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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