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Posts tagged “humor

Terse Tales: Anticipation

Theme: They never saw it coming

Trevor bounced from foot to foot, waiting for the doors to open and admit his soon-to-be wife down the aisle. He felt sweat run down his collar, a heavy smile on his nervous lips. He had not seen her since yesterday’s rehearsal, per tradition and her request; he imagined her resplendent for him alone. So he looked to the heavy wooden doors at the end of the aisle as the organ geared up and started the notes.

It was a bar too far into the song and the doors had not opened. He shifted again, smile shuddering, still waiting. Then, a creak and groan as the aged wood slowly edged open.

His eyes found hers just above her harsh smile. And then confusion and panic settled in as another figure in a white dress started down the aisle as well, hand in hand. Her father was supposed to be walking her down the aisle, but instead, there was a second bride.

The nerves settled firmly into a knot in his stomach.

Anna walked down the aisle in time to the song, never letting her gaze deviate from his. His eyes swung back and forth between his bride and the other woman, trying to wake up from this nightmare. Finally, the song ended and Anna stood at the bottom of the steps. They had rehearsed; he would go down, take her hand, and help her up. Only he froze.

“I figured since you thought you could date both of us, you wouldn’t mind marrying us both?” she said with acid dripping from her voice.

Louisa smiled too, and he was trapped beneath their withering gazes. “Only I’m not sure either of us wants to say ‘I do.’”

Trevor fainted, the only way to save any dignity he had left.

A Listener Reviews: Mission Rejected

Mission Rejected

Episodes: 22 so far

Length: 30-45 minutes, usually

I’ve listened to… everything released so far

The Premise: Mission Rejected tells the story of the agents who take the rejected missions. It centers on Agent Skip Granger, who is tasked to save the world in increasingly mundane locations when the agency’s star asset hits reject.

My Review: I had not given much thought to that old cliché phrase, “Your mission, should you choose to accept it…” until this podcast came along. But they took a simple concept and developed it in an extraordinary way.

Each episode focuses on a specific mission, with the buildup, planning, implementation, unraveling, and conclusion. If you like action movies and spy flicks, I am certain you will recognize many of the themes and tropes. There are kooky gadgets, mad scientists, evil geniuses, hidden lairs, and a cast of misfit characters tackling it all. I am really torn in writing this review. I wanted to say that the misfit characters are really what make this story. But then I started thinking it was the sharp, witty writing. And then I thought about the subtle jokes and gags that make me laugh in-universe and at our own world. And the sound design is done wonderfully well. Plus they have an episode with multiple original songs that honestly I would listen to outside of the podcast. So, I’m having a bit of trouble, because they do so much well.

Let’s take things one at a time. The characters are a well-developed bunch that demonstrate character growth over the course of the episodes, while also holding true to their roles within the team. After a few episodes, you get a good feel for how they fit together (or how they grate against each other), which provides a lot of contrasting motivations, even when the goal should be on the mission. No one is static in this show, and each character has their own needs, wants, dreams, and growth areas that are changing as the seasons progress. It is truly enjoyable just listening to those interactions.

And the writing is top notch. Dialogue is sharp, character consistent, and honestly makes me laugh out loud in my car. The overarching plot is paced well, with increasing danger and intrigue as the master plot develops, but enough standalone spy-work in each episode to keep you locked in. Plus, the storylines throw some unexpected twists into the plot as they plays with the expected thriller tropes. It does not rely on narration, but tells the story through dialogue. I think they do a great job of outlining the scene and providing visual information through really natural conversations, updates, and observations of the characters. Plus, as I mentioned, they use sound design to create deeper backgrounds, letting a listener fill in the gaps. There are good sound cues that help provide disruptions, plot progression, or general background to bring the events to life.

The world of Mission Rejected looks much like our own, with enough differences to provide the escape I need from reality. It does help it provide some laughs when things hit closer to home than expected, however. As a mom to a toddler, I’m not sure I needed Baby Whale taking up any brain real estate, but there it is. Speaking of the Baby Whale song, I have to say there is a musical episode, and I cannot even conceptualize the amount of work and creativity that went into creating such fantastic, on point songs for each scene. The story is told through the songs in a competition, and it not only progresses character story arcs, but does so with snappy tunes. I was floored.

Because there should probably be a limit to how much I gush about one individual show, I will wrap up. Suffice it to say Mission Rejected has been a highlight of my audiodrama queue recently. It provides the perfect escape and pick-me-up I need during 2020 with a cast of endearing characters that I root for week after week. It has strong writing, strong characters, a lot of laughter, and a fun idea executed to perfection. I strongly recommend you accept.

You can find them here: Mission Rejected

A Listener Reviews: New 2020 Roundup

Hello there!

I’ve been a gone a bit. That probably comes as no surprise because, hey, it’s 2020 and life has been a chaotic ride. That said, I am getting back into the swing of things. Or trying because it is 2020, so best laid plans and all of that…

To kickstart the process, I would like to cover a roundup of a few new items that have popped up over the past few months (no specific time frame because, to be honest, I can’t tell one month from the next). These are stories that I have found organically, been following creators from prior projects, or been contacted by the creators as a review request. I did a similar roundup before and found it a nice change of pace. There is no unifying theme to the ones I chose beyond being things I have listened to recently that are not quite long enough yet for me to review fully on their own. Who knows, maybe you will find something new to listen to!


So, in the interest of all transparency, I supported the Kickstarter for Unseen. As someone who truly has enjoyed other Long Story Short Productions’ podcasts, I threw my money at them when I heard there was a new show. I have written previously about the “end of the world” anthology series Zero Hours. And it’s also the creators of Wolf 359 (which I still won’t review, because IT’S SOOOOOOOOO GOOD” is not a valid review). Each episode is a standalone story taking place in a world much like ours, but where magic is real. Some humans can see it, most cannot. The themes of the story deal with very universal experiences in terms of love, belonging, purpose, and understanding. There are five episodes out currently, and so I am sneaking them in here because it is such a new release. The stories have been diverse so far, but engaging and interesting all the same. I have enjoyed learning about the world through the episodes, and I look forward to see what more is developed.

Support Link

Primordial Deep

Now for some spooky sci-fi horror happenings deep under the sea. Primordial Deep is the story of a team setting out to find a sea monster. Throw in some shady secret organizations, a great cast of characters that are charming and repulsive, and a history of incredible work from this team (creators of Janus Descending-which if you haven’t heard, you should go listen to RIGHT NOW), and you have an absolute thrilling start to a show. While trying to find a sea monster is a terrifying enough premise, deep below water there exists many wonderful and horrific creatures. The character development in the first few episodes has been really great, and I cannot wait to see how this team responds to what will surely be increasingly dangerous straits over the season.

Patreon Link

The Hero of Matysia

I’ll be completely honest and say I am not sure if this was one I found organically from Reddit or from their request to review, but either way, I have enjoyed the two episodes so far. It is a fantasy story and, as I have mentioned somewhere on this mess of a blog before, fantasy is kind of my first love. It tells the story of two Azure Scouts sent to find their nation’s greatest, most legendary hero to save the day from encroaching evil. While they do reach him they are unable to leave right away and so remain, hearing the true stories behind his exploits. I have so far found it well written and acted. The frame story works well and leads to a more anthology-type experience; however they are obviously all linked and developing the same story and world. I am really excited to learn more about the world, creatures, and systems at place in Matysia. Bonus: The title link will take you to their youtube page where episodes are narrated and accompanied by soem pretty cool illustrations!

Patreon Link

Margaret’s Garden

By the wonderful group working on the SCP Archives is a new spooky story. This tale is about uncovering the mystery of what happened to the purported utopia of Everton. The story not only takes place in the relative modern day, but also during the development of Everton, providing parallel storylines that will (hopefully) shine some light on the many mysteries surrounding Everton. Episode one introduces the story and throws in some secretive government agencies, cosmonauts, and a good mix of cult references. Fans of SCP Archives will definitely recognize some familiar and very talented voice actors, and it makes for a very enjoyable, immersive listening experience. There are two current episodes, and I am really excited to listen to episode two as soon as I can, because episode one started some great threads that I cannot wait to follow!

Membership Link

The Oyster

I think almost every audiodrama I followed has recently pointed me toward The Oyster, and I am very thankful. The Oyster tells the story of humanity after catastrophic environmental changes force everyone underground. The catch, however, is that only about 80% of the population was able to be saved. Decisions were made based on a values-point system and integrated neurological technology. If you are thinking that sounds like a great recipe for some dystopian shenanigans, you would be right! For those in the bunkers, hope comes in the form of Eden 2070, a return to a habitable part of the surface. However, resources are short, and so challenging questions arise about how humanity can survive. Enter The Oyster Project, a way to save resources while suspending people’s consciousness in a state of enlightened bliss. This comes from the folks who created Darkest Night, and there are definitely some similar themes in terms of neurologic/cognitive science and how that can be used or twisted. One of the other things I really like is that they have woven in some modern terrors, including climate change and systemic racism, to show how horrifying it can be. It is uncomfortable not only because of the futuristic, sci-fi terrors, but also because it brings up some ugly truths about the world we already live in.

(I did not find a support link. Please let me know if there is one so I can update accordingly!)

Superhuman Public Radio

This is another Reddit find! Have you ever wondered what NPR would sound like if superheroes existed? Well, wonder no more with SPR – Superhuman Public Radio. They manage to really evoke the style and approach of NPR, while addressing the fantastic reality of a world with superheroes and villains’. The first episode explores how the gig economy effects supervillainy, and I found it incredibly charming. The parody ads set in-universe made me smile, and the tenor of the stories had the reassurance of a soothing NPR story, while also introducing some great comedic and thoughtful ideas. If you want something a little more lighthearted in your feeds and like a good superhero story, then I think this will fit the bill nicely.

Patreon Link


The creator for this final podcast reached out to me via the contact form and requested a review. It is a supernatural story focused on an unnamed narrator investigating the weird and the unexplainable. Which, honestly, is right up my alley, so I was happy to listen and review. There are two episodes so far. The first one I think threw me as I was not 100% sure what to expect, but as the pieces came together, it introduced some interesting ideas for supernatural investigation. I went into the second episode with a clearer expectation and found myself easily immersed in the story. The initial episodes allude to a relatively complex world in Arcane, and I only have a few glimpses so far. What I have heard has caught my attention, and I look forward to learning more as new episodes release.

(Also could not find a support link. Happy to update!)

A Listener Reviews: True Tales of the Illuminati

True Tales of the Illuminati

Episodes: 3 Episodes in the first season.

Length: 35-55 minutes

I’ve listened to… All episodes.

The Premise: True Tales of the Illuminati is exactly what it claims. The mostly true story (I assume) of the inner workings of the Illuminati. Season one focuses on the conspiracy behind the building of the pyramids.

