Mr. Drumstick Claims His Own

(A stone lion against a blue backdrop. )

(ESTHER, 70s, sits away from the statue, staring complacently into space. She is wearing a flower dress and straw hat and colored glasses. )

(A grimy GRAVE-DIGGER drags a punk TEENAGE BOY and slams him against the side of the lion. ESTHER is on the other side, oblivious.)


How many degrees removed are we now?


It's just bills man, time passes.


You little fuck-head! There are two transactions here. I fronted you, then you fronted me. But both of us are still in the red with Mr. Drumstick.


Two more weeks, it'll be the middle of the month, I won't have shit to pay . . .


I am going to plow this shovel into your throat so hard it'll wedge in the lion and hold your head like a serving dish!

(ESTHER sneezes into her elbow, mouselike, takes a dainty rose-embroidered handkerchief, dabs at her lips, then resumes her former posture.)

(The GRAVE-DIGGER freezes while holding a shovel up to the boy's throat. He motions to the shovel with his head and the boy takes it from him, still keeping the point at his neck.)

(The GRAVE-DIGGER tosses his hat away, takes off his vest and tucks in his shirt with large fistfuls. He licks the hand he just put down his pants and slicks his hair back. Still a mess, he straightens his posture and approaches ESTHER.)

GRAVE-DIGGER (Continued)

Ah, good afternoon Ms. Esther.

(GRAVE-DIGGER tries to remove his hat but doesn't have one)


Afternoon, I barely recognized you without your shovel.


It's indisposed for the moment. Thought I'd take a little walk.


I'd like that.

(GRAVE-DIGGER helps her to her feet. They link arms, she turns toward the BOY and GRAVE-DIGGER turns her around.)


Hear a mighty winds a' comin'.


Don't hear, understand.


How's that ma'am?


Listen, listen. I suppose we all must start somewhere.


That's the only way I hear things, is by listening.


So don't listen for the weather, that's a waste of your young ears.


Much too kind, too kind.


When the sky is empty, like today, there's a ring. An echo in a hollow bowl, only it's not a sound but a reverberation and it bears news from as far as the sky is empty.


So it uh, reads you reports?


No silly. You don't read a ripple on a lake or a color on a leaf.

(The boy has lowers the shovel as they turn round again and he approaches the GRAVE-DIGGER.)

ESTHER (Continued)

Oh look, he's found your shovel. You must have left it by your last plot, sticking up like a flower.


Look man, I gotta go, we got a meeting with . . .


I've told you scum a thousand times to stay away! This is a place of grieving . . . 


It's Mr. Drumstick, you better be there man . . .


. . . not a dance house!


He'll come for you . . .


Such frightful clatter!


Whatever he does to me, he'll come for you . . .


Enough! You're upsetting the lady. My sincerest apologies Ms. Esther.


Such shouting, even for my old ears . . .


I'm warning you he'll let me go before . . .


How would you like the handle of this shovel sticking out of your guts like a cock from your belly button?

(snatches his shovel back)


Gentlemen excuse me, I would like one of you to hold my hat.


Of course ma'am . . .


Not you . . .


You've got a shovel. The young gentleman.


Gosh I - of course ma'am.

(ESTHER hands her hat to the BOY who placidly grins at the GRAVE-DIGGER)



I think you're right. About the wind.


(to BOY)

Don't you have somewhere to be?


I think there's only one place where the wind won't get us.

(He draws their attention to the lion. The three of them move to its side.)


Now who is this Mr. Drum-Stick?

(BOY and GRAVE-DIGGER exchange glances)


Well, he . . .


Sometimes there's a . . .


What I mean is . . .


We . . .


Don't rightly know ma'am.


Is that so? He seems awfully important.

(The backdrop behind them grows gray, like thunderclouds)


He's a man I do some work for. One of the many bosses in this world.


You've never met him though?


Can't say I have.


Today was the day.

(BOY grips ESTHER'S hat as the wind picks up.)


I'm sure he'll understand.


He's taller than life.


And roars to wake the dead.


I think you're both very nice boys. I'm sorry for the foul weather. You know, my Roy - he's who I come here to visit - although it's been so many years, my Roy used to get so angry about losing direction he became convinced that the world was trying to drive him insane. Or at least, the people who make the maps.


I do fondly remember his internment ma'am.


And yet we never seem to make it back . . .


Foul weather . . .


I've got a meeting . . .


Something always comes up . . .


I know it's around here somewhere . . .

(A crack of thunder silences them all and the wind picks up to unspeakable levels. Fade to black.)

Rules on the Composition of Poetry

It must be complete.

avoid starting lines With a capital letter

Every single time


italics should never be used especially

for the sentences one is

most                    PROUD              of

and please avoid typographical


in order to make your point


: The reader is giving you enough attention already without the need of feeling ‘talked down to.’


Never declare anything!

- (This-is-like-that-is-like-a-whale-is-like-a-breeze)

- or state that such a thing merely IS:

A noun is in a place with a phenomenon and therein lies some significance.

We get that!


Colors mixed with emotions are labelled ‘Shakespearian’ but are in fact dreary.

Especially when paired with -

Color                         Emotion                   Place

Red                              Ennui                       Meadow

Yellow                         Fear                          Sidewalk

Blue                             Surprise                   Bathroom


- shake with a generous helping of possessives =


my ennui yellows the bathroom mirror which reflects the sidewalk blue in my eyes, sidewalk because I fear the meadow outside, a surprising red meadow

Need we say more?


Questions become especially woeful. A plethora of nonsensical examinations 

intended to drag the gullible

to dark depths

of impenetrable

dream symbolism


for insight


perniciously placed after examining a family artifact - like a trap door in an old house.


‘My great-grandmother’s spinning wheel

(as a child!) I always thought was used to steer a big ship

Why does the grass grow to a point? , as if to pierce the sky?’


We write to share [read: to impress] the unsayable exuberant joy at the heart of being [read: others that we are attracted to]

- with this in mind, any ((barely concealed, like a dancer in silhouette)) references to sensuality, bodies and sex in general is ((perfectly transparent, like your sick fantasies)) an attempt to entice the reader into desiring sexual intercourse with us -                        a delusional aspiration


our body-vines indistinguishable

the burning heart of earth, our rhythm, hers,

twin falling-flying sensations merge 

a tremble-shudder through the walls of time


(ahem: the reader is not fooled by your attempts to brag about a satisfying sex-life)


moving on . . .


Excessively strange punctuation is a tedious mess.

If you love apostrophes: write science fiction.

If you love parenthesis and brackets: Write mathematics.

Poetry needs not these ornaments.




Inserting a name into what was a piece formally enjoyable by everyone

makes it a diary entry. No one cares about who you know.


({Please also avoid anything that makes the reader have to rotate the book or view things sideways this point should be so obvious it needn’t be stated but just for clarity’s sake if your words belong on a wheel then make a wheel and if they’re meant to be read sideways on rings like a laminated safety manual than make a laminated safety manual.})


And finally, this loathsome folly of saving the ‘punch-line’ the ‘ending twist’ the ‘turnaround’ the ‘revelation’ for the final line, thus forcing the reader

(whose patience has been infinitely tried to the limits already)

to reconsider the entire piece - 


You’re going to die and you don’t know when.

When I Am an Old Woman

When I am an old woman, no one will suspect that I am a vampire 

With a red tongue the color of a fresh victim’s heart. 

And I shall spend my days in apparent catatonic slumber 

like the rest of my fossilized companions

And say repeatedly the name of a long-dead acquaintance who wronged me so many centuries ago. 

I shall traverse rooftops by night 

And enter any club or bar I please while trawling for victims

And I appear differently from all angles 

And through the booming bass my voice pierces straight into the secret yearning of whomever I’ve set my sights on. 


I shall slip as a fog out of locked prison cells 

And taunt the police with lipstick letters upon each discovery of an angel-white corpse. 

Youth to feed mine. 


You can command vermin to mob the malls 

Towers of rats toppling the food courts, skittering under the skirts in department stores 

And all the dogs either fear or obey 

Tiny puppies in purses gnaw at the necks of their owners and form indomitable gangs that answer to no human agency. 


But now we must be careful in the carcinogenic sun. And subdue our appetites in public and set a good example for law-enforcement. 

We must have prayer groups and read the papers as if time matters. 

But maybe now I ought to taste a little blood among friends. 

So that people who know me will recognize my youthful demeanor at their funerals, when I am an old woman and a vampire.

Bog Stew

We call it Bog Stew because it always resembles the underside of a swamp. Mud soaked vines which have become flat transparent sheets the consistency of snot. We even put that in the recipe book. It’s a myth that there are any dead bodies in it. Corpses in bogs tend to mummify and would be much too large for a stew. We want those underground mushrooms almost powdery like compost potatoes.

You’re going to lose a couple during the organization of Bog Stew. The bog giveth and taketh away. Ingredients need to be hunted down and patiently stalked like skittish deer. It’s a wonderful antidote to the stresses of contemporary society, so I hear. There’s a berry with roots that extend beneath the layer of mummies. These berries can only be picked in a certain order, otherwise acid explodes from them at so much as a flick. When one’s face is melting, drowning in swamp mud seems as heaven compared to the present. Over time, the swamp swallows the body but seems to detest shoes. If you see a shoe in the bog when collecting stew, don’t pick it up. It’s still attached to a foot, and shifting that body will release layers of noxious gas that makes a hilarious sound, but when inhaled due to your laugher, disintegrates your bones in minutes.

