Ari Aster Movie FREE On YouTube, Plus Other Horror Movies

20 01 2022

It’s worth just searching stuff on YouTube to see what shows up. Like the first movie made by Ari Aster of Midsommar and Hereditary.

The Strange Things About The Johnsons was released to festivals in 2010. It introduces Aster’s recurring themes of betrayal of the family contract, denial, and society as oppressor. Unlike his later movies, his first film reveals the horror early on, and makes the plot about how the Johnson family copes with that horror.

Come And See often appears in critics’ lists for “Best Movie Of All Time”. After the German invasion of Russia, partisans recruit a teen boy. The boy finds starvation, random death, and finally an einsatzgruppen. The teen survives, but is shattered and still has the rebuilding of his country ahead. The teen is played by an actor with no previous experience, which just adds to the rawness of his emotions. Trauma therapists were on set to help all the actors. Not as intense as say Saving Private Ryan, but ten times more believable. As above, YouTube won’t let me link directly.

Wisconsin Death Trip is not as horrid as the title implies. Imagine Ken Cook documenting the rough decade endured by a rural Wisconsin county. An influx of immigrants copes with land fraud, brutal winters, an overwhelmed health care system, disease, and crime. No, it is not contemporary; this happened in the late 1800s. The stories are respectful. They remind that our current woes are truly quite old, and that our ancestors were just like us, people just trying to get through. Come for the scandals, stay for Mary the Wisconsin Window Smasher.

I don’t get why YouTub is restricting this link. You see worse on PBS, seriously.

I don’t know why I’m watching things like this. I used to write humor. I used to perform sketch and improv comedy. Comedy on TV doesn’t make me laugh anymore. There isn’t anything worth binge-watching. Improv based movies just annoy me at the moment. It’s expected that nothing will compare with what I liked as a teen, but even Monty Python is not aging well. Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead are still my faves. Does anyone do smart comedy with good sight gags anymore?

2022: In Which I Get My Career Up And Going Again (Hello to My Reader In India)

2 01 2022

Recently, one of my oldest friends looked at my bibliography.

“You have a lot of publishing credits! Good ones!”

They ended in 2014 and he knew why: my stab at self-publishing drove my self-defeating habits in way, way deep.

The last two years especially have been tough. I made huge progress with my counsellor and realized in full: I had grown up and grown old wanting to impress everyone, and I had been willing to destroy myself in the process.

People expect this from writers and comedians. Oddly enough, horror creators don’t seem to self-destruct. I can’t think of a horror creator who destroyed themselves aside from the old Universal actors and directors, and well, we can blame those bodies on Hollywood. Horror creators tend to live long lives.

That said, two years ago I had to rediscover what I liked. I had spent so many years pushing myself that I didn’t know how to just “like”.

I listened to music that made me angry. I watched movies to absorb ideas. I couldn’t read anymore because my ego said I should be reading The Great Books series while my gut wanted stuff like Liartown.

Have you read any Sean Tejaratchi? It is so funny!

Here is my usual Spotify playlist. Find a positive emotion. Find any emotion.

Now I am listening to 2nd Wave Ska and reminding myself that yeah, this is good. I like this.

Now, how did I get like this? Why did I stay like this for so long? My first impulse is to explain my need to share as a way to maybe help you. Maybe you do stuff like this too. Then I realize, what the hell, this is my page and I’m not embarrassed by this anymore.

Getting something out of your head makes room for new things.

My Dad was a terribly insecure man. He could not relax without alcohol. Mom grew up in a tense, phobic family. She felt overwhelmed by life. They found themselves in each other. Then they avoided their families by moving away, and taking a career where they might relocate hundreds of miles at any given time. It was an alcoholic family with all the markers, even if no one punched or screamed or missed a day of work.

It took thirty years of counseling to realize I had a lot of really bad personal habits. I could not make mistakes. I was irritable. I trusted no one. I took no risks. Catastrophe loomed everywhere. Most of all I forgave no one except my family. I marked my life not with joys, but with a trail of jaw-clenching regrets. I came to suspect all of this was interrelated, that there was a grand unification theory of all this.