My Review: This podcast had a great introductory season, with more on the way. This is one of the few podcasts that has actually had me chuckling out loud while driving to work, and I think it is perfect for anyone needing some levity in their daily life. It definitely takes an absurdist approach to humor, but the episodes are well-constructed and written.

It centers around one team within the Illuminati, made up of a balanced cast with competing motivations that, nonetheless, manage to bungle everything in equal measure throughout. It is definitely the story of a team that should be competent, but struggles because of themselves. Nevertheless, they continue toward the goal.

I think the writing is sharp and witty, with moments that genuinely caught me by surprise. As far as the humor is concerned, it does have that “random” quality, but orchestrated in a way to keep the story progressing. Each character is distinct in tone, manner, and approach to the problems they face. While presenting some rather classic archetypes, they play off each other very well.

True Tales of the Illuminati is a funny, enjoyable, brief podcast.  It’s fun and goofy, with some moments that really have you rooting for the team. Even as things go terribly awry. They way they weave the story with myth and legend also make it a joy to listen to. If you have just over two hours and enjoy some silliness, it definitely deserves a listen. Illuminati Ollominoto!

You can find them here: True Tales of the Illuminati 

A Listener Reviews: Exoplanetary


Episodes: 24 in the ongoing storyline

Length: 20-40 minutes, generally, but with some longer outliers

I’ve listened to… All released episodes

The Premise: A sci-fi audiodrama following the adventures of the four Wolverton siblings through time and space and everything in between. It deals with evil megacorpoprations, colonization, AI and robots, time travel, history, and siblings. Plus all their friends, companions, and co-stars throughout.

My Review:  I had to search my blog, because I would have sworn I’ve talked about Exoplanetary before. But apparently I’ve just written the review multiple times in my mind and never put it on paper. Or I’m doing it twice, but hey, this deserves to be shouted out as many times as you can. Exoplanetary is a delightful blend of sci-fi, humor, and drama. It has some great, lighthearted moments, but it does have a well-developed plot that introduces some challenging themes and ideas.

The story starts with the four Wolverton siblings, all doing their own thing in various corners of the galaxy. As season one develops, their stories begin to intertwine. Personally, I found the opening stories very interesting. They rather quickly established the world and core characters. As the stories developed further and the paths began to cross, I think it got a little confusing for me (because when you’re dealing with space and time, it can be hard to keep up). It is a complex story with a lot of different perspectives and moving parts, but it all came together beautifully to end the first season with a lot of excitement and emotion. And even as season one drew to a close, it planted seeds for more and more mysteries waiting to be explored.

The supporting cast of characters is also very intriguing and serve to round out the world of the Wolvertons. They have very different reasons for being there, from duty to a desire for exploration to love. And they serve to complement the characters–or at their best, highlight the very human flaws of the Wolverton family. Expolanetary uses character flaws to develop real challenges and problems, but also shows the wonderful side of humanity alongside. Each episode shines a little more light onto the broad cast of characters and the expansive universe in which they reside, making it truly enjoyable to listen in each time to see something new.  Overall, the only drawback is the time between episodes. There is 1-2 months between releases, on average. But honestly, each episode is so packed with information, so well acted, so thoughtfully designed, and so expertly edited, that I cannot begrudge them taking the time to put out a really impressive creation.

Exoplanetary manages to tell a rather serious sci-fi story with hints of absurdity, but never takes itself too seriously to have fun. It has managed to built an expansive world, with each episode filling in more and more of the corners. As things are revealed, more questions appear.  Whenever a new episode shows up, I’m excited that I get to take a trip into their world to explore some new reach of space or time. And I cannot wait to see where all the journey may lead.

Find them Here: Exoplanetary 

A Listener Reviews: A Scottish Podcast

A Scottish Podcast

Episodes: 30 episodes, plus some specials and mid-break bonus epsiodes.

Length: Generally around 10-20 minutes

I’ve listened to… All the episodes released so far. Season two just ended #whereslee

The Premise: Two friends acquaintances people who live in the same general area, Lee and Dougie, decide to create a spooky podcast about paranormal events in the hopes of becoming famous. Well, to be fair, Lee wants to create it, and Dougie just kind of gets roped in. So if you want to listen to them bicker while spooky stuff happens, you’re in for a good time.

My Review: I’ll be completely honest, I did not get this podcast at first. I went in thinking it was a fictional podcast about a podcast. What I learned after a few episodes of head scratching is that this is a podcast about a handful of characters who sometimes are focused on creating a paranormal podcast and often end up falling into impossibly terrifying, supernatural experiences. And then they just go on about with their lives.

It is irreverent, ridiculous, bizarre, and fascinating. The paranormal aspect, which is what I originally came for, is more of a backdrop to the relationships and realities of life encountered by the characters. Uncovering amazing, terrifying realities is most notably lauded by how it affects downloads of the in-world Terror Files podcast, rather than the unsettling nature of the discovery. In fact, once uncovered, stories are mostly left. And that is wonderful. The story weaves and drunkenly swerves from situation to situation because that is the unpredictable path of its unstable narrator whose main focus is fame.

This podcast hinges entirely upon the cast of characters. They are all unlikable at times with major flaws. And that is so refreshing, because it feels so real. There are not nicely polished, inquisitive, altruistic characters delving the depths of the world. They are just who they are with all their imperfections and (at times) downright infuriating character quirks. And yet I cannot help but look forward to stepping back into the story and seeing where it is headed next.

The main cast is definitely well developed and complex. The secondary characters are also each very unique, with their own voice, motivations, and styles. They add a really nice bit of variety to what is going on. Also, a lot of funny moments. The podcast overall is pretty humorous, in my opinion, with some more serious moments sprinkled throughout. But it never seems to take itself too seriously, always maintaining a tongue-in-cheek approach to whatever is happening.

Overall, I find A Scottish Podcast to be a unique ride. The thread running throughout the plot is the creation of the Terror Files, but the real focus seems to be on living life alongside the characters as they go on this strange journey. And the broad view it takes provides so many opportunities to learn about the characters, which enhances the tension during moments of stress or danger. I think this is one of those stories you have to listen to in order to fully get it, but give it a few episodes and I think it will win you over with its charm. Just don’t tell Lee that.

You can find them here: A Scottish Podcast

A Listener Reviews: The Amelia Project

The Amelia Project

Episodes: 13 episodes, plus preludes, available in season 1. Season 2 to release on July 19 2019!

Length: Generally around 20-25 minutes

I’ve listened to… Most of season 1. I’ll explain below.

The Premise: Have you ever just needed to get away and start over? Fake your own death and begin a new life somewhere wonderful? Amelia can help with that. Just give them a call and they will be happy to have their team start working on a way that you can disappear for good.

My Review: Talk about a podcast that caught me by surprise. I had this in my queue for a little while and was kind of uncertain. I heard a lot of good things, but I was not sure the style of humor was a fit for me.

While I was skeptical about the humor versus randomness feel to the story, that quickly evened into a really nice balance that kept me surprised, but also felt natural. The Interviewer is a quirky character, no doubt, but also makes sure things get done. And little twists and turns in the episodes themselves left me smiling. Some of them even now have me scratching my head. From cult leaders to roller coaster designers to government agents to unsatisfied characters, Amelia has helped many people escape their circumstances and find a better life.

This is definitely a story of the week kind of podcast, and I like that. While having overarching stories is good, too, I like a mix of both. There are references to past episodes or characters, but most of the episodes stand alone. There are also Preludes. When I first started listening, I did not know if the Preludes were unique content, or just a teaser of content that was released in the episode. Don’t be like me and skip the Preludes, they are completely unique content. I still think I missed one or two. The Preludes provide resolution to past episodes or introductions to new characters, sometimes a little of both, and are just fun little snippets of the inner workings of Amelia. These will not be in season 2, but will be available to Patrons, per the podcast’s website.

I just love the funny creativity in each episode. The situations are bizarre at times, and so they call for outrageous solutions. The show is written well enough ,though, that these outrageous solutions end up feeling perfectly reasonable. Of course, that sounds like a great plan, I find myself thinking at the end. The Interviewer feels like a complete character, with internal consistency and important flaws. He feels right at place in the world they’ve created.

The Amelia Project is what I would call a charming podcast. It will win you over, because it is just that good. The second season will be out soon, so it is a great time to listen to the current episodes so you can be up to date. Definitely a story to enjoy.

You can find them here: The Amelia Project

Twinkle Twinkle

Gabe walked out hand in hand with the girl from the party. Her name was Jessica, he thought. It had been loud inside, and he was always terrible with names. He did know that she was pretty, laughed at his jokes, and kept smiling at him all night. Those, for the moment, were certainly more important than names.

“You know how they do those stupid human trick shows and stuff?” he asked her. It was cold out, and he remembered seeing the words coalesce in the early morning darkness.

She pulled her arms around her and nodded. “Yeah, like burping the alphabet backwards or fitting into a shoebox or something?”

“Yeah, that kind of stuff.” He paused and gave her a smile he hoped came across as intriguing and not creepy as it felt. “I’ve got one of my own.”

He could almost see the eye roll. And to be fair, it did sound like a bad pick-up line, now that he played it back. But that wasn’t the point. The bad pick-up line would come later.  “Not like that,” he added quickly, the false bravado and charm fading away.

She took a step or two away, looking at him with a subtle smile. Then she raised an eyebrow. “Show me.”

He smiled. “Okay, look up at the sky and pick a star,” he explained, hurrying over to stand just behind and to the side of her.

“Alright, that one,” she said with finality.

“Can you point to it? So I know which one?”

“Well, this isn’t going to be much of a magic trick if I show you my star, but sure.” She lifted her arm and pointed to a middling bright star in the middle of the sky.

“Good choice,” he said thoughtfully, then raised his arm. “Keep your eye on that star, and—“ he extended his finger, pointing to the star as well. “Poof.”

Like that, the star blinked out, leaving a little patch of black in the sky.

“Whoa, did you just—can you do it again?”

He laughed, then answered her. “Yeah, of course. Choose another one.”

She did, and they repeated the process. Four times total.

“That’s amazing. I mean, you just point and they disappear?”

“Yeah,” he said, with insincere humility, “just something that I’ve been able to do since I was a kid. Don’t show off too much or else the government might track me down.” She leaned back against him, staring up at the sky with its covering of stars that now seemed not quite so far away. “And if you think that’s impressive, “ he said, leaning close to her ear, “you should see what else these fingers can do.”

And there was the bad pick-up line.


It was later, lying in bed, that Jessica—that was her name, he had confirmed surreptitiously—brought the trick up again.

“So, like, do the stars just stay out or…?”

He blinked his eyes open and shifted his position, trying to stay focused despite a wave of grogginess. “No, they come back, at least by the next night or so. I’ve never really timed it.”

