It’s Been a While, Let’s Catch Up!

Hello fellow lounging reptilians, I have returned from an entire semester of classes and a long summer break. My mind feels refreshed yet obstacles always seem to magically appear when inconvenient. Just like leaving a piece of bread in the toaster and having the machine tell me to do my taxes and fill out a new 401(k) plan before I can get my toast. My dreams seemed to have a severe lack of imagination and became astonishingly mundane (at least I sleep well enough, I think).

Unsurprisingly it has been a tiring period for a lot of people due to the COVID-19 pandemic and just the fact that this is 2020. As I’m typing this I’m sure an ancient Neptunian temple had risen from the bottom of the ocean and summoned a 100-foot man-eating seahorse, tragic. Due to the COVID pandemic I was busier than usual at my job, thus leading to severe exhaustion. It was the combination of wrapping up classes, having to do twice the amount of work at my job, and not really having the correct mindset to deal with juggling so many writing projects. The work load was stressful, so around late July and early August I made some schedule adjustments just so I can have spare time to focus on my hobbies.

As well as just breathing and functioning like a normal human being. What this allowed me to do was prioritize writing whatever I felt like writing for a brief period of time. Then taking what I had written, edit the documents, and make sure I had something solid. Now the difference between what I had put up before versus what I plan on putting up now is mainly more posts that expand my interests. Despite hating the word I’m about to use, I am a gamer and I do enjoy the medium thoroughly as well as discussing it.

Beforehand I was worried about revealing this aspect of what I like to do simply because I didn’t want to alienate readers. This led me to an important point that I should have realized the moment I put out my first book — one cannot write something for everyone. No matter how much effort is put into something and how broadly appealing it may seem, there are always going to be people who just aren’t interested. This is bad news for my new slice-of-life book about Bigfoot, in which he works in a post office and uncovers a conspiracy that all the underpaid staff workers were woodland animals. Focusing on trying to cater to everyone was this unintentional priority that I had to eliminate.
Once I accepted what I was doing, I was able to move on and freely write an entry that I always wanted to talk about. However because it was ‘videogame’ related my brain went, “Ew, why are you writing about this icky Mountain Dew slime nonsense?” The blog-post will be up soon, but I wanted to look over it again and add any necessary finishing touches. Aside from that I got another ‘Bad Animal Poetry’ coming (this one took some DIGGING around to write) and some surprises. What I’m not guaranteeing is a specific time and date these will go up. The plan is to just stealth drop a few and have a casual flow of content going that will make the reader and myself satisfied.
I have also switched from using Facebook to Twitter due to being incredibly overwhelmed on using both simultaneously (also Facebook doesn’t seem to leave me alone about putting a post up every single day, leave me alone Zuckerberg). My Twitter profile is very bare-bones, but once I get this post up I’ll do my best to maintain it. So that’s pretty much everything, thank you for your support.

(Twitter profile is here.)

(I know this isn’t the most subtle plug, but if you haven’t checked out The Quietus Breaker: Brother Death then please give it a look and leave a review. Thanks!)

Short Story: Path of the Recycled One (Part III)

For Part II, click here!

My mind was melting, unwrapping the core of what I once was. No longer obeying any rules of sentience or being endowed with life. I was trapped in a luminous prison, this body was not mine to use. It was only a vessel that was given to me as a cruel joke, only to then get taken away. The existentialism hit me like it was coming from a sack filled with ground fruit. It didn’t help that the Watchers proceeded to use me as a way to water the soil beneath the tree, at least waiting until the Laborers were finished.
I was the last piece to this forest’s unbearable puzzle. The repetition, despite being stuck here for only an hour now, made this process feel like an eternity. There was this wicked energy to the forest, like my existence owed it something in return. How do I address concerns to something that says nothing back?
Paralyzed and drained, I wonder if I could muster any strength to say something. As I was picked up by one of the Watchers I then ask with a dryness to my voice, “Hey, could…could you put me down?” The Watcher surprisingly reacted with its big void-gazing eyes. I turned from any visual contact with the Watcher as I gawk at the massive tree. The trunk was thick and the stem sprouted from it had elevated toward the heavens, bound with an equally tall wooden altar.
I was unable to understand how such a massive tree could stand in such a parallel position with this structure. As it turns out there were ropes tethered around the upper portion of the stem. Branches are grown to equal length, but were seemingly trimmed. What was disturbing to me were these small green orbs dangling at the top of the tree, an ominous nascence for this organic structure. The sight of these green orbs were agitating me, no longer was I dour…I was mad.
My body was slightly reverting back to normal due to this violent sensation, yet only for a minute. As I was being carried I whistled at a nearby Laborer and ask, “Hey, can you understand me?”

The Laborer slowly gazes at my wrapper as it then musters with all its strength, “You…should…not…be…here.”

“Clearly, yet here I am having this conversation with you. Tell me, who is in control of this forest?”

The Laborer gave me a vague answer, “A dark peel maintains a red blotch, holding on for dear life.”

“Oh no, not a riddle.” I try to peacefully transition to the next question as it still carries me, “Listen, how about you escort me to this ‘dark peel’ entity so we can have a chat.”
Still no response from the Watcher. “I cannot do anything, my face is the only thing that moves. Do not force me to make small-talk, because I will. I am very bad at it.” The Watcher obeys my order and slowly takes me deeper into the forest.
The Laborers and Watchers stop briefly to stare at me as I was taken deeper into the forest. I could feel a tension in the moist air, as if the forest was truly calling for me. The water droplets fiercely shaking on the leaves, the mist thickening, and the wind becoming more combative. Oh yes, I have truly made this forest deity upset. After a long journey, we finally reach our destination — a cave.
Unlike most of the forest, the entrance to this required pushing through thick discarded branches that had wilted leaves. The entirety of the walls keeping this cave up were remains of other trees that seemed to have died off. Near the center was a patch of incredibly moist soil that looked overly drenched. A single ray of light pierced through the tip of the cave and briefly blinded me. Once I brushed past the light I then realize what was in front of me.
It was another tall tree held together with a metallic altar, although this one was in worse condition. Branches were so long they were able to touch the soil beneath it. Leaves had tiny holes punctured through them, I did not want to know what could have done that. The ropes were falling apart as the support barely kept the stem standing upright. Yet what this tree had plenty of that the other tree didn’t were these dark red orbs, wrinkled too. What I am witnessing is the deity of this forest, a red multi-faced monstrosity.
The Watcher sets me down in front of the deity’s moving vines as it then abruptly leaves. I say to the departing Watcher, “I must thank you for listening to me, I was getting rather lonesome.” The Watcher for a split second turns around to look at me to acknowledge my cheeky sense of humor, and then ventures back to the forest.
There I was, face to face with the actual cause behind the Laborers and Watchers losing their minds. I attempted to gain the attention of the leaf-drenched leviathan in my paralyzed state, “I don’t know where exactly you are, but you know I am here!”

A loud voice ruptures from the tip of the structure, “We are aware of your presence you despicable and useless vessel!”

“How endearing, I get to be called despicable!” A large vine uncurls from the top of the tree as it lowers itself down to my eye level. Several other vines unwind as they all position themselves in front of me, with their strange dark wrinkly orbs in front of my face. Each orb starts to crack, revealing the faces of this entity.
Their shape perfectly rounded, bruised, and covered with deep wrinkles. All of them having small bright red blotches on their surfaces. The riddle from the Laborer had finally made sense.

The red orb in front of me spoke, “For something who ranks far below our authority, you sure have a way of making your disgusting presence known.”

“Maybe this wouldn’t be such a big deal if you would just talk to those who you consider as lesser. What even is your name?”

The red orb on the far left says, “What makes you think I will give you our name?”

“Did you refer to yourself as ‘I’?”

A slightly smaller red orb speaks up, “We appeared to have made a mistake. Do not concern yourself with our politics.”

“I’m going to ignore your fallacy. However, I am surprised at how enlightened you are.”

“Are you attempting to complement us so you can escape punishment?”

“Of course not! I only ask your name since my demise is not too far away, is it not?”

The blob-ish red orb at the top mutters with anger, “We’re not telling you!”

Suddenly the small red orb hiding beneath the blob-ish red orb says, “Trátaí-Rí.”

The sudden name reveal did not thrill the blob-ish red orb. I on the other hand was pleased to know that this deity had a name. “Ah, well at least I can say that I finally met the almighty Trátaí-Rí!”

The red orb at the bottom peaks its head to ask, “Then you know the might we yield, correct?”

“Is that what you call it now? You all seem to be scattered with your opinions and ideologies…”

A random red orb swings in front of me, “We carry a burden, which is to extend the lifecycle of this forest! Yes we treat the guests as commodities for the health of our lineage, but do you see that there is no other way? I dare you to fulfill our role and see how little control one being such as yourself has! Our lineage is the only lineage that matters in this forest!”

