Thursday, March 31, 2016

No Fate but the Darkness

Vilisant slipped the last of the chains from his ankles and stepped to the far side of the kitchen. The damnable woman had woven bindings through the steel, and even lying in a pile on the floor they were still trying to hold him in place. True to her word, she had taken the girl and gone, leaving him behind to slow their pursuers.

For a moment he just stood there, almost too furious to move: angry at the oracle Shiran, who had told him he was fated to marry this woman; angry at himself for thinking that she would want his help, let alone be grateful; angry at Sandra for dismissing him. Though that is at least better than taking my heart's blood for her own, or leaving me trapped here. He considered that thought more closely: wouldn't Shiran have been surprised if his fated lover had left him to die?

Then he closed all that away. He still had to protect the girl, no matter how much of a mess he and her mother had made of things so far.

He faded, moving in a direction that ordinary humans couldn't even perceive, sinking into the darkness beneath the world's skin. It wouldn't be long now.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Short Film: Intelligent Life

This is a bit of understatedness, vaguely creepy and very uncomfortable, which I rather enjoyed:

Monday, March 28, 2016

No Fate Except Our Character

"It won't be equal terms," the vampire said, but Sandra ignored him. There might have been a note of desperation in his voice, or it might have been her imagination. There might have been a note of admiration in there too, but that was almost certainly her imagination.

"My blood is old, undiluted. You will be stronger than any other new-risen, but you will not have my age. You will not have had time to hone your skills, explore your powers, or adjust to your new perceptions."

She ignored that as well and stepped closer, tracing the movements in her mind: one long cut along the vein, one deep cut to open the vein inside his thigh, and her arm into the bucket of warm water so her blood wouldn't clot. It wasn't quite murder, because he wasn't truly alive. It wasn't quite suicide, either, as she wouldn't truly die. Two quick cuts, and she would be ready -- or more ready -- to defend her daughter.

She placed the blade against her arm.

"My clan will never accept you, never protect you. You will die, and your daughter will be taken."

Not if I'm quick, Sandra thought. Not if I'm strong.

She hadn't moved. She hadn't drawn the blade along her arm, hadn't tried to find the vein and slice it lengthwise.

She wasn't going to do it.

It wasn't her own pain she was afraid of. It wasn't drinking his blood, either. It wasn't even completing his death, however long ago his death had begun -- not exactly. She just couldn't do it. Fighting in self-defense was one thing; draining the heart's blood from a helpless prisoner... Apparently she didn't have that in her, no matter how devoted she liked to think she was to protecting her daughter.

She removed the blade from her arm and called, "Samantha! Grab the Go Bag! We're leaving."

"You can't leave him here, Mom." Samantha was already standing in the doorway, already holding the Go Bag. "They're almost here. They'll kill him before he gets loose."

"Fine." Sandra hesitated. She wasn't that interested in saving a vampire's... existence. But if she wasn't going to finish him herself, it seemed cowardly to leave him helpless for the others who were hunting them. She looked at that not-quite-human face. "If I turn you loose, will you leave us alone?"

"I can't let them take the girl," he said.

"Then distract them!" She stepped around behind him, and fumbled the locks loose from the chains. She dropped the keys when she was done; one way or another, she wouldn't need them anymore.

Samantha was already in the car. Sandra followed, leaving the vampire twisting back and forth to shrug off the chains and rise from the chair.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Really, Random Citizen? Really?

I came back from lunch yesterday to find that a citizen had left a voicemail for me... or at least on my phone.

His name was Bob.
His number was xxx-xxx-xxxx.
He was out of town, had heard about the hail damage in the Metroplex, and wanted to know if there was any significant hail damage in the suburb where I work.

I have no idea whatsoever how to respond to this. I have no idea how he got to my extension. I don't even know the answer to his question. I am completely at a loss, here. So... I'm forwarding him over to Emergency Management. Maybe they can help him out.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Well, hail...

