TABLETOP GAME REVIEW: Meme the Game Disney Edition

written by David Steffen

Meme the Game Disney Edition is, as you might expect, a card-based game game about making memes from Disney snapshots. Although I haven’t played the original Meme: The Game game, it seems to be the identical idea but made friendly for kids with kid-friendly phrases and pictures from Disney movies. Similar to Apples to Apples or a kid-friendly Cards Against Humanity, but with pictures.

The premise of the game is that one player is the judge and the other players have to pick the best picture and word combinations from their hand that they think is the funniest. That’s really all there is to it (see the cover of the game. That’s pretty much it, rinse and repeat!

Audience
Suitable for all ages that are old enough to read on their own (at least if they want to play their own hands). If they are pretty young, even if they can read, they might not get some of the jokes.

Challenge
Mostly based on chance and on having some guess about the judge’s sense of humor.

Session Time
Could play as many rounds as you want.

Replayability
As with other of this type of game, a lot of the novelty can wear off pretty quickly, it may be quite fun for a short while.

Originality
Not particularly, it is a spinoff of another game which in itself is apparently inspired by several iterations of other games, though this one does have Disney movie nostalgia going for it.

Overall
We got it for pretty cheap, $5. The novelty wore off quite quickly, though it was fun for a game or two.

DP FICTION #62B: “On You and Your Husband’s Appointment at the Reverse-Crematorium” by Bill Ferris

You place the urn carefully onto the examination table. The doctor opens the lid, takes a peek inside, sniffs a little. He nods, like he’s evaluating a new blend of coffee, then dumps half of your husband’s cremains into a big metal mixing bowl, the kind they had in the restaurant kitchen you used to work at. He uses a large copper whisk to mix in a bottle of purified water.

Your eyes scan the renovated warehouse where the doctor has set up shop, which doubles as a Pilates studio at night. You ask how many times he’s done this before.

The doctor stops whisking and cracks open a soda can. He says he’s performed this procedure literally dozens of times. Several droplets of Diet Mountain Dew splash into the mixing bowl, but the doctor appears unconcerned. You look for reassurance in the form of laboratory equipment, all of which looks state of the art, judging by the assortment of alembics, vials, and tubes on his table, and the size of the 3D printer, which has been whirring since you arrived, churning out a neon-orange human skull. (The Pontius Pilates T-shirts sold at the front desk also appear to be tastefully designed and a flattering fit.) The doctor resumes whisking, mixing in three cups of plaster of Paris and most of an already-open box of baking soda from the break-room refrigerator. He adds the last of the cremains to the cremixture. With each stroke of the whisk he counts aloud, thirty-eight, thirty-nine, forty. You don’t want to over-beat the batter, he says.

The 3D printer stops, and the doctor remarks on its perfect timing. The skull is the last piece of your husband’s new skeleton. He picks up the skull and examines it like Hamlet pitying Yorick. Think fast, he commands, tossing you the skull. You drop your keys to the table as you grab for the plastic skull. You bobble it, but manage to clamp your hands around it before it hits the floor. The doctor laughs—what fun! You nod as your blood pressure de-escalates out of hypertension. You carefully hand your husband’s skull back to him as he makes the “gimmie-gimmie” gesture. He then wheels a gurney out from behind a curtain, upon which rests a plastic skeleton rendered in lemon yellow, except for the collarbone and left shoulder blade. He had run out of the yellow resin, the doctor says, and used the next closest color to finish up. The hues clash, but God willing, you’ll never see your husband’s candy-corn-colored skeleton again anyway.

He jams the skull onto the spine in a manner resembling, both in physical strain and amount of cursing, the time your husband replaced the front axle of the Hyundai. A loud click makes you think his plastic spine has snapped, but the rapidity with which the doctor extends his hand toward you for a fist bump suggests the skeleton is officially ship-shape.

The doctor startles, realizing he almost forgot an important step. It’s the third important step he’s almost forgotten, but who’s counting? You hand him the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphone that will serve as your husband’s new brain, which will regulate all bodily systems, including the Briggs and Stratton lawnmower engine that will be his new heart. You were up all night loading photos of you and your husband, the honeymoon, the house, Max the doggo, and your vacation to Colorado that one time into the special Dropbox folder labeled “FRIENDLY_FILE.” You also sprung for Spotify Premium and loaded it with playlists of his favorite songs. And for good measure, you pirated Seasons 1-5 of Game of Thrones. The doctor snaps the brain into place, plugging the USB cable into the complex system of wires that snakes through and around the skeleton. Several times he pauses and rewinds a YouTube tutorial on how to wire a drone helicopter to make sure he’s got things right. The doctor sees you looking and reassures you that he’s done this literally dozens of times.

Now it’s time to add the chicken wire. Wrapping it around the bones like he’s taping a sprained ankle, he explains the wire mesh gives the new flesh something to grab onto, like patching a hole in drywall. Most importantly, it functions as a cage for the skeleton. Did you know we’ve all got a spooky skeleton trapped inside us that wants to escape? You point out that this skeleton is plastic. The doctor shakes his head–a well-made skeleton knows it’s a skeleton, ready to burst out of at the first sign of weakness. You can find no fault in his logic; they can do amazing things with 3D printers these days.

The doctor secures the chicken wire with a bag of zip ties from Home Depot. He then grabs a drywall knife and scoops a big pile of the cremains mixture onto the wire-encased right shin. He mentions his patent-pending skin formula is completely full-moon proof. You ask what happens on a full moon. The doctor beams—NOTHING, thanks to his secret formula! His hunched-over posture of concentration reminds you of the tattoo artist when you and hubby got matching pinup girls with the word “LOVE” inscribed underneath. The doctor draws several occult-looking symbols onto your husband’s chest with a chopstick you’re not sure is unused. You decide not to remind him of his promise to re-create the tattoo.

By the by, the doctor wants to know how your husband will be spending his time once he comes back to life. There’s lots of red tape about reasons for reanimating a loved one. For instance, valid reasons include appearing as a surprise witness at a murder trial, spending one last Christmas with the fam, or firing their loathsome successor at the family business. Activities such as acting as a human shield, digging their own grave, or being the patsy in an elaborate jewel heist are strictly verboten (though for jewel heists, the role of “the brains of the outfit” is acceptable). You respond that your husband is dead, isn’t that reason enough? You miss the conversations, the cuddles, the creature comforts of living with your best friend. You can’t cope with your husband’s death without him, and yes, you know how crazy that sounds. The doctor nods—moving on is a lot harder for the living than the dead.

The doctor positions several oscillating fans next to your husband, and invites you to join him outside for a smoke while the new flesh dries. You confide to the doctor that you feel like you should stay there with your once-and-future husband, but part of you doesn’t want to be alone with this mound of corpse batter. He says that’s a perfectly natural response. Also, could he bum a smoke from you?

The mixture has dried, and the doctor tells you—and these are his words—it’s time to turn and burn, baby. Or perhaps he was talking to your husband, and you’re not sure which makes you more uncomfortable. He grabs a series of electrodes connected to a thing, licking each one like it’s a postage stamp, and attaches them to your husband’s new flesh. The doctor dons a pair of heavy rubber gloves, a welding mask, and a lead vest. He then hands you a pair of safety glasses you wouldn’t trust if you were making a homemade birdhouse. When he tells you to stand back, you backpedal behind a reinforced shield wall at a velocity that will leave your muscles sore for two days.

Before he throws the master switch—one of those oversized red buttons labeled “easy” they sell at Staples for six bucks—the doctor rattles off the safety concerns you’d already learned from his website, but which he’s required by law to mention again. For example, your husband will go out looking for those responsible for his death. You reply that he was killed in an unsolved hit-and-run accident. The doctor winks and points at your husband. He knows who did it. Oh-ho-ho-ho, he knows.

The doctor asks if you have pets. You mention your corgi, Max, whom the doctor advises you to give away. When you protest, the doctor purses his lips and puts a hand on your shoulder. In his gentlest voice he tells you that, two weeks from now, one way or another, the dog won’t be living with you. This information was not on the website, and you mention, rather forcefully, that Max had been your husband’s dog and without him you couldn’t have held it together, and it would’ve been good to know he couldn’t stay before you started this process. The doctor thanks you for this constructive criticism. You ask the doctor if anybody loves him enough to reanimate him after you strangle him to death. He laughs and says yes, his credit card company. You don’t know what to say to that.

The doctor asks if you have any final questions. Just one, the one you’ve been dreading, the one about which the website was very vague—will your husband still be capable of love? The doctor’s face contorts to one of revulsion as he tells you no. You only meant to ask whether your husband could still feel love as an emotion. He chuckles, relieved, saying the answer to that is also no. All his favorite sports teams? Hubby hates them now. He will harbor a deep, unspoken resentment toward all living creatures, and you especially. Maybe it’s because you disturbed his rest, or you dragged him away from Heaven, or who knows what. Your husband won’t really know, either. He’ll probably lash out at you. He might say something passive-aggressive while watching TV. He may lift the car over his head and hurl it at you. He might start a petty argument for no good reason. This is all perfectly normal and expected. While you will be legally responsible for him, he still has his own will and desires, and he’ll want more out of his new life than reliving his old one; the dead are, by necessity, better at moving on than the living.

The doctor asks if you still want to go through with this. His face shows none of the mirth he’d exhibited up to that point. You pause, contemplating how easily you could tell your friends the doctor turned out to be a flake. You could walk away and keep your dog with nothing lost but your deposit. Well, that and the idea of seeing your beloved’s face again. And he would still be your beloved, no matter what the doctor said. You give the final okay.

