Sunday, May 31, 2020

A Tough Road for the Kids

 Last Monday started out as a fairly normal day at my work. I'm part of the Engineering crew at a local hospital that normally maintains HVAC systems and other assorted mechanical equipment. I clocked in that morning at my usual time and went about my normal duties. It's all pretty mundane stuff, so much that it's not huge exaggeration to say a technician could set a clock on when a piece of equipment will go bad again after being fixed.

That day was a little different in that I was part of a crew that had to work on a stuck heat valve above the ceiling in the Labor and Delivery department. In fact that valve was located in the ceiling above the new born nursery where four babies were being carefully watched over by a couple of attentive nurses. It goes without saying those two nurses weren't happy that three guys from Engineering were in their work area. But the nursery was too hot and we had traced the problem to that stuck valve.

Having the valve in the ceiling above the nursery was simply a case of poor design but all that was decided years ago. For the Engineering crew I was part, we had to work swiftly and as quietly as possible to drain the water line, clear out or replace the valve, then leave the area without disturbing the babies.

Luckily all we had to do was drain that particular water line, which flushed out a nice chunk of trash allowing the valve to open and close properly. We were out of the nursery in about forty-five minutes with the area now cooling as it should. That still left the matter of gathering up our equipment and putting the ceiling tiles back in place. That last part fell to me as the other two guys began heading back to our shop.

Once done, I glanced over to the sleeping babies and became thoughtful about the future for a moment.

“Hang tight, kids” I said to the babies without really thinking. “It's going to be a rough century.”

One of the L&D nurses heard my words and looked at me like I was crazy before walking off. The other nurse also looked at me, smiled and nodding in agreement as I left the room.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

The Tragedy of the Skywalker Saga--A Review

When the first Star Wars film came out back in 1977 America was suffering from a bit of an existential crisis. Vietnam and Watergate were over but the wounds for both were still fresh and bloody. Throw in a couple of oil shortage crises, the expansion of commie movements around the globe, and the dust settling from the civil rights movement and a lot of Americans didn't know which way was up. In other words, the generally believed position that our nation was a beacon of freedom and enlightenment was endangered.

But enter morally upright Luke Skywalker and the national mental zeitgeist gets a much needed boost to set us back on the proper path of righteousness. That may sound flippant but I actually believe that is how most Americans viewed the first Star Wars film. That first movie sent a message that the “Good Guys” would overcome the nefarious minions of evil and eventually overthrow the tyrannical empire.

The two Original Trilogy sequels further reinforced the belief that the Good Guys always triumph in the end. Well, it's hard to come away with any other conclusion when everyone clearly saw Emperor Palpatine tossed down a deep shaft and apparently explode. Throw in surrendering Stormtroopers down on Endor and the ghostly image of a redeemed Anakin Skywalker standing beside Yoda and Obi Wan we've got the fall of the Empire and a nice happy ending.

We didn't return to the Star Wars Universe in movies until 1999 with the release of The Phantom Menace. If I remember correctly its reception by fans was mixed. For me, it was okay entertainment but the premise, while trying to sound sophisticated involving the complicated politics of the decaying Republic just didn't work. Throw in everything about Jar-Jar Binks, all the character dialog, and a far too young Anakin Skywalker and I understand why many rabid fans were disappointed.

The two other prequels were slightly better with Anakin rapidly aging to an angst-filled teenager and the introduction of a galaxy-spanning war. The dialog was still terrible and the plot creaked along but there was enough story to make it enjoyable. Another reason those two movies were better was the near absence of Jar-Jar.

But at the end of The Revenge of the Sith we see how the Republic became the Empire and how Anakin became Darth Vader. Not the best setup for the Original Trilogy but by that point the purpose of Star Wars was not about great story telling but selling merchandise.

Now Disney enters the scene in 2015 releasing The Force Awakens and I did thoroughly like this movie. Yes, it was a retelling of A New Hope but I could accept that even though I really don't like much of what J.J. Abrams makes on television or movies. In my opinion J.J. Abrams can setup a great story but cannot create a coherent ending to save his life. The television show Lost was a J.J. creation and while it had intriguing episodes the overall story about the mysterious island and the marooned airline passengers was a mess.

The major personal criticism I have with the movie was that Luke, Leia, and Han had absolutely no scenes together. Yes, the main purpose of the movie was to introduce the characters of Rey, Fin, and the whiny brat Kylo Ren/Ben Solo. But hey, at least the dialog wasn't the usual incomprehensible mishmash of words typical of the other movies.

