I’ve always been partial to wiffle bats. The idea of beating someone to death with a wiffle bat is awesome. First, you have to really want to kill him, it takes some real effort, and two, it’s a slow slow death, and if you are willing to put in that much effort, they must deserve a really slow death. Everyone should have a wiffle bat.
Animals that are bred for food are often cramped and restrained and barely able to move around, and there are plenty of organizations who champion this cause. But plants suffer from the same conditions. Farmers plant them in such tight quarters that they are forced to compete for nutrients and sunlight, and they are not able to spread out and grow as they were intended. I hear the farmers sometimes even prune parts off! Imagine if we were to cut the legs off a cow because it promoted their growth (at least the parts we want to eat).
So I’m starting a free range plant movement. Who’s with me?
Plants should not be forced into cramped rows with limited resources, they should be allowed to branch out in all directions, whereever the wind takes them.
Plants emit sounds on a wavelength inaudible to humans, they scream like crazy when they’re pruned and due to their ability to continue to absorb water and nutrients after being plucked from the ground I think it’s safe to say that they’re still mostly alive (assuming they’re fresh) when heartlessly tossed in a vat of boiling water or worse a slow cooking steamer. The occasional sizzle or snapping and popping you hear from them are the only audible part of their screams of anguish, but if you were a brussel sprout awaiting your turn, you’d hear the whole horrible expression of pain and tremmble as you counted down your fate.
The Free Range Flora Fighters
Or perhaps “Fighters for Free-Range Flora”? The other one sounds like we’d be *fighting* free-range flora…. Kinda as if kudzu grew and had a life of it’s own and we wielded hacksaws and what-not to combat it back into being a submissive and non-emoting plant.
Two men stood in an elevator, each shifting around nervously. One of the men was getting a little excited. “I can’t take this anymore, the air’s getting stale, I can’t breathe…how long have we been stuck in this elevator, ten, twelve hours?”
“It’s been ten minutes,” the second man responded. “Just relax.”
“I can’t relax, I gotta get outta here, I gotta go.”
“I gotta go too pal, and you have no idea how bad. I really should have gone before we left, but I didn’t think it would be such a long ride.”
“RIDE!?!?” the first man exclaimed. He didn’t appreciate the joke. “You act like this is some kind a boat ride at Epcot! I might as well be on the boat crossing the river Styx for all the fun I’m having. Don’t you understand the gravity of our situation. WE’RE GOING TO DIE IN HERE!…Oh I feel faint, I think I have a fever…feel my head.”
The second man paused for a moment and looking at the first man tried to determine if he was serious. “I am not going to feel you head.”
“Please! Just see if I have a fever.”
“I don’t even know you,” the second man laughed incredulously at the notion. “For all I know you could be some kinda sicko who arranged for the elevator to stop just to get someone to feel your head.”
Now it was the first man’s turn to look at the second man and wonder if he was serious. “What kinda Sicko wants his head felt?”
“Hey they got feet sickos and shoe sickos, I’ll bet they got head sickos too.”
The first man collected himself for a moment. He honestly couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “Look,” he said, “if you could just tell me I don’t have a fever than maybe I could calm down a bit, it would allow me to tell myself its all in my head.”
“You don’t have a fever.”
“You didn’t even touch me!” the first man screamed. Feel my head!”
“What kinda human being are you?” he went on with exasperation, “I could be a very sick man.”
“I think I already said that.”
“Not that kinda sick!” He was at his wit’s end. He stopped and took a few breaths, regaining his composure. “Your compassion is nothing short of Mother Theresa’s.” He said sarcastically. “I mean here we are, two fellow human beings trapped in an elevator, with death hanging over us. In this kinda situation we should feel the deep human need for companionship, we should relish in the security of each other…”
“You are a sick man.”
“We should feel compelled to bond with each other, in the face of adversity.”
‘That’s it let me out here. I’m not bonding with you anywhere. Not here, not in the face of an advertising company, nowhere.”
The first man sunk to the floor exhausted. “I give up. I’ll just lie here and die of my fever, while you climb out the trap door or something.”
The second man looked on the first with jubilation. “TRAPDOOR!? Oh I could kiss you! I didn’t even think of it. You are a genius.”
