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A Secret Chord - Part 5

2023.06.03 10:36 Noghbuddy A Secret Chord - Part 5

This part got a little bit away from me. I only intended to have a brief moment between David and Ruk'sa, but it grew a bit more than I planned. It seemed like the right time for David to tell a little bit about his side of things. I hope you enjoy, and once again let me know what you think.
First / Prev / Next (At some point)
CW: Suicidal thoughts/actions
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David was all-too familiar with the ceiling of his bedroom. He’d spent many nights staring up at it praying for sleep to take him. Of course, then he had to deal with the nightmares. Tonight, was no different. Well, there were the two fik sleeping on either side of him, but the insomnia still had a firm grasp of him. The following afternoon he was supposed to catch a chartered shuttle out to the boonies for the funeral of a man he didn’t know. He could probably catch some sleep on the red eye, but if he couldn’t even sleep in his own bed…
He decided to stretch his legs. Thanks to a bit of luck, he wasn’t pinned down like last time, so he tried his best to stealthily shuffle off the foot of the bed. He padded silently to the bathroom, closed the door, then flicked on the light. Blinded for a moment, he blinked his eyes a couple times in the mirror until his vision cleared. Between the dark circles under his eyes and how gaunt his cheeks had become; his face took on an almost skull-like appearance.
He stared into his eyes, watching them dilate ever so slightly. Come on, man. You gotta get some sleep. Something. Anything. He ran his fingers through his mop, contemplating whether he should try and find some kind of barber. Perhaps one that could do something about his beard too. Knowing his luck, the aliens probably just grow perfect hair and have no concept of a hairstylist.
Resting his elbows on the counter, he pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes until he saw spots. Just let exhaustion take you. It wouldn’t be the first time.
He flicked off the light and waited for his eyes to adjust to the dark once again. Once he could see, he padded back out of the bathroom and into the living room. The fik had overrun the small abode. Half a dozen bodies strewn about peacefully asleep on the floor, the room full of gentle breathing and the occasional snore. Chief Sulta had claimed the couch after being denied the bed by David. She made it clear he could also use the bed, but he didn’t feel comfortable letting a stranger into it. This of course didn’t stop the other two who were with him the previous night. Apparently, they thought they got a pass. He was too frustrated to object. Plus…They were warm…
David carefully stepped over the sleeping forms making his way to his kitchen. The chief seemed alright after a couple conversations. His guardians disapproved vehemently of course, but she seemed honest. A bit too honest. She really intended to do everything she could to keep David safe, but…Well, she wasn’t the sharpest bulb in the box.
Clearing the threshold, he made his way to the fridge for something to drink. As he sipped, he checked the time. It was still a few hours till morning. It was hard to tell on station. This one orbited a moon that orbited a gas giant that orbited another gas giant that all orbited a distant star. There was some kind of galactic standard time, but David could never get his head around it.
“Why are you awake?”
He looked up at Rus’ka leaning against the doorway. She was rubbing sleep out of her eyes.
“I can’t sleep.”
“Why?”
“I just can’t. I have insomnia.”
“What’s that?”
“It’s where I can’t sleep.”
She crossed the room to stand beside him as he turned to lean back against the counter.
“Sleeping is easy. Just close eyes and relax. Sleep come to you. You try too hard, maybe?”
He sighed and reminded himself that they were a relatively young species that didn’t come with countless medical journals or psychology papers. Lucky them.
“If only it were that easy. No. I broke whatever I had that let me sleep.”
“How can you fix?”
“I…I don’t know.”
“Well…How did you break?”
He closed his eyes and set his glass aside, “I don’t know…Well, I have some ideas, but I don’t know.”
“What ideas?”
He couldn’t tell if she knew what she was doing or was just stubbornly persistent. Probably a mix of both. “Probably what happened to me.”
“What happened to you?”
He took a deep breath and slid down the counter to sit on the floor. She joined him there. “I told you: a lot.” He looked her in the eyes. She didn’t look away. He didn’t want to talk about this. He’d do anything besides talk about this, but… If she wanted to live here. Live with him, then she should probably know. She’d find out one way or another. When did I accept that?
Looking down between his knees he sighed and began, “I was kidnapped. I don’t remember much of what happened. One minute I’m trying to figure out why my Honda died again, the next I’m strapped to a table.” He shuddered. “I was groggy, but I could still feel them-“ He swallowed, “cutting into me. I couldn’t move. Couldn’t scream. I just felt and watched. They were out of a nightmare. They couldn’t be real. But I felt it. It was real. It hurt. Oh God, it hurt.”
He screwed his eyes shut trying to force the memory down. To think of anything else. Ruk’sa put her arm around his shoulder and gave a gentle squeeze. “Then I could hear them. I could understand the snakes.” He fingered the scar behind his ear, “They put a translator in me. Then threw me in a cell. I was a slave.”
*****
As soon as he could move his arms, he began hammering on the metal cage around him. “Let me out! Don’t do this! Let me out!”
In a flash a blade whizzed past his temple scoring a shallow cut. “Silence! You will not speak. You have nothing to say anyway.”
His crimson captor ignored him and returned to the console before them. David took stock of his situation to find any possible way out. He was prone on his back in a metal coffin with a grate by his head, apparently there for easy stabbing access. He took a minute to control his breathing when the guard slithered out the door.
The box wasn’t tiny. It seemed to be made for larger creatures, but it was still a challenge for David to sit up. He grabbed onto the bars and pulled himself up to the hatch. A quick scan revealed the handle just outside. He thrust his hands through the bars, but he couldn’t reach the latch. It was so close. It looked like it turned toward him. All he had to do was pull it.
He sat for a moment contemplating what he had available. All he had on him was his rental tux. He regretted not going for the cummerbund, so the bow tie would have to suffice. He pulled it off his neck and stuck his hands out of the cage. It took a few tries, but he eventually managed to toss one end of the tie around the handle and caught it in his other hand. He didn’t have a lot of leverage, but with a steady pull he managed to pop the latch.
It was awkward twisting and dropping to the floor, but he was free…Free-ish. Now he just had to get out of the room. Glancing back to the wall of cells he realized he was the only one there. That made things simple. He stalked to the iris door and peeked out after it hissed open. The halls were empty, so he ducked outside. The place was massive, which made sense given its inhabitants. He noticed the halls had a slight bow in them. Must have made slithering easier.
He picked a direction and padded away as quietly as his dress shoes allowed. He’d stop at every intersection and listen. He chose the path with the least sound up until some kind of alarm sounded.
