The Yeti Strikes

September 25, 2006

A tale for Jessica's birthday

CSI: Log-Walloping Division

Even before getting to the crime scene, Caine knew how it had gone down.

Specifically, he knew what the murder weapon had been - without even seeing the victim. He could feel it in his guts. God damn these maniacs and their logs.

He moved through the trees towards the policemen ringed around the victim, stepping carefully through the brush. He seethed as he ducked under the yellow tape, and moved towards the big guy at the edge of the throng.

"Evening, Captain," said Caine, timing the removal of his $500 sunglasses for that moment. "I didn't peg you for the outdoor type."

The joke fell and died - not that Caine cared. Captain Baker, hard-edged Miami cop and no friend to Caine, barely glanced over. "This is a Miami PD matter, Lieutenant. Nobody's called you."

Caine smouldered. This was HIS case; he knew what had happened. The tips of his red hair quivered with rage. He moved closer to Baker, blocking the man's view of the sheet-covered body on the ground. When he spoke he did his best to keep the fury out of his voice. He'd save that for later.

"I just got one thing for you, Captain," said Caine, not looking directly at Baker, instead focusing his eyes somewhere out on the horizon, which was obscured by all the trees. "You look me in the eyes and tell me there's no evidence of wood or bark residue on that body. You do that, and I'm out of here."

Baker put on his best "bored" look, and it was all Caine could do not to strangle the bastard. Later he'd light up an expensive cigar and peer through the smoke out into the distance.

"Caine, I'll level with you. There IS wood residue. It's all over this girl's body. And there's probably evidence of wood and bark all over ME, too. And on you, and every poor beat cop out here. And you know why?" Now it was Baker's turn to move closer.

"It's because we're standing in the middle of a forest. NOT EVERYBODY IS KILLED WITH A LOG JUST BECAUSE IT'S YOUR SPECIALTY, NUMB-NUTS," spat Baker.

Caine, who in one month would have a mild yet dramatic stroke when an artery in his brain burst during an extended session of seething, gave a small nod to give the impression that he'd expected this sort of answer. Then he allowed a small smile to spread over his face. He hoped it creeped out Baker and all the others who had stopped to look.

So. Business as usual with the Miami PD. Not only was he going to have to find the killer, but he'd also have to prove to everyone that it was no regular crime - this poor girl had been walloped by a log. But GOOD.

The End
Posted by Chris on 09/25/06

August 8, 2006

The Red-tipped Hitlershark Show

As both the field of custom D.N.A. modification and audiences' demand for quality entertainment grew, perhaps it was inevitable that those twin titans T.V. and Science would collaborate to produce the perfect ratings beast.

The aim was to design a hybrid creature, one that combined the most powerful ratings draws, one that intersected several ecosystems and demographics, one that could carry its own sitcom.

Also, it would have to be big enough that a 4' x 6' rotating banner ad could run down its flank.

NBC convened the most intensive focus group and marketing research in history to settle on the shape and nature of the behemoth. Three months later: the Red-tipped Hitlershark was created.

The mighty fish was released during sweeps week, and it was the most highly-rated television event ever - the numbers were better than the birth of little Ricky Ricardo, the M*A*S*H finale, and Superbowl XVII combined. It was so successful the sale of HDTV sets jumped by 200% in a week. The fascist fish had redefined what it was to be a hit.

NBC executives moved quickly to retool "The Red-tipped Hitlerfish Show!" and schedule it for another night.

Known to scientists as Carcharodon Adolfus, the Hitlershark was a nocturnal hunter, and could be distinguished from other genetically-modified entertainment fish by the distinctive symmetry of its dorsal and tail fins, and also its tendency to occasionally violate treaty and occupy the Rhineland.

Unlike standard, camera-avoiding sharks, the Hitlershark was extremely aggressive and attention-seeking. A series of sensitive canals running along its anterior allowed it to sense the distinctive vibrations of any Nielsen family member in distress. If it also sensed a camera crew at the ready nearby bloodshed was a certainty. Several specials on A&E revealed its possible preoccupation with the occult, and no one could forget when Bravo's hidden cameras caught the animal entering into a secret non-aggression pact with Stalin.

The Discovery channel portrayed the mighty hunter as not only power-mad but with an insatiable appetite for innocent, blond, prey, which though a partial mischaracterization (The Hitlerfish preferred brunettes), worked out very well for NBC in the ratings department.

But in all the commotion of its blockbuster success, the Hitlerfish escaped its sitcom. Someone wasn't watching the doors, and now the monster was free, roaming the prime-time ecosystem, unchecked.

This was a disaster. Or was it? The show "Who Wants to Hunt the Hitlerfish?" was born, and was even a greater success. Contestants competed for the chance to hunt the mighty predator. Losers found terrible death in the multiple rows of the dictator's razor-sharp teeth. Everyone was watching. The NBC executive responsible was quickly fired and the show was rescheduled.

Ending the monster's life and career proved difficult. A bomb placed in its office failed to stop it. An attempt to trap it in the shallows of a low-rated Bond week on TBS and suffocate it proved fruitless. Even when it appeared in an MTV special to have its crib completely restyled, yo, the shark-hunters - some of them even Australian with very impressive hats - came up with nothing.

But all things must end. The Hitlershark met its demise when it was voted off the show "In The Bunker! starring the Hitlershark" when a live studio audience preferred house-mate Danny Bonaduce.

