May 2023

This beach is shared with the wildlife
The posted placards proclaim
No going in certain areas
To crush to kill or maim

But this doesn’t mean that the backhoe
That smooths out the beaches each day
To make them all pretty for tourists
Is affected in any way

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In an unexpected announcement, delivered without warning or fanfare this evening at a press conference, Mississippi Republican Party chairman “Trip” Howell announced that governor Tate Reeves had been replaced in office by an actual potato, effective immediately.

“I have every confidence that the new potato administration will be a successful one, and both I and the state Republican Party wish Mr. Reeves a happy and harmonious retirement,” Howell said at the event.

Former Governor Reeves, who did not attend the ceremony, could not be reached for comment. Reeves’ former office referred all questions to his successor, noting only that the former governor was in an ‘undisclosed location’ that was ‘on a farm upstate.'”

At the press conference, questions were raised about the potato’s fitness for office. “The potato is eminently capable of carrying out the duties required: sitting quietly in the governor’s chair, not doing or saying anything stupid, and letting aides sign legislation on its behalf,” Howell said, “duties that Mr. Reeves was consistently unable to discharge.” He added that, unlike Reeves, the potato would also be able to reinvent itself to connect with younger generations, as a plate of french fries or tots.

When it was pointed out to Howell that replacing a sitting governor without an election was illegal and grossly unconstitutional, he boldly predicted victory for the new potato ticked in the upcoming primary and general elections. “Our supporters are issues-driven, not personality-driven,” he said. “As long as the proper letter is next to the name, they will vote for a bowl of bolognese.”

“Besides,” Howell added, “we have a supermajority. Try and stop us.”

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It wasn’t long into Mary Summerall’s semester at Deerton High School when she began to suspect that her students were cheating. The history teacher, a firm believer in lecturing and rote memorization, noticed that some of her students were suddenly making 95-100% on their history tests, when the usual average was around 50-60%.

“That’s when I started looking closely at their essay answers,” says Summerall. “The kids knew things that they shouldn’t have known, and their answers were written in an archaic style and meter. I didn’t want to believe it at first, but I had to admit that the kids were drawing upon forbidden ancient knowledge.”

Not until a few weeks later, when Summerall caught one of her seniors in the act, did she realize how they were doing it. The boy had brought an Ouija board into school, and was receiving test answers from the spirit world–from the restless shades of those who actually lived through the historical events on the test.

“After that, I started finding Ouija boards all over the place,” Summerall says. “In desks, in backpacks, and some of the kids even had miniature ones that they taped into their textbooks. I don’t know how I’m supposed to teach in an environment like this!”

Eventually, Deerton High was able to solve the problem by having the class take their tests in another classroom, supervised by the School Resource Ghostbuster, Officer Winkeganz. But with only one SRG per school, and with them preoccupied with random locker exorcisms and manning the school’s possession detectors, Summerall and her principal know the solution is not scalable. “We’re just waiting for the other shoe to fall, and for kids to start communing with Sir Isaac Newton for help with their calculus homework,” said Deerton’s principal, Dr. Louine Tulnitz. “It’s going to be a huge problem.”

Critics say that Deerton is just one of many schools struggling with widespread availability of spirit guides and the Ouija boards to communicate with them. While old-fashioned seances used to take hours, with no guarantee of success, newer Ouija boards designed to take advantage of advanced Apparition Intelligence are far faster and far easier to use. And while defenders of spectral assistance–sometimes derisively labeled “specbros”–insist that it is a liberating and morally neutral technology, many disagree.

“I just want the soul of my ancestor to rest in peace,” said Li Jiangjiang, a 132nd-generation lineal descendant of Confucius, upon learning that her forebear had been contacted by a Syracuse junior high student for assistance on a paper for an ethics class. “It’s really disrespectful.”

“It’s just a moral panic,” countered Apparition Intelligence enthusiast and self-proclaimed specbro Luke Mons. “People said the same thing about literacy when it was invented, complained that it was ruining people’s ability to memorize things.” Mons, who is in the process of writing a novel with the assistance of Edgar Allen Poe and Ernest Hemingway, also noted that there was no reason for the specters to be truthful when contacted by Ouija: “They can lie, cheat, mislead, and play practical jokes while dead just as much as they could alive,” he says.

Nevertheless, Deerton and a number of other schools have banned Ouija boards in classrooms due to fears of cheating. Mons, reacting to this, said that competing products like China’s Zhānbǔ board and the Russian Uidzha would simply lap Western products and become impossible to ban, restrict, or control. “The genie is out of the bottle, and it’s granting wishes to everyone who wants answers for their history test,” says Mons. “No amount of ghostbusting is going to change that.”

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As the ogre bailiff led the jurors away, Jon Weatherall leaned over to Muhrot. “What sentence can I expect if they convict me?” he whispered.

“Severance from the fey world, as the prosecutor asked,” Muhrot replied curtly. “Were you not listening?”

“Come on, Muhrot. What does that mean, exactly? Aren’t I already severed from you, since I’ve never seen any of you or your kind before in my life.”

“In your life? No. In your dreams? Yes. Severance from the fey world means no more dreams, no more inspiration, no more seeing the unseen. Mundanity unending.”

“Surely the jury wouldn’t do that to a fellow author, would they?” Weatherall said, with a nervous little laugh.

“Only if they think you’re guilty,” said Muhrot, stonefaced.

