The Pandemic Looks Pretty in Pink (A Diary)

It’s been, hmm…well, I don’t know how many days since the pandemic started. I’m a writer, not a mathematician.

I just know it’s been plenty of days to ruminate on every bad decision I’ve made over the entirety of my forty-eight years on this planet.

Of course, that’s the number I can always keep track of, no matter how much I try to forget.

And for how many hours a day the neighbour’s dogs bark.

I mean, why have dogs, you know, if you’re just going to ignore them for, say, eight hours, twenty-three minutes…and forty-three seconds.

There, the dogs have finally stopped barking. I should probably get out of the house, go for a walk in the park, but I have a best-selling novel to write.

It’s shaping up pretty good. Draft eleven, here I come! But first, I just need to check my social media for the sixteenth time today.

You know, I’d better turn off the computer completely and get writing. Right after I give my cat her brushie time she’s been meowing at me for. After all, I don’t neglect my pets.

Well, apparently, she doesn’t want brushies, now. She just ran off into the other room, chasing after whatever probably imaginary thing she heard. Gotta love cats, right?

Wait, I heard it too. Sounds like crumpling paper. I hope my cat’s not tearing apart my best-selling manuscript draft number eleven.

Whew, it’s okay. Right there on the desk where I left it 37 days ago. But, you know, I had all that research to do online.

Just thinking about all that research has made me too tired to tackle draft number twelve. I’ll take a quick nap and then I can get a fresh start on today’s writing. It’s only, well, sometime after two in the afternoon. Plenty of time.

Oh no, how long did I sleep? It’s dark out, but it can’t be too late, right? That’s right, it’s winter, so it gets dark early. I’m fine. Besides, I’m determined to rewrite at least a couple of chapters today. Still, it’s strange that kitty didn’t wake me up to scoop her litter box 2.5 seconds after she used it.

I can hear her in there, scratching and scratching and scratching as if she’s trying to bury one of the great pyramids in Egypt.

I stop when I see her white blur dart across the dark room. “Where you going, kitty?” I call out. “I’ve got treats.” I shake the treat bag but she doesn’t answer.

I flick the light switch but the house remains dark. Just another urban brownout. I fumble around on my nightstand for the flashlight and hear something clatter to the floor as I grab the light. I turn on the flashlight but can’t find what fell.

“Kitty,” I call out, shining the light around. There’s no sign of her. Wait, there she is. I swing the light back around to the white glow I’d spotted.

Oh no.

“Kitty, what did you do?” I forget to use my best-pet-owner-ever voice and I’m glad the windows are closed so the neighbour can’t hear me almost-yell at the cat.

I feel nauseous. I know it’s not because I’d forgotten to eat. There, on the floor, are hundreds of scraps of paper. I can only hope it’s not draft eleven.

“It’s okay, kitty, I’m not mad.” I finally find her, crouching behind the TV. “Come on out.” But she still won’t come out, not even for her special treats.

And then I hear more paper rustling, somewhere behind me. If I was already a best-selling author, I wouldn’t have to live in this vermin-infested house. I mean, the mice are cute and all, and even my kitty seems fond of them. At least, she never hunts them, as far as I know.

“Shoo,” I said, but the rustling continued. Flashlight in one hand, I start picking up the bits of paper. The scraps are so small I can’t even tell which page it is.

But I’ve got tape and plenty of time with the pandemic isolation. I can put it back together, I tell myself. I get down on my hands and knees and start scooping up the paper bits. One big piece catches a draft and floats away.

The paper-rustling noise is louder, now, and I hesitate before feeling around for the missing piece under the desk. The noise stops just as I realize what it is. It’s not rustling, it’s . . . chewing. I get low to the floor and shine the light underneath the desk. Something glows, there, and it’s not white. It’s not even the faded gray of a house mouse. It’s…pink?

“What are you,” I say to the strange little creature that still has a scrap of paper hanging out of its mouth. The scrap falls to the ground and the creature ignores it.

“Well, whatever you are, you’re a pretty little thing.” It looked like a teeny pig, or maybe a cow. I waggle my finger towards it. “Come here, critter.”

Based on the seventeen stitches I had to get at the urgent care, it didn’t like me poking it. Luckily, by the time I got back to the house, the strange creature had disappeared.

