lost time incident 86 – embers drifting across highways unbidden

lost time incident 86

Fellow workers!

The air here smells of smoke from files to the north, but so far we have escaped all consequences. The wind has been howling and on a walk to get some coffee I had to step over a few downed branches. The climate doesn’t seem terribly friendly today, but for now we can still reach out to you online, and that’s something.

Let’s take advantage while we can.

New Security Questions for Q4 2019

  1. What vowels, primarily, does the dark shape in the corner whisper to you at 2:32 a.m. every day?
  2. What city were you in the first time you fell into the Inverse and had to free yourself from the Despair Trees?
  3. What’s your password? Just kidding, don’t type that in here, that was a test. What’s your favorite 401K service provider (whether you work with them or not) and how often do the ashes on your tongue make you think you never left the Inverse?

Are your children chatting about dying in outer space?
ROFL: Real Oxygen Failure Loop
STFU: Systemic Total Failure Underway
ILY: Irreparable Leak Yonder
YOLO: Your Oxygen Lost (Oops)
DGAF: Decompression: Gas/Atmosphere Failure
LMFAO: Let’s Maybe Forget Astronaut’s Odds

Least Popular Elves (as reported by Gygax’s Subscription Faxes, #3 v1 1978, delivered via fax)

  1. Income Tax Elves
  2. Pus Elves
  3. Divorce Lawyer Elves
  4. Misnumbered List Elves

ending theme song
Since the last time you heard from me, my writing efforts have been directed towards game-related projects. I’ve worked on some RPG stories for use in play, but I’ve also started learning some layout software and putting mini-RPG projects online at itch.io.

If you’re curious, I have a pamphlet/game concept about roadside attractions in the US (and failure) and just this weekend I posted a single-player game about taking a phone call during the Crucifixion, inspired by a weird ivory carving I saw in The Met’s online art gallery. (You can see the image on the cover of the mini-RPG.)

In the near term, a game I co-authored should be finalized soon and a contribution I sent to an online RPG scenario contest should leave its embargo, so I can talk about it.

I don’t know what my next big project is going to be, on the scale of WITCHES TOWN (still available for sale), but… I’ll be sure to let you all know!

Hope you’re doing well, and have opportunities to pet furry animals, or take nice naps, or enjoy some hobbies, etc. etc. We are on a spinning rock in the middle of cold, cold space and it’s a miracle any of this happened. Who knows if it’ll ever happen again. Enjoy what you can of it.

—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. 

lost time incident 85 – the blue bird of productiveness

lost time incident 85
The noon hour approaches here in the House of the Lost Time Incident, the hour before which nothing of consequence can or should happen. I’ve had breakfast, the requisite coffee, and my personal laptop (freshly back from the shop) is mostly behaving. Mostly.

Threw open the back room’s window and lined the window sill with peanuts as invitations and within a moment of sitting down, a local California scrub jay, a neighbor, popped by the window sill to poke through the peanuts to select the best one before leaving again.

With any luck, a good sign. An invitation accepted so quickly and readily can’t help but bode well for the afternoon’s plans, which are: more typing.

I’ve got a scenario I’m writing for this role-playing game competition that requires me to outline a descent into destruction in some haunted woods. The destruction path is sketched out. The challenge ahead is managing to write up a good reason why anyone playing the game would want to march their imaginary alter ego into said woods and into said destruction.

Might also much about with a tiny game jam idea about the perils of outer space.

But first, I figured I should warm up the fingers here because you folks haven’t heard from me in a while. Hello! You’re hearing from me.

Skin Dry as Actual Hell? You Need These Hydrating Face Washes
1) Neptune’s Fish Slap Ichor

2) Fishscales & Sugarsnaps Moisturizing Bug Juice

3) A lemon and a half dollar, applied vigorously, then rolling in a compost heap

4) Buggeroo’s Face Melty (In A Good Way) Face Melt

5) Mrs. Falcon’s Skincare Trust Fall

Top New First Aid Techniques Q3 2019
1) The Wiggle Finger

2) Blood Loop-the-Loop (aka the “bloop-the-bloop”)

3) Bandages on Bandages on Bandages

4) Technology-Assisted De-Inflation

5) The Health Pit


healthy debate
Is it a spell book that smells like it was written in blood, not ink? Yes.

Does its cover feature what seems to be an actual face instead of a nice illustration, or the expected title & author’s name? Again, yes.

But to the question “Shouldn’t we put it back where we found it instead of reading from it during a thunderstorm in this abandoned farmhouse surrounded by farm equipment such as pickaxes and pitchforks, far from home, our cellphones dead?”

Well. I object to that question’s framing.

ending theme song
Well, what do you think? Better than the average email in your inbox? Worth sticking it out? Great!

What’s that? You’d like an entire e-book of micro-fiction from the author of this newsletter? Oh boy, that’s all tall ord— WAIT A MINUTE, that’s a thing you can totally have: https://gumroad.com/l/witchestown

The book is pay-what-you-want because who knows how much words formed out of electricity should be priced at. The entire universe is winding down and these are big questions for one writer to answer, so I’m not going to do it. Someone grabbed a free copy just the other day and we’re all still here. People have paid money for it and we’re all still here.

Anyway. Hope you’re doing well. When things get to be too much, just remind yourself that we’re pinned between two eternities in time and the present moment is the only real moment. Memory is ephemeral and the future is guesswork. You’re here now. You read a nice newsletter. It’s not so bad, is it?

—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. 

lost time incident 84 – good grief, melting

A briefs-only-wearing weirdo with a sun for a head walks down a street saying "Good grief! I'm melting everything around me!" while people flee and a car dissolves.

lost time incident 84
There’s a heat advisory today in the Bay Area as temperatures climb up to around 90, maybe, which doesn’t seem quite hot enough for a heat advisory. The weather people, though, they know we’re soft. I’m hiding inside, windows open for cross breezes, glancing out the window suspiciously at all that sunlight bouncing off the red flowers the hummingbirds are enjoying.

I haven’t been writing as much microfiction recently for two reasons: the day job has been kicking my butt, and my current preferred writing project is role-playing-related. (I’m trying to write up a horror scenario concept I came up with into a suitable condition for self-publishing.)

But there’s enough good stuff to fill out a newsletter. Want proof? Okay, here we go!

you didn’t get into one of the good wizard schools (roll 1d6)
1) A rat wearing a band-aid cordially invites you to Larry’s Spell Hut Down By the Highway
2) An email invites you to Lovely Brides Magic Delivery Upon Deposit
3) Welcome to the Magic Wand Warehouse, we prosecute shoplifters
4) An acceptance letter to Codfrey’s College (Illuminated) won’t let go of your hand
5) Univ. of Arkon Plumbottom says: You’re in!
6) Your check bounced but with Discount Wizardz, you can pay us with eggs

official U.S. high school social hierarchy reference for fiction

  • TOP – The Golden Teeth Children – wealthy, have replaced much of their body with gold (internally)
  • 2nd – Puppet Club Members
  • 3rd – Sports Moppets
  • 4th – The A/V Consortium and their Unseen Tapes
  • 5th – The one kid with the leather jacket
  • 6th – The one kid with the denim jacket
  • 7th – Class Clowns
  • 8th – Economists
  • 9th – Smaller children passing as older children (trench coats, stacking, fake mustache)
  • 10th – List Compilers

wake me up in 5000 years
They say dress for the job you want, which is why I’m dressed like a warrior from the distant past, awakened from my eternal slumber, determined to seek revenge (in between comical interludes where I interact clumsily with the modern era, astounded by how things have changed from back in my day).

ending theme song
Okay! Those sure were some words, hey kids? There’s no way you can mistake it for anything else. It wasn’t an ice sculpture. It wasn’t a majestic redwood, towering in the coastal mist. It wasn’t a gothic protagonist from an old paperback’s cover fleeing from a dark building on a hill while wearing only a nightgown. It wasn’t a pet’s water bowl. It wasn’t a quarterly 401k report that you’ll file unread.

