The Origins of Lou Rock

Lou paused on his aimless wander through the twisted streets of the frontier town. It was a place the humans called Duri on the border of the Brandywood forest. It was a strange place, but Lou was welcomed by a familiar sight. A local pub, a wooden sign with the words “The Shattered Shield” hung low and decrepit. Lou let out a hearty sigh and pushed open the worn out door. He was greeted by the smell of piss and vomit. This was the perfect place to finally stop and take a breather, having been on the road for several weeks. He sat down at the bar and stroked his bushy Dwarven beard. How had things come to this?

Lou hailed from the great mudlands to the south. More specifically, the bustling mining town of Slopp. The largest of many Dwarven mining communities deep in the mudlands, Slopp attracted immigrants all over the world seeking their fortune. It was also known as the “Island of Stone”, the main city was constructed upon a colossal stone pillar barely protruding out of the ground. Its tall stone towers and high stone walls were found nowhere else in the mudlands.

Mud mining is a lucrative business involving diving down into the more watery ground of the “Mud fields”. The mudlands was once home to a great civilization that has since been lost many hundreds of feet under the thick mud. Mud miners make their fortune and risk their lives to bring priceless artifacts back to the surface. The vast majority of them retire after a few years, or risk having their bodies lost to the merciless muddy depths.

Lou was a miner himself once. But that was long ago, he had found his calling as a farmer and appreciated the simple life that it entailed. He tended to his rice on the outskirts of the Slopp countryside and never thought much about the hard life many of his colleagues still faced in the mud fields. But that was before The Nesting.

After a particularly dry decade, the miners were forced to dive deeper into the mud for their precious artifacts. Although plenty of young Dwarves dived to their deaths, nothing was found. The city suffered as migrants flocked off of the island. It seemed that the mud fields of Slopp had dried up until a previously unknown Dwarf by the name of Wrenn pulled up a mysterious artifact from the deep. A gigantic black egg.

The egg quickly gained a cult following in the city of Slopp. They were convinced that this egg would be their salvation. They constructed a great nest of fire hardened mud in the center of town. Festivals were thrown in its honor and the people settled back in droves. It seemed that the Gods smiled on this find.

Lou came to the island with a wagon full of rice to sell at the annual Harvest Festival. He had gotten stuck along the way, and was arriving much later than his competition. As a new moon shone through the cloud filled sky he knew the loss in sales would be rough. As he approached the great stone gates of Slopp, he paused and noticed an absence of guards. The streets seemed abandoned in a hurry. Carts and tools lay abandoned on the ground. Lou heard a great cheer coming from the center of town. He tied up his donkey and ran deeper into the stone city. He could feel something troubling in the air.

As he approached the town center he saw a huge mass of Dwarves crowded around the nest. In place of the egg was a fearsome beast. Lou shivered at the sight of it. A black dragon with jagged horns protruding from its head. It wailed into the cloudy night sky, spitting bits of acid into the air. The people cheered.

In the following months Lou was forced from his home. The newly formed Order of Black had assumed governance of Slopp with “Wrenn The Uncoverer” at its head. All able-bodied Dwarves were forced to work the mud fields. They were amassing a hoard for their draconic god the likes of which had never been seen. The mud fields once again flowed with golden trinkets and artifacts at an astounding rate.

One foggy morning, Lou reported in for work. He looked at the tally board. Five had died over the night shift. A terrible loss, but he felt nothing. He had been desensitized to the deaths of his friends. Lou donned his heavy leather suit and strapped a breathing tube to his stainless steel mask. He had only been allocated 500 feet of tubing, hopefully he would not require any more. He tied a bag of rocks to his waist and moved to the edge of one of the watery pits.

“Here goes nothing.”

He leaped head first into the muddy depths and let the rocks carry him down. He felt the stones hit the floor after a couple minutes. He went to work immediately, feeling around on the floor for anything, any reason to return to the surface before something could go wrong. He blindly felt around for a while before hitting a metallic slab with his wrist. Lou felt a wave of relief as he grabbed onto the slab and cut the line tying him to the rocks. He tugged on his breathing tube twice and let out a sign of relief as he was hauled to the surface.

When they had finally hoisted him up, they wasted no time in snatching the artifact for identification. Lou struggled to shed his suit but stopped midway at the sound of gasps. The Order of Black officer assigned to the sector took off running toward the island. The thick mud plastering the slab was scraped away, the dark brown gave way to a magnificent silvery shine. The plate was blank except for an inscription, in the Dwarven tongue. As they cleaned the foreman read it aloud.

