12.02.2020

Bloodbowl (Boardgame Review)


Name:
Bloodbowl
Game Designer: Jervis Johnson 
Publisher: Games Workshop
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)
Summary: A fantastic (and fantastical) game of strategy, comedy, and brutality set on the football pitches of the Warhammer fantasy world.

For something a little different, Godfrey did a video review. Click the embedded video below to view:

11.25.2020

The End of the Middle Ages

 

The Middle Ages and Renaissance are great sources of material for Fantasy writing (and inspiration for other genres).

Unfortunately, I think many people conflate the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, especially when it comes to negatives. The Middle Ages therefore gets tarred with the crimes of Renaissance, and somehow the Renaissance tends to get a free pass. For example, the idea that Medieval people had poor hygiene actually comes during the Renaissance and the so-called "Enlightenment". There are many more crimes that belong solely to the Renaissance and have nothing to do with the Middle Ages, but the important thing to keep in mind is that the Middle Ages was the culmination of centuries of the Catholic faith being integrated into society, and the Renaissance was a conscious return to paganism (they may not have publicly worshipped Jupiter, but they did return to pagan principles). 

G.R.R. Martin apparently used material on The War of the Roses as his "inspiration" for the civil war in his books. The War of the Roses began in 1455, well into that "pagan" period. Many historians give the fall of Constantinople as the end of the Middle ages in 1453. I myself prefer the reasoning of Atila Sinke Guimarães, who puts the end of the Middle Ages (or, at the very least, the beginning of the end) at 8 September 1303 a.D.

That day, in the town of Anagni, about forty miles south of Rome, William of Nogaret, councillor and keeper of the seal to King Philip IV of France abducted Pope Boniface VIII. Nogaret had been sent to Italy with the task of kidnapping the Pope and bringing him to France for a show trial to be followed by deposition. Nogaret gathered together a band of some 1,600 rogues and political enemies of the Gaetani family (Boniface VIII's family) and suddenly attacked the town, looted the castle, and took the pope captive. After two days of humiliation and threats, the people of Anagni rose up and expelled Nogaret and his men. The pope died in Rome a month later, however.

This event is significant because it was a terrible blow against supremacy of the Papacy over the temporal monarchs, which was one of the great characteristics of the Middle Ages. That supremacy was important for many reasons, but thinking back again to the discussion of A Game of Thrones, in the real world when nobles behaved even half as badly as Martin's nobles, they would be excommunicated (if they didn't meet another bad end). The role of the Church in the Middle Ages did a great deal to rein-in those few lords who might abuse their powers -- contrasted with the Renaissance where the Church was less powerful (especially after the Protestant Revolt).

11.23.2020

WARHAMMER FANTASY BATTLES: BRETONNIAN KNIGHT OF THE REALM GALLANT

 By Godfrey Blackwell

After nearly 15 years, I went back to my tabletop gaming roots and painted up one of the many Bretonnian models I've had sitting in a box in the basement for eons. Warhammer Fantasy Battles and Bretonnia were my introduction to tabletop gaming and it was great to return to this army. I hope that many more models will follow at a decent speed.




11.20.2020

SHORT STORY: MARTIAN MERCY



By Godfrey Blackwell

    The crucifix at the end of his father’s rosary swung back and forth ever so slowly as he worked the beads. Though he prayed the Paters and Aves without sound, his lips moved and Marcus could have followed the familiar words as they took shape there. But Marcus kept his gaze fixed on the cross with the tiny corpus of the crucified Lord swinging back and forth, back and forth.

    The habitation module was quiet, though the low background of the air circulation and the hum of the generators was always there. Every so often, above this, there would come a moan from down the short hall which led to the four bedrooms. A small, cracked voice, so quiet he could barely make it out, called for Portia. This caused Marcus to look up to his father’s face. Dad’s eyes were shut, but they seemed to squeeze a little tighter at the name.

    Portia had been buried a week ago, out beyond the last airlock, in the funeral caves carved into the inner wall of Valles Marineris. She slept among the dead now after a long wasting sickness. After she was gone, mom and Valentina started the same way. Marcus was so tired. He closed his eyes and wished for the nightmare to end, and that he could have rest.

    A firm hand took his shoulder. “Marcus, it’s time.”

    The boy opened his eyes. Dad stood up, and put the rosary over his head, letting it fall inside his spacesuit with the crucifix over his chest.

    Marcus drew in a long shuddering breath.

    “Get your helmet on. We can’t delay this any more … it’s getting late.”

    They put their helmets and gloves on, but left their helmets open. Dad grabbed a tool bag. From within, the hammer and metal spikes clanked against the drill. They moved out through the lock and into the maze of tunnels hewn from the Martian rock. Once through the warrens of their habitation section, they came to the high-roofed cavern cut by lava flow before history, before even the thing that haunted the colony now.

    Past rows of plants and crops that helped produce atmosphere as well as food they moved, drawing ever closer to their dreaded task. To walk through the cavern, one would have thought nothing was amiss in the colony. Miners trundled home on rolligans, trucks with goods passed-to-and-fro, and pedestrian traffic moved along the sidewalks. The ground took on a slight incline as they neared the end of the lava tube and the last lock that led out into Valles Marineris itself. They passed through the lock and out into the valley.

    Marcus looked up. The sun was already obscured by the steep canyon wall to the west, casting the valley in shadow. The sky was still pinkish-red and had not yet given way to the blue of the Martian sunset. He shivered inside his suit, thinking of the rapping at his door the night before, and the whisper … the whisper, terrible and beautiful, and unmistakably Portia’s.

    He pushed the thought away and focussed on his dad’s back, with a large air tank on it, as the big man trudged through the regolith and the swirling patterns of dust in the frigid air that whipped about them. He took comfort in knowing that Dad knew what to do. As awful as it might be … his dad wasn’t like other fathers who understood only their drill work or crop fertilizers and the 20-minute delayed sports ball transmissions from earth. His dad knew about Faith, and quietly taught them about it after their mandatory classes at school, and he understood that just because the medicos couldn't explain it that it couldn't be explained at all. In a word, Dad wasn’t stupid like so many other adults were. That was why he followed, and knew what they were doing was right — not just because the man ahead was his father.

    The burial catacombs, in a cave across from the colonial lava tube, were close at hand now, and Marcus could feel badness oozing from the dark opening. He stopped and found he couldn’t move his feet. A message flashed on the faceplate of his helmet warning that his heart rate and respiration were up. There was another voice at the back of his head screaming danger! at him.

    “D-dad …”

    His father stopped and turned. “I know, Marcus. I can feel it too.”

    He came back and took Marcus by the hand and squeezed hard so that he could feel it through the suit.

    “I’m scared.”

    “Me too. But we have to … no one else would even believe. And if we don’t …”

    Marcus knew the creatures — the vampires — that had taken his sister, would get the whole colony. In an age of interplanetary travel such an old superstition was beyond lunacy to “respectable”, “sane” people. Marcus stared at the cave entrance, so black it was like a hole punched right into the universe. It seemed to suck the last of the sun’s weakening light into itself. That gaping maw was hideous. 

    “Hail Mary, full of grace,” his father began the prayer, and stepped forward. Marcus found he had the strength to lift his feet despite their weight.

    Inside the catacomb, they activated their helmet lamps. Despite the bright white LED lights, the darkness pressed in on them. Thought it was impossible, Marcus swore he could smell the sickly-sweet odour of decay. They moved past the mummified remains of colonists on their tiered pallets in the walls. They reached the spot where Portia had been placed. He couldn’t look. Images flashed on his inner eyelids of terrible possibilities.

    “She’s not here!” Dad said.

