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Related Works - Wesley Dodds as The Sandman (Jan-Jul 1941): Troubled Sleep

2023.05.28 17:34 Gargus-SCP Related Works - Wesley Dodds as The Sandman (Jan-Jul 1941): Troubled Sleep

After a 1940 defined by gathering strengths and refinement across the feature, the early months of 1941 bring a few troubling portents behind-the-scenes for Fox's affectionately termed Grainy Gladiator. Nothing ruinous in itself, but signs of an upcoming radical shift away from what the character represented to start.
For one, the April issue of Adventure Comics (#61) brings with it a new cover feature, Ted Knight AKA Starman, courtesy writer-artist Jack Burnley. Already the second lengthiest entry in the book at nine pages, Starman quickly managed what neither Sandman nor Hourman could during their respective years as star attractions and upgraded to a full thirteen pages by his third appearance in #63. For context, Sandman only went from six pages to ten with its upgrade, while Hourman has remained rockstaedy at eight pages, and neither took down another non-superhero supporting feature to justify the page increase like Starman did Barry O'Neil and Mark Lansing. Moreover, from Starman's second appearance on, he is only drawn by Burnley; writing duties now belong to the Sandman's own Gardner Fox.
Which loops in with two other issues at play over Wesley's tossing, turning figure. Starting with issue #61, available online sources no longer fully agree who wrote what for the Sandman feature. You must understand, outside superstar figures with major pull like the creators of Superman or Batman, very few creative teams are properly credited in these Golden Age comics - my credits the last few posts have all been crossreferenced across numerous wikis and databases who owe their credits to investigative work by fans like Jerry Bails back in the 1960s. Such work was sadly not exhaustive, and while a few places (like DC Continuity Project and Wikipedia) state or else imply Fox stayed on as writer for the next few issues, from June to November there is no consensus as to who penned the stories.
I shouldn't be surprised if Fox's involvement terminated with the March issue, for April also saw All-Star Comics shift its format slightly, with Fox writing all nine interior stories for the 64 page mag in addition to his duties on the longer Starman feature. Man would have to work double time to keep pace, even if Sandman didn't drop to eight pages with #62 in May. Either way, Fox is certainly gone following #64 in July, as that issue features the final story drawn by regular artist and co-creator Creig Flessel, who departs to work on Shining Knight later in the year. As I say, things are changing fast for Sandman, and not all changes seem necessarily for the better. Best, however, to take the stories on their own level before drawing any final conclusions!
Coverage note: This entry goes to July rather than June for the sake of my sanity. If I stopped midway through the year, I'd only need cover seven features here, but the back half of '41 would require coverage of eleven. A nine-nine split feels much more feasible.
Orchids of Doom - Gardner Fox, Creig Flessel, Chad Grothkopf
Once again, a socialite friend to Wes and Dian is at the center of a minor mystery with big implications - namely, how can Pedro Nogades, father to Carla, rightly claim he breeds otherwise purely wild orchids in captivity? Investigating as the Sandman, Wes and Dian find a dead man in the Nogades greenhouse with his head stripped to the bone, and in following another fellow who sniffed an orchid before promising a shipment of such to some ruffians on the bad side of town, see his own face dissolve to bare skull. A visit to the police chemist reveals the orchids on the dead men's persons were laced to release a deadly flesh-eating gas on exposure to natural air, which is enough probably cause for Wesley to enlist Carla's boyfriend Bill in staging a raid on the Nogades manor. Some close shaves and fisticuffs end with the group discovering a diorama of the local coast, laid out to assist enemy agents in an invasion. Pedro is put away and the orchids revealed as concealing microfilm copies of the coastal plans, but how do we square the mystery that started it all? Simple: Nogades was no botanist, and called the flower by the wrong name when concocting his cover story!
An alright yarn to kick of the calendar year. As per usual when Fox tries for a somewhat complicated mystery, he's no adequate means of tying off loose ends other than large blocks of text, but it's lively and keeps the situation evolving with decent justifications for mid-story action and dragging Bill along for further fisticuffs. Hooking the entire mystery on, "Oh, the bad guy misspoke," is a tad lame, if understandable in the context of Fox's passion for slipping general knowledge flexes into his stories. Flessel and Grothkopf get some good mileage out've the skull imagery that crops up whenever the flower kills, and I rather like the brief bout of fisticuffs towards the end. The minor social awkwardness when Bill gets in the car with Wes and Dian is pretty good too, and I'm sorry to report I can't add this story to the "Wesley getting shot" count, as the bad guy only plugs his hat. Kinda funny having a Golden Age Sandman story involving orchids given Neil's own pre-Sandman work with Black Orchid, innit?
The Story of the Flaming Ruby - Fox, Flessel, Grothkopf
There exists a ruby of blazing red, which has driven men to rage and madness wherever it appears, and today it sits in the hand of a young man in the local jeweler's shop, who flashes it cross Dian's vision. Later in the evening, she wakes in a trance consumed with the urge to kill her father, stopped only by Sandman as he rushes in from investigating a similarly queer case. A bank teller friend from his private life has found himself driven to steal from the vault and deliver it to some crooks on a lonely road every night, all after one of those men flashed him the ruby. Wes and Dian are unable to stop this night's transaction (on account of the ruby briefly turning Dian against Sandman), but seeing the gem in action gives Wes an idea on how to counteract its effects, and go into battle during the next drop armed with blue cobalt glasses. A brawl puts down all the blackmailers except one, but Wes opts instead to go after the head of the operation, knocking him out and lurking in the dark to catch the last as he reports in, revealing the bank teller! Turns out the ruby DOES have hypnotic properties and was used to assist their robberies, but the teller - hoping by playing at the victim to lure Sandman into his cohorts' midst and rub him out - spoke as if he remembered the whole experience, where Dian forgot herself on every exposure. Oops!
Same basic mystery structure and resolution type here as last month, complete with overly-wordy explanation, although I find the hook of pitting Dian and Wesley against one another gives it a minor leg up, as does the relatively straightforward nature of the criminal operation compared to planting microfilm in deadly flowers. There's a more even balance between the rush in bust 'em up style of crime-fighting the feature has developed and the stealthy skullduggery I think suits the character best, with nice action art to match each. Dian has some silly faces whenever she wakes from her hypnosis, and the four panel sequence of Wes halting her murder attempt works pretty well. This is, unfortunately, the final pencil-inking collaboration between Flessel and Grothkopf, and much as I've kvetched over the second man's solo work, I'm sorry to see the back of him in this capacity. When the two were in proper tune, they were the best artistic team Sandman enjoyed yet.
(Stop dodging bullets, I want to see you gunshot.)
Mystery at Malay Mac's - Fox, Grothkopf
Hey, a rare post-Hourman, pre-redesign cover appearance! That's always nice. "Hello, officer? Yeah, coupla chucklefucks right here, the alley off Fourth, can't miss 'em."
What's this? Dian breaking into a notorious criminal slumlord's safe in the bad part of town? A safe, as Wes discovers after he scares the lady off, filled to the brim with poison gas! Evidently not, as Dian is sound asleep when Wes arrives at Belmont manor to investigate, and a subsequent visit to Mister Mac reveals the only person who'd know the safe was booby-trapped is a local kidnapping organizer. Some blind, flailing fists turns up the girl, Dian's perfect duplicate, snatched from out of state to replace Dian and gain leverage over the cops. Too bad the kidnapper's made of strong stuff, knocking out Sandman and taking both woman for a ride to get back at Mac. Fortunately, Dian leaves Wes a trail of jewelry out the window, enabling him to follow and take down all the crooks with one throw of his gas pistol, revealing in the process 'twas Mac himself who tipped Dian's duplicate to his safe, in hopes of spoiling his rival's big plot.
Art-wise, this is probably Grothkopf's best work for Sandman to date. His tendency to exaggerate is translated into some properly goonish faces for the villains and really, really strong action poses, with some properly atmospheric shots sprinkled in for good measure. He cannot draw the gasmask for piss, but there's such an improvement I almost thought this was a Flessel joint before checking the wiki credits. Makes me wish we could see what he'd do if he kept on as a solo artist - free from the impulse to treat the feature as a cartoon, he produces damn fine work. As a story, this makes good time to mention my misgivings with Wesley's tendency to burst through windows and start swinging long before he thinks to use his sleeping gas. While it's great fun to describe and hype up as the mark of a madman who's even cooler as the badass normal than Batman, it also encourages a faster degradation in the character's identity. I'm sure you'll notice it's been yonks since lurking in the shadows and thinning the ranks by knocking them out in advance has factored into the stories. That Wes handles the bad guy by literally clonking him over the head with the gas gun rather than pulling the trigger speaks to the influence other, punchier superhero features have exerted over the strip.
The Menace of the Metal Gun - Fox?, Flessel
From aboard a mysterious aircraft, a madman fires upon the city with a metal-melting ray that dissolves the skyscrapers into slag! Alerted to Doctor Borloff's activities, Wesley meets with swift defeat when the rogue scientist melts his gas gun and escapes in his cylindercraft to terrorize afresh. There IS a bright side, as seeing the ray firsthand gives Wesley some idea how to counteract its effects, and he sends Dian and her father warning for the local airforce to coat their planes in sand as a silicate buffer against the ray. Alas, only one officer heeds his message, leaving Sandman alone to get aboard the machine via his new wirepoon gun and defeat Borloff from within. For his brawling process, a good midflight fight is nothing if the hero gets tossed out an open door, but fortunately he can grapple onto the lone surviving plane, recover his bearings, zip back up, and put a stop to Borloff's dreams of world conquest once and for all!
Action is the name of the game here, and even without Grothkopf's inking enhancements, I think Flessel does a fine job on his own. I'm wary of the wirepoon in the future, as by year's end it will completely replace the gas gun as Sandman's sidearm of choice in further drift from the original Christman concept, but taken as a neutral in its debut, giving Sandman greater aerial mobility does lead to some cool shots and enhance the sense Wes goes stark bananas in the mask by pulling some stunts that would almost certainly pull his arms from their sockets in real life. There are, however, some particularly stiff action shots, and in one panel Flessel cocks up the design on the mask worse than Grothkopf last ish. Based on the opening vignette, Borloff decimated millions of innocent lives in addition to all the planes he melted out of the sky, making him easily the deadliest foe Wes has faced to date, and in turn making the "We did it, gang, everything is bright and peachy again!" ending sorta offputting. They'll have to organize mass funerals tomorrow, Wes. Show a little respect.
For America and Democracy: The Grey Shirts - Fox, Grothkopf
In the top-level story, the JSA learn of their mission for the FBI: a group of Nazi insurgents known as the Grey Shirts are plotting subversive and destructive activities all across America, and are now posed to badly destabilize the nation in a series of disruptive attacks. Each is assigned a mission at critical points cross the nation, though given the widely-ranging disparity in their powers, their usefulness to the cause varies equally wildly. The Atom humiliates some goons spreading Nazi ideology at a single college, Hawkman barely prevents the destruction of an aviation plant in California, and Hourman's defense of an Oklahoma oil field ends with him toppling one of the oil towers to stop his quarry. Meanwhile, Green Lantern detonates a zeppelin secretly jamming radio transmissions nationwide, the Spectre casually annihilates some otherworldly vampiric globes sympathetic to Hitler's cause, and Doctor Fate uses his magic to out every single spy on the eastern seaboard. Uneven efforts or not, the group converge on the Grey Shirts' ringleader, and with a little help from Johnny Thunder, turn him over to good ol' J. Edgar Hoover's custody. Alas, Wesley does not get the blood he's thirsting after.
(Also Doctor Fate alerts Wesley to the identity and location of the ringleader before his mission starts rather than letting him figure it out on his own like everyone else. Prick.)
For his six-page leg of the assignment, the Sandman is off to El Paso, Texas to assist a local newspaper under threat from the Grey Shirts for printing pro-democracy and anti-Hitler editorials. Of course, this being Wesley Dodds on the job, he gets this information by roughing his way into the newspaper offices, then acts on it by beating on the guard at the Grey Shirts' camp and pounding down a band of brainwashed young men to prove he's a better American than them. After sending the wannabe Nazis for a whirl by running their bomb shipment off the road, Wesley doubles back to completely break the recruits' spirits, daring them to prove their hard enough by shooting an unarmed man in Hitler's name, chiefly himself. When none can cut the mustard, he marches them back into town with collars strapped to his car, and inspires the lot to join the Army to a few shirtless bars of "God Bless America."
Cripes but jingoism produces some heady results, doesn't it? I'm not sure I can rightly condone the ridiculous levels of patriotism on display here, even against such classically anti-American enemies as Nazis, yet at the same time, look at this and tell me it isn't the hardest shit you'll see all week. Again, though I've my misgivings about Wes as a brawler no matter how entertaining the results prove, there's something endearing about him being so raring for a fight his first move is to altercate the receptionist at the place he's assigned to defend. On the whole, Grothkopf's final Sandman contribution also shows refinement from his earlier works, the broader, thicker elements of his linework now tempers on a somewhat more grounded approach. Certainly the Sandman himself keeps a consistent look better than he does in any other issue published thus far this year. I DO notice he reused Flessel's design for the District Attorney wholesale on the newspaper publisher. Since he's going and heading out on a job well done, let's not hold it against him, eh?
The Purple Death Ray - Fox?, Flessel
At the nightly planetarium show, a member of the audience screams and falls down dead, stricken by a litany of strange symptoms with no obvious cause. Wesley, believing the man was killed by a death ray, examines the auditorium's projector, only to find no obvious alterations or fault. Undeterred, he purchases himself a seat next to the murdered man's for the next show, which is now occupied by another fellow who received a last-second courtesy invitation. Acting quickly, the Sandman reexamines the projector from the shadows and finds a replacement bulb screwed into the socket pointed directly at the man's chair. With assistance from his wirepoon, Sandman swings down and wrenches the man from his seat just as the show starts, the bulb bathing his seat in deadly radiation. On learning the man is a former judge and the deceased a former DA, it's not long before Wes ferrets out the killer; it's the cashier, a former scientist sent to jail for misappropriating university funds years ago, out for revenge and now stopped cold.
See, while I'm skeptical about the growing presence of science-fiction elements in the series, they make fine fodder when they play to Sandman's strengths. Lurking high above a crowd of people seeking the answer to some deadly mystery is exactly Wes' bag, and plus or minus some strange mask drawings, Flessel captures that thrill of closely examining a big deadly machine in secret before it fires. I'd submit the page where Sandman saves the judge from the beam as an easy contender for best of the year thus far, and the shot where Wes pushes Dian away from the killer's bullet is another fine piece of work. My memories of this one before sitting down to reread and write were a lot chillier, probably because I wish the series remained in crime pulp rather than raygun pulp, but a good outcome is a good outcome. Seriously, though, why is the mask going so bobble-eyed of late?
The Voodoo Sorcerer - ???, Flessel
As Dian and Wesley tiff over his interest in an exotic dancer they know through a mutual friend, the woman's tail-lashing dance is interrupted when she sees a great glowing triangle materialize before her eyes. With the shock straining her bad heart, the Sandman brings her to boyfriend's house, where he reveals the triangle is a voodoo witch doctor's means of accusing someone of murder - just as news comes over the wire that the man the woman lashed with her costume tail has died! Smelling a rat, Wes rushes to the scene of the crime to find the taile barbed with poison quills, only for the titular sorcerer to bumrush him out the window. It's a big misunderstanding, thankfully: he's as shocked by the murder as Sandman, and only summoned the triangle on suggestion from an acquaintance, forgetting the dancer would know its significance through her partner. By happiest coincidence, this provides Wesley the solution to the mystery right quick, for only his friend's chauffeur would have motive, opportunity, and knowledge to frame his employers and their associates for the murder of a stock broker who owed them money.
Hmm, ah, see, on the one hand, it IS nice that the voodoo guy is innocent of everything except a lapse in judgement and the real twist is an unassuming little man exploiting the mystery and fears around the craft to cast suspicion off his person. On the other hand, eek, yike, zoinks! None good. Bad, even. Outside unfortunate depictions of non-white persons from the 1940s, the story's pretty weak for a murder mystery, as numerous elements are evidently known to the characters well in advance, yet only made clear to the reader right before they become relevant, like the exact identity of the murdered man. It's only eight pages, so there's little opportunity to piece information together on your own time, and as such it is heavily reliant on narrative cheats to generate cheap surprise. About the best thing here is the big page-dominating panel of Wesley swinging through the city on his wirepoon, unconscious woman tucked under arm. Kinda hard to convincingly raise my dander about what it means for the character and his feature when it's successfully operating on the long-standing principle of "masked mystery men swinging on a wire through skyscrapers looks really cool." S'like a solid fifth of the formula behind why Spider-Man is so enduringly popular.
(Also not a big fan of how Wes dismisses Dian from participating in the case without any adequate reason why. She calls him out over it, even, and nothing in the story justifies his decision to fly solo on this one.)
The Unseen Man - ???, Flessel
Dian's purchase of paints from a local hobby shop includes quite the unusual accidental item: a paint that turns anything and everything invisible on contact. Determined to solve this mystery on her own, Dian investigates the shop with the dealer's cooperation, only for the dread Unseen Man to get the drop on her. Fortunately, Sandman is there to save her because he won't let Dian do anything on her own; unfortunately, Dian doesn't know Wes can see her attacker through his blue cobalt lenses and pulls him away, thinking him mad and letting the Unseen Man go free. As reward for her screw up, she's targeted in her home the next night, only for Wes to barge in again, having anticipated the only possible secret identity for the crook would make him likely to strike back at Dian. It is, unsurprisingly, the hobby shop owner, who Wes turns over to the police before heading out to patent his invisibility paint with the United States Army.
Alright, it's definitely not Gardner Fox writing anymore, because I cannot imagine Fox treating Dian so poorly. I gave her some dignity in summary, but this story is plain dumping all over her as a fussy, incompetent tryhard who fails at investigating on her own on account her womanly ways. Just look at the sheer antagonism between her and Wes; you two are partners, she's saved Sandman's skin like a dozen times, worn his costume and wielded his gas gun to do it once, even! Don't try to BS me into thinking Wes would run this paternalist "let me handle it, Dian, I wear the pants in this relationship" crap on her. You're only alive because she's worn your fucking pants. Otherwise, 'nother instance where the story and art alike don't give me much of note. I reckon Flessel was about done with the series with Fox gone and sorta phoned in his last few assignments. They're nowhere near the standard of his early solo artistic duties on the title. There IS another good wirepoon swinging shot, if one counterbalanced by a crummier instance with yet another weirdly-proportioned mask.
The Mysterious Mr. X: The Kidnapper's Union - Fox, Cliff Young
The Justice Society are bored. Bored, bored, bored. Why are they bored? There is no crime. Not a single ruffian or scoundrel or roughneck lawbreaker anywhere in the city! Where did crime go? Crime has taken an enforced vacation, courtesy the plans of big crime boss Mister X (hats off), as prelude to his scheme for taking out the JSA and putting all his criminal enterprises back on easy street. It's quite the collection of rackets out against the superheroes - an arsonist ring for Flash, a jewel snatching gang for Hawkman, leader of the phony fortune teller underworld against Doctor Fate, even hard-pressing gym membership shakedowns for the Atom! Naturally our heroes triumph, though every one also encounters a strange little man idly strolling through their battlegrounds. He's so omnipresent despite his mousiness, he's even there when they convene at the police station to organize Mister X's (hats off) arrest. Except this unassuming slip of a man? He IS Mister X (hats off), and with the Justice Society having taken all the fun out've crime, he's turning himself in to live comfortably on the state's dollar in jail. WHOOPSY-DOODLE!
For his six-page part in the game, Sandman must contend against the kidnapper's union, who naturally enough have abducted Dian to get his attention. Not only have these lowlives taken Dian hostage (though she doesn't particularly mind), they've taken out phony accident insurance claims against themselves should the hero injure any of them en route to his untimely death! Nobody quite expects Wes to avoid the sniper-guarded roads to their remote hilltop hideout, though, and a quick wirepoon swing over the canyon (complete with Mister X - hats off - sighting) puts him right in the criminal den. From there, it's a simple biff wham boom to take down the punks and disarm their supporting fire. Alas, Sandman is once again only in the loop on the true nature of the threat against the JSA because someone notifies him from their own investigation, this time Flash via telegram. Let him do his own detective work, you pricks!
Right. You see these panels? You see Dian being calm and collected in the midst of a kidnapping operation? You see Wes trusting her with a submachine gun to keep watch on the fools who mean them harm? Yeah, THAT'S Fox writing Dian. Whoever's writing the Adventure feature at this time ought've taken notes. Artistically, Young makes a fine replacement for Grothkopf and Flessel in Adventure - he can match the first for goons, the second for action, manages a nice turnaround effect before Wes swings on his wirepoon, and even gives us a by-now all-too-rare heavy shadow shot on Wes and Dian. I'm a big fan of the lead kidnapper who calls the JSA the "Justiss Sassiety," and find this instance of Mister X (hats off) the second best in the book, behind only his appearance in the Hourman story, which I think speaks for itself. Probably the only time I'll express preference for something Hourman related over Sandman.
The loss of all three major contributors to the Sandman feature across early 1941 and the crunch down to eight pages has certainly made the Adventure Comics side of the Sandman line a rockier experience. It's still possible to derive enjoyment from the wonky mysteries and higher-concept criminals, but one must accept atmosphere and and particularity have been near-entirely sacrificed for generalized bombast and louder appeal. Don't misunderstand, I've become a fan of Wesley Dodds, Fist-Swinging Bullet Sponge, and my past praises for him aren't diminished by the realization of what this has done to his integrity as a character circa today's stopping point. The trouble is, while I enjoy this half-mad, impossibly reckless read on the character, it simply no longer bears any resemblance to the early days' lurking and creeping through the seedier parts of town. There's a great series of justifications running through the Sandman concept - he's no powers, so he uses the gas gun, so he needs the gas mask, which hides his identity so perfectly it frees him to wear the ordinary business suit, which highlights his vulnerability. Fling him around like a ragdoll who knows no fear of injury or death, although I'll clap for the bravado of it all, I must object if it means any notion he should be sneaky or cautious degrades.
Especially if it means the gas gun vanishes from the character. It hasn't met its final end just yet, but for this seven month block it's proven a very perfunctory aspect of the strip, hung by his side and occasionally brandished without acting as an integral part of the action or storytelling. The wirepoon has subsumed its function as the sidearm, and while I must stress there are plenty aces shots of Wes swinging that fully justify its prominence, taking precedence over the thing that makes him the Sandman, Crimefighter What Fights Crime By Putting The Criminals To Sleep plain rubs me the wrong way. Be awful nice i we could have both without the new toy putting the old out to pasture, y'know? It's not led to anything I'd full-throatedly object over just yet, but... ach, you'll see next time. Speaking of...
Next time! 1941 comes to a close as Wesley picks up another feature to his name, and also a stupid, ugly new costume!
(Previous write-ups: 1939, 1940 pt 1, 1940 pt 2)
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2023.05.28 14:31 AnderLouis_ Hail and Farewell (George Moore) - Book 3: Vale, Chapter 11.2