“I do not think it’s working considering how much of a mess the forest looks right now.”

“It is operational.”

“No, having all your Laborers and Watchers glued to one tree isn’t operational, it’s meaningless!” All I could do was gaze around the cave that is filled with a myriad of pale shapes and branches. Life that once was brimming in these trees were drained by this creature. “You could have had a utopia, a pantheon of deities such as yourself – instead you ruined those chances!”

This red orb continues to talk for the rest of the other repulsive red orbs, “You assume this to be a monotheistic forest when you are so-so wrong.”

“I just think you all are nothing but a mad batch of fools who think you all think alike. When in reality all of you are far more different than each are willing to admit.”

“You lack true understanding, did you not notice the tree the Laborers were tending to?”

It took me a second to realize what they were talking about, and then I thought of the green orbs. “You’re attempting to duplicate yourselves.”

“With the most potent nutrients, purest liquids obtained by the givers, and a boost in willpower. Our next life will be breathtaking.”

“Come to think of it, you also seem familiar the more I look at your ‘fascinating’ faces.”

“That’s impossible, we have never met before.”

A brief flashback rummaged through my head, during a long reprehensible phase when I was in a ivory-colored and cold room. There were multiple alien objects in this room, but among them was this clear prison with those pathetic red orbs. The weakness of these red orbs were revealed to me, so I ask the orb in front of me, “Do you remember your predecessors?”

“Why yes, they went off to fulfill their duties for a greater cause. It is tradition.”

“Then you should know what happens to them, yes?”

“No, why would I? I — ‘we’ are a great being with intellect that cannot be rivaled.”

“See, I have bad news…I was stuck in a bad place. They were in this bad place with me, looking like they were having a more miserable time than I was.”

I tick off the large bulb-ish red orb at the top, “You’re lying!”

The small red orb underneath the big one says, “Calm down!”

I continue to sow the seeds of anxiousness into the morons. This was to specifically anger the hulking red orb to see if it could pull the stem off the tattered rope. It was a far-shot plan, but one that could see the topple of this god the moment they make contact with the ground. “To be truthful I bring no evidence to suggest this to be the case, but a god knows when one is lying correct?”
In a fit of rage the large bulb-ish red orb attempts to reach me by thrusting its branch at me. I kept pestering it, “Suspicious, you seem to be upset. Care to explain why you look so expanded?” The derogatory remark was enough to get the red orb to thrust off the metal altar. Ropes were then snapped off as the entirety of the tree slowly crumbles to the ground.
Each red orb was greatly panicking, as did I since I had no plan for escaping. The stem as well as its branches had toppled on top of me, knocking me out briefly. I awoke to find myself underneath some hole-filled leaves and a strange moving yellow string with eyes. To my surprise I found myself able to get up on both feet as well as witnessing a corpse of the bulb-ish red orb. It was a gruesome sight, although not enough for me to not want to laugh directly at one of its faces.
After I finished laughing I could feel the cave start to crumble. The motion of the leaves and the droplets splattering on to the soil were warning me to get going. I then ran out of the lair of the Trátaí-Rí, not looking back. A crashing ‘thump’ was heard right as I left and the disappearance of the white noise. Then there was peace, the forest was finally safe again.

End of Part III

Tonal Travesty Tales: A Dearly Murky Summer (Part III)

For Part II, click here!

Veronica’s blood boiled with anticipation, the void she felt in her heart was filled in with raw purpose. After speaking to Kell she returned home with an excited smile on her face. Wendy was worried when she saw her barge through that door, but remembered how eager and strange she was at that age too. Classes were normal as usual the day after. The message inbox on her phone was filled with direct orders from Kell, who had put heavy responsibility on Veronica’s shoulders.
There was this unintended strict coaching method behind Kell’s messaging. These messages were overwhelming but punctual in their execution, it was enough for Veronica not to feel burdened with overbearing responsibility. Code words were used to describe the OU football team and their correlation to the Foxes. The offensive linemen were regarded as Fence Rippers, running backs were Grass Passengers, and the quarterback was the Foul Taker…to name a few examples. No word of mouth or information was known as to where these players disbanded once practice was over.
The hurdle unfortunately for Veronica was Henry, who is trying to get into the team. Veronica knew that Henry would be a jar of awkward tension if unsealed, especially for someone aiming to be the next big quarterback for the team.
The only place Veronica could see herself being concealed from the team was behind the rickety, mildly rusted, and stench covered bleachers. She couldn’t fit underneath the front seats so she had to carefully peak her head behind the steel constructs to see what the players were doing. She also had to be wary of security if she was stationary for too long. Knowing what she signed up for, also accepting that she was not that sneaky, Veronica took out her phone to write notes.
During her frantic typing she was then approached by someone, it was Evan. Veronica gave a slight yelp as she turns around to confront Evan; a manatee with a ‘Big Seaweed Gulp’ in one flipper and a laptop in the other. Veronica angrily whispers, “Evan, what are you doing here? How did you see me?”

Evan with his expanded manatee lungs says, “Anyone can see you a mile away, and I know how much you hate these bleachers since they’re covered with soda stains and hot dog grease. So what are ‘you’ doing here?” Elevating his vocals as he said, “You.”

Veronica gave a pitiful look at Evan, “Well this sucks, I can’t back out of this lie filled corner now.”

“Please tell me what’s going on.”

“I will, but let’s talk about this somewhere more privately.” Both agree to go to the library as they find the most discreet location to talk. This location was in a corner of the library near the history section, which usually had no one there.
Veronica sits close to Evan as his big moist body plops down in a chair with his tail flipper sticking out. She then regaled Evan on everything that had happened yesterday. She went over who Kell was, his hideout, and this ‘afterschool cold war special’ with the Foxes. If there was anyone Veronica knew she could trust with this information, it was Evan.

Evan covers his mouth with both of his flippers and assertively whispers, “This is insane Veronica, you’re working for a crazy cult leader!”

“But hear me out, he’s not some delusional man who sits in a tent all day and does nothing. He is lost, he has no hope or understanding of what it means to live in a world outside his tent. Maybe there’s a chance that uncovering what the Foxes are planning could bring hope to his life!”

Evan chews the seaweed from his tall plastic drink as he says, “I don’t believe that this man has honest intentions. However the last kind of person I want to be is a terrible friend. If you need my help, I’m in.”

A wide smile grew on Veronica’s face as a comforting warmth uplifted her mood. “Really? You would do that for me Evan?”

“You unfortunately have me as a best friend, which is both a blessing and a curse.” Evan extends his flipper out to Veronica as a kind gesture.

Veronica then grabs his flipper and says, “You’re wrong, because you are the best blessing I could ask for.” She shakes his flipper, motivated by Evan’s kind words.

“I would love more than anything to make Cassie feel jealous about this moment. But seriously, I think she should be left out of this group discussion.”

“She gossip’s like crazy, and if there’s one thing she can’t do it’s stopping herself from knowing about a saucy story.”

“I don’t know if I would describe a feud between cultists as saucy. However Cassie would find a way to make it sound ‘saucy.'”

“We also cannot tell Henry.”

“Yeah, I mean he’s an honest guy, but he also cannot keep a secret either.”

“No, I mean we absolutely cannot tell him!”

The sternness in Veronica’s voice causes Evan to raise his curiosity. “Do you seriously believe he may be involved with this Fox cult?”

“Evan, thinking about this is making me feel really nervous. I don’t know what I would do if he was with the Foxes.”

“There’s only one way to find out, come with me.” Evan thrusts himself out of his seat with his drink and rolls on to the carpet.

Surprised, Veronica raises her hands in disbelief as she says, “We just got here though!”

“Trust me, you’re going to want to see this.”

“I don’t know what ‘this’ is referring to, but okay,” she says as she childishly gets out of her seat. Evan escorts Veronica over to a computer lab in a separate building on the farthest side of the campus. They made their way toward the facility with haste. Evan was quite swift despite being a manatee wearing a shirt, tie, and glasses. Veronica was almost out of breath but was captivated by Evan’s speedy ground flopping.
They finally made it to the computer lab and were able to enter inside without trouble. The room had no staff supervision, which made Veronica question how Evan could just waltz in. “Are you sure it’s okay to be in here?” She says while turning on the lights.

Evan briefly ignores Veronica’s question. He sits his big Manatee-self down at the first seat in the last row of computer desks. Veronica, being mildly worried, stares at Evan to get an answer out of him. Noticing the intense stare, he says, “Sorry, I was busy trying to remember my ‘favorite’ computer.” He says while winking at Veronica.

