Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Beguiling Crone: Another Random Chapter from a Work in Progress (Title - Subliminal Debris? Inexistence? Who Knows...)

Beguiling Crone

The cat had furnished Nick with the witch's address.  He parked a block away and walked to her residence, trying to affect the air of one taking a casual, leisurely stroll.
Nick had hoped to at least possess the element of surprise, but as he approached the front yard of the residence, the woman standing next to a rose bush in the front garden turned instinctively, looking him directly in the face, her lips turning up in a gentle, slightly bemused smile.
            She was not what Nick had expected.  Although obviously elderly, she was far from frail.  Her appearance was that of a hearty, good humored woman with ruddy cheeks and an ample bossom.  What's more, she seemed to glow with a natural energy, and something about her appearance was singularly strong and earthy.  In fact, she looked as if her limbs had actually sprung from the soil beneath her, and her hair was a tangle of intertwining strands that formed an unkempt halo that blossomed wildly around her face.   She looked as though the rose bush she was tending might actually be her cousin. 
            To Nick, it seemed as if this woman might have been sculpted directly from the primordial substance from which the rest of mankind had only descended -- sculpted by some divine hand that, if not all knowing, at least possessed artistic flair and the capacity for great forethought.
"I've been expecting you, dear." her voice was low and deep, but not marred by age.  It reminded him of rustling leaves.
"I..." Nick stammered, taken by surprise.
" I understand you are in a bit of a quandary.  I'm sorry, what is your name, love?"
"Nick... Nicholas."
"A pleasure to meet you, Nicholas.  I'm Deirdre.  I suspect we have a lot to discuss.  But let's do so more comfortably, shall we?  Do come in, dear.  I'll make you some tea." 
Wordlessly, Nick followed her into the house.  As he passed through her screened front porch, he noticed a large loom tucked in the corner.
Deirdre ushered him into her living room.  It was a room that looked lived in -- the furniture worn, though not shabby.  She urged Nick to make himself comfortable on the sofa and trotted off to prepare their tea.
            As he observed her fussing over the tea tray in the adjoining kitchen, it struck Nick that Deirdre embodied all womankind -- a maiden peeking through in her coy smile while a mother's kind eyes gazed tenderly out from the wrinkled face of a wise old woman.  Yes, she was all women, and Nick found himself inexplicably mesmerized... and more than a little overwhelmed.
            Perhaps he was under her spell?  Was she some sort of siren?  In her presence, he felt almost a wee bit tipsy, his vision ever so slightly off-kilter, tilted at an almost imperceptible angle.  Perhaps she was giving off powerful pheromones or some other intoxicant? 
            Deirdre returned to the living room with a tray containing two cups and saucers, a rather delicate looking china tea pot, cream, sugar, and a plate of tea biscuits.  She set the tray gingerly upon the coffee table.
            "Cream and sugar?" she asked, beginning to pour.
            "Really, I'm fine." Nick said, trying to gently decline her hospitality.  He was nervous about drinking anything she had prepared.
            Deirdre frowned.  "Why so wary, dear?"
            She was too perceptive to try to fool, so Nick took a deep breath and proceeded with honesty.  "It's true, I am a bit wary of you, Ma'am.  You see, I know you can control people's actions."
            "Oh, my, no!" Deirdre clucked.  "You make witches sound so sinister.  We are a good hearted lot, I assure you." she said with a chuckle.  "And we would certainly do nothing so obvious and vulgar as control anyone... we simply offer gentle suggestions.  Think of it as merely a psychic nudge in a desired direction.  Purely benevolent, you see.  If someone needs a little help getting going, we provide the needed push."
            She had kind eyes that twinkled and seemed to have endless depth.  There was a hint of mischievousness glimmer in them, it was true, but it was playful and didn't seem at all malicious.  Nick decided that he liked her.  He couldn't help it.
            "You came here because you have a problem, did you not, Nicholas?" she asked.
            Nick nodded.
            "But you seem to have some misconceptions about witchcraft.  Let me put your mind at ease a little, dear, and then we'll get to your problem."
            She paused to pour herself some tea and savor a sip.
