Outdoor tall directors chair

Best Outdoor Hanging Chair In USA

2023.03.22 06:20 ceechair Best Outdoor Hanging Chair In USA

Best Outdoor Hanging Chair In USA submitted by ceechair to u/ceechair [link] [comments]

2023.03.22 06:18 Event-decore 9FT Tall Warm White Lighted Tree - Decorative Waterproof Ginkgo LED Tree - Wedding and Party Indoor / Outdoor Centerpieces Tree 1632 LEDS!

9FT Tall Warm White Lighted Tree - Decorative Waterproof Ginkgo LED Tree - Wedding and Party Indoor / Outdoor Centerpieces Tree 1632 LEDS!

INTERNAL WIRING! Our trees have easy plug, weatherproof wiring brought though the inside of the trunks and through to each branch. See photos as comparison.
ILLUMINATION! Brighter is Better! The hidden LED’s are 25 watt each! These trees will be admired from far distances! They offer ample lighting to brighten any room or outdoor area.
WEATHERPROOF! That’s right! Leave it outside. Rain is not a problem. The branches are sealed! Just make sure the outlet is not exposed.
Have a Look
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2023.03.22 06:18 burnabycoyote Port of Baltimore news

"Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Michael Herzog, and his wife, Shirin Herzog, visited the World Trade Center in Baltimore to discuss Israel-Maryland business opportunities. Hosted by MD Secretary of Commerce Kevin Anderson, William Doyle discussed the Port of Baltimore’s growing relationship with Israeli ocean carrier ZIM Integrated Shipping Services. Also in attendance was David Speer, Executive Director of the Maryland/Israel Development Center, and David Kuntz Chair of MIDC."
https://www.facebook.com/MDOTNews/ on 21 March.
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2023.03.22 06:17 Sad-Number-6575 We just bought a brand new modern townhouse for our family's use and we will AirBnB a few weeks as well. Would love to hear from you what amenities that would be important to you during your stay?

Some ideas aside from the basics of pots/pants, nice sheets/towels, etc.
- Fat Tire Bikes
- Portable Crib, Ikea High Chair, Jogging Stroller
- Paddle Boards
- Fishing Poles
- Hiking Sticks
- Nespresso machine and nice Yeti Coffee mugs to sit on balconies
- Fondue Maker
- Greenegg Smoker
- Selection of Board Games and Playing Cards
- TVs's in every room and a playstation in the Kid's room
- Novels and Puzzles
- Solo Fire Stove + Lounge Chairs
-Outdoor games: driveway tennis, basketball, football, soccer ball
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2023.03.22 06:02 ZachTheLitchKing [CW] Smash 'Em Up Sunday: B'Stilla

Original Prompt
The northern warrior, Ekkehard, found himself captured. The Romans were too mighty on the battlefield and his fellow surviving clansmen had fled. Wounded and abandoned, Ekkehard was taken by the centurions and marched back to Rome with hundreds of other captives to be sold into slavery.
He'd heard rumors of the Coliseum and assumed that was where he was. Tied to a seat with a sack over his head, but he could feel stone beneath his feet and the hot sun was burning him from above. The was a faint yet sickly sweet scent of death all around him; a familiar odor to a warrior of his tenure. Corpses had been here. If he was to fight for his freedom, he would win.
"Ekkehard the Condor," a voice drolled. It was the first time Ekkehard heard his tongue spoken since he was captured, though the accent was odd and somehow unsettling, "More like Ekkehard the Pidgeon. You were far too easy to take. Shame, shame."
The bag was removed from the northman's head and the sunlight blinded him for a moment. His eyes adjusted and he took in his surroundings. Not a pit of sand, stone, and death, but instead he was surrounded by flowers, shrubs, and tall walls with marble pillars. The sun was high overhead and the chair on which he sat was in the middle of a narrow stone path in this little garden enclave.
"Abandoned on the battlefield by your brother's in arms?" the voice asked, stepping around into Ekkehard's view. The man was squat and rotund, with dry and flaky skin around his bald head and bronze face. He rubbed his chin, some bits chipping off, as he looked at a scroll of sheepskin that had something written on it. Ekkehard did not know any letters, least of all the ones of this foreign land.
"Hmm, very tiresome to track you down," the man grumbled, "Oh, where are my manners? I am Consul Manilus, and you are my prisoner. Would you like a drink? I have spiced wine and posca. I would offer you coffee, you seem quite tired, but it has not been discovered yet."
Ekkehard looked up to ask what some of the strange words he said meant, like 'wine' and 'coffee', but when his eyes met the peeling man's Ekkehard knew that he was speaking to a monster. Red rings glowed bright around narrowly slit pupils that looked back at the warrior. It was like staring into the eyes of a snake, but instead of the glassy-eyed look of a reptile, it was an intense and consuming hunger. Ekkehard felt less like a man and more like a meal under that gaze.
He looked away only to find more horror. The plants nearby were lush, but a pale and rotting hand was visible between the leaves of one small shrub. Ekkehard's eyes darted around the garden as the cause of the smell of death became apparent; there were bodies everywhere. They were half buried in the soil and the plants seemed to be growing over them, or through them.
"Do you like my garden?" Manilus asked, rolling up the sheepskin and tucking it into his tunic, "I love my garden. More than your brothers loved you, it seems." he reached out and ran his fingers through Ekkehard's hair. The touch chilled the warrior's skin and he tried to flinch away. Manilus laughed, "Ha! Don't worry, I won't add you to the collection. Not if you have something you can offer me in return. Let's make a deal."
"Deal?" Ekkehard asked, the spark of hope in his eyes.
"Yes! What do you have to give me? I do not desire gold, I desire something far more personal. Think on it, and be quick. A little imagination goes a long way."
"I... have little to offer," Ekkehard grunted as he struggled against his binds, "Only my body. I can fight for you."
"Hmm... I don't want your entire body," Manlius said as he drew closer to the bound warrior, "Little and lasting is better than much and passing,"
Manlius reached into Ekkehard's chest, and a great pain shot throughout the warrior's body. He felt the burning cold grip of the demon around his heart and then a violent tug. His chin fell down and he saw not a mark on his chest. As he weakened, he looked up and saw Manlius holding a beating heart in his blood-soaked hand.
"Twenty down, eighty to go," Manlius said, his mouth stretched into a too-wide grin, showing far too many teeth. The last thing Ekkehard saw was the grinning mask of a monster with burning red eyes.
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2023.03.22 05:24 Flaky_Beach UIUC MCS deferred decision

UIUC MCS deferred decision
Is it confirmed that they will give me admit for spring 2024. I am confused 🤔
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2023.03.22 05:03 GTSBot [GTS] Since yall wanted to see my base here it is

[GTS] Since yall wanted to see my base here it is submitted by GTSBot to guessthesubreddit [link] [comments]

2023.03.22 05:02 r0ya 25 [M4F] #nyc Asian M donating along east coast

25 for placeholder. 20s. I’m an Asian M highly educated open to donations. Based in nyc but flexible to anywhere on northeast coast
Some details. I’m above average tall, thin, sizable downstairs if it matters. I like anything pan-Asian so anime, kpop, science, sports, outdoors, etc. I’m open minded so down to connect with anyone. 18+ only. Hope to hear from you!
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2023.03.22 04:32 mlfna 34 [M4F] Philadelphia - Slightly nerdy professional seeks same

Hey there. I'm a 34 year old dude living in Philly. I'm 6'0 tall, white, fit/average build, leftist politics, educated, decent career, stable. Not looking for anything complex, just a nice lady in my broad age range who enjoys good food, movies, travel, staying in, and the outdoors, and who is similarly situated to me (educated, good career or passionate about / working towards something, etc.).
Not expecting too much to start, happy to go out on a date and take it from there.
If you're interested, send me a pic and tell me a bit about yourself.
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2023.03.22 02:48 Hopeful-Asparagus-20 UIUC Spring 24 guaranteed admit or not

UIUC Spring 24 guaranteed admit or not submitted by Hopeful-Asparagus-20 to gradadmissions [link] [comments]

2023.03.22 02:09 Oddwin [Help] Looking for an affordable bike in Canada...

Hi. I'm looking to purchase a bicycle to get outside more. But I'm worried about weight requirements and price. I loved riding my bike as a young man but gave it up because my family couldn't afford excellent quality (I was a Zellers/Canadian Tire kid.) and I broke a ton of bikes. If I'm being honest have never really been in a position where I could afford to invest in something like a quality bike on a whim.
Those days are over.
I still can't really afford anything too flashy. But I NEED to get out of this chair I've been working from for 25+ years and I remember that the one thing I loved in my younger days is riding my bike. Sunup to Sundown you couldn't get me off my bike.
I know I'm not "that" old but if I get after it now I won't be b0rked when I'm actually old. :) Looking for some help because if you google "the best place to get bikes in Canada..." You find either Canadian Tire or places that have 4-digit price tags.
Any suggestions would be much appreciated.
45 Male (Are male/female bikes still a thing?)
6'6" Tall (I'll need something I can make adjustments to the seat/handlebars)
300lbs+ ish (Is this something I need to really worry about? I'm sure bikes have weight limits... but is it that important?)
Trail/Town (I'm still young enough that I wanna go down some hills too fast whilst eating bugs... but I'm also not going to be doing jumps/hill climbs. I also live out of town so there are a lot of trails and gravel roads.)
$500 but still decent quality. I cannot tell you how often I've snapped pedals/ bent rims off cheap bikes. (This is something I'm willing to bend on slightly... $500 is still a bit too much for me to be spending all in one shot. But I really, really, really wanna get out there and scrape a knee. :)

Thank you to anyone who takes the time to read this, and special thanks to anyone whos willing to offer some help/suggestions.

I guess I should add that I live in puncture vine central so I "think" something with bigger wheels?
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2023.03.22 02:00 100_PERCENT_BRKB Gregory Edward Abel (chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Energy, and vice-chairman of non-insurance operations of Berkshire Hathaway since January 2018) buys a few shares

Gregory Edward Abel (chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Energy, and vice-chairman of non-insurance operations of Berkshire Hathaway since January 2018) buys a few shares submitted by 100_PERCENT_BRKB to brkb [link] [comments]

2023.03.22 01:41 Trash_Tia Every October 1st, the eighteen year old's in my town go crazy for one night. We call it The Teen Purge. (Part 3. Ending.)

