Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Madame Rag and Mister Bone poolside: a Vignette.

Since it has been a while since I've been doing much but working on the novel, here's an unedited excerpt from chapter seven that may, or may not, make it into the final draft. Since it's pretty much in the same state as when I first wrote it, expect errors. It was a fun little scene to bash out. Mister Bone and Madame Rag are such cartoony villains they almost write themselves.   


 Lucy Fur doing a random spot-check on my writing.


Every city, no matter where it is on the globe, has places that, if not abandoned, are at least left deserted for long stretches at a time. Wherever they went, Madame Rag and Mister Bone went out of their way to seek out such places, and if one couldn’t be found, they simply created the vacancies they required.

It wasn’t that the husband and wife team didn’t enjoy the modern perks of hot running water, fine food, and comfy beds, it was simply that things so often seemed to go badly when they brushed shoulders with “the normal folk.” They mixed less well with the public than sea birds did with ruptured oil tankers. The end result in both cases were rows of dead things, be they migratory sandpipers, or uniformed hotel staff.

It was decided years and years ago that to maintain a healthy breeding population of hospitality workers, that they would strictly curtail their contact with the world of the regulars—especially Mister Bone, who admittedly had impulse control issues. Whenever they were called in for a job that required more than an afternoon to complete, they would simply retire to the closest abandoned motel, condemned home, or recently-depopulated flop house to await their orders.

When their employer was Doctor Knox, this arrangement was even more desirable. Being around Knox made both Rag and Bone feel as though they were walking on eggshells, eggshells made of unstable high explosive. This was likewise fine with Knox, to whom the idea of any kind of familiar relationship with “the help,” was unthinkable. 

The evening found Mister Bone and Madame Rag sitting by lantern light on the moldy cushions of decomposing deck furniture at the edge of a long-neglected indoor pool. Emerald moss and black mildew clung to the tiled walls in streaks, and floating in the center of the once-luxurious pool was a large hummock of brown stringy vegetation. The cold air was moist and held the dark stink of decomposing fungus. Both Rag and Bone were silent, it was the tight expectant silence of an impending unpleasant conversation.

In Mister Bone’s time he’d been shot, stabbed, poisoned, drowned, and defenestrated. He’d lived through Cholera, Typhus, and Plague. He’d been set upon by dogs and burned by acid. He’d been buried up to his neck in the desert sand and left for dead. He’d had limbs caught in steam-powered machinery, and been hung by the neck on no less than three separate occasions. Being nearly crushed under a car was something new, and the novelty wasn’t a welcome one.

As he considered this new turn of events he marched a large brown spider across one set of his knuckles then the other. He’d once seen a street magician do the same trick with a coin, but his way was better. 

“Want to know something?” he asked Madame Rag in a dolorous voice, “Being run over really hurts.” As he said it, he rubbed at his shoulder where tire rubber was still visible against his pale skin.
“It was just a small car,” she said tightly, throwing a quick deprecating glance at his shoulder. “I was crushed by an omnibus. Remember that Shillibeer in Westminster? Three times the weight, and three sets of hooves. That car didn’t even crush your rib cage, I had scars for a week.”

Bone gently released the spider on a cracked resin coffee table, and peered down at her curiously. “Healed fine,” he said, fingering open a gap in the buttons of her top. He leered in an expression of happy lust down at her and attempted to squeeze a cucumber-sized finger between the gap in the buttons.

“That’s not the point,” she replied, slapping away his gargantuan hand. “We were caught unprepared and our quarry has gone to ground. Himself will not be happy,” she predicted.

Bone’s expression fell limp as an overcooked noodle at her words. He shrugged and stared at her with a face like a bucket of still water, and with as much comprehension. After a moment, he began looking around the table to relocate his spider. There would be no help from that quarter. No, Bone’s main contribution to any conversation lay in being an immovable wall to echo ideas off of, and not as a fount of sober advice.

Sometimes when Madame Rag was in one of her less charitable moods, as she was now, she imagined that Mister Bone’s brain was like one of those fattened veal calves kept in it’s little plastic igloo, all tender and wobbly from lack of use. It was well that Mister Bone’s brain was not the feature that most attracted her to him.

Madame Rag’s pocket chimed in the digital imitation of an old telephone bell. She didn’t need to see the caller ID. She’d only given the number to one person, and after last October’s shenanigans, the surviving telemarketers had spread the word around that she wasn’t to be disturbed.   

