Why Witches Hate When You Call Them Broomers

It seems like Broomers have been making the rounds all over town. We hear about them at moldy old mortuaries, dirt riddled cathedrals, and dust stricken taverns. Just don’t expect them to come running when you need a cleanup at aisle ten. That’s because Broomer isn’t another word for janitor. It’s a pejorative for someone who practices witchcraft.

Young Wiccan Katerina Ashwood (Kat for short) coined the term. “’Ok broomer,’ was our way of brushing off witches who were stuck in the past.”

She gave an example, “Let’s say a crone finds us making a summoning circle in the field. She shakes her head and fetches a wheelbarrow full of goat skulls. She takes out a mallet and pounds the bones to dust. Then she scoops up the dust and fashions a summoning circle of her own.

One of the maidens sees what she’s doing and decides to show the crone what’s really going on. They climb up the hill. From there the crone can see the scale of our crop circle. She loses her shit. Here she was summoning a knee high imp and we’re down there raising a titan.

The crone puts her foot down, lectures us on the sovereignty of the ancient rites, and we turn around and go, ‘Ok broomer.’”

The term harkens to a time when witches rode broomsticks. When pointy hats flew across lunar backdrops and crones traveled in flocks. These days maidens travel in squadrons and they ride e-scooters.

“Scooters are less conspicuous and they have a little holder for your brew bottle.”

According to Kat Broomers are esoteric elitists. They believe magick is bestowed upon them by deities on the fringes of reality. Kat believes magick is more like the force, something to be channeled, a power that comes from within.

“Sure Broomer is ageist, but crones can be so strict. I didn’t see the harm in having little fun at their expense. That was until muggles started calling me Broomer on Twitter.”

Things got worse for from there. Wiccan maidens found themselves at the center of hate campaign. Their hidden sanctuaries were doxed. GPS coordinates for woodland shrines appeared up online.

Kat described rushing to her sanctum. “Someone had hung Blairwitch stick figures everywhere. Pissed in the offering bowl and wrote, ‘OK BROOMER’ all over the altar.”

Online harassment from muggles is nothing new forto Kat. This is just the first time she’s seen her own lingo thrown back at her.

“They used to say, ‘Ok Gretchen’ with like a hard G. Sometimes they’d call me a ‘Basic Bernadette.’ When I posted that I needed time offline they’d send wave emojis with ‘Bye Lucrecia’.”

So how did Broomer work its way into the muggle vernacular?

An in-depth search found the meme appearing on a witch-hunting message board. Witchfinder International is forum notorious for its calls to revive the inquisition. Users share interrogation fantasies that border on pornography. They hold mock witch trials for celebrities and exchange crucifix bomb making recipes.

Witchfinder International users make no distinction between esoteric orders and contemporary practitioners. They slap Broomer onto all pagan movements, but when they say it it’s full of sexist overtones:
“How do you sweep a Broomer off her feet? With an ax.”
“These Broomers should get back in the kitchen.”
“Broomers ought to ride this instead.” This was accompanied by a photo of a penis.

Kat scrolled through the examples we compiled and sighed. “Muggles used to use Broomer to describe an ice-curler. Now it’s their word to keep us down, like when white men discovered ‘Ok Karen.’ They just lost their fucking minds.”

In hindsight, the Broomer debacle has given Kat a greater appreciation for her elders. “I certainly got a taste of my own potion. It figures now I’m spending most of my time in the mountains with the crones.”

The Sisterhood of Cinders are teaching Kat the art of remote haunting, a form of astral projection once used to make conquistadors see ghosts.

Kat browsed the Witchfinder International board as she spoke. “Witches used to use remote hauntings to drive Kings to suicide, but I’ve got a more modern application I’d like to try it on.” She shut her laptop, backed out of the firelight, and wandered off laughing into the night.


Continue reading Why Witches Hate When You Call Them Broomers

When People are Trapped Inside the Old Ones will Rise

COVID-19 has swept across the globe overwhelming healthcare facilities and forcing governments to issue stay at home orders. While people shelter in place cars remain in driveways, gas stations become ghost towns, and refineries stand abandoned.

Stranger still experts are finding that our absence is having a side effect on the environment.

The nitrogen dioxide coating the world has faded revealing the continent of China beneath it. The smog blanketing the Los Angeles has lifted revealing the Hollywood sign. The fuel in the Venice canals has dissolved revealing the seafloor.

