“Hewit’s Report” by Gene Stewart in New Anthology of International Genre Fiction




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Stiff Neck


Have had a spiked headache for a few days now.  Stiff neck, won’t get comfortable.  My wife said she had it for three days but it passed; mine’s lingering.  No idea what sort of bug it is, but it’s pesksome.

I’m proposing Charlie Sheen for Der Trumpenfuerher’s Surgeon General.  Makes as much sense as any of the rest.

Enjoyed the Christiane Amanpour article, which I’d seen.  She’s great.  Also dead smack on target when she warns about needing now to be concerned about not only the freedom of speech enjoyed by journalists, but the actual physical safety of journalists, given Trump’s rhetoric of  hate and revenge.  Far from lowering the tone since the campaign, he’s increased it to death-threat intensity.

My Pap-Pap fought in WW II against the Axis powers to defeat fascism.  We’ve now voted fascism in, not 71 years later.  WTF?  How is such an idiocy possible?

Look back.  In 1932 Sinclair Lewis published It Can’t Happen Here, a cautionary novel about fascism being voted in under a glad-handing populist.  This was before Hitler had shown his real colors, too.  Prescient, chilling, and still a must-read.

We saw, in 1948, Eric Blair’s George Orwell novel, 1984, warning of what a Stalinesque dictatorship was like as things progressed technologically and psychologically.  He was dead smack on target.

We, by Evgeny Zemayatin; Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, and so on, all tried to warn us.  Even H. G. Wells in The Time Machine gave us a warning about devolving into the Morlochs and Eloi.  Here we are already, far before he predicted.

Stephen King’s 1979 book, The Dead Zone, made into a Christopher Walken movie, features a man with psychokinesis who can glimpse the future of anyone he touches.  He inadvertently shakes hands with a glad-handing populist joker/clown candidate at a political rally that comes through his home town, and sees the man rise to become first a demagogue, then the destroyer of the world in a nuclear holocaust.  He determines he must kill the man to save the world.  Is he crazy or are his abilities real?  Even he doesn’t know, but can he risk doing nothing?

It’s chilling to read it now and see Trump so perfectly described.

In 2004 Philip Roth published The Plot Against America, a speculation on what it might have meant for America, and for Jews in particular, had Charles Lindbergh run for and won the Presidency in 1936, as many wanted him to.  Lindbergh was pro-Nazi, liked Hitler and his policies, and was an enthusiast of Eugenics, which likely led to his son’s arranged kidnaping and death because the child was in many ways imperfect, for which Anne Morrow, his wife, paid a lifelong price.

Donald Joseph Trump is a proud Eugenicist and Nazi supporter, a white supremacist, so the parallels are obvious.

Norman Mailer released The Castle in the Forest in 2007, his final novel, a study of what made Adolf Hitler such a monster as he grew up never good enough for a drunken, abusive father and without prospects.  Mailer dares factor in a hint of the supernatural when discussing the shades of Hitler’s evil.  It does feel as if we’re cursed somehow, under a dark shadow, especially after the blood sacrifice made to gain power on 9/11.

Beyond classics of fiction, look at the systematic, predatory piecemeal attacks on secular liberal FDR style programs waged by the right wing, whether it was via the Dixie Democrats or, after Nixon’s “southern strategy”, via the GOP, where it’s lodged now in a swirling ideological cult of fear, hate, and greed.  They sabotaged and infiltrated patiently here and there, never making too much noise.  Certain exceptions, such as the right-wing inspired paranoid delusion of Satanic Ritual Abuse or Facilitated Communication or, these days, the wild allegations of Bill Clinton’s “Bubba” hit squads, all feeding the idiot monster of chaos the GOP rides on, all such exceptions, when their masks slipped, taught them further stealth.

In came smarmy, lying Reagan, avuncular and charming as he cut your throat and chortled about some half-remembered script or scene.

In came HW, rendered a one-term manoon by proving himself so detached as to be laughable.

In came the Cheney Junta behind the useful idiot stalking horse, and rubber stamp, W, and with them 9/11 and the P.A.T.R.I.O.T.A.C.T and Citizen’s United and other horrors of fascism.  They seized power legally through rigging the system.

Now we see Trump, Der Fuerher wanna-be himself, a T-Rump with tiny hands rampaging like a dinosaur amidst a decaying, moribund system of capitalism that is eager to take the world down in flames rather than give up a penny’s potential profit.  This even though the profit is long since imaginary, and the world long-since lost to their depredations, pollution, and callous disregard for humanity in any form.

My grandfather, your father, fought against those who now have claimed power.  It’s devastating.

Worse is seeing the media normalizing this vile glut of dark shit being splattered over everything by these psychopathic narcissists, these nihilistic monsters.  They act as if nothing is wrong, as if it’s all normal.

Worse yet are the quislings, eagerly licking boots for favor.

Worst, for me, are the Vichy trumpers, ingratiating themselves in search of personal leverage, not caring who or what must die so they can have a little jam on their bread.

It’s time to once again stand up against the Nazi psychopaths and defeat them, if we can.  No one’s coming to help this time.  Quite the reverse, we have superpowers working against us, who helped install Trump.  I refer to Putin and to what ever borg runs China.

From oligarchy to kleptocracy and extinction in one stupid act of self-hate, embracing the very enemy we allegedly fought The Last Good War against.  The Last Just War.

These are the thoughts I’m having lately.  Maybe a stiff neck is endemic for us ferocious liberals who fight Nazis in every generation, in one form of psychopath or another, be it corporate, ideological, or just implacably moronic.

Still, don’t take my growling too much to heart, it’s just my Jewish streak, no doubt, as the razor wire is being strung, as ovens are heating.

///  ///  ///

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An Important Article & Warning

trump-fascistSeig Heil, Der Trumpenfuerher

Vitally important message from one of our most-respected journalists.

Amanpour’s Warning

I’d seen this.

It’s appalling and it’s what I’ve howled about for a long, long time.

They murdered journalists during the first Gulf War if they didn’t toe the party line and sweeten the shots and fake the damage, etc.
(Same group of “dead” kids spotted in image after image of supposedly different places, for instance, or hearing the Patriot Missiles explode in real time, despite physics and doppler effect, etc.)

Embedded journalists were fragged.

The hotel they were forced to live in was shelled repeatedly, by US forces.

Some simply vanished.

Investigative journalists were “found dead” in hotel rooms, having strangled themselves, cut their own throats, and blown their heads off with TWO shots from a shot gun that is not, ahem, in the room.  Suicide.

Off bridges, in car and plane crashes, or just vanished while investigating stories.  Often after warning their families to run or hide, warnings labeled “paranoid” by the tame media.

No, not all nor even most journalists are bent, duplicitous, or spear-carrying for big brother.  It’s more that the truly inquisitive ones are not rewarded, promoted, or published.  They’re forced to the fringe, then bumped off edges if they manage to get close to anything real.

System’s corrupt, not necessarily the reporters.

