Sunday, April 19

Diversions great and small

You’ll forgive my absence, I hope. With the newly acquired system came The Game That Shall Not Be Named; necessitating nightly raids through the DC wasteland and its atomized environs in search of precious, irradiated Cola.

It seems I’ve unknowingly gifted/cursed myself with what is probably the most addictive time-waster in existence for the 360; a maddening sandbox environment from the guys who did Morrowind and Oblivion. Not content with the mere evenings gamers were wasting hunting Cliff Racers to extinction, they created an apocalyptic version of Washington D.C. and the surrounding region totaling about fifty actual miles across. Into this man-made hell, they drop players with plans for the weekend or people whose blogs are already a month behind to scavenge and survive however they see fit. The general result is inevitably a few weekends lost at some point after purchase. As you can see, it’s even claimed two paragraphs of this entry already.

While the gaming sensation I’m referring to isn’t “Soda-Pop Holocaust: A Post Apocalyptic Thirst Quencher”, it’s still an understandable assumption based on what I’ve given you to work with. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy fighting the Good Fight or searching for a certain wayward parent, just that there’s a whole lot of a certain addictively sweet soft drink scattered across the blasted wastes of Virginia and Maryland that my character needs to seek out and wrest from the hands of slavering ghouls and depraved raiders.

“Coca-Cola-caust”. There we go.

Moving on.

Thoughts on Mulholland Drive.

- 2.5 hours of Naomi Watts in various, tight outfits is time well spent.
- Creepy, random thing behind diner is creepy and random.
-Feelings of tension, unease, paranoia, etc. are only exacerbated by a musical score resembling something out of a Silent Hill game.
- Despite everything it throws at you, this movie is still more coherent than Lost Highway. Depending on who you are, this might be seen as a positive.

In short: Renowned director and “WTF”-ist David Lych presents a dark, seductive neo-noir thriller in this 2001 film that may or may not be about Hollywood politics, identity crises, escapism, and hidden terrors lurking behind breakfast bars.

To say there’s a lot at work here is an understatement. A break or two into the kitchen is advised to give your head time to clarify and sort out what the hell is going on. That said, if you can recognize that a lot of what you’re seeing is mostly atmosphere and focus on the essentials, it’s just another step to boil it down to what is transpiring on the screen before you. Granted (from what I’ve read online) such conclusions seem to change depending on whom you’re talking to, but then, it’s Lynch; the man hates all things overt. Like a Bizzaro-version of Michael Bay. The anti-Bay, if you will. I want to go into more depth about it, but getting into things like structure (David Lynch. Structure. Ha!), characters, or even what the fuck is in the blue box seems like I’m giving too much away.


I feel comfortable saying “Dreams”. I think you and I are both safe with just that. In any case, it’s a beautifully composed drama that will affect you even if you can’t entirely discern the exact sensations being triggered within your cerebellum.

In the meantime, any comments, questions, and concerns should be forwarded to Moira’s Crater-side Supply in Megaton. I’ll be sure to answer any and all that I can in between nightly Metro raids and Behemoth hunts.

Saturday, February 14

Thoughts: Arkham Horror

As we watched, the wall shuddered – rippling in ways rock should not be able to – the large vertical crack slowly widening to reveal a gleaming black pool; at the center of which was set a smaller orb of milky white. The moment stretched into a period of indeterminate length as our fragile minds struggled to comprehend the sight before us. With a sudden scream, our guide fell backwards, his hands clawing the air as he madly scrambled backwards toward the cave entrance. My own perception, it seems, pitied me so greatly that it was not until Fowler’s low, rising wail grew enough in pitch to waken me from my stupor that I realized what we were looking at. In that instant, all reason fled – driven by the numbing realization that this was no mere geologic anomaly.

Before us, a great, bulbous eye yawned open; its horrible gaze drawn towards the feeble light of the lamp shaking in my hand. Unbridled terror threatened to consume me then, as I perceived a malignant sentience appraising us behind that cold, aqueous cavity. A deep rumble slowly began to fill the cavern; accompanied by a low, rising groan that seemed to pulse in time with the series of jolting spasms that now shook the walls. Fowler began to scream incoherently and I felt my own sanity start to slip as I realized with mounting horror that the unholy tremors were actually the sound of laughter from something the size of a mountain…

About a month ago, Hanna and I found ourselves in Barnes and Noble with a $50 gift card to blow. Unable to locate the complete series of
Angel or any books that we couldn’t just rent from the library, our quest for entertainment eventually led us to the board game section. Unique finds like Settlers of Catan, Tide of Iron, and yes, even a board game version of World of Warcraft all promised tokens, stats, and craploads of dice rolling; all bundled into smorgasbords of tactile amusement.

Settlers and Zombies! were battling for supremacy in my mind (epic image, that) as I tempered my desire for complex gameplay with something that my wife, Hanna, would at least enjoy in part. Pondering some sort of compromise, I glanced down to the bottom shelf. A large, green and black box sat alone, waiting.

