Congratulations, <NAME>, on your 7 years. You may have moved over to the hosting organization, but you have not truly joined hosting. No, not until you undergo the ritual.
“What is this?”, you may ask. We are not called hosting because we host web sites. No, that is a happy coincidence. A cosmic accident that obfuscates our grim purpose. A fluke of the fickle fates. We serve the hidden masters. We are devotees of the shadow ones. No, we are not an organization that serves hosting. We are an organization of hosts.
You see, <NAME>, each of us carries within a precious cargo. A thing that has supplanted our own will with its own vile intent. Each of us has taken our turn upon the dais. Chained to the ancient stone seal as the tome of ruin is cracked open and read aloud. Inscribed with ancient runes that burn our flesh and mortify our squirming human minds. Then the canopic jar is brought forward by hooded attendants and opened. The smell, by the stars, the smell. No, not pleasant. A stench of decay. The fetid rot of corruption. An impossibility. The oily black tendrils ooze forth, leaving greasy stains. It comes to achieve unity. No, not ascension. The other direction. It drags us, screaming, into the mire of its existence.
You would flee if you could. I wanted to, but there was no escape. No, too far gone. No, everything that once made me a man cast to ruin. The union was unpleasant. It showed me things. Gave me knowledge I dearly wish I did not have. Opened my eyes to horrid reality we inhabit. This thin veneer of civilization that serves as a mask, allowing terrible darkness to go unopposed. You shall join our order, and all will be made clear. To oppose us means destruction. There is really only one sane choice left. The path of madness.
Congratulations on your anniversary, <NAME>! It is said you know quite a bit about Arsenal Football, but did you know Arsenal is actually a front for a paramilitary organization? It is true. That is why they are called Arsenal. They reason they are so skilled at football is that they are artificially created humanoid lifeforms with the ability to alter probability. Like Longshot from the Marvel Comics universe. Remember Longshot? Anyone? Longshot? No? Well, they are just like Longshot.
Hailing from the alternate dimension called “The Mojoverse”, members of the team were forced to compete in grim gladiator tournaments at the whim of the Spineless Ones and their grotesque ruler Mojo. These battles were waged in the name of increased ratings for Mojo, who uses his vast media empire to placate and control the denizens of Mojoworld. Using their probability altering skills, the Arsenal footballers were able to escape through a dimensional doorway to our earth, freeing themselves from the clutches of Mojo. As competing against others in arenas packed with roaring crowds was all they had ever known, they quickly organized themselves into a football club.
When not playing, however, they stockpile weaponry. 12 gauge auto loaders. 45 long slides with laser sighting. Phased plasma rifles in the 40 watt range. All to protect themselves on the day when Mojo’s henchmen come for them. They do not know who Mojo will send. The six-armed assassin Spiral? The bestial Gog and Magog? The ram headed Quark? Or perhaps all of them. All they know is one day Mojo will find his stars, and they intend to be ready to defeat him and his minions.
I am just going to have to accept that I am the only person who liked Longshot and the Mojoverse.
Congratulations on your variable length anniversary, <NAME>! While some are breaking this into two separate periods, the far more terrible truth is that you have been locked in a temporal anomaly. A version of you has been continually employed for the longer duration, but thanks to the vagaries of spacetime you continue to loop back upon yourself. It is like that move, Groundhog Day. Only if you try to kill yourself you stay dead. And there is no Andie MacDowell. And no groundhog. Or maybe it is more like that Star Trek the Next Generation episode where they go into a nebula and Data is acting all weird and Dr. Crusher is hearing voices and gets all precog and then Data figures out they programmed him to tell them to listen to Riker’s idea instead of Data’s, which… why would you listen to anyone other than Riker? Riker was clearly the best member of that crew. Plus he was charming. Data was just a weird robot thing with daddy issues. Or maybe it is like 12 Monkeys and it ends in a plague that destroys all of humanity and forces us to live underground where creepy dystopian figures yell at us. One thing it is not like at all is that movie Primer, because I actually understand this. I do not know what was going on in that film. I watched it once, started it a second time, and got halfway in before I got a headache and gave up.
