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.
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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I. The Sigil Cannot Be Reproduced

Bill squinted. “I think it looks like a…I dunno, a star in the middle of three half-moons,” he said, jabbing his power washer’s nozzle at the symbol.

“No, it’s more like a diamond on a four-leaf clover,” said Bob. “I can’t believe someone would go to all the trouble of coming up here just for…that.”

“Whatever it is, somebody went to a lot of trouble to spraypaint it on the roof. I want to get a picture of it before we get started.” Bill hauled out his phone and snapped a picture. Then, squinting, he snapped another.

“What’s the matter, Bill?” said Bob. “Need a tripod with those shaky hands of yours?”

Bill held up his phone for Bob to see. He swiped through the series of pictures he’d taken, all of which seemed to be of featureless concrete.

“Huh,” said Bob. He retrieved his own phone, which was a model newer than his compatriot’s. Snapping a few of his own shots, he saw them to be similarly blank. “That’s weird. It won’t take.”

Shrugging, Bill turned on his power washer once his phone was safely away. As he was hosing down the symbol, he felt something tricking down his face. His hand came away scarlet.

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When Tinuviel woke up she wasn’t just in jail. She wasn’t just in a cell in the deepest part of the Welkor’s Light fortress. She was also in the body of a goblin.

“I asked you what we could do to keep from being possessed out of our bodies,” she cried. “Hours ago! But did anyone answer? NO!”

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It’s been a momentous six years and as we close in on 2,200 posts overall, we thought we’d leave it to some of our most prolific contributors from the last few years to share their experiences of publication with EFNB.

Axton Wales
(Krane Wupinov, Half-Orc Bard, The Vallia Battlements Halfling Toss)

If it weren’t for the editors at EFNB, I wouldn’t have an outlet for turning my D&D adventures into fiction. Nobody takes roleplaying fiction, especially from players who don’t exist. There’s some kind of bias against nonexistent players playing a nonexistent adventure, just because it’s nonexistent two levels deep.

Lucy Y. Shantell
(The Mercenary Goblin, In the Name of Gob)

It’s hard for nonexistent authors to break into any genre, let alone crowded genres like fantasy. So I’m very grateful to EFNB for accepting the manuscript for my novel. I could have done without them chopping it up and publishing little bits of it out of order and therefore scuppering any chance of publication anywhere else, though.

Altos Wexan
(Ode to a Third Place, The Muse of Goo)

I’ve been with EFNB as a publisher since February 2010, and I’ve found no one more amenable to the type of fiction and essays I regularly write. They are a joy to work with and I can’t recommend them highly enough. But while we’re on the subject, guys, do you remember when you promised to stop paying me in imaginary money? Any movement on that front? Rent is due soon and I can’t sell much more of my blood.

Lila-Jenny Swanson II, editor-in-chief, Hopewell Democrat-Tribune
(L. R. Badeau on Being a Full-Time Unicorn [edited], Benchwarming in the Bleachfields)

The Hopewell Democrat-Tribune has had a content distribution agreement with EFNB since 2013, and ours has been an excellent partnership thus far. Nonexistent newspapers serving nonexistent municipalities have been hit harder than most by the economic downturn in the industry. By getting our content out there, EFNB has allowed our staff to continue pushing our progressive, inclusivist, pansexualist, and pro-formican viewpoints in a new age. Best of all, their pay for authors is exactly the same as The Huffington Post: absolutely nothing. Very competitive rates for such an upstart publication!

Klaus Ulrich Baden, Vice-President for Bloggery, GesteCo LLC GmbH
(Depression Werewolves [approved for general release], Cerebral Outsourcing [co-edited])

On behalf of GesteCo LLC GmbH, I am authorized to transmit the following statement, on the condition that it be understood heretoforewith that any objectionable opinions therein are solely my own and do not reflect an official position of GesteCo LLC GmbH. Official statement follows:

Thank you!

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(A Writer’s Razor, Snarky English Major Haikus)

How did you get this number?

Catherine Vennari
(The Secret Plumage, The Raven’s Inheritance)

While there are many fine publication opportunities for connoisseurs of the dark, weird, strange, weirdly dark, and strangely weird, EFNB stands head and shoulders above the rest. Why? One simple reason: I suspect they are a shadow cabal of pigeon-computers networked into a gestalt whole.

Ari Penfield-Cuff
(Jane vs. the Megafrog, Ednesia)

Sometimes I just get the urge to write stuff. Not even writing, more like saying it straight onto paper. No filter. Just let te story flow out, even if it’s about dish soap or kangaroos. It’s just a thing I’ve gotta do sometimes, like breathing or composting or compositing or light murder.

Wait, I was published?

Andrew A. Sailer
(Why I Hate Reboots, The Best and Worst of Bond)

Thanks for publishing my rants. I doubt you’ve gotten much money out of them, but it counts as anger management according to the terms of my suspended sentence, so it’s all good.

Lynn Ruelle Badeau
(Happy (Belated) Unicorn Appreciation Day 2016!, L. R. Badeau on Being a Full-Time Unicorn)

Many sparkles to you on this joyous day!

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