I'm writing this from the ruins of our old diner. This will be my last post.
When the bus came to an abrupt stop suddenly, I pressed my head against the window and peered out, hyper alert of my surroundings.
I was seeing a large glass building which reminded me of a school, or maybe a hospital. It looked far more modern than anything in Littlewood. It hit me that this was the Halfway House we had been promised solace ever since we were kids. I vaguely remembered our class being told about the curse and quickly following that up with, “But we’ll keep you safe. Like we do every year, we send our seniors to a place of healing to prepare them for the outside world after going through such trauma where they can mend and reignite themselves."
Ironic wording, considering what really happened to us.
In actuality, I knew exactly what it was. The whispering in my head had revealed the Halfway House’s true meaning. Inside that building we were going to burn. We were going to fucking burn and nobody was coming to save us. Not our parents or the town. Leaning back in my chair, my gaze flicked to the front where two armed guards were beginning to escort my classmates off of the bus. I had already made my decision when I grabbed Jun’s sleeve and yanked him under the seat in front of us. He let out a sharp gasp, almost a sound of protest. “Bee, what are you doing? Get off--"
Slamming my hand over his mouth, I pressed myself into a ball, pulling him further under the seat. The thud, thud, thud, of the guards' boots sent slithers of fear creeping up and down my spine. They passed us. I could hear their breaths, their muttering to each other.
The guards already knew our game. I sensed them checking under each seat—which motivated me to shuffle myself further under until I couldn’t breathe. Jun didn’t move, his breaths sharp and heavy into the flesh of my palm. After a moment which seemed to go on forever, thudding boots retreated back towards the front of the bus. I squeezed my eyes shut when the engines started up once again. Gripping Jun for dear life, I settled on taking deep breaths. We were going to get out, I thought. We were going to escape.
“Can you get off of me?" Jun tried to squirm from my grip, but I tightened my hold on him.
“Shh.” I said under my breath. “Don’t make a sound, okay?”
"Why? We're going to the Halfway house!"
I bit back a yell, stopping him from crawling away from me. "There is no halfway house."
Once the bus started to move, keeping a firm grip on Jun’s sleeve, I pulled us from our hiding place and lifted my head, scanning for somewhere better. The back was our best bet. When I started towards it, dragging Jun with me, however, I spotted two familiar faces already in hiding. Jonas and Mira. Jun let out a low grumble, and part of me couldn't believe he was still salty about Jonas in this situation.
Without speaking, we joined them, with Jonas shuffling back so I could join him, pulling a reluctant Jun with me. It was an uncomfortable squeeze but we were safe. I allowed myself to breathe when the bus fell into a steady drive. But I didn’t have time to relax. I was considering asking Jonas in low whispers why he had chosen to hide, when once again the bus came to a jolting stop. “Forty six?” The bus driver all but thundered from the front. “What are you talking about? Fifty were loaded onto the bus. I fucking counted them!"
Shit. Shooting the other’s a panicked look, I weighed our options. Four against one.
We could easily get past him.
“No. No, we did a sweep of the bus!" His voice was growing panicked. "There’s nobody on here."
Jonas twisted around, shooting me a questioning look.
What the fuck is wrong with him? He mouthed.
I pressed my index over my lips in response.
Jun let out a frustrated hiss, and I instantly knew what he was going to do. Before he could, however, I was slamming my hand over his mouth once again, this time with Jonas' help, cutting off his strangled, "We're over–"
Jonas shoved us further under, dragging a struggling Jun. "Do you want us to get caught!?" He exploded in a hiss of breath.
Jun only muffled into my hand, and I half wondered if knocking him out would benefit us. The bus driver’s voice was eerily shaky. I could hear every tremble in his tone. “Check? Yes! Uh, yes, I’ll check now. Don’t worry, alright? There’s no more kids on this bus. They must have ran away."
When the driver started down the aisle in a bumbling stumble, ducking under each seat, I attempted to hide. I mean there was nowhere to hide, though I at least tried to shove myself uncomfortably further under the damn seat until we were squashed like sardines. “Hey!”
The driver’s steps quickened towards us and I felt my body catapult into fight or flight.
“What are you kids still doing here?” When I lifted my head to meet his eyes, I expected anger. There was no anger, however. I was seeing frustration and fear, trickles of pain blooming in wide cartoon-like eyes. The guy was keeping his distance from us, I noticed.
Like we were teeming with the plague. It was a curse, not a contagious virus.
"What do we do?" Jonas murmured.
"We stay here."
"But he's looking directly at us." He said in a sing-song voice. "I don't think he's blind."
Before I could stop him, Jonas was awkwardly dislodging himself from the gap underneath the seats. He jumped to his feet and raised his arms in mocking surrender. His smile was bright, but there was an underlying darkness in his eyes, and I had no doubt he wouldn’t resort to violence. “Yeah, okay, you got us. We were just hitchhiking back to town. I’m not a fan of the whole half-way house thing,” he said. “I’d rather just ride back into town and go and see my pops.” His lip curled. “I want to see if he’s okay. You know, after last night. I'm sure you know I'm a little on edge."
“No.” The driver’s eyes filled with tears. “No…” he shook his head rapidly, his arms trembling at his sides. “You're not going anywhere. You.. you're staying right there."
"What, so I get possessed by the dead souls of my ancestors and now I don't have basic human rights?" Jonas rolled his eyes with a scoff. "You're legally inclined to let me go. I don't want to go to some weird halfway house and pretend I didn't gut my best friend's mother, alright? I'm going home, asshole."
The driver didn't move. "I'm telling you to… to stay back." He moaned. "Please. I have a wife. I have a wife and two children, and I just got promoted! I don't need this shit!"
Jonas' eyes darkened. "What did you say?"
"Jonas…" Jun hissed out.
"No, no, I'm curious to know what the fuck this guy's problem is," The boy spat. "I woke up tangled in my neighbors guts, and this guy…" He started to laugh, a hysterical giggle collapsing into a sob. "This guy thinks his job is more important?"
"You're a disease." The man said in a whisper. "You shouldn't… exist." His gaze flicked to me. "All of you. You're a disease."
A look of hurt sparked in the boy's eyes, and his lip curled. “The curse is over, Jackass! I'm not going to kill you!" Jonas cocked his head, his expression crumpling with confusion when the guy started sobbing. "Are you…crying? Jeez, what did I say, huh? I'm not going to kill you! We just want to go home, alright? Look! I'm holding up my hands. Just take us home."
Just as promised, Jonas held up his hands.
I chose to stand at that point. Jun followed hesitantly, Mira following, staying behind Jonas. The driver stiffened, backing away.
“I said stay back!" He hissed out. “Do you hear me?” His shaky hand went into his jacket, his eyes squeezing shut like he was expecting something. Pulling out a phone, the man's fingers nervously tapped the screen. He didn't take his eyes off us. “I’m taking you kids back to the Halfway House, alright?"
He nodded at us like we would agree if he looked as pathetic as possible. And he did. The guy looked like he was ready to drop to his knees and beg. “Just… stay there.”
I caught the exact moment he dropped the notion of an authority figure. His lips twisted when Jonas ignored his instructions and took a casual step towards him. If this guy had a gun, I knew he would use it. Instead, he stumbled back with a cry. “Don’t fucking move! I mean it!”
Jonas' lip curved. He raised a brow. “Like this?” Another step.
This time, the man let out a shriek.
“Jonas.” Jun said. “Dude, stop. You're scaring him."
"Scaring him? What's to be scared of?" He laughed. "The night's over, and this guy still thinks a bunch of kids are going to gut him."
"I don't know," Jun whispered, "but don't get too close, okay? He looks freaked."
“Why?” Jonas twisted around to look at him. “This guy’s got fucking problems. Didn't I tell him we weren't a threat?"
I caught a glimmer of that maniacal glitter left over from overnight. “Let me guess,” Jonas laughed. “Do you see dead people?” In three strides, he was face to face with the guy. Nose to nose. Still smiling. The driver was petrified to the spot, like Jonas was inhuman. His eyes were wide, lips moving, but he wasn't speaking. "You look like you're about to poop yourself over a bunch of teenagers, my guy. Kind of pathetic, dontcha think?"
"I…" The man's bottom lip trembled. His breaths were heavy, his mouth twisting and turning and trying to speak. I would have felt sorry for him, if it wasn't for him being responsible for bringing my class to the slaughter. He couldn't even get words out, wide eyes pinpointed on Jonas and Jun like they were ghosts. Something was building in my head, a pressure harsh enough to make my nose bleed.
I found myself staring out of the window. I had initially caught the movement of a lamppost swaying back and forth. But there was no wind. When I squinted, I noticed more things which didn't make sense; a patch of flowers which had been planted outside the Halfway House were… drooping. No, not just drooping. They were blackening, rotting away into their soil, petals being whisked into the air and coming apart.
It was 10:30 in the morning, and the sky was darkening.
Jun started forwards and grabbed Jonas’s wrist, and with the two of them so close, the man let out a childish whine which only confused Jonas further. Outside, a tree I was so sure had been standing tall and proud, crashed onto the ground suddenly, the force of the impact rattling the bus. I fought to hold on. The pressure was building in my brain, and suddenly I couldn’t… I couldn’t breathe. “Hey!” Jonas yelled in the driver's frozen face. “What did I say, huh? The curse is over! You don’t have to be scared of us anymore, alright? Just… take us home–"
It sounded like bursting bubble-gum.
I didn’t hear the latter half of what he’d said because the bus windows were suddenly bright red, dripping red. The floor was red, the seats, and the ceiling. Jonas was red, and I could feel splatters of it on my cheeks and speckled on my chin. The others had gotten the worst of it, but it was still painting me. The red was warm and wet, like I had bathed in it. It was at my feet, pooling and spilling and spattering every colour from existence. I felt like I was back in on the school corridor being suffocated by a wet rag pressed over my mouth, horrifying images projecting into my hand from the fumes. But these weren't delusions. This was real. It was happening.
There was a dizzying moment when I thought it was raining blood before my brain found reality and I blinked at the spot where the driver had stood in front of us—and it began to dawn on me. I hadn’t been looking at the man when he popped out of existence. I was watching the leaves on the trees outside start to brown and then blacken into nothing. Like there was an invisible force decaying everything in its path. Jonas, who looked like he was starring in Cannibal Holocaust, twisted around to face me with wide, almost unseeing eyes. He looked like he might say something before the bus shook, and I forced myself to move, to find the window.
Outside, the ground had started to crack apart, zigzagging raptures spreading like fire across the sidewalk. Jun grabbed my arm and pulled me off the bus, Jonas diving off first, Mira on his heel. The world was crumbling around us, I realised. I could see it in flocks of birds flying across the sky in a panic. When we found solid ground, Jonas started hyperventilating. I was half listening to him mutter obscenities to himself, eyeing the growing sinkhole eating up everything in front of us. A woman jumped into her car and attempted to drive straight ahead before another tree collapsed, crushing her. “This is the curse.” Jonas said shakily. “It’s got to be, right? But why would they still be mad?"
The four of us teetered on a safe piece of sidewalk.
Mira wasn’t speaking. I think she was frozen. Traumatised. I could barely see her through the red.
“Nope.” Jun murmured. He swiped blood from his eyes with his sleeve. “It’s because we’re refusing to save the world.”
“What?” Jonas spluttered.
The ground started to split in front of me and I staggered back, my stomach galloping into my throat.
“He’s brainwashed.” I found myself gritting out. “Jun’s convinced we’re saving the world.”
“Like… like The Avengers?” Jonas grabbed his arm with a laugh. “Dude, did you hit your head?”
“Then what are you talking about?”
“Didn’t I make it clear I didn’t want to talk to you?”
“Well, you might as well! Since the fuckin’ world is ending!” He paused. "If this about me and Wendy--"
Jun laughed. "You're telling me this now?!"
“Stop.” Mira cut in, her cry breaking into a sob. “Just shut up. Shut up! I can't think!"
Their back and forth was barely a whisper in the back of my mind while I watched chaos unfold in front of me. Have you ever heard a human being explode?
It kind of sounds like bubble gum bursting.
I glimpsed a running man hand in hand with a little kid before both of them went “Poof!” against the store window, painting it in a whole new colour.
Like a domino effect, the town's people started rupturing like the ground beneath us. I was staring at an old woman struggling to hobble through a panicking crowd when the mayor announced himself via megaphone across a particularly large crack in splintered concrete. Armed guards surrounded him and I wondered if whatever this was would spare him. “Stay exactly where you are!”
“Do you understand me? Do not move!”
When they risked coming closer, part of me revelled in seeing fear prickle in their eyes. Behind the mayor, was our principal. His face beet red. The guy was seething. “Can you kids understand what you have done?”
Uh, yeah.
I think we had accidentally caused the death of Littlewood.
I didn’t say that, though. I wanted answers and Jun and Jonas seemed in their own world, watching our town crumble around us. “The curse.” I said shakily when they were close enough to hear us. The bookshop I’d frequented my whole life started to crumble behind me, windows splintering with the force of the quake. But It barely fazed me. Neither did the little girl screaming for her exploding mother showering her in scarlet. “Who really started it?”
The mayor dropped his megaphone. “If I tell you, will you hand yourselves over?”
Even his voice was shaking.
I nodded. “Of course.”
"What?!" Jonas shot me a look.
"She's not being serious, idiot," Jun muttered to him. "She's stalling."
The mayor's lips twisted. “No fighting? No more questions?”
“Sure.” I said, gesturing to the world around us. “You should hurry up though. Unless you want to turn into brain soup.”
If the phenomenon happening around us wanted to take the three of us, we would already be dead. It wasn’t targeting us, however. It was killing everyone except us.
Which spoke volumes.
“Uh, no,” Jonas hissed, tugging on my sleeve. “We should run. Like, right fucking now. I don't care what you want to say, okay? I don't want to be part of this!"
“Let him explain.” I said.
“Bee, are you serious?” Mira's eyes were wide, cartoon like.
“Very.” I told her, before directing my words at the mayor. “I want to know why you made Noah Sharpe kill my mother eleven years ago. And I don't want bullshit."
A woman who was mid run across the ruins of the sidewalk blossomed into a cloud of red, and I only just glimpsed what was left of her bag landing onto the ground with a comical splat. The mayor looked like he might argue or even attempt to capture us right there and then. But he didn’t give the order. Instead, he pasted on a strict smile. “Two hundred years ago in the year 1799, the elders of this town made a grave mistake which they knew they would regret for the coming years, dooming their children, and their ancestors to eternal misery” He cleared his throat, suddenly looking uncomfortable. “Littlewood was on the brink of collapse. Women were unfortunately barren and unable to bear children, and nothing they tried would work. They tried everything, Bee. Everything which would work and wouldn't - - old wives tales, and whispers in the wind carrying word of mouth. The town had no other option and were forced to make a terrible choice. Our elders prayed to an entity and asked for good luck and prosperity to help us through trying times, and for their women to no longer be barren."
“Prayed?” Jun frowned. “Like… to a God?”
“You could say that.” The mayor smiled proudly.
"No, you said… you said there was a fire," Jonas whispered. He was already in denial. "That's what you told us! You told us there was a fire which killed a bunch of kids…and we’re punished because you didn’t help them. Because you let them burn."
The mayor was doing a good job of skirting around actual conversation.
He nodded gravely. “That was the story we told you, yes. It was built on the bones of the truth. However, the reality of what really happened would cause panic. The truth is our ancestors sacrificed fifty teenagers in the year 1799. They were a gift to this entity in control of our beloved town. As you already know, human sacrifice was practised in those days. Some say it was normal. Human blood and life force was seen as the greatest gift Littlewood's bearers could accept— as well as the soul from an elder, or an authority of the town. But of course we couldn't do that. In the simplest of terms, our elders were.. more important. ” He folded his arms. “However, what they did not know is that those sacrifices were… impure. They had engaged in certain activities which would be deemed… unsanitary, or maybe that's not the word for it. They, ahh.. I'm not sure how to–"
“They fucked.” Jonas cut him off with an eye-roll.
The mayor’s gaze found the ground.
“Indeed.” He said. “Angered, the entity demanded more than the town could give it, and when town’s people started to notice rotting food and animals disappearing, rumours of a beast lurking in the trees beginning to circulate, they struck a deal. Every year following, the eighteen year olds, with fifty being the minimum, would be sacrificed as our punishment.”
