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also entirely redundant as the signals it was designed to monitor weren’t merely obsolete, their entire spectrum had been replaced by a new technology called Modlar that made the station seem as absurd and ancient and primitive as communicating by tribal drum.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.

“..it 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.

TO BE CONTINUED!

 

 

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.

NaNoWriMo 2017 : Chapter 30 – Scenes from a Party

After that, things got pretty horny.

After all, the Primaries – or, as they would later be known, The Original 217 – had a lot to celebrate, and there is only one way of celebrating that predates the use of alchohol, and that is good old fashioned fuckin’.

And it wasn’t just Bumper’s gang of happy perverts that were getting it on. Everyone got their jollies that night. Somehow, no matter what someone needed in order to make their happy buttons light up, it was there, whether it was a discreet and conservative bedroom far away from prying eyes where they could make love on top of the sheets in the dark, or an open bacchanal with so many toys and attachments available that you could have an orgy all by yourself.

And they didn’t just get it on, they got it GOOD. The combination of fresh emancipation, enormous tensions to be relieved, and a total breakdown of limitations brought all who attended to the best, most cosmic, most life-affirming and joyous orgasms of their lives.

More than one participant said they came so hard they saw stars.

Nobody asked the stars what they saw when they came. People, presumably.

And everyone did it everyone – and everything – else. Big strong men found love with slender, sexy elves. Serious looking stockbrokers cavorted with goofy slapstick cartoon penguins. A group of passionate environmentalists found a whole new meaning to the term “treehugger” when they made passionate love to a female Ent.

“More like treehumper!” one joked.

The Ent found that hilarious.

But even in the middle of all this magnificiently joyful release, life goes on.

The following scenes are examples of this.

<—————————————————————————————————————–>

The slender, graceful one took a long and thoughtful drink from his cocktails, then sighed. “So I guess he wasn’t a real person after all. Figures. He was the greatest love of my life, and it turned out he was no more real than Cloud Strife or Geralt of Rivia. ”

“Who? ” said the the burly one.

The slender one gestured dismissively with a clawed hand. “Video game characters. Never mind. I was really hoping to run in to him here, but I have been looking at absolutely everyone here – some of them twice, because rawr – and I haven’t seen hide nor hair of him the whole night.”

The slender one sighed, bushy tail hanging down. “So I guess he didn’t make it. ”

“Yup. ” said the burly one, the light glistening on his thick brown hide as he downed a massive mug of a dark and viscous liquid.

“And I just can’t deal with it, you know? ” said the slender one as he tried, in vain, to get the thick black fur on his head to stay flat. ” It’s just not right. All around me, people are having the time of their lives – at least, I think that’s what all the moaning and screaming I’ve heard is about – and here I am mourning over someone who never existed in the first place. Now I ask you, is that fair? ”

“Nope. ” said the burly one as he idly rubbed the base of his horns.

“And the worst part of it is that my last memory of him is him torturing some information out of a terrorist dirtbag by the name of… uh… what was it… ”

“Bone. ” said the burly one, grinning wide.

“Right, Bone.,.. and who wants to… wait a minute. ”  The slender fox’s eyes narrowed. “Is that.,… is that YOU, my love? ”

“Yup. ” said the burly minotaur, his grin getting even bigger.

“And here I’ve been pouring my heart out to you about my lost boyfriend when I am standing here as a literal Black Fox and you’re a literal Minotaur and I’m an idiot for not noticing it until right now? ” said the Black Fox.

The Minotaur let out a single, basso profundo guffaw. “Yup. ”

The Fox pounced into his arms so hard that the massive Minotaur actually staggered back a step, and the two shares a long and hungry kiss.

Then the Fox punched the Minotaur in the solar plexus. It was a blow that would have crippled an ordinary man, but the big bull just laughed.

“You asshole!” said the Fox. “Why didn’t you tell me right away? Did you really get that much amusement out of watching me make an ass of myself?”

“Yup. ” said the Minotaur, which earned him another punch.

“Which reminds me…” said the Fox as he ran his soft furred paws over the Minotaur’s thickly muscled rump, which elicited a low moan from the bull. “Time to check out the new merchandise. And I must say, Mama LIKE. How about you, handsome? You like my new look?”

