Looks like our time has run out. As a nonreligious but generous individual who is doomed to eternal damnation, I’m willing to help all you rapturees have a fun and pious week. All you need to do is sign over all your property to me, to be picked up ONLY after the rapture this Saturday. In return I’ll give you some cash to spend. It’s a great deal! You won’t need your stuff after you get hoovered into paradise!
FNH, over at his cthulhu podcast has been good enough to do a reading of my story The Coastal Circuit. He’s imbued it with a life of it’s own and it’s definitely worth a listen. Here’s a link to his site. My story is in episode #99.
I’m trying to define a style for a possible comic or webcomic. Work in progress doodles follow
Hell, I don’t know how to talk about it. Never did amount to nothing anyway, but I didn’t want to go like this; cowering in a corner. Never even left the county, and I always did mean to see cousin Bobby in Houston.
I killed a momma snake once. She was layin’ eggs. Struck at me, but missed and I coulda just kept goin’ but I didn’t. Don’t know why. Shot her with my little .22. It was a clean shot, but I don’t think he cares about stuff like that.
I guess what begun it was that new church. Pastor Oackland was a fiery sort of man when it came to what he always called a “proper” House a’ God. Unless I missed my guess, he’s burnin’ in hell now. Heh, he was a right S.O.B.. Picked the top of the only hill in town for the site of the new Church, and wouldn’t nothing stop him from building there. We moved power lines, water mains, tilled the shit out of it, till it was flat enough to build on. Whole town pitched in.
Oackland was good at gettin’ people to do like he said, and to be fair, did a lot of the work himself. Don’t mean I miss him though. Well, it was like any other build at first; till’ we found that den. This whole area’s full of caves, but most ain’t big enough for a grown man to crawl in, though critters fit just fine. Oackland was digging one day, tryin to remove this big stone from where he said “the pulpit would sit.” He’d removed a lot o’ earth around there and exposed some shallow tunnels. Well I don’t expect he was payin’ too fine of attention, he could git in a fury when he had a goal in mind. He got bit by what he later called “a little yellow, devilish snake.” Course he called everything that he didn’t like devilish. But even I must admit, he had a point. We got him some anti-venom real quick from the county hospital, but he wasted away just the same. They even called in this specialist from Dallas to treat the bite, but he died before the big doc even arrived. Before he went, he started saying some real crazy stuff. Like, in another language. The specialist, Dr. Hall, gave an “inconclusive” diagnosis. He said that while he was pretty sure it was a snakebite, he’d never seen such a quick death from a local one before.
There was a real hysteria for a few months after that, folks killing every snake they found and what not… this would be about the first of August. Anyway, after that there didn’t seem to be no point in finishin’ the church, and only some of the older folk still wanted to get up early for Sunday anyway. Rest of us, truth be told, was just as happy to stay home.
The trouble started when Mr. Radcliffe went back up to the hill to pray for Oackland’s soul. We heard him screamin’ and yellin’ and all run up there to help. The stone Oackland had dug around had fallen into one of those tunnels. They was jest packed full o’ snakes. It was real weird. They boiled out of the ground like oil. Pretty much everyone ran. I sure did. You can call me a coward but you wasn’t there. It was bad. We saw em crawlin’ all over the hill till sunset. When we went back up the next day there wasn’t a one in sight. We figured they’d crawled back into the earth. Found the body then. Torn to shreds. No one in this town would have called me weak, but I got a turn at that sight. Mr. Radcliffe wasn’t somewhere, he was all over. We had a hell of a time cleanin’ it up. Before we could even arrange the funeral, Poor old Mrs. Radcliffe was taken. She died different though. Tap water contamination, that’s what the coroner said. Coulda’ sworn I seen some bite marks on her arm. The older folks started dropping left and right after that. Mr Fenning was a near on a hundred, but I swear he was strong as an ox the day before he went. Looked like he’d fallen in a ditch and broken his neck – what he was doing out on Junior Fenning’s property was anyone’s guess, they never did act like kinfolk even when Mother Fenning was alive. They hadn’t spoken since her funeral to my knowledge.
There was a federal investigation, but they never did find nothin’. Twenty five deaths in one week a town with less’n two hundred souls is fairly suspicious. But none of the folk that died had any money, and Agent Denton, F-B-I, never did find anything concrete. He left the second week of September. Before it got really bad.
