lost time incident 20
What a week, what a week, huh, folks? There was that sportsball thing, and the political person said that thing and we were all like: WHAAAT!?!? I had a morning where I took one or two of every variety of pill in my backpack so I could feel like a functioning human and then there was that celebrity news! Oh man.
It’s fat housefly season in this household! We have two… or maybe three of them! Name suggestions are welcome. (Update: Have killed two out of three. Only one name suggestion will be considered.)
The sun is shining outside, but we’re ignoring it in favor of you, readers. Such a sacrifice.
Speaking of sacrifices…
This last week, I’ve spent a bit of time watching players on YouTube try out a new game called “Dead by Daylight.” The game is still in beta, which makes things interesting, because you can see game elements being added and tweaked based on the date of the video.
Up to five players can play at a time, with one of them playing a movie slasher-style monster who chases the others around an overgrown abandoned lot, trying to beat them up, hang them on meat hooks, and sacrifice them to spider-leg-thorn-nightmare monsters in the sky.
The survivors/victims are racing around the game map, trying to stay silent, hide behind tall grasses and crates, dodge traps, and repair enough generators that they can open the doors blocking the path to escape.
When the killer is near, the survivors can hear their heartbeat get louder and louder, as a sort of radar warning, and menacing music starts to swell. Players in these videos get as freaked out as their cinematic forebears, scrambling to stay ahead of the killer.
And yet all that fear is forgotten when they get to take their turn chasing their friends with a blade… Then they’re perfectly happy to laugh and say “Where are you going?” as their friends try to vault obstacles, cackling as they drag them to their doom.
If that sounds fun, a great place to start is Serial Killers Everywhere hosted by ChilledChaos (or “Chilled” for short). You’ll see his face in the upper right corner of the screen. But the highlight of this video is his pal Seananners (Adam) who spends much of the vid creeping out his friends as the murderer, but demonstrates quite a knack for screaming when the tables are turned.
she’s a cop, she’s a witch
“T’chyeah, like this witch has nothing better to do than curdle some milk and make a sow miscarry. Rrrrright. I got creepy little dolls with faces carved out of fallen crabapples to make so I’m a LIT-tle busy these days.”
Officer Foxhazel adjusted the amulet on her belt. She’d been a witch cop for dozens of moons, so dealing with a reluctant suspect was nothing new.
“Okay, Goodie,” said Foxhazel. “So maybe you weren’t troubling livestock or dairy supplies. But this isn’t the first complaint we’ve had about you this month. Or are you going to say you haven’t been cavorting in the woods either?”
“What woods?” sneered Goodie Crow, her stringy black hair hanging over her defiant eyes. “There’s a lot of woods around here.”
“I didn’t want to have to do this,” said Foxhazel, “but you know we keep a file on all the reliquaries and soul cages in the county, right? While you were spending your time talking to goats, or whatever you’ve been up to, the witch cops have been busy with paperwork and focusing ceremonies. A bit of scrying, a bit of dowsing, some group chanting and sacrifice, and pretty soon we had a comprehensive list of where every spell-slinger and potion-brewer in town was keeping their secrets.”
“I can walk right down this hall, find out which gnarled set of roots you’ve stashed your essence under, or which trunk with a cursed lock you used, and that’s it. We’ve got everyone’s secrets, on 4×6 cards, neatly labeled, stored in a walnut cabinet adorned with the bones of owls. Wouldn’t take me more than 10 minutes to look your name up.”
“So I’m going to ask one more time about that curdled milk… and that miscarrying sow. Because we have the rites, so you can’t remain silent.”
WITCH COPS! Tune in with your far-sight gems this Fall!
looking & listening
watching: First episode of Preacher – so far, transcending the source material
listening: Marta Ren – Stop Look Listen – modern retro Portuguese soul
playing: Fallout 4 – Tried to get around to finishing the game, but got distracted building a killer robot. It happens.
reading: Down Don’t Bother Me by Jason Miller – I was just following this guy on Twitter because he was funny, but he wrote a really great Southern crime novel about a mine worker who gets press-ganged into the role of private investigator by the owner of the mine.
ending theme song
Why do bookstores use stickers that don’t come off cleanly? Why?
Last night, I tried to peel a price sticker off an old paperback, only to see some of the cover come away with the sticker. So I used a citrus-based sticker-removing solution and watched that soak into the cover, staining it, so the worst of all outcomes. Now my $2 paperback looks like a $1 paperback. Since that’s the worst thing to happen all weekend, things are going pretty darn good.
