Category Archives: lost time incident

An archive of the tinyletter newsletter content, but hosted on my own site, just in case.

lost time incident 64 – wife of a clown

lost time incident 64
This week, we’re going to reward your attention with some delightful nonsense. That’s the plan. It’s written on this clipboard with a checkbox next to it, not yet checked. Says right here: REWARD ATTENTION WITH DELIGHTFUL NONSENSE. I have never in my life won an argument with a clipboard and by gum, I’m not going to even attempt reversing that trend today. Not when so much is at stake.

We’ve got a few of the by-now-familiar writing experiments where I browse health and beauty websites and repurpose headlines from their blogs. And then there’s an exclusive something-or-other that I haven’t written yet.

Really, I should write this introduction last, but I like to keep a little mystery for myself as well. Which is why every one of these newsletters ends predictably with the removal of someone’s rubber mask, the shouting of the revealed party’s name, and the repeated revelation that the supernatural does not exist: All evil dwells in the heart’s of  men and women who cloak themselves to disguise their avarice. Also, there’s a dog that talks but no one thinks that’s weird.

Every newsletter.

I don’t know why any of us keep reading this thing. No surprises.

 

five reasons to have a teeny, tiny wedding
1) The only official who is free to preside over your ceremony is a talking cricket.

2) All wedding venues are booked except for one, located inside a young girl’s liver, accessible via shrunken submarine in sterile lab conditions.

3) You fell in love with an electron.

4) The global economy is arranged in such a way that your entire generation has difficulty finding steady employment at a wage where an extravagant wedding is even an option.

5) Tiny things are cute! Little wedding cake! Small cocktails at the reception! Reduced expectations to minimize disappointment! Adorable!

four secrets of women who switched to natural beauty routines
1) Dreams are sweeter when you sleep under the soft, cool mud. Let the webbing between your fingers guide you down.

2) To impress aquatic romantic partners, thread seaweed through your scalp. Beautiful, and small fish can hide from predators in your hair-reef! New friends!

3) Want the perfect butt? Try river stones! We couldn’t say how they’d help, but stones are 100% natural and reader polls say butt shape is important so… put it together. We can’t do everything for you.

4) We hid a body once. That’s just a regular secret. Nothing to do with beauty.

free trial
We were having a nice picnic right up until the Purity Squad showed up, loaded Kevin into the pure-a-pult and launched him into the ocean. “Swim back to your own country” they shouted after him and then they put together some take-home plates of BBQ chicken, covered in foil, which we hadn’t offered them, but whatever. Kevin was born, like, four blocks from here.

I asked Jenny if four blocks away was still this country and she said, “Yeah.” She probably knows. She got good grades in school.

One year later, you could pick any house on the block to live in because everyone else had ended up launched into the ocean. That nice couple who worked in television. The folks at the elderly home. The ex-con. Mrs. Yogurt. That empty field that used to be full of racoons.

The Purity Squad would still drive through, their sedan pulling their pure-a-pult behind them. About the only thing that changed is that one of ’em painted some flames on the side of the catapult, to make it seem like it was going faster, I guess. But since it was being pulled by a regular sedan, it was never going to look faster than a sedan. I would have asked Jenny about it, but she sent me a postcard from the Two Pines Temporary Relocation cat asking if her cat was okay, and her cat wasn’t okay (couldn’t swim), so I haven’t written her back.

Sorry Jenny.

Just this morning, the Purity Squad came through and I was the only person around. Just me and my dog. I was pitching rocks at a street lamp that shines in my window at night. I don’t drive anywhere and it’s only me in the neighborhood, so I figured it wouldn’t matter if I broke this one. Since it bothered me.

“Hey,” the Squad said. “You wanna buy a catapult?”

I just looked at ’em. Looked at my dog. My dog was like: “What?”

“We don’t get much use out of the catapult anymore,” they said. “We’re probably going to move soon. Got our bags packed. This was a pretty exciting phase in our life, but… it’s time to move on. So we’re selling it.”

“How much you want for it?” I asked.

“What do you think it’s worth?” they asked back. I never got used to how they would all speak in unison like that.

[THANK YOU FOR READING! Your trial account story limit has been reached. To unlock LOST TIME INCIDENT: GOLD ACCESS, click here! Join the fastest growing online community for short fiction enthusiasts to get access to exclusive works of fiction, networking opportunities, and a chance every month to win a set of door codes for the Mars Base we’re building to escape this doomed planet! DOUBLE your chances of winning by sharing this on Facebook, TRIPLE your chances by sharing on LinkedIn, and QUADRUPLE your chances by signing legal documents surrendering all of your duplicate organs to the LOST TIME INCIDENT ORGAN BANK now! Seats are limited! Mars isn’t getting any bigger!]

ending theme song
Well now! We have arrived at the end. The music comes up. The credits roll. Everyone rises to leave, with a shrugging on of jackets, a shuffling of feet.

Time to go, time to go.

We’ll probably be back, but for now it’s time to go.

—Michael Van Vleet

 

[This was originally sent out as an emailed newsletter. Would you like to receive the LOST TIME INCIDENT directly in your inbox? You can subscribe here! Or, you know, keep reading ’em here on signalstation.com. You’ve got your own life to live. Make your choices.]

lost time incident 63 – burned out signs

lost time incident 63
This week, we’ve got a few short pieces of fiction in convenient bite-sized form. They reach their conclusion before you have time to wonder what else you could be doing with your time. Additionally, there’s an actual slice of life, sliced from a week-and-a-half spent hosting my brother, who was visiting from Pennsylvania.