Rag closed her eyes and assumed a smile that revealed so many teeth that if anyone had seen her, they might have been forgiven for thinking that she was the product of an experiment meant to fuse Julia Roberts with a Great White shark.

The smile was the brainchild of an article she’d read in a Scientific American she’d inherrited from the house’s previous owner. The article claimed that the act of smiling itself could improve one’s mood. With all that had gone pear-shaped that afternoon, she felt that she could do with any quantum of positivity she could bring to the impending conversation. She smiled, and her skin stretched tight as a piano wire across a bike path.

She prepared herself, and picked up on the third ring. “Hello, Doctor Knox, and how are we on this fine winter evening?” she asked, face contorted into a rictus of manic joy, her voice the smooth obsequiousness of rancid fat. “Yes, yes, we did in fact catch up with him…” she stood and began to pace in a circle. “Sadly, no. I have to report that I was quite unable to detain him, another party interfered. They proved to be quite the handful of rusty razorblades…” At this last she glared at Mister Bone who was too focused on his spider to notice a thing. “The Webmage, Dimitri Singh… Yes, the very one.” She took her seat again and sat completely rigidly while she listened.

“I’m afraid I have another small morsel of bad news,” she said, her eyes a-twinkle with mandatory cheer. “Our quarry was able to escape with the notebooks that we’d procured earlier…” The phone’s metal casing began to indent and Rag tried to smile even harder. It wasn’t easy, the muscles in her cheeks began to ache and her molars were becoming visible. Her smile was not having the desired effect on the conversation she had hoped it might. There could be a time in the not-too-distant future when the staff of Scientific American received an unexpectedly lively visit to discuss the veracity of what they chose to publish.

Bone finally looked up at her with the slack expression that passed for curiosity before going back to his spider. It appeared to have fewer legs than it had only moments before.

Rag stood so abruptly her chair zoomed and skittered across the tiles behind her before crashing into a wall with an echoing boom and the sound of shattering ceramic. She began to stalk around the stagnant pool. “Might I humbly suggest that taking the mark out for drinks and the cinema may not be playing to our strengths? We do ever so well with a spot of slaughter and mayhem… No, I would, of course, never presume to tell you your business, I simply refer to our past successes…”

The smile on Rag’s face slowly asphyxiated, and slumped over into a snarl. “In three centuries of being in the business, we have never failed to complete a commission. We will complete this one, one has a certain professional reputation to maintain, you see… Yes I know of it… Very well, I’ll ensure they are made aware… I must say that when that news gets out the cat will be among the canaries… Is there anything else?…” Rag’s face suddenly became blank and inexpressive. “All of them? You would like me to wake all of them?… No I was simply making sure I received your instructions correctly… Very well.”

For the first time in the conversation, Rag’s expression began to slowly melt into genuine pleasure. Mister Bone knew that expression, it was the expression that let him know that soon, hopefully very soon, he’d be able to get his hands wet, red, and sticky.

Rag completed her phone conversation and joined him next to the pool. She looked down to the table where the spider’s dismembered body now sat neatly next to a row of twitching legs arranged from largest to smallest. The spider’s abdomen still moved in tiny shifting twitches, as though it could somehow wiggle away.

“Shall we go, my dear Bone? We have a good deal of work to be about.”

“Good work?” Bone asked.

“The very best,” Rag confirmed. “Murder and skulduggery, Mister Bone! Murder and skulduggery.”
Bone nodded solemnly in reply.

Rag paused a moment and carefully picked up the legless spider between a thumb and forefinger to examine it. After a moment of thought, she popped the dainty into her mouth, puckered her lips, and began to gently suck on it. They left the room without a backward glance. 

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Why the Internet and Media has Made us a Bunch of Mouth-Breathing Dumbasses: A Short Essay.





I'd argue that the Internet is one of the most important human accomplishments ever. It allows us to share ideas, images, music, and art across the globe in an instant. It is a truly amazing construct that has changed the world in an unbelievably short time. Hurray Internet! There, now that's out of the way we can squat down and poke at the dank and cheesy under-crevices of the great electronic leviathan we call the Internet.

First, I need to introduce a universal rule. It goes like this: “People will fuck things up." This is as universal a rule as gravity and entropy.  Here are just a few examples:

A guy named Joseph Wilbrand whips up a batch of yellow dye in his lab in 1863. He just wanted to make sunflowers more sunny. The stuff he made was called Trinitrotoluene, and twenty years after its discovery, people decided they liked to blow stuff up with it better than they liked colouring buttercups. It's better known as TNT, and it's still blowing up people over one hundred and fifty years later.

