Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Ch. 49

Eric began to get suspicious when Vlad turned not towards the next city, but toward Willowdale State Forest in Massachussets. He became still more suspicious when Vlad stopped at the toll booth at the entrance.
"You'll have to come back in the morning," the woman said, "There are no camping facilities and we're just closing."
"I have a friend who's property is inside the park," said Vlad, "I'd really like to see him."
Understanding dawned on the woman's face.
"Of course," she said, "The hair, the build - you're Elvis's brother, aren't you?"
"Vlad Berljottsen, at your service."
"I've heard so much about you! Lydia Hamilton, I'm a friend of Elvis."
They shook hands, Vlad leaning out of the car as far as he could.
"Well, seeing as you're family, I guess you can go on to his place. You know the way?"
"If you'd refresh my memory."
"Third right, you'll see a private property sign."
"Got it. Thank you."
"No problem, good to finally meet you."
They drove on. After they were out of earshot, Eric spoke.
"You have a brother? Named Elvis?? Who lives in a state park?"
"I do. Elvis was born a year after I was, and my parents determined not to repeat their blunder, wanted a truly American name. It was the best they could come up with. As for the state park, the house was built when it wasn't a park at all, but when the park was built, the original owners didn't wanty to sell. When they finally did sell, they would only sell it privately, with the stipulation that the buyers could not make it part of the park. That's built into all sales contracts until the house's demolition. Only it's been harder to find buyers each time it's sold on account of no one wants to live in a national park cut off from civilization except for tourists. When Elvis moved out here to seek his fortune, it was all he could afford. But last I heard he lives alone, so there'll be plenty of room for us."
"That's quite a story," said Gina.
"No, that was an explanation. I'll tell you a story if you like. When Elvis and I were boys, living in the old country -"
"Hey look!" interrupted Eric, "The private property sign! That's our turn."
"So it is," replied Vlad and turned the car. There, a little deeper in, was the house, but not so deserted as they thought.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Ch. 48

It felt good to be back on the highway, driving along with no real destination, just the three of them.
"Hey, Vlad," asked Eric nonchalantly, "Where we going?"
"Out of Maine," Vlad replied, "The wonderful thing about Maine is that you can only really go one direction from it without going to Canada. "
"What makes you so sure we're not going to Canada?" asked Gina.
"It just didn't seem likely. I thought perhaps we'd head back to Wheatsfield and drop off this thing so we wouldn't lose it. Then we could do some research at the Imini library to try and find another lead worth exploring."
"What if the next lead's in Maine?" asked Eric, "This'll take forever. Maybe Master Lin can help us if we call him."
"Nights and weekends, remember?" Vlad answered, "Besides, the last time I called him he gave me the wrong advice."
"What?" the two asked incredulously and in unison.
"He said 'Caught between two evils, choose niether. Rather, let them both fall in the light of the truth' but that didn't have anything to do with my situation. He admitted that I'd need that advice later. It was most unusual, not that he isn't unusual always, but this was especially odd."
"Well," asked Gina, "Did you?"
"Did I what?"
"Need it later?"
"Well, I actually did. When the FBI came to get me I felt like they would arrest me for Gina's capture if I stayed, but I'd abandon Eric if I ran away. Then I realized I could point them to the cult, and everything worked out."
"Two evils... Light of Truth... That fits," Eric admitted.
"How did the FBI get involved anyway?" asked Gina.
Of course. She had missed a lot, and a lot of explanation was needed. So they took the time to share the past few days with each other, and before they knew it it was after six."
"Hey, look," Eric said, holding up his watch, "Let's call Master Lin."
He did. The Master picked up immediately.
"Good news, Master Lin. We rescued Gina, and we got the first component: the heating element of the eternal flame."
"Glad to hear it."
"Uhh... What should we do now?"
"I have only this to say: In news there are clues. Tommorow's dawn shall lead you."
"That wasn't nearly as cryptic as normal. I think you're losing your touch."
"My touch is in the eye of the beholder, toaster seeker. Speak not like that to a toaster master."
"Sure thing, whatever you say. Thank you."
He hung up.
"So what's the buzz?" asked Gina, "Any good leads?"
"No, but I got some slightly cryptic rambling. I think we'll find a lead in tomorrow's newspaper."
"Well," said Vlad, "Do you mind if we save some money and stay at my friend's house instead of a hotel? We're only about two hours away."
"Sounds good."

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Ch. 47

This update is dedicated to Erin, in honor of her 19th birthday. Happy Birthday Erin!!!
The memories were coming back to Gina bits at a time. At first, all she could remember was that Eric saved her from something. Then she could remember Rob, and how much she had... loved him? It couldn't have been. But now more chunks were coming back. Her father's arrest, the wedding, how she'd treated Eric. 'Oh gosh, Rob can wait,' she thought, 'I need to apologize to Eric!'
At about this time she'd just passed the main gates, so she turned around to go back to the forest. But as she did, she felt big hands around her arms.
"Unhand me you big oafs!" she screamed, "I'll tell my brother on you!"
"Sorry Miss," one replied, "Boss says you're not yourself. Says you should be kept from leaving til you're thinking straight."
"Oh, I'm thinking straight! I'm thinking that if you don't let me go you won't be able to walk straight! So there!"
They took her away down a now familiar path. They were taking her to Rob
"Rob! You jerk! I don't love you! I don't want to marry you! Tell them to let me go!" she yelled as he came into view.
"Let her go," Rob said.
Gina kept screaming, "I can't believe you! After all this you just won't give up, you - wait a minute, did you tell them to let me go?"
The startled guards finally complied. There was a startled silence all around.
"Gina," Rob said slowly, "What your friend said made me think, and he's right. I love you too much to see you every day in a life that doesn't bring you happiness. So go. Get out of my sight and out of my life so I can finally forget."
"Oh Rob," Gina replied, astounded by Ron's sudden maturity, "Thank you so much. And good bye." She turned to leave, but compassion struck her.
"Rob," she said, turning back, "Are you sure you want to stay with this cult? You could come with us; leave this dishonored place and try to make a difference. We'd be glad to have you."
"I doubt that very much," he replied, "But more importantly, I need to stay here. With your father's arrest I've risen in the ranks. I'm in a very good position to keep Kyle in check, especially if all this nonsense about drugs is really true. But before you go."
He stopped talking and reached for his hand, sliding off the engagement ring that matched the one on Vlad's finger.
"Take it," he said, "Get yours back from that big blonde guy, and save them. I hope they serve you well someday."
Gina was nearly moved to tears.
"Rob," she managed through sobs, "I want you to know that in a different time, and a different place, I could really have loved you. And I'll miss you."
"Don't make it worse. Please go."
And she did. About 15 feet out she met Eric.
"Gina!" he said, "I don't think you should go see Rob! I think he's a little unstable and-"
"I already saw him," she interrupted, "And it's ok. He thought about what you said, and he wants me to go."
"Really?" Eric asked incredulously.
It seemed all there was to be said on that subject had been said. Eric went on to a new one.
"So how are you doing with all this?"
"It's a lot to handle. It's all kind of coming back in pieces. I know I was really horrible to you, and I'm sorry."
"It's ok. I know you weren't yourself."
"I wasn't anybody else either. The drug didn't control me, it just brought out a certain side of me. The little girl who loved her daddy more than anything, and would never leave her home. That's what the drug brought me back to, but it was still me."
"It's ok," he repeated, "I forgive you."
"Thank you."
They reached the woods, where Vlad waited for them in the Ringo Harrison. They got in and drove off like in old times. It was time to get on with the quest.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

New Template!

Look! It's a new template! It may not make any sense, but there it is. And it's elegant, darn it! Elegance is everything!

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Ch. 46

There was silence after Kyle departed. Vlad noticed the look on Eric's face, how he was staring coldly at Kyle's dwindling figure, and decided to give him some space.
"I'm going to find the lobster," said Vlad slowly, "Sweeney and Stuart called us a taxi that will be in the clearing. I will meet you there."
"Ok, Vlad," Eric replied without turning.
"And Eric?" asked Vlad in that same careful tone.
"I'm sorry. About Gina."
Eric was silent. Vlad took this as his cue to leave.
Presently, Eric stopped staring after Kyle and began to search the ransacked church. He searched under the overturned pews, amidst the remains of the statuary, and around the collapsed podium. Finally, near one of the aisles, he ound what he was looking for. The chalice the guests had drunken from was rolling on it's side, and welled in the side was about a gulp of what looked to be water. Perfect. Eric poured it into his empty canteen, and proceeded to find Gina.
She would either be in her house or at Rob's, and since Kyle was in the mansion, Eric decided to check out option two. He headed for the higher order residence area, and sure enough he found a house with a large silver moose embossed on the door. He knocked. Rob pushed the door open.
"Go away," he said, "She doesn't want to see you, and neither do I."
"I just want to talk to her, please," Eric pleaded.
"No. It's over, Eric. Go." Slam.
Eric walked around the side of the house, to the backyard. All the windows were closed and the drapes down, except the upstairs bedroom window. That was open, and he could hear Gina crying within.
"Gina!" he yelled, "Please come down and talk to me!"
She moved to close the window.
"Five minutes!" he screamed, "Five minutes for old time's sake! Five minutes to say good bye. Please."
She stopped. "Five minutes?" she asked, between sobs.
"Five minutes."
Soon she and Rob walked up to him form the front of the house.
"Go ahead," she said, holding back tears.
"This is the antidote to the drug they -"
"I'm not on drugs!" she shouted.
"Yes you are ! Kyle knows it! Rob knows it! Tell her, Rob."
"He's lying honey." Rob said, straight-faced.
"This'll prove it! Dammit, Rob, how can you let her be like this! You fell in love with the same Gina I did, and this isn't her! How can you let her be like this? How can you want to marry her?"
Rob took a deep breath.
"Annette, please go inside," he said with a forced calm. She did. When she was gone he spoke again.
"I know this isn't the girl I fell in love with! It kills me to see her this way! But you're the one who made us do this! Before she met you, she loved her home; she loved her family! She even liked me. But you had to take advantage of her youthful rebellion. You're the real drug! You and the rest of that so-called outside world. And I can't bear to lose Annette to that! I'd rather love and marry her like this than see her slip away completely! And if that means she stays drugged, she stays drugged! Now get out of my life!"
"You're a sick, sad man," said Eric, "And I hope I never see you again." Then he turned and waked away. He walked all the way to the gate, and through the forest where the taxi was waiting.
"You Vlad?" asked the driver.
"No, I'm Eric. Vlad's coming."
"Alrighty. I'm Earl. Those FBI men paid me in advance; we can wait about fifteen minutes without me losing money."
And they waited. Earl tried to strike up conversation a few times, but quickly realized Eric was in a dark mood and left him alone. About ten minutes later, Eric saw a figure approaching.
A short, brown haired figure dressed all in white. It couldn't be! He ran out to meet her.
"Give me the water!" she demanded.
"But you..."
"Give it! I have to know!"
He gave it to her, and she swallowed it.
"Nothing," she said.
"It takes about five minutes."
"Alright, I'll wait five minutes, but no more."
"Same here!" shouted Earl from the cab.
They ignored him. The next five minutes were the longest minutes of Eric's life. They stared at each other with mixed love and hate, as if under a spell, but casting glances at Eric's watch. At four minutes and forty-three seconds, Gina got dizzy and started to fall. Eric caught her.
As she lay in his arm, he saw a light go on in her eyes. A light he hadn't seen in a long time. As his face broke into a smile, she threw her arms around his neck and kissed him quickly but seriously on the lips.
"Thanks for coming back for me," she said as he staggered back dumbfounded, "I think I need to go talk to Rob."
She bounded off down the woods path.
"That's it," said Earl. It's been more'n fifteen minutes; I can't wait any longer. If you're coming c'mon."
Before Eric could answer Vlad came walking up the path with a lobster, who held a squiggly piece of glowing red iron.
"Eric!" he shouted, "I just saw Gina! She hugged me. I think she's -"
"Back? Is she ever! And is that -"
"The Heating Element of the Eternal Flame? I believe so. The lobster found it for me."
"I hate to break up this happy ending," said Earl, "But are you guys coming? Cause I'm going."
"Vlad, can you ride with him to get the car? I want to make sure Rob doesn't try anything with Gina."
"No problem. I'll be back in no time at all. Well, obviously in some time, but it won't be a noticeable amount. Well, that's not true either, but at least when you do notice the time you won't notice that it's long. At least, not long by my standards..." He kept talking even when the cab drove off. Things were finally getting back to normal.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Ch. 45

