Category Archives: lost time incident

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

lost time incident 67 – unknown intelligences love matching outfits

lost time incident 67
Hello there, fellows! I’m writing to you with a cat draped across my arms, but he’s more interested in being warm than in actually helping me type this thing out. In this partnership, one of us definitely benefits more than the other.

These newsletters have been going out less often because I’ve been emulating cloistered monks, hiding away for entire weekends in favor of writing and editing. I have a major writing project that’s in its last days and in order to stay on track, I’ve installed a browser plugin to keep me focused. It only gives me 30 minutes of social media/goofing off time between the hours of 10 and 5 on the weekend. Once the time limit is reached, all of those pages are blocked with no way to convince my browser to unlock them.

I’ve outsourced my willpower. It’s incredible. There are so many areas in my life where I’d like to follow this model, as I share with Oscar Wilde the ability to resist anything save for temptation.

But here and there, I’ve written some short pieces. My current project is about witches, and long-time readers of this newsletter know that I’ve been using a Mastodon instance called witches.town as a place to do writing exercises, so the supernatural has been on my brain. There were several times I used the current day as a writing prompt, which you’ll see collected in a section below.

Anyway, here’s some stuff that first saw light over at witches.town! Enjoy!

 

2017 “rising stars” in the world of bog witchcraft
Once again, we’ve got the latest rankings!

The Cobble Sisters – From the bottom of a well, this trio has drowned so many lost children that schools are closing! Leave some dreamy children who don’t make friends easily and like to wander in the swamp for the rest of us, ladies!

The Cold One – Everyone’s seeing their breath this year and it’s never good news! Hell’s never been colder! Brrr!

Ed – Perennial favorite! He’s the only one who knows where our hearts are entombed and he won’t let us rest if he doesn’t win, even though you can’t keep being a “rising star” by the very definition of the phrase, Ed! Please, Ed! Set us free!

 

it’s [day of the week] and you know what that means
It’s Saturday and we all know what that means! It’s time to draw sigils on our faces with mud, so She Who Devours Beauty will pass over our house and slake her terrible ruby hunger in some other village! Get really creative with masking your good looks! Remember that different muds dry in different colors. Try layering!

It’s Sunday and you know what that means! It’s the day of the week where we retire to the village tombs and retrace the chalk likenesses of our enemies we’ve drawn on the crypt’s walls, restoring details that have faded since our last visit, making sure that our beloved village dead know the countenances of our hated rivals so they can visit them all week, stepping out of shadows, whispering hateful things in dreams, clawing at their souls, haunting them until the day our enemies too sink beneath the soil!

It’s Thursday and you know what that means! Time to gather at the water’s edge and watch the shelled things that live in the Deep come ashore with their claws, and drive them back with sticks and rocks, lest we be plucked up and carried off to live our lives as pearls under the sea!

It’s Saturday and you know what that means! Time to write out our wishes in melted wax on the surface of our most prized position, then drop it into the darkness that houses The Mouth of Voids! It will devour our desire so that finally, finally, we can stop hoping for anything to happen and live like lizards, unthinking, in the warm sun!

 

damn it, gary
a) Gary said there was a line at the dry cleaners, so we didn’t get our eclipse robes in time and now the human sacrifice says he’s got a thing to go do and the sun’s back, so WAY TO GO, Gary, the eclipse is ruined.

Guess the UNBLINKING EYE FROM THE FROSTS BELOW THE STARS is just gonna have to sleep even longer before rending this world, GARY.

b) There’s always that one guy in your cult who hemmed his robe a little too high and when you should be chanting and focusing on your ceremonial dagger, all you can think about is how you can see Gary’s white athletic socks. Damn it, Gary.

c) Did you know that “virgin blood” doesn’t actually have to belong to a virgin? All the phrase meant was “blood that has not been used in an unholy ritual yet”.

“So the ritual didn’t work out?”
“No. Turns out the blood wasn’t virgin.”
“What?”
“Yeah, Gary just brought some from home. Said later he used it ‘a little’ and didn’t think it would matter.”
“Oh, c’mon, Gary.”
“It’s always something with Gary. If he didn’t pay the lease for this forgotten crypt, he’d be out of the coven SO fast.”

ending theme song
Night is here! It grows cold! Other than that, things are fine.

