Monday, April 30, 2012

The Ending

We must start at a beginning
not the very first but just one
in a great big bag of them

The middle fills in the rest
until we get to our destination
where everything comes together
into one last moment
of clarity


In a meal the main course is key
but in a work of creation
the end is the dessert, one last
sweet spot of vision

What if that sweet turns sour?
The taste
never leaves
your
tongue

Those last moments
burn or freeze
forever staying
with the reader

No moment
more important
no scene
more essential
than
the
last.


*****
Today is the last day of National Poetry Month (since tomorrow is May).  In honor of the last day of the month here are some good places to go for more poetry.  Check them out to continue to feed your poetry fix.  I also recommend wandering the internet on poetry/writing blogs.  You can find some nice treasures hidden within the smaller spaces.

Poetry Foundation
http://www.poetryfoundation.org/

Poets.org
http://www.poets.org/

Poetry.com
http://www.poetry.com/

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Game Inspection: Prototype

Hey Gang,
(Still need to come up with some kind of weird nickname for you guys)

I decided to stop playing Mass Effect 3 for a few minutes (hard to do since it is so amazing) to post.  As I mentioned in a previous post the weekend is generally my time to unwind from the stress of my day job.  What does that mean?  It means I play a lot of video games, role-playing games, pool, and generally avoid writing stuff.  However, I don't want to completely abandon you guys during the weekend so I decided I'm going to post smaller simpler posts.

This means every Saturday and Sunday going forward I will have something for you.  If you are only interested in my fiction or poetry feel free to ignore anything I post on Saturday or Sunday.  Monday through Friday will be the main focus of the blog.  Saturday and Sunday is going to be extra stuff as the mood strikes me.  Each post during the weekend will cover one of five topics

1) Video Games
2) Role-playing Games
3) Writing
4) Blogging
5) Random Internet Stuff

Why didn't I post something yesterday?  See above.  I'm telling you, Mass Effect 3 is amazing.  It is easily one of the best games I have ever played.  Why?  I'll discuss it more after I beat it.

With all of that said I'm starting a little section today called "Game Inspection".  It is kind of like a review but much shorter and focused on my particular thoughts on a game as both an avid gamer and a writer.  If you want a full on review the internet is full of them.  Game inspection is going to be more about examining certain elements of the game that I feel are important to examine.  I love games and in another life I probably would have tried to go into game design.

So today we are going to start with the game Prototype.  I just beat it for my friend the other day and it sadly suffered from the same problem that a lot of games.  I played it on my Xbox 360.

If you want to play the game and don't want any spoilers I suggest you stop reading.

Point of no return is right about....here....

Alright, so the he general premise of the game is pretty neat.  You wake up in the morgue and you are horribly changed with some kind of strange infection.  Bunch of story stuff happens (nothing that thrilling sadly) and then you are running around the city with crazy powers.

The game starts out super fun but sadly loses a lot of its enjoyment along the way.  Why?  They give you super powers but then gradually weaken those powers by making the enemies super strong and difficult to fight.

I hate it when games do this.  If you give me super cool powers you better let me enjoy them the whole game.  The fun factor needs to stay constant or at least it needs to win out the war.

The war with what you may ask?  Frustration.  Every video game has a Fun to Frustration scale.  A really good game has the scale completely broken and stuck on fun.  Sadly most games aren't broken so beautifully these days.  Most are a tricky balancing act between the fun present in the system and the frustration of dealing with the obstacles thrown at you.

Prototype starts off great but the balancing act gets broken in the wrong way.  As the game goes forward it becomes less and less fun.  I don't want to work for my fun.  More game companies need to remember this fact.

Do I want every game to be super easy?  No.  However, I feel game developers have been putting too much focus lately on the wrong things.  Difficulty is something to consider but I feel it is much lower on the scale of things to worry about.  I would much rather have a good story, and solid control scheme over an artificial difficulty used to mostly pad out the length of the game.

Did I still enjoy Prototype?
Yes.

However, it could have been a lot more fun if they focused on keeping things fun a bit longer instead of forcing the player to deal with a bunch of tedious super swarms of enemies.

With that said I'm looking forward to Prototype 2. The reviews are mixed for it but from what I've seen the developers have put a lot of focus on keeping things fun.  Some reviews say it is too easy but I don't really consider that a bad thing.  Just let me glide around and fight enemies with crazy powers.  Everything else will take care of itself if you let it.

Friday, April 27, 2012

A Little Push


“You call that imagery?  That’s bullshit!  I’ve seen better imagery from 4th graders!  Are you writing a novel or a god damn greeting card?”

This was not what Gabe expected.  He didn’t really know what to expect but it certainly wasn’t this.  She was mean.  Really, really mean.

“Ah, come on.  It’s not that bad…”

“Not that bad?  Not that bad?  I’ve seen monkeys throw words together into a better story structure than your current nonsense.  Why is Father Grissom at the bar?  That doesn’t make any sense!”

“It does so!  He’s there because he expects Denise is in trouble and she’s an alcoholic!”

“Your plot is moronic and your characters are shallow shells of real human beings.  Your implementation of character emotion in particular is childish at best.”

Why was she so mean?  He had paid good money.  It wasn’t supposed to be this way was it?

“Is not!  My characterization is fine!”

“Fine, Shakespeare, read me a line and prove it.”

Why did they make her so pretty?  How was that going to help with anything?
“Fine, I’ll read a line.”  Gabe spent a moment looking through the scene and found something good.  “Denise was sitting alone at one of the tables.  She already had a drink in front of her.  She was obviously sad sighing into her drink.  She wasn’t paying attention to the room.  Her heaving bosom gave away her deep despair even though her face was icy with lack of emotion.”

The stern woman slapped Gabe.

“What the hell?  What was that?”

“That was a slap, Einstein.”

What?  How was that even possible?  How did her hand connect to his face?  It didn’t make sense.

“But…but….”