I read once, about Mongolian tactics. Chinese built that wall ’cause of them. Callin’ them ruthless would be an insult to all the ruthless folk in the world. They did all kinds of things like fling diseased corpses at barricaded towns, and kill the defenseless, children and elderly, but leave the healthy citizens alive to watch. I used to think the worst thing in the world was to see something wrong and not being able to do anything about it. But now, well… the worst ain’t in the world.
Well, about the third week of September is when the children started passing. you know how in the movies, they never show the death of a child? That’s a good thing. Almost makes me want to lay down and die. The causes were just as varied as they had been with the older folk. Some wasted away, some died of accidents, couple cases of food poisoning . Couple in even worse ways… I mean, they was just kids you know? Never done nothin’. Think I see why; can’t fix it now. That goddamn chapel is still there, half-built. Damn you Oackland. There were better sites. Well, about 15 kids was killed in all, the rest of the families moved away real quick. That leaves us with a town of about thirty. Younger, capable folk, with no children. But he was just playin’ with us.
You know it’s funny, Agent Denton asked me if I had any suspicions before he left, and I told him that if he had never known a man that could do all this, kill all these people, they I surely had not either.
I caught Emma Lockstaen stabbing Johnathan Wentworth right in the throat, but it wasn’t her. I believe that now. John died, couldn’t even talk; but we had Emma. Funny thing, she passed out right as we walked in the room, and that’s probably what killed John. She’d just caught him on the side of the neck, but missed the big veins. When she fell, the knife went with her, and cut crosswise into him. After the children, it didn’t seem so bad, and to be perfectly honest I never did like John. Didn’t want him dead though. Whole thing was wrong. Miss Lockstaen didn’t know John that well, so motive was hard to come by. She just sat in that cell, rocking and moanin’ to herself. She died about week later. We didn’t have no coroner then, so what killed her is anyone’s guess.
I knew somethin’ big was happenin’ or about to happen, but it was hard to get around the murders themselves. I don’t believe any of them were accidents. Not anymore. You’ll probably laugh at this, but this whole situation gets me to thinkin’about life. It has a funny way of balancing things out. Just nature I reckon. When I was a kid I used to say my prayers and go to church real regular. Even more than my ol’ man. I’ll allow there’s powers out there much bigger than men, but they don’t come from nothin’ good.
Well, there was just four of us left By the first of October, after about ten or fifteen deaths everyone else left. I called up charlie Wentworth about a week after he moved, but he talked to me like you’d talk to a crazy man. Said he’d never lived here and didn’t know me. We was best friends in high school. There was talk of gettin’ the government down here, but a kind of wilfulness set in. It’s a small town thing, I expect. We never knew nothin’ else, don’t have nowhere else to go or whatever. People talk about not wantin’ to leave the place where they grew up, but that ain’t it. Bub Deckland left, and his great grandaddy helped build the original town hall. No, we stayed because we had to. We wanted to leave, but like… anytime we’d think of it, the thoughts would just get in a jumble and we’d forget before too long. Like there was some reason we had to stay, but could never quite remember. Well we all ended up staying in Ella Pritchard’s old ranch house, being the biggest around. I guess we thought we’d be safer together. We had a long talk by the fire one night. I don’t expect i’ll ever forget that. It was Jordan Pritchard – Ella’s grandson, Nadine Simmons, Big Doug Cooper and me. For a spell we just told our stories, not bein too much interestin’, since none of us except Nadine had ever been anywhere but here.
Nadine had gone to county college in Fort Worth. Said she had kind of a funny incident there. She was walkin’ a park trail when she come across a scared kid, looking for his mom. He said a bad man had tried to take him. Just about then she looked up and thought she saw someone comin’ down the path-way out on the horizon. The kid got hysterical, so she took him back down the path to find his mom. She said she told us because she thought she’d seen that someone again, not two weeks ago. She said she knew it was him. He walked wrong, not like a limp or anything, more like he was always falling forward. Said it makes you queasy and weak in the knees to see it. Well we all had a bit of a laugh at that, eased the mood, but then Jordan stopped real sudden.
