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December 23rd, 2006

05:54 am: Things now.
My personal blog has moved to http://www.widgettwalls.com. I will be retooling OneTusk.com shortly. Once I get everything working as far as the feed goes, I will advise.

I've recorded my Xmas story and posted it to Needcoffee here.

Happy holidays and all of that rot.

December 24th, 2005

02:57 am: The One Tusk LiveJournal, Something Else, has moved to its new home at http://somethingelse.onetusk.com. All future episodes will appear there. Episode 47 is online now, and the Season 2 closer will appear in January. Another 24 new episodes will follow hard upon.

For those who want to follow it in your LJ friends list, a feed has been setup for future episodes here. For those who take advantage of RSS, you can follow the Something Else feed here...http://www.onetusk.com/somethingelse/feed/...or the main One Tusk feed here...http://www.onetusk.com/otjournal/feed/.

Thanks for everyone's support and comments as I plowed through these things. Maybe we'll see you loitering around the new URL.

Current Mood: quixoticquixotic
Current Music: Regina Spektor - "The Noise"

October 13th, 2005

06:44 am:

Something Else: The Complete First Season

Something Odd webcomic

The Sunday Before You poetry chapbook

The Tell-Tale Heart audio

Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: Tom Waits instrumentals as hold music

September 26th, 2005

11:35 pm:

Dr. Clark was summoned to Steven's bedside when he awoke. Steven was groggy--of course. This had more to do with the sedation than the actual procedure. Patients had to be put completely under--the amount of pain that the patient would undergo, if conscious, would be easily lethal.

Dr. Clark smiled and Steven managed to return a weak copy of it. "Welcome back," the doctor told him.

Steven took a moment to let the words sink through the fog in his mind before responding, a horse whisper: "Did it...did you...?"

The question was obvious, even if only half asked. Some version of it was usually on the lips of every patient who had ever laid here in the recovery room, working to rediscover the proper control over their eyelids.

Dr. Clark nodded and smiled again, "Did we? Yes, we did. And did it? Yes, it did. The procedure was a complete success."

Steven looked on the verge of crying, mustering as much relief as his exhausted body could deliver. Sometimes they did cry. That still got to Dr. Clark, no matter how many times he saw it. "So I don't...I'm not...?"

"Your heroin addiction is gone, Steven," Dr. Clark responded. "We went in and removed the drug completely from the receptors in your brain. No cold turkey, no withdrawal. All you need is a couple of days to recover and you'll be fine."

Steven knew all of this before the procedure, of course. It always helped the patient to be reminded of what had happened, Dr. Clark had found. When one has had one's brain played with, especially on the level that the procedure worked, memories could be a little fuzzy for a while afterwards.

Steven closed his eyes and strained a bit. Dr. Clark knew what was coming but let the young man ask. "But what if..." But the question stopped again and he couldn't proceed any further.

"Even if you desired to go back on heroin, you'd be wasting your time," the doctor explained again. Then he walked forward and tapped Steven's left upper arm. "The implant we've given you will keep the drug from working for the next two years. You can...always come back and have it refreshed if you're still uncertain when the time comes."

Dr. Clark leaned forward and ruffled the young man's hair. Young man, indeed. Steven was twenty-two. Far too young to have his body as devastated by addiction as it was. Months from now, he'd be healthy again. Able to hold down a job. Have a life. A family. "But somehow I doubt you'll need it. Here," he said. The doctor produced from the side of his lab coat a sealed vial. Inside was a dark-bluish thick liquid. Someone appeared to have melted down a bruise.

"Is that?" Steven asked.

"Yes," the doctor said, still smiling. "This is your addiction, Steven. This is what it looks like following the procedure, following its extraction from your brain. Say goodbye to it, Steven. You don't need it any longer."

Steven managed a hoarse laugh. A laugh of relief, of freedom. It was marvelous to hear. "Bye," he called out to his tormentor, safe within the vial. Steven blinked a couple of times, slowly, and said in a slur, "Tired again..."

Dr. Clark nodded. "You've been through a lot. It just gets better from here. You get some sleep. I'll check on you in the morning."

Steven nodded, already half gone. Dr. Clark made his way out of the room, shutting the door softly behind him.

Judy, his nurse, was waiting for him. She handed him the clipboard and he took the stylus from behind his ear and called up the next set of charts. "Which room?" he asked.

