Mar 17

[Rant] A Call For The Middle

We live in strange times.

Consider for a moment what your various social feeds look like every single day.  Let’s first ignore the real information, and by real I mean the information about a person’s day or what they ate or pictures of their cat.  I want to talk about the impassioned internet stuff.  The stuff we see and react to.  The stupid lists and questionable home remedies and opinions on social topics that we assume everyone wants to hear.

There is a growing problem in the lack of the moderate voice, and for good reason.  We’re the problem.  On any given day, you will see an article about a woman being forced from her home because of death threats made in a fight over video game journalism (or video game sexism, depending who you ask).  We see language being asked to be altered so everybody feels hunkie dorey.  We see a company changing policy and immediately everyone getting up in arms because they’re limiting free speech.  In each of those, horrible words.. vile words.. disgusting words are thrown around unendingly – and let’s be clear here – BY. BOTH. SIDES.

We’ve learned from fucknuts like Westboro Baptist, that the loudest, shoehorniest, garbage-mouthed, Hitler-claiming, race-baiting, death-threatening, cancer-wishing, verbally-raping type gets heard.  This isn’t a word that makes me uncomfortable, I AM TRIGGERED BEYOND REPAIR.  This person doesn’t have an opinion I disagree with, I WISH THEM DEAD AND FUCKED BY DOGS.  People are either assholes or fragile eggshells that can’t be trod upon.

All the while, these fights get thrown around every day, there is a common class of people that have opinions that aren’t heard.  Why?  Because they aren’t fucking monsters and are smart enough to keep their mouth shut so they aren’t labeled as such.  Also, they may dislike something, but they aren’t so fragile as to feel words on the internet destroy their way of life.  So they remain silent, trying to stay unlabeled, poking their head from the foxhole on occasion and seeing if they can get a word in edgewise on a rare occasion without being labeled a bleeding heart, a misogynist, part of the problem, or an SJW.(That’s social justice warrior for those that are smart enough to stay out of this bullshit.)

So why this post? What is it supposed to do? What is the message I’m trying to impart on all of you?

Simply to think.  Are you talking to some anonymous fuckwit?  Then take their mouth-breathing idiocy with a grain of salt at all times.  Is that company doing something that requires a SCREAMING PETITION TO BAN EVERYTHING THEY’VE EVER DONE AND SALT THE EARTH! …or does it deserve a letter, a comment of ‘I don’t like this’ and a moving on to other things?  Are you commenting because you have the power of anonymity, so you can use the worst words ever?  Because you sound like an asshole.

And realize not everyone that disagrees with you is part of the problem.  Sometimes, they’re uninformed. Sometimes, they have worthy opinions too.  Before attacking, at least try talking.

Just stop screaming, and stop acknowledging those that do.  Prove that we are as evolved as we like to think we are.

Sep 20

[Fiction] The Last Day

Title: The Last Day
By: James Hatton
Title: Joseph Kenner (Good luck, sir!)

It wasn’t my initial intention to join a suicide cult, but here I was in my lime green jumpsuit and comfortable Adidas sneakers.

I mean, it all seemed so logical at first. My wife of a dozen or so years had left me, taking the house, our daughter Lynn, the car, and most importantly, the dog. I had rented a room above an air condition repair joint, and thankfully there was a bus a block away that dropped me off a block away from my job. My days for that first year as a divorcee were spent working as many hours as I could find to try and build back up to the lap of luxury I had provided for my little family (luxury they still got to enjoy). Then I met Tanya Woodblossom. That wasn’t her real name, just like Terrence Moonorchard wasn’t mine, but that’s what The Grand Messiah wanted to refer to us as, so it wasn’t our place to question it.

