January 2018

Danton Wells, named after the French revolutionary Georges Danton, was the son of a high school history teacher and a homemaker in Youngstown, Ohio. Despite coming from an educated background and being extensively taught at home, Wells was a mediocre student at best and quickly amassed a reputation as a feckless, unreliable daydreamer. After graduation, the only work he was able to find was as a janitor and part-time mechanic at a Chevrolet dealership. It was there that he noticed, over the course of a few years, the startling increase in sophistication of the cars on the lot, from the initial postwar models in 1946 (Wells had been too young to be drafted into the war). He began to wonder when cars would be sophisticated enough to talk, and this became the basis for the Acolytes of the Future cult, better known as the Futuros.

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“I found her in Kagoshima, during the first part of the occupation,” said Ayles. “It was really remarkable. Her family had been killed in the bombings during the war, and she’d been making a living by talking herself into wherever there was food. Impersonating dead children, stealing, whatever it took.”

“And you were impressed by this?”

“She was six years old,” Ayles said, “and she was working the area better than an OSS agent.”

“That still doesn’t explain-”

“I saw a kindred spirit, and so did the woman who would become my wife,” Ayles said.

“And so you trained her-”

“She begged for it. Like a fish to water. And you didn’t need to be a CIA station manager to see how useful someone with her talents could be.”

“And now she’s disappeared, leaving three dead agents in her wake.”

“Maybe she’s realized she can do better. Maybe she’s outgrown us.”

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01. What is the one piece of advice that will forever jump into your mind because you didn’t take it when your were first given it?

Write the backstory first and then take it out.

02. What is your favorite thing to binge on?

Video games. One mammoth session in a classic can devour hours of my life.

03. What is a physical gesture you tend to use a lot and why? (e.g. talking with your hands, winking at someone while you speak, shaking your leg).

I tend to jab at the heavens with an outstretched pointer finger.

04. Pick a card, any card… a tarot card. 🙂

Hmm…”Rules for Tarot Cards in Divination and Palmistry.”

05. What are your top two pet peeves with our digital age lifestyle?

Things being designed to look good on an iPad at the expense of actual functionality, and how easy it is for Russian trolls to mess with peoples’ perceptions.

06. What is your all-time favorite blogging beverage?

A 24-oz cup of High Point Coffee’s coldbrew iced mocha.

07. Name a book/movie that you can watch/read again and again.

Book: A Wizard of Earthsea. Film: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

08. What is an activity you enjoy watching other people do but don’t want to do yourself?

Singing and dancing.

09. How do you explain why water turns into ice to a four year old?

“It gets so cold it stops moving!”

10. What is a habit you have that you got from someone else?

Iced coffee, from other people with sensitive mouths who find the hot stuff altogether too scalding.

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“Well, Charles, it was a life well-lived, wasn’t it?” said Death. “An Oscar, a Tony, a Nobel Peace Prize, and five marriages to supermodels.”

“Yeah,” Charles said. “I think it’s been pretty good. But I’m ready for heaven now.”

“Heaven?” said Death. “Oh, no, Charles. You need to play life in hard mode to see the true ending. You were living on easy mode.”

“So…I have to live again, only harder?”

“Twice, I’m afraid,” said Death. “Hard mode doesn’t even unlock until you’ve beaten normal mode.”

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“What’s this?” said Dr. Karen.

“I can’t see,” said Splendificus the Prestidigitator from behind a mound of junk. “Describe it?”

“It’s, uh, a statue of a demon, I guess?” Dr. Karen said. “Maybe a succubus? Looks like black onyx or maybe obsidian, highly reflective. I hear the distant sound of children screaming when I’m near it, and when I touch it my hands come away sticky with foul and nameless ichor.”

“Oh, that’s the Totem of the Soul Eviscerator,” said Splendificus. “I used to use it to exterminate rats.”

“When’s the last time that you needed to exterminate rats?” For a warren of a century’s worth of hoarded wizard junk, Splendificus’s hovel seemed rather vermin-free.