“Cell breach. Alert. Cell breach.”
He needed to hide, and fast. Looking around the circular hallway he noticed pipes and vents above him. Using the rounded walls to his advantage, he got a running start and ran up the side of the warped wall. It took a couple tries, but he eventually made his primate ancestors proud and caught a pipe above him. He hauled himself up and began shuffling awkwardly above the hallway.
Below him pandemonium broke out. He saw dozens of snake monsters slithering this way or that, looking for him. Each armed.
David channeled his inner John McClain and pulled a vent off the ceiling and climbed inside. As he crawled, he thought about what he was even looking for. There had to be some kind of escape pod, or shuttle he could steal. Maybe hide out on the next shuttle headed down to abduct some other poor dumb bastard. All he knew was he needed to get home. After scuttling around for a while his luck ran out. He crawled over a vent that couldn’t hold his weight and he fell into a hallway. Hauling himself upright with a groan he stopped dead at what he saw.
He could see Earth through the window. David never believed he could be an astronaut. He thought this view would forever be a dream, but there it was. Earth was beautiful.
Then he felt a sharp stinging pain across his back as a monster slashed him. He convulsed and collapsed, losing consciousness as he was dragged back to Hell.
*****
“I don’t know how long I was there…But that was the last time I saw home…I tried escaping. Many times. I saw home and damn it I was going to get back…Each time they punished me. Each time I ‘lost value’.” He looked over his scared arm then squeezed his eyes shut. Forcing the memories away. He didn’t want to be taken again, but they pulled. He could feel the cuts. The burns.
Ruk’sa rubbed his shoulders and leaned into him. Trying to keep him there with her.
With a shuddering breath, David continued, “Then one day, I was ‘rescued’. I don’t know if they were with the Community or just pretending, but some of those big bastards raided the ship. It got loud and violent. They hauled us off and took us to a little waystation. Refueling, I guess. They kept telling us we were safe. Then one of them…I think he was one of them, told us we needed a medical examination.”
*****
David and a couple of other escapees stared out the window at the strange planet. It was a pale-yellow rock drifting around some distant star. They were let off the ship to stretch their legs while it refueled for the next leg of the journey. David didn’t know where it was supposed to go. He just wanted to go home. He didn’t know or care how he’d explain what happened to him. There were plenty of crazy whack-jobs who claimed to be abducted. He could just roll with them. Or just pretend the whole thing never happened.
One of those big bastards who ripped him out of his cell and tossed him bodily off the ship appeared in the doorway.
“You there. You need a medic to look you over. Come on over here and let’s take a look at you.”
Seemed fair enough. David wasn’t sure how much blood was too much to lose, but the snakes flirted with that line all too often. He and the others shuffled over to the giant and where he directed. David entered the room and was soon pulled up by his arm. It felt like it might pop out of its socket. He struggled and thrashed before a giant fist sent the world to spin.
He woke up in another cell with another man. All he could do was weep.
*****
David didn’t notice when Ruk’sa drew him into her lap. He clutched at her arm to stay where he was. In the here and now. He could still see Sammuel’s face.
“The big bastards didn’t cut. They just hit you. Or starved you. All I could do was hold on. I tried to help Sammuel. Tried to keep him strong. If he was strong then I would be strong. We’d come so far. I held out. I did it once, I could do it again. And I was right. We were liberated once again after God only knows how long. We were free.” He swallowed and wiped away the tears forming in hie eyes.
“I can still remember the blinding light. I was numb when they hauled us off. They took us to some big station and asked where we wanted to go. I told them I just wanted to go home.” He let the tears fall now, “they told me it was gone. ‘What do you mean it’s gone?’ ‘It’s been destroyed. A terrible tragedy.’ I thought they were lying. It had to be another trick to keep me enslaved. I never escaped. They just refuse to send me home…Then they showed me…”
He clutched at her shoulders and buried his face in the nape of her neck, “That was all I had! I just wanted to go home! And they fucking stole that too!”
He wept and shuddered in her grasp. She stroked the back of his head while he collected himself.
“They tried to fix me. I broke down. I had nothing left. So, they sent me away to the loony bin. I just wanted to die. Is that too much to ask? Just bury me with the rest of my kind. But they had to try and fix me. They barely knew me or mine! How can you fix that!?”
*****
He was trapped once again. The fucking snake sat there asking questions like they didn’t destroy his life.
“David. Please talk to me. I’m trying to help you. If you just talk to me, we can help you.”
What fresh Hell was this? Making his tormentors try and fix him? David closed his eyes and refused to speak. If he looked at her, he could only relive what they did.
“I know what you went through was stressful…”
She didn’t know shit! How could she? He wouldn’t give her anything. Never again. He wasn’t a slave. He’d die first. Why didn’t he die? He should be with all the others. What’s left?
“David, please. I’m trying to help you. I just want what’s best for you.”
He knew what was best for him. He was tired of everyone trying to control him. This was no different. Well, no more. He’d seize the last bit of control he had. His hands were bound, but his mouth was still free. He bit down on his wrist. Maybe he could bleed out before someone stopped him.
“Nurse! Nurse! I need you in here!”
*****
David didn’t know how long it had been. Ruk’sa was rocking him back and forth. He felt tired. But he still couldn’t sleep.
“I was trapped there for a while…I couldn’t take it…Once they realized I wouldn’t talk to a snake, I started saying the magic words. ‘Oh, I feel better. I’m moving on. I’ll be fine I promise.’ They didn’t know the first thing about humans. I lied. They let me go thinking they’d done good… When they let me free, I tried taking all the pills they gave me. I tried ending it all a couple more times…They’re too damn good at stopping me.”
Ruk’sa couldn’t stop herself. She clutched David tightly to herself. “Saaaa, no! David, no! You can’t mean that! David must…David must….Saa!” She was ashamed for not having the words. She couldn’t fix him.
“I’m sorry…You just found a broken human…Just let me be broken.”
“No!...We fix you!...We must!” She held him tight as if he’d slip away. She didn’t know what to say. But she’d figure it out. She had to.
They stayed like that for a while before David asked, “Can…Can you hold me? Just like this? Please?”
She nodded, “Forever, if I must.”
David buried his face in her chest while she clutched him tightly. She tried to stop the tears from falling. To stay strong. To hold him and show him he was safe.
She tried her best, all the while a certain albino listened from around the corner, out of sight.
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2023.06.03 08:38 blaringbrunch4331 Jackson Memorial Funeral Home Recent Obituaries

