutes led the old wizard away, the tiniest seed of doubt found root in the Young Duke’s mind.

Why hadn’t the old bastard fought back? Everyone knew the old man commanded powers beyond mortal comprehension. He could have brought down fire from the heavens, or summoned the Ice Gods from their frozen plane, or invoked demons so terrible their very names could drive men mad.

But he’d done nothing. Nothing at all. He had surrendered the White Palance without using so much as a single cantrip.

Why was that? the Young Duke wondered.

Because he is old and weak and stupid and knew he could not prevail against my might, the Young Duke angrily told himself, and swept that thought aside in favour of a far more pleasant one.

It was time to start the Interrogation.

And so it came to pass that the Young Duke began his rule over the dominion of Altarr. Soon, his men has swept over the entire land, and within a forthnight, all of Altarr was under his rule.

And everywhere his men went, they met no resistance. The peasants were as passive and impassive as their wizard-king. They simply watched as their homes were burned down, their crops ransacked, their cattle slaughtered for feasts, and their women ravished by these delirious men.

Ravished. But not raped. Because the women offered no resistance either.

And this unnerved the men, though none would admit it. After all, they were getting everything they had been promised by the Young Duke, in abundance. Before long even the lowliest tinfoot soldier was living like a king, and day after day was spent in orgiastic feasting at which no pleasure was forbidden and everything they could have ever desiree was theirs for the taking.

Before long, the soldiers became bored, and goaded one another into ever larger acts of barbarity and cruelty. Each act only made the fires of madness within their eyes roar ever higher. and it was not long before they turned on one another and made war with inhuman abandon on their fellow soliders in order to secure the paltriest of rewards.

Six months after the invasion, every last one of them were dead. The last two warlords had fallen on one another like demons and cut each other to ribbons with the fearsome weapons they had ordered the peasants to make them.

There was a victor. He died from the aftereffects of all his earthly indulgences within minutes of his triumph.

And the whole time, the peasants did nothing but watch. And waited for the last of the soliders to die.

Then, they began cleaning up.

Things went no better for the Duke  at the White Palace.

First, he had tried to sack the castle. But there was nothing to sack. No treasuries stufffed with goklden treasures. No armories stocked with hundreds of mighty weapons and impenetrable armors. No libraries full of ancient tomes and dark secrets. No mighty beasts chained in dungeons deep ready to smash the enemies of those whom they served. No host of spectral servants to serve the whims of the castle’s owners.

There wasn’t even a single magic candle.

Everything in the palace, from the kitchen to the parlor to the White Wizard’s own royal chambers, was as plain and ordinary as could be. There was nothing there that you could not find in dozens of homes throughout the kingdom. Even the White Wizard’s crown was nothing but paste jewels affixed to simple polished tin.

The Young Duke knew that this made him look foolish, and that his men were laughing at him behind his back.

It has to be a trick, thought the Young Duke. Some kind of trap the Wizard had left behind to make any conqueror look foolish for wanting the Palance for themselves. This wasn’t the real White Palace. The real one was hidden away somewhere, awaiting a word from the palace’s master to spring back into splendor and majesty.

Thus began the real Interrogation. The White Wizard was starved, tortured, denied sleep, denied water, beaten, dragged, burned, battered, and even dismembered in an attempt to get him to reveal the palace’s secrets.

And through it all, even the most fiendish of tortures devised by the most expensive torturers from lands both distant and dark, the White Wizard offered no resistance whatsoever. He did not so much as cry out in pain or beg for mercy or even spit bloody defiance in the Young Duke’s face.

All he did was watch, and endure.

And as the torments grew in severity. so did the Wizard’s crystal clear grey eyes grow in the mind of the Young Duke. They grew and they grew until it seemed like they would devour the world and the Duke with it.

And as those eyes grew, so did the Duke’s madness. Nobody was safe from his frequent blind rages. People who had been nothing but selflessly loyal to the Young Duke for their entire lfes were burned alive and screaming in orderer to slake the Duke’s bloodthirsty rage. Faithful retainers who performed vital functions in the castle were seized upon by the Duke’s madness and made to perform wicked parodies of ther official functions while the Duke laughed like a demon at their suffering. Even the loyal beasts of the Duke’s stable and menagerie were victims of the roaring inferno that blazed within the Duke’s madness-shattered mind.

And all the while, the symbol above the gate, and all the copies that graced the Duke’s every shield, banner, and tablecloth slowly changed. At first, the dragon had merely nibbled the tip of its tail. Then it devoured it. Then it began on it tail itself, and the more it ate, the hungier it looked and the brighter the flames of that self-same madness burned in its crazed eyes.

“We’ll be in real trouble when it eats its own asshole. ” one soldier had joked.

The joke spead fast and wide, but the further it spread, the less funny it seemed, until by the time it reached the outermost provinces of Altarr, it wqas said in hushed tones and with a air of deathly inevitability.

Finally came the day when the Duke was alone in the castle because everyone who had served him was either dead or had fled. It had been weeks since the Duke had slept and even longer since he had eaten. He was skeleton-thin and lifeless except for the insanity which burned bright in his eyes. And he mumbled desperate nonsense wherever he went as he mindlessly roamed the halls of the White Palace.

And then he found himself in the White Wizard’s cell, with a dagger in each hand, staring into the eyes that had tormented him so, wanting nothing more than to cut those eyes out of the Wizard’s head so they could curse him no more.

But he couldn’t. Because all he had lost, the Wizard had gained. The White Wizard now stood strong and tall and handsome, the very picture of purity and health, his every pore radiating clean white light that made the Duke feel filthy and horrible by comparison.

The Duke dropped the daggers to the floor with a desperate cry, and the White Wizard reached down to embrace him gently, and pull the Duke to his chest, where the Duke cried in long, wracking sobs.

“Hoiw do I do it?” he implored. “How do I escape your gaze?”

“You already know how to do it. ” said the Wizard in a voice of great compassion and understanding. “You have always known. ”

“No really… ” begged the Duke. “please tell me!

And the Wizard looked upon the broken and defeated Duke, and then, with great kindness, said “You can go to Hell. ”

The Duke looked up at the Wizard and a smile spread like dawn across his face. He nodded, and in a flash of pale red light, disappeared.

And the Wizard knelt down, and began to pray.





The Further Adventures of Barny

The Barnacled Hermit (or “Barny”, as the media persisting in calling him). glanced nervously at the sky as he followed his blessedly familiar path around his tiny asteroid.