The doctor presses the button. You’re half-expecting lightning to course into your husband’s new body, for him to let out a monstrous growl as raw animal life surges into the waiting vessel. What actually happens is much less dramatic, more like a vibrating massage chair; you hear the muffled ringtone of your husband’s Samsung brain, like when your iPhone slides between the couch cushions.

It takes a minute or so for your husband to boot up. The skin starts to move, then all at once, it sucks inward like a vacuum sealer, forming the contours of your husband’s face.

He rises. The doctor had warned you about the eerie red light that now pours from your husband’s empty eye sockets, but you can’t really prepare yourself for the first time you see a living, breathing monster. The doctor corrects you—the scientific term is “abomination before God,” which his lawyer has assured him is very different, legally speaking.

Your husband looks at you. You go weak in the knees—his loving gaze always made your knees weak, but this is different. He opens his mouth, and the light pours forth from there as well. Oh, God, it’s weird. His voice sounds delayed, like he’s speaking to you via satellite from somewhere far, far away. OH HEY. I MUST’VE. DRIFTED OFF FOR A. BIT. But at bottom, it’s his voice, and you throw your arms around him. He freezes. The light inside him intensifies, redder and redder, so bright you can hear it. He puts his arms around you. For a moment, you think (hope?) he might crush you, but he does not. He pats you on the back a couple times.

Tears overflow from your eyes. You want to kiss him, but you don’t dare, lest that red light enter your body. You just tell him how much you love him and how you’ve missed him and you can’t believe he’s back, and so on.

The terrible red light now glows through his flesh. DID YOU. WATCH GAME. OF THRONES WITHOUT. ME?

You shake your head and wipe the tears away. You were waiting for him.

He shrugs and the light subsides. WHATEVER YOU. WANT, BABE.

You scoff at the doctor’s notion that the dead are better at moving on than the living: you’ve moved on from the very concept of moving on. You forget about the life you may have had as a family of one. You forget about the dog, for what living creature can compete with nostalgia in (mostly) human form? You can sit on the couch with your sweetie again, or a reasonable approximation thereof. The doctor was right, it’s the little creature comforts that make life worth living, as long as you don’t think about it too hard.

During your reverie, your husband had started to strangle the doctor. You put your hand on your husband’s shoulder, and at your touch he releases his grip. The doctor gives you a thumbs-up to show he’s okay, this happens all the time.

You smile at your husband. It’s time to go home.


© 2020 by Bill Ferris

Bill Ferris writes mysteries, fantasy, science fiction, and horror. He has published several short stories in literary journals, and writes an advice column at Writer Unboxed designed to help dilettantes and hacks learn nothing whatsoever. When he’s not typing words into a thing, Bill develops online courses at an organization his lawyer advised him not to name. He has two sons who asked not to be mentioned in this bio, but Elliott and Wyatt forgot to say “please.”


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DP FICTION #60A: “Invasion of the Water Towers” by R.D. Landau

The water towers never showed up on film. That should have been a sign. In the before times, there were water towers on every rooftop. They were highly visible, distinct from the rest of the landscape, cylindrical bodies with conical heads and long spindly legs. Maybe if we hadn’t been so busy whining about work and finding the perfect brand of deodorant and wondering if that cute barista was flirting with us (They weren’t. It is literally their job to smile and draw hearts in foam and have perfect hair. We as a society need to get over ourselves) we would have asked ourselves why the water towers didn’t want us to see them represented in the movies. Maybe if we hadn’t sharpened those not-thinking skills by not thinking about global warming and drone strikes and the asbestos in the ceiling that coated our hair like dandruff, we would have asked the right questions before it was too late.

Three days before the invasion, my barista, Zed (not the barista I mentioned earlier, that was a hypothetical barista and anyways, their eyes are way too green, like who has eyes that green, it’s obviously colored contact lenses and I could never date someone who puts colored pieces of plastic in front of their eyes) said, “I think the water tower on my building moved last night.” 

“Oh really?” I said, my pulse beating at a normal tempo for a pulse to beat.

On the day of the invasion, I was waiting for Zed to turn around so I could put milk and sugar in my coffee, when the radio cut off the Inoffensive Station suddenly: “We interrupt this regularly scheduled broadcast to report that the water towers are moving. We do not know what they are, where they came from or what their intentions may be. All citizens of New York and New Jersey are required to stay indoors.”

We all checked Twitter, desperate for more news, but the water towers had destroyed the internet. Stripped of our dignity and our Wi-Fi, we sipped in stunned silence until Zed said, “free drinks for anyone who helps barricade the doors,” in a voice so confident and commanding and melodious and mellifluous and pleasing, that everyone obeyed instantly. We hauled tables and chairs and sacks of beans against the door.

Then a water tower shuffled past. I could see its long spindly legs through the advertisements for Basilisk Frappuccino that covered the window. Zed held a chair out legs first as a weapon. The other barista thrust a customer in front of him as a shield. I did… something badass and heroic. But the water tower passed us by, paying no attention. Afterwards, everyone sat on the floor drinking caffeine because what we really needed during an alien invasion was a faster heart rate.

“I thank you, fine purveyor of caffeine,” I told Zed, who was leaning on the counter, exhausted.

“Thanks,” said Zed with a tired smile that did not make me imagine massaging their shoulder blades while they lay naked in a bed of coffee grounds. 

After the water towers seized control of the banks, the city government and the bagel shops in that order (according to the radio which might have been controlled by the water towers), after we huddled in the Starbucks for 72 hours, living off soymilk and increasingly stale lemon poppy seed muffins, after we cried and wet our pants and said our prayers (we meaning everyone but me – my pants and eyes stayed dry), after we gave up hope of seeing our families or our friends or our safety-code-violating apartments ever again, we ran out of food. Various solutions were proposed: cannibalism, shoe-eating, waiting for the government to save us. While we voted, the other barista chewed on an elderly customer’s hair.

“STOP,” said Zed, in a booming voice like a sexy sea captain. “It’s way too early to turn to cannibalism.”

“Hair is dead cells,” said the other barista. “So it isn’t technically cannibalism.”

“We have to go out and get food,” said Zed. 

The (probably-water-tower-controlled) radio had warned us that if we went outside, we would be captured by the water towers. Rumor had it that the water towers drank their prisoners. So everyone avoided eye contact with the same intensity as when an accordion player asks for money on the subway (everyone including me.) 

Zed sighed. “I’ll go alone then.” They removed the barricades, while the rest of us huddled in a pile on the opposite corner. They opened the door.

A water tower crawled in, then a second, then a third.

“We have come for the coffee,” said the water tower.

Zed brandished the blade of a dismantled coffee grinder. “We can’t let them take our coffee! Who’s with me?”

No one said anything.

The three water towers surrounded Zed, sloshing angrily. “You will make us coffee, or you will be eliminated.”

Zed was beautiful and flawless and perfect in every way but they were only a barista. What good is a barista against a water tower?

“What can I get for you?” said Zed.


© 2019 by R.D. Landau

R.D. Landau recently fled New York. Her work has appeared in Star 82 Review, Heavy Feather Review and tl;dr among others. Her hobbies include watching musicals, making truffles and hiding under the bed. 


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DP FICTION #50A: “Why Aren’t Millennials Continuing Traditional Worship of the Elder Dark?” by Matt Dovey

In a generational shift that some claim threatens the fabric of existence and the sanity of all humanity, surveys show that worship of the Elder Dark is at a record low for one particular group—millennials.

Bob Rawlins is worried. “When I was growing up in the 1950s, I made my obeisance before the Manifold Insanity every night, uttering the invocations to satiate the Watchers Just Beyond and keep them at bay for one day longer. But young people now aren’t prepared to make the necessary sacrifices.”

I remind him that human sacrifice was deemed unnecessary and illegal in 1985, and animal sacrifice in 2009.

“Well I don’t mean literally,” he says, though there’s a note of longing to his tone.

Bob is showing me round his inner sanctum, a converted basement given over to the worship and appeasement of the Unknowable Gods. He’s the Grand Dark Supplicant of his local chapter, and is continuing a long family tradition: men of his bloodline have been bound to the service of the Elder Dark since the days of the Pilgrims.

“Our ranks are already thin,” he says, resting a hand intimately on an idol of the Ten Thousand Staring Eyes. “I worry the world I’ll leave behind will be overrun by the gibbering horrors of the between spaces, ushering in a never-ending age of nightmares and insurmountable monstrosities. It breaks my heart to think of the Eight Palms golf course getting swallowed by a roiling pit of blackness. Hole five’s a real beauty.”

In town, I talk with a group of twenty-somethings working in the local coffee shop. Aren’t they anxious about the impending immolation of mankind and the eternal night of the Elder Dark?

“Well, I guess,” says Luiz, shaking chocolate onto my cappuccino in a cephalopodan design. “But it’s hard to get worked up about such a distant prospect when I’m mostly worried about making rent next month.”

“Yeah, yeah,” agrees Deema, another barista. “And even if I had the brainspace to worry, I haven’t got the roomspace in my apartment for a shrine. I make my obeisance when I visit my parents at the weekend, but my apartment’s so cramped the shower’s in the kitchen. Where am I meant to find the space for the Eighteen Forms of Frozen Madness?”

