Anniversary Email 67

Please join me in wishing a happy 7 year anniversary to <NAME>! In celebration of your anniversary, please find the enclosed Choose Your Own Adventure Story.

You find yourself leaving your village for the first time. The elders of your small, but thriving community have asked you to seek out and stop the goblin menace. From your earliest days you recall hearing grim tales of when the goblins would come. Small, green skinned creatures that feed on human children and torture and maim all who stand in their way. You are armed with your trusty short sword and clad in a suit of chain mail cobbled together by Odan, the town blacksmith. It is not so much chain mail as it is bits of metal stuck together with wire and glue. Odan was never a very good blacksmith, you think to yourself as bits of the armor swing loose and fall to the ground. He only fell into the job because he likes playing with fire. Honestly, he strikes you as kind of dim. You would have made a better blacksmith. Even the mayor’s goat, Petunia, would have done a better job. You have lost track of the number of people injured using tools and weapons made by Odan. Heads of hammers swinging off and striking them in the face. At least your short sword is a family heirloom from a better era.

You are startled out of you reverie by a shrill voice calling out, “Who goes there?”

Looking ahead, you see a small goblin seated on a tree stump at the edge of the forest. He has a staff laying lazily across one shoulder and is idly smoking a corn cob pipe.

<To stab the goblin in the face, go to section A>
<To address the goblin, go to section B>

A.
You stab the goblin in the face with your trusty short sword. He screams, “Why have you done such a thing? We are a peaceful community of farmers, subjected to persecution and intolerance by the humans who inhabit this region! Oh, what a terrible fate has befallen me! Truly, this world is awash in villainy and darkness! I am glad I leave no heirs to suffer in this vile world! At least I die with my principles intact! Can you say the same?”

At least, he would have screamed that, but with a sword in his face it comes out more like, “Gah! Gurgle gurgle hack hack hack! Aargh!”

He falls to the ground, his tiny goblin legs twitching as his body shudders one final time. You return to your village to a hero’s welcome. Your friends and neighbors run into the forest, armed with pitchforks and torches, routing the remaining goblins and ensuring a life of safety and security for your human settlement. At least until a rival kingdom approaches in the depths of winter, stealing all of your food stores and valuables, leaving those they do not put to the sword to starve to death among the torched remains of your village.

B.

“I am <NAME>, last of my house, finest warrior in this realm!” you call out to the goblin. “To whom am I speaking?”

“I am Worm Mouth,” comes the reply, “of the goblin settlement ‘Forrest Village’, a village in this forest. We… are not a very creative group. What we are is a peaceful community devoted to the ideals of pacifism and growing organic, gluten free, sustainable crops. All are welcome, provided they walk the path of peace.”

<To stab the goblin in the face, go to section A>
<To explain to the goblin the weakness of pacifism in a feudal system ruled by might of the sword, go to section C>

C.

“Pacifism is an unsustainable ideology in the face of those capable of great violence,” you explain. “There are times when only violence or the threat of violence can prevent further harm to your people. When thousands might die in war to save millions.”

“Ah,” says Worm Mouth, “You argue that a morally objectionable action is justified provided it nets a positive outcome. Consequentialism. I would argue that nonviolent resistance can achieve the same ends.”

<To stab the goblin in the face, go to section A>
<To argue against the virtues of Dentology, go to section D>

D.

“Your belief system seems to place great faith in the idea that authority can be trusted,” you tell the goblin. “There are times when rules and duty are merely tools to perpetuate a corrupt and broken system. Further, you deal in absolutes, assuming that violence must always be wrong, when I have previously stated violence is merely a tool to drive a greater good. Sometimes some must suffer so others may prosper.”

Worm Mouth taps his pipe against the stump and replies, “To accept the use of violence in once situation makes it easier to use it in other, similar circumstances. On what grounds do you base your decision to be the adjudicator of when harm to another is called for? What gives you that right? Would you trade any of your beliefs provided you could achieve a net benefit?”

<To stab the goblin in the face, go to section A>
<To argue the virtues of moral relativism, go to section E>

E.

“No system of beliefs is superior to all others,” you tell the goblin. “There are times when flexibility is called for to defend yourself or others from the threat of harm. There are no universal moral values. Even murder can justified under the right circumstances.”

“It is better to die for the cause of peace and justice than to live as a hypocrite,” the goblin says. “My people have accepted the true path of harmony. You should join us.”