When I open my windows the noise pollution is gone. There are no horns from the intersection next to the apartment. No thumping subwoofers shaking the ground. No roaring Harleys from the highway. No jetliners to drown out the birdsong. There’s only the faintest hint of wind.

The neighborhood networking app Nextdoor is full of fox sightings. Herds of deer are grazing in cemeteries. Bald eagles are perching on powerlines. Nature is filling the vacancy left by humankind.

If we’ve ever wondered what our impact is on the environment the quarantine has given us the answer.

With fewer people burning fuel, laying fertilizer, and raising cattle there are fewer greenhouse gases. Without that stream of pollution we risk making the planet hospitable for creatures we’d rather remain underground. The longer things stay like this the greater the risk the old ones will rise again.

For eons the old ones have slumbered near the earth’s core, beneath sheets of stalactites, on beds of magma. Their mere yawns shake the caverns. Their mere movements create fault lines. These titans once ruled the land until changes in the air forced them into hibernation.

Still, they dream and their dreams manifest as delirium in lesser minds. Perhaps you’ve seen them in the lonely hours of your solitude. I know I have. With their bodies like great apes and faces like cuttlefish.

There’s Mother Hydra, the vengeance of the ocean. Father Dagon, the lord of the trenches. Then there’s deep ones, sharpening their tridents, waiting to surface. There’s Hastur, the unspeakable doom of Carcosa. Also known as the King in Yellow with his tattered robe of tentacles. There’s the Shoggoths trickling down the mountains of madness, as the ozone slowly heals above them.

Oh, and of course there’s Cthulhu. Imprisoned in the sunken city of R’lyeh with his legions in slime drenched pens. Cthulhu, the dreamer whose true domain is the astral plane. Cthulhu, whose island will rise again. Cthulhu, whose name you really shouldn’t say three times.

Throughout history these forgotten deities have scratched at the borders reality. Every time a depression forces folks to use less oil the old ones feel their bellies rumble. Every time a city lowers its carbon footprint it risks being stomped upon. Every time you bike when you could’ve driven you risk waking them.

Without a steady stream of emissions these entities will come. They will call down their progenitor: Yog-Sothoth, the sentinel of wormholes. When he arrives he’ll drape his tendrils over the horizon. The glowing orbs sagging from his skin will rival the scale of the moon. Then the children of Yog-Sothoth will feed on both our bodies and our minds.

In hindsight self-isolation will seem like Heaven. Sure, the cities will reopen, but the streets won’t be places you want to walk down. Not with the Esoteric Order of Dagon fishing for sacrificial lambs, flashing wavy daggers, gutting their catches in public fountains. Not with the Cult of Cthulhu stringing coper wiring through craniums, drawing down the lightning, lighting up expressions. Not with Bus-length Shoggoths swallowing pedestrians, leaving onlookers to watch victims dissolve through protoplasmic skin.

The economy might take off like a rocket, but it ain’t going to hit atmo. That’s for damn sure.

The old ones will show cosmic indifference to the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. Our unalienable rights will disappear overnight. Forget about the stock market. Forget about the epidemic. Forget about the climate. Without the safety net of nitrogen dioxide we will hurtle into the void.

Our suffering will be the punchline of a great cosmic joke and the old ones will never stop laughing. That’s why it’s our duty to go forth and start polluting. We must shovel coal into volcanoes, have a few more three mile islands, and double fist aerosol cans. Do it not just for your children, but for your children’s children.

For it is only after we’ve filled the air with toxins that we’ll be spared the wrath of the old ones.


Continue reading When People are Trapped Inside the Old Ones will Rise

How the President is Failing to Deal with the Vampire Epidemic

Europe has been in the grip of fear ever since a strange mist blanketed the globe last January. Romanian authorities found discotheques drenched in blood, freezers stockpiled with corpses, and victims impaled on flagpoles. Investigators found fang-like puncture wounds and bodies completely drained of blood. It didn’t take long for the World Health Organization to declare a vampire epidemic.

President Trump downplayed reports of cathedrals covered in crimson glyphs and blood spattered effigies, dubbing them “The latest in a long line of liberal hoaxes.”

A month later reports of bodies mounted on church spires came from all across America.

President Trump’s tone shifted. “Our first priority is to protect our nation’s menstruating women. These things like blood. I’ve had three wives and two daughters, and let me tell you, that’s a lot of blood.”

The president then told a frightened nation to stockpile onions. “Stuff them into your mail box. Lay a bloom on your doormat. Shove them in your gutters.”

