Another Haunt

This post is a response to October 2018’s mid-month short story challenge. Click on the link in the previous sentence to read the prompt, share your story, and read those written by others.


“Dale! Dale, hurry up!” yelled Marty.

“I’ll just be a few more minutes!” Dale shouted back.

“Dale, come on,” said Marty as he floated through the living room towards Dale’s bedroom. “It’s the busiest night of the year for haunts and you’re spending hours getting ready. The Spectral Turnpike is going to be crammed with spirits trying to get to Earth tonight.”

“I know,” Dale replied. “It’ll just be a few minutes.”

“It’s not like there’s going to be press there. All the celebrity ghosts are going to the party Frieda Kahlo is throwing. The spookarazzi will have its hands full. No need to bust out the couture.”

Dale cracked his door open and poked his head out.

“Spookarazzi?” Dale said. “Really? You know they’re still called paparazzi in the spirit realm.”

“I’m just trying to be festive,” Marty countered.

“Yeah, well if you want to be festive, go finish putting up your lights. Our block won’t win any awards if your only decorations are some fake spiders sprinkled in your shrubs.”

“Fine,” said Marty as he floated to the door. “I’ll be back in ten minutes. If you’re not ready, I’m leaving without you. Last Halloween we hit the thick of traffic and it took six whole minutes to get to Earth. It’s a thirty second trip! I’m not dealing with that again.”

Marty shut the door behind him, leaving Dale to dress in silence. He smashed together a sparkling dark blue powder with a wispy black mass, forming a midnight blue amalgamation on the dresser in front of him. Dale slathered the concoction on his black sleeves, the powder fading quickly into the fabric. He finished rubbing the powder into his top, grabbed a sheathed katana from beside his dresser, and made his was out of the house.

“Took you long enough!” shouted Marty as he dangled lights from his roof.

Marty floated down to the ground and gave Dale a look over before uttering a disapproving scoff.

“A ninja? Again?” said Marty.

“It’s tradition,” replied Dale.

“Tradition for what? You go, scare a bunch of kids for a few hours, then come back and go get blitzed off your supernatural ass with me and the misses. We’ve been doing this for ten years! Try something new.”

Marty pointed across the street at twelve of their neighbors who were organizing themselves into a six by six formation.

“You see that, Dale?” said Marty. “They’re going as a hung jury. Complete with nooses and everything!”

“I don’t do group costumes,” replied Dale.

“It’s not about a group costume. Yeah, you could be the cat to my rat. I just want to make sure don’t get stuck doing the same thing every Halloween forever.”

“I won’t.”


Dale and Marty arrived on Earth at Midland Cemetery in the town of Norton Mills, Indiana. For ten years, Marty and Dale had chosen this cemetery as the start of their Halloween haunts. Cemeteries provided easy portals between the spectral world and Earth, which was particularly useful as spirits couldn’t move as freely on Earth as they could away from it. Though this was a source of frustration for Marty, Dale accepted it as the reality of his circumstances.

“See you back here at 10pm?” Marty asked.

“Yeah. Same as every other year.”

“If you make the Jenkins kid piss himself again this year, be sure to remember every detail.”

“I will, Marty. I always do.”

Marty floated off into the woods behind the cemetery, while Dale ducked behind trees, dancing through the shadows as he made his way towards a suburban neighborhood. Trick or treating was nearing its end, parents and small children making their way back into their homes as teens began to take over the streets.

Dale ducked into a nearby oak tree as teenage twin boys dressed as Freddie Kruger chased their unicorn-clad younger sister down the street. Dale closed his eyes and summoned up a strong gust of wind, blowing leaves up into the face of the twins, slowing them down briefly and allowing the girl to get away. Though Dale disliked using his supernatural powers to control earthly things (even during a haunt), it did provide him a surprising amount of joy to mess with people who were acting like assholes.

As Dale rounded the corner, he floated up to the roof of a small yellow house, allowing him to overlook a similarly designed blue house next door. 38 Carmody Lane. Though Dale participated in occasional haunts wherever he (or Marty) felt like throughout the year, this was the location for his Halloween haunt for the last ten years. It would remain that way for the foreseeable future, if Dale had any choice in the matter.

Dale floated off of the roof of the yellow house, taking care to make sure no living human noticed him doing so. He drifted through a closed second floor window of the blue home, entering a room lit by a small desk lamp by the wall to his left. Dale made his way back into the shadows of the corner, trying to stay as far away from the light as possible. After twenty minutes, a boy — around sixteen years of age — entered the room and sat down at the desk. He fiddled with the lamp, pointing it away from the corner Dale hid in.