            "There are many types of witches, young man, and the vast majority are benevolent.  The world would be in far worse shape than it is if it weren't for the guiding hands of witches.  But, while technically a witch, I'm not a typical one.  I perform a specialized task; few women throughout history have chronicled the lives of mankind.  In Greek mythology, these women were known as the Fates.  They have also been known by many other names over the course of history.  But their nature has always been fundamentally misunderstood."
            Nick waited for her to continue.
            "Such women have been credited with writing men's fates." she said, shaking her head sadly.  "But our involvement has never been active; it is a passive role.  I do not write a man's destiny; I merely record it.  I am a simple historian." she said, turning her palms turned up in a gesture of openness.
            "So that loom you have..." Nick gestured in its direction.
            "Yes, my life's work.  I weave the thread, but each tapestry is merely a history.  I do not create the events; I merely record them."
            Nick nodded.
            "So, your problem then?" she coaxed him with a gentle smile.
            "Ah, yes.  There is a sort of shadow disease." he began.  There was no easy way to explain this.  "It is bleeding over from the realm of the collective unconscious and infecting people.  Eventually, they are overwhelmed by shadow and disappear from our world, apparently absorbed into the shadow realm..."
            "I am aware of the growing rift between our worlds." Deirdre said thoughtfully.  "And I am also aware of your role.  You have been using sets of universal symbols to help contain the ruptures, have you not?"
            "Yes." Nick responded.  "But that won't stop this infection."
            The old woman nodded.
"The cat said that symbols will not work because of your involvement." Nick said.
"No, symbols will not work, but that has nothing to do with me.  I did not create this distorted fate." she said. 
"But do you know how to stop it?"
"To intervene in a person's fate is a serious crime.  But I don't think that is of real concern to someone with your nature." she said with a smirk.
Nick dismissed the reference to his nature.  There were more pressing matters than his damnation right now.
"Besides, these fates are a result of underlying sickness in the tapestry of life." Deirdre continued.  "The pattern is unnatural -- altered by disease.  I cannot interfere myself, but I don't object to you doing so."
"You will recognize the afflicted by the pictures on their skin.  No mortal can cross over without these glyphs of transportation.  That is why your symbols can have no effect.  Their own organic ciphers act as a shield."
"Why did the cat blame you then?" Nick wondered aloud.
"Damned cat can't admit that there are things he doesn't know." the old woman grumbled.  "Snarky psychoid." she muttered.
Shaking her head, she continued, "But the infection can still be purged.  When you encounter one of the afflicted, induce vomiting.  I will give you a conduit -- the afflicted are tainted by shadows; they must purge until their liquids run clear."
  She placed a leathery hand atop his own, patting it reassuringly.
  Looking into her face, Nick was suddenly struck with the beauty of age.  Living in a culture that valued youth, he had automatically dismissed aging as undesirable all his life -- an unfortunate side effect of growing older.  But now he saw with sudden clarity that each line was like a medal life had bestowed.  With every wrinkle, there was wisdom.  An aged face was like a palm; the lines could be read if only the person looking was correctly versed for the task.
  The crone was beautiful in her quiet, faded way -- in the same way a flower is still beautiful when its blossom is waning.  It was not the arrogant beauty of youth, but a humble beauty --  deepened by experience, replete with the soft, lingering sadness that comes with wisdom.
  The kind lines around her eyes bunched as she smiled, and Nick was in a strange sort of reverential love.  A love for her kindness, wisdom, and understanding.  After he left, he would have to banish this epiphany from his mind in order to go back to a valuing the empty robustness of youthful beauty. 
"Thank you." Nick said.
She nodded, patting his hand once again.  "Purging will cure individual cases.  But, in order to put an end to the phenomenon, I'm afraid you'll need to do something far more dangerous."
  Nick nodded but said nothing.  He knew that the big final showdown that everyone kept alluding to was probably his alone to face.
  "Just a moment." Deirdre said, rising and excusing herself.
  Nick stared blankly at his undrunk cup of tea.
            The old woman soon returned with a bottle of what Nick presumed was an herbal concoction that would cause the afflicted to purge the shadows from their bodies.  But as he took the it from her, he saw that it was just ipecac.  He gave her a confused look.
            "What, did you expect some 'eye of newt' mumbojumbo?" she laughed.  "Why would I spend all day brewing up an elixir when something over the counter works at least as well?"