<To stab the goblin in the face, go to section A>
<To accept his offer, go to section F

F.

Taking the goblins tiny, proffered hand, you follow him back to his village. His people are happy and content, all working together to harvest their crop and ensure a serene, peaceful life. At least until the people of your village descend upon them with pitchforks and torches, slaughtering the goblins. They declare you a traitor and imprison you. With only the memory of your time among your goblin friends to sustain you, you slowly fade into madness.

Anniversary Email 66

Please join me in wishing <NAME> a happy 8 year anniversary with <COMPANY>!  <NAME> , for your continued dedication and hard work on <PRODUCT>, please choose from one of the following “Evening with the stars” rewards:

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson: Unfortunately, Mr. Johnson is not available, but we do have the next best thing. An actual rock. Yes, you will get to spend quality time with a big ol’ boulder. It really doesn’t matter which one. There are plenty of them around here.

Taylor Swift: We couldn’t book Taylor Swift. We couldn’t even book Taylor Hanson. We did find a local cross country runner named Taylor, and he is pretty fast, so we went with that.

The cast of Ghostbusters: Who you gonna call? Not these comediennes, apparently. They wouldn’t return any of our calls. In their place we got a bag full of angry cobras. Why a bag full of angry cobras? Good question. Next.

Ellen: It was pretty easy to find someone named Ellen. Honestly, we weren’t even trying by this point.

Charmander: Wait, no. Sorry. I’m just playing Pokémon Go. Charmander isn’t real. I guess I could like… tie a lighter to a tail of a lizard? That might work. Sure. Let’s go with that.

Blastoise: Still playing Pokémon. I can just hot glue a couple squirt guns to a turtle. That will look a lot like Blastoise.

Pikachu: I could duct tape some live electrical wires to a rat I spray painted yellow. This is easy.

Gary Busey: I’m pretty sure we can actually get Gary Busey. I don’t think he is up to much these days.

Congratulations again! Thank you for all your hard work!

Anniversary Email 65

Happy anniversary, <NAME>. To help you celebrate, we are sending you to lovely LV-426, a planetoid in the Zeta II Reticulli system. Once there, you will enjoy such activities as exploring strange beacons and wearing a sealed breathing suit because the atmosphere is primordial and inert.

Once you have landed, feel free to explore the surrounding area. If you find any strange, U shaped derelict space craft, go on inside and have a look around. Really just… take it all in. Touch stuff. Press buttons. Be certain to look for any areas that seem like they may have cargo. Go into those and clumsily walk around. Bump into things. If you see any eggs, lean in really close for a good look. Even if it is opening. Especially if it is opening. Get your face right in there. It is completely safe. It is only an egg.

If you come across anyone with some kind of spider/crab thing attached to their face, feel free to disregard quarantine and bring them back on your ship. The safety of all our employees is paramount, and that is the fastest way to get them to a doctor. Head into orbit and punch in a course straight to earth. Should said spider creature fall off, you can safely assume the danger is past and invite that crew member or colonist to rejoin you at all normal activities, like eating dinner. Just put down a table cloth or a tarp or something. Because it looks nicer. Not because some monster baby is going to claw its way free of their chest. That would be ridiculous. Oh, some towels would also be a good idea.

If at any point during your journey a giant space cockroach starts murdering crew members, try to fight it with homemade weapons and flamethrowers. Those will almost certainly be effective. At no point should you seal yourself in the command deck and wait the thing out. If you have a cat on board, we encourage you to risk your life and the life of everyone else to go save it. Every creature is precious. At no point during any of this should you attempt to utilize the escape pods. If you do decide to use one, leave the door open while you go off and do something else. We thank you for your cooperation in this matter. Enjoy your trip!

Anniversary Email 64

Greetings and congratulations on completing your first/an additional term of service demarcated by a solar orbit by our planet. Certainly, your contributions have soared, just like the temperatures as of late. Some would claim that the record temperatures are the result of meteorological phenomenon. We, however, know better.

We must assume, nay, lay claim to certain knowledge that somewhere in our vast metropolis there is a group that has opened a portal to an otherworldly dimension of flame and heat. A place solely inhabited by creatures with rock like flesh who spew magma from whatever orifice they have that most closely resembles a mouth. Perhaps ringed with rows of diamond teeth for them to chew whatever their lava like saliva cannot immediately destroy. Their hands, if you can call them that, would certainly resemble some manner of pinscher, the better to grasp their prey for the inevitable showering. We can further surmise they would have a whip like tail to entangle and immobile their prey will noxious venom. Even now, we have to assume these flame beasts spill forth in great numbers, turning all they touch into cinders and ash, devouring all that resists their infernal caress.