The Red-tipped Hitlershark's grand finale broke all previous ratings records. It took its final bow by singing "The Greatest Love of All," backed up by surprise guest Whitney Houston. Unfortunately show producers interpreted the rolling-over-to-white of its eyes in the last stanza as emotion, instead of as the sign that it was preparing to attack. Whitney Houston's bloody death was horrific but everyone agreed that it made for spectacular T.V.

Posted by Chris on 08/ 8/06

March 1, 2006

You Can't Eat Just One!

Snack executives were pleased with their new Crunch-MMMs™ product until it was discovered that consumers were taking the You Can't Eat Just One!© slogan literally. Within days of the worldwide release of the snack people were dying in waves from ruptured stomachs and complete intestinal blockage.

Unfortunately the first move by the company to stem the vast number of deaths being caused by their product cost valuable time and countless more lives: believing it was the incredible sweet / savory flavor combination of the Crunch-MMMs™ that kept people eating them until they died, they tasked their Flavor Experts with creating an equally delicious yet appetite-supressing counter-snack, one that would lull consumers away from the fatal Crunch-MMMs™. This proved fruitless.

Finally after many more gruesome deaths it was discovered that the problem was not the substance of the snack but with the implied legal stricture of the slogan. Consumers seemed to have internalized the idea that the "Just One" in question referred not to the cumulative total of Crunch-MMMs™ eaten in one sitting, but the "Just One" they held in their hand in the moment of bringing it from the box to the mouth. Stuck in a sort of Xeno's Snacking Paradox, consumers in every nation were compelled to eat one Crunch-MMMs™ after the next without stop, since they could not eat just one.

By the time FEMA had dispatched lawyers to every region to counteract the slogan with flawless legal logic, the world-wide death toll was catastrophic.

Within weeks, and not unaware of the irony of their own situation, it was the morbidly obese members of the planet's population that ended up inheriting the Earth. They alone had possessed the intestinal fortitude - and capacity - to eat and eat the snack and not fall to rupturing. But as a happy coda to the long global nightmare, because many of the obese were also meek, the religious fundamentalists did not protest.


Posted by Chris on 03/ 1/06

February 21, 2006

Dracula for Beginners


A quick formatting note: Throughout this document I use many names to refer to Dracula (i.e., the Dark One, Prince of Darkness, the Beast, the Foule One, It, etc.) but they all do in fact apply to one person: Dracula, King of Vampires. For clarity, none of these names are meant to imply that he is in fact Lucifer, or Satan or possessed thereof. Nevertheless he is an extremely potent foe, so proceed with caution.

No statement is made or should be inferred that this guide is exhaustive, nor am I liable for any damages that may arise while using it to defeat the Master.


No matter how likely it will seem to you when you are in battle with the Dark One, remember that you are not in fact the reincarnation of his lost one true love from Wallachia.

Sound strange? Couldn't possibly apply to you? Riiiight. Here's how it goes down: One minute you're standing over him reading the Lord's Prayer, the next minute he's saying how lovely and full your lips are, that you are better than your fellow vapid villagers standing there dumbly with pitchforks and torches, that at last you have returned and now you can be with him for all eternity, and suddenly you're imagining the two of you picking out tapestries for the main dining hall of Castle Dracula together.

He uses this bit all the time. I think he was using it when he was still human. He probably brought it out on his first date. Do not be taken in by his flattery.

No offense, but you ARE a vapid villager, just like the man standing next to you and the man standing next to him. There's nothing wrong with it. Stay focused. Ask yourself what the likelihood is that you'd have the same ancient soul as some girl Dracula probably raped once four hundred years ago in Transylvania. And ask yourself how many of those girls there probably were, and what the chances are that he'd remember any of them. He's a Count, right? Born into a life of privilege? All commoners are the same to him.

Nothing personal; but just see it as what it is, a trick to get you to put down the crucifix. STAY ON TASK.


Here's a classic newbie mistake when attempting to destroy the Beast: monologuing at the wrong moment.

Resist the urge to deliver a pretty speech about justice being satisfied or revenge being sweet when you open the coffin. I can't tell you how many people seem to turn into King Lear right there at the crucial moment with the stake held high! It's a classic way to blow it.

It's best to just open the coffin, stake the heart, and off with the head in a quick 1-2-3 routine. You can deliver the monologue after.

Rehearse. Practice first on another coffin, perhaps with a dressing dummy inside.

Also, has anyone ever tried just binding the coffin shut with tight leather straps, and sealing it with wax? The Prince of Darkness is wily and can assume many forms (mist, vapor, very small bugs, etc.) but if the thing is airtight I don't see why not.


Let me save you months and months of bad breath and stomach-aches: The bug thing does not really work. I have probably eaten a bucket of cockroaches, weevils, and bed-bugs since I have been here, and I don't feel any rush of immortality.

To be fair, this was my theory, not his. But he saw me doing it and could have corrected me, right?


By the way - if the reincarnated lover thing doesn't work then he will suddenly want you to be his right-hand man - but what he really means is his 'henchman.' Yeah, I studied Real-Estate Law for six years so I could be someone's Igor. Oh and by the way he will expect you to do this job from an asylum, with no support from him.

Later you will become irritated and then he will try some line on you like you are the reincarnated general from some ancient Slovakian battle. Oh, GOD. I may be crazy but I'm not CRAZY, you know?


Remember - going after Dracula is a team effort. And a good team is key.

