2019/10/31

The Blue Light

Blue Light

Of all the true tales of high strangeness I've shared with you, none scare me more than this one.

Joe--true name withheld for reasons that will become obvious--grew up in the 60s in one of the more upscale Chicago suburbs. After college he returned to his hometown and settled into a teaching career at the local high school.

Every year at Halloween he would suspend normal lessons and instead tell his class this story, which I relate in as close to his own words as I can recall.
OK, the blue light story.
At the start of my senior year, news was making the rounds about three grade school kids who'd gone missing. A local kid had his cousin over for the weekend, and the cousin brought a friend. The first kid's folks lived in one of those big houses out in what at the time was unincorporated Cook County.
Saturday afternoon the homeowners went out for the day and left the three boys horsing around in the backyard. That was the last they'd seen of them.
At first the parents thought that the kids had hitched a ride downtown to see a movie or something. People still did that back then. When Saturday came and went, the fear started to grow that they'd wandered off into the woods and gotten lost. You know all the miles and miles of forest preserves out there? Well, there was even more of it back then.
The police got involved, and bulletins went out on the radio and in the local papers. A guy from a neighboring town came forward and said he'd seen the three boys walking down the turnpike early on Sunday morning. It's assumed the kids got it in their heads to run away from home, and they'll come traipsing in any time now.
But another day passes, and they don't come back.There was a famous case from a decade before where two young sisters went missing after seeing a movie in Brighton Park and turned up dead a few weeks after that. They never caught the guy, and the wound was still pretty raw those years later.
  At that point panic set in, because now the leading theory is kidnapping. Everybody expected a ransom note to come down in a couple of days, because this kid's folks are pretty well-heeled. But days go by, and there's no ransom demand, no sign of the boys, nothing.
Now folks start whispering--where the parents can't hear--that the boys were picked up by some pervert, and this pervert's got them locked up in some basement or garage somewhere so he can take his time with them. It became a popular pastime for the junior and senior boys to head out onto the maze of back roads sprawling through those woods on pervert hunts. They'd pile into the car with flashlights, baseball bats, and cases of Old Style and make a night of it. But no one found anything.
Then one day about a week after the kids went missing, a patrolman cruising the turnpike happens upon all three boys wandering down the side of the road in broad daylight. He pulled up alongside them and called their names, but they didn't respond; just kept ambling along like they were in a trance.
He finally coaxed the kids into his squad car and called it in. He told the dispatcher that the boys looked disheveled but otherwise okay. They were non-responsive to questions about where they'd been and who they'd been with. The only thing any of them would say was, "Blue light." If prodded enough, they'd repeat it like a mantra before trailing off again.
This cop takes the kids in. The doc who checks them out confirms they're in pretty good shape physically, just a bit dehydrated with a few scrapes and bruises. But all they can get out of the boys is that same litany of, "Blue light ... blue light."
So everybody concludes that this pervert had the kids locked up in a basement lit with some kind of blue bulb. The cops kept searching, and the high school boys kept up their nightly pervert hunts--now on the lookout for this weird blue light. This goes on for weeks, but nothing turns up. Eventually they stop looking and people stop talking, but it's never really forgotten, just like the Brighton Park case.
A reporter friend from the Tribune tried to do a follow up on the three victims back in the 80s. The story had made all the papers at the time, but to his consternation he couldn't find a single clipping in any of their records. One small town paper losing part of their archive is feasible, but not every Chicagoland paper at once. This reporter started wondering who might have an interest in hushing the story up.
He did pick up a few breadcrumbs on the boys' trail. All three had been committed to a psychiatric hospital. He found evidence that one had died there in the 70s. After that, the trail went cold.
Anyway, by October talk of the kidnapping had died down. The boys in my class still went out on nighttime rides into the forest preserves; more to clown around than to hunt perverts.
With Halloween falling on a Friday, my two best partners in crime and I decided we'd show up our friends, the cops, and everybody by finally catching the pervert. We each told our folks we were going camping at Starved Rock for the weekend. Our wheel man pulled up to my place that evening with our other accomplice in tow. I said goodbye to my folks, ducked into the back seat with a diversionary sleeping bag and a cooler full of Old Style, and we hit the road.
The first few hours of that night are still a fond memory. We drove down the turnpike, cracking jokes and talking girls with the radio on full blast. The fun continued as we hit the forest preserve, and the sun sank below the trees.
We must have driven around out there for hours--veering randomly off the turnpike to tear down narrow dirt roads that wound through the woods. They all eventually led back to the turnpike, at which point we'd repeat the process again. This was all unincorporated Cook County back then, so you could pull stunts like that without waking the neighbors. There was nobody for miles.
We'd emerged onto the turnpike for the umpteenth time and made it down the road a ways when our wheel man checked the mirror and said:
"What's that weird light back there?"
"That what?"
"It's been tailing us since we passed the old cemetery pond."
Against my better judgment, I turned and looked back. And here's this solitary light--must've been a hundred yards back. At first we think it's a car with a headlight out or a guy on a motorcycle, but the weird thing is, the light is blue.
And it's gaining on us.
I must have called out, "Oh, shit!" or something, and that was all the wheel man needed to floor it. I saw that old Chevy's speedometer hit a hundred miles per hour. But that lone blue light kept gaining. It grew to the size of a beach ball, and as it was about to hit our rear bumper, I saw that there was nothing behind it. The damn thing was just a big ball of cold blue light. I think I screamed first. At any rate, we were all screaming as the road turned left but my buddy kept going straight. We plowed into a harvested cornfield with a bone-rattling thud. Cornstalk stumps smacked against the undercarriage like baseball cards in a bike's spokes. The wheel man slammed on the brakes, and we fishtailed to a halt.
And the light was right there with us. It orbited the car, slow and menacing. I just knew it was looking us over--like a glutton selecting cuts of beef. 
My buddy who'd been riding shotgun threw open his door and bolted. Me and the wheel man took off after him. We hightailed it out of that cornfield and into the woods. I couldn't tell you how far we ran before we finally stopped and stood doubled over, heaving for air. It felt like miles.
We were shivering from cold and foggy from shock as we picked our way back to the corn field. My buddy's car was still there, doors wide open. Otherwise the field and the roadway were empty. We climbed back in the car, drove to Starved Rock, and came back on Sunday. None of us said anything to our folks or blabbed at school on Monday.
The first time I publicly opened up about this story was to another class full of kids on Halloween. Maybe it was a form of therapy. Anyhow, the amateur historian of the bunch came up to me after class and asked about the pond where we first saw the blue light. I confirmed that it was an old quarry pond behind a flyspeck cemetery. This kid told me the place went back to pioneer days when they were digging the Illinois-Michigan Canal. He said crazy stuff has gone on there over the years--satanic rituals, cops driving by to find the gates blown off their hinges and coffins erupted from the ground; and weird floating lights.
I'd heard ghost stories growing up about a cursed cemetery somewhere out in the woods. I just didn't associate them with that place until my student filled in the dots. There are reports going back a hundred years of people following a farmer who carries a lantern to an old house back in the woods. Many say the lantern is blue. They say the farmer and the house disappear before you can set foot on the porch.
The ones who come back sane, or at all, say that.
This story disturbs me more than the others I've told because unlike the others, I have direct personal experience with the setting.

I have been to the little cemetery from the teacher's tale. I have seen the deep, scum-ridden quarry pond and walked among the neglected graves.

It is a sad, decrepit place. The only signs of remembrance were the ragged toys and flowers left at a worn grave marker labeled only "Infant Daughter".

I experienced nothing out of the ordinary there, except that no rain fell within the cemetery grounds during my visit, though steady showers soaked the woods all around.

An oily feeling of wrongness clung to me as I left and for weeks thereafter. I would not go back even if offered considerable inducement to do so.

I wonder about those who did not--or cannot--leave.

