Read My Shoddy Work: “The Night Shift” Part 10

Unlike some of you out there, I don’t exist on a spectrum. I exist on a bi-modal distribution. But despite our differences, I hope you’ll give my feeble attempts at art the due consideration they deserve (i.e., skim it till you get bored and move on to whatever else the internet has in store for you).

Anyhoo, I’m pleased to share the FINAL installment of Zoltan (Hungarian Demon Hunter Extraordinaire)’s battle against the forces of darkness.

If you haven’t been following along, you can catch up by reading Part 1, Part 2 , Part 3, Part 4 , Part 5, Part 6 and Part 7 , Part 8 and Part 9 here.

The holy water caught Constantin squarely on the forehead and made a sizzling, crackling sound. The vampire’s handsome features were now a crackling mess. His coal black eyes rolled in fury and he made as if to pounce on Maria. Sophie cried out in pain. Zoltan didn’t waste the opportunity and landed a crushing blow on the vampire’s jaw with a fist wrapped in rosary beads. Constantin stumbled back. The rosary beads left angry smoking dents in the vampire’s face.

“Stinking cattle!” he swore.

In the microscopic interlude, Zoltan retrieved his sword and struck again. This time, the vampire couldn’t avoid the blow. The silver blade came whistling downward in a perfect arc and embedded itself deep inside the vampire’s skull. Maria heard a sharp gasp coming from Sophie.

There was no scream, no roar of fury. Constantin slumped unceremoniously to his knees and collapsed to the floor. Zoltan put his foot on the vampire’s face to retrieve his sword. Black blood and smoke were oozing from the head wound.

“What do we do now?” Maria’s voice was shaking with adrenaline.

“We finish our work.” Zoltan rolled the vampire over to lay flat on its back and pulled one of the large wooden stakes from his jacket. He placed it over the heart.

“Would you mind holding dis?”

***

Once they had cleaned up the mess in room 1213, they wrapped Constantin in bedsheets for transport. Sophie had not stirred through this entire process. She was breathing steadily and sleeping peacefully. Maria thought she could already see color returning to the girl’s cheeks.

“She did not drink his blood,” Zoltan remarked “she is out of danger. We were fortunate in dis.”

They dragged Constantin down the hallway past the sleeping forms of the hospital staff to the elevator. They went to the top floor and then Zoltan carried shrouded form up the stairwell to the roof.

A cool wind whipped at their faces. The night was ending and Maria could see pale blue hints of dawn in the eastern end of the sky. They dragged Constantin into the middle of the roof and opened the sheet to reveal the vampire’s grimacing form. The stake protruded out of his chest awkwardly. His inhuman talons were clenched in impotent rage.

“How old was he?” Maria asked. “I mean how long did he -”

“How long did he live as a vampire?” Zoltan supplied. “Hard to tell exactly. Two maybe three centuries. Da retractable talons take several decades to develop.”

“How will we explain? When he’s gone?”

“The elderly nuns that sit on the board of dis hospital were apprised of the situation before I arrived here. They vill make no trouble now dat da vampire is destroyed. My order is vell known to dem. Dr. Constantin did us a favor by casting a spell of sleep on the entire floor. Dey will all wake up with the dawn and remember nothing of our exertions.“

The eastern sky was turning gold and red now. Zoltan lit a cigarette.

“How long have you been doing this?” Maria stared.

Zoltan sighed, “Since the late 15th century.”

The forthrightness of the reply made Maria laugh. After the previous night, the idea that she was speaking to a more than 500 year old man wasn’t so far fetched.

“You’re older than that monster we just killed! How?” she asked.

“Members of my order are burdened with physical durability and longevity beyond the average person. I’m not invincible but, I can recover from that which does not kill me outright. I heal faster. Run faster. I’m stronger than most. I can hold my breath pretty long too.” His eyes twinkled a little.

“Even when you smoke those things?”

Zoltan examined the cigarette between his fingers. The sun had breached the horizon.

“Not getting cancer or heart trouble is one of the small compensations I receive for spending half a millennia hunting vermin in the shadows.”

“What will happen to Sophie?”

“Hard to say.” The morning sun struck the roof and the sky was on fire with glory.

He continued, “She’ll mostly recover of course. At most this will be a distant dream to her. She’ll very likely live out her life free from dis kind of assault. Free to make mistakes, free for good or ill. Free as it should be.”

