Friday, February 13, 2009

IT'S SHILLTASTIC!!!

Another look into the Al Bruno III gift shop




IN THE PIT





This is the comic book I wrote, sadly it never made it past the first issue. Too bad I had envisioned a fantastic tale of serial killers, Canadian pro wrestlers and exploding toilets. Still though I think you might enjoying reading the first issue, it is still available as a PDF file. There are also some preview pages at the sight below.

Order away and weep for what might have been.





Some of my best work is available from the fine folks at Eden Studios. My contribution to their game lines has been mainly in the area of fiction. The rules and setting information was written by other very capable folks like Richard Dakan, CJ Carella, Jack Emmert, George Vasilakos and M. Alexander Jurkat. Believe me, they did all the hard work. If you are a fan of role-playing games or a fan of zombie movies then the books below are going to be right up your alley.






ALL FLESH MUST BE EATEN main rulebook







Enter the dark world of survival horror. The Dead walk among us. This role-playing game allows you to play in a world infested by the walking dead. The main rulebook includes rules for character creation, combat and everything else you need to play in a world of survival horror. Also detailed are the multiple campaign settings so you can customize the type of "deadworld" you wish to explore.232 pages.Hardcover.Cover Art by Christopher Shy.


Click here for ordering information.
This features my stories The Professor's Diaries, Another Night On Patrol, The Rules, Dr. Becker and the Terror of the Corpseinoids, and The Memory of His Caress.







ZOMBIE MASTER SCREEN




A must-have reference for All Flesh Must Be Eaten, the Zombie Master's Screen is filled with charts and tables. From fear to weapons to outcomes, every reference that a prepared Zombie Master needs is packed onto a four-panel screen. The flip side of the screen scares and delights the players with full-color zombie images.
The Screen is packed with a 48-page booklet, including a ready-to-run adventure introducing the Cast Member to the horrors of a zombie plague, and pregenerated characters with complete bios, statistics and resource information.
Cover Art by Christopher Shy and George Vasilakos.




Click here for ordering information.
This features my story No Such Thing As Zombies.





ENTER THE ZOMBIE









Written by Richard DakanThe first supplement to All Flesh Must Be Eaten opens whole new vistas for a walking dead campaign. This tome brings together the thrills of Hong Kong action films and the excitement of flesh-craving horror. The match of these two genres may not have seemed obvious at first, but the pleasures that arise from it are undeniable. After all, zombies and Hong Kong style action make a perfect fit. What better match is there for a relentless series of lightning kicks and a hurricane of bullets than a target that can’t die? The pulse-pounding danger just never stops. Besides, what martial arts master worth his salt doesn't ache for the ability to use his own intestines as a deadly whip? For the undead, no problem!Softcover.Cover Art by Christopher Shy.



Click here for ordering information.
This features my novella Enter the Zombie




TERRA PRIMATE



Written by Al Bruno III, CJ Carella, David F. Chapman, Patrick SweenyBased on the original concept by George Vasilakos and Ross IsaacsEdited by M. Alexander Jurkat, David F. ChapmanCover art by Jeff ReitzInterior Art by Storn Cook, Thomas Denmark, Talon Dunning, DW Gross, Jon Hodgson, Chris Keefe, Jason Millet, Matt Morrow, James Powers, Gregory Price, George Vasilakos
From the creators of All Flesh Must Be Eaten, similar in style but this time . . . with apes! Terra Primate has no specific setting. The only constant is the concept of intelligent apes. Planet of the Apes is a movie about intelligent apes, but then again so is Congo. As long as the characters are interacting with intelligent apes -- or are intelligent apes themselves! -- the game could be set in the pulp era of adventure, on a post-apocalyptic Earth, on a faraway alien planet, or downtown on Main Street.
The main rulebook includes rules for character creation, combat and everything else you need to play in a world where man is the missing link! Also detailed are the multiple campaign settings so you can customize the type of "Apeworld" you wish to explore.



Click here for ordering information.


IN THE MIDNIGHT OF HIS HEART


a novel of horror and obsession


To all outward appearances John Sig is just an old man living a quietly in an empty old house. His one pleasure is when he heads down to the local diner and visits with his favorite waitress Angie. When Angie disappears, John sets out to find her. For an ordinary old man that might seem like a foolish idea but John Sig isn't human- he's a monster living in the shadow of a nightmare thirty-five years old.
Click here for ordering information.



**********
IN THE MIDNIGHT OF HIS HEART
Preview Chapter



second interlude
May 14, 1993






Like most soldiers, Cenobia's life was made up of long periods of monotony, punctuated by the occasional moment or terror or confusion. Unlike most soldiers, the battleground Cenobia fought for was the world itself. At least that's what the Monarchs told her and she wasn't about to question them. They didn't like to be questioned, or disobeyed for that matter. Orders were orders and orders had brought her here, to an abandoned hotel in south Troy, New York. The place was a murder scene no less; tatters of yellow police tape still fluttered in the breeze.

Cenobia sat on a grimy sawhorse with her back to the decrepit building. With one eye she kept watch for her target, with the other watched the flickering screen of a GameBoy. Playing Super Mario Brothers always soothed her nerves. It worried her that her target had chosen a place like this for their first meeting. Did he suspect? Was he planning an ambush? If he was it was doomed to failure, her superiors had drilled every fact and rumor about the building into her head. They had somehow procured a set of the original blueprints and made her memorize them floor by floor. She knew every hiding place, every potential hazard.