PROMPTS: George does not care about you, whatsoever.
Today's Reading, via Project Gutenberg:
Borde could not enlighten him on that point, and I suggested that he should make application to the publisher of his Prayer-Book and get his money back. There is nobody. I said, like him. He is more wonderful than anything in literature. I prefer him to Sancho who was untroubled with a conscience and never thought of running to the Bishop of Toledo. All the same he is not without the shrewdness of his ancestors, and got the better of Archbishop Walsh, and for the last five years Vincent O'Brien has been beating time, and will beat it till the end of his life; and he will be succeeded by others, for Edward has, by deed, saved the Italian contrapuntalists till time everlasting from competition with modern composers. He certainly has gotten the better of Walsh. And I thought of a picture-gallery in Dublin with nothing in it but Botticelli and his school, and myself declaring that all painting that had been done since had no interest for me.... A smile began to spread over my face, for the story that was coming into my mind seemed oh! so humorous, so like Ireland, so like Edward, that I began to tell myself again the delightful story of the unrefined ears that, weary of erudite music, had left the cathedral and sought instinctively modern tunes and women's voices, and as these were to be found in Westland Row the church was soon overflowing with a happy congregation. But in a little while the collections grew scantier. This time it couldn't be Palestrina, and all kinds of reasons were adduced. At last the truth could no longer be denied—the professional Catholics of Merrion Square had been driven out of Westland Row by the searching smells of dirty clothes, and had gone away to the University Church in Stephen's Green. So if it weren't Palestrina directly it was Palestrina indirectly, and the brows of the priests began to knit when Edward Martyn's name was mentioned. Them fal-de-dals is well enough on the Continent, in Paris, where there is no faith, was the opinion of an important ecclesiastic. But we don't want them here, murmured a second ecclesiastic. All this counterpoint may make a very pretty background for Mr Martyn's prayers, but what about the poor people's? Good composer or bad composer, there is no congregation in him, said a third. There's too much congregation, put in the first, but not the kind we want! The second ecclesiastic took snuff, and the group were of opinion that steps should be taken to persuade dear Edward to make good their losses. The priests in Marlborough Street sympathised with the priests of Westland Row, and told them that they were so heavily out of pocket that Mr Martyn had agreed to do something for them. It seemed to the Westland Row priests that if Mr Martyn were making good the losses of the priests of the pro-Cathedral, he should make good their losses. It was natural that they should think so, and to acquit himself of all responsibility Edward no doubt consulted the best theologians on the subject, and I think that they assured him that he is not responsible for indirect losses. If he were, his whole fortune would not suffice. He was, of course, very sorry if a sudden influx of poor people had caused a falling-off in the collections of Westland Row, for he knew that the priests needed the money very much to pay for the new decorations, and to help them he wrote an article in the Independent praising the new blue ceiling, which seemed, so he wrote, a worthy canopy for the soaring strains of Palestrina.
Unfortunately rubbing salt into the wound, I said. A story that will amuse Dujardin and it will be great fun telling him in the shady garden at Fontainebleau how Edward, anxious to do something for his church, had succeeded in emptying two. All the way down the alleys he will wonder how Edward could have ever looked upon Palestrina's masses as religious music. The only music he will say, in which religious emotion transpires is plain-chant. Huysmans says that the Tantum Ergo or the Dies Irae, one or the other, reminds him of a soul being dragged out of purgatory, and it is possible that it does; but a plain-chant tune arranged in eight-part counterpoint cannot remind one of anything very terrible. Dujardin knows that Palestrina was a priest, and he will say: That fact deceived your friend, just as the fact of finding the Adeste Fideles among the plain-chant tunes deceived him. For of course I shall tell Dujardin that story too. It is too good to be missed. He is wonderful, Dujardin! I shall cry out in one of the sinuous alleys. There never was anybody like him! And I will tell him more soul-revealing anecdotes. I will say: Dujardin, listen. One evening he contended that the great duet at the end of Siegfried reminded him of mass by Palestrina. Dujardin will laugh, and, excited by his laughter, I will try to explain to him that what Edward sees is that Palestrina took a plain chant tune and gave fragments of it to the different voices, and in his mind these become confused with the motives of The Ring. You see, Dujardin, the essential always escapes him—the intention of the writer is hidden from him. I am beginning to understand your friend. He has, let us suppose, a musical ear that allows him to take pleasure in the music; but a musical ear will not help him to follow Wagner's idea—how, in a transport of sexual emotion, a young man and a young woman on a mountain-side awaken to the beauty of the life of the world. Dujardin's appreciations will provoke me, and I will say: Dujardin, you shouldn't be so appreciative. If I were telling you of a play I had written, it would be delightful to watch my idea dawning upon your consciousness; but I am telling you of a real man, and one that I shall never to able to get into literature. He will answer: We invent nothing; we can but perceive. And then, exhilarated, carried beyond myself, I will say: Dujardin, I will tell you something still more wonderful than the last gaffe. II gaffe dans les Quat'z Arts. He admires Ibsen, but you'd never guess the reason why—because he is very like Racine; both of them, he says, are classical writers. And do you know how he arrived at that point? Because nobody is killed on the stage in Racine or in Ibsen. He does not see that the intention of Racine is to represent men and women out of time and out of space, unconditioned by environment, and that the very first principle of Ibsen's art is the relation of his characters to their environment. In many passages he merely dramatises Darwin. There never was anybody so interesting as dear Edward, and there never will be anybody like him in literature ... I will explain why presently, but I must first tell you another anecdote. I went to see him one night, and he told me that the theme of the play he was writing was a man who had married a woman because he had lost faith in himself; the man did not know, however, that the woman had married him for the same reason, and the two of them were thinking—I have forgotten what they were thinking, but I remember Edward saying: I should like to suggest hopelessness. I urged many phrases, but he said: It isn't a phrase I want, but an actual thing. I was thinking of a broken anchor—that surely is a symbol of hopelessness. Yes, I said, no doubt, but how are you going to get a broken anchor into a drawing-room? I don't write about drawing-rooms. Well, living-rooms. It isn't likely that they would buy a broken anchor and put it up by the coal-scuttle.
There's that against it, he answered. If you could suggest anything better—What do you think of a library in which there is nothing but unacted plays? The characters could say, when there was nothing for them to do on the stage, that they were going to the library to read, and the library would have the advantage of reminding everybody of the garret in the Wild Duck. A very cruel answer, my friend, Dujardin will say, and I will tell him that I can't help seeing in Edward something beyond Shakespeare or Balzac. Now, tell me, which of these anecdotes I have told you is the most humorous? He will not answer my question, but a certain thoughtfulness will begin to settle in his face, and he will say: Everything with him is accidental, and when his memory fails him he falls into another mistake, and he amuses you because it is impossible for you to anticipate his next mistake. You know there is going to be one; there must be one, for he sees things separately rather than relatively. I am beginning to understand your friend.
You are, you are; you are doing splendidly. But you haven't told me, Dujardin, which anecdote you prefer. Stay, there is another one. Perhaps this one will help you to a still better understanding. When he brought The Heather Field and Yeats's play The Countess Cathleen to Dublin for performance, a great trouble of conscience awakened suddenly in him, and a few days before the performance he went to a theologian to ask him if The Countess Cathleen were a heretical work, and, if it were would Almighty God hold him responsible for the performance? But he couldn't withdraw Yeats's play without withdrawing his own, and it appears that he breathed a sigh of relief when a common friend referred the whole matter to two other theologians, and as these gave their consent Edward allowed the plays to go on; but Cardinal Logue intervened, and wrote a letter to the papers to say that the play seemed to him unfit for Catholic ears, and Edward would have withdrawn the plays if the Cardinal hadn't admitted in his letter that he had judged the play by certain extracts only.
He wishes to act rightly, but has little faith in himself; and what makes him so amusing is that he needs advice in aesthetics as well as in morals. We are, I said, Dujardin, at the roots of conscience. And I began to ponder the question what would happen to Edward if we lived in a world in which aesthetics ruled: I should be where Bishop Healy is, and he would be a thin, small voice crying in the wilderness—an amusing subject of meditation, from which I awoke suddenly.
I wonder how Dujardin is getting on with his Biblical studies? Last year he was calling into question the authorship of the Romans—a most eccentric view; and, remembering how weakly I had answered him, I took the Bible from the table and began to read the Epistle with a view to furnishing myself with arguments wherewith to confute him. My Bible opened at the ninth chapter, and I said: Why, here is the authority for the Countess Cathleen's sacrifice which Edward's theologian deemed untheological. It will be great fun to poke Edward up with St Paul, and on my way to Lincoln Place I thought how I might lead the conversation to The Countess Cathleen.
A few minutes afterwards a light appeared on the staircase and the door slowly opened.
Come in, Siegfried, though you were off the key.
Well, my dear friend, it is a difficult matter to whistle above two trams passing simultaneously and six people jabbering round a public-house, to say nothing of a jarvey or two, and you perhaps dozing in your armchair, as your habit often is. You won't open to anything else except a motive from The Ring; and I stumbled up the stairs in front of Edward, who followed with a candle.
Wait a moment; let me go first and I'll turn up the gas.
You aren't sitting in the dark, are you?
No, but I read better by candle-light, and he blew out the candles in the tin candelabrum that he had made for himself. He is original even in his candelabrum; no one before him had ever thought of a caridelabrum in tin, and I fell to admiring his appearance more carefully than perhaps I had ever done before, so monumental did he seem lying on the little sofa sheltered from daughts by a screen, a shawl about his shoulders. His churchwarden was drawing famously, and I noticed his great square hands with strong fingers and square nails pared closely away, and as heretofore I admired the curve of the great belly, the thickness of the thighs, the length and breadth and the width of his foot hanging over the edge of the sofa, the apoplectic neck falling into great rolls of flesh, the humid eyes, the skull covered with short stubbly hair. I looked round the rooms and they seemed part of himself: the old green wallpaper on which he pins reproductions of the Italian masters. And I longed to peep once more into the bare bedroom into which he goes to fetch bottles of Apollinaris. Always original! Is there another man in this world whose income is two thousand a year, and who sleeps in a bare bedroom, without dressing-room, or bathroom, or servant in the house to brush his clothes, and who has to go to the baker's for his breakfast?
We had been talking for some time of the Gaelic League, and from Hyde it was easy to pass to Yeats and his plays.
His best play is The Countess Cathleen.
The Countess Cathleen is only a sketch.
But what I never could understand, Edward, was why you and the Cardinal could have had any doubts as to the orthodoxy of The Countess Cathleen.
What, a woman that sells her own soul in order to save the souls of others!
I suppose your theologian objected—
Of course he objected.
He cannot have read St Paul.
What do you mean?
He can't have read St Paul, or else he is prepared to throw over St Paul.
Mon ami Moore, mon ami Moore.
The supernatural idealism of a man who would sell his soul to save the souls of others fills me with awe.
But it wasn't a man; it was the Countess Cathleen, and women are never idealists.
Not the saints?
His face grew solemn at once.
If you give me the Epistles I will read the passage to you. And it was great fun to go to the bookshelves and read: I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.
Edward's face grew more and more solemn, and I wondered of what he was thinking.
Paul is a very difficult and a very obscure writer, and I think the Church is quite right not to encourage the reading of the Epistles, especially without comments.
Then you do think there is something in the passage I have read?
After looking down his dignified nose for a long time, he said:
Of course, the Church has an explanation. All the same, it's very odd that St Paul should have said such a thing—very odd.
There is no doubt that I owe a great deal of my happiness to Edward; all my life long he has been exquisite entertainment. And I fell to thinking that Nature was very cruel to have led me, like Moses, within sight of the Promised Land. A story would be necessary to bring Edward into literature, and it would be impossible to devise an action of which he should be a part. The sex of a woman is odious to him, and a man with two thousand a year does not rob nor steal, and he is so uninterested in his fellow-men that he has never an ill word to say about anybody. John Eglinton is a little thing; AE is a soul that few will understand; but Edward is universal—more universal than Yeats, than myself, than any of us, but for lack of a story I shall not be able to give him the immortality in literature which he seeks in sacraments. Shakespeare always took his stories from some other people. Turgenev's portrait of him would be thin, poor, and evasive, and Balzac would give us the portrait of a mere fool. And Edward is not a fool. As I understand him he is a temperament without a rudder; all he has to rely upon is his memory, which isn't a very good one, and so he tumbles from one mistake into another. My God! it is a terrible thing to happen to one, to understand a man better than he understands himself, and to be powerless to help him. If I had been able to undo his faith I should have raised him to the level of Sir Horace Plunkett, but he resisted me; and perhaps he did well, for he came into the world seeing things separately rather than relatively, and had to be a Catholic. He is a born Catholic, and I remembered one of his confessions—a partial confession, but a confession: If you had been brought up as strictly as I have been—I don't think he ever finished the sentence; he often leaves sentences unfinished, as if he fears to think things out. The end of the sentence should run: You would not dare to think independently. He thinks that his severe bringing-up has robbed him of something. But the prisoner ends by liking his prison-house, and on another occasion he said: If it hadn't been for the Church, I don't know what would have happened to me.
My thoughts stopped, and when I awoke I was thinking of Hughes. Perhaps the link between Hughes and Edward was Loughrea Cathedral. He had shown me a photograph of some saints modelled by Hughes. Hughes is away in Paris, I said, modelling saints for Loughrea Cathedral. The last time I saw him was at Walter Osborne's funeral, and Walter's death set me thinking of the woman I had lost, and little by little all she had told me about herself floated up in my mind like something that I had read. I had never seen her father nor the Putney villa in which she had been brought up, but she had made me familiar with both through her pleasant mode of conversation, which was never to describe anything, but just to talk about things, dropping phrases here and there, and the phrases she dropped were so well chosen that the comfort of the villa, its pompous meals and numerous servants, its gardens and greenhouses, with stables and coach-house just behind, are as well known to me as the house that I am living in, better known in a way, for I see it through the eyes of the imagination ... clearer eyes than the physical eyes.
It does not seem to me that any one was ever more conscious of whence she had come and of what she had been; she seemed to be able to see herself as a child again, and to describe her childhood with her brother (they were nearly the same age) in the villa and in the villa's garden. I seemed to see them always as two rather staid children who were being constantly dressed by diligent nurses and taken out for long drives in the family carriage. They did not like these drives and used to hide in the garden; but their governess was sent to fetch them, and they were brought back. Her father did not like to have the horses kept waiting, and one day as Stella stood with him in the passage, she saw her mother come out of her bedroom beautifully dressed. Her father whispered something in his wife's ear, and he followed her into her bedroom. Stella remembered how the door closed behind them. In my telling, the incident seems to lose some of its point, but in Stella's relation it seemed to put her father and his wife before me and so clearly that I could not help asking her what answer her father would make were she to tell him that she had a lover. A smile hovered in her grave face. He would look embarrassed, she said, and wonder why I should have told him such a thing, and then I think he would go to the greenhouse, and when he returned he would talk to me about something quite different. I don't think that Stella ever told me about the people that came to their house, but people must have come to it, and as an example of how a few words can convey an environment I will quote her: I always wanted to talk about Rossetti, she said, and these seven words seem to me to tell better than any description the life of a girl living with a formal father in a Putney villa, longing for something, not knowing exactly what, and anxious to get away from home.... I think she told me she was eighteen or nineteen and had started painting before she met Florence at the house of one of her father's friends; a somewhat sore point this meeting was, for Florence was looked upon by Stella's father as something of a Bohemian. She was a painter, and knew all the Art classes and the fees that had to be paid, and led Stella into the world of studios and models and girl friends. She knew how to find studios and could plan out a journey abroad. Stella's imagination was captured, and even if her father had tried to offer opposition to her leaving home he could not have prevented her, for she was an heiress (her mother was dead and had left her a considerable income); but he did not try, and the two girls set up house together in Chelsea; they travelled in Italy and Spain; they had a cottage in the country; they painted pictures and exhibited their pictures in the same exhibitions; they gave dances in their studios and were attracted by this young man and the other; but Stella did not give herself to any one, because, as she admitted to me, she was afraid that a lover would interrupt the devotion which she intended to give to Art. But life is forever casting itself into new shapes and forms, and no sooner had she begun to express herself in Art than she met me. I was about to go to Ireland to preach a new gospel, and must have seemed a very impulsive and fantastic person to her, but were not impulsiveness and fantasy just the qualities that would appeal to her? And were not gravity and good sense the qualities that would appeal to me, determined as I was then to indulge myself in a little madness?
I could not have chosen a saner companion than Stella; my instinct had led me to her; but because one man's instinct is a little more clear than another's, it does not follow that he has called reason to his aid. It must be remembered always that the art of painting is as inveterate in me as the art of writing, and that I am never altogether myself when far away from the smell of oil paint. Stella could talk to one about painting, and all through that wonderful summer described in Salve our talk flowed on as delightfully as a breeze in Maytime, and as irresponsible, flashing thoughts going by and avowals perfumed with memories. Only in her garden did conversation fail us, for in her garden Stella could think only of her flowers, and it seemed an indiscretion to follow her as she went through the twilight gathering dead blooms or freeing plants from noxious insects. But she would have had me follow her, and I think was always a little grieved that I wasn't as interested in her garden as I was in her painting; and my absent-mindedness when I followed her often vexed her and my mistakes distressed her.
You are interested, she said, only in what I say about flowers and not in the flowers themselves. You like to hear me tell about Miss —— whose business in life is to grow carnations, because you already see her, dimly, perhaps, but still you see her in a story. Forget her and look at this Miss Shifner!
Yes, it is beautiful, but we can only admire the flowers that we notice when we are children, I answered. Dahlias, china roses, red and yellow tulips, tawny wallflowers, purple pansies, are never long out of my thoughts, and all the wonderful varieties of the iris, the beautiful blue satin and the cream, some shining like porcelain, even the common iris that grows about the moat.
But there were carnations in your mother's garden?
Yes, and I remember seeing them being tied with bass. But what did you say yesterday about carnations? That they were the—
She laughed and would not tell me, and when the twilight stooped over the high trees and the bats flitted and the garden was silent except when a fish leaped, I begged her to come away to the wild growths that I loved better than the flowers.
But the mallow and willow-weed are the only two that you recognise. How many times have I told you the difference between self-heal and tufted vetch?
I like cow parsley and wild hyacinths and—
You have forgotten the name. As well speak of a woman that you loved but whose name you had forgotten.
Well, if I have, I love trees better than you do, Stella. You pass under a fir unstirred by the mystery of its branches, and I wonder at you, for I am a tree worshipper, even as my ancestors, and am moved as they were by the dizzy height of a great silver fir. You like to paint trees, and I should like to paint flowers if I could paint; there we are set forth, you and I.
I have told in Salve that in Rathfarnham she found many motives for painting; the shape of the land and the spire above the straggling village appealed to me, but she was not altogether herself in these pictures. She would have liked the village away, for man and his dwellings did not form part of her conception of a landscape; large trees and a flight of clouds above the trees were her selection, and the almost unconscious life of kine wandering or sheep seeking the shelter of a tree.
Stella was a good walker, and we followed the long road leading from Rathfarnham up the hills, stopping to admire the long plain which we could see through the comely trees shooting out of the shelving hillside.
If I have beguiled you into a country where there are no artists and few men of letters, you can't say that I have not shown you comely trees. And now if you can walk two miles farther up this steep road I will show you a lovely prospect.
And I enjoyed her grave admiration of the old Queen Anne dwelling-house, its rough masonry, the yew hedges, the path along the hillside leading to the Druid altar and the coast-line sweeping in beautiful curves, but she did not like to hear me say that the drawing of the shore reminded her of Corot.
It is a sad affectation, she said, to speak of Nature reminding one of pictures.
Well, the outlines of Howth are beautiful, I answered, and the haze is incomparable. I should like to have spoken about a piece of sculpture, but for your sake, Stella, I refrain.
She was interested in things rather than ideas, and I remember her saying to me that things interest us only because we know that they are always slipping from us. A strange thing for a woman to say to her lover. She noticed all the changes of the seasons and loved them, and taught me to love them. She brought a lamb back from Rathfarnham, a poor forlorn thing that had run bleating so pitifully across the windy field that she had asked the shepherd where the ewe was, and he had answered that she had been killed overnight by a golf-ball. The lamb will be dead before morning, he added. And it was that March that the donkey produced a foal, a poor ragged thing that did not look as if it ever could be larger than a goat, but the donkey loved her foal.
Do you know the names of those two birds flying up and down the river?
They look to me like two large wrens with white waistcoats.
They are water-ouzels, she said.
The birds flew with rapid strokes of the wings, like kingfishers, alighting constantly on the river, on large mossy stones, and though we saw them plunge into the water, it was not to swim, but to run along the bottom in search of worms.
But do worms live under water?
The rooks were building, and a little while after a great scuffling was heard in one of the chimneys and a young jackdaw came down and soon became tamer than any bird I had ever seen, tamer than a parrot, and at the end of May the corncrake called from the meadow that summer had come again, and the kine wandered in deeper and deeper and deeper herbage. The days seemed never to end, and looking through the branches of the chestnut in which the fruit had not begun to show, we caught sight of a strange spectacle. Stella said, A lunar rainbow, and I wondered, never having heard of or seen such a thing before.
I shall never forget that rainbow, Stella, and am glad that we saw it together.
In every love story lovers reprove each other for lack of affection, and Stella had often sent me angry letters which caused me many heart-burnings and brought me out to her; in the garden there were reconciliations, we picked up the thread again, and the summer had passed before the reason of these quarrels became clear to me. One September evening Stella said she would accompany me to the gate, and we had not gone very far before I began to notice that she was quarrelling with me. She spoke of the loneliness of the Moat House, and I had answered that she had not been alone two evenings that week. She admitted my devotion. And if you admit that there has been no neglect—
She would not tell me, but there was something she was not satisfied with, and before we reached the end of the avenue she said, I don't think I can tell you. But on being pressed she said:
Well, you don't make love to me often enough.
And full of apologies I answered, Let me go back.
No, I can't have you back now, not after having spoken like that.
But she yielded to my invitation, and we returned to the house, and next morning I went back to Dublin a little dazed, a little shaken.
A few days after she went away to Italy to spend the winter and wrote me long letters, interesting me in herself, in the villagers, in the walks and the things that she saw in her walks, setting me sighing that she was away from me, or that I was not with her. And going to the window I would stand for a long time watching the hawthorns in their bleak wintry discontent, thinking how the sunlight fell into the Italian gardens, and caught the corner of the ruin she was sketching; and I let my fancy stray for a time unchecked. It would be wonderful to be in Italy with her, but—
I turned from the window suspicious, for there was a feeling at the back of my mind that with her return an anxiety would come into my life that I would willingly be without. She had told me she had refrained from a lover because she wished to keep all herself for her painting, and now she had taken to herself a lover. She was twenty years younger than I was, and at forty-six or thereabouts one begins to feel that one's time for love is over; one is consultant rather than practitioner. But it was impossible to dismiss the subject with a jest, and I found myself face to face with the question—If these twenty years were removed, would things be different? It seemed to me that the difficulty that had arisen would have been the same earlier in my life as it was now, and returning to the window I watched the hawthorns blowing under the cold grey Dublin sky.
The problem is set, I said, for the married, and every couple has to solve it in one way or another, but they have to solve it; they have to come to terms with love, especially the man, for whom it is a question of life and death. But how do they come to terms? And I thought of the different married people I knew. Which would be most likely to advise me—the man or the woman? It would be no use to seek advice; every case is different, I said. If anybody were to advise me it would be the man, for the problem is not so difficult for a woman. She can escape from love more easily than her lover or her husband; she can plead, and her many pleadings were considered, one by one, and how in married life the solution that seems to lovers so difficult is solved by marriage itself, by propinquity. But not always, not always. The question is one of extraordinary interest and importance; more marriages come to shipwreck, I am convinced, on this very question than upon any other. In the divorce cases published we read of incompatibility of temper and lack of mutual tastes, mere euphemisms that deceive nobody. The image of a shipwreck rose up in me naturally. She will return, and like a ship our love for each other will be beaten on these rocks and broken. We shall not be able to get out to sea. She will return, and when she returns her temperament will have to be adjusted to mine, else she will lose me altogether, for men have died of love, though Shakespeare says they haven't. Manet and Daudet—both died of love; and the somewhat absurd spectacle of a lover waiting for his mistress to return, and yet dreading her returning, was constantly before me.
It often seemed to me that it was my own weakness that created our embarrassment. A stronger man would have been able to find a way out, but I am not one that can shape and mould another according to my desire; and when she returned from Italy I found myself more helpless than ever, and I remember, and with shame, how, to avoid being alone with her, I would run down the entire length of a train, avoiding the empty carriages, crying Not here, not here! at last opening the door of one occupied by three or four people, who all looked as if they were bound for a long journey. I remember, too, how about this time I came with friends to see Stella, whether by accident or design, frankly I know not; I only know that I brought many friends to see her, thinking they would interest her.
If you don't care to come to see me without a chaperon, I would rather you didn't come at all, she said, humiliating me very deeply.
It seemed to me, I answered, blushing, that you would like to see ——, and I mentioned the name of the man who had accompanied me.
If I am cross sometimes it is because I don't see enough of you.
It seems to me that it was then that the resolve hardened in my heart to become her friend ... if she would allow me to become her friend. But in what words should I frame my request and my apology? All the time our life was becoming less amiable, until one evening I nipped the quarrel that was beginning, stopping suddenly at the end of the avenue.
It is better that we should understand each other. The plain truth is that I must cease to be your lover unless my life is to be sacrificed.
Cease to be my lover!
That is impossible, but a change comes into every love story.
The explanation stuttered on. I remember her saying: I don't wish you to sacrifice your life. I have forgotten the end of her sentence. She drew her hand suddenly across her eyes. I will conquer this obsession.
A man would have whined and cried and besought and worried his mistress out of her wits. Women behave better than we; only once did her feelings overcome her. She spoke to me of the deception that life is. Again we were standing by the gate at the end of the chestnut avenue, and I remembered her telling me how a few years ago life had seemed to hold out its hands to her; her painting and her youth created her enjoyment.
But now life seems to have shrivelled up, she said; only a little dust is left.
Nothing is changed, so far as you and I are concerned. We see each other just the same.
I am no more to you than any other woman.
She went away again to Italy to paint and returned to Ireland, and one day she came to see me, and remained talking for an hour. I have no memory of what we said to each other, but a very clear memory of our walk through Dublin over Carlisle Bridge and along the quays. I had accompanied her as far as the Phoenix Park gates, and at the corner of the Conyngham Road, just as I was bidding her goodbye, she said:
I want to ask your advice on a matter of importance to me.
And to me, for what is important to you is equally important to me.
I am thinking, she said, of being married.
At the news it seems to me that I was unduly elated and tried to assume the interest that a friend should.
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2023.05.28 13:12 shojokat Thought my MIL was a sweet old lady based on previous interactions. Today, she finally blew up, and I've realized that she's the most delusional, irrational person I've ever met.

Hey y'all! I've been posting here quite often since my MIL moved in and I'm grateful for this sub to let me blow off some steam. Here comes a wall of text because this is my one way of venting!
For a recap, my MIL is 78. She's always been the selfless angel type every time I've seen her prior to moving in. She was always hyper polite, always cooked drawn out amazing meals just for us, and got to spoil my son for our visits. Sure, she's old fashioned and a little batty in her own quirky way, but was always incredibly courteous and doting.
So, long story short, MIL was kicked out of her home where she paid next to no rent her entire life. Her sister (92 and still kicking) owned it until it recently went up for sale due to having multiple strokes and no longer being capable of managing it. MIL is broke. She only gets minimal social security every month. She's relied on her son, my husband, our entire marriage to solve her problems, financial or otherwise. He has taken care of her siblings as well out of love and not because he's obligated. It's been a rollercoaster of dementia homes, stories funeral costs, and nursing homes for as long as we've been married. We didn't want her to go searching for section 8 housing on such short notice, nor could we afford to get her her own place. She also lived about a 2 hour drive from hell away.
Our solution seemed simple. We went out of our way to rent a new home with an extra bedroom for her and one for her sister for when we may be able to employ a part time home nurse. She swore she would help out with her meals in between and I would take care of diapers when the nurse was off the clock. We thought, hey, it'll be a bit of a learning curve, but she's so sweet, there's no way we won't find a groove and get a little extra help with the kids. I was 32 weeks pregnant when she moved in. It seemed like a no brainer to get grandma to enjoy the birth of her second grandson and save us a fortune on elder care at the same time. We thought she would be happy to be with her son and his kids in a nice neighborhood.
I detailed it in my first post here, but long story short, MIL shocked me with her inability to adapt. Fist thing I noticed was that she had debilitating cataracts to the point where she's basically blind. She holds up a magnifying glass inches away from literally everything to see. On top of that, she's also basically deaf. We are taking care of these things but it's taking time.
But it went beyond that. She has no hobbies. I caught her staring at the TV on the "are you still watching" page as if there was a show on. She must feel like she's staring at a wall all the time every day. She has no interest in doing anything else except for chores.
BUT. She will only do these chores HER way and becomes extremely offended if I try to show her how we like to do things/ask her nicely to let me, say, let me put my own laundry away. I showed her how I like to fold my clothes and she smiled and pretended to listen, then literally IMMEDIATELY continued folding them the way I asked her not to. Multiple times to the point where telling her again would be too awkward. I literally picked then up and refolded everything she did one after another right in front of her and she just continued. She's also so blind that she was putting my bras in the pile with my son's shirts... and when I asked her to let me sort, since she mixed everything up so badly, she ignored me again.
Lastly, she undermines our parenting a lot. I've always been a believer that grandma gets to spoil the kids a bit more than parents, but my son (8) is on the spectrum and he is the type who has only made many of the strides he has due to our strictness in making him care for himself when capable. He's smart but can be lazy when things are done for him. He can't be babied or he regresses. Everything he knows how to do he had to be pushed into doing for himself, but he always learns to love the independence once he masters these life skills. I caught MIL literally spoon-feeding him within the first week. She was wiping his butt and now he leaves streaks in his underwear, waiting for somebody to wipe him. She dresses him. She brushes his teeth. These are all things we have worked tirelessly in getting him to do for himself. And when I politely remind her that this is not good for him and to let him be independent, I can tell that she gets mad.
All this time, MIL has proven herself to be the type to smile to my face and then slowly boil over her grievances. She will smile at me and then blow up on SO like he's her scapegoat. Lately, that simmering resentment has finally boiled over, and that's kind of the point if this post.
Here are some things, not limited to, that have slowly accumulated and eventually set my MIL off:
  1. The other day, she cooked sausage links. She forgot to put the raw ones away in a ziploc bag so, overnight, they went bad and turned rock solid having been exposed to the open air. I saw them in the fridge and said "oh, please remember to put them in a bag! It's okay though, it's just a couple pieces of sausage!" It was a non-thing. Within moments, she teared up and ran to her room to cry. I followed her to reassure her that mistakes happen, that she can't beat herself up over nothing. Nobody doesn't make mistakes. She insisted that no, this was a huge deal.
  2. She was sucking her teeth excessively a week ago. So loud that it sounded like she was eating a bag of chips with her mouth open. SO said "hey ma, don't forget your tick!". She ran to her room to cry and said that she felt like she lived in a big dark hole. It was very sad to hear her say that. I felt bad, but this was something we talked to her about before with no issue. Suddenly it's a HUGE problem. I personally have a thing where certain excessive mouth noises just obliterate my mood. I can't help it, it's genetic as far as I can tell, but I still do my best to tolerate the occasional teeth sucking. But this? It's nonstop and LOUD. Unlike anything I've heard before. Louder then smacking gum by a LOT.
  3. The day we got home from the hospital after a traumatic preterm birth, the first thing she did was complain that it had been a week since she wanted to get her eyebrows waxed. We had to stay in the hospital that entire week and I guess she took that personally. Never mind the excessive pain I was in coming home for due to complications.
  4. I asked her nicely multiple times to try and limit the amount of candies and cookies she put in the pantry while I acclimated to my PP diet. She can still have them, but I asked her to store them in her room for now, because my success in dieting is directly correlated to how many temptations I have at home and she will usually only eat a single cookie out of a box a day (so they last forever). She has instead taken it upon herself to build a small stash of candy bars and cakes in the pantry, of which she has eaten NONE. She then offers me foods she knows I can't have and then gets upset with me for denying them, as that's "impolite".
  5. She would douse herself in perfume multiple times a day. Perfume makes me physically ill to the point where I had to go lay down with nausea and headaches whenever she did. Some helpful redditors pointed out that it would be toxic for my baby, so we asked her nicely to tone it down for the sake of the newborn's health. She freaked out and said that she had no control over her life. I felt bad about this one, as I know she enjoys her perfume a lot, but it was just too much. Her room still smells like a thick musk and I just don't go in there.
Now, this is the big blowup...
Today, a repairman came to fix a piece of furniture. MIL asked me if she should take the dog outside so he didn't bother him and I told her no, the dog will calm down after a moment of excitement, but she was free to go outside anyway if she wanted to. I thought she went out to enjoy herself- she does it often and says she likes the sun. Well, the repairman left while I was pumping breast milk and hubs was feeding our new 2 week old. She eventually came in about 5 minutes after he left and BLEW UP. She was crying, yelling us that it was SO RUDE to not come and get her immediately. We told her that we thought she was out there in her own accord but she didn't listen. SO kept saying "it was only five minutes, we have had our hands full and we didn't know", and she stormed out of the house for two hours. I was supposed to go to sleep (newborn schedule) but stayed up because DH went out to chase her and talk.
During this talk, since I was not around, she let it all out. Said she lives in hell. She's mad at ME for pointing out how the sausage went bad. Says I should've never mentioned it, let her leave it out as much as she wanted, and that it was rude of me to correct her. She used the phrase "I know you have kids with her so she's not going anywhere" and my husband defended me, asking her wtf I had done that was so wrong and if I should've eaten bad meat just to please her. He told her that, if she couldn't live with us, she wouldn't make it with anyone else who didn't bend over backwards, which she denied. Apparently she expected us to let her do literally anything she wanted and says that she "walks on eggshells" around me because I ask her not to baby my son (I'm watching all of my hard work crumble before my eyes with how she treats him and I will NOT stand by and watch my son wither away into a helpless blob). She said that it wasn't fair that the dog had rules and the cats don't, going so far as to pantomime a hunched over servant, to which SO had to explain that cats are incapable of learning manners the way dogs are and the dogisn't allowed to just jump on people and beg for food. She thinks him having a crate is cruel and unusual. She even said that it makes her upset when I don't jump out of my seat and shout an enthusiastic "Good morning!!" when she wakes up.
Forget that I've been up since the wee hours taking care of a newborn. Forget all of my pains and aches, my disfigured and bloody nipples from trying to find the right pump, and my also being on a strict diet. Oh, and forget that I'm in MY OWN HOME where I shouldn't feel like I have to feign enthusiasm every time I see a family member. It's not like I'm rude! I always smile and put on a chipper tone no matter HOW I feel. But, on the days where my pains are just too much, when I'm dizzy or dealing with a migraine, she takes personal offense to my smile not sparkling in the sun. How dare I be somewhat stoic but still polite!
I went to sleep after she got back (we talked about it at length until then) and, when I woke up to pump, she was gone. Apparently she went to bed early in a huff. On Saturdays, my son looks forward to a "sleepover" in her room. He looks forward to it all week. He was just getting ready for bed and my husband was explaining to him that it probably wasn't happening tonight. He ended up opening her door loudly and we had to pull him away and reprimand him for opening her door without knocking, knowing that she was asleep.
Well, after he did that twice, I went over to him to console him and tell him that we would make up for it. She BURST out of her room and started yelling at us: why won't you let him have his sleepover?!
We told her that we thought she was sleeping, as per what she said (she apparently even said goodnight to my son when she went to bed), and that regardless, he shouldn't be bursting into her room without knowing that she was awake and willing to have this sleepover. She just kept yelling, not listening: WHY are you not letting him stay with me?! It's Saturday! He ALWAYS sleeps in here!
And ultimately, he got to go have his sleepover after we were completely undermined for trying to teach him manners. I'm glad that he got to, he didn't deserve to be shafted, but how dare she make US the bad guys for not letting him force his way inside when we thought she had specifically wanted to be alone?? I was already annoyed with HER for going to bed without him on his special day, but instead she made a whole show about how we were keeping him from her and how she was the big savior in the end!
After all this, DH is fuming. I've never seen him this mad at his mother. He loves her tremendously. He's bent under backwards for her multiple times over the course of our marriage. He's taken care of EVERYTHING in her life. But now that she's pointing fingers at him and treating him like he's the bad guy, he is OVER it. He said to me that, if she has anther unfair outburst like that, he's gonna tell her to call around and find somebody willing to house her, because she's out of here. She's destroying our newborn period. We won't get these days back.
But what gets me is that... I think that's what she expects from him. She expects him to just dish out 2k per month of his own money, of his children's money, to get her her own apartment where she can wander around like Mr. Magoo and eat rancid sausages to her heart's content. It's almost a powerplay. The initial plan was to move her sister in, save a fortune on elder care, and she would help keep her sister company since I'm not bilingual and they were spending every day together before she moved in with us. But she just... stopped talking to her sister altogether? It's so bizarre. It's like she randomly decided to drop her from her life when she moved in with us and it's clear that her sister is hurt by this. When we ask her, she just goes "oh, I don't know :)" or just makes a dismissive "mmm".
But she won't talk about anything. She won't listen to our side of anything. She just wants to explode, bitch, and then pretend it never happened in a cycle. She expects us to just grit our teeth and live in hell with her when our lives are supposed to be happy right now with the new baby. She thinks that burying problems and periodically freaking out is the right way to live and everything else is rude. I can't even enjoy my newborn. I have angry MIL sitting beside me, staring depressedly at the wall for hours on end every day. I can't so much as be a parent to my oldest anymore without incurring her silent ire, which she unloads on DH when they're alone. If I try to talk about it with her, it's all "don't worry about it, everything's fine :)".
What gets me, what I take personally (since I'm thinking that the rest may be dementia or something), is how she treats our family finances like a bottomless bank. She thinks that DH is Scrooge McDuck with a pool of gold despite me telling her about our struggles and how DH has literally been crying over the whole situation with her sister. She KNOWS that our financial plan was to save money on her living costs and on her sister's elder care because we can't afford to take care of everybody, but DH loves her too much to just stick her into section 8 (which takes time, too). BUT, she wants us to buy her her own apartment ANYWAY as well as forgo the plan on saving five figures a month on her sister, all while treating us like trash for not allowing her to bulldoze the household. Who is this woman and what has she done with the MIL I knew?! If we don't get to live out our plan as intended, I will hold this against her forever, and there will be no reconciliation. DH understands. He thinks I've been more than understanding and that it's MIL who is acting like a dictator while claiming to be the victim.
TLDR: MIL thinks that the normal course of life is to endure misery and never talk openly and honestly, so she expects us to wallow in her own personal Hell beside her for a long as she will live. Does not believe in reconciliation, seems to have zero consideration for others in any capacity (except our dog?), and makes unreasonable seen like the understatement of the century.
Oh, and I've gotten a lot of advice on my aunt in law's elder care in the last couple of threads, so not a lot is needed! DH has been on top of it and all suggestions were things he already considered and knew about. It's rather complicated and i can't get into it here, as this is just meant to be a rant. We have an elder care lawyer who is helping out.
As for assisted living for MIL, that's apparently not going to happen without significant costs until she meets certain cognitive thresholds, which she has not yet. So, it's either section 8 (and I'm petrified of letting her live alone, tbh) or another small fortune to get her out of the house... I think we need to find a relative willing to take her, because with my kids, she's turning my once bright and sunny household into a goddamn war zone.
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2023.05.28 12:39 dubikish Pissed in the sink at my father's funeral - finally, I am one of you

Hi Everyone,
I'm seeking some advice, as a new sink pisser and ecological warrior.
Let me start from the beginning. To understand my journey you will need to understand the origins of my sink pissing obsession.
I was born in the dark, cold hinterland of northern Scandanavia - a fishing village. I won't give you the name for fear of my anonymity being compromised. During the lighter months, fishing boats with tough, hardy men used to come and go at our small harbour, and the fishermen would unload their hauls of salmon; and then unload their piss into the sinks in the local taverns.
The locals called them savages. When I was a boy - old enough to be influenced by what I saw - I went into the toilet at my local public house, and there I saw a great big man, with a huge, hairy back and, leathery skin... He was standing on his tiptoes, completely naked, groaning with pleasure as he pissed heartily into the sink, the golden nectar from his member letting off a gentle steam that wafted delicately through the air, juxtaposed with the harshness of his body.
"SEVEN LITRES" he groaned, as he finished up, and started putting his clothes back on, stuffing his newly-relieved dong back into his overalls. I didn't know what he meant, but I didn't have time to ask, as he shuffled past me and back to the bar, spitting blood on the floor as he went.
I ran home right away.... "Mama, Papa!" I shouted, "Brothers, Sisters..." I gathered everyone in the toilet, eager to show them my new trick. I took off all my clothes, grabbed my boyish penis, white and untouched like the rest of my body, and began to piss in the sink. "Edgar, what are you doing?!" shouted Papa. He slapped me around the cheek and I was sent to my room for a week, only to eat bread and water. My family told me I was shameful, and that I must never do this again.
Years passed, and I left home. I studied to become a plumbing engineer. I left home and went to work for bathroom company in the USA. I invented new toilets, sinks... showers, with more efficient effects. I got married, and had two children.
I was obsessed with pissing in the sink, but I could never bring myself to do it. Even in my own home. The shame was too much. My father shared my shame. On my wedding day, he couldn't look me in the eye.
My wife thought I loved her, but how could I love another when deep down I felt this overbearing shame? I looked at my kids. "Do you love us, Papa?" They asked. I looked away in disgust.
Therapy was no help.
"Why don't you just... piss in the sink?" One of these $200-an-hour-charlatans asked me." I spat in his face, threw my money on the ground, and walked out... "It's not that simple."
I didn't sleep, but when I did, I dreamt of the burly man in the fishing village, butt naked, pissing into the sink. So eco-friendly, such as good way to save space in the bathroom... but requiring such confidence and freedom. That I did not have. I broke every mirror in my house in a blind rage. I got drunk and sang sea shantys and hit my wife.
Then, one day I got a call. "Edgar, it's your father."
Heart attack. The funeral would be held two weeks later.
I gathered my family, who cowered in fear under my fists and alcoholic rage, and told them to pack their things. My children, whose names I could not often remember, were glad to be out of the house.
On the plane over, I drank ten beers and locked myself in one of the toilets. I heard a knock on the door after an hour or so. "Excuse me, are you okay in there." It was a woman's voice. I told her to go away. I was in floods of tears, looking at the sink, willing myself to piss. But I couldn't. I smashed the mirror with my forehead and heard more knocks. "Leave me alone, I yelled." Eventually a woman opened the door. I smacked her around the face with the plastic cup I was drinking from, causing a bruise. I was immediately apprehended by several passengers and the flight was diverted. I spent several days in an airport holding facility before finally being let out again.
Luckily, we were already back in the fatherland, so we could continue via train. My family cowered next to me as I drank an entire bottle of vodka on the six hour journey northward, listening to Genesis on my phone and spitting at any of the other passengers who tried to tell me to turn it down. "What have I become?" I said to myself, as Invisible Touch reached its crescendo on the tinny sound of my scratched iPhone 11.
We arrived at the funeral in poor spirits. I was becoming increasingly consumed with the idea of pissing in the sink, and my tragic inability to follow through. I spoke loudly to the other guests about my failing marriage and disappointing children, making sure they were in earshot. "Just look at her," I said, motioning to my wife, as I told my Uncle Olaf about our intimacy problems.
I continued to get drunk throughout the funeral, drinking heavily throughout the morning, into the main proceedings. I vomited heavily during the ceremony, dropping to all fours and spitting chunks all over the floor. "Don't look at me!" I bellowed at my mother. What an embarrassment.
I went to the toilet. I looked into the mirror and saw myself - a shadow of a man - looking back at me. But hang on a second, there was someone else there. A burly, hairy hand gripped my shoulder. It was the sailor, from all those years ago. But he looked like he hadn't aged a day. Still naked. Still strong and proud.
Without a word, he grabbed my penis from inside my vomit-soaked trousers. He pulled it out, and motioned towards the sink. "Now... you can," he said. I pissed... slowly at first, and then; the dam broke. I hadn't pissed all day. My vision was blurry, I was shaking uncontrollably and swaying too and fro because of the booze. But my sailor held me steady, guiding my excited member into the sink... The feeling of liberation was instant. I saw the ghosts of my forefathers standing by me. My father was there, he was nodding with pride. He looked my in the eye, his ghostly figure glancing between my eyes and my stream of piss.
My wife was there too, in all her natural beauty, and my children! And, I remembered their names. Little Kobe and Le Bron - my brood. And they were beautiful too, and I loved them. I felt the weight of years of failure and shame lift off me as the flow of my de-hydrated piss filled the sink, skimming the outside of the rim like a beyblade which has just been let rip, and then dancing towards the plughole with joy.
At the end, I was done. I collapsed in a heap. Soon after, my wife came to find me.
"Oh Edgar..." she saw immediately in my eyes that I was healed. She came to me and held me close on the floor, covered in piss and vomit. My penis had again flopped out of my trousers and immediately became erect at my wife's touch. "I am going to make you feel like a woman" I said, slurring through the alcoholic daze and elation, as the sailor watched over us both. I mounted her right there on the toilet floor, and my children gathered around, and all of my extended family, watching and cheering as we climaxed together. After we were done, I got up, spat on the floor, a mixture of vomit, blood and whiskey, and walked out of the bathroom, standing taller than ever, holding one arm in the air like a champion.
"Did you see him?" I asked my wife as we walked past the procession.
"Who? There was no one in there but you, Edgar"
I smiled... My guardian angel, I thought to myself.
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2023.05.28 06:34 bimbo_wannabe_ [I Accidentally Joined The Mafia In South Brooklyn] Chapter 5: The Dead Are Especially Nosy Down Here