I was the entire Adult Child of Alcoholics checklist. Every memory I had and I mean my earliest baby memory could be filtered through it. Even the things I liked about myself — my joking, my writing, drawing, creating — were in response to parents who just weren’t emotionally available.

Who am I? What should I want? I am almost sixty and I’m just learning to just say unexamined thoughts.

So why not jump start my career?

Writing fiction has helped me process all of this. Example: allowing myself to express my fixation with my high school bully (after thirty years) gave me a sellable story, with the additional benefit of seeing the true source of my fixation, and purge that fixation.

I really like the idea of Chaos Magick. If undirected writing could give me such benefit, what would methodical art provide?

So writing would help me. I do enjoy it. At this moment, it is one of about a dozen things I can say confidently that I enjoy.

Here’s to my career. I’m working on a sequel and I am enjoying that. I’d like to get back to short fiction, but time and energy are tricky. I just ordered a bunch of books (before, all books had to be writing related) to see if I like them.

Part of this includes reaching out and saying Hi! In this case, through the years, my WordPress stats have told me that my most reliable reader is some soul in India. I have no idea who you are, but if you get a moment’s kick out of what I share, okay. Thanks for reading for so long!

I’m going to post more regularly, if anything to vent like a lot of other bloggers do. I’ve some stuff to share later this week.

I’m Back! With My New Video Series!

13 02 2020

I’m still doing horror, but I really missed comedy stuff.


We Are Fashion Meat: A Disquieting Pause

27 07 2016


You Could Cover Your Butt With Your Own Butt! Chuck Tingle Take Note!


In his famous song, not even David Bowie could forsee the newest trend in high-end coverings: Using somebody else!

A fashion student plans to culture skin cells donated by designer Alexander McQueen and sell it as couture.

The artist made this announcement to generate buzz for her vat-grown leather biology patents. At most, she would want to create her Original McQueen for art exhibits a la Body Worlds or the Mutter Museum. This discounts its horrid potential. What is fashion but a challenge to the status quo?

F. Paul Wilson presents a woman who rises to that challenge in his short story “Foet”. Fashionistas create underground couture handbags made from the skin of aborted fetuses. The implication: If aborted fetuses truly aren’t people, then why not treat them as product? The woman overcomes her squeamish morals when presented with the butter-smooth avant garde. Problem: Body Worlds is already making art with volunteer human exhibits. Volunteer fashion wear by Body Worlds should take about twenty years, I think.

In the movie “Antiviral” by Brandon Cronenberg, it becomes fashion to cultivate viruses caught from pop culture performers. When a virus reproduces, it uses the DNA of its host to make new copies of itself. If you catch a flu from Alex Trebek, part of the Jeopardy host is made a permanent part of your dna. Used kleenexes from singers and actors become hot commodities for fans who are the ultimate wannabes. The wealthy and insane will want to spread some love too.

The first vaccines for this affluenza will be for the first outbreak of Kardashian Flu. Sorry, the vaccines will be issued by the CDC, not Starfleet.
“Antiviral” also posits restaurants specializing in food products vat grown from leading pop culture icons. Not only could you eat, drink, savor your fave superstar’s biological flavors, you can choose from different ages. At age 50, Is Bruce Willis tougher than at 20? Can you taste adrenaline in Rihanna before she divorced Chris Brown?
If you bois want to sex up Miley Cyrus, you can! Pleather sex toys embossed with Miley’s DNA arrive in just a few years. I’ll be ordering from the Sasha Grey collection, myself. Grrls can enjoy intimacy of devices with authentic moves thanks to motion capture programming in the devices a.i.. First male celeb with these dna embossed toys: an NBA All-Star, but the genes will be pirated. Or will they? 😉

Patent your genomes now, because the laws are gray and shady regarding who owns development rights to your sequence. Is it you? The doctor who got you to sign something? The company who cultured you into a multi-billion dollar industry a la Henrietta Lacks? Or if someone just happens to find your dandruff, do they get Rights-of-Salvage if those flakes are unclaimed?