“I’m lost, what are you doing?”

Evan whispers, “I’m hacking the surveillance cameras around the campus.” His flippers clack against the keyboard as he begins hacking. To Veronica all she could see was a lot of loud flapping and numbers brightly appearing on the monitor. Suffice to say, Veronica was greatly confused about what was happening.

Veronica aggressively whispers back, “Of all the places to do it, why here? And shouldn’t there be someone watching this room?”

“The instructor for this class gave me permission to use it whenever I want. It was his way of saying ‘thanks’ for helping his son out of a cryptocurrency scheme. Trust me when I say you do not want to know the details.”

“Okay, but that doesn’t mean you can just ‘hack it up’ in here!”

“You stole that one from Cassie, didn’t you?”

“No, but I wish she was here so she would slap you out of doing this.” After feeling uneasy, Veronica takes a deep breath. “But thank you anyway.”

“I accept your thanks, but sometimes you got to do the dirty work to get results.”

“Spoken like the shadiest nerd I ever knew.” Within a minute, Evan was able to access the campus cameras and display their feeds through multiple pop-in windows.
He minimized all four windows to fit the screen and to see what was happening. The feed in the top left showed two professors, one having a thick grey beard and the other wearing red suspenders, fondly talking to each other in a hallway. In the feed at the top right was a woman with long amber-colored hair renting a book about Ancient Egypt from the library. The bottom left feed was a scraggly man with a yellow beanie sitting on a bench with his Chocolate Labrador in front of the campus. It was worth noting that the Labrador was so cute that Veronica couldn’t take her eyes off the dog for 18 seconds.
Lastly was a camera feed of the football team leaving the locker room, surprisingly seeming somber for a bunch of stereotypical jocks. Veronica points at the bottom right video feed and asks, “There! Can you see where they’re going?” “Do I look like an amateur at this?” Evan then changes the other video feeds to follow the players. Coincidentally revealing that this hall had an usual amount of security cameras. It did not take long for them to rejoin at a poorly disguised hideout, which was just a classroom with a door painted black. This classroom was used for art courses, specifically for water brush and oil painting.

Evan and Veronica look at each other with giddiness, “Looks like we found their hideout!” As the door to the classroom opens, a hooded figure appears as he pushes the handle. This hooded cloak had fox shaped insignias sewn on to the dark orange fabric. Although it was initially difficult to decipher who was underneath the hood, the two of them were able to piece the clues together as to who it was. Beneath the top of the hood were long slivers of blonde hair and a sturdy jawline.
Recognizing all of these physical traits, Veronica says in turmoil, “Henry.”

Evan jams his manatee nose into the screen as he says, “No way, he’s actually working with the Foxes!”

End of Part III

Short Story: Path of the Recycled One (Part II)

For Part I, click here!

My plastic feet had trouble maintaining balance in the Forest of Labor. The contrast of experiencing the ground’s texture was either smooth soil or kicking against dirt clots. A wide veil of mist made the trek a very tricky one, knowing the right path could dictate a short or long journey. These vague-coded deities and their annoying signs, I blame the water givers just as much as the deity the sunflowers worship for such a blighted day. My delusional mind had believed there was a devious plot against me to have the most aggravating expedition in recent memory.
Luckily I was led to the right path which was a red road with hard and minuscule bumps. Taking this path meant scabs on my feet, but I could at least tell where I was going due to the welcoming red hue in this thick mist. Shortly I witnessed a band of strange beings huddling against an encased torch-light. The torch itself had thick brown wrapping, a shell that prevented its flames from lashing out.
Near the torch was a tall pink-faced orb with a red pointy hat, a four-pronged metal object attached to a carved stick, and a flat-faced iron plate. I calmly approach them and ask, “Greetings, I’m new to the Forest of Labor and need information. I heard some problems needed to be sorted out.” The three of them gave me a blank stare, so I quickly introduce myself, “Funny how I forgot, my name is Tap. I was sent by Frogyo to, let’s say, bury some issues into the deepest holes possible in hopes they do not sprout again.”

The pink-faced orb spoke as dirt fluttered from its ceramic whiskers, “We have received aid? My name is Mogen.” Slowly, Mogen points at the four-pronged metal figure, “this is Sifter,” then at the flat-faced iron plate, “and that is Fossils.”

I say to this band of awkward strangers, “I would say it’s a pleasure to meet you all, but it seems the feeling might not be mutual for specific reasons. Perhaps I’m reading too deeply into your…faces?”

Sifter utters in a mildly aggressive tone, “My friend, you have no idea…”

Mogen moves his massive pink face in front of my view as he says with a curious tone, “You mentioned Frogyo, correct?”

I hesitated for a second to reply, “Yes, do you know Frogyo?”

“Yes, Frogyo used to work with us in the forest. A guardian to keep the pest away from the laborers.”

“You mean the winged beads?”

“Winged…beads? I’m referring to flies.”

I was annoyed, “Ah, the name given by the titans.”

Fossils peaks its flat-face at me and says, “Do you abide by common terminology? You must have been around for quite a while to understand that Titan terminology is the superior terminology.”

I attempted to wave off the nonsense but frustratingly retort with, “A language used by those that refute our presence is a language I’m fine with abandoning. Anyway, why did Frogyo leave?”

Sifter answers, “Frogyo bailed on us after the revolt for selfish reasons.”

Displeased, Mogen says to Sifter, “After I offered a choice.”

Fossils adds on to Mogen’s comment, “Statistically speaking, we knew we weren’t going to stand a chance winning during the revolt. Frogyo was smart and left before trouble happened.”

The confusion was culminating inside my head, so I ask, “There is something crucially important that I’m missing with this story.”

Mogen humbly faces the forest and mentions, “The laborers of the forest were fed up one day with being overworked. Eventually, the laborers conspired with the watchers and our guardian to push against our superiors.”

“Superiors? Is this a group of high intellectual beings doing this or a god pretending to be something it isn’t?”

Fossils moved closer to me as it says, “We do not know. All we can assess is that our orders were given to us by an entity speaking through the trees. We never questioned the entity since we didn’t know what it was.”

“So none of you pursued this entity to find out what it actually was?”

Sifter kicks the dirt as it says, “Have you ever felt something ingrained into your thoughts? Every decision made under harsh supervision? Great punishment that awaited those who questioned something they could not see? One thing I do not regret is pursuing that entity to know why it thinks the way it does.”

Fossils then adds on, “So our superiors, or superior, reconfigured the laborer’s priorities. Instead of functioning as souls with tools, they now function primarily as tools with no souls to keep this forest in perfect balance. Just like the water givers, no rationale, and no intellect.”

Sifter exclaims, “Our brethren were turned to husks with no will of their own. That is all you need to know, stranger.”

Fossils questioned Sifter’s outlook on the matter, “Do you believe that whatever this entity is could punish the laborers that severely? What reason would there be, logic has to be taken into account!”

Taking a deep breath, Mogen explains, “Whatever the reason may be, we have been offered help from Tap.”

I crossed my arms as I state, “To be clear, Frogyo sent me to do this and I offered to help.”

“Yet despite being asked, you are still going to venture into the heart of the forest? That is quite a feat, and it tells me that Frogyo still cares about us.”

Sifter raises its right prong and says, “Or to have this stranger do the dirty work and remove the god from its throne. Leaving Frogyo to claim the forest while the seat is empty.”

Fossils thought differently, “But what would Frogyo gain from controlling the forest? Not to mention are you insinuating that Tap could exterminate this entity?”

I wave my hands up as I say, “I mean if the mailer has come to deliver letters and kill a god then so be it. The only thing I ask is that I get compensated.”

Mogen asks, “Compensated with what exactly?”

“Have any of you heard of the promised land?”

Fossils and Sifter shook their head, but Mogen says, “Only through mentions by passing travelers. If you help us free the laborers and rid this forest of whatever overbearing presence lingers here, I can assist you.”

“Sparks of hope just fluttered down my adorable face,” I say with a monotone voice.

Mogen nods as he slowly hobbles to the torch, “If you go west from here you will find the laborers working around a tree with green orbs on its branches. Find a way to free them and escort them out of the forest.”

“I would assume they would know their way around but so be it, I will hold their hands. How exactly do I free them?”

Fossils explains, “Our best guess would be to move them away from the tree.”

“That cannot be your answer, is that your best guess? Are you not the smart one of this group?”

“We have no information that tells us how this happened or what the entity’s tricks are. All we know is that the laborers are latching on to this tree, like its insides are filled with sucrose.”

Sifter speaks up, “The dirt might have something to do with it.”

Fossils shook its head, “How? There is nothing special about the dirt aside from supplying nutrients for the roots of these trees.”

