CLICK5: A Fourth Turning Tale – Writing ‘731 Days Later’ For Underdog Anthology XVII…

Extended CLICK5… CLICKB8: Synchronicity? *…/scratches head…*

Story Time: Spring Fevers & Bearded, Clammy Hands

*Ain’t that the truth, Clicky. How in the fuck are we meant to be April Fooled this year?*

Hello there, Dear Reader! Long time, no speaky 😉

My good friend Cade Fon Apollyon sent me a tweet last night, depicting a weather event at his ‘old stomping ground’…

*He says that’s Tyson’s Corner in Virginia and tornadoes there are extremely rare…*

… Which reminded me of a bunch of tweets that crossed my Twitter feed earlier this week, all saying the same thing…

*Nice example, Clicky, butt that’s knot someone I follow… /lights up and smokes… Say, did you know there’s a 137 reference in that Tweeter’s bio?*

*Just a happy coincidence, then? Okay…*

… And that whole Oscars ‘Slap Heard Around the World’ scene at the start of the week put me in mind of Cade’s short story from Underdog Anthology XIV: Dark Ides of March, published in the Spring of 2021…

*Oh yeah. It even syncs… /drags… with a couple of your recent posts, Clicky… /exhales smoke…*

… So, I asked Cade if I could publish his story, here, at the LoL today, and he said, ‘Sure’…

*Knockout, Clicky, indeed…*

… So, here is ‘Spring Fevers and Bearded, Clammy Hands’ for your entertainment, Dear Reader. Enjoy! ❤

*******

Spring Fevers and Bearded, Clammy Hands

by
Cade F.O.N Apollyon

If one were to read “A Novice’s Guide to Understanding Jealousy”, the first sentence of Chapter 1, Page 1 would almost absolutely have to immediately address the subject of a lack of self-awareness. In fact, I cannot see how the entire book could ever get around talking about anything except the topic of self-awareness and identifying one’s own shortcomings within the framework of this concept.

Jealousy, seems to place the offended party in some sort of vacuum. Like a shell or some sort of defensive posture where only the individual and their own interests matter. Their computational systems, assuming they have any, also seem to go offline.

“Mateo! Hel..loooo?!? Are you even fucking listening to me?”

My neighbor, John, was already agitated when he borderline accosted me in my car upon my arrival home from work. My zoning out in contemplation whilst being accused by my neighbor of having an affair with his wife is unlikely to assuage his irritation.

“My name is Matthew, Juan, and yes, I am very much listening to you.”

“I apologize, Matthew,” John fired back sarcastically. “Now, are you fucking my wife?”

“No, John, I am not. I’m standing here in the middle of my own front yard holding an empty lunch box, quasi-talking to you, really just hoping to go inside at some point and take my shoes off.”

I’d retorted with my usual dry and unemotional sarcasm. I tried not too sound precocious though as this was an extremely delicate and dangerous situation, and the last thing I need at this point is my friend thinking I’m trying to be cleverly deceptive.

“Have you, at any point, from the beginning of creation, to this very day, ever, fucked my wife?”

John was struggling, choosing his words for clarity; an obvious frustration and impatience in his voice.

“Yeah. But I only stuck my dick in halfway so I’m not fucking her nearly as much as I could be. And when one considers that my dick is only six inches long, it could be argued that I’m not fucking her very much at all.”

The look of shock and disbelief on his face reflected that my retort had caught him completely off guard. But as the initial look of surprise left his face, and his brain began to compute my actual words, his face contorted in confusion, began to relax, and I could tell it may have finally broke some ice as John’s default facial express returned. That expression then started to crack into a smile, it was obvious he was trying to restrain it, and he turned away from me briefly in order to, I assume, stymie a giggle. The slight hunch in the back, a hand to the face, and a couple of shoulder twitches were a dead-giveaway.

I’d already answered his initial query as to my ‘fucking his wife’, definitely and without hesitation in the negative. Quite easy to do as I was most certainly not ‘fucking’ his wife. Something very odd was going on here. This had to be one of his stupid, drawn out ‘practical jokes’. Surely some utterly ridiculous punchline, for which I will have to feign a fake laugh, is coming.

“Look John,” I said to his back. I have walked…” I glanced down quickly at the pedometer hanging from my belt to check the distance I had walked at work today; 17.3 miles, holy shit, “…seventeen point three miles today and my feet are feeling every foot of that. I’m going in to put my lunchbox down, take my shoes off, grab a beer, and I’ll be right back out. Do you want one?”

He knows, came a female voice in my head.

I froze. A warm tingling sensation suddenly appeared in my head, and quickly began to run from my crown, down my neck, and into my spine, as another warm and tingly feeling began in my feet and started emanating up my legs.

Great, I thought to myself. That’s all I need at this point…her.

The two opposing tingly feelings continued their creep and met somewhere in my lower back: we were connected now. That warm pulsing tingle of The Connection. We were synced.

Hello Matthew, came the woman’s voice again. I feel The Connection. I needed to speak with you. I needed to let you know that he knows. I needed to speak with you about how best to proceed regarding…

The woman’s voice was cut off as John, apparently having finally regained a composure he was comfortable with, turned back towards me.

“Yeah,” John started as he nodded in agreement. “Yeah, I’ll take a beer if it’s cold Matt. You get your shoes off, and I’ll meet you on your porch in a few. I’m going to go ask Patrice about dinner. Any chance you might wanna pop over? Do you have plans?”

John asking me to join he and his wife for dinner was not unusual. I was, after all, a lonely bachelor. A lonely divorcee. A washed-up burnout who over the past nine years had been fixed up with virtually every single woman John and his wife knew. But dinner tonight did not seem appropriate. I was in no way trying to read John’s intentions regarding this particular invitation as we had too much experience between us for me to read into it as being hostile. But I had to seriously consider it inappropriate under the circumstances.

Jesus, how uncomfortable might that dinner be? I thought to myself.

If you come to dinner, I’ll make you cum, came the woman’s voice again. I’ll cum all over your face Matthew, and you can cum on mine, if you want. It will be nothing but cumming for the both of us if you come to dinner.

Dammit Patrice, can you at least allow me to get my shoes off and grab your husband a beer before I make a decision on dinner?

Sure Matthew. I know my cooking isn’t always that great, but my dessert will make that dark and lonely heart of yours shine like the sun that it actually is. Mmm, I’m getting wet just thinking about having you inside me and seeing your light.

Patrice…

“Matt?” John said, snapping me away from my internal dialogue. “Matt, you’re zoning out again.”

“Sorry John. Been a long day at work and I have an even longer one in store tomorrow. I have a lot of work stuff on my mind,” I said, turning away from my neighbor and heading for the faux safety of my own home.

“Already trying to think of all the stuff I need to do tomorrow. Lemme grab you that beer. About ten minutes.”

I did not glance back to see if John was retreating back to his own property as I neared the relative safety of my own front porch.

Sorry you had a long day. I hope I get a long one tonight, Matthew.

Patrice, I myself would take an explanation of any length as to why your husband is over at my house breaking my balls over allegedly, quote ‘fucking you’, unquote.

I’ll explain in a bit Matt, and it will all make sense. I promise.

As I reached my front door, I tried to put Patrice and her shenanigans out of my head. Just as I began to fumble with my key for the lock, and just as freedom seemed imminent, I heard John call from what sounded like his driveway. I froze, closed my eyes, and tried not to shudder.

“Hey, Matt! Pedometer!” he shouted. “They ought to give those to pedophiles so cops know how many kids they’ve molested!”

I suddenly felt a tinge of fury. My heart knew that I should not be feeling this feeling, but I was. Whatever my neighbor was digging for, and why he was digging for it in me no longer mattered. This asshole has to be begging for a beating, but why he has chosen me to give it to him is a total mystery at this point.

Don’t let him get to you cowboy. You are closer that you know to being free of him forever.

I ignored Patrice’s comment entirely, turned to peek around the corner of my front porch to look over in the direction of the voice. Sure enough, there stood John in his own driveway. Immobile, and looking in my direction with a giant ridiculous smile on his face as if he’d just told the joke of the century and was now eagerly awaiting my guffaws of approval.

“That’s a great idea John,” I said in an absolutely flat tone. “Fantastic in fact. Why don’t you head inside right now and dial 911 and tell them your genius idea. You can tell me all about it when you come back over for your beer.”

The dry and unimpressed nature in my voice appeared to have gotten the message across, as his previously grinning face was now melting into such a pathetic sag that it appeared it may slide off his head.

He turned, looked down and I could tell his face was now twisting with confusion, and began walking dejectedly towards his house.

I turned back towards my front door, inserted my key into the lock, opened it, and stepped inside. Closing the door behind me, I could only think one word…sanctuary.

It may be a sanctuary from John, but not from me. With me, there is no sanctuary Matthew.

I need no sanctuary from you Patrice. You are my sanctuary.

* * *

John and I had become fast ‘friends’ when he and his wife, Patrice, had moved in next door to me a little over nine years ago. ‘Friends’ in the loose sense in that it was quite obvious from the start that John more or less inserted himself into my life whether I wanted him in it or not, and he was the type of fellow that clung to certain others who could provide him with specific things. He had a bombastic way for introducing himself to others, at which point he would size them up for what they could and could not provide.

I never considered him a bad guy, just not exactly a good one. Never seemed to have a thought of his own, which, unfortunately for me and because I was both easily accessible and tolerated his bullshit, just about every crazy idea, weird concept and stupid joke that drifted through John’s transom he would almost certainly parrot to me.

I stood inside my doorway for some time contemplating the nature of my relationship with my neighbors, and wondering what in the hell John was on about. As such, I find myself back at day one of when John and Patrice moved in, and going over every little detail as to how he’s gotten wind of mine and Patrice’s, alleged, affair.

Are you fucking my wife? Who in the hell asks a question like that? He didn’t really seem that peeved or upset. Perhaps the exchange didn’t happen like it does in the movies, and as such, he didn’t know how to react?

You’re contemplating aren’t you Matthew?

Patrice’s voice, in my head again. I’d forgotten we were still actively connected.

Yes Patrice, I am. Can you hear what I’m thinking? Like, the specifics?

No Matt, it’s more of a feeling. When we communicate directly, then yes the information sent along The Connection is very clear. But when you are mumbling internally I get nothing specific. Just maybe a feeling about what it may be regarding.

So, when I jerk off at night, you get no specifics nor details, you simply know I’m masturbating.

Rawr…so saucy Matthew. So aggressive. I like it. And speaking of, what was with that ‘you are my sanctuary Patrice’ nonsense?

For once, Patrice, I guess I just felt I needed to defend myself. The walls were kinda closing in, ya know?

Good on you Matt. That was brilliant. You’ve taken yet another step into…oh wait…John is calling me, needs to talk, he says.

OK, well, I’m going to ground myself and disconnect. I need to get your husband a beer, and I really need to get these fucking shoes off.

Matt, did you really walk seventeen point three miles today?

Yes I did Patrice. It was awful and I’m currently feeling all fifty-five of my years, and then some.

John wants me to come over and talk to you Matt.

What?! You, Patrice? Why you?

He feels that he may have upset you.

He did, Patrice. But that still doesn’t explain why he wants you to come over.

John seems to think that I’ll be able to smooth things over and you’ll come to dinner.

Patrice, I really don’t know if…

Shhhh….Matthew, just, let me come over. I’ll tell John it may take a bit, but I think I can smooth things over.

Patrice, this is weird as hell him sending you over, whom he just accused me of having an affair with. I’m on edge here.

Ground yourself Matt. Grab that beer, and I’ll drink it when I get there.

Patrice wait. Patrice?

“Fuck!” I said aloud.

She’s disconnecting. I could feel the tingly feeling in my back partially unwinding. She was already grounding herself.

I was still standing in the doorway, holding my keys and lunchbox. I felt so alone in the moment. Only recently had I, by some fluke of nature, acquired the ability to speak with anyone, any time, anywhere in the world, and yet at that precise moment I’d never felt more alone.

It didn’t help matters that, for the first six months after discovering my ability, I’d been talking, via thought alone, to a someone who originally told me that they were on the other side of the world. But as it turns out, this distant and seemingly completely harmless someone was actually less than fifty feet away the entire time. Patrice. And boy oh boy, once we discovered who each other actually was, did the tone and topics of the conversations ever change. The small talk and vagaries were gone. She was suddenly a firebrand, passionate, but a rogue, a rebel and downright nasty at times: and I don’t mean just and only sexual stuff either. For the last four months, she had toyed with me and psychologically beaten on me relentlessly. I had no idea what to make of any of it. Still don’t. Perhaps she’ll explain it someday if I can keep myself from tying cinder blocks to my feet and jumping into a lake.

You’re drifting again Matt. You really should ground before some sneaky someone you don’t know tries to connect.

I reached up with the hand holding my key ring, and selected the key that allowed itself to be singled out, as which key I used did not matter. This time it was the key to my one and only padlock.

I don’t even know where in the hell that padlock is, I thought to myself. No idea why I still have the key to it on my key ring.

No response from Patrice, nor anyone else for that matter, doesn’t feel like anyone else is connected nor trying to connect, so now all that remained was for me to close the current connection completely.

I reached out with the key, and touched it to the metal screw holding the face-plate cover to the light switch on the wall. Almost immediately, I could feel the somewhat diminished ball of coursing energy in my back begin to unwind like electrically charged noodles being slurped out via my head and feet, and then vanish completely.

I pulled the key away from the screw; disconnected. With little very little gusto and no thanks given to the key for its additional service, I hung my key ring on the key rack above the light switch, and retreated inward to get my shoes off my aching feet.

* * *

The doorbell rang and my hands suddenly went clammy.

How should I greet her? Should I shake her hand? Just say hello and immediately hand her a beer, while shuffling myself outside so that she does not attempt to come in? Should I go out into my backyard, toss the beer over the roof and into the front yard, and cry ‘My mom says I can’t come out to play right now, but there’s your beer crazy woman! Just like you like it! Shaken and stirred and every other fucking thing!’

It was just now dawning on me that, not only did I not really know my neighbor Patrice, we had never really spoken before. Not at any length, and most certainly never alone. Well, not ‘in person’ anyway. And most of the “remote” stuff was so scattered, unintelligible and seemingly pointless that the fact we’d been speaking almost non-stop for ten months, now too felt more like we’d never spoken at all.

Should I check my breath? Wait a second Matt…this isn’t a date. Relax.

Only now did a calmness fall upon me. The absolute absurdity of being thrown into a tangent over nothing at all. I was rattled over basically, nothing. A married woman is standing at my door, ringing the bell, because her husband, my neighbor, not fifteen minutes ago accused me of having an affair with his wife, the woman in question is now standing at my door, and he now wants her to smooth things over so I’ll come to dinner with them. Simple. I had not a damn thing to worry about. Except…

Patrice and I have not spoken in person about our, less than conventional conversations. Wait, that doesn’t sound very good at all. “Less than conventional’ sounds exactly like what John was just accusing me of.

The doorbell rang again. My chest started to tighten.

Holy hell. It’d never occurred to me that myself and Patrice had not yet talked in person about our abilities. What if…oh my God…what if all this time, I wasn’t actually communicating telepathically with Patrice. What if some malicious asshole with psychic powers has been toying with me this entire time, and passing it off as if I was speaking to a neighbor because of some clue I’ve given away. Some game psychics play to amuse themselves, similar to a cat playing with a mouse.

I felt a very cold chill at the base of my neck, and for the first time in a very long time, I actually felt afraid. My mind was awash and digging through the memory banks for the last time that I’d even seen Patrice, let alone talked to her.

