Archive for the ‘Writings’ Category

Mindcrash

December 7, 2019

It was the Mindcrash that started everything. In the year 2045, true virtual reality had taken hold and had gone mainstream. People used it for more than just video games. They used it to surf the internet, create virtual meeting places for business or social reasons, and so much more. Many people had had chips installed in the base of their cerebellum in order to accelerate data streaming from a computer to the human brain and back again. It was a fairly simple surgery so many people opted to have it done. Of course, that much hardware near the brain caused a vulnerability but it was an acceptable risk or so the public was assured.

Of course, nobody had expected the Wonderland Routine. It was not a virus in the traditional sense. That was how it did not get noticed by any of the virus or malware protection. It slipped past security protocols as innocuous third party programs. Once it was all through, it pulled itself apart and reassembled itself into a nasty yet subtle virus. On Christmas Day, its timer went off and it fried everybody’s chips at one. In the process, it stranded a hundred million people in the network. Their entire essence was set adrift on the Internet as their brains boiled in their skull and their nervous systems shut down.  Their bodies would never be of use to them again.

Calling it a crisis was an understatement. People were separated from their friends and loved ones. Several servers suffered cascade failures from the additional strain and a few thousand minds were completely lost or fractured. Technicians eventually patched together a solution. The minds were ushered into servers for their own safety. However, several ethical questions arose. Could they back up the servers? Could one back up a person without making an entirely new person? The servers were eventually hooked up to dedicated and redundant power supplies. Nobody wanted to use VR equipment for a long time. Was the Wonderland Routine gone? Could they ever safely experience virtual reality again? Entirely new equipment was designed in order for the first people to visit the Lost, as they began to be called.

The Lost found it hard to connect with reality without being able to really be out in it. People could summon their loved ones as holograms but it just wasn’t the same. After a while, most got dispirited and retreated deeper into their private Internet. For a while, people still came to visit but tourists were eventually regarded with derision and hostility. Tourism to the Lost Lands slowed to a crawl and then a trickle and then stopped. The servers were sealed off from the world and the Lost were left alone. Occasionally, some politician or group would propose shutting the servers down to save resources but they were always shouted down. The Lost Lands continued on. It mutated and became fairly alien from our world.

May stretched as she cycled out of sleep mode. The Lands’ technicians had figured out that minds could not run longer than twenty-four hours straight for very long. People had figured out to initiate a sleep cycle in order to preserve sanity. May cycled during daylight hours because she was on a night shift. She was a detective with the Net Knights and it was her job to help protect the Lost Lands. Her communicator beeped in her arm. She yawned and pressed the button.

“Go for May,” she mumbled.

“Detective May,” Captain Cable said in that lovably gruff and disinterested voice. “We have an incident. You need to meet Detective Dylan. There’s been a homicide.”

“Really?” May asked. “Was there enough to perform a reboot?” Minds that were murdered with the Lost Lands could sometimes be rebooted into children and raised back to adulthood.

“The meds are not sure about that yet,” Cable said. “It is apparently very messy.”

“Where did it go down?” May asked. She activated her gear and her clothes and armor formed around her.

“Vampire Town,” Cable said. Vampire Town was a place for those who had an affinity for the darker side of things. Back in reality, people might have called them goths but they had involved in the digital landscape.

“Great,” May said. “Those guys are weirdos. They set up shop in the area with the highest concentration of fractures. I think they remind the vampires of ghosts. Are we sure that a fracture didn’t do it?”

“Well, that’s your job to figure out,” Cable said. “but the early reports don’t indicate that to be the case. Get your ass in gear.”

“I’m going,” May said. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.” She hung up and headed toward the garage. Technically, denizens of the Lost Lands could instantly transmit themselves any distance but, again, it did not make life worth living. Some behaviors were worth sticking to. Besides, May really liked her car. She had designed it herself.

Pokemon Dark and Light

November 30, 2019

(I had several ideas for the plots and design of Pokemon games that have banging around in my head.  Here is one of them)

The game would follow a former criminal thug who puts themself on the path of redemption by taking on the criminal enterprise he used to work for. He (or she) starts the game just before gang initiation. They get to choose between three starters but they are wild pokemon that lurk around the hideout. There is a Lilipup rummaging through the dumpsters out back, a grumpy Sandile living under the back porch, a Zubat fluttering around the hideout’s attic. You get a period of time to bully kids around the hideout and then you confront the boss of your local chapter as a gang initiation, Caleb.

Flash forward a couple of years with the gang on a job that goes wrong. You have earned the nickname of The Ace and are highly regarded in the Organization. You fight through some guards on a pokemon storage center heist. In the middle of the final battle, there is an explosion and people get hurt. Your character gets arrested and sent to jail. You flash forward to being released from prison. You’re approached by a contact at the cemetery while visiting the graves of those hurt in the explosion. They want to see how willing you are to atone. They have a plan to take down your old gang but to do that, you have to challenge Underground Gyms and defeat their leaders. After you have finished your mission, you are given permission to do the regular gym challenge.

You would have two rivals. The first, Detective Holloway, is a cop trying to bring you in and you face off as they try to apprehend you.

Her Pokemon:
Staraptor
Swanna
Fearow
Fletchinder
Trumbeak
Farfetch’d

The second is Caleb, the man who brought you into the gang, he constantly tests you as he wants to steal your reputation and take your spot. He is more of a traditional rival.

His Pokemon:
Weezing
Sizzlipede
Sharpedo
Pidegeotto
Vileplume
Machamp

 

Underground Gym Leaders:

The Chiller – Ice Type
Denton is the storage expert for the organization. His family has been part of the group going back many generations and he has absolutely no reservations about what they are doing. A blue-collar sort of criminal, he is at home in the secret warehouses where he flash freezes pokemon in order to store them for black market buyers.