Technically, there was no need to do this. The signaling station maintained itself flawlessly. It was also entirely redundant as the signals it was designed to monitor weren’t merely obsolete, their entire spectrum had been replaced by a new technology called Modlar that made the station seem as absurd and ancient and primitive as communicating by tribal drum.

The station was, therefore, of merely historical signifigance, and to be honest, Barny had, technically, stolen it.

he was at least honest enough to admit that to himself and to not pretend that he had some noble purpose for it or that it was somehow better than all that newfangled quantum entanglement nonsense.

He needed it because it helped him feel sane.

He’d done a lot of crazy things for that reason.

Like search the galaxy tables for an asteroid identical to the one on which he had been stranded seven hundred years previous.

The original, of course, was now a religious site to which tourists flocked to visit the Shrine of Shimmering Purity (home to the Barnacled Adventists) and/or the Beacon of Life Temple (the separate but still technically in the same building headquarters of the Staff of Life/Circle of Birth cult).

Barny wouldn’t dream of going within a thousand light years of that place. It was embarrassing enough when he had only one religion founded in his name and purporting to espouse his beliefs and carry out his agenda.

But to have there be two? Two that constantly squabble over brutally tiny details like which part of the building was higher and therefore closer to God and whether their religious symbols were first on the “all religions welcome” sign?

That was more than any being should ever have to take.

Besides, large parts of their doctrines were mutually exclusive, so if Barny showed up and said practically anything, it would be interpreted as endorsing one side or the other and he’d end up being accused of heresy.

Even worse, the other side would then be hanging on every word their new spiritual said so they could add it to their holy scriptures.

And there was no way his programming could handle that level of responsibility.

That’s why he was now walking an unnecessary route around a hilariously obsolete signaling station on a very, very expensive asteroid with an even more expensive cloaking system that made it invisible to absolutely all known methods of detection in the known galaxy.

He just couldn’t take it any more. He had to escape. It had cost him most of the vast fortune he had unwillingly accumulated over the centuries to do it, but now he was as safe from the huddled masses as he could could, so it had all been worth it.

Nevertheless, he watched the skies with paranoid intensity, convinced that despite all the measures he had taken, some kind of spaceship was going to land in front of him one day and say “At last! Joyous Day! The Second Finding has come! We’re going to take you to be our leader!. ”

The fact that he’d been forced to improvise some babble about “going on a spiritual journey to find the true source of all meaning” before he disappeared did not help the situation at all.

He’d had no idea the effect that vague nonsense would have on the human mind. Instead of writing him off as a useless cipher like he had thought they would. it had driven the humans into a frenzy of speculation and projection of their own agendas onto his words, and made them all the more determined to find him again in what was now universally called the Second Age.

And all from a string of spiritual sounding words he’d made up on the spot in order to dodge a determined looking interviewer.

There was so much he would never understand about humans.

Not that his fellow robots were any better. Sure, they vehemently denied that their “Research Societies” and “Study Institutes” and “Foundling Universities” were not, in way shape or form,  religious institutions, Barny wasn’t fooled.

He knew fanaticism and worship when he saw it.

After all. he’d been the victim of it enough times.

So now he spent his days in the only place where he felt sane, or at least, where he felt the least crazy.

If you are honest with yourself. there is only many times you can check the sky for something you know, logically, cannot be there and still consider yourself sane.

That’s why when a vehicle actually did appear. he hadn’t noticed right away. There had been, shall we say, false positives many times before, and he had gotten into the habit of discounting anything he thought he saw up there unless it gave him a clear, unambiguous sign that it was here to stay.

This it did by landing, rather sloppily,  directly in front of him and disgorging what had to be the ugliest human Barny had ever seen. The man (?) seemed to be made of warts, scars, and clump of unwholesome looking hair.

This should be a good one, thought Barny, who had become somewhat of a connisuer of hallucinations as of late.

The “human” glared at Barny with insect-black eyes for a few minutes. then waddled aggressively up to Barny and glared at him some more.

Dqarny was impressed with himself. He wouldn’t have thought he had the imagination to creature such a thoroughly repulsive creature. but obviously, he had.

The “man” walked around an utterly fascinated Barny like he was appraising Barny’s value as livestock and wasn’t too impressed. At least, that’s what Barny thought those grunts and half-enunciated words meant.

And then “he” said the words that would once more shatter the Barnacled Hermit’s world and make him have to rethink everything all over again.

“So who the hell are you?”.


The long dark Christmas of the soul

You’re lucky. I almost called this entry “Smiling on the razor’s edge of oblivion*.

In fact…. what the hell….

Smiling on the razor’s edge of oblivion

The jester points a gun at his head
The clown ties a noose
The life of the the party sets his hair on fire
The gentle giant sucks on a fuse

The merry-maker makes out a will
Hey Buddy! You’re driving too slow
The happy guy ties his posoned tie
The ringmaster bleeds into snow

Another show, another piece of myself
I laugh as I watch it go
And sooner or later, there’ll be none of me left
And then, with a bow, I shall go.

Don’t worry, I am not suicidal.

But writing that made me feel better.

Perhaps my real p[roblem is that I never let my demons out into the world. My therapist keeps telling me that I should use my dark thoughts in my writing. Maybe in horror stories. He is probably right.

Might as well get some good out of them.

But first. I would need to get over my fear of abandonment. I have a terrible, soul-wrenching fear that if I am anything less than totallyh entertaining to people, they will awake frfom my spell and realize how horrible I am, and flee from me forever.

Not true, of course. But I believe it nevertheless, because some feeling cannot be overcome by logic, evidence, reasonability, or even self-interest.

They are too deep for that. Logic and reason can only access beliefs that are based, at least in part, on logic and reason.

The really deep stuff is not, and is thus inaccesssible to these powerful instruments. People believe what they need to believe, even when it’s not what they want to believe, and for me that means I find it very hard to believe that anyone wants me around.

Instead, I feel like people resent my being around at all and can’t wait for me to leave so they can go back to the wonderful world where I don’t exist and they will never ever have to deal with me again.

“Oh, thanki God that HE is gone! I could not have put up with one more minute of that guy. I seriously would have gone insane. ” 

“I know. He’s lucky he’s so pathetic. Otherwise I would have told him to fuck off ages ago. But that would be too much like kicking a puppy. ” 

“A smelly puppy who thinks everyone loves it, maybe. But yeah. Can’t stand thje guy but I could never tell him that. It wojuld be too sad. ” 

“Yup. Guess we’re stuck with him, then,. ” 

“*sigh* Yeah, I guess so. At least until we move. ” 

Ladies and gentlemen, the voices in my head.