A young German lad with a passion for astronomy builds amateur rockets so that one day humankind will fly to the stars. Guess what he was tagged in to do? Yup, his name was Wernher von Braun, and he designed the V-1 and v-2 rockets for the Nazis, not to mention the first intercontinental ballistic missiles. Sure, he also built the Saturn rockets, but that was only after the ICBMs payed the bills.

Orville and Wilbur Wright built the first-ever heavier than air flying machines. Wilbur lived long enough to see his invention drop a bomb from 30 000 feet that vaporized two cities. Are we seeing a pattern here? Human invention, no matter how well-intentioned, will be put to uses that would surely cause the original inventor(s) to rage vomit. The inventor of the stick was probably disheartened when 20 minutes later someone decided to jam it between two rocks and make a dick. The point is, no matter how high-minded we are in our creations, once they are out of our hands it's people, good and bad, who will use them for their own agendas. Such is also true of the Internet.

While the Internet has opened up vast new lines of communication, mainly in the porn and cat picture industries, it has also contributed to the dumbing down of a lot of people. Just like TNT, nukes, and bomber planes, it's not the Internet's fault, it's just human nature. We like familiar, we like other people to do our thinking for us, and we surround ourselves with people who think the same way we do. When all of our friends are saying the same thing, it's easier to accept it as truth, even when it bears not the slightest resemblance to reality. We like to believe the things that we want to believe, because if we didn't, we might have to adjust the way we think, and that shit's just scary.

Through social media, the Internet has made it simple for people to group themselves into tribes, and what might have once been the radical fringe have found they can group and recruit much more easily. These are the same kids that crapped in the public swimming pool just to see everyone jump out. The kids who would rather get in a fight than examine their opinions. They are the Gamergaters, the Rabid Puppies, the radical feminists, the screaming MRAs, the toxic SJWs, the people who have become so indoctrinated that they are unable to see any reality but their own.

The amorally savvy among us have realized that people will be much more likely to snuggle up with a comfortable lie rather than an uncomfortable truth, and have exploited the ever-living shit out of it. Faith has become an appropriate surrogate for reason. Just look at the support the anti-vax, the chemtrail, or the creationist crowd have gathered. Not a stitch of real science behind any of these movements, but people eat it up because it feels like something they should believe in. They want to believe that their opinion is just as valid as someone who has spent years of their life studying virology, immunology, or evolution. They want to believe the government is out to get them and has created a chemical that will make everyone homosexual.

To make matters worse we've all been spoon-fed on a diet of news reports that have pit people with good speaking skills against experts who, in a lot of cases, suck at getting their point across in a straightforward way. The one that presents well and sounds good, will win an argument nine times out of ten, not because they know more, but because they sound like a winner. Plus, we all know intellectuals aren't to be trusted.

Just a few weeks ago there was a case in the news where an 18 month-old boy died of meningitis because his parents believed that instead of conventional medicine, he'd be better served by eating a diet of hot peppers, garlic, onions and horseradish. This doesn't make his parents bad people, it makes them willfully ignorant and fucking criminally negligent people. It makes them people who valued their untested beliefs more highly than the life of their son. It makes them people who were dumb enough to accept the crap they wanted to believe at face value and call it faith.

I'm not saying that all scientists are unbiased paragons looking to better humanity, they aren't. I'm not saying that faith is a bad thing, it isn't. What I am saying, is have a curious mind. Examine your own beliefs and see if there might be other reasonable arguments. Don't be led by the nose by people whose arguments you want to believe, go out and see if the message is actually based on real world facts. It's not easy, and sometimes just finding a source of unbiased facts is impossible, but even if you fail, you'll know more, and be better able to make your own decisions.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Pipe Smoking...





This is actually a blog I wrote for the site of a friend of mine. Since I'm lazy I thought I'd post it here too. The usual punctuation and grammatical errors should be expected.

The most common question I get when people find out that I make pipes for a living is, “So, do you smoke them too?” to which I answer that, yes, yes I do. What I really want to say is, “What do you think, you dimwitted twit?” Mainly this is because I already know what the follow-up statement will be, and that is: “Smoking’s bad for you, you know.” It’s at this point where the internal censor needs to kick in for a second time, and instead of saying, “Holy crap! Really!? I had no clue!” I simply shrug and continue on.

Yes, news flash, smoking is bad for you. I have no doubt whatsoever that compounds found in burning tobacco are doing horrible, nasty, and possibly immoral things to me on a cellular level. Since the 1964 Surgeon General’s report came out there has been a huge amount of scientific evidence to prove this to be true. Denying it only goes to place you in that special genre of misguided souls containing such people as the Flat Earthers, and the good folks at the Westboro Baptist Church.

