Thursday, February 2, 2012
The Nick Of Time (and other abrasions)
Maxwell’s Silver Hammer
Al Bruno III
The three of them ran across Route d'Abbaye, and after a moment’s pause they jumped the fence. The first landed with quiet cat-like grace. The second moved slowly, quietly and deliberately.
The third caught his pant leg on the top of the fence and fell hitting the ground with a cry and a crash...
“Why do we keep ending up like this?” Lorelei, like her friends, had her hands bound behind her back and Runes of Enfeeblement had been painted on her forehead.
“Because of him, its always because of him,” Zeth said as they were half-shoved, half dragged down the stairway by women with crazy eyes and short skirts, “I swear he gets us captured on purpose.”
“Zeth! I’m hurt, well and truly hurt,” Jason Magwier’s mouth was set in a frown but his eyes were twinkling, “now don’t ether of you worry. We’ll be fine as long as I play it low key.”
The cellar they were goaded into was a makeshift temple. Banners and graffiti extolling the virtues of the great god Thor covered each wall. At one end of the room was a worn anvil. Near the anvil was a high backed wooden chair, a hulking figure sat upon it.
“Does every bloodthirsty cult have the same decorator or something?” Lorelei mused as she and her companions were forced to their knees.
Magwier agreed, “And why are they always in a basement of some sort or another? Why not an upper floor suite for once? Maybe a nice bungalow?”
“Silence!” the figure on the throne shouted.
“Although you can’t fault the acoustics can you?”
The tall man stepped from the throne and approached them. He had a silver plated war-hammer slung over one shoulder. He was shirtless with long blonde hair and muscles that were just beginning to go soft with age, “You have dared to desecrate our holy temple.”
“It was an accident. We didn’t even know-” Zeth tried to explain only to be silenced by a slap from one of the women.
Magwier’s eyes blazed with anger, “Now you stop this Stan Maxwell. We aren’t looking for trouble.”
The tall man frowned, “You know me?”
“Of course. You were the starting quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings until you were tragically sidelined by a spinal injury.”
Lorelei sighed, “A jock and a bloodthirsty cultist? Just great.”
“I was chosen,” Stan explained, “that injury was Thor’s will.”
The four women cheered a hearty, “Hail Thor!”
Magwier stood, “As my friend tried to explain this was all a terrible misunderstanding. If you’ll just let us leave I’m sure-”
“No. You must pay for your crimes...” the tall man said, “...with your lives.”
“Our lives? Doesn’t anyone get punished with community service anymore?”
Two of the women hustled Jason Magwier to the altar, it had an indentation perfect to cradle a human head. They held him down, pushing his cheek against the dried blood and slivers of skull.
“Please tell me this is part of a plan...” a quiver of worry crept into Lorelei’s voice.
Zeth snorted, “Since when does he have a plan?”
“Mighty Thor, lord of thunder...” Stan raised the war-hammer from his shoulder.
“Hail Thor!” The women cheered again.
“...Accept these sacrifices to sate your appetite for the great battle of Ragnarok.”
Jason Magwier began to laugh, a high pitched mocking cackle.
“Silence!” Stan lowered the hammer and then raised it again. The four women looked at each other in confusion, they’d never had a sacrifice do this before.
“I’m sorry,” Magwier snickered, “I know it’s disrespectful but... You mean to kill me with a mallet?”
“Mallet? This is the Hammer of Thor!”
And the women shouted, “Hail Thor!”
Jason Magwier smiled, “You should realize that it’s not going to even leave a bruise on me.”
Stan leaned forward, “Magic will not protect you.”
“Oh yes. The runes. Very impressive but there’s more to me than that,” Magwier laughed again. “I’ve lived in the future so I can’t very well die in the past can I?”
“You make no sense.”
“I suppose to your limited intellect it seems that way, but never mind. Smash away my good man. Smash away.”
Stan raised the silver plated war-hammer again, holding it over his head instead of his shoulder.
“But- you getter get it right the first time,” Magwier said, “or you’re going to ruin a perfectly good mallet.”
“It’s not a mallet!” Stan’s face was turning purple with rage, “It is the Hammer of Thor!”