Momentarily, the service started. The orchestra, decent but not especially talented, began to scratch out a slow but light tune. The last guests sat down: two large men who, for lack of anywhere else, had to sit on either side of Eric. Then the procession entered, various high-up relatives of Gina first, then the slightly lower relatives of Rob. Last, (aside from the couple itself) came Gina's father, who appeared to be functioning as both father of the bride and minister. He had with him a large, impressive looking tome. He opened and read some words in a strange language. Then he began.
"Friends, family, followers of the whey. We are gathered here to celebrate a happy union between two great families and two fine, upstanding followers of the Ungulates. Such a union brings much happiness to Engren. But before we begin, let us drink the water of peace from the sacred chalice of Rashukle."
At thisa point, a cup made it's way around the room. More drugs, Eric figured. But when it got to Kyle, to Eric's surprise, he drank. When he finished, he cast a sidelong approving glance at Eric. So when it came around, Eric took a sip, too. When the chalice had circulated (but not to Gina's father himself) another man announced the couple.
"Sister Annette, daughter of our great founder, and her betrothed Brother Rob Bluntz, Silver Moose of the Order of Floobel." The couple, looking sickeningly happy, entered at this cue, and the service began. Gina's father read a long speech describing the bliss of marriage and of the whey and how much like each other they are and some other preachy things, and finally got to the bit Eric had been waiting for.
"And if anyone, for any reason, does not think these two should wed, let him speak now or forever be silent."
That's the point where Eric was going to stand up and deliver his speech, buying 10 precious minutes for something. Unfortunately, about three words earlier two large hands had clamped down on his shoulders and another had covered his mouth. He struggled to stand and speak but he couldn't. He watched Gina's father turn his gaze onto him, and staring straight at Eric, he said,
"No one? Then in that case, I now pronounce you man and - "
"I object!"
All eyes turned to the back of the room, even the thugs loosened their grip enough for Eric to slip out and turn around. At the back of the room, flanked by F.B.I. officers, was Vlad.
"As do I!" added Eric.
"Stop it! You're ruining my wedding!" Gina screamed as panic broke out. The crowd was starting to talk, to murmur.
"What is the meaning of this?!?" screamed her father.
"Your little gated community isn't quite up to Federal code," said Agent Sweeney.
"Of course it is! We pay taxes. We own this land. We are not breaking any laws."
"Oh really? What about the kidnapping of this girl?"
"I wasn't kidnapped! My brother brought me home! I'm his daughter!"
Vlad jumped in. "You've been inhumanely treating a lobster! It's an animal rights law violation!"
"There's no such law, and you have no proof. Now if you cannot find an actual charge, kindly leave this hall!"
"Well, you're also forcing all these people into servitude with drugs," said Eric.
"Nonsense! They all love it here, don't you?"
No answer.
"Don't you?"
No answer. And then, a man spoke up.
"I don't think we do! I can barely remember the last 4 years, but I don't think that was me!"
"Me neither!"
"Where am I?"
The cries came from all over the room. Eric saw Kyle worriedly mouth the words "Only took five" as he ran from the room. He saw Gina rush to her father's side.
"Not so sure now, are you?" asked Eric snidely, "Lock him up guys."
"Not so fast. I'm still not convinced," said Sweeney, "I need some proof to lock this guy up on."
"This isn't proof enough?" Eric yelled over the continuing cries of the crowd.
"Of course not!," said Rob, moving in from the front of the room, "I still believe in the whey, and I wasn't under any drugs!"
"As do we," said some of his family and Gina's.
"And I do!" said Gina, "This must have been a plot to break up my wedding! These folks aren't drugged, they're conspirators!"
Eric didn't understand. Maybe Eric really felt that way, but why was Gina still acting like this? Why hadn't the drug worn off her?
"Look," said the other agent, Agent Stuart, "She's obviously not pressing charges on the kidnapping and we've got no proof of the drugs. This may be a weird religious cult about to be reduced to mob rule, but that's not enough for us to do anything. If you can't find a crime, we're gonna have to go."
"And we'll take along Mr. Berljottsen on charges of manipulating and lying to federal officers," added Sweeney contemptuously.
"Gina," pleaded Eric, "You have to tell him the truth."
"What truth, Eric? I'm sorry, but I love Rob. He's the man for me. You'll always be a great friend, but I just don't feel that way about you. I'm sorry. I wish you'd have said something, instead of organizing this whole horrible spectacle, though. You've caused a lot of trouble over this."
Eric was speechless. Suddenly the whole scene slowed down. The mob, more and more confused and violent raged behind him. Gina's father sweet-talked the agents and Vlad away. Eric barely noticed as they left. He didn't notice the lobster crawling out of his coat and away through the mob. He just kept thinking, 'That's really her. No drugs at all, I was just wrong. She loves Rob Bluntz. It can't be, but it must be.' Finally, Vlad grabbed his arm and pulled him away.
They got into the FBI car and began to drive off, when a man ran up and stopped them. It was Kyle, and he snapped Eric back into reality.
"Here's your charges, officer," he said, "Proof of all the things he was doing. Not just the drugging, but insider trading, mob connections, money laundering, and a few possible murders. It's not pretty."
"It's awfully convenient," Sweeney pointed out.
"I'm his son, Kyle Smith. I've been collecting this stuff for some time. What he was doing was wrong."
Stuart had been looking over the papers. "Turn her around, Sweeney, this is plenty."
They turned around. They handcuffed Milton Smith (Milton!) and dragged him away, needing to forcefully separate Gina from him. She was crying.
"I hate you!" she yelled at Eric, "I wish I'd never met you!" She ran off, and Rob followed her, casting an evil glance back at Eric.
Eric, Vlad, Kyle, and the aristocrats were left alone in the midst of the mob, which were now tearing down the church. One of Kyle's people ran in with a megaphone, and handed it to him.
"Everyone please calm down!" he said, "I know you have lots of questions, but violence and destruction are not the answers! If you all come to the mansion, we will sit down and talk about this like civilized people." He worked at this game for a while, but eventually the people calmed down and headed up the road to the mansion. Kyle sent the aristocrats and his entourage, but hung back with Eric and Vlad. When everyone had gone, he spoke.
"Well, that certainly didn't go as planned, but it went well."
"It did?" asked Eric and Vlad, almost simultaneously.
"Of course. I thought I would have to get my father out of the picture, but now he's out of it but still alive, and as far as he knows I had nothing to do with it. And the whole place is still around, and it's all mine. I'll have to run it a little more cleanly now, with more religious bullshit and fewer drugs, but people will still stay on. The proof I gave the Feds was carefully chosen. They have all they need on dad and nothing on me."
"You are a heartless man," said Vlad.
"True enough."
"You told me you cared about Gina," said Eric.
"Yeah, you ate that right up," he laughed, "But your part in this is done. If you don't cause us anymore trouble, you may go. Even take that stupid artifact."
"You didn't want to help her? Then what was this all about?"
"Power. The water at the beginning of the ceremony was an antidote drug I've been developing for a while, and I've also been securing the loyalty of Dad's few undrugged higher-ups. This was the perfect time to put it all together. While the mob was unruly they would go right for dad, and leave me in charge from here on out. I wasn't expecting the F.B.I., but I've always had a plan for if they ever came around. I just had to fetch the documents. I need Gina here with me, so I made sure she wouldn't be in the room when we drank the stuff."
"You can't keep drugging these people!" shouted Eric, "The Feds'll be back."
"Yes, but there are drugs and there are drugs. I've been working on some that are fully FDA approved. They just work a little differently. Federal law is full of loopholes."
"So we're just supposed to leave, without Gina?" Eric spat?
"I would suggest you do so. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to talk to some unruly townspeople."
"What about the lobster?" asked Vlad.
"Keep the damn thing." And he was gone.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Happy Birthday to the Other Side of The Corndog

Here's the big post, a day early to start the festivities. Tomorrow perhaps I'll post something extra. And I won't leave you hanging long. The next post will be up within a week. Writer's Block is over, Year Two will be all about regular updates!