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Adam Ant's Song Encourages Anorexia

               Here is my random thought for the day, and it is, admittedly, very random: I have to admire Adam Ant for his balls.
               From the time I was eleven to fifteen, Adam Ant was my favorite singer.  Actually, he was far more than that; he was my idol and the primary subject of my adolescent fantasies.  I absolutely wanted to marry the man (if that wish had come true, I undoubtedly would be fucked up in a myriad of entirely different ways today).
               After eighteen years of musical silence, Adam Ant recently released a new album with a surprising long and inexplicable title (something about being a hussar and marrying the gunner's daughter).   Since I expressed a modicum of curiosity about it, my husband bought it for me.   
               I've been listening to the album in my car, and there is one track that has gotten under my skin.  I sing it to myself, I quietly mull over its lyrics -- I'm even writing about the damned thing!   The song is "Punkyoungirl."  It is a politically incorrect train wreck; there is just so much wrong with it that, in order to take it all in, one really must listen to it a number of times.  But I think that it is precisely because the song is so perverse that I am drawn to it with something akin to morbid fascination.  That, and it's damnably catchy.  
               To put it simply, the song is about a young girl (I'm guessing late teens or early twenties) with whom Adam apparently enjoys having sex.  Now, don't get me wrong, I don't mean to be a prude here.  That Adam Ant wants to have sex with young women is hardly surprising.  I imagine that the majority of older men would like to do so; most just don't have enough money or fame to be very successful at it. 
               Adam regales his listeners with an appreciative description of the girl's body and then credits her with causing his midlife crisis: "punky young girl needs a middle aged man / whose midlife crisis you began."   He goes on to bid her to "lift up your skirt, let me lick the alphabet."  Although I'm not sure from where the euphemism "alphabet" might have come, I'm still pretty sure that I can recognize a reference to cunnilingus when I hear it.  This line never ceases to cause a very visual image of Adam, in the midst of his alphabet escapades, to pop into my head and, while I must admit that it isn't an entirely unpleasant image, its presence there just seem somehow wrong
               After a few more thinly cloaked sexual references and some rather cute speculations about the girl's underthings, Adam warns her "if it goes wrong, don't look at me / my brain don't carry responsibility."  At first, this lyric sounds like a total cop out.  I mean, surely a man in his late fifties should carry the responsibility when in a relationship with an impressionable young girl, even if only because he has so much more life experience from which to draw?  But then again, Adam does have special circumstances (as he references in the song "Shrink").  Perhaps he really can't be held responsible for his actions after all.
               The real heart of "Punkyoungirl"'s ballsy nature is its chorus.  Adam repeats "She said nothing tastes as good as skinny feels." 
               First off, this girl has obviously never been introduced to a roast beef po-boy. But even if the girl's supposition were true, repeating it is probably irresponsible.
               A hint of admiration seems to be audible in Adam's voice as he sings these lines; he presumably admires her discipline.  She is clearly dedicated to maintaining her slim, beautiful body. 
               The problem is that "nothing tastes as good as skinny feels" is exactly the sort of phrase you will find on pro-anorexia websites.  It encourages the anorexic mindset.  And Adam Ant has put it out there for mass consumption, encouraging any young women who may listen to the song to starve themselves in order to be more desirable. 
               Am I saying that this shouldn't have been said?  Of course not.  I think people should say whatever the hell they want, regardless of how inflammatory it may be.  A lot of my own writing is undoubtedly offensive by many people.  But I am saying that Adam sure has balls to say it, and I'm not even entirely sure he even realizes what he's saying.
               Now that I have analyzed the song to death, I'll conclude by saying that, as screwed up as it may be, I do like "Punkyoungirl."  I think it's probably my favorite song on the whole album.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Twisted Tales for Twisted Minds -- Now Available!

