“Now, I’ve been working as a psychopomp for 70 years,” Obol says. “I’ve seen the reaping of souls go from putting coins on closed eyes to cryogenic suspension in a generation.”

Responding to a field call, Dr, Obol is on his hands and knees, pulling the soul out of a stubborn cow with a set of old-fashioned reaping chains. “The thing I like about this job is that it keeps me busy, it keeps me on my toes, and I never know what’s going to happen,” he says.

“This cow, for instance, it’s her time. But she’s stubborn, won’t give up the ghost. Some psychopomps might give up at that, go in for an expensive wasting illness or even a chess game. But not me, I’m not afraid of getting my hands dirty.”

The community has come to appreciate Dr. Obol’s unique manner. “Those other reapers, they’re all menacing and silent, dark figures cloaked in the raiment of the grave,” said a local farmer. “Dr. Obol’s different. He cares. Why, he chatted with my aunt even as he collected the should from her body and bore it to the hereafter.”

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And yea, the way unto the land of milk and honey would be opened by a buzzing bush, one whose flower-laden boughs attracted bees by the hundreds. Being wise in the ways of honey as they were, these bees would act as the Hive for a great Queen, and in so doing lead the faithful and sting the unrighteous.

This was all so until the prophet did swat at one bee of the buzzing bush, finding it irksome, and was set upon by their number. For in so swatting the bee, he had upset their Swarm and their Queen, and the land of milk and honey was therefore set apart from him, a land he would see only after forty years and even then not enter. For although the prophet had built a lot of buzz, it had been of the wrong kind.

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Mockingbirds will raise a hue and cry if they see a hawk
Screeching to anyone who will listen before leading an assault
I saw one the other day attacking a hawk perched near its nest
Its cries had attracted only one other bird
And its dives and slashing attacks did not seem to faze the hawk
The raptor sat there, unbothered, as something smaller and weaker broke against it
There are times in my life when I have felt like the hawk
But now, and for the recent past, I feel like the mockingbird
Throwing myself, screaming, at those who would eat me
While they blithely sit there, growing stronger even as my strength flags

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The sound of clattering plastic led to a figure seated in shadow, his suit neatly divided into 20 portions, from spotless to scarred.

“I knew I’d find you here,” Mole-Man, the Subterranean Crusader, said as he drew near.

“Yes, the site of the gaming tournament that made me the man I am today.” Worrying a d20 in one scarred hand, the speaker leaned forward, revealing a face that was also broken into 20 variably-scarred pieces. “Do you want to see what fate has in store for you, Mole-Man?”

“I make my own fate,” the Terrific Tunneler growled. “But roll it if you must, d20-Face.”

The dice clattered to the table. “19. One higher and you’d have been dead instantly, due to double damage.”

“I don’t think it works that way,” Mole-Man said.

d20-Face was already flipping through his manual. “Hang on,” he said. “The encounter table value for 19 refers to another table. You’ll meet your fate just as soon as I get the initiative sorted out.”

“Just tell me where the school bus you kidnapped is,” Mole-Man sighed.

“We’re in here!” a voice said from the other side of a nearby door. “He threw us in here with a 5e starter set and now he won’t let us leave!”

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They say that he lurked near playgrounds and beaches. Always dressed in neon, the latest trendy clothes at the time. Always friendly. Ask any question, make any request, and the answer was always “totally.”

But it didn’t take long for the cracks to show. Greying roots showing through the dye. Skin cracked on the edges of the wrap-around sunglasses. A well-practiced boniness of the fingers.

Mr. Totally was a lot older than he said he was. And he had been at this game a long, long time. Your best option was to turn and run, straight to your mama.

Was Mr. Totally responsible for the spate in disappearances from 1984-1993? No one knows for sure. Only that the disappearances stopped when he, himself, vanished.

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“Look, I don’t know what’s so hard about this,” the angel said. “You got mine and I got yours.”

The demon cast a laconic look at the two souls in question, one in black leather with a mohawk and the other in modest white head to toe. “So you’re saying no one who’s a little punk can possibly make a pact with celestial powers?” it said. “Now, that’s just putting folks in a little box.”

“He SAYS it was a mistake,” the angel retorted. “He meant to contract with the dark powers, and all the good works we require of him are, and I quote, ‘cramping his style.'”

