lost time incident 24 – the only other suspect you’ve got


lost time incident 24
It’s the 4th of July holiday here in the United States, when our country celebrates our victories over fingers and moisture by enduring hand injuries and starting fires with the aid of colorful explosives that, for safety’s sake, you have to drive 15 minutes outside of town to purchase in a tent.

A safety tent.

My wife Amanda and I have an invitation to leave our home and venture out into the weather. There’s a promise of hot dogs and friendship. Skies are blue out there in the world. I can see it through the window. We should be all right.

Time spent being social is time I can’t spend staring at this computer screen, trying to come up with new stuff, so… it’s a good thing I was busy on Twitter this week.


going up, getting down


on the shore


education was the real magic all along
At the beginning of the semester, the dining hall was full. It was the only time during the school year when that was true. The wizards and witches who stuck it out, year after year, attempting to educate the next generation of magic users would do their best.

They’d bring out the Book of All Flesh, each page an animated and living face of a former student, transfigured into a tome-shaped warning of the dangers of wandering off the well-lit paths of the library wing. Before the semester was over, the book would have about a dozen new pages, no matter where the staff hid the thing. From that point on, each former student would live mostly in darkness, their face flat as a page, having their cheeks tickled by the eyelashes of their cursed neighbor on the facing page. Conversation impossible in such compressed circumstances, reduced to merely feeling the vibration of speech and the wiggling of smashed lips somewhere on one’s face.

After the book, the faculty wheel out Corbyn Crowsbatten, his body a giant jagged ball of exposed bone. “Corbyn was an athlete, but he broke a bone,” a feather bedecked crone might say, gently patting what looks like an elephant’s tibia jutting out of Corbyn’s central mass. “He thought he knew enough to magically regrow the bone. How hard could it be? A hangman’s deck of cards, burned and applied with a wolf’s paw. The moonlight at the right angle in the window. A mouth full of corn. And yet. Something went wrong. Now Corbyn looks like this. Forever.”

The giant mass of living bones is then rolled back into the ward the faculty set up for Corbyn. His parents don’t know yet, because then the tuition checks would stop coming.

As the weeks go by, the student population begins to drop. Potion mishaps. Eaten by monsters, both encountered and created. Usually two or three students a year will become monsters and need to be hunted down in turn. Every student dance seems to have at least one jealousy-fueled fight that ends with someone being burned into a silhouette on a gymnasium wall.

It’s quite possible that the school is a mistake. That young minds, in a stew of hormones, struggling to figure out who they are, or who they can be, are not capable of gauging the dangers involved in applying your will to the powers drawn from the Glowing Realms.

Last year, as the final semester wound down, they thought they’d actually have a graduate this year. Charlotte Lumnack. Good marks in Boons & Hexes. Good attendance. Unfortunately, under interrogation it was determined that actually, Charlotte had fled the grounds, and left in her place a very detailed illusory version of herself to make the rounds through her classes. Regulations are quite strict about graduation requirements, and illusory copies of students don’t qualify as actual students.

Once again, a semester draws to a close. The wizards and witches sigh and walk empty corridors. Dress in formal robes to stand in an empty graduation hall. The sound of wind outside. The rustling of acceptance letters folding themselves, addressing themselves, and fluttering out into the world to find new students.


ending theme song
Tomorrow, as is American tradition, we will prowl the streets of our cities, looking for members of royal families. We’ll bait them into asking us for something, so we can deny the request. That’s where you’ll find me. Out in the streets.

We’ll see you again, before you know it.

–Michael Van Vleet

lost time incident 23 – drink your liver out


lost time incident 23
Greetings from the mud pits of decrepitude. Almost a week back, while simply bending over, I managed to pull a muscle in my back that, judging by the number of times it’s given me discomfort since then, must have been important in the overall function of this dumb meat ship I’m trapped inside of. But the show must go on. Must it? Actually no. I could just lay face down in bed all day.

It would be so easy.


We’re working on a newsletter! We’re finding the essence that can follow existence! (Little existentialism shout-out there.) We’re pointedly not petting the cat that settled on us as soon as we sat down to write! Focus! Accomplishment!