Uplifted, uploaded, post-human, trans-human, all flesh is on display, up for grabs, and ready to sell. Be sure to cover your ass or someone will sell it out from under you!

Make Yourself A Whole New You Then Unleash It On The World: A Disquieting Pause

17 07 2016

Your New Self Green Road Sign Over Dramatic Clouds and Sky.

Your New Self Is So Immense It Could Not Fit Onto Your Screen.


As a passionate advocate of growth, I’m always looking for ways to self-improve. Here are some of my best tips which may help your personal journey. Some of them are simple steps which you can engage in immediately. Some steps are more ambitous, yet more rewarding.

1. Read A Book Every Day.

It’s good for your mind and expands your world.

2. Swab The Inside Of Your Mouth For DNA.

Oral hygnene is key to good health.

3. Learn A New Language.

New languages give you fresh perspectives.

4. Clone Your Flesh.

For the highest quality organs, skin grafts, and for posterity.

5. Learn Computational Bioengineering.

To open up  your potential in a growing job market.

6. Optimize Your Genomes.

Use CRISPR to remove genes getting of the way of your higher self.

7. Build Your Bio-Synthoid Army.

You know how your thoughts affect your behavior, which affects others and their behavior?  Be more proactive. Have your thoughts affect the behavior of your own mutant army of Daleks. Watch how the army affects your world’s behavior and eventually what the world thinks of you.