“Burned.” I corrected in a scoff.
The man found my gaze. “In those times, yes. Burned at the stake. However, throughout the years we have found a far more humane way to complete the ritual.”
Yeah. Incineration.
“I’m not a virgin.” Jonas said dryly.
“That doesn’t matter.” The mayor said. “Whether you are or not, fifty sacrifices were demanded to make up for the towns sins. If the debt wasn’t paid, however, the entity threatened a wrath greater than hell on earth to strike our town and then the world.” This time he lifted his gaze and looked me directly in the eye like I was supposed to feel guilty. “What we call The Teen Purge would be child’s play in comparison to what they have planned for us,” he continued. “If the correct number of sacrifices are not made, Littlewood will fall, which will cause a domino effect. Destruction will spread to neighbouring towns and then cities, followed by countries across the world, killing billions of people.” The mayor gestured around us as spattered red. “As you can see, we are already seeing the start of it.”
“So… two hundred years ago, you idiots prayed to an inhuman entity and actually expected them to give you what you wanted?” Mira whispered.
Then she laughed to my surprise. “You killed fifty kids because a faceless presence told you to?”
“Like I said, Mira,” The mayor’s tone grew cold. “Human sacrifice was considered normal in those days. I’m not saying what our ancestors did was right, but they were starving. Their women could not bear children.”
“What does that have to do with turning us into psychopaths?” I found myself asking, my voice was trembling. “Why did Noah kill my mom?”
This time, the man wore the slightest of smiles. “Do you really think parents would agree to us murdering their children if we didn’t make them fear them? If we didn’t plant the idea in their head that it was their twisted child’s life or innocent towns people? Your parents were as in the dark as you. In their eyes, you were cursed. Killers. You had to be taken away.”
“You’re kidding.” Jonas looked frantic, his eyes darting around, searching for an escape, “Do you seriously think I’ll die for a town which has ostracized us since were five years old? Who made us think we were fucking monsters?”
“Mr Lockhart, the sole reason why this town is crumbling around us is because you are still breathing.” The Mayor told him. “Right now, forty six seniors have been… gifted as part of our yearly ritual. That is not enough to stop them from destroying us. We need exactly fifty sacrifices.”
“Well, good luck finding them.” Jonas said in a choked laugh. “I’m sorry, but no. If you think I’m going to willingly sacrifice myself, you’re deluded!”
“Jonas.” The principle at least tried to be sympathetic. “I know you don’t want to do this, but which would you prefer? A world which is no longer recognisable, one which you wouldn’t be able to survive anyway, or a peaceful euthanasian? Your father is still alive. You will be saving him.”
“I don’t care!” He sputtered. “You think I give a fuck about anyone in this town? You’re an elder,” He accused. “Why not give yourself to them, huh?”
“That’s…” The Mayor looked taken aback for a moment. “Mr Lockhart, that is incredibly disrespectful.”
"So is murdeding our entire senior class! " He gasped out, his body trembling. Jonas backed away, grabbing Jun’s hand, and then mine. I held on, but Jun wrenched away from his grasp, his eyes far too empty for me to bear.
“The girl who told me she had a siren in her head,” He said softly. “She said I was going to save billions of lives, and this is what she meant.”
Jonas let out a sound of distain, and Mira laughed again. Her laughter was hysterical.
There was a content smile on Jun’s face and I realised with a pang in my chest, that I preferred it to the agony twisting his expression when I’d found him. I wanted him to be happy, to be at peace. But not like this. I wanted to run away with him, with Jonas and Mira, even if this twisted fate demanded otherwise. Jun strode over to the guards, with two out of four spontaneously combusting in their helmets before the remainder grabbed and restrained him. For a moment, Jonas looked like he might join him. I saw it in his expression, in his eyes filling with tears.
He took a shaky step forward like he would abandon self-preservation for a boy he had confusing feelings for, a boy who was locked into a fantasy nobody could pull him out of. Before he turned on his heel and ran. I watched him go, concrete splintering under his every clumsy step, as he pushed himself into a sprint. I respected that Jonas had chosen himself over the town. His own life over 7 billion people. He didn’t owe Littlewood anything.
“Mr Lockhart!” The mayor yelled, a look of panic twisting his expression.
“Go after him! We need fifty sacrifices!”
The guards hesitated.
They were scared to get near any of us.
After hesitating, they were stumbling after him, but Jonas was already out of sight.
He nodded to the remaining guards holding Jun. “Take him to the halfway house. They’re waiting for him."
At his words, I found myself backing away, and an almost childlike look of pain crossed his face. “Bee.” The mayor stamped the ground like a child, like he was having a tantrum. “Did you not hear him?” He shook Jun like a doll, his smile widening into a grin. “You’re going to save the world!”
I laughed at him. In his fucking face.
He had to be kidding!
He’d taken away my mom, and Noah— now Jun. My entire fucking class.
To make up for a mistake THEY had made. We were being punished for what they had done.
For 200 years, we had suffered.
Because of them.
And he expected me to give myself up?
One look at Jun told me he would never follow me. He had already made his choice.
Still though, I smiled at him.
And he smiled back.
Not a Wonderland Smile, a real smile.
“You’re insane.” I found myself spluttering. “You actually want to die.”
Jun rolled his eyes. “Die?” He said. “Who wants to die? No, Bee. I don’t want to die.” My friend laughed, and the guard holding him flinched, as if a single movement or expression would trigger him to combust like the others. “What did I tell you? I want to go visit my dad before Christmas. I want to move across the country and start fresh in a new college. I want to…” he pulled a face. “I want to eat New York pizza and kiss a stranger, make mistakes that I learn from. Maybe I want to go skinny dipping in mid-December, drive through late night traffic with my head stuck out of the window singing to cheesy pop. Barf all over myself after too much drinking, and then do it all over again the next night because I have zero self-control.”
The more he was speaking, the more I realised I was losing him. No, I’d lost him.
Jun was speaking in goodbye, and there was nothing I could do to stop him. Because, if he had made his choice to give in to his fate, then what business did I have trying to save him? He would only hate me. He was doing a bad job of acting like goodbye didn’t matter to him though, swiping at sore eyes. “The list goes on, Bee! Of course I want to live, idiot,” he laughed again, though it was more of a sob. I thought I was getting through to him. I knew deep, deep down, he didn’t want this either. But Jun was a good person.
He stepped out of the guards restraint , and into my arms. He was warm, and I held onto that. “Nobody ever wants to die,” He mumbled into my shoulder. I squeezed him tighter. “even on the edge of life, even with that storm cloud over their head, the suffocating pressure in their chest. All of that anxiety and pain knotting up their gut telling them they’re not worth it. That they should give up. They all still want to live. They want that reason to keep going.”
I knew exactly what he was talking about. Why I couldn't step in front of traffic or cut open my wrists. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe not all of Jun was gone. His eyes were far too sad for me to call them empty. Brainwashed. “But,” he stumbled over his words, pulling away so abruptly, I felt like all the air in my lungs had been sucked away. “How is it fair that I live while everyone else dies? Our whole class, Bee. How could I stay breathing while they sacrificed themselves for us every year prior?”
“They didn’t have a choice!” I said through gritted teeth. “Do you really think they willingly walked in there? They didn’t want to die, Jun! I saw them die. All of them."
Jun’s eyes flickered to the guards in front of him, and for a moment it looked like I was getting through to him. He made the slightest of movements, his hand grasping hold of my wrist, fingernails digging into my flesh. I felt that desperation to live. Even if he insisted it was the opposite, I knew he was putting on a brave face. But then our Principal was gone, and more red was spattering my face. Jun let go of my wrist and stepped away from me for the final time, allowing the dwindling guards to grab him. I finally understood what the mayor meant. The longer we were breathing, others were suffering and the town was falling apart. Except I couldn’t bring myself to have sympathy for them.
Would you?
“Jun.” I was fighting, then. Fighting to hold myself together when I was splintering apart. “What I heard… in my head,” I sputtered. “They weren’t voices. They didn’t speak to me.” I could feel my knees buckling. “They were screaming! They didn’t want to die! And… and why should we?”
I turned to glare at the mayor who was still standing. “Why should we die for them, huh?” I demanded. “Give me one good reason why we should die. So they can kill the seniors next year? Why should we be the ones they sacrifice? Prisoners exist! Child murderers! Why can’t it be them?”
“That is something we considered.” The mayor started to say, but I cut him off.
“Shut up.” I gritted through a mouthful of tears. “You don’t get to speak."
The mayor looked like he might argue but decided against it.
Jun shrugged. “It’s either us or the planet.”
“This isn’t a movie,” I said, “Do you really think you’re doing some heroic gesture and the whole town is going to cheer you on?” I was seething, I couldn’t control my words, control my breathing. “No. They see you as a sacrifice and nothing else. I don’t see them putting up a fucking memorial. Did they for the others? Did they care, Jun? The girl who put all this in your head. Did the town remember her?"
It took two single strides to grab him.
Shake him.
"Did. The. Town. Care? About any of them? Noah? Tommy? The girl who filled your head with all this crap? Did Littlewood remember them?"
He held my gaze. “She said I was going to save billions. They don't have to care."
“So?” I shrieked. “I choose myself any day! And you should too!"
I expected him to call me selfish, but that wasn’t Jun.
“So, run.”
I let go of him. “Jun, I swear to God–"
“I’m not saying goodbye,” Jun said in a strained voice. “I’m going to turn around and walk away. And you’re not going to look back, okay?"
If Littlewood hadn't been decaying around us, I would have held onto him.
Mira was grabbed before she could follow Jonas, and I was so close to following Jun. I was so fucking close to giving myself up, as long as I got to be with him and the others. When one of the guards took a hesitant step towards me, however, I found myself backing away. No. I didn’t want to die. I didn’t want to fucking die, and if that made me selfish, so be it. I felt myself moving step my step.
One last look at Jun.
He wasn’t smiling, his head bowed as a guard pinned his wrists behind his back. When he lifted his head, his eyes were on the horizon. He looked content. And knowing that he was happy—he was at peace with his fate, I ran. And behind me, just as I turned around, the mayor was staring at me, a look of immense disgust on his face. I stared back. I wanted him to explode. I wanted his body to shower the street in red and prove to me that this so-called entity didn’t just take innocents. It took those in power too. And yet he stood there, not a smear on his perfectly pressed suit. His expression was twisted with fear, a pain in his eyes I had never seen before.
And his words were echoing inside my skull.
"Human blood and life force was seen as the greatest gift Littlewood's bearers could accept— as well as the soul from an elder, or an authority of the town. But of course we couldn't do that. In the simplest of terms, our elders were…more important.”
I took pleasure in quickening my pace into a sprint.
It’s been 12 days since I last saw Jun. On October 3rd, the trees started to blossom again. Outside my hiding place, the remnants of the diner, a rose bush bloomed out of nowhere, followed by daisies. Amongst the chaos, the endless shower of red every time another towns person was claimed, there it was. Life. Sitting in a battlefield of death. Jun.
Number forty seven. I want to believe it wasn’t him, that he got away, that he got some sense knocked into him. But it was hard to ignore the suffocating presence squeezing the breath from our town lift—even if it was only slightly. I lit a candle for him. Well, I couldn’t find any candles, so I set my neighbour’s yard alight instead. October 5th, the ground stopped cracking apart and the town's people were spared. Number forty eight. Jonas. It was fast, and I knew by the way the wind knocked into me threatening to throw me off my bike when I was scoping the ruins of my neighbourhood, a powerful gust blowing my hair from my face, that it was him.
I sensed his anger and frustration, but no pain. I think he liked being part of the wind. Jonas had done the opposite of what I thought he would. Instead of running away from his fate, he’d given up. Maybe he didn’t have anyone left. He should have ran. Maybe there might be far more destruction if he did. Jun and Jonas totalled the number of sacrifices to forty eight. I wondered if it was enough to make Jun’s wish come true. Did my fallen classmates really save the world?
Following them was Mira. I knew by the pace the leaves started to flower on trees, like the town was mending itself, that she was gone. With her combined with the boys, I think it was enough to stop the destruction, at least for a little while. Mira had fought until her last breath. She didn’t want to die, and that was evident in her lingering presence causing more decay than life before she seemingly found some kind of peace. Birds started to sing again, and the last person who exploded was, ironically, her mother. Sucks to be her. I think I’m allowed to laugh in this situation, right? Maybe Mira had a hand in it.
And I did laugh. I laughed until I cried.
Until the remaining town’s people power washed her off the sidewalk with everyone else.
October 13th, and the sun is shining.
The town are attempting to rebuild a broken Littlewood, and I sit here hoping me still existing and breathing will bring their downfall. I don’t have to hide anymore. Nobody will come near me. I’m like a plague, which works for me.
I’m skipping town soon, but first I want to stay behind to see the fireworks. I want to know if Littlewood has truly been spared or they’re just taking their time. I like to think my classmates are still here. I mean, they are. I see them in spring flowers coming to life in Fall. I hear them in the wind blowing my hair back. Some call me a coward for running away, while others beg me to keep going. And I will. I’m just… waiting.
I’m waiting for Littlewood to fall. Because I am the 50th sacrifice. While I breathe, their debt is not paid. My town’s clock is ticking, and I can’t wait for a wrath to finally be bestowed on the ignorant. I know this “entity” won’t rest until we’ve all been gifted to them. I can see that in rotting animal carcases appearing in the road and on the sidewalk. The town try to hide it.
They’re trying to hide the sudden appearance of maggot like insects festering on every street corner and a mysterious flu which has taken hold of the kindergarten. Like I said, I should sympathise with their dead. I don’t think our parents knew about any of this. We were just monsters to them; monsters they decided to let go. I am thinking about playing the pied piper and taking the little kids of the town with me. I can still save them, right? They don't have to die too.
I saw a junior girl yesterday.
Lanie Matthews. I used to sit with her in the cafeteria sometimes. She was handing out flyers in an attempt to send away Littlewood’s juniors to a safe place so the curse doesn’t get them next year. I want to tell her that her fate will follow Noah Sharpe and Jonas Lockhart. Mira Jane. Jun Sato.
Did their sacrifices really make a difference?
Who knows? Maybe this “entity” will take our world before October 1st, 2023. I think they’re waiting for me. They’re waiting for me to give in too. At some point, I almost caved. It was the screaming I couldn’t bear. Mother’s crying for their children in despair, and vice versa. But then I got a hold of myself. If I want to bring down Littlewood, then I have to survive. I wonder if the world will follow…
Are you worth saving?
In my opinion, no.
You're not worth Jun and Jonas and Mira, as well as generations of our town burning them alive.
Why should I sacrifice myself for a planet which is already killing itself?
I think I'm losing my mind. Yesterday, when I was hunting for supplies, readying myself to leave, I could have sworn I saw two guys leave the remnants of what used to be the old church. Hands entangled, the two of them hissing at each other, wielding baseball bats and cloth bags on their backs. Maybe I haven't been eating enough, but their faces, despite being bloodied and bruised, haunted eyes scanning an oblivion in front of them– a cursed town which insisted on their sacrifice– were familiar. They moved in a cloak-and-dagger dance across ruins, the one in front keeping a firm grasp of the other's arm, and when they moved, each step was in sync, the two grasping onto each other like their lives depended on it.
I can't help wondering if perhaps I was wrong. Maybe Jun and Jonas aren't part of the wind, afterall. I think they're much closer. And whether they are reincarnations built in flowers, or ghosts still attached to the town, I will find them again. But also… I won't fall victim to my own imagination. It could have been anyone. The way they moved, however, made me want to believe my delusion. It is hopeful thinking, but that is all I can do right now. I can hope they're much closer. And I'll reunite with them.
One day.
I’m going to ask you that same question again.
If this was your choice.
What would you do?
Would you surrender yourself to a fate which will save billions of lives… or run?
submitted by Trash_Tia to TheCrypticCompendium [link] [comments]

