Saturday, February 3, 2024

Vampire The Mass Kid Raid - a postscript


A Postscript
Me: “You burst into the chamber just in time to see the Minions of Set pulling the blood fried pregnant woman out of the oven.”

A gasp went up from my players- for all their planning and use of the Celerity discipline they were too late.

Now you may well be wondering what the Hell is going on here so let me bring you up to speed. It was still the early 1990’s; post Clinton inauguration, pre Contract with America. Two great life changing events had happened to me since my last game with my old group- first and most importantly I had gotten married secondly I had started running White Wolf’s WORLD OF DARKNESS games.

Of course at the time of this story only one game in the projected 5 game series had come out; VAMPIRE THE MASQUERADE, but with a year of supplements to work from I had a pretty good campaign going even if it seemed like the creatures in the World of Darkness were in some kind of an Arms Race when it came to superpowers.

In my current campaign everyone was playing a vampire of one form or another

Me: “Ok let’s roll for Initiative.”

Yetch: “Oh I’m gonna be sick. That is so disgusting Al.”

Yetch was one of my regular players he was a nice guy and a good, well behaved player (aside from occasional moments of EXTEREME THESPIANISM). The only trouble was that I don’t necessarily think a man that got dizzy at the description of the sight of blood had the right mindset for horror gaming.

Francesca: “Honey did you take your Tums?”

I think Francesca was the one who was really into the idea of playing VAMPIRE. There were three things you noticed about her, first she was a Goth, second she had a chest you could roll an EXALTED die pool and not lose a single d10 and third she was Yetch’s girlfriend. That last part was the one that confused us the most, most girls go out with guys they know their parents will hate so I can only assume her parents were Anton LeVey and Wendy O Williams.

The funny thing was that this was when the trend of hot nerdy girls really began and it is a trend that continues today. Sadly I came of age in the 1980’s, an era when apparently all the geek hotties had been shipped to Canada. Which explains why we spent most of our Saturday nights desperately trying to watch scrambled porn.

But perhaps I have shared too much.

Me: “As you all watch with increasing horror the light braised flesh of her stomach begins to shudder and split apart.

Slacker X: “That is SO wrong, yet SO cool.”

Now Slacker X is and has been (at least until he reads this) one of my longtime players and friends. I will always admire the fact he was always indifferent to worries about things like employment and women. Somehow as a result that meant he always had a fresh supply of both.

Seriously folks, its like he’s a Jedi or something.

Hentai Wrangler: “My character Lady Bishonen draws her katana and spends a blood point to activate her katana.”

Me: “And then?”

Hentai Wrangler: “And then she waits to see what happens.”

Slacker X: “You always do that.”

Hentai Wrangler was actually in his twenties but he had a very young face and he was another one of that rare species of gaming friend that I wasn’t worried about hanging out with in social situations. He was a big fan of Japanese media, in fact one the reasons I gave him the nickname he has is because if not for him I might never have seen LEGEND OF THE OVERFIEND, this is something I will never forgive him for.

Lando Molari: “I shout at the Setite elder,
‘We had a deal Madden!’

Have you ever seen the TV series LOST IN SPACE? Remember the character of Dr. Zachary Smith? Well Lando Molari was that character- in every game, every time. He was always trying to go behind the other player’s backs for one reason or another it didn’t matter if we were playing in THE WORLD OF DARKNESS , DUNGEONS & DRAGONS or BUNNIES AND BURROWS.
The players didn’t mind much partially because Lando was an all around nice guy in real life and also because watching his characters get dismembered from their own actions was good entertainment.

Me: “The undead babies tear free from their fleshy prisons and begin crawling towards the party, their eyes alight with inhuman hunger.”

Yetch: “Oooooh…”

Francesca: “Ab3 where is the Goth in this? When are you gonna bring the Goth?”

Slacker X: “I pull out my twin chrome plated .45s and leap sideways while firing at them.”

Me: “Ok roll for it.”

Slacker X: “Ok.”

Me: “Wow that is a lot of ones…”

Slacker X: “Why me?”

Me: “The clips fall out of both your guns in mid leap and you crash to the floor well within crawling range.”

Hentai Wrangler: “Lady Bishonen attacks her blade and panties flashing in the night.”