“God, you are even more worthless than I thought.  The hologram emitter can solidify the light waves into a hardened field for short bursts as necessary.  This design feature has been part of the main program since version 5.3.  Did you even read my instructions?”

“I…umm….skimmed them….”

The Holographic Entrenched Language Generation Assistant or HELGA mimicked the human expression of disappointment.  She even sighed.  It was amazing how lifelike all of her movements were.  She almost seemed like a real woman.

“No wonder your novel is going nowhere.  You have no discipline.  You can’t even be bothered to spend a few minutes learning how to operate me.  I’m glad you don’t have a girlfriend.  Otherwise I’m sure she would be equally disappointed.”

“What the hell is wrong with you?  Why are you so cruel?”

Gabe just kind of blurted it out.  In hindsight he realized that arguing with an AI was really silly.  However, the question had already escaped his lips.

“Cruel?  You are the cruel one.  Every minute I spend here is a wasted minute that I could be using on someone much more deserving.  You have no focus.  You haven’t even asked me why I slapped you yet.  Don’t you think that question is important?”

She was right.  He was getting distracted.  However, he felt pretty justified about the whole thing.  He bought a hologram to help him write and one of the first things she did was slap him.  It really didn’t seem to make a lot of sense.  Maybe her program was glitch or something.

“Fine.  Why did you slap me?”

“Show, don’t tell.  Your word choice was atrocious.  I assessed the situation and determined that physical violence was the best course of action based off the quality of your writing.”

“Are you kidding me?  Seriously?  You slapped me because you didn’t like the words that I used?”

Helga shook her holographic head.

“No.  I slapped you because I hated the words that you used.  They were awful.  Don’t just tell me that Denise is sad.  Show me.  Make me truly see the sad woman drinking alone, trying to purge away her life one cup at a time.  Also, there was no logical reason to mention her breasts and yet you did so.  I can only assume you did so because you talked about her breasts earlier in the story.  However, her breasts are not a defining characteristic of her character.  They are just something attached to her body.  Would you casually throw in unrelated mentions about her ears in the same fashion?  If not, don’t do it.”

“Oh.  Well…you might bring up some good points…but you still slapped me!  That isn’t cool.  If I wanted to get slapped around I would have bought something else!  I bought you to help me write.”

“I know.  That’s what I’m doing, dumb ass.  You’re just a terrible writer who thinks the world owes him.  Due to that fact you are insufferable and your characters suffer as a result.”

“What!  That’s bullshit.”

She rolled his eyes at him.  What the hell?  Why was the hologram rolling her eyes?  Alright, something had to be wrong.  Some tech or something must have been in the system and messing with him.  No AI could be programmed to act this way.  He had paid such good money too.

“It really isn’t.  I’m doing what I have been programmed to do.  This is user error.  You just don’t want to hear it.”

“Well, we’ll see about that.”

Gabe looked in the manual and found the number for tech support.

“I’m telling you, I’m working fine.  You’re the problem, here, buddy.”

“Shut up!”

“Fine, have it your way.”

She rolled her holographic eyes again and then crossed her arms.  It took Gabe a few minutes to actually get on the line with a fellow human being.

“…and what seems to be the problem today, Gabe?”

“I’ll tell you what the god damn problem is!  I just bought a Helga Version 6.1 to help me work on my novel and there is something very wrong with her!”

The man on the other side of the line laughed.  His name was Andy.

“First time Helga user, huh?”

“Yeah…so…so what?  What does that have to do with anything?”

“Let me guess.  She’s acting super bitchy and giving you a hard time, right?”

“Ummm….yeah….actually….”

“Yeah, don’t worry about that.  That just means she’s working as intended.”

“Are you shitting me?”

“Absolutely not.  Trust me.  She’s supposed to be like that.”

“She’s supposed to be a bitch?”

Gabe practically yelled it.  He ended up saying it much louder than he expected.  Helga from across the room simply smiled over at him when he said it.

“Well, yeah.  Like I said, she is working as intended.  Now, if you aren’t happy with her you still qualify for the money back guarantee of course so we can talk about…”

“Why?”

“Excuse me, sir?”

“Why did you program her to be….well….as she is….”

“Didn’t read the manual, did you champ?”

“I….umm….skimmed it….”

Andy laughed again.  It was a pretty genuine sounding laugh for someone in customer service.

“We tried making her nice at first.  She wasn’t nearly as effective.  Barely helped with deadlines, quality of the final works only modified slightly.  We then had one malfunction and the writer called us up raving about the experience.  You know Dwight Martin?”

“Yeah….”

“It was him.”

“No shit?  He’s huge now.  His latest was amazing.”

“That’s because we changed the algorithms.  We learned that some writers do well with positive reinforcement but many more flourished with a bitchy taskmaster.”

Gabe looked over at Helga.  She pointed to a holographic watch on her left arm.

“Why did you make her so pretty?”

“Most writers spend a lot of time alone.  This way your taskmaster is at least pleasant to look at since you’re going to be spending hours with her.  At the same time we have done studies that show that it increases your stress level.  That increased stress is converted into nervous energy which can then go into fueling your writing.”

“Oh…wow…ummm…weird question…what if I was a woman or gay?  Is that umm…figured in somewhere?”

“Oh, absolutely.  We are strong supporters of equal opportunity here at HHA.  We don’t discriminate in our hiring practices or customer satisfaction.  We have HANS for anyone that will do better with a male writing assistant.”

“Interesting…”

“So, Mr. Scott, is there anything else that you need today?  Will you returning Helga for a refund or would you like to maybe try out Hans or…”

“No, no.  I think I’m good.  Thanks.  Sorry for taking up your time.”

“No problem at all.  Feel free to call back if you have any future concerns.”

“I will.  Thanks.”

Gabe hung up the phone and looked at his new assistant.  He still just couldn’t believe her.

“Are you just going to stare at me all night like a pervert or are we going to get some work done?”

Gabe smiled.

“Shut up.  We have work to do.”