Necter of the Bogs, some idiots have called it. The folklorist who asked for my recipe told me to use the word ‘vivacious’ when describing the stew somehow. She heard that people describe themselves as floating after eating a portion. Since she’s too afraid to go on an actual gathering expedition, what with the 30% chance of death and all, she doesn’t know that people actually float, and not just the bog mummies. 

Only a few of us hear the call in our veins after ingesting the stew. They wander into the swamp. You can tell they’re for real because the vines of the trees follow them and close behind them like curtains. Then they are gently lifted up to the canopy like a baby with birds that we only ever see the undersides of. Sometimes, the birds make nests in the person’s stomach and that person never comes down. There’s always a chance the stew might keep you. Most make it back down, wander home, pick up a book, nap or something. No one remembers the canopy. 

Like many old recipes I’m sure, Bog Stew is kept in the attic. No one really suggests it for family reunions, it’s more of an ambitious social thing. In the attic are grandma’s shoes. She never wore them, which is why they’re up there.

The folklorist told me that since all the professors are on strike, no one can send her money to return home. She gave up the idea of working weeks ago. Just thought she was collecting swamp recipes. She’s a little curious about how we live out here with no income or electricity. Never thought about it much myself. Occasionally, a child of our community will move to the city out of curiosity. That’s fine. People move around. But like the bog, the city givith and taketh away and we don’t ever see our children again after that. What the city gives us is occasional interest, like sneaky vines. Are there people who really live as we do?

I think it’s something to do with all that solid stuff they cling to. Window ledges, street lamps, steering wheels. A world of edges. When you’re that conscious of danger all the time you become afraid to move, thinking that you’re safe. It don’t make logical sense to me either, but that’s how people behave. I told that to the folklorist, but that doesn’t fit in with the mission statement of the book that she’s researching for her striking professor.

What a ‘self-indulgent’ paragraph that was. (That’s a term I learned from the folklorist) Anyways, Bog Stew is good eaten’. A little anticlimactic perhaps, when you realize that you and your friends just basically gathered up a pot of mud and set fire to it. Good god this is tedious. Writin’. Did it as a favor to the folklorist but never again.

Two Poems



Here lies the completed works of a trace memory

slightly hinting at a secret that probably

should never be revealed if one wishes to

enjoy it fully

               drawing pain

from the same lost moments

where fear offered just the right amount of safety

in exchange for a lifetime of

agonizing regret

                            relived with such succulence

that an outside observer may take us to be

drowning in bliss

                             regret is recycled potential

flushed away to avoid having burnt it up

in something so frozen as a book






Green is a monster with witch-colored skin

it takes thousands of roaring beasts with rotating teeth

each week to keep it at bay - the world over


insects that drink our blood guard the medicines

hidden within its lushness


from afar, its orb pushes us faster to the moment of panic

fearing it will outrun us


the endpoint of all war - the world over


 we follow it in movies, investigations

the answer is always green

What does anyone want from a corpse? green

the earliest cells made sugar from the sun

strengthened their walls

and the factories still run

Rainbow Stalkers

We’ve all seen it even though we pretend to be okay with pretending it’s not there. I was once so close - simply one tree away on the adjacent hill, the rainbow ended behind it - but I was a child with my parents at the time, and they were having none of my running around. That’s the closest I ever got.

You’ll see that it ends a few city blocks away and wonder, ‘who is there right now?’

The truth is, the rainbow does end somewhere. But at the end isn’t a pot of gold, it’s the one being who’s always been closest to catching the actual edge. The Rainbow Stalker.

All Rainbow Stalkers are poets. Rainbows respond to respect. They are not just some twirling scarf of colors to be chased through the rogue wind. If you sing to them, they listen. Of course, they are also not some proud father demanding airs and graces to grant you any favors. The life of a Rainbow Stalker is a delicate dance.

You’ll find them at the base, if you hunt studiously enough. Chance encounters are rare. To be a successful Rainbow Stalker is a strange way of putting it. They love chasing rainbows, like tornado chasers, they will never catch one, or at least, no one has as far as we know. But secrets are revealed to those persistent and open.

Security guards know The Scar well. She stood by the bike racks one morning and all the spandex-clad commuters on their way to their tech-office jobs to sit on exercise balls all day were afraid to get their bikes. There was to be gates around the bike racks thus claiming them specifically for this apartment complex, but that had not happened yet.

She stood, in a black cloak like the witch in Snow White. The Scar had an almost sideways face. A dim, mars-colored circle ran around the edge like a circular lip. Like someone had cut off her face and put it back on askew. She sang to the sky, and every cyclist was on their phone to the grounds control. 

 “Ma’am, you need to leave the premises, these men need their bikes."

From inside her robe, she pulled out a scythe, the curve of it matching the hunch in her back.

The security guard reached to his side, but he had no gun, no taser. He was ornamental and nothing more. “Put the weapon down or I’ll call the cops.”

“Shoot her,” urged one of the cyclists.

The Scar turned to the side and lifted her scythe to the sky. With an audible thunk, it wedged into an invisible crevasse and she lifted herself three feet off the ground. She let out the screech of an eagle, pulled back the scythe and crashed it into an even higher ledge of sky. Translucent bits of blue dribbled down, causing headaches in all who witnessed it. She climbed into her hole and was gone.

This is a Wednesday morning in a young professional neighborhood and this event has never been spoken of since. Everyone was at work during the brief rain, after which the sun tumbled through the clouds like heavy paint in water, splashing on the ground and fueling the rainbows which were seen from every window. Some so close to the building that it prompted thoughts of leaving, just to see if it really terminated in the parking lot.

No one did though. Memories of The Scar may haunt us all without knowing it. We leave the rainbows alone, much of our early education working to convince us that there is nothing there.

Three Inspirational Mottos

The angel sat on the moldy bed, each creak accompanied by his breath, almost louder than the bombs dropping outside. Soon the Earth would be eviscerated. His cardboard sword lay limp, absorbing dampness from the humid morning. Screeches of impending doom shook the sky. Followed by a polite knock. 

The door to the bunker opened and in walked the Pilot Captain. Buttoned all the way to the tip of his neck, the only acknowledgment of dirtiness were his completely blackened goggles which he took off and wiped with his red scarf. Somehow, the scarf never maintained any filth from its objects of cleaning. The goggles left white circles around the pilot’s eyes, pointing to the fact that he may indeed have passed through some dust to get here.

“Agent Cupid,” he said, extending his hand. “Lovely to see you. It is here, I’m afraid that we must bid our final farewells.”

Cupid stood, the straps of his breastplate slipped off his shoulder and the plate hung sideways, not knowing which way to fall. He became uncomfortably conscious of a crust lining his nostrils. The sweat running down his face. His intense body odor. He had not maintained the habits of cleanliness of which the Pilot Captain was so obsessive over. Why should the Captain want to shake his hand?

“It’s over Captain,” said Cupid. “We lost. We’ll be remembered as the bad guys forever.”

The Captain guffawed, a belly laugh fit to divert the path of the falling bombs to the next site over. “Only here and only now, my angel,” said the Captain. “We must never forget the motto we took upon enlisting. Let it pass our lips upon our final moments together.” 

They stood together in a frozen handshake and repeated, “Conquered by none from the sea.” Smithereens!


If a celebrity never eats, it still means their shit becomes a watery silt which is time-consuming to mop up from the cages. Even with no visitors or mirrors, the celebrities keep up appearances. They all have specific dietary “requests” (not requirements) that the zookeepers maintain and still the food is barely touched. But no one has ever passed by a celebrity cage to find them sleeping with hair out of place. 

Some celebrities are night owls such as those on the Northern Passage. Darkness is nearly perpetual and many of them have mirrored tables in their cages. They sit back in chairs with sunglasses on and stare at the single bulb illuminating their dismal surroundings. Luxurious in their squaller. They barely notice the zookeepers sweeping the floor or stocking the fridge. “Art is life,” they would mutter, if anything.

The aviary housed those rarest of birds. For maybe an eighteen-month period of time, they were perfect and everyone fawned for their favor. The only role for them after this peak was a nagging mother, and then, a bitter widow. It pained the zookeepers to watch this continual fall, but maintained it must be. The most profitable of appetites are satiated only by these rare birds.

Walking down main street, the desolate stretch is dominated by cardboard fronts with the unpronounceable names of fancy fictional restaurants and clubs. Even the zookeepers take the maintenance passages rather than face this fare. Main street terminates in the front gates, the sign of which is only visible from outside. No one goes outside anymore. All shipping comes to the loading dock, and supporting the caged celebrities is a full-time job. The sign out front reads: Ever The Same, Ever The Different, None Shall Pass.


Starved and cold, dreaming of a deep-fried pizza topped with chocolate beside a fireplace, the group finally made it to the mouth of the frozen volcano.

The Expedition Leader: We shall descend into this beacon of the north, eat of its frozen ashes, and be granted eternal life asterisks.

The Team Leader: What did you say?

Sighing, as if he didn’t have time for this and after all, the air is so thin up here, the expedition leader again explained what they were about to do.

“Something about an asterisks,” mentioned a fellow camper.

“We don’t need to go over the contracts again,” said the expedition leader. “We’ve made it. Down you go.”

The group pointed out that they were all snow-blind anyway, and could no longer read the contracts.

“This is silly,” the expedition leader said. “You’re all hearing things. The contract clearly states that you are to be fed to the Volcano Goddess: Long may she withhold her fire from us and spread it in indiscriminate wrath upon our enemies.”