His Pokemon:
Alolan Sandslash
Abomasnow
Sealeo
Beartic
Cryogonal
Sneasel

The Poisoner – Poison Type
Kira is a former student of Koga in the Hoenn region and was friends with Janine at some point. However, she eventually turned from the straight and narrow path and the example Koga set. She used the ways of the ninja to eliminate threats to the organization. She set up her own shadowy dojo where she trains others to strike others efficiently for profit.

Her Pokemon:
Seviper
Alolan Grimer
Skorupi
Salazzle
Croagunk
Dustox

The Darkness – Dark Type
Nora is the person that the Organization calls on when it needs a place for secret meetings or hideouts. As the daughter of a real estate mogul, she is an expert at finding excellent hideaways for performing criminal acts in safety. She operates out of a huge penthouse and controls several of the floors below her. She is accustomed to the finer things and is often seen indulging in the high life.

Her Pokemon:
Umbreon
Absol
Liepard
Bisharp
Morgrem
Mandibuzz

The Ghost – Ghost Type
Nobody is sure of the real name of The Ghost nor are they sure their appearance at all. They wear a costume that covers their face with bandages and a large hood. They are the expert at getting in and out of places that nobody wants them to go. They are also the member of the Organization they sometimes call to scare somebody into compliance.

Their Pokemon:
Spiritomb
Gengar
Cofagrigus
Mismagius
Chandelure
Banette

The Heavy – Ground Type
Doro is the go-to enforcer for the Organization. He likes to throw his weight around and it shows with the pokemon types he prefers. He likes to hit hard and can take a lot of damage before going down. He also happens to be the son of the leader of the Organization. He resides in a hideout below his favorite bar.

His Pokemon:
Donphan
Sandslash
Excadrill
Hippowdon
Golem
Onix

The Programmer – Steel Type
Roderick is the computer and technology expert of the Organization. He runs a computer data center under his own high tech casino which he is obsessed with. He is highly intelligent but suffers from overconfidence.

His Pokemon:
Klang
Aggron
Metagross
Magnezone
Magneton
Skarmory

The Thinker – Psychic
Angelica is the chief intelligence officer of the Organization. She prides herself on “know everything”. She monitors the authorities, the Pokemon league, and various informant sources to keep track of possible threats or opportunities for the Organization. She operates out of an abandoned library that she has filled with disorienting illusions.

Her Pokemon:
Alakazam
Hypno
Espeon
Gothorita
Reuniclus
Mr. Mime

The Beast – Dragon Type
Marc is the leader of the Organization and a fearsome person that nobody ever wants to cross. He used dragon pokemon to forcefully conduct the raids that funded the creation of the Organization. Eventually, he retired from fieldwork but rules everything from his castle. As the player approaches him, he becomes more interested in hiring the player as his new right hand. Little does he know that his time is short.

His Pokemon:
Haxorus
Dragonite
Dragonair
Salamence
Garchomp
Noivern

Regional Gyms

Fire Type Gym
Charli is a celebrity chef, loving to feed people and the heat of the kitchens. She works with both humans and Pokemon to prepare feasts for both rich and poor. Her gym doubles as a restaurant.

Her Pokemon:
Magmar
Torkoal
Litten
Talonflame
Oricorio (Baile Style)
Fennekin

Water Type Gym
Kylie loves all sorts of aquatic Pokemon and runs an aquarium and water park near the sea. She is happiest while in the water. She runs an aquatic battlefield gym and has little love for drylanders.

Her Pokemon:
Polywrath
Seadra
Clauncher
Arrokuda
Azumarill
Whiscash

Grass Type Gym
Henry is a professional partier and people often invite him to their parties in the hopes that he will arrive and make it more fun. He often throws his own parties at his gym when he is not training or facing challengers. He enjoys being out in the open as a celebrity and uses an open-air public fields and gardens. He also supports several farms and orchards.

His Pokemon:
Ludicolo
Cacnea
Carnavine
Liligant
Tsareena
Bellosom

Normal Type Gym
Arthur is a gym leader in more than one sense of the word. He runs an athletic gym for both humans and Pokemon. He encourages people to get fit and get competitive. He loves strength, speed, and agility.

His Pokemon:
Slaking
Exploud
Snorlax
Bouffalant
Diggersby
Bewear

Fairy Type Gym
Marnie is the last princess of a fading dynasty and the youngest gym leader. She loves inner beauty and sparkles. She loves sharing her royalty and her privilege with the world.

Her Pokemon:
Wigglytuff
Clefable
Granbull
Galarian Rapidash
Gardevoir
Gallade

Bug Type Gym
Cody runs a gym that is constantly moving within the bounds of the forest of his hometown. He loves bug pokemon and the forests and the fields so much. He really just loves nature and lives simply in a treehouse.

His Pokemon:
Pinsir
Kricketune
Beedrill
Scyther
Heracross
Masquerain

Electric Type Gym
Fantana is a theater and performance enthusiast. She prizes putting on a show most of all. Her gym doubles as a theater for pokemon and people. She is a dancer and is constantly moving.

Her Pokemon:
Raichu
Electabuzz
Ampharos
Pikachu
Rotom
Oricorio (Pom Pom)

Fighting Type Gym
Dumo is a real superhero. He loves jetting around the world, fighting the Organization and any threats to the populace. He is somewhat mysterious and wears a mask. The player can catch sight of him during the regular game during several close calls.

His Pokemon:
Hawlucha
Primeape
Hitmonlee
Hitmonchan
Mienshao
Hariyama

Pantheon Addendum

November 23, 2019

The following are more minor deities of the realms.   These are mostly neutral parties that did not take sides in the conflict that broke the world.

