Why People are Still Going Out Despite the Giant Spiders

Remember last April when the news was filled with stories of murder hornets? These two-inch insects were annihilating bee colonies, tearing heads off drones and collecting thoraxes to feed to their young. Beekeepers treated violated hives like crime scenes and agricultural biologists were on the hunt for the culprits.

After all the hardships 2020 had thrown at us we thought killer hornets was as bad as things could get. How wrong we were. The hornets were but harbingers for that which lay deeper within the earth.

Six Months Later

Winter is coming. Ducks are flying south only to be ensnared. Building frames are teeming with drooping white sacs and skylines are filling with webbing. A curtain of silk stretches from the Eiffel Tower to the hotels below. The roman Colosseum has been fashioned into a nest and the Leaning Tower of Pisa is hanging by a thread.

“It’s like a goddamn Roland Emmerich movie out there.” Said General Duke Granger, head of the Arachnid Warfare branch of the U.S. Military. “There’s netting stretching from the Washington monument to the national mall. And the whole thing is dotted with the kibbles and bits of tourists.”

170 ton spiders, as long blue whales, tower over cities. With redwood length legs, concrete piercing claws, and truck sized fangs. The spiders are proving disruptive.

The first appearance was in the financial district of San Francisco. A giant spider stomped down California Street, stepped into a sinkhole and caused a gas main explosion. The shockwave rippled through the 555 California St Tower. Senior members of Goldman Sachs halted their meeting to check on the commotion.

Marshall Kirkland, an investment banker, was on the other side of the building. He said it was hard to hear what was happening. “First came the car alarms, then the sirens, then the emergency tone, and just underneath there was this terrible slurping sound.”

It turns out the slurping was the spider sucking a victim’s brain from his cranium.

No End in Sight

In a frank press conference General Granger expressed pessimism about our chances. “The spiders don’t bleed. It’s like their pelts are made out of cast iron wool. We’re pumping them full of rounds faster than Northrop Grumman can make them. We have RPGs cross firing all over the city, and our heavy artillery cannons aren’t making a dent. We’ve crashed drones into their eyes. We’ve tried everything from napalm to citrus. They keep right on webbing soldiers up.”

President Trump has ordered General Granger to stay the course. “We’re winning bigly against the spiders. I think we’d win faster if we someone found a way to make spray bottles bigger. Spiders hate those things.”

There are still no concrete answers where the spiders came from. General Granger has heard all of the theories. “Those Berkley climatologists think we did this. Like the spiders were lying in wait until it got too hot. The eggheads at Mount Weather think it’s a spontaneous mutation. Like the spiders took a dip in a nuclear waste repository. Me? I think someone boasted she could weave better than the gods and they punished her by turning her into a spider. I think these things we’re facing are her children.”

The Threat is Getting Worse

The spiders have venom so acidic it burns through tanks in seconds. One spider destroyed a troop of British Challengers with a single burst. The medical personal who approached the ruins were exposed to neurotoxins. They died before they could administer the antivenom.

Spiders have discarded hollow husks in every city, draping kills over powerlines, bus stops, and playgrounds. They’ve turned bridges into hanging traps, shattered skyscrapers, and rendered entire residential districts uninhabitable.

Worse still is how widespread the spiders have gotten. They’ve trounced through suburban streets, leaving tornado-like destruction in their wake. They’ve worked their way to the heartland, picking fights with irrigation equipment. And satellites have just spotted a blanket of webs covering the Appalachian Mountains.

At the time of this writing America lacks the infostructure to calculate the damage much less tally the dead, but there are estimates that put it in the billions.

People Are Still Going About their Business

The National Guard has ordered everyone to remain inside, but in our travels for this article we spotted large groups of young people. They were tending gardens, stacking woodpiles, and hanging out in garages. All places spiders like to go.

We asked why these twenty-somethings weren’t that concerned and this is what they told us.

“The spiders are big, but they’re slow. They’re mainly webbing up old people. I’m young and spry. Why shouldn’t I be able to play volley ball?”

“Yeah yeah yeah. I know. Their silk slices through flesh like razor wire, but I have twenty-twenty vision. I should be able to go for a run.”

“So there’s a few egg sacs in my evergreens. That’s not going to prevent me from barbequing. Look those things are barely moving.”

“I didn’t have arachnophobia before. Why should I start now?”

“The news makes it sound like there’s a Stephen King story on every street, but I don’t know anyone who’s been cocooned. Do you?”
“Quite a few people, yes.”
“Anyone famous?”
“Bill Pullman.”
“See, I have no idea who that is.”