    “What?” Now Marcus did look, and he saw that the niche that had been carved for his sister was, indeed, empty.

    “She must have moved, to make it harder for us to find her.” Dad crossed himself and looked around wildly. Through the faceplate Marcus could see his lunatic glances and knew that the strong man he looked up to, who had fought in the Void War before he was born, was as near to breaking as he was. Yet Marcus couldn’t help himself from saying,

    “Dad, I’m so scared.”

    Instead of unnerving his father, this seemed to fortify him. His eyes softened, and he squeezed Marcus’ hand again. After several loud breaths that made Shhh-shhhh sounds over the radio, Dad nodded to himself.

    “She’s here somewhere. I — we — can feel it. There aren’t many places in here. We just have to keep our wits, and our courage … and look. Remember, Marcus, there’s no courage without fear. Let’s do this.”

    They quietly prayed the rosary as they went. Marcus tried to ignore the bluish tinge to the ever dimming light coming from the cave entrance. They did not rush, however, and down a new spur that had been cut for future graves, the darkness seemed to deepen and Marcus’s helmet filled with a rank, rotten odour. And then they found her. A whoosh filled Marcus’ ears as Dad took a shuddering breath.

    Portia lay tucked under a shelf of dark rock, spotlighted by their headlamps. She wore a simple colony coverall, but bore none of the signs of exposure to the arid frigidness of the Martian air, to say nothing of death. She had been a pretty girl of fifteen, and Marcus guessed she’d probably be considered beautiful by other boys by the time she reached 18. But now, she radiated a gorgeousness that was terrifying in its darkness. Her cheeks were ruddy and her lips a deep and glowing red. Yet despite the colour she seemed so cold; but not from the thin Martian air. The coldness seemed to radiate from within.

    Dad moved forward and with great gentleness, cradled his arms beneath her and pulled her out from the little alcove under the rock.

    “Dad, I don’t think she’s dead,” Marcus whispered. Then shook his head at the stupidity of that. Nothing could survive out here. He glanced at his wrist readout without thinking — it was already minus thirty Celsius.

    “No, she’s worse than dead,” Dad said. He reached into his bag and pulled out the crucifix from their dining room wall and handed it to him. “Hold this.”

    He then pulled out the hammer and spike. “Miserere mei Deus: secundum magnam —”

    “Freeze! Don’t move!”

    Dad did freeze mid-motion as he was moving the spike into place. Marcus slowly turned and saw two suited figures hurrying down the rough-cut shaft, lights from helmets and drawn pistols cutting white lances through the darkness. As they drew near enough for Marcus’ head lamps to illuminate them, he saw SHERIFF stencilled above their visors.

    “Schaefer you really have lost it, haven’t you?” One of the security men said.

    “Sheriff Teng,” Dad said softly. “You can’t keep pretending you don’t see what’s going —”

    Jiangshi? Vampires? That’s superstitious nonsense, how can you expect me to believe that?”

    “Look at her!” Marcus blurted.

    Marcus looked past the sheriff and his deputy. There wasn’t even a hint of bluish light from down the corridor. He glanced down at his wrist panel. 1830 … what time was sunset? 1832? 31? Movement caught the corner of his eye and he whipped his body around to see his father swinging the hammer.

    BLAM!

    Even in the thin Martian air and muffled by his helmet, the gunshot was reverberated loudly. Dad jerked and fell sideways, grasping his side. Before Marcus could react, Portia’s eyelids flew open and with impossible speed, she was on her feet. The dark beauty of a moment ago was gone; her face was a pallid circle split by a slavering open jaw with impossibly long incisors. Her eyes were like black holes punched in the fabric of space.

    Neither Sheriff Teng nor his deputy were able to get a shot off as they stared in gape-mouthed horror as she rushed them. With impossible strength, she sent them both flying back down the corridor where they pinballed off the walls, into each other, and finally down to the rocky floor. The thing that had once been Portia loped down upon them, almost dog-like, and Marcus looked away. He ran to his father who was clutching his side, but slumped and dazed looking through his visor. Marcus pulled the emergency repair kit out of his calf pouch and slapped a quick drying resin patch onto the hole. It wouldn’t fix the wound but would at least prevent hypoxia. Just as Marcus picked up the crucifix again, he was grabbed by a vice-like flip and swung around.

    Portia had grabbed him. Her eyes were as deep and black as black holes, shot with red. Marcus felt as if he were falling into the irresistible gravitational field of an actual black hole. Only it was his soul that was being sucked down there, not his body. And he knew that if he went there he’d never get out. He wrenched his eyes away and brought the crucifix up. With an ululating scream the vampire fell backwards and Marcus stumbled and fell to a knee. He held out the cross, now transfixing the not-Portia thing.

    His dad struggled to his feet, grabbed the hammer and spike and rushed in.     
    
    Miserere mei, Deus: secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.”

11.13.2020

SHORT STORY: MONSTER IN THE SHADOWS, PART 2

By Anna Blackwell (October 2020, age 13)

    Ok by now I starting to feel that this is a stupid plan. I was walking around in the dark will the rain poured hard outside the dojo.

    I had discussed earlier with Elvis that we would stay over night at the dojo on a rainy night, I picked rainy night because Sensei Yang reported all the incidents were on a rainy night.

    Elvis agreed with my plan to stay overnight and keep watch for any four-armed intruders. We both keep watch over one side of the dojo, each of us was armed with. Dûnhark’15 pistols and one set of night vision goggles.

    And there I was alone, armed and completely chilled to the bones, while Elvis was probably as cool as a cucumber, sipping down his triple espresso, with his Dûnhark-15 at his elbow.

    I walked up and down the silent corridors and forced myself to stay calm. The rain was falling hard outside. I had worked on  several cases that had a slightly similar scenario but non of them every had to do with a four armed murderer.

    I decided to put on my night vision goggles just to be extra safe. Just as I put them on a sudden crash came from the back of the corridor, I spun around drawing my pistol. With the night vision goggles on I could see that a vase had been knocked over and had smashed when it hit the floor.

    I saw some movement but instead of a four-armed killer, it was only a black cat. It walked up to me in curiosity, I slowly put my gun back in its holster, I had no intention of scaring the cat, at least some company is better than no company.

    I extend my hand to pat the cat, who allowed me to rub behind its ears. It looked at me with shinning yellow eyes. I took off my goggles for a minute and placed it beside me.

    I continued stroking the cat until it suddenly hissed and took off running down the corridor. I sighed disappointed, however I wondered why the cat just ran off like that.

    “Oh well.” I thought, moving my hand down to pick up the my night vision when all of the sudden I noticed my goggles were not were I left them. I looked around the floor.

    “Oh come on, I left them right he….” I paused in shock as I looked up off the floor.

    “What kind of chuck wagon..” I fist was flung into my face sending me backwards to the floor.

    I groaned, I think he just knocked a filling loose. I looked up again and nearly screamed as four arms wielding katanas came flying at me.

    I braced for impact as the sword aimed into my chest only to meet hard metal. Even though I was terrified I managed to smile.

    “You’ll know I’m wearing body armour, I’m not a moron.” I said and rolled over and drew my gun and fired. Even without my night vision goggles I could sense that I missed by a mile. A well aimed kick got me to the floor and again along with the scraping of metal, as the swords hit into my back armour.

    I tired getting up but whoever I was fighting wasn’t going to let that happen in a hurry. I but I wasn’t to give too quickly either. I struggled like a wild animal to get free, by mistake I jerked my head back to meet something hard, but whatever it was made my opponent slake on his grip.