Remember that the Dark One will prey on the weakest-minded amongst you. So, although it's awkward, it's important to be honest about who that person might be. Run some mind games before you go after him. Do some lateral thinking and improv exercises. Brainstorming is good! Maybe get the members of the team to each submit an essay on why they want to destroy the Vampire King anyway. You'll be able to sort out pretty quickly who the weak link is.

O Master! Forgive me!


I'm not sure if he can appear as a mist or not; I have a partial cataract problem and more or less everyone appears as a mist these days.


There has been much confusion lately over whether the daylight really is a problem for him. I swear I have seen him react badly to direct sunlight, but in the face of differing opinion, I think it's best to assume it is NOT a real problem.

I feel confident, though, that he will not be optimum at high noon. (Of course, if your kill-team consists of a bunch of carousing drunks as I have seen happen on more than one occasion, they won't be either.)

This should go without saying but an offensive is best done at peak daylight hours, not in the late afternoon, not evening, not even CLOSE to dusk. IMPORTANT NOTE: Check the Almanac to avoid sudden ironic solar eclipses!

If one of the team members absolutely has a conflict, reschedule at a more convenient time.


I do not know conclusively if he can control minds because I have been told I am super-gullible to start with. I'm sad to say it would not take a force of Evil from beyond the grave to manipulate me into doing just about anything. For instance, the fellow two cells down (Emerson, in for excess thuggery) had me conned into giving him my fruit cup every day for three weeks because he told me they were putting salt peter in it.

I DO know I have done some pretty strange things since the whole Dracula episode (See Sec. III), and I prefer to think it's due to his influence over my mind. Be aware - be safe. If you find yourself doing strange things when going after him it could be the stress, or it could be the Dracula mind control. It's a judgement call.

I am very sure that he can READ minds, though. Definitely clear your head before going after him. It's hard not to focus on your strategy at a time like that, but try your best. I find it best to keep a simple nursery rhyme going in your head. "London Bridges" is a good one, or "Rose Red." This seems to confound and infuriate Dracula, or maybe it's just that I tend to hum it aloud as I'm thinking it.


Instead of holding the crucifix, why not try wearing crucifix-themed clothing? That leaves your hands free! For stakes, holy water, Bibles, what have you.

And have you considered a hat with a big cross on it, like the Pope wears? I've never seen this tried, but if I saw a bunch of Popes coming at me I'd be stunned whether I was a vampire or not.


This section removed on update.

(Previously dealt with techniques of ignoring Dracula's constant whispering in your head, but that "disembodied voice" ended up just being one of the asylum guards here having a little "fun" with me after hours. Nice. Typical for this institution. I don't think they even screen these people in the employment department.)


At some point you will look around at one of your party and realize that, oh my God, THEY are Dracula. And they always were! And it will make sense - that person has been that way all your life, always being the one in the group to attract people, then they slowly suck the life out of you, never returning calls, never offering to buy dinner, but always showing up when it's convenient for them. Never giving anything back. This is another of Dracula's tricks of disguise.

Once you identify this member of the team, keep them ahead of you so you can watch them, and whatever you do don't let them hold the stakes.

Full disclosure: Before the whole Dracula business I was originally in treatment for a form of paranoid delusional psychosis. It sounds worse than it was when I actually put it down on paper.


After re-reading this, I've changed my mind. Forget what I wrote in Sec. II. Because you know what? If you've managed to fight your way all the way to the crypt or cellar of some castle, passing God knows how many obstacles like apparitions or wolves or the Three Wives, and finally you're standing in front of that coffin? Then you've earned it!

Go ahead and take a moment to make a satisfying speech over Dracula's sleeping form before plunging the stake down and cutting off the head. Savor your victory! How many chances like this does life serve up?


Forget about the turning into a bat - it's the rats you have to look out for. The bat thing just makes people ooh and ahh but the rat horde makes people move, FAST. And that's when people get hurt. The real damage isn't from the bites but from people trampling one another to get out of the way.

Again, practice is best. With real rodents if you can help it. I know where you can get a lot.


For someone so full of menace, Dracula actually has a fairly long tale of personal woe. It's really pretty convincing. I have no doubt it's all true but avoid empathizing with him - he needs to be destroyed and the last thing you need is to feel depressed about it afterwards.

Just realize while you're starting to nod sympathetically one of the minions or a Sister / Bride or whatever they are will be sneaking up on you.

Remember what I said about unnecessary speech making? (See Sec. II) It works both ways. While Dracula is droning on about the terrible loneliness of the centuries and whatnot, why not take take the opportunity to hit him with a splash of the ol' Holy Water?


Another thing about the bat - if he DOES make that change, congrats to you for getting him on the run, but you can also pack it in for the night. You're never going to catch him once he's in the air.


You can actually ignore section XII, and definitely take section II VERY SERIOUSLY. And do yourself a favor and highlight section VIII. Could there be a better illustration of the dangers of his mind control? GET OUT OF MY HEAD UNCLEAN CREATURE OF THE NIGHT.

My apologies. Don't let this happen to you!


Posted by Chris on 02/21/06

February 13, 2006

Fool's Toledo

Toledo! They were finally there! At last, a place to raise their kids, a place to put down some real roots!

A man and woman could have a career in a place like Toledo. They could have a real family. Their kids could run and play! Later there would be a dog, there would be backyard barbeques, playful Christmas light competitions with the neighbors, and a favorite pizza take-out place. Was there any more welcoming place in the country?

As they drove through the magnificent town to their new house they felt themselves relax for the first time since God knows when. Even the air smelled like home.

