Halloween Writing Contest Entry

This is a straight up rip-off of The Dresden Files. Or, rather, this would fit nicely into the universe. It was written for a Halloween writing contest at my work. Enjoy.


Halloween night 2020. Perfect night for a summoning. Or ordering bags of your favorite candy from Amazon and hoping your house get’s TP’d (which, this year amounts to an act of charitable giving). 

It’s time to get some answers, and maybe start to fix whatever the hell (waves hand in circular motion) “all this is”.

The pungent odor of sulfur fills the air, causing me to cough and my eyes to water. Why does it always have to be sulfur? Why not something like sandalwood? It’s not like I’m summoning a demon or something. Ok, well, I mean, I guess you can’t categorize “ice fairy” as exactly “benign”.

Snap, crackle, pop, and there she is. 6 inches of blazing cold light and fury. Zipping back and forth all around the circle, angrily blasting away with little ice-cycles like a miniature Elsa. Oops! Suddenly she looks like Elsa… Stay focused! Just because she can’t get out of the circle doesn’t mean she isn’t in your head already.

She freezes in mid-air, spinning around to face me, one bare foot pointed to rest delicately on a horizontal snow-flake 2 feet above the ground. Devilish smile spreading mischievously across her face.

“Good evening Andrew.” 

“Almost got me there Tink.”

“Yes, I nearly did.”

“Circle was wide enough it could have handled it if you’d suddenly become a 5 and a half foot tall Disney princess.”

“Circle maybe, but maybe not your mind…”

“I’ve been training a long time.”

She looks forlornly down at herself and pouts. “Yes, and now I see I’m dressed in this ridiculous green outfit again. You win. What do you want?”

“Pixie dust.” I hold up a nearly empty leather bag and give it a little shake to indicate my poverty. Happy thoughts and a little magic dust and you can fly. Tink here is my source.

She rolls her eyes, “Surely that’s not all.”

“Pay up Tink. Or else I turn you into 1990s Hook Julie Roberts tinkerbell instead. And not the big one.”

She gives me an unamused deadpan glare and begins to hop, fairy dust showering down in a little ring all around her. “There. Good?”

“Actually, one more thing…”

“As expected…” She smiles slyly, “what next?”

“What the hell is going on!?” I yell at her, a little more angrily than I had intended. Actually, I hadn’t intended to yell at all. But seriously! What is going on?

She freezes, looking every bit like a deer caught in headlights.

“I thought so.” I nod, tight lipped and determined.

“Whatever are you talking about?” She says through clenched teeth, barely affecting any of the faux innocence she’s going for.

“Give it up Tink. The world is falling right the hell apart. Global Pandemic, riots going on over 100 days now, choice between a clown and a vegetable for president. What. The. Hell. Is. Going. On.”

Her eyes shift back and forth like a cornered cat, and she licks her lips.

“Strike a new bargain?” I ask. 

Her eyes narrow, and she straightens a bit. I’ve got her attention. Faeries can never resist a bargain.

“No. You’re not taking my first-born, don’t even ask.”

“Oh come now Andrew,” she pouts and stomps her foot, every bit the picture of Tinker Bell (seriously, I was so not expecting the Tinker Bell when I tried summoning her on a whim. That Walt Disney was in deeper than I ever suspected), “you could at least have let me ask… You don’t have to be rude and take the fun out.”

“Ok, fine, you can ask.”

She grins eagerly, “A fair trade would be your firstb—”

“No. Next offer”

She rolls her eyes and groans again.

“Come on, my knees are getting cold on this rough concrete, and its freezing down here. My nose is going to start dripping, and I’m super hungry. In fact, tell you what, give up the goods and I’ll give you an entire pizza.”

She brightens, and I don’t mean figuratively, I mean she literally explodes with yellow light. If there’s one thing faeries seem to love its pizza. Well, pizza and first born children. Then she dims visibly and almost wilts down to stand on the ground, her arms folded across beneath her chest. “I can’t.”

“You can’t what?”