    I pushed him off and I stood up only to grasp my head in pain, it hurt really bad now. It caused me dearly for another smash in the face sent me back to the floor. I realised just as I hit the ground that I had dropped my gun. I tried look around but I was firmly locked to the ground, a sudden surge of pain burst at the back of my neck, as a sword cut through my skin.

    I screamed and my right hand grasped something to my surprise, it was my night vision goggles. With out wasting anymore time I put them on and turned around to face my enemy. I awed in horror at my foe who I could see clearly now as a flash of lighting lit the hallway.

    A four-armed man, wearing black and who’s face was covered in a black mask. I hesitated I needed to get my gun but at what cost would it be. I looked at the gun lying on the floor then the four-armed assassin. Then I made a leap to the floor and grabbed my gun.

    And before the assassin could react fast enough I fired. He let a terrifying scream that seemed to echo through the whole dojo. I smiled for a second.

    “Got you.” I thought.

    But I had done more than I thought I did, I had just made him even more angry. He looked straight at me and started swing around his katanas wildly, I back off and fired again but this time he was ready and and moved away in time.

    Then in seconds he leaped into the air and came right down on me. He placed one of his katana near my throat to cut it, I grabbed his arm and struggled to make it let go of the katana, but three other arms kept me pinned.

    “Help!!” I cried.

    And just as everything looked hopeless, something else left out of the shadows and kicked the assassin off me, I gasped for air, the cut at eh back of my neck was still bleeding everything seemed to go a little darker.

    But with my night vision goggles still on I could make out who my rescuer was, Elvis.

    I had never seen Elvis fight the way he did now, gracefully dodging his opponents and giving such quick blows I could hardly catch them. But with the blood loss I didn’t survey the fight well, the one thing I remember clearly was the sound of a gun setting off and the four-armed assassin falling to the floor.

    Everything then fell silent, only the distant sound of the rain outside was heard. Then looking at Elvis, taking off my goggles, asked.

    “What am I…what am I doing wrong..?”

    Elvis smiled and walked up to me. “I think you have to work on your self-defence skills.” He said.

    I groaned as he put a pressure bandage to my neck. 

    “Now just hold that tight and I will…Urk!!” Elvis’s eyes suddenly went big and then he crumpled to the floor. I gasped, a knife had just been thrown into his back.

    I looked down the hall, to see a short silhouette of a person walking toward me. I looked more closely and then released who it was. Thai.

    Her eyes clouded in rage. A crude dagger held in her left hand. She at first ignored me and the murmuring figure of Elvis. She walked up to the four-armed man, and knelt down to touch him. She knelt there for a few seconds before picking up one of the katanas out of one of his limp hands, she got up looked and me and in one screaming battle cry ran out to me holding the katana high in the air.

    But just as it came down to meet its target another weapon stopped it. I looked up and saw who had just stopped the death blow. Sensei Ning.

    “Traitor.” I heard him quietly say.

    I tried to stay wake but I was losing too much and was completely exhausted. I fainted and the last thing I heard was the clashing of weapons.

* * *


    Elvis and I walked down the passageway toward the interrogation room. It had been two days since our midnight encounter and today was interviewing day for Thai Ochita.

    I entered the room, BristleBelly and a few others were already there waiting for us.

    “Good you are here.” BristleBelly said” We are all ready to start.”

    With that BristleBelly opened the for into the interrogation room, me and Elvis followed after him, two others followed us in the rest stayed back to watch.

    Thai was sitting in a chair near table, handcuffed. When we entered she seemed to pay more attention to her restraints than us.

    BristleBelly sat himself in the chair on the other side of the table.

    “Miss. Thai Ochita, am I right?” He asked pulling out her criminal record file.

    “Yes.” She said, her eyes seemed to burn in rage.

    “Alright Miss Thai, is there anything you would like to tell us, like way you tried to commit first degree murder on two police offices?”

    “They killed Hokishe.” She said looking at her handcuffs.

    “Who is Hokishe, many I ask.” BristleBelly asked.

    “The four-armed assassin who tried killed Antantaru Kyōdai.” Elvis explained.

    This time Thai looked up at Elvis this time there was a bitter look on her face.

    “Well, how about you tell us why you wanted us to think Antantaru was a suspect?” I asked.

    “I didn’t want you to find out.” She said.

    “Find out what?” I asked.

    “Find out I was helping Hokishe…” she said.

    “How about you explain to all off us what you and this Hokishe monster guy, were doing.” BristleBelly asked.

    Thia seemed about to protest but instead she hung here head and began. “ I joined the Sacred Rule of Falling Gargoyle the place of the Singlang fighting technique, when I was very young.”

    I noticed one of the fellows who had followed us in cross himself when she mention that name.

    “I had heard Of Sensei Bings betray to our guild, I asked the elders to let me kill Ning so I could prove myself to them. They agreed to let me but they wanted someone to make sure I did the job right, they gave me a guardian, Hokishe”

    “A monster.” I muttered.

    “It took me some time before I finally figured out were Ning was, I found him at the Twin Dragon Dojo. I joined his dojo to discover his weaknesses. But the elders were growing impatient so the next rainy night me and Hokishe decided to strike..”

    “What a moment.” BristleBelly interrupted. “Why did you do it at night when it was raining.”

    “It would be harder for anyone to hear us.” She said.” But every time we tried that darned Ning would awake every time we were close to killing him. It was if he had a guardian of his own. We tried every rainy night until that wretched Antantaru had to turn up one night and ruined everything.” She said furiously.

    “But why didn’t you just kill Sensei Ning when he woke up anyway?” I asked.

    “We wanted to kill him in his sleep, it is the most disgraceful way to die.” She said a sinister grin in her eye.

    I rolled my eyes, in some religions it was disgraceful to die in bed, but I never quite understood that.

    “Is there anything more you want to tell us?” BristleBelly asked.

    “No…” she said and looked away from all of us as if if ashamed.

    “Thank you for telling us.” Elvis said gently.

    “Get away from me!” Thai hissed but I could sense sorrow in her voice.

    The others and I left the room. As we did I walked up to Elvis.

    “So what now?” I asked.

    “Now we go home.” Elvis said.

    I smiled.


Epilogue 


    Thai looked around miserably around her jail cell, failure, disgrace and lose was all she could think off.

    That elf would pay for the death of Hokishe, she smiled evilly, and felt the back of her boot heel and pulled out a knife.

    She smiled; she wouldn’t be here for long.

11.11.2020

Lest We Forget

By Albert Blackwell (November 2020, age 14)


For Remembrance Day, Albert prepared this picture to honour the soldiers who fought for King and Empire in WWI and WWII.

11.06.2020

SHORT STORY: MONSTER IN THE SHADOWS, PART 1

By Anna Blackwell (October 2020, age 13)

    Hello, my name is Theodore Threshold and I am bout to tell you about one the most creepiest cases I ever had to solve, and it all started on one peaceful Saturday morning.

    I lay there asleep in my bed in my apartment, dreaming about those simply things a man dreams of, when all of the sudden the phone rang. Groggily I picked it up.

    “Theodore Threshold speaking.” 

    “Mr. Threshold, there has been a attempt of murder at the Twin Dragon Dojo.” Came the answer from the other end.

    “I’ll be right there,” I said before quickly hanging up.

    Now, mind you, I wasn’t too big on getting out there and solving this case at first. I had become a police officer not too long ago and I had dealt with all sorts of weird stuff already like the classic over-debt college student who hung herself in her closet, or crazy cults upsetting neighbourhoods, or alcoholics threatening their girlfriends and what not. This case, at first, didn’t seem to be too different.

