Friday, September 30, 2016

Shield Me

The closer the subway train got to the Dreadnaught City station, the more Colonel Scott Percival doubted whether or not he could return to a normal life. Still dressed in his black khakis, brown boots, and black combat vest from the war, everything about Scott screamed “soldier”.

There was not one trace of love or peace in his contemplative facial expression as he kept his eyes glued to the floor of the train. Visions of war caused him to clench and unclench his ham-hawk fists. His energy blade was nestled by his side in case the war came back home with him. He never knew when the next explosion would come or who would be next to fire an assault rifle at him. In the cyberpunk hellhole of Dreadnaught City, being steadfast and hyper-vigilant was a way of life.

Scott’s inner demons were interrupted by the beeping sound of the train doors opening at its final stop for the night. With nobody else onboard except for him, getting off this clunky car was the easiest part of his evening so far.

The hardest part was seeing his girlfriend Gayle Rodriguez leaning against a platform pillar with her arms and legs crossed and tears running down her face. No trace of happiness, not even a weak smile, just a red cocktail dress, flowing black hair, and eyeballs full of stinging juices.

The traumatized soldier approached the equally traumatized girlfriend and wrapped his massive arms around her in a tender embrace. “It’s okay, baby girl. I’m home now,” Scott said in his best smooth jazz voice while stroking Gayle’s silky soft hair.

Gayle broke the embrace and looked into Scott’s coffee brown eyes with her own puppy-dog expression. “You don’t understand, babe. I can’t be with you anymore. I’ve done something horrible. I’m sorry, Scott! I can’t do this! I had to make money while you were away…and…I…I…”

“Back to work, sweetheart. Your dinner break was over an hour ago,” said a rough feminine voice from the shadows of the platform. When the woman walked into the overhead light, she revealed herself to be a gasmask-wearing heavyweight with a large red geisha robe fitting snugly over her pudgy features. Like Scott, she too had an energy blade nestled beside her, ready for combat at a moment’s notice.

With a look of concern shadowed by his black dreadlocks, Scott asked, “Gayle, who is this woman? What have you been doing while I was away?”

Gayle’s sobs became louder as she buried her face into her boyfriend’s chest and yelled, “I’m sorry! I’m so sorry, Scott!”

“Break up the love fest, you stupid bitch!” shouted the obese woman. “There are horny men that need attending to and I don’t have anybody else to do it! You want your paycheck? You want to keep living in a heated apartment? Come with me! Never mind that loser you’re hugging! If he was a real boyfriend, he would have stayed home with you instead of running away from his so-called patriotic duty!”

Scott broke the embrace with his girlfriend and slowly paced toward the female pimp with his hand firmly around the dragon-themed hilt of his energy blade. “What did you say to me, bitch? What did you say?! You want to get your head chopped off tonight or what?!” Gayle was about to interrupt him with a sorrowful warning, but Scott backed her off and said, “Just stay behind me and don’t do a damn thing! I’ve got this! We can talk about the whole prostitution thing later! Right now, I’m going to gut this fat bitch alive and spread her insides all over this fucking platform!”

The pimp glared at Scott behind her hideous gasmask and drew her skeleton-themed hilt before ejecting a blade of hot red energy from it. She swung it around with the deftness of a samurai, sometimes even showing off when she spun it in the air. “For the record, my name isn’t fat bitch. It’s Carla Madder. Madame Carla Madder. The only one who should get her name changed to bitch is that woman you’re protecting!”

Scott Percival screamed in primal fury before drawing his glowing blue energy blade and throwing down with Carla Madder. Gayle stayed in the background curled up in a ball on the floor and letting her tears and snot run down her legs. The two warriors slashed and twirled their blades at each other, sometimes blocking with their weapons and other times flipping and dodging out of harm’s way. Their weapons even took chunks of cement out of the pillars and floor. The more destruction they caused to public property, the more they swung at each other with a berserker’s fury. Their furious brawl stalled with the two warriors holding their weapons together and glaring violently at each other.

“Is that all you got? I thought you soldiers had big fucking grenades. Turns out your just smuggling some cherry bombs!” taunted Carla. After laughing obnoxiously at her own joke, Scott went for an overhead slash only to have her duck down and head butt him in the stomach, dropping him to his knees and causing him to release his blade. Carla kicked the weapon onto the train tracks and stared at her opponent with a grizzly bear’s hunger. She even took her gasmask off and revealed her mouth to be an ugly contraption filled with razor sharp teeth and bloody red lips.

Gayle’s eyes shot up in horror at she watched her boss lick her top teeth with disgusting sexuality. Scott’s girlfriend crawled over to the edge of the platform and vomited stomach acid onto the train tracks.

“You have every disease on the fucking planet and you’re suddenly disgusted by what my mouth looks like. What about what YOUR mouth looks like, bitch?!” shouted Carla, earning her a punch to the gut and a clenched-teeth expression from Scott. The rock hard fist sank into her big belly like her body was made of quicksand. The wide-eyed Scott even struggled to pull his hand out, even grabbing his own wrist with his free hand.

“Pathetic! That’s all you soldier boys are!” taunted Carla as she popped Scott’s hand out of her belly and spin kicked him in the chest, sending the “soldier boy” flying backwards several feet and rolling on the ground. The demonic pimp squeezed her own breasts in violent anticipation while Scott was lying on his back hacking and wheezing.

Gayle crawled over to Scott and wrapped his huge arm around her shoulders in an attempt to get him to his feet. Even with Scott’s cooperation, lifting him was like trying to lift a small car. He continued to inhale deep, raspy puffs of oxygen, but dropped down to one knee. “Come on, Scott, get up! Please! Help me!” shouted Gayle.

The words of encouragement filled Scott’s mind with fire and fury. Even with his lungs burning and his chest stinging, he got up on his feet, looked his girlfriend in the eyes, and said, “I love you so much right now.” And then he heard a whirling noise and felt a hot blast of energy seer through his shoulder. He screamed in horrific pain as his left arm limply fell to the ground in a splash of blood, no longer attached to his already pain-wracked body. Scott got down on one knee again and clutched his shoulder, squealing through gritted teeth and tightened eyelids. Gayle screamed along with him and hugged his neck tightly.

“Enough of this shit!” shouted Carla, immediately gaining the silent attention of Gayle while Scott continued to cry out in agony. From where she was standing, it appeared the pimp threw her energy blade at her opponent. She confirmed this when she pointed her sausage finger at the hilt of her blade, which was halfway across the platform. “You’ve seen how much of a protective boyfriend your so-called man can be. How protective is he going to be with just one arm? How is he going to earn you the kind of money you made while working with me, Gayle? Is he going to be a circus freak? Is that how he’ll earn his money?”

Carla breathed like a wild beast while Gayle slowly backed away from her. The heavyset pimp approached her like a lion getting ready to feast. She kicked Scott in his shoulder hole along the way, causing the battle born soldier to roll around and scream even louder. Carla smiled viciously and said, “Gayle, give me my energy blade and all will be forgiven. You can come back to work anytime you want. I’ll even give you some…extra shifts!” Gayle attempted a fierce glare at her boss, but could only muster more sorrow. “Give it to me, Gayle! Give me the goddamn blade!”

This was Gayle Rodriguez’s chance to see the writing on the wall. She could side with her armless boyfriend and potentially live on the streets or continue having sex for money and live comfortably. Scott was a gentleman and the ultimate romantic lover. There was nothing romantic about what Gayle did for her paychecks. But big paychecks they were, so big that she could be in line for a promotion. Plus, how could she look Scott in the face after everything she did while he was away? Paycheck or not, it was wrong. Dead wrong.

With shaky legs and arms, Gayle got down on one knee and struggled to keep the energy blade in a firm grasp. Carla motioned for her to toss it with a wave of her hand. The prostitute steadied herself and once again tried to form a strong glare. All she did was shake some more. Her insides felt like they were being ground up into meat. With one girly throw, she tossed the hilt of the energy blade.

Carla reached up to grab it, but the hilt sailed over her head and into the one arm of Scott Percival, who ejected the red energy and slashed the pimp’s throat in one quick motion. Blood and organs flowed heavily from Carla’s big neck as she dropped to the ground and soaked the platform with her life juices. She tried to curse at her former charge, but all that would come out was a waterfall of blood. Once she landed on the floor chest first, the final tidal wave of blood splashed onto the train tracks below. One final twitch of her fat pinky and that was all she wrote.

Scott tossed the blade aside and looked tearfully into his girlfriend’s eyes. She looked back at him with that same ghostly expression before running up to him in high heeled shoes and hugging her one-armed man tightly while showering his face with kisses. “I’m so sorry, Scott! I didn’t mean for things to turn out this way! Please forgive me!” she begged.

Even with one arm, Scott’s hug felt warm and protective, like a romantic shield. “I’ll never let anything bad happen to you again, Gayle. I’ll find a way to make money. And when I do, we’re going to have that family we’ve always wanted.”

“I love you, Scott!”

“I love you too, baby girl. Let’s get the fuck out of this dump.”

