Action News, interlude

We interrupt this program to take you live where the mayor of Anywhere, USA has an important announcement. Listen in on his speech.

“…Hello, this announcement is to my mother… Please hold any press questions until after I have said what I need to say, thank you.

Mother, I am letting you know that I’ve sent you a card via e-mail. Be sure to check your inbox.

This is all I have to say at this moment. Thank you all for coming out here to listen to what I have to say. I will now take any questions from that you may have…”

You have been listening in on the mayor of Anywhere, USA, who has just now made a speech to tell his mother to check her email. We’re not sure about the details, such as what what kind of card it is, or why he feels compelled to make a public speech about it, but we will keep you informed with the latest update on this breaking story tonight at 11.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled program, already in progress.

–from a press conference featuring the 116th Mayor of Anywhere, USA, May 16th, 1980.

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Luxury, interlude 

It’s the feeling you get when you traverse through a field of golden wheat ready for harvest.

 It’s the sound you make when given the opportunity to bathe in hot fudge frosting. 

It’s the taste on your tongue after biting into a fresh-from-the-oven oatmeal cookie. 

It’s the scent of that same cookie you bit into moments before, five minutes before it was removed from the oven. 

It’s the look on your rival classmate’s face at lunch, when he realizes his sad, stale, ordinary oatmeal cookies don’t measure up to what’s in what your lunchbox—————–Luxury.

—-from an ad in Microculinary, Bourbon & Shoeleather Magazine, Fall Issue, Sept 1988

Flammable Darkness, Interlude

 

Sparks. Find something that makes more sparks. The black slime creature had evaded the sparks sent out by the broken portal generator.  June ran to her kitchen with a crazy idea.

In the kitchen June kept a brown paper bag full of sparklers. They were leftover from last year’s July 4th.  She grabbed the bag and her cigarette lighter and ran back to the utility room.

June smoked, but not in the house. She never let her son see her do it, knowing the risks and all the scary stuff cigs were supposed to do. For once her bad habit could do something to save her life.

A sparkler was lit. The creature’s slick body reflected the light emitted from the sparkler. It slowly backed away toward the wall. June threw the sparklers at the creature. Not good enough. The creature evaded it until the sparks went out. Then it started to advance.

June went for bear and lit all of the sparklers, throwing them at the creature. So many sparks, so much light.

There was an audible wail as the sparks did their damage. It didn’t take much to quickly incinerate the creature until it was all smoldering ash.

FOOM

The creature exploded like one of those puffball fungi, filling the room with black, purple, and blue smoke. The smell of death and rotting flesh and decay washed over the room. June, lightheaded, was covered in the ash and ran out of the room coughing and sick to her stomach.

The ash was filling the house. June had to get out of there. she ran to the kitchen, opened the door, and out of the house. the whole house was filled with the smoke and ash, becoming clearly seen by the neighbors. Someone called the fire department. An ambulance was also sent.

*

“Oh thank God you’re safe,” said June’s mother Carol. Along with June’s mother were Frank and Anne, friends of June. Their children had invited little Eddy to stay over. Eddy was there to visit too.

June had been sent to the hospital for smoke inhalation while fire and rescue personnel searched the house. The entire inside of the house was covered in black soot and it had been determined that the fire started in the utility room.

“What happened?” asked Carol.

“I don’t remember. Electrical shortage maybe,” said June, “I feel fine.”

“No, I mean what happened to your eye?”

There was a bandage on her eye. June touched the gauze lightly.

“It doesn’t hurt. I don’t remember it being here.”

In walked a nurse to check on June. she politely asked friends and family to leave the room. Then a tall man in a black suit with a white overcoat showed up. June assumed he was a doctor.

“Hello, ma’am. I’m Doctor Thomas Phasmid. In addition to your smoke inhalation, we’ve done some tests on the type of smoke. It isn’t anything we’ve ever seen.”

“Why is my eye covered?” asked June.

“Well that’s what baffles us,” said Dr. Phasmid, “It appears the smoke infected that eye, but we were unsure as how to treat it.”