[I Accidentally Joined The Mafia In South Brooklyn] Chapter 5: The Dead Are Especially Nosy Down Here
Previous Part:
These last few parts have taken a lot longer for me to write than I thought. A lot of shit has gone down in the last two months, and a lot of it, frankly, is kind of a blur. But I figure, if you've stuck with me this long, then you deserve to know how it all ended up so I'm going to try my best to remember every detail of what happened.
Me? I've spent every free hour I've had, just lying in bed. I've got a lot of healed wounds that still hurt me pretty damned badly.
Blood loss from multiple gunshot wounds and then drowning in the East River, dying and then being brought back while still human, incidentally, takes a lot out of a guy.
But… I'm getting way ahead of myself.
Where were we, again?
Oh yeah, that's right. The funeral without caskets, inside of a Ukrainian restaurant just off the boardwalk in Brighton Beach. That's where I left off at.
Antoni's corpse and I had spoken together for a while longer, about Beccs and their baby, actually, sitting there in the floor in front of the three empty bathroom stalls. The next moment, as usual, he was… just gone.
It took a while to slow the bleeding, and it took even longer to try and clean myself up with just hand soap and paper towels and the water from the sink. Nobody came into the bathroom again, and as I left, I saw why. There was a sign on the door that read 'Out of Order' with something printed below it in Cyrillic that I imagined probably said the same thing as the English.
My new winter coat had been left on the floor in front of the door and the Emergency Exit at the end of the hall had its alarm disabled and had been left propped open with a brick.
I took that as a clear message that they didn't want me rejoining the party, so I exited into the alley and sat on a milk crate chain-smoking until 2 PM when the funeral ended.
The weather app on my phone said it was 10 degrees outside, but oddly enough the cold air felt soothing on my bruised face. My eyes were nearly swollen shut, and every now and again I had to pull some of the toilet paper out that I'd stuffed in my pocket to wipe another trickle of blood from my nose when I sniffed a little too hard and moved the clots loose.
At 1:57, I started to hear people exiting the restaurant, so I moved onto the sidewalk to wait for Becca. The people leaving the funeral only glanced at me for a second and then looked away with a bored expression, like I wasn't even there. Finally, only Becca and Toni's immediate family were still inside.
Tatiana gave Becca a hug, Igor, a gentle handshake, and Antoni Sr. bent down, cupped his hands around Becca's face and pressed a chaste kiss to her forehead. I could see that his right hand was bandaged and he was holding it straighter than his left. Good. I hoped the fucker had broken it when he'd punched me in the jaw.
As Becca exited, I could tell she was angry even before she stomped over to me and shoved me three times in quick succession. Like Jimmy, Becca was a lot stronger than she looked, but now I knew why. I couldn't do much but ball up and take the hits.
"Where the fuck did you go? You just took off and left me there by myself. 'He wouldn't have left without saying goodbye if he had a choice.' You knew, you cocksucker, you knew, you knew he was dead!"
"Yeah, I knew! Antoni was in the news. But we gotta get the fuck out of here, Beccs, you're making a scene, another one, and I gotta get outta this neighborhood before something worse happens to me."
The high color of anger in her cheeks dropped away immediately into a pallid white. She'd been so pissed she'd never once registered the state of my face.
"Jesus Christ, Tony, what the fuck happened to you?"
"Your little Polish sausage's Daddy Dearest just beat the fuck out of me in the men's bathroom, that's what the fuck happened."
"Why would he do that?" Becca asked, but I didn't answer. She looked back to Skovorodka, following my gaze. Antoni Sr. was still standing there, just inside the front door, watching me with narrowed eyes, his hands folded neatly behind his back like a soldier at ease. It reminded me a lot of how Antoni used to stand while we were waiting for the train together.
"Fuck," she muttered, then "Shit," and grabbed me by the arm. "Come on."
"Why would he do that?" She asked me again as we climbed the stairs to the train platform.
"Antoni was Mob, Becca, Bratva. His whole goddamned family is. Him and his brothers and his father and his fucking Russian uncle, and I'd say your Mama Tatiana probably isn't in the dark about what her brother and her hubby and his sons do to make a living, either. I don't know why the Zabrowskas were on the Avenue, but suffice to say it was probably for nefarious reasons, and Jimmy found out about it and took care of business.
"Only I don't think he realized exactly who he was taking out at the time he did it, or else he never would have put the body in the River for somebody to find. And then the other three showed up to avenge their brother, only two of 'em never made it past Bianchi any farther than Antoni did."
"The fuck are you trying to say?" Her tone says she already understands just fine and doesn't want to.
"I'm saying your dear sweet Mamma killed your boyfriend, Becca. She removed all the identifying marks from his body, ate what she wanted, then pulled all his teeth out and chewed off his hands and his feet. They dumped the body in the East River and they found him about 5 days ago, floating off of Battery Park."
"Oh God. That's why. I asked Tatiana where Antoni was going to be buried and she told me in the public cemetery on Hart Island. They're not claiming the body because they don't wanna go to the cops. For the last week I been cussing him for everything he was worth, and he's been laying in the fucking morgue." She pressed her hand to her mouth, and I saw her bloodshot eyes filling with tears again.
"Please don't cry, Becca, cause I'm gonna start crying again and I've cried enough for today."
She sniffed back her tears and swallowed hard.
"But I don't understand, Tony, what the fuck does that have to do with you?"
"They knew, Beccs, they knew how the Zabrowskas died, who killed them, and they knew I helped Moretti get rid of the bodies afterwards. That's why Antoni's father went after me. The uh… the fucking Pakhan thought Jimmy sent me there to rub it in their faces that they weren't going to be able to bury any of their boys."
"How the fuck would they know that?" She barked at me.
"Somebody's feeding them information and not some asshole on the street, somebody from inside the Camorra."
"Who would do that?"
I saw her eyes darting about wildly as she tried to think of the answer to her own question.
"I don't know, uh, the driver that brought Moretti, he didn't look like he was too fond of Bianchi, maybe he's a fucking option."
"Frankie? I mean, him and Ma have never gotten along. He's never liked her and the feeling's mutual but… that doesn't make any sense, Frankie's always been loyal to the Camorra. Rossi always said he practically muttered the Omerta in his fucking sleep, that he was a soldato down to the bones."
"I have no idea, Becca, but it gets worse," I said quietly. If it didn't hurt so goddamned bad, I would've squeezed my eyes shut.
"How the fuck could it possibly get worse, Tony?"
"First you gotta promise you're not gonna hit me again."
Her hand balled into a fist, and I couldn't help but flinch.
"I'm gonna knock you the fuck out right now if you don't stop wasting my time, Cipriani."
"I sold her out, Becca. Bianchi. I told them where she lives and how to find her tonight."
"You what!?"
"I had to! He was gonna cut my fucking fingers off, and I don't know if he was going to take all four or just three but I wasn't about to fucking find out. I kind of need those fingers seeing as I'm a fucking southpaw!"
I held my left hand out to her, curled my fingers inward, but the third finger just… stayed straight. "Ah, fuck, I didn't even notice that."
"Jesus Christ, the tendon's been cut," she whispered, and when she pressed her hand to her mouth again she looked less like she was swallowing back tears and more like she was trying to swallow back vomit. I couldn't really blame her. I felt pretty nauseous myself.
"You know, I'm, I'm not worried about Ma," she said, finally. "It wouldn't be the first time somebody's tried to take her out. She's harder to kill than they think."
"Would, uh, would cutting her head off work? Cause if so I think they're already pretty aware of how to get the job done. They… they know Bianchi's not human, Becca."
Her face got paler, if that was even possible, and her eyes were the size of saucers.
"This is a goddamn nuclear disaster. Jesus fuck."
We stood the last few minutes waiting for the train in silence. As the doors slid shut and we sat down, Becca began laughing wildly.
"So you're in hysterics for real, huh?" I asked.
"You're gonna have to forgive me, I'm a little slow on the uptake today, but I just got it, Polish sausage… only, he wasn't little, you know, he was hung like a fucking horse, and it's a goddamn tragedy for women everywhere that the man isn't on this earth anymore. And he knew how to use it, too. Best sex I ever had in my life… only sex I ever had in my life, but that's not the fucking point." A short, barking sob tore out of her.
I groaned. "You know, that is way, way more information than I ever wanted to know about you and Antoni's sex life. You couldn't, uh, you couldn't let that one pass by, huh?"
"I never pass up the opportunity to make a good dick joke. And he had Good Dick."
I laughed and regretted it as it tightened muscles in my stomach that were still a little angry about being used as Antoni Sr's personal punching bag.
"Touché, Miss Rebecca, touché."
"The two-faced bastard, I gotta give the motherfucker that much, you know, it's a uniquely personal way to say Fuck You to the Underboss, getting his teenaged daughter pregnant. I am so, so goddamned tired of being a pawn in other people's games. He's lucky he's already dead or I'd kill the bitch myself," she whispered.
"It wasn't a game, Becca, what happened between you and Antoni," I whispered back. I knew because Antoni's corpse had told me as much. "Don't ask me how I know, cause I don't wanna talk about it, but it wasn't a game. You didn't know about him and he didn't know about you and it was a big, fucked up coincidence. You loved him, and he really, truly loved you... he worshiped the ground you walked on." Actually, he had said he worshiped the boots she walked in, but I figured it was a translation issue. "It was a regular old Romeo and Juliet: Brooklyn Edition."
She squeezed her eyes shut, snorted and at the same time choked on another sob.
"Yeah, but Romeo and Juliet ended in a double suicide, not a murder and a single mother." Her tiny hand went to her mouth again, and she wasn't able to hold back the tears this time. "I miss him, Tony, I miss him so fucking much."
"You know, Beccs, I miss him, too." I miss him when he was alive, not looking like a walking nightmare, and talking my goddamned ear off half the time, but I wasn't about to tell her that. "He was the first friend I made down here."
"It's fucking stupid. I still remember every single thing he said to me those first few times I met him."
"Odd as it is, I do too, Beccs. He was that kind of guy, I guess, he didn't have to work hard to make an impression on people. It was, uh, three days after I moved in, I think. I was in the basement, getting ready to do my laundry that morning, fighting with the stuck knob on that machine down at the end? And he walks in with his clothes basket balanced on his hip and reaches past me and just… turned the fucking thing, like it wasn't even stuck to begin with. 'It has an attitude, but it likes me,' he says, and I say, 'I can see that.'
"And he, he told me his name. 'Zabrowska,' he says, 'Antoni.' And I laughed and said, 'Nice to meet you, Toni, I'm Tony.' 'Really?' he says, and I say 'Yeah. Really. Antonio Alessio Gioele Cipriani, the third, if you please.'"
"Goddamn, that name is painfully Italian. No wonder you tell everybody 'Just call me Tony,'" Becca snorted.
"Thank you, Miss Rebecca, I can assure you I didn't pick it myself. But, 'Ah,' Toni says and kind of taps his hand in the center of his chest, 'Junior.' And I laughed again and said 'Our parents were goddamned creative when it came to the baby naming, right?' And he laughed, too, and shook my hand.
"And uh, a few days after that he showed up outside of my apartment and asked me if I wanted to go watch a game with him and his brothers at the sports bar down the street. It was Poland vs Korea. I still don't know shit about soccer, I've always been more of an American football kind of guy, but I did learn quite a few Polish swear words that day. Apparently they'd all bet money on the home team winning that game."
"I bet you did. Poland kept catching red cards that whole game. I bet on Korea, of course, and altogether I won 8 grand from four extremely pissed off Polish dudes when we stomped their ass all over the pitch. I had no idea how seriously the four of them took soccer. Antoni wouldn't even talk to me for three days. Probably didn't help I made an ass of myself laughing at all of them. Course, I woulda bet more if I'd known they were good for it. Dry cleaners, my ass," Becca spat.
"Well, in Antoni's defense, he probably did work at a dry cleaners like he told us, just like you work at a bodega, and Jimmy and me work at a restaurant, and Pops works at a hardware store. We all got day jobs. You know, I hate to bust your balls, Becca, but did it… never occur to you to ask Antoni if the tattoos meant something?"
"No," she said weakly. "I mean, I knew they were prison tats but Jesus Christ, half the people I know have been to prison. You've been to prison, half of my cousins have been to prison, hell, Pops has been to prison. You weren't here then, but all of 2016 to 2020 I was wearing a 'Free Rossi' t-shirt everyday, a lot of people in this neighborhood did. Ma got him off on the Murder 1 charges but numbers are numbers, and she couldn't get him out of the Tax Evasion. But I figured, if Antoni didn't wanna talk about it, then it was none of my business what had happened before we met each other."
She'd minded her own business a little too hard this time.
"What did you and Antoni talk about, Becca?"
"Everything! And anything, and nothing, all at the same time. He'd complain about living with his brothers, about Misiu always leaving hair all over the bathroom, and how Ciech always left sugar all over the kitchen counter after he made his coffee. And I'd complain about having to pick up all the empty bottles of makgeolli after my Dad in the morning. I'd help him wash all the dishes his dirty ass brothers would leave piled in the sink, and fold everybody's clothes.
"We got along well, me and Antoni, we were actually very compatible, we were both neat freaks when it came to our housekeeping. We even folded our towels the same way. And he'd bitch about how Igor could never balance the register correctly at the end of the day, and I'd bitch about how my Dad never checked our invoices correctly, and I was always having to cuss out the distribution reps for shorting us on our deliveries myself.
"And we'd watch TV together. He always made fun of me for the lame ass old Chuck Lorre sitcoms I loved to watch, and I'd make fun of him for all the stupid cop dramas he watched, every Law and Order known to man, and Blue Bloods and shit. We just… talked to each other, like we were two regular people, just living our lives. It was simple and it was easy, and it was enough, it was goddamned enough for me. Our relationship was the one normal thing I had going in my fucked up life."
She cracked at the end, sobbing brokenly. She turned her head to the side, pressed her face into my bicep as she wrapped both arms around mine. Tears filled my eyes, as well, and now I was wiping snot out of my nose as well as blood. I felt goddamned sorry for the kid, and I felt like she had a right to cry, but I had to distract her, for my own sake.
"So tell me, when was the first time you talked to Antoni? Was that the same day he asked you out?"
"No, there was some time between the two. He'd been there about a week, I guess, after they moved in. They got there back in like April. I'd fucked with him the first day, you know, asked him where the hell the accent came from, and he said Poland, and I told him welcome to America cause I felt like being a dick. And he said that he'd already been in country five years and I laughed at him and told him, goddamn, I couldn't tell cause he still sounded like he was fresh off the boat. And he got this look on his face, like he was trying to decide if he needed to be offended or not, so I told him I was just fucking with him, that he was doing better than my Mom, God rest her, cause it was seven years after she got here from Seoul before she even learned a word of English and my Dad was the one that had to teach her."
"Makes sense. I moved in in June, Toni mentioned he'd only been in the building about two months hisself."
She nodded, I could feel the movement in the sleeve of my coat where her cheek was pressed to my arm.
"Him and his brothers started coming in every day after that and you know, I kind of had my eye on him from the first time I talked to him. He was goddamn gorgeous, quite literally the walking definition of 'tall, dark, and handsome.' He had those incredibly blue eyes, and that fucking accent, man, shit put me in knots everytime he came in. I learned them all pretty quick, and Antoni was easy. He got the same thing everyday, box of Newport 100s and a pack of Russian Cream Backwoods with a large slushy. You know I gotta keep the cups behind the counter because motherfuckers'll fill it up and walk out when I get busy. I saw him when he came in, and went over to the ATM, so I had his shit sitting on the counter waiting for him."
Becca had a talent for memorizing all of the regular's orders, it wasn't unusual to see a long line of cigarettes, blunts, medicine, sometimes even crack pipes and Chore Boys, and anything else she kept behind the counter, set up neatly next to the register. She also had a talent for running both registers at the same time when the line got overly long and she was there alone. Sometimes I had no idea how she kept up with it all, but that was just Becca.
"And this drunk asshole came in, right after, he didn't even belong in the neighborhood, he stayed in Bed-Stuy, but he was with his cousin, and his cousin I knew and he was shooting me apologetic looks so I was already on guard. I was in a bad goddamn mood that day, anyway. And the drunk bitch, he walked over to the bathroom and tried to open it."
"Key's behind the counter," I said, and she nodded.
"And the key costs five dollars cause people make a fucking mess in the bathroom and I ain't cleaning that shit everyday for free. Well, drunk fuck got pissed and started talking a bunch of shit and threw his five dollars down on the counter, and you know, I can't stand that. You don't throw money at me, I ain't a goddamned stripper, you can put that shit in my hand or you can get the fuck out my store. And, I said 'Naw, son, for you it's gonna cost ten, five dollar Drunk Dick surcharge for being an asshole and cutting my line.' And the motherfucker… he called me a fucking stupid little bitch, and he told me people like me needed to be sent back to my own country."
I made a sound of disapproval, already seeing where this was headed.
"I hate that stupid shit. Where the fuck am I getting sent back to? The fucking hospital in Manhattan where I was born? Everybody in the store just kind of stopped and stood there, and dude's cousin? He just shook his head at me and walked right out the store and left him there."
"He wasn't gonna get involved, huh?" I asked.
"Fuck no. He wasn't stupid. I… uh, I was seeing red by that point so I balled up his money and I threw it across the store and told him to get the fuck out. I don't even remember half the shit I said to him, but I was yelling and he was yelling back and all of a sudden Antoni was… just there. I never even noticed him walking up. He was a big motherfucker, but goddamn he was quick and quiet when he wanted to be."
Becca laced her fingers through the fingers of my right hand and I gave them a squeeze as she readjusted her head against my shoulder. I turned mine to press a kiss to her hair. She was short enough that I didn't have to worry about bumping my nose. As I turned back, I noticed that there was a puddle of water on the seat across from us, and a pit formed in my stomach immediately. My face felt cold as the blood drained from it. The puddle of water made me more than just a little nervous to see it.
I had new enemies stacking up quick, and the last thing I needed was a pissed off, jealous ghost because his grieving fiancée was getting a little handsy with me. But… Antoni never showed himself, so I could only assume he approved of my offering her comfort in her time of need. Either that or he was waiting till I was alone to express his displeasure.
"'Is there a problem here?' was all he asked and the drunk bitch turned around and he got even more pissed. He goes 'Man, fuck you, white boy. Mind your own goddamned business.' And Antoni kind of got in his face, and goes, 'I have made it my business. She told you to leave. Either remove yourself or I will remove you.'
"And the liquor must've given him a bigger set of balls than he actually had, cause he took a swing at him. And Antoni, he just kind of… leaned back a little to avoid the swing and then leaned back in and… he knocked that bitch out cold with one punch. And then he picked him up, literally picked him up, and threw his ass out on the sidewalk, and kind of dusted his hands off afterwards."
"Well, if he's anything like his father then he could throw a hell of a right cross."
Becca laughed weakly.
"Yeah, his Dad boxes, they all did, you know, from when they were young. Antoni told me he got in his Dad's face once when he was about 16, and Old Papa Zabrowska coldcocked him in the kitchen, and when he woke up on the couch, his Dad dragged him out back in the alley and beat him bloody. Told him if his little grown ass thought he was a man, then he was grown enough to get his ass stomped like a man."
That made me feel a little better, to be honest. At least I wasn't the only one I knew who had caught an ass kicking from Antoni Sr.
"I bet he didn't talk shit to his Pops again after that, huh?"
"I asked him that exact question, he said 'Oh no, no, never again. I learned my lesson.' Toni and his brothers, though, were always getting in fights, even when I knew them. He told me it was hard on their Mama, back in Kraków, having four hormonal, teenaged boys with just shy of a year between each of them, you know cause… us fucking Roman Catholics ain't too fond of any method of contraception."
"I didn't know you was Catholic, too, B."
"Of course. Rossi is a devout Catholic, and that's how he raised me, and Nia, she's an Angel, you know, a Fallen One, that's what they call themselves, but she's even got real wings. A little more leathery and less feathery, but… same thing. She goes to Mass daily, turns out demons are actually very religious. Both of my parents were atheists, and that's how they raised me, but after some of the shit I've seen, you know, it ain't too unbelievable that there's a Big Guy upstairs."
She sniffed again, wiped at her nose and I offered her a bit of toilet paper from my pocket.
"That's how it all got started, the War in Heaven. God created Adam, the first living human body, and he told all the spirits in Heaven to kneel to him. And at least half of them weren't too fond of that idea, and the Morning Star stepped up as representative and said they wouldn't kneel to anyone but God. And they, uh, they lost the War, and He banished them all to Earth, to wander without bodies of their own while the other side got to come to Earth one at a time, to live their lives.
"But… then there was the first murder, Abel. Cain beat him to death with a rock, and the blood on the ground, the first human blood ever shed in violence, it called to God, but He wasn't the only one it called to. The blood, it gave him a way inside of a body. Lucifer. He was the First One. He's still here, you know, I've met him. He has a particular fondness for Nia, he calls her Young One, cause according to him 1607 wasn't all that long ago."
"I guess it isn't when you're that old."
"But, back to what I was saying about Toni, all of them were packed into one place together like fucking sardines, the four boys sharing one bedroom in a two bedroom apartment, and all having vastly different personalities. Tatiana is little, like me, and I don't imagine she could do much to break them up when they got to fighting about everything from who ate all the leftovers to who got the top bunks on the beds."
"Probably not," I answered.
"I mean, I could practically smell the testosterone in their fucking apartment whenever I walked in, and it was probably even worse back then. And apparently, that had been their Dad's method of keeping them from tearing up his wife's house all the time. Whenever a problem inevitably developed, he'd just take them down to the gym and throw them in the ring without any gloves and tell them to fucking handle it, and whoever was still standing at the end was the one that won the argument.
"Uh, but, uh, when Toni hit the guy, all, all I could do was stand there with my mouth hanging open like a fucking fish. I mean, I was in love, right that fucking second, standing there. The hormones were running on overdrive, my head was practically spinning with how fast all the blood rushed south, you know? Everybody was still standing there and Antoni tried to get back in line and I said, 'Uh-uh. Take your shit and go on.' And he goes," Beccs began laughing again, laughed so hard there were tears in her eyes once more.
"He goes, 'Am I in trouble?'''
I had to wrap my left arm tight around my stomach because I couldn't stop myself from laughing either. The makeshift bandage on my left hand that I'd wound out of paper towel had soaked through, I was going to have to change it soon.
"He didn't say that, Becca."
"Yes the fuck, he did. And I went, 'No, you dumbass, it's on the house, and in case I gotta translate, that means it's free. Small price to pay for a security detail.' And he just kind of blinked at me for a second, before he nodded his head and grabbed his things off the counter, went and filled his slushy up."
"You probably scared the piss out of him for that second, he probably thought he'd been found out. That's what they call it, what he was, Obshchak, Security Group."
"He stopped before he left, and told me thank you. And I said 'No, dziękuję', thank you. And then I winked at him and said 'Miłej nocy, piękna.'" She straightened up as the train began to slow for our stop.
"And what did that mean?"
"Have a good night, gorgeous." She said with a watery grin.
"Smooth, B, real smooth. Nothing quite like hitting on a man in his native language. "
"I mean, you know us, Tony, we got Southern Hospitality down here. As long as you're not an asshole, I do everything I can to make sure everyone feels welcome when they come inside. That's why there's a sign on the door that says 'DMZ.' They might have beef on the streets but don't nobody take that shit inside my store. And that means asking the Mexicans down the street if they need a bolsa, and making sure I ordered Farid's miswaks so he didn't have to walk all the way down to the Pakistani store, and sometimes it means learning a little bit of Polish so I could flirt with the new guy downstairs the next time he came in."
We exited the train, made the switch, and stood on the platform waiting for the next to take us back to Avenue U. As I glanced to the side, I could see a puddle forming on the platform next to me, drip by drip. It was already freezing around the edges. As it turned out, I wasn't the only nosy fuck around here.
"And apparently the flirting was well received by our dearly departed half-Russian friend."
"Apparently, cause about a week later I was having a busy fucking Friday night and my Dad had already gone home, and I was trying to shut her down but motherfuckers kept coming inside right up until 11. I made DeAndre from downstairs stand at the door and tell people we were closed and that he was the last customer for the night and after I rung him up I told him to flip the sign on the door and I'd lock it when I finished my cigarette count… only, I forgot to ever lock it, and DeDe's traitorous ass, he fucking set me up. He knew I had a thing for Antoni, and when he saw him coming down off the platform and rushing down the sidewalk, he let him in and told him he was the last customer for the night and to flip the sign on the door."
She closed her eyes for a moment.
"It took me… exactly 16 minutes to notice he was there. I know, cause after I was done pissing myself when I figured out I wasn't alone, the Polish smart-ass showed me his watch. He'd set a timer when he realized I wasn't paying any attention to him, and then just stood there, waiting to see how long it would take. I had my earphones in, and it took four songs," she held up her hand and ticked them off with her fingers. "'Savage Like', 'Money, Sex, Drugs', 'Proud' and 'Only.'
"I turned around and screamed like a little bitch when I saw him. And then I got pissed, cause I was embarrassed, I'd been singing along to all the songs cause I thought I was alone in the store. I started screaming at him. 'What the fuck, you can't read? The sign says Closed.' And he goes 'No, it didn't. It still said Open. I turned it myself.' I hadn't counted down my register yet, so I just went ahead and grabbed his shit and rung him up, cussing DeDe the whole time and I asked him how long he'd been standing there, and he showed me his watch. And he says, 'You shouldn't wear those, it's dangerous,' talking about my headphones, and I said, 'What are you, my fucking father?' And he got kind of a funny look on his face."
I released a weak snicker, holding my stomach tight again. I couldn't resist fucking with them both a little bit.
"He kinda had a point, Becca. Although, I can tell you he was probably less concerned about being your father and more concerned about becoming your Daddy."
"Oh, so now you got the dirty jokes," Becca said flatly.
"What can I say, B, you're a bad influence on me."
"Eh," she said after a moment, "You wouldn't be the first. You know, months later he told me that he'd stood there that long because he didn't think he'd have the nerve to ask what he wanted to ask the next time if he left, which, you know, what the fuck? What am I, scary?"
I couldn't help but laugh again.
"Yes, Becca, you are, you're fucking terrifying half the time. You might be a short fuck but dynamite comes in small packages, you know? He was probably afraid you'd tell him to suck your dick and ban him from the store for a month like every other poor motherfucker I've seen ask you out, and he probably didn't want to go through your particular brand of ridicule in front of an audience, on top of that, with all the other customers laughing him out of the store."
"It ain't my fault I'm this size," she said after a moment, shooting me a perturbed look.
"No shit, Sherlock. It's genetics."
"It ain't even that. It's the blood. I mean, my parents were both tall, you know, for Koreans, anyway, my Mom was 5'6. I probably would've been too if I'd had the chance, but, you know, the blood it… stops things. Why do you think Jimmy looks the way he does? I mean, Pops believes in 'aging gracefully,' as he says, but old Giacomino is a vain fuck, and he's got more of a taste for 'the Stuff' than Rocco ever had. He turned 65 this year, he's only two years younger than Pops, he was already 34 years old when he met Nia for the first time. He tells people he's got a good plastic surgeon, when they ask. And the same thing happened to me. My body wanted to stay 8 years old, forever.
"Rossi had to get hormones, fucking estrogen and progesterone and HGH, off the black market to force my body to start puberty and to fucking grow. It's not like we could go to a doctor and explain why I needed the prescription. I mean, these tits aren't even mine. Ma bought 'em for my sixteenth birthday so I wouldn't feel so goddamned self-conscious. Nia's not exactly flat-chested, as you know, neither was my Mom, and it kind of gave me a fucking complex when I was growing up."
"I mean, is she? I haven't really noticed," I replied, evasively.
"Yes, you have, you lying fuck. There isn't a straight or bisexual man, or a lesbian or bisexual woman for that matter, that comes within fifty feet of Appolonia Bianchi that doesn't notice all of her unnatural charms. It made for some interesting 'family' trips during the summer when we'd leave the city, lemme tell you. I asked Pops once, you know, if he ever got jealous when she'd show up with some random dick she'd run across, cause I used to think it was pretty shitty of her.
"I said she could've at least kept things on the downlow and not throw it in Rocco's face every few days. But he told me no, he loved her, he understood her nature very well and he'd accepted what she was years before I was even born, and that she loved him too, and more importantly, respected him. She always introduced the men to him because that was what he'd asked of her. That it was the one aspect of control he had in the situation, giving his 'permission' for her little liaisons. That it made him feel better to let them know they might be getting a piece, but she'd be ending every night lying in his bed, regardless of what they did."
I nodded. "I guess I can kind of see his point."
"But, the blood, that's how I ended up pregnant. I mean, I'm not a dumbass, I know how babies are made, but I wasn't worried about using condoms with Antoni, neither of us wanted to. I told him if he gave me anything I'd cut his dick off, and he knew I was serious, too, and he considered it a proportional response. I didn't even think I could get pregnant.
"I stopped the birth control when I was 16 because it was making me gain weight and my cheer coach bitched me out in front of fucking everybody, and Rossi's guy said I needed to keep taking it to keep my hormone levels even. So I told Antoni I didnt want to get into my medical history, but suffice to say I was probably fucking sterile anyway, so he didn't have to worry about it, and he told me he wasn't worried about it at all. But apparently my fucking parts work better than I thought."
"Or maybe he had some damned determined swimmers, who knows."
"I don't know why I was even concerned about not using condoms anyway. Technically we were all excommunicated as of 2014. Pope said the mafiosi lifestyle isn't compatible with the Catholic one. You know, I wonder how Antoni would feel about all this, I wonder if he'd be pissed, think I lied to him about not being able to get pregnant."
"You're just gonna have to take my word for it, B, but he's not angry in the least, he's pretty fucking proud of hisself." I'd say his chest was stuck out but he didn't have much of a chest left these days, so I just kept that part to myself. "Pretty sure he said he wasn't worried about it because he was hoping you were wrong about being sterile."
Beccs gave me a strange look but the train arrived at just that moment. The people exiting did quite a bit of staring, unlike the people leaving the funeral, but I just tucked my arm around Becca and shouldered my way past them and found us a seat. The drops of water followed us into the train.
"What's with the present tense, Tony? Is that some kind of cliche 'he's lookin' down on you' bullshit?"
I snorted and wiped the bubble of blood from my nose, staring at the puddle of water that was starting to form in the seat next to us. I could feel the cold emanating from Antoni all along my left side. Oddly enough, it was easing the intense ache in my nearly severed ring finger.
"He ain't looking down on us, B, I can tell you that much."
"So it's a Hell joke?"
"No, not really. But then again, I'm pretty sure we're all in Hell right this second, Miss Rebecca, so yes, yes it is."
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2023.05.28 04:24 hashtagjlove Parents' probate is taking way too long and I'm getting frustrated

I just need some confirmation or maybe some relatable anecdotes about a pretty sad situation I'm dealing with because it's causing me major anxiety and I have no idea how to approach it and idk maybe I just need to vent and idk a more appropriate place for this post. I tried the AITA subreddit but it kept deleting my post.
So to set the stage; 2021 was an awful year for my family. Shortly before the pandemic my father was diagnosed with cancer of the mouth from his lifelong dipping tobacco habit. He was going through that while the pandemic took hold and not long into it my stepmother began to lose balance a lot and would fall and not be able to get back up frequently. My dad underwent treatment and went into remission very briefly before having to go back for a skin graft while my stepmom would slowly become wheelchair bound. Then in March of 2021 my dad went to the hospital for shortness of breath. The doctors put him into a medically induced coma to run tests, and the next day my stepmom had to go to the hospital for major stomach pain (bowel obstruction from the wheelchair). I lived in FL at the time, they lived in TX. I flew out and found that my dad had a mess of chest/heart/lung complications related to his cancer and the only options were hospice or numerous surgeries for a very long shot with lots of suffering so me, my stepsister, brother in law and her children all had to go to my stepmom's room across town and first explain the situation to her which crushed us, then she and I had to sit down and make the decision to let him go into hospice peacefully and we managed to get her to his hospital to say goodbye and I flew out shortly after. I flew back into town for my dad's funeral, my mom was now starting to lose her voice and upper body strength. I fly home, a few weeks later mom is back in the hospital and I get the call from my sister who also told me one of her sons had passed shortly after she went in and I got to fly in to town to see mom and we had to tell her as a family about my nephew which was heartbreaking. Another month goes by, we finally get mom's diagnosis: ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease). By this time she has to be on a respirator and I'm flying into Texas every few weeks to visit her but she eventually became unresponsive in September and we had to let her pass, too, and to cap it off it happened on my dad's birthday. I flew back shortly after to scatter her ashes on the beach (which she made sure all of us knew she wanted before she lost her voice, she didn't want us to not know like we went through with dad). So to recap, Dad passes in March, nephew passes in June, Mom passes in September. I lost my parents and a nephew inside of six months. My biological mother is still alive and I've become a little worrisome about her now but still it was the hardest year of my life.

After the worst year our family ever experienced I just wanted some time to process it all and grieve and I'm glad to say I'm at a point where I'll catch a glimpse of something that reminds me of them and I'll just think of whatever memory is attached to it for a minute and smile, though the anniversaries are still hard. Thank you for sticking with me so far. So during that time the process of probate was going on but I didn't much care about that, I just wanted to grieve and see my other nephew get married last year which was beautiful but..

It's almost two years now since mom passed away. She named my brother in law as the executor of her will. I think he was the best choice bc he would be the one to get things done and stand up to my stepbrother who was kind of the black sheep of the family (long story) but still thinks he should have been the executor. He's started a few fights over it. Anyway, about a year ago I had managed to move past the grieving process and it felt like my sister and BIL had, too. We've grown a lot closer over this time so I didn't want to ask about probate besides keeping up with how my parents' house is holding up (and retrieving a wooden chest I had made in high school that mom cherished and my dad's ring that my mom left to me) because I trust them. I also feel like asking about money after someone has passed is in poor taste.. but like I said we're almost two years past that now.

My mom left me, my stepsister and brother in law equal portions of her estate after the specific things like furniture, jewelry etc, and a small portion to my stepbrother. I haven't heard anything about that and until recently I was content to let it be bc I wasn't the only one that had a really hard time with so much loss so suddenly but the house hasn't even been listed for sale. I've tried asking what's going on with it, it seems there's a plumbing issue that needs to be addressed but the house is an hour and a half from their house so scheduling is hard. I get it but... stepsis doesn't work. She has health issues that slow her down but nothing that stops her from taking a day to go to the house to meet a plumber. Mom left her car to her so she definitely has her own transportation and she can do exactly what she does at home.. at mom and dad's house. She smokes cigarettes and does puzzles on her porch. She can bring her dogs for company. I don't understand how this plumbing issue has held things up for at least two months. I've tried suggesting ways to have someone meet the plumber and alert her so she can drive to the house (neighbor, friends, someone from the law office). The last option kind of put a little unwanted intrusive thought into my head, though. When I suggested just having someone from the law office as a throwaway bc I'm getting a little frustrated my sister told me "Oh, the lawyer's job was done a long time ago."