Understand, I have plenty of issues with The Force Awakens. One that I could mention is how the new bad guys, called the First Order, has built yet another version of the Death Star. Opposing the First Order is the Resistance, lead by General Leia Organa. All things considered, The Force Awakens was a decent movie despite its drawbacks and inconsistencies. I absolutely can not say the same thing about the following movie, The Last Jedi.

Directed by Rian Johnson, The Last Jedi is the worst movie in the entire Star Wars franchise. Scientifically speaking a reasonably educated individual has to overlook numerous errors in the Star Wars movies. Namely the biggest is that there no hyperspace drive allowing the creation of a galaxy-wide government. The space fighters that always make up a large part of the battles could never perform the maneuvers we see on the screen. Star Wars space fighters turn and dive as if they were flying through a planetary atmosphere. But okay, any viewer of science fiction has to readily suspend a certain measure of disbelief to enjoy the story. But Last Jedi has huge, glaring issues that many fans just couldn't overlook.

In the opening scene of the movie we have the Resistance and The First Order about to engage in battle in outer space. The First Order has the usual battle fleet of huge star destroyers while the Resistance is about to attack with what are called bombers. Remember, we're in outer space where the lack of gravity makes dropping anything highly problematic. Sure enough, as the two sides engage in battle the crews of the Resistance ships appear to drop bombs on the bad guys.

Another huge issue I have with Last Jedi is the one involving the sinister leader of the First Order, Supreme Leader Snoke. Introduced in The Force Awakens, Snoke was a total unknown that was supposed to make Emperor Palpatine look like a Sunday school teacher. The entire time between Force Awakens and Last Jedi the internet buzzed with fan theories on who Snoke was and where he came from. One theory had him the mentor of Palpatine kept alive by his knowledge of the Dark Side of the Force. Another theory had him Master Jedi Mace Windu who we last saw missing a hand and falling out of a broken window.

In Last Jedi, Snoke was casually killed off without a word being said of how he came to rule the First Order. Even worse, director Rian Johnson goes out of his way to destroy all the mysteries introduced in Force Awakens. In the previous, movie the character of Rey was abandoned on the planet Jakku by her parents for some unknown reason. Later on in that movie, Rey finds Anakin's lightsabre and has a vision suggesting she has a connection to it. Why? The possibilities include that she is Skywalker left on Jakku to repeat Anakin and Luke's upbringing. That she is the granddaughter of Obi-Wan Kenobi and has inherited his Force abilities.

No, in Last Jedi dipshit Rian Johnson tells us Rey is a nobody. That her parents were the Star Wars version of Meth heads who sold their baby daughter to get enough credits to buy drugs. Being honest here but I was not impressed with the character of Kylo Ren/Ben Solo when he was introduced back in The Force Awakens. Kylo Ren seemed less an evil replacement of Darth Vader but more of a spoiled brat who Leia and Han, his parents, should have spanked a few times while he was growing up.

I would be remiss if I didn't say something about the hideous treatment of Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi. Gone is the eager and optimistic farm boy who destroyed the first Death Star and brought his fallen father back to the Light Side of the Force. In Last Jedi we have a discouraged, more than slightly crazy hermit who apparently couldn't handle his errant nephew, Ben Solo.

The first time I saw Last Jedi, I almost turned off the television seeing the ridiculous nature of the middle aged Luke Skywalker character. Yes, Obi-Wan and Yoda went into hiding at the of Revenge of the Sith with the Emperor in power and a huge clone army and space navy at his disposal. But the impression I got from Last Jedi was that Luke hit a few bumps in the road to rebuilding the Jedi. Then decided Ben Solo was a lost cause and had to be murdered. As opposed to Darth Vader/Anakin who killed untold millions during the Empire, including young children, but was redeemed through the love of his son he spent two previous movies trying to kill.

Star Wars was never that big a deal to me growing up. Yes, I had a few toys as a kid and saw the movies within a few days of them being released. But Star Wars never inspired me, I never saw any message nor overarching philosophy with the franchise worth investing a great deal of my time. That being said, I own every Star Wars film on Blu-ray because on a rainy weekend they are great way to relax and unwind. Well, I own them all except The Last Jedi which is so bad it makes the prequels look like masterpieces of cinema.

The Last Jedi so spoiled me of the entire Skywalker Saga that I only just now watched the the final film, The Rise of Skywalker.

J.J. Abrams returns in the last movie in a desperate attempt to patch together the wreckage Rian Johnson made of all the previous films. On one hand I have to say J.J. Abrams and the writers made a valiant attempt to reconstruct a coherent narrative to bring a close to the epic first introduced back in 1977. On the other hand, this is J.J. Abrams and he is once again unable to write a coherent story.

Rise of Skywalker begins with “The Dead Speak” in the opening crawl. And as you may already have guessed or know, it's Emperor Palpatine who has somehow survived his fall down the second Death Star's long shaft and its later explosion at the hands of the Rebel Alliance.