    I got dressed as quick as I could into my suit, and decided to skip breakfast that morning to get this case over with sooner. I hurried outside to go pickup my friend Elvis Shatris. He lived one story above me and had helped me with most of my cases. Even though he was an elf and I was human, we made a great team. We met a few years ago at a cemetery but that’s a story for another day.

    I knocked on his door and when he answered he was already dressed and shipping a travel mug of triple espresso (he had a strong addiction to caffeine).

    “Hello, Teddy. Another case, or were you just coming to say hello?” He asked. Elvis always seemed to light-hearted for an elf.

    “Ok, seriously Elvis, don’t call me Teddy. “ I said.

    “Sure Ted ... so, really, you just come here to tell me that?” He asked with a smile.

    “There has been a attempted murder at the Twin Dragon Dojo,” I said.

    Now Elvis looked at me earnestly. “Well, then, what are we waiting for!” He tossed me a pair of car keys. “We'll take my car; you can drive.”

    Before long Elvis and I were speeding to the Twin Dragon Dojo. We soon reached our destination.

    “The Double Dragon Dojo: the place were the famous Kothwai arts were said to be born. It is owned by Sensei Ning. The dojo has over 23 students, most races are allowed to attend at this dojo.” I said, reading from Magisteropedia on my cellphone.

    “Interesting.” Elvis murmured.

    As we stepped out of the car a was greeted by a loud voice. “Mr. MeshMould yer late.’

    “Oh boy.” I mumbled as I saw a short, plump, red-haired dwarf march up to me. He had a huge badge on his chest indicating he was Bamur Bristlebelly, chief of police. I was surprised I could even see it do to his humungous lumberjack-like beard.

    “Sorry, sir. I tried to come as soon as I could. And I think you've got it mixed up my name's Threshold not MeshMould.” I said.

    "Well accord’en to you. Seems that soon isn’t very soon, Mr. FreshHold.”

    I sighed there was no way to convince BristleBelly, he always invited on getting my first and last name wrong.

    “So what happened here, sir?” Elvis said, switching the topic.

    Grumbling, BristleBelly motioned us to follow as he explained. "One of the students was attacked last night by some sort of crook I reckon. The students' fellow pupils heard him screaming and found him in the hall way completely messed up.”

    I almost blurted out how disgusted that sounded but I stoped myself, I was trained for this kind of thing, I shouldn’t whine.

    “Any suspects?” Elvis asked.

    BristleBelly scoffed "Well, pointy ears, how about you start doing yer job? And that goes for you, too, Isaac.” He said, waging a finger at me.

    “It’s Theodore.” I said, but BristleBelly was already trudging away.

    I sighed. “All right, Elvis; what first?” I asked.

    “First we go see Sensei Ning.”

    We found the Sensei Ning alone, walking in one of the the gardens. 

    “Can I help you gentleman and elf?” 

    I pulled out my ID. “Theodore Threshold, Police Officer” I said. “And this is Elvis Shatris, my working companion.” Elvis gave a short bow to Sensei Ning who returned the gesture.

    “Would you mind if we ask you a few questions?” I said, pulling out a notebook and pen.

    We spent the next two hours at the dojo talking to Sensei Ning. He explained to us that he used to live in another land called Napam were he trained as a Singlang student until he discovered the Redemptorist religion and converted. However, the master of the dojo was greatly displeased and kicked Ning out of the dojo. Ning later became a student at the Twin Dragon Dojo and later became the new sense many years later.

    The more interesting part was that  Ding said that many times when it was raining at night he thought he could hear something walking or creeping on the roof of the dojo. There was one incident when he thought he heard someone trying to open his door but when he went up to the door he heard the sound of something walking away.

    Both Elvis and I took great interest in this. I asked Ning about the student who was attacked last night, Antantaru, I think his name was. Ning told us that Antanaru came from a modest family, he was a very intelligent student but had the problem of being over-competitive with the other students.

    “Well thank you, Sensei Ning, for the information.” I said.

    “You're most welcome.” I could sense a bit of uneasiness in his voice.

    We left the sensei and began to walk back to the exit, I however didn’t feel like we had accomplished much. We passed an open door; the chanting of prayers came from inside. I noticed a row of students sitting cross-legged facing a statue of a beautiful veiled lady wearing a rose-coloured girdle, with a golden crown on her head.

    “It seems they are praying what is called the Rosary, since they're each holding those strings with beads on them,” I said quietly to Elvis.

    Elvis seemed enchanted, it took a shake to get him to his senses.

    “Really, Elvis!” I said "Why do you do that every time we see Redemptorists?” I asked.  Neither Elvis nor I belong to that obscure religion; I never really looked into it.  But Elvis every time he saw things like a statue of the same lady holding a child in her arms, he seemed completely absorbed. I thought maybe elves were just like that when they saw beautiful things.

    When we got to the car, I was just about to open the door to the car when I heard something.

    “Pssssstt! Over here!” 

    I turned around to see a young girl hiding behind a bush, she had long, curly, blonde hair and a fair face. She beckoned for me and Elvis to come over.

    “Hi, I am Thai. Where you two wondering about Antantaru?” She asked.

    “Yes.” I answered.

    “Yeah, well I just wanted to tell you he was actually kind of suspicious lately he didn’t come to as many training sessions as usual and other stuff, I thought you should know.” She said.

    “Ummm thanks for the information but what is with the secrecy?” I asked puzzled.

    “Oh..uh that, well Sensei Ning might catch me, he wants me to say three rosaries for Antantaru today, ugh! Well I better go!” And with that she rushed off.

    I was caught off guard by her response to what her Sensei told her to do. Once I again went to get into the car. Elvis did the same.

    “So ... what now Ted?” Elvis asked.

    “Now ... we go to White Willow Hospital.” 


* * *


    “We would like to see Antantaru Kyōdai,” I asked one of the nurses.

    She looked at me suspicion. Being a fairy she was calm but I could sense her hesitation.

    “I’m sorry but I can’t just let strangers just walk in like that, the patient is badly injured and --” 

    “Listen madam, this is urgent, we came to ask him about what happened to him last night and --”

    “Interrogate him?” The nurse asked with widened eyes.

    “No, we are going to politely ask him if you don’t mind.” I said forcing myself to remain calm.

    “And who will I tell him wants to speak to him?” She asked with a hint of authority.

    I pulled out my I.D and put it about a foot away from her face. She looked at me and then beckoned us to follow. We went through a couple aisles before we came to a door with the bold number 34. The nurse opened the door.

    “Wait here; I will be back shortly.” She said disappearing behind the door. It was several more minutes before she reappeared.

    “Alright, you may see him, but I suggest being gentle with him.” She said.

    “Thank you madame and don’t worry, we won’t be long.” Elvis said.

    We entered the room and we were greeted by the smell of a strong perfume, it was no surprise, for a SilentOrchid tree was growing in a large pot in the corner of the room, its strong aroma is said to calm patients in a great deal of pain.

    In the other corner of the room I saw the person who was probably Antantaru, his was lying on bed, a nurse was standing beside him. I felt a bit a repulsive when I looked at Antantaru, his head was wrapped in a thickly woven bandages. Even with the coverings around his arms I could till see some still wet blood around the edges. There were still many details I refuse to put to words.

    Elvis walked up to the bed. “Antantaru Kyōdai, can you tell us what happened?” 

    I took by this that Elvis was going to do the talking, so I pulled up myself a chair and took out a pen and notepad.

    “Well ...” He began weakly. "I woke up at night because…I don’t quite remember why but.. I decided to go to the kitchen..I think I was going to get something..then I saw something move..”

    “What was it?” Elvis asked.