“Oh I see, first I’m a sicko and he won’t touch me, and now I’m a genius and he wants to kiss me. Well you can forget it pal, I’m not that kinda guy. Besides you’re not my type.”
Long before the Web, there were grandmothers. The original social networking tool was grandmothers who told you stories of countless people who were somehow related to you. They do it to remind you that you are connected to something greater than you might know. They do it to remind you that you are part of a family.
No one plans on being a Thief, but the ones I have known, the ones who enjoy it, they never turn back” —Anonymous
In each of us two natures are at war—the good and the evil. All our lives the fight goes on between them, and one of them must conquer. But in our own hands lies the power to choose—what we want most to be we are.” — Jekyll and Hyde
Stealing. That’s what I live for. But, it’s not what you think. I wasn’t orphaned at an early age and I never lived out on the streets stealing to survive. I was born to land-owning nobles and raised to follow the proper etiquette and social protocols of such a station. I was instructed in the art of conversation, wealth management, performance and presentation, and of course, politics. The tools of the aristocracy came quickly and easily to me. Early in life, I realized I possessed a natural charm and a strong sense of self-confidence that increased the effectiveness of these tools.
But I got bored.
By the time I reached adolescence I had mastered all the aristocratic pursuits. It was these abilities that led me to the con games, because what are street cons but politics in its raw form. At first they were for fun and entertainment, mere tricks and trademarks of street performers. But my association with street performers eventually led me to more serious tricks for more serious rewards. Lord knows I had no need for the monetary compensation, at least not at first. No, instead I was more interested in helping my new associates and practicing my new art in the field. And most importantly there was the rush. A rush so absolutely intoxicating, I knew after the first time there would be no going back!
Before long I was involved in all aspects of street thievery. Conning, pick pocketing, burglary, lock picking, and a whole host of new arts and skills were mine for the mastering. Stealing was slowly becoming my sole pursuit in life. It was the stealing that lead to murder.
Children all steal at some point in their lives, often innocently pilfering objects within their own home. Usually these objects come from the long list of things their parents prohibit them from having. Noble’s children are no different; in fact they may be worse. I was. But by the time adolescence comes along the scolding they receive tends to make most give it up. If the scolding they received upon being caught the first time wasn’t enough to scare it out of them, then the fact that they were slowly becoming an adult would.
You see, each and every child that has ever been caught with the goods has been warned, “When you are an adult, they cut your hand off for stealing.” And though that may only be true in some parts of the world, it sticks with you, and as you get closer and closer to adulthood the fear of being caught and punished grows and grows.
You will eventually get caught, there is no doubt, but being punished is up to you.
I was too addicted to the thrill to stop, but the fear did grow in me. And when it happened, losing my hand was all I could think about. “Thief!” he screamed and grabbed my wrist, his purse in my hand. “Thief!” he screamed again. My mind raced, my eyes glued to my hand that he held up in the air as he screamed, “Guard! Thief!”
Those were his last words.
Before I knew what I was doing, my free hand was drawing my dagger from his fallen body. It was not a clean kill, nor very professional, but effective nevertheless.
He died on a cold dark street in the middle of the night.
I got to keep my hand.
The purse, at this point, seemed like a superfluous bonus.
The guards responded and I was forced to take to rooftops to evade them. It wasn’t until I escaped the city and headed down the wooded trails to my family’s manor that I dared examine the contents of the purse still clutched in my hand.
What a prize! What a rush! I was ecstatic!
I saved the purse as a memento of that night. I never brandished it in town again, but I was mistaken in leaving it lying around the manor. I felt safe there. I was full of self confidence. I never suspected that my father might know the poor gentleman. Again, I was lucky to get out alive. I didn’t look back.
I thrust myself into my new career, for now it was about the money. If I was going to provide myself with the lavishness that my former family provided, I was going to have to work hard. If I had to kill someone now and then, I could do that too. Whenever it was a situation of him or me, the choice would be easy. I hadn’t yet learned to really enjoy killing—that came later.
Eventually, a thief of any real skill gains notoriety. I was exceptional! I had to find a place with less law if I was going to continue to thrive. The Southern Wastes was the obvious choice. The Wastes taught me to fight. It was in The Wastes that I learned to kill efficiently. It was in The Wastes that I really learned to enjoy killing. And it was The Wastes that taught me to be an assassin. But though I have many skills and abilities, I am first and foremost, a thief, and nothing will ever best that rush.