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

An apology and a promise

Any loyal readers who still remain: I apologize profusely for the lapse in my update schedule of late. RL is a doozy, but if I try, I really do have time to update onece a week. As I have said, a big climax is coming up in the story and I want to be able to make it really good. Also, September 29th will be the site's first birthday. So, on that day, I promise the wedding will be posted. I will work on it until then to make it the best climax post I can. In the interim, I will either write one more New Toaster post to fill in some detail I forgot about or try to write a few little off-story projects, just to keep the site alive (That's not a promise, just wishful thinking). In conclusion, thank you all for continuing to read and bear with me for a few weeks and we'll get back on track. Also, let me once again pimp Society's Pants, a site full of writers as good as or better than myself.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Ch. 44

Over the next 2 days, Eric worked more than he had ever worked in the fields. And if there was one thing worse than work, it was work without complaining about it afterward. And here no one complained. The drugs were strong. Eric kept working though, and pretending to be happy, and deathly avoiding the one thing that would make him happy unti lthe big day finally came. He excitedly woke up and put on his robe. He showed the supervisor the invitation Gina had given him, and he was grudgingly allowed to head to the temple instead of the fields. A brown robed man came up beside him, and Eric knew who it was.
"Have you found the bliss of the whey?" he asked as he always did.
"The whey is a hard journey," Eric replied. It was a carefully planned code, which allowed Kyle to make sure Eric wasn't drugged without seeming conspicuous. A drugged Eric would only say yes, but Eric's faithful yet negative answer would not attract too much attention if they were being spied on. Kyle went on.
"Do you know what you have to do?" he asked.
"Of course. We all must do our part to find the whey."
"Alas our secret lobster still cannot be found, and we must find him soon"
"Of course," Eric replied
"10 minutes," Kyle whispered, and then he was gone.
There was something very exciting about these short cryptic rendezvous. It was like a movie.
Eric turned now, and did not head for the church. Instead he went toward the gate, where he'd planned to meet Vlad before. He knelt down and feeling very stupid, began to whisper sharply and as loudly as he dared.
"Lobster! Lobster! It's me Eric! I need your help!"
He looked through the gate at the forest and saw nothing.
"Vlad!" he tried. Nothing. He should never have told Kyle they had the lobster. He didn't have him any more then anyone. He was just about to give up and leave when he noticed something purple out of the corner of his eye. A purple crestacean, amidst the leaves of the tree.
"How did you? How?" But he cut off his rambling, scooped up the lobster, and stashed him in his robe.
This accomplished, he headed for the church. He was eager to see Gina again. All of his efforts to see her on the little free time he was given had been futile. She was under heavy protection. He made it in and was admitted after showing the invite, though the guard gave him a distasteful look. He sat down in the third row, close enough to do his part, but hopefully not close enough to be noticed. Yet noticed he was doomed to be, as the only brown-robed farmer amongst this aristocratic lot. He felt a space opening around him as the blue, green, purple, and gold robe-wearers inched away from this dirty laborer. Confined to his isolation and feeling increasingly apprehensive, Eric waited.

Saturday, July 31, 2004

Ch. 43

In the meal hall, when the break came up, Kyle was just where he said he'd be. He didn't look happy.
"What did you mean when you said you had the lobster?" he whispered angrily.
"My friend is waiting outside with him."
"Well, your friend let him get away. Two of my father's goons saw him in the forest and are out looking for him, and he's about to send a lot more. That's how I was planning to decrease the guard at the wedding, but if they catch him now it's no good."
"It's a ploy. Vlad probly let him scurry a little ways then scooped him up, to keep them off guard."
"I don't trust you."
"It's mutual. Do you have a plan or what?"
"Of course I have a plan. Listen carefully. All you have to do is break up the wedding. I want you sitting in the front row, and just like in the movies, right before my father pronounces them married, stand up and yell that you object or something. Make a speech. Just make a diversion and buy time."
"And meanwhile?"
"Meanwhile other plans will be set in motion. I don't want to tell you more in case this next part doesn't work."
"Next part?"
He took out a small clear vile and handed it to Eric.
"Drink this. It should make you immune to the drug for about three days, which is all you'll need. It won't start working til tomorrow morning, so for today I'm swiching your canteen with this one."
"Thanks. So all I have to do is break up the wedding?"
"The rest is taken care of. You and Gina get out, and I get what I need too."
"Which is?"
"Don't worry about it. Now go sit with the other farmers. I've stayed too long already.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Vacation/Society's Pants

I hate to leave the story like this, but I have to go to some camps and things, and then I have band camp and Jekyll and Hyde, and I'm not sure when I'll be able to update.  There may be something up in early August.  After that I intend to continue updating this, but you can also read my writing every third post or so at Society's Pants, a new round robin story blog started by my cousin, my brother, and I.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Ch. 42

Vlad had gotten the car squared away, but it was dark and he was tired, and he didn't cherish a walk back to the forest. He figured he could risk a night at the hotel. He bought a cheap room, and had a sleepless night, tossing and turning. Finally he got up and walked to his window. He looked off towards the woods, but he couldn't see anything. He shouldn't have left Eric. Who knows what trouble he might be in? Or when he might need to get away? And then there was Ming. What had the FBI done to the house? To Ming? He couldn't stay in this hotel room anymore. He gathered up his things, put on his pants, and left. When he got to the desk, the manager was arguing.
"Gentlemen, we promise our customers a goodnight sleep. I am not going to ring anyone at this hour!"
"Y'see this badge, Mister. What does it say?"
"You do not have a search or arrest warrant for this establishment, so your badge means nothing to me. Now, if you do not want a room, then please go."
Vlad recognized the agents. The same two who had been pursuing them in Indy. He needed to get out, but he didn't want to leave without paying. He retreated a little ways into the hall.
"Y'know, sir, I wasn't gonna say anything, but I don't know if that plastering is up to Maine state code."
"Even if you knew anything about Maine code (which you don't, as a member of the Federal Bureau of Investigation) and even if my plaster wasn't 100% union installed, You would still be blackmailing me, and I would not respond well to it."
"Alright, wise guy. We'll just wait here in the lobby."
"I'm afraid that would be loitering, and I'd have to ask you to leave."
The other agent finally spoke. "You mean to say you would have an FBI agent arrested for loitering?"
While the two continued their discussion, Mr. Sweeney (the short white guy, who had spoken first) started wandering toward the hallway. Vlad started to run, but it was too late. He'd been seen.
"If you stop right there, Mr. Berljottsen, there won't be any trouble. I just want to talk to you."
Vlad took a deep breath.
"Ok. I like to talk."

Friday, July 02, 2004

Ch. 41

The next morning, Eric woke up with no clue where he was. It was clearly not his room at home. Nor was it another hotel, or some woman's sofa in Wheatsfield. It was a mostly empty room, except for his bed, a table with a book on it and a fresh robe hanging up. Presently, he remembered the previous day. As it came back in bits and pieces, it began to dawn on him how screwed he was. Also that he needed to meet Vlad soon.
He put on the new robe, and was about to head out of the door, when an oddly familiar man rushed in.
"Eric Smellick?" he asked matter-of-factly.
"If you want to save Gina, it would be best if you came with me now."
That guy was smart, said Eric's better judgement, sending some flunky to test my loyalty to the cult would be just his style.
"Of course I don't know what you're talking about," he lied, "What would I save her from? She's happily engaged."
"I know you don't believe that because I kept them from putting drugs in your tea, at great risk to myself, although not as great as the risk of my coming here. Now I want to help my sister, too, so cut the act and come with me."
Eric's better judgement gave the go ahead, and he followed the man out of the room. The man handed him a pair of sunglasses.
"Put these on. It was brave of you to come in here as a convert, but stupid. How did you think my father kept these people in his cult? It's not the food, and it's definitely not the fashion. He's discovered a cheap to produce and very effective mind control drug. It's in the water everywhere but the mansion. You know why not there?"
"He didn't want to drug himself?"
"That, and he didn't think he needed to drug his family. Gina made him think twice though, and when Rob and I brought her back, he drugged her. And I think he's trying to get me too, but he's already told me too much about how to run this place."
"You're telling me, that despite the fact that YOU were an accessory to Gina's kidnapping, you have only her best interests at heart now?"
"That's all I've ever had, and I don't think you're in a position to be giving me any bullshit, Eric." He spat the word 'Eric' like poison.
"No, there's enough of that around here already." Eric shot back.
"You know, I'm trying to be on your side. And for your information, I saved Gina from the kidnapper. He wasn't one of ours. Rob thought he was, but the fact is he was gonna hold her as a hostage against dad. When Rob found out who he was (and it took the oaf long enough) he called me, because he knew I'd cut the politics and just save my little sister. Which I did. I know you care about her or else you wouldn't be there, so let's help her out, ok?"
"I'm with you til she and I get out of here, and no longer. And I want an artifact."
"What's it gonna take to drill it through your head that you've got NO BARGAINING CHIPS?"
"I've still got one."
"And what's that, Eric?"
"The Sacred Lobster," (beat) "Of bun-Doom."
The man was silent for a minute. Eric had obviously caught him off guard with that one.
"That'll make things easier," he finally said, "Have I told you my name?"
"You can call me Kyle. Now, you need to get out to the fields, or they'll get suspicious. I'll meet you in the meal hall when your break comes up."
"See you then," Eric replied, unsuccessfully hiding his bitterness. He headed out to the fields, by way of his rendevous point with Vlad.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Ch. 40

From his vantage point amidst the bushes, Vlad overheard voices on the road.
"I don't see why we have to check. He said he hitchhiked."
"Yeah, and if we know he was lying about that then we'll know he was lyin' about the vision. Plus, the car might attract attention, if there is one."
"Alright, but you know I hate these woods."
"What, you're afraid something'll jump out at us?"
Vlad considered jumping out at them, but decided against it. If they spotted him at all they'd either report him or he'd have to stop them from coming back, inwhich case their absence would be noticed. On the other hand, he couldn't let them get the car, and they were moving faster along the path then he ever could through the trees. He could see only one way out. Apologizing profusely to the lobster, he hurled it at one of the men, hitting him squarely in the back.
"What, something get you?"
"Something hit me in the back. Check it out, will ya?"
"Nothing there. Wait a minute, do you see that?"
"The Sacred Lobster! Let's get him!"
They ran back the way they came, after the fleeing lobster. Vlad emerged from the bushes and bolted down the path, as fast as his legs would carry him. Exhausted and out of breath he reached the car. But what would he do with it, he wondered as he climbed in. He drove back onto the road and headed in towards the city. A garage, maybe. Of course, this would leave Eric on his own for a while, but atleast the lobster was back there. Everything would work out ok, Vlad was sure.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Ch. 39