The cover art showed a 1920’s roadster speeding through the night.

Hanna likes prohibition-era stuff.

The occupants of the car were all armed. One of them with a Tommy gun.

Hanna likes gangsters.

They were shooting at a screaming, tentacled horror.

Oh, snap.

It was already in my hands by the time I saw “A Call of Cthulhu board game” emblazoned at the bottom.

Our Friday nights have kind of been overtaken since then.

At its heart, Arkham Horror follows a very basic gameplay model; players (read: investigators) travel about the eponymous town, having encounters to get weapons and items that allow them to defeat monsters and close gates quickly enough to prevent the awakening of the Ancient One and its subsequent feast upon the living Earth’s sweet, caramel core.

This isn’t Candy Land. We’re not strolling down the gumdrop lane. Horrid, eldritch death is at large and people are going to die. Even a decent sized party of characters will be hard-pressed to seal the required number of dimensional gates and banish the great evil before it arises. More often than not, their investigation degenerates into a mad scramble around town; the ground trembling underfoot from the encroaching apocalypse as the survivors search in vain for something to kill a squid-faced monster the size of Rhode Island with.

To accurately communicate the fact that players are attempting to stop Armageddon, a number of elements are constantly working against them either directly (the unspeakable horrors crawling forth from the open gates) or otherwise (one game expansion brings the blasphemous play, “The King in Yellow” to the local theatre; corrupting former allies and turning townsfolk into rioting mobs with its maddening influence).

Foremost amongst these devices though, is the Terror Track; an effed-up alert system indicative of how kooky things are in Arkham on a scale of “What are those strange lights in the woods?” to “HOLY GOD THE SKY IS BLEEDING”. With an increase in the terror level, shops close, allies leave town, and things generally get more fucked up as chaos and ruin engulf everything you know and cherish.

This is, clearly, serious business.

While the level of difficulty may seem daunting to some, Hanna and I have found this to actually be one of the game’s most entertaining aspects. With the hand of fate set against you and your continually dwindling resources, there is a fundamental rapture when you finally either seal all the open gates or (as we usually find ourselves doing) face and defeat the risen Ancient One in mortal combat.

During the final battle, should one of your characters roll enough successes to strike the last Doom Token from the Elder God’s Track, you feel their elation as they soar through the air clutching a .45 automatic and an enchanted blade; their suicidal attack penetrating the mass of flailing claws and tentacles to strike dead the thing that should not be. After which, they land back on the ground, strike a pose, and say something awesome, like: “That which is not dead can now eternal lie… in pieces.”

Overall, if your gaming palate yearns for something new, I’d suggest throwing history, horror, and action into a blender on “frappe”. The resultant brew of monster-hunting, cult-busting, pulp adventure is called Arkham Horror and it will take you about half an hour just to set up.

Sunday, February 8

Food, again.

Let me share with you a story (it’s shorter than the last one).

One man said, “I feel like chicken tonight. Like, chicken… tonight.”

Another said, “I think that’s copyrighted.”

But the first guy wasn’t listening and instead went to to pour over endless recipes and dishes from the whole world over. Also, he was deaf. But since the second guy didn’t know this, he just thought the first guy was being a douche and went home to sulk about it. At home, he found a lottery ticket on his front porch that just happened to win him one-hundred-thousand dollars the next day. Thusly financed, he finally married his stripper girlfriend and they moved to the Keys where they lived in utter bliss until the god of the sea-folk – yea, Lord of the Under-Kingdom – rose that following summer to sow terror among the realm of the land dwellers. Until somebody stopped him. The end.

Point is: contains a trove of information if you like to cook. Today, you get to share in my joy.

Portuguese Chicken Burger
(That’s what it’s called at least. Apparently, it’s an Australian recipe. Or, at least, it’s from an Australian. Well, somebody who claims to be so. Or not. I don’t know. Look, it’s the Internet; if you want, I’m sure you can hack into his birth records on your Ipodamaphone or whatever the hell it is kids do these days. Get off my lawn.)

(Here’s what we’ve got)

- 2-3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
- 2 dried habanero chilis, chopped (since I’m cheap, we’ll be using 2 Tbsp of red pepper flakes, instead)
- About ¼ cup lemon juice
- 2 tsp ginger
- 6 Tbsp vegetable or olive oil
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp white sugar
- ½ tsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp chili powder

- 1 cup flour (for coating)
- 1 tsp salt (ditto)

- 4- 6 burger buns
- some mayo
- some lettuce
- also, cheese (I’ll be using Swiss since that’s all we have at the moment)

(This is how it’ll go down)

1. Filet the breasts to your desired thickness. I found three breasts gave me about 6 small to medium filets.

2. Combine the red pepper flakes, lemon juice, ginger, oil, paprika, garlic, sugar(s), and chili powder in a bowl. Wisk it quickly until well blended.