Writing A Light Comedy For My Old Friends Randy and David

6 07 2016

I got back in touch with two brothers I knew in high school, Randy and David. They’ve been living rich, full lives with careers and families and I’ve been Chasing My Muse Lar De Dar.
Back in high school, my nickname was “Exidore” after the character from “Mork and Mindy”. The nickname was quite apt. I was a very wacky kid. I constantly spouted Monty Python, Steve Martin, Robin Williams, George Carlin, Mel Brooks, and all the other comedians from this time the late ‘70s, which was the friggin’ heyday of comedy. I also rattled off character voices, riffed on anything mentioned, and had quite the fast wit. That was the guy they remembered.
So here they were looking up what I had been writing, and I sent them the link to “The Flesh Sutra” which is a study of a dysfunctional relationship in psycho-sexual body horror. To be frank, High-School-Me would have had a morbid fascination with the novel. But I was not one for being into gruesome stuff and had never talked about sex at all.
“Maybe you could write some comedy” messaged Randy, seconded by David.
“You know,” I thought, “I ought to. I should try to get back in touch with that part of myself.” I missed that zany guy I was. That guy was way funny. Surely I can write something in that voice.
I’d burned out my Brit-wit nerve some years ago, no Pratchett or Douglas Adams for me anymore, but I had lots of old Dungeon and Dragons ideas still to work with. So I started writing.
I’d had an idea that the next time I ran in a D&D game I’d try to feed poison to some evil characters and have a dragon eat them. Pretty urgh thing to do, granted, but antiheroes flourish in comedy as long as the people dying are bigger bastards, it would work.
Hmmm. Good antiheroes. Ah! Harry Flashman of the Flashman series! He did some dastardly things and still amused. He’s self-centered and cowardly. Maybe the poisoning is accidental? Nope. Poisoning the adventurers by accident to accidentally poison the dragon is too convenient.
And Kugel from Jack Vance’s “Dying Earth”! Bastardly guy would probably…team up with the dragon. Say, that’s good!
How could he gain the trust of others? Flashman was a sporty and hale looking guy, okay use that. Maybe he’s real young and everyone underestimates him too. He’s an apprentice to a wizard. Not a wizard he kills, that would take away the suspense of being caught by an authority.
The dragon would have to be young, too. Otherwise someone would have killed it already. Okay.
So young wizard makes what…potions? Young potioner, then, and like Blackadder he hates his job and his boss because he’s smarter and more ambitious. So he’s a teen?
Like Beavis from “Beavis and Butthead”? How would he smart enough to make potions? Clueless cruelty like O’Reilly in “A Confederacy of Dunces”? The dragon uses the dope to lure adventurers? Why would the dope keep feeding the adventurers bad potions of fire resistance or whatever. Can’t see that working. The kid and the dragon have to become conspirators.
So he’s callow enough to be maybe sociopathic. By accident, because accidental criminal plots are funny.
OK. The dragon has to be found by accident the first time, otherwise, again, the dragon would have gotten killed way before the story starts. So who’d be dumb enough to wander into a old mine looking for things?
A bunch of aspiring kid adventurers. Why are these kids aspiring adventurers? Because all of society admires adventuring. These kids are the garage band in a culture that reveres adventurers like media stars. The potioner kid wants to be an adventurer too.
The culture is contemporary-ish and the kid is obnoxious. The kid’s name is now “Dagnoxy”.
After the first adventurers are killed, Dagnoxy has to want to kill the dragon. Raise Stakes Number One.
Comes back and feeds group number two the wrong potions. Dragon confronts Dagnoxy. Raise Stakes Number Two.
Negotiates with dragon to bring in groups and split the spoils. Why would the dragon do this?
Because the dragon ate guys who drank a love potion. The dragon is now in love with Dagnoxy.
And so on…
By the end of the draft, Dagnoxy’s killed off maybe a few dozen callow and rude adventurers. Gotten into a tumultuous relationship with the dragon Jilliatrax (I like that name) which yes, had off-screen sex. She is slain by Dagnoxy’s heroes, who turn out to be friends of his neglectful mentor. Facing an odd emptiness from losing the one being who gave a damn about him (and turned out THE LOVE POTION HAD LONG WORN OFF), he sabotages her corpse so her mentor couldn’t sell it for spell components.
By using Vampire Blood. Which turns Jilliatrax into a vampire dragon. She resurrects, promising to reunite later with her lover at an undetermined date.
Mentor is happy to have Dagnox away (lost the “y” to clarify the character is male) and Dagnox pines for the return of his FWB. END.
My writers’ groups beta read and comment. “Is he a bastard or stupid?” “Needs more magic.” My publisher Barbara noted “Show us the pony scene you referenced – I didn’t see it when I read the story.” She is not talking about horses.
I started out wanting to write Blackadder or Ignatius O’Reilly in under a marketable 4K words. I ended up with a 8500 word story about The Talented Mister Ripley murdering a few dozen people and yearning to bump uglies with a new god of darkness.
The market for this story is quite limited. It’s too daffy for the grimdarks, too dragon for the lit-crowd, too murdery for the dragon crowd at “Shimmer” magazine, and not innovative enough for “F&SF” or even “Drabblecast”.
So David and Randy and the kid I once was, have I failed? Dunno. I like the story and frankly have long given up worrying about the state of my muse.
This stuff just happens, man.

Bone Tomahawk

3 07 2016

Kurt Russell stars in an off-beat and gritty, AMC cable channel quality western with a twist. The twist rhymes with…? What rhymes with “trogledyte”? Ah, screw it, they’re prehistoric cannibals. Despite the trailer, the cavemen are no secret surprise. The deep and sympathetic characters are, though.

There’s really only one or two squicky moments in the movie. The length could have been trimmed by about twenty minutes and the trogs do die after only one gunshot, but overall it was a thrilling yet funny movie. A few quotable lines of dialogue here and there.

Available on DVD through Netflix and Amazon.

Are You Writing For Children? Are You Sure You Don’t Want To Kill Them?

14 06 2015

Funny and nerdly insightful about reading subtext. DO NOT MAKE THESE MISTAKES UNLESS YOU MEAN THEM.