Ogun, God of the Forge

Ogun was a lonely and solitary god, who did not speak to most of the other gods. The only exception was his rare talks with Ioun and her entourage as they engaged Ogun’s intellect. He used them to inspire new ideas. He was mostly preoccupied with his creations. He loved to create, spending every day at the forge to create for the sake of creating. However, when the other gods learned of him, they sought him out. They tasked him with creating magical weapons and tools for them. He decided to take neither side and created many magical items for the various deities and their followers. He also discovered the secret of making sentient weapons and items, a skill that has rarely been replicated. He used a lot of the same techniques to give birth to living constructs. Many of them guarded his forge against both sides and assisted their master at the forge. He is not a very skillful fighter and he lost his arms and face while guarding his forge in the final conflict. He was able to construct new arms, even better-suited for his tasks. He replaced his face with a mask of metal and stone. After the Final Conflict, he was locked deep under the world at its very center. He was content to build and destroy his own creations and never see the world again. Ogun’s worshippers are makers, happy to get their hands dirty in order to make things nobody has ever seen before.

Nami, The Iron Maiden

Nami was Ogun’s greatest creation, a perfect living construct that he meticulously created over years of careful creation. Left to her own devices (as all constructs were) she made the choice on her own to assist Ogun with his projects. She quickly proved herself to be the most capable of his assistants and in return, he infused her with greater god energy, a spark from his own being. She became the mother of all constructs, from that date onward having a hand in the creation of every construct created. She became a true love and companion of Ogun after spending a few years on her own, as suggested by Ogun to make sure that she was not merely subservient to his will. She eventually had a few of her own projects. She organized the defense in the final conflict and she was the one who personally crafted the replacement parts of her true love. She gladly went into exile with Ogun after the conflict so that they could both create together. Nami’s worshippers often crossover with Ogun’s. If the world’s remaining constructs could talk, they might reveal that they worship Nami.

Esho, the Goddess of Time

Nobody is quite sure how she does it but Esho maintains the flow of time and keeps it moving forward. An enigmatic figure, she was rarely ever seen by the other gods and never by mortals. Still, scraps of her story have filtered down through the years. She was most likely the first deity to form into being and was alone in the void before creation. She is self-sufficient, a total loner who never needed any companionship. She did not take part in the Final Conflict as she needed to be completely focused on her job. She also had no attachments to the others and did not want to take sides anyway. After the conflict, she disappeared and nobody could ever find her. She passed beyond the planes but still obviously maintains the flow of time. She has a few odd worshippers but she pays them no mind. She gets annoyed when magic users cast time-based spells like Slow or Haste.

Fear

A truly sadistic force of nature, Fear never took a proper name and never allied itself with any of the other gods. A true shapechanger, nobody knows what Fear’s base form is. Fear delighted in invoking its namesake in all mortal beings, keeping them all beneath its heel. It absorbed the world’s fears and grew very powerful. Before the Final Conflict, the good gods banished Fear to the Dream Realm where it bides its time creating nightmares. Any worshippers are absolutely insane.

Uzas, the Goddess of Trickery

The Goddess of Trickery is a more innocent version of the Cyric (Corruption) and a more stable version of Akanay (Chaos). She is also the twin sister of Laverna (Luck). She is the patron of those who rejects society’s rules and often society itself. She believes that the world is more interesting if you sew a little confusion and surprise to spice things up. Uzas enjoys playing pranks on people and drawing a reaction from the world around her and therefore prizes those individuals who feel the same. She also prizes individuality. During the Final Battle, she fled in fear along with her sister (although Laverna came back) and she regretted it. Nobody is quite sure where she went after the conflict but there are reports of pranks being played in the various heavens.

Lady of Pain

The mysterious Lady who presides over the equally mysterious City of Sigil. Nobody is quite sure what the Lady looks like as most look down or away when they sense her approach. She is surrounded by chains and strips of cloth that seem to have a mind of their own and swirl around her, hiding her from view. Also, people can kind of feel when she is around. Nobody is quite sure what she is or where she came from either. What little that is known about her or her wishes are communicated by six lieutenants that see to the day to day operation of Sigil. She is not a deity, or at least she does not wish to be worshipped as one. Anybody heard worshipping her is usually gruesomely murdered by the Lady herself. She is known to defend Sigil from any major threat. In fact, there is a rumor that the Lady easily defeated and vivisected a Tarrasque sent to dominate Sigil. It is best to just avoid the Lady when possible, get in and out of Sigil quickly, and make sure you follow her rules.

In Fear of Sundown Pt. 4

November 16, 2019

“A Goddess of Light?!” Westcott asked. “But there is no God but Leotas.” This was well known and spread by the churches in Sunwood before Deputy Westcott was born. Leotas was a kind and simple god, preaching love and understanding.

“There is no such god,” the right Sister said. “Leotas is a lie meant to keep the world passive.”

“The lie of Leotas keeps your kind from the truth,” the left Sister said. “the truth that the true gods went away a long time ago.”

“Went away?” Afa asked. “Maybe you should expand on that. We’re completely in the dark here. Let’s have us some storytime and explain some things. Please.”

The two sisters looked at each other and then nodded. The left Sister spoke up. “In the dark, indeed, Afa. The world slept in darkness until the gods arose. Seven shining gods who brought life, shape, and happiness to the world. Genii, the goddess of light. Callebus, the god of knowledge. Ori, the goddess of nature. Cherbus, the god of fortune. Honus, the goddess of magic. Clairen, the goddess of life. Nepta, the goddess of justice. The seven championed the people and fostered civilization. Life was good.”

The right Sister took her turn. “But all was not completely bright and good. There were also evil gods who were bent on the destruction and domination of mankind. They appeared uncalled for and wreaked havoc on the world. Luckily, these gods did not know how to work together. They worked at cross-purposes but their chaotic efforts brought the world to the brink of oblivion on many occasions. Finally, the seven had to do something drastic to end it. They sacrificed themselves, fully intending to remove themselves from the world along with their adversaries. They only succeeded in putting all gods to a deep sleep.”

