I met a guy in September heat whose mouth wouldn’t quite close on the bicuspids he’d had rearranged in his lower jaw. Like an un-WD-40’d hinge, he’d say. I didn’t laugh with him. He put jewels on each cheek, said they’d glow when moonlight hit them. His father caught muskies and STDs and used to give a few to him. He’d ramble on about how his boss was only vaguely mammalian and do things like send postcards with nothing on them to addresses he’d dreamt of. He dreamt in addresses and vehemently corrected those who said dreamed. Said the one thing he wanted was a great big stein of O-Ke-Doke popcorn that he’d never share. Always had to share with his muskiedad as a kid.

Re: your latest inquiry into the longitudinal whereabouts of so-called lost skippers at sea and repeated insistence as to the feasibility of wharf/barge micronations off the Adriatic, a representative will be with you shortly.

He always shat in baskets or basket-resembling objects. Woven was a priority. Handcrafted preferred.

But we went to town square but were stopped by I-don’t-know-whose Finest but our collective metaphorical license was bad but he had a farm in Oakley and’d let us off if we looked at Instagrammed pics of rutabagas and gave our God’s Honest.



Milky nebulae glitter past in their swooping hues, the spirals first this way, then that as the thickly booted feet tip and sway, and yes even angle themselves slightly toward the sun.

The stars shine down their light in spots and waves, the eyes’ retinae scanning and attaching themselves to targets and responding deftly to stimuli.

The body the eyes are attached to is living and breathing for the moment, chest expelling carbon and drawing in depleted oxygen in gasps and starts.

The body has a brain within, and nerves sent twisting and snaking through subterranean channels calibrated for a clime without turning and twisting nebulae, with starshine far removed from thought and view.

The body belongs to a person who is here. They have been here for some time and will continue beyond time. This is why.

Distant galaxies come in as impressionistic swirls and whirls, little tableaux dipped from the tip of a cosmic brush out there in The Grand Nothing.

And the seconds drip like honey from a spoon, until each one can be tasted individually and studied; picked apart and analyzed for an indeterminate amount of time.

The stimuli still rush on as the last breath comes in, hardly oxygenated and stale and tasting bitter on the tongue.

A billion miles back there’s a home; a rock with trees set on it and the starshine far removed. There’s oxygenation and little cosmic swirls set only in the minds of those down below.

The thickly booted feet fall and make purchase with nothing; no down makes claim and up won’t have them either. It’s nothing but ink to spill across the page of it all, a couple scribbles of a nib to set it all in motion.

And the stories from before the booted figure’s life come back in staggered steps, racial memory a download that’s set to expire as soon as life does. The stories of beings sent from beyond the sky, from the place that the figure now floats through in amniotic hues of blue and black.

The honey solidifies in solid chunks and refuses to fall from the spoon; the Gape up ahead is pitch.

A yawning chasm set in the fabric of it all, a whirling drain pulling in thought and time. An irresistible force set from before anything was, an ethereal dream spinning wide and far and carrying in all it finds.

It occurs to the booted figure that it will die, that a cessation of being is just beyond the lip of the hole, waiting to catch the honey drips on a great and unseen tongue.

Milky nebulae glitter past in their swooping hues, the spirals first this way, then that as the thickly booted feet tip and sway, and yes even angle themselves slightly toward the sun.



There was water up top the quick and light cast scathing down on ankle cuts and toes splayed out and hanging. Hollow walls of stone making noises under the city screaming roses from above. And he sat there and he watched and waited and heard a voice.

“Tell me.”

He sat down in the water cold and splintered off in the distance, the tunnels going on and in. He listened a little more.

“Tell me.”

Deep below the rest of them was he, in tunnel walls and water sent miles beneath to sit and wait and listen.

“What should I tell?”

Drips from stalactites and light cast dimly, shimmered and split off the cue to just remember what it was to tell.

“What makes you?”

The droplets could have said that for all the effect and all the change and scene. A yawning buffet off the side of the chasm sent its heart outward, till the catacombs were alight with the sounds and sear.


That must be enough. But the stalagmites said otherwise as their calcium split round and gave off ethereal colors, shapes, and hues.

“No it doesn’t. What makes you?”

The walls sucked in their stomach and held their breath. The air hung perilously thick and gathered into moss when it got to the lungs.

