February 2019

“Don’t mind me,” the man said, courteously touching his cap. “I’m just here to do some minor repairs.”

“What repairs?” Thaddeus snapped. “I didn’t call anybody.”

“Well, I’ve got the work order right here, paid in advance, if you want to see it,” said the man. He reached into his jumpsuit’s pocket and handed over a card.

No dimension too small! Free quotes.

“What is this? I’m not in a pocket dimension!” said Thaddeus.

“Yeah, you’d never know it, would you? This is quality work, and holds up well. GesteCo pocket dimensions need a little calibration every few years, but if you can do the maintenance, they hold up with the best of ’em.”

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There are two books.

First is the Book of Knowledge. You may write in it, but what you write will only be retained if it is unique and is not superseded. Many have written in this book, but only a few of those yet remain. For with each new bit of knowledge added, the old decays. Only the most infinitesimal amount remains from the earliest writers, and the vast majority of those who have written in the Book of Knowledge have been forgotten.

Next is the Book of Blood. You write yourself into this book with your own flesh, passing on only what you are and what you can impart by raising. Its knowledge is simple, but primal. Lessons learned here are learned for life, forever, and are all but indelible. But in so writing you are submerged in the blood, dissolved in it, with your contribution being less than a drop in a vein. Your blood will live on but you, and your name, will be forgotten. And if ever your blood should fail, which it does for some, there will be only oblivion for you.

There are two books.

You may write in only one.

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To: Nuby the Succubus
Contents: One (1) t-shirt reading “Happy Waifu, Happy Laifu”
Note: May this garment guide you in all your future romantic endeavors.

To: Randy the Incubus
Contents: One (1) necklace made of human teeth
Note: You are looking a bit long in the tooth, dearie.

To: Nuby the Succubus
Contents: One (1) extra large jar, minced garlic
Note: Nobody sucks like you do, except vampires, but this should eliminate the competition.

To: Randy the Incubus
Contents: One (1) pair large scissors, bloodied.
Note: The last guy couldn’t cut it. Maybe you’ll have more luck.

To: Nuby the Succubus
Contents: One (1) framed, autographed 8×10 glossy
Note: So you can see what success looks like.

To: Randy the Incubus
Contents: One (1) mirror, broken
Note: I saw success in this the other day, maybe it’ll work for you?

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Stark against the moonlight, the shape spoke. It spoke in a voice that was ice on eaves, blued flesh beneath frozen rivers, blackened fingers crackling to the touch.

“I have let my heart grow cold to the protests of mortals who would live but a moment longer in their petty lives,” it growled. Its great spread-eagle antlers bobbed. “I will make you the same offer I make to all who throw themselves upon my mercy.”

“Yes, yes, please, whatever you want,” blubbered Chris.

“Bring to me flesh, living flesh, human flesh,” growled the thing. “I do not care how, or who, but bring it to me here on the next new moon. I shall prepare it as is my custom, and sup on it. Then, if all is well, you will have a reward and a boon from me.”

“Bring you…someone to eat? Like a cannibal?”

“Call it what you like,” said the bitterly dark shape. “But know this: my mark is upon you now, and if you fail to adhere to our bargain, I will hunt you down and take from you what you could not give to me: your flesh. Swear to the bargain now, or be my repast.”

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The warlord Sun Hu-keng and his rival Li Zuo-Lin both courted the powerful governor of the strategic city of Shuzheng. The city was a vital rail junction and was also linked to the sea by a fine road; both Sun and Li hoped to import foreign artillery and rifles to increase their influence. The mayor, a man known as Xu, was a graduate of the “University of the Green Forest.” In other words, he was a former bandit who had worked his way into office through a combination of cunning, brutality, and opportunism. He had proven to be an excellent choice as mayor, having repulsed several assaults on the town and keeping its people well-fed.

Xu invited both men to visit him in Shuzheng to make their case, warning them to bring only a small detachment of bodyguards. Sun and Li were to have separate meetings with Xu, but both received notice beforehand Xu planned to betray them and to have his troops open fire across the negotiating table. Sensing an opportunity to kill Xu in close combat, and thus take Shuzheng for themselves, both made plans for ambushes of their own.

In the end, Xu inherited a room full of cordite smoke and bodies as Sun and Li, who had never met, killed each other–both thinking they had struck down Xu himself. Within a week, both of their warlord armies had pledged fealty to Xu, and he had begun a meteoric ascent that would not end until he was killed by his own troops on the battlefield in 1949.

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When allowing intolerance is virtue
As “giving both sides a say”
When Nazis are openly marching
With counterprotestors turned away
When “we can’t guarantee your safety”
But “it’s their right to have their own way”
Hatefulness in every news cycle
While righteousness fights for its say
When “taking a knee” is a treasonous act
But Confederates openly march all day
One has to wonder, will our country endure
Or will it be going away

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It had taken all his life’s savings, both too track the recluse down and to bargain for the use of his device.

Being swept down for anything being carried had scotched his first idea, to carry an AK-47 back with him, but the light of passion and fire still gleamed in his eyes. Even in the simple cotton clothes and leather boots he’d been permitted by the recluse—who created a machine like that just to sit on it and make rules about it?—couldn’t disguise the feeling of elation he felt. He managed to take a penny, hoping to melt it down and trade the copper for something.