The men with clipboards took Eric clear across the compound. It was a long walk, and he took time to take in his surroundings. Many people were about, in various colors of robes. They were all smiling and happy. How does that work? How does a crazy guy make a whole community happy by taking their money? He just didn't get it. His escorts made little conversation, after asking a few more questions. One that particularly amused him was "Have you seen this lobster?" At that point they held up a picture of the Sacred Lobster, symbols and all. They also asked how he came. He knew if he lied it would be easy to check, but if he told the truth he stood to lose a getaway vehicle. He finally decided to lie, and told them he hitchhiked.
Eventually they reached a place where most of the settlement ended. That is to say, they reached the far gate, but in the middle (next to a large guard of course) was a narrow path with iron gate and trees on each side. This path took them up a hill to a grand house. One of the men walked to an intercom and held down the button.
"Stitser and Wobbles, with the vision guy."
"Come on in," a gruff voice answered.
They opened the door and walked down a long hallway which opened in to a medium sized room with a large chair on the far wall, a couch on the left wall and a few smaller chairs around. A man was sitting in the large chair, talking to Gina. Eric arrived in time to hear her say, in a voice that he could not believe was hers,
"I love you too, Daddy. Good night."
She turned and left down the hallway they'd just left. He winked at her. She looked at him and squealed.
"Daddy! This is my friend Eric." She turned back to him. "I am so glad you've seen the Whey, Eric, and I want to apologize for all the blasphemy I said before. It is so good to see you!" Eric was shocked. Who was this girl and what had she done with Gina?
the man spoke now. "Wait, Annette. This is a friend of yours? Brother Stitser here says he had a vision of Engren."
"Good for you brother Stitser!" she replied.
"No," the man explained, "Stitser says that your friend had a vision of Engren. Don't you think that's a little odd?"
"No, I'm sure Engren appeared to Eric in order to undo the damage I did by blaspheming him. He's so wise."
"Honey," the man said levelly, "I'd like you to stay here for a bit. Ok?"
"Sure!" she replied and sat down on the couch, "Come sit with me Eric!" He did, and Stitser, confused but still trying to do his duty, did too. Wobbles muttered something about having to go greet the next guy and ran off.
Gina's father spoke. "So, Eric, friend of my daughter, I suppose I owe you thanks for making sure no harm came to her. She has told me of your quest, so I was expecting you to come, either to rescue her or for the Briskol Ip. I was not expecting you to come as a prospective member. So tell me about your vision."
"Well," Eric began uneasily, "It's a pretty standard vision. Ergen -"
"Engren." Gina supplied helpfully.
"Engren appeared and said to me that the only way to help Gina was to give up my silly toaster quest and see the Whey. He told me how to get here."
"And what of the other man, and the Sacred Lobster?"
"Vlad said I was crazy and he wouldn't come. He hid the lobster from me."
"I see. Stitser, will you fetch some tea?"
"certainly, sir" Stitser replied. He got up and left.
"Well," the man continued, "As suspicious as I am inclined to be, I think you speak the truth. How great is the way of the Whey, when even my daughter's disappearance can be a blessing. What can you bring to the community, Eric?"
"I'm a data-processor."
"Well," the man laughed humorlessly, "We've no data to be processed here. You'll work in the fields."
"Do you suppose," Eric ventured, "I could talk to Gina for a bit?"
"Plenty of time for that later. Oh look the tea's here. Won't you have some?"
"No thanks," said Eric.
"Oh come, you shouldn't be rude to your host you know."
He drank the tea, despite his misgivings that it was drugged. It was, as it turned out, Chai and quite good.
"You'll start in the morning. Go with Stitser, he'll show you your room in the village."
Eric did as he was told. Just as he and Stitser were leaving, Gina yelled, "Wait one minute!" and ran off.
"Very well," said her father, and gestured for them to sit back down. In a minute Gina was back with a card. She handed it to Eric. Before he could even open it, she exclaimed, "It's an invitation to my wedding! You remember Rob, right? We're getting married in three days! And now that you're here you can come!" She hugged him. She had never hugged him before.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Ch. 38

Vlad found his part of the plan to be much harder than he anticipated. He was to make his way, with the lobster, to the far corner of the gate. Unfortunately, the foliage got much thicker than expected once he got off the path. By the time he had traveled ten feet there was no wayto go on.
He surveyed his options. He had nothing with which to bushwhack. He could simply release the lobster - it could easily get through the underbrush - but he wasn't sure it understood the plan. He could walk back to the car; then either find something with which to bushwhack or drive around and try to make it in from another part of the forest. Any of the options might work, but if he failed - well, he couldn't fail.
Suddenly he heard a beeping rendition of Ride of the Valkeries resound from his pants. The cellphone. He picked up quickly.
"Hello?" he whispered.
"Vlad. It is good to speak to you again."
"Master Lin?"
"I am so glad you called. I am having a dilemma. I - "
"I know. I can tell you only this: Caught between two evils, choose niether. Rather, let them both fall in the light of the truth."
Vlad was puzzled. This was very cryptic. Which of his options was evil? Bushwhacking, because it killed trees? Using the car because it killed the ozone? Or the lobster, through his association with the cult?
"Master Lin, I do not think I understand. How will your advice help me get through the forest?"
"Get through the forest?" the Master asked, seemingly slightly panicked. (But of course, thought Vlad, Master Lin is never panicked.)"The, um, the words I have given you will guide you later, for now you must simply follow your heart. It will guide you through the forest."
Master Lin hung up. He looked again at the prophecy, and kicked himself. He couldn't have just listened to Vlad's problem instead of pretending to know everything, could he? Oh well, he thought, even the Masters mess up sometimes.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Ch. 37

It's a special bonus summer update!
It wasn't a great plan, but at least it was a plan. Eric left everything in the forest with Vlad, and walked up to the gate in just his jeans and T-shirt.
"Who're you?" asked the guard.
"A seeker of the whey," Eric replied in the most hippyish voice he could muster.
"Spell that," the guard grunted.
He looked slightly surprised, but motioned for Eric to stay there while he entered the guard house. A short while he reemerged flanked by two smaller men in blue robes.
"Greetings, seeker," said one, who was holding a clipboard, "You havve journeyed far, but you have come to the right place. We are going to rid you of worldly possessions, but first we need to ask you a few questions. How did you hear about the whey?"
"From -" he paused. How did people hear about a secret cult people never left? "From a vision, of a great stag." That was one hell of a gamble.
The man looked surprised and held a whispered conversation with the other man. The only bit Eric could make out was "Just check other and be done with it!" Later he would learn that the standard responses were mailing and telephone soliciting.
"Next question," he continued, a little frazzled, "On a scale of one to ten, how easy was it to find the whey?"
"8," Eric replied, hoping to not have to elaborate. This again appeared to be the wrong answer.
"Really? You know ten is easy and one is hard, right?"
"Oh, in that case, 2"
He could tell he'd made a good recovery when the man smiled and nodded. After a few more questions they reached a wooden house (like all the other buildings around) labeled "Things Not Of The Whey". The went inside.
Now the second man spoke.
"We'll be back in three minutes. Take all your clothes and worldly possessions off and deposit them in this bin. Then put on a brown robe from that closet." The men left.
Eric silently congratulated himself for leaving everything with Vlad, then did as he was told. About three minutes after leaving (Eric had no watch), the men returned.
"We are very interested in your vision," the first man said steadily, "We're going to take you to a very special man so you can tell him. Pardon the mess at his home, his daughter's homecoming party just ended."

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Ch. 36

It was the next morning when Vlad and Eric reached the hotel. Things had returned to normal; there was no sign any illegal activity had taken place. Nevertheless, they asked around. The manager hadn't even been there. The night manager (Who they had to track down at his home) hadn't seen anyone matching Gina's description. He did describe a man who purchased a room, than dissapeared without staying in it. A room for three.
"He was a big hulking fellow, with short brown hair and a ridiculous handlebar moustache," the little man said, "And it wasn't long after he left that the gunshots started. I just stayed in here and called the police, that's the best way."
So, they thanked him and went on to the police station.
These were not surprisingly smart and helpful policemen. These were none-of-your-business-get-out-of-my-face policemen, so that thread ended quickly.
"So what else is there?" asked Eric frustratedly.
Vlad wordlessly held up the lobster. Eric sighed but nodded, and Vlad placed him on the dashboard. He pointed East.
"That proves nothing," Eric insisted.
"We'll see when we get closer to Maine," said Vlad.

So, following a vaguely remembered story and the lead of a lobster, they went to Maine. They drove 24 hours straight, Vlad sleeping in the day and driving at night, and Eric visa versa. It was about 11:30 then they reached the sign that said:
Welcome to Maine, the Pine Tree state. Eric nudged Vlad.
"Ok, we're here. Now what?"
"Wha- huh- the lobster," replied Vlad sleepily.
"He's pointing to the median strip."
"Well, you can't expect him to know traffic laws and how to find the place. Why, my pet crayfish couldn't even tell you what a stop sign meant. Not that we had stop signs in the old country. Couldn't afford them. If they wanted you to stop, they painted "Stop" on a tree. Well, actually they painted "Stans," but..."
"Where do we go?"
"Toward Portland, I think. And our lobster friend seems to agree."
"Ok, let's go."
But as they approached Portland, the lobster actually turned to face an exit as they passed it. And, lacking a better alternative, they took it. And then he started pointing out side roads. Until finally, they embarked along a long gravelly path. Which ended in the middle of the woods.
"Well," said Eric, triumphantly, "Guess that disproves your theory."
"He is pointing," retorted Vlad, "To a footpath."
"You can't be serious."
"C'mon. This is an easy walk. Why, in the -"
"Old country, I know. You had to walk 14 miles uphill through the snow and you didn't even have a lobster."
"Something like that," Vlad chuckled.
At this point they were pretty deep into the footpath, but it seemed to stretch on and on.
"Suddenly the pine tree state thing makes a lot more sense," Eric muttered. Eventually, however, the trees thinned until they were in a huge clearing, facing a large iron gate. In front was a man in a robe just like Rob's.
"Guess we're here," whispered Eric, "Now what's the plan?"

Friday, May 28, 2004

No update

You've probably figured out that there's no update this week. It's been finals week and I've been too tired. But next week is summer, and I'll be well rested and I'll update at least twice, probably more. In the meantime, here's a pic of me looking stylish.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Ch. 35

Outside, Vlad and Eric discussed their options, and decided to go after Gina. They had the law on their side, but only until they left Indiana. So, the best thing would be to leave Indiana quickly, before the rest of the law caught on. Or something. They decided to take Ringo, because it got amazing mileage, while the SUV guzzled gas like nothing else.
"The key," said Vlad, getting into the car, "Will be to obey traffic laws so we're not pulled over. Do you have control over the-"
"ADD? Yeah, I took my pills," Eric snapped.
"Okay. I trust that you have," Vlad answered with finality, "Anyway, do you know where we're going?"
"To that place in Maine."
"So she gave you directions?"
Suddenly he realized what Vlad was getting at. There hadn't been any need for directons. They had Gina. Without her...
Eric wheeled around back to the police station and got out of the car.
"Chief," he said on his way in, "We've got a problem." He went on to explain the situation, ending with, "So do you suppose you could check with the Portland police department? They'd know about a place like that."
"No," said the chief, "They'd be paid very much not to know about it. However, I may have a lead for you. A report from Ohio. Some kind of altercation in a hotel parking lot. The vehicle description matches the one that took your friend."
Eric took the piece of paper Silverstien offered. "Thanks"
"Good Luck," replied the Captian, "And Godspeed."
And they were off, driving as fast as they could while still going under the speed limit.
"Perhaps we should fly," said Vlad, "It's our only hope of reaching there in time."
"There really is no 'in time'," replied Eric cooly, "We'll never beat her there, but once she's there they won't kill her, assuming it's the cult that took her. If it isn't, then we're screwed either way. Our best hope is just to keep going until we find her. But we'll ask around this hotel."
"Alright, Eric. But when we're ready to go to Maine, I think I know how to find the way."
"Vlad, does this involve the lobster?"
"Well, yes."
"You think he can act as a compass and point us there?"
"Yes, actually. How did you know?"
"It just seemed like his style is all."
"Huh. I should probably call Ming about those agents. she can get quite upset, when strange men come into the house and -"
"Good plan," Eric interrupted, "You can use the cell."