The twist: OR WAS IT!?!?

Okay, gotta go, after that amazing story twist where this email was actually a redwood tree, I gotta head down to the highway on-ramp, stick out my thumb, and make it to Hollywood where The Twilight Zone collective plies their trade. I can’t hide this light under a bushel. I don’t even know where I’d find a bushel.

Oh, and real quick, if you still haven’t picked up my e-book, don’t worry: the world’s power grid is still fairly stable, so you can go download it for free (or you could pay for it, moneybags): https://gumroad.com/l/witchestown

You don’t even have to read it. Just put it on a computer or e-book reader and then update your will so, after you’re gone, your kids won’t fight about who gets to inherit it. Otherwise, they’re totally gonna. It’ll be a bloodbath.

Nobody wants that.

Well, maybe Big Blood, the industry flacks who are always bribing legislators to use more blood. But other than them…

—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. 

lost time incident 83 – ants on fire and science is to blame

a moving image from a movie trailer for THEM. Silhouettes of people watch giant ants burn while text appears reading TERROR HORROR EXCITEMENT MYSTERY

lost time incident 83
It’s Easter Sunday here in these United States and the sun is shining, which means it must be time to sit behind blackout curtains and think about scary stuff that might populate a mansion. I hope it’s time to do that, because that’s what I’ve been doing.

Hi, folks.

Since the last time I sent out an edition of this newsletter, I released WITCHES TOWN, an ebook the collects the best of over a year’s worth of microfiction offerings, both funny and creepy, including bits that appeared here for you, loyal subscribers.

So if you’ve been thinking: I really like the LOST TIME INCIDENT newsletter but it would be a lot better if the fiction bits were collected all in one place… well, you’re in luck.

WITCHES TOWN cover image

You can pay what you like for WITCHES TOWN over at Gumroad. (“What you like” can also be “download it for free”. I’m just happy it’s being read. The tip jar is optional, but it does help reimburse me for the amazing art that’s included in the book.)

I’ll also offer this: As a subscriber to this newsletter, if you pay $5 or more for the book, drop me an email and I’ll send you a “signed” copy. (Basically, I’ll edit one or all of the book formats with an inscription personalized to you.) For $10 or more, I’ll write an original piece that specifically includes you and insert that into your personal copy, plus the inscription.

For $6.66 I’ll give you a version of the book that will send you straight to the Devil. Please don’t do this. I shouldn’t have this sort of power but every day, the voices… the voices, they beg me to destroy someone’s soul. I don’t want to do it.

Ha ha! Just a funny joke!

Those voices mostly tell me about times I embarrassed myself in the past and about how the future is bearing down on us at all times.

Okay! Who wants to see some microfiction?

genre fiction
As the torch drips in the dark passageway, the archaeologist of the group pores over the ancient glyphs.

“As I thought. This squiggly bit here looks like a doggy.”

As the wizard watched his entire occult library go up in flames– a hazard for those who stick candles in skulls and expect them to never fall over– he could be heard muttering to himself “Oh, I do hope it turns out the magic was inside me all along.”

The space rogue sneered over the space poker table. “Ha! The only thing in this world that I trust is my laser pistol.”

“You need to work on those trust issues,” piped up the laser pistol from under the table.

“I know,” said the space rogue.

“You can’t just rely on me. It’s not healthy and you end up moody and withdrawn.”

And just like that, the pre-gunfight lacuna got awkward.

like comment and subscribe
back in my day we didn’t have social media

you wanted a stranger to give you some positive feedback you had to walk along the train tracks gathering sodee bottles and distribute ’em to the rail-bums who knew how to get cash for ’em and they’d give you half a dirty playing card you’d hide in a tree house and while you was up there thinking about life, some soldier back from the war would see you out their window from the room they scream in and they’d give you a thumbs up

just like that


ending theme song
Two weekends back, my wife Amanda and I went to a small indie role-playing game convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was called, appropriately enough, New Mexicon. We figured: Where better to face our social anxiety about meeting strangers than by flying to another state and then attempting to learn unfamiliar game systems & participate in creative endeavours with them? If it doesn’t work out, we can just never go back to New Mexico.

As it turns out, the people at New Mexicon were friendly and lots of fun to play with. I received such immediate and enthusiastic support from fellow attendees that I actually volunteered to facilitate a game session in the very first available session, day 1. I lead a group of strangers in creating a living language for an isolate community of homesteaders on Mars. How about that?

Anyway, that recent experience is part of why my Sunday morning was spent thinking about mansions and monsters. I’ll be running a small game/experiment RPG-shaped thing online, using voice-over-internet. I’ll be trying my hand at running a horror-themed game with some friends & relations, and I’m writing up an original  scenario rather than using something pre-written. 

I turned 43 this month.

So far, so good.

Still here. Thanks for being here with me.

—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. 

Lunar Desire Hospital: ARCHIVE

[This is an archive of an improvised narrative I wrote in a Discord channel over several months. The story’s installments would end potential choices and readers would vote via emoji. For this archive, I have highlighted the vote-winning options where they appear.]

An ambulance, wailing, wheels through deep dark woods, painting the branches with flashing red and white lights. From out of nothingness come FLOATING LETTERS IN ALL CAPS, superimposed magically in our vision. And those letters spell out:


Inside, an ace driver stomps on the gas pedal. His hair, slicked back by the wind that roars through the open window, forming a helmet of sensual follicles. While the road attempts to slow him, with its hairpin turns and deep wooded shadows, he responds with a sneer, and that sneering lip is topped with a pencil thin moustache.

This is AMIR LeSUAVE, ace ambulance driver. It’s rumored that at Grim Reaper HQ there’s a wanted poster with his name and image on it. You know. ‘Cause of all the lives he’s saved.

“You may as well open the bay doors, sweetheart, ’cause I’m comin’ in hot,” says LeSuave, holding a CB radio to his mouth. But who is he talking to?

  • MARION BLUEBERRY – Infectious Disease – Scrubs cling to her in all the right ways
  • SEBASTIAN MONEYMONEY – Surgery – A natural flirt, but he studied flirting as well: a double flirt threat!
  • Officer Tom – A cop – Amir’s parole officer, just waiting for him to screw up and end up back in the pokey
  • Janet – Dispatch – She’s got a kid, likes plain donuts, probably doesn’t have a dark secret

October 16, 2018

Sebastian Moneymoney ran his hands through his close-cropped hair, enjoying the peach fuzz sensation of it under his fingers before he picked up the dispatch microphone-thingy. He then pressed that button on the side that makes it work.

KKZ” went the radio set. That meant he could speak. “Oh, you know the bay doors here at Lunar Desire Hospital are always open for you, baby,” purred Sebastian. “And not just the actual doors, which are in need of repair, because we really should be able to close them. It’s a security hazard. But I’m also speaking metaphorically here, Amir. Of my ‘doors.’ If you know what I mean.”

He was pretty sure Amir knew what he meant, because if there was one thing he was good at, it was flirting. His eyes trailed over his framed certificate from The School Of Hard Licks University of Flirtatious Arts that granted him a PhD as a Pretty hot Dude.

Right at that moment, there was a knock on the door of the Dispatch office.

  • It’s mean ol’ Dr. Giggleheck! “You’re supposed to be in surgery! NOW!”
  • It’s a lost patient. “Hey, I’m looking for a surgeon? Because my organs itch?”
  • It’s a baby! How does a baby know to knock on a door?

October 18, 2018

“Is this Dispatch? ‘Cause it says Dispatch on the door.” A patient poked their head into the Dispatch room which yes, was the Dispatch room.