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Sir Slouh of Perg

Sir Slouh of Perg

Sir Slouh of Perg, also known as the Beast of Perg or the Mountain of Perg, was a noble and landsknecht who attained notoriety in service of Otto VII. The song of the previous lord and a mistress, Slouh was abnormally tall and large for the era, with a height nearing seven feet and a girth that made him truly tower over his contemporaries.

Despite his immense physical strength, honed for years as he worked his way up the ranks of the landsknechte, Slouh was an equally formidable thinker and strategist. He wrought the downfall of seven legitimate heirs before him in the House of Perg, seeing his half-siblings and cousins murdered, imprisoned, exiled, and in at least one case burnt at the stake. With his personal power base secured, Slouh offered his services to Otto VII as a personal troubleshooter both on and off the battlefield.

In battle, Slouh would carry a kite sield in each hand, warding off blows from his enemies and boxing them with the flats, tossing or stunning lesser combatants. Only when he needed to finish a foe would he snatch one of their weapons and drive it home, discarding it immediately after. Even without his size, Slouh could be recognized by his helmet, which bore two gleaming blades like a crown of swords. He was rumored to inflict lethal wounds with it as well, though this is often dismissed as myth in latter days.

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In an era when social engineering makes two-factor authentication increasingly unreliable, rather than escalating to three-factor authentication, GesteBank has done something new and original. Say hello to our new Liberal Arts Account!

In a LAC, all transactions must be accompanied by written work–the longer and more complex the task, the longer and more complex the composition required. Check deposits, for instance, must have a rhyming poem written under the endorsement:

If deposit ye must
By electronic mail
A poem ye must write
Or else it will fail

Opening and closing accounts, receiving cashier’s checks, and most wire transfers will require an essay, while certain transactions like leveraged buyouts and mortgages will require a thesis or dissertation. A short story, novella, or novel can be substituted at the branch manager’s discretion. A timed written test, administered live when the account is opened, will keep patrons from cheating by plagiarism, writing mills, or generative predictive text.

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Nan Livil

Nan Livil

Nan Livil, the first cyclops to play Major League Basketball, was long ridiculed for both his lack of depth perception and his determination to succeed in a sport that required it.

However, his 8’1″ frame, intense athleticism, and ability to shoot a ray of paralysis from his one massive eye five times per long rest helped sway public opinion, and Nan wound up making the Major League Basketball all-star list every year he was on the court, as well as being a seven-time Player of the Year winner and a record-tying four Helmsman Trophy wins. His number/letter combo, 1BDI, was retired when Nan left the game after a torn ACL, as well.

Nan was even the first cyclops to have his name and likeness used on a video game cover, though he was said to dislike the photo that the publisher used and declined further offers to decorate video or computer game boxes.

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Grade 4M4, quartermaster. Pay was less than 3M2 engineer’s mate but better than 5M6 able spaceman. Most military ships had long since replaced their quartermasters with algorithms, but they persisted aboard civilian craft as both a badge of honor and a bit of a luxury. An algorithm wasn’t able to grease palms for fresh and local ingredients, wasn’t able to provide the cooks with what they needed, and certainly wasn’t able to jury-rig repairs and replacements.

Lorne, Grade 4M4 Quartermaster aboard the SS Junebug, had assumed that this would continue to be the case. He kept the small passenger ship outfitted with everything it needed, from oxygen to oysters, and had done so for eight years. So when the message arrived informing him that the next contract–and voyage–would be his last, with an algorithm to take his place, he kept the bottle of vintage champagne intended for the passengers for himself.

Along with Klaus, the cook, who was also slated for replacement by an algorithm hooked up to a set of T-22b manipulators, sat in the observation lounge as the Junebug cruised along its usual Saturn route. They had ringside seats, as it were, for their final cruise.

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I wrote a strongly worded email today
Broke off a piece of my soul and sent it
On the wings of inconvenienced electrons
Heart beating like we were knife fighting
Weeks in the making, days in the dreading
A digital scream, every 0 gaping open
Through the rest of the day and into night
The echoes of that polite aggression
Still leave my hands visibly trembling

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“Do you deny that you twote in support of D-ah, of Mr. X?” Ojrah said. “Do you deny that you took money from the sales of your books and donated it to Conversion Ministries?”

“Of course not,” Weatherall said. “But those are my deeply held personal and religious beliefs.”

“He admits it! Gentlethings of the jury, Mr. Weatherall admits to holding abhorrent personal and religious beliefs,” Ojrah crowed.

“Now, that’s a value judgment that I-”

“There are goblins in your books,” Ojrah continued. “Goblins not unlike my distinguished peer Muhrot, who performs a distasteful task honorably in defending you. You write them as inherently untrustworthy beings who will not hesitate to kidnap and murder to attain their aims.”

Weatherall glanced at Muhrot, red-faced.

“And you go on to paint them as obsessed with money, finance, and profit, going so far as to own goblin stocks and goblin corporations!” said Ojrah.

“The very idea!” Muhrot sat up violently. “That I would sully my hands with currency, stocks, or publically traded shares!” The fact that he was supposed to be defending Weatherall seemingly dawned on him a moment later, and he sat with a mumbled apology.

“The fact is, gentlethings, a reasonable foolish human reader might conclude that Mr. Weatherall has done his research, and that we fey support Mr. X, reject identities that do not accord with superstition, and cleave to harmful sterotypes of commerce and avarice.”

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