A knock now at the door. They are getting impatient and require a response. Doorbells fail, malfunction and sometimes just go unheard, but not knocks.

Face the music Matt. Grab a beer, this very second, then go answer the door.

“Hey Patrice. How are you?” I attempted to sound as nonchalant as possible as I pushed open the outward-facing glass door and made my way outside.

“Hello Matt. Is that beer for me? Or you.”

I could not tell if she was being playfully ignorant or not, so I just played it as cool as humanly possible for now.

“Why don’t you have a seat on the porch swing, I’ll sit in this chair here opposite you, and we can figure out who this beer is for.”

“Oh, OK, well, I hadn’t planned on staying long, but I guess I can sit for a moment Matt.”

“Whatever you want to do is fine Patrice,” I said while trying not to allow my face to twist with a confused look. “It’s just that I don’t think you’ve ever come over here before, so I guess I just assumed maybe you came to talk a bit, considering the circumstances and recent events.”

Patrice sat on the porch swing opposite me, and once she was seated I chose one of the four porch bar-chairs that were place around a small round table I’d picked up at a garage sale a few years back. The table was small, the chairs uncomfortable and I’d really only purchased the set as decoration as I had no friends to speak of and almost never had guests. For once, the table would come in handy and I placed the unopened can of beer on it.

Hands folded in her lap, Patrice was looking at me almost impatiently as if waiting for me to situate myself. For the first time I noticed that she had very beautiful blue crystalline eyes. I tended not to like blue eyes very much, crystalline blue even less, but in this case they suited her. She was attractive. I snapped out of my study of her form as it suddenly occurred to me that I was in great danger.

My heart was pumping at this point. Not from lust, nor anger, nor even fear nor any other emotion I could think of…this was a feeling of confusion that I’ve never before felt, and it was causing my heart a stress it had never before known. Not even twelve years ago when my wife of eighteen years told me she was through with me and my broken self, did my heart suffer this kind of trauma.

“Matt,” Patrice’s voice snapped me out of my waking coma, “John just told me about what happened earlier, and I must tell you that I am horrified.”

“I admit that I am quite confused as to exactly what just transpired Patrice.”

“Did he really shout out in a very loud voice from across the yard something about pedophiles to you?”

The bottom of the entire Universe just fell out from under me.

“Um, pedophiles?” I was trying to hold it together, but it was now clear that this slimy asshole is playing some kind of twisted game with me. He basically assaults me over adultery with his wife, and he goes home and makes up some bullshit story about a very in poor taste joke, completely omitting the adultery parts? “Yeah Patrice he did, and I guess he was trying to make a joke about the pedometer that I have to wear for work. It wasn’t very funny, was in poor taste, and I admit it upset me. Perhaps more than it should, but I do have to wear this thing every single work day, and to be completely honest and open, his comment is likely going to haunt me for some time for that very reason.”

“Well, I’m sorry that it upset you Matt, but that’s really not my concern nor why I came over,” Patrice said rather flatly.

The entire Universe just exploded. This is the kind of sick twisted games that my ex-wife used to play. Say, anything. Do, anything. Nothing, matters. She, held all the cards, she, was the dealer, and I had to play her games and take whatever she dealt out because I had nothing and no one in all creation, except for her. I was nothing more than a dislodged piece of navel lint in a wind storm.

“Matt, are you okay?” Patrice suddenly sounded exactly like her husband.

“I am contemplating what you’ve said,” I fired back calmly. “Were you expecting me to say something?”

“I guess maybe I expected you to ask me why I came over.”

“You’ve mentioned that you’re aware of something your husband said to me.”

“Yes, but that’s not the real reason I came over.”

“You said that already, Patrice.”

“Matt, are you angry about something?”

The alarm bells were most certainly going off now, full tilt, and this was absolutely turning into a life and death situation.

“Patrice, perhaps you should just tell me what you need since I don’t know you that well, and I’m certainly not a mind-reader.”

Patrice did not really react to my statement, but strangely reached around behind her back, and produced a large, letter-sized envelope. She leaned forward and offered it to me.

“Oh, haha, a mind-reader!” she said in an obviously forced tone, whilst simultaneously urging me with her eyes to take the envelope. “Me and John went to see a mind-reader once, except this one was a hypnotizer. Is that right? Hypnotizer?”

“Hypnotist,” I corrected her as I leaned forward and took the envelope. “I’m quite sure that hypnotists are those who hypnotize people for various reasons.”

A look of relief crossed Patrice’s face as I took the envelope from her hand, and I fell face-first into whatever new game she was now playing.

“Well, me and John went to this show where a hypnotist would pick people from the audience.” After finishing her thought, Patrice raised her hands in an mock envelope-opening type motion, implying that I should open it now, here, in her presence. “Anyway, John of course volunteered us both, and we both got to go up on stage and get hypnotized.”

Only moments before, my fear levels had just about caused my entire existence to seize and stop entirely, but now there was suddenly this strange feeling of…clarity. Perhaps everything leading up to this very moment in time was some kind of test to see if I could in any way handle the horrors that were almost sure to materialize from this envelope’s contents.

I noticed that Patrice was arching her eyebrows as if to hurry me along. I looked for a moment deeply into her eyes, and that gloomy image which was beginning to form of Patrice being John’s soulmate or clone or whatever it was had disappeared. Odd that it continued to rattle on outwardly as I peeled back the flap on the envelope and produced what appeared to be no less than five folded pages.

“John barked like a chicken and clucked like a dog.”

I had only just started to open the letter when it struck me what Patrice had just said.

“He barked like a chicken and clucked like a dog? Don’t you mean that he barked like a dog and clucked like a chicken Patrice?”

“That’s what the hypnotist said Matt. He told John to bark like a chicken and cluck like a dog. I don’t know how John did it, but he did.”

“That’s…frightening, Patrice. I don’t even want to know…”

‘GROUND YOURSELF RIGHT NOW!’

The first line of the first page jumped off the paper and hit me like a lightning bolt. Instinctively I started to reach down and grab one of the metal legs on the small table, but my survival instincts kicked in and I resisted the urge, thinking that this may be a trap of some kind. But almost as quickly as I began to doubt, I remember the odd feelings that I’ve felt during the processes of being grounded, ungrounded and The Connection. Being both an electrician and a semi-amateur radio enthusiast, there are things that have been happening over the past ten months that I can in no way begin to explain.

I looked up from the letter and at Patrice. She gave a small nod, and there was a calmness to her being which provided just enough assurance for me to throw caution to the wind and play along. Knowing that the table’s legs were a poor ground, I reached out and grabbed one anyway and continued to read as Patrice continued to ramble.

“I don’t really remember being hypnotized, but everyone said I was. They said I got trapped in a box that wasn’t there, and I couldn’t get out.”

‘Dear Matthew,

For the time being, please read down only to where it says ‘STOP HERE!’, keep reading until you get there, and I’ll ramble on about hypnotists in the meantime. Also, keep your hand firmly wrapped around that metal leg on the table until we finish here, and please do not begin to wonder internally how I know all of this. I do, and answers will come later.’

“John says that he can remember being hypnotized, and he can remember everything he did, but I don’t remember anything at all,” Patrice continued. “He says he only did what he was told because he knew he was part of the act. But me? He says that I was absolutely terrified and screaming. He said I really honestly thought that I was trapped in a box even though there was no box.”

‘We are both of us in great danger because of our, ‘gifts’. I would ask that you, later at some point this evening, find yourself a proper grounding point, and read the remainder of this letter ONLY when grounded. I will go ahead and tell you that I am a beard. My marriage is an arranged sham so that my husband can collect his inheritance, and myself and John will not be married much longer as he is already arranging the divorce and planning to move to somewhere in Java. I will of course get a piece of his inheritance as payment for services tendered over the past fifteen years of marriage. More on that later though. The Great Magician is awake, and I have reason to believe that The Great Magician has somehow found the both of us…meaning you and I. Does this mean anything to you? I am so very sorry for all of this. Hopefully, the rest of the letter will better explain what I know, and what I don’t. P

STOP HERE!

A quick thumb through the sheets indicated that this letter was approximately eight pages long. Visions of Armageddon suddenly swirled in my head as my mind flashed back to the horrible tales of the end times taught me in church as a youth. But that’s exactly what this moment felt like. I felt like I had just walked out of the sunshine and green grasses onto the burning and bloody fields of Megiddo, and me right in the big middle of the fighting between the warring factions of good and evil.

“Which reminds me, Matt. John did ask me to tell you that he was sorry about his joke he made earlier, but the real reason that I came over was I wanted to know if I could borrow a cup of milk. I’m making John some cornbread for dinner, and I need some milk.”

“Patrice,” I said calmly, looking up from the letter. “Did you know that you can substitute beer for milk in certain baked goods?”

Patrice’s face was aghast. Honestly, aghast and unknowing. I’d hit her with a curve-ball.

“Really?” she said.

I folded the letter and thoughtfully placed it back into the envelope, before sliding the envelope into my shirt pocket as I stood.

“Yeah really really. I have a beer sitting right here, which I am going to give you. I’m going to go inside and get you…how much milk do you need?”

“I only needed one cup of milk. Whole milk if you have it,” she said rather sheepishly.

“Okay Patrice, I’m going to go inside and get you one cup of whole milk, and if you decide that you would like to give the beer a whirl, only use half of a cup of the milk in your cornbread, and use a half of a cup of the beer in substitution for the other half-cup of milk.”

“Will that really work?” Patrice asked disbelievingly. “What…what does this do?

“It gives the cornbread a bit of a different flavor is all. Better in biscuits, but it works with cornbread too. And you’ll have exactly four ounces of beer leftover you can sip on if you want.”

“Sure Matt, I’ll…give that a try. Thank you. Do I need…”

“This beer has already gotten kinda warm,” I said, not letting her finish. “Just make sure you allow it get a little warmer before adding it to the mix. I’ll be right back with your milk.”

I retreated into the house thinking that I had no idea what answers, if any, Patrice’s letter might contain. At this point, it was apparent that her rather substantial looking letter was more likely to contain mystery than clarity. One thing was certain though, I’d had just about enough of being at the mercy of the whims of an assembly of douchebag neighbors and cryptic mystics playing their god games. It was time for me to stop being a leaf in the wind, get serious, and hit the books to start researching this insanity. It was time that I become the storm.

Right after I get Patrice her milk, of course.

*******

*Wait. he tweets out ‘it’s Friday once again’ each week, Clicky… /stubs butt… Doesn’t he?*

*Ah, ya got me…*

We hope you have enjoyed today’s post. If you’d like to read Cade’s story in proper book form, as well as 12 other short stories and a substantial poem from a variety of authors, then Underdog Anthology XIV is available for a staggeringly low price…

*You could get a full set of Underdog Anthologies for well under twenty quid. That’s fantastic value…*

Until next time, Dear Reader, have a Song 😀

Extended CLICK5… CLICKB8: Go Woke, Go Bro, Ken?

Story Time: In The Grotto

*Clicky! Dear Reader’s here for the latest episode of Ronageddon…/lights up… not an engrossing Woo talk… /drags… on the difference… /streams smoke… between ‘revelation’ and ‘revealing’… /flicks ash… as interesting and pertinent as it may be…*

*Exactly… /pats snout… Btw, that music vid is extremely pertinent too…*

Welcome, Dear Reader! Today is the 21st December and Winter Solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year for the northern hemisphere…

*So even though we’re closer to the sun, it’s colder? …/Smokes… Interesting…*

… And also the setting for ‘In The Grotto’, my story for Underdog Anthology XVI: Slay Bells In the Snow

*There’s top notch contributions from all the authors, Clicky…*

… Which I am happy to present for your entertainment, below. Enjoy! 😀

*******

In The Grotto

By Roo B. Doo
To: Death, Grim Reaper Service

From: Father Christmas, Children Services

Date: 13th December 2021

Re: Christmas Wish Annual Check Up

Greetings, Reaper of Souls and Pyschopomp in Chief!

Can you believe it has been a whole year since I granted your Christmas wish, Big D?
Like my sleigh, time flies, eh?


Whenever you have a moment in the next couple of weeks, I would be grateful if you
could pop by the club so we can have a chat and so forth about any wish-making
consequences you may have experienced in the past year. Any evening before
Christmas Eve is fine but Lapland will be hosting the international finals of Elvis Lives:
Karaoke and Striptease Challenge
on the 21st and I would be delighted if you could
make it then.


Whatever date you can manage, I look forward to seeing you again, old friend.

Soda Pops - x

p.s. And speaking of 'suspicious minds', I'd be much obliged if could you come via the
rear entrance as we're trying not to draw attention to our locale from the local killjoys.
As far as the Rona Regime are concerned, everybody, including Elvis, has left the
building. SP

Death read the week-old she-mail from Father Christmas and then opened his PsiCalendar to check his schedule. So far the year had been horrendously busy and its final 11 days were destined to continue in the same vein. If 2020 had entered the annals of history as the ‘Year Of The Rona’, then 2021 would be infamous as the ‘Year Of Unexplained Sudden Passing’. He had attended to a great many of those during the year but to Death, no passing went unexplained.

I do hope 2022, he mused lugubriously, doesn’t become the ‘Year Of The Great Regret’.

He sighed; with so many souls to transition recently, Death was feeling pooped. The ranks of the Grim Reaper Service were in dire need of bolstering to keep up with demand, but if there was one thing Death shunned more than his bulging inbox, it was initiating a new round of recruitment. With billions of candidates to choose from, to describe the vetting and interview processes as laborious would be a colossal understatement.

And now he had been summoned to Lapland. Death’s opinion of the adult entertainment complex where Father Christmas resided 364 days of year was akin to the one he held on the recruitment process and managing his inbox. Although the club’s exterior was as unassuming as the London backstreet where it was located, its interior was dark and alluring, and had an atmosphere so thick with the tang of sex and smoke that Death could quite literally cut with a scythe.

The tacky upholstery doesn’t bear too close an examination either, he reflected disdainfully, as he continued to tap on the PsiPad screen.

“Ah serendipity,” Death said aloud. “It looks like I’m already booked to appear at Lapland tomorrow night. Winter Solstice it is, although I doubt Soda Pops will be as pleased as he expects.”

He closed the cover on his PsiPad and balanced the slim rectangle on the tips of his distil phalanges. Death considered the elegance and efficiency of the new tech he’d been issued with, and marvelled, not for the first time, at just how many deaths he could now hold in the metacarpals of one hand. Elvis lives? Not according to my records.

Death suddenly had an idea. It too was elegant and efficient in that he would be able to complete three tasks in one fell swoop.

I need to ask favour. Or two, he thought. He opened up his PsiPad and proceeded to write his very first she-mail.

***

He asked for what?

God was intrigued.

And he actually put the request in writing? Let me see.

Brian, the pompous goose that ran the God Lobby on behalf of the supreme deity passed the PsiPad he was holding between his wings over to God.

Big D sent it by she-mail?

Brian honked in affirmation.

Interesting.

God looked at the screen.

To: God

From: Death, Grim Reaper Service

Date: 20th December 2021

Re: A Request

Ma'am

I would be grateful if you would grant me use of the Situation Room tomorrow
evening. I promise to return it intact.

Eternally yours

Death

Big D doesn’t say why he wants to use it.

It was not often that God was surprised, but Death’s odd request was one of those times. She passed the PsiPad back to her chief scribe.

Please send the following reply for me, Brian – ‘Granted’.