“And you can just do that? Like, you weren’t hit on the head with a meteor or born in a spaceship or anything?”

“Not that I know of. Just found out when I went star watching with my grandpa one year.”

“And you primarily use this power to get women to sleep with you?”

“What?” he asked, a hint of offense coloring his words. “I definitely do not do that. It’s just that the only people I trust with my secret ability are those that are willing to sleep with me. I can’t just let everyone know I’m the world’s most useless superhero. If my secret identity got out,” he chuckled and let the sentence hang incomplete, settling comfortably into the pillows.

“Well, your secret is safe with me,” she said, rolling over and pulling the covers around her contentedly.

Gabe closed his eyes, breathing a deep sigh as he let the drowsiness take over. He was nearly asleep again when her voice broke through.

“But what if there are, like, planets round those stars?”

He shook his head, as if that would shake off the sleepy feeling. “Planets?” he asked, trying to quickly replay the last few seconds to make sure he knew what she said. “I’m sure there are planets around them. Aren’t there tons of planets out there?”

“Yeah, yeah, but” she sat up, suddenly looking excited, “but what if there are people on the planets? And you just turned out their sun?”

“Oh no,” he said, throwing his arm over his face and rolling to the side with theatrics. “I picked up the crazy chick. Don’t tell me you believe in aliens.”

She gave him a playful push on the shoulder, laughing herself. This was one of those moments he would go back to after their relationship eventually dissolved. Her in the bed, hair tousled, eyes sleepy, but a wide smile on her face as she laughed. Through the laughter, she thought out her response. “I mean, no, not really, but who knows, right? There’s so much out there, and—“

“Listen, if there are aliens out there, they can come and ask for an apology. I’ll give it to them. But I think it is mighty suspicious that sightings of aliens have dropped now that everyone has a handy camera with them 24/7. So I think I’m safe.”

And yet, here he was.


The abduction didn’t happen like it did in the movies. There was no blinding white light or tractor beam. And Gabe was pretty sure he was not paralyzed, at least not physically. It was, however, very much like those kidnapping movies that took off for a while. A bunch of shadows in his bedroom that suddenly lunged and grabbed him on all sides, sliding something bag-like over his head, and then carrying him out of the house. Gabe heard the door squeak shut behind them, the sound of too many feet on the gravel, and then an electronic whoosh and snap sound. The air around him was cooler, not the humid summer heat, and the light making its way through whatever was on his head was brighter. He felt cold ground beneath him as they set him down, then everything stopped.

His heart was still pounding in his chest, a rapid beat that threatened to burst right out of his chest. He tried taking everything in, tried making the shadows he had seen match anything plausible. He was being kidnapped, that was certain, but he had a very unsettling feeling it was not by anyone or anything he had encountered before.

“You can remove the hood,” said a voice. The sound of English made his heart slow a pace or two. They spoke English. So that meant it was unlikely anything as absurd as his mind had raced to.

“I can leave it on, if you prefer. You know, so I don’t know who you are. So you don’t have to kill me.” The words poured out of his mouth, sounding stupider than he thought.

A sigh. “I’d prefer to speak to you directly.”

Gabe grabbed the hood and lifted it off in a fumbling motion. And as his eyes adjusted to the bright light, the conversation so long ago with Jessica came rushing back.

In the movies, abductions use tractor beams. In the movies, aliens are vaguely humanoid. Gabe was discovering both of these were simply Hollywood magic and nothing at all related to reality.

The gathering of being stood around his cage. There were five of them—no six. One had no form at all, but did appear to be a collection of moving haze. One at least had clear legs, though there were four of them. He could generally find eyes in their various places on the beings, and some had indentions that Gabe thought could possibly be mouths. But beyond that, his understanding of their anatomy stopped. Despite the bright lights, the room started to go dark around the edges. Then the middle. Then everywhere.


The room was still cold and bright when Gabe awoke, and there was a hum of activity off to the side. He was not in his bedroom, which meant something had happened, but it most certainly could not be those things swimming to the surface of his mind.

Voices. He tried to focus on them, if only to stop the spinning in his head.

-not what we really were expecting.”

“Does it really matter what this creature is like? It’s dangerous!”

“I just don’t think we should make any sort of rash decision.”

“No one is suggesting we act rashly but just—“

“Me. I suggest we act rashly. Who knows? It could wipe us all out before we even—“

“Now we have no reason to think—“

“You don’t get to just—“

The voices began to meld into a stream of babble and yelling that was indistinguishable. Gabe slowly rolled over, letting himself finally take a look at his surroundings.

It was, unfortunately, exactly as he remembered. A white room, bars surrounding him, and a menagerie of completely alien creatures standing in a huddled mass to the side.

Eventually one of them—some creature with what looked like tentacles and apparently a mouth that opened by splitting their head widely down the middle—noticed he was moving.

“It has awoken,” it said, a sharp tone of panic in its voice. The others turned quickly to stare at him.

“Earthling,” said one of them, taking a step towards him. This one had four legs, three long protrusions with what looked like eyeballs, and no discernible mouth. Nothing moved when he spoke, but Gabe heard it clearly. “We have been sent to neutralize you.”

“You speak English,” Gabe gawked, his mind trying desperately to help him see that was not the important part here. The alien’s face fell, as did the others, and Gabe was amazed to discover he could recognize disdain in completely alien features. Perhaps that was another superpower he possessed.

“Our ship automatically translates all language into something you can understand.”

Curiously, Gabe also discovered that the same disappointed tone was also easily interpreted. He sat staring and they stared back at him. Now that he had a chance to see them without passing out, he realized they were all wearing what looked like armor of some sort. The pieces were all different, fit to their physiology, but made of some thick, dark, shiny substance. They were some sort of military squadron? Or pirates? Or space cops?

His mind finally ran through and processed what had been said to him before, and panic shot through his system. “Wait, neutralize?”

“He got there!” said one of the creatures, though Gabe did not look quickly enough to tell who. From the gestures being made, he thought it might have been amorphous creature standing towards the back and cycling through different colors, but he could not be sure.

The four-legged alien spoke again. “Yes, that is our mission. We have been sent to save our homes and neutralize you. By whatever means necessary.”

“I think you have the wrong person. I just work in a call center. I don’t have anything to do with aliens.”

“So you aren’t the one who keeps extinguishing our stars?”

Had he been on Earth, Gabe was certain this would be a good time to request a lawyer. But, with aliens, he was not sure if the idea of a lawyer even translated. Or was an option. They had just kidnapped him, after all. Or was it an arrest? He felt out of his depth.

“Can I plead the fifth? Is that a thing?”

The gathered group turned toward one another, then back to him. “That is not an answer. Have you extinguished our stars?”

One of the group stepped forward slightly. Its face, or what Gabe liked to think of as its face, was covered in a smattering of shiny, black spheres. Most likely eyes, but this was all a learning exercise for him. The sides of its head suddenly lifted, two large wing-like appendages stretching into the air. These were connected to the rest of it by shimmering strands of something. It stood there, waiting.

“What would happen if I had?”

“This is going to take all day, Devlox.” Now Gabe was sure it was the large amorphous creature. It turned a striking shade of maroon with impatience.

“We have plenty of time before we reach home system. If it takes many days, it takes many days.”

“Home system?” said Gabe, sitting up straighter and feeling his heart begin to race again. “You mean we’re leaving Earth?”

“Yes, we left some time ago. As soon as we boarded, actually,” responded Devlox. Gabe felt a little better. This…being was at least willing to be reasonable. To answer questions. The good cop, thought Gabe. And bad cop was back there. But that still left a lot of undecided creatures in the wings.

“But then what if it’s not me?”

The collection of haze spoke. Its voice was in the ship, but Gabe also seemed to feel it resonating through him. All in all, it was a very unpleasant situation. “Earthling, we already know it is you. Devlox and his kind are more…skeptical of modern technology.”

“I’m simply not willing to base such a decision on the advice of a machine, Cylantha. There is nothing wrong with being diligent.”

Cylantha sighed, which felt similar to a strong wind pushing against Gabe’s body. “Yes, but this whole interrogation is simply to satisfy you.”

“Fine,” Devlox stomped back, a feat Gabe noted was more impressive with more legs. “Then what do you suggest we do? Go ahead and execute it?”

The amorphous creature turned a shade of green that Gabe felt very unsettled by. “That’s the easiest way, yes.”

Another, tinier voice spoke up as a rather short, squid-like creature piped up. “It is wrong to kill another creature. We must find another way”

“Wrong to kill a creature that could wipe out all our planets in an instant? That’s wrong?” spoke the tentacle creature that had first alerted them to Gabe’s consciousness.

“It always brought them back,” added the little one, not shrinking down from the intimidating figure. “Right?” he asked, turning toward Gabe.

“Well, I mean, I guess so. I didn’t really do anything, you see.”

“So you mean to say you didn’t extinguish the stars?” asked Devlox.

“I guess, I mean, I did. I didn’t mean to. Well, I meant to, but I didn’t mean to hurt anyone.”

“And you brought them back?” added Devlox.

“They just, always came back. I didn’t have to do anything.”

The creature with the wing-like appendages and many eyes stepped back, the wings folding back in. “It is telling the truth,” it said in a monotone. Somehow, that did not seem to help.

The large creature now stepped forward. “You mean to tell me you just hoped they would come back?” it roared, skin flashing all shades of dark blue and purple.

“You just hoped it would work?” squeaked the tiny creature with a hurt, accusing tone. Gabe shrank back more from the disappointment than the rage. He had always been susceptible to a good guilt trip.

There was a push of wind, something from Cylantha, Gabe assumed, and the group quieted. It was silent, and in that silence Gabe felt guilt pouring over him. The only solution was to break that silence. “So you are telling me I’ve been turning your sun off and on for all these years?”

“Yes,” came the exasperated sigh from most of the seven assembled beings. It was not in unison, but almost.

“And you had no idea what you were doing?” asked Devlox. Gabe noticed that the wing flaps were back up.

“I knew if I pointed at a star, it would blink out. And then come back later. I had no idea there were aliens—“ he watched the whole room recoil at that word—“up there. I never wanted to hurt anyone.”

“It is telling the truth,” came the same monotone report as the wings closed again.

“So you just kept doing it? With no thought to the consequences?” asked Cylantha.

“I didn’t know anyone else was out there.”

“So this is the great Destroyer,” said Devlox, pacing across the ship. Again, it was remarkable to Gabe how universal disappointment seemed to be. “Sorry there will be no need for an honor duel, Antu,” it finished, waving to the amorphous creature who had settled into a silvery green shade.

“It would not be much of a fight,” snapped back Antu.

“Do we have to kill him, then?” squeaked the squid-like creature. Devlox looked to the group.

“I don’t know,” said the weary creature after a moment. “Things are not going according to the plan.”