“We all have to die sometime whether it’s from a meteor or a giant spider. There’s nothing we can really do about it.”

General Granger disagreed with this line of reasoning. “If you see a huge ass invertebrate on the horizon you can drive in the other direction.” He ran a hand down his forehead. “Unless you’re so bereft you’ve resolved yourself to a slow painful death.”

This was General Granger’s final interview before he was stung and killed by a murder hornet. We thank him for his service.

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Why Werewolves are Protesting the Lockdown

On April 7, the date of the last full moon, werewolves stormed the state capitol. The pack protracted their claws, showed their teeth, and chanted, “We will huff and puff and blow you out of office!”

Their signs read:
We have big eyes, to see through your lies.
We’ll drag you out by the hair of your chinny chin chin.
Pigs in a blanket (this one featured pictures of the governor and two members of the safety commission).

The werewolves were protesting the state’s COVID-19 lockdown measures, measures the governor was deliberating with lawmakers. During that time the wolves turned the capital building into their den. Protestors were seen digging up geraniums, scooting across the lawn, and burying bones.

In an interview with “Fox News Sunday” the governor was critical of the wolves behavior. “The first amendment gives them the right to assemble, despite the stay-at-home order, but urinating in the halls of government, how is that hygienic?”

State lawmakers paused their meeting once the wolves started howling, “Chew her up. Chew her up. Chew her up”

The governor said, “My staff members were afraid for their lives. They were prying plaques off the wall in the hopes that they contained silver. Security had to take us through a secret exit.”

Maynard Lowe, the alpha protestor, said, “The Governor is crying wolf. Meanwhile her restrictions are keeping healthy people trapped inside. Young people ought to be out taking moonlit strolls, exploring the woods, or skinny dipping.”

Lowe wasn’t worried the demonstrators would track COVID-19 back into their dens. “We have pack immunity. There’s no reason we shouldn’t be able wander freely.”

Asked if he’d be willing to submit to an antibody test Lowe refused. “I ain’t going to no vet. They say they want a blood test then all of sudden snip snip.”

Werewolves are More at Risk than Any other Group

Grant Moore, an epidemiologist with University of Minnesota, was skeptical of Lowe’s assertion of Pack immunity. “As a community werewolves are less likely to get their pups vaccinated. Pediatricians often misdiagnose pups with hypertrichosis.” (excessive hair growth) “When they finally see a specialist they have fungal infections, parasites, and tumors.”

COVID-19 is a zoonotic disease, one that can be transferred from animals to people and vice versa. Werewolves have double the risk factors due to their human and wolf forms.

This is different for vampires. Covid-19 attacks the 1-beta chain in hemoglobin and vampires can’t sustain hemoglobin. That’s why they have to feed so often. Vampires are only vulnerable to COVID-19 in their bat forms, but even then vampires are less at risk due to their ability to social distance.

There are few lone werewolves. Most run in packs of six to ten and live in shacks on the outskirts of town. The risks of COVID-19 increases when you factor substance abuse and rabies into the equation.

Werewolves Put Others at Risk

While werewolves don’t hunt for sport they’ve been known to rack up surplus kills. Last July, a pack werewolves tore through an outdoor music festival. Nine wolves massacred 62 concert goers and maimed 30 others. Amongst the survivors physicians found bacterial infections, canine hepatitis, and flees. The werewolves had passed illnesses to their prey.

Lowe refuses to acknowledge the problem. “Everybody knows you can’t get COVID from a bite. It’s a respiratory thing.”

Epidemiologist Ravi Patel disagrees. “Werewolves hunt at superhuman speeds. If one mauls you, it will be panting in your face. There will be droplets and those droplets will get into your mouth. A werewolf doesn’t need to bite you for you to get you sick.”

The President Sides with the Wolves

The night of the Werewolf demonstration President Trump tweeted, “Hey governor. The wolves are at your door. Why don’t you go out there and make a deal?”

While many have criticized the president’s tweet as a veiled threat Lowe doesn’t see it that way. “The governor has nothing to fear. We’re sheep in wolves clothing. What’s that saying? Report makes the wolf bigger than he is.”

Later the president tweeted, “She who lies with wolves doesn’t lose sleep worrying about the feelings of sheep.”

Lowe scratched his ears at that. “I think those are two separate sayings the president kind of merged together. I’m not sure what he was going for.”