“We accepted him with open arms. We had no idea the egg had already driven him to madness. His name was Crastor. He found it atop the great mountains to the north and convinced us to raise it and protect it. The moment it hatched we were doomed. He took power and made us his slaves. Though we did so willingly in our fervor. As our devotion faded, it became apparent his lust for power would never be satiated. We rebelled, but were slaughtered by the thousands. When the beast laid its cursed eggs we knew we could not let its evil manifest and spread to the world. The warlocks banded together and sacrificed the city so that the world could live. Mud cleanses all, and that is why we unleashed it upon ourselves. And now-”

The foreman stopped short and arched his back in pain, revealing a single crossbow bolt lodged behind his head. Several others struck home in the small of his back and he fell forward onto the mud. A company of heavily armored soldiers bearing the banner of the Order had seemingly come out of nowhere. They began yelling orders to surrender and shooting their crossbows into the small crowd.

Lou watched as many of his friends collapse onto the muddy ground. Though he had been numbed to the sight of dead dwarves, this was different. This was a betrayal. This was a rage he had had never experienced before. A fire in his chest overpowered his senses.

Kill. Smash. Destroy. Lou picked up the silver slab and used it to shield his charge. He heard the clink of crossbow bolts harmlessly reflect off of the front. Before making impact he tossed the tablet forward, crushing a soldier in front. Then sidestepped and landed a blow on the face a particularly burly dwarf. Ignoring the immense pain in his fist, he spun the soldier around and ripped off the greataxe slung around his back. Lou leaped forward onto the crowd of Order soldiers, now cowering in fear with his axe raised high. Then it all went black.

The next thing Lou remembered was standing over a heap of corpses, many hewn in half. There was no part of his body not coated in sticky red blood. He only knew he had to run.

So he ran. He ran for weeks until the mudlands faded into the distance. He ran past great forests and mountains the likes of which he could never have imagined. His journey led him to the frontier town of Duri and the Shattered Shield. While he sat and drank there was one thing on Lou’s mind.

Revenge.

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Terrae Illius Mortiferis

The landing bay doors opened and a bright light flooded the holding area. We all shielded our eyes from the burning light. A loud pattern of clicks sounded through the air and our cell doors swung open. I vaguely remember the trip. They put something in the air that made us sleep for God knows how long. What I do remember before landing here was watching Earth burn from the cold confines of my cell. They bombed every city, killed everyone they did not take aboard their ship as their prisoners.

They were a race of insect-like amphibians. Standing eight feet tall on two webbed feet with folded arms reminiscent of a praying mantis, and a coat of light blue rubbery skin. Their bulging orange eyes constantly scanned their surroundings with an anxious demeanor. Alien to say the least. Someone aboard called them the Diripientes Terrae and it caught on, Diri for short. It was Latin, meaning ‘Destroyers of Earth’. They communicated to each other with a series of clicks, or so it seemed, we really had no clue of anything about them. Except one thing.

Dr. Radnor, a former professor of biology at UC Davis came up with a hypothesis. We had noticed that the artificial gravity of the ship was calibrated to a gravity many times less than that of Earth’s. Theoretically, if this was the gravity the Diri were accustomed to on their home planet, they would have evolved to have substantially less muscle density than pretty much anything coming from a planet the size of Earth. We could use this to our advantage, but we could only use it once before the Diri realized our strength.

So when the landing bay doors opened, we took a few moments to collect ourselves. Outside everything was different. A desolate landscape with an unforgiving sun and sand dunes as far as the eye could see. A wall of Diri stood outside on the shifting sand eager to do whatever they had planned for us. Each held what appeared to be some sort of firearm. Dr. Radnor let out a piercing scream.

‘Rush ’em!’

We flooded out of the ship in droves. The Diri fired wildly into the crowd. Bright green bolts of light disintegrated whole groups of people into a fine red mist with every shot. But we kept running until we got within arms reach. That’s when the tide turned. I was one of the first to fight. I threw a closed fist into one of the Diri’s large orange eyeballs. I was surprised when my arm passed through it’s head like jelly. It exploded violently, showering bits of blue everywhere. The rest of it’s body slunk lifelessly onto the burning sand. It’s comrades stared at me paralyzed in fear, a mass of confused clicks sounded throughout their ranks. Then the rest of us descended upon them with the force of a tsunami. The sheer force of impact sent them flying into the air. Blue gore flew everywhere as their numbers thinned. It wasn’t long before we had killed every single one of them. A mighty cheer went up from what remained of humanity. Dr. Radnor picked up one of their weapons and stood atop a nearby sand dune.