"Room 12," Judy said simply. "He's prepped and ready for you."

Dr. Clark nodded to her and she went. Down the hall and a right-hand turn, and there was Room 12. The door recognized his thumb and allowed him to enter.

Strapped prone onto the table in the center of the room was his next patient. "Mr. Curtis Graham," Dr. Clark said, making the owner of the name give a small squeak and jump in the restraints.

Curtis' head shifted to watch Dr. Clark as the man in the lab coat paced. Shifted only a few degrees to the left, since the harness for his head restricted his movement. The patient's breathing was labored, working to breathe through his nose, his mouth pinned and held open by the leather bit. He had given up trying to work with his ankles and wrists. Either that, or the sedation was taking hold. Probably both.

"I understand you defaulted on a loan," the doctor said, consulting his clipboard. "Yes, I see the amount here. That's impressive. I assume considering who your patron is, it was a gambling debt." He sighed. "You must be utterly without hope of paying it back if you were brought here to me. Sadly, it's men like you that must be made an example of. And that's my job."

The doctor stopped, looking down at Curtis from the foot of the table. "I suppose you were told what would happen if you didn't pay up."

Curtis looked at him with wide eyes and finally nodded.

"Then," the doctor said, retrieving the vial from his pocket and holding it up, "I suppose you can imagine what this is."

Curtis looked at the vial and then began to twist in the restraints, grunting against the bit. "Settle down, Mr. Graham. Settle down this instant," the doctor said, though he made no effort to do anything but flip through more pages on the screen of his clipboard with the stylus. "It's either you or your daughter, Mr. Graham. I could have her brought in here in your place." The man's struggles ceased immediately. "She's nine, isn't she?"

Curtis' eyes began to well up with tears. Dr. Clark looked up from his clipboard and smiled thinly, "I suppose this means you've decided? Good. I'll see you after the procedure."

Dr. Clark left the room and joined Judy in the hallway again. "How much should we leave him with after the procedure?"

Dr. Clark consulted the clipboard again. "For this debt? I'd say give him a week of high quality. That's all. Let him forage for the rest."

Judy nodded, "Yes, doctor."

Dr. Clark added, "And could you please call Ishuro-san once the procedure's finished and let him know the outcome."

Judy nodded again. "Yes, doctor. Of course."

Dr. Clark flipped to his calendar and looked it over, humming to himself as he walked down the hallway to his office. Two more patients this afternoon, then dinner with his wife. Tomorrow, a half-day for golf. Then the weekend.

Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
Current Music: "Any Day" Exit Mindbomb

July 30th, 2005

05:24 am:

In the end, despite the teeth gnashing and garment rending of the privacy groups, it was the over-surveillance of humanity that saved us, in my not so humble opinion. The cameras spread exponentially after the three-pronged attacks of 2008. The London and Los Angeles attacks were bad, but no one could get the satellite images of Sydney out of their heads for weeks after. And everyone was caught within a fortnight but the crew behind Sydney. Why? No surveillance, we were told.

And so, they started to go up. Everywhere. Where there were none before they appeared and where there were already some they were doubled.

Media centers in homes had cameras for two-way video chat. They were a basic feature of all displays of any kind. And it was quickly determined that, thanks to government's manipulation behind the scenes in putting chips into the centers before they were built, an exploit could be used to turn the cameras on and leave them on. And once the datastreams were there, of course, they could be hacked. And they were. If you wanted to interact with the world at all, then privacy became a thing of the past.

The thing about having something that prevalent in your life is that eventually, you'll grow used to it. And so people did. They gave up. And many of them apparently decided: you want to see everything, they said, fine...here's everything.

Normal ordinary people doing it on the couch. Doing it in the bathtub. Doing it in large groups, doing it solo. And the rest of us became riveted to our screens, whether we admitted it or not. VSS notification feeds would pop up with a new attraction in minutes, algorithims were created that could recognize the movements associated with sex and flag them for perusal by the masses. Some people left their channels open on purpose, some left them easy to hack, knowing that was part of the lure. Part of what kept it taboo. Net orgies became triumphs of coordination as hundreds of people would tune into a single feed and alternate images of the rest of them going at it like mad. Records for simultaneous orgasms were made and then broken. Five hundred twelve people on all seven continents was the last one I had heard.

And, oh, the poor porn industry. How could they possibly compete with the imagination of the ever growing crowds of sex hungry people? Nothing can compete with real people not only acting out your fantasies, but inviting you to join as well. And collaborate and improve the experience.