The holographic woman in front of him smiled back.  Gabe knew it was just part of some subroutine in her program but it was still reassuring.  She was very well designed.

“About damn time.”

*****
Is it still National Poetry Month?  Is it still April?

*Checks calendar*

Looks like it on both accounts.  What does that mean?

It means more poetry of course.

http://www.alcoholicpoet.com/2012/04/measuring-gods.html

The poem link today is for the blog Alcoholic Poet.  Please go check it out and continue to check out more poetry in honor of the month.

Thanks!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Punch Me


“Punch me in the face as hard as you can.”

The middle aged man listened to Luke’s instructions.  They all did of course.  Luke didn’t give them a choice in the matter.

Luke was pretty sure he was a lawyer.  He looked the part.  Late 40s to early 50s, graying hair, well fed, expensive suit, nice watch, good teeth.  Luke felt sick to his stomach just looking at him.

Of course it also could have been the punch.  He was now feeling pretty dizzy.  Guy must work out.  Didn’t look like it but that punch had some real juice behind it.

The man’s eyes lost their glaze.

“Holy shit!” the man exclaimed justifiably shocked.

Luke had to act the part.  He was awesome at it.

“What the hell?  You punched me!  What’s your problem man?”

Luke held his face acting the part of the victim.  He would be well bruised for quite a while.

“I…I don’t….I mean…I don’t know…Oh god.  I’m so sorry, son.”

“Son?  I ain’t your son.  I was just standing here washing my god damn hands and then you came along and sucker punched me.  What kind of shit is that?”

The lawyer looked around the room, obviously trying to make sense of the situation.  He was frantic.  Luke almost felt bad for him.  Then again, he was a lawyer.

He tried to compose himself.  He did better than Luke expected.  He must have been a pretty decent lawyer.  Good to know for the future.

“Look here, this is obviously some kind of strange misunderstanding.  I mean, my hand hurts, but I can’t think of any reason I would punch you so…”

“Are you shitting me?  You just did!  I was just chit chatting with you about the weather and then you just attacked me like a madman.  Now you’re claiming you didn’t?  You’re messed up, man.”

The words had been said.  They didn’t exchange words before Luke’s instructions.  However, now the man’s perceptions were changed.  He would fully believe Luke’s story.  That was just the way of things.

“I really don’t know what happened.  I can’t imagine me getting so upset that I would strike you like that but obviously I did.  God.  I just don’t know what to say.”

Luke continued to stroke his face.

“Well, I don’t think anything is broken but this is still super messed up.  I think I’m going to call the cops.  This is just too weird, man.”

Luke took his cell phone out of his pocket.  The lawyer quickly countered.

“Now, son, I think we can avoid that.  Sorry, not son, but…”

The lawyer waited for Luke to provide a name.

“Ben.” Luke said enjoying the simplicity of the lie.

“Well, Ben, my name is Harrison and I’m sure we can work something out here without getting the police involved.”

Luke shook his head.

“I don’t know.  I really feel we should call the cops here.  I’m not going to lie.  I’m still pretty damn scared.  If you didn’t have such a nice suit I’d probably be freaking the hell out even more.  Are you having problems at home or something man?  Did you just snap or something?  I mean, shit, what did I say?”

Harrison shook his head.

“Still not sure.  Something just…umm…happened I guess…”

“Not really giving me a lot of confidence here, sport.”

“Look, I’m a lawyer.  We don’t want to put this through the courts.  It’s just going to be a pain in the ass for both of us.  Plus it’s just a case of my word against yours.  It would just get messy.”

Luke put on his best “I don’t know about this” face.  He was awesome at that too.

“What are you proposing, Harrison?”

“Why don’t I just give you some cash and we both walk away?  Nice and easy.”

Luke smiled.  It was always fun to see what was offered.  Cash was always the most common suggestion of course.  However, other things were offered as barter just as commonly.  He bagged a couple of twins once from a particularly desperate father.  Much more fun than cash.

“I don’t know, man.  This is still really messed up.  How much are you talking?”

Harrison took out his wallet.  He counted out his bills.

“I can give you $320.”

Damn lawyers.  Who carried that much cash on them?  He had to pay just on principle.

“Throw in the watch and you’ve got a deal.”

Harrison looked down at the watch.

“Are you insane?  This is a Rolex from my wife…”

Luke gritted his teeth.  Lawyers.  They just didn’t like to admit defeat did they?  It was going to cost him.  He could have just escaped $320 down.  Now, he had signed his fate.

“You’re cheating on her with some busty legal secretary anyway.  You know the one.  The one that you are always harassing.  Everyone in the firm knows.  They just don’t have the heart to tell your poor suffering wife.  It’s all a shame though.  You know your wife is cheating on you with the lawn guy.  He provides her with the type of satisfaction that you can never provide.  You don’t really need the watch now do you?  It’s just going to remind you of her.  You’re just going to tell her it was stolen while the guilt slowly eats away at you.”

Harrison nodded.  He had heard everything but he would not remember it.  His perceptions were changed.  He would only remember the change, not the instructions bringing them about.

“Fine, you can take my damn watch.  We’re done though.”

Luke smiled.  It was all too easy.

“It’s been a pleasure doing business with you.”

Harrison quickly left the men’s room.  Luke pocketed his new found wealth and looked in the mirror.  He was going to have the bruise on his face for a good long while.  However, it was worth it.  Poor old Harrison was going to slowly disintegrate.  It was a fitting punishment for a cog in the machine.

“Punch yourself in the face until you break your own nose.”
Luke cursed under his breath.  His mind had been fortified.  He had spent years putting the proper defenses up and yet his guard was dropped.  He had no choice.  He would remember more than most but his mind was triggered.  He would have to listen.

His right hand went up to his face.  The first punch was weak.  The second was stronger.  On the 8th strike he reached his goal and broke his own nose.  Only one person was strong enough.

He yelled the best he could through the pain.

“Mark!  You son of a bitch!  Show yourself.”