Holy poot, y'all. A gigantic hail storm just rolled over us. Like, fifteen minutes straight of quarter-sized hail, coming down at a something like a fifty-five degree angle. I mean, you could just see it washing over the roof. The back yard is white. So is the front yard. Any larger, and we'd probably have had some broken glass -- I could hear it smacking into Secondborn's window. And a couple of pieces somehow managed to fall into the middle of the house through the dryer vent, which sounds slightly less insane once you realize that our dryer is currently disconnected and sitting in the newly-tiled kitchen. And the whole thing was accompanied by a steady, irregular strobing of lightning and thunder.

Naturally, the first major hail storm we've had in several years fell on us at a time when we'd blocked off one side of the garage (because of the tiling), so my car was outside through the whole thing. (Not much I could do about that.) I'm pretty sure the hood and roof are dimpled, but the glass is intact so it could be much worse. My wife's vehicle, on the other hand, was safely in the garage; it's by far the newer and nicer of the two.

I like storms, normally, but this one? This one was a bit much.

No Fate Except The Blood

By the time he woke up, Sandra had him chained to one of the stout steel chairs that normally sat out on the porch. They were incredibly heavy, and hauling one inside had taken some real effort, but this was exactly why she owned them: they were essentially unbreakable, and extremely difficult to move... especially for someone sitting in them.

Her prisoner came awake without any particular reaction. One moment he was unconscious; the next, he lifted his head and looked at her. She could see the brief surge of movement as he flexed his muscles, looking for a way out of his bonds. None of that showed on his face; his eyes were fixed on her, and his expression was utterly neutral.

"You must be pretty experienced..." Sandra let the word hang, thinking, Old. Powerful. "...to get past the wards. And I don't recall inviting you in."

He looked powerful. Some of it was in his build: broad shouldered and heavily muscled, and utterly lacking in body fat. More of it was in the way he had strained against the chains, and the way he sat as if their weight was barely worth noticing. An ordinary man would have had trouble drawing breath, but of course that wouldn't bother him. "I had to bleed two of them," he admitted. "Drain them until they couldn't hold me or alert you. It wasn't easy."

That was good, if he was telling the truth. Sandra didn't know, and at this point didn't much care. If he had found them, others could; and if others could, they would. "And then shut off the light, and then wait in the dark until I came to the kitchen."

"Yes," he said. "I have to take you away from here."

"No," she said. "You don't."

"If you know what I am..." He strained against the chains again, more -- she thought -- to make the point than to try to escape. "...Then you know I'm here to help."

"I know nothing of the sort," she said.

For a moment, he looked completely blank: the wary, alert lack of expression dissolving into a total slackness that more resembled unconsciousness or death. Then he blinked, and face regained expression if not animation. "But you are to be my bride. You and I are destined to be one. You will marry me, and my clan will protect you, and keep the girl safe from those who hunt her."

Sandra shook her head. "No," she said. "I won't. I'll keep my daughter safe, but I'll do it on my terms." She glanced towards the doorway, and as she'd expected she saw Samantha standing there with the old metal bucket they used for scrubbing.

"This isn't the only way, mommy," said Samantha in her little-girl voice. She was seven, dark-haired and precocious even without her other talents.

Sandra crossed the room and took the bucket from her hands, then bent to kiss the top of her daughter's head. "It will work, though, won't it?"

"Yes, mommy." Samantha looked sad. "It will work. It will change you, but it will work."

"Try not to watch," said Sandra, knowing it was futile. Her daughter couldn't help but see -- from her room, from anywhere in the city, from anywhere on the planet. That was why they wanted her, whoever they were. That was why Sandra had to keep her away from them -- even the ones who wanted to protect her.

She carried the bucket to the sink, hearing the patter of bare feet as Samantha retreated to her room. She filled it halfway with warm water, then lifted it out and carried it back to her prisoner. She set the bucket just in front of his chair. "I know how this works," she told him. "My daughter explained it. I let my blood out, and I take yours in, and I become like you." She pulled the knife from where she had clipped it into the waistband of her pajamas. "I'll be one with you," she said. "I'll be part of your clan. Maybe the part they want to hunt down and kill, but at least I'll be dealing with them on equal terms."