"What did that Realtor know, anyhow?" he said. "We made it on our own and things are going to be great."

The next few weeks were hard - moving trucks to unload, a lifetime's worth of possessions in boxes, finding the right school for the kids, getting lost on new streets and a dozen trips to the hardware store. But still - it was everything they'd worked for, everything they'd dreamed of.

Later they called the Realtor. "Not to gloat, you understand," he explained beforehand. "I just want to have him over for dinner so he can see how wrong he was."

She gave him a sidelong glance, but smiled. She wouldn't mind seeing the look on the Realtor's face either.

The Realtor was hours late for dinner that night. And when he came in he was shaking his head sadly. His face held bad news.

"I was afraid this would happen," he said.

"What's the matter?" she asked. "Were the directions not good?"

The Realtor took them aside, away from the kids. "Guys - you've made a mistake. This isn't Toledo. This is Fool's Toledo."

They were speechless; they were numb. Now suddenly everything - the fresh apple pie she'd baked, his favorite chair positioned just right in front of the television, the family pictures hung with care - all just seemed so wrong.

To his credit the Realtor was taking no joy in their misery. "It's a common enough mistake," he said. "If only you'd consulted with me before you signed."

The next day, like zombies, they pulled the kids out of school and went about the task of packing up again. By the end of the week they were on the road. One day they would find their Toledo.

Posted by Chris on 02/13/06

January 27, 2006

The Village Anachronist

While threshing grain one day Delbruk Farmer gashed his index finger very badly on the blade, so by evening when he arrived home most of the village was already in mourning for him.

"Aye, it's a terrible cut indeed," said his neighbor Thomas A'Blinkerd. He'd insisted Delbruk peel back the bloody rag to show him the wound. "I'd check with the Barber to see about getting that thing removed," said Tom. Nearby, Tom's old mother pulled a shawl over her head and wept.

But the Barber was out, and later Delbruk found out that while he'd been gone, A'Blinkerd had gone by Delbruk's house to tell Rosalin he would marry her when Delbruk passed in a few months.

Later that night Hans Oontzman, his neighbor on the other side, came by with a leech. Delbruk was grateful at first, but then noticed two things: one, it had been used. The thing was just lying there listlessly on the bottom of the bowl. Two, when he looked closer, Delbruk saw it was just a common slug. Oontzman had probably pulled it out of Delbruk's own garden before knocking on the door!

Also: he saw Oontzman eyeing Rosalin the whole time. Another suitor!

"Until I am in the ground, stay away from her!" threatened Delbruk, shaking his fist in the air. He whimpered - making the fist had caused his finger to throb all the more. Soon the bile would turn black in his veins and he'd be finished. Who would care for his twelve children? And for poor, plump Rosalin, who he loved so deeply?

"There is one thing we could do," said his young bride quietly.

"Don't say it," said Delbruk, striking her with a piece of firewood for speaking.

Later, when she'd regained consciousness, Rosalin was insistent. "We could visit the village Anachronist," she said.

How Delbruk hated the Anachronist. He hated the way the dirt on his face looked deliberately placed there, he hated his hideous teeth, so white and straight like an animal's, and he hated those little shiny circles of glass he wore in front of his eyes - probably used to mesmerize people.

All the villagers despised and distrusted the Anachronist - even more so when he cured them. Often those seen leaving his hut had rocks thrown at them, or had to move to other villages in shame.

But the next morning when he removed the poultice he'd made out of moss and the dung of a thrice-brindled calf, he found the two-inch gash on his finger still oozing blood, and tinged with green around the edges.

I don't want to die, thought Delbruk fiercely.

The accursed Anachronist kept them standing there for an hour while he fetched their "records." Then he asked to see a thing called their "insurance card," which Delbruk assumed was that stiff rectangle he'd sent them last Autumn. And he didn't seem willing to minister to Delbruk's finger without it.

What a useless thing. Delbruk had sucked on the rectangle for a day when he'd had a toothache, and it had done nothing to ease the pain. At the end he thrown it on the ground and poked it with a sharp stick for a while. Later he'd returned to piss on it for good measure.

But Rosalin produced the rectangle, the "insurance card," out of her pouch. She'd held on to it all this time!

The Anachronist peered at the rectangle for a while before speaking. "Well, you only have '19th century' class coverage," he finally said. "So I can stitch you up, but I can't use any real anesthetic." And then he smiled, flashing those horrible teeth. Delbruk winced at the sight.

It took three tightly-fastened leather straps, Rosalin, and the Anachronist's assistant, a feeble-minded boy named Durk, to hold Delbruk down during the procedure. It was agonizing. Better to lop the thing off! His curses and howls filled the hut.

Afterwards, he was amazed - the gash was held in place with thread. He'd been sewn together just like a doublet!

He held his stitched finger up for Rosalin to see. "Look, my love! Look at what the Anachronist has done!" Rosalin looked at his finger for a moment. Then she threw a rock at Delbruk's face.

"I'm marrying Tom A'Blinkerd," she said.

Posted by Chris on 01/27/06

October 13, 2005

Todd From Marketing Finds The Hidden Coin Level

The end of the fiscal year was near, and as usual Marketing was busy putting together some materials on how the company was doing for the next Board meeting.

"Anyone got the final on the Q3 Numbers?" asked Mary.

"I'm sure Accounting has it," Todd replied. "I'll go grab it."