“It’s just a hunch, calm down.”

I ask, “But a hunch you feel is worth bringing up?”

Sifter wanders around the torch as it explains, “When I was running away after the revolt, the dirt felt like it was trying to grab me with tiny claws. Each one slowly latching on to me like as if it…no, this is nonsense!”

“It was as if the forest was reaching out to you, wanting you back.”

Mogen spoke, “This forest may have had a solid disguise, but now it’s exposed for what it really is. A prison powered by those who were meant to be hollow to begin with. Please Tap, free our brethren.”

I ask, “What happens if I get caught?”

“We don’t know, you will probably force your body over to the entity as it uses your vessel to finish the tree.”

“At least I’d be free from this plastic carapace.”

Sifter says, “But at the expense of losing free will? Yeah, tell that to my family who had it taken away from them. Fun times.”

“Admittedly you all are a sad bunch, so I need as much positivity as I can get. Even if it means giving up.”

Mogen was saddened, “How disturbing.”

“Quite, I’m leaving to solve this issue.” I headed west from the torch-light. The soil was still as uncomfortable as before and the leaves were covered with water drops. Most likely due to condensation from the mist. Aside from drops of water trickling down and leaves brushing against metal encasements, there was this dreadful white noise.
It was a white noise that grew louder the further I traveled into the forest.
The peak of the white noise was when I finally discovered the laborers, sifting near the base of a tall thinly tree with green orbs dangling from above. They looked like Sifter, similar four-pronged metalheads but with different colored bodies — some ranging from yellow to red. Across from the laborers were the watchers that Mogen mentioned. Funny how much the watchers resembled Mogen except for the blue hue of their hats and their smaller size. What I found eerie was their stillness, no physical movement, except for when their bodies slowly rotate when I approach them.
I couldn’t see their feet, neither read their facial structures, and I could feel their ceramic eyes staring at me. My presence was known to them, but I was silent as the laborers mindlessly work around the soil — creating more moisture for the tree. The sound of water drops and bristling leaves was overtaken by the white noise.
My mind was becoming numb, the watchers moved closer.
Whatever sanity I had left was drained, the watchers moved closer.
My limbs and legs felt disembodied, the watchers moved closer.
I woke up and found my plastic body being used as storage, as a water giver was transferring its liquids to me. Each limb was inactive, I was paralyzed and my mind was spiraling away. Was this always going to be my life’s purpose? Or did I never have a choice for anything grander to begin with?

End of Part II

For part III, click here!

Tonal Travesty Tales: A Dearly Murky Summer (Part II)

For Part I, click here!

“You dropped your spearmint gum,” the mysterious boy says sounding exactly like Mario from Super Mario Bros.

Veronica’s eyes fluttered, “Oh, uh, thanks?”

“You’re welcome, bye.” His soul-piercing eyes move away as well as his high-pitched and unusually eccentric voice.

Suddenly Veronica’s Uber arrived, blinding the appearance of the mysterious boy. The driver rolls down the passenger seat window as he says, “What are you looking at, ghosts?”

Veronica points at the direction that the mysterious man was walking, “Did you not…see that man?”

“What man? All I see is a confused young woman, hurry up and get in. I don’t like flies and mosquitoes swarming in here like I’m holding a buffet of rotten garbage and blood packets.”

There was a lot on Veronica’s mind, and there was more to that man’s gaze than she initially thought. She asked the driver, “I have a question.”

“I hope it’s not a broad one kid. I may be full of wisdom but I ain’t full of answers.”

“Um, have you ever seen a boy wearing a biker jacket with a silver wolf medal on his belt?”

“You’re not talking about Kell, right? The one with the soul of the devil and the voice of an angel?”

“You do know him?”

“Only heard stories about the boy, he seems to always linger around specific parts of town at night. He is quite the enigma I’ll tell you that for free.”

“Does he usually hang out around here?”

“Usually I see him hanging around at the abandoned ‘Mouthin’ Donuts.’ Emerging from the building’s shadow, where the workers used to have their smoke breaks.”

“You make it sound like he’s homeless.”

“A man like that makes his home wherever he sees fit.” The driver then transitions to asking Veronica, “Why are you so fascinated with him?”

 “I just think he’s…interesting.” The driver dropped off Veronica in front of her house. The white wooden picket fence and the pink flamingo are still so vibrant even at night. There was something to the appearance of Veronica’s home that felt cozy despite the outdated aesthetic. This was all due to the tremendous house makeover by her mom and pop, Wendy and Chris Idelson. She walks inside and opens the door to see her mom doing crossword puzzles in the kitchen.
Veronica closes the door and utters with mild exhaustion, “I’m home.”

Wendy raises her glasses as she puts her pencil near the newspaper and says, “You’re back this early?”

“Mom, I never stay out late.”

“Oh I know, just teasin’ ya. Hey you want to finish this crossword for me?”

Chris comes out with a finished dinner plate from the living room and says, “If you don’t help her, she’s going to torture me until I give her the answer.”

Veronica jokingly rolls her eyes at her dad as she then says, “Which makes her turn to me when you don’t have the answer anyway.”

Chris gives his daughter a kiss on the forehead as he says, “Exactly.” 

Veronica’s mom raises her right hand and asks, “Can I get an answer?”

Veronica points at the newspaper, “The word is ‘unknowable’, it’s the only 9-letter word that makes sense to fill in there.”

“Well, would you look at that. You’re right!”

“I was right almost 7 hours ago when you asked me the same thing. Plus that newspaper was from last Thursday.”

“I nailed this week’s crosswords, they were too simple for me.”

Phil puts his hands on his hips and asks, “Well if that’s the case then why did this one stump you?”

“I was sidetracked by doing house chores. By the way honey, the desk lamp in the family room needs its lightbulb changed and the bathroom sink is clogged.”

“Those sound like easy fixes to me, I’ll have a look at them first thing tomorrow.” Phil yawns as he leaves the kitchen, but beforehand says to Veronica with a big smile, “Have a good night, Veronica.” Then gracefully side hugs Wendy, “You too, don’t go too hard.”

“Good night, honey.” Wendy turns to Veronica as Phil leaves the kitchen, and says in a cheeky manner, “You know these crosswords ain’t going to fill themselves in.”

“Whatever ‘crossword master.'”

Veronica’s mom laughs as she then asks, “So how was the hangout at the diner?”

“It was fun, Henry paid for all of our meals.”

“Oh that Henry is such a sweetheart, when are you going to ask him out?”

“I…you know there’s papers I need to finish and the homework is piling up.”

“Being a liar and giving excuses are not your best skills Veronica.”

“Look I just haven’t put much thought into it.”

“Alright you excuse-maker, off to bed then!”

 “Night mom!” Veronica felt uneasy while trying to sleep later on, thinking about the mysterious boy and his wolf medal. The darkness swarmed through her mind in an embracing way, increasing her curiosity. During the middle of the night she clutched her pillow tight as she dreamt of meeting him again.
The next morning was quite cheery despite this dark mystery that loomed over Veronica’s head. Wendy was cooking breakfast, making a scrumptious stack of pancakes for Chris.

Veronica slumped her way into the kitchen table as the pans were sizzling. This caught Wendy’s attention as she asks while dusting off the cooking apron she was wearing, “What’s wrong, sweetheart?”

“Just had a rough night sleeping.”

“Well, why is that?”

“Bad dream, also had questions that wouldn’t stop lingering in my head. It was so annoying.”

“Whenever I had questions I always immediately pursued the answers to them. It’s why your father bought me this modern oven instead of a regular stove oven.”

“Why were you thinking about getting a stove oven? Where would you even put it?”

“No clue, but I liked the idea of it — see! Now you have an answer! All you have to do is reach out there, find it, and take it!”

 The words of wisdom by her mother made sense to Veronica, but in ways she didn’t expect. Classes went by smoothly throughout the rest of the day, although Veronica was nodding off at points. She couldn’t stop tapping her pen, distracting some of the students. The patience of Veronica was wearing thin, although she burned time through all her classes by focusing on asking questions.
Some of which she already knew the answers to, ironic given the one question she needed answered was outside the campus. Once her last class was dismissed she darted through the door and out into the front campus lawn. Coincidentally, Henry was nonchalantly reading a brochure on a class for Hindu literature. His eyes glanced at the sound of feet kicking against grass and saw Veronica running toward the bus stop. Confused amassed in Henry’s eyes, but he disregarded the weird behavior and says, “Classic beach ball, always chasing those clouds.”

The trip between the university and the abandoned ‘Mouthin’ Donuts’ shop was mentally draining. However in less than 8 minutes she arrived at her destination, with the bus driver asking, “Are you sure this is where you want to stop at? This place is pretty sketchy.”