“Yeah, this is Dispatch,” said Sebastian Moneymoney. He immediately thought of and dismissed any jokes about ‘dis batch’ because his flirt expertise told him none of them would work in this context. No. In this context, the smart play was to make sure the top button of his scrubs was undone, showing a little chest. And it was. The top button. Undone.

The patient stepped all the way and appreciated Moneymoney’s chest. “I was sent here because I’m supposed to be in surgery and the nurse said the head surgeon might be hanging out in here?”

“I’m not ‘hanging out,'” said Moneymoney, “though I’m well hung.” There it is. “There’s still five whole minutes until the surgery is supposed to start, so I still have time for a little more banter with Amir before scrubbing up.”

Annoyed at this flirt interruption, Moneymoney took a good look at the patient. Who’s the patient?

  • Cameron Smirk, Pineapple King of North Dakota
  • Gennifer Vacuumtube, hypochondriac and lottery winner
  • Barleywood Applesmith, Librarian to the Stars

October 20, 2018

“I’m Barleywood Applesmith? Librarian to the Stars? Maybe you’ve seen me on TV?” asked Barleywood Applesmith.

“I don’t watch a lot of TV,” said Moneymoney. “Too busy saving lives. I assume you didn’t bring your chart with you, so what’s this about itching organs?”

Applesmith looked slightly embarrassed. “It all started with a book that I had to procure for Cameron Smirk, the Pineapple King of North Dakota.”

“I’ve heard of him,” said Moneymoney. “He was deposed last year in a coup. The Pineapple Baron, Jason Rustwhite, replaced him entirely. Took the crown, started calling himself the True Pineapple King of the North, took over Smirk’s mansion, married his wife, plays fetch-the-stick with his dog, puts pineapple on pizzas and donates them to the poor out of the back of the former Pineapple King’s former BMW.”

“I thought you didn’t watch a lot of TV?” said Applesmith.

“I read newspapers,” said Moneymoney, trailing his fingers through the chest hair that was sticking out of the top of his scrubs, each one a waving flirtatious ‘hello’ of hair. “Anyway, Smirk needed me to locate a book for him. It was the secret, he said, to deposing the sham Pineapple King and regaining his throne. What was the book?

  • A publisher’s proof of The Checkered Flag: A Year of Auto Racing and a Lifetime of Regret by A. D. Shimbalanackash
  • A first edition of I’m OK But Nothing Else is OK, signed by the author Druid Ham
  • The banned book Organ Irritation for Dummies: A Guide to Internal Irritants for the Home and Office
  • The Illustrated All-Organic Sexual Positions Farm Almanac for the 2000s and Beyond (Y2K Edition) (various authors)

October 25, 2018

The ambulance burst out of the woods, Amir LeSuave steering with one hand, and with the other hand patting a copy of The Illustrated All-Organic Sexual Positions Farm Almanac for the 2000s and Beyond (Y2K Edition) that sat on the passenger seat, buckled in by the cross strap for safety. On the cover, a young man wearing a “cyber” outfit (a pair of headphones worn so that the top piece covered his eyes) and a young woman wearing overalls and a straw hat were entwined together, but in such a way that any personal anatomy was covered by the block text of the book’s title.

“Sebastian!” shouted Amir into his citizen’s band radio. “Sebastian, are you still there? I was hoping to hear more about your ‘doors’! What are your doors wearing today, underneath the regulation scrubs that we all wear when we’re on duty?”

From the back of the ambulance came a tremulous moan. “I hope that’s a good moan back there, but if it’s a bad moan, hold on ’cause we’re almost there,” shouted Amir to his passenger in the back of the ambulance. Who’s back there, anyway?

  • Willifred Amandatha Joxxon, first mayor of the moon
  • Chuck “Slim” Horseface (Horse) Ropem, rodeo rider and calendar model
  • Lady Jessicorn Elmbee, heiress to the 1000 Piece Puzzle fortune
  • Some turkey with a broken arm that Amir found near one of those Lime scooters… not a literal turkey, but just some kid whose name he didn’t get ’cause he was moving too fast, but that’s, like, his thing
  • Someone who looks just like another Amir LeSuave?!? What the…?!?

October 30, 2018

The back of the ambulance swayed back and forth as Amir deftly hugged the curves of the road, the tires of the ambulance humming with speed.

Inside, strapped to a pair of gurneys were two figures: The first was an elegant looking lady. The sort of lady who you’re pretty sure has slapped someone while holding a flute of champagne. As the heiress of the 1000 Piece Puzzle fortune, Lady Jessicorn Elmbee was a major figure in the town of St. Mountain Flats, but today she had an IV in her arm and was a common patient… or as common as you can get when you’re worth kajillions!

In the other gurney was some kid with a broken arm, who cares.

And between them… what’s this? That sneering lip? That pencil thin mustache? Those sensual follicles? How can this be? How can Amir be driving AND be catering to two patients in the back of the ambulance at the same time?

ANSWER: He can’t. This is Legerdymayne, Amir’s equally-handsome twin, and top notch EMT. With one gloved hand, he held a soothing cloth to the brow of the jigsaw heiress, prompting her moans of medical gratitude.

From the other gurney: “Am I ever going to be able to play the trombone again?” wheezed the kid with the broken arm.

“Only if you don’t speak again,” said Legerdymayne. “Now, Lady Jay… where were we?”

  • “You were telling me about how, once I’m recovered, we should try making love on a completed puzzle that features an image of the two of us entwined in romance.”
  • “You were telling me about the history of Kidney Eruptus and what my chances were for survival. It was fascinating!
  • “You were going to tell me your price… how much it would cost to drop this no-name kid off so I can put my feet up.”
  • “You were going to tell me about your previous job as a bank robber, before you got into medicine.”

November 1, 2018

“You were telling me about how, once I’m recovered, we should try making love on a completed puzzle that features an image of the two of us entwined in romance,” said Lady Elmbee, her expensive eye-lashes waving like tropical fronds.

“That’s right,” said Legerdymayne. “Now I remember. That was a great suggestion of mine.”

“And I have some contacts who can make that custom puzzle happen,” purred Lady Elmbee.

“Are we almost to the hospital?” asked kid what’s-his-name, but the only answer he got was the sound of warm lips on warm lips. Whoah momma! Legerdymayne and Lady Elmbee were medically making out! The strongest medicine! And then Lady Elmbee’s kidney erupted.

In the operating room, machines were beeping. Some were booping and at least one went like this: Hsssh. Hsssh. Hssssh. Sounded like it was breathing. On the table, Barleywood Applesmith, Librarian to the Stars, lay with his chest open. Everything was where you’d expect it: lungs, heart, intestines, a four volume collection of love poems of the far eastern yak farm collectives (1943-44).

A nurse mopped the brow of Sebastian Moneymoney as he used little metal pokey bits to make Applesmith’s guts better. He turned to the nurse.

“So yeah, he was just about to tell me about The Illustrated All-Organic Sexual Positions Farm Almanac for the 2000s and Beyond (Y2K Edition) when–”

KA-BAM! The door to the operating room was kicked open!

In the doorway was a woman in a fashionable long coat, a live fox patiently curled up on her head as a hat, as was the fashion. It’s Elizabeta Foxhington! The industrialist! If you can think of a factory, she owns one of those! What could she want?

  • “Stop right there! I just bought this hospital and I’m SHUTTING IT DOWN!”
  • “You’re all under citizen’s arrest! For ORGAN CRIMES!”
  • “Finally, Moneymoney, I’ve found you. Give me all your lips, like you did in Mt. Monterrey!”
  • “I’m paying for this man’s surgery and that means THIS MAN BELONGS TO ME!”