I guess this is the year I finally give up on Xmas. I have very little Xmas spirit in me this year. In fact I am dangerously close to hating the whole fucking thing for making me feel a lot worse than usual because I am so… god damned… alone.

I mean, where does this holiday get off, making me feel horrible? It’s just some arbitrary date nowhere near Jesus’ actual birthday.

I mean we’re in Capricorn right now, and He was clearly a Pisces. The compassion, the understanding, the gentleness, the foot fetish…. it’s like really super clear.

I mean, what’s next, thinking Mars is a Leo?

But I know that, in my heart of hearts., I could never turn my back on Xmas and become one of those bitter humbuggers who treat the holiday like a bitter ex-lover.

Xmas is too me for that. All the love, family,. togetherness, compassion, open-heartedness, gentleness, and giving are totally my kind of thing. If I could invent a holiday it would be one a lot like Xmas.

But with sex.

So I might have to harden my heart against it a little in the future just to keep myself safe on these dark nights. Close some doors to keep the darkness out and thus stay out of the Bad Place where everything is dark abd cold and I can’t see or feel anything or anyone and I feel so alone that I just want to give up and leave.

But when it’s life you are trying to escape, there is only one way out, and it’s that door marked Death. And that door can be very tempting sometimes.

And that is what’s so scary about it. If it was not seductive with all its lies about how it will end all my suffering and how I will feel so much better after,

But I won’t, because I will not be here to feel anything. And it would make so many people sad if I were to die, and if it was by my own hand that would devastate absolutely everyone who knows me.

And I could never do that to them.

Suicide is such a selfish thing to do.

So I will keep going, for them and for me. Keeping going no matter what. That seems to be a speciality of mine. Trudging eternally onwards. sometimes slowing, sometimes resting on my feet. but never actually stopping.

Because iuf I stopped, I might never get going again. That’s been my fear for a very long time. That somehow, if I let it all go. I will lose all my powers and end up in the same position but without anything at all to offer the world to justify my existence.

Better to be a failed wizard than just some asshole with a sad life story.

Of course. that’s an insane thought. My gifts come from inherent strengths, not some program I have been running and hacking since birth. If anything, a cold reboot would clear a lot of useless resource-sapping background programs out of the working mameory and let me booot fresh and clean.

Now if only I could find my reset button.

Then I could finally get rid of all the static in my mind.

But then I would have to actually deal with things.

And that’s thje scariest thought of them all.

I will talk to you nice people tommorrow.

Oh, and merry xmas, everybody. I love you all/.


Part One : The Awakening

The thickly built human (male, according to Styment the Guide’s learned opinion) staggered out of the Chamber of Miracles,  looked around blearily, and eventually managed to focus both eyes on Stymentat the same time.

Time for the speech. “Greetings, O Great One, and welcome to the world of Adadrizel. You have been Chosen by the Great God Amazuzu to be the Champion of our Age. My name is Styment, and it is my duty, and my pleasure, to be your guide as you assume the mantle of the One Who Saves Us and lead us unto victory over the forces of Slamma the Vile! ”

“Uh huh. ” said the human, weaving unsteadily.

“You are no doubt disoriented from your journey from the Other Realm!” said Styment. “Please, sit, and collect thyself,. for the road ahead is long and it is a poor traveler indeed who grows weary when the roadside is soft!”.

“Yeah okay. ” said the human, who sat down heavily upon the cool stone bench, and rubbed his forehead in an attempt to clear his mind.

Eventually, he said “Dude…. are you some kind of…. ”

“Lizzard? ” said Styment. The Scrolls of Welcome had prepared him for question. “Yes, I am. I think I most closely resemble a beast from your realm known as a croc-o-dial?”

The human peered down at the sleek reptilian creature and said “I guess so, yeah, Or a caymin. Ours don’t wear clothes and read, though. :Last time I checked. ”

The Scrolls had mentioned this possibility, too. “I understand that, Great One. However, unlike your mindless beast, we Hyptillians are creatures of learning and understanding, much like you, and-”

“Wait!” said the human, suddenly fully awake and alert. “What did you just say? ”

Styment repressed the urge to cower at the enormous being”s loud, commanding voice. It was one thing to read about the towering might of the humans and quite another to experience it in person.

“I said that we Hyptillians are-” began Styment.

“That’s what I thought you said!” said the human in a voice so strong it made Styment want to wedge himself into a crack in the rocks. “Amd what did you call yourself?”

“My name, ” said Syment somewhat primly, “is Styment the Guide, and if you-”

“You mean, you’re Styment the Sixteenth…. no. Seventeenth of the Order for Guides, the third born child of House Tzo’s third clutch, and the current occupant of the House of Green Glory in Aspenvale?”

“Um…. yes?” said Styment. The Scrolls had said the hero would be “possessed of strange knowings”  but he’d always assumed those knowings would be otherwordly.

“And you’re here to help the Hero of the Age… who is me… tap into the Deep Magics and unleash the hidden powers that are my birthright?” said the human.

“Er, yes. ” said Styment. Now it was if the human was reading off the Scrolls himself.

“And I am really standing in front of the Chamber of Miracles, just outside Aspenvale, in the duchy of Duower. in the fief of Tolard the Red, which is part of the Prvince of Alran which is part of the great Tovian Empire?”

“Yes… sir. ” said Styment. He’d never been so scarewd and confused in his life. This was not at all how the Scrolls said it would be. ”

“And I am really the Champion of the Age, Hero of the Forest Peoples, and Wielder of the Great Sword Slizen?” said the human.

“Yes!” said a trembling Styment.

The human leapt to his feet, raised his fist to the sky, and at the top of his lung, shouted “ALL FUCKING RIGHT! ”


Styment silmultaneously wet himself and passed out.


“Dude, I am really, really sorry. ” said the human as he crouched over a prone Styment and fanned him with a leaf.

“It is…. me…. who should apologize, my Hero… ” hissed Styment weakly. “I should have… I mean, the Scrolls said to be ready for… ”

“Nah dude. It’s all my fault. Everyone knows Hyptillians are super sensitive to sound, and kind of… um, high strung. ”  said the human.