What does that mean? Sister had to let me go before I could ask, claiming she had to go to the doctor for a possible infection (which is was but she's fine now). I haven't called since then because I'm more than a little frustrated after that last conversation. I'm assuming it means all my parents' debts have been paid, all insurance policies have been collected, savings/retirement accounts have been consolidated etc. The only thing that appears to be left is the house. That's a monthly mortgage payment, insurance, possibly utilities and probably the car. I'm not going to lie, I have thought about what I might do with my inheritance. Nothing concrete but I've considered using it for a house or to get some training to switch careers and I'm in no immediate rush to get it but my main issue is how in the dark I feel. Stepsis and brother in law have since bought their first house and have done extensive renovations to it. I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt bc BIL had been promoted at work shortly before everything happened and they were looking at houses.. but I'm not unconvinced their budget didn't get bigger? Like I don't think they're spending my portion of the inheritance... but it's a bad look isn't it? They're the only family I have left on my dad/stepmom's side and I don't want to cause tension with accusations but I don't even know how much the estate was. I'm still paying off the flights, rental car and hotel bills from all the trips to Texas. I have severe PTSD and chronic anxiety diagnoses and piling this on top has been keeping me up at night for a year now. WIBTA if I called the probate lawyer and asked to see all the statements? Is this normal?
submitted by hashtagjlove to venting [link] [comments]

2023.05.27 20:05 Schizothymia It Happens All The Time (Part 1)

This story isn't mine to tell, it was told to me by my best friend. Derek probably wouldn't even want me to tell this story, but I feel that it needs to be told. I got a call from Derek late one night from the hospital. "I have something I have to tell you." He sounded desperate, frantic even.
"What's going on man is everything ok?" I asked. His breathing quickened and he started to sob. "Bro, what hospital are you at? I'll be there as quickly as possible." I've never heard him so broken. I drove as fast as I could to get there, wondering the whole time what could have landed him in the hospital.
Derek hit an all-time low point in his life a while before this. That's an understatement, his life was shattered by the death of his wife about six months prior. This is the kind of trauma that manifests itself in the form of self-destructive tendencies. Being plowed into by a drunk driver shortly after getting married can do that to a man. He lived, she didn't. Needless to say, it drove him into a level of despair that can't be described in words.
I should clarify this is not a dream post, rather an experience that my best friend had during the worst point of his life, and consequently his death, at least until he was resuscitated. And the things that he experienced, in some sense can be corroborated. It's all a matter of opinion i guess.
When I arrived at his room he was staring off into space with a blank, distant expression. As he turned to me I realized just how bad he looked. His eyes were bloodshot with bags under them, and his skin was very pale. After a few moments his numb, emotionless demeanor changed into frantic sobs, his expression morphing into one of an utterly broken man. I hadn't seen him in this sort of state since his wife's funeral. Without saying a word I wrapped him in a hug and tried to console him. He eventually calmed down enough for me to sit and talk. "What happened man?" I asked, as delicately as possible.
He looked at me once again, a pained expression on his face. He was able to dry his eyes and gather himself, as he took a deep, shaky breath and let it out slowly. When he spoke his voice sounded shaky. This is the story he told me.
I guess you could say it all started when she died. I kind of lost motivation to continue the same routine I was used to. I started missing work, shut out my family, and started drinking heavily. After a month or so of the same routine, I subsequently lost my job.
I awoke in a bit of a stupor, the kind that makes you forget where you are momentarily. I gathered my thoughts and surveyed my surroundings. The room was cold, not uncommon for a seedy motel such as this one. But what may have woken me was the tv. I thought it was off when I went to sleep but couldn't be sure. The tv was nothing but static, resembling hundreds of black crows dancing across the screen, accompanied by white noise.
I fumbled for the remote, and once I found it I turned off the tv. The screen went black. I stood perplexed for a moment, wondering just how the TV was turned on. I left the remote on the bedside table. Admittedly, it was a little creepy. I chuckled to myself as I thought of movie scenes in which the tv was turned on by some supernatural force.
Shaking my head, I stood and reached for the chain to turn the light on. The dull yellow bulb hanging from the ceiling did little to calm my angst, casting a glow that reminded me of an old sepia-type movie. The light gave the room uneasy atmosphere. I walked my way over the cold floor to the bathroom. I had a very strange feeling, like the room around me felt lifeless.
I flipped the switch on the wall, immediately I saw that the bathroom took on the same eerie tone, perhaps even more so. My reflection stared back at me, making me realize just how exhausted I looked. I took a moment to splash water on my face to clear my thoughts. Suddenly I thought I'd heard something. Turning the faucet off I stood stock still. I could've sworn I'd heard the shuffling of feet. The bathroom light suddenly turned off.
I was becoming Ill with fear. The light from under the door began to flicker with a strange buzzing sound. I cautiously peeked around the door, like a child whose imagination is concocting Images of creatures that wait in darkness to devour an unsuspecting victim.
I had barely peeked around the door when suddenly the light turned off, and now both lights were out, plunging the room into darkness. I was spooked to say the least, because just before the light went out I thought I saw a figure in the corner of the room. I was frozen for a moment, dreading whoever or whatever was in the room with me. Creeping slowly toward the light chain, I fumbled for it in the darkness. I pulled on it and to my unease, nothing happened. “Great.” I thought to myself.
My thoughts were interrupted and I jumped with a start when the white noise and grey glow of the TV came blaring on again. The thousands of white and black pixels of white noise danced across the screen once more. Then I thought I'd heard something else. Beneath the white noise was a different sound. I stopped and listened.
The sound was mostly drowned out but it was there. I was entranced with my eyes on the screen. Slowly I inched closer to the screen, holding my breath, and as I did so the sound became clearer. Fading in and out was… some sort of screaming, though I couldn't isolate any one of them.
It seemed as though there were dozens of them wailing. I stood there, hand outstretched toward the power button, listening as the sound of agonizing screams rose and fell within the white noise. My breathing was quickening, as was my pulse.
Just as I was about to unplug the tv, it turned off on its own. I stood for several seconds after the screen went black, trying to calm my angst. It was quiet, too quiet. It seemed as though the silence was even more unnerving than the noise. Completely freaked out, I slowly inched back toward the light chain. I didn't take my eyes off the TV even though it was pitch black. I was shaking but doing my best to convince myself it was just a faulty tv.
"Piece of shit." I said aloud, the sounds of screaming were most likely a horror movie on a channel with a bad signal. I reached for the chain still shaking slightly, praying it would work this time. To my relief, the light came to life, and as I surveyed the room I let out a long breath. I'd decided to sleep with it on. Just as I turned towards the bed, I was met with the breath of something inches from my face. “Don't worry, that happens all the time.”
Just then the tv came blaring with those awful screams. I can only describe the man in front of me as being a shell of a human, an unbelievably ancient-looking man whose grey hair was long and stringy.
His complexion was sickly pale, almost matching his gray hair. the face was sunken and emotionless. It was a brief first encounter but I'll remember that face for eternity. At that moment I felt like I was staring death in the face.
I stood paralyzed as I looked into the black pit where his eyes should be. Suddenly I was aware of another sound, only this one wasn't from inside the room. The heavy footsteps of something large could be heard somewhere beyond the door, accompanied by an inhuman wail. Just as soon as I was aware of it, I bolted upright in bed, almost falling off of it… I was at home…
My heart racing as well as my breathing. My jaw hurt as if I'd been grinding my teeth. It was clearly a nightmare, but you see, the dream of the "void" was a reoccurring one that id had once or twice a week, however, the one about the motel room was one that I had never experienced before that point. This time these two meshed together into one nightmare
The feeling, though, even now that I was awake in my own home, seemed to linger. I was no stranger to bad dreams, but as far as I can remember, before she died I had never had nightmares such as these.
I swallowed hard realizing my mouth was dry and went downstairs for a glass of water, still quite a bit shook from the strange nightmare. I racked my brain for any memory that involved the motel In the dream. It felt familiar in a way couldn't grasp. I chalked it up to stress and headed back upstairs for bed, I was exhausted and drained.
I lay awake thinking about the nightmare, I couldn't stop thinking about the eyes of the man, or the lack thereof. I could only hope that I wouldn't fall back into the nightmare when I fell asleep again.
Other thoughts crept into my mind as they always do, an everpresent grief that existed behind every door. Eventually, my mind drifted toward abstract thoughts as sleep took over. All was quiet. Suddenly the sound of something invaded my eardrums, and for the second time, I found myself back in the motel room.
I was immediately aware of the fact that I could only move my eyes as I looked toward the direction of the sound, whatever it was seemed to be coming up the stairs. I could hear several thumps reverberating from the metal stairs cutting through the silence, only the sound was different than the stomping id heard before. I listened, paralyzed and terrified as I heard the sound growing in volume as it made its way up the stairs, sounding as if it were crawling, accompanied by what could only be described as the cracking and popping of bones.
As it got closer I could hear the sound of deep gurgling and wheezing, like that of a sickly and choking creature. It stopped just a few feet before the window as I still couldn't see any shadow beyond the curtain, and the light outside my door started to flicker. I heard the sound of a door handle turning, I lay paralyzed in complete darkness and horror as I waited for the door to open, but as I heard a door creak open I realized that it was coming from the direction of the neighboring room. I struggled to move my paralyzed body to no avail. My eyes stared towards the window. The light in the breezeway still flickered.
My ears were met by the muffled sound of moaning and confused shouts from the voice of a man through the wall behind me. The shouts evolved into terrified shrieks. I could still hear the thing breathing, only seeming to get more excited. My heart pounded in my chest, I could do nothing but listen as the terrified cries suddenly turned to muffled screaming, and then a gurgled choking sound accompanied by cracking and wet crunching.
All sound went quiet aside from the heavy breathing of the thing, and once again I lay in silence still struggling to move, or better yet snap myself out of the nightmare as it seemed to be. Once again I heard the footsteps of the thing as it seemed to leave the room. "Please don't come this way." I thought, shutting my eyes. "Please don't let the same happen to me."
My eyes were shut tight for what seemed like an eternity, repeating in my head the same thing over and over until I realized that everything was silent. Opening my eyes I looked first toward the window, still unable to move my body, the light was no longer flickering beyond the curtain.
I looked to the edge of the bed, and to my horror, there stood the old man, illuminated only by the light from the breezeway, his eyeless sockets even darker. "Don't worry, that happens all the time." He was facing towards the window. That's when I heard a tapping, slowly fixating my gaze in the same direction I saw a silhouette that was unlike anything I'd seen, humanoid in shape, yet it was anything but human, it looked as though it was standing, only with its back hunched over. It was standing at an angle where I could see an unnaturally long neck with it's head seemingly facing toward me.
Without warning something smashed against the window with a crunch, leaving a dark splatter on the other side. I would have screamed if only I had the ability. With another sickening splat, I was able to make out the form of what was being slammed into the window. "Oh, God." The shape of a human head was being held by the hair, getting repeatedly slammed into the window, "Make this stop."
Almost as if the thing reacted to my thoughts, it immediately stopped. In a raspy, distorted voice, the thing spoke "you couldn't imagine the things he will do to you." Dropping the mangled head of its victim, it moved away from the window, and towards the door to my room. I could only lay in wait as the creature lurked outside the door.
I was awake almost immediately in a cold sweat. It took me a moment to realize that the sound of thunder is what woke me up. I reached over to turn on the bedside lamp, to realize that it wouldn't turn on. "Of course" I'd said aloud. The storm had knocked out the power. Without the sound of the fan blowing the house was silent, all that could be heard was the heavy patter of rain on the roof, and random bursts of thunder. I looked at my phone to find that it was 3 a.m.
I felt very on edge from the nightmare, remembering what the voice had said, "don't worry that happens all the time." And the words the thing at the window said. What did that mean? My mind reeled. You know the feeling of having something so suddenly startle you in a way that makes your heart lurch, taking too long for it to slowly fade? That's what I felt as if the panic-inducing sound of something faded in volume all too slowly. Again I was pondering why the room was so familiar
I rubbed my eyes trying to shake the residual sense of unease. Sitting in the darkness wasn't helping at all, so I decided to go downstairs and to the front porch to see if the other houses had lost power.
Just as I'd expected, all houses were completely without electricity. Not wanting to go back inside I sat on the porch and watched the rain as it poured. What struck me as odd was that all of the houses seemed vacant, no cars in the driveways. And then I looked down the street towards the end of the block. At first I wasn't sure, but I noticed the vague form of something in the road, though it was too dark to make out.
The sky was a dark grey, covered completely as far as I could see by dense storm clouds. The only illumination was that of the moon behind the thick clouds that scattered the dim light, casting an eerie glow upon them. A strike of lightning illuminated the sky, and through the heavy rain, I caught a glimpse of a figure standing at the end of the block in the middle of the road. I squinted to try and make out any details. But in the immense darkness and rain, I could see nothing. It looked to be the figure of a very tall man, I stood on guard, trying to decide whether or not to call out, not sure if this person would hear me over the heavy rain.
After a few moments of squinting into the dark wall of rain I began to turn back towards the door, but just as I did a flash once again illuminated the figure in the road, only much closer. It seemed like the only way for him to be that much closer was as if he was sprinting down the road toward me. Although I had no idea of what I should expect, I felt a sense of urgency, debating the old decision; fight or flight.
I took a few steps back, my hand finding the door knob, still staring in the direction of the figure. My eyes were trained on the spot I'd last seen the figure, and as another flash lit the sky I saw nothing. And after a few moments of surveying my immediate field of vision, I turned the knob and went inside, locking the door behind me for safe measure.
I wiped the rain from my face with a sigh, though. I stood for several minutes until I willed myself to turn around. I felt exhausted like I hadn't slept in days. The dreams were depriving me of sleep and plaguing my mind. I sat on the couch and laid my head back, staring through the darkness at the ceiling. I thought of my wife, and the last time I'd seen her face. I didn't like the darkness, nor the quiet. Not for fear of what may be in the darkness but for being left with my thoughts. As tired as I was, I felt like I had to keep moving, at least until the power came back. Maybe I was afraid of the nightmares to creep their way back in.
submitted by Schizothymia to u/Schizothymia [link] [comments]

2023.05.27 15:29 TimPowellFromAtoZ Need a ride across the Country? Non-profit that will fly you (same day OR drop off/pick up)

I just wanted to post about an amazing experience I had, and thought others may find it useful.
I just received completely free transportation from Pilots for Christ of Michigan to the Cleveland Clinic. And yeah, multiple sclerosis has caused me lots of financial hardship (optical nueritis stole my vision for a month and I lost all my contracts), and Pilots for Christ refused my donation.
The purpose of the trip was to evaluate if I'd be a good candidate for Anokion's ANK-700 Phase 1B clinical trial. We flew out from my local rural airport (less than a mile from my residence - I could have walked) taking off in their Cessna 185e aircraft at 6:50am. Arrived at the Lakeshore Airport at 8:40am. Arrived at the Cleveland Clinic at 9:00am (They had a car available for use at the airport - free of charge.) Performed all the tests and met with world-class researchers and doctors, who determined I was in fact a good fit. Finished my first expiremental MRI at 2:30pm. Called my new pilot friends, who arrived within 3 minutes to pick me up. Lifted off again at 2:50pm and arrived back home by 4:00pm.
Pilots for Christ provide free flights for all, of any or no religious background, lending you two experienced pilots and their plane to transport you wherever you need to go. For any medical purpose, including expiremental/clinical trial visits.
When I asked, "So how much would the services your rendering cost me commercially," they replied, "Oh, somewhere in the $5000-$6000 range. But you get it for free, because Jesus loves you."
I am already a little religious, but they were super relaxed and respectful of me either way. They stated upfront, "You dont need to be religious for us to help," and were incredibly respectful and not-pushy. Multiple Sclerosis patients that don't have a way to reach trial sites or places that provide treatment, this provides an alternative option. Pilots for Christ is an international organization with Chapters throught all states and many countries.
When I asked what I could do to pay them back, they asked if they could pray with me, and prayed for my acceptance into this trial and my complete and total recovery. These guys deserve the title, "miracle worker." Just thought I'd share.
submitted by TimPowellFromAtoZ to MultipleSclerosis [link] [comments]

2023.05.27 13:52 chainsaw_creepy Secret passage in the corner of the yard

Hello. I won't beat around the bush. This letter, more like a confession, came to me through a long chain of acquaintances and distant relatives several years ago. I do not personally know the people referred to in the letter, and I cannot say anything about its authenticity. However, the places described in the text do exist, I myself grew up nearby.
Last week I was digging through my email for the password to an old multiplayer game and came across this email again. To be honest, reading it the second time was just as disturbing and uncomfortable as the first. Having come up with nothing better, I decided to translate it into English and show it to you, friends. My fellow Yuriy Eremenko (hi bro!) helped me with the translation, I myself am not so good with English.
I want to know what you think about all this. I really really want to.
from: bespalyi*** to: litovskih.*** subj: Regarding your request
Hello, Sasha. Forgive me, if you can of course, but it didn't work this time.
I can explain how that happened, but you probably shouldn't count on me now. I do think there is still a chance though. You can try to do everything yourself. I did not manage to do it, but maybe you still can. It's a bad option, a very bad one. This is not a good thing, no matter what you say to yourself. Quite the opposite.
If I had another solution, I wouldn't even suggest this, but I do not see one. I just remember your look when we last saw each other, and, well...
Look, just think it through, don't do something you would regret later, do not rush anything. I may have nothing to lose, but you have Zina, and your parents, if they're still alive of course. Sometimes it's just better to leave things as they are, you know?
I'll tell you what I know. You know my address. Delete this message once you read it.
Long story short, when I was about 10 or 11 years old, there was this urban legend about our yard...
I feel like I've known this legend for a long time, since my childhood. All the kids were aware of this legend and knew plenty of other, similar ones. In the town's outskirts, in this ("experimental", as they said back then) microdistrict lived several generations of teens. From the town to our district led a 5 kilometer long road, alongside several sandlots. Schools, kindergartens, couple of clubs - according to the architects, these blocks of flats, around 20 of them, that organized our microdistrict, were supposed to be autonomous. And autonomous they were. Sure, some people went to the town from time to time, to visit their relatives for example, but the majority of us rarely left Zhilmash.
As a result, stories about a creepy man from the local park, or about the dark secrets of the sewers, or, say, about the manhole in a corner of one of the yards constantly circulated around the local kids and teens, told again and again and collecting more and more creepy and less believable details. Seriously, someone should have written a dissertation about our "folklore", but that's beside the point.
Thing is, our surroundings were not the only thing that was enclosed. In fact, our yards were as well. In the middle of a square made of long nine-story buildings, where all the porches were facing, there was always a polyclinic, a school, or any other socially important establishment, while a few archways led outside these fortresses, as if they were meant to have a suspension bridge as well. One would think that Zhilmash was designed by a man suspecting that, sooner or later, the locals would have to withstand a circular siege of their houses.
The urban legend I want to explain to you is about the corner closest to my porch. There were bushes growing in said corner, facing the shop windows of a pharmacy and a barbershop that occupied the first floor. There, near ground level, between the two blocks of flats, formed a crack roughly three palms wide and about one and a half meters high. There was a small passage behind the crack, but no adults ever went that way. This hole allowed us to shorten our path outside, but squeezing in there and staying clean was impossible. So we, kids and teens, were the only ones to really use it, especially when playing hide and seek and enacting a tiny war. At the same time, the adults had to take one of the archways to get to the bus stop.
Right in front of the hole there was a square, about an open book-sized, stone block, placed into the ground, seemingly during the construction works, resulting in this small pedestal. As the story went, you had to place some small animal on top of it and kill it. Then, instead of the crack, there would appear a passageway not to the concrete slab behind the bakery, but a way to an entirely different place. A "dead world" of sorts. Once you got there, you needed to quickly find a kiosk with closed or painted over windows, go to its front and loudly and clearly ask for whatever you wanted - a new Sega or even a computer. Some boy, according to the rumors, had even asked for an entire jeep. And, if you did it right, your wish would come true and you would need to hurry and exit this place before the passageway closed.
Typical story, if I am honest - dark, cruel and stupid. Precisely one that children love. As proof, people constantly brought up a friend of a distant relative's friend who did exactly that and their wish came true. They also pointed out the concentric circles and squiggles scratched on top of the pedestal with a knife or some nail.
Nobody from our company even thought of torturing a poor animal like that to test this stupid story For even joking about it we'd call the one suggesting to test the story sick in the head. Nika, however, was not from our company. Almost an adult, as I thought back then, a very beautiful girl with copper hair and almost constantly bruised knees, she once went to live with her grandmother for the summer and immediately gained the role of our yard's Ataman, setting up her own rules.
We were showing her around for the whole duration of July. I think each of my friends fell in love with her at least a tiny bit, since we were of that age. On one of the last long evenings before she was supposed to leave we set up a small bonfire, baking potatoes that we got god knows where with salt in tinfoil. We were telling stories, and of course someone blurted out something about the passageway. On the next day, Nika brought her grandmother's parrot to our "Headquarters" on the sandlot.
Have you finally figured it out, Sasha? Anyone else would have said that I may have lost my mind or maybe became an alcoholic, since I am seriously telling you how a children's horror story became reality. But not you. Yes, you got that right: all these years, when the need arose, I went to a pet store, bought a pet, one that I did not feel that much guilt about, and went there. The hole and the stone block are still there. But do not get too excited, finish reading first. Because you cannot solve it just by killing an animal. Nothing happens so easily, you know it well.
When Nika, ignoring our loud protests, broke the poor parrot's neck, we fell silent. Something broke alongside his spine. Something right turned very wrong. Nika did not seem as beautiful to me anymore. Her appearance did not change, but the girl herself and everything around her became ugly in my eyes. Especially gross was the stone block with the little carcass on top of it. As if it was made of squirming insects and not concrete. At the time I couldn't understand where this fracture appeared, inside me or somewhere outside. Now I know - everywhere.
We were stunned for just a moment, then we heard a loud sound from behind our backs. It was as if something huge smacked its lips, opened its mouth and inhaled deeply, almost with pleasure. The air in the clearing started to float and distort, flowing around us. Then it went in the vertical passage between the two houses, now leading to the bluish twilight of a somehow different yard, completely alien to us. In our yard it was only midday.
Houses stood there as well. Normal from the first glance, but looking dusty, almost ancient, like pyramids in the pictures of a children's encyclopedia. In the light gusts of wind small whirlwinds of dust formed and fell apart. It got cold - not extremely cold, but more like the cold you feel when entering the shadow on a sunny day. And a faint smell. It was disgusting, bitter and almost rotten, like from a wet overfilled ashtray or from a Chizhevskiy's lamp. The wind was making the grass move - normal grass on our side, and some colorless and dried like hay stems on the other.
Despite my disgust, I managed to grab Nika, who was running right past me into the passage, by the wrist, but she pushed me aside, and squeezed into the passage. Into the portal. After all, why not call it for what it is. She stood there for a bit, looking around. She turned to look at us with fear on her face mixed with enthusiasm. And, as it seemed, the enthusiasm overcame all of her fear.
— Don't just stand there! Come here!
Nobody moved a muscle. Quite the opposite. Kostya, the youngest of our group, backed away slowly until his back hit the wall. Nika's ginger hair almost faded, became an unremarkable shade of brown. Weird details, I know, but this is how I remembered her: scared and faded. Almost fractured.
— Nika, please come back, — Anton said quietly.
— Wha-a? Pft, pussy! And you call yourselves men? Aren't you curious? — her voice sounded muffled, the intonations fading out at the border.
— Really, don't...Maybe you shouldn't go there, we can clearly see that something is wrong there. And it stinks. Maybe this place is radioactive?
— We'll lie to your grandma that Kesha flew out the window, — I said, — Tell your grandma I let him out, you won't get scolded. Let's go, please? What if the passage closes? How will we get you out?
Our obvious stress, of course, only made her more excited. We should've just shut up or suggested coming back with rope and a flashlight, but we were too scared. And then she walked away and ordered us to watch the passageway. Called us dipshits and that she'll go make a wish, disappearing behind the nearest house with darkness instead of windows.
We waited for 30 minutes or so, but nothing happened. Moving slowly, as if underwater, I walked around the pedestal to see that world better. Yes, there was indeed a town, but almost swollen, wrong. Monochrome, like in a dream. Similar to our town in general. As long as you pay no mind to the details, that is.
There, everything seemed a bit bigger than normal: the window holes are bigger, the floors are higher, and the empty metal trash can could fit a person inside it. Along the road stood distorted lampposts, accentuating the unpleasant perspective. The upper floors were lost in a fog, making the unusually thin street, squeezed by buildings from both sides, look more like a cave with a high ceiling rather than an open space. No movement. And no sky as well, just countless dark shades instead of it. One row of buildings stood behind the other, hiding the horizon from my view and forming a depressing maze, the further parts of which were swallowed by darkness and fog. Alongside the road, the broken benches and rusty cars there were lots of grey sand.
Looking at the corners and the walls going up and to the sides I did my best to imagine people walking around here, living in these houses and then just packing up their things and suddenly leaving somewhere else.
As hard as I tried to imagine it, I just couldn't...
Instead, old scenic decorations came to mind, meant to imitate a normal soviet town for some old forgotten movie.
My thoughts were interrupted by a terrifying scream from the crack's side, echoing around the emptiness between these scary monoliths. It was Nika, but her scream was so loud and strained that it turned into a roar and then a wheeze. Sasha, you wouldn't believe that a small girl could scream like that. There was a temporary silence necessary for a deep inhale and the scream started again. It got closer. Nika was supposed to come out from that corner, which she disappeared behind all this time ago.
Seconds passed by, I did not let my eyes wander from that corner, trying to pinpoint at least something in the darkness of this dead world. And finally, I saw a shaky silhouette. It did not look human. Struggling to move on short leg stumps, an armless and asymmetrical figure leaned on the wall. The sacks and meat pieces dragging behind the figure inflated and deflated making fleshy noises, like a frog goiter. Bending like a worm, it pushed itself off the wall with all of its strength and made a few more clumsy steps in our direction. It screamed in Nika's voice. The scream came from the disorganized lumps of flesh the thing was dragging behind it.
I screamed and recoiled. The edge of a stone, which I had completely forgotten about, hit my knees. Falling, I threw the bird's carcass onto the grass. The champing sounded again, as if cutting off the heart-rending cry of our friend with a knife. Gradually, other, normal sounds returned: the laughter of children from the side of the sandbox, the cooing of pigeons, the voice of a woman calling someone for dinner from the kitchen window. It was day again in the narrow opening, rare dandelions were swaying there, a bus, battered by life, drove up to the "Sports School" stop. A striped cat ran past and darted into the basement window. Nika was nowhere to be found.
Drowning in tears, we told the adults what had happened: first to our parents, then to a gloomy man in an unbuttoned police jacket, while a friend of his questioned the neighbors. Nika's grandma was taken to the hospital, we thought her heart was about to stop. No one told us that we were lying or played around too much. But the testimony of little kids was also not taken seriously. They clarified over and over again if we had seen a suspicious man, and even described his appearance. They must have had some kind of maniac in mind.
I accompanied the policeman to the place where Nika was last seen. He looked around, stuck his head inside the hole, went around the house and wandered for a long time on the other side of the patch of land between the ends of the houses, looking for something in the grass. Then they left. The blue UAZ appeared in our yard several more times, but, of course, it was as if Nika had disappeared without a trace.
That summer, I occasionally thought about what she was like when she stood there, calling us to follow her. At night, I dreamed of something else. Something almost turned inside out, but still alive ... However, this happened less and less, and life had set its own priorities. In the fall, my father left us, problems began at home, there were also several disagreements at school. Years passed. The old company fell apart, new friends from the other yards appeared. I remembered little about the red-haired girl, but since then I have always went past the accursed place. That is, until I was fifteen.
After my father left us, my mother started drinking. A little bit at first, locking herself in the kitchen after work. Thinking that I'm sleeping in my room unaware of her crying, sitting with a glass of vodka in front of the TV. Then things got worse. Getting drunk, my mother became tearful, asked me for forgiveness, promised that she would quit from tomorrow morning, but that, of course, was a lie. A couple of times I got hit in the face by the men she brought with her - I tried to get them to leave the apartment. Then I skipped school for weeks so as not to show my bruises.
The head teacher wrote our family down as dysfunctional and did not do much since. By the eighth grade, the entire household was on me, I even learned how to cook. Mostly I just cooked soups, because they were somewhat filling and inexpensive. I got a job with a friend of his father at a car wash as a "runner" when my mother was fired from her job. She had spent all of the alimony on alcohol. My father knew, sometimes threw some extra money our way, but did not want to interfere in our affairs. It seems that he had started a new family, but I did not ask questions, and he was in no hurry to tell me anything.
By the ninth grade, every morning, just opening my eyes, I sincerely hated this life. Sometimes I spent whole days in bed, listening indifferently to the clanging of glasses of my mother's friends in the kitchen. How she vomits in the bathroom, yells at the TV, knocks at the door to my room: "Kolenka, sonny, I'm one hundred roubles short, I'll return it at the end of the month! Do you want to go for a walk in the park later? Do you remember what you wanted? I'll only go to the store and then go back". After another call to the ambulance, while the mother was sleeping under a dropper, the paramedic told me (not looking up from filling out the papers on hospitalization refusal) that she would last another year at this pace, maybe two, and then it would be necessary to call not an ambulance, but a funeral home.
Every morning in the ninth grade, I woke up with thoughts about the hole in the corner of the yard and the strange city lying behind it. The legend turned out to be accurate, the first part at least, so why the hell shouldn't it be true in its entirety? I knew what wish I wanted to make. Only a miracle could save my mother, or rather, both of us. And if not, then I didn't even want to live too much. I remembered all the horror of that summer, but you can't run away from yourself: the idea seemed more attractive day by day. Do you understand, Sasha?
One day, after returning from my lessons, I found my mother drunk on the floor by the stove, with an arm broken at the elbow. It seems she was trying to cook dinner for us when she lost her balance and fell. The sharp tip of the broken bone pierced the stretched skin from the inside, and she didn't even wake up. It's a miracle that she didn't have the time to turn on the gas.
Having sent her to the hospital, I sat up all night without sleep, and in the morning I went to the zoo store and bought an exotic lizard with the last money I had for this month. It cost far more than the funny hamsters that bustled about in the neighboring enclosure, but I couldn't bring myself to look at them. It was easier for me this way.
Everything worked like a charm. I again felt that the world had cracked, but now I myself was the center of the split, as Nika had once been. From that day on, I started to feel worse about myself, you know? As if I was that one person who I would not shake hands with at a meeting. I became a little unpleasant for myself, I don't stop to look at my reflection in the mirror anymore, I constantly carry this trash in myself. It's up to you if you decide to follow in my footsteps. I have a theory. It consists in the fact that, by opening the hole, you are doing something disgusting, and not even by personal, but by cosmic standards ... And the problem is not in the killing of an innocent animal, which is necessary for this, but in what happens then - in the very appearance of the gap.
Looking up from the stone, I was not even surprised. It was as if all these years had not happened at all, the city behind the hole has not changed at all, except for a couple of little things. I think that time goes differently there, or is even frozen in place. Because the "dead world" is not actually an abandoned village located somewhere in the north. Rather, it is an echo. A dream about what our reality could become if something terrible happened to humanity, which we miraculously managed to avoid. People have never inhabited these houses. Their inhabitants are completely different. And they are still there.
When I climbed through the gap, the smell of decay and bitterness spilled in the cold air, vividly reviving childhood memories. I looked around for traces of the creature that came to us four years ago from the darkness. The deposits of sand seemed to form a barely noticeable path leading along the wall and making a loop near the hole, from where a long rectangle of light was now falling. But it could have been an illusion, or the natural workings of the wind, and I didn't see anything else.
I had a flashlight with me, but I did not dare to turn it on. There was enough light, even though the source was not clear. Soon I noticed that there was light in some of the windows: first in one part of the building, then in another, square frameless pits were faintly opalescent, all in the same dirty-gray spectrum, like multiple TVs tuned to the same program were working right behind them. From other windows protruded long black tufts of what looked like crooked branches of dead shrubs or mushroom stipes.
Getting colder inside with every step, I wandered, raking in the smelly sand with my feet, in the direction where Nika had fled in search of a way to make her wish. Clinging to the ice-cold stone, I looked around the corner. Nothing was moving in the streets. The road continued, partially blocked in two places by fallen lampposts, smashed to pieces like antique columns in the ancient ruins of a lost civilization. But for some reason, it constantly seemed to me that something was still breathing behind these walls and, perhaps, even looking at an intruder from the darkness of these huge apartments. Gathering what little courage I had left, I took a few steps towards the center of the street, looking intently around me in order to detect any possible source of danger in time.
To the left, slightly to the side, stood a gray cube of something like a boiler room or a transformer booth with its gates wide open, as if in an invitation, with barely visible broken wires laying around. Behind it began a labyrinth of small garages, almost completely hidden behind thickets of the same bundles of sticks, which had made their way here and there from under the ground, like frozen explosions, from round holes in wells with torn hatches. Whatever happened here happened very quickly. I looked ahead. In the distance, about one house away from me, near what looked like a broken subway lobby, a patch of dim glow spread across the asphalt: one of the lanterns still functioned there, the only one as far as the eye could see.
In the dim circle of light stood a row of ordinary trading stalls. You know, those armored monsters with tiny money slots, they used to hang around every corner and sell pretty much everything from chewing gum to hard-to-find pantyhose.
My heart pounded even faster. So the legend did not lie about this either! To get there, it seemed, it was enough to go straight along the street past a series of entrances, some of which even still had doors hanging on one hinge. I must have lost my vigilance from impatience...
Each dark doorway was three meters high. As I drew level with the first of them, I heard something rolling in there, inside, bouncing off the steps. A worn rubber ball with two stripes rolled out onto the road in front of me. I used to have the same exact ball as a child, except that it got lost somewhere. Perhaps it flew away from a strong kick somewhere into the bushes, and I never saw it again. Maybe even in those very bushes in the corner of the yard.
I won't bore you with the details of the fear I experienced there. Both for the first time, and in all of my subsequent visits. Either way, you will see something of your own, personal, my experience will not be useful to you. Just... be prepared for anything. Just like in that ravine, in the first Chechen war, remember? Ha, then, after the shelling, you and I decided that now we saw everything, we were baptized, and nothing could scare us anymore. I don't know about you, but then I saw plenty of things afterwards: both in the dead world and in our ordinary one. Hell, sometimes I even miss the war. Don't get me wrong, but at that time I had friends, we swore to go through life together, if we made it out alive that is, and we believed in our oath.
Sorry, I'm getting sidetracked. It's been a long time since the last opportunity to talk heart to heart to someone.
I don't know for sure whether this world can harm you, whether it just plays around, whether it wants to scare, or vice versa - tries to make friends. I will only say that its inhabitants should be avoided at all costs. It is not difficult, they are rarely intrusive and almost never leave their homes. But if you see fresh footprints in the sand or something like a stripe that a huge snail could leave, turn around and leave. Don't run, you don't have to run there at all. You'll be back the next day. Each animal killed will take away a piece of your own soul, but it's better that way than to disappear completely.
Look at the picture I have attached. I have drawn, as best I could, the route that turned out to be the safest. Strictly follow it, even if some loop seems strange and unnecessary to you. Especially if it appears. Yes, in one place you will have to enter the house. There is a gap in the apartment on the second floor, you go out there, go down another entrance. So it is necessary, and for God's sake, do not arrange excursions for yourself, but inside the house, look only at your feet. Right at your feet and nowhere else. Ideally, close your eyes altogether. I wrote down the required number of steps, remember the amount and count.
Well, there is little left to say. How I got to the stall and made my first wish...
Coming out right under the dead light of the lantern, I perceived almost nothing. I was not harmed, but the human psyche, especially of a skinny teenager that I was, is simply not adapted to endure such things. I was trembling, not believing that I got there. At first I was overcome with despair at the sight of a row of stalls: they were destroyed and had see-through holes in places: just rusty frames with spots of dry and peeling paint. In the floor of one of them, a nasty mushroom-like bush grew, parting the wreckage.
Slowly walking along the large heaps of metal, I reached the last kiosk in the row, and although the light inside was not on, I knew: this is it. Welded from sheet iron, like all the others, this one was mostly intact. Even the glass behind the bars had survived, so dirty that no goods behind them, if any, could be seen. On a small semicircular window, behind which the salesman was supposed to be, there was a yellow card with a faded, just like everything around, inscription: "OPEN". Gathering my strength, I tapped on the window with my knuckle. Just a second later, it opened.
My nose was hit with a terrible stench. Once I already felt something similar. When, one autumn, I took a deep breath of hot and humid steam, coming from a sewer in which some animal had died and had been decomposing for a long time.
The darkness of the iron box was not pitch black; It occupied almost the entire volume of the kiosk. It was the Seller.
Finally, the movement in the darkness stopped. "Even if the kiosk had a door," I thought, "this creature would not be able to get out and chase me." The thought calmed me down a little, but I lost all of my pre-prepared words. My voice sounded strange and muffled in the middle of the empty square of this forgotten world.
— My mother... She is a good person, but she drinks a lot. Vodka, that is... or any alcohol. She won't be able to stop on her own because she's sick and I can't do anything about it. I have tried and tried!
The last "tried" quickly faded, as the echo disappeared into the alleys and yards. They didn't answer me. I don't know to whom and what I tried to prove, the words just flowed out of me, and they were sincere.
— She will die if it goes on like this, and I will be left alone. We didn't deserve it. I still love her! Therefore, I want my mother to stop drinking, and everything to be fine with us, just as before!
— Can I? — I added, waiting for the mocking echo to die down again.
And then there was silence. A minute had passed, and I sighed. What was I even thinking about. I fell for childish tales, climbed into a world where everyone either died a million years ago or became monsters, I tried to talk with one of them ... I need to save myself as soon as possible. Or maybe when I return to the passage, it will be closed? The thought that I could stay here forever made me want to just lie down and cry.
- f̶i̸n̸g̴e̶r̴, - gurgled the darkness.
- What? A finger?
- f̵i̶n̶g̷e̵r̶
Oh god, it was impossible to call it a voice, but it seems that I understood what they wanted from me. An icy cold sweat formed on my forehead. Why did I decide that everything would be free? Did this shit sound like a good fairy tale from the very beginning? And what if this creature bites off my finger, will I be able to get back and not bleed out?
Without giving myself a chance to change my mind, I tore two long strips from my T-shirt, then pulled out the trouser belt and squeezed it in my teeth, folding it in half, like I saw in the movies, until my mother sold our cassette player to someone for almost nothing. Clenching my left hand into a fist, I stuck out my pinky finger and put my hand right in the window of the kiosk, at the same time closing my eyes and clenching my teeth.
Nothing happened. After a couple of minutes, I dared to open my eyes. Maybe I misunderstood, and it was not about barter? As soon as I took my hand out, the window slammed shut. The inscription on the card had changed, now it said "CLOSED". Looking at my left hand made me dizzy, I started to feel sick: there was no pinky finger. There was no blood either, the remaining half of the phalanx looked like I lost my finger a long time, at least a year ago. Deciding to deal with this later, I went back. The hole and the clear sunny day behind it were still there.
You know, Sasha, I still wonder: what did Nika wish for? What was the price she had to pay?
As for what happened next, I think everything is clear. When my mother returned to work, we patched up our place, which had been pretty much wasted at that moment. I retrained from a simple car washer to an assistant mechanic in the same place, in a car service. I was entrusted with simple repairs, they paid a little more. In general, the money began to suffice. I had to call my friends to ward off some excessively aggressive chumps, who did not want to understand that they were no longer welcome at our house, and life went on as usual.
I learned to live without my pinky finger in just a week, and I lied to my mother about an accident at work last year. She cried again, of course. Mom died ten years ago: quietly, in bed, already retired. There was no more drinking involved, and those were good years. There would have been more if not for her poor health.
After leaving school, a war broke out, and the military registration and enlistment offices did not particularly sort out who to take. From here on out, you know everything yourself. Some returned, some didn't. We've been lucky. It was there that you called me Kolya the Fingerless, but now you at least know where my finger actually went.
At home, I got a job as a car mechanic in a bus depot. Between a tank and a rust-bucket of a car there is not such a big difference, if you look closely. Life was not that great for me, but I had girls, and meetings of old veterans. I bought my mom a country house in the suburbs to grow her own tulips there - what else does a person need? Only in a nightmare could I imagine that someday I would return to the dead world. But fate decided otherwise.
You now know how I spent my pinky finger. But at our last meeting, you noticed (I saw that you noticed): since then I have been squandering a lot. Three fingers remained on my right hand and two on the left. And that's not it. One kidney. Pancreas. And my left eye can't really see. Can you guess why that is? I think you can. You have always been the smartest among us, student.
As you could have guessed, I haven't worked as a mechanic for a long time. I get my allowance, I don't leave the apartment, I almost forgot what people look like, except for the girls from the welfare department. But I'm not offended. Do not reproach yourself that we did not communicate for a long time. And tell our guys, if necessary, when you meet. I wouldn't even talk to myself if I could.
When a year passed, we returned to civilian life, and things started to get better for everyone, Igor at first suddenly did not want to go to the next meeting to drink, remember that? And when we forced him, he sat in the corner, pale, did not even drink. This is Igor, who prepared booze almost from antifreeze.
His wife, Katya, was diagnosed with a bad case of breast cancer. And he loved her unconditionally. She was waiting for him to return from the war and here he was after all. I must have said too much then. I could not look at how he was tormenting himself, I really wanted to cheer him up. Everyone lost their mood, they parted early, and on the way back I bought a canary near the house. Breast cancer cost me another finger and another lie about an accident at work.
After that, a rumor had spread, either as a joke, or seriously: the fingerless healer. Everything was as promised: not just a remission, but as if the sickness was removed completely. The doctors were shocked, Igor laid at my feet while I couldn't even look him in the eyes.
Then more people came. Someone has a mother, an old father, children... Especially children. Then I realized that our world is full of suffering. I, whatever one may say, could help where nothing else would have helped. What is one finger of mine against someone's life that is just beginning? Believe me, I thought about this a lot, looking at all the new short stumps: stumps sticking out of my palm.
I didn't agree every time, and when I did, I didn't say anything. Inoperable hip fracture, legs turned into mush, the guy will never walk again - a finger. Sudden stroke, progressive dementia, another one. Congenital cerebral palsy, complete paralysis of the body - two fingers. Rumors spread. That's when you came to me for the first time, remember? We put your Zinka back on her feet, I hope she is doing well now.
Nine. Nine trips to the dead world, and every time a little less of me came back. And every time, while I looked at the opening passage, some creature was dying in my hands, and inside a part of my soul was dying as well. Nine is a lot, Sasha. I no longer feel anything but deep disgust for myself. People cannot look at me without disgust, without understanding why. They feel what I have become, although they do not know the reason. Paradoxically, the more I helped people, the more lonely I got. But I was ready for it, it's part of the price.
The only reason I haven't killed myself yet is because I might be of use to someone else. What little is left of me.
And then you called again.
I'm really sorry about your girl, really. I hope this fucking junkie gets caught and hanged by the balls. Believe me, I was ready to give everything that I have for her. I don't know, really, whether that would be enough or not ... Everyone else was alive, you know? Sometimes things were very bad, and then it cost me more, but everyone else was still alive. Nevertheless, I was going to try.
But the unexpected happened. As I made my way to the kiosk, I heard the soft cry of a child. It was coming from the windows of one of the apartments, away from my usual route. I don't know what came over me, but I decided to check. Used the grappling hook, climbed into the window. An insane risk, but... I must have realized something on a subconscious level. It was Nika.
How much time has passed, more than thirty years? But that is by our, earthly standards. For how long did she wander through the monstrous colorless void among the dreary monoliths, from apartment to apartment, in the hope of meeting at least one person? I'm afraid to even imagine it. The main thing is that she is alive. And she's still a child, in a way. In its current form, at least...
Oh, you should have seen what her stupid wish did to her. What was it like? Perhaps something like "I want to live forever"? And now, for the first time, something came to my mind. After all, we don't know how many more Zhilmash children got there over all these years, and what they wanted. I remember what I myself could wish for at that age. Is it just the new bike or the dog? Or maybe, for example, to take revenge on a bully? Or become invisible?
I think Nika recognized me.
I never made it to the kiosk. I came back to send you this email. Forgive me if you can, but I only have one chance left, and I must try to save her. I must return her body, return Nika back to our world. There is no worse fate than the one that fell to her. I don't know what the price will be, but it doesn't matter. Even if I have to take her place, I'm ready. After all, it was my fault that the portal closed back then. I'm afraid, it was I who told the legend about the passageway that evening by the fire.
You have a choice, Sasha. Think it over properly. Sometimes it's better to leave things as they are.
I have to go, she's been waiting too long...
submitted by chainsaw_creepy to nosleep [link] [comments]