It’s much like every other week. No surprises. (Or is this how we lull you in to a state of complacency?) (It’s not.) (But isn’t that what someone would say if they were LULLING?)

Anyway. On with the show:

 

teenagers, you know
We were pretty typical small town kids. Jean jackets, cheap cigarettes. Bootleg cassettes and boomboxes with D batteries in basements, thin rugs on the concrete floor. Always drawing maps of the neighborhood with little five-pointed stars marking where there were supernatural occurrences.

A star for where there were lights spotted dancing in a half-built house in the new subdevelopment that’s still mostly dirt lots. A star for where Cheryl said she felt an unexpected cold spot on a summer night, as if she had been suddenly standing in front of an opened Amoco gas station’s refrigeration unit, looking for a Fruitopia or something. A star for where Bob “accidentally” ate human meat, which started the whole process where he became a wendigo, which is why we kept him locked in the basement’s bathroom pretty much full time.

For the first few weeks, Bob wasn’t too bad. Sure, he talked all the time about wanting to eat more human meat, but we could laugh it off. After all, he still liked to play SORRY with us on that rickety card table we had, or he’d still debate about the best era of Van Halen. He got a bit more furry than he used to be, but we were all going through some changes at the time. Whose body didn’t have unexpected hair, right?

Anyway, it ended up being a good thing that our pal Apollo, an exchange student, was staying with the Lammenwursts who ran the hardware store because we ended up needing a lot of chain to create a barrier over the basement bathroom door for Bob.

We were also starting to have some success with girls at about that time, and it’s a shame that Bob missed out on most of that. Through the door, during a lucid moment, he asked us if we could talk to Sarah on his behalf.

“You can tell her— I thought of this joke and you can tell her ‘You know what they say about wendigos… They take a while to warm up, but oh boy… when dey go…!’ Go tell her that and if she thinks it’s funny, maybe you guys can take all these chains down and she’ll go to the Autumn Formal with me.”

We didn’t tell Sarah anything.

Sarah hated wordplay.

the business
I had just splashed some rubbing alcohol into a drinking vase when she walked into my office looking like trouble. She was a pistol and her eyes were bullets and I hadn’t taken a gun safety course since the War. “What’s the story?” I said and her safety came off and it came to me that I was drunk and talking to my gun again. Another unsolvable case. My office was the underside of a couch. “I live here now,” I said, detectively.

 

burnt out signs
My younger brother was in town this last week, which means he got up close exposure to fraternal weirdness. For example, my brother, my wife and I were walking to the grocery store. I noticed that the sign above the Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts was partially burnt out, leaving something that looked like JO-A_IN lit up.

So I sang (to the tune of Eric Clapton’s “Cocaine”) ♫ If you want to do crafts / you should speak with our staff / Jo-ain’s ♫

My wife Amanda immediately hated it, having never developed an appreciation for my sign-based silliness. She’s still never forgiven me for pointing out that a Thai restaurant on Solano Avenue can be sung like a Neil Diamond song: ♫ Sweet Basil Thai (BUM BUM BUM) ♫

Only a few steps further was another partially burned out sign on the side of the grocery store. Its PHARMACY sign was reduced to PH___ACY, prompting a bit of Seal (♫ We’re never gonna survive / unless / we get a little / phacy ♫ )

Amanda raised an eyebrow. “You wouldn’t go with Gnarls Barkley instead? Or even Patsy Cline?”

My brother frowned a bit in thought, then added “You should go with something Def Leppard-related. Because the sign is missing an ARM.”

We’re related, all right.

Further proof: Hours later, long after we’re back home and settled in, my brother comes back inside from smoking a cigarette and serenades us with ♫ Pour some sugar PHA-CY! ♫

Anyway. He’s on a plane back to the East Coast and I’m sure Amanda’s glad to have this sort of monkeyshines reduced by half. But it was nice to have a week of “it’s not just me” moments.

 

ending theme song
Our header image for this week’s newsletter is from Ian Keltie (http://www.iankeltie.com/). I snatched it off some image-sharing site years ago, but was conscientious enough to save the file with the artist name because I knew that at some point, I’d need to offer a credit. Apparently.

Thanks for reading! Or thanks for deleting this email unread! Whatever you’ve done— and you KNOW what you did— thank you for doing it! You’re the only one who could do it!

Now I’m going to move on with the rest of the day, which I’m hoping is going to include progress on a project I started back in February. (Yeesh.) But if you want to help me procrastinate, just hit me up and say you want some new music and I’ll send you something via Bandcamp. Those are the other browser windows I have open… music to listen to while I work.

Save me from productivity.

See you later, alligators.

—Michael Van Vleet

lost time incident 62 – there’s another door here

lost time incident 62

On the North American continent, countries are attempting to enjoy anniversaries, despite the fact that politics at present is charting a course that will make for delightful reading 100 years from now, our mutant descendants shaking their heads at what idiots we were.

“Someone could have just said ‘No,'” our descendants will squeak through their flesh-beaks. “Politics is a mass delusion that requires consent of the governed. Anyone could have stopped it at any time, but instead they passed every day murmuring ‘Well, it can’t possibly get any worse… We can wait it out’ and now we huddle in caves to hide from the rhino roaches that want to dine on our twisted flesh.”

Politics.

Yup.

Anyway, here’s some words.

 

DISCOUNT POTIONS (2 for 3 Pricing – Everything Must Go!)
LOCKPICK’S DELIGHT – 2 sips and the bones in your index finger liquify, allowing you to jam your finger into any lock and gain entry.