Zoltan gazed up at the dawning sky. The sunlight struck the vampire’s motionless corpse. Maria watched as the battered pale skin cracked and smoked. The combustion set the clothes on fire briefly. Constantin’s skin turned to ash quickly and fell away. Centuries of torture and bloodshed ended.

“What do I do now?” Maria was crying a little.

“Go home. Live your life.”

“What if I can’t? What if it’s too much?”

“I’ll be around.” Zoltan flicked his cigarette into the wind and watched as it swept the ashes of Dr. Constantin away.

Accepting Submissions Now: National Personal Restraint Award

We’re always giving out awards to people who do things. People who go above and beyond to write their names in eternity. War heroes, scientists, leaders, and philosophers that have saved civilizations or charted new frontiers among the stars. These men and women deserve the praise they get, but I’m not here to talk about them.

I’m here to shine a light on the people who went out and didn’t do things. I’m talking about the people who, by keeping their mouths shut and their hands folded, made our society a little more live-able.

I’m talking about the dad who gets hit real good in the eyeball with a frisbee and then doesn’t scream and swear at the 9-year-old responsible. I want a medal for him. I salute the herculean labor you undertook to keep a lid on the blinding rage.

I want a medal for the mom who doesn’t flip the table over when a teacher recommends her 7-year-old be medicated for ADHD and instead calmly questions the wisdom of  slowly replacing recess with standardized test prep. She gets a medal.

When your wife/girlfriend makes you late for the 323rd time in three years and you don’t raise your voice to the heavens in wordless frustration and then drive off into the night a la ‘Everyone Loves Raymond,’ you should get a medal!

 

The Absent/Crappy Father in Children’s Movies

I’m working on putting together a movie review podcast with some work friends and I’ve noticed a trend. The Dad character in family movies either sucks or he’s absent. Think about it. Beethoven, Hook, Mrs. Doubtfire, Angels in the Outfield, Free Willy, Air Bud, the list goes on and on. My question is why?

Initially, I wondered if it’s because fathers (on average) tend to be more distant emotionally. That’s probably part of it. Movies often take a feeling or experience that has universal familiarity and then exaggerate. Also, men tend to be more likely to abandon their children.

It also happens that, literally all the movies I’ve noticed this trend in take place after the initial success of the Star Wars trilogy. George Lucas’ sci-fi blockbuster was heavily influenced by the writings of Joseph Campbell and the concept of The Hero’s Journey in particular.

In that framework, the Hero is often orphaned or separate from his father. The repair or replacement of that relationship is an essential part of the Hero’s Journey. However, I’m not sure the writers of Air Bud were thinking on that level. I think they wanted to make a movie about a golden retriever.

Another thought occurs. Movie makers need you to care about what happens to the main character. Its how they make money. Sweet delicious money. If the main character is a child, a distant or non-existent father is a very effective way to make the audience feel for little Jimmy. That sounds a little closer.

I know what you’re thinking. Why not kill the mother or make her too wrapped up in work to attend little Jimmy’s softball game? Some family movies do have a deceased mom. But when they’re alive, they usually aren’t emotionally distant from little Jimmy. Why? I think it would bum everyone out too much.

Like I said at the beginning, women (for all their faults) are less likely to have a low attachment to their kids. In most cases, the bonding starts before little Jimmy is out of the womb. When we do come across an emotionally distant mom, we wonder what deeper problem she has.  With men, the defect is all too common.

 

Letting The Words Pour Out — madgeniusclub

Very good sentences as they say.

This is a post on how to write fast, if you want to. Note that I’m not saying you should write fast. Some of you should, some shouldn’t. I don’t know how your mind works, I can only speak to mine. There have been awful writers who took forever and there have been awful writers […]

via Letting The Words Pour Out — madgeniusclub

Solzhenitsyn on Good and Evil

“Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains … an unuprooted small corner of evil.