Veronica waves off the warning, “It’s fine, my friend’s meet up across the street anyway.”

“At the massage parlor? Really”

Veronica scratched the back of her head as she nervously says, “A good back means good…vibes?” The bus driver rolled his eyes as he closed the door and drove away from the abandoned donut establishment. This building had been vacant for years and the marks of time had shown. The top of the building had this giant donut prop with 6 round teeth and large oval shaped eyes. Brown paint was fading as the windows with stickers of sprinkled donuts were moderately peeled off.
Past the dirty windows was an empty cafe with no chairs and a marble counter that hadn’t been touched in ages. There was nothing left of the mediocre Mouthin’ Donuts building, except a secret that hid behind its shadow. Veronica analyzed the worn-out shop to figure out where the mysterious man’s hideout could be. She peeked around the building side, looked through the windows, and briefly examined the parking lot for reasons even she couldn’t figure out. Perhaps the desperation of seeking the man’s hideout had driven her mad, and what happened next didn’t help her sanity.
She tilted her eyes to the left side of the building and noticed a bum leaning against the wall, in the shadows. This man blended in perfectly with the environment as he remained motionless. Veronica had to make sure this was a real person so she approached carefully. He had a scruffy beard with a yellow beanie, a ragged blue coat, and fingerless gloves. She saw his chest moving and realized that this bum was definitely real. She asks the bum, “Excuse me, but is there a hideout back…here?”

His eyes open, revealing the bluest iris in his left eye she had ever seen. As the bum awakens he says, “Lady, why are you sticking your nose in this place?”

She couldn’t muster a solid reason except say, “This is going to sound weird, but I-I need to see someone.”

“Do you now?” Upon further inspection by Veronica it appeared that the bum’s left eye was fake.

Her hands clasp together as she says, “Please, I need to see him.”

The bum scratched his gray fuzzy chin, “Alright, but I’m warning you…any funny business and I will cast you out of the den.”

“I’m sorry, did you just say the den?”

“You heard me, now move forward so I don’t lose sight of you.” The two marched across the roughened parking lot. Eventually walking toward what appeared to be a pair of trees with thick leafy branches.

Veronica slowly turns to the bum and asks, “You seem quick to trust me.”

The bum spits on the ground and replies with, “Part of me doesn’t, could be that there’s something special about you.”

“What makes you say that?”

“The one you seek is my protector. He has always been swarmed by those who have had the sharpest of edges, you seem as sharp as a butter knife so maybe…”

“What, also are you saying I’m dumb?”

“Forget it, just keep moving.” The leaf piles were as big as a shed and hid the secret entrance well enough from their perspective. Veronica immediately stops in front of the leaf pile and becomes mildly nauseous. “Well, aren’t you going to enter?” The bum asks with his arms crossed.

“Move through these leaves? Ew, why would I do that? There could be rats or diseases inside those piles of leaves!”

 “Eh, coward.” The bum proceeds to bulldoze through the leaves by elbowing his way in. Veronica throws her hands up and follows by repeating what the bum did. In short time they arrived, the hideout of the mysterious man. A dusty patched up tent raised by stacks of worn out motorcycle tires.
Outside the tent were long wooden torches being kept lit by the sun rays emitting off dismantled rear-view mirrors. Raising its head through a hole in the tent was an old bronze wolf statue, a silent guardian. Veronica was intimidated by the sight of the wolf head and dismantled motorcycle parts, until the bum gave her a slight nudge. She then took her first brave step to the front flannels of the tent and carefully moved inside. Bravely pushing through, Veronica witnessed the mysterious man sitting on a throne made of bicycle parts and chains.

The sense of isolation that drenched over the man was potent. A lonesome king reigning over a kingdom meant strictly for himself. Veronica’s shoes crinkled in the dirt, causing the man to pierce his eyes at her. With the voice of a plumber who had just gotten hit by a Koopa shell, he utters, “Bernard, why did you bring her to den?”

Bernard was busy removing the leaves off his beanie as he says, “She asked to meet you, so I brought her.”

“What if she was one of them?”

“She’s not a ‘fox’ Kell, accept the fact that I brought you company.”

“I don’t need company…I am Kell.” Says the man who sounded like he had smashed ten coin-blocks.

Bernard pleas to Veronica with subtle desperation in his voice, “Please talk some sense into this broken man, any shred of social interaction will do him some good.”

Bernard departs from the tent, leaving a nervous Veronica and a perturbed Kell. Standing up from his throne, Kell asks, “Why do I recognize you?”

“Uh, you gave me my gum back.”

“Oh, that’s right — spearmint. I hate spearmint.”

“Why is it that every time you talk you always seem so dour?”

Kell randomly kicks a small statue of a wolf next to him, tipping over and breaking. The pitch of his voice gets higher the angrier he gets, “Because I’m cursed, forever pushed away by a higher society. All I have, my honor and my code, will be gone.”

“Those are some heavy thoughts, but I doubt there are people out there who are looking to strip everything away from you. You just need to, well, talk with them.”

“I just met you, but I can tell you didn’t suffer as hard as I did throughout my life.”

“What if you didn’t have to think like this?” Kell turned to look at her with disbelief and growing trust. “Maybe I can do something to…”

Kell exclaims with his off-putting accent, “To what?”

“To help you feel like your existence means something.” The conversation halted as the two looked at each other with differing expressions. Veronica was still nervous yet hopeful as she maintained her composure to the best of her abilities. Kell’s poise was cracking underneath due to her stark empathy and support.

Brushing his hair strands back, Kell states, “Fine.”

Victoria sighs as she asks, “So, where do we start?”

Kell gives a blank look at Veronica, “We start by converting the football team to our cause.”

“What cause?”

“The cause of the wolf.”

End of Part II

For part III, click here!

Short Story: Path of the Recycled One (Part I)

(This short story began as an idea I had for Tonal Travesty Tales, but was scrapped because of how strange the concept was. I had fun writing this so far and decided to make it a series. The concept came out of left field and I could assume when reading this someone would say, “Uh, what?” However regardless of how you feel please leave feedback either as a comment or on my Twitter profile. This is definitely a short story I’m writing mainly for experimental purposes, hope you enjoy!)

A cool sensation runs down my plastic spine, the last drop of water. I have witnessed this part of the backyard before. The sunflowers eclipsing their god before them, basking in their givers light. As for me, I look to get away from their overbearing god. Maybe it is because we have opposing views, or maybe it is because I am adorably bashful. The name is Tap, I am an empty plastic holder looking for salvation.                                                               

That salvation being the blue bin that takes other plastic individuals to the promised land. I wish to be there, but I cannot because I am tethered to this dormancy. As my time being a plastic holder sitting on a window ledge I was forgotten by my owner. To him it felt like seconds since he was through with me. For me, it felt like an eternity being stuck on a ledge bound by both the light and darkness. But there was a third element I had not considered, the wind from a twisting turbine had knocked me into the backyard.

What a coincidence that turned out to be, or was it? I was knocked unconscious, but my body kept rolling around for what felt like an eternity in a perfect circle. That is because I was…rotating my body around in a perfect circle, it was quite impressive I have to say. I woke up with my body covered in soil and various blades of grass. Then I met a stranger in the shape of a green blob with bulging eyes, a long tongue, and ceramic skin. This blob said to me, “You look like a daunting fellow, seeming lost and withered.”

My face was not on my plastic skin, it was instead labeled on a layer of artificial rind that wrapped around my body. It was small, droplet shaped, white, and was permanently stuck between alien signs. I looked up at the green blob and said with my deep voice, “To say I was lost would imply I had plans on my travels to begin with.”

The green blob had a laugh, “You are amusing, the name is Frogyo.” I removed my cap, dusted it off, and tell Frogyo my name. “Greetings Tap, welcome to the Forest of Labor.”

I looked around the tall trees and unlit structures as he says, “The Forest of Labor? So who puts in the labor, is it the trees who just sit there waiting to be blown by the wind?”

“Fascinating you say this considering I saw your roly-poly shape spinning in a circle due to the wind itself.”

“Well, salutations, I guess these trees and I have something in common. Now allow myself to perform some ‘labor’ as I briskly walk away from this dull conversation.”

“That is not labor.”

“It’s no more labor than what these leaf-misers are already doing by standing and doing nothing.”

“Maybe it would be wise to cleanse yourself first?”

I stop and immediately turns back around to Frogyo, “You know where I can clean myself?”

“It’s not the most efficient solution, but there is a wall-hung gear that leaks fluids.”

“The gears that control the water givers? Why not use those instead of relying on puny drops of fluids to clean myself?”