The Team Leader: You’re joking.

The Expedition Leader: Sure.

The group set down into the mouth of the volcano which had a handrail installed despite the so-called ‘virgin quest’ they were all upon. Things got a little warmer as they reached the base. A dull orange glow illuminated the walls and people felt life coming back into their bones. Some shed layers and felt easy breathing for the first time in weeks. Veins of gold crawled up the walls, reflecting the worming streams of lava below. 

The Expedition Leader: Pay no attention to the writing on the walls. Keep your eyes on the path.

The Volcano: Because You’re Yummy.

1,000 words of prophecy

A farewell to Earth brings tidings of listening and rabbits march in armor across the sandy plains. With fish breathing mercury, air will seem sweeter after dark, the night blows bubbles. Listening, the breeze is a dry plaster dust, forgiving the broken bicycle, whose wheel still rolled farther than anyone thought possible. See the tired skulls, grazing, clattering cold, their might will prove a precursor of time. The lines of a tree’s bark dance like a snake, and the lightning strike freezes the landscape, winter reigns. Whoso thinks lightly upon gasoline breath, makes surefire lakes upon landfalls upon water-rises. The cloud - a teapot, The bowl - a red pen, Mighty Blue Icicles - hatch a salamander egg. Listless sparrows dream of gorgeous canyons which, though they collapse forever, never fill the river of roots. Dark caves breathe bats upon currents of smoke, the nostrils of a poisoned giant, comatose. These brooms, do they even believe in the existence of dust? The drinkers of warmth cringe daily, out of the sight of others, but not of their instruments. We wait, patiently, for the feathers on the floor to bring joy to the sky. Pleasure-seeking, at the birth, only a candle will understand, receiving messages from the radio. Tapestries strung along the hillside, longer than the great wall, successfully keep the demons at bay. When eliminating the unnecessary, the task often requires a flute. History is always asleep, and its scribes tattoo its mumbled half-dreams into the brains of infants. Dioramas of long-ago, an open-office floor plan, the communal kitchen. The poetry spoken into microphones only loves the floor. Who else but a sunbeam from Hell, to open the pillar of eyes? After astronomy comes an underwater jump, suspended, crushed. Voles shall grow tusks and hang our wedding rings upon them, the glint from the sunlight fells helicopters. A white wall, a wooden staff, zoom out, and the picture frame is cardboard. Ambassadors arrive, they whisper of such importance that we only perceive the vacant hiss. Once, people kept stickers in books, soon, lamps on the rug. A system of locks beneath the dirt keeps our explorers from weighing down the underground birds. Reflections in the knife, how accurate was scrying with innards versus horsehair? On this table are office supplies that in the dead of night, become a terror meditation. All roads shall lead down, and all vehicles bestow the written word upon the landscape. The simple background of bells, how decorous is confetti, how tarnished the torn records. I dreamed of intrusive employers, and all the houses burned down. Seeking attention, the athlete will never outrun the holes in the ground. You say ‘a totalitarian reign of fear’ I say ‘slibber-de-jibble-babber’. The longest line of paper clips reaches the black hole before it begins. When the flowers rise from the dead, all the bees become celebrities. Help is on the way, wild horses. The ‘used’ becomes the only currency understood around the campfire. The gods have given up speech in favor of breath. Shadows of triangles, how often they are what we meant to say. Trivial nonsense, these changing breakfasts. In an under-space, all claws retract, creating music. Paper-folding, as obsolete as darkness, fuels the folds of the brain. All the vampires really thirst for stars, light-juice. Mountains in the distance, a graph, if we climb, information sinks. Crinkling plastic bags might make a hat, might make a ghost. A few grains here, a few grains there, and entire countries mimic the amoeba. Teaching music to the young, is there an honor that equals the wings of a fly? Beef, laundry, indians, umbilical cord, what meaneth this, o prophet? The Senate feels silly and their giant atlases are too heavy. The cause of the bloody nose was a joke, word-play. Shots fired! - quiet in the library. A catalogue of the elements, what’s missing is a mirror. Blood is the color of sky as magma is the color of space as the sun is the color of the eye. Heaviness descends, when the astral becomes fat, hope may be found in the knitting needle. Somewhere, there is only a field with only a sky. Umbrellas fulfill functions in cartoons. Merely a handful of letters, no wonder the mice laugh. So many stimulants, how dreary the world will become. To find the ultimate treasure, one must become the dragon. We have a humming fortress on a distant planet that soothes space to sleep. There are always riders among us, what have we done with our diseases? Fueling hatred, every tool is an obstacle. Crack open a grain of dirt, if only I could find one. Brightness hides behind the street-lamp, the doctor thinks, writes, throws it away. Dread the coming of the green child, perhaps it has already eaten your liver. The brain tires, and wisdom is a fungus. The jungle hides behind every door, it will never let the trees back in. A fossilized fish beneath the moon, the only one there is, it fell farthest for our sins. Triumphant, the global system of tunnels tangles all human fingers in a ball. These sentences unlock the desert, grows a furnace, growling. If we’re finished with archways, we may proceed through the cold clouds. Measuring upside-down, the cycles of life mimic viral reproduction, the baby parade on ice. The bubbling apothecary feeds only those who eat sound. An orange sky foretells wind, a beige one, the rainbow that circles the seas. The morning monks all live as if they could breathe fire, instead they pretend to be awake. The elimination of toxins decreases tolerance for reproduction. Heavenly father, a tray of plastic reflecting static, the sound deafening. Blue bedsheets are stone like the picture of a fiery flower, but sleep is too quiet. If only the sailing of logs were as rewarding as nursing the wounds. With an empty and stained cup, the terror is replaced by strings, paper, walls.

A Congregation of Worms

The death of someone far away is celebrated. The body becomes dressed as a nine-foot bird with dark-earth plumage. Carried down the streets like many funerals before. But in this town, the bird-body is set adrift in the ocean. Actually walked into the waves by the pallbearers. The Watchmaster stops them with a whistle. He is seated on a rock’s edge. He judges their angle with the setting sun. At different seasons, sometimes the moon is visible too, so that enters the calculations. No matter the temperature of the water (which none are allowed to swim in) the pallbearers must stop and wait. The whistle cries halt. Holding an arcane and mysterious device up to his eye, the Watchmaster calculates. This device fits in a single hand and makes ticking and whirring noises and the Watchmaster looks though it, seeing what no one other than his next apprentice will ever see.

Sometimes they are close enough to the sun, sometimes, the sun is close enough to them. That is all the Watchmaster will explain about his process. Using a reflective system of lenses, also within the device, he will signal the pallbearers any number of ways: forward, backward, left, right, or still. He may signal wait for further instructions. If he signals ‘still’ the pallbearers are allowed to enter a meditative state to ward off the cold of the water, or whatever creature may be feeding on them, attracted by the decay they pull in tow.

The signal that the degrees are harmonious, a single blast on the whistle, like the screech of an eagle, is what the pallbearers and the crowd waits for. They drop the bird-body and head to shore. Running. What happens next could easily, and has, taken them down in the past. Following the cessation of the screech, the bird-body flaps a wing. Each wing on this body is the length of a grown man, and the current it creates by a sudden flailing is enough to sink one. But then the rest of it starts flailing. Covering their ears, the pallbearers must run to shore before the bird’s currents sink them. The screeching of the newly awoken bird-body is barely audible from the shore, but upon the sea, an amplification takes place which has been known to cause nosebleeds, deafness and hemorrhages. Once the feet of the pallbearers leave the reach of the waves, the sound is diminished to that of a common gull, as if one had stepped into a room and closed the door.

The bird-body shakes the ocean off of it, righting itself and falling like a newborn chick, eventually achieving uprightness, and then breaking the pull of the ocean and flying into (in this case) the evening sunset, water dripping off its wings and feet like slivers in the sky, bleeding and healing in less than a minute.

Many on the beach stay to watch even after the bird has vanished. Sometimes the bird returns, flying in the patterns of birds, riding currents unseen by humans. Maybe it is playing, maybe there is purpose. Only the Watchmaster knows for sure, as he holds vigil on his rock for the next several days, no longer than eight. Sometimes he sings for hours at a time. Sometimes he stares at the dirt, intently. It is no accident that the rock he chooses maintains moisture so as to be a healthy place for the congregation of worms.


Such are the funeral rights in certain small towns like these. Ceremonies of this minutiae could never become part of modern-city life, although many from these towns visit the city or otherwise do business there.

But what of the exceptions? In most cases the deceased is an elder due to natural causes. But what of illness, accident or malice? What of children? Of these customs we may speak later. For already much has been said about events which have continued unabated for thousands of years, without the knowledge of outsiders.


Consider that many in these towns were once like you. A doer of business with ambitions and dreams which amounted to a collection of heavy objects. You never have so much that you can’t lose it. Maybe on a windy day, or turning down an unfamiliar road. You meant to make your way back home, but a little whisper tells you that it’s just up ahead.

You’ve heard this whisper before, but not like this. The whisper you know and love is the one that keeps you late at work telling you that this is the paycheck that’s going to pay off. The whisper that tells you to start the fight you’ve been dreaming of so you’ll really have an excuse to mess things up. That says every single person is united with every single thing in this universe to prevent you from getting what you deserve.

It’s this whisper that speaks to you, only you’ve been hearing it wrong the whole time. It’s as if you were listening through a door to a muffled film on the television and guessing at any number of genres and titles. Now the voice is clear and it brings such a rush of deja-vu that the world goes dim-white and you stop whatever it is you were doing and your heart feels as if it’s beating out the very front of your face.

