In Case You Missed It: “Lessons from the Deep”

(Quick re-post, cause this got put up a little later yesterday. Enjoy, y’all!)

Whaaaaat’s up everybody? Happy-

…Tuesday! (Sorry, I actually had to scratch my chin to remember what day it was and wanted to reflect that here.)

Wanted to get this out earlier today, but the hectic nature of trying to sell the house now that it’s good and flipped, well, you get it. Now that we’re here, so cues the part where I tell you the passing thought that just cartwheeled around the yard, wispily threaded its way through the window, and slipped through my ear to the top of my head:

If you’ve never been to a speak-easy, like, a “real” one that adheres to its theme, you owe it to yourself. On a recent trip to L.A. for my friends’ wedding, my girlfriend Amanda and I found (okay, really, she found it and I just went) a Speak-Easy the night before the wedding, and y’all, it was AWESOME. I’m talking had to spot the bouncer out front looking inconspicuous out front of the inconspicuous building, get the night’s password out of him, go down a back alley (where Mandy swung my hand all giddy-like while I thought we were gonna get dirked), make a turn where we found a red light, knock on the door where a man on the other side pulled a curtain and asked for the password – the Whole Nine. If you find yourself in Pasadena and in the very specific, nameless speak-easy I’m talking about, get the Mama’s Poison – it’s tops, daddio.

Anyway, in the name of flipping (two paragraphs ago – poor segue), we’re going to go through our little flip book again (like we did last week).

Here’s how it’s gonna go: I’m gonna stop typing to briefly flip through randomly for a prompt, probably sit with my mouth agape for a moment or two while observing what it comes up with, then decide whether or not to tell you before or after to tell y’all what the parameters were.

Ready?

Cool.

-flippy flips-

Heh heh heh, I love this thing.

Alright, so this time, we got the following:

  • Following a disastrous job interview,
  • a big-time weather reporter
  • wakes up in a strange house

Same as last time, we’re taking this nice and gently, not rushing and stressing the shit out of it like on previous fan/friend submitted prompts – even though those turn out awesome and we’ll get back to them soon.

Without further adieu…

The Dark Below Pepperdine Circle

The man in the suit clapped his hand on the desk as he laughed. He had thick fingers and a heavy ring that knocked against the wood. It was here Greg also noticed the two metal teeth on the man’s bottom row, as well as the thickness of his sideburns. He would’ve said something, but he hadn’t exactly had the power in the conversation thus far as it was.

“I love it!” the man boomed. “Oh, I love it, I tell ya! You go ahead and keep that, and you’ll hear from us within the week!” Greg took the item in question from the man in the suit as he resumed laughing. He laughed unceasingly while he held the door open for Greg, during the entire escort to the parking lot, and laughed still as the front door of the office building closed to officiate their parting. Greg walked out to his car, threw his briefcase in the back, and drove around to the other side of the lot, where he parked again, and let his head fall onto the horn for a good long while.

This was the seventh interview that had pushed daisies in the last four days. He looked to the bobble-head James had given him. It was a small figure of Greg, with the usual over-sized head, but an expression of bewildered discomfort and a cartoon-like, green gas cloud erupting from his bottom. “Come on,” his wife had said. “John and Stacey have been inviting us over for weeks. They want to do fish tacos and play some games. What’s the worst that could happen?”

“Oh, I don’t know, Karen,” Future Greg would say. “Maybe John and Stacey don’t know a spatula from an flattened duck foot. Maybe that rank-ass fish ruins my gut live on air and gets me fired. Maybe I come home that day to bitch about it, and find John bending you over my billiard table. Maybe I move out and live on Curtis’s couch for three months. Maybe, when I’m finally ready to start job hunting again, I find out I’m a new goddamn meme format. So, no, Karen. Fuck their tacos.”

He took his head off the horn and got out of his car, whereupon he hurled the bobble-head over the curve of the nearest building’s wall and started kicking the hell out of his tires. When his tirade finally calmed, he looked up to see an older man staring at him from the sidewalk. He wore a beanie, weathered jacket, finger-less gloves, and sat in a wheelchair. “What the fuck do you want?” Greg screamed, red in the face.

His flat expression unchanged, the homeless man held out a hand with a tab of acid suspended between two fingers. Greg’s heavy breathing slowly returned to normal under the weight of his confusion at first, but then began instead weighing the consequences.

Thus began a series of poor choices.

*

Greg woke up to a splash of water going up his nose. His burning sinuses and coughing fit immediately roused him to consciousness, but he found he was in utter darkness. His eyes opened wide in the black, that they might drink in any wayward light, but to no avail. He could tell he was lying on his stomach in water that was maybe two inches deep, and his fingers were against something soft, like wet fur under the water. He scrambled away at first, imagining he was on the back of a sleeping aquatic bear or wildebeest. When he didn’t hear a roar or the crunching of his own bones, he sopped his way to his knees and listened. Beyond his own heavy breathing, he heard the very soft lapping of water somewhere, distant in the void. And something like…the crunching of gift wrap?

He fumbled about in his pocket for his phone and its flashlight, but when he tried to touch the screen, nothing. Damn, he thought. Soaked.

He began feeling his way around in the dark, sloshing around in the the toe-height chill of the water. After a few, stumbling steps, he knocked something over in the dark. Was that…a chair? He felt around some more. There were chairs and a table. Meaning the fur under the water was actually…carpet? Was he…was he in a house?

He fumbled around until he had roughly mapped out in his mind’s eye what must be the dining room and kitchen, then felt around from there for some sort of hallway where one might keep a flashlight or emergency supplies, all the while eerily confident that a giant, monstrous crab was going to snatch him out of the dark. Finally, he grasped what felt like the handle to a closet door and in a stroke of luck, found a flashlight.

After his eyes adjusted, he looked around and had one thought: “This looks just like my grandma’s house.”

And it did. Pink wallpaper, pastry plates in display shelves (all curiously shifted to one side), and spoons on the walls (all slightly tilted in their angle). Besides the water and the strange arrangement gravity had seemed to have taken on the objects in the room, the only oddity was that it was completely black. No light came even from the windows.

He walked over to one and saw that, besides the utter dark, there was a curious, milky whiteness on the other side of the glass. He pressed his face close to it in some vain hope of seeing beyond the veil when the light caught against the large round eye of a fish. He screeched a leapt back. Now he was certain that he was in some kind of sick Lovecraftian nightmare.

Against his better judgement, he ran to what he surmised to be the front door and flung it open. A huge, white belly forced its way into the door, translucent against the light and writhing with undersea grass and swishing tails. Right when he was sure he was moments from an eldritch, cosmic death, the whole house began to shake and shift. He felt gravity sway and pull him down the hallway as the floor moved beneath him. Seemingly pulled by unseen forces, the hallway felt less like that and more like an esophagus leading to Cthulu’s stomach.

Right when he was about to scream obscenities to God and his aunt Maggie (long story), the scene changed. He heard a rush of water, light poured through the windows, the belly in the doorway deflated of a sudden, and there were…voices? More than voices, it was the sound of heavy machinery.

When the seismic motions finally stopped, he cautiously approached the front door, beyond which he heard voices. The skin of the belly, he now saw, had writing on it, and up close it read: “Tyvek.”

Plastic wrap? Greg thought. What the hell is…

No sooner had he thought the question than a utility knife thrust through the industrial plastic and Greg was face-to-face with a mustachio’d man in a tow-truck company jumpsuit. The both of them squealed at each other, and the next moment Greg was surrounded by a gaggle of uniformed officers who, in perfect stereo, all shouted, “Freeze!”

*

“Jesus, Greg,” sighed his friend Curtis. “You’ve outdone yourself this time.”

Curtis sat with Greg on the back ramp of an ambulance rig, a heat blanket draped over his shoulders and Starbucks in both their hands. They just been shown security footage from the dockside cabin of Greg, at 2:30 in the morning, backing up an enormous flatbed truck carrying a mobile home to the edge of the water, climbing on the to roof while screaming something about “ferrying the Great Turtle Charon,” and falling through a skylight. At approximately 3:14, the truck’s brakes gave out rolled out into the lake, sinking the house just up the edge of the roof.

“I think a homeless man gave me acid,” said Greg.

“No,” said Curtis, “you accepted acid from a homeless man. And probably more than just that. Jesus.”

Greg hung his head.

“But hey,” continued Curtis, “at least we still have this. Turns out the lady who’s house you dunked was a fan.” And he handed Greg one of his own bobble-heads.

Greg looked at the bobble-head, back to Curtis, then back to the bobble-head.

And through it in the lake.

END

The Take: Sorry, sort of rushed it there at the end, but I like the Hangover-style adventure that came of this one. Hope it was coherent enough for y’all. See you Thursday!

Ciao.

Lessons from the Deep

Whaaaaat’s up everybody? Happy-

…Tuesday! (Sorry, I actually had to scratch my chin to remember what day it was and wanted to reflect that here.)