Frogyo daintily laughs, “You know that the water giver does nothing but give, give, and give without any direct orders from the gear? Unless you have the reach of a titan to control the gear, I suggest using the gear’s foible to clean yourself.” I perform a mild groan as I walk away, Frogyo then loudly asks, “Do you need directions dear? I hope you did not just lie to me about being lost.”

“I know the way and do not care enough about you to lie to your face.”

I walk away on the stone platforms leading away from the Forest of Labor, Frogyo whispers to herself, “Oh you will care about what I say soon enough Mr. Tap.” Thanks to a trail of liquid left by the water giver, I managed to easily find the leaking gear. The dampness of the area brought its own sense of psychological pressure. Mud was smeared across the wall and clots of dirt were slowly hanging from the tip of the water giver. Green smears were left on the white ground, as leaf blades trapped underneath the white ground were bending in unusual directions.

A distressing noise filled the sky, as if air were being sucked through a wide tube. I began to water myself down but was careful not to get any liquids inside my plastic carapace. So I tilted forward, shifted away from the drops of liquid, and moved behind while tilting backward. The process took less than four minutes, I had never felt more relieved yet exhausted at the same time. As I drew myself away and dried myself off in the breeze, I started to have a flashback. The coldness of the breeze reminded me of my former place.

Didn’t have the luxuries of a home, and it didn’t have the societal pitfalls of a prison. It was an icy cubicle where I was staying with an array of strange beings or objects. A tall rectangular monument that bled white blood, a green ball that could uncurl itself, and a clear holding-cell that housed tiny red spheres with green patches. All these things were becoming vivid, the blots from my memory were slowly fading. Until the wall in front of me opened as a bright light blinded me and a loud thump mildly shook the ground.

I was back in my present mind, walking back to that annoyingly complex Frogyo. It looked at me with its round cement eyes and asked, “Feel refreshed my plastic friend?”

I was bothered, “Friend? We only just met.”

“My apologies for acting hospitable, I assumed that maybe being less cryptic and more, eh, welcoming would be a nice change.”

I sighed and then said, “Thanks.”

“Appreciated, what are your next plans Mr. Tap?”

There were no plans set in stone, just confusion and a need for change. Being stationary was not bad, but it also was restricting in terms of learning about the world around me. Then I thought of the promised land, but I couldn’t trust Frogyo enough to mention it. I gave a vague answer in hopes of maybe finding the promised land, “Explore.”

This made Frogyo giddy, even I could tell. “If that is your goal then may I suggest a nice starting point?”


Frogyo pointed to the center of the Forest of Labor, “Not only are there fascinating sights to behold, but I heard that the laborers are looking for help.”

“Doesn’t seem like a pleasant place to be looking around in.”

“I never said it was a ‘pleasant’ place, but perhaps a plastic being such as yourself could provide wonderous assistance to the Laborers. But be warned, if you do not put up a fight in the forest then the forest will win.”

“What? Am I going to be beaten by its inhabitants if I say or do one wrong thing?”

“Who said anything about physical endangerment? The forest has its own ‘tricks’ it likes to play on wanderers and has taken a toll on some of the Laborers. If you can find the source of this issue then would that not help us both out?”

“I’m not running errands for you.”

Frogyo had both its hands out, “I never said you had to.” I hesitated at first, but the allure of this forest’s problems had me intrigued.

“Guess I’ll casually throw myself into danger.”

End of Part I

For Part II, click here!

Tonal Travesty Tales: A Dearly Murky Summer (Part I)

(Hello, welcome to a new series in which I write simple short stories, but there’s a twist! I start the story with a beginning, middle, and end as usual. Except with the continuation of each short story something must change drastically. For example, I could write a story about a business manager running a peanut butter factory. For the first part of the story nothing changes since it is the introduction.
However, for the next part of the story I must make one of several noticeable changes. Those changes could involve adjusting the genre, characters, backgrounds, or maybe how a character pronounces certain words. The possibilities are endless so long as they garishly clash with the tone of the story. Hope you enjoy, or at least find this idea interesting enough to keep reading!

It was summer at Olive University, a time of rejoice for the youth. The beaches were open and featured a brimming variety of hot summer bods. Parties were thrown in the mountain top just north of the university, but only the famous and rich were invited. Enter Veronica Idelson, a freshman turned sophomore in college who aced her interview with the campus administrator to get into OU A girl with a smart head on her shoulders and the free spirit she maintained since living in a small town all her life.
Veronica knew three of her childhood friends at OU These three friends were Cassie, Henry, and Evan. Cassie was Veronica’s fashionista friend who always had her back. Henry was the quarterback for his high school team who is now hoping for lightning to strike twice as he gets into the OU football team. Then there’s Evan, the dork of the group who is really into computers and helps Veronica out with her homework.
These friends were inseparable and they all managed to get into OU together. During the first day of summer the gang went out to go celebrate at Henry’s favorite spot, a diner called ‘Terry’s BBQ Eat-Out!’ Everyone was having fun, jesting at each other. Cassie was pointing out how Evan’s tie looked tacky, and Henry reminiscing about some of the best plays he had in high school. Then there was Veronica, gazing through the window and daydreaming. Henry smacked the football in front of her face to get her attention, “Hey, is Veronica in there?”

Veronica tossed her fry at Henry as she says, “Yes and she sees a jackass trying to get her attention.”

“Don’t blame me for trying to get your attention when you’ve been saying nothing for the past five minutes.” Henry had the brain of a goofball, yet maintained a premium body forged by the Greek god Hephaestus himself. He wore his stainless varsity jacket proudly but underneath that jacket he had the same fashion sense as any farmer boy. White short-sleeved shirt, with dusty jeans, and with muddied boots. The most distinct feature about Henry had to be his long flowing blonde hair which never seemed to stop glistening.

Cassie devolved her attention from Evan as she then said to Veronica, “You have been acting really weird, Veronica. Was it the nail polisher I gave you? I know the chemicals are super strong, but you totally can withstand the after-effects.”
There was never a day where Cassie wore something boring. Whether it be using vibrantly colored nail gloss or wearing dolphin shaped earrings, Cassie refused to be anything but ‘loud’ about her fashion choices. During the week she would always tie her hair in a single bun-knot. However during the weekend she would let hair down with thoroughly flattened curls.

Evan raised his glasses as he tried to comfort Veronica, “Did your computer need some rebuilding? I have the tools needed to soup up your PC, and the specs look delicious.” For a rigidly smart person like Evan he also was quite unorganized with how he presented himself. Wearing mismatched shoes and unproperly fixed ties, as well as wearing his shirt backwards. He even had his previous two glasses broken and made a new pair by using duct-tape and Gorilla Glue to combine two separate lenses together.

“Quit stealing my personality, Evan. You know I’m infinitely more charming than you, maybe stick to being a cube made of dork.”

“Is that your best comeback? I can think of a million more comebacks better than a ‘cube made of dork.’”

Slightly frustrated, Veronica turned to everyone as she said, “That’s enough, I’m just having…inner problems.”

Henry asked, “What’s wrong, beachball?” That was Henry’s cute nickname for Veronica whenever she seemed pouty.

“I don’t know, somehow I’ve just been feeling less unfulfilled with my life. Like I’ve been missing out on something important, do you get that feeling?”

Evan said with an agreeing nod, “You’re right, I did miss out on something. It was Cassie downing that entire plate of hot wings by herself.”

Cassie scoffed at Evan as she retorted with, “You know I was going through a serious dieting phase.”

“What diet involves eating off the entire entrée menu at a Buffalo Wild Wings?”

“Well I guess when I’m super frustrated and can’t pig out, I’ll take that frustration out on you.” She viciously slaps Evan across his noggin as he recoils in pain.

Henry elevates his voice as he demands everyone’s attention. “Hey, this is Veronica we’re talking about here. She’s done so much for all of us. Like what about that one time she looked after your pet gerbil, Evan?” Evan nods his head as Henry pivots the discussion to Cassie.
“And Cassie, you brag about how much you were there for Veronica her entire life. What about when she spent a whole month modeling outfits you designed for that local fashion show?”

Cassie looked down at her half-full plate of food, takes a deep breath, and looks over at Veronica. “Henry is totally right, Veronica deserves our utmost attention.” She turns to Veronica, “So what is it that doesn’t make you feel fulfilled about your life, girl?”

Evan says, “You practically have everything you wanted, what more could you even want?”

Henry chimes in with, “An escape from being ordinary.”

Veronica focuses her eyes on Henry’s dreamy waxed eyebrows as she says, “Yes.”