‘These guys want a war? Hell, that’s what humans do best.’

The rest is written in the history books. How we marched into their hives and burned them to the ground, how we mercilessly hunted down every last one of them, and how we started building a new Earth on that desolate planet. Even though we haven’t seen one of them for years, we still haven’t satiated our lust for revenge. We know there are more of them out there in the deep confines of outer space. And if they bothered to study our culture at all, they know that we’re coming for them.

They took our planet and our loved ones.

So we will take everything from them.

Joey

In 1983 I took a teaching position at an elementary school in the town of Pulp. It was a small, unincorporated town nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. The town had been build around the corn liquor business during the prohibition. But despite the town’s criminal past, a real community had developed. I was happy to greet a class of smiling children every day.

‘Hello Mr. Schuler!’ The class would say,

‘Hello class!’ I would reply.

My days were filled with teaching my class everything from science to history. They loved to learn and I loved to teach. Every child left with a smile on their faces, excited to share what they had learned with their families. Everyone except for little Joey Smith. He was always particularly gloomy after class, sometimes scared to leave school for the day. Some days he would come in with a black eye. One day I asked him what was wrong and what he said concerned me.

‘I have to go somewhere after school. I don’t like it there anymore.’

I contacted the police and they conducted a thorough investigation of the boy’s family and supposed after school activities. They sent a deputy named Clarence to talk me after they had finished their investigation. He told me what they had found.

‘Joey’s parents have been dead for months Mr. Schuler. We found their bodies on the floor in their home. It seem that they were killed in a robbery. We talked to Joey and he said that he hid under his bed and ran away after the robbers left. He’s been living in an abandoned distillery out in the woods for some time now. We’re going to put him into the foster house down on Denton Avenue for now. Thank you for alerting us to the situation.’

I talked with Clarence for some time. I did not want Joey growing up in the foster system. I had seen what that can do to a kid. We decided that adoption was probably the best option.

The next day I went to the foster house and filled out a massive pile of paperwork. I left with Joey as my adopted son. Over the next few weeks I noticed a change in Joey. For the first time I saw him happy, both at school and at home.

One day, Joey and I walked into class together as usual. Although today the class didn’t bother to greet me. Instead they talked amongst themselves.

‘Hello class!’ I exclaimed.

Only Joey said hello back. The rest of the class stared at the clock. I chose to ignore their insolent behavior and started my lesson. I got about ten minutes in when students started leaving. Just walking out of class and talking to each other. I had never seen anything so rude in my life. I yelled at them to come back but they ignored me. I had no idea what I had done to anger them so much. Soon enough everyone had left, everyone except for Joey. He was a good kid.

I continued to teach till the end of the school day. I looked back to find Joey smiling, I packed up my things and we started walking back home. We had just reached the edge of school property when Joey told me there was something he wanted to show me. I humored him and inquired what it was, but he just laughed and told me that we could only get there by walking. I let him lead me into the woods. We walked till the sun began to set before spotting a shack sitting in a small clearing of brush. I hesitated, but Joey did not. He walked straight up to a piece of sheet metal that served as a door and knocked three times.

‘We can go in now.’ Joey whispered to me.

I realized what this was. It was undoubtedly the old distillery Joey had called home for so many months. I called out to Joey to come back to me, but he had already entered. I would have to go and get him.

I pulled open the rusty door to find Joey making himself at home in the tiny shack. He sat in an old rocking chair that creaked as it moved back and forth.

‘This was my old house! I always sit in this chair. It’s the best chair I’ve ever had!’

I was delicate with him. This was obviously a coping mechanism that he had developed after the death of his parents. I walked through the doorway and the rusty door closed behind me. I placed a comforting hand on Joey’s shoulder.

‘Joey. Let’s go home.’

Suddenly I heard a loud bang on the metal door. A soft, concerned voice spoke from the other side.

‘Who are you? What are you doing here?’

The door creaked open slowly, revealing a thin, attractive woman. She had long brunette hair and her complexion was the fairest I had ever seen. For someone who lived in this shack, she seemed fairly clean. Her eyes lit up when she spotted Joey sitting in the rocking chair.