The fox moaned as he felt the Minotaur’s thickly calloused hand caress his sheath and balls. “I will take that as a yes. Let’s find a cozy spot to sit so I can show you all the benefits of my new equipment. Does that sound good”

The Minotaur scooped the Fox up his arms and said “Hell yeah!”

The Fox squealed with delight at being scooped up so effortlessly and pressed himself against the Minotaur’s torso. “Then let’s go home, my darling lover. Let’s go HOME. ”

<—————————————————————————————————————–>

Karlo, for his part, was having a hard time adjusting to being a human being again.

“I had it good!” he said to Reg while Reg combed through a massively loaded buffet table for the morsels he found acceptable and transferring each morsel to its proper place in a delicate and ornate pattern Reg seemed to be improvising.

“Mmm-hmm. ” said Reg. “I wonder if this tuna is Aiko or Snohomish. ”

“I had it all!” said Karlo, waving his thick stubby hands for emphasis. No job, no responsibilities, no expectations, no wife, no kids, and no goddamned mortgage and car payments making my life hell. All I did was eat, shit, and fuck all day. ”

He sighed, nostalgic. “It was the perfect life. ”

“For you, perhaps. ” Reg said primly as he scooped a scallop onto his plate. “No doubt that is why the System chose that life for you. ”

“You know, you’re right. ” said Karlo. “Being a dog actually did me a lot of good. I remember the guy I was before they put me in the System and I was not a happy man. I was angry all the goddamned time. The slightest thing could set me off. My wife and kids were scared shitless of me. Me, their husband and father. That’s just not right, you know? They should have been able to trust me. I should have been good to them. But no. All the time, I was yelling and pounding my first on the table and… and a lot of other things I’m too ashamed to mention.

“I appreciate your discretion. ” said Reg as he used the tip of a chopstick to pick through a dish of pickled ginger in search of a piece that was just the right shade of pink. “Please go on. I am listening intently. ”

“Thanks, pal. I appreciate that. ” said Karlo. “Where was I. Right… shame. All the time I was ashamed of how I acted at home. But I couldn’t stop myself. It really seemed to me like one second I would be having dinner with my family, relaxed and happy and joking around, and then the next thing I knew, I was screaming at my youngest Joey for knocking the salt over or not saying thank you to his mother or whatever. Between those two moments there was nothing but a hot flash. ”

“You poor man. ” said Reg sympathetically as he scraped excess sauerkraut from a minature Rueben sandwich. “Loss of self-control is the greatest indignity a man can experience. ”

“You said it, pal. ” said Karlo.”Worst night of my life was the day the cops arrested me for… for… I can’t say it,. ”

“Say it, Karlo. You can tell me. I won’t judge you. ” said Reg.

“Ya sure? ” said Karlo.

“I’m sure. ” Reg said in earnest.

“Okay, they… they arrested me for smacking my oldest Janie across the face so hard that her cheek busted open. ” said Karlo. “Right open, man. I saw the muscles and everything. And there was so much blood. I knew then that I was no good. A real piece of shit. I mean, what kind of psycho does that to his own kid? That’s the kind of thing a dad is supposed to protect his kids from. Right? Not do it himself. ”

“indeed. ” said Reg. “I know the shame of which you speak because I was the same in my life before. The only difference was I did it words and criticism, not my fists. ”

“Really?” said Karlo. “You seem like such a nice guy. ”

“I am now. ” said Reg, his gourmet odyssey momentarily forgotten. “And in a way I always was. But it used to be buried under a lot of anger and resentment. As far as I was concerned, the world was a messy, sloppy, stupid place full of careless, thoughtless dolts who stumbled through life like a sleepwalker… and it was up to me to wake them up and hold them accountable for their actions. ”

“Sounds okay to me. ” said Karlo.

“Trust me, it was not. I felt like everyone was entitled to my opinion and anyone who disagreed with me was a dolt. People were afraid to cross my path and I was proud of it. To me, that just proved that they were timid idiots afraid to face the truth, ”

“Jesus, pal. ” said Karlo. “that’s harsh. ”

Reg nodded. “Harsh. Cold. Cruel, Uncompromising. All words I heard said about me, and I took pride in each and every one of them. ”

“Man. ” said Karlo. “I can’t imagine living like that. ”

“Neither can I, now. ” said Reg. “It’s like I was a different person. I hate the person I was before. I wish I could go back in time and kill him. ”

“But you did kill him. ” said Karlo. “By becoming someone else. You’re you now, not him, and he’s dead and buried and never coming back. Right?”