Palpatine has been hiding out on some unknown planet planning a return to power. In Palpatine's spare time as Luke Skywalker was attempting to resurrect the Jedi Order and Leia was helping build the New Republic, the former emperor for some reason created Snoke and engineered his assumption to power in the First Order.

Kylo Ren, now the Supreme Leader of the First Order, finds Palpatine who tells him to search out Rey and kill her. More or less at the same time Rey is hanging out with the pitiful remains of the Resistance when they get word Palpatine's back in town and looking to reclaim his turf.

Rey and her posse then begin searching for Palpatine, which involves them finding lost Sith artifacts that will point the way to his evil hideout. While at the same time Kylo is hunting Rey and generally shooting up anyone or thing that gets in his way. It during this part of the movie that I cringed for Adam Driver, the actor who plays Kylo. While in the first two movies Kylo seemed more a spoiled rich kid, in Rise of Skywalker I came away seeing the character as more an inept lackey. Kylo is, of course, eventually redeemed but I really didn't see or understand what began pushing him in that direction.

At some point, we learn Palpatine's old body was destroyed during the Battle of Endor but that his spirit found a secret base where he began inhabiting a cloned body planning his return. Okay, one of the best comic book Star Wars stories back in the 1990s had a similar plot but Palpatine came back to terrorize the galaxy a lot sooner. Had Disney pursued that story, the sequel episodes would have been awesome. 

Well in Rise of Skywalker Palpatine somehow has a massive fleet of star destroyers all armed with cannons that can blow up planets. You had to figure that a planet destroying weapon had to be included in this final movie. What I didn't understand is that if Snoke was a clone controlled my Palpatine, why didn't he just give those planet killing cannons to the First Order?

As you can expect, there is a climatic battle between Palpatine's fleet and the Resistance who have pieced together a group of ragtag ships to oppose him. Of course, Rey and Kylo have their final lightsabre battle and we get a visit by Luke Skywalker's force ghost who gives a, “Let's go out there and win one for the Gipper” speech to Rey. Going totally against the crazy hermit vibe Rian Johnson offered up in the last movie.

The Rise of Skywalker finishes up with the Resistance victorious, Palpatine truly dead and turned to ash, and Rey the sole survivor of her battles with Kylo. And yes, Kylo did turn back to the Light Side and even had a confrontation with his fellow Knights of Ren. A totally pointless scene in the movie given that their defeat played no part in changing the story. Who these Knights of Ren were and what they were doing all through episodes seven and eight is never explained. But Adam Driver needed a scene where he was the good guy so I guess they were thrown in to make that happen.

The movie ends back on the desert planet of Tatooine with Rey ceremonially burying Luke and Leia's lightsabres and looking at their Force ghosts off in the distance. Rey then takes the last name of Skywalker and probably goes on to reestablish the Jedi Order.

I am an unabashed Disneyphile who has been down to Disney World more times that I can count. But their addition to the Skywalker Saga was simply terrible. Episodes seven, eight, and nine were nothing but inconsistent stories, badly defined characters, and enough plot holes to fly a star destroyer through. Disney made the Star Wars movie Rogue One, a stand alone movie that was everything the last three of the Skywalker Saga were unable to supply. They can make a good Star Wars movie, but in my opinion I'm hoping for a reboot of the Skywalker Saga with competent writers and directors at the helm. In a way, Disney has ruined a chunk of my childhood and doesn't give a damn.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

When the Chickens Come Home to Roost

Ignorant assholes playing terrorist in the Michigan State Capitol

The Capitol press room was standing room only. Designed to comfortably seat two dozen reporters, that afternoon there were at least sixty people crowded together awaiting official word from the president. Once again the world was coming apart and the average person was fearful that yet another war would endanger their tenuous existence. So much had been lost in the past decades and only in the last few years had any sense of peace and prosperity returned to the nation.

The chatter in the room was a constant, low nervous buzz but when the assistant press secretary stepped into the room and then to the podium, everyone fell silent.

“Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen,” Carrie Barns said standing at the podium. “Undoubtedly you know that Article Five of the NATO alliance has been activated by one of the member states. In a moment the president herself will address you and the nation about what this means. Understand, the president has conferred with the other members and they have come to a joint resolution. There will be a short question and answer session once she reads the joint declaration.”

With that, Ms. Barns stepped back from the podium and looked to the door she entered a moment before waiting for the president to appear. It was one of the aides standing next the door that announced her arrival.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the press, please stand for the President of the Republic of Cascadia.” An almost regal Sandra Parker quickly stepped up to the podium taking a couple of seconds to look at the small computer tablet Barns had left. She then looked out at the seated reporters and the cameras on the other side of the room and began to cut the last few shreds of what had once existed.