Now it’s percolated to the top, with Amanpour, a remarkable journalist of huge integrity and bravery, because we’ve gone openly fascist.  She’s covered wars in countries where the dictators abused the press and media in these Trumpish ways. We’re going to see breath-taking moves soon, guaranteed.

Most will keep gaping like landed carp.

What angers me the most is the Vichy Quisling normalizers, who are acting as if all this is just par for the course.  It’s NOT NORMAL, and he is NOT A PRESIDENT.  This is a Nazi coup, and we’d better get that straight and pick up resistance to the point of going after the psychopaths physically, violently.  Anything short of that allows them to consolidate their power and once that’s achieved, we are toast.

We humanity, I mean.  Mankind.  Extinction looms, as Stephen Hawking has now come out and said.  He characterized Trump as the seal on the deal that we’ve entered into that Most Dangerous Phase of civilization, in which most destroy themselves.  Worse, we have the capacity now, as never before, to wipe off all higher forms of life.  No more mammals, amphibians, reptiles, fish, or birds.  Maybe nothing down to bacteria, perhaps not even that; with a runaway greenhouse effect, Earth will soon mirror Venus, with temperatures of 900* F. and ponds of liquid metal, sulphuric acid storms, and so on.  Nothing lives in that.

It’s accomplished by unfettered fracking, pollution, and despoiling the remaining forests, glaciers, and so on.  Which of course Trumpers are all for.  Profit über alles, unto extinction.

We’ve passed the point of no return at 400 parts per million carbon in our atmosphere.  That happened earlier this year.  We passed the tipping point toward full runaway greenhouse during the Cheney Junta.  This is what climatologists say.  It’s science.  Even if we ceased pollution entirely right now, inertia would take us well into full greenhouse, meaning no higher life forms.

It’s incredible, but all we have left is a brief chance at revenge against our murderers.  We know who and where they are.  Thing is, going after them only shortens the short time we have left anyhow.  Humanity will be extinct within the life-times of those alive now, regardless.  Do we want a few more years or do we want to avenge our murder?

Kinda like a Noir Mystery by Cornell Woolrich, ain’t it?

And this is why I’m so slap-happy and optimistic.  The future’s so bright I gotta wear shades.  Always look on the bright side of life.

Joy to the world.


Yes, steep slide into the pool of slippery-slope run-off.  Sadly, this is how I view things.  I keep analyzing them over and over and this is what comes up every time, with minor variations.

No one is coming to help us.

We did it to ourselves, or allowed it to be done, and only we could have stopped it, but didn’t.

The guillotine blade has been released and is falling.  Anything you’d like to blurt, best be fast about it.


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The Feast of the February Flies


