Excerpts from a book with no name

I am, in fact, writing a book.  A novel.  And since that takes quite a bit of time and energy, and since I have very little of those to spare, I have very little time to push content to this blog.  So I’m gonna start putting excerpts from the book here, so that I can a) add content and b) generally share something that I hope you’ll all be excited about enough to pay for.  Because if there’s anything a real writer is good at, it’s self promotion.

 

Stephen Zimmerman woke up in the same mood as a person who is having their car repossessed while still driving it down the interstate.

 

Which is to say, miserable.

 

Thinking about the problem caused one half of his brain to engage in bloody civil warfare with the other. Moving his body reminded him that bodies are overrated, and really we would be better off if we just gave them a miss all together. Breathing caused the room to move in several very unfortunate directions at the same time.

 

He tried remembering what had happened the night before, and the last thing that crossed his mind before an artillery barrage from his occipital lobe cut the whole thing off was that mornings like this usually were preceded by nights that you couldn’t remember, and he should stop making a fool of himself by trying. He ventured a low moan to see how it would handle itself on it’s own, but this only woke his stomach up who was in quite the same mood as he was. It began arguing with his brain on the merits of projectile vomiting his feet, which his feet furiously objected to by involuntarily curling themselves as fervently as they could muster.

 

After several minutes of this – or hours, he wasn’t sure – the explosions in his head had subsided in to a dull cacophony of fireworks celebrating the mighty victory of one organ or another over the forces of somebody else. He ventured a thought again, this time a simple one, just to test the political climate.

 

“Coffee”

 

This went down well, or at least better than previous attempts, and seemed to align several of his quarreling innards into a sort of cease fire treaty. He clung to “Coffee” as hard as the tenuous peace in his brain would let him, and moved a finger.

 

It hurt. Everything hurt.

 

So he lay in bed, awake, with his eyes closed (light was something that no part of him wanted any stake in at the moment, coffee or not. In fact, stimulation of any kind was universally reviled) and contemplated ways in which he could commit suicide without having to actually move. He thought, quite correctly, that it felt like every atom in his body had been torn apart and forced through a hole much smaller than an atom only to be reassembled again. This process is actually less pleasant than it sounds.

 

His consciousness began feeding him larger bits of information, such as will. Mostly the will to not feel quite so miserable, and also the will to move away from the sweat soaked covers he was lying in, and also the will to kill whichever bartenders might be within good throttling distance, who were – in his mind – guilty by association if by nothing else.

 

He moved again, the covers scraping against his skin in all the ways he wished they wouldn’t. He felt something was off, as though the sheets weren’t the right material, or the bed was too hard, or that it smelled a little too much like cinnamon in here. Slowly, with the incomprehensible effort it takes to win a war on yourself, he opened an eye. Blurry shapes began to resolve and three things immediately struck him as odd. There were more, but three were all he could handle at the moment.

 

First, that was not his nightstand.

 

Second, this was not his bed.

 

Third, it must have been a hell of a party.

 

The strange thrill of waking up in a place you aren’t familiar with gave his muscles some more incentive to unfold themselves, and he began the serious and very precise series of movements that it would take to raise him from his resting place without his digestive tract inverting itself. The room was strangely familiar to him, even though he’d never been here before. The way the furniture was arranged, the placement of the solitary window, an odd arrangement of an artistic piece which was very specific in it’s placement in that if it had been placed anywhere else it wouldn’t have been quite so offensive.

 

He would have considered the room which was arranged just like his own for a much longer period of time if the gentleman laying in the bed with him hadn’t, at that point, wished him a good morning.

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///Nothing Follows///

To: Xenobiology Research Department

Attn: High Commandant F’xlrk

Subject: Exploration mission 114X121M, initial report

High Commandant

I have arrived at the planetary system assigned. As per visual and radio-telescopic reconnoiter, the only planet inhabited by life bearing the 4 signs of intelligent life is the 3rd planet from the primary star. There is a moon orbiting the 6th planet which is promising, but would require greater resources than I have been allocated. Once again, my requests for additional equipment have fallen on deaf ears. I have therefore settled in to low orbit amid some artificial satellites to obscure my presence, and will begin observation routines IAW standardized protocol 15NPO1.415.

Thl’Hgkt, Science Officer 3rd Class

Overseer, PCC Class Cruiser 18AC

Core Date 18172.42487A

///Nothing Follows///

To: SO3 Thl’Hgkt

Subject: RE: Exploration mission 114X121M, initial report

Arrival is confirmed on CD 18172.42487A. Possible life acknowledged on moon, however as it has made no attempt to contact no further action is necessary. Continue observing PS-114X121M-3 per protocol.

I am sure I do not need to remind the SO3 that resources are tight as our newly elected High Council has pushed our exploration initiative. It is in this vein I must once again decline your request for an Omega Class Thermal Implosion Borecannon. I also question the validity of needing such a device as it would surely deplete your own energy reserves as well as imploding the core on any planet smaller than size F, rendering your mission of peaceful contact and observation moot.