The look on his face turned ours like to stone. He told us how back in Febuary he was choppin’ wood for Mrs. Radcliffe when he came across a big rattler under the wood pile, curled up and nearly dead from the cold. He didn’t think twice, but chopped it up. Most people ’round here woulda done that, I expect. You know sometimes a rattler head can still bite, even after you cut it off? Jordan swore up and down that head made a little leap for him. It missed, and he smashed it with the head of his axe. He buried it in the Radcliffe’s backyard, close to the well. Tap water poisoning. I don’t know about that.
Cooper was a pretty wild kid, but he’d settled down these last few years – after a spell he told us about him and his old buddy Dawson Langers. Dawson had died when they was both about fifteen, and I looked into it myself. We never found any body, but there was some bloodstains and torn clothes. We only had Cooper’s word for what happened, but since no one had anything positive against him we let it drop. Cooper’s story was that they were hiking out by the river and Dawson had slipped, hit his head, fallen in, and was carried off by the current. It was possible, seein’ as the river was flooding that time of year, but I’d heard from Lesley Garrot, the Cooper’s neighbor, that Doug had come home all nervous, covered in blood and dirt and went straight in the house to talk to his old man. They showed up here about an hour later, which is funny cause the station ain’t more than a minute’s walk from that house. Lesley said she was out mindin’ her azaleas and she heard a real different story. She said Doug had told his folks that he and Dawson had been attacked by some animal. He said it wasn’t no cougar.
Me? I killed a momma snake once.
Well that was last week, and I ain’t seen any of them since. Probably dead. Just like the town. Just like us. I’m gonna let you out ok? No citation or nothin’. Drunk drivin ain’t anything compared to this anyway. But I think you should let me go out there first. Maybe all he wants is me. I don’t know nothin’ about this stuff, and I’ve lived it. I’m sorry you got mixed up in all this. Heh, fallin’ forward. Wish I coulda left. I didn’t want to go like this. Do yourself a favor. Get as far away from this damn town as you can.
Thanks for coming Elliot. Let me just turn the music down. I really need to get something off my chest. I won’t ask you to believe everything I say. What? I appreciate the support , but you’d best wait until you’ve heard the whole thing before giving such reassurances. It’s not easy to hear. Do you recall that hobby I had in college? Exposing frauds and the like. I kept it up afterwards. Specialized in tv preachers. Faith healers, fake prophets and so forth. I took a few down, too. You might have heard of Reverend Polov, discredited on national television a few years back. The anchors were reading my research on his supposed “resurrections”. He’s back with a new message, but I don’t even care anymore; and anyway, thats not what I want you to hear.
I don’t suppose you’ve ever heard of The Right Reverend Harold Binning? I thought not, he’s strictly small-time. Mostly runs a Coastal circuit between Humarock, Massachusetts and Carrabelle, Florida. He first came to my attention a couple of months ago. I was posing as a staunch believer at a revival meeting in an old baptist church in Tennessee. A bunch of older folk told me about his “miracles” – how he exorcises demons from people, and that sometimes the demons are visible. None of them had actually seen him, but they assured me he was the real deal. It sounded like a good trick, and I was curious to see how much of the scam was actual sleight of hand and how much was based on rumor. The imagined sight of a grown man pulling a rubber demon or some other slimy prop “from” someone in a church was enough motivation for me.
I caught up with him in Noank, Conneticut. Small? I doubt there’s a two thousand people there. Not overflowing with believers either. There couldn’t have been more than twenty attendees on the first day. There was a thin strain of music playing, but I couldn’t hear it properly; for some reason it made me think of the ocean. Binning was not what I had expected. He was dressed in a poorly tailored stained black suit, with an equally stained and frayed tie. He’s very tall, nearly seven feet. Very lean too, with a big hawk nose, sallow cheeks and narrowed eyes. His sermons focused on the purity of the soul and body, and the importance of removing aberration. Toward the end, he’d give a prayer in a very strange language. I thought it was gibberish at first. I can’t recall the exact words, if they could even be called words. One of the sounds might have been “Urr-Li-yeh.” Nonsense? I thought so too, at the time.