The walls came down. People realized their own dirty secrets weren't nearly so dirty as they imagined. There's always a bigger freak than you, sweetheart, the world says to them. And emboldened by safety in numbers, they step up and take control of their own sexual lives.

And those who wanted to put a stop to this? Who rattled on and on about family values and decency? They cited polls in which the majority of citizens wanted an end to this flagrant use of what was supposed to be keeping us safe (never mind that violent crime had plummeted once everybody became too busy playing the voyeur to kill one another) but the real numbers told the truth. One hundred million unique visitors to various and sundry sex hubs and yet you're telling us 78% of people are against this? Sure. Soon enough, they found their web histories on the Net for all to see, and their cameras, which they had been assured were secure, were of course not. When the CSPAN net feed was hacked and replaced with the Congressional Committee for Morals chairman whacking off to "Schoolgirl Petting Zoo," it was pretty much all over.

I never had a problem with this new lifestyle. You could consider me an early adopter. And, you know, I am a guy after all. So I'm an old pro and always looking for new and exciting things. The other day, my girlfriend Cheryl called my girlfriend Amanda into the media room. Cheryl's a former nun who freed herself from a convent. She kept her habit, though. And that's good for some fun. Amanda is almost completely Irish, with fire red hair and the sexiest accent you have ever heard in your life.

Cheryl had hacked a signal expecting to find a basement naked wrestling feed. Instead, a young woman in her twenties was sitting, fully clothed, staring at the screen and watching a documentary on her media center.

"She's not doing anything," Amanda pointed out.

"I know," Cheryl replied, grinning. "Fuck, that is hot."

Current Mood: curiouscurious
Current Music: "Lemon Meringue" Fishbone

July 28th, 2005

05:31 pm:

Rarer than unlinked people are unlinked places. While I've never found any proof of this, I believe that you can discover more unlinked places in large metropolitan areas: Mexico City, Mumbai, London, and the like. This is due, according to my theory at least, to the massive amounts of life and energy concentrated in one area. Just as extremely large objects deform space with their weight, so too do such large cities deform reality.

And when I speak of an unlinked place, I don't mean a door that once in its entire existence happens to have a Mayan Empire outward post in place of Reykjavik behind it instead of a closet. Or a thin membrane that separates one reality from another with potentially lethal differences in the laws of physics lying in wait behind the door to a kitchen cabinet for all of three seconds. These things happen more often than you know.

I mean a place that truly, permanently, points to places it should not. Here's a perfect example: there is a hotel in New York City with a forgotten service elevator. The doors will only open to allow entry on the seventeenth floor and the car you find there will only take you to the sub-basement.

Of course, it's not really that building's sub-basement. It's any sub-basement of any other building in New York City, and at any time you choose to arrive there. And while that may sound like it has a limited, albeit interesting, number of potential applications, I've found that many practitioners and other unlinked individuals will give out the location and method of access to those who have discovered their secret and pester them incessantly for information.

One, an acquaintance of mine who's known to all only as Ridley, is particularly susceptible to being bothered as he can always be found in one place; he cannot move elsewhere due to the terms under which he abandoned Heaven.

Ridley told me that at one point he was accosted on his property by three young men armed with guns. Again, due to his terms, he cannot attack others, even in self-defense. The young men knew a sliver of Ridley's past and demanded access to some arcane knowledge that would help further their criminal ambitions.

Ridley calmly told the trio of the elevator, and of how it was to be used. What a way to bypass security, he told them, by suddenly appearing in the building's sub-basement without ever having to actually break in? He suggested a target as well: a famous jewelry store in Manhattan, which during the 1940s would have nowhere near the level of security it did today. Use the elevator, Ridley said, go back before they could have stopped you, and steal to your heart's content.

After the prerequisite threats to return if Ridley was lying, the men did as he suggested, and were never heard from again. What he and others always neglect to tell the source of their annoyance is that it's a one way trip. You can go to any New York sub-basement at any time during the city's history...you just can't get back.

Assuming that they were able to steal something from the store, they would have had to exit the building once it became clear the elevator wouldn't take them back. I imagine they either wound up in prison or an in asylum. Being stranded in a time different from your own is a good way to be either labeled insane or eventually driven that way. I know this better than I'd like to admit.

