|# ¿ Jul 14, 2020 17:31|
|# ¿ Sep 22, 2023 08:23|
Opening a Door
Prompt: Leaps Of Faith
Word Count: 1768
On May 30th of 2017, I was blessed with The Rites of Ordination, officially becoming Father Colin Mulvaney of St. Michael’s Parish in Atchison, KS. One year later, I found myself sitting in a cheap motel outside of Cairo, watching my Vatican-appointed translator haggling with an Egyptian blacksmith and an Iranian occultist. The longer I stared at the iron ore they bickered over, the more I heard the clanging metal and smelled the burning coal of a Pagan god’s forge. I hadn’t picked up much Arabic by then, but I had just started picking out the phrase “qatal al shayatin.” My translator said it meant “demon slayer.” Roughly. Of course, they’d always say it while looking at me and chuckling, so that helped me recognize it.
I couldn’t blame them. I know the idea of me trying to fight a demon was absurd. But it was a decision I made after hours of prayer in the hospital. During April 29th, 2018 mass, St. Michael’s was destroyed in what as far as anyone outside knew was a tornado. As far as the local news was concerned, the only strange things about the incident were how localized the damage was, and how many of the survivors were suddenly anemic. A few did mention the young priest who was miraculously unharmed, other than a few minor bruises from shattered wood, and what they believed to be the impact phase of PTSD. When Bishop Durante visited me in the ER, he’d heard I was pulled from the wreckage screaming about ghosts in the wind. And that I spent most of the initial disaster swinging an incense burner like a medieval mace.
It’s difficult to explain to someone you respect that you not only saw a strange corpse-like specter in the winds, but that it felt right when you attacked it. That the winds seemed to slow as you flailed around like an idiot. I told him too that I had a series of flashbacks during the event. Odd ones. Mostly of the boxing lessons I took a couple years ago and the time I joined the college fencing team. Seminary taught us that God speaks through gut instincts and flashes. The metaphor they often used was the magnetized puzzle. You still have to assemble it yourself, but all the pieces are pulled together. And the drive I felt in the church hadn’t left me. The same instinct to lash out at the demon in the wind was making me anxious in my hospital bed. I truly believed God wanted me to stop this creature.
The bishop’s expression killed me. He tried to keep his face as stone faced as he could, but the occasional twitch of his jaw told me how hard that struggle was. I tried to laugh the whole off as some weird panic-induced delusion, thinking if I at least admitted I was crazy he wouldn’t pity me as hard. But I gauged him wrong. He handed me a legal pad and asked for the names of as many parishioners as I could remember. He told me when I got out, I would be picked up by a black Oldsmobile. I was cleared the next day and the car was waiting. The middle aged Italian man driving handed me a plane ticket to Rome and drove me directly to the airport. We didn’t speak much on the way.
They set me up with a room in Corviale, though I didn’t see it often during my stay. I never really needed to adjust to the new time zone, since I spent my nights in a church office after hours. Most of these nights were getting questioned by Cardinals and Mother Superiors. Some were about the attack. Not only what I saw, but if I smelled or tasted anything during it. Others were about my fitness routines and various physical trainings I had. I got to spar with a Swiss Guard on Day 3. On Day 4, a local doctor administered a psych exam, asking if I was prone to flashbacks or if I remembered any particularly vivid dreams. The last day started with a visit from Bishop Durante. He wasn’t there to administer an exam. He just sat with me. Asked how I was doing. No one during the experience had been particularly warm until then. After a bit of small talk, He asked if I still wanted to go through with this.
He explained that God only opens doors if He believes you can walk through, but he never forces you through. Confronting the world outside the physical takes a terrible toll on both faith and sanity. Even from the most pious. He told me if I believed this task was too much, I was free to walk away right then and there. But if I passed this first threshold, even if I abandoned my journey immediately after, I would be fundamentally changed. I thought of the church. Thought of the panic in both my heart and the congregation as we ran towards the basement, through the shrapnel that used to be hallowed walls. I thought of the families turning pale, almost shrivelling as that horrible phantom seemed to drain the life from them, and the ones who weren’t so lucky. But somehow, I was more anxious speaking to The Bishop than I was fighting for my life and flock against a being I couldn’t fully comprehend. But I wasn’t anxious enough to say no. Bishop Durante asked me to pray The Apostles Creed with him. He then taught me a new prayer; one to Enki, Sumerian god of exorcism. Or at least the best translation he could get from the original cuneiform.
The monks in the Vatican archives thought what I described sounded like an Edimmu, a kind of vampiric demon written about in early Mesopotanian texts. But the corpse-like appearance, plus a few reports of survivors hearing their name called before the attack, suggested a vryolakas. Those were prominent in ancient Greece. That information was the first step in constructing a weapon. They bought iron ore from Mount Etna, associated with both the Roman smith god Vulcan and his Greek counterpart Hephaestus, from a group of Neo-Pagans out of Alessandria who apparently owed them a favor. Then we flew to Cairo to meet with the Persian, some sort of wizard they referred to when things were outside of the Christian understanding, and his wife, the Egyptian blacksmith who specialized in divine weaponry. She suggested invoking the sun god Ra, since whatever we were facing had vampiric properties. Her design was a khopesh with an eye accenting the hilt, scarab beetles decorating the crossguard. He insisted that the Sumerian udug-hul invocation was written in cuneiform on the blade. I was relieved, because I meant they would take the ore.
The ore made me uncomfortable. Often physically. The official escorting it kept it in a reinforced case, but I could still smell it. It could be in the trunk of a car parked outside, and there would still be that sooty metallic odor burning my nostrils as I inhaled. Until it was refined, that was the closest I could be to it outside the case. I would develop a fever. I would experience auditory and sensory hallucinations. I would hear what sounded a hammer striking iron. My mouth felt full of hot iron shavings and coal dust. Paranoia followed. I felt like I was trespassing just by standing close to it. These feelings never completely left, even after the sword was forged. But they dulled. It went from a feeling of trespassing to more of a creepy coworker. I still feel like I’m being watched, judged. But we both have a job to do, so there probably won’t be trouble during our shift. That was enough for me to push it to the back of my mind.
The final call came without warning. The monks had constructed a check list of odd phenomena that occurred in Atchison within a one week window, then applied those with weather behavior along the jet stream. Based on this, they had an approximate time for when the Edimmu would resurface. And a location: Harper, Liberia. I didn’t know this until after they had already put me on a light aircraft and flew me out of the country. Bishop Durante joined me. He prayed with me as we crossed the Mediterrian. When we landed, he had me recite the udug-hul, then anointed me with oils as I knelt on the tarmac. He booked a rental car and drove me to a church on the edge of town.
As the winds began to swirl, I felt the tension in my gut as I held the sword. I stepped out of the car wielding the khopesh. The memories of St. Michael’s flooded my head as the building before me seemed to buckle in the wind. As the storm shook my balance, I repeated the udug-hul. The rain that poured on my face seemed to slow and bend in the direction I walked. I enter the church with the sword cast forward. As the rain dampened my face and I struggled for balance, I felt as if I stood on the bow of the Mantchet, bringing the daylight past the gates of the sky goddess. Dust in the air revealed the Edimmu, arms opening wide as the hood of the viper Apep. I swung. The parishioners, many of whom had already been drained, made their way for the exit as I cut the air. I rebuked the beast in languages I didn’t understand, as if screaming with someone else’s mouth. Until at long last, the ghost crumbled, the winds stopped, and the clouds outside parted.