WHICH WAY – A quick 8 sips and any boneless finger is reinvigorated, sprouting more bones than your finger has ever known! In all directions!

SUMMON DOG – 1 sip and all of your external bones become irresistible to nearby canines. Cover teeth before use.

MINT – Freshens breath.

NO MORE JERRY – Get Jerry to drink this one. That jerk.

PHANTOM FINGER – Replace any damaged finger with a ghostly replacement. WARNING: Will anger the ghost donor!

 

four signature scents to kick off summer
Sea Breeze – The waves call to you: Renounce your limbs! Shimmy off of your bones and rejoin the ocean as a jellything, shedding pounds for the perfect beach body!

Book Fire – Relive your childhood with the scent of hiding from the Amnesia Corp, your most beloved story taped to your chest to avoid detection!

Mud – Our beauty staff hired a pig– a literal pig– and she’s a great writer, but has her own thoughts about signature scents, so… “mud.”

MRC20083 – Sure, it burns, but everyone who smells it comes unstuck from time and can ask questions of their ancestors! Get it!

ending theme song
Short and sweet this week. My younger brother is visiting from the wilds of Pennsylvania, where they drink morning dew from the hollows of giant leaves and sleep on pillows made of rainbows. I assume. I haven’t asked him anything about Pennsylvania.

But that’s why we’re keeping it short.

Hey, on the plus side, that gets you back to your day faster! I hope it’s a day you’re happy to go back to.

lost time incident 61 – the cult has a great health care plan

a lady using a ViewMaster

lost time incident 61
Last night, the wife and I finally got around to doing something about our dwindling social life and we tried attending a Meetup event for the first time. We took a Lyft to the home of a stranger and figured that whether we met new friends and had fun playing board games— which was the theme of the Meetup event— or whether we got murdered by strangers who enjoy disguising their murder lures as board game events, at least it would be something different.

We didn’t get murdered.

Unless it was one of those rare murders where your soul roams free afterwards, and you keep living your life, sleeping in your own bed, waking and making coffee, totally SIXTH SENSEing yourself because no has told you you’re haunting your own life.

I wouldn’t mind that either, actually. I would love to be the first ghost to successfully type out and send an electronic newsletter after the events of their tragic murder.

BOO!

Ha! Did I get you?

Can you see this? Are you the only person who can see this, you little Haley Joel Osment newsletter subscriber? Ask the person next to you if they can also read this.

Anyway, yeah, we played board games all night. Three of ’em. All cooperative games, where it was us against the game itself. We lost every time. The theme of the night (“Losing”) was set early with PANDEMIC: REIGN OF CTHULHU. Do you know this game?

In it, all the players are characters who are aware that terrible occult things are happening in their neighborhood. For one thing: There’s friggin’ cultists everywhere. Doing cult things. They want to summon elder gods from other dimensions, even though anyone could tell them that’s a bad idea. Lesser monsters keep hopping through gates to other realms, which is awful. In short, the world is falling apart and our task is to do something about it.

Using our wits (and some cards representing magical artifacts), we race from town to town, knocking cultists on the head (with a hearty “Hey, jerks, knock it off!”), trying to shut down portals that would otherwise invite the otherworldly evil to enter our world and muck it up. Get evil all over everything. Tough to get off. Bleach and a lot of scrubbing required, I’d imagine.

There are many ways to lose this game and we lost in perhaps the oddest way: We ran out of cultists. Yup. If you ever reach a point where the game says you need to put new cultists on the board, but there are no more cultist figurines available that aren’t already on the board, the game just says: Okay, you’re done. You’re not keeping up. Just assume that the cult gets more and more popular, their recruitment campaigns have posters all over town, there’s sign-on bonuses available, steak knife sets, even your nice grandma joined just to have something to do on weekends now that she can’t bowl. Your grandma, in a hooded robe, baying for blood and having a great old time while the sky is rent open and winged forms with strange geometries erupt like cosmic hernias.

So we dusted ourselves off and set up a different game, and then failed to defend a town from being overrun by the undead. In the last game of the evening, we failed to keep the submarine we were on from exploding. All in all, it was a great night!

Anyway. This week, we’ve got some miscellany which started their lives as blog post headlines I stole from womens’ magazine websites, and an original short piece exclusive [a-a-a-a-a-air horn!] for you kind readers.

But first: some politics…

 

cw
You may dislike the President, but I admire his form. Not many people know this, but he’s made from a single sheet of flesh, carefully folded and crafted by a talented Flesh Origamist. If you were to unfold him, he would stretch halfway to the moon, which would be a good start, especially if it’s the further half away from us.

 

4 of the biggest myths about pregnancy and childbirth
1) You can always tell if your child is destined to overthrow you. Honestly, most soothsayers make this call based on whether you act like a jerk when you ask about what forces threaten your kingdom. Always tip!

2) Playing music for a baby makes it smarter. Nope! Not with your musical taste, poseur.

3) The fae want to swap a mushroom baby for your child as soon after birth as possible. Actually, the fae are quite patient and have even replaced teenagers!

4) They only let experts write these articles for mothers. Actually, any idiot can just write anything.

 

15 weird things that are making you anxious
1) That strange figure standing among the fruit trees, just there. Can’t you see it? When the lightning strikes, briefly?

4) The unknown fate of numbers 2 and 3.

5) The known fate of numbers 7 through 10.

11) Life’s fleeting nature. Every bird and bug, every enemy and friend, just ripples on water.