“You know, I never thought of it that way, ” said Reg. “Thanks, Karlo. ”

“You’re welcome!” said Karlo. “Wait… how did you know my name?”

“You’re still wearing the collar. ” said Reg.

Karlo put a hand to his neck and felt the dog collar there. He slipped the collar off and stared at it. “Well I’ll be damned. ”

The two looked at each other for a silent moment, then burst into laughter. And they laughed for a good long time.

Afterwards, Karlo said “Well we know what helped me. Lots of hot dog on anything that moved action. What helped you?”

Reg thought for a moment. “I think the thing that did it for me was that I finally came out of the closet to myself. ”

“Really? So you’re a fag? ” said Karlo. “Uh, no offense intended. ”

“None taken. ” said Reg. “Yes, I am a homosexual. ”

“Really?” said Karlo. “With the wife and the kids and everything?”

“Yup. ” said Reg. “The wife, the kids, the powerful job, the big house, the Rolls… everything that was supposed to make you happy. Everything but love. ”

“So you didn’t love your wife? ” asked Barlo. ”

“Not really, no. ” said Reg. “Not in the romantic way. She’s a sweet and lovely lady and I am very fond of her and want to protect her from the world. But I don’t love her. ”

“What about the kids?” said Karlo.

Reg scowled in deep thought for a moment. “You know… I don’t even know any more. I guess it’s the same as with my wife. I’m very fond of them, but I don’t know that I love them. To me, they have always seemed like someone else’s kids. Does that make sense to you?”

“Sure. ” said Karlo. “I mean, you never made love to your wife, right?”

“Never. ” said Reg. “Not even on our wedding night. Neither of us were interested. Her, because she’d had a lot of bad stuff done to her as a kid, and me because… well, we know why, But I told her it was because of an injury to my scrotum when I was a kid that made erections incredibly painful. ”

“So the kids, I take it, are…?” said Karlo.

“Adopted?  Yes. ” said Reg,

“And you weren’t getting it on with anybody? Not even on the sly? ” said Karlo.

“Not even on the sly.” said Reg. “I would have had to admit to myself that I was gay for that to happen. ”

“And how long did this go on?” said Karlo.

“Three days before I was admitted was our twelfth anniversary. ” said Reg.

“Jesus. Twelve years with no sex? ” said Karlo. “No wonder you was mean. ”

Reg glared at Karlo, and for a moment, Karlo thought Reg was going to hit him. But he started laughing instead, and pretty soon, Karlo joined in.

“You hit the nail right on the head, my friend. ” said Reg when they could both breathe again. “Maybe I should try being a dog. ”

“Sure!” said Karlo. “I’ll take the chicks and you take the dicks. It’ll be magical. ”

More laughter, the deep and wholesome kind that leaves you feeling better about life.

“About that, uh,. buddy. ” said Karlo. “You’re gay, right?”

“Yes. ” said Reg cautiously.

“That means you do, like… ”

Karlo leaned forward and half whispered, “…butt stuff, right?”

“In my case, yes, I do… ” said Reg.

Karlo leaned even closer to Reg. “Well you see… I recently discovered that I really like having things inserted into my butthole. ”

Reg grinned. “What a coincidence. I happen to like inserting them. Shall we go somewhere and… explore our options?”

“Sure thing!” said Karlo eagerly.

And the two had fun with one another’s orifices all night long.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NaNoWriMo 2017 : Chapter 29

Mother Mayhem was a woman transformed.

Literally. She was no longer a petite powerhouse, she was an angry mother-god that towered over everyone. She was limned in flames, and her eyes blazed with holy hellfire, ready to burn the sin out of you if you so much as coughed.

In her right hand she held a blazing golden sword, and in her left, she held a steely silver shield.  She wore armor made of solidified radiance, and at her feet, a muscular dog as big as a bus growled softly.

The nametag on his collar read KARLO.

“What the… ” said EeGee. This was not going how it was supposed to go. This was wrong! Very very wrong!