3. Spoon about a third of the resulting sauce into a small bowl and set aside for later (topping).

4. Dip the chicken into the original sauce mix, coating each piece thoroughly. Transfer these to a container (preferably glass – doesn’t absorb flavor as much as, say, plastic) and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

5. Mix together the flour and salt. Remove the chicken and gently shake off any excess oil. Lightly dredge the filets in the mixture until covered.

6. Pre-heat a medium-sized, non-stick pan with a little oil. Pan-fry the filets for several minutes on each side.

7. Slap some mayo, lettuce, and cheese on those burger buns and you’re good to go. If you’d like to eat the chicken you just cooked, I guess you could put it on there, too.

8. Oh, and that sauce you set aside earlier would probably taste good drizzled over the chicken. Or whatever. I’m not you.


Not what I was expecting. I don’t know why I thought it wouldn’t be as spicy when we’re throwing the equivalent of two hot peppers into the mix (not to mention the ginger and chili powder), but I found the product a bit lacking. Hanna – being a kind of sadist when it comes to spicy food – loved the chicken itself and opined that it would actually work best as a standalone entrĂ©e (sans bun and burger fixings). While I found that all heat and no sweet made for a spicy (yet boring) dish, I would be tempted to try this again from that angle; maybe substituting brown sugar in greater quantity, leaving out the chili powder, and halving the amount of pepper flakes. At least, that’s how I achieve ultimate flavor with this thing in my mind.

But that’s enough culinary alchemy for now. When I return, we’ll be discussing Lore checks, Clue tokens, and the menagerie of eldritch horrors stirring beyond the boundaries of space and time. Also, popular recipes for freshly shucked Cthonian.

Basically, you get to hear me rave about Arkham Horror. Because I knew you’d love that.

Tuesday, January 27

[title to follow] Finished!

Theo remembers fighting Fire God.

In all fairness, Fire God was pretty drunk; kicking away the prostitutes at his feet and tugging on a stained bathrobe as he stumbled up from his makeshift throne of bamboo and twine.

“Fuck you, round-eyes,” he shrieked, adjusting the imported, ornate noh mask covering his face. “My power bigger than any Yank’s! Get your ass back to Saigon before it get burned.”

Theo had been in country for about four months; based in the capital as an MP. That night, PFC Kim and himself were investigating another report of black market goods in the Cholon district. While Theo took stock of the numerous crates marked “Explosive” lining the walls, Kim attempted to take the flailing, self proclaimed deity into custody.

“You on my list now, cowboy!” Fire God spat between gulps from the bottle of Wild Turkey he clutched. “I know Big Mao - one call from me and he blow up Washington. Boom!”

With that, Fire God chucked the bottle at Kim and kicked over the nearest crate, disgorging its contents. Theo drew his sidearm and raced over to join the fray as Fire God produced two (somehow) lit fireworks from the pile of recreational incendiary devices at his feet.

“Merry Christmas, assholes!” Fire God screamed, charging them; the roman candles spewing sparks and small bomblets of color.

But it’s April
, Theo thought, pumping a round into Fire God’s leg and bowling the festive assailant over like a pin in a league game. Too late, Theo noticed the flaw in this plan as the fireworks spiraled out of Fire God’s hands, shooting their payload around the room and setting several crates ablaze.

Kim was on his feet, trying to pull Theo towards the door when one of the crates detonated in a blinding display of red, white, and blue. Confronted thusly by a numbing barrage of sight and sound, Theo somehow found the courage to scream and pass out.


Theo wakes with a start. A dull ringing still throbbing through his head. Realizing he’s awake, a head-splitting migraine descends to make sure he’s okay. The sky above is streaked with clouds given a dull orange hue by the waning sun. There’s nothing wrong with this, it’s just that he usually doesn’t view such things from this angle; that is, lying prostate on the ground, staring upwards.

With a groan, Theo props himself up, rubbing the space between his eyes. A moment passes while he tries to remember how he got here. He remembers driving home. Stopping at a light. Guys in masks with guns. Then a really creepy guy who-

Theo abruptly pats at his shirt, searching for gaping chest wounds. Nothing. His head feels bullet-less as well.

How the hell is he alive?

Looking around, he notices another detail: his car is gone. So are the gunmen. Also, the intersection, for that matter. Slowly, Theo rises from the pavement, trying to get his bearings.

He’s standing outside the entrance to a warehouse; its gate locked and the parking lot beyond mostly empty. Down the road, he can see commotion. It seems there’s a number of police vehicles and emergency crews forming a ring of flashing importance around the intersection-


Not only is the warehouse he’s outside of his place of employ, but this entrance drive is the very same one he pulled out of earlier. All told, he’s maybe five hundred yards from the traffic light where he just-… What? Died?

Unsteadily, Theo starts walking down the sidewalk towards the crime scene, not sure if he’ll see the police loading his corpse onto a stretcher or be mistaken for a zombie and shot or what.

He’s about halfway there when a familiar, beaten, primer-grey Ford pulls out from a side street and revs towards him. Theo tenses, looking for an escape route as the clunker backfires, accelerating across the two-lane road. Nearly on top of him, the car swerves abruptly; pulling up flush to the curb and missing him by about a foot.