“So what about Leotas?” Westcott asked.

“Leotas is a manifestation of the energies from the sleeping Oulas, Lord of Lies,” the left Sister said.

“His energies created a mass delusion,” the right Sister said.

“Shit. What does all of that have to do with us?” Westcott asked. He was a lawman in a small town. This was way over his head.

“They are all waking up,” the left Sister said. “the first was Meggron, goddess of darkness.”

“She is responsible for the deaths and disappearances in both of your homes,” the right Sister said. “They are assembling in the darkness.”

“Who is assembling?” Afa asked. She was so close to solving the mystery she had been trying to solve for a long time.

“The children of Meggron,” both Sisters intoned together. “She is turning the people against their own kind. They must be stopped.”

“So some of those people who disappeared are still alive?” Westcott asked.

“Well,” the left Sister said. “They are alive but they are no longer human. They must be eradicated. Think of them as insects if it helps.”

“If they were responsible for the deaths of my friends and family, they are as good as dead,” Afa said. She had revenge in her heart and she was close to solving the mystery she had traveled across the world to solve.

“On that, we agree,” Westcott said. “I can’t abide killers out there somewhere.”

“Then I suppose you have accepted your mission,” the right Sister said.

“We will help you,” the left Sister said.

“How are you going to help us?” Afa asked.

“I’ve rarely seen you out in the town,” Westcott said. “You’re gonna come with us and hunt these things down?”

“No no,” the right Sister said. “We cannot leave this place for long. We have made something for you to locate the aberrations.”

“Made something?” Afa asked. “What did you make?”

The right Sister walked over to a curtain that Westcott and Afa swore had not been there before. She pulled it down and a very young girl was standing there. The girl waved awkwardly but otherwise did not move.

“We have made you a tool to track the aberrations,” the left Sister said.

“You made us a little girl?” Afa asked. She looked at Westcott in shock. “What is going on?”

“You made her?” Westcott asked. “I think somebody ought to explain the birds and the bees to you.”

“This is not a human girl,” the right Sister said. “This is a tool for locating children of the evil gods. It is infused with the energies of the seven.” The Sisters faces were covered but both somehow looked pleased with themselves.

“Uh, thanks?” Afa said. “I guess we’ll use her the best we can.”

“Does she have a name?” Westcott asked.

“Why would we name it?” the Sisters asked simultaneously. They cocked their heads in unison as a sign of confusion.

“Come on, then,” Westcott said. “Let’s go a hunting.”

“We’ll call you Isa,” Afa said. “Hello, Isa.”

Isa smiled and waved but said nothing.

In Fear of Sundown Pt. 3

November 9, 2019

Deputy Westcott paused in the doorway, immediately put on guard by the large open room. Afa blew right past him and entered the huge hall. She spun around in a circle in the cavernous space, trying to take it all in. Westcott had drawn his gun, clearly spooked, and tried to search the shadows around them. Afa obviously seemed way more excited than scared. There was a damp chill to the air that clashed with the dry desert heat of Sunwood just outside the door.

“How is this place so big?” Afa asked, making plenty of noise. “This is crazy!”

“I have no earthly idea,” Westcott said. “I’ve never been inside of here before. It ain’t natural. Maybe it’s a good idea to keep it down?”

“Maybe I’m trying to wake the so-called Sisters, Deputy,” Afa said with a smile and a wink. “Did you think of that?”

“That’s sort of what I’m worried about,” Westcott said. “The Sisters are spooky.”

“Only because you fear what you do not understand, Westcott!” A voice rang out through the castle. It was loud enough to send vibrations through the bodies of Westcott and Afa.

Westcott did not see Afa move but suddenly she had both of her revolvers in her hands, slowly turning in a circle to look for the source of the voice. Westcott stepped into the room to join her, looking around for what had to be the Sisters. However, they sounded stronger somehow, more ethereal. The front door slammed shut and Westcott flinched. Afa only glanced at the door.

“Also, we do not sleep, young Afa,” Another voice said. “No need to wake us up.” The voices seemed to come from all around with no apparent source.

“Neat trick!” Afa yelled. “We just want to talk.”

“How ’bout you show yourself!” Westcott yelled.

“You both bear the mark of Gennii,” one voice said. “This is wise. We were worried your kind would reject it.”

“Come into our chambers,” the other voice said. “We would speak with you although you have violated our threshold.”

“Uh,” Afa intoned as she looked back at the door they had kicked in. “Sorry about that.”

“There are more important things at play, young Afa,” the other voice said. “We must talk.”

A small mote of light rose up from the floor and started to swirl around almost playfully like a moth. After floating around for a moment, it headed down a hallway.

“I reckon we’re supposed to follow,” Westcott said. He and Afa shared a look and then started walking after the light.

“I just wish they would stop calling me ‘young Afa’,” Afa said. “They didn’t call you ‘Old Westcott’.”

“Easy now,” Westcott said. “Words are hurtful.”

The two of them stepped into another chamber, this one draped in deep red velvet. Neither Afa nor Westcott could detect where the flickering lights were coming from. The door shut behind them again. They both turned toward the sound and when they turned back and the Sisters were standing there. Westcott had seen them before and they had been hunched-over, old crones. Now, they stood straighter and they were wearing odd porcelain masks but somehow Westcott still knew it was them. Afa and Westcott moved to point their guns again but the Sisters held up their hands, fingers spread wide and impossibly long. The skin was as pale as the porcelain. More motes of light swirled behind and around the Sisters as they stood calmly, imperiously.

“You do not need any weapons,” the left Sister said. “Calm yourself.”

“You will come to no harm in this realm,” the right Sister said. “You are safe. For now.”

