Sunday, June 28, 2020

Abyssus Abyssum Invocat

Abyssus Abyssum Invocat 
Mark A Davis

Sweet scents of sugar, cinnamon and licorice drifted on the breeze.  Overhead silver leaves of thistle trees tinkled like wind chimes.  Yellow cotton candy bunnies hopped amid lemon-lime grass.  Candy bees buzzed amid delicate candy forget-me-nots in all the colors of a confectioner's shop.  A gumdrop path which led into a forest of periwinkle thistles towering thirty feet into a rose pink sky.

The candy forget-me-nots were an especially nice touch, I thought as I waited just inside the woods which were not there.

With a puff of candy smoke, Grandpa Anarchy, world's oldest hero and my hated enemy, appeared on the path, followed by his current sidekick.  I could see them clearly -- the young woman in a spandex suit of red with yellow highlights and the words OMG in large white Impact letters on her chest, within a stylized lightning bolt, and the old man in that stupid gray suit with the silver anarchy symbol stitched over the left breast.  You would think a famous hero would dress better than that.  Show some style.  What you wear is your calling card -- such as my wide-brimmed pointed hat of green, with the clock on the front.  Grandpa always knows me when he sees the hat.

He did not appear to have any strawberries.  I smiled.  My illusion was perfect.  He would never know.

The two glanced about.  "Ahmguh!" exclaimed OMG (pronounced Ahmguh) Girl.  "Where are we?  We were in the Grand Vizer's palace...."

"He has sent us after our quarry," Grandpa Anarchy replied.  This was, of course, true -- the Grand Vizer was a wizard and had teleported them to this desolate place.  Well, I say desolate, but it did not look so to them.

"Ah!" Grandpa said, "if it isn't the Enchanted Thistle Forrest of Lavenderlandia, in the land of Hopsibayrne, near Eiderdown Town  on the shores of Crystalcola Sea.  If I've been here once, I've been here a million times."

"You have?" asked OMG Girl in surprise.

"Generally speaking," Grandpa replied, waving his hand vaguely.  "I may not have been to this specific place before, but all these fantasy fairyland realms kind of blend together after a while.  You've been to one, you've been to them all."

I almost laughed at that.  Yes, I thought.  This is why you believe the illusion, because it is so exactly like things you have seen before....

"If you've never been here," said OMG Girl, "then how did...."

"I read that sign over there," Grandpa said.  "The You Are Here sign?  By the way it says to be wary of bubblegum spiders and insurance salesmen.  Sound advice if you ask me."  Grandpa frowned.  "Although where Miss Mixelthpthpthpthp has disappeared to, I got no idea.  See, this is why I like fighting mad scientists, psychopathic masterminds and super thugs.  With criminals like that you know where you stand.  It's often atop a deadly dirigible or an abandoned roller coaster, mind you, but still.  Magical villains like Miss Mixelthpthpthpthp are a problem for me -- chasing bad guys like that through magical realms is more the domain of Dark Dr. Dark or Black Dahlia."

It's just like that idiot, I thought, to notice the sign but fail to notice the Forbidden Fountain at the center of the map.  Isn't he supposed to be an investigator?

"She stole the Ear of Mumblestilken," said OMG (pronounced Ahmguh) Girl.  "We promised  Grand Vizer Zel Gotti we'd get it back."

Ah!  The Ear of Mumblestilken!  I felt for the bronze artifact in my pocket.  You will never get it back, I thought.  It is now mine!  I had gone to great lengths to snatch this thing -- a wonderful little item of magic which allowed the wearer to understand any spoken words, no matter the language or how poorly they were spoken.  I had a shelf in my home where I planned to place this thing, next to Eisenheimer's Amazing Eyeglasses and the False Nose of Ashurbanipal.

My home is its own dimension -- a pocket dimension, full of all of the trinkets and magical items that I've acquired over the years.  It is a place that fills me with joy.

"That's another thing!" Grandpa muttered.  "Why are we helping a Grand Vizer?  Those guys are always up to no good!  Fantasy and fairylands, they're all bad news.  Next thing you know we'll be expected to slay a dragon!"

"She can't have gotten far," said OMG Girl.  "We need to hurry!"

"Okay, but we can't just run about randomly," Grandpa replied.