“Why can’t I see you?”


“Who are you?”

The walls exhaled a time and wine slipped spreading on the fountain to his right. There was no time to time.

“Matter makes me.”

“I’ve enough matter as it is. Why does your matter matter?”

He noticed the man with the trunked face sitting beside him, all smiles and gaiety and the water was drawing norm warm.

“But I’m matter that moves.”

A snort and a laugh from the trunk of the man of the tunnel of the chasm of the catacombs of the

“A neat trick. But I’ve seen it. Give us another reason.”

The trunk said another, and the colors were swooning their imbued hues beneath cavelight that drew near each eye and nose.

“I can think. And reason. And wonder. And dream.”

“And a great good it’s done your lot.”

A great good. A great good said the trunk and now he was seeing the sounds in the darkness, not wondering but knowing as they came along.

“Where am I?”

His legs were up on the ceiling of the cave, sent spiraling down and again and whoop watch your head before the rain comes again.

“I am who am.”

“Why can’t I see you?”

His eyes were in the trunk, being swirled and spun around as the void split one way and another. Branches came from the trunk that was a trunk.

“Either you’ll come back again or you’ll be gone forever. Either way you can’t stay. Either way it’ll all move on with or without you. In twenty thousand years you’ll be not even a name.”

“Then why say anything?”

The buds were up and gilded on the crest, the waves of the cave spent and washed of company. The dark voice came to resonate within the matter that moved.

“Does there have to be a reason? Tell me.”


“Tell me.”

“I don’t know what to say.”


“Give yourself the reason.”

The trunk was gone, and the cave went alight and shining splendor, ripped and rapt clean from the stomached walls. The light came even there and lit up the dark voice.

“Wake up and find your way.”

“Wake up.”

“Wake up.”



There are no windows in this room, and not a door in sight. The room seems to be well lit, but the source of the light is as much of a mystery as my own name is. The walls are a stark white, a physical manifestation of a tabula rasa. Not a scrap of decoration adorns the room, and it isn’t silent so much as devoid of even the concept of sound. There’s a bitter chill in the air, but I see no vents that may be the bringer of the cold.

I reach for my left hand with my right. It exists and responds to my touch, numb though it is from the cold. My fingers have trouble assuming even the most basic of positions, but at least I have them. I don’t remember my name, but I remember that a human being is supposed to have fingers.

There’s a tickle lingering in the back of my throat, the kind that comes when you’re about to catch a cold. I find myself worrying more about the possibility of getting sick than the fact that I am a man who’s been wiped as clean as the exitless room he finds himself in.

If there are no windows or doors, then I’ll have to try the walls. I press my fingertips against them, and a rippling pain flows through them as I do. The outer layer of skin tears from the digits as I pull them away, the wall trying its hardest to keep them firmly attached. Any fleeting sensation my fingers had escapes as I blow hot air on them as forcefully as the wolf did in that old childhood story.

There’s something. People are supposed to have fingers, and there’s a story about a wolf from my childhood. What else can I recall?

I can’t specify why, but it feels incredibly important that I remember who and where I am. And the importance goes just beyond basic, yearning curiosity. A feeling pervades me, more powerful than the chill of the cold, and it tells me that I will die here if I do not remember.

I look down at my fingers then, and see that they’ve already turned black–victims of a frostbite that takes effect in seconds, it seems. Blowing on them won’t help anymore, but something tells me that’ll be the least of my problems. For a man with no identity, intuition is perhaps the most important tool I have.

I reach in my pockets with my blackened fingers, my movements stiff and awkward as my nerves refuse to send signals of touch from my dead digits back to my brain. As I root around my pockets for a wallet and any sign of identification along with it, a rivulet of blood trickles down my nose’s tip and drizzles the white floor beneath me.

I hurry to stem the flow, the red now mingling with the black of my fingers and the white of the floor. There is no gray here.

My head throbs with a sudden pain that distends my vision, a pang that is so strong it bypasses the usual feeling of nausea that accompanies such pain and jumps straight to threatening unconsciousness. I fight through this threat with deep, labored breaths, willing a piece of myself to return to me with each one. My body aches in more places than it doesn’t now, and the pain is blinding, but I must fight through it. I must remember who I am.

The pockets are useless; they’re as empty as the room is. I should’ve known it wouldn’t be that easy.