“This realm?” Afa asked.

“What in the Hell does that mean?” Westcott said.

“We are no longer on your plane of existence,” the right Sister said. “You have ascended to a world beyond yours.”

“Time is limited,” the left Sister said. “You cannot last long here. Not safely.”

“Thought you said we were safe,” Westcott said but Afa shook her head and waved away the question. Westcott looked annoyed but stood by. None of this sat right.

“You said Gennii earlier?” she asked. She exposed her tattoo to the Sisters. “What does this symbol mean?”

“The symbol of Gennii,” the Sisters said in unison.

“It protects against those who creep in darkness,” the left Sister said.

“We introduced it to your village,” the right Sister said, pointing at Westcott. “And yet you are from far away but still bear the mark.”

“Yeah,” Afa said. “My people found it in a cave. We kind of lucked out.”

The Sisters looked at each other and then back at Afa. “There may still be hope,” the left Sister said. “The signs and symbols are still out there. They may yet be awakened.”

“What are you talking about?” Westcott asked. “Where did you get this protection symbol from?”

“Protection symbol?” the right Sister asked. “No, it is a symbol of the Goddess of Light. If the symbol worked, it means she is starting to wake up.”

Aftershocks: The Goblins Down Below 2

October 26, 2019

Aftershocks Witches

The Wicked Witch of the West cackled and, as her arms raised, the goblins surged forward trying to surround the three girls. The Witch slowly walked forward, the goblins streaming around her and she had a smug grin on her face. Except, then the lights began to dim in the vast warehouse and the Witch paused. Then all of the sprinklers came on at once and a deluge descended from the ceiling. The Witch practically scurried for cover but the goblins looked confused as the water washed over them. The falling water started to rise from the puddles on the floor and formed into a giant serpent made of water. The serpent stretched open its jaws and then lunged at the Witch and swallowed her whole, completely submerging her in the water.

A moment later, the serpent exploded from the Witch’s magic and she started to laugh again. “Silly, girls,” she yelled. “Water won’t end me this time.” The water coalesced back into the form of Nancy.

“We figured as much,” Sabrina said. “but we had to try.”

“The water was actually for your goblins,” Lydia said. “Sorry.”

She and Sabrina snapped their fingers in unison and lightning shot out from them and jumped along the soaked goblins, frying them where they stood. All three girls watched as the goblins wriggled and squirmed from the voltage and the sparks lit up the face of the startled Witch. Unfortunately, the lightning did not get everybody and Lydia and Sabrina drew their swords while Nancy’s hands turned to claws. They started to slash their way through the remaining goblins. Salem leaped from the shadows and started to slash and rip through the goblins as well. There were still plenty but luckily the Witch was hanging back and getting her bearings. She might have been hit by the lightning.

After a long and bloody battle, the girls stood panting and sweaty and ready for action. There was a sudden explosion of swirling smoke and the Witch appeared again. She was floating in the air on her broom.

“The games are over, my pretties!” The Witch yelled. “Time to go to Hell!” She formed a huge fireball in her hand and launched it toward Nancy.

Sabrina stepped in front of Nancy and formed a shield from pure magic, barely blocking the fireball’s impact. Lydia pointed at the Witch and a magical bolt of energy lanced forward from her finger and shot straight through the Witch’s chest. Salem appeared from behind her and drove his claws into the Witch’s back and rode her body all the way to the ground. He landed and retracted her claws and walked over to the three girls and into Sabrina’s arms for a nuzzle.

“Thank you for protecting me,” Nancy said to Sabrina.

“Yes,” Lydia said. “Thank you for protecting her.”

“We’re friends now, Nancy,” Sabrina said. “It’s not often I get to vanquish a demon.”

“Who are you calling vanquished?” A shaky voice came from the direction of the Witch’s corpse who was very much not dead yet. “One way or another. You’re going to Hell!” Her skin blazed with fire and her eyes went wild. The goblin corpses on the floor around her started to burst into flame. Before the girls could react, an ax flew out nowhere and hit the Witch in the head and she went down again. She burned up quickly, and thankfully the wet goblins didn’t spread the flame. The girls looked around and there, standing just next to what looked liked a magical gateway was The Tin Woodsman.

“Sorry I’m late,” The Tin Woodsman said. “I came as soon as I could.” He tipped his funnel hat to the girls.

“Nick!” Lydia yelled. “You were right on time. It’s good to see you!”

“Let’s clean this mess up, shall we?” Tin asked.

* * *

“Do you really have to go back to Kansas?” Nancy asked.

“Yeah,” Sabrina said. “It’s where I belong right now. I have to help the others get back on their feet.”

“Good luck,” Lydia said with a smile. “You’re the right person for the job.”

Sabrina tilted her head. “You won’t come with me?” She asked. “There’s a spot there for both of you, I’m sure.”

Lydia looked at Nancy and then shook her head. “This is where we need to be right now,” Lydia said. “At least until we’ve figured out this King of Hell thing. Besides, we can’t put the group in danger while they’re injured. It’s nice to know you’re out there, though.”

“We always will be,” Sabrina said. “Remember what she taught you. Dorothy loves you.

“You all taught me something,” Lydia said. “I love you all. Give my regards to Dorothy, Dani, Coraline, Amy, and Glen.” She smiled and hugged her friend. It was a long hug. As soon as the hug ended, Nancy was suddenly hugging Sabrina. She found herself smiling and ruffled Nancy’s hair as they separated.

“Tell them yourself when you visit next,” Sabrina said. “Stay safe. If you need us, just call.”

“We will,” Lydia said.

“I promise we will,” Nancy said. “We’ve got each other.”

(Fin.)

(Can you guess who the movie characters are in Dorothy’s coven?)