There could be no margin of error tonight. She wondered idly what her target really thought he could accomplish by opposing the Monarchs. Was he like the Vlodek? Trying to regain the political influence they had long ago lost? Or was he like the members of the Greater Eastern Council, ready and willing to screw over everyone and anyone just to get a little more power? Perhaps, Cenobia wondered, perhaps he was like she had been before her 're-education'. Perhaps he too hated anything that he couldn't understand, anything that was different.

Thankfully, the Monarchs had cleansed her of her sins and given her a new purpose in life. They had reinvented her.

Unsteady, low-pitched whistling roused her from her thoughts and from Super Mario's improbable world of giant mushrooms and monster turtles. Her target was coming, strolling non-chalantly though one of the city's worst neighborhoods. Cenobia's superiors had showed her dozens of photographs and sketches, she had never met him but she knew his every expression. Her target was short with brown, curly close-cropped hair and dark, malevolent eyes.

He was calling himself Jason Magwier these days, but he had had many aliases over the years- Clive Bastable, August Zabladowski, Noah, Percy Kent-Smith and of course the Hanged Man. That last nom de plume was a reference to the twelfth tarot card in the deck - an image of a man hung by his feet. It represented a person who would sacrifice everything for knowledge.

Switching off the Gameboy, she slipped it into the pocket of her long winter coat. It was a little too hot for a coat like this, but it kept the shoulder holster she wore well hidden. Standing up, Cenobia took a moment to get into character. Her target waved excitedly to her; she raised a hand in reply. She waited until he was within striking distance before she gave the password, "The Cause is all."

"All for the Cause." he smiled and bowed slightly, "Cenobia DeVries I presume."

"It's an honor to finally meet you sir."

"Please call me Jason."

"Jason it is then."

"You come highly recommended." he stepped past her and stared up at the ruined hotel, "The Monarchs want you almost as badly as they want me."

"I only wish I could do more." she flushed with guilt at the memory of her transgressions.

The Hanged Man spun on his heel and darted towards her. Panicked Cenobia flinched for her gun but then thought better of it. Her target whispered conspiratorially in her ear, "They're vulnerable. More vulnerable than they know."

"Good."

"And with your help the Cause can only grow stronger." he smiled, turned back around and plunged into the hotel's dark interior. Cenobia followed him.

It took her eyes only a few seconds to adjust to the lack of light; her senses were so much more acute now- a gift from the Monarchs. The floor was thick with dirt and debris. She knew that the Monarchs had suffered a great defeat here almost forty years ago, she just didn't know how. Her superiors didn't like to talk about their defeats. She searched for answers in the blistered ceiling and the cracked uneven floorboards but found nothing. Not a single clue. Towards the stairs was a trio of fading chalk outlines, each one depicting a body, its limbs splayed. Her target stood between them, "He's a killer, that's all he knows. Can I trust him? Should I help him?"

"Who do you mean?" Cenobia drew closer.

"He did this with his bare hands. With his bare hands! If I help him achieve his heart's desire won't it just make him more bloodthirsty? Can I risk more innocent lives?"

"Will helping him aid the Cause?"

"Yes."

"Then why do you care?" she tried to sound comforting, but she couldn't shake the strange feeling that she was in danger. Cenobia cursed herself for letting the Hanged Man set the terms of their meeting, "What he does is his business not yours."

He gazed at her, his dark eyes churning, "If I give a madman a loaded weapon am I not responsible for the mayhem he causes?"

"If it furthers the Cause isn't it worth it? Isn't a handful of lives a fair exchange for the world?"

With a frown and a shrug her target led her to the stairwell. Cenobia followed, "Why are we here? I thought you were going to make me a member of the Cause?"

"Consider this your rite of indoctrination." he pulled a flashlight from the pocket of his leather jacket and began trudging up the shadowy stairs. "You don't understand enough yet, but I think you will soon."

I understand more than you ever could! She thought hotly,
I understand that when the Monarchs are finished with you they'll pick you apart atom by atom just for fun!

They walked in silence for a time, she knew she would have to make her move soon, but there was information she needed- and the Splinter. She dared not come back without that. She reached into her coat and closed her hand around the handle of her revolver.

"So tell me..." The Hanged Man paused on the steps and swung the flashlight around, dazzling her, "How did you first discover the existence of the Monarchs?"

"Don't you already know that?"

"Humor me."

"I was a customs officer at the Miami airport. That was back in the eighties."

"The nineteen-eighties?"

"Yes." she replied incredulously. She held her hand up, trying to filter out the flashlight's glare, "A lot of drugs come through there. The smugglers would do just about anything to get them past the gate. They'd wrap little packages of heroin up in condoms and swallow them, stash cocaine in a baby's diaper..."

Her target tsked under his breath.

"One day I saw a pair of coffins being offloaded from a private Learjet. The bottom of one of them was leaking onto the tarmac, like a car leaking oil. No one else paid it any attention except for me. You kind of develop a sense of these things after a while and I knew that there were no bodies in those coffins." she felt an unexpected wave of nostalgia at the memories or her old job, her old life. She lived to serve the Monarchs but sometimes she would give anything to be back in that time and place again.

As she spoke the flashlight beam wandered off her and began tracing lazy patterns on the cobwebbed ceiling and rotting walls, rats and roaches scattered before the light. For a moment the circle of illumination hovered on a trio of ruts dug deep into the plaster, they looked like claw-marks.

"And then what?"

"I ordered the coffins seized and searched. The paperwork said that they were the remains of an employee of the Trinity Advance Corporation and her spouse."

"TRIAD...." he said distantly.

"Yes. TRIAD owned an Island out in the Caribbean and apparently there had been some kind of insurrection-"

"Kristina and Peter Miller."

"What?"