The window rolls down.

Theo wonders if you can die twice.

The creepy guy from before (Evan? Egon?) leans out the passenger window and says “Need a lift?”

Theo stares at him.

“Oh, sorry about earlier.”

Theo glares at him. “Am I dead?” he asks.

Creepy Guy blinks, confused. “Uh, no.” he replies.


Theo punches him.

Creepy Guy’s head whacks against the window frame from the blow. “Whoa! Ow! Okay, okay!” he exclaims, trying to get out of the vehicle as Theo kicks at the door.

Theo backs up; his fists in a ready stance as the guy stumbles out of the car. “What the hell did you do to me?” he asks.

“I saved you. You’re welcome.”

“You shot me and I woke up a block away from where I was.”

“If I hadn’t, those Foot Clan rejects back there would have,” Creepy Guy interjects, rubbing his tenderized cranium. “In which case, you wouldn’t be standing here complaining.”

Theo digests this. Reluctantly, he lowers his fists. “You still didn’t answer my question,” he says.

“How did I even get over here?”

“I had a plan. You needed to be elsewhere for it to work.”

“That’s ‘why’, not ‘how’.”

“For me, the two are often the same.”

Theo scrutinizes him. “What are you?” he asks.

“I could ask the same of you.”

“Yeah, but I think you already know that.”

“What gives you that idea?”

“Interrupting gun-toting, masked lunatics in the middle of attempted manslaughter isn’t something you do on a lark. You knew why they were after me.”

Creepy Guy blinks. “Don’t you?”

“All I know is that a bad day at work was compounded by having somebody try to kill me.”

“Oh, wow… Um. Okay. You know how there’s the KKK, neo-Nazis, and other assholes like that?”


“Well, imagine a group that espoused the purity of the human race; except less about what religion or color you happen to be and more like how old you are.”

Theo stares at him. “There’s a group that shoots old people?”

“More like, unnaturally old people.”

Theo rubs his eyes again. “Right. Of course.”

“You have any family?”

“Obviously, not for a long time.”

“No, I mean like, any friends? Maybe a spouse?”

Theo sighs, feeling very old all of a sudden; he tells himself it’s just been a long day as he replies “No. Why?”

“Well, if they’ve marked you, then anyone you know is fair game; another target to get to you.”

“Marked.” Theo muses. “I’m marked.”


“They’ve marked me.”


“I’m fucking marked.”

“That’s right.”

“How did that happen?” Theo says, throwing up his hands. “It’s not like I know any crime lords. In fact, I don’t know anyone. I have a shitty little apartment where I watch TV when I’m not working at my worthless job watching glorified slaves perform manual labor. Just minding my own business, same as I’ve done the last nineteen-hundred years, not bothering anyone or making waves as I trundle blithely onwards through the decaying fabric of this civilization that now, apparently, is actively trying to murder me-”

Theo stops. Seeing Creepy Guy wincing, he realizes his voice has risen to unsafe levels. Reluctantly, he shuts up. They both look down the street to the crime scene. Several news vans have arrived; disgorging camera crews and finely coifed brunettes into the fray.

Creepy Guy sighs and reaches into the car, fumbling for something. He emerges with his duffel bag and the keys, tossing the latter to the confused dock manager.

“I should get going,” he says, shouldering the bag. “Be careful.”

“Wait,” says Theo. “I thought you were offering me a lift?”

“I am. Car’s yours. Either that, or you can claim ownership of the media centerpiece a block down.”

“Well, I’ll have to eventually. Besides which-… um… Evan- ”





“-Ben. Eben.”

“Well, Eben, I’d imagine it’ll draw considerable notice if these guys are already keeping tabs on me since I’ll be tooling around in the same ride some of their friends got killed in.”

“I never said I killed them,” Eben says, turning back to face Theo. “Besides, you’ll only need to use that clunker for a few days at most” - he points to the Ford - “It’ll take the cops that long before they run the plates on your car-turned-scrap. You won’t need it for any longer than that.”

“What about those masked guys?”

“You won’t need to worry about them after that, either.”


Eben doesn’t answer. Theo suddenly can’t tell if his eyes have always been that black or what. Regardless, there’s something in them that answers any further questions. Not a look or an emotion, but a palpable feeling; one of finality. Like the event horizon of a black hole. Inescapable. Encroaching.

Theo realizes that he’s not the one who should be afraid.

In a few days’ time, there won’t be anyone to be afraid of.

Eben smiles. The effect is more unsettling than anything else.

Di te incolumem custodiant,” he says, before turning to leave.

“Uh, thanks… see ya…” Theo mutters, unable to remember the last time he heard a proper farewell his own tongue.

He watches Eben walk down the street, away from the growing crowd of light and noise a block away. The deepening shadows of the nearby warehouses seem to envelop him, his form disappearing amongst the gloom. Whether he seems to physically dissipate at the last second - his form actually merging with the darkness - is something Theo attributes to fatigue and the lack of a strong drink within the past few hours.