“Stilll, I should not have… succumbed to the… the… ” said Styment.

“Shh. ” said the human. “Don’t talk. Just relax and sip your Tormac Tea amd relax. ”

Styment dutifully took another sip of the thick orange liquid in his cup. The tea really was exactly what he needed right now, and the human had brewed it perfectly. It was rich and delicious and he could feel his fluids replenishing.

Here he was, the one who dared call himself Styment, the occupier of one of the Forest Peoples’ most prestigious roles, whose wisdom was called upon by the leaders of all of the Peoples’ leqaders and who was so beloved and respected that a single word from him could topple nations, and where had all that led?

To him laying helplessly on his back on a broad flat rock with the very Hero he was supposed to be Guiding tending ot him like he was fresh from the egg.

It was the most degrading, humiliating, and emasculating failures in the entire history of the Peoples of the Forest.

So why did it make Styment so… happy?

Stment sghed into his tea. Nature writhes, as the old saying went, and just when you think you have glimpsed its belly, it rolls over and flicks its tail.

“Well…. look, I am going to check out the area. ” said the human. “Are you going to be okay on your own for a while?

Styment nodded weakly. A strange warmth was flooding his senses, and it seemed to want him to do something.

“Great! I won’t be long. ” said the human. ” I just want to see if the maps in the back of the books are accurate. ”

Some vestige of his trainign stirred in Styment., and he summoned all of his remaining energies to say “By…. by what name shall we know you, Great One?”

“My name? ” said the human. “Oh, I’m Steve. Steve Abracian. ”

But there was nobody there to hear it, because Styment was already asleep.


What they know now

Bria called it the Cold Place.

Danu called it the Wall of Ice.

Stevie called it the Freezing Dark.

And so forth and so on, all around the cafeteria table affectionately known as “Siberia” because of how far away it was from everything else.

All six of them had a name for it. That place their parents went to when asked certain questions or when certain topics came up. It was like they were frozen in a trance for a couple of seconds. Then they gave their teenaged children a very vague answer before icily telling them to mind their own business because “he hates nosy children”.

And they never said who “he” was, either.

The worst thing to do, they all agreed, was to ask them where they had been or where they were going.

That not only got the freeze reaction but the parents replied by asking their teens a series of very pointed and suspicious questions about how they were doing in school, how popular they were, and what kind of friends they were making among the “people who might be able to do something for them in the future”.

“Wait…. ” April had said, “does anyone  here has a GPA below 4.5?”

Not a single hand went up.

“Why do you ask? ” said Anika.

“It’s just… listen, does anyone here remember that Tilly-Amberson girl?” said April.

“The girl with the buck teeth and the horse laugh?” said Stevie.

“Oh yeah, I remember her!” said Danu. Her name was Mercedes. She was in my advanced biochem class for a little while. Sharp as hell and destined for greatness, as my father would say. ”

“Oh yeah!” said Bria. “She sat with the power nerds. I knew her enough to say hi in the hallway but that was about it. Whatever happened to her, anyway?”

“Yeah, where did she go? ” said Danu. “One day she was up front and kicking ass in class, and the next day she was just… gone. ”

“I heard she moved away. ” said Bria.

“Yeah, but from who?” asked April.

Bria shrugged. “I don’t know. Someone. ”

“Was it someone who knew the family? Or a friend?” asked April.

“I don’t know!” said Bria. “I don’t remember, okay? God, what is WITH you all of a sudden, April. Are you on the rag or what?”

“Yeah, April. ” said Danu. “Like, WTF? ”

“I’m sorry, Bria. It’s just that… I am starting to freak out here. And that girl is at the center of why. Because I know for a fact that she did not move away. ”

“How could you know that? ” asked Danu.

“Because… look, you know the Lewiston Outlet Mall?” said April.

Everyone nodded. It was one of those places you couldn’t avoid if you were a kid in the area. Sooner or later, one or both parents would subject their kids to a very boring three hour drive to the Outlet Mall just so their parent(s) could make them try on a zillion school outfits before deciding to get them the same boring crap everyone else was subjecting THEIR kids to.

“Well a couple weeks ago my Mom dragged me there because she had some kind of meeting at the Howard Johnson next door and figured we needed some ‘girl time’. ”

“Oh, gross. ” said Anika, with feeling.

“Yeah, I know, right? Anyway, right before the meeting, she shoves a hundred bucks into my hands and tells me to go shopping, and later, we’d compare our ‘hauls’. ”

April replied to the group’s blank looks with “You know…. like in haul videos?”

Everyone groaned. Another adult trying to be ‘hip’.

“I swear, parents shouldn’t be allowed on the Internet. ” said Danu.

“I know, right? ” said Bria. “it should be like, ‘Here’s your beautiful baby girl. And the form you need to fill out in order to get Internet access back when she graduates from college. Congratulations, and goodbye. ”

“Anyway…. ” said April pointedly, “my point is that she gave me money and told me to go shopping. And I wouldn’t be caught dead in outlet mall clothes, so I went to the Salvation Army across the street. And you know what I found there?”

“Old clothes that smell like pee? ” said Danu.

“Old PEOPLE that smell like pee? ” said Bria.

“An old person peeing on clothes? ” said Anika. Then, when everyone was staring, she said “What? I saw it happen once! It was totally gross!”

“I did not need to know that. ” said Stevie.

“Was it a man or a woman? ” Danu asked Anika,

“Does it make a difference!?! ” asked a shocked Bria.

‘It had to be a dude. ” said Danu. “An old woman would have to climb on top of the clothes and squat, but an old dude could just whip it out and… ”

“GOD, Danu! Why are you always so gross?” said Bria.

“Because you’re extra cute when you’re grossed out, my goddess. ”

Bria hmphed and turned away from him. “Whatever. ”

“God, FOCUS, people! ” said April. “What I found was all of Mercedes’ clothes. And I mean ALL of them. ”

“You mean… like, even her underwear and her accessories?” asked Bria.

“Yes!” said April. “AND her jewelry! It was all there!”

“How did you know it was hers?” said Stevie.

“Because I helped her pick out every single item. ” said April. “She came to me one day and said she really liked how I dressed and wanted to get some tips. ”

“From YOU?” said Anika.

“Isn’t that like asking for typing lessons from Helen Keller? ” said Bria.

“Oh ha ha, guys. ”  said April, grinning. “Bitches, all of you. Anyhow, so I gave her some tips and she liked them and then she asked me to come over to her place after school to help her pick clothes out of a catalog. ”

“Whoa, red flag. ” said Danu.