Aftershocks: The Goblins Down Below Pt. 3

October 19, 2019

Aftershocks Witches

The trio had to find a safe place to wait for the Wicked Witch of the West. None of them wanted to involve the general public in this fight. Of course, all three knew that human authorities were of no use. Sabrina came from a society where such things were strictly forbidden. Nancy’s mother had tried to appeal to the police and psychiatrists to no effect. Lydia and her family had never had the chance to call for help but it was unlikely normal humans could have done anything.

Besides, human authorities either did not want to deal with these sorts of things or they were not really capable of keeping up. Either way, it was best to fight fire with fire and it was easier to cut loose when innocents were out of the way. To facilitate that, Lydia and Sabrina worked on weaving a cloaking spell which would keep people away from the warehouse they had chosen. If all went well, the Wicked Witch would be cast back to Hell and nobody would be the wiser.

While they prepared, the other girls told Nancy in detail the story of Dorothy’s first trip to Oz during which the encounters with the Wicked Witches had happened. They told her of falling houses, a scarecrow, a tin woodsman, a talking lion, and all sorts of other wonders. They told her of subsequent trips and what Dorothy had learned. They talked about when they met and some of the other girls in their circle. After hearing the stories, Nancy very much wanted to meet Dorothy and the rest of the circle. Lydia promised the two of them would somehow make that happen if they got through the next fight. Maybe Sabrina could come back and meet Rob, too.

When the spell was in place, Sabrina snapped her fingers and a small black cat appeared. Nancy leaned down to pet the cat with a smile.

“Is this your cat, Sabrina?” Nancy asked. The cat quickly crawled up Nancy’s arm and draped itself across her shoulders, purring.

Sabrina laughed. “That’s my familiar, Salem,” she said. “He’s not exactly a cat. Not really.”

“What does that mean?” Nancy asked.

“Like you, Salem is more than meets the eye,” Nancy said. “Familiars are otherworldly creatures usually in the shape of Earth animals.”

“Salem will be good in the fight,” Sabrina said. “He is way tougher than he looks. Let’s finish getting ready for her.”

It was an hour later when they started to hear banging on the outside of the corrugated metal walls of the warehouse. It started slowly at first with what sounded like the occasional tennis ball hitting the wall. Then the sounds started to surround the girls and they got faster, louder, and more numerous. The three of them stood their ground and tried to stay calm.  The sounds began to get more rhythmic and synchronized, signalling a small army outdoors. As the sound climaxed, the sliding doors of the entrance slid open. Standing in all of her glory was the green-skinned Wicked Witch of the West, just as Dorothy had described her. She carried a broom etched with wicked-looking runes and there was a twisted smirk on her face.

“Well, my pretties,” West said. “Time to go to Hell!” Her voice was thin and high-pitched but somehow compelling and forceful. Her clawed hand flexed and she gripped the broom tighter. She grinned, revealing incredibly sharp teeth. Her face was impossibly angular and she was instantly identifiable as something no longer human. From the stories Lydia remembered, the Witch had ceased to be human before her death.

“Back off, West,” Sabrina said. “Nobody’s going to Hell but you and your stupid monkeys.” All of Dorothy’s girls knew the stories almost by heart and who could forget flying monkeys as villainous henchmen?

“Is that what you think they are?” West asked. “No. No more winged monkeys, no more Winkies. I have new friends now.”

“What are you talking about?” Nancy asked. “What are they?”

Creatures started to make their way through the door, they had orange-red skin, sharp teeth and they behaved like feral animals. “The goblins from down below,” West said. “You must be my prize, the one called Nancy.”

“Leave her alone!” Lydia called out, moving slightly in front of her best friend. The two of them glanced at each other and there was no need to say anything. They were in it together until the end.

“It’s best to give up now and save me the trouble,” West said. “Then I can go back and finish off that troublesome Dorothy.” She was having fun drawing out the anticipation and trying to get the three girls to squirm. All three bravely stood their ground and glared at the wicked witch.

“Back off, witch!” Lydia yelled. “Let’s get this over with.”

Aftershocks: The Goblins Down Below Pt. 2

October 12, 2019

Aftershocks Witches

It was hours later when Sabrina showed up. She had bone-white hair and she was incredibly attractive, it made Nancy feel somewhat self-conscious. She shook off the feeling and moved on. She saw the worried yet happy look in Lydia’s eyes and wondered if she was not keeping her best friend from making other friends. Although she was cute, Sabrina had a cut across her cheek and a visible burn mark on her hand. Both had been properly treated but they were clearly fresh. They had met in front of the town library since neither Nancy or Lydia thought that Rob would agree to the risk of inviting a stranger to the bunker, even if Sabrina was a trusted friend of Lydia’s. As soon as they met, they moved quickly to a back room in the library so they could talk privately.

“Are you alright, Sabrina?” Lydia asked. “You look a little banged up.”

“I’ll live,” Sabrina said. “And luckily so will the others but it was a really close call.” She looked more relaxed now that she was sitting down but she still looked keyed up about something. It was definitely something really bad.

“Maybe we should start from the beginning,” Lydia said. She glanced over at Nancy in the corner. Nancy’s t-shirt had morphed back into a floppy sweater which was a clear sign that she was nervous. “Sabrina, this is Nancy, my best friend. Nancy, this is Sabrina, my old friend and classmate.” Nancy visibly brightened at the mention of her being Lydia’s ‘best friend’.

“Nice to meet you,” Sabrina said to Nancy. “Any friend of Lydia’s is somebody I can trust.”

“Thank you, Sabrina,” Nancy said. “What happened to you?” Nancy healed really fast so she was more likely to fuss over other people’s injuries. She had certainly fussed over Lydia and Rob enough.

Sabrina’s expression darkened and she shuddered. “That’s why I came here. She’s back, Lydia. The Wicked Witch of the West has returned and she’s in our world this time,” she said.