Wanted to get this out earlier today, but the hectic nature of trying to sell the house now that it’s good and flipped, well, you get it. Now that we’re here, so cues the part where I tell you the passing thought that just cartwheeled around the yard, wispily threaded its way through the window, and slipped through my ear to the top of my head:

If you’ve never been to a speak-easy, like, a “real” one that adheres to its theme, you owe it to yourself. On a recent trip to L.A. for my friends’ wedding, my girlfriend Amanda and I found (okay, really, she found it and I just went) a Speak-Easy the night before the wedding, and y’all, it was AWESOME. I’m talking had to spot the bouncer out front looking inconspicuous out front of the inconspicuous building, get the night’s password out of him, go down a back alley (where Mandy swung my hand all giddy-like while I thought we were gonna get dirked), make a turn where we found a red light, knock on the door where a man on the other side pulled a curtain and asked for the password – the Whole Nine. If you find yourself in Pasadena and in the very specific, nameless speak-easy I’m talking about, get the Mama’s Poison – it’s tops, daddio.

Anyway, in the name of flipping (two paragraphs ago – poor segue), we’re going to go through our little flip book again (like we did last week).

Here’s how it’s gonna go: I’m gonna stop typing to briefly flip through randomly for a prompt, probably sit with my mouth agape for a moment or two while observing what it comes up with, then decide whether or not to tell you before or after to tell y’all what the parameters were.

Ready?

Cool.

-flippy flips-

Heh heh heh, I love this thing.

Alright, so this time, we got the following:

  • Following a disastrous job interview,
  • a big-time weather reporter
  • wakes up in a strange house

Same as last time, we’re taking this nice and gently, not rushing and stressing the shit out of it like on previous fan/friend submitted prompts – even though those turn out awesome and we’ll get back to them soon.

Without further adieu…

The Dark Below Pepperdine Circle

The man in the suit clapped his hand on the desk as he laughed. He had thick fingers and a heavy ring that knocked against the wood. It was here Greg also noticed the two metal teeth on the man’s bottom row, as well as the thickness of his sideburns. He would’ve said something, but he hadn’t exactly had the power in the conversation thus far as it was.

“I love it!” the man boomed. “Oh, I love it, I tell ya! You go ahead and keep that, and you’ll hear from us within the week!” Greg took the item in question from the man in the suit as he resumed laughing. He laughed unceasingly while he held the door open for Greg, during the entire escort to the parking lot, and laughed still as the front door of the office building closed to officiate their parting. Greg walked out to his car, threw his briefcase in the back, and drove around to the other side of the lot, where he parked again, and let his head fall onto the horn for a good long while.

This was the seventh interview that had pushed daisies in the last four days. He looked to the bobble-head James had given him. It was a small figure of Greg, with the usual over-sized head, but an expression of bewildered discomfort and a cartoon-like, green gas cloud erupting from his bottom. “Come on,” his wife had said. “John and Stacey have been inviting us over for weeks. They want to do fish tacos and play some games. What’s the worst that could happen?”

“Oh, I don’t know, Karen,” Future Greg would say. “Maybe John and Stacey don’t know a spatula from an flattened duck foot. Maybe that rank-ass fish ruins my gut live on air and gets me fired. Maybe I come home that day to bitch about it, and find John bending you over my billiard table. Maybe I move out and live on Curtis’s couch for three months. Maybe, when I’m finally ready to start job hunting again, I find out I’m a new goddamn meme format. So, no, Karen. Fuck their tacos.”

He took his head off the horn and got out of his car, whereupon he hurled the bobble-head over the curve of the nearest building’s wall and started kicking the hell out of his tires. When his tirade finally calmed, he looked up to see an older man staring at him from the sidewalk. He wore a beanie, weathered jacket, finger-less gloves, and sat in a wheelchair. “What the fuck do you want?” Greg screamed, red in the face.

His flat expression unchanged, the homeless man held out a hand with a tab of acid suspended between two fingers. Greg’s heavy breathing slowly returned to normal under the weight of his confusion at first, but then began instead weighing the consequences.

Thus began a series of poor choices.

*

Greg woke up to a splash of water going up his nose. His burning sinuses and coughing fit immediately roused him to consciousness, but he found he was in utter darkness. His eyes opened wide in the black, that they might drink in any wayward light, but to no avail. He could tell he was lying on his stomach in water that was maybe two inches deep, and his fingers were against something soft, like wet fur under the water. He scrambled away at first, imagining he was on the back of a sleeping aquatic bear or wildebeest. When he didn’t hear a roar or the crunching of his own bones, he sopped his way to his knees and listened. Beyond his own heavy breathing, he heard the very soft lapping of water somewhere, distant in the void. And something like…the crunching of gift wrap?

He fumbled about in his pocket for his phone and its flashlight, but when he tried to touch the screen, nothing. Damn, he thought. Soaked.

He began feeling his way around in the dark, sloshing around in the the toe-height chill of the water. After a few, stumbling steps, he knocked something over in the dark. Was that…a chair? He felt around some more. There were chairs and a table. Meaning the fur under the water was actually…carpet? Was he…was he in a house?

He fumbled around until he had roughly mapped out in his mind’s eye what must be the dining room and kitchen, then felt around from there for some sort of hallway where one might keep a flashlight or emergency supplies, all the while eerily confident that a giant, monstrous crab was going to snatch him out of the dark. Finally, he grasped what felt like the handle to a closet door and in a stroke of luck, found a flashlight.

After his eyes adjusted, he looked around and had one thought: “This looks just like my grandma’s house.”

And it did. Pink wallpaper, pastry plates in display shelves (all curiously shifted to one side), and spoons on the walls (all slightly tilted in their angle). Besides the water and the strange arrangement gravity had seemed to have taken on the objects in the room, the only oddity was that it was completely black. No light came even from the windows.

He walked over to one and saw that, besides the utter dark, there was a curious, milky whiteness on the other side of the glass. He pressed his face close to it in some vain hope of seeing beyond the veil when the light caught against the large round eye of a fish. He screeched a leapt back. Now he was certain that he was in some kind of sick Lovecraftian nightmare.

Against his better judgement, he ran to what he surmised to be the front door and flung it open. A huge, white belly forced its way into the door, translucent against the light and writhing with undersea grass and swishing tails. Right when he was sure he was moments from an eldritch, cosmic death, the whole house began to shake and shift. He felt gravity sway and pull him down the hallway as the floor moved beneath him. Seemingly pulled by unseen forces, the hallway felt less like that and more like an esophagus leading to Cthulu’s stomach.

Right when he was about to scream obscenities to God and his aunt Maggie (long story), the scene changed. He heard a rush of water, light poured through the windows, the belly in the doorway deflated of a sudden, and there were…voices? More than voices, it was the sound of heavy machinery.

When the seismic motions finally stopped, he cautiously approached the front door, beyond which he heard voices. The skin of the belly, he now saw, had writing on it, and up close it read: “Tyvek.”

Plastic wrap? Greg thought. What the hell is…

No sooner had he thought the question than a utility knife thrust through the industrial plastic and Greg was face-to-face with a mustachio’d man in a tow-truck company jumpsuit. The both of them squealed at each other, and the next moment Greg was surrounded by a gaggle of uniformed officers who, in perfect stereo, all shouted, “Freeze!”

*

“Jesus, Greg,” sighed his friend Curtis. “You’ve outdone yourself this time.”

Curtis sat with Greg on the back ramp of an ambulance rig, a heat blanket draped over his shoulders and Starbucks in both their hands. They just been shown security footage from the dockside cabin of Greg, at 2:30 in the morning, backing up an enormous flatbed truck carrying a mobile home to the edge of the water, climbing on the to roof while screaming something about “ferrying the Great Turtle Charon,” and falling through a skylight. At approximately 3:14, the truck’s brakes gave out rolled out into the lake, sinking the house just up the edge of the roof.

“I think a homeless man gave me acid,” said Greg.

“No,” said Curtis, “you accepted acid from a homeless man. And probably more than just that. Jesus.”

Greg hung his head.

“But hey,” continued Curtis, “at least we still have this. Turns out the lady who’s house you dunked was a fan.” And he handed Greg one of his own bobble-heads.

Greg looked at the bobble-head, back to Curtis, then back to the bobble-head.

And through it in the lake.

END

The Take: Sorry, sort of rushed it there at the end, but I like the Hangover-style adventure that came of this one. Hope it was coherent enough for y’all. See you Thursday!

Ciao.

“Karian Nimblefinger, the Baron’s Son” – Our First Guest Post!

Happy Tuesday, everybody!

About a month ago, I started waking up at 4:30 every Tuesday and Thursday morning to go running with my buddy Eric. I wouldn’t have voted for that start time, personally, but I asked, “What time are you consistently available?”
“In the morning before work,” said he.
“What time do you have to be at work?” asked I.
“Seven o’clock,” said he.
“In the morning?” asked I.
“Yep,” confirmed he.
“Okay,” sighed I.

