Epic Dreams of Dirt (+ Announcement)

I eat a lot of hot sauce. I used to put it on everything and get the really spicy ones so that I could be that guy, but I’ve calmed it down a little in recent years. I also used to specifically eat something spicy right before bed, because I noticed doing so gave me really vivid, really strange and surreal dreams.

Now I’ve stopped doing that entirely, but I guess I conditioned my brain enough to think it’s alright to give me strange dreams most nights. One such was just the other night…

Oh! I should put here that I’ve been playing a lot of Deep Rock Galactic recently, and I only say that because it’ll soon become obvious the ways that game influenced the dream. (If you haven’t heard of it and you don’t feel like following the link, in short, it’s a game where you play as a space dwarf mining crystals and minerals out of a giant asteroid-planet-thing.)

Anyway, the other night…

Like most dreams, I don’t remember how I got to the start, but I knew I was being hunted by the Italian mafia. Somehow, at the beginning of the dream, that meant I GUESS that I was in a motel outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico while on the run from them. Of course, one of their hitmen finds me and I’m sure you can guess who it is.

That’s right, Danny Trejo.

So Danny Trejo shows up going full Machete on me, showering the motel in bullets while I run, duck, and dodge behind cover.

^In case you wondered, this is what “going full Machete” looks like.
It’s a fun movie.

Eventually, he runs out of ammo and hops in an old car, trying to run me down. Now my memory gets kind of spotty around this point in the story, but the end point is that I successfully kill him in self-defense. (I think I trick him into crashing the car, or something. Let’s just assume it was something clever.)

That dramatic scene winds up placing me in Witness Protection. I remember they handed me a special form to fill out for, like, my preferences of what kind of Witness Protection I would prefer, and in the special comments section I just wrote “No Italians, please.” Which is several shades of stupid, but made sense in the moment since I was on the run from the Italian mafia.

It doesn’t wind up working.

So Witness Protection places me in a sort of special boarding house that looks like an old Victorian manor out in New England. (Heh, I just noticed the dream keeps taking place in “New” places. New Mexico to New England. Weird.) The boarding house is run by a kindly old woman with red hair and she shows me to my room toward the back of the manor. My paranoia sets in, and on one of the first nights, I remove a couple panels from the floor and I start digging.

The logic at work is that I’m going to construct a series of tunnels to really live in, or at least have as a getaway in case the mob ever finds me. I think I distantly remember reading about or hearing about an either Roman or Chinese emperor who did the same thing with their palace, filling it with a hundred rooms and sleeping in a different one every night to confuse would-be assassins.

Which is basically what I did.

I dug a whole bunch of tunnels into the ground beneath the mansion, and I filled those tunnels with a bunch of dummy routes, dead ends, tunnels that looped back in on themselves. I dug enough dirt to last eleven lifetimes to make sure the mob would never find me.

Along the way, I met another resident of the house, a young girl named Alyssa, who found my series of tunnels and asked to help me dig more because she thought it was cool. At first I said no, wary of outsiders and not wanting to share my masterpiece with another, but ultimately relented.

I also found this awesome, green, furry mole-ferret creature while digging. I never really thought of a name for him, but he was adorable, helped me dig, and loved to snuggle while making this soft purring noise. He was great.

At this point, there’s a bit of a time skip, or a fast-forwarding. I met Alyssa, found my giant ferret creature, at one point we struck ground water and essentially dug out a massive underground grotto or lake. We brought in bamboo from the Overworld (just the regular world, but we’d become underground people) to build scaffolding and walking pathways around this body of water. It was a good time.

But nothing good lasts forever.

One day while I’m hanging out on the big wrap-around porch of the house, I see a car with tinted windows drive slowly by. The window rolls down and a bald man with a scar on his cheek stares me down for a moment, before rolling the window back up and driving away. (No idea why, but I name him Spencer.

My God. I’ve been found.

I have a discussion with the headmaster lady of the house, and she gives me a sort of “Ah, alas. I feared this day would come” sort of monologue, and says she’ll prep the house for battle – or something of the sort. Eventually, it falls to dusk, and a train of twelve cars pulls up in front of the place. Out of each one, a uniquely dressed, themed, and deadly hitman steps out with an intent to kill. They charge the house, and I kung-fu fight with about four or five of them around the house, killing or incapacitating them mightily before I begin to tire and worry for the worse. All around the house, the headmaster lady and other residents are doing their own righteous battle with these (apparently still supposed to be Italian mafia) hitmen.

I’m wounded, and the headmaster lady tells me to fall back, and that they have it from here. So I do, and retreat into my tunnel system. While down there, Alyssa finds me and tells me that our ferret isn’t doing so good, she thinks he’s sick. So I pick up the little guy, he purrs against my chest and neck while I carry him down one of the tunnels, across our underground lake (taking up the bamboo walkways behind us), and into the deepest tunnel that is my Sanctuary. For extra security, I lay a couple of satchel charges in the dirt (which I apparently have) and lie in wait with my ferret creature.

