Category Archives: lost time incident

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

lost time incident 42 – vote for me, fish

lost time incident 42
Clouds moved in overnight and there was a little rain. I saw a bee visiting the tree right outside my front door. I’ve read that both of these things are endangered now. We don’t get much rain here anymore. Bees are struggling.

For now, I have coffee and music and light. I’m actively appreciating it.

Saw DOCTOR STRANGE yesterday, so I’m reconsidering my career options. Being a sorcerer looks like fun. Read lots of books, wave your hands around. The movie didn’t mention salaries, though, so there’s still some research to be done.

They gave us an hour back last night. We should do that more often. Hours are nice.


nonsense from twitter

Obviously, the election’s been front of mind this week. The world insists on delivering an actually terrifying election season, instead of one full of magic use, immortal candidates, and murderous monoliths made out of foodstuffs.

[My opponent claims that, if elected, she’ll trap our enemies in the Mountain of Mirrors. How can we trust her when her own arch-nemesis dwells beyond the stars and regular haunts our dreams with visions of birds that speak in blood and fire?]

[When my insect messengers arrive, allow them to collect your vote in their mandibles to bring them back to my Voting Hive. Every vote for me will be consumed and transformed into the honey this nation needs. We make the best, most corrosive honey.]

This election really needs to hurry up and be over with.


If I had a nickel for every nickel I had, I would soon be overwhelmed by the unending river of nickels I would keep getting. Where would I put them? I live in a second floor apartment! The floors can’t take the weight! I don’t want to be responsible for having so many nickels that their weight destroys the floor and murders my downstairs neighbors in a deluge of coins!

You can lead a horse to water. You can lead a horse into the water. You can tell your horse that it’s been a fish this whole time. Your horse doesn’t give a damn. Your horse knows that you’re full of bad ideas. It’s just waiting for you to leave. Then it’s gonna learn agriculture and it’s going to grow its own damn apples.

A bird in the hand is terrified. Is that worth something to you? Feeling its heart beating at a frantic pace, unsure what you’re going to do next? You’re telling the bird it’s been a fish this whole time. You’re just going to lead it to water. Why do you do this? This bird just wants you to let go. It doesn’t want to swim. Is its terror worth something to you?

There are other fish in the sea. Many of those fish weren’t fish before you lead them to water. You declared they were all fish. They did not believe you. What were you doing? Leave the water alone. Leave the animals alone. Is this because of the nickels? The trauma? Of seeing metal coins acting like water, flooding your home, destroying your life? And now everything must go back to the water? Is that what happened?

They were just nickels.

This is just water.

ending theme song
Wasn’t that something, folks? It was something. I don’t know what it was, but it was something. A bunch of words, all in a row.

That’s something, isn’t it?

—Michael Van Vleet

lost time incident 41 – escape is beautiful


lost time incident 41 
The sun is shining outdoors but it’s a trap. It was pouring so heavy out there a short while ago that a mermaid could’a been walking around on ‘er flippers just fine. Anyway.

The secret writing project that was keeping me busy is just about wrapped up. Handed in a second draft just yesterday. It was put together while I did my best impression of a writer: I was sitting at a dark table in a bar, being socially antisocial, sipping Scotch and typing away.

Didn’t care for it. Entirely too much sports involved, on the four visible TV screens.

The writing part was okay.

So with that done, today I had time to watch a movie. That’s a good time. You guys like movies?


nonsense from twitter


two-sentence scary things
A family moves into an old house where the previous occupants were murdered. The cable company tries to get them to pay the previous occupants’ outstanding balance!

A young boy pushes his sister into a well. She survives and climbs out and one day becomes a tax attorney!

A hiker, alone in the woods, is pursued and bitten by a mysterious beast! And it turns out to be someone who likes to bite people, then talk about politics!

For sale, baby shoes, never worn. The baby learned how to levitate and had telekinesis and threw people around and never needed shoes!

A person who looks just like you reads a dumb newsletter. AND THEN bEHIND THeM IS SOMETHING SCARY!