And if that doesn’t work out, the bed is still there.

clinging to the outside
The hands were raised and counted and before you know it, we had all voted to exit the space station. Sure, oxygen rationing sucked, and our elected representatives always seemed to end up in the fanciest space suits with the shiniest, radiation-reflecting face plates, and the most responsive booster jets, but I didn’t think that meant it was a good idea to just leave.

But that’s how the vote went, so we climbed into our patchwork suits and filed to the nearest airlocks.

From outside the station, we had a terrific view of the purple planetary expanse we orbited around. No way to get down there anymore, though.

Did you know that when otters sleep, they hold hands so they don’t drift away from each other? We had to do the same thing, lashing limbs together and tying ourselves to the station to make sure none of us drifted off into the void.

Sure. Everything we ate going forward was going to come out of an external-facing pipe from the station and was going to come in liquid form. Sure, we had no way to clean ourselves.

But we had freedom. We had the stars for company. We could do whatever we wanted.



who you know
The recession hit and with so many people out of work, it just made sense that people would turn to forbidden libraries, long forgotten, to research new ways of being and becoming. A self-help guru with big teeth would appear at local malls and sell tickets to enormous crowds, all eager to hear stories about how a combination of anise, cutlery that has touched the teeth of a murderer, and being bitten by three dogs under a waning moon could grant any person a handsome wolf head to replace their own. The guru with the big teeth would comb his furry face, lure a few ticketed VIPs into joining his growing pack and before you knew it, we were used to seeing wolf-headed people going door-to-door, recruiting.

It turned out to be a literal pyramid scheme. The god Anubis had returned and its home pyramid was built on a foundation of bones, mostly belonging to early recruits who weren’t successful at bringing in more wolf-heads under them.

The local grocery is run by a djinn, who has a pretty good eye for fresh produce, but is maybe a little heavy on the variety of dates provided. I’d rather we had a wider variety of fresh greens, but we take what we can get when the exchange for goods has to be either with silver, drops of blood, or a tale of a broken oath.

Djinn love hearing about people who aren’t compelled to keep oaths. It’s good for a box of granola bars, anyway.

Beats joining one of those Circle of the Unsleeping corporations where you chant for years to weaken the Walls of the World, your eyes getting drier and drier, until the Undying Chief Executive Officer can breach into our world and end the recession, plus lower all dry land beneath the sobbing oceans.

Those folks are getting a raw deal.

So yeah. You wanna be my contact on LinkedIn, then?

ending theme song
Sunday’s wrapping up. Donuts were eaten with friends and we even got in a visit to the local comic book store so I could find an old Alpha Flight in the dollar bin. It features a scene where a First Nations shaman comes face to face with a demon made from scrambled eggs. Comics, everybody.

I’m stretched out on a couch, keeping my slow-to-recover back straight. It’s recruited a few neighboring muscle groups to its protest gathering, as they’ve had to pick up the slack and are tired of it. To heck with all of them. Just tie me to the back of one of those DARPA dog robots. I’ll help it avoid banana peels and it can keep me from ever using any of my muscles, ever again. What a team we’ll make. State of the art technology combined with a droopy jellyfish man.

–Michael Van Vleet

lost time incident 22 – ghost touch lucky bounce

marriage_v2 lost time incident 22
The sun is shining out there, people, so you know what time it is! Time to hide inside, in front of a fan, listening to the soft strains of our downstairs neighbors vacuum cleaner while we kick off our 22nd installment! Yeah! High fives! Good weather can take a hike!

(I should go out there at some point.)

This doesn’t affect you. Don’t worry about the weather. You’re somewhere else. Somewhere in the future. They may have done away with weather. You may have to strap on some VR goggles to experience what weather used to be like, from the comfort of your nutrient-bath-slash-cyber-home. Just a bunch of plugged in weirdos living in puddles. That’s you.

Well I’m writing this back when things were NORMAL, damn it. And my fingers, without much conscious thought, just wiggle around on a flat platform with spring-loaded buttons and words appear magically on a screen through a mechanism I don’t understand. Something to do with math? Electrons?

Do you still have electrons where you are? Tell the electrons I said “What’s up?”