“As you all know,” President Parker began, “the Southern Confederacy is reporting that an invasion force made up of naval and ground units of both the Caribbean Federation and the nation of Brazil are sailing towards the Gulf Coast. Confederacy Intelligence expects them to make landings somewhere between the Florida Panhandle to Louisiana in five to six days. Also, Mexican Army and Air Force units have moved to staging areas south of the Rio Grande threatening the Republic of Texas."

“With the Confederacy's main benefactor, Russia, already fighting a desperate war with the Central Asia Caliphate, its president has called for assistance under the North American Treaty Organization. I have already contacted both the Confederacy ambassador in Portland and President Hannity in Atlanta and told them the Republic of Cascadia will not send troops. Moreover, neither will California, nor Utah, Colorado, the Great Lakes Federation, New York or the New England Union."

“This looming conflict originates from both the Confederacy and the Republic of Texas sponsoring Christian libertarian anarchists all through the Caribbean and Latin America. What appears to have provoked the coming war was Brazilian Intelligence discovering that Texas has allowed Amazonia Libertarian Front terrorists to build training camps in isolated prairie lands outside Waco. The same group that six months ago murdered over two-hundred people environmental recovery specialists working on the Peruvian/Brazilian border. The civilized American nations will not be a party to the actions of two rogue states."

“For that reason, California, Utah, the Great Lakes Federation and two divisions of the Cascadian Army will be stationed along the southern Kansas border once the conflict begins to make sure our interests and territory are respected. I would strongly advise the civilian and military leadership of the Confederacy and Texas to concentrate on the invading forces and ignore the neutral troops along their northern border.” President Parker finished while looking at the press who were now jumping up and down trying to get noticed.

Once the reporters calmed down, President Parker pointed to one of the journalists so he could ask a question.

“Madam President, Jacob Wall from the Cascadia Broadcast Network. Why are we taking this action now when its been an open secret for decades that both the Confederacy and Texas have actively interfered in the affairs of other nations? In fact, there is clear evidence that the Idaho Insurrection of 2039 was sponsored by the Confederacy, a conflict that killed over a thousand Cascadian soldiers.”

“Mr Wall, both the Confederacy and Texas have been pushing their Christian libertarian anarchist ideology since their founding at the ending of the Disunion War. Quite simply, at the end of that horrific conflict that killed over eighty million Americans, saw over one-hundred million forced from their homes, and brought the downfall of the United States Government, there was no stomach for further overt fighting."

“The basic infrastructure of Oregon and Washington State were in ruins.” The president continued obviously remembering the incredible hardships that three full generations of survivors had to endure. “Things like clean running water and electricity were close to nonexistent in places like Portland and Seattle for years. The early Cascadian leadership wasn't worried about a piece of rural territory filled with religious zealots and illiterate white supremacists. Yes, the Idaho Insurrection was terrible, but Cascadia was essentially powerless to oppose them until 2035.”

The next question was from David Lewis, a reporter working for the Spokane Times, a newspaper whose publishers push for American reunification.

“Madam President, aren't we violating our treaty obligations under the North American Treaty Organization by not coming to the assistance of the Confederacy and Texas when there is a clear and imminent threat to the continent?”

“Mr. Lewis, the NATO alliance was formed for two reasons. The first being to defend the continent from the perceived threat from China when it foreclosed on the nation of Panama and took over it and operation of the canal back in 2044. The second reason was to dissuaded any North American nation from interfering in the affairs of each other. The best example was the California Civil War and the Idaho Insurrection already mentioned, conflicts that either Texas or the Confederacy gave shelter or supplies to the enemy combatants. The NATO alliance was not meant to aid terrorist nations who got caught with their pants down, dick in hand trying to rape someone."

“The sickness the Confederacy and Texas suffer from originated well before the Disunion War. President Hannity's own grandfather was one of the chief madmen that spawned their political mindset. It destroyed the United States, reduced the people of this continent to something worse than Third World status, and sent shock waves out that forever altered human history. I only wish like Hell Old America had realized the road they were taking changed course."

“Since the Disunion War, the nations that eventually formed out of the ashes of the United States have next to know real contact with each other. Here in Cascadia we have more in common with Canada or California than our nominal allies New York or the New England Union. To fly to New York City or Boston from Seattle or San Francisco you have to go through Calgary or Toronto. Whatever America unity that once existed was pissed away in the name of religious extremism, sanctifying the rich, willful embracing of ignorance, and the glorification of weapons and bloodshed."