Since then I have come to understand the truth of all the religions of the world: They struggle with the evil inside a human being (inside every human being). It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirety, but it is possible to constrict it within each person.”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956

Lessons from Harry Potter — madgeniusclub

This month marks twenty years since the publication of the first book in the Harry Potter series, which by some yardsticks is probably the most successful young adult series in literary history. All kudos and congratulations to J. K. Rowling for her success, and for her determination to persevere in the face of what must […]

via Lessons from Harry Potter — madgeniusclub

Read My Shoddy Work: “The Night Shift” Part 9

Do you work at a hospital? Are you worried about vampire infestations? Then this is the short story for you.

If you haven’t been following along, you can catch up by reading Part 1, Part 2 , Part 3, Part 4 , Part 5, Part 6 and Part 7 and Part 8 here.

Last time, Maria had switched her holy water filled cleaning bottle from “stream” to “mist”. Let’s see how that worked for her.

Maria looked back to see Zoltan was locked in a sort of stalemate with Constantin. She couldn’t believe the vampire was controlling a walking corpse and fighting Zoltan simultaneously. The vampire was too fast for Zoltan to land a blow, but the space was two cramped for the vampire to get out of range entirely. Constantin avoided the silvered blade as if it was white hot. Maria turned her attention back to the former Dr. Brown, and he was nearly upon her.

She held up her spray bottle and squeezed. Nothing happened. She squeezed again, nothing. There must be something blocking the little pump inside the bottle. She squeezed the trigger several times in rapid succession without result. The corpse raised its hands to grab her. She could smell the corruption on the rotting body. Panic was taking over. She was about to call out for Zoltan. The putrid grey hands reached out, and then the holy water came.

A mighty mist hit the creature square on the face, blinding it. The skin bubbled like chicken in hot oil. The corpse’s hands went to cover its face instinctively. A ragged groan escaped its lips. Whatever the vampire had done to re-animate the body of Dr. Brown, it was at odds with God and nature. Maria hit it again with the holy water, and stepped back.

Now that she had a second to maneuver, Maria switched her grip on the silver dagger and readied herself for the final blow. She raised the blade above her head and brought it down swiftly into the crown of Dr. Brown’s skull. The skull gave way easily with a wet crunch. The body had decomposed significantly since the moment of death.

In the moments following the blow, the corpse shuddered briefly and then collapsed. As it fell to the floor, the dagger was twisted out of Maria’s hand. She looked back to the struggle in room 1213. Zoltan and Sophie were not doing well.

Zoltan had lost his sword and was holding the vampire at bay with only the threat of holy water in his right hand. There can’t be much left in that bottle, she thought. Sophie comatose except for her dreamy, tuneless humming.  Maria could see the rosary wrapped around Zoltan’s left hand. She stepped toward the doorway and turned the nozzle of her spray bottle from “mist” to “stream.”

It just got real y’all.

And Then I Popped Him One — madgeniusclub

It’s very hard to write violence, for the same reason it’s very hard to write sex. No, wait, there is one difference, most people have experienced sex, but most people have never been in a knife or fist fight. Even those of us who’ve been in fights have a tendency to blur them in our […]

via And Then I Popped Him One — madgeniusclub

The Death of Human Resources (and the Rise of the Machines)

My day job requires me to research and write about HR as an industry. It’s interesting in its way. You learn about hidden corners of the economy, enormous companies you didn’t know exist, and some genuine innovation every now and then (yes it happens even in HR). These days I’ve been wondering how long it will be till the machines consume and condemn this corporate function to obsolescence.

I assume the change has already begun. Right now someone is developing artificial intelligence capable of identifying and complying with all relevant regulations required to hire and fire puny humans.

Pretty soon, a hiring manager will just get a dashboard recommending which candidate has the mix of skills and ethno/gender/sexual qualities that best fit with the organization’s needs.

“Hmm, Candidate A is trans (both sexual and racial) so we tick a lot of boxes there, but it says that Zee has little to no experience installing and maintaining heating OR air conditioning systems.”

“The computer says that Candidate B has worked in HVAC for 15 years but has a level five patriarchy score.”

“Too bad, what if he had a gay experience in the next few days?”

“It would have to be really gay to make up for decades of white male privilege. He’s been married for 10 years to the same woman. He even saw fit to reproduce with her (thus reinforcing the white patriarchy). We’re talking level 10 gayness here. Liberace past his prime gay.”

“Ok I’ll ask him. If he’s not into that, he could blind himself. Being disabled always helps.”

Think of how productive we’ll be when Skynet is there to calculate the perfect diverse hire!