Later a spokesperson for the Whitehouse clarified the president’s comments. “Vampires are allergic to garlic, a species of the onion genus, which is what the president was referring to when he said ‘onions.’”

A day later President Trump told the public to invest in silver spray paint. “Spray it on your railings. Your doorknobs. Your neck. I mean lock the doors and windows and just empty a couple of cans.”

That same Whitehouse spokesperson clarified. “Vampires are not allergic to the color silver, but rather the precious metal. It burns their skin on contact. While some paints contain metal flakes they are not concentrated enough to offer any substantive benefit.”

Earlier this April Catholic parishes reported running out of holy water. Experts within the administration urged clergy members to bless the nation’s aquifers. Meanwhile the President suggested Americans dunk copies of Mel Gibson’s 2004 film The Passion of the Christ in their bathtubs. “Fill up a couple of water balloons and go Rambo on these mother suckers.”

As more human totem poles and skin banners are discovered 65% of Americans say personal defense is their main concern. The nation’s timber producers struggle to meet the demand for wooden stakes. The CDC urges rural Americans to whittle branches for home defense. Urban Americans face wood shortages. With their staff furloughed Crate and Barrel reports their dining sets have been stripped by desperate people looking for materials to make stakes.

The president announced a plan to address the stake shortage. He went before the Whitehouse press briefing with golf tees jutting from his knuckles and went into a shadowboxing routine that lasted for a few seconds before he leaned on the podium to catch his breath. When he finished wheezing he lobbed packs of golf tees at the press core and shouted, “Here, use these.”

Climate activists, like Greta Thunberg, insist world leaders must address the mist blanketing the globe before doing anything else. “The only way to stop the vampires is to bring the sun back into the equation.”

The President denies the role of climate change on the overcast. Anonymous Whitehouse aids say he makes finger guns at the cloud cover whenever he passes a window and that he’s asked his generals, “Why can’t we just nuke it?”
“Because the fallout would make the earth uninhabitable.”
“What about solar panels? Why don’t we just blast it from the underneath?”
“Solar panels absorb sunlight. They don’t project it.”
“What about hurricanes? You know how the sun always shines through the eye of a hurricane? Why can’t we do something with that?”
“If we could control the weather we’d start with the mist.”
“Then what’s your suggestion poindexter?!”

South Korea contained the spread of vampirism by urging citizens to disinvite infected family members from their homes, mandatory blood testing, and Ultraviolet light checkpoints.

Last Friday President Trump suggested Americans go out carrying life-sized crucifixes. “I know the fake media will spin this to say that crosses are too heavy, but how badly do you want your groceries?”

Churches report that the crosses they’ve depended on to protect their congregations have been stolen. Cemeteries report record grave desecrations and strip malls are reporting the theft of lowercase Ts from signs.

Rather than address the surge in vandalism the President congratulated himself on Twitter for beating the Pope in TV ratings. “Does the pope shit in the woods? Well he’s shit in the ratings! Sad.”

As for a long term solution Whitehouse aids report President Trump is still spit balling strategies with his generals.

“Can’t we get some werewolf commandos to take these mouth-bleeders out?”
“Then who would take out the werewolves?”
Trump snapped his fingers. “An airborne squadron of witches.”
“And what about the witches?”
“How about some vampire bats?”
“And…we’re right back where we started.”

Last night a high ranking general’s remains were found near the Whitehouse. Witnesses said his intestines were threaded through the gate like tinsel and that his organs were hung like mistletoe.

At 3AM the President Tweeted, “It’s over! Liberate your homes! Throw those doors open and invite the world back in! #CleanYourNecksFirst.”

The President and most of his staff have not been heard from since. Although there were reports of a colony of bats seen defecating on the Lincoln memorial not long after the President’s Tweet.


Continue reading How the President is Failing to Deal with the Vampire Epidemic

My Best Short Fiction for Self-Isolation

Slush Pile
A con artist creates a scheme to defraud aspiring authors, until one day he’s haunted by the manuscripts he’s cast off into the slush pile.

Shop Dropping
A bookstore owner notices an alarming trend. People he suspects of shoplifting are actually leaving strange books behind. His real problem begins when he makes the mistake of reading one of them.

Tunnel Vision
When an infinite hallway appears in a young loner’s dining room he must venture into the void to rescue his cat.

How to Exorcise a Demon So You can Get Your Damage Deposit Back
Sound advice for tenants who are either trapped with a demon or are just trying to avoid a blotch on their rental history.