Thursday, September 29, 2016

"Headstones and Dead Bodies" by Marie Krepps

BOOK TITLE: Headstones and Dead Bodies
AUTHOR: Marie Krepps
YEAR: 2016
GENRE: Fictional Short Stories

In these two nightmare-inducing short stories, you get just that: headstones and dead bodies. “My Last Dare” is the tale of a group of friends who dare the narrator to visit a haunted graveyard and stab the sacred ground with a ballpoint pen to prove his stay. “Coffins” deals with the painstaking and vomit-worthy process of emptying baggies of money from a sewn up cadaver’s insides. After reading these stories, your traumatized mind will crave relief of any sort whether it’s one-on-one therapy or a gigantic bottle of Xanax. Do you dare put your soul through this kind of literary torture? It’s okay if you’re going to be a chicken about it, but such tasty birds get devoured on a daily basis by razor-sharp mouths. In Marie Krepps’ sick and twisted world, nobody is safe, not even the reader.

“My Last Dare” had the realistic feeling of being small-town teenagers who are so bored that they dare each other to do stupid things. I’ve lived in my fair share of small towns, so I know how taxing boredom can be to the human mind. Marie Krepps makes these teenagers sound like they would end up in Tosh.0 video montages. They’re goofy, they’re brash, and they’re awkward. Their immature dialogue and silly arguments among themselves paint a realistic picture of what will take place. Ms. Krepps is from a small town in North Carolina, so there’s no doubt in my mind that she’s seen this kind of weirdness before. People always say to write what you know, so not only has Marie done that, but she added a horrific twist at the end of the story. Remember, kids: nobody is safe in Marie Krepps’ works, not even the most innocent little boy.

Speaking of little boys, “Coffins”, which is my favorite story of the two presented, did an excellent job of portraying Pablo as a calm-minded, creepy, and delightfully psychotic teenaged gangster. He’s doing these foul-smelling autopsies in front of a “hardened” gangster like Mick, but Mick is the one who keeps losing his lunch, not Pablo. People say that even evil has standards and while that may be true for Mick, it’s anything but true for Pablo. The little warlock could be watching the Saw movies, Hostel movies, and Human Centipede movies back-to-back and he would assume that they were comedies. Nothing gets to this tiny bastard and that’s what makes him a valuable asset to any drug lord and a formidable threat to anybody who opposes him. Can you believe that Pablo is only fourteen years old and looks much younger? That adds to his creepy aura. Jeffrey Dahmer, Chuck Manson, and Ricardo Ramirez have nothing on this little buzz saw. Absolutely nothing!

The book is only 36 pages long, which means you’ll blow through it in no time at all. The pacing is even throughout and the trauma will build inside you all the same. If you think you can survive five seconds in Marie Krepps’ world, you’re crazier than Pablo. Actually, I don’t think being crazier than Pablo is possible, but you get my point. If you’re looking for two horror stories that will shake you to your core and leave you begging for more (that rhymes), feel free to pick up a copy of “Headstones and Dead Bodies”. A passing grade goes to the author who will make your worst fears come to life and immortalize them forever. Boogedy-boogedy-boo!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Hawaiian Vacation

This coming Monday morning, I’m headed to the Sea-Tac Airport for a week-long vacation to Hawaii with my aunt Ruth, my step-dad Dale, and my mom. The last time I’ve been to Hawaii was around this time in 2010. Beautiful sunshine, beautiful beaches, beautiful women, and cute cuddly chickens: that’s what Hawaii is all about. I couldn’t ask for a better way to kick back and relax. Because I’ll be busy soaking up the sunshine and petting chickens, my internet time will be limited to short bursts on the hotel computer. That means for the week I’ll be gone, I won’t compete in the corresponding contest at the WSS. But that’s next week. I still have a few more days to submit a story for this week’s contest, which I haven’t decided what I’m going to do just yet. The prompt is “Energy” and lord knows I have a lot of magical story ideas in my archives, but nothing definitive. Before I get too far off track, if you want the exact dates I’ll be gone, the vacation lasts from October 3rd to October 10th. Again, this means minimal internet contact and zero creative output, which means the WSS, Demon Axe, Dark Fantasy Warriors, and reading commitments to Marie Krepps will have to wait. But do you know what the best part about vacations is? Coming home to sleep in your own bed with your own kitty while using your own computer. I’ll be back, no doubt about it.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Suicide Squad

MOVIE TITLE: Suicide Squad
DIRECTOR: David Ayer
YEAR: 2016
GENRE: Superhero Film
RATING: PG-13 for swearing and violence

Pentagon Secret Agent Amanda Waller wants to put together a black ops team comprised of the world’s deadliest supervillains, including the psychopathic Harley Quinn, the mercenary sniper Dead Shot, the muscle monster Killer Croc, and the sly bank robber Captain Boomerang just to name a few. Agent Waller promises to give these crazy criminals lighter prison sentences if they carry out the mission of saving the world from the genocidal Enchantress and her magical army-killing weapon. The Suicide Squad, as they’re named, never loses their rebellious natures despite having micro bombs implanted in their necks. They will gladly push the boundaries of poor taste and violent madness if it means getting what they want while still agreeing to Waller’s terms.

I may be fighting a losing battle when I give this movie a passing grade (four stars), but the one thing we can all agree upon is how awesome Margot Robbie was at playing Harley Quinn. People will look at a picture of her and think she’s some kind of sex object. She’s not. She’s delightfully loony, battle hardened, darkly funny, blatantly sarcastic, and madly in love with another psychopath we all know as The Joker. Say whatever you want about how Jared Leto may or may not live up to Heath Ledger’s golden performance in The Dark Knight. At the end of the day, you have to admit that Harley Quinn and The Joker make a cute and deliciously violent couple. If they ruled Gotham City until the end of time, they can’t do any worse than some rich politician screwing things up in congress. At least Harley and Joker are honest about being demonic criminals.

And while I’m at it, the other members of the Suicide Squad were believable as well. Dead Shot may be a serpentine bastard when he carries out his death warrants, but the love he has for his daughter would make anybody nominate him for Dad of the Year. El Diablo, a pyromantic gangster, is a family guy who is constantly tormented by what he did to his wife and children; and guess what, there’s not a damn thing that’s fake about him or his feelings. The Army Colonel who leads the Suicide Squad into battle, Rick Flag, was once in love with the woman Enchantress possessed. You think he’d like to have her back someday? Whether they’re fighting for love, fighting against authority, or just plain fighting, you can’t really hate any of these Suicide Squad members. If you had the smart phone app that detonated the micro bombs in their necks, you wouldn’t have the spine or the heart to activate it. Trust me on that.

Despite the overwhelming negative reviews this film has received, I personally would be hard pressed to find a major flaw. It turns out I could find one, but it’s so small that it doesn’t ruin the entire movie for me. You see, I don’t care if the prisoners in question are a bunch of heartless killers with blood on their hands that’ll never come off. I don’t really like watching these supervillains get tortured at the black site in Louisiana. The movie opens with Dead Shot getting smashed in the stomach with a knight stick multiple times. It continues with Harley Quinn being strapped to a chair with a ball gag in her mouth and a feeding tube forcing liquid gunk up her nose and down her throat. What happened to Harley Quinn was downright disturbing to watch. In fact, I’d say some prison reform is in order, even for brutal fighters like these supervillains. Maybe we can transfer them to one of those Norwegian prisons from Michael Moore’s documentary “Where To Invade Next”. In those jails, they actually eat their food from a plate with a fork and knife. What a concept!

Disturbing moment aside, Suicide Squad was a fun movie that didn’t need to be “saved” by anybody’s performance. I thought the performances were wonderful. I thought the action-packed violence was even better. You can’t have a superhero film without at least a modicum of strong violence, and boy do these warriors deliver. Harley Quinn can actually hold her own with just a bat while everybody else is covering the battlefield with bullets and bombs. Where’s all this negativity coming from? Do people just enjoy looking for flaws? Does nobody just sit back, relax, eat their popcorn, and enjoy the movie anymore? Like I said earlier, I may be fighting a losing battle with my passing grade, but just like the Suicide Squad themselves, I’ll die trying.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Emoticon Artist

“Whoever left the Eagle Eye of Aragon in this dump should have his head chopped off,” said the brutish orc warrior Knox, who grinned at his war axe in anticipation of carrying out that threat. The odors of shit, piss, and rotten metal in this junkyard assaulted the nostrils of everyone in his adventuring party and made keeping their lunches down a fight to the death. The sight of human and rat bones congregating among the junk heaps did no favors for their nauseated stomachs.

“Yeah, I’m not happy about being here either, Knox,” said the scrappy, dust-covered gnome thief Christopher. “But my sources tell me the Eagle Eye is somewhere among these piles. Somebody wanted to get rid of it in a hurry to avoid being caught by authorities. They didn’t do a good enough job of it.”

“Let’s just get the cursed thing before Lord McCain shows up,” said the heavily armored cleric Bradshaw, who held his spiked mace with confidence and passion. “Then again, I wouldn’t mind throwing down with that creep.”

Each adventurer took separate routes in digging through these trash piles so as to expand their search. They dug with quickness and strength so as not to spend too much time getting dizzy from the shitty odors. Once one pile of trash was sorted through, another was and the cycle of dirty clothing and shivers of disgust continued all over again. Christopher gagged and coughed as he dug to the bottom of his pile and found a used sheepskin condom. He threw it off to the side and nearly hit Knox in the face with it, to which the savage orc barked at him to be more careful.