“Standard buyer’s remorse,” the demon responded. “If I tried to trade every soul with you that claimed they wanted celestial instead of infernal powers, we’d never get anything done.”

“What about your soul?” the angel cried, exasperated.

“Oh, they use the power of their position to enforce their own moral code on others,” it said. “Clearly a case for infernal affairs.”

“You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?” The angel pulled at its hair, wings beating in frustration. “Me stuck with an obvious heavy metal demon fanatic while you take my nice white-collar soul.”

“What I’m enjoying, my friend, is that our respective souls are surprisingly well-suited to their predicament and that we ought to perhaps regard the circumstance as a happy accident.” The demon beamed. “And also watching you squirm.”

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As customers at LexBank LLC know, we pride ourselves on the accessibility of our menu options at our drive-thru ATM. This is why we offer, at customer request, options not only for English and Spanish, but also Vietnamese, Somali, and more.

As such, you will notice a new option beginning the week of May 9: chuk’Kuhn, the holy script of the chameloids. For those who are unaware, chameloids are alien imposters from beyond the moon who infiltrate other societies to live among them. Chameloid language options will be available from that date to service this new and important demographic.

LexBank LLC has been asked why this is the case, as surely shape-shifting aliens can read and write Earth languages if their goal is to blend in here to avoid the Omnipurge. Our response is the same as when we added the Basque language option: it is more important to be inclusive, even if that language option is only for a single chameloid battle-thrall whose linguothalamus is damaged.

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CRAWFISH LIVE OR BOILED the roadside stand said
Baskets on the curb, waterlogged, laden with those who await their fate
Excess water, in rivulets, running down the gentle slope of the hill
But in that weak flow, movement. An escapee
Pitched over the side and finding refuge in the flow
Inching downhill to the drainage ditch, and safety
A moment’s notice will doom it
A customer’s tires will crush it
And yet as I sit there, transfixed, waiting at my light
I am in its corner, rooting for the impossible escape
If it can persevere despite the odds, and win
Perhaps there is hope for us all, yet

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Q: Why can’t STØR deliver to Asheville, NC?

A: An ancient Swedish troll named Gvir Gnashbone lives in Asheville, and by ancient law we at STØR may not approach within 20 leagues of his abode.

Q: I was able to get a STØR order delivered to Asheville years ago, what has changed?

A: At one time, it was possible to cast a rune of banishment at Gvir’s feet to exile him from the mortal world for a month and a day, provided that this was done by someone that had no affiliation with STØR. However, changes in STØR’s management structure that led to all employees being reclassified as independent contractors, in order to deny them health care and basic constitutional rights, means that this is no longer possible.

Q: I really need something from STØR delivered to Asheville. May I banish Gvir and request a delivery?

A: For liability reasons, STØR cannot allow customers to attempt banishment. After one customer’s bones were ground by Gvir to make his bread, and another cast a rune incorrectly and banished a FedEx employee from the mortal plane, STØR ended its “free shipping with proof of banishment” policy.

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It has been decided that having alien xenembryos removed is no longer legal for a variety of moral, ethical, and procedural reasons. As of this publication, removing an alien parasite will now constitute a crime of murder with all the penalties that entails.

Why this sudden change? Well, firstly, xenembryo parasites inflicted on unwilling hosts are living beings too. They were created by God, and if in His infinite wisdom and divine unknowable plan they need to be implanted in a host, then His will be done. The startlingly high rate of death from harboring this parasite, and of having it burst forth, is immaterial to this holy duty.

Second, exceptions will of course be made for the worthy. If you are wealthy, or well-connected, you can simply travel to a country that allows xenembryo removal. It should take no more than a month and a few thousand dollars, an easily bearable cost. Remember, if you are not blessed with the prosperity to indulge in this recourse, it is because you’re not holy enough!

We also want to make sure that there are consequences for actions that people have to face. Sure, an alien throatjammer may have used its proboscis to implant a potentially fatal xenembryo without your consent. But really it’s your own fault for provocatively flashing your throat around town and frequenting large swaths of Earth’s contaminated surface.

Some have asked if this new policy means that medical care for those who survive xenembryo implantation and torsoburster explantation, or if this represents a new policy to combat alien implantation attacks. The answer is no; we simply don’t have the budget for all that. Pray harder and ask for prosperity if you really want it!

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