This queen reigned supreme in her court. That much was obvious. Without question her will was carried out as she trekked through the issues presented to her. Each one was tackled with the proper ceremony and ritual required by tradition.
I clearly do not belong here.
Elsewhere I am a king in my own right, though my court is a court of back alleys and dark cellars. I reign supreme on the high rooftops and in the dank drainage tunnels under the city. I have been both under and over this courtroom many times, but never inside, until now.
Soon, the issue for which I am here will be brought her attention.
The queen’s power has been called all encompassing, yet it does not extend into my domain, and as powerful as I am in my own realm, I have yet to extend my influence over the members of this court. For both of us, those days are at an end. One of these statements will cease to be true, and shortly, we will learn which will come to pass.
Though her power may seem limitless, I know better. There are orders she cannot give and actions she cannon take, no matter how strong her will, for fear that she may lose the support of her people, her armies, and her allies. But so long as she retains the favor of her people, her armies, and her allies, they will seek to protect her and preserve her power. And today, while she might be tempted to wave the issue with me, it is her people, her armies, and her allies that force her hand. They hold certain expectations regarding her stance on the matter, and she knows her choice is limited to one.
Like her, I too find myself restrained by similar limitations. They offered me my life in exchange for some names and places, but were I to comply, I would have no life to return to, and certainly no court to rule over. My people, my armies, and my allies would no longer recognize my leadership, indeed my life would be forfeit for my actions, and so I am bound in my options here at this moment.
And it is for that reason that I do not fear the sentence they cast on me today. It is that bond that causes me no worry, for my people will come for me. My sentence will be an announcement that I have not refuted all the tradition and ceremony that comes with ruling over a court such as mine. They will come or I will die, and one ruler’s influence will finally be felt by the other.
Are eyes are locked as she condemns me, however we both know the real trial is yet to come.
A person in my position rarely has to get their hands dirty. Since I attained my status as Nightmaster, the majority of my wishes are carried out for me. How I came to be here, now, in front of the queen is not as interesting as one might think.
They did not catch me in the act, nor find any evidence to implicate me. They showed up one day at my door and dragged me off to the castle to await the queen. Now, my face was not known as well as my reputation, it’s not good for business, but somehow my face became associated with my occupation, otherwise I would not be in this position. If I manage to get back to the streets, I’ll figure out how this happened. Right now that’s looking like a pretty big if. For now I must try and ascertain what they know.
“Pantharos Aslan you stand accused of being non other than Panther the Hand, Nightmaster of the Sleepers. As leader of our land’s thieves and assassins, we hold you responsible for all acts attributed to your organization, and for these acts, which are too numerous to mention, you will stand before the queen and be judged.”
So they know everything. They know who I am, and they know who we are.
“My queen, you must be mistaken—”
“Silence!” The marshal interrupted me. “You will not speak until the queen has given you leave to speak.”
All eyes turned to the queen. “Do not insult me with lies.” She spoke calmly in contrast to the marshal. A trait that comes with knowing you have power rather than knowing someone who has power. I would have made the same choice should my men have brought a criminal before me. People yell to make you think they have power. People with real power merely exert it rather than try to impress it upon you.
She continued. “I know who you are. My information is good, I spent many years accumulating it, I followed your career closely, and now I have reaped the benefit of my work. We have put a face to the name. The name that inspired dread among the rich when you became our capital city’s most infamous burglar; the name that inspired fear among the local politicians when the Sleepers made you their First Knife and assassinations rose to an all time high; and the name that caused this court to beg for my intervention when the name became associated with Nightmaster.”
Her knowledge was good and it made her more powerful than any swordsman. She knew and I could see it in her eyes, there was no doubting her information. She did not act on rumor or gossip. She had the hardened gaze of truth and there was no point trying to convince her otherwise. “Am I to be executed?” I asked.
Her eyes didn’t move but she knew the court hung on her answer to this question. She silently cursed me for cutting to the chase so soon. She knew what she had to do. And she knew it would invite a war. A war she had no experience fighting, a war her armies had no experience fighting. A war that would be fought in her cities instead of on her borders; in the dark alleys of the night rather than the day lit streets. Her enemy would not come in squads, brigades, or regiments, and there would not be a front line. In fact, they may never see more than one or two of us at a time, and they did not know how many of us there are and who, outside of her court officials, could she trust. But she was prepared, I’m sure of it. She did not move lightly to apprehending me, and she would not move lightly to war, not without preparation.