Soon, I will lie paralyzed, hallucinating in a socially-acceptable manner. You call it sleep… but we all know it’s madness to succumb to it without a struggle! It comes! Sleep comes! None are spared!

Save yourselves!

—Michael Van Vleet


Hey! Did you enjoy reading this? But did you find yourself thinking “Dang, if only this sort of thing were delivered directly into my inbox so I didn’t have to spend time on a website as if it were still the 90s or something!”?

You’re in luck! You can subscribe to the LOST TIME INCIDENT newsletter and finally class up your inbox. Wouldn’t it be nice to get something other than solicitations from websites you bought a single item from four years ago?

lost time incident 66 – epitaph for a dying world

lost time incident 66
Hey, everybody! How are you doing? (Please address your answers directly at whatever screen you’re reading this on. Don’t worry, I’ll get your reply. Technology is amazing.)

Speaking of technology, I’m trying something new this weekend. I finally broke down and decided that if I was serious about getting some writing done, I was going to have to cripple my computer so my time-wasting proclivities were rendered unavailable. I got a browser plugin that blocks websites, gave it the URLs of all my favorite time-sucks, and said: Please keep these from me between the hours of 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.

(Actually, as a baby step, I allow 30 minutes of goofing off during that 7 hour window, but after that’s gone, the sites are blocked.)

Now that I have a technological babysitter, the word count progress has gone up, folks! Managed a scene and a half for my current big fiction project yesterday! Today, I’ve knocked out a long personal email, then put this together, and it’s not even noon.

Oh internet, you devil! Get thee behind me!

So what do we have for you this week? We’ve got video game titles and another riff on women’s health blog titles, plus a fictional fragment born of too much time spent on YouTube. Then we wrap things up with a tour through a lifetime of questionable role-playing game character choices.

Sound good?

Let’s go!

 

add to cart
Welcome to Biff’s House of Discount Video Game Titles! How can we help you today?

We’ve got ’em all, we’ve got:

  • BZORK II: Quest for Bzork I
  • Blood and Helmets
  • World Rainbow Clash
  • Bird Boxing
  • Caverns of Goop
  • Quarter-Eating Maniacs
  • Centimillipede: TOO MANY LEGS!
  • Winds of Elgorathathoninite
  • HEY! The Game
  • Skate or Die or Do Something Else
  • Rose Pruning Emulator 2009
  • Wheels of Elves
  • 16-bit Bit Collector
  • The Quest for Eight Cheeses
  • STLAXZ
  • Press Any Button to Win

 

skip in 5
Before my uncle’s funeral, an ad starts and we, the family, look at each other awkwardly. Is it rude to skip the ad after 5 seconds because it makes us look eager to mourn? Or is it worse to watch the entire ad?

What if the company is advertising a way to bring my uncle back? What if we’d only find out at the end, after the pretty people finish driving their new car down winding roads to ukulele music, hair blowing in the wind, a young woman’s foot out the window bobbing in time?

 

7 things that make you look older than you really are

  1. Not getting enough sleep
  2. Overindulging in alcohol
  3. Accidentally referring to your friends by the names of the ancestors they resemble.
  4. Ignoring horoscopes because “All the stars move anyway, so who cares.”
  5. Enjoying swing music.
  6. The section of your wardrobe made from woven reeds and lizard pelts.
  7. At every opportunity, you mention “This all used to be underwater” while gesturing at everything. “Learning to breathe oxygen on land was a mistake.”

 

autobiography: terrible role-playing characters i have been
I was exchanging emails with a friend recently, comparing the extent to which our lives have been infused with geeky pursuits. I ended up revisiting the role-playing characters I have played in various groups and a common thread emerged: They were mostly terrible.

Let’s visit some highlights, shall we?

Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play
Man! Look at that cover! Monsters getting stabbed up! A dwarf with a punk rock haircut and tattoos! I was maybe 10 years old and was invited to play Warhammer with the son of my piano teacher and his circle of friends. I didn’t know any of them. My piano teacher invited me to join them, so I was forced on them. They were nice enough about it.