Horror Comedy Movie Reviews

24 09 2014

Netflix is a very good lay, in that it will show me only enough to keep me interested while scramming when I lose my endurance. I will not watch a movie that I find ridiculous in its first ten minutes. Life is too short and the internet is too, too tempting, even the parts without porn. Witness:

“Willow Creek”
Bob Goldwaith is an underrated yet frustrating director. He seems intent on taking the most extreme personal experiences and showing that dog-f**king happens to folks just like you and me. “World’s Greatest Dad” took a teen’s death by auto-erotic strangulation and turned it into another chance for Robin Williams to show his dick. “God Bless America” took spree-killing to its most rewarding targets, but failed to deliver the truly transgressive conclusion “They Deserved It.”
“Willow Creek” follows a troubled young couple on a quest to find Bigfoot in the wild. The premise is worn, and the movie’s found-footage format is wearing thin, but Goldwaith finds some golden moments in this production. The young couple is played by actors who share real chemistry and convey realistic emotion. The script allows the characters to develop and dares the viewer to be bored, even when waiting for those noises outside the tent. The conclusion is predictable, but still chilling.


“Jug Face” (not a comedy)
A stylized rural community sacrifices people to a monster in a hole. Too stylized for me to feel suspense for the characters. Tried for “American Gothic” (the TV series) and fell short in a way I haven’t figured out.


Turns “The Bad Lieutenant” into a he’s-really-an-okay-bloke comedy. No.


“Rigor Mortis”
Stylized the scary right out of a haunted tenement.


“All Cheerleaders Die”
Lucky McKee is another director who seems on the cusp of making a great movie, but needs some one (ME!) to give his scripts a last going-over. “May” took an obsessed teen seamstress in a predictable direction, gave the story a twist, and mistook the movie’s central event for an ending. “The Woman” took two tropes and ran them together in a surprising manner, then went overboard instead of using restraint.
(Please watch these two movies anyway. McKee’s strength is that he is a great Actor’s Director. Angela Bettis and Pollyanna MacIntosh by themselves are intense leads.) But “ACD” has too many characters, no clear magic concept, and lacks the courage of saying “yes, the magic that reanimated five four people is EVIL and not Wiccan”. The only PoC is the lead bad guy, who is also the most believable performer. This movie makes you appreciate Joss Whedon more, in that he knows that horror and comedy *alternate* scenes, and that jokes which digress from a scene ruin suspense, while jokes within the scene can heighten suspense.


27 08 2014

The rickshaw driver set his harness down with a clatter of wood and came around behind his vehicle; he was a large grim man, shoulders surprisingly round for his job. He held up his hand to block his sight.

He said, “I do not want to know a blessed thing of this. Not one blessed…”

That voice!

The Earl felt Calzjha startle as well.

It was the ward captain that Fazgood’s sister had prevailed upon.

And behind the ward captain’s rickshaw, there waited two other rickshaws. Both had drivers were grim, and unusually well-dressed for their task.

The rickshaw’s drape pulled aside, and in simple housewife dress sat Fazcelestial.

She hissed. “Put him in, dolts! Stand close with that other dolt and keep gawkers away! Keep the blanket on his head! Fazgood, this is just like your mess in the Three Cities! Could you not destroy a place where I live, just this once?”

Fazgood was lowered into the seat beside his sibling. He could see her hands unrolling a fresh cloth bandage. The Earl felt a scrabbling in the floor by his right foot. Poked under by his feet were black eyes wide with alarm and glistening with tears.

[Oh! My liege! Your legs! Oh!]

“Never mind me. The Dropsy is dead, and the Inspector is dead, and ruined as well. But the General is rampant.”

“Be out of the way, weasel!”

[I am sorry, Goodwife! The General is not captured? Surely he would be long away from here!]

“He is not –“

Calzjha whispered from outside the drape. “Fazgood, you did not say that you had contacted your sister.”

[The Earl did not want that known, in case there were problems.]

Salve slathered on his legs; even as the touch stung, the burns cooled.

Again Calzjha: “Goodwife, how did you know to bring medicine?”

She began wrapping the Earl’s right thigh and hissed loud. “I tell you, doxy, that I have tended to my family’s headlong flights since I was a girl. Stay with my brother and you will stitch an army.”