‘Joey! My little Joey! I thought they had taken you away forever!’

‘Mommy!’ Joey unzipped his backpack and took out a drawing he had done in class. ‘I made this for you!’

I assumed that this woman took care of Joey after his parent’s murders. She glanced over at me with wide eyes.

‘I’ll always love you Joey, but why? Why did you bring him here?’

‘Because I like him mommy. He takes care of me.’

‘Oh, no child.’ Tears welled up in her eyes ‘He can’t take care of you anymore. You have to go to the police now, live in a foster home. You can’t keep doing this!’

I was confused and infuriated. Who exactly did this woman think she was?

‘Excuse me miss, I believe I can take care of Joey just fine at the moment.’

She looked at me with blind fury contained within her eyes. She kicked the door open and left. After the door slammed shut it was silent. I gestured to Joey that it was time to go home and he obliged me by following me out of that shady forest. It would be dark soon, and I needed to get him to bed for school tomorrow.

By the time we got home I was very tired. I can’t explain it, but something bothered me about that woman’s words in the woods. ‘You can’t keep doing this!’ It seemed like a strange thing to say. Did it mean that Joey brought other people out to that shack? If so, why?

I threw those ideas out of my mind for now and walked into the kitchen to prepare dinner. Joey sat at the table scribbling away on some homework I had assigned him.

‘Ya know, I don’t feel like doing homework.’ Joey tossed aside his pencil.

‘That’s fine, just have something to eat. I’m making pasta salad.’ It was fine that Joey didn’t do the homework today. Seeing as how he was the only one in class today, he was already ahead.

‘No!’ His face contorted and turned red. ‘I’m not doing homework ever again! And we’re not having pasta salad! We’re having ice cream! Ice cream for dinner! I want it now!’

I was taken aback. Joey had never acted like this before and I wondered if it had something to do with the woman in the woods. I felt for him, he must be in a very troubling state of mind. Still, I could not stand by and let him walk all over me.

‘No, we’re having pasta salad. Maybe you can have some ice cream after dinner. And you’re still going to have homework. That’s non-negotiable.’

‘NO!!’ His face had turned even redder as he screamed ‘You’ll do what I say or I’ll make you hurt!!’

‘You know what? This behavior is inexcusable. Go to your room. Now. When you cool off you can come down and have some food.’

Joey thrust his hand into his backpack and rummaged around. He pulled out a small needle. I felt inexplicably troubled at the sight of it. Before I could tell him to put it away he stabbed it down into his palm. I instantly felt a searing spasm of pain in my hand. Joey was silent. He glared at me with an intensive stare.

‘DO WHAT I SAY! DO IT! DO IT!’ He hopped up and down in his chair like a rabid animal. He started to dig around inside his palm, blood streamed from his palm onto the table. I felt the pain return even more potent this time around.

I could not take the pain any longer. It was like my hand was on fire. I stumbled over to the freezer, clutching my hand in pain and ripped the door open. Then I grabbed the ice cream and threw it onto the table. Joey pulled the needle out of his skin and the pain instantly stopped. What just happened?

‘Now you know to do what I say. Things will be different now.’

‘What?’ My thoughts were racing and my heart felt like it was beating out of my chest. ‘No! I’m still the adult here. You need to stop this behavior right now!’

Joey sighed and flipped his hand over on the table. Then he pushed the needle through the back of his hand. I felt the pain the instant he broke the skin. I could feel the metal sliding against the inside of my hand somehow. The pain was unbearable. Once the needle was through, Joey pulled it out from the other side. The pain subsided. He was still very quiet the whole time.

‘I have something to show you to help you understand.’

He walked upstairs and gestured for me to follow him. We walked down the hall until we got to the door to my room. It was cracked open slightly. I felt a icy shiver rattle my spine. Something was very wrong. Joey opened the door and my heart stopped when I realized what was inside.

There I was, peacefully in bed. I had no rational explanation. I was there, but I was also here at the same time.

‘I’ll let you return to your body, but now you understand to do what I say’

I looked down at Joey. He had a wide grin from cheek to cheek.

‘My daddy couldn’t take it. He shot my mommy, then he tried to shoot me. But I was always faster than him. Then I had to live by myself. And that wasn’t very fun. You won’t make me live by myself again, will you?’