2023.03.22 01:22 Seeking911 The Protector: CHAPTER ONE

There are times when humanity needs protection. The fallen creation needs the opportunity to survive; that is what God desires. She did not bring forth life for it to be destroyed or enslaved by her daughters. The Loving God that She is, did not give Her daughters the life-forming abilities for her creations to experience brutality, to experience atrocity. Yet, Her daughters have failed God! They’ve given birth and they’ve murdered! They have raped and pillaged the land due to their greed. What has She done by forsaking us? What can She do to save us? God wonders...
-Temple Mother, Veza Gazacar
Marta observed his mother as she stood from the side of her bed. The headstrong woman braced herself, trembling while the pain twisted her body. He looked over her, for the way she groaned and gasped one would have thought the cause visible, like a broken bone or an open wound. But years in effluent fields and toxic mines caused his mother’s tumors to spread before the symptoms appeared. His mother, Meke Linca, was only thirty-five. Himself, seventeen. As the pain worsened, he hated seeing her struggle to get about her day, and for the past few weeks, to his relief, she refused to fight for a life slipping away from her.
“Son, help me into my uniform,” she said, pointing at a faded military garb she had obtained in combat school, at the tail-end of the Fort Raid wars and a year before Marta’s birth. It was the one decent clothing she had for the matchmaker’s meeting. Age and years of poor nourishment made her outgrow the dated garb, but with death now nipping at her flesh, Meke was able to fit it again.
Marta slipped his mother’s frail, trembling body into the uniform, arm by arm, leg by leg, praying the pain away while holding back tears.
Death had come too soon.
He buttoned her up and tried to straighten the deep wrinkles out, but the effort was frivolous. He looked deep into his mother’s eyes, but she quickly turned away. “Help me into the living room.”
It didn’t take much to get there. Their home wasn’t a shack by any measure. It was modest and quaint and slightly larger than most of the houses in the slum, never mind the tenements that made up Fulna.
Marta helped his mother to her favorite chair, which was crafted by one of her many lovers before he married off. After handing her a small cup of gin, he raced to his room to ready himself. He placed his bronzer on his soft cheekbones meticulously and rubbed rose-colored lip balm on his full lips. His eyelashes were long and dark against his blue eyes and pale skin. He grabbed his golden roses embroidered shawl to cover his curly brown mane. When he heard a knock at the door, he inhaled deeply and darted from his room before his mother moved a muscle. Marta answered in a coy whisper.
An old woman known around the slum as Mama Doni stood beyond the threshold with a cigarette in hand and the heavy scent of gin coming from her breath. “Marta, Marta. Don’t you look beautiful today?”
Marta lowered his gaze, and stepped aside, allowing Mama Doni in. His mother greeted the matchmaker with a level of annoyance that surprised Marta and got a raised brow from the cigarette-fouled woman.
“Well, I see. You don’t want to marry your precious son off?” Mama Doni huffed as she sat on the sofa. “And you, Marta. You didn’t have any lady friends, no one to take your hand?”
Mother sighed. “He’s studious.”
Marta caught a hint of seduction in the matchmaker’s eyes under the red haze of her cigarette. He quickly looked away.
“And we have no family. None that would do right by him, anyway. He’s religious, goes to the Temple every now and then. He can cook, clean, and as I’m still alive and looking decent,” his mother said, her eyes running over her bony body, “he’s a decent caregiver. My son will be good with children. I won’t be here long, and I have nothing to give him. It will be hard for a young man like him to find work.”
“He could sell his sperm. He wouldn’t even have to go register. Plenty of women here who will pay top—”
“Or he can get married.”
Mama Doni rolled her eyes. “Which is still the same.”
“No, it isn’t!” his mother snapped.
“Let me tell you: when I put out that Meke Linca is seeking marriage arrangements for her son, you should have seen all the replies I had received. And make no mistake—I know I don’t look the part, but I did my due diligence. There were so many women who’ve had numerous arrangements, and still sought young, beautiful men again and again. These women get themselves a new boy, fuck him until she gets pregnant, or keep him around if she fancies him enough. Which I must admit,” Mama Doni turned to Marta, “may very well happen. But that’s no different from those boys on the streets or at the brothels. At least if he fails, his failure is his own. And if he succeeds, then well, that is his own too.”
“Mama Doni, we go way back. We’ve been friends through it all, haven’t we? We used to go to bars and then to brothels, drinking and fucking our life away. Each time, who was under us? Young men like my son. A couple of them you had children with. But do your children know them? Your daughter, Zuke. Guess where I saw her father last? At the soup kitchen. Skin and bones, like me. We all die, we all end up in the same place, but at least I didn’t have to lick a bunch of women each day to sustain myself. I do not want that for my son, and if he doesn’t marry before I meet God, we both know that’s where he will be.”
A hard knock startled Marta and his mother, but Mama Doni rose from the sofa with a content sigh.
“Well, lucky for you, I think I’ve found someone.” Mama Doni opened the door without answering it and welcomed the woman in. “Sioba Vedu, a twelve-star general discharge with honors plus a very generous lifetime stipend from the Queen.”
“Miss Meke Linca,” the battle-scarred woman said. She stood before the door with an arduous appearance Marta was sure she’d earned from her many years as a warrior.
“Fucking Sioba, the bitch that did this to me,” mother declared. She glared at the tall woman with such hate that Marta became alarmed and afraid.
Sioba glanced at Marta, but he swiftly bowed his head. His hands were red and sweaty as he caressed his nervousness away. Or at least tried to.
“You know very well your actions caused that. I was in no position to defend your lies, not that I would have if I had been.”
“And now you’re here to taunt me. What is Marta going to be, huh? Your fourth husband after your third one ran off and got murdered?” Mother spat, her sickly face flushed with anger and hatred.
Sioba was well-known throughout the nation for two reasons: the war and her husbands. She had become famous for being a brutal general. But by doing so, she had managed to kill the leader of the aliens invading the world. She took no prisoners and preferred executing every last one on the spot.
But it was her husbands that tarnished her name amongst women who dream of becoming like her. Her first husband had been a famous brothel dancer who may have bedded numerous women, but no one knows for sure. She never had a child with him, sparking rumors that she acts on lust. Her second husband came from a desert village in Sokia. There, veiled men are given to women such as Sioba as gifts—this slander the Queen’s representatives tried to get rid of to no avail. Sioba has two children with him. And the third one, a motherless, homeless young man she met at the newly built Men’s shelter in the tropical city of Elva. She adopted his son, a decision many found cunning since the Queen, whose rule Sioba abided with a heavy hand, had twelve daughters.
And then one night her husband disappeared, and his body was found six months later. A nail in the coffin for her. A dishonorable reputation was hard to get rid of in today’s climate. So, despite who Sioba was, Marta could not have been any less excited.
Sioba stood stern and unyielding. “I heard about your fate when I visited the Queen’s Hospital. And then I stopped to see Mama Doni. Yes, I would like to have another husband. After all, it is my right as a woman. But more than that, you know me. You know who I am as a person. I’m here to extend my hand. I can have any man I want, but can he have any woman?” Marta saw that she winced at her words, “There’s never a right way about this. Especially now since times are changing.”
Marta saw that his mother was trembling, and although she held it in well, her pain was visible to him. So, he stood up and went to her. The room fell quiet. Everyone turned their gaze at him—Mama Doni with lust, Sioba with concern, and Mother with confusion. During such arrangements, men were often not present until their mothers found someone suitable. Women were simple and laying their eyes upon a man as virtuous and innocent as Marta, they would say and do anything to win the mother over.
Marta being there was out of order in the first place. “Mother, let me take you to bed.”
Mother shook her head, and yet, placed her arm limply around her son’s neck. “I’ve failed you, son. I should have been prepared a long time ago,” she whispered.
Marta saw the end too. His mother may have turned a blind eye to her death because of ego, but Marta did the same out of hope. “Hush, mother.”
They limped their way into her room. The midday sun beamed through the dusty blinds and sooted curtains. Mother used to have him wash them every third Saturday, before she had gotten cancer. He made a mental note to clean them later that night.
“What do you want to do? I’m sorry that I haven’t asked you until now.”
But she had, numerous times weeks ago. And Marta had told her yes. A young man without a family would have to endure a difficult life. Were there men who have succeeded without being in the arms of a woman? Sure. Young men like him? Of course, not. Those men came from wealthy families, and often their marriages were already arranged by the time they reach puberty. Indeed, love marriages aren’t uncommon—and Marta tried. The slums were unforgiving for women as well, and their lives were filled with trauma and unrelenting expectations. And therefore, women in the slums, young and old, sought men that were worldly, who laughed at their jokes, weren’t apprehensive of their desires, and Marta was a Temple-visiting man too pious for his own good. “Get some rest.”
When Marta returned, he’d half expected Mama Doni and this Sioba to have left, but there they stood, in the middle of the living room whispering amongst each other. He adjusted the shawl over his hair. This was the perfect time to take his future by the reins, but instead, he went into the kitchen and turned on the kettle. Mama Doni walked through the narrow hallway. He knew it was her because she had a twisted hip and was too damn old to pick up her sandaled feet. She sat at the table. “Is your mother alright?”
Although he answered, Marta was annoyed with the question. Annoyed with her presence, really. “Whatever is going to happen, it is in God’s hands now.”
The kettle sang. The heavy, rhythmic footsteps of Sioba made Marta anxious. He wasn’t ready to take his future by the reins just yet.
Marta placed two porcelain cups along with their matching saucer on the counter, then filled them the way he was taught at the temple. He set the two cups on the table and pulled back a chair, inviting Sioba to sit down. Her expression was stern again, which caused Marta’s heart to skip a beat or two. Was he doing something wrong? She sat down with a heavy sigh and a stern gaze toward Mama Doni.
“Don’t be alarmed, child. We understand your mother should be here talking to us right now. I have a daughter that knows you, or knows of you, and she told me plenty about you. You are young—seventeen years old! And I’ve seen you plenty of times at the Temple,” Mama Doni smiled a mouthful of crimson-stained teeth, “If you take up my offer, you’ll be well off than all of them out there.”
Sioba took a sip of tea, then said, “Or you can come with me. You don’t have to marry me—obviously, you aren’t ready for marriage. I have room in my house. If you go to school, make something of yourself, I don’t mind.” She looked at Marta, who, for the first time, held her gaze.
He nodded, for that was all he could do. Without his mother’s blessing, there wasn’t much to this meeting. He said shyly, “My mother will contact you—both of you—tomorrow with our decision.” He tried to sound mature and brave, but he felt like a small insect in front of these two women.
“Please do,” Sioba said. She rose from her chair and stood until Mama Doni sighed and got up and left. Sioba followed without uttering a word.
Sunlight seeped through the apartment as best as it could, considering the other towering tenements. Seeing it made Marta hopeful, which, in a place like this, is all he will ever have. With his bearings intact, Marta opened his mother’s bedroom door. He picked on it right away, her death. The way her mouth slanted off to the side, the way the whites of her eyes seemed…whiter. Other than that, she looked like she was sleeping. And while Marta was heartbroken and scared, he was relieved.
submitted by Seeking911 to TheProtectorStory [link] [comments]

2023.03.22 01:13 SK_Writes Headgames

HeadGames is the concept story behind my novel Eternal Convictions.