Theo walks over to his new ride, cautiously opens the door, and settles into the driver’s seat. He scrutinizes the interior. Sniffs once. Twice. There doesn’t appear to be any sign of a struggle. No blood, at least.

He’s about to start the engine when he spies something in the rearview mirror: a small length of black clinging to the back seat. Theo turns in his seat. In the fading twilight he can’t tell for sure if it’s torn fabric or a stain or what. He reaches towards it.

The black thing that’s neither fabric nor stain slithers quickly away from his grasp, sliding down the upholstery and into the recesses of the car seat with a bubbling rasp.

Theo sits frozen, arm outstretched.

I never said I killed them.

After several minutes spent staring at nothing, Theo slowly backs out of the car and gently closes the door. He pulls out his wallet. Contained within is the exact amount needed for a bottle of Jim Bean from the local gas station a few blocks west. He looks back at the chaos surrounding the intersection; his trashed car at its epicenter.

Theo’s thinking about how much longer he can last.

He turns west and starts walking.

Wednesday, January 7

[a work in progress] (Part IV)

The sirens are a lot closer as Eben returns to the assembled gunmen, handing the speaker his pistol back. “Can I get a lift?” he asks.

The speaker motions to the car as his companions pile in. Eben follows, wedging himself into the middle seat in back.

“Where’s your bag?”

“Right here” Eben says, patting a noticeably smaller olive-green tote resting on his lap.

“Didn’t… wasn’t it a lot bigger?”

“It’s big enough.”

The driver guns the engine, flooring it past the wreckage-filled intersection before speeding off down the road.

Inside the car, the gunmen pull off their masks. Shaved heads and various facial tattoos are the general theme. The speaker, now driving, looks at Eben in the rearview mirror, says “Hey man, that was awesome, you helping us out back there. Have you been doing this for a while?”

“A few years.”

“Well, thanks for the help. I’m Dre. We’re with the crew out of Ann Arbor. I know they’d love to have a vet working with our office. You gonna be in town for long?”

“Haven’t decided yet.”

They drive in silence for a little while longer. Still smiling, Dre casually asks “Where did you say you’re based out of?”

“Was.” Eben corrects. “In Fort Myers.”

“That’s right. I forgot.” A pause. “So were you around when the accident happened?”

“No, I actually left about a month before.”

“You’re lucky. I heard no one got out of there alive.”

“So I’ve been told.”

The guy still holding the assault rifle - Carl - turns around in the passenger seat. “So when did you first hear about it?” he asks. “I mean, if you’d already left.”

Eben shrugs. “Word travels.”

Carl continues to stare at him.

Dre speaks up. “What Carl means is it just seems like quite a coincidence; you getting out right before everything went to hell down there.”

“I guess somebody’s looking out for me.”

“How old did you say you were?” Carl asks.

“I didn’t. Twenty-three.”

Silence again. Eben can’t help but notice that they’re no longer on the main road. The car’s turned onto a narrow side street running between two abandoned buildings.

“So you left before the disaster in ‘96.” Carl continues. “How long had you been a brother before that?”

“About three years.”

“Three years?”


“You’re twenty-three now and you’d been with us for three years by the time you left in nineteen ninety-six?”

“That’s right.”

“You’re gonna sit there and tell me that you joined up when you were eight? That you escaped the worst purge of this organization to date when you were just eleven?”


The car comes to a stop in a vacant lot, surrounded by derelict industrial structures on all sides. Dre turns to face him, leveling his gun at Eben.

“Not too good at math, are you?” he says. The two guys in the back have drawn theirs as well. One of them grabs Eben’s bag.

"Maybe I was a prodigy" Eben suggests.

“I’m just trying to comprehend the level of stupidity at work here,” Dre continues. “First, you think we’re dumb enough to trust some random jackass who claims to follow the Pact. Second, you actually hop into a car full of freak-haters with guns, because, thirdly; you think we’re convinced that you’re not only a veteran follower, but the only apparent survivor of the Florida disaster.”

“I can see why they let you drive” Eben says.

“It didn’t occur to you that we’d probably just take you somewhere remote and shoot you in the face?”

“Yeah… in hindsight, it does seem kind of risky.”

“You’re parked in a vacant lot with four guys pointing loaded weapons at your head. Risky is an understatement. Now answer me this: how old are you?”

“Quite a bit.”

“How do you know about us?”

“Like I said, through your Florida branch’s activities.”

“You a spy or something?”

“The latter.”

A pause.

“What’s in the bag?”

“Horrible things.”


Eben considers. “When they need to be.”

Another pause.

“Look, I‘d love to stay and banter, but I really should leave before someone gets killed.” To the one holding his bag, Eben says “Could I have that?”

“Micah,” Dre says to the same guy, “Open the bag.”

“Do not open the bag, Micah.” Eben says.

Micah looks at Eben. Then at Dre. Then back at the bag, hesitantly.

“Uh… maybe-”

Carl curses and snatches it from him.

“I really wouldn’t do what I think you’re about to,” Eben cautions.