November 4, 2018

A factory that makes concrete ducks which are then painted and can decorate your garden. A factory that makes electronic key fobs that help you locate the nearest coffee bar (so long as they’re participating in a partnership program with the fob maker). A factory that renders angel feathers into capes that heal skin conditions. A factory that manufacturers industrial equipment used to grade ski runs, smoothing over mountainsides. A factory that manufactures novelty foam fingers that have sayings on them like “I LIKE TO VOTE” and “WE ARE AT A SPORTING EVENT” and “MY SPOUSE IS SEXY IN AN OBVIOUS MANNER THAT REQUIRES NO PUBLIC ACKNOWLEDGEMENT BUT HERE WE ARE”.

All of these and many more make up the industrial fount from which Elizabeta Foxhington’s fortune flowed. And today those fortunes were bent towards the fate of the hospital.

“Stop right there!” shouted Foxhington, interrupting Moneymoney’s surgery. “I just bought this hospital and I’m SHUTTING IT DOWN!”

Foxhington strode up to the operating table, shoving aside beeping monitors and booping woosh-things. She grabbed the anesthesia mask straight off the face of Applesmith, the patient on the operating table, the elastic snapping, and pressed the mask up against her own mouth.

“This gas is also mine!” she shouted, muffled by the gas mask. Sebastian Moneymoney gave a subtle shooing gesture to the nurses who had been helping his surgery and the collected their surgical tools, baggies full of pills and gas canisters and hustled out of the operating chamber. Then, Moneymoney slowly turned to Foxhington, matching gazes with both Foxhington and the tame fox on her head in turn.

“Foxhington,” Moneymoney said. “I’ve got but one thing to say to you.”

  • “You’re supposed to be under quarantine… for Money-opathic Vulpinitis!”
  • “How did you get out all that rope I left you tied up with, ya saucy filly?”
  • “You’ve got a lot of nerve showing up here since you built a shark-rendering factory where my medical alma mater used to be!”
  • “You need to make like a cactus… and get pricked!” [Flirt]

November 7, 2018

“How did you get out all that rope I left you tied up with, ya saucy filly?” Moneymoney responded.

“BREACH OF CONTRACT!” barked the fox resting on top of Foxhington’s head.

“This is my lawyer,” Foxhington explained. “When I hired you for, and I quote, a bespoke BDSM experience for beginners, the experience was contractually promised to be safe, sane and consensual. And yet. I was left alone, tied up, and surrounded by open cans of tuna… a smell that I am not fond of.”

“I”m no lawyer,” said Moneymoney, leaning on the surgical table. “I’m a doctor. So I may not have a legal defense that’s worth a damn. But I left you tied up and smelling of fish because… you built a shark-rendering factory where my medical alma mater used to be! It was an act of BDSM-assisted work-for-hire REVENGE!”

“HOUSE AND HOME!” barked the fox. “SALT THE LAND!”

“You thought THAT was bad?” said Foxhington. “That was NOTHING. You humiliated me. I had to call my 18 assistants using voice-activated dialing to come untie me. And then fire all 18 of them. I told them they were on a coffee run in my private jet and had my private jet drop them off in Peru. And then I had the pilot blow up the plane and walk back. I think he’s in southern Mexico. Should be home in a few months. What was I talking about?”

“REVENGE!” barked the fox lawyer. “WE ARE THE LAW’S BITING JAWS!”

“Hold on for just one second,” said Moneymoney and he wheeled the body of Applesmith out of the operating room. He then moved an oxygen pump array over, blocking the door to the operating theater. “There. That should hold her for a while.”


  • Meanwhile, in the SHARK-RENDERING FACTORY
  • Meanwhile, in the AMBULANCE BAY
  • Meanwhile, in a LAW SCHOOL FOR ANIMALS

November 13, 2018

Meanwhile, in the Herther-Furrington Academy of Animal Law:

At the front of an enormous classroom, a glasses-wearing ferret barks and gestures at a blackboard that has nothing written on it. It has been scored deeply with claw marks. Had we noses sensitive enough, perhaps we could “read” it, but we do not. This world is closed to us.

In the chairs set on risers, several zoos worth of studious creatures listen attentively. They are the future of animal law. Look at ’em. Little fuzzy wuzzies. Legally speaking.

Okay, I think we’re done here!

November 15, 2018

Meanwhile, in the Ambulance Bay:

Legerdymayne pushed a stretcher through the hospital’s sliding doors, his face a rictus of fear! This can’t be happening, he thought! Not to a patient of his! Not when he was so close to passing off Lady Jessicorn Elmbee to someone else and making her health their responsibility instead of his!

“Hey!” Legerdymayne shouted. “Someone get over here! We’ve got a patient with Kidney Eruptus… and it’s gone off! I heard the pop! It was super gross!”

From the back of an ambulance, a tremulous voice called out: “Can someone help me? My arm really hurts!”

“Not now!” snapped Amir, examining the back tire of the ambulance. He had heard a cracking sound as he squealed into the ambulance bay and while his brother got their patient the attention she needed, he was making sure his chariot was in tip-top shape. Middling shape just wasn’t going to cut the mustard.

Underneath the rear tire was what appeared to be a miniature blackboard with deep scratches in its chalky surface. But that didn’t explain the coppery smell. Oh no. Oh, this is terrible.

Amir spotted a furry pile underneath the ambulance. A ferret-shaped pile. And a pair of glasses. Those could have damaged the tires!

“Get your hands off of MY ambulance!” commanded a mysterious voice, but the mystery didn’t last for long because it’s the voice of Elizabeta Foxhington! Amir whipped around to see who it was and then he too saw it was Elizabeta Foxhington!

“You…” he said, low and serious.

Drama! Excitement! … Time for some ads!

  • Try new Boo Glue! The only glue for ghosts!
  • There’s got to be a better way! My cat is depressed!
  • Has a swimming suit ever happened to you?
  • SKIP. Thank goodness we DVRed LUNAR DESIRE HOSPITAL

November 19, 2018

Has this ever happened to you?

[A cat lies on its back in a dandelion-dappled glade, just staring. Staring up at the sky. Camera pans over to a frantic cat owner, his arms full of books by Kierkegaard, Sartre, Heidegger, and others.]

“My cat! She’s read too much philosophy! Now she’s depressed! What can I do?”

[Inside a lab, a woman wearing a lab coat pours blue liquid into a graduated cylinder.].

Narrator: “It’s more common than you think! But science has the cure. Buy your cat SomNoTerxAltium! Its patented formula gets guaranteed results.”

[A cat, now strapped into a roller coaster, having the time of its life.]

SomNoTerxAltium: Doesn’t Your Cat Deserve It?


An ambulance squeals to a halt and Legerdymayne wheels a patient into the hospital. A ferret marks a term paper with a passing grade, then turns to see a giant ambulance tire approaching. Moneymoney trails his fingertips through his chest hair while a nurse pats his brow with a cloth. Lady Foxhington kicks open the doors to the operating room: “I just bought this hospital and I’m SHUTTING IT DOWN!”


  • Wasn’t there a subplot about the Y2K bug?
  • Wasn’t the hospital under new ownership?
  • Why haven’t more doctors been replaced with robots?
  • Doesn’t this hospital have broom closets where people should be ‘getting busy’ as a break from their high-stress positions?
  • Exploded kidneys… are they contagious?
  • Meanwhile, at the pheromone factory upwind from the hospital…

November 27, 2018

On the 8th floor of Lunar Desire Hospital, in a candlelit office space behind locked doors, among walls lined with books, sat a heavy presence. Broad shoulders and a wide jaw. A dark complexion in a dim room. Fingers type away in front of a green glowing computer screen that illuminates a name plate. The title: HOSPITAL CHIEF The name:

  • Bantam Percival, three time surgery champion (Pittsburgh)
  • Latecock Mueller, accountant and master of the occult
  • Mayberry Lulululu, MBA in hospital administration, owns 18 copies of BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA on DVD
  • Keith Jospital, former computer hacker, has 3 kidneys

December 3, 2018

“Spirits of the Earth! Spirits of the Air! Hear me now! It is I, LATECOCK MUELLER, master of the arcane arts, diviner of truths, and BANE of the Y2K Bug that– despite all rumors– yet roams this land. I have sworn an oath, which burns in my very bug-hating soul, that I will guard this hospital AND THIS REALM from that dreaded Y2K Bug!”