Francesca: “My gangrel pops her claws and attacks.”

Me: “Well, unlike some people you make your die rolls.”

Slacker X: “Hey!”

Me: “The two of you cut a swathe through the slightly baked undead babies.”

Yetch: “My character looks around the room and says
’Who is responsible? WHO HAS CAUSED THIS MADNESS?’

Me: “Uh was that shout in or out of character?”

Lando Molari: “I stay behind the rest of my party with my weapon drawn.”

Slacker X: “And how does that help?”

Lando Molari: “Cover fire.”

Once combat was resolved the player characters searched the building for any sign of their longtime adversary Sid Madden Settite Elder- and yes his business cards did say just that. As you can see I had the Vampire side of the game pretty well nailed down but I rarely seemed to have any Masquerade going on; swordfights on high rise window washing scaffolds, exploding gas trucks and midgets in armored vans were the regular sort of occurrences in my game. There was very little brooding upon the vampiric condition, I can’t really say things were very ‘Gothic Punk’ at all, maybe they were ‘Gothic Pulp’

But on the other hand my game had been a very long running affair and there were always players joining in for a session or two… some even stayed for years. Some wouldn’t leave the game even when I begged.

And yes I did name an elder vampire of the Followers of Set ‘Sid Madden’- names were always my weak point.

Me: “You hear the sounds of sirens approaching.”

Yetch: “We better get out of here.”

Slacker X: “Yeah, the last thing we need is another run in with Detective Peter Gabriel.”

See what I mean? I suck at names.

Lando Molari: “Before we leave I search for anything of value.”

Me: “Your wits and investigation reveals a bloodstained business card.”

Lando Molari: “What the Hell is that about? I mean money or valuables. Maybe a vial of elder blood lying around.”

Me: “Uhm…”

Hentai Wrangler: “Do I notice Count Orlock being an idiot?”

Me: “Yes, you see him bungle finding next week’s MaGuffin like Slacker X bungle a driving roll.”

Slacker X: “Hey!”

With that done I doled out the experience points and we cleared the room for the old school D&D group. I was running my game in the back room of a game store run by my friend Guido Jones- of course it wasn’t just a game store he also sold comic books and pornographic trading cards. I never got the whole pornographic trading card thing. What was the appeal? Let’s be honest here, even if masturbation isn’t bad for your eyesight it can’t be healthy to be staring that intently at a 3x5 card for any prolonged period of time.

Just my opinion folks.

My game ran on a Saturday afternoon and the notice board let it be known I was open to any and all players- so long as they brought premade characters and didn’t antagonize the main group too badly. It wasn’t easy trying to organize up to ten players at once but it was usually a lot of fun. I still can’t believe how patient my wife was through all this, most weekends I was off running a game on Saturdays and then Sunday going over my notes for the next week.

The woman is a saint I tells ya.

As I got ready to leave a very pretty college aged girl waylaid me in the doorway of Guido’s Geek Emporium.

Hottie: “Are you the guy that runs the VAMPIRE game?”

Me: “That’s what is says on my monogrammed stationary.”

Hottie: “Huh?”

Me: “What I mean is yes. Yes I am that guy.”

Hottie: “Would you have room for another three players next week?”

Me: “It’s an open game. We are always looking for fresh blood. Ha ha get it?”

Hottie: “Uh sure. So next week then?”

Me: “Looking forward to it.”

Once she was gone Slacker X approached me.

Slacker X: “Who was that?”

Me: “New player.”

Slacker X: “Awesome.”

Me: “And she’s bringing friends.”

Slacker X: “Even more awesome.”

Guido Jones: “She could be bringing her boyfriend.”

Me: “She said there would be three new players not her and a significant other.”

Slacker X: “Yeah if she had a boyfriend she would have wanted to establish it right away, this is a game store after all.”

Guido Jones: “Isn’t that going to be too many players for you Ab3? Let’s not forget what happened on Halloween.”

Me: “If you don’t bring up Halloween I won’t bring up Project Omega.”