I can only imagine how many times that elevator has been used to that purpose. Only the once by Ridley, that I'm aware of. He's a nice enough fellow, though easily irritated. And he detests guns.

Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful
Current Music: "Zero" Lamb

July 22nd, 2005

01:29 am:

The pitchman's harangue drew my attention to the scaffolding. I know not why I looked up. It's easy to be distracted, I suppose, considering the offal and ocher down here on the cobbles. The stench of the day was something that resembled wet, spoiled cabbage. Easy enough to only need the glimmer of a reason to look up.

"Ladies and gentlemen," the pitchman said again. "It falls to me to speak to you about an incredible new invention being adopted by our gracious sovereign in order that his government may keep in touch with our holdings amongst the European continent."

The man carried a cane, which he used for emphasizing gesticulations. He certainly did not need it for walking, since he was pacing back and forth across the front of the stage like some sleek predator. "Some of you, I'm sure, have family or friends, perhaps business dealings, out in Europe. So you know, or at least are aware, of the deplorable condition of the lines of communication between here and the Colonies."

This part of his pitch I knew well and could personally vouch for. My sister and her husband were in Araby on his oil estate. Easily nine or ten months would go by as a letter from one of us struggled to meet the other. And while our correspondence was always important, at least for us, I could not fathom trying to conduct governmental or other business in such a fashion.

"Imagine!" the pitchman went on, "if you could send a message and have it be received...in minutes! Imagine what that could do for his majesty's government!"

I didn't need any prodding to consider what such an increase in speed might mean. Nor did I really pause to consider the military applications of such a device.

With this, the pitchman made a gesture and a burly man stepped forward to pull a large tarpaulin down. It had been up at the back of the stage as a sort of backdrop, and revealed the devices of which he had been speaking. And it was a pair of devices, which made perfect sense, for you would need to send, yes, but have a place to send to as well.

Imagine, if you will, beginning with the legs and body of a squat harpsichord. Where the keys would be, however, there is nothing but a metal plaque. There were a number of coiled wires and cables leading from various boxes to the centerpiece of the device: a young woman's face. More than just her face, mind you, but not the whole head. Looking at one side, it became clear that head stopped right behind the ears, though the full portion of the jaw appeared to be intact. The face stared straight ahead, blankly, mouth hanging slack. Both devices were exactly the same.

"Behold: the odiscope," the barker called out. "May I have a volunteer from the audience for a demonstration?"

Perhaps I was too stricken by the strange machines in front of me, but the barker was able to part the meager crowd in front of me with a wave of his cane. "You, sir," he said, and though there was nothing wrong with the tone of his voice, it felt more like a command than a request. With the eyes of everyone upon me, my feet moved of their own accord to the steps at the side of the stage. Once on his level, he grasped my hand, shook it, and demanded of me my name.

I told him. He then asked me of any family members far away that I would talk to more often if I could. I told him of my sister in Araby and he nodded al the while. "Yes, of course, across the ocean in the Colonies, of course. Never an easy thing to get word all the way to Araby."

There was a moment's uncertain pause before he moved onto the next segment of his routine. "We have not met before now, have we?"

I said that no, I was from the town and there were no doubt several people in the street even now who could vouch for that fact. He nodded appreciatively.

"Go there...to the device on the left. Whisper something in its ear. Something you would tell your sister if you could."

I went and leaned in close to the ear of the girl's face, the one mounted on the machine. The skin at the rim of the face, that marked the demarcation between flesh and machine, was smooth and shiny, as though sealed but without use of thread of any sort. The slack in the face remained, right up until I began to speak to it, in hushed tones. I felt, rather than saw, the ear perk up. I felt some kind of odd attention fall on me.

Once I had finished with the message, I heard the face's doppleganger speak from the other side of the stage.

It is hard to relate exactly how the voice sounded. It was low and hoarse and struggling, as though it were trying to make human vocal sounds through a voice box composed of nothing but dry twigs.

"The baby had the croup last month...but is better. Hope all is well on the estate. Our love to Arthur and your girls." Then the name of myself and my wife. And as the woman-faced machine struggled to relate my message to the barker, and in turn, the rest of the onlookers, I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. My words, intended with love for my sister, were reduced to whispers from some mechanical apparition.

The barker turned to me, "That was your message?"

I nodded.

"In its entirety?"