The feet came down from the toilet seat at the end of the stall.  The bastard was hiding practically in plain sight.  He was always good at making others forget his presence.  He walked out calmly.

“What happened, Luke?  You’re a terrible mess.”

Talking was difficult.  However, anger fueled him.

“I hope you die!” was all he was able to mutter through the blood.

“You’ve been misbehaving terribly.  Something had to be done.”

“Fu…”

“No talking!” Mark yelled.

Luke had no choice but to listen.  He was hoping that he had become strong enough to resist Mark.  Obviously he had not.  Luke thought about running but realized it would be pointless.  Mark only had to tell him to stop and he would have no choice but to listen.  Mark continued.

“There are always consequences for actions, Luke.   You’re going to go get in the van outside and I’m going to go clean up your mess.”

Mark grabbed the money and watch from Luke and left Luke in the bathroom.  Luke smiled through the pain.  He would have to listen.  However, Mark was sloppy.  He didn’t tell him when he would have to get in the van.  Luke hoped it would be enough.  He had a few minutes to come up with a plan.

*****
Alright gang, no poetry link today.  National Poetry Month can take a day off.  Instead I’m going to link you over to the wonderful and wacky Jenny Lawson, aka, the Bloggess. 

http://thebloggess.com/

Go to her blog and take in the magic.  She is absolutely delightful and hilarious.  She’s a little strange but in the good way that can be appreciated and loved.

She has a new book out.  It’s supposed to be amazing and is selling like hot cakes.  I HIGHLY recommend you go and check out her blog and pick up her book.

I promise you both will be decisions you won’t regret.

Don’t try anything from today’s story though.  You will probably regret it.

Alright, washing your hands would probably be alright.  Nothing else though.



Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Coming Home


Alvin was glad to be home.  School was always exceedingly painful.  Ever since his accident years ago he had always been an outcast.  His mother had to work so home schooling was out of the question.  He had to just suffer in silence.  It was terrible, but it was a pain he was used to at this point.

However, as soon as he got home things changed.  That was when his true life began.

He took his desktop out of sleep mode.  He changed his Steam message from “Away” and changed it back to the standard “Online”.  He greeted his seven buddies that were currently online.

After playing TF2 for a bit with some of the guys he went out and explored the rest of his web of connections.  Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook all had life and vitality that escaped him in the real world.  High school was bad enough.  High school when you couldn’t talk and had horrible scars all over half of your body was just absolute agony.

Sure, he had found a few people in the corners that tolerated him but it wasn’t the same.  He was different.  Every day that fact was drilled into him again and again.

None of that mattered online.  His friends online didn’t care.  His words were his own.  They were powerful and he moved mountains and fought dragons.  He was considered a loud mouth and a bold leader of his guild.  People looked up to him and asked for his advice.

In the real world the only positive looks he ever got were looks of pity.

His sister Eleanor was the only exception.  She was genuinely nice to him.  She didn’t pity him though.  In fact she gave him shit every time he started feeling sorry for himself.  She was in the car when the accident happened.  Mom blamed him.  Eleanor never did.  That meant a lot.

Ellie kept telling him he was spending too much time online.  She wanted him to try to reach out more to his classmates.  In that regard she just didn’t get it.  The real world didn’t have a good life left for someone like him.  Online was what was left to him.

She barely teased him about Sophie.  That also meant a lot.

His girlfriend was amazing.  She lived on the other side of the country but that didn’t matter.  They talked for hours and she made him forget the troubles of his day.  She kept asking for a picture.  When they fought it was one of the primary causes.  He knew she would understand.

He hoped she would understand.

Risking it was simply not an option.  Everything was too precarious.  He didn’t want to lose her.  What if she wasn’t as amazing as he thought?  What if she bolted?

Ellie was a good sister.  She said she wouldn’t.

Sophia wouldn’t be coming on for a few hours.  That meant he had some quality time to surf his web and spread out his voice to all those that wanted to hear it.

He was always surprised to see how many fit into that category.

If things were different he expected his voice would be more timid.  He was shy before the accident.  He became even more so afterwards for obvious reasons.

He could not truly suffer in silence.  As soon as his fingers hit the keyboard he laughed, loved, and screamed as much as the words and emoticons could allow.

Some days he laughed at his classmates.  They pitied him out of ignorance.  He was the one that pitied them.  He knew hundreds of people spread out all over the world.  He was slowly teaching himself Spanish, Japanese, and German in order to better communicate.  He was just as likely to talk to a teenager as a doctor or lawyer.  He had the whole world at his fingertips.  They just had one high school.

The nerds at his school understood.  They mostly ignored him at school.  It was a safety precaution.  They had things rough enough.  Hanging out with the “freak” wasn’t going to help them out.  However, as soon as they all got home they became a union of survivors fighting against the world.

Alvin was angry at first.  Life seemed so unfair.  He wanted to do so much.  The accident took his father, his looks, and his voice.  His mother became bitter.  She was now an unhappy shell of her former self.  Ellie was his rock.  She showed him that there was simply so much beauty to be found.  She found it in her artwork.  He found it online.

The raid would start at 10 PM so that the west coast folks could join into the fray.  His fellows were frustrated at first that Alvin didn’t use voice chat.  That quickly changed after he proved himself.  Now he was leading the charge every night and his voice rang through the text just like he had a microphone.

He danced between the social networks enjoying the company of his friends and associates.  He loved them all.  They had shown him kindness when he needed it most.  He returned it gladly without a second thought.

He smiled to himself and looked forward to the grand adventure of the evening.

It was good to be home.

*****
Today’s poem link love goes out to Cobwebs and Candlelight.  Please go check it out in honor of National Poetry Month.

http://shorthorror.blogspot.com/2005/11/darkened-stair.html

Thanks!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Not in the Cards


“You’re mad.”

“Think so?”

Noken did not mind that Grixis thought his mind was fractured.  Madness was good for business.

“He is just boasting.  He speaks nonsense.”