He went to the elevator, and took it three flights up. Marlee's office, where he was going, was at the very front of the Accounting level. As always when he found himself up here, Todd found himself a bit intimidated. He unconsciously moved a bit more quietly, as if in a library. In general he found accountants to be secretive and formal. He could always swear they cut conversations off right when he arrived, as if they had been in the middle of discussing the secret world of money and figures he was not privy to.

Todd entered, said hello to Marlee, and asked after the company's quarterly brief. She smiled and pointed past MaryAnne's desk, into the media room. He'd been up here enough that he could find it on his own.

In the media room he shuffled through some press releases. Just as he was coming to the relevant information - he dropped the papers. He bent down to pick them up, rapping his head sharply on the file cabinet.

"Dammit," he said quietly. He went to his knees to gather the papers. Rubbing his head, he stood up - only to bump his head again on the bottom of a drawer that had slid out.

Todd stifled another curse, and laughed softly. Thank God no one was here to see that, he thought-

-and then he was falling, falling, falling...

Todd was in a shadowy room he'd never been in. Enormous pipes crawled across the walls, up from the floor, out the roof. And covering the floor were what looked like... CDs? Suspended in air? Spinning?

What was this? Where was he?

As he moved closer, Todd saw that they were not CDs at all - they were coins. Hundreds and hundreds of oversized coins. They were the size of plates! They all floated about a foot above the floor, arranged in neat, regular rows, spinning in place. Even though it was dark in the strange chamber, the floating coins gleamed.

He bent down to examine one. It was perfect, without mark or flaw - like the ideal proto-Coin all others were based on. It was beautiful.

It's the Hidden Coin Level, thought Todd.

Tentatively, he reached out a hand to touch one of the spinning golden coins. Just as he made contact there was a sudden bright DING! of a bell somewhere - and it was gone.

Todd was now one coin richer.

He could not help himself. He ran his arm through a whole row of them, sweeping them away with multiple dings.

Soon he was jumping, kicking, ROLLING in the coins. His score went up, up, up. The invisible bell dinged again and again, its tone becoming one long stutter.

His revelry was interrupted by a voice behind him: "Oh SHIT." Todd turned to see MaryAnne and Marlee watching him.

"How did you get in here?" said MaryAnne. "You're not in Accounting, you're in Marketing, HOW DID YOU LEARN THE SECRET COMBINATION MOVE?!?"

"I swear I didn't-" started Marlee, but MaryAnne held up her hand, cutting her off.

Todd didn't know what to say. What had he been doing? To be caught like this! He'd lost control. He was mortified.

MaryAnne said something to Marlee that sounded like codes and numbers - and Marlee quickly moved into the shadows. In a moment she returned with something enormous slung over her shoulder. It was a huge hammer, easily as long as she was tall.

"No, please," said Todd. "That won't be necessary."

"It won't hurt," said MaryAnne. "You'll just go back to the beginning of the level."

Marlee raised the hammer.

"Wait!" Todd implored, hands raised. "Just tell me - is it true there's also an Unlimited Lives level hidden somewhere, too?"

Marlee paused at the top of her swing, frowning at MaryAnne.

"How should I know?" said MaryAnne. "I'm not in Human Resources!"

Marlee brought the gargantuan hammer down on Todd's head. MaryAnne had lied - the pain was immense, complete, filling his world.

For one moment Todd was perfectly flat on the floor of the chamber, and the next he was at the very front of the Accounting level. As always when he found himself up here, Todd found himself a bit intimidated. He unconsciously moved a bit more quietly, as if in a library. In general he found accountants to be secretive and formal. He could always swear they cut conversations off right when he arrived, as if in the middle of a discussion on secret money matters he was not privy to.

Todd entered, said hello to Marlee, and asked after the company's quarterly brief. Marlee smiled and handed over a copy, as if she'd been expecting him.

Posted by Chris on 10/13/05

September 29, 2005

The Reese Rolls: A Late Tale for Jessica's Birthday

The door to the dungeon opened with a long creak, spilling light into the dusty chamber below. Startled, Delores quickly put her flour-covered hands over her eyes to keep from being blinded.

A hideous troll of a man stuck his head partway through the doorway, sniffing the air a few times. His hair stuck up frightfully in the back, like a wig placed there as an afterthought. His face was craggy and lined, his eyes dark and sunken. Truly, the eye held no love for the Keeper.

"Something smells yummy down there!" he said.

Opening the door all the way, the Keeper descended into the dungeon, humming a gay tune to himself. On his shoulders hung a long black cloak. When he got to the bottom, the Keeper executed a quick little turn; then he looked back to see if it had made his cloak billow appropriately.

Now that there was more than just the light of the cooking fire to see by, Delores saw just how covered with flour she was. The chain running from her ankle to the immense wood-burning stove was even covered with it. God, how long had she been down here?

She moved slightly away from the Keeper as he entered the dank kitchen, and went back to rolling out the dough on the immense wooden table before her. The Keeper looked into the over-sized metal sheet laid on top of the stove.

The metal sheet was covered with dozens of steaming, delicious-looking yeast rolls. Butter dripped from their browned tops onto the sheet. Each of the rolls was at least half a foot long, and they were all unmistakably baked into the shape of actress Reese Witherspoon.

"Oh, these look GREAT," said the Keeper. "See? SEE? It wasn't that hard!"

Delores managed a weak smile, and moved a little farther away from him.

The Keeper broke the feet off one of the Witherspoon rolls and popped them into his mouth. Delores tried not to hold her breath as he chewed. She kept rolling the dough. The Keeper closed his eyes.