"The death certificates were for names were Kristina and Peter Miller." the Hanged Man swung the flashlight around and shone it under his chin. The shadows it cast made his face seem skull-like

"How did you-" Cenobia started.

Her target's only answer was a Cheshire-like grin, "Please go on."

"When we opened the coffins, there were no bodies Just trashbags full of worms." She spoke slowly, half-expecting him to interrupt at every sentence, "Stubby-inch long things. They didn't look like any kind of worm I'd ever seen before.."

"What did you suspect?"

"I don't know what I suspected. All I knew was that they were violating a dozen or so customs laws. I ordered the coffins and their contents impounded. Ten minutes later I'm getting a call from the Attorney General telling me to back off and let the 'biological samples' through."

"Did you?" he swung the flashlight beam back around again, making fresh spots dance before her eyes.

"You know better. I let them go through but I slipped a few of the worms into an evidence bag and sent them down to Quantico." The longer this story went on the less nostalgic she felt. The past was the past, why should she go dredging it up now? "The samples disappeared on the way there -along with all paperwork. I found myself demoted for failing to follow procedures. All within a week of intercepting those damn coffins.

"That just made me madder. I started doing a little digging into the TRIAD Corporation during my off hours. For the last forty years they had been one of the top medical and pharmaceutical research firms in the world but within the last ten years they had begun to finance other, less mainstream, types of research. Like on life after death and psychic powers."

"You must have found that very intriguing."

"Infuriating is more like it. Every time I found an informant they clammed up, data disappeared with no explanation, records I needed couldn't be found. Then internal affairs suddenly starts sniffing around my door. Something about bribes and drugs."

"Had you ever taken a bribe?"

"Never!" she said, suddenly defensive. How had this happened? She was supposed to be interrogating him, finding out his secrets! Still though she told him the story, it was almost as though she had to, "I wasn't on the take. If you say you stand for something, in my book you better well stand for it. I was just about at the end of my rope with this TRIAD nonsense when I got a call from the CEO of the company, a Mr. Kriely."

Incredibly the Hanged Man began to sing faintly;

"I laughed and shook his hand, and made my way back home
I searched for form and land, for years and years I roamed
I gazed a gazely stare at all the millions here
We must have died along, a long long time ago"

"What was that for?"

"It's a song. By David Bowie." Her target pointed the flashlight beam at her feet; "He's still my favorite, after all this time. Now please go on."

Cenobia clenched her hands into fists, there was an angry buzzing in her brain, "You ready know all of this already why am I-"

"Sorry. I just had to be sure." he turned and started heading back up the stairs.

"Sure of what?" she raced up the steps after him.

"Not much further." He called back jauntily, "Only a dozen flights until the top floor. I keep the Splinter hidden there."

"What?" The man must be either mad or an imbecile! To hide it here, in a dilapidated old hotel that the Monarchs had once used for a beachhead? The Splinter was an object capable of unraveling the secrets about the constitution of ultimate infinity, the juxtaposition of dimensions and the position of the known cosmos of time and space in the unending chain of linked cosmos atoms which made up the immediate super-cosmos of curves, angles and material and semi material electronic organization! At least that's what her superiors told her.

"I keep the Splinter hidden here, it's safer. I call it The Purloined Letter stratagem."

A few floors later they took a break. The Hanged Man was winded; he pulled a paisley-colored handkerchief out of his pocket and mopped his brow... I don't remember the building being this tall."

Thanks to the generosity of the Monarchs Cenobia didn't get winded that easily, but she pretended to be tired just the same. The less her target expected the better, "When was the last time you were here?"

"I've never been here before."

"You just said-"

"No. What I said was that I don't remember the building being this tall. I didn't say I'd ever been here before."

"You're not making any sense!"

The Hanged Man had lost interest in the verbal sparring again, he arced the flashlight's glare past her to a pile of rubble near her feet. Something glinted within it. He gave the circle of light a waggle, "Cenobia... could you see what that is please?"

This was it. If her target was going to make a move against her it would be now. She tensed as she reached down into the pile of wood, plaster and cloth. Her trembling fingers wrapped around something leathery. She drew it out.

The stairwell went black as The Hanged Man screamed and dropped the flashlight, "Take it away! Take it away!"

The gas mask was dark and streamlined, it looked almost bestial with its snout-like mouthpiece and broad, dark tinted eyepieces. Why would her target be so scared of a piece of Army surplus?

He cowered on the steps, his hands were coving his eyes "Please... get rid of it."

Cenobia briefly considered using the mask to torment some answers out of him but that wasn't within the parameters of her orders; she was to gain his confidence, get the Splinter and capture him using the least force necessary. The Monarchs wanted him for themselves. Rumor had it they were already squabbling over which of them would have first crack at him. She threw the mask down the steps, into the darkness.

"Is it gone?"

"Yes."

He stood and shook himself all over, like a dog trying to dry itself. "I hate those things."

Cenobia retrieved the flashlight and handed it back to him, "Gas masks?"

"It's better you didn't know. Hell I wish I didn't know. Of course technically speaking I may not know and I just may think that I know. You know?" the Hanged Man started up the stairs again, taking them two at a time.

A little while later they found themselves at the top floor stairwell. There was a skeleton in the corner, its was dressed in rags, Cenobia could see that the bones of the neck and ribs had been shattered. Her target prodded it with his foot, "Well bless my buttons. You weren't kidding John were you?"

"Who's John?"

"The man who killed this poor soul here."

"She pointed to the skeleton, "Who was this? Who did John kill?"