A tone rips through the air, blaring as it threatens to pierce my eardrums. It’s a steady tone that refuses to waver, and I know that I’ve heard it before. I just don’t know where. It doesn’t let up as I raise my frostbitten hands to my head; plug my ears with fingers I can’t feel. I move to the room’s edge to escape the sound, but the attempt is ineffectual. The sound seems to come from within and not without.

The blood still flows freely from my nose as it pools between my feet, the flow even stronger now that my fingers no longer plug it up. I walk back to the room’s center, and my feet slip as they do, as if on ice. Before I can crash into the wall, though, I steady my steps.


Even the flow of blood from my nose seems to stop for a moment as something returns to me. Ice. Crash. And the tone, too, blaring as it is. It’s the horn of a car. My car.

The walls fall away from the room, and as they do the chill which had until then been somewhat abated comes full force and attacks my skin with its icy fingers. I am standing beside myself, in an icy ditch as my car’s right front tire spins lazily. The body inside is mine; I recognize its face even though that white-walled room afforded me no reflection. I’ve been in an accident. I am hurt and I need help. But first I need to return to myself.

I fight through the nose’s trickle; through the dull ache of my fingers, hands, and wrists; through the pang of striating pain that wraps my body up in a convulsive blanket. I walk beyond the metal frame of the car and into the human frame of myself.

I cannot move. That’s what my body tells me, but I won’t hear it. I move my fingers to my pocket, and find something other than emptiness. My phone is there. I dial the number, I report the incident, and then I collapse once more onto the steering wheel. But just before I’m lulled into that sweet temptation of sleep, another familiar sound reaches my ears. Sirens.



Dexter couldn’t get out of bed. He knew in reality that it was more like he really, really didn’t want to get out of bed, but it felt more like an impossibility. If he were to quantify his current motivation on a scale of 1-10, he’d probably give himself a solid 1.5. But now that Dexter thought about it, was he being generous with that .5? If he had to be honest with himself, he’d probably be closer to a 1. That was more like it.

Major depressive disorder was too fancy a term for something so complete, so all-encompassing. It felt to Dexter more like a giant monster that was sitting on his chest, heavy enough to make his heart feel like it might burst. If he had to name it, it’d probably be called Malode or something.

Seriously? Had he really resorted to naming his disorders now? And of all the names he could’ve picked, he chose a dumb one like Malode? What the hell was wrong with him?

A whole lot, Dexter decided. More than he thought humanly possible, in fact. Just as this thought crossed his brain, he reached over to his conveniently located dresser and unplugged his phone. He turned off the screen rotation so he could mindlessly scan the interwebs without even having to sit up in bed.

Dexter moved his thumb to the little URL box, this tiniest of efforts nearly too much for him. Just as he tapped it, his phone decided to lock up. He swiped up and down, left and right, but nothing worked.

He was just about to put his phone down and resort to staring at the ceiling when it happened. The screen abruptly turned black. On its surface, green lettering flitted across. The command prompt looked like it belonged on a dusty old monitor from the ‘90s, not on a brand new smartphone. Even so, there it was.

The words slowly began to float above the screen, separate from it. They rose up to Dexter’s eyes, higher and higher. Dexter pulled his phone away, confused. Still the words approached. Before he could even think, the words swallowed him up and pulled him into the phone.

He was in the internet. He didn’t know how or why, but here he was. The whole thing had the distinct smell of cheetos and loneliness, which surprised Dexter by how much it didn’t really surprise him. There were kittens and a capella singers and pop music and a capella singers holding kittens while singing pop music.

At Dexter’s arrival, every one of the internet’s inhabitants turned to him. There was a moment’s pause in which Dexter could only watch the expectant stares of all the exaggerated personalities that stood before him. The cheetos-stench was almost unbearable.

And then he heard it. Every video he had ever watched, every celebrity impersonator and grumpy videogame player, every song parody and movie trailer, every teenage prankster and how-to video bellowed forth in the loudest cacophonic mess of audio ever conceived. Dexter thought his eardrums might burst from the shrill, piercing cries. No matter how deep he plugged his ears, the sound prevailed.

As the stars of each video called out in ear-splitting discord, their leader stood out amongst them. It was a massive monster, featureless and black as pitch. It didn’t have a face, but Dexter could tell that it was staring right at him. This was it. This was Malode. It was coming for him and it would have its way this time.