“Looking for this?!” said a deep, ominous voice at the junkyard’s mesh fence entrance. The adventurers got in their fighting stances and pointed their respective weapons at the dark robed figure covered in glowing red auras known as Lord McCain. The Eagle Eye of Aragon glowed a brilliant shade of yellow that rivaled the morning sun itself. The adventurers shielded their eyes with their arms so as not to be blinded by this beautiful gem.

The snake-faced wizard grinned at the party while bearing his fangs and slithering his tongue. As if swallowing a pill, Lord McCain gulped the Eagle Eye down and sent a storm of electricity through his own body. The party watched in wide-eyed awe as McCain’s robes disintegrated and his green scaly body was growing with bulging muscles until he had morphed into a full-fledged dragon. The partiers swallowed saliva and nearly shit themselves at the sight of this transformed mega-demon, who screamed so violently at his foes that a gust of wind blew past them and sent Christopher rolling backwards.

Knox quickly pushed the fear to the back of his mind and smiled like a slasher, long tongue, drool, and all. “Is that how we’re going to do this?! Fine by me, McCain! I’ll drink your blood like a cold frosty beer!” With his gigantic axe raised to the sky, Knox charged at the dragon with bloodlust in his eyes, slobber flowing from his chin, and train-like power in his legs.

Fantasizing about slashing the shit out of Lord McCain would have given Knox a bulge in his fur shorts the size of an elephant’s trunk, had it not been for the sudden ringing noise interrupting his bloody thoughts. He looked back and saw Bradshaw texting on his cell phone and not paying attention to the battle at hand. “Hey! Moron! Put the phone away! There’s a pissed off dragon in front of us!” shouted the orc brute.

That momentary distraction allowed the vicious beast to grab Knox by his ankles with one massive, razor-sharp claw and drag him across the dirt ground, causing him to leave his axe behind. “Bradshaw! Put the phone away and help me!” The cleric continued to text on his cell phone like he was writing the next great novel. “Bradshaw! No!” shouted Knox as he was hauled up into the air and had his entire upper body chewed off by the blood hungry dragon, like his massively muscle-bound body was just a corn dog to the transformed beast.

Bradshaw was left all alone to text on his phone and to potentially be eaten by this drooling monster. One earth-shaking step at a time, the dragon stomped his way over to the cleric, who never took his eyes off of his phone and whose thumbs were moving at the speed of light. With one powerful whack, the dragon knocked the phone out of the holy warrior’s hands.

“Hey! What was that for?!” whined Beth Bradshaw, a chubby young lady with a ponytail and a Star Wars T-shirt barely covering her tremendous features.

While Cody Knox and Brenda Christopher sat at opposite sides of the dinner table with their faces in their hands, Colin McCain, the Dungeon Master, pointed his sausage finger at Beth and said in a hushed, angry voice, “You know full well that I don’t allow texting during D&D sessions! It’s fucking rude! If your internet life is more important to you than playing with your friends, then go the fuck outside and do that shit!”

Tears stained Beth’s jowls and fogged up her glasses. “I’m sorry, Colin. I just…” Before she could finish her sentence, her surprisingly durable smart phone vibrated on the kitchen floor. Instead of honoring her DM’s wishes, she picked up the phone and texted rapidly some more. The tears were really pouring from her eyes at this point.

Colin pulled his ponytail tie out of his hair and with one sweep of his bulky arm brushed the character sheets, rule books, and potato chips off the table to snap Beth out of her trance. Cody yelled, “Hey!” as some of the potato chips ended up in his blue jeans-wearing lap and on his Sepultura T-shirt.

Beth looked up at Colin with pleading, damp eyes and softly said, “I’m sorry! I really am! I have to take care of this or else…”

“Or else what? Your online buddies will have to go without goofy emoticons and poorly-spelled words for ten more seconds?!” shouted Colin while his palms were firmly pressed against the table.

“Come on, Colin, leave her alone! Can’t you see she’s in tears?” said the skinny brunette Brenda, who held her arms in front of Colin like a failed attempt to shield Beth from the DM’s wrath.

“Tears? Tears?!” yelled Colin. “What does this crazy bitch have to be sad about?! The latest edition of Pokemon Go hasn’t come out yet?! The coffee machine is jammed?! Banana Republic ran out of khakis that don’t cut off the circulation to her brain?! You know what?! I’m putting an end to this crap once and for all! Give me that stupid phone!”

A tug-o’-war ensued between Beth and Colin over the former’s phone with Cody and Brenda trying to separate them. The two obese nerds nearly pulled each other across the table as they shouted incoherently over the reasonable-minded Cody and Brenda. One powerful jerk yanked Beth onto the table, which broke in two upon bearing her weight. She cried relentlessly into her arms while Colin scowled down on her with an animalistic fury. Brenda scowled back at him and said, “Now look what you’ve done!”

It was the baldheaded Cody who ended up with the phone in his hands. His expression changed from urgent rage to a saggy frown when he actually read the text message war in front of him.

“Cody!” shouted Colin. “Give me the goddamn phone!”

Mr. Knox held out a hand in front of the GM’s face and somberly said to the gaming group, “Beth’s grandmother just died in the hospital.” Beth continued to flood the broken table with tears and assault the ears of her friends with painful sobs. Cody and Brenda leaned down to pick her up to her knees before engaging in a loving, emotional group hug.

Brenda looked up at the stone-faced Colin and asked, “Are you going to hug her or what? She needs us right now, Colin. For the first time in your life, quit being a selfish ass and be there for your friend!”

Colin solemnly looked down at Brenda, Cody, and Beth and shook his head before walking around them and strolling into the living room. Feeling abandoned, the remaining three friends continued to hug and rub each other’s shoulders while Beth unloaded more tears and snot onto the shattered wooden table. “How can he do this to us?” she asked. “We’ve been his friend since high school. We’ve been through everything together. We rescued him from bullies. And all he cares about is his stupid game!”

The group hug was tighter and the hand-holding was firmer. Cody even planted a gentle kiss on Beth’s forehead. It had nothing to do with romance and everything to do with Beth losing two people in one night: first her grandmother, and then her friend of so many years.

And then the group huggers heard the sound of car keys jingling behind them. The keys belonged to Colin, who told his friends, “If you want a ride to the hospital, the car’s parked out back. We’ll even stop for some McDonald’s along the way. I’m buying.”

All three brokenhearted friends slowly stood up while Beth weakly smiled at Colin and said, “Thank you for understanding. Let’s go.”

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Take It Back


There seem to be a lot of stories in the news lately about environmental disasters, the most prominent one being about the North Dakota pipeline that the Standing Rock Indian Nation is protesting. Not only would the pipeline poison their water supply, but it would desecrate sacred burial sites. During these protests, the oil company’s private security beat the protesters and unleashed attack dogs on them. And still the Indian Nation remains stronger than ever. Instead of inserting my own political dialogue into this matter, I’m going to have Pink Floyd do it for me with their 1994 hit “Take It Back”. And no, it’s not about an overly emotional chick. It’s about Mother Nature, an even more emotional chick with the power of geomancy. Look the song up on You Tube. Or you can read these lyrics, one of the two.

Her love rains down on me as easy as the breeze
I listen to her breathing it, sounds like the waves on the sea
I was thinking all about her, burning with rage and desire
We were spinning into darkness, the earth was on fire

She could take it back, she might take it back some day

So I spy on her, I lie to her, I make promises I cannot keep
Then I hear her laughter rising, rising from the deep
And I make her prove her love for me, I take all that I can take
And I push her to the limit to see if she will break

She might take it back, she could take it back some day

Now I have seen the warnings, screaming from all sides
It's easy to ignore them and God knows I've tried
All of this temptation, it turned my faith to lies
Until I couldn't see the danger or hear the rising tide

She can take it back, she will take it back some day


Once again, the WSS admins use a prompt suggestion of mine (Eagle Eye) and I am eternally grateful. But before I can do my official happy dance, I have to write “Emoticon Artist”, which goes like this:


Colin McCain, Authoritative Dungeon Master
Cody Knox, D&D Warrior
Brenda Christopher, D&D Rogue
Beth Bradshaw, D&D Cleric and Texter

PROMPT CONFORMITY: The D&D characters are searching for a magical gem known as The Eagle Eye of Aragon.

SYNOPSIS: An exciting game of Dungeons & Dragons is taking place in Colin’s kitchen and involves the three players trying to defeat a metallic dragon at a robotic junkyard. Just when the climax of the battle is drawing near, Beth’s phone goes off and she gets in a text-messaging war with one of her relatives. As the Dungeon Master, Colin strictly forbids text messaging and/or crying at his table, but Beth isn’t so easy to comply. This angers Colin to where he dives across the table in an attempt to pry the phone away from Beth while Cody and Brenda are restraining him.