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Concerning Clams and Cabbages

I did some cleaning today and stumbled upon this. As near as I can figure, I was either just really bored or in a competition with someone to see who could fill a page with nonsense faster (It did fill a wide ruled page, with the diagram). Anyway, for your reading pleasure, here it is.

Clams are widely believed to be a good meal, but a bad pet. A pet clam is not very gratifying. They're not soft to touch, cute to look at or fun to play with. They can do no tricks. You have to keep them in clean water, and regularly feed them whatever it is they eat. All in all, if you have a clam it's probably better to eat it.
The same can be said of cabbages, except that you don't have to keep them in water and you don't have to feed them. They also rot. So, what I'm getting at here is that clams and cabbages are a lot alike, as you can see in this diagram.
So, clams and cabbages are a lot alike. But what does that mean for us? Nothing. It's meaningless. But, this still doesn't qualify as a story. The End.

Note - You probably noticed the way the diagram linked to my geocities page. The evil geocities forbids hotlinking, but I can still use the page to give you cool story graphics like this one. (Ignore the dancing monkey)

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Ch. 34

Eric woke up early that morning, refreshed but confused about his bizarre Italian dreams. He called Vlad, but got no answer. As the phone rang, he made an unfortunate realization. He remembered how hard it was to wake Vlad up the last morning. How he could sleep through anything. If he had wanted to wake Vlad early, he should have taken the SUV himself. Just as he was about to give up and hang up, someone answered. But the voice was not Vlad's. It was feminine, slightly annoyed, and decidedly Asian.
"Hello who is this?" she said, all in one breath. Eric noticed the faint sound of baritone arias behind her voice.
"My name's Eric. I'm calling for Vlad."
He was puzzled. Was Vlad married? He didn't have a wedding ring, other than Gina's. Or did he?
"He's sleeping. Always sleeping. The man sleeps like a mountian," at this point she stopped talking to the reciever, but he could still here. "Wake up!," she screamed like he had never heard anyone scream, "Wake up you crazy man! Wake up! Somebody is calling you! Stop singing and wake up!"
The opera stopped. It was replaced by some shouting, this time in both voices. Then Vlad was on the line.
"Eric!" his voice was jovial, a sharp contrast to the shouting Eric had just witnessed. "Are we going so early?"
"We can't let them get to far ahead. Come by and pick me up, we'll go to the police station."
"And Vlad," Eric added, "You never told me you were married."
"You never asked." Click.

A little while later, Vlad arrived at the house. Eric climbed into the SUV, Vlad handed him a somewhat bewildered lobster, and they headed off toward the police station.
"So what's her name?" asked Eric, absently petting the crustacean
"Who's name?" asked Vlad.
Eric rolled his eyes. "Your wife, of course."
"She's Asian?"
"Chinese, actually."
And the conversation died. Vlad didn't seem to be overly eager to talk about his spouse, but Eric was determined.
"What does she do?" he asked.
"She's manager at Sears."
"Oh!" exclaimed Eric, finally finding a thread, "So you two met through work?"
"Not exactly." A beat. "In fact, she got me the job."
"Well how did you meet?" asked Eric.
But at that exact moment, they reached the police station. Vlad parked wordlessly and got out of the vehicle. Inside, Captain Silverstien was waiting for them.
"Gentlemen. Good to see you. Things didn't go as well as I planned, and the Feds obtained warrants to search your houses. You may want to leave right now, assuming you've got nothing to hide."
That was a lot to take in.
"I hope for their sake," Vlad said, "They arrive after Ming leaves the house."

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Ch. 33

That night, to the softly played recording of Don Giovanni he'd found, Eric slept, hoping to acclimate himself to sleeping near Vlad.
Not far away, Vlad slept, singing an altogether different opera at a much louder volume.
Even less far away (about four feet, in a separate twin bed) Ming slept, screaming at Vlad the whole time. When they'd first gotten married she'd screamed at him to stop singing, but he was oblivious. Now she screamed so much she did it as naturally as he sang.
Next door, a gentleman named Bryce Hill was not sleeping. He was the 12th tenant to own this house since the Bergljotssens had moved in, last year, and suddenly he understood why. Who could sleep through the singing man and the screaming woman? How could they stand each other?
A mile and a half away, captain Silverstein was not asleep, because the damn feds were three hours early. 'I should've gone home,' he thought, 'Now I'll have to talk to them tonight.'
There were two agents - A short white man and a taller black man. They were wearing business suits and smug expressions, like all the feds. The shorter guy spoke first.
"Chief Silverstien. Working late, I see."
"Must be all the coffee and donuts keeping me awake," he snapped back.
"Now, now chief," said his companion, "You don't need to get all defensive just because real cops are around."
"It's a good thing for you I'm too mature to hit back."
"That's a good one. I'll remember it next time I'm to slow to think up a come back." he replied.
"Look," said the chief, fed up (no pun intended), "Here are the files on the kidnapping. When you're finished acting like little kids and feel like fighting some crime I'm sure they'll come in handy." He headed for the door.
"Now, chief," the shorter man broke in in that condescending tone, "All your professionalism is giving us a headache. We haven't even introduced ourselves. My name's Mr. Sweeney and this is Mr. Stuart."
"And since, as you so keenly pointed out, you started the conversation not by introducing yourself but by saying my name, you already know it. Now that the pleasantries are over, I'll leave you to the files. I trust you know at least enough about being a "real cop" to be able to lock up the station."
Mr. Stuart looked up from the files.
"Where might we find this Eric character?" he asked.
"The address is on there."
It was Sweeney who answered. "You're not holding these guys?"
"No, but I'm recommending that you take them with you to find the girl."
"That may be how you do things here in Indiana," he said the word as if it were some kind of vermin, "But we don't like prime suspects to be anywhere but in cells."
"They're not suspects. Their story checks out 100%."
Mr. Stuart replied. "If it's all true than they're all three crazy, and we can't trust them riding along. If it's not true than they're hiding something, and I think that's enough to obtain a warrant."
"Good thinking, Ted," replied Sweeney, "We'll check they're houses tomorrow. In the meantime, Mr. Silverstein, hopefully you can atleast be trusted to keep them from leaving the city."
"You can be sure," he replied diplomatically, "That I will perform my job exactly as it should be performed. Good night gentlemen."
And he left, to finally sleep.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Ch. 32

After a while, when you're driving along the highway, you lose all sense of time. The hypnotic movement of a car on the highway, the bland unchanging scenery - it all fades into a daze. Pretty soon, the time is passed and you didn't even know it.
It's pretty much the same when you're hog-tied in the back of the pick-up truck. Gina had been there several hours and was no longer thinking. Just riding along.
And suddenly, the car stopped. She expected, hoped, her host would come and open the top of the truck. He didn't. If he had stopped for food or shelter it was for himself alone.
And shelter it seemed to be, because after an hour they were still stopped. Gina guessed they were at a hotel room, and the brute was just going to make her stay the night tied up in the car. And damn but he could tie a good knot. Her assumptions that she could escape if she wanted to proved erroneous. She had just about given up when the back of the truck bed folded down. Amidst a hotel parking lot, she saw the face of Rob Bluntz.
"Gina," he said, cutting her bonds, "I'm here to rescue you!"
"Mphhmhp?" she began. She ripped the tape off her mouth. "Rescue me? Rob, I'd thought maybe you were capable of kidnapping to get me back. But to stage a fake kidnapping so you could rescue me? That is beyond sick! You-"
"It's not fake Gina!" he cried.
And strangely, she was starting to believe him. The only reason to do this would be to win her back, and he was to stuck up to stoop that low. He would have tried to woo her on his own merit.
"Who is it then?"
"Did you ever think your father might have enemies, Gina? There are people who want to use you to get to him. People who haven't seen the whey."
"Rob, this is your car. I saw the smile on your face when you pulled up in the gas station. I don't believe you're not involved."
"It's complicated! We can discuss this later, the important thing now is to get away before... Oh shimnol."
She looked up to see the source of his distinctly Order of Floobel curse, and saw a big man with short black hair and a handlebar moustache emerging from behind an SUV.
"You're smarter than I gave you credit for, Bluntz," the man said in dripping tones, "But not as smart as you need to be. After all, I only need one living political prisoner, and a dead one adds a lot of weight to my claims." He raised a small handgun and pointed it at Rob. As he pulled the trigger, time slowed down. Gina threw herself at Rob and pushed him down, all the while screaming. The bullet seemed to be trudging through mud, and the smoke rose from the gun like it was a chimney. Then they hit the ground, and it all speeded up. The mustached man was drawing a second gun. The hotel clerk was running out of the building. Gina and Rob rolled under the SUV, thankful for it's oversized tires. They stood up and ran when they'd reached the other side, Rob leading them in between car after car while more gun shots and shouting came from behind them. Finally he led her into a small red car. She hopped in, knowing she was just being kidnapped again, because it beat sticking around. She was not prepared, however, for who she saw in the driver seat.
"Hey, sis," came the voice of her brother, "Long time no see."

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Ch. 31

30 minutes and two tellings of the story later (three if you count the version the guard told the other guards at the coffee shop) Eric and Vlad were sitting in the police chief's office.
"Well," said the chief, captain Jack Silverstein, "On the one hand that sounds like the biggest load of horse excrement I've ever heard in this office. On the other hand, it checks out with details you two've got no way of knowing: The security camera shows a woman just like the one you described and shows that the van had a Maine plate, although we can't read the number. Of course, you could know all that because you're part of the scheme. Or, you could just be telling the truth. So here's what I'm gonna do: First, I'll go into that little room and call Mr. Lin, to see if your stories line up. If I'm satisfied, than we'll talk about rescuing your hitchhiker friend. Does that work OK for you folks?"
"Fine with me," said Eric, who made a point of arguing with cops as little as possible.
"Could I go home and get my lobster first?" asked Vlad, who had no such rules.
"Can it wait?" the chief said, in a voice that really said 'It can wait. Sit Down.'
"I don't know. Lobsters are temperamental creatures."
"The Department will reimburse you for your lobster if it is injured or killed as a result of this investigation. Now just sit tight for a minute."
Captain Silverstein walked into his office, picked up the receiver, and dialed the phone. Fifteen minutes later he returned.
"Alright, boys," he said before even getting back in the room, "Your story checks out. So here's the plan: A couple of guys from the Bureau are comin down tomorrow mornin. They'll be investigating the kidnapping anyway. Given the nature of the situation, I'm going to strongly recommend they involve you in the investigation. You seem to know a hell of a lot about this, and personally, though you didn't hear it from me, I've got more confidence in you cracking this then them."
"What if they deny your recommendation?"
"Well, I'm glad you asked because they almost certainly will. Stuck-up bastards won't let anyone help them with their jobs. If they don't want your help, there's nothing I can hold you here for, so I recommend, off the record of course, that you try to find your girl yourself. I'll let you know in the morning. Go home and get some sleep."
"Thank you very much, " said Eric sincerely, "I figured the cops wouldn't understand>"
"We're not all the donut-and-coffee boneheads you see in the movies," he answered, "Just 97 % of us, and all the Feds."