“Are you there, dad?” the boy asked, staring into the corner.

“Yeah,” replied Dale.

“Thanks for coming again.”

“I can’t miss Halloween, Kenny. I wish I could come more, but this is the only time there’s enough paranormal activity that I can show up and ghost hunters won’t be tipped off to the consistency.”

“I know,” replied Kenny.

“How’s your sister?” asked Dale.

“Marci’s good. Just started eighth grade.”

“Is she here?”

“Nah,” said Kenny, “her and mom went to Grandma Engle’s house. They should be back late tonight. But you probably can’t stay that long.”

“Do you think she’ll ever want a visit one of these years?” Dale asked.

“She was three when you died, dad. I don’t know how much she even remembers you anymore.”

“Oh.”

Kenny sighed and put his head to his chest.

“That’s not what I meant.”

“I know,” replied Dale. “You’re probably right though. You at least had me around for six years.”

Dale examined Kenny, looking him up and down from a distance.

“How tall are you now?”

“Six one,” Kenny said.

“Are you swimming again?” asked Dale. “Or are you trying basketball?”

“Neither. Lifting in the offseason for baseball.”

“I guess that’s good.”

“Dad?”

“Yeah?”

“Can I see you?” asked Kenny. “Not in costume, I mean.”

“You know I can’t do that, son.”

“I know. But I have more memories of my dad dressed as a ghost ninja than I do of you alive. All I can see is your eyes.”

“It’s not my rule,” said Dale. “If I could change how I looked, this wouldn’t be an issue.”

“It just sucks,” stated Kenny.

“Yeah. It does.”

The sound of the doorbell ringing downstairs put an abrupt end to the conversation.

“Gerald going to get that?” asked Dale.

“Mom and Gerald are separated,” replied Kenny. “Have been a few months. Besides, it’s probably Olivia.”

“Olivia?”

“Yeah.”

“Girlfriend?”

“Yeah.”

“Well,” said Dale. “I’ll leave you two be. Just be safe.”

“I will. I love you, dad.”

“I love you too.”

Dale made his way back through the window and down Carmody Lane and back towards the cemetery. He sat for three hours atop a fading tombstone belonging to someone named Thomas Dickinson. Dale never met the man, but he clearly had comfortable taste in burial decor. As the occasional passerby would walk near the cemetery gates, Dale would make the wind howl lightly, just enough to make the person walk with a bit more purpose in their step, but not enough to frighten them.


“Are you sure you want to change costumes before you come to the party?” asked Marty. “It’s kind of tradition you come as a ninja at this point.”

“I’m sure,” replied Dale. “Tell Courtney I’ll be over shortly.”

“Don’t be too long. All the good spirits will be gone. Or, wait a really long time and then it will only be us bad spirits.”

“I see what you did there.”

Dale entered his home and made his way into the bedroom, shutting the door behind him. He placed the katana down by the dresser, then made his way to the wardrobe where he kept his haunting attire. Behind a pair of ragged suits, he pulled out a box with a new outfit he had bought a few years prior. Dusting off the container, he opened it, revealing a new sport coat and dress trousers. Dale placed the box on the dresser, shoving the bronze centerpiece atop the dresser out of the way, and stared at mirror on his wall.

Through the ninja mask, he could see his own eyes — blue as they had been in life, though hollow and absent of being. His eyes were one of the few features in his life that Dale liked, so he was happy they crossed over with him, at least partially.

The unfortunate reality was that in addition to his striking blue eyes crossing over to the spirit world with him, so did the rest of the physical features that Dale possessed when he died. He removed the mask from his ninja costume, revealing a bloodied exit wound from his suicide. While such a feature wouldn’t get a second look in the spirit realm, Dale could never bring himself to go to Earth with it uncovered. Even beyond the stigmatization he knew suicide held on Earth, he didn’t want Kenny or Marci to see him like this. He removed the ninja costume’s top and began to change for the party. Maybe next year his routine would be different.

Maybe.

The Worst Fire Emblem Awakening Play Through Ever: Premonition and Prologue

The following post is part of my series “The Worst Fire Emblem Awakening Playthrough Ever”. Spoilers ahead for a six year old game.


Hi! If you’re here, you’re likely here for one of three reasons.

  1. You’re a new school Fire Emblem super fan and want to geek out about Awakening.
  2. You’re an old school Fire Emblem super fan and want to shit on Awakening.
  3. You’re looking for a walk through of Awakening and took a very wrong turn.1You could also be here for the shipping and shitposting. That’s fine.