If Cain Gutwrench wasn’t scary enough for you, hopefully G-Pac will be. No, G-Pac doesn’t have much fighting experience beyond barroom brawls, but he’s a Dark Fantasy Warrior anyways due to his uniqueness. It’s not every day you see a hooded monk in a clown mask drumming away to a heavy metal tune. You kind of see that with Slipknot’s Shawn Crahan, but I don’t think Mr. Crahan would appreciate me using his likeness in Demon Axe. Thus, we have G-Pac. Before you ask, yes, G-Pac was named after me, Garrison Kelly, even though I don’t play the drums.


Now that we’re on the topic of Demon Axe, the torment is far from over for Daniel Mercer a.k.a. the Lord of the Pit. It’s bad enough Detective Shawn Henry asks him a bunch of stupid questions for the sake of fulfilling his “bureaucratic nightmare”. Now he gets a visit in the night from Raven Triscloud, an elf warrior who tries to warn Daniel that Roger Zee is far from finished with him. Of course, being the drugged out dunderhead that he is, Daniel thinks that Raven is full of crap and is just another traumatic hallucination. Is she?


“If you ever get bitten by the world travel bug, it won’t be because you used to play Final Fight 2 for the Super Nintendo. It doesn’t matter what country Haggar, Carlos, and Maki do all of their street fighting in, because the stages look just as ghettoized and impoverished as the first level of the original Final Fight. For Christ’s sake, Holland looks like it had a nuclear bomb dropped on it. If the Mad Gear gang has the funds to travel overseas, you’d think they could get some nicer digs. Then again, getting a spinning piledriver from the top of Big Ben isn’t appealing no matter what your gang’s budget is.”


Demon Axe, Chapter 3

The audience at the Black River Arena mumbled somberly to each other while the wrestling ring in the center was dimly lit. They held up signs for their favorite wrestlers, but with weak arms. They “wooed” and cheered, but few did it with them. Some stood up, but the rest of them stayed seated. This audience was more like a graveyard than an arena full of wrestling fans. The sadness in their eyes was obvious as some of them were shedding tears.

And then the grinding sound of Demon Axe’s number one hit “Zombie-Ogre” boomed from the speakers like a cannonball. Any sadness or zombie-like behavior transformed instantly into raucous rage as the audience shot up from their seats and cheered like wild motherfuckers. The throaty chants of, “Vega! Vega! Vega!” echoed off the walls and created a symphony of adrenaline for the seven-foot tall world champion wrestler, Johnny Vega.

With his blood red hair in a ponytail, his beard scraggly, his green overalls fitting snuggly around his muscles, and the golden world title strapped around his waist, Johnny Vega looked out into the crowd and nodded at the love he was getting. He enjoyed the adulation so much that he clapped and cheered along with them as he strutted down to the ring. Once he climbed up on the apron, stepped over the top rope with his gigantic legs, and held his world title in the air, the crowd’s verbal assault hit its crescendo with fire and spunk, highly unlike what they were feeling before.

The minute Johnny Vega grabbed a microphone from the ringside attendant, the chants of his last name continued to put a huge grin on the champion’s face. But even a tough guy giant like him wasn’t immune to the tears in his own eyes. He wiped them away with his thumb and inhaled snot back in his nose much to the clapping approval of the crowd who came to see him.

“Thank you, guys. Thank you so much, you have no idea how much that means to me,” said Johnny into the microphone. “But as much as I love hearing that kind of energy from you guys, tonight is not about me. I know why you guys were in such a sour mood before I came out here. I feel it too. It’s about what happened to my favorite metal band Demon Axe a few days ago.”

The audience booed at Demon Axe’s fate while some of the members reverted back to tears. Johnny said, “I know, it pisses me off too. What in the hell would motivate some asshole to kill off so many people like that? What kind of message is that supposed to send? What are we supposed to learn from all of this?”

He teared up a little bit at that last sentence and then toughened up yet again. “I’ll tell you what we’re supposed to learn! We don’t back down from shit-heads like that! I don’t care how many people this moron kills, because we’re here to put on a fucking show and there’s not a goddamn thing he can do about it!” He received a sonic boom of cheers and raised fists once more. “This is America, baby! America doesn’t negotiate with terrorists! America doesn’t back down every time a tragedy happens! America gets back on their feet, dusts themselves off, and keeps on going until they can’t go anymore!”

Just when the audience was ready to explode with excitement, the sounds of sarcastic clapping into a microphone filled the arena and the boos were as brutal as ever. A man dressed in a purple robe with a hood over his head and a vulture mask over his face entered the arena and put a confused slash angry expression on Johnny Vega’s face. The wrestler said, “You’re not Vulture Man. You’re not G-Pac. You’re not Pig Man, though you are a pig for coming out here and interrupting me. Who the hell do you think you are, little man?!”

The robed figure said with a chorus of boos in the background, “Relax! I’m not here to spoil your fun. I’m just another guy who wants a crack at that championship you’ve got there. Because there’s nothing more manly and gutsy than two muscle-bound men fighting over a belt.”

“Don’t be a smart-ass, pretty boy! And take off that mask, you don’t deserve to wear it! That mask belonged to one of the greatest heavy metal guitarists of all time and you’re running around like you’re God’s greatest gift to professional wrestling! You ain’t shit, motherfucker! I take dumps bigger than you! You want to come out here to run your big mouth and wear that fucking mask like you actually own it, then get your ass in this ring so I can snap your goddamn spine!” shouted Johnny, much to the roaring delight of the fans, who chanted his last name once again.

The hooded figure drew more boos as he cackled into the microphone. “You misunderstand me. This isn’t about a mask or a belt or any other piece of god-awful attire. This is about my mission. This is about my people. This is about the wonderful friends you call Demon Axe parading their disgusting music all over holy ground. That ‘arena’ they played at wasn’t just for show. Whoever built that abortion of a structure was trampling all over my race’s sacred pastures. Yes, the building has been around for years, but I was the only one with the guts to do anything about it. And now here you are disgracing my people once again by speaking highly of these Demon Axe infidels!”

Johnny formed a wicked smile on his face and shook his head before saying, “So you’re the lunatic who carved up all those people at the Demon Axe concert.” The boos grew heavier and heavier, but Johnny held up his hands and said, “Nah, nah, cool it, guys. It’s actually a good thing that this dumb-ass came here in the middle of a wrestling show. Because now, I have a reason to kick his ass!”

The champion wrestler threw down his microphone and belt before jumping over the top rope and bull rushing his way toward the robed figure. Johnny cocked back his sledgehammer-like fist and took a wild, brutal, head-crunching swing. The minute his fist made contact with Vulture Man’s mask, the entire robe collapsed into purple smoke, leaving the audience and Johnny shrugging their shoulders and looking around aimlessly for answers.

The lights in the arena blew out and left everybody in mysterious darkness. The grating sounds of the terrorist laughing drew the loudest boos of the night. Red smoke appeared in the ring and revealed the figures of the machete-wielding elf warrior and a fellow wrestler on her knees with a crown of thorns on her head and a neon red glow in her eyes. The lights came back on and revealed a wide-eyed, shocked expression on Johnny Vega’s face. He shouted, “What the hell did you do to Sonia?!”

The woman everybody knew as Sonia Marquez donned gray MMA shorts, a black sports bra, and a black ponytail behind her head. Her muscular frame, sinister gimmick, and vicious martial arts skills made her a perfect slave for someone like the mysterious elf terrorist. Despite how real and genuine Sonia’s brainwashing looked, everybody in the audience assumed this was part of the show and booed accordingly rather than rushing the ring.

Johnny Vega rushed back up to the ring, leaped over the top rope, and reached his hands out in an attempt to strangle the elf terrorist until his head burst like a pustule. Mr. Vega was met with a kick to the liver by Sonia after she jumped up from her kneeling position. Johnny held his ribs tightly and dropped to his own knees before coughing up a liberal amount of blood.

“Don’t be too hard on him, Sonia,” ordered the elf. “We need him to cleanse this earth of anybody who would dare disrespect my people’s heritage. He’s big, strong, and wouldn’t dare resist the power of one of these.” The elf presented a magical crown of thorns to Sonia, who gladly accepted it with a wicked grin on her face. The elf jerked Johnny’s head up by his ponytail while Sonia slipped the brainwashing device over his head. Johnny protested with yells and “No’s”, but it was too late. The crown was already hardwiring his brain by stabbing its prickly thorns into his skull. A few more exhausted breaths later and Johnny slowly stood back up with the same red neon in his eyes as his female counterpart.

Once again, the fans didn’t know if this was part of the show or if this was really happening before their eyes. The elf could have been some asshole in makeup. The neon eyes could have been electrified contact lenses. The crowns of thorns could have been props for a hardcore match. One zealous fan in a Johnny Vega T-shirt and blue jeans jumped over the barricade and rushed the ring with a steel chair in hands. He immediately had his head chopped off by the elf’s machete.

The audience screamed like horrified babies while shooting up from their seats and bolting out of the nearest exits with their arms flailing. The black shirted, big bellied security detail stormed the ring only to be met with slashes from the elf’s machete, big boots and clotheslines from Johnny Vega, and elbow smashes and knee strikes from the MMA enthusiast Sonia Marquez. This didn’t look like “fake shit” anymore. Every slash unleashed a tidal wave of blood from the security detail’s guts and throats. Every clothesline knocked heads off of shoulders and snapped spines like toothpicks. Every MMA strike broke bones so badly that they jutted into vital organs. So many security guards’ corpses filled the ring and left behind a sea of blood and disgust in their wake. The Black River Arena made battlefields and car crashes look mundane.