Okay, I have to stop there, because some of you are getting worked up. But no, I keep keep going and your heart can’t take it and explodes and sets fire to your home!

ending theme song
Well, that’s going to do it for us. Everyone else in this room with me is asleep at 7:30 p.m. Two cats and a wife. One of the cats is on my lap. On the TV: A fake landscape of a rural path, with rain sounds and Chinese-sounding flute. The rumbling of ersatz thunder.

Oops. It just got stuck in a thunder loop. Eight to ten quick thunders and then the video ended. Weird way to end that.

Weird way to end this.

—Michael Van Vleet

lost time incident 40 – words words words


lost time incident 40
The crows by the train station know me now. They know I’ve got peanuts in my pocket and all they have to do is get my attention on mornings when I’m not awake yet, stumbling along, a podcast in my ears. Swooping above me seems to work, or landing nearby.

Other than firming up those neighborhood relationships, I don’t know that much happened this last week.

This weekend did include some walking around. A bit of grocery shopping. Visited the Himalayan/Indian grocery and got some spices that might lead to making a chickpea dish in the near future… once I get some chickpeas.

But mostly I’ve been writing.

Last weekend, I finished the first draft of a secret writing project. My Monday morning was made as the folks I’m working with started giving plenty of positive feedback and great suggestions for improvement.

So this weekend, if I was on the couch, I was expanding, rewriting, clarifying. We’re working against a mid-November due date for the publication of the e-book so it shouldn’t be too long before I feel comfortable talking about any details.

It actually hit 7 p.m. here before I realized it was Sunday and I hadn’t done a single thing for this newsletter, so this is being thrown together as quickly as I can manage.

But something good is coming!

And I’m going to get right back to it as soon as this goes out.

Bonus photo of my occasional writing companion using one of my typing hands as a pillow:

twitter nonsenseastro_urine
I think about astronauts a lot. About how badly space messes you up, even when you’re in a high tech protective cocoon. Bone loss. Muscle tone. You have to be more aware of when you should have used the restroom, because much of the process whereby your body tells you “it’s time” requires gravity as a catalyst.

We are products of the gravity well we grew up in and space doesn’t like us much.

Do you know the TV show “Steven Universe”? It’s about a little kid whose mom was some kind of gem alien. She and her friends teamed up to protect the Earth, despite not being from here. Steven grows up dealing with his mom not being around and wanting to be involved in the dangerous work of his mom’s gem alien friends and, as a half-gem alien, it seems like at some point he’s going to be a great help to them.

Anyway, it had me wanting to see a story where the entire premise is flipped. I want to see a show about some humans on an alien world where they’ve decided they should protect the local population. They hang out with a weird half-human kid who one day is going to have their innate powers, like… what… what do humans do that would seem like superpowers?

I guess it depends on the aliens.

If they don’t use speech to communicate, then talking is like telepathy. “You mean you make those weird noises and the other humans know what you’re thinking? Or it can make them DO STUFF?”

Seems like fiction is full of outsiders who want to protect humans. Just thinking it would be interesting to see the opposite. The amazing humans who can walk, protecting an alien town full of sponges who are stuck to rocks.

Might just be me.

ending theme song
Sorry to keep things short, but India is coming online in just a few hours, and I have a daily check-in with a work colleague there. Pretty soon my weekend is going to come to an end. But I still have a final act that could use some padding, a surprise twist that needs to be inserted, and a fake PSA written warning kids about an activity that, to be honest, they shouldn’t much be interested in.

Back to work!

See you in a week!

—Michael Van Vleet

lost time incident 39 – still not back


lost time incident 39
Still working this rainy weekend on my top secret writing project. The weather’s been a great help, enabling me to not even feel remotely guilty about not stepping outside. Instead I can stay in front of a computer every waking moment, listening to music and occasionally adding a few sentences or paragraphs to the work in progress.

I did, however, put some stuff on Twitter this week, so we’ve got that. The election was a big creative driver. Obviously.


stuff from Twitter


While I’m doing all this writing, I’ve been exploring soundtracks that work for me. I’ve been finding that my current project goes well with vaporwave and retrosynth. With vaporwave, I have hints of the familiar, with R&B structures washed out and pitched down, so my brain has some rhythms it knows. And when I need energy, the retrosynth propulsive sound sets a good pace.