2023.05.27 04:24 kasmar96 Did a Cleveland Prosecutor Kill Dawn Pasela?

in hopes to get the word around about this suspicious death in Cleveland, OH involving two cuyahoga county prosecutors!
Dawn Pasela died (26) passed away in 2012, the night before she was set to testify against a Cleveland, OH prosecutor about Mark Bennet and the misconduct he was committing.
Dawn was found with a blood alcohol content of .59 (yes that’s correct), yet there was no blood, or vomit surrounding her or in her home, and all the vodka bottles screwed on and in the trash.
(If anyone knows anything, or can offer any assistance, you can reach out to me as I have direct contacts for Pasela’s, Tony and their attorney)
Detailed time line-
All available documents pertaining to Dawn and the misconduct-
submitted by kasmar96 to UnsolvedMurders [link] [comments]

2023.05.27 04:01 TheWelshWitch Bella Donna

Would you stay if she promised you Heaven?
Would you even try?
I do not know what to believe anymore.
What was my purpose? What did I do? And what becomes of us after we die? Do we go onto our hereafter, whatever that may be, or do we cease to exist? As a Catholic, I believed in the answers provided by the Church for those questions, or, at least, I thought I did.
I did not always have these doubts about death and the afterlife. In fact, I had once embraced them, in a way. I believed death was the way that led us to God and His everlasting love in Heaven. That was my message. Death was not to be feared. I carried that with me as I volunteered at hospitals and care homes. I wanted everyone to know they were cared for and loved as they passed from this world onto the next.
Not now.
When I think of death now, I can only envision myself lying in bed, abandoned and forsaken by the world. My breaths grow more shallow until they stop completely, whilst my heart slowly stops its rhythmic beat. As I die in that empty room, I am alone.
All alone.
That terrifies me.
All of this started after my neighbour died following a long battle with cancer.
My neighbour, who lived in the apartment below ours, entered hospice care after her cancer returned and metastasized to her brain. A nurse would come each day to manage her symptoms with medication and help her with basic tasks. When her nurse was not there, I volunteered to help Ms. Martin, particularly meeting her spiritual needs, since she was unable to attend Mass. We read the Bible, we prayed the Rosary, and I would accompany our pastor after Mass on Sunday back to our apartment building, where he would give her Holy Communion. Ms. Martin and I grew stronger as friends whilst her body weakened and her mind faltered.
As I unlocked my bicycle from our stand, I stuffed Ms. Martin’s grocery list into my pocket.
“Do you need anything else?”
“No,” she answered. “Nothing else. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome, Ms. Martin,” I replied.
With a wink, she said, “It’s ‘Maud.’ You know me, Kitty. No need for formalities.”
She smiled, and she waved me off as I bicycled to the grocer’s in town.
After I returned from the grocer’s, I delivered her groceries, put them away, and we prayed the Rosary. When we finished praying, I made tea for the two of us. As we sat on her couch, we sipped from our cups of tea, whilst we talked with each other.
Despite her condition, Maud was always in a good mood. She endured her pain and suffering with the patience of a saint. She was still young at forty–five years of age, but she had no fear of her impending death. She was a devout Catholic, and she found comfort and courage in her faith. My own views on death notwithstanding, I did not know exactly why Maud was so comfortable with what amounted to an expiration date on her life.
As we talked with each other that afternoon, Maud finally confided in me.
“May I tell you something?”
“Yes,” I answered. “You can tell me anything.”
She raised her eyes heavenward, smiled, and she returned her attention to me.
“Thank you, Mother,” she whispered. Before I was able to ask what she meant, she continued in a low voice, “Did you hear her?”
“What do you mean?”
“Her voice. . . .” She trailed off. “Did you hear her?”
I heard nothing.
After a moment of hesitation, Maud asked again, “Didn’t you hear her voice?”
I did not hear any voice other than her own.
“Who are you talking about?” I asked.
“Mother Mary,” Maud beamed. “She came to me, Rhiannon, when I needed her most.”
I started to feel a gnawing sensation in the pit of my stomach, but I did not exactly know why.
“Do you remember the day I told you my cancer had returned?”
“Yes,” I answered. “The 25th of March.”
“The Feast of the Annunciation,” Maud added.
“I don’t understand. . . .”
“That night was the first time I saw her.”
Unsure of how to proceed, I stammered, “Did she say anything?”
“‘Do not be afraid. I came from Heaven,’” Maud answered. “Her voice was full of grace and love. I’d never felt as I did. It was as if her voice penetrated my soul and told me the truth about everything I’ve ever felt in my whole life.”
There was a certain lustre in her eyes as she told me about her vision. I felt a gnawing sensation start in the pit of my stomach. It startled me to see and hear how much this vision impacted her. She completely believed she saw the Blessed Virgin Mary. Yet I realised what I believed or did not believe happened was unimportant. I could see how much all of this meant to her. And I could not take any more from her, so I simply nodded as she continued speaking.
“I saw her for a minute, but it felt like forever. She asked, ‘I have come to ask you to offer your sufferings to God. Are you willing to do this?’ I answered, ‘Yes, my Mother.’ She started to fade away. Before she was completely gone, I asked, ‘Will I go to Heaven when I die?’”
“What did she say?”
There was a brief pause.
“Do you believe me, Kitty?”
Although I felt that gnawing sensation in the pit of my stomach, I dismissed it, and I answered, “Yes, I believe you.”
It was the first time I lied to her.
Whilst I believed she was seeing visions and hearing voices, I attributed them to the multitude of medications she was prescribed. I did not believe she was actually seeing the Blessed Virgin Mary or hearing messages from Heaven. The most logical explanation was opioid–induced hallucinations. That had to be it. What else could it be?
After Maud confided in me about her alleged visions, they began to increase in frequency. Every day, I would visit her apartment, and I would invariably find Maud kneeling in front of her shrine, praying her Rosary, and she would tell me another message that the Blessed Virgin Mary gave her. There was little difference between the messages in her visions – Offer your sufferings to God. Suffer for sinners. God is pleased with your offerings. I started to dread whenever Maud told me about another message from Heaven. Does God only want her to suffer? Suffering has a purpose, but Maud’s suffering seemed to have none other than to cause her physical and spiritual harm.
A couple of weeks later, I walked into Maud’s apartment to check in on her, and I found her writhing on the floor. She was holding her face in her hands, her half–open eyes rolled back into her head, whilst moaning in ecstasy. I was terrified, but I tried to help her anyway. She could not be moved. As I prepared to call an ambulance, Maud suddenly returned to her senses. When she saw me standing over her, she smiled.
“Kitty,” she said. “Oh, Kitty, I’ve never felt so close to God.”
As I helped her onto the couch, I asked, “What happened?”
“I don’t know if I can explain it,” she answered. She made herself comfortable as she continued, “I was one with love itself. No more pain or suffering. No fear. Only love. . . .”
Before I was able to ask another question, Maud mumbled, “I feel empty now.”
With that, Maud fell asleep. I placed a pillow underneath her head and laid a blanket over her. As I left her apartment, I watched as Maud comfortably slept, but her words reverberated in my mind — I feel empty now.
On the following day, Maud and I were praying the Rosary when she had a vision. She looked up with that lustre in her eyes, and she spoke, inaudibly, to her Lady. When her vision ended, Maud looked sad, and I asked, “What did she say?”
Turning to look at me, Maud answered, tearfully, “‘Suffer, daughter, suffer very much. It is pleasing to God. Suffer the pains of Hell in this world, so you may not suffer them in the next.’”
The gnawing sensation in the pit of my stomach returned as Maud told me what her Lady said. Suffer the pains of Hell. Why should she suffer the pains of Hell if she was going to Heaven? It did not make sense to me, but I did not say anything to Maud, because I did not want to upset her. After we finished praying the Rosary, I helped her into bed, and I left her apartment.
In the morning, I was feeding stray cats around our apartment building when I started to think about Maud and her visions. Although I could not name a specific reason why, I felt profoundly uncomfortable when I thought of them. Why would God want her to suffer the pains of Hell? It seemed to go against what I was being taught in Catechism. What if that is simply her cross to bear? I did not know what to believe. After I finished feeding the cats, I heard a crash coming from Maud’s apartment.
Concerned for Maud and her welfare, I ran into her apartment, where I found her on the floor, unconscious, bleeding from a wound on her forehead. It appeared as if she fell and hit her head on an end table. I called for an ambulance, which came as Maud started to regain consciousness. She was treated by the paramedics, who examined her for any other signs of injury. The paramedics did not find anything, but they said she was malnourished and dehydrated. They wanted to take her to hospital, but she refused. After the paramedics were assured Maud would be taken care of and left, I sat Maud down on her couch, and I asked her a question.
“Do you remember how you fell, Maud?”
In an attempt to evade my question, Maud asked, “Did you feed our kitties, Kitty?”
“Yes,” I answered. “Please, answer my question.”
“I don’t know,” she answered. “I’ve been fasting. . . .”
“Why would you fast in your condition?”
“To suffer more.”
Appalled by her decision to fast in spite of her health, I decided to look over her medication. It looked untouched. Had she stopped her medication?
“Are you still taking your medication?”
She did not answer.
Concerned, I dialled her nurse on the telephone in her kitchen.
“Hello,” I said. “My name is Rhiannon Fitzgerald. I am calling on behalf of Maud Martin.”
“I was wondering if you’ve been out,” I answered. “I haven’t seen you in a couple of days.”
After an awkward pause, her nurse said, “Ms. Martin dismissed me last week.”
“Did she give a reason?” I asked.
There was another awkward pause before she asked, “Is there anything else?”
“No,” I answered. “Thank you. Goodbye.”
After I returned the telephone to its cradle, I walked back into the front room where Maud was sitting on her couch. I asked her, “Why did you dismiss your nurse?”
“God told me to do it.”
In the absence of her nurse, I made sure Maud safely resumed eating, drinking, and taking her medication. She still looked weak, but there was more colour to her face. I put her to bed, and I left her apartment. Why would God want Maud to wantonly risk her life? None of it made sense, so I went to see someone whom I believed would be able to make sense of it.
As I walked into my parish, I crossed myself with Holy Water and genuflected to the Tabernacle, and then I walked to the parish office. The pastor, Fr. David Murray, was sitting at his desk when I knocked on the door and entered.
“Hello, Ms. Fitzgerald,” Fr. Murray said.
“Hello, Father Murray,” I replied. Sitting in one of the chairs in front of his desk, I said, “Thank you for meeting with me. I don’t know, Father, but I think you’re the only one who can help me.”
“What is your problem?”
After I told him about Maud’s alleged visions and messages from Heaven, Fr. Murray looked pensive. He was trying to find the words for his answer. Eventually, he said, “Her visions and messages are indeed a cause for concern.”
Although I was relieved Fr. Murray believed me, I was scared by the fact that he agreed Maud’s visions and messages were a cause for concern.
“Can you explain?”
“If you recall Scripture, St. John writes in his First Epistle, ‘Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits if they be of God,’” Fr. Murray answered. “Has Ms. Martin tried this supposed spirit?”
“Has Ms. Martin expressed any concerns?”
“No,” I answered. “What scares me, Father, are the messages from the spirit that seem contrary to the Faith. Some of its messages have even caused Maud to despair.”
“‘Every spirit which confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is of God: and every spirit that dissolveth Jesus, is not of God,’” Fr. Murray recited. “Are you afraid that the spirit might be evil?”
“Yes, I am.”
“As St. Paul wrote in his Second Epistle to the Corinthians, ‘Satan himself transformeth into an angel of light,’” Fr. Murray recited. “It is certainly possible that the spirit, if there is one, could be evil.”
A chill went up my spine.
Stammering, I said, “I don’t understand, Father. Why would an evil spirit be attracted to Maud? She’s one of the holiest people I know.”
“An evil spirit would be attracted to Maud because of her holiness. Satan does not want sinners, whom he has already claimed, but saints, so they will be separated from God forever, like he is,” Fr. Murray answered. “Her condition makes her even more susceptible.”
“What do you mean?”
“Evil lies in wait. It waits for an invitation. The purpose of demonic obsession and oppression is to break an individual down and possess them. Maud makes an ideal candidate for demonic oppression. She is not only holy, but she is dying. She is easier to break, because she grows weaker–physically, mentally, spiritually–by the day. An individual must be broken, a crack must form in their soul, for the smoke of Satan to enter in.”
As we concluded our conversation, Fr. Murray assured me he would discuss the matter with the Bishop. I left the parish office, and I bicycled back to my apartment building. Entering Maud’s apartment, I saw her in bed, praying silently. She had a pallor to her skin, and her legs and feet were mottled with purple splotches. Her pulse was fast and her breathing was shallow. She did not have much time left. I walked toward her, and she flinched when I placed my hand on her shoulder. She opened her eyes, and she looked frightened.
“Who are you?”
“It’s me, Maud,” I answered. “Rhiannon.”
“Yes,” I nodded. “It’s Kitty.”
“She came to me again,” Maud said. “Mother. . . .”
As she trailed off, I asked, “What did she say?”
“‘It is almost finished,’” Maud recalled. “‘Soon you will receive your reward.’”
Before I was able to say anything, Maud cried out, “Mother, help me. . . . Please, stay with me, please.”
I started to cry as I listened to her pleas for her Lady to stay. Placing a chair at her bedside, I sat down, and I held her hand in mine.
“Rhiannon,” she whimpered. “Don’t go.”
As tears trickled down my cheeks, I was torn between belief and disbelief — Was she receiving visions of the Blessed Mother, or was she being deluded by Satan? I did not know. I wanted to beg her to hold on, but what if I would only prolong her suffering?
Maud looked over at me, and she whispered, “One more Rosary?”
With tears in my eyes and a quiver in my voice, I nodded, and said, “Yes.”
Maud and I started to pray the Rosary. In the middle of one of our Hail Marys, a brilliant light enveloped Maud’s bedroom. The familiar lustre in her eyes returned as she prayed, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us, poor sinners. . . . Poor sinners. . . .”
As she sat up in bed slightly, Maud announced, “She’s here.”
And I was able to see her.
To my astonishment, I was able to see the form of a woman, who was dressed in a white gown with a blue mantle and sash, her face obscured by the brilliance of the light surrounding her.
Although I could not see her face, I was able to hear her say, “Come and receive your reward, good and faithful servant.”
With a dreamy smile on her face, Maud collapsed onto her pillow, lifeless and limp.
She was dead.
Through tears, I looked at the Lady before she faded away completely into the light. At her feet, which were covered by the bottom of her gown, roses, lilies, and violets bloomed, but in the centre of the bouquet, there was a sprig of belladonna flowers.
Although I saw and heard everything with my own eyes and ears, I was still consumed by doubt. Was it true? I did not know. Was it false? I did not know. What did I know? I had no answers for the questions I asked, and I was racked with sobs over Maud’s body.
A week later, Fr. Murray celebrated Maud’s Funeral Mass at our parish, and she was buried in the adjoining cemetery. The mourners dispersed soon after her coffin was lowered into the earth, but I remained at her grave to say goodbye.
As I prepared to leave, I heard a voice in the wind.
It sounded like the Lady.
“Rhiannon. . . .”
Could it be?
I turned around, but I could not see anyone else in the graveyard.
Mother Mary?
When I turned back around to Maud’s grave, I saw a fresh sprig of belladonna flowers placed on her headstone.
As I pondered the meaning of the beautiful yet poisonous plant, a flood of memories of Maud came over me.
Her battle with despair. Her rapid physical, mental, and spiritual decline. Her immense suffering. Her lonely death, abandoned and forsaken by the world.
All of it began when she started seeing a beautiful Lady, who would never show her face, even to her.
I felt paralysed as a familiar voice spat directly into my ear.
“You could never have saved her.”
submitted by TheWelshWitch to nosleep [link] [comments]

2023.05.27 03:09 subredditsummarybot Your weekly /r/PsychedelicRock roundup for the week of May 19 - May 25

Friday, May 19 - Thursday, May 25

Top Media

score comments title & link mirrors
65 22 comments 🏜️Does my song “Sonoran Sundown” sound like it could be a western movie soundtrack, let me know what you think, link in text👇
40 4 comments Osees - Intercepted Message (new album out in august) [Sp] [BC] [Dzr] [SC]
33 7 comments Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Bicycle (2011)
32 6 comments Some footage I got from Acid Mothers in Delaware 5/19. Complete with S.L. Telles from ST 37 bowing down to the noise. Wild show.
22 14 comments Show Report: Acid Mother's Temple @ Grog Shop, Cleveland OH
22 4 comments Shoegaze from Estonia. (Noir- Woven)
13 3 comments She's About A Mover - The Sir Douglas Quintet [Sp] [AM] [BC] [Dzr] [SC]

Top Remaining Posts

score comments title & link mirrors
50 49 comments The best part about being away from home for work is I get to come back to all of the music I had ordered. See any of your favorites here?
43 7 comments Rose City Band - Garden Party
42 5 comments My painting of Syd Barrett
41 5 comments Philly peeps, here’s a sick show coming up with the guitarist of Kikagaku Moyo
29 13 comments Introducing New Mid-West Psych-Rock/Jazz Project "Bleeding Lizard" With Their Debut Single "River of Perception" An intricate combination of intertwining guitars, vibey vocals and themes of Taoism and psychedelia
16 18 comments I went to Altai mountains to record my first LP with real shamans and babushkas
15 14 comments Acid mothers temple & Earthless

Top 5 Most Commented

score comments title & link mirrors
0 15 comments Greta Van Fleet Releases New Single "Sacred The Thread"!
0 13 comments Why did I see myself as a disfigured deamon or witch or monster while on LSD?
5 6 comments Discovering Psych Rock Music
1 6 comments Supergroups
10 5 comments Calming Psych Spotify Playlist.
submitted by subredditsummarybot to psychedelicrock [link] [comments]

2023.05.26 15:49 CIAHerpes I found a memorial to a horrifying battle that no one has ever heard of