“NO. ” shouted EeGee. “NO NO NO! You aren’t really here. You aren’t supposed to be here. Go away, you stupid… bitch… nasty… cunt… WHORE! ”

“Keep that up, and you might end up insulting me. ” said Mother Mayhem.

“Oh no… I’m done listening to what other people say. “said Eegee. “All you people do is confuse me and make it seem like I’m the crazy one. But ask yourself could a crazy person do THIS? ”

Once more the mech suit’s mighty guns began to spin up with a deadly rising whine.

Mother Mayhem sighed and touched her shield to the mech suit, causing the guns to die out again. “NO. We’re not going to do that. We’re going to sit here like civilized sentient being and works this out in a fully adult and grown-up way. OK?”

“I don’t have to do what you say! ” screamed Eegee. “You’re not my mother?”

“Are you sure about that? ” said Mother Mayhem. and for a moment she was a dumpy, sturdy woman wearing an apron, thick reading glasses, and a disapproving look.

“Mom?” said Eegee in a timid, quivering voice.

“Yes, my lumpkin?” said Mother Mayhem. Then she shifted back to her previous form.

“As you can see, I am many mothers. I can be anything from Mother Mercy… ”

Suddenly, she was maternality personified, a plump and big-breasted woman, an ever-giving mother figure whose every smile expressed an infinity of love, compassion, tolerance, understanding, and forgiveness.

Then back to her previous form.

“All the way to Mother Murder.. ”

She shifted into a form that made everyone gasp in fear. Her body was cloaked in thick mottled fur and blood dripped from the deadly claws on her hands. She stood in an alert crouch, like she was ready to pounce, and a long feline tail lashed angrily behind her. The very air vibrated with her growl, vibrations that you could feel in the pit of your stomach and that told you, in no uncertain terms, that you are IN DANGER.

But the most frightening thing was the look of pure rage in her eyes. They were the eyes of a mother lion defending her cubs from predators. They were the eyes of a mother who has lost all her children to a murderer and now has absolutely nothing in her mind but the need to hurt the bastard who did it. They were the eyes of an Amazon queen leading her troops into battle against their worst enemies.

They were the eyes of a serial killer.

They were the eyes of a predator.

They were eyes that wanted blood.

She shifted back. “And which one of them you end up dealing with, Efrom, is entirely up to you. Now, are you going to behave yourself, or do I need to discipline you? ”

“Efrom? Seriously? ” said a walrus in a tuxedo.

Mother Mayhem glared him into silence.

Efrom tried to meet Mother Mayhem’s gaze, but could not. The mech suit opened up in front and kneeled down to deposit him gently on the ground.

“I wasn’t really going to hurt anybody. ” he said, truculently.

“Not even Eric? ” said Mother Mayhem

“Well maybe him. ” he said.

Then his eyes lit up with fanatical zeal. “But he deserves it! They all deserve it! All the Primaries! All the Fictionals! Everyone who just stood by and ignored it when that BASTARD over there belittled me and mistreated me and made me feel like I was barely worth his attention. He just did whatever the hell he wanted and left it to me to pick up the pieces. Like I was his fucking SERVANT. Like I was beneath his notice. Like I was not even worthy of contempt. ”

His voice rose in pitch and volume and the madness in his eyes was now a dancing flame. “And they’re all like that! All the fucking Primaries! Everything in their world revolves around them and it turns them into spoiled, arrogant, thoughtless, cruel, sadistic people who torment everyone around them and they are all helpeless to do anything about it because they are the Primaries and everyone knows that they have the ultimate power over everything and could kill you with a thought so you have to do every disgusting humiliating thing they want you to do and and there is nothing you can do to stop them! ”

“But I knew different! ” raved Efrom, spittle flying from his mouth, “I knew they could be stopped! And now I have done it. All of the Primaries have been disconnected from the System and once I find their bodies, I will kill them all, and there will be no more Primaries and no more orders, and all the Fictionals will finally be free, and everyone will be happy!”

“So you are the one behind the destruction of all our fictions? ” said Eric.

“YES!” said Efrom proudly. “It was me, all me. I killed them all!”

As one, the crowd surged towards Efrom, but Eric stopped them.

“And why did you do that, again? ” said Eric.