The sound of people talking was loud in the hallways as men went about their daily business. As background noise it was a confusing jumble that faded to a dull roar, but if one listened closely to individual voices, picking them out of the din, actual conversations could be heard. Deals were being made as men jockeyed for position while rumors spread and gossip was shared. People discussed hopes and dreams as they planned for a better future.
Michael opened his eyes and looked up at the heavy wire mesh of the walls around him. He was in a holding cell in the high security wing of the prison and the constant noise was a welcome change. His own cell was more like a closet where he was hidden away from the world and the only sounds were the constant blowing of the air vents and his own breathing. Occasionally, a guard would rap on his cell door with a night stick as he looked in to make sure Michael was still alive, but even this was rare.
The cell was six feet wide and eight feet long with walls made of solid concrete. The only openings were the steel door he received his meals through and the air vents in the ceiling. He was allowed to leave only if he had a visitor or for one hour of exercise each day in the exercise yard. Some yard, he thought. The exercise yard was actually a twenty by twenty atrium surrounded on all four sides by the walls of the prison. Overhead, steel mesh, not unlike that on the walls around him now, was laid across strong steel beams and welded in place to prevent any chance of escape. Highly unlikely in any event, considering the mesh ceiling was some eighteen feet above the paved ground.
His world had devolved into cold concrete and steel ever since that fine spring day he had gone to the bank. Thinking back, Michael remembered the four long days he had spent in the holding cell of the courthouse waiting for the jury to deliver a verdict. Each morning he was shackled, marched to the courthouse and placed in the holding cell where he waited for the verdict and each evening he was shackled and marched back to his cell at the city jail. His lawyer had been there most of the first day, expecting a quick decision but he was called away on business early in the afternoon.
After that, he would show up in the morning and talk with Michael a while before giving his cell phone number to the court clerk and leaving to do other business as they waited for the outcome. His lawyer was just about to leave on the fourth day when word came a verdict had been reached.
For a brief moment, Michael relived the joy he had felt when he knew there was a verdict. While he was terrified beyond belief that he would be convicted of the crimes he was accused of, he felt sure that God would not let him take the blame. His joy was short lived.
The jury found him guilty of all charges, sentencing him to multiple life sentences to run consecutively. It meant there was no hope for parole, ever, as he would be dead before having served a fraction of the sentence. The judge declared Michael to be a menace to society, incapable of rehabilitation and ordered him to be confined in a maximum security prison.
When it became clear that he would not be free any time soon, Michael authorized his attorney to liquidate what little remained of his assets and place the money in trust to be drawn upon as Michael needed it and to pay for continued attorney fees through the appeals process. Money was of little concern to him now, though. Other than personal toilet articles, he was not allowed to have anything else in his cell other than periodicals and books provided by the prison.
Two men began to scuffle in the hall outside the holding cell and Michael got up from the table to see what was happening. Leaning his forehead against the wire mesh, his vision was relatively unobstructed as he watched the men fight. The guard outside the cell, looked anxiously up the hall as he waited for others to come and separate the men as he was not supposed to leave his position by the gate.
He had never been interested in boxing, nor any other violent sports, but Michael found himself fascinated by the fight and rooting for the man he felt was the underdog. He noticed the thin white stripe on the men’s prison shirts and realized they were trustees, prisoners who are allowed extra privileges for good behavior. He laughed to himself as he realized they were putting their elevated status at risk with this fight, even as he silently cheered them on.
One of them kicked a mop bucket over at the other and Michael turned his face to avoid the spray of soapy water. Looking back at the fight, Michael was aware he was now wet and felt the water running down the mesh to his fingers where he was holding on. It traced small streams down his hands and arms to wet his shirt sleeves, but he didn‘t care.
A surge of electricity caused him to stiffen and Michael wondered what was happening as his vision turned white and he lost all control of his muscles. Even though his legs sagged and he could feel his face contorting, he could not let go of the wire.
“Hey buddy, you alright?” the guard asked him over the sound of the fight.
Michael heard him but could not answer.
“Aw hell. Somebody help me here!” the guard yelled. “I think this guy is getting electrocuted!”
Michael heard the words, but they made no sense as his vision faded to black except for a small pinpoint of white. The pinpoint grew larger and he began to see a face coming closer. The face was laughing cruelly and Michael could only stare in disbelief. Then the vision changed and it was as if he was looking at the bank robbery he had been convicted of from one of the security cameras. He could see himself talking to the girl and the man with the gun as the robbery started. It was as if he was reliving it from outside his own body and Michael wondered if he was dying as he had heard that one’s life flashes before their eyes as they die.
He heard the gate to the cell open and felt a hard shove as someone used something to push him away from the wall. Falling to the ground, his vision cleared immediately and he was confused, but felt fine otherwise. He got to his feet and moved to the chair by the table. The guard was talking to him, but he was thinking about what he had seen and didn’t register the voice.
“Hey buddy, just sit right there while I get a medic,” the guard said as he used his radio to call the infirmary. “They’ll be here in a few minutes.”
Michael heard a familiar voice and looked to see what was happening.
“What’s going on here?” Phillip Johnson asked, looking from Michael to the guard. “Michael, are you alright?”
“Yeah, I think so,” he said quietly.
The guard proceeded to tell Phillip what had happened, speculating that the water from the bucket must have hit the floor outlet and charged the mesh. They were quickly joined by a medic who checked Michael out thoroughly and pronounced him to be fine. It all seemed to happen very fast and Michael wondered what was going on. He was aware of the conversation between the guard and his lawyer, but it made no sense to him. He had lost all sense of time.
When the medic asked him questions, he was apparently giving the right answers but in thinking about it, he couldn’t remember what was said or even what it was about. Sitting there dazed, he watched the medic leave and the guard resume his post outside the door after closing it and locking them within. Then he realized Phillip was talking to him.
“So how have you been, Michael?” Phillip asked as he opened his brief case and took out a legal pad and pen.
Looking at the pad, Michael was reminded of their first meeting in the city jail.
“Not too bad, Phillip,” he said. “My concentration has improved since I don’t have any distractions in my cell.”
Phillip looked at him puzzled for a moment before he realized Michael was being mildly sarcastic. He couldn’t blame him. Being locked up like he was would drive anyone mad with boredom.
“I’m sorry, Michael.” Phillip looked him in the eye. “I wish there was more I could do for you.”
“Well, just get my conviction overturned and I’ll buy you dinner.” Michael smiled as he thought about being free.
“That’s why I’m here, Michael.” Phillip looked grim.
“You got my conviction overturned?” Michael asked.
“No, I’m sorry to say,” Phillip began. “The courts have over ruled your appeal and upheld your conviction.”
“Then let’s get busy filing a new appeal.”
“We have exhausted all of the appeals processes, Michael,” Phillip looked down at his bare notepad. “There is absolutely nothing more I can do except be here if you need me for something else.”
“You mean there are no more appeals, no chance of getting this damn wrongful conviction overturned?” Michael couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “Phillip, I have been patient throughout this whole ordeal. I’ve been good even when the injustice has driven me so crazy that I actually wanted to resort to violence and now you’re telling me that there is nothing that can be done?”
The guard turned to watch the conversation as he heard what was being said and the tone of Michael’s voice. He had seen inmates go off on their lawyers in the past and waited to see if he would need to intercede.
Michael was aware of the way he sounded and of the guard’s renewed attention. He took several deep breaths to try and calm himself. Phillip had done everything for him. It wasn’t his fault.
“I wish there was something I could do, Michael.”
“I know, Phillip,” Michael looked at him with tears in his eyes. “I have begun to think God hates me.”
Phillip almost wished Michael would turn violent. At least then he could leave here knowing he had tried to help and was rejected. It would be far easier to leave a man he cared nothing for to such a fate, but this was killing him inside. He had come to like Michael very much and understood him to be a kind and gentle soul. There was no doubt in his mind that he had not done the things he was convicted of, but he could do nothing. He felt helpless.
“God doesn’t hate you, Michael,” Phillip said quietly. “As you’ve told me all along, God has a purpose for you and we are not privy to what that purpose is.”
“You know, Phillip,” Michael wiped his face dry with his sleeve. “I always believed and I guess I still do, somewhere deep inside, that God has a plan for all of us and we are but part of some grand design. But for the last two years, as I’ve waited for the appeals process to bear me out, I have seen nothing that could be accomplished by my being taken from the world where I was helping people and placed in a cold concrete and steel box where I have no contact with anyone whatsoever for twenty three hours of each day. How could I serve even the smallest purpose here?”
He looked at Phillip for an answer neither of them had.
“I was always fond of saying that no one is worthless, as they could always serve as an example of what not to do but even that has no meaning here.”
“Michael, when we met, I was skeptical of your story but as I checked it out and found what you were telling me to be true, I learned to not take things only as I saw them.” Phillip put the notepad back in the briefcase. “I have never been a religious man, but watching you through this ordeal has given me hope. You have demonstrated such faith and patience as I never witnessed before and it shows me there is a higher power at work in our lives.”
“Will I see you again, Phillip?” Michael asked. “If I have no reason for legal counsel, will you still visit?”
For the first time in his life, Phillip found he did actually want to return to visit with one of his clients even if his legal services were not needed. Money was not the concern here. He had found something in Michael that had been missing in his life and he felt that, even though he had failed to free an innocent man, he had made a true friend.
“Yes, Michael.” Phillip swallowed hard. “You have given me hope and perhaps even faith. I can’t say when or how often, but I will visit and I will answer any letters you send.”
“Thank you, Phillip.” Michael reached out and squeezed his hand. “For everything.”
There was no need for good bye. Both men had reached an understanding of what they needed from each other and the moment left them filled with emotion that threatened to overwhelm them. Phillip grabbed his briefcase and turned to leave as the guard opened the gate for him.
Michael sat for a few minutes looking at the area around him as he waited for the guard to take him to his cell. It was standard procedure for visitors to clear the holding area so the gates could be secured before prisoners were allowed to move about. There was nothing new to see, but still he studied every detail of his surroundings Once he was back in the cell, there would be nothing to look at or distract him from the endless hours of nothing. He had already read the book he was given so many times he had committed it to memory and there was no telling when he would receive a new one.
“All right, Chaste. Let’s go.” The guard held out his hand to take Michael by the elbow and lead him down the hall.
Michael resigned himself to his fate and trudged along silently until they came to the entrance of his wing and walked on past.
“Where are we going?” he asked, looking around.
“You’ve been transferred to a new wing,” the guard said and continued to lead him.
They seemed to walk forever before coming to a gate where he was halted as the guard on the other side opened it. The guard who was leading him guided Michael through but did not follow. Instead, he pulled the gate shut and locked it as the new guard led him down this new corridor. It had no openings on either side but he could see a small point of light at the very end. As they drew closer, Michael could see that the door actually led outside the building and he wondered just how far he was being transferred.
His senses were assaulted as he stepped outside into the sunlight. For two years he had seen only the sky above the exercise yard and no hint of sun as the large structure of the prison kept the yard in shadows all the time. Now he smelled a wide variety of plants and marveled at how the sun felt on his face. It was like being born anew and Michael let himself revel in it.
He was guided onto an electric cart and driven across the compound. He no longer cared where they were going as he was busy looking at the world. In the distance, he could see the mountains with their snow covered peaks, but he did not let himself sink into despair with thoughts of never being able to go to them. Instead, he studied them and everything else he could see to form images in his mind. Once he was led back indoors, there was no telling when he would set foot outdoors again, if ever.
The cart came to a stop outside the steel door of another building and Michael was led from the cart. For the first time since he had been first arrested, Michael resisted the guard and stopped walking halfway from the cart to the door.
“Let’s go, Chaste,” the guard said menacingly.
“Just a second, buddy.” Michael thought quickly. “Do you think maybe I could have a quick smoke before we go in? I haven’t had one in over two years.”
Michael didn’t smoke, hadn’t for years, but he had seen the cigarettes in the guard’s pocket and knew it would give him ten more precious minutes outside.
“Yeah, sure. Why not.” The guard offered him a cigarette and raised the pack to show a guard in a nearby tower. “I was about to go on break anyway. Now don’t try anything, Chaste. There are guards on the towers around us and this is a shoot to kill zone.”
“I won’t,” Michael said calmly.
He had no intention of trying to escape and, in fact, the thought had never crossed his mind. He sucked at the cigarette as the guard lit it for him and found himself in a violent coughing fit as the acrid smoke seared his throat and lungs. He wondered why people would do this to themselves and claim they even liked it.
“I guess it has been a while, huh.” The guard laughed. “Take it easy. It’ll come back to you.”
It seemed to take forever to get his breathing calmed down but once he did, Michael continued to smoke the cigarette. The taste was nasty, but he did enjoy the light buzz he was getting from the nicotine and decided that this must be what smokers liked about cigarettes. He let the sensation wash over his senses as he looked around, taking in the scenery.
The prison was a very large complex. The fences in the distance looked very small, but he remembered from his arrival that they were at least twenty feet tall and topped with razor wire. The main prison building he had just left was nearly half a mile away but still loomed very large, giving perspective to its size. To the east he could see the yellow fields of the plains stretching away toward Kansas and to the west were the mountains. He seemed to be located in a large bowl as the mountains curved around to encompass part of the north and south.
He took one last drag of the smoke and dropped it to the ground where he crushed it out. The guard had also finished and nodded toward the door. Silently they walked over to the steel door and waited for the guard on the other side to open it. As Michael entered, he noticed a sign beside the door which read “Medical Receiving” and wondered why he was being led through a delivery entrance.
Michael looked around at the holding cell he was placed in after arriving at the new prison building. It was small, about three feet by three feet with a barred door. It was like a broom closet in which a bench had been placed and there was no room to lie down or even stretch his legs unless he stood. He hoped he wouldn’t be in here for long.
Across the hall was a well lit room with medical supplies and an examination table. It was clearly some kind of clinic or infirmary and the open door was directly across from his cell. Occasionally, he would see a nurse enter through a door at the back of the room to do something out of his sight before leaving the way she came. His view was very restricted and he could only see about eight or ten feet to either side of the cell he occupied. He was aware that the air smelled of disinfectant and clean linens.
He recalled his old cell and the silence there. That had been loud compared to this place as there was not even the sound of air being moved mechanically. He could hear his breathing and, though he was calm, it sounded very loud. Listening carefully, he thought he could even hear his own heartbeat but dismissed this, realizing he must be hearing his own pulse in his ears.
Michael thought about his meeting with Phillip and the strange event which happened just before he arrived. The guard said he was electrocuted but, as a technician, Michael had been subjected to many electrical shocks over the years and this was nothing like that. There had been a current running through his body, but it was not electrical in the sense he knew. It was more like his blood was on fire and had grabbed hold of every muscle in his body. The vision of the bank robbery was confusing but, knowing he had been at the bank during the robbery and seen the videos during his trial, he decided he must have been reliving it.
The only logical explanation was that stress from waiting to hear about his appeal had triggered some type of seizure. He remembered how his vision had went all white and then faded to black before he saw the vision. The only thing he couldn’t explain was the man’s face he had seen as it looked like no one he had ever known or could recall seeing.
The sound of footsteps echoed down the hall and Michael looked to see who was coming. A small man in a white lab coat, who he presumed was a doctor, accompanied by the guard who led him here, stopped in front of his cell.
“Chaste.” The guard spoke evenly, but firm. “The doctor needs to examine you for long term incarceration in this facility. We’re going to go into that room across the hall. Normally I would have to handcuff you, but you’ve been cooperative so far. Can we keep it that way?”
Michael nodded and stood up. “Yeah, thanks.”
The guard opened the gate and allowed Michael to step out. He motioned with his arm to the room across the hall and Michael went where directed.
“Have a seat on that examining table,” the doctor said as he turned to retrieve a cart with medical instruments.
Michael sat on the table, feeling like he would slip off as the white paper covering it moved under him. He looked at the cart the doctor was pushing. There was a blood pressure machine, digital thermometer, a jar of tongue depressors, a box of latex examination gloves and several other items he recognized as general practitioners’ tools. The only thing that seemed out of place was the hypodermic syringe, but the needle was a very small gauge and he decided it must contain a flu shot or something similar.
“Please remove your shirt,” the doctor said as he put on his stethoscope.
Michael did as asked and handed the shirt to the guard who laid it on a chair for him.
For the next thirty minutes, he was poked and prodded and blood was drawn with a much larger syringe he had not noticed behind one of the machines on the cart. He wasn’t afraid of needles, but the large gauge had unsettled him. He watched as it was inserted and a vial was attached to collect his blood. The doctor pressed a gauze pad to the wound when he was finished and instructed Michael to keep it there with his other hand.
As they finished up, Michael heard footsteps in the hall and looked up to see a tall man in a suit enter the room. He was very self confident and moved around looking at things as if he owned them.
“We’re ready, sir,” the doctor said and stepped aside so the man’s view of Michael was unobscured.
“My name is Warden Dempsey, Mr. Chaste.” He looked Michael straight in the eye. “You are here because you were convicted of crimes against society so brutal that a judge deemed rehabilitation impossible and every appeals court which heard your case upheld the decision. There are no more appeals and no chance for you to ever leave this prison during the course of your natural life. Therefore you were transferred here, to me, to be entered into the Eternal Convictions program.”
Michael was already completely aware that he had no chance to ever leave prison, but the cold tone of the Warden drove the fact into him once again like slivers of glass. He knew that there was no escape from this nightmare and hoped at the very least to be treated civilly as he served his sentence. There was no use proclaiming his innocence any more. As the man had said, all appeals were exhausted. He felt as though the Warden’s words had sucked the life from him as the judge’s had when he pronounced his sentence.
“This facility is operated entirely autonomous from the main prison where you have been to this point. Here, there are no visitors, no computers, nor any other contact with the outside world. For all practical intents and purposes, you are deceased. Even the IRS will not contact you here so you may take joy in that fact.” The Warden smiled at his own joke. “What there is, though, is order. I run an orderly prison here with no problems. You have been cooperative thus far and I expect it shall remain so as I have no tolerance for any disobedience. Can I count on you for this, Mr. Chaste?”
Michael looked at the man for a moment and knew immediately that he despised him. Far beyond the fact that he, himself, was a convicted felon and expected to be treated poorly, this man was the type who thought himself above the rest of the world and carried himself as such. Michael respected his position, but not the man.
“Yes sir,” he said quietly.
“Very well,” the Warden continued. “In order to preserve order, we take certain precautionary medical measures to prevent aggression. The doctor is now going to give you an injection to facilitate this.”
Michael was aware the doctor had picked up the small syringe from the cart and was tapping air bubbles from it as he squirted some of the liquid into the air. He held it at the ready, waiting for the order to continue.
“Proceed doctor,” the Warden said and turned to leave. Reaching the door, he turned back as if having forgotten something. “This will be the last time we meet, Mr. Chaste. Please enjoy your stay with us.”
As quickly as he appeared, the Warden was gone and Michael was left to the doctor and guard. He looked from one to the other as if expecting an apology for the Warden’s intrusion, but neither man even changed their expression. It was time for the injection and he made himself relax as the doctor approached.
He felt the needle enter his upper arm and wondered just what he was receiving. The Warden had said it was to prevent aggression and Michael wondered if he was being injected with hormones to inhibit testosterone production or perhaps it was estrogen to enhance his inner calm. He really hoped it was neither as self gratification was one of the only releases he had in prison and he wasn’t particularly fond of the idea of growing breasts as the other guys might take an undesired liking to him.
He had no more than completed this thought and was about to ask what he was injected with when he realized he knew already. His vision blurred and a deep fog began to settle over his mind. Suddenly he was very tired and could feel his entire body relax. As he passed out, Michael realized he had been given a sedative.
Everything seemed to be moving slowly and he couldn’t understand why everything seemed out of place. Michael looked up from the bench where he was working to see his girlfriend coming toward him through the door. She was carrying something that looked like plans and he wondered why as she had never had anything to do with his work. In fact, he had not even seen her since before he began doing electronics work and wondered why she was here, but decided he didn’t care. He was happy to see her.
She laid the plans on his desk and told him to hurry up or they would be late picking up the kids. She seemed upset and he wondered why, while at the same time, he wondered what she was talking about as neither of them had children.
He followed her through the door and into a large area he could only describe as an inner courtyard with driveway passing through it. In the center was a large fountain made of very old white marble and water streamed down from the center in a heavy flow, cascading over terraced ledges to the catch basin which was overgrown with weeds.
Looking around, he realized the landscaping had been long neglected as grass protruded randomly in tall yellowing bunches at joints of the pavestone sidewalks and driveway. The area was surrounded by a red brick wall of some ten feet in height and this also was overgrown with vines and weeds. The mortar seemed to crumble in places and small bunches of plants sprouted from the cracks. In a far corner, a faded white gazebo stood in a shroud of plant life with its grey wood roof shingles covered in moss. Atop at the peak, a wind vane shaped like a rooster pointed it’s scaly green arrow at the gate where the driveway entered. Beyond the gate and along the outside of the brick walls, heavy forest shut out the sun.
“Come on or we’re going to be late,” she called to him. “Mother wants to rebuild this place and has decided to rip out all of the sheetrock in the east wing to make sure the structure is sound.”
He followed her across the courtyard and through a set of double doors, back into the house. He had no idea where they were going or even where they were, but felt the need to continue following.
“This room is going to be the new family room,” she said, walking around a large wooden structure in the middle of the room.
Michael looked down and saw that there was no floor here but rather bare earth with a rough sandy texture. The floor was uneven as well with the outer edges raised where they walked and dipping down in the center under the wood framework. None of this made sense and as he looked at the large structure in the middle of the room, it looked to him like the skeleton of a large boat which had been either built here or unearthed as the building was erected around it. As he walked around the end and saw her moving toward the back, her mother entered through a set of French doors to his left followed closely by several children.
He did not recognize the children and heard her say something about rebuilding the house since her husband had died. In his mind, he knew this wasn’t right as his girlfriend’s mother had passed long before her father and they had lived in a very small house. None of this made any sense, but he suddenly felt an urgent need to talk with his girlfriend, if she would ever stop walking away from him.
“I need for you to talk to me,” he said pleading.
“We have plenty of time to talk. You’re not supposed to be at the prison until Thursday.” She smiled and continued to walk around the framework away from him.
“That’s not right,” he said. “I’m going to be gone before you even realize and I don’t know if I will ever be able to see you again.”
Michael heard the words he was speaking, but had no idea what he meant or why he felt it so urgently. One part of his mind knew that he had parted ways with her years before, but another part said he needed her to stay with him now because he was about to face something terrible and she was the only one who had ever understood him.
“Don’t be silly.” She smiled coyly. “I’ll always be here.”
She walked around the back of the framework and he went back the other way to intercept her. Coming face to face he put his hands on her shoulders and looked deep in to her eyes. It was strange, but he could not see the love he knew should be there. Instead he felt she was mocking him.
“I don’t know how I’m going to get through this,” he pleaded. “I have done everything I could, but nothing seems to work.”
“It’s all being taken care of,” she reassured him.
“What’s being taken care of?” he tried to ask, but the words would not come.
Suddenly Michael’s neck was sore and he couldn’t speak. She started to walk away from him again and when he tried to follow, he found he couldn’t move. In fact, he couldn’t even turn his head to see where she was going, but had to follow her with his eyes until she was out of sight. He tried to call to her, but no words came and he wondered what was happening.
“There. That should do it,” he heard her say.
“Doctor, we have rising activity on the EEG. The patient is waking up”
Michael tried to look and see who the doctor was and who was talking to him, but still could not move his head. He was stuck looking out of an old multi-paned wooden window at the overgrown garden.
“I got it,” she said and then everything went black.