    “I don’t … know I didn’t see it well enough, then something hit me in the back, I…I tried to defend myself but I couldn’t see what I was fighting.”

    Antantaru was  taking harder breaths now as if telling us made it difficult to breath.

    “Then after I while I was thrown to the floor..I think I broke something when I hit the floor, then I..I saw four b-blades come down, I couldn’t move..away..they.. they…” he started shaking his head as if trying not to think about it.

    The nurse beside him started to look worried and called for a assistant.

    “It..it had four arms..”I heard Antantaru stamper.

    By this time he was shaking badly, the nurses were already trying to calm him down. One of them looked at me and Elvis with pleading eyes as if asking us to leave.

    Without further ado me and Elvis left.

    “So what do you think?” I asked Elvis.

    “Very peculiar. Four arms; I haven’t heard of many species four arms, I know there are some particular ogres and many different dragon breeds with four arms.”

    “Hmmm and something even more strange.” I said.

    “And what is that?”

    “Elvis can you lip-read?” I asked.

    “No.” 

    “Well I can and I noticed something that Antantaru said.”

    “What is that?” Elvis asked already interested.

    “It is that Thai wasn’t in her bed.”

    “Interesting,” Elvis said drifting into deep thought before asking.’ So what do you suggest we do now.”

    I drew a deep breath. "We go get lunch.”

    Elvis sighed in disappointment, but I didn’t care -- I missed breakfast, I wouldn’t last much longer without something to eat. Besides I had a plan already that I needed to discuss with Elvis.

10.30.2020

SHORT STORY: MONSTER IN THE SHADOWS - PROLOGUE


By Anna Blackwell (October 2020, age 13)

    Antantaru woke up with a sudden jerk. Thunder rumbled outside the dojo and rain splashed hard on the windows. He felt that something was wrong. Getting up he crept out of the bed chamber, being careful not to wake his fellow pupils.

    As he made his way down the long corridors, he decided that maybe a cup of honeydew tea would calm his nerves. He didn’t know why he felt so anxious that night.

    A flash of lightning came from outside and Antantaru caught a glimpse of something move. Getting on a on guard fighting position Antantaru cautiously moved forward. Something was inside the dojo.

    Suddenly he felt something hit him forcefully in the back, forcing him onto the floor.

    Antantaru rolled over to avoid any other incoming blows. Lighting lit the room for a split second. He caught barely a glimpse of the mysterious foe before a fist hit him in the face. Antantaru touched his mouth; he felt blood on his hand. Whatever he was up against could strike harder and faster than Antantaru had ever encountered.

    “The lights, I have to turn on the lights.” Antantaru said.

    When he got up, fierce hands grabbed his shoulders so fiercely Antantaru gasped for air and he was forced back to the ground.  He hit the floor with a crash. He was sure now he had broken something.

    Another flash of lighting lit up the corridor. Antantaru screamed as he saw four hideous arms wielding katanas come flying at him.

    “AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH……!”


TO BE CONTINUED NEXT WEEK!

10.28.2020

An Ordered Life

An ordered desk forms an ordered mind

All of us in the Blackwell family are busy between running a law practice, raising children, studying for school, the chores associated with a large household, etc. Finding time for painting toy soldiers and writing fiction is not always easy since duties must come before recreation. To find that time, we attempt to cultivate the virtue of the spirit of order.  The Catholic Manual of Civility, explains:


The spirit of order is a most precious quality. It should be included as one of the most indispensable attributes of a man in his private as well as his social life, because it extends itself beneficially to our personal actions as well as our relations with our neighbour.

This most beautiful attribute exercises a decisive influence over a man's success in life. Order gives value to our talents and qualities, and makes them fecund, just as its absence renders our highest aspirations barren and our best gifts futile.

Order is economy of time and money. It allows us to give a better quality and greater quantity of results in both our material and intellectual labours because with it, we take full advantage of time, avoiding dawdling, delay, and doubt.



In practice, this means living a regulated life. Many writers, being creative spirits, might balk at this idea, but it has allowed us to get many things done, including writing although there is always room for improvement. 

Regulating your life boils down to prioritization, scheduling and habit. Determine what you need to get done each day, and plan what you will do when. It doesn't need to be carved in stone, but we try to follow a very regular routine even though we have no written schedule. Dinner is at a certain time, the family rosary at another, and bedtime at yet another. An important key is to avoid opportunities for dissipation in this schedule. 

Catholic Manual of Civility. Ed. Horvat, Marian T., Ph.D. Tradition in Action. Los Angeles: 2008. p. 19

Available for sale at http://www.traditioninaction.org/books.htm; 160 pp.; $16.

10.26.2020

STAR WARS LEGION: 1.4 FD LASER CANNON TEAM

 By Godfrey and James Blackwell


We were quite happy with how this conversion/customization went. Out of the box, the 1.4 FD cannon comes in an Empire Strikes Back/Hoth style. To get it to fit in with the rest of James' Rebel army, we replaced the gunner with a rebel trooper from the box set and painted the commander in a temperate colour palette matching the others.

10.21.2020

Book Review: The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian


Title: The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian  
Author: Robert E. Howard  
Publisher: Del Rey  
Godfrey's Rating: 3 stars
Summary in a Sentence: A compilation of all the Robert E. Howard Conan stories, this collection is a classic that not just defined but created the "swords and sorcery" genre; Howard's bold style and somewhat purple prose make for good clean fun well-worth the modern reader's attention.

I picked-up the Kindle version of this book a few months back after Sophia's Favourite mentioned on his blog that he considered the Conan stories "good clean fun".  On the whole, I agree with the assessment and considered this collection a good read. Being an older work, you can get it for a fairly decent price as well, although unfortunately the version I got (which was only $0.99) is no longer available on Amazon.

When I say "good clean fun", there's quite a bit of violence with descriptions of brains splattering in the tradition of the Roman classics and Medieval chansons de geste, and while there are a fair number of scantily-clad ladies Conan is rather gentlemanly in his conduct with them, at least "on-screen". The stories are uncomplicated, pure action/adventure, so you should take them for what they are. These are to be read for fun and relaxation. One complaint I had, and which brings the collection down to a 3 where it might have been higher, is that the stories get a little repetitive after a while. There's definitely a formula to them, and while Howard does a pretty good job of mixing this up,  there's only so much variety available. I found the same with Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars books.

But these stories are certainly better than most of what passes for fantasy fiction today. Aside from creating the "swords and sorcery" subgenre, this collection also features one of the seminal "anti-heroes". Conan is not just a barbarian, but a mercenary, brigand, and thief. He lives for the thrill of battle, the taste of wine and good meat, and the embrace of a woman. For all that, he does have a certain honour and decency which especially comes out when he is placed in positions of authority or when a vulnerable young woman is in his power. So he's certainly a palatable "anti-hero" although he seemed to have a bit of the "noble savage" about him which is a trope I've never been a fan of.

On the whole, the collection deserves a solid 3 stars and I recommend that any fan of fantasy in general and swords and sorcery in particular, read it.

10.14.2020

Godfrey's "5 Favourite Military Science Fiction Novels"


Been quite a while since we did a "top five" list. This is Godfrey's list of the best/his favourite military science fiction novels. Readers are, as always not just free but invited to disagree and discuss his choices in the comments box or make recommendations for works we have probably missed.



Storm of Iron by Graham McNeil - A Black Library publication set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, which narrowly edges out His Last Command by Dan Abnett and Dead Men Walking by Steve Lyons (both same publisher and setting). A lot of Black Library stuff is maligned as barely more than fan fiction or “war porn”, however, I found these three works are the cream of the crop and I found them to be excellent on the whole, each capturing aspects of military life and combat in their own way. But Storm of Iron gets the nod for the intermingling of great heroism and futility, and its scope and variety, featuring an entire campaign that involves everything from grunts, to tanks, to towering titans. It gets fifth place because it is set in a setting that is perhaps not as “serious” as others, and is much further removed from our own time (set in the 41st millennium) than others. 