The End

I woke up at that point, but I assume that Spencer the Hitman followed my trail down the tunnels and would have fallen upon me and my ferret, but got blown up by my booby traps. That’s my head canon and I’m sticking to it.

Anyway, if you’ve stuck with it this far or just skipped down until you saw “The End”, either way: The News!

I’ve stopped announcing these sorts of things with any regularity, both because life is busy and because I’m not sure who’s listening with bated breath on this, my tiny, eensy weensy slice of the internet, but we’ve got another publication in the books! (lol Pun.)

Flame Tree Publishing is coming out with their Gothic Fantasy ‘Alternate History’ anthology early next year and are including a reprint of one of my first ever stories, “The Sixth-Gun Conspiracy Letters”, wherein we learn the tragic, twisted truth behind the cloak-and-dagger game which shadowed the American Civil War and the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

It’s an oldie, but a goodie, and I’m extra stoked about this one because Flame Tree is based out of London, UK, which means ya boi has gone international! And I think that’s worth a nod. -cheers- (<– the polite gesture at a dinner party, not a crowd erupting with applause)

Anyhoo, that’s all for now. Thanks for sticking around. Ciao, everybody.

Skyrim-itis: Fighting Addiction

If you’re reading this, then the odds are good that you have a pulse. If you have a pulse, then the odds are weirdly even better that you’ve at least heard of Skyrim. In that way, Skyrim is a lot like the TV show The Office – almost everyone on the planet has at least some kind of run-in with it, and to say you like it nowadays is like admitting you have the intellectual palate of a goat. An especially dumb goat. It isn’t that the game is bad at all, but it’s aged a fair bit and its fans are pretty ardent ones that have a hard time shutting up about it, which is a rough recipe for newcomers or the indifferent.

Skyrim also has the irresistible force of a whirpool, sink hole, sand trap, or any other kind of thing that pulls you in and won’t let go.

Black holes! Like a black hole! Way better example.

Anyway.

I guess all of that means I’m mostly speaking to fellow Skyrim fans with what follows. Because what I’m going to describe is a problem that plagues those of us exclusively, it seems. There was a point where I sunk so many hours into that game, I walked by a fern and had the reflex to reach out and try to harvest it for Spikey Grass pods for my alchemy. I did the same thing when passing an agapanthas and thinking it was Death Bell (I have poisons of ‘Slow’ to brew, after all).

I’ve played through that game, 100%, at least a dozen times. There isn’t a quest of any tier that I haven’t played through multiple times, any NPC’s I haven’t met, any random encounters I haven’t encountered randomly, or any new dialogue I can’t recite alongside the one who says it.

So why the F*CK do I feel a compulsion to fire it up again?

In an interactive medium like video games, the whole point is for emergent storytelling. In other words, not knowing exactly what’s going to happen. But in this case, I know exactly what’s going to happen. In fact, I know I’m barely going to make it through Helgen before I start wondering why the hell I’m burning my minutes on this earth with this again. I’ll counter myself by brewing excitement over trying a new build, but then that will fall flat when I remind myself that I’ve done every possible build fives times over.

There will be nothing new.

But I still kinda want to be a Bosmer archer, communing with mammoths and shooting bandits in the eye with my trusty bow. I want to ignore the Dovakiin story line entirely and roleplay as a hunter that takes down elk and sells the skins in the Hold capitals for petty coin. I want to “fall in with” the Thieves’ Guild of Riftin and ignore the sh*t out of the Stones of Barenziah because finding all twenty-four of them is duuuuumb. I want to complete dungeons, sidestep traps, ambush draugr, and collect treasure.

But I KNOW I’ll get bored thirty minutes into all of that, and rightly so.

So, really, in the end, maybe this is just a lesson, the Great Lesson that Todd Howard has been trying to impress upon us all for the last ten goddamn years in his refusal to progress The Elder Scrolls series into its sixth installment. Maybe the wisdom here is to learn to let go, to recognize the futility in hanging onto what’s normal, what’s comfortable and familiar. To learn to grow beyond those familiar things and seek betterment and change. To accept that good things in life are meant to be savored and then release to the flow of time…

Or it could be that Skyrim can be ported to a refrigerator and still print butt-tons of money, and I’m drastically overthinking it. Maybe I just need to move on and try something new rather than re-playing all the same stuff. Either way, I think it should meet the criteria for some kind of official condition.

Skyrim-itis?

Tamriel Syndrome?