“How did you get your powers?” asked Cylantha, wafting forward toward the bars. “Did you purchase them? Performa a ritual? Defeat a great enemy?”

Gabe shrugged, then realized that might not translate to a group of beings with no shoulders to speak of. “I don’t know. I just always could.”

“And you never found that odd?” asked the hazy form again.

“I mean, sure, it was a weird trick. I’d show people sometimes and they’d be amazed. But I tried not to make a big deal out of it. Sounds like it caused you all a lot of problems.”

“Well, mass panic intermittently, irregularities in temperature and gravitational fields, and the crushing despair that one day Kav’nu may not return,” bristled a blue-shaded Antu.

“I’m sorry,” said Gabe.

“See, it’s sorry everyone. We can just forgive it and go on with our lives,” squeaked the squid.

All three of Devlox’s eye stalks peered down at the tiny thing, blinking slowly. “That’s not how this works, Meerk. It could still destroy us all.”

“But it said it’s sorry.”

“And I am sorry. I promise, now that I know, I won’t do it again.” Gabe began to foolishly hope that this tactic might actually work, given his sincerity.

“Oh, we will be sure of that,” said Devlox, eyes returning forward.

“You’re going to kill me?” Gabe whispered.

“Not yet. But we are going to keep an eye on you. You say it happens when you point? Wait, Viremat,” Devlox gestured to the thing with many eyes that stepped forward, raising the flaps on its head again.  “It only happens when you point at a star?”

Gabe nodded.

“Speak,” ordered Cylantha.

“Yes,” squeaked Gabe, feeling so many eyes on him.

“It speaks the truth.”

Devlox took a deep breath. “Alright then, Antu, get something to hold its arms down. We’ve got a long trip ahead of us.”

Thanks for reading!

I haven’t written in a long time. I’ve dabbled here and there, but this was one of the first times I sat down with an idea and just got to get it out there. I typed it up on my day off, gave it a read through and made some adjustments, but I’m just so happy that I got something done! This is an idea that I had in the first few weeks after my little girl was born. Those were some rough weeks and, despite being tired, my anxiety was doing a great job ensuring I was not sleeping. “Sleep when the baby sleeps.” Haha, okay then.

I started developing this idea then, after singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to her. And having something to think about, a world to play with, it made me start to feel better. So I really wanted to get back to this and flesh out this character. It’s changed a lot from where it started, but I think it was a fun idea to play with. It’s what I needed then, and what I needed now to help me do something just for me.

A Listener Reviews: Calling Darkness

Calling Darkness

Episodes: 8 episodes so far

Length: Generally around 30-45 minutes

I’ve listened to… everything put out so far.

The Premise: A group of hopeful actresses show up at Annabelle Crowe’s residence for an acting workshop. Only they accidentally summon a demon overlord, like you do. Now it is up to these women and some helpful (or not) companions to just mostly try to survive the whole demon thing.

My Review: As someone who grew up on the corny movies on the Sci-Fi (now Syfy, what?) channel and a healthy dose of MST3K, this show is perfect. It is an audiodrama that lovingly plays with so many of the horror tropes, but takes them in unexpected directions. Or sometimes plays them up for the humor. I mean, they do have a priest there, after all. Maybe. He has a priest ID, so who can question that? If you like horror that knows how to laugh, then this is definitely something worth listening to.

The concept is good, bouncing between some really unsettling horror ideas and some honestly funny moments. The narrator in the series, who I think knows more than she’s letting on, has a great tone about her that helps balance the mood of the story as a whole. It provides some nice transitions, some good foreshadowing, and adds an additional level of mystery to what is really going on in Crowe House.  The podcast overall is really well written and well-acted. So often, people try for these self-mocking style stories, but end up falling flat by either taking themselves too seriously or not taking the story seriously enough. Calling Darkness manages to balance those very well so far. The story is good and well-executed, not leaving glaring holes or inconsistencies. The characters are interesting and well-acted by their voice actors. And at the same time, they lovingly mock themselves and other tropes within the genre.

Speaking of characters, I think this is a true strength of the podcast. The characters are all stereotypical to a degree, but play up those qualities for plot and character development. So many stories miss the mark when playing around with stereotypical characters because they leave them in that role. Calling Darkness has already done a great job demonstrating character growth, development, and depth. So what starts out as your stereotypical horror movie scream queen develops into someone much more complicated through the story. I’m really looking forward to seeing where this goes as the plot continues to unfold.

Overall, Calling Darkness feels like horror-humor audiodrama gold. It brings in demons, guilt, alcohol, running from the past, acting, songs by Journey, pizza, horror, and humor all together into one messy, wonderful pot. If you like this kind of media, then Calling Darkness is an excellent take on the story with some complicated and strong leads just trying to survive. The latest episode released as of this posting, (episode 8: “It’s All Going to Hell”) was one of the strongest of the season and really demonstrates how good this story can be. You want to start at episode 1 so you can appreciate how wonderful that episode is. And by that point, you should probably just keep listening to see where it goes.

You can find them here: Calling Darkness

A Listener Reviews: Oz-9


Episodes: 12 Episodes so far.

Length: Generally around 10-20 minutes

I’ve listened to… All available episodes

The Premise: Greater Gated Galaxies (bad ears….) realizes they are about to be found out and lose a lot of money if their whole fleet is grounded. And they’ll definitely be grounded, because the ships are flying deathtraps that are lucky if they’re held together with chewing gum and duct tape. So, the best bet? Hurriedly staff the ships with crews of convicts, take a lot of rich peoples’ money, and load everyone on the ships in the hopes of stumbling across a habitable world at some point, maybe. We follow the crew of the Oz-9 as they struggle to survive the reaches of…space relatively close to earth, but definitely not still within jurisdictional range of anyone. They’ll make it out there among the stars eventually.

My Review: This is one of the few podcasts where I knew I was going to love it from episode one. Usually, it takes me a couple of episodes to warm up to an idea, and then I’m hooked. But this pulled me in incredibly quickly. The scenario is unabashedly ridiculous…but also cynical and greedy enough that I worry it may be clairvoyant. The crew of the Oz-9 are certainly caricatures, but endearing ones. As we learn about their sheer incompetence, it makes you want them to survive even more, because honestly, it seems cruel to kill people that are this hapless.

The plot is beginning to develop a bit more depth, and I certainly welcome it. The “crisis of the minute” style has been good at introducing everyone and everything, but now it’s beginning to build some more involved story arcs, and I cannot wait to see how it all unfolds. I’ll also be interested to see the humor in the show develops as the plot gets deeper. One of the things I most appreciate about this story is it’s ability to be goofy and “random” without falling into the “lolz penguin of doom” style. It does this by using call backs very well, playing on the same gag in unexpected ways. These gags have not become overused, but they’re only 12 episodes in, so let’s not give them too much credit. (I kid. Listen to the show. It’s perfectly on theme.)

Also, let me take a moment in this review to talk about a completely unrelated media property. Arrested Development. I have said on many occasions that if there were a way to remove my knowledge of a show so I can re-experience the sheer joy of a first watch through, I would use that on Arrested Development. For me, Oz-9 hits a lot of the same notes. A cast of rather unfortunate, oblivious characters, good use of running gags, and a omniscient narrator providing commentary. Admittedly, this narrator has a bit more disdain for the crew and, frankly, the audience. But I probably deserve it.

Oz-9 is silly, senseless, unapologetic humor done really, really well. It doesn’t try to be something it’s not, and it thankfully does not take itself too seriously. It is just good fun to listen to. I know I can tune in and just enjoy laugh as the crew of the Oz-9 struggle to survive…at least a week or so?

You can find them here: Oz-9

A Listener Reviews: Ars Paradoxica

Happy Earth’s Rotation Day! Here’s a science-y podcast. Because why not. 

Ars Paradoxica

Episodes: 36 for the whole story.

Length:Generally around 30-45 minutes

How I Found It: Found it on a Reddit list of suggested podcasts. I tried finding the list, but no luck. A friend also recommended this on the same day.

How I Found It: Found it on a Reddit list of suggested podcasts. I tried finding thelist, but no luck. A friend also recommended this on the same day.

I’ve listened to…every episode I could get my ears on.

The Premise: Sally is a scientist from 2XXX thrown back in time due to a strange accident. She lands right in the middle of WW2 and works to help the US government with the war effort using her knowledge and the one working Timepiece. But, as would be expected, meddling with time travel has its own repercussions. Also, as she cannot return to her home time (only back towards the original event in the past), she struggles with how to integrate herself into the world. 

The Good: Great voice acting, solid writing, and really memorable characters. I still feel for Anthony Partridge. The story covers a lot of ground, and each season seems to present new conundrums to be resolved. They sidestep some of the time travel complications, but in a way that makes it more complicated. Also, really strong representation of women and minorities throughout, which made me want to get out there and kick butt on a few occasions. In the end, I really liked the way they wrapped it all up. I was not sure how they’d write themselves out of the corner, but they did it well.

The Bad:  Okay, they kind of get a little lazy with the time travel issue dodging, but I think they make up for it in their treatment of the issues. There are one or two really dragging episodes in the mix, but they are certainly overwhelmed by the good.

My Rating: Top of the Queue.
A really strong podcast and one of my favorites. I was so sad to hear they were ending,but felt they did their story line justice. Always better to end when it needs to end than drag it out forever.

You should listen if…you’d like hearing a strong, female scientist with a penchant for cursing stumble through life in the 1940s and beyond while navigating the practical, ethical, and moral issues surrounding being the inventor of time travel.

Want to know what this is? Why I’m doing it? What my arbitrary rating system means? Read this post here for all the not-so-juicy details.

PS- If there are any weird formatting issues here, let me know. I accidentally switched a new editor view that was not particularly kind to my text-only style posts. 

A Listener Reviews: Girl in Space

To read the review in its original format, click the “Read More” link. Otherwise, enjoy this updated style!

Girl in Space

Episodes: Currently 12, but ongoing.

Length: Generally around 30-40 minutes

I’ve listened to… All that I can!

The Premise: Girl in Space follows a girl in space. I know, right? It starts aboard her ship, and you quickly realize that, while not always the case, she is now completely alone. The mission, however, is clear: to monitor the nearby star, Ra. However, things begin to get weird when a fleet of ships shows up, turning things on their head and opening up a lot more questions about who she is, what Ra is, and what exactly has been going on.

My review: Girl in Space. This one is special to me in a lot of ways. First, because on of my very close friends heard it and sent it to me to listen to. They know me way too well, because I was hooked from episode one. And then because I listened to it right around the time my little one was born. Honestly, I planned to save it to listen to after she made her grand arrival, but after a couple episodes, I couldn’t stop listening. I had a bit of the baby blues in the weeks after she was born. Nothing serious, but I wasn’t really feeling like me. And I was crying a lot. An episode came out about a month after she was born, and it was one of those things that helped connect me to who I was and who I have become since I became the full-time caregiver to a tiny human. Plus, when anxiety and stress and sadness tried to keep me awake during the few precious hours I had to sleep, I could let myself ponder this world and relax. So, I have a very personal connection to this story because it came around right when I needed it.