Welcome to my play through of of Fire Emblem: Shipping Simulator…er…Awakening. We begin by creating our avatar unit for the game. I’m choosing to do this play through as the male version of the avatar as unlike in Birthright, you’re not essentially forced to play as one gender just to obtain all the child units.

The default name for your avatar is Robin, but that’s a last name, not a first name. And if our character’s last name is Robin, it’s clear his first name must be Christopher. I’m setting Christopher Robin’s asset2The stat that you get bonus growth to. to Resistance and his flaw3The stat that you have the weakest growth in. to Magic. Since Christopher is a tactician class, it might not make sense to limit our magic growth, but My Little Pony has taught me that friendship is magic. If Christopher develops enough friendship in the game, he’ll overcome his magical limitations and become the Princess of Friendship.

Once we save, we’re taking to our first chapter, Premonition.

Premonition

We’re treated to a cinematic cut scene of a blue-haired man who is clearly a protagonist and Christopher fighting Jafar from Aladdin’s spiky-haired brother. Following the cut scene, we learn the blue-haired man is named Chrom. Chrom is telling Christopher how this is their final battle. I really hope the chapter title is right about being a premonition, otherwise this game is going to be much shorter than I paid for.

Chrom and Christopher move towards dollar store Jafar (whose name is Validar), but he doesn’t attack our heroes. Whether it’s because he realizes he’s outnumbered two to one and he’s taking up defensive positions or if it’s because Premonition is a glorified tutorial mode is irrelevant. Validar clearly went to the Action Movie School of Bad Guy Strategy, which means none of the bullets from his gun can hit us. Also, because Fire Emblem uses medieval weaponry with magic as its combat tools, Validar’s guns are so bad at hitting us that they’re not even invented yet.

Our heroes advance on Validar, with Chrom dealing a strong blow with his signature weapon, Falchion. Validar rambles something about how we can’t change what’s already written, but he must not be aware of the invention of the erasable pen. Christopher deals a critical hit with a strong lightning magic attack, killing Validar and ending the level. Magic flaw, my ass.

We get another cut scene with Validar crumbling to the floor before exploding into a ball of gas. Chrom comes over to congratulate Christopher when — SHOCK AND SURPRISE — Christopher turns on Chrom and impales his intestines with what appears to be a literal lightning bolt. Chrom crumples to the ground dead and we get a save screen.

No. I don’t want to save this, Awakening. I’ve played three minutes and you’ve already killed off the main character. Just who in the hell do you think you are, Gurren Lagann?

Prologue

Nope. Just kidding. Chrom is back, this time with some girl with pigtails. Chrom helps a very unconscious Christopher Robin up off the ground, unaware that Christopher just gutted him like a fish moments ago. Chrom is concerned about the well-being of Christopher, but doesn’t seem to know him, confirming that everything we witnessed was, in fact, a dream. The theme song to St. Elsewhere briefly starts playing as the conversation continues.

Christopher introduces himself to Chrom. Well, sort of. It’s clear Christopher is now an amnesiac. Fortunately, Chrom’s cleric sister, Lissa, and his overly protective man-servant, Frederick, are here to help move the plot along and get us moving forward in the cut scene hell that is the first fifth of this game. Chrom and Frederick keep talking about Shepherds, yet there are not sheep around. Considering no one aside from Lissa has a staff and there’s not a sheep dog to be seen for miles, I’m confident Chrom’s true destiny is not as a farm hand.

Chrom and Christopher give some exposition to let the player know they’re in the Halidom of Ylisse which is ruled by Chrom’s older sister, the Exalt Emmeryn. Chrom explains he’s the leader of the Shepherds, which is actually a guardian group. Frederick is his protector and might be the most cautious person known to man. Lissa is also here.

Christopher suddenly remembers his name just in time for Lissa to notice a nearby town is on fire. Great. Christopher his replaced amnesia with pyrokinesis. At this rate, I won’t have to play the game at all, as my avatar is learning overpowered skills just by leveling up through cut scenes. Chrom decides saving the town is important or something, meaning we’re finally taken in to the actual level.

We begin the level by meeting a toothless man with face paint eye marks drawn on by a drunken eight-year-old. His name is Garrick and he wants to burn it down. Some village girl is crying and that’s enough for the blue-haired hero to say someone has to do som…

Wait. Lissa is the first to say someone should do something? Huh.

