Joey Mac and the Pearlescent Unicorn Uniform (Redux) – Part 4

Read Part One Here / Read Part Two Here / Read Part Three Here

As the guards raced from one staged crisis to another, Joey’s phone buzzed with an unexpected text message from his now-former boss, Jaclyn. Her suspicions had been raised by his sudden disappearance during his PAUTU abduction, the security logs showed his keycard was used to gain entry after normal work hours, the alarm system was indicating a security breach, and the cameras were all offline. As he read her message, demanding to know his whereabouts, his heart raced.

“It’s Jaclyn,” Joey told Lexy and Boomzie. “I didn’t realize she’d still be here this late. I need to go see her.”

“It’s a double cross!” Boomzie said. “I knew we couldn’t trust you!”

“Don’t be stupid! I need to stall her,” Joey barked. “I’ll try to buy you as much time as I can.”

Joey didn’t bother waiting for their response. He hurried toward Jaclyn’s office, racking his brain for a plausible explanation for his presence. Taking a deep breath, Joey knocked on the door to Jaclyn’s office, and when she called for him to enter, he stepped inside, wearing a look of concern.

“Ja — I mean, Boss…” Joey wanted to slap himself for almost calling her by her name. A name he shouldn’t know.

“What did you call me?”

“I—I was going to say Janice,” he stammered, his voice tense. “I was thinking about my mother. Long story, but there’s no time for that now. I came as soon as I heard about the security breach.”

“A breach that happened right after you arrived. After hours. You’re never here at this time.”

“I came to make up my hours.”

Jaclyn’s eyes narrowed, and she set down the pen she was holding. “Why exactly did you miss work yesterday? And why didn’t you call in or return any of my messages?”

Joey hesitated for a moment, trying to look as if he was collecting his thoughts. “I had a family emergency that I couldn’t discuss with anyone. I didn’t want to involve the company in my personal matters.”

“Funny how your personal matter happened to coincide with the only day the protestors decided not to show up since they began their attack against our company.”

“What are you suggesting? That I’m colluding with the PAUTU? All due respect, Boss, but are you insane? They hate me, me personally, more than they hate you or your company! They’ve made it their mission to systematically destroy my reputation and my life! How dare you…!”

“Calm yourself, Mr. MacDonal. I’m merely trying to ascertain what’s going on here. You do have to admit the timing is interesting.”

“All right, but we can discuss all this later and if you want to interrogate me, fine, knock yourself out. But right now we have a potential security breach on our hands. Maybe it’s a false alarm, but better safe than sorry.”

“The security is handling the matter,” Jaclyn said, not entirely convinced. “And what exactly can you do to help with this situation?”

Joey thought quickly. “Well, first, we need to make sure everyone in the building is safe. I can help coordinate with the security team to lock down the facility and ensure no unauthorized personnel can get in or out. Then, I can work on finding out who’s behind the breach and make sure they don’t cause any more damage.”

Jaclyn studied him for a moment. “Fine, but I’ll be keeping a close eye on you, Mr. MacDonal. One wrong move, and you’ll regret the day you decided to cross me.”

Joey nodded, feigning relief. “Copy that, Boss.”

***

During the planning stage of the heist, Marlene knew they would need a vehicle large enough to transport the unicorns safely, and she had just the place in mind. Earlier in the week, she scoped out a nearby construction site, noticing several heavy-duty trucks that would be perfect for their mission. She made a mental note of the site’s security measures and knew she could get in and out without raising any alarms.

On the night of the heist, before making a move on the butchery, Marlene and Glitcher approached the construction site, dressed in dark clothing to blend in with the shadows. Glitcher pulled out her laptop, quickly tapping into the site’s security network and disabling the cameras and motion detectors for a brief period.

They slipped through the chain-link fence and Marlene spotted the vehicle they needed—a large, flatbed truck with tall sides, perfect for keeping the unicorns hidden during their escape. She approached the driver’s side door, pulling a lock-picking kit from her pocket. Within moments, she had the door open, and they climbed inside.

Glitcher plugged a small device into the truck’s ignition, overriding the security system and allowing Marlene to start the engine without a key. They drove the truck carefully out of the construction site and toward the butchery, making sure to avoid any security cameras or police patrols along the way.

***

Flexy Lexy and Boomzie guided the unicorns off the freight elevator and into the loading bay where Marlene had parked the “borrowed” truck. They expertly herded the creatures onto the truck, ensuring that they were as comfortable as possible under the circumstances. Marlene sat in the cab, anxiously scanning the area for any signs of trouble. She noticed that Joey wasn’t with them. “Where’s Joey Mac?” she asked, her voice tense.

“He went to see Jaclyn,” Lexy replied. Marlene’s expression darkened, and she jumped to the conclusion that Joey had set them up. Lexy quickly reassured her, “No, he’s buying us time, keeping her distracted.”

Marlene hesitated for a moment, then instructed Lexy and Boomzie, “Hop in the van with Glitcher. I’ll pull out first, you follow behind. If this gets hairy, I may need you to run interference for me.”

“So, we’re ditching him?” asked Boomzie.

“You developing a soft spot?”

“Not at all. Just never been a fan of leaving a man behind, if he’s on the up and up. If he’s not, screw him. Problem with that is: he knows where we’re holed up.”

“One crisis at a time, Boomz,” Marlene said. “Besides, there’s no point in staying. We’ve got what we came here for. Butcher boy can find his own way from here.”

Marlene turned the key, and the truck’s engine rumbled to life. She shifted gears and eased her foot onto the gas pedal, slowly maneuvering the large vehicle out of the loading bay. Once she made it onto the main road, she picked up speed, heading back to their base.

Constantly checking her rearview mirror to ensure they weren’t being followed, the only thing Marlene saw was Glitcher’s van keeping a comfortable distance… and some idiot running at breakneck speed on the sidewalk, waving his arms in a desperate attempt to flag her down. An idiot who bore a striking resemblance to an infamous butcher of unicorns.

Marlene slammed on the brakes, the truck screeching to a halt. The sudden stop caused the vehicle to jolt, and Marlene gripped the steering wheel tightly to maintain control. Joey reached the truck, his face flushed and his chest heaving from the exertion, and Marlene swung open the passenger side door, allowing him to clamber into the cab.

As Joey settled into the seat beside her, still catching his breath, he asked, “You were really going to leave me?”

“I stopped for you, didn’t I?” Marlene replied, her voice firm but not unkind, before shifting gears and resuming their escape.

As they drove away, Joey pulled out his phone to call Jaclyn. Marlene eyed him suspiciously and reached for the phone, but before she could stop him, Jaclyn answered.

“Jaclyn,” Joey panted, “I quit!”

Marlene relaxed slightly, but then she was struck by a thought. “You know, if she’s the only one who knows how to get that uniform off you, and you no longer work for her, I guess that means you’re kind of stuck with it, no pun intended.”

Joey let out a small, humorless laugh. “I can’t be sure she was telling the truth in the first place, but if she knows, that means someone else does too. So, I’ll keep searching until I find a way.”

Marlene nodded. “You’ll figure it out. And hey, at least it looks pretty cool.”

Joey sighed. “Yeah, but there are some… practical issues to deal with.”

“Like what?” Marlene asked, curious.

“Well, for starters, I haven’t been able to wash since I got this thing on. And you don’t even want to know about the bathroom situation,” Joey admitted, grimacing.

“So, that’s grafted to you all over?”

“Every. Single. Inch.”

“Now you’ve got me curious, but you’re right, I probably don’t want to know the intimate details. I do have one question for you, though.”

“Shoot.”

“What’s it like being a walking Ken doll?” Marlene couldn’t help but chuckle.

“Shut up and drive.”

***

In the days and weeks following their daring rescue, the PAUTU team worked relentlessly, leaving no stone unturned in their efforts to secure a safe and nurturing sanctuary for the rescued unicorns. They reached out to and collaborated with animal sanctuaries, wildlife conservation organizations, and experts from all around the globe, working tirelessly to ensure that each of the creatures would be provided with a secure and caring environment in which to thrive.

As for Jaclyn Hailee Dean, she found herself facing a storm of public outrage, fueled by the PAUTU’s exposure of her inhumane treatment of the unicorns. In response to the public outcry, lawmakers were compelled to scrutinize the existing regulations, ultimately passing new legislation that imposed strict guidelines for the ethical treatment of mythical creatures. Jaclyn’s butchery was shut down, as it failed to meet the newly established standards. Additionally, she was forced to pay hefty fines and reparations for her actions, which were now deemed unlawful. As for the PAUTU, they leveraged public support to avoid criminal theft charges, arguing that their actions had been in the best interest of the unicorns and had ultimately led to positive changes in the industry. The downfall of Jaclyn’s business served as a warning to others who might consider engaging in the dark trade of unicorn butchering.

In the aftermath of the heist and the subsequent changes in the unicorn industry, Joey found himself at a crossroads. Although he was now in the PAUTU’s good graces, his reputation as a butcher had been tarnished, and the public was not always quick to forgive acts of animal cruelty. However, Joey saw this as an opportunity for a fresh start and a chance to reinvent himself.

Realizing that his skills as a butcher could be put to better use, Joey decided to use his knowledge and expertise to advocate for animal welfare and ethical practices in the food industry. With the support of the PAUTU and leveraging his insider’s perspective, Joey began giving talks and workshops, sharing his experiences to raise awareness about the treatment of animals and the need for more humane practices.

Over time, Joey’s dedication and commitment to this cause helped to rebuild his reputation. Although some still viewed him with skepticism, many appreciated his efforts to make amends for his past actions and recognized the value of his unique perspective in the ongoing fight for animal welfare. Slowly but surely, Joseph MacDonal II, Joey Mac to his pals, former enemy of the world, was able to forge a new path for himself, driven by his newfound passion and purpose.