"An insufferable little know-it-all. A man so preoccupied with battling the Monarchs that he lost the woman he loved." the Hanged Man switched off the flashlight, "He won't be missed."

The top story door swung open, a pair of kerosene lanterns lit the wide room. The inner and outer walls had crumbled away long ago, revealing the blunted, shadowy skyline of south Troy. Knots of electrical wiring hung like vines from the gutted ceiling, they swung to and fro with every breeze that passed through the upper floor. At the far side of the room there was a worn looking stone platform, it was adorned with dark rubies and gold. Her target stepped into the room, Cenobia followed.

The door swung to a close behind her. There was another man standing there; he was ruddy complexioned and wore thick, round-framed glasses. For some reason he was wearing surgical scrubs. "Is this her?" he asked.

"Cenobia, this is Pexley."

"Is this her?"

"Yes." the Hanged Man replied somewhat sadly.

"What's going on?" Cenobia drew her gun and trained it on her target's gut, "I came here in good faith."

"You came here under the orders of the Monarchs." he replied.

Pexley crossed behind her to stand beside her target "You're sure aren't you?"

"When you shine the light in her eyes you can tell." he clicked the flashlight back on shone it in her face, "Her pupils are segmented."

With a grimace of anger she fired the pistol, leaving her target holding a ruin of wires and plastic where there had once been a flashlight. So, all the stories and the meandering, it was just a game was it? He honestly thought he could toy with her, a servant of the Monarchs, and get away with it? "The Splinter. I want it. Now."

Pexley raised his hands and retreated to the stone platform, "Well I'll just leave you two to work this out..."

"Stay right where you are Pexley Aldorus of Shartok's Circle." she ordered.

He froze in place, "Magwier, you do know what you're doing don't you?"

"I hope not." he grinned.

Cenobia stepped closer to her target, "The Splinter. Where is it?"

"I'm sorry this happened to you. You were a brave and valiant-"

"Tell me where the Splinter is or I'll blow you damn kneecap off."

He shrugged, "In the jacket pocket of skeleton on the landing."

"You." she gestured towards Pexley, "Go get it and come right back here."

Hands still raised, he obeyed but as he walked past her he commented, "I would like to assure you madam that I am strictly the hired help in this endeavor. I in no way hold any allegiance to this man or his Cause."

The Hanged Man offered her an apologetic shrug, "It's so hard to find good help these days."

"On your knees." she hissed.

Her target got onto his knees, "There may still be a chance I can help you."

"It won't work Hanged Man, the Monarchs have shown me the truth."

"The truth? And what might the truth be?"

"They're us."

"What?"

"They're our future. The evolutionary destiny of the human race. They're reaching back into the past to aid us." she spoke in a matter-of-fact tone.


"Pure hokum! They must have given your brain a serious scrambling for you to believe that."

"You will see them in all their glory before you die."

He rolled his eyes, "Be still my heart."

Cringing Pexley returned to the room, all he had in his hand was a yellowed envelope. "I'm so sorry but it seems as though someone else has absconded with the Splinter. I did find this note however. It's addressed to you Cenobia." he offered it to her.

The angry buzzing was back now, she felt as though there was a nest of hornets loose in her skull. "Read it." she gestured with the gun.

The envelope practically crumbed away to dust as Pexley tore it open, the slip of paper inside was the color of velum. "It says... Sorry Cenobia but the Splinter isn't to be toyed with by the likes of either you or the Monarchs. I spirited it away from here decades ago..."

The buzzing reached a fevered pitch, blood leaked from her tearducts. The Hanged Man was grinning at her. Still playing games was he? She vowed to wipe that grin off his face for all time. The Monarchs would still get him, he'd just be missing his teeth, and his eyes and his balls.

Oblivious to all this Pexley continued to read, "...I also regret to inform you that since you have been compromised the Cause will not be needing your services. Sincerely yours, Jason Magwier... Ps. Galen Now!"

Galen?

A sudden motion to her left drew Cenobia's attention. She turned, weapon raised to fire. A flurry of silver eyes and milk-white flesh blinded her. When her vision cleared again she found her arm had been severed at the elbow.. Numbed with disbelief she could only gape at the snarl of torn skin and jutting bone.

"I don't mean to hurt you." The Hanged Man said as the creature rounded on Cenobia and brought her down, "But hurting you hurts the Monarchs and I can't let them win. Not this time, the stakes are too high."


**********





This concludes your commercial break, there will be further breaks as my creditors warrant.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

And now I am on yet ANOTHER social networking site...

And no its not Bedwetters Anonymous.

So now I am on MySpace, twitter, Facebook and THE HAUNT.

What is the Haunt you might ask?

Well it looks like it is MySpace for horror geeks- so count me in!

Of course my arrival may trigger a mass exodus of members but let's hope for the best.




And if you visit my blog there you'll find the same damn stuff that's here and on my web page!!!!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Psssssssst...

Keep circulating the blog!

Back To The Futon

The Pediatrician sent us to a Specialist, the Specialist sent us to get x-rays and when it was all said and done they told me my 3 year old daughter had to have her tonsils and adenoids removed.

The Specialist grinned as he told me her glands were so swollen that they had practically occluded her ear canals.

I nodded gravely and waited until we were in the car before I asked my wife what the Hell he was talking about.

The long and short of it was, if we didn't act now my kid might see serious speech and balance issues later on. Besides once the procedure was done we would find ourselves off the bimonthly cycle of ear infections that left my daughter feverish and sharing a bed with my wife while I languished on the futon.

Not that the futon was uncomfortable it’s just that when I was out there our two cats would take turns jumping off me and grooming me. Besides when the kid wasn't sleeping in her room it kind of cut into my opportunity for serious government sanctioned cuddling with my wife.