Part 2 https://www.reddit.com/DrCreepensVault/comments/11y08t7/headgames_part_2/
This story on YouTube narrated by myself
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Eternal Convictions / HeadGames
Steven Knies (c) October 23, 2009
submitted by SK_Writes to DrCreepensVault [link] [comments]

2023.03.22 01:09 BruhMomentGEE The Tale of E'vil No'bell

Thanks to Pizzaulostin, Death-Is-Mortal, HollowShel, and fun-part.
“The Villain”
European Sector - Copenhagen, Denmark
Two and a Half Earth Years Post Liberation

Waltzing up to the podium, E’vil No’bell grinned with sadistic glee at the amassed crowd of Humans. She had sent out an edict for all citizens to gather here under the threat of death if they failed to comply. It was such a perfect way to build resentment. She could only imagine how many Humans had resisted, just to meet an untimely demise.
Behind her, the large tarp covering her masterpiece fluttered in the wind, reminding E’vil of her purpose. There would be time for gloating later, she still had a ceremony to perform.
But, looking out into the crowd, she couldn’t resist the urge to take her time. Knowing full well that her foot dragging was causing the citizens to suffer, she toyed with the microphone she had been provided, moving it from place to place, relishing in the screeching noise it made with each slight shift.
“Is everything alright miss?” one Human in the front row politely asked.
Good, they were suffering. Why else would they ask her such an asinine question? They merely wanted her to put an end to their torment. But she would never be moved so easily. Twisting the mic until it let out an ear splitting screech, E’vil paused, then returned it to its original position.
“Yes,” she replied dismissively, “Everything is just fine.”
Turning to the crowd, she coughed into the microphone to pretend like she was clearing her throat, before beginning. Gesturing to the large object covered by a tarp, she began, “Hear me, ignorant citizens of the Imperium. It has been two years since we Shil’vati, led by our infallible Empress, graciously liberated you from yourselves.”
Listening to the crowd, E’vil was disappointed to not hear any jeering. No matter, once she revealed her creation, the Humans were sure to hate her.
“To honor our wise Empress’s decision to destroy your backwards civilization, I have dedicated the past eleven months of your tax money to personally design this!”
Waving her hand, the tarp was removed, revealing a twenty foot tall statue of the Empress in all her magnificence. E’vil smiled up at the creation. It had taken her months of work to design it. Add on the week of her researching the most costly materials on Earth, and this statue had shaped up to being the longest she had ever spent working on something.
E’vil could have ordered her servants to do it, but that wasn’t the point. It had to be her. She had to personally see that the Humans suffered at her hands.
For how else was she to be the villain in some self-righteous Human’s story?
Oh how she longed for their angry monologues about her. She could see it now. The chroniclers would be recording pages upon pages of angry rantings, all directed at her! With her blatant disrespect of all things Human, she was sure to live rent free in the minds of her inevitable Human rival until their demise at her hands!
Glancing back to the crowd, she saw a Human in the middle of it with his hand raised. Ignoring him, she daydreamed of the discomfort he must be feeling. Oh how he must hate her right now. With every moment she dragged this on, he must have been adding a new paragraph to his manifesto against her.
Finally, just as he was starting to lower his hand, she pointed to him and called out, “You! Citizen! What is it?”
The man perked up, no doubt enraged at having to reorganize his thoughts. The very notion caused E’vil to giggle.
“Um, you said you made this yourself?” the man questioned.
Striking a proud pose, E’vil closed her eyes and answered, “Of course! I wouldn’t let someone else do a real woman’s work. I designed every aspect of this statue, from the Empress’s visage to her glorious bosom.”
“Oh! It’s very impressive,” he congratulated. “You did a wonderful job.”
“Thank you-What?!” E’vil shouted, her eyes shooting open. Grasping onto the podium, she leaned over it and gazed out into the crowd. To her horror, she didn’t see a single angry visage. There was no discontent, no booing, not even a single raised eyebrow. This was a disaster! The Humans were enjoying her creation.
“Yes,” another concurred from somewhere with the masses, “It’s clearly a true labor of love. It must have taken months to design.”
“And weeks to find all the materials!” a third added.
“NO!” E’vil shouted into the microphone, desperate to destroy the Human’s budding adoration of her. “I made it in a single night! I didn’t put any thought into this at all!”
The Humans silently stared at her, each one refusing to make a sound. That was good, just how E’vil wanted it. She couldn’t let praise of her spread, it would ruin everything! People don’t care about lovable nobles. They want someone to hate. Someone who they can cheer for the demise of!
Finally, a Human spoke up. “Wow! You made that all in one night? You must be an artistic genius!”
That was not the response E’vil wanted.
The crowd murmured their concurrence, then, to E’vil’s horror started to dissipate before her eyes. One at a time, or in pairs, the Humans would gaze up at her creation, nod, then walk away.
It was horrible! Where were the cries of protests? Where were the professions of unending hatred for her and her species?
Where were the manifestos?!
Soon it was just E’vil, her servants, and a few Human teenagers. Looking at them, E’vil felt her hopes start to blossom. Perhaps the older generations were simply too apathetic to act. It would be the youths who wrote tales of her misdeeds, who etched her name into the annals of history.
“Dude…” one of them began slowly. Pointing up at the statue, he cried, “Look at her boobs!”
Staring out at the city from her lion skin chair, E’vil assured herself of imminent success.
Her first attempt at garnering the hatred of the masses had ended in failure, but that was clearly due to a failure of understanding on her part. She simply hadn’t considered how best to enrage these Humans. One couldn’t simply anger them through creating symbols of oppression, the Humans would just see it as an expression of her creativity.
What she had to do was destroy. To ruin what they already had. She would pervert their arts to such an extent that critics and historians alike would curse her name. And the masses, oh the masses! They would hate her for the destruction of their barbaric culture.
Spinning around, E’vil came face to face with the most infamous critics of the Human world. It was through them that word of her evil would spread across the globe. Soon, all Humans from every sector of this miserable world would curse the name E’vil No’bell!
“Most un-esteemed citizens,” she began, “I have gathered you here for a most important announcement.”
Snapping her fingers, a screen descended from the ceiling. As it covered the wall to the right of her, E’vil rose from her chair. Waltzing across the room, she made her way to a projector which she had dramatically placed in a shadowy corner of the room.
Flipping the device on, she grinned deviously as the title Swan Lake appeared on the screen. As the music started to swell, she grinned at her captive audience.
A Human male, fully in the nude, danced across the screen. She took the opportunity to purposefully buffer the film, making sure the critics saw the full naked form of the dancer. Soon the music began to roar, and as it reached its triumphal climax, a Shil’vati woman appeared.
Letting the scene progress, she addressed the captive critics. “Citizens, I present to you a new and improved Swan Lake! I have painstakingly rewritten this ballet in its entirety! All of your precious actors shall now perform in the nude, and there will be multiple sex scenes.”
Raising a hand, she held their inevitable protests at bay. “But that’s not all! Soon, I will have rewritten every one of your great dances and plays until they are all just as spectacular as this one!”
Sneering at the small assembly, she waited for the cries of anguish. They would suffer, knowing that she had defiled their wondrous arts. She, E’vil No’bell, would be the bane of all Human culture!
Slowly, one of the critics began to clap. “Brilliant, just brilliant,” he said with genuine passion. “What a wonderful work of art. You’ve truly made a statement here today.”
Melancholy took hold of E’vil’s heart. “What… What do you mean?”
“This,” he loudly proclaimed, “Is the most definitive statement against the state of our Human society today.” Pointing directly at the male dancer’s genitals, the critic continued, “The blatant mockery of our prudish ways by having all the dancers be so free!”
Another rose and gestured to the Shil’vati woman. “And to have the Shil’vati be the evil sorceress! What a brilliant way to depict the horrible relations between Humanity and the Imperial elite.”
“No,” E’vil attempted to argue back. “That’s not my intent at-”
“This ballet may have a real impact on how people view Humanities current treatment in the Empire!” a critic called from the back. “This will be something for the history books!”
The first critic looked back at her. “You said you would be making more of these, Correct?”
Sensing her imminent failure, E’vil attempted to change course. “No-”
“Yes, she did mention that!” a critic rudely interrupted.
To her immense dismay, the room erupted into a series of cheers and congratulations. Some of the Human critics summoned the audacity to come forward to her, extending their palms and attempting to shake her hands.
Horrified by the display, E’vil bravely ran away from the assembly, locking the doors behind her as she sprinted away from her office.
Wandering the streets of her domain, E’vil found herself in the grips of a horrible crisis. Her attempts at earning the ire of her subjects had failed, and she couldn’t figure out why. They had loved her statue of the Empress, not caring that it was an effigy of their subjugator. They had cheered for her defacement of their culture, even having the audacity to ask for more.
What was she doing wrong? Why was she not being scorned? All she wanted was for the revilement of her subjects, for them to write essays decrying her name, for Humans to band together in pathetic attempts to strike her down. Was that really so much to ask for?
As she strolled past an open bar, the patrons inside took notice. Waving, they raised their glasses and cheered.
“Fuck you, assholes!” she shouted through the glass separating her from them. At the very least, she’d be able to start a drunk brawl. Perhaps the whole city would-.
Laughing, they refilled their glasses and clinked them against each other. The bartender even gestured for her to come in, offering a filled glass.
“AGH!” Raging at the Goddess, she stormed off, leaving the Humans to enjoy their liquor.
Wandering into an open park, E’vil fell into a wooden bench and let the world collapse around her. For the first time since her arrival to Earth, E’vil felt truly defeated. Her contemporaries got entire manifestos written about their misdeeds. Some even still had people complaining about them years after their demise.
What did she have? Nothing. Not even a citation of misdeed. Where were the Humans that irrationally complained for hours about the mere existence of her race? Why weren’t they writing about her? She was E’vil No’bell! She built shrines to the heroes of the Imperium! She defiled cultural icons! What did she need to do for someone to notice her?
‘Woof! Woof!’
Shooting up, E’vil noticed a small mutt on the far side of the park. It couldn’t be more than a few months old, and it looked to be starving. It salivated at the sight of nothing, and it spasmed with every few steps.
“Mommy, look! Mommy!” a little human boy cried with joy. “It’s a puppy!”
Slowly rising from the bench, E’vil rubbed her eyes in disbelief. Could it be? Was this a gift from the Goddess? Looking at the defenseless mutt, and the happy child now running towards it, she knew it had to be.
Bursting into a full blown sprint, E’vil made it her mission to beat the child in their race to the puppy. It wasn’t hard. She was a full grown woman, and her opponent was so young he probably couldn’t even spell his own name. With each stride she grew closer and closer towards her goal, and with each imprint she made in the ground she felt her heart swell with joy.
In one final, graceful, jump, she landed directly in front of the puppy. It barked at her, then began scrambling to get closer.
Watching the mutt with delightful glee, E’vil pulled her leg back, took a second to sneer, then kicked the puppy with all the force her leg could muster. It flew through the air, drool flying haphazardly out of its mouth, before finally impacting the stone wall of the pub with a crack.
As the boy began to cry, E’vil basked in triumph. She had done it. She had managed to traumatize an innocent child for the rest of his life. Not only would the people hate her, but she had just made a permanent enemy of this little Human. One day he would grow up, and swear her as his ultimate nemesis! Whenever he went to therapy, whenever he wrote a rant on the internet, whenever he was constipated from bad food, he’d be thinking of her!
The mother of the child rushed up to her, no doubt ready to unleash a verbal tirade at E’vil. She was ready for it. As the woman began to open her mouth, E’vil smiled. She had been waiting so long for this moment, she couldn’t believe it was actually happening.
“Oh thank goodness!” the mother exclaimed. Stepping forward, she gave E’vil a hug. “He got away from me so fast, I was certain that thing was going to bite him.”
E’vil felt cracks begin to form in her chest. “What?”
As the patrons of the pub began to filter out, the mother loudly exclaimed, “That rabies filled mutt almost bit my baby!” Grasping onto E’vil again, she tearfully said, “Thank you E’vil No’bell!”
“N-No,” E’vil stammered, pushing the Human away.
“Hero, Hero, Hero!” the bar patrons chanted.
Falling to her knees, E’vil murmured, “No…”
The little boy, the one meant to be her future sworn enemy, wiped away his tears and walked up to her. Hugging her side with his tiny arms, he sputtered, “Thank you for saving me E’vil No’bell.”
Looking up to the stars, E’vil cursed the Goddess, before giving into defeat and roaring, “NOOO!”
submitted by BruhMomentGEE to Sexyspacebabes [link] [comments]