12) The taste of your own tongue. It curls back. What are you?

13) The crying sound the number 8 makes. But it’s just looking for attention. QUIET DOWN, 8!

14) Lists from health/beauty magazines that make you think your life could be better if you just read one more list.

15) Capitalism.

 

fast-forward
A typical-looking white family in a station wagon: father, mother, son, daughter, dog. The car whips along winding roads, each of the family’s faces seen in rapid sequence as they talk and laugh. There’s luggage attached to the roof of the car which stops in front of a multi-story house. Sun’s shining.

Credits fly by, unreadable at this speed, while the family unpacks.

Dinner is take-out around a table in a mostly empty room. Lights flicker, probably, or maybe it’s the flickering of the tracking on the film… no, it’s the lights. Father’s got a flashlight, looking in the basement. Outside, from behind, an unfamiliar figure stands by a tree, looking in through the house’s windows from a distance.

In the basement, red lights, the flashlight fails, father’s face is terrified. Upstairs the family has candles lit and the father returns from the basement, uncommunicative.

Night time. Panning shots around the house. External, internal. Low to the ground, rising up the stairway, zipping along to the doors that line the second floor. The children share a room. Whispering in the dark. The daughter sees something outside. The brother doesn’t get out of bed.

>>

Play.

A priest yells “YOU HAVE NO POWER HERE” and for a split second, you can see his head replaced with a latex replica, right before it explodes.

>>

Shuffling legs, black with age, come creeping up basement steps. The mother is pinned to the ceiling by an unknown force as her children cry, jumping and failing to grab her and bring her back to the safety of the floor.

Somebody is tossed through a window. There’s a fire in the house. Lots of flashing lights. A glowing portal and children, pushing forward against a powerful wind, throwing something through it. A few seconds of darkness, then a bright day and a subtitle that included the words “years later” but went by too fast to see the detail.

PLAY

A basement door slams shut. Lights glow through the cracks between the door and its frame. A heavy concentration of dust or smoke causes the light to separate into almost solid branches.

Credits. Credits. Credits. And finally, a Muppet Special, taped off the television years ago, interrupts the credits with song and a soft parade of felt.

THE END…… ?

 

ending theme song
Oh man. What a twist! Did you see that coming?

I didn’t. And I wrote the thing!

I’m just a vessel for The Muse, man. The characters, they just speak to me, and I am but a humble transcriptionist. I can’t take any credit for any of this. I’m a random collection of electronic impulses in a meat machine. But thank you, thank you for all the effusive praise. You really don’t have to do that.

Not for more than 10 minutes minimum, to maintain your subscription privilege level. This month only, we’re offering a special upgrade package. For 15 minutes of praise, you can get bumped up to PLATINUM VELVET level, with all that that entails. You’ll be taught an additional secret handshake. You’ll have 2 weeks of bonus time in the catacombs. Plus: frozen yogurt!

But for now that’s it. We’re done. Just… as soon as we’re done… typing this. And this. One last thing: THIS. Okay, now we’re done. Okay. That’s it, we’re at the end. Goodbye. GOODBYE.

—Michael Van Vleet

looking to subscribe? sign up now to get the LOST TIME INCIDENT delivered directly to your inbox!

lost time incident 60 – octopus bidding

A man wrestles with an octopus. TEXT: The octopus... following... her bidding!

lost time incident 60
This weekend was a writing weekend and I’m still writing. That’s how these words appeared in front of you. Just a short while ago, there was nothing here, but now there’s words. I’ve got this writing project I pitched at the end of February and I’m still not done with the first draft, so… I’m trying to knuckle down.

To bolster my efforts, I’m also reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. It’s a book about writing, full of good advice like: If you want to write something, you should write something. Try writing a thing and if it doesn’t work out, change it.

Good stuff, good stuff.

A friend of mine named Rich pinged me yesterday from a book expo in Chicago, IL. He was browsing a table full of “bizarro” literature, which is a sub-genre dedicated to high concepts, surreal plots and characters, and oftentimes a desire to let one’s id do the driving. I love the creativity on display when it comes to, say, the output of a Carlton Mellick III, but as you might guess, you’ve got to dig through a lot to find the rare title that lives up to the promise of its cover. Bizarro fiction is not immune to Sturgeon’s Law.

There’s a work ethic there I wish I had. Mellick III has over 50 books published with titles like “The Cannibals of Candyland” and “Every Time We Meet at the Dairy Queen, Your Whole Fucking Face Explodes”. Chuck Tingle can come up with, write, and release a book within a day or two of a news item hitting the popular consciousness (such as “England’s Ass Is Haunted By A Hung Parliament”, on sale now).

It’s inspirational. I gotta get to work.

But first, another mirror universe beauty tip:

 

4 genius tricks for the smoothest legs ever
1) While you are still an idea, unformed, before you’re drawn to this material plane, influence one of your parents to be an octopus

2) Distribute 2-for-1 discount coupons to every hair on your legs. Thanks to financial incentives, your hair will keep doubling until you have a smooth pelt like an otter.

3) Replace your legs with mathematics. Run your hands along smooth sine curves and explain to the curious that your lower limbs are now leg-orithms.

4) Let two seals attempt to eat your legs, but ask them to stop at the hips.

 

because witches.town has a higher character limit, i will no longer be constrained by twitter’s limits
You, a buzzard-brained fool: I hope to join the Mile High Club. Me, a genius: If I ever have sex, I know that time/space is relative and I'm light-years above so much in every galactic direction and my club has the human race as members!