“The Confederacy and Texas have sown the wind and now finally they will reap the whirlwind in the form of massive invasion by two of the most powerful nations on Earth. Another way to say this President Hannity would understand is that their chickens have come home to roost. That concludes my briefing.”

Sunday, May 10, 2020

This Reality Sucks

Just for shits and giggles, I'll ask a stupid and mostly rhetorical question but answer it anyway. How does any sane person make sense of the times we find ourselves living? Please, I'd love to know why because everything seems to have gone to shit pretty much after they shot that gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo back in May of 2016.

Now I'm usually good for making a tongue-in-cheek comment about a certain time-traveling, DeLorean-driving teenager and his crazy scientist buddy screwing with the timeline for why things have gone loony. My other go-to explanation is the computer simulation hypothesis which says our reality is nothing but a extra complicated video game and that our creator/gamer/god has given the controller to his baby brother while he runs to the kitchen for snacks and sodas.

There's no need to rehash the cluster fuck that's been the latter half of the 2010's. And if anyone reading this thinks everything is peachy-keen do the world a favor and do not reproduce. That being said there is a couple of things I have to mention because we're talking a Rod Serling level of Twilight Light Zone weirdness.

Everyone remember the Alaskan Trailer Trash Queen, Sarah Palin? The woman that John McCain nominated as his vice president back in 2008 despite her not having enough brain power to light the metaphorical ten-watt refrigerator bulb. Remember her bitchy shrill comment about how Obama was going to have “Death Panels” that would send grandma and kids with Down's Syndrome to the Big Hereafter if he got elected?

I never understood who originated her Death Panel talking points but Fox News and all the other right-wing propaganda outlets sure as hell ran with the story sending damn near all the old timers and their right-wing kinfolk into spasms of mind numbing fear. Otherwise good people ended up buying assault weapons believing that jack-booted government thugs would break down their front doors to take dear old grandma and grandpa to a death camp because they was using too much Medicare.

For years Right-wingers lost their freaking marbles over Palin's Death Panels but now the situation has made a surreal 180 with Right-wingers taking a bizarre new stance. Now, according to numerous high-level Republican politicians and a lot of capitalist-loving Deplorables, both grandma and grandpa should be happy to die during the COVID pandemic to “save the economy” and assure Trump get reelected in 2020.

Back in normal times any fucking fiction writer would have been laughed out of town had he or she purposed such and insane idea. Seriously folks, this is a level of batshit crazy that scares me, because if any group is willing to sacrifice living human beings for the short-term benefit or a political gain, no one is safe.

The other thing that baffles me is the cosmic-level hypocrisy with the Republicans drooling over Ruth Bader Ginsburg possibly passing away leaving another Supreme Court seat open they can steal. Remember back in the closing months of the Obama Administration when Justice Scalia passed away? The Grand Turtle from Kentucky, Mitch McConnell, lost his Blue Grass shit over some vague bullshit called the Biden Rule which called for First Bush to wait until after the 1992 election before appointing a replacement to the Supreme Court.

Okay, I understand the politics involved especially when it comes to then Senator Biden and his now inconvenient maneuvering. But since McConnell made such a huge stink over the Biden Rule with Obama, to openly salivate over Ginsburg's seat before the woman is even cold is some outrageously cold malevolent shit. Truthfully, I also see tinges of Orwellian doublespeak in McConnell's sudden reversal of his stance on the holy Biden Rule.

Finally, we're twenty years into the twenty-first century and redneck assholes can still shoot an unarmed black man and get away with it most times. I'm referring to the recent Ahmaud Arbery shooting down in Brunswick, Georgia where two fine examples of Southern Heritage inbreeding decided to play cop/judge/executioner. This blatant example of fascist-level, racism-inspired murder should shock me but it doesn't, because in all honesty that shit is still alive and is covered over with only with millimeter thin deep civility.

Certain folks like to talk about all the religious and ethnic craziness that engulfs all those “shit hole” places around the world like we're special. But if you listen that hate and rage exists here in the United States and is never far from erupting, especially when you have such a cheerleader for it living in the White House.

I'm not comfortable describing how worried I am about the country and even the safety of certain members of my family. The situation around the country has been deteriorating for years but with the Orange Buffoon strutting around and undermining every pillar of national stability, I don't see a limit to how bad things could fall apart. America does not possess any exemption to the tides of history and to go against Martin Luther King, the moral arc of justice is not guaranteed to bend upward.

Of course, the answers will come with time but good ones will require all good people to act. 

All you fuckers who didn't vote or went third party back in 2016 better get a clue, you whiny bitches.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

A Troubled Bridge to Redemption

 Author's notes: Excuse the typos, it's late and I'll do my usual proofreading later.