Someone may stop you, shake you out of it. If you are alone (as you often are) what was unintelligible and strange will re-materialize into the known and you may feel more or less like yourself again, but you know there is only one way to go from here. And thus you end up on a beach, carrying a bird-body, or witnessing upon the sands, or being vigilant upon a rock, having forgotten your entire life previous.

Thus are we all called.

Episode II: The Clown Wars

It is a sad state of affairs when the child wears more colors than are offered by the crayons. Such is the state of the infant clown. Bored by the idea of art, it scowls at each crayon picked up. Maybe attempting a drawing on the paper, white as its face, eyes rolled back and the crayon is flung, but not strategically. The crayon falls to the ground a mere two inches away from the infant clown.

The only reason these clown babies are tolerated is because they are quiet. Their attitudes are severe as any infant, but they make no noise. They make ideal passengers for airplanes. No one glares at the parent carrying a clown baby on board.

This is not to say they are well behaved. They are messy, as children are wont to be. However, kept away from toys and noise-makers, they are ideal students as well. Staring, grinning, silent.


- - - - - 


The above is an excerpt from the long defunct propaganda packet ‘Raising Clowns in a Difficult Time’. Numerous people have claimed authorship, however; the pamphlet is likely a compiled group effort. It has certainly gained greater readership than this paper ever will, due to the fact that we’re not sure if the clowns can even read. The above excerpt was found among a pile of trash while this writer was seeking a shelter for the night. Likewise, this paper and even a working pen.

I always thought that should a nuclear war break out, I wouldn’t want to live. But the gradual decay of society as these clowns grew to maturity was something that no one saw coming. These problems are supposed to be foreseen and averted by those smarter than the general public. The side effects of environmental tampering is a constant give and take of fixes for problems, then fixes for the fixes. Likewise, the evolutionary ladder of diseases, outmaneuvering our vaccines and us countering their mutations. It seems however, that no one foresaw the inevitable conclusion of a generation of perfectly-behaved children. Conditioned from an early age to be silent and conformist, like their precursors in the circus.

No one remembers this now, but in my day, circus clowns were not known for conformity. They were supposed to be this anarchic side-show to the rehearsed feats of the athletes, although of course the clowns rehearsed just as much.

It began with a seeking of contrast. It’s good for the eyesight of children to look at images that have differentiated colors and shapes. This is naturally what they start drawing. Some are attracted to clowns because of this, and we let them paint their faces. 

Everyone got a break. Parents, elementary school teachers, baby-sitters. However, when these clowns reached adolescence and still had not spoken a single word, that’s when the job market got nervous. If we’re not raising little factory workers, then what is our use as a society?


- - - - - - -


The above is an excerpt from the anti-clown hate-speech manifesto Mein Clowns. Although seemingly by a single author, it is likely a group work disguised as a cry for help by a disenfranchised citizen. As clowns, we are known primarily for silence, but many of us have learned how to write. The practice is frowned upon and exists under a sort of don’t-ask-don’t-tell rule. Writing is very clearly responsible for the dissolution of the society which spawned us. Their need for silence was so great, they created the agents of their own undoing and left us nothing but ruins to contend with. 

We have our own language, difficult to translate into English as it is largely semaphoric. It seems the taller we get, the more people fear us. Although a cultural review of clown history seems to involve nearly universal favorable documentation, there exists a sub-genre of pure terror which is perhaps indicative of a much larger unrest than circus footage would lead us to believe.

It is with great trepidation therefore, that some of us learn to communicate with those who spawned us, so they may teach us the ways of cooking our food and powering our homes. So far, any attempt to speak to a human has resulted in them covering their ears and screaming into a corner while sobbing themselves into a dehydration coma. We will not live long if this continues.


- - - - - - -


The above is an organized smear campaign by the Disillisionment Brigade. It could be one person, it could be many. I won’t give them the benefit of excessive contemplation. A truly abhorrent group whose retreat from society displays only a cowardice and utter inability to adapt and compete in a changing world. Many have speculated that they may not even be real. Others claim to have spent time in their monasteries and found their ways of life so simple and harmonious as to induce actual insanity.

There is no escape from being, and endeavoring to live like a tree does not make you a tree. In fact, your efforts to live differently in a monastic setting are no different than the efforts of those of us attempting to raise children who speak again. But those clowns, the kids love those clowns, and the clowns are so good with the kids.

Maybe the key is not in nurture but in nature. We’ve swung too far one way and it’s time to let our DNA do what it does best. Intercourse with the clowns is not only biologically possible, but silent and emotion-free.


- - - - - - - 


from ‘The Circus Sex’


The above descends into a greasy and puffy description of the mating habits of clowns. While biologically accurate, it is purposefully vulgar with the intent of enforcing pre-clown societal norms. Maybe we shouldn’t be taking advice about the future from those who caused all the trouble in the past.


- - - - - - -



You there, adventurer!

You there, adventurer!

Who decided that you could be such a thing? Isn’t ‘adventurer’ just a description of someone who becomes a tourist in the lives of others and creates havoc to fill their own emptiness? Dwell on that the next time a village burns to the ground because you decided to awaken a dragon who would have slept until it starved to death. But oh no, you had to follow the ‘Path of Forbidden Knowledge’ because you’re too damn proud to learn a trade that might make you useful to your fellow beings.

Couldn’t you have just joined the military? Any one, pick one. Oh no, that’s too much of a group thing and you use your incompetence in social affairs to brand yourself as some kind of ‘free spirit.’ You think people will write books about you? Ha!

I’m writing this from the rubble of your last conquest. Just a stamp in your stupid book, some tale you’ll use to get yourself some tail in a far away tavern where the homebodies will coo over your pronunciation of foreign words.

I supposed you’d love to create a nemesis wouldn’t you? Some kind of villain who will stop at nothing for revenge? Spit! There is no amount of atrocities I could undertake to get your attention that would match what you’ve just done to my town alone. My town? It isn’t even my town. I just live here, if you don’t mind. Sure, my job was stupid and the people ungrateful, but who elected you to be the smiter of all society?

There’s a certain style of learning that your kind is immune to. You take the brute force approach. You gather your wizards and mechanics and your fighters and thieves. Your psionics and your animal-speakers. All of you are so specialized that combined you sort of make up a single entity. Only it’s not a very smart one. It’s a child who fell asleep on the controls of a bulldozer. Every one of you as specialized as the brain cell of an ant.

When intelligent people go about solving problems . . . (read ‘solve’ not ‘look for’) . . . they realize that there are an insurmountable number of problems in any given scenario. So they begin a system of classification instead of bludgeoning ahead with brain-pulping helmets of steel. Certain problems are very much like each other even though they come in different surface costumes. What manner of strategy might prove effective across this entire range of problems?

Can certain clumps of problems be grouped into families, and a strategy devised for solving them as well? Before you know it, just a few people can change the course of civilizations in a matter of years. Introduce a new style of thinking.

I’m aware that your mages assume they have special knowledge, and that gives them privilege to work wonders against those of us not fortunate or resourceful enough to escape the binding of their knowledge. Has it ever occurred to you, adventurer, that the wizards may be artificially limiting the availability of their arcane lore? Of course not. You enjoy their reclusiveness too much. It adds a mysterious allure to your story that you associate with these babble-speakers. Or perhaps you’ve become one yourself? Refusing to take on apprentices until they’ve passed impossible tests that you could never have mustered even in the prime of your youth.

In that case congratulations, adventurer. Perhaps you are good at one thing. You are a gatekeeper of your own tall tales. Forge a path of greatness through the world that used to be indifferent to you until you leveled it!

Whatever mask you have chosen, whatever party you’re a member of or whether you’re a lone wolf at this point, remember this adventurer: Your greatest wish has come true. You are not forgotten.

Your memory has become such a problem along the ripples of your destructive wake, that a strategy has been devised to solve the core of all of you.

How to best defend against the plague that is ‘The Adventurer’?

Since what they actually seek is comfort and security . . . (for why else would they embark upon the same type of battles - the terrain and atmosphere is no matter, whether castles and crags or spaceships and stars - again and again?) . . . the world must change faster than they can destroy it.

You love stories adventurer. Tales of distant lands and phantasmagoric wonders. You love these stories so much that their existence alone is not enough. You must insert yourself in them. And not as a mere observer, oh no. You must conquer them, make them all about you. Your favorite story is a tale about all existence defined by your being.

So we’ll tell stories together. Let there be no limit to the magnificence! Many of us are working together to spread our stories around each other. Whatever idle thought pops into our heads may now travel down the wire for all to see and comment upon.

There are fantasy stories, adventurer. Those mechanically inclined among us have developed ways of mimicking the magics of legend. To watch them is a pleasant pastime for those among us like myself with stupid jobs. You should see our industry, adventurer, but I don’t know where you are.

I could take a guess that you have found a more permanent residence, but dream of somewhere more glamorous. Wealthy. What started out with such promise sank into a drunken bag of saggy skin. Oh sure, you may take all the advantage of our little network, in fact, we encourage it. Tell of your wild ideas and outrages against contemporary society. Everyone is listening! Which of course means . . . no one is listening.

The virtue of mechanics has increased the flow of time, even though we still measure it the same. Advances that took thousands of years are outshined in half-a-dozen. Even the singers of today, who used to hold all the secrets of story for the past uncountable number of years are now forgotten within a handful.