Thanks are due to my wife Amanda for supplying the illustration of a blade-wielding video game maniac. The mocking dialogue was lifted directly from Seananner’s taunting in the linked video.
What else. I’ve been messing about with Snapchat recently. If this is also true of you, you can find me with a search for: signalstation
That’s probably it. Time to go fritter away the rest of the weekend. Later, gators.
—Michael Van Vleet
What’s shakin’, bacon? We’ve recovered from our spate of electronics-related difficulty and are back in fighting trim. Metaphorically, of course. I mean, we’re in no condition to fight anyone or anything because we maintain a horrifying inverted food pyramid diet would cause a doctor to blanch and our preferred activity over a long weekend is “sitting still for long periods of time.” (Related: that’s why there was a new Signal mix posted on Saturday if you want 45 minutes of downloadable music, and why wouldn’t you?)
Today’s daylight hours were spent either typing away at the fiction you’ll see below, or watching strangers stream video games, while my wife and two cats dozed on the living room couch.
What else is going on.
I think the answer is “literally nothing else” so I should probably get this show on the road!
Here we go!
bee bee queue
Behind the Scenes: Originally, “Shy” was going to be “Meek” but I needed every character allotment I could get from Twitter’s 140 character limit. That’s also why I had to compromise and leave the ellipses to abut the colon in the BOSS dialogue… and so of course that’s where my eye goes, resentfully, every time I revisit the tweet.
The presence of the phrase “flavor profile,” though, makes it all worth it. I love its jargon-y mouthfeel.
Two police officers looked into an interrogation room, hidden behind the reflective glass. Inside the room was a man, his left arm handcuffed to the table, his right arm centrally placed on the table, not connected to his torso. Its leather straps dangled over the table’s edge, a prosthetic limb, as still as the man in handcuffs.
“They say this guy Medhardt is the killer,” said Singh, his thumbs in his belt. Lopez frowned. “But so far, he’s sticking to his story that he was compelled to do it. By his prosthetic arm.”
“That doesn’t make any kind of sense,” said Lopez.
“Probably just laying the groundwork for an insanity plea, I imagine,” said Singh.
“I mean,” continued Lopez, “an arm can’t talk. So how does it convince you to do anything?”
“My understanding is that it’s more of a compulsion. He claims that he’s just found himself at the crime scenes, but that the prosthetic limb committed the murders he’s been accused of.”
“Weird,” said Lopez.
“YES IT IS,” boomed a voice from behind them. Singh and Lopez glanced back to see their colleague, Detective Yeti, standing behind them. Yeti was six and half feet tall of white furred justice, a friendly smile revealing yellowed, sharp teeth.
“Oh, hey Detective Yeti,” said Lopez. “How’s the day going? Pretty good, I hope, considering the lifestyle adjustment required to have moved from the Himalayas where you mostly ate goats to our town, where you’ve decided to dedicate your life to fighting crime, even though everyone has told you to please not do that because you’re not qualified.”
“I’m fine,” said Detective Yeti. “I am here to solve this crime.”
“Great,” said Singh, but it was evident he did not think this was great.
The mountain creature pushed his way into the interrogation room.
“What the heck ARE you?” asked Medhardt, the suspect.
“I… am a VERY GOOD DETECTIVE,” bellowed Yeti, causing the mirrored window to rattle in its frame. “On the mountain where I was born, the winds blow cold. Cold as the heart of killers. And I would know, because these very claws have traced cursive notes of hatred on the sinews of goats and sherpas, on the tendons of yaks and explorers who sought me out.”
Medhardt tugged at his handcuff, glancing over at the reflective glass. “Are those— are there any other guys who might want to ask me questions?”
“Finally, they caught me. Humans. I was slowed by drugs, entangled in nets. They brought me to a court of law. In my cell, I watched American television. I absorbed the lessons taught by crime shows. Law. Order. Mysteries. The fire in the blood that leads to murder. I knew it well.”
Detective Yeti leaned over the table and sniffed at the prosthetic arm.
“I was thought a myth. I am not. Likewise, my colleagues do not believe a prosthetic arm can kill. But I am open… to the POSSIBILITY!” Detective Yeti roared the final word at the arm itself, then leaned in closely, as if to be sure it was not moving in reaction.
“Are you a real cop?” asked Medhardt.