On the computer screen, a display name “SPIRITS OF THE EARTH/AIR” indicated a “read receipt” that the message had been delivered via instant message. Then some ellipses appeared to indicate that SPIRITS OF THE EARTH/AIR were typing a response. Then the ellipses vanished, but there was no message. Then… THEY CAME BACK! Three little dots, promising so much. Then they were gone agai–NO WAIT! On the screen, these words from the spirit world appeared:

  • “Latecock: Beware! The Pineapple King!”
  • “oh hey this is my sisters account who are you lol”
  • “The rabbit… has applied… to college. Over.”
  • “WHAZAAAAAP! We know how to defeat the Y2K bug… and it’s gonna be hot!”

December 6, 2018

On the screen, these words from the spirit world appeared: “Latecock! Beware! The Pineapple King!”

What… about… him… ? typed Latecock.

“Are we supposed to figure out everything?” responded the spirits. “C’mon. Really.”

December 9, 2018


  • Elizabeta Foxhington and her fox lawyer are in the ambulance bay… what can speedy driver Amir LeSuave do to save the hospital from being shut down? Is there ANYTHING he can do?
  • Lady Jessica’s kidney exploded! Can Legerdymayne get her to Sebastian Moneymoney for surgery in time? Especially with his SECRET HISTORY with Moneymoney?
  • Somewhere, in North Dakota, the deposed Pineapple King has a plan. And it involves COMPUTERS.
  • The spirits have communicated their prophecy to Latecock Mueller, Hospital Chief. Can he interpret their message in time to SAVE THE HOSPITAL?
  • Not enough subplots. Something new… SOMETHING NEW!

December 14, 2018

Latecock Mueller ran his fingers down the length of the tiny sharp beard that stuck out from his chin like directional indicator on a defibrillator.

“The spirits have spoken,” he said to himself. “This hospital is in danger. But… how? WHERE?”

He stood up and left the candle-lit lair that was his office, striding down the hallway to a door marked EMPLOYEES ONLY. In he strode to another dim room, this one illuminated with security monitors marking every corner of the hospital with their impassive gaze.

“By the Roaming Eyeballs of Karakh Thur, what is this?” exclaimed Latecock Mueller.

On the monitor in front of him, a woman with an angry fox on her head was approaching his ace hospital driver, gesturing angrily. Mueller pushed a small joystick upward to zoom in to see what was on the paper that the woman was brandishing at Amir LeSuave. Was that… could it be? A bill of sale? This was serious. This was going to require serious arcane assistance.

As fast as he could, Mueller trotted down the administrative hospital hallway and entered a room marked with a sign reading TAX RECORDS. Inside was the greatest collection of mystical medical artifacts the world has known. From among the collection, girding his loins to go down the ambulance bay, Mueller choice the perfect tool for the challenge of a madwoman and her fox, as the spirits warned him about. What did he select?

  • The Crown of Lower Atlantis
  • The Spectacles of 18 Cows in One
  • “Misery’s Donut”
  • The Ultimate Clip of Assistance

December 21, 2018


Elizabeta waved a bundle of legal documents at Amir LeSuave in the emergency garage bay.

“Your keys, sir!” she barked and her fox lawyer barked, supportively. “You’ll see here that I have purchased the hospital entirely. There’s not an inch of it that does not belong to me. And that includes your ambulance and all it contains. Hand me those ambulance keys.”

Amir brushed his hands through his long, luscious locks and arched a skeptical & sexy eyebrow– a sex-tical eyebrow– and said “Well… not everything in that ambulance is yours. Just give me a minute and I’ll get my stuff out of it. Then it’s all yours.”


“I just need to grab my book,” said Amir.

December 26, 2018

  • Amir grabs his book (which we know about) and we find out why he has it
  • Mueller arrives with “Misery’s Donut” and we get to see that thing in action
  • CUT TO: Cameron Smirk, deposed pineapple king, and find out why he needs the book
  • CUT TO: The lair of the Y2K Bug… oh yeah, baby, it’s real and it wants REVENGE

December 31, 2018


(today’s script provided by Jeffty, a kid who was found unattended outside the Safeway off Tennyson Ave.)

AMIR: Once? There was a monkey? And it eated a banana and then it had to poo and it pooed a BANANA!

A FOX on ELIZABETA’s Head: FOX! FOX fox fox fox fox fox FOX!

ELIZABETA: Where’s my mom? How long do I have to stay


Michael: …

Interviewer: So. Where do you get your ideas?

Michael: Basically I try to think of the stupidest thing I can think of. Something I’d be embarrassed to write down. Then I do it anyway.

January 8, 2019


1. Gert the Shadow – Got a disease that made light slide right off of her. Some say she may still be in the hospital somewhere. Somewhere dark.

2. Pukin’ Elmer – He was 6 feet tall when his guts rebelled and only 4′ 8″ when he left the hospital. But he could keep down his soup and that’s a success in our books.

3. Patient Eleventeen – Never did find out their name. But they made out with, like, EVERY doctor. Even Dr. Greenmolar.

4. Mardock, Shatterer of Realms – Nice guy.

5. Mr. Curmuck – A ventriloquist dummy. No, not “termites”. Bronchitis. Did you know some of those dummies have working lungs? Ick.

Amir reached into the ambulance as if to grab his book, The Illustrated All-Organic Sexual Positions Farm Almanac for the 2000s and Beyond (Y2K Edition). But when safely behind the ambulance door, out of sight of Elizabeta Foxhington and her unhinged attorney, he slipped the ambulance radio’s mic out of its holster and thumbed it on.

As quietly as he could, he whispered, “Anyone in Lunar Desire got their ears on?” (This was trucker slang for “Is anybody hearing me?” Despite not being a trucker himself, Amir had once gone to Trucker’s Camp as a kid in the 80s and had learned CB lingo, as well as how to build a model of a semi trailer out of popsicle sticks and how to pee in a soda bottle one-handed. “We got a situation in the ambulance bay and I could use some extra boots for a butt kickin’ contest, kinda impromptu.”

“10-4, good buddy,” responded a familiar voice. And suddenly, the ambulance bay was suffused with the rich smell of … chocolate?

“Misery’s Donut” and its master, the mystical Latecock Mueller appeared suddenly, Mueller astride the top of the ambulance, his head almost to the bay’s roof, glaring down, down into the dark beady eyes of the fox lawyer, a baleful glare promising retribution for messing with his staff.


  • “Objection… cocoa-ruled!” roars Mueller.
  • “Do I care what you think about occult artifacts? I donut,” said Mueller.
  • “I own this smell,” said Foxhington, nonsensically, before starting to weep.
  • I could go for a donut, actually.

January 26, 2019

There’s a wing of Lunar Desire Hospital that doesn’t appear on any blueprints. It’s been hidden, with only a few key employees ever made aware of its existence at any time. To get there, you have to walk through the ICU, unplug a beeping machine that has a sign on it reading NEVER UNPLUG THIS THING OMG, shove it aside, and crawl on all fours for roughly 100 meters down a twisting, LED-lit passageway.

But once you emerge at the other end, it just looks like more hospital. White walls. Tile floors. Track lighting. Hospital beds. This wing of the hospital was closed off for a reason.