That’s how it started, and I told him I refused to “bitch out” first, so now I’m pretty committed to those words, lest I eat them. It’s a thing I simultaneously think everyone should do, at least a little bit, and would not wish on someone I disliked greatly.

Anyway, on to the good stuff!

You all remember Pierre, right? (It’s kind of funny, because he initially asked to be kept anonymous when I mentioned I was going to put out his debut story, but has since become cool with using his name outside of that…but, nah. I like Pierre, so Pierre he’ll remain.) Well today’s post is both the last installment of the esteemed Amwren Chronicles series AND the first co-written feature on here. He wrote the first half, I finished up with the second to tie it into the campaign, and the result is the following beautiful literary baby.

Without further adieu…

Karian Nimblefinger, the Baron’s Son

Few men can trace their change of fortune to a specific event. Karian however can pinpoint it to a single hour on an otherwise uneventful August day. He was barely twelve years of age when he walked into his small one room home to see his father with a beaten face and his mother nowhere to be seen. He asked the question that any man of any age would ask, and was answered with a cold apathetic grunt from his father trying to drink his way out of a half full bottle of spirits. Unsatisfied and still not sure what happened Karian walked back outside to see what he could find.

Days went by before his father was willing to open up about what happened that day, and as the years progressed so did his story. The first time he told it he attacked the man he suspected his wife of sleeping with. By Karian’s thirteenth birthday his father defended her honor from a gang of savage militiamen with ill intent. Less than a year later, he was telling people the local lord challenged him to a duel for her hand. Two things remained consistent throughout his wildly growing stories: he always heroically faced overwhelming odds, and at the end she always left him coldly. He was the victim of a story that never ended, using his perceived misfortune as a crutch. He may as well have grown gills for all the time he spent drowning in a bottle.

Karian can trace his change of fortune to that mysterious day when his mother disappeared, because it was the first day he had no other option than to start believing his father’s wild stories. By the time he was old enough to start thinking for himself the damage was already done; he couldn’t trust anyone but himself, and women were nothing but backstabbing harlots. Eventually Karian got it in his mind to become a smooth-talking bard after seeing one visit a local tavern, and so he set off to join the Bard’s College of Stettin, and changed his family name from Tavistock to Nimblefinger. He dropped out after learning enough to play a lute, albeit poorly, and hum a tune. He survived by becoming a pickpocket and doing the odd job around a local inn.

These days he spends his time fast talking the pretty girls that pass through his inn. But through it all he can’t ignore the nagging in the back of his mind, the need to discover the truth about what really happened to his mother so many years ago…

*

It was the early morning crowing of a rooster that woke Karian, and he judged by the dizzying headache, lingering scent of perfume, and his utter lack of clothing, that the previous night had been a success. Rubbing his eyes to clear the dust, he looked around and decided that how he had come to wake in a barn, when he’d assuredly bed the lovely young lady in the tavern storeroom, was also best left to the imagination. He adjusted himself on the scratchy hay pile on which he was lying, folded his arms behind his head, and enjoyed the first rays of morning sun peeking through the parse planks of the barn’s walls. Anything but a typical man, this was, alas, a typical story in the life of Karian Nimblefinger.

What he was unaccustomed to, however, was waking to the presence of another man.

“Hello?” ventured a voice from the stall next to his.

“Ah, one minute, mate,” called Karian. Not that he held any shame whatsoever in the size of his manhood, or much shame to speak of at all really, he whispered a thanks to the sweet gods that left him with his bard’s bonnet, and covered himself with it. He cleared his throat with a cough. “You may approach, good sir,” he sang.

“Fair morning.” The man who rounded the corner was young, no more than twenty summers behind him, and dressed in robes of light lavender. A large medallion depicting two hands with intricately woven fingers laced with string hung low from his neck. “Are you Karian Nimblefinger?”

“My reputation precedes me. I am he, unique and true, friend. What’ll it be? Autograph or private performance? As you can see, I’m a bit without my equipment – well, my stage equipment.”

“Kindly appreciated, but unnecessary,” chuckled the priest. “I come on request of my master, as one of the Order of Bokonon. He requests your presence in Tallin in a week’s time.”

“Tallin…Tallin…Tallin…” repeated Karian tapping his chin. “Is that the one with all the…buildings?”

“A few, yes. Temples.”

“Ah, right! Well, as you can see, young master, I’m a man of professional…profession. I’m not accustomed to rendering services without payment. So, on that stricture, one of my very few, I would be remiss not to ask: will there be gold?”

“I would hazard to say yes, yes there will.”

“Then I’m in! If you’ll allow me a moment to fetch me pants, it’ll be off to the City of Temples.”

END

The Take: Not that I expect the world at large to closely follow this series, but after a few darker notes in the middle with entries like Aldis and Tsal, it felt appropriate to bring it back to a lighter note with Karian. Throughout the campaign, for his part in it (he eventually sojourned at one point to become a pirate – dope), he added to the comic relief, joviality, mischief, revelry, and unfiltered fun of the whole process, but he wasn’t without a humanizing darker side. In fact, he was the member of the group I least expected to learn, much less embrace, utilizing blood magic, but shit did he.

Anyway, it was good to see Karian again. Pierre, this one’s to you.

Take it easy, everyone. Catch ya Thursday.

Another Anecdote from a Gentleman…Again

Happy Thursday (ahem- pretend it’s Thursday. You get it.), everybody!

Just like last time, flooring remains, unsurprisingly, difficult. Eeh, really it’s more tedious than it is hard, but it’s plenty hard, too. My back’s sore, my knees are sore, my feet and neck are sore, but by the powers of Math and Patience, it’s almost done, dammit! Anyway, enough about me.

Well, almost.

I went camping this weekend! It was pretty rad, kind of just a repeat of the one from earlier in the year, just a bit longer. There was hiking, archery, swims in the lake, swaying in a hammock strung between two trees – The Works. There were differences, of course, but here were the highlights:

  1. Learned a New Way to Make S’Mores: Turned out we left out marshmallows behind when we packed up, but I’d bought – completely on a whim – a 25-pack of Rice Krispie Treats. As it turns out, they make a fuuuuucking awesome substitute for marshmallows (you’re welcome).
  2. Overcame My Fear of Water: So, last time, I swam out on open water (-ish, it’s a man-made lake), which was worth a trophy in its own right. This time, however, I swam ACROSS the lake AND BACK AGAIN. I Bilbo Baggins’d that shit. It was awesome.
  3. Spontaneously Jumped into Water Fully Clothed: My girlfriend Amanda and I went for a sweet hike, were having a conversation about if we’d ever or would ever just jump into a pool or lake with our clothes on (pretty sure you can make out where this is going), and each concluded, “I mean, I’d like to one day.” Well, Nature heard us, and we immediately turned a corner on the path that sloped down to the lake’s shore. We stopped, looked at one another, ran down, and dove on in.
  4. Left My Comfort Zone and Paid for It: I…well…actually, this is what today’s post is about, so I guess we’ll just get on to it.

For any that read the title and remembered the last Anecdote from a Gentleman post, you might remember it’s about poop. Same is true for mighty Number Four up there and for those seemingly self-evident reasons, I thought it would be better to frame it as coming from The Gentleman. If you journey on to the rest of what’s written below, just remember: read it in a typical 1800’s American/British (your choice) “bully!” accent.

Without further adieu…

Another Anecdote from a Gentleman

Oh, hello! Why, I didn’t see you there. By the look of your weathered shoes, I can see straight away you’re a fellow of the Great Outdoors. I myself just returned from one such venture, with quite the harrowing tale to tell, you might be sure. Might I share it with you?

Splendid!

All had gone swimmingly, I might say. And I don’t use the term loosely, I should warn you, as we frequented the cobalt waters of the wilderness often, but I digress. The tale at hand is of a far more sinister nature.

You see, when my dear beloved and I had last sojourned to that lovely piece of natural beauty, there had been…ah, well, issues with the facilities’ plumbing. As such, those governing bodies overseeing the estates had been so kind as to generously provide portable loo’s for we campers. Or, as they’re otherwise hailed: “Honey Buckets,” I believe (detestable name, that – downright deceitful). Well, on our initial visit, I became quite accustomed to these “Honey Buckets” in lieu of a proper loo (ho-ho! Did you notice the cleverness of wordplay? Brilliant!).

On this most recent venture, however, the facilities were amply functionable. Despite this being the case, I found myself gravitating towards those bright green boxes in lieu (ha! I’ve done it again!) of a proper potty. I, personally, found them safer and far more private than the boisterous sounds of the all-too crowded men’s room. So, I contentedly sat in my plastic palace, the master of my own space while I heeded Nature’s Call.

Then, on the penultimate day of our adventure, my love gives me a queer glance. “I’ll never understand,” she says to me, “why you prefer that to a proper toilet.” I tried to explain, but she wouldn’t have it. Instead, my case fell on deaf ears within the court of her judgemental expressions. So, on the last day we were there, what would you suppose I decided to do whence I heard the distant howl of Nature ‘pon the wind?