When you’re in the business of exposing charlatans, you watch certain things carefully. Like reactions. Most of the attendees didn’t seem to interest him, but every now and then someone would wander in that would merit his prolonged attention. I didn’t notice at first, but after a day or two I could see that they all seemed to be sort of… ugly isn’t the right word. They just looked wrong. Like they weren’t really people. I know that’s a terrible thing to say, but you haven’t seen what I have seen. They looked as though they were suffering from a degenerative disease, and they all had the same strange look. Unblinking eyes, very small nose and ears, large forehead. Flaking skin. Funny odor. I like to think I’m tolerant, especially of those suffering from disease, but I confess I was utterly repulsed by them and if they came too close I could not help edging away. I wasn’t the only one. Everyone’s skin seemed to crawl at their presence.
By the Wednesday of that week I still hadn’t see one of these supposed exorcisms, or any sort of scam, and was ready to drop the whole thing as more and more of these noxious visitors kept arriving. God, I wish I had dropped it. There are some things none of us should know… Sorry, Elliot. It’s difficult to focus these days. What kept me going was a single incident, no doubt small enough, but I couldn’t get it out of my head. Binning was accompanied by a woman I assumed to be his wife, though now that I think of it, she looked so like him she might have been his sister. She would greet devotees as the entered, and they would both acknowledge us as we left. As I was leaving on Thursday, I thought I heard him mutter : ”Not so many pure now. We can begin cleansing.” That stuck with me as I got a late dinner in a greasy highway diner. What had he meant? Well the question rolled around in my head that night. I slept only fitfully, and had disturbing dreams when I did that woke me up again, drenched in sweat and tears. It’s a small mercy that I cannot remember what they were about. I now recall vaguely that I was afraid to be too near either Rev. Binning or those sick people. By the morning I had forgotten my apprehension, and resolved to go back one more night to the meeting. God that night. Why did I have to go Elliot? I could have just left and now… I’m sorry, let me pull myself together. Drink? Well I’ll have one anyway. I’ll need it for this. I reasoned that, based on his comment, Binning would not begin the real show until the audience was wholly composed of those aberrant… things. I tried to adopt their shuffling gate and unblinking stare as I approached the chapel that night. The woman gave no sign she saw through my act. She just smiled and waved in me into the chapel. To this day I don’t know if she was deceived. A strange ritual was obviously about to take place, and I was eager to finally see the “show” and even more eager to stop this strange preacher.
The church had been… redecorated with strange icons. I would have thought it vandalism if i hadn’t been the only one to pay it any attention. The symbols were nothing Christian, and not from any religion I had ever seen. they seemed to center around nautical depictions of fish and squid, along with other things less recognizable. A curtained off area had been set up to the left of the stage, stretching all the way to the side-door of the old chapel. Everyone was dreadfully calm. The only sound was the ever present music, slightly louder than before, and the rustle of the other attendees. Binning’s face was impassive, as was the woman’s. Everyone was very calm, except myself. There was a great portable aluminum coat-rack holding large black robes of coarse fabric, with dark stains on them. Every devotee had put one on, and I did as well. The rotten stench of the robe I wore was so terrible I almost choked, but no one else seemed to notice, and now, of all times, I did not want to stand out. I had a premonition that discovery was to be avoided at all costs. I can’t tell you how I knew, Elliot, but I did know, and I was right. The sermon itself was changed little, still full of hyperbole about purification and aberration. What had changed was Binning himself. He was animated, his normally flat monotone rose and fell over the course of the sermon. His eyes shined with a life I hadn’t known was in him. He was practically yelling toward the end.
When he finished, the dead silence that had begun the meeting returned, only broken by the faint tinkling of the constant music, now barely audible. Instead of opening the doors to smile at attendees as they left, the woman appeared to the right of the stage, next to the curtained-off area. Binning, still animated with religious fervor bid the attendees to come forward and be purified. He seemed to exert over these people a compelling, almost hypnotic control. An older man in the front, distinguishable from the others because his features were even more repellant stepped forward with a shuffling and pained gait. The woman smiled joylessly and held out a hand to direct him behind the curtain.