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2023.06.03 08:06 ChanRob69 Is this normal? I've never taken a bereavement, but they need proof before it's even approved?

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2023.06.03 01:56 Dismal-Jellyfish ‘Shadow Banks’ Account for Half of the World’s Assets—and Pose Growing Risks: 'no one seems to have a firm handle on the risks that nonbank financial entities could pose if numerous trades and investments sour.'

‘Shadow Banks’ Account for Half of the World’s Assets—and Pose Growing Risks: 'no one seems to have a firm handle on the risks that nonbank financial entities could pose if numerous trades and investments sour.'
Source: https://www.marketwatch.com/articles/shadow-banks-account-for-half-of-the-worlds-assetsand-pose-growing-risks-8f4b5961
The sudden failure this year of three sizable American banks demonstrated one way in which the financial system can “break” as the Federal Reserve and other central banks press a campaign to normalize interest rates.
There could be others.
Risk-minded regulators, policy makers, and investors are eyeing the huge but nebulous world of largely unregulated nonbank financial intermediaries, known colloquially as shadow banks, as a potential locus of future problems. It includes sovereign-wealth funds, insurers, pension funds, hedge funds, financial-technology firms, financial clearing houses, mutual funds, and fast-growing entities such as money-market funds and private credit funds.
https://preview.redd.it/cgymd43tvo3b1.png?width=1050&format=png&auto=webp&s=bcacf11db745f213831425f72b9c0030210d287f
The nonbank financial system now controls $239 trillion, or almost half of the world’s financial assets, according to the Financial Stability Board. That’s up from 42% in 2008, and has doubled since the 2008-09 financial crisis. Postcrisis regulations helped shore up the nation’s biggest banks, but the restrictions that were imposed, coupled with years of ultralow interest rates, fueled the explosive growth of nonbank finance.
https://preview.redd.it/47cnlnpewo3b1.png?width=1030&format=png&auto=webp&s=8fc71b7cf09f7ba1523db038e13efd6354640deb
To be sure, these financial intermediaries play an important role in the economy, lending to many businesses too small or indebted to tap institutional markets. Moreover, while talk is rife on Wall Street about problems brewing in shadow banking, few have surfaced since the Fed began tightening monetary policy in the first quarter of 2022. To the contrary, disruptions caused by rising interest rates have been most evident so far in the regulated banking sector. And any turmoil in the nonbank arena could prove relatively benign, especially if the economy avoids a severe recession.
Yet, no one seems to have a firm handle on the risks that nonbank financial entities could pose if numerous trades and investments sour. Nor is there a detailed understanding of the connections among nonbank entities, or their links to the regulated banking system.
To date, this system hasn’t been tested, at this scale, for a wave of credit losses and defaults that could stem from higher rates and a weakening economy. History suggests caution: Shadow banking was at the epicenter of the financial crisis, as nontraditional financial institutions turned subprime mortgages into complex securities sold to banks and investors, often using high levels of leverage. As homeowners defaulted, these products lost value, and the damage cascaded through the financial system.
While nonbank finance looks a lot different today, as do the potential risks, it remains a source of concern. Some policy makers and bankers use the shadow-bank moniker to refer to that segment of the nonbank universe considered most likely to trigger the sorts of liquidity-draining events that sparked prior financial contagion. The Institute of International Finance ballparks such exposure at about 14% of nonbank financial assets. But the links remain cloudy between the riskier elements of shadow banking, a term that rankles many nonbank entities, and the more resilient world of market-based finance.
“The enormous size and high leverage levels of the nonbank financial-institutions sector, along with the more lax reporting and regulatory standards applied to this sector relative to banks make it a potential tinderbox,” says Eswar Prasad, an economics professor at Cornell University and a senior fellow at Brookings Institution, who formerly worked at the International Monetary Fund.
Worried economists and financial analysts have been urging regulators to gain a better understanding of nonbank financial intermediaries because they see telltale signs of potential trouble, including illiquid assets, increasing leverage, lack of transparency, and rapid growth.
The nonbank universe is “everyone’s obvious candidate” for more breaks, says Simon Johnson, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a former director of research at the IMF, who has spent much of his career working to prevent economic crises.
There are no direct parallels to the asset mismatches and bank runs that took down Silicon Valley Bank and First Republic Bank earlier this year. In part, that’s because the pension funds, insurers, and endowments of the nonbank world tend to hold assets for decades through funds that lock up their money for five to seven years. Also, big players such as private credit funds tend to use far less leverage than banks.
Still, there are indications that inflation and the sharp rise in rates may be causing strains in some parts of the nonbank system. High interest rates have sapped demand for new mortgages, for instance, hurting nonbank lenders. Liquidity in parts of the bond market, such as emerging market debt and high-yield, is at the lowest levels since the Covid pandemic. And cash flow at some companies financed by private credit is shrinking due to inflation, a slowing economy, and higher debt payments.
One thing is clear: What happens in one corner of this sprawling world doesn’t stay there. Consider the collapse of the hedge fund Archegos Capital Management in 2021. Its losses on concentrated bets on blue-chip stocks triggered a margin call that led to the sale of about $20 billion of assets. That left big banks exposed to the fund, including Nomura and UBS, with billions of dollars in losses.
“Risks came back to banks’ balance sheets from the back door,” says Fabio Massimo Natalucci, deputy director of monetary and capital markets development at the International Monetary Fund and co-author of its global financial-stability report.
Federal Reserve governor Michelle Bowman said in a speech this spring that losses related to riskier activities pushed out of the banking system could come back to haunt banks through activities such as the banks’ extension of credit to nonbank lenders. According to the Fed, bank lending to nonbank financial intermediaries totaled $2 trillion in commitments at the end of 2022, a level the Fed described as high.
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While many nonbank entities are regulated in some way, no regulator has attempted to assess the overall financial stability of the nonbank world. The Financial Stability Oversight Council, or FSOC, is now seeking comments on designating some nonbank institutions as systemic and subjecting some to Federal Reserve supervision. That would reverse some of the changes made during the last administration.
A look at three types of nonbank financial intermediaries—private-credit providers, open-end bond funds, and nonbank mortgage lenders—offers a window into the prevailing concerns about shadow banking, and suggests how conditions could unravel in this sector in ways that roil the economy and the markets.