I could only hope that my cat had broken the truce she formed with our wee fuzzy roommates and eaten the vicious little thing.

Until the next day, when the news was full of dire warnings about supply chain issues and paper shortages–which were blamed on the pandemic.

But we knew the real reason, me and my cat.

That these little pink creatures reproduced as fast as they ate paper. And, who knew, maybe someday, another new lifeform would come along that would have an insatiable taste for plastic.

That natural evolution would succeed where humans had failed, in regards to the planet.

*********

If you all haven’t figured it out by now, this was my entry into Evil Squirrel’s “Ninth Annual Contest of Whatever”, inspired by this (not-so?) pretty-in-pink creature: https://evilsquirrelsnest.com/2022/01/30/the-ninth-annual-contest-of-whatever/!

Go check out the original post(s) about this mysterious creature, complete with illustrations, and the other participants’ posts about this cute pink nightmare!

You have until tomorrow to write up something yourself . . . come join in the fun!

All sightings (and posts) of this strange creature can be found in these posts/comments:

https://evilsquirrelsnest.com/2022/03/02/five/

https://evilsquirrelsnest.com/2022/02/27/one-more-plug/

https://evilsquirrelsnest.com/2022/02/18/the-two-week-warning/

 

Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author S. Alessandro Martinez

Flying in on bat wings is this week’s Five Things Friday interviewee, horror and fantasy author S. Alessandro Martinez.

Willow Croft: If you could be any species of bat, which one would you choose, and why?

S. Alessandro Martinez: I love bats! My favorite animal. If I were going to be a bat, I’d either choose a vampire bat, for obvious reasons. Or a Livingstone’s fruit bat, which are adorable, fluffy, and have awesome-looking eyes.

Willow Croft: What with the pandemic, I definitely missed playing board games at the local comic book shop. (I’m still irked with myself for not being able to make it to your Helminth escape room challenge event!) So, what’s your favourite board game, and do board games and/or video games ever inspire your writing?

S. Alessandro Martinez: Our Helminth live online escape room was a ton of fun to put on, but also a ton of work. I’m still glad we did it, though. My favorite board game of all time would be Arkham Horror (2nd Edition). Most people who know me know I’m a huge Lovecraft fan. I have many Lovecraftian board games, but Arkham Horror will always be number one. As for whether they inspire my writing? Definitely. A novel I’m working on at the moment was inspired by a tabletop role-playing game campaign I wrote a few years ago. I enjoyed the story I came up with, and decided to turn it into a novel.

Willow Croft: Helminth got pretty gruesome at times (not that I minded, of course!), so, in real life, what’s the most gruesome thing you’ve ever eaten (or strangest recipe you prepared)?

S. Alessandro Martinez: I don’t know about “gruesome”, but I’ve eaten plenty of things that would be considered weird to Americans like me. For example, I’ve had blood pudding and blood sausage, both good. Sea urchin, which I would not recommend ever. Whale, it was okay. Horse is one of the most delicious meats I’ve ever had. In Iceland I had hákarl, which is Greenland shark that has been fermented and hung to dry for about five months. I probably wouldn’t eat that again, but I would recommend experiencing it.

Willow Croft: As a horror and fantasy writer, your imagination must take you to some spooky, and wonderful, fictional places. In real life, though, what’s the most fantastical/frightening thing that’s happened to you?

S. Alessandro Martinez: When my wife and I visited Canada, we decided to go on a caving tour. During the tour, I somehow ended up in front of everyone as we were crawling through these narrow passageways. From the rear of the group, the guide sent up instructions to go down a certain passage. So I attached myself onto the safety line and went down that way. Well, what we found out later was that the guide had said “DON’T go down that way.” But the message had altered on its way down to me. Turns out the safety line I had attached to wasn’t connected to anything on the other end and there was a pretty significant drop right below where I had gotten to. Thankfully, only my wife and I had gone down before the guide realized what happened. We had to wait for the guide to come and lead us out a safer way.

As for fantastical, when the wife and I were in New Zealand, we got to see many Lord of the Rings filming locations, climb to the top of Edoras, and have a hobbit feast at the Green Dragon. We also went caving (again) to see the glowworms. That was amazing sight! And when we were in Iceland, my wife and I got to swim in a stream that had been recently created through volcanic activity and was being naturally heated. This was a practically a private spot in the middle of nowhere that a guide had taken us to. A truly amazing experience.

