[YOUTHFRONT] Meet Captain Aneurysm

I’m still a couple of weeks away from releasing the first chapter of YOUTHFRONT, my new web serial. YOUTHFRONT’s website is still under construction, but I wanted to share this clip from chapter 25 in the meantime. YOUTHFRONT is a super-hero story set in the year 2035, 19 years into the reign of America’s first super-president.


“Happy fucking birthday, America! It’s the midnight hour which means it’s time for Radiooooooo Stigmata. From God’s mouth to my heart to your ears, this is the Captain and I am ready to Bone. Your. Mind.

It’s a goddamn circus out there, Blood Brothers. There’s an oval in the middle but this tent’s got three rings. Don’t get fooled by the purple clown with the silver hair. An idle ass is the devil’s puppet-hole, as the saying goes. The Captain knows.

Time was the Captain had the devil in there elbow deep. Long time Blood Brothers know. You newbies, you can read all about it in my memoir, Zounds!: From Blood Warrior to God Warrior, that’s Zounds!, from Doubting Thomas Press. It’s a gnarly tale of sin and sorrow, little Blood Brothers, but I hope you too can see the light.

So let’s talk about the devil. Ol’ Salt Peter, the Lord of the Flies. The Tiger Force at the Heart of All Things. The wicked black goat, and I don’t mean that scary chick outta New Bayonne. No, Blood Bros, I am talking about Satan himself.

Who is Satan? Where is Satan? Would we know him if we see him? Seems we’ve got every other kinda monster, demon and ultra-villain. We’ve got two Draculas in the Error Zone, scorpion-men in New Pandemonium and folks sayin’ they’ve seen Baba Yaga in Queens. What’s the score, Blood Fam? With all this smoke, where’s the lake of fire?

Breathe in that smoke, Blood Brothers. In the Bible our fall could take a day but words do funny things with time. I hear it in the heartbeats of snakes and playing children. It’s written in the juices on the butcher room floor. We haven’t seen the beginning of the end, Blood Brothers. We’ve barely seen the end of the beginning.

Now, back to Satan.”

It Lives

Apologies for having disappeared recently; I’ve been focusing deeply on a new project and trying to keep the details under wrap.

It will still be a couple more weeks until that’s out the pipeline, but in the mean time, check out this setting guide I’ve written for Unknown Armies:
Paris Texas vs. The 333rd Reich

Unknown Armies’ 3rd edition is recently out, and it’s one of my favorite tabletop games. Gamestyles can run the gamut from comedic urban fantasy to personal-yet-cosmic horror. The setting is a fun, gameable take on consensus reality that’s difficult to digest into a single high concept. Essentially, hacking culture and hacking the psyche can lead to hacking reality- either by communion with eternal archetypes or reality-bending obsession with some personal mania. Every action has a price and a consequence in Unknown Armies, and every event has a human source. The game makes it themes clear with the slogan: You Did It.

I devised the setting of Paris, Texas last summer and then made some revisions after satire devoured reality last fall. I’ve got another supplement coming out soon- a school of magic based around purging the soul and becoming a grotesque p-zombie- as well as a guidebook introducing a new cult for the setting. I hope you find time to check them out, or at least to find out more about Unknown Armies!

Ode to A Cretin’s Pig Craw

Sweet pig craw nostalgic
driven by careful pumps,
porcine stomach, leather hose,
bellows of the hearth-
  
Fetid, tepid substrate,
heaving archaic germs,
open for me your nozzle.
Feed me the Old Stink.
  
Haunting names consume me,
abyssal crawling words,
cosmos caged in baubles
casting micro-jungles.
  
I swab viral memory
laced on cotton fibers,
seeding seething splendor
in your generous glands.
   
The dawn’s a breaking friend
with fists of ruthless cash.
Inhaling deep the Old Stink
I stumble through pink day.

Part Four: Consummation (Finale)

The mud was webbed with cyclops-roots, red and thick and deep. The freshest ones lay at the top, tiny tendrils worming towards their forebears. The triple-cyclops flit between the gaps in the network with astonishing speed and grace, coiling and flattening its body to make sharp tight turns in the muck. The stolen antenna of The Inspector trailed behind it, tickling the roots as they passed.
 
As they dove deeper the roots grew thicker while the mud degraded into a translucent blue plasm. Maebel was surprised to find she could breathe it in, the warm gel steadying her heartbeat as it slurped in and out of her lungs. Eventually the triple-cyclops slowed its descent, until they were suspended at the tip of a massive tendril.
 
Three eyes looked on her expectantly as the root wiggled deeper into the plasm. Maebel tilted her head downward, or her best guess as to downward, towards the endless blue expanse the roots invaded. They could have been six feet away from the bottom of the world, or sixty-thousand leagues. There was no way to tell.
 
