Okay folks, here it is, The Standard Offer.

If you have noded at E2 in yon distant past, but not in the recent past (which we will call, 'within the last three years' for purposes heretofore and foregoing) but -- and this is the big 'but' -- if you post ONE new regular (non-dayloggy) node within the next thirty days after the date of the publicization of this communication (which node must then survive the usual E2 editor vetting and voting), and inform me of this feat, then I do solemnly swear to perform upon you that delicate operation better known as a node audit, wherein I read and spread votes (applying my characteristic generosity of character) upon ALL your nodes.

And why would I do such a thing? Eh, for Pandeism. Let's just call it an effort at spurring the publication of new formulations of thought, and rewarding that activity with positivity, in the hopes of coming closer to an overall maximization of human happiness thereby. Blessings!!


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In other news, the Mormon church now allows th at it is okay to be gay-- in the Boy Scouts, that is. The church has tipped the organization off that it supports the proposition to allow gays to be scouts, but not scoutmasters. But once there rare openly gay scouts, some will rise up through the ranks and it will only be a matter of time before they'll have the run of the organization, so good on them, and on the Mormons for supporting this evolution. This sort of reflects a sea change in Mormonism itself, as younger Mormons have come up rejecting certain antediluvian values of the old ones.

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Node auditing already underway proceeds at a reeeeasonable pace:

passport is on page 12 of 27
Pseudo_Intellectual is on page 6 of 31
Segnbora-t is on page 6 of 34
And pukesick is on page 5 of 29.

In the queueueu: avalyn; BookReader.

Blessings, all!!

     I popped the Lincoln's trunk and got into our duffel bag of supplies; I found a packet of Advil and a warm bottle of Gatorade. Hoping the combination would kill my headache, I popped the two pills and chugged the drink. I found a PowerBar gel packet and stuck it in my thigh pocket for later, just in case.

     Next, I opened up the long black gun case. Inside was a 12-gauge, pump-action 9-shot Mossberg 590 "Intimidator" with a black plastic stock. It was fully loaded with cartridges that contained 18 pellets of mixed silver and iron buckshot: a little something for any sort of hostile creature Cooper and I might encounter out in the woods or in the bad parts of the city. We'd started toting firearms after a close call with a pack of drunk werewolves in Logan County. I hoped the shot would be enough to penetrate Smoky's thick scales, if it came to that.

     A sheathed silver dagger and a bandolier of 20 extra cartridges lay in foam cutouts above the shotgun. Below the shotgun was a hostered Colt .380 "Pocketlite" automatic pistol and a 7-shot clip loaded with silver bullets half-jacketed in iron. Cooper had enlisted the Warlock's help to put various minor enchantments on the weapons to improve their accuracy and stopping power; Cooper's skills definitely lay in making love and not war.

     Some mundanes -- specifically the farmers -- wondered why we relied on firearms for defense instead of magic. Sure, there are binding spells and such ... but think of the opera singer trying to perform in a riot. If you're in a panic, squeezing a trigger is a whole lot more reliable than trying to cast a spell. 

     Make no mistake: there are killing words. But using a killing word on a familiar or a human being is as serious as deciding to ram your car full-speed into a crowd of pedestrians; it should never be done unless you're left with no other choice, and even in a clean-cut self-defense situation the consequences are severe. There's an allowance for word-killing demons and other bad characters, but most Babblers won't go near that kind of magic, no matter what. Once you've crossed the border into necromancy, it's hard to get your spirit clean again. You start losing your ability to do white magic, and pretty soon all you're good for is death magic on the fast lane to Hell.

     And there's the little detail that grand necromancy is illegal and will get you imprisoned or worse. So, killing words? I was sure I'd never use them. Guns and knives seemed far less dangerous.

     I slung the bandolier across my body, loaded the Colt and clipped the holster and the dagger to the waistband of my cargo pants, then hefted the shotgun. Palimpsest ran across the roof onto the trunk lid and hopped onto my shoulder, perching on one of the shotgun cartridges.

     Cooper had taken me out to the range every few weeks so we could practice target shooting; the first time I'd fired the shotgun the recoil had damn near knocked me flat. The bruise under my collarbone would have lasted a week if Cooper hadn't healed it. But since then, I'd learned to properly brace myself and could handle the gun pretty well. I'd been good with the Colt from the start; the small gun fit my hand perfectly.

     I slammed the trunk shut. Smoky had wobbled to his twelve feet and was snorting the air, apparently searching for the scent of something. His scaly skin steamed in the rain, smelled of hate and pain and rage.

     I raised the shotgun to my shoulder, my heart pounding. His eyes looked most vulnerable. I hated everything about this situation.

     "Smoky," I said, struggling to keep my voice and hands steady. "Smoky, look at me, boy."