TV Station Parts Ways with Meteorologist over Tweet

President Trump wasn’t the only public figure tweeting about the April 7th event.

Kare 11 dismissed long time meteorologist Sven Sunaard for sharing a tweet about the demonstration. The station announced the separation on their Facebook page.

“Due to continued violations of KARE 11’s news ethics and other policies, we have made the decision to part ways with Sven Sundgaard… We hope you continue to turn to KARE 11 for your news, traffic, weather and more.”

The tweet Sven Sunaard shared read, “The only reason werewolves want the lockdown lifted is because it’ll make their prey easier to catch.”

Maynard Lowe had not been aware of Sunnard’s departure until he sat for this interview. Lowe brought up the tweet, narrowed his gaze, and clutched his phone in his paw. Lowe licked his lips as considered the text. “Yup, that’s pretty much it. We want you out doing errands so we can hunt you down. He got fired for that? Kare 11 really threw him to the us’s, huh? I guess that’s the nature of the beast.”

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Why Everyone is Stockpiling Amulets

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown all our lives out of balance. 30 million Americans have applied for unemployment while essential workers find themselves working twice as hard.

Madame Monisha is a spectral officer for Lakeside Village, a planned community in White Bear Lake Minnesota. While the community is young Madame Monisha says there are hauntings abound.

“Most houses have infestations that tenants just operate around. Some Americans live hard lives. They leave nasty stains when they’re gone. The more time families shelter in place the more those ghosts are going to get in their face.”

Meet the Johnsons

Connie Johnson claims she had just such an encounter. “We were in the dining room assembling a jigsaw of the statue of liberty. Joe did his best to keep the children interested, telling them how the statue was built. Oliver’s attention shifted between the pieces and his phone. Grace was engaged, but her arms were dotted with goosebumps. She went to the hall closet and came back with a down jacket.

This was late April and her brother was already wearing shorts. I asked Grace what was the matter, but she kept her gaze fixed at something over my shoulder. I went to feel her forehead, but before I could reach I felt a cold spot. That’s when Grace’s eyes widened at something on the lawn. I turned to see and that’s when I saw it in the reflection.

Four grey fingers were threaded through Grace’s hair. They were nails as long as talons hooked around her chin. The hand came from a black lace sleeve. The blouse was tattered, covered in dirt. Its owner was leaning over Grace’s shoulder whispering into her ear. I could just make out her face in the glass. Her eyes were sunken, her cheeks were gaunt and her nasal cavity was exposed. When she saw me looking the face smiled wide enough to show her gums.

Grace’s eyes rolled back. She reached out with her fingers spread and slammed her palm down on the table. The jigsaw pieces exploded, shooting to the ceiling, and when they came back down. The puzzle was fully assembled.”

It all happened so fast. I don’t know if Joe would’ve believed it if Oliver hadn’t caught a picture of that terrible face. That’s when we reached out to our spectral officer.”

Madame Monisha took her time examining the photo. Connie admitted to feeling antsy.

“Should we join hands to tell her she isn’t welcome?”

Madame Monisha grabbed Connie by the shoulders. “You get down to the Blue Rose and you buy as many amulets as you can fit into your station wagon. Bring luggage bags if you have to.”

National Amulet Shortage

It turns out Madame Monisha was not the only one advising families to stock up. Ever since Americans were urged to shelter in place people have been panic buying charms. The nation’s New Age bookstores are reporting a shortage and social media is cluttered with images of empty endcaps.

Metaphysical supply chains are struggling to meet the demand. According to one warehouse manager the stock is there, but the enchanters who bless the stones are self-isolating. “Good luck getting them out of their commune any time soon.”

The Benefits of Stockpiling Talismans

After the initial scare Connie Johnson heeded her spectral officer’s advice.

“I hung amulets around the entryway, from the ceiling to the carpet. If a ghost wants in they’ll have to pass through a laser grid first.”

Connie toured her security measures. “As for any apparitions in the attic? I dusted the children’s mobiles, pried off the animals, and put amulets in their place. Joe hung them from the rafters and positioned a halogen lamp. Now they’re like gun turrets of healing energy.”

Connie and her husband went all in. They replaced their smoke detectors with sacred relics. Then they set artifacts in light fixtures, in the freezer, and behind all the mirrors.

“The hardest amulet to install was in the toilet bowl. You have to screw it into the ceramic without springing a leak. Do it right, and well, that’s one less place to worry about spirit.”

How Many Amulets Should Families Get?

Madame Monisha doesn’t think Connie has gone far enough. “My insulation is dotted with so many stones they’re like ice cream toppings.”