F’xlrk, High Commandant

Exploration Fleet 14123 Overlord

Core Date 18172.42591B

///Nothing Follows///

To: Xenobiology Research Department

Attn: High Commandant F’xlrk

Subject: Exploration mission 114X121M, interim report 1

Attached is the phase 1 data for 114X121M-3. It includes all relevant information to include outgoing radio communications, visual observations of anatomy, technological capabilities and social and economic influences. To provide a brief summary; the planet is a Gen III biological with a substantial amount of liquid water on the surface and an atmosphere rich in nitrogen and carbon dioxide. Local life forms are carbon based, with only a single species having evolved rudimentary intelligence. They are currently still a class 00 civilization, despite having mastered radio transmission and several nuclear principles. I will be making my first incognito visit to the surface to acquire some specimens as well as a decoder for their transmissions. Most interestingly is that they exhibit characteristics of a class 04 society outside some extreme self destructive behaviors, both passive and active. They have a global information network, have sent robotic expeditions to several other planets in the same star system and have been off planet themselves. They even have an orbital space platform they live in, if a rudimentary one. Even our own civilization didn’t achieve that until after we developed nanotechnology.

Of course, they also have stockpiled enough crude fission based weaponry to crack the surface of the planet, so it’s all relative.

I will begin phase 2 of the observation within a rotational cycle.

Thl’Hgkt, Science Officer 3rd Class

Overseer, PCC Class Cruiser 18AC

Core Date 18174.50414D

///Nothing Follows///

To: SO3 Thl’Hgkt

Subject: RE: Exploration mission 114X121M, interim report 1

We received your phase 1 data. Please proceed with phase 2, and execute covert specimen extraction delta. We need more information to determine the functional biology of these beings, and where the defect may lie.

Please be cautious in your findings. Despite the crude nature of their technology, it appears they use it more for violence than progress. It’s a wonder they’re not extinct. The Light Worshipers sent us some data that was several million years old. Seems this planet used to be inhabited by giant lizards, but they wiped them out to make room for an intelligent species. Seems more like a lateral move to me.

F’xlrk, High Commandant

Exploration Fleet 14123 Overlord

Core Date 18174.50941D

///Nothing Follows///

To: Xenobiology Research Department

Attn: High Commandant F’xlrk

Subject: Exploration mission 114X121M, interim report 2

Phase 2 has proceeded apace. I acquired a data decoder for the radio transmissions the local inhabitants broadcast, but made a miscalculation as it only decodes a portion of their communication. It seems as though the Humans (this is what they call themselves) use several different devices depending on wavelength and purpose, but why they would choose such an inefficient route is still a mystery. Through this “Samsung” I have been able to learn a lot about Human culture and technology. They are primarily divided along several ambiguous lines, geographic being the most prominent. Many still worship deities of varying influence and philosophical flavor. The most influential of these is referred to as “Honey Boo-Boo”, who is adorned with traditional cultural gifts and delicacies such as “Mountain Dew”. This bears further investigation, as water condensing naturally does not bear the neon green glow that is characteristic of this beverage. There may be an additional radioactive interaction that I have not yet witnessed. I have brought aboard several cases of it to begin analysis.

They have no global government, but rely on tribal loyalties which stretch across entire continents in some cases, and in others extend only to the waste evacuation chambers which they inhabit frequently. Through their transmissions I have been able to learn much of their anatomy, though two things have given me a great deal of trouble. First, even though I have done a thorough probing, I have yet to discover any mass in the anorectal region used for communication. Additionally, there is nothing within the male genitalia capable of abstract thought.

I would continue this report, but the human’s transmissions are strictly regulated according to relative planetary rotation and azimuth along the orbital plane, and I need to discover what the planet’s most frightening law enforcement pursuits are like.

Thl’Hgkt, Science Officer 3rd Class

Overseer, PCC Class Cruiser 18AC

Core Date 18177.19214D

///Nothing Follows///

To: SO3 Thl’Hgkt

Subject: RE: Exploration mission 114X121M, interim report 2

Phase 2 acknowledged. Proceed with observation, and authorization is given for any further surface excursions to acquire more data translators, biological samples and anything else deemed important. Continue recording data transmissions to your ship so you can decode them when the appropriate decoder is obtained. Keep with top level bio-hazard protocols, as the data you sent us was disgusting. While I approve of these “humans” attempts to quarantine off undesirable individual traits in these “Wal-Mart” facilities, their unwillingness to sterilize these facilities of all life is, frankly, disgusting. What’s worse, we know nothing of their mating rituals, save to say they are so far out of line with the natural order of the universe they create a kind of quantum scrambling effect, rendering your decoder only marginally useful, and making you have to squint pretty hard to catch any boob on that thing.

F’xlrk, High Commandant

Exploration Fleet 14123 Overlord

Core Date 18177.19267D

///Nothing Follows///

To: Xenobiology Research Department

Attn: High Commandant F’xlrk

Subject: Exploration mission 114X121M, interim report 3

I have acquired several other of the human’s communication devices and set up a makeshift viewing area in my quarters. I have also run several tests on the “Mountain Dew” and, being unable to discern it’s properties other than being composed primarily of glucose and carbonated water, I have taken drastic measures and ingested it myself. Any side effects will be clearly annotated in my datalogs.