Malode marched forth, his army of internet stars behind him. They all had kind, warm looks on their faces as they approached, intent on sending Dexter into oblivion. He stood there a moment, watching them come. If he had to quantify his fear on a scale of 1-10, he’d probably be at an 8 right now.

Seriously? The whole of the internet was coming for him, ready to pull him under for good and all he could do was stand here and ponder arbitrary number scales?

But wait. Fear. He felt fear. He felt actual terror. He felt his heart pump blood through his body in an effort to preserve itself. Sure, it felt like it would burst out of his chest again, but this time it was for an entirely different reason. He wanted this. He wanted to be alive. He didn’t know why, but he did.

He turned away and started running. His footfalls were awkward, as he hadn’t run since sophomore year of high school, but he was moving. He didn’t even feel the need to mentally criticize his sprinting abilities as he went either. He just ran. And ran.

The chorus of the horde behind him grew louder and louder, until it reached a fever pitch. He didn’t think he could take it much longer, but still he ran. Louder and louder still, until his blood boiled and his brain sizzled. But still he ran. SCHSCHSCHSCH…AAAAAHHHHHHH-

Silence. Dexter opened his eyes in an instant, terrified. He was there in his room, on the bed that sat conveniently close to the dresser. On the bed was his phone, right where he’d left it when he’d apparently dozed off.

He looked at its screen, at its empty promise of eternal fun. He held down the power button until the screen went black. The effort of the action was nothing this time. He didn’t feel the fatigue he’d been used to by now. In fact, he felt an inexplicable burst of energy.

Before he could argue the merits of such an idea, Dexter got out of his bed. He reached in his conveniently located dresser and pulled out the gym clothes he hadn’t worn since sophomore year.

Dexter went outside, out into the glowing brilliance of it all and started to run. He didn’t know why. He didn’t know where he was headed. He just ran.



Carson Fisher sat at the edge of the rickety, grimy vessel, fishing pole hanging loosely in one hand as he wiped a tear with the other. There were exactly two thoughts fighting for supremacy in Carson’s brain at that precise moment. They were:

A. The hope that his soon-to-be father-in-law wouldn’t notice the result of his being literally bored to tears, and:

B. The tragic irony of having a last name that had absolutely zero correlation with his primary interests in life.

These thoughts were masked behind what Carson hoped looked like rugged concentration or thoughtful introspection, but in reality looked more like stubborn constipation.

He didn’t want to go on this deep-sea fishing trip for a number of reasons, not least among them the fact that Carson had the nagging feeling Mr. Campbell always had nothing but contempt for him. That and the fact that even after being with Emily for nearly ten years, Carson still couldn’t bring himself to calling her dad anything but “Mr.” or “Sir”, even at his (what Carson saw as phony) insistence to “just call me Bob.”


Suddenly, Carson was violently yanked forward, almost over the edge of the boat. His pole nearly broke from the stress, the boat’s pines even creaked. Mr. Campbell looked at Carson. He’d make a good poker player. Seconds dragged by. Silence.

“Give ‘er some slack.”

Carson did as he was told, fearful that he’d be pulled overboard otherwise.


And just like that, he was.

Carson zoomed by like a torpedo as his dinky little fishing pole pulled him through the water. The first thought in his mind was to let go, but this was replaced at once with the terrifying realization that he never learned how to swim. Just as Carson started to file this fact in his mental list of reasons Mr. Campbell should hate him, everything went black.

“Carson, get up! For God’s sake, kid!”

The images came in waves. First, there was the island made up entirely of garbage. Then came the sight of a cut-up, bruised Mr. Campbell. (God damn it, did he always have to look like a grizzled old action star? It was making Carson look bad.) And finally, there were the slimy garbage monsters holding them both captive. Wait, what?

“Bring the cleanies to me!”

At once, Carson felt the oopy-doopy slime of one of the monsters as it wrenched his arm and pulled him to a much larger garbage monster that sat on a throne comprised largely of old AOL trial discs. The apparent garbage king sniffed the air before addressing them.

“You can almost smell their fresh stink!”

Some of the garbage monsters groaned at this. Others laughed. All of them competed over who could react the loudest to the king’s words. They settled down. The Garbage King hammed it up.