Surviving Valentine’s Day
A peek into an alternate reality where Valentine’s Day is a time when the vengeful spirit of St. Valentine stalks the earth forcing everyone to invest in purge shelters.

The Pigeon King Excerpt
A story about a self-isolating podcaster with either a pigeon or a poltergeist problem.

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How to Avoid Writing a Novel During a Pandemic

Congratulations! You made it into adulthood without writing a book. You came close a couple of times, brainstormed some pitches when you between jobs. Even outlined a treatment after a particularly devastating breakup, but you joined a gym before you had time to flesh it out.

Some of your peers weren’t so lucky. They went all in on a novel until it became part of their identity. You’d at the bar meeting women and your friend with a book would walk in. He’d shoehorn his pitch into the conversation and all those fresh faces would start retreating. There’s only so much tragedy people can take before they’re drained.

These walking tragedies that corner you on dance floors, attempting to chew your ear off over the speakers, they’re not even authors. They’ve yet to receive a blessing from the Archbishop of the Faith of the Six Publishers. They have to identify as “writers.” Tragic verbs struggling to transition into nouns, like a subspecies of werewolf getting flareups of hypertrichosis, but never changing over, mummifying themselves in Nair.

Thank Romulus you never got so low and lonely to turn yourself into that.

But Now there’s a Pandemic On

Now you’re quarantined. Social distancing. All furloughed up with nowhere to go. You’ve been sentenced to the solitary refinement of your apartment. Now you’re pacing your parlor looking for purpose, burdened with a deficit of toilet paper and a surplus of free time. You bring your laptop to the other side of the living room just for a change of scenery and that’s when it happens.

Intrusive inspiration taps you on your shoulder again. “Want to write a novel?”

You close your eyes, but it digs its claws into your collar.

“What if there was a castle where rich people reenacted the witch trials as a BDSM power fantasy? We could call it The Kinkquisition.”

You put your fingers in your ears. “I’m not listening.”

You trunked your best ideas in the back of your mind, but now the imp of inspiration is laying them all out again.

It’s easy to resist writing when society is functioning. Open a Word document. Type a sentence. Start wondering what your friends are doing. Look longingly out the window and your fear of missing out will tell you when it’s time to go. Find a happening venue and your novel will fade behind all the other tabs you left open.

But what do you do when all the haberdasheries, fripperies, and back alley speakeasies are shuttered for the season?

Bring Your Fear of Missing Out Back

So the discotheques are gathering dust? That doesn’t mean people stopped partying.

Your favorite DJ has a Twitch stream where he plays music videos and subscribers comment on the fashion choices of the background performers. Shouldn’t your dancing emoji make an appearance?

Instagram isn’t giving you vacation envy like it used to, but you can still covet everyone’s high fashion face masks. Shouldn’t you be carving up your favorite concert t-shirt so everyone can know how cool you are?

Despite the stay-at-home orders all those ravishing runners are still out doing their rounds. Shouldn’t you be down by the lake in case one of them finds themselves stricken with a sudden need to engage you in conversation, a thing that is absolutely overdue to happen?

Give in to Gaming Addiction

Modern videogames are like a placebo for your sense of purpose, especially the ones that let you earn skill points. The more you play the more skill points you can spend to unlock the best features. It’s like working a real job, never mind that none of the loot will go towards rent and that none of the skill trees will branch out into fulfilling careers. They make you feel like you’re progressing in an endeavor. So what if that sense of validation is virtual? At least you’re not skull deep in writing a novel.

Treat Your Cat like the Child You Never Had

Feline companionship increases oxytocin levels in humans. That hug hormone has the power to inflate your sense of well-being. So go get you some. Chase your cat up into the cupboards, scoop him up, and swaddle that motherfucker. Call him a baby. Rock him back and forth. Bathe him your codependency because he’s incapable of understanding its complexities.

If your fingers still feel like typing let your feline friend lay across the keyboard. He knows what he’s doing.

Busy Your Imagination with Worst Case Scenarios

Why waste time imaging characters with hardships to overcome when you could get overwhelmed with your own?

There’s a roadblock in your unemployment benefits and you can’t get through to an operator on the phone. You have no job to go back to and the market is about to be flooded with a wave of overqualified applicants. In this economy, your goal of getting married and starting a family feels more and more like a pipedream on par with winning the lottery. Aren’t those problems much more compelling than any of your fiction?

Be mindful of your headspace. Get those pesky book concepts out of there by giving into despair.