Private Credit

Rapid growth in the world of finance tends to draw attention, and few business segments have grown since the financial crisis as much as private credit. Private-credit providers typically lend directly to midsize, privately owned businesses that generate from $10 million to $1 billion of revenue and can’t get funding in the institutional market.
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As banks retreated after the crisis and each minicrisis that followed, these financial intermediaries stepped in. Private-credit assets have mushroomed to nearly $1.5 trillion from $230 billion in 2008**,** putting the private-credit market in the league of the leveraged-loan and high-yield markets.
Drawn by high yields, attractive returns, and diversification opportunities, investors have poured money into private-credit funds. Insurers have doubled their allocation to these pools of largely illiquid assets over the past decade, while pension funds have more than doubled their allocation to alternative investments, including private credit, since 2006.
The Fed said in its financial stability report, published in May, that the risk to financial stability from private-credit funds appears limited. It noted that the funds don’t use much leverage, are held by institutional investors, and have long lockup periods, limiting the risk of runs. But the Fed also acknowledged that it had little visibility into loan portfolios, including the traits of borrowers, the nature of deal terms, and default risks.
Some observers are concerned about the connections between private lending and other nonbank activities, as well as lenders’ links to the banking sector. “Wall Street says they aren’t going to lend to subprime borrowers, but they lend to funds that lend to them,” says Ana Arsov, who oversees private-credit research at Moody’s.
There is no public view of banks’ total exposure to private credit, Arsov says. Given the scale of the business and limited visibility into the risks, analysts worry that any widespread deterioration of asset quality could ripple through other parts of the financial world before regulators could act.
Business development companies, some of which are publicly traded, offer some insight through disclosure documents into this $250 billion market. “Most managers that have both BDCs and institutional structures share deals across their platform, providing insight into the types of credits in their portfolios,” says Dwight Scott, global head of Blackstone Credit.
Moody’s sees increasing challenges for some BDCs over the next 12 to 18 months as the economy slows and companies grapple with higher borrowing costs, inflation, and market volatility. Although liquidity looks adequate for the next 12 months, loan maturities for portfolio companies will accelerate after that. If rates are still high and the economy is slumping, that could hamper the prospects for further borrowing. Similarly, lenders could become more conservative.
Blackstone Private Credit fund, or BCRED, the biggest private-credit fund, said late last year that it had hit its 5% quarterly investor-redemption limit. While Blackstone had no trouble meeting redemptions, and has reported that redemption requests fell in this year’s first quarter, Arsov worries about how smaller players would handle a similar situation. The industry’s efforts to court retail investors, she says, could increase the possibility that risks in private credit seep into broader financial markets, potentially by creating confidence issues.
What could trigger problems in the broader private-credit universe? One concern is a potential wave of struggling borrowers larger than the anticipated 5% to 6%. Arsov says expectations may be too rosy, based on the low default rate during the pandemic, when the Fed stepped in with trillions of dollars in stimulus. With the Fed now raising rates to curb inflation and trimming its balance sheet, such assistance is unlikely to be repeated.
Leverage metrics also have deteriorated, and covenant protections have weakened as the growth in private credit has increased competition for deals. Many have been concentrated in software, business services, and healthcare, in companies backed by private-equity funds. Given the benign interest-rate and economic backdrop of recent years, many private-equity investors were willing to pay higher multiples of enterprise value for companies with sustainable revenue, which allowed them to take on more leverage, says Richard Miller, head of private credit at TCW.
“Our markets stopped focusing on debt to Ebitda [earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization], the longstanding gauge of risk, and looked at loan to value,” Miller says. “That was fine as long as enterprise values didn’t contract and the [interest] rate on that elevated debt didn’t go up. We have had a change in both.”
Now, some of these companies are generating less cash flow, which affects their ability to cover interest payments. While leverage isn’t as high as during the financial crisis, limiting potential systemic risk, Miller sees the risks today transferred to the individual borrower, and worries about the prospect of some borrowers running out of money.
A shift in the market might weed out weaker private-credit upstarts. But a potential combination of rising defaults, elevated interest rates, and flagging investor appetite for private credit could exacerbate a downturn, albeit in slow motion, given the nature of borrowing.
Not surprisingly, industry leaders are more upbeat. “People conflate default with losses,” says Blackstone’s Scott. But much of direct lending involves senior secured debt, he notes, which should minimize actual losses and enable lenders to help businesses through the challenges.
“Rather than increasing risk to the markets, private-credit asset managers are typically a stabilizing force, given the ability to invest patiently and opportunistically, and with little to no use of leverage, when banks and other traditional market participants either can’t or won’t,” says Michael Arougheti, chief executive of Ares Management, one of the largest alternative-asset managers.
https://preview.redd.it/8kxrl8eexo3b1.png?width=396&format=png&auto=webp&s=a0fc605506d01955897874827fecff078f2e73ba

Bond Funds

Unlike private-credit funds, which lock up investors’ money for a set period, most mutual funds allow investors to buy and sell whenever they want, offering daily liquidity. But that could turn problematic for bond funds under certain conditions, as some corporate bonds change hands only once a month—and less frequently in times of stress. If credit losses pile up or markets become stressed, some policy makers fear that bond funds could face demands to liquidate holdings at fire-sale prices, as investors scramble to sell funds with assets that have become illiquid.
Liquidity in bond markets dried up in the early days of the pandemic as investors scrambled for cash and some bond funds sold assets to meet redemptions. That set off a further frenzy as investors tried to unload assets before they became more illiquid. The selling pressure eventually forced the Fed to intervene and offer to buy corporate bonds for the first time ever to keep credit flowing. Hoping to minimize the damage from another fire sale, policy makers are looking to develop new rules, including on fund pricing.
The Investment Company Institute, which represents the mutual fund industry, has pushed back against this effort, arguing it is based on an incorrect view of the role that bond funds played in 2020. Citing its own research, the ICI says bond sales didn’t spark the Treasury market dysfunction that disrupted the flow of credit, but started only after markets began seizing up and, at that, represented a fraction of the selling.
The ICI notes that concerns about fire sales during periods of market stress aren’t unique to the mutual fund structure.
Bond funds have seen net inflows of $1.74 trillion since 2013. Global fixed-income funds, a subset of the sector, have crowded into some of the same corners of the market in the past two years. The IMF has raised alarms about that, citing fears of a stampede out of certain assets if a single fund runs into trouble.
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Bid/ask spreads, a common gauge of a market’s liquidity, have widened in areas such as high-yield and emerging market debt to levels last seen in the spring of 2020, according to the IMF.
Mara Dobrescu, director of fixed-income strategies for Morningstar’s manager-research group, also sees increasing vulnerabilities, but notes that most funds are equipped to handle stresses and that not many bond funds have had to institute limits on redemptions.
Warning SignThe liquidity risk in high-yield bond funds increased in 2022 as bid-ask spreads widened.Portfolio-level bid-ask spread across fundsSource: International Monetary Fund
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Nonbank Mortgage Lenders