The End

Joey Mac and the Pearlescent Unicorn Uniform (Redux) – Part 3

Read Part One Here / Read Part Two Here

Joey’s life was spiraling out of control, and the icing on the cake happened when he was leaving his shop after a long day of work. As he headed for his car, out of the corner of his eye, he spotted a suspicious man dressed in black, watching him intently. Alarmed, Joey picked up his pace.

As he turned a corner, a loud bang echoed through the street, and a section of the wall next to his face exploded. Brick fragments peppered his face, stinging but not blinding him. Fear overrode shock, and Joey darted into a nearby alley, seeking cover from the maniac taking potshots at him.

Joey was fortunate; this wasn’t one of those dead-end alleys—at least, not in the conventional sense. However, the man in black was far quicker than him and rapidly closed the gap between them. The gun fired several more times, but Joey assumed he wasn’t hit because he didn’t feel any pain, so he continued to navigate deeper into the complex network of alleys. His heart hammered in his chest, and adrenaline fueled his every move. He spotted a stack of wooden crates and, with a forceful kick, sent them crashing to the ground, forming a makeshift barricade that momentarily blocked the man in black’s pursuit. Muffled curses and the sound of the assassin scrambling over the debris filled the air.

Spotting his car parked at the end of the alley, Joey sprinted towards it, his legs aching and lungs burning. Desperate to escape the relentless pursuit, he fumbled with his keys and flung the car door open. As Joey climbed into the driver’s seat and slammed the door shut, he thought he had made it.

But he was wrong.

As he reached for the ignition, he was caught off guard by a sudden blow from behind. A figure, hidden in the back seat, had clobbered him. The world went dark as Joey’s consciousness slipped away.

***

“And then I woke up here,” Joey said.

The woman took a long moment to process everything in Joey’s story before speaking. “So, let me get this straight. You’re saying that uniform is made from a unicorn hide and you were tricked into wearing it?”

“I’m no fashion plate, but this definitely ain’t my style.”

“And you can’t take it off because it’s grafted to your skin?”

“See for yourself.”

Her curiosity piqued, the woman got up from her seat, approached Joey cautiously, and began to examine the edges of the uniform. She tugged at it, attempting to pull it away from his skin, and he winced, but the uniform remained firmly attached.

“Boss said…”

“Boss?”

“That’s what I call the woman I work for,” Joey said. “She refuses to tell me her name.”

“Jaclyn Hailee Dean.”

“Really? How did you…?”

“We have ways.”

“And how about you? What’s your name?”

“You can call me Marlene.”

“Okay, Marlene… the reason I took the job was because Dean—uh, Boss, that’s gonna take some getting used to—said she knew how to remove the uniform and agreed to do it if I signed and fulfilled a fixed-term contract.”

“Just because I can’t explain how a pearlescent uniform made from the hide of unicorns can graft itself to your skin doesn’t mean I can trust or should trust you. You’ve been butchering unicorns. That goes against everything I stand for.”

“Were you there, on the picket line?” Joey asked.

“Every single day.”

“Do you remember the first day when I came to work and saw the protest for the first time?”

“I certainly do.”

“This might be asking a bit much, but do you remember how long I stood there and watched your group? Did you happen to notice the expression I had on my face? My mother says I have no poker face. You can see what I’m feeling plain as day. Do you recall that Dean had to come outside and drag me into the building?”

Marlene hesitated before answering, “Yes, to all of that.”

“You have no idea how much I wanted to join your protest, how much this job has flushed my life down the toilet.”

“Choices have consequences.”

“Yeah, I know,” Joey said, unable to meet Marlene’s eyes. “What I’ve done is terrible. But I can’t turn back time and undo any of it. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to make amends.”

“You could have done that at any time. Hell, you could have said no from the start. Why the sudden change of heart?”

“Having someone trying to kill you is an excellent eye-opener.”

“We didn’t sanction that,” Marlene admitted. “Someone got a little carried away and took matters into their own hands. We caught up with him, and he’s been corrected.”

“Do I want to know what that means?”

“No. Definitely not.”

“Copy that,” Joey said. “So, what happens to me now, Marlene? I told you I’m down with your cause. Do you believe me, or do I need to be corrected too?” He meant that last bit to sound more confident than it came out.

Marlene studied Joey’s face, searching for any signs of deceit. After a long pause, she finally said, “All right, Joey Mac. I’ll take a gamble on you, but know this: if it even looks like you’re going to betray us, we’ll help you remove that shiny uniform of yours the hard way.”

“Copy that. Now, do you have the key to these cuffs? I’d really like the feeling to return to my hands.”

***

Unicorn rescue acquaints a man with strange bedfellows, and as night fell over the city, Joey Mac and his newfound allies from the PAUTU prepared to liberate a stable of mythical creatures from the clutches of the ruthless businesswoman, Boss née Jaclyn Hailee Dean.

Marlene gathered everyone around a table covered in blueprints and photographs of Jaclyn Hailee Dean’s butchery.

“All right, everyone, listen up,” Joey began, his voice filled with mock confidence and determination in hopes of earning the respect of the activists. “Tonight, we’re going to pull off the biggest rescue operation this city has ever seen. And we’re going to do it in style.”

“Just a sec,” Marlene said. “Who put you in charge?”

“Show of hands, who here has actually been inside the building, knows the physical layout, and actually has keycard access?” Joey said, putting his hand up and looking around the table for someone to join him. When no one did, he continued, “I think that answers your question. And since I’m the new guy here, maybe we should go around the table and introduce ourselves. You all know me, of course.”

The team members were handpicked by Marlene for their unique skills and expertise. There was Glitcher, the tech-savvy hacker; FlimFlam, the charming con artist; Flexy Lexy, the agile gymnast; and Boom-Boom, the explosives expert.

“So, I’m the only person with a real name here?” Joey asked.

“You want a code name? How about Butchie?” said Flexy Lexy. “Ooo, or Chop Sucky, what do you think?”

Joey cut the gymnast a look. “Joey Mac’ll be fine, thanks.”

With Marlene’s help, Joey outlined the plans for the heist which began as night fell, with Glitcher sitting in the back of a nondescript van parked near the butchery. Her fingers flew across the keys of her laptop as she breached the butchery’s security network with ease. With each keystroke, she disabled the security cameras and alarms one by one, rendering the building’s security team blind and oblivious.

Outside the butchery, FlimFlam received Glitcher’s green light signal through a subtle earpiece. He strode inside like a man with a purpose, wearing a perfectly tailored suit and carrying a clipboard, the picture of professionalism. As he approached the front desk, he flashed a confident smile and presented his forged health inspector credentials.

The guard on duty examined the documents and FlimFlam, master of persuasion that he was, kept up a steady stream of conversation, regaling the guard with anecdotes of past health inspections gone awry and the hefty fines imposed on those who failed to comply with regulations.

Meanwhile, Flexy Lexy and Boomzie, dressed in form-fitting all-black stealth gear, approached the butchery from a secluded alleyway. They moved with practiced precision, using grappling hooks to scale the outside wall and reach the rooftop. Safely on top, they located the access hatch Joey had mentioned in their planning session, and carefully opened it.

Inside, they navigated the dark, cramped air ducts, aided by their flashlights and guided by Joey’s whispered directions through their earpieces. They managed to make their way through the labyrinthine network of ducts.

When they reached their destination, Flexy Lexy gripped the edges of the vent cover, carefully removed it, and lowered herself into the room where the unicorns were being held. Fluid and graceful, she dropped to the floor, landing on the grass carpeting without a sound.

Along the way, Boomzie placed several explosives at strategic locations. He remained poised in the air duct, ready to create the necessary diversion at a moment’s notice. His hands hovered over the detonator, and when she gave the nod, the bomber triggered a series of muffled explosions that echoed through the building.

At the same time, Glitcher reactivated the butchery’s security system, setting off a cacophony of alarms and flashing lights. The combination of the alarms and the sound of the explosions threw the guards into a state of chaos and confusion. They panicked and scrambled to investigate the source of the disturbance.

Joey accessed the building with his keycard, stopping briefly to chat with the guards at the various security checkpoints just as he had done every day of his employment. When he reached the room marked “Unicorn Holding,” he found Flexy Lexy and Boomzie already there, awestruck by the sight. The entire space had been transformed to resemble a peaceful meadow, complete with artificial grass, trees, and even a small stream that trickled softly through the room.

The unicorns were huddled together in a corner, eyeing the two PAUTU members with a mixture of fear and curiosity. Though they shied away when the pair approached, their reaction to Joey was entirely different. As he stepped closer, the unicorns seemed to regard him as one of their own.

Noticing their bewildered expressions, Joey explained, “It’s the uniform. Maybe it makes them think I’m one of them.”

“Can you talk to them?” asked Lexy.

“Well, no, not in words exactly, but we understand each other.”

“Then Dr. Doolittle this thing and let’s get the hell out of here before the guards decide to check this room,” Boomzie said.

Joey calmed himself and reached out with his mind, broadcasting a series of images of Flexy Lexy and Boomzie frolicking in a field filled with unicorns.

Gradually, the unicorns allowed Flexy Lexy and Boomzie to come closer. Joey shared a moment of silent gratitude with the majestic creatures as he continued to reassure them because the most difficult and time-consuming part of the plan still lay before them. Somehow, amidst the chaos of blaring sirens, they had to lead the bewildered and disoriented unicorns through the labyrinth of hallways to the bank of freight elevators.

Not. The. End.

Joey Mac and the Pearlescent Unicorn Uniform (Redux) – Part 2

Read Part One Here

“They’re real?” Joey asked.

The woman couldn’t suppress her chuckle. “Our organization, as advanced as it is, isn’t able to manufacture live unicorns.”