Brian tapped the message on screen. He was grateful for the brevity of the response; he much preferred quill, ink and parchment over having to use his beak, which he considered most unbecoming.

I require some focus time, Brian. Please, no interruptions for the next hour or so.

Brian bowed his head and honked.

No, that will be all, thank you.

God started to focus.

***

To a casual observer sat in the Piccolo cafe, the lone woman sitting at the back table might be considered to be conducting a wireless telephone conversation during her meal. Her table manners may be labelled as rude but one-sided conversations in public are all too common these days, so not unusual. And even if noticed, the empty child’s booster seat on the chair opposite the lone, loquacious woman, probably would not have been factored in by a casual observer in reaching this wholly incorrect conclusion. Unless of course the casual observer was dead.

“Wait.” War continued to chew on black pudding and fried bread with an open mouth. “Are you asking me out on a date?”

Death silently studied his apocalypse comrade over the plastic, blue check tablecloth between them. On it sat a steaming mug of tea and a full English breakfast that War was gleefully attacking.

“No, as I stated previously,” Death said patiently, “I will be evaluating a new recruit this evening for a position in the Grim Reaper Service. I value your opinion, War, and would be grateful for your presence.”

War arched her eyebrows quizzically and poked some masticated food from between her cheek and gums with her index finger. “And that’s all?” she asked suspiciously, as she sucked at a piece of sausage trapped under her talon-like nail.

“Nothing else,” Death said firmly. “You have egg on your chin.”

“Okay, where and what time?” War rubbed the flecks of grease and egg yoke from her face with a paper napkin. “I’m fully booked until eight o’clock tonight and I can’t cancel any of my clients. I’m charging them double rate over Christmas and New Year.”

“There will be no need to cancel any of your fitness classes, War. I have procured the Situation Room for the evening.”

“Whoa, you got a lend of God’s new wheels?” War asked, forking bacon and baked beans into her mouth. “How’d you manage that?”

Although the Situation Room was more like an invisible cube, capable of moving in any direction and to any place or time, than a motor vehicle, Death concurred with War’s description of ‘God’s new wheels’. It was certainly speedy.

“I asked her.”

“Huh.” War slurped back a mouthful of tea. “I’ll have to try that.”

“Well then.” Death slipped down from the booster seat. “It is agreed. Enjoy the rest of your breakfast, I have people to see. Unfortunately for them.”

“Hey, not so fast, short-arse. You still haven’t told me where we’re going. What’s the dress code?”

“We’ll be attending Soda Pops’ International Elvis Lives Karaoke and Striptease Challenge at Lapland. Apparently it’s the final, ironically enough for someone.”

“Sounds cool,” War said taking a bite of buttered toast. “I’ll just wear my blue suede shoes then.”

War smirked and continued eating.

“Please don’t.” Death paused as he turned to leave. “Incidentally, I have to ask. You’re a fitness guru, War – how can you condone let alone participate in the consumption of such a large, fried meal?”

War continued to stuff her face. “Are you kidding? At the rate I burn through calories, if I don’t eat like this three times a day I’d look just like you.”

“Noted.” Death bowed his head and glided out of the cafe.

***

Before 2020, the final of the International Elvis Lives Karaoke Challenge had been successfully held at Xi Xi Fat’s Lo Fat Cafe, situated just off the seafront at Southend on Sea.

Although the restaurant was mostly ignored by the local populous because of its reputation for inedible food and confrontational waiting staff, it had gained a cult following via the internet for exactly the same reasons. That and Xi Xi’s twice weekly, full rhinestone garb performances of Elvis Presley’s greatest hits, which drew in punters from far and wide. When a particularly poignant rendition of ‘Are you Romsome Tonight‘ was immortalized as a meme on social media, Xi Xi decided to capitalise on his new found fame and founded the ‘International Elvis Lives Karaoke Challenge’. Marketed at catering establishments across in the UK as a way of promoting their business, the only thing international about it was the competitors’ cuisine.

As the reigning two-time champion, Xi Xi hungered to be crowned ‘The King’ for a third time. And he was quite sure he would have were it not for the cruel intervention of the Rona Christmas lockdown in 2020. Like the rest of the hospitality sector in the country, the Lo Fat Cafe was forced to close until the spring.

Xi Xi was determined that he would not be forced to cancel the final again this year, so asked his long-time friend Soda Pops if he would host the 2021 final. Soda Pops ran Lapland, a nightclub in London, with a dubious reputation but the only place Xi Xi knew of that had remained open and free from the government’s Rona molestations throughout the pandemic. He didn’t know how Soda Pops had managed it, only that he had, and assumed some of Lapland’s patrons must be very powerful and important indeed.

When Soda Pops agreed to his request, Xi Xi decided to include a striptease element to the competition in honour of his generous friend. Nothing was going to stop Xi Xi from achieving his hat-trick this year, even if he had to wear nothing at all.

***

Soft, glowing twilight had settling throughout the God Lobby. From the platform office overlooking the swelling expanse of souls, God watched as the sea rippled and parted, allowing two figures to appear. The first figure, was very short and carried a glowing scythe, lighting their path. He glided ahead of the second much taller figure, who walked along behind. Both wore the unmistakable hooded, ebony robes of the Grim Reaper Service. Not a word passed between the two as they exited the soul sea, which collapsed in their wake, and made their way to the elevator that would bring them up to the office where God was waiting.

*bing*

The elevator doors silently opened and the two figures emerged.

Hello Big D.

“Ma’am.” Death was startled by God’s unexpected greeting but covered it well, although he doubted he had been smooth enough. “I was not expecting to see you this evening.”

God smiled.

I can see that. Who is this with you?

“This is…” Death paused. “Aron. He’s a candidate for the Grim Reaper Service. I will be evaluating his performance in a real-death scenario this evening.”

Hello Aron.

Aron shook beneath his heavy robes. God gently placed her hand on the sleeve of his shaking arm.

Are you shy?

“Uh-huh.”

Don’t be. I promise to take good care of you this evening.

This time Death didn’t try to hide his surprise. “Ma’am? You will be coming with us?” he gasped.

Indeed. I pay very close attention to your she-mail requests.

Death thought for a moment. “But I’d never send a she-mail before.”

Exactly. Now, where is Aron’s evaluation to take place?

Death was nonplussed by the unexpected turn of events; he hadn’t anticipated God’s involvement and strictly speaking, the candidate was not meant to know the time or place of his evaluation. “Ma’am, could I speak to you for one moment in private?”

Of course, Big D.

God led Death aside and then slid into a crouch so that the diminutive Grim Reaper could whisper in her ear.

“Ma’am, Aron must have no foreknowledge of the real-death scenario. It is imperative that he doesn’t gain an advantage over any other possible candidates.”

God nodded her agreement.

I understand. Rigour must be upheld.

“I would also suggest that it is best that you refrain from speaking or communicating with the candidate entirely until the evaluation is over.”

Agreed. So where are we going?

Death cupped his skeletal hand in front of his cowl and whispered into God’s ear, “Lapland-”

Oh goodie. I do so love visiting Soda Pops.

God’s exuberance surprised Death for a third time in the span of as many minutes. “You do?”

Why, yes. I have been taking instruction on pole dancing at Lapland.

Death wondered how many more times God was going to surprise him this evening.

It’s tremendous exercise for developing flexibility and strengthening the inner core.

“I see,” Death replied somewhat sceptically.

I have become quite proficient.

“Good for you, Ma’am. Practice makes perfect.”

I’m glad you agree, Big D and I hope you keep that in mind when evaluating Aron.

“Ma’am?”

I think my presence has made him nervous, and for that I apologise.

Death felt his rib cage expand at the kind wisdom in God’s apology. “I will.”

God stood up with smooth fluidity.

Shall we go? I’ll drive.

“Oh, one more thing,” Death said. God slid back down into a crouch again. “We will need to collect War along the way.”

War will be joining us? Excellent news. You are full of surprises tonight, Big D.

***

“Mm mm mm, mm, yay, yay, yay… I’m all shook up!

The audience at Lapland erupted into thunderous applause as Hector Rodrigues completed his set. Sweat streamed down Hector’s face as he struck his final pose under the hot spotlight, and bounced off the gold medallion nestled in the thick fur matting that cover his swarthy, naked chest.

From the stage wings, Xi Xi watched Hector’s performance. He considered it adequate overall, with a sufficient amount of hip swivels and knee kicks to garner Hector high marks from the judges, although Xi Xi thought Hector’s decision to play it safe and keep his trousers on would lower his final score.

Xi Xi looked out toward the judges table, situated in front of the the audience, to gauge their response. He was most impressed by the caliber of the judging line up Soda Pops had assembled: there was an actual High Court Judge; a former Speaker of the House of Commons and the person Xi Xi wanted to impress the most – TV chef and food campaigner, Freddie Calendar. Freddie could make or break any Michelin Star wannabe’s career and although Xi Xi knew his food could never pass muster, he hoped the ambiance of the Lo Fat Cafe would one day win it a top accolade.

Hector was still milking the applause as Soda Pops bounced onto the stage, one arm outstretched and the other holding a microphone to his lips. “Give it up for Hector Rodrigues of the Jumping Bean Bistro in Weston-Super-Mare, our penultimate competitor. Well, done, Hector!”

Hector took a last bow and left the stage in Xi Xi’s direction.

“Good job, Jumping Bean,” Xi Xi said, clapping Hector on the back several times and handing him a towel.

Hector wiped the sweat from his face. “Gracias, Lo Fat. It is a good crowd tonight.”

Xi Xi jumped up and down and ran rapidly on the spot. He crooked his head until the bones in his neck popped. “Thank you for warming them up.”

“Now then, now then, boys and girls,” Soda Pops address the room. “It’s been a hell of a competition so far, but the question is, have we left the best to last?”

Oh yes you have!” the audience replied in unison.

Soda Pops chuckled into the mic. “We’ll see, we’ll see.” He wandered to the front of the stage, cracking the mic flex like a whip. He pointed to the judges’ table and snapped the flex again. “No, that’s for later. Am I right, Mr Speaker?”

“Oh no you’re not!” the dapper, but well watered politician bellowed in return.

Order! Order!” The audience responded with roars of laughter and the sound of palms slapping on tabletops.

Soda Pops flapped his hands, signalling the audience to calm down. “Now, our last competitor tonight is not just any old competitor. No, no. Singing his signature success, ‘Are You Romsome Tonight’ and ‘Way Down’, would you please welcome the two-time reigning champion to the stage. The one and only Xi Xi Fat!”

Hector draped the rolled up towel around his neck. “Good luck, Lo Fat,” he told Xi Xi.

Xi Xi turned to his fellow competitor and curled his lip. “Rock and roll, Jumping Bean,” he drawled before jogging out to the spotlight.

***

“I’d forgotten what a tight squeeze this is,” War complained loudly, as she entered the Situation Room. She tried maneuvering for space but could only standing crooked, with the right side of her face pushed up against the ceiling. “Hold up, I’ll take my boots off.”

Her crimson, patent leather catsuit creaked as she kneeled down to unzipped her matching boots.

Good evening, War.

“Oh hello, Ma’am. I didn’t see you standing there behind…” War indicated to the tall, hooded figure looming over her. “Are you looking at my tits?”

The would be reaper’s hooded head snapped up from it’s down-turned position, as if to attention. “Pardon me, miss.”

“Nah, you’re alright,” War laughed. She pulled the zip on the front of her skintight catsuit down a notch and studied her cleavage. “Hello, boys!”

“War, this is Aron, this evening’s candidate for evaluation,” Death explained. “Aron, this is War. You should both refrain from interacting with each other until after the test.”

“That might prove difficult in here,” War said, standing up with boots in hand. She was still taller than the ceiling height, but only slightly so that she now only needed to tilt her head. “Ma’am, did you ever consider making the Situation Room a convertible?”

I have not.

Death eyed the wicked sharp stiletto heels of War’s boots, held just in front of his cowl. “War, those heels are lethal.”

“Well, you should know.” War turned her head and winked at Aron. “Are we picking anyone else up?”

“No,” Death replied.

“Good. Let’s get to Lap-”

Don’t-” Death started to tell War not to divulge their destination, but was interrupted when God pulled on the light bulb cord hanging down from the centre of the ceiling. For a moment, darkness was all.

“-land. Whoa there!” War burst into raucous laughter at the sight of the quivering, naked buttocks presented before them. “I was not expecting that!”

Way down where it feels so good,” Xi Xi sang lustily, “Way down where I hoped it would.”

“Ma’am, we seem to be at the back of the stage,” Death informed God.

It is where I normally park when I come for my pole-dancing lessons, Big D.

Out front, Xi Xi Fat had worked the Lapland audience into a fever pitch with his performance, and was about to reach the climax of his second song. He was naked, stripped of all clothing save for his cowboy boots, sunglasses and a glittering, sequin thong. He removed his sunglasses and flung them into the whooping audience.

Way down where I never could. Way down, down.” Xi Xi whipped off his thong and the audience went wild.

“Oh…my…fucking…word…” War continued to stare at singer’s backside, as he bowed from the waist to the ecstatic audience before him. “I can see right up the crack of his-”

“Is that..?” Death peered forward for a closer look. “That’s Famine.”

Famine had been missing since Halloween the previous year, when War had inadvertently eaten him whilst they were travelling in the back of a London taxi, driven by Satan. Pestilence, too, had been eaten and was still missing since that day, although Death had become keenly aware throughout the course of the year that Pesto was very much at large and active. Somewhere.

“What?! Where?” War shifted her gaze away from the singer’s bottom. “No way!

Xi Xi turned to face the back of the stage, unaware of the invisible Situation Room and the ethereal audience it contained. He smiled rapturously and laughed with joy and relief. Lifting his arms above his head, the thong still tightly in his grip, he punched the air. “Yesss!!

“It is! It fucking is, an’ all! Famine! Famine!” War shouted and banged the palm of her hand on the transparent wall, trying to get Xi Xi’s attention.

God placed a hand on War’s shoulder.

Famine cannot see or hear us, War.

Soda Pops ran on stage. “Splendid! Splendid!” he boomed into the mic, and wrapped his ermine trimmed, red velvet cloak around Xi Xi’s shoulders. “Xi Xi Fat, ladies and gentlemen! The true naked chef!”

The audience were on their feet cheering and calling for more. Xi Xi’s fellow competitors, who had crowded into the stage wings to watch his electric and revealing performance, now spilled out onto the stage, clapping and calling for an encore.

Xi Xi kissed his sequin thong and held it aloft before throwing it out into the darkness. It landed on the judge’s table, where Freddie Calendar quickly seized it and placed it over his face, to everyone’s great amusement.

Freddie got to his feet unsteadily; he’d taken full advantage of the complimentary booze that came with his judging responsibilities. With the thong stretched tight across his face he announced, “We the dudges are unam…unanamanapus.” He pulled the thong to one side of his nose and mouth to breath. “Ugh, this smells… Where was I? …Umanamus…yes we are, we have decided! We have, we have…Shush, everyone… Decided that G…Cheeky Fat is the winner!”

Everybody on stage and in the audience roared their approval at the judge’s decision. Everybody except Freddie, who was suddenly still. A look of confusion crossed his face and his head wobbled.

“I…” Freddie started to say, as his eyes glazed over, and he dropped to the floor in a dead slump.

*Bing!*

Death pulled the vibrating PsiPad from his robes. “Aron, would you please follow me. Your real-death test is about to begin.”

As Aron started to follow Death out of the Situation Room and onto the stage, God placed her hand once again on the sleeve of his robe and whispered.

Good luck.