The mortgage market has seen dramatic changes in the years since the global financial crisis. The business of originating and servicing loans has migrated steadily away from banks, with nonbank lenders accounting for more than two-thirds of all originations. Rocket Cos. ’ [ticker: RKT] Rocket Mortgage unit and UWM Holdings ’ [UWMC] United Wholesale Mortgage top the list of the biggest lenders.
Neither company responded to Barron’s requests for comment.
Housing finance is raising flags again, not so much for risky lending practices as in 2008, but because of the business models of these nonbank lenders, which don’t have to hold as much capital as banks. With people buying fewer houses, mortgage originations are down 60% in the past two years, raising concerns that potential losses will eat into these businesses’ slim capital cushion and raise leverage levels.
https://preview.redd.it/5p3dewayxo3b1.png?width=1051&format=png&auto=webp&s=b398b224d9378bc4159a61405d55fd616238b93d
Nancy Wallace, a finance and real estate professor at the University of California, Berkeley Haas School of Business, has been warning for years about these nonbank lenders’ business model. She fears that a rise in defaults could lead to disruptions in the mortgage and housing markets.
One concern is the companies’ reliance on short-term funding through warehouse lines of credit from banks. Those presumably could be pulled during periods of market stress, or if the borrowers’ financial health were to deteriorate.
In this year’s first quarter, delinquency rates were only 3.6%, the lowest level for any first quarter since the Mortgage Bankers Association started tracking them in 1979. A sharp rise in delinquencies, however, could bring added pain, as the companies’ servicing businesses, which collect monthly payments from borrowers and funnel them to investors including banks, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac, would need to advance the money.
On its own, analysts don’t see the nonbank mortgage-lending industry triggering a financial crisis, although distress throughout the industry could diminish confidence in other nonbank lenders. In a worst-case scenario, credit could dry up for riskier borrowers, hitting home prices and sapping mortgage demand.
Peter Mills, senior vice president of residential policy for the Mortgage Bankers Association, has pushed back on recent regulatory efforts aimed at designating nonbank lenders as systemic, noting that the framework under consideration doesn’t include a cost/benefit analysis or an assessment of the probability that an entity could default.
Plus, he doesn’t see a financial-transmission risk from the industry, which is working on tools to mitigate strains in the event of delinquencies. “It’s less a financial earthquake and more of an operational challenge,” he says.
That may prove to be the case throughout the nonbank financial sector as interest rates normalize and the era of free money ends. Plenty of things might bend without breaking in this vast and opaque world. Just the same, it pays to be vigilant.

TLDRS:

Shorter Version:
  • The nonbank financial intermediaries, or "shadow banks," controlling almost half of the world’s financial assets, are being watched closely as central banks work towards normalizing interest rates.
  • Though few problems have been noted since the Fed's monetary policy tightening in 2022, there are concerns about the risk these nonbank entities could pose if numerous investments fail, especially given the lack of understanding about their interconnections.
  • Rising interest rates and inflation may be causing strain in the nonbank system, with decreased demand for new mortgages and reduced liquidity in some bond markets.
  • The collapse of Archegos Capital Management in 2021 highlighted the risk of problems in one area of the nonbank system impacting others, prompting calls for regulators to improve understanding of nonbank financial intermediaries.
  • Despite private credit growth, concerns persist due to limited visibility into these funds' loan portfolios and connections between private lending and other nonbank activities, as well as links to the banking sector.
  • Bond funds, with their daily liquidity, could face challenges in times of stress when certain corporate bonds are infrequently traded, potentially leading to liquidation at reduced prices.
  • The shift from banks to nonbank lenders in the mortgage market, combined with the latter's reliance on short-term funding from banks, has raised concerns, especially in the event of a sharp rise in delinquencies.
Longer Version:
  • As the Federal Reserve and other central banks work towards normalizing interest rates, the largely unregulated nonbank financial intermediaries, also known as shadow banks, are being closely watched due to their potential to cause future financial issues.
    • These entities, which include everything from sovereign-wealth funds to financial-technology firms, currently control $239 trillion, almost half of the world’s financial assets, an increase from 42% in 2008.
  • These intermediaries serve a crucial role in the economy, lending to businesses that are too small or too indebted to tap into institutional markets.
    • Despite concerns, few issues have emerged in the shadow banking sector since the Fed began tightening monetary policy in 2022.
    • However, it's unclear what risks these nonbank entities could pose if numerous investments go sour, especially considering the lack of detailed understanding about their connections among themselves and to the regulated banking system.
  • The shadow banking system hasn't been tested on this scale against a potential wave of credit losses and defaults that could result from higher rates and a weakening economy.
    • The sector, with its size, high leverage levels, and lax reporting and regulatory standards, could potentially become a "tinderbox" according to some economists.
  • There are indications that rising interest rates and inflation may be causing some strain in the nonbank system.
    • High rates have reduced demand for new mortgages, affecting nonbank lenders. Also, liquidity in some bond markets is at the lowest levels since the COVID pandemic.
  • Still, there have been instances where problems in one part of the nonbank system have impacted others. The collapse of the hedge fund Archegos Capital Management in 2021, for example, resulted in significant losses for big banks exposed to the fund (and those continue as that bag is passed around...).
    • Given these risks, regulators are being urged to gain a better understanding of nonbank financial intermediaries.
  • Private credit has grown exponentially since the 2008 financial crisis, ballooning from $230 billion to almost $1.5 trillion.
    • This sector lends directly to midsize businesses that can't obtain funding in the institutional market.
    • Investors are attracted to private credit due to high yields, returns, and diversification opportunities.
  • The Federal Reserve stated in a recent report that risks to financial stability from private-credit funds seem limited because these funds don't use much leverage, have long lockup periods, and are held by institutional investors.
    • However, there's limited visibility into these funds' loan portfolios, including borrower characteristics, deal terms, and default risks.
  • Concerns arise from connections between private lending and other nonbank activities, as well as links to the banking sector.
    • The lack of public view into banks' total exposure to private credit is a cause for concern for some analysts who worry that asset quality deterioration could impact other parts of the financial world before regulators can intervene.
  • A potential wave of struggling borrowers larger than the anticipated 5-6% could trigger problems in the broader private credit universe.
    • Leverage metrics have also worsened, and covenant protections have weakened as competition for deals has grown.
      • The market's focus has shifted from debt to EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) to loan to value, which could lead to some borrowers running out of money.
  • There is concern that a potential combination of rising defaults, high interest rates, and waning investor appetite for private credit could exacerbate a downturn.
  • Most mutual funds offer daily liquidity, allowing investors to buy and sell whenever they wish.
    • However, this could be an issue for bond funds in certain conditions, as some corporate bonds are traded only once a month and even less often during stressful times.
    • If credit losses accumulate or markets become stressed, bond funds could face pressure to liquidate holdings at reduced prices as investors rush to sell funds with illiquid assets.
  • Bond funds have experienced net inflows of $1.74 trillion since 2013, with global fixed-income funds investing heavily in certain market areas in the last two years.
    • The IMF has expressed concerns about this, noting that if a single fund encounters issues, it could lead to a rush out of certain assets.
    • Liquidity risks in high-yield bond funds have increased in 2022, with bid-ask spreads, a measure of a market’s liquidity, widening.
  • Since the global financial crisis, the mortgage market has undergone significant changes, with nonbank lenders now accounting for over two-thirds of all originations.
    • While the shift away from banks isn't due to risky lending as in 2008, concerns have been raised about the business models of nonbank lenders.
    • These lenders don't need to hold as much capital as banks, and with a 60% decline in mortgage originations in the past two years due to decreased house purchases, potential losses could deplete their modest capital buffer and increase leverage levels.
  • One concern is the nonbank lenders' reliance on short-term funding via warehouse lines of credit from banks, which could be withdrawn during market stress or if the borrowers' financial condition worsens.
    • Although delinquency rates were just 3.6% in Q1 of this year, a sharp increase could cause issues, as these companies' servicing businesses would have to advance the money.
https://preview.redd.it/nhube69c0p3b1.png?width=610&format=png&auto=webp&s=5ed6c7f420ff77cac94b7dc02ef6f685b54c497a
submitted by Dismal-Jellyfish to Superstonk [link] [comments]