“Why not?” Carl sneers.

“Well… it’s difficult to explain. I mean, the English language only has so many ways to express ‘eternal suffering’-”

“Shut up,” Carl says, opening the zipper.

“It’s just that it hasn’t eaten in-”

“You know what your problem is?” Carl says, glaring at him. “You’ve been around for however many centuries that you think the rules don’t apply to you anymore…”

As he speaks, a thin wisp of dark vapor begin to seep out through the partially open bag. It trickles down the side of the green tote and begins to pool on the floor in ever increasing volume. Ranting, Carl is oblivious. Everyone else can’t help but stare.

“Uhm…” Micah says.

“Laws, morals - even death,” Carl continues, “You people don’t give a shit because you think you’ve somehow risen above that…”


“Well guess what, asshole? As soon as I’m done dumping your bag of antiques and whatever out the window, we’re going to kill you and toss your body in the dumpster over there. Then you and the roaches can have a nice, long talk about-”

Carl stops talking. There are a few reasons why.

Could be, he notices the temperature has dropped to slightly above freezing in the span of about five seconds.

Could be, the car is slowly filling with a velvet-like black mist that seems to drain the color of whatever it touches.

More than likely, it’s the huge, pulsing, cyclopean eye ringed with teeth staring up at him from the now open bag.

Eben groans.

Everyone else just screams.

An eldritch gale of wild, writhing darkness bursts from the innocuous vessel in a deafening howl; obliterating hope, sanity, and being with its black light.

“Don’t worry about the dread promises of eternal torment,“ Eben shouts from somewhere amidst the swirling maelstrom of unknowable pain. “They just like to scare the new guys with that. Seriously, it’s only about five aeons long. I think they drop you off in Baltimore or someplace after that… But hey, you guys take care.”

A hundred unto a thousand (plus four) cries for merciful death are answered by the sound of a zipper closing.


I hate titles. What the hell would you even call this thing? Oh, well. Last part to follow hopefully before next Friday. Ta for now.

Friday, December 26

[a work in progress] (Part III)

A story.

A sailor goes on a voyage and takes a monkey with him. Once out to sea, they encounter a violent storm that capsizes and sinks their ship, leaving the crew (and the monkey) with no recourse but to swim for shore. But the crew - weary from their journey - cannot make it all the way and drown, leaving the monkey to fend for himself. A dolphin, however, comes along and - mistaking the monkey for a man - offers to carry him to shore (because, as everyone knows, dolphins are natural friends of men). When the dolphin arrives at the shores of Athens with the monkey on his back, he asks the monkey if he is an Athenian. The monkey says that not only is he an Athenian, but the son of a rich shipbuilder. When the dolphin asks, however, if he knows of Piraeus (the famous harbor in Athens), the monkey boasts that he is actually best friends with Piraeus, thinking that the dolphin meant a man of that name. Seeing the monkey’s guise uncovered thusly, the dolphin then drowned him in the water.

For starters, Theo was always confused by the notion that dolphins were man’s best friend. He thought that was dogs. Maybe it just meant dolphins and men were on good terms. Either way, Theo’s never seen dolphins do anything but jump really high and make funny noises.

Also, why a monkey? As he recalls, sailors out of Messina only needed two things for a long voyage: wine and dice. Maybe it was a sex thing.

Under the deep shadow of the olive tree outside his family’s farm, Theodoros’ teacher said the story was a parable. With the stink of goat piss and manure wafting from the nearby pens, he said that dishonesty, sooner or later, lands you in deep water.

Fast forward several hundred years. Theo sees that the monkey, his only mistake, was not knowing when to shut up. A lie can keep you alive.

Ask Theo about his background and he’ll tell you the truth: how he was born in a small town, traveled a lot, and worked several odd jobs before he found the one he’s at now.

Ask him how old he is and he‘ll say “thirty-eight”.

Lie. Singular.

More than one and you’re just pushing it.

Right now, Theo is trying to remember any recent falsehoods he’s uttered. Something that would make the wrong people take notice. Something that might cause armed men in strange masks to point firearms at him.

There’s a loud pop and the driver’s side window spider-webs from the bullet’s impact. The angle it hits at sends it pinging up into the rearview mirror, shattering that as well and knocking it loose. Instinct makes Theo cover his head and dive sideways onto the passenger seat.

There’s a pause. No more shots. They must think he’s dead. Theo hears a car door open. He can’t stay here. Theo reaches for the passenger door’s handle.

An unholy choir of gunfire erupts. Windows shatter. Upholstery rends. Theo throws the passenger door open and heaves himself out of the car.

He’s nearly run over as the car in the right hand lane speeds off. Theo watches it barrel through the red light only to collide with another vehicle. Tires screech and metal squeals as two more instantly join the pile-up.

Theo huddles against the car, keeping below the windows for fear of any ricochets. The driver’s side tires blow out. The car shakes from the hail of bullets. For lack of anything else to do, a few people are screaming.