“Not that I have any time for the complete incantations anyway,” says Luiz. “As soon as I finish here I start a shift at the Midnight Dark Bar on 8th. Do you know how much mess is made by people burying the futility of their infinitesimal existence in drugs and debauchery? By the time I get home from cleaning that up I’ve only got five hours before I’m back here. It’s hard to muster the energy for self-flagellation on four hours’ sleep a night.”

These responses may sound cynical and resigned, but talking to Luiz and Deema, there’s a sense of frustration: they want to be doing more. But some millennials have other reasons for abandoning the worship of the Elder Dark.

“These old dudes—and they’re always old dudes, you notice that?—they’re all caught up in this spiel, like, ‘If you don’t perform the rituals of devotion then the world will fall to lunacy’, and I’m like, dude, look around already!”

Ace shakes their long dreads dismissively and sips a green tea, looking over the gray ocean from their dilapidated RV. Their parents were members of the ultra-orthodox Church of the Nineteenth Insanity; Ace left home at seventeen, sent on their mission to witness the madness of the wider world. It was meant to reinforce the importance of keeping to the convoluted strictures of the Nineteenth Insanity, necessary to resist the influence of the Watchers Just Beyond.

But instead, says Ace, they saw only human madness.

“Like, all the suffering and hurt and injustice, that’s not coming from beyond the Pierced Veil, ya know? It’s caused by politicians and corporations on this side! People are blind to the roots of their problems, blaming it all on these creatures they’ve never even seen, right?”

“It’s sad to hear,” says Kathy Halton, Honorary Senator for the Sunken State of Hggibbia. “I represent the Many Drowned Dead, so I know better than most what the cost of failure is.”

Senator Halton looks up at the huge oil-on-canvas that hangs behind her mahogany desk, The Sinking of Dead Men’s Deeds, that infamous night when eighty thousand souls were lost to the sea. The eye is drawn irresistibly to the dark slash that hangs in the sky, the Pierced Veil itself, and the indescribable creatures of the Entropic Menagerie that spill forth—and it is surely an unparalleled artistic feat to paint a creature that cannot be described—and there is a strange sensation of being drawn into the painting, as if the soul itself is being pulled out through the eyes and reeled into that perversely dark hole on the canvas. Only Halton’s smooth voice breaks the spell; she seems used to the painting, immune to its attraction.

“Some people are so desperate for a mundane explanation they’ll ignore the evidence of their souls,” she says. “The irony is many of this country’s problems can be traced back to a disturbing lack of faith in the younger generation.”

But isn’t there an increasing consensus on grassroots social media that neoliberal government policies of the last thirty years are to blame for irrevocably leading us to this point of critical failure, where the very substance of the multiverse is threatened with annihilation by wage stagnation and an untenable housing market leading to unrealistic work expectations?

“If only it were that simple,” she responds. “We’re doing everything we can to encourage participation despite the economic downturn, including state-funded glossolalia lessons and mandatory flagellation breaks for government employees. But we can’t force a free soul to act.”

Two days later we’re standing on the windy beach at Chatham, Massachusetts for the annual Sunken Memorial, facing the steel-blue Atlantic where Hggibbia once stood. Senator Halton leads a group of representatives through the Silent Evocations of the Eighteen Forms, their dark trench coats snapping in the wind like ravens fighting over scraps. Two assistants have to help the elderly Health Secretary Johnson through the movements, sometimes physically lifting him to position his limbs correctly.

Fifty yards away, behind a mesh fence and a police line, there’s a protest taking place. I’m not surprised to see Ace at the front, leading a chant of WE’RE NOT INSANE, WE’RE JUST MAD, WE BLAME YOU FOR A  WORLD GONE BAD.”It’s all a distraction!” they tell me to a chorus of agreement from their fellow protestors. “They’re using the myth of the Elder Dark to stop you noticing their corruption!”

“Yeah,” interjects another protestor, her pink hair straggling over a loose-fit chunky sweater. “Like, did you know they used this stuff to justify some super racist ideas? Most people can’t spot the subtext now, but if you read the old stuff they basically claimed Jews were in league with the Watchers Just Beyond, right? It’s unbelievable!”

Ace picks up the argument, a real bitterness in their voice. “They like, try and handwave that racism away now, ya know, claim you have to understand it in the historical context, but it just proves how they fit it to their agenda at the time. It’s all bullshit. You can’t trust them.”

I go back to see Bob Rawlins. He’s invited me up for the traditional orgy that marks the Approach of Winterdark, more commonly called the fall equinox. He prepares for the night by stripping naked, beating his tattooed skin raw with a branch of Hggibbian driftwood, and pulling a tight red hood on that covers his eyes.

He offers me the branch and a spare hood, but I respectfully decline.

There’s fifty or more participants gathered at the edge of town for the ritual, all naked bar that same red hood. It’s meant to evoke a feeling of insignificance, reminding supplicants they are only anonymous flesh to the Watchers Just Beyond, but the effect is undercut somewhat by small town America: everyone is easily identifiable from their voice and body shape, and Bob chats casually about DIY projects and school district elections as the sun sets.

Once dusk grows dark and a chill settles in, Bob climbs onto a flame-lit stage set up for the event, reminds everyone to stick around for the barbecue afterwards, then begins the Rituals of Unending Vigilance. I find myself talking to a late arrival: Eric Rawlins—Bob’s son.

“I’m only back for the weekend,” he explains, shuffling uncomfortably. “It means a lot to Dad that I get involved.” He’s eschewed the naked dedication of his father and kept his jeans on, a single Screaming Gshvaddath tattooed in Shifting Ink just below his red hood, dancing wildly in contrast to Eric’s diffidence. 

Presumably his father is grooming him to continue the family tradition?

“Yeah, he’s really enthusiastic about the whole thing. Dad’s worried that if I’m not ready to continue his work the next time his back gives out then the Elder Dark will flood the world and shackle humanity to an eternal yoke of madness while he waits on his pain relief prescription. He honestly believes he’s the only one holding it back right now.”

Does Eric think participation is down because people are coming to terms with the history of it and stepping away? I repeat some of the theories I heard at the rally.

“Yeah, I’ve heard those ideas too. I agree with them, to be honest, with the people saying the Worship has racist underpinnings, but don’t tell Dad. He thinks the texts are sacrosanct, and it’s like, if you criticise them, you’re criticising him. But there’s a growing online movement to embrace the original truth of the Unknowable Scriptures, peeling back the layers of human influence and prejudice. We’re all just meat to the Watchers after all, regardless of our skin or beliefs, beneath the notice of an unfathomable Universe made of madness and unending time. I can show you some really interesting Subreddits after this.”

On stage, Bob is in an awkward crab position, thrusting his flaccid penis towards the night sky and howling in ecstasy. Blood drips from his back where a bed of nails beneath him pierces his flesh over and over; volunteers in hi-viz jackets wait at the edge of the stage with antiseptic cream, stood before signs reminding participants to PRACTICE SAFE SUPPLICATION.

Eric looks anywhere but the stage as the crowd shrieks back, lacerating their own flesh with a variety of pointed implements. There are spiked paddles in ornately carved mahogany, hand-sharpened sticks of blasted elm, and one Hello Kitty cat o’ nine tails.

“Dad worries too much, to be honest,” says Eric. “I’ve met a lot of people at college, and at the end of the day people are decent. They do what they can when they can, even if it’s just carving Escherian shapes into their avocados at breakfast. We’re not gonna let the world run to shit with shambling horrors at the bus stop and tentacles blocking up the plumbing. We’ve gotta live here too, after all.”

Eric finally responds to his father’s exhortations with a self-conscious howl, and pricks his thumb with a pocket knife. Bob looks out from the stage, and spots his son; he lifts a hand in greeting, then, unbalanced, slips and lands heavily on the bed of nails. His scream of pain is answered faithfully by the crowd, but Eric runs forward and clambers on stage. He eases his father off the nails and they limp to the side, where a volunteer frantically unpacks a first aid kit.

A brief yet intense exchange follows. The body language is clear: Bob wants Eric to finish leading the worship. The crowd is wavering, their flagellation tools drooping like their middle-aged bodies. I see the moment Eric takes the burden on: his back straightens, his jaw clenches, his shoulders square. He’s doing a good impression of being ready for this, and I find myself hoping it convinces Bob.

Eric strips off and positions himself over the nails. He picks up the chant perfectly from where his father left off, closing out the ceremony with vigour, athleticism and rather more—shall we say—rigidity than his father could manage. 

Off to the side, Bob stands with his legs wide as his bleeding scrotum is gingerly nursed by the volunteer paramedic. He’s removed his red hood, and he watches Eric lambaste the crowd with a final chant of “Yhiu! Kaftagh falln!” and receive the answer of “Engibbigth valectia!”

His face shines with paternal pride.


© 2019 by Matt Dovey

Author’s Note: If you can’t spot the inspiration for this story, I envy you. I can’t go a week without seeing some new article blaming millennials for some natural shift in an evolving world (my favourite from my research: millennials are killing bar soap. WHO EVEN CARES). That said, it was actually reading another parody article that triggered the idea: Why Aren’t Baby Boomers Eating Pho? Given that Lovecraft pastiche is never far from my mind anyway, it only took another hour for the first draft of this to flood out of my fingertips in some indescribable frenzy, typing like a man possessed, suddenly granted ideas beyond my mortal comprehension. My mind has never been the same since, scarred by the knowledge of what lies beyond my temporal horizon: younger generations, acting differently from me. Truly, a cosmic horror to chill the soul.