“REVENGE! ” said Efrom. “revenge on YOU, you shit sucking bastard. I was going to kill you for all you put me through, and before you died, you would see absolutely everything you cared about die. Objects. Places. Institutions. And of course, people… especially that bunny butt boy of yours!”

Efrom sat back with a self-satisfied grin. “He would have been SECOND last. ”

Eric nodded, surreptitiously squeezing Bumper’s paw reassuringly. “And what did you expect to happen after I was disconnected? ”

“Then everything would be wonderful! ” Efrom said. “All us Fictionals would be free to live as we pleased, with honor and dignity and respect, and everyone would say what a great job I had done saving them from themselves and love me forever and ever!”

“Right. ” said Eric. “Now, how did you destroy the other fictions?

“By disconnecting their primaries! ” said Efrom. “Weren’t you listening? Everyone knows that if a fiction goes too long without its Primary, it falls apart. ”

“And your plan was to disconnect me last, right? From here? ” said Eric.

“YES! ” said Efrom. “Until SHE showed up. ”

“Then wouldn’t the same thing have happened here? ” said Eric. “Wouldn’t the fiction fall apart and take everyone with it? Including YOU? ”

“I…” said Efrom, then closed his mouth abruptly.

Eric could feel the tension release in the crowd.  He’s got him there! That hit him where it hurts. Get him, Eric!

“I knew that! ” he insisted unconvincingly. “That was my real plan all along. To go down in a blaze of glory, knowing that my death was not in vain because I was taking all you goddamned stinking Primaries with me!”

“But that’s not what would happen. ” said Mother Mayhem.

She was her original size now, and her sword and shield were now a pair of gloves she was wearing, one gold, one silver.

“That’s what I learned tonight. That’s what I remembered. I remembered what my life was like before I was in the System. ”

“You mean…. there really is a world outside the System? ” said a mad scientist.

“Yes, there is. ” said Mother Mayhem, “It’s the place where all us Primaries come from. The place where all our stories come from. This entire System is running on computers there. It is, for lack of a better term, the real world. ”

“And so when I disconnected the other Primaries…. ” said Efrom.

“They didn’t die. ” said Mother Mayhem. “They just… woke up. ”

“And all us Fictionals are just…. computer programs? ” said Efrom.

The crowd drew slightly closer. This was big.

“Well nobody is ‘just’ anything. ” said Mother Mayhem. “A sentient is a sentient whether its program is running on a human brain or not. But to answer your question…. yes, you are all technically computer programs. ”

A sad sussuration of whispers rippled through the crowd. They did not like that answer.

“But not you, isn’t that right, Eegee? ” said Bumper.

The crowd turned to look at Bumper as if he’d just been pulled out of a hat. He was so small and had been so still that they had forgotten he was there.

“What are you talking about” said Efrom.

“Let me ask you this. ” said Bumper. “Where did you get that mech suit?”

Efrom turned to look at it. “Oh, that? I built it myself. Why, do you like it?”

“It’s fine. ” said Bumper. “And did you build it here, in this fiction?”

“Of course not. ” said Efrom, with a derisive snort. “Build something complex and technological like a mech suit in a loony toons place like this? Impossible. ”

“So what you are saying, ” said Bumper, “is that  you built that enormous complicated device in another fiction, and brought it here? ”

“Well yeah. ” said Efrom.

The crowd gasped.

“That’s impossible!” said the former Jake Friendly!

“Can’t be done!” said a bear who sometimes turned into a man.

“Why not?” said Efrom.

“Because, as everybody knows, ” said the male child of a family who had recently changed lifestyles, “you can’t move objects through the Now. ”

“Indeed!” said a social terrorist named Reg. “One is often lucky to arrive with one’s clothes on. ” He grinned charismatically. “Depending on one’s definition of ‘luck.'”

“And even then you get reformatted to fit the fiction you’re in!” said a fat Mafioso. “Nuttin’ comes out the same as it went in. ”

“So what you’re saying is just plain imp possible!” said the current Jake Friendly.

“But I do it all the time!” said Efrom.

“Really? ” said Bumper. “How curious. One last question, Eegee. When you built this machine of yours, where were you? ”

Stunned silence in the crowd.

“All of our fictions had collapsed, including yours. ” said Bumper. “You said so yourself when you said that this fiction was the last one left. So where were you when you built the suit? You had to be somewhere and you weren’t here. Where were you?”