VA-31 – “A Night On the Town” – With this album, I can listen to Michael Jackson’s PYT slowed down over 15 minutes, the vocals pitched down a soul singer’s romantic baritone.

In Love With a Ghost – “let’s go” – Last night, when I ran out of steam, I went digging through Bandcamp’s tagging system, looking for subgenre names that sounded interesting, or checking geo tags. This is how I found myself wondering what was going on musically in Slovakia. Turns out someone there is running a cassette-tape label where they put out bedroom pop artists, which is how I found this little EP of domestic sound-sampling.

ending theme song
Anyway. That’s something. Gotta get back to that other waiting browser window that still needs more words in it.

—Michael Van Vleet

lost time incident 38 – bye week


lost time incident 38
Not much going on this week on the lost time incident front. This is because I have another writing engagement that’s taking up my time and attention this week. Considering that I started this weekly writing project as a placeholder until I had a writing project, I must be on the right track.

Anyway, here’s a few things from Twitter, featuring my Halloween pseudonym:

twitter stuff

yankeecandle hadron


retro retro retro
Since I don’t have much for you this week, maybe you could be entertained by some of the retro-80s music corners I’ve been spending time in.

FORÊT DE VIN – “Another Dimension (feat. SAY)”
It’s so hard to believe that this track is from two Swedish guys, produced this year, because if you told me it was on the soundtrack to, say, Mannequin 2, I would have believed you. It’s a perfect recreation of the 80s synthpop sound. And not necessarily the cool stuff that everyone wants to pretend they were listening to in the 80s.

New Retro Wave
And here’s a label that’s doing its level best to bring back the synth musical landscapes that used to accompany movies about kids who find alien best friends, or rollerblade across the desert looking for water, or other films found in VHS clamshells.

Division – “Lost in Time”
The artist who records as Division was one I first knew under their Timecop1983 identity— and to date, that’s one of my favorite band names, as far as names-as-mission-statements go. They’re based in the Netherlands, so maybe northern Europe is where decades go to retire.


ending theme song
Anyway, I’ll be back on here when I’m out from under my other writing project. Even though I’m not doing original fiction for here, do you guys still want a weekly check-in with Twitter nonsense and notes about books/music/films/etc.?

Otherwise, I’m happy to go quiet for a while. Let me know, or leave feedback in the Facebook page.

lost time incident 37 – skeleton war photojournalist


lost time incident 37
Halloween is just around the corner so this week we have a spooky story about responsible parenting. If you are pregnant, or prone to seizures, or are “spook-averse”, please consider coming back next week, unless you have consulted your doctor and asked your doctor to subscribe to this newsletter as well. (We don’t have much representation in the medical field in our subscriber base and this is the perfect chance to address it.)

For the rest of you: Are you ready? Braced?

Okay, let’s go!


100 children
Their parents were part of the quiverfull movement, which meant they made a full time job out of making babies, plus there were some adoptions, and honestly some of them might be kids from the neighborhood or from the hobo camp down by the river. But the last time anyone counted, there were about 100 of them.

And when the parents went missing, they had to go somewhere.

Rumors of where the parents went, ranked by popularity among the children:

  • Got locked inside tanning beds, turned into human jerky, bodies hidden by the salon owners who are also now missing
  • Now living somewhere in Europe, starting their second 100 child family in a country with a social safety net
  • Car accident, probably
  • Bringing 100 souls into the world (directly or indirectly) was a task set upon them by a malevolent spirit and now their curse is lifted and they’re in Heaven
  • They’re still around, but they walk on their knees and wear kids clothes and have blended in with the 100 children, always standing in the back, keeping quiet
  • Mexico

Luckily, they had a rich uncle they knew as Uncle Earwort. Unbeknownst to him, he was listed as next of kin and on October 1st, all 100 children dismounted county buses that had transported them and their worldly possessions to his clifftop mansion. Three of the children were lost somewhere in the garden maze on the way to the front door. Eight of them remembered, rather abruptly, that they were old enough to manage their own finances, and they left to find an apartment to rent on their own.

A social worker knocked on Earwort’s front door, on behalf of the remaining 89 children. After a clipboard exchange, some signing and initialling, the social worker re-entered the garden maze and probably made it home. Who can say.