Lendis was not an easy man to impress.  He had quite the reputation and he had earned every bit of it.  There were few warriors in the land that were as skilled with a blade.

“Do you really think so?  Is it really such an impossible feat?” Noken asked with a smile.

“I like him, Grixis.  Even if his body can’t match his mouth he seems fun.”

Jexi was very beautiful, even for a Meda.  Her purple eyes and green skin so foreign to Noken’s own country and yet Noken knew that most of the men in his village would pay quite the sum to win her hand.  He beauty was a trap of course.  She was beyond deadly.

“I assure you, good lady, my body can always match my mouth.”

She raised an eyebrow and smiled.  Yes.  She was very dangerous.

“What did you say your name was again?” Grixis asked.

“Noken.  From Calburik.”

“Well, Noken, I am inclined not to believe your claims.  However, I value fairness so I will give you a chance.  If you can beat me in a game of Shield and Stick I will give you a chance to prove yourself.”

Not an ideal situation.  It was well known that Grixis was a very capable card player.  Noken knew that in a fair match he had little chance of winning.  Luckily for Noken he rarely played fair.

“Sure thing.  When I beat you though don’t blame your ale.”

Lendis laughed.  His long black beard swayed with each chuckle.  His chainmail tingling slightly with each hearty laugh.

“He has spirit, Grixis.  Reminds me of a young you.”

“Indeed” was all that escaped from Grixis.

His sharp blue eyes were piercing into Noken.  Sizing up your opponent was an essential part of Shield and Stick.  It was not like other card games.  Strategy was far more important than luck.  Grixis was a very capable strategist.  His infamy proved that well enough.

The deck was brought over.  It was split in two.  Noken took red.  Grixis took black.  Each man took five cards from their half deck and the rest were shuffled together.

Noken went first.  He put down a Queen.  He winked at Jexi.  She smiled while Lendis groaned.

Grixis put down a King.  They would both start high.  It was an expected move.

The game commenced in earnest.  Attack and parry, parry and attack.  It was a close game.

“So, Lendis, what do you think is the biggest thing you’ve even killed?” Noken asked while waiting for his opponent’s next move.

Lendis looked at Noken suspiciously and then shrugged.

“I would say that Groatmox we killed about six months ago.”

“By Sherina that thing was a pain” interjected Jexi.

“Hard fight?” Noken continued.

“What are you doing?” asked Grixis.

“What do you mean?”

“Why are you talking?  You should be concentrating on your next move.”

The rumors were true.  Grixis had a hidden flaw.  He had trouble focusing on the game when there was too much background noise.

“Me?  Nah, I’m good.  You only have a few good options right now.  I’ve already planned for all of them.”

It was of course a total lie.  Noken simply wasn’t that good.  However, Grixis didn’t know that.

“My, my, are you sure your body can back up that mouth?”

Noken smiled over at Jexi.

“Of course.”

She smiled back.  Another thing going well.

“I think you are even more mad than I thought but you do show some promise” Grixis said reluctantly.

“Glad to hear it” Noken responded.

The game continued.  Noken was slowly losing ground.  Grixis was a very potent earth speaker.  Using magic to cheat was out of the question.  He would detect it.  However, shifting card positions with fast enough hands was still a possibility and Noken’s hands were some of the fastest.

He did the switch while flirting with Jexi.  Beautiful women always made for a good distraction.

“Damn!” Grixis bemoaned.

“Ha!  He has you running, lad” Lendis said with a laugh.

“Quiet, old man.  I still have bite in me.”

“Well, I’m glad you’re not completely toothless yet.” Noken mocked.

Jexi and Lendis looked at each other and then laughed.

“Oh, both of you shush” Grixis demanded with a half smile on his lips.

Another few rounds with Grixis slowly gaining ground again.  It was risky but Noken knew he would have to cheat again.  Another flirtatious distraction and another card shifted into place.

“Stop right there.” Grixis demanded angrily.

“What?”

“I saw that.  You’re cheating.”

“Think so?”

“Don’t play dumb.  I saw you!  You’re cheating.  You’ve probably bee cheating this whole time!”

Noken didn’t have a lot of options.  He could deny it and keep his good name or he could face the truth.  Since his name wasn’t that good to begin with he decided truth would be easier.
“Alright, you got me.  That was my second shift.  You’re really good.  I was trying to level the playing field a bit.  Looks like I didn’t do it well enough.”

“Well, well, an honest thief.  Interesting” said Lendis.

“Annoying and soon to be dead” said Grixis.

Noken knew the risk.  He had come this far though.  No turning back now.  He had set his course.  He had to either sail through the storm or go down with the ship to meet Kinuy.

Jexi was just about to speak but Noken interrupted her.

“That seems extreme.  How about I buy the three of you a nice bottle of wine and you let me walk out that door?”

Noken motioned to the door behind his left shoulder and put some gold coins on the table.  Grixis looked at the coins and then at the door.

“Come on Grix.  This is a nice town.  Let’s not start trouble here unless we must.  Plus, it would be a shame to kill someone so cute” Jexi said still smiling at Noken.

Noken put a few more coins on the table.

“What do you say, pal?  Let me walk?”

Lendis nodded towards Grixis.

“Fine.  Go.  I never want to see you again.”

Noken nodded and then stood up.  He kissed Jexi on the hand, bowed to Lendis and then started towards the door.  Right before he left he paused in the door frame.

“I’m not mad.”

He took out a dagger and threw it across the room.  It hit a fly in mid flight and the fly was quickly stuck to the tavern wall.  The entire tavern looked at him in shock.

Three brigands looked at the dagger on the wall.  It was obvious they were impressed.

“It’s a shame you never want to see me again, Grixis.  Especially since I have your gold purse.”
Noken held up the coin purse he stole from Grixis while they were playing cards and smiled.

Grixis looked down at this belt shocked.  Both Lendis and Jexi laughed.  The rest of the tavern was shocked.  Grixis had a nasty reputation.  They did not dare to laugh.  They expected a murder was soon to occur.  Noken hoped they were wrong.  He was a betting man and was betting big.