I had been sitting and reading at the local high end coffee dispensary when Tanya came into my life. The place was packed, so she asked if she could share my table, and after noticing her crystal blue eyes, tight fitting blouse, and then finally recognized I was probably staring, agreed. She was the first lovely thing that had shown up in my life in nearly twelve months, so even just creepily leering at her from across a coffeehouse table was a thrill grander than the hours I’d spent on laptop porn. The conversation started timidly. What I was reading at the time. Books she had enjoyed. By the end of the first hour we knew about each other’s divorces and she had invited me to a little group gathering that happened regularly a few blocks away. When she wrote down the address on a scrap of napkin, and passed it over, I felt for the first time in a long time that maybe things would get better.

Honestly, sitting here on my cot, reading over the ‘Ultimate Words of The Grand Messiah Alquist the Holy’ and awaiting the final judgement, I can honestly say that things are totally better. There is a distinct sense of community among these people, and they really love each other. Take for example my induction night. After the ceremony where I signed off on all of the proper paperwork that bequeathed my estate and all current financial gains to The Collective, no less than five girls took me into the Pleasuredome and had their inviting way with me. You don’t get that kind of welcome wagon from joining AAA or even AA. So what that my bitch of an ex-wife won’t get to see my last couple paychecks? She honestly made more than I did in the first place.

Now, I’m sure you have at some point in time while reading this thought about how crazy I must be, and the fact is that I’m not. No crazier than a devout anything else. Alquist’s rules are generally based on the Golden Rule, and it really wasn’t until this morning when he informed us that The Collective would be receiving judgement tonight, I didn’t think the suicide part of ‘suicide cult’ would ever really happen. I was quite content with my three (quite delicious, homemade and organic) meals a day, a decent selection of movies, boardgame night, and regular trysts with any of the women that were willing or not currently in Alquist’s rotation. So I occasionally had to join in on discussions about the passages of ‘Ultimate Words’ and sing along with some of the hymns that were written about him, but I didn’t truly believe in all of it.

That’s not true. When I first got here, I think I believed it just a little bit. I needed to believe in something, and Tanya was so nice to me and she definitely seemed to believe. As time wore on, I realized that I just wanted some new friends and a new life, and so I renounced my former religion (Methodist if you must really know) and put my faith in Alquist. He fed me better than God did anyway. After I had settled into the routine and realized that I didn’t really believe in any of Alquist’s teachings, which were mostly about being nice to each other and him getting frequent blowjobs, I decided there was no real reason to leave.

So what do I do now? I have two hours and then the final judgement. I’d go get laid, but Tanya’s off with Alquist today. I could fight my way out, but I have less than I did after the divorce. I could try and start a revolt, but where I’m sure there are a few people that are only quasi-believers like myself, there are definitely some devouts that would fight tooth and nail to make sure that we follow Alquist to our end no matter what, even if it ends up killing us. Then where would I be? Dead before the final judgement and no way of getting through the Gates. So instead I sit here and write down every last thought I have.

The boys just asked what I was writing, and I told them it was a letter to my ex. They rolled their eyes and reminded me that no written word would be sent to the outside, given that the whole building was set to explode a little bit after we had all finished our pudding cups. That’s ok, it feels better getting it all down, even though nobody out there is going to get to see it.

Maybe you will though. Maybe somehow these couple sheets of notebook paper won’t be blown to cinder.

I guess I’ll never know.

Alquist has just popped out of the Pleasuredome, so I should probably hide this. Marie’s got the foodcart with the pudding, too. So as my last words, let me say that when the news sparks up and talks about how we were all devouts and crazy, there was at least one of us in here that wasn’t. I just really didn’t have much better to do.

Fal Talar Alquist (That means Glory Only to Alquist)

Sorry Lynny…

Sep 12

[Fiction] The Man That Never Smiles

‘The Man That Never Smiles’ – By: James Hatton
Title Submitted By: Joe Kenner

Alan wasn’t always unhappy, but he couldn’t quite remember a time in which there was enough positivity in his life to actually make his cheeks turn up. Not to say he ever really considered this, because he wasn’t the type to question his station in the world. He lived his life, and that was the life he had. In the morning he would wake up and pour himself a cup of coffee that had been set by the timer to be piping hot and ready the moment he got out of bed. Work would be a standard affair of sitting at his desk and pushing out file after file of adjusted balances for his various clients. Sometimes in the middle there would be a conversation about a television show that he would nod at as the other folks in the nearby cubicles jovially discussed whatever sport or entertainment show happened to catch their fancy the night before.