“I can’t… make… any deals about what’s going on right now with those outside of Winter…”

What? That’s… That’s huge actually. Fae make deals like they breath air. It’s part of what powers them. They also can’t lie. So. Wow, ok this is big. I mean, global events already said it was big, but this is like, actually confirmed to not just be stupid bad luck on a global scale. Wait, going on right now. See, that’s the other thing about Faeries, they can’t lie, but like talking to an introvert if you actually listen to them you can find out all sorts of stuff.

“Say there Tink… Remember the 1918 flu?”

“I might… What are you offering?”

“Pizza. One piece per question answered.”

“Whole pizza, 3 questions.”

“Deal, but ‘remember the 1918 flu’ doesn’t count as one of the questions.”

Something not entirely unlike an invisible vice cranking down on her tightens and she shutters and blinks three times rapidly “Done and bound. Ask your questions three.”

“When was the last event of this magnitude?”

“541 through 1453”

What… What the heck happened in 14— Oh. Right. The actual end of the Roman Empire. The Ottoman army captured Constantinople for good, officially ending the Byzantine Empire which had lasted 1,500 years. But, what happened in 541? And that’s like 900 years… Wait…

“Was that whole time span some sort of Fae war or something?”

“Everything is some sort of Fae war or something Andrew. Final question.”

“Wat! No! I was thinking out loud!”

“And I was answering in kind. Final question.”

Crap. OK, pointless to ask questions about those dates, especially when I can have Grismold tell me more about them later anyways. Man… What to ask… I need more info, but I need more info before I even know what to ask…

“Can I just bank my final question for later?”

“No. Answered and done.” A feeling like thunder rumbles through the air and a taste like a mouth full of pennies as she is released from her part of the deal and now the vice clamps down on me. It is so unexpected that I lose my focus, lose my balance, and accidentally set my hand down over the chalk line to steady myself under the cosmic weight of the binding. The circle shatters. Oh. F—

She pounces on my hand immediately. “Andrew, Andrew, Andrew….” The binding solidifies. “My new pet!” She claps and giggles, dancing from foot to foot and spinning in a circle.

Oh no. Oh. No. nononononono. My scalp tingles and the hair stands up on the back of my neck. The pixie steps forward, walking slowly up my arm, each step leaving little pin-pricks of frost-bite as the little winter fae advances. Her steps accompanied by a transformation in appearance, each one more beautiful and terrible than the last, until she walks out of view and stands by my ear.

“You fool. You simple, wonderful, fool.” She laughs into my ear. Cold radiates from her.

I’m frozen in place. Completely beholden to her will for the moment… Which makes no sense. She’s just a tiny winter faerie, she shouldn’t be able to focus long enough to do any real damage here, especially with my emergency fail-safe which should happen right abou—

*ding dong* 

The smell of pizza wafts down the basement stairs through the screen door at the top of the steps. She doesn’t even blink.

Uh-oh. That’s… Actually wait, what? That makes no sense. There’s not a faerie alive that wouldn’t immediately lose their mind and zip off after a pizza delivery guy, presumably with a car full of pizza for them to raid.

“Who are you?” I ask, eyes narrowing.

“tsk tsk… Well, that was fun while it lasted, my pet.” She says, and with a glimmer and a twist the whole world seems to tilt sideways and suddenly I can feel her standing behind me, her hand on my shoulder, maintaining contact —and the bond to Winter. 

“Nice trick, now let’s treat.” I say through gritted teeth.

I’ll spare you the details of how we got there, but half an hour later I had bargained for my life back in exchange for agreeing to help her as a “reagent of winter for the duration of the conflict”. I’d also oh-so-painfully (because nothing is ever easy or free where Winter is involved) pulled the following information out of her, and hold on to your hats because it gets stupid. And weird.