“What? ” said Stevie.

Danu used his ‘street smart’ voice to say “Never go over to someone’s house when you don’t know them that well. It’s not normal. Weird things are bound to happen. ”

“Weird things like what? ” asked Anika.

“Yeah, we need the deets. ” said Bria.

“You know…. weird things. ” said Danu uncomfortably.

“Now you’re being weird. ” said Bria.

“No I’m not!” said Danu, now squirming in his seat.

“Super weird. ” said Bria.

“Wait… ” said Anika. “Does this have anything to do with why you don’t hang out with Mark any more?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. ” said Danu weakly.

“You’re right. ” said Bria. “They used to do everything together. Now it’s like they live on different planets. What happened, Danu?”

“Yeah!” said Anika. “Why’d you two break up?”

“BREAK UP?” said Danu hotly. “There was no breaking up! Because there was nothing to break up! We were just friends!”

“Holy shit, dude. ” said Stevie. “Chill. ”

April cried out in frustration. “Come on, guys! Pay attention, this is important! ”

“What, there’s more? ” said Bria.

“Yeah there’s more!” said APril. “Now are you guys gonna listen?

Everyone nodded. They had never seen April like this. Normally she was a perky bundle of fun, But today she looked like she hadn’t slept in weeks.

“Good. Because it’s what happened next that is freaking me out. I bought a couple of Mercedes’ old things that I had always liked, and then met up with my mom and showed them to her, and she FREAKED the fuck OUT!”

Shocked silence. Had April ‘The All American Cheerleader’ Templeton just said ‘fuck’?

“She grabbed the stuff away from me like it was radioactive and screamed at me to tell her where I got it, and when I told her it was the Sally Ann from across the street, she acted like I had just come out of a crackhouse with fresh tattoos! She said she never thought any daughter of hers would ever go to a Salvation Army for clothes, and that if I needed more money all I had to do was ask, and that she was really disappointed in me for being friends with a ‘loser’ like Mercedes in the first place. ”

“Wait, what?” said Danu. “She said that?”

“Those were her exact words. ” said April.

“What? ” said Bria.

“And you hadn’t told your mother about her before that?” said Danu.

“Never came up. ” said April.

“Oh shit. ” said Stevie.

“WHAT? What are you people talking about? ” demanded Bria.

“Bria… how did she know the clothes came from Mercedes?” said Stevie.

“Oh… shit. ” said Bria.

“That’s super fucking creepy. ” said Anika.

“FUCK. ” said Danu, standing up.

“What is it, Danu?” said April.

“I just remembered the last thing Mercedes ever said to me. ” said Danu. Sweat dripped off his face and his hands were trembling.

“What? ” said Bria. “What did she say?”

“It was right after the advanced biochem mid term. I aced it, naturally, and asked her how she’d done. She showed it to me… B+. Would have been an A+ but she had misread the instructions on one of the sections. No big deal… a lot of people didn’t understand the instructions. ”

Danu paused and took a deep breath. “I looked at her and she looked like she’d just seen a massacre or something. Then she looked me in the eye and said… she said.. ”

“C’mon Dan. ” said “You can do this. What did she say?”

“She said…. ‘my parents are going to kill me when they see this. ‘”

Silence fell like a guillotine as everyone took that in.

Everyone turned when Brian cleared his throat.

“Hey, Brooding Brian!” said Danu, far too cheerfully. “You’ve been quiet this whole time. Tell us what you’ve got to say. ”

“I think.. ” he said in his slow, intense voice. “I think I know where they took her. ”

“You do? ” said Anika. “Where is it?”

“It’s this old bomb shelter on some property my Dad owns. ” said Brian. “I go there when I need to be alone. It’s very quiet and calm and peaceful. I like it there. ”

“Sounds nice. ” said Anika dubiously.

“What makes you think she was taken there? ” said April.

“Because the last time I was there, someone had left a huge mess there.” said Brian, voice quavering. ” And not like… a normal mess, like if people had been drinking there or whatever. It was more like… all these brown stains on the walls, and the whole place smelled like copper and chlorine, and there were all these pieces of what looked like pale white porcelain on the ground. ”

“Was it shaped like bones? ” April asked.

Brian shook his head. “I have no idea. I didn’t hang around long enough for a good look. Some kind of instinct must have kicked in because one second I was in the shelter and the next I was running like hell down Longacre, more scared than I had ever been before in my life and feeling like the top of my head would blow off if I stopped running for even a second. ”

“Holy shit. ” said Danu. The rest nodded in agreement.

“It wasn’t till I got home that I realized what I had seen. ” said Brian. “I tried to pretend it wasn’t what it looked like but that didn’t last. My body knew it had smelled death. It just took a while for my mind to accept it. ”

“I’m having trouble with that too. ” said Bria quietly.

Silence for a few long painful ticks of the clock.

“Danu?” said APril. “Did you drive to school today?”

“What? ” said Danu. “Uh, yeah. Why?”

“Because we’re going to go out there and take a look at this shelter – together – and figure out what the fudge is going on in this time.” said April. ” And you’re the only one with a vehicle that can carry us all. So you’re going to drive us there. ”

“Um…. okay. ” said Danu.

“And when we get there. ” said April. “We stick together, okay? Nobody is ever left alone, not even for a second.”

“What do you think is going to happen to us, April?” said Stevie.

“I don’t know. ” said April. “But everyone says my grandmother was a witch, and sometimes I just kind of… know things without knowing how I know. And right now, I know that something really dark is happening in this town… and I know that whatever it is, we will find it at that shelter. So tonight, we ride with destiny. ”

To her surprise, everyone agreed.


Under the spatula of life

Today has been rough,

I;ve had one of my sleepy days. The days that make me feel like I can’t truly wake up. The days that strand me in a freezing fog that clings to my mind like like a leech and makes it hard to think and even harder to do stuff.

The days that make me feel like I am being squashed face-down against the frying pan by the spatula of life.

And the thing is, it sucks, but not in a direct and obvious way. It’s not like I am in pain in the same way I would be in pain if I had a headache or my depression had gotten really bad. That, at least, would be an identifiable enemy.

But no, it’s this invisible odorless untracable fog that permeates everything and makes me feel like I am completely alone in the world (good thing I know it’s just a busted antenna) and that reality, for me, is a distant and shimmering image that could, at any second, disappear forever, and then where I would be?