“I feel fine.”

“You’re also on pain killers. The infection was spreading. We  removed the eye.”

 

Excerpt from “Enzectozoid Chronicles: The Legacy of Whartleburg the Whalloper” from the curiously long book of short stories, I am lettuce, who are you?

 

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Coach Headsman, interlude

“Look, Luthar, unlike you, I don’t like being seen,” said the former basketball coach for Bernard Berenson Middle School.

Jeroboam Steadman had, in life, been the most celebrated Men’s basketball coach at Bernard Berenson Middle School in twenty years. The trophy cases were filled mostly because of his leadership.

At the very height of his glory days, Coach Steadman was killed in a terrible accident when a metal ceiling beam fell during a game. Rumor had it that coaches at rival schools paid to have the beams loosened.

The old gym was named Steadman Court, post-humous in his honor. A few weeks later it was no longer used for night games and a new one was built that year.

Newspapers stated the new gym was built for expansion sake and to invite new growth to the school. Off the record interviews stated a different reason.

Disturbing sightings started to surface in the old gym of a flying human head, behaving like a giant bat, in the furthest corners of the metal rafters of the ceiling.

Eye witnesses claimed it was Coach Steadman looking to make sure the bolts were tightened. Soon after students ventured inside the Steadman Court, saying “Watch out for Coach Headsman!”

Yet as a specter, Coach Steadman wanted little to do with haunting. He had been blessed with a rare type of Briostone that allowed him to remain in human form almost year round.

Instead of using a second chance at life to continue with a sports career, Coach Steadman could be found at his favorite sports bar “Irving’s,” seated on a bar stool and eating pretzels.

Gordon Luthar had located “Coach Headsman” Steadman and insisted that they meet. Luthar had forgotten that Coach Steadman was as curt a specter as he had been in life.

“Yes, I know you make your appearances complex,” said Luthar, “Which is why you are a member of the Unseen.”

“So what?”

Coach Steadman was eager to get back to watching the game.

“There’s a particular young man who wants to investigate the other specters on campus. You included. Do you mind moving your appearance date to the day after?”

Each specter was different in how they viewed being sighted without a decent Briostone. Some were fine with it. Luthar knew Coach Steadman found it embarrassing to be seen when he made an appearance.

“Sorry, Luthar,” said Coach Steadman, “I used to give you tribute every month, but now I answer to loftier authorities. The kid can see me or not. I really couldn’t care.”

“You have a membership with the Unseen only because of your unique class Briostone,” said Luthar, “It does not require much ether to work, so you make your ghastly self rarely seen. But rarest sightings generate the most ether.”

Coach Steadman sipped his beer with a shaky hand and stuffed a few pretzels in his mouth. His cool composure was fading fast.

There was a reason Luthar was able to sway all the specters on school grounds, hailing him with a tribute of ether each month. He had a way with words.

‘Why do you hide in here, Coach?” asked Luthar, “Who are you supporting that needs all that ether?”

“I’m tellin’ ‘ou noffin’, Luffar,” said Coach Steadman with his mouth full.

“I believe you said something similar to me before,” said Luthar, “Back when I offered to let you have your rare occurrence, in exchange for tribute. A small amount of ether given to me was all I requested. I ask it again. Unless you want to lose that goldmine, and, perhaps, anger whoever you’re working for.”

“No, you’re not serious. I’ve had that gym from day one!”

“I am not getting any tribute from you lately,” said Luthar, “Why should I let you stay on such a lucrative schedule?”

Luthar’s words finally soaked into Coach Steadman.

“Oh. Ok, so this a blackmail deal?”

“You know specters who are scarier than me,” said Luthar, “See what strings you can pull. I do not want Roger Flair to write anything revealing the truth about the school.”

From “Fall from Autumnway” from the curiously long book of short stories, I am lettuce, who are you?

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Beauty and Exoskeletons, Interlude

Victoria Swansoncrop

 

Victoria’s luminescent yellow-green eyes were now curiously staring at Whartleburg. Having recently arrived via Channel Teleporter, thanks to June, she was expecting Whartleburg to take her under his wing.