Lydia’s eyes went wide. “She’s dead!” she shouted and then remembered they were in a library. “Dorothy killed her in Oz.”

“Yeah,” Sabrina said. “but all worlds lead to the same Hell and they brought her back. There was a huge burst of hellfire and there she was. She caught us all off guard. Dorothy and I were the only ones left standing and we only kept everybody alive with a desperate defensive spell. Dorothy and the rest are safe in a hospital but I had to come and warn you.”

“Warn me?” Lydia asked. “What could she want from me?” and then her brain caught up with her and she shut her eyes with a sigh. “Oh.” She looked at Nancy.

“Not another one!” Nancy cried out and buried her face in her sweater sleeves. The rest of what she had to say only came out as mumbles as she was muffled by the fabric.

“What’s going on?” Sabrina asked. “What does she want?” The mystery had been eating at her the whole trip and now she was so close to figuring it out.

“She wants Nancy,” Lydia said. “Not me. The King of Hell wants Nancy.” She could feel the fear and anger rising inside. Nobody was going to take Nancy anywhere.

“Why?” Sabrina asked without knowing how loaded that question was.

Lydia and Nancy locked eyes and then Nancy nodded slowly. She literally trusted Lydia with her life. “Nancy’s dad was a demon,” Lydia said. “She inherited a lot of his powers and maybe even more.” Nancy watched Sabrina nervously.

Sabrina took that in for a moment. “That’s alright, Nancy,” she said. “A lot of my family worshiped the Devil for a while. Also, I’ve heard a lot of weird stories from our circle so I’m a little jaded at this point.

Nancy smiled and her sweater changed back into a t-shirt. “So who is this evil witch?” She asked.

“The Wicked Witch of the West,” Lydia said. “She clashed with our teacher Dorothy but died almost by accident from getting wet. It, uh, sounds sillier than it was.”

“Sure,” Nancy said. “but what is her name? You keep saying the Wicked Witch of the West.”

“She and her sister sold their names a long time ago in exchange for more power,” Sabrina said. “They have gone unnamed for a long, long time.”

“That’s pretty twisted,” Nancy said.

“They were some pretty twisted sisters,” Lydia said. “They ruled over large sections of the land of Oz and warred with the admittedly ineffectual government. Dorothy took both witches out and ended up helping with a regime change too. She’s gone back and visited some but that first trip was pretty rough.”

“So what are we going to do?” Sabrina asked. “We need a plan.”

“I think I have some ideas,” Lydia said. “Which I’ll need your help with, Sabrina. Nancy, think about what you can bring to the table. I know your powers take a lot out of you so we can’t rely on just you. We’re in this together.”

“As usual,” Nancy said with a smile.

Aftershocks: The Goblins Down Below Pt. 1

October 5, 2019

Aftershocks Witches

“Oh dear sister,” the West said. “My mistake last time was getting fixated on you and that little girl. This time, I’m going to stay focused. So, I’m not bringing you with me.”

“Damn you!” East said. “You can’t leave me down here.”

“Oh dear sister,” West said. “I have the stamp of approval from the King himself. I’m about to do what I could not do before. I’ll get that little girl and then I’m off to capture the King’s prize.”

*                *                 *

It was summer vacation and Lydia and Nancy were left to their own devices which mostly meant just hanging out in the bunker or swimming down at the local pool. Rob had reported at the start of summer that his parents were making him go to summer camp and he would not be around. Demon activity had been strangely quiet but the girls knew that something would be back. They had interfered three times with demon plots and the one that had started it all, Ley, had said something about the King of Hell wanting Nancy. Lydia was not about to let that happen. So, they spent a lot of time studying whatever books they could get their hands on. The Bunker also had a remote link to a database from something called the Men of Letters which had been very enlightening so far.

It was on a hot July afternoon when Lydia had gotten a text. She was honestly surprised, she had been caught in that belief that overtakes people that once physical and temporal distance separates us from our past, it is gone forever. There were parts of her life that she had not told her best friend Nancy about. She never imagined she would tell Nancy about any of it but they had both been open books otherwise. They both had horrible pasts but that had bonded them together. Now their future did not look exactly bright but there was hope if they stayed together. Important to that was telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

“Nancy,” Lydia said. “I just got a text.” She felt nervous. They had faced down demons and ghosts together on several occasions. She had had her own encounter with a deadly ghost. Her best friend was some sort of demon offspring. Still, she was nervous about not telling her friend something from her past. The words did not slip through her lips easily.

“Oh?” Nancy asked. “I didn’t think Rob was allowed to have a phone at camp.”

Lydia paused at that. “Is it troubling that he is our only other friend really?” she asked. The two of them ate lunch together at school, hung out together all the time, and had only recently started to hang out with the much younger boy who had shown up in their lives in a car with a trunk full of weapons. He had introduced him to the family bunker, a family he revered like kickass saints.

“No,” Nancy said. “The teen years are supposed to be awkward, right? Also, we’re totally weird.” She was not wrong, a witch and the daughter of a devil.

“True,” Lydia said. “but no. I got a text from an old friend. We’re going to be getting a visitor.” She slid her finger along the edge of her phone over and over, a nervous tic.

Nancy looked curious. She had changed since Lydia and she had met. She had started to blossom into a young woman who was less scared of the world and, most importantly, less scared of herself. Lydia had assured her over and over that she was not her father and that her admittedly fantastic powers were not a sign of evil. Nancy looked less like her usual muppety self without her trademark sweater but she had somehow used her own internal magic to turn it into a t-shirt. Those familiar red and green stripes were something that Nancy was rarely seen without. “Who’s coming?” Nancy asked. “I’m interested to meet one of your other friends.”