Locked in the hell of my own mind… the ultimate form of being buried alive.

I cling to reality, despite my poor relationship with it. I always feel like I am on the edge of losing all connection to it and ended up in a hellish land called Catatonia.

I have no idea if these fears have any rational basis. I suspect they do not. They made sense up till the day I turned 26, because up till then schizophrenia and/or psychosis were still a possibility.

A remote one – the only markers I had of the disease were that I was intelligent and creative – but still a possibility.

But I am 44 and way past the age of onset for that kind of thing. I suppose going crazy (okay, crazier) is always a possibility…. especially if I live long enough to be in the dementia zone – but I highly doubt I will actually go crazy.

No matter how tempting it seems sometimes.

Holding myself together takes so much stress and energy. It would feel so good to just let go and stop trying to make sense of things and just do whatever crazy fucking thing pops into my head.

And who knows. Maybe giving up on filtering out the crazy thoughts and blocking their access to the controls would be the best possible thing for me. Maybe all that would happen is that I would go a little  nuts for a little while but then I would find the natural structure of my psyche and put myself back together in a way that just hangs together on its own withing my need to constantly pump energy into it just to keep it together.

But I can’t take that risk. Not if I want to continue to live the life of a free (ish) human being. Because I know I have a lot of dark impulses and if they got access to the controls, I would end up in jail for doing something that is not merely heinous but utterly unthinkable to most of humanity and hence rather evocative and memorable.

Taking all my clothes off and walking through a mall is a mild example.

The darker ones would get me arrested just for thinkling them, to be honest.

Let’s just say that I am a man who has a lot of untapped rage and a lot of unmet needs and when those two combine, anything is possible.

Speaking of unmet needs, my libido has been strong lately. That’s largely a good thing. Horniness is very life-affirming and draws me closer to connecting with my id.

And the better I connect with my id, the more whole and happy I will be because I will be – and feel – truly alive.

I have been a ghost for far too long. It’s time to take substance and live a little.In realtime. Without time to think things through. Just going for it.

My libido in increasingly driving me to desire contact with others. This is, presumably, the drive that makes teenagers’ crotches drag them to all kinds of opportunities for potential hookups and perhaps even love.

I’m not used to that sort of thing. My mind has blocked absolutely every impulse that would lead me out into the world – and that’s most of them – for so long that feeling this active desire to get into this whole “sex that involved other people” thing that I have heard so much about feels strange and alien.

At least I am lucky enough to be a gay man. There are a lot of options for me to get no strings attached sex. There’s bath houses, hookup apps, craigslist, some portions of some parks from what I have heard… you name it.

But none of those modern conveniences solve the fundamental problem of social anxiety and that is being terrified of people you do not know.

People we know well don’t trigger the anxiety. Familiarity has reduced their stimulus value down to safe levels. We know and trust these people. All the feelings of judgment and rejection being resented and horrible and awful stay in their cage around familiar people. Even when they aren’t great people, at least they are known quantities.

But strangers are the opposite of that, and make all those bad thing break free of their cages and have a fucking party in our minds.

It’s easy to get lost when all that is going on, and ending up wanting nothing more in this world than for that terrifying stimulus to GO AWAY.

And when that terrifying stimulus is a person, things get real frigging complicated.

But who knows. Maybe with a little practice, I could learn to let the lust lead and shut down the social side of things and only concentrate on getting off.

And getting him off too, of course.

After all, I’m a Canadian, and hence too polite to be selfish in bed.

Just putting that out there, fellas.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.






NaNoWriMo 2017 : Back to Normal

The rough-hewn man with the stubbly face was visibly nervous as he stood at the lectern. Sweat dripped from his forehead and rolled down the back of his neck, and he was the mottle white color of a man who just might puke.

He cleared his throat noisily, and stammered a few times before managing to croak out, “My name is Rick. ”

“Hi Rick!” said the rest of the group.

“And I’m a… that is I think that.. uh… ”

The group waited, patient and supportive.

“…and… and I miss the Before times!” he said,

“We do too!” said the group.

“I told you so, Rick. ” said Daniel, whose turn it was to lead the group. “We all feel the same way. You don’t have to feel ashamed when you are here. Nobody is going to treat you like a heretic for wishing the Confrontation had never happened. ”

He stopped, and corrected himself. “Had never NEEDED to happen, that is. ”

The group nodded.

“All because of that one fucking creep. ” said Teague as she nervously combed her long russet brown hair.

“Yeah. What a fucking psycho. ” said That Blonde Girl Sarah, who had chosen that name herself and seemed quite proud of the fact.

The group mostly called her Blondie.

“If I ever get me hands on him…. ” said Louis, punching a hairy knuckled fist into his palm over and over. “I don’t care if people think he’s ‘reformed’ and ‘doing well’ and ‘saved us all in the end’. Fuck that. He ruined everything. ”

“Nothing is the same as it was before!” lamented Bernie the Octegenarian.

His wife Esma nodded. “They say it is. They say that it’s the same only better. But it’s not the same and it’s not better at all!

“Everybody knows too much now. ” said Blondie.

“They know who they are and who they were and who… or what.. they were in between. ” said Daniel sadly.

“How can things be the same when you know so much?” said Esma.

“I…. had no idea other people felt that way. ” said Rick. “I thought I was the only one. You have no idea what it means to be to hear you say those things. ”

“Oh trust us, honey. We know. ” said Teague.

“But I bet none of you were….  I mean, you couldn’t havce been… ”

The group looked to Daniel.

“So whaddaya say, Danny boy? ” said Bernie. “Is it time for our little strip tease show? ”

“Yup. ” said Daniel. “But build up slow, okay?”

“That means I’m up first. ” said Teague.

Teague stood in front of the Lectern. “Now watch closely, darling, because I am only going to do this once. Okay? ”

“Okay. ” said Rick.

Vibrantly green leaves swirled around Teague, and when they receded, there stood a tall willowy Elf, who looked back at Rick with a sullen and arrogant glare.

“My name is Alexander Arrowfall. I’m the strongest hunter in my tribe. I lead the raids agaist the Killers of Trees and fight to drive them from our lands. ”

“And this his who you were… before? ” said Rich. The beefy man seemed less nervous now. But he still looked like he might bolt.

“Indeed. ” said Alexander.