The 89 children explored the mansion, claiming rooms and cupboards, corners and cabinets for their new sleeping space. Four of them found the secret second basement beneath the first basement, but unfortunately it was never completed and was without an exit.

After a family meeting and a speech about the importance of education, 23 children were told to pack up again as they were off to an exclusive boarding school in Bestonia (tourist slogan: The BEST of the -Onias!) where they would learn diplomacy, fencing, bird mastery, and forest-dwelling.

Soon, it was Halloween. 28 children didn’t come back from Trick-or-Treating. They may have eaten so much sugar that they’d gone feral, living in the town’s central park, their costumes patched up as they fell into disrepair with leaves, feathers and mud layered over rubber masks. That was Uncle Earwort’s theory, but as he never visited the central park, but this theory is not regarded as terribly likely by those investigating the absence.

“I find it more interesting that 34 made it back,” Earwort has been known to say. “Obviously, as that’s a majority, I must be doing something right.”

Two of them ran away from home. Two of them went to find the two that ran away from home. Eight were seduced by strangers in online chat rooms, but it worked out, and they’re all married now and living in Kansas.

“True love wins,” Uncle Earwort was quoted as saying. “How many of you are left?” he was often known to ask. “And do you all still have separate names?”

Thirteen of the remaining children got into politics, which lead to seven of them getting deported. (Turns out their original adoption lacked some important paperwork.) Of the remaining 15, 14 went on to endure lives of quiet desperation.


Oh man, Halloween season, am I right?

Seriously, though. Please take good care of this orphan.


twitter stuff




hand o’ glory courtesy of Amanda Summers


ending theme song

Thanks for joining us again this week, or for failing to notice the unsubscribe button at the bottom of this email. Or reading it as part of the Facebook page I set up to provide a forum for feedback, or to share behind the scenes info.

Whatever got you here, thanks for being the reason I’ve stuck to giving up swathes of Sundays to knock this project out.

—Michael Van Vleet

lost time incident 36 – super radical gag family


lost time incident 36
This week: Musing on the naming of clown-faced murder boys, a haunted podcast, and some other words all in a row.

Hey everyone! Welcome back, welcome back. It is hot as heck where I am, because summer comes late in these parts. But somehow I’m keeping my water-filled limbs moving to put this newsletter together. My shoes are full of sand. Sand that used to be my feet. This is climate change. It’s here already.

My eyeballs are like 3 week old grapes. Like a deflated soccer ball floating in an almost empty swimming pool. The sun outside has removed its cool guy sunglasses and is just muttering.

Just muttering.

Muttering’s not cool.

black birds and face-painted clown revenge
A subscriber to this very newsletter was complaining on social media last week about THE CROW. Do you remember that beloved entertainment franchise? Goth-zombie revenge fantasy? Cure lyrics and Brandon Lee? I saw that film opening night, as it fulfilled both “sad teen” and “superhero” entertainment requirements in one neat little package. Like all young men, I demanded brutal efficiency to maximise my idle time.

Anyway, our friend was complaining that Brandon Lee’s character, the protagonist of THE CROW, is named Eric Draven. Which is a short hop from Eric D. Raven. And ravens are a different species from crows.

I’m sure we’re all thinking: Well, it’s not like Eric chose for a supernatural crow to lead him back from death to avenge his own murder. He may not even have noticed how ridiculous his own name was in juxtaposition, considering his path to vigilante murder.

But did you know there’ve been a number of CROW sequels? And each protagonist has a name that’s bird adjacent? We have Ashe Corven (since crows are corvids), Jimmy Cuervo (which is Spanish for crow) and Alex Corvis.

Which lead me to imagine a meeting where a film producer helps a CROW writer get started.

PRODUCER: There’s two things I know about The Crow. ONE: He’s gotta wear make-up. TWO: He’s gotta have a name what means something like “crow.”

WRITER: Well, we were going to call this next one—


WRITER: Or we could—


(hours later)


(The room is empty… a water bottle slowly rolls off the meeting room table onto the floor.)

PRODUCER: And maybe he could drink Crow-ca-Cola. Get me the Coke people on the line!