"GOD! SO good. SO light. So buttery!" he said.

A shot of confidence went through Delores. "So," she said. "Perhaps I could just finish this batch and you can... let me return home?"

The Keeper didn't respond. He picked up another of the rolls and looked at it intently. Slowly his brows furrowed.

"Hmmm. Delores, dear, I thought I'd asked you to make these yeast rolls in the shape of Reese Witherspoon?"

Delores was incredulous. What was this?

"I... I did!" she said. "I DID! Look! Look at them, they look EXACTLY like her! Really, that's what Reese Witherspoon looks like!" Did the Keeper not know what she looked like? Did his insanity extend to even that?

The Keeper continued to frown for a moment at the roll. Then a realization dawned across his craggy features.

"OH OH OH! I get it! I see what the problem is," he said with something like relief. " YOU thought I meant Reese Witherspoon as she was in 'Sweet Home Alabama!'"

Delores was silent as he continued.

"Oh NO, no no no no no no no no no," he said, laughing. "I meant Reese Witherspoon in 'Cruel Intentions!' Oh no. NO! Not 'Sweet Home Alabama,' but 'Cruel INTENTIONS,' my dear! These will all have to be redone!"

Taking three or four of the rolls off the sheet and stuffing them into his pocket, the Keeper cast the rest into the flames of the stove.

Delores could barely believe it. She was so sure... she'd been so CLOSE to finally getting out.

"I... I just think those looked a LOT like Reese Witherspoon," she managed weakly. "Maybe if you'd told me which film you meant-"

"Oh, I see the problem," the Keeper interrupted. "Your fire is too low."

Delores tensed. The Keeper went to the pile of wood in the corner, and grabbing two logs, threw them into the stove. Then, as if still unhappy with the flames, he took a third piece of wood from the pile. But instead of throwing this one in the fire, he walked past the stove, and humming softly, smacked Delores with it full against her back.

Delores went flying through the air, then suddenly jerked to a stop when she reached the limit of her chain. She fell in a heap on the dank stones. A cloud of flour hung in the air.

"Maybe you'll remember THAT next time you make my yeast rolls in the shape of the wrong Reese Witherspoon," said the Keeper.

He turned quickly, his cloak twirling appropriately behind him, and stalked out of the dungeon. Delores noted through her pain that the hem of his cloak was covered with flour.

Delores struggled to her feet, and moved back to the dough. She should never have thought she could leave today. Like every other day when she'd made some effort towards escape, she had been walloped by a log, but good.

Posted by Chris on 09/29/05

August 10, 2005

Dr. James Dobson and the Frog

One day a frog hopped down to the river, and to his surprise, found Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family there at the bank, weeping to himself.

"Why, whatever is the matter, Dr. Dobson?" asked the frog.

"I'm trying to get to Justice Sunday," explained Dr. Dobson. "And I cannot swim! Oh Mr. Frog, would you carry me across the river on your back?"

The frog hesitated. He was a very sensitive frog, but he was also wary of predators.

"I would like to," said the frog. "But how do I know you won't accuse me of living an immoral lifestyle? I am a very sensitive frog and if you said that I would just die."

"Why would I do that!" exclaimed Dobson. "For if I did we would BOTH surely perish!"

And so the frog allowed Dr. James Dobson to climb on his back. He began swimming across the river, careful to keep the Focus on the Family founder above the water.

Midstream, Dr. James Dobson said to the frog, "You are a deviant and an abomination before God."

Shocked, the frog began to die. Both he and Dr. James Dobson began to sink below the water.

"Why did you do that?" asked the frog. "Now we will both die!"

Replied Dr. James Dobson, "It is my nature!"

Posted by Chris on 08/10/05

June 3, 2005

King of the Idiots: Ch. 5

Man of the People

After the Yeti debacle, the President's approval ratings were historically low. His proposal for a "Special Yeti Defense Tax" was floundering in Congress and looked doomed.

"Sir," asked a reporter at a press conference, "after several months at war, still no evidence has been found that the Yetis even exist. And now we have a memo leaked by the British which offers undeniable proof that you actually knew these creatures to be mythical before you took us to war against them. Do you have any comment?"

The President was unfazed by the direct challenge. He looked the reporter directly in the eye as he answered.

"Ladies and gentlemen of the press corps, and my fellow Americans," said the President. "I like to think that one of America's greatest exports to the world... is the great sport of baseball. And if you think about it, the conflict between America and her enemies is VERY MUCH like the classic conflict between two ball clubs - say, the Sox and the Yankees. You have one man at the plate. When he swings at the ball, he's like... America. And it's the same in football. In football, you have a team - and America IS that team. Pushing through the opposition until we reach the goal line! Put another way, if the complex arena of world politics were basketball, I'd like to think that America would be the Center. With Jesus in the stands, rooting us on."

The press corp was silent. The reporter took his seat, unable to meet the gaze of his colleagues.

"Also: hockey," added the President.

The next day the pollsters delivered the news that his approval ratings were higher than any President's in history. Without bothering to go through the formality of a vote, Congressional leaders brought the Special Yeti Defense Tax bill to the White House to be signed into law.

The End
Posted by Chris on 06/ 3/05

May 17, 2005

The Moral Clarity Merit Badge

Troop 156 descended into a rocky, arid valley. Heat radiated in wavering lines off the stones. A tiny stream struggled through mud, brackish and thick.