The elf warrior raised his machete to the sky and yelled, “Nobody disrespects my heritage! Nobody disrespects my nation! Remember the name of Roger Zee! Feel the trauma every time that name is blown up on your TV screens! Know that your heroes and your military are powerless against me! The world will respect my race if I have to chop the heads off of every man, woman, and child on this sick fucking planet!”

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Dark Side of the Wall

Every chant of his last name sent a biblical flood of adrenaline through Ryan Warrior’s veins. He stood backstage with his fists clenched tightly by his sides, his painted up face a shield of rage, and his leather jacket a suit of armor for this musical war. The dimly lit stage splashed purple and red on the violent faces of the heavy metal crowd. All that could be heard aside from the crowd’s excitement was the ethereal music created by fast-paced war drums and the haunting wooden flute. As the war drum pounded louder in the ears of all, the shouts and screams became more deafening and more motivating to Ryan Warrior.

With the grinding, heavy sounds of an electric guitar, bass guitar, and drum kit to guide his way, Ryan marched out to the stage and was met with a thunderous ovation. They gave him a battle, he would return with a war. He snatched the microphone off of its stand and shouted, “What’s up, Ghost River Amphitheater?! You want some heavy ass metal?! One! Two! Chainsaw Samurai!”

The drum kit and war drums players dueled with each other. The guitar and bass players banged their long locks and bounced around the stage. The flute player calmly let out another wave of ghost music. And Ryan? He jumped up and down along with his audience, rowdy as they were.

With a throaty, demonic scream, he shouted, “Forget about your fucking dishonor / And focus on your eventual slaughter / Which one of your limbs must go first? / Your arms, legs, or German bratwurst? / Slice off your head, a mummified trophy / He opens your mouth and says, “Blow me!” / A bloodbath is coming from the Rising Sun / Violence and gore became a shit-load of fun!”

The raw passion of the outdoor crowd could be seen with every shove, every throw, every drop of blood, and every bruise. To get out of this mosh pit alive and well would be a miracle rivaling Jesus Christ himself. It was all fun and games until Ryan Warrior stopped bouncing and head banging. He looked out into certain areas of the crowd with disgust on his face, like he had just smelled raw sewage. “Stop the music! Stop the goddamn music! Guys, enough! I got something to say!”

Once the band discontinued their music, the crowd erupted into a fiery roar with volcanic passion and their bruised fists in the skies. Ryan’s disgusted face turned to a deathly scowl as he shouted into the microphone, “Are you guys fucking stupid or what?!” Like the bunch of idiots they were, the audience cheered at that rhetorical question.

“I look around at this crowd and I don’t see metal heads. I see grown ass men groping teenaged girls. I see little kids getting their heads smashed in. Hell, I just caught one of you assholes shooting off a rocket at my guitarist! You nearly hit him in the fucking face! What is wrong with you people?!” No more fiery passion from the crowd, only boos. Whether those boos were directed at the sociopathic audience members or Ryan Warrior was unknown, but the oratory continued.

“You know what? I’m starting to understand why Roger Waters built the wall! I trust you all know who the hell he is! He was the driving force behind a band called Pink Floyd, a band I have a lot of respect for! And right now, I feel like building a wall between you guys and my band! Boo all you want, but it ain’t wrong if that’s how I feel! Go ahead! Boo! Boo like a bunch of babies!” Ask and ye shall receive. The flying beer bottle that pinged off of Ryan’s shoulder was a bonus that sent the Native American into a nightmarish frenzy.

“Where the hell are the goddamn bouncers?!” he screamed. “How come nobody is trying to remove these guys?! I see neo-Nazis over here doing their thing! I see a teenaged girl trying to get away from you morons! Seriously, where the hell is security?! Where the hell is alcohol enforcement?! Why are the goddamn cops just sitting around munching on donuts?! I’ll tell you what, dip shits! If you keep this crap up, you’re not getting a show tonight! You haven’t shown me that you deserved one! You know what? To hell with it! I’m going backstage and I’m going to have a banana daiquiri! Screw you bastards! Screw this show! I don’t need this crap! I’m out of here!”

Ryan dropped his microphone with a resounding thud and walked backstage with his brethren, flipping off the booing crowd as he exited. The tour bus was in the back parking lot ready to roll on to the next town, which was hopefully less criminal-minded than this one at the Ghost River Amphitheater. The boos and reckless behavior out in the crowd caused Ryan to clutch his head in pain as he took a seat next to the mini-fridge. While his band mates disappeared behind the dressing room door, Mr. Warrior pulled a banana daiquiri out of the fridge and formed a small smile on his face knowing his night would at least end on a high note.

“Ryan! What the hell are you doing?! You’ve got a show to play, damn it! Don’t do this to me!” shouted his manager, a pudgy, balding, olive-skinned fellow in a gray suit who was flailing his arms as he shouted.

The singer tossed aside his bottle and stood up to look his manager square in the eyes. “Do you not see what’s going on out there? They’re acting like animals! I’ve played rowdy crowds before, but these guys are turning this concert into a goddamn prison riot! Where the hell are the bouncers? Do they not give a damn what’s going on out there?!”

Pointing a sausage finger at him, the manager said, “So that’s it? You’re going to give up on your dream because you don’t like what’s going on out there? Yes, you’ve played wild crowds before, but this ain’t no small piss-ant nightclub! This is the big time! You can’t back down from a crowd that size just because the security detail doesn’t swoop in right away! They’re not the Justice League, for Christ’s sake! Hell, they’re probably busy with parts of the crowd you can’t even see from the front stage!”

“Is that really what being a rock star is all about? Hanging around with a bunch of criminals? Having people shoot fireworks at you? What a bunch of crap!” said Ryan.

“You’re right! It is crap! But it also comes with the territory! Yes, there are a bunch of wild and crazy idiots right now who are probably being dragged away in handcuffs! But there are even more people out there who paid good money to see you perform! By walking off stage, you’re not only spiting the drunken jerks, but you’re also slapping the faces of the true fans! Do you want your true fans to remember you as the guy who quit in the face of criticism? If they think you’re getting soft for one minute, that’s the end of your career, buddy! And it’s a career that barely got off the ground! It’ll be over before it begins! Welcome to heavy metal, Ryan! Or I could welcome you to the unemployment line, how about that? It’s up to you, big guy. What’s it going to be?”

Breathing deeply and shakily, the seething Ryan Warrior glared into the eyes of his manager and said, “If that’s your way of psyching me up and getting me to earn my paycheck…” Mid-speech, he pulled a feathered hatchet out of his leather jacket and grinned at it like a psychopath. “I’m going to collect interest from these motherfuckers!”

In a calm and collected manner, the manager asked in a semi-whiny voice, “Ryan? What are you doing with that thing?”

Leaning his slasher villain face into the manager’s, Ryan said, “You’ll see. You think I’m soft? You think I’m cowardly enough to run away from the biggest dream I’ve ever had?” He shouted, “Do you think I’m stupid enough to walk away from a big payday?! Do you?! You can put all the stipulations in the contract you want, but no matter who the record label is, this is my show and I’m going to burn it to the ground!”

The manager backpedaled in pants-wetting fear as he shakily sat next to the mini-fridge. Ryan grinned and shouted at the dressing room in a feral voice, “Guys! We’re going to give the audience our…special treat!” The band mates exited the dressing room laughing viciously and sending the manager into even more violent shivers. The entire band walked passed him with villainous grins on their faces while the manager weakly asked, “What’s the hatchet for?”

The audience cheered and roared like bloodthirsty lions at the reappearance of Ryan Warrior and his band. As the lead singer slowly picked up his microphone and breathed in a raspy voice into the device, he swirled his tongue around his lips as he saw the undesirables being dragged away by security and law enforcement. Neo-Nazis were being pulled out of the arena by their legs. Child molesters were being dragged by their thick hairy arms. Drunkards staggered and fell on their way to the bus stop. While there may be some cretins left behind, the unmistakable chants of Ryan’s last name were music to his ears.

Ryan glared at the hatchet in his hand and said in a monstrous voice, “You see this? I carry this into battle with me every damn day of the week. It brings me more than just good luck. It brings me pleasure. It brings me pain. It brings me…bloodlust!” On that last line, he licked the flat end of his blade like it was his lover. “But if you think I’m so pissed off that I’m going to carve up a bunch of drunken idiots and join them in prison, you’re dead wrong. I’m not throwing away anything for those assholes, certainly not my dream, certainly not my life. Instead…I have a message from a little band from Iowa called Slipknot.”