“The Feast of the February Flies”
Gene Stewart

It was the third time her mother went in to have her skin cancer checked.  The first two times it had been no big deal, band-aid stuff.  This time, though, they told her it had spread.  This time they told her she didn’t have very long.
Diana’s fists clenched when she heard.  She screamed at the first friend who offered sympathy.  –Keep your pity and sympathy, you leach.  Leave me alone.
Her fear kept her away from her mother, too.  Gazing into her mother’s cheerful face infuriated Diana, who wanted to slap her and say, –Don’t you realize you’re dying?
–We all are, aren’t we? Her mother would probably say, and that would make it worse.  Truth was, no one knew when they’d die, and maybe terminally ill people had an advantage.  Impending death focuses the mind, philosophers said.  Maybe they were right.  Maybe it forced people to think clearly.
Diana didn’t want to think, though, which is why she was at the rave swallowing ecstasy, semen, and her pride in one big gulp.  The boys lining up for free blowjobs in the third stall from the door in the Men’s Room didn’t care about Diana or her mother.  The bouncers guarding the door after getting their freebies didn’t care.  She told herself she didn’t care, either, and kept her lips and tongue busy.
She choked a few times on unexpected spurts, gagged a few times at ripe smells and bitter tastes, and felt wonderfully humiliated and negated by the end of a couple hours.  The back of her throat felt bruised and sore, her jaw felt sprung, and her slut level was at an all-time high.
–She’s had enough, look at her, bitch can’t even focus her eyes.  Reminds me of that one at Spring Break, you remem–
–Maybe she’s up for a party now that she’s loosened up.
She heard this and got to her feet but a big hand pushed her down onto the toilet seat again.  She looked up and said, –Fuck off.
–Sure, babe.  First, though, you’re gonna fuck me and my buddies.  Whatcha say?  You horny for it after feasting on all that cum?
–Feasting? a buddy laughed. Man, you’re so high.
    –We got a van outside, another one said, his face slack with lust.  His pimples glowed like lava.
Diana heard herself say, –Sure, all three at once.  Lets get this over with so I can dance before the night’s over.
They escorted her from the bathroom.  As she stepped into the crashing noise of the rave, bodies milling, conversational snippets flying like shrapnel as she was hustled through the crowds, Diana stumbled.  She was tired.  Exhausted, really.  And she was numb.
This came in handy when, a few minutes later, she found herself stripped and laying in the back of a van, a cock in her mouth, another in her pussy, and another trying to jam itself up her ass.  She wiggled and moaned for them and let all three fuck her cunt, then got them off with some hand and lip action and, finally, said, –Where’s my clothes?
They laughed and zipped up and tossed her the dress she’d worn.  Her underwear was gone, no doubt copped by one of the bastards for later sniffing and wanking.
That people behaved this way towards each other did not surprise her.  If their Creator could give them afflictions like cancer, why expect anything less than callous cruelty from mere mortals?
The crass atmosphere in the van and at the rave suddenly repulsed her.  She wasn’t sure what appealed to her just then but certainly not more of the same.
As she staggered from the van, her thighs sprung and bruised, she thought, –Jesus, what have I done to myself?
Thoughts of sexually transmitted diseases flitted across her numb mind like bats in moonlight.  A CD player in a car with the windows cracked to let out the pot smoke played “Shake Your Money Maker” as she passed it.  The car was shaking, too.
She wondered if she should at least have charged five bucks each.  At least then she’d have more to show for the night than a sick stomach and a hurt body.
As she dragged into the house her mother’s voice echoed down the staircase. –Where have you been?  It’s a school night.
–Yeah, Mom.  I know.  I’m sorry.  Was out with Melissa and Betty.  I’ll go straight to bed now, ‘kay?
–You okay, honey?  You sound exhausted.
–Yeah, I’m fine.
Diana went to the kitchen and got herself some cold cereal and milk for a very late supper.  She wondered how much longer her mother would be alive, and then wondered if she could maybe die before her Mom did.
That made her feel somewhat better as she drifted off to sleep, imagining not having to be here without her mother.
Next morning she didn’t hear the alarm clock and woke up late.  If she hurried she might make her second class.  Her throat hurt and her head ached.  She got up, peed, then threw up in the sink.  She didn’t look too closely at what came up but it didn’t wash down the sink easily and she had to use her fingers to clump it and toss it into the toilet.
Undigested cereal, she figured.
That was about when she realized that her mother had not awakened her.  Usually when she didn’t hear the alarm her mother did, and came in gently to shake her awake.
Diana, alarmed, went to her mother’s room.
–Mom?  You awake?
    She pushed the door open and poked her head into the room.  An acrid scent of methane made her wrinkle her nose.  She opened the door widely and entered.
Her mother lay flat on her back with her head cocked toward the wall.  She was breathing in harsh gasps through her open mouth.
–Mom?  You okay?
Diana let herself ease back from panic as her mother’s eyes fluttered open.  –Oh, Diana, what’s the matter, honey?
–I don’t feel good, Mom.  I’m going to skip school today I think.
Still not moving, her mother gave a weak smile.  –You want me to call the school?
–No, Mom.  That’s okay.  I’ll take care of it.
Diana left the room and went downstairs, where she started some coffee and called the school to say that Diana Wilson would not be in today due to a flu.  The nurse had no idea she was not speaking to Diana’s mother and said Fine.
Diana watched the coffee drip for a bit, then noticed she hadn’t gotten dressed yet.  She ran upstairs and got into her jeans and a sweater.
As her head came out from inside the sweater an idea came to her:  Murder – suicide.
She could kill her mother, then herself.
That would take care of things neatly.  Neither would have pain.  Neither would have to pretend to like sex.  Neither would have to suck up to men for handouts anymore.
She wished her fucking father hadn’t divorced them for that bimbo.  If he were still around maybe it’d be different.
Maybe not, though.  He thinks with his dick like any other male, so what would change?  She realized, her heart lurching, that she was daydreaming again.  Just like a stupid girl, she thought, hating herself all the more for such weak-mindedness.
What was needed was hardheaded realism.
She could giver her mother soup for an early lunch, soup with a lot of pills in it.  Kill her that way, then drink some herself, lay down beside her mother, and just drift off.
That sounded so good.  A long trip into oblivion was just what she needed.
–Diana, can you give me a hand?
Diana jumped at the mention of her name.  She went to her mother’s room and found pills scattered on the floor.
Her mother looked sheepish as she sat on the edge of the bed. –I’m sorry, dropped the bottle and they just went everywhere.
–They sure did.  You okay, Mom?
    –Got dizzy when I tried to pick them up, that’s all.
–I’ll get ‘em, don’t worry.  Diana dropped to her knees, a position she was getting way too familiar with, and gathered pills.  They were the weird speckled blue ones; weren’t they powerful?  What were they doing up here, anyway?  Weren’t all the meds in the cabinet above the kitchen counter?
–I’m sorry, honey.  I should never have–
    Diana realized then what her mother thought she had discovered; that her mother had maybe tried, maybe just considered, suicide by overdose.
–Mom, when did you do this?
    Her mother hung her head, tears flowing like a trickle of embalming fluid from a leaky corpse.  –Last night, Diana.  While you were out with your friends.
–Mom, I was at a rave.
Her mother looked puzzled.  –Dance, right?
Diana sighed.  –Yeah, Mom.  It’s a kind of dance.  Here, lets get you dressed and we’ll go downstairs and set you up on the couch, okay?  It’s almost time for THE PRICE IS RIGHT.
–Okay.  I’m sorry I’m so weak.
–It’s not your fault, Mom.
–Still.  I can’t help thinking about things now, and I remembered when I was a little girl.  I was playing up in the attic at my grandparents’ house.  It was winter, too cold to play outside, way too much snow.  I was looking out the window at the drifts, thinking how pretty they were, when my grandfather came up behind me and asked if I saw that fly.
–It’s a February Fly, Angel, he told me.  Most flies only live three days, did you know that?  And most live in summer, when they can find something to eat.  But this guy here?  He’s a February Fly.  Know what that means?
–When I told him no, I didn’t understand what it meant, he smiled and got a funny look on his face and looked past me, through the window, to the snow.  Means they feast on what ever dies in winter, if they’re lucky.
–I never asked him what if they were unlucky, but now I think maybe I know.
Diana just stood there.  She was stunned in some way she didn’t understand, as if her body got the story while her mind was still sorting out the images, vocal tones, and word choices.
–You’re a good girl, her mother said, as she was helped by her only child down the stairs to the couch, where she got situated under the quilt her own grandmother had made for her by hand out of scraps of clothes worn out by other family members who’d helped work the farm they’d once owned.
Diana thought, No, Mom, I’m a very bad girl, but that didn’t feel right.  She said, –I’ll get you some soup, okay?
    As she heated it her brain caught up with her body in understanding the story and she figured maybe she was just another February Fly, like everyone else.  Would she be one of the lucky ones who got to feast?  Or would she end up a dry husk on the windowsill, unable to reach the outside world?
Life’s short no matter what, so it was her choice.  She could find a way to cope and now she knew it.  It was a comfort knowing the pills were there, would always be there.
–You going out today? her mother asked.
Diana shook her head, thinking, Not today, although there is always tomorrow. –Got too much homework.  And for once she actually meant it.  All the sudden she wanted to learn as much as she could so maybe the world wouldn’t push her around so much.
She promised herself she’d take care of her mother as long as it took, no matter what, and when that was done she’d take care of herself, one way or another, maybe find a way to get beyond the glass.  To fly free and find a better feast of her own if she could, or to free herself of the feast’s burden if not.
Just then, though, she took soup in to her mother and had some herself, and she left the pills out.

///  ///  ///

supposedly appeared in PARAPHILIA in December 2012; unconfirmed

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Flocks of Birds In a Frigid Sky