Star Wars Heir to the Empire Trilogy by Timothy Zahn - Many would say this is not truly military sic fi, but more Star Wars space fantasy, but Timothy Zahn treats this continuation of the Star Wars story after Return of the Jedi as military fiction and does a fantastic job of following Grand Admiral Thrawn’s campaign to defeat the New Republic and reinstitute the Empire. It is full of strategy and military actions all done in a realistic way taking into account the setting and with very well executed characters. This is what they should have based Episode VII-IX off of in my opinion. 


The Forever War by Joe Haldeman - Much deserving of the appellation “classic” this is a fantastic portrayal of the life of a soldier who must deal not only with the wiles of drill sergeants and the army being the army, but with the added element of time dilation making it impossible to return home. My one complaint is that while army life was very realistically portrayed based on my own limited experience, the way that Haldeman thinks female soldiers could be integrated into the army is not credible to the point of seeming like pornographic fantasy in parts. This isn’t a minor quibble because this element features heavily into the narrative, but is greatly compensated for by the very realistic portrayal of warfare (actually making realistic, slower-than-light star ship combat occurring at millions of kilometres not mind-numbingly boring). 


The Mote in God’s Eye by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, and Steve Barnes - I’ve sung this work’s praises in the past, but it warrants mention again and listing in second place on my list. It’s portrayal of military life is admittedly much more in keeping with my own prejudices I’ll admit, and I don’t pretend to be unbiased in this list. But military life aboard a star ship is well portrayed here and although the “campaign” featured is more of exploration and first contact, it still fits in the list and is very well done.



Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein - The novel of Mobile Infantry in their armoured combat suits that carry tactical nukes and can leap over buildings gets my vote for best military science fiction. Heinlein, another war veteran, totally “nailed” military life in my view, and combined it with innovating and interesting technology and a compelling military campaign against bug aliens. Lots of great political commentary as well, and lessons on being a good soldier and leader.

10.07.2020

The Death of Cinemas?


    Just a few weeks after I shared a teaser trailer for the new Dune film and shared some thoughts on David Lynch's 1984 version, it was announced that Dune's release is being delayed almost a year to October 2021. In the wake of this, Regal and Cineworld are closing all of their cinemas in the UK and US. One wonders how long other chain can hold out.

    This leaves me wondering whether cinemas will even exist come the fall of 2021. As a science fiction/fantasy fan, this makes me sad as these films are at their best with the big screen and big sound. Although we have not had many opportunities to attend the cinema, it has provided great memories such as watching Interstellar with Albert on IMAX, and even though it was not the best movie, watching The Force Awakens with Albert and Anna will always be with us.

    Although we have a projector, it's still not quite the same as going out to see a film, getting some bad way overpriced popcorn, etc.

    On the other hand, I'm not too sad to see fewer films being released with liberal, feminist, or pornographic elements which all to many films have. Part of the reason we've attended the cinema so infrequently is because so many films are not something we'd want to watch.

    How do our readers feel about this news?

10.02.2020

COMIC: PEOPLE HELPING PEOPLE

 By Godfrey Blackwell


Here is a comic I drew back in 2012, envisioning what might have happened to me if young Albert had been in government school at the time drawing the sorts of stuff he likes to draw, after reading about this travesty:   https://kitchener.ctvnews.ca/kitchener-dad-receives-apology-after-arrest-and-strip-search-1.834997

(Yes, a man really was arrested because his daughter drew a picture of her dad "shooting monsters" at school)






9.28.2020

ARTWORK: AKINIMOD THE HOARDER OF OATMEAL AND SLIPPERS

 By Barbara Blackwell (September 2020, age 10)




The children were playing around with dragon names, and based off an internet meme took whatever they last ate plus what was to their left as the things that the dragon is a hoarder of. They enjoyed it so much the made pictures!

9.25.2020

SHORT STORY: UNDEAD NORTH, PART 3 of 3

 By Godfrey Blackwell


    The street outside the Avon Police Service Headquarters was eerily quiet. Thick pillars of greasy black smoke billowed upwards in three directions from unseen fires. It looked like half the city was on fire. Car alarms and screams sounded faintly with distance, but the immediate area seemed clear save garbage strewn about and a dozen or so bodies with head wounds. A wrecked car had ploughed into the L.C.B.O. across the street which appeared thoroughly looted.

    “Look, guys,” Alex said. “I know you need to get out to Falsaff, Paul. Namest, I know your wife is in Toronto … I’ve got to get to my own family. I’ve left them way too long. I waited because I knew there was no getting through the s-show yesterday, but I’ve got to go. You get to yours”

    “We should stick together,” I said.

    “And then who has to abandon his family?” Alex asked. “If we stick together we can only go in one direction.”

    “We’ll go get your family, then all of us head out to my place. It’s in the country, it’s more secure.”

    “There’s already one zombie family out there, man!”

    “He already killed it,” Namest said. “Paul’s right, we safer together, bro.”

    “Look, you know my place is a good setup, and we have less of a chance of making it anywhere if we split up. Now let’s see if we can’t find a vehicle.”

    “All right, man.” Alex sighed.

    We found a police S.U.V. around the side of the station. A well-gnawed officer lay sprawled beside it, with an apparently self-inflicted head wound. I fought back my rising gorge and searched the body for keys. I found them, but as I rose, I heard Alex curse and saw a half-dozen shambling shapes approaching us from each direction.

    Namest raised his fists and danced forward. “Get car started, bro!”

    He punched one of the zombies right in the chin with a devastating blow that sent it hurtling backwards. I decided I never, ever, wanted to be punched by the former Olympian. Alex grabbed the keys from me and jumped in the driver’s seat.

    “You’re a better shot than me!”

    He cranked the engine and I dropped to a knee, taking aim at the former Avon residents approaching from the other direction. I shivered as I looked into those vacant stares and remembered Mohammed’s iron grip. I told myself to calm down and forced myself to stop shaking. With six quick shots, they were all down. Alex pulled the car around and Namest and I jumped in. The zombies he’d toppled weren’t “dead”, but they were still trying to get up as we tore out of the alleyway.

    Out in the suburbs, things weren’t quite as bad. There were no bodies, and though there were a couple people frantically packing their cars, there were others out in their yards expressing confusion and denial. Alex’s wife and baby daughter were shaken but unhurt. Sparing a half hour to back some food and belongings, we had them bundled into the police S.U.V. and were speeding out of town.

    I knew our luck had been way too good (since escaping the police station, anyway), and it did not hold long enough to get us out to Falstaff. Near the eastern edge of the Avon, a heavily-laden minivan suddenly caromed out of a side street and slammed into us, sending the S.U.V. skidding sideways and a wheel flying.

    The airbag almost knocked me out and I sat dazed in the front passenger seat for several moments trying to figure out what had happened while Alex’s baby girl screamed in the back. I blinked to clear my view and fought the now useless airbag out of the way. I looked back; miraculously, despite a lack of car seat, the baby seemed more scared than hurt. The good old mom arms that we relied on back in the 80s worked, I guess.

    I had to kick the door a good ten times to get it open and I spilled out onto the pavement. I was able to get up and reassure myself that I was just banged around but not seriously hurt. I wiped blood from my upper lip and saw that Namest was already over at the van that slammed into us. Its windshield was spider-webbed and the big ex-boxer shook his dead.