I nodded again. I was not sure if I could trust my own voice. I was afraid it might have turned to dry struggles in my own throat as well. But I need not have worried, for someone towards the front of the crowd asked my question for me: "How is this possible? What magic is this?"

The barker smiled. This was all, all of it, going according to his script, apparently. "No magic at all, good sir. We have merely taken the natural affinity of twins and amplified them via the use of these machines. Twins of either sex, male or female, though females are better for range. The crown will pay well for those families willing to sacrifice for the good of his majesty."

I made my way down from the stage, my lips and ears feeling filthy from participating in this display. I had met at least two families with twins in my time here. And one I knew would seriously consider offering up their children. The other one would not even need to consider the prospect.

I was moving slowly, as though through a pool of deep water, for the barker's companion was able to catch my arm before I could return to the comforting anonymity of the crowd. His grip was strong and he kept me from escaping.

"That's not all of them," he said in a hushed voice.

"What?" I asked him.

"That's not all of them," he said again, continuing under the rumbling of the crowd as they looked at the devices. "What, you think we would waste the rest? It's amazing what you can send long distances, you know."

I looked up and caught the barker's eye. He smiled at me. We were both in on a secret, though I didn't wish to know anymore of it.

"Fraternal twins work the best for that, though. Male/female...you know. We could arrange a demonstration of that, too," the man said. "We have someone in Londontown on call."

Somehow I managed to pull free of his grip and entered the crowd without looking back. And eventually even the booming voice of the barker was gone as well. I slept that night fitfully, and dreamed that they had split our daughter in two and were using her for...communication.

It's nightmares like that which eventually fade and are replaced with new horrors. Just like the smell on the streets. Never the same for very long. And eventually, exposed to it enough, you forget it's even there.

Current Mood: discontentdiscontent
Current Music: "Overkill" Colin Hay

June 17th, 2005

02:21 am:

If people ask me what's at work here, I most times don't know what to say. And not just because they hardly ever ask. It's because simply saying destiny or karma or just what goes around comes around...that's too weak a way of putting it. There are multiple forces in balance, if everything's healthy that is, and sometimes strange things happen. But you don't question it. I mean, you can--of course you can. But I don't see what good it comes to. There's things operating on a scale here that we simply can't fathom.

Like my girlfriend and I, ending up driving this cab. Nothing you can foresee, and nothing that made sense--at least not at first.

But after a while, after watching who gets into your cab and where they go, you begin to think maybe you understand. Not all of it, of course, but you understand enough to make it okay. To make it so you can get by.

The dead people are the worst. Oh sure, I could come out and say ghosts, but again that just feels wrong. You get to this level of things and you know just how useless language is, believe me.

But anyway, the dead people. You pick them up from hospitals, mostly. And for the most part all they do is say a single word: Home. And you drive them home. You don't have to ask where, you just know where, and you take them there. They don't feel like walking, and they don't know any other kind of motion besides a car, so there's us. Charon for the 21st Century, I guess.

I drop them off in front of their home, and sometimes they go inside. Sometimes they just wander off, confused and unaccepting. And sometimes they just fade away, standing right there on the sidewalk. You want to think that they're at peace, but you don't count on it. You can't.

More interesting, to me at least--Cynthia and I don't talk about our job much--are the live people. They climb into the cab and ask to go to dead places. Maybe it's the house they were born in, long since torn down to make room for condos. Maybe it's an apartment where a lover once lived, and now the building is gutted and awaiting its end. Sometimes it's even a field that's no longer there.

But it doesn't matter. Sometimes they go inside, and sometimes they too simply stand and stare, rather than enter. But they don't disappear, at least not while I'm watching. I sometimes think that it's their time and they know it, and they go to these places to be somewhere familiar when it comes. So many people simply disappear and the body is never found. That could be it.

Of course, I don't how it works for certain. I don't ask questions, as if there was anyone to ask. You take them to where they want to go, and you can drive by the same spot the next day and you see it for what it is: a caved in foundation roped and chained off. Sometimes there's a sign there promising something new to be built, sometimes there isn't.

Cynthia takes first shift, I take second shift and we're together during the late night hours. Which is nice, all things considered. Suitable reinbursement, I guess, for having to drive the cab we were killed in.

After the driver pulled the gun on us and his friend hopped out of the trunk and joined us, the rest of the evening became a blur, up until the first gunshot. It's selfish, it's horribly selfish, but I'm glad they killed me first so I didn't have to watch what followed. I know what happened, but at least I didn't have to watch it. Knowing is bad enough. I don't know how much Cynthia remembers. We don't talk about what came before often.