Am I addicted and simply unable to control my impulses? Nope. When I’m busy, weeks can go past without having a pipe, not a big deal. Even when I do have the time, it's rare for me to have more than three or four pipes a week. So what gives? Why would I expose myself to this plague on society, this demon weed? The answer is simple. Because I want to. I understand the risks and I chose to participate, just like people who ride motorbikes, skydive, and eat deep dish pizza. That’s right folks, for the last half-century, your stereotypical tweed-wearing pipe smoker has actually been a bad-ass risk-taker on par with formula one driver.

What people seem to lose sight of, especially when the subject of tobacco comes up, is that too much of anything will kill you. This might sound a bit doomy, but in the end we’re all on a one-way trip. No matter how many veggies we eat, how long we spend at the gym, or how many vitamins we pop, we’re all going to shuffle off our mortal coils and go the way of the Norwegian Blue Parrot. Too much meat, too much sun, hell, too much Kale is bad for you! I think sometimes as a society, we've fooled ourselves into believing that if we just go on that one new diet, swallow that one special pill, we’ll somehow live forever. Sadly, I'm leaning toward the opinion that there’s more truth to that saying about, “death and taxes,” than there is, “better living through chemistry.”




This isn't to say that I’m going to smoke like a tire fire, and stuff my face with bacon-double cheeseburgers from now until they plant me in the ground. I've got a wife and daughter that I dearly love, and want to hang around with. I’m enjoying my ride on planet Earth, and think it would be just spiffy to see another forty or fifty trips around the sun. For me though, living well means that sometimes I indulge myself. Sometimes I eat that bacon-double cheeseburger, drink a few beers, and sometimes, by Jupiter’s frothy beard, I’ll smoke my pipe, and enjoy the hell out of it.

At this point, if the person I’m chatting with is genuinely interested, the next question will be, “But, why smoke a pipe? Pipes are what old men smoke!” Here I’ll admit, smoking a pipe has a certain image that accompanies it. We've touched on it already. Pipes are seen as something for the aficionados of tweed and Early Bird Specials at the local country restaurant. Seriously, Google it, I’ll wait. Type in: “Pipe smoking images,” and see what comes up… You guessed it, we have an excess of elderly white guys in button-up shirts and ties, looking contemplative while posing for black and white photographs. The Tolkiens and Einsteins of the world are heavily represented, along with a few sufficiently craggy sea dogs, and, for good or bad, a smattering of Hipsters. So, why?

I guess a part of it is that I've never been all that image conscious. I don’t particularly care if I wear the latest fashions or drive the sexiest car. I wear an oilskin duster when I walk my daughter to school in the rain, because it’s the only coat I've found that can keep my pants dry when the rain is really coming down. I wear Doc Martins because I know that I can go a couple years between purchases. I hate shopping for new boots. I drive a Honda Fit because it’s awesome on gas, feels like you’re driving a go-cart, and can fold down to fit an eight-foot book case and three people comfortably. I’m not terribly interested in fitting an image as much as I am having the things I own fit me.

Now we come back to the pipe. There are a lot of things that are attractive to me about smoking a pipe. First and foremost, I think it appeals to my obsessive geek personality. I don’t mean I like to smoke pipes because Bilbo did, and that, deep down, I really just want to be a Hobbit. I like pipes for the same reason I like to roast my own coffee, write novels, grow my own tobacco, run long distances, and play the mandolin. Pipe smoking is something I can get passionate about.

When I smoke my pipes I’m a participant, not a passive observer simply drawing smoke into my lungs for a nicotine fix. If I wanted that, I could slap a nicotine patch onto my forehead and call it a day. There is a process, a learning curve to smoking a pipe. A pipe requires you to learn how to pack, light, tamp and draw properly keep it lit. It makes you pay attention to it in a way that neither cigars, nor cigarettes do. When I smoke a pipe I’m on a quest. Why do some tobaccos smoke better in different pipes? Why does one pipe sing after a week to sit, while another is ready to go after only a day? When will I again smoke that perfect bowl of tobacco? The one where the stars align and a divine shaft of white light beams down and strikes upon me a la the Quantum Leap opening credits.