I shook my head. There had to be an explanation for all of this. It was all too terrifying to be true. Had I been dreaming this whole time? Am I dreaming now?

Joey snapped his fingers and I woke. The sun shone through the blinds and I struggled to untangle myself from the mess of sheets and blankets. Had it all been a horrible, horrible dream? I walked downstairs to find Joey happily eating cereal at the kitchen table. I smiled but froze when I spotted a needle, sitting in reach of his left hand. It was covered in sticky, dark red blood. That’s when I realized just how real last night had been. He was evil, an unholy abomination. I had to kill him, I can’t explain the desire without sounding completely mad, but I had to. I scanned my surroundings frantically. A dull steak knife lay on the counter between me and him. He looked up at me and winked. A sudden burst of adrenaline took hold of my body and I ran at him with the knife in hand.

I can’t recall a lot about what happened next. All I can remember is when I tackled him to the floor, his eyes filled with a red fluid. Not blood, but something else. Then everything went black.

I woke up in the run down shack in the middle of the woods. The pale woman knelt over my body, running her fingers through my hair.

‘I love my little Joey, but he has to stop doing this. It’s a shame what happened to you.’

‘Wha-‘ I scrambled to my feet. ‘What happened to me? I remember it all going black, then I woke up back here. Did Joey take me here? How? I don’t understand..’

‘Honey.’ She placed a comforting hand on my shoulder. ‘You’re dead. You’ve been dead for a few days now. Though I suspect no one else knows yet. He keeps us here, the people he’s killed. We cannot leave. You’re the third, but I suspect you won’t be the last. If this is hell, then I suppose he is the devil. He didn’t feel anything when he abused us, when he made us do things, when he murdered us. He is evil incarnate, but I love him and you will learn to as well.’

I have spent what seems like an eternity here in these woods. Joey’s mother was right, over the years more and more people would appear in the shack. He visits us occasionally, and although I resented him at first I learned to love him. He doesn’t hurt you if you love him. Recently there hasn’t been anyone new here. I’m not sure what that means. Maybe someone succeeded where we had all failed. Maybe Joey is dead and no one else will share our terrible fate. I’m not even sure if he is capable of dying. Or maybe he is just looking for another person to be his plaything. I don’t know how old he is currently, and I have trouble remembering his face. My memory isn’t what it used to be.

If you ever meet a Joey Smith from Pulp California, please don’t try to see if I have been telling you the truth. I have. Just run, get as far away from him as humanly possible, and them some.

A Fair Trade

We marched up the hill in the morning fighting the bitter cold. It had been raining for days, and our boots sunk into the deep mud it had left behind. by the time we had made it to the top, a thick fog had rolled in from the west obscuring all visibility below. We heard the not so distant barking of orders from officers to subordinates. No doubt they knew we were here. Our platoon had been on the move for days, but a burning passion kept us going.

Napoleon had landed his armies on British soil. Our homes were under attack.

We all read about it in the papers, but no one believed it to be true. Napoleon had sent his armies by air aboard a massive fleet of balloon transports. Though many had perished crossing the English Channel, many survived. Enough to give us a run for our money.

Although the prospect was terrifying, we had been given assurances. Most of Napoleon’s forces were concentrated to the south in the Siege of London. He had precious few artillery pieces and no doubt they were all accompanying his main force. All we had to contend with were smaller raiding parties he had sent North to pillage and send back supplies to feed his army. The whole platoon had all wished to see combat on one of our patrols, and our wish had been granted this day.

The army had become an unorganized mess since the invasion, so we took what we could get. Most of the men were new conscripts with no combat training or experience. They were all so confident and full of life. I envied them. The only people worth knowing were the veterans. There were only three of us.

Crawford was a stoic Scot with a permanent scowl fixed onto his face. We had both fought the French in Spain a few years before, and knew how terrifying the looming battle would be.

Williams also fought in Spain, though Crawford and I had never met him before a few weeks ago. His hands trembled whenever he heard the French tongue. He had definitely seen his fair share of war on that godforsaken peninsula.

Though not a veteran of combat, First Leftenant Cliff, our platoon commander seemed a capable man. Though like the greenhorns he constantly spoke of glories and spoils after our victory. That scared me.

We fell into line at the orders of Cliff and took a strategic position among the piles of boulders just past the crown of the hill. Everyone was silent as we waited for the first shot to be fired. What came next shook us all.