That’s right. I opted for porcelain over plastic. I overrulled my better judgement and the instincts which begged internally that I stay the traditional path. I strode into the men’s room, took my place in the stall beside the northern wall (I’m not some barbarian), and began my business.

What do you suppose happened next? That I, perhaps, simply went about the deed, washed, exited, and that was that? It would be nice were that the case, don’t you think?

But no.

No sooner had I sat down and finished my mantra (“You’re faceless here, they will never see you nor know your name,” in case you were curious) had an anonymous pair of purple shoes trampled into the stall beside me. What do you suppose I heard next? The dignified sounds of what is perfectly human and natural for any of us, performed with a manner of integrity and unoffensive volume?

No again.

Not only was I lambasted with the bellows of a dampened explosion which echoed on the walls, but in between those bouts of hellish, trumpeting fare: sobs. The poor man was crying – shedding very real tears – while committing those atrocities on the toilet near enough I might touch his foot had I the will.

I felt trapped.

I couldn’t make my own noise lest he feels I was trying to upstage him or worse, my trumpeting might upset the poor lad further. But neither could I exit and risk him doing so coincidentally. I couldn’t bear to meet the man’s eyes, knowing what I know, and him knowing the same.

So, rather, I waited. I bided my time until he left. Though, cruel was my fate as no sooner had the man left and I thought for one brief moment I might make my escape, he was replaced by a pair of equally anonymous sandaled feet. I was trapped again, pinned in place, riveted to my seat by a perhaps unending volley of perpetrating poopers.

Then, something magnificent happened.

I heard nothing.

I thought for one moment that perhaps the man was wrestling with constipation, and my heart felt for him. Then, elsewhere in the restroom, someone turned on the faucet and the loud sound of water splashing gaily in the sink filled the space for a brief moment. And it was during that moment, my neighbor produced noise – and no other! As soon as the water stopped, he did as well. It was then that I realized who I had in my midst: this man was a nervous pooper.

We can always recognize one of our own. He wouldn’t judge me for any noise I might make, for he was all too engaged in concealing his own presence to the best of his ability. The groundswell of confidence that followed allowed me to quickly do what needed to be done and promptly exit that nesting ground of nightmares.

All’s well that ended well, I would say, with some valuable lessons to boot!

END

Yup. See y’all Thursday!

I Left my Comfort Zone and I Paid for It

Happy Tuesday, everybody!

Just like last time, flooring remains, unsurprisingly, difficult. Eeh, really it’s more tedious than it is hard, but it’s plenty hard, too. My back’s sore, my knees are sore, my feet and neck are sore, but by the powers of Math and Patience, it’s almost done, dammit! Anyway, enough about me.

Well, almost.

I went camping this weekend! It was pretty rad, kind of just a repeat of the one from earlier in the year, just a bit longer. There was hiking, archery, swims in the lake, swaying in a hammock strung between two trees – The Works. There were differences, of course, but here were the highlights:

  1. Learned a New Way to Make S’Mores: Turned out we left out marshmallows behind when we packed up, but I’d bought – completely on a whim – a 25-pack of Rice Krispie Treats. As it turns out, they make a fuuuuucking awesome substitute for marshmallows (you’re welcome).
  2. Overcame My Fear of Water: So, last time, I swam out on open water (-ish, it’s a man-made lake), which was worth a trophy in its own right. This time, however, I swam ACROSS the lake AND BACK AGAIN. I Bilbo Baggins’d that shit. It was awesome.
  3. Spontaneously Jumped into Water Fully Clothed: My girlfriend Amanda and I went for a sweet hike, were having a conversation about if we’d ever or would ever just jump into a pool or lake with our clothes on (pretty sure you can make out where this is going), and each concluded, “I mean, I’d like to one day.” Well, Nature heard us, and we immediately turned a corner on the path that sloped down to the lake’s shore. We stopped, looked at one another, ran down, and dove on in.
  4. Left My Comfort Zone and Paid for It: I…well…actually, this is what today’s post is about, so I guess we’ll just get on to it.

For any that read the title and remembered the last Anecdote from a Gentleman post, you might remember it’s about poop. Same is true for mighty Number Four up there and for those seemingly self-evident reasons, I thought it would be better to frame it as coming from The Gentleman. If you journey on to the rest of what’s written below, just remember: read it in a typical 1800’s American/British (your choice) “bully!” accent.

Without further adieu…

Another Anecdote from a Gentleman

Oh, hello! Why, I didn’t see you there. By the look of your weathered shoes, I can see straight away you’re a fellow of the Great Outdoors. I myself just returned from one such venture, with quite the harrowing tale to tell, you might be sure. Might I share it with you?

Splendid!

All had gone swimmingly, I might say. And I don’t use the term loosely, I should warn you, as we frequented the cobalt waters of the wilderness often, but I digress. The tale at hand is of a far more sinister nature.

You see, when my dear beloved and I had last sojourned to that lovely piece of natural beauty, there had been…ah, well, issues with the facilities’ plumbing. As such, those governing bodies overseeing the estates had been so kind as to generously provide portable loo’s for we campers. Or, as they’re otherwise hailed: “Honey Buckets,” I believe (detestable name, that – downright deceitful). Well, on our initial visit, I became quite accustomed to these “Honey Buckets” in lieu of a proper loo (ho-ho! Did you notice the cleverness of wordplay? Brilliant!).

On this most recent venture, however, the facilities were amply functionable. Despite this being the case, I found myself gravitating towards those bright green boxes in lieu (ha! I’ve done it again!) of a proper potty. I, personally, found them safer and far more private than the boisterous sounds of the all-too crowded men’s room. So, I contentedly sat in my plastic palace, the master of my own space while I heeded Nature’s Call.

Then, on the penultimate day of our adventure, my love gives me a queer glance. “I’ll never understand,” she says to me, “why you prefer that to a proper toilet.” I tried to explain, but she wouldn’t have it. Instead, my case fell on deaf ears within the court of her judgemental expressions. So, on the last day we were there, what would you suppose I decided to do whence I heard the distant howl of Nature ‘pon the wind?

That’s right. I opted for porcelain over plastic. I overrulled my better judgement and the instincts which begged internally that I stay the traditional path. I strode into the men’s room, took my place in the stall beside the northern wall (I’m not some barbarian), and began my business.

What do you suppose happened next? That I, perhaps, simply went about the deed, washed, exited, and that was that? It would be nice were that the case, don’t you think?

But no.

No sooner had I sat down and finished my mantra (“You’re faceless here, they will never see you nor know your name,” in case you were curious) had an anonymous pair of purple shoes trampled into the stall beside me. What do you suppose I heard next? The dignified sounds of what is perfectly human and natural for any of us, performed with a manner of integrity and unoffensive volume?

No again.

Not only was I lambasted with the bellows of a dampened explosion which echoed on the walls, but in between those bouts of hellish, trumpeting fare: sobs. The poor man was crying – shedding very real tears – while committing those atrocities on the toilet near enough I might touch his foot had I the will.

I felt trapped.

I couldn’t make my own noise lest he feels I was trying to upstage him or worse, my trumpeting might upset the poor lad further. But neither could I exit and risk him doing so coincidentally. I couldn’t bear to meet the man’s eyes, knowing what I know, and him knowing the same.

So, rather, I waited. I bided my time until he left. Though, cruel was my fate as no sooner had the man left and I thought for one brief moment I might make my escape, he was replaced by a pair of equally anonymous sandaled feet. I was trapped again, pinned in place, riveted to my seat by a perhaps unending volley of perpetrating poopers.

Then, something magnificent happened.

I heard nothing.

I thought for one moment that perhaps the man was wrestling with constipation, and my heart felt for him. Then, elsewhere in the restroom, someone turned on the faucet and the loud sound of water splashing gaily in the sink filled the space for a brief moment. And it was during that moment, my neighbor produced noise – and no other! As soon as the water stopped, he did as well. It was then that I realized who I had in my midst: this man was a nervous pooper.

We can always recognize one of our own. He wouldn’t judge me for any noise I might make, for he was all too engaged in concealing his own presence to the best of his ability. The groundswell of confidence that followed allowed me to quickly do what needed to be done and promptly exit that nesting ground of nightmares.

All’s well that ended well, I would say, with some valuable lessons to boot!

END

Yup. See y’all Thursday!

The Window of War

Happy Tuesday, everyone.

No fancy run-up, let’s just do it. Time for some good ol’ fashioned fantasy.

Crixus, a Beginning

Grumlik watched the rocky dirt road pass under his feet as he doggedly placed one boot in front of the other. His march had been long and, wearied by war, his heart yearned for the warmth of his home’s hearth and the touch of his beloved. Aching, he blinked his tired eyes and shook away his exhaustion as he focused on the nighttime sounds: the moonbirds that sang their distant song, the wind that whistled through the tall grass of the plains, the rhythmic thud of his heavy boots, and the crunch of the gravel beneath them. He lifted his eyes to the star-riddled sky.