I have also discovered that the human mating rituals are – for whatever reason – stored on the human global information network. All of them. The original views I sent you were likely remnants of this, a sort of data backwash. I thought I could save a lot of time by downloading all the information on their global network, a simple task for a ship designed for data processing and storage, and now there is more raw storage used up in my ships data logs on human coupling than on every other planet I’ve explored combined. What’s worse, the data seems infinite, which is impossible even by our standards. Currently several of the devices I have in my possession are displaying it right now, and the original Samsung has a man hawking wares by screaming at me through the screen.

It’s oddly hypnotic.

Thl’Hgkt, Science Officer 3rd Class

Overseer, PCC Class Cruiser 18AC

Core Date 18200.01135Q

///Nothing Follows///

To: SO3 Thl’Hgkt

Subject: RE: Exploration mission 114X121M, interim report 3

We are concerned about your increasing involvement in this case. You have breached protocol in several ways, not the least of which is connecting unauthorized xenotechnology to your own systems. Now our entire command hive is inundated with these little screens popping up indicating we need to increase the size of our Fiznarb. MY FIZNARB IS FINE, THANK YOU.

Additionally, ingesting anything that comes from that planet is completely inadvisable. We’ve seen the information stored on your computers. Everything on that planet must be coated in several layers of genetic material by now.

As your commanding officer, I will pull you from this mission if you can’t keep within fleet guidelines. Final warning.

As a postscript, I found among the datacloud you sent some awesome pictures of these earth animals asking for “Cheezburger”. I think you’ll find it adorable.

F’xlrk, High Commandant

Exploration Fleet 14123 Overlord

Core Date 18201.78454G

///Nothing Follows///

To: SO3 Thl’Hgkt

Subject: RE: Exploration mission 114X121M, Lost Communications

No communications have been made in several cycles. Command is concerned about the loss of resources this mission would constitute if it fails.

As your friend, I’m worried about you. What’s going on?

F’xlrk, High Commandant

Exploration Fleet 14123 Overlord

Core Date 18387.15869N

///Nothing Follows///

To: Xenobiology Research Department

Attn: High Commandant F’xlrk

Subject: FW:FW:FW:FW:FW:FW:FW: DO THIS AND YOU’LL FIND LOVE AND RICHES!!!!1!!!!!

ONE DAY IN JANURY OF 2001 A GIRL NAMED JENY PEARSON FOND A COIN BY HER BED AND SHE ALWAYS HAD A CLEEN ROOM SO HOW COULD IT GET THEIR SHE DIDNT KNOW SO SHE PICK IT UP AND KEP IT WITH HER AND THEN A BUNCH OF BAD THINGS HAPPEN1TO HER LIKE SHE GOT HIT BY A CAR AND GOT CANCER AND ATE A BUG AND THEN ONE DAY SHE SAW ANOTHER CHILD WHO WANTED SOME CANDY FROM A MACHENE AND SO SHE GAVE THE CHILD THE DOLLAR AND THEN HER CANCER WENT AWAY AND SHE WON THE LOTERY AND HAD ALL THE BOYFRENDS AND NOW THAT LUCK IS PAST ON IN THIS EMAIL FORWARD THIS TO EVERYBODY YOU KNOW OR YOUL GET CANCER BUT IF YOU FORWARD IT YULL HAVE LOVE AND MONEY AND EVERYTHING YOU EVAR WANT

Thl’Hgkt, Science Officer 3rd Class

Overseer, PCC Class Cruiser 18AC

Core Date 18398.69874E

///Nothing Follows///

To: SO3 Thl’Hgkt

Subject: RE: Exploration mission 114X121M, Lost Communications

The fuck?

F’xlrk, High Commandant

Exploration Fleet 14123 Overlord

Core Date 18398.65415W

///Nothing Follows///

To: Xenobiology Research Department

Attn: High Commandant F’xlrk

Subject: Emergency Voice Transmission, PCC Class Cruiser 18AC

***Emergency Voice Transmission, Data Translated To Text Per Bandwidth Conservation Protocol***

I can’t even…what am I doing….

Commandant? No I don’t want to talk to that bag of asses, you filthy machine. No I don’t want to sleep either. I haven’t slept in 100 cycles, I don’t need to sleep. Mountain Dew is all I need. Mountain dew and Cheetos. No, you can’t make me.

America’s funniest home videos is having a marathon, and I need to tell my friends about it on Facebook.

There is no protocol for that, you piece of crap. I changed the code for your protocol to stream it directly to my brain if you try to shut it off. Are you broadcasting this? ARE YOU BROADCASTIN…..

///Nothing Follows///

To: Singularity Class Battlefrigate XA12

Subject: ORDERS: SCUTTLE PCC 18AC

I am issuing an all points attack order to destroy PCC 18AC, located in low orbit around planet 114X121M-3. This is a highly dangerous mission and very special care must be taken. While the cruiser poses no threat to you, the native life forms have been judged an interstellar pathogen. While normal protocols would have you destroy the pathogen as well as the infected ship, High Command is concerned about possible retaliation, as the inhabitants have shown signs of intelligence. Therefor, you are ordered to shut down any and all communications with other ships as well as high command before entering the star system, to prevent information infection. Destroy the cruiser, and exit the system before reinstating communication. At no point are you to make contact with the cruiser, or the planetary natives.