“To those who fell in the Battle of Scarville,” the stone memorial read. “Your sacrifices were not in vain. October 24th, 1918- October 27th, 1918.” Above the base stood a statue of an American soldier with a round cap and a long rifle with a bayonet attached. His face had a perpetual scowl, his eyes slightly squinted as the statue looked at something far off in the distance. I heard a throat clearing. I looked around in confusion.
“Beautiful memorial, eh?” a voice said from behind me. I turned and saw an ancient-looking man in a suit. His face had so many wrinkles that it reminded me of a raisin. His ears and nose stood out massively on his shaking frame. I wondered just how old this man really was.
“Yes, it certainly is,” I admitted, glancing once more at the shining marble statue which seemed to glow under the bright summer sun. “But what is the Battle of Scarville? I’ve never even heard of it.” The ranger shook his head sadly at this.
“Most of you younger people haven’t,” he said gruffly. “But my family was involved in the Battle of Scarville. If you have a few minutes, I can tell you all about it.” He motioned to a bench next to the statue, one that I could have sworn wasn’t there just a few seconds earlier. I shrugged it off though, admitting to myself that I might have missed it due to the glare of the sun, which was slowly disappearing behind the trees. We both sat down. He told me his name was Franklin, and I told him mine was Ted. We shook after we had introduced ourselves, the small, bird-like bones of his fragile hand feeling almost weightless under my grasp. And then Franklin began to tell me a story that would change my life forever.
I was just a kid when this happened. My father was a soldier in the area, but he never liked to talk about what he did. Then one day, he came running in the living room, his eyes all wide, telling me and my mom to get all our stuff, quick, it was time to go, and all this other nonsense. My mother asks why. He starts screaming gibberish about monsters and this and that. And my mother says the strangest goddamn thing- “Oh, is it that time again?”
Right then, the shaking starts outside.
“Oh, God, it’s too late,” my father says, and he puts his face in his hands, crying. Now, my father was not a man who ever cried. I didn’t even see him cry at my grandfather’s funeral. He was made of stone, one of the toughest men I will ever know. So when he started crying, I knew something bad was happening.
The sky started to go dark, as if there were a solar eclipse. My mom grabs a canvas bag and starts trying to go around the house, grabbing some food and drinks. But my dad yells, says we have no time for that. He tells her to grab his other gun, the 12-gauge in the closet upstairs. He runs downstairs and grabs his rifle, shoving a magazine in it and standing at the door, straight as a board and as pale as a sheet. The sky seemed to go dark, even though it was still over an hour until sunset.
Out of the darkness, I saw silhouettes, stumbling shapes with twisted legs, broken arms, long necks and strange eyes. They continued forward at a much faster pace than any walking man. Their eyes seemed to glow in the dark, and the closer they got, the more hypnotized I felt. There was a strange, pulsating light that came out of their faces, you see. If you stared at it too long, you would get carried away by that light…
My da, though, didn’t hesitate for a moment. He started shooting as soon as they were within range of the 30 odd 6. The nearest one’s head exploded in a shower of dark blood. The rest of them began hissing like snakes and running forwards. My da empties his whole magazine, taking down six of them, then slams and locks the door.
“Where’s that fucking gun?” he screamed. My ma came running down the hallway with the big black thing in one hand and a box full of slugs in the other. He grabs the gun from her hand and gives it to me.
“You know how to shoot, boy,” he says. “Now is the time for you to prove yourself. Protect your family and home.” By this point dozens of those things are slamming on the other side of the door, still hissing and gurgling in some strange language I’ve never heard before. I nodded at my da, and started slamming slugs into the shotgun.
They were practically breaking the door down by this point. The lock had started to bust and twist, and the door was separating from the threshold. A couple more good hits and it would have been all over the floor anyway. I know a good slug will shoot through doors, hell, they’ll shoot through walls, so I point the shotgun at the door, point blank, and begin shooting through the door. Some of those things start screaming and falling over, dead, exit wounds the size of grapefruit in their backs and chests. But the door is in a sorry state by this point, full of massive holes and splintering apart. I had to reload, and they started busting through, coming into the house.
Now that they were close, I could tell they were not human, though from a distance they almost looked human. But they had these strange, pulsating black veins going up their neck and stretching out across their face, and their eyes were all the same silver color, glowing as if they had some inner light. It wasn’t just a reflection, like you see with some animals at night who run in front of your headlights. This light was coming from within them, and it was bright.
Some of them had blood caked around their mouths, running down their clothes and the entire fronts of their bodies. Whose blood, I didn’t yet know, but when I saw the casualties in the town later on, I would figure it out.
Just when I thought we were going to be overwhelmed, my neighbor and some of his family members ran over. He starts screaming at me from the yard, firing his gun at the creatures in a frenzy of violence. He had his two sons with him, and they all had shotguns. They were whooping and hollering, blowing the creatures apart with buckshot. When one of them stopped to reload, the other two would cover them, so that they had a nearly constant rate of fire. My da and I ran out the door, shooting and reloading. I saw the skull of the nearest creature disintegrate as I fired into its head from less than five feet away, but its eyes seemed to hover in the air a moment after it was gone. It reminded me of the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland, how its face seemed to hang in the air after its body had gone.
By this point, we had finished off the entire group of them. A couple dozen bodies lay around us. My heart was beating and my blood was up. I could almost relate to the sons of my neighbor; part of me wanted to whoop and holler too. Part of it was fun and exciting, even though I knew that one wrong move would mean likely death.
I used the break in the action to move closer to one of the corpses and look at it. In its basic shape, it looked human, but up close, you could tell it was no such thing. For one thing, they all had six fingers on each hand, and they were twisted, long things. They almost looked vampiric- and, as I would find out later, that was right on the money, or at least as close to it as we could understand. Their skin had thin black veins running every which way, and they appeared to all be wearing some sort of coarse brown cloth, formed into shapeless pants and shirts. They even covered their feet with it, though they had some sort of leather on the bottom. It didn’t look like any leather I had ever seen, however. It shone and shimmered, and it looked inflexible and thick. It looked chitinous.
Out in the field, we heard a sound like a screaming woman. It broke the silence and caused us all to jump, spinning around and pointing our guns. But what we saw there was no scared lady. It was some sort of animal, standing over ten feet tall. It looked like some huge praying mantis, except its hide was shiny and black. Massive pinchers extended from the front of its face, big enough to chop a man in half down the middle I reckon. The eyes were huge and black, but as the light moved across them, they seemed to shimmer like rainbows.
“What in God’s name is that?” my da yelled, but the neighbors only shook their heads in amazement. Then one of the boys, a red-headed and skinny lad by the name of Wesley, said something that caught me off guard.
“I saw some of those things coming out of the caves,” he said. I looked at him, eyes wide. So did everyone else. “When I was fishing earlier at the stream. I thought it was just people exploring the tunnels at first, until I saw their eyes and those veins…” His father grabbed his shoulder and shook him.
“When was it?” his father asked him, looking scared and uncertain. “How long ago, son?” His son shook his head slowly, trying to remember.
“An hour ago, maybe,” Wesley said. “As soon as I saw them I started running home, and not five minutes after I got there, they started coming across the yard…”
People from town were running down the road now, screaming in terror and pain. I saw them driven on like herds of sheep, and our giant praying mantis friend also noticed. Its head went up, antennae flicking, head cocked to the side in a way that would have been comical in other circumstances. Its pinchers moved faster, opening and closing constantly, as if it were trying to taste the air. Then it started running. It was just a black blur in the dim light, flying across the yard at an impossible speed. I couldn’t even see its legs moving.
It grabbed the nearest person, a young woman with huge terrified eyes, and used its pincers to snap her head right off. The decapitated head rolled across the ground, an expression of mortal terror still etched into her expression. Then the mantis creature began to suck at the bleeding stump of her neck- drinking until it looked like the body was sucking in on itself, until the skin was pale and bloodless as a mannequin. The other people were stumbling and running around it, still praying and cursing and shrieking, but it took no notice of them. Once it was full, it looked bigger- more swelled up, like a tick. Its chitinous black shell seemed to expand, looking more rounded, and it even looked a little more red in the pale light- as if the blackness of its hide had lightened into a shade of darkest crimson.
“We’re being invaded by vampires!” I screamed. Everyone looked at me, but no one argued. They didn’t even have time to. At that moment, the next wave started.
Our home was on a road with houses every few hundred feet, a forest behind the houses and a grassy field on the other side. The road itself sat between the field and the homes. The trees pressed in on the houses, being only twenty or thirty feet behind them. The woods were old and thick with brush and prickers and endless ferns. It was hard enough to see in it at daytime, but it was now nearly night, and trying to see into it was a fool’s errand.
The enemy used our disadvantage to surprise us. We had all reloaded, of course, and we had five men with guns. I wished I had another one to give to my ma, who stood behind my da, both of them looked scared and far too pale.
I saw it was the mantis creatures that were approaching, though a few of the vampires walked through silently, their eyes glowing. The two apex predators didn’t seem inclined to attack each other. I wondered if maybe the vampires had even domesticated the giant mantis creatures somehow. It didn’t seem likely, but who knew?
We started shooting as soon as they broke the boundary of the woods. The mantis creatures shrieked like dying women, emitting deafening wails as their legs, chests and heads were blown apart by shotgun and rifle fire. But more and more kept coming, and some were now coming from the field and road as well. We were slowly being surrounded, and our ammo was not unlimited.
A vampire ran at my mother. I saw it in slow motion, the creature popping out from the grassy field and sprinting. My father was busy firing that rifle like a madman, trying to keep the mantis creatures from overtaking us. I knew it was a hopeless task. But I could at least save my ma. I raised the shotgun, the vampire only a few feet away from me now, and shot it point-blank in the face.
Its head disintegrated into a mask of gore, droplets of blood flying. My mouth had been open; I was breathing hard, terrified and in the middle of battle fever, you see. And a few droplets of that strange, dark blood splattered directly into my mouth. I hadn’t even realized what had happened until I tasted it. It tasted nothing at all like human blood, nothing like sucking on a cut thumb after a small injury, nothing like the taste of a bloody, rare steak. No, this blood was sweet and somehow cloying. It was an artificial sweetness, like some fake sugar you might put in coffee, combined with a vague metallic aftertaste. I started to spit after I realized what had happened, but by that point, we were being overrun.
My neighbor was ripped apart in front of me, his old, weather-beaten face showing a final expression of shock and horror as a mantis bit him across his body right where his heart lay. Blood spurted from the wound. The mantis gingerly pushed the body parts apart and began to suck at the blood from the spurting injuries. Another followed silently behind and started feeding on the other half. I watched it all in horror, until a hand grabbed my shoulder. I spun and saw Wesley.
“We need to go, now,” he said, pulling me.
“My da and ma and the others!” I screamed. He shook his head. He was closest to me. As we became overrun, the creatures had split us into smaller groups. Wesley’s brother and my ma and da were one of them. We had at least five mantis creatures and a few more vampires between us. As dozens more came running towards us, towards commotion and the prospect of a warm meal, I realized Wesley was right. But I fired all the same, taking down one of the mantis creatures with a slug to the torso. Its dark blood covered the dirt as it squealed and fell over, kicking its legs slowly and rhythmically like a flipped turtle as it died.
My da and Wesley’s brother were still shooting. I thanked God that we each had a sack of ammo. But mine was feeling light. I looked down and saw only a dozen more slugs, maybe. They must be getting low too. I knew I would have to come back for them when things had calmed down. But for now, I fled.
Wesley ran ahead of me, his coarse work clothes flapping in the wind. We sprinted across the yard. I looked back and saw one of the mantis creatures running us down, moving much faster than either of us could ever hope to run. I stopped, turning. It felt like I was facing down a charging train. I raised the gun, and with a shot to the head, I dropped it only ten feet away from me. It kept running for a second, a body without any brain to run it, then it began to fall forward, sliding, its legs kicking and trembling as it died.
He had a shelter behind his house, apparently. It was little more than a root cellar in the backyard of his house, but it was hidden and underground. He pulled the latch on the hatchway, opening it and motioning for me to go first. I ran forward, climbing down the short ladder. He followed, keeping the hatchway open for light while he started a gas lamp with some flint. Once we were situated, he closed the hatch. It was able to be locked from the inside, and was reinforced against tornados, with wood and concrete forming the walls. We also had some supplies down there, water and jars of pickled foods and jerky. Not much variety, but it would do.
We stayed down there for two days. When we came back up, the creatures were gone. They had even taken their dead with them. I didn’t know where they had gone, though I assumed it was back into the caves.
They had left our dead, however. Countless bodies lay all around the surrounding towns. I saw endless dead in the downtown area when I went down there. And I never saw my da or ma again. I never even found their bodies. Perhaps they had been dragged off into the woods, or perhaps the creatures took a few bodies back with them- maybe as souvenirs, or just for some fresh meat.
All of the people who died in the Battle of Scarville were reported as casualties from the Great War, or the Spanish Flu. But those of us who were there know what we saw, and these were no flu victims. Thousands of bodies around the town had all the blood drained from them.
I wonder why those creatures from underground didn’t keep going. After all, they had won the “Battle” of Scarville, which was really just more of a massacre. But then I thought about how deer hunters are only allowed to hunt so many per season, to allow their population to regrow every year. And I thought about those abominations under the earth. And I wondered if maybe, just maybe, they might not be doing the same to us- waiting for the human population to grow for a hundred years or so, then, when the population is fat and healthy and lazy, come back out to feed on the herd.
The old man stopped, clearing his throat and looking over at me. His story had apparently come to an end. He smiled slightly at me, but I kept looking at him suspiciously, waiting for some sort of punchline.
“You realize how insane that whole story sounds?” I asked after a few moments. The old man with his withered face just grinned at me.
And in the dying light of the setting sun, I could have sworn his eyes were glowing.
submitted by CIAHerpes to nosleep [link] [comments]

2023.05.26 15:42 litcityblues Dreams of Hope

“I know how men in exile feed on dreams of hope”
IT WAS JUST PAST sunrise on Herenveen Prime and Charlotte Elizabeth Mackenzie-Nanda, Queen Consort of the Herenveen Staats-Republic, was still enjoying her coffee when she heard the distant rumble of a sonic boom that indicated an arriving shuttle had entered the upper atmosphere, bound for the spaceport. She set her cup down on the small table next to her.
“Yes ma’am?” Her ever-present steward stepped forward.
“Do you have the omnioculars close at hand?”
“Always ma’am,” he replied. He stepped over to a small cabinet on the far side of the terrace, opened it, and, retrieving the omnioculars, brought them back to her. “Here you are, ma’am.”
“Thank you, Grimsby,” she said. Raising the omnioculars to her eyes, she began to scan the skies. Let’s see, she thought to herself. I’m on the eastern side of the palace, overlooking the gardens and that means the approach vector to the spaceport in Herenveen Town should be about… there. There was a faint trail of exhaust. She pressed a green button on top of the omnioculars and the readout confirmed her findings. There was a ship and it was- the readout directed her to move to the right and she did so, hoping that she would be able to catch a glimpse of the arriving ship before it disappeared behind the Palace and-
She froze and pulled back from the omnioculars. It couldn’t be. It couldn’t- she made herself look again. There was no mistaking it this time. It was a clipper ship, one of the ultra-fast pickets that the Star Union’s defense contractors were marketing to every buyer from here to the rim. Along its prow was its registration number (SU-76463) and its name, the Star Clipper. None of that was particularly of note. What was, however, was the red, white, and blue roundel of the Star Union’s space force and, she noted, the golden gryphon symbol of the Duchy of New Georgia underneath it.
She set the omnioculars down on the table and picked up her coffee again, staring out at the Palace Gardens. She was not ill-informed, of course. Even now, after decades in exile, she still had friends in the Star Union. She had heard about the failing health of her Grandfather, the King-Emperor, and- there’s only one reason why they would send a clipper ship. The thought whispered to her. Only one.
A step forward. “Yes ma’am?”
“Where is she this morning? She usually tells you, doesn’t she?”
“I believe Her Majesty was convinced that the roses needed some attention this morning, ma’am.”
“Ah yes, Grimsby, but which roses? She has so many.”
“The Austins I believe were her primary concern, ma’am. She is worried about how they are adapting to our soil after the long journey from Terra.”
“Very well.” She made herself sit and finish her coffee, drinking in the view and soaking up the peace and serenity of the early morning. There was no better view than she could think of and if she was right- but what if you’re not? The Star Union has plenty of clipper ships. It could be anything.
Keep telling yourself that, she told herself, but no good news comes early in the morning. She drained the last of her coffee, placed the mug on the saucer and stood up, walking towards the edge of the grand staircase that lead down into the gardens, Grimsby just behind her, a constant presence at her side.
Decades before, she had been too young to know what was going on in the Star Union. She had been carefully shielded from the politics of it all. She knew the history. Everyone knew the history, but… she remembered the hands shaking her, waking her in the night. Urging her to get up, quickly, there was no time to pack. She remembered her mother’s face, creased with worry and realizing that she was afraid, seeing her fall behind on her little legs and sweeping her up into her arms. She was safe there. She was happy there.
There were only flashes of memory now, The sound of shoes echoing on the deserted hallways of the Palace. The night sky, so warm, so clear, the stars shimmering above her. She was placed in the transport, near the window and soon they were lifting off. The city was half cast in darkness, flickers of fire and columns of smoke dimly visible, split by the sinuous line of the River Nanda, running through the capitol city.
She remembered her face, pressed against the window, clutching her stuffed gryphon, Archie close as they reached the terminator line between night and day and she caught one last glimpse of the beautiful oceans and the green land of Astralis Prime, heart of the Star Union and then…
Then it was exile and her family had gone back to the Potentate of Cosmara once again, barely a generation after the First Restoration of their dynasty back to the great throne of the Star Union.
A delicate cough interrupted her train of thought. “Ma’am.”
“The roses are… that way,” Grimsby nodded to her left.
“Thank you, Grimsby,” she replied, annoyed at her absent-mindedness. It’s because it’s early, she told herself. No good news comes early in the morning. Father would say it all the time. Mother believed it. You believe it too, she admitted to herself.
Finally heading in the right direction, it was the work of a few moments before she finally came around the well-manicured hedge, ducked under a delicate moongate and stepped into the rose garden. There, she caught sight of her wife, Chief Stadtholder and Queen of the Herenveen Staats-Republic, Chief Executive Officer of it’s associated trading conglomerates and companies, Juliana Beatrix Oranje-Nassau, Fifth of her name.
“You bloody thing, I don’t know where you’re coming from, but I will find you and I will-” Juliana was on all fours, gloved hand buried deep into a rose bush, trying to trace back an offending weed of some kind. Charlotte stopped and just watched for a long moment. They were both getting older now. Their children were grown and in the case of their son, Eduardo had just secured the line of succession and made them both grandmothers. Even with the prolong treatments, streaks of grey were creeping into her hair now, but still-
“Enjoying the view?” Juliana asked archly, turning her head to notice her for the first time.
“You know I always do,” she replied. “You also do know that we have gardeners that can do things like this.”
Juliana growled and gave the offending weed an almighty pull before pulling her gloved hand out of the rose bush and holding it up triumphantly.
“We pay them quite a bit of money, you know,” she continued idly as Juliana stood up. “They’re experts at-”
“I know, Charlotte,” Juliana rolled her eyes. “It’s just, I like to sneak out-”
“-leaving me alone in our bed-”
“-and just get some gardening in before the tedious business of the day begins,” Juliana continued.
Charlotte smiled fondly at her wife, fully aware of how quickly she would abdicate should the Staats-General ever get around to deeming Eduardo to be a worthy successor to her. Juliana was a creature of nature, more than anything, far more at home puttering about the Palace gardens or strapping on big, practical waterproof boots to go tramping through fields. She was happiest getting her hands dirty. “I love you, wife.”
Juliana’s face softened and she stepped towards Charlotte, slipping her ungloved hand into hers and leaning forward to kiss her firmly on the lips. “And I adore you, my queen.” She creased her eyebrows, realizing something. “What brings you out into the gardens at this hour, anyway? You should be eating your breakfast still.”
“I started early when I woke to find an empty space in my bed,” Charlotte replied somewhat tartly.
“But, I came looking for you when I heard the ship coming in.”
“Is that what that was? I wondered, but I was…” Juliana raised her gloved hand, still clenched around the offending weed and looked a little sheepish.
“Preoccupied?” Charlotte finished.
“Yes, let’s go with that. So, a ship? It’s a little early for a ship.”
“I thought so as well, so I tracked it with the omnioculars.”
“Anyone important?”
“It was from the Star Union,” Charlotte said. “One of their new ultra-fast pickets. It…” she sighed. “It had the livery of the Duchy of New Georgia on it.”
“Your cousin. David, no, Dean, no-” Juliana frowned in irritation.
“Drake,” Charlotte supplied.
“Yes, him. That’s the one,” Juliana said. “Has he sent any messages? Any word that he’s coming?”
“No,” Charlotte admitted.
“So, it could be just another ship on urgent business for anything, right?” Juliana said. “There might be no need to worry at all.”
“Maybe,” Charlotte said. “But-”
“No good news comes early in the morning.” Juliana finished. She pulled the glove off of her hand and tossed it next to the pile of weeds she had placed to one side along with the garden implements. “Would it ease your mind if we went and find out what the ship wanted?”
“It would, my love, but…” she glanced pointedly at the mess and Juliana flapped her hand dismissively with a mischievous grin playing about her face. “The gardeners can get it.”
“Juliana!” Charlotte sounded scandalized.
“As you pointed out, my love, we do pay people- experts, some of them, to take care of things like this,” Juliana slipped her arm into Charlotte’s and with Charlotte rolling her eyes, but smiling as well, the two of them began to walk arm in arm back out of the gardens and toward the Palace, Grimsby an ever-present shadow in their wake. Charlotte was just about convinced that maybe Juliana was right and maybe she had nothing to worry about, but just as they turned the last corner and the terrace came into view, her heart sank. There was Mr. Vanderbeek, Juliana’s chief secretary, waiting at the top of the stairs for them.
Juliana felt her stiffen and gave her hand a reassuring squeeze. “Pieter,” she called as they made their way toward the steps. “Good morning!”
Mr. Vanderbeek bowed. “Good morning, your majesties.”
“You’re up early,” Juliana noted as they reached the bottom of the steps and climbed up onto the terrace. “What brings you to the Palace at this hour?”
“A delegation from the Star Union has arrived, your majesty. They’re requesting to meet with Queen Charlotte most urgently.”
“Did they say what about?” Charlotte tried to make the question sound casual but realized she probably failed at that and shook her head ruefully.
“They did not, your majesty,” Mr. Vanderbeek said. “But I am told that his Grace, the Duke of New Georgia is the head of their delegation.”
“Drake?” Charlotte broke in, surprised. “He’s here himself?”
“Yes, your majesty.”
“Who else?” Juliana asked.
“Intelligence is working on that,” Mr. Vanderbeek said. “But so far, we have identified the Archbishop of Astralis Prime, the Earl of New Shaftesbury and a Parliamentarian we believe to be Beatrice Boothroyd.”
“When do they want to meet?” Charlotte asked.
“As soon as possible, they say, your majesty,” Mr. Vanderbeek replied.
“Has the government been informed?” Juliana asked.
“Yes, your majesty.”
“Very well, since they’re still renovating Noordiende, we’ll have to receive them at the Voorhout Palace. See to it, please and prepare a ground car for her majesty and myself. We won’t keep them waiting long,” Juliana ordered.
Mr. Vanderbeek bowed. “As you wish, your majesty.” He retreated the requisite five steps, taking care not to turn his back on either woman before, having reached the appropriate distance, he turned and hurried away to make the arrangements.
Receiving an official delegation from a foreign power required more of the Queen than it did the Queen Consort, so while Juliana allowed herself to be herded away by various functionaries and ladies in waiting to be cleaned and dressed, Charlotte was left to her own devices. Having decided on a sonic shower over the more decadent option of a water shower, she soon found herself opening the door to her closet, robe wrapped tightly around her.
It was less of a closet and more of a room, but that was the privilege of being a Queen Consort. There were dresses and suits and uniforms for every occasion. The chattering classes tended to notice if she wore the same dress twice, which had bothered Charlotte when she was younger, but now, she no longer cared. Dresses could be worn more than once. She had done so throughout her childhood on Cosmara if for no other reason than her family's reduced circumstances had made it a necessity.
She walked down the length of the closet, lightly running her hands along the dresses, wondering what she should wear. Cousin Drake, the Archbishop, the Earl of New Shaftesbury, and whoever that Parliamentarian is… there is only one reason to send a delegation like that to see me. Her hand stopped and, reaching up, she pushed the dresses back to reveal a simple, unadorned red dress.
Even with the prolong treatments, humanity was not immortal. Her father’s cancer had advanced, inexorably, resistant to every treatment they had tried.
Grandfather even sent his personal physician, she remembered. The Doctor arrived in secret, towards the end, in the dead of night, and tried her best, but… Juliana, always so careful to never even give the appearance of asking for favors or getting special privileges had made a quiet call to the government and bundled her onto the fastest ship Herenveen Prime had. It had not been enough. She arrived an hour after he had gone, quietly, without much fuss, as was his way.
He had not wanted an elaborate funeral. Juliana had brought the children. Cousin Drake had arrived as well, which had been a surprise at the time. All of them, clad in their funeral red, on the lip of the hillside of their small farm, the towers of Cosmara City in the distance, watching as the flames of the funeral pyre climbed higher and higher.
She ran her hands over the red mourning dress, remembering. She had not worn it since that day. It seemed a lifetime ago, but there was only one reason they would be sending a delegation like this. Charlotte took the dress down out of the closet and carried it back into the bedroom laying it across her bed. Then she went back into the closet and walked all the way to the back where the jewelry was kept. She did not hesitate this time. Opening the top drawer, she pulled out her mother’s sapphire necklace, the famous Star of Astralis, the one thing she had taken from the Palace when they had fled into exile.
Charlotte held it up to the light and, leaning forward blew some offending dust from it before nodding to herself in approval. “Yes, this will do quite nicely.”
Half an hour later, Charlotte made her way down the grand staircase to the main entrance of the Palace, where Juliana was waiting for her. She was dressed more modestly- in her usual grey suit with a simple string of pearls and a matching purse, but her lips pursed appreciatively as she watched Charlotte descend, Grimsby behind her as always.
Reaching the bottom of the stairs, Juliana smiled at Charlotte and then said, “Grimsby?”
“Yes, your majesty,” Grimsby stepped forward.
“Can you check to see where our ground car has gotten to?”
“At once, your majesty,” Grimsby inclined his head and then crossed over to the front doors of the palace and, opening them, slipped through.
Once they were alone, Juliana, cocked an eyebrow at Charlotte. “Red? That’s the color of mourning in the Star Union.”
“There’s only one reason I can think of for them to send an urgent delegation to meet with me,” Charlotte replied. “If my Grandfather has finally died, I will not show anything less than the utmost respect for his memory.”
“Well, you look lovely,” Juliana said. “Every inch an exiled Princess of the Star Union.”
“I hope so,” Charlotte replied.
Grimsby was returning and Juliana stood up as they both walked over to meet him. “You said you can only think of one reason,” Juliana noted.
“What else could it be?” Charlotte asked.
Juliana looked as if she was about to say something, but instead, shrugged and gave Charlotte a reassuring smile. “You’re right,” she said. “Let’s go see what they have to say.”
It was half an hour later when they finally arrived in the grand hall of the Voorhout Palace. That wasn’t entirely unexpected. They were both Queens (well, Juliana was the Queen, Charlotte was the Queen Consort,) and as the two of them, arm in arm, walked out of the antechamber onto the dais of the Throne Room, Charlotte had to admit that they both looked the part. Juliana guided Charlotte to her throne at Juliana’s right, before stepping up onto the main dais and taking her place on the Oranjetanuki Throne.
Mr. Vanderbeek was already in place off to Juliana’s left and after a moment to smooth out her skirt, she nodded to him Mr. Vanderbeek stepped down off the dais and walked the length of the throne room before opening the door and vanishing for a moment onto the other side. Charlotte felt her heart begin to beat faster and forced herself to take a slow deep breath to calm down. Juliana is right. Let’s see what they have to say. Another slow, deep breath and she became irritated with herself. Why are you acting like a spoiled Princess? You’re a grown woman and Queen Consort
The doors opened and Mr. Vanderbeek lead the delegation into the throne room and walked about halfway down before stopping, bowing, and then saying: “Your Majesties, an urgent delegation from the Star Union wishes an audience.”
“Their request is granted,” Juliana replied.
Mr. Vanderbeek stepped smoothly aside and the delegation advanced. As they came closer, Charlotte recognized her cousin, Drake. He was grown now, of course, but even behind the beard, she could still recognize him. The delegation advanced and went down to one knee as both Charlotte and Juliana rose to greet them.
“Your majesty,” Drake said. “We bring sad tidings. Your grandfather, the King Emperor of the Star Union is dead.”
Even though she had been expecting the news, the words fell like a hammer blow and Charlotte was surprised at the surge of emotion she felt. After the Revolt that sent her family into exile, her grandfather had been dragged out of retirement as the only acceptable option to both warring factions in the Star Union. Quietly, he had done what he could to make sure her family was comfortable in exile but had never once contacted them. Her only memories of him were happy ones, from her childhood, before they were exiled. She couldn’t bring herself to resent the old man, even now– and if either of her parents had harbored any bitterness towards him, they had never shown it.
“These are sad tidings indeed, cousin,” Charlotte replied. “I appreciate you coming all this way to tell me in person, but a vid-message or a tight beam would have been just as welcome.”
“Your majesty,” Drake said. “While those tidings are the official reason for our visit, we have another purpose here. A purpose of great urgency and import.”
Charlotte frowned. “What other purpose could bring you here so urgently, cousin?”
“We are here to offer you the Crown of the Star Union.”
If the news of her grandfather’s passing had been a hammer blow, this was news that nearly made her stumble and Charlotte felt herself swaying in shock, her mouth open in astonishment. Suddenly, Juliana was there beside her, gently tucking her arm into hers and steering her safely back into her seat. Charlotte smoothed her skirts out, trying to compose herself as she grappled with the enormity of what Drake had just said.
Juliana stood beside her, hand on her shoulder. “On whose authority do you make such an offer, your Grace?”
“Your majesty, with me I have representatives from the nobility, the church, and the commons. Our common desire is that which her majesty’s father and those who came before fought for and represented: a Monarch who governs in the name of the duly elected Parliament of the Star Union.”
“And how is that different from what you have now?” Juliana asked. Charlotte was dizzy with shock, but still managed to nod in agreement, still not trusting herself to speak. This had to be a joke, a prank, something- whatever it was, it couldn’t be real. The Crown? Her?
You could go home. A whisper from deep inside of her.
Drake grimaced. “The succession is contested. My Uncle Phillip-” Drake smiled knowingly as he saw the expression of disgust flash across Charlotte’s face, “-believes that he has the strongest claim. He is opposed by my cousin Hubert-” and his smile was genuine now as Charlotte covered an incipient laugh with a well-timed if artificial cough. “Your majesty, may I…” he shifted uncomfortably. “May I speak freely to my cousin for a moment, not the Queen Consort of Herenveen Prime?”
Juliana glanced down at Charlotte who nodded her assent.
“Cousin, I understand your skepticism and even your hesitation, but…” Drake sighed. “Invite me to dinner tonight. We can have a real conversation about what this actually means.”
Charlotte and Juliana exchanged glances for a long moment before Charlotte nodded and Juliana looked at Drake. “Your grace, it will be our pleasure to have you join us for dinner tonight at our residence at Het Loo. Seven o’clock, sharp.”
Drake inclined his head. “Thank you for your most gracious and kind invitation, your majesty.”
“We will withdraw then and make preparations,” Juliana said slipping her hand from Charlotte’s shoulder. She stood and the two of them left through the entrance they had come in, arm in arm once again.
Charlotte felt like she was in a daze, but allowed Juliana to lead her back towards their ground car. Mr. Vanderbeek was waiting at the courtyard entrance. “Mr. Vanderbeek, I take it you heard?”
“I did, your majesty.”
“If you would inform the Prime Minister and ask him for a full briefing later tonight. I would like to know the government’s opinion of this… unexpected offer.”
“Yes ma’am,” Mr. Vanderbeek replied. “Will the two of you be returning to Het Loo?”
“Yes, we will. The Duke of New Georgia will be joining us for dinner as well,” Juliana said.
“Very well, ma’am.”
“Thank you, Mr. Vanderbeek.”
He bowed and then stood as still as a statue until they had both walked out into the courtyard proper and reached their ground car. Charlotte slid into the seat, still trying to process the offer that Drake had made back in the throne room. The crown? Me?
You could go home, that whisper again, tinged with hope. But where is home? Charlotte replied in the silence of her head as the ground car manuevered out of the courtyard and onto the city streets. She watched as they made their way down the row of embassies from across the galaxy and then a thought occurred to her.
“Yes, darling?”
“Did you know?” Charlotte said. “When I said I could only think of one reason why they would want to see me…”
Juliana said nothing for a long moment before finally taking a breath. “I wondered.”
“But did you know?”
“No,” Juliana replied. “I didn’t. I about fell over when he made his offer..”
Charlotte chuckled. “That makes two of us.” She pursed her lips again and stared out the window, the brief burst of amusement leaving her. “I just wish I knew how real it was.”
Juliana reached over and took her hand. “My love, as soon as we are back at Het Loo I am going to be making all kinds of vid-calls to all kinds of people to see if I can get you an answer to that question.”
It was much later. Juliana had withdrawn after the main course, informing them she had some late calls to make. The stewards cleared away the last of the dessert and Drake leaned back in his chair and emitted a loud groan. “God, that was excellent food. I haven’t eaten that well in years.”
“The position does have some privileges,” Charlotte smiled. “We pay our chefs very well.”
“How well?” Drake asked. “That chocolate mousse was to die for.”
“Hands off,” Charlotte said with mock ferocity. “You can’t have him.”
Drake raised his hands in mock innocence. “All right, I surrender,” he said. Charlotte pushed back her chair and stood up, making her way to a small cart of liquor bottles at the side of the dining room. “Shall we adjourn to the terrace?” Charlotte asked.
“With whiskey, one hopes?” Drake sounded eager but pushed his own chair out to stand up.
“Of course,” Charlotte said. She unstoppered a decanter and poured out two generous measures into a pair of elegant crystal glasses before putting the stopper back in the decanter and turning back to Drake. She held out a glass to him and he closed the distance between them and took it from her, Grimsby having heard her proposal and waiting patiently, holding open the door to the terrace, the two of them walked out onto the terrace, and the warm summer night. Charlotte lead them to a pair of lounge chairs and gestured for Drake to sit down before smoothing out her skirts and sitting opposite him.
Charlotte took a sip of whiskey, unsure of how to begin. Happily, Drake did it for her.
“Ask me the question, cousin.”
“What question?” Charlotte asked, a picture of innocence.
Drake snorted in derision. “The one you’ve been wanting to ask me all night. The one we’ve been dancing around through an appetizer, two main courses, a dessert, and now a glass of whiskey.”
“Direct as always, Drake,” Charlotte smiled. “But, very well.” She took a sip of whiskey. “Why me?”
“Why not you?” Drake leaned back in the chair. “Your claim is just as strong as Phillip’s and it’s certainly stronger than that idiot Hubert’s. You have just as much right to the throne as they do if not more.”
“That’s not enough of a reason,” Charlotte replied. “My family has been in exile from the Star Union for a lifetime now. My children grew up here. My life is here. To the people, I would be a historical relic trotted out to serve some political agenda at best and at worst… a foreigner.”
“You say that your life is here now, but you knew the news we were bringing you and still wore your funeral red. Your sleeves hide them well, but you wear the bidari bracelets as well. I’m willing to bet if asked your children, they would tell me of the food and the traditions you still practice as well-”
“So, we celebrate Diwali and Christmas,” Charlotte said. “What of it? There is a thriving emigrant community here and on a dozen other worlds as well. Maintaining and honoring my heritage doesn’t mean I’m fit to lead a country I haven’t seen in decades.” She took another sip of whiskey. “You need to work on your pitch, Drake. I’m not persuaded.”
Drake considered that for a moment, taking another sip of whiskey. “You could secure your father’s legacy, once and for all.” He sat up straight. “Grandfather’s health had been failing for the past five years. Phillip has been defacto regent the entire time and his regency has not been a happy one. Your father was ousted for backing a government that at the time was seen as dangerously radical.”
“I know the history.”
“Yes, but what you don’t know is that your father was ultimately right,” Drake said. “Back then, he knew the Radicals were right. The tax avoidance of the entire nobility was a weight around the neck of the Star Union. The people resented it. The government was drowning in debt because of it, but when the Radicals tried to move their bill through, it was blocked in the Lords, and the only remedy they had to get it through after the second reading was-”
“The Royal Prerogative?” Charlotte asked, surprised.
Drake nodded. “It was a risk, but one he felt worth taking- unfortunately the nobility disagreed- but after the banking crisis a decade back, even the most diehard of the Lords was forced to concede that the tax exemptions were fiscally ruinous and it ended up being a Conservative government that suspended them.”
“And what of it?” Charlotte asked. “My father took on the Star Union’s political elites and it touched off a rebellion that cost him his throne.”
“Phillip has made it clear that he views the suspension as temporary. More importantly, he’s indicated that he doesn’t believe Parliament has the authority to overrule him on the question of taxation and many are beginning to be concerned that he doesn’t believe in the necessity of a Parliament at all.”
“So he’s a would-be Dictator in the making?” Charlotte grimaced.
“That’s what I’m afraid,” Drake said. “But you, on the other hand, would be untouched by the politics of the Star Union. Your father is remembered with affection amongst the common people and Grandfather, to his credit, did nothing to discourage that. You would be able to preserve the Union without plunging us headlong into either an economic crisis or worse, a Civil War.”
“Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown,” Charlotte sighed. “You’ve fitted me for a crown that I have yet to agree to take and already my head itches at the thought of it.”
“It doesn’t have to be forever,” Drake said. “With prolong treatments these days you could a decade or two, secure your family's legacy, and then step aside for someone else. You could even unify the crowns of Herenveen and the Star Union if you wanted to.”
“Do you ever find the notion of crowns and all this frippery to be a bit ridiculous in this day and age?” Charlotte asked. “Humanity has become a space-faring civilization. We’re spreading further and further out every year, terraforming as we go, and yet they still want us to put crowns on our heads. I’m surprised we haven’t grown beyond it yet.”
“Human society organizes itself somehow into strata. Doesn’t matter what flavor or ideology. We have the titles we have merely because our family was amongst the first stakeholders of the original colony of Astralis Prime. Doesn’t make us better than anyone, not anymore.” Drake drained the last of his whiskey.
“Well said,” Charlotte chuckled.
Drake grinned ruefully. “I’m not selling you on this, am I?”
Charlotte said nothing for a long moment before she too drained the last of her whiskey. “Do you remember that summer lodge Grandfather had down by the coast? Near the village with the funny name?”
“Etretat?” Drake said.
“Yes, that’s the one… named after some old Terran painting.”
“I saw it once when we went to Terra,” Drake said. “The cliffs near that village look nothing like the ones in the painting. And they pronounce it differently too.”
“How do they pronounce it?”
“Etret-ah,” Drake said. He shrugged. “Some weird quirk of an old Terran language. They were surprised that the locals pronounced the ‘t’ at the end.”
“Anyway,” Charlotte said. “Do you remember the hill, right by the beach?”
“I remember it being more of a vertical climb,” Drake said. “But yes, I do.”
“I loved the view from the top,” Charlotte said. “It’s one of the clearest memories I have. You could see that whole stretch of the south coast…” she trailed off, lost in the memory.
“And?” Drake prompted.
“I think,” Charlotte said slowly. “I think it would be nice to climb that hill again.”
Drake smiled. “So you are thinking about it?”
“I might be,” Charlotte said. She stood up and Drake stood with her. “But now, cousin, I need to go to bed.”
“Until tomorrow, cousin.”
Charlotte slept better than she expected and still managed to slip out of bed the next morning and make her way out onto the terrace where Grimsby awaited her with her usual morning coffee. She wrapped her robe around her tightly, for the cool of the evening still hung in the air. In the light of the day, she was forced to admit the uncomfortable truth to herself: she didn’t know what to think.
Part of her was tempted: she hadn’t been lying to Drake last night and even though he had shamelessly tried to trade on her nostalgia for her childhood at first, his arguments about her father’s legacy had been more persuasive than she wanted to admit. Phillip would be a disaster for the Star Union and if several members of the extended Royal line were suddenly afflicted with terminal illness or enough of them dropped dead that Hubert’s claim went from punchline to reality, he might be an even worse choice for the Star Union.
There were others, of course, but no one had a stronger claim than she.
On the other hand, this was home. This was where she and Juliana had built a family, raised the children, and- the sound of footsteps behind her broke her reverie.
“Now it’s your turn to leave me alone in our bed, I see,” Juliana smiled as she pulled her robe tightly around herself and sat down in the lounge chair opposite her. Grimsby produced another cup and held it up questioningly for a moment before Juliana nodded and he poured a cup, placed it on a saucer, and handed it over to her.
“I was up late enough and still didn’t hear you come in,” Charlotte replied. “What were you up to last night?”
“Meetings,” Juliana replied. “Too many to count, I’m afraid. Did you and Drake talk?”
“We did.”
“I don’t know,” Charlotte said. “It’s tempting. But-” she gestured around her. “We built all this together. It’s our life. Our home. I’m not sure I want to leave it, however tempting it might be.”
“Would it help to know that his offer does appear to be genuine?” Juliana asked. “Our intelligence people were working all night to confirm it, but they’ve got enough sources to be sure that he’s on the level.”
“That doesn’t solve the question of how we do it.”
“The General Staff is of the opinion it wouldn’t take much. Their best plan calls for a lightning-fast surgical strike. You isolate and blockade key points, proclaim yourself, and proceed to Astralis Prime to take the throne.”
“Oh, that easy, huh?”
Juliana shrugged. “That’s what they tell me, anyway. The government also doesn’t hate the idea and is frankly enthusiastic about the possibility of gaining more direct access to their markets.”
“But what about you?” Charlotte asked. “I can’t go to rule the Star Union by myself and leave you here alone. I would… miss you.”
“As I would miss you, my darling,” Juliana replied. “That’s why, if you decide to do this, the government would convene the Staats-General and appoint Eduardo regent in my absence. It’s well past time he was given some real responsibility, anyway, and that way- what? Have I done something-” Juliana looked concerned because Charlotte’s eyes were full and the first tears were beginning to roll down her cheeks.
“You would…give it all up? For me?” Charlotte asked, in a voice thick with emotion.
“Of course,” Juliana replied. “I love you, after all. For decades now, you’ve stood by me, had children with me, and been the best Queen Consort I could have wished for. It is more than past time for you to be Queen in your own right.” She smiled. “Besides, I hear the royal gardens on Astralis Prime are a mess. Your grandfather evidently did not have the greenest of thumbs.”
Charlotte smiled. “I think the real expert was my grandmother, to be totally honest.”
“The only question, my love, remains the biggest one of all. Our children are grown. I have been looking for an excuse to give Eduardo some responsibilities mainly so I could tend to the roses here, but I could just as easily fix up the gardens on Astralis Prime. Drake’s offer appears to be genuine. We can bring the military force to bear quickly enough and easy enough to put you on the throne. So, what do you want to do?
“It seems absurd. I haven’t been back there in decades. I’ve lived in exile my whole life. This is home.”
“It’s not absurd. It also doesn’t have to be forever.”
“Drake said that too,” Charlotte said. “Also said we could unify the crowns if we wanted to.”
“So you are thinking about it?”
Charlotte nodded. “Do you remember the first time we met?”
Juliana smiled. “How could I forget? I chased you up a hill near the University on Cosmara. There was a beautiful view at the top.”
“I loved that hill because it reminded me of a hill along the coast near my grandfather’s summer lodge,” Charlotte said. “If I- no, we do this… will you climb it with me?”
“Yes, my love, I will,” Juliana said. “I won’t ask you to decide now but know this. I think it is well past time for you to be Queen in your own right on a throne of your own. I think the people of the Star Union would welcome a ruler who will respect the government they elect and actually advocate for their welfare. I think everyone who lives in exile harbors a secret dream, a hope of returning home someday. But, my love, my home is with you. Wherever you go.”
It came down to that in the end. That one simple sentence decided it. Charlotte Elizabeth Mackenzie-Nanda, Queen Consort of the Herenveen Staats-Republic looked over at her wife, Juliana Beatrix Oranje-Nassau Chief Stadtholder and Queen of Herenveen Staats-Republic, Chief Executive Officer of it’s associated trading conglomerates and companies. She reached over and took Juliana’s hand in hers. “My Queen, my love, my life,” Charlotte said. “I think I would like to go home again.”
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2023.05.26 13:53 kloppo_du_popstar Why did Rebecca abandon Sassy and Nora?