Willow Croft: And, lastly, if you could travel to any (presumably) cursed or haunted location in the world for an overnight stay, where would you choose?

S. Alessandro Martinez: It’s a dream of mine to visit Bran Castle (Dracula’s Castle) one day. Who wouldn’t, right? I’ve also been wanting to visit the Waverley Hills Sanatorium in Kentucky. That seems like a super creepy place I’d love to explore. I would happily spend a night at either of these locations. Or maybe several nights when it comes to Bran Castle.

Take a dark draught with S. Alessandro Martinez over at his blog: https://salessandromartinez.com/.

Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Garon Whited

 

Meet Garon Whited, author and longtime D&D gamer, in this week’s “Five Things Friday”!

Willow Croft: You’ve written about vampires, dragons, ants, and…cats! If you could become any one supernatural, fantastical, cryptozoological, or non-human life form, what would you be, and why?

Garon Whited: Anything? Anything at all? We’re not even going to narrow it down a little? Oh, well, start with the softballs, sure. Ease into it. Don’t go for the tough questions right off. Pfft.

Let me think about that. [time passes] Okay, I think I’ve got it. While it’s tempting to be a Time Lord—and steal a TARDIS—or to be a dragon, or even a vampire, I think I’d have to settle on a third-stage Lensman. They were designed by the Arisians, true, but they’re about as perfect a creature as has ever been. While they may live an immensely long time, they’re not immortal—unless they choose; whether they can extend their lives indefinitely hasn’t been conclusively determined.  Immortality isn’t necessarily all it’s cracked up to be.  They have immense intelligence, profound powers, exceptional physical prowess, and basically every advantage ever found in the entire lexicon of human potential.

Unlike Arisians, however, they aren’t necessarily totally cerebral. They’re still humans, although highly advanced ones.  And, when it comes right down to it, I’m a human. Mostly. Kind of. In many ways. I should probably go with what I know rather than try to figure out all the fiddly details of another species.

DMDice

Willow Croft: Presto! You’ve just discovered you’re the next time lord . . . what bizarre food combination would your companion find you eating?

Garon Whited:

“Professor?”

“You pushed the ‘Talk’ button?”

“What is this?”

“Hey!  Don’t touch that!”

“Is it some sort of experiment?  Dalek repellent?  Cyberman poison?”

“I can drop you off in Wales, you know.”

“I like Wales.”

“…Four million B.C.”

“So, you were saying about this delicious-looking bowl of…?”

“Chocolate chips in peanut butter.”

“There’s peanut butter in that?”

“I like the chocolate. And the peanut butter adds flavor. And it makes it easier to spoon it up.”

“But…”

“If you don’t want to eat it, I will.”

“Look, if you’re going to steal a food replicator from the Federation, could you at least program it with something else? I would like to eat, too!”

“It’s programmed for everything but tea. Ask for tea.”

“What? Why?”

“It’ll work out what you want to drink through taste bud patterns and neurological signals. It will then produce a liquid which is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.”

“You’re weird.”

“I find it highly improbable you’re only just now noticing.”

“I was confused by your heart of gold.”

“I knew I liked you for some reason.”

 

Willow Croft: Logic and science aside, if you could travel back in time, what historical event would you change, and why?

Garon Whited: Sorry; I can’t ignore the logic and science part. Too many years playing role-playing games where the players need to have a consistent framework where things can eventually make sense.

However, if I’m going to change something, there are a couple of candidates.

Was there an Atlantis? Let’s talk about it not sinking—or, at the very least, playing tourist before the end. Did aliens build the pyramids?  We’re going to need to talk about that—to the locals, and to the aliens. And so on.

But for documented historical stuff, allow me to mention the Library of Alexandria.  While I acknowledge the place—for history’s sake—has to be sacked, would it really be such a bad thing to show up a couple of years beforehand, hire a hundred scribes, and make a backup copy? Or just spend my days in the library, pretending to read everything, while wearing newfangled glass lenses over my eyes? “Newfangled” to the locals, perhaps. The concealed high-tech video recording device I’m using to make copies of everything I pretend to read has to blend in.  I’m not slapping the documents on a copier.

MathNerd

Willow Croft: Do you have a favourite pair of D&D/role-playing dice?