“Flocks of Birds in a Frigid Sky”
Gene Stewart

Flocks of birds flew in tight circles over fields by the road.  They flew over fast food places, car dealerships, and mall parking lots, too.  All the birds spotted were whirling in a pantomime of controlled alarm.  They would land, then sweep up again at once, as if agitated.  Their movement combined the coordinated with the random and it was unsettling to see.  Driving alone, I wondered if something had gone wrong, or was about to.
My car’s radio played only the left channel, so I could hear the bass, and Jim Morrison groaning, but none of the keyboards or guitars on “L. A. Woman”.  It felt lopsided, hearing a familiar song by halves that way.
The car itself rattled now and then when it rolled over a particularly deep pot hole.  The roads felt like debris fields, providing a constant hammering to the suspension and tires.  Grit from the last salting snaked in sine waves between patches of black ice and compressed snow.  Slush lay along the sides, kept semi-liquid by chemicals or pollution or perhaps by the heat of so many passing internal combustion engines.
The heater did its best to keep me warm but chill drafts shivered slices of my back and sides.  My hands alternately froze and warmed depending where I held them on the wheel.  The air blowing from the vents smelled faintly of burnt plastic.
I wanted to get home and cuddle under a sheet and fleece blanket.  I wanted to be cozy in a cocoon watching a quality TV crime show, relaxing and dozing and still able to spot the villain before the credits.  Instead I had to drive across town.
At least I’d eaten recently.  A BK veggie burger, fries, and a coffee warmed my belly.  My belches seemed to leave a coating of stale grease on my tongue but the second coffee I sipped as I drove helped cut the sensation.
As dusk fell I switched on my low beams.  Sure enough, the driver’s side headlight was out again.  I suspected water was getting in somehow and shorting them but could find no crack or hole.  I’d replaced three of the things so far that year.  Having a garage mechanic look it over would cost more than it was worth, so I kept buying and installing new head lamps.
When the DJ started fast-talking a series of mindless promotions and commercials I switched off the radio.  Chatter and walking the ramp, which meant talking over the beginnings and endings of songs, were annoyances I could stand less and less as I aged.  I envied those Blue Tooth links newer cars had that let you play an iPod’s songs over your car stereo system.
Not that I had an iPod yet.  That would have to wait until the head lights stopped fizzling out; until supper stopped meaning fast food; and until gas and food and all other prices came down within reachable levels again.  As if they ever would.  I’d noticed how prices tended to stay up once they went up.  Even if they came down some, they never returned to where they started the surge from.  Greed and the excuse of “the economy” would never allow it.  The fact was, people wanted every penny you had.
As I waited at a light, watching cross traffic run red lights, I thought of some other items I was still waiting to get for myself.  Things like a digital camera or a recliner or a big screen TV.  None of those life perks seemed likely to get much closer to me than singsong radio ads or insistent TV images, not until my finances improved.
“In this economy?” I mimicked someone, anyone sneering.
There was a lot of talk about a changing economy.  People spoke about a new outlook and mentioned ways how we would have to change from corporate-driven consumerism to… something else.
No one knew what, as far as I could tell.
All I knew, from experience, was how callous any new system was likely to be.  Promises to notice, finally, the individual, or to take care of the poor, well, I heard them the way I heard radio and TV advertisements:  As lies.  As obvious, shallow, facile sucker bets being offered to anyone still gullible enough to fall for it one more damned time.
Lucy pulling the football out from under Charlie Brown every god damned fall season, that was politics.
That was corporate promises.
That was ads.
When the light changed again, finally, I had to wait for three cars, moving through bumper-to-bumper, before I could roll forward.  The guy behind me honked.  I waved, resisting the urge to give him the finger.  Too many guns and too many short tempers kept me on the polite side, most days.
Fear was another problem.  Everyone juked now at loud noises, or cringed when shouting began, or got nervous when planes went over low.  People seemed meaner now, less helpful.  Less polite.  Ruder and more willing to cross into violence.
What had once been national news — someone being shot for a parking space during a blizzard — was now news if it didn’t happen, it seemed.  Another school shooting, another disgruntled worker, another loner on a rampage; another, always another.
So most of us muddled along not fearful, exactly, but damned wary, and quick to withdraw.  We’d become reluctant to be curious now, and far less likely to help out, pitch in, or otherwise get involved.  Oh, sure, charities and community events still got pretty good turnouts, but the mere rumor of a shooter on the prowl, the mere mention of a weapon maybe being sighted, emptied malls now more efficiently than fire.
Just under the skin we were all jittery.  Our nervousness made us jumpy.  We startled easily and felt backed into a corner almost at once now, should anything arise.
On my drive I got behind no fewer than three obvious drunks who varied speed illogically and unexpectedly.  They swerved and drifted into other lanes and sometimes drove off the road or up onto curbs.  They were easier to avoid than the ones who swooped their vehicles into any space that opened up, as if desperate to get to the next red light, where slow and steady drivers like me would inevitably catch up anyhow.  Being cut off, hemmed in, and blocked was so basic an experience every time I drove that most of the time I ignored it.  It was as expected as the weather and terrain.
That so many obviously incompetent, dangerous drivers were trusted with big, fast, dangerous vehicles, even licensed to drive them loose and unsupervised on the roads, amazed me anew every few minutes every time I drove.
This did not include the smokers, cell phone users, and people texting as they drove.  Some watched TV screens mounted on their dash or down by their knees.  Driving was not so much second nature to them as of secondary importance.  They seemed to take transportation as a given; get into a car and magically it took you where you wanted to go.  No need to pay attention.
In a nation of 350,000,000 people we managed to kill only about 50,000 each year on our streets, roads, and highways.  You want a reason to believe in a god?
It was dark by the time I got to where I was going.  After filtering through a neighborhood laid out like a schizophrenic’s random scrawl, and having had to escape no fewer than four cul-de-sacs, loops, and unmarked dead ends, I pulled into the driveway and debated whether I should honk my horn.
Instead I waited and in about ten minutes my rider came out, only he didn’t walk to the passenger side to get in.  He came around to the driver’s side.
I rolled down the window.  “What’s up?”
“When you gonna get a cell phone?”
    “I keep meaning to.  Why?”
“I woulda called ya, saved you a trip.  Look, I couldn’t drop my car off tonight.  Garage was overbooked ‘til Monday, Tuesday maybe.  So I won’t need a ride ‘til then.”
At work that afternoon he’d asked me if I’d come over at this time to ride him back from the garage after he dropped off his car to get worked on.  Save him cab fare.
Him being the boss, I’d said sure, no problem.
“Damn.  And you don’t want to drop it off anyway?”
“Well, I hate to think of it sitting in the lot all weekend, you know?  I’m sorry, wish I could’ve called and told you.”
“Well, that’s all right.  I got some errands I can run while I’m on this side of town, anyway.”
Yeah, pick up my sack of diamonds and maybe a slab or two of gold while I was at it.
He looked at me for a second, glanced at the house.  His face was closed as he rubbed his hands on his upper arms.  “Look, you want to come in for some coffee or something?  Hot chocolate maybe?  Something to warm you up?”
“Naw, I’ll just get going.  You get inside, stay warm, huh?”
“You sure?  No trouble.”
His eyes were flat and I knew he just wanted me gone so I wouldn’t continue to embarrass him by reminding him what a high-handed prick he could be.
I asked, “You want me to pick you up Monday morning?”
He smiled then.  “Aw, no, I can grab a cab or maybe I’ll get a rental…”
My cue to say:  “Why spend the money?  I’ll see you here, what, around eight?”
“Seven-thirty, traffic’s a bitch that time uh day.”
“Seven-thirty, then.”  I rolled up my window and, as he passed in front of my car, I had to resist a strong urge to floor it and run him down.  He stopped by the passenger side front corner and slapped my car, then came to the passenger side window and rapped on it.
I had to lay across the seat to put the window down a few inches, so I could hear him; the driver’s side control hadn’t worked since Spring of last year.  “What’s up?” I asked.
“You got a headlight out.”
“Yeah, it blew on the way over.”
“Better take care of it, the cops around here will ticket you for stuff like that.  Got nothin’ else to do.”  He waved and backed off, trotting into his warm, very big, very nice house, having reminded me which of us lived where the cops had more to do than hand out tickets for broken headlights.
I got home around eight forty-five and had a bowl of cereal, Lucky Charms I think it was.  Cut the edge off my late evening hunger and let me go to bed more or less comfortable, if not really satisfied.  Bed was my favorite place in the otherwise empty house.  It was cold there because I kept the thermostat set to 50, so the bills wouldn’t tip over my wobbly financial boat.
So I put on flannel pajamas and went to bed, where a flannel sheet left over from my marriage, a soft fleece blanket, and a comforter my great grandmother had quilted ages ago kept me warm while the TV gabbled out a lot of ads and a couple of shows about crimes, cops, and culprits.
I fell asleep hugging a pillow, as usual, and resented like hell the god damned alarm when it shrilled at me next morning.  I’d forgotten to turn it off for the weekend.
Not that I had much planned beyond what grocery shopping I could swing, it being a short week between paychecks.  I made a note to get more gas in the car, too.  Those trips across town would end up costing me an extra tank that week, and that meant nearly a hundred bucks less to spend on food.
The guy at the second day bread store sold cereal past its expiration date, though, and I kept milk powder around, and, well, I knew a few tricks to get me by.
As I made my grocery rounds on foot, to save gas — I’d fill up the tank on Monday morning on the way out at the 24-hour station — I saw the birds swooping in spirals again.  As I huffed and puffed along, my breath white wisps, I adjusted my backpack so I carried the weight higher and wondered why birds, which I knew were warm blooded, didn’t make clouds as they breathed up in that cold air.
Or did they hold their collective breath, the way whales did when they dived so deep?
The way divorced guys in their fifties did when jobs got scarce and companies liked to rid themselves of upcoming liabilities like pensions and healthcare payments.
Not only did I not get a cell phone, I also did not keep a home phone active.  I figured they would have to fire me to my face, or in writing by mail at least, and those ways both seemed so much harder to me that maybe they’d choose not to bother.
You’d be surprised at how superstitious aging makes you, unless you already know.
When I got home I warmed up with a cup of tea and watched the birds from my window, my fleece blanket draped around my shoulders and my warm breath clouding the glass a little.  The birds moved together so gracefully, even as they imparted a sense of impending panic.  If they scattered they would perfectly illustrate chaos, yet they never did as they landed and flew, as they swirled and swept and spun in the frigid sky.
At first, I thought I was predicting their movements when they swooped, but then I realized I was influencing them.  This quickened my pulse more than the caffeine and theobromine in the tea, and I started concentrating, an idea tickling the back of my head.
It took me months to learn to control the flocks completely, and to teach them how to swoop down on specific targets, to peck and claw with needle-sharp talons at eyes, faces, and flesh.
My first kill was a hobo who was probably better off.  I recall how the newspaper he lined his clothes with fluttered in shreds in the air when my flock took off, splattering blood.
By Spring I had my boss convinced he and I would enjoy a fishing trip.  “And maybe we can catch sight of the cranes when they return, I hear they flock in the thousands, all these huge birds, it’s incredible.”
He agreed that would be a sight to see before dying.