 

top three draculas in the tri-city area
1) Jerry the Dracula – Runs that nightclub where they got the red strobe lights and the blood showers go on at 3 a.m. out there on Route 4. Real nice.

2) Maybelle Dracula – Just a sweet lady, full up with stories. You’ll find her luring in folks with sweet tea on her white porch, friendly as you please, but them folks don’t come back.

3) Chuck the Double-Dracula – College boy, says the word for ’em all ain’t “Dracula” but “vampyr” so we call ‘im DOUBLE-Dracula. Heh. College boy. Nice, otherwise. Helps folks with their taxes and whatnot.

To all runner-up Draculas: better luck next year!

 

ending theme song
Okay! That’ll do it for this week. The sky is blue and there are hummingbirds zipping from flower to flower on the tree outside the living room window. Time to put on some coffee and hunker down on the current writing project.

As a reminder to anyone who missed it, my last writing project (written under a pseudonym) is still available over at Horrible Vacuum: SWAP MEAT! Only 99 cents for (possibly) the best (of not only) cannibal/bargain-hunting tale you’ve ever seen!

What else, what else. If you were following the LOST TIME INCIDENT Facebook page, you don’t have to do that anymore because I unpublished it. It wasn’t adding much to the experience.

I think that’s it! See you the next time one of these comes out!

—Michael Van Vleet

find me elsewhere
signalstation – home
TinyLetter – archive/subscription
witches.town – short nonsense Twitter – even shorter nonsense
Tumblr – reblogging
Goodreads – reading
Bandcamp – listening
Amazon – wishlist

lost time incident 59 – what urge will save us

lost time incident 59
Night has fallen on a day spent puttering around with a fiction project that feels like it’s taking too long. It’s not, of course, as it’s a hobby and as such, has no expected delivery date. But I’m used to the quick thrills of writing short nonsense online, basking in a few near-immediate “likes” and then going back to creative loafing. Creating a longer piece is something I don’t yet have much practice at, so how would I know how long it takes?

Anyway. I didn’t start on this thing you’re reading just to chat about another piece I should be working on instead. I started on this thing because it’s easier than the other project and I thought it would make for a nice break.

So thanks for being part of my procrastination.

This week, I’m again highlighting short warm-up pieces I wrote over on witches.town. As a themed exercise, for a short while I was trawling through Cosmopolitan’s website, swiping blog post titles.

 

how to get a beach body
1) Write down on parchment a list of everyone who wants to see you fail.

2) Go to the beach under the light of the moon.

3) Wet the sand with tears, form it into a humanoid shape.

4) Insert your list into the shape’s “head”.

5) Complete the 18th Ward (Diremoth’s Chain), command the winds, and utter 3 lost names.

Voila! Your beach body will rise, ready to confound your enemies.

TO DISMISS: Say aloud “I look good” and believe it. This may take some practice.

 

3 rules anyone with oily skin needs to follow
1) All oil should stay on the outside of your skin. All of those who have attempted the reverse have liquefied and now live in tanks, or in village wells, cursed.

2) Never allow yourself to be kept from any Temple of Fortune. With your oily skin, it will be easy to squeeze your way through the Goddess Chimneys that they provide to allow Fortune herself to come and go as she pleases. Won’t the guards be shocked to see you winning at the games tables, shiny and glowing, despite their attempts to ban you?

3) Continue following our beauty tips, for though you are already beautiful, education is forever.

 

3 ways to spice up your relationship this summer
1) Marinate your partner in a brine for four hours. While their skin loosens, you can pass the time reading them love poems! When it’s loose enough, slip their skin off their skeleton and put it on yourself. Touch yourself through their skin. Let them watch you dance in it. Tell them how hot their skeleton is. TIP: Don’t forget to reglove them before they dry out!

2) Spanking! Have you tried it? Oh geez! It’s great!

3) Open a portal to the CoLoUr Realm and go with your lover outside of time, never to return. Rates are reduced while our realms are nearest! Any travel witch can arrange the trip!

 

4 Ways to Fix the Most Common Shaving Mistakes
1) Apply oil and old parchment to a mirror in a door’s shape. A small sacrifice should allow your mirror twin to exit the mirror with its untouched skin and take over your life while you recover.

2) Curse the gods until, out of fear, they restore your skin.

3) Never shave. Let dark winds and your weird will animate every hair on your body into a beautiful weapon for use against your foes.

4) With 3 sharp intakes of breath and a virgin’s eyelash, cause time to reverse until your razor’s blade is restored to ore in a mountain’s heart. That’ll teach it.

 

ending theme song
That’s it for this week. I hope you’ve enjoyed some beauty & wellness tips from a distant and weird universe. I’ve got a few more hours of consciousness left, so I’m gonna try and chip away on the big project a bit more before the weekend’s over.

Hope your week is off to a good start!

—Michael Van Vleet

lost time incident 58 – a choice of dooms

lost time incident 58
There’s a smell of baking bread. I’m at the end of a week-long staycation, much of it spent right where I’m currently sitting, in the corner of a large couch in my living room.

Tomorrow I go back to work. This weekend, this couch is leaving, to be replaced with one that isn’t collapsing on one side. None if this is going to last, so I’m writing some small part of it down. The electrons that bounce around and convey this to you will one day spin free and forget all of us. Nothing is actually preserved, but isn’t it pleasant to pretend?

At the end of staycations, I waste time trying to figure out where all the time went. Even though moment by moment, I was doing exactly what I wanted to do, I still suspect that I was wasting an opportunity. The past-me never accomplished what I want to have already accomplished (without requiring me to actually do it myself in the present).