Then again it was that cuddling that got me into this mess in the first place wasn't it?

I told my superiors at Industrial Illuminati Inc. that I would be taking a week's vacation to care for my daughter. I was sure that I could get some writing done as well, after all how much trouble could a three year old be?

My supervisors approved my vacation request with a kind of barely suppressed glee.

The day of the operation came rushing up on us. We'd done our best to prepare our daughter, we explained to her what was happening and why. I'm not sure what was going though her little mind.

The hospital told us to have her there for check in at 6 AM, which meant that when she got there she was operating on about 2 hours of sleep. By the time my wife daughter and I had gotten shuttled from the Check In desk to the Pre Op Room I had began to get nervous. My rational mind understood that this was one of the best places to have this procedure done but the larger more apprehensive part of my mind didn't want to give up my only child to a group of strangers.

My wife was pretty quiet too, which meant she was worried as well, or she was up to something…

We changed my daughter out of her clothes into a hospital gown. The nurses brought a baby sized hospital gown and cap for her baby doll, which we all thought was very neat.

Then the nurse had us hold my daughter down and so she could squirt Versid up her nose. My daughter didn't think that was very neat at all. She was inconsolable and frightened after that- at least until the drugs kicked in.

There are few things as funny as a stoned three year old - not that I'm advocating such things mind you but it was pretty funny. My daughter spent the next ten minutes giggling uncontrollably and trying to climb out of her hospital bed so she could smother her parents with kisses.

I kept the kid busy while my wife pulled on some hospital scrubs. They allowed one parent to go in with the child while they are put under anesthesia and it was decided my wife would go in with her. Mostly because I tend to go into vapor lock in when there’s a crisis.

When the nurse came back to wheel the little patient into the operating room my daughter kicked her right in the face but she was giggling so sweetly when she did it.

After my wife helped the nurse recover her glass eye they wheeled my daughter into the OR. I went to get some breakfast; my wife wanted me to bring her back a muffin and a coffee. We would meet up in the waiting room.

I didn't have any cash on me so I started to look for an ATM machine only to discover that this hospital did not have an ATM machine but that there was an ATM machine at the gas station down the block.

It took me about thirty minutes to get across there, remember my pin number, get back again and then find the hospital's well-hidden cafeteria.

When I got back to the waiting room there was no sign of my wife, so I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Before the vapor lock could completely set in I asked around and found out that it had taken the doctors about fifteen minutes to complete the procedure and my daughter and wife were already in the recovery room.

Within the next six hours or so my daughter went from being groggy and weepy, to active and cranky, to trying to eat her body weight in ice cream. Apparently a tonsillectomy is now outpatient surgery so by the late afternoon they were getting ready to check us out and show us the door.

Now when I had my tonsils out in the dark days of the 1970s I was stuck in the hospital for a week. I don't know weather to curse the HMOs or praise the lasers.

We were home by that evening and my wife had a surprise waiting for us. A kitten, a fluffy orange kitten so small you could fit it into a shoebox and still have room for three or four Doctor Who DVDs.

Hmm that reminds me, I must buy more Doctor Who DVDs.

I wasn’t very happy about the idea of a third cat, not when I had just gotten rid of our nipple-biting lovebird, not when I thought I someday see a day free of feeding animals and cleaning their poop.
I asked calmly "Why did you get her a cat?"

"She just had her tonsils out.” My wife explained, “Have a heart."

"When I got my tonsils out I got a GI Joe with Kung-Fu grip."

My wife nodded patiently, she was a scarred survivor of many discussions like this, "Well they don't make those any more do they?"

"That's not the point.” I said, “The point is we have two cats already, the fat one and the stupid one."

"Well I couldn't just leave this poor kitten in the woods behind work could I?"

"Yes, you could have. It would have been easy."

“Oh lighten up." The standard spousal eye roll kicked in.

But I would not be denied my chance to rant, "This is a wild animal! He could be swimming in disease."

"I've seen your relatives. I'm more worried about the kitten. Besides you're a hypochondriac."

"When a man gets Pink Eye from a lapdance it brings his sense of mortality crashing down around him."

Of course that was when my daughter noticed our fluffy new guest, "Kitty's so cute!!!!! Can we keep him?"

“I don’t know.” My wife said, “Let's see what Daddy thinks."

"Daddy please…"

I crossed my arms and said with a kind of resignation, "For how long after this operation is my daughter going to sound like Tom Waits?"
We introduced the kitten to the other cats, Cornelius (The fat one- so fat that we had to upgrade the litter box.) and Fredrick (The stupid one- so stupid that his tail caught fire once and he never noticed, he just glared at us for throwing water on him.) We let my daughter name the new arrival and she decided to call him 'Punkin' which was sweet but it really kind of wrecked the whole cats with people names aesthetic I was going for.

The first night was easy. My daughter was exhausted and she didn't even protest when we put her to bed in her own room. Not that she stayed there however, by 11 PM she was crying for her mother so it was back to the futon for me.

Well, it would have been back to the futon if the kitten hadn't been perched there, his eyes wild, his back arched. He hissed at anything that came near him. The fat cat was too busy eating insulation out of the walls to notice. The stupid cat had no time for Punkin, he was locked into a staring contest with the other cat in the bathroom mirror, as he had been for days.

So I grabbed a blanket and crawled under the kitchen table to get some sleep.

I was awakened in the morning by the sound of my wife bottle feeding the kitten.
"What are you doing?" I asked.

My wife explained, "It looks like this kitten was younger than we thought. He needs to be bottle fed for a few days."