Grixis then smiled and laughed.

“I still think you’re mad.”

“Admit it, you’re impressed.”

“Give me back my pouch and I’ll consider it.”

Lendis and Jexi continued to laugh.  The patrons slowly joined in and Noken sat back down.  He had done it.  He had done what his brother thought was impossible.  He had joined the Dale Marauders.

The bet had paid off.  It was just good that the cards weren’t determining his fate.

*****
Today in honor of National Poetry Month I bring you another Tumblr poet

http://cdavenbypoetry.tumblr.com/

Please go give her some love and appreciate some of her poems.

Thanks!







Monday, April 23, 2012

Blank Page


White with blinking cursor
all things are possible
when first we start
down the path
of creation

Nothing we start
leading to a blossom
forming the idea
growing into something
greater than before

A character crawls out from the muck
clinging on to the past and present
just hoping for a chance to live a bit
without knowing what comes next
fate shall soon find a path

The writer a god for a time
creating a world at a whim
filling it with all those that
bellow and bleed
want and wish

Look past the white
into other worlds
the god is a painter
with the ultimate canvas
every color available

At times the paint dries up
new colors must be found
the world so full of many
an open eye must be kept
to maintain the grace

All painters agree to disagree
on the proper brush strokes
for each painting is a living thing
full of hopes and dreams
none exactly the like

Paint sticks to the brush
never coming off
each new work adding
a little more to the tool
until one print remains

Characters and plots fill up the landscape
worlds and language making up the trees
rocks and rivers forming from expressions
all living together in a tranquil harmony
until the work jumps from the page

White screen
blinking cursor
it all begins
nothing blossoms
into wonder

*****
Going to do something a little bit different today in terms of sharing poetry.  Instead of just a single poem I’m just going to encourage all of you lovely people to go check out a site.

http://tylerknott.com/


I’m really starting to dig Tumblr (still getting the hang of it but it seems cool) and I found one of Tyler’s poems on Tumblr.
  Please go and support him today in honor of National Poetry Month. 

Reminder: My tumblr is
here.  Feel free to go check me out.  If you have a tumblr (or know someone that does) please share.  I would love to follow you.

Thanks everyone!







Sunday, April 22, 2012

Someone Else


“Are you insane?”

“Excuse me?”

“Are you insane?  Honestly, do you hear yourself right now?”

Tom Wildmore wasn’t at the top of the ratings for playing it safe.  Sometimes his panels got out of control.  He prided himself on spinning the words of his guests into something to support his agenda.  He knew calling a panel member insane wasn’t his best stuff.  However, this time he didn’t know how to spin the conversation back into control.

“I’m perfectly sane.  I think the evidence supports my claim pretty well.  Don’t you agree Dr. Jarvis?”

Patricia Jarvis, the psychologist that Tom brought on that week was obviously just as shocked as Tom.  Ron Milton was supposed to be one of the sharpest political minds in the country.  He was supposed to be a slam dunk.  He used to work for Reagan for God’s sake.

“Mr. Milton, with all due respect, what you’re suggesting has no scientific basis.  I admit that the senator’s behavior lately has been out of character for him but there are plenty of explanations that can explain it.  I think it is far more likely that we are simply observing some kind of breakdown.”

Patricia was a real pro.  It was her 8th time on the Wild Brunch and the fans loved her.  She was smart and capable but didn’t come off as elitist.  Shrinks were a hard sell but she made it work.  Tom really hoped this bizarre embarrassment wouldn’t sour her to coming back.

“No!  It’s not a breakdown!  I’m telling you it’s not the same man!  It’s some kind of imposter!  It’s a doppelganger!  I saw one over in ‘Nam.  They’re real.  I swear to God they’re real.”

“You sure you aren’t just thinking about a Vietnamese tranny you met over there, Ronny?”

The comment got a big laugh from the audience.  It came from the last person on the panel.  Vic Monroe was a very successful shock comic.  He was there to give the topic a lighter edge.  Tom was expecting lots of jokes about the Senator’s strange antics.  He never expected that Ron Milton would become Vic’s target.  Things were definitely out of control.

“Now Vic, we all know that Ron served his country admirably and…”

~*~

Blaine turned off the TV and laughed at the spectacle.  They were all so clueless.  Ron Milton had put two and two together but it didn’t matter.  He was so used to people hanging on his every word that he had forgotten how to argue properly.  If he was serious about it he shouldn’t have revealed his great discovery on some hack journalist’s mid afternoon cable news show.  It was a joke.

He looked through the papers on “his” desk and laughed.  Everything was going according to plan.  He was slowly destabilizing everything.  It was just about time for phase two.

Milton was a danger.  He had the truth.  A new cover would have to be found.

Blaine took the papers he needed from the desk and put them in his back pocket.  He put other non-essential papers in his briefcase.  He then picked up the briefcase and headed towards the door.

He locked up the office and made sure to be seen on the security cameras.  He needed to make sure to leave some good solid evidence behind.

He walked to the senator’s car and drove off.  He drove about 5 miles down the street.  He then pulled off into the abandoned office park.  The bad economy had some built in advantages for his job.

He looked in the mirror and shifted to look like the top aide of the Senator’s biggest political rival.  It was unlikely that anyone would see Blaine and his work.  However, he didn’t survive by being careless.  Besides, the aide was already dead.

He took the senator out of the trunk.  He placed him in the driver’s seat and buckled him into place.  He then put the explosive device under the car.

He then took out the Senator’s cell phone and called his mistress.  Even though he now looked like Nathan Walsh he still sounded like the senator.  The conversation started off nice and boring.  She was a boring woman.  She was enjoyable enough in the sack but she was incredibly dull.  She was simply yet another woman attracted to power.  Blaine maintained the charade and then said the important line that would hit the news cycles soon enough.

“Hey baby, my car’s making a weird noise.  Going to pull over a sec.  Call you back.”