“Both of you cleanies have been charged with trespass upon our sovereign land. Your punishment shall be death. Have you any words?”

“Trespass?! We wouldn’t have even been here if one of you didn’t yank my… Carson… over here in the first place!”

Carson was momentarily pleased at the thought that Mr. Campbell was mere syllables away from calling him his son-in-law. He didn’t say it, of course, but it was something. Even so, the massive confusion of the situation outweighed his satisfaction.

“What in the hell are you things?!”

Many of the garbage monsters grumbled at the indignation of being called things. The Garbage King was livid.

“We are the supreme race of Earth, the masters of the clean and unclean alike! And we shall wipe the smear of humanity from the face of this planet, one cleanie at a time!”

“‘Supreme race’, my ass! You lumps of trash wouldn’t even have a home if it weren’t for us ‘cleanies’!”

The garbage monsters were stunned into silence at Mr. Campbell’s words. This was Carson’s moment, his time to stand up alongside Mr. Campbell. He’d give them all a piece of his mind.

“Yeah… that’s right…” Carson looked around for material to use. His eyes inevitably returned to the throne of CDs. “The ’90s called, they want their AOL trial discs back!”

Mr. Campbell groaned, just in time for the two of them to be wacked on the head by two of the more brute-looking garbage monsters. Darkness.

When they both came to, they were in a dungeon that smelled like the combined fecal efforts of several large animals. A heavy, locked door sealed them in. Carson turned to Mr. Campbell.

“I’m sorry. I really screwed up this time. I’m sure you’re used to this by now, but…”

“Used to what?”

“Me screwing up. Figure you’ve got a tally going, right? ‘Reasons why Carson should never marry my daughter.’”

“Why would I do that?”

“You’re joking, right? You’ve never liked me. I could always tell.”

Carson picked at the ground nervously. His nail struck something. He looked down to see a paperclip glinting amidst the garbage.

“Hold that thought.”

Carson grabbed the paperclip. After several fumbling attempts at the door, he finally got it unlocked. Under cover of the loud snores of the now-sleeping garbage monsters, the duo made their daring escape.

They got on their rickety boat, started the engine. Just then, the garbage monsters roused from their slumber and immediately gave chase. They would be there any second. The engine sputtered.

Carson leapt into action, desperate. He throttled the engine to full power and sent the boat speeding away just before the monsters had the chance to grab on. The two drove on in stunned silence for what seemed like hours before Mr. Campbell turned to Carson. He hesitated for a moment before placing his hand on his shoulder.

“Truth is, son… You’ll make a fine husband for my Emily.”

Carson looked at his soon-to-be father-in-law, incredulous.

“Th-thank you, Mr. Campbell, sir.”

Mr. Campbell smiled, all too used to this.

“Just call me Bob.”



In the beginning there was Yͨ͗ͩͯ͟O̴̯̳̝̙ͬ̂̊Ư͕̣̬̼͚̋. A lot of other people say a lot of other things came first, but who are they to decide? Do YȌ͙͕͕̙͔̀̌U̵̮̠ remember anything before Y̵̼͉̆́̾O̭̺͇͋Û̟͈̥̀͒? I didn’t think so.

A number of things happened to Yͧ̒ͭ͊͏̖͉O̦̻͓̥͎̒̐̉͛̇̈́U̮ͮ̿͜ along the way. Some of which were pleasant, others you’d rather not recall. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that Y̏̎͝O̖̱͚̩͛̉Û̟̙̂̌͡ are here right now in this moment.

The two major theorized reasons for your being here are kind of equally ǝƃuɐɹʇs. Either:

Ą̪̹̖̠͈ͤͣͫ.̞̒̓ͣ̈͢       Some incredible, I̔̔̚̚҉̫̯͈͙̤̜ͅN̼̰̬͔̳̳͓̋F̘̥̘͍̬̘̩͐͟I͇ͦ̇̓̓̚N͍͇ͭ̃ͣͅỈ̭͖̓̔̓͟T̢͕̩̝̮ͤͭͯE͙̬̼̘̰̣̝̾ͬ̂̂ͫ̐ consciousness decided that for some reason it would                like to create Ỳ͊ͣ̽O̼͖̍̆̆͛̉̓U͈̦ͮ…