“We use fingerprints to identify individuals,” said Detective Yeti, ignoring the question. “This arm has no fingerprints. Suspicious. As if trying to hide its identity. Didn’t work. Now you’re in here with me. AND NO CRIME ESCAPES ME!”
“I CAN ONLY— oh, you’re done,” said Medhardt. “I can only cover half my ears when you yell, so could you not?”
“You can go,” said Detective Yeti.
“I will remain here and speak with this arm. You will leave.” Yeti uncuffed the suspect and lead him out the door. “You are an alligator and I will see you later.”
“That’s not the saying,” said Lopez, standing outside the interrogation room.
Singh, standing next to Lopez, pointed after Medhardt. “Where’s he going?”
“It’s quite simple, my colleagues,” said Yeti. “So long as we don’t have any further murders where there are no fingerprints, then we know that our imprisoned arm, possessed by evil, has been prevented from continuing its dark work.”
Lopez looked puzzled. “But if that guy, who you just let leave, kills someone else, he’ll just be using his left arm and will HAVE to leave fingerprints, so… Wait. We already found his fingerprints at the scene of the crime, actually. Several of them.”
Singh ran down the hallway after Medhardt. “Not so fast, buddy! Get back here!”
Detective Yeti quietly slipped back into the interrogation room and pushed a chair under the door handle, ensuring that no one from outside could open the door.
“And now, fake arm… we begin the questions in earnest.”
From outside the room, the sounds of breaking furniture could be heard, but to be honest, no one was listening or watching.
ending theme song
We made it! When we set out, we weren’t sure what shape the road would take, but it took the shape of words in a single column. Finally, we found ourselves here, writing the outro because our stomach is growling and we have plans to go out to dinner. Peruvian. Hearty food for mountain living.
Why don’t the Andes have a version of the Sasquatch myth, I wonder?
[Quick Google search]
Oh, they do. The Patagon. Okay, that’s settled.
You’ll have to come back in later weeks to see if this is the seed that finally sprouts into a pastry shop AU with Pastry Chef Patagon, who is VERY GOOD AT CAKES.
See you in a week for the big TWO ZERO.
Thanks to my wife Amanda for the illustration of the diabolical prosthetic limb!
–Michael Van Vleet
lost time incident 18
Hey, folks. We’ve got a short one this week because the real world has intruded on our writing time. Entropy is visiting from out of town and things are breaking or malfunctioning all over. My Xbox has always had power problems, but in the last few weeks, it talked my receiver into turning itself off at random intervals. They’re not-working buddies. Then on Friday, my laptop’s power cord stopped working so my laptop only has so much battery left and can’t get any more. Today my headphones went on the fritz. Something in the plug has frayed so I just get bits of songs, half of conversations, in both ears.
I’ve been forced to actually go outside and run errands to fix all this nonsense during what should have been my leisure time. Time usually spent wool-gathering to fuel this creative effort. I’ve just been plugging and unplugging things. Untangling cables. Talking to customer service reps. Ordering things online. Trying to figure out if there’s any way to avoid having to pay an electrician to show up and stick gizmos in the wall sockets and confirm we’re not cursed.
Anyway. Time to get typing on one of the machines that still works.
It’s kinda weird, isn’t it, that of the first three facts that come to mind when I think of George Washington, two of them are fiction? (#1 is that he was the first President. That one is true.)
Wooden teeth. Cherry tree parable. Untrue.
I don’t feel like this is common for most famous figures, right?
Abraham Lincoln: Sixteenth President, had two left hands, won a knife fight with the King of Bees
Pope John Paul II: From Poland, could turn invisible at will, invented the Polish sausage
George Clooney: Stole fire from the gods by carrying a hot coal in his mouth, was punished by same gods by being chained to a rock and having an eagle feast on his eternally regenerating liver, always chooses “Rock” when playing “Rock Paper Scissors”
(I don’t actually know a single fact about George Clooney.)
Margaret me in! You’re my only hope! They’re behind me and I have to hide!
“I can’t risk it. If they catch you here, it’s the last straw. I’ll be vanished.”
Leaving me on your doorstep doesn’t make you any safer.
“Get in, get in. Get that lampshade on your head and stand still.”
Popular culture wants you to think that people who get drunk and are the life of the party put lampshades on their head, but 9 times out of 10, it’s someone hiding from the secret police.
Now you know. Never make eye contact with someone wearing a lampshade. Never accept a briefcase from someone wearing a lampshade. Never make a living as a vendor of lamps when your government is a totalitarian regime.