I suppose it would be cruel of me to let that scene end without telling you about Halloween and Project Omega so let’s start with the debacle that was my Halloween marathon VAMPIRE Session. Many would say later it was a great game, others would say it was the worst thing they had ever played in; it was a story that featured a Vampire rock band, human sacrifices and murder by duct tape. The thing is I remember nothing of it. The morning of the game I started feeling queasy and by the time the evening rolled around I was suffering from chills and room clearing bouts of flatulence. I pumped myself full of aspirin and Pepto Bismol but as the night wore on I became paler and paler and my game mastering became more and more incoherent- at least that is what I was told. I still don’t know how much of the stories I should believe. Why would I have a long drawn out scene take place at a gaming convention where people where playing Live Action VAMPIRE THE MASQUERADE? Why would I try to convince the players that TV actor Burt Ward was Caine? Why the Hell would I have the players menaced by an Invisible Zeppelin? All I know is that by midnight Slacker X and Hentai Wrangler called my wife to take me home and I slept for two days.

In comparison Guido’s Project Omega wasn’t that big a disaster at all, you see his master plan to increase revenue by teaching lingerie models how to play Dungeons & Dragons. The exact specifics of the plan were never really explained to me but it involved a lot of time at Victoria's Secret.

The week went by quickly enough with work, spending quality time with the missus and trying to keep our crappy apartment from falling apart around us. I was working for a place called Paper Shredder- the same outfit I had worked for when I was in college; my wife and I were still learning how to be a married couple and mushrooms kept growing out of the bedroom ceiling. There’s a story in all this somewhere but this isn’t the place.

Game night rolled around and somehow I was ready. I planned for the bloodstained business card to lead the players to a den of inbred Nazi cannibal white slavers. I made sure there were plenty of evil NPCs for everyone to fight, including the new players. I got to Guido’s Game Emporium an hour early, and started setting up. My regular players started to filter in, Yetch and Francesca got there first, as always and Francesca spent about ten minutes talking to me about her gangrel’s long term plans and inner landscape. I always had a hard time paying attention to exactly what she was saying because during the whole discussion my mind was warring between wanting to look at her chest yet not wanting to be caught looking at her chest.

By the time she had finished keeping me abreast of her character’s plans the rest of the gang had shown up. Slacker X and Lando Molari were pawing at my rulebooks trying to figure out how to spend their hard earned experience points.

Slacker X: “And a fourth dot of firearms…”

Hentai Wrangler: “Like it’ll matter.”

Slacker X: “Oh come on!”

Lando Molari: “You know what skill I need? The skill that can help my character become an expert in the art of deception.”

Slacker X: “You mean subterfuge?”

Lando Molari: “No, it’s the one that makes you better at hiding your true objectives.”

Slacker X: “That’s subterfuge.”

Lando Molari: “No I want him to lie better.”

Slacker X: “SUB-TER-FUGE!”

Hottie: “You guys haven’t started yet have you?”

Hentai Wrangler: “We’re starting now.”

Lando Molari: “Who is this vision of lovliness?”

Yetch: “More players?”

Slacker X: “Have a seat, and if you need to borrow any dice…”

Lando Molari: “No! Those dice are cursed! Don’t even touch them.”

Slacker X: “Man…”

Francesca: “Uh, who are those three kids behind her?”

Hottie: “These are my nephews, they always wanted to play VAMPIRE.”

Slacker X: “But you’re playing too right?”

Hottie: “Sorry, Guido is teaching me how to play D&D. Bye.”

Lando Molari: “As a great man once said, what a revoltin’ development this is.”

Slacker X: “Do you think Guido has any openings in his game?”

Me: “I think Guido has all the openings he needs tonight.”

Our new arrivals stared at us expectantly. They looked to be between 11 and 13 years old. Their eyes were full of that special brand of prepubescent menace I had learned to fear in Junior High.

Kid #1: “Is this chair taken?”

Francesca: “No.”

Kid #1: “Cool. Hey you’re pretty sexy. My name’s Mike.”

Francesca: “I’m Frannie.”

Kid #1: “What grade are you in?”

Francesca: “I’m a graduate student.”

Kid #1: “A senior? Wicked.”

Kid #2: “Hi I’m Greg. Is that your character?”

Hentai Wrangler: “”Yeah, a battle hardened survivor or two of Ab3’s campaigns.”