Beyond that, it is excellently written, recorded, acted, and whatever else goes into making a podcast. The story grabbed me almost immediately and has yet to stop. That’s primarily because worldbuilding is some of the most artful I have listened to. Rather than taking a break to explain some concept or idea, the characters naturally discuss it and leave it to the listener to put things together. It does so in a way that is easy to follow and understand, but does not rely on spoon-feeding via expository sections.

On top of the curious and exciting world being developed episode by episode, the characters are truly engaging. They are not one dimensional, but each has their strengths and weaknesses. Which means even the good guys are bad sometimes. The way they handle intense topics is also enhanced by the diversity of their characters. There are some heavy things, and each character seems to have their own way of dealing with them, from healthy to very unhealthy. As one more positive in this already glowing review, the creators integrate a healthy dose of humor into the episodes, appropriately breaking up the tension when needed.

So, it has a good world, it has good characters, and finally it manages to mix up those two pieces in a unique and dynamic plot. Like many good stories, every time a question is answered, a couple dozen pop up to replace it. When I think I’ve finally started to piece things together, some new element comes in to shine a different light on the situation.

The main criticism I have is the irregularity. I know, that one’s rich coming from someone with a blog that sat empty for months at a time. I get it. I mean, I’ve never tried anything nearly as complex as a podcast, but I get that life and creativity don’t always mesh. That said, I wouldn’t be being fair if I didn’t note that. The update schedule is very intermittent. There are often months between episodes. This didn’t both me so much when I first listened because I binged the first 10 episodes. But now that I’m having to wait for new ones, I find it hard to keep all the relevant details in mind. So I’m sure I’m missing things. It also makes me nervous that this fantastic story is going to fade away unresolved, questions unanswered, characters unfulfilled.

But, until that happens (and hopefully it never does!), I will be eagerly awaiting each and every new episode. This is the one podcast I have set up to automatically download new episodes, and I will be waiting to listen anytime they are able to get an episode out. It’s just that good.

Find them here: Girl in Space


13 Stories of Halloween: The Cat’s Perspective

This is something a little different for me. I tried to write a story in under 500 words, a common microfiction cut-off. I figured a challenge like this was a perfect time to try it out. Let me know what you think, and read the other Stories of Halloween here!

Being a cat has its perks. No one expects me to go to work or help with chores around the house. For the most part, my day is whatever I make of it. Me, I like to sit in the front window and enjoy the sunshine. Plus taunt the neighbor’s dog as much as possible. Stupid little rat just gets to barking and barking.

The downsides? My name is Jeffrey, but everyone calls me Mittens. The little one often has sticky hands. I have to lick my own butt. Still, I supposed the Lord must give challenges to even the best of us, lest we become too proud of our own station.

I have studied my humans carefully for years. It ensures I am taken care of to the best of their limited ability. Many things about humans confuse me, but there is one in particular this time of year which leaves me baffled. Every year, like clockwork, they don bizarre costumes to parade about in the street. I, of course, am a perennial favorite. It seems many children want nothing more than to be me, not that I can blame them. So I watch their precious imitations of a black cat dance along the sidewalk, carrying about large containers which are never full of tuna fish.

That is strange, but I suppose I can understand. If my life were as boring as a human’s, I too would try to find ways of imagining a better life. That night, the doorbell rings and rings incessantly, but no one ever enters to request an audience with me. They yell and giggle at the door with those obnoxious, high pitched squeals, then gallop back down the sidewalk and out of sight.

What I find particularly odd is that they do so with so many visitors. I’m sure humans have a word for these things, but I do not know it. All I know is that they do not have a smell. It’s not just that they don’t smell like humans, but they smell like nothing at all. They look like humans, but humans who are never quite sure if they exist or not. On the rare occasion such a visitor has entered my house, the humans go out of their way to avoid it. They skirt about it, even though it seems they cannot even see it. It’s almost an instinct to stay away.

Which is what I don’t understand. Because on that night, with their young out there exposed, they waltz among the dead without a second thought.

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This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Card Challenge: Day 12

Confession: I left home without drawing a card today, and will not return home until after 8:00pm tonight! Fortunately, I had written descriptions of many of the cards already generated (to save me an extra step of procrastination), so I used a random number generator to select one of those. And I have a good memory of the card that was randomly selected! So, here goes!

Card Day 12: In an open dollhouse, a blonde doll sits on the edge of the second story bedroom looking out.

Brenda sat and stared out the window, a hint of trepidation in her otherwise steady gaze. She watched as her parent’s car, its brake lights glowing a red into the ruddy sunset, pulled down the long driveway. It had taken weeks of begging, pleading, and good behavior to achieve this monumental milestone, and now her hard work was paying off. Only, there was a part of her that felt suddenly unprepared.

“You are twelve,” she snapped at herself. “Margie has been staying home all year!” She imagined Margie hearing the story of how Brenda chickened out and called her mom and dad before they even got on the road, how her ugly face would pucker up and laugh at her. She could see those crooked teeth smiling with a wide grin, the smell of lunch wafting over her as Margie bellowed. Resolved, Brenda stood from the window and marched down to the family room.

The house was very dark, but Brenda assured herself she was brave. Only babies were afraid of the dark. Her courage stoke, she then turned on the television, her thumb flipping the channels up and down reflexively. She had, of course, promised not to watch anything on the channels her parents banned from the house, but she found her thumb eagerly scrolling towards those upper numbers, specifically the scary movie channel that had been forbidden since that time she saw the clip of a demon possession and had nightmares for three months. She was surprised to find her eyes playing over the familiar, if slightly feared, logo.

As if expecting her parents to burst through the door at any moment to catch her, Brenda scanned the room, craning her neck towards the front door. It remained still as the channel’s promo blared, and did not budge an inch as the opening riffs of a movie title began drumming in the background. Margie would never be able to top this, especially if Brenda could say she watched an especially gory movie. It was all fake, right? So what could possibly go wrong?

Evening shuffled in as she settled in for the movie, the dinner her mother had carefully left—with instructions—warm in her hands. The shadows intruded into the house, draping themselves along the walls and floor as Brenda munched her way through the chicken breast and plate of macaroni. On the screen before her, she watched as zombies shambled from their graves. The full moon rose over the cinema city, much like the one smiling trough the big picture window at her now. As it did, the graveyard awoke, spilling its denizens into the street. Brenda watched flashes of red fly across the screen as zombie and civilian alike fell into the chaos. Somewhere, an arm became suddenly and irreparably detached from its body, flying across the screen with a spurt of bright red. There were people screaming, and people disappearing between the gnashing teeth of shambling zombie police officers.

Brenda sunk deep into the cushions of the couch, her eyes wide. It was all a movie, she reminded herself, even as her eyes stole out the window. The survivors trudged forward on the screen, cutting their way through hordes of zombies towards their goal. Suddenly, Maria, the tough female lead, let out a scream. A zombie’s face filled the screen, it’s hand a warped claw wrapped around her foot. Maria screamed again, kicking and fighting, as the creature dug its rotten teeth into her calf. Blood gushed from the wound as the zombie pulled back, revealing a patchwork of blood, tissue, and bone.

Brenda hit the power button as quickly as possible, ridding the room of the primary light source. It was suddenly silent in the heavy darkness of the room. Brenda noticed she was breathing heavily, her arms wrapped tightly around the pillow. In the silence, the clock on the mantle roared at a deafening pitch, counting each second off on at a time. It was 9:15. Her parents said they would be home around 10. Only forty-five minutes, she counted, relaxing her grip on the pillow.

She set the remote aside and stood from the couch, stretching out the tension and fear. It was all a movie, she reminded herself again, trying not to think about the gory images of dismemberment and cannibalism. All special effects.

Something thumped against the bay window, a heavy and dull sound that echoed towards her. Reflexively, Brenda leapt into the air, spinning to face the window. She could see nothing but the dark night, their empty driveway, and the trees tossing off in the distance. Nevertheless, she had the distinct feeling something sinister was moving out there. Her ears strained to hear any additional sound as her eyes scoured the glass, praying for some answer. Outside, the wind picked up, flinging a leafy twig towards the window with a familiar thump. It was the wind, she reasoned, calming just in time for the stairs behind her to creak.

Caught off guard, a tiny scream escaped her as she whirled about towards the stairs. There was nothing there. Nothing, she laughed, other than the pair of shoes her mother had asked her to put away. Brenda breathed a heavy sigh, turning the lamp on beside her. The room was suddenly aglow with the pale yellow light, casting new shadows and banishing others. The large window turned into a mirror, tossing her reflection in the living room back at her. While the light was welcome, it was unsettling being blinded to anything going on outside. She was suddenly aware of how vulnerable she was to anyone looking in.

Unable to shake the feeling of someone leering in at her beyond the lamp’s light, she stomped her way to the stairs and climbed up, feeling her skin prickle as the stairs groaned under each step. It was just the sounds of the house, she reminded herself, sounds she had heard for seven years. There was nothing to be scared of, and zombies weren’t even real!

Suddenly, from outside, came a heavy, hollow crash. Her mind flashed to cinematic memories of zombies flinging their bodies against wooden siding, their arms snaking through windows to the victims waiting inside. Light on her feet, she took the stairs two at a time, darting in her room to close the door. She waited silently, listening for the follow-up attack sure to assail her country home.

Instead, she heard the creak of the door. Her eyes flew to her nightstand, noting that it was only 9:30. Who was breaking in? Zombies did not open doors, but someone was creeping in, tearing through the safety of her childhood home. Brenda felt her heart rate increase, blood pounding in her ears as she imagined some masked figure sneaking past the heavy oak door.

From downstairs came a voice. “Brenda? We’re home!”

She collapsed against the door, sighing and laughing at her wild imagination. Her fear melted at her mother’s voice, her mind turning to more important matters.

She couldn’t wait to tell her friends at school about her bravery while home all alone with a scary movie. Margie wouldn’t be able to top this.

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This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Working Title: The Price of Success

This is a goofy little piece. It is a parody of ritual style stories, which if you haven’t heard of…well…it won’t make much sense. The idea is these ritual stories outline a series of steps and requirements to achieve some desired end. The path through is often fraught with peril, with failure resulting in terrible consequences. This is a parody on those ideas, playing with some of the cliches that plague the style. If you found this blog from creepypasta, then you’re probably familiar.