A horn sounded and we heard a stampede of hooves. We had been preparing for an infantry charge up the hill, but this was much worse. We had no time to reposition. One of the conscripts screamed in terror. He got up from behind a boulder tried to throw down his weapon and rout. Cliff quickly drew his pistol and shot him down. Then he began rapidly barking orders.

‘Get behind those rocks and fix bayonets! When those bastards pass through they should NOT be able to see you! When I fire, form up and follow suit!’

We crouched behind our rocks as if it were our saving grace. Crawford glanced up at me while attaching his bayonet and whispered.

‘Just like the peninsula, eh boyo?’

Just like the peninsula I thought to myself. I looked to Williams, who had begun shaking uncontrollably since the sound of horses began. He was now clam and collected.

The sound of hooves grew louder until we saw the horses charge past. I looked up and saw that no soldiers were atop the steeds. In fact, no saddles had been attached at all. These horses had been nothing but a diversion. I turned to notify Cliff, but before I could the sound of hooves had vanished over the hill and a more familiar sound filled the air. The sound of infantry screaming as they ran toward us.

Cliff screamed to us to fall back into line three men deep in front of the boulders and fire by rank on his order. We all rushed into formation. Many of the recruits tripped on their way to the line. Cliff waited until we were all in formation to give the order.

‘Front rank! Fire!’

We unleashed a volley of lead down the hill followed by a cacophony of screams. Us veterans had chosen to be in the front rank as an example to the men. As soon as we had fired we knelt down to reload. They did the same.

‘Second rank! Fire!’

The second rank fired and knelt down to reload by our example.

‘Third rank! Fire!’

The third rank fired a volley in the same fashion, but by then the French soldiers had appeared through the fog. They were yelling and firing wildly at us.

‘Front rank! Fire!’

Only Crawford, Williams and I had reloaded in time and squeezed off well placed shots into the mass of men. The conscripts stood to brace for impact.

‘Prepare to charge!’

We tightened our formation and faced our bayonets out toward the enemy. No one spoke a word except for Williams who had madly begun versing scripture.

‘CHARGE!’

We all yelled valiantly at the top of our lungs like men possessed as we ran down the hill. We crashed with the deafening sound of wood on wood and metal on flesh. Crawford and I had stuck together and pushed a poor Frenchman flat on his ass. Williams ran from behind us to sink his bayonet into the man’s chest. The thick fog had still not cleared and it seemed empty as Crawford, Williams and I searched for another man.

We found one on top of one of the greenhorns. Bashing his face in with the butt of his musket. Crawford charged and kicked the man off. I quickly sunk my bayonet into his throat.

Williams was locked in a fight with a man nearby. Both had lost their weapons and were rolling around in the mud. I grabbed the Frenchman’s gun and fired a shot into his side. Williams quickly gained the advantage and proceeded to smash his head with a nearby rock. I turned my attention back to Crawford only to find him staring at me, standing limp. He fell and revealed a French soldier. His uniform soaked in the blood of Crawford’s back.

I screamed like a wild beast as I charged him. I parried away his musket with my own and slammed him to the ground with the full force of my body. He fell and stared at me with wide eyes.

cèdecède!’ he yelled with his arms up to his ears, but I ignored his pleas.

I positioned my bayonet in between his eyes and thrust it downward. He squirmed in agony as I drove it deeper into his head. A slow death is what he deserved. Finally his skull gave way and my bayonet moved forward without obstruction. The Frenchman twitched once and stopped moving. I sensed someone watching me and dug out my weapon to face my new enemy. Williams stood there, disturbed by what he had witnessed. I stared back with a coat of blood over my face.

Soon afterwards, a horn from down the hill sounded a retreat. The French forces routed into the fog and soon vanished into obscurity. Cliff gathered the remaining men and ran after them. But after a few minutes we could no longer hear them. Only Williams and I were left among the field of lifeless corpses sinking into the mud. I stared at the man I had killed so viciously and then at Crawford’s bleeding back. The only part of him now sticking above the mud. Williams came to my side and looked down with me at our fallen comrade.

‘It wasn’t a fair trade’ I whispered.

‘It never is.’ Williams replied.

“Nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won.”- Arthur Wellesly, Duke of Wellington

Baby, it’s cold outside

There was once a chef in the small Midwest town of Dearfoth, Minnesota. Everyone knew him as “Ole’ Mac”. He cooked at “Tilly’s diner” for minimum wage and was known for his generosity. At the end of every day he would give leftover soup broth to the freezing homeless that would conglomerate outside the back door of the diner.