Perhaps she should have felt some fear, then. Nothing in the Grief Pod had ever prepared her for this. She was past the world of things she knew. She was past the world of things in general, an articulate invader in a formless world. One by one she tested her knuckles, bending them each one at a time, then her elbow, then her knees, then the full circumference of her neck.
 
She heard several small pops, all buried deep inside her.
 
The triple-cyclops wrapped around her then, tilting her head gently towards the root nearby. She reached out with both hands. The tip was a red so deep it was nearly black, its surface etched with a bark like callus. She bent her chin and nibbled. The skin cracked easily between her teeth, purple sap rolling into her mouth.
 
Her ears tickled and crept open. There was singing. She touched her throat but it was still, just as the cyclops-flesh was still against her back. No song came from the ancient root, only the sap that washed over her tongue. Her skin tingled, and she laughed as it, too heard. The plasm itself was singing, and she was nestled in its music.
 
The plasmelody traveled up the root, through the mud, and back down to her hand.  It reverberated back to her in degraded form, stunted by the grey muck overhead. Nothing reached the freshest roots except for bits and snatches, eddies in a fuzzy sea. She pat the pouch of eyeballs on her belt. It bobbed and quivered as its contents swam inside. Her hands had cast them in shallow soil and amputated their ears.
 
Maebel untied the bag. Tiny eyeballs swarmed around her, chirping fast and stroking her skin. Their roots wiggled frenetically, super-charged by the mainlined plasm. Soon they had dug their roots around her fingers, along each tooth and in her nostrils. She felt no fear. “Please,” she whispered through a mouth of tender vines. The triple-cyclops wrapped around her legs, and they all drank deep the song.
 
They shot back to the surface in a perfect line through the only continuous gap in the root system. Maebel balled her fists as they launched through plasm, mud and air, into the open space above the golden-based pillar of salt. Cyclopes teemed below, marching towards the Shredder-Men. The Shredder-Men carried dark contraptions with steel teeth. The cyclopes would feed into one end, and occasionally an Inspector would throw in a bag of Digested Hauler. Out the other end spat eyeballs, red roots not yet solid.
 
The Shredder-Men dumped the eyeballs into pouches and handed them off to the Inspectors, who’d tighten the straps of their penitents before prancing back to the Complex. The Shredder-Men and Inspectors looked only at their work. The cyclopes looked to the top of the pillar, where Maebel and the others stood.
 
Maebel opened her mouth, singing plasmelodic. A crack thundered beneath her feet as the cyclopes swarm joined in. Giant chunks of salt rained down on the Shredder-Men and the pillar split in two. It rushed away beneath her feet, yet her journey down was gentle.

Part Three: Pranava Om

The Inspector’s furry antennae unfurled across the eyeball grid, brushing the tops of the razor walls. Each hair twirled in a tight curlicue, swirling molecules to divine deeper flavors. “Whhhhat’s this then?” The Inspector cried, planting his talons against the far wall to hoist himself up. Each claw was long and sharp and marbled black, with streaks of haulers’ blood. “I ssssmell dawdling!”
 
Maebel shook her face free of the cyclopes’ grip. They smelled as they usually did, but the moment the Inspector crested the grid he’d see what had happened. Perhaps she should throw herself at his mercy, or pretend that someone had tampered with the razor walls. But this was her grid to manage, and nobody else could be blamed.
 
She made several bad decisions all at once. First she gave the cyclopes a mighty kick, sending them sliding into one of the empty cells. Then she grabbed one of the Inspector’s antennae, using it to rappel down after the cyclopes. The sensitive organ scraped against the top of the iron wall, and the Inspector began to shriek and heave. Her tether grew first taut then slack then taut again as the Inspector tried to break free of her grip, before the antennae finally snapped off his head and she fell into the warm skin of the monster.
 
It was sweaty buried in the cyclopes’ folds and the smell was more powerful than ever, but Maebel nestled in as deeply as possible. “Please, please escape,” she whispered as the Inspector scrambled overhead. There was a scuttle of bone on metal as one of his stilts swung into view, penitents pierced on its barbs. They were haulers like Maebel, likely put on stilt duty for some minor offense like harvesting a grid prematurely or backwashing into the slaw trough.
 
The blood of the penitents rained overhead while the Inspector spat and wailed. Drops stung Maebel’s eyes and sizzled on the cyclopes’ skin. They screamed in two voices, which even now struggled to find the same pitch. “Dig, you stupid thing!” Maebel yelled. The Inspector’s compound eyes peered down into their cell. Each yellow facet displayed a glowing backwards image. Marbled talons scrabbled towards Maebel’s exposed belly. “Dig!” she screamed again.
 
But the cyclopes tried to climb, one half up the left wall, the other up the right. Maebel weighed down their connective tissue as they squirmed up, sinking lower into the cell before both halves snapped back on top of her, grazing the Inspector’s claws. The cyclopes moaned in fear.
 