“Ma’am, thank you very much.”

“What’s occurring?” Soda Pops boomed into the mic. He shielded his eyes from the spotlight to try and see what the commotion was in the audience. “Is someone being naughty?”

Nobody laughed. Instead the squeal of scraping chair legs and sober concern filled the room.

“He’s collapsed,” a voice called from the audience.

“Somebody call for an ambulance,” pleaded another.

“Who’s collapsed?” Xi Xi asked Soda Pops.

“That would be celebrity chef, Frederick Trevor Calendar,” Death announced. He appeared between Xi Xi and Soda Pops as they looked out into the audience. Death closed the cover on his PsiPad and passed it to a taller grim reaper standing behind him. “You’ll find him over there,” he said and pointed his scythe in the direction of the melee.

Aron jumped off the stage.

“One moment,” Death said, passing down his scythe. “You’ll need this.”

“Okay, boss.”

Presumptuous, Death thought.

“Death?” Xi Xi’s eyes bulged; his face was tight with shock as he stared down at Death. He looked like he’d seen a ghost.

“Hello Famine. We’ve been looking for you.”

Soda Pop’s scowled. “I knew it. It couldn’t just be pleasure for you, Big D, could it? It had to be business.”

“Regrettable though my presence may be, Soda Pops” Death said solemnly, “I really did appreciate receiving your invitation and I fully intend on making it up to you.”

“Oh yes, when?”

Death nodded out to the darkness. “As soon as my colleague down there reaps his first soul and you clear the rest of the premises.”

“That’ll be easy,” Soda Pops exclaimed. “Look, half of them have already left.”

It was true. Although a more than decent number of people were still rubber-necking, a steady stream of audience members were already making their way out of the exits. In the distance, a faint pierce of sirens could be detected.

“Oh bugger!” Soda Pops swore. “It may take a little longer if the Rona Regime turn up. What is it you have planned, Big D?”

Death plucked a stray thong sequin from the cuff of his robe. “Something spectacular.”

***

It was the longest night of the year and Lapland was finally quiet and still. The cabaret room was in darkness, except for its stage which was brightly lit. Death silently glided into the centre of the spotlight and addressed the small and select audience of four sitting in the front row.

“I will keep my introduction short-”

Soda Pops burst into guffaws; he found Death’s vertically challenging stature endlessly amusing.

Death sighed. “I should say brief-”

“Get on with it,” War shouted.

God held up her hand for quiet.

Please. All of you.

“I didn’t say anything,” Famine grumbled.

Carry on, Big D.

Death nodded. “Ma’am. I would just like to introduce you all to the Grim Reaper Service’s newest recruit. As you know, the service have been extremely busy of late and-”

Get on with it!

Death bowed his head. “Ladies and gentlemen…”

A rumbling of kettle drums and crash of cymbals suddenly poured forth from the speakers at the side of the stage.

“You met him earlier as Aron, but tonight…” Death continued.

The sound of a full orchestra filled the room as Aron emerged from the Situation Room and began to sing with a dark, soulful voice. “When no-one else can understand me…

“Elvis Presley is in the room.”

Death bowed.

*******

*Wait… That just happened? …/stubs butt… Gotta love synchronicity, Clicky…*

We hope you’re enjoying the Ronageddon series. The story will continue in Underdog Anthology XVII, in spring 2022 with ‘Pale Glider’ 😉

And remember, Dear Reader, that however dark Winter Solstice gets, once passed, life starts to get lighter. Have a Song ❤

*♫…That’s the wonder, the wonder of woo…♫*

CLICK5: Adventures In Remote Viewing – Candle, Book & Bell Sync…

Story Time: OK Charon!

*Thanks, Clicky… /lights up… We should probably mention… /drags… ‘Christmas Death Wish’ and… /streams smoke… ‘Walk I, With You’ as well…*

*Already done? Excellent…*

Happy Halloween, Dear Reader. Today is in fact Sunday 31st October 2021 and I hope you remembered to put your clocks back last night…

*S’okay, Clicky, I did it… /flicks ash… I made sure after reading Leggy’s story…*

… As promised, the latest installment in my Ronageddon series, ‘OK Charon!’, from Underdog Anthology XV is presented for your enjoyment, below…

*******

OK Charon!

by Roo B. Doo

Death was feeling anxious. Until a year ago the Grim Reaper was incapable of feeling anything, but that was before Halloween 2020 when the Devil had given him a front seat to the start of the attempted apocalypse. Since then, Death had developed, if not exactly feelings and emotions, then certainly intuitions. Right now he was intuiting anxiety and he didn’t like it.

“Where is she?” He demanded, pulling his PsiPad from the folds in his robe. He held it out so that Brian, the haughty goose overseeing the God Lobby, could see the on-screen flashing message. “See that? It’s an emergency audience request from God.”

Death squared his shoulders and gave Brian his most menacing death-stare, but to no avail; Brian was not easily intimidated, least not by a homunculus grim reaper, no taller than himself.

Honk!

“You said that ten minutes ago,” Death fumed, “And ten minutes before that.” He casually extended the retractable scythe from his sleeve so that the feathered receptionist could get a good look at the blade and the sparks of electricity that buzzed along its keen edge. “Some of us have work to do.”

Brian hissed and reluctantly pulled the PA microphone on his desk closer to his beak and switched it on.

HONK!!!…ONK!!…Onk!…

The sound reverberated around the vast God Lobby, bouncing off the walls and ricocheting into silence. The swelling sea of souls beneath the elevated position of the reception area seemed to collectively hold its breath for a moment before continuing its low moan.

“There,” Death said, retracting his scythe, “that wasn’t difficult now, was it?”

Brian gave Death a withering look and flapped his wing, indicating that Death should take a seat.

Honk Honk.

“No thank you. Liquids go straight through me,” Death replied drily and sat down. He placed the PsiPad on the seat next to him and drummed his bony digits against the cover. From his island vantage point at the centre of the vast cavern that stretched far beyond the horizon, he watched the tides of souls ebb and flow with hypnotic sway. All was rhythmic movement and soft murmur, dampened by the rolling Mists of Time.

Death attempted to meditate while he waited, inviting calm to flush out his anxiety, but still the phalanges of his skeletal hand beat out a steady tempo. It wasn’t God’s emergency request or even Brian’s truculence that caused Death such disquiet, although neither were particularly helpful. He suddenly had a flashback to the previous year when he’d sat impotently in the front of a London taxi cab, driven by the Devil, listening to the destruction of Famine and Pestilence as War savaged them in the backseat. He’d experienced his first bout of anxiety then and knew the cause of his anxiety now – it was the date; Death was haunted by Halloween.

A deep shadow loomed over him…

***

“I’m sorry, but times have changed and we have to change with them,” Jocasta Darling’s manager informed her from the safe distancing of a computer screen. “If you don’t agree to get vaccinated, you will not be able to work for us any more.”

Although it had been universally accepted that everybody’s lives had significantly changed with the advent of the Rona, the rogue virus that in less than two years had shuttered businesses, relationships and minds worldwide, Jocasta was precisely aware of when change had come to her. It had been back at the beginning of spring, on a cold, bright morning in April, when a chance encounter with her repugnant Member of Parliament had afforded the usually placid Jocasta the opportunity to serve up a piece of her mind. It turned out to be a generous slice, as a cold fury took possession of her. She had let rip, and the recipient had promptly dropped down dead. The experience had changed Jocasta alright.

“But I had the Rona last year, Suzie, you know I did.”

“Yes-”

“I caught it at work.”

“We know-”

“As a consequence, my natural immunity is far superior to anything a vaccine can provide.”

“It’s company policy-”

There was no stopping Jocasta; she was on a roll. “Then do what you have to do, because I refuse to consent. I don’t agree to having my immune system dumbed down by an experimental drug that’s still being tested. And I’m certainly not going to take it just so you can keep your fat salary job.”

“Now, that’s unfair,” the image of Suzie wailed.

“Well, so’s my backside. Deal with it.” Jocasta terminated the zoom call and snapped the lid down on her laptop. Her hands were shaking but her voice was steady. “For God’s sake!”

Tiny fingers plucked at Jocasta’s sleeve, demanding attention. Molly, her daughter, stood next to her in silence, but her eyes were full of questions.

‘Everything is fine. Do not worry,’ Jocasta signed. She got up from the kitchen table and walked over to the sink.

‘Are you sure?’ Molly signed back. ‘You look angry.’

Jocasta sighed as she let the icy flow from the cold water tap beat down upon her wrists. She was angry and she needed to calm down and cool off. She did not relish having to find a new job, not if vaccination against the Rona was to be a prerequisite for future employment, but right now she felt far worse for the residents of Frampton Lodge, the retirement home where she worked.

Jocasta had gotten to know the old folks there as she cleaned their rooms, listening to them tell their stories of past glories, complain about the food or simply wonder when their families would visit. On weekend shifts, she used to take Molly along and the residents simply adored her, especially Mrs Roundtree. In fact Molly and Mrs Roundtree had struck a deal in which lessons in signing were exchanged for reading aloud. Both thrived in the attention given to each other, but especially Molly, who’s speech had developed to such a level that her profound deafness wasn’t so readily apparent when she spoke.

But that was before the Rona and lockdowns had arrived. Now the residents were more like inmates. Where they were previously starved of visitors at the best of times, now no visitors were allowed at all, and on top of that, a shortage of staff meant basic needs at the home were barely being met. Jocasta shuddered when she thought about what lay in store for the old dears, and all because a stupid virus had managed to scare half of the world batshit crazy.

She turned off the tap and dried her hands on a tea-towel before turning to Molly. ‘A little bit but I am mostly sad. Do not worry, it will pass soon enough. Now, should you not be getting ready? It is getting late.’

Molly didn’t move but continued to stare at her mother. ‘We do not have to go.’

‘Of course we do; it is Halloween. We never miss trick or treating.’

Molly didn’t look convinced. ‘I do not want you to get into any trouble.’

‘Me, get into trouble? Never. Besides, it is all arranged. We are going to have a lovely time tonight.’ Jocasta playfully shooed Molly from the kitchen with a flick of the tea-towel, before following her into the hallway. “And we won’t let the bastards grind us down either,” she said over her daughter’s head.

Jocasta flopped down on the front room sofa and switched on the TV whilst she waited for Molly to change into her Halloween outfit. She immediately regretted it when the jowly, grim faced Prime Minister filled the screen. He had all the appearance and gravitas of an obese Wurzel Gummidge.

“Not another bloody press conference,” Jocasta moaned and stabbed the off button on the TV remote. “Begone, you bloviating baboon. And brush your bloody hair.”

She remembered that day in the park and the stricken look on her ex-MP’s face as she berated him, just before he died. Oh yes, if I ever get the Prime Minister alone, Jocasta thought, I won’t hesitate to tell him a thing or two.

***

“Ey up, Chuck, is this seat taken?”

Death glanced around at the rest of the empty chairs in the deserted reception before looking up at the source of the shadow. “Hello, Marge. Be my guest.” he said, picking up his PsiPad.

Humans once believed that babies were delivered by stork, although Death doubted they had anything quite like Marge Gerana in mind. To be certain, she had the long legs, slender neck and stiletto-sharp beak of the order Ciconiiformes, but the stripy stockings, chiffon scarf and pince-nez she wore are not generally found on specimens in the wild. Neither do they carry oversized carpet bags like the one Marge clutched in front of her body, accessorization not making the list of priorities for storks.

“Did you get the emergency alert too?” Marge asked, sitting down and carefully placing the bag by her partially webbed feet. A muffled wail came from within. “Shush now,” she crooned at the bag. “I was – am – in the middle of a delivery. Have you been waiting long?”

“Yes, I’ve been here for 25…No, 26 minutes,” Death replied tersely. Tardiness is not tolerated in the Grim Reaper Service, he thought to himself.

“Oh well, we in Newborn Deliveries can be a tad more flexible than your lot,” Marge said, reading his mind. “Do you know if we’re waiting for anybody else to turn up?”

“I wasn’t aware that I was waiting for you.”

Marge lifted her beak disdainfully. “I am surprised. Didn’t you read the She-mail that came with the alert?”

Death hadn’t; he rarely ventured into his inbox after the first foray, when he had balked at the sheer quantity of spectral spam he was expected to wade through. He switched on his PsiPad and tapped the winged envelope icon. He scrolled down the list until he found a She-mail entitled ‘DEATHCON ONE’, opened it, and read:

Would you be so kind as to make your way to the God Lobby immediately. The situation with humanity has significantly worsened and a high-level conflab is in order.

Regards

God

p.s. Additionally I will also send an alert direct to all of your PsiPads as I am aware that some – Big D – do not keep up to date on She-mails. G

“She’s got you sussed,” Marge smirked.

Death scrolled back up to the addressee line but the names of the other invitees were missing. “There’s no indication of who else has been summoned,” he sighed. “I hope they turn up soon whoever they are; I have a schedule to maintain.”

Marge adjusted her pince-nez and coquettishly crossed her long, stockinged legs. “Do you think he’ll know?” she asked Death, raising a plucked eye brow as she directed his attention with an obvious glance in a specific direction.

Death followed Marge’s eye-line to the reception desk where Brian stared back, preening himself. “Possibly.”

“Shall I go ask?” she whispered conspiratorially, without taking her eyes off Brian who was now slicking back the feathers on his head.

“Perhaps you will have more duck, I mean luck, than I,” Death replied. “Brian has been less than forth-”

“Okay I will,” Marge cut him off. She stood up and slid her carpet bag in Death’s direction. “Watch this for me.” She puffed out her plumage and sashayed seductively toward the reception desk.

Death was impressed. Mardi Gras Passistas have nothing on you, Marge, he thought.

The carpet bag wailed again. At first Death ignored the cries that came from within, but as he watched Marge and Brian flirt with each other, he grew more and more irritated at the length of time Marge was taking to illicit any pertinent information. Eventually Death had had enough.

“There, there,” Death cooed as he extracted a crying baby from the bag. “I agree – waiting around and being ignored can be very, very annoying.”

Death cradled the babe in the crook of his bony arm and gently rocked the fleshy bundle. Gradually the baby’s cries transformed into whimpers and then a gurgle.

My goodness, Big D, you’re a natural.

Still holding the now yawning baby, Death slid down from his chair and bowed his head. “Ma’am.”

God had finally arrived and she wasn’t alone.

“Well, fuck me. That’s not something you see everyday.” War mocked from behind God. She was dressed in tight, lycra shorts and an even tighter tee-shirt. The name of her earthly side-business ‘Fighting Fit’ was emblazoned across her ample bosom. “That’s a proper Kodak moment, that is.”

Pass the child to me, Big D.

Death handed the now mostly silent baby over to God.

You’re a cutie, aren’t you? Yesh you are, oh yesh you are.

“Hello War,” Death greeted his long-time teammate. “Still doing the keep fit? I thought you would be leading several armies by now.”

Death had last seen War in the spring when he transitioned one of her conscripts, who’d suffered a fatal heart-attack following a punishing workout.

“I do, short-arse. I have a franchise now,” War sneered. “Who knew a politician’s death would prove so popular? Fighting Fit now has a presence across the UK and I have plans to take it global at the start of next year. It’s gonna be brutal.”

Indeed. That’s why I’ve invited War along to this meeting. I apologise for being late, Big D; I know how much you value punctuality, but for some reason War isn’t on the CCNN network, so I had to go and collect her.

“Yeah, I was in the middle of a mega-high intensity workout class and I couldn’t just bail half-way.”

War made me run, Big D.