Theo wonders if anybody has bothered to call the cops. He also wonders how much longer his assailants will continue to shoot the now empty car.

The shooting stops again.



Oh shit.

“Excuse me?” A voice. From the other side of the car. Theo hears multiple car doors opening.

“Mmhy mhhre mhu mhr!” Muffled. One of the masked guys.

“I couldn’t help but notice the minor apocalypse you’re visiting upon that vehicle…” the voice continues.

“Mhm’t mhme mmy mhmmer!” a second assailant attempts to threaten.

“I just wanted to extend my compliments. It’s nice work, for amateurs.”

“Mhmt’s mn mhe mhg?” another asks.

“The bag? Oh, just… things.”

Theo peeks over the rear of the car. Three of the masked guys have gotten out of the car while a fourth one covers them from the open sunroof. Their attention and their guns are now fixated upon the newcomer standing in the middle of the street: a tall, lean, ethnic-looking young guy dressed in browns and greens. Slung casually over his shoulder is an olive-green duffel bag that’s almost as big as him.

Theo wonders if he’s some kind of terrorist. Or a starving artist.

Maybe a starving terrorist artist.

Whatever he is, the guy casually approaches the semi-circle of potential ballistic death now facing him. With three handguns and an automatic rifle leveled at this head, he asks: “So, what’s with the masks?”

No response.

“Used to be, we just wore lots of black and did everything at night.”

No response.

“No, uh, no drive-bys with ARs during rush hour. In broad daylight.”

No response. A couple gunmen fidget nervously.

“Do you guys still hire through CraigsList?”

One of them lifts his mask enough to speak, asks: “Who the hell are you?”

“Eben. I used to run with the Fort Myers crew a few years back. Recognized the Mark… ”

He points to the others’ masks.

“…and thought you could use a little help.”

“Does it look like we need help?” the speaker asks.

The new guy - Eben - looks over to see Theo crouching behind the bullet-riddled car. The group follows his gaze.

“It looks like you just spent four minutes not killing someone” Eben remarks.

The speaker mumbles something.

“Excuse me?”

“I said ‘Shock and Awe’. That’s the new direction they’re taking things. Gave up on covert stuff a while back, I guess.”

“You guess?”

The speaker shrugs. “We’ve only been doing this for about a month.”

“Mhmhpt mmr Mhrl,” One of the others says.

“Oh yeah, except for Carl,” the speaker says, pointing to the guy hanging out the sunroof. “He’s been here for three.”

The gunman in question waves.

Eben waves back. To the speaker, says: “Can I see your gun?”

Theo becomes aware of the sound of sirens drawing near. He quickly begins to formulate a plan to preserve his worthless butt for just a few more precious seconds. If he can squeeze under the car, make it look like he’s managed to escape-

He doesn’t even have time to react to the sound of approaching footsteps. The guy named Eben is just suddenly there, looming over him. Startled, Theo stumbles back from his half-crouched stance and falls on his ass. Up close, Theo notices the kid’s lanky, with no real muscle on him. he starts to rise, easing into the beginning of a lunge. If he can get this asshole in a headlock-

Something in the kid’s eyes turns Theo’s blood cold.

As in, Eben looks at him and Theo suddenly feels his body temperature actually drop almost a whole degree. He lets out a sigh and falls back slowly against the car.

The sirens fade along with everything else. Eben looks a lot bigger all of a sudden.

Also, he’s holding a gun.

“Don’t worry” Eben says, leveling the weapon at Theo. “This shouldn’t hurt.”

Theo tries to voice his opinion to the contrary.

White light envelops him.


So that was a struggle. After some paralytic writer's block, I'm pretty sure how this thing is going to play out; we'll just have to see if it makes for a good story in the end. Apologies nonetheless for the wait. Hopefully we'll see each other no later than this time next week.

Oh, and a belated Happy Annual Gift Exchange Day to one and all!

Thursday, December 11

Theo (Part II?)

The restaurant over by the interstate is one of those kitschy, family joints with a bunch of crap tacked to the walls. Move posters vie for space alongside antique garden tools and signed headshots of celebrities who have never even heard of the place. Under the watchful glass eye of a fake buffalo head, Eben sits by the window, thumbing through a menu with great intent. A large black duffel bag sits propped up in the seat next to him.

“What can I get for you?”

Eben looks up to see a skinny young waiter in an apron hovering near him, notepad and pencil in hand.

“Not quite sure” Eben says, returning to the menu. “How are your salads?”

“Oh, they’re great.” A pause. Honky-Tonk music warbles from the overhead speakers. Seeing Eben‘s hesitation, the waiter asks “Do you want some more time?”

“You know what? Give me the -… No, I shouldn’t.”

“What’s that?”

“Well, it’s about your steak. See, the last time I ordered it here I woke up sick the next morning. Normally, such things would keep me from coming back to a place. But since I like your fries, I returned about a week later and decided to give it another go. I ordered a burger – well done – and went home feeling fine. Next day? Sick again. Mild food poisoning. Naturally, I assumed your meat was funky or something, so I steered clear of here for awhile…”

“Do you… want to see a manager?” the waiter asks, fidgeting.