Came a cautious whisper from the left side of the rickshaw. “Will he live?”

“Is there anything we can do?”

It was Obdurate and Respiration.

Fazgood slapped the bandage in frustration then held back a shriek. “Does no one pay heed to any plan I make!”

He pulled the blanket from his head and saw Respiration’s head not a hand’s width away. “We could not stand to leave without knowing your fate!”

“Our fate,” grimaced the Earl at more salving, “is still uncertain until we step off the boat onto a new shore! As for now –”

Over the calls of the crowd came:

“I knew you!” the voice resounded.


Fazgood flung the blanket from his head and tore away the drapes. Between Obdurate and Respiration, he could see the tall form of the General advancing through the parting crowd. His stance, his voice were all nearly like the man who so moved the crowd in Greatsergeant Square. But his shoulders heaved with desperation. His eyes showed wide with frenzy.

The General mocked. “Captain! Adjutant! I realized you were to be conspiring! Yet, captain! You were the one with my wife! Think you could keep this from me?”

Respiration called, he still several steps away and outnumbered. “Say nothing, Allotropic! Why cause anymore harm?”

“You betrayed me for a number-mop! You would have ruled with me, and you gave it up for a clerk! How the ages will remember this moment, wife! How I will relish your misery!”

Obdurate had enough, and the blood of the fight within the keep was still roaring in his veins. He stepped in front of Greatsergeant: “Traitor! You would murder the city! One word to the Royal Family would have stopped this destruction!”

Greatsergeant sneered. “It belongs to me! To me! My family died keeping that secret for me! So that I could rule!”

“They kept it,” called the Earl, “so that they would not lose their position, you puppet-show!”

He pointed at Fazgood, bandaged and immobile in the rickshaw. “Do you think to sweep me away, broom? Oh no! I will sweep all gone!”

Fazcelestial spat. “A general! Can you never anger someone simple!”

“I would not have caused this!” Greatsergeant continued. “It is my wife who brought this upon this city! I would have ruled all whole and flourishing! Now, what is left for me but to tell all the truth? You have destroyed all! Let that be upon your souls! And wife, I want to watch your face as I tell all and destroy the Compact!”

The Earl tried to rise, but his legs gave out.

“Make way,” he hissed. “I need a straight aim at him! Sister, have you a knife!”

Greatsergeant looked to the curious crowd creeping down the street toward them. He turned and thrust a finger at the keep.

He said to them. “Oh! How I will tell you good people about that man, my grandfather!”

Obdurate looked back to the Earl, and saw the man tearing apart the rickshaw to find sharpness anywhere.

“Listen, all!” Allotropic cried to the crowd, the trees, the sky, the spirits. “What my grandfather accepted for his victory at Lanthornmount –“

A fist cracked against his jaw!

Obdurate punched again! The General fell to the bricks! Obdurate fell upon him, his hands around Greatsergeant’s throat! Surprised by those two blows, Greatsergeant fought back. The men wrestled and struck.

People dashed forward and seized the captain.

“No!” cried Respiration to the people. But no attention was paid to her; the captain’s hands were pried from the traitor’s throat and he was dragged from the fight.

Calzjha and Respiration pressed into the crowd. Fazgood could not see and struck the rickshaw in frustration.

Where are you, you damned Royal busybodies?

Hands held back Respiration. Calzjha pushed and pressed, but made no headway through the well-meaning civilians.

Allotropic Greatsergeant rose and pushed assistance away. “I will tell! My grandfather! My grandfather –“

Spoke a voice fluid and melodious, “You spoke of ownership for something distressing. As you are such a good friend to the nation, I fetched from far Alpia for you!”

Beside the General stepped a figure in a brown robe. A small, glittering blue hand seized his. The hood pulled back to show a tall, slender youth.

His hair was thick black waves, and his eyes shone black and piercing as if only through great concentration he could see before him. He looked like a Human boy, but his skin was the lightest blue.

Who did not recognize from their shrines their quarter-divine Prince Thousand-Eyed Storm? All in the square who saw him fell to their knees.