“Yes. You will be executed for your crimes.”
“Then yes I admit to what you say. But my death will not solve your problem, someone will replace me. The Sleepers will continue.”
“Your sense of strength is noble, but we have never before brought such a powerful criminal to justice, much less the leader of all criminal activity within our borders. We believe this will send a message. We also believe you will tell us about others in your organization.”
“And why would I do that? Your advisors already proposed such an arrangement before this formality of a trial. They offered me my life and my freedom for names and places. What could you possibly offer me now that was not offered already?”
“A quick death.”
“So then you expect me to talk to your jailer? You are not as informed as I thought. If you were, you’d know that I am a much more resilient man that that.”
“You will tell us what we want to know and then you will beg for death. Away with him.”
I saw her breath a sigh of relief. She believed that one way or another, she was done with me. Either I would talk or die silent, and she would never see me again. She was counting on executing me and so she turned her thoughts elsewhere, maybe to the oncoming war. I think she thought I would act like any other captured noble and await my rescuing army.
In my cell where I was to spend my last night there was nothing save the straw on the floor for sleeping. A guard laughed as he placed my final meal through the bars.
He watched my face for his entertainment. He wanted to enjoy the look on my face when I realized he had eaten my last meal. I grinned at him. He walked away laughing.
Chicken bones. I was so grateful. The stone I found completed the set.
The queen did not rest easy that night. She woke in the small hours of the morning, before the sun rose. She knew she was starting a war, one the she was not sure how to fight. Her experience in this area was limited. She paced the halls in her castle unsure of how to proceed. She had done a lot of preparation but all plans were untested.
Standing on a balcony overlooking her great hall she caught the conversation of some guards below.
What she heard alarmed her.
“You there! Do not move. I wish to speak to you.” She raced down to the hall to question the guard. “What did you say about the prisoner?”
“I was just talking about his latest meal, your highness. I had a little fun at his expense.”
“What did you do?”
The guard seemed to sense the concern in her voice and his apprehension grew. “Same kind of thing we always do. Gave him less of a meal that he’d like. But you never said we couldn’t deprive them of a meal here and there.”
“What exactly did you give him?”
“Just some old chicken bones, you highness, but he’ll hardly starve.”
The queen was irate. “I specifically instructed your superiors to give him nothing but a water skin and breads!” The guard apologized profusely, but it was obvious they did not realize the implications of what they did. “Go back and check on him and report to me at once!”
In the dungeon, the guard cautiously approached the cell. The gate was slightly ajar and there was lock pick protruding from the lock. The guard felt his heart sink into the pit of his stomach when he realized it had been fashioned from a chicken bone. He turned to run back down the hall, but was surprised to find someone standing right there blocking the way. He never made it back to report to the queen. His throat was pierced by a finely sharpened chicken bone. He died with a gruesomely quiet gurgle. Pantharos retrieve the lock pick and then searched the body. He took all the keys he could find, and a dagger. “That’s all I will need.” He said to himself.
I was out, and I had two options. I could attempt to get out of the castle and run to safe havens, or I could do what they’d least expect of an escaped prisoner, invade the very heart of the castle, the most secure place in the land, and leave my mark, a symbol of my strength for all to remember—I would kill the queen!
They’d be guarding all the gates, but I won’t be leaving quite yet. Am I exercising bad judgment? Maybe. But when would I ever have an opportunity like this again? She builds impenetrable walls around her to protect herself from the likes of me, and then parades me into her sanctum. As crazy as it may sound, I would never have another shot as good as this one.
Patience will be the key. The safest course of action would be to remain hidden until I could make a clean get away. But, I must resist the urge to be safe. Stagnation will only get me caught and the safe choices will not bring me to her deathbed. Instead I must step strongly into dangerous situations, situations that defy better judgment. Natural instinct warns a person to stay out of the dangerous wilderness, but the hunter resists his instincts and plunges into the wilderness seeking his prey. Tonight I enter a wilderness unknown to me, but the prize is great and worth the risk. Should I emerge victorious, I will carry a trophy that none can match. Should I fail to emerge from the wilderness…well, I have not the luxury of speculating on failure. My success demands that I stay focused on the goal I have chosen.