Scout Nonny Marrs, on point for the Troop, looked at the map, then his compass, and then pointed to a rocky "clearing" a few yards away. "That's the rendezvous point right over there!" he said.

Scoutmaster Phil doubted it. There was nothing in this little valley but scrub and stinging bugs, and not a picnic table or fire-pit in sight. Oh, well. It looked like Nonny wouldn't be earning his Map Skills merit badge today after all.

"THIS isnít it!" whined Timmy Mapleson. "We're nowhere NEAR the picnic site!"

Phil had to move quick. These boys were hungry and tired, and all it took was one to start sniveling before they all joined in. He was reaching to take the map out of Nonny's hands when he noticed the boy's compass. Suddenly everything was clear.

"Oh, NOW I get it," said Scoutmaster Phil. "Nonny, you led us here using your MORAL compass!"

Nonny looked down at the compass with surprise. "Well of all the-!"

The rest of the troop gathered around to look. Instead of the four cardinal directions, the needle of the Moral Compass was spinning around a single word: "RIGHT."

Soon the rest of the troop were laughing and slapping each other on the back, their hunger forgotten.

"Well, look at it this way," said Timmy. "We may not be in the 'correct' place, but at least we're in the place that FEELS the best!"

The End.

Posted by Chris on 05/17/05

May 10, 2005

King of the Idiots: Ch. 4

The Ultimate Weapon

Despite the Congress and President's certainty of the Yeti threat, there were still some that doubted the country should take such an aggressive stance towards them.

"What evidence do we really have that the Yetis are going to attack us?" asked the newspaper editorials. "Does the Yeti not prefer to roam the polar regions in solitude?"

But then the President came on the television with a startling announcement.

"I have just been informed that the Yetis have built a terrible, Sun-Stealing weapon," he said in grave tones. "And although I urge everyone to remain calm, the Yetis plan to demonstrate the awesome force of their weapon - TONIGHT, at 7:44 PM."

The intelligence was accurate. That night, the nation watched in horror as the sun slowly faded from the sky - just as the President had said.

The nation cowered in total darkness for the next 10 hours.

At 5:56 AM, the Yetis relented - the Sun was restored to America. Relief spread across the country - followed by resolve. The switchboards of Congress and the White House were instantly flooded.

"The President has our full support," went a typical call. "We have to blow those Yeti bastards back to the iceberg age."

"We have to show them we're number ONE," said the A.M. talk show hosts.

The End.

Posted by Chris on 05/10/05

April 29, 2005

King of the Idiots: Ch. 3

The Yetis Strike

Congress was in the process of passing a special Emergency Executive War Powers Act to help the President deal with the Yeti Problem.

"The President shouldn't have to run to some 'committee' to ask for permission when these cold-hearted monsters eventually strike," a Senator declared. "It's absurd! THERE WON'T BE TIME!"

The Act looked certain to pass save for a very thin minority of lawmakers blocking the vote.

"All we're asking is that we let the Yeti Inspection Team do their work," these few lawmakers insisted. "They haven't even arrived at the Dark Forest where the President says the Yetis live yet!"

The Pro Tempore gavelled them into silence. The President, invited to this special Joint Session, was shaking his head sadly. "I've seen this sort of thing before," he said, pointing at the small group of dissenting lawmakers. "It's Yeti Mind-Poisoning."

Congress gasped as one. Could there be greater proof of the Yeti Threat? The affected Congressmen were quickly taken away by Congressional Medical Teams where they could be isolated and examined. Meanwhile, the vote continued unimpeded.

"The Yetis have made the first move," one of the Representatives said later on CNN. "And you can be sure we will swiftly retaliate."

The End

Posted by Chris on 04/29/05

April 22, 2005

King of the Idiots: Ch. 2

The Anti-Yeti Provisions

All the polls showed that the people favored legislation to lower the cost of school lunches for underprivileged kids. And since elections were coming up for the majority of Congress, the politicians hastily drafted a "School Lunch Reform Bill."

The Congressmen, parents group leaders, and children's advocates delivered the Bill to the White House. They expected a fight: many of the President's pet initiatives were funded by tax increases on school lunches.

The President read and reread the bill. Finally, he spoke. "I would sign this Bill except for one thing," he said.

The bill's sponsors leaned forward to hear what he would say.

"There is not a single Anti-Yeti provision in the whole thing," said the President.

The Congressmen and advocates were nonplussed. "Yetis, sir?" asked a junior Senator.

"Of course," said the President. "Everyone knows if you want to deal with school lunches, then you must first do something about the Yetis."

The Congressmen looked uneasily at one another. It was difficult for such experienced lawmakers to realize they had missed such an obvious thing.

The President shook his head sadly. "Frankly," he said, "it looks like something that would have come from my predecessor."

The senators and advocates recoiled. That they were in the Oval Office was all that kept many of them from spitting on the ground. There was not a more hated man in Washington than the last president.

"He was weak on the Yeti Problem," the President continued. The Senators nodded in agreement. "I owe it to the American people not to make the same mistake."

No other words needed to be spoken. The Congressmen returned to the Hill, where they immediately went into overnight sessions. There was hard work ahead, and the school lunch bill would have to wait: they had to pass meaningful Anti-Yeti legislation, and quickly.

The End
Posted by Chris on 04/22/05

April 18, 2005

King of the Idiots: Ch. 1

The Hydra Crisis

A group of politicians calling themselves the Consortium for a Concerned Citizenry came into the President's office.

"Mr. President," the Consortium spokesman said. "Your term has been up for more than three months. Will you or will you NOT relinquish office?"