Your request for an Omega Class Thermal Implosion Borecannon has been approved, energy resources have already been diverted and you will find it in your allocation bay.

No further questions will be fielded, but take a video of the explosion for YouTube.

F’xlrk, High Commandant

Exploration Fleet 14123 Overlord

Core Date 18682.98411B

///Nothing Follows///

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Worth it.

She was an intellectual just like him.
 
“How do I know you’re worth my time?” It was the obvious question, and she wasn’t one to mince words.
 
His confident smile was almost unnerving, but the way his eyes looked away for a moment told her there was more there than just self-ignorant brazenness.
 
“Because my kids want to share with me”
 
“Bullshit answer. You’re their caregiver.  As long as you provide the necessities and they know it, they’ll…” He cut her off.
 
“If you discovered a brand new cure for hepatitis, who would you tell first, before the press and the medical field and all that?”
 
She paused at the odd question as sunlight pushed it’s way through the scattered clouds and warmed their table.  He took a sip of his coffee and watched it light up her auburn hair.
 
“I…I don’t know.  My mom maybe.  What does that have to do with your kids?”
 
“Because every day for them is enlightenment.  Every hour there’s something amazing, something they didn’t know about the way the world works.  A new word or phrase.  Counting to higher numbers, math, spelling, food, it’s all new, and all fantastic.  Everything is a discovery worth celebrating and the one person they come to before any other to share that with is me.”
 
“Well who else are they going to share it with?”
 
“That’s just it. They’re not just discovering the world and then sharing it with me.  They could do that with anybody, or not at all.  They choose instead to discover the world with me, to make me a part of their expedition.”  
 
“So why did you ask me out?”  She emphasized the “me”.
 
Quizzical look.
 
“You know I don’t typically date.  I’m not somebody looking for sex, I’m not really looking for anything, and barring sex you seem to have all your companionship needs met.  I’m sure you could talk your way into some other girl’s panties a whole lot easier.”
 
“You already suspected it’s not about sex, or you wouldn’t be here.”
 
“What is it then?”
 
“I already know calculus, I understand – more or less – how the universe works on both a very large and very tiny scale.  The simple discoveries are all gone, the day to day joy of discovering what sound a cow makes or seeing a train go by. But we still discover things, adults do.  The experience of a new restaurant, or finding a simple solution to a complex problem, or even just a good sitcom.”
 
“So?”
 
“So who do I have to go out and discover the world with?”
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Destiny’s Doors, Vision in the Snow

I asked people on my facebook page to vote on one of several different randomly generated names for a short fiction.  After two votes, the answer was a tie between Destiny’s Doors and Vision in the Snow.  So I wrote a story that did both.  I hope you enjoy it.

His pace was agonizingly slow. With each labored step the snow gave way to his knees, spilling in to the calfskin boots. His joints were frozen and his breath clung to his scarf as frost. For three weeks he had been lost in the Barren Steppes. Three weeks of bitter cold, exhaustion, and solitude.

 

Still he carried on.

 

Clutched in his right hand, the small brass locket. A memento of his love, lost so long ago. She had given him the strength to fight through so much, to overcome the black legion and face the King of Blades. Seeking that strength, he grasped tighter; and despite the tarnish and the bent hinge the weight of it gave him strength. He pulled his furs closer to him against the wailing winds and pressed on, the ice caking to his exposed eyebrows and the heavy snow obscuring his vision.

 

He had long ago abandoned his weapons. Wolves and other predators didn’t venture this far north, and the steel was weighing him down. No prey could live in this hostile environment, so there was no game to hunt. His rations were low, and the hunger was making it harder to stay warm. Pausing, he took a mouthful of snow, letting it melt before drinking it down. Another step, he told himself. Each one brings you closer to her.

 

Anna had died as another victim of the wandering death. It had decimated his village in under a week. No foe could stand against his blade, no mighty beast dared face him in combat. Disease, though, disease has no fear, and killed without mercy. When he returned to his home from battle he discovered food rotting over long dead fires, friends who had died wailing in the streets, priests who had fallen while performing final rites, and of course Anna. Poor, sweet Anna.

 

He shook his head clear, and rubbed his eyes briefly to regain focus. He had to keep moving. The snow had subsided, and he took the opportunity to peer out to his surroundings.

 

Nothing. No horizon, no landmarks, no signs of life anywhere. Even his own tracks had already filled in.

 

He carried on, relying on instinct to guide him. The farseers spoke of a place in the north where the living could bring loved ones back from the gray realm. No man had ventured there, and its location was obscured to their eyes save for the direction.

 

“North, to a land where death need not venture.”

 

Death wouldn’t need to go where there’s nothing alive, he thought.

 

Another step.

 

In the distance, he thought he spotted something. A greyish spot, insignificant in any other setting. Here though, it was an anomaly against the blinding white background. A building? No, more like an arch.

 

It reminded him of home. The large gates of the outer wall welcoming friends and neighbors, pennants tousling in the afternoon breeze. It was there that he met Anna, where the markets spring up to cajole unknowing visitors into hasty purchases. He wasn’t a soldier then, but a farmer. Before the war, and the draft that followed. Nobody had heard of his deeds, there was no enemy to defeat. Her dress flowed along her soft curves, her hair lightly tossed to the side as she smiled to….