“My Queen!” A guard returned to her after being dispatched to check up on the first who was taking an unusually long time to report. “He has murdered the guard and escaped his cell. I have taken the liberty of ordering all exits securely guarded. He will not escape us.”
The queen thought silently for a moment.
“My Queen?” The guard begged for instructions.
“Yes, secure all the exits. Also secure the rooftop and the walls. You are correct, he will not leave tonight.” The guard turned to fulfill his charge. “Also,” she halted him, “wake Captain Shane. In fact, wake the entire royal court and call them to an emergency session. I want every noble in the castle in my courtroom as soon as possible.”
“Yes you majesty.” The guard was awed by this course of action. He didn’t think that an escaped criminal warranted such an action, but one guard had already underestimated the prisoner. He had faith in her majesty. She must know best, she was the queen after all.
Unfinished notes: The queen creates a ruckous, has secret meeting. Panther works his way in and is tricked into dying.
Laura returned to her home after a hard days work. She lived in an upstairs apartment in an old colonial house. Her landlord, a retired physicist named Tom, lived on the main floor.
Physicists are really not much more than children who grew up playing with their dad’s tools. As children, they fill their endless spare hours with self-imposed projects purely for the sake of having an excuse to play with tools. All grown up, they find a way of life using those tools, and the projects become work instead of play. The child disappears and the physicist takes his place. The physicist uses tools to make a living, to feed and clothe himself and his family, and to give meaning to his existence. “I’m a physicist,” is all he need say to sum up who he is. When a physicist retires, we see the reemergence of the child he used to be. After the work is done and the living made, physicists return to their childhood play. The self-imposed projects return to fill the endless spare hours. The only thing that has changed from the childhood days is the vast stores of knowledge to draw upon, and, quite frankly, there is no one around to keep them from using power tools. They enter into retirement with years of experience to guide them.
Tom was just such a man. He not only spent the greater part of his life learning and discovering the finer aspects of physics, he also departed his knowledge to others by teaching his craft at the state university. By the time he retired, Tom had amassed enough tools and machines to maintain a wood shop and a mechanical shop right in his own basement, and this was where he spent all of his free time.
On this day Laura went to climb the stairs that led to her apartment, the stairs the sit directly over the stairs to Tom’s basement, the stairs which, coincidentally, were puffing smoke through the cracks in the floorboards. Laura did not take this as a good sign. My house is on fire! she thought and ran upstairs to confirm her fears. When she got inside the door, there were no flames, and no smoke. In fact, her house was perfectly intact. I know I smelled smoke, she thought, I saw it.
Confused, she peered back down the stairwell. Sure enough, it was filled with smoke. She stepped into the haze and looked all around for some kind of clue. She looked up across the ceiling, and felt the walls, she even sniffed them. Baffled, she scratched her chin and looked down at her feet. That’s when it hit her. The basement! She ran out to the exterior basement doors.
Cautiously she felt the doors. They were not hot. She threw them wide open. Great plumes of smoke greeted her instantly, so she quickly closed the doors. “I should call 911”. Just to be sure she opened them again, and once more smoke billowed out, but this time there was a distinct buzzing resounding through the haze, followed by a screech.
Laura laughed, there was no fire. This was clearly another calamity of the same man who had been known to take his car apart on a whim, forgetting that he was due to administer an exam in a couple of hours. The only thing that remained now was to find out what he was trying to do this time.
“Tom?” She stepped into the haze. There was no answer. “Tom?” She spoke softly, not wanting to startle a man with a power saw. This time she was greeted with the buzzing and screeching she heard earlier. “TOM!” She screamed after the noise stopped.
“Laura?” His voice came from somewhere in the cloudiness.
“Tom, are you down here?” She knew the answer, but she wanted a more detailed indication of where to find him.
“I’m over here.” She made her way though the smoke and found him at his workbench with some wood and a circular saw. He wore no protection over his eyes, not did he wear a mask over his mouth. “Hi Laura,” he said flipping his saw over and eying it quizzically.
“It sure is smoky down here,” Laura said.
“Oh, yeah,” he agreed, looking up form his saw. “I hadn’t noticed.”