Man. Electrons. We had some good times.



let’s all go to the lobby



Patterson’s Arch
The Lady and the Dingo
A Pile of Leaves to Remember
Jane Austen: Save Often – [Time Travel, Romance, PG] – A hacker accidentally writes a program that takes him back in time to meet his favorite author: Jane Austen. But when her life is threatened, can he type fast enough to rewrite history and keep her safe, while also pursuing her hand in marriage?
Stammering Englishmen In Small Furnished Rooms

Jane Austen: Save Often
I Understand And I Wish to Continue
Mother’s Maiden Name
Grandma Fell Off The Internet 2


that well known space saying: [cette histoire est terrible]
Last week, I shared an idea I had for a scifi story where an alien character spoke entirely in French, but the French wasn’t character dialogue… it was the translator complaining about the author. This week’s contribution is just a draft, trying to build the framework that the joke will be nestled inside for the final product.

Jack Quasar poked the brightly lit buttons that lined the cuff of his stellar gauntlets, but the chorus of bleeping sounds provoked by this button-pressing didn’t sound positive. He turned to his alien companion Stegh.

“Well, Stegh, we might be stuck in this prison cell for a little while longer. My stellar gauntlets can’t seem to scan through these walls. I can connect to the local network, but our captor’s anti-gauntlet measures are all up to date. I managed to get the passwords for a couple vending machines out there, but that’s it. Best I can do at this point is make sure our captors get the wrong item when they go for a snack. You got any ideas?”

Stegh’s fluting voice whistled between his foreteeth. Quasar was grateful once again for the Braglantian language courses he took on Stegh’s home world that allowed him to understand his alien friend. {place holder for Stegh dialogue}, said Stegh.

“I never would have thought of that. Stegh, you’re a genius!”

{place holder for Stegh dialogue}

“Well. Of course.” Quasar removed his stellar gauntlets, tugged out some of the cables that ran along the inside, and twisted them together. “There. Polarity is reversed and… the door’s open!”

Outside the door stood the biggest, meanest alien Quasar and Stegh had ever seen. It was several meters tall, with razored limbs, wearing a hat that read “Make 105739-Gx& Great Again”. The creature held a sparking stick that promised electric discomfort, a textbook about legislative bodies on gas giants, and the look of someone who didn’t want the prison door open.

{place holder for Stegh dialogue}

“You can say that again buddy,” echoed Quasar.

{place holder for Stegh dialogue}

“That’s an Earth saying. You didn’t actually have to repeat yourself, buddy.” Quasar slapped Stegh on the back in a jovial fashion, tapping the same back area Steph’s ancestors would strike in order to begin a physical conflict over mating rights. Steph managed to restrain itself from removing Quasar’s arm. Sometimes galactic diplomacy requires a lot of struggle with one’s own biological imperatives.

“Good old Stegh,” said Quasar. “Now. What say we convince our jailor friend of the righteousness of our cause?”

{place holder for Stegh dialogue}

Moments later, jogging down the station’s hallway, Quasar and Stegh kept low, following pictographic directions to the hangar bay where they hoped to find The Decommissioned Wreck, their starship.

{place holder for Stegh dialogue}

“I don’t think it’s going to get infected, no,” said Quasar.

{place holder for Stegh dialogue}

“Oh. You just wanted me to agree with you. Yes, then. It’s going to get infected.”

{place holder for Stegh dialogue}



ending theme song
Another week has come and gone and thanks are due yet again to my wife Amanda for contributing artwork. The distressed paperback cover feature the heroic Stegh you see above is an original work of hers.

dah dah dut dah du daa-daa. dah dah dut dah du daaaaa. dut dit doo dit doo dah dah. dah dit doo dah-duh-daa.

lost time incident 21 – classically trained


lost time incident 21
Gray hair is one of the obvious signs that a body has decided that it’s shutting things down. Color for hair? Why bother.

But there are other, subtler degradations of function. I have noticed that sometimes my body doesn’t bother getting thirsty. Water is for bodies that still have things they need to accomplish… a bright future ahead of them. Not this one.

Went through a good stretch of yesterday not feeling thirsty and so, not drinking anything. Naturally, that means that this morning was mostly spent feeling cruddy, like a cracked creek bed, slowly sipping water and hoping my headache will go away. Somewhere deep in my head are a pair of sinuses that refuse to stop aching, or empty out, resisting round after round of hot showers and over the counter medicine.

Slowly, senses are returning, so I’m typing these words instead of hiding under a pile of covers. But the recovery process is so… so slow.