This was my cue!  I imagined myself as some sort of gnome creature -- a short man, bent, with lavender lederhosen, shoes with large brass buckles, a white shirt with blousey sleeves, and a feathered cap.  Just like you'd expect in a candy fairyland!  Perhaps I could even sing and dance to a tune about candy, like the Munchkins from the Lollipop Guild?  No, that would be far too obvious -- and there was only me.

Mr. Anarchy's eyes alighted on me as I came walking down the path.  "Excuse me, Mr. Gnome Person Sir," he said.  "Or elf, or citizen of Lavenderlandia...."

"I am a Tekilander," I replied indignantly.  "I come from Teki Town.  Can you not tell by my distinctive Tekilander cap?"

"Ah, yes," Grandpa replied.  "My mistake.   Tell me, have you seen a strange woman pass by here?  Someone who was obviously not a... Tekilander, was it?"

I pointed at OMG Girl.  "Besides her," Grandpa added.

I placed my hands in my suspenders.  It was too bad I hadn't thought to include a pipe -- puffing on a pipe seemed like the thing to do.  What kind of pipe would a Tekilander from the candy fairyland of Lavenderlandia smoke, I wonder?  One that produced candy bubbles?

"This strange woman," I asked, "was she about my height, but with strange yellow skin and blue hair?"

"Yes,  that's her," Grandpa replied.

"Was she wearing a long green dress," I asked, "and a tall pointed hat with a broad brim, with silver charms dangling from that brim?"

"Yes," exactly," replied Grandpa.

"Was there a large brass clock on her hat?"

"Yes!" said Grandpa.  "Which way did she go?"

"Oh, I'd have no idea," I said.  "I haven't seen anyone like that."

I delighted in the frustration on the man's face, although of course I didn't show it.  But this was the foe who had prevented me from obtaining the Ring of Hanubatum, the Undying Sapphire Vase (which could keep flowers alive indefinitely), the Silver Lamp of Eternal Flame, and even the fabled Crystal Weenie -- a maguffin of immense power.  I loathed the man and would never forgive him for these slights.  And now he wished to deprive me of the Ear of Mumblestilken as well?  The nerve!

Well, fun was fun, but I could not stall him forever or he might become suspicious.  "Wait, now I remember," I added.  I think she was headed directly for the Forbidden Fountain...."

Grandpa Anarchy pounded one fist into his palm.  "Of course!" he exclaimed.  "In many fairylands, you can not be held culpable for crimes which you've magically forgotten!"

Well, I thought, at least he remembers why the fountain is important....  Not, of course, that I would go to such lengths to avoid prosecution for theft; what good is stealing a magical trinket if you don't remember what it is or that you've stolen it?  But the threat that I might do so would send Grandpa Anarchy chasing after me, and right into my trap -- for there was no Enchanted Thistle Forrest of Lavenderlandia, no Land of Hopsibayrne, no Eiderdown Town and no Crystalcola Sea.  It was all part of my illusion.  In truth, there was just a desolate flat plain and then a cliff, the edge of which Grandpa Anarchy and his ridiculous sidekick would soon walk off.  I would be rid of him forever.

Abyssus abyssum invocat, thought I.  Abyss calls to abyss; one false step leads to the next -- literally.

"It's easy to get there," I said.  "Just go down this path past the phantom tollbooth and take a right at the second wardrobe you see.  Then it's first star on the right and straight on until morning... no I tell a lie, just a little gnome humor there; I meant to say you go through the first looking glass on the right and Oz is your wizard."

"What's that?" Grandpa exclaimed.  "The Wizard of Oz is involved?  I didn't think we were in Oz...."

"No, Sir," I said patiently, "it's just a phrase.  It means and there you are."

"Ah," said Grandpa.  "Similar to the phrase Bob's your uncle then."

"Bob is not my uncle," I exclaimed severely.  "My uncle is Candleblast the Unsteady.  He's the milner over in Eiderdown Town, where I've lived all my life."

I realized my mistake immediately.  Was I a Tekilander from Teki Town, or a gnome from Eiderdown Town?  Or was I Miss Mixelthpthpthpthp, a magical alien from the planet Rah S'bahrii?

Grandpa Anarchy drew and fired.  "Ahmguh!" his sidekick exclaimed, as my brains splattered the suddenly barren landscape.

A bullet in the brain gives me such a headache -- but it's one sure way to be rid of me, at least temporarily.  When I awoke in my home, hale and whole again but without the Ear of Mumblestilken, I cursed the name of Grandpa Anarchy.  This marked the fifth time he'd thwarted me!