“But how is this possible?” Joey took a cautious step into the room and felt the spongy grass beneath his shoe. He moved slowly so as not to spook a unicorn no more than ten feet away. The unicorn paid him no mind.

“Some trapper with an overabundance of dumb luck caught the last pair in existence by accident. Fortunately for him, and us, they were a stallion and mare. We made him a very wealthy man in order to breed them in captivity.”

“For food?” There went his tone again, but this time he didn’t care.

The woman shrugged. “There’s nothing else we can do with them. You can’t ride them. Young, old, virginal, virtuous… it doesn’t matter. They simply won’t allow it. Utilize the horn for its magical properties? It’s only magical for the unicorn; there’s no transference of power. Grinding down the horn and ingesting the powder for immortality? Turns out the human body is unable to digest the powder.”

“Then why not let them go?”

“Not until we recoup our investment. And we can’t risk one of our competitors getting hold of them and creating a revenue source we haven’t managed to think up ourselves… yet.”

“This is going to sound strange,” Joey said. “But I don’t know if I can do this.”

The woman looked at him with a mixture of amusement and annoyance. “You’re a butcher, aren’t you? An unemployed butcher who isn’t as financially secure as he’d like to be, and before you ask, yes, we had you vetted before arranging the interview. So let’s speak plainly here; you’re desperate for work, and this is a rare opportunity for someone in your field. Plus, the man who observed you in the butchery is a representative from the governing body that issues the unicorn butcher licenses, and he indicated that you made the grade, which means the pay bump you’ll receive will be exceptional.”

“There’s a governing body that issues unicorn butcher licenses?”

“Of course there is. The UPWC.”

“You Pee…?”

“Unicorn Preservation and Welfare Council. They ensure that licensed individuals have the necessary skills, knowledge, and ethical considerations to handle these rare and extraordinary creatures. And we’ve received FDA approval that licorneine is safe for human consumption; otherwise, what we’re doing here would be illegal.”

“Lee-kor-nayn?”

“It has a nicer ring to it than unicorn meat.”

“Licorneine, huh?” Joey said to himself as he watched the majestic creatures peacefully grazing in the field. An uneasiness settled in the pit of his stomach. “I’m not gonna lie to you; the money is tempting, and it would certainly help me climb out of a financial pit, but what about their lives? Don’t they have a right to live out their days in peace?”

The woman sighed. “How are they different from any other animal that winds up on your butcher block? Because they’re the stuff of myth and legend? By and large, the human race are omnivores. Everything is meant to be eaten. And while I understand your heartfelt concerns, you need to understand mine. I have a business to run, and these unicorns are currently my most valuable assets.”

Joey’s fists clenched and unclenched several times before he said, “I can’t do it. I can’t be a part of this.”

“I don’t need to tell you, you’ll be hard-pressed to find another opportunity like this one.”

“Chance of a lifetime, I know. But what does that matter if I can’t live with myself?” Joey said, his hands trembling ever so slightly. His vision blurred, and a peculiar tingling sensation traveled up his spine, bringing with it a faint feeling of lightheadedness.

It lasted for the briefest of moments, but when it was done, the colors in the room seemed intensified, their hues more vivid and saturated.

“There might be another way,” the businesswoman said, her countenance softer now, her expression friendlier.

Joey’s eyes widened. “What do you mean?”

“If you can find another way for the company to turn a profit, you could save these unicorns from their fate.”

Whoa. That was a heavy weight to drop on his shoulders. The only thing he ever knew in his entire life was how to be a damned fine butcher. How could he find a way to save these creatures and secure his own financial future? But one look into the eyes of the nearest unicorn, and he knew he had to try.

So, Joey took the job, but not as a butcher. Instead, he became the caretaker of the unicorns, and in their peaceful presence, he learned to access a part of himself that lay dormant since early childhood. He began creating incredible works of art that captivated the world. Paintings, sculptures, and even performance pieces that brought the ethereal beauty of unicorns to life.

His creations sold for astronomical prices, generating more than enough profit to satisfy the businesswoman and save the unicorns from slaughter. In time, the world came to see the true value of these magical creatures, not as a food source, but as a wellspring of creative energy.

And as Joey’s fame and fortune grew, so did his influence. He used his newfound power to lobby for the protection of unicorns, eventually leading to the creation of a sanctuary where they could live out their days in peace and safety, ensuring their survival for generations to come.

In the end, Joey Mac, once a down-on-his-luck butcher, became a hero, not just to the unicorns, but to all who valued the magic and wonder they brought into the world. All it took was a single choice, a single act of defiance, and a willingness to embrace the impossible.

Joey’s vision blurred, accompanied by the tingling sensation and lightheadedness from before, but when his eyesight returned to normal, he found himself back in the room designed to look like a field, with the businesswoman staring him dead in the face.

“Oh, I should have mentioned,” the woman smirked. “There are certain side effects to wearing the uniform. As it acclimates to you, you’re liable to experience what can only be compared to acid trips. Don’t worry, they’ll subside after a while.”

“They’ll subside right now,” Joey said as he tried to remove the jacket, but as he pulled and twisted, he was hit with a sharp pain similar to attempting to peel off a tight adhesive bandage. He realized with growing horror that the uniform had somehow grafted itself to his skin.

“You’ve got to be freaking kidding me!” Joey’s fingers clawed at the edges of the uniform, but there was no discernible seam where the fabric ended and his skin began. Each tug at the material sent a sharp, stinging sensation through his body, making him wince and grit his teeth. Despite the pain, the desperation to remove the uniform drove him to keep trying, but ultimately, the uniform remained firmly attached.

“Did it forgive you?”

“What?”

“The licorneine, when you cut into it. Did it forgive you? That’s the second requirement.”

“What the hell are you talking about, lady?”

“In order for an edged utensil to slice into unicorn flesh, two things need to happen,” the woman explained. “First, the person must be wearing the pearlescent uniform; it makes unicorns think they’re a unicorn. And second, the person has to be granted permission.”

“I can’t even wrap my mind around how a dead animal could speak to me inside my own mind, let alone why it would give me permission to carve it up.”

“I can’t speak to the motivations of a magical creature I barely understand, but perhaps the licorneine granting you permission could be interpreted as a form of acceptance and understanding of the cycle of life and death. Unicorns might possess a heightened sense of wisdom and spiritual connection, recognizing that their death could serve a purpose, even if the circumstances aren’t ideal.”

“All the more reason to let them live.”

“We’ve been over that,” the woman said in the tone of a parent speaking to their child. “In any event, when you heard the words ‘forgive you,’ that might signify that the licorneine understood the difficult circumstances that led you to take that action. It acknowledged that you weren’t acting out of malice or cruelty, but rather, you were in a desperate situation and needed the money to survive.”

“Wait, hold on a minute…if you need the uniform and forgiveness in order to cut the flesh, how was this uniform made?”

“We were extremely fortunate in that regard. We stumbled upon a skilled artisan who had a unique understanding of unicorns. She was granted special blessings from the unicorns to create the uniform by means of a unique ceremony, during which she paid respect, reverence, and demonstrated understanding of the unicorns’ mystical nature.”

“That makes zero sense.”

“And yet it’s the only answer I have for you.”

“So what, I’m stuck wearing this for the rest of my life?”

“I’m a businesswoman, not a monster. We know how to remove the uniform, and with the satisfactory completion of the contract you will sign, you’ll be free and very, very wealthy.”

***

Whoever said, “When you get what you want, it’s never the way you want it,” knew what they were talking about, Joey thought. Here he was with the opportunity of a lifetime, making the type of money he never thought possible, and it should have been a dream job. But each and every day as he walked through the butchery doors, he steeled himself against the sense of emptiness and dissatisfaction that weighed heavily on his soul.

Never let it be said that he wasn’t the consummate professional, though. Even though the work gnawed at his conscience, he performed his duties to the best of his ability, trying to take pride in the precision of his cuts and find some semblance of satisfaction in the craftsmanship.

The boss, ever punctual, always provided a list of tasks for Joey to complete that day. And as he broke down the unicorn carcasses, carefully cutting through the layers of muscle and sinew, doing his level best to keep the cuts clean and precise, Joey tried to shut off his emotions and suppress the wave of nausea whenever the licorneine absolved him of his sin.

A month in, he was greeted by the unexpected sight of a group of PAUTU members holding signs with bold lettering, displaying messages like “Save the Unicorns,” “No More Magical Bloodshed,” and “Unicorn Butchery Is Unethical.” Their voices rang out, harmonizing in protest songs and chants, such as “Hey, hey, ho, ho, unicorn slaughter has got to go!” and “What do we want? Unicorn rights! When do we want it? Now!”

The police were on the scene and prevented the picketers from blocking the building’s entrance by moving the protesters behind barricades on the opposite side of the street. However, Joey noticed passersby expressing support for PAUTU’s message, nodding in agreement and even joining the picket line.

Boss, as Joey now referred to the businesswoman who still refused to identify herself for some unknown reason, stepped out of the building, clearly annoyed by the protesters, and hooked Joey by the crook of his arm, pulling him inside. “Ignore them,” she said, her voice cold and dismissive. “They’re just a bunch of misguided activists who don’t understand the importance of our work.”

Joey couldn’t help but glance at the protesters as they chanted passionately. One protester, a young woman with fiery red hair, locked eyes with him and held up a sign that read, “You have a choice. Be a hero, not a butcher.” The message struck a chord deep within him because he knew he was on the wrong side of history.

As the day wore on, the PAUTU members remained steadfast in their protest, enduring harsh weather and handing out leaflets detailing the cruel reality of unicorn butchery to curious onlookers and urging them to take a stand against the unethical treatment of these magical creatures. They had no clue how badly Joey wished he was on their side of the picket line.