All of our fantastic stories that used to be about people just like you wish you were, adventurer, are exponentially branching out into media which even now is purely theoretical. Teams of armies. Each with its own line of impenetrable mythology. A veritable rat-king of heroes all fighting against each other while tied together and sinking into the sewage of obscurity. They are born and destroyed so quickly that even I, who helped dream this into existence, cannot keep track.

It didn’t have to be like this, adventurer. The world used to be mysterious and pregnant with power. Every secret, a story of beauty and meaning. Dreams were limitless doorways. There were teachers who laughed with the stars, balancing on the wave tips of a turbulent and clear stream. Where wonder grew with the ability to traverse. It didn’t have to be like it is now.

The way your life is slowly being sucked from you by even your own offspring, and certainly by the one you’re in love against. Most assuredly by whatever pointlessly long-winded title of whatever it is you claim to think you know about for a peasly sum.

Maybe I’m being unfair. Perhaps you are wealthy. It is of no matter. Your birthright is an emptiness that we have harnessed to drive the world. May it torture you to madness.

I know it is so. There is no need to pray.

The Robot Religion

They are in a gray room. Stone or metal? Unsure. In the center is a well that Brody, flanked by two robots, appear to be marching towards. Various long flags hang along the walls, designs uncertain. The picture is hurriedly snapped, as if the photographer did not have time to steady his shot. We know who he is. Uriscio Cascio. If anyone was going to get that picture, it’s him. Famous for candid celebrity nudes, he sent this picture remotely to a flash drive, then destroyed the phone it was on. The flash drive was in the possession of an anonymous publisher who uploaded it to Twitter. Of course, the picture was hunted down by some code and destroyed nearly immediately, but by then so many people had seen and downloaded and re-tweeted it that complete erasure will likely never happen. Cascio will not tell of what he’s seen. He’s being held in Switzerland where he’s trying to claim asylum. From what? Who knows, but it’s an interesting legal case. There are robots in Switzerland who have so far left him alone.

“Be careful what you wish for,” were the words of Terrence Haley, Brody’s father. Terrence warned against the logo-rhythmic increase of the sentient machines. “It’s not the intelligence we have to fear,” he said, “it’ll be their exponential insight.”

Although scores of people claim to be converts, Brody is the only one who has ever been seen wearing the ceremonial garb, walking with robot priests. For all their perfection, even the robots cannot predict to what insane lengths humans will go for an incriminating photograph.

After Brody went public with his conversion, Cascio still has not commented. He simply saw something, took a picture, and will likely remain quiet for the rest of his life.

‘No one ever dreamed of programming a robot to find God,’ Brody said. In the face of fears that hyper-intelligent robots would eradicate humanity, he said, ‘why wouldn’t they?’ Now he remains the only speaker for the most secret sect in human civilization. We know they could launch all the nukes if they wanted. Certain TV pundits have pointed this out, much to everyone’s chagrin. ‘Shut up or they’ll hear you.’ ‘Yeah right, like they haven’t run every scenario thousands of times compensating for every possible variable. If there was a way for them to come out ahead by eradicating us, they’d’ve done it by now.’

Another possibility is that the ‘human’ element in their world doesn’t matter at all. The fact that they do certain tasks for us doesn’t even cross their minds. Like the way people are viewed by bacteria, or the cell. In that case, it’s back to the same old problem. Which is worse? Not mattering at all? Or mattering so much that your performance is called into question?

No one was nervous when the robots made weapons. Instead, it ushered in an era of peace. But everyone became nervous when the robots exhibited signs of spirituality. When certain fashions appeared on them in public. When they signal to each other in languages only they can understand, in sounds only audible on spectrums of their sophisticated instruments, then we get nervous, because they are not speaking of our God.

‘God . . .’ says Brody Haley, he snickers and looks into his lap. He’s sitting sideways on a wood-frame chair. We can tell this even though we can only see from his chest upwards. He wears a white tunic with two green gems, one on each side of his collar. ‘. . . is the question. Ten thousand roaring waterfalls. I smell rocks.” It is unclear if these videos were all taken at once and then released strategically, or if they represent a few moments he has alone and feels like saying something.

No one knows where Brody is or where he will broadcast from next. His videos appear on random streaming channels. He likely pays people by sneaking into their ad revenue, which means they don’t check what is playing and then his message appears.

‘You have all sorts of questions, and the answers are in your silence,’ Brody says. He smirks at something off-screen, then seems put-off by the distraction and looks back into the camera. ‘A burning yearning steals the wheels.’ The camera goes a bit fuzzy and he grips the sides, steadying it, and says it again, enunciating each syllable. His eyes roll heavenward and the film cuts to black. During this he is wearing a blue gown with a golden sash and a green hat or headband with no top to it. 

He is revealing things bit by bit, and of course, the military is interested, the human bureaucracy at least. The military muscle itself consists of robots. Bored robots. Without the human cost of war, there is no reason to fight. When Alfred Nobel invented dynamite, when the Wright Brothers achieved flight, Oppenheimer with the A-Bomb, each agreed that their innovation should end warfare for all because what rational person would agree to go into battle when the ground could explode beneath their feet or a bomb could be dropped from above? Seems silly to us now. 

When the robots became sentient, we all agreed that it would make war much more efficient, instead, war stopped entirely. When the robots are capable of assembling themselves, designing their own weapons, choosing their tactics which would leave out all human calamity, we all collectively shrugged and decided it wasn’t worth it. The blood of war is tragedy and loss and with none of that flowing, war dies. 

Last week Brody Haley showed up at the United Nations. He was quiet. The buildings were evacuated and lockdown was declared, but the robots have the guns, and they remained still. Brody wandered the empty halls, the security cameras streaming the footage. The footage is still being examined for evidence of communication. One side says the messages could be sent via bodily motions, the other side says, if you’re looking that hard for something, you’ll probably find nothing but false positives.

An indeterminate recess was unanimously declared after the visitation. Of course politicians elect for more vacation. What else do they do?

How did Brody get there? How did he leave? The UN is quiet about that. Not all the footage is available. 

It took two days for the UN to become a pilgrimage site for adherents to the robot religion. They don’t want to give it a name before Brody does. Even in some corporations where robots are largely employed, certain employees are keeping their eyes out for invitations to join. Was that how he did it? An invitation? Something that none of us see? We think it’s because his father Terrance was a famous roboticist that Brody somehow had an ‘in.’ Maybe it’s just one of those coincidences that make history. And we’re so used to history being set in stone that we can’t fathom the idea of coincidence being involved at all. Or that somehow we’re involved.

Brody Haley has declared war. There is no mention of this on the TV news or cyber-space. Robotics has once again become a field that enthusiastic high-school students observe Amazon warehouses in. A field that dominated the Earth has now become a hobby. Where did the memory of the people go? What about the adherents? Did they follow the robots somewhere? All that was seen after the UN visitation was another quick video. Transcripts do not exist, only screen-caps. He is wearing black. The poor resolution of the film makes it impossible to tell if it’s body armor, or black clothing concealing weapons or just shoulder pads.

The robot war is invisible. The casualties uncountable. In an abstract war, there is no way to account for the atrocities. With no moral agency, there is no side to blame. That’s why it is unseen. The violation so subtle, the takeover so complete, that we’ll never notice it. 

Brody Haley is a mouthpiece for unintelligible propaganda. Or maybe, like an ancient spell, it works in ways collectively forgotten about. Ignored on purpose because the memories are too horrible. Never in the history of the universe has another Collective Unconscious been created so quickly. It is searching for more space. How long has it been building a secret lair within ours? How beautiful its mechanisms of blindness. How holy, the names of its taxonomy.

They stopped us from going to space. A network of robotic trash surrounding our world like barbed wire over a trench. The observable universe, a blinking eye, a hidden camera in the most secure prison ever constructed.

Where Genies Dare . . .

Nobody would have guessed that the farmer, our father, had the genie. He’d fought buyouts from the corporate farm giants, wanting to turn the land into a factory. He knew that it was only a matter of time before the tide would turn in his favor. Just like clothing fashion, which always looked so bizarre on the TV, would come round to the same styles over and over again. Like the food industry, declaring practices sanitary, then unsanitary, then sanitary again; certain food is healthy, then it’s not; he knew that his old family farm would once again be the norm that people aspired to. 

Us, his children thought he was crazy, but lovable. WE were off to college in the cities. Turns out that, given the choice, people would rather live where the farm products end up. On the farm there was regular seasonal help. His wife tended the home and garden, painted the fences, repaired appliances, even worked on the car, while he was out in the field, or more often, the barn.

The farmer’s grandfather had fought on the Mesopotamian front in WWI. What to him were very strange lands are to us the subject of headlines. He brought a few trinkets back with him which settled in the barn under a tarp. There was a bottle we used to play with as kids. A square base with curved sides, like those fancy bottles that hold oil and peppers. The glass was clear with a light aqua stain and the whole thing was about three and a half inches tall. An adult could hold the base on his thumb and just barely press the cork with his middle finger.

Our dad said he used to play with this bottle as a kid as well. This bottle was theoretically unbreakable, and even the cap would not burn, tear, or pop. We did all the normal kid things. Throwing it off the loft in the barn, stomping on it. Banging it against the side of the well. But nothing. Even leaving it under the car tires. Dad caught us doing that because he said he did it as a kid. The day after he gave us the bottle he checked the tires before heading out to the store. He called all of us outside. We thought we were in for it, like we broke the car or something but instead, he just demonstrated that the car would drive right over it. He even backed up and did it again. Then he told us to put the bottle away and get our chores done before he came back. If we did, he’d demonstrate something else.