    “He dead bro. Stupid kurva killed himself and almost us.”

    I started limping over. “Anyone else in there?”

    As if on cue, a woman started screaming from the passenger seat about her baby. She was nearly incoherent with hysteria as I reached the passenger side while Namest wrestled the driver’s side sliding door open.

    “Ok, calm down, ma’am,” I said. “We’ll check her out. Namest?”

    Bozhe moy!” Namest cursed, jumping back.

    At the same moment I heard a rasping growling sound coming from the second row of seats in the van and my stomach did a slow somersault. I crossed myself and rushed around the van dreading what I would see. Namest was cradling a bleeding arm, and strapped into the child seat behind the driver’s seat, thrashing around was what had once been a little girl, maybe three years old. Her skin was greenish grey and blood ran down her chin below those same horrifically glazed, dead eyes I’d seen several times now.

    “Oh Lord,” I staggered back and put a hand to my mouth. If I had eaten more recently than two days before I probably would have been sick.

    The woman in the van had stopped screaming and gotten herself unbuckled. I lunged back towards the van in an attempt to stop her, but as I reached the open sliding door she had the thing that had been her child out of the seat. I couldn’t watch. I grabbed Namest and dragged him back to the wrecked police vehicle.

    “Paul, what’s going on over there?”

    “You don’t want to know,” I said. “We’ve got to get out of here. Let’s grab everything we can carry, and start hiking. Even if we don’t find another car, we can get to my place by dark if we move.”

    Alex looked doubtful, but he took his own toddler into his arms and started loading up. I had a look at Namest’s arm.

    “Man, that doesn’t look good,” I said. “She — it … took a chunk out of you.”

    A small half-moon about the size of a fortune cookie was missing from his arm and blood dripped down onto the pavement.

    “I be okay, bro.”

    I splashed peroxide we’d taken from Alex’s house on the wound and bound it. I had a pretty good idea by now that whatever was happening to people, it was some sort of communicable disease. I think we all knew. We grabbed as much stuff as we could; fortunately we’d found a few backpacks when loading up. As we moved past the van, I paused to fire two rounds into it. Then muttering “recquiscat in pace”, moved off.


***


    After a bad spot where we had to outrun a large group of zombies, we decided to travel off-road through the huge fields of soya and corn that surrounded Avon, reasoning that there’d be less chance of encountering anyone or anything. We couldn’t move nearly as fast as I’d hoped, and by five p.m. I knew there was no way we were getting to Falsaff before dark.

    Namestnikov put up a brave face and showed great perseverance, but I could tell he was in pain and his condition was deteriorating. He was sweating and staggering an hour after our ordeal with the minivan.

    A half hour after that he fell flat on his face and slowly pushed himself up onto his elbows with a confused and scared look on his face. I brushed away his weak attempt to brush me off and checked his wound. It was livid and stank awfully. His whole arm was festering with infection and he was feverish. He put his good hand on my shoulder.

    “They got me, bro.”

    I reached up and squeezed his hand. Looking around, I saw a farm house about half a kilometre or so to the north. “We’ll find you a place to rest, Namest.”

    “You and Alex, you both Catholic, eh?” The huge Ukrainian asked.

    “Yeah, yeah we are.”

    “I was raised Catholic,” Namest said. “Ukrainian Catholic. Not go to church for years though … I … I don’t think I have long left.”

    “Let’s get you to that farm house.”

    Alex and I practically carried the huge Ukrainian the 500 meters and were winded and exhausted ourselves by the time we got there. After pounding on the doors and yelling for several minutes, I kicked in the door and we dragged Namest into the living room where we laid him on a couch. Alex’s wife made him as comfortable as she could with pillows and blankets scavenged from elsewhere in the house.

    “Alex, you and your family better wait outside” I said nervously.

    “You going to be okay, Paul? What if he?”

    “Just go. Pray.”

    He nodded and stepped outside with his wife and their baby who was now sleeping in her arms. With a long exhale, I knelt next to Namest. His eyes were glassy and his lips parched. He could barely speak but he gestured for me to come closer.

    “Maybe you better take care of me now, before …”

    “No way, I’m not killing a human man like a dog.” I took his hand. “I’ll stay with you until … until …”

    “Until the end. Bro, you think I go to hell?”

    “You don’t want to, do you? God never abandoned anyone who didn’t first abandon him.”

    “But I did … I wish we had priest here …”

    At my job as a history professor at the Avon campus of Conestoga College — which felt like a thousand years ago now — I specialized in Medieval History with an especial focus on the Crusades. I remember reading about crusaders hearing each other’s confessions before battle when there weren’t enough priests around. It had been something I’d meant to ask my own priest about. From my own studies it seemed a theologically dubious practice at best, but on the other hand it could help stir up a true perfect contrition. I suggested it to Namest and he agreed. With his last breath we prayed the Act of Contrition together.

    As his ragged breathing came to a stop I backed quickly across the room and brought the C-8 to my shoulder, thumbing off the safety. With my finger on the trigger I watched him, heart pounding, for several long minutes. Sweat trickled down into my eyes and stung them but I kept focused. He never reanimated though.

I     don’t know if we’ll ever find out why he didn’t where so many others did. Did he have a certain level of immunity? Is only a certain percentage of the population “reanimated” by the disease? Or is there a supernatural aspect to the physical affliction? The latter is my own theory, but I haven’t found a priest yet to ask … even before the “Zombie Apocalypse” there was only one priest I’d consider valid in all of Ontario, my own pastor at Our Lady of Sorrows. I don’t know whether he survived. I pray he did; but the chapel was a two hour drive from my home in non-apocalyptic times. I’m going to have to wait for the zombies’ numbers to be thinned out by starvation, or decomposition, or whatever, before I attempt that hike. And even then, with the new barbarian hordes, I think I’d want my children older.

    We buried Namest in the farmer’s back yard and spent the night in his house. Never did see a sign of the farmer or his family. We hiked all the next day and it was rough going, but we made it. Thank God, Nadejda had holed up good inside the house. Alex and I were able to clean off the zombies we found outside. As I said, Falstaff had maybe a hundred people living in it, and I was immensely pleased to discover — to my surprise — that my neighbour Joe two doors down was a closet prepper with a secret stash of weapons. And the Poulin family down the other street’s oldest son was a sci fi guy who saw what was going down and convinced them to batten down the hatches. So not everyone was dead, or turned, or whatever you might call it. And we had the beginnings of a human enclave.

9.23.2020

Dune ... by David Lynch!

 


    Some thoughts from Godfrey this Wednesday afternoon ...

    I'm sure most readers are aware of the release, last week, of the first trailer's for Denis Villeneuve's new adaptation of the classic science fiction novel DUNE, which will be released in December. This got me thinking about the 1984 adaptation by David Lynch and I wanted to share some of those with you.

    Lynch's adaptation is largely hated and apparently even the director himself was unhappy with how it turned out, saying it's the only film he made that he's not proud of. It was one of my favourite films growing up, however, and I can't count how many times I watched it.

    It's far from perfect, but there has always been a lot I liked about it. Maybe in part because I saw the movie before reading the novel, I was able to take it completely on its own without comparison to the book. The thing I loved most were the sets, costumes, and overall atmosphere that Lynch created. He did an excellent job of creating a fully immersive film and portraying the uncomfortable themes (including the Byzantine politics) and even some of the weird mythical stuff very well. I personally loved the baroque/Art Deco styling. The visuals and cinematography were epic and gorgeous really giving a feel for the planet Arrakis and the massiveness of the whole universe Herbert created.