2023.06.02 21:29 Nruiz43 I lost my best friend and it's all her fault

First off, I've (31m) never posted anything on Reddit before, I've only ever been a phantom browser (or listener for the few of us who listen to Slash), so if there are formatting errors, or if I've mucked this entire post, forgive me; but that's not what I'm here for so get bent, I'm dying to unload all of this. There's a lot to unpack here, so please bear with, and without further ado:
I'm currently dealing with the loss of my best friend James (27m) who successfully completed suicide a few weeks ago. I'm so unbelievably angry at his loss as he was one of the brightest most intelligent people I've ever known. A person who was too smart for his own good regularly led him down a dark path that I've talked him out of several times in the past. Before we get into the heart of the matter, I'd like to provide some insight to when it all started.
I've known James from our time in the Service together, when we were both assigned to perform military honors for veterans. We met back in 2016, and I'll admit, at first I was standoffish as I am with most new people I meet. After a few weeks we bonded over our disdain for the training regimen and requirements for new Honor Guard(HG) trainees. I wouldn't say we became fast friends, but we deepened our relationship over time with big dreams and even bigger goals. Talking about cars, preferably JDM, guns, technology, games, anime; actually, just everything. This man knew a lot about everything, and we found in eachother kindred spirits. Although he was much better at knowing what the best (in his opinion) of the best was, and what I should focus my efforts or should buy, and I trusted his knowledge. He really was the best.
We maintained a pretty good relationship over the next few years when I left the service in 2018 and moved back home to Ohio and he was left back in Illinois to finish out his service commitment. And during that time, we talked regularly, if not every day, then every other day. With some spotty communication between, we're guys, talking all the time isn't always necessary, and it got to the point of regular check-ins and talks about life and the bullshit going on. Mine being the transition from the military to civilian life, and his, just regular bullshit within the service, and whatever car he was dealing with at the time.
It wasn't until 2019 when things started to unravel, and he decided he wanted to be in a relationship with a woman Brenda (27f) that he'd met at the airport. I'm not sure when he had, but it might've been a few years to a few months prior to the autumn of 2019. The only significance of Brenda was that James had managed to hook up with her AT THE AIRPORT. I dogged on him for being such a smooth talker and having the ability to do that. To my knowledge, it was a one and done thing, but he maintained contact with her, which led to them developing a relationship, and being "official" the autumn of 2019.
After three months, a total of 90 fucking days, this man was smitten. To the point of which he was so torn up about her getting cold feet and breaking up with him. Something I've never seen before from this man who basically had a revolving door with women in the past. I had to talk him off of the figurative ledge because of how much he felt he gave her. Nonetheless, they ended back together, and he moved her into his house to live with him and a long-time roommate Neil (25m). James introduced Neil and I and we've been pretty good friends, but nothing as significant as James and I. Either way we were all pretty close, and both Neil and I advised against staying with Brenda, as she was, as far as we could tell, unbalanced. That was putting it lightly.
This cycle of being together and not being together, and getting angry over petty things, begins to impact the relationship between James and I. To the point where I can't just talk about the bullshit between him and Brenda. So I stopped talking to him for a few months in 2020 and tell him off about how I can't listen to him bitch about his girl anymore.
Either way, we begin talking later on in 2020 and things are friendly as usual, with the exception that we don't really talk too much about Brenda anymore. Which is a nice change of pace. Anyway, from the time I was in the service, my experience translates to driving trucks. So what did I do when I got out? I drove trucks, which sucks, but pays well. So I've always nagged James for what I should do as far as getting out of trucking, and in to computers and IT. I've tried my hand at it in the past when I tried to get my BS in Comp. Sci. in 2019, which I failed miserably.
So back to trucking I went always looking for a way out, as I've got a wife and two sons, it makes it hard to raise a family and be present. So he maintains his relationship with Brenda and keeps it on the backburner for conversations, rarely bringing it up, all the way up into 2022 when he's been out of the service for two years, and has made a name for himself in the IT community. He came out to Ohio in Nov 2022 to buy some big ticket items for his own racing setup. He convinced me (without too much arm pulling) to drive out to St. Louis with him to visit our old digs. During this 6 hour drive we catch up on all the old bullshit and what's going on in his love life. The constant fighting, bickering, and me doing my best to cheer him up and let him know, that outside of what he's failing at in his relationship, he's got a pocket full of spades and is exceptionally successful at every other aspect of his life. I mean, what other person do you know who goes from making less than $40k a year to making over $600k in two years? Nonetheless, we also spent that entire time talking about what he currently does, and he set me on a pathway of learning, specifically books, that he said I should read. After I got back to my daily life, and read them; We talked about them, and he made sure I understood the concepts held within them, and oddly he said he'd get back to me.
This is just the surface stuff, what makes James an outright amazing person, is that he's always looking out for those close to him. He had so much pull at his current company, that he was able to make a special position just for me, as a "loyalty program" to get people to train who otherwise didn't have experience in his career field. The books he had me read were primers to see if I had the aptitude to take on this kind of training. The company signed me on at my current monthly rate (as of Dec. 2022) to come on and train exclusively and meet my commitments by the end of January. From then on, it was daily talks of knowledge this, or what experience you have in that. And daily life in general. I came to find out just how little I knew about how knowledgeable and smart James was, and a new appreciation for our friendship,
Where I was once his mentor in the service, he was now my mentor in the tech world. And he was brilliant. Things that would take a whole team months to do, he was capable of doing within a week. I saw him work magic, and was excited to see how I could graft his knowledge and experience into my own. In March, we had a work requirement to meetup at the work site (because IT is remote, duh) and meet with the team that our company supported. There was a whole fiasco and we got up to some of our old shenanigans, but everything was great with the exception of one thing: her. I hadn't asked the entire trip, and he had mentioned that this was the best he'd felt in years. I just didn't want to ask what the problem was, until the day we left to go back to our respective states. I'd come to find out, that the day before he'd left to come out for our trip, his now wife, had locked him out of the main portion of the house (luckily he has over 5000sq/ft house, so he made do with the "other half" as he called it) and I just listened as he lamented about all the garbage that happened prior to his departure. How he gave up everything; his interests, his desires, just to be around her more. How after everything he's sacrificed, he just wanted it to work. That he'd do anything for her, and all she did was spit in his face and shit all over his effort. This last argument he'd had with her before he'd left was all because of him wanting to go get tacos with some of his local friends. A simple disagreement that turned into a 3-day argument.
So things like this progress and he's talking to all the people he needs advice from. His pastor, his therapist, and they're all telling him to run from this woman. These things I've been telling him for years are all starting to come together, and I feel like I can finally take a breath. From hearing stories of how he's slept under his desk to avoid confrontation with her, how he works endlessly because she won't bother him while he works. I was so excited that divorce was now finally an option for him. Until finally she was moving out, and everything came crashing down.
Friday, May 12, 2023. It was work as usual, and he'd spent a little longer at work, and was talking about going out to play pool with a friend. So I ended up talking to him later that evening asking him how things were going, mostly just because I was bored and wanted someone to talk to. When he replied that he was "big sad" and I asked him what was going on. He told me that he was tricked into going out with his friend by Brenda. That the friend was convinced to ask James out by her, so that she could come by their house and move her things out. Which she had never done before, but was prone to leaving at the drop of a hat and going to her sister's house 1.5 hrs away. I expressed that I was sorry for what he had to go through, as I had also gone through a divorce years prior. That regardless if it was for the best, that it is still a painful process. The last thing he said to me: "Can't be mad about a loss that costs me the wins when I'm the one who made the bet" I replied, "Maybe not, but I can understand the loss still hurts."
That was the last thing I said to him at 0016. I'm so fucking mad, at him, at her, at everything. The entire situation, that I would be out there to help him, I joked about moving my family out there with him in that big ass house. That we'd buy property, hundreds and thousands of acres just to bullshit with, and do "hoodrat things with my friends." I texted him and called him Saturday to check on him, but figured he had a hangover, so I didn't want to bother but let him know that I would call a wellness check on him if I didn't hear back. So I called him a few more times on Sunday, which eventually lead to me calling the wellness check at 1421 on Mother's Day. Two hours later, at 1621 exactly, I get a phone call from a detective asking me questions about James. I thought he was in a snag with the police and was doing 180 on the freeway or something, or pulled some Eminem nonsnense. Did I fail to mention that Brenda claimed to be pregnant, and would use getting an abortion as a way to control James? No? Well it was one of the first things I told the detective after they asked me about him being depressed. I didn't understand why the questions were being asked, but they eventually came to tell me that upon their arrival, he was dead. The world snapped to a startling clarity, and I broke out into a cold sweat. I didn't think it could be possible, and my brain reeled at the rushing reality of it all. The sickening reality of it, that she didn't even care because she had already given up, had pulled her claws out of him. It was done, no new memories, no grand dreams, no future plans to conquer the world. But as we know, this is only just the beginning, the aftermath is where it all hurts more.
So his body had to be transported to his hometown on the other side of the country near the coast, from the OTHER side of the country. 3000 miles just to be put in the ground, all for his parents' sake. Which was nice, and a kind gesture, that Brenda allowed and a relatively beautiful ceremony. We show up the day James shows up, a 10 hour drive with no AC and the windows down. My wife and I both knew and loved James, so we were going to be there no matter what. I meet his dad for the first time, a topic James and I regularly talked about. How his father is the best person he knows, and would do anything for. I can see that now, and James' wife had sent a picture to my wife of one of their conversations, about how I reminded James of his dad. That shit broke my heart, and was hard to see, but I appreciated it. Although I think she reveled in twisting the knife. Anyway, come to find out from his dad, that Brenda allowed him to write the obituary, and as James' dad was finalizing it with his wife and James' sisters, Brenda took it and made changes and deleted the things she didn't like.
James' dad took us all around his hometown, showing us where he went to school, where they lived, and what he liked to do. He also took us out for lunch to a local place James liked. I've never felt so at home while not at home. We even got haircuts at James' dad's favorite barber. I met James' mother and sisters, and found that they share a lot of gestures and nuances that were just uncanny. It was good, although, terrifyingly sad. I'm so fucking glad Neil was there, dude was a rock.
The day of the funeral and memorial We got to say our final goodbyes, and there was a line of James' next of kin. Starting with his mother, and ending with his youngest sister. His wife sat separately and was laughing and joking before people started showing up. She adopted a somber and sorrowful set, when we locked eyes, I saw the poison, vitriol, and hate she had for me, and anyone else who cared about James. Her eyes looked like that of Bellatrix Lestrange. She didn't cry, once. It hurt to see someone James cared about so much, not care one lick at his loss. She didn't plan anything for this funeral, didn't appoint pallbearers, nothing. Fortunately, me, Neil, another roommate James had--Jesse, and some other close relatives of James, we raised him one last time. Everything was executed by his parents and was done wonderfully. At his burial site, he was given military honors, which he and I would joke as being terribly done, but for the masses, was acceptable. For military ceremonies like this, the next of kin gets the flag. And unfortunately, they were still married at the time of death. Which she received and treated like nothing so much as a burden. James' parents knew how vile she was and STILL invited her to attend a remembrance party in Honor of James. To which she ran off and never attended. This, this is still the easiest part of the entire process.
James parents are trying to file an injunction, but Brenda hasn't even filed the proper paperwork to begin the probate process. So there isn't even anything to file an injunction against! They want to be able to handle his estate, but can't. There's nothing to do, no memories to take. We fear that everything will be repossessed, foreclosed, and she will laugh her way to the bank to cash in on James' demise. I wish he'd had a will, or started the divorce process. I wish even more, that he was still here. For anyone out there who thinks you won't be missed, you will. For those who think no one will notice them gone, you will be noticed. I would rather talk to you for hours, than be at your grave. Please, reach out, ask for help, or just to talk. I'm sorry things get tough, but you have love and support here if you need it. I'm sorry I couldn't be more help, or talk you out of it. I love you man. Til Valhalla.
submitted by Nruiz43 to TrueOffMyChest [link] [comments]


2023.06.02 17:36 Rare-Oven-9539 go-to lunch this week!

go-to lunch this week! submitted by Rare-Oven-9539 to CICO [link] [comments]


2023.06.02 15:48 flippenphil (Offer) Dr. Seuss 5 film collection (Request) The Menu, Amsterdam, Babylon