[hours and hours of discomfort happened here]

And just like that, a Sunday disappears.


nothing but an idea
One of my long-time, dear friends translates English & French for a living. I’ve always found translation to be an amazing profession. When I was a little kid and too old to claim to want to be an astronaut, I would tell people I wanted to grow up to be a translator. In hindsight, I might have wanted to follow in the footsteps of a certain yellow protocol droid from a movie I watched over and over again.

I let that dream go and never got much further than learning barely enough Spanish to babble along with a 2 year old, but I still have a lot of respect for the art of translation. When I was flush with dot-com money, I found a translator through Craig’s List who would work with me on translating a Japanese manga series that I was in love with, but couldn’t read. I’d love reading through the translator’s notes about the choices she made, or her attempts to explain jokes, etc. so I could decide how to render them in the English language version I was composing in Photoshop for my own enjoyment.

Anyway. So I recently got an idea for a story that I thought I was going to start this week. The story’s just as an excuse to hire my friend to do some translation for me. It’ll be a science fiction setting. Some humans and an alien they work with. I don’t know the plot yet. It’s not important.

The thing that makes it interesting for me is that the alien will be speaking French as if French were an alien language. The other characters will react as if they understand the alien, but to anyone who— like me— doesn’t read French, it might as well be an alien tongue.

On top of that, I want all of the alien’s dialogue to actually be the voice of the translator, complaining about being underpaid for the translation job, insulting the premise of the story, and talking about unrelated things. A whole second narrative, hidden to those who— again, like me— don’t read French.

That’s what I meant to start today.

Instead, I napped a lot. Rolled my neck around so it cracked. Watched strangers play video games where they fought aliens, or built prisons. Watched movies I had seen before, so I could sleep through scenes and not miss anything. Wondered if I was going to have to throw up just so my sinuses would let go.

I didn’t, though.

The shadows are long outside.



looking & listening
watching – RUBBER: The tale of a tire that comes to life and learns to use its psychokinetic powers to destructive effect. An audience of strangers watch from a distance with binoculars and wonder what it all means. An exercise from the “why not?” school of film. Viewable on Netflix at present.
listening“Devil Is Fine” by Zeal & Ardor. Most original thing I’ve heard in awhile. The sound of old spirituals blended with the spirit and sounds of Satanic death metal.
reading – “Memory of Passion” by Gil Brewer. A man, somewhat unhappy in his marriage, gets a call out of the blue from his high school sweetheart, who hasn’t aged at all. He knows it’s impossible, an imposter, somehow, but will he throw his life away to pursue her? (She’s really hot and totally wants to bang him and be his time-stuck sweetheart.) Will he figure out who she really is? Probably. Gil Brewer was big on noir narratives where man’s basest desires destroy him. We’ll see. I’m about 1/3rd into it.
playingFar Cry Primal: Badger Employee Workplace Review – Spent some time yesterday playing FCP, where I get to roam a violent, Stone Age setting with animal friends. A badger companion wasn’t helping protect me from lions, so unfortunately, action had to be taken.



ending theme song
dah dah dut dah du daa-daa. dah dah dut dah du daaaaa. dut dit doo dit doo dah dah. dah dit doo dah-duh-daa.

The Signal: EP125


The Signal: EP125 – 45 minutes of quiet-loud-quiet, with melodies and those things that go bing-bang-bong. Every song as perfectly matched as a sandwich & pickle. There’s a guarantee you won’t find anywhere else. Except in a deli, I guess.

This time out, we’ve got some Satanic gospel, vaporwave, punk, experimental hip hop, global bass & dancehall, Russians playing 50s-style rock, a calypso legend, Peruvian folk, Japanese dreampop remixed and more! And it does get noisy!

You can either listen right or, if you want a copy of your very own, you can download the mp3 by clicking on the image above or the link provided. It will be available for only a limited time so if you just got here, months after I type these very words, and it’s not there… well, life is full of disappointment, isn’t it? Savor your salty tears and be glad you feel anything at all, for infinities stretch before and after us when we’ll feel nothing. Also: check the id3 tags for the track-listing.

Or, you want the track-listing, access to a permanent download URL, and to be among the first people on the planet to know there’s a new mix, you can always sign up and join The Tuned In, a mailing list for fans of The Signal.

I think that’s everything you need to know.

So now you know.