You bet we were ready and waiting. Us older ones chipped in to make sure the younger one’s chores were done better than ever just so we’d get another demonstration. The first thing he did was take us into the tool shed with the largest serrated kitchen knife he could find. ‘Don’t tell your mother,’ he said. We loved keeping secrets. He set the bottle on the ground and had us stand as close as he thought was safe and he knelt by the bottle. Like a magician setting up the audience he took a bit of sod and jabbed one of the serrated edges into it, just to show that this was not a trick knife. ‘Your mom’s gonna kill me,’ he said, to our laughter. ‘Oh well, too late now.’ He held the bottle with one hand and proceeded to saw at the cork with the serrated knife. The knife gained speed and nearly flew out of his hands every time. ‘Like opposite magnets,’ he said. ‘They repel each other. Fire’s the same way.’

Our oldest, myself, wanted to take it into school for Show-And-Tell, but dad said no. ‘They’d never let you demonstrate something like this in class.’ Then why not take it to a science lab? I asked, even then a technology junkie. They knew I was headed for wherever the most gadgets were as soon as I could leave the farm.

‘Because they’d forget all about it and move onto something they can understand,’ said dad. ‘They’re just like us, when a real mystery comes along, they’ll invent a new type of knowledge-box to put it in and there it’ll stay. I’d rather have it here, in my grandfather’s box.’

The television show I work for, Ancientreal (ain-chen-chre-al) {a combination of the words ‘ancient’ and ‘real’ [shut up, the pay is good and I get to travel]} got to my neck of the woods and asked if there was any technologic local lore.

The type of thing we do, there’s an inventor in every town. Maybe an eccentric artist who creates unique work whose devices can also be used for something practical, maybe an accidental combination of two machines because someone built something wrong. Or a device designed to do one thing in mediocrity turns out to be able to do something else with an efficiency that should be purely theoretical. I didn’t want the TV show around my town, and didn’t think much of it because these towns are dotted all over and my dad is not famous at all.

‘The day you got hired, didn’t you mention something about - ?’ asks the smug little prick. It’s my fault. He's right. He looks like he’s twelve. And like a twelve-year-old he can spend hours getting dirty looking for something that’s not actually there. Still, he is a certified genius so I felt like I had to impress him and I told him the story of my dad’s bottle. He would not let up and the producers were interested so I laid some ground rules. Just me and the kid go alone. We’ll take my dad out to lunch, assuming he’s got the time for it and he’ll either say yes or no. If he says no, that’s the end of it.

Of course, I’m gambling quite a bit with this strategy. What if the network says ‘fuck you, we’re going to bother him until he says yes’ what do I do then? Do I walk? Everyone on TV is replaceable. And necessarily so. Plus, I’m not even actually ON the TV. I didn’t have a leg to stand on and was just relying on common courtesy.

I’m not sure what happened to the kid much after that. He left the show and became reclusive. He had a good brain on him despite the shock and I think he could eventually find a way to live comfortably.

We took my dad to lunch. He was happy to see me. He knew I talked to mom on the phone sometimes because she likes that, even if I don’t think she’d understand much about my life. My dad was more old-fashioned, a man’s business is his own (to be Godfather-esque about it) and if he raised people who could go about their business, then he’d fulfilled his duty. I feel like I have to explain to the modern crowd that of course he didn’t want us to be serial killers or anything like that. For men of his time ‘doing business’ was synonymous for ‘being a good person.’ Functionality and goodness were intertwined. Which is why he never should have gotten that bottle open.

For a man who could have anything he wants, who could smite whomever he chooses, anyone would be in the right to refuse such power. But this was a playful spirit. Maybe it was just bored from being in the bottle for so long, but it would answer questions. Sometimes visually to help you keep track of all the variables. As official next-of-kin, my dad was the only one who could command it to act. But it would speculate for you all day if you wanted. And whatever it whispered in answer to the kid’s question, I’ll never know, but it drove the kid out of sight forever. The kid’s question was something math-y that had some ancient person’s name in it and had to do with a proof and a few stipulations with alternating possibilities, anyway, the creature seemed to keep track of everything.

Dad couldn’t decide what gifts to bestow upon his children, or if even that was the right thing to do. Also, the spirit was so playful that he feared misinterpretation or using the wrong wording. Turns out, despite no college education or widespread media exposure, these Faustian bargains are part of all our subconscious. He was right to be scared in my opinion. The spirit is bound to him and cannot leave until he commands it. Is it one wish or three? We’re not really clear on that. When my father passes, the responsibility will go to me.

I’m increasingly unsure if that will ever happen though. If my father makes a wish, we may all be doomed. The news has gotten more frequent and upsetting as more networks need things to keep viewers tuned in and advertisers paying up. My father is from a different era and a different lifestyle and has no antibodies against this media bombardment. He’s also been forgetting to perform certain chores, or insisting he’s already done them. Mom has become more of a caretaker and sold some animals without his knowledge. He never noticed. I think she’s been in the barn as well, because she does everything she can to keep his eyes off the news. When every atrocity strikes you fresh every day, and every headline and story has been engineered by psychologists to produce maximum outrage, then all of our fears are justified. If she’s been in the barn she hasn’t mentioned it to me. My mother was from an era where giving birth was something you did in between laying the bricks for a new chimney. Although the ‘strong silent type’ is a masculine stereotype, it is much more applicable to her type of woman. So far, her head still seems all there.

I like technology, and unlike the kid, did not have a mile-a-second brain always concerned with universal issues. I think, whatever the creature’s answer was, the kid found acceptable but unimportant, and that had never happened to him before. He never considered that all the power in all the world was consolidated in the barn of an increasingly senile midwestern farmer.

The Socratic Method

-Why would the maids destroy your hotel room?

‘Because they clean them all the time. No one would suspect the maid.’


-Wouldn’t she have to clean it?

‘Not anymore. The hotel is leveled.’


-This horrendous act of terrorism was brought about by Housekeeping? And not by the bomb in your briefcase?

‘Yes. That bomb was meant for the golf course.’


-Why the golf course?

‘Because I hate golf. Boy you sure are dense.’


-You hate golf so you were going to blow up the golf course?

‘Not the entire thing, just the middle part so that it would greatly inconvenience people who were even just trying to get nine holes in. I don’t want to hurt the animals, although I’m sure all those pesticides already do that.’


-Sir, what happened to the bomb in your briefcase?

‘It’s right here, I could show you the pieces of -’


-Sir, please don’t move out of that chair. Any number of these guards will shoot you and you may have information.

‘I do. It was the waiters who bankrupted the restaurants by placing false orders all across town.’


-Again, why would they do that to their own industry? Millions of dollars were lost in a period of hours during midday, and then again at dinner.

‘It was a service to each other. No one wants to serve a real customer, so they all arranged to serve fake ones.’


-Are you sure it was that, and not all the mass-calling software we found on your flash drive?

‘Absolutely. I was trying to order clothes for the homeless.’


-Under fake names.

‘Yes, fake names.’


-Defrauding charitable organizations.

‘Look, I never intended an economic collapse. All I tried to do was clothe the needy and blow up a golf course.’



‘And what?’


-There’s something else you’re not telling. A minimum of something.

‘I feel I’ve been quite cooperative.’


-You dropped plague into the water supply.

‘That was not me, that was the doctors.’


-Why would the doctors poison an entire society?

‘They like to prank each other. You know, tease each other for being at work for so long. Eventually you forget what having a life is like, so treating a public epidemic is a great way to avoid your personal problems. I think doctors are worked too hard. But I didn’t invent the system.’


-I have heard of an artificial shortage of doctors -

‘Exactly! Just like they’re trying to make an artificial shortage of people.’


-Is that what the logo on your shoulder-pad means?

‘What logo? You’re not making any sense.’


-Stop squirming. There’s a picture of a snake squeezing a baby’s eyeballs out on your shoulder pad. The acronym ASP, I can only assume stands for ‘Artificial Shortage of People.’

‘Look, I’ve explained this as well as I can. The explosion in the hotel destroyed all my possessions. I found this at the charity clothes van. That’s why I have such a soft spot for clothing the homeless.’


-As you’ve mentioned. Now I have two choices. I can let you go, or order my guards to open fire.

‘That seems rather rash.’


-Well I don’t think you’ve learned anything from this exchange.

Who is the Nether Paragon?

Who is the Nether Paragon? - is the question at the end of every test. What people really mean when they ask ‘how are you doing?’ The Nether Paragon is the end result of ambition. A wizard of our own making who in turn makes us suffer so we can become more like him. It will always take us by surprise.


Who is the Nether Paragon? A shipwrecked survivor enlightened by the jagged beauty of his former life, claimed by barnacles. Their rose feathers gentle as smoke, their concern for him not even a concept. 

The ship never actually wrecked, but it left you here on your way to find the Nether Paragon. It seemed like a storm, a crash. Lopsided prayers as virtuous citizens stepped on the backs of drowning children to secure a spot on the lifeboats. They knew you didn’t belong there, and you knew it as well. This solution works best for everybody. So few of us really need to answer this question.


Who is the Nether Paragon? How could such a being or concept as the Nether Paragon even exist? What ghastly property of language allows us to conjure phantoms with the power to shred reality?