As the relief took hold of me, the sword in my hand shook. The odor of the forge hit my lungs. Liberia seemed to vanish as I saw temples crumbling in a far away desert and crosses raised in an early century. The sword burned in my hand as I saw The Nile turn to blood. The hallucinations stopped as I threw the khopesh to the ground, watching it shatter like a steel balloon. The gods had concluded their business with Mine and wanted me to know. It’s an odd feeling the wrath of the previously thought fictitious.
After my debriefing, I requested a sabbatical from the priesthood. I often feel nostalgic for Rome, a city I know little of outside a hotel and church office. I assume that is God opening a door. But nothing as of now has forced me through.
|# ¿ Jul 20, 2020 06:11|
GIVE ME A GENRE
|# ¿ Jul 21, 2020 21:13|
Thy Most Lamentable Tragedy of Backwater Jacks
Genre: Adaptation of a recent news story as a play in the style of Shakespeare
Banned Words:: adaptation, recent, news, story, play, style, shakespeare, virus, trump, biden, floyd, protests, police, rowling, election, war, scandal
Word Count: 1,728
Two thousand and twenty years past thy birth of God, time names thyself true strife. A plague with many names carried forth from the east. Corona or COVID as called by the medics. A quarantine was called for all earthly kingdoms to curb the spread of pox. Tho’ in thy solitude some quartered grew restless. Their fears not unfounded. But fear easily aimed. As Western leaders often curse the orient, crafting wild tales of alchemy and black wealth with no more than hearsay. Tho’ those without solace pray hope of normalcy's return.
[Fauci exits; Prewitt and Exchequer enter]
Good Exchequer, reveal thy coffers’ grievous wounds..
A third of all income as of May the 7th. The loss of April and March cuts wounds deep. Tho’ we do operate, thine plague sweeping the land hath petrified thine crowds.Curbside hath done little to aid thy dwindling wealth. Tho’ dine-in hath bless’d us, humbly as it may be, within thine last three days. Good Prewitt, forgive me. I bring thy financials with much regret.
Silence thee. Silence, that I may calm and ponder what alas becomes of this tavern. Let me conjure a path in which Backwater Jacks doth survive this COVID. Pray, Exchequer, your age. In what year were you birthed?
‘93, good Prewitt. In 1993.
Such youth trusted with wealth. Backwater Jacks aged thrice before you drew first breath. Thirty years ‘pon these lake, thine Lake of the Ozarks. Public Houses did fall in those years with not one to call their own, but yet! Yet Backwater Jacks dies not in mercantile war. But lo, of but a flu.
Yet ‘tis no mere mere flu! Thou dismiss Corona unwisely as mere flu tho’ lung and life art claimed. Twenty-five thousand take ill on this day alone. Near nine hundred lay dead after weeks of anguish. Today alone, good Prewitt. The malady takes hold with no more than mere breath and lies in wait hidden often a whole fortnight. Hear these warnings!
I hear. I hear but yet I see. I see walls built with hands aching with arthritis. I see floors I danced ‘pon yet without pulled muscles. I see labor. I see joy. I see thirty years past yet not one day forward. And fate disallows me thine cruel thieves. For thine COVID takes years from me and leaves nothing! Gary Prewitt battles not with sword or arrow but feast and finest ale ‘pon Lake of the Ozarks. Pray not mistake for mere hyperbole. Destruction be the end sought by bar owners here. Each day thine doors open thine wits face true challenge. Yet success always found yours Prewitt with fortune as Prewitt did snatch it from the hands of liars. Tho’ COVID hath no hands. Why must I face defeat without an opponent? Prithee, hand me my phone. I wish to browse Facebook.
As you wish, Good Prewitt.
[Exchequer hands phone to Prewitt; Prewitt laughs]
Something amuses you?
But an old schoolmate. One who posts QAnon far more often than most. ‘Tis Facebook posts ramble quite delightfully mad. Pray! Prithee listen now. Another screed from Doug. “Arise thou blind sheeple! Take arms ‘gainst foul Bill Gates who cast beams of 5G under guise of COVID! Ellen DeGeneres and Tom Hanks do anguish for crimes of black magic. Thine Deep State masks its shame…
“...through cruel, false quarantine. Stripping life and hope from those who doth labor honest. Fear’s to be the burden of those sustained by work. Not by the glistening gold of Hollywood elite. Fear’s cold grip chills thine prey as successes wither in the snows of cursed dread. Cower from thine outdoors, profane Deep State commands. Cower from thine family! For thine familial breath blaze cannons of thine pox. I cower no longer. I claim my treasure, ‘lest fear snatch it from thy. I raise my saber ‘gainst all enemy, be they invisible or not. I cast off thine shackles of Deep State quarantine and proclaim thine freedom! If COVID strike me dead I die in throes of war!”
[Social Media Manager enters]
Milord, missives arrive regarding thine party on Memorial Day. Thine “Zero Ducks Giveth.”
Such faire shan’t be likely.
Let Zero Ducks Giveth shall go on as scheduled.
What? What madness is this? Pray, Good Prewitt, say how thou believe possible.
Our doors open, exchequer. That is how possible.
But what of Corona? Thou gleefully condemn masses to mortal fates?
If masses offer coin, I see no reason to that which we so desperately lament. If I am forced to choose between those who tribute and those who have me languish, I throw my lot in with they who elevate me. And dearest youth, we trade in trade doth lead to pleasure of the flesh. If pox is all thou do fear, thine years past may shake thee.
Good Prewitt, I refuse.
Then take thine leave, coward. I trust my wealth to youth, yet thine youth dare questions wisdom earned through ages. I wish thee good fortune in thy search for work that see thine young age not as inexperience. Begone, exchequer! Gone! If thine masses choose death as their lofty gamble, I deny them no game!
[Exchequer and Social Media Manager exit; Revelers enter]
Fortuous revelers! Drown thy strife in wine and make merry this day. Thine media stokes fear but thou need not worry. ‘Tis Memorial Day of the twentieth year of our young century. The sun shines o’er thee blessing us with fair gifts of summer’s joy. And lo Backwater Jacks ‘pon Lake of the Ozarks welcomes thee with song and ale. Cast thy hoary flagon forth ‘gainst imprisonment. Reject thine quarantine! For thy Corona pox bears no threat for strong youth. Drink thine saucy fellows! Drink thine raucous maidens! Should Hades claim the morn let Bauchus take the night! Drink! Drink!
[Social Media Manager enters]
Good Prewitt, we must speak.
Hark! I am insulted. You wear thine mask of fear. Show thine face in brave’ry. Join the dance of the bold.
Missives arrive en masse from media social. Our hall trends ‘pon Twitter. Yet not for good reasons.
Your words sound of nonsense from ‘neath cloth bondage. If thou doth not speak clear, speak with haste. If thou words be obscured thine meaning must enlight. And enlight’ment be rare within thine internet. I have no interest in the prattle of trolls. Of which Twitter dearly provides little other.
Thy bar must be closed.
Thy masses be too dense and must be dispersed.
Read thine angered missiles with which fill thine mentions.
Care shall never be the name I grant to thine mentions. Have they not been gifted full handwashing stations? Doth there not be markings counting thine six feet space? Sanitizer bottles be free and plentiful for all who do attend. Thine doors hath once opened and shan’t close for prattle.