And it hadn’t ended with protests. PAUTU launched a relentless media campaign against Joey, writing opinion pieces about the unethical treatment of unicorns and Joey’s involvement in the industry. They gave interviews to news outlets, spreading awareness of the cruelty behind his work.

The group also took to social media, condemning Joey’s actions and promoting their cause. They created shareable graphics, hashtags, and encouraged people to sign online petitions and join their protests. They lobbied for legislation to ban or heavily regulate the hunting, butchering, and sale of unicorn meat, gathering evidence and persuading politicians to support their cause.

Some of the more radical members engaged in direct action against Joey, breaking into his apartment and car and vandalizing them. When they publicly shamed him and exposed his identity and his role in the unicorn butchery industry, sharing images and videos of his work and encouraging people to boycott unicorn products, even fellow butchers joined the smear campaigns. Then there were the government agencies and health inspectors who scrutinized his every move, and his parents, usually supportive of his endeavors, began contacting him regularly to voice their disapproval.

Not. The. End.

Joey Mac and the Pearlescent Unicorn Uniform (Redux) – Part 1

The throbbing at the base of Joey Mac’s skull was dull, and it radiated to his temples as consciousness crept in like a thick fog slowly dissipating. His body felt stiff and uncooperative, and at first, he feared he might be paralyzed. But when his heavy eyelids fluttered open and his vision finally sharpened, he saw he was bound to a chair in a dimly lit room. Cold metal handcuffs bit into his wrists, and his heart raced as he tried to make sense of the situation. The last thing he remembered before waking up in this room was driving home from his job. Was he involved in an accident? Had he been arrested? “Oh, God,” he thought, “I hope no one got hurt.”

The room was small and windowless, with walls painted a drab, institutional gray. The air was heavy with the scent of damp concrete and a faint trace of mildew. The only source of light was a single bare bulb dangling from the ceiling, casting ominous shadows that danced across the walls as it swayed gently.

The floor was rough concrete, stained with the evidence of past interrogations. In front of him was a metal table, its surface marred with scratches and dents, bearing silent testimony to countless previous encounters. On the opposite side of the table sat a metal chair with a straight back and thin cushion, probably matching the one he was bound to.

The heavy steel slab door creaked open, and a woman in her late forties wearing an earth-toned shirt, cargo pants, and sturdy boots entered the room. Her shoulder-length chestnut hair, streaked with silver, was pulled back into a loose ponytail. Although she had a stern face, she didn’t strike Joey as the cop type. He guessed that came in handy as an undercover detective.

“Joseph MacDonal II,” she said, glaring at him with steel-gray eyes, framed by crow’s feet. As she sat down across from him, Joey noticed how weathered her face was, furrows etched across her forehead and around her mouth in what his mother used to call experience lines.

“For the record, I go by Joey Mac,” Joey said. “My head’s a little foggy. Can you tell me where I am, how I got here, and why I’m being detained?”

“You’re here to answer for your crimes. The senseless slaughter of innocent creatures!”

“Aw jeez, you’re not a cop, you’re with that PETA thing.”

“PAUTU,” she corrected. “People Against the Unethical Treatment of Unicorns.”

“Okay, look, you people have got the wrong idea…”

“You’re responsible for unicorn genocide!”

“I’m a butcher! Bo͝oCHər. A person whose trade is cutting up and selling meat in a shop. And yes, I am one of the few people on the planet trained and licensed to butcher unicorns and prepare their meat for consumption, but my license doesn’t include or even allow me to hunt or slaughter unicorns or any other animals. Look it up, it’s a matter of public record. In fact, I never killed a thing in my life. Insects that cross my path are the subject of a strict catch, relocate, and release system.”

“Given your current situation, you would say that, wouldn’t you?”

“I’m saying it because it’s the truth! The problem with people like you, all holier-than-thou and shoving their causes in everyone’s face, is that you only see your narrow point of view! You have no idea what the real truth is, and you can’t have the real truth without knowing the whole story, which in this case includes my side of the story!”

“All right then, Mister I-Wouldn’t-Harm-A-Fly, let’s hear it, your side of the story.”

***

The economy had been in the crapper since before God talked to Moses, and Joey hadn’t worked in forever. Even though he was one of the fortunate ones who managed to do what analysts suggested and set aside six months’ worth of salary in a high-yield account before he was made redundant at the meatpacking plant, now, going on his tenth year, all that money was little more than a distant memory.

A Christian in name more than practice, it had been years since the soles of his shoes touched the floor of a church, and that time was his best friend’s wedding, a wife twice removed. To say Joey was out of practice with the proper act of prayer would have been an understatement. His first attempt came off as more of a bitch session, with him blaming his parents for his rotten upbringing and lambasting society for its prejudice of gingers, which, he reckoned, was the chief reason for his being kept down by the man. Surprisingly, he saw no results.

His second attempt at prayer was akin to a letter to Santa, in which he listed all the positive things he’d ever done in life and expected a little compensation for his good behavior. Again, results were not forthcoming.

Third time was the charm, however, when he realized that he should have admitted his sin, expressed thanks for the things he had, and humbly requested the one thing he needed most: a job.

He put no expectation on the prayer and went about his normal daily existence when, a week later, he received a phone call. It seemed that a friend of a friend knew a guy who knew a guy who had a roommate who was related to a woman who owned her own business and was looking for someone in his line of work.

Joey arrived at the interview, résumé in hand, and launched into his well-rehearsed spiel when the businesswoman waved him off and ushered him into a small changing room.

“Inside you will find a locker for your clothing and possessions,” said the woman who hadn’t bothered giving her name. “As well as a uniform that we are legally required to provide for health and sanitation reasons. Should you refuse to wear said uniform, this interview will be terminated immediately.”

The first thought to cross his mind was that this operation was some sort of mob set up where he was being taken to a back room to chop up an informant or some poor slob who inadvertently crossed one of the families. Every instinct screamed for him to pivot on his heels and beat a hasty retreat, but… curiosity got the better of him. He had to see what this crazy thing was all about.

The first thing he noticed when he entered the tiny room was the uniform hanging on a hook. It was striking, unlike any garment he had ever seen. The material’s iridescent sheen and ever-shifting pastel hues immediately captured his attention and fed his ravenous curiosity.

The uniform was surprisingly lightweight and smooth to the touch, with a texture that felt almost ethereal. It gave off a faint yet pleasant scent, reminiscent of a mixture of fresh dew, wildflowers, and a hint of something he couldn’t quite put his finger on – a smell that seemed to evoke a sense of tranquility and peace.

Joey slipped into the uniform and noticed how it felt tailored specifically for him, fitting his body like a second skin. The fabric was both soft and supple, providing unmatched comfort and ease of movement.

When Joey stepped out of the changing room, the woman gave him a quick once-over and remarked, “Perfect fit,” before escorting him into an immaculate, temperature-controlled butchery, equipped with knives, cleavers, saws, and all the necessary tools.

In one corner of the room, a man stood, clipboard in hand, his eyes focused on Joey with an air of scrutiny.

“Who’s he?” Joey asked, nodding in the direction of the silent observer.

“Pay him no mind,” she said dismissively. “He’s merely here to observe your performance and assess your technique.”

“No pressure,” Joey said.

“None at all, as far as I’m concerned,” the woman answered.

Joey refrained from giving her a look and instead turned his attention to the two animal sides that hung from meat hooks. “You’re serving chevaline?” he asked.

“That isn’t horse,” the woman smirked.

“Then what is it?”

“Answers later. For now, what cuts could you make from that?”

“That’s simple: tenderloin from the spine, ribeye from the ribs, sirloin from the hindquarters, brisket from the chest, shank from the lower leg, flank from the abdomen, top and bottom round from the rear leg, chuck from the shoulder, and short ribs, of course. Those are just a few examples. Any butcher worth their weight would be able to make use of those sides, ensuring minimal waste and maximum culinary potential.”

“Show me what you can do,” she gestured at a section of meat, a shank, by the look of it, that rested atop the large butcher block countertop.

Joey inspected the meat before touching a utensil. She was right; this wasn’t horse, and it also wasn’t beef, pork, or lamb. The texture was something he had never encountered before. It had a grain-like quality similar to beef, yet it was soft to the touch like flan, and it shimmered without a light source as if it were bioluminescent. “What is this?” he asked.

“Are you interested in the job or not? I don’t have all day,” she drummed her fingers on her crossed arms.

Joey sighed, selected a knife from the butcher block, and approached the slab of meat, much in the same manner a sculptor would approach a block of marble, envisioning the cuts before the blade touched the flesh. With no idea what type of animal he was dealing with, there was no way of telling how this woman expected it to be prepared, so he simply followed his instincts and let the meat “talk” to him. And in a way, it did.

Every time the stainless steel edge portioned the strange meat, Joey thought he heard a high-pitched tone, like the sound of a moistened finger running along the rim of a crystal goblet. The sound broke his heart. But in the aftermath, when the tone was just about to become inaudible, he heard a voice inside his head. It said two words:

forgive you

He felt as if permission had been granted. This did not relieve the wave of guilt that flooded over him, but it gave him the desire to do something with his own life worthy of this unknown animal’s sacrifice.

When he was done, the businesswoman nodded her approval. “Every bit the professional you claimed to be.” And it was a professional job. Every cut was perfect, neither too generous nor too small, and there were absolutely no scraps. He utilized every last bit of the meat.

The businesswoman glanced over at the silent observer, who looked up from his clipboard and gave a slight nod before leaving the room.

“I’m curious, what type of meat is this?”

“Unicorn,” she said very matter-of-factly.

“Uni-excuse me?”

“You heard me.”

“I don’t get the gag,” Joey inwardly chastised himself on his tone. If his dumb mouth cost him the job, he’d…

“I’m quite serious,” the woman took him by the upper arm in a grip tighter than he was comfortable with and led him through a maze of stairwells and corridors, down, down, so far down beneath street level that he expected to see passage markers scratched into the walls by Arne Saknussemm.