When I smoke my pipe there is a history between us. This was the pipe my wife bought for me. This is the pipe I bought from Jay, Trever, Neill, or Rad. This is the pipe I smoked around the campfire that summer. This is the pipe I smoked, looking out the window and watching the snow fall. This is the pipe I smoked holding the hand of my wife on that warm summer night, sitting out in the back yard and looking at the stars.

Pipes become your companions. You know their quirks, what they like and don’t like. Pipes aren't throw-away pieces of tech, they will not be obsolete once the new update comes out. You won't remember what smartphone you had during a memorable event years down the road, but you'll remember the pipe you smoked. You have a version 1.0 pipe and it’s going to stay that way forever. It is a piece of permanency in a throw-away society. A pipe has a soul, or maybe it just becomes a part of yours. Either way, that’s why I like pipes.

PS If you are really interested in seeing the kinds of pipes that I make you can visit my website.


Sunday, 19 October 2014

Wherein I post an early excerpt from Chapter one of my novel...

**Warning** This is an unedited sample. Poor Grammar, bad language, worse punctuation, and violence ahead.




In a suburb of Vancouver a woman named Elanor was dying. This came as a huge surprise to her for a number of very good reasons. Firstly, she was for all intents and purposes immortal. Secondly, the one who was responsible for her demise was, in her valued opinion, a complete tool.

Knox was attempting to act suave and in-control as he sat on the edge of her mahogany desk and was failing spectacularly at either impression. A sheen of beaded sweat glimmered across his bald head, and his frantic eyes bulged behind round lenses, reminding her of a small, overly-excited terrier trying to impersonate John Lennon.

To one side watched his long-time companions, Mister Bone and Madame Rag. One was a huge man, and the other a hard-faced woman, cruelty, and smiling satisfaction respectively in their eyes. Elanor, by contrast, lay slumped and confused on her laboratory floor in front of Knox’s well-polished shoes.

“So, here we are Elanor,” Knox said in a tight voice, trying to sound casual. “It’s strange, and you might not believe me, but I think I’m going to actually miss you. I've spent nearly three whole centuries waiting to kill you, and watching you die was one of those things I knew I could always look forward to. To use a modern term, you were on my bucket list.” An idea lit up his face and he took a cell phone out of his pants pocket.

“And while we are on the topic of modern…” He twiddled and tapped the screen a few times and a small light lit up on the reverse side next to a small white piece of fruit. He pointed the miniature camera lens at her, “So I’ll be able to look back at our final time together,” he explained.

Elanor looked at him with disbelief. Her confusion didn't stem from shock, or from any lack of recognition of the man who sat before her. She knew more than she really wanted to know about who and what Knox was. Her bewilderment arose from the impossibility of what he’d done. If the cats of the world had suddenly revealed to humankind that they had a secret space program and that they would soon be sending a Calico to the moon, she couldn't have been more surprised. Knox being able to kill her was simply beyond the realm of possibility. It flat out shouldn't have been an option.

For thousands of years humankind worked to discover the secret of immortality through alchemy - everybody knew that. What wasn't widely known was that a little over five centuries before, they’d succeeded. Alchemists were successful in creating a substance which not only stopped physical ageing, but healed all but the most grievous injuries. They called it, Panacea,. The guild that sprung up to aid in Alchemical training and management, was, by necessity, picky about whom it chose to advance. Knox was not to be one of those people.

To his credit, Knox was intelligent and ambitious, even if those traits were most often exercised at the expense of others. Elanor always thought that Knox’s main stumbling block was his simple lack of a moral compass. Ruthlessness was a trait that was sometimes called for and necessary, but it was only one tool among many. Knox was ruthless when it was neither necessary nor called for. In an age when witnessing death was as simple as a walk to the gallows, Knox had appalled an entire nation with his disregard for life and had nearly been mobbed for it. He had, in fact, been burned in effigy and forced from his home by the angry crowd. She’d been present at the near-lynching, and unknown to Knox, had actually drawn the round spectacles on the dummy before it was lit and fired. Only police intervention and a quick dash out the back door in disguise had saved him that time. It was his genuine confusion over why people would do such a thing, was what finally convinced Elanor that Knox was a high-functioning sociopath long before any such term had entered the English language.

Anyone acquainted with Knox for any length of time grew to recognized this fundamental lack, and his advancement in the Guild slowed, stalled, and eventually stopped over a century before. No master would continue his training beyond a certain critical point, and over the years his frustration and sullen anger at his lot had grown. Knox had become a bitter little footnote in the history of Alchemy. At least he should have been. It seemed as though Knox had other plans, which apparently included the heretofore unthinkable act of murdering her.