The “true fans” shouted their approval at the name drop and raised their bloodied fists to the skies. Ryan continued his demonic speech with, “Mr. Corey Taylor couldn’t make it tonight. He sends his apologies. He also sends a very poignant message to everybody here who ruined your evenings by acting like mindless thugs. Nah, I take that back. Your evenings are far from ruined by those jerks. Our night of heavy metal is just getting started. It’s going to continue with a little Slipknot song that everybody here can relate to. It’s called…People = Shit!” With the fans riled up and ready to rock, the stage pyrotechnics burst into flames and the music was far from dead. Heavy metal will never die.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Mine Shafts


When I was a little kid growing up in Elk Grove, California, it never once occurred to me that mine shafts were dangerous to not only the workers, but also the environment. Salt mines always seemed like cool settings for a story to me due to their darkness and the unknown feeling of what could be lurking in one of these places. Plus, it was always cool to me for some reason to see a mine cart traveling on train tracks.

The movies “Snow White” and “City Slickers 2: The Legend of Curley’s Gold” were probably to blame for giving me an interest in mine shafts to begin with. Then again, I also saw them in videogames like “Final Fantasy II” (American SNES game) and “Mega Man X”. The possibility of actually finding riches in one of these places was always exciting to me, so much so that I wanted to dig up my backyard to find gems. Or in the case of Final Fantasy II, a Shadow Sword. Or in the case of City Slickers 2, a bar of gold that wasn’t just painted up for fun and games.

As an author, I’m always looking in the strangest places for creative fuel, even if it’s so far back into my past that I barely remember it. So how exactly can I use a salt mine as a place of interest in one of my stories without directly copying what I’ve seen on television and in videogames? I’d also like to be able to use it without giving uncomfortable glimpses into tragedies like Massey Energy and what happened in Chile in 2010.

My first thought on how to handle such creative fuel would be to use a dark mine shaft as a lair for an overly powerful monster of some sort. Maybe there’s a sleeping dragon underneath the cart tracks. Maybe there’s a vampire coven that’s using the mine to stay out of the sunlight. What about an ogre who just wants to be left alone in peace? These are just ideas for who exactly could be living in this mine.

What if the mine shaft was completely renovated into an actual living space instead of just a dark and dusty corner of the earth? What if it was a castle with a gigantic demon mouth for an entrance? What if there were wizard runes carved into the rock? Or one could go for a saner route and turn it into a tourist attraction or a museum. No matter how wild or wacky your idea is, it should somehow spell trouble for your main characters or else there’s no point in having a story.

Pretty much any place an author can think of can be re-imagined as a bastion of creativity. Final Fight turned a rundown slum into a base of operations for the Mad Gear gang. Final Fantasy Mystic Quest turned a dragon corpse into a legitimate desert dungeon. What could a mine shaft be? The answer is as unlimited as your creativity. This blog is merely a prompt suggestion along with some small ideas for that prompt.

Using examples from my own life, I once wrote a western fantasy movie script in 2007 called “Texas Technique”, where a mine shaft was used as a gateway to the underworld for zombies who didn’t want to be controlled by necromancy anymore. It had hooded priests, an altar, magical energy, the works. Almost a decade earlier than that, I spent my childhood coming up with ideas for videogames, one of them being a western-themed Double Dragon game. You’re damn right Shadow Master was hiding out in a mine shaft. Where else is a darkness-based villain going to hide?

The creative fuel is on the table. You can write a novel, write a short story, paint a painting, run a D&D campaign, or whatever your heart desires. If you don’t want to use mine shafts as a prompt suggestion, you certainly don’t have to. It was a special piece of creativity to me as a child, so I hope to one day use it again in my own writing. A base of operations, a monster’s lair, a mighty fortress, a resting place for the undead, a gateway to hell, so many possibilities, so many ways to create something beautiful. We’ve got ears, say cheers!


It’s a new week and a new prompt suggestion at the WSS has been released. This time we’ve got “Non-Formulaic”, a prompt highly suggestive of nonconformity. You all know by now how much I love individuality. Without it, there is no creativity. With no creativity, there’s no art. The earth without art is just eh. My story this week is called “Dark Side of the Wall” and it goes like this:


Ryan Warrior, Heavy Metal Solo Artist
Nameless Audience Members
Nameless Bouncers

PROMPT CONFORMITY: Ryan’s music doesn’t follow the formula of typical heavy metal due to him combining it with Native American music.

SYNOPSIS: Ryan puts on a heavy metal show for an outdoor arena audience in which he combines fast-paced beats with music from his Native American heritage. He’s used to playing for rowdy audiences, but this crowd pisses him off due to their perverted, drunken, and overly-aggressive behavior. Ryan stops midway through a song in order to unleash a hell storm of vitriol upon the people who came to see him. His aggressive attitude is reminiscent of Roger Waters’ when Pink Floyd did a supporting tour for their Animals album in 1977 and Mr. Waters spit on a fan climbing the stage net. Ryan even gets a hash tag trend going called “Dark Side of the Wall” due to him referencing Pink Floyd during his tirade. At this point, Mr. Warrior has a decision to make: finish the show and earn his payday or kill the show and spite the fans.


In all this time of peeking at my drawings, you’re probably wondering what the point of it all is, given the obvious simplistic style. There are two points. One, it’s a promotional tactic to lure people to my writing. Sometimes when you go fishing, you have to use the right bait. The second reason is because sometimes when I draw these pictures, I always feel ready to do more creative work afterwards. I spent the last two nights not using my CPAP mask because the humidifier kept blowing water in my face. While it’s nice not to drown in my own machine, I did wake up late in the day both times and my energy had been sapped. So thank you, Dark Fantasy Warriors, for giving me a chance to stimulate my muse when I’m too tired to carry on. Who’s the next character to be drawn? Makoto Lionheart, the necromancer slash evil clown slash samurai from the short story “Tiger Bullet Kick”. Three occupations in one. Holy shit!


When an elven terrorist slays a shit ton of people at a heavy metal concert and traumatizes the lead singer of Demon Axe, how does Paulson City respond? By having another live event and showing said elven terrorist that America will not negotiate with his kind. In this case, we’ve got a wrestling slash MMA show in which seven-foot champion Johnny Vega tries to lead the crowd in a moment of positivity only to have it interrupted by Sonia Marquez, an MMA aficionado who thinks wrestling is “fake”. Surely, the elf terrorist can’t strike again, right? Am I right? I hope so.


USER: The Boston Bomber.

GOOGLE GUY: It was a real tragedy.

USER: The cute one.

GOOGLE GUY: Oh, fucking shit!

-If Google Was a Guy-

Demon Axe, Chapter 2

The Lord of the Pit bathed in darkness once again, though he was all alone and everything looked hazy to him. In this state of mind, he could finally relax and pull the plug on his emotions even if only for a little while. All he did was float in space with a numb body, a numb mind, and a dead soul. But the thing about temporary relaxation was that it was temporary. The jolt he felt in his head wasn’t enough to snap him out of this trance, but his heart raced at a million miles an hour.

The decapitated heads of Vulture Man, Pig Man, and G-Pac, with their spinal columns dripping with blood, floated into view with their eyes glowing neon purple. Every harsh stare was intended for their former comrade. Every word they spoke was in a unified, devilish tone. “Where were you, Dear Lord? Where were you when we needed you? You boasted the warrior spirit of the Demon God and then you ran like a coward!”

The Lord of the Pit’s dry mouth tried to form words, but he was too exhausted to lace together a coherent sentence. He had so much explaining to do, but the disembodied heads of his brethren shouted, “Silence! We don’t want your logic! We don’t want your apologies! We want you to suffer the way we suffered! It’s the only way we shall find justice in this netherworld!”

The floating heads glowed a brilliant orange aura as they withdrew from their superior positions. A hooded figure standing behind them waved his clawed fingers as if he was the one controlling these necrotized spirits. The figure jerked his hood back and revealed the pointy-eared, evilly grinning face of the concert slasher. The Lord of the Pit’s heart beat even faster than before while condensation moistened his flesh. He even felt a warm sensation across his groin, though the smell was anything but comforting.

The slasher said, “You heard them yourself. You’re a coward. You’re a thief. You stole their chances at freedom right from underneath. You took something from them that they’ll never get back. You took something that means more to them more than you ever will. What about their families? Their children? Their wives? What will you tell them once they demand answers? Who will come to your rescue when you have to answer for your cowardly sins?”

The Lord of the Pit tried to fire back, but his numb state wouldn’t allow such rapid-fire lip movement. All he felt was more condensation, this time in his eyeballs. The slasher frowned sadistically at his prey and said, “Pathetic. You can’t even string together a reasonable sentence when a simple apology would have worked nicely. But you heard your friends say they don’t want an apology. They want revenge. They want justice. So now, band mates, I ask you this question: what shall we do with this offensive scoundrel?”

The heads floated in front of the slasher and chanted like demonic monks, “Put him in a box! He’s a tard! Put him in a box! He’s a tard! Put him in a box! He’s a tard!” No matter how his already weak body resisted, the Lord of the Pit felt suffocated as he was forced into a wooden box and the lid closed over him with steel chains wrapping around the deathly container. With so little oxygen and not enough power to fight back, the Lord felt his heart beating faster and faster, possibly for the last time. He never had a chance to say goodbye to his friends and now he was going to be locked away for all eternity.