     Smoky ignored me and launched himself across the park toward the Statehouse. He moved like a giant centipede across the street and down the ramp to the Capitol Square's underground parking garage.

     "Don't let him get away!" Pal exclaimed. "The farther he goes, the worse the damage might be!"

     Cursing, I pelted after Smoky, even though I knew there was no way I could keep up with him. The rain was cold against my skin, and my hair and clothes were getting soaked. At least the downtown area was nearly deserted. Except on the evenings when there was a Blue Jackets hockey game at Nationwide Arena or a concert at the Ohio or Palace theaters, the city's downtown pretty much rolled up its sidewalks and shut down after 7 p.m. on Sunday nights.

     My foot hit something soft and slippery, and I nearly twisted my ankle. I looked down, and realized I was standing in a pool of blood.

     "Jesus! What the ...."

     There were three corpses, best as I could tell. It looked like they'd been turned inside out, exploded. Bits of flesh and bone were everywhere. I saw shreds of gray maintenance uniforms amongst the gore. I felt intensely sick, and fought down the urge to vomit.

     "God. Poor guys. How -- how could Smoky do this?" I asked the ferret. "We were barely thirty seconds behind, and these guys look like they swallowed dynamite sandwiches ... how did this happen?"

     "I don't know," Pal replied, his sinuous body weaving to and fro as he sniffed the air.

     The rest of the garage was empty except for a maintenance van and a motorcycle. A wide smear of blood trailed to the far end of the garage, where Smoky was nosing around the underground entrance to the Riffe Center. I didn't see any blood on his muzzle. The glass doors to the center were smashed; huge pieces of thick plate glass lay shattered on the concrete.

     "I didn't hear him do that," I said. "Is there something else out here? Is he tracking something?  Did something come through the portal?"

     The ferret sniffed the air. "I can't say."

I tried to force down my panic. "Are you saying you don't know, or know but won't tell me?" My words came out angrier than I intended, but I didn't feel like apologizing for my tone.  I began to walk toward Smoky, hoping he wouldn't slither into the Riffe Center before I got close enough to either shoot or try some kind of a binding spell.

     "I don't know if anything else is here," the ferret replied. "Why would you think I'd withhold information from you?"

      "Let's see," I replied. "Cooper's been sucked away to God-knows-where by some evil force and his little dog's turned into a monster. Tom, Dick, and Harry on the night cleaning crew just got turned into stew meat. And my familiar suddenly wakes up and starts telling me what to do ... yet won't tell me what it really is. And it can't tell me the most important thing I need to know, which is whether or not I've got some other freakshow to deal with besides Hopalong Smaug here."

     "Are you saying you don't trust me?" The ferret sounded supremely offended.

     "Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying," I said, stopping. "Fear? Check. Worry? Check. About to pee my pants? Check. Trust in my new mystery familiar? Nope, sorry, just ran out. How do I know you're not some ... some evil spirit who came through the portal to possess the body of my ferret?"

     "You're paranoid," he said.

     "Convince me," I replied.

     "I'm not sure how I can do that," the ferret said, agitated. "There are spells to prove I'm telling the truth, but I imagine you don't know them. And we can't spare the time to perform them."

     "Okay. Go back to the car and wait for me. I'll come back for you when I'm done."

     "You can't do this by yourself, you're not experienced --"

     "I know how to shoot. And I know Smoky. Go."

     The ferret reluctantly climbed down my back and humped back up the garage ramp into the rainy night.

     Did I just do a phenomenally stupid thing? I wondered. He's right, I can't do this alone ... but I guess I'm going to have to try.

     I paused. Maybe I didn't have to do this Palimpsest's way. Maybe Smoky was still sane enough to listen to me and stay put. Maybe I could find a land line in the building that actually connected to the real world. I could phone Mother Karen to find someone who knew about this kind of stuff and could put things back the way they were supposed to be.

     And then we could figure out how to get Cooper back.

     Maybe.

First, I'd like to apologize for the overly caustic content of a couple of my recent posts. The main problem is that my only means of transportation stopped maturing at the age when she learned what a thrill it is to poke a puppy in the eye with a stick. Yes folks, my mother.

The only times I fantasize sexually anymore is either when A) I'm watching porn, or B) when I see a woman who looks anything like the blond that just started working in the local hardware store.

My two main fantasies these days concern my mother. The first: to jam a 10 gauge long tom shotgun up her ass chambered with a high-brass round of salt until it bottoms out on the roof of her skull, then pull the trigger and continue to kick the phone just out of her reach until she bleeds to death. The 2nd: to ram a wooden pool cue up her ass then break it off and stab her in the face repeatedly with the splintered, jagged stub left over until she's dead.

I will be kind and loving to all at her funeral, and every mother's day until I die I will go to her grave and take a big greasy hangover shit on it, then smoke some crack and fuck a hooker.

Aren't I a good son?

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