Matt Dovey is very tall, very English, and most likely drinking a cup of tea right now. He has a scar on his arm from a ritual performed unto the Watchers Just Beyond, imploring them for the boon of great knowledge, but all he got were the lyrics to Dashboard Confessional’s watershed album The Places You Have Come To Fear The Most. He now lives in a quiet market town in rural England with his wife & three children, and despite being a writer he still hasn’t found the right words to fully express the delight he finds in this wonderful arrangement.

His surname rhymes with “Dopey” but any other similarities to the dwarf are purely coincidental. He’s an associate editor at PodCastle, a member of Codex and Villa Diodati, and has fiction out and forthcoming all over the place, including all four Escape Artists podcasts, Flash Fiction Online and Daily SF. You can keep up with it all at mattdovey.com, or follow along on Twitter and Facebook both as @mattdoveywriter.


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DP FICTION #46B: “For the Last Time, It’s Not a Ray Gun” by Anaea Lay

Connor was shy, introverted and a thousand other things that made sitting there, at the tiny coffee shop table, torturous. He didn’t want to be tortured. He wanted to hear harp music and cherubs giggling and all the other noises that accompanied your first date with your soul mate. It had taken him weeks to screw up the courage to ask Kayla out for coffee. As far as he was concerned, glitter should ooze from the walls in a poltergeist-style reward for the brazen bravery he’d demonstrated.

Meanwhile, Kayla pretty clearly didn’t realize this was supposed to be a date.

She wasn’t being weird or anything. And Connor wasn’t sure what she ought to be doing instead. But she wasn’t nervous or awkward or in any way different from how she was when they hung out with Debra and Joe and the rest. This was basically the same as hanging out in Kayla’s workshop for their hack-a-thon sessions, except the coffee was better, nobody else was around, and Connor felt entitled to glitter ooze.

Kayla was in the middle of a lengthy monologue about the various activities going on in her workshop. “Joey was pretty adamant about getting the beta testing approved by the IRB but we managed to talk him out of it before he actually filed any paperwork. Can you imagine, just telling the government what you’re planning like that? Ruins all the fun of making them figure it out for themselves.”

Connor was so nervous and uncomfortable that he couldn’t process any of the things Kayla was saying. He cared about what she wanted to talk about a lot. He just couldn’t get past the absence of cherubs and harp music. So he was completely astonished when she stopped. She glared at the table next to them, then rifled through her bag. A moment later she retrieved a silver and black object covered in wires.

“Uhm, Kayla?” Connor said, finding his voice for the first time since he’d ordered his coffee.

“Mm,” she said, her eyes steadily fixed in a death glare on their neighbor.

“Why do you have a ray gun?”

The neighbor was a petite girl with curly hair trimmed in an asymmetrical bob and thick eyeliner. The eyeliner covered her face in wavery trails, distributed by the tears she was actively shedding.

“It’s not a ray gun,” Kayla said without breaking her gaze.

Connor might be nervous, and he might be overwhelmed, but he damn well knew a ray gun when he saw one and that was a ray gun. But this was their first date and, even if Kayla didn’t know it, and he wasn’t about to pick a fight in the middle of it. “Please don’t shoot that girl in public.”

“If she wanted to be shot in private, she should have kept her crying fest there.” Kayla pointed the ray gun at their tearful neighbor.

Connor wanted to check the return policy on this date. Did dates come with return policies? Maybe there was some sort of insurance you could buy for first dates, like you did with airline tickets.

She pulled the trigger. Connor was blinded by a sizzling white beam emitted by the metal tip of the not-a-ray-gun. The light hit their neighbor who gave a startled yelp.

The light faded, and the weeping girl was gone, replaced by a dapper man with a cravat and a monocle. The man folded his hands on the table and looked around the coffee shop. Then, his voice low, breathy, and thick with the Queen’s English, uttered two words that would come to haunt Connor. “I say.”

***

If there was a gold standard for good at people, Connor was the opposite of it. Talking to people was just about the most terrifying thing in the whole world, even scarier than those raptors from Jurassic Park. If he started a conversation with people, they might expect him to know something about popular music, or sports, or lutefisk. Worse, they might want him to talk about himself.

But Connor didn’t want to die friendless and alone. He didn’t even want to hit middle age that way. He was useless in a conversation, but he was good at listening, and he liked to tinker and to collect things. So he decided to start tinkering with social groups and to collect interesting people.

Kayla wasn’t the crown jewel of his collection. That would be Debra, who took up new hobbies and advanced to the cutting edge with the same ease other people deployed in changing their socks. But Kayla was funny and had quirky interests and never seemed bothered by Connor’s shyness. On the contrary, she tended to praise his reserve. Other people seemed to like Connor with an asterisk. “He’s great when you finally get to know him.” “Once he opens up he’s pretty cool.” Kayla liked him without wanting him to talk or expecting him to crack a joke. It put him at ease, which ironically made it easier to open up, but it was also a relief. He hadn’t realized how much he wanted other people to let him be shy and scared until he had it.

Which might be how he missed the early clues that Kayla was completely unhinged.

***

Sitting at a small table in a coffee shop, deprived of spontaneously manifesting symbols of compatibility and romance, Connor stared at the Englishman née crying girl. It was possible he was facing something more frightening than conversation about lutefisk.

“Kayla?” Connor asked. He didn’t take his eyes from the Englishman. Maybe, if he kept watching, the Englishman would disappear and the crying girl would be there, still crying, and Connor wouldn’t have to face this.

“Yes, Connor?”

“Did you just shoot somebody with your ray gun?”

“I already told you, it’s not a ray gun.”

“What is it?” Connor was blinking hard. He’d just now realized that the mug of coffee the girl had been drinking transformed, too. It was a delicate china cup, white and blue. The Englishman took a dainty sip.

“The Social Propriety Enforcer Mock 1. I call it SPEM.”

Connor silently repeated the name to himself. “Is the effect…permanent?”

Kayla patted the side of the gun. The gesture was distressingly similar to what you might perform on a terrier or toddler. “Yup. I’ve been waiting to test it for days. Isn’t this great?”

This was worse than Kayla not realizing they were on a date. Somehow, Connor tried to connect with his soul mate and instead he’d become an accessory to some sort of demented homicide.

Or was it homicide?

“Excuse me, sir,” Connor said, his fear of talking to strangers momentarily outmatched by sheer bewilderment.

The Englishman’s posture was perfect. He settled his cup on the table. “Yes?”

“How long have you been sitting at that table?”

He tilted his head thoughtfully, then reached a finely manicured hand into his morning coat and retrieved a pocket watch. “It must be the better part of an hour,” he said, tucking the watch back in place.

Just as long as the crying girl had been there. Not murder, then. Kidnapping? Assault? Was there even a name for the crime of turning random strangers into Englishmen?

“Does it always have the same effect?” Connor asked. Maybe that girl had been crying because deep down inside, she desperately wanted to be a dapper Englishman, and the Social Propriety Enforcer Mock 1 operated by granting wishes.

“Don’t be silly. Of course not,” Kayla said, to Connor’s great relief. If it was a wish granting gun, then this was great. His first date with Kayla was salvaged. Heck, she could shoot him and then they’d get those cherubs he was still waiting on.

His hopes were utterly dashed with her next comment. “English people aren’t a monolith.”

***

Connor knew when he needed advice. Having an awkward first date with a girl you really liked, when she didn’t even know it was a date, was definitely a situation for which he was not at all qualified. The right thing to do would be to go to the most competent person he knew and see what they said. But Debra was a little intimidating. Instead, Connor went to Joey.

Joey was a knitter/weaver/soapmaker/blacksmith extraordinaire. Connor met him three years before at a maker fair where Joey was giving a presentation that heavily implied that to be a real knitter, you needed your own herd of specially bred sheep that you sheared yourself. With shears you had, of course, forged on your own. It was unclear whether you should also mine and refine your own ore.

Connor didn’t have any interest in sheep, but he collected interesting people, and in addition to his maker talents, Joey could karaoke to Lady Gaga like nobody’s business. Connor acquired him.

So Connor screwed up his courage, lured Joey out for drinks, then explained his dilemma. He went into fairly extensive detail, for Connor. It took him three sentences.

Joey was knitting when he wasn’t actively pouring beer into his mouth. It was unclear what Joey was knitting. “You mean you have no chemistry?”

Connor cursed himself. He’d spent too much time lamenting the absence of glitter ooze. “No, that’s not it.” How to correct his mistake? “She didn’t realize it was a date.”

Joey nodded. “You said that. But I think maybe she did. It sounds like there was no chemistry, so she was letting you down easy.”

Connor tried again. “She turned a stranger into an Englishman.”

“Were they crying?”

“Yes.”

Joey shrugged. “That’s sorta Kayla’s thing, isn’t it?” He had a point.

To hear Kayla tell it, she was locked in an adversarial relationship with the universe. She, a natural born super villain, had endured a lifetime of petty torments at the hands of unseen cosmic forces. Prominent stoplights along her frequent routes would linger on red just to slow her down. Her favorite TV shows were always canceled after half a season. She moved to Seattle for its cool, rainy weather, and the entire Pacific Northwest immediately became warm and sunny. Also, wherever she went, people cried in public.

“In Seattle, instead of shaking hands, people share their sexual histories and sad childhoods,” she’d lamented during one of the hack-a-thon sessions. “Don’t people know that’s unhealthy?”