So, I’m sure you remember when Loki turned himself into a mare to seduce an epic horse to keep it from helping a dude build a wall for Valhalla and winning Freya’s hand in marriage and then he accidentally got pregnant and gave birth to an eight legged horse named Sleppy? So, turns out Loki still has a thing for Freya, and is fighting over her with Hoenir. They’ve both turned themselves into humans and are running for president. Again. One guess as to which one is which. All of them being somewhat “old fashioned” Freya’s apparently just letting them fight it out and taking whoever wins, but wait… There’s more! Odin is missing. And Hel has broken loose in the form of plagues, riots, and just general global stupidity as a result. Well, Odin isn’t missing exactly, he’s been seduced by Titania, Queen of Summer herself as part of some sort of crazy retribution against dalliances by the Summer King Oberon who is now also competing, but with Odin, over Titania’s heart (or at least the reclamation of her hand). But where oh where does this little fae fit in? Oh. Oh. Well. This only barely passes the Bechdel test. Barely.

“I’m so sorry my lady…”

Dark as a thundercloud her face becomes as she shrinks back down to her natural size —which really should have tipped me off from the get-go. “The fool should never have done my sister wrong in this way. I’m torn between simultaneously wanting to destroy him and restore him to her.” A single frosty tear rolls down her cheek, “It tears me apart to see not just her, but them all, this way. It is time something is done. You must help me.”

Ye gods and little fishes! Mab, Queen of Winter herself, is standing before me crying; asking for help. A what fools these immortals be. #2020 man.

OK. Allow me to introduce myself. Hi, my name is Andrew Valentine. I’m a professional marriage and family therapist. And Wizard. And suddenly 2020 makes a lot more sense.

Notes to a Friend, or “The Godwork Machine”

Note: My recreational fiction writing was slammed into an extended pause following my coming down with the worst cold I’ve ever had (lasted basically the month of March 2020. Antibody tests indicate it was not COVID, but that is almost beyond belief for me). In the meantime, I have written a lot, but have not yet come back to my fiction. The following is one of the things I wrote during this time.


My dear friend Chris Corwin wrote a journal entry he created in response to a daily journaling prompt and kindly shared it with me today.

The prompt was “do you believe in God”.

I’m going to comment on some specific portions here, after summarizing it.

Summary:

G_d is a result of the sum total of the universe. Possible sentient, but in a way that would be more or less alien to us. Some sort of super-sentience or an alternative sentience possibly more akin to the way that botanical organisms are sentient, but at a near infinite order-of-magnitude larger complexity.

The Bible hints at this in it’s statements about time distortion or “clock time” vs “perceived time”. He interprets the Bible’s statements about great spans of time being as but a blink in the eye of G_d to being merely a one-way relationship pointing at an ancient being and how fast their perceived time must be going.

If G_d has a “sense of self” this requires a background framework on which to place that sense (and presumably lends credence to the concept of G_d as an emergent feature). Any sense of self is merely an emergent trick or useful illusion used to contextualize into pragmatic categories, partially centered around control and proximate awareness.

G_d is a label that we apply to a long-running process that need not have a sense of self, but which for our own conceptual convenience and contextualization, is more conveniently thought of as a “being”. This process is perceived to us to be the driving force behind all things that seem to have a driving force, or be otherwise separate from The Void. Therefore, G_d is what we call the driver behind what we perceive to be anti-Void emergences such as Wisdom, Intelligence, Design, Control, Fate, Destiny, Cause and Effect, Life, etc.

G_d is useful because it allows us to conceptualize and talk about these phenomenon in a way that even children and politicians can understand.

Analysis:

Corwin begins and ends by borrowing Jordan Peterson’s response that he “behaves like someone who believes in God” (although I don’t recall him ever explicitly stating what that means, in what ways he believes himself to be doing this, or what specific impulses/tendencies/behavioral changes are informed by this belief).