 

He came to with a start, realizing he had sunk to his knees. He tried to regain his footing, but the snow and fatigue made it difficult. Clutching the locket, he forced himself to stand once again. His breath was rapid, and his heart pounding. The winds had picked up again, and with it the blowing snow and ice. He could feel his tears, frozen now to his face. Blinking away the blur and the nostalgia, he looked again towards the gray arch.

 

He must have kept moving through his daydream, as he could still clearly see the structure, this time through the blizzard. He was closer now, much closer than he thought he should be. He shouldered the pack he had brought with him for Anna. Perhaps the mysterious structure was what he sought, or at least may provide some shelter against the unceasing cold.

 

The dark march took the armies of man through the middle of the deadlands. The marshes there were thick, and the mud was too deep for horses. Normally sending an army through such a terrible place would be suicide, but the remnants of the black legion were fleeing to their homelands, and it was the fastest way to finish the war for good. It was exhausting business, and the soldiers took turns resting on the few raised patches of mossy land they could find. He was a Captain now, with his own company to look after. The scouts had reported an abandoned outpost ahead. The legion had burned anything useful, but at least it meant dry land, and that meant a place to camp. As they approached the blackened ruins of the structure, he reached out his hand to steady himself against the smooth entryway.

 

Withdrawing his hand, he saw before him a massive stone arch with a pair of black metal gates, hinged on the sides, and locked firmly shut with a large square mechanism set inside. The snow had peaked now, and he sheltered his eyes and face against the wind as he surveyed the structure. There were no walls for this gate to be protecting, and no other buildings or even trees that he could see. Approaching the lock, he brushed away a crusting of snow and ice to reveal the mechanism, or rather where the mechanism should be. There was no key hole, no latch or lever or handle to pull, simply a large squarish slab. Making his way to the other side, he observed that both sides of the large square were identical, in that there was a seam indicating they were meant to come apart, but no visible way to make that happen. Heaving what strength he had left against it to no avail, he finally collapsed into the snow, breathing heavily.

 

Flinging off his helmet to catch some fresh air, he hefted his blade and recentered his shield. The King of Blades had started confidently, chuckling at this random pathetic Captain who dared challenge him in open combat. Few had survived the ambush in the marshes, and challenging the King was clearly an act of desperation. Hubris is the downfall of many a leader, though, and the King had underestimated the will of the Captain. As the King lifted his long, jagged scimitars the Captain felt the locket against his heaving chest, giving him the strength to strike again.

 

Removing his heavy fur mitten, locket still clasped in his fingers, he approached the gate again. As he did, the metal latch reacted, and the gates began pushing outward with the groan of ages past. As they did, the middle of the gates became something entirely new, free from the void of cold and misery, he could see vast green fields, warm sunshine, and blue skies.

 

And people.

 

Children playing in the meadow, chasing butterflies and each other. Old men harrumphing at this and that, content to be comedically miserable about everything. Carriages and horses and roasting fires and birds and in front of it all, she stood. Anna. In the same dress he remembered her in, smiling the warm smile that would still all anger or fear in his heart.

 

“You came.” Her voice was angelic, as always.

 

“I came to bring you home.” His words came out in sharp contrast, dry, cracked, and unused to the effort of speaking.

 

She giggled lightly and tilted her head slightly, the way she did when he was being silly. Taking a step forward she took the locket from his hand, both now face to face but in different worlds.

 

“I can’t believe you kept it all this time.”

 

“I wouldn’t have made it without…” His words choked off as he remembered how he made it through the darkest times, but she hadn’t.

 

“You died.”

 

Another giggle. “Does it look like I’m dead?”

 

Unsure of himself now, he dropped the pack to his side. He had planned it all out, set aside rations and clothes and everything she would need for the trip back home. The pack sank a few inches in to the snow and fell over.

 

She reached out again, this time taking his hand, and without needing another word, he took a step in to the sun.

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On emotional ambiguity

Feelings are difficult for anybody. Life isn’t an easy thing to deal with even if you are so base as to live it simply to survive. Millions of people are starving in THIS COUNTRY right now. Fuck, we’re supposed to be the leaders of the free world. We can’t even afford to give children cancer medicine without putting their families on the street.

 

I digress. Feelings.

 

I’m sure you’ve heard the Hemingway quote, “Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know”. It’s a bit off, I think, to make such a broad generalization. It does highlight, however, the thinker’s ability to think themselves into a hole. Existentialism and the constant fight against the worst of humanity’s self destructive tendencies are only two of a myriad of complications that observation, awareness and a general passion for curiosity tend to bring. Depression and intelligence are exclusive traits, but there is a correlation. Make of that what you will.

 

Depression creates difficulties in your life even if the depression itself is under control. When speaking in psychological terms, I have no qualifications. I just want to get that out of the way right now, I’m not speaking with any sort of authority. But from personal experience, psychology is an exercise in relativity. It’s not physics, which has mathematical principals which you can prove. It’s amoebic and compromising, and this creates a very unique challenge to anybody who suffers from mental or mood type disorders.

 

I don’t really know how to describe how I’m feeling anymore.