Her prisoner twitched, and for a heartbeat she thought he might actually break the chains. Then he was still again, and still her prisoner. "Please," he said.

She didn't look at him. She was busy focusing on what she had to do. It would take two clean slices, if she was lucky: one along the veins in her wrist, to open them in a way that wouldn't close up; and a deeper one into his inner thigh, where the dark blood would come pouring out. She would leave her arm draining into the bucket while she took the blood from his body. She needed his strength, but not as a protector; she needed it for her own.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

No Fate But What We Make...

The kitchen was dark, and flicking the switch made no difference: the light must have burned out. Sandra sighed, and took three careful steps towards the refrigerator, feeling her way by sliding her feet. As she shifted her weight to take the fourth step, and hand came out of the darkness and closed over her mouth.

"Do not fear--" said a soft voice, which cut off in a grunt as Sandra stomped down on its owner's foot, then elbowed him in the belly, then smashed the back of her fist down into his crotch. She pivoted, and caught him in the face with a palm strike just as he started to duck, then grabbed his head and added another knee to the groin and followed it up with a tight, snapping heel-kick that dislocated his kneecap. She could tell from the feel of the impact, and from the way he suddenly collapsed onto his side, gasping.

"Wait!" he wheezed, but she kicked him again anyway: ribs and kidneys, then forearms and head when he curled up to try to protect himself. He tried to roll away, but she followed, still stomping and kicking.

Then Samantha was in the doorway, a tiny figure who should have been utterly vulnerable, even with the intruder on the floor. Instead, with that uncanny knowledge of where she needed to be and what she needed to do, she called: "Mom! Taser!" and tossed something to Sandra. By the time Sandra caught it, Samantha was out of the doorway and gone.

Sandra flipped the taser around, pulled the trigger by feel, and jabbed the contacts into the intruder's neck. Tasers weren't anywhere near as non-lethal as most people thought, but she didn't care. Anybody who had managed to slip into her house unnoticed needed to be put down hard. She held the trigger down, juicing the guy until the batteries ran dry.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Music: The Devil Came Up To Boston

Okay, I'm a day late, but I don't care. Watch this thing. Um... content warning: language. But you should have realized that from the goddamned title.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

What a day...

Yeesh. It's been one steady stream of urgent interruptions. I can't get to the things that I need to do so that I can get to the things I need to do so that I can get to the things I'm actually trying to do.

Oy.

Bohemian Rhapsody, Fairground Version

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Spring Break Time Change

Okay, whoever decided that the boys' Spring Break should culminate with the Daylight Savings Time changeover needs to be smacked with a rolled-up newspaper. Normally, we try to build up to the transition gradually. In the middle of a week's vacation? Not possible.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Trapped in a Parallel World

Since we gave up on moving to a larger house (about a year ago) we've been working on making our current house more usable. This has involved various sorts of rearrangements, including the addition of the loft bed in our bedroom, the move to a flatscreen TV in the living room (which allowed us to remove the massive, heavy, space-consuming entertainment center that I'd had since Grad School), and now a full-scale remodeling of the kitchen.

One piece of the plan had been to set up the larger closet in the master bedroom as writing area for me. We had moved my computer desk in there, and then... well, nothing. For various reasons, it simply hadn't gotten done.

On Friday, however, I came home to discover that what with all the things that had been moved around, I had absolutely no place to set up my laptop. I wasn't feeling too well, so I didn't do anything about it then; but on Saturday, after everyone had gone to sleep, I cleared all the crap of the computer desk in the closet, pulled an extension cord from the garage and used it to plug in the power strip, and was finally able to set up my laptop again. It took at least an hour, and when I was done I had a drink, noodled around for a bit on the Internet and the word processor, and then collapsed into bed.