Pointing out details like, those red lights have always been slow, Fox cancels anything good, and global warming has been around since before you were born, did nothing to budge her conviction of persecution. She took a weird sort of pride in her war. It was charming.

“What do I do?” Connor asked.

Joey’s knitting needles clacked madly as he worked. Was it possible to knit a sheep? It looked like Joey was knitting a sheep. “Ask her out again?”

***

Their second date was just as lacking in tangible manifestations of romance as their first. This time, Connor expected that, so that was okay. Kayla still didn’t show any signs of knowing it was a date. That was less okay. Twice she pulled out SPEM and transformed a bawling bystander into an unobtrusive Englishman.

“Did you put ‘pew pew’ stickers on your ray gun?” Connor asked the second time.

“It’s not a ray gun,” Kayla said. “And yes. I did.”

Yup. This was definitely love.

***

There are ethical problems to consider when dating somebody who doesn’t know you’re dating them. The first time, it’s an honest mistake. The second time, it’s bad communication. After that?

After that, you decide that you don’t care whether it’s a date or not. You divorce yourself from the idea of dating. You’re just having one-on-one hangouts with the girl who happens to be your soul mate, and while yes, you should probably mention your discovery of your cosmic entanglement to her, particularly given her already fraught relationship with the universe, maybe the whole world should remember that you are terrified of conversation, especially about yourself, and cut you a little slack and oh holy hell there are Englishmen everywhere.

No really.

Everywhere.

When Connor catches the bus to work, the driver is an Englishman. So are half the passengers.

Mailman? Englishman. Amazon Prime bike delivery guy? Englishman. Barrista? Who are we kidding? The entire coffee shop is English. They’ve started serving crumpets. Connor doesn’t know what a crumpet is. The homeless people living in Cal Anderson park all wear tweed and play cricket.

“I think I would like it if Englishmen took over the world,” Kayla said on their sixth date.

“They did that once,” Connor pointed out. “We call it colonialism.”

“Sounds like fun. Let’s start with Portland.”

“You did get the memo that colonialism is bad, right?”

Kayla rolled her eyes. “Duh. I didn’t mean we should all fall under the Queen’s rule. I mean everybody should adopt the English reserve. Their ability to repress emotions and cope with everything by drinking tea. It’s so healthy.”

“Healthy?”

“Mm-hmm,” Kayla said, sipping from her coffee. “It’s important to keep your feelings inside. If you let them out, you become structurally unsound and run a high risk of deflating. That’s why everybody in Seattle is depressed.”

That didn’t sound right to Connor. “I thought it was the rain.”

Kayla leaned back in her chair, then raised her arms. “What rain? The weather hasn’t been right since I moved here.”

She was definitely wrong about the weather changing to thwart her. But she had a point. The last two years had set records for sunshine and warmth.

***

Is it still creepy to date somebody who doesn’t know you’re dating when you are sincerely concerned that, if you try to have a conversation about how you feel, you’ll horribly embarrass yourself and ruin everything? What about if there’s a real risk that she’ll turn you into an Englishman?

***

Connor and Joe were supposed to have a planning session for the hack-a-thon, but Joe was late. Being late is a classic practice for west coasters in general. Flaking out and canceling is a specialty of the Pacific Northwest. But Joe was usually pretty good about hack-a-thon related things. Connor gave him twenty minutes, then called.

“Joe?” he asked when the call connected.

“Speaking.”

“Are you coming to the meeting? It’s getting late.”

“Goodness gracious, what are you nattering on about?” Joe asked.

Connor dropped his phone. Then he looked around the coffee shop. There were no mugs. Instead, everybody was drinking from porcelain tea cups with saucers. The tables were covered in doilies. Every single other patron in the coffee shop was wearing either wool or tweed and there were an alarming number of ascots on display. Connor, in his blue jeans and T-shirt, was the only non-Englishman in sight.

He scooped up his phone and fled into the street. Without thinking, he ran to Kayla’s, weaving through Englishmen out and about in the course of their day. As far as he could tell, everybody in Seattle had been transformed into an Englishman. He ran faster. He had to reach Kayla before she packed up her ray gun and went to Portland.

“I say!” somebody protested when Connor pushed them aside to cross an intersection.

“Pish tosh!” another exclaimed when he accidentally bumped into them.

“I’m pretty sure English people don’t actually say that,” Connor shouted over his shoulder has he ran on.

Finally, he reached Kayla’s door. Sweaty, chest heaving, gasping for breath, he rang her doorbell. She opened the door almost immediately.

The ray gun was in her hand.

She had to be stopped. Somehow, Connor was going to have to talk some sense into her. It just wasn’t okay to go around transforming people because you didn’t like the way they behaved in public. He took a deep breath, preparing the words he was going to say. What came out was, “I think we’ve been dating for three months.”

Kayla frowned at him, the gun held close to her body. “Three and a half.”

“What?”

“Our first date was that time we caught the bus together to go to Debra’s. When that weird guy started ranting at you about lutefisk. I figured that was the end of it, but you were so discombobulated, you asked me out for coffee.”

The whole world spun away from Connor. He’d completely blocked out the memory of that bus ride. Had there been glitter or cherubs then? He’d never know. “You didn’t turn a crying girl into an Englishman on our first date?”

“God, no,” Kayla said. “You can’t do things like that on a first date.”

She was right. Waiting until the second date to assault strangers with a ray gun changed everything. And, Connor realized, he wasn’t a giant creep after all! They’d both known they were dating the whole time. He just hadn’t known they’d known. “I think I’m in love with you.” The words poured out of him in a rush, relief masquerading as courage.

Kayla’s whole frame slumped. “Aw, Connor. What’d you have to go and do that for?” She raised the ray gun. An intense white light enveloped him.

He had a desperate hankering for a good pot of tea.

 


© 2018 by Anaea Lay

 

Author’s Note: This is the real life, completely true story of how I moved to Seattle, discovered some charming cultural quirks, and helped fix them.  Everyone in Seattle is now very stoic, if not happy, and nobody drinks coffee anymore.  You’re welcome.

 

Anaea Lay lives in Chicago, IL, where she engages in a torrid love affair with the city.  She’s the fiction podcast editor for Strange Horizons, where you can hear her read a new short story nearly every week, and the president of the Dream Foundry, where she gets up to no good.  Her fiction work has appeared in a variety of venues including LightspeedApexBeneath Ceaseless Skies, and Pod Castle.  Her interactive game about running a railroad and finding love, Gilded Rails, is forthcoming from Choice of Games.  She lives online at anaealay.comwhere you can find a complete biography and her blog.  Follow her on Twitter @anaealay.

 


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DP FICTION #42B: “The Vegan Apocalypse: 50 Years Later” by Benjamin A. Friedman

Dear valued McFleshy’s patrons,

On this, the solemn 50th anniversary of the Vegan Apocalypse, we’d like to thank you — our loyal Consumers-of-the-McFlesh™ — for relying on McFleshy’s (and only on McFleshy’s) for all your dietary needs. As you know, without your loyal patronage our tremendous planet would have surely long since fallen prey (yet again) to the Vegans. Instead, thanks to your fortitude — we’re still here. And thanks to us (and the delicious McFlesh™) — you are too!

For it is only together by consuming at least three juicy Fleshies™ a day, that we can be certain to avoid the fate of our Beloved Billion™ — keeping the Earth safe for all our children…and all our children’s children – etc.

We know this. And we know that you know it too:

“McFleshy’s means survival!”™

McFleshy’s also understands, however, that some of you — too young to have witnessed the Vegan Apocalypse firsthand — have begun to ask troubling questions like: “Why?”

• Why must we consume the McFlesh™ (and only the McFlesh™)?

• Why must we devote so many tens of millions of acres of precious above-sea-level topography to beef, pork, and horse production?

• Why do the Crazy Ones claim that we are the cause of the Great Flooding, the average life-span of forty-two, the balmy winters in Canada, and, of course, Brown River Stench?

As though these were not the Natural Order™ in our Post-Vegan world!

McFleshy’s knows such dangerous murmurings are nonsense…but this is not enough; you must know it too. Yet many malignant myths keep popping up – like fungi – in the minds of today’s youth. And just like that often-poisonous gateway protein, we must eradicate such mental spores before they lead us down the slippery slope to soybean – and annihilation.

It is in this spirit that we hereby set the record straight on this, the solemn 50th anniversary of the Vegan Apocalypse, upon this complimentary maple-glazed, pressed-pork parchment (the text and flesh of which you do hereby agree to consume immediately and in totality after reading under penalty of…etc.).

Thank you again for your McPatronage™!

 

1. A Clarification of Terms: on vegan vs. Vegan 

Today, even 50 long years after our Beloved Billion™ were torn away from us, there are still those among you who hold to the falsehood that there is a distinction to be drawn between a capital “V” and a lowercase “v” as applied to the suffix “-egan.” But the hard reality is:

THERE IS NOT.

At least not in terms of culpability.

FACT: Those humans who embraced the death-cult known as “veganism” are every bit as much to blame for the fate of our Beloved Billion™ as the Vegans.

LET US REPEAT: Both vegans and Vegans are equally to blame for the fate of our Beloved Billion™ — anyone who insists otherwise is a Crazy One.

 

2. Etymology and Origins

It is still important, however, to clarify the distinct yet interconnected roles these two groups played in the Vegan Apocalypse. And for this, we must revisit the origins of both little “v” and big “V” – to see how their phonetic overlap was anything but random.