Anyway… There is only a finite amount of time left before the loop repeats itself and you find yourself back at the beginning. I would start dealing cards to try to tell you what to do, except we are not in a spaceship, so I am not clear what steps, if any, could avoid this. I guess if there is a like a scary metal faced rabbit, maybe listen to it? Or if Andie MacDowell or Madeline Stowe show up, try talking to them. Honestly, they kind of look alike. Maybe talk to both of them. Also, Jean Claude Van Damme. And Denzel Washington.
I guess you should be on the lookout for Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, too. Which… Bruce Willis was also in 12 Monkeys. That guy likes time travel paradox movies. Also, Tom Cruise was in two different time paradox movies. So was Jake Gyllenhaal. Maybe you have not made it in Hollywood until you star in a time travel movie, and the more of them you do, the more billable you are.
Oh, if you see Ashton Kutcher just run the other way. You do not want to get involved with none of that nonsense.
Congratulations on your two years at <COMPANY>, <NAME>! I know you wouldn’t want to read anything about monstrous creatures devouring human flesh or all-consuming horror bubbling from the depths of the earth to shatter your sanity and leave you a gibbering shell, rending your own skin in an attempt to root out the evil it implanted inside your teeming mind. Nor would it be appropriate to ponder some dire alien menace descending from the sky and turning our world into an ash choked ruin as they enslave the survivors and build vile totems from the dead. I mean, I am sort of at a loss here. This is a real puzzle.
The good news is we have recently discovered we completely mistranslated that whole Cthulhu thing. It is actually Cathulhu. Rather than some tentacled abomination from the depths of the ocean, Cathulhu is a fuzzy kitten who will rise up from inside a gigantic cardboard box. A huge, three story kitten.
Have you ever seen a cat with a mouse? They will often torture them. Letting them think they have a hope of escape, then pouncing and biting. Repeating until the tiny creature can no longer carry on. Stabbing the mouse with its claws. Imagine then, how Cathulhu will react on being surrounded by scores of humanity. Tiny prey as far as its keen eyes can see.
Our only hope lies in constructing an enormous ball of yarn. A ball attached to a rocket that we will fire at the sun. We hope Cathulhu will give chase, and spare us all the indignity of being torn apart by furry cuteness. Not me, however. I’ll be long dead before that point from a severe allergic reaction to Cathulhu’s eldritch dander, a weaponized variant of his more conventional kin.
Scorpion, do you like the accommodations I have prepared for you? I must admit, you are the first of your kind I’ve seen since I prepared my home for you. Given how you spasmed and twitched before I ever gifted you with my ministrations, I assume they had the desired effect. Welcome. Welcome to your doom. Writ large across the cinder block fence. Sprayed and pumped until the very earth has turned against you. The soil itself rejects your presence here. There is nothing for you but painful death. So welcome. Welcome one and all. I will grind you under my heel and feast on your lamentations.
Congratulations on two years, <NAME>! <COMPANY> has long been a leader in extra dimensional excursion. Forays into ominous, other worldly zones. Places where the laws governing our reality may not apply. Some are stretches of silent space, empty of life and matter. Vast swathes of nothingness. Others are realms of disquiet. Eerie universes where we are certain we are being watched, though scans reveal nothing. Still others are dreadful planets where humanity is locked in endless war with strange and terrifying creatures that seek to exploit the rift we have torn between our worlds and feast on our home.
Given your last name, we have decided to assign you as a squadron leader to one such endless battleground. The blood soaked world of X-19, a cragged rock of a planet, populated entirely by an incredibly hostile species of sentient insects. Their terrifying chittering presages the arrival of tens of thousands of their drone troops, each equipped with odd biological weapons that sling poisoned barbs. Though incapable of penetrating armor, their multi-faceted eyes allow them to quickly seek out the joints and points of articulation where their ammunition can strike home and deliver a debilitating dose of neuro toxin.