"This is turning into a nightmare."

"It's not a big deal. I'm doing all the work anyway. The real hard part will come when it's time to make him go poopie."

An alarm went off in my head, "Wha?"

My wife said, "If Punkin is as young as I think he is I'm going to have to manually stimulate him so he'll move his bowels."

"The irony here is that you won't even have sex with the lights on."

"The irony here is that you know remarks like that keep you from getting sex more often but you can't stop making them."

I don’t think I could have loved her more than I did at that moment.
Now it might seem to your untrained eye that my Missus and I were fighting but nothing could be further from the truth. You see in the ten years we'd been together we've learned that there is more to a marriage than communication, sex and food preparation- marriage is about having someone you can rely on to pop those hard to reach zits on the small of your back.

My banter with my wife was interrupted by the sound of my daughter screaming. The Tylenol had worn off and her body was starting to react to having parts of the inside of her throat burned away. We quickly drugged her again but the medicine made her alternately sleepy and hyperactive.

We did our best to keep her busy. We played boardgames most of the morning and let me tell you when you loose 3 games of CANDYLAND in a row the road to Queen Frostine's castle becomes every bit hopeless as White Wolf's 'World of Darkness'.

My daughter spent most of the afternoon playing with the kitten and watching TV. For some reason she had no interest in her usual fare, no DRAGON TALES or DORA THE EXPLORER or LITTLE BEAR. Heck she wasn't even in the mood for DOCTOR WHO, all she wanted to watch was my backlog of TIVOed episodes of the SUPERFRIENDS, BATMAN ADVENTURES and TEEN TITANS cartoons.

She had developed a fascination for Robin, I blame the TITANS' cartoon, the cartoon that transformed the boy wonder from a simp voiced by Casey Kasem into a badass in short pants. As we watched the SUPERFRIENDS I answered her questions about who all the different Super Heroes were.
I would say things like "That's the Flash he runs really really fast."

And then she would ask, "Who's that?"

And I would say, "That's Hawkman, he can fly and no matter how cold it is he never has to wear a shirt."

And then she would ask, “Who's that?"

And I would explain, “That's El Dorado. He sucks ass."

Unfortunately that last remark got back to my wife. She demanded to know what I had said to our little girl.

“Nothing.” I explained, “Just Daddy daughter stuff.”

Then my daughter said to her new kitten, "El Dorado sucks ass!"

My wife scolded me, "Now look what you did!"

I tried to help her make sense of this, “Honey El Dorado has Hologram Vision! What kind of a lame power is Hologram Vision?"

“You need to watch you language. Little pitchers have big ears."

"What? What does that mean? Are you talking in code?"

"El Dorado sucks ass!" my daughter said to make sure her kitten knew it by heart.

My wife’s voice was slowly becoming murderous, "I am not talking in code, everyone knows what that means."

“Well I don’t.” I said, “Are we going to talk in code all day? The wind is the buffalo, the fat man walks alone."

"Actually the fat man sleeps alone now bucko."

My daughter laughed with delight, "Bucko!"
As the day drew to a close my daughter started to develop quite the fever and to add a little color to the day she threw up on the parlor rug right near the end table. Our obese cat Cornelius was really upset about that, he'd been saving that spot for himself to throw up on.

Needless to say I didn't get to sleep in my bed that night either.

As the week wore on my daughter's fever retreated and her voice came back, the kitten started eating and pooping on his own. The fourth day my daughter went to sleep in her own bed and once we were sure she was asleep my wife lit some candles and we made love like lazy shoggoths.

My daughter continued to binge on SUPERFRIENDS and we continued to heckle El Dorado and to a lesser extent those lameass Wonder Twins. Her Robin mania was so strong that we even watched the film BATMAN AND ROBIN, a film I have stayed far away from. Oddly enough for all its flaws it is a fun movie to watch with an enthusiastic three year old. Maybe that's what the director was trying to do with this film-create a movie that would appeal to Leather Fetishists, Toddlers and Michael Gough Fans.

That Joel Shumacher, always building bridges.

Five days after the procedure my daughter was well enough to accompany my wife when she went to visit her parents. That gave me the house to myself for the day so I grabbed my old DOCTOR WHO tapes and cued up REVENGE OF THE CYBERMEN.

Imagine my surprise when my wife and daughter came home early.
I paused the Doctor calling Harry Sullivan an idiot and asked them, "What happened? Is everything all right? Why are you glaring like that?"

My wife said,” My Dad took us to the classic car show."

"Yeah, I know.” I was relieved not to have had to go, the only time a car had ever held a fascination for me was back in the 80’s and that car had a scantily clad Tawney Kitaen rolling across the hood. “But why are you back early? Was it canceled?”

"My Dad was taking his granddaughter around, showing her all the different makes and models." My wife explained.

I lied, "Sounds like fun."

"It was, until they got to the fully restored 1959 Cadillac El Dorado."

That was when my daughter proudly announced, "El Dorado sucks ass Bucko!"


So it was back to the futon for me.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

In This Twilight: Futterman's Apotheosis

Futterman's Apotheosis
By
Al Bruno III


It wasn't until after they got settled in that someone found the hatch set into the stone floor of the cabin; a wooden door with a black metal ring in the center that was cold to the touch.


“I was thinkin' it might be a wine cellar or something,” Randy said.


Edward shook his head, “We're just bedding down for the night. Don't go screwing around.”