She recommends having one amulet for every square foot.

“Don’t forget about bookshelves. They are hotbeds of paranormal activity. Every bookshelf has some tome of forbidden knowledge gathering dust. You might not remember where you got it: a cobweb stricken castle, an abandoned institute, or a little free library. It doesn’t matter. The book is your problem now. Burn it out on the grill or shove it down the garbage disposal, it’ll show up right back on the shelf. That’s why I recommend an amulet between every other spine.”

Are there Amulet Alternatives?

Madame Monisha likes gemstones. “If you can find them grab the darkest gems you can. Black tourmaline, obsidian, onyx. The darker the stone the greater the pull. They’re like bug zappers for spirits.”

Madame Monisha’s neighbor Dale Spencer couldn’t help chiming in on our conversation.

He’s skeptical about the value of such rare minerals. “I don’t go in for all them fancy crystals. I make my talismans out of charcoal. It’s dark enough and it works like a dehumidifier for negative energy.”

How Ghosts get into Your Home

It’s not just supernatural stains that has Madame Monisha worried about her community.

“Essential workers are more likely to be exposed to COVID-19, be without insurance, and die from complications. With meat packing plants ordered to stay open, there’s a high probability ghosts are getting in through your groceries. Then there’s Amazon. You always hear about their dangerous conditions. We like retail therapy, but don’t be surprised when your new Insta Pot starts bleeding.”

Madame Monisha showcased the measures she takes to keep her home pure. She ran a carbide tipped drill through her peephole and set a starfire diamond in its place. “It’s like a doorbell cam for the ghost dimension. It lets spectral solicitors know they’re not welcome.”

Responsible collectors bring antiques to licensed curse lifters. Social distancing makes that impossible. While Zoom allows freelancers to conduct business online curse lifters need to feel items for cold spots. With the quarantine in place people buying online do so at their own peril.

Madame Monisha urges people to pause their orders. “The Internet is a swirling vortex of damned souls. Read the terms and conditions. They know. Most impulse items are contaminated with sin. For our anniversary my husband ordered a grandfather clock. I had to burn weapons grade sage before letting that thing in.”

But Why are there so Many Ghosts?

Madame Monisha suspects St. Peter and his staff are struggling to keep up with the influx of the recently deceased. “The pearly gates are like the unemployment phone trees here on earth. They weren’t built to handle the bandwidth. Some souls get tired of waiting and just say, ‘Fuck it, I’m going back.’

They say spirits who linger have unfinished business, but everyone has unfinished business. Whether it’s tracking down your murderer or finding out what happens on Lost. Nobody likes loose ends.”

At the time of this writing amulets have surpassed oil for the first time in the history of the Dow Jones Industrial.

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The Challenges of Working Through the Zombie Apocalypse

If you’re reading this you’ve survived the rage virus pandemic up to now. Who’d have thought a strain of rabies would give human beings cannibalistic cravings? Now the infection is spreading at a sprinter’s pace, like a bite based relay race. Whether you’re a virologist calling it sixth extinction or an evangelical calling it the end times, you have to admit it’s pretty fucked up.

At least the symptoms are obvious: a spiderweb of black veins spreads across the face. The irises turn bloodred, and foam pools around the mouth. Fever boils brain. Then the body collapses and goes cold. When it gets back up it does the robot down the block.

Smart people are going into hibernation. Doomsday preppers are lowering venison into fallout shelters. The wealthy elite are wheeling whine into panic rooms, and a modern day Noah is leading animals into his fleet of underground buses. Suburbanites are filling bathtubs with clean water, nailing down their windows, installing gun turrets on their roofs, and laying landmines in their lawns.

We’ve been told to shelter in place and while it can be lonely the outside world is not a place you want to be. Trust me.

I’ve watched the infected form human pyramids to get at survivors. I’ve seen them scale commercial buildings like fire ants. Their team synergy is a sight to see and these leaning towers of zombies are hungry. They’re gnawing their way up the corporate ladder, ravaging open offices, chewing upper management down to the bone. A horde can downsize an entire call center within two minutes flat.

…And yet, like many employees whose businesses have been deemed essential, I have to go to work. Despite the blood trial up the block and the downed 747 across the street, Ship and Print’s hours have not changed.

That said I have some criticisms of S and P’s zombie apocalypse strategy.