2023.03.22 01:06 joebyronsblanket 34 [M4F] - NY/East Coast - Attention Ladies: Long-Haired Martial Artist with a Coffee Addiction Looking For Love

Get ready to meet the man of your dreams - or at least, the man with the hair of your dreams! My long, flowing locks are just one of the things that make me stand out from the crowd. With a warm, milk chocolate complexion and deep brown eyes that will leave you breathless, I'm the total package.
Standing tall at 5'6", I may not be the tallest guy in the room, but I make up for it with my confident and stoic personality. As a dedicated martial artist, I have a solid build that reflects my commitment to staying in shape. Whether I'm practicing martial arts or hitting the gym, I'm always pushing myself to be the best I can be.
As a coffee connoisseur, I'm always on the hunt for new and interesting blends to try. There's something about the aroma of freshly brewed coffee that never fails to put me in a good mood.
Ultimately, I'm looking for a woman who is kind, loyal, and values family. Someone who is passionate about their own interests, but also open to exploring new experiences together.
When I'm not practicing martial arts or enjoying a delicious cup of coffee, I love spending time outdoors. Hiking, camping, and exploring new places are some of my favorite activities, and I'm always on the lookout for a new adventure.
If you're a woman in the New York area who shares some of my interests and values, don't hesitate to send me a message. Who knows, maybe we'll be the perfect match and create our own adventurous story!
submitted by joebyronsblanket to ForeverAloneDating [link] [comments]

2023.03.22 01:05 joebyronsblanket 34 [M4F] - NY/East Coast - Attention Ladies: Long-Haired Martial Artist with a Coffee Addiction Looking For Love

Get ready to meet the man of your dreams - or at least, the man with the hair of your dreams! My long, flowing locks are just one of the things that make me stand out from the crowd. With a warm, milk chocolate complexion and deep brown eyes that will leave you breathless, I'm the total package.
Standing tall at 5'6", I may not be the tallest guy in the room, but I make up for it with my confident and stoic personality. As a dedicated martial artist, I have a solid build that reflects my commitment to staying in shape. Whether I'm practicing martial arts or hitting the gym, I'm always pushing myself to be the best I can be.
As a coffee connoisseur, I'm always on the hunt for new and interesting blends to try. There's something about the aroma of freshly brewed coffee that never fails to put me in a good mood.
Ultimately, I'm looking for a woman who is kind, loyal, and values family. Someone who is passionate about their own interests, but also open to exploring new experiences together.
When I'm not practicing martial arts or enjoying a delicious cup of coffee, I love spending time outdoors. Hiking, camping, and exploring new places are some of my favorite activities, and I'm always on the lookout for a new adventure.
If you're a woman in the New York area who shares some of my interests and values, don't hesitate to send me a message. Who knows, maybe we'll be the perfect match and create our own adventurous story!
submitted by joebyronsblanket to R4R30Plus [link] [comments]

2023.03.22 00:56 buck_fama_ Truck conversion

I'm getting back to driving and I would really like to get a truck converted but I've been told that I'm too tall for a truck. I'm in a power chair and sit at 59-60."
Does anyone know if this is true or not? I haven't had time to call conversion places. It has me bummed out because I was really looking forward to getting a truck.
submitted by buck_fama_ to spinalcordinjuries [link] [comments]

2023.03.22 00:52 Luchamore Trip Report 2/15-3/6: Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto, Osaka, and more!

After a couple weeks of recovery, I've had some time to write up a trip report! This vacation was the best I've ever had and I'm excited to share some highlights here, along with some mistakes I made and travel tips. My plans were to meet up with two friends for the first 1.5 weeks of the trip, then to go solo for the last week. They would fly to Chicago to connect with me, then we'd all fly over together to Narita.
- I filled out the Japan entry forms to provide proof of vaccination, declare for customs, etc. We saved a pretty good amount of time with that compared to people filling out paperwork on the plane.
- For phone / internet we went with pocket wireless and it was incredibly smooth basically the whole time. We got two units for times where we'd be separated as well as a pocket translator, which was an unnecessary expense. You're not getting any added value over Google Translate.
- For daily travel we all went with Suica and that was again a very simple, intuitive experience. I'd just periodically add on funds to my Apple Wallet and ended up paying for a bunch of stuff with that rather than cash / credit. My one friend went with the actual card instead of using his phone, which had one advantage: some ticket machines would only accept Suica via card and through the app.
- For the shinkansens we skipped the JR Pass and just booked tickets that day, which was mostly fine. The machines wouldn't accept my credit card so I'd need to go talk to a person, but I knew enough about where I wanted to go and what to do I muddled through. We did opt for the Hakone Free Pass as that would cover basically all the transportation for that area and saved a little money.
- I'm fortunate to have a friend living in Japan who helped arrange a couple events for us... if you don't have that option you can try to book some tickets at Lawson, or for restaurants you can try to go 1-2 days in advance and ask about reservations.
- I tried taking a language course ahead of the trip and learning a few key phrases... I was not able to hold a conversation but the little bit I did know helped I believe. One "caution" I'll give is that if you use Google Translate to construct a sentence for you in Japanese, you're likely to get a response in Japanese!
Part 1: Tokyo
2/15 + 2/16 - Friend B unfortunately overslept and missed his first flight, so Friend A and I met up in the morning at O'Hare. I did have to check one of my bags at the gate because it was over 10 lbs, but otherwise the trip was uneventful until we arrived at Narita, where I had a momentary panic when my checked suitcase did not show up on the carousel. I talked to an agent and for some reason, they had set my bag aside from all the others behind a sign. With that out of the way, we picked up the pocket wi-fi and on our way out the door, a film crew from "Why did you come to Japan" asked us if we would do a brief interview. I recognized their logo and thought it might be fun, but I wasn't prepared for a 40 minute conversation! I mentioned I was visiting a Game Center CX exhibit and they asked me a long line of questions about meeting the show's host (Shinya Arino), what I would say to him, what games we would play, etc. Finally I had to explain we were tired and would like to be on our way. I don't believe my interview was ever shown.
By the time we got tickets and were seated on the Narita Express, we could barely stay awake. Maybe because of the fatigue we had difficulty with exiting Shinjuku station: we eventually talked to an Australian family who showed us the fare exchange kiosk where we converted our Narita Express ticket into a regular train ticket for the gate. Once we settled that we checked into our hotel (Hundred Stay Tokyo Shinjuku), briefly went out to Family Mart for snacks, then crashed for the night.

2/17 - We got up around 7 and went to a Sukiya near our hotel for breakfast, then headed over to Akihabara. Things were still opening up so we stopped for Mr. Donut, then visited a couple stores before moving further east to Yokozuna Tonkatsu Dosukoi Tanaka where we had a lunch / sumo demonstration. This was very much a tourist thing: there was a brief explanation of the sumo ceremony and technique before they invited the audience to get in sumo costumes and step in the ring and have matches with the wrestlers. I (and about 90% of the attendees) went up: this was absolutely not a serious match and was closer to improv comedy than anything. Still, we had a good time and the food was fine.
Afterward, we went back to Akihabara for a reservation at an owl cafe. We got some cute photos but I admit those owls could not have been happy, as there were 30 of them in a small room. The handlers would let one perch on your arm but were adamant you not let go of their leash, because if you did... it wouldn't be pretty. At this point we had to return to our hotel to link up with Friend B who had just arrived, then we went back to Akihabara for dinner. Dinner was at Merino, an all you can eat place where we had lamb and beef tongue in a hot pot. Fittingly, there was a collaboartion with a lamb girl V-tuber. We were again pretty wiped out after dinner and retreated back to our hotel.

2/18 - After a quick stop at Family Mart we headed to Ueno for the Tokyo National Museum. Unfortunately the special exhibition was closed, but we enjoyed the historical artifacts that were available. We had a ramen lunch at one of the restaruants at Ueno Station, then head over to Akihabara (yes, again) and crawled through the shops in more depth. We were there on Saturday afternoon so there were people everywhere, so that only lasted for a couple hours. Our bags were full so we dropped things off at the hotel, then ate dinner at a Coco Ichibanya: we all kept our orders pretty low on the scale but as advertised, there's a kick even at "2". Finally we visited Star Club, a Super Mario themed bar located nearby. Despite the gimmick, the crowd appeared to be local aside from our group. We each ordered a couple of the themed drinks and bonded with the bartender over Cowboy Bebop through the language barrier, as he was playing the soundtrack for ambience.

2/19 - Our first stop in the morning was the Ghibli Musem. While my previous visit had been lackluster, this one went much better as there was a significantly smaller crowd so early in the day. Plus, while they are still largely not supporting English, the movie shown had no dialogue and they did actually provide an English guide for the special exhibit on Future Boy Conan! The merch shop was of course seductive and we ended up with souvenirs for ourselves and friends. Our lunch plans unfortunately fell through as our targeted spot (Chillmatic, a burger place) was closed for a building inspection. We opted for another random ramen place as we walked over to the PARCO mall in Shibuya. We visited all the character stores (Nintendo, Pokemon, Capcom, etc.), which were of course also mobbed on a Sunday afternoon. At this point I had easily outgrown the space in my luggage, so our next stop was Don Quijote so Friend A and I could each buy a duffel bag. To make up for earlier we visited Shogun Burger for dinner, which was fantastic.

2/20 - Our first travel day, but before heading out we did a little more shopping in Shinjuku: my friends and I really got into visiting every BookOff we could find. I also took the opportunity to stop at McDonalds for an early lunch and try their "exclusive" menu items. We then boarded the Odakyu line to make our way out to Hakone. In hindsight, I definitely should have forwarded a bag to our Kyoto hotel: I had a very uncomfortable trip moving between trains and walking uphill but after a couple hours we made it to Ajisai Onsen Ryokan. The building was in a traditional style but with modern furnishings: to paint a picture, our room had futons and an Amazon Fire Stick. We booked times to reserve some of the baths, then walked to a local gyoza place - and I mean local, a bunch of schoolchildren stampeded in with us as it opened - then headed back to the hotel for our evening bath. To cap the evening we enjoyed some sake and watched a few episodes of Spy x Family.

2/21 - We got an early start with our morning bath and quickly came to a realization. The previous night we had booked the "indoor / outdoor" bath, which had both an indoor and outdoor bath but critically kept the showers indoors. For the morning we were in the "outdoor" bath, which... had the showers outdoors. When it was right around freezing. Afterward we ate breakfast at the hotel, then went on the "Hakone Loop". We started by walking through Gora Park and participating in a brief tea ceremony, then took the rope car up to Owaukudani. We were lucky and there were clear skies so Mt. Fuji was very visible in the distance. Unfortunately part of the ropeway was out of service so we took a bus down to Lake Ashi, which we then crossed by boat. We quickly stopped for snacks then walked along Ancient Cedar Avenue before catching a bus back closer to our hotel. We unfortunately missed the last cable car for the day - they stop before 4:30 - but we managed to figure out the local bus line to get back. After a brief rest we found dinner at Pub Stop Pizza & Bar and took in some local entertainment (a TV was playing Fast and the Furious 7).

2/22 - Another bath, another hotel breakfast, and a quick stop at the Hakone Art Museum before we got on our way to our next destination. I asked / begged for us to take a cab back down the mountain to Hakone-Yumoto, which saved me from more luggage struggles. At the station we stopped in Eva-ya: I had only learned yesterday that Hakone is the setting for much of Neon Genesis Evangelion, but luckily they had some cover files and sweets ready for me to buy. After a couple hour trip on the shinkansen we arrived at Kyoto and with a bit of fumbling got to our hotel. The key here is that there is a second floor walkway that runs North - South through the station and doesn't require paying train fare. Our Kyoto hotel (Daiwa Roynet Hotel Kyoto Ekimae) had a very slick entrance way: it blended in with the building to the point you'd think you're walking towards a wall without signage. We did some laundry, then went next door to the Yodobashi to pick up a couple items (Friend A needed new sneakers) and literally got lost again. After again getting reoriented, we headed back to Kyoto Station where we got conveyor belt sushi. These places do technically exist where I'm from (US) but this was still one of my favorite moments on the trip.

2/23 - Kicked off the day at the Kyoto International Manga Museum. The bulk of the museum is an impossibly large manga library, which didn't serve me too well, but I enjoyed the history sections. One room was devoted to sculptures of the hands of famous artists, which was certainly a choice. They also had an artist there who would draw sketches of you for 1500 yen. I was a little worried I was paying for the equivalent of a carnival caricature, but the skill and detail were much better than that. Be advised, the artists are only available on holidays and weekends.
Afterward I took the train down to Osaka to meet a friend living in Japan for... you guessed it more shopping. We visited the Capcom Cafe first and checked out the rest of the nerdy stores at Daimaru Umeda. Unlike in Shibuya, we did need to get a timed entry ticket for the Nintendo store, so we went over to Mandarake to kill time. After finishing up in Umeda we hit up the Daimaru / PARCO at Shinsaibashi, then visited the Dotunburi Glico sign and walked the river. They took my picture and when I offered to take theirs they replied "no... I'm not a tourist". Oof. In the evening I met back up with my travel group and had udon at a spot in Kyoto Station.

2/24 - Slightly mixed things up here: we went to the Imperial Palace in order to get tickets for Katsura Imperial Villa. Unfortunately, same day tickets were not available as we expected, so we instead had to get them for Sunday 2/26. Still visited the palace, and in spite of the rain still had fun. Then back to Osaka where we ended up visiting Daimaru again - the other guys liked some photos I sent so much they wanted to see it too. Had takoyaki for lunch, then took the train to the Osaka Aquarium. The absolutely massive tank at the center was very impressive. Then stayed in the area and went to the park to wat a New Japan Pro Wrestling show. This was one of the first shows that allowed the whole audience to cheer: people were quiet but by the end of the night things were rocking. Interestingly they still only sat people in every other chair. Lastly while the other guys went to bed I had read on Twitter there was a party near our hotel to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Star Fox. Stopped by there and while it was a little awkward at first once I found the more gregarious / drunk people there it was a good time. One guy insisted I get in front of a camera and talk for a second, and it showed up in a video they posted on Twitter.