Their destination was a room designed to look like a field, complete with grass, trees, and rocks. Had he been blindfolded and dropped here, Joey would have sworn he was outside. The room was so vast, he couldn’t see the far wall. The only telltale sign that this was, in fact, an indoor facility were the track lights that provided sunlight, positioned incredibly high overhead, but even they were mostly obscured by the clouds of the room’s self-contained weather system. But as fascinating as all this was, by far the most mind-blowing thing was the unicorns grazing in the field.

Not. The. End.

Do-It-Yourself Ghostbusting: Serving Pesky Poltergeists an Eviction Notice

Ghosts, phantoms, specters – we’ve all heard the stories. But when it comes to dealing with these uninvited supernatural houseguests, who has time to wait for a team of highly trained ghost hunters to show up? That’s right, nobody. So, grab your proton pack, your favorite haunted house mixtape, and let’s get down to the business of do-it-yourself ghostbusting.

Step 1: Identifying Your Unwanted Tenants

First things first, let’s make sure you’re dealing with an actual ghost and not just Aunt Mabel sleepwalking again. Here are some telltale signs that you’re sharing your space with a paranormal squatter:

  • Mysterious cold spots: If you’ve suddenly developed the ability to see your breath indoors, it’s probably not because your landlord is cheap on the heating bill.
  • Unexplained noises: When you hear footsteps, but you’re home alone – and it’s not the neighbors playing a prank.
  • Levitating objects: The moment your favorite coffee mug starts floating around the room is a dead giveaway.

Step 2: Understanding Your Ghostly Adversary

Now that you’ve confirmed the presence of a ghost, it’s time to figure out what kind of spook you’re dealing with. Because, let’s be honest, not all ghosts are created equal.

  • Casper, the Friendly Ghost: These spirits just want to be your friend. They might rearrange your furniture or leave the occasional creepy message, but they mean no harm.
  • Poltergeist Party Animals: These guys are all about causing chaos. They’re the ones making those strange noises, throwing things, and turning your lights on and off for no reason.
  • Moody Apparitions: These spectral beings are stuck in a perpetual state of emotional turmoil. They might be sad, angry, or downright vengeful, and they’re not afraid to let you know it.

Step 3: Setting Boundaries (or How to Ghost-Proof Your Home)

You wouldn’t let just anyone crash on your couch, so why make an exception for a ghost? Here are some tips for establishing ghost-free zones in your home:

  • Create a salt barrier: Sprinkle some salt around your home’s perimeter – ghosts hate the stuff, and it’s way cheaper than a fancy security system.
  • Burn some sage: Not only will this make your house smell like a trendy yoga studio, but it’s also believed to cleanse negative energy and keep spirits at bay.
  • Hang a horseshoe: Legend has it that ghosts can’t resist the magnetic pull of a horseshoe, so hang one above your door to trap any wandering spooks.

Step 4: The Art of Ghost Negotiation

Sometimes, all a ghost needs is a little tough love. Try some of these tactics to show your spectral roommate who’s boss:

  • Talk to the ghost: This might sound crazy, but sometimes all it takes is a heart-to-heart (or heart-to-ectoplasm) conversation. Explain that their presence is not welcome, and kindly ask them to move on.
  • Use humor: Ghosts are notorious for being serious, so try lightening the mood with a well-timed joke or two. “Hey ghost, why did the scarecrow win an award? Because he was outstanding in his field!” Who knows? Maybe laughter is the best ghost repellent.
  • Play hardball: If all else fails, remind the ghost that you pay the rent and have the legal right to evict them. If necessary, bring in a lawyer to draft a formal eviction notice. You can’t be too careful when dealing with the supernatural.

Step 5: Calling in the Professionals

If your DIY ghostbusting efforts have failed, it’s time to swallow your pride and call in the experts. Whether it’s a paranormal investigator, a psychic medium, or even an exorcist, sometimes you just need a little help from someone who knows the ropes.

Remember, there’s no shame in asking for assistance when it comes to dealing with your haunted home. After all, you wouldn’t try to tackle a plumbing problem without a plumber, would you?

Step 6: Embracing Your New Ghost-Free Lifestyle

Congratulations! You’ve successfully evicted your pesky poltergeist and can now enjoy a ghost-free existence. Here are some suggestions for celebrating your newfound spectral freedom:

  • Throw a party: Invite all your friends over for a ghost-free celebration. Just make sure to keep the music and dancing to a minimum – you don’t want to attract any new ghostly visitors.
  • Redecorate: Now that your home is no longer a paranormal playground, why not spruce up the place with some fresh paint and new furniture? After all, you’ve earned it.
  • Share your story: Write a book, start a blog, or create a podcast about your ghost-busting adventures. Who knows? You might inspire others to take charge and give their own pesky poltergeists the boot.

Your Takeaway: While living with a ghost can be a bit of a headache, taking matters into your own hands and showing those spectral squatters the door is entirely possible. Just remember to stay calm, be persistent, and keep your sense of humor. After all, life’s too short to let a little paranormal activity ruin your day.

How to Stay Happily Married to a Lycanthrope: A Practical Guide

Let’s face it, marriage can be tough. But when your better half is prone to sprouting fur, fangs, and a penchant for howling at the moon, it adds a whole new level of complexity to the age-old institution. But fear not, dear reader, for we’ve got you covered. Introducing the ultimate guide on how to stay happily married to a lycanthrope. With just a bit of patience, understanding, and the occasional muzzle, your marriage will be the envy of both the human and supernatural realms.

Know Your Moon Phases

First things first, invest in a moon phase calendar. You’ll want to be well-prepared for those pesky full moon nights when your spouse transforms into a ravenous, hair-covered beast. A quick Google search will provide you with all the lunar knowledge you need. Pro tip: schedule date nights and romantic getaways around the new moon, when your partner’s human side is in full swing.

Communication is Key

We all know communication is the cornerstone of any successful marriage, and this holds true even when your spouse is a lycanthrope. It’s essential to have an open and honest dialogue about their condition. Establish some ground rules for full moon nights, such as:

  • A designated “wolf room” with reinforced doors and windows
  • Preparing their favorite chew toys and distractions
  • Agreeing on a safe word (or growl) in case things get hairy

Remember, it’s crucial to maintain a sense of humor during these conversations. After all, there’s something inherently funny about discussing flea prevention with your significant other.

Embrace Your Inner Animal

When life gives you a werewolf, make werewolf-ade. Use your spouse’s condition as an opportunity to explore your wild side. Take up hiking, go on nocturnal picnics, or even learn to howl in harmony. You’ll find that sharing these experiences will bring you closer as a couple, and you may even discover some hidden talents of your own.

A Well-Fed Wolf is a Happy Wolf

You know what they say: the quickest way to a lycanthrope’s heart is through their stomach. Keep your pantry stocked with their favorite meats and treats, and be prepared to whip up a protein-packed meal at a moment’s notice. We recommend mastering a few key dishes, such as:

  • Filet Mignon á la Lycanthrope: A juicy steak with a side of raw spinach
  • Moonlit Meatloaf: A classic comfort food with a twist (hint: more meat)
  • Werewolf Wellington: A scrumptious pastry-wrapped delight, best served with a full-bodied red wine

These culinary masterpieces will not only keep your spouse’s cravings at bay but also show them just how much you care.

Support Groups Exist

Even the most seasoned werewolf spouses need a little support from time to time. Seek out like-minded individuals who share your unique marital challenges. Join online forums or attend local meetups where you can swap stories, vent frustrations, and share tips on the latest silver-proof fabrics.

By following these simple guidelines, you’ll find that staying happily married to a lycanthrope is not only possible but also an adventure in itself. Embrace the challenges, cherish the moments, and above all, remember to keep a healthy stock of lint rollers on hand. Happy howling!

Maurine, Maureen Part 2

Read Part 1 Here

The words hung in the air, giving Maurine pause as she considered the implications. Maureen’s eyes widened, and for a moment, the room felt tense. “Have you been reading my diary?”

“What? No,” Maurine stammered. “I didn’t even know you kept a diary.”

“Swear to me.”

“Swear what?”

Maureen exhaled sharply. “That you haven’t been snooping in my diary.”

“I swear. Why?”

“Because I wrote the exact same thing not two days ago.”

“No you didn’t.”

“I can show you the entry.”

“And have you accuse me of snooping through your diary? No, thank you.”

Maureen’s mouth curled into a warm smile and she took Maurine’s hand. “I think it’s a wonderful idea. We should have a baby.”

The rest of the evening was filled with tears, kisses, endless hugs, various strategies on becoming pregnant and friendly but serious debates on who would carry the baby. And in the early light of morning, none of it mattered because both women woke up and knew without a shadow of a doubt that they were inexplicably pregnant.

“But how?” asked Maurine.

“Don’t jinx it,” Maureen cautioned. “Don’t you know it’s bad luck to look a miracle in the mouth?”

Maurine wasn’t familiar with that proverb but she believed heavily in the power of the jinx, so she questioned their situation no further, even when both their pregnancies progressed at an astonishing rate. Their bodies were adapting and changing rapidly, and any concerns were swept aside in the wake of the awe and excitement of their eager anticipation of the arrival of their babies.

The following morning, Maurine and Maureen awoke to the significant changes their bodies had undergone overnight. Morning sickness, tender breasts, and fatigue – these were common symptoms of the first trimester, yet despite these discomforts, they reveled in the knowledge that they were carrying life within them.

The second day brought with it the second trimester. The babies were starting to grow, which meant their bellies were expanding. The morning sickness subsided, giving them a renewed sense of energy. Maurine and Maureen felt the first flutters of movement, as their little ones kicked and turned within their wombs.