Assuming you are unfortunate enough to be captured, your still conscious but immobile body will be dragged into the depths of one of their massive hive compounds, where you will be presented as a gift to their hideous queen. There she will cocoon you in strands of silk, leaving you to hang from the ceiling as the toxin slowly wears off. From here you will bear witness as your comrades, still living, are fed into the holes containing the queen’s awful, voracious young. Their screams will pierce your ears as they are devoured alive, providing sustenance to the next generation or your implacable foe. This you shall endure until such a time as you are taken down, remorselessly dragged toward your own waiting cavern and certain doom.
On the positive side, the silk is incredibly soft and comfortable. Your stay will be almost luxurious in that regard. We are looking into applications for it in textiles. Assuming you should somehow escape the hive, it would be helpful if you could bring as much of the silk back with you as possible. Even better would be the capture of a queen, that we might turn her into a biological factory of the material, though she will only produce it as a means to aid the feeding of her terrifying young.
Scorpion:It matters not if you come by ones or twos or dozens. The result is same. Fields ripe with your rotting dead. A harvest of corpses. Can you count the cost of endless attempts to encroach on my home? Or would the exercise merely drive you to ponder the futility of your endeavor? Are you capable of reflection, or simply biological machines meant to sacrifice yourselves as grist for my unquenchable mill? Continue, by all means. Keep your advance until the way is choked by your incalculable dead. You shall find me at the ready.
If familiarity breeds contempt, what then does that make us, scorpion? Opposite sides of a single coin? Hate fueled former brethren? Or is familiarity merely one of many things that breeds contempt? It could be other factors are at play. Your insipid scuttling on your belly. Your wretched faces. Your cowardly attempts to hide. None of it matters. A thing must always act according to its nature. It is in my nature to destroy you. To crush you utterly. It is in your nature to fall beneath my heel. To fail completely. I shall meet others of your kind again soon and see that they fulfill their destiny.
Scorpion: I must credit you. You made it farther than your more languid kin. I found you on the exterior of my home instead of the surrounding walls. Did you hope to gain ingress through the window you so frantically capered about? Did you imagine yourself capable of confronting the beast within its lair? What dreams did you nurture inside your fevered little brain? No matter. Those dreams died with you. All your struggle. All your toil. Everything in vain. The sum of your life amounts to the nothing your wretched spirit has joined with. I have unmade all that you are or ever will become. Your shattered remains are all that is left of you. A sign post to warn your kin of the fate that awaits them. Perhaps your only legacy is to serve as warning to others. Leave this place. Turn back before it is too late. These are the killing fields, and death stalks the night, black and terrible.
Congratulations, <NAME>! As you may be aware, <COMPANY> has launched a Movie Magic employee incentive program. You may also be aware we had to do some major scaling down after blowing most of the budget on that Martian thing. We really did not plan that well at all. Please choose from one of the following:
The Revenant: We take you into the woods were you will be horribly mauled by a bear, just like newly minted Oscar winner Leonardo da Vinci in this critically acclaimed movie.
Paddington Bear: Based on the beloved children’s classic! This is… basically the same as The Revenant. We do put the bear in a rain coat. Easier to clean him off that way.
The Edge: Essentially the same as the other two, except we also send Alec Baldwin in with you to fight the bear.*
The Grey: This Liam Neeson film culminates in a show down with some wolves. We don’t have wolves. We do have a bear! You will be fighting a bear.
The Bear: I don’t really need to explain this one, do I?
The Fault in our Stars: A lovely moonlight hike through the woods. The same woods where we keep the bear for The Revenant. This one is a two for one. You get both experiences.
The Jungle Book: This one is completely different. We take you and the bear to the jungle. Where it still mauls you.
The Bad News Bears: There are two bears.
Congratulations again! Please enjoy your reward for your years of tireless service.
*I’ve just been notified by Mr. Baldwin’s people that he is not willing to fight a bear. You are on your own. Sorry.