The song, the wind, the thud, the crunch.

As he thought, he heard also the soft rustling of what he wore: linked chains that gently chimed with each heavy step, bent plates bearing scars, punctures, and dents that rubbed against pads of leather, the shield that hung loosely to his side with its rattling buckles, and the sword on his hip with its muffled dance within the scabbard. His thoughts now upon the garments which had saved his life many times over, he felt their weight on his shoulders as he trudged onward towards home. In the stars he saw constellations and soon saw faces – the faces of comrades, those who wouldn’t see home.

He crested a small ridge and filled his powerful lungs with a deep breath and held it a long time. When he released it, it was accompanied by a tear in his eye. The wind carried the scent of smoke, not the black smoke of war he’d now become so accustomed, but the smoke of an home’s hearth. Grumlik paused. His mouth watered, his stomach twisted, and his fingers twitched.

The song, the wind.

As he stepped across the threshold of his home, a small cabin on the outskirts of town, the inside was aglow with the warming fire and the air smelled thickly of stew. Wordlessly, Grumlik cast his gaze slowly over the room.

It was good to be home.

He saw her sitting by the fire, but the sound of the door softly shutting behind him roused her.

“Faralda,” he called quietly. The sound of his voice surprised him, he’d been silent so long.

She turned to immediately to his call, her fair skin, wavy brown hair, and deep blue eyes illuminated by the fire’s light. She offered no words, but Grumlik could see the sparkle of tears paint from her freckled cheeks to her trembling chin. After a moment hung in the air between them, like a drop of rain frozen in time, she burst from her seat by the fire and flew to his arms. They embraced, they kissed, and they shed tears with one another. Faralda pulled away to speak, when a cry sounded from a crib Grumlik hadn’t noticed.

She smiled to her husband and stepped over to the crib to hush the awoken child. Grumlik approached and laid a hand on her shoulder. Inside the crib was a small babe, perhaps a year old, yet he bore the features unmistakably of his father and the softness of his mother’s eyes.

“What is his name?” Grumlik whispered quietly.

“After your father,” she replied.

Grumlik smiled with pride.

“Crixus.”

*

While it wasn’t a large town, Faraday saw its share of travelers. Known traditionally for its caravan park, it remained the crossroads of a large amount of trade as well as home to the Fenrici Caravaneers’ Guild base. Crixus would watch the roads, fingers laced over the end of his pitchfork, and gather tales from those passing through. In his meetings with these adventurous travelers, he heard stories of bandit attacks, monstrous ghouls, rescues from raging infernos, the weathering of frightful storms, and much more. Every morsel fed his own fire and thirst for adventure.

Today was time that thirst was sated.

“Ha! You’ve gotten better, boy! Your form is most improved!”

“It seems,” Crixus replied, finishing his parry and sidestepping to his opponent’s left, “you make a fair teacher!” The young half-orc feigned in with his shield and followed it with a boxing motion of his wooden sword’s point. The older caravan guard with whom he sparred was well experienced and dodged the tip of the blow, returning with one of his own, only to have it deflected by a shield. Crixus broke away to re-position and quickly stepped in with an overhand swing. The older man deflected not the weapon but the wrist holding it and, with Crixus off balance, kicked him to the dusty earth with a foot to his bottom.

“That makes it,” panted the older man, “eleven to three now, yes?”

“Calling it quits already are we, Regis?”
“Ah, you’re young, I’m old. I’ve earned the right to say when we’ve finished.”

“Only because you know I’d thrash you were we to keep going.”

“Exactly.”

The two shared a laugh and clasped one another respectively by the forearm.

“Crixus!” came a call from the cabin.

“You’d better go, boy. We’ll have another bout when next I’m in town.”

“Make it soon then, as I’ll have your hide next time.”

“Aye, that you will, I’m sure.”

Grumlik was at the table smoking his pipe and rubbing his knee – an old war wound – when Crixus entered.

“You needed me, father?”

“Yes, son. How was your bout with Regis?”

“He got lucky, this time.”

“Ah, well that’s because you go too easy on him,” Grumlik laughed. “Come, take a seat next to me. Good. Now, I’m no poet or bard. I’ve no way with words, so I’ll just come out and say it. I know that this farm holds no life for you, Crixus. You’ve my strength of arm, your mother’s wits, and the same adventurous fire we’d both had at your age. We do you no good now, holding you caged here any longer.”

“But, father, how will you-”

“We’ll manage here just fine, son. You’ve naught to worry there. No, no more. Just listen.” The old Orc stood up stiffly, motioned his son to follow, and walked over to a trunk against the far wall. He grunted as he leaned down and opened the clasps on either end. The smell of worked leather and redolence of old steel escaped the trunk as the lid was lifted. Inside, Crixus could see his father’s old belongings from his time in the war when the conflict was at its height. One by one, Grumlik removed the items and laid them out across the table. “Here, try them on,” he invited.

After some minutes spent adjusting fittings, belts, and buckles, Crixus stood in the center of the cabin, bedecked in his father’s old armor and his shield at his side.

Grumlik stepped around Crixus to his front after setting the final strap and asked, “How does it feel?”

Struggling equally for words, Crixus moved and shifted in his new garb. “It feels good,” he said, and with a chuckle, “if a little strange.”

“It will suit you well enough, at least until you replace it with something better.”

“Why are you doing this for me, father?”

“Because I am your father. What kind of question is that? Besides, you need not hide it any longer simply for the sake of your mother and I. We’ve seen you watching them, the caravans and guards, travelers and wanderers. You’ve done well by us to aid tending the farm, but it’s long time we do well by you and not hold you here any longer.”

Crixus held his father’s gaze with a hard, stoic eyes for a long moment before his countenance broke into a large, toothy grin with eyes wide and anxious. “I will find it, father.”

“Nothing cryptic, son. Find what?”

“My destiny.”

*

Crixus sat upon an old stump looking up at the ways the smoke from his campfire danced and writhed its way between the stars with the gentle wind. He took a deep breath and the crisp nighttime air filled his lungs in a way he’d come to enjoy, a new way, as for once it was the air of open country not tread by his boots. Thoughts of home had come to him often as he’d marched over the last week. In those moments, he looked to the sky and thought that while the ground he walked and the lands he would see would be strange, it was all under the same sky.

As he mused, there came the crunch of gravel and the snap of a dry twig down the road to his right. He knew the road to be dangerous and since leaving Crixus had defended himself from a wolf separated from its pack (that now found itself the subject of Crixus’ rations pouch) and frightened away a would-be highwayman. He stood and put a hand on the hilt of his sword. “Hello?”, he called out. “Who goes there?”

Wordlessly, a robed man approached his site and said, “a simple traveler wishing to share the warmth of your fire, young sir.”

“Hmm, yes. Come. I’d be glad of the company.” Crixus waved the man over to a stump near his own. The figure took his seat by the fire. In its light, Crixus could now see his robes weren’t the dusty rags of a simple traveler but a bright, vibrant lavender. A strange amulet depicting a pair of woven hands hung on a thin silver chain about his neck. Seeing no weapons on the man, Crixus assumed him to be a priest of some obscure order. “How has the road fared you, being as you’ve not a sword to defend yourself?”

“Safe enough,” he chuckled. “I presume many see the robes and think they would do better than tangle with a magician. That, or they are gods-fearing in their own right. Who’s to say, really? What is it that brings you out this way? Do you wander, or are you lost?”

“Neither. I seek something.”

“And what is it you seek?”

“My destiny.”

“Ah, a fine goal to be sure.” And after a breath of silence between them, he said, “You may well be in luck, then. Do you have a destination for the morning?”

“Not in particular. Why do you ask?”

“Come with me then, to the city of Tallin.”

Crixus paused and was slow with his answer. “What awaits us there?”

“Destiny, friend.”

Crixus stared long into the priest’s dark brown eyes as the fire crackled between them. He stared and he searched and in the end found promise in those eyes. The two laid down to rest under the stars and as the sun rose they rose with it. Cinching the straps of his armor, Crixus again breathed deep the morning air and with his new priestly companion began his march towards Tallin, the City of Temples.

END

The Take: Yup! We’re revisiting the Amwren-series. It’s been a while since we’ve put up one of these. I’ve always liked Crixus’ intro. It was short, simple, and none-too-complicated, but personally, I think this was one of the more elegantly written (or, at least, pleasurable in a literary sense) of these serialized shorts. He also went on to be a really beloved character and, in his own dorky way, a sort of central glue for the rest of the group. He had a way of lovably admonishing Revan and his plans, being admonished by Cerlina for his own goofy ideas, kicking impressive heaps of ass with Aldis (when he wasn’t busily selling himself into slavery), pulling ill-advised feats of courage with Tsal, and running schemes with the last member of the group who awaits his introduction next time…

Anyway, catch you Thursday, dorks!