 

a. The cult of veganism

It was in 1944AD, during the height of the Second World War, when an alleged Homo sapiens named Donald Watson coined the term “vegan” – as an abbreviation of “vegetarian.” Promoting an even more radical form of the perverse anti-flesh ideology championed by Adolph Hitler, “The Vegan (sic) Society” formed by Mr. Watson demanded the elimination of not only animal flesh from the human diet, but all animal-based proteins. Followers of “veganism” insisted this diet would prove highly beneficial to both body and spirit, as well as to the environment…

Oh how the Vegans must have been laughing at us, 25 light-years away!

 

b. Vega/Alpha Lyrae

As for those other Vegans…12,000 years before veganism took wicked root here on Earth, the brightest star in our Northern Hemisphere was the star Vega, in the constellation Lyra.

Appearing in the night sky of today as a blue-tinged white prick of light with a declination of 38-47 and an apparent magnitude of 0.03, the Vegan System is now also known to possess a single earth-like planet that we call Vega-1.

(Obviously we cannot print its more popular name here, as McFleshy’s is a family establishment).

Now you may ask, what else has Vega been called by us humans?

Well, in both ancient Egypt and ancient India, Vega was known simply as:

“The Vulture.”

Just as telling is the name that the ancient Assyrians assigned to it:

“The Judge of Heaven.”

Meanwhile, our own designation of Vega – as Vega – actually comes from the Arabic phrase an-nasr al-wāqi, meaning (again):

“The descending bird of prey.”

And so an undeniable pattern crystallizes into view:

Whether hunter or scavenger, judge or executioner, human stargazers have long intuited some dark truth about our celestial neighbor, winking at us from a mere 25 light years away…

Just ask the Quixotipl Tribe of 12th century Peru.

Oh wait, you can’t…

The Vegans ate them.

 

3. On “Synch,” or: “As above, so below.”

Now, to fully understand the connection between Vegan and vegan, one must first recall how human vegans behaved – specifically, what a demoralizing experience it was to eat of the tasty flesh in their vicinity.

For those of you not old enough to remember, let this quote from one of Pre-VA America’s greatest voices be your guide:

“With the narrowed eyes of a harridan and the high and mighty tones of a hypocrite…they let loose upon you a litany of falsities, until appetite herself has not one inch of space to breathe free. Yes, my brothers and sisters, to eat of the delicious flesh near a vegan…is to be circled overhead by a vulture readying to descend.”
-Martin Luther King Jr.
(Source: Facebook™)

Let us also consider for a moment what was lost when the supposed-Mr. Watson removed the letters “E-T-A-R-I,” from VEG[ETARI]AN. Some of you may assume this change was inconsequential, but it was anything but; rearrange the missing letters and we find an immediate clue to their meaning:

T-E-R-A-I.

AKA: the Latin word for: “Earth.”

Rearrange them again and we get:

“E-A-R-T-I”

Only one alphabetic unit away from “Earth” in English (again).

Now you see, don’t you??

By removing these five letters, vegans and Vegans were brazenly announcing their unholy alliance and ultimate goal – to take out Earth! At this point, to call the phonetic overlap mere coincidence is to deny the obvious: that vegans and Vegans were linked from the start, in the same interpsychic web of reality-manipulation they would later use in concert with one other – to ensnare our Beloved Billion™.

And what do our McFleshy Scientists call these manipulations of reality?

“Synch™”

For if the Vegan Apocalypse has taught us anything, it is that alien mind penetration can and will cause a toxic run-off of strangely interconnected coincidences (linguistic, logistical, and otherwise) in one’s vicinity.

This is why the last months of our Beloved Billion™ were spattered with such a perverse abundance of what vegans called “signs and miracles”…and our McFleshy Scientists now call “mind-bait and psycho-spam.”

AKA: Synch™

 

4. Historical Context 

These days, it is a challenge for young people to imagine what our planet was like prior to the Vegan Apocalypse. Many of our oldest citizens have contributed to this confusion by characterizing the years pre-VA as a simpler, more innocent time: lower sea-levels, cleaner waters, fewer colostomy bags…

But this nostalgia, sadly, is misguided.

In truth, it was in the deceptive calm of 2012AD-2022AD that the seeds of our Beloved Billion’s™ destruction were being planted. So we must now look back – with eyes tinted-not – to reconstruct how we missed the many signs of impending catastrophe. Only thus may we ensure that NOTHING ALIEN EVER CATCHES US OFF-GUARD AGAIN.

 

a. The Fate of the Quixotipl (2012AD)

We begin ten years prior to the Vegan Apocalypse, in 2012AD, as a great upsurge of interest in the ancient Mayan calendar reached its zenith.

This archaic time-keeping system was just then concluding an epochal cycle, and many in the New Age spirituality movement (a hot bed of vegan activity) were predicting that the world was about to end as a result – not violently, but in some nebulous sociological transformation often described as:

“Crunchy.”

That same year, archeologists in Peru discovered the remnants of the tiny civilization of Quixotipl, whose own astronomically-calibrated calendar was also set to conclude a cycle – ten years later, in 2022AD.

A series of Quixotipl wall glyphs depicting the last time a Quixotipl Age ended (in 1101AD) was discovered as well; in these, the star Vega is depicted as a gaping maw from which a spiraling vortex of sharp-beaked “bird men” are swooping down to Earth…to carry the Quixotipl people away…

Ironically, those excavating the Quixotipl site at first believed its inhabitant to have been a decent, flesh-eating folk– on account of the thousands of hastily discarded bones found at the top layer of the dig. As soon as the archeologists realized these unburied, unburnt skeletons (all carbon-dated to the 12th Century AD) belonged to men, women, and children, however…they changed their tune.

The Quixotipl, it turned out…held to an entirely flesh-free diet.

 

b. The Blowing Winds of Vega (2012AD-2016AD)

To understand what destroyed the Quixotipl people over one thousand years earlier, we must next look to the disturbing transformation of Stephan Mallik, aka: “Starfalcon” – once a mild-mannered PhD student in the archeology department of the University of Virginia…now a footnote in history – right alongside Benedict Arnold.

After conducting extensive field research on the Quixotipl site in 2012AD and again in 2013AD, Mr. Mallik’s scholarship helped popularize the theory that the Quixotipl had died in a mass ritual suicide – just as the last cycle of their calendar was concluding. Mr. Mallik explained the absence of sacrificial relics at the site (e.g. blades and chalices) by proposing a slow-acting poison ingested away from their final resting place as agent.

Many archeologists praised this hypothesis.

But then, in 2014AD, just as Mr. Mallik was completing his dissertation on the subject, he began to behave erratically. “What if there IS a deeper cosmic order embedded in The Calendar?? Now that I’ve eliminated ALL meat and dairy from my diet, there are so many ENERGIES I’ve grown attuned to…forces I never imagined possible before…”
(Source: Reddit.com/r/vegan [defunct])

Thus began one of the first internet posts attributed to Mr. Mallik under the pseudonym “Starfalcon,” and thus – like Saul of Tarsus – did Mr. Mallik discover his “calling” as both apostle and evangelist for Vega.

(Of course, unlike Christianity, the so-called “Gospel of Vega” had a dark side!)

According to Starfalcon – and his dozens of disciples – only those who cleansed themselves of the tasty flesh would ascend to the “next level” of human evolution. This Grand Shift was set to correspond with the next turn-over in the Quixotipl calendar– in 2022AD – in communion with the “enlightened” beings of Vega-1.

Apparently, the more ancient alien civilization had been guiding humanity towards veganism (and “salvation”) for millennia…

The acolytes of this radical, esoteric strain of veganism converted many poor bodies throughout the 2010’s by tapping into the irrational hodge-podge of mytho-mystical belief still plaguing humanity at the time: utopian fever-dreams, socialist messiahs, drug-fueled raptures, quantum physics, sweaty yoga, string theory, artificial intelligence, and the false-promise of singularity…they even identified the children’s novelist Arthur C. Clarke as a Vegan prophet, claiming he had encoded many of his adolescent fictions with “messages” for true believers.

Many thousands would perish as a result of such nonsense.

Of course, this death count was just a drop in the ocean – a trifle, really – when compared with the seeds of mass slaughter that the “respectable” vegan community was planting, concurrently, in the secular, “more rational” worlds of academia, business, and politics…

Here we discover the true depths of vegan treachery!

 

c. The Anti-Flesh Crusade (2017AD-2020AD)

Today, thanks to the tireless research of our Scientists here at McFleshy’s, we can affirm with 100.00% certainty that both Global Warming and Brown River Stench were ALWAYS inevitable — historically and geologically.

That’s right: no matter what we as a species did or did not do to prevent them, they WERE coming for us.

LET US REPEAT: the rising tides in Ohio and Nevada are NOT our fault.

It’s a McFact™.

So how then to explain the obsessive efforts of the Environmental Lobby of the late 20th and early 21st Centuries AD to prevent the unpreventable?

Two words: “vegan infiltration”

Using the Sword of Damocles of “Climate Change” to instill fear and panic, vegan infiltrators pointed their crooked fingers at the embryonic meat industry, trumping up ridiculous charges of causality between then meager modes of tasty flesh production and incipient global warming. For instance: they claimed that methane gas emissions from livestock were heating up the Earth’s atmosphere.

Just imagine that for a moment, would you…?