On the third day, the third trimester arrived, and the women’s bellies swelled even more. Now they experienced the full weight of pregnancy, with swollen feet, backaches, and difficulty sleeping. Yet, they continued to bond with their growing babies, talking and singing to them, hoping that the love in their voices would reach their children.

Braxton Hicks contractions awaited Maurine and Maureen on the fourth day as their bodies prepared for the upcoming labor. They leaned on each other for support, taking comfort in the fact that they were going through this incredible journey together.

On the fifth day, the nesting instinct kicked in, and the women found themselves cleaning and organizing the house, readying it for the arrival of their daughters. They set up cribs, washed tiny clothes, and decorated the nursery with soft colors and gentle touches.

Day six was when both Maurine and Maureen’s water broke, signaling the start of labor. The contractions intensified, and they held each other’s hands tightly, their love and support providing strength as they prepared to bring their children into the world.

After enduring hours of labor that extended into the seventh day, the women each brought a beautiful baby girl into the world. As they tenderly cradled their newborn daughters, they marveled at how strikingly the infants resembled Maurine and Maureen when they themselves were babies. Choosing names for the girls was a seamless process, as each mother opted to share her own name, with a slight twist in spelling: Moreen and Morene.

The space-time distortion that had influenced their miraculous pregnancies continued to affect Moreen and Morene after they were born. From the very first moments of life, these extraordinary children developed and learned at an astonishing pace. Their eyes focused on their mothers’ faces, and their tiny hands eagerly grasped at outstretched fingers. Maurine and Maureen marveled at the rapid growth and development of their daughters, witnessing their unique and accelerated journey through childhood.

The sun rose on the second day, and the girls had already grown into toddlers. They began to crawl, exploring their surroundings with curiosity and wonder. Maurine and Maureen watched as Moreen and Morene started to babble and form simple words, their voices filling the house with laughter and joy.

By the third day, the girls had progressed into early childhood. They were walking and talking, engaging in imaginative play and demonstrating their unique personalities. Moreen was more cautious and reserved, while Morene was adventurous and outgoing. The family spent hours playing together, enjoying the seemingly magical experience of their children’s rapid development.

On the fourth day, Moreen and Morene entered their elementary years. Their intellectual abilities blossomed, and they showed a keen interest in learning new things. Maurine and Maureen did their best to keep up with their daughters’ insatiable curiosity, answering endless questions and engaging in stimulating conversations. At this stage, the girls began to assert their independence, sometimes leading to minor clashes with their mothers.

The fifth day marked the beginning of the girls’ adolescence. Hormones and emotions ran high as Moreen and Morene navigated the challenges of their teenage years. They experienced mood swings and attitude adjustments, testing boundaries and asserting their individuality. Maurine and Maureen found themselves grappling with the complexities of parenting teenagers, trying to strike a balance between guidance and freedom.

On day six, Moreen and Morene transitioned into young adults. They began to explore their identities and passions more deeply, considering their future goals and aspirations. Maurine and Maureen encouraged their daughters to pursue their dreams, proud of the strong and capable women they were becoming. At this stage, the girls showed a growing desire for autonomy, sometimes clashing with their mothers as they sought to establish their own paths in life.

As Moreen and Morene reached full adulthood at the end of the week, they had blossomed into well-rounded individuals with a strong sense of self. Now capable of making their own decisions and tackling life’s challenges head-on, they seamlessly integrated into the family dynamic.

One evening, in the warmth of their cozy living room, Maurine, Maureen, Moreen, and Morene gathered for a family game night. The air was filled with the scent of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, lovingly prepared by Maureen, while soft music played in the background.

As the family settled in around the coffee table, Moreen excitedly pulled out her favorite board game from childhood, Chutes and Ladders. “Remember how we used to play this for hours?” she asked, her eyes shining with nostalgia. Morene nodded in agreement, a smile lighting up her face.

Maurine, with a playful glint in her eyes, rolled the dice and moved her piece across the board. “I may be a little rusty, but I’m still the reigning champion!” she teased. Moreen and Morene exchanged determined glances, ready to take on their mother’s challenge.

As the game progressed, the family laughed and joked, teasing each other good-naturedly about their competitive streaks. At one point, Morene attempted a risky move, hoping to claim victory. The others watched in anticipation, only for her plan to backfire, sending her piece back to the starting point. The room erupted with laughter, and even Morene couldn’t help but join in, her face flushed with mock indignation.

Maureen stood up, her face glowing with warmth and happiness. “Time for a cookie break!” she announced, distributing plates of her scrumptious treats. The family continued to chat and reminisce, sharing stories of their adventures together. In that moment, surrounded by love and laughter, Maurine and Maureen looked at their daughters with pride and gratitude. However, as the evening progressed, subtle hints of strain began to surface in their relationships.

The tension had been building for some time, with small disagreements and minor irritations left unresolved. The argument began like any other, but an undercurrent of unease was palpable. As the four identical women gathered in the living room, the situation finally reached its breaking point.

Moreen was the first to speak up, her voice trembling with frustration. “I can’t stand it anymore! It’s like I have no identity of my own. Every time I look at one of you, I’m reminded of how I’m just a copy of someone else.”

Morene chimed in, her eyes narrowed in anger. “You think you’re the only one who feels that way? We’re all struggling here, Moreen. But instead of talking about it like adults, we just keep sweeping everything under the pseudo-happy family rug.”

“Oh, so looking like me is a problem now?” Maurine asked, sounding more defensive than intended. “I happen to think you look beautiful, and I’ll bet there are hundreds of women who wished they looked as good as you!”

Maureen sighed, rubbing her temples as if to ward off a headache. “Rine, I’m sure she didn’t mean it like that. Everything’s happened so quickly over the past week, and maybe we all just need a little space to process the situation.”

The room fell silent for a moment, the weight of their words settling heavily on each of them. Then Moreen spoke up again, tears streaming down her face. “I just want to feel like I matter, like I’m unique and special. Is that too much to ask?”

Morene nodded, her own eyes glistening. “We all want that, but I don’t know how we can achieve it when we’re living like this.”

Maurine and Maureen exchanged worried glances, realizing the severity of the issue at hand. This wasn’t just a simple disagreement that could be talked through and resolved. It was a fundamental problem stemming from the very nature of their existence.

The argument had exposed the deep fractures in their relationships, and in the end, they all retreated to separate parts of the house, left to grapple with the unique and harsh reality of their lives.

A month had elapsed since Madge’s phone conversation with Maurine. At first, she didn’t dwell on it, knowing that Maurine always had her own unique way of thinking and expressing herself. However, a persistent voice in the back of her mind kept replaying the conversation. Being a mother to a grown woman was challenging. She had to discern when to let Maurine tackle life’s difficulties independently and when to intervene.

After seven unsuccessful attempts to reach Maurine, Madge knew it was time to step in and decided to pay her daughter a surprise visit. Respecting her daughter’s privacy, she rang the doorbell and knocked on the door. Only when she received no response did she use her emergency key. Immediately, she regretted not coming sooner.

The house was in chaos, filled with the stench of body odor and decaying trash. Shards of shattered mirrors covered every wall in every room, glued haphazardly to the surfaces.

“Am I a narcissist, Mom?” Maurine had asked during their phone call, and Madge had casually brushed it off, failing to recognize the obvious warning sign.

Madge hesitantly stepped deeper into the house, her heart pounding as she took in the alarming state of her daughter’s home. Piles of dirty laundry and dishes were strewn about, and the stench of decay hung heavy in the air. The walls, once adorned with tasteful artwork and family photos, were now plastered with jagged shards of shattered mirrors.

Her shock and dismay grew as she noticed that the fragments of glass bore countless fingerprints and smears of blood, evidence of desperate attempts to piece together a fractured sense of self. It was as if Maurine had become obsessed with her own reflection, the mirrored surfaces an eerie testament to the narcissism that had consumed her.

Overwhelmed with dread, Madge made her way to the bedroom, the door standing slightly ajar. As she pushed it open, a gasp escaped her lips at the scene before her. The bedroom was a nightmarish landscape, the bed itself a treacherous nest of broken glass.

There, amidst the twisted sheets and scattered mirror shards, lay Maurine’s lifeless body. Her emaciated form spoke to the neglect she had suffered in her final days, her once-vibrant spirit now a hollow shell. Her skin was marred with countless cuts and scratches, evidence of her futile struggle to cling to her own distorted image.

Tears welled up in Madge’s eyes as she took in the tragic sight of her daughter’s demise, her heart aching with a grief that threatened to swallow her whole. She had been unable to see the depth of Maurine’s madness, blind to the unraveling of her daughter’s sanity.

As she stood there, grieving the loss of her daughter and the twisted path that had led to this moment, Madge couldn’t help but wonder how it had all come to this. She looked around the room once more, the shattered fragments of glass reflecting the harsh truth of Maurine’s tragic end. It was a chilling reminder of the fragile nature of the human mind and the terrible consequences of unchecked narcissism.

Blind Date From Hell: She Said/He Said

She Said:

Eager to meet him,
An enigma from the web,
Yet upon his arrival,
My heart filled with dread.

His visage bore a scowl,
A sneer graced his lips.
He offered no greeting,
Just grunted and dismissed.

At dinner, he ordered,
A dish not to my taste.
When I dared to object,
He told me to make haste.

He boasted of his riches,
His stature and his fame,
Yet I struggled to discern,
The charm beneath his claims.

As the evening progressed,
His demeanor only soured.
I yearned for sweet escape,
From this man so dour.

At last, when he departed,
I exhaled a sigh of peace.
Vowing to never again endure,
Such torment, by the least!

If you venture on a blind date,
Heed your instincts from the start.
Lest you find yourself entangled,
With a suitor most bizarre.