The Entity had existed for so long it didn't know what it was or how it came to be. Not that it worried over such trivialities, its one overwhelming need was to feed. In some ways it wasn't much different from common bacteria, as long as it found sustenance to insure its continued survival nothing else mattered. It had no dreams for itself, no aspirations, no desire for love or to improve its condition.

Understand, the Entity was intelligent, in a sense, because it knew of humanity and the slice of reality the scurrying, glorified bags of water occupied. Because the Entity fed exclusively on their fears, their darkest emotions. It would latch on to a damaged soul and twist whatever nightmares or dark memories played in their minds to the point nothing would be left. The usual result for that person was death with the Entity satiated for what humans perceived as decades.

Not that it left humans alone until it hungered again. The Entity, and those like it, were often the cause for a sudden bad feeling someone would get for no reason. The basis for the bad memory, long forgotten, to suddenly resurfaced. In the worst cases, the Entity and its kin were the reason for a totally unexpected and horrific crime of passion. Something that would leave the perpetrator claiming he or she had never in their wildest dreams meant to hurt the victim.

Not that it and its kind were to blame for all human failings. Humanity was an unfinished product with enough inherent flaws to make its long term survival highly questionable. It went without saying that humanity's worst enemy was always itself. That was what made humans an ideal source of food.

The Entity had for years resided in the house of its last meal. There was no attachment to the construct any human would understand. Structures were just convenient vessels to given them a physical form in the human universe because the Entity had no real substance they could easily call upon.

Years before a family of three, father, mother, and young son had moved into the house. The father, a newly wealthy businessman wanted nothing more than to expand his riches. The mother's chief desire was to achieve social standing among the other wives of her husband's business circle. At best, the two ignored their young son who suffered from loneliness and cruel treatment by his cold nanny.

The boy offered such an abundance of fear that the Entity was almost gleeful as it fed like a bloated tick on a dog. As the boy grew older and became a teenager, the Entity twisted his fears into rage and hate. The Entity grew so strong from its efforts and the purity of the boy's dark emotions it gained the ability to physically manifest itself in the human realm. But even for the Entity, all good things must come to an end.

One winter morning the boy took an ax to his nanny and fed the pieces of her body to the basement furnace. The mother came home early from a church meeting that day and came close to suffering a similar fate. She escaped the house and ran out into the snow covered street drenched in her own blood. When the police arrived to take the boy into custody he offered no resistance and peaceably went off to jail. Later that night he hung himself in his cell, but not before telling his court appointed attorney that a voice in his head prompted him to murder his nanny and attack his mother.

Days after the boy kills himself, the father and mother mysteriously die in their beds. Autopsies of the two are performed but fail to determine what caused their demise. Word does slip out to the community that the medical examiner made an offhand comment saying that if he didn't know any better its seems something scared them to death. Like all bizarre incidents, the largely rational people of the community soon move on with their lives and forget the event ever happened.

The Entity, fully satisfied, will spend years alone in the house only leaving to take advantage of any troubled human it might stumbled upon. Things do change and eventually someone does buy the old house with the intent of returning it to its full glory.

Noah James unlocks the front door and enters the foyer wondering if his plan made any sense. The house, largely empty for twelve years, is in far worse shape than when he initially looked at the place. Most notably, there is a clearly defined crack running along one of the living room walls. The house has major foundation issues, Noah mentally kicks himself for not noticing it until now. Such an issue might make profitably flipping the house impossible.

Noah sighs, and resigns himself to another possible huge failure. His worst still being the death of his wife and daughter while he was deployed to Iraq. With nothing left in his life but to move on despite his deep desire to just quit, Noah walks back out to his truck to unload his tools and supplies for this hopeless project.

The Entity is overwhelmed at its luck, this new human was surrounded by raw despair. Another tortured soul so soon after the boy is incredible. Still powerful from twisting the boy into a murderer, the possibilities with this new prey are nearly endless. That night as Noah slept in the living room on a recently bought cot, the Entity touched his mind to begin feeding.

The Entity perceived a wealth of pain unmatched in its long history. His new victim had seen unparalleled cruelty and even taken part in a few events. But what mostly haunted the man was the loss of his wife and young daughter, and the fact that he had been with another woman in Iraq almost the exact moment they were killed in a car crash back home. There was so much to feed from this mind, the Entity thought to itself, that it might be able to permanently take physical form in the human reality. An achievement for its kind that that had pushed the world towards madness several times over the centuries.

But there was a problem, his victim wasn't connected to his emotions. It was as if the Entity was facing an unscalable wall between it and something close to infinite treasure and power on the other side. It frustrated the Entity, something it had never in its memory felt before during its long existence. But if anything the Entity was patient, it had infiltrated cleaner human minds and been well rewarded for it.

