A Nightmare of Speed

This nightmare has followed me for a long time.

The nightmare happens entirely in a car, and I’m the driver.

Sometimes I’m alone, sometimes there are others. Sometimes it’s my whole family, crammed and talkative in the back seats. Sometimes it’s a friend on the passenger side, telling me about his day. Sometimes it’s an old intimate, sitting right next to me, looking outside and thinking about what went wrong and what went right.

I am always driving. Driving fast to somewhere important. A dentist’s appointment that started ten minutes ago. Going to buy butter fifteen minutes before the supermarket closes. A meeting at work that can’t start without me.

I guess those things aren’t that important after all. I have other dreams about saving the world or meeting Her by chance at the beach. These destinations aren’t like that, not life-changing, just urgent. If I don’t get there in time, something bad will happen. So I’m driving fast.

I’m a terrible driver. In the dream and in reality. I got my license when I was 18, drove my dad’s old SUV to college and then didn’t touch a steering wheel again until I was in my mid-twenties. I just never got much practice, I guess.

I don’t see why anyone even likes cars: they’re ugly, expensive and bad for the environment. I don’t get the appeal. Besides, they’re dangerous. Did you know 37 thousand people die in car accidents every year? You know how many die on bikes? Barely half a thousand. For public transport? Less than a hundred.

So I’m in this car and I see a light coming up and I go to slow down, but I press the gas instead of the brake. The light stays green. No big deal, I think, just a little embarrassing. I try to brake a little bit just to make sure I’ve figured out where it is. I hit the gas again. Now we’re going even faster.

I’m starting to really move up on the car in front of me and it’s only a matter of time till we hit … Continue Suffering

A Villain’s Backstory

I wrapped up running a very long Dungeons and Dragons campaign last week. It’s been two years with the same characters, the same story, and the same goddamn unbearable amazing players.

For the epic finale, I wanted an engaging villain who would be more than just a hit point balloon- that would engage the players in roleplay, not just rollplay. Sadly, the adventure’s prefabricated villain wasn’t quite up to snuff. Azarr Kul, from the classic Red Hand of Doom third edition adventure, isn’t a bad villain but he’s not that complicated (think Napoleon, but he’s half dragon and worships Satan).

So I rewrote him. I kept the canon consistent, he still did all the things Dragon Napoleon did, but I wrote a backstory for him based on an incredible short story (find it free to read or listen to here) by Scott Sigler. The original story has an incredible economy of language: the paragraphs are tight, the sentences always moving the action forward. You almost feel out of breath reading it. I loved it so much, I wanted to try imitating Sigler’s style and story- so I wrote a short little origin story for the new and improved Azarr Kul.

If I did this right, it should stand alone as a mediocre (if unoriginal) piece of fiction. Enjoy (but probably not):

Coughing into the moonlit smoke around him, Angel was aware only of his fear. His eyes watered, but he could still hear. Shouting, marching, the crackle of houses burning, and, still distant, screams. The entire village was on fire.

Angel turned away from the chaos outside his home, but his mother held him at the threshold. He wanted to run behind her, hide his juvenile body behind her height. But she held him fast.

“Let go of him! We have to go and find Hector!” cried Angel’s grandfather, already peering into the fire and dark surrounding their home.

Angel’s mother would let neither of them pass. She breathed slowly, in rhythm with the pulsing light of the fires.

“My husband is … Continue Suffering

Lamprocles (Short Story)

“Compassion is the basis of all morality”
Arthur Schopenhauer

The first man he had brought death to was his father. He brought it to him in a dirty golden goblet, stained purple with the earthy poison it often held. His mother had forfeited the (not insubstantial) silver for the mixture, and the People had been kind enough to provide the goblet itself. Thus was Lamprocles, the fittest of his family, reduced to Death’s delivery-boy.

Despite years of similar service for his mother, he was not a very fast courier: he moved towards his destination in a cautious stabilizing tread. This was somewhat necessary, as he had to overcome the city’s most recent scars- scattered mounds of splintered stone and shredded wood. As he climbed over these remains of the Athenians’ once grand wall, he kept his goblet-hand locked and extended, so as not to spill the mixture. Were he one year younger, he would have engineered such a spill rather than avoid it. He would have run in quiet tears to his mother and claimed there was an accident on the road or an incident at the herbalist’s store. She would have consoled and lightly scolded him, then turned to her father for another loan to pay for the second dose. She would have gone herself the second time, to beg the storekeeper for another mixture at a reduced price so that her children would not be hungry while they mourned. All the shame, dishonesty, and poverty, he would have endured- if only it bought his father the time it took to deliver a second mixture.

But Lamprocles was twelve years of age, and though not yet a man, he had begun to understand what it was that would make him so. Honor and Duty obligated him to guard the goblet with his life. He was more than willing to lay down his life- he had, in fact, planned to do so, to drink the hemlock himself as soon as he acquired it and thereby save his father’s life. But, in time, he recognized this childish plan for what … Continue Suffering