  • This was the Pineapple Ward, where those suffering from Pineapple Madness were quarantined in one of Lunar Desire Hospital’s darkest chapters.
  • This was the hospital’s IT wing, where scrubbed and masked IT experts successfully created a vaccine against the Y2K bug… and birthed a monster.
  • This was the Romance Unit. They say that late at night, you can still hear the calls of TRUE LOVE coming through the forbidden walls.
  • This was the hospital’s aquarium. Had to shut it down. Too many sharks. Even the presence of a shark-rendering plant in town couldn’t rein in the population.
  • This was the cafe. It only served decaf.

February 3, 2019

Somewhere in the former IT wing: The sound of typing. A smell, as of tinned pineapple that’s gone off… metal and sugar and rot. A mugginess to the air. Probably because the air is off.

Again: This whole IT wing was closed down some time ago. I don’t know why you keep bringing it up. It’s closed.

Atop the highest mountain of North Dakota, Cameron Smirk– deposed Pineapple King of North Dakota, placed a phone call. The call bounced off of satellites and came down to the pocket of Barleywood Applesmith, librarian to the stars, who was in the recovery ward at Lunar Desire Hospital. He had been admitted because of itchy internal organs– but that was all a ruse!

In fact, Barleywood had tracked one of the few remaining copies of The Illustrated All-Organic Sexual Positions Farm Almanac for the 2000s and Beyond (Y2K Edition) to this very city… the city that was host to Lunar Desire Hospital! Unfortunately, the doctors and nurses of Lunar Desire Hospital are ruthlessly efficient when it comes to itchy organs, and so Barleywood’s organs had been thoroughly scratched and he answered his cell phone from inside an oxygen tent.

“This is Applesmith.”

“Barleywood!” barked Cameron. “Tell me you’ve got my book!”

“Just about, sir. I just… my organs are resting right now. But the book has to be close.”

“From the mountain top I’m sitting on, I just watched an entire caravan of refrigerated semi trucks leave the house I used to live in, now home to the illegitimate Pineapp— Pin– Oh, I can’t even SAY it! That rotten skunk Jason Rustwhite! I’m betting he’s up to something and the only chance we have of heading him off is for you to find that book!”

Cameron Smirk sadly caressed a golden crown in his lap, adorned with a bejeweled pineapple. A crown he was, at present, forbidden to wear.

“I’ll get that book for you, sir,” assured Barleywood. “In fact, I was just about to–”

  • Bribe a nurse to disguise him as a jello-filled snack cart and wheel him about the hospital
  • Disguise himself as a defibrillator kit and search the hospital for the book
  • Hotwire the fire alarm so it can be triggered remotely and then, disguised as a fire, trigger the alarm when needed
  • Visit the hospital’s library and see if the book is just… sitting on a shelf there. Wouldn’t that be nice?

February 16, 2019

“I was just about to hotwire the fire alarm so it can be triggered remotely. And have a disguise in mind. You don’t need all the details,” said Barleywood. “Don’t worry, sir. I’ll soon have the book in hand.”

Meanwhile, in the ambulance bay… Latecock Mueller, master of the occult, walked up to Amir LeSuave and held out his hand. “Mr. LeSuave, if you’ll be so kind as to hand me that copy of The Illustrated All-Organic Sexual Positions Farm Almanac for the 2000s and Beyond (Y2K Edition), I would be most appreciative.”

Behind LeSuave, Elizabeta Foxhington and her lawyer stood, frozen in time and limned with a nimbus of chocolate-scented power. The magical crown known as Misery’s Donut rested astride Mueller’s brow, and only a tiny fraction of its power was required to keep Foxhington and her fox ally sidelined. Mueller glanced over at the pair.

“They’ll never realize how close they came to ushering in disaster. The sort of disaster this hospital hasn’t faced since… 1999,” said Mueller.

Amir handed over his book. On its cover, a poorly-rendered CGI knight was driving a lance into the heart of a dragon-like Y2K monster with one hand and romantically caressing a different knight with their other hand. The three figures formed a strange monster-fighting threeway. (The monster’s eyes seemed to hold both pain and arousal, a rare accomplishment with 3D animation of the era.)

“What do you need the book for?” asked Amir.

“You’ll see soon enough,” said Mueller. “Mr. Barleywood… you may enter. Misery’s Donut sensed you coming. This book… needs its champion.”

“Champion?” said Barleywood, stepping out of the deep shadows of the ambulance bay. “I’m not sure I know what you mean. I was just hired to–”

And from somewhere in the distance, a howling din erupted, like a hurricane of angry lions scrapping with a 56K modem.

“Oh no,” said Barleywood. “I thought… it was just a legend!” Mueller shook his head sadly. “We thought sealing it off would be enough. We were wrong.”

In the long-abandoned IT wing of Lunar Desire Hospital, a door that hadn’t been unlocked in years creaked open and Sebastian Moneymoney slide past it. Peering into the gloom, Moneymoney smoothed his unruly chest hair in preparation.

Without warning, a clawed foot fell upon the tile in front of him, followed by an enormous creature of legend… a creature that combined the mass of a dinosaur, the technological power of heaps of RAM, and a lovely pineapple scent. It turned its translucent blue iMac-and-chicken head towards Moneymoney and ROARED.

Moneymoney looked back over his shoulder. Would back-up arrive in time? He certainly hoped so. But there was no danger he wouldn’t face to keep this creature from threatening his patients. Time to put those years of study to work, he thought with a smirk.

“All right, monster,” purred Moneymoney. “Why don’t you come on over here and give me a Y2Kiss?”

  • Credits Roll ™ –> To be continued… ?
  • A cliffhanger!
  • Hey, what happened to “be disguised as a fire?”

lost time incident 82 – thank you for your service, electronics

lost time incident 82 - a sports car drives at night down a foggy road... it's very 80s VHS

lost time incident 82
I had to get a new microwave recently. I don’t know how old the previous microwave was, but it could tell lots of stories about “the war” and they always involved sabers, mud, a sky choked with smoke, and shivering in a trench, feverish from some bug-borne disease, reading the last dirt-smudged postcard from home over and over again.

The old microwave is sitting in the closet now, “in retirement,” until we have an occasion to rent a car, at which time we’ll take it to the local recycling center where … okay, honestly I don’t know what happens to it at that point, but I hope they treat it with the respect it deserves.

The best part is now I don’t have to clean it. It’s gross as heck and that doesn’t matter anymore.

The new microwave has a Potato button. This has been the stand-out achievement of the new year so far. I can put a single potato in there, press some points on the microwave’s face (thus informing it “You have a single potato in you”, and it handles the rest. Amazing.

“A potato? One potato? Got it. Say no more,” says the new microwave.

This new microwave has never even traveled abroad, let alone taken a life. This new microwave has three frequently updated social media accounts and has never screamed that its gas mask won’t seal as yellow clouds swept right over its rotating glass carousel.

Anyway. This is a newsletter of some sort. At some point in the past, you signed up to receive it. Now that you’ve read about microwaves at war, perhaps you regret it.

“Why doesn’t this email contain a 10% off coupon for a store I visited for 3 minutes in 2009?” you may be thinking. “Why doesn’t this email have a subject line designed to make me panicky about the future so I’ll donate to a politician?” you may be thinking. “Why did I decide that I would never learn to read? What do all these squiggles in my Inbox mean?” you may be thinking. (Okay, odds are against that last one, but MAYBE.)


I don’t have anything I particularly needed to check in about. Just had a mid-day with no distractions and I don’t want to go grocery shopping, which would be the responsible thing to do.

So you get this. Whatever this is.

tips for staying warm this winter

  1. Consider your grudges. Nurse them. Cup them close like tiny flames.
  2. Never go outside
  3. Recognize that the world is an interpretation and invention of the mind, so what if your mind went: “It’s not cold.” Could that help?
  4. The whole planet’s warming up and will kill us all, and one day you’ll look back on this cold in envy, so… just hang in there.

so you picked up a spectral hitchhiker…
It happened again, eh friend? No worries! Just remember this simple mnemonic: F.U.D.G.E.!