Kid #2: “What’s a bishonen?”

Hentai Wrangler: “Er, it’s a man with a little something extra.”

Kid #2: “Are you gay?”

Kid #3: “Check out my character. He’s a Brujah.”

Kid #1: “We’re all Brujahs.”

Kid #3: “Well you better watch yourselves of my character will totally kick the ass of everyone in the room.”

Slacker X: “What was your name again?”

Kid #3: “Brian.”

Slacker X: “Well Brian, would you like to borrow some of my dice.”

I checked over the new arrivals character sheets and finding no obvious problems we got started. I wasted no time trying to integrate the new players into the party.

Me: “The Coterie is at their usual hangout when they spot the three Brujahs the vampire Prince of Utica asked you to meet with. That’s you guys.”

Kid #1: “Wait… where are we?”

Me: “You’re in Utica.”

Kid #1: “No I mean where in Utica are we?”

Yetch: “It’s a bar all the local vampires hang out in called
The Leather Nun. It’s –”

Me: “-it’s a place for quiet contemplation and hand crafted goods.”

Kid #2: “Sounds lame.”

Yetch: “What are you talking about? This is a total- OW!”

I didn’t want to throw a d10 at Yetch, especially not one of the prismatic ones, but I had to shut him up. I wasn’t about to let my violent perverted little role playing game corrupt the minds of America’s youth. That was the Internet’s job. At least some of my players caught on.

Slacker X: “I walk past the women …selling oven mitts and approach the new arrivals. I say
‘The Prince wanted me to let you know that you are welcome in his city as long as you don’t cause any trouble.’

Kid #3: “You hear that guys? Some other vampire thinks he can tell us what to do!”

Kid #2: “I spend some blood, pull the hatchet from my overcoat and start whacking people at random.”

Kid #3: “Radical!”

Me: “A hatchet?”

Kid #2: “You Oked it. See right there? Small axe.”

Francesca: “What the Hell Ab3?”

Me: “Uhm, I thought he meant that deodorant body spray stuff.”

Francesca: “What?”

Me: “Well it was capitalized!”

Yetch: “Why the Hell brings an Axe to a- OW!”

Hentai Wrangler: “-craft fair?”

Me: “Good save.”

Yetch: “None of this makes any sense.”

Me: “You’re playing a Malkavian get used to it.”

Kid #2: “Do I hit anyone in the face?”

Me: “Let’s roll some dice.”

Kid #1: “I pee on the bar!”

Lando Molari: “Vampires don’t pee.”

Kid #1: “What if I spend a blood point?”

It didn’t take long for things to spiral into chaos, with the Masquerade in tatters the three Brujah wandered out into the streets in search of more trouble; perhaps spurred on by relative easy and bloodless kills.

Hentai Wrangler: “Lady Bishonen has had enough of this! She draws her blade and orders them to surrender to the Prince’s justice.”

Kid #2: “I throw a knife at her.”

Me: “Roll your dice.”

Hentai Wrangler: “I catch it in kid air.”

Me: “Very nice, lotsa tens there.”

Kid #3: “And while she’s catching the knife I shoot her with my Desert Eagle.”

Me: “Oh God.”

Hentai Wrangler: “So this is torpor…”

Kid #1: “I run off and steal a car.”

Me: “Fine…”

Kid #2: “I use my Potence to pick a manhole cover and throw it as hard as I can at someone.”

Kid #3: “Dude you totally said manhole.”

Lando Molari: “I use the Presence discipline to cow the other two.”

Me: “Sorry guys you’re cowed by Lando Molari’s vampiric awesomeness.”

Kid #1: “And I run him over with the car!”

Me: “What?”

Kid #1: “You said I could steal a car.”

Me: “But I didn’t –”

Kid #1: “You saying a car couldn’t reach him yet?”

Me: “Sigh. Sorry Lando.”

Kid #2: “Now where’s that Gangrel chick?”

Francesca: “Watching in horrified disbelief.”

Yetch: “There’s never an invisible zeppelin around when you need one.”

Kid #2: “I spend some blood and flex for the Gangrel chick.”

Francesca: “Not interested.”

Kid #2: “Fine I use Presence to call her over.”