Ciao.

Congratulations, You’re a Time-Traveler now…

Happy Wednesday, everybody.

If you’re a fan of double entendres, you probably noticed the title of this post. So, just pretend today is Tuesday. It’s ALSO relevant today, because we’re getting back to our roots and digging up an old treasure.

Oh! Also, did you know that Australian wallabies have been observed recently eating opium poppies and then making crop circles while stoned off their gourd? What a world, down under.

So dropping right into it, today’s is an old one that was my VERY FIRST attempt at writing the horror genre, ever. It was part of an NYC Midnight Flash Fiction contest, and if you’re unfamiliar with how their contests go, you’re given a random genre, location, and item/object you have to feature in some way, all inside a word count of 1,000 or less. They’re a ton of fun and if you’re an aspiring writer in any way, I’d super recommend checking one out.

Without further adieu…

The Harvest

My nails grate against the window sill every time I hear another scream. The voices are still coming through the fog, but it isn’t really fog. At least, I don’t think so.

It was dad’s idea to come to the harvest fair. We were just supposed to “swing by” the farmers’ market here because he wanted to grab some corn to grill on the camping trip he was forcing on us. I told him I didn’t want to go, but he always thinks he knows best. He’s always babied me ever since what happened to my leg at soccer camp, then even more after mom died. Like it would fix things.

I was looking through some locally grown eggplant when the ground started to shake. We thought it was an earthquake until we looked up. If the sky was a big glass of water, it looked like someone spilled ink in it, like the night sky was webbing and bleeding across the blue. That was when we all heard this deep rumble that hurt your ears and stomach, like a fog horn in a cave. From there, people just started going nuts. They shouted about monsters, some just screamed, others started laughing. One guy had a pitchfork and was stabbing anybody who ran by and giggling about all the blood.

We tried to run with people, but we couldn’t make it to the car. With my leg, Dad picked me up and tried to make a break for it out of downtown, but there was something slithering in the road and more people screaming, so we broke into Kyoto’s.

And now we’re stuck here.

I pull out my phone and check Twitter again, but it’s all the same nonsense. There are posts of people apologizing, others filming themselves shouting “Fuck you!” at celebrities, live feeds of running away from…nothing? I scroll over another one and see a woman tied up in a chair being dragged by whoever is holding the camera. They shout “It’s you they want!” and push her out in the road. I turn it off when I see her get hit by a truck.

“You okay?” my dad asks me.

“Yeah,” I shrug. “I’m fine.”

I count twenty of us in the room. Most are hunkered down, muttering to each other and crying, but I see one in the corner by himself. He’s sitting at a booth and is hunched over something on the table. Dad must have seen my face.

“What’s wrong?” He follows my eyes to the guy then pats my shoulder and walks over to him. “Hey buddy, everything alright?” he says.

The guy doesn’t look up. “It’s funny,” he says and starts to cackle. Then I can’t tell if he’s still laughing or crying now, but he’s drooling all over the table. “We’re here selling vegetables and fruit, but we’re all made of meat. And bone! I teach science in middle school, to kids like you!” He points at me. “You see bones on skeleton models, but never think about your own!” He stands up and shows us the end of his thumb he’s cut off and squeezes the bone out of the skin. “There!” he laughs. “Just like edamame!”

My dad and another guy jump up as the man tries to tackle me. He’s shouting that it’s because I was staring. They hit him a few hard times and he stops moving, but the other guy walks away shaking his hand and shouting, “Fuck! He bit me!” He shouts about not wanting to be a zombie when the others remind him about the mist outside. We think it’s the mist that’s making people do these things. There’s almost a sense of calm after that, but not for me.

“Here,” Dad says, grabbing his pack from the bar counter. “I’ve got some disinfectant wipes.”

“That’s lucky,” says the guy.

“We were going camping before all this. Do you-”

I tug on his jacket sleeve and whisper in his ear about the hole in the window where the guy was sitting. I could see the mist slithering onto the booth where the guy was sitting.

“Tell you what,” my dad says to the guy, “I’ll trade you.” I know the tone he’s using. He always talks like that when he knows something you don’t. He’s running an angle.

“Are you serious? What the fuck am I going to-”

“You have a car? You can clean the bite for your keys.”

“You’re going out there? Don’t be insane!”

They go like that for a minute or two, and I can’t keep my eyes off the mist in the booth, but they finally wind up trading. We open the door and I hear someone shout about the window as we run out. We can hear the shouting behind us as we go, but soon it goes quiet and I start hearing singing. It’s gospel music and it sounds like my mom’s voice. I’m following my dad, but I trip and suddenly he’s gone.

“Dad?” I start shouting. “Dad, help! I don’t want to die! Dad!”

I hear his voice right next to me, but he looks different, and he’s smiling.

“’She’d still be here if you’d just let her fucking drive.’ That’s what you said about mom, wasn’t it, Casey?” I can see he has something in his hand. “Dying is the easiest thing to do, kiddo. After all, people have done it forever, it can’t be that bad.” He laughs and tries to lunge at me, but stops.

“Dad?” I ask. Then I see something with a claw sticking out of his chest. Whatever it is lifts him up into the dark and without even thinking I grab the keys he dropped and run.

It feels like forever while I’m running around clicking the remote on the keys, but eventually I find the right van. I get inside and try to start it, but a slam on the passenger window scares me. I look over and see my mom. She’s pounding on the glass and shouting something I can’t hear, so I crawl over the center console and try to unlock the door but it won’t budge. She has cuts on her face like I remember and some of her fingers are broken, but she doesn’t stop trying to get through the window. She points behind me. I look over and my dad sitting in the driver’s seat. He’s covered in blood and has a hole in his chest.

“I told you, I’m fine!” he shouts, just like last time. He sounds drunk.

I turn back to my mom and see her crying. A pair of headlights flare in the mist behind her and I hear the truck’s horn. I close my eyes, feel something slam into the van, and everything goes black.

I guess my dad was right. Dying isn’t so bad.

END

The Take: Weird, right? I remember this one was challenging for a number of reasons. First off, it was my first attempt trying to write something “scary,” and I figured one of the main components of that was to set the mood or tone of suspense, raise the stakes n’ all that; especially if you’re going for a psychological edge over straight gore porn. Pretty tough to do with that short of a word count.
The parameters I had to work with were horror (obviously), a farmers’ market for the location, and disinfectant wipes as the necessary object. And truth be told, I kind of skirted the rules a touch for the amount of time they spent in the restaurant. The way I figured it, writing in the present tense can be pretty tricky, but for the circumstance seemed like the right call if the action is happening now as opposed to a past-tense account of something. I also sort of cheated in that I included some helpful information in the following synopsis included with the submission:

“Casey’s mother died last year in a drunk driving accident that left her father Will at fault and her with a permanent limp, ruining a promising career in soccer. Now on parole, the last few months have been spent with her dad trying to reconnect while they both handle their grief, when the world suddenly becomes a cruel parody of the one they knew.”

Anyway, end of the day, I liked how it came together, but it’s not something I’m particularly proud of.

Ciao, catch you guys tomorrow.

Today’s Fable Fact source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/8118257.stm
(link is being funny, apologies)

RE: The Legend of ‘MegaBoom!’

(Happy Thursday, all! By a combination of time constraints and outside distractions, we’re doing a re-post! Though, I will say, we have a cool somethin’ coming for Tuesday [if not before then, but we’ll see].)

Sorry we were absent Thursday, but celebrating Independence Day meant making sacrifices…

…like camping…and swimming in a lake…

…and s’mores.

Don’t feel bad for me.

Anyway, what I’m saying, is I missed one. BUT it’s okay, because it actually ties in.

Last Thursday saw all of the above-mentioned activities and many others. The one we’re going to focus on is one I think everyone (and especially any Lord of the Rings kids) should at least try: archery.

The lake/campground/recreation territory whatsamagidget we went to had a ton hiking trails, and of those, one that is itself a walking archery range. I’ve had my bow for about seven years and have practiced the art of flinging arrows off and on in that time. (In fact, anyone else remember that Mayan Calendar Apocalypse that was supposed to happen back in 2012? I’m not saying that I thought the world was going to end…I’m not…I am saying that I had my bow ready just in case it was the Time of Mutants and Raiders was nigh, though.)

All of that, however, is just context for what we’re talking about today: The MegaBoom.

That whole off-and-on habit of practice translates roughly to: “practicing regularly for a few weeks and then taking a few months off.” That means that, after seven years, I’m pretty good alright I can hang… I do alright. And yes, of course, I check that my grouping is good enough to hit a human-sized target in case the Green Arrow needs a break, duh. So bulls-eyes at 40-meters happen, albeit infrequently, but I’m no Robin Hood or freaky good shot.

However…

…there’s one guy out there who thinks I’m fucking fantastic.

Let’s focus on that guy.