2019/10/30

End of the Amazon Revolution

Amazon - Jax

If you travel in the circles where this blog is read, you already know that yesterday Amazon nuked preorders for Jon Del Arroz's and Declan Finn's latest books.
Amazon shut down Jon Del Arroz’s Glorified novel along with Declan Finn’s Deus Vult novel from publisher Silver Empire.
Publisher Russell Newquist was informed that both books, which were scheduled to be released on November 1st, were removed from Amazon and Kindle.
Having worked with Russell Newquist before, I can affirm that Amazon blaming this debacle on his negligence is textbook DARVO behavior. Russell says he uploaded the files weeks ago.

Assuming the publisher of a best selling series inexplicably forgot to upload the third installment after books 1 and 2 launched without a hitch, the ones with the most to lose--the authors--would be crawling down his throat.

But they're not. They're looking right at Amazon.

And it's not as if the accused megacorp doesn't have a history of such censorious behavior.
While Amazon claims the pre-order for the books were cancelled because of missing a deadline, Newquist believes it’s suspicious that Amazon “canceled two controversial Christian Fiction books at once.”
It's mind-boggling how much of our elites' seemingly random behavior makes perfect sense once you realize they hate the Christ.

Speaking of diabolical antics, some Death Cult dregs scuttled out from under their rocks and into the comments to run the usual gaslighting routine.

False Binary

Whenever you see Leftoid ritual cant showing up in a smug denial of what everyone can see with their own two eyes, it's a good bet you're dealing with someone who is, at minimum, demonically obsessed.

Still, we can't pin this job on Satan alone. The question now is who did his dirty work?

I'll put the question to my readers. Who do you think got Jon and Declan's books banned from Amazon?
  1. Rogue bluehair in an Amazon wage cage
  2. Degenerate centurion LARPnig #ComicsGate spinoff
  3. People in high places took notice of Cruci-Ficton; shut it down!
You decide!

One more seemingly insignificant detail: Last week a File七百七十 troll popped up in this site's back catalog to spam some old posts.

Ryu238

Usually the Rascal scooter and kiddy diddling clique keep to their Dorito powder-encrusted warrens unless something shakes the hive. But despite any major awards drama, piracy charges, or defamation suits, a certain witch's familiar tried some drive-by vandalism in my comments.

In and of itself, I'd chalk it up to a fluke. But both of the targeted posts dealt with a certain prior round of Amazon shenanigans.


We know that the CHORFs have enough idle pensioners and Chinese bots to hate mob Amazon. The question is, why now?

They may just have noticed the clear and present threat posed to them by muscular Christian fiction.

Whoever the culprits turn out to be, it's clear that the publishing revolution sparked by Amazon has already borne its essential fruit.

Oldpub is dead. The gatekeepers are gone. What comes next for authors is a neo-patronage system that's already taking shape.

JDA Update

2019/10/29

Marketing Millennials


A comment by author JD Cowan on yesterday's viral post demonstrates the deliberate memory holing of Generation Y in this article from 2001.
Here at the turn of the real millennium, trend forecasters and futurists are pondering new ways of cross-marketing to all of America's biggest consumer groups. First there was the generation of World War II GIs--part of Mr. Brokaw's The Greatest Generation--followed by the Silent Generation and their kids, the Baby Boomers--the group that cemented generational targeting as a discipline.
Then came Generations X and Y, and now there's the "Millennial" generation. 
There you have it--generations X, Y, and the Millennials all acknowledged as separate cohorts. That was the accepted model until Madison Avenue Boomers revised history, but we're getting  ahead of ourselves.

They also skipped Generation Jones, but what else is new?
In the past, generations were defined largely by the year in which one was born. Now target marketing has reached the point where generational attitudes are discerned and used as a starting point for media planning.
Like I've been saying for a while now, classifying generations by twenty-year intervals is arbitrary line drawing in an era of rapidly accelerating societal change.

In other words, it makes no sense to call someone who grew up with neither internet nor smart phones but who remembers the Cold War a part of the same generation as someone whose entire life span parallels that of The Simpsons.
"Generation Y was a [popular phrase] in 1993, a term which at that point identified correctly the last third of Gen X," Mr. Strauss said. "The notion has become familiar in popular culture and in marketing to refer to teenagers. But now Y is a little older-those marketing styles are either directed at current young twenty-somethings or they're applying the veneer of X to a short-lived effort to reach teenagers that is not going to work over time." Understanding the new generation as its own animal is key to reaching its members successfully, Mr. Strauss said.
Defining the Millennials as the generation born in or after 1982, Mr. Strauss calls them more numerous, more affluent, better educated and more ethnically diverse than generations past. Millennials also have been trained to be "doers" and "achievers."
"The GI's were the first great generation," said Mr. Strauss. "We now need a new `greatest generation'-one that's responsible and civic-minded. The shoes are there for them to fill. It's harder to become more cynical than the boomers, or more sarcastic than the Xers. The kids aren't going to go linearly from what adults are doing; historically, they never have."
Thus proving a) that Generation Y is a real cohort which differs significantly from the Millennials, b) that the former term was cynically phased out by marketers, and c) how clueless most people in marketing are.

To hear me discuss Generation Y in more detail, listen to my recent appearance on The Front Porch Show.

The Front Porch Show

2019/10/28

The Finders' Keepers

Finders glow in the dark

The next time a smug bug man or internet atheist ridicules the religious Right for starting a Satanic Panic back in the 80s, you can serve him this brimming glass of STFU.
The “Finders” were a CIA Operation, often described as a 1960s-style commune, in reality they were a cult that conducted “brainwashing” and used children “in rituals.” The FBI has now unsealed a 324 page document that details this operation and the US Intel Communities role in ritual child sexual abuse.
Here's the FBI document. If you think the description above is outrageous, buckle up, because we haven't even scratched the surface.

Here are some highlights:
[Redacted] has alleged that The Finders are involved in a well organized child abuse scheme, and that [redacted] in conjunction with the state department, and the FBI’s foreign counterintelligence section, conspired to cover up those abuses.
The F.B.I. has contact with the Finders since 1971 including a recent report dealing with the C.I.A. involvement with at least one of the members of the Finders passing information overseas concerning activities of the Central Intelligence Agency. When it became apparent that no Federal Laws were violated the F.B.I. vacated the investigation.
[Redacted] contacts MPD Intelligence and advises that all reports regarding Finders are to be classified at the Secret level. [Redacted] also advised that no information was to be turned over to the FBI WFO for investigation, and that the WFO would not be advised of the [redacted] involvement/contact.
On 6/14/93, The United States Attorney’s office for the District of Columbia declined prosecution of this matter and this case was closed. WMFO contact with U.S. Custom Service, WDC, indicated that customs SA [redacted] will not be available for interview until Monday, 11/8/93. WMFO is scheduled to review the MPD file concerning “Finders” on 11/4/93. Investigation continues at WMFO.
The Justice Department said Friday it is investigating allegations the CIA used a ″front company″ run by a commune to train agency employees and that the CIA blocked investigation of the group. The CIA denied any ties to the commune, called the Finders.
As always, Mister Metokur's good friend sums up this diabolical enormity best:

Mister Anti-Bully espionage

But the CIA facilitating a child sex ring wasn't enough. The Finders' nightmarish tale gets even darker.
[Redacted] he stated, has maintained that there is a nationwide conspiracy among individuals involved in Satanic worship and sexual child abuse, with members being located in Stuart, Florida area. To date, Sergeant redacted advised he had located no hard evidence of any organized sexual abuse in the area, but noted there is similarity in sexual abuse cases that have occurred in different parts of the country.
No need to fret, [Redacted], whoever prepared the FBI document dump on the Finders also threw in a map produced from the execution of a search warrant on McMartin preschool in Manhattan Beach, CA.