Still, it was no matter. The device would send him back to the time of his ancestors, the time of his heritage, that glorious time of July 1862. He’d take up arms and fight for glory on those long-ago battlefields, and give form to his abiding love for the old Confederacy and its noble struggle.

Dispatch, Haven’s Regiment, to Headquarters, Gillom’s Division, Army Of Northern Virginia


In response to your missive from yesterday enquiring about the incident, I send this expanded description. A man claiming to be a sympathizer approached the regimental headquarters, offering to enlist. He was extremely strange in appearance, mannerisms, and affect, to say nothing of his manner of speech. For this reason, we deemed him a threat, possibly a spy. As such he was taken into custody and executed immediately.

He protested that he was a true scion of the South and that we were wronging one of our own. I don’t need to tell you, sir, that I found the thought repugnant. A Southron knows his own and keeps to them.

Nothing else of value was found other than the coin which I sent to you as a curiosity. It is clearly a visage of Demon Lincoln, though the other meanings are obscure. I suspect that they are secret coded instructions for spies, or perhaps a token of support for the War of Northern Aggression.

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“Hey, Mary-Beth,” I said poking my head into her cubicle. “Do you hear that-”

The cube was empty. The cup of chai Mary-Beth always had around this time was still steaming on its coaster, so she hadn’t been long.

“John,” I said walking to the other end of the office. “Are you hearing what I’m hearing? It sounds almost like music, or somebody humming? Weirdest thing.”

I stopped. John’s hoarder’s sty of a cube was similarly empty, with a stack of binders dashed across the entrance like a roadblock. He’d apparently been in some hurry to get out.

I poked about the rest of the office, only to find that everyone was gone. And the sound grew more insistent, a warm and almost choral note at the very limit of what my old ears were able to pick up. If I had to guess, it sounded like it was coming from Ramal Park, near the center of town, which made me think it might be a band concert or choir recital I was only hearing snatches of.

But there was something about the sound that was also alien, something about the register that was unsettling, warm and inviting as it was. My hearing aids couldn’t have been the sole reason for that, as I was able to catch a little of the sound even with them switched off.

I went to the office window and hiked up the blinds, hoping to catch a glimpse of what was going on.

“What in the name of…?”

Everyone in town, from my fellow co-workers in the bank to the kids running the Gas ‘n’ Gulp across the way, were streaming slowly out of their places of business, their homes, and filing meekly toward Ramal Park. Toward the source of the mysterious sound.

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Nine years! More than 3000 entries by now, blowing right past that milestone! In fact, in April, I should publish my 3333th blog entry if all goes well – a milestone of repeating digits. What does the future hold?

Well, for one, I’m looking forward to EFNB’s 10th anniversary in 2020. I never thought the project could endure this long, longer than anything I’ve ever done. If it’s something I have to leave behind, I think it’ll do.

Sorry if I don’t have any new statistics to share this year; readership and comments have both been down, and I think that is down to the overall decline of blogs as a platform. There have never been more places to publish things, after all. But if I were doing this for readers and views, I’d have stopped long ago!

Thanks for sticking with me, whoever reads this. I’ve enjoyed the ride, and I hope you have too.

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The last of the Atimidi was brought, in chains, before the Emperor of the Pale City as a curiosity. While it was kept there, it learned to speak Imperial and spoke at length with both the Emperor himself and with many of his retinue. Unlike the conception of the Atimidi as mindless beasts, it seems that the very last of their number was a skilled and sarcastic orator, despite his imposing frame and enormous claws.

Once, during a feast, the Emperor of the Pale City asked the Atimidi what would happen if the last of their number should die. The Atimidi replied that, while his people had never been beloved of the gods, their disappearance would nevertheless be mourned. They would weep for a thousand years to assuage the guilt of an infinite future cut short. The Atimidi followed this with an offer–and a request–to be allowed to leave, and to die far away from the Pale City and to spare it the gods’ wrath when he, inevitably, perished. The Emperor, unamused, did not comply.

Soon, a conspiracy against the Emperor was uncovered, seeking to murder him in order to place his nephew on the throne. The Atimidi had gone along with the conspirators, hoping to slay his captor and gain his freedom. In exchange, the Emperor had him executed by beheading, along with his nephew and the other conspirators.

At the moment the axe fell, the sky clouded over and a light rain, little more than a drizzle, began. The Emperor picked up the severed head of his onetime captive and mocked it, for having summoned so feeble a storm.

The Pale City did not see sunshine again for a millennium.

At first the steady rain was bearable, but soon the land reached its ability to absorb the water and the ground began to grow sodden and flooded. The great canals and sewers silted up. Buildings sank into the mushy morass. The glittering Imperial Palace buckled and collapsed as parts of its foundation gradually liquefied and ran away and others were worn into submission by the unceasing rain. The collapse killed the Emperor himself as well as all three of his sons; leaderless, the Empire of the Pale City soon splintered.

By the time the final raindrops fell, the Pale City had become a swampland, with only a few structures remaining above the morass, anchored to living rock.

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