The night from there was livelier thanks to Veronica’s friends listening to what was on her mind. When the restaurant closed for the night everyone went home. Cassie was picked up by her mom, Evan took off on his electric scooter, and Henry rode on a bike coated with faded blue paint. Veronica however used her phone to contact an Uber, sitting on a bench near the sidewalk as she waited. The night grew darker as she continued sitting there, her nervousness kicked in.
Suddenly in the corner of her right eye she sees someone walking behind her in the shadows. She couldn’t tell who this person was, but he was fit and had broad shoulders. The mysterious figure walked underneath one of the streetlamps as he crossed the street. It was revealed that it was a boy wearing a black biker jacket, torn jean leggings along with a belt that had a chain, and a silver wolf emblem on the center. But that face when Veronica saw him…that gaunt facial structure with a powerful jawline.
His nose was small, but sharply pointed just like the tips of his hair strands that crept from his hairline. The hair itself was slicked back with each strand of hair perfectly drawing down from the back of his head to the neck. Eyes not that of a human, but an undomesticated animal who howls at a full moon. He wore no shirt underneath his jacket either, just a beaded necklace with white, green, and yellow colored beads. Veronica was alarmed and heavily breathing as she could not stop staring at the gorgeous mysterious boy.
Then the mysterious man noticed Veronica gazing at his impressive visage. He walks toward Veronica with a scowl on his face. At this point Veronica was a deer caught in the headlights, unable to move and observing this boy menacingly walking toward him. Before she could yell for help, the mysterious boy moved his lips and opened his mouth, speaking his first sentence…

End of Part I

For part II, click here!

Bad Animal Poetry: Mundane Moles

What a mole does beneath the ground is its own business. Even if it’s something you wouldn’t normally expect a mole could do. Like feed its goldfish, trim its whiskers, or know braille. These may seem ‘boring’ tasks to you, but they don’t have to be. Mundaneness is only a label to be put on something when the attempt at performing an action comes with a shallow purpose.
If there is any animal that can prove doing light jogging around 6 in the morning while listening to ‘NPR’ does not have to be mundane, it is the mole! So, let’s restructure what it means to be mundane, because moles sure make the impossible seem achievable!

Eastern Mole (Scalopus aquaticus)

By Kenneth Catania, Vanderbilt University, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8923296

A beautiful orb swims through the dirt,
Just another normal day of physical exercise,
Then it is time to eat worms and roots,
Every mole knows the ultimate prize,
It is to dig, make tunnel, and create societies.

But this Eastern Mole wants to break ties.
A mole with big imagination in a small town,
When breaking the mold they raise their brow,
A society covered in brown,
This mole wants to be a swimmer.

Digging can be more than it is on the surface,
It is a form of art,
Even if it makes no sense to wear a towel,
This Eastern Mole has heart,
Because this mole can churn dirt to soil.

Star-nosed Mole (Condylura cristata)

By US National Parks Service – http://www.nps.gov/acad/flow/pix/starnosedmole.jpg which was linked on http://www.nps.gov/acad/flow/mammals.html ; English WP: uploaded by en:User:Big iron, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=162454

Behold a hero no one has ever seen,
The Star-Nosed Mole is here to save the day,
A mole with the power to detect seismic vibrations,
Evil tremors should pray,
Because the Star-Nosed Mole does not play around.

Its nose is a blessing,
A physical trait both symbolic and key,
It may cause people to scream,
However it also has caused glee,
If only it could visibly shine.

Not all heroes wear capes,
Sometimes they have a horrific nose,
So evildoers watch out,
Because this mole just got the hose,
Time to wash away your sins.

Townsend’s Mole (Scapanus townsendii)

Scapanus townsendii.jpg
By jkirkhart35 – https://www.flickr.com/photos/jkirkhart35/3666731429/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12959007

A ray of prosperous sunshine hath appeared,
Townsend’s Mole has arrived,
With a luxurious black coat,
Many felt revived,
To be thankful of Townsend’s Mole.

Nobody knows why they are thankful,
This mole is unknown to many,
Yet it is Townsend’s Mole,
It should be on the penny,
Our physical currency is a disgrace.

We honor those who we forget,
Or did we ever remember,
Just look how cute this mole is,
It is already September,
Yet I still pine for Townsend’s Mole to return.

The Poor Discussion and Exploration of Violence in Videogames

As a child in the mid to late 90’s I spent a lot of my time playing platformers, specifically games like Donkey Kong Country and Banjo Kazooie. Then at a specific point I played my first ‘adult’ game, Conker’s Bad Fur Day. Yes, one can see that Rare was my favorite studio growing up during the time. So, it only made sense at my growing age to transition into playing a game like Conker’s Bad Fur Day.
Mascot platformers were saturating the market according to word of mouth from many gamers who were tired of the genre, wanting something more adult. Why waste spending time collecting gold jigsaw pieces as a bear with yellow shorts and a blue backpack, when one could play as a hungover squirrel talking to a scarecrow with a drinking problem! While the intention was not to market the game for kids, the aesthetic did not change. It was still a Rare game on the surface; the talking animals/sentient objects had exaggerated voices, and the platforming was still there. The only catering that was made toward adults were characters drinking, swearing, and levels based around pop culture movie references (such as The Matrix or Aliens).
There was this weird sense of a middle ground that Rare wanted to cultivate. A middle ground bearing both the fans and older gamers who I guess thought a squirrel shooting Nazi teddy bears in a Saving Private Ryan parody level was funny. The depiction of violence in Conker’s Bad Fur Day was meant to be comical as well as outlandish. Blood is sprayed around the environment like color-dyed rain puddles and every cutely designed character had the same innards when they blew up. Sorry, they all were apparently made of giant shards of meat or something else I couldn’t identify. I guess that was to my benefit as a child since I had never seen such violent acts demonstrated in realistic ways yet.
So, it helped that even with different colors of blood, everyone seemed to combust in the same goofy way. The front of the box said, “Rated M for Mature”, but even as a child I felt that this game was too silly to be considered mature. Technically it was a game with ‘mature’ themes, so therefore it had to earn its rating by being harshly truthful about its genre. Also because the squirrel said naughty words while wielding submachine guns and shooting people.

The controversy behind Conker’s Bad Fur Day and how it goes against everyone’s expectation of a colorful platformer had altered my perception. The way adults reacted to the marketing of the game made me think they were snobbish and not willing to engage with the medium. Games could age just like me, and if part of the growing process meant lashing out at adults by showing them gore – then so be it. Yet what I did not know was the attribution of false life, gaming publications could grant so much trend power based on proving a point to these alienated audiences. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was a prime example back then of a game that embellished in its own mature themes.
Mainly speaking, this was a franchise that enabled the player to do whatever they wanted. There were repercussions for driving a tank down a populated boulevard and shooting random pedestrians. However, the reward for causing mayhem far outweighed having the cops or the United States Armed Forces try to exterminate the player. Through various methods these obstructions are nothing more than temporary bumps in the road for the player’s mayhem.

One can totally live out their fantasies in a world that, despite it not being named after any real-life locations, is ostensibly California. I am probably reading too deep into an open world sandbox game where the whole point is to shoot a rocket launcher at some dude walking down a sidewalk. Then immediately proceed to follow the story, in which the narrative negates the player’s actions to make the protagonist seem less like a psychotic murderer. At least I now recognize the subtext of why people enjoyed this game merely for the content it had to offer. However, it is important to acknowledge the dark underbelly of fan communities, especially fans who exhibit weird irrational behavior when the option of ‘violence’ is dangled in front of them, like a carrot to a rabbit.

This is something I never gave second thought to since these are just videogames, a form of entertainment that rarely punishes the player to quite the extreme length if they choose to hurt random characters. However, over time I saw more examples of this behavior in franchises like the further continuation of the Grand Theft Auto to the Elder Scrolls series. People really liked beating up NPC’s for certain and curious reasons. I personally did not understand, because in terms of what games can offer, mistreating random characters in an open world setting seemed mundane. Admittedly this is my personal outlook on the medium, so I may just be overreacting.
At the end of the day it is just a bunch of pixels, a toy for the player to lash out at if they choose to. However, where things get iffy is when these small moments of violent punishment from the player gets picked up by game developers. Mortal Kombat is a perfect example of this, a franchise known for its gruesome fatalities and eccentric depictions of violence. I never had that much of a problem with the fatalities in Mortal Kombat mainly because for the longest time they have always been over-the-top. Ridiculous in an Evil Dead sort of way, or like Peter Jackson during his Dead Alive and Meet the Feebles days.
However, with each installment comes a further push in realistic visuals and presentation. Mortal Kombat X was the biggest push the series had in terms of visual fidelity and introducing new young characters who bring freshness to the franchise. Characters like Jaqui Briggs and Cassie Cage bring this weird family element to the installment, as well as the attempt to make the player care about them through the story mode. Whether or not that part of the story mode worked for the player, there was clearly an attempt by NetherRealm Studios to make this fresh crop of characters feel down-to-earth, relatable even to a certain extent. These new faces were young women who are notably the most grounded individuals in the franchise.
Then here lies the question; one would assume that maybe brutally and violently ripping their intestines out in the most hyper-realistic way may prove to be a bit excessive? Before Mortal Kombat 11 was being shipped there were stories from NetherRealm Studios of harsh work crunching conditions and racial/gender discrimination. Employees were also being told to watch clips of people dying, becoming psychologically numb to the imagery. The horrific results of the employees being forced to crunch their work in the cinematics department essentially led to the most fully detailed fatalities in the series yet. While many fans would consider my point on this to be ridiculous, I do believe that the fatalities lost their charm in Mortal Kombat 11.
This is not me disregarding Mortal Kombat X, since the studio was constructing this ladder made of gory bits just to climb and reach a point in which the fatalities lacked any uncanny feel to them. However, with Mortal Kombat 11, the resolution to getting there meant having to lose the charm with those fatalities. More importantly ask one-self if it is worth sacrificing a worker’s mental health to satisfy a fanbase who always expects to see a cultural staple being implemented into a new installment of a franchise. Except the only difference is that the visuals become less uncanny over time.