“Well would you like me to leave the door open, y’know, for ventilation,” Laura said knowing nothing about physics, but fully aware of what smoke can do to lungs.
“Yeah,” Tom thought for a moment, “that’s probably a good idea.” He looked back down at the underside of his saw and touched the blade. His hand jerked away, as he winced, and he shook it while saying to himself, “still hot.”
Laura laughed to herself. Before she left, she asked, “is everything okay?”
“Still looking at his saw, Tom said, “I think my blade is dull..”
Some people swore that the house was haunted, and by all accounts they would be correct. It was a house that greed built, a house of ill repute, a house of demons, and briefly, ever so briefly, a house of the rising sun.
Brandon knew what he wanted, and thought he knew how to get it, knowing how to do something and actually doing it are two very different things. Early on, people told him he’d have to deal with the demons before anything else. Over time, he fixed up the outside, first by making it look like everyone expected it to look. The right lawn, the right color, the right style, but few windows.
The existing windows gave you a peak at the rooms inside, each one as carefully tailored as the exterior, showing off the taste and refinement expected of one in today’s society. Occasionally, people were invited in, and shown each room in turn, but there were no windows to the attic, nor were there any to the basement, and no visitor was ever allowed to see them.
Over the years, there were times when an unlucky visitor was unexpectedly set upon by a demon from the attic. If the visitor did not run screaming from the house, Brandon would send them off with instructions never to return. By now people had forgotten about the demons, he couldn’t have somebody around telling people the truth. Brandon would then busy himself capturing the demon and locking it, along with many others, in a carefully constructed cell in the basement.
Brandon continued to improve his house, adding extensions with larger rooms, and renovating often. The more elaborate it became, the more interest potential buyers showed. Many came and went, some stayed longer than others, but in every case none would commit to a purchase without seeing the attic and the basement.
Shouldn’t all the other aspects of the house more than make up for the demons? Brandon thought. Isn’t it possible that someone else will accept these small detriments for the sake of the rest of the house? Brandon decided he could show the attic, the frequency of demons coming from the attic had lessened over time. He thought it might be possible to let a buyer see the attic, even if a small demon still lurked about.
The basement on the other hand, would need to be hidden away. He built a bookshelf over the door and with no windows to speak of, he began telling buyers there was no basement. The plan worked, and a buyer eventually took ownership. She asked Brandon to stay on as caretaker, noting the excellent care he’d provided previously, and together they took care of the house for years without incident.
But the buyer never thought the bookshelf belonged where it stood, and years later when she finally decided to move it, discovering the door, and consequently the basement, she was horrified. She ran screaming from the house, leaving the basement door open. The demons flooded out into the house and wreaked havoc in every room.
Brandon’s wife never returned. Ultimately Brandon’s life was a grand facade built on a house of cards, each flimsy square keeping a demon contained, hidden away, but not banished. With every new demon seemingly defeated, he created another cell to his demon prison, and when it fell, as a card house often does, the demons were free to roam his mind unchecked. There was no more pretending. Nothing was ever the same again after that.
Submitted to a NPR contest where the first and last line were predetermined
Alright, I'm not a grinch or anything, I enjoy the x-mas season as much as anyone else, but frankly I can't stand Christmas music. So of course, my wife has the all-christmas-music station going in the car, and the various christmas music CDs she's collected going in the house, etc. etc.
I have the same problem with x-mas music as I do with most cover songs. There is an elite list of cover songs that I prefer over the originals, and All Along The Watchtower tops that list. But the fact of the matter is, when I hear a cover song, I think, it's not as good as the original. And basically almost all Christmas songs are covers. AND I hate when popular musicians cover a traditional Christmas carol because they almost always attempt to apply their personal style to it, and in fact the song was not written with their style in mind, so it just doesn't seem to fit. I love the Boss, but if I have to hear him scream out Santa Claus is coming to town one more time, I'll lose it. Plus, you can't ever sing along with these pop covers even if you wanted to because it's not sung the way you know it. And during the x-mas season, I'm subjected to the same standard carols in every style, rock-n-roll, country, orchestra, muzak, acapella, jazz, and just about every other format known to man. However two Christmas songs have caught my attention over the years, they are original and from very non traditional perspectives. Frankly I relate to both of them quite well...