Peterson typically goes on to define who this God is. He does so in a way that while it overlaps with some aspects of Christianity, also at least partially misses the entire personal intimate relationship between Bride and Bridegroom. He does so as a Bride sitting in the vestibule of the church, describing in detail the ways in which the Groom is deserving of love and praise, but shyly reticent to enter into the marriage ceremony due to some ill-conceived notion that perhaps if he stays in the vestibule long enough, applying enough make-up, doing enough exercises, standing up straight with his shoulders back, improving himself, some day he might make himself worthy of walking through those doors to meet the Groom. Peterson is admirably but sadly mistaken. Having been married for many many years, he damn well ought to know better. It is the marriage that makes you worthy of it (or discover that you are not and never will be and are yet loved).

Corwin by contrast seems to describe instead of a Groom, a general mechanical force that could only in superficial ways be identified as part of God’s nature, but inverts everything to instead have God be the emergent result of what I would call some of His creations and some of the results of His nature. Corwin describes no explanation as to how his belief in God has informed his behavior, although such behavioral information can be extrapolated or guessed at if you know him well enough (granted there isn’t anything that stands out in the blog to me that could be described as behavioral information, except perhaps the belief in a certain pragmatism in a belief in a G_d).

In Corwin’s vision of God, God is a created being –or rather a super-being– that is the result of emergent processes and experiences. As if a neural construct that began, and grew, and from that growth resulted in a being so vast and beyond our comprehension that the only way it could reveal itself to us (if indeed it had any interest in doing so), or perhaps be conceptualized by us, is as a G_d, or as I will call it henceforth: the “Godwork Machine”. 

This Godwork Machine is therefore limited by and bound by time, just as we are. It experiences the same time perception distortion as we do. It is subservient to it, and subject to certain rules and limitations. This being is decidedly not the Christian God, as conceptualized by either the East or the West (perhaps though it is closer to the accidental Western conceptualization).

An interesting aside here is that due to time perception distortion, the Moment of the Big Bang at which this God Machine emerged would have felt as if an eternity in comparison to a single “moment” for it today. One could almost guess that, if it so existed, this God Machine could be (unforgivably) mistaken in a belief that it was indeed an Eternal Being. Echoes of the Big Bang which vibrate through space even now could serve as vague memories of some sort of infinity from which it emerged and which it might mistakenly believe it “came from” or that it was somehow “outside of” “the universe”. Memories of this eternal moment of being a singular point in literal nothing (prior to the expansion of The Big Bang) could well be misconstrued as awareness of a “different place”, a “super-natural state”. The obvious answer to this is that if I’m smart enough to have dreamed this up then the God Machine would have to be either entirely self-deluding or somehow less intelligent than me to not have realized this contingency.

Corwin transitions into a de-facto discussion of his belief in the non-existence of “free will”. It is not entirely clear whether he assigns this lack to the Godwork Machine or not, although I believe that the implication is there that not only is the Godwork Machine a result of the universe rather than the progenitor of it (and is therefore a creature), but furthermore the Godwork Machine is bound by and fully subject to time, as well as lacks what many commonly think of as “free will”. Therefore the Godwork Machine is a feature of creation, no more symbiotically important than Yeast in any way other than its vast pervasive nature. The Godwork Machine isn’t a discrete entity but rather the result of the sum total of the component parts of the universe. 

Another interesting implication is that the Godwork Machine, to the extent that it has what we recognize as “consciousness”, could have a vested interest in eliminating the malignant parts of itself. Such a motivation could explain something approaching “separating the sheep from the goats”. Especially if the Godwork Machine has an inkling of the millions of years potential of human beings to expand beyond the Earth and easily become a malignant nefarious force of untold pain and destruction for not only themselves but any other (illusory or no) forms of consciousness throughout the Universe.

There are some large gaps between Corwin’s thinking and an Orthodox understanding of God, although there are some inverted overlaps.

Corwin states:

Some — naively — will insist that G_d is “entirely outside of time” but that doesn’t hold up — an agent entirely outside of time would be unable to perceive time at all.

Indeed! He is correct! That’s an important miscommunication. I am almost certainly a culprit for one who has perhaps even stated those very words, but meant something very different than how I am now understanding it is easily taken. By “entirely outside of time” I mean that Time exists because it is something that God created and that it exists inside of Him. He is bound by it only at-will, which means it’s more like a “rule he chooses to follow” than a force that exerts control over Him (thus making Him subservient to it). Time obeys God, not the other way around.