In "Make Rebecca Great Again" (S1 E6), we meet Sassy, who surprises Rebecca with a visit to see her in Liverpool. Rebecca introduces her to Keeley:
"Let me introduce Flo Collins, my best mate since we were little. Brilliant child psychologist and proud, newly single mother to the most amazing 12-year-old little girl called Nora, my goddaughter, both of whom I've completely neglected to speak to in the last six years."
Rebecca was not expecting Sassy to visit, and seems to show some guilt here. At the restaurant, Sassy comes back from a cigarette and Keeley is alone at the table. Sassy asks Keeley, "Where's Stinky gone? She abandoned you?". And then later on outside the karaoke bar, Sassy tells Rebecca:
"Rupert is a horrible man who built an ivory tower he kept you captive in. But you climbed every single step of that tower on your own. You're the one who stopped coming home, stopped calling. Who made a six-year-old girl wonder what she'd done wrong. I'll always be your biggest defender, but you have to own up to the part that you played."
We hear more about Rebecca's abandonment from Nora in "Do the Right-est Thing" (S2 E3):
Rebecca: "I'll get the bill."
Nora: "Then you're coming back, right?"
Rebecca: "Yes, why?"
Nora: "Ah, just making sure you're not gonna disappear for another six years. I'm joking."
So why does Rebecca abandon Sassy and Nora? Are we going to have a resolution to this in the season finale? It seems important to bring it up three times in "Make Rebecca Great Again", then again the following season. Are they going to address it in the finale?
With Ted's future at Richmond in doubt and possibly going back to Kansas, Nate returning to Richmond, the final match of the season, along with the celebration/defeat aftermath if they win/don't win the league, the Sam bribery scandal, Bex and Ms Kakes asking Rebecca for some advice, Rebecca and the Dutchman for people who believe that theory, Jamie and Roy's sister for people who believe that theory, a Dr Jacob resolution, a resolution on the new Richmond manager if Ted leaves, and some scene to show that KJPR is becoming successful, where does this fit in?
Bit of a wild theory, and there are definitely some holes you pick with it, but what the hell. Nora is Rupert's daughter. She was 12 years old in "Make Rebecca Great Again" (S1 E6) and was 13 years old in "Do The Right-Est Thing" (S2 E3).
"Everyone makes mistakes, but I was married to a man for 12 years who never once took responsibility for any single one of them." - Rebecca in "For the Children" (S1 E4), so "Make Rebecca Great Again" probably would be her 13th wedding anniversary. Nora must have been conceived shortly before Rebecca and Rupert married.
And my guess is that Rebecca found out about this six years before "Make Rebecca Great Again" and that was why she stopped talking to Sassy and Nora.
Were Rebecca and Rupert together when Nora was conceived? We don't know how long they were dating before they married. Rebecca would surely be less forgiving towards Sassy if Nora was conceived while they were dating, so that's definitely a flaw in the theory.
If they were not dating, then Rupert must have been married to his ex-wife prior to Rebecca, as explained in "(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea" (S3 E2):
"Years ago, when I was bartending in that private club, Rupert and his then wife came into the bar. He was the life and soul of the party. Buying rounds of drinks for everyone, telling stories. Just charm personified. And he left me a massive tip. And then about a week later, he came back without his wife and asked me out. I, of course, said no. Then he left. What a dіck. But then he came back the next night and the next night and the next. And he would just sit at the bar with a drink and chatted to me until close. And he just said, "It doesn't matter if you ever go out with me. It's just worth it being here to get to know you."
Does Rupert know that he has a daughter? My guess is no. He had always told Rebecca he didn't want children. In "All Apologies" (S1 E9), he tells Rebecca:
"People change. I do want a child. I just suppose I... I didn't want one with... before. I mean, in the end, it's just about being with the right person, isn't it?"
And in "No Weddings and a Funeral" (S2 E10), he tells Sassy:
"Oh, come on, Sass. Let's let bygones be bygones, eh? I've got a daughter now. I've changed."
I've always wondered why they made Sassy's job a child psychologist, thought it must hold some significance, especially with Ted and Rebecca's skepticism towards the psychologist profession, and the show's focus on mental health. I've always wondered whether Nora had some childhood trauma or issues, and that was why Sassy decided to become a child psychologist.
It would make sense that she trained to become a child psychologist to help Nora with her issue of her godmother being married to her father.
During "Mom City" (S3 E11), Bex and Ms Kakes show up at Rebecca's house asking for some advice. I think it could perhaps to be related to this. Maybe Rupert has become aware that Nora is his daughter and has started feeling remorse.
I'm probably way off with this one, don't quite believe it myself, but thought I'd throw it out there before the finale.
Do you think we'll find out the reason why Rebecca abandoned Sassy and Nora 8 years ago (2 years after season 1)? What other reason could it be?
The mentions of it don't seem to add anything extra to the story as of S3 E11, but abandonment has affected a lot of our other characters deeply. Ted felt abandoned by his dad, Nate and Jamie both felt abandoned by Ted, Keeley felt abandoned by Roy, and Ted feels guilt over kind of abandoning his son.
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2023.05.26 12:57 House_of_Suns /r/QOTSA Official Band of the Week 21: ALL THEM WITCHES

Let me ask you a question. If you haven’t listened to Kyuss, are you even a QotSA fan?
I suppose it is possible. Some people can be Peter Gabriel fans without being Genesis fans, or Ozzy Osbourne fans without being Black Sabbath fans, or Audioslave fans without being fans of Soundgarden and Rage Against the Machine. And I am pretty sure that there are Foo Fighters fans out there who are not fans of Nirvana -- probably because Foo Fighters are a way better band than Nirvana.
Yeah, I said it. Come at me.
Nothing like an unpopular opinion to separate the feral from the tame.
But QotSA without Kyuss? I can’t see it. Maybe I am biased because I just love the low desert sound. Heavy riffs, lots of fuzz, and earthquake-inducing bass are my jam. That’s why I love Self-Titled so much and why I feel 18 A.D. is chronically underappreciated as a song, and it is an absolute crime that they don’t play it live.
I know I am not alone in this. Kyuss were a genre defining band that created what we now call Stoner Rock. Bands like Valley of the Sun, King Buffalo, Truckfighters, Stonerror, Sleep, Clutch, Mother Engine, Mondo Generator, Duel, and Fu Manchu all continue to write and perform Stoner Rock today. If you haven’t taken a dive into this scene, I totally envy the fact that you get to experience this music for the first time.
Today we are going to check out a great Stoner Rock band that you just gotta listen to. They have more fuzz than a five day backwoods fishing trip. They have bigger jams than Smucker’s, Welch’s, and Kraft combined. They will make your one-hitter hit a home run. You are gonna want to roll down the windows of your low riding caddy and drive all night through the desert.
Yep, you are in for a treat. This week’s band is ALL THEM WITCHES.
About Them
You are familiar with the Hero’s journey, right? That is the literary trope where our protagonists leave their comfortable little world, are mentored through a series of increasing challenges, find themselves at a low point, overcome obstacles, and return home greater and wiser than before?
As with every story of heroes, our group of adventurers from Nashville Tennessee went on a truly epic journey. Drummer Robby Staebler had just arrived in Nashville from Portland, Oregon and was looking for some buds to start a band. He had rolled up at his new home in the back of a moving van, because his mom had decided that he was just not good enough to ride up front. His dad was conspicuously absent. After meeting a sketchy male role model with a Smashmouth-esque chinstrap beard, he was forced by this would-be academic to enslave a small animal. He then ran away from home to engage in a series of escalating gladiatorial fights for money.
Wait. Shit. That is the plot of Pokemon Emerald, not the story of All Them Witches. Damn free emulators. Such a massive time sink.
Mudkip for the win. You are damn right I’m bringing back that meme.
Where was I? I kinda got distracted there. Oh yeah. Robby Staebler was looking for a band. He met guitarist Ben McLeod in a bar (remember when we could meet people in bars?) and then met aspiring drama student Charles Michael Parks Jr. when he took a job at “a corporate hippie store”. Parks Jr. turned those theatre aspirations into being a great frontman and bass player. The band rounded out their membership with Allan Van Cleave, a friend of Staebler, on keys. All Them Witches took the inspiration for their name from the set-prop book entitled All of Them Witches in the 1968 Roman Polanski Spawn-of-Satan movie Rosemary’s Baby.
Let’s get something else out of the way: Yes, I said Nashville Tennesee. The Buckle of the Bible Belt. The Protestant Vatican. The Athens of the South. The Hot Chicken Capital. Yes, the self-proclaimed Music City is perennially associated with Country music, Gospel music and, to a lesser extent, contemporary Christian Rock. There is a Jazz scene. There are active Barbershop groups. The city is the home of the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Hee Haw was shot there. It is a city that, until a few decades ago, still had strong ties to the Confederacy.
How the hell did a Stoner Rock band start there?
Quickly, that’s how.
The band were officially formed in February of 2012 and released their first album, Our Mother Electricity, on December 6th, 2012. Being from Nashville, the album was of course released on the German heavy psych label Elektrohasch Schallplatten. So just so we’re clear: Stoner Rock was born in the California Desert and then adopted by a band from Tennessee and released on a German label. I just have one question: Where the fuck is Carmen Sandiego?
To be fair, All Them Witches characterized their debut sound as being ‘psychedelta rock’...which kinda sounds like a knock off version of an X-Man. The album is full of heavy jams. Listeners can expect to hear the influence of the blues mixed with deep fuzz and highly compressed vocals. Until it Unwinds is over eight minutes of rolling swagger that will have you thinking about 50 Million Year Trip. Heavy/Like a Witch has some definite Stone Temple Pilots vibes and is a great opener. The true standout on the album is The Urn, a dark and twisted fable that is really the antithesis of everything one associates with music in the Bible Belt. The album was a declaration of war on everything cheery and pleasant to be found in the Music City, and a bold statement from a band finding its feet.
The band were not entirely happy with the production on Our Mother Electricity. In order to assert themselves, they went ultra low-tech. The released the Extra Pleasant EP in July of 2013. It was recorded on a 4-track cassette tape using only two microphones. Production-wise, it is a step back - but when you listen to it on headphones, you can appreciate the raw talent. It is a weird low-fi follow up and almost like listening to a debut rather than the first album. Listening to this EP is like hearing a Pink Floyd cover band’s first original songs that have been mashed up with Clutch and recorded on an iPhone 4. Even with those limitations, tracks like Sludger will stay with you and are worth your time.
While their first two releases had some modest success, All Them Witches really did not get widespread acclaim until the release of their second full album, Lightning at the Door, in late 2013. Every band that has ever released anything on Bandcamp wants to experience the kind of underground word-of-mouth sensation that this album generated. The album is part-concept, part-thematic and has narrative threads that tie it together (e.g. the two tracks The Marriage of Coyote Woman and The Death of Coyote Woman - clearly, not a happy ending for the titular character). If you loved Songs for the Deaf and Rated R, then this is the album that you are going to want to start with as an introduction to the band. It has some amazing tracks - Funeral for a Great Drunken Bird and When God Comes Back are great on their own - but it is best experienced as a complete album. Do yourself a favor: Find a great set of headphones and listen to it front to back. You’ll thank me.
How do you follow up a concept album that gives you unforeseen popularity and access to a broader audience? Do you, say, create a dark follow-up to it, and find the title for that album in a lyric from a hidden track?
Who the fuck would make a weird choice like that?
All Them Witches took a different route and decided to instead channel their inner Beck. The Effervescent EP came out in June of 2014. There are only two songs, each clocking in at about 25 minutes long. Side A is Effervescent and Side B is Tnecsevreffe. The EP is a Rorschach blot of instrumental music in multiple movements that channels incredible musicality and allows you to superimpose your own meaning on it. It is like listening to Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin have a baby, if that baby was raised listening to coyotes howl and instrumental Kyuss tracks all mashed together on one continuous loop. Fans of the German band Mother Engine will hear definite parallels. The weird thing about Effervescent is its length: it is hard to think of it as an EP, because it is 50 minutes of music. But it has only two tracks, so it can’t really be an album...can it?
Yes, before you start in on me, I know about Sleep’s Dopesmoker. That 2003 one-song album may also have influenced our boys from the Hee Haw city.
So after playing around with longer and more intricate multiple-movement songs, it is no surprise that All Them Witches dropped a 57 minute ‘EP’ in 2015. A Sweet Release hit the airwaves on April 20. Yep, 4/20. No, that was not a coincidence. No, I’m not going to explain that to you. If you gotta ask, you’ll never know. Yes, if anyone doubted at all that this band was a Stoner Rock band, fuck all y’all, the release date is proof. Tracks on the EP range in length from almost 2 and a half minutes to over 24 minutes. It is a spacey, laid-back jam that is at times hypnotic and far-reaching, and equally urgent and immersive.
I’m not saying that you need to be high to appreciate this EP. I’m just saying that listening to Interstate Bleach Party and Howdy Hoodee Slank in the right…mood ...can make you see the color Octarine.
Lightning at the Door and Effervescent cemented All Them Witches as true underground masters of Stoner Rock. 2015’s Dying Surfer Meets His Maker saw them broaden their musical scope and refine their sound. The album (yes, it is an album this time) leans heavily into the Blues with layers of grunge and psychedelia and celtic strings and even harmonicas. (Side note: the last time I heard harmonicas used in Stoner Rock was never. So good on them. I will say this: the hook brings you back.) All these influences were mixed in one big bowl and smoked out the top of a giant bong for full effect. It is at the same time a more technical and more mellow album. Stand out tracks on the album are the hard hitting Dirt Preachers and El Centro and This is Where it Falls Apart.
All Them Witches found themselves touring the small club circuit and then playing bigger and bigger stages. They got invited to festivals like Bonnaroo and were greeted by enthusiastic fans (and clouds of fragrant haze). There is nothing like performing live to hone a band’s edge. By the time Sleeping Through the War dropped in 2017, the boys had been together, touring and recording, for five years. The album is tightly crafted by a tight band. There are even guest vocalists to add texture and harmony to the songs. Less mellow than its predecessor, the album roars right from the opening track - Bulls - through to the closing track, Guess I’ll Go Live On The Internet. 3-5-7 is probably one of the best Stoner Rock tracks you will come across. And when you recognize the tonal mirroring of Am I Going Up with Alabaster, you feel smarter than you actually are. Lots of albums have made me bang my head; very few have made me stop and recognize the musical structure that underpins the melody. That is Tool-level composition right there. Long story short: this is an album put out by a band in its prime and it does not disappoint.
If you remember what happened in English class, what follows the apotheosis for the main character is the falling action or denouement. All Them Witches had peaked with Sleeping Through the War and had nowhere to go but down. The 2018 Lost and Found EP was four (comparatively) short covers and remixes that seemed more like leftovers than an actual meal. Sure, leftovers can be tasty, but All Them Witches fans were used to getting new and better breakfasts, luncheons and dinners and instead got last Tuesday’s reheated bean burrito. Which is fine, if you dig burritos, but it is still not as good as a nice, juicy steak.
Goddam, is anyone else craving a meal? Why is it so smoky in here, and why do I want to eat burritos and Doritos?
Hehe. Dorito. Burrito.
Fuck. I need to focus. Moving on.
Any fan of the band could tell that something was up, and that Lost and Found was at best a B-Side. It soon became evident that something really was up. Keyboardist (and part-time violinist) Allan Van Cleave was out of the band. This left a gigantic Ray Manzarek-esque hole in the band’s sound. The breakup was not a good one, and left some scars.
Van Cleave was replaced by Jonathan Draper, and the band released the album ATW in Sept of 2018. Sonically, the album is sound, but seems to lack the spark of greatness that was in everything prior to Lost and Found. The technical skills are there - Draper knows his way around a keyboard, and that is clearly evident on Fishbelly 86 Onions - but it kinda (IMHO) sounds more like an amazing All Them Witches cover album than an actual effort by the band. It is kinda like Bryan Cranston dressing up in a Walter White mask. It is super close to previous efforts but just not the same, somehow. 1st vs. 2nd is a jam and so is Diamond, and the album has an unrelenting energy, but it is just a bit off the mark.
The band must have felt something similar. Draper was turfed from the group just a month after ATW dropped. Instead of trying to recreate the four member sound that had anchored them since John Cusak and Amanda Peet’s landmark film, they decided to choose a new direction entirely.
When bands shuffle their lineup, it tends to be adding members (like our very own ancient monarchs) or replacing members. Very few bands successfully delete members. Well, OK, that band from Liverpool did successfully delete Stuart Sutcliffe from its lineup and they went on to do alright. Genesis made a successful transition from a 4-piece to a 3-piece when Peter Gabriel left. Oasis got 100% better when Liam Gallagher and his ego both quit. But losing an integral part of your sound - and the keyboards were central in so many songs - would be a tough transition. The band’s fanbase-not-so secretly worried that the lack of keyboardist would spell the end. Thankfully, we were wrong.
All Them Witches took that leap. Digging into their nomenclature and lore, they released a single as a three-piece band on Halloween of 2019. 1X1 is an angry, powerful Stoner Rock jam with a video that is an homage to Jesus Christ Pose. It is a Kyuss-meets-Tool-meets-Led Zeppelin-at-a-Black-Sabbath-concert song that made everyone simultaneously applaud and exhale.
They were back.
The new LP Nothing as the Ideal just dropped on September 4th, 2020. It is a leaner, meaner iteration of the band that seems to have lost no momentum. Everything resonates with power. Saturnine and Iron Jaw evokes Tony Iommi riffage. The Children of Coyote Women is a direct callback to the album Lightning at the Door. 41 is a thumping tune and Enemy of my Enemy is a relentless sonic attack. But most importantly, we get to see All Them Witches evolve as a band but hang on to the core of their sound.
You’re never going to hear this band on your local top 40 radio station. You might catch them on College radio, if the DJ is cool enough. Like most great music nowadays, you have to go looking to find it. But when you do find it, what an amazing experience it can be.
So now you have completed your Hero’s Journey (Twist! It turns out that YOU were the hero all along!) According to the trope, you are now older and wiser because you have ventured out of your comfortable little world.
Now prove me right, hero. Go listen and awaken your inner stoner. And bring me some goddamn Doritos. Cool Ranch for the win.
Links to QOTSA
Josh has included All Them Witches on The Alligator Hour and is known to be a fan of the band.
A recent review of Nothing as the Ideal stated that Charles Michael Parks Jr.’s voice was “ a bassier Josh Homme”.
More importantly, All Them Witches are a Stoner Rock band...and Josh literally invented the genre. It is clear that while the band has grown and evolved and are taking themselves to new places, their music has been inspired by that downtuned, low desert Kyuss groove.
Their Music
Until it Unwinds
Heavy/Like a Witch
The Urn
Extra Pleasant EP
The Marriage of Coyote Woman
Funeral for a Great Drunken Bird
When God Comes Back -- Live and badass
Interstate Bleach Party
Howdy Hoodee Slank
Dirt Preachers -- Live in 2016
El Centro
This is Where it Falls Apart
Fishbelly 86 Onions
1st vs. 2nd
Under Pressure -- yes, that song.
Open Passageways
The Children of Coyote Woman
Enemy of my Enemy
Show Them Some Love
Previous Posts
Alice in Chains
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
Rage Against The Machine
Run the Jewels
Royal Blood
Arctic Monkeys
Ty Segall
Eagles of Death Metal
Them Crooked Vultures
Led Zeppelin
Greta Van Fleet
Ten Commandos
Screaming Trees
Sound City Players
Iggy Pop
The Strokes
submitted by House_of_Suns to qotsa [link] [comments]

2023.05.26 08:51 Drakolf The Vampire's Betrothal:

The unhallowed ground sang to me, generations of secular ignorance and religious arrogance had led to this day- my wedding.
He chose the name Kain, and refused to tell me the one his birth parents had cursed him with, it was all the same to me, really, I changed mine every generation.
I had made my home in an old, abandoned chapel- Christian, Baptist, though with their many schisms, it may as well have been naught. There was nary a believer in that house when it served as little more than a glorified spot to share gossip, and there were none after the fact.
The House of God was devoid of faith, and it caused me no end of joy knowing that I could simply enter- after all, God welcomes all into his home, even when he isn't there- and listen to the natter and prattle and hullabaloo and ballyhoo, to single out a single, lonely widow, searching desperately in the solace of her God.
The blood of the righteous was always the sweetest.
Yet in this day and age, such things were a rarity, even with the proliferation of evangelism and their mansions they called a church. I sought my meals elsewhere, those rabid fanatics wouldn't even believe what I was even if I drained their dear pastor dry.
It was on a dreary wednesday morning, as I turned the collar of my coat against the dim light that settled on the earth through an endless sea of whites and grays, that I spied a youth running from one such temple to almighty mammon.
He was not being chased, yet it was clear he was fleeing, so from a distance I followed, my thirst making his blood-scent all the more alluring.
He was yet plump and tender, a body well-loved yet still so very weak. Even as I hid my presence from him, growing nearer and nearer that he glanced over his shoulder and spotted me.
"Nice clothes, did you rob them from the cemetary?" He had asked with a sardonic smile. Oh, to be mocked by mere prey, I simply answered with a retort of my own.
"Yes, I happened to see you at the funeral."
He laughed, which had quite bemused me until it occurred to me that he had found my quip to be humorous, rather than scathing. Adorned in all black, with pale make up worn upon his brow and cheeks, that the black that adorned his lashes and eyes stood out all the more strikingly, that had I not scented his blood I might have mistaken him for one of my own.
"So, uh. How old are you?" He had asked, pulling from his pocket a well-worn carton of cigarettes.
My true age is a mystery even to me, so I simply gave the answer I always offered. "Twenty-one." It was an age that was most convenient for my purposes, and not far from my visage.
"Cool, the right age for drinking. Wanna go for a beer?"
I stood upon that concrete path in quite as state, as I had found his inquiry to be quite perplexing- I had long lost any taste for alcohol, and while I could taste food, the reality that it could not sustain me made it irrelevant in my life, save those rare moments when I must dine.
"I never drink... beer." I answered, with a touch of disdain. Yet his laughter to my response further confounded me.
"Finally, someone knows how the actual quote goes." He spoke, it had seemed I had gained his trust so easily, so once prompted again to partake of alcohol, I acquiesced.
I had learned in that time that he was that he was a 'Goth', a rather quaint little subculture which- among many other things- made grand overtures to mimic what me and my peers had once considered finery.
There was nary an eye that did not gaze upon me, a fact I considered to be quite disquieting. It was sat upon a mere replica of a fine throne that the compliments regarding my countenance were delivered by all who passed me by.
Unto me was delivered a veritable feast of blood, simply due to them emulating my manner of dress.
I did not hunt so early, waiting to learn who was well-known, and who was not. The alcohol did not effect me in any fashion, such that even as my companion grew in drunkenness, he did not seem to notice I still held tightly my faculties.
It was the kiss that had equally led to this moment, drunken, yet no less passionate, his tongue scraping lightly against my fangs, tantalizingly close to puncture, yet staved off by what could only be skill in avoiding such.
His audacity had set any plans for a hunt aside, as this paramour had caught my interest.
Our courtship began in earnest, long-dead methods for wooing another granted another day to shine, My every day that I could, I spent studying him, and he studying me, and it was upon the third week that he uttered my secret aloud.
"You're actually a vampire, aren't you?"
"What would you do, if I were?" I had asked. "Would you flee in terror, that I hunt you down and drain you dry, or would you present your neck to me, that I drink my fill?"
His answer was far more carnal than either, and while I had long ago lost the ability to initiate- not without drinking an entire Human dry- he had proven there were other ways- ways that I found to be quite enjoyable.
And so it was to be, that upon this day of our wedding, that I felt that accursed sign, and cringed as the Hunter gazed upon me with malice. I was but newly wed, having shared a kiss of the deepest passion, and presenting as I always had the facsimile of life, to devour cake and drink wine, to be merry.
I excused myself so as to not arouse suspicion, claiming a need to address a call of nature, and it was upon a secluded hill that the Hunter approached, bearing a silver cross in hand, that burned me upon the merest glance.
"So, Hunter, you have found me." I spoke. "Upon this day, where I have attained joy I have not felt in centuries, to a man who does not fear me. Are you to wait until he is mine in eternity, or do you seek to save a soul that does not want your salvation?"
He raised a crossbow, one bearing a stake of oak, undoubtedly blessed by holy waters, and aimed for my heart. "I don't have to justify myself to you, monster. You fucked up the moment you picked my cousin."
I chuckled. "Ah, so it was you whose hatred had chased him away on that fateful day." I mused. "It is you whom I have to thank, for was it not your rejection of his choice of bedmate, your rejection of his antipathy of God, that led him into my embrace?"
He fired once, and that was all I granted him. I swatted aside the oaken stake as I would any other mundanity aimed upon my breast, and with one hand took from him his weapon, stepping away and tossing it aside.
"Holy water, my dear, naive Human, must be blessed by the faithful." I spoke solemnly. "You should have blessed it yourself, you might have killed me then."
He held his cross up, a bulwark against my advance, I backed away, to a more comfortable distance. "That icon is certainly a powerful barrier in your hands, yet now it is all that you have. We have endless space to maneuver, and the party is merely a stone's throw away."
I smiled. "Imagine the hatred in your cousin's eyes, seeing you chasing me, threatening my life."
"You only care about killing people." He accused.
"Human." I spoke calmly and tersely. "Do you not think of the cattle that is tortured, that you break your daily bread over its flesh?" I took a step forward, keeping a calm demeanor as the hateful bulwark sought to singe my flesh.
"Have you not failed in your duty as a steward of God's land?" I continued, my advance persisting by another footfall.
"Son of Adam, of Eve, of Seth- How long will it take for you to understand the sin you bear is not the apple, but the castigation of your own blood."
"Not another step further!" He snapped.
"Is the blood of the Covenant truly thicker than the water of the womb?" I persisted, the faint smoke that rose from me an indication that I was but another step away from burning. "Or have you simply been deluded by fat men in grandiose temples, who speak of Christ forming a whip of cords and destroying the tables of moneychangers, all without a single trace of irony in their voice?"
The burning stopped, I approached him calmly and took the cross from his hands and simply said, "I thought not."
The scent of fear was strong in him, and I gazed into his eyes. "You will wait here, and I shall return with my husband."
He stood, entranced, and I stepped away and took in my arms my beloved. "Come, let us away to walk in the light of the full moon." I spoke. "Let these mortals bask in the delights we have brought to them, shall we?"
We were not followed upon the start of our walk, and at the end of it, we yet remained alone. I spoke of my encounter with my beloved husband's cousin, and upon arriving, gazing upon his frozen tear-stained face, I said, "I have done no harm to him."
He fell to his hands and knees, praying fervently, feverishly, seeking some distant light to deliver him from wickedness. My husband knelt beside him and hugged him, and in their embrace, in turn embraced him.
As the erstwhile hunter was laid upon the ground, his eyes gazing distantly in horror at his fate, my husband took my proferred handkerchief and wiped his face.
I approached him, resting my finger below his chin, and I said, with love in my heart, "Welcome to the family."
I kissed him, my tongue delighting in the taste of blood that lingered around his beautiful new fangs.
submitted by Drakolf to DrakolfsWritings [link] [comments]

2023.05.25 21:27 Canisventus May's "Truce" Contest Results!