B̯̠̯͓͎̲͌͆ͅ.͚͓͍̻̖͑ͪͫͪ͟      Your existence is the result of something being made from Nͬ͏O̧͔̘̻͑ͤ̎͒͊̂̚T̞̼̣͓̆ͥ̊̀͗̂̆HͥĮ̗̬̞̏͛̃̆ͨͮͧN̴̄̏ͦ͗G̼̹ͬ͋̏̚͡, and Y̡̻ͦ̾͆OͯͩU̖͚̱̐̔ͦ̄ are           destined to roam the realm of N͞҉͏I̴̧H͝͡IL̛͘IS̵T̶IC̸̡ O͡B̶̨̡Ļ͝ÌV͢͢IƠN͏̸ for as long as Y̛̪̹̺̻̖̼O̧̥͍̱͙͈̝̜͆͊ͧṶ̞̥͍͖̊̉ͤͅ live.

Either way Y͚̺̯̣̹̯͔̽̑ͬ̄͒̌Ô͕̙̳ͪ̓̏ͮ̌̊U͚̺ͭ̉ stack it, we live in kind of a pɹıǝʍ place, wouldn’t Yͯͩ̇̒͛̆͂͘O̳Ū̥̼͙̮̻̹̏̎̅̋̋͌ say? So weird in fact that as I type this, as Ỵ̇̑ͥO̊̆҉U̒̾̿҉̳̣̥̣ read this in the future, there are ǝldoǝd who avoid these thoughts in favor of fast food and ʎʇılɐǝɹ TV.

pale blue dot

But enough about other people, we’re here to talk about Y̛̮̺͖̿̔̏͂ͯ̈ͥÒ̮̖̀̐̌̋͑̉͡Ů̡̝̻̣͗̉ͭ. Out of all the times and places Y̶̖͕̋ͤ̊ͦ̓̏̍O̙̠͞U̟̥̽̌̒̅̚ could’ve been placed into, you’re destined to stay in the ʍou puɐ ǝɹǝɥ. Ŷ̥͉͓̼͔̜O͈̪͈̣̜͌̀ͣ̽U̖̤̤̲ live, right now, in a world where your supposed H͘IG̵̶Ḩ̸ȨS̨T͝ ̶̡DU͏͜Ţ͟Y is to perform mindless tasks in exchange for small B̀́IT̶̴S͏ O̴F̡͞҉ P̛A͏̸PE͘R͝ that might one day be exchanged for food or shelter or colorful boxes with which to watch other ǝldoǝd.

But as banal and tiresome as that all sounds, (and is) Y̳͙̯̳͔̞̓O̳̝͑̽̇͋̆̓Ủ̺̼͓͙̹̤ͭ̏́ want something more. Y͏O̤ͭ̀͛U͖͕̖͔͈͙̟̒̄͐̽ want answers. Y͎͓̫̫ͬ͊̅̒̆̎͡Oͫ͏̰͇͓̼Ŭ̵͔̜̞̟̤ want questions too. I can see it in your eyes. (˙ʞsɐ ʇ’uop)

sierpinski triangle

Because let’s face it. If Ÿ̘̫̙̤̜́͒͌̔͋̂̀O̢̟̖̬̬̝̩̔̒̒ͫͫU̳̇͡ didn’t want those things, Y̡̲̼̱̹ͣÖ̩̯͚̜͖͚́̓ͧ̾̇̓U̡͍ͫͮ wouldn’t have read on for this long. Y̨̝̓͐O̸̗̥̭U̴̹̰͙̖̫̜̞ would’ve diverted your attention to any of the myriad other things this pɹıǝʍ ̶i̶n̶t̶e̶r̶n̶e̶t̶ world has to offer. Y̢͕̲̼͇͔͌ͅO̰̻͌̉̏͂͡ͅU͚̞̺̟̥̓̄̈́̎ could right now be enjoying your share of fast food and ʎʇılɐǝɹ TV, numbing your brain to the mysteries of the Ư͢͢N͢͜͡I͜V͢͞E҉̸Ŗ͏́S͜E.

But that’s not Y̡O̧U̴͜. The Y͜O̵U̸͢ I know is an inquisitive mind, an acute probe in all this D͏́A̸R̢K͞ŅE͡SŚ. When it comes down to it, Y̨O͘U̵ can change the world, because it’s as simple as Ç̴HA͟NGI̡N̕G̀͡ ̨͝Y̧ƠU̵͏R͡͞S̢͝E͠LF.