(The office lights, tied to motion sensors after hours, turn off, leaving the producer in the dark.)


Other spooky podcasts:

SOUNDS FROM OUR BASEMENT: Every week, a compilation of all the sounds the hosts heard, so you understand why they don’t go down there.

THE METAL DRAGGING ON CONCRETE POWER HOUR: Join a celebrity guest as they drag heavy tools along a concrete floor. This week: Charlie Day and a pitchfork!

I DON’T EVEN REMEMBER SUBSCRIBING TO THIS: Composed of the ambient sounds of your own home, but with some unfamiliar breathing. At first, you’re not sure you’re hearing anything, because you hear the same sounds with your headphones on or off (assuming you’re listening at home). But then there’s this weird breathing that only comes through on the podcast. What’s that about?

GOODBYE HICCUPS: Every week, at some point in this 30 minute show, someone’s going to yell BOO really loud. Should startle you and cure those hiccups.

ending theme song
It’s too hot. That’s all you get. I have to get back to letting all the water in my body return to its cloud kingdom. Please don’t miss me when I’m gone. I will be there any time it rains. If it ever rains again.

Also: You may recall that in a previous installment— and with the aid of the Facebook page I set up for this newsletter— I tried to host a giveaway for a free copy of SEXTRAP DUNGEON, a comedic choose-your-own-adventure ebook. But nobody won the thing.

So if you don’t already have a copy, and you’re quick on the draw, this ought to be the link you click on to claim the ebook for free. First come, first served. Luckily for the rest of you, just by virtue of subscribing, you’re also natural born winners! Hooray!

Okay. That’s enough of that.

—Michael Van Vleet

lost time incident 35 – mallsoft aloewave plunderphonics


lost time incident 35

Hey there, everyone! Welcome back! How did you spend the last week?

I spent part of it learning a bit more about the sounds selected by Carl Sagan and his pals that they had encoded on a record made out of gold and shot into space. They launched the golden record on Voyager with the hopes that any aliens finding it could use it to learn important stuff about humans, like what we look like naked (sorta) and where to go to meet more of us (naked or not).

It also included a track by Blind Willie Johnson called “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground.” How great is that song name? I had never heard of it, or him, which struck me as cultural negligence since apparently this work was regarded at as one of our alien-worthy cultural touchstones. So I looked it up.

I love it, but I’m not sure what an alien would make of it.

Pretend you’re an alien. What do you think?

No no. Don’t tell me. Send it to me on a record made of gold. You know how this works.


ailment fruit middle name
“Oh no, he wasn’t without sight,” said noted blues historian Edgar Grey. “He was given the nickname ‘Blind’ because he seemed incapable of anticipating the outcomes of his actions.”

“Oh no, he wasn’t given the nickname ‘Lemon,'” said noted blues historian Warren Peacock. “He was a literal lemon. He grew from a tree. The sorrow in his music was deep and informed by the plight of fruit-based musicians in the US at the time.”

“Oh no, there’s no such thing as blues history,” said noted blues revisionist Pants Volcanuts. “The music is too sad. No one can write down what happened, or who played what. Everyone who has tried has been found face down on the carpet, their laptops dead nearby, crying about deceitful women, or money woes, or the unfairness of the entire human condition. It’s the music that did that. We have no idea when the music started or for how long it will continue. But we have to act as if it will be around forever, because things aren’t getting any less sad.”


sky pirates
We caught up with Captain Windhammer, noted sky pirate, to ask him what separates a sky pirate from a regular pirate.

“About 20,000 feet!” he said, laughing. “But I kid. I tell that joke all the time. The truth is, there’s quite a bit we have in common with the pirates who work the seas below us. We both have to contend with moving through an unpredictable fluid medium. Nature is not always cooperative. We get similar sorts of crews. Many of the men working under me were without economic prospects, or real job skills, before I swooped down and recruited them.”

“And do you have any difficulty, once you’ve hired them on as sky pirates, with employee retention?”

Windhammer looked thoughtful. “I doubt it’s a bigger problem for us than with any similar organization. Did you know, for example, that pirate ships prefer to recruit individuals who can’t swim? The theory is that it will keep them motivated to keep their ship afloat in case of emergency. Along similar lines, I refuse to hire on anyone who can fly under their own power.”