If the name McMartin Preschool rings a bell, it's because the school gained infamy as ground zero for the child abuse case that kicked off the so-called Satanic Panic.

360 children were alleged to have been abused at McMartin daycare. Many of the children claimed that they'd been subjected to sexual and satanic ritual abuse in a system of tunnels under the school. When investigators declared that excavations turned up nothing, the claim of secret tunnels became a byword for spurious ritual abuse claims.

Now, after a generation of ridicule, the FBI has confirmed the tunnels' existence, vindicating the children's testimony.

McMartin Tunnels

45 foot tunnel. 9 foot wide subterranean entrance found under west wall of the “Dog” room (Classroom 4 [redacted] classroom)… Tunnel proceeded south, then east 45 feet through Classrooms 4 and 3, and north, then east 10 feet within Classroom 4… Four large, upright containers were found in the tunnel under the arch, obviously hand placed. A 9 foot wide chamber was found along the tunnel under Classroom 4. Top of chamber and top of sections of the tunnel had layers of plywood covers with ta_ paper which has apparently been supported by cinder blocks and 2″ x 2″ and 2″ x 4″ wooden posts found underneath. Tunnel features made it evident that tunnel was hand dug.
7 Foot tunnel extending into the triplex next door. Tunnel extended from the bathrooms off the office and Classroom 1 to the front yard of the triplex next door… Children described entrance and exiting tunnel in triplex yard exactly where tunnel and exit were found. 1 39″ x 41″ area under a hole cut in this neighbor’s bathroom floor had been excavated and subsequently filled.
Other significant facts. A small, white plastic plate with three pentagrams hand drawn on top of light green paint was found by the archaeologists in the stratified dirt in the play yard. Per historical archaeologists, pentagrams were hand drawn by an adult and not part of the manufacturer’s design…
Note: Glendale Montessori in Stuart, FL, specifically mentioned in the FBI files, was considered another instance of the child ritual abuse "hysteria".

I've warned that the Death Cult has started coming for our children. I was wrong; they've been going after them for decades. And elements of our own government covered it up.

Jim does a deep dive into the FBI dump's sordid depths. Warning: not for the faint of heart.

Finding the Finders - Mister Metokur

This dire crisis transcends politics and ideology. Its roots are spiritual, and only by submitting to the Lordship of Jesus Christ will sanity and justice be restored to the West.

2019/10/25

Combat Frame Data: GCD-01A Castor

GCD-01A Castor

GCD-01A Castor

Technical Data

Model number: GCD-01A
Code name: Castor
Classification: general purpose attack combat drone
Manufacturer: Lunar Underground modification of a Zeklov-Astraea design
Operator: HALO/Lunar Underground
First deployment: CY 40
Crew: integrated strong A.I.
Height: 18 meters
Weight: 85 metric tons
Armor type: "1D" carbyne laminar armor 
Powerplant: cold fusion reactor, max output 1796 KW
Propulsion: rocket thrusters: 4x 36,615 kg, 2x 20,000 kg, 2x 15,875; top speed 2385 kph; maneuvering thrusters: 18, 180° turn time 0.81 seconds; legs: top ground speed 198 kph
Sensors: VISOR (Visible & Infrared Scanning Optical Receptor) mounted in head
Fixed armaments: x2  plasma sword, power rated at 0.52 MW, stored in charging racks on back;  x2 double plasma katar, forearm-mounted, total output rated at 0.46 MW each; 70mm machine rifle, magazine-fed, 200 graphene-tungsten rounds per mag, mounted on left forearm; plasma cannon, output rated at 2 MW, mounted on rifle; x2 3-tube micro-missile pod, calf-mounted, holds 6 missiles per tube
Special equipment: Combining system


General Notes

A modified version of the AZY-002 Heavy Armor Dolph Y, the Castor combat drone features a more practical, stripped-down design that is no less deadly. The GCD-01A has been divested of the AZY-002's extra armor, drastically reducing its weight and power consumption. An upgrade to full "1D" carbyne laminar armor more than compensates for its reduce armor thickness.

Instead of its former iteration's kitchen sink approach to weapons, Castor adopted a more focused yet still versatile armament philosophy. The GCD-01A excels at mid-to-long-range fire support with a combination plasma/70mm machine rifle and a pair of micro-missile launchers. For close combat, it carries a pair of plasma swords and mounts a set of dual plasma bundi daggers as weapons of last resort.

Castor's most notable advancement is the strong A.I. of the same name that is the unit's sole pilot. Castor spends most of his downtime training with his brother Pollux, pilot of the GCD-01B. Both A.I.s have learned each other's fighting styles so well that they can synchronize effectively in combat without the need for comm coordination.

As the ultimate expression of their filial bond, Castor and Pollux can combine their respective combat drones into the GCD-02 Heavy Armor Gemini.


Thanks to Build-a-Mech backer D.J. Schreffler for commissioning this exciting design. CF Data entries for his next two mecha will follow shortly.

In the meantime, get your mech action fix with Combat Frame XSeedi!


Combat Frame XSeed - Brian Niemeier

2019/10/24

Pray for James

James Younger

A Texas jury has sided with a witch who seeks to turn her son into a girl as revenge against her ex-husband.
Jeff Younger said his son is happy being a boy and does not desire to be a girl, according to The Texan. James Younger’s pediatrician mother, Anne Georgulas, as well as counselors and therapists who testified on her behalf, told the court that the 7-year-old is transgender and had expressed to each of them that he wished he were a girl.
A Texas jury decided Monday that Jeff Younger cannot stop James Younger’s social gender transition to a girl. A social transition refers to when a person begins to publicly conform to the opposite gender, according to Planned Parenthood.
There it is. They're taking out kids and sterilizing them under color of law. If we submit to this ultimate humiliation ritual, Western civilization is done for, and it will deserve the coming oblivion.

A small white pill: Texas Governor Greg Abbott has taken an interest in the case.

Gregg Abbott

If Abbott orders the arrests for child abuse of the witch, her attorneys, the butchers in scrubs who are facilitating the torture of her son, and the jury, we may have a chance to avoid plunging into the abyss.

In the meantime, pray for James.

UPDATE: The cultural doomsday clock has been moved back one minute from midnight.
A judge ruled Thursday that Jeff Younger has a say in whether or not his 7-year-old son goes through a gender transition.
Judge Kim Cooks of Texas’s 255th district ruled Thursday that parents Younger and Anne Georgulas will have joint guardianship over James Younger, LifeSite News reported. This joint guardianship includes joint decision-making for medical decisions. 
Praise God for delivering this boy from Moloch's claws. This is justice for him and more mercy than our sick society deserves.

Ideally, Abbott keeps his nerve, and the father be making all of his son's medical decisions because the mother will be behind bars.

2019/10/23

Give Them Nothing

Brand Zero - Give Them Nothing

Two indie creators who are wise to Hollywood's contempt for its own audience have determined what must be done--or rather, what must not be done.

First up, best selling author and comic book writer Jon Del Arroz exhorts dissenting consumers to starve the Pop Cult beast.
We know the story’s going to be trash. It’s going to be pop commercial consumerism with member berries and not much creativity at all because of the backlash of the last film. And so we’re going to get an endless cycle of youtube critics positing that the movie will be terrible, people clicking on it, people going at seeing the movie a zillion times to confirm it’s terrible, posting about it, youtube critics bashing it, people tuning into yotube critics bashing it, and then the actors crying about misogyny and racism and creating free promotion to make this another billion dollars again.
It’s so tired. And it’s entirely on you, the person who reads the blogs, watches youtube to NOT CLICK THESE THINGS. Do not talk about the movie. Don’t watch commentary on it. Starve it of mentions.
This is what they do to independent alternatives. The media refuses to talk about it. You will never see any one of these sites ever mention Flying Sparks or Justified because they don’t want people knowing it exists. And the only way to deal with that in information warfare is to do it back to them.
Every time you click on a youtube review or preview of this movie, you are feeding the machine. You are keeping it going.
Make content supporting indies. Click on the content that’s supporting indies.
Jon's most telling observation is that only our side produces attack reviews of our opponents' content. Vice, The Mary Sue, and The Verge don't write hit pieces on Galaxy's Edge or Justified. They know that the way to neutralize dissenting creators is to deny them a platform.