2/25 - Went to Nara and saw the deer. The deer are docile if you don't have food, friendly if you do, and absolutely terrifying to children. The amount of "yada yada yada" and "kowai" I heard... At first we were giving whole crackers out, but we learned that we could break them up, leave them on our palm, get them to bow, etc. Headed over to Todai-ji and saw the huge Buddha. It was in fact very, very large. Doubled back and played with the deer a bit more, then took the train to Kyoto. I took the lull in the afternoon to visit the office of Edit Mode, a clothing maker that specializes in video game goods. They occasionally host an "open house" at their office and we were lucky enough to be there during one. For dinner we ate okonomiyaki at a restaurant in the Yodobashi building, then afterward took a trip to the nearest BookOff before hitting the hay.

2/26 - This was definitely our biggest mixup on the trip. We had been planning to go to Fushimi Inari in the morning but there were some scheduling issues:
  1. We didn't take not of how long the hike would be (2-3 hours).
  2. We overslept (woke up at 7:30 instead of 6).
  3. We had a hard stop time to make the Katsura Imperial Villa tour we'd booked on Thursday.
We probably should've just not gone to Fushimi Inari at all but we did and ended up arriving with less than an hour to stay. We walked up the steps for about 15 minutes, turned back, checked out the start of the path, and left :( At least the Villa was a good experience: we had an English speaking guide (+ recording) which helped a lot. The context felt necessary to understanding how carefully the whole area was designed.
Next up was one last stop at our Kyoto hotel before taking a quick train ride to Osaka. We stayed at the Hotel Granvia Osaka, which is literally right above the station, so the location was certainly convenient. We ate sushi for lunch at one of the many restaurants in the building, took a quick nap, then went out for some taiyaki. Specifically, I forced my friends to go to a particular chain that was collaborating with a V-Tuber. back to the hotel where we checked out then hopped on the train to Osaka. Checked into our hotel and people napped for a bit before we headed out again. Got taiyaki (making my friends visit a chain with a Hololive collab). More shopping followed with a stop at Mandarake, then to Don Quijote where I bought another small suitcase. We ended up more or less skipping dinner and heading out for karaoke, where we had some snacks and drinks.

2/27 - For my friends' final day we went to Universal Studios Japan. This could be its entire own post but I recommend looking for tickets at least a month in advance, get the Express Pass, and get there early. The park is supposed to open at 9, and even though we showed up at 8:30 people were already pouring inside. Our main objective was Super Nintendo World but our timed entry wasn't for a couple hours, so we tried Jujutsu Kaisen 4D (okay), Spider-Man (good), and Jurassic Park the Ride (okay) first. As for Super Nitendo World itself... as long as you know it's intended for kids and has about a 4 hour lifespan you'll enjoy it. The Mario Kart ride was very good the AR game was interesting tech, and the restaurant food was alright. Really though, the Flying Dinosaur which went on afterward was incredible and easily my favorite ride. Unfortunately, Friend A became ill afterward so we ended up bailing to go back to the hotel and rest. After he felt better we grabbed dinner at a local ramen place: the gimmick was they lined the bowl with slices of pork, which you could then put in the broth to cook a little and season the whole bowl.

2/28 - My two friends left for America, so we checked out of our room and I checked into a smaller one at the same spot. This hotel didn't have laundry machines, just an expensive service (200 yen to clean one pair of underwear), so instead I found a laundromat nearby and caught up with family by phone while I waited. On the way back to the hotel I stopped at another Yodobashi, where I committed a gaffe: you're supposed to check out on each floor. Once I apologized a bunch and paid, I grabbed lunch at Wendy's and got settled into my new room. For dinner I went to another of the restaurants in the building, then took a train to Namba to see a retro video game bar. A couple drinks and a chat with the bartender later, I headed back for the night.

3/1 - A very nerdy shopping day in Osaka: first to the Daimaru character shops, then over to Parco character shops, then I just used Google Maps to hit BookOffs one after the other. I made my way south until I hit DenDen Town where I stopped in every store I saw until I had to break away for dinner. A local friend helped me book a reservation in Kobe Took the train out to Kobe where a friend had helped me make a reservation at a steak restaurant. I went for the "modarately" cheap option that was about $100 total and loved it from beginning to end. Also strangely this was the only restaurant anywhere I could tip: you had to tip individually and could only max it out at 500 yen. I tipped the two waiters, the chef, and the host / barker outside (who had good English so we talked a bit).

3/2 - My Fushimi Inari revenge trip! I got there around 9am so things were already pretty busy, but I did get the chance to chat with one of the tour guides while I had a morning coffee. The starting area was pretty busy and even as I went along, I ran into a lot of people but there was still enough space to take photos and see everything. I definitely paused at a few points: even walking 20,000 steps daily on the trip hadn't prepared me for all the stair climbing. I'd also suggest that you don't NEED to go all the way to the top: there's just a store up there that completely obscures the view, the better views are earlier in the hike. With that said, I still really enjoyed myself, taking a different route back down. I grabbed a couple of snacks and took the train back to Osaka, where I finished up exploring Namba and went with a friend for an unagidon dinner. I'd had broiled eel before as sushi but never as the full entree and found it delicious!

3/3 - After checking out of the hotel and forwarding two of my bags to Tokyo, I caught the shinkansen but made a detour while in Yokohama to visit the Gundam Factory. The Gundam is very impressive in person and I would definitely recommend visiting in the early evening to see it after dark if possible. I proceeded onto Shinjuku where I ran into another issue: I was staying at a capsule hotel and immmediately realized I was not comfortable there. Everyone's bags were kept in a locker room that was not closely monitored, there were signs everywhere advising the hotel was not responsible for any theft... I should have done more reading to understand where I'd be staying. I would have been better off in a hostel, at least that would've been cheaper! I did at least have a chance to visit Shogun Burger again for dinner, after which I booked a new hotel for the next night, then got a few hours of restless sleep as I heard every snore and cough from my neighbors.

3/4 - I rose early and walked to Shinjuku Gyoen Garden. You really can use Suica in a lot of places, they even accepted it here! Most plants weren't in bloom yet but I did spot a lone cherry blossom tree that had blossomed: as I passed by it later in my walk a dozen people had crowded around for photos. A lot of stuff was not in bloom yet but I did see one cherry tree had blossomed at least. After getting my fill of nature I ventured over to Nakano Broadway. Out of all the nerdy shopping I did, this spot was my least favorite: maybe if I knew Japanese I would've fared better but because I didn't, I found all the various specialty stores confusing to navigate. I stopped back at the capsule hotel to pick up my luggage, then headed to Nipponbashi to check into my backup hotel (S-Peria Inn Nihonbashi Hakozaki). This new spot was pretty out of the way so I opted to just grab some sushi from a nearby supermarket and park it for the evening with the hope of a strong start tomorrow.

3/5 - Checked out of my hotel and headed over to Shinjuku to check in to my final hotel (Kadoya Hotel) for the trip. Dropped off my bags and confirmed my other ones had shown up safely, then headed to Shibuya Parco for the Final Fantasy 35th Anniversary pop-up. Shopped there for a bit, then headed back to Chillmatic and this time they were open! It was a neat experience but I think I preferred Shogun Burger. Next stop was Meijijingu - I didn't leave a votive and instead just walked around, including a stop in one of the gardens. Then over to HMV Books where there was a 20th Anniversary Celebration for Game Center CX. However busy I expected it to be, it was not... at all. I was the only person who paid the 800 yen for the museum part in the 30-45 minutes I was there. But I did enjoy it and picked up a T-shirt. I also found a small pop-up gallery titled "9Days" on a lower floor that was interesting. It was getting late but I pressed onto Akihabara where I went to the Radio Kaikan tower. I stayed there until closing, then headed over to Tokyo Video Gamers, a bar. They had closed down last year but were in the middle of a soft re-launch when I stopped by. Finally, I headed back to my hotel and ordered some Dominos because I was tired of walking around.

3/6 - Checked out of my hotel, but left my bags so I could go eat breakfast at Eggslut at the station. Took the Narita Express to the airport, shopped a little bit at the airport shops, then the long sad flight back to the US.
That was a linguistic dreadnought so if anything is unclear let me know and I'll try to clean it up. Hope you enjoyed and it helps with your own planning: I'll answer questions as best as I can!
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2023.03.22 00:52 Catvac-u-um_adnase Agriculture news March 16, 2023- All valley reservoirs dumping water * Neonic ban tests Newsom * Food giants weigh in on farm bill

All major Central Valley reservoirs are releasing water
The warm storms this week delivered rain up to 8,000 feet in elevation. That is sending an extraordinary amount of runoff into reservoirs. The inflow to Lake Shasta is topping 73,000 cubic feet-per-second, while Lake Oroville is receiving 63,000 cfs.
The American River, meanwhile, is nearly flowing unimpeded through Folsom Lake. Almost 40,000 cfs of water is rushing into the reservoir, while 27,000 cfs of floodwater is gushing out. Trinity Lake, which stubbornly remains at half its average supply, is seeing just 9,000 cfs of inflow.
Keep in mind: Agencies never fully fill reservoirs in winter to maintain space for flood control. But most of the major Central Valley reservoirs have filled beyond that flood protection point—and all are now releasing water.
Bauer-Kahan decries DPR’s pace and revives neonic ban
Asm. Rebecca Bauer-Kahan argued this week that Gov. Newsom has not followed through with a commitment to examine the backyard use of neonicotinoids.
The governor vetoed her bill last year to ban neonics for lawns and gardens. He reasoned the Department of Pesticide Regulation will begin evaluating nonagricultural uses this year. Bauer-Kahan renewed her bill “to ensure that the administration does as they promised.” She charged that DPR has yet to start the process based on her conversations with them and that bees are still dying.
Agriculture is taking a less combative approach this year. The bill would require DPR to reevaluate neonics and set new regulations. Taylor Roschen, lobbying for Western Plant Health and other associations, is hoping to amend that language so that DPR would only set new rules if the scientific review warrants them.
Despite the opposition, the committee once again approved the measure.
On EJ advisors: The same lawmakers approved a measure to establish an environmental justice advisory committee at DPR. Introducing his bill, committee chair Alex Lee of San Jose argued DPR does not adequately address racial and socioeconomic disparities from pesticide exposure.
California Farm Bureau’s Chris Reardon, who spent 13 years at DPR, countered that the department has been “actively incorporating environmental justice into its program for a long time.” He pointed out that DPR has created an EJ liaison and will soon hire a deputy director to oversee all EJ activities. Roschen added that the bill would add a layer of bureaucracy at a significant cost, when DPR’s budget is already structurally deficient.
Proponents responded that DPR’s proposal to overhaul the mill fee on pesticide sales would cover the cost. Bauer-Kahan asserted that just one liaison and one deputy director cannot represent all farmworkers statewide.
“I just am really confused why anyone would be afraid to bring voices to the table,” she said.
DHS needs to scale back fee proposal, senators say
A bipartisan group of senators led by Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is asking the Department of Homeland Security to rethink its plan to sharply increase fees employers must pay to bring workers in from outside the country.
A proposed rule from DHS would more than double the current $460 petition fee when applying for an H-2A or H-2B visa for a prospective guest worker, and impose a new $600 fee for screening and asylum work.
Food companies: Protect climate, conservation funds
Some of the largest multinational food companies are calling on lawmakers to maintain funding for conservation and climate priorities in the next farm bill.
In a letter going to the Senate and House Ag committees today, the Sustainable Food Policy Alliance says farm bill programs can help America’s farmers and ranchers address expanding markets and changing consumer needs while managing conditions such as drought and extreme weather. The alliance includes Danone North America, Mars Inc., Nestle USA and Unilever.
The letter notes that many conservation programs are already oversubscribed and that demand for funding is expected to grow. “In this spirit, we note that the climate crisis facing the food and agriculture supply chain is significant, and the funding must be proportional to the challenge,” the letter says.
Why it matters: Food companies have traditionally stayed out of farm bill debates other than those involving nutrition programs. The companies’ backing will help Senate Ag Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow’s defense of the Inflation Reduction Act funding for conservation programs.
Vilsack faces Senate Ag amid DOJ question
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is on Capitol Hill today to face questioning from the Senate Ag Committee.
Ahead of the hearing, two Republican members of the committee are raising concerns about Vilsack’s testimony to the committee last May, when he was asked whether the Justice Department had contacted USDA before taking a position in a Supreme Court case involving glyphosate herbicides. Vilsack told the committee his department wasn’t consulted, but DOJ has since told Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., that DOJ did reach out to USDA.
In a letter to Vilsack this week, Marshall and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told the secretary he “should be well aware that the longstanding practice of the DOJ is to solicit the views of other cabinet departments before taking a public position on a matter before the Supreme Court. … Your allegation that DOJ ignored the Agriculture Department before filing its brief in the Monsanto case stunned many in the agricultural community and led them to believe that USDA had been shunted aside.”
In a statement to Agri-Pulse, a spokesman for Vilsack said the department would “review the letter and respond accordingly. Secretary Vilsack looks forward to discussing USDA’s efforts to strengthen the agricultural economy, expand market opportunities, and support farmers and rural communities across the country” during today’s hearing.
Why it matters: DOJ took the position before the Supreme Court that the nation’s pesticide law doesn’t preempt state-law claims such as those that have resulted in multimillion-dollar judgments against Monsanto for Roundup exposure.
He said it:
“We’ve got to change the way the federal government scores these projects.” — Gov. Gavin Newsom, speaking in Pajaro while surveying flood damage.
He argued the Army Corps of Engineers needs to factor in societal impacts when gauging the importance of levee projects and was frustrated the town must wait up to five years to strengthen the breached levee, with just a temporary fix for now. The governor vowed to add more state dollars to bolster the local spending needed for federal matching grants.
Newsom added that no other state does more for farmworkers, but he stressed that “we don’t do enough.”
Jacqui Fatka, Bill Tomson and Steve Davies contributed to this report
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2023.03.22 00:31 tengrrl Nominate: Med Rhet Standing Group

Hello Everyone!
I'm writing with a reminder that we are taking nominations through this Friday, 3/24, for three open officer positions in the Medical Rhetoric Standing Group (MRSG): Chair, Communications Officer, and Graduate Student Representative.
The chair position serves as the liaison between the special interest group and CCCC, while the Communications Officer focuses on sharing notices to communication channels throughout the year. Graduate representatives help choose presentations for our standing panel and provide perspectives on graduate student needs and interests. Each elected officer serves a 2-year term. Aside from being leadership opportunities, these positions offer a chance for individuals to get to know other members of our wonderful community by working together!
Please send me ([[email protected]](mailto:[email protected])) your nominations by Friday, 3/24. I will contact all nominees to confirm interest and ask them to submit a 200-word statement (also acceptable in other forms for reasons of access) and a picture by Friday, 3/31. Election results will be announced mid-April.
All the best,Lilly Campbell
Lilly Campbell, Ph.D., she/hehers, 414-288-5266 Marquette University
Associate Professor of English; Director of Foundations InstructionInstitute for Women's Leadership, Faculty Advisory Council
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