Every night at 5:30pm he would clock out and head on home, sometimes stopping by for a magazine to glance through, but for the most part the news just saddened him and the high world of fashion, sex, and fame just left him feeling morose to his core. He was surely no catch for any of the sexy ladies that graced the men’s magazines and he had a dozen of the same similarly tailored suits, so why would he need to admire other people’s clothes? It all just seemed such a waste.

Upon arriving home, Alan would feed his fish, thaw some manner of ovenmade food, and finish out his day plotting out troop movements with the play-by-mail penpal he’d had since he was twelve. They had never met, and even as computers and email had grown to be the way people connected and spoke, he and Ahjit never sent anything more than notepad paper filled with various grid positions.

This was Alan and this was Alan’s life.

If you asked him if he was happy, he would assure you that life wasn’t there for his happiness, but he wrung as much contentment out of it that he could bear. The few people that had ever bothered to ask him a question like that walked away not knowing if he was being so dryly sarcastic as to be brilliantly funny or if they had just met the most flatlined personality they might ever encounter. Alan, in turn, would pay them no mind and usually would forget the conversation a few moments later, dismissing the person as just another disturbance to his routine.

Alan sat over a grid, pondering Ahjit’s last move. When he was a teenager, he had a fairly large grid map he kept on his desk to figure out precisely what was going on the situation of battle, but he had given up on that long ago. By now he could look at the letters and numbers and figure out what was going on. He had read somewhere that a true chess master could play a game without ever moving a piece, and he felt this was probably as close as he would ever get to that level of accomplishment at anything. He could tell simply from the numbers that there was a group of twenty men moving from the west to flank his position, and was certain that Ahjit had forgotten that these men had a lookout amongst them. If they were placed in battle against each other, Alan’s team would surely prevail.

The knock on his door startled him so severely that he broke the tip of his pencil against the paper.

When he peered through the peep hole of the door he saw that nobody was there, but opening the door revealed a package in plain brown paper. It was addressed to him with no returning address, and no sign of where it had come from. Alan hadn’t ordered anything from a catalog in years, finding it too impersonal, and he didn’t own a computer as they he dealt with them for eight and a half hours a day. He stared at it in the doorway of his apartment long enough for it to seem odd. Then, as if restarted by a key, he turned and walked into his one room apartment and placed it on the kitchen table, barren of anything but a notebook and a broken tipped pencil.

He stared at it.

It confused him to the point of almost fear. The fear confused him as well. This box was so ultimately foreign to his day in and day out activities that its presence in his home felt wrong. It was out of place and incorrect. He was tempted to write ‘RETURN TO SENDER’ on it and leave it in front of his door for the postman to find the next day.

‘Stop it Alan.’ he whispered aloud, and for a brief moment he recognized it was the first thing he had said that day. That week? That month?

He recognized the only real way of getting this little speedbump out of the way was to open it and handle it as quickly as possible. He moved to the kitchen and retrieved a pair of scissors and as the metal touched the flat brown butcher’s paper he felt a nausea begin burning in his stomach. At the sound of the metal blades pressing against each other with the first slice of paper being set free he let out a wincing gasping noise that sounded like he had been hit in the chest.

There was a cold sweat on his forehead and his nose had all of a sudden filled with the kind of congestion he only expected during the change into Spring, given his slight allergy to pollen. He snorted through and the want to take the box and hurl it into the garbage grew stronger. All of it was so foreign to him. These feelings. This confusion and nausea. All because of a box? A non-descript box?