And then the man known as Daniel Mercer screamed his way out of his trance and sat up in bed. He was pouring with sweat, his sleeping shorts (which were thankfully dark) reeked of urine, his eyes were burning with salt, and his head felt like it was being crushed underneath a steamroller. The rock star rubbed his temples and moaned in a low voice, as if either of those things was capable of curing his hangover from last night.

Wearing nothing but a wife-beater tank top, his drenched sleeping shorts, and a pair of wool socks that were too big for him, Daniel slowly stood up from his bed and asked himself, “What the hell happened last night? What the fuck?”

The sound of a doorbell ringing send a lightning storm of pain throughout Daniel’s head as he clutched his hair and sat back down screaming and swearing in agony. He wondered who the hell would come to his house at this time of day. His neck creaked as he turned his head to see on his digital clock it was one o’clock in the afternoon. “Son of a bitch,” he said to himself as he gingerly got back up and staggered toward the front door of his house. The bell rang again and he screamed in agony before shouting audibly, “I’m coming, damn it! Jesus Christ!”

Slowly but surely, he trudged to the front door and opened it to see a balding, middle aged man in a black leather jacket and blue jeans. “Are you Daniel Mercer?” Upon getting an answer in the form of a slow nod, the man pulled out a police badge and said, “I’m Detective Shawn Henry with the Paulson City Police Department. I’m here to get a witness statement from you regarding what took place at the Demon Axe concert last night.”

Daniel squinted his eyes at the morning light and softly said, “Can’t you come back another time? As you can see, this isn’t really…you know…”

“I understand you’re not feeling well, Mr. Mercer,” said Detective Henry. “But the sooner we get a witness statement from you, the sooner we can find whoever did this.” The cop was met with a weirded-out stare, to which he responded, “Look, I don’t like being here any more than you do. But to tell you the truth, police work is a bureaucratic nightmare. There’s paperwork, there’s processing, the whole nine yards. I’m sorry you’re feeling bad today, but you’re going to feel even worse if we don’t catch the son of a bitch who did this.”

Daniel sighed and reluctantly said, “Come on in. Let’s get this shit over with.” The sickly rock star and the by-the-books detective made their way into the living room, which had little more than a flat screen TV, some heavy metal posters, and two leather loveseats. Daniel and Shawn sat oppositely of each other and allowed the conversation to begin once the cop pulled out a notepad and a pen.

“I’m going to be frank with you, Mr. Mercer,” said Shawn. “My department has already gathered witness statements from concertgoers and security enforcement and they all say that an elf, yes, an elf was responsible for all of the terrorism that took place last night. I know you’re all out of sorts today and I really caught you at a bad time, but please tell me that the terrorist was simply a guy with pointy ears.”

“And now I’m going to be frank with you, Detective Henry,” said Daniel as he leaned in closer. “I don’t give a shit what this slasher asshole was. All I know is that he took away three of the best band mates I’ve ever had. Demon Axe is no more because of this jerk-off with a machete. It wouldn’t be right to continue without them, especially since I basically ran away from the whole thing and left them to die. You want a witness statement from me? There it is, Columbo. A pointy-eared motherfucker slashed my audience to pieces, decapitated my best friends, and I’m the one who actually survived because I was cowardly enough to take off in the other direction.”

“Obviously, you’re suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress, Mr. Mercer.”

In a raised voice uncharacteristic of someone with a pounding headache, Daniel said, “You think? Is that what it really is, or did I just piss my shorts this morning because I’m forty years old and already need to be shoved in a nursing home?”

“There’s no need for hostility. I completely understand the pain you’re going through. I can set you up with a counselor and you can pour your heart out until you’re ready to move on,” said Shawn.

Daniel’s slightly raised voice evolved into a full scale scream. “There is no moving on! Didn’t you just hear me say that Demon Axe is over?! No more heavy metal! No more sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll! It’s over! Done! Finished! Adios! Sayonara! Unless your state-funded counselor is capable of reaching inside my aching-ass fucking head and pulling all of my bad memories out, then there’s not a whole lot he can do for me! I’ve taken every pill there is to take and my mind is still laughing at me and making me its bitch!”

After that oratory, Daniel clutched his head even harder and allowed tears to stream down his cheeks. Detective Henry continued to stare at him with a stoic attitude, though even he knew that his interviewee was beyond help. “You know what, Mr. Mercer?” said Shawn as he put away his pen and notepad. “I agree with you when you say this is a bad time to talk. I could sit here and tell you that the red tape nightmare will actually lead to something, but we don’t know for sure. This terrorist should be easy to find due to the pointy ears and green skin alone, but if that were true, he’d be in custody right now.”

“He must be a really good fucking fighter,” said Daniel with his head in his lap.

“That he is. We’d love to have him locked up for life, but there’s one last question I need to ask you before I go and…leave you to your devices. Can you think of any reason whatsoever why anybody would want to commit violence against a concert attendance of this size?” asked Shawn.

Daniel picked his head up and said through quivering lips, “Why does anybody do anything violent these days? Is it because one of the bands that played before us was all-Muslim? Is it because the curtain-jerker band had an openly gay guitarist? Was Demon Axe’s dark fantasy shit really that offensive? Take your pick, Detective Henry. It could be politically motivated. It could be just a bunch of nationalistic garbage. But if this pointy-eared motherfucker really is some Dungeons & Dragons freak, then we’ve got to seriously rethink the way we approach terrorism. I mean, where are you going to find an expert on this shit? Who actually knows anything about this asshole’s culture? Is he just a mental case with a blade? I don’t know. Nobody does.”

Shawn stood up and said, “That’s actually the most poignant statement I’ve received all day today and you’re not even in any condition to do a damn thing. I’ll tell you what, Daniel, let me and my department handle the media and news crews. You just focus on getting some sleep and wrestling with your…I don’t want to say demons for obvious reasons, but you get what I’m saying. I really do think you should see a counselor.”

“And I really do think that necromancy should be a real thing and that my band mates should rise from the dead. Until that day comes, there’s not a whole lot a counselor can do for me,” said Daniel.

“The offer is still on the table if you decide to change your mind. You can go back to bed now. I’m done for right now.”

“Okay, first you don’t want to use the word demon and then you tell a traumatized person to go back to sleep, probably hoping that he doesn’t have nightmares again. This politically correct garbage isn’t working out for you, Detective. If you want to give me some comfort, take away the voices in my fucking head. That’s all I’m asking anybody to do. I don’t need sympathy. I just want my voices to shut the fuck up and my band mates to come back from the fucking dead.”

Shawn nodded to Daniel and said, “Have a nice day, sir,” before showing himself out the front door.

“There’s no such thing as a nice day!” shouted Daniel as he stood up quickly. “It’s just like those assholes who say good morning! It’s an oxymoron invented by people who’ve never had their fucking friends ripped away from them! I can still see their spinal cords, for shit’s sake!”

The former Lord of the Pit could scream until his head exploded, but it wouldn’t have mattered since Detective Shawn Henry was long gone by then with the door shut behind him. Daniel slowly sat back down on the couch and sobbed softly into his calloused hands. “I just want my sanity back,” he said to himself. “Is that too much to ask? Everybody else has their sanity. Why can’t I have mine?”

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Audiomancer

Fully automatic pistol? Check. Blue trench coat? Check. Badass shades? Check. Nasty attitude? Double check. With his hands stuffed in his pockets, Edge Spider whistled a playful tune as he ascended the busted-up wooden stairs of the Neon Neighborhood Apartments. Through the mirrored shades resting underneath his afro do, he glared at the janitor at the top of the stairs, an old man in gray overalls mopping the floors. Edge reached the second floor and the elderly custodian never took his scowling eyes off of the cybernetic thug.

“Dude, what the fuck you lookin’ at, old man? I’ll kick your ass if you don’t take them eyes off of me! Keep mopping that dirt and don’t pay me no mind, bitch! Jesus!” threatened Edge as he scurried down the hallway to the apartment of his choice. He never turned around to see if the janitor was still glaring at him. All of his attention was on the number on the scratched up wooden door in front of him: 4B. “That’s the one.”

Edge knocked on the door several times and said, “Hey, Lisa! Come on, baby girl, open the goddamn door!” No reply. He knocked even harder this time and said, “Open the door, bitch! I ain’t got all day!” Still no answer. He then pulled a small wire from his trench coat pocket and fiddled with the lock until he heard a click. He chuckled to himself and said, “Bitch, you’re making this too easy.”

With one harsh swing of the door, Edge burst inside the shabby apartment and yelled, “Here’s Johnny!” in a prolonged voice. Not even the gangster’s obnoxious tone was enough to awaken Sgt. Lisa Baker, who sat hunched over at her computer lightly snoring with thick headphones on her ears. “Damn, that must have been some powerful shit.”

Shutting the door behind him with a loud thud wasn’t enough to startle Lisa, but slapping her in the back of the head and knocking her headphones over was. The blond ex-marine in a ratty pink bathrobe held the back of her head while stretching her sleepiness out with her other arm.

“Wakey, wakey! Eggs and bacey! Rise and shine! It’s breakfast time!” said Edge in a quasi-playful tone.

“Hey, Edge. How’s it going?” said Lisa in a languid, zonked out voice.