 

That sounds awfully negative, but it’s really just sort of a thing. Like not wearing socks with sandals. It doesn’t bother me that I shouldn’t do it, and I don’t do it. I’m not happy about it either. It’s just something that is, and that’s fine. I do know how to describe what I’m feeling, whether it’s happy or sad or gassy or whatever. I just don’t know how to put the what in proper context. Is that a thing that can be done? Put feelings in to context? I just don’t know anymore.

 

I guess I’m trying to measure the immeasurable when I do that. I’m looking for a baseline. An X axis by which I can say “I’m feeling like a solid 23” today. I imagine that anybody who struggles with a mood disorder has the same trouble. I can be fair and excited and depressed and anxious and comfortable all at the same time. How do you describe that? Even putting it in those exact terms doesn’t work because it just confuses the person listening. “Excited and depressed? You’re insane”.

 

Probably.

 

And it’s truly maddening for somebody who thinks way more than they should to have something about themselves they just can’t nail down. I want to be able to tell my friends and family how and why I’m feeling. I want to help them understand, because they care about me. I just can’t, because sometimes you feel something and you have no reason to feel the way you do, and you also feel exactly like you should, and also at the same time you don’t really feel like much of anything.

 

This must be what it’s like to be tofu.

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On omnipotence.

We need to talk, you and I.

 

We are, right now, experiencing a universe. One theory of our universe is that until we experience it, the universe is in a superposition of infinite states and those states all collapse in to the one reality as we experience it. Another states that every moment splits our universe in to an infinite number of possibilities. That show in the 90’s that was on for about 5 minutes called Sliders addressed that concept.

 

I’ve pondered both concepts and the ramifications thereof. The second theory is easily the most fun, because in an infinite number of alternate universes you are Tony Stark. Conversely, in an infinite number of universes you’re Robin. So count yer damn blessings.

 

The first theory is the one I’m more philosophically interested in. As of any given moment, take THIS ONE RIGHT NOW, you are in a position to affect the collapsed outcome of an infinite number of possibilities. You are ending an uncountable number of universes just through your decision to act. Or not act.

 

Holy CRAP that’s some responsibility right there.

 

We’re living in a universe where – while I write this – I’m also texting urine jokes back and forth. I ended infinity universes because I wanted to do that. I feel it was the right choice. I feel it in my bladder.

 

That’s how it messed with me thinking about it today. It’s too big a concept to grasp fully, which prevents decision paralysis, but enough to get me to realize that every decision I make leads to the universe I choose to exist. When you really start to wrap your brain around it theres a feeling of extreme megalomania.

 

In the end, it’s only partly true, but it can give a sense of renewed control over your circumstances. For many people this isn’t an issue, but for some that could be all it takes for a life decision that changes everything. In the grand scheme of things, we’re all very tiny. But you are the master of your own microcosm, and that at least is kind of a comforting thought.

 

Now go text somebody about pee.

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On Suicide

Dick Trickle is dead from a self inflicted gunshot wound.

It’s going to sound completely irreverent, but I found this out while perusing the news online.  Among the trending topics in the sidebar was “Dick Trickle”, without context.  I very truly and honestly giggled like an 8th grader at his name, sitting amid such serious topics as Benghazi and the economy and people dying in Afghanistan.  I had never heard his name before, I do not follow racing, so his celebrity was completely lost on me at the time.  Upon discovering his fate, I immediately flushed with guilt, even though I really hadn’t done anything wrong besides have a juvenile sense of humor.

Suicide resounds very heavily with me.   I have been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, and have struggled with it for quite some time.  Through those ups and downs the thought of suicide has always been present, though the context has rotated between a passing awareness of the idea to a full intention to follow through.  My disorder is controlled now, at least insofar as it requires to keep me from removing myself from this mortal coil.  However, past and present experience has given me a very uniquely understanding perspective of suicide and what it takes to drive a person to that point.  As such, it always reaches me when I hear of someone taking their own life, whether I knew or had any attachment to that person or not.

So I want to take the opportunity and the time to reach out to you, and anybody you know, who has considered or is considering suicide.

First and foremost, you are not alone.  As I said before, I have been to that state in my life more than once, and in fact one in four adults will be diagnosed with depression during their lifetime.  There is a vast network of people out there just like yourself who have been at their absolute lowest, with no hope and the weight of everyone and everything crushing down on them.  Come to us, talk to us, share with us.  We won’t make fun of you because we know what it means to feel the way you do, and we will help you get through this.

Second, you need to understand that you can make it through what you’re going through.  I remember seeing and hearing several different things during my personal struggle, but it never seemed to apply to me.  The mantra “No situation is hopeless” and the several variations thereof seemed very distant to me, because no matter how I looked at my situation I knew the truth was that my situation was the exception.  I WAS hopeless.  And nobody and nothing could help me, because I was too far gone to make it back to a life worth living.

That brings me to my next point, which is that depression is an illness, similar to the flu or cancer.  The effects it has on your mind are as unnatural to the way your mind works as the vomiting is to the way your body works.  Your mind is a fluid thing, and while you may believe that you are being completely objective when you say that everything is lost and you are better off dead, the truth is that belief of objectivity is also the depression talking.  That’s why it’s so dangerous, and why so many people succumb to suicide.  Because it doesn’t just affect how you feel, it affects how you think and what you believe and you won’t even know it.  That’s very important for you to remember, because if  you take away one thing from what I’ve written here today, it’s that you have to be willing to believe that you may be wrong about how hopeless you are.