The scissors clamped down again, the paper fluttered to one side revealing a sealed cardboard box, and Alan cried out like it was his arm that was being cut. He pressed a hand to his stomach just to check that there wasn’t blood. His breathing had sped up and his eyes had closed to half moons as a splash of a tear hit the paper and immediately darkened its color.

One more cut. Another gasp. Another lurch of his stomach. This one was too much though, and he ran into the bathroom to vomit up the Stoffer’s macaroni and cheese he had eaten for dinner. As he sat over the toilet, his face lingering just a few inches away from his partially digested food, a bubble of snot growing from his nose, he started to believe that the box wasn’t there. His disbelief and need for things to just be normal started to build around him like a wall. He needed to step back into his dining room and see that the table was barren except for Ahjit’s flanking troops.

He stood and wiped his nose and eyes, now puffy with the tears that come with an upheaving stomach. He swallowed hard once and stepped back into the dining room.

The box was there, half out of its wrapper. A closed corrugated box, taped down the center pristinely, wrapped precisely in simple brown paper.

Alan nearly passed out from the sight of it.

He stepped to it and slid out the box, and the white noise of paper on cardboard echoed in his head with such volume that he actually whispered for it to ‘shhhh’ in case the neighbors might call the police for a noise disturbance. His hands were wet and trembling as the paper collapsed without the weight of the box within to hold it up. That single gesture was almost enough to make him run back into the bathroom as he saw this structure of pulped wood bob downward. The shell of the package falling apart.

Alan realized all he had to do was slice open the tape that held the top flaps of the box together, and the mystery would be over. He would open the box. It would be empty. He would be free of its madness and able to throw it away and ignore it. It would be gone.

As he picked up the scissors he recognized just how cold and slippery the were from the sweat on his palms. He knew somewhere in him there was a feeling that he should just turn the scissors back a bit and push them into his gut. If he was to die right here and now, this would all be over. The fear and nausea would cease. This damnable box wouldn’t be mocking him from within his own home. There would be order again. Perfect order.

The tape split quickly and the flaps opened a bit of their own volition, no longer being bound together. Alan’s heart was visible as it thrummed against his chest.

The flaps opened. A white paper bulging at the center as if something lay beneath it.

Alan’s head shook violently, as if he was responding to some question that wasn’t asked. ‘No.. no no no no no..’ he tried to command his hands and body from continuing with this one act play against his brain’s direction. He wanted to stop this and every ounce of his being was begging for him to not look at the paper or the small flash drive that lay beneath it.

He yelled out to nobody, ‘HOW DID YOU KNOW THAT?’

He ripped the page up and just as some internal dialogue had informed him, there lay the perfect square of a USB key.


‘I.. can’t…’ he cried, and these tears were the first thing he remembered feeling in so long. An overwhelming sadness as the paper fell to the ground and he took out the small black drive. He snotted and wept without ending, his fingers digging into the side of his neck, looking for something that he hadn’t recognized was there.

A port. A place for the drive. ‘Whhyyyy?’ Part of his mind knew so much more than he did, and he had no cognition of the reasons behind it.

He felt the coldness of the key as it clicked into the meat just below his shoulder. He passed out.

South Lexington Department of Corrections
Lexington, VA

Dear Alan Thomas,

We are happy to inform you that your incarceration time has reached its end. We are certain that your initial discomfort at the appearance of this letter will slowly wane once you’ve re-activated your Self-Containted Personality Matrix ™.

The first few days will feel awkward and uncomfortable due to your extended Internal Self-Accepted Imprisonment ™. We have representatives an counselors available for on phone sessions at any time you feel there might be a problem with the unlocking process.

We would like to remind you that your term of [bold]FIFTEEN YEARS[un-bold] was completed in full and you are now a free man in society to do as you please. Further infractions of the law can and will lead to further Self-Accepted Imprisonment ™.

AGE: 48

Welcome back to the world,
Patrick Hill
Warden & VP of Technologies
South Lexington Department of Corrections
Self-Accepted Imprisonment Dept.