The crap part about the whole thing was that it should never have worked. Finding a way to circumvent Panacea was nearly as big a breakthrough as finding it. Outside of burning a body to fine ash - which was a task surprisingly harder to do than it sounded - it was a near-certainty that if you had Panacea in your veins, you would live to see the another day.

For five centuries she’d trained, studied and sacrificed for her knowledge and power. As a ranking alchemist of the Red, Elanor was a master who could sublimate the very anima of life out of empty air. It infused her to her bones, and the simple knife that Knox stabbed into her forearm a few moments before, should have been no more than a painful, but momentary distraction. The whole point of putting all the hard work and sweat into becoming immortal was to avoid situations exactly like this one, yet here she was anyway. As she'd always suspected, dying sucked.

The knife, which still protruded from her arm like some horrible metallic parasite, was tricked. It had to be, no poison could overcome Panacea, the knife would have to be magical. She’d felt the consuming agent rush into her body the moment the knife’s metal touched her blood. Elanor’s mind skittered over centuries of learning and research. Everything she’d ever heard of about poisons, every rumour and mention. Moments of her life drifted away like the last few clinging pieces of dandelion fluff to a naked stem, and there was nothing, no knowledge or last minute plan that would save her life. It seemed this ambulatory shit was right. She would die, and from the speed the poison was working, it would be soon. Her mind kept working as Knox continued to record her final moments.

If she had to die, was there anything else she could do to hurt Knox? An idea occurred, a horrible ghastly thing that sent a shudder down her poison-wracked body. Her mind recoiled from it, as though reaching through a darkened cupboard she’d suddenly felt an abnormally large spider caress her hand.

“Tell me how it feels to die,” Knox prompted, bringing her attention back to him. Looking at him she suddenly knew, knew in her heart that he wasn't the one to have discovered the poison. Knox always considered himself a scholar par excellence and if he discovered a way to get around Panacea he’d be crowing about it from the rooftops. He’d be gloating over his discovery, not simply her impending death. There was no question, Knox was someone’s cats-paw. “How does it feel to know that I've killed you?” he continued peering at her through the phone.

“Knox,” she asked after a moment, trying to keep her voice steady, “is it possible you’re suffering from mercury poisoning?”

Mister Bone snorted, and Knox’s cool, urbane, mask instantly shattered. “Shut up! Shut your foul mouth!” He screamed. Spittle flew from his quivering lips and a veins bulged on his reddening head. “I’ve killed you, you will die and I’ll still be here to piss on your rotted corpse! You don’t get to make jokes out of this!”

“I always though,“ she gasped, ignoring him “that poison was a woman’s weapon, Knox. Perhaps there is something that you need to tell us all?” She let her eyes linger on his crotch.

Knox was one of those people who had difficulty keeping up with shifting social concepts. Equality between the sexes, being one he’d never let himself adopt. During the course of a normal lifetime it wasn’t too big of a deal. Outdated racist, or sexist attitudes would die with their owners in eighty or ninety years. A lot of people had grandparents who made embarrassingly inappropriate comments. It was uncomfortable, but par for the course. Knox hadn’t changed his tune in three hundred years, and it was almost embarrassingly easy to tweak his old fashioned sensibilities.

Knox screamed in rage, swung his leg back and kicked her hard in the hip. It went numb for a few moments before the pain came flooding into her. She shuddered, but fought against the burning ache, she wouldn't give him the satisfaction of knowing how painful the kick had been. There was no way this man would get the best of her in her final moments. In that moment, Elanor came to a decision. She had studied, researched, and sacrificed for five centuries to be where she was and there was no way a foul stain on the bedsheet of history like Knox would be the end of her without violent, bloody, payback. Blood dripped steadily crimson down her arm and a consuming cold, cramping, pain ground through her like a knife’s edge scraping against rusted metal. Elanore could feel Knox’s poison spreading through her limbs burning and eating up the Panacea in her blood as it progressed. The poison was working so quickly! She wouldn't have thought it was possible if it wasn't happening to her personally. Her fingertips were numb now and blackened visibly at the tips as she watched. It was time for hard decisions and in a kind of horrified dispassion she examined the one terrible plan she’d been able to come up with.

“Come on Elanor, you must have something to say,” Knox cajoled, squatting down close to her with that damned phone in her face. “You've never been afraid of talking in the past, even when you should have kept your fucking mouth shut.” It was time, she made up her mind. Despite what Knox’s knife had done, she was still an alchemist of the Red and had the skills to prove it. He’d even given her the tools she needed to put her travesty of a plan into action.