Not responding in kind is just tactically illiterate at this point.

Author Rawle Nyanzi expands on JDA's call to action with a simple yet bold concept:
Therefore there is only one solution: Cease this madness at once. I call it Brand Zero.
For all the complaints about the major brands, even critics see them as real and legitimate, as opposed to “amateur” brands. There is a sense that these big media brands are the only ones that matter, even when they drop the ball on purpose. We are conditioned to think of big brands as above us just because the owners have a big bank account and could afford nice graphic designers.
Thus, we must take radical action to break this conditioning. From this day forward, I will not mention any major media franchise on this blog, and I will erase such talk if I see it in the comments. Also, I will not like, share, or reply to any social media post that discusses a major media franchise.
This does not only apply to woke brands. All major brands, including anime, will not be mentioned here. No big brand requires my help in getting the word out, so I won’t do it for them.
If it is mentioned on any mainstream geek site (Bleeding Cool, IGN, Comic Book Resources, Anime News Network, etc.), it is a major brand. Those sites get a lot of traffic from interested parties, so they don’t need you to talk up whatever they’re talking up. Meanwhile, great content languishes in obscurity because everyone would rather complain to a company that deliberately antagonizes them, thinking they’ll change with the 17,863,485,736th email.
I applaud Jon and Rawle on their resolutions. You won't see me giving page inches to converged IPs, either.

Merely mentioning a Disney/Marvel property, even to negatively contrast it with a superior indie work, just gives the Devil Mouse brand social proof as the one to beat.

Refusing to feed the beast doesn't suffice by itself, though. We also need positive messaging that promotes superior alternatives.

Freeing Gen Y fanboys from the nostalgia trap has also proven more of a challenge than even I anticipated. Studying methods professionals use to combat addiction and deprogram cultists may be in order.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with some more sage advice from Rawle:

"Brian Niemeier’s Combat Frame XSeed is a great non-mainstream mecha series ... Buy these, and you’ll help shift things in the right direction."

Combat Frame XSeed - Brian Niemeier

2019/10/22

SMRT Stories: Reprise

Ankaran Sarcophagus

My earlier post on SJWs cannibalizing the once-mighty White Wolf Publishing occasioned a friend to recommend the 2004 video game *deep breath* Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines.

Having lacked a PC capable of running the game back then, I missed it the first time around. I wasn't the only one, either. Troika, VtMB's developer, cut a deal with games juggernaut Valve Corp to use the latter's shiny new Source engine.

Troika thought that bringing the first Source game to market would lead to breakout sales.We'll never know if they were right. Valve insisted that VtMB not be released until after the highly anticipated sequel to their own flagship game Half-Life. Even though Troika's game was finished first, they couldn't release it until after the launch of HL2, which ended up being massively delayed. [Editor's note: I've since been informed that Valve did not in fact order Troika to delay VtMB's release. The game really failed because of serious scope creep and Activision forcing Troika to launch while the game was still incomplete. It actually launched on the same day as HL2, which was the final kiss of death.]

VtMB lost out on being the first Source game, lost momentum, and tanked. Its failure killed Troika, which is a shame, since it's quite good. The music and the writing--particularly the dialogue--approach the apex of the video game medium. The one misfiring piston is the actual game play. There is simply no mechanical justification for building this kind of RPG on an FPS twitch shooter engine. Using Source was a pure marketing gamble that cost Troika the farm.

Happily, gamers have since come to appreciate VtMB's flawed beauty, and the game has become a cult classic.

But I'm not here to write a review. This post concerns a recurring theme in contemporary fiction that both #PulpRev and superversive folks may have noticed. I brought up Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines because this theme runs through its main plot, as well as the plots of books like The Da Vinci Code. I'm referring to the species of smug, biggest-brain-in-the-room demytholigizing that I call Smrt storytelling.

Thanks to the accelerating erosion of the West's Christian foundations, the converged entertainment industry can't tell a good vs evil story anymore. See the mewling sub-pagans who denounce Tolkien for depicting orcs as morally inferior to elves.

Generating catharsis by appealing to the audience's shared sense of right and wrong is right out when you hold your audience's morals in contempt. Post-Christian storytellers must endeavor to scratch a different fundamental human itch. No, I don't mean smut. Lust certainly has a profitable track record, and you can bet it'll show up as window dressing, but it's a poor substitute for good triumphing over evil. The best postmodern alternative to justice is pride, and a Smrt Story is the favored vehicle for massaging the audience's ego.

Your boilerplate Smrt Story follows the basic mystery template with a key twist: The answer to the mystery involves debunking a central tenet--or perceived central tenet--of Christianity. I call such propaganda "Smrt" instead of "smart" because the author's theological knowledge is usually so deficient that the "dogma" he's debunking is a nonsensical straw man. But his ignorance sets a vicious frame wherein Christians may be lured into defending one error to refute another. Think of all the Dan Brown critics who argued that it didn't matter if Christ survived the crucifixion.

Baiting Christians into tilting at windmills isn't the main point of a Smrt Story. The Smrt author works his evil spell by taking the reader aside and whispering, "Look at all those rubes stumbling around in their superstitious fog. I can tell you're not like them. You can handle the truth, and here it is..."

Here's how the trick works. The Smrt author presents himself as a sort of Gnostic oracle who's got the dirt on some formerly sacred Western tradition. He doesn't break the fourth wall and make these claims overtly. Instead he establishes his credentials by portraying the skeptics attacking the fable as cool, informed characters the reader wants to emulate. At the same time, those who cling to traditional Western beliefs are mocked as credulous--often violent--dupes. The Smrt author carefully frames the window of allowable debate in his world to exclude any compelling arguments for the defense.

Skilled Smrt authors will introduce some last-minute ambiguity to allow the rubes some wiggle room. This conceit is just a sugar to coat the poison pill. It's usually presented as an afterthought, and often for a laugh. The story's main impression remains: The reader has joined the cool kids who know the truth behind the fairy tales.

Being based in falsehood, the Smrt story never satisfies as deeply as heroic tales of heroes triumphing over villains. But when you've traded your birthright for an unwarranted sense of smug superiority, giving the audience a transitory thrill is the best you can hope for.


To wash the taste of SMRT out of your brain, read my action-packed mecha thriller Combat Frame XSeed.

Combat Frame XSeed - Brian Niemeier

2019/10/21

Yes, An Actual Cult

In case anyone still thinks I'm indulging in hyperbole when I call the Left a fanatical Death Cult, let's compare their practices to pioneering psychologist Robert J. Lifton's methods that cults use to brainwash people.

Lifton called the following mind control methods Thought Reform. If that strikes an eerily familiar chord, you ain't heard nothin' yet.

Milieu control
All communication with outside world is limited, either being strictly filtered or completely cut off. Whether it is a monastery or a behind-closed-doors cult, isolation from the ideas, examples and distractions of the outside world turns the individuals attention to the only remaining form of stimulation, which is the ideology that is being inculcated.

Cult Autoblock

Mystical manipulation
A part of the teaching is that the group has a higher purpose than others outside the group. This may be altruistic, such as saving the world or helping people in need. It may also be selfish, for example that group members will be saved when others outside the group will perish.

Cult 12 Years

Confession
Individuals are encouraged to confess past 'sins' (as defined by the group). This creates a tension between the person's actions and their stated belief that the action is bad, particularly if the statement is made publicly. The consistency principle thus leads the person to fully adopt the belief that the sin is bad and to distance themselves from repeating it.