We found out later that they got theirs. After they got cocky and were killed by an off-duty cop halfway through their eighth couple, yes, but they got theirs. And they still do.

Because like I said, it's not karma. It's not destiny. It doesn't always make any sense. People need to go places and we take them. And we're happy to do it. We're happy to be able to do anything at this point. And I wish I could say I didn't give me satisfaction to know that the souls of those two sons of bitches weren't keeping us from ever having to fill a gas tank again. I sometimes hear their screaming in the pistons, or when the transmission switches gears. Just for a moment.

Of course, they could be doing it all the time and I'm just used to it so I tune it out.

Sometimes, when I'm out looking for a fare, or the one that I have isn't talking at all, I wonder if that's not why God setup mankind to fall in the first place. Because things work on a scale, like I said. And the power for everything has to come from somewhere. So that's what I think hell is, sometimes. An engine for His creation. Hell is just another engine.

Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful
Current Music: "Promoter (of earthbound causes)" Clutch

June 8th, 2005

03:56 am:
The section of the wall we guard doesn't look like much. Other places try to dress up theirs, make it look like something it's not. Out here, we always think that things should look exactly as they are whenever possible, so we've never tried to dress it up. It's the wall, that's all. And it keeps us alive.

This side doesn't impress, and here I'm not discussing aesthetics. It's only forty feet high. However, were you to climb up and look down, on the other side you would find it's five hundred feet to the valley below.

I can't tell you anything about the engineering that went into building it. It had been in place for two hundred years before my grandfather was crawling, and that's only what they say. No one knows for sure. What we do know for sure is that it's all that separates us from the were-creatures that make their home outside the wall. They would like nothing more, when the moon is bloated and full and hanging in the sky like a cancer, than to kill us, each and every man, woman and child, in our beds. So our lives revolve around this wall.

During the rest of the month, you can be lowered down to the valley floor in safety. Indeed, during the time of blank moon, we send parties to ensure our catapults and trebuchets have destroyed any devices the creatures built. It's said they're becoming smarter as the years wear on and I'm inclined to believe this. Usually it takes a couple of nights for the attacks on the wall to begin in earnest, but one month, fifty miles north of here, the first night erupted in balls of fire being rained down upon the township behind the wall.

The realization was twofold. The first was that they must have built the machines the previous month and then hid them, knowing we destroy whatever we find standing when they return to their true forms. The second...was fire. How in God's name had they come upon fire?

The attack was beaten back, though with some cost of life and property, but it proved that they were, even dimly, beginning to remember one month to the next and not forget what had happened between their transformations. And thus, could create long-term plans.

When the sun goes down on the first day--the first of eight, though I hear long ago it had been half that number--the men of the townships along the wall stand watch and wait for the attacks to come. And they do, sooner or later. We work in shifts, twelve hours of darkness on, twelve hours of daylight off. And life in the townships stops. Our women and children barricade themselves in their homes and will not let us in until we can say a passphrase chosen beforehand. My own wife, heavy with her first child, sits at home and waits for me.

We cannot spare a single man who could make the difference. No matter the profession, from the township's doctor Marc to farmers like my best friend, Thalm, all must take their stand. If any of the creatures somehow make it over the wall, it would be nearly impossible to stop them. For once the full moon is up, every animal in the valley, were-creatures all of them, look just like us. They will even steal the face of someone they have seen. I've watched through a spyglass as a mask badger transformed into the spitting image of Rorie, a man who fell from the wall into the valley during the previous month's assault. Then we poured hot oil down on the naked, pink, horrible thing before it could fully reacquaint itself with its new center of gravity. It shrieked as it died...the only sound those things can make. The passphrases keep our families safe if any of the creatures make and break for the township, wearing a human face. They can only scream and howl and batter at the doors for entrance. Or, even worse, pass on their disease to our livestock and ruin our food supply.

This is how it has always been. Thalm and I began our watch with our fathers at the age of eight. We quickly learned to work the crossbow, the catapult, the trebuchet, the firethrowers and the oil. We had our wounded, yes, but our township had never been threatened directly by the creatures. We and the wall had always stopped them. Thalm and I had stood together for nearly twenty years.

The last attack was especially troubling. The creatures had used catapults before—this was nothing new. But on the second night, they began using a different sort of ammunition. Themselves.