‘You Cannot Run, You Are Overburdened’ Disord-

Actually, wow. That last one hits. Life…might just be a bit busy, and we seek refuge from its obligations in a realm of fantasy, and what we really need to do is some house-keeping of our priorities rather than blaming the…video games…we…distract ourselves with…

Gosh. Look at us. Learning. On the fly and in the moment.

Heh. And they say video games don’t have anything to teach us.

I’m gonna go clean the living room.

Three Haiku

I wish I could say this was inspired by something more monumental, like a big life event or existential epiphany, but the truth is far simpler: The Ghost of Tsushima is just that great.

In every way, the game is an (A+) work of art. While the duels among cherry blossoms and battles amid flames are thrilling in their own right, I’m in it for picking flowers, petting foxes, writing poems. If it weren’t for all the swinging massive razors and duty-bound murder parties, I’d HELLUV been a samurai. But since those things are kind of a package deal…oh well.

May I present, some amateurish poetry…

  1. Haiku
    Pause, breath, and reflect.
    Flower on a windy cliff,
    breathe and be nourished.
  2. Moon
    A light amid dark
    Silent, blossoming brilliance
    Gate to the cosmos
  3. Supper
    Food in my belly
    Warmth spreading through my body.
    This is just the best

Ah, we have fun, don’t we?

Til’ next time, everyone.

Xavier, a story about Geek Squad’s Murderous Incompetence

Hey all, the inactivity on here’s been bugging me, so it’ll get a bump here soon, I promise (to you, the one reading this – and feel privileged. I mean “one” as in “you [singular], the one individual who’s eyeballs will be taking in these words besides my own.” Meaning this is strictly between you and I. Traffic through here’s been down lately, and, I mean, c’mon, can’t blame anybody, am I right? So, anyway, this parenthetical one-on-one has gotten a bit stretched, so onto the body of today’s agenda…).

If I’m lucky, you’re a gamer. And if I’m doubly lucky, you’re a gamer in your mid-twenties or so, and have probably heard of, if not played Blizzard’s ‘Diablo II.’ I found the game when I was about eight and played it like it was my job- nay, religious duty, and my favorite playable class was The Necromancer.

Not that I’ve always had a bend towards corpse jockies (called such by an issue of ‘The Shaman King’ in Shonen Jump I read at about the same age, and I’ve never let it go), I actually began with a penchant for the good guy, so I leaned paladin. But after I grew up a touch and discovered the power of having pets and monsters do my bidding for me, pet classes have become a favorite.

When I was about sixteen or so, I’d started yet another play-through of Diablo II, and with a combination of luck, strategy, planning, and patience, I’d built the BEST Necromancer to date. With a focus on a narrow selection of skills and carefully laid out enchantments, aided with lucky finds, Xavier Gravetide (I was sixteen) had a near-infinite supply of mana, bone shields provided at no cost to him, curses also provided at no cost, and a Seal Team Six formation of skeletons, golems, followers, etc. Didn’t have a ton of health, but it didn’t matter – he NEVER got hurt.

Never.

Ever.

I made it through every on of each Act’s bosses without taking a single point of damage. Just send in the horde, back them up as necessary, curse here or there, and boom, job done. That was Andariel, Duriel, Mephisto the Lord of Hatred, Diablo the Lord of Terror, and Baal Lord of Destruction all pathetic dead goop under my shoe without a single hit landed against me.

But even all that fearsome might couldn’t stand up to the ultimate mega-villain…

Geek Squad.

After a while, the laptop I ran all my games on had lived its best life through to the end. It lived a hearty six years up to that point (and would go on to serve another valiant four more), but needed some resuscitating. And so, lacking any meaningful tech savvy myself, I asked my mom if we might take it into Best Buy to see Geek Squad.

They said, “Ah, sure, dude. We can totally fix ‘er up. Basically a hard reboot. Just do a solid back-up of what’s on it, wipe it clean, tune it up, and reload the data. Boom, good as new. Is there anything in particular you want saved?”

I’d never been more serious with anyone in my entire life: “Yes. Dear God, yes,” I said. “Anything and EVERYTHING to do with ‘Diablo II’ or ‘Xavier,’ keep it like your life depends on it.”

You…you know what they saved inSTEAD of those things?

The ‘readme.txt’ file.

The goddamn readme.

Anyway, the fall of that mighty hero that I sunk probably some 200+ hours into is what ruined my faith in humanity. You’d think it’d be something more dramatic on a world scale to do that, but nope. It was Geek Squad “agents” murdering Xavier Gravetide through sheer incompetence.

Ciao, everybody (again, meaning YOU, person reading this).

PS – And to address any concerns or would-be waggled fingers, I wound up not ACTUALLY being all that torn up about it and the “ruined my faith in humanity” thing was more of a joke. I actually sort of thought of it as an honor, to think that I’d built a character so strong that only a force from OUTSIDE the game was powerful enough to kill him.