God declares himself to be the only thing with ontological Existence.  The only Existing One. In Him and at his Will and Pleasure all creation came, rests, and exists. None of “this” actually exists at all in a true sense of the word. This is an inversion of Corwin’s belief that the God Machine is a result of the sum total of the universe. He has the emersion backwards, as all things emerge from God. He also has the “reason” backwards, rather than the God Machine being an Accidental or Random or Fatalistic result of the Universe, the Universe is instead an intentional result of God.

The Word (Jesus) is God and is the one in whom the beginning is (“in the beginning was the Word” or, stated again, “The beginning was in the Word” but NOT “the Word was contained/produced by the beginning”, “and the Word was God”). The Word is the one from which all things receive their being (“All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” this implies an outside causal force being the progenitor and bedrock foundational of the fundamental existence of all things, the directional flow is clear. Creation is a result of conscious will and effort of an outside force which yet contains and sustains creation within itself and is itself an active participant in creation). 

“No one has seen the Father at any time, the Word who is in the Father has revealed Him”. The Father IS (“I AM”, “YHWH”). The Word (Jesus) is the incarnate physical manifestation of the Father. He is the One who walked with Adam and Eve in the garden in the cool of the day. He is one of the three who came and dined with Abraham. He is the burning bush out of which the Father spoke. He is the “angel” who wrestled with Jacob. Given this understanding, and that all incarnate manifestations of God are said to be the Word, it only follows that the Christian God, as described by those who have spoken to Him and walked with Him, has declared Himself to be entirely independent from all things, but also that all things have their being “in His bosom”, and that he and the Father are One and that the way we are able to experience God to the extent that we do is through Christ the Word.

In summary, only the most loosely generous interpretation of an understanding of God could describe Christ the Word as the Godwork Machine. Even given this understanding (inconsistent with historical Christian/Judeo understandings) though, the Godwork Machine fails to actually accurately encompass or account for God the Father (not to mention the Holy Spirit) as understood by either Judaism or Christianity.

Mop

This is Part 4 of the longer story “Core“. Here are Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

I gritted my teeth, took a deep breath, and turned around. There were eight other people on the elevator with me. A black gentlemen in a light blue blazer, narrow brimmed had, and dark sunglasses stood relaxed nearby clutching a briefcase and umbrella. A plump woman in a black dress covered with tiny white flowers, a necklace of fat round pearls strung round her neck. A youngish west-coast professional looking man in chinos and a polo. An old Chinese lady with a huge canvas hand-bag. None of them looked out the window, or gave any indication of concern or really any inclination to do anything but stand and wait what might come. Most of them politely ignored the existence of everyone else.

Two teenaged Japanese girls glanced timidly around periodically, obviously texting each other while they stood shoulder to co-ordinated-to-complement-outfitted shoulder.

I had to get off. Why was everyone standing around so placidly while we zoomed down? Especially so far! We just fell below the surface!

I looked around frantically for the control console or, failing to find that, for the floor indicators. I gripped the core tightly and clutched it protectively to my chest. I stepped forward to approach the doors of the inner, micro, elevator for a closer look.

Suddenly they opened.

Continue reading “Mop”

Switch

This is Part 3 of the longer story “Core“. Here are Part 1, and Part 2.

I exploded out into the concourse, pounded across the grey tile and into the bazaar. Legs churning, I ran past and stumbled into tables placed seemingly at random and strewn with cheap junk.

I looked down at the core in my hand. It was like some sort of Bic pen with a fat red core and an eye-dropper for a tip. What the heck? I had no idea what this thing was, but whatever was in it came out of my head. Some part of me screamed with greed and defiance, demanding that I do everything I could to protect it.

I ran on. If I could find an elevator or an escalator or anything I might be able to get away.

“Stop! Come back!” Pocket Square called after me.

Continue reading “Switch”

Core

This is Part 2 of the longer story “Core“. See here for Part 1.