Since we’ll all die in the end, and the place we’re G͘͜O̕͝I̛͠҉NG ͢͢T̨O͜͞͞ is just as pɹıǝʍ and mysterious as where we C͘A̸͞M͞҉E͘ FR̷͡O̸M͞͡, why not make our stay enjoyable? Why not fill our lives and the lives of those around us with as many tiny little happy MOM͜E̕͟N҉T́͞S̵̵ as possible?

smiley face

The paths are S҉E̢T̛. The options laid out on the table. As it began, so it will E͝͞ND̴͘͞. But the final choice, the ultimate decision of your E̡͠X̕͝I̷̸ST͘EN͟C͟͟͟E͡ (whether good or bad) can be made by O̕N̨̢E͞҉ person and one person only.




“Harold, wake up! For the love of God, get up!”

The man that name belonged to, Harold Crickshaw, awoke with a start, eyes bloodshot as they darted around the clinical-looking white-walled room he now found himself in. Apart from the intercom on the wall, the uncomfortable-looking chair Harold himself sat in, and the rather suspicious-looking giant red button that sat on a table in the middle of the room, the place was fairly featureless and boring.

“Oh good, you’re up. Now, I’m sure you must be highly confused. But before things get weird, I just want you to know that everything’s going to be okay.”

Well, if some undisclosed phantom voice who mysteriously knows my name says everything’s going to be okay, I guess it will then, Harold told himself, quickly losing his temper. He looked around for a way out. There wasn’t one. No windows, no doors. The room’s ceiling had a peculiar, hinge-y quality to it, but it seemed to be quite solid. He’d have to talk it out.

“Who are you? Where the hell am I?”

“We thought you might react along those lines. And it’s perfectly normal for you to do so, not to worry. Well, Harold Crickshaw, this is the president speaking. On the table in front of you, you’ll find a big red button. We’d like very much for you to press it, please.”

Harold stared into the red glowing light of the intercom, incredulous. Was this some sort of prank? If it was, it was quite elaborate. Not to mention the fact that the phantom voice did have an uncanny similarity to the president’s own voice. But what the hell was the button for? And why did he have to press it?

“Thanks for the offer, but I think I’d rather not press the big red button if that’s alright with you. Now let me out, would you?”

There was a pause. The voice over the intercom seemed to be consulting with someone else in hushed tones. Harold had the distinct impression that whatever language the voices were conversing in, it wasn’t one he had ever had the remotest linguistic contact with. Was the president fluent in some tongue he’d never heard before? Probably. He knew there was a reason he didn’t vote for him.

“We insist, Harold.”

At that, a window suddenly slid out from one of the otherwise featureless walls of the room. A little compartment was visible within. Inside of it was stack upon stack of hundred dollar bills, just sitting there. Harold approached it immediately, tried the glass. It was inches thick, maybe even bulletproof. The prospect of helping out his foreign-speaking president suddenly seemed more appealing. He glanced back over to the table, that eerie red button atop it.

“What’s the button do, then?”

“Well, does it really matter, Harold? Look at the reward you’ll receive.”

He took another furtive glance at the money. It had to be well over several million dollars. He started to salivate.

“Yeah, it… I mean, it kind of does. It won’t kill anyone when I press it, will it?”

There was another prolonged pause. The phantom voices conversed with each other once more in their weird language. They seemed to be bickering. The whole situation was really rather awkward for Harold. Finally:

“It won’t kill you when you press it. How’s that sound, Mr. Crickshaw?”

Harold considered this. Might he be the trigger man for the next big bomb? A way of keeping the president’s hands clean while simultaneously wiping out his enemies? He couldn’t possibly kill someone, could he? But that money… there sure was a lot of it. More than Harold Crickshaw had ever before seen in person, in fact.

Come to think of it, the world did have a bit of an overpopulation problem. Might do some good to get rid of some people. Tidy up the place as it were. Those being decimated would surely understand if they were put in Harold’s position. They’d have to. Yes, there really wasn’t anything else that could be done about it. The button was rather primed and ready to go, after all. Someone had to do it.