Beautiful Wife let me sleep in.

So, when I woke up, I could hear people moving around in the rest of the house, but there was nobody but myself in the back bedroom. I brushed my teeth. I used the restroom. I snuck into the closet and sat down at the computer.

Then I sent my wife a message on Facebook: "Where did everybody go?"

Then another: "Did I wake up in the wrong plane of existence or something?"

If she'd responded, I was going to say something like, The washing machine and the dryer are running and the Playstation's on, but I don't see any people. Tragically, she did not, and the clever next step in my ruse went unused.

Instead, she came to the back bedroom, climbed up the ladder, found the bed empty, and started looking around while calling my name in a somewhat concerned tone of voice.

The secret to any good joke is knowing when to stop, so at that point I opened the closet door and peered out. I admitted that really I was only trying to make her think that I was trapped in some Silent Hill alternate reality version of our house, and it hadn't actually happened.

Her response? "You are both EVIL and hilarious!"

Friday, March 11, 2016

Superhero Powers

Secondborn has been playing a lot of Lego Marvel Super Heroes this week, because it's his Spring Break and that's what is nearest and dearest to his heart just now. As a result, I've been watching a lot of Lego Marvel Superheroes. I have to say, it's a great video game. It has about a bajillion characters, and you can even customize your own using elements of existing heroes. Plus, the storyline is entertaining, and the scenes and dialogue are... cute, and frequently hilarious as well. (Tony Stark to Wolverine: "Shouldn't you be off in Canada trying to uncover your past or something?")

As a result, I've been thinking a lot about superpowers. (More than I usually do, I mean.) And I've decided that out of everything in the game, the one thing I'm really, really jealous of is that these heroes have the ability to run around New York for an hour or two and just sort of acquire two or three hundred thousand dollars. (Or gold disks. Whatever.) Ye gods, I wish I could do that.

How the mighty have fallen, you know? I used to want Vast Supernatural Powers of my own. Now... now I just want to be able to pay the bills. (Edited to add: Apparently Geds has been thinking along similar lines over at Accidental Historian. He posted This American Dream I am Disbelieving this morning, and it's well worth reading.)

Although... having powers would still be pretty cool...

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Lonnnnnnnng Day

The caffeine is not doing its job. I'll probably be okay, though. As long as I don't stop mov- zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

More nothing...

...but since "nothing" is apparently my theme for this week, here's a topical clip from The Neverending Story:

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Nothing Today

Busy adulting, and working on a longer writing project. If you're looking for something worth reading, I'd recommend checking out Lilith Saintcrow's piece on why you shouldn't feel responsible when someone else screws you over: Well-Practiced Douchebags.

If you're not reading her books and you enjoy fast-paced paranormal action/adventure stories, then you should really check out pretty much everything she's ever written.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Secondborn's First Recipe

Secondborn will be six years old in April. We've been watching the Great British Baking Show. This has had... consequences.

As of this evening, he has presented his first recipe. After dinner, for dessert, he made his own sandwiches.

To create them he took a pair (or in grand experiment, a trio) of Premium saltine crackers. Between them, he spread a scattering of Fruit Loops. Then, to hold everything in place, he added a great whopping dollop of whipped cream, and squished everything together.

Then, of course, he ate them. Apparently they were delicious.

It was a Good Bake.

Monday, March 7, 2016

A Day At The Zoo

On Saturday, I took the boys down to the Dallas Zoo so that their mother could finish her grading. We had a good time, and the boys were spectacularly well-behaved. Among the highlights of the visit were the various bits of Lego statuary scattered around the zoo, and the fact that we visited the Reptile House just as they were feeding a couple of the snakes.

I didn't have much in the way of a camera with me -- just my very elderly iPod -- but I got some video:

Friday, March 4, 2016

Superhero Bar Stories: The Most Disgusting Power

Okay, I have to admit, that's pretty good. So not only could she summon and control slugs, but her outfit was just a bodysuit covered in them? Ew. What? No, of course I'm not conceding. Dressed In Slugs is gross, but I think I've got it beat. You see, I once knew a guy...