At last!

And of what the Prince said? Alpia was over a week’s journey away. The Royal Family could move through the spirit world as one walks through doors. From over a thousand miles away, the Prince had heard the General’s boast and stepped as easily as if from across the street.

General Greatsergeant puffed with amazement and defiance. He wrenched at the seeming fragile grip, but was held fast as if by iron. “I will tell! They will know!”

The Prince’s voice was like a small child speaking from under windchimes. “I do not know what it is you would tell, but as one of your sovereign, I should have first privilege to hear. Let us go to privacy, for however long that should take.”

The General’s anger drained into pale desperation. He knew the Royal family did not reckon time as mortals did, and that his time among mortals was now over.

He yelped to the crowd: “That demon! That mask –“

“Be at ease!” and the Prince whispered a strangely resonant coo. Greatsergeant’s voice stopped in his chest and choked his throat.

Prince Thousand-Eyed Storm brought Greatsergeant’s hand down and pulled to lead him. The General took faltering, hesitating steps forward, but he followed. He looked to his wife, but her eyes were averted and tearing with pity and rage. Fazgood glimpsed him before the Earl too dropped his gaze; the General’s eyes were saucers of horror.

Despite his loathing, the Earl felt a chill at the sight: Wherever the General could possibly be sent, he would be without army or aid, without status or command, perhaps even without physical form, for who knew what happened to those quarantined by the Royal Family? Any future that Allotropic Greatsergeant had was now cold, quiet, and obediant. He would be nothing, yet brought lower still for his memory of his insane aspirations. He was being led to his special Hell.

The crowd parted for the Prince and his horrid charge. The demi-god and the pariah walked until they were lost to sight.

So passed the mortal existence of Allotropic, last of the Greatsergeants, paragon family of the Kingdom.

The fire in the keep still flickered, but smoked in thick black plumes; the water was dampening its fuel.

Fazgood went back to the bandage, and tucked away the remainder at his toes, [Where do we go, squire?]

Stunned, Warren gave the instructions.

Fazgood nudged his dazed sister: “Bandage me, you!”

Fazcelestial gawped at his efficiency even in the extremity of the incident mere strides from them. “How… how can you be so fixed…I do not want to know. Get out of my city.”

Hands trembling, she resumed bandaging.

[Did you know] Warren wondered, [that the General was going to confront his wife here? That the Prince would come in time?]

“The General was to have been silenced in the square by Public Works, but he fled. The secret route of escape is the first place he would think to go. He knew I had no intention of dying. Do you see why I plan? Does anyone see why I plan? Then why do they not listen to my plans?”

“Shut up,” said his sister.

Obdurate struggled up from the still-cowering and bowing throng. He held his hand under his armpit.

Said the Earl. “At least that was well-punched, captain.”

“I think I broke my hand,” said the officer.

Said his love, close behind. “You saved a kingdom; do not expect pity and praise.”

Hearing his craft mentioned, Yet-More-Muscular twitched into the circle. “How is it – I do not mean to interrupt, but…how did you know I –“

Fazgood gathered Warren to his side and waved the rickshaw driver to his place. “Who else knows those details, but not the important stuff? And can write in Rahsic? And has trust and influence enough to be given leave by the guild?”

“Im – important stuff?” the brother-in-law’s eyes widened.

“Do not even think of asking me a question.”

“No. I will not.”

“Away with us!” said the Earl. “To your rides! We need distance and water under our feet.”

The others scrambled to the other near rickshaws, pulled by other guildsmen who Fazcelestial must have had mighty leverage upon.

“Go!” that goodwife snapped to the hapless driver, the ward captain.

He was quite energetic for a large and older human.

When comfortably underway, Warren wriggled under the Earl’s arm, [If I may, my liege, it makes me very happy. I have always thought of the Earldom as home.]

“Indeed. I know you missed it. Some pretender has claimed my land? Let us hope they have plenty to drink in the cellar, because when I arrive it is all mine.”