Of course it had been Randy snooping around. While they had been unpacking and unrolling their sleeping bags, he had been going through the books stacked in one corner of the room; while they were struggling with the fireplace, he had found the weird graffiti scrawled on the inside of the kitchen cabinet doors. Now he was obsessing over the hatch, “Maybe there’s bodies down there or something,” he said with a morbid grin, “Maybe the people that own this place make snuff films or worship the Devil...”


The air in the cabin was rank and musty but the four young men couldn't complain. Better this than another hour of trudging around in the snow and arguing. “Some Spring Break this is turning out to be,” Dave grumbled. The fire had died again and he was trying to restart it with some green wood, a lighter and an issue of MAXIM magazine, “Hike the Appalachian Trail my ass. I could be doing tequila body shots off some sorority girl right now.”


Futterman laughed as he peered over Dave's shoulder, “Dream on pal.” Futterman's first name was Tom but to the students and staff of Loch Sheldrake Community College he was simply Futterman.


“Who knew it would snow?” Edward helped Randy unpack his sleeping bag, “Snow at this time of year? It's crazy.”


“It's just my luck that's what it is,” Dave watched the fire eradicate the airbrushed features of a scantily clad cover girl. The flames licked at his fingertips, “Ow!”


“Careful idiot!” Futterman growled, “Let me.”


“You know maybe we should just get some rest,” Edward said, “I'm sure in the morning we can find the trail again.”


Dave sucked his scorched fingers, “Assuming it's not buried by snow.”


“No way is this sticking.” Edward said, “The Weather Channel would have said something.”


Randy asked, “What about the trap door?”


“Considering we don't know who lives here, let's just leave it alone,” Edward felt a little guilty about breaking and entering but it was either this or possible hypothermia. The little cabin was a squat brick and stone structure. It had been dark and empty, its single window beginning to film over with ice.


“And hey… check this out,” Randy went back to the books, “The Fisherman’s Bible, Little Women, The Anarchist's Cookbook and then this.”


Futterman was the only one that bothered to look up, “What is that? Greek?”


“It’s not English that’s for sure, but look at the pictures. What’s wrong with these people? Hey Eddie, your parents are from Greece. Can you read this? It's like about circus freaks.”


“Circus freaks...” Edward took the book from him and put it back in the pile, “No thank you, besides these aren't ours.”


Randy shrugged, “This place doesn't look like it's been used in years. Finders keepers and all that.”


Edward frowned “It’s that kind of attitude that got you banned from the college bookstore.”


“We've got... oh wait hang on. There! We've got a real firenow!” Futterman applauded himself.


“Is wood supposed to smell like that?” Dave covered his nose.


Flashlights off, they settled in for the night, taking a few moments to snack on some dry rations and swap stories. There was the story of the night Randy almost got his tongue pierced; naturally alcohol and his ex-girlfriend were involved. Futterman followed up with his tale of working late in the school photo lab and catching a freshman girl making out with a professor at almost three times her age. Dave told them about his last hunting trip with his father, his Dad had waited until the ride home to tell his son that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Edward told them he didn’t have any stories to share, that he was from Albany and nothing ever happened there. The other three guys threw power bar wrappers at him in disgust.


Then one by one they dropped off to sleep.


*

The next few hours passed fitfully for Edward; he tossed and turned in his sleeping bag. Despite the fire, despite the layers of clothing, the hard rock floor of the cabin seemed to leech the warmth from his skin. He heard his friends talking but couldn't make out what they were saying.


When he finally awoke it was dark, the fire had gone out and nothing could be seen from the cabin's single ice-encrusted window. Edward sat up, feverish and groaning. He reached for the flashlight and clicked it on; the beam of illumination seemed muted. The other three sleeping bags were empty.


“Guys?” Edward hissed. All he needed was to be sick while those three were getting into mischief. The flashlight beam found the hatch wide open. “Randy...” He spoke his friend's name like a curse.


Edward peered through the open hatchway, “Guys?”


So much for leaving the place as we found it. he thought.


In reality the hatchway was nothing more than a hole dug deep into the dirt and rock. He shone his flashlight down the shaft and saw no sign of a wine cellar, a snuff film movie set or his friends.


But something glittered.


Edward leaned in closer, what was down there? Diamonds? Geodes? The air wafting from the hatch was at least ten degrees below than the air in the cabin and it tasted strange.


“Randy?” He called down. What had possessed them to go spelunking at this hour? “...Dave? ...Futterman?”


Nothing. He didn't even hear an echo.


“Fine,” he said, "Stay down there."


He got back into his sleeping bag, curled into a tight ball and tried to will himself to feel better. For a few moments he debated rekindling the fire but that seemed like too much work for too little warmth and too much stench.


“Just rest,” he told himself, “It will be morning before you know it.”


But he couldn’t sleep, he couldn’t stop thinking abut the hatch. What could be down there that his friends found so interesting?


It didn't matter to him what they had found down there. What mattered was that his friends always seemed ready to ditch him at the drop of a hat. Edward had found himself on his own at frat parties and sporting events on a regular basis. Once they'd even left him at the movies while they tried to score with the girls working at the snack counter.


Am I really such a load that they'd rather play in a hole in the ground than camp out with me?


And how the Hell did they get down there?


There didn’t appear to be any steps or ladder of any kind, and it looked to be a straight drop of twelve feet or more.


Edward got out of his sleeping bag and called down the hatchway again, “Guys! Guys?”


All he heard in reply was a dull echo. Unsure of what to do next Edward brought the flashlight over to the stack of books hoping to find a Tom Clancy novel or something to pass the time until the guys came back. He found himself looking at the book Randy had showed him. Edward realized it wasn’t Greek at all but Latin. Frowning he flipped through the pages, the pictures were pretty freaky all right. Edward had taken a little Latin in preparation for his pharmacology degree; he wondered what he could piece together.