///  ///  ///   – supposedly appeared in SHROUD in 2011; unconfirmed

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“Third Night Charm” from World SF, Fantasy, & Horror anthology




A great collection written by authors from all over the word.

By Thijs van Ebbenhorst Tengbergen on March 17, 2016

A very nice collection of genre stories by international authors, as good as any Best of the Year volume.

I especially liked the hard-boiled detective story cum vampires Bats Domino and the deeply strange Sea of the Dead and the matter-of-fact told ghost-buster story Third Night Charm.


“Third Night Charm”
by Gene Stewart

Coming down the curved staircase meant hugging the wall to avoid both cracked stair boards and the rickety bannister.  The ghost hunt’s leader, Karl Demerest, an older man with cancer, alimony, and a desperate gleam in his gaze, left a scrape in the grime on the wall with his shoulder.  His military style sweater had dirt, balls of dust, and clumps of damp wall paper on it.  He investigated hard, crawling everywhere.

Joining the trio at the ground floor rendezvous, he counted ducklings and frowned.  “Where’s Compton?  And that new girl he brought?”

Asking the question answered it in most of their minds.  A smile made the rounds.

Karl crushed it.  “Find them.”

A closet, most thought.  He’d cuddled many an eager trainee in closets over the decade Compton had been with the group.  His behavior would have gotten him thrown out long ago had it not been for his value to the group’s overall goals.  His family’s connections in the region gained them permission to explore properties otherwise off-limits to ghost-hunting.  His technical knack kept them supplied with work-bench knock-offs of cutting-edge equipment, often made better with useful innovations added.

Compton also drew spirits.  With him along, activity spiked.  Leave him home and exploring dilapidated houses and abandoned factories, asylums, hospitals, bars, hotels, or other businesses became tedious, dangerous endurance tests.

Suspicious that Compton sweetened the sites or rigged equipment to act up were expressed and checked.  No one had found the slightest evidence supporting notions of cheating.

Compton even welcomed inspections of his machines, and accepted gladly the buddy system, which he called the spy system.  Backup technicians operating the monitor board or debriefing the sensors was great, too, in his opinion.

His one foible passed unremarked beyond occasional good-natured teasing, or had before the ghost hunt in Fechte’s Mansion ended by their leader, Kurt, opening the house’s back door in time to spot Compton and the cute blonde girl naked and thrusting in the gazebo.

Running to the middle of the yard, Kurt pounded on the lattice surrounding the gazebo’s base and yelled Compton’s name until the man himself, fully clothed if still zipping and buttoning, stepped down from the gazebo to stop the noise.

“What?”  Compton smiled, all innocence until he winked.

“You’re out of the group.  This is ridiculous.  I’ve had enough—“

“Never knew you had any.  Are you speaking for the group all the sudden? Thought we voted.”  Compton played to the others, who stood near the house’s back door watching this confrontation amusedly.  “I don’t remember any vote.  Just because you’re a dried-up old prude—“

“Who you calling old?”

“What do you care, as long as I do my job?  Tell me that.  What does it matter to you if I have a good time, too?  We all work hard in our day jobs and this is our break from all that.”

“I’ve had it.  You’re a distraction.  Not to mention a liability if a property owner gets wind of your, your shenanigans.”

“Shenanigans?  What if I told you Mary and I—“

“Get out of here.  Seriously, or—“

“Or?  Or what?  Or you’ll what, call the cops?  Report what?  One of your ghost hunters was getting lucky?  Having consensual sex with—

“With a girl young enough to be his daughter.”

“How old do you think I am?  Bull shit, Karl, she’s of age, she’s in college like the rest of them, a sophomore for—“

“Look at yourself.  Have you?  Ever?  I mean, take a good long look at what a joke you’ve become since you were in college.  Remember way back then?  Long time ago, and you’ve gotten no—“

“What I do makes your little group possible.  If I leave, you have nothing, and you know it.”

“We’ll see about that.”

Compton turned to the group.  “You people think all this is over.  I’m starting my own group as of right this second.  You’re all welcome.  If you’d rather hang with him—“  He gestured rudely toward Karl, whose desperate expression had worsened to death’s head intensity.  “If you’d rather see how long he can roll on empty inertia, no hard feelings.  Come find me once you see reason.”

Compton and the blonde, now dressed and by his side, walked away holding hands.

At the yard’s edge, wrought-iron gate half open, Compton paused.  He turned back.  “I want all my stuff back.  That includes the equipment I made and the cases too.”