Cult Confession

Self-sanctification through purity
Individuals are encouraged to constantly push towards an ultimate and unattainable perfection. This may be rewarded with promotion within the group to higher levels, for example by giving them a new status name (acolyte, traveller, master, etc.) or by giving them new authority within the group.

Cult Purity

Aura of sacred science
The beliefs and regulations of the group are framed as perfect, absolute and non-negotiable. The dogma of the group is presented as scientifically correct or otherwise unquestionable.

Rules and processes are therefore to be followed without question, and any transgression is a sin and hence requires atonement or other forms of punishment, as does consideration of any alternative viewpoints.

Cult Non-Negotiable

Loaded language
New words and language are created to explain the new and profound meanings that have been discovered. Existing words are also hijacked and given new and different meaning.

Cult Loaded Language

Doctrine over person
The importance of the group is elevated over the importance of the individual in all ways. Along with this comes the importance of the the group's ideas and rules over personal beliefs and values.

Past experiences, beliefs and values can all thus be cast as being invalid if they conflict with group rules. In fact this conflict can be used as a reason for confession of sins. Likewise, the beliefs, values and words of those outside the group are equally invalid.

Cult Doctrine

Dispensed existence
There is a very sharp line between the group and the outside world. Insiders are to be saved and elevated, whilst outsiders are doomed to failure and loss (which may be eternal).

Who is an outsider or insider is chosen by the group. Thus, any person within the group may be damned at any time. There are no rights of membership except, perhaps, for the leader.

Cult Dispensed

We are not dealing with a political ideology. A heretical cult is making war upon the remnants of Christendom for total control of the West.

The only way to defeat this false faith is with true faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ.

2019/10/18

Combat Frame Data: MC4I-03

MC4I-03 Manticore
  
MC4I-03 Manticore

Technical Data

Model number: MC4I-03
Code name: Manticore
Classification: mass production long-range indirect fire support/air defense artillery/C4I combat frame
Manufacturer: BEC Olympus
Operator: Martian Colonial Government/SOC
First deployment: CY 32
Crew: 1 pilot/gunner, 1 dedicated electronics specialist/assistant gunner, and 1 onboard Gremlin AI 
Size: Length: 58.3m, Width: 32.8m, Height: 26.6m with legs in standard configuration
Weight: dry weight 112 metric tons, full weight 187 metric tons
Armor type: high-tensile steel/ceramic composite
Powerplant: plasma fusion reactor, max output 866 KW
Propulsion: x4 legs, top ground speed 100 kph
Sensors: x2 sensor array, 1 fore and 1 aft, coordinate with x2 Hunter Hawk ISR drones
Fixed armaments: x4 magazine-fed missile pod, can fire x15 Multiple Target Class Ground Missile or x3 Heavy Anti-Material Long Range Guided Missile simultaneously; x2 anti-vehicle laser, output rated at 400 KW; x6 antipersonnel laser, output rated at 50 KW
Special Equipment: x2 electronic warfare array; x3 MT-18 Hunter Hawk Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) platform; Gremlin cyberwarfare AI system

General Notes

The Manticore is a 2-crew, quadrupedal combat frame designed for long-range indirect fire, anti-air, and C4I roles. While a decent opponent in its own right, the Manticore truly excels when paired with other CFs. Few enemies can stand up to a withering hail of long-range missile barrages, malicious jamming and hacking attacks, and close-in assault from dedicated combat frames.

To perform its varied mission role, the Manticore is designed to fire one of 2 types of ammunition: The first, the Multiple Target Class Ground Missile (MTCGBM) is a smaller missile capable of holding conventional high explosive, high explosive/armor piercing, red phosphorus, conventional nuclear fission, and plasma fusion warheads. It is a shorter ranged missile with an effective range of about 120 km and is meant for use against soft targets or when needed to break through particularly strong point defense through overwhelming volume of fire. The second missile type, the Heavy Anti-Material Long Range Guided Missile (HAMLRGM) is longer ranged than the MTCGBM with an effective range of about 500 km. The HAMLRGM can hold high explosive cluster munitions, nuclear fission, plasma fusion, or antimatter warheads and is primarily intended for use against heavily armored opponents or fortifications.

The MC4I-03 is equipped with 4 magazine-fed missile pods, each of which is capable of firing up to 15 MTCGBMs or 3 HAMLRGMs simultaneously. The CF carries enough ammunition to fire 4 full salvos before needing to be reloaded: this includes the ammunition carried in the pods themselves (so each pod and associated magazine can hold 60 MTCGBMs or 12 HAMLRGMs). The magazine feeding mechanisms are capable of selecting specific ammunition from each magazine and cross-loading compatible ammunition types between magazines. Each pod can fire 3 MTCGBMs per second, or 1 full salvo every 5 seconds: alternatively, they can fire 1 HAMLRGM every 4 seconds, or 1 full salvo every 14 seconds.

The missiles can be guided by the pilots or programmed with target parameters and trusted to hit the targets on their own. This feature can enable the Manticore to fire on multiple targets simultaneously or fire volleys at aircraft squadrons with the knowledge that the missiles will select their own optimal attack profiles. This second feature makes the Manticore invaluable in an anti-air role. Enabling manual control, on the other hand, can reduce the effectiveness of enemy countermeasures (in the hands of a skilled gunner).

The Manticore is also armed with (2) 400-kilowatt lasers and (6) 50-kilowatt lasers. These are primarily for point defense, though the 400-kilowatt lasers can be used against enemy vehicles. That said, it is a particularly foolish pilot who expects his lasers to do his killing for him.

BEC's Olympus Mons factory equipped the MC4I-03 with 2 electronic warfare arrays (combination transmitters and sensor nodes) at either end of the hull. The mech is also meant to be paired with 3 MT-18 Hunter Hawk Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) platforms. The MT-18 is a stealth drone with a high loiter time that can act as a spy platform or directed signal relay point. In combat, the Manticore will rely on its MT-18s to acquire targeting data while keeping its own position concealed.

The robust capabilities of the Manticore’s C4I suite necessitate the use of an additional crewmember to act as battlefield coordinator, transmitting vital information to other mechs that do not have the advantage of a direct link to an “eye in the sky”. This is the main advantage of the Manticore: on its own, it could be countered quickly enough by most other CF types. When supporting other units, it acts as a tremendous force multiplier.

The same is true of the Manticore’s onboard Gremlin cyberwarfare AI system. This devious, if highly limited, AI is designed to hack into anything with an open connection and compromise its functions. Shutting down coolant systems, locking up limbs in the middle of battle, spoofing sensors, even (the gold prize) causing a reactor meltdown or detonating ammunition still in its racks. Any way the Gremlin can cause something to go wrong, it will do its level best. While an enemy CF or cyberwarfare complex will find a Gremlin’s attack irritating on its own, the otherwise minor disruptions suddenly become lethal in the middle of a pitched battle.

Paper-thin by combat frame standards, the Manticore’s armor plating at its heaviest point could stand up to a direct hit from a 25mm gun. This is somewhat ameliorated by the angling of the armor, increasing the likelihood of a glancing hit. The magazines and reactor also have their own internal, if also thin, armor belts. Still, in a direct engagement against even a light CF, the lifespan of the average Manticore could be measured in seconds.

The Manticore is capable of about 100kph on reasonably flat terrain, anywhere between 40 and 60kph on mountainous terrain. When operating at top speeds, it has a very wide turning radius. It can accelerate and decelerate fairly quickly for something so large: about 10 seconds to get up to full acceleration.  BEC didn’t cut corners when it came to speed since CY 40 counter-battery radar can lock onto projectiles and calculate a launch point within seconds. The best defense of an artillery unit is to be somewhere else entirely by the time a counter-volley has been fired.