Farts!!

They also claimed that the removal of millions of acres of swelteringly hot jungle and rain forest– to make room for much breezier grazing pastures – was making Earth hotter too. Looking back, the vegan infiltrators’ accusations appear backward, irrational, and unscientific – of course. At the time though, many were desperate to believe there would be some way to avoid the onslaught of Brown River Stench. And who can blame them?

Sadly, the notion that Homo sapiens had a choice in this matter is hubris.

Or as we like to call it: McHubris™

The truth is, we humans have the tendency to believe whatever supports our preconceived worldviews…and many good-intentioned environmentalists were turned against the Great Meat Makers as a result of these untruths.

Everywhere one looked, vegan distortions were sweeping into the collective consciousness, not just through the Environmental Lobby, but through the worlds of business and healthcare, in the ideologically corrupt productions of Hollywood and academia – even through children’s television!

Yes, everywhere they could, the vegans waged their deadly war:

• At major universities, they wrote venomous screeds on the “human rights” of animals. (Just think about that for a moment!)

• Student unions promoting radical anti-flesh lifestyles soon became entrenched. (Mass protests and boycotting against the meat industry followed in abundance.)

• Meanwhile, in science and medicine, vegan propagandists paid off corrupt “experts” to assert that flesh-consumption levels in impoverished nations (like Mexico and Africa) were healthier than those in the one exemplary flesh-eating nation in the world: The United States of America. (Fortunately, most Western doctors ignored such findings.)

• Unfortunately, in food manufacturing, vegan “entrepreneurs” began churning out an endless supply of flesh-substitutes, from oft-carcinogenic sources like soybean, pea protein, and the aptly named seitan.

And so it was that the developing world remained nearly fleshless, while in first-world kitchens, kale and squash proliferated.

In other words: at the very moment when humanity NEEDED to be manufacturing as many gross tons of cow and horse protein as possible, we were instead flapping about with our pants around our ankles.

Until finally…the stage (and table) for the Vegan feast…was set.

 

d. The Rising Horror (2021AD)

Imagine if you will…a morning like any other…

You replace your Clara-Lung Breathing App™ with a fresh mask, report any dissonant dreams you may have had to our McFleshy-Care™ “We Care!” Reps, punch your request for AM-McSustenance™ into your breakfast console, and begin to serve your toddler its delicious McFleshy Baby Slur™ (so that it may grow up big and loyal). Only this time, for the first time ever, your precious babe turns its mouth from the McSpork™ – refusing to consume even one bite!

Of course, you know your child needs to be ingesting at least three iron-rich gelatinous cubes of Slur™ per meal to be truly safe from Vegan mind-rape. Yet for some reason, on this terrible morning…your precious one will NOT submit.

“No, mommy,” it cries. “No, daddy!”

“But this Slur™ is packed with the same McFleshy-Blend™ of 743 tastes and flavors that you adore so very, very much,” you assure your stubborn child. “You LOVE consuming your delicious McFleshy’s Baby Slur™! Whatever has gotten into you, toddler!? Why don’t you EAT IT already?! Are you turning into one of THEM?? ARE YOU?!”

But it’s to no avail; your baby will not eat its Slur™.

Now…if you can imagine such a nightmarish ordeal, you should likewise be equipped to envisage the UTTER HORROR facing so many billions back in 2021AD, as they watched mothers, fathers, siblings, and children…begin to slip away from them…by refusing the precious flesh.

Of course, the first signs of Vegan mind-infection were considered by some to be minor, even pleasant…

In addition to low-grade Synch™, many of The Affected™ reported strange dreams…of remarkable vividness and power, uniformly alike in content.

Here is how one notable victim described the experience:

“I found myself soaring bodiless…across multiple otherworldly landscapes at once…yet feeling no sense of fragmentation or even disorientation in the process. Only pure, transcendent bliss…”
-George W. Bush Jr.
(Source: The New York Times, 2/14/21)

Indeed, the Affected™ universally reported feeling embraced in their dreams by some vast intelligence, which they (somehow) felt both a part of, as well as separate from, throughout…

Soon—

• Affected™ politicians were retiring from public life in droves –with hauntingly authentic farewell speeches.

• Affected™ painters were painting images so sublime that art galleries had to start stocking tissue boxes.

• Affected™ poets were composing verse so sensitive to the depths of The Human Condition™, that several poetry books almost cracked a Best Seller List.

• Etc.

Yes, for one brief shining stretch of months in early 2021AD, even the most skeptical of flesh-eater could be excused for wondering…if maybe, just maybe there was something to this supposed Gospel of Vega after all…

 

e. The Saviors of the Flesh (2023AD – HAPPILY EVER AFTER)

Of course, we don’t want to re-traumatize you with the gory details of 2022AD:

• You know all about the terrifying intensifying of Synch™ and the psychological withdrawal of the Affected™ that followed already.

• You have heard – again and again – the audio recordings of their endless chanting…in that hideous alien tongue.

• You know too well what an eruption of Bright-Light-Madness looks like…as well as the ugliness of what follows…

• That is, Epilectic-Death-Syndrome (AKA: “the Vegan Slurp”).

• And of course, your brain is thoroughly seared with the millions of Instagram images of the Tragic Flesh Heaps™ – emptied of all that once made our Beloved Billion™ human. (For the record: our Beloved Billion ™ never included the deaths of self-identifying vegans – who numbered around 600,000,000, and were usually the first to go. All we can say of their flesh…is good riddance.)

Fortunately, you also know the happy ending to this story…

• How the corporate leadership of The Great Meat Makers™ banded together, forgoing profit, reward, and even vacation days – to rapidly ramp up production and distribution.

• How the brave Sizzle Queen, Fry Factor,  Chateau Du Burger, Taco Americano, Veal Deal, Nugget Town, and Roasties  corporations (to name but a few Heroes of the Flesh™) gave us the Force-Feed Initiative™, which spared so many millions on the brink.

• How these brave corporate entities mobilized the armies of Blackwater, Iron Eagle, et al to overthrow the political leadership of the day, installing us as Global Hegemonic Potentate For-All-Time™ (AKA: GHP-FAT).

• And how, finally, you helped rename us “McFleshy’s” after this bold public choice beat out write-in candidate: “SukDeezNutsVega!” in online polls, three years later.

After all, as we like to say here at McFleshy’s:

“Here at McFleshy’s, you get…HERD!”™

 

5. Winners and Losers

As we all know, it is a truism of human history that it is written by the winners…

Yet sadly, there are no winners in the intergalactic struggle we are currently waging on your behalf – at least not yet. And so this history of the Vegan Apocalypse must remain incomplete, even after 50 years of healing, rebuilding, and all-you-can eat March McRibble Madness!™

Yes, it is true that the vultures of Vega, along with their flock of human sheep, took us by surprise once. But now WE KNOW. And now that we DO KNOW, there is simply no excuse to ever deviate from the tasty flesh again.

Yet, even after all we’ve been through together, all the tasty flesh we’ve provided you and yours, there are still those among you who refuse to accept the Natural Order™. There are even those among you who are STILL trying to summon them back…

We speak, of course, of the Crazy Ones, those who forego the delicious McFlesh™ for whatever desperate scraps of fungus and algae they can summon into being – in hidden bathtubs and root cellars beyond the security-ensuring gaze of our benevolent McWatch™ lenses.

Yes, these maniacs would actually summon the Vegans BACK into our world!

• LAMENTING their absence from our mental airwaves!

• PRAYING for their immediate return!

• BLAMING McFleshy’s for clotting the arteries of consciousness so that the Vegan Mass-Mind simply cannot penetrate!!

As to that last accusation, all we can say is: HECK YEAH!

After all, history IS written by the winners!

And this war is one we can – AND MUST – win!

So please, if you do know of any Crazy Ones in your midst…sneaking a carrot here, whispering doubts about McFleshy’s there…report them to us IMMEDIATELY; we MUST quarantine ourselves against THEM.

So thank you once again for your ceaseless and unquestioning McPatronage™.

Now eat up! Chewing and swallowing every last bite of the complementary maple-glazed pressed-pork parchment upon which this unquestionable record of the Vegan Apocalypse has been printed – as prescribed by McFleshy International Law™.

We do so appreciate your cooperation and loyalty…

After all, this story won’t swallow itself 🙂

 


© 2018 by Benjamin Friedman

 

Author’s note: The germinal seed for “The Vegan Apocalypse: 50 Years Later” came to me back in 2011, during the height of fascination with the Mayan calendar and its impending terminus in 2012. At the time, I was working at a Yoga center in Massachusetts called Kripalu, where the thought of a collective shift in culture and consciousness was not just a laughable bit of New Age naivete, but a genuine and sincere hope for resurgent 60’s-style idealism. And with the Occupy Movement and Arab Spring then at their zeniths, it was true; anything seemed possible. Of course, as in George Lucas trilogies, so in historical dialectics…as the various “empires” of cynicism, despotism, corporatism, and the politics of propaganda and deception have all since “struck back” in myriad and disturbing ways. This story was my way of grappling with that great gulf between human possibility and reality. For just as the Mayan Calendar wasn’t the end of history for the good, the Vegan Apocalypse of my story isn’t meant to be seen as the end of all hope – just another chapter that depends on human agency for its sequel.