Windhammer laughed at this joke for quite some time before we were interrupted by a senior mate whose face greatly resembled a sea bird of some sort. An albatross, or greater sea gull perhaps.

“Caw!” the mate shouted.

“One second,” Windhammer said to the mate. He turned to me and put his hand on my shoulder. “You get it, right? It’s funny, right? I don’t hire anyone who can fly on their own? I tell that joke all the time.”

“Caw!” repeated the mate.

“All right, all right, show me,” said the captain, who followed the bird-faced mate.

For a second, I thought I saw a set of feathers poke out of the mate’s greatcoat. However, during the onboarding process for we journalists who were joining the sky pirates for the first time, we were provided with a pamphlet. This pamphlet warned that the thin air at higher altitudes could cloud one’s mind, both in the figurative and literal sense. The water vapor in the clouds we passed through may enter us through our mouths and nasal passages if we weren’t careful, leading to sodden thinking as our brains become suspended in a cranial sea of sky fluid. I chalked the vision of feathers up to delusion, covered my nose and mouth with a scarf, and resolved to explore some of the head de-cloud-ification techniques contained in the pamphlet.

Many of them looked to involve rum.


ending theme song
Okay, now that everyone has stopped reading, we can pass secret messages to each other. I lost my encoding book, so just… just go to the nuclear bunker inside Inverness. I left the briefcase with the microfilm in the room marked 202. It’s stenciled 202 on the door. There’s a sticker label that says 13a, but I don’t think that’s the room number. The door didn’t lock either, so the briefcase is behind a couch.

The couch feels gross. Needs cleaning.

I’m not saying you should do it, I’m just warning you. Push the couch with a stick or something. Or wear gloves.

Anyway, thanks for your continued support keeping the Shadow Council in power. They really appreciate it. See you next week!

—Michael Van Vleet

lost time incident 34 – mannequin head delivery service


lost time incident 34
Hey, everybody! What’s the good word? What’s the rumpus? What’s the happs? What’s the skinny? What’s going down? What’s news? What’s … what’s… what are we doing?

Let’s start with what I’m doing. When I started this newsletter, the idea was that it would force me to sit down at least once a week and write something. At some point, the hope was that I would stumble across something I was really enjoying writing and that would lead me to my next project.

It’s taking a while, but I did see something inspirational this week: A book calledBABY HATER on Amazon that looks self-published. I haven’t read it yet, but it came along at just the right time to remind me that there’s no barrier keeping any writer from pursuing and publishing a pet project. Maybe that project is a story that opens with a baby getting punched in its dumb face! Who knows!

It’s been 2 years since THE SPIRIT LEFT ME (my previous fiction collection) came out. But it’s encouraging to remember that my next project doesn’t have to be that involved. I could be inventing short story ideas with attention-grabbing high concepts and putting them out as stand-alone projects. In theory. (See also: The works of Chuck Tingle, the Bizarro scene of Portland, OR, and the marketing geniuses atHorrible Vacuum)

That’s where we’re at today. Keeping myself from getting intimidated by how much work might be ahead of me by focusing on smaller, more attainable goals. Just need to keep typing.

typing typing typing
The two of them came through the detective’s office door: a pair of heavy-set aliens, holding translator rigs to their ear and mouth equivalents. Arm in arm. Wearing red lipstick.

“Well, don’t you two look like trouble,” muttered the detective.

“We have trouble, yes,” said the aliens. “We want to hire your services.”

“I can do that,” answered the detective. “But by law, I’m required to point out that I’m a robot.”

“That makes sense,” said one of the aliens, “as here in the future, robots are commonplace and have assumed many of the jobs that humans used to have, freeing them for leisure time activities such as designing cosmetics for my race.”

The creatures’ red lips caught the light from the dangling overhead light bulb.

“What’s the job?” asked the detective.

The aliens looked somber. Possibly. With their weird alien faces it was hard to tell. “We would like you to tell us how this short fiction piece ends.”

The detective scratched his titanium forehead carapace with the tip of an antique pistol. “You fellas are looking for a fortune-teller, not a detective.”