“Frrrraternizersss! Cohhhhabitants! Ssssymbiotes!” the Inspector accused, clawing one of the cyclopes across the mouth. Blood and tears poured over Maebel’s face. The monster’s blood was red like hers, burned her skin as the penitents’ blood burned it. And the damn thing couldn’t make a damn decision, even as the Inspector extended his needled proboscis.
 
Maebel plunged a fist into her pouch of eyeballs. They were warm and moist in her hand, red veins lapping salt from her palms. She grabbed one and crammed it down deep into the cyclopes’ shared flesh, holding it still until she felt its veins latch on and take root.
 
The cyclopes bellowed, two mouths in a low roar and the third in a high, tiny shriek. “Dig!” Maebel screamed one last time, and this time the third eye met her gaze. The cyclopes’ shared body constricted around her. She felt three pulses rattle before synchronizing into a steady staccato. The creatures’ two fractal hands resolved into smooth scoops, a third and fetal arm rising from the back to grasp the snapped-off antenna.
 
And then they were digging, soft grey mud shooting high into the air overhead.

Part Two: Depth Infection

By the time Maebel was nearly done unleashing the cyclopes her skin ached for her Grief Pod. Her mind was growing fuzzy with data, base entropy worming through endless repetitions, begging for a nightmare to prune them. But the Grief Pods lay beyond the Lunching complex, and the Complex would accept none whose grids were unclean.
 
The rain had grown heavier, which had slowed Maebel’s work. She used to dream of a great sieve that could control even the weather that made her work unpredictable. It would ration the wind and the rain and the light so she could live each day without worry. But these dreams interfaced poorly with the Grief Pods, and in her sleep the Pod would gnash to retaliate, giving her sore bones upon waking. And so she learned to control these dreams, and nearly to forget them.
 
Still, some phantom of desire buzzed at the back of her brain while she hauled what should have been the second to last cyclops. This only made it worse as the cyclops proved difficult to haul up, and Maebel had to chide herself not to think treasons. The Plan, whatever it was, was perfect, weather be damned. It was known she could only have herself to blame.
 
So when the cyclops got stuck, it was Maebel’s fault that she yanked so hard, and it was Maebel’s fault when the cyclops popped all the way out in a sudden rush, and it was surely Maebel’s fault that for the first time in memory a cyclops was harvested with two eyes. The eyes didn’t gaze in unison; instead they twirled respectively clockwise and counterclockwise around some shifting focus.
 
She shrieked. Instinctively she fumbled with her taser but it slipped in her wet hands and clattered into the empty cell below. Maebel peered after it. A small hole had rusted in one of the razor-blade walls, allowing the flesh of two cyclopes to melt together.
 
Something stirred in Maebel as the cyclopes hung, scrotal and poorly bisected. She found herself in the cleft of the world, perceiving simultaneously how it was and how it should be, conceptual friction flaring in the flaws of the overlay. Panic began to set in. It was she who chose to start from the middle every day, saving the longest walk for when she needed the most rest between squares. She had been selfish, neglecting the walls between these two, letting the razors grow brittle.
 
There had been mistakes before. The haulers were trained to distrust each other, but that did not keep rumors from leaking through. At times they’d press their faces to the very bottom of the slaw troughs, where words could ring across the metal floor, muffled to the world above by the sound of collective munching. A mistake could be the end of a life-cycle, the signal for a Grief Pod to digest its dreamer.
 
Maebel couldn’t bear the thought of being Digested within her Grief-Pod. She had seen so many sun-rises and smelled so many slaws. Each day the recipe was the same yet the results never were, the mysterious organs of the Inner Kitchen making due with minute erosions of the mayonnaise pumps and head shredders. There had been a slaw, better than perfect, three cyclopean cycles and two days into the past. Wherever the Grief-Pod would channel her reconstituted matter, she was sure this memory would be lost.
 
And now it seemed that even her hands weren’t cooperating. They had taken her paddle in a white-knuckled grip, striking hard at the cyclopes’ connective tissue. The two halves crawled in opposite directions, stretching their skin tight before snapping back together, loose material flooding into the fissures of impact. Maebel yelped. She ceded to the will of her hands, trying to jam the paddle into the murky crease between the cyclopes, but found they were stuck more firmly together, refusing to budge in either direction.
 
Maebel began sobbing then. She was doubled down on the razor walls of the cyclopes grid, rain pounding on her back. This was not a fear she’d felt before, but it was a fear she understood. It had been waiting to wake inside her since she was decanted. It was the opposite of sustenance. It was the threat of a tomorrow unmoored from any kind of yesterday.
 
Mushy hands grabbed her by the eyelids and wrenched them open. The cyclopes were gripping her face tight, the fore-finger of each hand branching into another, tinier hand to pin her lashes in place. Their eyes searched hers while their mouths echoed first her sobbing sounds, then the sound of their un-synced sobs overlapping, devolving into a fractal susurrus.
 
They could not keep staring forever. The tall black hat of an Inspector came into view beyond the far side of the grid, bobbing in time with the strides of his long and bloody stilts.