Designed for the thin atmosphere of Mars, the Manticore has no jump jets of any kind. It might not be able to fly, but neither will anything else within range.


Thanks to our third awesome Build-a-Mech backer for this dangerous and sexy mech! Did you miss out on the campaign? No problem! Pick up the original martial mecha thriller Combat Frame XSeed, and get caught up in time for the third book's launch.

Combat Frame XSeed

Buy it now!

2019/10/17

The Nostalgia Trap

Berserk

Author David V. Steward was gracious enough to invite me on his Writestream last night. The impetus for the episode was this post, which has caused something of a sensation among Generation Y readers.

What strikes you most whenever you get Ys to open up and discuss the past is how similar their experiences are--but only when woolgathering about beloved past diversions. For another "better seen, not heard" generation like the Jonesers and the Silents, Gen Y will blab your ear off about 80s and 90s brands.

The megacorps figured this out sometime around 2010. It's no coincidence that was about when Ys' finally found big boy jobs, and they had some extra scratch to spend. The paypigs who declare they're "over" Star Wars one minute only to turn around and reserve tickets to J.J. Abrams' latest fanfic are almost entirely Gen Y.

The studios know they need only flash clips from 80s franchises to elicit a Pavlovian response in Ys. This nostalgia trap is a major hurdle indie creators will have to figure a way around if we want to build a thriving new culture.

David and I discussed these and many other wide-ranging topics, including his nostalgia for Berserk. In case you missed it live, here's the replay:


If you like Berserk and want more visceral horror action with anime sensibilities, read Nethereal, Soul Cycle Book 1.

Nethereal - Brian Niemeier

2019/10/16

A Lonely Existence

Latchkey Kid

Once again, author David V. Stewart incisively unpacks the deeper spiritual and cultural implications of a recent viral post.

Though he blurs the line between Gen Y and the Millennials--understandable for SEO reasons--the clear differences come through in his video.

Note to Boomers who pontificate, "'Gen Y' is just a name Millennials embarrassed by the latter half of their cohort invented to differentiate themselves." Ys born 1979-1984 are not embarrassed by Ys born 1985-1989. The entire cohort is, however, confounded by Millennials.

Counterpoint: Only a Boomer would miss the deep and real divide between kids who grew up with ubiquitous internet and smartphones as opposed kids who grew up without them.
Generation Y are a generation that was raised by institutions, media, and each other. 
You're born, very quickly you end up in daycare or preschool, where you spend most of your time. Very early in life, you're spending most of your time not with your parents. You're spending it with peers, primarily, and peers are not the best guides for developing minds--although you can develop social skills with peers. And so you're kind of learning by blind rote. You're learning through trial and error how to operate social relationships, because you're not with an adult who's managing that stuff.
You go to elementary school; you spend all day in elementary school. Not only do you spend all day in elementary school, you spend most of that day parked at a desk where you don't want to be, doing things you don't want to do, not even interacting with other kids. Maybe you have to go to daycare after school. Then you get home, and you have to do homework. Comes down to it, you're only really getting to see your parents a couple of minutes a day, maybe an hour. You're not spending much time with your parents at all.
Is it any wonder Gen Y is defined by atomization and greater facility with forming attachments to things and ideas than people?

Another reason conflating Generation Y with the Millennial Generation is a category error: Millennials are the herd. Ys are the lonely crowd.
[My generation] was the first generation--while the Xers might've been the first generation raised in daycare, I feel like ours was the first one raised entirely in a completely materialistic and material-focused universe. 
In my early 20s I went to a Tridentine Mass, and I was awestruck by the difference between that and what was comparable in a Protestant church. Whereas in a Protestant church everything is focused on your immediate emotional state, not so in the Latin Rite. I never felt, till I saw that, like I was in a religious ceremony. The people executing that religious ceremony believe in what they are doing. They believe in the mystic nature of what they are doing. They believe in the sacraments. They believe in the dogmas of the Church. They believe in God. Everything is true when you're watching that. 
Unlike Gen Xers, who grew cynical as they watched familiar institutions fail, and Millennials, who never knew the old traditions and largely embraced the anti-culture, Ys ended up adrift with only secondhand accounts of a functioning society to go on.
We had to wake up at 6 AM, go to school, sit in a desk and repeat facts that we didn't care about. Go home, do a bunch of busywork homework, go to soccer practice, and go to bed.
And we played with our toys in the margins, and we played Nintendo on Saturdays, and so our nostalgia was for the Nintendo on Saturday; not for any meaningful experience. It was for the moments of meaning awash in a sea of nihilism.
That is why Scott's tale resonated so deeply with my Gen Y readers. Boomers, Jonsers, and even Xers have nostalgia for significant personal, familial, and spiritual experiences--or even a general time or place.

Millennials experience no profound nostalgia because they have no history. For them, it is always Current Year.

Ys have nostalgia for brightly colored pieces of plastic, flickering video images, and lavishly printed cardboard.
I think it's powerful for us because we had that entirely materialistic upbringing. It was a very wealthy upbringing. We were raised by the wealthiest generation ever, the Boomers and given everything. But what we weren't given was meaning. And what we weren't given were times spent with our parents and extended family that taught us things about the past.
For more of David's keen insights, watch his whole excellent video.


And for mech thrills torn from a classic 80s anime, read Combat Frame XSeed!

Combat Frame XSeed - Brian Niemeier

UPDATE: David has kindly invited me on his live stream tonight to talk Gen Y and nostalgia culture. Join us at 6 Central/8 Pacific!




2019/10/15

Something Else Was Watching

Red Eyes

You've all been very good, so here's a second spooky story to follow yesterday's cautionary tale.

This account was reported to me as fact by the same uncle who related this story.

My family once owned a sizable tract of land situated in and around a deep, wooded hollow. Glacial melt water had cut a channel through the bedrock, leaving a large ravine or small gorge with high sandstone walls. A little stream still ran through the middle.

Nothing now remains of the house my great-grandparents built in the hollow, or the tavern they owned beside the secluded two-lane road winding through the surrounding hills. But both structures remained back in the 50s, and family members would still hike, swim, and camp in the hollow.

One summer afternoon, my uncle and two of his elementary school friends trekked into the hollow for some R&R in the great outdoors. This description is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, since at no point were they more than a five-minute drive from civilization. But the thickly forested hills and the ravine's steep walls completely insulated them from the modern world.

The boys spend the day roughhousing, swimming, and just plain lazing by the stream. They built a small campfire at sunset and roasted some hot dogs. After supper, they unrolled their sleeping bags on the soft grass and turned in for the night.

My uncle and one of his friends woke in crisp, dewy dawn. Only cold ashes remained of their small fire. The third boy in their party remained abed, zipped up tight in his sleeping bag. They tried to rouse him, but he would not so much as stick his face out, despite his bag being soaked with urine.

After several minutes of coaxing, my uncle and his friend managed to draw their companion out of his sodden bag. His jeans were equally soaked, which must have made for a great deal of discomfort in the unseasonably chilly night. Yet he had not gone for his pack, which sat beside the dead fire with a change of clothes inside.

Only when they had accompanied the third boy to the stream--at his insistence--so he could wash his sleeping bag and jeans, and both items had been hung up to dry, did the bed-wetter tell his tale.

The third boy had gone to bed at the same time as the others, but for reasons he couldn't explain, he'd had difficulty falling asleep. He'd finally nodded off and had woken sometime later, also for no clear reason. Clouds hid the moon and stars. The only light came from the fire's dying embers.

And a pair of deep red points high above that glowed like coals.

At first, the boy thought he was seeing a strange constellation. But as his eyes adjusted to the dark, he made out the shadows of the trees against the clouds.

The twin red lights were shining from inside the tree line, not in the overcast sky, but on the clifftop.