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Ch. 30

It's a special bonus update!
When they arrived, the police were everywhere. They couldn't even get into the gas station.
"Sir, you'll have to get your gas somewhere else. This is a police investigation," the guard said gruffly.
"You don't understand," answered Eric, leaning over Vlad to talk to the man, "That's my car."
"We thought it belonged to the woman who got kidnapped."
"Kidnapped? What happened?" he asked, realizing in spite of himself how bad it would look if he seemed to already know.
"Look, you guys had better come in. Park over there. He gestured to a curb by the police car.
When they got back in the officer was ready with a pad of paper.
"So who is the legal owner of the vehicle?"
"We sort of co-own it, I think. I'm not sure.":
"Look, what's your name?"
"Eric Smellick"
"Well, this car is registered to a Mr. Ti Wau Lin. So unless that's your friend there, you've got some more explaining to do."
"We're friends of... Mr. Lin," Eric said, diplomatically and not untruthfully, "He lent it to us."
"And who is us?"
"Me, Vlad Berglotssenn, and the girl who got kidnapped."
"And her name is?"
"Last name?"
A beat.
"I really don't know. We picked her up as a hitchhiker, she -"
"Hold on," the man broke in, "You let a hitchhiker whose name you don't even know take a borrowed car from another state to the gas station, while the two of you drive around in an SUV from Indiana? I need the whole story."
Vlad looked at Eric. Eric looked at Vlad.
"Okay," answered Eric finally, "But we'd better sit down for it."

Ch. 29

"Eric, I am here!" Vlad was jumping out of his SUV. "What is the next move?"
"Got the cell phone?"
He pulled it out of his pocket and presented it to Eric.
"Master Lin told me how to use this to track the car," Eric explained as he loaded his things into the back of the SUV, So we can get started chasing them down right now!"
"Chasing them down?" asked Vlad.
They were in the car now; pulling out of the driveway.
"Who are they?"
"They," Eric answered as he franticly pushed buttons, "Are the people who took her!"
"Eric!" Vlad shouted as he pulled the car over. He waited a minute and said, more softly, "What makes you think she's captured? There are many other explanations. We must be cool headed."
"Vlad, Master Lin told me she'd been captured. It's in the prophesy."
A look of understanding passed Vlad's face as Eric continued.
"Now this says the Ringo Harrison is parked in a gas station a few miles from here. The attackers must have stopped for gas."
"For two hours? I think not. EIther they removed the tracking device or they didn't take her car."
"Damn." said Eric, and that said it all. They drove on towards the gas station anyway.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Ch. 28 (Really)

After Gina was two hours late, Eric got a little worried. Finally, he called Vlad.
"Hello?" Vlad answered.
"Hey Vlad," said Eric, not bothering to introduce himself, "Do you know where Gina is?"
"Then she is not with you?"
"No. She was supposed to be here two hours ago. Has she got the cell?"
"No, I've still got it."
"Damn. Look, can you come over to my place and pick me up?"
"Not a problem," he answered, "Except that I do not know where you live, which is a problem."
Eric gave Vlad brief directions, told him to hurry, and hung up. Slightly panicked, he called Master Lin.
"Nights and weekends, toaster seeker," Master Lin answered, "This is neither."
"Sorry, Master, but it's important!"
"So Annette has been taken?"
"Taken? I just thought she was out of gas or something. Where did you get taken?"
"The prophesy mentions it. I didn't foresee it so soon."
Eric was speechless.
"Take heart, toaster seeker. All is not lost. The cell phone you bear can be used to track the Ringo Harrison. That should give you the clues to seek her."
"Are there any other... prophecies I should know about?"
"Only one. 'If the toaster seeker or his fellowship should hear one of these prophecies, the quest shall surely fail.'"
"Figures. Are they all that straightforward?"
"No. Now go. You have much to do and your long distance bill grows high."
And that was the end.
Eric grabbed his things, locked up, and went out to wait for Vlad.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Harry and the Fly

This was a one word story that came out of a family trip. The tune to "Way Down in Hell, Michigan" is to the tune of Don McClain's Chain Lightning, moreso than anything else.

Five times the splendid, ragged wheel of death by leeches screeched by. Five times the dreaded sunrise of squishy paste was oozing into a large fractal of sky. Five more beings exploded before noon.
The newspapers screamed their deadly screams. The television exuded all the news of devastation. In San Juan, mice reported that cats of unusual resplendancy and indeterminate size were tromping throughout upper Nova Scotia.
Harry Bloo was drinking orange martinis frequently.
"'Ello 'Arry" a fly greeted him.
"Hello fly named Al Ouch. Cursed muffins were blossoming from earmuffs yesterday. Dummy, haven't you seen enough to juxtapose devastation with peace throughout the territory?"
"Gosh no," answered Frumm, who had overheard nothing, "Every thirteen seconds I've sneezed for the fuzz. I'm through."
Suddenly, Al began sweating profusely. Al burst into song.
"Way down, in Hell, Michigan
I can't reach my designation.
Cursed muffins swat Harry's spoon,
Soon we'll hit -"
The song ended. An eery howl was cutting the heads off of the petunias underneath the floorboards. Death permeated everything.

I'm sure you'd rather see a real update by now, so I'll work on it. The last three words of the song are, by the way, "the promised land."

April Fools!

For those of you who haven't figured it out yet, that was not the real chapter 28, it was a completely non-cannon prank entry. I love you all please don't eat me. And I posted from Florida because my Uncle's grandson has a laptop and he's a nice guy.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

TNT: Ch. 28

After Gina was four hours late, Eric got a little worried. He called Vlad, who didn't know anything. So he called Master Lin, recalling that he had placed a tracking device in the Ringo Harrison. However, the voice on the line was not Master Lin's. It was scary, dark, and dripping.
"Hello, Eric," it said.
"Wh... Who are you?" he asked, terrified.
"That's not important. What's important is where I am."
"Behind you."
But before Eric could turn around the knife was in his chest. He screamed for help, but no one heard, and by the morning he was dead.

Meanwhile, Gina was quickly discovering that her captors had nothing to do with her father's cult. She was loaded unto a plane, which first tipped her off. After a long trip, she was staring at a swarthy Arabic man.
"You," he said, "Are to be a slave at my club. You will serve drinks and dance or be beaten."
And she serves drinks to this day.

Days later, they found Vlad's body in a dumpster.

The End.
Note: Yep, that's right, it's the end. I got bored, so I just killed off all the characters and finished up that way.

Monday, March 22, 2004

TNT: Ch. 27

Gina woke up hog-tied in the back of a maroon pick-up, only now a tonneau had been added. Obviously they couldn't have the bed exposed with her in it. She surveyed her options. She might be able to break the bonds, it was mostly string and duct tape. However, then she'd have to get out of the truck. She couldn't manage it while it was moving, but she'd be closely guarded if it was stopped. Plus, she new Eric and Vlad would start a rescue attempt.
Keyword, she thought sardonically, attempt. As good intentioned and cute as Eric was, she didn't have a huge amount of confidence in his rescue ability. But then, they wouldn't kill her. In fact, if she played along perhaps she could regain enough standing so that when the guys showed up she could be even more helpful in getting the heating element.
But Gina was still a little puzzled. She knew Rob Bluntz. She'd known the dolt since she was little, and this kidnapping was not his style. He was actually, in some ways, a good guy. He would try a lot harder to convince her to come back before doing something as obvious as this. And why not wait until the lobster was with him?
No, it had to be this other guy who was in control. That could make things difficult.
Oh well, she thought, I'll just have to keep on my toes. Although that's hard when your feet are tied...

Sunday, March 21, 2004


Don't ask me how, but October is back online!

Thursday, March 18, 2004

TNT: Ch. 26

*Note: My October Archives are broken, and it was in October when Vlad said "Jack, cover for me." So his name may not be Jack. I'll check when I get home. EDIT: His name is, in fact, Jack.*

Vlad's time at home was more interesting than Eric's. He packed his stuff, set the lobster up in his bathtub, and headed off to Sears to see if he was still employed there.
"Vlad! Where you been!?!" screamed Ming Bergljotssen, his cranky Chinese manager, "We had three customers come in wanting to know about toaster personalities andyou were gone!!!"
"Jack," said Vlad under his breath to the man next to him, "I told you to cover for me."
"No!" interrupted Mrs. Bergljotssen, "You work here, do your job! That is what I pay you for!"
"I am sorry," he said diplomatically, "But I was, indeed still am on a quest. One of vast importance."
"A quest? You skip work two days for quest??? You crazy man!"
"A quest for a toaster. A good, kind, just toas-"
"I heard enough! You fired!!"
"Fired?" he asked theatrically, "Fired for doing my job? Ma'm I am an anthropromorphic toaster specialist, and I am trying, against impossible odds, to secure for your store, the specialest toaster there is (from an anthropromorphic standpoint.) You hired me because I know about toasters and their quirks better than anyone. So don't presume to tell me how to do my job!"
"I thought she hired you because you married her so she'd be a citizen," muttered Jack.
Vlad replied with a surrpetitious wink.
The manager meanwhile, had been thinking.
"How long you need?" she asked.
"I will be back at work in no more than two weeks," he replied, supreme in his confidence.
"Okay, we hire temp," she conceded, "You better be back!"