When the first of them hit the wall about twenty feet below the fence with a sickening, wet thud, we at first thought nothing of it. We hadn't seen what had hit. When we looked down and saw the impact point, soaked in blood, we knew something bad was happening.

During that point they had adjusted their aim and fired again. The first one over the fence cut itself on the leg but managed to land on all fours, cracking its chin open on the stone as it did so. These things are remarkably hardy dopplegangers of humans, but as I looked down at the thing that was looking up at me, I felt my heart stop in my chest.

I was looking down at a feral, grinning version of myself. They had clothed it in a shoddy rendition of my own garb and it was wearing my face.

Driven by pure instinct and revulsion, I kicked it right on the point of its wounded chin and Thalm stabbed it with the head of its spear. It shrieked as it was pierced and, convulsing and foaming, died there on the concrete.

They had created a spyglass of some sort. They had to have. They cannot see us up here. The only reason they knew Rorie's face was he had fallen. But they were trying to send over dopplegangers that could blend in long enough to infect the animals and kill as many of us as they could. God protect us.

And they kept hurling themselves. We killed three more versions of myself, and countless others from the people on the wall. Their aim was uncanny. And we had to send the majority of us into the yard below our side of the wall to slay those creatures who overshot the top. Thalm and I stood our ground on the top of the wall, even as a large boulder crashed through the fence, tearing down a large section of it so that the creatures could sail over easier.

When the moment I had been waiting for for over eight months occurred, I slipped into a mode that was like swimming through a dream. I barely was aware of what was happening. The first duplicate of Thalm careened onto the wall between the two of us. Thalm stuck the head of his spear through his double's throat and the thing went down. And I fired my crossbow—not into Thalm's heart, but as close as I could manage. He dropped to his knees, and the look on his face was something I will never forget. It wasn't shock, it was almost acceptance.

I leaned over to him and whispered in his ear the passphrase he had used at my door I don't know how many times, "Let us be glad for comfort." Then I added, "She was mine, Thalm. She was mine." And then, I pushed him over the wall. I heard him bounce twice on the way down.

The attack ended. In the chaos, no one had seen. When they asked what had happened, I merely pointed to the missing section of fence and shook my head sadly. It was accepted. These things happened when you were defending your home.

And so it continues. Our family will have a child, and the creatures beyond the wall will drop litters of their own that wish to kill that child. Humans and animals who think they are humans alike, all our lives revolve around this wall. And while the moon is diminished, we are not, so we can rest. All of us.

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Current Music: "The Man Who Sold the World" Nirvana

May 21st, 2005

06:25 am:

Jesus Christ is alive and well. I know this because he's a good friend of mine, and not in the sense that some of these religious whackjobs believe he's their friend. He doesn't hang on my shoulder and tell me what to do, nor does his voice whisper things into my head. What I mean to say is that he's an accountant, he's thirty-five years old, and he lives in my building.

You wouldn't know you were looking at the son of God if you ran into him on the street. He looks normal, perfectly so--of course. He was born with dark hair but dyed it blond in college and kept it that way. He's also got that two day beard scruff going on: you know what I'm talking about, the thing that picturing in your mind right now looks stupid as hell, but he pulls it off. But no halo, no beams of light from his head, nothing. I suppose he could show them off, but he never has and I've never asked to see them.

When I moved into the building, he was already here. Lived at the end of one hallway, was nice enough but kept himself to himself. Didn't think too much of him, to be honest, except for the night that I woke up on my couch dressed just in my robe and he was sitting on the chair opposite me.

I hadn't felt like that since college: where you've been studying and going for so long that you wake up with no memory of having fallen asleep. It's terribly disorienting, and to have it happen in the privacy of your home and then find a stranger staring at you in the aftermath just puts the icing on the cake.

Joshua is his name. Of course it is, right? I asked him what he was doing in my apartment and how the hell he got in.

He gave the briefest of smiles and says, "You don't remember. Of course you don't."

When I pressed him to explain, he took me into my bathroom and I felt some dim recollection coming to the fore. The clock radio I had in my bathroom had fallen off of its perch and into the bath, bringing with it the gift of electrocution.

"I was in there," I said. I remember my mouth had gone very dry. It's odd the details that stick in your mind.

He nodded. "I brought you back. I knew you wouldn't have wanted that." With that, he nodded at the place where I had died.