He Said:

Eager to meet her,
A vision from the virtual sphere,
But upon her entrance,
My heart sank with a tinge of fear.

Her countenance was stern,
A perfunctory greeting she gave.
I pondered her intentions,
Her presence here, so grave.

She appeared displeased,
With the meal I had chosen.
I attempted conversation,
Her retorts, curt and frozen.

She lamented her employment,
Her life in disarray.
I endeavored to empathize,
But found it hard to convey.

As the hours ticked by,
Her mood only grew bitter.
I strove to shift the focus,
But felt my efforts wither.

When the date concluded,
I relished my release.
Resolute in my conviction,
To never see her again, at least.

If you embark on a blind date,
Approach it with an open heart.
Or you may just encounter,
A romance that's doomed from the start.

They Said:

From Her Perspective:

I deemed him uncouth,
On that initial blind encounter.
Yet, unexpectedly, in time,
My sentiments began to flounder.

We crossed paths once more,
In a quaint café, by chance.
And before I was aware,
We were lost in a lively dance.

We discovered common ground,
In our shared passions and delights.
And in spite of our turbulent beginning,
Our love unfurled, took flight.

We ventured into courtship,
His true nature unveiled.
I grasped that my first judgement,
Had been woefully curtailed.

As we delved into love's depths,
I recognized my past mistake.
Our disastrous introduction,
Merely a hiccup to forsake.

From His Perspective:

Our initial rendezvous was calamitous,
I presumed we'd part for good.
Yet fate contrived another meeting,
And my resolve, misunderstood.

We conversed with fervor,
I felt my soul ignite.
Despite her former iciness,
I yearned to reunite.

As we grew acquainted,
A fresh aspect emerged.
And despite our rocky genesis,
Our hearts began to converge.

Our love swelled with vigor,
Through trust and tender care.
I knew that I'd discovered,
A partner beyond compare.

Our nuptials were flawless,
Exchanging heartfelt vows.
I recognized that our devotion,
Had blossomed from a simple browse.

If a first date leaves you disenchanted,
Do not hastily foreclose.
For you may uncover true love,
And a lifetime of repose.

Don’t even bother looking at me like that. I ain’t a poet, and my mama knows it.

My Oh So Very Imaginary TED Talk: Becoming A Storylistener

This one’s gonna require you to stretch your imagination a bit (and pop a Dramamine) as we take a dizzying sidestep into an alternate reality in which my indisputable awesomeness has been recognized and I have been asked to do a Ted Talk.

ted

Did you know that a secret ingredient to becoming a master storyteller is right here, right now? You’re all using it! That’s right, I’m talking about your ears. Welcome to my TED Talk on “Becoming A Storylistener”, where we’re about to embark on a journey of listening our way to storytelling greatness.

As the famous poet Maya Angelou once said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Stories are everywhere, in books, movies, and even in the simple anecdotes we share with friends. But how do we become skilled storytellers ourselves? The answer is surprisingly simple: become a storylistener first.

Every day, stories are swirling around us like leaves in a gust of wind. We absorb them through conversations, TV shows, and various media. But to truly harness their power, we need to actively listen and learn from them. By doing so, we gain insights on crafting compelling narratives, building tension, and keeping our audience captivated.

Listening to stories not only helps us refine our storytelling skills but also fosters empathy. As we immerse ourselves in someone else’s tale, we begin to see the world through their eyes, sharing their emotions and experiences. This newfound understanding helps us create stories that resonate with our listeners on a deeper level.

So, how do we become proficient storylisteners? It starts with being present. While someone narrates their story, resist the urge to plan your next witty remark or judge their actions. Instead, focus on their words, emotions, and imagery. As Atticus Finch said in Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

Another crucial aspect of story listening is asking questions. This shows genuine interest and allows us to delve deeper into the story. Questions clarify confusion, reveal key elements, and give us ideas for our own storytelling adventures.

Lastly, embrace an open mind. Not every story will resonate with us, and that’s okay. Even when we don’t agree, there’s always something to learn, be it a different perspective, an unfamiliar experience, or a previously unconsidered aspect of human nature. These insights help us create stories that speak to diverse audiences.

To sum it up, the path to becoming a master storyteller begins with attentive story listening. By honing our listening skills, we can develop our storytelling prowess, cultivate empathy, and create content that strikes a chord with our listeners. I challenge each of you to actively listen to someone’s story today, and see how it transforms your storytelling abilities.

Thank you for being storylisteners today, and may you continue to grow as both storytellers and listeners!

The Chrisom One – A Tale of Eldritch Romance

The sad fact of the matter was that some people simply weren’t made for socializing. That was the case with Bridget, forever the outsider, disconnected from the world around her. She was mid-thirties thin, her wiry frame suggesting she wasn’t getting proper nutrition or exercise, and her skin was pale to the point of translucency because she spent the majority of her free time indoors, alone in her small Arkham, Massachusetts house with her nose buried in a book and lost in fantasy worlds where all her true friends existed.

The problem with living in a fantasy world was that it required constant fuel in order to keep the illusion fresh, which meant she was always on the hunt, combing through secondhand bookstores for that ever-elusive literary world that contained the answers to cure her loneliness forever. And in her most recent outing that was when she stumbled upon the book.

It was large, cold and clammy to the touch, and took both her hands to lift because it was heavier than a book of its size should have been. Bound in a thick black as night material that surely was not like any leather she had ever felt, its cover was adorned with strange, arcane symbols that seemed to shift and writhe under the light. She attributed this illusion to her tired eyes and a trick of the dim overhead fluorescent lights. When she opened the book, the pages were yellowed with age and covered in spidery handwriting that was barely legible and she was hit with a musty smell of old parchment and decay, like a tomb that has been sealed for centuries. That was all it took. Bridget made a beeline to the counter.

The shopkeeper behind the antiquated cash register was a portly, gray-haired man with a lined face that bore the traces of many years of hardship. His eyes were sharp and piercing, with a glint of intelligence and cunning that belied his weathered appearance.

“How much is this?” Bridget asked, handing over the book. “It doesn’t have a price sticker.”

The shopkeeper let out a barely audible grunt under the full weight of the book in his hands. “Where did you find this?”

“There’s a little book cart in the back,” Bridget pointed over her shoulder. “Next to the Self-Help section. It was on top of a pile of books.”

The shopkeeper first eyed her then eyed the book, turning it over and over in his hands, and eyed her again.

Bridget put on her best polite-bordering-on-friendly smile and attempted to bat her deep-set, expressive brown eyes that often seemed to be lost in thought or focused on something unseen. Then she began playing with her long, deep auburn curly hair, twirling locks around her index finger. She hadn’t actually understood the appeal of this action but remembered it worked to charm a man in a movie she once saw.

“Forty-five dollars,” the shopkeeper said, cocking an eyebrow and allowing the slightest smile to curl at the corners of his mouth.

Bookery Nookery was one of Bridget’s favorite haunts. She was in this rundown secondhand bookshop all the time, and she had a relationship of sorts with the shopkeeper, whose name she should have known but such was the life of an introvert, where they would haggle over the price of books. She knew he always started way too high and allowed her to negotiate him down to the price he was actually willing to sell the book in question.

“I’ll take it,” she said. Her rapid response caught her by surprise as much as the shopkeeper, judging by the stunned expression on his face.

***

Until she found this tome, Bridget was unaware just how fascinated she was with the unknown and the unknowable. And yes, she stopped referring to the grimoire as a mere book when it became increasingly difficult to handle, some of the pages even seemed to resist the touch of her hands. The spidery handwriting was dense and convoluted, often written in archaic languages and filled with obscure references to things that existed far beyond her ability to understand.

That hadn’t stopped her. The deeper she delved, the more she felt a growing sense of unease and dread but the alluring knowledge contained within the pages was irresistible. She became consumed by the pursuit of understanding the passages, her mind racing to keep up with the dense and impenetrable text.

Hours turned into days that became weeks and expanded to months as Bridget became more and more obsessed with scouring the internet and reading and re-reading about matters that existed beyond her comprehension, matters that began seeping into her dreams, causing waking nightmares and strange visions that she attempted to record but found impossible to put into words. She even slipped into the dark web in order to study ancient texts and explore forbidden places, seeking answers to the deepest questions of existence. She always felt as if there was something missing in her life, some deeper purpose or meaning that she couldn’t quite grasp.

Then, one day, she stumbled upon a key, an arcane Rosetta Stone that translated an obscure text in the tome that spoke of cosmic entities that lurked beyond the known universe. Her grimoire was written by a madman, dismissed by most scholars of his age as the ravings of a lunatic. But as she deciphered and read through its pages, something deep within her began to stir.

Bridget began spotting patterns and connections in the world around her that she never noticed before. She was definitely getting closer to something profound and transformative, and if only she could unlock the secret of a certain arcane sigil, she would be able to uncover the mysteries of the universe.

For weeks, she threw herself into her research, ignoring everything else in her life, even her job. Bridget locked herself away from society, barely slept or ate, poring over the ancient scrawling, desperate to decipher its meaning, driven by an unshakeable sense of purpose.

Unaware that sanity was the locking mechanism, the level of security that kept the human mind safe, Bridget pushed onward and with each section of text she was able to decode, she unwittingly set in motion the delicate process of manipulating the pins and levers inside her brain. And as she translated the final sigil, the last tumbler fell into place.

The air surrounding her grew thick and heavy, charged with a strange energy, and as the veil over her mind’s eye lifted, allowing her to peer into the deepest recesses of the universe, her sanity slipped away like shadows into shade and she barely even noticed.

This was a groundbreaking discovery, a secret that would change the course of human history, and so lost was she in her excitement that she missed the warning signs that something was very wrong.