Twisted Tales for Twisted Minds is now available!  E-book formats have been uploaded to Smashwords (already publicly available), Amazon, and Barnes and Noble (available in the next 24 hours).  The print edition should be available within the next few weeks.  
Once more, I would like to thank Streetlight Graphics  for their excellent work.  Superb cover art and formatting, as always!

GMOs Will Cause the Zombie Apocalypse

Not only are GMOs killing the bees and monarch butterflies, but they will eventually be the death of us all.

In the following excerpt from Making the Best of the Zombie Apocalypse, survivors discuss how genetically modified crops caused the dead to rise:

“We’re all infected.” Dave continued. “That’s why we’ll come back when we die.”
“When the dead bite the living, it’s just a virulent bacterial infection that causes the bitten person to die. Then their own infection, or, if you really want to be accurate, mutation, which is already present in their DNA, reanimates them. A zombie’s bite is like that of a monitor lizard. The chunk they take out of you might not kill you, but the bacteria from their mouths is likely to do so in short order. The bite kills, but it doesn’t cause reanimation.”
“But why?” Ron asked. “Why would nobody have this infection and then, suddenly, one day everyone becomes infected? Some alien asteroid? Or a biological weapon? I’ve heard a million theories since this shit began, but nobody seems to actually know.”
“It had something to do with beef.” Dave said.
We all looked at Dave, with varying degrees of puzzlement visible on our faces, and waited for him to say more.
“You can only feed cows other cows for so long.” Dave said by way of explanation. “All the cutting corners on animal feed and genetic engineering of crops to maximize profits had an unexpected effect. They fed the cows waste, byproducts, genetically modified grain and meal...
You eat enough genetically modified food, it’s going to modify your genetics.”
“But vegetarians...” Maggie began.
“Vegetarians and those who strictly ate organic foods weren't immune to the infection. Vegetarians typically made the decision to not eat meat in adulthood. They had already consumed heaps of genetically altered plants and animals by then. I mean, hell, it was in the goddamned milk.”
Dave had been compiling research since the outbreak began, and now he was able to lay it all out for the layperson, or laypeople in this case—us.
“Scientists kept waiting to see the effects of genetic engineering, but they were looking in the wrong place. They were watching for effects on living human beings, but the mutation it had caused remained dormant during the human life phase. The effect only presented in the post-life phase—the result being that the dead wouldn’t stay dead.”
“Remember mad cow disease? Beef moguls fed cows the left over bits of other cows, and it altered the animals’ protein sequences. People should have seen that something was up then. We fucked up the food supply and poisoned ourselves.”
If what Dave said was true, I wondered what the ramifications would be of our post-apocalyptic diet. Cannibalism had quickly become the norm after the outbreak. The living not only ate each other; they ate zombies if they were still fresh enough to consume. What further genetic damage might we be doing? But maybe that was a moot point; humanity seemed to already be tapering off to its doomed conclusion. Another plague of any sort seemed as though it would just be overkill.
Ron asked, “But why did all the dead start getting up and walking at the same time then? That doesn’t make sense... People would have had to be infected for years before the apocalypse occurred.”
“Popular theory is that the mutation existed but lay dormant and unnoticed until some precipitating global event triggered activation of the gene. A chemical spill was initially blamed as the cause of dead reanimation, but we now know that it could only have been a catalyst. High levels of some fucked up toxic chemical were carried on the air currents around the world, like radiation from Chernobyl. Though it’s difficult to verify anything scientifically anymore, it is strongly speculated that the spill provided the catalytic agent, awakening the gene. If it hadn’t been that spill though, something else would have triggered it eventually. It was just waiting for a reason to wake up.”
After years of having to accept this horrible reality without knowing why, somehow the availability of a plausible explanation didn’t make me feel much better. Still, maybe that there is an ascertainable reason is the first step toward the possibility of there ever being a solution. I’m not optimistic, but maybe.