You swore promise to all to uphold thine safeguards. Yet not six feet betwix these drunkards stand per plan.
I tire of your nagging! Leave if thou be enraged! Thine Zero Ducks Giveth shall rage into lust’s night! May thine ale flow freely and thine mirth never end! If thou hand me the crown and throne of Lord of Death then I demand all bow thou morbid liege!
[Manager exits; Revelers exit]
The night hath grown quiet. Thine floors do not have dance. Have I been here long? Am I still in my bar? Speak any damned who hear this!
‘Tis the 30th day of the same month of May. A young man taketh ill before returning home. The cities of Kansas, both namesake and MO, suffer spikes of thine spear. Suffer they not alone. Do not mistake this plague for mere local sickness. Thine arms of malady stretch further yonder yet. Plague hath been carried East. And to West. North and South.
Have I fallen asleep? Doth Fauci speak to me in dreams as angel sent from God? Thou art nothing divine!
37 will be found bearing thine malady before thine fortnight’s end. Each a reveler from thy own Backwater Jacks. One shall meet grievous end by June’s first week.
I banish thee, Fauci! Be gone from my slumber!
And thine revelers travel not only to land’s far. Many be bar crawlers. Spreading the malady to all of thine neighbors just as foolish as thee.
drat you, Fauci! God’s blood! I held no lash to them! They but wished to gamble and I allowed them to cast their own mortal die. And may warrior’s spirit smile upon them for it. They renounced liberal fear and charged into battle. I stood as general with an army not coerced or conscripted but willing to reclaim the lives your kind did snatch. I bear no regret, man! And I renounce all shame!
Nearly three million poxed. Counted among the ill are nearly one thousand and thirty taken souls. Those that do no descend from Backwater Jacks shall still claim ancestry casting finger towards but thine social media! Does thou accept this cup?
I accept and drink well! As if I revel with those who toast ‘pon this lake. Mockery I give thee. Mockery, Good Fauci. Let thine trolls cast their barbs for I grant them no port! Only raucous laughter in thine pity’s humor.
If thou accept thine crown and throne of Lord of Death, then keep thine wash stations. May they be enough to clean the blood from thine hands. And may thine full coffiers be worth thy stain’ed name.
Laughter, Fauci! Laughter! My riotous pity is all I offer you.
[Chadwick and Tyler enter; Tyler is coughing]
Good Tyler! Be’est thou sick?
Chadwick I fear I hath been cursed with the rona!
Thine Rona? In God’s name!
I but feareth, Chadwick, that thine sole antidote can only be more ale!
[Tyler and Chadwick laugh, exit]
Laughter, Good Fauci. Laughter ‘til thine face aches and ‘til thine stomach pains. Pray, is death by laughter only a turn of phrase? For this laughter doth feel very much like death. Laughter.
|# ¿ Jul 27, 2020 04:16|
In! Item me!
|# ¿ Jul 28, 2020 04:02|
I really want to like working from home. For the most part I do. I can sleep later. I don’t need to change out of my pajamas. This is the first apartment I’ve ever had without roommates too, so I should be able to actually focus on work. Should.
I don’t know if you could call anywhere in Staten Island “cheap,” but I’m not living in a penthouse either. Maybe if I did, whoever built my neighborhood might have actually finished. This is my third month here, my second week working remotely, and they’re still doing construction. Probably the same construction. Then construction holds up traffic. Then all the drivers get mad and start honking and yelling and I don’t even know what half the noises they’re making are. You get used to a certain level of noise pollution just by living in the city, but not when it’s all the noises all at once. Sunup to sundown, the room shakes from the pounding barrage of horns and jackhammers from intersection to intersection.
The only thing that really helps is this little radio from middle school. Just an old Sony clock radio. Nothing fancy. It’s a four inch cube with big green digital letters and a dial that never really hit the exact station you wanted. Last week was the first time I’d used it in years. The Spotify on my laptop wasn’t covering the horns and jackhammers outside, so I figured it’d be worth a try. And it actually worked, when it actually worked. There came a point when I realized I wasn’t just missing the station on the dial. The static and garbled audio were from it being nearly a decade and half old. I’d be surprised if it makes it another couple days. But my boss keeps sending me spreadsheets on Google. And if I’m not listening to fuzzy FM, I’m listening to smashing concrete and grinding metal. If I want to do my job, I need a new radio. And if I’m getting a new radio, it might as well get a nice one.
A buddy of mine recommends a place in Manhattan. I’m barely in the door before a salesman almost magically appears in front of me asking if I’ve been helped. I tell him about my noise issues and he says “I got the perfect stereo for you. Top of the line! Satellite Digital Audio Radio Service with Bluetooth surround sound and noise cancellation technology! You put this guy on, you won’t even hear yourself speak!”
“Noise cancellation technology?” I ask. “Don’t you need headphones for that?”
“Nope! All from the speakers themselves. Real space age technology. Stuff NASA uses to keep astronauts’ eardrums from blowing up when the rockets go off. These babies can more than handle New York.”
“So you’re guaranteeing it’ll completely mask construction and traffic?”
“Trust me! You won’t even know what happened!”
The box had to be like eighty pounds, but I still got it to my car, and somehow managed to get it up the stairs when I got to my building. I pop open the box and try to make sense of the mess of plastic inside. The instructions say I need to make five towers, each with three speakers positioned strategically around my living space. Once I get the towers built, I need to sync them with the base unit. Which means putting the three tiered structure together and making sure to wire each together correctly. To sync the towers, I need to enter the codes from each speaker. Individually. But before that, I need to make sure the front display touch screen works, which means a calibration check where I have to touch a red dot somewhere on the screen. Then it has to connect to WiFi so it can update the time and weather. When that loads, I have to download the smart phone app just to make the weird pop ups stop. Then the app has to load all the speaker codes directly from the base unit. Fine. Didn’t need my phone for that hour anyway.
Then finally, I get the entire stereo connected and ready to go. I pull out my phone, hit the app, and check the box that says “Noise Cancellation.” I hit the button that says “Radio” and
|# ¿ Aug 2, 2020 22:59|
Interprompt: the circus is in town and you are a freelance clown
"Big Top USA usually doesn't hire local," the promoter tells me. "But one of our clowns got sick today. So we got an extra spot in the car. What do you say, Mister Zany Bobany? You want under this tent?"
I extend a gloved hand, nearly dropping my balloon pump. "Thank you, sir!" I say to him, my smile almost as wide as the red greasepaint over it.
The next morning. I load my props in the back of my Volvo and head to the circus. When the stage manager finally crams us all in the car, the old veteran Geezer Silly-Goose shoots me a stern look. "Hey kid!" he says, honking his bright red nose to get my attention. "Don't *HONK* this up."
We burst out of the hollow Volkswagon and hit our shticks right as we hit the ground. I throw my balloon pump in the air, catching it after a somersault-cartwheel. I start making every animal I can think of. It isn’t until I start making birds and popping a few that I finally have my section of the crowd. Each time I recoil in slapstick terror, the laughs crowd bigger. I think I catch Geezer smile as I roll away from the deflating pelican.
After the show, the promoter greets me with a firm handshake. “We come back here in six months. You’re still here, you got a job.”