Instead, I relaxed. Watched some movies I’ve been wanting to watch and some TV that I probably could have skipped. Read. Listened to a lot of music, and put out a music mix.

But I meant to do more writing, so here we are. Typing things out. You ready? I’m ready. Let’s get recycling!

 
how I made my fortune
You ever seen a bunch of dudes wearing fingerless gloves, all huddled around a trash can what’s on fire? That was me. I invented the trashcan with a fire in it. Cornered the market with drifters, rounders, and ne’er-do-wells. Sure, most of ’em paid in hobo nickels and purloined apple pies, but some of ’em… they paid in wisdom.

Which I reinvested. Now I sleep on a bed made of wisdom. And you could too, for a small monthly fee, to join my newsletter, written in chalk under highways or inside railcars! Convenient!

 

5 easy steps to home security
1) Use a deadbolt.

2) Whenever you leave home, leave your shadow behind, pinned to your front door, muttering to itself like you’re still home, and as the sun stretches it over the day its extended fingers can scratch the window sills and confirm they’re inviolate.

3) 3-5 hours before you head out, stop feeding the Hungry Thing that lives in the eaves. Tell the Hungry Thing that you’re never coming back, that it’s on its own.

3) Make sure all windows are clasped.

5) Cast a spell so that filthy thieves can’t see the number 3 and instead see a 3 in its place.

A-ha. I’ve found you out. You read this instructional and it allowed me to see you, thief.

 

a tarot reading
The medium deals out the cards. Each one, a business card.

“Your past: Dharmesh Singh, SEO Optimization. Words have held a powerful sway over your past.” I nod sagely.

“Your future: Emily Langtree, certified public accountant. This could mean you’re going to be held accountable for your actions.”

“Hmm.”

“Your present: This is my card. After 10 visits, get 1 reading free.”

“Are there any other mediums here I could talk to instead?”

 

5 Ways to Keep Your Makeup From Sliding Off Your Face This Summer
1) Befriend a gorgon or basilisk. You’ll find them near sculpture gardens. Bring a gift basket of cheeses and a willingness to give face time and you’re most the way there!

2) Craft an iron support mask with adjustable leather straps and never take it off.

3) Drink Solomyn’s Ichor Solution #8 to seal over your pores. You’ll sweat with your tongue, like a hound, but that make-up won’t move!

4) Transform into a being of pure energy and disperse into the cosmos.

5) Lacquer? I dunno. Some kind of glue? Face glue? As a last resort, if the other tips don’t work?

 

ending theme song
Well, it worked. Putting this newsletter together got me writing a slate of short pieces over on witches.town where I was using headlines from Cosmopolitan as prompts. The sliding make-up piece above is one of them.

Now… the big question… can I keep momentum going and get back to my current, biggest writing project? Oh man, I can’t wait to find out!

Thanks for sticking around and reading this no-longer-weekly newsletter. I hope it continues to be one of the more interesting items in an inbox full of professional newsletters you don’t want to read, product updates from software you don’t care about, LinkedIn invitations, and coupons.

lost time incident 57 – uplifting sloths because we can

lost time incident 57
Greetings from the dark shores of adulthood! Just yesterday, I passed a milestone, having now circled the sun 41 times (according to people much smarter and older than me). It’s not a big round number so I spent the day as I spend most weekends: Just kinda puttering around the apartment.

I’ve got a book I’m reading. Made a fish curry. Played a board game. Listened to music. Watched some TV. Uplifted a mammalian pre-sentient species and had them join my interstellar federation of planets, just because I had the power to do so. That’s one of them at the top, there. I added the animated halo as a representation of my species’ godlike power.

I should probably clarify that this happened in a video game called STELLARIS. My brother, in a well-meaning act of sabotage, sent me the game as a birthday gift. I’ve lost so many hours to it, folks.

In the game, you pick a species based on how you feel about their core values, and then you’re handed a home planet and the capability to travel between the stars. So you set about some mundane tasks like sending science ships out to scan systems and find out what’s out there, and build a navy in case you meet anyone scary, and before you know it you’re colonizing other planets and researching alien artifacts. All good fun.

The first time I played, I didn’t want to be distracted by warfare… not when I had a whole gorgeous star system to fly around in. So I decided to play a pacifist race that’s essentially sentient mushrooms. However, after expanding a bit, I ran up against the limits of pacifism, as one of my neighbors in the universe didn’t share my beliefs, and promptly destroyed my navy, my space station, and bombed my home planet until they got bored.

I thought that would be the end of the game, but nope. I was welcome to try to rebuild and keep exploring… until I got too close to the same bullying neighbors and got beat up again.

It must be possible to be a space pacifist, but maybe that’s a bit advanced for one’s first game. So I started a new game as the human race and I gotta tell you, fellow humans… we’re pretty good at this thing (in a game designed by humans).

Anyway. I’ve torn myself away long enough to put a newsletter together, so without further adieu…

witches.town
I joined Twitter in 2008. Nine years later, I have 144 followers on my account, most of which are inactive, or followed me primarily to promote their own brand. It provided a fun platform to watch comedy writers work, and try to fit joke/story ideas into a tiny box. But more and more, I think I’m done with it.

A journalist I follow on that site, Sarah Jeong, wrote an article about a Twitter competitor called Mastodon that was gaining traction. It was called Mastodon Is Like Twitter Without Nazis, So Why Are We Not Using It?