I was very much taken aback. Most of his fingers were normal looking, but several were extremely misshapen and stubby and small. I looked up at his face and saw no indication that he thought there was anything particularly strange or different about his hand. My shock was reflected on the maiden’s face, her eyes wide. She was suddenly sitting very straight, looking at his hand and trying not to gape.

I glanced at Pocket Square. He seemed to have leaned forward ever so slightly, his posture intensely expectant. A wolf about to pounce.

I swallowed, my mouth suddenly dry. Hesitantly I put my own elbow on the table and opened my hand. I looked up at Mo-hawk’s face again, a bit helplessly. There was no obvious way to clasp his hand and I wasn’t sure where to begin. He seemed completely unconcerned, and in fact wasn’t even looking at my hand.

Continue reading “Core”

8

They tumbled. Great balls of fire slowly drifting, smoke trailing behind them, flames billowing at an angle. Orange deepening into black, hard to tell where flames ended and smoke began. Like big black balls of cotton that had been thrust into a stunning sunset to soak up the color and then placed in a leaning stack one upon the other. Watching them fall was cathartic. Relaxing. Other aircars managed the opposite, their thrusters an ice blue streak as they ascended. A ladder of divine ascent playing dramatically outside of the window. Most of them just floated along, neither falling nor rising. Passing each other in opposite directions. Would the ones going left eventually join those falling? Were the ones going right destined to rise?

I gazed out of the window through the city, through the world, watching. Contentedly thinking about what she’d said. She watched me consider her words. Her thumb gently stroked my forefinger, the rings covering her fingers reflecting light and clinking softly. Our food sat between us forgotten, unable to add anything meaningful to our satisfaction.

The city spread above and below us. I’d never yet seen the top. I hadn’t seen the surface in so long it might as well have been never. Neither were visible, just rows of buildings and windows stretching out of sight above and below us. The aircars drifting lazily between it all, like bumblebees, reflecting our peaceful mood.

Some part of my brain, buried deep, assured me that way down below, below the surface, were the deeps. Waiting hangrily in the darkness. I dismissed the thought as irrelevant to the wonderful night I was having. Or maybe it was morning? Noon? Irrelevant. The soft pink glow that pervaded everything never changed anyways, except to become lighter if higher you ascended.

“Quite the sight huh?” A voice invaded our contemplation.

Continue reading “8”

Crash

Nolani coughed. Sand? What? It tasted awful, oily salty brine-y… tangy… citrus-y? Like some disgusting margarita that sat out all night in the heat by the ocean and then all the next day and then all the years it took until it was nothing but rocks and chemical lemon dust in the bottom of the glass, which itself hadn’t actually ever been washed from the first day her mother had put it to use in their slum cantina. The day… Well, her father would never have bothered to wash it after that anyways.

As she coughed it out she quickly became aware of a smell layered over all the taste. Metal. Rust. Like she was sitting next to her father’s angle grinder back home as he ate away at the corrosion that grew over everything in that salty air. The determined attention which he threw himself into punishing the cars and lampposts and street signs and junk he valued so much.

Continue reading “Crash”

Repentance

It’s no joke that you must become like a little child to enter the kingdom of heaven. Your heart and soul need be lain bare. You must be willing to be broken like a two-year-old. Unapologetic-ally pathetic. Uncaring of how ridiculous you are.

You know you’ve arrived when the snot running freely from your nose, dripping disgustingly on yourself and those you hug in an almost drunken manner as you beg their forgiveness bothers you not even a little. Although your brain (not to mention the looks on some of their faces) assures you matter-of-factly; that’s disgusting!

A week of church camp will do it. Monasticism in a box, or as close as you can get to it for a 16-year-old kid.

Go to the wilderness… You think it’s full of cottages made of candy guarded by incompetent witches, big bad(ly ineffective) wolves, dragons gift-wrapping helpless panting fawning maidens and piles of gold just ready for you to pillage.

If only there were dragons.

Continue reading “Repentance”