The rickshaws passed along streets bustling with pedestrians. Snatches of chatter sprang though the whirr of the grooved wheels:

“Such a tragedy!” “All in the keep were lost!” “None was left of the Inspector but a hollow Harmonite shell!” “General Greatsergeant was led off by the Prince, what of that?”

Almost at their peak above the bowl of the citadel, golden Rezhalla had almost caught little red Minque, it seemed; however, even children knew that only happened once-in-more-than-a-lifetime, and this was no such celebrated night, and so Minque would elude yet again.

The richshaws traveled far round to the north side of Harmonium, and over the bridges of canals. They disembarked from the sullen, leveraged rickshaws and stepped into others drawn by men who did not bother to see their passengers, who only took the money from Yet-More-Muscular’s hand and took the passengers to the Customs Houses.

At the docks of the Customs Houses, they found the Blue Swords: a fenced compound whose gate allowed them entrance. The rickshaws clattered inside the fence and the gate secured. A young embassy underling extended the ambassador’s regrets at not being there in person, which Fazgood saw fit to snort at despite his pain. The passengers disembarked. The Earl rose to greet his sister for their traditional farewells:

“Stay away from my city, brother,” she said.

But this time, he replied. “This time, sister, I promise I shall.”

Fazgood put arms around Fazcelestial, who sighed with annoyance and gave a perfunctory pat.

He gave his brother-in-law a vexed half-wave and was carried by Obdurate and Calzjha to the waiting merchant bark. The silent crew of tall, red Birqmuirish untied the ship. A river whale towed the craft until the wind caught the sails. Once at sea, the sailors spoke in whispers, but demanded no lights be lit.

They also claimed no tzeimprhoazk was on board, but the Earl beseeched as a man injured in battle against lout scout brigades, that the Imperial Blue Book did state that all men wounded by evil should be given charity. A few choice reminisces of beautiful nights in the fjords of Meilentach and of heroic families, and tzeimprhoazk was brought out and shared.

Calzjha never left the Earl’s side. Her slim form was never more than an arm’s reach, helping him stand, steadying him, taking the bottle when the pull went too long.

“Such dedication demands reward,” slurred the Earl.

“Does it,” Calzjha licked her fingers and wetted her eyelids to stay awake.

“You are promoted from the rank of ‘bodyguard.’”

She leaned close, and the most profound skepticism broadened her brow. “What is my…new title?”

“You are now ‘Chief Warden of the Earl’s Wellbeing.’”

Calzjha blinked. “What does that mean?”

“It means that when we gain more bodyguards, you will be in command of them.”

“It is an awesome responsibility. Castles tend to burn down around you. Look! I believe you can see the glow of the last one.”

Fazgood looked to the bow of the boat. Obdurate was trying to place his maroon soldier’s coat around Respiration’s shoulders.

“How that smells!” she said and she pushed it away, and pressed instead into Obdurate’s arms.

“How we both stink!” and she wiped a tear from her eye, and Obdurate wiped one from his. The sweaty, smoke-ruined pair clung to each other, their past irretrievable, their future disconcerting.

They will become accustomed to it, he thought, then spat and circled his face to ward away Zhazh.

On the rail, Warren looked to shore, alert and keen.

Home is where you are least likely to be killed in your sleep, thought the Earl and grunted in approval.

Beside him, Calzjha sat forward watching Obdurate and Respiration, rapt.

All she did was slow me down and complicate things. If I hadn’t brought her, would the Dropsy had still gotten me? Saved me from her own blunder is all. I have enough to worry about. And half the time she unnerves with her beliefs and testicles —

The pain and the alcohol and his thoughts alloyed into a bleakness, a sword-edged bleakness that he had not felt in years.

Fazgood looked over his shoulder to make sure no one saw, then touched Calzjha’s black hair, lightly so she did not feel it.

His hand felt like lead and his heart pounded.

As she was sitting and watching the lovers, and he leaned forward and pressed his nose to the locks and smelled smoke, the sea, and of her smell like the tropic forests she called home.




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