It was one of those times where I was taking up the hobby again off a hiatus and I go to my regular shop (I would super give her a shout-out, but I’m not totally sure that what happens in the story was entirely legal, so let’s just call the shop “Maggie’s.”) I pay for my time and begin stringing my bow.

For a Friday, it’s unusually thin, with myself and two other guys taking up lanes. One of them has his son with him, who’s receiving beginner’s lessons at the firing line. The owner, Maggie, is teaching him basic form and safety, and he’s eagerly drinking it all up. It’s cute. During this time, myself and the two other guys (the boy’s father included) begin chatting it up. I explain that I’m coming off a regular layup and they both say how they’re each taking it up for the first time, roughly, since childhood. So we’re all on relatively even ground skill-wise, which was comforting (after all, it’s humbling to be on the line, shooting wide, while Katniss Goddamn Everdeen steps up and zeroes her quiver with bulls-eyes). At this point, I overhear Maggie teaching the kid the importance of a full draw:

Maggie: “Mmhm, well yeah. This time it didn’t stick in the target because it wasn’t going fast enough. If you want it to stick, it has to go faster; and if you want it to go faster, you have to pull back all the way, buddy. Okay?”

Then, bless her heart, she puts the spotlight on me. Without ever breaking eye contact with the kid, she then says:

“Hey, Evan. Step up to the line and take a shot for us, hmm?”

I politely pause my conversation with the other patrons and step up to the line. I line up my feet, my hips, shoulders, and even crack my neck. I nock an arrow, grip the string, then finally look at the target. One big breath in then out, I raise my bow, draw back to my nose (a habit of form that I’ve always had weird difficulty adhering to), hold a moment, and release.

Fuckin’ bulls-eye.

Calmly, I smile and step back into conversation but on the inside I am: screaming, windmill-playing air guitar, and thinking of what sponsorships I want when I make it to the Olympics. The two other men had kind things to say, and while I outwardly received them coolly, my heart was on fire in my chest.

The rest of the day proceeded pretty uneventfully from there, but I came back the next day to practice, still riding high off my cool moment from the day before. Who do I see but the father from yesterday (let’s call him Tyler)? He greets me as “that bullseye guy” (to which I blush) and we get to practice.

That day, the store was being managed by a friend of Maggie’s rather than Maggie herself (I think she’d come down with a stomach bug). [We’ll call him] Franky watched us shoot, gave us pointers on form, made jokes – the usual. That was, until he said something about a “Mega Boom.” After a run collecting my arrows, I returned to the line and asked what that was all about.

Rather than answer me in words, his eyes just lit up and he ran around the corner to the back office. About a minute or two later, he returned holding what looked like a bike pump, a small mesh net, a clamp of some kind, and an empty 2-liter soda bottle. I watch as he assembles the whole thing and begins apparently pumping air into the empty plastic bottle. When he’s done, he’s left with a highly pressurized soda bottle fixed to a little stand, and I suddenly see what’s going on: an explosive target.

Now, for context, Maggie’s since moved to a larger location, but the range at that time was relatively small, maybe 15-meters long from target to wall. Thing was, the wall was a warehouse door that opened out into a parking lot. When he sees that we understand what he’s offering us, Franky goes, “Yeah, we might want to head outside for this.” He sets the bottle on top of one of the targets at the end of the range, opens the door, and motions us out into said parking lot. He walks us to approximately 50-meters away (approximately 160-feet, for my imperials) and gives us the green flag.

(Which, as a side note, was a bit premature because as we’re looking at each other as to who is going to try to set off this pseudo-domestic explosive first, a couple of nervous, first-time customers were just walking out the front door – next to the door INTO WHICH WE’RE ABOUT TO FIRE. They freaked out and left before anything happened though…so…all’s well that ends well.)

Anyway, Tyler looks at me and says, “You’re the likeliest to hit it, so you go first.”

I still don’t really understand his logic here, as wouldn’t you want the likeliest shot to go last? But I was too taken by the flattering reference to yesterday’s freak accident but well-time bulls-eye to say no.

Now, at that point, I’d never attempted a shot from that far away before, so my hopes were pretty low. I was also shooting at an empty plastic bottle…a thing which is TRANSPARENT. So I just adjusted my eyes best I could and focused on the blue Pepsi label that wrapped around it. I follow the form from yesterday, raise, draw, and release. Normally, at such close ranges, the sound of an arrow shot sounds kind of like “thuum-tak!” in pretty quick succession, right?

This one was different.

I release the string and hear: “thuum…f-f-f-f-f…BOOOOOM!!”

For the second time that weekend, I felt like Green Arrow, Katniss, Hawkeye, the huntress-god Artemis made flesh. And y’all, it was so loud even from outside and that far away, that I can’t imagine what would have happened to our ears or brains if we’d been standing inside.

After a few moments of stunned silence, we walk back to the wall of targets and look at the damage. I’d hit dead center of the bottle. On one side was a small hole the diameter of an arrow shaft, and the other was split and blown out entirely. I also realize then and there that my arrow itself is utterly missing. I dig into the target a little and find the front half of it and start laughing until I cry. I look around, but can’t seem to find the end with fletching until Franky calls out from the usual firing line that it had blown back to the tape. He brings it over to me and apologizes (fair enough, arrows are expensive); but I told him something I very much mean to this day: I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

The next Monday, I went to work with the ruptured bottle and two frayed arrow pieces and put them proudly on display atop my locker, praying that I’d get asked about it.

I probably told this story to over twenty people that day, and I haven’t matched it with a better one since.

But Tyler doesn’t know that. To that guy, who happened to be present for the singularly best moments in my archery career, I’m a goddamn sniper.

Anyway, y’all take it easy until Tuesday!

The Legend of ‘MegaBoom!’

Happy Tuesday, all!

Sorry we were absent Thursday, but celebrating Independence Day meant making sacrifices…

…like camping…and swimming in a lake…

…and s’mores.

Don’t feel bad for me.

Anyway, what I’m saying, is I missed one. BUT it’s okay, because it actually ties in.

Last Thursday saw all of the above-mentioned activities and many others. The one we’re going to focus on is one I think everyone (and especially any Lord of the Rings kids) should at least try: archery.

The lake/campground/recreation territory whatsamagidget we went to had a ton hiking trails, and of those, one that is itself a walking archery range. I’ve had my bow for about seven years and have practiced the art of flinging arrows off and on in that time. (In fact, anyone else remember that Mayan Calendar Apocalypse that was supposed to happen back in 2012? I’m not saying that I thought the world was going to end…I’m not…I am saying that I had my bow ready just in case it was the Time of Mutants and Raiders was nigh, though.)

All of that, however, is just context for what we’re talking about today: The MegaBoom.

That whole off-and-on habit of practice translates roughly to: “practicing regularly for a few weeks and then taking a few months off.” That means that, after seven years, I’m pretty good alright I can hang… I do alright. And yes, of course, I check that my grouping is good enough to hit a human-sized target in case the Green Arrow needs a break, duh. So bulls-eyes at 40-meters happen, albeit infrequently, but I’m no Robin Hood or freaky good shot.

However…

…there’s one guy out there who thinks I’m fucking fantastic.

Let’s focus on that guy.

It was one of those times where I was taking up the hobby again off a hiatus and I go to my regular shop (I would super give her a shout-out, but I’m not totally sure that what happens in the story was entirely legal, so let’s just call the shop “Maggie’s.”) I pay for my time and begin stringing my bow.

For a Friday, it’s unusually thin, with myself and two other guys taking up lanes. One of them has his son with him, who’s receiving beginner’s lessons at the firing line. The owner, Maggie, is teaching him basic form and safety, and he’s eagerly drinking it all up. It’s cute. During this time, myself and the two other guys (the boy’s father included) begin chatting it up. I explain that I’m coming off a regular layup and they both say how they’re each taking it up for the first time, roughly, since childhood. So we’re all on relatively even ground skill-wise, which was comforting (after all, it’s humbling to be on the line, shooting wide, while Katniss Goddamn Everdeen steps up and zeroes her quiver with bulls-eyes). At this point, I overhear Maggie teaching the kid the importance of a full draw:

Maggie: “Mmhm, well yeah. This time it didn’t stick in the target because it wasn’t going fast enough. If you want it to stick, it has to go faster; and if you want it to go faster, you have to pull back all the way, buddy. Okay?”

Then, bless her heart, she puts the spotlight on me. Without ever breaking eye contact with the kid, she then says:

“Hey, Evan. Step up to the line and take a shot for us, hmm?”

I politely pause my conversation with the other patrons and step up to the line. I line up my feet, my hips, shoulders, and even crack my neck. I nock an arrow, grip the string, then finally look at the target. One big breath in then out, I raise my bow, draw back to my nose (a habit of form that I’ve always had weird difficulty adhering to), hold a moment, and release.

Fuckin’ bulls-eye.

Calmly, I smile and step back into conversation but on the inside I am: screaming, windmill-playing air guitar, and thinking of what sponsorships I want when I make it to the Olympics. The two other men had kind things to say, and while I outwardly received them coolly, my heart was on fire in my chest.