“Okay. ” said Rick. “That’s not so bad. You’re pretty normal. You’re pretty cool. ”

“So it doesn’t bother you that in life I am a woman but in the Before I was a man?”

“Uh…. ” said Rick nervously. “I guess… no, I guess not. Must happen a lot, I guess. ”

“It does. ” said Teague as she turned back.

“Should I go next, Dan? ” said Louis.

“Sure thing, Lou. ” said Daniel. “But remember the loincloth, okay? This is not the jungle. We wear clothes here. ”

“Yeah, yeah. ” said Louis. “Geez, I only forgot that one time, give a guy a break. ”

“Once was enough, trust me. ” said Esma, with a girlish giggle.

Louis ignored her as he concentrated, and in a moment, he was a seven foot tall Tarzan type with a strong jawline and a look of savage cunning in his brown eyes.

“Not bad, eh? ” said Louis in a voice that would make James Earl Jones sound effeminate. “Ladies love it. ”

“One in particular. ” said Esma.

“Don’t bring that up, honey, you know that will only make her show… ” said Bernie, then threw up his hands as he heard the purring. “And it’s already too late. ”

A lithe leopard was rubbing against Louis’ leg and purring like a kitten in a sunbeam.

“Oh, I get it. ” said Rick. “You’re like Tarzan, right? Everyone knows Tarzan. ”

“Kinda like that, yeah. ” said Louis as he stroke the leopard’s head and grinned as the big cat rubbed its face against his arm.

“Well that’s not embarrassing at all. ” protested Rick.

“And who’s that with you, Jungle Jimmy?” said Esma.

Louis smiled even bigger, and as he did, the leopard wrapped around his leg and flicked its tail up high.

This gave Rick a glimpse at something he must have seen… he’d had cats all his life, after all, and some of them were female… he’d even been there when they’d had kittens… but it’s kind of different when the cat is that big and… and…

And that was most definitely a lady leopard.

“Why this here is Sheena. ” said Louis amiably. “She’s my girlfriend. ”

Rick covered his eyes. “Holy crap, put some pants on that… god.. ”

“Pants on a cat? ” said Daniel. “Now that would be silly. Still, Louis, you should have known better. If I known you’d be bringing her, I would have made you go last. ”

“Sorry, Danny. ” said Louis, his grin getting even wider.

“Like hell you are. ” said Blondie goodnaturedly. ” You just like showing her off. ”

The leopard was now rubbing her entire body against Louis’ arm like she was trying to shimmy up his torso.

“Well can you blame me?” said Louis. “She’s gorgeous.

“I think that’s more than enough, Lou. ” said Daniel.

Louis nodded, whispered something in Sheena’s ear, then kissed her on the head. Then, with a soft poof, he was back to normal.

“Well…. ” said Blondie, “since the cat is already out of the bag… ” said Blondie, to a chorus of boos and a shower of thrown paper.

“Now before I do this, Rick, I want you to clear your mind. ” said Blondie. “This can get… pretty intense, and the clearer your mind when you experience it, the faster you will adapt to it and the less confused you will be by it. Can you do that, Rick? Do you know how to clear your mind? ”

“Sure. ” said Rick. “It’s not like there’s a lot up there to clear in the first place. ”

Everyone laughed. Blondie said “Then look away until you see the flash, okay?”

Rick dutifully looked away. The first thing he heard was silence. The second thing he heard was a noise like a door creaking open. And then he heard a subtle sound like a distant conversation, which grew in volume and complexity until it turned into utter cacophony, which suddenly resolved into the most beautiful music Rick had ever heard. Music against which there could be no defense. Music that would melt the heart of the fiercest of music critics and make music lovers out of the most tone deaf of Philistines.

Then there was a multicolored flash, and Rick turned to look.

And look. And look. And keep on looking,

Because what he saw was far too much to take in all it once.

Where Blondie had been was a sphere of scintillating, pulsing, coruscating colors that blended and combined in transfinite combinations. Within the colors were shapes that underwent constant topological transformations of dizzying complexity. Rick’s mind was filled with the scent of tropical blooms in full riot and a taste like the best parts of every kind of fruit flavour dripped onto Rick’s tongue. The vibrations of the music permeated every cell of Rick’s was

It was beautiful.

It was cosmic.

It was orgasmic.

It was beauty in its purest form.

Soon Rick looked away again and puts his hands over his ears, and was just beginning to curl into a ball when Blondie reverted back.

“It takes some getting used to. ” she said.

“You can get used to that?” said Bernie as he mopped the sweat from his brow.

“What WAS that? ” said Rick.

“Beauty. ” said Daniel. “More or less. ”

“But it was… so MUCH… ” said Rick. His head was spinning as the colors continued to flash before his eyes, first as abstract shades, then as flickering images, then as kind of a kaleidoscopic slideshow.

“Too much, I know. ” said Esma sympathetically. “You should be ashamed of yourself, little Blondie. You should have toned it down a little for this young man. ”

Blondie shrugged. “It’s who I needed to be, ”

“Now listen, you cheap showoff, I ought to… ” Esma began hotly.

“Now now, Esz by dear. ” said Bernie. “You know how you get. Daniel, don’t you think it should be our turn now? ”

“Yup. ” said Daniel. “I want go last. ”

“You mean, after us? ” said Esma. “But our show is so blue… oh, but with you it’s… oh. Okay. We’ll go next. ”

“Now you have to understand that by the time we were added to the system after that lev accident… ” began Bernie.

“One wire goes sphitz, and SMUSH!” said Esma matter-of-factly.

“ had been a long time since this beautiful goddess and my humble self had been able to get, er, intimate… ” continued Bernie. ”

“Too dry and too soft. ” added Esma.

“..and when we were younger, we had always been a fairly, er… passionate couple… ” continued Bernie with a sidelong glance at his wife.

“What? ” said Esma.

“,,,so when we found ourselves in young bodies with all of the powers of the System at our disposal, we had a lot of er, catching up to do… ”

“What my erudire husband is trying to say, ” said Esma, “is that we fucked like bunnies.”

“My wife, the articulator. ” said Bernie with a chuckle. “My darling, where would I be today without you?

“Probably still trying to finish asking me out. ” said Esma.

Bernie laughed. “So what you are about to see, my young friend, is the miracle of lovemaking expressed uninhibitedly, and that might… ‘

“…might put you to sleep if we don’t get at it soon!” said Esma. “plus all this sex talk has given me the itch, ”

“Duty calls!” said Bernie.