And the women shouted “Hail Thor!”
“Shut up!” Stan screamed at them, then he turned back to his prisoner, “And you! I will pound you into dust with a single blow!”
Jason Magwier nodded condescendingly, “Sure you will.”
Bellowing with rage Stan Maxwell raised himself to his full height and hefted the hammer as far back as his muscles would allow.
There was a soft crack and Stan froze in place.
“Oh dear,” Magwier said, “sounds like someone just aggravated an old spinal injury...”
The priest of Thor whimpered and toppled over. The four women ran to him babbling with worry. They were so busy fretting over Stan that they didn’t even realize Jason Magwier had freed himself from the ropes.
Wiping and smearing the Runes of Enfeeblement from their faces they walked back out onto the street. Jason Magwier was carrying the priest of Thor’s weapon in his arms, he handed it over to his friend with a smirk, “Maxwell’s silver hammer. Take it for me would you?”
Zeth slung the cumbersome weapon over his shoulder and shook his head, “You took an awful chance back there.”
“Nonsense. I knew what to do the very moment I realized they were Thor-worshippers.”
“And what was that?” Lorelei asked.
“Just like I said earlier,” Magwier smiled, “I played it low-key... or should I say Loki?”
Zeth chuckled. Lorelei rolled her eyes, “I can’t believe I’m sleeping with you.”
... an unseen war plays out between the angelic Storytellers, who bring us pleasant dreams while we sleep, and the evil Incubi, who terrorise us with nightmares. It's a battle that has gone on for eternity, it seems, while the rest of us have all been tucked up in bed. Then, one night, a grotesque, gargoyle-like figure named Ink arrives at the foot of Emma's bed, and in spite of the Storytellers' fighting skills, manages to spirit her away to another plane of reality.
There are so many possible influences in Ink's story and aesthetic that it's difficult to know where to begin. At times, its exotic visuals look like a Terry Gilliam movie. Its fights are like a more rough-and-ready version of The Matrix. Its stark use of light and shade recalls Dark City. There are moments that play out like a fairytale, while others resemble a comic-book brought to life.
Whatever Ink's influences may be, it's an often stunning-looking film, shot and edited with a skill that far outweighs its tiny budget. Its antagonists, the Incubi, are weird and perfectly unsettling. Its music (also written by Winans) is subtle and effective...
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
My collaborator needed some time to take care of freelance work but now we are back.
(and be sure to check out MY SUPA LIFE!)
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
THE COLD INSIDE
By AL BRUNO III
Wednesday November 9, 1994
The library was quiet but fraught with hidden dangers. Assaults took place behind the stacks, well out of sight of the librarians. Most recently Tristam had suffered a punch to the kidneys from by an eager freshman. Of course Tristam had cried out, and gotten a night’s detention for disturbing the peace.
Peace, hah. Tristam thought as he made his way through the stacks to the books on mythology and the occult, Peace my ass.
Finally he found the volume he was searching for, a slender hardback tome called Mysteries of the Mind. He brought it with him to one of the long tables near the front of the library. A trio of students snickered and whispered as he approached. He sat far from them.
Skimming the table of contents he searched for an appropriate chapter. After a few moments he flipped it open to the section entitled Astral Projection and read; “The astral body is an exact copy of the physical body but it is quite intangible. The astral body may, with the proper training or through near death trauma, become separated from the physical body and travel about. In this 'freed' condition the astral form is incorporeal and invisible, this is because it exists on what is loosely termed the astral plane, which is a separate spirit world that encompasses our world but also extends beyond it.”
That sounded like what he was experiencing. It sounded like it a lot. Except he hadn’t had any training or near death trauma, he just did it in his sleep. Maybe Stackman’s math class bored me so bad that I died but never noticed. Tristam thought, Probably not. I wonder if anything like this happened to Greg when he-
“And they said you were illiterate.”
Tristam looked up to find Rich Head staring down at him, “They say much worse.”
“Pull up a seat,” Tristam set the book aside, “what are you doing here?”
“It’s a free country and my free period. Besides I usually hang out here, polishing off my homework and reading the newspapers.”
“I prefer Study hall.”