Blaine then put the cell phone back in the pocket of the dead senator and walked the appropriate distance from the car.  He activated the device and the car exploded.

The forensics team would think the strange noise was the senator hearing the device arm.  They would check the body and confirm that it belonged to the senator.  The poison used to kill him would not be picked up during the investigation.  All traces will be burned away by the explosion.

Blaine walked across the street and stepped into the car of Frank Grimes, a low level aide over at the Fed.  He stepped in and looked in the mirror and changed to look like the overweight man.  Washington DC was a beautiful city.  It was full of single people married to their jobs working odd hours.  It was easy enough to pretend to be others and he was only one.

The others also had their assignments.

Milton was still a problem.  Blaine would have to figure out what to do with the aging political strategist.  Nobody would take his discovery seriously of course but that didn’t matter.  It was still dangerous.  The CIA had suspicions.  The risk had to be eliminated.

Blaine realized more accidents would have to happen very soon.  He smiled with his new face and drove down the road.  There was much to do.

*****
I hope you enjoy the story today, gang.  I think going forward weekends (at least Saturdays) will probably be devoted to gaming or other random ramblings.  Why?  I end up getting busy on weekends and yet I still want to give you guys some new content.  I would rather write up something small that interests me instead of just not write something at all because of lack of time.  Anyway, just wanted to give you the heads up.

Thanks!



Friday, April 20, 2012

Everyday Magic


“I just think it’s dangerous.”

Boyd couldn’t believe what he was hearing.  It was crazy talk.  He always thought Angie was a little bit weird but this was just total madness.  It did help to explain some things though.

“How can you say that?  It makes everything easier!” said Boyd.

“That’s the problem!  It makes everything too easy.  The world has completely stopped advancing.  You don’t see that as a problem?”

Stopped advancing?  What the hell was she talking about?  He never would have pegged her as a follower of the metal man.  She was definitely talking like one though.

“I…I don’t think I understand what you mean” Boyd admitted.

He waved his right hand and said the incantation for fire.  The trees in the designated area burned away with a single flash.

“How good are you at history, Boyd?”

Boyd shrugged his shoulders.  He wasn’t sure if he liked where this was going.

“Not really great, I guess.  Why?”

Angie sighed.  She waved her left hand and said the incantation of earth.  The correct amount of earth instantly evaporated leaving room for the foundation.  Boyd performed the complicated incantation to turn the air in the new pit into concrete.

“Well, to really explain myself I need to talk about history some.”

That was exactly what the followers would say too.  Boyd was getting more and more nervous as this conversation continued.  He really liked Angie.  Sure, she was weird but he really didn’t want to turn her over to the regulators.  However, the conversation was not going in a good direction.

“Alright, go ahead I guess.  I’ll try my best to follow along.”

Angie waved her hands and cast fire to clear away the landing zone.

“Ok, so magic first came into mainstream when the Council of Wizards stepped in to stop the Cuban Missile Crisis right?”

Boyd nodded.  He didn’t know a lot of history but he knew that much.

“Well, duh.  Yeah.  I know that.”

“Good start” said Angie.

“What about it?”

Boyd started the incantation to open the gateway.

“Well, ever since then we have totally relied on magic for everything.  We completely turned our backs on technology.  World War 2 was awful but we got so much amazing technology out of it!  Technology we are still using today I might add.”

Boyd finished the incantation.  The gateway was opened.  They could see the supplies back at the warehouse.  Angie waved her hands and all of the supplies started to float through the gateway into the landing zone.

“Not to mention atomic energy which nearly killed all of us” Boyd reminded her.

“Ok, not our proudest moment I admit but a lot of other good stuff came out of it.  Same thing if you look back through our history.  Humanity has always moved forward as a species because of Science.”

Not good.  She sounded like a follower for sure.

“I guess so…”

She must have sensed his concerns because she looked frightened all of a sudden.

“Oh God!  I’m not a follower.  Nothing like that.  I think some of their stuff makes sense but I don’t agree with their methods at all.  You have to believe me, Boyd!”

She was scared for good reason.  The regulators were not know for their mercy.

“Well…this is weird to discuss…but so far it just seems like conversation…”

He was giving her a temporary pass.  They both knew it.  She had said enough that Boyd could have called the regulators on her.

She continued with a bit more hesitation in her voice.  The building supplies continued to float through the gateway and land softly.

“Look, I’m not saying magic is all bad by any means.  I’m not a zealot.  I love my instant makeup spell just as much as the next gal.  I’m just saying I think completely turning our backs on the continuation of science is a mistake.”

Boyd shook his head.

“I still don’t get it.  How is it a mistake?  What can science offer us that magic can’t?  Look, I’m no history major or anything but it seems like we have things pretty good now.  If someone gets sick we cure them.  If we need to talk to someone at a distance we send out a thought sprite or call them on the phone.  If we need more fuel for the power plants we make more coal.  What is there to complain about?”

The last of the supplies had gone through the gateway.  Boyd closed it.

“That’s just it, Boyd, I don’t know.  That’s the problem.  Half of modern life is thanks to science but now we just ignore that and just think of new spells to solve problems.  What if there are amazing things out there that we never got the chance to discover?  Do you know anything about computers for instance?”

Boyd shrugged.

“Not much.  Some accountants use them for really big math problems I think.”

“Did you know that before the Council of Wizards showed up the United States government and various research facilities were working together to try to get them to communicate with each other over great distances in an easy and powerful way?”

“So what?”

“That could have led somewhere!  I don’t know where but it could have led to power instant communication between lots of people!”

“If I need to talk to someone I either pick up the phone or send out a sprite.  I still just don’t see where you are going with this.”

Boyd cast the first incantation for construct.  The beams started to move into place.

“What if you wanted to send out something for a lot of people to see?”

“I would submit something to a newspaper.”

“What if there was some other way though?”

Boyd shook his head.