Big Top USA goes out of business in three.
|# ¿ Aug 4, 2020 21:15|
With The Dark Knight!
|# ¿ Aug 5, 2020 02:41|
A Few More Guys Like Batman
Word Count: 936
Movie: The Dark Knight
Last year, I lost my job at the hardware store because of an “unexcused absence.” I was late to work because a rocket tank tore up the highway I usually take. I still had my second job at a convenience store in The Narrows. But an international crime syndicate hired an army of ninjas to plant stolen military tech on a monorail and shut down the whole neighborhood. Last I heard, they still hadn’t caught all the escaped mental patients and mafia hitmen hired by the mad scientist scarecrow.That’s when I started thinking about leaving Gotham City. A couple days ago, my wife and I even found a place upstate for a pretty reasonable price. But our bank denied our loan application because of my “income uncertainty.” Then while we were there, the bank was robbed by a gang of evil clowns driving a school bus.
That particular evening I met my old coworker Brian at Noonan’s Bar downtown. I hadn’t seen him in a few weeks since he joined his new gun club, so it was nice to catch up. Our conversation was one we had a million times before. This city’s been going to hell for years. Now we’ve got actual supervillains to worry about. I didn’t usually use the word “supervillain,” but today it slipped out. That caught Brian’s attention. “Let me ask you something, Rory,” he said to me. “You’re watching a cartoon. Or you’re reading a comic. And the bad guys try to take over the world. He always loses. Why?”
“I don’t know. The good guy?”
“You been hearing about that Batman? What do you think he is?”
“Isn’t he one of those ‘cryptid’ things? Like Mothman or Bigfoot?”
“He’s just a guy. But the cops still put that big spotlight on the station, because he stood up to the crime in this city. And he’s no different than me. Or you.” Brian pointed towards me as he said that. His eyes were wide and focused on me.
“What? You want me to go out and be Batman now.” I tried laughing it off in case this was all a prank. It wasn’t. And the longer he didn’t break, the more certain of it I was.
Brian grabbed a napkin and wrote down an address. “Tomorrow night. Nine o’clock. You won’t have to do this alone.”
“All this city needs is a few more guys like Batman.”
I took the backway home, Another rocket tank sighting, so I thought I’d be safe. And I drove by a few places I heard about on the news recently. Back in the 1600’s, Gotham was just a goat farm and a Dutch trading post. From there it became one of the greatest economic and cultural centers in the country, if not the world. But I was passing abandoned amusement parks where Wonderland-themed kidnappers held the mayor’s daughter Alice hostage. The old ice cream factory where the cops found a bunch of stolen cryogenic tech. And all the empty warehouses where entire armies of thematically costumed goons hang out. The next day I went to the address.
Turns out Brian’s gun club had their own abandoned warehouse. And they dressed up in sports pads and rubber masks. His weird friend Anton loaded firearms of questionable legality into a gear bag as we got inside his white utility van. They got a tip about a drug deal going down at a parking garage off Robinson Park. When we got there, we ducked behind the parked cars in our Batman costumes. Brian carries a 12 gauge shotgun while Anton picks up an Uzi. I just grab a pistol. Some Russian gangsters pull up, bringing dogs with them. As does the mad scientist scarecrow monster from last year. Apparently he was selling them drugs laced the fear toxin he made from the rare blue mountain flower. Brian made himself known. I heard one of the Russians say “Pity there’s one only one of you.” We got the drop on them.
I pulled one over the barricade, throwing him several floors down. Anton did the same on the other side. In the one moment of confusion, Brian pulled his shotgun, firing a blast towards the crowd. I saw the scarecrow dive behind some vehicles. I charged at him, pointing the desert eagle at his back. I thought about The Narrows. I thought about it too long and got sprayed with fear poison from the scarecrow’s sleeve. I don’t remember much of what happened after that. The dogs bit Anton then Batman showed up to beat up everyone. Turns out he drove the rocket tank.
I woke up two days later handcuffed to a hospital bed. First my wife showed up with divorce papers. Then Brian showed up with a big smile on his face. As soon as the doctors left he said “Good news! I slipped a few bucks to this doctor from Arkham. He’s gonna diagnose us with a whole bunch of stuff. Worse we’ll have to do is a couple months in the nuthouse, then be back on the street.”
“Wait! You bribed a doctor to get a fake diagnosis?”
“Means to an end, that’s all. They don’t make poo poo up there. Funding’s a mess. But it keeps us on the street.”
I never went back to the gun club after that. I took my ill-gotten freedom after a brief in-patient hospital stay. I was expecting Brian to be angry, but he passed away two days later. He was killed by an evil clown who spent the next few weeks committing philosophy-based crimes.
|# ¿ Aug 10, 2020 04:41|
GIVE ME AN INGREDIENT
|# ¿ Aug 11, 2020 04:03|
Word Count: 1275
Water rolls down the chickpeas, cascading off the tiny legumes like a waterfall pouring down onto the stones below. It flows through the strainer, emptying into the kitchen sink. Ana breaths a little sigh of relief as she runs the tap. The city hadn’t shut them off yet. She pours them into the industrial sized food processor her and her husband bought at the Restaurant Depot on State Street. It was the first major purchase they made together for Cafe Mediterranean. The first time their business venture felt real. “You know your hummus recipe?” she remembers him asking. “What if you made that? But like, a poo poo ton?”
She could only laugh after he said that. “I don’t think we can measure in poo poo tons, Owen. The health department probably wouldn’t approve.”
Garbanzo pearls sink into an ocean of creamy tahini as Owen sets a stack of trays on the counter, without even glancing towards his wife. Ana picks up the tray of garlic. Normally she would measure what she needed, but she took her time picking them out, examining each bulb. She turns each one in her hand before dropping them, giving each one a squeeze for firmness as she looks for discoloration. Barely even a speck of yellow on even one of the cloves she pulls from the metal receptacle.
“Are you just making the hummus now?” Owen asks in monotone, barely peeking over his shoulder.
“It needed more chickpeas,” she responds in kind. “And garlic.” This was the most they had spoken to each other since they left their home this morning. She closes the lid and sets the timer, placing a moist towel over the small exhaust hatch. It’s enough to dull the pungent odors of the escaping gasses. At least before they fade into an earthy aroma accented by notes of citrus. She only removes the towel to pour ice water into the hatch when the mixer starts churning a little too hard. Owen catches as he turns back toward the dining room.
“Don’t thin it down too much,” he drones as he starts to leave the kitchen.
“I know how much goes in.”
The curtness of Ana’s response stops Owen at the door. “I just don’t want to serve soup instead of hummus.”
Ana stops pouring. “I don’t want to blow out the loving motor before we drag this goddamn thing to auction.”
Owen starts to respond but stops himself. Both him and Ana recognize this moment; the moment before things begin to spiral. She goes back to the hummus and he leaves the room, both deciding it was easier to disengage.
Cafe Mediterranean had existed for three years. Business was great, until it wasn’t. Last year the sales began slipping, then didn’t stop. Owen thought it was some fault in the kitchen. When increasing supervision didn’t work, it quickly became micromanagement, and the kitchen staff became a revolving door. Ana didn’t appreciate this. Most of the recipes were family recipes passed to her from her grandparents, which she took great care to transcribe. If anything, it had to be a marketing issue. If you’re not actively engaging your audience, you fade into the background. Owen spent four years getting a degree in marketing and was well aware of this. Every financial statement and budget they looked at became a shouting match, until they accepted they couldn’t afford to open. Then their home became quiet.