“Better for sleeping,” Rich said.
“Remember what happened to you last time you fell asleep in study hall?”
“How could I forget? Your sister did it.”
“Oh. Sorry.” Tristam blushed.
“No biggie. When I become Emperor of the world she will pay.” Rich playfully shook his fist in the air.
“You’ve got my vote.”
“What will your first act as Emperor be?”
“Well, let me see.” Rich scratched the stubble on his chin, “My first act would be to outlaw organized sports and to require all people who ever participated in organized sports to wear pink tu-tus every day for the rest of their lives.”
“Then I would make video games and D&D Olympic events.”
“Then I would get Warren laid.”
Tristam smirked “Sure you can? You’d only be Emperor of the world, not a god.”
“I’m sure some girl would be willing to take it on in the chin... So to speak.”
“I thought he had a girlfriend. You know up in Canada.”
They laughed quietly.
A short man in dark overalls walked over to them, he was carrying a clear plastic trash bag in one hand was emptying the wastebaskets into it, “Good afternoon gentlemen.”
“Uh... hi.” Tristam said.
Rich nodded, “Yeah hi.”
The man kept talking as he worked, “I’m the new janitor here. My name is Jason.”
Tristam shot Rich a curious glance, he had thought it was an unwritten rule that janitors and lunch ladies were not allowed to talk to the students, “That’s great Jason.”
Jason kept talking, he had short close-cropped hair and dark eyes that never seemed to linger in one spot for too long, “I just wanted to let you kids know who I was and that if you ever want to rap about anything I always have time.”
Rich nodded, “You know they have a school councilor for that.”
“Oh I know but sometimes kids don’t want to talk to someone they might think is ‘the Man’. Which I am not... I mean I am ‘a man’ but not ‘the Man’.” He paused thoughtfully, “Maybe I am just one of the guys?”
“I’ll let you boys get back to your free time. Keep it real.”
“Yeah.” Tristam said.
Rich waved, “Nice talking to you.”
Once he was out of earshot Tristam asked, “What the Hell was that about?”
Rich shrugged, “I guess even janitors want to save the world. What were we talking about again?”
“Warren’s fat unfuckable ass?”
Tristam said, “You know he wouldn’t be half bad if he lost a little weight.”
“And those pants he wears, they’re so tight he can hardly keep them buttoned.”
Rich nodded, “Looks like a poorly packed sausage.”
“What gives? He should have tailored stuff. I thought his parents were wealthy.”
“No Tristam, his parents are sickeningly wealthy. They own about every other car wash in the city.”
“They make him wear clothes two sizes too small. The figure if he’s uncomfortable enough he’ll loose weight.”
“That sucks!” Tristam exclaimed. One of the librarians shushed him loudly, he cringed and shrunk down in his seat. “I mean,” he whispered “that sucks.”
“Tell me about it. It’s just as well though, his taste in girls would only get him in trouble.”
“What do you mean?”
“You know that Venezuelan girl?”
“Solana? Are you kidding me? Solana?”
Rich smiled “You do know her.”
“She is only the hottest most untouchable girl in the school.”
“He’d just about do anything for her, even diet.”
“Does she know? Has he said anything?”
“If you were him would you say anything?”
“No. I wouldn’t say anything back when I was a freshman and she would talk to me.” Tristam said wistfully.
“He’s got this five year plan thing.”
“Oh, I have got to hear this.”
“He’s going to hang around. Try to say hi to her in the halls, offer to help her with her homework-”
“She’s on the honor roll!”
“Hey it’s not my plan.” Rich shrugged, “But Warren figures that by senior year he can wheedle his way into being her friend or at least a tolerated acquaintance.”
“It gets better. Then after graduation, he’s going to cash in the bonds his grandfather set aside for college and use the money for a liposuction.”
“Then when he’s slim and trim he’s going to find her and sweep her off her feet.”
Tristam had to laugh, “Poor Warren.”
The bell rung signaling the end of the period, Tristam grabbed his book. “Gotta go.”
“Later,” he headed up to check his book out.
“Stay loose,” Rich got up and headed for the exit.
Tristam laughed again, Solana! God Warren, you poor slob.