“Not since I drew a circle of extreme vermicious unction,” said Splendificus, appearing from the other side of his junk mound and stroking his floor-length white beard sagaciously.

“Maybe it’s time to get rid of it, then?”

“NO!” the wizard shouted. “I need it! I had to murder a civilization to get it!”

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“Be careful in there,” came the final warning. “The death count is very high.”

Behind the ivory doors was a throne made of bloodstone, in a pool of light dripping from cold moonstone shards weeping from above. On the throne was perched Lord Mortus, the death count. He had one leg looped over the arm of his throne, and was slouched forward looking intensely at his pale bony hands.

“Duuude,” he said. “Dude.”

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“They must have been great chiefs of these people, or some sort of paramount gods,” one said. “To be commemorated in such a monumental way.”

“Do you think we’ll ever know who they were?” said the other. “Perhaps there is some evidence still left, even after ten thousand years of history.”

“No, I think not. Whoever saw fit to carve four of these creatures into the rock never foresaw a time when they wouldn’t be known. I am, truth be told, more interested in the other carving, the one of one extinct being riding another.”

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Experts now believer that the Zeoocea complex near Siwa was actually the product of a much later dynasty, the 26th, and pharaoh Psamtik II specifically. But questions still remain about how the pharaoh was able to construct such an elaborate edifice during his brief 6-year reign, and what purpose it served. The courses of stones, descending steplike for 400 meters from a 750-meter square appears on modern radar images to be an inverted pyramid which, before it was filled up with sand over time, would have left a void almost identical to the Great Pyramid at Giza. While clearly not intended as a burial place–the stones appear to have been placed directly into a hollow prepared for them with minimal underlying structure–its ultimate purpose remains a mystery.

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“What are you doing here?” I cried.

“I think you’d be happier to see me than that,” said Dajins. He was seated at my desk in the corner office of the Clark building, idly filing the various pointy bits on his demonic body that showed through his Armani suit.

“I sold you my soul and I’m in great health,” I said. “Go away, it’s not time to collect.”

“Such mistrust!” Dajins laughed. “What if I told you that, true to your soul, I actually put it on the soul futures exchange.”

“The what?”

“Oh, surely a big time stockbroker like yourself can figure it out!” Dajins said. “Normally, it’s very risky. Souls lost all the time. But you? You were a big winner, my friend. I made a hundred times what I invested.”

I gasped. “So I get my soul back?” I said.

“Ha! No,” Dajins chortled. “You’re not off the hook that easily. But because you’ve made me a wealthy demon, and because I think the results will be amusing, I’ve decided to cut you in.” He gestured to a box on the table. “Six souls, from six other foolish unfortunates, for you to do with as you please.”

“What am I supposed to do with them?” I cried. Then, hurriedly: “I’ll trade you for my original soul.”

“What, and lose a hundred-to-one moneymaker? No, friend. You have fun with your profits, you hear? And I’ll see you again…real soon.”

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Everybody knew that there were as many deities as there were grains of rice in a harvest. But, for season after season, Zhou had found his own haul to be hardly enough to feed himself, let alone his wife and small children. HE had already sold what he could, and offered what he could spare at the temples in the village and along the road into town.

There had been no answer.

So he built himself a small pagoda out of paddy mud, and asked the priest in the village to write out “for anyone who needs it” on a scrap of bamboo. Zhou hung the little sign on the tiny pagoda after it had dried, and told his daughter she could use it as a doll house if no deity had seen fit to accept his small offering of incense.

The next day, the fields were overflowing with rice, far earlier than the harvest should have been. Zhou then had the priest write two more messages: “thank you,” and “who are you?” He delivered both with his very last bit of incense.

The next day, both had disappeared and a new message had been left, on finely folded bamboo paper. The priest was surprised to see a farmer as humble as Zhou bearing such, and even more surprised when he read it aloud.

“I am nothing, and I come before and after all that has ever been. But despite my greatness, no one has ever built me an abode before.”

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