Monday, February 26, 2018

Gadda Da Vida

Gadda Da Vida
Mark A Davis

"Sometimes I help out the S.I.S.B.," said Grandpa Anarchy, earth's oldest active hero.  "Especially Jennie Nova and her friend Llahna.  But this is the first time they've had me run a mission for them without an actual member coming along."  He gripped the steering wheel of the space ship, even though it flew itself, and stared out into the starry night.  "Of course, you and I aren't actual members of the S.I.S.B. -- you gotta be young and female for that."

As he always did, Grandpa Anarchy wore a rumpled gray suit with an anarchy symbol stitched in silver over the left breast.

The ship was sleek and smooth and silver, with comfortable bucket seats and digital readouts.  The computer ran the ship, but this was only a small scout ship, not the fancy war vessel that Grandpa's friends normally used, with it's sentient A.I. and teleporters and clone rebirth vats.  Their mission was a simple one -- to check out a planet that was thought to be uninhabited, and then return with a report.

His sidekick, a young boy named Evander the Explorer, called out, "There's a closet back here full of silver bikinis and go-go boots."

"Well, that's their uniform," Grandpa said.

"Oh, I know," said Evander.  "I was a huge fan of Major Tom and Destiny Nova.  They formed the Society for Intergalactic Space Babes!"

"Ideally," said Grandpa, I'd have brought a female sidekick along, and then you could have abandoned me and joined their group to explore space.  That's how it usually goes."

"Explore space in a silver bikini?  I don't think so."  Evander returned to the front seat.  The boy was six feet tall and well muscled, with closely-cropped brown hair and a square jaw.  He wore the kind of retro space suit that would have made Buck Rogers proud.  "Now if I could date an alien space babe -- one like Sally Stardust, with green hair -- that'd be awesome!"  He pulled a picture from his suit and placed it on the ship dash.  "Isn't she beautiful?  I'd bang her in a second!"

The girl pictured had green hair, solid blue eyes, pale skin, and antenna -- but was otherwise a sexy space babe in a silver bikini.

"Yeah, sure," Grandpa muttered.

"I'm really excited to be exploring out in space!" said Evander.  "My goal is to sleep with an alien babe, and since we're working for the space babes, that's bound to happen!  I mean, I was hoping we'd get have missions halfway across the galaxy, but I didn't really think it'd happen so quickly.  So what are we looking for anyway?"

"The 5E has received reports of ships going missing near planet Dilmun," said Grandpa.  "We're here to check it out."

Even as he said this, the planet in question appeared in the view port -- a blue-green planet very similar to earth, but with unfamiliar land masses.  Grandpa gripped the steering wheel tighter.  The ship entered orbit, then began to descend.

"5E?" asked Evander.

"A division of the Eieio (pronounced Ee-Yow) Empire government," Grandpa said.  "The Space Babes work for them, so that's who we're really working for.  It stands for Eieio Empire Endowment and Encouragement Enforcement...."

He paused.  An alarm was sounding.  Red lights lit the cockpit.  "What is it?" asked Evander.

"WARNING!" a computer voice boomed out.  "ENGINES ARE WITHOUT POWER.  WARNING!"

"We've lost all engine power!" Grandpa exclaimed.  "I don't know what to do -- I'm not actually a pilot!  The computer's supposed to take care of everything!"


The two watched, helpless, as their ship plummeted to the planet surface.


Grandpa awoke in a field of grass and flowers.  He was not surprised to awake from a hard ship crash -- he was used to surviving impossible situations, or at least being revived after death.  But he expected to be in great pain, and he was not.  He felt -- normal.

He sat up.  In fact, he felt better than normal -- younger, stronger, in better health.  He blinked.  There was ship debris all around him.  He was also stark naked.

There was no sign of his clothing anywhere.  The ship was utterly destroyed, reduces to chunks of smoldering metal.  But around him birds sang and chirped in the trees.  It was a warm, sunny day.  He flexed his arms, then glanced down at his crotch.  That part of him felt revitalized, too.

There was a moan nearby.  He approached a pile of debris to find his sidekick buried beneath it.  He knelt down, then paused.  The person looked like his sidekick, to a degree -- that is, the face was similar to Evander's, but with more delicate features, and framed by long, auburn hair.  This was clearly a young woman, there was no mistaking it.  For one thing, she was also naked, and her breasts were fully exposed.  Grandpa glanced away, feeling something stir within him that he hadn't felt in years.  He felt ashamed.  She looked to be all of sixteen or seventeen, and he was over a century old.  Also he assumed she was really Evander -- quite apart from the facial similarities, there should be no other human on the planet.

The girl opened her eyes.  "Grandpa?" she asked.  "What happened?  Did we crash?"

Grandpa Anarchy frowned.  How did one explain this?

A large metal beam lay across the girl's neck and shoulders.  Her legs and arms were also pinned.  "Yes.  We crashed," Grandpa replied.  "Your body... um... I don't know how to put this...."

The girl's eyes went wide.  "I'm injured, aren't I?" she asked.  "Is it bad?  Tell me, Grandpa; give it to me straight -- I can take it."

"No, you seem... perfectly healthy, It's just...."  Grandpa's voice faltered.  "That is... um... I mean you're not...."

"Am I going to die?" the girl asked.

"No," Grandpa said firmly.  "Look, let's get you free from there.  That's the first thing."

Soon the girl was free.  She stared down at her body in horror.  "Grandpa, what's happened to me?" she cried out, her voice going higher.  "Why am I a girl?"

"That's... one question which I am rarely asked," said Grandpa.  "Although on reflection, it's not as rare as you'd think.  I don't know the answer.  What I do know is that we crashed, but we're somehow just fine... except that you're a girl."

"Crashing spaceships don't cause people to change genders!" the girl said, beginning to panic.

"Not normally, in my experience," Grandpa replied.  "Although I can't say I've been in a lot of spaceship crashes, so perhaps the sample size is too small...."

"This doesn't make any sense!"

"Now, calm down, girl," Grandpa said.  He thought of her as the girl because trying to reconcile the image of this naked girl with that of his former sidekick Evander the Explorer hurt his brain.  "Panicking won't solve anything.  The good news is that we registered your physical and genetic profile with 5E before we left, so assuming we get off this planet they can always transform you back.  Let's explore this place and see what we can find.  We really don't got much choice in the matter anyway, and we probably want to find shelter before nightfall.  There aren't any pieces of the ship large enough to suffice...."

The grass was soft beneath their bare feet.  Insects buzzed, but no mosquitoes or wasps bothered them.  Butterflies drifted on sunlight.  The whole planet seemed to be more curated park than actual wilderness.

"There's something weird about this place," Grandpa said.  "It's too perfect.  It reminds me of something, but I'm not sure exactly what..."

"You know, Grandpa," girl Evander said.  "It's not just me that's changed.  You look a lot younger and more muscular, too.  More... viral."

"Viral!" exclaimed Grandpa.  "Why, I ain't been viral in a whale's age!"

They wandered through meadows filled with clover and bright flowers.  They crested a hill.  Below them was a valley with a lake.  The smooth surface of the water was like crystal.  There were snow-capped mountains in the distance.  Grandpa knew that nature could be picturesque, but this scene reminded him of a Bob Ross painting, full of happy rocks and happy trees.  It was a little too perfect to be real.

He glanced up.  "Now that's a strange-looking fruit," he said.  Branches of the tree hung low with very large, white fruit  that was almost box-shaped.

Grandpa picked one.  "Careful," said the girl.  "We don't know what's safe to eat."

"I have a feeling that everything is safe on this planet," Grandpa replied.  He pried down the sides of the boxy fruit, which peeled back like a banana.  Inside was revealed a more obviously box-like interior.  It looked like a large, square nut, but this also opened, like a box from Chinese take-out.

"Why, it's a fried chicken lunch!" Grandpa exclaimed.  He pulled a chicken breast from the box and bit into it.  "Tastes just like chicken!" he exclaimed.  "More than that -- it tastes like the best fried chicken I've ever had!"

"Are you sure this is safe to eat?" asked the girl.  "If it turns you into a woman too, don't come crying to me."

"I think I'm safe," Grandpa replied.  "I don't know what it is about this planet, but everything seems designed to make us as comfortable as possible.  I don't think we'll starve, at any rate."

They sat in the grass and ate lunch, then continued to explore.  They followed a stream and soon came upon a small pool.  Steam arose from the water, which bubbled up from underground.  With moss-covered rocks that encircled the pool, it seemed like a natural hot tub.

"A natural hot springs!" Grandpa exclaimed.  "Hotcha!  I don't know about you, but I'm getting in!"

Grandpa tested the water, then stepped in.  "What if it's a trap?" asked the girl.

"This whole planet is a trap," Grandpa replied.  "But a very comfortable one."  He sunk to his neck in the steaming water.  "Oh, that feels amazing!  Why, there's sand at the bottom of the pool, and rocks that form a ledge to sit on...."

The girl folded her arms beneath her breasts.  "Grandpa," she said, "we're stranded on a very weird alien world, and however pleasant and accommodating it might be, we've been trapped here against our will and I've been transformed into a freakin' girl!  I can't help but feel that you're not taking this seriously enough!"

Grandpa Anarchy stared up at the girl.  "Oh, I know all that," he said.  "This planet is a cage -- a very pretty cage created to keep us comfortable, but a cage nonetheless.  But that don't mean I can't enjoy a relaxing soak in a natural hot springs.  You should join me -- I mean, we're already naked, so why not?"

The girl sighed, but eventually she did slip into the pool and sank up to her neck.  Water soaked her hair.

After a relaxing bath, the two climbed from the pool.  There were no towels, but they dried quickly in the warm air.  They continued their search, but very quickly came across something new.

It was a bed.  It sat in a beautiful clearing beneath the cover of a large tree.  It wasn't just any bed, either --  larger than a king-sized mattress, in the shape of a valentine, with red and pink and white satin sheets and pillows and comforters.

Grandpa frowned.  "Now that," he said, "is taken straight out of a love hotel, I'd swear."

"What, are we supposed to sleep together on it?" the girl asked.

"Do you want to?" Grandpa asked.

"No!" the girl exclaimed.  "Not a chance!"

"Me neither," Grandpa said.  "But this confirms what I've been suspecting all along."  He stepped into the clearing and called out, "Okay Yahweh or Elohim or whatever you're calling yourself!  The jig is up!  Come out where we can see you!"

In a blinding flash of light, god appeared.

He shined so brightly that it hurt to look at him.  It was like staring into the sun.  He cast shadows on the ground in all directions.  But what you could see, in quick glances and sidelong views, was not exactly what you might expect.  The man was tall enough, and balding, with a white beard -- but that beard was scraggly and unkempt, and his robes were tattered and torn.  If the gods dwell on Mount Olympus, then this was the god who slept in the gutter and begged for change during the day so that he could afford a bottle of nectar.

"I AM YAHWEH!" the god boomed.  "WHO DARES SUMMON ME?"

"Hah!" Grandpa barked.  He danced a little jig around the clearing.  "One of the Shaggy Gods!  I knew it!  These jokers all think they're the one true god of Israel -- call themselves Yahweh or Elohim or Jehovah.   They all model themselves after the god of the Bible."

"I DO NOT!" the god exclaimed.  "I AM THE ONE TRUE YAHWEH, YOUR LORD AND GOD!"

"Let's get one thing straight:  you ain't no god of mine," Grandpa snarled.  He glanced at his sidekick.  "They set up a garden of Eden on some paradise world somewhere, then try to trap an Adam an an Eve so that they can play out the whole creation myth all over again."

The girl's eyes grew wide with horror.  "Wait a minute.  Doesn't that make me...."

"Yes.  You're Eve," Grandpa said.  "Mother to an entire race of humans -- at least, if this joker gets his way."  He paused, then added, "This planet, Dilmun -- that's probably some ancient word for Eden, isn't it?"


"We're not going to participate, you know," Grandpa said.  "We refuse to take part in your little Bible fantasies."


Grandpa Anarchy charged the god suddenly.  He flew at him, swinging.  His fist collided with the god's chin, driving him back.  The god stumbled, more from shock than from any actual injury.  He rubbed his chin.

"HOW DARE YOU?" he bellowed.  "I AM YOUR GOD!"

"I told you, Moron -- you ain't no god of mine!" Grandpa snarled.  "I'll strike you as often and as hard as it pleases me to do so!  I'm a hero -- I punch people more powerful than me for a living, and I've been doing it for over a hundred years, and no tin pot, delusional, faux-divine Yahweh wannabe is gonna stop me!"

"Yeah!" Evander replied, raising her fists.  "Same here!"

Yahweh glared at Grandpa Anarchy and Evander the Explorer, fury in his eyes.  "YOU TWO ARE NOT WORTHY TO BE THE ADAM AND EVE OF THIS NEW WORLD!"

"Well, good," said Grandpa, "because I...."

There was a flash.  Grandpa found himself gripping the steering wheel of their spaceship, and staring through thick glass at a sea of stars.  He blinked.

"Well!" he said.  "That worked out better than we probably could have hoped."  He grinned.  "Now that's how you deal with a god!  Stupid Shaggy Gods, always trying to recreate the garden of Eden!  I ain't having it!  Now we just need to get back to S.I.B.S. headquarters and file our report explaining why people near Dilmun are disappearing, and to warn everyone to steer clear of that stupid planet -- unless, you know, some young couple wants to be trapped in a garden of Eden...."

"Um," a feminine voice said.  Grandpa frowned.  A familiar naked girl sat in the passenger seat.  Belatedly, Grandpa realized he was also naked.

"Well, crap," Grandpa said after a few moments.  "Mind you, the S.I.S.B. can change you back... but I'm gonna look like a danged fool in a silver bikini and go-go boots...."


Monday, February 19, 2018

Classic Anarchy: Heart and Soul

Heart and Soul
Mark A Davis

The camera rolled over the studio crowd and up to the stage, where a young, dark-skinned woman with long, braided black hair and an older woman with white hair sat on a plush couch, while a third woman with blonde hair and a perky smile sat behind a desk.  The camera focused on the third woman, who smiled brightly and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to Cupcake Corner!  I'm your host, Cathy Cupcake, and today's theme is Girlhood.

"Our first guest was Ivana Pitosin, author of the award-winning teen series The Girl In The Glass Tower.  The first book will be a major motion picture this summer!  Our second guest was Ojal Dani, the extremely reclusive former Bollywood film star who originally hails from New York, and who in her nineties continues to look no more than twenty-five.  She claims to simply have the heart of a girl -- but we know she's a powerful sorceress, and was in fact the Supreme Sorceress of the World in 2010.  Ladies, wouldn't we all like to have access to such magic?

"Now please welcome our third guest.  She's Grandpa Anarchy's current sidekick, she's the avatar of Isis, she's the heroine known as You Go Girl.  Please give her a hand!"

A boy with long brown hair strode onto the stage.  He was about seventeen and wore black jeans and a tee shirt upon which were the words Grandpa Punched First.  He shook Cathy's hand and settled in next to Ojal Dani.

"He," the boy said.

Cathy Cupcake frowned.  "Pardon?"

"I said heHe's the heroine known as You Go Girl -- or rather, he's the boy who transforms into the heroine.  You see, when I'm not transformed, I'm a guy."

Cathy's smile  beamed like a spotlight.  "Of course!" she said.  "But we had an internal meeting on this very subject, and we decided that, since you're a girl hero...."

"Only when I'm transformed," said the boy.  "Look, it's quite simple:  when I'm not transformed I'm a normal boy.  When I transform, I am a girl -- I would say a normal girl, but since I'm the avatar of a goddess that's not really true.  I'm not a transgendered superhero, because I'm either fully male or fully female at any given time, but it's obviously complicated to explain and I don't mind being a spokesman for transgendered heroes...."

"Or a spokeswoman?" asked Cathy brightly.

The boy sighed.  "Yes, when I am transformed."

The hostess flashed another smile.  "Very good!  Now, I understand that Grandpa Anarchy couldn't be here -- something about an investigation into a very old murder case -- but then you're the one we wanted to meet.  Your real name is Chris, isn't that right?  That seems very convenient -- Chris works as a name for a boy or a girl."

"Yes," said the boy patiently.

"And you became a superhero -- heroine, that is -- when you accidentally discovered your mother's ancient magical ring?"

The boy held up his right hand for the cameras.  On it was a ring of gold, with a design inlaid with red stone.   It looked like an ankh, but with the arms pointing downward.  "This is called a tyet," the boy said.  "It's the knot of Isis, a symbol of eternal life or resurrection."  He paused, then added, "I -- accidentally found it, as you said.  It was in my mother's inner sanctum, behind three locked doors sealed with magic and within a hidden wall safe sealed with more magic."  The boy grinned and added, "It called out to me."

"My goodness!" Cathy exclaimed.  "Of course, your great grandfather was an archaeologist in Egypt, and both your mother and grandmother were superheroines in their time."  On the overhead screen appeared a black and white image of a dark-haired girl in a toga, bending a steel bar.  Cathy sighed. "You know, I was such a fan of the Daughter of Isis when I was a girl!  What I think we'd all like to see a demonstration -- can you transform for us?"

"Sure," the boy said.  He stood, stepped away from the desk, and raised his hand overhead.  The ring glowed.  He called out:

"Hail Isis, Mighty mother, daughter of the Nile, of Nut and of Geb, the earth and the sky, Beloved of Osiris, Lady of Peace, Glorious Goddess of life and magic and light, bestow upon me your power and might!"

Chris was lifted into the air and spun about like a dradle.  Lights flashed, and the boy transformed.  When he landed -- he was a beautiful girl with dark, braided hair, wearing a toga-like dress of white.  There were leather sandals with straps to the knees, bracelets of gold inlaid with red stone, armbands, a wide gold Egyptian-style necklace, and a gold circlet on her forehead set with a tyet similar to that of the ring.

The audience erupted in applause.  The girl turned slowly about, then sat back down.  "Isn't he amazing?" Cathy asked.

"She," the girl replied.  "When transformed I am 100% girl, remember?  Even my brain changes.  I am not exactly myself anymore, I am the avatar of justice for Isis.  That's just the way it is."

"Yes, of course," said Cathy, "and you are also incredibly strong and fast.  Is that it?"

"Yes," said You Go Girl.  "I can't fly, but I can run pretty fast.  I'm tough but not invulnerable or anything, except when it comes to magic, since my power is magic based."

Cathy said, "I would have thought you would go by the name your mother used -- Daughter of Isis."

"Technically that is my name," said the girl.  "You Go Girl is what the media calls me.  See, my first time out, I stopped a bank robbery, and someone in the crowd yelled that at me.  A reporter misheard it and thought that was my name, so that's what got printed in the papers.  Everyone still uses it."  She paused and added, "Of course, there's also the lawsuit...."

"From your mother?" asked Cathy.

"Yes," said the girl, frowning.  "So there's a problem with the licensing of the Daughter of Isis name."

Cathy beamed another smile.  "Well!" she exclaimed.  "There are several  questions that we're all dying to know -- such as:  what is it like to be a girl with the mind of a boy?  Isn't shopping for underwear a bit confusing?  And which bathroom do you use?"

You Go Girl sighed.  "Miss Cupcake," she said, "it's questions like these that made me really not want to come onto your show.  I only agreed because Ms. Ojal Dani was going to be here...."

"Yes, yes," said Cathy, "and she only agreed because you were going to be on... that was a nice catch-22, I thought....."

"I am such a fan!" exclaimed the sorceress.

"Yes, but...."  Cathy paused, looking confused.  "Ladies and Gentlemen, I'm being told by my producer that we have a surprise appearance from Grandpa Anarchy himself.  He's coming to us live now...."

A video screen image appeared behind the guests, displaying the world's oldest superhero, dressed in his usual gray suit with the anarchy symbol stitched in silver over the left breast.  He was looking decidedly grim.  "Hello, Mr. Anarchy!" Cathy called out.  "Can you hear me?"

"Loud and clear, Cathy!" Grandpa called back.

"Grandpa," said Cathy, "I'm told that you're at a very special location.  Can you tell me where you are?"

"Funny you should ask," Grandpa replied.  "I'm in the study of one of your guests."  He added, "Incidentally, please thank her for flying all the way out to Los Angeles to be on your show.  It's been the devil of a time prying her away from her inner sanctum...."

You Go Girl did not react to this information.  The silver-haired author Ivana Pitosin looked puzzled.  But the actress Ojal Dani leaped to her feet.  "What are you doing in my house?" she demanded.  "How dare you?"

The camera pulled back, revealing a very cluttered room.  Flasks and vials and jars and ancient books lined the shelves.  Stacks of yellowing paper were everywhere.  Bracelets and necklaces hung from an ornate dagger plunged into the top of a human skull.  Two uniformed police officers stood on each side of Grandpa, while in the background stood a regal, bearded man a black suit and high-collared black cape, whom most would recognize as Dark Dr. Dark, Grandpa's ally and the Supreme Sorcerer of the world five years running, non-consecutive.

"Tell me, Cathy," said Grandpa, "Have you ever heard of writer Robert Bloch?"

"Vaguely," said the host.

Grandpa grimaced.  "Pulp trash writer, if you ask me.  Science fiction, horror, all that crap.  Anyway he was famous for saying, 'Despite my ghoulish reputation, I really have the heart of a small boy.  I keep it in a jar on my desk.'"

Grandpa held up a jar to the camera.  It was filled with a murky liquid, but something pinkish floated within.  "Ms. Dani never finished the phrase," Grandpa said, "but in her case, it was not a joke.  Ms. Ojal Dani, you are under arrest for the murder of twelve-year-old Betty Lavelle in New York, 1950.  I worked that case, you know, with my very first sidekick...."

"You would dare?" Ojan Dani exclaimed.  She leaped to her feet and grabbed You Go Girl by the wrist.  "I would have replaced it soon anyway.  How much better the heart of an immortal girl?"    She cackled loudly as she yanked off the heroine's magic ring.  A glowing dagger of violet magic appeared in her hand.  She plunged the weapon into You Go Girl's chest.

You Go Girl did not move.  The sorceress withdrew the dagger.  There was no blood, no mark.  "Invulnerable to magic, remember?" said You Go Girl.  "Oh, dear, did a former Supreme Sorceress really forget that detail...?"

"But -- the ring..." said Ms. Dani.

"Yes," said You Go Girl.  "Very convincing, isn't it?  The glow when I transformed was an especially nice touch, I thought."

"There are other ways!" snarled the sorceress, raising her hands, but You Go Girl grabbed her wrists and spun her about, twisting Ms. Dani's arms behind her.  She struggled ineffectually.

"Now, we'll have none of that," said the heroine.

"Ms. Dani, the world's forgotten Betty," Grandpa said.  "But I haven't.  We still have physical evidence from that case -- and once we've verified what's in this jar, there'll be no more movies from you -- for a very long time."


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Ancient Festival

Ancient Festival
Mark Davis

Evron Lempel stared across a cluttered desk at the dame seated in front of him.  She was young and beautiful.  Figures.  Seems like they always are, he thought to himself.  She wore a dark red dress with a long black coat, and carried a large leather messenger bag instead of a purse.

He glanced back down at the folder in front of him.  There were a series oh photos, several pages of research notes, and a general description of the two characters and what the woman was requesting.  It was an unusual request -- but the woman was paying well, and he needed the money.  Evron Lempel was a writer -- of pulp fiction, of a newspaper comic strip based on the adventures of Mr. Anarchy, and for the last year of a comic book publication as well based on the same man.  His New York office was dingy and crammed with paperwork and research notes, mostly yellowed from cigar smoke.  A haze hung over the room, and a physical smell made up of cigars, rum, sweat, and moldering paper.  The stench had a physical presence; it struck you like a blow from Joe Louis when you first entered the room.

What stood out most was the typewriter -- a battered Corona portable that he'd bought years ago, which sat in the center of the desk with an area cleared around it.  Virtually everything he'd written had been typed up on this machine.

In the corner a radio blared.  The Yankees were playing -- Joltin' Joe had just hit a double, in fact.  You could hear the crowd screaming through the static.  How Lempel was able to write amid such racket, his friends couldn't say, but he never missed a game.

He puffed on his cigar, then waved at the smoke.  "Miss February," he said.  He seriously doubted that this was the woman's genuine name.  "These two girls -- they're in love?"

"Yes," the woman replied.  "I would hope that's obvious from the notes."

"You know, I'm not one to judge," Evron said.  "But a story of girls in love... well, that's not gonna be kosher for a lot of people...."

"This is a private commission," said the woman.  "It's meant for the eyes of one person only.  Am I not paying you enough?"

"Oh, no!  The money's good!" exclaimed Evron.  "I'm just saying... this is not something I would normally consider doing.  But seeing as it's a story for your girlfriend, I don't mind."

The woman frowned.  "I did not say that I had a girlfriend...."

"Look, this is obviously a story about you and this other girl," said Evron.  "It's a gift for her, isn't it?  I can see that.  And a time-travelling tale to ancient Rome, to the feast of Lupercalia -- well, that's very imaginative.  I like it.  These research details you provided me are dynamite, and these photos are fantastic -- I really don't know how you staged them.  I'd almost think you actually went back to ancient Rome.  Anyway, Hugo can work from these, I'm certain.

"Mind you, there's no real story here -- just two girls in love having fun in ancient Rome.  No drama, nothing at stake.  They should do something -- maybe rescue somebody?  Uncover an ancient secret?  Battle an ancient god?  What I'm saying is, I tell stories.  You've given me a good setup, but I want to turn this into an actual story, right?  You won't mind if I do that?  Because that's what I do.  I'm gonna have a hard time writing this if there isn't something at stake."

"Yes, that's fine," the woman said.  "More than fine.  That's exactly what she -- that is I -- would want."

"I can tell these girls are heroes too," said Evron.  He took a sip from his rum glass.  "I mean, I write about heroes all the time, so I know that's what this story is about.  The one is a time traveler at the very least, am I right?  That's you.  The other seems to me like the leader.  I don't know what her powers are, or should be, but you've given me a few clues.  You said that I was your first and only choice to do this, right?  Me and Hugo.  That tells me that your girlfriend probably likes our work.  She's a fan.  And you called her Continuitae at one point -- so I'm guessing her powers are also time related, but more involved in keeping the continuity of time in check.  Am I right?"

The woman's eyes widened.  "Yes, something like that," she said.  "You're very observant."

"So what I'm gonna do," said Evron, "is tell your story about these two girls going back to ancient Rome, but I'm going to sexy it up a bit.  I don't mean turn it into smut, mind you -- we got enough of that already what with two girls kissing and a fertility festival going on.  I just mean I'm going to add some character details, give the story some plot.  Give it an actual story, you know.  I just want to make sure that's going to be okay with you.  You're paying a lot of money for this, so I want to make sure that you get something you'll like."

"Mr. Lempel," the woman said, "turning this into a story like those you usually write is exactly what I want."


Sarah Mickens stared at the small package.  It was black with red ribbons, and in the shape of a valentine heart.  She glanced back up into the eyes of Freya Willikins, her girlfriend.

The two women were in an old, dusty warehouse -- an extremely old building that had been used for public storage since at least the 1940's.  It was February 14th, and Freya had insisted they come here.  The two girls wore jeans and tee shirts -- Freya had said not to dress up -- and the last thing Sarah had expected was a Valentine's Day gift, especially in a place like this.

"You didn't need to get me anything," said Sarah.

"I know," said Freya.  "But I wanted to -- to remind you that I love you."

"Freya, you gave up your manhood to be with me," said Sarah.  "I didn't even understand it at first -- but nothing you can do will ever demonstrate your love to a greater degree than that."

"Yes, but I want to keep reminding you of my love," Freya replied.  "Besides, it's Valentine's Day.  Just open it already."

Sarah fiddled with the packaging.  "You know I don't like all that romantic stuff," she said.

"You didn't say that when we visited ancient Rome last year for the feast of Lupercalia...." Freya said teasingly.

Sarah giggled.  "I have to admit, that trip was amazing!  Even that is something you can probably never top."  She finished removing the packaging and opened the heart-shaped box.  Inside was a key -- a very old key.  It was attached to a metal tag with a number.

"I assume this goes to one of the storage lockers?" Sarah asked.  She held the key up.  "Number 117.  Gods, this really looks old."

"Perhaps it is," said Freya.

Sarah's eyes narrowed.  "What are you up to?" she asked.  "You've been back in time?  For what reason?"

"Open the locker and see," said Freya.

Sarah tracked down the appropriate locker and opened it.  Inside was a box, about nine by twelve inches, and about twelve inches tall.  It was taped shut and covered in dust.  Sarah frowned.

"You went to a lot of trouble to set this up, whatever it is," she said.  "I hope this is worth it...."

"You once told me of an old rumor," said Freya, "that Evron Lempel and Hugo Ingersson did a special comic commission for a mysterious lady.  Fifty issues of the comic were printed late at night at R&L Printers, the place where they printed the Mr. Anarchy comics.  But nobody ever found out who the comic was for or what happened to them afterwards."

Sarah's eyes went wide.  "Yes!  Mr. Lempel mentioned it in an interview once.  He based his Grandpa Anarchy story The Ancient Festival on it.  But he had no idea what happened to the original.  He and Hugo were paid a lot of money and the sale included the original artwork and story, so all he ever had were story notes and memories, which he used to write the second story.  I've always wished to see that mysterious comic!  At this point, it's practically the only thing of Lempel's that I don't have in my collection -- but it just vanished into history; nobody knows who commissioned it or what happened to it!"  She stared into Freya's face.  "You found a copy of it, didn't you?"

"Oh," said Freya, "I did much more than that.  I commissioned it myself -- a story about you and I, travelling to ancient Rome on Valentine's Day to take part in the Lupercalia festival, just as we did last year.  Written by Evron Lempel and drawn by Hugo Ingersson, less than a year before his death.  Fifty copies, sealed away.  Nobody has ever read them -- and now you own all fifty copies."

Sarah squealed in delight.  She wrapped Freya in a tight embrace and kissed her passionately.  When she finally pulled back she said, "You, my Dear, know how to turn me on better than anyone!  I want to do to you right now what we did in ancient Rome -- but first, we're going to take this box back home, open it up, and read the one Evron Lempel story that no one has ever read...."


Wednesday, February 7, 2018


Mark A Davis

Black Dahlia, sorceress and leader of the Black Moon Maidens, stared across her desk at a young, dark-skinned woman with an afro, who wore a leotard of red, white, and blue, with leather gloves and platform boots.

"You're Wings of Liberty?" asked Dahlia.  The other woman nodded.  Dahlia had long red hair, very straight, and wore a long Gothic gown of black with a laced up bodice and poet's sleeves.  She also were several pounds of silver occult jewelry.

"The problem being that you don't have wings, as of yet," the sorceress added.

The office of the sorceress was on the second floor of the super group's headquarters.  The walls were as black as the void, but the room was lit by a diffuse, magical light with no apparent source.  Shelves were cluttered with books, figurines, and skulls.  An autographed photo of Robert Smith from the Cure hung on the wall.  The room smelled of lemon and licorice -- in part due to the candy sitting on a bowl on the desk.

"That's right," said Wings of Liberty.  "I've dreamed of having wings since I was a child.  That book contains a spell that can give them to me."

Dahlia raised an eyebrow.  She picked up a leather-bound book.  It looked quite old, with yellowed pages.  She opened it carefully and examined the first few pages.

"You found this book... where?"

"An old bookstore," said the heroine.  "I'd never seen it before, but I had a dream that it would be there."

"Mystical dreams leading you to spell books," the sorceress muttered.  "Just what we need."  She flipped through the pages and read for a few moments.  "This spell will not only give you wings, but taloned feet as well, actually," she finally added.

"I am aware," said the other woman.

The sorceress pursed her lips.  She said, "You do realize I typically charge one million dollars for transformations such as this?"

"I am," said Wings of Liberty.  "I also know that you don't grant interviews to people that can't offer proof of payment up front, and yet you agreed to see me.  I had a dream -- a vision -- that you would do this."

Dahlia sighed.  She stood and began to pace.  "Yes," she said.  "Well, I also had a dream this morning -- a vision, if you will, that you would come to me with this book, and that I would cast this spell and give you the wings you need to become the heroine you desire to be."  She turned and placed both hands on the desk, leaning forward.  "All of these visions are a problem, Miss Wings of Liberty.  Clearly someone wants me to cast this spell on you -- but I don't believe in god.  At the very least, I don't believe in a creator that actually cares about our little lives.  For this reason, I don't trust prophetic dreams.  But I do know of several powerful entities who might decide to send such dreams, actually.  They are gods of a sort -- small gods, or at the very least powerful beings with delusions of grandeur.

"Of those, there are two who take a particular interest in the affairs of Terran superheroes -- the Reality Bender, and Eternia the Watcher.  Of those two, only one works in very direct ways such as this."

Dahlia retrieved from a desk drawer a locked wooden box.  She produced a key and opened it.  From within she drew a trading card.  Wings of Liberty could see that it was especially fancy -- embossed, with gold foil, and most likely quite rare.

"Do you know what this card is?" Dahlia asked.

The woman shrugged.  "No?"

"This," said Dahlia, "is one of the Eldritch Gods trading cards, series one.  They're put out by Sonny's Collectibles, based here in Los Angeles, CA, actually.  The owner is Sonny Kissinger -- a good friend of mine, of a sort.

"This particular card is a Shag Sogoth -- the sleeping old one of  the starless seas.  It was the rarest card of series one -- in fact, there were maybe fifty ever produced.  For years Dark Dr. Dark had one and I did not, and he lorded it over me.  It was the only card in that series that I was missing.  Then I met Sonny and did a favor for him, and he gifted me with this card.  Finally I had a collection to rival that of my mentor.

"Soon, however, a new series of cards were issued -- Minor Gods and great Sorcerers.  In that series the rarest card was of King Bofforma III of the Kalownian Empire -- a mystical god-king of an ancient kingdom lost in the mists of time.  For months Dark Dr. Dark had this card and I did not.  My solution this time was more direct -- I purchased 51% of Sonny's Collectibles.  It's a small operation, after all, and I've become a fairly wealthy young woman.

"Part of the deal included being given one of these rare cards.  Once again I had a collection to match that of my mentor.  But that did not last.

"Dark Dr. Dark was summoned to an Infinite Secret Crisis Wars -- a battle between heroes and villains on a far away planet, under the guidance and at the whims of an all-powerful alien known as the Reality Bender.  Those who competed successfully in this contest were granted gifts -- special powers, for the most part.  But Dark Dr. Dark wanted something different.  He requested a unique gift -- and by unique, I don't mean somewhat rare or unusual, I mean to use that word as it's intended to be used.  He asked for something that was absolutely one of a kind.  There would only be one.

"Can you guess what that was?"

Wings of Liberty cocked her head to one side.  "I'd suppose it was a trading card that you don't have?"

"Yes, actually," said Dahlia.  "It was one that I could never have -- an embossed foil card of the Reality Bender himself, produced by magical means.  Sonny's Collectibles never made such a card, but if you check their company records it shows that they did.  Just the one, mind you.  You see, it was a real card that this wannabe god created -- an official card from the Sonny's Collectibles Eldritch Gods line of collectible cards.  At the same time, no proofs of the card existed -- I could not have a second one printed, even though I owned the company.

"I will help you," said Black Dahlia.  "It's been prophesied in dreams, after all.  I'll cast this spell for you and give you the wings and talons you desire.  Mind you, I think it's foolish to turn yourself into a half-animal freak, but it's nothing I haven't done several times before.  But I won't do it for free.

"I want one thing in exchange:  my own copy of that card -- the Reality Bender Eldritch Gods card, embossed, with gold foil."

The heroine's eyes went wide.  "What?  But... that's impossible!" she exclaimed.  "How can you possibly expect me to... I mean, I have no way of producing that... you yourself just told me that there's only one in existence....."

"I know," said Dahlia.  "Nor do I wish to possess the one that Dark Dr. Dark owns.  I want a second card.  I want there to be two in existence -- only two, with the second going to me."  She placed her Shag Sogoth card back in the wooden box and shut the lid.  "Please note, Miss Wings of Liberty, that I'm not asking you to produce it.  I am just merely stating my desires aloud for all to hear -- nearby humans, spirits, demons, otherworldy gods...."

Black Dahlia sat straight in her chair, hands folded in her lap.  Wings of Liberty opened her mouth, but Dahlia held up a hand, indicating she should wait.  Several moments later her phone rang.  She picked it up.  "Yes?  Very good.  Please bring it up immediately."

A minute later a young woman appeared.  She was dressed very much like Dahlia, minus all the occult jewelry.  On her left breast was a name tag that read:  Danielle Veisi -- ask me about our corset club!

The woman placed a package wrapped in brown paper on Dahlia's desk.  She curtsied, and disappeared.

Dahlia inspected the package.  "Well," said Dahlia brightly, "would you look at that!  A package addressed to moi, with no return address.  I do wonder whatever could it be?"  She carefully sliced through packing tape and soon had revealed a small box.  She removed the lid and peered within.  "Why, wonder of wonders!  'Tis an official Eldritch Gods special Reality Bender embossed gold foil trading card!  One of two in existence!  I do wonder who sent it to me?"

She retrieved her wooden box, unlocked it, placed the new card within, and locked it away.  Then she glanced up at the heroine and said, "Well, Miss Wings of Liberty, are you ready to have real wings?  Let's not dally, then!"


Dark Dr. Dark studied the card as he sipped his tea.

"Impressive," he finally admitted.  "That indeed appears to be the genuine article.  I suppose I never asked that mine remain unique, and thus our friend the Reality Bender was free to make another."

"Indeed," Dahlia said.  She looked quite pleased with herself.

"Of course," said the sorcerer, handing the card back, "I did notice a week ago when my card, which had always been marked as one of one, was suddenly altered to read one of two."

Black Dahlia nodded.  She placed the card within her box and carefully locked it.  "And now," she said, "I once again have a collection that is the equal of yours."

"Is that so?" asked Dark Dr. Dark.  "That would mean that you also have an Eternia the Watcher card, yes?"

Dahlia frowned.  "There's no such card...." she began, but the sorcerer produced it from beneath his cloak in one smooth but deceptively fast motion.

"Gold foil, embossed, one of a kind," he said.  "Presented to me by Eternia herself, who I need not remind you is very rarely encountered."

Dahlia's eyes narrowed.  She stared at the card.  Dark Dr. Dark flipped it over to show the Sonny's Collectibles logo, and the "one of one" notation.  "When did you... how...?"

"That, my dear," said the sorcerer, "is for me to know and you to find out."  And he grinned like a Cheshire cat.