We went back into the den and I poured us both drinks. I didn't even ask, I just knew I needed one and it would have been rude not to pass him one.

He told me everything. He told me who he was: the product of a virgin birth, though the girl gave that up the week after to a football player in her high school. So the miracle was muffled under a backseat quickie.

He had grown up, gone to school, gone to college, gotten a job, and moved to the city. As for bringing people back from the dead and other such biblical activities, he did that less than you might expect. He didn't run around like a superhero saving everyone, but he would step in here and there and do a good deed. When he felt it needed doing. Being God and man in one, he could turn a lot of things off, or at least down, but omniscience he couldn't tamper with. So he knew that I was going to die that night in a stupid accident involving myself and Jefferson Airplane, complicit in my death because they would have been the last thing I heard. Not a good way to go.

There, I stopped him. "So you let me die? If you knew ahead of time, why didn't you walk in when I got home from work and say, 'Oh, by the way, Bob, do yourself a favor and strap your radio to the counter'?"

He chuckled a bit. "It's hard to explain. Some things just aren't going to happen until they do." Then he started trying to explain exactly how knowing everything reconciled with knowing all possible futures and I downed half of my drink and begged him to stop. I just didn't want to have that much understanding about things.

I said, "So you save people and heal people...why haven't I seen you on the cover of the Universal Tribune then?"

He smiled, "Oh, I make people forget. It's easier that way. Otherwise, they follow you around. And that...that always causes problems."

I think at that point I finished my drink and went and got the bottle. "So why do I remember? If you are who you say you are...or not...I mean..." I had the distinct impression Joshua was telling the truth. It was just a feeling I had. But I was an atheist, and I was having problems telling the son of God that even though he was sitting in my den, I really still didn't believe in him, thanks anyway. I mean...hell, you try it. It felt like I was being a ungrateful bastard.

But he just nodded and finished the thought for me. "You don't care. I know. And that's okay. It's not like I'm offended or anything. I appreciate that." And then he finished his drink. "I don't expect you'll be following me around. And I'd like to have somebody to talk to for a change."

I asked him why he didn't just talk to his father, but he shook his head. "No, I'm his son but I'm him too. It's hard to explain, but just trust me: if I want to talk to myself I can do that in the privacy of my own apartment without having to make a collect call home or anything."

Then a thought struck me. "But, if you're here, then..."

And he knew exactly where I was going. "The Second Coming. Yes. Revelation and all that. That's already over and done with. No need to get concerned about that."

I wasn't a believer, but I was raised as a Christian, so I still remembered that according to that particular belief system, there was supposed to be some kind of event where the faithful were whisked away leaving the wicked to fend for themselves in some of kind of Mad Max movie. Or something.

He nodded and said, "The Rapture, you mean. Yes. Well, we simply decided not to go through with it."

Then he told me about meeting the Anti-Christ. They met in a open air café in Jerusalem when Joshua was twenty-eight. He had felt compelled to go to this place and knew what it must mean. So he went, and what he found waiting for him was a nervous dark-haired, pale man with glasses drinking a latte. Rather than an archenemy of mankind that needed to be fought and crushed under one's heel, the Anti-Christ looked positively terrified. He said he had a wife and a child with another on the way. And that he barely understood what was happening but that he had come there knowing what needed to be done. And he didn't want any part of it. And could he please go home to his family. Please.

Joshua told me that it was at that moment he realized that, God or not, he had a choice like everyone else. And he told the Anti-Christ--whose name was not Damien at all, it was Chris of all things--to go home to Denise and Roger and their child to be. They weren't going to do this. Not now, and probably not ever.

It was the look of relief on Chris' face that sealed it for him, Joshua said. That they didn't have to do things the same way anymore. And they could change their minds.

Joshua's a good friend. He lives by himself and stops by from time to time. We go out and grab a bite or a drink or something. But mostly he just goes to work at his office and comes home. I don't know what he does in his spare time and I don't ask. I don't ask him about much, come to think of it. He just starts talking and I listen.

Once I did ask him something, though. Something specific. I asked him if this was his plan all along. God's, I meant.

He thought about it. Thought about it for a good solid minute. Then he sipped from his beer and said, "I don't know, honestly. Isn't that the oddest thing?" And he had this terrific grin on his face when he said it.

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Current Music: "Taxi (ave maria/jacknife lee remix)" Perri Alleyne
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