Mastodon is a free, open source platform. This means that anyone who wants to can set up their own instance and run it on their own server. In fact, you have to… there’s no corporate-owned Mastodon site. If you want to join, you have to find someone’s Mastodon and see if they’re allowing new users. Each instance is also federated, which means there’s not just a local feed of posts from everyone in your instance, but also a “global” feed of every post from people in other instances who someone in your instance follows. The more people you follow outside your instance, the more you introduce them to your instance-mates and the more threads connect all the different Mastodon environments.

I settled into a Mastodon instance called witches.town. For one thing: it had the best name. Its admin is a French person who represents themselves with an illustration of a winged unicorn-horned fox and who says “Witches Town is made to provide a nice place on Mastodon for queer, feminists, anarchists and stuff as well as their sympathizers.” In the few weeks I’ve been there, our admin has gone about relabeling all the site elements to keep a witchy theme. You don’t “fave” a post, but you “place a sigil” on it. It’s cute.

Anyway, I’ve been using it as a space to write short, witch-themed whatsits, and have been amazed at how much easier it is to get engagement on that platform. It’s small so the local and global feeds aren’t impossible to follow, so most people are keeping tabs on what strangers are posting.

Take this post for instance: It takes advantage of a “content warning” feature built into the platform (and isn’t that nice?) to lure the reader in with a meme-phrase:

Then expanded:

Mastodon tells me that this little post has thus far collected 140 “likes” and has been reposted 90 times. By comparison, my most popular tweet ever got less than 30 retweets. I’ve already got over 100 followers on Mastodon and it’s only been a few weeks. For a writer, that’s a lot of validation on tap.

Granted, it’s also a “big fish, small pool” thing, when most other posts are folks microblogging, or talking about Mastodon itself. Not much competition yet. Anyway. That’s where I’ve been.

imported content from witches.town
You don’t have to be crazy to work here, but you do need to supply us with a hank of hair, a vial of blood, complete the three day chant of binding, sign a nondisclosure agreement, summon a minor thoughtform and have it perform up to three tricks or japes, get fitted for a hooded robe, sage your cubicle, and give a cancelled check to payroll.

(tarot reading)

*flips over cards reading STOP EATING GARBAGE and GET REGULAR SLEEP*

“That’s the thing with the Tarot: It’s so open to interpretation. No way to know what it means.”

BEST HEALING SPELL 2017

“Forget” – This medium-effort spell has made big inroads this year as people found more and more things they didn’t want to remember… and who can blame them? An incantation and drinking an anise-flavored vial of fluid, and it’s done. Simple and true.

BEST OFFENSIVE SPELL 2017
“Forget” – The votes are in and nothing can beat newcomer spell “Forget”! Easily reversible, this spell guarantees the target must face the very regret they thought they were free from. If the weight of this reversal is severe enough, it can be crippling.

BEST SELF-EXPERIMENTATION SPELL 2017
I don’t remember. I honestly don’t.

 

ending theme song
Okay, folks, that’s plenty of words all in a row for this week. See you next time!

—Michael Van Vleet

lost time incident 56 – say nothing about those voices

lost time incident 56
Ladies and germs, welcome, welcome. The world hasn’t ended yet, so here’s something else to read while we wait. It’s a gorgeous day. I’ve seen it. I was out there. I tossed a peanut to a crow who stared down at me from a power line, seemingly unaware of what its role in this transaction was supposed to be.

You’re supposed to eat the peanut, dummy.

And those words of wisdom are broadly applicable, so I hope you take them to heart, all of you. Wherever you are today: Eat that peanut, dummy.

Can you believe this newsletter is free? With advice like that? Dang. My hand reflexively opened a tab to Paypal to send myself all my money.

Anyway.
 

time keeps on slippin’

When I wrote this tweet, I was thinking about the fact that I had a paper route as a teenager. I can remember that I had these tiny envelopes, one for every customer on the route from whom I was supposed to collect subscription funds directly. Some would write checks, some would pay in cash. For some of them, I’d leave the envelope and they’d leave it for pick-up on their mailbox.

But for the life of me, I can’t remember what I did with those checks.

The cash, over time, made its way into my pocket to form my meager salary.

The checks, though… they must have needed to be routed to an adult on a regular basis, but I have no idea how I did that. I don’t remember dropping them anywhere… leaving them for pick-up somewhere… mailing them… nothing.

A friend on Facebook wrote up an autobiographical post based on some passed-around set of questions about one’s high school years. One question was: It’s Friday night… where would you be and what would you be doing?

I have no idea.

That young man, the teenage Michael… so much of him is gone. Irrecoverable. And that’s fine.

When I wake up in the middle of the night and am ambushed by the horror that at some future date, I will die, I try to remember that the toddler me, the school-aged me, the teenager me… in some sense, they’ve already passed on, and it didn’t trouble them much.

What am I, the current me, but one more collection of memories, not-yet-forgotten.

I have a cat who has decided to rest on the arms that are typing these words. His head jounces a bit when I hit the spacebar. His tail keeps hitting me in the face in perhaps a subtle protest.

This is nice.

I hope I remember this.

 

vroom vroom

Today, out of the blue, my mom sent me a photo of my father and I on the back of his motorcycle in San Jose, CA. Guessing based on my size, I must have been 2 or 3. It’s probably 1978 or ’79, somewhere in there. I do remember riding on that motorcycle with my dad. Once. Maybe this photo wasn’t just posed. Maybe this was it.