“When everything happened to me and my parents were killed I felt lost,” Lydia said. “My foster family just did not understand. I met a bunch of girls like me who were being tutored by a wise older lady named Dorothy. Like us, she had been the victim of magic. She had experienced another dimension and had come back changed from the experience. She had set out to learn witchcraft to make sure it never happened again to her or anybody else. I brought what little knowledge I had to the circle and they taught me so much. Eventually, my foster dad got a new job and we moved. We lost touch and I started off on my own journey and met you.”

“Wow,” Nancy said. “so you were part of an actual coven? I’ve only seen that kind of stuff in movies.” She looked so intrigued. She had such big wide eyes that made her look so innocent.

Lydia shrugged and smiled. “I’d hesitate to call it an actual coven,” Lydia said. “We never used that word. I’m sorry for not telling you about all of this until now.”

Nancy shook her head. “Don’t worry about it,” she said. “We’re friends. Best friends and I trust you more than anybody in the entire world.”

“And beyond,” Lydia said with a smile.

“And beyond,” Nancy agreed. “So who’s coming? Are they riding a broom?”

“My old friend Sabrina,” Lydia said. “and maybe. You make fun but some of us learned to do that stuff. She’s on her way now. I can only imagine this will lead to a new danger for us.”

“We’ll face it together,” Nancy said.

In Fear of Sundown Pt. 2

September 28, 2019

The Mayor, Deputy Wescott, and Ben Hoscut reconvened with the stranger in the back of the Sheriff’s old office. Word of the woman’s claims was already spreading through the town like wildfire. They shut the door on the townspeople but the damage had already been done. An exotic stranger had walked into a desert town and declared herself as the sheriff. Mayor Brown was especially irritated. In contrast, the stranger was completely calm but she had covered the tattoo up again. She moved with a lazy sort of swagger. She did not seem to notice that people noticed her. She glided along with a determined yet aloof manner. She stuck out like a sore thumb in the more reserved town of Sunwood.

“Who in the Hell are you?” Mayor Brown asked. “While we’re at it, how did you get our symbol?”

“Now be nice, Mayor,” Ben Hoscut said. “I don’t think she means any harm.” His voice was reassuring. He had kept his position on their small council based on his use of the symbol and his even-keeled determination.

“How do we know that?” Deputy Kyle Wescott asked. He had remained loyal to the old sheriff until the end and was still not at ease with all of this hocus pocus. The presence of the symbol was not a good sign, especially on an outsider.

“Maybe let her talk, Deputy,” Hoscut said. “Let’s start with introductions. We can be hospitable and civil at the very least.”

“My name is Afa,” the stranger said. “I come from an island far away. I’m sure you have never heard of it here in the desert.”

“My name is Ben Hoscut,” Hoscut said. “This is Mayor Brown and Deputy Westcott. We’re the leaders of this town since the incidents started happening.”

“We can be hospitable,” Deputy Wescott said. He walked over and grabbed a bottle of beer which the Mayor looked disapprovingly at. He set it in front of Afa. “Now how about that story?”

“Well,” Afa said. “Firstly, you called it ‘your symbol’. It is not your symbol. That symbol belongs to my people as well.”

“Did your people have the same problem?” Hoscut asked. He leaned in, very interested.

Afa smiled and shrugged. “I don’t know the problem you had here,” she said. “In our island village, people started to disappear without a trace save for some blood on the dirt or sand. We sent out search parties to find them. I lead one of them. We never found any of them.”

Westcott looked remorseful, pitying. “Yeah,” he said. “That’s the same problem. More or less.”

“While I never discovered any of the missing, I did discover something else,” she said. “I found a long-forgotten cave. There we discovered the symbol. We could not understand all of the symbols in the cave but when I touched this symbol, I felt like it would protect us. I guess I was right. I guess it protected you as well.”

“It has,” Hoscut said. “But it didn’t stop what’s still out there. Did you ever catch sight of whatever was out there?”

“Once,” Afa said, her eyes growing dark. “but only a glimpse. Really, all I saw were four bright eyes in the darkness. I heard something inhuman.”

The Mayor shuddered. The mood in the room had changed now that the three men believed that Afa was a kindred spirit of sorts. They had no idea whether they could really trust her but at least she had gone through the same fire they had. If she was telling the truth, of course. But why would she have that symbol? What would she gain from lying? Her words felt like the truth.

“Maybe we were too quick to anger,” Mayor Brown said. “Maybe you can help us figure this thing out.”

Afa nodded. “Where did you get the symbol from in the first place?” she asked. Her eyes burned with curiosity. “Maybe we can learn more from your source.”

The three men all looked at each other. One by one they nodded and shrugged. “We got the symbol from the Sisters,” Hoscut said. “They got the idea from a vision.”

“Who are these Sisters?” Afa asked she reached out and grabbed the beer and drank. “I want to talk to them?”

“We haven’t heard from them in years,” Mayor Brown said. “They’re probably dead.”

Deputy Westcott got a strange look on his face. “I remember my mother saying the same thing when I was a boy,” he said. “What’s that about?”

Afa stood and swept her coat back, exposing two onyx six-shooters. “Let’s go find out, shall we?” she asked with that same confident smile.

Deputy Westcott stood up. “Just because I’m backing you up doesn’t mean you’re the Sheriff,” he said. “With your permission, Mayor.”

Mayor Brown nodded. “I suppose it’s something,” he said. “We have lived in fear for a long time. Be careful.”

Deputy Westcott led Afa over to the Sister’s house. It looked quite ordinary. The Deputy knocked on the door and they waited for a long time. Westcott shrugged and started to turn away when Afa lunged at the door, slamming her foot hard into it. The door jamb cracked and the door opened inward. Before the Deputy could complain, Afa had slipped inside. When he followed, his mind could not immediately grasp what he saw. It looked a castle inside. A great big castle, much bigger than the house on the outside. Something was indeed strange here.


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