He and the girl strolled from the old house as if on a carefree date, even swinging linked hands and skipping a few times, each tossing back their head in a laugh.

They appeared to vanish as dark between streetlights took them whole.  They re-materialized at the next cone of pale light.

They were not seen after that.


Twenty years of them missing passed.


The local ghost hunter group shattered and scattered that night, when Compton left, most graduating to less juvenile pursuits as life took hold with the teeth of marriages, babies, responsibilities.  A few joined other ghost hunting groups.  It was a kind of addiction, they admitted.  Thrill of the chase, despite catching so very little.

Karl Demerest left Compton’s equipment, packed neatly, on the man’s front porch the next morning.  It was seen sitting there a week later so one of the group took possession of it, pending Compton’s return.  Small town etiquette prevailed, along with honesty, in those days.

Karl shut himself away and died a few months later, any regrets kept to himself and never mentioned by those surviving him.


During the two decades of Compton’s absence most who’d known him, especially those who’d prowled old places in the dark with him, holding his instruments, trusting his backup, talked of him fondly, now and then speculating on what had happened to him, whether he’d eloped or if Demerest had jumped on him by accident or malice, and the cute blonde, had he married or dumped her, lost her to another?  Such chat amused them over dinner or when a campfire or the passion for the latest investigation burned low.

“Maybe the girl was a ghost.”

“Nah, he brought her with him that night, remember?”

“No one knew her, did they?”

“She might have been a new transfer.”

“Anyone hear her talk?  Ever?  Maybe she was an exchange student, shy of the language.”

“I think she was a ghost, took him into the spirit world.”

That last became the running, mild joke about what had probably happened to Compton.  It was a good way of dealing with doubt.


Compton’s return to their lives came when he appeared on their TV screens.  He’d become the host and head ghost hunter for a cable show.  He and four others, including the blonde, who’d married him, scampered all over various spooky locations seeking evidence of hants.

A buzz sparked through town.  Excitement peaked when Compton announced on his show that he would bring his ghost hunting group to his home town.  “I intend to finish the one unfinished investigation of my career.”  This captured his old group’s imagination and earned them drinks or meals in local night spots in exchange for their increasingly-detailed reminiscences of the good old days, and what Compton was really like.

Compton did not breeze into town, he drove sedately.  He arrived a week ahead of any scheduled events.  Two days of prep and three nights of shooting were planned.  Over the week his team came separately, as did the TV production crew.  Compton and the blonde, whose name turned out to be Mary for those who’d forgotten, drove through town nodding, waving, and smiling at acquaintances and familiar faces in a three-year-old Jeep Patriot with 175,000+ miles on it.

“No limo?” wags asked.  “No big SUV?”

“Where’s yer hummer?” one joker called, adding, “Oh, there she is,” making Compton laugh.

He and Mary stayed at the local Day’s Inn, ate at local diners and small restaurants, including fast food places, ordered pizza, and generally hung with the blue collar crowd.  At the diner Compton was buttonholed by a local newspaper reporter and asked why he was eating there.  “Love the chili here, best I’ve ever had.  It’s better than I remembered it.”  It was as good as a paid TV ad and the place tripled in business.

He also visited with old friends, sometimes meeting them, other times going to their places.

“We’re not rich, no.  Never even been to Hollywood.”  He laughed.  “The production company’s part mine, part an investment syndicate out of Boston.  We’re trying to do solid documenting of the paranormal.  No scripts or hokey reaction shots, no fake cliff-hangers before every ad spot.”  He sipped some beer.  “We genuinely explore those places.  We show what happens, even if it’s nothing.”

“What are you reading these days?  Do you read up on ghosts?  A lot of new ghost books out.”  The reporter was young and obviously a fan.

Compton shook his head.  “Nah.  I’m reading Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon right now.  He should win a Nobel.  I try to keep business and down time separate.  Clears the head, sharpens the senses.”

No one he and Mary talked with walked away disliking them.  He met the mayor and police chief and regional sheriff, pleasing them all.  The mayor liked the publicity and commerce, the cops liked the cooperative, inclusive attitude toward security.

No one anticipated what Compton would find at the old Fechte Mansion, although many joked he might have to deal with the angry ghost of his old team leader Karl Demerest.  “Doubt he’s cooled down yet, being in hell and all,” went the joke.

Mary, who remembered that night well, doubted it.  “We’re married.  We eloped that night, in fact.  If he’s still there in spirit, he could hardly object now.”

She blushed and said nothing when asked if she and Compton planned to re-enact the gazebo incident, as it was long since referred to.  “It’s still there,” she was assured, in knowing tones.  A local pop group had a local hit with a song called, “Rickety Old Gazebo”.

Compton reassembled as many of the old team as possible, Karl having died and one other having moved away.  A cousin of the missing member filled in, keeping things in the family.

They joined his current team to become a force of eleven.

That first night of investigation, a festival atmosphere prevailed in town.  Deputies kept gawkers back, the TV crew set up and worked professionally, and Compton kept the town crowd happy when he was free, and otherwise led the teams through the premises following as precisely as possible the original walk-through Karl had organized and directed.

Everyone agreed it was a great night.  It produced a number of EVPs, some anomalous lights, a shadow person glimpsed peering around a doorframe, even an apport thrown at Mary, an old yellow Ticonderoga No. 2 school pencil.  Whose teeth marks dented it remained unknown.

The second night, Compton’s new team alone tackled the place with their new equipment.  Laser grids, sensor arrays, subsonic sound-net scanners, EMF wands, and other esoteric machines provided amazing new opportunities for spirits to make themselves known, or for ghosts to be caught doing the gazebo, as some joked.  “Gonna get one mid ghostly thrust,” one crew member quipped, another immediately asking if he was carrying tissues to wipe up the ectoplasmic spurt.

Those following the show’s progress and getting to interact with Compton and his team mates, who had fans themselves among the townies,  declared themselves well pleased.

No one anticipated what was looming.


“Third night’s a charm,” Compton declared, smiling into the camera.  “I’m hoping we stir up a full-body apparition or achieve intelligent communication with a spirit.”

“So do your producers,” someone called, provoking laughter even from Compton, who nodded in agreement.

“That’d be great.  It is a TV show so of course we’re always hoping for telegenic activity.  I know it can get annoying, all the nothing we find, or the subtle, subjective EVPs.”

“What the hell’s that?” someone mocked, breathlessly, mimicking the hokey go-to-commercial break markers over-used by too many ghost hunt shows.  Another joker yelled, “Stop.  No running.”

“You could rediscover orbs.”  This from the print reporter, looking young, shy, and sly.

Compton laughed, rolled his eyes.  Being a pro, he took the opportunity to dump some factoids.  “Genuine orbs are rare, give off their own light.  The rest is dust and bugs and camera artifacts.  Same with rods.  Just bugs zipping past the lens too fast for the camera to resolve.”

