Friday, December 02, 2011

Scenes From a Laundromat: Charity

There's a girl here--14, maybe. She's hunched into a corner, scared, and from the marks on her face it's her father or a boyfriend she's afraid of. She hasn't got any laundry--barely has any clothes, just a t-shirt and jeans. She doesn't seem cold, though, even without something to cover her pale arms. Most people take her for homeless and ignore her. When I approach her to maybe give her a few bucks or offer her lunch, she backs away. As she slides out of the corner, her hand falls into a ray of sunlight from the glass door of the laundromat. The second it does, she howls like a cat that just got its tail stepped on, startling the whole place. As she pulls her hand back, I see faint wisps of smoke rising from her pale fingers. Wordlessly, I pull off my hooded sweatshirt and hand it to her. She looks at me, almost crying, and wraps herself in the too-big sweatshirt. She pulls the hood over her head and smiles at me weakly from under the hood. I sit next to her on the floor while my drier finishes. It's the holidays, and charity extends even to monsters.

Scenes From a Laundromat: Queen of Air and Tumble Dry

There's this woman wearing this crazy necklace--runes and everything on it. She smiles wide and makes small talk with everybody. What strikes me about her most is she doesn't have a container of quarters: I have a baggie, some folks have old margarine tubs or zip-up coin purses, but she's got nothing and is running three driers on it. I don't figure it out till she goes to get a Dr. Pepper from the vending machine. She lays her right hand on the side of the machine, fingers spread and eyes closed. I catch the briefest glimmer of light from her necklace, and a pair of 20 ounce bottles pop out of the machine. She offers one to me. I politely decline, remembering all too well the legend of Persephone and the dangers of accepting hospitality from one of their kind.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

An Additional $17 Materials Fee Will Be Assessed To Defray The Cost Of Pentagrams

SMN 301: Shaping and Conducting Pure Evil
Grupert Hanley, Instructor



Students are introduced to the concept of inner darkness, and allowed to explore the evil that lurks in the hearts of all men. The instructor will demonstrate basic techniques for extruding evil from the human body. Read chapters 3-5.


Students are allowed to begin practicing the techniques previously covered. Students are encouraged to dress in active clothing for this session. The instructor will begin demonstrating techniques for shaping pure evil into useful forms if time permits. Read chapter 7.



Guest lecture. Students are encouraged to take notes, as topics covered will be visited on the final exam. Students are also encouraged to bring a change of clothes, as the scent of sulfur will remain pervasive throughout the lecture hall during the duration of the presentation.


Quiz. Students will be tested on proficiencies in a variety of real-world situations. Please ensure that the Enrollment Office has a current Waiver of Medical Liability on file. Students are required to have completed the optional "Death and Dismemberment" portion of the Waiver of Medical Liability. Read chapters 10-13.



No class. The Feast of Saint Fidelis of Sigmaringen is held. Read chapters 16-20.


Students will continue practicing basic techniques in shaping and extruding pure evil. An extra session will be held immediately before the scheduled class period to allow students who have not yet demonstrated sufficient capacity for evil the opportunity to sacrifice themselves to students who have aptly demonstrated the capacity for evil. Credit will still be given for students who exit the program at this point, if the class is taken on a Pass/No Pass basis. Consult your program counselor for more information.



Intermediate techniques will be discussed, and applied to a variety of real-world settings. Students are encouraged to wear clothing that conceals the face and any identifying marks. Students are encouraged to retain legal counsel. Consult the Student Services Office for more details.


Guest lecture. Interested students will be given the opportunity to form a Dark Pact with The Lord of The Forgotten Ones. Uninterested students will not be given the opportunity to refuse to form a Dark Pact with The Lord of The Forgotten Ones.



Mid-term exam. Students will be assessed on their progress via passage through the Hall of Impossible Trials. Students who exhibit poor performance will remain within the Hall for a theoretically undefined amount of time, as the Hall of Impossible Trials exists orthogonally to time as it is perceived by all men.


All students exhibit poor performance within the Hall of Impossible Trials. Class invariably cancelled. The metaphysical remains of all students are collected by The Lord of The Forgotten Ones.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Acceptable Loss Code 4: Breakage During Transit

It's funny--I never lost a man, not a fucking one, when I was running blockades for the Confeds. Did that all ten years of the war, and a couple before the Declaration when things were still cold. Running freight for the Gens, though, I always end up flushing two or three of you out with the fucking trash.

You can't ever pull as much drive power as those fucking tanks do and not brown out the transfer buses, especially once that old piece of shit gets up past one-tenth Cee. That always gets one or two of you, and there's always an accident or something, crates jostling around cracking those damn cheap plex tanks. Fucking Gens won't ever pay to do that shit right.

Fucking Gens. Can't work for anybody else cause they're the only ones that ship intersystem, can't get off the ship cause of the Quarantine, can't fight back cause they'd blow you out the sky if you loaded anything more potent than a mining rig on your own damn boat.

Fucking Gens.

It was the goddamned catwalk that went this time, the support brace breaking clean in two because the fucking inertial compensator went haywire during braking (fucking during, can you believe it?) on approach to the transfer station.