 

This is Ben Friedman’s first sale to an SFWA-accredited publication, an honor for which he is titillated to an almost obscene degree. Previous stories of his have landed at 365 Tomorrows, Every Day Fiction, The Story Shack, and Sonic Boom Literary Magazine, and his screenwriting has won the Golden Blaster Award at the Irish National Science Fiction Film Festival as well as the Grand Prize from the WeScreenplay Short Film Fund Competition. He currently is recovering from an inauspicious injury (that could be the punchline to a bawdy joke were it not oh-so-true) in his hometown of South Orange, New Jersey after a number of years of peripatetic soul-seeking throughout New England, Colorado, California, Israel, and Australia.

 


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DP Fiction #28A: “The Existentialist Men” by Gwendolyn Clare

Kris has a talent for making toast come out perfectly every time. Never burnt. The rest of us yearn for a superpower so practical.

Ryan has incredible parking-space karma, but only after he has already parked. He’ll circle round and round the block, finding nothing and more nothing, and eventually give up and take that one empty space six blocks away. He’ll bundle up against the cold, scarf wrapped all the way up to his chin and hands shoved deep in his coat pockets, and walk the six blocks to the restaurant. And without fail, just as he opens the door, a parking space will open up directly in front. Once, he ran back to his car to move it closer, but the empty space had been claimed by the time he drove there. The parking spaces are taunting him.

Technology always behaves itself in the presence of Candace. If someone has a computer problem, all she has to do to fix it is walk over and glance at the screen. Of course, as soon as she walks away, the computer begins malfunctioning again. She doesn’t understand what the rest of us are always complaining about.

Julie could disappear, but only once. We all miss Julie.

Hiro is never, ever, in a situation where he might have the opportunity to be a hero. One day he slept in, and that was the day someone lost control of their car on the ice and plowed through the glass front of the café where he usually got his morning coffee. When the flu prevented him from going holiday shopping downtown, a chunk of limestone façade spontaneously fell off a building onto a crowded sidewalk, killing one person and injuring six. If he declines to join us for lunch, invariably someone in the restaurant will nearly choke to death. The rest of us got trained to do the Heimlich, and we try to take him along with us whenever we can, like a shield against the bad luck that seems to cluster in his absence. Hiro, for his own part, tries to stick to his schedule so he’s never not somewhere he’s supposed to be.

Brianna gets improbable injuries. It’s true that she enjoys her share of dangerous activities—rugby, skiing, roller derby—but that’s never when she gets hurt. She sprained her wrist in her sleep. She broke a bone in her foot getting out of the desk chair in her home office. Once, she actually slipped on a banana peel and broke her elbow. At an improv comedy show, she laughed so hard she cracked a rib. Most of the ER nurses know her by name. She has to be especially careful when Hiro’s not around.

Nick always knows exactly what time it is without looking at a clock. This would have been incredibly useful back in the 18th Century. But we all own watches and cell phones, and don’t really need him for anything.

Carlos says he has consistent, reliable precognitive abilities. Unfortunately, his precognition only senses one or two seconds ahead, so he never manages to react in time to change the outcome. This means no one else can really confirm whether or not he has a superpower at all, but we choose to believe him anyway. With everything else we’ve seen, why not? At least he knows what’s coming.

My superpower is that I’m friends with all these people, and nothing extraordinary ever happens to me.


© 2017 by Gwendolyn Clare

 

gwen-clare-headshotGwendolyn Clare’s debut novel — INK, IRON, AND GLASS — is the first in a YA steampunk duology forthcoming from Macmillan/Imprint in 2018. Her short stories have appeared in Clarkesworld, Asimov’s, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, among others. She holds a BA in Ecology, a BS in Geophysics, a PhD in Mycology, and swears she’s done collecting acronyms. She lives in North Carolina with too many cats, too many ducks, and never enough books.

 

 


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Review: Unidentified Funny Objects – Online edition

written by James Hanzelka (intro by Frank Dutkiewicz)

When Alex Shvartsman announced his speculative humor anthology project last summer, and asked for some volunteers to help him out, I jumped at the chance. For three months I received a steady stream of fantasy, science fiction, and every murky definition in between, written with the intention of tickling my funny bone. Some stuff I found to be hilarious, and more than a few very funny stories were left on the cutting room floor. With a small army of associate editors, Alex wanted to be sure that he picked only the best for his collection. But what is funny? That answer proved to be very subjective. Alex told me he didn’t have one story that received a unanimous thumbs up from his associate editors. Everyone had a different opinion of what was funny and what wasn’t, but by the end, a consensus of 29 stories were picked for the upcoming anthology. That still left some wonderful stuff behind, so Alex decided to give his customers a little something to whet their appetite.

The UFO publishing website has offered seven stories for all who are looking for some free, original, and funny, speculative stories to read. They are a little taste of what the print anthology will be like. But are they funny? I asked our own James Hanzelka to give us his opinion†–

 

“The Alien Invasion as Seen in the Twitter Stream of @DWEEBLESS” by Jake Kerr

The aliens have invaded and offered Canada as a relocation point for all peoples of Earth. Unfortunately they have chosen to announce this using Twitter and YouTube. This means of communication is fraught with shortcomings, not the least of which is the people interpreting the message. Will they understand this is not a movie before it’s too late?

I think I’ve actually gotten this Twitter stream. Nicely done. The humor in this is there for all to see, however it may cut too close to home for some of us. I also liked the underlying theme of our self-absorption in our own lives, leading us to be totally oblivious to the real world. Well worth the few minutes it takes to read, and I found it hilarious right down to the Nickelback references.

 

“The Ogre and the Piemaker” by Tarl Kudrick

This is the story of some not-too-bright Ogres who attempt to fill their desire for pies. Led by their only slightly less dim leader their tale is one of struggle and comic failure, but ultimate success, even if they fail to grasp the manner in which they achieve it.

I found this story quite odd. There is nice comic theme that runs through it, but I was never fully caught up in the story. For those that like wry humor based on the failings of dense, bumbling monsters this is your cup of tea, but it’s definitely not for everyone.

 

“You Bet” by Alex Shvartsman

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but a man walks into a poker game with a witch, an alien, a fairy, a robot and a vampire. That’s the premise of this story, an odd collection of characters involved in a game of Texas Hold ‘Em. But who is this Joe that wandered in, even he doesn’t know. Maybe if he can figure it out he can hang around and not fade away like others before him.

I liked this story a lot. Loved the premise and the little nuances thrown in along the way, like the references to the crop circles and Twilight. The poker game provided a nice vehicle to allow for the conversation and each character is given a believable personality. Very well done.

 

“A Midnight Carnival at Sunset” by Terra LeMay

Suppose on your way home from work you decided to stop by a zoo full of mythical creatures. Would you be upset if you didn’t see much in the fading sunlight? Or would the sight of more activity after the light fades make you nervous? And who would you need to bring along with you to actually know if there is a unicorn in that stall?

This story is set up as a series of suppositions (see above). I thought it was a novel way to present a storyline. I also thought the premise was inventive and the writing was clear. I just didn’t find a lot here to make me laugh, beyond the single twist at the end. Nice story though.

 

“Demonology for Nerds” by Andrew F. Rey

Computers can be such pesky things, particularly when your anti-curse software is out of date. Demons are more difficult to deal with than a call center in Mumbai. The only saving grace is that math and physics aren’t their strong suits. Just make sure you keep those programs up to date, it can be devilishly tough otherwise.

This story is nicely done and the author did a nice job of weaving the technological world with the mythical world of demons and devils. The writing was clear and concise and the structure of the story was solid. The author does a good job of injecting his sense of humor through the piece. I would recommend it.

 

“Morte Cuisine” by Kara Dalkey

Chef Galbadon’s cooking class for his Zombie staff is rudely interrupted by two livelies wielding a shotgun and an axe. They proceed to wreak havoc on the small culinary staff, until the smell of blood rouses them to action. Chef Galbadon’s concern that their frenzy will waste the precious raw materials proves to be unfounded as the staff rises to the occasion.

This story has a nice wry sense of humor, but if you’re not into black humor it may not be for you. The story is very engaging and the author does a good job of creating a believable story out of the absurd situation. If you’re not too squeamish give it a read.

 

“Mr. Terwilliger Confesses” by Amanda C. Davis

A night full of drink causes one Mr. Terwilliger to confess to his mates he’s from the future. Determined to find out more, one of them gets him drunk and cajoles out the whole story of how he came to be in this time. Mr. Terwilliger, it seems, was the victim of pure happenstance and he has survived for five years by his wits. The two determine to expand the scam to the higher echelons of London society when Father Time intervenes again.

Nicely set is late 1900s England this is a well turned tale of time travel with comic consequences. The writer has done a good job of drawing us slowly into Mr. Terwilliger’s world. The story strikes a nice blend of humor and speculation. Well done and a good read for anyone interested in the subject.

 

When I asked what Jim thought of the stories as a collection he added “I liked the stories and the premise of the anthology. I would be interested in reading more of them.

If you would feel the same way Jim does, by all means pick up a copy of Unidentified Funny Objects.

As an added caveat, Diabolical Plots’s own David Steffen will be reviewing the printed anthology. Can’t wait to see what he thinks.

 

James Hanzelka is a published author, aspiring writer, and accomplished reviewer. Thousands and thousands of people have read his published works in the form of army technical manuals. His reviews have found a more pleasing audience however as they are often quoted by authors he has praised. Jim is working hard at his own fictional career. He has been submitting to the Writers of the Future contest for the last couple of years where he has received Honorable Mention honors on a consistent basis.