Francesca: “Ab3!”

Me: “Well, lets make some rolls and see what happens.”

Francesca: “Oh great. I guess I flounce over to him.”

Kid #3: “No way. I Presence her over to me instead.”

They pretty much played a kind of vampire ping pong with her for a few turns while the remaining two members of the party tried to peel Lando Molari off the grill of the Monte Carlo.

Yetch: “My character says
'Will I allow you to continue to violate the peace of my domain. I SAY THEE NAY!!!!' Then I get some Tremere spells ready.”

Slacker X: “I just open fire and kill them, I kill them a lot.”

Me: “All right lets get some combat rolls.”

And one botch later the party’s last stand ended what Slacker X’s charcter accidentally shot Yetch’s character in the back. I could hear Guido and the Hottie giggling in the next room which meant someone was getting treasure. I decided to call it a night.

Me: “Sorry about tonight guys.”

Slacker X: “I never thought anything could be worse than having to watch MANOS THE HANDS OF FATE. I was wrong.”

Hentai Wrangler: “To think I missed a night of fandubbing for this.”

Me: “I’m really sorry.”

Lando Molari: “As soon as I wake up I’m selling my soul to the devil for more disciplines.”

Me: “You did that already.”

Francesca: “Ab3, if Mark Rein Hagen were here he would slap your face. I can’t belive you let- Hey! My eyes are up here!”

Me: “I was hanging my head in shame, really.”

Yetch: “Thanks for everything buddy.”

Me: “Oh great sarcasm from you too.”

Yetch: “No. No. Really. Thanks. Whenever you run a bad game she wants to have angry sex. I mean really angry. You’re the best.”

Me: “Oh… well enjoy.”

Kid# 1: “That game was awesome. What time do we start next week?”

So that’s why I started running games at my apartment, but that’s a whole other story.

RPG.NET rant #1 The Team That Couldn't Shoot Straight

RPG.NET rant #2
The day I killed the entire party before the first combat encounter
I have been in a super hero frame of mind lately. Maybe it's the fact that I have Godlike and Freedom Force on order but it has set me in a nostalgic mood for the Champions campaigns I used to play in. Then as I remembered I realized those long lost games I began to shudder with the memory of THE TEAM THAT COULDN'T SHOOT STRAIGHT.

Never before or since has there ever been a super hero team so dysfunctional. We had no base, we met at a Burger King and then headed out in our flying Monte Carlo from there.

Let me tell you about the core roster of characters. Please share my Hell.

(The stories are real only the names have been changed)

MY CHARACTER: Take some BATMAN YEAR ONE, throw in Don Quixote and marinate with some pulp and you had my character. Out in the cold cruel superhero world with only his fedora, trenchcoat and one gadget he had his hands full dealing with characters like panda and Raccoon. I really enjoyed playing a beginner hero but he never really go the chance to develop as I would have liked.

THE INFECTIOUS GUY: His power? That he has ALL known diseases. He had to wear a containment suit at all times and he blasted villains with a gout of toxins and pus that equaled a ranged killing attack. The really fun part about this guy was that it turned out that his containment suit wasn't strong enough and my character was nearly taken out by a case of jaundice!

THE INSANE KILLING MACHINE: How insane? The player lobbied for a ranged hand to hand killing attack to properly simulate his character's deadliness. This crazy cyborg would just show up, fight (and mostly kill) the baddies then speed away. Who was he? Was he really on the team at all? I was never sure.

THE SUPEHERO INSPIRED BY THE WORKS OF AYN RAND: I admit I know little of Rand's work mainly because of the nightmare of this character- a mentalist named Atlas in honor of the book ATLAS SHRUGGED. When a fight broke out he would hide and fire off mental bolts while extolling the virtues of objectivism.

THE GUY WITH A JETPACK AND A HIGH POWERED RIFLE: When combat broke out he would zoom up into the air and start sniping. He had a kind of code against killing, he only killed villains if they fought back, or sassed him.

THE DINOSAUR IN THE CLIP ON TIE: I don't want to talk about this one, I just don't.