“Who are you supposed to be?” asked Whartleburg. But he knew already; His instinct told him so.

“I’m June’s sister.”

Whartleburg didn’t know how to handle the revelation.

“I’m Whartleburg.”

The two stared at each other. For ten seconds, the world was frozen in time and nothing else mattered. Whartleburg suddenly could not move. He was transfixed in place, only able to see Victoria’s luminescent green and yellow eyes. Instinct told him it was a common trap that praying mantis type Enzectozoids used to catch their prey.

But then another image entered his mind. Salyria, tall and pale, her lavish gown, a wedding gift from Spider King Ahab, the same color as her sapphire eyes. Her long dark hair danced in the winds that endlessly chase at the height of her window outside the granite prison walls.

Her eyes were saddened, yet strong, determined to wait, knowing in her heart that Whartleburg would save her. At that moment her eyes met his. She saw Whartleburg from afar and her inward gaze was turned outward.

Salyria while in her prison was not helpless. Though not built for combat, she could still encourage the heart. She spoke briefly and the vision was gone:

Remember Salyria. Should Whartleburg give up now, all his efforts to oppose Spider King Ahab would be in vain.

Whatever huntress’ charm Victoria unknowingly had sent out shattered like glass, and Whartleburg was no longer smitten. He no longer saw the great beauty in the exoskeleton of Victoria Swanson, June’s sister. Instead he saw a confused, scared Enzectozoid woman. She needed training.

Whartleburg woke up and sprang to his feet.

“Hey, you’re alive! Thank God you’re alive!” Victoria was saying.

“You thought I was dead?” asked Whartleburg.

Victoria nodded.

“You were unaware of what you did? It’s called a Hunter’s Glare trap.”

“Hunter’s what?!”

“Lady, I cannot train you,” said Whartleburg, “Only a master in the Maantisazian school of Enzectozoid marshal arts can do that now.”

“What’s that?”

“The Maantisazian school is for Enzectozoids who are mantis, wheel bug, or other assassin types.”

“Who, me?” exclaimed Victoria, “I’m no killer.”

“Then show me,” said Whartleburg, “Put your hands up. Like you are praying.”

Victoria reluctantly put her hands up in front of her.

“Now close your eyes.”

At first she refused but Whartleburg convinced her it would be ok.
Whartleburg then picked up a rock and threw it right at Victoria.

Victoria quickly shot out her hand and snatched the rock out of the air. She looked at the stone, amazed she caught it. But then she realized the rock had been perfectly cut into three pieces.

“How’d I do that?”

“Your instincts make you attack anything that comes near. Until you can train, you cannot be yourself without causing violence,” said Whartleburg.

Just then, a swirling blue storm cloud boiled forth out of nothing six feet from the ground. From out of the swirling tempest emerged a giant. Muscular, white beard, light blue skinned and balding, The giant was sent to destroy the stronghold.

“My liege!” ran Whevelbor panting. “Reports have come in. The enemy knows the fortress is taken.”

“That explains why the giant is here,” said Whartleburg.

“My army has provided us transportation,” said Whevelbor.

Close to the fortress were several old military Jeeps.

“All we need to do is not get caught,” said Victoria.

“Can you still fight, my liege?” asked Whevelbor.

“It’s been a long day,” said Whartleburg, “But we must escape.”

Whartleburg raised his arms to summon his battle axes, but he knew already that he still did not have the strength to use them fully. The axes appeared, but then faded and returned whence they came.

“Alas, I need more strength,” said Whartleburg.

“What if I helped?” asked Victoria, “All we need is a distraction, right?”

“You’re not trained yet,” argued Whartleburg.

“Perhaps I can help,” said Whevelbor, “I happen to know the instructor for Maantisazian school of Enzectozoid marshal arts. I cannot use his instruction myself, but let me pass on what I know.”

Excerpt from “Enzectozoid Chronicles: The Legacy of Whartleburg the Whalloper” from the curiously long book of short stories, I am lettuce, who are you?

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