For some reason, when I was asked to create a character, instead of an amazing wizard or berserk dwarf, I said “I’m going to be a human. A hypnotist.” In this game, the variety of jobs and backgrounds you could choose from was, frankly, overwhelming. That doesn’t explain why I picked “hypnotist” besides being amused by the fact that it was even listed.

Would you believe that hypnotism never came in handy as we ventured in the woods and fought little green monsters called Snotlings?

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons
I was in high school and some well-meaning teacher told me my attempts at poetry were pretty good. It was a nice gesture, but that teacher has to take some of the blame for why I thought it would be fun to play a poetry-spouting bard. Ugh. Awful. Would you believe poetry never helped us win a fight? Or advance the plot?

Vampire: The Masquerade
In high school, I somehow managed to befriend the coolest oddball in town: a young man named Jim who had long hair, shaved on the side, wore a leather jacket, was emancipated from his parents, had a delightfully dry wit and laconic delivery… all rarities in suburban Wisconsin. He was a year or two older than I was and had actual living-in-the-adult-world adult friends who still role-played together, and participated in Rocky Horror Picture Show screenings and whatnot. I once tagged along with Jim to a couple’s apartment in Milwaukee to play Vampire. The vampire character I created was a priest. (Oooh! Ironic!)

I also decided I wanted this character to know Jean-Claude Van Damme-levels of martial arts because I was a teenage boy. During the adventure, I realized that because of how I had apportioned my character’s skills, I had somehow overlooked selecting any actual expertise in religion. The Catholic collar he wore was 100% affectation, it turned out. He did manage to kick somebody’s head off with his kung fu, but then enemies with guns showed up and it was made clear that I had continued my streak of next-to-worthless party members. You can’t punch bullets.

Call of Cthulhu I joined a virtual session of this game where the participants were all on webcams. Prior to playing, I had been purchasing and reading true crime magazines from vintage bookstores like Kayo Books in San Francisco, so I decided my character should be the editor of a true crime magazine.

This editor joined a librarian and a gangster to solve a possible murder at a lighthouse, but when night fell and supernatural horrors were encountered, it became abundantly clear that a guy with a camera and a pocket knife was well out of his depth. I actually had my character sensibly run away when the first demonic opponent appeared. I was free and clear, having successfully abandoned the party. But then I realized that if I was true to my character, he wouldn’t stop until he had fled the city and likely the state and my part of the game would be over. And then what was I going to do with my night?

So against all common sense, I had him turn around and attempt to be a hero. But really, it was the gangster and his gun who handled everything.

I don’t have any answers for how I was consistently the least useful party member of any roleplaying group I was invited to join. But the evidence is damning.

 

ending theme song
Doo doot doo-doo dooooooo. Do laaaaaaa la la la dooo.

You have successfully reached the end of this adventure. Jot down on your character sheet that you’ve got 250 experience points. You also have 38 gold pieces, 18 silver pieces, and an Elven Necklace of Shielding. Way to go!

—Michael Van Vleet


Hey! Did you enjoy reading this? But did you find yourself thinking “Dang, if only this sort of thing were delivered directly into my inbox so I didn’t have to spend time on a website as if it were still the 90s or something!”?

You’re in luck! You can subscribe to the LOST TIME INCIDENT newsletter and finally class up your inbox. Wouldn’t it be nice to get something other than solicitations from websites you bought a single item from four years ago?

lost time incident 65 – hide your identity and keep your family safe

lost time incident 65
Greetings to each and every one of your inboxes! It’s so great to be here, taking up space next to all the special offers you get from every business you’ve ever made the mistake of giving your email address. I hope this is one of the emails you look forward to, even though we’re not giving you coupons. On the plus side, we’re also not asking for money.

Unless that’s something we could do. Should we be asking for money? Do you have too much money? Because I absolutely have ideas for non-essential things that money-that-wasn’t-mine could be spent on.

Did you know that the majority of funds raised by sites like GoFundMe now are for healthcare costs? There are so many people in dire straits and their only option is to funnel as much money as they can from their peer group (and generous strangers) into the coffers of insurance companies and healthcare providers.