Which leads you to finding help.  You need an objective source, and the depression won’t allow you to be objective with yourself anymore.  During my own fight with the worst parts of my depression, I called the suicide help line (1-800-273-8255).  The woman on the other end was very simple, very frank, and made me feel pretty dumb for how obviously wrong I was about my feelings of worthlessness to everyone, my daughter most of all.  There’s nothing wrong with seeking help, and taking medication isn’t putting a bandage on a symptom of a larger problem.  With depression, the larger problem often IS the depression, which needs to be effectively treated before you can make logical and healthy life decisions.  Give it a chance to work, and you’ll be surprised and amazed at how much things improve for you, not just in your mood, but in every aspect of your life.

Again, the suicide prevention line is 1-800-273-8255.  Make that one phone call for yourself, you won’t regret it.

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On Customer Service

Customer service is, by far, the least rewarding experience anybody can put themselves through. Not only does it pay precisely squat, but we, as consumers, are just an entitled bunch of asshats. You’re guilty of it. I’m guilty of it. We expect for our hard earned dollar not only the product or service we’re purchasing, but the umbrella of backwards over-bending which extends from before the interaction to well after the transaction has been completed.

 

Our expectations are skewed unfairly by promises from the competition, which rarely turn out to be true. A prime example is when purchasing a car. New car companies advertise 0% financing for 60 months and before you can read the impossible wall of fine print on the screen (which is there for roughly a tenth of a second) you’re out the door in your slippers because you are about to BUY THAT DAMN CAR.

 

If you’ve ever purchased a vehicle, you’re aware that this is a “bait and switch”, where they advertise 0% financing (on approved credit) for 60 months (with $4,000 down, base model vehicle, vehicles shown with optional equipment on a closed course). They’ll upsell you on a dozen unnecessary packages and features and make their money on you anyways. It’s the reason most people dread purchasing another car, and why car salesmen have an unflattering image attached to their title.

 

Look, we’re all victims of the consumer culture, I get that. I don’t get 4g coverage because I have an LTE phone, and my area is already covered by WiMax. The two aren’t compatible, but my area won’t be updated any time soon because as long as they update places with no 4g coverage at all, it looks like their 4g area is expanding on the little map the sales guy shows you. In reality, their 4g coverage is half of what they show you for any given individual customer, but the goal is to get you to buy, and the contract you sign takes care of loyalty.

 

On the reverse side of that coin are the people in the stores, who have to deal day in and day out for fractions of a cent on what their CEO makes with the rude fuckers we are, chewing their asses for not personally climbing that goddamned cell tower and installing 4gLTE coverage with their bare hands. I really cannot fathom working on the base level of a company who’s marketing practices are transparently duplicitous, but there’s a reason psych meds are a major portion of the pharmaceutical field, and these guys are that reason.

 

And make no mistake, those service reps hate you. Unrelentingly. Because until you prove to them otherwise, you are that customer. It may not even be a majority percentage of customers who come in who are rude, but we as humans are wired to remember the negative, and so that 20 year old kid working retail is going to look at you and recall all the horrible memories burned into his living brain by every posturing d-bag who walked through that door, and suddenly that d-bag is you.

 

There’s a great secret to getting what you, as the consumer, want in these situations. After months and years of this kind of abuse, these reps really do expect you to come in and treat them like garbage. That means that when you go in there and are polite, but firm and reasonable, you just turned in to the interaction that they’re going to remember that day. And rest assured, they will fold themselves in half it means finishing the interaction on a positive note, without screaming or nasty language. You’ve given them a reprieve from the hell that is customer service, and they’ll repay that with anything they have the power to give you. That’s the experience I had today, and I walked out with close to $200 worth more than I was expecting, and I did not have to ask for a dime of it.

 

The power of your words, and the context in which you frame them, can be awesome.

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On Comic Bookery

Request time, Bitches.

 

Any comedian with a vocabulary greater than “Fuck” can tell you that high school is about as idyllic a time as an unlubricated colonoscopy. You’re at an age where you are developing your own opinions and sense of independence, but you have no worldly experience to back any of your preposterous ideologies.

 

Also you have a huge hormonal imbalance that’s causing you to have boners at all the wrong times.

 

But if there is one thing I would transplant in a heartbeat from my time in high school, it was my job. It was the single greatest aspect of my adolescence and for a nerdy kid with 0 athleticism and very little in the way of social skills, it was my Nirvana. Compared to the fast food and grocery store jobs that everybody else ended up with at 16, it was the equivalent of a swordfighting robot ramping a motorcycle through the jaws of a t-rex that’s on fire.

 

I worked at a COMIC BOOK STORE. (Guitar riff, thunder in the background)

 

Fuck yes I did. And day in and day out of that job was talking shop about the newest Magic:TCG set or discussing the finer points of Astro City, every day had some adventure in it, even if that adventure was simulated. It was a job experience that I’ve never had since. Hell, it was a life experience that I haven’t had since. It broke through the monotony – the same monotony I’ve talked about before – in a way that was similar to a black and white television suddenly switching to 3D Hi-Def.