Corporate has Left a lot to Be Desired

The rage virus is blood based. The masks corporate sent only cover the bottom half of our face. What are we supposed to do when an infected projectile vomits into our eyes? Our manager found some shades in the lost in found, but there weren’t enough to go around. The rest of us had to settle for reading glasses. Now we have to choose between getting puke in our eyes or being near sighted.

Corporate continues to provide inadequate munitions. Each Ship and Print location was issued one police issue Glock 17. Glock 17s take 9 millimeter magazines and yet we keep receiving boxes of 22 caliber rounds. When we emailed headquarters about the discrepancy we were told to make it work.

We’ve been forced to get by slingshots we’ve fashioned from office supplies.

We’re Not Meeting Safety Guidelines

We’re asking customers to wait outside the entrance, but there are intestines hanging from the stations and chunks of scalp on the handgrip. We’re trying to keep people safe, but our milkcrate barricades don’t come close to meeting OSHA guidelines. We tied the crates with zip ties but they topple all the time.

Customers try to ward off the infected by shooting them in the central mass. Even after we put up the sign that read, “Shoot them in the head or else you’re dead.”

I tried printing another with Keanu Reeves that said, “Be like John Wick give ‘em two in thick!” Still, customers are out there unloading their ammo into kneecaps.

Speaking of signage, I want to call attention to the fact that the Employees Rights posters that are required to be displayed by the Department of Labor are all covered in blood. Maybe that’s the reason no one is getting their fifteen minute breaks anymore.

Our Sanity is Wearing Thin

It’s bad enough to hear the infected at our doors, but due to lack of maintenance the office equipment is making strange sounds. Someone lost a finger in the production printer. Now it trumpets like an angry elephant. The copy machine beeps like it’s out of toner twenty times an hour and the fax machine keeps making a tone like a coked-up parrot. Oh and the satellite radio keeps playing “One Week” by the Barenaked Ladies over and over even though we’ve knocked out all the speakers.

Our Supplies are Running Low

We are starving. We keep submitting requests for provisions through the web portal, but they never arrive. Yet all of the planogram display kits keep coming on time. We haven’t seen a fresh water cooler in months, but the armored deposit service keeps knocking on the back door. We pried open the secure shredding container once we ran out of toilet paper. We’d still be using it if the shredding service hadn’t emptied it out.

Yesterday we had no choice but to raid the hardware store next door. It’ll help but we can only get by for so long on Red Bull and beef jerky.

We’ve Tossed Our Green Energy Policy out the Window

The CDC says the infected hunt the healthy by sensing body heat. Corporate didn’t have enough mylar blankets, so they mandated we cake on a layer of mud. Now they want us to keep the air conditioner running at twenty degrees all the time. It’s hard to meet customers with pep when we can see our own breath.

Now the power keeps going out and the backup generator isn’t up to the task.

Corporate sent us a hose to siphon gas from the cars out back. The problem is that most vehicles are too modern. Their fuel tanks have a metal flap to snag the hose and their filler necks have an obstruction to keep us from getting a good flow going. Suck all you like, but you’ll never get those things to come.

We are Overwhelmed

Everyone is over on hours because the infected never sleep. Corporate decided to mandate that when we clock out we leave the premises. That means we have to side step the horde, find a shelter, and get back within the strict five minute window before our shift starts.

If anything Ship and Print should be hiring more staff. We’ve gotten a surge of new customers ever since the infected swept through the FedEx up the block. Now more than ever people need to return their items back to Amazon.

We’re one of the few shipping services where people can mail essentials. Things like: vibrators shaped like eggplant emojis, gemstone water filtration pitchers, Millennium Falcon waffle irons, subscription lingerie, and espresso pods.

Closing Thoughts

My apartment has been in ruins ever since that Range Rover knocked out the support beam, and yet my lease is for twelve months. So I still have to pay rent. Then there’s my student loans. Those aren’t going away any time soon not with all the debt collectors safe and secure in their bunkers. That and I have to make car payments to make. Repo men don’t mind working in Armageddon conditions.

And let’s say someone does come up with a cure for the rage virus. Ship and Print won’t cover it. So I’ll need to start saving up for health insurance.

It doesn’t really matter that there are corpses lying in the intersection, with their jaws hanging open, and tongues rotting in the sun. It doesn’t really matter that Wall Street is now a game trail for the infected. It doesn’t matter that the national guard outposts have been overrun. Capitalism has survived the fall of civilization.

So I’ve still gotta go to work and make that money.

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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.

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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.

Continue reading My Best Short Fiction for Self-Isolation

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.

Advice for writers, stories about the world they live in.

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