THE ONE MAN ROTATING GUEST STAR: Every week the player had a new character; every damn week. There wasn't an original one in the bunch, let me name a few and give you their defining moment. THE ONE BASED ON THE MAIN CHARACTER FROM AIRWOLF: Spent the combat trying to cross the map to his helicopter. THE ONE BASED ON THE MAIN CHARACTER FROM STREETHAWK: Spent the entire combat zipping around the map on his super-powered motorcycle. THE ONE BASED ON LSH's ULTRA-BOY: Died because he forgot that he couldn't use super strength and flight at the same time and he tried to catch a crashing spacecraft. THE ONE BASED ON LEE VAN CLEEF's CHARACTER FROM THE TV SHOW THE MASTER: Since most of the character points were spent juicing his character's defensive combat value through the roof he had no attacks that could hurt anything. he bounced around like a sterile flea hitting one villain after another until he was killed by a ranged attack. THE ONE BASED ON JULIAN SANDS CHARACTER FROM THE FILM WARLOCK: Skulked in the background and drained endurance points from any player character that wandered to close to him. THE ONE BASED ON ALPHA FLIGHT'S LEADER GUARDIAN: I never knew why he was there since our team was based in New York. His whole thing is that he would kidnap unconscious super villains to Canada for 'rehabilitation'. Since all the villains were sexy female villains my opinion was dubious.

THE BLUE-SKINNED RED-EYED FALLEN ANGEL: An ok character but the player insisted on making the character's secret identity himself.

THE LITTLE OLD LADY WITH AWSOME MIND CONROL ABILITIES: Another character that seemed to want to do nothing more than pound on my character because he 'looked sinister'

And lastly....

THE DESTROYER OF CAMPAIGNS: With his combination of rules lawyering and outright cheating he could unmake an Amber diceless game. His character was supposed to be just a guy in powered armor but his merciless point-whoreing created an unstoppable juggernaut. How unstoppable? How about knockback that sent NPCs off the map? How about combats that lasted a number of rounds equal to the number of adversaries facing him? How about the high-end Dr. Destroyer had to run for his life? Finally the GM tried to kill him with a nuclear explosion- this knocked the character unconscious for ONE ROUND then he recovered...

Shortly after the arrival of the last character the campaign died, all I have left now are the memories but with therapy and drugs I hope to supress them.


Al Bruno III

Every night, she waited out in a clearing with her camera and binoculars to catch sight of something from beyond; she didn't care what it was- a UFO, a shimmering wisp of ghost, or even a forest spirit. Just so long as it could prove there was more than her job, her apartment, and her emptiness.

This night was cool with the early days of fall, and the winter stars were beginning to shine; she was wearing her windbreaker and stocking cap, and there was a thermos of soup between her feet should she need it. It had all the makings of a perfect night.

"Marcie, where do you go at night?" her roommate would ask, "You should come out with us, come out and meet someone."

Both women knew the invitation was a lie, Julie would have been humiliated to be seen clubbing with her scrawny, virginal roommate, and Marcie had no interest in wasting a night by going out whoring. After all, even if it wasn't a clear night, she still had things to keep her occupied; there were books of urban and ancient legends to read through, websites to be visited, and notes to be taken. The invisible and the impossible were old friends to her- she knew them all by Bigfoot, Aliens, the Jersey Devil, Chupacabra, the Loch Ness monster, and all the rest.

She would read eyewitness accounts with the same kind of envy Julie expressed when flipping through fashion magazines and bridal catalogs; it was the same kind of longing that Marcie's mother had used when speaking about the bible and the afterlife. Neither of them understood Marcie's obsession, and if they had asked, she would have told them that this was what she believed in, her faith, her religion.

Something flickered at the edge of Marcie's vision. She put the binoculars to her eyes with almost bruising force, but it was nothing more than a meteor, a bit of rock falling from nowhere to the Earth. But just in case, Marcie kept watching that part of the sky for almost ten minutes in case some great mystery had sent the shooting star ahead of itself.

But there was nothing but cold dark sky.

Sighing, she let the binoculars hang down around her neck again and returned to searching the horizon for a while. She had come here to Horne's quarry after almost a year of traipsing around Brown Mountain trying to catch a glimpse of the legendary lights; all she had ever seen were fireflies. A search of her online resources had led her here to this abandoned quarry. The official story was that it would no longer be abandoned once a number of inheritance and tax problems were resolved, but there were other stories as well, stories about strange lights, half-seen shapes, and missing persons.