We have no choice but to abandon this city and hope in time the portal closes, sending these creatures scurrying for home and leaving those who dawdle to await our mercy. Only then will this city rise like its namesake from the ashes, capable of being inhabited by humanity once more. Until such a time, it is best that forget this place, and seek our fortunes elsewhere. I hear the north country is nice, though not without risk of being attacked by the terrible yeti, demons of the snow, come winter time.  Wherever our pilgrimage takes us, one thing is certain: It is too late to save this wretched place.

Anniversary Email 63

Happy anniversary, <NAME>! It is weird, I had a dream about this last night. Lo, there came forth a great and terrible cracking, as though the seals of Armageddon were thrown open. A vast rent split apart the earth, swallowing entire cities, and from it boiled forth a vile tide. Leather winged monstrosities with flames for tongues and mouths overflowing with dagger like fangs. Their numbers blackened the skies before they descended, shrieking, upon the assembled devotees and cultists who cried out to them for deliverance. It was a slaughter of unprecedented scale. Bones stripped bare and cast aside to bleach under the wan light of a blood red sun.

All this I witnessed from atop a hill in the shape of a human skull, gnashing my teeth in impotent rage. The firmament tore itself asunder, and from the coal black clouds came a shining silver host, their gleaming swords striking outward and felling the beasts where they clashed, but too late, far too late for those piled in the carrion pits below. The two sides fought bitterly, tooth and claw against sword and shield. Having lost to momentum of the charge, the shimmering warriors began to be torn from their mounts and dragged to the earth below to wallow in the mire.

From behind me came a thing of smoke and death. Dressed in the souls of the fallen it whispered for me to bear witness to all that was to come. To serve as the herald even as my mouth filled with blood and my mind squirmed in revulsion. I saw all with eyes not my own, and the truth was burned into the teeming madness of my fevered brain.

I am pretty sure the dream was about the anniversary, at least. I can never really tell any more. The lines are getting really blurry. Anyway, happy anniversary!

Anniversary Email 62

Please join me in wishing a very happy 10th anniversary to<NAME>. Heading into the double digits as the outside temperature soars into the triple digits. It is not all celebration and joy, however, for they have come. The bees. In massive swarms they have invaded, conquering the Usery Mountain area. Some say it is all part of a diabolical plan to turn all of Las Sendas into one massive hive, a labyrinthian structure from which they can wage war on Phoenix, turning the surrounding cities into fields of corpses from which more flowers might spring to feed their insatiable need for pollen. That their empire of wax and honey shall creep ever onward, slowly extending its way across the desert southwest, into California, where at last they shall meet the ocean. From there the bees shall fashion submersibles of honeycomb and plumb the depths of our world, bringing the aquatic world under their control.
Of course, others say it is just some bees and the apocalyptic warnings are little over the top. That bees can’t swim, let alone make submarines. That this sort of message is hysterical and a waste of time. That we in the bee fearing community need a new hobby. Wherever the truth may lie, it is clear no one can stop them. That we are doomed and nothing can be done. Soon all the world will be one gigantic bee hive. Certainly some survivors will be spared. Forced to toil for the bees, feeding and caring for their queen. Made to mix them sugar water and serve as the vanguard for the bee army, a human shield wall against their foes, from behind which they shall swarm and overwhelm their enemies. It is too late for humanity, but perhaps we can send a message into space, warning others to steer clear of the earth, for it belongs to the bee dominion. Now and forever.

Happy anniversary!

Football

I first began to notice I was different from the other boys around puberty. I didn’t seem to have the same interests they did. They would huddle up and exchange knowing glances and whisper shared secrets, but I just didn’t understand the attraction. I felt out of place. Alone.

It is only football. I have never understood the obsession with sport. The tedium of bone crushing hits interspersed with seemingly endless banal commentary about how the team that wants it more will win. Well, the team that wants it more and is willing to pay for the absolute freak of nature players required to compete at the highest levels. Wanting it will not make a difference if you weigh 140 pounds and a 250 pound linebacker decides to personally introduce your face to the astro-turf. Want it all you like as you recover from your concussion and the multiple broken bones you sustained when that human growth hormone fueled caricature of a human being hit you like a locomotive composed of flesh and hate. They made a movie about that difference. It was called Rudy. Rudy got to play about three plays for all his longing to be in the big game. Want has nothing to do with it. Drugs and money and training are what make the difference.