    I was actually rather underwhelmed when I finally read the novels and for a long time preferred the Lynch adaptation to the original material. I have come to enjoy each in its own way. I certainly think that Lynch's Dune is NOT worthy of the scorn that is heaped upon it.

    The cast was, for the most part, superbly cast and delivered great performances. I know that Kyle McLaughlan is hated as Paul Atreides, the main protagonist but I never had a problem with him. Maybe he wasn't the most inspiring leader type, but he's also supposed to be a 15 year old boy (albeit Kyle was more like mid-20s). Patrick Stewart and Jurgen Protchnow were absolutely epic in the film and I don't know how a guy I've never heard of and Poe Dameron can replace them, but we'll see!

    Just in case you missed it, there's the trailer I mentioned:



9.18.2020

SHORT STORY: UNDEAD NORTH, PART 2 of 3

By Godfrey Blackwell 


    “Are you frigging kidding me?” Alex, one of my fellow parishioners at Our Lady of Sorrows chapel, where we both attended the Latin Mass, screamed at me over the phone. “You know, I told you that you shouldn’t watch that garbage. But this is taking it way too…”

    “Alex, come on,” I said. “You know me. I’m not crazy. I’m telling you what I saw. Tell me you haven’t been hearing weird stuff about this latest pandemic anyway.”

    “Oh who knows man, the mainstream media isn’t saying anything and the internet is the internet. Look, I’m not debating this with you. If my advice to a client to keep his mouth shut was ever important, I’m telling you now to keep your mouth completely shut! Don’t spew any of this zombie nonsense to the police!”

    “Yeah ok, I won’t but —“

    “No buts, keep your mouth shut. This is bad enough. I can already see the headlines: WHITE SUPREMACIST/CATHOLIC EXTREMIST GUNS DOWN SYRIAN IMMIGRANT.  Look, I’ll be down for bail court in the morning. Until then you just keep your mouth shut.”

    “Alright. You talked to Nadejda?”

    “Yes, she’s squared away. Look … I’ve got to go, but I know one of my longtime clients, a guy named Namestnikov got arrested this evening too. You’ll be sharing cells with him. Tell him you know me and he’ll look out for you. I know this isn’t your normal scene.”

    I was a history professor at the Avon campus of Conestoga College. It absolutely was not my normal scene. It all started hitting me for real, as I mumbled a thanks and hung up the phone. The nervous-looking special constable hustled me out of the search room with the phone and down the hall into one of the row of holding cells attached to the Avon Police Service headquarters on the ground floor of the Avon Courthouse.

    He left without a word. There was only one row of cells, all next to each other, so I could not see how many of the others were occupied.

    “Yo, nice to have some company,” a voice with a heavy Ukrainian accent said.

    “Uh … I take it you’re Namestnikov.”

    “Hey, how’d you know?”

    “I guess we both have the same lawyer. Alex Velasquez is actually a pretty good friend.”

    “Yo, respect,” a huge fist came out from the next cell. I reluctantly gave it a fist bump. “You can call me Namest. What you in for, bro?”

    “Uhhh … it’s a long story.”

    “You’re not in here for doing something to a kid are you?”

    “No! Good grief no … I … oh, hell, I shot a guy. At least, I think it was a guy. It was …”

    “You shoot a zombie?”

    “What makes you ...?”

    Namestnikov chuckled. “You Canadians man, if the TV don’t say it real, you don’t believe it. I read the real news online. I know. I seen enough govno.”

    “Well, if zombies are real then that’s what I shot,” I said. “It was my neighbour’s body, but he was walking all weird, just making growling sounds like an animal. And those eyes … I shot him five times before he went down.”

    “Last one in the head, right?”

    “Yeah …”



***




    No one came to take us to bail court the next morning. By about noon on the clock in the hallway outside the cell block, we still hadn’t seen anyone and Namest started banging on the cells and shouting to let us out. At about seven in the evening, we heard what we thought were gunshots, lots of them, in the main area of the police station but we could see nothing as our view was blocked by the concrete walls separating us from the hall that led to the search rooms, let alone the other concrete wall separating that from the main station, all with locked steel doors.

    Through it all, the fluorescent lights hummed and cast the same bluish-white hue commingling night with day. By ten the next morning I admitted to Namest that not only had I been drinking from the toilet bowl in my cell I was getting really concerned.

    “Zombies, bro,” Namest said. “We gotta get out of here. Can you see anything?”

    My cell was the first in the row of holding cells and I could see through the doorway into the hallway that led down into the main police offices.

    “I can see the locker where the guard put the cell key,” I said. “But it’s a good fifteen feet away. No way could I reach that.”

    I looked around my cell for the thousandth time. There was just the concrete floor, the concrete slab that was supposed to be a “bed” and the stainless steel toilet. I had the rough blanket they’d given me, which was maybe six feet long.

    “Namest, you’ve got a blanket, right?”

    Tak.”

    “What about the cell next to you? Is there one in there? Can you reach it?”

    There was, and I was able to tie the three blankets together. I tried flipping them at the locker holding the keys like a long whip. The blankets heavy and it was unweildy, but I kept at it, whipping the long chain up and down repeatedly. It was impossible to have any accuracy. I finally sat down hard, sweating and out of breath.

    After resting a bit, I tried at it again. Then I froze as there was a loud bang from down the hall.

    Kurva!” Namest shouted. “What that, bro?”

    There was another metallic KLANG!

    “It sounds like it’s coming from that door just across from us.”

    There was another crash and this time I saw the door shudder.

    “That goes up to courtrooms,” Namest said.

    Oh man, here it comes, I thought to myself. I retreated as far back in my cell as I could get as visions of Mohhamed’s blank eyes and that iron grip flashed through my mind. I crossed myself and prayed. There was nothing else I could do … when zombies poured through that door we’d have no way to fight them, but they also wouldn’t be able to reach us.

    The door flew open with a boom like a gun shot and I jumped. But instead of a ravenous zombie, my friend Alex Velasquez burst through.

    “Alex!” I gasped with relief. “What are you doing here?”

    “Saving your sorry butt,” he smiled. “Plus I was hoping to find some living cops, or at least some of those AR-15s our benevolent overlords decided 'have no place in civilized society' … since we’re no longer in civilized society!”

    He retrieved the keys from the locker I’d been trying to open with the blankets and as he released us from our cells explained that the night I’d been arrested there were riots and mass panic throughout Southern Ontario. By the morning, no justice of the peace or judge could be found to run court and every officer who actually showed up for work was trying to keep zombies and chaos at bay. By the afternoon it was complete societal collapse.

    “I just decided to hunker down in my office and wait for the worst to die down,” he said. “But darn it if you weren’t right, it really is the zombie apocalypse!”

    “You sound almost cheerful about it,” I said.

    Alex shrugged. “What am I gonna do, be all Eyeore like you about it?” He winked. “I won’t lie, it’s been pretty intense out there. And I’m starved. Let’s see if we can get some guns, then scare up some food.”

    With the fire axe Alex had used to get the first door open, we smashed our way through into the main area of the police station. It was a mess of overturned tables, smashed chairs, and blood. We found no bodies, but we found a couple of C-8 patrol carbines and a few magazines.

    “Well, at least police could be trusted with thirty rounds” I said, checking the load on my weapon. “Although I’d still like another half dozen mags each. We need one more for Namest though.”

    “Nah, I okay with these,” the Ukrainian said, holding his massive fists up in a boxing pose. “I won a bronze for Canada with these in Beijing. And I never touched a popgun.”

    “I don’t know if getting close to those things is a good idea,” I said. “But we’ve wasted enough time in here. We need to hit the road. I need to get home.”
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