“No,” said the alien. “Everything in our lives, from the moment we started to exist outside the door of your office to this very moment has propelled us here, to hire you. Our instincts are true. You know how this piece will end. Look behind you.”

The detective swiveled his office chair and looked at the framed embroidered words hung behind his desk. It had been one of the first pieces of decorative art that he’d hung when he set up his practice and was such an established part of the office, he didn’t really notice it anymore. The irises in his eye units whirred to bring the needlepoint text into focus.

“Huh,” he grunted. “How about that? It was here all along.”



it works: candlewick
This fragment is set in The Beulah Candlewick School for Young Magicks. Candlewick is a dangerous institution for students, with a distressingly high rate of injury and death. Magick education comes with a high mortality rate, it turns out.

“Oh my god, I can’t breathe,” said Ms. Beak, the Candlewick Headmaster, bent over with the effort of trying to stop laughing. She held the hood of her cloak closed in front of her face so that any shell-shocked students who looked her way wouldn’t see her giant smirking grin. With her face hidden, she might get away with it, as her shaking shoulders might pass for convulsions, or nausea, or some other more sympathetic reaction to what had just happened. “This fucking school… oh my god, what are we— I can’t believe it.”

Nearby, the object of Headmaster Beak’s mirth stood in the school hallway, stock still, wand extended, in the epicenter of what had been a mystical explosion. The hallway was scorched in radial patterns centered on her, and a meaty smell in the air. Her clothing was covered in blood. The hallway walls resembled the inside of an uncleaned microwave primarily used to heat up chili.

Those students who weren’t wiping blood off themselves, or patting down flames, left a respectful but curious distance between themselves and stock still student.

Lemoyne Wills, a faculty member, pushed through the students. “All right, show’s over,” he said, wondering which student this was, underneath the blood and burn marks. With their hair slicked back and smoking, he couldn’t even be sure of the student’s gender.

As he leaned in to the student and used his thumb to brush their closed eyelids clean, he could hear them mumbling something.

“What’s that?” he said, leaning in.

“It works,” she was whispering. “It works. It works.”

Lemoyne looked around at the nearby students, kicking aside what looked to be a former student’s leg. “Anybody see what happened?”

A young man with a blue, asymmetrical haircut raised his hand. “She, uh… she was just talking to some upperclassmen who were making fun of her wand. Saying she made it herself, or something.”

Lemoyne sighed. “Why would that matter,” he said. He addressed all the students. “Everyone, listen up! Where your wand comes from is unimportant, okay? We make you buy wands from the school store if you don’t have one because, to be honest, it’s a revenue stream and it keeps the lights on.”

The Headmaster let the hood of her cloak fall open. “Lemoyne…” she said in a tone of voice clearly meant to curtail this burst of honesty with the student body.

“But magick is mostly about technique, and will power. The particular stick that you point when you cast something… it’s just something to focus with. And yes, that means that you can blow up a small crowd of bullies with a homemade wand. As has been demonstrated.” He gestured around at the gore-flecked hallway for evidence.

“So be nice to each other. Magick’s not going to be nice to you, so you have to be nice to each other.”


ending theme song
We’re going to close out this week with the usual stuff:

A reminder that there’s a Facebook page for the lost time incident where there’s still an e-book giveway for SEXTRAP DUNGEON going on. Tell your friends!

Thanks to my wife Amanda for the Candlewick illustration of a blood-spattered hallway.

And I’ll end with an informal poll:

How much have you historically paid or would pay for a work of short fiction, like a “Kindle Single” or short story or mini-novella e-book? Nuthin’? A buck? 3 bucks? A small-ish gold nugget? A velvet painting of a sad clown that has eyes that follow you?

Let me know! See you next week!

—Michael Van Vleet

lost time incident 33 – sample cubes innocent victim


lost time incident 33
Hey, everybody! How’s your weekend going? Is it longer than usual?

It is around here. The United States is celebrating our Labor Day out of step with the rest of the globe, in a calendar-based form of union-bashing. (The rest of the world celebrates Labour Day on May 1st.)