“But you feel so much better for it, Ma’am,” War said, as she clucked at the baby in God’s arms.

God remained silent.

“Ma’am, are we expecting many more to join us?” Death asked.

No. I take it from the presence of this little one that Marge Gerana has also arrived. Ah, I see she’s somewhat engaged with Brian. Shall we head for the Situation Room?

Death and War exchanged glances. “I didn’t know we had a Situation Room,” Death said slowly.

We didn’t. I created one this morning specifically for this meeting. Come along.

Death collected the carpet bag and PsiPad from the seating area and followed in the wake of God – with babe in arms – and War to the reception desk.

Good to see you Marge.

“Ma’am,” Marge whispered hoarsely and curtsied.

I believe this is one of yours?

“Yes. How ever did you escape, little one?” she asked the baby jovially, whilst shooting Death, who was still lugging the empty carpet bag behind him, an evil stare. “I’d be happy to relieve you of the child now, Ma’am.”

That’s quite alright. I’m enjoying the cuddle.

Death dropped the bag at Marge’s feet. “You’re welcome.”

Could you buzz us through please, Brian?

Brian reached under his desk and pressed a button.

The air behind reception began to coruscate and a set of glowing gates appeared. The gates, inlaid with iridescent nacre, shimmered with a rainbow lustre that only mother of pearl can provide. Brian hit the button again, and the gates slowly opened.

This way.

The baby blinked as if in agreement and blew a spit bubble as it cooed.

One by one, God, War, Death and the Great Birthing Stork Marge Gerana walked into the luminous cloud of aether that lay beyond, and disappeared.

***

The rain was starting to come down harder by the time Jocasta and Molly arrived at their destination. The evening was already dark, and although there was plenty of traffic on the journey over, the pavements were completely deserted. No groups of trick or treaters this year, lockdown having put paid to any of that, and the poor weather was lending an assist in keeping any brave or rebellious souls in their homes. People are still afraid or have simply forgotten, Jocasta thought sadly as she parked up at the rear of Frampton Lodge.

She looked over at her daughter sat in the front passenger seat, who had a look of nervous excitement on her face. She was dressed all in black, with a pointy hat and cape. Jocasta crossed her fingers and held them up for Molly to see. “Ready?”

Molly nodded vigorously, so that the witch’s hat shifted backwards and forwards on her head.

Jocasta couldn’t help but smile. “Go,” she said, punching both index fingers forward.

Molly exited the car, unknowingly slamming the door, then ran towards the back of the building, dodging the raindrops as she went; her mother remained in the car and looking on, smiling ever wider as her daughter progressed. Once Molly had made it to the staff entrance, Jocasta reached over to the back seat and grabbed the straw broom and Halloween goodie bag that were laying there. She drew a deep breath and opened the car door, plunging herself into the downpour. She reached the entrance in a far soggier state than Molly had. Jocasta pressed the intercom button.

“Hello?” a tinny voice replied from the speaker.

“It’s Jocasta and Molly.”

The door made a long buzzing sound before opening. They pushed against it to get inside and out of the rain.

Jocasta’s colleague, Mary, was waiting for them. “Oh my god, look at you two.” She waved at Molly. “How long do you have left, Jo?”

Jocasta flung an arm around Mary’s neck and kissed her cheek. “A month.”

Mary placed her hand on Jocasta’s swollen belly. “I must say, you’re looking very well.”

“I’m doing okay, thanks. Getting the odd twinge now and then but other than that… Is the coast clear?”

“Oh yes,” Mary replied, helping Jocasta out of her wet coat. “It’s Sunday. Skeleton staffing, you know, and management have already pissed off for the night.”

Jocasta was relieved. She positioned herself so that she could speak directly to Mary without Molly being able to read her lips. “Suzie zoom called me today. I’m not going to be allowed back after my maternity leave, not unless I get jabbed.”

Mary frowned. “I’m so sorry. That’s totally fucked up.”

“It’s the way the world is right now,” Jocasta replied.

“But will you get it?”

“No, I’ll still be breastfeeding.”

“I’m thinking of jacking it all in,” Mary confided. “I know I’m double jabbed but it’s all just getting too much.”

Jocasta’s face fell. “That bad?”

“It’s only the residents that keep me going.”

Abrupt silence fell between the two women. Molly looked up from one to the other, before tugging on her mother’s sleeve.

“Oh my goodness, we have some trick or treating to do,” Mary cried. “Molly, your outfit looks fantastic. Very witchy.”

Molly beamed a gap-tooth smile and took the bag from her mother. She held it open for Mary to look inside; it was full of chocolates and sweets and paperback books.

“Thank you,” Mary said, pulling out a chocolate bar. “That’s my favourite. I will have that with a cup of tea later,”she said, placing it in her pocket. “Now, we had better get moving before the residents go to bed.”

Molly gave the bag back to Jocasta and took the straw broom. She slipped her free hand inside Mary’s outstretched hand and the three of them took the stairs to go trick or treating.

***

It is a fact that the vast majority of humanity never have, nor ever will, step foot inside a Situation Room. If asked, a person might describe such a room as having a huge table dominating the space, dozens of chairs around it for generals and other important types to sit in. Moreover, there will be wall to wall computers, all manner of communications equipment, and a large viewing screen at one end, of the highest definition of course. This has been learned from countless films and TV shows that this is exactly what a Situation Rooms looks like. Or perhaps even that this is exactly what a Situation room is supposed to look like.

That was not the kind of Situation Room God had envisioned at all. Hers was a perfect cube six foot by six foot by six, with slate grey walls, ceiling and floor, inside and out. It looked like a block of stone from the outside and a bare prison cell from within. The only fixture in the cube was a light bulb set in the centre of the ceiling, with white pull cord hanging down from it.

“I’ve been in some tight spots but this ain’t like any Situation Room I’ve ever been in before,” War said dubiously, inclining her head to one side so as not to bump it on the ceiling.

“It’s certainly cozy,” Marge agreed, feathers ruffling.

For once Death’s diminutive size proved to be a distinct advantage, so he remained quiet, preferring to keep his own counsel.

God stood at the centre of the compact room, still holding the baby.

I thought the most productive way to discuss a situation would be if we could first see it for ourselves.

She reached up and pulled the cord on the light bulb and the room immediately pitched into solid blackness.

And then it wasn’t.

“Where are we?” War asked. “It looks like some old lady’s bedroom.”

Correct.

The slate grey walls, floor and ceiling of the Situation Room had dissolved into transparency, giving the occupants a 360 degree view of their surroundings.

War spotted an elderly woman sitting in an armchair with a tartan blanket over her legs. She looked contented as she listened to classical music from a transistor radio beside her. The overhead light was switched off so that the room’s shadows were lit from the soft glow of the lamp on the night-stand next to a bed.

War was intrigued. “Can she see us?”

No.

“Hear us?”

No.

“Can we leave the box?”

You mean the Situation Room? Yes, but you definitely shouldn’t.

“Me specifically? Why?”

Because you will be seen and heard.

War thought for a moment. “Because I have an earthly body?”

Correct.

“So the Situation Room is completely invisible? I like it. I mean, it could do with a bit more headroom, but invisibility is a cool feature.”

Thank you.

“Actually, why do I have an earthly body?” War asked. “I’m still confused about that.”

“Because,” Death answered gravely, “you died last Halloween. Pesto poisoned you.”

War’s jaw dropped. “What?!”

Death knew this time would eventually come. “To be fair, you did eat Pestilence first. And Famine. You should have seen the mess…”

War’s jaw took on a sardonic twist.

“Of course, you don’t remember.”

“Whoa there, short-arse.” War stared down at Death, mouth agape. “How?”

Death hesitated. How much of that particular ghost story should I tell? he wondered.

He felt the light touch of God’s hand squeeze his scapula. “The Devil tricked us all, War. All of us.”

There was a sharp knock on the bedroom door. The old lady turned the volume down on the radio and removed the blanket from her legs. She made a couple of attempts to stand up, finally managing to push-pull herself out of the armchair. “I’m coming,” she called out.

Inside the Situation Room, Death could feel his PsiPad gently vibrate. He pulled it from his robes and checked the PsiCalendar – there were two alerts, one of which read ‘Molly’. “Ma’am. I do believe the situation is about to occur.”

***

“Trick o’ trea’!”

“Molly!” Aida Roundtree cried as she opened her bedroom door. “Come in, come in.”

“Trick or treat, Mrs Roundtree,” Jocasta said, grinning.

“Oh, Jocasta. Come in. Quickly. Don’t let the Gestapo catch you in the corridor. You too, Mary.”

Aida ushered her visitors into her room and shut the door. “It’s so lovely to see you both.”

Jocasta and Mary moved further into the room, whilst Molly grabbed Aida’s hand and guided her to her chair.

“Well, don’t you look lovely, Molly? Give me a twirl,” Aida said sitting down. Molly duly obliged.

“And how are you keeping, Jocasta? You look ready to pop.”

“Another month to go.”

“Do you know the sex yet?” Aida beckoned Jocasta closer.

“No, we want a surprise,” Jocasta laughed but allowed Aida to feel her belly.

“Low and heavy. Ripe. Feels like a boy,” Aida pronounced. “Molly, you’re going to be a big sister soon.”

Molly raised her arms in a silent cheer before wrapping them around Aida’s neck and kissing her cheek.

“I’ve missed you too, darling.” Aida hugged Molly back. “Terrible times we live in,” she addressed Jocasta and Mary with solemnity over Molly’s shoulder. “It reminds me of the war.”

“Aida, you were born in 1945,” Mary chided. “How could you remember what the war was like?”

“I grew up in the aftermath, bombed out buildings and rationing. I remember those and I also remember what my parents told me about what went on during the war. Terrible times,” Aida said and hugged Molly tighter.

***

“Great times,” War sighed wistfully, breaking the silence within the cube. “World War Two was brilliant, so much innovation. In fact the whole of the twentieth century was a fucking blast.”

“It was a boom time for us after the war,” Marge reminisced. “There were so many deliveries to make, we were pulling double shifts left, right and centre. So many babies.”

“See? It wasn’t all bad.” War sounded vindicated. “Humans had a fucking good time, too.”

“Hmm.”

What is it Big D?

Death was thinking. “She mentioned rationing, Ma’am. I believe there are reports of food shortages currently in the press.”

Famine?

“Possibly…”

***

Mary moved toward the bedroom window. It was slightly ajar and the net curtain inside was getting soaked from the lashing rain. “Aida, have you been smoking in here again?” she asked accusingly, closing the window.

“So what if I have? What are they going to do? Put me in prison? Ha! I’ve been in one for nearly two years.”

Mary shook her head. “If they find your cigarettes, they will confiscate them.”

“Then I’ll get some more,” Aida replied defiantly.

“Ah, that reminds me…” Jocasta tapped Molly on her back and motioned her to offer the bag to Aida. “Now, Mrs Roundtree, dig deep. I put your treat in at the bottom.”

Aida rummaged inside the goodie bag Molly held out. She pulled out an olive green box with a grotesque image on the outside. “Lovely. Benson and Hedges kingsize. I’d offer you one, but apparently it’ll harm your baby,” she said, holding up the pack for Jocasta to see the image of a sick, intubated baby.

“Aida!” Mary snapped.

“That’s alright, Mary. I saw the picture when I bought the pack. Aida and I know it’s just propaganda.” Jocasta was keen to the calm the situation; Mrs Roundtree was something of a smoking militant and could rant for hours on the subject if given free rein.

“That right, it’s propaganda. Goebbels would be proud.” Aida grabbed at Jocasta’s wrist. “You haven’t had the vaxx, have you? Please don’t get it.”

Jocasta gently removed Aida’s hand and held it in her own. “No, Mrs Roundtree. I will not have the vaxx.”

Molly had been watching the conversation silently. She pulled on Jocasta’s sleeve. ‘Mummy, what is ‘go bells’?’

***

“She’s got a point,” Marge said, stretching her neck. “We’ve never delivered a smoke damaged child. Now Thalidomide, DDT, the Rona vax…”

You are seeing damage from the Rona vax, then?

“Yes, Ma’am, some. Mostly miscarriages though.”

God stroked the soft brow of the sleeping baby in her arms.

Babies poisoned in the womb.

“Pesto,” Death whispered.

***

Mary had had enough of the conversation. She was tired and her head was starting to ache, plus she still had another three hours of her shift to work. At least three hours, and she was beginning to regret agreeing to Jocasta’s request for the secret visit. She tolerated Aida’s smoking rants but she didn’t want to hear her opinion of the Rona vaxx. Not again. And was it really worth getting caught for a chocolate bar, even for a Kit-Kat Chunky?

“Okay, I think that’s enough for tonight.”

“Oh no, Mary, can’t they stay a little longer?” Aida appealed.

“No, it’s okay, Mrs Roundtree. Mary has rounds to do and Molly has school tomorrow.” Jocasta lent down and gave Aida a kiss on both cheeks. “It has been lovely to see you.”

There was a rapid knocking on the room door. “Mary, are you in there?” a voice beyond it asked urgently.

Mary motioned for the others to stay quiet and walked rapidly to the door. She opened the it a crack. “What is it?”

The person outside sounded flustered. “Mr Perkins has collapsed in the lounge. Oh Mary, I think he’s dead.”

“Okay, I’ll be right there.” Mary turned away from the door. “I have to go. It was lovely to see you Jo, Molly. Can you see yourselves out?”

“Of course, you go. Thank you,” Jocasta called as Mary left the room. “Oh no, poor Mr Perkins.”

“Double vaxxed,” Aida said smugly. “Had his booster shot two days ago.”

“Mrs Roundtree…”

***

Death checked the alert on his PsiCalendar. “I hate being late. Excuse me.”

***

“Well, he did get his booster shot two days ago.” Aida was adamant. “They’re finally doing it; they’re trying to kill us all off.”

“Who are they?” Jocasta regretted asking as soon as the words left her mouth.

“The new world order, same as the old world order.”

Jocasta looked blank.

Nazis,”Aida hissed.

***

Molly could tell something serious had happened and that it had happened to Mr Perkins. Her eyes widened when the little man she sometimes saw appeared out of thin air from the corner of the room. He was always dressed in black and he sometimes carried a big stick with a knife on the end. She watched as the little man glided across the room.

He paused as he reached her. ‘Hello,’ he signed.

Molly smiled, signing ‘hello’ back.

The little man nodded and made the stick-knife suddenly appear before continuing to glide out of the room, through the door.

Molly looked around nervously, but her mum and Mrs Roundtree were still talking. She didn’t think they’d seen the little man in black. No one ever sees him, except me, Molly thought.

***

“We really should be going.” The last thing Jocasta wanted was to get into a conversation about Nazis. If Mr Perkins had died, then management would be called and it was best that she and Molly weren’t here when they arrived. Plus she really needed to pee. “Mrs Roundtree, can I use your bathroom?”

“Of course, Jocasta, you know where it is. It’s clean but the new girl isn’t nearly as thorough as you.”

“Thank y-OwwW!” Jocasta clutched her stomach. “Ow. Oh no, I hope to god I just peed myself.”

Mrs Roundtree looked at the puddle of fluid forming on the carpet between Jocasta’s legs. “No, dear. Your waters have broken.”

“Oh my god, it’s too soon.”

Aida turned to Molly and looked at her squarely, hands either side of Molly’s face. She spoke slowly and clearly. “Molly, go into my bathroom and fetch the big towel on the rack.”

Molly was scared; her mum was in pain and had wet herself. “Wha’s happnin’?”