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

TNT: Ch. 25

Eric's experience was somewhat less exciting. He got home and packed quickly, than called his boss. He already had a perfect excuse for missing work, and it wasn't a lie. The trick would be getting the next few weeks off. His boss picked up.
"Hey, boss. This is Eric, ..."
"Eric? Where ya been for the last two days?"
"I was in a car accident, ended up in the hospital."
"Sorry about that. But you still shoulda called."
"But I..."
"That's alright, all is forgiven. Just come in tomorrow morning and get to work on the Johnson project."
"Yeah, about that..."
"Do you suppose I could take my two weeks paid vacation now?"
"What? Why? You know you're supposed to arrange that at least one month in advance!"
"Well, I just. The accident made me think about a lot of stuff, and I need to decide if I really want this job."
"I'll make it easy for you. If you're not here tomorrow morning, you don't want the job, plus you get as much vacation as you need, though it's not paid. If you are here, then all's well that ends well, kapeesh?"
"But I..."
"Sorry, Eric, but that's show biz."
And he hung up. Eric had always hated that guy. It wasn't even showbiz.
Well, what now? He had half an hour before Gina was due back, might as well make another phone call.
"Greetings toaster seeker," came the wizened old voice of Master Lin.
"How did you know it was me?"
"The ways of the caller ID are not so mysterious as you may think."
"Oh. Right. Listen, I don't know if I can do this anymore. I just called my boss and -"
"And if you follow the path of the toaster seeker, the path of the data processor may close forever, yes?"
"You could say that."
"Search deep within yourself, and tell me truly that the path of the data processor is the one you must choose."
"I can't"
"Then there you have it. The choice is yours, Eric Smellick. Choose well."

Thursday, March 04, 2004

TNT: Ch. 24

The plan for Indianapolis, however, was worked out. With Gina driving, she would drop Eric and then Vlad at their respective homes to pack. She would then fill up the gas tank on Ringo Harrison, do a little sight-seeing, and come back for Eric. The two of them would go to Vlad's and sleep - Vlad in his room, Gina in the guest room, and Eric on the couch. The first part of the plan went well. Eric was dropped off, as was Vlad.
But as Gina turned out of Vlad's driveway, she noticed something a little odd. She was pretty sure she was being followed by a maroon pick-up. It was trailing far enough behind that Gina couldn't see the driver's face, but she had definitely seen the truck a lot. Since I - 65 at least, probably longer.
Sure enough, when she stopped at the gas station, the truck stopped there, too. As Gina got out to pump the gas, she slid a knife out of her purse and kept it discreetly in her hand. She set the gas pumping and stood by the pump, looking nervously at the pick-up. A man got out. A far too familiar man.
"You get away from me, Robert Bluntz!," she yelled, "I'm not going back with you."
"Oh, but you are," he replied knowingly.
She quickly tried to analyze these words. What could make him so confident, so cocky? She didn't want to find out. She yanked out the pump, scanned her card and hopped into her car. Then she stepped on the gas and sped out.
She risked a look out the rear view mirror. Impossible! Rob wasn't following her. She pulled into a nearby out-of-sight parking lot to collect her thoughts.
And she was promptly knocked out cold by the man who had been hiding in her back seat.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

TNT: Ch. 23

The plan for tomorrow night turned out to be somewhat better. They were sleeping at Vlad's house. After a little bit of discussion they decided it would be best to stop by Indy, so Eric could pack for a long trip and try to get leave from work and Vlad could pack and try to salvage his chances of keeping his job. As they calculated, they could stay the night in Indy, get up at six, and make it to the community by 10pm -12am, the perfect time for the cover of darkness. Hopefully by the time they arrived there there would be a plan, and it would involve cover of darkness.
They spent the trip to Indy trying to formulate the plan. They needed one that would keep everyone safe, including the lobster (Vlad was insistent), get them the artifact, and get them out. By the time they reached the city they had several plans, none of which produced the desired effect and were feasible. They came up with this chart, which adequately sums up the hours of discussion.

Plan 1 and 2: Gina or the Lobster is traded for the artifact
Problems: The sacrificee is trapped there.
In all likelyhood the rest of us won't be allowed to leave with the artifact anyway.
Plan 3: We all sneak in, under cover of darkness, and steal the artifact - ninja or mission impossible style
Problems: We aren't Ninjas
Our knowledge of the defenses is dependent or Gina's not entirely reliable memory. [She protested at this, but wasn't able to describe what part of the room the heating element was in, so she conceded the point]
Plan 4: Get help from Gina's brother.
Problems: He may or may not help.
He might turn us in or betray us.
Plan 5: Call in the cops to break up the whole operation.
Problems: They must have some means of not having been shut down yet.
If the cops are on their side, we're in trouble.
Even if they're on our side we'll have a hard time convincing them the artifact is rightfully ours, because it isn't.
[And now in different handwriting]
Plan 6: Send in the lobster, who knows the layout and defenses of the vault perfectly well and has proven he's on our side.
Problems: None [which is crossed out and replaced with , in the original handwriting]
It's BS.
The lobster is too stupid.
Vlad's a moron.

That's what they had to work with when they hit Indianapolis. Not the most promising plan or the most comprehensive list.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Google randomness

I am now number 1 on Google for the phrase "Sacred Lobster" (go ahead, try it) and number 9 for "just toaster". Also number 1 for "Eric Smellick" and the only result for the word Floobel. I hope this information is as exciting to you as it is to me.

TNT: Ch. 22

They found a nice hotel. It was clean and the staff was helpful, but it was amazingly cheap. Vlad was having a wonderful night. Unfortunately, he was sharing it with the rest of the room. When he finally stopped snoring he had started talking and now, at 1:00, he was singing. Gilbert and Sullivan. Out of key. The worst of it was, Gina seemed to be sleeping. So it seemed to be just Eric who was having such an awful night.
It wasn't just that Vlad was making a ruckus, although it certainly didn't help. It was also that Gina was asleep just five feet away. In her flattering lilac nightgown, she look so peaceful and pretty and... awake?
"What are you looking at?" she asked groggily, "And will he ever shut up?"
"I was trying to tell if you were awake," Eric lied, "So we could try to deal with him."
Gina said something else, but it was drowned out by a chorus from the Mikado.
"What?" asked Eric.
She leaned it closer to him. "Let's try to wake him. Maybe he can fix it."
So they tried. When yelling failed they phoned the desk and asked for an immediate wake-up call. The bewildered help desk tried it, but it didn't work. Nor did splashing water on his face. Finally, they decided to roll the singing Norwegian off the bed. They pushed and shoved and heaved, and finally he fell and abruptly stopped singing. They collapsed on the bed and almost instantly fell asleep.
So it was that Vlad woke up the next morning to discover himself on the floor and Gina and Eric in bed together. (Clothed and an inch apart, but in bed together nonetheless)
"Eric! Miss Gina!" he exclaimed, "Let's have a little chivalry and respect for the other roommate! If you two wanted a room together," he said winking, "you only had to ask."
"No, no!" Gina exclaimed still confused but awake enough to catch Vlad's insinuation, "We just, well, you were snoring and singing opera and we wanted to sleep, not together, just period, but we couldn't so we tried to wake you but we couldn't, and what are you smiling about?" she said to Eric suddenly.
"Nothing! It's just a funny situation. Irony and stuff."
She just gave him an 'I'm not stupid but I'll play along because I don't want to know the real answer' look.
"Anyway," Vlad interjected, "That's ridiculous. I sleep like an angel."
"Yes," agreed Eric, "Like an awake angel taking a break from hymns to sing light opera."
He scoffed and went off to feed the lobster.
Eric and Gina looked at each other for a minute.
"Look I-" Eric started.
"Don't worry about it," said Gina, smiling, "We'll just make a better plan for tomorrow night."
And when she smiled, Eric wouldn't have been worried about anyway. And he realized something in that instant. 'Starting now,' he thought, 'I'm fishing for cod.'

Thursday, February 12, 2004

TNT: Ch. 21

"So," asked Eric when they got back into the car, "What's with this Red Snake?"
"I'm trying to remember. We had to memorize the contents of the sacred vault in school, but that was a long time ago," replied Gina, who was now taking a turn in the driver's seat, "I think it was supposed to have something to do with the Lobster, actually. Same story, anyway. I'll get it in a minute."
"Okay," said Eric, "Speaking of that, how is our sacred lobster?"
"He seems fine," replied Vlad, "He's been picking at the ring. I wonder if he knows what we're talking about."
"He doesn't!" snorted Gina, "Nothing my father collected is really supernatural! It's just a poor old lobster that got painted with symbols! I've never seen it act smarter than that, and I've known it since childhood."
"Since childhood?" asked Vlad.
She nodded.
"And the symbols have been the same that whole time?"
"Yeah, so?"
"A lobster molts five times a year. If they were painted they'd have to be repainted frequently. I'm surprised no one saw how normal the lobster was when it molted."
"It was kept in the vault. They probably pulled it out just before then."
She laughed suddenly. "We haven't been feeding him blessed food! They'll be furious!"
The others chuckled uncomfortably.
"Wait a minute," said Eric, "Have we fed it at ALL?"
They were silent.
"We probably should pick up some lobster food. We've only had him for a day."
"It's getting late anyway," said Eric, "Let's stop at this next hotel, and we can work out a plan in the morning. We'll get two rooms, I guess."
"That's silly," said Gina, "We'll get one room and you two can share a bed."
Eric looked over at Vlad and resolved to get back at her for that somehow.

Monday, February 09, 2004

TNT: Ch. 20

"And what would that be?" asked Eric.
"Back home, we have a vault of sacred objects. They're various things that played a part in my father's fake scriptures. One of the items is called Briksol Ip, or the Red Snake. It's also referred to as the Heating Element of the Eternal Flame."
"Yeah," Eric agreed, "That's a stronger lead."
"Unfortunately, it involves going back home," she said glumly.
"Well then," said Vlad, "We will go without you. We can drop you off somewhere with the lobster, and go in oursel-"
"No," she said in a final tone, "You'd never get in and out without me."
"Maybe it would help if we new more about the... cult," Eric suggested, "Here's the rest stop, and there's a Waffle Shoppe. We'll stop and have waffles and you can tell us."
"Sounds good," Gina agreed, "Then you can listen without getting us killed."
They went into the restaurant and ordered. Comfortable, Gina began her story.