The librarian took the book from his hands and scowled. Tristam looked to the door and happened to catch a glimpse of Monique leaving the library.
DC Comics announced that when Captain Marvel joins the DCnU later this year, he will actually be The Superhero Formerly Known as Captain Marvel. DC is officially changing his name to Shazam, so they no longer have to worry about all the trademark infringement insanity of having a character named after your main industry rival...
I can understand why DC is doing this... but does that mean that the hero formerly known as Captain Marvel can't say is own name anymore?
And when will Marvel comics create a 'Captain Marvel' character that doesn't suck?
Monday, January 30, 2012
Sunday, January 29, 2012
Price Breaks and Heartaches
A journal of retail and failed romance
The Creep On The Borderlands
We tried to get back to the game and quickly discovered that Buddy was so drunk that he couldn’t feel his fingertips. That meant we needed a new person to draw the map so we could track where we were in the dungeon. Everyone else insisted that this was a newbies’ job. I was more than willing to do so.
“I could map for you guys.” Will suggested.
“No you can’t.” Norm explained, “You’re not here.”
So I started mapping, tracking our party and its NPC Cleric as we made our way through lizard man territory into the Caves of Chaos. I found myself starting to have fun as my dwarf made short work of any monsters that got in his way. Now this was what I thought of when I thought of Dungeons & Dragons. There is still no game that gives the vicarious thrill of combat like D&D can and unless some day they come up with a way for the thimble to beat the shit out of the race car in Monopoly there never will be.
Once we got to the Caves of Chaos however our luck started to change.
I looked up from my map, “The pit sealed up trapping the Cleric inside, I think we can rescue him if we get some ropes and daggers and…”
Daniel snorted, “No. We’re moving on.”
“First of all it’s an NPC and second of all, the Cleric did all it’s heals for the day so who cares?”
“But the members of the Church of Cosmic Coolness will want to know what happened.”
Daniel shook his head, “There’s treasure and combat awaiting.”
“You know…” I said, “I like to think you would rescue my character if this was… No, you wouldn’t would you?”
Buddy was lying face down on a pile of dice but he still managed to say, “It’s every man for himself Al.”
The party moved on and I tried to ignore the imaginary cries of the imaginary non player character trapped forever in a make believe pit but sometimes in the dead of night it still haunts me.
We soon had to turn our attention to pressing matters, like the swarms of kobolds howling for our characters’ blood. When we reached the heart of their lair we found the motherload- gold, gems, potions and weapons of every make and model. Everyone dived for treasure, trying out magic items at random.
“All right!” Curtis said, “A Wand of wonder! I’ll be playing with this baby all night.”
Daniel was wringing his hands with glee, “I found a bag of holding. All I need to find now is a folding boat and a shambling mound and my mega-weapon will be complete.”
The treasure room had certainly perked Buddy up, “I love mixing potions. What size and alignment am I now?”
Eddie looked more than a little bored, “All I found was this Wand of Orcus thing. Who wants to trade?”
I decided to try and have my character prove his worth by checking the room for traps and secret doors. I found a little of both, “Guys I think I found a secret door.”
“Very good.” Norm said, “Now roll to unlock it… nice roll Al.”
Daniel’s voice was a snarl, “We shove the newbie’s character through the door first.”
I looked at him in disbelief, “What? Why?”
Norm nodded sadly, “You find yourself alone in a swastika-shaped treasure room. Your character is hip deep in…”
That as we say, was it. I checked my watch again, “Oh, look at the time! I really have to go. I’ve got to get up for church in a few hours.”
Will narrowed his eyes, “You go to church?”
“I’m starting to. Now let’s get out of here.”
Everyone else was too busy bickering over treasure to say goodbye but Norm was polite enough to walk us to the door. Our footsteps echoed through the empty lower level of his home, “Thanks for coming. Hope you had fun and learned something.”
Will smiled, “Same time next week right?”
I decided to be upfront about how I felt, “I don’t think I’ll be here next week. I mean I used to role play a lot but I just don’t think this is the hobby for me any more.”
Norm nodded understandingly, “I understand. It was nice to meet you.”
“Yeah thanks,” I almost ran for my car.