Garon Whited: No, I don’t. These days, I use my laptop. It keeps my character records, worldbuilding, magic items, custom spells, the works. I’m pretty good with Excel and the workbook I have is huge, holding dozens of cities, one Empire, three kingdoms, a bunch of races, and enough adventure ideas to keep a table full of players busy from now until my grandchildren are old enough to sit by the fire and mutter about how D&D was different in their day.

Sometimes I wonder if I should just publish the darn thing. Then again, there are so many useful tools out there on the internet, as it is. Up-to-date ones, I mean, covering lots of different editions. If you’re not big on editing spreadsheets, you’d have to play 3.5 to use mine. Then again, come to think of it, I updated it to 3.5 over time… it was originally for 2nd edition, because my 1st edition spreadsheet in Lotus wasn’t easy to export…

Man, have I been at this for a while.

I do have a few unusual dice, though.

How Long

Willow Croft: What’s the most frightening thing that has crawled out from the depths of your imagination?

Garon Whited: Look. [deep breath] If something crawls out of my imagination, the world is in real trouble, because I imagine a lot. So far, it’s all still in my imagination.

As for the most frightening thing in there, how about we stick with people?

Let me explain that.

Elder Gods may do awful things to the universe, inflicting madness and death on every puny life-form in much the same way as we pour gasoline on an ant mound. They do so because it’s in their nature to do so.  It’s just how they are.  Alien fungi turning everyone into zombies? Ditto. Hungry space vampires? Same. Devouring fog that weaves through the forests, puts people to sleep, and slowly leaches their blood out through their skin? All of these are creatures that do terrible things because we think they’re terrible, not because they do. We perceive them as horrible, nasty monsters. Their thought is more, “Meh.  Humans. They would think that.”

But people?

We do good and noble things. We help each other. We raise each other up. We know what is good and we unfailingly do it. If we know something is wrong or evil or just plain unnecessarily hurtful, we would never do it! …right? Right? I hear an uncomfortable silence in answer.

Or, unlike the “monsters,” do we choose to do things to each other that we know are outright evil “because we have to”? Why do we have to? Is that what we tell ourselves as a handy excuse? Or did we screw up enough that we don’t dare admit it and take the blame—so let’s eliminate the problem by eliminating people who would blame us? Or, no, let’s just lie about it. We have intelligence. We have language.  Let’s lie to each other, cheat each other, kill each other—and worse. Oh, so much worse!

Monsters—the scariest ones—aren’t the alien Things with tentacles and slime. They’re the ones that remind us of ourselves, because there is nothing more terrifying. We may fear the unknown or the unknowable, but we know what we’re capable of. What’s even worse is we only think we know… and really don’t want to find out how wrong we are.

So, the worst thing my imagination has produced? It’s sometimes plumbed deeper into the well of human nature than is technically good for it. That’s why most of what I write has a lighthearted air. I don’t like it down there.

Garon Whited’s Books and Author Page and More:

https://www.amazon.com/Garon-Whited/e/B00IX0NER0

www.garonwhited.com

https://www.facebook.com/groups/GaronWhited/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/gwspoilers/

“Five Things Friday” Interview with Author David Lee Summers!

Here’s the next “Five Things Friday” interview with speculative fiction author (and astronomer) David Lee Summers! Hope you enjoy!

Willow Croft: One thing I hated to give up in leaving New Mexico was the clear skies, especially with the occurrence of the conjunction event (Wichita has an absolutely obscene amount of light pollution!). So, in honour of all things galactic, what’s your favourite astronomical phenomenon to date, from your astronomer perspective?

David Lee Summers: I would have a hard time giving up the clear skies of the Southwest and I’m sorry you missed the conjunction event. It was very cool. That said, I think one of the most exciting things I’ve seen through a telescope was Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 just a few days before it hit Jupiter back in 1995. The comet itself resembled a cosmic string of pearls. On top of that, I was working with Vera Rubin, the woman who made the observations that led to the discovery of dark matter.

Willow Croft: If you could dine on any fictional off-world (off-Earth) cuisine/dish, what would it be, and what would you imagine it tastes like?

David Lee Summers: In my novel Heirs of the New Earth, a character brings a dish called ruas’ordah to a party. It’s purple mush from a planet called Rd’dyggia. I imagine it tastes like green chile hummus. I would totally make this. I may have to experiment with some recipes and post it to my blog if I create something I like!