"My father started the Followers of the Whey ten years before I was born. In his version, that was when a great White Stag came to him and told him a great story, which he wrote down in the Book of the Whey. The story was about the four antlered ungulates of old - the stag Engren, the moose Floobel, the elk Gerdam, and the caribou Brim. They had once been warring creatures, always locking antlers against each other, until they discovered the Whey. Now, whey is basically the liquid part of curdled milk, but the Whey was some mystical drink that would bring them peace. Apparently they wanted to share it with humans, and as soon as my father got enough people to follow him they would. He started a closed community on a plot of land in Maine. I grew up believing all this.
"Of course, it's a load of hooey I found that out as I got older. I started noticing how my dad, the great prophet, never showed respect to the idols when he was at home, only among the community. How the money and goods given to the community to facilitate reaching out to new followers always ended up in his pocket. How the community never actually grew bigger than the plot of land. By the time I was 16 I knew it was all a ruse. A talk with my older brother, four years my senior, yielded the rest. As the chosen heir to my father's position of Golden Stag, he was privy to the truth. He of course didn't want to tell, but we were close and I used my charm to weasel it out of him. The truth is my father, down on his luck and low on money, wrote the Book of the Whey off the top of his head. Somehow, through great speech and finding gullible people, he drew people in, building and acquiring more "artifacts" as he went to make him more credible. It was artfully done.
"Now, as a 16 year old girl who was growing up treated like a princess, this information by itself didn't matter to me. I struggled with it and lived with it for three more years, but when my father told me it was time to marry Rob, I started looking for a way out. Rob was one of the worst, who had risen to a high position by being stupider and more gullible, and therefore more devout, than anyone else, and I was to be the final rung in his ladder of success. (Marrying me would bring him into a new order.) I finally made it out at age 20, the day before the wedding. I bought my way to where you found me with smuggled money, and the rest is history. You came when I was out of money."
"Wait a minute," said Eric, "You were hitchhiking from Maine to New York and ended up in Illinois?"
"No, I got out by smuggling myself in the back of a semi truck shipping lobsters caught by the community to where I thought was New York. Actually it was New Mexico, and when you think about it that way, I got off pretty good getting off the truck in Michigan."
"Hmfw Wmfng wf yrn trmnft?" asked Vlad. Reacting to the blank stares, he swallowed his waffle and repeated.
"How long were you in transit before you met us?"
"Three weeks. Enough to take all my money. Speaking of which, who's paying for this?"
"Master Lin," said Vlad, holding up a credit card he had been given, "But you two have not touched your food. Eat up. I will talk."
At once they started shuffling food in rapidly.
"I know another old tale," Vlad continued, "About a walrus and the true meaning of Christmas..."

Thursday, February 05, 2004


I do not mean any offense to Republicans, Native Arctic Peoples, Atheists, non-Christians, Christians, Walruses, Bananas, Penguins, or people who wanted to read the toaster story.

How Willy the Walrus Discovered the True Meaning of Christmas

At this point, I don't want to go forward right away because the last post was so cliff-hangery and there's no new perspective I want to switch too. So in lieu of actual content, I'm writing a short one post story.

How Willy the Walrus Discovered the True Meaning of Christmas

Willy was a walrus. He was not a big walrus or a strong walrus. He could not perform songs from HMS Pinafore or precise calculus calculations. He did not look good in a tutu. But out of all the Walruses, he was the best at showing Christmas spirit. Every Christmas, he would be the first to put on his Santa hat, make hot cocoa, or build snow velociraptors. He always gave the most thoughtful presents and threw the most extravagant parties.
One day not too far from Christmas, Willy was putting up his lights when a very small meteor fell on his head. It caused him to wonder if he really knew the true meaning of Christmas. Deciding he didn't, he set off to find it.
The first thing he saw was a hungry Eskimo.
"Hungry Eskimo," he asked, "What is the true meaning of Christmas?"
The Eskimo, unfortunately, neither spoke Walrus nor celebrated Christmas, so he merely lobbed his spear at Willy. Luckily, Willy was small enough to dodge it.
"I guess the Eskimo does not know the true meaning of Christmas," Willy thought.
The next thing he saw was a GOP convention.
"Republicans," he yelled, "Do any of you know the true meaning of Christmas?"
"The true meaning of Christmas is to put an end to abortion and re-elect GW Bush!" cheered the republicans.
"I do not think that is the true meaning of Christmas," thought Willy.
After walking for a while, he saw a discarded banana.
"Discarded banana, what is the true meaning of Christmas?"
The banana was silent.
"Discarded banana, please tell me."
Still nothing.
"I guess the banana is an inatimate object and therefore cannot tell me the true meaning of Christmas," thought Willy and walked off.
"What a stupid walrus," thought the banana.
Finally, Willy encountered an injured penguin.
"Injured penguin," he asked, "What is the true meaning of Christmas?"
"Help... me..." the penguin stuttered.
"That's it!" said Willy, "Christmas is about helping people, just like Jesus did. It's the day when we celebrate the birth of he who died to save us all! Thank you Injured Penguin, thank you."
But the Penguin did not answer because it was unconscious. Willy shrugged and headed back to his house to spread Christmas joy. The penguin died.

(The penguin didn't really die because the banana healed him with it's super powers, but then the Eskimo ate them both which just goes to show you that stuff happens.)

Thursday, January 29, 2004

TNT: Ch. 19

Eric did not speed for long. In fact, in light of recent events, he was very self-conscious about it. He realized he was very lucky to still have a license at all after the crash on the way into Wheatsfield. So the key this time would be to focus. To not get lost in his own little world. To - hey, was that the gear shift from his old car? He supposed it was possible, but - No! To focus. Focus on getting to... To...?
"Umm, guys? Where are we going?"
"We figured you knew," replied Gina.
"Nope. I think I'll pull over at the next rest stop so we can figure it out. Until then, well, what have we got to find?"
"The Golden Handle," said Vlad.
"The, umm, Heating Element of something something," Gina chimed in.
"Eternal Flame, I think," finished Eric, "And then the Iron Springs of, uh, Life?"
"Yes, and one more," said Vlad.
They all thought for a minute.
"Oh well," said Eric finally, "We'll ask Master Lin next time we call him. Any leads on the first three?"
"I might. There is an old children's tale my uncle used to tell me back in the old country. There was once an old craftsman, you see, who was making a great statue for the plaza of his village. It was commissioned by three different men, and they all wanted it made out of different materials, and they all wanted it to look like them. The first man, who was-"
At this point, he was interrupted by Gina's cry of "Eric! The road!"
"Right, right. The road," he said, turning back around, "Go on Vlad."
"Do you want me to drive?" Gina asked before Vlad could finish.
"No, I got it."
"Ok, but one more slip up and we're switching."
"Won't happen. Do go on."
He did. "Where was I?"
"The first man," Eric said helpfully.
"Oh yes. The first man was a tall lanky man, and when he spoke he talked with his whole body. He wanted the statue to be a common man's statue. He said it should be made of wood, so people would not think of it as above them. He wanted it modeled on himself, as he had always been a champion of the common man. The second man was a short, stout fellow, who wore rich, ornate robes. He spoke in long eloquent words and spun his side of the story like an expert lawyer. He felt the statue should be made of gold, so it would be a symbol of wealth for the city. He wanted it modeled after himself, the richest man in the village. The last man was the strong, silent type. He mostly listened to the other two. It was only when the craftsman asked him what he thought that he spoke. He said he wanted the statue to be made of painted metal - metal to symbolize strength, painted so it would look real, and people would be encouraged to talk to it. The craftsman listened to each of them and said he would heed all of their requests. They were skeptical, but they went away trusting his genius. Weeks passed, and the craftsman was seldom seen away from his studio. Finally the day came, and the man unveiled his statue. It was a man, with his mouth open as if giving a speech, but a look in his eyes that said he would listen to your suggestions too. He was gesticulating with hands stretched out to the people. His body, of wood, was modeled after the first man. His face was steel, painted with the most realistic paints to be had. And his tongue was golden. It symbolized the strength of the city, it's wealth, and it's willingness to listen to and help the common men. It was said to be the greatest masterpiece ever created in the city. And the moral is that it's better to listen to everyone than just to do what you think is best."
"That was great," said Eric.
"What the hell did that have to do with toasters?" asked Gina, a little annoyed. (She could only listen to Vlad talk for so long before getting irritated)
"Good question," added Eric.
"Well," said Vlad, "I figure a golden tongue could be used as a toaster handle."
"It'd be a weird toaster," said Eric.
"Could be kinda cool," Gina pointed out, "But it's a pretty weak lead."
"And do you have a better one, Miss Gina?" asked Vlad.
She thought for a minute. "Actually, yes. Yes, I do."

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

TNT: Ch. 18

Finally, as the time for Master Lin's meeting drew nigh, Gina decided to just head for the junkyard. Miraculously, Eric and Vlad had the same thought. They also happened to meet a little ways away.
"Guys!" shouted Gina when she saw them, "I have something to tell you!"
Before they could answer she continued, "The reason I ran away and Master Lin didn't say my last name and I didn't like the lobster is because my father is a cult leader and I'm engaged to this guy and -"
"Gina!" Eric interrupted, "We know. Vlad had a conversation with the gentleman."
"I didn't want you to find out like that, but I couldn't risk telling you, y'see." She was almost in tears. Eric had never seen her this way.
"It's okay, we understand." And before he knew it she was crying on his shoulder and hugging him. He noticed Vlad wink.
Luckily, Master Lin saved him from this awkward situation.
"Welcome." he said. Gina immediately snapped up and turned around, wiping her eyes. "Some of my students have been working since our meeting. Come, see."
He led them through the junkyard. Presently, Eric was accosted by two unshaven, slightly odiferous men.
"My name's Hank, and this here's Jeb," said one.
"An we reckon yur the feller as was in here a few days ago," Jeb continued.
"That toaster y' kicked out of our junkyard was our property."
"An furthermore, if it had hit somebody, we'd be t' blame fer it."
"I'm very sorry," Eric replied sincerely.
"Well, y'should be."
"An y' owe us 10 dollers."
"What!?! That was my toaster originally. And it wasn't worth ten dollars! And what was it even doing four miles from where I threw it away?"
"We're in the interjunkyard exchange."
"We take the worst stuff to the junk trade show, an' trade with other area junkyards. Helps us bring quality junk to you, like that car ur buildin'."
Master Lin, who had been watching the exchange amusedly, stepped in.
"We agreed on a fair price for the car, and I'm not going to allow you to overcharge it's driver for a piece of low-valued material you can't even prove he purchased. I will give you $1.20 for the useless toaster remains and your trouble. Agreed?"
"Alright, Master Lin. Fer you," Hank relented. The two wandered off, muttering unintelligibly.
"They're not too bad once you know them," said Master Lin, "And my pupils use this place for exercises frequently. In fact, that's how I got this done."
In front of them, surrounded by mechanics and repairmen in training was a most extraordinary vehicle. It looked like a Volkswagen Beetle. At least, the main body seemed to be hacked together form two VW beetles and something else. It was blue and green, except for the irridescent purple hood and trunk. All four hub caps were different. The overall effect was that if one tried to drive it, it would fall apart.
"All we had to buy firsthand were the tires," the mechanic who had shouted "Up" back in the classroom said proudly, "We call it the Ringo Harrison."
"Why?" asked Gina.
"It's made from two Beetles. So whaddya think?"
"It's... nice," said Eric.
"Very resourceful," said Vlad.
"What a piece of junk," said Gina.
"Indeed," said Master Lin proudly. "Want to try it out?"
They really didn't, but once they got inside, it ran pretty smoothly. They bid Master Lin and his apprentices goodbye and took off. (Eric couldn't help but test the top speed which was a whopping 100 mph.)
"An' now he's speedin' like all get out. Liable to kill someone."
"Reckon so, Jeb. Reckon so."