“Don’t worry. Mummy is going to have a lay down on my bed.”

“Is it the beby?”

Mrs Roundtree nodded. “Yes, dear. Now, after you get the towel, go and fill my kettle over there,” she said, pointing to the far corner of the room, “and fill it with cold water from the tap in the bathroom. Then switch it on.”

Molly nodded and sprung away like a gazelle.

Jocasta leaned back against the bed panting. “Not again.”

Aida got out of her chair at the first attempt and rushed over to the bed. “Not again? Did Molly arrive early?” she asked as she helped Jocasta onto the bed and plumped up the pillows behind her.

“You could say that.”

“At home?” Aida started to remove Jocasta’s boots.

“In a taxi.”

Aida paused mid-pull. “Oh my.”

“The taxi… oh, oh,” Jocasta noisily breathed out,”…crashed.”

“Awkward.” Aida dropped the boot on the floor and lifted the hem of Jocasta’s dress. “This should be a doddle for you then.”

***

God was gazing down at the baby in her arms and softly crooning.

“Ma’am.” Marge Gerana held the open carpet bag between her wings. “It’s time.”

I know.

War was pressed up against the side of the cube watching the two women in the room. “She gave birth during a car crash? That’s brave.”

She is.

“And the old girl seems to know what’s she’s doing.”

“She should,” Marge snorted. “Aida Roundtree is one of the best midwives I’ve ever worked with.”

War pointed at Aida. “She’s a midwife? That’s convenient.”

Isn’t it.

The walls of the cube suddenly rippled and a small witch, wearing a large hat rushed through. Molly stood stock still, with eyes like saucers. God stepped aside, allowing the child to collect the kettle.

‘Thank you,’ Molly signed.

You’re welcome.

The walls of the cube rippled once more as Molly left.

We had better leave before the child comes back.

God placed the baby into the carpet bag.

Be yourself, little boy and good luck.

“Ma’am.” Marge bowed her slender neck and left.

God grasped the cord to the light bulb.

Ready, War?

“Aren’t we waiting for Death?”

No. Big D is on duty. He’ll find his own way back.

“What’s the dealio with Death and those two anyway. They were there that day in the park when my rich politician kicked the bucket. I miss Jimbo; he always paid over the odds.”

God cocked her head to one side as if contemplating what to say. She smiled.

The mother sat on him.

“On who?”

On Big D.

War’s eyes fluttered as she tried to comprehend what God had just said. “Wait…” She counted on her fingers. “Did Death give her a boner?”

God tugged the cord and it all went black.

And then it wasn’t.

*******

*I’m glad you enjoyed it, Clicky… /final drag… It was a lot of fun to write… /stubs butt…*

A Christmas installment is next, Dear Reader, for Underdog Anthology XVI. Fuck knows what the state of the world will be in by then. We can but hope and… have a Song 😉

CLICK5: Aussie Madness

Story Time: Walk I, With You

At last! Dear Reader, Underdog Anthology XIV: The Dark Ides of March has finally been published and is now available for purchase…

*Wrong book, Clicky, although finking about it… /lights up and smokes… I did write my anthology story over the Easter weekend…*

After writing ‘What Time Do You Finish?’ and following that up with ‘Christmas Death Wish’, I’d decided I would write a third installment in what is turning out to be a ‘Ronageddon’ series. If you haven’t read those stories yet, Dear Reader, please avail yourself of the links, below…

Synchronicity provided me with the title of the story you are about to read. That and Cade Fon Apollyon: I’d been mulling over story ideas for weeks, wracking my brains for an angle, when I hit upon an idea. I was very excited and headed straight to Twitter DMs to tell my best bud, but what I saw when I arrived was a poem, waiting. One that Cade had just written for me…

*/flicks ash… And on mum’s birthday too…*

Anyway, Dear Reader, I hope you enjoy ‘Walk I, With You’. See you at the bottom of the post for a Song 😉

*******

Walk I, With You

By Roo B. Doo

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking umpteen…

God paused at the end of the first sentence on the first page of the battered book in her hand.

Umpteen?

Disconcerted yet curious, God checked the cover of the book to make sure that the title and author’s name were correct before continuing to read on.

The Grim Reaper, skull nuzzled deep within the cowl of his robe, silently glided up to the bench closest to the duck pond in Victory Park. The ‘Do Not Use’ warning tape adorning it had deterred everyone from sitting there, but not Death. The Grim Reaper climbed up onto the bench and waited.

On a tree nearby, a coloured poster, too large for the display, had been tacked up. It simply depicted an enormous face, more than a metre wide: the face of a middle-aged man, with tousled, blond hair, baggy eyes and jowly jawline. It was one of those pictures which are designed so that the eyes follow you about when you move. BIG BRO IS WATCHING YOU, the caption beneath it ran.

God snapped the book shut and sighed.

I knew it! Somebody is monkeying about with Nineteen-Eighty-Four. Again!

She called for the fat, smug goose who administered the comings and going in the vast area known as the God Lobby.

Come with me, Brian. We need to make a site visit.

***

Spring was in the air and Victory Park was packed with people exercising in the pale April sunshine. Despite the brightness, the air remained frosty cool from both the transition of the seasons and the earliness of the hour. Death sat on a bench close to the duck pond and watched the hordes walking, running and star jumping in socially distanced formation. All their faces were dutifully masked.

Why are they torturing themselves? Death wondered as he watched a stream of hot breath pour through the sweaty face-mask of a passing jogger. They may as well be carrying a bundle of posies in front of their faces for all the protection those things give. Ah, the Black Death. Now that was a proper pandemic.

Death pulled a slim, black rectangle from the depths of his robe and flipped open the cover to reveal a bright, smooth screen decorated with coloured icons. Following the disastrous crash of the Cosmic Consciousness Neural Net (CCNN) that occurred on Halloween in 2020, God had resolved that an upgrade in tech was very much required, and the PsiPad was born. The Psion organiser, which had been gainfully employed by the Grim Reaper Service up until that point, was finally relegated to the Scrapheap of Obsolescence. There it languished alone; the hourglass having escaped the same fate by presciently forging a long-standing relationship with eggs.

Tapping the screen of the PsiPad with a bony digit, Death opened the PsiCalendar and studied his schedule for the day. He had arrived a little early for his next appointment but didn’t mind waiting. Having existed throughout all of time, Death was not opposed to occasionally killing the bastard.

Bing!

A message flashed up on the screen which simply read ‘Molly’, and although the Grim Reaper shouldn’t be able to feel anything, Death experienced a sense of apprehension and anticipation prickle his bones.

Molly Darling was the pure soul child, whose poorly spelled letter to Santa had inadvertently instigated Armageddon and had caused Death nothing but trouble. Her letter, and her sincere Christmas wish contained within it, to end war, famine and pollution for the benefit of mankind, had fallen into the hands of Satan, and Old Scratch never wasted an opportunity for some devilment. Whether or not he’d had a hand in the CCNN crash that occurred at the same time was as yet unknown. Investigations into the matter were said to be ongoing.

On the whole, Death was against the making and granting of wishes of any kind; however, he’d been manoeuvred into making a wish of his own, with Molly as the beneficiary. He’d been presented with a choice; God always provides a choice: the removal of Molly Darling from life before she could send her letter, thus averting the end of the world, or rectify the matter in some other way. Death’s ethics forbade him from taking the first course of action, so he had plumped for some other way. Death’s wish had been granted by Father Christmas and subsequently Molly Darling had been born with the innate ability to correctly spell.

And that should have been the end of the matter, but for the unintended consequence rider that accompanies every wish granted, one that practically no one considers when making one. In this case, the very act of wishing had inextricably linked Molly to Death and attracted deaths to Molly.

Death scrolled back through the years on the PsiCalendar, counting the number of ‘Molly alerts’ that littered them. By definition, Death was only concerned with the dead, paying scant attention to the living around them. Now, courtesy of the newly issued bit of tremendous tech under his distal phalanges, Death was aware of just how many times his path and Molly’s had crossed during her short life so far. It was sporadic but not inconsiderable.

He found the date of the first Molly alert: 1st January 2013; the day Molly Darling was born. She had arrived in the early hours of the morning as Death was transitioning the soul of one Barry Munroe, a poor unfortunate struck by a speeding taxi, following a night of heavy drinking in celebration of the birth of the new year. The speeding taxi had been delivering a screaming woman to hospital, who was making a rapid delivery of her own on the back seat of the cab.

Death had given no consideration to the wailing bundle of new life at the time – why should he? – but in hindsight, the significance of Molly’s place of birth was not lost on Death, as it was in the back of a taxi on Halloween in 2020 that the savage deletion from existence of his good friends, War, Famine and Pestilence had occurred and Armageddon began. Death had changed Molly’s past to affect mankind’s future, yet he still retained the memory of that terrible night. For Death, Halloween 2020, both with and without that fateful taxi ride, existed at the same time, and within the same space.

It’s like Schrödinger’s Cab, Death mused deeply.

The PsiPad had also revealed to Death what lay behind a strange incident that coincided with one of the Molly Alerts, an incident that had baffled him until now. On 16th July 2016, Death had sat on this same bench, watching swaths of people roam across Victory Park. The insufferably hot weather had done little to deter the excited crowd from hunting virtual monsters augmented with their reality; it was the latest fashion. Instead of face-masks, mobile phones and electronic devices of all kinds covered peoples’ faces, which now caused Death to ponder upon the origin of the phrase ‘Track and Trace’.

On that day, Death had been awaiting the arrival of one Davy Keith, an otherwise healthy lad of 14, except for the undiagnosed hole in his heart and an all-consuming passion for collecting simulated Japanese monsters. Death watched passively as a pudgy toddler rushed along the path toward the bench upon which he sat, a tired looking woman pushing a stroller followed in the child’s wake. The little girl had all the grace of a drunken sailor and Death had assumed her wide milk-tooth grin and incoherent babble was aimed at the sun blazing high in the sky above Death’s head. That was until she tried to hug him.

A thought which had occurred to Death in that moment, on that day had haunted him ever since. Am I a monster?

Now Death knew that child had been Molly Darling and she had seen him. Following the aborted hug, and before her mother had whisked her away, Molly’s hand gestures had been her attempt to communicate with him: ‘Hello. My name is M-O-L-L-Y. I am deaf.’

It’s augmented reality, alright, Death decided with a sigh. He closed the cover on the PsiPad and returned it to the folds of his robe. Not long to wait now.

***

“Keep it up squad. Pump those arms,” the long-legged woman barked, as she strode purposefully among the regimented lines of exercisers performing push-ups beneath her gaze. She was a colossus of female physical perfection: full, round breasts, a washboard stomach and thighs so muscular they looked capable of pulverizing anyone’s head fortunate enough to be caught between them.

Lockdown had been very good for Wanda Warren. Before the arrival of the Rona and the restrictions that ensued, she’d struggled to attract many clients to her fledgling business: Fighting Fit. Whilst it was true that the small number of clients she did have were dedicated to not only her tough methods but also to Wanda herself, she was only a one woman band and the indoor gym in town, with its flashy machines, coffee shop and showers, had attracted many more members.

Now the gym was closed due to the Rona and the only place to exercise was outside. Competitive advantage had shifted firmly in Wanda’s favour, and Fighting Fit scooped up a substantial amount of new devotees. All males desperate to retain their fitness, blow off the excess energy built up from their now enforced sedentary lifestyle, and the outside possibility of being crushed between Wanda Warren’s dangerous thighs.

She caught sight of a familiar figure across the park. “And once you reach a hundred, give me one full circuit of the park. Now move it!” she ordered, before sprinting off in the direction of the duck pond.

“Death?”

“War,” the Grim Reaper replied.

Wanda pulled down her face-mask and sprawled on the bench next to Death. The difference in stature between the two cardinal colleagues was stark: whereas War was long and rangy, the diminutive Grim Reaper was small enough to reach into all the nooks and crannies.

War smiled radiantly. “I thought it was you.”

“I see you’re building up quite an army, dear lady.”

“Pfft. Early days yet.” War punched Death on the arm. “What are you doing here? I haven’t seen you since…” Her brow furrowed as she tried to recall the last time they’d met.

Death turned to his beautiful colleague: in ancient Troy her face had launched a thousand ships; today it could launch a thousand more, all armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons. The last time he’d seen War, however, she’d been ripping Famine and Pestilence apart with carnal ferocity in the back of a London black taxi being driven by Old Scratch. “I am here waiting.”

“Oh, right. Not for any of my lot, I hope,” War inquired hesitantly.

“Possibly.” Death produced the PsiPad from his robes.

“Ooh nice kit. You got an upgrade?” War snatched the PsiPad from Death, opened the PsiCalendar and read the name of Death’s next appointment. “Really? No way!”

Death pulled the PsiPad from War’s grasp. “Yes and very much way.”

War stretched her arms out along the back of the bench and flicked at a stray end of warning tape. “Pesto’s played a fucking blinder with this Rona business, eh? It’s done my little enterprise no end of good.”

Death remained silent; he was far from convinced that Pestilence had any involvement in the disease that had swept the world in the last year. He’d certainly had to deal with a rise in suicidees and murder victims, but pretty much all the usual causes of death had remained relatively stable. Certainly all the deaths solely attributed to the Rona were vanishingly small. “Have you seen Pesto recently?”

“Not since…” Once again War’s furrowed her brow.

“How about Famine?” Death asked.

“AWOL,” War snorted. “Fuck knows where he is. Have you seen how fat these cunts are?”

“Good for business.”

“Indeed, business is booming.”

War stood up and pulled her face-mask back up over the cruel smirk that marred her lips; the first of the Fighting Fit squad would be coming through soon, and as their leader, it was imperative that Wanda uphold standards for the group. “I tell ya, the buggers love being told what to do. And the harsher you are, the more they fucking love it.”

“Until pushed too far.”

“I know! Brilliant, isn’t it? A win-win,” War laughed, briefly lowering her mask to suck air noisily up her quivering nostrils. “Can you smell the resentment and aggression simmering, Death? Itsa gonna be a spicy meat ball!”

“Lacking an olfactory system, War, I am unable to concur with your assessment,” Death replied drily. “But I’ll take your word for it.”

“Ha ha. You do that, short arse,” she smirked, affixing her mask back into place.

Wanda turned her attention to the first of her squad to appear, smacking his backside as he ran by. “Attaboy, Malc. Only a mile to go.” As each member passed they received the same backside slap from Wanda, but her words of encouragement changed with her assessment of their individual performance.

The last straggler stopped and stooped over with hands on knees, gasping for breath.

“What’s up, Jimbo? Don’t you have the heart for it today?” Wanda stood over the bent back of James ‘Jimbo’ Collins and gave Death a double thumbs up sign. “Here, have a sit down, old fella. Take five and then catch up with us once you get your breath back.”

She steered Jimbo toward the bench. Despite his apparent distress, he still managed to give her righteous backside a firm squeeze. Wanda rolled her eyes at Death and saluted before sprinting away to catch up with the rest of her Fighting Fit squad and finish the circuit of Victory Park.

Death ignored Jimbo’s ragged breathing and continued to wait.

***

Jocasta Darling luxuriated in the bright spring sunshine that came as a welcome relief after the unmitigated gloom of winter and lockdown. Not that Jocasta thought lockdown would be ending any time soon, not if the government’s broken promises over the past year were anything to go by. Still it was nice to get out for a walk, and despite the cold, the sunshine was glorious and lifted Jocasta’s spirits for the first time since the start of the year.