Privy to things that no human was meant to see, Bridget caught glimpses of creatures of impossible size and shape that seemed to defy the laws of physics. And with each new revelation, reality twisted like a Rubik’s Cube around her. And when her mind began to tear up and sob uncontrollably, that was when she encountered the Chrisom One.

It appeared in her mind as a shifting, amorphous mass of shadows and mist, coalescing and dissipating in unpredictable ways. Its form was constantly changing, flickering between shapes and colors, though sometimes taking on a vaguely humanoid form, with long, spindly limbs and a head that shifted and twisted in impossible ways. Other times was more like a nebulous cloud, with tendrils of darkness and light swirling around a central core.

Bridget’s heart raced, her breath quickening, and she felt a wave of fear wash over her. Every muscle in her body tensed up, her hands shaking uncontrollably. And then, as if on cue, she felt a strange sensation in her lower abdomen, an urgent need to relieve herself.

She tried to hold it in, to stay composed and focused, but her body had other plans. The fear was so overwhelming that it triggered an involuntary response, a primal instinct to empty her bladder and bowels in a bid to shed the excess weight and flee the danger.

Trembling with embarrassment and horror, she tried to move away from the creature, but her legs wouldn’t obey. Her mind was consumed by the fear, by the realization that she was powerless against the entity’s terrifying presence. All she could do was wait for the inevitable, for this unholy beast to make its move, for her fate to be sealed.

“ܡܫܩܝܚܝܐ ܒܪܝܕܬ، ܐܢܐ ܐܝܟ ܟܪܣܘܡ ܐܚܪܝܢܐ. ܥܕܬܝܢܝ ܐܡܪ ܠܟ ܐܦ ܫܡܬܐ ܕܐܢܐ ܩܪܝܨܬ ܠܝܕܥܬܐ ܕܕܝܢܬܐ ܐܦܝܠܐ,” it said in Aramaic and Bridget recoiled from the entity’s voice echoing in her mind.

“I—I don’t understand you,” Bridget stammered. “And your voice…it’s too loud in my head…it hurts!”

“My apologies. It has been a while since I communicated with one of your kind,” it said, adjusting the intensity of its presence to an acceptable mortal level. “Welcome, Bridget Baxter, I am the Chrisom One. I have been watching you for some time now, and I am intrigued by your quest for knowledge.”

“What are you?” she asked, her voice trembling.

“I am…beyond,” the Chrisom One replied. “Your fear is thick, but unwarranted, for I mean you no harm. Your hunger for knowledge sets you apart from other mortals and you have the potential to grasp the deeper truths of the cosmos.”

Bridget found herself both intrigued and terrified by the Chrisom One’s words. “What do you want from me?” she asked.

“To guide you toward the knowledge that you seek,” the Chrisom One replied. “To show you the secrets of the universe, and help you achieve the enlightenment that you crave.”

Bridget hesitated for a moment, weighing her options. Even though she was certain this encounter would shred her mind further, she couldn’t resist the lure of the unknown.

“I want to see,” she said, her unsteady voice filled with determination. “Show me the secrets of the universe.”

And with those words, Bridget began a journey that would forever change her life.

She still had to study in order to process all she was being shown and when she fell asleep, exhausted after a long day of research, she found herself transported to bizarre and otherworldly places. It was in her dreams that the Chrisom One would appear to her in its form of shimmering unearthly light.

At first, Bridget was terrified, but as the dreams continued, she began to feel a sense of familiarity and even a strange comfort in the Chrisom One’s presence. Eventually she found herself opening up to the entity, sharing her hopes and fears, and listening as it spoke of the secrets of the universe.

Over time, their relationship deepened. Bridget would eagerly anticipate each new dream, eager to see the Chrisom One again and learn more of its mysteries. The cosmic entity, in turn, seemed to take a special interest in Bridget, guiding her toward the knowledge and enlightenment that it believed she was capable of achieving.

It was during one of these dreams that the pair shared a kiss. Bridget had been listening as the Chrisom One spoke of the infinite possibilities of the cosmos, and suddenly felt a surge of emotion she couldn’t explain. Without thinking, she leaned in with a soft, closed-mouth kiss before parting her lips slightly, inviting the Chrisom One to deepen the kiss. What passed for the Old One’s tongue entered her mouth, gently caressing Bridget’s tongue and exploring the inside of her mouth.

To her shame, Bridget hadn’t kissed many men in her life and hadn’t considered herself very good at it but the Chrisom One turned the kiss into a delicate dance, a tango of tongues and lips, a passionate embrace that set her heart ablaze. She leaned in and felt the heat of its breath on her skin, the anticipation building with every passing moment.

Her senses were alive with the unworldly taste and scent of this being that was older than anything she could imagine, the sweet warmth of its mouth as she explored the entity’s depths. Their hands roamed over each other’s bodies, seeking out every curve and contour, every ridge and dip. They pulled each other closer, their bodies pressed together in an embrace that ignited the flames of desire.

Passion surged within her like a wild river. Bridget lost herself in the moment, in the pleasure of the kiss, as if nothing else in the world mattered. And when it finally ended, she was left breathless, her heart racing, longing for more.

From that moment on, their relationship became more than just a strange and inexplicable connection between teacher and student. They would speak for hours, sharing their thoughts and emotions with each other in a way that Bridget had never experienced before. As they learned more about each other, she began to feel a sense of closeness and intimacy that was unlike anything she had ever known.

Of course, their relationship was far from simple. The Chrisom One’s true nature remained shrouded in mystery, and Bridget was never quite sure if it was truly capable of love in the way that humans understood it. And as their relationship deepened, Bridget continued to lose her grip on reality, consumed by her obsession with the entity and the power it represented.

Despite the darkness and danger that surrounded their love, Bridget and the Chrisom One were bound together by a connection that was both terrifying and beautiful. Their love was a force that defied the laws of the universe, a testament to the infinite possibilities of the cosmos.

But anyone who ever experienced love knew full well that it was a form of madness that ofttimes traveled hand in hand with obsession. Bridget’s once-logical mind was now clouded by jealousy and suspicion, leaving her unable to distinguish between reality and illusion. She could no longer ignore the nagging feeling that the Chrisom One was involved in multiple relationships, and that it had no true allegiance to her. The thought of losing the entity she had grown to love filled her with dread, driving her to desperate measures to keep it by her side.

Despite her inner turmoil, Bridget couldn’t let her suspicions consume her completely. She had to find a way to confront the truth about their relationship, no matter how painful it may be. And the way eventually presented itself in the form of an ancient incantation.

Fingers trembling with excitement, Bridget traced the strange symbols etched into the pages of the grimoire. She was taking a tremendous risk by confronting an Eldritch Old God but needs must when the Devil drives. Their relationship was either going to be transparent or it was going to be nothing at all.

She recited the incantation, her voice growing louder and more insistent with each passing moment. The air crackled with dark energy, as the portal to the unknowable plane of existence tore open before her very eyes. And then, with a surge of power, the Chrisom One appeared before her, its form twisting and writhing like an endless nightmare.

But as Bridget stood before the being she had come to love, she couldn’t help but feel a twinge of doubt. Was this truly the being she had longed for, or merely a twisted imitation of the creature she had conjured in her warped mind?

Sensing her hesitation, the Chrisom One stepped closer to her, its form radiating an aura of otherworldly power. Bridget felt a shiver run down her spine as the being coaxed her toward her bed, its ancient voice cooing dead language words of comfort and desire in her ear.

As they lay together, Bridget’s doubts and fears melted away, replaced by a deep sense of longing and fulfillment. The Chrisom One moved with a fluid grace, its touch reigniting the flames of passion she felt the very first moment they kissed.

Lost in the ecstasy of their lovemaking, Bridget was consumed by the power and majesty of the being she had summoned. But even as she surrendered to the Chrisom One’s embrace, a small voice in the back of her mind whispered that this could never truly be love, that their relationship was built on a foundation of madness and obsession.

As the final remnants of her sanity slipped away, Bridget was left with only the bitter knowledge that her love for the Chrisom One had come at a terrible cost, and her fate was now forever intertwined with that of an Eldritch being who was filling her with what passed for its love and absorbing her at the same time.

Laying there, awash in the creature’s unearthly energies, she realized with a sense of horror that she had been manipulated into opening a portal, allowing the Old Gods passage into the mortal realm. And her thanks? To be devoured by a creature that could no more be in love with her than she could be with an insect.

Despite her silent rebuke, Bridget felt the climax surging, her body responding to the being’s touch even as her mind screamed in protest. If she was to rid herself of this monstrosity that had consumed her so completely, she needed to act quickly.

Wrapping what was left of her feeble arms around the entity, Bridget pulled herself close, her mouth near to what passed for its ear. “My mistake was loving you, and your mistake was teaching me too much,” she whispered, her voice laced with bitter regret. And then, with a fierce determination, she began to recite a banishment incantation that was a part of her early lessons, her words ringing out with the power of ancient magic.

As the climax reached its peak, the Chrisom One shrieked and bellowed a string of curses in a language older than the known universe, its power in this plane of existence waning as the incantation took hold, sending the creature vanishing into the void from whence it came.

Bridget would have felt a surge of triumph if she was able to but incantations, even small ones, came at a cost and when the portal closed behind the Eldritch Old God, it used what was left of Bridget’s withered corpse as a seal to prevent it from ever reopening.

***

This should have been a cautionary tale, warning others of the dangers of obsession and the pursuit of forbidden knowledge, but Bridget was a loner and an introvert, so no one knew about the unassuming woman who grappled with the knowledge and forces beyond human understanding and control. A woman with an enormous sense of hope and wonder who nearly came to grips with the enormity of the universe, and with the power of love was shown to be capable of triumphing over even the most incomprehensible forces of the universe.

Wherever Bridget Baxter’s soul now resides, may in forever live in peace.