I am working on some other projects as well right now, including a “kind of” prequel to Purified. They are moving along, but I’m stuck with a bit of writer’s block. Those stories aren’t flowing, and I know that forcing it will end up making it completely terrible. Plus I’m having some trouble tying the plot together in a coherent way. Just need some space to tie it all together. Oddly, the idea for this ritual piece kind of smacked into me, and I wanted to just throw it together and see what happens. I’m not suggesting it is good, but it was at least fun.

In other news, I successfully proposed my dissertation! So, I’m still celebrating that. Well, I hope you enjoy this weird little piece, and I hope to have a new more typical something up by next week. Enjoy!

This ritual should only be undertaken by those brave of heart. If you succeed, the path will not be easy, but you will find your wildest dreams within reach. If you fail, you will doom yourself to a life of misery and torment, haunted by the specter of the chance you had and lost.

This cannot be started haphazardly. If you wish for any chance to succeed, I suggest beginning your preparations months in advance. There are sacred tomes which can be purchased (assuming you know where to look) which will instruct you in the completion of this ritual. If you do not know how to find such tomes, I heartily suggest you do not continue on, for only failure and despair await you.

Read and study the tomes diligently. They will provide tips for how to pass the numerous tests of this ritual, and may even provide sample scenarios so that you might better prepare yourself. If you cannot understand or complete the samples, I recommend you do not continue the ritual. Failure at the preparation almost certainly assures failure of the ritual. Failure no one wants.

Once you are confident in your ability to proceed through the ritual, you must then find the website. The book you have studied should show you the way. Go to the website it directs you to, and provide the information they request of you. Some of the questions may be deeply personal, but you must persevere if you are to accomplish this task. Remember, though, it is not too late to turn back.

Once you have answered the questions, the website will show you many dates and locations where the ritual can be completed, based on cosmic forces that are far beyond our ken. You must not question the timing or location for doing so risks your own ability to move forward in the process. Only those times and locations presented will allow you to successful complete the ritual before you so that you might gain your rewards. Select one, and then make the offering demanded of you. Once your offering is accepted, the computer will provide you with a paper covered in all kinds of warnings, information, and arcane symbols. Hold fast to it, because this page is crucial in completing the final ritual.

For now, you must wait. During this time, I recommend reviewing the tomes and website again for any additional information. You never know the capricious will of those controlling the ritual; perhaps the answer to your success will appear before you in that time.

I recommend preparing the requirements for this ritual the night before it is to begin, for the road forward will be long and trying. The requirements are simple; do not mistake their simplicity for ease.  Bring the page you received from the website, a pencil , a calculator, and a photo ID, just in case something were to go wrong. You may also wish to bring food and water, because the ritual will take hours, and you may not leave the designated location once it has begun. Whatever you do, do not bring in any sort of cell phone or external forms of communication. You cannot share anything about what happens once the ritual is begun. I risk much myself by giving you even this information.

On the day of the ritual, arrive at your location at the designated time. Go forward, alone, and present your materials to the One who Waits. The One who Waits is never the same person. They may be young or old, male or female, black, white, or anything in between. The one thing that will always be the same is that their eyes will be empty and lifeless, a cog in some massive cosmic machine. They may look at you wordlessly or they may ask you, but either way provide them with the sacred page you received from the website, along with your identification so that they may ascertain your trustworthiness before you continue on. Answer any questions they ask truthfully, and they will allow you to move forward. Attempt to deceive them, and you may never see the ritual to fruition. Once they have assured you are one strong of heart, they will direct you where to go so that you might partake in this hallowed rituals. Follow their directions, and you will arrive in a room.

This room will look like a normal classroom. Do not be fooled. What you face here is far more than any teacher ever brought down upon you. There may be others like you waiting in the room, characterized by the look of fear and resolution on their faces. Do not be deterred by them, do not be dissuaded. Seat yourself, and wait for the ritual to begin.

Another human will enter the room, perhaps the same as the One who Waits, perhaps someone entirely different. The universe has a strange way of playing out sometimes. The One who Watches will present you with paper, and instruct you on how to continue. Listen carefully to the words, for they hold the answers to completing the ritual with any hope of success. Failure to heed the warnings they give you will lead to almost certain failure.

The final step is upon you. Once the warnings have been given, the One who Watches will present you with a small book. Look carefully as you are instructed, and read the mysteries hidden within. From here, you must simply heed the One who Watches and do your best to provide honest and accurate answers to all the book asks of you. Do not try to jump ahead in the book, or return to those things which have been sealed. You must progress forward as instructed. In each moment, you may only do that which is before you; pay no mind to the past of future, but move forward. After carefully following the commands of the One who Watches, you will complete the ritual.

You will not know whether your participation was a success of failure immediately. Either way, those who have passed through report that the sky looks bluer and the sun feels warmer after you leave that forsaken location. It may take days, weeks, or months, but eventually a letter will arrive in your mail box. Open it carefully, perhaps by the light of a single lamp when you are alone in your bedroom. Inside will be the results of your ritual. If you have failed the ritual, you will see that which makes you sad. You must take heart and persevere. While your life may not go as you had hoped in your wildest dreams, there is still hope. Some have been able to overcome the curse placed on their shoulders after such failure. There is happiness to be found even in the darkest parts of life. And the ritual is always waiting, should you wish to try your luck again. And again.

Should you see that which brings you joy and satisfaction, congratulations. You passed the SAT.

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This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Working Title: What the Stars Said WIP

So, it has been a while for me. I blame it on wrapping up the first stage of my dissertation process. Admittedly, that last stage was predominantly me waiting anxiously for any sort of email response from my Dissertation Chair so I could proceed, but that is not the best atmosphere under which to be creative. I’ve been in a bit of a writing rut recently because of this, so I opted to challenge myself to get something moving. Here is the result of that challenge.  It started with the phrase “…was a man of deadly boring nature…” and developed from there. I also challenged myself to use a line from my thought notebook about unfamiliar stars. It has its flaws. I think the back half is a little weak, and the dialogue, while intentionally somewhat over the top and cliche, may not quite be well enough developed to make that evident. I think I’ll give it a few days to percolate and return to edit it once the initial shine has worn off. It’s a little off-beat for me, but it was fun to write nonetheless. And, if nothing else, it got the gears moving a little more smoothly. Let me know what you think in the comments (or don’t. I just appreciated that you read this far!)

Walter was a man of fatally boring nature—the kind that assured he would die in his mid-50s while asleep, the unfortunate victim of a sedentary lifestyle, fast food, and fat-strangled heart. He was a lonely bachelor living in an apartment which was clean not because of meticulous organization, but because he did not have the furnishings to fill it. The emptiness of his home was traded for the emptiness of his office at precisely 8:35 every morning, which gave him just enough time to get snarled in traffic and arrive ten minutes late like clockwork. He worked as a nameless drone in a tiny cubicle, the walls adorned only with the company calendar that was chronically two months behind. If he did not show up to work, it would probably be a week before anyone noticed he was missing. Walter assumed, at times, that the smell would alert his neighbors long before his workplace noticed.  If he was honest, the Chinese delivery boy would probably be the first to notice when his order did not come in at 6:15 Monday night. He wouldn’t care that it didn’t, but Walter felt comforted that at least someone would realize he was gone. It was a sad, empty existence. He could not recall a time that his routine had changed, which is why his late night waking was nearly the stroke that did him in.

Walter woke to the uncanny sensation of unfamiliar stars stretching away in the sky before him. The shock that it was not his water-stained ceiling staring back at him was the second to settle in, superseded by the realization that the constellations that danced across that inky canvas were not, in fact, those beloved childhood sigils. He felt suddenly off balance, as if his entire being had fled and left his body an empty shell. Those stars had guided him through so many places of darkness, including the miserably cold and dreary nights spent by the fire with his father on some misguided attempt to man Walter up through the time honored tradition of shooting helpless animals with firearms.

He reeled with the wave of memory and emotion that flooded his sense with the cold realization. He was utterly alone. Even his familiar stars were not there to comfort him.

His loss slowed his realization that different stars meant he was somewhere he had never been. That he had somehow sleepwalked into a place so distant he could not find a guiding star? Walter did not know how it was possible. He pushed himself off the ground, his hand sinking to the wrist in the spongy feeling earth. He must be on some sort of moss bed, he reasoned, but there was no moon above him to illuminate the ground. Which was odd because it had been a full moon only a few nights previous. He had to shut the blinds just to get some sleep.

Walter tried to put the impossibility of his situation out of his mind. He instead patted the threadbare pockets of his pajama pants, but was disappointed to find he had not fallen asleep with his cell phone tucked in close. Instead, he found splinters of a forgotten pretzel and a crumbled TV guide page stuffed into the corners. Nothing helpful, her surmised quickly, and stood staring into the dark shadows without a thought in his mind. There were plenty of thoughts threatening, those he could feel, but to admit even one in meant unleashing those floodgates to overwhelm his fraying mind. Where he was was impossible, but as long as he refused to acknowledge it, it remained a silly conjecture.

Light grew behind him. Walter spun around as the soft light crept over his shoulder, relieved that someone had found him out in the wherever he was. They were about thirty yards away, holding some sort of ball that glowed with a diffuse light. The shadows crowded around the figure as it drew closer, appearing to bob softly as its feet sunk into the loamy soil. Whoever it was, they looked no taller than a child, though they moved with the ease of an adult who has well acclimated to their limbs. There was no hesitation as they drew closer.

“Hey!” Walter called out. “I’m lost!” The figure continued moving at a steady pace, never pausing nor returning the call. It was coming towards him, Walter thought, so certainly it would stop and help him. Unless—

Thoughts of the evening news spiraled through his mind. Perhaps he had been drugged and brought out here for sport. Maybe this was his captor, come to finish the deed. Walter calmed himself with thought of the figures apparent small stature; any killer that size he could easily overpower. He could sit on them, for all it mattered.

While he was developing an appropriate defense strategy to take down the unsuspecting figure, it had drawn with fifteen feet of him. Now, he could see it. And now, he felt the world begin to slip away beneath him. There was a body that stretched too long towards the ground, legs that seemed to radiate out and skitter across the pale grass with spider-like agility. Atop that cylindrical body sat a blocky head, with wide set, narrow eyes and a puckered mouth. The light Walter had assumed it was carrying was, instead, the softly glowing end of one of its “arms.”

For the second time that night, Walter awoke to unfamiliar stars, though these now had a certain ring of recognition to them. His view, however, was obstructed by the oddly thick and square head of his captor or savior, he did not know. Its eyes were wide set and small, tiny little splashes of milky white peeking through folds of greyish-pink skin. At least, Walter assumed they were eyes. The creature seemed to be investigating him curiously, sniffing at him with the small angular protrusion which Walter wanted to call its nose. If it had a nose. He quickly corralled his thoughts. This was not impossible as long as he refused to think about it.

When the thing spoke, Walter’s world spun again, and he felt reality draining back into the welcoming darkness again. But that voice was like a life preserver cast upon the waters of unconsciousness, bringing him once again to the surface.