Simply drive the spirit where it wishes to go, or help it enact its vengeance, and then you’ll be alone in your car again in no time!

ending theme song
Okay! I’ve taken up enough of your time. Just kidding, I’m going to take up more of your time by pointing out that with my wife Amanda, I’ve been blazing a trail through the craziest hidden object games we can find and hoo boy— we just completed a doozy.

If you don’t know anything about hidden object games, then we’re going to start you on the black diamond course, baby. Strap a board on your feet and check out STRAY SOULS: DOLLHOUSE STORY with us.

I would love to stick around and chat for longer, but my library book is due back in a few days so… I’m very busy.

Hope you’re doing well! If you own property, consider setting aside an entire room that bees can live in… they need help and it’s probably tax deductible! Okay, goodBYE!

—Michael Van Vleet

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lost time incident 81 – pointedly ignoring the disaster

a man in profile, in the distance, a glowing fleshy monster cloud hovers over an industrial landscape

lost time incident 81
Do you watch the news? It’s a dirty habit but some people like to stay informed. You may or may not know that the part of the United States I live in is in the middle of a slow-motion ecological disaster. Acres of California have surrendered to flames and the resulting smoke has drifted down to gift the San Francisco Bay Area with the world’s worst air.

Fellow pedestrians in the last week have adapted speedily to post-apocalyptic couture, some making do with white disposable face masks, while those with deeper pockets sport masks with protruding plastic filters and somehow nobody is shrieking, or shaking the shoulders of passerby.

We pretty much got used to it immediately.

It’s the end of the world, but we’ve still got to get to the office.

Breathing outside for a day is like smoking 14 cigarettes, but some people smoke 14 cigarettes so what’s the big deal?

Anyway, if you haven’t heard from me in awhile, it’s ’cause I had to buy a long enough extension cord to run an air purifier out in the middle of the street, so this should all be cleared up soon. I took care of it.

Just kidding, it’s probably going to happen every year, and we’ll have expensive designer face masks in our closets as seasonal wear until our own homes are consigned to flames and we, now piles of ashes, call in sick to work.

Until that happens, want to read some mildly amusing stuff?


1. Find out what crabs like to eat. Probably gross stuff.
2. Acquire lots of crab food and feed a lot of crabs.
3. Befriend the crabs. Tell them your vision for a new government. Really sell them on it.
4. March on the seats of power with a motivated crab army of friends and true believers.
5).Chase out the scum with your seething wave of claws! (Once you’ve chased out the scum with yr claws, continue to step 6.)
6. Set a date for free elections (and ban crab feasts)!


1. Identify a car. Is it locked? Continue to step 2.
2. Approach the door’s lock. (There should only be one.)
3. Breathe on the lock. That’s it.
4. Press yourself firmly against the lock until you squish in and fill the lock completely.
5. Turn yourself.
6. Enter the car.
7. Write your name on the registration with your best handwriting.
8. Check the back seat for Draculas. If no Draculas, continue to step 10.
10. Finish stealing the car.

illustration: a dandy, an exorcist holding a stick, a floating woman with a demon of fog leaving her mouth


1. Their sole piece of equipment they call a “Ghostbustin’ stick,” which you suspect is a storm-blown tree limb from your neighbor’s lawn.

2. They claim they learned how to exorcise “from the streets” and so you ask “Which streets?” but when you go to those named streets, they still look pretty haunted actually.

3. When asked their favorite thing about being an exorcist, they say “Working in a field that has no centralized licensing authority.”

[illustration: Pete Toms]

ending theme song
That exorcism bit is an old one, newly rewritten with the benefit of years of experience. It appeared in my last short fiction collection, THE SPIRIT LEFT ME, which I’ve put up for sale on Gumroad even though it’s available for free elsewhere. Just in case anyone wants to give me a dollar.

This version contains all the computer desktop images I put together to promote the book back in the day. That’s something.


How do I usually end these things?

—Michael Van Vleet

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lost time incident 80 – a class act

a rose, a perfume bottle, the text: LOST TIME INCIDENT 80

lost time incident 80
Greetings, fellow sophisticates. Wrap yourselves in your vat-grown, cruelty-free mink fur stoles and make yourselves comfortable. Sip freely from your vat-grown, cruelty-free champagne as this newsletter unfolds. Take some time out from updating your will to leave all your assets to your pets and enjoy a completely different sort of odd behavior:


I’m in the middle of a two week “stay-cation”, which is why I have time to loll about mid-day on a Thursday composing a newsletter. I had booked this time off a while ago, thinking that inspiration might strike about what to do with it when it got here.

Well, it got here. And my plan of “not planning for it at all” reaped the expected harvest. I’m on my couch. Technically “relaxing.”

And since idle hands are the Devil’s Playground, I figured I may as well bother you, the reader.

So. What are YOU doing?

Go ahead and speak your response in the listening radius of any microphones you may own and I’ll pay a social media entity a few dollars to forward me your answer. <– Ha ha, suck it Black Mirror! This dystopian stuff is easy.

Anyway, on the off chance you haven’t already read everything I’ve ever written, here’s a few short things I’ve written for the season (he writes, as if he’s not writing Halloween-appropriate stuff all year).


halloween tips for farmers
1) Append the prefix blood- to all your crops for October! Bloodcorn! Bloodsoy! Bloodtatoes! [Please do not use this fun tip with rapeseed]

2) October is the only month all year when it’s okay if your scarecrow comes to life! Maybe loosen its ropes a little! Give the scary little straw-spook a fighting chance!

3) If all of your hens speak in one voice of the End Times, change up their feed mix. Roll them back to grower feed ’til they settle down.

4) Scythes! MORE SCYTHES! 5) Leave candy by the tractors. Do not look at the tractors.


BOO-berry pancakes
You will need:

  • a box of pancake mix
  • a source of clean water
  • to have passed beyond the veil of this life yet remain, to have become a shimmering curtain fueled by unfulfilled desire

1. Knock that pancake mix box on the floor

2. Open all the taps in the house

3. Communicate to those living in the house a fraction of your quivering discontent by wailing and appearing during lightning strikes

Serves 8


monster adjacent financial advice
There’s no money to be made in stitching together parts from purloined bodies and using a tower-based lightning system to imbue them with life. The real money is in catering to the hobbyists who want to make their own monsters and selling them starter kits, supplies and how to guides.

More than half will never even make a single monster. They’ll spend money just so they can imagine themselves as the sort of person who stitches together and animates monsters.


[relatable content for good children late edition 29.09]

    a wastrel child of no consequence: Hooray! It’s Halloween season! I want to parade about as a ghost and eat sweets!

     you (a good child): A season? Nay. At every moment be aware of the skeleton within you, the aeons that came before you and the aeons that will come after you. The years that will crush even the memory of you. No candy can sweeten this knowledge, put it is pure and true.


ending theme song
Oh, hey there! You caught me trying to end a newsletter. If you’d like to see more of this sort of thing, there’s an archive available on my own website, signalstation.com. If you’d like to see less of this sort of thing, there’s an unsubscribe button below. We offer an entire range of options for the discerning reader and that’s what keeps us at the top of the regional newsletter customer service rankings! We’re here… for you!

Thank you for your support! You have all earned one (1) participation ribbon for making it this far! Wear it proudly.

I                             I
I                             I
I              I              I
I                             I
I  participated  I
I                             I
I                             I

—Michael Van Vleet

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lost time incident 79 – the sea will break your heart

lost time incident 79
Hey, everybody! How’s life treating you? Finding fresh food and water? Avoiding large predators? Found a buddy to get any parasites off you? Good, good, good.