It wouldn’t be so bad if we knew that the average healthcare provider was, say, blowing fat stacks on Etsy and supporting artists. Keeping non-profits open for the coming year with their giant charity checks. Building schools. Sponsoring libraries. But they don’t. They just take our money and they eat and digest it and form health cocoons that they enter to transcend their human form and disappear to live among the stars.

I assume. I don’t know anyone who works in healthcare, or insurance, so I can’t confirm that’s 100% true.

Anyway, I promise you this: If I get a fatal and/or expensive disease, I am 100% starting a GoFundMe, but none of that money is going to healthcare. I am only spending the money collected on stupid stuff. Like: I’ll pay someone $50 for a nice stick, I don’t care. I don’t even need a stick, but dang, if it’s nice? $50, gimme. It ain’t my money. Who cares. Bury me with that stick.

I’ll turn on a webcam and try to make a papier mache of my face with paste and $100 bills. I’ll fail, too. So what. I don’t know anything about papier mache. I had to Google how to spell it.

Anyway. Thanks for reading. This week, my brain has been full of Lovecraft-style cosmic horror and the banality of social media. Due to the curse of literacy, know that if you continue, your brain will also be full of the same things. TURN BACK NOW, soft-hearted children! It’s your last chance!

 

every little bit helps
Please support my Patreon!

$1/month – I will write your name in my dread book in blood, but that’s it. Nice calligraphy, tho!

$5/month – I will mention you to the Coldest Nebula during weekly summoning

$10/month – We can meet for lunch and you can taste my sacrificial blade (not a euphemism)

$50/month – When the mountains crumble and you are out of tears, the Mouth Beneath Everything will take you last

$100/month – OMG you’re the best! I’ll send nudes. (Also, you’ll be saved when the stars fall, etc. etc.)

 

a fun quiz for friends
This is just a bit of fun! Copy and paste for your friends. Can you fill this out honestly?

Last time you were kissed: Today

Have you ever held hands during a fireworks show? Yes

Favorite song: “Hey Ya”

Have you ever traveled out of your country? Yes

Have you ever felt a pressure pushing in on the walls of the world from some cold other place? Yes

Favorite kind of music: The haunting music, a humming from the stars, getting ever closer

Can you hear me? Can you hear me calling from this dark place? Yes

Favorite color: A color I can’t name. Words fail.

Cats or dogs? It is all beasts. It has all names.

Can you help? No

When’s the last time you had a crush? The pressure is unbearable.

Can you help? Yes. Yes, I can help. I can share the message. I can quiet the humming. I will let everyone know.

True friends will copy & paste & tag [all] people so they can fill this out as well! Fun!

 

this town’s carnival
The Carnival came to town and they’ve got all the rides. The Slide of Mirrors. Fish Throw. The Widening Gyre. Pick the Brick. Goldfish Graduation Ceremony. The House of Spooks. Kiss Tunnel 4000.

The guy who works the booth smokes too much. In the haze, you can barely see the balloons you’re throwing darts at, the open mouth clowns you’re spraying water at, the criminals working off their community service by dodging softballs. Mostly dodging.

The dunk tank is full of Dr. Squib because that’s the town’s biggest employer. All the brown noses trying to get dunked. Making their resumes soggy.

I hate this town.

 

ending theme song
You want to know the craziest thing about that online quiz piece above? I posted it, thinking the joke was obvious: Both the questions and the responses speak to some outerdimensional, malevolent force acting on the poster. But someone actually reposted it! And added their answers! And then, someone else ALSO answered it!

Crazy, man. So you can’t underestimate the lure of those dumb online quiz things.

“But Michael,” you may be thinking. “What did they answer to questions such as ‘Have you ever felt a pressure pushing in on the walls of the world from some cold other place?'” Well, I’ll tell you.

One of them just said “Nope.” Fair enough.

The other person: “Maybe.” So maybe there’s cause for concern?

That’s for you to decide, dear reader. Let us know in the comments what you think! (There’s no comments.)

With all the fondness a human heart can muster,

—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 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

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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.