Carefully, deliberately, she gripped the handle of the knife and pulled it free from her left forearm. The pain made her want to vomit. Then she actually did vomit, yellow bile, bitter and acid splashed to the polished stone in front of her. Blood flowed faster down her arm to join the pool on the floor. She could tell from the feel of the blade that its trick was gone, nothing was left behind but an echo of resonance.

Knox backed up and stepped away from the expanding puddle of blood and sick with a look of revulsion. It was clear that her death was not living up to the billing he had in mind. That didn't surprise her, Knox liked his deaths sanitary, with a minimum of fuss, and usually at the hands of others. At least the old Knox had.

“Knox,” she rasped, grinning bleakly and preparing herself for what was to come, “if you thought that was gross, watch this, you spineless shit.” With a trembling arm she dipped a blackened finger into a puddle of her own cooling blood and quickly sketched a symbol on the stone in front of her. She couldn't feel it when her finger touched the floor, all sensation had left her limbs, but it was a simple enough shape and she completed it easily. The next part would be harder, much harder. She made the necessary mental preparations then with a short violent spasm, she plunged the knife into her own abdomen. The symbol on the floor flared blue briefly, a hundred arc welders flashing at once, then the light faded away leaving an indistinct blackened mark burned into the polished stone of the floor.

“What are you doing?” Knox asked shakily blinking his eyes. “What the hell do you think you’re doing!?” He asked again his voice pitched higher and panicked.

At first nothing seemed to happen, then a gasp of pain emerged from Elanor's mouth. She threw her head back in pain and her eyes opened showing whites turned completely red. Blood began to sheet down her cheeks and she turned her head and gave Knox a death's head smile that would make nightmares flinch and look away.

Knox peered at her, partly blinded from her working, then scrambled backward over the desktop and away from her clearing the desktop of her monitor and making a sudden flurry of papers. He joined his companions who were watching the gruesome spectacle uncertainly.

Cramps and spasms visibly gripped Elanor's body, she screamed shrilly, but it lasted only a moment before it aborted in a horrible gurgle. Her mouth opened wide, wider than it should have been possible, like a snake unhinging its jaw for an overlarge meal. Knox expected another scream, to see more vomit, or maybe blood. What he did not expect was, quivering, blood-smeared flesh to emerge, shapeless, veined and lumpy as it rushed from her widely gaping mouth. It reached and poured from her in a torrent. It writhed and convulsed out, and as it did Elanor’s body became less and less, a balloon slowly deflating.

Knox's nerve broke then, and he dashed to the exit of the workshop followed closely by his two companions. He turned at the door to the room in time to see Elanor's form continue to empty itself onto the floor in a horrible liquid noise. When it seemed no more could come out of her withered husk, her legs and trunk began to convulsively be drawn up toward her still grotesquely open jaws and out onto the quivering pile of flesh. There was a horrible crackling of bone and cartilage as the process continued. Shards of pale bone disgorged into the horrible mass. Soon only Elanor’s head was left. Skin tightened gruesomely against bone and the skull shattered inside-out to sink into the bloody pile.

There was a sudden and profound quiet ringing in the room. Knox swallowed, still breathing hard. He’d expected the death to be more… sanitary. He glanced briefly at the mass that had been Elanor and swallowed. Whatever she’d been trying to do there at the end clearly hadn't worked. No knife was worth digging through that to retrieve.

“What the hell was that!” Asked Rag into the sudden silence.

“Something you don’t see every day,” answered Bone, apparently not affected in the least by the scene.

Knox didn't reply, but mopped his pale forehead with a shaking hand. “Madame Rag,” Knox swallowed, “Mister Bone, we are here for a purpose. Let’s be about it”

The three moved from the door, around the desk and its scattered papers, and into the workshop.

Back at the desk, unnoticed, or perhaps avoided, the mound of flesh on the floor began to quiver. Slowly, gradually, the movement became more coordinated. It undulated, stretched, and contracted in on itself in an unsettling manner then lay almost completely still.































Friday, 26 September 2014

The Wimminz

!!!WARNING!!!: Strong language and poor punctuation ahead.



Lately there has been something of a shitstorm on social media around the idea of sexual equality. I've been of the opinion that assholes from both sides of the fence have sullied the questionably good name of both Men's Rights and Feminism, and that I would prefer not to be associated with either one. There is a fine line where justifiable outrage ceases to be meaningful, and instead becomes inward-gazing, shrill and masturbatory. Both of these groups have large factions that have gleefully sprinted across that line and kept going off into the sunset. Why would I want to be painted with the same brush as these people? Recently, though, events have forced me to re-evaluate how I identify in this debate.