All right. You know what an elementalist is, don't you? One of those people who can move or reshape one particular kind of substance? Yes, like the kid who can shape fire. Or Earthlord -- remember him? He could move rocks around just by thinking about it, bring statues to life, all that sort of thing. He wasn't that hard to capture, but the office had the devil's own time finding somewhere to keep him locked up. Yeah.

Well, this guy... He was one of those. And he wanted to be a hero. He wanted to be a hero real bad. And he had the disposition for it, too -- the right mix of caution and decisiveness, enough empathy not to be a dick about his power, enough idealism to want to do things right but enough cynicism to make him hard to fool. If he'd had a slightly different power, he could have been a Big Name.

But he was an elementalist. And his element was... shit. Manure. Feces. Excrement. Dung.

He wasn't a summoner. A lot of elementalists are, but he wasn't. I'm not sure if that makes it better or worse, though.

But like a lot of elementalists, he could do things with his particular element that would put a standard telekinetic to shame. He could move people's crap around inside their bowels. If he had time to do it carefully, he could give people diarrhea or constipation. Or course, if he wasn't careful, well... we're talking ruptured intestines, internal bleeding, and good odds of colostomy bags for the survivors.

It was effective as all hell, but nobody took him seriously. Well, I mean... hell, a few of us did. The ones that knew him took him seriously. Several of us went out of our way to have his back. He was that kind of guy. He was really good. But his power just wasn't the kind of thing that Metahuman Monthly writes fawning articles about. It wasn't the kind that people admire, and it didn't seem to matter how many sacrifices he made for the greater good.

That wasn't what finally stopped him, though. That wasn't what made him give it up. Like I said, he had just the right mix of idealism and cynicism.

No, what got him out of the business was this one incident. It was a home invasion, he happened to be in the area, and burglar turned around at just the wrong moment and got the drop on him with a pistol. And the first shot missed -- pure luck -- but the second one wasn't going to. So my friend, he... made the guy explode. He took everything he could get a hold on, every bit of stool in the guy's digestive tract, and pulled it out through his belly. There was no second gunshot; the perp died instantly. But apparently it was the goriest, most disgusting scene that anybody had seen in years.

So he quit. Went off, got a completely different kind of license, and started working as a bartender. Runs a nice, discreet little hole-in-the-wall bar, and a lot of his clientele are heroes or former heroes -- and those of us that knew him, well, we make a special point of coming around on a regular basis. He should have been great -- he was great -- but he came up with the wrong kind of power.

Yes, that's him behind the bar. Don't stare. And don't laugh, or I'll break your face and throw you out of this place myself. You want to know why I drink here? Him. You want to know why everybody behaves themselves here? Because of him. This is his place, and don't you ever doubt that he earned it.

But that's the most disgusting power I've ever encountered. And if I'm not mistaken, that means you get to buy the next round. And when Joey's taking your order, you show him some respect.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

A thought on adulting...

"Adulting" is one of those words that I only started seeing and hearing a couple of years ago. I like it, though. It's a good and useful word. We needed a term for "the act of being and behaving like an adult", and the only other obvious choice -- adultery -- just doesn't quite do the job.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Stuff: A Not-Poem On Adulting

Making some progress on the writing project.
Hugely busy at work.
...And at home, for that matter.
Sleep is not an indulgence; it's a necessity.
(I must remember that.)
I'm not being entertaining today.
...But I enjoyed reading this; maybe you will, too.
Tomorrow morning we take Secondborn's diorama to his school.
Winter is his favorite season.
Tomorrow evening we have Open House at both boys' schools, simultaneously.
The Beautiful Woman will be at work, and I cannot manifest in multiple locations.
I'll bet a real grown-up could keep up with all that.
Stress is the new normal.
...So I believe I shall stop and make tea.