Her daughter Molly skipped alongside, occasionally pausing to smell the newly budding flowers or point out the birds traversing the powder blue sky. The pair made their way toward the pond at the heart of Victory Park, where Molly liked to serve breakfast to the ducks each morning. Jocasta just liked to see her daughter happy. Molly had been in and out of hospital since birth with one thing or another, and it broke Jocasta’s heart at what Molly had had to endure. And now her schooling had been disrupted, all because of the Rona, which appeared to ignore kids like a bad parent. Jocasta often wondered just exactly where the blessed government’s priorities actually lay.

Although the park was busy with exercisers, the pond area looked to be empty to Jocasta, except for a jogger sitting slumped over on a bench. As they drew closer, Molly eagerly grabbed the plastic bag from her mother’s hands and pulled out a crust of bread.

“Okay be careful. Don’t fall in,” Jocasta instructed her daughter.

Molly beamed at her mother, flashing an ‘OK’ sign, and made her way to the shady side of the pond where the ducks and swans were congregated, all the while ripping the crust into smaller, bite-sized pieces.

Jocasta wasn’t sure what the government’s guidelines were this week on the usefulness of benches, but this one was still clearly marked as out of bounds. She wondered if she should go and say something to the jogger: it really didn’t pay to attract the attentions of the Rona marshals that now patrolled the park. Even the slightest infraction was pounced upon, and she herself had been lectured several times on the essential need to wear a face-mask, despite both she and Molly holding medical exemptions due to her daughter’s deafness. At her age, Jocasta was finding it hard enough to master a new language, without being hampered by half of it being obscured by face coverings; sign language was so much more than just hand signs. But try telling that to the oiks in uniforms with quotas to fill. At least Jocasta assumed the marshals had quotas to fill; everything today appeared to be run on targets, quotas and guidelines.

Jocasta approached the bench. “Excuse me. Do you know if it’s okay to sit here?”

The jogger looked up at her, giving Jocasta a fixed stare whilst the fabric of his face-mask ballooned in and out with every whooping breath. “What?”

He thinks I’m a Karen, Jocasta thought, shocked at the aggression in his eyes. “No, I’m asking if you know whether we’re permitted to sit on the bench yet. It’s still taped off,” Jocasta explained. “I’d love a sit down too if it’s allowed.”

“Oh… I see,” the jogger replied, as he attempted to control his breathing. “Yes… yes, I think so… since the start of the week… I’m sure of it.”

Jocasta smiled at the jogger; her smile was as bright as the morning but much warmer. “That is good news. I wonder why the council haven’t removed the tape yet.”

“They’ll get… around to it… eventually.”

Still, the forbidding tape unnerved Jocasta and she hesitated to sit down. “I’m with my daughter Molly. She’s over there feeding the ducks.”

The jogger nodded without removing his gaze from the floor, as he focused on this laboured breathing.

“Are you feeling alright?” Jocasta asked anxiously.

“Fine… thank you,” the jogger replied. “Over-exertion… I’ll be okay…”

Jocasta didn’t think the man looked okay at all. Apart from his breathing, he was sweating profusely and massaging his left arm. From what she could see of his face and neck, the jogger was coloured puce, and Jocasta was certain that wasn’t a good sign for a man his age. “You know it might help if you remove your mask,” she tentatively suggested.

The jogger gave Jocasta another fixed stare, but the aggression had gone from his eyes. He reached up with his right hand and unhooked the mask from his ears. “Yes, you’re probably right,” he said, sucking in a great gulp of air.

Jocasta recognised her local MP immediately but didn’t acknowledge that she knew who James Collins was. Although she had never once voted for him, he’d been her representative in Parliament for what seemed like forever. He’d also been very vocal on the importance of lockdowns, mask-wearing and, now, mandatory vaccinations. That was something else Jocasta disagreed with him over, but if James Collins was using the bench, then she felt sure it was okay for her to use it too.

Jocasta felt an icy blast at her back as she lowered herself onto the bench seat, at the farthest end from where her Member of Parliament sat. “Gosh, that feels very cold,” she said with a shiver. She felt the cold settle into her but, strangely, it did not feel unpleasant.

Fishing into her handbag, she pulled out a covered ashtray, which she placed on the arm rest of the bench, before lighting a cigarette. She dragged deeply and let out a satisfying whoosh of smoke, blowing it in the direction away from the bench. Jocasta had really missed not being able to sit down and smoke outside, and felt particularly aggrieved at the ban on sitting in public. For the longest time, outside had been the only place the public were allowed to smoke, and now she was expected to stand up to do it.

“I say… Could you put that out?” James Collins asked gruffly and gripped his left arm tighter. “Having trouble breathing… here.”

The sudden icy blast Jocasta had felt at sitting down now migrated to her eyes. She turned both barrels on her MP.

“No,” she stated, flatly.

“That’s… not very courteous…”

Jocasta took another puff of her cigarette and tapped the loose ash into the the ashtray. Again, she blew the smoke away from the bench. “We are appropriately socially distanced, are we not? I am not blowing smoke in your direction and there is no law against smoking outside.”

James Collins started coughing and waving his hand limply in front of his nose. Fat droplets of sweat poured from his grimacing face. “Can’t you see I’m… in trouble?”

“Yes you are.” Jocasta wasn’t sure what had come over her, but she felt very certain that the words coming out of her mouth were being said with the confidence of another’s voice. “You, James Collins MP, are a sell out. Not only are you a liar, a lecher and a rubber-stamp for oppression, but you’ve caused dis-ease, and I am sorry to tell you, but you will be going to hell.”

Jocasta looked over at Molly busily feeding the noisy ducks and waved. Molly waved back, tilting her head to one side with a curious look on her face. ‘Having fun?’ Jocasta signed to her daughter.

Molly nodded vigorously and signed back, ‘There’s a goose and he’s eating all the bread. Come and see.’

Jocasta chipped the end of her cigarette off in the ashtray and returned both to her handbag. She stood up, squared her shoulders, giving her MP a final withering stare. “Good-bye.”

She walked away, back along to the path to join Molly, leaving James Collins with a look of abject terror on this face.

Bing!

“Hello, Jimbo,” Death said, pulling the PsiPad from the folds of his robe.

***

“So this is Hell?” Jimbo Collins asked, as Death guided him into the vaulted expanse of the God Lobby and placed him at the end of a queue of souls. Like Jimbo, they were all dressed in white and wore face-masks. “Looks like Heaven to me.”

“For some it is both,” Death replied. “Just follow the white line. You’ll get there eventually.”

The queue shuffled forwards, taking Jimbo along with it.

Death took the express elevator up to the Office. From there he could look across the vastness of the God Lobby, and see just how long the queue he’d placed Jimbo Collins in was. It snaked back and forth, up and down and crossed itself in numerous places.

Looks like a commercial for toilet paper, does it not, Big D? All that’s missing is a great, big, playful puppy.

Death turned to the voice of God whispering over his shoulder and bowed. “It’s certainly the most appropriate place to deposit little shits, Ma’am.”

God tittered; she did appreciate Death’s sense of humour.

“I take it you were there,” Death said.

How did you know?

“Molly’s ‘Come and see’ was a dead giveaway. That and Brian’s disguise. He put no effort into it at all.”

On the reception desk Brian, who was forever eavesdropping, ruffled his feathers and hissed.

Yes, we were there. The situation looks grim.

“Indeed it does.”

God moved away from the balcony overlooking the God Lobby. Death glided along behind at a respectful distance.

“Ma’am, I’m worried about the disappearance of Famine and Pestilence. I can’t find any trace of them since…”

Halloween? Yes, it is concerning.

“War’s nose is never wrong. Without Famine and Pesto to provide balance, I fear for the future of humanity.”

Then you must find them, Big D.

“Me?” Death felt a sense of déjà vu; he’d been in this position before.

Of course. You find everyone. Eventually.

God smiled at Death and her smile was a bright as an April morning.

*******

*You fink I should feature Famine in the next one, Clicky? …/stubs butt… Maybe…*

So, please do consider buying a copy of Underdog Anthology XIV. It has 13 top notch stories and 2 poems to delight and terrify you…

Have a Song, Dear Reader… ❤

Missive From ‘Merica: Sin Growl Nicety

Good news, Dear Reader 😀 I have finally, finally finished and submitted my story for Underdog Anthology XIV…

*Something like that, Clicky…*

… I still have to find a dead poet’s poem to mutilate for the Afterword, but Leggy is hoping to publish the new volume in the next week or so, and I will then post ‘Walk I, With You’ for you here at the LoL…

*Yeah, I used an image from the story for that tweet…*

…Right now, however, we have a new missive from Cade Fon Apollyon, the Okie Text Us Devil, on the subject of synchronicity/synchromysticism. If you have any interest in the subject whatsoever, it’s not to be missed. And even if you don’t, it’s a bloody good read anyway.

Scroll on, Dear Reader, scroll on…

… And enjoy! ❤

*******

Captain….CAPTAIN, Jack Sparrow.

- - -
EASE TUR

EAST TUR

EAST HER

E-STIR E-STIR E-STIR

| · |

H Y

APP

EASTER

·| · |·

RETSAE

PPA

Y H

| · |

- - -

Did you know that, according to Google Translate, “tur” is German for “door”?

Did you know that “TUR” is the NASDAQ ticker for some fund based on Turkish equities?

Welp...now you know.

Open some doors.

Be free.

Mingle.

^KONTRUST – Dance (Official Video) | Napalm Records^

A holy crusade should be started. A holy crusade to eliminate all evildoers on the entire planet. That way, when all evildoers are dead, only the good will remain. So, if I survive these purges, that means I too, am good.

Right?

Well, there will still be murderers left because the good who killed all the bad are still alive. And I guess there will still be thieves because the murderers took something that did not belong to them. And there will be liars because all of this murder and theft was predicated upon there being no more evildoers left in the world.

We're right back to where we started.

Hrm… maybe it would be best to skip all those shenanigans and just leave things more or less as they are?

^The Living Deads – Everything is Broke (But Our Love) Official Music Video^

This time a year ago (April 2020/when the lockdown started) oil dropped to $11.26 per bbl and gasoline prices fell through the floor. Now, it’s back up to over $60 per bbl, and it’s being projected that by summer/fall of 2021, oil will be up to around $80 per bbl. Oil hasn’t been over $80 per bbl since October of 2014.

WTI Crude Oil Prices – 10 Year Daily Chart

Goldman Sach expects crude oil to hit $80 this summer despite price pullback

Banks stand firm on calls for oil ‘supercycle’ even as price drops

Hrm…relying on nCoV-2019 vaccinations, to rally demand for oil. I wonder what other types of things those in the market are relying upon nCoV-2019 vaccinations to rally. Further have to wonder if people aren’t getting vaccinated, does that mean the rallies aren’t gonna happen? I wonder if rich people/powerful people get rowdy when they want they want a rally to happen, but it doesn’t. Do they riot, and if so, how and where do they riot/tear shit up?

^CHEECH AND CHONG- MEXICAN AMERICANS *HQ*^

The concept of teaching Synchronicity is an interesting one. Teach people how to recognize and observe the phenomena. My experience has been that Synchronicity cannot be taught. If you start pointing weird shit out, people are initially going to query you as to how you saw such a small and insignificant event. Over time, they will start to look at you really fucking strangely.

Even suspiciously. 

They may go so far as to accuse you of being the engine that is driving this phenomenon because it only seems to happen when you are around. Or at least, you are the only one that seems to be able to see this stuff, no one else seems to catch it, although yes, once you point it out, they see it too. Maybe at this point it’s important to point out that “seeing” (to me anyway) is one of the more overrated parts of the experience. It may sometimes be a smell, or a sound, or a feeling, or even an aggregate of sensory input that generates a deja vu type of vibe, except with synchronicities the feeling is more like you’re experiencing something that has already happened in the future rather than re-experiencing a something that has happened in the past.

I’m getting off-track…lemme get back on topic. It is likely possible to teach one to recognize Synchronicity, but I’d think an interest on the part of the learner is gonna be necessary.

^[mau5trap exclusive premiere]: i_o – LOW^

Seriously…who in the hell wants to be an observer?

A: Fucking no one.

You don’t wanna be in the stands, you wanna be on the field, be in the game. You wanna be making things happen, not be at the whims of chance and just standing their helpless as events unfold because of those who are actually participating and driving things.

Glory. Glory!!! BUCKETLOADS OF GLORY!!!

You want it. You want them. 

This is really just me vocalizing my ineptitude at figuring out how one teaches another to be a good observer. How to develop your communication skills so as to be able to be accurate in expressing yourself and relating events to 3rd parties. But to be honest, when it comes to synchronicity, anyone who seeks you out for help is likely to already be either a novice or perhaps even intermediate due to the nature of synchronicity. You were just minding your business one day, and suddenly, the Universe grabbed you by the nape of the neck and chunked your sorry ass into the deep end, and that was the first and last time you could ever be qualified as a “beginner”. Its all uphill from there, and chances are you possess tools you didn’t even know you had before this journey even started.

It is with all that in mind that I reiterate…the concept of teaching Synchronicity is an interesting one. Maybe its not about teaching as much as it is about learning. Maybe even sharing. Maybe there’s an equality type of trait nested within where the teacher and student hats are always and forever interchangeable. There are no masters, there is only mastery.

Some people are probably gonna REALLY dislike such a concept.

No room for advancement.

No way to become a name.

No way to become a face.

^Ace of Spades (Official Music Video) – Hayseed Dixie^

What does your face look like anyway?

DATABASE FOR HUMAN TRAINING a glimpse into the databases used by artificial intelligence-Animated Gifs

Hey…you’ve always wanted to get to know people. That must also mean you want people to get to know you. Welp, they are. Problem is, there may not be a whole lotta reciprocation going on.

They, know you. You, are not them.
^Vince Gill & Jerry Douglas – Oklahoma Borderline (Live 2004) (Promo Only)^

You may have to suspend disbelief if you listen to this next song.

Just hang in there...you will reach the “wtf?!?” part soon enough.
^JINJER – Pisces (Live Session) | Napalm Records^

SO! For those who journeyed into that video, and stuck with it long enough to reach the “wtf?!?” moment, lets us see some of the more or less boring mechanics of how some sweet little soft-spoken pixie learns to summon and master the dark vocal forces of hell.

Is that misogynist of me? Sexist? Referring to a person who I do not know nor have any sort of relationship with as “a sweet little soft-spoken pixie”? To be fair, she was/is singing to me. Or at me.

/shrug
^’How To Growl’ Basics: 3 Safe Ways To Learn False Cord Technique^

Prolly not that much different than anything else. You want to learn to do something, you see how others do it, then you practice, practice, practice.

I admit that when I watched that Jinjer/Pisces video, I did not believe what I was hearing. The video is supposedly live, but if you are as old as I am and have been around the musical block a few times, you learn that a “live” recording is…well, not necessarily as “live” as they say it is. Most of the time a “live” recording has been sent back to the engineers for cleanup, and many of the nuances of a live performance have been removed. Also need to point out that electronic vocal processing has reached the point to where there is virtually nothing that one cannot do digitally. So I had to ask myself…

”Wait, let’s say that they are heaping a shitload of vocal processing on her voice in order to make her sound like a man. Is that really any different than some pop diva using autotune, so that she never hits any sour notes? Or even putting a reverb or delay or EQ or compression or some other effect on a more or less clean voice?”

I used to sometimes run my own voice straight into a distortion pedal to get my voice to sound like I wanted. Yep, plugged the microphone directly into a distortion pedal made for guitar. Lolz (true story) Screaming is hard on the voice. Talk to any USMC drill instructor, and chances are their voice sounds like rocks in a woodchipper from all of that screaming.