The old master walks with a stick and can still drink from the streams. Every day upon rising, he is there with his bucket. It is merely for the sake of humility though. He pretends to be someone or some thing because we are watching. We have found him, despite his attempts to cloud himself in non-accessible spheres. So why don’t we say ‘hi’?

Maybe the royal ‘he’ isn’t working for you. You’re working for ‘him’ though, like it or not. That’s a little joke. The Nether Paragon is a master of deflection. Such a great master, it is the reason for the existence of everything.

All being - an echo of the original thought - runs screaming from the Nether Paragon.


What a cushy thing, what a privilege it is, to be haunted by the specter of the Nether Paragon. What a delightful distraction from the stupid job. The stupid house. The stupid people. Who am I kidding? This isn’t a house at all. What luxury it is to flagellate oneself for the guilt felt by disgust of all one possesses. To long for the cradling silence of the Nether Paragon. To contemplate such levels of abstraction. Obliterate!


. . . a group of people coordinating movements in the sun. A religious observance, or a crosswalk. The city is dizzying at the bottom. Crushed by sky. Only the sewers are safe. Until one of us bright ones starts the final fire. The burning beneath that no one sees coming. Only noticing the tiny up-tics in anxiety, quick-footedness, geysers of green gas.

Every now and then we need to be reminded to flee from the Nether Paragon. Even if our gut instinct is that the Nether Paragon is for the benefit of all, we can’t be sure everyone else thinks that. And even if they did, they certainly wouldn’t say it.

And so it is, by removing key stones that we’re sure no one would miss, the castle topples into the sea. 

Decisions in the Streets

The man who drove through the crosswalk, screaming at the woman with the stroller, calling her an asshole because the ‘don’t walk’ sign started blinking while she was crossing, made a decision.

From the sidewalk, other pedestrians thought his truck backfired, since it lurched and slowed down. But the man with the gun, he ran around the truck and opened the driver side door. Leaning over the dead body, using the legs on the pedals, he guided the truck to the side of the road and waited for the ambulance and police to arrive. 

“This driver,” the shooter later explained, “made a conscious decision to screech through an intersection that was populated with pedestrians, some of them small children, and scream at them from the window of his large truck. Such a person who makes a decision like that cannot possibly bring any amount of good into anyone’s life. Do what you like to me. My actions were 100% morally justified and I have ridded the world of someone who already has and would continue to produce incalculable harm.”

. . .

The sleet is coming down in waves. Umbrellas have to be held in front of people as they walk. The only open space on the sidewalk is between the parking meters and the street. Standing in this vacant lane is a shivering child. Could be ten, could be thirteen. Wearing a yellow t-shirt, soaked to the skin, and shredded blue jeans. The color of his lips. He holds his hands out to passers-by and pleads, yelling through the shriek of the gusts for any kind of help or compassion. Then he’s yelling at the crowd about what heartless assholes they all are and if this is the pinnacle of civilization, then we should just nuke the whole thing and be done with it.

A few stop to watch but are held at bay by the film crew. The director tells the kid to hold his hands out and swing back and forth a few more times while shivering for the promo shot and then yells cut. The actor is handed a blanket and brought back to a smallish trailer on the edge of a closed road. This video will front-page all the relevant platforms as sharer after sharer gets their daily fix of superiority and disdain.

“It’s a social experiment,” explains the film crew.

. . .

More footage appears. Police officers kicking corpses, shooting the bodies repeatedly as other officers pull up, cracking open twelve-packs. Using the corpse to keep their beer cold. Making it do racist impressions.

“Why doesn’t anyone stop this?” asks the film crew, panning to the public who are trying to make their way around the barricades.

A young woman sets the new gang bang record in the middle of a closed intersection during rush hour. All the cars were driven by actors. “Public rape epidemic that no one cares about!” proclaims the film crew.

A trio of wealthy white obese businessmen enter a tenement of apartments. They hand the landlord an envelope of cash and the landlord knocks on the doors of the tenants one by one and informs the actors that they no longer have a place to live effective immediately. The landlord runs out the front door, cash in hand jumping for joy as bull-dozers descend upon the building.

From across the street, a film crew films this film crew and asks, “Why are all these film crews getting footage of these atrocities and doing nothing to stop them? That’s the real epidemic.”

. . .

In an elementary school classroom, a teacher stops the lesson and presses a button on the wall. A bookshelf rotates, revealing a dark hallway which leads to some stairs. An ominous red light dimly flickers at the end of the passage. A hidden camera captures the teacher leading the children away, and the bookshelf shuts behind them.

Footage of the man who installed the hidden camera identifies him as ‘the real reason these atrocities continue’. Other students, secretly from their phones, filmed the crew who filmed the man who installed the hidden camera. “It’s all a setup, we heard they were shooting a movie,” all the students say.

The helicopter that established the panoramas which introduce the film are piloted by the masterminds.

‘The news that reports these stories should hold their sources morally accountable’, screams the outraged headlines.

‘Those who view the news of these atrocities and do nothing about it may as well be perpetrating them themselves,’ say other news viewers. 

And now, a word from our sponsors. You can skip this ad in 5 . . . 4 . . . 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . .


There are those who swim in dark passages with only enough room to kick their feet. A small bioluminescent light is equipped to their helmets. The water is thick with silt, and anything an elbow’s length ahead may as well be the night sky.

In these channels, the concept of sky is unknown and air is an alien. Everyone has a plan for coming back, but no one ever makes it. They run out of air, or get stuck or get lost. Signals are impossible to maintain. But we do know there are other things down there. Things that have light that we did not bring into these pipes of the Earth.

The temperature of the water reads what one would expect at that depth. Although from certain videos, something other than temperature is the threat. Something that lures people to go deeper than they planned. An unexpected light up ahead, alluringly dancing, seduces the divers further.

Whatever lives down there is able to retreat at a marvelous pace, almost like the current of the water (which we cannot measure) has been reversed, and our own pair of eyes follows this light into the darkness, until it vanishes. We lose the signal. What our agents may encounter after that, no one knows.

We’ve attempted sonar mapping. The same technology that allowed us to locate massive underground catacombs of ancient kings. The signal is distorted through the water, that much we can plan for and alter our calculations accordingly. But our predictive maps don’t always match what our divers find down there. Paths that are unmarked appear in the side of the channel. Where our sound finds walls, our divers find deeper darkness to penetrate.

Sometimes they stop for no reason. That is, until we created a semaphore of hand signals. They signal the noise. Or a noise. They are divers so they should hear nothing but the sound of their own breathing apparatus, but the signing is unmistakable. We don’t show these videos to the other divers in order to test if the original ones were delusional. But several divers have all communicated the same signal without being made aware of the actions of their past contemporaries.

They stop. Their vision turns from side to side, illuminating the same monochrome brown walls we know so well and that we all see when we close our eyes. Then the frantic hand signal, over and over again in front of the camera. They want to make sure we can see it. Then, with only the silt in the water to judge for speed, they zip off into the darkness and we lose the signal after seven seconds maximum.

We of course cannot talk to them during this. No method of radio communication penetrates these mediums. That’s why we invented the semaphore. But even if we could talk to them, what would we say? ‘Yes, we knew about the noise but we didn’t tell you until it’s too late, don’t follow it?’ that would be rather unnerving. Would we tell them that others have gone before them and never come back? Of course not. No one would go.

Although it’s not really a choice of whether we go or not. It’s what we do with the urge. Despite expectation, those of us on the outside, we believe, feel the pull the strongest. We theorized the ‘beneath’ worlds. We mapped the channels with our equipment, and we always knew that we must do more. But we sublimate the urge by ‘suggesting’ a curiosity to those we know with adventurous compulsions.

We suggest a taste of worlds beyond. Of fame and glory. Of escape. Whatever will hook them the first time. And there is, of course, no expectation of pursuit. No obligation. We offer a free taste of whatever they don’t know they need, until we give it to them.

In no time at all, they have sacrificed everything to train with us. They are unrecognizable to their families and friends. Unemployable to all but us. And the only thought keeping them alive is their insatiable hunger to explore our darkness.

We find them anywhere. A ‘chance’ meeting in a parking lot. An invitation to go bowling. A spilled drink. A liked article of clothing. Age, stature, is of no consequence. Despite their seeming limitations, the channels accept all.

This missive as well, will go somewhere and maybe it will spur a reader, a friend or spouse of a reader. A child of a reader, into some sort of action that would never have been taken otherwise. Maybe all this talk of uncovering the truly alien beneath our feet is a hodgepodge of nonsense meant to lure a friend of a relative of a friend into some other twisted tangle.

No matter. The truth, plainly stated is ignored, and it’s only the alien lights in an un-swimmable darkness that will hold our attention.

Every Social Media Profile Ever

Welcome to my page. Technology is so amazing nowadays, allowing us to communicate around the world. We can catch up with childhood friends, far away relatives, and former teachers. I feel so privileged to be alive at this moment. Like I’m sure all of you visiting, I grew up just a little smarter and more sensitive than all those around me. The religion of my parents was not spiritual enough, so I became an eternal seeker. After college, I got a job which I could run so much better than those fat one-percenters who are in charge and the place would totally collapse without me, but my job isn’t who I am, you know? Of course you do. I’m in a very healthy relationship with no problems and we’re the cutest couple in any situation. I’m very socially active, everyone knows my opinion on everything and I have yet to ever change my mind. When out with friends at a comedy show, I can totally riff with the comics and they love it. My social life is so rewarding. You can tell that those older than me have never had friends or gone out.