“Why do you care about that?  We can instantly teleport from one side of the planet to the other.  If I need to talk to someone I’ll just go to them.  If I want to share something I’ll figure out a way to share it.  Just sounds like another overrated thing.”

Angie shook her head and cast the incantation for moving the wood that would become the floor of the second story.

“Ok, what about power?”

“Like Electricity?” Boyd asked.

“Yeah.”

“What about it?”

“Some people think the coal plants are bad for us.  Notice how the smog has gotten worse?”

“Yet again, who cares?  We change the winds and push it away.  Look, nuclear is out and coal can be easily mass produced.  If we didn’t have magic we probably wouldn’t have it as good.”

“What if we’re doing something to the planet that magic can’t solve though?”

She was still walking a very dangerous line.  However, she was right.  She didn’t seem like a zealot.  She just seemed overly concerned over weird things.

“Like what exactly?”

The beams on the second floor floated into space.

“Like, what if the smog gets so bad that we all like choke to death or something?”

“Now you’re just being overdramatic.”

“I’m serious!  What if people are right and it’s a problem?  What can magic do about that problem?”

“I already told you.  Change the winds.  Get another people together and the problem goes away.”

“Even if the problem is all over?”

Boyd had to think about it.  He knew there had to be a solution.  He just couldn’t think about it.

“I’m sure the Council of Elders has a solution if it’s really a problem.”

“Yeah…maybe…” she said with no conviction.

She waved her hands and the roof went into place.

“Alright, so you don’t seem like a follower of the metal man but you definitely have some strange ideas.  I think you’re just really thinking way too much about this stuff.”

He snapped his fingers and a coke appeared in his right hand.  He opened it up and began to drink.

She shook her head.

“I really don’t, though.  What about the sick?  Every day new cases of sick people pop up and we just cure them without giving it a second thought.  What’s the cause?  Why are so many people getting sick lately?”

“Don’t know.  Don’t care.”

He waved both hands and said the long and difficult incantation necessary to finish the inside.  The electrical system, plumbing system, carpet, tile and furnishings floated into place.

“How can you not care?  There is so much unexplained stuff out there!”

“Magic has been treating me just fine for years now.  I just don’t see the need to change things.”

Angie finished the last incantation.  The drywall and walls floated into place.  The roof topped things off and the house was now complete.

“What about the future?” she asked.

“What about it?”

“Is our society going to be any different in a few generations or is this the best we have?”

Boyd paused a moment to ponder this question.

“Angie, you think too much.  Two of us just built an entire house during the course of one conversation.  If we relied on science do you think that would have been possible?”

Angie paused herself.  She shook her head.

“I really don’t know.  Probably not.  However, if things changed enough, maybe.”

“Eh, whatever.  You want to get out of here and get a beer?”

Angie shrugged.

“Yeah, I guess so.”

Boyd laughed.

“Good, finally something we can agree on.  Murphys?”

Angie chuckled.

“Sure.”

They both waved their hands and teleported to their favorite bar.

*****
New poem today for National Poetry Month is from the blog the Quiet One.  Please go and check it out and give some love and attention to Cathy.

http://thequietone.net/2012/03/06/2nd-new-poem/

Thanks everyone!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Empty Hall


Barry just stood and took in the silence.  All of the children were long gone.  It was just him and the empty hall.  Even the last of the teachers finally wandered away into the night.

No time of night was more peaceful.  Nothing ever reached the same level of perfection.

When he was home alone it came close but it didn’t have the same great weight behind it.  Anyone could make a one room apartment quiet.  It took real planning and just the right circumstances in order to change a high school that was 30,000 square feet into a silent working environment.

The silence wouldn’t last of course.  The Principal would hire on another custodian soon enough.  Jacob’s wife got a new job out of town.  Barry knew he could handle the whole school by himself but Principle Skinner thought otherwise.

He had a few more days at most.

Barry could have fought more but he didn’t see the point.  He would just take advantage of the great gift instead and enjoy every minute of it.

He pushed his mop down the hall.  The water and cleaner mixed together worked to clean away the dirt and grime that teenagers inflict everywhere they go.

Barry knew he was truly blessed.  Most custodians were nowhere near as lucky.  They needed the job to survive and the long hard hours were simply a necessary price for the paycheck.

Barry didn’t worry about the money.  He stopped caring about money long ago.

He had earned plenty when he worked the floor.  He bought and sold dreams.  All it cost him was a constant ringing in his ears, his wife and kids, and his sanity.  He was at the top of his game before everything crashed.  The noise finally won and he collapsed right there on the floor.

Now the ringing had finally stopped.  The chaos of the floor was gone.

The order of the hall replaced it.

The muffled sound of the mop hitting the floor after being submerged in water was music to his ears.  Only the sound of his breathing and footsteps added to the music.

He had tried other careers but none of them were quite right.  They were too noisy.  Others were too chaotic.  That was a lifetime ago.  He didn’t want anything that reminded him of that time.

He even tried silent meditation for a bit but it didn’t work.  He had too much noise in his head.  Without doing something he got bored and the noise intensified.  He had to work to survive.

He still saw the children of course.  A trust was setup.  They were well taken care of.  Linda also did not go wanting.  She deserved better but it was the best he could do.

Old friends would ask for lunch from time to time.  Those that weren’t complete jackals would be met at quiet parks away from the crowds.  None of them completely understood the self-imposed exile from Wall Street but deep down some of them understood more than they wanted to admit.  The ones that were left knew the floor was never to be discussed.  The old life was gone.

Barry looked up at the clock.  In the morning the hall would come under attack again.  Noise would barrage every nook and cranny and there would be no escape.  Tonight though silence ruled with an iron first and did not falter.

Barry smiled to himself and continued his silent mopping.

*****
Today’s poem link for National Poetry Month comes from the blog Indigenous Dialogues.

http://zainaanwar.blogspot.com/2012/04/hollow-woman.html

The poem was written by Zaina Anwar, both a poet and painter.  Please go check out the poem and blog and give her some love.

Thanks!