The rest of the day proceeded pretty uneventfully from there, but I came back the next day to practice, still riding high off my cool moment from the day before. Who do I see but the father from yesterday (let’s call him Tyler)? He greets me as “that bullseye guy” (to which I blush) and we get to practice.

That day, the store was being managed by a friend of Maggie’s rather than Maggie herself (I think she’d come down with a stomach bug). [We’ll call him] Franky watched us shoot, gave us pointers on form, made jokes – the usual. That was, until he said something about a “Mega Boom.” After a run collecting my arrows, I returned to the line and asked what that was all about.

Rather than answer me in words, his eyes just lit up and he ran around the corner to the back office. About a minute or two later, he returned holding what looked like a bike pump, a small mesh net, a clamp of some kind, and an empty 2-liter soda bottle. I watch as he assembles the whole thing and begins apparently pumping air into the empty plastic bottle. When he’s done, he’s left with a highly pressurized soda bottle fixed to a little stand, and I suddenly see what’s going on: an explosive target.

Now, for context, Maggie’s since moved to a larger location, but the range at that time was relatively small, maybe 15-meters long from target to wall. Thing was, the wall was a warehouse door that opened out into a parking lot. When he sees that we understand what he’s offering us, Franky goes, “Yeah, we might want to head outside for this.” He sets the bottle on top of one of the targets at the end of the range, opens the door, and motions us out into said parking lot. He walks us to approximately 50-meters away (approximately 160-feet, for my imperials) and gives us the green flag.

(Which, as a side note, was a bit premature because as we’re looking at each other as to who is going to try to set off this pseudo-domestic explosive first, a couple of nervous, first-time customers were just walking out the front door – next to the door INTO WHICH WE’RE ABOUT TO FIRE. They freaked out and left before anything happened though…so…all’s well that ends well.)

Anyway, Tyler looks at me and says, “You’re the likeliest to hit it, so you go first.”

I still don’t really understand his logic here, as wouldn’t you want the likeliest shot to go last? But I was too taken by the flattering reference to yesterday’s freak accident but well-time bulls-eye to say no.

Now, at that point, I’d never attempted a shot from that far away before, so my hopes were pretty low. I was also shooting at an empty plastic bottle…a thing which is TRANSPARENT. So I just adjusted my eyes best I could and focused on the blue Pepsi label that wrapped around it. I follow the form from yesterday, raise, draw, and release. Normally, at such close ranges, the sound of an arrow shot sounds kind of like “thuum-tak!” in pretty quick succession, right?

This one was different.

I release the string and hear: “thuum…f-f-f-f-f…BOOOOOM!!”

For the second time that weekend, I felt like Green Arrow, Katniss, Hawkeye, the huntress-god Artemis made flesh. And y’all, it was so loud even from outside and that far away, that I can’t imagine what would have happened to our ears or brains if we’d been standing inside.

After a few moments of stunned silence, we walk back to the wall of targets and look at the damage. I’d hit dead center of the bottle. On one side was a small hole the diameter of an arrow shaft, and the other was split and blown out entirely. I also realize then and there that my arrow itself is utterly missing. I dig into the target a little and find the front half of it and start laughing until I cry. I look around, but can’t seem to find the end with fletching until Franky calls out from the usual firing line that it had blown back to the tape. He brings it over to me and apologizes (fair enough, arrows are expensive); but I told him something I very much mean to this day: I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

The next Monday, I went to work with the ruptured bottle and two frayed arrow pieces and put them proudly on display atop my locker, praying that I’d get asked about it.

I probably told this story to over twenty people that day, and I haven’t matched it with a better one since.

But Tyler doesn’t know that. To that guy, who happened to be present for the singularly best moments in my archery career, I’m a goddamn sniper.

Anyway, y’all take it easy until Thursday (for real this time)!

A Gift for Cer’lliarah

Happy Thursday, all..

Let’s do things a little bit backwards today and have our dessert first.

The Take: This one, like a couple of others, came together in about an hour and without any sort of grand idea that inspired it. A scene came to mind and next thing I knew I was obsessively pounding keys until it was done – kind of like the drug hazes or super-focused power montages in movies.
One of my favorite parts about this one is that it was the first time ever in a story that I described someone’s nipples. (Funny story about that, too. I wrote it in the cafeteria of the local junior college and when I got to the part about describing nudity, I checked over my shoulder probably twice, sheepishly feeling like I was somehow getting away with something.)
Anyway, I hope it paints as crisp and glittering a picture in your mind as it arrived in mine.
[Oh! And fun fact: the gift presented in this story wound up inspiring the namesake of the story I’m probably THE most proud of to-date, one I’m currently shipping around to different publishers. You’ll know if/when it gets picked up because that’s probably all this blog will be about the week that it does.]

A Gift for Cer’lliarah

Dorian drew the curtain of moss aside and stepped into the grotto. It was a cavernous space with dark stone walls that glittered like the night sky. Softly lapping waves of a ghostly tide gently foamed at his boots and a beam of moonlight hung over a small central island from which a song chimed harmoniously with its own echo. The words were sweet, indiscernible but melodious, and filled the young duke-to-be with a tingling sense of ecstasy. He was nervously straightening his jerkin and pulling it flat when he saw her step out from a silver pond between two pines.

Cer’lliarah, the water nymph. It was said that she had only ever taken three mortal men, and all three had become kings. Many had tried to curry her favor, but none other than the kings had returned. Besides a gown of transparent water silk, she was completely nude. She was petite in frame, but had long, slender legs and dark hair that flowed down to dimples on her lower back. Her body was completely bare and smooth with fair skin and shapely breasts with perfect, light pink nipples. She blinked at him coquettishly from her island with large nutmeg eyes and beckoned him to her before gracefully retreating from view.

Dorian greedily delved into his pocket and fumbled out a gleaming topaz on a silver chain. Lowering to his knees, he dipped the precious stone into the lapping waves. The jewel glowed brightly a moment and dissolved into the water. A rumble sounded in the grotto and a land bridge slowly foamed out of the waters before him. It had taken scores of ships and fine soldiers to bring him a leviathan’s tear, the only offering Cer’lliarah would accept, but their families had been compensated fairly from the treasury and it would be worth it once the nymph confirmed his destiny as king. His uncle had made a terrible tyrant for Kandar and Dorian’s father was determined to remove his brother from the throne. This would be as close to a bloodless coup as he was liable to get, and he’d entrusted the honor to his son.

Dorian crossed the path trying to maintain a nobility to his stride, but he slipped almost every other jittery step. He had never taken a woman before, so the thought of bedding the legendary nymph made him horribly anxious. That anxiety melted away, however, when he stepped into the island’s small, central glade and saw her laying in wait on a bed of flowers and heather. She rose and began wordlessly removing Dorian’s clothes. As she did, he searched for her eyes, but they were lowered, brushing their sight over his emerging nakedness. When she did look up and meet his eyes, the nerves swiftly returned. They were more beautiful, more enchanting beyond anything in his dreams, and held an ageless, gentle innocence that made him forget the world’s evils, time, even his own body.

He was so taken with their deep golden color he didn’t feel the pain in his back.

The young noble placed his hands on her hips and felt his way to her bosom, quaking in anticipation as her hands did the same. She felt his arms, draped them over his shoulders, and let her hands dance on his chest. They finally fell on the pendant he wore, an emerald from his mother, and she kissed him on the cheek as she undid the clasp. He opened his mouth to protest, but a noticeable pain in the back of his neck caught the words in his throat. He realized he couldn’t move. She met his eyes again and this time Dorian saw himself in their reflection.

He watched his cheeks and jawline become sharpened and defined, his neck and shoulders lost their adolescent chubbiness and grew muscled, and a thick, regal beard adorned his face. His eyes hardened with the wisdom and sacrifices of a just ruler and a great jeweled crown formed on his head. He saw he was the full vision of the ruler he might have become.

Cer’lliarah clasped the pendant around her own neck and took Dorian’s hands from her breasts and crossed them over his own shoulders. The unseen tendrils that had woven their way into his torso now stitched across his limbs and fastened them to his trembling body. She played with the emerald and lay back down on her bed of flowers and heather. He choked on his pleas, but she only smiled up at him with her large, nutmeg eyes as the tendrils lifted him to the ceiling of the grotto. While he couldn’t turn his head, his eyes wildly searched the grotto’s walls and he saw all around him the calcified remains of those who had also come before to entreat the nymph’s favor.

And had also failed.

FIN

PS – I have NEEEEEEWS! Another story of mine, “The Scars of Eliza Gray”, is currently in the works to be featured on the NIGHT LIGHT horror podcast in a few weeks. So stayed tuned, ’cause I’ll be posting updates as I get them and blasting it out there once it’s up! Also keep an eye out and an ear open for the episode where we discuss and give our takes on Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” and “Us”! Yaaaaay!