With all this in mind, I went back and watched the Jinjer/Pisces video again, and I watched nothing but her lips and her throat, and tried to keep her posture in my periphery so I could see what her diaphragm was doing. I also tried to listen for any hints of more or less “female” sounding tones embedded within the signal I was hearing. I heard some. Also, the video angles and cuts are as such that it is damn rough to look for those tiny accentuations in the face and neck which reveal connections to certain tones. I still doubt as to whether she is actually producing these sounds.

So let’s do this…lets see if we can find a something where they are live live…like on-stage live at a concert, and see if it still looks disconnected.

^JINJER – Pisces (Live at Wacken Open Air 2019) | Napalm Records^

FUCK!!! She’s now got a goddamn huge neck tattoo obscuring everything!!!

Hrm. 

That certainly doesn’t help seeing whether or not veins are popping out in her neck, nor does it make it easy to see what the larynx is doing. So now I have to go back and listen to both the studio live and concert live versions, bounce back and forth and see just how similar the screamed/growled parts are. They do sound similar, but not in a Milli Vanilli/lipsyncing kind of way as much of a “how does the vocal tones of the live studio version sound so damn close to the on-stage live version?” kind of way. Are we learning to learn how to learn about strange coincidences yet?

Fuck this…let,s get the straight dope right out of the growler’s mouth.

^How Jinjer’s Tatiana Shmayluk Learned to Scream^

Formed a new band last week.

Avant Garde Fart Cracklings

Our first album “Crispy Burnt Leftovers In The Bottom Of The Pan” should drop soon. Which reminds me…

if Sulfur smelled like apple blossoms, would farts be more popular?
^Stevie Ray Vaughan – Texas Flood (from Live at the El Mocambo)^

Do you prefer to know the secret behind the magician’s tricks, or are you just here for the magic? Or both?

It is nice to be able to control others. Especially to control the magician.

^Lonnie Mack – Wham! (1963)^

The fog days of summer are rapidly approaching.

Frog days of summer...that is.

Pawg days.

Smog days.

Gog days.

Dog days.

^Lightnin’ Hopkins – It’s A Sin To Be Rich, It’s A Low-Down Shame To Be Poor^

Ever since this “Q” or “QAnon” stuff has fallen on its face and its followers have gotten all grumpy and discombobulated, it has been quite amazing to see just how quickly the “Disclosure” peeps have also turned on their own masters.

Which reminds me, I watched a documentary the other day called “Alien Reptilian Legacy”.

I’m not exactly big on pointing out certain physical features nor making derogatory type comparisons, but holy FUCK! As soon as David Icke appeared, I was like…”damn, that dude appears to be physically turning into the very thing that he hates…a Reptilian.” Besides that, the documentary was pretty fucking boring tho. Not to mention that the whole Reptilian thing is muddy as fuck since some seem to think that the Reptilians are the good guys, Greys are the bad guys, and others think the opposite. (Greys = Good, Reptilians = Bad) Um…I’ve never seen a Reptilian. Nor a Grey. Nor any other fucking extraterrestrial as far as that goes. Seen some goddamn freaky-assed human weirdos come out of the Ufology community, but never seen an alien. Cept via the wizardry of books, film and television. Which reminds me, its been a while since I checked to see how many alien species are now said to reside on Earth/Terra. I think last time I checked, there was around 78 different aliens visiting from 78 different planets. Lets see if any new aliens have landed.

List Of Alleged Extraterrestrial Beings

Fucking hell…that list sucks balls.

Global rise in emerging alien species results from increased accessibility of new source pools

That’s from over three years ago, and it don’t help me much.

How Many Alien Societies Are There?

That’s more along the lines of what I’m looking for in that it’s timely, but that’s just projections from a more or less legit entity in the scientific community (SETI). I need an updated list of the honest-to-God extraterrestrial beings that are currently hanging their space hats on Earth.

How many alien species will there be in 2050?

GAH!!! That’s more capitalist wet market bullshit. I need aliens with space ships and phasers and warp drives and cloaking devices and chicks with three tits and other assorted technological advances.

Black, Grey and Watch Lists of alien species in the Czech Republic based on environmental impacts and management strategy

More markets? Blacks and Greys?

WTFuckingholyfuckingfuckballsmotherfucker!!!!

List of alleged extraterrestrial beings

If anything, that list is missing aliens.

Alien Languages May Not Be Entirely Alien to Us

I cannot read much of that article because it is behind a paywall. Which, hey…remember at carnivals where a certain amount of money would get you inside of the tent, but if you wanted to keep going to the various shows inside, you had to pay additional? They tempt you with all those banners, but the truth is that the fee to get in the door is only one fee of many. You then get shown the exit, your funds are depleted, and you’re not exactly sure what in the fuck just happened nor what you actually got for your cash.

^Billy Preston – Will It Go Round in Circles^

I got yet another question for you to chew on…

Q: Where do the disaffected go?

A: ?? ( o ) ( o ) ??

They’ve rebelled, gone their own way, found their own path…but are they welcomed back and nestled into the bosom of mamma’s embrace when everything collapses? Make no mistake, “they” want you as part of their team. They’ll split, divide and set you assunder via any and all means in order to get you into the fold. Build a something up, and tear it right the fuck back down so you have nowhere else to go. Has an air of demonstrating and reinforcing who the rightful owners are…eh? Have any idea what I’m talking about here?

Q: Who owns the Universe and everything in it?

A: ? ó¿ó ?

You’re on your own in answering this one. Maybe if you weren’t fighting like hell to get these fuckers on a pedestal, you wouldn’t find yourself fighting like hell to get them off.

Get them off…the pedestal. Not like get them off get them off. Although…you are getting off getting them on, and, getting off getting them off.

Sounds like you are getting the better end of the deal.
^Dr. John – Right Place Wrong Time^

Lets us take a spin around The Synchrosphere, yeah? Been a long time since I’ve done that, so lets see if we can see what the synchromystics/synchronauts are up to.

NOTE: Just because you aren’t one of the popular kids in the popular cliques doesn’t make what you do any less important. There are likely metric-mega-fucktons of people out there doing their thing who have no idea that “The Synchrosphere” is even a thing. They just keep on chugging, keep digging, keep learning, irrespective of what the cool kids are doing. Many of them prolly aren’t trying to carve out their own niche either. Just slogging through the craziness and trying to figure out what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong.

Lemme break out of that “note” and give a coupla examples of what I mean.

Now, I’ve seen a lot of stuff like that over time. They seem to be under the impression that they are completely alone, the only source of “truth”, and all this stuff they are seeing is driving them bonkers because they are shouting into the void and no one seems to be heeding their warnings. But at the same time, this individual does appear to be trying prove something, as well as trying to carve out their own niche because they seem to think that getting “Twitter Verified” will make everything they say and do OK. Validation by the very system(s) they seem to be at odds with, will, I guess, make their predictions more mostest trueerist of all because the message is getting out to millions instead of just a few hundred and people are actually listening! Or something. Maybe its a matter of money. Getting paid to do what you do is a helluva validation in our world and times.

/shrug

The Moose

The Moose, or BuckoTheMoose. I cannot speak for them, but I would imagine they would almost assuredly NOT consider themselves a Synchronaut. It’s probable he doesn’t even know what in the hell Synchromysticism even is (not that anyone else does either…heh). Hell, they could be the high priest of synchronicity for all I know.

I do kinda know “The Moose”, however. He’s a cool cat, but also very outspoken/pulls no punches. I’ve never really spoken with him about anything “spiritual”, nor have I seen him mention anything along the lines of more mainstream types of spiritual stuff. He appears to like cars, good beer, good cigars, is laid back, astute, has a great sense of humor, so yeah I guess he’s all about spiritual stuff. Just maybe not the same spiritual virtue signaling type bullshit that the herd considers to be spiritual. You know, spiritual virtue signaling…

  • like getting all dressed up in your religious uniform(s);
  • going to virtue display barn (church or maybe a political rally);
  • join in enthusiastically with the virtue signaling chants;
  • nod approvingly (but otherwise keep your piehole shut) as the messages from on high are delivered;
  • fall on your face and cry and wail for acceptance by the pure and holy;
  • maybe even get to rub palms with a few of the elite…

you know, virtue signaling.

 Digress. 

The Moose may not be your typical Synchronaut, but they’re a cog in the wheel. Not only that, they are their own wheel. A voice. Their voice. To exclude them would be tragic.

OK!!! So, enough of trying to figure out the synchronistic forces and dynamics at work on our planet, and lets off to see what the big guns are up to.

^Bobby Darin: Splish Splash W/Lyrics^

Up first is…

SYCNkronicles – Table of ContentsAxis of EvilMinor Level Perps – Foot Soldiers – Jen Psaki

Yes, that’s right…the Synchromysticism Forums are BACK!!!

Cept not. 

I admit that I’ve known for some time that these forums were there, but I further admit I’ve not given it much of a look. It appears that only one person posts there (Peg from the old whatchacallit forums), and a lot of it appears to be only reposts of news stories…all of which are separated by the same ad over and over where someone is plugging “astrological mini-readings” for $50 via cellphone text message. The forums layout is confusing, the giant pictures in the Table of Contents make no sense, and the whole place seems to be more about “Q” and “Truthers” than they seem to be about Synchronicity and/or Synchromysticism.

Now, is it possible that the one person who is making all the posts over there is actually a community account shared by several people? Sure. Maybe they’ve decided to take a 4Chan type approach to administration in order to bundle everything under a single moniker, so that the reader has no idea who is posting what. But even if that is so, as of the time of this writing, the forums only has 1046 posts in 575 topics, and there are only 11 registered members.

11. 

Not gonna be much discussion going on with only 11 registered members when only one of those registered users appears to speak. The forum layout also seems to be structured in such a way to discourage discourse. Topics are WAY to detailed and specific, there’s no readily apparent and coherent parent-child type of inheritance, and I assume the thought process here was to make moderation easier by putting all of the burden of staying on-topic on the posters.

Don't stay on topic? BANNED!!! Simple. 

Very authoritarian, hopelessly rigid and completely counter-intuitive to the erratic and unpredictable nature of Synchronicity. I can only assume that the goal is to amass useful and usable information. Actionable lists of worthwhile data.

Oh well, it’s their forums, they can do whatever they please with them. As to the Evergreen Consulting/Jen Psaki thing, controlling the shipping lanes and intercepting freight is how you make money in the datastreams. Just gotta add your own node to the existing infrastructure(s).

^’Footloose’ – Dancing In The Movies^

Let’s move on to…

THEE CHRONICLES OV JSTEVEKANE – Fingers

Spirals are syncy in my own sphere(s) as of late. This post is kinda interesting because only yesterday I crossed paths with that image above, and there’s been lots of holes and sinkhole types of things appearing on my radar. But what I’ve been mainly thinking about is a particular axis/view that is usually required to identify a spiral. Take for example the rifling within a barrel of a firearm/gun. You really need to be able to look up/down the barrel in order to best see the twist of the rifling. From the side you get more of a sine wave type of impression. But in the case of say a spiral galaxy, a side view will give the impression that there is no spiral at all. Just a cloudy more or less flat blob of a murky mess with maybe some wedge-shaped properties.

Kinda weird how the up/down of the z-axis changes based upon observer perspective in those two instances. Whatever this weird “edge” is I keep seeing tho? I can’t quite put my finger on it. I cannot tell if it’s a reset type thing where the reset somehow carries conditional types of properties over in order to exist in two places at the same time, or if there is simply a dimension that I’m missing. Perhaps there is always an inverse to the more forward types of dimensions so as to preserve information when one reaches the edge where dimensions cease to exist.

EX: The edge of the Universe.

Maybe I’m thinking too much in the micro scale and thinking too much about shrinkage instead of expansion and/or macro scale(s). Maybe the dimensions do not shrink when one reaches the edge. Maybe they expand. Maybe they both expand and shrink. Whatever it is, the typical 3/4/5/8+ types of dimensions that create our reality seem to become incoherent as a specific and succinct set. Perhaps the existence of an inverse carries an accurate enough stack of data in such a way that matter which becomes corrupt in our Universe/reality can and will remanifest itself elsewhere, all while giving the appearance of existing in two places simultaneously. Spooky action kinds of stuff that is not easily identified as such. We are, afterall, talking about more or less zero-times between extraordinarily remote/distant objects.

I can't quite put my finger on it.
^Depth Charge – Shaolin Buddha Finger^

Let us off to downunderland where their fall is just getting cranked up in anticipation of winter…

Just Watching the Wheels Go Round-Chris Mackey: The Positive Psychology of Synchronicity?

Brizdaz can always be counted on for having some interesting shiz, and today is no different. Looks like there’s some Synchronistic learnin’ going on there, and even tho I wrote the top bits of this post several days ago, its still kinda weird to see the connections. But hell, who am kidding. Synchronicity is nothing new, and the concept itself has likely been around since long before Jung got his hands on it. So…

Q: Where is the new?

A: Right here.

Me, you, him, her, it, they, them, us…all of this shit may be as old as dirt, but it’s new as fuck to us.

^The Police – Synchronicity II^

Looks like Rune Soup has a new podcast series type thingie or something…

Rune Soup-CARDS AGAINST INHUMANITY

And a new website. And new merch. New, new, new Rune Soup Stew…from 2021 to 2022.

Those vids are about an hour each so I’ll prolly forgo for the time being. Prolly won’t watch them later either because I’m lazy af.

Which reminds me…a certain someone who I shall not name (RooBeeDoo) noticed recently that a someone who hasn’t posted a blog post in a very long time had a new post up. Let’s saunter over there.

^Ween – Strap On That Jammypac^

SynchoMiss has posted on her blog for the first time in like 4 years…

SynchroMiss-The Year of the OX EquinOX

I have no idea where she’s been. Actually, that’s not true because I bumped into her on Twitter several years ago and I guess she’s kinda more active there.

I have no idea who she is.

Actually, that’s true. I have no idea who any of these fucking weirdos are. Just a buncha freaks being weird and doing strange stuff. Like…writing. And like I guess…reading. And then like…writing some more (all of which are pretty damn strange).

^ deadmau5 – Ghosts N Stuff ^

Aight…enough of that shit. It’s not that I don’t like cruising around and checking out people’s blogs, because I do. I almost never view any blogs anymore. Not UnderdogBitesUpwards, nor Frank Davis, nor Merovee Frank and not even Miss Ivannah The Topless Psychic.

heh

heh heh

heh heh heh heh heh heh

Anyway, yeah I like reading people’s blogs, just have completely lost the heart to do it. I don’t drop in with an encouraging hi, nor howdy, nor keep going, nor kiss my ass, nor fuck off and die…nothing. Nada. My heart just ain’t in it currently.

/queue sad music

Me me me me me em mem mememememememememememememe

Yeah, this post is already 9 pages long and I should likely get it over to Roob before Doomsday gets here.

^The Cramps. Bikini Girls With Machine Guns.^

We’ve got 800 fucking billion forms of communication available to us on this planet, and not a single motherfucker on this entire rock seems to be able to figure out how to communicate with one another.

Am currently suffering from a wicked case of flabbergastritis.

Perhaps I should go.

(no pun intended)
^Yello – Tied Up (Remastered 2005)^

cYacFa

^Butthole Surfers – Cherub^

*******

*Good idea, Clicky…*

The comment section is open, Dear Reader, so don’t be shy to use it if you have any questions or comments for Cade, myself or Clicky. Have a Song 😉