The frustration was still there, just buried under layers of resigned acceptance. The hardest blow came when they had to announce it to their staff. The humiliation they felt at the restaurant’s failure quickly became shame, multiplied every pair of sad eyes watching them. They had to give the same speech for every shift. From there it just became a matter of making it to the closing day. At least when Cafe Mediterranean actually dies, they won’t have to watch it linger.
Owen opens the doors at 11am. Jenny the hostess stands at the ready, forced grin on her face, marker by dry-erase seating chart. He looks out the glass door, trying to spot anyone walking down the sidewalk. He glances toward the south windows, checking if any new cars have entered the lot. He does again at noon. Then again at 1pm. By 2pm, he sinks into one of the empty booths, staring blankly at the quiet dining room around him. The waitstaff sitting at the bar look up from their phones to see one of their bosses try not to meltdown in the corner, quickly turning away as his eyes move towards them.
Across the room, Ana takes a seat at one of the two person side tables. She carries a plate of hummus and pita bread with her. Her and Owen meet eyes as she notices him sitting defeated in his booth. “You’re welcome to some if you want,” she says, pointing a piece of pita bread towards the dip.
“Yeah,” Owen says meekly. “That sounds great.”
He takes the other seat across from his wife, grabbing a piece of bread as he does. As he sits, he gathers a generous helping of Cafe Mediterranean’s specialty. By the first bite, he’s struck by the rich layers of flavor. The nutty legume and sesame give way to hints of lemon, with the subtle tartness underscoring the savory richness. The heat of red pepper makes itself known, with cumin and garlic anchoring it to the traditional blend as olive oil flows through dense cream.
“You’ve, uh,” Owen starts. “You’ve really outdone yourself.”
Ana looks up. A wry smirk crawls across her face. “And you thought I was making soup.”
That gets a chuckle out of Owen. “You snuck real lemon in didn't you?”
“It’s still mostly citric acid. But it’s a special occasion.”
“Your mom will be real happy to hear that.”
“Oh god! She’s still mad we use that big rear end food processor.”
“I guess that’s it. That’s why we went under.”
“Mom knows what she’s talking about.” They both share a brief laugh. “So how many resumes have you sent out?”
Owen’s expression sours. “Like twenty. Haven’t heard anything back yet. How about you?”
“About the same. Of course, we do have a massive black spot on them.”
“Yeah. I talked to Jeff at the seafood buffet. I guess they’re always looking for kitchen help. Plus apparently their owner just learned what Facebook is, so they might be hiring for that.”
“Sarah at the Phillips Hotel said she could put in a good word. For either of us. If we wanted to keep the team together.”
Owen’s face perked up. “You mean you’re not tired of my bullshit yet?”
Ana smiles, placing her hand on Owen’s. “Don’t push it.”
The front door chime rings. Both Ana and Owen leap to their feet. A pair of middle aged couples walk in, looking around like the building might run away. Jenny asks if they’re a party of four. “You guys are closing?” one of them asks. A few more cars arrive after them. The slow trickle of customers picks up by 5pm. By 6pm, the waiting room is packed with patrons. Many of them saw the last posts on their social media and wanted to get the best hummus in the city one last time. At the end of the night, after an empty lunch hour, then the massive dinner rush. Owen and Ana help the staff clean up.
“I think I figured it out,” he tells her.
“This town might just be loving weird.”
Ana laughs. “You just figured that out now?”
|# ¿ Aug 17, 2020 03:38|
|# ¿ Aug 17, 2020 16:23|
Word Count: 2229
The holomap on the laser rifle was terrible. While Sarris preferred to create light sculptures, commission work he took from the military made him sensitive to bad UI. But it’s enough to get him to Ellsberg, and to the relay station he learned about on those commissions. His skin crawls as the farmbots tend to the corn stalks along the rural Illinois backroads. Trenton, the ex-Army he hired for security, teases him about it. “Don’t worry about them, City Boy. They’re single programmed. No network for the doom marble up there to hack. Besides, they would have started shooting by now.”
“Real loving reassuring.” Sarris doesn’t appreciate the humor. Not after what The Orb did to Chicago.
The Orb lingers just below the atmosphere, like a scarlet crystalline moon glowing in the night sky. Military scientists claim it’s an extraterrestrial entity. Civilian scientists often had their equipment turned against them during analysis. The occasional burst lights the sky as another beam blasts from The Orb. Sarris made it a point not to look up as he travelled past the farmland. But it’s hard not to notice when bright crimson lights the gravel road beneath him. Nor could he ignore the thunder that followed. He knew that burst meant another group of humans made too much progress in battle. He knew it meant another city block had vanished. He just wondered how many would be as lucky as he was.
“Hold up!” his travel partner says, waving a hand in the air. They both raise their laser rifles. The low watt flashlight beams seem to ripple the air. Trenton picks a rock off the road, throwing it forward, watching it bounce off thin air. A ripple floats where the pebble hit. “I think we found Ellsberg.”
“Move,” Sarris says, pushing him out of the way.
Trenton laughs at the short, lanky man’s gall. “And how are you going to open a military barricade?”
A stern faced Sarris answers “Art.” He opens the data port on the side of his rifle, popping in the memory drive while starting a diagnostic on the field. The ray from the barrel scans the barrier, mapping the frequency pattern. He lays the weapon on its side, opening the [i[Settings[/i] menu on its holo-display. As he predicted, the software interpreted the art files as ammunition types. With a squeeze of the trigger, wooddoor.hl fires at the forcefield. A few pulls of his stylus later, Sarris stretches the hard light construct into a standard sized wooden door. While a bit translucent, it still opened as he turned the knob.
A stunned Trenton carefully passes through. Maybe his client really did have some classified military intent. “You gonna tell me how you did that? Or is that another state security you don’t pay me enough for.”
“It’s just light. You just have to bend it the right way.”
Grabbing his rifle, Sarris confidently strides through his work, shutting the door behind him without a second thought. Once inside, the pair carefully make their downtown. Sarris takes a single look back. The holodoor churns his stomach. All he did was stretch a pre-rendered asset over a canvas. Yet this was the only art he had been able to create since escaping Chicago.
A series of strip malls and bail bond huts give way to “Historic Downtown Ellsberg.” It mostly consists of implant docs and nano repair shops dressed up with faux-19th century facades. Most are charred from the attack. The clutter on the streets tells the story of the evacuation, with toothbrushes and family photos spread across the hoverjet burned pavement. But what concerns the pair are the worn construction modules and traffic bots scattered amongst them. If their hard drives were still intact, The Orb’s code may still be present. Trenton’s step over the wreckage. Sarris struggles to follow suit, but his nerves upset his footing. His weapon shakes as he attempts to move tactically.
“You alright?” Trenton asks.
“I’m fine!” Sarris snaps back.
“Trust me. You’ll hold up better if you don’t bullshit yourself.”
The town brought back terrible memories for Sarris. The Orb always begins its attack the same way. Unknown code creeps into city wide networks, possessing both public utilities and private appliances alike. When Sarris escaped his apartment, the abstract holo sculpture he was working on grew several feet. Geometric shapes became balls of fire, melting and scorching anything it touched as the holocaster safeties were disengaged. He was able to remove the memory drive before it consumed the entire building. It was an act purely out of instinct, though he often wonders if he was more concerned about saving his life or his work. He managed to make it past the military line into the evac hovers.