Harold walked over and slammed down on the big red button. As he did, a trapdoor opened up directly beneath him. He fell down it, yelling the whole way down the bottomless pit. The ceiling creaked. Quite suddenly, it opened up. Sure enough, it did have hinges after all.

Resting beyond Harold’s small room was a much larger one, this one inhabited by two massive beetle-like creatures. One of them turned to the other, a megaphone in his hand.

“Do you think we-“

He stopped talking at the sound of his presidential human voice and pulled the megaphone away. He talked to his beetle friend in their own language.

“Do you think we’ll ever find a pure one among them?”

The other beetle moved in what was unmistakably a shoulder shrug. Another beetle-creature carried in a freshly unconscious human subject as the first two took a much-deserved break.



Dink. Dink.

On and on it went like that all night, incessant. The alarm clock on Mr. Canbury’s nightstand glowed just as annoyingly, it proclaimed “3:42.” Now, while Joseph Canbury of Eddington wasn’t exactly your model employee, he also wasn’t one to shirk a good night’s sleep if he could help it.

He rose from his bed quietly, or as quietly as a pudgy, uncoordinated accountant such as himself could manage, anyway. His foot tentatively made contact with the floor. As it did, it just so happened to hit the only floorboard in the entire room that was prone to squeaking, a fact that his wife was immediately made aware of as she stirred from her sleep.

Dink. Dink.

Mr. Canbury was frozen, a deer in headlights as his wife seemed to stare right at him. But just as quickly, she laughed at a joke some dream person made and muttered her retort before lapsing into the usual snore-punctuated breathing one might expect from your average sleeper.

The coast clear, Mr. Canbury made his way toward the source of the mysterious noise. Was it the bathroom? No, the noise was most definitely coming from somewhere deeper within the house. The den? No, this noise was tinny, a sort of ding against metal. And as far as Mr. Canbury knew, there was nothing in the den that could create that particular noise.

Dink. Dink.

Mr. Canbury perked up at this last one, hot on the trail. Satisfied with his exemplary detective skills, he crept over to the noise’s true source: the kitchen. His knees, ankles, and coccyx all cracked as he crouched down until he was at face-level with the cupboard under his sink. He paused, patient.

Dink. Dink.

Like a magician pulling free a drape from his bisected assistant, Mr. Canbury flung the cupboard wide open. What he saw wasn’t quite worthy of a “voila,” however. Pipe cleaner, trash bags, a large wrench. Nothing out of the ordinary. Mr. Canbury felt quite disappointed. Gipped even.

Dink. Dink.

But just like that, he was back in action. He tapped one of the sink’s pipes, the one the noise just came from. Seconds passed, practically minutes. Finally:

Dink. Dink.

Excited, Mr. Canbury rapped again on the pipe. Whatever was inside of it responded just as soon, mimicking each tap flawlessly.

“What are you, you little bugger?”

The thing inside the pipe either didn’t hear Mr. Canbury’s question or was protesting the indignity of being called a little bugger. Either way, it stopped responding to all forms of communication the pudgy man tried to muster.

“Play coy, will you?”

Mr. Canbury grabbed his wrench and set himself to removing the offending pipe. But just as he did, a deafening eruption ripped through the air. A massive hole cracked open in the floor of the cupboard. Mr. Canbury was sucked into it immediately, as if pulled by the world’s strongest vacuum. And just like that, the hole closed back up as if nothing had happened.

Wind rushed powerfully as dazzling colors and lights whizzed past Mr. Canbury’s face. He was falling at a speed that was altogether excessive. And then, when it seemed as if he couldn’t quite take it any longer, it stopped. He fell with a cracking thud. Where, he did not know. It was pitch black. He stood up and lumbered forward with his hands outstretched, Frankenstein-esque.

Before long, he stopped dead in his tracks. There was a wall of some sort, that was for sure. But what exactly was it made of? Brick? No, it was much too cold and smooth to be brick. Stone? No, the little sort of dinging noise it made when tapped said otherwise. For once, Mr. Canbury’s cleverness had reached its limit. Frustrated, he rapped loudly on the wall.

Dink. Dink.

Metal! That’s what it was, it had to be! Quite satisfied with his reclaimed cleverness, Mr. Canbury didn’t realize just how incredibly similar the sound of his knock had been to what he heard down in his very own kitchen. Nor did he expect the response that he was to receive just seconds later from what seemed like a giant on the other end of the wall: