Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Classic Anarchy: Walpurgisnacht

Mark A Davis

"Strangely enough," said Black Dahlia, "Walpurgisnacht is a Christian name for a pagan festival.  At least that's how it's worked out.  Saint Walpurga was an English missionary to the Frankish Empire.  She is credited with bringing Christianity to Germany.  But of course, celebrations of the end of Winter and the coming of Spring date back to pagan times."

Five heroes were gathered in a warehouse, about a small table.  Black Dahlia poured five cups of hot tea, then added clear liquid from a tall bottle to each.  "A mixture of water, strong apple cider, and several herbs," she said.  The leader of the Black Moon Maidens was a pale woman with long, dark red hair, in a black Victorian dress, and an abundance of silver jewelry.  She wore black lipstick, black eyeliner, and black nail polish.

On her right was DarkFireNinjaCatgirl, often called Dafinica for short.  She was a young half-cat woman who normally dressed like a ninja -- though for tonight she was wearing one of Dahlia's dresses, looking very uncomfortable in a laced-up corset bodice and poofed sleeves laced from the wrist to the elbow.

On Dahlia's left was Dark Dr. Dark, her mentor and current Supreme Sorcerer of the World (five years running, non-consecutive -- not counting 2010 when he had tied with Alvadine the Bold and lost in a runoff, or 2012 which was a strike year) and a member of the League of Two-Fisted Justice.  Dark Dr. Dark was a tall man dressed in black with a thick black beard.  For tonight he wore a cape and dark glasses.

Across from Dahlia were two more members of the League of Two Fisted Justice -- Unpossible Man, a seven-foot, 350 lb behemoth in blue and black spandex, but also for tonight wearing over this a brown robe that bore a strong resemblance to a graduation gown, and Grandpa Anarchy, a very old man in a gray suit who normally wore a fedora, but who tonight had on a black witch's hat, along with a black robe thrown over his suit.

"Traditionally the drink is consumed in a shot glass or wine glass," said Dahlia, "but I prefer to mix it into a lovely cup of tea.  It seems more civilized, and I do love my Earl Grey."

"Who doesn't?" replied Dark Dr. Dark, selecting a cup and breathing in the aroma.

Dafinica made a face.  Unpossible Man said, "Gimme a beer any day."

"In Germany," said Black Dahlia, "they say that witches and warlocks hold a pagan celebration and meeting atop the Brocken, the highest peak in the Harz Mountains.  The truth is more complex -- the Brocken that we will visit is not on the mountain in Germany, but a kind of idealized version of it -- a spiritual Brocken of dreams, as it were.  Witches, Wizards and Warlocks the world over gather here once a year on Walpurgisnacht to feast and celebrate the changing of seasons and the coming of spring."

"Everyone meets in a magical place to get drunk," said Grandpa.

"Yes," said Dahlia.  "That's pretty much it."

"Sounds like quite a shindig," said Unpossible Man.  "Doc, you say you've been doing this every year since we've known you?  How come you never said nothing?"

A pained looked passed over Dark Dr. Dark's face.  "It was not my idea to tell you of it this time," he said.  "This is a celebration for practitioners of the magic arts only.  But we have need of your help...."

"Mycontrolofdarknessandfireisjustlikemagic," said DarkFIreNinjaCatgirl.  "IcandissappearatwillninjapowersarebasicallymagictoosoIbelongthere."

"We're here to stop a potential terrorist event," said Dahlia.  "We are here to capture a very clever magical terrorist.  She calls herself the Witch of Heath and Hedge, and she is bent on causing a global catastrophe.  I should not have to add, we are not here to drink."  She glared at Dafinica and added, "You are too young to drink."


"But you're mentally twelve," said Dahlia.  "You will always be too young to drink, as long as you're working for me."

"Aw," said the catgirl.  "Nina lets me drink!"

"That's nice," said Dahlia.  "When you work with her, you can drink.  But for now, nobody drinks.  Clear?"

"Sure," said Grandpa.  "I don't drink liquor anyway.  So how do we get to this place?"

Dahlia glanced down at the teacups and said, "We drink."


As soon as they'd downed their tea, the five heroes found themselves in a grassy clearing.  The air was crisp and cold and the night sky was overhead.  In the distance they saw burning bonfires and crowds of people.  Dahlia and Dark Dr. Dark led the others in this direction.

It was like a carnival.  First came the smells of sizzling steak and chicken, hamburgers and hot dogs, and of cotton candy, spent fireworks, beer, and the smell of people crowded too close together.  With this came the buzz of hundreds of colliding conversations, of musicians playing and chorale singing in unfamiliar tongues, and the crackle of  fire and hiss of the grills.  Fog-like smoke crawled across the ground.

"Looks like they blew the budget on dry ice," Grandpa said.

There were many small fires at the edges of the gathering, but one giant bonfire in the center, with flames leaping high into the sky.  The witches and wizards in the crowd tossed small vials and spells into the flames, so that they turned green and blue and violet and bright red, and sometimes took on shapes like those of dragons or burning butterflies or phoenix birds rising up into the night sky.

Everywhere there were cats, and wolf-like dogs, and other animals mixing with the crowd.  Nearly everyone had a robe of some sort, and many had pointed hats.  There was a large beer garden.  There was mead, food, sweetbreads, cakes and pies and unfamiliar treats.  One location was making some sort of Asian noodle stir-fry.  Another had piroshkis.  Yet another stand had strawberry shortcake.

A large, overweight man with a smiling face already flush from drink greeted them.  "Grandpa, everyone," said Dahlia, "this is Alparkaneous.  He is the Master of Ceremonies for tonight's gathering."

"Call me Al," the man replied, shaking each of their hands.  "Master of Ceremonies is just a title that means I get blamed for anything which goes wrong."  He laughed heartily, then added, "I can't tell you how much we appreciate you heroes showing up for our little shindig tonight.  We have no idea if this Witch of the Heath and Hedge will make an appearance, but the threat has spread among the population.  Just having a few heroes present makes everyone feel better."

"It's no problem," said Dark Dr. Dark.  "We do this sort of thing all the time."

"Very good!" Al exclaimed.  At the same moment, a tiny fairy appeared and buzzed in his ear.  He paused, then said, "In the meantime, enjoy the festivities!  Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm being summoned to resolve a dispute between wizards...."  He rolled his eyes.  "That's, like, three-quarters of what I do around here...."

The man disappeared.

After a moment, Unpossible Man said, "Welp.  You'll find me in the beer garden."

"No drinking!" Black Dahlia hissed.  "We're here to stop the Witch of Heath and Hedge."

"What's this witch look like, and what's she planning to do exactly?" asked Grandpa.

"We have no idea who she really is," Dahlia replied.  "But she's threatened to cast a spell that would destroy certain crops worldwide, just to draw attention to her cause.  I suggest we split up and search the grounds.  Meet back here in an hour."

Black Dahlia and Dark Dr. Dark disappeared into the crowd.  Dafinica simply disappeared.  Unpossible Man said, "Welp!  I'm off to the beer garden."

"You'll piss off Dahlia," said Grandpa.

"Sure," said Unpossible Man, "but if you think I'm gonna let a young girl tell me what I can and can't do, you've got another think coming."

"She's a witch," said Grandpa.

"Don't worry, Grandpa," said Unpossible Man.  "You know I can hold my liquor.  I have the alcohol tolerance of ten tolerant men!"

"That makes no sense whatsoever."

"Nope," said the the big man, puffing on his cigar.  "When the time comes, I'll be ready!"

Grandpa sighed as Unpossible Man muscled his way through the crowd.  "Feel like a danged fool in this outfit," he grumbled.  "Well, better go looking around...."

He turned and collided with someone.  He stumbled back and mumbled, "Sorry, sorry!  I'm just a foolish wizard, nothing more!  Name's Doctor Anarchy...."  He looked into the eyes of the other man, and froze.

The man could have been Grandpa, if Grandpa wore a much nicer black suit with a stylish cape, a top hat, and a neatly- trimmed beard.  The man looked serious and studious, like a history professor with twenty years tenure who knew he was smarter than you and never smiled.  Grandpa himself could never have managed that look.

"I beg your pardon," said the bearded man, "but I am Doctor Anarchy!"

Grandpa Anarchy shook himself.  "Whoa, Nelly!" he said.  "I've met a lot of alternate me's in my time, but not one like you."

"No," said Doctor Anarchy.  "And I have met a lot of alternate selves as well.. and they were always like you."  He frowned more severely and added, "You do not belong in this place, Grandpa Anarchy."

"Huh!" Grandpa replied.  "You know better than that!  There's trouble afoot, and here is exactly where I'm meant to be."

Doctor Anarchy raised an eyebrow.  "Indeed?  I shall have to keep my eyes open then."

And with that, Doctor Anarchy was gone.  Grandpa frowned in turn.  "That was pretty condescending of me," he said.  "I don't think I like me at all."

Grandpa paced the fairgrounds like a police detective who only had eyes for murder.  He made a complete circle of the grounds, and then another.  Everywhere there were dancers and revelers and people making merry, and many tried to hand him a drink, friendly wizards or witches too drunk to spell the word spell, let alone cast one.  Grandpa always refused.  He hadn't touched alcohol since the waning days of prohibition, when his brother had been murderer by a rum runner.  He certainly wasn't going to start now.

He wasn't certain what he was looking for.  In theory, he was looking for something out of the ordinary, but this was quite difficult.  For one thing, in place of the usual face painting and temporary henna tattoos, this carnival had an entire row of booths offering temporary transformation spells.  Skin and hair color were just the least of it, but those alone accounted for many youngsters running about with rainbow-colored skin and hair that glowed or appeared to be made of green and purple flames.  Beyond that, some booths offered to transform you into animals, or exotic creatures such as centaurs, fauns, and fairies, while others merely offered a temporary sex change.  Spotting one person who seemed unusual or suspicious among all this strangeness was next to impossible.

There were other spell booths as well -- more traditional ones that offered true fortune-telling or hawked love potions, and more exotic ones that offered instant spells for self defense, for utility, and for pleasure.  On a whim, Grandpa bought a small bottle of roast beef sandwich pills -- just add water! -- and a vial that promised to transform your opponent temporarily into a pink kitten.

After his third trip around the fairgrounds, Grandpa said, "Well, I suppose a little strawberry shortcake won't hurt...."  He laid down some money at the appropriate booth, got a plastic bowl filled with with shortcake -- not spongecake, but a real shortcake biscuit, flaky and much heavier, and piled high with syrupy strawberries topped with whipped cream.  Grandpa sat by the fire and ate it up, and had to admit it was almost as good as his favorite breakfast, strawberry pancakes.

After that he joined a group of wizards and young kids who were roasting marshmallows.  The giant bonfire had settled down somewhat, and was now burning even hotter, with a glowing heart of bright orange coals.  Grandpa's first marshmallow turned golden brown and grew too soft and slid into the fire.  His second caught fire.  He yanked it out and blew out the flames, and then handed the charcoal mess to a kid who could appreciate it -- Grandpa was not one of those Philistines who would eat a scorched and blackened marshmallow.

For his third attempt he concentrated very carefully.  Slowly it turned golden brown on all sides.  He pulled it back from the flames just in time, and blew on it to cool it down, then popped it into his mouth.  It  tasted heavenly.

It was then that he realized how the soundscape about him had changed.  There was no more singing, no music, no drunken conversation.  Instead he heard the squealing of pigs.

Everywhere he looked, Grandpa saw pigs.  The ran about the fairgrounds and rooted through the food on the ground.  The booths were empty, as was the beer garden.  The only other humans he saw were the four kids who'd been roasting marshmallows with him.

Some of the pigs had pointy hats.  Grandpa grimaced.

"Mister?" asked one kid.  "Where did everyone go?"

Grandpa stood.  "Looks like someone spiked the punch," he replied.  "Find a safe place to hide, kids.  Things are about to get ugly."

A young woman dressed in green and brown strode into the center of the fairgrounds.  She had flowers in her hair, and might have been Mother Nature herself, but the look on her face was far too sinister.  She spotted Grandpa.  She raised an eyebrow, then, ignoring him, produced a canvas bag, removed a handful of seeds, and began to scattered them on the ground in a curving line.

Grandpa strode towards her.  "You wouldn't happen to be the Wizard of Heath and Hedge, would you?" he asked.  "Because if you are, I'm going to have to ask you to stop...."

With a look of annoyance, the woman gestured at him.

Grandpa was slammed into the air and across the fairgrounds.  He crashed to the ground nearly 100 yards away.

Grandpa Anarchy groaned.  He climbed to his feet.  "Right," he said.  "So that's how it's gonna be."

Grandpa charged back across the fairgrounds.  Pigs squealed and scattered before him.  Ahead he saw the woman complete a large circle with her seeds.  She chanted a spell, and flowering plants sprung up.  They formed a perfect circle, with her in the center.

"Magic circle made of plants?" Grandpa muttered.   "That's not bad...."

He charged into the circle and threw a punch.  The woman dodged at the last moment.  She touched Grandpa as he passed, and suddenly he was flying face-first into the dirt.  Grandpa grimaced -- she'd redirected his energy like a  trained martial artist, with the lightest of touches.

"Didn't feel like drinking, did you?" the woman asked.  "Well, I can deal with you directly."  She chanted a quick spell.  Grandpa scrambled to his feet, but the magic struck him in the chest.  His skin crawled.  For a moment his body morphed and twisted out of shape.  Grandpa focused on his own body like a master zen Buddhist, and he was suddenly himself again.

"You can build up a resistance to transformation spells," Grandpa said.  "Takes a great deal of willpower and a deep-down knowledge of exactly who you are.  Plus there's this godawful nasty potion you have to drink once a week, smells like raw sewage.  But it works."  He swung at the witch again.

The woman caught his fist and threw him twenty feet.  Again Grandpa crashed face-first into grass and dirt.

The woman uttered another spell and thrust her hands upwards.  Vines ripped through the ground in front of Grandpa, barring his path.  The writhed likes snakes and twined together.  Within moments, they formed two long poles, which converged overhead into a thick cylinder.  two more long ropes of entwined vines sprang from the top of the structure.

Grandpa gaped.  It was a headless humanoid creature made of living vines, nearly thirty feet tall.  It swung one long arm at him.

Grandpa dodged.  Behind the creature, the woman began to chant a spell.

"Where the Hades are Dahlia and Dark Dr. Dark?" Grandpa exclaimed.

"Your friends have been neutralized already," the witch said with an evil smile.  Grandpa followed her gaze across the fairgrounds, where stood two large bushes.  He looked closer, and saw that these were thickly-bundled vine cages, with a person trapped within each one.

But even as the witch spoke, a shadow moved behind her.  DarkFireNinjaCatgirl appeared, thrusting her sword at the witches's unprotected back.

Inches from the witches's skin, the blade hit something as hard as stone.  It bent nearly in two.  The witch spun about, anger flashing in her eyes.  "Another?" she exclaimed.  She blasted the catgirl with a spell -- but what fell to the ground was only the catgirl's dress, wrapped around a two-foot wood log.

Dafinica appeared behind the witch again, clad only in her underwear and slashing again with her sword.  "Do you not learn?" the witch exclaimed.  She caught the blade with one hand, as if it were made of wood and not sharp metal.

With her free hand, the catgirl blasted the witch with a fireball, point-blank to the face.

The witch cursed and stumbled back, but she hit the catgirl with a second spell.  This time the catgirl failed to dodge.  Her skin morphed and shifted, and she grew smaller.  However it was not a pig she turned into, but a guinea pig.  The creature squealed and ran off to hide under a  table.

In the meantime Grandpa dodged the giant vine golem, which was clearly powerful but not quick.  In its attempts to crush Grandpa it pounded the ground, leaving deep scars in the earth.  Grandpa tried to punch it back, but this was as useful as punching a bush.  Finally he failed to move fast enough, and the creature caught him with a blow that knocked him thirty feet back into the still-burning bonfire.

Grandpa cursed and scrambled out of the fire, beating his smoldering robe.  He stripped the thing off.  "Fool idea, dressing like a wizard anyway," he muttered.  Then he turned to the fire and hauled two pieces of wood from it to use as burning torches.

Fire drove the vine golem back.  Grandpa tossed one makeshift torch at the creature, but this failed to set it on fire.  He circled, waving his slowly-dying firebrand at the thing, unsure what else to do.

The witch was chanting her spell now.  A cage of vines had grown up around her, sealing her off from Grandpa.  He was running out of options.  Without Dark Dr. Dark or Black Dahlia, he was no match for a magic-user with this much skill.

Then he remembered the spell he'd purchased.  Reaching into his pocket, he removed a small blue vial and tossed it at the vine golem.  The thin glass shattered on impact.  The liquid inside soaked a small part of the creature's leg, but the results were almost instantaneous.  The thirty-foot creature writhed and shrunk.  In moments, all that stood before Grandpa was a cute and fluffy pink kitten.

"Thank the devil for magic spells!" Grandpa exclaimed.  "I'm a wizard after all!"  He  turned and charged the vine cage.  He laid his dying torch at the base of the vines, which slowly caught fire.  He then began to climb the cage.

The witch inside looked very annoyed.  She gestured, and a second vine golem arose.  It swatted Grandpa off of the vine cage.  He landed hard on the ground.

"Oh, come on!" Grandpa exclaimed as the vine creature towered over him.  It raised one ropey arm to pound him into the ground....

A voice yelled out, "FIST OF THE ANARCHIST!"  A giant fist appeared over the golem and slammed it into the earth.

Grandpa blinked in surprise.  "Dang," he said.  "Now that's a magic spell I could get used to!"

Doctor Anarchy jogged up to Grandpa.  "I thought you could use a hand," he said.  "Or rather, a fist.  Quickly, she's almost done!"

The wizard with the familiar face summoned his mystical fist again.  It slammed through the vine cage, crushing the witch into ground and interrupting her spell.  She howled in rage and leaped up, apparently unhurt.  Instantly Doctor Anarchy and the Witch of Heath and Hedge were locked in a magical battle, each hurling spells at the other.

Grandpa charged forward and clocked the witch in the head as hard as he could.  This time, it worked.  Her head spun about, and her body followed.  She went to the ground, unconscious.  Almost instantly magic shackles formed on her wrists and ankles.

Soon pigs began transforming into people.  They were startled and confused -- it became clear that no one could recall the last hour.

Dark Dr. Dark and Black Dahlia arrived with Master of Ceremonies Al.  "You captured her, Grandpa!" Al exclaimed.

"I had a lot of help from Doctor Anarchy here," Grandpa said.  He turned to introduce his alternate self -- but the bearded wizard so like and yet unlike him was nowhere to be seen.


It was morning.  Grandpa Anarchy, Unpossible Man, DarkFireNinjaCatgirl, Dark Dr. Dark, and Black Dahlia were seated in the kitchen of the Black Moon Maidens headquarters.

"A Doctor Anarchy, you say?" said Dark Dr. Dark.  "I should very much like to meet this man.  It is rare to find an alternate version of yourself so far removed from your own talents and inclinations."

"Just think," said Grandpa.  "Somewhere out there is a Dark Dr. Dark who don't read, and solves all his problems by punching people."

Black Dahlia poured the tea.  There were cookies and coffee cake as well.  Grandpa placed a pill on the table and added a drop of water.  Instantly a roast beef sandwich appeared.  His eyes lit up.  "Hot damn!" he exclaimed, and bit into the sandwich eagerly.

His look soured.  He managed to swallow.  "Tastes like cardboard," he said.

"They always do," said Dark Dr. Dark knowingly.  He bit into a cookie.

"The magical authorities are dealing with the Witch of Heath and Hedge, of course," Black Dahlia said.  "It turns out her real name is Annalottle MacGilfoyle.  She's an expert in nature magic, and has become something of an environmental terrorist.  But she won't be causing any more trouble now."  She paused, then added, "Your friend Doctor Anarchy vanished before anyone else could talk to him.  Even Dafinica here didn't see him."

"Something strange about him," Grandpa said.  "I mean, him being a magician version of me.  But I supposed anything's possible in an infinite multiverse."  He dropped a sugar cube into his tea and added, "What exactly was this witch trying to do, anyway?  You said destroy a year's harvest of a certain crop.  What was it?  Corn?  Rice?  Wheat?"

Dahlia set her cup down.  "Worse," she said.  The witch threatened to wipe out the world's supply of citrus bergamia -- the bergamot orange."

There was a long pause.  "That's it?" Grandpa asked.  "Bergamot?  I risked my life for a tea flavoring?"

"It has other uses," said Dahlia.  "But yes.  Without it, there would be no Earl Grey."

Dark Dr. Dark sipped from his cup.  "A terrible threat indeed," he said, "and a great tragedy averted."


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Time Trip

Time Trip
Mark A Davis

"Did I ever tell you of the time Grandpa Anarchy helped found the Grateful Dead?"

All eyes were on Jay Medberry, known as the Electric Bluejay, as he sipped his Gin and Tonic.  Seven heroes were gathered in a bar -- Jay, Dog Is My Copilot, Continuitae, Saturnae, Black Dahlia, You Go Girl, and the bartender who was known only as Walter.  Unlike most this bar had vaulted ceilings with stained glass windows high above.  These depicted scenes out of mythology and fiction -- scenes in which heroes fought foes, always with some aide or sidekick by their side.  Here was Achilles in battle, with Patroclus by his side.  Over there was a scene depicting Sherlock Holmes in conflict with Moriarity, with Doctor Watson in the background.  On the far wall was a fight involving two mice -- the Brain, and his sidekick Pinky.

The bar itself was carved from polished hardwood in the shape of a large banana.  The tap handles were small bananas.  The barstools had legs shaped like bananas, and yellow vinyl banana seats.  The center of the floor was a large banana formed from yellow and brown tiles.  The base of each lamp was a brass banana.  Everything had a banana-y theme to it -- there were even bananas hidden in the stained glass window scenes, despite a general lack of bananas in the tales of Sherlock Holmes or the Epic of Gilgamesh.

"No.  No, you most certainly didn't," said Continuitae, setting up her laptop.  With hands poised over the keyboard she added, "Do continue."

"Woof!" exclaimed Dog Is My Copilot.

"You mean the rock group, I assume?" asked Saturnae.

"Yes," Jay replied.  Although quite old, thanks to the rejuvenating powers of a godlike being Jay appeared to be in his twenties.  He was not an active hero these days, but Jay was dressed in his heroic costume -- an outfit of electric blue, with glider-style wings built into the sides.  They were all dressed in their hero outfits, having just inducted several new members into the secret society earlier that evening.  For this was the hidden tavern of the Eternal Order of the Second Banana, where former sidekicks could gather to relax and discuss.  A large mandala hung on the wall behind the bar -- a round shield decorated with symbols in the center.  Here was the all-seeing eye of Horus, with scales balancing a banana on each side, and a diamond mask depicted just below.  The words written in a circle around this scene were in Latin:  Avete ariera secundus.  Fidelitas.  Ministerium  Consilium Prudens -- loyalty, service, wise counsel, hail the second banana.

You Go Girl was dressed like a combination Greek-Egyptian goddess in a white toga dress with a short hem, dark braided hair, leather sandals tied up to the knees, bracelets of gold inlaid with red stone, armbands, a wide Egyptian-style necklace, and a gold circlet around her forehead with a tyet on the front -- an Egyptian symbol resembling an ankh with the arms curved down, often referred to as the Knot of Isis.  Black Dahlia was dressed in a long black dress with black makeup and several pounds of silver occult jewelry.  Dog Is My Copilot was literally a dog -- a girl with white fur and the head of a dog, in any case.  She wore flight goggles and a red scarf, and had two metal license tags on a chain around her neck -- one a dog's license, the other a pilot's.

Continuitae and Saturnae, meanwhile, resembled extras from a Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon cartoon.  Their outfits consisted of white leotards with short skirts -- dark purple with a stardust pattern for Continuitae, golden brown with a clock face theme for Saturnae.  There were tiaras, bracelets, necklaces, and a plethora of bows, ribbons, and ruffles.

Walter was dressed like a bartender -- a high-class one, in a sharp white shirt with a black vest.  He had brown hair and a closely-cropped beard.  In theory he was also a former sidekick, but no one knew what his hero name had been.

"The year was 1966," said Jay.  "The place was San Francisco -- at that point the epicenter of the burgeoning counter-culture movement...."

"The hippies," said Black Dahlia.

"Yes, that's right, Jay replied.  "I was a young teenager at the time...."

"You were not Grandpa Anarchy's sidekick in 1966," said Continuitae firmly.  "Nor were the Grateful Dead formed in 1966 -- the were around since at least 1965 if I remember correctly."

Jay raised an eyebrow.  "Who's telling this story?" he asked.  "You or me?"

Continuitae sighed.  "I was hoping you'd tell us a true tale, and not one of your shaggy dog stories."

"Bark?" asked Dog Is My Copilot excitedly.

"No, not a story about a shaggy dog," Continuitae added.  The dog girl's ears drooped.  "It's just an euphemism.  Sorry."

"Nobody said I was making things up," Jay replied.  "Don't judge my story until you've actually heard it."

After a moment's silence, he continued.  "As I was saying -- Grandpa Anarchy promised to help a San Francisco-based hero named the Mariachi Mime.  This was a fellow who dressed in a full Mariachi outfit -- charro suit, sombrero, the whole works -- with mime makeup.  He'd pretend to play a Mariachi guitar and mime as if he was singing...."

"And this helped him fight crime?" asked You Go Girl.

"As a matter of fact," said Jay, "he could sometimes charm an individual with his silent songs," said Jay.  "But no -- mostly he did this after he'd successfully arrested a villain.  It was his victory performance.

"At the time, Grandpa's sidekick was a rather interesting young man named Wealthy Wally...."

"Wealthy Wally?" Continuitae asked, eyebrow raised.  "Never heard of him."

Jay frowned at having been interrupted again.  "Not every sidekick Grandpa has had is in your database, you know," he said.  "Some of them were sidekicks for a very short time, and record keeping was very poor before I started up Temporary Superfriends.  In the case of Wealthy Wally, he was a sidekick for exactly two weeks.  I remember this well, because -- well, Wally was extremely rich.  That was his superpower.  He actually didn't even fight or do any of the things a normal sidekick would do -- instead he paid me to do all of that for him.  He gave me $2,000.00 a week, which I thought was a fantastic deal, except that I only ever got two checks, plus a nice severance, I do admit....

"Wally was useful for other things though," Jay continued.  "For example, we took a private charter jet out to San Francisco.

"Now, The Mariachi Mime was after a villain known as the Acid Ant.  This was a guy who robbed banks and even got involved in kidnapping.  He dressed in ant-like armor, and he had a special concoction he'd invented -- a kind of weaponized LSD.  He's spray a room with this stuff, and everyone would instantly trip out.  Made his robberies much easier."

"I've never heard of such a villain," said Continuitae.  "My data base is very thorough...."

"Well, he was a local San Francisco villain only," said Jay.  "As was the hero.  In any case, it took four days, but we finally managed to confront the Acid Ant during a bank robbery.  But things went horribly wrong.  When we entered the bank the Acid Ant started shooting.  The Mariachi Mime was shot in the head -- killed instantly.  I was mortally wounded as well...."

"Mortally wounded?"  You Go Girl raised an eyebrow.

"I died, but I got better," Jay said.  "Grandpa managed to avoid the bullets, but then the Ant flooded the room with his gas.  Grandpa couldn't avoid that."

"So... Grandpa tripped out on LSD?" asked Black Dahlia.

"Oh, he did more than that," said Jay.  "He not only experienced an LSD trip, he travelled back in time."

"Oh, he's always doing that," said Continuitae.  The others nodded in agreement, with Dog Is My Copilot barking assent -- this was one of the most believable parts of the tale so far.

"Our theory," said Jay, "which we came up with afterwards, was that he still had some stray chronons or tachyons or other time-based particles inside him from a recent battle with the Chaldean Chrononaut.

"There's a name I haven't heard in ages," said Continuitae.

"Luckily for us," said Jay, "Grandpa only traveled back a couple of years.  He spent an afternoon in a park talking to caterpillars, but after the hallucinations faded, he realized where and when he was and what this meant -- he had a chance to change history, to save me and the Mariachi Mime.  The Acid Ant had been captured once before, and Grandpa always studies his opponents so he knew the young man's name.  He tracked down the man who was to become the Acid Ant and befriended him.  Turns out the boy was interested in music, so Grandpa convinced him to pursue that -- instead of going down the road of becoming a costumed bank robber.  He even helped him hook up with other local musicians to form a jug band.  Grandpa sat in for a couple of sessions with them -- he's not really musically talented, but he could keep time and play the jug.

"About a week later Grandpa snapped back to the present.  He discovered that his plan had worked -- there was no Acid Ant -- there never had been.  The Mariachi Mime and I were both alive.  As for that young man who Grandpa nudged into music?  He became a successful rock musician.  His name was Bob Weir, and he was a founding member of the Grateful Dead -- along with two other members of that jug band:  Jerry Garcia and Ron "Pigpen" McKernan.

"So that's how Grandpa Anarchy helped found the Grateful Dead."

For a moment the only sound was that of Continuitae's typing.  Finally You Go Girl said, "Well, that's an interesting story, if true...."

"Bark!" Dog Is My Copilot added.

"Don't believe me?" Jay asked.  "Just ask Walter here -- he was there."

The bartender smiled.  "I was indeed," he said.  "In the sixties I was known, for a short time, as Wealthy Wally."

Everyone stared.  Continuitae typed furiously.  "You're not old enough..." Black Dahlia began, before glancing at Jay.  "Well, you could be old enough, I suppose...."

Jay added, "It just goes to show:  a trip in time saves mime."

The typing stopped.  Everyone stared at Jay.  "Jay," said Black Dahlia, "I promise your death will be slow and painful...."


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Monumental Error

Monumental Error
Mark A Davis

The woman carrying the sign was tall and stunningly beautiful, but her face was cruel.  She wore a form-fitted suit of scaled armor which resembled snake skin.  Over this was a short skirt, a cropped coat, and thigh-high boots in a design suggestive of a Nazi SS uniform.  Beside her were a dozen thugs, also dressed like members of the Waffen Schutzstaffel, the paramilitary arm of the Nazi party.  One had yellow-green skin, and a face resembling a skull.

Behind them was a nondescript statue of a soldier from the civil war era.  It stood on a concrete pedestal before the courthouse in downtown Frosthaven, NJ.  It was weathered, with chipped paint and splitting welds.

Before this group stood Grandpa Anarchy, world's oldest hero, dressed in his usual rumpled gray suit with the silver anarchy symbol stitched over the left breast.  Beside him was his sidekick -- a boy in brown spandex with a paper bag over his head with eyeholes, who called himself the Unknown Sidekick.  A crowd of protesters were also gathered behind the two.

"Frauline Hatra," said Grandpa Anarchy, "Sorceress and leader of the Hatra Organization, a secret cabal of German Nazi operatives.  And your friend -- who was it again?  The Chartreuse Skull?  What brings you to Frosthaven?  Don't you realized this is my home turf?  Your kind aren't welcome here."

The woman in the snakeskin armor sneered.  "How typical of the great American hero Sargent Anarchy, champion of tolerance, to display his intolerance when it suits him!"

"It's Grandpa Anarchy these days," Grandpa replied.  "World War II ended a long time ago -- although some people, it seems, didn't get the memo.  Nazis are the one thing for which I'm allowed to be intolerant."

"Of course!"  Frauline Hatra spread her hands.  "You are allowed to think however you want.  It is a free country.  Und that is all we are doing:  expressing ourselves.  Just remember, Grandfather Anarchy, we are the same, you and I.  I consider people like you dangerous and I want them dead.  You consider people like me dangerous and you want us dead.  There is no difference between us."

"Sorry," said Grandpa, "but there is a difference.  If left unchecked, Nazis like you will kill people.  If I'm left unchecked then I'll play pinochle every Thursday with the Archons of Excellence like I always have.  In other words, I'm no threat to anyone, save those doing evil."

"Well I am not here on a business trip, Mr. Anarchy," said Frauline Hatra, "so you can put your little threats to the side.  I and my associates are merely here to protest the removal of this statue to the fallen heroes of the American civil war."

"What does American history have to do with you?" the Unknown Sidekick demanded.

"Never you mind!" exclaimed the Chartreuse Skull, who appeared quite agitated.  "We are here in support of our allies!  Do you not see how you are destroying history in the pursuit of political correctness?  This is what is wrong with America!"

Grandpa Anarchy sighed.  "Look," he said, "I really don't care either way, but a lot of people have complained.  Mayor Doomhollow himself signed the orders to remove the statue.  I'm just making sure his orders are carried out.  If you can't get a former villain to go to bat for your cause then it's truly lost -- so clear out, before I have to get physical."

The woman laughed lightly.  "You would not dare to fight me here, Mr. Anarchy!" she said.  "I am demonstrating peacefully!  If you attack me, that is assault, and these officers of the law will be within their rights to arrest you!"  She gestured to the local police standing nearby in the crowd.

"Actually," said Grandpa, "that's not true."  He held up his wallet.  "See this?  This is a license to punch Nazis, signed by FDR himself.   This means that I can't be prosecuted for punchin a Nazi.  That's federal law!"

Hatra's eyes narrowed.  "What of it?  Some outmoded relic from World War II...."

"That may be, Ma'am," said police officer Sgt. Shakespeare, "but it still checks out.  The law's never been repealed."

"Look," said Grandpa, "there ain't even supposed to be a confederate statue on display in Frosthaven in the first place.  It ain't like New Jersey tried to secede from the union.  It was all a big mistake.

"See, the same foundries made statues for both the south and the north.  They were mass marketed, and almost identical, save for the insignia on the buckles. -- U.S. for a northern statue, C.S. for a confederate statue.  And they were relatively cheap -- any town could put one up.

"Frederick Smalls was a businessman in Frosthaven in 1897.  He wanted to put up a statue to honor the union soldiers, but he was too cheap to even to fork over the $450.00 for a life-sized statue made of zinc.  He decided to steal one instead -- only he grabbed a confederate statue by accident.

"Smalls was too embarrassed to admit his mistake or that it was stolen, and so we wound up with a confederate statue in the heart of our city.  They should've torn it down decades ago."

Grandpa stepped forward.  He walked in a half-circle around the Chartreuse Skull, who turned to face him.  Grandpa stood inches from the villain and screamed, "And no scum-sucking, lilly-livered, rat-faced faux-Nazi is going to stop us from tearing it down now!"

The Chartreuse Skull swung at Grandpa, who didn't move.  "No..." Frauline Hatra began, but it was too late.  The Skull's fist connected with Grandpa's jaw, and he was flung backwards -- into the monument.

Cheap concrete cracked.  The monument topped over.  It his the ground and crumpled into a heap.

Frauline Hatra sighed.  "Fritz," she said, "I warned you not to fall for his tricks...."

"There, you see?" said Grandpa.  He got up and dusted himself off.  "Cheap zinc!  These statues are all the same!"  He turned to the crowd, and the cops, and added, "Now, you all saw what happened, yes?  The Chartreuse Skull punched me first, and I just happened to fly into the monument -- accidents happen!  Nothing you can do about it!  Plus the mayor wanted it destroyed anyway...."

"Don't worry," said Sgt. Shakespeare.  "I'm sure Mayor Doomhollow will send you the bill...."


One week later, Grandpa sat in his car with his sidekick and watched as a new statue was dedicated in the space before the courthouse.  Mayor Doomhollow was all smiles.

"Well that happened fast," Grandpa muttered.  "Old bastard probably had it sitting in a warehouse waiting for this moment."  He glared across the grass at the crowd and the newly-revealed statue. "You know, I'm starting to think Frauline Hatra was right."

"What?" asked his sidekick.  "About the Aryan race?"

"No, not that," said Grandpa.  "I mean the statue.  What was so wrong about it?"

"Apart from being a symbol of white supremacy, a tool for disenfranchising black people, and a way to promote the fallacy of the Lost Cause of the Confederacy, where slavery is supposedly not the main reason for the southern states seceding, but instead they are simply trying to protect state rights and a southern way of life?"

"Well," said Grandpa, "I kinda doubt Mr. Smalls had all that in mind when he put the statue up, given that he meant to erect a Union statue...."

I think you're just upset with what they replaced it with," said his sidekick.

Grandpa Anarchy glared at the new statue, a large bronze sculpture depicting the villainous Judge Doomhollow in his prime, one spiked boot planted firmly on the head of a defeated Grandpa Anarchy.

"You want to get rid of it?" asked the sidekick.

"Oh, I could never do that," Grandpa replied.  "However, the next time Baron Climate Change comes calling, I think we should fight him downtown... right in front of the courthouse...."


Wednesday, October 4, 2017


Mark A Davis

Grandpa Anarchy, world's oldest hero, sat in his living room and stared at the two young women seated on the couch opposite him.  He was dressed in his usual rumpled gray suit with the anarchy symbol stitched in silver over the left breast.  The room about him was cluttered, with overstuffed bookshelves lining the walls and stacks and bundles of old magazines and newspapers piled up in the corners.  One of the women looked Hispanic, with dark skin and braided hair.  Her name was Claudia.  The other was African-American, with her hair held back by a silver hair band.  She went by Lauren.

"You want me to do what?" asked Grandpa.

"We were hoping you would hunt it down and... I don't know...."  Claudia shrugged.  "It just seems dangerous, and the police won't even listen to us."

"You deal with this kind of thing all the time," Lauren added.

"Look," said Grandpa, "I don't care what you ladies think you saw.  I've lived in New Jersey all my life.  I've heard all the stories.  What I'm saying is, if this thing really existed, I'd have met it by now, trust me.  There's no such thing as the Jersey Devil."

"But we saw it!" Lauren exclaimed. "You've gotta believe us!"

"Big creature, at least five feet tall?  Kind of like a kangaroo with batlike wings?  Goatlike head, possibly with horns?  weird, skinny crane legs, but with cloven hooves?  Stubby arms and a forked tail?"

"That's it!" both women exclaimed.

Grandpa Anarchy sighed.  "I'm sure you saw something," he said.  "People see weird stuff all the time.  People see Bigfoot.  They see Nessie.  They see Mothman.  They see Yeti.  They see Spring-heeled Jack.  They see all kinds of crap.   Mongolian Death Worms?  People have seen those.  But I'm here to tell you, just because a lot of people see something, don't mean that it actually exists.

"Look, there could be a lot of explanations for this thing.  Interdimensional travel is possible -- I've done it many times.  Weird dimensions are just a jump to the right, so to speak.  Spend a day travelling around the multiverse with my friend Dark Dr. Dark; it'll open your eyes, that's for sure.  For that matter, even one day galavanting around the galaxy with Jennie Nova and her friends will lead to encounters with more strange aliens than you could shake a stick at.

"But that's where this story breaks down, see?  This thing that you're describing -- well it's more than a little ridiculous.  I've seen a lot of strange creatures in my time, but I ain't never seen anything that looked like this so-called Jersey Devil.  You can convince me that a Loch Ness Monster exists, because it's basically like a plesiosaur.  Mind you, plesiosaurs were most likely cold-blooded reptiles that would need warm waters to survive, but still, if you ignore the facts it's not too hard to imagine some of them still somehow exist in a remote Scottish lake.  It  makes a certain amount of sense.  Sasquatch?  It's easy to imagine that some sort of Hominidae thought to be extinct is still living in the Northwest mountains and forests.  Never mind that the hominids usually suggested were never in the Americas -- at least the idea makes a certain amount of sense.  Same thing for the Mongolian Death Worm -- actually it's quite easy to believe that a strange worm is still waiting to be discovered in the Gobi desert.  After all, weirder things than that have been discovered before, even things that we thought were extinct or only myths."

Grandpa Anarchy opened up a book.  "But this?" he asked.  There on the page was an illustration of what the Jersey Devil was said to look like.  "What the hell is this thing?  A bat-winged, crane-legged kangaroo goat?  Sorry, I ain't buying it -- and this thing is supposed to fly?  It's literally the dumbest-looking amalgam of disparate parts I've ever come across.  Who can actually believe something like this is real?"

"If you'd been with us this morning then you would have no doubts," said Claudia.  "And that scream!  It was the most unearthly sound I've ever heard in my life!"  She shivered just thinking about it.

"I'm sure you just heard a great horned owl," said Grandpa.  "Or possibly a screech owl."

"Mr. Anarchy," said Lauren, "I was born in the Pine Barrens.  I know what owls sounds like.  This was something else."

"Then it was a sandhill crane!" said Grandpa.

"Those don't even exist in New Jersey anymore," said Lauren.

"Then it was a goat," said Grandpa irritably.  "Goats can scream like nobody's business -- I've seen videos on Youtube that will scare grown men.  Anyway, have you considered the idea that what you saw might have been an African hammer-headed bat?  Those things are massive -- wingspans of over three feet, with long snouts that look a bit goatlike.  I'm sure if you saw one, you might think it was the legendary Jersey Devil."

"An African bat -- in New Jersey?" asked Lauren.

"Sure," said Grandpa.  "Maybe it stowed away on a boat or something."  He shifted in his seat, as if daring them to question this rather ridiculous suggestion.  The two women exchanged glances, but said nothing.

After a moment, Grandpa added, "Look, I'll be the first to admit there's a lot of weird junk in this world.  I've encountered most of it.  Alien grays?  I've fought 'em.  Deros -- people who live in caverns beneath the earth?  I've run into those too.  Point is, I'm not just your typical skeptic saying this.  I've searched for the Jersey Devil in the past, because I've heard all the stories.  But there just ain't no monster like this to be found, not even in the depths of the Pine Barrens.  I'm sorry, but I can't be wasting my time looking for some goofy legend that nobody's ever actually seen."

"But we saw..." Claudia began, but Lauren stood and took her friend's hand.

"We understand, Mr. Anarchy," she said.  "We're sorry to have bothered you."


Once the women were gone, Grandpa strode through the kitchen and into a back room.  He flopped down in a folding chair set before a card table.  Cards and chips were on the table, along with several open beer bottles and  bowls of peanuts.

Across from Grandpa sat a very tall creature covered in black fur.  It looked a bit like an ape, and big like an oversized human.  To his right was another humanoid with massive, mothlike wings.  To his left sat a creature that looked something like a kangaroo, but with batlike wings and the head of a goat.

"Good gravy!" Grandpa said.  "Some people can't take no for an answer!"  He glared at the creature on his left and added, "You have got to be more careful when you come to visit.  That's the second month in a row that people have run into you!"

The creature emitted an unearthly scream in response.  Then, in a voice like the wind through the barren pines it added, "Sorry Grandpa."

"That's okay," said Grandpa, "I managed to get rid of them . Now, who's deal is it?  Mothman's?"