Overpowering dread seized the boy. He huddled inside his bag and zipped it shut. Several moments, he had no idea how long, passed in deathly silence. Only his own frantic breathing broke the night's solemnity.

Eventually he dared to look again.

And found the angry red lights hovering at the cliff's edge directly in front of him. He could vaguely make out their owner: a gangling man-shaped apparition darker than the trees behind it. The red lights were its eyes, and they were staring down at the horrified boy. It was then that he wet himself.

With an act of will, the youngster tore his gaze away from those terrible eyes. He cocooned himself in his sopping bag until his friends were awake and he was sure the awful visitor had gone.

My uncle and his friends had planned to spend the rest of that day in the hollow. Instead they left as soon as their friend's wash was dry.

The trail out took them past the clifftop where the third boy had seen the menacing visitor. Ever adventurous, my uncle sprinted off the path to stand at the cliff's edge. He asked the third boy where the eyes had been and indicated a succession of increasing heights with his raised hand as the witness shook his head.

"No," the third boy said reluctantly. He slowly pointed to a branch on the tree right behind where my uncle stood--where the thing had stood. "They were a few inches lower than that."

My uncle had a length of fishing line with him. He looped it over the branch. Based on the line's length, which he knew, the branch's height measured nine feet.

The second boy asked if his friend might have seen an owl perched on the branch, its eyes reflecting the moon or the headlights of a car on the nearby road.

"I thought of that," the third boy said. "But there was no moon, and the road runs behind those woods."

The three boys hiked back to the tavern in silence. When my uncle got home and my grandmother asked him why he'd cut his camping trip short, he said one of his friends had wet the bed, while declining to name the guilty party.

And he told the truth.

But not the whole truth; not until years later.

The hollow and the land surrounding it belongs to the park district now. My aunt took me there once when I was ten or so. It was a nice place, and nothing out of the ordinary happened.

My mom, aunts, and uncles love reciting stories of the family's history--including tales of the old hollow. But they never mention why my grandfather sold the property, along with his father's house and business, seemingly out of the blue.

Grandpa's been dead for a quarter of a century. He probably took his reasons to the grave, as was his right.

Anyhow, I hope this story put you in the spirit of the spooky season, despite the lack of firm closure.

For more eerie stories, read Souldancer, the first Dragon Award winner for Best Horror Novel.

Souldancer - Brian Niemeier

2019/10/14

A Gen Y Tale

90s Commercial

Scott came into the world in 1982. His Boomer parents both worked full-time, so throughout his formative years, his days were spent in the custody of hired sitters, then daycare centers, preschool, and finally public elementary school.

As compensation for leaving him in such an alienating, stultifying environment, Scott's parents made sure to bribe him with plenty of snack foods and toys--and because they were made by other Boomers nursing repressed guilt over abandoning their children, these were the best toys to ever exist.

Another compensation--despite the school's best efforts to curtail Scott's play and socializing time by confining him for six hours a day and assigning excessive busywork to do at home--was the small group of friends he made. In their few unmanaged hours each week, Scott and his friends would watch after-school cartoons as excellent as their toys or play Nintendo or tag football.

Yes, kids both wanted, and were allowed, to play outside back then. Scott's teachers, TV, and parents all told him he could do anything he wanted as long as he stayed off drugs.

After the divorce, Scott still got to live in the nice house where his family had lived since he was six because his mom got it and full custody of him and his big sister. The once cozy place on the shady residential street seemed bigger and emptier, even though Scott's dad had seemed to spend most of his time at work. But the worst feeling came from Scott's dawning realization that much of what he'd been led to regard as permanent was ephemeral and unreliable.

By the time Scott started high school, most of his childhood friends had drifted away. A couple had moved out of town after their parents' divorces. The rest transferred to other schools. Some had been enrolled in the private high school in the suburbs with the lousy basketball team--"For the high college acceptance rates," their parents said. Scott's mother kept him in public school but also kept taking the family to the corner Lutheran church. Scott soon stopped attending services. For reasons he couldn't articulate, going to a big building with his mom and sister for an hour each Sunday didn't make sense

Having his life upturned once again made Scott's first high school term difficult. But over winter break he made a new friend thanks to the N64 his mom had bought him for Christmas. By the end the school year, he'd joined a small clique of boys interested in video games, comic books, and RPGs. He lived for weekends when his mom and her boyfriend went out of town and his sister went on dates with her boyfriend, giving Scott and his Werewolf: The Apocalypse group the run of the house.

It wasn't all Goldeneye, X-Men, and d10s. Not only did Scott's teachers give him even more busywork in increasingly irrelevant subjects, grunting jocks stuffed him into lockers more than once. Other complications barged into his life. Hardly a week passed without a fistfight in the halls, and Scott witnessed at least two minor riots.

Scott's hobbies shifted into the background when he got his license and his dad made a rare non-holiday appearance to gift him his first car. The '86 Chevy Corsica didn't look like much, but Scott loved it more than all his toys because it let him take girls on dates.

Despite his nerd-adjacent rep, Scott still played football in the vacant lot next door, blacktop basketball on the church playground, and Frisbee golf in the local park. He also started lifting weights in the school gym. At 17 he was in the best shape of his life and managed to get a couple dates a month. Nothing serious developed. Half the time, Scott's dates consisted of taking a girl to a friend's place and hanging out with a mix of other couples and stragglers. Though game nights also started devolving into late night gab sessions with his friends, he usually left the table feeling more satisfied than when he dropped his latest girlfriend at home.

Senior year caught Scott with no definite plans for the future. The TV, his parents, and his guidance counselors had all said to trust each other, and they'd all agreed that Scott could do whatever he wanted. When he admitted to not especially wanting anything, they told him to get a college degree--any degree. He'd have his pick of jobs after that and could follow his heart to his perfect career.

Scott's parents had started a college fund for his sister but had neglected to make similar provision for him, opting instead to splurge on yearly sports cars and quarterly trips to Cabo San Lucas. The TV, his mom, and his guidance counselor all told Scott to get a student loan. When he asked about the risk, the government-employed counselor showed him a government chart showing that a generic bachelor's degree would double his income. He'd pay off the loan in no time.

Though only 17, Scott took out a five-figure loan which his dad cosigned. At his mom's urging he went to a private university instead of the cheaper state school. He got a job at McDonald's where not even a decade of working full-time would have covered his tuition, room, and board. The freedom of living on his own made Scott euphoric. For the first time in his life, he felt like he was in control of his destiny. It was the last time he would know that feeling.

Scott enjoyed himself in college while avoiding the slacker party guy stereotype. He balanced social drinking, girls, and the occasional joint with his studies. His junior year he settled on a major in computer science. He met a girl in one of his elective classes who sported an Uchiha Clan symbol on her laptop. They clicked, and Scott found himself in his first serious relationship.

After graduation, Scott and his girlfriend focused on their careers before starting a family, as their parents unanimously advised. Scott's girlfriend won a female-only internship which soon led to a corporate job paying fifty grand a year. He himself struggled to find similarly lucrative work and had to take an entry-level help desk job supplemented by moonlighting at Papa John's.

Two years later, Scott had managed to increase his income with a series of contract jobs. Though he applied for internal positions whenever an opening came up, the company always passed him over. At those times, scenes from Office Space would pop into his head for no apparent reason.

Scott finally went internal, and he and his girlfriend were married, at 27. She got the house and the dogs in the divorce. At 37, with a thousand-dollar alimony payment on top of his thousand-dollar student loan payment, Scott once again took a part-time job. Instead of fast food, he got a gig doing after-hours IT work at a small company downtown.

One late night on the crosstown drive back to his apartment, a flight of fancy directed Scott to take a detour past the university campus. Nostalgia for better times came in waves as he passed dorms and bars where he'd spent many a carefree evening. But the sights of brutalist additions to stately halls and century-old buildings razed to make way for new construction jarred him back to the present.