He was hopeful as the evacs filled, and the military seemed to either contain or destroy the rogue machinery. But when the human forces were too successful, energy poured from The Orb. A column of blinding red light pounded onto the ground with a deafening roar, instantly incinerating all in it’s path. That didn’t seem to happen in Ellsberg. But the military presence here was minimal. They fought what they could then sealed it up before moving on to Chicago. But it was still deemed a hot zone. A fact that wasn’t lost on Trenton. “So, what’s up with this relay station?” he asks.
“It’s classified,” Sarris replies bluntly.
“There’s a big drat death ball in the sky. I think we can be a little loose with clearance.”
“I’m here to do a loving job. How about you do the one I’m paying you to do!”
Within seconds, Trenton crosses to Sarris. He grabs his shoulder, flipping around to face him. “Well maybe I want to know what that job is! That Orb sucks for everyone, City Boy. So if you got some special insight on how to take it down, I’d really like to know. Just so I know you’re not wasting my time.”
Sarris looks at the hand holding him still, freezing for a moment before puffing his chest out to assert authority. “I paid you to shoot anything that shoots us. That’s it. Not to ask questions.”
The display only fazes Trenton for a moment. Not out of any actual intimidation. If anything, the commands from a man a foot shorter with half his body mass were absurd. “Free word of advice. You want to sound like a tough guy? Don’t talk like a goddamn cartoon character. Besides, brother, your weapon’s been shaking since the minute you picked it up. poo poo, I thought you artist types were supposed to have steady hands.”
Trenton taps the rifle in Sarris’s hand. Sarris tenses up, before regaining eye contact. Trenton smiles, laughing at his own joke. Sarris joins him. “You can fake it better with holograms. Look, I can tell you it’s a closed circuit relay station. Completely spylocked. I can monitor it from there without it getting into the tech. Anything after that, the fewer people who know, the better.”
While it was clear to Trenton that Sarris over-exaggerated the urgency, he let it slide with little more than a chuckle. “Alright. But maybe next time hire two bodyguards.”
“Maybe think about lowering your price.”
The clanging of falling metal pierces the dead silence of the town. The steel tipped cords drag across concrete. Sarris’s breathing becomes heavy. His rifle quakes as his eyes dart around the town square. Trenton manages to keep his weapon steady, only barely steeling himself in the exposed street.
“Hey Sarris!” Trenton shouts. “Remember what you said. It’s just light. The recoil’s from the battery.”
The Holoplex 20 marquee lights. Floating text proclaims today as Classic Movie Monday as a giant digital specter of Clark Gable raises from the projector. The pair aim their rifles. Sarris wastes no time firing. Sparks from the building’s face before a half conscious thought aims his gun towards the marquee. Trenton turns based on a hunch, firing into the wadded mass of car engines and mail sorters as he’s proven right. The street lights flicker, firing thin beams of red, yellow, and green into the streets. Half melted construction droids use their remaining hover jets to attack from the air. Trenton tries to pick off as many as he can from behind a brick planter.
From his cover, he sees Sarris fire wildly from the open. In Sarris’s mind, he’s sharp. He believes he’s listening to his instincts, dodging attacks with almost superhuman reflexes, and aiming with almost divine accuracy. The monsters that destroy his home have presented themselves to him, and the fates have tasked him with avenging it. It’s all a fear addled delusion. Trenton’s seen this before. The first timers always get a little lucky when they start to lose it. But they either die as soon as the adrenaline wears off, or die when some causes them to crash. And a rumble from the sky crashes Sarris.
The Orb glows as it did that fateful day in Chicago. The bright crimson burst fills the sky, stalled only by the hard light dome surrounding the town. Memories of his escape flood his mind. He remembers his neighbors screaming from the windows as they were burned alive by their own holoTVs. He remembers Auto Taxis wiping out entire sidewalks of pedestrians running for their lives. He remembers burning faces and crumbling buildings as the beam consumed his neighborhood. As the forcefield cracks above him, Sarris can only stare as flames climb from the ground. The artist in him laments not having one last piece to be remembered by.
He’s jarred out of his trance when Trenton grabs his arm, pulling him into an alley he’d cleared. “Last time I cover your rear end!” The barrier above them gives. The world goes white. Intense heat follows. As Sarris becomes conscious, he sees Trenton on top of him. Steam pours from tattered clothing over burned fleshed.
“Oh gently caress,” Sarris mutters, the volume of his voice rises as he crawls out of his stupor. “Are you okay? Trenton! Are you okay?”
Trenton lets out a cough and a laugh. “I’m only about medium rare.”
They kept to the alleys to find the relay station thankfully well out of the blast zone. Sarris still remembered the keycode from his commission work. The inside was a little dusty, but intact. The Central Command holocast was conveniently not password protected. Sarris began to flip every switch on the walls of screens and buttons as Trenton collected ointment from all the first aid kits. He grabs a chair, resting his burned limbs, as Sarris activates the radio telescope. The sound it broadcasts roars a deep, bassy growl. “What the hell is that?” Trenton asks.
“It’s The Orb,” Sarris responds, grabbing his stylus. He loads the memory drive into the large holocast and starts sculpting. The sound moves him, like revelation from the heavens; revelation he must turn into scripture. Sarris builds the spherical wireframe grid, filling with red light. He lets the light leak from the frame, waving it in rhythm with moans around him.
“So, is that like a battle plan or something?” Trenton asks.
“No.” Digital spackle surrounds the waves representing the chaos torn from the streets. The civilians. The tech.
“Are you trying to communicate with it?”
“No!” Sarris sketches some quick geometric shapes at the bottom. This is the city he lost. The home of the people taken before their time. His art was always comforting in times of turmoil. Whenever tragedy struck, he could bend the light to reclaim his trauma. And this light was the most sacred of all. This was a reclamation of the light itself.
“I’m looking right at you. There’s no loving point in playing the goddamn ‘classifed’ game!”
“Would you shut up and let me create my art!” Both their eyes open in horror. Sarris at what he confessed in anger. Trenton had the confession itself. The burns on his side seem to twinge as he realizes.
“All of that just so you could play with lights?”
Sarris trembles. He hyperventilates as he points towards the holographic sphere he just created. “That Orb took everything from me. I can’t let it take my art.” The moans of The Orb fill the room, finding its way through the silence of the two men. Trenton pulls himself to his feet, staggering as he lifts himself off the chair. “Wait.” Sarris reaches into one of his pockets, removing a wad of paper currency.
Trenton staggers over to grab it, turning back towards the door immediately after. He glances back to see the confused sadness in Sarris’s eyes. “I’m gonna try and get some folks together.” Trenton’s voice is weak. Every word vibrates. “Try and get a message out. Then I’ll be back. And we use this place for something. You hear me, City Boy?”
Sarris nods. He watches as Trenton barely makes it down the stairs. He listens to every painful grunt as his ex-bodyguard inches back outside, back into the hot zone. Sarris waits in place until he hears the iron door they came through close, standing a few seconds longer before turning back to the holocaster. This piece doesn’t speak to him anymore. He wants to replace it with something else. He just doesn’t know what.
|# ¿ Aug 24, 2020 05:26|
|# ¿ Sep 2, 2020 04:03|
Amina Pakiam coughs as she gags down the raw pig tongue, unsure if the ritual would work. The spell usually called for a human sacrifice, but she refused to work with any magic that black. Not with The Royal Malaysian Police rounding up bomoh. Especially not with her father leading the charge. She finishes her meal and grabs the needle on the base of her altar. She pricks her ring finger, letting her blood drip into a jar she prepared for spellwork.