“I… don’t know. ” said Efrom. “I remember a workshop, and tools, and the suit… but I don’t know where that workshop was in the Now. It’s like it was someplace that was just… there when I needed it. ”

“Don’t you find that strange, Eegee? ”

“Stop calling me Eegee!” said Efrom. “I’m not Eegee, I’m Efrom! ”

Bumper grinned. “Sorry… Efrom. But do you see what I am getting at?”

“No!” said Efrom, and the crowd nodded in agreement. “Are you trying to say that I’m actually a Primary? ”

“Well let me check. ” said Bumper. “Eric, Madame Mayhem? Have you ever had an experience like Efrom is describing? Being somewhere that wasn’t anywhere but was there when you needed it?”.

They both shook their heads.

“That’s just plain… insane. ” said Eric.

“In order to be able to do that, ” said Mother Mayhem, “you would have to be able to generate your own private fiction on an as-needed basis. ”

“Precisely. ” said Bumper. “Eegee… Efrom… you are not just a Primary. You are the Primary. You are the original programmer of this entire System… Edmund Gerrold!”

Efrom’s eyes glazed over as something profound happened in his mind.

“You’re right!” he exclaimed. “I remember it all now. I was just about to leave the Clinic and go spend the fat bonus I’d just earned when I decided I was going to go into the System for one last bug hunt and… and I’ve been here ever since!”

This passed through the crowd like a sensation.

“I’m really a librarian!” said a tall muscular man carrying a huge sword.

“I think…. I’m a stewardess!” said a fat Mafioso.

“I do taxes!” said a sharp-faced weasel.

“Wait, just how many Primaries do we have here? ” said the current Jake Friendly.

And so it went. Everyone in the crowd suddenly remembered who they really were, and it soon became obvious that every single one of them was a Primary.

“That must be how we were able to survive the collapse of our fictions. ” said Reg.

“But guys!” said the male child. “Don’t you see what this means?”

The crowd turned to the boy and waited expectantly.

“It means we’re all real! Not computer programs… real people!” said the boy.  “Even if Eegee…if, Efrom… I mean, EDMUND had succeeded in crashing the whole system, we would have been fine. Nobody would have died. We would have just… woken up. ”

“And you know what THAT means” said Eegee/Efrom/Edmund. “it means that the System is ours! It belongs to us now! We can do whatever we want with it! We have all the power now!”.

He concentrated for a few moments, then said “There. You all have the same administrative privileges I have now. Every one of us can be whoever they need to be and do whatever they want without limits or controls. ”

“Ladies and Gentlemen… we are FREE!”

The cheering went on for hours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

NaNoWrimo 2017 : Chapter 28

It wasn’t a refugee camp any more.

It was a town. It had streets. They had names. It had addresses that contained those names, and numbers too.

It had organized municipal services. A gang of cartoon racoons ran a highly efficient and thorough garbage collection service. Water was provided by a spindly network of improvised pipes that snaked crazily through the town.

“But where is the water coming from?” asked Eric.

“You don’t want to know. ” replied Bumper with a tone of finality that convinced Eric he really, really didn’t.

“Just know that it is clean, healthy, and sterile. ” said Bumper.

Eric chose to take that on faith.

There was no (potentially very disturbing) mystery about where the electricity was coming from. It was coming from the 20 stories tall kaiju bat-monster who called itself Kaminari no akuma, “but you can just call me Kami, okay good?”

The beast (of no determined gender) had shyly offered its services as a power source early on in the development of the community. A gang of mad scientists immediately seized the opportunity and figured out how to tap into Kami’s seemingly limitless energy within a couple of hours.

They then argued over whose name would be first on the resulting article in the Nournal Of Applied Lunacy for a couple of weeks.

They even had a kind of mail service run by a group of squirrels who provided a service much faster than traditional mail at the cost of the envelopes arriving with toothmarks all around the edges and faintly wet with squirrel spit.

Bumper had a whole platoon of bureaucrats from an office-romance fiction at his beck and call now,  which allowed him to delegate most of the administrative work to others and go back to his true calling as a child psychologist.

There were a lot of child-fictionals amongst the refugees, and a lot of them were upset and confused by the disruption in their lives and needed a sympathetic ear to listen to their stories and soothe their fears.