I don't know why the hell I carried you all the way up to the medical bay.

Maybe it was because you were still breathing when I found you. It wasn't your looks, god fucking knows, rows and rows of your same damn face staring me down every run. It ain't like the Gens are gonna pay for you now, they're just gonna write you off as spoilage and look at me funny for not flushing you. It was just you, a broken tank, and a puddle of that fucking synthetic amnio messing up my goddamned cargo floor.

Medical unit says you check out fine, but you're not waking up. Do you even? Do you ever?

You and me, we're the fucking same, you know? We're both what the Gens made us.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Dead Letters

On a very literal level, every human interaction is a relationship of give and take. Ideas are exchanged, transmitted, and the process by necessity requires an incredibly minuscule amount of psychic energy to change hands, like an electron moving from one atom to another. Phone calls and text messages, e-mails and dead tree letters all served as carriers for these motes of thought and will.

Of all the ways human beings are able to correspond, it was the labyrinthine machinations of the United States Postal service that most interested Christopher Markham, and not only because of his own high position in that particular bureaucracy. Christopher knew that the envelopes he watched over contained more than words and paper, and was one of perhaps three dozen alive who did. What mattered, though, was that he was the only one in a position to do something about it.

The Office of Dead Letters had long been considered a backwater position with little possibility of advancement in the higher organization. For a young up-and-coming executive in the civil service to actively maneuver himself into the directorship of that office was nearly unheard of. To his credit, Christopher ran the Office well, cutting costs by closing the San Francisco branch of the Office and consolidating operations in the main Mail Recovery Center in Atlanta. The savings masked a need to get a warehouse of undeliverable mail away from the untamed water of the Pacific Ocean, and a need to eliminate prying eyes looked better on a balance sheet as "staff cutbacks", but the efficiency was real enough.

Processed by fewer hands, the undeliverable mail piled up. Patrolled by understaffed security, the warehouse went unobserved for hours at a time. Christopher recalled every day of the years that led him to his one big night, as he began to distribute gallon jugs of gasoline throughout the darkened warehouse with every bit of the efficiency that marked his tenure as Director of the Office of Dead Letters.

He would be moving into a new position very soon.

Fires broke out all over the warehouse in unison. Disconnected alarms and sabotaged sprinklers let it spread. Letters burned, and as the paper envelopes were destroyed the fragments of will that were attached to them flew free, beginning to swirl around the warehouse in an invisible maelstrom. Christopher opened his mind, calling out, reaching, hoping, and--

They came to him, like millions of miniature planets orbiting and falling towards their star. He could feel each one as they entered him, filling his mind with thoughts and feelings that weren't his own. Fragments, initially, but as they came together they knit themselves into something more complete, a new collective unconsciousness becoming embodied in the person of Christopher Markham.

Already, what he could perceive passed the bounds of nature. Already, his mind moved into places that no mind was meant to occupy. Already, Christopher was becoming a god. The God of Dead Letters.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Six Points

The chair used to be scary, like a cross between one of those old-fashioned hair dryers from beauty salons in old videos and something from the Spanish Inquisition, but after three months Amanda sat down without any qualms. The needles snaking their way into her skull were scary, too, at first, but it was amazing to Amanda how quickly she could get used to being injected with microscopic amounts of a potent (and highly targeted, the company doctor assured her) bio-toxin. Ignoring the sensation, Amanda passed the time by starting into a small pile of fashion magazines. One of the ads captured her image and superimposed six different hairstyles over her own. Amanda flipped between them, wondering if she could convince the tech to make her hair grow out red after she got off shift.

Fifteen minutes later, Amanda stood and shook her head from side to side like they had shown her in the training session her first day. Her hair fell all at once, trying and failing to stay rooted in follicles that were no longer alive. A jet of compressed air blew down from a vent above her, automatically sweeping stray strands from her face and clothing as a hemispherical cleaning bug slid out of a recess in the far wall to gobble up what had been left on the floor.

Amanda made her way to her station, and sat down in front of the same technician she had sat down in front of for the last three months. She didn't know his name, and didn't really care to. She wasn't even entirely sure the techs were human behind their surgical masks. The techs never really fraternized with the subjects, except maybe for one or two trivial warnings about the procedure.

"You done antlers before, right?"

"Yeah, I already know about the neck brace."

The worst part about it was she couldn't move her head to read her magazine. She had to hold her arms out straight at shoulder level, like a zombie who was really interested in Cosmo, and that made it difficult to pass the four hours of her shift. It didn't hurt, though, when it came time to cut the antlers off. They usually slipped an anesthetic in with the genetically recombined follicle transplants and accelerated growth factors and all that. Besides, how else would some hick in Iowa or wherever get a nice set of antlers for his den? Kill some poor defenseless animal? No thank you!

It could be worse. She could have been assigned to steaks.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Long Count

...and I saw the number of my days on the big stone calendar. I saw them given out, each given their own names and set aside for their own uses. See, father, these years are yours, given over to the work of my hands as established by your example. See, mother, these years are yours, given over to your memory. See, brother! See! These years, the best and choicest, have been reserved for you! This stock of days I carry are colored by you and remain yours, long after your own meager calendar has come to an end.