Abyssus abussum invocat, thought I. But next time, Mr. Anarchy!  Next time  I will get you for sure!


Sunday, June 21, 2020

Punch 'Em All

Punch 'Em All
Mark A Davis

Grandpa Anarchy stared at the smartphone screen.  A small figure in a gray suit and fedora hat stood on a simplified map depicting streets occasionally dotted by small cartoon police stations.

"So," said the world's oldest hero, "this is one of them computer games?  Like Pacman, only on your phone?"

Grandpa sat in a conference room in a downtown building in Frosthaven NJ, flanked by his lawyer Malevolent P. Brimstone and his current sidekick, a girl in a full-body spandex suit of red with yellow highlights.  On her chest, in large white Impact font letters within a styled lightning bolt, was written OMG, which she insisted was pronounced Ahmguh.  Three young people in business suits sat across from them -- representatives from a company called Jailbreak Electronic Games, or JEC Inc.

A box of donuts and a carafe of coffee sat on the table.  The air conditioner hummed.  "It's what they call an Augmented Reality game," said Hidoshi Morioka.  "it's like Pokémon Go, or Jurassic World Alive.  The map you see on the screen corresponds to the real world around you."

The red-haired woman beside him nodded vigorously.  "That's right," she said.  "Or like Harry Potter:  Wizards Unite."  This was Amanda Luka.

Grandpa frowned.  "Wizards?  Pokémon?  What's all this got to do with me?  I fight crime!"

"Yes, exactly!" exclaimed the third member of the trio, a young man named David Singh.  "The player in our game Anarchy Punch! takes on the role of a crime fighter -- either you, Grandpa Anarchy, or one of your fellow heroes, which we'll add as we negotiate rights."

"You capture villains by punching them," said Hidoshi.  "Then you lock them up in jails that you can find on various street corners.  The longer they stay in jail, the more points you earn."

"This ain't a game," Grandpa muttered.  "This is my life!"

Hidoshi laughed, but Grandpa didn't join him.  "Look," Hidoshi said, "it's a game based on your life.  You're a well-known hero.  People will enjoy playing you and capturing villains that they hear about in the news. We could make generic heroes and villains, but anyone can do that.  Getting endorsements from you and other heroes gives us our advantage -- it's what will make our game stand out."

Grandpa frowned.  Mal, the demonic lawyer, said, "I see that you are using the name of real adversaries of Grandpa Anarchy as villains in your game.  Have you sought endorsement deals with them as well?"

HIdoshi coughed.  "As it turns out," he said, "very few supervillains have copyrighted their name...."

Mal smiled.  "Very good," he said.  "You have done your homework, then."

"Do I get an endorsement deal?" asked OMG (pronounced Ahmguh) Girl.  "Can I play myself?"

"There will be a robust character creator," said Hidoshi, "eventually.  You will be able to create your own hero if you like, with your own name.  But no, we are not looking to place any sidekicks in the game at this time.  We will speak to members of the New League of Two-Fisted Justice, the Archons of Excellence, and the Black Moon Maidens among others...."

Grandpa Anarchy glanced to his lawyer.  "Well okay," he said, "as long as you work out the details with Mal you can use my name.  I guess kids will buy just about anything, and I know games on your phone are popular."

"Oh," said Amanda, "but we'd also like you to try it out first.  Feedback from the real Grandpa Anarchy would be invaluable."

"I don't play games, Kid," replied Grandpa.  "I live the adventure."

"Assuming we reach an agreement," said Mal, "I will guarantee that Mr. Anarchy will test your game and provide his feedback."  Grandpa opened his mouth to object, and Mal added, "For your information, Mr. Anarchy, Pokémon Go had about $1.8 billion revenue in its first two years.  This could be a very lucrative market for you."

Grandpa's eyes widened.  "One point eight...."

"One point eight billion in revenue," the demon repeated.

"Ahmguh!" exclaimed OMG Girl.

"That's... for a game about catching cute little monsters?" asked Grandpa.


Grandpa Anarchy sat up straighter.  "Very well.  You want me to test out your little game?  I'll see if I can make heads or tails of it."


"Have I not warned you," said Annie Two, Grandpa's computer system, "about downloading suspicious programs to your phone?"