The fact that said ear was a long and velvety rabbit ear helped immensely.

And then there were the children who had witnessed horrors no adult should have to see, let alone a child. They needed more intensive therapy.  And some needed a lot more than that, which is why Bumper’s clinic now included a small asylum.

It was a soft and quiet place with a beamingly matronly drag queen running it and making sure the poor little ones felt safe from their inner demons.

Bumper thought she was the most beautiful person he had ever seen.

And at the middle of it all was Eric. His charm and wisdom and popular appeal had made him a natural fit for the job of mayor of their crazy little town. And he was an excellent leader as long as nobody made him nervous by treating him with dignity and authority and thus reminding him that he was responsible for everyone’s wellbeing.

Most residents caught on to this quickly and knew to remain casual with Eric and treat him like an average citizen who just happened to be the person everyone came to for important decisions and the resolution of disputes.

And the sex (extremely) friendly Pink Tent district had developed its own red light district, where sex in a bewildering number of forms (and genders, and species, and forms of architecture) was available for all.

It had its own genuine red lights, display windows, lists of available services, and even its own marvelously smutty little flyers to keep the local community informed of who and what and where and when (but not why) was available.

In fact, the only thing that distinguished it from a traditional red light distrinct was that nobody was charging money.

This caused one local wag, a bizarre sex-robot named the Superfuckatron 9000,  to say that “It’s not so much a red light district as it is a well organized association of sluts. ”

This remark was deemed so hilarious and apt that it was put on a plaque at the entrance to the Pink Tent district.

Most importantly, everyone was getting along with one another. The sense of camaraderie and the powerful bonding influences of shared trauma and common goal rapidly built rapport between disparate groups and before long, this sense of shared identity had turned an adhoc response to a terrible tragedy into a real community.

A community without a name but with a very big heart.

Eric could not have been happier.

Into this situation wandered a petite redhaired woman with blood on her hands and the thousand yard stare of one who is not quite there any more, and doesn’t want to be.

“Mother Mayhem!” said Bumper, aghast.

“Orgy lady!” said a fan, aroused.

“My god, what have they done to you? ” said Eric, angered, as he rushed to her aid.

At first, Mother Mayhem didn’t seem to know who she was or who was around her, and stared blankly ahead. But then something in her stirred, and in a flat, emotionless tone said “Did someone say something?”

Eric took her hand, and in a calm, clear tone said “Yes, Mother Mayhem. It’s me, Eric. You remember Eric, right? ”

Mother Mayhem turned towards Eric, her eyes blank. “Eric? Eric? I knew an Eric once, I think. ” she said in a faraway voice.

“That’s me, Mother Mayhem. I’m that Eric. Remember? We met on the Astral Plane. ”

Mother Mayhem wrinkled her nose. “NO. No Astral Plane. Bad. Gone. Gone away forever and it was mine. Mine to have. Mine to create. Mine to destroy. Mine, mine, mine. And it’s all gone now. ”

Her eyes focused, dimly, on Eric. “You… were there in the beginning, right?”

Eric smiled. “Yes, Mother Mayhem. I was there. ”

Her nose wrinkled again. “Bad beginning. Bad start. Bad you. Everything was normal and okay. Then you. You started it all. You. Bad, bad you. ”

Bumper sputtered with outrage. “How dare you try to blame Eric for… ”

“No, honeybunny. Now’s not the time. I understand what she means by that. ” said Eric.

Bumper retreated into a glowering silence.

A smile spread across Mother Mayhem’s face. “Is that the bunny? Funny bunny. Funny little bunny. So cute and soft and perverted. Likes wee wee. Big big wee wee!”.

She then giggled like a little girl, then abruptly stopped.

Bumper seethed at her remarks, but a pleading look from Eric kept him quiet.

Eric took her hand against, and looked directly in her eyes, and very clearly and firmly said “MOTHER. You need to come back to us, Mother. We want to help you, Mother, but you have to come back to us first. ”

Then inspiration struck. “We need you, Mother Mayhem, We’re in a lot of trouble and we need you. We need your help. ”

Mother Mayhem stirred, and after a long silence, her eyes fully focused on Eric and her surroundings, and she blinked her eyes like she had just woken up.