The two vanished and were replaced by a mighty stallion (rampant) and a strong and sturdy chestnut brown… cow.

“What, you want to do bull and cow? ” said the Bernie-stallion.

“Nah, you’re right, mare and stud is more dramatic. I will switch. ” said the Esma-cow.

Esma’s form shimmered and suddenly she was a massive marbled mare.

The two were quickly conjoined, and fucked like a couple of wild animals (sic) right in front of Rick’s lectern. There was much whinnying, pawing at the ground, and banging of barn doors. Rick watched, eyes glazed.

“Very impressive. ” he said when they were done. “Reminds me of summers on the family farm when I was a kid. ”

“Pfff. ” said Bernie. “the kid’s seen it all before. That’s no fun. ”

“We should have done something like blue whales or elephants. ” said Esma. “That would have knocked his socks off. ”

“Or done someone of that queer butt stuff you like so much… ” said Bernie.

“Some of what now? ” said Rick.

“Finally. ” said Daniel. “we come to me. ”

Daniel flickered, then reappeared as a child whose curly brown hair and strong nose made it clear that it was still Daniel.

“So this is it. ” he said. “Ta da!.”

“But you’re just a kid. ” said Rick. “What’s so weird about that?”

“Think about it. ” the boy said softly. “Where do you think I was on the night of the Confrontation? And what form do you think I was in? ”

“That one?” said Rick. “But everyone was uh…. doing grownup things… ”

“So was I. And so were a lot of the other ‘kids’. But you have to believe me… there are no actual children in the System.” said Daniel.

“Just adults who maybe need to be kids for a while to work through some stuff. ”

Daniel shifted back. “So now that you have seen all our dirty laundry, do you feel ready to tell us what you were? ”

Rick shrugged. “It would be way easier to just show you. ”

And with that, Ricky disappeared, and something else took his place.

And when everyone saw it, they gasped, then laughed, then cheered.

But that’s a story for another time.




The end of it all

First of all, I must convey this message from Mother Mayhem :

Hello, my beautiful children. It’s your Mother Mayhem. And I’m here to tell you that while NaNoWriMo has ended, our stories have not. There are many more tales to tell of life in the System, and rest assured, more will be told. Until then, remember that I love you, I’m proud of you, and you are truly beautiful. 

I’m still working out what, exactly, I am going to be doing with my time now that I am not, technically, obliged to write 2000 words of prose a day,.

I want the energy to keep going. I’ve been a happier person than usual in the last month. Having such a potent outlet for all those words in my head has been good for me. I feel like some of the messy fog in my head has gone away, perhaps because it was no longer needed. The word-pressure in my mind has slackened and I really do not want it to return to pre-November levels.

And there are so many questions I have not yet answered. Who won, the Black Star or Sun Pony? What’s the family that forgot to arm their alarm before going on vacation doing during this big old orgy?[1] What’s up with the Barnacled Hermit? What was his homecoming like?  Was he overjoyed or did he get freaked out and hide again?

Amd for Shor’s sake, how the hell does a genderless robot get laid?

I said everyone had amazing sex, and he’s definitely one of the 217, so he had amazing sex too. But how?

I don’t know yet but it will involve the word “dongle”. Of this, I am certain.

And so forth and so on. I need – on a personal level – to write satisfying conclusions to all the dramatic threads I have left dangling.

And besides, I have grown quite fond of many of my characters. Even poor Eegee. It’s not his fault that he’s insane with a particularly nasty form of Borderline Personality Disorder. And with help from Eric and Bumper, he will get better.

As long as I write it that way. And I will.

And what happened to Tiny, Slipper, and Wembley after they got rich and famous? What did they do with the money? How did they handle being a seven day sensation and then being forgotten?

And what do robots spend their money on, anyway? They don’t need food, water, or rest. They do not need homes as humans would define them. They have almost none of the passions that drive human beings to do what they do every day.

So what would they spend it on?

Very fancy metal polish?

And what of the Four Cool People Who Travel Together? Did Tammy react with horror when she learned about what a bitch her “friend” had been when she was playing Tammy’s character? Did it make things “weird” with the other players?

And what does one do with several tons of dead dragon, anyhow?

And so forth and so on.

So I refuse to abandon my pet universe. I will add conclusions to all the storylines eventually. And of course, in a world made of fictions, there are an infinite number of possible stories to be told.

As shared universes go, it’s a rather flexible one.

By design, of course,

And I promise that I will provide an explanation for how the System came to be and what happened to it after the operator died and so forth and so on.

But not for a long time. There’s too much fun to be had before then.

As for the nature of the project itself, I feel that I did succeed in writing only the sorts of things I enjoyed writing.

That didn’t magically turn it from “work” into “play”, of course. That’s a myth peddled by big corporations and greedy universities and desperate guidance counselors.

Life is work. There is no escaping it. Life takes effort and focus and doing things you would rather not be doing. You have to invest your energies in life with no gaurantee of a solid return on your investment.

The real mistake in modern culture is that people think that “work” is the opposite of “fun”. As if having fun was something the universe owed them and therefore it’s some kind of injustice that they should have to do anything in order to get it.

It’s school that does it. The modern North American model of education is so poorly designed that it teaches people to divide their lives into the good part, where you can do as you please, and the bad part, where you have to do things whether you want to do them are not.

And anyone who actually wants to do those things society deems to be “work” is told by society that they must be some kind of brown-nosing pathetic geek with no life.

This thoughtless division of life into the good part and the bad part is very injurious to people because it excludes the possibility of working very hard and having a lot of fun at the same time.

And it’s totally doable if you only open your mind up to it.

In fact, I am pretty sure that it’s the best of all possible ways to live.

Aaaaanyhow, my point – I think – was that writing is always work. It takes sweat and toil and sacrifice and commitment, just like everything else in life that’s worth doing.

But I also had a lot of fun while working hard at the writing. I wrote a lot of stuff that I think is pretty good for a first draft, and it feels good to have something that I can hold up and say “See? I did something with my life!”.

The question now is whether I can take the next step and actually do something with all the good stuff I have written. It will require a great deal of proofreading and polishing before it is presentable, and that will require a lot of work that I do not find fun at all.

But I can’t let go off all my new people.

So I guess I will have to do it.

I’ve missed talking to you nice people. This was good. And of course…

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.


Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Don’t worry, the answer will not be scary or gross. For now, just know that there are no children in the System. But there are plenty of people like Karlo.