An image of Annie appeared on a screen on the wall of the Anarchy Cave -- that of a 19th century librarian with black hair wound in a bun and with reading glasses.  Of course, Annie was just a program, or series of programs -- the Anarchy Computer Mark II.  She was, however, possibly the world's foremost computer artificial intelligence.  Grandpa's life as a crimefighter had become much easier ever since she had been installed.

"It's just a test version of a new game that I'm endorsing," Grandpa Anarchy replied.  "It's  all hunky-dory -- or as the kids say these days, it's legit.  Mal gave his approval for it, and we signed the contract."

"Malevolent P. Brimstone is a remarkable lawyer," replied Annie, "and I have no doubt that your contract with this company is designed to give you every advantage legally allowed.  However, he is not an expert on computer programs.  All such matters should be brought to me first.  Do I make myself clear?  This applies to you as well, Miss OMG (pronounced Ahmguh) Girl."

Grandpa's sidekick was staring at her phone.  "What?  Oh, yeah."

"Sure, sure," Grandpa said, also staring at his phone.  "Anyway it's just a stupid game.  I don't even have the time to be playing... oh, hey, lookie there!  There's Holy Terror robbing a bank!  That's only two blocks away!  Well, we can't have that.  Guess I'd better stop him!"

"Ahmguh!  I need him too!" OMG Girl exclaimed.  "He's not in my Rogue's Gallery yet!"

Annie Two's eyes narrowed.  "We are talking about a fictional version of the villain, then?  I believe the real Holy Terror is serving a sentence in Attica Correctional Facility, Supermaximum Supervillain Division...."

"Yeah, not the real one," Grandpa said.  "Come on, OMG Girl!  We'll take the Aston Martin DB5!"


Grandpa Anarchy and OMG (pronounced Ahmguh) GIrl stood in the lobby of the Third National Bank of Frosthaven.  There were bullet holes in the walls; two windows were shattered, along with several tables and chairs.  Uniformed police officers were everywhere.  In the center of the room, several thugs in pink bunny suits sat handcuffed on the carpet.

"Nice work, Grandpa!" exclaimed Police Chief Copernicus.  "You sucked all the energy out of the Energizer Gang!  They won't be going anywhere fast after this caper -- they're facing hard time in the Hoosegow!"

"All in a day's work," Grandpa Anarchy replied with a nod.  He glanced down at his phone.  "Aw, Hades!  Baron Climate Change escaped again!  And all of his Zoot Soot Monster minions!"

The Chief of Police looked alarmed.  "He has?  Isn't he held in Attica Correctional Facility, Supermax...."

"No, I don't mean the real Baron Climate Change," Grandpa replied irritably.  "It's this game.  See?"  He held up his phone.  "I locked them up in the Dunkin Donuts Jail on the corner, but now they've escaped.  I need to track them down again."

"Ahmguh!  Me too!" exclaimed OMG Girl.

Sargent Shakespeare glanced over Grandpa's shoulder.  "Hey, that looks like fun!  Where did you download that?"

"Sorry, Sarge," Grandpa replied.  "It's just a beta test version.  You know, to see how I like it and to get some feedback.  But maybe in a few months...."  Grandpa paused to glance at his phone again.

"I love games like that," said the Sargent.  "I bet that's addictive."

"Nah, it ain't addictive," Grandpa said.  "Don't be silly.  It's just a game."  His eyes lit up.  "Hey, that's Doctor Unipus down the street, OMG Girl!   We don't have him yet!  If we hurry, we can destroy his base and capture both him and the Baron...."


In the downtown Frosthaven offices of Jailbreak Electronic Games, JEC Inc., three young people in business casual dress sat around a computer screen.  Hidoshi Morioka and David Singh watched as Amanda Luka worked.

"There," she finally said.  "One hundred thousand transferred into our accounts.  He won't even miss it."

"Nice!" Hidoshi exclaimed.

"Mind you," said Amanda, "this is just a test run.  Once we're all set up and running we'll be able to fleece a lot more from Mr. Anarchy and all of his super friends.  I'm telling you, the man is loaded.  The licensing money from just the most recent movie and from that Girls of Two-Fisted Justice cartoon is multiple millions...."

"And that old fool doesn't suspect a thing!" David crowed.

The doors burst open.  Grandpa Anarchy and his sidekick OMG Girl charged in, followed by a dozen cops with guns drawn.

"Now see, that's where you're wrong," Grandpa Anarchy exclaimed.  "You're all under arrest for illegal wiretapping and surveillance and tryin' to take my money by using computer trickery... I'm sure there's a term for that... anyway, we caught you in the act!"

As the cops handcuffed the three, Amanda said, "How did you know?"

"Ahmguh!" OMG Girl exclaimed.  "Annie Two, of course!"

"Annie Two is the world's foremost computer A.I.," said Grandpa.  "That's short for Anarchy Computer Mark II.  You ain't going to outsmart her.  That was your first mistake, thinking that I wouldn't notice you tracking my every move -- or rather, that Annie Two wouldn't notice.  She was on to you from the start.

"Your second mistake," Grandpa continued, "was making such an addictive game!  Seriously, I can't stop playing it!"  He held up his phone to demonstrate.  "I'm telling you, this game of yours is more than a way to spy on me and a few other heroes -- this thing will sell like hotcakes!  And I've sold hotcakes in my time, lemme tell you!"

"Do you really think so?" Amanda Luka asked.  "Then, even if we're convicted, we'll benefit...."

"Oh, but you won't," Grandpa said.  "I will.  See, you signed a contract written by Malevolent P. Brimstone, my lawyer.  Never sign a deal with a demonic lawyer before you read the fine print.  That was your third mistake!  I now own a quarter of your company, and Mal is the fourth member on your board, representing me -- and per the rules of the contract, you forfeit your board position and ownership if convicted of a federal crime.  When that happens, ownership of the entire company will revert to me."

Grandpa Anarchy grinned.  "I'm going to make a ton of money on this game," he said, glancing down at his phone.  "Oh!  Death Medal is stealing an ancient tome at the library three blocks away!  If I rush over there I can catch him in the act!"

Sargent Shakespeare gripped his gun, then released it.  He laughed.  "You almost got me again, Grandpa!" he said.

"I ain't talking about no game!" Grandpa snarled.  "Let's go, OMG Girl!"

Sargent Shakespeare said, "But the real Death Medal is locked up in...."

"Sarge?" said a young officer.  "We're getting reports that Death Medal has escaped from Paradoria Supervillain Maximum Security...."

The Sargent sighed.  "Right!" he said.  "Half of you secure this group, the rest of you, come with me...."


Sunday, June 14, 2020

Die Eier von Satan

Die Eier von Satan
Mark A Davis

A blue-tinged sun rose over an alien city, where a forrest of thin white spires like fingers reached skyward.  A small red croissant-shaped ship darted between spires.  Inside were two humans and one alien.

"Ahmguh!" exclaimed OMG Girl.  "What's this guy's deal, again?"

"He is a thief of valuable tomes," replied Qwaiia, the alien.  "This is surely his greatest sin and the singular feature which most defines his character."

OMG Girl wore a full-body suit of red with yellow highlights.  On her chest, within a styled lightning bolt, was written OMG in large white Impact font.  Qwaiia was a librarian of the Kanningmitt, a race of large-headed, nine-foot-tall aliens from the planet Aiin, where great libraries housed the literature of a thousand worlds.  Among other things, they have preserved human books, scrolls, and tomes of knowledge for millennia.  A visit to their planet could reveal what was once held in the great library at Alexandria.

And, if your name was Death Medal, you could steal something.

"Death Medal is a lot more than just a book thief." said Grandpa Anarchy, world's oldest hero.  As usual he wore a gray suit with a silver anarchy symbol stitched over the left breast.  He glanced sideways at his new sidekick.  "And... ahmguh?" he asked.  The ship sailed out from the spires and over a forest of blue and violet.  In the distance an azure sea sparkled.

"Oh Em Gee," replied OMG Girl.  "Ahmguh!  Like my name."

"So," said Grandpa Anarchy, "Your name isn't Oh Em Gee Girl, or...."

"It's pronounced Ahmguh," the girl replied haughtily.  "Obviously."

"No, see," said Grandpa, "OMG is an acronym.  It means...."

"Yes, I know," said the girl.  "But when I write a word, it's pronounced just how I choose it to be -- neither more nor less.  The question is which is to be the master, that is all."

"Ah," said Qwaiia the librarian, "you quote lines of dialog from the popular Terran tome Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, composed and published by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson writing under his pen name Lewis Carroll...."

"Okay, I've read Lewis Carroll too," said Grandpa, frowning.  "I can see you've had to defend this pronunciation to a lot of people....  anyway as I was saying, Death Medal is a lot more than just a book thief.  He's a grade-A villain and a demon into the bargain."

"Surely theft of a valuable tome is crime enough to condemn him," replied Qwaiia.  "One need not bring race into the discussion...."

"Look Doc," said Grandpa, "I'm less concerned about the book theft, and more concerned about what he plans to do with said book.  Death Medal's whole shtick is destruction via spells or magical artifacts.  He wants the world to burn -- and the whole universe, if possible.  Part of that's down to him being a demon."

"If he destroys the universe," asked OMG Girl, "Won't he die too?"

"Maybe?" said Grandpa.  "He's a demon, so who knows?  Does destruction of the universe include hell?  Hard to say."

"This is an interesting conundrum," said Quaiia, "which touches on the Terran philosophy of Annihilationism, the belief that existence in an eternal lake of fire is a false doctrine of pagan origin...."

"Yes, I'm sure," Grandpa interrupted.

"Ahmguh!" exclaimed OMG Girl.  "We've got to stop him!"

"What I do not understand," said Qwaiia, "is why he would steal the tome at all?  Library registration is free to all sentient beings, and takes but a few minutes...."

"Well he's a villain," said Grandpa, "so he's not one to do things by the book."

"Ah!  Ha!" the alien barked.  Ha!  Ha!  A Terran joke!  Doing things by the book.  Both a known Terran colloquialism and one of your famous lowbrow puns, the wordplay for which your heroes are famous!  Excellent!"

"Yeah, that's me," Grandpa Anarchy muttered.  "Always joking."

Their ship alighted in a sea of violet grass on a cliff overlooking the ocean.  In the distance, the flaming skull of Death Medal stood out amid a small collection of humanoids.  The sky overhead was streaked with neon blue.  The ship's door opened, and Grandpa stepped outside.

"I implore you," said Qwaiia, "whatever you do, please protect the Atlantean Kodex!  No copy of it exists on earth!"

Grandpa Anarchy grimaced.  "Of course," he said.  "Just the sort of book that Death Medal likes to steal."

Grandpa and OMG Girl strode forward.  "That's far enough!" Death Medal called out.  Aside from the flaming skull, the villain was a muscular man in a Nazi SS Officer uniform, with silver skull buttons and a raft of medals covering the left side of his suit.  To his right stood Miss Kid Gloves, his girlfriend and second-in-command, also in a black SS uniform and with bright white gloves.  To his right towered a uniformed, misshapen Chewbacca with a serious case of chrome spikes.  This was Private Growley Monster, another of Death Medal's lackeys.

In front of these three were arranged a dozen stormtroopers with rifles.  These were pointed at Grandpa and OMG Girl, who froze.

"Nice chase, Mr. Anarchy but you are too late!" Death Medal exclaimed.  "One more step and my stormtroopers will gun you down."  Death Medal waved the tome overhead.  "Did you know that the Atlantean Kodex is not only an ancient earth book, allegedly from the lost city of Atlantis itself, but also a truly epic kick-ass metal band from Germany?  Kind of a mix of old-school Bathory and Manowar and doomy Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus, with lyrics based on H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Bavarian culture.  I mean, how could I not steal this book, I ask you?  I'd treat you to some of their phenomenal music while I unleash the end times, but you know, their music is a bit too positive for this sort of thing, and anyway someone accidentally ate the boombox...."

He glared at Private Growley Monster, who, like a guilty dog, avoided his gaze.

"Mind you, some While Heaven Wept would be just about perfect," Death Medal added, "but I supposed we'll have to unleash Armageddon without musical accompaniment this one time...."

Death Medal opened the book.  "Let's see... this version has a German translation.  Die Eier von Satan.  Yes, I think this spell should do the trick."

Death Medal raised a hand to the heavens and read out in a booming voice, "Die Eier von Satan!  Zutaten!  Sechs Eier!  Ein Viertel Tasse Mayonnaise!  Ein Teelöffel weißer Essig!  Ein Teelöffel gelber Senf!  Frisch gemahlener schwarzer Pfeffer...."

Death Medal paused.  "What the Hades?" he muttered.  "This isn't a spell -- it's a recipe!  For deviled eggs, I think."  He flipped to the front of the book.  "Hey, this isn't a spell book at all...."

"Oh.  Em.  Gee!" exclaimed OMG (pronounced Ahmguh) Girl.  "It's not an ancient tome of magic at all!  It's a cookbook!"

She paused dramatically.  Death Medal said, "Well, frack!  I think you're right."

"IT'S A COOKBOOK!" OMG Girl said again.  "You know -- a cookbook!  Like that old Twilight Zone episode...."  Her voice trailed off.  She stared at Qwaiia.  "And you're... a nine-foot-tall alien... just like that episode...."  Her eyes grew big.

"Episode 89, based on the short story by Damon Knight, in fact," said Qwaiia.  He stepped forward and snatched the book from Death Medal's grasp.  "It's a cookbook, and it has not been properly checked out.  Therefore I am confiscating it."  He glanced back and added, "I am a librarian, Miss OMG Girl -- a connoisseur of words, not of human flesh."


Sunday, June 7, 2020

Oulipo Blues

Oulipo Blues
Mark A Davis

Grandpa Anarchy, world's oldest hero, crashed through the front window of the Sinister Doomhollow Memorial Library of Frosthaven NJ.  He landed in a crouch as shards of glass skittered across the marble floor.  A boy in a brown tweed suit and bow tie leaped through the window to land beside him.  Grandpa was dressed in his usual rumpled gray suit with a silver Anarchy symbol stitched over the left breast.  He wore black leather gloves.

In the center of the library stood a dumpy man in a costume of black and white with a long, striped tail.  The face was masked in black, with reflective goggles.  He gripped a dictionary like a holy book.

"Give it up!" Grandpa Anarchy exclaimed.  "Your reign of terror is at an end, Literate Lemur!  I'm gonna toss you in the hoosegow!"

"Hoosegow," said Grandpa's sidekick, known as the Etymological Kid.  "From 1911, Western United States, most likely a mispronunciation of the Mexican Spanish juzgao, meaning tribunal or court."

"So, Mr. Anarchy," the villain exclaimed.  "Not unlike the French soldier Pierre-François Bouchard discovering that famous granodiorite stele known as the Rosetta Stone, you have once again pierced the veil of my clues and discerned the meaning hidden within.  You are ever the astute and worthy foe!  I salute you!  Yes, it is true that I employed Oulipo as a method to obsfucate the clues to my crime... I refer of course to the famous French literary movement Ouvroir de littérature potentielle which translates roughly as workshop of potential literature, in which constrained writing techniques are employed as a means of creating new means of expression...."

"Express this!" Grandpa Anarchy shouted.  He launched himself forward, smashing his fist into the villain's jaw.

Local Hero Grandpa Anarchy Arrests Literate Lemur

Grandpa Anarchy, well-known hero and resident of Frosthaven NJ, confronted superthief the Literate Lemur in the Sinister Doomhollow Memorial Library on 6th and Union last evening.  Mr. Anarchy apprehended the villain after a brief battle in which a front window was broken.  The Literate Lemur was charged with theft and resisting arrest.

"I was reading a book on snails, when there was a huge crash!" exclaimed library patron Nancy McDermott-Hernandez.  "Grandpa Anarchy smashed through the front window, scattering broken glass everywhere!

"Why he doesn't just use the front door, I've got no idea," she added.

Police Chief Capernicus confirmed that the Literate Lemur was wanted for the theft of several books from the city's rare book vault.  The villain will be held in the city's supervillain detention center pending trial.

Mayor Doomhollow issued a statement thanking Grandpa Anarchy once again for his service, and noting that he would not be charged with destruction of public property, granted that he paid for the broken window within two weeks as stipulated in the city's hero and vigilante regulations.

Grandpa Anarchy has operated as a legal hero in Frosthaven since at least 1910.  The Sinister Doomhollow Memorial Library was constructed in 1985 from a generous grant bestowed by Mayor Doomhollow, after his retirement from a career as one of the world's foremost supervillains.

  Grandpa Anarchy narrowed his eyes.  "Hang on," he said.  "What was that just now?  A newspaper recap?"

"Just so," replied the Literate Lemur.  "It is, of course, the same events told in a completely different style."

"Now, there's no need for any of that..." Grandpa Anarchy began.

My heart leapt in my chest as Grandpa Anarchy smashed the window pane, his burly muscles taut beneath the thin, faded fabric of his threadbare suit, his gloved hand thrusting forward not unlike the thrust of a spear from a primitive hunter.  Glass shattered like my heart had one week earlier, when first I learned that he could never be mine.  But he turned and looked deep into my eyes, gave me that rakish grin that always warmed me inside, and said, "Come, Etymological Kid.  Our foe the Literate Lemur awaits!"

And there he was, standing within the library like a wizard within is inner sanctum.  Well I knew that here stood a supervillain most foul, a prince of thieves, a brilliant but tortured man whose love for books and the words within equaled my own.  Such a brilliant man, yet so misguided!  Light glinted from his lemurlike goggles, and I recalled that night we spent together in Superfox's Diner six months ago, when he opened up and shared with me the story of his love of lemurs, of his bond with them and how they guided him -- a secret he had told no one else.

No! I told myself.  I had pledged myself to do good -- to do right!  Yet I knew deep in my heart that no prison could cure the Literate Lemur -- only love could calm the stormy seas of emotion that raged within his soul.  Love that I could provide.  Did I dare grant him that love?  The one I truly loved was Grandpa, but the one who needed me was....

Grandpa sprung forward to punch the Lemur in the face.  I felt my hand move of its own volition, reaching out to stop him....

The Etymological Kid raised his hand.  "Point of order," he said.  "I am neither in love with Grandpa nor yourself."

"Literary license," replied the Literate Lemur.  "Surely you understand?"

"Wait," said Grandpa.  "What's going on here?"

"Are you familiar with Exercices De Style by Raymond Queneau?" asked the Literate Lemur.  "Ninety-nine retellings of the same episode, each in a unique literary style and tone.  It is a fine example of Oulipo...."

"Ninety-Nine!" Grandpa Anarchy yelled.  "Not if I have anything to say about it!"

When I recount these feats of Anarchy,
Confronting lemur vile yet literate,
Solving every riddle he hath wrot,
Mental tricks of great complexity
Strode forth the hero with his mighty fists
Unto the hallowed halls of knowledge free,
Smashing glass like Christ of Galilee
Did temple moneychangers to resist
"Villain!  Halt!" the hero did exclaim
"Your reign of terror ended is today!"
With eloquence, the villain had his say,
"Oulipo be your doom," I heard him name
Trapped within each endless variation
Our hero faces ultimate damnation.


"Let me get this straight," said Grandpa Anarchy.  "I'm trapped repeating the same encounter over and over, each time expressed in a different literary style...."

"Ninety-nine scenes in total," replied Annie Two, the Anarchy Computer Mark II A.I.  "A complete tribute to the Raymond Queneau publication.  Such styles include Dream Sequence, Word Game, Anagrams, Onomatopoeia, Spoonerisms, Visual, Auditory, Ode, Hellenisms, Haiku, Free Verse, Mathematical, and one written in Cockney slang... all with commentary from you two in between each scene."

"The Sonnet is a nice touch," noted Grandpa's sidekick.  "Well done, that villain."

Grandpa Anarchy and his sidekick the Etymological Kid were seated in the Anarchy Cave before a wall-mounted video screen, upon which was displayed the text from the Literate Lemur.  A second screen displayed a young woman dressed like a 19th century librarian -- the visual representation of Annie Two.  Grandpa said, "And he never once explains how he's supposed to have trapped me in this mess?"

"It is a literary device, Mister Anarchy," the computer replied.  "I think he wrote it as a creative exercise."

"Well, no literary device can hold down Grandpa Anarchy, that's for dang sure," Grandpa snarled.  "The strange thing is that I normally can't make heads or tails of the Lemur's clues... but here he not only says we'll find him at the town library, he repeats it ninety-nine times...."

"Indeed," the computer A.I. replied.

"The version which I prefer," said Grandpa, "is the one where I don't show up at all, but sit here in my Anarchy Cave while the Frosthaven police arrest this literary fool."

"I alerted them an hour ago," said Annie Two.  "They have him in custody."

Grandpa punched the air in triumph.  "Good!" he exclaimed.  "I've had enough literary shenanigans for one night."

"Shenanigans," said the Etymological Kid.  "Of uncertain origin, earliest records are from 1855 in San Francisco and Sacramento in California, possibly from the Spanish chanada...."

Grandpa glared.  "Oh," the kid said.  "Right."