I understand the basic structure of the game. Four downs. Ten yards. You have to scrimmage enough yardage in your allotted space to advance to the next series of downs, else kick the oblong thing they call a “ball” as close as possible to your own goal line. Conceptually it makes sense. The execution is where things go sideways. Grown men wearing headsets and barking at other grown men in overstuffed uniforms what to do, all to push that strange looking brown… thing toward a tuning fork jutting from the earth like some skinny metal-head throwing the horns.

What all of this has to do with watered down beer and sixteen bladed razors is something I will never understand. There is nothing left to turn into an advertisement. I suppose the next logical step is to let the quarterback tattoo his forehead with the Nike logo. Perhaps at halftime we could have the Budweiser cheerleaders battle the Miller Light squad to the death at the fifty yard line. Let the fans vote on who gets the swords.

I could regale you with stories of my Tiefling star pact warlock named Sebastion Blaque. How I wondered whether it would be wiser to invest the gold I had earned adventuring into a new set of armor to bump my AC, or instead spend it on an enchanted rod to boost my attack accuracy and strength. Of course, I had a feat available to spend that could also use on either giving him an additional language, which could prove invaluable in deciphering the ancient tome he had uncovered, or instead to utilize it for something more martial.

If you found all of that incomprehensible and tedious to read, welcome to my understanding of sports.

My Ragnar Contest Entry

You can vote here:
http://bit.ly/1N5razV

There is a terrible darkness that gnaws at the souls of men. A vast and inescapable void that looms, ever present, and hungers. My own studies into the forbidden had led me down the path to madness. The toll of grappling with things which should not be seen, and cannot be unseen. I had worried my nails to ruins, and found myself plagued by a cough. My laugh a nervous titter. The Miskatonic University was more asylum than a place of learning. The lost and wicked roamed the halls, either unaware of uncaring what they had sacrificed in their quest for knowledge best left hidden. A sanitarium of the damned.

I slept fitfully, straining against my covers and sweating profusely as horrors haunted my dreams. Dead things in sunken cities that would rise once more to bring ruin to our world. A terrible mass of undulating tentacles that would alight upon the forest and give birth to twisted nightmare beasts. A king in yellow, seated on an ancient throne in the frozen plateau of Leng.

One night, he came. The Viking. His eyes blazed beneath his helm. He pointed his axe at me and spoke. I cannot say for certain what he said, for I do not speak Norse. The path was clear to me, however. Ragnar himself had come to me in a vision. He swept his arm to reveal a trail. An escape. I could not save myself from what I had learned, but I could run from it.

Run I did. Into the night. Through the night. In the mornings. Afternoons. It did not matter the time. Only in flight could I find peace. Only in fruitless attempts to flee could I find some measure of tranquility. I found others, and joined with them. Ragnar himself had brought me to this place, and while it is not salvation, it is the best I can hope for. When the Deep Ones come, boiling forth from the oceans in advance of the dread Cthulhu, I cannot escape, but I can run. When the spawn of Shub-Niggurath ooze forth from the woods, I can run. When Ragnorak comes and Ragnar himself takes the field of battle against the giants, I can run.

#RagnarMovesMe

Scorpion Chronicles 27

Last night’s kill count: 1

There you were. Daintily perched atop the wall, contemplating your course of action. On one side, security and safety. A place you knew. Where you grew into your current loathsome incarnation. Where you might go about your business unmolested. Where you could hunt and lie to yourself that you are a king. The unchallenged apex predator.

On the other, tales of death and horror. Of a mad man with eyes like fire. A demon with a stick and poison breath to rain suffering and doom on you and all your wretched fellows. A crazed beast that frothed at the mouth and screamed for blood. That which hunts the hunters.

Did you expect your temerity might save you? That I might be wracked by the same indecision and stay my hand? Fool. What did you seek to find here, scorpion? Glory? These are fields of Gehenna. Here you shall find judgement and death. Only judgement and death. There are no tales of valor sung in this accursed place. No tome inscribed with tales of great heroes. Only the corpses of the shattered and broken. The rotting flesh of those who felt their insides burn and putrefy. This is where you met your end. This is how it always ends. I left your wretched remains atop the wall as a monument to your impertinence. Let any others who share your ambition look upon them and know the cost of hubris.