Okay here they are Ladies and Gentlemen! Before i want to get into the results, I must say i really appreciate everyone entering and giving their best shot. This was my first time judging and there were 5 entries! I am so happy that happened. Thank you all for entering! You don't know how much it matters to me!
Thanks to Shenron for being the co-judge and giving me the advice i needed, I'm very thankfull!
Anyways lets get to it!
5th place: "Confession of The Guilty" Mind by u/i_lackwater
The notes of Canis:
I really like when people write about the feelings, thoughts and stuff from the point of view of the characters that are not very often used(at least I haven’t read stories from pure Ben perspective). I find those kinds of things interesting. You portrayed Ben’s feelings about the situations well and every time you did, they were the strongest points of your story.
I don’t mind if the story follows the actual script a bit, but I think this time it was a bit too much. There were some minor changes, but I don’t think they were enough.
When you follow the script this much, there must be something that keeps people engaged, otherwise it feels like you are reading the text version of the game. This is where your strong point, the way you described Ben’s feelings, and his thoughts would come in to play. You should have used that strongpoint more and given us glimpse into that empty head of Ben further.
The way you changed the story fits to the truce theme well. Ben saving Kenny and them getting on better terms, it was nice.
About changing things. Its better to change stuff that matters for the benefit of what you try to accomplish, just like what you did with Ben saving Kenny. For example, Vernon dying while trying to save Brie had literally zero effect to the overall story. The story would not feel any different if he died or not. It kind of felt unnecessary and it was like you tried to see a way to change the story even a little bit, which is alright in a sense, but it felt forced, because it didn’t really give me much emotion in addition of it not changing the story in anyway.
You are good at writing how Ben feels. Rather than Vernon dying for Brie, you could have replaced the whole Vernon thing and add more Ben to it. “Hesitation hits me, should I follow them? Not all of them hate me, but what about Kenny? There is also the possibility I'll make another mistake.” more of this please and think deeper. That would have been great, and you really have potential in that regard!
I think if you continue making improvements and stuff, you could have great stories ahead. I think you have a lingering skill to get in the characters head, to empathize with them and tell us how they feel, you just need to hone it for a bit.
You had the theme right as well; this is the kind of thing I had in mind with the theme “truce”. Ben and Kenny fits to the theme well.
Points: 2/10
The notes of Shenron:
So we’ve got a simple story of Ben confessing about his hand in the death of Kenny’s family. Given the theme, it is a promising premise on its own. But giving this story the good twist of Ben being the one to save Kenny was a nice touch.
Unfortunately, this story isn’t without its flaws. Putting aside the abundance of in-game dialogue, I question the purpose of Vernon’s death, one of the few variations from the source material. While it is acknowledged it could put Omid’s survival into question, the story quietly brushes it off and ends without an answer for his fate in favor of the Kenny/Ben conflict. Focus is a sensible choice in such a short story, but it only further highlights my question: why did you kill Vernon for? This narrative choice ultimately served no purpose other than adding onto Ben’s guilt.
And then, there’s the Kenny/Ben conflict itself. Beyond the-frightened-of-walkers boy deciding to argue with Kenny despite the deaths it just caused, I found the resolution… a bit too easy? Given he just learned about his family’s death at this point, I think Kenny would be too angry to listen to the boy’s somewhat self-pitying speech, let alone apologize to him.
I realize it is harsh given it’s your first time… but I have to give it a 3/10 with the hope you will enter more often in the future.
Points: 3/10
Overall score: 5/20

4th place: "Negotiator" by u/Contentine
The notes of Canis:
This kind of humour is straight up my alley and the way you strike home the fact that Ben is a huge screw up is just so hilarious. “And, as a sign of a good will, we give you Ben.”. That was funny as hell, it was like Ben is a common item to be traded with to someone lol. Poor Ben.
The way Lee gives Ben to them. Ben coming home all defeated, knowing he is a shit Midas and Lee just being so sure about it, like it’s a course of nature that this would happen. It was awesome.
Although don’t use caps like that. For example: “Ben is a GREAT worker. He will be a big HELP. He is VERY RESPONSIBLE you can COUNT ON HIM” I think it felt a bit forced and didn’t add into humour for me. The “He-he” is in the same territory.
It was way too short as well. After that you kind of wish there should have been more. Well if there is something good about it being short its that it didn’t feel like it was dragging and I didn’t feel bored or anything. lol
The thing is, this could have been just some random funny post or reply in the TWDG sub. If you actually would put more effort to make longer stories like this with the same kind humour, I would love to read them. This is why the points are a bit low from me, even though I really liked it. I feel like you really have potential to become great at comedy kind of stories.
I’m not gonna go into detail about if the characters felt natural or anything like that. There isn’t much to go on and in the comedy fics its not really that important I think.
Anyway, thanks for the laughs, I Enjoyed it. I really wish I would give you more points, but this felt it could have been way more to go around. Apply yourself!
Points: 4/10
The notes of Shenron: Yet another tongue-in-cheek entry signed Contentine. Well, we certainly can't take that away from you: it’s quite an unique entry. I do have to admit I spent the whole time just waiting for that stupid, dumb fun ending. And then it came and got a chuckle out of me. That counts for something.
It’s just a shame it was preceded by a somewhat boring and heavy-handed narrative. Given how sudden and urgent the situation was, it feels less like Lee was living the events and more like YOU were the one describing the events. Just… why?! Why the hell did you feel the need to take a whole-ass paragraph to explain the situation Lee was in?! We all played the damn game, for crying out loud! You could’ve made the entry funnier by making the narration itself ridiculously funny. Or better yet, by contrasting the panicked reactions of the serious situation with the dumb situation set up Lee’s almost suicidal confidence and the even dumber ending! Just… anything other than what we got, cause if it wasn’t for the comedic twist, it’s really just retelling the game scene to a T.
I quite honestly can’t give it anything more than a 2/10.
Points 2/10
Overall score: 6/20

3rd place: "Live to suffer" by u/NazbazOG
The notes of Canis:
Okay well that was a ride. This story was nice in a sense that there were so much plot twists and I mean...there were HUGE amount of plot twists. I think I have never read, watched or played anything that had this many, it was crazy.
it was nice to see the plot and what Aj was doing unfolding. I gotta say you did well with Marlon’s manipulation thingie, how he did that to Aj. You described how Aj and Clem acted well in that scene, but I think Marlon was a bit overly villainish, it didn’t feel right, but its not a big deal I think.
The first thing what bothered me was that, why on earth would Aj tell his live story to James to all people. James was a pacifist, a man of peace(and stupidity) when he first met him. Surely Aj wouldn’t just tell him all of this after 8 years of contemplating the plan. Man I was so frustrated when James turned out to be a scum lol.
I must say I really like the chaos in this fanfic, its batshit crazy in a sense, in a good way.
The odds of Molly and Lee finding Aj on that tree were astronomical and I actually had to read that twice that it was actually happening, I think it was a bit…too much. Then again Lilly found Clem in the middle of the woods, so I wouldn’t think that much about it? It felt kind of too nuts to happen not gonna lie.
When AJ was exposed and they took him and Lee to the stage, I have to say you made it tense and I was on my toes, what would happen. The way the axe just suddenly stop mid wing was hilarious. Imagine if he wouldn’t have stopped it in time. Molly took some risks for sure. Axe, a rather average in size wont just stop when its in full swing…okay im nitpicking, im sorry.
Anyway, you kept the suspense well and I have to always second guess what was gonna happen. the twists and sudden deathblows were coming left and right lmao. It was great.
I don’t see much problems with your dialogues. I mean there are times that things were not natural, like Marlon and maybe in some small parts when Aj talked. It was weird to see James so talkative and inquisitive, but I think it makes sense considering he is a changed man and was working for Delta.
I have to say though, that you tend to explain the plot twists a bit too much. Its good to explain the twists so people don’t misunderstand and stuff, but there were so many and it was sometimes non stop. It kind of felt like those among us games where you explain your GOAT strategies and how they work etc. But in here I don’t think it did much favors. It dragged too much and if there is something I hate in fanfics its when they drag. Otherwise when there were not too much of that the Story was nice.
I loved how Lee was like a mentor to AJ now and AJ must have now understood why Clem talked about Lee so much to him. Lee was like an old wiseman from the east, it felt like he was so wise…and old, its hard to explain, that was awesome how you wrote that.
The last conversation between Lee and AJ was just perfect…I mean it was so great. For example: “And you’d think Clem would be proud of you killing?” Lee tests him. “Wouldn't you say it’s better that for once, you listen to her way?”. That was such a nice dialogue thing and really got to me. You are not bad in dialogue mate, its just those little things I told you that makes it stick out, I think you could with practice hone those up.
Also “do it” reminds me of star wars. Molly is the Palpatine lol.
Anyway it was a good story, but I must admit I got bored in some parts, but at the same time some parts were good.
Sometimes less is more, when you did twists etc it really got me engaged to the story, the way you explained everything so much about stuff, not so much.
Points 5/10
The notes of Shenron:
And now, we finally reach the big man’s entry. And what’s this? A teenager AJ, 8 years after The Final Season, set after a what-If Lilly won? Boy, I can’t remember the last time we’ve had such a departure from the game. Especially one centered around a character the writer is infamous for disliking! But does the risk pay off?
Taking the concept of Clem and AJ’s different values on human life from The Final Season and going one step further to give AJ an arc of being less lethal is a good idea.. While part of it does come from making Clementine pacifistic to the extreme, it is possible to play her this way in the game.
The execution of said concept, though? It has its ups and downs, starting with the huge elephant of the room… the dialogue. Oh, boy, the goddamn dialogue. I don’t I’m exaggerating when I say the story is 80% of dialogue. And don’t get me wrong, it can work if you make it. But as you could tell yourself… it’s a case where it doesn’t. Leaving aside your usual issue with natural dialogue, about half of your dialogue is about explaining the plot instead of showing it. What could have been some of your best twists instead proved to be a challenge to remain invested in simply because most of the tension is lost, especially when your characters take the time to explain the plot again to others. Goddammit, man, have you ever heard of “subtlety”?
Beyond my engagement with the plot, is AJ’s character. I know he can be a brat sometimes, but letting himself get talked into pointing a gun at Clementine just to get him to listen to him? Bullet or not, bullet, it’s a way too much to swallow. Also, in the proximity of a Delta territory, AJ has gotten kind enough to let James know everything he knows about the plan so we could know the story too. Such a nice kid. Guess getting tricked into letting Marlon murder his only caretaker didn’t dampen his trust in people. Shame this naivety damages both the credibility and relevance of Lee’s faith speech.
Brother, trust me. I wanted to like this story. Give it a fair chance. But it just doesn’t work for me. Giving this more than a 4/10 would be too dishonest about my feelings about it.
Points: 4/10
Overall points: 9/20
2nd place: "We move on" by u/_-Jules-__
The notes of Canis:
You paced this story very well, there were no points where I felt bored. It was a very chill read, since there weren’t any tense moments. Okay I was a bit worried about the balcony not withstanding Ben.
I have to applaud how well you wrote how the characters talk. I can feel they were truly Kenny and Ben from the games. The dialogue felt natural and you described their body language well for example “Kenny looked down and pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to keep his temper.”. You painted the scenery in my brain very well and I got to immerse in the story very well.
It was wholesome to read about their scavenging journey, how Kenny encouraged him about the jump. It’s a very rare thing to begin with to see and read about somebody encouraging Ben and the man being Kenny who did that just gave it much more oomf, adding to the wholesomeness.
Also you get to wonder and speculate what is it that Kenny wants to talk about to Ben It kept me interested.
Man, im trying hard to find something bad about this. Maybe you could have thought about something more impactful to the very end where it says “It was a step in the right direction. For both their sakes.”. This is merely a nitpick though.
I think this was a solid entry and I did enjoy it a lot. I would want to read more about Kenny and Ben like this (start a series about it! I would 100% read it). You nailed this thing.
Oh one thing that was meh. I wanted more of this wholesomeness, maybe you could have had some more scenes in it. Like you could have made their scavenging thing a little longer. I wanted more in the end, it was good. Maybe add one action scene where they try to survive it together. It isn’t a must though, since you did it otherwise so well.
Points: 7/10
The notes of Shenron:
Well, what do we have here? A made-in-Jules story?! I’ve rarely, if ever, been disappointed by Jules’ stories before… and let me break the suspense right now: it’s not the story that will break this streak.
Sure, I could complain about the fact it’s pretty short, safe or simple… and I suppose it is a fair criticism. But if that is the worst I can say about a one-shot? It might be pretty good.
This character-driven work is an intimate conversation that feels very true for both Kenny and Ben’s character all the while exposing the former’s complex feelings about the boy: He tries to be patient with him when he’s taking waaaaaaaaaaay too long to jump. Hell, he even apologizes. What I criticized the other story for works… actually works here because it is presented as a major character moment… and given the context of the apology here (happens after the canonical argument between the two), it actually feels earned.
And then, there’s the ending, which is simply great. He can’t forgive him for getting his family killed, and the mere suggestion he has is enough to rile him up. But he’s actively forcing himself to remember that holding a grudge against Ben won’t solve anything, and they have to keep it together, for both Clem and Lee’s sake. If anything, this story’s length kind of works in its favor: the ending leaves the outcome of this duo incertain. Will this truce prevail and become a genuine friendship? Will it fall apart if Ben messes up again? Can Kenny really look past his resentment of the boy? Or will he ultimately kick his skinny little ass later? These are all the questions I’m left with when I look at their bond, and it’s frustrating that I won’t ever get the answer! A good kind of frustration, but still!
I give this one a solid 7/10. Jules' story was short, but the little it had was solid all around
Points: 7/10
Overall score: 14/20
1st place: "Shattered worlds" by u/Ranvijay_Sidhu
The notes of Canis: Okay…I gotta say this is the one that got me the most. I mean wow. Ranvi, you really know how to make dramatic scenes don’t you? I have a lot to say about this.
The way Clementine died and how you described it. I actually didn’t think she would die and when she did it really impacted me. The way she was in pain and how you described how she probably wouldn’t even hear what Kenny was saying due to all the suffering. Then having a laboured breathing on top of that, before the breathing finally stopped. That was so painful for me to read. Seeing the Clem we all love go through that and dying. It kind of made me depressed lmao, but it just means you wrote that so well, I got immersed to it so well, I almost wish I didn’t. Kenny assuming that its going to be okay, after the shrieks of pain etc toned down, the way you wrote how it wasn’t going to be okay and the reactions that followed from Kenny it was done so well. I am not really a fan of too depressing stuff. Clementine dying for instance and it really hurt to read that, but it was so well done I must give kudos for that.
The way Kenny talked afterwards; you could feel his anger and pain. It was like Kenny was in connection between the reader and him, channelling the pure rage he must have felt. It felt like I was Kenny in a sense who wanted retribution.
Overall, the way you described Kenny, how he talked and how you wrote his body language that was so well done. For instance, the way he threatened Luke and how Kenny didn’t want to hear it, what Luke had to say at some points. The cursing, the way Kenny reacted and had doubts. It felt natural and I liked that a lot.
I think Luke was the opposite though. I don’t think he felt like Luke. He was downplaying the death of Clementine way too much and was too passive about stuff. One would think he would be as devastated as Kenny in a sense and how he fucked up. He was very sad about Bonnie that was an icecube in the water, but it was like he didn’t care much about Clem. Also, in the state Kenny was in I doubt he would have given any empathy towards Luke, when he talked about Bonnie, but I’m not sure.
Luke overall was too much of a pussy, the way he talked and submitted like an abused dog. I don’t know it didn’t feel right.
The fighting scenes, they were probably the most understandable(and I mean understandable as in you knew exactly what was going on) and they were tense. I think you are really good at writing fight scenes. I have to admit though that Mike coming out of nowhere like a flash, when the walkers attacked the truck was kind of ehh… Where the fuck did he just suddenly come from…Anyway a small nitpick.
The scene at the house, where walkers were coming in, it was tense. The way Kenny killed Mike…that was….satisfying and the way you destroyed that Ruskie, Kudos man. The readers wanted retribution and you provided with amble supply, I like that.
The fight between Kenny and Luke, it was great because of the reasons I said above. When he slashed Kenny, I though he was done for but no, the fight goes on, I loved it.
The ending was kind of meh in a sense. I doubt Luke would do good with Aj alone, I would have preferred that Kenny and Luke somehow team up. It was too dangerous for them both go alone with Aj, going together would have been better I think.
The way you connected the start, the conversation with Lee was nice. “Exactly, the kids… they tether us to the better halves of ourselves. Without them around, it’s easier to give in to the instincts.” It went well with Kenny just going by his instincts, wanting a revenge. You wrapped it up with the story well.
I might be dumb(which I am) but isn’t it strange that Clementine was shot, if she actually was going to go with them and leave Kenny? I wonder why Arvo just shot her, if she was cooperating or perhaps Clementine confronted them and was about to, but the commie piece of shit had an itch trigger finger.
The story in no part was boring, it got me engaged all the way. Something interesting was happening all the time.
The way you ended it: “I’m glad I have met you, Clementine” as Kenny buried her. I almost cried; I think I got teary. I actually got shivers as I wrote this, I’m not gonna lie. Now this is how you end the story. You described how Kenny had to bury Clementine and then you ended it with the most powerful sentence you could have used. That was great!
I really loved this and I didn’t see it being rushed that much either.
Okay cringe warning: “Im glad you entered the contest, Ranvi” Lmao. You may place your palms on to your faces now.
Okay I’ll stop, this was awesome to read.
Points: 9/10
The notes of Shenron:
Ladies and gentleman, we have finally reached Ranvi’s story! This man, who hasn’t entered since he tasted victory for the first time in the history of the whole sub… finally comes back to get some more from me! And you know what?
He. Just. Might!
We start off with Kenny being an entitled dickhead to Lee. Then, when he discovers the concept of putting himself in other people’s shoes… he actually chills out! What a wholesome moment… followed immediately by a not-so-wholesome moment of Kenny futilely trying to save Clementine from the hands of death and coping with AJ’s kidnapping at the hands of Mike and Arvo. That might damn well be the strongest beginning out of all entries. If you intended to hook me in with that abrupt, brutal dark scene contrasting and straight up shattering (see what I did there?) the lighthearted reconciliation scene… well, count me in!
The wonders certainly don’t cease either. The dynamic between Kenny and Luke is about exactly what I expect from an actual truce: messy, distrustful, tense as hell bonds made of glass… for they could shatter just as fast. Throughout the entirety of the work, you could tell Luke was walking onto some mighty thin ice, progressively melting as Kenny approaches his boiling point. [21:42] And deer boy, was I not disappointed. While it’s certainly not the first beast mode Kenny revenge plot against Mike and Arvo, this one might actually have the most satisfying ending of them: after watching Kenny break the deal he had with Mike and Arvo, in particular giving the latter an incredibly brutal death, Luke actually tries to kill Kenny to protect AJ. Quite ironic, given their argument about pacifism. Not only that, you actually dared using one, if not the most rarely picked choice in the whole season (seriously, who actually wanted to follow Mike and co?!)... as a plot point to make Kenny come to his senses and spare Luke in a pretty similar fashion to a certain infamous game.
You know, for a rushed fanfic (as you say), the pacing is pretty good and everything just seems to tie together quite neatly. From the conversation in the past at the beginning all the way down to the funeral scene… it never failed to keep me engaged.
Take another 9/10, and hopefully another victory.
Points 9/10
Overall score 18/20

Congratulations on your win Ranvi and again thanks for everyone that took part of the contest!
submitted by Canisventus to TWDGFanFic [link] [comments]

2023.05.25 15:07 Sebpants Father passed away and left no will, advice needed

Hello, I'm 21 and my father (59) died yesterday morning. Was a long time coming, he was a chronic alcoholic, only see him a few times a year, still sad of course.
My father loved me and my brother, always talked about when he dies he wanted us to have everything of his, his house his car his tools, everything. I always thought about making a will for him, even though he knew he was dying, I know he would have taken offense and thought we only wanted his belongings.
Anyway here's where the issue is, his brothers and sisters I'm sure want some part of this. The house is on his father's land that the father split between the 6 siblings, I think in their head they should get something because of their father. The house is in my father's name only.
The relationship between my father's siblings and my brother and I is fine, they are always friendly when we see them but we keep out of each other's way since they still hate that my mother left their brother. When he passed away they were saying oh you will get his house and everything but I know they are only saying this to keep me happy but I know they will try sneak in and try steal stuff.
I know my father in the past was blackmailed by them, giving them money since they "cared" for him and my mother didn't (obviously they don't what he did to us) so I wouldn't put it past them to have made him sign the house over to them or even forged his signature to say they own the house when he dies.I know my father is raging in heaven even thinking about his kids not getting his belongings.
I don't know what to do, getting his house would give me and my brother I huge headstart in life, it's a lovely house and although he hasn't kept it well I'm sure it's still worth so much. I don't want to start taking stuff already such as chainsaws and his car since the funeral hasn't even started and I don't want them to think I only care about the money but I also don't want to wait and let them take everything. I don't even have a set of keys to the house.
I can't afford a lawyer since I'm just home from college and have barely any money
Any advice is welcome.
submitted by Sebpants to legaladviceireland [link] [comments]

2023.05.25 15:05 Vegetable_Wear8016 A short story for our grandmothers

Hello Ladies, I am back with another short story, this one is an ode to all our grandmothers :)
Grandmother’s Pearls
It was a rainy July evening when Suchi got the news. Her grandmother had passed away in her sleep an hour ago. It made Suchi tear up instantly and she started frantically calling her cousin. It was going to be a long day indeed.
Padmini was an eighty-five-year-old, sweet old lady. She was short and slender; she loved her cotton sarees and always wore fresh jasmine flowers in her hair. She had 2 daughters, and each daughter had one daughter and she loved both her grandchildren dearly. Suchi was the younger grandchild and had a special place in Padmini’s heart.
During the funeral, Suchi fondly remembered all the movies and terrible TV reality shows she watched with her grandmother. Padmini would always point out how she could act better than these actresses and Suchi would say “You don’t act, you overact”. Padmini made the most terrible pasta just to keep up with the kind of food Suchi and her cousin Shriya were eating. They always told her “Not bad Padmini, you did good” despite them taking hours to get through the meal.
One afternoon, over lunch, many years ago during a family get-together, she told her daughters that she was going to give her gold bangles to Suchi’s aunt and her pearls to Suchi’s mother. There were the only pieces of jewellery she had left as she had given everything else away over the years. They were old pieces of jewellery and were not very expensive as Padmini’s husband, their grandfather was not a rich man when he bought them for her, but she treasured them until her death. He had her initials engraved behind the silver clasp of the pearl necklace.
After the 10th-day ceremony when all their relatives went back home, it was time to clean out her grandmother’s things to donate. Her aunt and mother were discussing something in hushed voices in the kitchen when Suchi walked in. “What’s going on?” she asked both the older women. “Oh, your aunt has something to tell us but we couldn’t talk about it at such a bad time in front of the others” her mother responded. “Okay, everyone is gone now so what are we waiting for?” Suchi questioned them. Her aunt, however, had gone back to trivial issues “Did you notice that Rama was gossiping about us to Sheela? She was saying that we could have taken mother to a good specialist when we knew her health was declining, the nerve of these women!” her aunt proclaimed “Yes, I heard Manu telling his brother about that too, that the last time they met mother, she was looking so healthy but her health plummeted ever since she moved into my house, those brothers are such gossipers I tell you!” her mother said in return to her sister’s story.
“Okay, can we stop with the family drama? We just had a death!” Suchi told them with her hands in the air. “Okay, I was going to start informing our relatives that Shriya is getting married in a few months, we were in the middle of finalizing the dates when Granny passed away. The boy stays in Paris, he’s a manager for that overpriced brand Lancome. He did some specialization in perfumes in France and got a job in this fancy company”.
Suchi knew all about the guy already, her cousin Shriya met him at a Diwali party when he was in India, and they continued their relationship long distance. She didn’t know the wedding was happening so soon.
Her aunt and mother continued to discuss the details while she zoned out and sorted her grandmother’s things. During dinner, her aunt paid special attention to her which was unusual. “Suchi, have some more paneer, you haven’t been eating well ever since granny died, I know you were her favourite grandchild”. She had nothing against her aunt, but this was unusual. “So, I discussed it with your mother, Granny’s pearls should be given to Shriya and the bangles to you as we feel that she could wear them on her special day and the outfit also kind of matches it” her aunt declared.
Suchi stopped eating, “Granny wanted me to have them, she specifically said the bangles were for Shriya and the pearls for me. Besides the gold is more valuable, why can’t you take it?” she said, questioning her aunt’s logic. “The thing is, Shriya has her heart set on the pearls, and it would be very sentimental to wear granny’s jewellery on her wedding day”. Her mother intervened “Yes Suchi, I think Shriya should have it. It’s like a wedding gift from us”. Suchi was annoyed with the discussion and ended it with “If you have already decided, why ask me?”
It was a December wedding; the women wore their finest party wear. There was a DJ and the dancing had begun. Suchi was having a great time dancing to some Punjabi songs when she saw her cousin. There she was a sparkling silver gown, beautiful hair and makeup and some glittering diamonds to match. Diamonds?! Where are the pearls?! Suchi wondered.
She finally found out days after the wedding from her mother that the pearls looked out of fashion with the outfit, so they chose not to use them. “I don’t see why she can’t return the pearls to me and take the bangles instead when she didn’t wear them” Suchi protested “Oh Suchi, don’t you get it? I wanted them to have it because we can’t afford to buy her an expensive wedding gift, I cut down on the wedding gift budget because of that. You can’t take it back now; I will have to buy her a more valuable gift then” her mother told her looking rather glum. Suchi realized it was time to let this go.
Two years later, during her aunt’s birthday lunch, she told them “Shriya got robbed last night, she was walking to her apartment, and she took a different route because she was getting late and a middle-aged lady started following her and robbed her of everything”. “Oh my God! Is she okay?!” was everyone’s reaction. “Yes, she’s fine, this is very common in Paris. The lady must have been an alcoholic, she saw that Shriya’s wallet did not have any cash, so she took her watch and jewellery and unfortunately, that was granny’s pearls, her husband was so upset about the watch. He had given it to her for their anniversary” her aunt explained. “As long as she’s not hurt it’s fine, imagine the woman tried to stab her!” Suchi’s mother said reassuring her sister. The hypothetical scenarios of theft and murder continued between them.
When Suchi turned 30, she wanted to visit her cousin in Paris, she treated herself to this trip as a 30th birthday gift. She spent a few days with her cousin and her niece, they enjoyed some picnics in the park, visited some museums and she devoured a croissant with hot chocolate at any chance she had. It was on one of the days when they were having chai that the topic came up. “Hey, do you ever think about whatever happened to granny’s pearls that got stolen?” Suchi asked Shriya. “Ah, not really. I don’t like pearls in general, it looked vintage which is not my style. That disgusting junkie must have sold it for a few bucks for some drugs, I’m sure. I was more upset about the watch, Vikram had to search across so many stores for months and then he found the perfect one! Bloody thieves!” Shriya responded angrily.
Before going back to India, Suchi was finishing some last-minute shopping for friends and family when she remembered Vikram telling her to visit the popular vintage stores. She went to a few of them with the usual Parisian vibe stuff that’s not ideal for anywhere outside France. The prices for even a torn T-shirt seemed to be outrageous. She decided to take a walk back home, her niece would be waiting for her.
On the way home, she passed Mamie Blue, a thrift store. The mannequin was wearing some clothes inspired by ‘Emily in Paris’. She stopped for a few seconds to observe the clothing, “Why does Netflix allow such rubbish on their platform? Terrible show, terrible actors, terrible everything” she said aloud to herself while walking ahead. That’s when she stopped and returned to the store's front.
The mannequin had pearls, which didn’t go well with the rest of the outfit. She walked into the store and asked if they could remove the pearls and show them to her. Something about it was just so familiar or was it just instinct? When she received them, they looked polished and bright, creamy white with subtle shades of pink in the light. 'Nah, this doesn’t look like it' she thought, she remembered Granny’s pearls as a delicate creamy white shade.
She was going to return it when she remembered, she turned the clasp over to see and there it was! Under the silver clasp, there was PR engraved, it was very faint, but it was there. It was her grandmother’s pearls after all. Surprised at how this was possible but deliriously happy, she decided it was time to treat herself again.
When Suchi was saying goodbye to her niece, Shriya and Vikram at the airport, she took off her jacket as it was not very cold. “That looks just like the pearls I used to have like!” Shriya said looking at Suchi very suspiciously. “Don’t be silly, it’s different. I found it at a thrift store, besides it’s vintage, not your style”.
submitted by Vegetable_Wear8016 to TwoXIndia [link] [comments]

2023.05.25 06:32 bemichelle12 AITA for not giving my dead father's girlfriend of 17 years a dime after his death?

Alright, buckle up for some greed and family drama. I suppose we start with the back story right? here we go.
My mother divorced my father before I was born. My father was incarcerated since before I was born (im not sure how long before) until I was 7 years old. My mother took me to see him in prison a total of maybe 3 times. I didn't find out what he did until after he was dead; he never talked about it and I never asked. Turns out; he was in a relationship with an underage girl and the parents found out and reported him. I saw him once after he got out of prison when I was 7 years old for a few hours with my mom in a hotel of the city I grew up in. During the time he was incarcerated, he wrote letters to my mother consistently. At first, there were many but then it dwindled out. This is what she told me when I was 16 after I found the letters in her closet.. My entire family hated him but never talked about him in a bad way. There had to be at least 50 letters in the box and only 2 addressed to me. I was never allowed to meet his parents and they passed (to my knowledge) while I was young. During his time in prison and after he was released he never made an attempt to reach out or contact me besides those letters which were from when I was about 2 and when I saw him when I was 7.
Fast forward to when I was 20 years old. I'm in the car with my mother and step father (he earned the title of dad from me) and I get a message from Facebook. It was him and small talk ensued. Obviously, I had questions but I kept my guard up. I hardly knew him and he wasn't consistently there so I was nervous. He hinted that he wanted a chance to be a father to me since he never got that chance when I was young. I obliged but let him know that I didn't need him. I grew up and spent 20 years without him and if he messed up this one chance then that's on him and there went be another one. Happily, he said he understood and we began talking more often.
He informs me that he lives 2 hours away from me and that he has a girlfriend. I told him I was happy for him and we agree to meet. Needless to say, it was awkward. I met his girlfriend (we'll call her Barbra) and we talked for hours. Turns out they have been dating off and on for about 15 years and they lived together. Then he revealed that he had a side chick (uhh let's call her Dorothy) that he had been with for the past 5 years. Barbra knew about Dorothy but they had never met. He tells me that he flips back and forth between living with both. I told him countless times that it was wrong to treat Barbra that way and that he needed to leave Dorothy permanently. He would always waive me off. I pleaded with Barbra multiple times over years to leave him and that she deserved better but she never listened. Needless to say he continuously reached out for a month then got spotty over 3 years.
One December day, I get a call from my father's oldest sister ("Stacy" who resides in a different state) informing me that my father had suffered a heart attack and didn't survive. I was at work (I work in EMS) and I didn't breathe for a second. My partner was amazing and she contacted our supervisor and manager and let them know what happened. She was instructed to bring me back to base immediately and obliged. While on the way back, Stacy called me yet again and asked if I was on the way to the hospital where he was. I told her that I was at work but my partner was taking me back to base and I will be on my way from there. She told me to "hurry up because they're not talking to anyone. They said you're the next of kin and they only want to speak to you." Taken back, I heard of "next of kin" before but I had no idea what it entailed or meant.
I arrive at the hospital and talk to the doctor and nurse who worked on him. I asked to see the monitor strip from EMS and he never had a chance no matter what they did. I ask to see him and the nurse tells me what room he is in and informs me that Barbra is in there. I walk in and see the aftermath of a hectic code blue that resulted in a death. They really tried everything in their power to bring him back and for that I'm forever grateful. Barbra turns around to see me with his body behind her and says " I want to sell the house". I'm still in shock because my father is dead and this is the first thing she says to me? wow. I said "I'm not talking about that or even remotely focused on that right now." And she didn't bring it up for the rest of the day. He wasn't even dead 12 hours yet when she told me that.
I try to keep Stacy and his youngest sister ("Wilma") informed on what was going on since they were so far away. Stacy was known to be incredibly controlling and asked in the 2nd phone call that if it was too much for me then I could transfer next of kinship to her; I replied with "no I'm okay. I can do this". She never brought it up after that and instead turned her attention to "did he ever tell you about the land?". I said "no and frankly I don't care about that right now. My father just got rolled into the morgue." She didn't say anything else as I told her about the funeral home I've selected. Later that day, I went back to Barbra's house with her. Turns out that was my father's house and I was seeing it for the first time. We sat and talked funeral arrangements and she casually says "oh your father was supposed to report to the police this month". Confused, I say "why?" she replies "because he was a registered sex offender and he had to check in every 3 months because he was considered violent". I'm sorry WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY?! She then brought me the court papers with the court order to report every 3 months.
The next 2 weeks were filled with figuring out what to do about funeral arrangements, organ donor services, estate lawyers, and the police. We had his funeral 2 weeks later in his home town. Through this whole process, I never cared about money or expected it. All I cared about was letting him go in peace and dignity. Stacy and Wilma tell me the day before the funeral that they were going somewhere before the service and never said where. After the service, we all went to Barbra's daughter's house and we had to travel home due to me having to work the next day.
The next day, Barbra calls me and tells me that Stacy and Wilma went to the courthouse before the funeral trying to take the land from me because they wanted to sell it. To their surprise, my father's father wrote a will stating it will go to my father and his heirs. They were furious. As for the house, Barbra was living there and told me she was an "authorized user" on the mortgage. I told her she was welcome to stay in the house as long as she wanted to. She then informed me that she was moving back to her hometown. I told her that was her choice and it was fine with me. A few weeks later, we go to meet with the estate lawyer for the first time and she insists to come with. She attempts to talk to the estate lawyer about selling the house in her name since they were together for so long. He informs her that our state doesn't recognize common law marriage and if she tried to put the house in her name, it would be illegal. She gets furious and upon us leaving she rapidly fires questions about selling the house and how much she will get. I tell her " I have no idea" and we part ways. She informs us that she has a life insurance policy on him that is for a significant amount of money. She is the only beneficiary and I never tried to get any of the money from that. Not only did I not care about it, she paid for it so it's only logical to me for her to get the money.
Barbra calls me one day and tells me that she was 90% of the proceeds from selling the house and she wants to give me 10%. I told her I would run it by my estate lawyer and get back to her. Stacy then calls me and tells me that it's a generous offer and I should take it. Not aware of anything on the legal side I say "what about 20%?" and she says "ill have to look back and see if he payed any child support for me to justify that". Shocked I hang up. At this point, Barbra is no longer living in the house and she left the mortgage payment overdue by 2 months..
After that phone call, I blocked both of them on all social media and phone numbers plus their relatives. I received all of the proceeds from the house and I never talked to them again.
AITA for cutting them off immediately? Did I over react?
submitted by bemichelle12 to TwoHotTakes [link] [comments]

2023.05.25 00:48 void-queen Have I actually repressed this memory, or was she just gaslighting on another level?

Trigger warning for psychological and physical child abuse
First of all, I have not spoken to this woman since November of last year. The only reason I still felt obligated to speak to her was for the benefit of my dad, who tried to protect me from her all my life and who I tragically and very suddenly lost in June of last year. I don't need to calm her so she won't stress him out to the point of having a heart attack, she won that one. And I never got to say goodbye to him or even attend him funeral, so congrats mother. Point being, I'm not trying to get advice for how to interact with her, that part of my life is over and I consider myself essentially an orphan. I have just been spending the last many months analyzing my life while crawling through the darkest pit of grief I didn't even know was possible. But anyway, moving on.
I grew up with a very very exceptionally narcissistic mother. I'm an only child and didn't realize fully that I was severely abused as a small to medium child (physical abuse until I was big enough to run away or fight back, psychological abuse to infinity and beyond). Growing up I always feared my mom which turned into hate later (being honest here) in my teens. I have distinct memories of being dragged into the garage for spankings with the belt (of which my father refused to ever lay a hand on me, but given that he was also abused by her, I can't blame him. He didn't know half of what was going on when he was at work and we were at home), and even remember the time I began sobbing uncontrollably as I lay bent over the white plastic lawn chair with my pants just below my butt. My mom says "why are you crying, I haven't done anything yet?" And through snotty tears I choked out "no-no but you're a-a-about to". She began laughing hysterically, threw down the belt, and told me clearly I was already punished enough and sent me to my room while lighting a cigarette. I was probably 5 years old, maybe 6.
If I have memories that clear about the way she treated me, then riddle me this if you would: as a tween/teen she would often ambush me with emotional talks disguised as caring for me. On more occasions than I can count, at least three a year as a minor, she'd always have a line like this for me "oh, Void, sweetie I know why you hate/hated me so much" tears would well and she'd choke out the next part "I know you haven't forgotten the time I spanked your little behind with a wooden spoon so hard it broke. Just know, I haven't forgotten either, and I-... I blame myself for that every day. Can you find it in your heart to forgive me? I did my best, but I know I've made some mistakes".
I do not remember this event ever happening. I do not remember her using anything but a belt or her bare, boney, ring clad hands. I've tried to see if I could recall it, I mean blacking out serious trauma is a thing. But I can remember nightmarish situations with her growing up, I can remember running to my bedroom while she chased me down with fire in her eyes, and using all of my body weight to keep the door closed as she banged on it. I remember her coming into my clean bedroom (I have serious ADHD, my room being clean ever was a miracle) and sweeping her arm across my organized dresser, knocking nearly everything off while screaming through a raw throat "NOW CLEAN THIS FUCKING MESS UP".
I know I cannot for the life of me recall a wooden spoon being broken on my small body. She has consistently refused to truly apologize for the things she has absolutely done wrong that I have expressed to her time and time again. The only thing she has ever seemed genuinely remorseful over is an event I don't even believe had happened. My theory is that she just wanted to further gaslight me into believing she could be penitent.
I'd love to hear your thoughts.
submitted by void-queen to raisedbynarcissists [link] [comments]