Marcie shivered a little at the thought of becoming a missing person herself, but it was worth the risk; it was worth anything.

Because once she saw, once she knew, she could rub it in the nose of everyone who had laughed at her. She would go on the news, be interviewed, and praised because She was the girl who knew.

She was the girl that had always known.

A little while later, Marcie treated herself to a swig from her thermos; the soup was warm but tasted like it had been hastily made from a can. Which, of course, it had.

Once she had closed the lid again, she set the thermos back down and began scanning the sky again.

And suddenly, there it was, a bloated gossamer form swirling down out of the darkness like a skydiver with a damaged chute.

But this was no parachute, no weather balloon or other illusion. Camera and binoculars forgotten, Marcie watched it undulate and twist. Despite the dark, she could see every detail clearly; the translucent flesh, the three clumsy wings that somehow kept the shapeless body aloft, and the cluster of insect-like eyes. She thought it was the most terrible and beautiful thing she had ever seen.

It touched down with a wet smack. Marcie could hear its rasping breaths; it reminded her of her mother's death rattle, only thicker, meatier.

Using the three wings as legs, the creature from the sky began to drag itself across the stony ground. Suddenly, Marcie began to wonder if it was somehow hurt or if the gravity of Earth was too much for it. She drew closer, wondering what she should say and do.

"Hello?" She said. Her voice was almost a whisper, "Are you… are you all right?"

Its head swiveled bonelessly. Its eyes were the color of moonlight, shifting this way and that, studying her.

"Can you speak?" She asked, "I'm Marcie… Mar-cie."

It spoke with a mouth that puffed open and out like a fish yanked from the water, "OiD eC"

"Is that your name?” It drew closer, half dragging, half rolling.

"OiD eC nOrOvAf”

I was right! Tears welled up in her eyes. I knew I was.

“OiD eC nOrOvAf SiVoRt Iv RaC uMiT eN"

And it could talk! What secrets would it have to tell her? It was close enough now for Marcie to see through the lucid flesh to the twisted organs that made up the creature’s insides. The lower half was a mass of tiny squirming spheres.

Marcie was breathless, "I've waited so long for you."

Suddenly, it coiled up and sprung at her. She was so surprised she didn't even have time to scream, and the next thing she knew, it was morning. Marcie woke shivering on the hard ground of the abandoned quarry. Her clothes were in tatters, and red welts covered her skin as though she had been lashed.

She drew herself up to her knees and was sick, throwing up again and again until nothing was left, and she was clutching her hands over her aching, swollen stomach.


Yes, her belly was swollen, and when she ran her hands over it, she felt things squirm and kick.

But she wasn't afraid; after all, this had been an answer to her prayers.

And what religion didn't have a miraculous birth or two to its name?

Thursday, February 1, 2024


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." 


This is Channel Ab3 Episode Seven: Futterman's Apotheosis

When four friends find a mysterious hatch in a cabin in the snow, they soon discover a world full of secrets and transformation.

'Futterman's Apotheosis ' was written by Al Bruno III

It was read and produced by Daniel C. Johnson

This episode’s music was Harbinger of Doom by Purple Planet

Our unpaid scientific advisor is Adam J Thaxton

The Channel Ab3 theme was written and performed by Rachel F Williams

Channel Ab3 logo was designed by Antonio G 

Are you enjoying the show?

Become a recurring subscriber.

Or make a one-time donation!

Are you in the market to sell your home, find a new home, or just explore real estate investment opportunities? Don't hesitate to get in touch with me!

This is Channel Ab3 is distributed and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International License


Check out this episode!

Monday, January 29, 2024




When the Mad Chef of Schenectady takes the mayor, police chief, and a visiting celebrity hostage, it's up to the Maven to foil her plans and save the day.



ThrillCon 2011: When a crazed fan threatens to ruin the event, it's up to a real superhero and a dedicated fan to save the day!



Join the thrilling battle between ninja crimefighter the Psychotic Kid and the notorious Johnny Crawdad in a high-stakes battle for justice and control of River City.