The old woman who owned the diner knew about this and gave her consent. She too had a kind heart. But one day it failed and she died on a snowy January night. People from all over Dearforth came to the diner to pay their respects. Her death was a loss to the community.

Her son Jimmy flew in from Saint Paul to take over the family business. He was a fast talking corporate man and immediately noticed profit bleeding from the humble diner. At the wake he told the Mac that he sought to turn the place into one where he could achieve his greatest dreams. He also mentioned that Mac would help him greatly.

The next day Jimmy assumed control of the diner and started making changes. He cut the staff’s health plans, then forced Mac to stop his daily handouts to the freezing homeless men. The reputation of the diner quickly changed.

Mac was dismayed at the changes and immediately turned in his resignation. He cleaned his workstation and left. Luckily he was quickly offered a job in the timber industry by his brother.

Mac worked hard every day for weeks, and every day longed for the comfort of the diner. One day he decided to go back after work. Though when he walked in, he hardly recognized the place. It was completely empty. None of the staff or regular customers to greet. Only Jimmy stood at the cash register. He seemed tired, but at the sight of Mac was instantly energized.

‘Mac! I’ve been waiting for you to walk through that door! Business has been bad since you left, everyone quit and I have no idea how to run a diner by myself.’

Mac pitied him and offered whatever he could to help him out. Jimmy was happy at the idea and quickly led him back to the kitchen and put him to work.

‘I want to know how to make everything. Please teach me.’ Jimmy pleaded.

Mac donned his apron and went to work. There seemed to be no gloves, so he washed his hands thoroughly and began. He grabbed some meat that was set out for the day and tenderized it. Then he looked for a knife to cut the meat into manageable pieces but could find none.

‘Here, I found this in the back.’ Jimmy held up a knife with a gloved hand. He had also found a box of gloves but offered Mac none.

Mac continued and within an hour had prepared a great feast of all the menu items on a platter. Mac felt at home preparing food again. Jimmy thanked him and asked him if he could come tomorrow at the same time and help him again with some items he had recently added to the menu. Mac agreed and then headed back home.

The next afternoon, Mac returned. He opened the door and noticed a note on the register.

‘I stepped out to buy some fresh tomatoes, I’ll be back shortly. – J’

Mac went into the back and saw the new recipe on a similar note attached to the grill. He donned his apron then headed to the freezer to grab some meat. What he saw would haunt him for the rest of his days.

Bodies were suspended from the ceiling. As he looked closer, faces he knew stared back at him. The staff, the regulars, and the homeless he had once fed all were hanging with peaceful expressions. Mac shivered. Not just from the cold, but also from the thought of the vile fate that had become of his friends. He spied one of his homeless friends still with a bit of color in his cheeks though he had been beaten savagely and Mac quickly unfastened him and dragged him out.

He went back to the freezer door and turned to find himself face to face with Jimmy.

‘I told you that you would help me fulfill my greatest dreams. And in a way, you will.’ Jimmy said with a devilish grin.

Then he hit Mac with a nearby frying pan and Mac collapsed onto the ground.

Mac woke to the sound of the police bursting through the back door. They yelled at him to stay on the ground and kept their guns pointed at his shocked face. They found the bodies in the freezer, the food prepared from their flesh, and Mac’s prints over everything. If the homeless man had not woken from his hypothermia induced sleep and testified to his innocence, Mac would have been put to death by a jury of his peers.

Jimmy was found a few days later. The police followed his scent with dogs to the forest where he had tried to cross a lake that had been iced over. He had fallen through and had frozen to death. The same grin he had given Mac in the diner was permanently fixed on his face.

In the end, the merciless cold had taken him. To Mac it seemed like justice.

Seinfeld 2015

Photo By Alan Light via public-domain pictures

For extra immersion, click the links as they appear. But do it with your middle mouse button so it doesn’t take you off the page. If you’re doing it right, you should have an annoying amount of tabs open by the end.

**Transition Theme**

Jerry: Tell me George, whats the deal with ISIS?

George: I dunno Jerry, but I’m telling you, its the tops! Ever since people started hating Muslims again I’ve been getting in good with the ladies. Turns out nowadays Jews aren’t the most hated group of people.