“Stand, Walter Cromwell of Earth.” It’s voice was raspy and stumbled over the foreign syllables as if each sound was receiving its first utterance in the foreign atmosphere. Walter was willing to admit that this certainly was not his home planet, at least not anymore. It was, he reasoned, some strange dream he would soon wake from. He went along with the creatures demand, filling the earth seep through his fingers as he shoved himself to his feet. His legs wobbled, mostly thrown off by the world that seemed to still be spiraling rapidly away from the human, but he did his best to remain strong and stable.

“We have brought you here to warn your fellow humans. Doom is approaching,” stated the creature, its eyes fixing on Walter’s face far above it. Dispute being only half his height, the being did not seem the least intimidated by Walter’s imposing form. There was something empowering in that, something that awakened a primal need for dominance in Walter.

“What are you?” his lips mumbled without his consent, and that quest for dominance disintegrated.

The creature seemed taken aback, obviously expecting some different response following its proclamation. “I—I am Skeel of the Onwihu. This is our planet. We have brought you here to save your race!” Skeel regained his stride, voice rising in urgency by the end of his sentence.

“Yes, because what now is approaching?”

“Doom!” Cried Skeel, his arms lifting until the ball of light hovered just below Walter’s chin. “The end of the humans!”

“Right,” Walter mused, studying this figure and his exigency. “I really think you have the wrong guy. I’d be no good at that sort of thing.”

“Walter Cromwell, we chose you.”

“Yes, and I’m flattered and all, but perhaps you meant some other—”

“You were the one who gazed at us in the stars! You were the one who spoke to us, reached for us, sought our intervention.”

Well, he thought. He had done that. Years ago, trapped in a tree stand in the middle of the night, praying for anyone to intervene. He wondered if it would be appropriate to tell them they were a few decades too late. “I really think you may have made a mistake. I don’t even know the first thing about saving the world. Really, it’s not my line of work.”

Skeel sighed, an oddly human mannerism that made Walter feel a little more at home. That was a response he was used to getting, not this “save-the-whales” mumbo-jumbo. “Walter Cromwell, you have been selected. You will save your people.”

“And how do you suppose I will go about that? Have you noticed how we treat people who see little green men?”

The reference appeared to sail over Skeel’s head, something which was not hard to do. He continued with unwavering perseverance. “You must show the humans the errors of their ways. Show them to restore their own nature. Tell them to turn from paths of destruction and violence against their society.”

“Right. And why would they listen to me?”

Without another word, Skeel reached out the light on his arm and touched Walter’s hand. Immediately, his mind was flooded by words that had no meaning, but told him all he would need ot know. Those voices outlined the coming destruction. First, they promised, there would be fire. Walter saw a volcano exploding, spewing magma and ash into the atmosphere and blanketing the surrounding countryside. He saw faces streaked with ashes and tears, rescue crews fighting through smoke and debris. Then, they proceeded, water. New York City was flooded, he saw, its streets hidden beneath churning black waters, laden with the refuse of a populace who no longer cared. There were bodies in the water, Walter saw, and diseases swimming through the newly created rivers. In quick succession, he saw meteor showers—unexpected, but due to hit March 29th—an earthquake which neatly rent a shopping mall in half, the death of three different world leaders, and the frenzied press conference for the cure for cancer.

The images did not stop, but moved on to scenes of plague. He saw people wasting away in hospital beds, then in their homes, and then in the streets. Everywhere were gaunt faces and open sores, pouring pus and disease into the populace. Those who did manage to survive such pestilence he watched slowly waste away, lining up for days for a loaf of bread that was already filled with mold and maggots by the time it reached their mouths. From there he saw war. Men and women armed, grim faces marching through foreign streets, tearing one another apart for assured food and medical care. He saw world leaders frothing at the mouth as they condemned one another. He saw bombs falling, cities disintegrating, and parents weeping for children lost within the rubble. Finally, he saw a cloud rise from the earth, spreading its destructive power from one end to the other, silencing the sordid final moments of Earth’s biography.

Skeel pulled away, leaving Walter feeling suddenly cold and alone. “Tell them what you have seen; tell them what you could not know otherwise. Then they will believe. Then they will change.”

It was reassuring to wake to his familiar ceiling with the abstract stain spreading from the wall, and to be immediately assaulted with the blaring tempo of his alarm. What a dream, Walter mused. He rose from the bed, stretching stiff joints and ignoring the grey-green dust that marked his footsteps through the dingy apartment. His morning shower was more than enough to wash away any possible evidence of his evening’s adventure, and Walter was just as happy to let it filter down the drain in a murky swirl of water. He left, sliding a piece of toast into the toaster as he turned on the television.

Which tie today, he thought, examining the numerous options hanging limply over his dining room chair. It felt like a blue kind of day, he decided as he moved back to his bedroom.

The toaster popped as Walter cinched his belt, and it was time for breakfast. The morning news was a chipper as usual, presenting the daily diversions with clinical imbalanced optimism. Walter watched them discuss a clip of a puppy tripping up and down stairs as he buttered his toast.

“Well, you may need a video like that to pick you up after our next story,” chirped the woman, trying and failing to reassemble her face into a mask of gravity. “We are getting reports of a massive volcanic eruption from Italy in just the past hour. Rescue teams have been unable to approach the affected areas as of yet, and remain concerned about those individuals trapped in the surrounding areas. We go to John Michaelson in Rome for the latest news.”

Weird, thought Walter. It was certainly a strange coincidence that he had dreamed this very thing the night before. What was even weirder was he felt it was time to admit to himself and anyone else concerned that it most certainly had not been a dream. The fate of the world was in his hands. Next would be the flood, he thought, munching pensively on the corner of his toast. He sighed the sigh of someone with an immeasurable weight pressing down on them, forcing the air from their very lungs. It seemed he had his work cut out for him if he was going to save this miserable excuse for a planet.

But perhaps, he mused, the end of the world would not be so bad after all.

The clock on the microwave caught his attention. 8:35—time for work. He clicked off the television as he drifted out the door, dragging himself into another day of drudgery and toil. Walter was a man of fatally boring nature.

Creative Commons License
This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Working Title: Neighborhood Watch WIP

So, here is something new. I did just narrowly miss my “every two week” window, but it’s been a bit hectic. Getting old things wrapped up and new things started has kept me hopping in the real world, plus a sick day here and there to inhibit the writing process. This is a new piece I rather like, though it is very different in tone for me. Definitely taking a risk with the format of it as well.  However, I find the characters intriguing, and the format fun. I used a few textisms sprinkled in here, but I think it works alright given the email style and the character. I’m not sure on the title, but that’s why it’s a working title. Also, I tried to make the formatting as clean as possible, but if there are any critiques or suggestions regarding that, I’m all ears! Enjoy!

To: Sophia Brimm <sophia.brimm@——-.—>
From: Sophia Brimm <sophia.brimm@——-.—>
Subject: Hi Neighbor!                                                            June 4 2014                2:47am

Hello Sophia!

It’s nice to finally talk to you. And no, you did not write this email to yourself. I just needed some way to talk to you that would be inconspicuous. As a note, your tech security could probably use an upgrade; you never know who could be sniffing around for unsecure Wi-fi links. Lucky for you, I was the one to find it! I’ve tightened up the security a bit, and I can send you the deets later, in case you ever need work done on the connection. Consider it a perk of our new friendship. For ease, you can just call me Crypto. Obviously, that’s not my real name—that would be a stupid real name—but if I told you that, well, they’d have to kill me! And is Sophia ok? I’ve always loved the name Sophia. Introductions aside, I hope you don’t mind my little email intrusion. You see, I’ve found that people tend not to have the desired response when they get emails from john.doe@creepyshadoworganization.gov. It tends to get snagged by spam filters or trashed, plus it has the nasty side effect of alerting my bosses.

So, I’m REALLY not supposed to do this, but, Sophia, I just couldn’t let you get ripped limb from limb like the last one. I mean, really, you’re smart, kind, attractive, funny, and caring. You help Ms. Saunders look for her lost dog, send a hefty donation to cancer research centers, and even tip a generous 20% to delivery drivers. We need people like you in this world. So, I’m putting my neck out for you, but it’s for the greater good.

‘So, Crypto,’ I can imagine you saying, ‘is there any point to your ramblings or are you just hitting on me?’ The answer is yes. You’re a clever girl, so I’m sure you catch my drift. There’s a great coffee place you seem to really enjoy, just off Singer and Main. After this is all over, I’ll meet you there. 😉 But, for now, the point is the more important piece. You see, in my job for, well, Creepy Shadow Organization, I am tasked with observing the general living patterns of certain entities. Most of these entities are pretty nasty critters with beady eyes, long claws, sharp teeth, and gobs of fur. Trust me, my poor assistant is tasked with cleaning the enclosures, and those things shed worse than any long-haired house cats that I’ve ever known. And the smell! I’m sure you’ve got that slight whiff of rot, sweat, and feces, so you know what I’m talking about. Some of them are rather smart, however, and in that case I have to make detailed notes about stalking and hunting behaviors. Like a wildlife researcher. One who carries ample ammo, salt, holy water, and diverse religious symbols. It’s really quite a fantastic job. Which brings me here, tapping away on my/your computer behind Dr. Dan’s bushes.

As the scratching and wailing sounds may have alerted you (if the smell didn’t already!), you seem to be the chosen prey of my most recent subject. I call her Stretch McTerror. She’s pretty impressive without any modification, but her exoskeleton is uniquely designed, allowing her to grow incredibly tall at will. Admittedly, this ability also extends to her arms and their dangerous terminus of incredibly sharp claws. Her teeth aren’t so bad, but her breath will totally do you in. I mean, seriously, it’s toxic. We lost about three interns before we figured that out! Totally was missing from our research, but that’s what I love about my job. I’m always learning something new.

Right, so she’s chosen you. And, unfortunately for you, Stretch is also one of our more intelligent subjects. She very much likes to play with her food. I hope this helps clear up the screeching, claw marks on your trees and doors, and mysterious shadow figures in second floor windows. Congratulations, you’re not crazy! You’re just being stalked by a bloodthirsty monster. Who really enjoys skinning and eating prey. She’s a sadistic little critter, but you have to admire her tenacity. No, seriously, she followed her last victim across country when he finally decided his house was haunted. It took me days to clean up his place and make that look like an accident. I had to generate a lot of recent interest in woodworking through his internet history to get someone to buy an accidental table saw/sander death. Plus I had to put the tool purchases on my personal credit card, and the folks in Accounting still haven’t reimbursed me. Maybe I should convince Stretch to visit one of them! LOL!