The president appeared to think for a moment, but then something caught his eye out the Oval Office window. "OH MY GOD, did a Nine-Headed Hydra just fly by outside?"

The terrified Consortium peered out of the windows. There was no sign of the beast.

"God, it's gone invisible again," said the President, expertly scanning the skies. "The Nine-Headers do that just before they attack, I hear."

A wave of panic went through the Consortium politicians. They began quickly babbling and clutching at each other, until the President's cool leadership prevailed.

"Everyone remain perfectly calm, and above all, NO ONE SAY A WORD," he said. "Hydras can sense dissent - and it drives them WILD."

The Consortium asked for permission to spend the night in the safety of the White House. In the spirit of bipartisanship, the President agreed and personally saw to it that they were all made comfortable.

In the morning, the Consortium went back to the Hill, where they immediately passed a resolution commending the President for his handling of the situation.

"You don't change leadership during a Hydra crisis," said one of the Consortium Senators. "It's just common sense. And the President has handled this even better than the LAST time the beast attacked."

The End.
Posted by Chris on 04/18/05

November 4, 2004

The Consultative Adventures of the Macronauts

The Consultative Adventures of the Macronauts

~ a very short story of technology and its applications ~

It's true the Macronauts have interchangeable parts, but what most people don't realize is that they actually find exchanging these parts unsavory, and rarely do it.

For as much as their shiny metallic hands and arms and feet and heads can fit easily on each other's bases, they actually prefer just to stick with the original parts they came with.

Reasons for this preference vary from Macronaut to Macronaut. For some it's a complicated social issue concerning personal space or body image. For others, it's merely a question of good health habits.

"It's actually sort of unsanitary when you think about it," says K-LEX 9, a transluscent, blue-skinned android, citing one of the oft-used rationales most Macronauts adhere to. "How do I know where someone else's interchangeable hand has been?"

Still, the preference not to interchange is found mostly in older Macronauts. Younger 'nauts, at an age marked by curiousity about themselves and their flexible metallic bodies, are understandably fascinated by the process and eager to experiment.

"I hear that ten macronauts can be linked somehow in sequence to form a master, multi-chromatic MEGA-NAUT!!" This exclamation from a younger 'naut will often cause an older Macronaut to roll its eyes and sigh.

"Well, sure, in theory... it's possible," says K-LEX to a younger mechanoid. "But hardly PROBABLE. When's the last time you were able to coordinate ten of your friends to the same RESTAURANT, much less into some complicated, overrated bigger version of ANYTHING?"

"One Macronaut is enough," says Cronulus-43, a pragmatic Macronaut in his early 50s. "Ten is just overkill."

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is not always enough to deter younger Macronauts. A 'naut with less than twenty years of usage is likely to engage in some form of youthful interchanging with their friends, often exasperating their elders by coming home with the heads of their friends, or in more experimental configurations such as sporting feet on the end of their arms.

"It doesn't make any SENSE," says X-X-Ultra D, one of the younger 'nauts, who often attends school walking on the legs of his close friend Chromus-817, and at the same time having loaned his jet-pack with spring-loaded rockets to a third acquaintance. "That's our whole THING - interchangeable parts! Why would we deny ourselves?"

The elders generally just sigh, but most draw the line at something more egregious, like switching torsos or having one long arm with four jointed segments.

"I don't care WHAT they're doing at school," the adult Macronauts say. "If I have to call up 7-Troid's parents to get your head back, I will. AND IT BETTER NOT BE SCRATCHED."

The more rebelious young 'nauts often gather and put on wild, raucous "Mega-raves," where they attempt to configure themselves into the shape of the vaunted Meganaut; but it rarely ends up as anything more than a jumbled heap of limbs and accessories.

"Those things should be stopped," says Cronulus-43. "They're just an excuse to lose parts. And lost parts are the bane of the Macronaut existence. Just go ask my brother Remus-X, whose son lost a foot AND a hand five years ago at one of these things. What's he supposed to do now? Just a shame."

Despite this trend towards conservatism, the Macronauts do still get into adventures, but these days it is mostly on a consultative basis. They make a good living hiring themselves out as advisors to other personalitied machines with transformative abilities.

"I'm having trouble with the transition from Truck to Bug," goes a typical complaint from those seeking their advice, such as recent client Deceptor-918 / Killer Beetle. "I can't make the wheels fold in right."

For the consulting Macronauts this is a typical ailment. But rather than take the classic approach and immediately get bogged down in the technicalities of tesselation and metal-folding, they encourage a client to first take a step back and ask some simple questions: Why do you WANT to transform anyway? What's wrong with your current body? Why live a life based on deception?

Often a client hasn't even explored these lines of thought. Deceptor-918 was no different. When his Macronaut counselor asked him "Why not be happy as a Truck? Why take the form of a Bug anyway?" it was the first time he'd thought of it in that way.

"I... I guess I thought I was SUPPOSED to be a Bug," he replied, suddenly unsure. This is when a counselor can make real headway. The trick is of course determining which form the client is most comfortable in. In the case of Deceptor-918 / Killer Beetle, the unspoken attitude was that he considered himself first and foremost a truck, and only secondarily a bug.

"Can a Bug haul a cord of wood?" the counselor will ask. "Can a Bug get a load of bricks to a construction site that desperately needs them? Can a Bug be a part of the rapidly growing interstate commerce business? I think you'll find the answer is no."

Posted by Chris on 11/ 4/04