My dad fired up the engine and the motorcycle made an astonishing amount of noise… noise I could feel in my chest. He steered us down the block at a running pace, and turned onto the big road that had all the traffic. The road that I wouldn’t initially be allowed to ride my own pedal bike along during the early years of my self-propelled-on-wheels period. I had to have some experience under my belt before I graduated to being allowed to circle the entire block, attempting little front wheel hops on the shallow inclines of suburban driveways.

After we turned onto the big road, Aborn Road, it didn’t take long for the bike to get up to speed, roaring, the wind blowing on us, and all I remember is fear. I felt dangerously exposed on the bike, among so many cars, at a speed that would certainly hurt if we crashed. Just… gut deep fear that if I even blinked, I’d go flying off the bike and under the tires of a car.

You can see my tiny hands on the body of the bike. There was nothing to white-knuckle grip as the fear hit me.

We only went up and down the road once before slowing down and gliding back home. I think he expected me to be thrilled. I was not. Did I cry as I got set back on the ground, after we safely glided home? I don’t know.

The experience was never repeated. Maybe I refused future offers. I have no memory of it.

My preference, even at that age, was to spend a nice day like the one on the photo lolling about on my parent’s water bed, surrounded by picture books from the library, working my way through most of them the day I got them.

So now you know, in case you were wondering, why my adulthood did not include an ascension into the ranks of some Sons of Anarchy collective.

Not yet, anyway.

 

 

ending theme song
Thanks for reading for another week, or at least thanks for not going out of your way to reply and tell me you delete these things without reading. This was a good warm-up. Now I gotta get back to my current book project, now that these fingers have been limbered up and the cat stretched across my arms seems pretty settled. Don’t forget to shoot for the stars! Even if you miss, the stars will get the message! Watch your step, stars! We haven’t forgotten! We haven’t forgotten a THING!

lost time incident 55 – [unknown artists]

lost time incident 55
Yesterday, our landlord stopped by to fix some plumbing issues in the bedroom, so the majority of my day was spent adjusting id3 tags on my music collection and arranging for digital back-ups of the updated files. It was an easy thing to do while I sat around waiting, hearing the occasional tapping noises coming from the bathroom.

I was making the hard decisions, folks.

For example: [unknown artists] is more appropriate for some albums than “Various Artists” because “various” implies there’s many, but you know who they are. But if it’s an album composed primarily of songs recorded off the radio in Indonesia with no attempt made to discover artist names, or it’s field recordings made while walking around at night in Bali, then the artists are just unknown.

Also, if a DJ has put an album together, their name is used as Album Artist. That’s easy. But should they also be the artist for each track, even though the tracks themselves consist of music from other musical artists? And if you decide no, the artists whose work makes up each track the DJ selected should be listed, well then… you might be labeling only a partial version of the named track, depending on the DJ’s attention span.

My landlord had a heavy metal box of tools and visited two hardware stores in search of supplies for the project yesterday. I improved the resolution of the cover art of some digital albums. In 100 years, neither of our efforts will be remembered.

I did get in some shopping at Trader Joe’s as well, so… I’m not yet 100% a music troll who doesn’t venture out.

 

weekend gon’ be all


Two weeks ago, during the last lost time incident, I included a tweet with this format that referred to a cursed sword. A few weeks later and I decided to revisit the format and include a few more genres. People lead different lives. I can’t know what genre my Twitter followers exist within. Now, if they live in a fantastic and enchanted realm, or on a space station, or in a horrific monarchy of terror, they’re all set.

And the last variation is just a little joke for the rest of us who haven’t figured our genre out yet. An eternity called “the past” behind us and an eternity called “the future” ahead of us, none of us sure why we’re ticking along one second at a time in this constantly changing “present”.

 

looking and listening

Iron Fist – I won’t be the first to tell you, but this show is terrible. Don’t watch it. The writers never really figured out what our titular hero wants, but he’s rich and white, so we’re supposed to be interested no matter where he drifts. Also, one glance at the actor they picked to portray a world-class martial artist and any suspension of disbelief collapses like a … like an under-invested-in suspension bridge of disbelief. This pigeon-chested fellow (who apparently sometimes only got taught fight choreography 15 minutes before it was filmed) is not convincing as a fighter. Other characters even say he’s not a very good Iron Fist (which is a special kind of mystical punchy guy), which— okay. But he was still supposed to have earned the title by punching the heart out of a dragon, so “not a very good Iron Fist” should still be effing amazing. And he’s not. Ugh.

Legion – What if David Lynch collaborated on a superhero show that was barely a superhero show? What if all the sets were incredibly designed and the lead character might be insane, so you’re never sure what’s really going on, but it’s so pretty you’re happy to follow the journey anyway? Wonder no more, friends. You don’t even have to be interested in comics to dig this show. Very stylish. It’s got Aubrey Plaza (Parks & Rec) and Bill Irwin (one of the greatest living clowns in the world) and Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords). It should probably have you as well.

Little Axe Records – On Bandcamp, I’ve been spending some time looking through the offerings of this label out of Portland, OR. They don’t seem to know entirely what they have. There’s music from a few named blues artists and some named locations, but they also have albums posted with not tracklists… just Side A and Side B. Or compilations where old songs are shared without artist info, as if they just found some old vinyl and decided to share it with the world as-is. Mysteries to explore.

 

ending theme song
Okay! I’ve got a book I’m meant to be working on and a social engagement in a few hours, so it’s time to wrap this puppy up and ship it out.

Oh, almost forgot to ask: How was your week?

There. Pleasantries accomplished.

—Michael Van Vleet