The level starts and Frederick tells everyone to be cautious, lest you get hurt. In older Fire Emblem games, permadeath was a very real, very terrifying prospect, but with the advancements in modern technology, Nintendo and Intelligent Systems finally designed a turn-based video game that’s more forgiving to someone who doesn’t have the time to invest 400 hours into a video game. Chrom notices Christopher wielding a tome and — instead of having ‘Nam-like flashbacks — decides to encourage him to kill bad guys with it. But since Christopher is only level one, he can only use Thundershock and Tail Whip, meaning it won’t be a one-turn knockout, even on simple baddies. Lissa teaches us how healing works because this is also a tutorial level and our first turn ends.

Our second turn begins with Chrom telling Christopher that he should heal any wounds he has. This is because Chrom has no sense of adventure. So Lissa heals him just to shut him up. Frederick steps on something sparkly and suddenly becomes better at using his weapons. We get more tutorial nonsense as our units move across the map — an action taken slowly because healers like Lissa take far too long to level up in the early game. Chrom doesn’t want me to rush into danger, however I’m being so deliberate in my movements that I never bothered to tell you we’re actually on the fourth turn now and even Frederick thinks we should pick up the pace. This means it’s time for a lightning round.

Lissa heals Frederick. Christopher Robin assumes a defensive position by Chrom. Everyone waits. Christopher kills a guy with lightning. Er. Thunder. It’s basically a lightning round.

Finally, our protagonists advance on Garrick, who is too busy playing with fire to notice we’ve killed his troops. Frederick steps on something else shiny and gains XP. Some people will tell you this is the only useful way to give Frederick XP and those people might be correct. But this play through isn’t being led by our brains. So I let Frederick kill Garrick just to make the lone person who played Thracia 776 who is still reading this slam their laptop shut. The level mercifully ends, but now we have to listen to more expositional talking.

Chrom accepts Christopher into the Shepherds. Frederick is wary, but Chrom is smitten. We get a true cut scene where our heroes stare at a church that’s still smoking, but doesn’t have flames coming out of the windows anymore. I’m very confused how this fire works, as the church seems to be significantly less damaged than when we first saw it.

We get some backstory about how Ylisse is constantly sparring with its neighbor, Plegia. It’s not a war according to Chrom, it’s a police action. Frederick insists they get a move on and Lissa has to be restrained from calling him a poophead.

End of Level Recap

  • Christopher – Level 2 Tactician
  • Lissa – Level 2 Cleric
  • Chrom – Level 1 Lord
  • Frederick – Level 1 Great Knight

Like Clockwork

This post is a response to September 2018’s mid-month short story challenge. Click on the link in the previous sentence to read the prompt, share your story, and read those written by others.


“How are you planning to come back from this? Can…can you?” asked Leo.

“Which part?” replied Sara. “The part where I fell in love with someone I shouldn’t have or the part where everyone’s happily celebrating my demise?”

“I’m positive not everyone is celebrating.”

“My mom called me to tell me that I’m better off single anyway. My brother has already texted me his ‘I told you so’. My best friend is busy trying to figure out how to rebound from this relationship.”

“I didn’t mean my question as a bad thing,” Leo interrupted.

“I know you didn’t,” said Sara.

“You’ve been telling me for weeks that things weren’t going to last with Natalie.”

“I have.”

“And you’ve been telling me that getting as close to her as you did was a mistake.”

“I have.”

“So even though this sucks,” said Leo, “you’ve known this was coming.”

“That doesn’t make it any easier,” replied Sara.

“I know it doesn’t. You were together, what, six months?”

“Seven.”

“Alright. And you weren’t to the point where you bought a ring for her like you had for Thia.”

“Thia and I dated for six years,” Sara scoffed. “That’s not a fair comparison and you know it.”

“I’m not trying to compare the relationships themselves,” replied Leo. “What I’m trying to say is that you’ve had a history of diving head first into bad situations and trying to solve them by going even deeper into them. You told me three weeks after you met Natalie that she was bad for you.”

Sara sighed heavily.

“And what was the first thing you did after you told me that?” asked Leo.

Sara sat silently staring at her shoes.

“You texted her asking if she wanted to go skydiving with you.”

“I didn’t want to go alone,” replied Sara. “It was my first time and the thought of skydiving was scary as shit.”

“It’s not about the fucking skydiving, Sara!” shouted Leo. “It’s that you routinely fall for people who you know are bad for you in some way and you turn it into a fucking quest to date them and make it work. You’re an alcoholic. You knew she partied hard on the weekends. What did you expect would happen?”

“I don’t need to hear this from you too, Leo.”

“Yes you do. No one else is holding you accountable. I don’t want to be doing this either, believe you me. But it’s not like you have a community of people around you to tell you to stop making terrible life choices.”

“Leo…” stammered Sara.