Eben waves his hand dismissively. “No no no. You misunderstand me. A few days later, I went to one of the other grills down the block and ordered their prime rib. I spent the rest of the evening and most of the night confined to the bathroom. So I decided to try a little experiment. I went to the grocery store and picked up a small sirloin, came home, and slapped it on the grill. This thing looked like a charcoal briquette when I was done. I only ate half of it to be safe and yet, like clockwork, I’m sick again for another day after. Finally, I go to the doctor to see what‘s wrong. I give him the story I’ve told you and ask what the deal is. He tells me that, basically, I’m allergic to meat. Meat. I didn’t even think that could happen, you know? How can someone be allergic to meat? You ever hear of that?”

“Uh, no can’t say I have.”

“It’s crazy. So, in short, I think I’ll have a salad.”

“No problem” the waiter says, chuckling. “What dressing do you want?”

“Ranch, if you have it”

“Any cheese on that?”

“Uh, what do you have?”

The waiter ticks them off on his fingers. “Parmesan, Cheddar, Provolone, Feta…”

“Provolone is fine.”

“You want croutons?”

“Boy, you’re just full of questions, aren’t you?” Eben says as he puts down the menu and begins to rummage through the bag at his side.

The waiter just laughs.

“Let me ask you a question” Eben says as he pulls out the Sack of Binding and sets it on the table. Despite the glaring afternoon sun, the temperature in the room drops ever so slightly.

Eben points to the sack, says: “What is this?”

“Um… a bag?”

Eben blinks. Undeterred, he tries another angle.

“Well… okay. Not quite. What else might you call a bag?”


“What’s another word for ‘bag’?”

The waiter just stares, confused.

“Look, never mind” Eben stuffs the item back in his duffel, muttering to himself. Stupid. Nobody says “sack” anymore.

“So… did you want croutons?”

Eben retrieves a small ornate wooden box covered in strange runes and sets it on the table. The lights inside dim a little. In the corners and other places you don’t normally look, the shadows deepen slightly. A faint whispering can be heard.

“What is this?” he asks again.

“A… box?”

“Get in it.”

Eben opens the lid.

A choir of screams accompanies a great rush of wind. The lights flicker briefly.

A moment passes.

Ambient diner noise and muted conversation continue unabated. The Honky-tonk shifts into Bluegrass. In this way, the disturbance goes unnoticed. These things happen.

Eben returns the box (now humming slightly) to the duffel bag. He picks up the menu again. The waiter is gone.

After a while, a young hostess approaches.

“Sir? Have you been helped yet?” she asks.

“Actually, my server seems to have disappeared,” he says, handing her the menu. “Could I just have an iced tea? I‘m waiting for someone.” Another lie.

She leaves. Eben turns to stare out the window. He is thinking. Of what, we are better off not knowing.

We all wear masks. Eben just takes it one step further and dons the whole outfit. The one he’s in at the moment is a personal favorite, taken after the fall of Ctesiphon in the second century. Olive skin, dark eyes, and wavy black hair - a former smith’s apprentice. A little lanky and not all that muscular, sure, but as Eben would tell you, it’s not the size of your muscles that counts, it’s the fact that you’re inhabited by a malevolent entity older than the very notion of linear time.

That this entity now contents itself with collecting the refuse of a spiritually-bereft species at the end of its evolutionary chain is a source of minor shame for him.

Staring at the line of rush hour traffic oozing by outside the restaurant’s front windows, Eben is trying to ignore the fact that he just collected a theme restaurant table jockey. Eight hundred years ago, it was Mongol horsemen and Byzantine patricians.

Last month it was a busboy at Olive Garden.

Eben sighs, annoyed. The trend is not encouraging.

He’s staring at the duffel bag beside him when he hears a loud pop. Then, a series of them. A woman at a nearby table stands up, exclaiming. She’s pointing outside.

The road that runs by the restaurant is a major route leading to the interstate. Most afternoons, one can look out the large front windows at the traffic light and the long line of rush-hour commuters waiting before it. Currently, there is a tiny war being waged.

Eben notices, along with everyone in the restaurant, that a number of men have climbed out of a car and are peppering the one in the next lane with a hail of small arms fire. Everyone also notices that the men are all wearing white, eyeless masks with crude, black crosses painted over the face.

Eben alone knows who they are.

“Oh, geez.”

He looks over, the hostess is standing beside him, clutching a glass of iced tea as she watches the spectacle unfold.

Eben gets up, grabbing the duffle bag and slinging it over his shoulder. He takes the drink from her and downs half of it, then hands back the glass. She doesn’t seem to notice. He starts toward the front door. Towards the gunfire.

“Somebody should call the police” she says.

“Don’t bother” he intones.


Sooooo.... yeah. Not sure where that all came from. I sat down planning to take up Theo's predicament and this guy jumped out in his place. Hope you're enjoying it because I have no idea where the hell this is going. As always, thanks for reading!