The red soaks into the turmeric rice bed at the bottom. Her hand shakes as she almost throws the pin back. She reminds herself not to rush this. Even if she can’t prevent the RMP raid, she can still defend against it. Her sisters’ safety was too important to get careless. She had only been practicing this craft since last spring, mildly experimenting in her college dorm. Now she’s attempting to summon ancient spirits.
“Amina!” Nadza shouts, rushing into the grocery basement. “We need to go! Now!”
“Don’t wait for me!” Amina yells back. “I can’t leave until the pelesit arrives!”
“poo poo! I hope it hurries!”
With only a second’s hesitation, Nadza runs back upstairs. The muffled voice and footsteps in the room above let Amina know her sister-witch took the advice well. If this works, they’ll meet up with a friend in a mukim an hour away. She presses her wounded finger, drawing more blood for the final part of the ritual. As the scarlet bubble forms on the tip, she holds her left hand steady, picking up a photo with her right. She considered using a family photo for the ritual, but those wouldn’t work. Her father was usually smiling in family photos, even after her mother passed. But not the newspaper clipping of him arresting Mona Fandey last July.
It was supposed to be a memento. Officer Mikhail Pakiam helping solve the crime of the century. And in Malaysia, it was. Mona Fandey was a pop music sensation in the late 80’s. Her resurfacing in 1993 as a suspect in the disappearance of a state assemblyman sounded like a scandal worthy of Hollywood. Officer Pakiam didn’t expect to find the assemblyman flayed, much less buried in eighteen pieces after a bastardized shamanic cleansing.
The newsprint goes dark from Amina’s pierced fingertip. She drops the paper into the jar before backing away from the altar. She waits, watching the shadows cast by the spelled candles for any unworldly distortions. She removes a vial of minyak chelak from her pocket, anointing herself with the spiced elixir for protection, should the entity be beyond her control. But the shadows follow their candlelight. If the supernatural enters the sanctum, it chooses to remain invisible. Amina utters a “gently caress” to herself, grabbing what she can to escape the store basement.
She stops for a moment as an insect chirps from somewhere within the room. It could be a cricket. Maybe a kind of cicada. Either way, small creature’s noise gave her hope. The pelesit preferred smaller forms.
A powerful crack shatters the glass door upstairs. The basement door handle falls amidst splinters after a single kick. Heavy boots storm down the stairs, though only a single pair. But this one man came dressed in the dark blue and Kevlar of the RMP. His face was barely familiar, having aged almost a decade in a matter of months. Amira notices the Berreta he aims at her before looking into his eyes. They’re wide open in something between hatred and fear. Though his quivering eyelids imply he’s fighting back tears.
“Dad?” Amina says, putting her hands in the air
“Shut up!” Officer Pakiam snaps back. “Only call me that if you’re really my daughter.”
Mikhail’s hair had almost entirely grayed. He hadn’t shaved in at least a week. His quivering eyelids exist within dark circles. Amina isn’t surprised. As far as she knew, her father hadn’t slept since the arrest. He became paranoid, convinced Fandey was part of some larger cabal of witches sending evil spirits to slowly enact revenge. Discovering his daughter practiced mysticism with her roommate Nadza didn’t dissuade him.
“You came alone,” Amina mutters.
“You think I didn’t know you tipped the cult off?” The gun shakes in Mikhail’s hands as Amina’s shake in the air. She watches her father’s weapon dip. “Why did you join Fandey?”
“I didn’t join Fandey!” Amina allows her voice to spike and her hands lower. She steps toward her father, but recoils as his gun snaps back into its former place. She lowers her tone and slows her speech. “I didn’t join Fandey, I don’t even know how I would. I don’t want to kill people.”
Mikhail’s eyes close and his weapon dips again. Amina lowers her hands. The chirping starts again, only louder, closer. She sees the source this time. A tiny grasshopper crawls up her father’s vest, perching itself on the top strap by his shoulder. Mikhail doesn’t mind it. “Do you remember your twelfth birthday?”
The question strikes Amina as odd. But it seems sincere. Almost desperate. His eyes were red and moist. His jaw unclenches. She goes along. “Yeah. You took me to that pet store in Kuantan. You and mom didn’t tell me where we were going. All you would say was ‘your present.’”
A smile cracks across Mikhail’s face with a slight knowing laugh. “And you picked out that white persian. The really furry one with the weird face,”
Amina smiles back. “Macha.”
Mikhail’s grin drops. “That was a week before your mother had her accident. The pet shop was her idea. She loved you so much.”
“I loved her too,” Amina replies.
The grasshopper chirps.
“What would she think of you now?” Mikhail mutters, his face turning red in fury. Within a second, Amira stares down the barrel of a hasilty pointed Barreta. “What would she think of Mona--”
The grasshopper fires like a dart into Mikhail’s, almost drilling into it, tail first. The temperature lowers and Amina sees their breaths in the rapidly freezing air. He’s coughing; a painful dry breaking up what sounds like an attempt to speak. With each cough, a rapid chirping bellows from his throat. Amina rushes to grab him as he staggers to the ground.
“Dad!” she shouts as her father babbles incoherently. She tries to remember the lore. When the pelesit enters the body, it releases the polong spirit. Legend states the victims of the cursed spirit are known to ramble about cats. “Tell me about Macha.”
“Macha,” Mikhail grunts, a wheeze accenting his words. “We went right past all ten mane coons and tuxedos straight to him.”
He was struggling, but he could speak. All she had to do was keep him talking. “Tell me about Macha!”
“Weirdest face ever. Like a white tomato someone crushed that grew fur. But my daughter loved that cat--”
Amira sees hope. To reject the polong and the pelesit that harbors it, the victim must call the name of the bomoh who summoned it. “Who’s your daughter?”
“She picked out toys for him at the shop. If I had the money I would have bought the whole drat store.”
“Please dad! What’s your daughter’s name?!”
Sweat and tear pour down his beet red face. With every cough, another line of drool dangles from his lip. “His name was Macha. He was a good kitty. He was a very good kitty”
White foam pours from his mouth, overtaking the trails of drool. Convulsions shake the body out of Amina’s arms. His body goes limp. A final breath exits his mouth, followed by the grasshopper. Amina falls backwards in stunned silence, shaking at the realization that her father died by her hand. She watches the grasshopper climb across her father before flying into the bottle filled with bloodied rice. Amina wants to mourn, but glimpsing the altar fills her with dread. With panic-fueling her, she grabs as much as she can from the basement, throwing as much as she can into gear bags and totes laying around. She starts with the pelesit jar. Once she removes the last evidence of witchcraft, she rushes toward the stairs, stopping just short.
She puts her bags down and walks back to her father, minyak chelak in hand. She sprinkles a bit on his joints, behind his ears, under his armpits. Amina doesn’t know how many enemies he made among the bomoh. Many could torment victims even after death.
|# ¿ Sep 7, 2020 10:02|
Interprompt is 250 words, write a piece that makes fun of terrible cultural appropriation in popular media, go
A Scene from "Surf's Up Samurai" by Brody Carmichael
Word Count: 246
EXT. THE SHOGUN’S CASTLE - NIGHT
We see the castle, lit by torches and patrolled by samurais. A large dam holds the mountain river at bay. Two men dressed in all black ninja wear approach it. One pulls his mask off to reveal loyal Japanese sidekick UKOG.
How do we get past the shogun’s army?
The second pulls off his mask, revealing our hero, time-traveling surfer dude MITCH RADICAL. His blond hair shines in the torchlight.