Continue reading How to Avoid Writing a Novel During a Pandemic

So, I Probably Had The Virus

The shivering started in the middle of the night. I zipped up a pullover, piled on the sheets, and tapped the thermostat. The chill grew more intense. My teeth chattered, my collar quivered, and my forearms broke out in goosebumps. When I stood it felt like I had a full body hangover. From my temples across my brow I was dizzy and top heavy.

I took a hot shower until my bathroom became a sauna, plugged the tub and fell asleep in the bath. This was my morning routine for two weeks.

If you take too much Tylenol in a day your ears will ring. I don’t know why, but that’s a thing.

I worked at a UPS Store. Before the COVID-19 cases were widely reported a customer told me he wasn’t worried. “It’s all about your outlook. You choose what you let in. You put negative energy out into the world then negative energy gonna come find you.”

Days later a mailbox holder challenged me for wearing a mask. She was usually a good natured, charming woman who cracked jokes as she unwrapped tubs of vitamins. On that day she was stepping over the 6 foot line on the floor to say, “Everybody’s freaking out about the Corona virus, but they should be freaking out about what they’ve being putting in the water. Do you have any idea how happy the pharmaceutical companies are right now?”

Another customer told me that the 5G Verizon installed during the NCAA final four games will make us more vulnerable, because of the microwaves it emits.

“Don’t you mean radio waves?”

After the governor shut down all the coffee shops, restaurants, and bars, the UPS Stores stayed open. We are an essential business. Our customers might need to ship medical masks, hand sanitizer, or toilet paper. They might need to overnight ventilators to New York City. I say might, because most of the people in the lines out our door were returning underwear, dresses, and socks.

The store makes about 80 cents for every Amazon drop off it takes in. It doesn’t matter if it’s an iPhone case or a 150 pound safe (like the one that I threw my back out lifting). They are worth the same to us. I started calculating the risk/reward factor once the stay-at-home order began. Everytime an item slid across the counter I thought, “This was worth risking your life and mine?”

A few weeks into the quarantine, Hennepin county became the epicenter for the outbreak in Minnesota, a customer knocked on the delivery door in back. She started to say she would like her mail walked out to her car so that she could keep a safe distance from the other customers. She started to say that, but cut herself off. “You look sick. Are you sick? Because you look sick.”

In truth, I’d been feeling weird. I wasn’t sure if it was stress from the sudden rush of customers or if it was a psychosomatic response to news of the virus. I checked my temperature every morning, and as long as I was at the same average of 98 degrees I felt I was fit to go to work.

Then my temperature went past 100 and I felt something in my bones. It’s still flu season. My boss theorized that this could be garden variety influenza, maybe adult onset allergies. But we’d been told if anyone had COVID-19-like symptoms we’d be paid to stay at home, so I took the company up on the offer.

Then I was told corporate needed some kind of proof before authorizing sick pay. I’m in my thirties. My job does not provide health insurance. My symptoms are not so severe as to warrant a trip to the ER, and there’s a finite amount of COVID-19 tests to go around. I downloaded Apple’s COVID-19 app, took the survey, and it told me to self-quarantine. I took a screenshot of the results and sent it to my boss. That’s the quality of healthcare I can afford.

This is all I’ll say about the American healthcare system: this is a country where a science teacher cooking meth to pay for his cancer treatment is a plausible plot line on TV. Breaking Bad would make no sense if it took place in Canada.

Not long after that my boss called to say she was laying me off. I wasn’t sure if this meant I was being furloughed, if I had a job waiting for me when I got better or not. She said this is the best way to make sure I got paid without crippling the business.

I was told it was important to file for unemployment on Wednesday, because the office was flooded with requests and the last digit of my social security number is assigned to that day.

Before my symptoms started to show. I spent a lot of time walking around. I live next to a chain of lakes with hiking trails. Those trails are packed so densely with people that there’s no way anyone can keep 6 feet away from one another and it seems like no one cares.

The customers at our store didn’t care. We had tape on the floor meant to keep people from getting too close to the counter. They always crossed it. We had to instruct them to step back. Some people thought it was funny to pretend they were sick and cough on the door handle on the way out.

A string of retail jobs has sullied my belief that people are essentially good. This pandemic has obliterated it. If you’ve read this far then there’s one point I want you to take away from this: be kind to the people who are risking their lives to serve you. If you ask how someone is doing you better mean it. Most clerks are past pleasantries. They just might tell you.

Might I suggest you stop asking, “How’s it going?” and start saying, “Thank you for being here.” instead.

I know it’s hard, but please be decent to each other.