Weeks went by as Noah methodically gutted most of the house's infrastructure barely leaving anything but the basic frame in some places. The man remembered the horrific dreams that plagued him at night but he refused to succumb to the despair they tried to inspire. Noah wanted a fresh start to his life, and even though he wasn't religious in any real sense, he wanted a path to redemption from what he had done and who he betrayed.

While the Entity didn't perceive time as humans, several months passed with it still unable to touch the core of his new prey. It raged inside its dark realm unable to find a way to tap into what amounted to its victim's soul. So the Entity renews its assault, this time playing to the human's self-pity. It whispers to the human's subconscious that his actions in Iraq were justified and that his wife had probably been cheating on him while he fought overseas. Worst of all, the Entity tried to plant the seed that his daughter hadn't really been his, that at birth the baby looked a lot like one of his wife's old boyfriends from high school.

These nagging falsehoods took their toll, but Noah refused to yield to their self-deception. Noah understood the hurt he had caused in Iraq and while others had written off his actions as the normal costs of war, he refused. As far as the possibility of his wife cheating and his daughter not being his child, that was simply not conceivable.

This enraged the Entity, throughout its existence all its other prey would have long since fallen. This troubled human's embrace of its faults had become the bedrock of its strength. The prey even refused to indulge in self-pity and irrational justification, something even the best human's normally took part.

Had the Entity not been a creature of chaos and destruction, it might have given up on the human and just used it huge surplus of energy to survive until another victim appeared. But this human radiated such dark emotions and despair the reward for sucking his soul dry would be like none before.

That left the Entity one option, it would have repeat what it did to the parents of its last victim, a physical manifestation that would drive the human insane thereby destroying its mental defenses. Such an action would spoil the taste of the prey's emotions but the energy it would reap would be monumental.

As the day progressed Noah perceived something was off with everything and nothing. It reminded him of some days back in Iraq when the village locals did their best to act normal around the Americans but knew that insurgents were going raise hell that night. Noah tried to shake it off but long ingrained habits and outright instinct told him something bad was coming.

He called it quits a little earlier than usual and decided to get cleaned up and grab a burger at one of the nearby diners. It would do him good to get away from the house, even though he finally could see the finished line and hopefully a profit from his efforts.

Noah returned to the house a few hours later feeling slightly better about the world and himself. That ended as soon as he stepped inside, a sense of doom overwhelmed his mind and for a moment he seriously thought about turning around and running away. But he shook off the feeling subconsciously knowing that he had to face whatever was about to happen.

The house was dark except for a lamp in the now finished living room and a halogen work lamp in one of the bedrooms. Noah walked down the hallway connecting the two areas looking for the source of his unease. He half expected to find someone hiding in the house, whether taking refuge from the cold or trying to steal his tools or supplies. But the first floor of the house was empty and there was no evidence anyone had been lurking earlier.

Grabbing a flashlight and going upstairs to the second floor, Noah calmly checked out every room until he came to the master bedroom. Its door was shut, something he didn't remember doing as he went about his work. By this time in his search, Noah expected to find nothheing and no one in the house. It has to be my work schedule, he thought to himself as he opened the door and stepped inside.

The master bedroom was still very much a work in progress, The walls had been stripped down to the frame leaving old wiring and pipes exposed. A pile of both sitting in one corner of the room.

Noah stepped over to one of the work lights and turned it on so he could access the hatch leading to the attic. The next and last place in the house that anyone could hide. That's when the Entity chose to reveal itself.

As Noah moved toward the ceiling access hatch to the attic he detected motion to his right. Turning around he what looked like a dark cloud spinning in one itself. For a moment Noah figured it was some play of shadows combined with the harsh light from the work lamp. That was when the scream issued forth from the bizarre cloud.

Noah was both fearful and entranced by the spectacle, it was nothing like he had ever seen before. Terror started to grow in his mind though as he began to see a form take shape in the cloud, it seemed vaguely human but twisted in on itself. Part of Noah's subconscious recognized what was happening but the larger part refused to believe the event was really occurring. It has to be all the bad dreams and the overwork, he thought to himself. That is until the apparition's finally form came into view.

The Entity now looked at his prey with something approaching physical eyes. Yes, it thought to itself, the human's mental defenses were weakening, it would reap the reward of sucking his soul dry. The Entity then began moving towards its prey, physical contact would ensure entry into its mind. It cried out in victory as each step brought it closer.

Noah was frozen in terror, the thing moving towards him looked like a human skeleton covered in tar. Where the eyes and mouth were supposed to be located on the skull, a bright orange and red light could be seen. To Noah, the thing looked like it was having a hard time moving, as if the action was something it hadn't done in a long time or never done at all.