We got a saying in San Bernardino, bro. Just follow the wave.
INT. THE SHOGUN’S CASTLE DUNGEON - NIGHT
THE SHOGUN walks past the prison cages, flanked by masked GUARDS, taunting the inmates. The prisoners dressed in rags watch helplessly from their straw filled cells.
If you fools think any surfer will free Japan, think again!
A large rumble shakes the castle. As everyone in the dungeon steadies themselves, The Shogun looks up to see river water rushing down the hall, with Ukog and Mitch riding the wave on their boards.
Do you know what you’re doing?
I’m hanging ten, bro!
The water barrels past the shogun and his men, sweeping them away. As the wave ebbs, Mitch and Ukog’s boards coast to the drying floor. The damp prisoners, now scattered across their cell, pull themselves up. One spits out a goldfish. The Shogun is upside down in a barrel. His pants have come off, revealing his heart patterned underwear.
Looks like Japan’s freer already.
|# ¿ Sep 7, 2020 23:48|
|# ¿ Sep 9, 2020 00:24|
|# ¿ Sep 22, 2023 08:23|
Word Count: 1297
It may seem unlikely that we’re aware of Instagram in the feywild. But the affairs of mortals have a troubling of finding their way to our doorstep. An example being garden vlogger and social media #SpringQueen Kylie Knox. Kylie happened to catch the “CottageCore” zeitgeist, earning millions of subscribers and several lucrative sponsorships in the process. There’s some debate whether this was luck or genuine business savvy, but regardless Kylie held herself in very high esteem. Unfortunately, she did hold those around her in quite the same light.
You may have seen her most recent travel vlog, where she toured the Old Dutch garden in Gwydir Castle. Though you likely didn’t see the confrontation that occurred off-camera. Outside the gates, Kylie came across a ring of mushrooms. Finding the fungi aesthetically pleasing, she picked a few for her home garden. As she did, Agharad, the elderly caretaker rushed to stop her, screaming “You musn’t! That ring belongs to Titania of the Spring Court, Fairy Queen of the Seelie!”
Agharad tried to pull Kylie away, hurriedly explaining how the circle belonged to me. Frustrated with the old woman’s warnings, Kylie shouted “There’s only one Spring Queen here!” Then told poor Agharad “You’re stupid. That’s why you’re poor.”
A cruel thing to say for sure. But I understand wealth and fame, particularly internet fame, brings its own challenges. It requires a certain level of bravado to remain successful. Though if Kylie wanted to make a claim like that, particularly to hurt a poor put-upon woman such as Agharad, I determined it was only fair she prove her lauded intelligence. So I travelled to the Autumn Court, gathering the seeds of Queen Mab’s prized Gan Úsáid.
You may be wondering what kinds of seeds could be found in an Unseelie land of withering waste. Challenging ones, to be certain. Even with the magic of the Spring Court, the plant still grew bulbous and shapeless, barely even growing mold. It didn’t bear any particular fragrance, and I would highly recommend against trying to eat it. But it was unlike any flora of the mundane world. Enough to pique the curiosity of a collector.
I took the guise of a human, giving myself the name Anita Farrell. I created an email address, sending Kylie a photo of the Gan as incentive. Even an archfey such as myself cannot lie, but I didn’t find “a rare plant from bit outside Wales” a particularly untrue description. The only difficult part was assigning a price only moderately outrageous. It seemed my price was fair, as Kylie invited me to her home to finalize the sale. I went to her California mansion, which she had renovated to look more like an idealized celtic farmhouse. Within minutes of taking our seats in her faux rustic club chair, she had begun haggling my price point for the Gan.
It made sense. Kylie was in the process of building an online for an official line of #SpringQueen products. However, I explained that the Gan was extremely rare and difficult to grow. The few seeds it sprouted were buried deep inside, requiring some degree of precision to remove without causing permanent damage. She asked “How difficult?” This was the exact question I was hoping she’d ask.
I named a drastically reduced price for the seeds alone. Not only could she grow her own Gan Úsáid, but any extra seeds could be sold at a considerable markup. Granted the Gan was a temperamental specimen, though I made it clear how certain I was the #SpringQueen of YouTube would be up to the challenge. She agreed and bought the seeds.
She ended our deal with a brisk “Pleasure doing business with you.” A wise decision on her part, whether she knew it or not. You never want to thank a fey, because you never want them to believe you’re in their debt.
It took about three weeks for Kylie’s Gan to reach what could be considered “Full bloom” by its standards. When she posted the initial photos, she made sure to note the #SpringQueen branded loam soils and specially formulated fertilizers she used. By the end of the day, traffic to her various social media outlets increased tenfold to see the bizarre addition to her private garden, even if it looked more akin to a green, leafy tumor than a flower. Kylie even managed to retrieve a few seeds, which she sold via livestream auction. The next month, she emailed the address I used to contact her, asking about a bulk price.
When Kylie’s online store opened, it would sell limited amounts of the Gan for only a few days at time. Each time it did, her servers would crash. This led to Kylie screaming at her IT folks until the problem was fixed. Many who bought the Gan were ultimately unsatisfied, as the plant refused to grow for them. Kylie made an effort to apologize, though her form letters grew increasingly passive aggressive. But otherwise her career stayed relatively on track, until the Autumn Court discovered where their seeds had gone. Kylie returned home one day to find the Gan Úsáid she grew herself missing, and her entire garden withered as if struck by an approaching winter.
Kylie took to Twitter to type to rage against everyone remotely close to her. She accused her staff of sabotage because she yelled at them once. She accused potential stalkers amongst her fanbase of jealous rage. And she even accused her fanbase as a whole not appreciating how hard she worked as a creator. Those that bought the Gan from her were the most insulted. Particularly since they experienced a similar theft, dying gardens and all. Many of them contacted their lawyers.
But the biggest public humiliation came when popular YouTubers The O’Connor Brothers were rushed to the hospital for an emergency stomach pump. They tried to eat their Gan on camera. They called it challenge, which meant several others followed suit.
Kylie’s lawyers began quitting faster than she could hire new ones. Even as they were overtaxed, she demanded they serve papers to someone named Anita Farrell. Though, outside of an email account and bank account they couldn’t trace, no such person existed. Again, a fey cannot lie. That name is as real as any others I have used over the years. It’s not my fault they couldn’t find a record of me.
When you rise that quickly, only for everything to crash that suddenly, it’s nearly impossible to salvage your career. Kylie wrote me a furious email one night after a grueling meeting with her attorneys. Amongst her digital screed, she included the phrase “Thank you for ruining my life.” That was enough for me to call in a debt. I appeared to her in my true form as Queen Titania of the Spring Court, spreading my glistening wings as nature consumed Kylie Knox’s home office.
As she glared in awed silence, I made her an offer. I could restore her career on one condition, that being her assistance in a diplomatic matter. I had never asked permission to use Queen Mab’s seeds, and she was quite upset her private collection had been pilfered. I was in need of an emissary to help negotiate this delicate matter. She agreed, feigning enough confidence to declare “I’ll show her who the real Spring Queen is.”
I escorted her to the edge of the Unseelie Feywild, letting her travel to the Autumn Court on her own. She did not protest. I informed her I’d be waiting for her when she was done. Before she left, I gave her one last piece of advice. “Try to be polite.”
I hope she took that advice. She has been gone a very long time.
|# ¿ Sep 14, 2020 04:54|