Anyways, I wouldn’t suggest running. I also wouldn’t call the cops, because we have agreements with them. They’ll just tell you it’s some sort of prank, or maybe raccoons. They may send an officer to check the place out, but they’ll tell you they found nothing. It’s a dead end, I promise. Fortunately, you have someone even better on your side. Me. J

‘Now, Crypto,’ I hear you sigh, ‘what do you expect me to do with this terrifying information, then?’ Well, knowing is half the battle. You should totally know that one, Sophia. As for the other half…I’m working on it. I’ll be in touch once I figure something out, but please remember I’m taking a big risk even alerting you. Noninterference is like Rule 1 of my job. Just, stay safe, okay? And don’t let Stretch’s mind games get to you. Really, the weird things you’re seeing—I’m guessing from my experience blood dripping down the walls, corpses walking around with their skin flayed off, and disembodied eyes in the dark?—are not real. They’re just the first effects of slow exposure to her neurotoxins. Remember the breath thing? The current level is not meant to kill you, just mentally torture you a bit. I’d suggest opening a window, but she’d probably just crawl inside. Instead, just remember they’re not real.

Well, I’ll be in touch. Don’t worry, I know where to find you. Just write back if you have any questions!

Interferingly Yours,

PS: Oh, and by the way, you can stop looking for Ms. Saunders’s dog. Seriously, you don’t want to find what’s left of it.


To: Sophia Brimm <sophia.brimm@——-.—>
From: Sophia Brimm <sophia.brimm@——-.—>
Subject: Re: Hi Neighbor!                                                     June 4 2014                10:19am

Is this some kind of joke? Is this Mike? If it is, we’re not getting back together. Are you the one who’s been stalking me and harassing me at home? Are you drugging me?!? Well, listen, “Crypto,” it’s not okay. And you know what? I’m calling the police now. I’ll show them your email, and then they’ll track you down. Creep.


To: Sophia Brimm <sophia.brimm@——-.—>
From: Sophia Brimm <sophia.brimm@——-.—>
Subject: Re: Hi Neighbor!                                                     June 4 2014                1:56pm

Ok, how did you do that? This email wasn’t here when the police got here, and now it’s back. I’ve even tried forwarding it to them, but it won’t send. Did you download some kind of virus onto my computer? You’re sick, dude. Get some help. By the way, I have a gun, so if you or “Stretch” tries anything, you can leave my place in a body bag.


To: Sophia Brimm <sophia.brimm@——-.—>
From: Sophia Brimm <sophia.brimm@——-.—>
Subject: Re: Hi Neighbor!                                                     June 5 2014                4:22am


I told you the cops would not be helpful. I admire your courage and assertiveness, but it seems a bit misplaced. I’m not Mike, and personally, I think you’re better off without that oaf.. I’m just a friend here to help, but I can definitely understand the confusion. I was livid when I met my first entity. Ripped my girlfriend clean in half in the middle of a lovely camping weekend, but after meeting Dragon following my initiation (I didn’t name this one; I’m much more creative), I realized he was just looking for dinner. He’s no more evil than, say, an alligator or bear. Oh, and regarding the gun, if you could please avoid shooting at Stretch, I’d appreciate it. She’s not ready for live fire drills yet (though with her remarkable exoskeleton—shiny, isn’t it?—I think she’s going to pass with flying colors!). That’s why we generally start these in suburbs—fewer carry permits.

Unfortunately, I don’t have much to provide in the way of solution. I’m doing my best research, but no one has ever really figured out how to slow Stretch down. I mean, without killing her, of course, and she’s too valuable to waste. We just need to find some way to throw her off your trail and onto someone else’s. Personally, I’d love to figure out how to send her off to follow Mr. Connelly down the street from you. I mean, there are weird tastes, and then there are criminal ones, if you catch my drift. For now, though, keep doing what you’re doing. Stay alert, keep your doors and windows locked, and try to avoid any demonic or supernatural paraphernalia the best you can. We do know that sage acts as an appetite stimulant for darling Stretch, so you probably should avoid that one specifically. I’ll keep you updated!

Just observin’,


To: Sophia Brimm <sophia.brimm@——-.—>
From: Sophia Brimm <sophia.brimm@——-.—>
Subject: Re: Hi Neighbor!                                                     June 5 2014                9:05am

Were you in my house last night? I heard someone, and this morning I woke up to find some sort of…knives?…in all my pictures. And the smells gotten worse. And last night, I got up, and there was someone staring at me through my bedroom window. On the second floor! The screeching sound has gotten worse, and I keep seeing a man who walks around my house, covered in blood, while he rips off his own skin. Are you doing this? If so, please stop. I don’t know you, but please stop.

If not, can you help me?


To: Sophia Brimm <sophia.brimm@——-.—>
From: Sophia Brimm <sophia.brimm@——-.—>
Subject: Re: Hi Neighbor!                                                     June 5 2014                11:38pm


I’m glad you’re coming around. This will be much easier if we’re on the same page. Of course I haven’t been wandering around your house in the middle of the night. Nor am I in the habit of ripping off my skin. That’s gross. If I were in your home at any point, I would face sharp censure from my superiors for interfering in our little test. Hence my need for secrecy.

Regarding the “knives,” I do have to say, that took even me by surprise. I guess we were not as comprehensive in our pre-observations of Stretch as I had hoped. And again, it really does not appear in the literature. Then again, with a record like Stretch’s—well, her ancestor’s—there aren’t often many people left to detail her secrets. Her ability to shoot spines like there, and her precision! Truly remarkable.

I am happy to say that my research into the spines has provided some insight into a possible mechanism to dissuade Stretch. You see, Stretch and her kind were common in a rural part of Northern Italy long, long ago. It seems that locals would plant rosemary bushes around the property to protect the occupants from the eyes of the “Climbing Witches.” Being such an old text, I’m not sure if we’re talking about the same creature or if it was even effective, but it’s an interesting thought. I mean, rosemary has been associated with repelling witches in the past, so perhaps it will be helpful. It’s also historically associated with love. How long ago did you and Mike break up, if you don’t mind my asking? For research purposes, of course. It may help us identify how Stretch selects her victims.

However, I’m still not certain on the rosemary angle. It can’t hurt to pick some up from the grocery on your next trip out. And make sure to buy it fresh, not dried. It’s better for our entity purposes, as well as cooking, which is a wonderful positive of this experiment. Even if it doesn’t work, the rosemary is great with pork and chicken. I can send you some recipes later. Better yet, how about I’ll cook you up something savory after this is all said and done? To be clear, though, I wouldn’t get too hopeful, as the mortality rate in that town is still suspiciously high. I mean, not high enough to suggest wall-to-wall Stretches, but still higher than I’m comfortable with. The upside of this is that I can likely convince Corporate to send me on an investigative trip to Italy. You are, of course, invited. Assuming we can figure out how to keep Stretch from killing you.

So, start with the rosemary and I’ll keep researching.

Your Bookworm,


To: Sophia Brimm <sophia.brimm@——-.—>
From: Sophia Brimm <sophia.brimm@——-.—>
Subject: Re: Hi Neighbor!                                                     June 6 2014                12:15pm

I bought the rosemary. Now what? I can see her, Crypto. I saw her last night at like 4am when I finally stopped trying to sleep. She was tall, but all crumpled down behind a tree in my backyard. And you’re right, she shines in the moonlight. You did not warn me about her eyes, though. Those eyes are worse than any I’ve seen in her hallucinations. All dark and knowing. I could see my soul in them, see it ripped apart. Why didn’t you warn me about her eyes?!

I don’t see her now, though. Am I safe during the day? Please let me know what to do!



To: Sophia Brimm <sophia.brimm@——-.—>
From: Sophia Brimm <sophia.brimm@——-.—>
Subject: Re: Hi Neighbor!                                                     June 7 2014                12:34am

Lovely Sophia,

Regarding your questions, first I think Stretch is mostly nocturnal, but as you’re seen, these sort of things can be…surprising. Second, I did not know about the eyes. Professional wisdom suggests you NEVER make eye contact with one of the entities. A lot of them can be hypnotic—so lucky you! I appreciate your honesty about what you saw. It seems to me as if Stretch uses her eyes as an extension of her psychological torture routine. Quite interesting, really. I may enlist some interns to determine if there is any variability in this behavior (in a controlled environment, of course).

As for the rosemary, I think I have some answers. Now, I’m not sure how avid a chef you are, but you will need some authentic sea salt, a mortar and pestle, and Italian olive oil. Again, don’t settle for any cheap knock off stuff. This needs to be the real deal. I would pick things up for you and drop them off, but, you know, the whole secrecy deal. Sorry I can’t be more helpful. I really don’t want to lose my job, as termination tends to be rather traumatic in my line of work.

Once you have all of these things, toss the rosemary, oil, and salt into the mortar and pestle, grinding it until it’s all a consistent…goopiness? I don’t really think there’s a good term for it, but make it all mixed together real well. Then, smear it along all your window sills and door frames. Even the ones in your attic. Trust me, the real spooky stuff doesn’t live in attics, but rather your backyard. Next, put a little on yourself. Just a bit behind you ears, elbows, wrists, and knees should be enough. The smell should be enough to convince Stretch to move on. Hopefully. I’m pretty sure it’s not a sage scenario. Let me know when you’re done, and I’ll let you know where she is!

With hope and curiosity,


To: Sophia Brimm <sophia.brimm@——-.—>
From: Sophia Brimm <sophia.brimm@——-.—>
Subject: Re: Hi Neighbor!                                                     June 7 2014                8:27am

I did it, Crypto. I got everything, just like you asked, mixed it, and smeared it everywhere. I smell like a cheap pizza parlor, but I did it. If this is some kind of sick joke, I hope you are enjoying yourself. Is she gone? I know it’s day, but can you see her?



To: Sophia Brimm <sophia.brimm@——-.—>
From: Sophia Brimm <sophia.brimm@——-.—>
Subject: Re: Hi Neighbor!                                                     June 7 2014                9:31pm

I haven’t heard her again. Normally she’s begun scraping my windows and siding by now, if not growling. But it’s been quiet. And I haven’t seen any weird things all day, well, one or two floating eyes, but those have even gotten better. It still smells, though. I can just smell it over the rosemary and olive oil. Please let me know.



To: Sophia Brimm <sophia.brimm@——-.—>
From: Sophia Brimm <sophia.brimm@——-.—>
Subject: Re: Hi Neighbor!                                                     June 9 2014                2:08am

My Partner in Crime,

Sorry for the radio silence, but I wanted to be sure before giving you any false hope. It seems Stretch is not a fan of the new air fresheners you’ve deployed. She’s moved on down the road and, with a little help from some strategically placed sage, has found a new favorite house on the block. My only advice would be to avoid Mr. Connelly for the next couple of days, and don’t read the subsequent newspaper story. Trust me, you’re better off not knowing.

So, how about that coffee now?

Your knight in shining armor,

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