Doom (2016) is an example of a game where the violence complemented the flow of gameplay and the art direction. Context and strong game direction are key, and a game like Doom (2016) hits it out of the park in that regard. In the game the player takes control of the ‘Doom Slayer’, a merciless killing machine who is bent on destroying demons as well as finishing them in the most brutal ways imaginable. Not to mention there are no good people in Doom (2016), just corrupt individuals or monsters who want to kill people. There is a strong sense of artistry with how Doom (2016) comes across with its depiction of violence, whereas all the characters in Mortal Kombat 11 are incredibly modeled to look as human as possible and not all of the cast are huge assholes/freaky monsters.

Speaking of games with unsubtle characterizations, in The Last of Us Part II one of the main characters, Ellie, is faced with a groundbreaking concept no game has touched before…’revenge’. Joking aside, the game’s central theme is based around ‘the cycle of violence’ and is always shoved in the player’s face. This would be one thing if the message had any sort of nuance or subtlety, but at the end of the day the script had as much delicate craft put into it as a pretentious film student in freshmen year of film school who had just seen Death Wish for the first time.
The game is told not by its characters, but through the lens of a writer who refuses to acknowledge that his craft is not flawless. Neil Druckmann is the writer/captain of a 5-star cruise ship with the shiniest exterior, but inside lies a labyrinth of weird corridors that do not interconnect as much as he thinks. It additionally does not help that at one point he didn’t want to refer to his game as ‘fun’. There is this exchange with Druckmann in an interview with GQ which goes into his mentality behind the harsh physical acts of violence committed in this game:

We can make you experience this thirst for revenge. This thirst for retribution and having you actually, like, commit the acts of finding it and then showing you the other side to make you regret it. To make you feel dirty for everything you’ve done in the game, making you realise ‘I’m actually the villain of the story.’

  • Sam White, June 2020, The Last of Us Part II: how Naughty Dog made a classic amidst catastrophe, GQ Magazine

Naughty Dog is also another studio known for its crunch, and even sexual harassment allegations to boot. Which makes matters in this circumstance even worse considering the tone of what they were going for with the game. The analysis of physical and psychological violence as told through videogames has been done several times, such as the case with the commentary in Spec Ops: The Line or Manhunt which was praised at the time for doing the same thing. Yet myself as the target audience is supposed to believe that violence affecting people like a common cold is this groundbreaking idea?

Critic review scores and Metacritic have created this sharp divide with the consumers when it comes to The Last of Us Part II. Now for the most part, I do not fully put all my stock into Metacritic review scores as I think the average person would. However, I cannot help but think that the plastering of 9’s and 10’s on its site does strike me as the overall consensus when it comes to review scores. Meaning a lot of people genuinely thought that what this game was trying to sell was unique enough to warrant these high scores. Opinions are what they are, but they do shed light into the psyche of how backwards we are when it comes to internalizing the maturation of violence within videogames media.
Then there is the other side of the spectrum of Metacritic user scores with the ignorance, sexism, and homophobia stemming from fans of the first game. These same people who got upset with the inclusion of a fictional muscular woman sent death threats to a voice actress. These people won’t blink an eye at these characters performing senselessly and distastefully violent acts against each other just for the sake of fulfilling some shallow story motif. But they will wag their finger when they see a hint of LGBT representation and claim gender diversity as a political discussion when it is not. On top of this pyramid of hypocrisy are people like Druckmann who are using their auteur privilege to disregard their mistakes in favor of showing proof of how many people love their creation.
I believe it is fine to adore something despite its flaws. However, when there is constructive criticism out there from the same races and sexualities being represented in the game then they should not be ignored. On one hand you have a group of people who believe the concept of violence was thoroughly explored and talked about in a divisive videogame. Then you have people who disregard the topic of violence because of their faux political concern over gender identity. Lastly there are people like Druckmann, a group comprised of auteurs who just figured out that doing bad things to people has societal ramifications.
What I passionately believe is that this industry has not changed when it comes to the discussion and portrayal of violence. Not since 1998, not since 2004, and especially not in 2020. This is a medium filled to the brim of immature mindsets gerrymandering their divisions and chest thumping their own ideals just to say, “Violence is terrible, go play this game to see my point proven.” When in reality some of these individuals are just children trying to prove to dad that their favorite toy has a bleeding feature. The child carelessly squeezing the toy in front of the father, watching it bleed, as the toy’s voice box says, “Hurting is bad.”

The Positive Evolution of Horror in Cinema

Nothing epitomized past feelings of horror films more than having a scene properly build up to a terrifying moment, only to get a cheap jump scare. However in the last decade I really warmed up to the genre. I always felt that horror was something that benefited being told through novels and videogames. As a kid I loved the Goosebumps series, silly as they were, for having these fun moments that surprisingly cut deeper into the psyche of children’s fears (Monster Blood being one of my faves for that reason). Resident Evil 4 is a great horror action game that equally balances out its creepy atmosphere with incredibly well paced sequences.
There are obviously more detailed and deeper horror novels, as well the videogame medium has the luxury to put the player in a personalized experience that one cannot get anywhere else. Horror films on the other hand have a trickier objective, which is to put a set of characters who you care about in a situation that they can possibly escape (or the illusion of escape whether it be from a physical or internal conflict).

Then again that’s how conflict works, right? Protagonist shows up and has to acquire a MacGuffin to defeat the villain. However there seems to be this cynicism that easily creeps up in the bad ones. Mostly the ones that feature teenagers as the heroes, and when I mean heroes — I mean huge assholes. This has always been a big trend with Hollywood films that I am sick of, even in better horror films it still bugs me that we have to create these incredibly unlikable characters only for them be morally decent in the end. Watching a film should always come with the suspension of disbelief, however even that has a limit. Characters should be relatable, not in terms of seeing yourself in their shoes, but in terms of faults.

Someone could lose a pair of keys, and it’s not at all a screenwriting problem unless it becomes one. Either making the character a complete idiot, forcing the plot to move forward, or some weird case of symbolism…maybe? There are always those problems that are there to illustrate flaws, but when clumsily done they just become a bad horror trope. And what better way to lazily do this then by making archetypal teenage characters as your protagonists. How about following a group of characters who belong in individual cliques yet they all secretly hate each other?

As of the last decade now we’ve seem somewhat of a decline in those films, and more of a rise in psychological horror. Films like ‘Get Out‘ and ‘The Witch‘ that take more of a risk in their own genres by having a mix of family and psychological drama. It also helps that performances in both of those movies serve toward the main theme and elevate it. It’s like removing limiters off a talented actor can make them…do a good job.

The Conjuring films take on more of the family drama than horror. Because of that sacrifice in genre to make the characters better, it makes the movies much better. It also proves that you don’t need a set of teenagers to tell a story about being succumbed to their own conflicts. If you have a solid atmosphere and the willingness to set up your characters to be likable or condensed with fascinating attributes, then that’s really all you need. It’s why some of the most interesting horror movies released recently have the most buzz going on.

So for the longest time I always saw horror as a lesser genre because I was imprinted with the idea that it was very limited. A genre filled with typical ‘slasher’ films or gratuitous ‘torture porn’ films (and to some others ‘found footage’ could also fit that threshold). This was my gaze of the genre during high school. Things are different now that I’m older, more attentive, and willing to try out new things. Although I do get enjoyment out of watching a really bad horror film, which you read more about my fascination with bad films here, I can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that the horror genre can grow and mature.