“So, anyway.”  He pointed at a camera, then to his nose, and the cameraman nodded and flashed a thumb’s up.  “The first night both teams went in.  The second night, my TV team went in.  Tonight, I plan to go in alone.”  He glanced at Mary and gave her a smile.  “It’s not something I usually do but I want to experience this place, its energy, for myself.”

“Just so you come back out,” Mary said, loud enough to be heard by the microphones.

Laughter crackled through the crowd, some of it nervous.


Compton went in alone carrying a full spectrum still camera and a GoPro.  When he wanted to comment, he would turn the hand-held cam toward his face and talk to the audience.  Otherwise, it showed what he saw, which, in the dark mansion, was not much.

He had decided against an infrared camera on the grounds that it was one camera too many and he wanted the still to take shots of each room in hopes of capturing shadow people or spirits manifesting.  While infrared worked well for spotting cats, rats, and other vermin, or marks where people had touched, or sat, it was of less use in spotting actual ghosts.  For that, ultraviolet was better.  “We’re not interested in cold or hot spots tonight.”  He explained all this to the audience as he crept into the foyer, pausing at the base of the staircase for a 360° panorama.

A thump sounded.  “Security, is everything clear?  Am I alone in here?”

“Roger that, swept it just now.  You’re on your own.”

Compton walked past the base of the staircase toward the kitchen, passing a parlor on his left.  Something fluttered past the right edge of the frame and he stopped.  The cam’s viewpoint swept up to show the empty stairs.  “No one, nothing,” he muttered.

A blur of motion indicated him stooping and retrieving what fell.

“It’s a photograph of a little boy in a Hallowe’en skeleton outfit.”  He held it before the camera.  “Seems old.  Curled at the edges, a little grimy.”

He poked around in the parlor, tried some EVP work using a small digital recorder, then went to the kitchen.  A lack of activity sent him back to the stairs, which he climbed slowly, doing commentary about how weather, particularly humidity, or storms with lightning, affected hauntings.

“Underground rivers can do this, too, by producing electron flow, as oceans and waterfalls do with ozone.   A haunting can be enhanced, or strengthened, by deposits of quartz nearby as well, which tend to hold piezoelectric charges.  Any way a spirit field can condense energy helps the manifestations of what we call ghosts.”

A metallic chink stopped his rote monologue.

He took the last few stairs quickly and scanned the floor, finding a length of charm bracelet with a single charm on it just inside the doorway of a bedroom.  It was the so-called round room, located in a rear tower.

“I saw the flash of this falling out of the corner of my eye.”  Compton picked up the charm.

Most agree that was when his voice changed.  “I, uh.  This is.  This is… interesting.  Uh.  I’m pretty sure I’ve… uh.”

He said no more and did little more than flash the charm on camera.  It seemed to upset him, most agreed.  Entering the round room, he began walking around its perimeter, doing timid EVP work by asking neutral, vague questions.  “I’m here, uh.  Are you?” and “We could talk, couldn’t we?”

Compton moved slowly until he came to the closet door.  He commented about it being cut to match the curve of the room.  “They don’t do work like this anymore.”  He paused, seemingly out-of-breath.  “It’s like the Oval Office in the White House or Jefferson’s estate, Monticello.”  He scanned the door top to bottom.

As the camera showed the bottom of the door something slipped partway out from under it.

Compton gasped and stepped away, at once stepping back toward it and bending to see what it was.  He pulled it and it seemed to resist, then came out, and he held it for the camera to see.  It was a photograph of a young woman.  “You,” he whispered.

He grasped the handle and opened the door, calling out, “Show yourself,” and at once yelling in surprise and falling back.

In the closet a young man stood.  He wore a black hoodie, black jeans, and black sneakers.  His face, hidden in shadow, showed only glaring eyes.  Something gleamed in his right hand.

“What are you doing in here?”

“Looking for my Daddy.”  The voice was deep, a teenager’s smoker voice, rough and snarling.


“Wouldn’t do that, Dad.  Not unless you want everyone to know.”


“The little boy trick-or-treating is me, Da.  The charm, you should recognize that.”

Compton held the charm up again, letting it dangle in the camera’s frame for a moment before the camera lowers to face the floor.  The rest is audio only.

“Yes.  I remember it.  I gave it to her.”

“Do you remember her name, even?  Or was she just another little ghost hunt fuck-bunny to help you spurt some ectoplasm?  Aren’t those your terms?  Say her name.”

That last yelled, angry.

Compton cleared his throat.  “Maria.”


“Monica, yes.  Monica.  I misspoke.”

“She died, you know.  Cancer.  Spoke about you, followed your career even before you went national.”

“I didn’t know.  Why didn’t she—“

“Why would she have let you know?  You didn’t give a fuck.  Or maybe a fuck, a single quick dirty little closet fuck, was all you had to give.”

A pause, then Compton said, “Put that down.  It’s ridiculous.”

“Is it?  Now you can be a ghost, too.  Unseen, unheard, invisible.  Kept in the shadows.  See how you like it.”

A small click was heard.  Given the explosive sound of a gun going off roaring an instant later, the click was likely the gun’s hammer being pulled back.

The camera dropped, bounced once, and showed a nearby baseboard.  A shadow crossed this baseboard.

Security by that time was sent in by producers, who had given Compton the benefit of the doubt, in consideration of how rapt the video held the gathered townsfolk.

“This is great TV,” one was heard to say.

“Which room, which room?”  Security was running all over the house.

“Upstairs, round room, you face it when you hit the top of the stairs.”

“Got the camera.”

The picture moves, blurring and spinning.  It is then turned off, going black.

Further communication was through security walkie-talkies.

“Is he all right?”

“Nothing here, boss.  Just the camera.”

“Check the closet.”

“It’s hanging open.  Empty.”

“Under the bed, check everywhere.”

After a pause:  “Nope, he’s not here.”


As it turned out, the episode never aired.

Compton was never seen again.  No sign of the kid in the hoodie was ever found.

There was no blood at the scene.

Many put it down to a bizarre publicity stunt but for what?  No one could ever answer that question.

Mary, despondent, filed for divorce and his death certificate the same day, seven years later.  Both were granted in due course, so she inherited his estate, which was not much by then.

Internet whispers accused her of murder, collusion, or worse, but she ignored them.  Without substance, gossip remained the pastime of idiots.

The Fechte Mansion remains standing, crumbling worse than ever.  Local kids sneak in, risking broken bones and hard falls to scare themselves with self-induced shadows and misperceived sounds.  They swear they sometimes hear a bracelet drop, or a quiet click of a gun being cocked.  They swear there are several shadow people there who often pass by windows or block beams from flashlights.  They swear the place is haunted.

It is like many an abandoned, dilapidated place in many a town or city, shadowy and alone, a place ghosts might well be stuck, unseen, unheard, ignored by the rest of us most of the time.


Three years after Compton vanished so dramatically his widow, Mary, while enjoying a book and cup of Darjeeling in the bay window of her house, jumped when, into the gutter of her book, between pages 100 and 101, a length of charm bracelet bearing a single charm fell.

It fell out of the air, an apport.