Willow Croft: Since you are a speculative fiction author, and with a nod to your “2020 Foresight” blog post (https://davidleesummers.wordpress.com/2020/01/11/2020-foresight/), how do you foresee the events of the next ten years unfolding? How would you wish they would unfold, and how do you imagine society being ten years from now? Where do you envision yourself being in ten years?

David Lee Summers: This is a good question, since I think we’re at a real crossroads moment in history and a lot depends on how well we’re able to get the COVID-19 pandemic under control and how people respond to recent events in Washington D.C.

Taking a hopeful stance, I think we’ll bring the pandemic under control in the next year or so. I hope our experiences with remote work and remote events will allow us to continue these things to a certain extent after the pandemic. I look forward to seeing people again at in-person conventions, for example, but I’ve also had the opportunity to attend and speak at conventions I couldn’t have if I had been required to pay for transportation. I’m also hopeful that the dramatic political events surrounding the confirmation of Joe Biden’s presidential win will help politicians bridge the exaggerated “aisle” they dug between the two American parties so they can actually get some good work done.

Within the next decade, I’m betting we’ll find evidence of life outside the Earth. Such a discovery will help us better understand our place in the universe. I fear climate change will worsen, but hope we can make changes that will slow it down. In short, I hope the world will be a better, safer place in ten years than it is today, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find we have new challenges that we can’t even begin to imagine now.

As for me, I still plan to be writing. I hope to try my hand at expanding what I do into comics, audio and maybe even some video of some form. I hope to wrap up my Wilderness of the Dead horror series and maybe work on some other steampunk projects I have in mind.

Willow Croft: Would you travel into space, or are you content with being Earthbound? Why, or why not? Alternatively, what region of space would you like to visit?

David Lee Summers: I would definitely travel into space if I could. I feel like travel on Earth has always expanded my consciousness and given me new perspectives. Going into space would take that to a whole new level. I would love to visit Mars to see the deserts and experience the night sky from its surface. I’m enough of a rock hound to know it would be exciting to wander its surface and see what stories the rocks tell.

Willow Croft: And, of course, have you ever seen an UFO or had any close encounters? What kind of Earth food is their favourite, if so?

David Lee Summers: I have never personally seen a UFO, but I did meet a man who claimed to be one of the beings seen by Lonnie Zamora during the Socorro “close encounter of the third kind” from 1964. Does that count? He liked fresh grilled salmon and really liked his beer!

Find out more about David Lee Summers and his writing/publishing projects, here:

Website: http://www.davidleesummers.com

Blog: https://davidleesummers.wordpress.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/davidleesummers

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/davidleesummers

Company: http://www.hadrosaur.com

Winter Solstice and Ice Dreams…

I hope you all are enjoying this winter solstice and have hot chocolate and blankets ready for the conjunction viewing tonight. Alas, there is so much light pollution here, and my new locale is lit up so brightly I’m surprised you can’t see it from outer space.

There’s a little teeny part of me that’s expecting something momentous to happen, even though I fall more on the skeptic’s side of things. But I’ll settle for the veil between worlds to thin so that I can spend some time with my ghost cats of season’s past. I miss them.

I don’t even know about the veil-thinning thing, but I have been thinking a lot about the past. Many of my poems have elements taken from experiences I’ve had in the past, and turned into what-might-have-been second chances, or alternate dimensions.

The spec fic story (“The Ice Dream of the Crow”) I wrote for Excalibur’s Books’ Phantom Games: Dimensions Unknown 2020 was inspired by my grandmother’s boyfriend Ernie (he died some time ago). As the story goes, he was an excellent skater, and worked at the Lake Placid Olympics. From the family’s written record of the story, he laid the flag under the ice, and escorted Sonja Henie onto the ice. He was gifted an ice skater ornament for his work on the Olympics, which is still in the family.

So, if you’re looking to escape into an alternate reality and want to experience a fictional journey to the Games, and can’t wait for them to start next year, check out the anthology by clicking on the link here: Phantom Games: Dimensions Unknown 2020 or here https://www.amazon.com/Phantom-Games-Dimensions-2020/dp/B08KQP53X2/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Thanks, and enjoy the rare conjunction tonight! Merry solstice!