*Elaine bursts into the apartment*

Elaine: Oh man, you wont believe how bad of a date I just went on.

Jerry: What happened? I thought you said you liked this guy?

Elaine: That was before today. So we went back to his place, and it was all good fun till we went into his room. Then I saw it. My little pony dolls on shelves covering an entire wall.

Jerry: My little pony?

Elaine: Yeah, apparently its a sexual thing too. As I later found out..

George: Good Lord, so what happened? Did you let him? You know..

Jerry: *Ugh*

Elaine: Oh no, definitely not. I left after he tried to name one after me.

Jerry: You know what? I’m done with this conversation. You guys wanna catch a movie?

*Jerry grabs his coat off the rack*

George: Thank God! Anyways I heard Ant-Man was good.

Elaine: Really? I hate Paul Rudd. He can’t seem to ever change his hair.

George: You’re kidding me right? His hair’s gorgeous, why would he change it?

Elaine: Well any hair at all’s gonna look good to you..

*George looks shocked and touches his balding head*

Jerry: All right, all right. Knock it off. Let’s go with whatever has the best review on Rotten Tomatoes. We can check on the cab ride over.

*Jerry opens the door and everyone leaves*

**Transition Theme**

*Jerry, George and Elaine are on the cab ride home*

Jerry: I can’t believe you talked us into watching the new Terminator movie! Look! Look at how happy those people walking out of Ant-Man are!

*Jerry points to the mass of people leaving the theater*

George: What can I say? I changed my mind, it looked good in the previews!

Jerry: Ahhh! You never trust the previews! Remember when we watched “1000 Ways to Die in the West” because you saw an ad on Youtube?

George: I thought it was a good movie!

Jerry: No! it wasn’t! All the funny parts were in the trailer! It was only made so that Seth MacFarlane and Neil Patrick Harris could see who was less flamboyant on camera!

*Silence*

Elaine: I thought Terminator was pretty good.

George: Thank you! See? Someone takes my side for once!

Elaine: I thought they should’ve replaced Arnold though. He’s getting a bit old. I hate this new trend where people write new scripts for old actors and have them play the exact same roll they did back in the the 80’s/90’s.

Jerry: Thank you!

*George looks off in the distance and has a realization*

George: What do you think this is? Someone’s obviously writing a script for fan-fiction or whatever they call it nowadays! And he isn’t very good at it either! He just has Jerry say something memorable every few minutes!

Elaine: Who would do something like that? It’s so… overdone.

*Jerry looks off thinking for a second and scowls*

Jerry: Newman!

George: Would you shut up about Newman already! You’re playing right into his hands!

Elaine: Who’s hands?

George: The guy! The guy writing the script! Someone’s obviously making us say these things! Has anything you’ve said sounded natural?

*Jerry and Elaine look concerned*

Jerry: Georgie? You feeling okay?

Elaine: Yeah, you’ve been acting strange all of a sudden.

*George is visibly angry*

George: Am I the only one who hasn’t gone insane?! I mean, nothing adds up! Why isn’t Kramer here? It’s like he doesn’t exist! The guy who’s writing this must not know how to write dialogue for him or something! Maybe he ran out of catchphrases! *laughs crazily*

*Jerry takes a serious tone*

Jerry: George. You sound crazy. There’s nobody out there writing this. And if someone was, who cares? You’re alive and healthy. Just let it go.

George: *sighs* I guess you’re right Jerry. *laughs* It all seems pretty crazy when I think back on it now.

Elaine: Also, Kramer does exist. He just texted me he says ‘These pretzels are making me thirsty…

George: THAT’S IT! There’s no way that line is original! I could’ve sworn I heard that from Kramer before!

*Jerry dials a number on his phone and calls*

**Transition Theme**

*Jerry and Elaine are outside of a mental hospital, George is being escorted inside*

Jerry: Of all the people, who’d a thunk George would crack like that?

Elaine: I know..

Jerry: Well, I should go.

Elaine: Me too.

**Transition Theme**

*Jerry is on stage at a comedy club he frequents*

Jerry: You see the thing about independent script writers, they always lose interest right at the end. It’s of course because they aren’t getting paid to do it. But it’s like that with all things really. That’s why you never take a free hooker up on her offers.

*Audience laughs*

*Freeze-frame on Jerry as the credits roll*

**Ending Theme**

Atomic Stories and Lovecraftian Writings.