For the first weekend in quite some time, I’m actually having to put in some overtime and an outside spectator would think this is no big deal. After all, instead of spending a nice day lounging around on a couch reading the internet, I had to spend a nice day lounging on the couch with a work-related laptop doing work-related thingsinstead.

You see?!? You see why capitalism was a mistake?

I’m writing this newsletter to you in one tab and in another, have pulled up schematics for guillotines.


Actually, the thing I wanted to share with you is some news I’m excited about: I got lucky and spotted an artist on Mastodon whose work I dug the heck out of. Their name is Sajan Rai and you should check out their Instagram where they’ve been pairing illustrations and haiku for a while. I liked Sajan’s art so much, in fact, that I reached out about commissioning a cover for that long-planned, slow-going collection of my microfiction from the witches.town year that I’ve been working on.

I haven’t given up on it. I do, however, keep complicating things by continuing to write new microfiction on Mastodon that also fits the project thematically, so I keep throwing new stuff in instead of editing, which is less fun.

Anyway, Sajan floated a roughed out idea and I thought you folks might want to see it:

Just a concept, obviously, and the foreground figure is going to evolve, but… isn’t that neat?

Now all I have to do is finish the book that’s supposed to fit behind this cover. Piece of cake.

In the meanwhile, maybe you’d like to read some short nonsense?


tex’s coffin warehouse
Hey there, cowgirls & boys on the lost time incident mailing list! We would be tickled pink if you would come visit us at Tex’s Coffin Warehouse when you’re able.

We got ALL kinds of coffins! Don’t believe us? Well… How about we prove it then? Check THIS out!

We have coffin models available now in all the latest, hottest styles. We’ve got:

  • Mahogany
  • Pine
  • Chocolate
  • T*H*E* V*O*I*D
  • T*H*E* V*O*I*D (deluxe)
  • Flames on the Side (goes faster)
  • A bunch of birds glued together in a box shape
  • One bird glued to you then we toss you down a well
  • Tex’s personal coffin (’cause he ain’t ever gonna need it ’cause he ain’t never gonna DIE, darlin’!)
  • Redwood
  • Fern
  • Reverse Coffin (Can’t be buried in it ’cause it already has a baby inside, hence the name… honestly, we shouldn’t have this one on the showroom floor but it’s a conversation piece more than anything)
  • Jagged Rock
  • Eco Friendly Mud Brick with decorative Grass Clippings
  • And more!

Come on down, climb into a few of our coffins to take ’em for a spin, and when you’re ready to check out, make sure to mention “lost time incident” and not only will we take 5% off your ENTIRE purchase… we’ll make sure you get buried with a hand-selected glossy magazine Reading Package in a waterproof pouch. Just in case you need something to read when you get there!

We’ll see you… deep in the heart of Tex’s!

ending theme song
Sure, I usually put more fiction in these things, but you know what? Not today. I’ve only got a half weekend, so I’ve got more errands to run. I just wanted to make sure you guys got to share my excitement about the thumbnail sketch.

Anyway. Time to get some groceries, I guess. Because it’s 2018 and I’m still eating food like I’m on the African savannah, newly erect, waving to the last few Neanderthals, instead of eating a single food pill a day like a civilized citizen of the future.

I keep the world’s knowledge in a flat, electrified square of fancy rocks and electrons in my pocket, but I still have to eat?

Hope you’re doing well. Hope you’re doing better than you were. If you’re not, you’ll get there soon. Hang in there. As a species, we can throw things at the sun. You’re part of that. 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. 


lost time incident 78 – always pouring, never drinking

an eternally pouring stream of milk into iced coffee

lost time incident 78
Hey everyone! How are we all doing? Good, good, good. It’s a bright, sunny Sunday here near the San Francisco Bay. Kind of near the Bay. If I was willing to walk about 20 minutes west, underneath that overpass that people are now living under, across two of the busiest local highways, past places that sell pet food and ceramic tiles, across long expanses of concrete, I could find water.

I’m not going to do that.

Instead, I woke up and made coffee. Cooked some chicken sausages. Listened to stand-up comedy. Read all of Twitter and filled my barely-awake brain with jokes and a towering dread, an easy expansion of my personal enemies list, a sense that the day is already lost, and then I took a shower. Let water beat on my head and realized that it’s possible I’ve already seen my parents for the last time.

They’re fine, by the way. They’re retired in Florida. They wrote to me recently about a trip they have planned in the UK. I just don’t see them very often, that’s all. Only a handful of times over the past 20 years.

They seem as distant and unfamiliar as my own childhood. That bookish chubby boy I barely remember being. The past is a foreign country. You can find keepsakes you picked up there, but you no longer remember exactly how you got from place to place, what you were wearing. How it felt, the distant streets under whatever-shoes-you-were-wearing-back-then.

I think I wore velcro shoes for a while. Yeah. That feels true. I once took a spill off a scooter and scraped up my knee pretty bad. A week later, as the scabs started peeling off, I found a tiny jagged peak sticking out of my knee: a broken piece of green glass buried in the healing wound, poking out like an emerald iceberg from new skin.


I spend a fair amount of time wondering about the persistence of memory, how strange it is to be pinned in the present moment between the past and future, ticking forward one second at a time, with no way to prove we’ve been anywhere or been anyone save for memory, whatever memory is.

Then I get out of the shower and think “It’s been a while since I sent out a newsletter. That’s a thing I could do.”

And here we are. You and I. Right here. One second at a time.


unread (1)

Dracula’s House of Jokes!



What do you get if you come to my grand estate outside of town beyond the mists I can have my driver pick you up ha ha ha no don’t put the part where I’m laughing that makes it sound like a trap no don’t say anything about a trap this is a nice mailing list for jokes and invitations to my estate oh it’s ruined do not send


[next billing cycle: Aug 1]


an idea born of white wine and access to a keyboard, the internet, and the social approval of strangers
okay, it’s like AIR BUD but with Dr. Frankenstein fielding an entire team of the reanimated dead, and at first you’re like: no way can they win

their limbs fall off, they’re slow, a sassy teen on an opposing team during an exhibition game spins a basketball on top of the flat head of a point guard

but montage: the team of reanimated dead get juiced to the ol’ neck bolts, lengthen their legs with extra limbs from convict graves and suddenly they’re 8 ft tall with 6 knees each

and the ref’s like “neither god nor the league wrote rules preventing this”


sponsored content
“If you loved DNA, you’ll love new DNA 2! Everything you loved about DNA… and more!” said the wet creature slapping up against the lab’s bolted door.

Has this ever happened to you?

[a cell divides, then divides again]

oh noooo! Finally, there’s a better way!

[a creature with impossible limbs falls out of a tree onto a passing pedestrian]

It’s … DNA 2! All the DNA you’re used to… and some that you’re NOT!


ending theme song
I think that’s going to do it for this installment.

Oh, and before I go, my wife Amanda has been introducing me to the wonders of “hidden object games”, which are computer games that combine puzzle-solving with beautifully illustrated tableaus. A frequently used trope is: Someone you care about has been kidnapped. To get them back, you have to do a series of fetch quests, puzzle out intricate locks that no one would actually use, and sometimes pick specific objects out of crowded collections of mismatched garbage.

Of course, we gravitate towards the supernatural ones, so we’ve been playing one where our protagonist’s fiancee has been kidnapped by a drowned ghost, or a metal-faced weirdo, or both, and we don’t seem to be in a huge hurry to find her. If you want to follow along, all the videos in the series are in a playlist on YouTube.

Maybe you’ll dig it! Maybe you won’t! The important thing is: You’re still here, on this planet, orbiting a star that has yet to destroy us! So make the most of it! We have no idea why we’re here, so you can pretty much make things up as you go along! Okay!

Still here,

—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.