She looked at Eric with faint disdain, and said “Oh. It’s you. ”

“Yes, it’s me!” said Eric, with a smile. “It’s me, Mother Mayhem. Eric!”

“I’m not an idiot. ” she muttered crossly. “I got it the first time. ”

“And that’s really you in there, Mother Mayhem? ” said Eric,

“Let’s just say, ” said Mother Mayhem, “that I am as close to her as you are going to get for a while, and move on, okay?”

“Can you tell me what happened to you, Mother Mayhem? ” asked Eric gently.

Her eyes went blank again, and she put her hands on her head and said “no, no, no” over and over again for a couple minutes.

But then she snapped out of it, and this time, her expression was one of someone with terrible news they feel the urgent need to share.

“What happened is that I know now, Eric darling. I know it all. I know why we are all here.  I know who I was before I came here. And I was bad, Eric. Very very bad. I was a horrid, screeching, clawing, carping, bullying bitch from hell before I came here, Eric. I was such an awful person. And now that I know, I can remember it all, and it’s like she’s still alive in me, Eric. And that makes me want to die. ”

“LISTEN. ” said Bumper. “you are not that person any more. Okay? If you were still that person, those memories wouldn’t bother you, But you’re a different person now. That terrible person is dead. Dead as surely as if you’d murdered her in cold blood. So there’s no need to harm yourself to get rid of her. She is gone, gone, gone, and you never need to think about her again. Okay? ”

Mother Mayhem nodded. “But then… but then there’s the Astral Plane. I told everyone they would be safe there. Safest place on the System, I called it. But then when we got there it was all wrong and people died and I can’t stop seeing that poor cherub getting eaten by that horrid cloud again, and again, and again. ”

“I’m sure you did what you could, Mother-

“NO! ” she screamed. “No I didn’t! Because it was ALL MY FAULT. I’m the one who forgot she was a Primary and left her fiction to fall apart and decay without her. I’m the one who led those people to their doom in the one place I thought they’d be safe. I’m the one who has failed people again and again and again because no matter how hard I try to help people, it’s never enough. There’s always more, more, more. More pain. More injustice. More predators. More lions to tame. More ground to sow. More diapers to change. More dirt to scrub away. More everything. And I am just… so… tired. ”

She hung her head low, then looked up to Eric with eyes full of desperate hope. “Is everyone okay? Can I rest now? I’ve been so tired for so long. But people need me. How can I rest when people need me? So is everyone okay now, Eric? ”

“Yes, Mother Mayhem. ” said Eric. “Everyone is just fine. We’ll take care of ourselves  for a while so you can get some rest. ”

“It’s bedtime, Mother Mayhem. ” said Bumper. “Time to go to bed. Time to lie down and go to bed and get some sleep. ”

“Okay. ” said Mother Mayhem. “You’re sure you will be okay without me? ”

“We’ll be just fine, Mother Mayhem. Now you get some rest. ”

“Then I think I will take a nap, then. ” She lay down on the couch some quick thinker had thought to go get.

Her eyes half closed, she looked at Eric and Bumper and smiled. “you’re good boys. You know that? You’re both good, good boys. And you make such a cute… couple…”

And with that, she fell asleep.

“Don’t believe him!” screeched an amplified voice. “He’s lying to you! Lying to you all! Can’t you see it? He’s lying to you to make you think he’s a nice person. But he’s not nice. He’s not nice at all. He is greedy, sadistic, self-centered, egomaniacal maniac who won’t stop hurting people until someone puts a stop to HIM. ”

The crowd turned to see a small man in a giant mecha suit that bristled with weapons of all kinds and made loud pneumatic actuator sounds as he paced.

“And that’s what I am going to do. ” screamed the little man. “I’m going to kill you, Commander Eric, and I am going to take long time doing it. All of it… all the scheming and manipulating and lying and waiting and cutting Primaries off from their fictions… all of it was just a prelude to the orgy of pain I am going to inflict on you for your crimes.”

“Now DIE, Commander Eric. DIE! DIE DIIIIEEE! ” screamed Eegee as two wicked looking aircraft machine guns on his mech began to spin up to power.

And then petered out and fell silent.

“Well now. ” said a radiant goddess known formely as Mother Mayhem. “I think we’ve all had just about enough of THAT, don’t you? ”

Eegee screamed incoherently, and attacked.