I started my weekend playing Fallout 4 for a number of hours, as a new area of the game opened up, set inside a former amusement park (now full of raiders). My favorite element of this park are the raiders walking around in armor decorated with carnie prizes and stuffed animals.

I also used Fallout’s crafting mechanic to build some mannequins (see image above) and artfully arranged them in faux band photos. Just need to find some instruments. We’ll get the post-apocalyptic landscape rockin’ again.

But first… we’ve got a newsletter.

babes in the woods
In the village where I grew up, we used to tell stories about the local woods. That young women, not yet ready to be mothers, would leave their children there. Sometimes we’d go wandering in those woods, athletic socks hiked up, looking for babies left behind. If we got really lucky, we told each other, maybe we’d witness the exact moment a pack of wolves adopted a baby.

This, despite knowing that no wolves lived in those woods.

The guy who distributed piles of newspapers to all the newspaper carriers would claim that he was raised in those woods. By chipmunks, he said. Learned all their lore and their ways. He would prove it by pouring a can of peanuts into his mouth until his cheeks pushed out. The effect was ruined if you looked like you believed him, because he’d start laughing at you, and that was a good way to get yourself sprayed with half-chewed peanuts.

It was a more innocent age, honestly, when we assumed that babies left in the woods would be raised by animals.

But when I was in my early teens, a witch moved into those woods, and there was no mystery anymore. The trees became home to charms that would twist in the breeze: bones, feathers, strips of leather. The teachers at school told us all the proper names for witches, and let us know in no uncertain terms which ones were offensive, so we could be neighborly.

Within a few years of her arrival, we started seeing her around town, surrounded by toddlers wearing loose robes, and masks crafted from bark and mud, tromping through the Piggly Wiggly supermarket. All formerly abandoned babies. With those masks on them, you couldn’t tell whose kids they might have really been.

At the coffee shop, I heard some adults talking about how she’s home schooling them and several of them read at a proficiency level higher than their age, so who knows. Maybe we all should have gone into the woods to see if we could get adopted.

Some of the more religious types, they didn’t like the idea of their unwanted children becoming pagan. There was a while there where babies were getting left at the recycling center. The couple that ran the recycling center were Presbyterian, but they didn’t like kids, nor did they want to be stuck in the middle of a religious conflict. Called in social services. Put up a “Don’t Leave Babies Here” note by the bins full of beer bottles.

It worked.

With the benefit of hindsight, our village could have done a lot better with educating kids about birth control. Cut down on the high rate of baby abandonment. These are the sort of things that don’t occur to you until adulthood. Hindsight, 20/20, all that.

Just been thinking about it a lot since my parents told me one of those witch kids just got elected mayor. Turned his animal mask into a personal brand. Used it in all the ads. Still don’t know who his real parents are, but we know about his love for municipal governance, so…

I hope it works out.

I don’t get back there much anymore.

sextrap dungeon giveaway
Because Amazon made it easy, and because I like you, I’m giving away a copy of Kurt Knox’s groundbreaking first volume in the SEXTRAP DUNGEON series! It’s a choose-your-own-adventure narrative where you play an Axe-drenched oddball in a quest for love… but dangers abound.

Sex is your everything. You exist for the thrill of seduction and the hot, wet slap of flesh against flesh. Vanquishing honeys is your singular mission in life. Who knows why? Loneliness? A need for validation born out of your mother abandoning you as a child? Perhaps there’s a tumor pressing on the ‘sex’ part of your brain? Probably best not to dwell on it. Let’s get you out there and put another notch on that bedpost, playa!

It’s genuinely funny, so roll the dice and follow the link if you want a chance at winning. The odds are 1 in 10, which is pretty good, right?

ending theme song
I guess we’ll end this week with a reminder that there’s a Facebook page for this newsletter: It’s a place you can find behind-the-scenes notes, general updates, and feedback from your fellow subscribers.

I was recently reminded that it’s now been 2 years since I put out my last e-book, THE SPIRIT LEFT ME. Days go by. I am glad, however, that I’ve got this 33-weeks-long new body of work. The next step isn’t clear yet, but we’re probably getting closer to whatever comes next. Probably.

Maybe. We’ll see. Maybe next week.

—Michael Van Vleet