Orange you glad I didn’t say “Police, open up”?
looking & listening
watching: First episode of Outcast, an exorcism-centric series based on comics from Robert Kirkman (Walking Dead).
listening: Spontaneanation – Hosted by one of the comedy world’s quickest minds (Paul F. Tompkins), every episode is improvised from an initial guest monologue
reading: Manifest Destiny – Lewis and Clark explore the North American continent but it’s full of supernatural dangers. Let me know if you wanna read the first issue. I’ll buy you a copy.
ending theme song
I drank a few cups of coffee post-dinner just to make sure I’d have enough energy to manage even this tiny newsletter, but I already want to take a nap. I know it’s early on, but so far, I don’t care for my 40s. This is some bullshit.
Sleeping is just practice for being dead and I want no part of it.
No more sleep.
I might have to sleep.
Don’t do anything exciting while I’m not here.
[Thanks to my wife Amanda for providing the fallout shelter advertising poster!]
–Michael Van Vleet
lost time incident 17
The evenings this week were dedicated to board games, for the most part. Monday and Tuesday, the wife and I split duties, each taking responsibility for half of a four-man ghost-busting squad in a game— you guessed it— based on the Ghostbusters franchise. Wednesday I introduced work colleagues to Pandemic, and we almost saved the world, but nope, diseases for everyone, sorry. Thursday a friend dropped by to help us bust even MORE ghosts, which feels as good as they say it does. Then we ended the week struggling with some electronic woes as several of our plug-and-wire gizmos started having problems with staying powered on.
Say what you will about board games, but they power up every time.
In other news, crows and cats in the neighborhood aren’t getting along.
In the recent past, I spent a few months trying to get the attention of neighborhood crows. I’d whistle, then throw peanuts their way, hoping to make fast friends across species lines. (For the record, this is more concerted effort than I ever made to get to know my human neighbors.**) While I got crows to swoop down and take peanuts a number of times, I think they just thought I was a chump who didn’t know how to maintain proper nut control. They still don’t seem particularly happy to see me out and about, nor have any of them shown any interest in riding on my shoulder and whispering secrets into my ear as a dark familiar.
Earlier today, one of the neighborhood crows started making a non-stop racket right outside our living room window. Was this a concerted and loud peanut lobbying attempt? It was not. We looked outside and the ruckus was due to the presence of a black cat, poking around in the tree, pushing its luck.
I tossed some peanuts at the cat to convince it to find a different tree. Didn’t work. Bounced the peanuts off the tree. The cat wasn’t much interested in these bouncing peanuts. So now they’ll probably be found by the nocturnal raccoons who like to scream when fighting over who gets right of way, walking along the tops of fences.
No matter what, animals are going to make noise and everyone’s getting peanuts to eat around here.
**We have a next-door neighbor named Lisa who, upon moving in, assumed we’d be fascinated by her life’s story, eager to do favors for her, and has never in conversation tried to get to know a thing about us. She does ask after our cats, though. We have a downstairs neighbor named … I can never remember. Shares a name with a dish I don’t care for. Pasta-based. What is it. Linguinardo. No. Steve-ghetti. No. ALFREDO. Nice guy. Has a family. Don’t know their names at all. There’s another unit that could be full of aliens or serial killers. Don’t even know how many people are in there. And beyond this building, the neighborhood might as well be shrouded in mist and full of shivering creatures like in Silent Hill, for all the familiarity I have with the people who live around here.
Anyway. Who’s up for some fiction?
the atom age
We had to shut down the super collider. Up to that point, it had been a good week. We had bounced atoms off each other with spectacular success. Busted ’em up real good. We were internationally recognized for our work in atom collision. At the end of the shift, you could get bits of atoms off the floor, take ’em home for the kids. Supervisor didn’t care. You were saving the janitorial team on the night shift some trouble, actually, because otherwise they’re spending all their time sweeping up atoms.
But now the whole facility was at half power. People were leaning on machines that were usually too hot to touch, just killing time, checking their phones.
What’s the problem, I asked.
Computer’s got a virus, Wulf said. He pointed. Sure enough, there’s a virus sitting right on top of the computer they keep hooked up to the big red COLLIDE THE ATOMS button. Virus just looked over at us like: What. Daring us to do something. It would have lunged at us to make us jump if it could, so it could laugh if we flinched. You could see it in the eyes wobbling in its protein coat. Good thing it couldn’t lunge. Viruses don’t have the right kind of structure.