“Well, babe, I wish I could say things were going great, but they ain’t. I’ve been lookin’ at my bank account today and it’s getting pretty damn low. That might have something to do with you being late on those payments. So where’s my money, bitch? You obviously love them audio files I gave to you. Now you gotta pay for them sum-bitches,” said Edge while hovering over her.

“Listen, man,” said Lisa as he rubbed the exhaustion from her eyes. “Those files have done wonders for my PTSD. I’m grateful to have them, I really am. But I’m having a hard time coming up with money, okay? Ever since I came back from the war, I had a hard time finding work. Just give me a few more weeks and you’ll get your money.”

Placing a hand on Sgt. Baker’s shoulder, Edge said in a sarcastically comforting tone, “Okay, baby girl. I’ll give you a few more weeks. And then I’ll give you a few more weeks after that, a few more weeks after that, and a few more weeks after that. I could give you enough time for me to be in a fucking nursing home and I still wouldn’t get my money. Them audio files are making you lazy, bitch. You know how I feel about lazy people.”

His feelings were confirmed when Lisa’s head drooped over and she fell asleep again. “Oh, no, you didn’t. I know you didn’t just fall asleep on me.” The marine’s response was even heavier snoring than before. Edge gritted his teeth, grabbed Lisa by her shoulders, and tossed her across the room, all while yelling, “Wake up, asshole!”

The soldier slowly stirred from her slumber and gazed up at Edge with foggy eyes and a crooked smile. “Hey there, big boy. What can I do for you today?”

“Oh, you know damn well what you’re going to do for me! You’re going to break out that checkbook and give me what I came here for! If I have to throw your ass out the window, I’ll fucking do it! I’m telling you, you’re hooked on them audio drugs! I’m cutting your ass off until I get my money!” shouted Edge while pointing an accusatory finger at his victim.

Lisa made a flat tire noise and torpidly said, “Audio drugs? Babe, that wasn’t an audio drug I was listening to.”

“Oh, don’t gimme that bullshit! You was snoozing like a lazy little dog! I saw you myself!” snapped Edge. For full proof, he put the headphones on for a quick listen. His pissed off expression softened as he announced, “This ain’t no audio drug. This is just some new age piano shit.” He threw the headphones across the room and yelled, “Where the hell are my audio drugs, bitch?!”

Lisa’s laughter suggested that she was never tired to begin with as it was full of energy and gusto. When asked what she was laughing about, she said, “Word of advice, Edge Spider, if that is your real name: when you give painful audio drugs to complete strangers, do a better job of wiping your personal data off of them. Then again, it’s not really your fault, is it? You did everything you could. It’s just that my team was better!”

“Team? What’s all this about a team?” asked Edge before his confused expression turned into a full-on quivering lip. “You ain’t no marine with Pussy-Traumatic Stress Disorder! You’re a cop! You set my ass up!”

“I sure did,” revealed Lisa. “Somebody had to do something about those audio files crushing people’s brains. You’re no healer. You’re just a common scumbag drug dealer, Edge. Every file you gave me has been uploaded to the police database. If I were you, I’d run like the wind.”

Instead of taking that wise advice, Edge chuckled evilly, pulled his automatic pistol from his pocket, and aimed the Freudian weapon at Lisa with a cocked barrel. “They ain’t gonna take me if I have a hostage. You look important enough to them folks at the po-po station. So come on, baby girl: on your feet. Put them silky smooth hands of yours behind your pretty little head.”

Lisa did as she was told, but did so with a wicked grin of her own. “Okay, sweet cheeks. You win!” She pulled a knife from her thick hair and threw it with a blinding quickness at Edge’s gun, shattering the weapon into pieces.

At first the gangster looked down at the metal parts with fright, but then threw his arms in the air and smiled as he said, “Nah, nah, nah, cutie pie. You’re the one who wins this time.” In one swift motion, Edge threw a roundhouse kick at Lisa’s face, spinning her around in the air before she tumbled onto her shag carpet floor. Edge yelled, “I ain’t gonna spend my life in no federal prison! Fuck this shit, I’m outta here!”

Just when Lisa was stirring, Edge booted down the apartment door and sped down the hallway with every ounce of athleticism he possessed. The janitor was still glaring at him with viper-like eyes. “Damn, dude! The hell’s wrong with yo ass?!” shouted Edge as he shoved the janitor out of the way. It seemed like he would have a clear path to freedom with an empty lobby and an empty stairwell.

And then the drug dealer felt something hook his ankle, causing him to roll down the stairs and bang his body on every sharp corner of the stairs. By the time he reached the lobby, he was holding his ribs and head while whining in pain. Some of his blood painted the stairs and the railing on the way down.

Once his vision cleared up, Edge looked at the top of the stairs to see that the old man had a hook at the end of his mop before he concealed it again like a switchblade. Lisa held her bruised face as she joined the janitor, who then hugged her and asked, “Are you alright, Baker?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. Thanks for the assist, Private. I’ll put in a good word for you at the station and we’ll see about getting you that promotion you’ve always wanted,” said Lisa. She looked down at the battered and broken gangster and said, “Here’s another piece of free advice, shit-head: treat the janitor with the same respect you give to the CEO.”

Edge spit out a wad of blood in a poor attempt to hit either Lisa or the undercover cop. “He ain’t no motherfucking janitor! Goddamn you two!”

The two cops trudged downstairs while the “janitor” ripped his wrinkly skin off to prove that he was actually a lot younger than his character suggested. Lisa rolled Edge on his stomach before cuffing his hands behind his back. “Edge Spider, I still don’t know if that’s your real name, but you’re under arrest for distributing illegal audio files. You have the right to legal counsel, which you’ll probably need since you can’t put together a decent sentence yourself.”

Friday, September 9, 2016

"Lament of the Fallen" by Andy Peloquin

BOOK TITLE: Lament of the Fallen
AUTHOR: Andy Peloquin
YEAR: 2016
GENRE: Fiction
SUBGENRE: Dystopian Fantasy
GRADE: Extra Credit

Once a ruthless contract killer, the demonic Hunter now struggles with the voices in his head, which urge him to kill and feed his magical dagger Soulhunger despite The Hunter’s overwhelming guilt. Traveling aimlessly, The Hunter stumbles upon a battle in which a knight named Sir Danna and her apprentice Visibos are trying to fight off highwaymen. Against the voice’s wishes, The Hunter springs into action and earns the two knights’ trust by defeating the bandits. As the group of three travels together, he must keep his demon heritage a secret since the two knights are sworn hunters of his kind. How long can this charade last? What will be the consequences if he gets caught?

Just like with the Bucelarii book that came before this (Blade of the Destroyer), the battle sequences in Lament of the Fallen are well-thought out and realistic down to the last detail. Andy Peloquin has a black belt in multiple martial arts, so when he talks about sneaking into guards and the effects a simple strike can have on bones, he’s not joking around. The way The Hunter ignores his own suffering in order to win a battle represents the kind of toughness it takes to succeed in martial arts. He could have fire in his lungs, stinging sensations on his skin, and a head full of fog, yet The Hunter somehow manages to push the worst kind of pain to the back of his mind and finish his battles with a bloody passion. His stealthy fighting style and ruthless aggression make The Hunter one of the most feared opponents somebody could have in a fight.

Which brings me to my next point: The Hunter is more than a bloodthirsty killer. Despite his demon heritage, he has more humanity in his pinky finger than most of the people he encounters have in their whole bodies. His struggles to resist the urge to kill are believable and relatable to any reader. His need for friendship despite his murderous vocation makes him even more relatable. He may have the outer shell of a tough-minded killer, but deep inside lies a modicum of innocence that will always steer him towards the right path. He doesn’t kill because he enjoys it. He does it because he must. Maybe the voices in his head enjoy every bloodbath he goes through, but The Hunter is better than the demonic commands that threaten to control him. If you can’t get behind him right away as a reader, you will by the time the story is over.

But there’s one reason why this book has earned my ultra-rare five-star rating: because the voices in The Hunter’s head are reminiscent of modern day schizophrenia, which I have suffered from since 2002. The Hunter just wants his brain to shut the hell up and give him some peace. That’s all I wanted when I first started hearing my own voices as a teenager. I wanted it so badly that I would have committed suicide to obtain it if it hadn’t been for my loved ones talking me down. Because I can relate to The Hunter on a deep level, I want him to succeed in this story. I want him to find answers to his past. I want him to seek revenge on those who wronged him. I want him to find friendship in the unlikeliest places. It’ll be another five hundred years in The Hunter’s world before Risperdal is invented, so living with this sadistic dialogue in his head is even tougher for him. I feel for him and I want nothing but the best for him, despite the fact that he’s an assassin for hire.

Andy Peloquin knocked it out of the park when he wrote “Lament of the Fallen”. Everything about this book is believable from the fight scenes to the emotional traumas to the world building to the street folk’s reactions. You will find a lot of surprises as you flip through these pages and you will have an evil smirk on your face when The Hunter finds success in his journeys. Mr. Peloquin is one creative son of a gun and he deserves the highest praise for his hardest work. I don’t give five-star reviews that often anymore, so enjoy your success, Andy! Hold your head up high (unless of course you’re dodging a roundhouse kick).