It’s funny, Elliot, how little details affect your perception. I noticed that she was wearing a pair of latex gloves. It was so out of place that I almost physically started with the implications. Binning walked behind the curtain where I heard him quietly exhorting the old man to cast aside his impurities. Then I heard a sound such as I never wish to hear again in my life. It was a scream. Not a fake yell, as I have often heard when the “Devil” is cleansed from someone on television. This was a scream of pain. Very real and physical pain. What so disturbed me was the vocal qualities of that scream. No human ever produced such a guttural, bleating, bellow as that. No one else in the crowd had even the slightest reaction. I realized a second later that I was being taken in by the show. The old preacher must have a hidden speaker somewhere, playing that horrible sound on cue. From behind the curtain came a loud THUMP. Then a dragging sound. I heard the preacher exhort the man again, this time muttering: “You are purified, brother.” Then I heard footsteps to the side door. The door opened and then closed. The preacher emerged, holding the robe, which had new dark stains on it, and deposited it onto the floor of the chapel. ”Will the next come forward to be purified?”, He asked. There was a general milling about, with those in front shuffling into sort of a loose line. The music continued to play.
This went on for some time. It was a terrible vigil. Not every attendee had the scream effect played for their benefit, but it was enough to unseat my nerves. I had managed to drift away from the stage a little, but I was much closer than I would have preferred. Elliot I KNEW there was something wrong. All my normal instincts to get at the truth were gone. I’d finally found something that I didn’t want to know any more about, and yet I couldn’t bring myself to leave either. God Elliot, I could have left. I should have, and maybe we’d be meeting under better circumstances. Well, he worked through most of the crowd, there were maybe five or ten attendees left, everyone else having departed through the curtained-off side door. From somewhere a small measure of my former courage came back to me. Just because this was a well executed show didn’t mean it was real. After all, I considered, I hadn’t actually seen anything terrible except these people, who, awful as they were, were probably suffering from some obscure hereditary disease. I resolved to peek behind that curtain when the last attendee was being “purified.” I hid my face in the shadows cast by the robe and managed to avoid his now ferocious gaze, always standing behind the other participants. As I was waiting, a thought clawed it’s way to the forefront of my mind. Binning had never asked for any money. After the last devotee had disappeared behind the curtain with that horrible preacher I worked up my courage, and quietly as possible I began to move around to the side. The curtain in front was made of a heavy dark red fabric, thick and soft, but the sides were covered by only a thin white sheet. I moved slowly,and quietly, and was about to look through the gap when I realized I could faintly make out the silhouette of the figures inside the curtain. It was only then I began to understand Binning’s purpose. If only I’d left! Then I wouldn’t… I’m sorry, Elliot. What I saw was the sillhouette of.. something… being butchered. Binning and the woman were carving it up with knives, while it was still alive! The stench was overwhelming. It didn’t look like the man that had gone behind the curtain. I can’t say what it was. It had limbs where there shouldn’t be limbs, and all the limbs were of the wrong shape. The way it moved… was wrong. God, that horrible noise!
I ran. I’ve never run faster, Elliot. I found a policeman and tried to tell him what I’d seen but he thought I was drunk, or high. He arrested me. I didn’t care what he thought, I was just glad to be surrounded by the normal world. I couldn’t close my eyes too long, or I would see it again. When they got me to the station I was hysterical. I tried to tell them. They never found anything amiss you know. No missing persons reports, and Binning was a locally respected character. You know the rest. Nine months in Baker’s asylum and I was finally pronounced sane.
I know you don’t believe me Elliot, and probably think I’m delusional. I can’t blame you. What I saw silhouetted behind that curtain could not be real. But something else happened. Something I’ve never told anyone. I didn’t make a clean getaway. I had removed my robe to avoid tripping over it, in case I was detected and needed to retreat. As I reached the front door, I turned and saw Binning, staring at me. He knew. He found me, in the asylum, when he explained it all… Well Elliot, that’s why you’re here. I remembered you from college. How you had those staring eyes, that big forehead. Sit back down. This won’t take long.
Inside the Oakley product development department:
“Hey boss, marketing says we need special sunglasses for Mr. Armstrong”
“Take a pair off that one production line… the douchebag one. Paint it a gaudy color and glue a bunch of plastic knife-blades and fins on it and shit.”
“Drill holes in the lenses too.”
“Whatever. Be sure to jack up the price.”