Gross, I said.
Hey, said some guy behind us. He had a clipboard. I got a whole truck load of atoms out back, someone going to sign for these? I gotta get ’em offloaded. Got to take a shipment of rain back to Colorado right after. And there’s trucks all backed up behind mine. Line’s going down the block. We gotta move. Who’s gonna sign for this?
Later, in the cafeteria, Wulf and I ate cold egg and bacon sandwiches. The virus sat at the next table sipping tea. The delivery guy ate at the table after that, but he wasn’t eating food. He was pointedly looking at print-outs of delivery schedules, then ripping them up and putting them in his mouth while trying to stare us down. Everything is our fault, sure buddy.
What are you going to do for the super collider talent show, I asked Wulf.
Magic show, he said.
You know magic?
You know hypnotism?
I made you forget that I know magic.
What, I exclaimed, and my top hat fell off, didn’t even know I was wearing one, bunnies spraying out of the hat in arcs as the hat bounced along the ground, a solid spray of rabbits, bouncing off the walls, colliding with each other, pellets shaking out of them like tiny atomic bits.
Oh yeah, now I remember, I told Wulf.
What are you going to do, Wulf asked me.
Probably some carpentry. Get my cousin’s tae kwon do class to come in, kick some boards in half, make a chair out of it.
Sounds like a great act, said Wulf.
Everybody likes chairs, I said.
The next morning, the super collider was up and running again. Noting the hints of aggression coming from the virus, someone on the night shift put up flyers around the compound advertising a ‘fight club’ in the basement, with tear-away coupon strips on the bottom for a free first punch, redeemable upon one’s first visit.
The virus was caught in a net trap as soon as it entered the basement rec room, torn off coupon still gripped in its tail fibers.
The night shift woke up the atom delivery guy, who had been sleeping in his truck, and all night long upright hand trucks were rolling their tiny wheels down the compound’s corridors, bundles of atoms offloaded and stacked in storage rooms or dropped down delivery chutes.
By the time we came in, everything was ready, so we strapped on our goggles and thought about how much better atoms are when they’re hurtling around. Looks like break time is over, Wulf, I said.
Atom-smashing time, he said.
And he hit the big red button.
golden age of tv
[SFX: rock music]
[stock footage: helicopter over a city landscape, a busy police office, a purse-snatcher running down the street, an empty church, a gravestone with handcuffs resting on top]
[TITLE: TBD ]
[footage: Following a beat cop as he walks a city street.]
NARRATOR: In the big city… crime doesn’t pay. The police force responds to hundreds of crime reports a day and if the criminal is found… they’re going down.
[footage: Beat cop goes up steps of burned out building.]
NARRATOR: And if the criminal has escaped, passing beyond the veil of this world, dying before they can be brought to justice–
[footage: A ghost cop falls into step with the beat cop, climbing stairs and going deeper into the building.]
NARRATOR: That’s where the ghost cops come in.
BEAT COP: Okay, partner. The arsonist’s spirit is in this next room. You ready to bring him in?
[GHOST COP turns, mouth open in a rictus, unable to talk… its hands pass through the door knob. Its eyes roll back. Nearby glass shakes in telekinetic frustration.]
BEAT COP: This was a terrible idea.
[GHOST COP wavers, its face in agony, fingers curled… then disappears.]
BEAT COP: … Great.
listening to: Berlin Community Radio
reading: The True Believer: Thoughts on Nature of Mass Movements by Eric Hoffer. An interesting look at the driving factors behind and the members of society most susceptible to the allure of joining a mass movement of any variety: political, religious, etc.
watching: Sicario. Whoah. Super intense. Probably gives fits to anyone working in Mexico’s tourism industry.
ending theme song
That’s going to do it for us for this week. It’s about that time of the weekend when final errands must be run, meaning it’s time to go pick up some fruits, veggies and barley tea from the local Asian market. Then maybe read some comics. Listen to more music streaming from Berlin.
Happy birthday wishes go out to Team Pan this weekend. Thanks again to my wife Amanda for the original illustration.
Also, a guy I went to high school put up a photo that a 15-year-old me appears in. Good looking kid, though I remember he didn’t think so. Too bad I can’t pass him a note. Too bad it’s creepy to tell young people “You’re probably never going to look better than you do now! Be more confident!”
No wonder nobody told us.
As ever, thanks for reading.
— Michael Van Vleet