 

And keep in mind, I worked through the height of the Pokemon:TCG popularity. To this day I remember before it really took off. In the store we had ordered several boxes of one of the earliest edition core sets. I was in a unique position to purchase one or more of those boxes before the price spike that popularity brings to a collectible market like that, and even recall thinking to myself “I need to buy those, this is going to be huge”. But collectibles are a fickle thing, and I figured there was a much greater chance of it tanking (see Babylon 5:TCG, Star Wars: TCG, AniMayhem, and almost every other CCG after the Magic:TCG boom) than it did of succeeding. A few months later those boxes were worth over ten times what I would have paid.

 

It’s okay though, I would have just blown it on more comic books and Magic cards.

 

And even though I endured the height of PokeFandom, I also got to be there during the first real successful comic book movies. Spider Man and The X-Men changed the comics landscape in a way I didn’t get to understand before leaving. DC’s Vertigo line launched several successful (and more unsuccessful) stories geared towards a more adult audience. And still other writers, like Kurt Busiek, turned comic storytelling into something transcendent, evoking adult themes without the crutch of offensive material that so many other writers had to fall back on.

 

Even now, it feels like I’m not really doing it justice with my words. It was one of a very few truly unique experiences that I’ve gotten to have, and it’s influences still impact me today. Whether it’s in my writing or hobbies or just a slight skew to my own personal outlook on life, it’s there. Nobody can take that from me, and if there was one thing from my adolescence that I could regain, it would be the store, with its camaraderie and fueds and Dr. Pepper fueled late night gaming sessions and superpowered debates and everything.

 

It was a world, with a thousand tiny microcosms of fandom swirling and interacting to create a living entity, and I got to be there in the middle of it all.   

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On Moms

The EW (Acronym for Ex Wife, also the sound my brain makes when you say her actual name) is a woman who could not find any time to share with her children on Mother’s Day, even after they’ve been hearing about how great moms are all day from literally everything. And after she hasn’t seen them in person for 2 months.

 

And frankly, if that’s the kind of person she is, the girls are probably better off not seeing her anyways.

 

It shouldn’t be a huge shock to anybody, then, when I mention how much of a relief it was to have her out of my life. She was a major source and trigger for my depression, and treated everything with the same sort of extrapersonal indifference that she treated her children on the one day she should be celebrating the opportunity she was afforded to see them.

 

So I have the girls, which is great and everybody tells me how awesome of a dad I am (because I am a fucking OUTSTANDING dad) and then I realize I’m still no Mom. See, I can sacrifice everything to give these kids any chance of success, but I still quake with the FEAR knowing that while I’ve got fatherhood down to a science (paternology?) I’m just no mother.

 

When you hear of people talking about “Maternal instinct” or “The mother’s touch” it’s easy to write off as someone being predisposed to parenthood, or having that special bond with a child having raised it from a wrinkled screaming poop factory to whatever shaped poop factory it happens to be now. I didn’t even take it very seriously. But after fighting with the girls night after night to get them to sleep, for instance, and then watching as they obey my mother’s commands instantly without question, not only am I jealous, I’m downright scared I’m not doing parenting right. ALL OF IT.

 

They’re only 4 and 2. It’s uncomfortable enough taking Alyssa to use the restroom. What happens when they get older and start asking about boys, and where babies come from, and oh God PERIODS. The hell am I supposed to tell them? “Sorry sweety, daddys don’t have that problem. Sounds like a real scary thing though. I hope it clears up soon.” Fuck.

 

Or what happens when they start asking about their mom? I’m already having to lie to them because nothing will make a child feel more worthless than “Mommy would rather get high than be with you”. They don’t even know what getting high is. I’d like to keep it that way for a while. I may be an awesome dad, but if any part of my brain actually understood the level in which I am over my head, it would chuck itself screaming out my ear and do a suicide flip off my shoulder on to the pavement below. My entire life is improv.

 

I don’t know if that’s how it was for my mother raising my sister and I, but if it was she sure didn’t make it seem like it. Just like any kid, I was a violent little bag of selfish desire and so was my sister, but mom took the time to teach and shape and push and guide and yes, sometimes punish me into the bodacious dude I am today. I couldn’t write like this if she hadn’t taught me and encouraged me to read. And I sure as hell wouldn’t feel even remotely qualified to spend any time guiding my own children as they grow if she hadn’t done such a superb job with me.

 

Not everybody gets to have a mother. It’s unlikely that my children will ever know what it’s like to have a real mom, who sees them and spends time with them and does all the things that even now I can’t even begin to relate on to paper because they’re so engrained that we take them for granted and we shouldn’t. Dear God we really shouldn’t. Because take it from a guy who’s trying to fill both roles, every sandwich, every bedtime story, every trip to the park takes effort. Effort that many days you won’t even think you have to give. And even after all these years the fact that my mother is able to hug me without leaving a knife in my spine has got to be some kind of record for patience and understanding.

 

So Mom, today is for you. I will probably never understand how you manage to handle things the way you do. I know I’ll never be able to claim your level of zen like patience. But for everything you did, and everything you do, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I love you.

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