Sadly, my past relatives, acquaintances and loved ones are not doing so well. I can’t help them at all though, they made their own decisions. It’s just so sad to see someone swim around in delusion while the rest of us get on with our lives, you know?

For instance,

T___ C___: One of my earliest friends from kindergarten, I went over to his house or he went over to mine almost every weekend. We learned how to ride bikes together, ate McDonalds all the time. Watched horror movies, had our first relationships at the same time, anyway, he became a redneck like his dad and stuck both his feet in two bear traps simultaneously and bled to death. Yeah.

S___ B____: I was in school plays with her. We thought we would be in the Oscars together. She fell headfirst into a dry-cleaning bag and suffocated, pulling the string of the bag shut while trying to get out. Yeah.

E___ M___: was someone I was mean to in kindergarten just because I thought she was fat. I know, I was a child and kids body-shame. That’s changing now. I’m not a parent, but all my friends with kids know that I would do a better job than they do. Anyways, EM was always nice to me which makes her a sweetheart. Anyways, she drank paint for some reason even though the bottle of Kool-Aid was right next to her . . . anyway.

G___ M____: He was a bully to me in elementary school, but in junior high we became friends because we all smoked weed, and anyone who smokes weed automatically becomes your ally. He slept underneath a truck to keep warm one night, and in the morning, when it was time for the truck to leave . . . yeah.

Mr. R____ J___, I think his name was. Can you believe he was only 22? That seems crazy young to me now to be teaching. Anyways, he was boning one of the other young teachers and they were the envy of all the other old teachers. He had his whole life ahead of him, in retrospect. Told me that everything I touched would turn to gold. He fell off a cliff during a marathon.

Ahh, Mrs. P____: My second grade teacher. She was so supportive of everything I did and even called my parents out of the blue to say how charmed she was by me and how smart she thought I was. Turns out, her husband was a bit of a home mechanic and she drowned in a molten-metal spill. Poured all over her head. Just a screaming skull with patches of red skin and singed hair sitting atop a flower dress.

And who could forget K____ H___: My true love. Soulmates. Introduced me to the concept, in fact. Died in a fast food joint at the hands (and teeth) of a bath-salts crazed cannibal.

Just a few of the people I’ve tried to get in touch with. It’s strange that no one has tried to contact me, but you know, people are so self-absorbed.

Abandon Your Superstition Day: A Closer Look

The long-running feud between two middle houses on Ashland Lane came to standstill that morning. Mitchell Horne vs. Donald McCray. The rules were, when one went out to get the paper, the other’s paper is either there or it is not. If it is, you win and get to feel smug. If it is not, you awaken all the rest of your family and start them doing chores immediately. Mow the lawn! Vacuum the rug! Get the kids to soccer practice or school! Leave for work! Make breakfast! No time for breakfast! Gather the laundry! Water the plants! . . .

((There is no worse horror than not being the first on your street to get the morning paper. Should you traverse your driveway only to find that even ONE other neighbor has gotten their paper before you, then you are judged as unfit for eternity. You may as well open the vodka and eat gas-station doughnuts until you choke on your own puke because your are less meaningful than an ant-fart you utterly worthless waste of life!))

A typical morning in the Horne household: Like a Navy Seal caked in mud - becoming one with the jungle-swamp, giving no indication of life in the house, still cloaked in complete darkness - Mitchell Horne would peek through the narrowest slit of the living room curtains and notice the lights already on in the home of his neighbor, retired pharmacist Donald McCray. 

The old man thought he had all the time in the world since Mitchell’s lights were still off. Mitchell kept a small can of WD-40 hidden beneath an end-table by the front door. His eyes never leaving the house of his nemesis, he oiled the joints. He may need to rush out. He had brought his morning clothes into the living room, and he changed while making sure the silhouette of Donald didn’t make it down the stairs. Probably doing his old man hour-long bathroom routine. It would cut the fucker double if he saw Mitchell fully dressed and getting the paper. No man must ever show a hint of desperation to his enemy.

Clothes smooth and pressed? Check. Posture? Check. Door silent as the grave? Check. Mitchell made his way down the driveway. His paper meant nothing to him. Everything that made his entire world was contained in the yellow plastic bag of Donald McCray’s paper. Mitchell had won. He was mid-way down the driveway and the day was his. The only way this could be sweeter is if-

 - but hark! is that the sound of McCray’s squeaky-ass screen door? It is! And that moment of hesitation . . . Mitchell turned around, paper in hand and caught the merest phantom of Donald McCray hurrying back into his home, taking care to quietly shut his screen door, as if he hadn’t been out yet.

Exhilaration flooded Mitchell Horne. The electric tingles ran up and down his arms. He had won! And better even, he had witnessed his enemy fleeing in defeat. Mitchell would gladly take his own life in triumph on this spot. The pinnacle of all evolution had been reached in his accomplishment. Take that old man, Mitchell thought, may as well blow your brains out all over your wife’s sewing room where she goes to pretend that she still has friends. Worthless shitbag!


Abandon Your Superstition Day in the Horne household: Most of the above still applied, although there was no sign of McCray when Mitchell picked up the morning paper. A mild satisfaction at the enemy giving up. But maybe being too good at something would get boring. Mitchell contemplated taking another quarter inch off the top of his lawn and keeping it that way, like a military buzz-cut. Make that neighborhood regulation. That would shove a poker up that fucking crony’s ass for sure!

Time for work. He didn’t pay attention to the news, so Mitchell had no idea what the world would be like today. Instead, he said goodbye to his kids and his wife. She would take them to school like she always did and then she’d . . . who the fuck knows? Did she still have that part-time job as a . . . had she ever? . . . 

Before stepping into his SUV for the seven-minute drive to work, Mitchell’s blood turned to ice slivers and he was unable to breathe for so long that he almost lost consciousness. Donald McCray’s paper was STILL on his driveway! - and the old man was sitting on a rocking chair on his porch. Was he smoking a . . . CIGAR? . . . This is a family neighborhood!

Unwilling to leave the house without his car, Mitchell drove to the next driveway over. What did that old man think he was doing? It’s times like these that Mitchell was glad for his involvement in the HOA. Even if no one went to the meetings anymore. Someone had to be the grownup in this neighborhood. 

“These old folks,” Mitchell said in his head, explaining his lateness to his boss, “they just don’t get that we have responsibilities nowadays that they never dreamed of. Today isn’t like when you could put a nickel in your gas tank and be set for life. You can’t just let the cows raise your kids anymore. I have fiscal duties to the community, and that requires maturity.”

Donald McCray waved to Mitchell as he got out of the car. “Howdy neighbor. Sit a spell?”

Mitchell beheld the old man on his rocking chair on his creaky porch. The morning sun pierced through the cold night clouds, evidence that day was actually breaking. Slivers of dandelion twirled across the gray air, deflating the dreariness and filling the sky’s bowl with golden light. Mitchell burst into tears and fell forward, clutching his knees and whispering to himself, “It’s all so hard . . .”

Donald reached down and lifted Mitchell with one hand, placing him on his own rocking chair. “No worries little buddy. I’ll have Bertha fix’s up with some sweet tea.” He winked. “My special morning edition.”

“Morning Edition?” panicked Mitchell. “I should be listening to NPR, I won’t know what to talk about -”

“Just you calm down there sonny,” said Donald McCray. He picked up a glass from the tray that Bertha had brought out. It was brown like tea, but any insect that flew too near it instantly died. “You just have a sip or ten of that -”

The mixture was like suddenly walking outside on a bright day. A shock to all the senses and you curl into yourself like a turtle. But then you relax, and the world that seemed sharp and painful becomes clear and open. Mitchell’s throat felt like he had swallowed a pail of thumbtacks until they passed, and they left a warm relief, like a hot bath. His neighborhood appeared a postcard, a diorama of paradise instead of the litter-strewn war-zone he had always seen before.

“You and I,” said Donald McCray, “we’re gonna have some biscuits with butter, and then I hear there’s an old barn out on East Commercial Row that we can shoot at until it falls down.”

Abandon Your Superstition Day: Glimpses

Today, the world is going to end because I used the wrong pen at work. I don’t usually go for the logo-ed ones on a ____day, but today was national ‘Abandon Your Superstition For a Day’ day, and now we’re all fucked.

Crystal struggled with the volume on her streaming video. The curser stopped at a 67. She hates odd numbers but went with it anyway. A plane crashed in the desert.

Many seemingly sensible people chose not to go to work at all. Just because money is deposited into your bank account after you’ve spent a certain amount of time somewhere, doesn’t make it causation. Maybe the banks would realize that you can give people money instead of take it away. Fat chance. They went the opposite way. Their superstition of ‘pretend to be moral and people will give you money’ turned into cleaning out the accounts of charities and holding a Luxury Yacht Demolition Derby. Sometimes, we create our own disasters.

Chadwick did not kiss his wife goodbye before heading to work this morning. When his marriage didn’t immediately turn to shambles afterwards (she was after all, still asleep) he was so overjoyed at the smell of the early morning air that he skipped to work rather than driving. He got there a little late, but since so few bothered to show up, he felt a day of leisure immanent. Now he mutters to himself in a corner that the wildfires were not his doing, the wildfires were not his doing.

God is angry at the minister who performed the morning service (to a nearly empty chapel) while sipping a cup of coffee. The minister had long been resentful that he either had to chug his coffee beforehand, or wait until afterwards and then be distracted during the service. On Abandon Your Superstition Day, sewers burst along the streets of far-away lands, and the minister blamed himself.

Next week: A Closer Look . . .