The title was simple enough, Barathrum, that meant Hell or the afterlife or something like that. The rest of the text was hard to make sense of, either the person that wrote it was lousy at the language or patently insane.


“Unwitting pilgrims find them in the places between, where the borders grow uncertain. They wait there hungry with promises."


Edward wondered at that phrase, it was being used as the caption for a detailed picture of a butterfly with anthropomorphic breasts.


“Every mortal choice they make leads them. Many hear, so few understand.”


It read like a religious text, but most of the religious texts Edward had encountered always made sure to mention their deity in question at least once a page. This book read as though even the author wasn’t certain what he was talking about.


“Many hear but few can listen. To know them is to know transformation.”


A fresh wave of shivers and nausea washed over him. He retreated back to his sleeping bag, his gut and his head both felt like they were being twisted in knots


*



Edward didn’t even realize he’d passed out until he felt himself begin to dream. In his dream he was somehow outside from himself, watching his slumbering form with a kind of aching greed. The details were hard to focus on because in the dream his vision was splintering ever outwards like a mirror shattering in slow motion.


It was still dark when he stirred, it felt like he had been sleeping for hours and there was still no sign of his three friends. Disoriented he looked at his watch and saw it was a Thursday. Edward knew the digital readout had to be wrong- how could he have been asleep for three days? Before he could wonder any further he felt his gorge start to rise. He managed to make his way to the fireplace before he spilled the contents of his stomach over the half-burned wood. When it was over he felt raw and exhausted.


He crawled back to the hatch. The flashlight’s illumination was refracted back at him as though the hatchway had been made from polished mirrors.


"Guys?" His voice was too weak, he was too weak. What was wrong with him?


The glare of the reflection filled his mind with strange images; visions of barren vistas crawling with bloated, malignant shapes, of desires that clawed their way through the void between worlds and of songs no human voice could ever intone or hear.


With one sweep of the flashlight beam the bottom of the shaft was empty. With the next Futterman was there staring up at him. Edward choked at the sight.


"What are you doing down there?" Edward tried to summon as much anger to his voice as he could.


Futterman flashed an empty approximation of a human smile


Then he skittered, insect-like up the sheer wall.


Edward's scream was feeble. He dropped the flashlight. It tumbled end over end down the shaft. The flickering light made Futterman's movements an impossible series of staccato leaps. Edward ran out the door charging barefoot through the knee deep snow.


The forest was silent; it was as though the entire world had been emptied of life. The only sound was Futterman’s voice calling out to him, his tone reasonable and his promises extravagant.


The snow seemed to grasp greedily at Edward's feet. He couldn't catch his breath- the air had become too thin, too corrupt.


Everywhere the trees were dead, not just bare for winter but dead. The folds of their bark had grown soft and misshapen- wizened organic silhouettes that seemed to claw at the air. Some of the bark had fallen away to reveal clusters of gray, moist shapes. There was no sign of the trail that had brought them here.


And the sky! The sky is wrong! The sight of it drove Edward to his knees. The night above him was sectioned and fragmented; the stars out of place, their light crowded chaos. Futterman's voice was getting closer. Edward had to bite his tongue to goad himself into moving again. He had to lean against one of the distorted trees to steady himself, its touch was clammy and damp.


There was a deadfall blocking the way ahead, for a moment Edward considered doubling back but he lacked the courage. Better to climb, better to try and hide. Slivers of dead wood speared the flesh of his feet and palms of his hands as he climbed. The rotten timber swayed with his every movement. Things moved inside the wood, brushing against his fingertips.


From the top of the deadfall Edward could see the cabin, crouched in the snow with the front door hanging open. Futterman sat crouched atop the roof, his head darting this way and that. The sight set Edward trying to scramble down the other side of the deadfall but his grip failed him and he went tumbling.


Impact with the snow was jarring, pain jolted though him. Then the rotten timber of the deadfall collapsed. Edward tried to scramble free but he was too slow.


*



"They were invited," Futterman said.


Edward's broken legs dangled bonelessly as he was carried back to the cabin. The dark scuttling shapes that had made their home in the deadfall had burrowed into his flesh like ticks. The itch of them was more maddening then the agony of his broken legs.


"They found the Interface," the snow was unmarked by Futterman's passing, "Where we wait hungry with promises."


Edward cursed and begged, trying to pull free of his captor. It was better to crawl like a dying animal through the snow than return to that cabin. He punched and tore at Futterman's skin, the flesh beneath was gray and moist…


"You heard but didn't want to understand, your mind and body rebelled. The others... one tore out his own throat in terror, the other plunged himself headlong into the very Pit itself. Only this one stayed. He was eager."


As they crossed the threshold to the cabin Edward grabbed hold of the doorframe and held tight. “Let me go,” he hissed, “Let. Me. Go.”


This is just a dream. Edward prayed for the first time since Junior High, I'm sick and delirious and this is all just in my mind. If I can just hold on a little but longer I'll wake up. Please let me wake up.


In his struggles Edward happened to glance upwards. Slowly, he became aware of a pattern in the way the night sky had been divided and subdivided; a pattern as geometric as it was consistent.


That final realization reduced Edward's muscles and sanity to jelly. Somehow the sky he had known all his life had been torn away and all he saw now was the world reflected in a single, impossible, segmented eye.


Futterman pulled him free of the doorway and carried him reverently to the hatchway. Edward was beyond struggling he could only stare.


Before he skittered back into the darkness with his prize Futterman spoke, his tone almost kindly, "To know us is to know transformation."