Cold all over, she flushed with warmth as she picked it up to examine it.  A half-inch high die-cast sculpture of the bust of a man’s head reminded her of Compton, her lost husband.  She had to get a magnifying glass to read the inscription on the bottom.

“I’m sorry and I am always near.”

She wore it on a chain around her neck from then on.

///  ///  ///

appeared in Stories of Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Horror, edited by Robert N. Stephenson, Altair Press

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In Defense of (Good) Conspiracy Theory

Donald Trump, Alex Jones, and Sean Hannity give conspiracy theories a bad odor by being empty, shallow, and stupid.
Genuine conspiracy exists, all over the place. It’s how people-shaped things, corporations, and political parties get along.
Those outside the conspiracy see effects of it but aren’t privy to how it works, so they theorize how it MIGHT work. Hare-brained idiot theories obviously make no sense and don’t count, but sensible suggestions about nepotism, connections, and networked favors certainly advance understanding of how, for example, a hated minority, the right wing, wields such disproportionate power.
When 89% want universal single-payer health-care, inexpensive medicine, and legal use of plants, yet the strident minority of crazies who profiteer from preventing such things continue being able to prevent them, you must admit there is conspiring going on, and yet, you’re not an insider, so you don’t know.
Is it jebus or some other magical super duper hero? Is it space aliens? Is it secret societies with headquarters on the Moon?
Or is it just sequenced, entrenched corruption from kick-backs, bribery, and lobby money flowing like what was once actual drinkable tap-water?  Aren’t collusion, corruption, bribery, blackmail, and malfeasance a lot more sensible as explanations for otherwise seemingly-senseless states of being?
Theorize well, or get the motherfucking fuck out of the theory game entirely. Trump, Jones, Hannity, Beck, Limbaugh, and all the other red-faced bloated shouters if idiocy need to drop dead and let some of us actual sane people be heard for once.
Oh, you mean their noise is intended to keep rational analysis nearly impossible to hear clearly?
Imagine that.
Must be those fucking space alien loch ness monster bigfoot ghost super duper heroes again.
/ geste


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Start Wreck & Dock Terhoo


STAR TREK failed utterly as science fiction. Why? Just the transporter or tractor beam technology spawned worlds of implications they never mentioned, let alone pursued or exploited for plots and cool scenes. How about the food maker? Apparently they could combine atoms into molecules into actual items. WTF? It never struck them how incredible the ramifications of that would be? Look at what mere 3D printers are doing as they proliferate through the population. Need more trilithium crystals? MAKE SOME, Scotty, and stop talking like that.

How about asking why they fired torpedos, or operated, (except in one famous scene) all in one up-down plane? It’s ludicrous, how badly STAR TREK went for cliché TV scripts when it might easily have dazzled weekly.

As Fred Pohl once observed, not one SF story from 1920 on caught the rather obvious implication of how cars becoming common, which was a frequent story-line, would transform courtship and baby-making. Thinking things through is a fine art.

Compare and contrast START WRECK to DOCTOR WHO, a show with cardboard backdrops that packed a dozen mind-bending cool concepts into each scene and navigated through episodes as if trying every time out to break the viewer’s ability to keep up. That was conceptual SF at its best.

Do not even mention that Lucas dreck, pure plagiarized echolalia in bad fantasy mode. Didn’t even try for SF, nor pay Frank Herbert, let alone Joseph Campbell’s estate.

///  ///  ///

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Zombie Memes R Us

Try this: If they’re zombies, then they’re already dead, yet you have to kill them again, in a certain set of ways, or they keep after you. This postulates a viral form of “life” or “lifeforce” on a lower level and perhaps distinct from the one animating them while they were originally alive in a non-zombie way.
In NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, Romero used the tap-dance excuse of a meteor, with the implication of some strange radiation. Okay, then it’s the rads, or the space virus, or infection brought to Earth that animates the corpses, and turns people into shambling, implacable things of hunger.
So it’s the infection, not really the dead bodies, being fought. Zombies are more ANDROMEDA STRAIN than supernatural, thus are science fiction, not horror, albeit usually handled with horror style.
Zombies today are NOT the traditional zombie from Haiti’s cane fields. Those were living people dosed with chemicals to induce a death-like state from which they could be revived. Once revived they lacked any will and were desensitized to physical pain, thus perfect for working long cruel hours as slaves.
Zombies were slaves, originally. Same as the Replicants in BLADE RUNNER, Ridley Scott’s version of PKD’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, a novel much more pointedly satirizing consumerism and where that will lead. Scott made it into a paen to slave revolts, paralleling GLADIATOR and SPARTACUS.
Zombies have changed. Not only from slaves to a plague but from shamblers to runners. In 28 DAYS LATER, Alex Garland gave us fast, feral zombies. Again it was a plague, but the resultant threat was like a zoo’s worst predators unleashed en masse.
Zombies seem to be the threat-du-jour, able to change as society’s anxieties shift. Right now Zombies are trumpers, the GOP right wing conservative greed, fear, & hate cutltsts, and we are besieged by bigotry.  Zombies are memes, you see.  Ideas spread in viral concentric circles of infection.
Zombies R Us.
/ Art Wester
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Me & Elves & Me


As to glimpses from windows, when I was 4 and 5, I used to watch what I called The Faeries outside, through my bedroom window, late at night. They’d play and work in our yard then, and often noticed me and tried to get me to come out to “play” with them. Once one came over to press its forehead to the window right in front of me and, as I was doing the same, being unafraid, my mother walked in, saw it, and screamed blue murder. Never mentioned it later, though.

Another time my younger sister and I were playing in that same back yard on an overcast autumnal day when we heard a “hello” from the fringe of woods at the bottom of our orchard. Yes, it was an orchard house. Anyhow, we yelled back and pretty soon this voice was claiming to be a dolphin who wanted to play with us. We kept glimpsing grey skin and big eyes, so we thought it was a dolphin. I was even aware enough to ask if it needed water and it immediately said yes, that’s why it wanted to take us to its pool to have fun, claiming it was warm water, very nice. My younger sister was all for this, but I got wary and backed off, dragging her with me. We went inside and told my mother, who bolted the door and had us play inside the rest of that month.

My youngest son, 26 now, reported seeing what he said was a small elf in our back yard here, leaning up against the base of our oak. I asked if he was sure it wasn’t a squirrel, and he assured me it was not, and, given what I’d experienced, I believed him.

My father, while driving a semi, one morning saw what he said was clearly an elf, complete with green suit of leaves and pointy hat, gamboling along the line of trees as he drove through early morning mist. He said he slowed down and got a good look, then figured maybe he was going crazy. The frolicking elf looked at him, he said, and smiled, then just scampered amazingly fast into the woods and was gone. Very strange. My father, understand, was a pragmatic realist, and when he told me about this he was shy and asked after the story, “So, do you think I’m crazy, or what?” He was genuinely worried. I assured him what he’d seen was actually kinda common.

My childhood and my father’s experience are from W. PA, while my son’s sighting was here in NE. We also saw trolls and gnomes in the Black Forest in Germany on a hike. Scared my wife.

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