February 2016


Blame can be neither created nor destroyed. It can only be transferred.
Sir Isaac Newton

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“Well, transdeath rights are in a pretty good place right now, but most people only think of vampires and zombies, you know? They don’t even know the difference between a zombie and a lich and a revanent and a ghoul, and they sure aren’t giving us extra points when it comes to hiring.”

“Why don’t you do something about it, Kershaw?” The voice from beneath the grave sounded sad, almost tremulous.

“Well, I try. I run a support group for ‘underserved undead’ out of the community center on 7th. But I’m the only regular attendee since Alan the Barghest died of the rot, and we’re lucky to get three attendees on a good day.”

“That’s…really sad.”

“We have a hard time with those ‘Life Ends at Death’ protestors,” I said. “I’m sure you know how it is. People are scared of the unknown and the unfamiliar, always have been. I don’t blame them and I only light them on fire a little bit, but I think we get targeted a lot because it’s not politically correct for them to pick on zombies or vampires anymore.”

“Would…would you let me come to your support group? Even if I arose as something like a zombie?”

“Of course,” I said. “I’ve never turned anyone away except that one freak in makeup.”

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“Well,” I said, “Gyles Kershaw fled England and Cromwell’s dogs hoping for a place where his alchemy lab wouldn’t be burned down every other fortnight.”

A thoughtful pause. “I guess…he didn’t find it?”

“Oh, he most certainly did,” I said. “He unlocked the secret of life eternal, in point of fact, and was able to achieve powers unthought-of by mortal man through dark elixirs and covenants with the lords of shadow.”

The grave was silent a moment. “Well, speaking with the dead was clearly one of them.”

“I chose the powers I was sure would be the most useful, and would strike fear into the hearts of mortals. The ability to speak to people over long distances without error. The ability to imbue any vehicle I chose with motive power. The ability to cause terrible wounds at a distance. And of course conjuring light and flame at will.”

Maddy was silent from below again. I thought that she was being timid, but after a moment I realized that she was struggling not to laugh. “So…cell phones, cars, guns, lighters, and flashlights?” she said.

“It was a lot more impressive in 1692,” I snapped. “How was I to know that human ingenuity would render each of them meaningless in less than 400 years? Deathlessness was not something I had the training for, and the shadow lord gave me maybe five minutes to choose my powers.”

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IV. The Sigil Visits Destruction Upon All

Sirens blared as the building’s curtain walls collapsed in upon themselves. Firefighters continued to arrive as more and more stations were added to the alarm, but all they could do was spray helplessly at an inferno so intense that it began bubbling the paint on their engines.

“Holy wow,” said a kid, looking at the conflagration. “Did they all get out?”

“No,” said Mirabelle, smiling. “No they did not.” The limp form of a spray-stained template fluttered silently by her side.

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“Miss Betsy, Miss Betsy!” the little girl tugged at her teacher’s arm.

“Yes, what is it?” said Miss Betsy, indulgent but exhausted after the child’s constant barrage of questions.

“Why does our class have four Donalds, three Hillaries, two Marcos, and five Teds?”

“Well, you see, it’s because you kids were born in 2016,” said Miss Betsy.

“Why does that matter?” asked the girl.

“People often name their children after candidates they like, and there are an awful lot of candidates in an election year.”

“Oh,” said the girl. “I don’t like that. I wish our moms and dads were more creative.”

“Why do you say that, Berniesandersia?” said Miss Betsy.

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III. The Sigil Cannot be Removed

To: xjsp@unm.edu
From: millerdemolitions@gagglemail.com
Subject: Re: Work Order #19832203

Dear Mr. Richat,

I regret to inform you that Miller Demolition has decided to terminate its contract to remove the concrete roof slab next to your rooftop air conditioner. Your payment, minus deposit, will be returned via bank transfer just as soon as our assistant can process the paperwork.

This isn’t any fault of your own. We lost two men to workman’s comp, as you know, and Stevens will likely never get the use of his arm back. Three jackhammers and two cranes in the scrap heap already mean we are losing money on our bid.

I wouldn’t stay in that building one moment more than you have to. Not with that thing on the roof. Let me know if you want to move and we’ll cut you a good deal–at cost. Just so long as your people take out everything before we rig that place to blow–my men aren’t going back up there unless it’s to implode it to hell.

Mike Miller, Jr.
Owner/Operator
Miller Demolitions

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II. The Sigil Cannot Be Altered

“Well, I don’t know if I believe what they’re saying, but we’ve got to clean up this mess.” Aimee, a Valid Trauma Scene Waste Management Practitioner for Soulshine Crime Scene Cleaners.

“It’s not our job to believe or not,” said her supervisor, Courtney, a Valid Trauma Scene Waste Management Class II licensee. “Maybe the janitor killed his friend and then himself or maybe the aliens set it up. Either way, we’ve got three gallons of blood to clean up.”

“Hey,” Aimee said. “Did the work order say anything about this?” She pointed at a strange symbol spray-painted on the concrete, visible beneath droplet sprays of dried blood.

“Hmph.” Courtney pulled a Sharpie from her overalls and drew a looping curve beneath a place where two orbs intersected. “Well, whatever it is, it has a dick now.”

“What?” said Aimee. “You didn’t draw anything.”

Courtney drew the pen across the pavement, leaving an oily black line. “Pen’s working fine,” she said. “Probably just didn’t have any ink flowing.” But her second attempt failed as well; the Sharpie resolutely refused to work.

“Let me see it,” said Aimee. “I think I have an idea.

Courtney, simmering, handed over the pen. Aimee uncapped it, licked the tip…and drove it deeply, forcefully, into her supervisor’s left eye socket.

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