I try to go through life treating people as I'd hope to be treated, and going under the assumption they have a working brain, regardless of where they fall on the gender scale. This doesn't mean that I think that deep down people are all the same. In my opinion they aren't, and honestly why would I want them to be? There are days when my wife tells me she feels safe in my arms, or I see a beautiful woman walk past, and I'll be grinning like an idiot for hours. A happy heterosexual male enjoying one of the perks of life. I'm not advocating for a boring world where people should hide what they are, or be ashamed of it. I want to see a world where people embrace their sexual identity, but still are able to see other people as something more than mobile sex organs, and possibly, just possibly, even treat each other with some basic fucking humanity. Just because we aren't all the same doesn't mean that we aren't all human.

Up until fairly recently, I had the mistaken opinion that my way of viewing the world was the norm, and that the dudebros and the angry militant feminists were the rare exception to the rule. I somehow convinced myself that these two groups were roughly equal and, like matter and anti-matter, they would hopefully annihilate each other in an expanding ball of internet flames, hate, and intolerance. Recent events seem to imply I was wrong. These two forces aren't equal. As a matter of fact, they are vastly unequal.

For every feminist website cheerfully calling for personal anecdotes of women beating up on their boyfriends, (looking at you Jezebel,) there are a dozen organized campaigns pandering to the douchebags who seem to think that having a penis and access to a computer gives them a free pass to be hateful, violent, shits. I'm thinking about #The Fappening, the treatment of Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn, and the reaction to Emma Watson's recent address to the UN #HeforShe. Because, let's face it, nothing lets the world know that you've got a rock-solid base to your motivations like invading somebody's privacy and the threat of rape and murder.

The truly nausea-inducing part of the whole thing is how many brainless fuckmuppets this has brought slinking out of the woodwork, most of whom seem to think that the ends justifies the means. Regardless of your motivation in identifying with these campaigns, or the purity of your intentions, here's the thing: Any time a group you associate with threatens to rape or kill because they disagree with somebody else's opinion, you might want to think about what side you are on because there is simply no excuse to be made. Let me say that again, just to be clear. I don`t care if you think somebody`s girlfriend boinked the entire NBA, NHL, and NFL in a bathtub of bribe money while singing, Ì`ve got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts. There is no excuse.

So here I am, looking at the events of the last few months and sitting on the fence doesn't seem to be much of an option. Feminism has left a bad taste in my mouth over the years, but the outpouring of hate and entitlement on the side of these online campaigns spearheaded by men and boys has been repulsive to a degree I wouldn't have before though possible.

I have a wife, a daughter, mother and friends who should be able to receive the same respect and opportunity that I do. Hell, I have gay and transgender friends who will have to put up with bile and hate from these same dreadnought-class douche canoes. Why should I watch in silence while people I know and love are marginalized and debased because someone with a dick feels threatened?

Yes, there are women out there who hate men, and who call themselves feminists. Yes, there are times when being a man is a check mark against you, and it sucks. It should be noted though, that these kinds of feminists are the shrill minority, and the discrimination we face as men is minimal in comparison to the shit that the 50% non-male identifying part of the population has to deal with. It doesn't make it right, but neither does it change the facts. I don't agree with all of the different schools of feminism, but a majority of them seem to think that equality between the sexes is a pretty spiffy idea. So, if valuing equality makes me feminist, I guess I am. The other options are no longer anything I can live with as a man who loves women.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Are you there world? It's me, Stephen.

So, here we are. My very first blog. Since I don't have packs of panting, moistened groupies following me around and hanging on my every word, I suppose my novel isn't published yet. Truth be told, I haven't even finished it, but I'm about 85 000 words closer than I was when I started. I estimate another 50 000 words before I reach author-groupie critical mass. Because, honestly, what writer doesn't spend months in the dark behind the keyboard in the slim hope of being published and some hot action from literary groupies?

I've decided to write this blog as a sort of mental emetic; and you, my dear  readers, shall be the lucky recipients of the runoff. From that description, I'm sure you can't wait! Topics will vary, as will frequency. I shall warn you now, I am as inconstant as a rampant ferret.  A mongoose with the seven year itch, and my blogs will probably just end up being silly as this one seems to be becoming. Also, my punctuation is horrible. You shall have to deal as I must. My independent clauses are codependent and fear the use of commas as my cats fear the vacuum.  

See? Just silliness.