“You have resisted me long enough, human,” The thing crackled. “I will feast upon your soul and grow so powerful I will make millions fear my chaos.”

The Entity had made the first of two mistakes, the first being entering physical form allowed its prey to see inside its own mind. It was there that Noah sensed all the death and destruction it had caused over the centuries. Noah could also perceive what it meant by making millions fear its chaos. Things like it had sown death and destruction all through human history. Noah also suddenly realized why he could understand the thing coming towards him. Because he had caused his own share of death and chaos in the world without any regard to the pain it produced.

Not that this knowledge was going to do Noah any good because the thing had grabbed a hold of him and was trying to sink his claw-like fingers into his head. That's when Noah learned of the Entity's second mistake.

Taking physical form also made things like the Entity and his kin vulnerable to harm and even susceptible to being killed. That knowledge freed Noah from his terror.

Using all his will and strength, Noah broke away from the Entity and scrambled to the other side of the room. The Entity, now moving more freely, immediately pounced on its prey producing a scream that to Noah seemed like something from the bowels of hell. But Noah fought back throwing his entire body at the thing knocking it backward a few feet.

“None of your kind has ever escaped me, human,” it screeched again not for a second realizing that entering the physical realm had compromised its plan.

Noah didn't have a plan but he was now angry at all the suffering the thing had produced. So many deaths and hate and fear that it was a wonder humanity had survived this long. He had to figure out a way to kill at least this evil.

As the Entity came for Noah again he realized that the thing would eventually wear him down. Noah looked around the room hoping there was something he could use as a weapon. His only option appeared to be a section of iron pipe off in the corner.

Noah jumped around the room and snatched up the pipe. As weapons went it was pretty sad but like he learned in the army: improvise, adapt, and overcome. There was a moment between the two beings as each prepared for the final assault. It was then that the Entity realized it had once been human, a time so long ago it was meaningless given the eons it spent outside this reality. For Noah, he realized that he was about to die, but fighting such a creature was a good way to make up for his own sins in this world.

They charged each other with Noah swinging the pipe and catching the Entity's torso. Chunks of something akin to charcoal flew out across the floor leaving the Entity surprised and, amazingly, hurt. Only a second passed with each realizing the tables had been turned. Noah started pounding the Entity sending chunks everywhere to the point it collapsed on the floor. The Entity tried to reassembly but the human was giving no quarter and worst of all, it was getting weaker with each blow.

Noah fell across the creature and began pounding its head wanting to extinguish the hellish light coming from its eyes and mouth. He didn't stop until the thing was just motes of dust drifting across the floor. Noah knew the thing was dead as even those motes could be seen flaring like matches and then fading away.

As the sun began to rise hours later the house went up into flames. Noah knew the Entity was dead but he couldn't take the chance that one of its kin might take up residence in what he now considered unholy ground. More to the point, burning the house was a symbol him of moving on with his life, of letting go of his faults and sins.


The fire department arrived in time to see the shell of the house collapse. It was a total loss and given the house's condition most everyone assumed it was faulty wiring that had started the blaze. That is until the fire department investigator showed up and found several empty gas containers behind the shed. The police were brought in and were about to arrest Noah when a representative from the insurance company drove up.

“Hello everyone,” he said in a booming friendly voice after getting out of the car. “Where's Mr. Noah James?” he asked to the crowd who looked on in awe of the man.

“Yes sir,” a police detective said standing next to Noah, “we're about to arrest the owner for arson.”

The insurance man laughed, “Now why would you go and do such a thing. This is clearly an act of God and troubling this young veteran would be the only crime.”

“But sir,” the fire investigator said, “we've found empty gas tanks in the back and they're fresh. We believe Mr. James burned down the house to cover his failure to successfully renovate the structure.”

The insurance man walked up and put his arms around both the police detective and the fire investigator. “Now gentlemen, would I be about to offer Mr. James a nice check to cover the damages if I suspected he burned his house down.”

Both said, “No” much like an errant child might.

Noah was released and once the ashes were extinguished, both the police and fire department drove away not thinking anymore of the event.

Even Noah was dumbfounded as the insurance man drove away after telling him there were huge opportunities out west. That a man like him would find a lot of peace and happiness on the coast of Oregon. So that was what Noah did after getting rid of his tools and buying a new truck that could make the trip.

The next day another man drove by the now empty lot. He went to several of the nearby houses saying he was from the insurance company out to investigate the fire and the policy holder. The neighbors smiled and said someone from the insurance company had already talked with the owner of the house. They said the owner had driven off without stating a destination.

A trip to the police and fire department got similar disinterested answers so the insurance man closed the case and started the long trip back home. His wife was making meatloaf that night and he wanted to get some before it got cold.