Scott turned off the main drag and cut down a narrow street lined with single-family homes long since rezoned as student housing. Harsh LED street lights gave way to mellow glass globes atop wrought iron stands. He slowed down as he neared a rambling bungalow once shared by some of his college buddies. Not a single car on either side of the street postdated the late 90s. Scott cracked a smile. The trope of the poor college student would never change.

His smile contracted into an O when he spotted the chrome orange minivan in the bungalow's driveway--the same place his friend Bruce had always parked his identical vehicle, which the old gang had called the Pumpkinmobile. Scott had to blink when he drove by and saw the van's rear door papered with the same Star Wars, Warhammer, and metal band stickers that Bruce had slapped on the Pumpkinmobile.

All doubts vanished. It was the Pumpkinmobile.

Scott first entertained but quickly dismissed the notion that Bruce had returned to the old place for a visit. He'd sold his trademark orange van to an out-of-state buyer after burning out of school. Clearly the vehicle had changed hands over they years, only to wind up with someone who also lived in its former owner's old house.

Curiosity shouted down Scott's inhibitions. He made a U-turn in the next intersection and came back for another pass. Emboldened by his first break from the norm, he parked in his former customary spot out front and approached the Pumpkinmobile on foot.

It looks exactly the same as the last time I saw it!

No, not exactly the same. The Revenge of the Sith teaser sticker was missing. All the others were in order, though--perfect order, as if they hadn't seen a day of sun or rain in fifteen years.

The owner must keep it in the garage most of the time. 

But why would anyone be so protective of a garish, twenty-year-old beater?

Multiple young, masculine voices rose in a cheer, interrupting Scott's contemplation. Residual laughter still emanated from the house. Scott recognized that laughter. He'd heard it semi-regularly throughout his college years. Mounting questions drove him up the front steps to the door. The weathered porch boards creaked a familiar greeting. Light peeked through the patterned curtains hung over the windows.

Scott raised his hand to knock but hesitated. What if I just stumbled upon some kind of reunion--one they didn't invite me to? Scott's life had acquainted him well with the pain of rejection, but this instance cut uncommonly deep.

The door swung open in squeaky hinges. As Scott had feared, his former friend Mike stood in the doorway. Not only are they having a reunion, it's an aughts theme party judging by Mike's "Bush lied, troops died," t-shirt.

Mike frowned. "I thought you were the pizza guy."

"Sorry to gatecrash." Scott raised his hands apologetically.

Mike's frown inverted. "Relax, you've always got a seat at our table. Weren't you out with Carrie tonight."

"Who?" The name rang a bell, bug Scott struggled to place it.

"You're late," said Mike, "but it's for the best. You missed getting caught in Alex's board wipe." He threw the door wide as he turned and sauntered back toward the dining room. There, the usual Saturday night group from Scott's junior year sat around the battered dinner table, shuffling their Magic cards for another game.

Scott stepped over the threshold like a sleepwalker come suddenly awake in an unexpected place. Unexpected, but not strange. The scents struck him first and deepest. A citrus plug-in failed to mask the funk of stale beer, Mexican takeout, and a week of dishes left in the sink.The aroma instantly recalled a dozen nights just like this. The relief of returning from a long, arduous trip released tension Scott hadn't known he'd carried.

The old habits rushed back in full force. Scott greeted his old friends at the table, who returned his pleasantries with the nonchalance of long familiarity. They responded to his lack of a deck with more enthusiastic ribbing. Todd bailed him out, as he'd always done, by lending him a spare deck.

Scott had gotten word of Todd's death from a heroin overdose in 2014. He almost cracked a joke about it being greatly exaggerated but decided it would've been in poor taste.

Against Scott's wishes, his awareness that something wasn't quite right steadily grew as the night wore on. His friends weren't just sporting period clothes, they were the exact same clothes they'd owned back in college. Early-mid aughts labels adorned every can of soda, beer bottle, and bag of chips. Every card on the table predated 2005.

His friends' uniformly youthful appearance was the last oddity Scott noticed. Having last seen them over a decade ago, their unlined faces and full heads of hair matched his mental picture. Only when he took a bathroom break and saw in the full-length door mirror that he'd shed his graying stubble, along with about twenty pounds, did he admit the suspicion planted by the Pumpkinmobile.

I went back in time?

No, that wasn't it--not quite. Scott felt in his bones that there was no college-aged version of him out there at that moment with Carrie, the psycho fling he'd largely succeeded in forgetting. If he thought that, he would bolt out of the house, race to Bleachers Bar, and unleash a torrent of dire warnings on his younger self.

Instead, he returned to the table, played until the game broke up, and drove home.

Scott slept like the dead that night.

The next day he texted Bruce for the first time in years. They made small talk in shorthand. Scott finally worked up the courage to ask Bruce what he'd been up to the night before. His old friend replied with a shrug emoji.

In the following weeks, Scott shunned the college campus, even driving blocks out of his way to avoid it.

He didn't think he'd blunder into another card game from a long-lost weekend being played in Current Year, but knowing the possibility existed scared him.

He didn't know if he'd join the party again.

He didn't know if he'd go home again if he did.

Weeks became months. Scott's yearning for bygone camaraderie came and went but never exceeded his fear.

One late Friday afternoon, Scott picked up his 2009 Nissan from the shop. It was a crisp fall day, and he found himself admiring the turning leaves in the residential neighborhood near the garage. Minutes later he found himself on autopilot driving down his childhood street. The old cars with 20-inch chrome rims, the overgrown laws, and the barred windows he passed soured his wistful mood.

After a few blocks, the Section 8 housing tapered off. The cars parked along the street remained old but were in much better condition. Scott even saw a few kids ambling along the sidewalk. He thought he recognized them but couldn't be sure.

Scott half-expected to find his mom and dad waiting in lawn chairs in front of their old house. He was pleasantly surprised to find four teenagers exiting a beat-up burgundy Oldsmobile in the driveway instead. All four boys carried hardbound WEG rule books and dice bags--even Ray, the Olds' owner, who at 16 had been the wizened elder of Scott's sophomore gaming group.

"What took you so long?" whined Evan, the droid navigator on the group's tramp freighter. He looked up at adult Scott and squinted, but that was his default.

The game went OK. Steve hadn't had much time to plan the adventure due to imminent midterms, so the party often lost focus. They fell into side-talk, mostly geeking out over EU novels or debating points of continuity. Nobody brought up then-current events or personal stuff. Scott felt that doing so would have violated some unspoken agreement. He did roughly date that evening to one of his mom's vacation weekends. He'd been at his dad's the first time around, and Steve's game hadn't survived the interruption. Scott appreciated the chance to play one last session. He slid right back into his Wookiee bounty hunter as easily as he settled back into his old house.

Scott's fears were realized in the aftermath of Steve's game. His work suffered as he took to drawing up Dark Ages Vampire characters and vintage Magic deck lists at the office. He was outlining concepts for a Champions campaign when he got the call from HR.

The police forced their way into Scott's apartment after he'd missed three alimony payments. They found no sign of him and no clue as to his whereabouts. The place seemed to have been little lived-in, except for a home office strewn with old CCG pack wrappers, enough painting supplies for an army of miniatures, and stacks of late 90s RPG supplements bought used from a local hobby store.

His car finally turned up near a house that had been split up into apartments. Questioning the mostly foreign tenants unearthed no leads. A records search revealed that one of Scott's grade school classmates had lived in the house when it was still a family dwelling. Attempts to reach the old schoolmate hit a dead end when it was learned he was KIA in Afghanistan.

No one knows if Scott was ever seen again. After his ex-wife seized all his assets and he was declared dead, no one cared to ask.


In the mood for some escapism? Check out the haunting, otherworldly Soul Cycle.

Nethereal - Brian Niemeier