“She made you relapse, Sara,” said Leo. “I don’t know how you expect me to react. You’ve lost most of your friends over the problems you’ve had. And I get it. You have a problem. You’ve been working to get help. And when you’re trying to get help, you really do try your best. But…fuck. Stop putting your sex drive above your personal well-being.”

Sara got up from the couch and walked toward the door, grabbing her jacket and slipping shoes on her feet.

“Where are you going?” Leo asked.

“Walking home,” replied Sara.

“The sun isn’t even up yet. You’re not walking home.”

“The fuck I’m not.”

Sara slammed the door behind her and quickly walked down the stairs from Leo’s third floor apartment to the street below. A few moments later, she heard Leo giving chase behind her.

“You know your car’s here, right?” asked Leo.

“Don’t care.”

“You’ll have to come back and get it in the mor…”

“Dooooonnnnnnn’t care.”

“Sara, please let me drive you home.”

Sara violently turned around, whipping her coat around her and creating a wind that shifted the leaves on the sidewalk behind her.

“What do you expect me to do?” Sara screamed. “Am I supposed to be alone for the rest of my life?”

“I’m asking you not to cave to situations that you shouldn’t be in,” replied Leo.

“So what? Are you going to hand pick my next girlfriend? Maybe I should get my brother to do it. I bet Marty will love that. Oooo! I could call Thia and ask her advice. I’m sure she’ll be a great help.”

“Sara. You haven’t slept in thirty-six hours. You’re stressed, you’re upset, and you just got broken up with. Please either let me drive you home or sleep on my couch.”

“Can you promise you’re going to leave me the fuck alone about Natalie for the rest of the night unless I bring her up?”

“I promise.”

“Good. I really don’t want to walk home. It’s cold out.”

Leo walked over to Sara and wrapped his arm around her shoulders, guiding her back towards his apartment stairs.

“I’m hungry,” said Sara. “Do you think anyone is still delivering?”

“Adams’ Wings should still be open,” replied Leo.

“Oh good. The cute redhead from my spin class works there. Maybe she’ll deliver.”

“Sara…”

“Kidding. Mostly.”

33 Word Love Story #6

For more stories I’ve done like this, go here.

For the format that inspired this writing style, go here. Yes, the blog has been private for five years now, but I still hope it won’t be some day. It was beautiful writing.


You did it. You finally made it.

Congratulations.

And so begins a new, uncharted era.

One of teaching and protection,

As well as forgetting what I was going to write here last night.

Writing Diversely From A Non-Diverse Standpoint

A few weeks back, someone posted a thought on Twitter that can be summarized as such:

Dear white people: Please stop writing minority characters into your books. You’re taking away readership from POC/minority writers.

I remember not being particularly caught off guard by the tweet. After all, it came from a writer who identifies as a minority writer in many ways (race, sexuality, religion…those are the ones I can recall at least). And part of me gets the point. There is definitely a gap between sales of books from white authors and from non-white authors, whether we’re talking about children’s book authors or otherwise. There’s a need for diversity in writing, not just in characters, stories, and points-of-view, but also in authorship. That much is very true.

And yet, I can’t do anything about the fact that I am writing from a white, straight, English-speaking, higher-educated male viewpoint. I want to write in a more diverse manner. It’s a goal I put forward for myself after publishing An Epilogue to Innocence.

I do think there are some things I did well in AETI. I tried to make the book less about good guys and bad guys and more about people — regardless of their gender, background, or religious views. Yes, religion, sexuality, gender, and mental illness were addressed in the book to varying degrees. And yes, there were shortcomings I had with the book. In particular, I wanted to find a way to make my future writing more diverse racially and culturally.

As an example, I recently wrote a story that I think has a lot of potential. The story is intended to introduce a larger world and as such, there are very limited deep details given about the main characters in the story that will be reappearing in later iterations of the story. You know, world building and what not.

One of the characters is supposed to be a woman of Filipina descent. I actively chose not to introduce this facet of her character in the first section[1] of the story because I didn’t want her race to become the focus of her introduction. While her race is part of who she is, in the world in which she exists, what causes judgement and discrimination is not race — it’s something else entirely[2]. Yet, at the same time, I feel as though it’s not only important that I have an understanding of the discrimination that any minority individual goes through in order to write my story effectively, but also in order to grow as a writer, I need to better understand how to write characters who are culturally different from me.

So I look to you, my readers, for advice. Many of you are also fellow writers, hence hoping to pick your brain on this topic. How do you write more diversely when you write fiction? What tips, tricks, and recommendations would you have for me as I look to become a writer that writers not just about those I know, but also those I hope to better understand?