I’ve always liked the idea of having a little computer to carry around which fits in my pocket and has internet access, but until recently, there weren’t any models available which had both a complete list of features and a well-designed user interface. The release of the android operating system was a good first step, but it wasn’t mature enough to warrant the extra cost until the current version. So, after much deliberation I bought a Nexus One. And I like it. But with seemingly everyone else using iPhones and Blackberries, I got to thinking about design, and how it impacts customer perception.
The burden of choice is always a prickly question for a developer. How many settings for a particular application is too many? What level of control should the user be allowed? Is the design philosophy geared toward specific tasks or an open ended platform? In the context of these questions, there are two extreme approaches:
1. Create a specific device which places strict limits on allowed software and functionality, then tailor the hardware to the design of the software to reduce manufacturing costs and ensure consistent quality.
2.Create an open ended platform which will run on a variety of hardware and will run a variety of software, and allow the users both the benefits and the burden of choice in system configurations, applications, etc.
Savvy readers know where I’m going with this. listed are essentially the Apple and Microsoft approaches, respectively. Both companies have been very successful despite representing opposing philosophies. Microsoft (and not to leave them out, the creators of Linux even moreso) are the advocate of choice. You’d be hard-pressed to find a hardware configuration that can’t run some version of windows, and you’d be hard pressed to find a system on which windows won’t crash. Apple is the proponent of consistency. Their UI design is excellent, it’s too bad you can’t get that same UI on market cost hardware. Not only is it difficult to install any Apple OS on a non apple hardware configuration (or indeed any other device that what it was originally made for), it’s also a violation of their EULA. I don’t think either of these design philosophies in their extreme form represent the future of software and hardware design. The second approach is faulty because it does not cater to the non-technical user who makes up most of your customer base. the first approach is faulty because it does not cater to advanced or experienced users who are increasingly the first to develop new applications (therefore adding value) for your platform. Google’s software seems to be skirting between both these designs. They are open source, but with limitations. Their software is very easy to use, but has a deeper level of customization for more advanced users. They seem to be running at a higher level of design than either Microsoft or Apple, and they’ve done it with almost no cost to the end user. The future of computing is flawless interfaces combined with open platform support, and we’re getting a glimpse of that in Google. They are far from perfect, but they seem to be heading in that direction faster than anyone else.
Fellow science fans, here’s an idea that I think would change the world:
Any time a graduate receives a PhD in any field where it’s possible a discovery or invention will named after them, they receive a mandatory name change to something more awesome. Examples follow:
“…In science news today, a new Lemur was discovered. the Attending scientists named the animal after their professor, Dr. Horsehammer. J.Horsehammerius is a subspecies of F.Hardpunchius.”
“In medical news, the Legbreaker vaccine has finally been approved by the FDA. The vaccine of course is a revolutionary new cure for Mauler’s disease, named after Dr. Face Mauler, PhD, of Cambridge.
So. The iPad. It’s finally here. We’ve all waited for a useful tablet, and it’s all we could have ever hoped it would be. While there’s no question it will bring about another techie revolution just like the iPhone and iPod before it, let’s break down just what is so new about it. Going to the coffee shop to read? The iBook store allows you to download E-Books right to the device! Casually browsing the web from the couch? The large screen with it’s bright colors are just wonderful. While some people have complained about it’s inability to multitask, aren’t we all suffering from information overload? One thing at a time people. This is Steve Job’s way of saying: “You’re working too hard. Kick back. Relax.” I for one completely agree. What use is productivity if you’re stressed out? The iPad truly makes computing personal. You feel like it was made just for you. I don’t want to bore you with a lot of geek-speak, but let’s take a look at the specifications: It’s got a blazing fast 1ghz processor (almost twice as fast as an iPhone 3gs!) and a “resolution” of 1024×768, over twice as many pixels as an iPod Touch! But I haven’t even gotten to the best part yet. The price. It’s only $499! That’s only about half the cost of the cheapest Macbook! Don’t listen to all the criticism, you need one of these. Delay on this one folks and pretty soon you’ll be the only one without one. And we wouldn’t want that, would we?
Disclaimer: I don’t have an iPad, and i probably won’t ever buy one, as it doesn’t meet any of my computing needs. This is less Apple hate and more satire on hysteria.