UPDATE: WB killed the Dr. SEUSS code some time in the past 3 weeks sorry
MA = Movies Anywhere
GP = Googleplay
[?] = unknown definition
title = pending trade
If a title is no longer listed = It has been traded
COMBO Films
MOVIES
TV Series Marked
Vudu Only
ITUNES Only
ITUNES Only MOVIES - No Port - Marked
CANADIAN CODES: GOOGLE PLAY / ITUNES MARKED I do not know any of these port
WANT LIST
Titles I am looking for
submitted by flippenphil to uvtrade [link] [comments]


2023.06.02 14:14 the-third-person Souhait

I’m an artist. Not one you’ve heard of, though that may be changing soon. Being an artist is about creation, not about commercial success. I wouldn’t mind getting the occasional acceptance mixed in with the constant stream of rejection, of course, but it’s a process.
A long process. They say that most artists don’t become famous until after they’re dead. I’d always hoped that I’d make it slightly before that.
I graduated last year with an MFA from a relatively prestigious institution, along with a dozen other folks who convinced themselves that an insurmountable pile of debt was the best way to jump right into the starving artist lifestyle. We were, as mentioned, a small class, so we all went to each other’s showings and were generally supportive, but I was only really friends with two of the others, Jerrod and Albina.
The three of us ended up rooming together for the last year of the program, and we kept that going post-graduation. Having other folks in the house who look through the mail with the same mix of hope and trepidation is surprisingly helpful. Alone, it’s easy to simply look at everyone else’s filtered life and assume that you’re the only one failing. When you come down in the morning to find your roommate crying in her cornflakes because her last eleven submissions haven’t even gotten the courtesy of a rejection letter, it’s a little easier to see that this is just how life goes sometimes.
One of our favorite Friday night activities was going to local galleries to see who they had on display. There were a few reasons for this. One, it gave us a good idea of what they liked to show, helping us hone our own submissions. Two, it was very cathartic to be catty about what had been picked. Three, a lot of the galleries had free hors d’oeuvres and wine.
I guess four, we liked art, but honestly it was hard to remember that sometimes. Sometimes looking at other people’s finished canvases just made me angry. What made them able to decide that they were done? What made other people agree that they were worth hanging on the wall? What justified the astronomical price tags next to them?
I’m not saying that this was anything but jealousy. I’m just saying that art and I are in a complicated relationship.
About a month ago, we went to a newly-opened gallery, Souhait. It was the usual setup: tall glass windows in front showcasing the art placed strategically on bright white walls within. It had the standard mix of oddly angled separators allowing the patrons to wander slowly through the room and discover the paintings one at a time. Basically it looked like every other gallery, but as it was a new opening it had better wine than most.
I was taking a casual tour of the perimeter when Jerrod appeared at my elbow.
“Hey, congratulations!” he said. “You weren’t going to tell us? I can’t believe you managed to keep this a secret.”
“Sorry, what?”
“Oh, yeah, ‘what’ indeed.” He steered me around several corners to where Albina was admiring a painting. “‘There’s a new gallery opening, we should all go, no reason.’ Congrats!”
I stared at the painting in disbelief. It was one of mine.
I was certain that I hadn’t submitted to this gallery. I hadn’t even heard of it until Albina had mentioned that it was opening. I would have remembered receiving a letter of acceptance, and I definitely would have remembered delivering a painting. None of these things had happened.
And yet there my art was on the wall. It had my signature, and my name displayed next to it on a card. I knew the piece. I’d done it two or three years ago. It was good, very representative of my style at the time, but I’d moved on and had stopped trying to get it displayed a while ago. The last I had seen it, it was six or seven canvases deep in a stack of pieces that I had nowhere else to put.
It was fairly obvious that that was not the case now. The proof was on the wall in front of me.
Albina and Jerrod were both praising me, so I just smiled and made vaguely humble comments. I must have submitted it. It wasn’t like someone had broken into our apartment and stolen a single piece of my art. It was both confusing and concerning that I couldn’t recall offering it to this gallery, but it was the only explanation that made sense.
I was still trying to puzzle this out when another familiar piece caught my eye. I nudged Jerrod. “Oh, so I’m the one keeping secrets?”
He raised an eyebrow at me, and I pointed across the floor. His eyes widened as he saw the same thing I had: one of his paintings neatly framed and prominently displayed.
“I didn’t even know you’d finished that one,” I said. “I swear I saw you working on it like two days ago.”
“Yeah,” he said, sounding a bit lost. “I was.”
“How’d you get the gallery to take it before it was even done?”
“Oh my God, look!” said Albina.
In the back corner of the gallery, occupying an entire corner, was a small collection of Albina’s work. It was expertly curated. I’d watched her develop her style for years, and the eight paintings chosen here perfectly encapsulated the entire range. Clusters of people kept gathering in front of them, and I saw more than one slip off to speak to the gallery owner about purchasing a piece.
“Albi, these are amazing,” I told her after we finally managed to get close enough to see them all properly. “This—some of these are absolute perfection. I don’t think I’ve even seen all of them.”
“Seriously, when did you do all of this?” asked Jerrod. “Some of these are definitely new. Unless you have a secret studio you’ve been hiding from us?”
He narrowed his eyes at her in mock suspicion. She laughed, shoving him lightly, but behind her smile I saw the same confusion that I’d heard in Jerrod’s voice, the same that I’d felt myself. None of us knew that our work was going to be on display here. Something was very odd.
We didn’t talk about it then. Oddity or not, our art and our names were on display, and there were free drinks to toast with. We refilled our glasses, congratulated each other effusively, wandered the gallery for a bit and then did it all again. By the time we were walking home, all concerns had vanished from all of our minds. We were successful! We could figure out how and why later.
The next morning, Albina was dead.
I woke up late with a hangover. Jerrod woke up later, looking even rougher than I did. There was nothing resembling breakfast anywhere in the apartment, so we sat and sipped our coffee silently. Albina’s door was open, and I think we both hoped that she’d gone out to get bagels or something and that we would shortly be provided for.
She wasn’t answering texts, and Jerrod and I were just starting to get concerned when there was a knock at the door. We opened it to find a policeman asking if we knew Albina Shevchenko, and if we had contact information for her family, and if we could come identify the body.
It had been a hit and run. She’d been dead by the time witnesses had gotten to her. No one had seen the car’s license plate. The police didn’t even pretend that there was a chance of justice.
They gave us her effects, including what remained of a bag of bagels. Somehow that was the worst part for me. She’d gone out to get something to celebrate with us. It made us complicit.
At the funeral, the priest spoke about her giving spirit and her wonderful personality, but most of all he spoke about her massive artistic talent. He went on at length about what she could have created if she had not had her span cut short. The entire gathering nodded along with him.
Jerrod and I exchanged looks. It wasn’t that he was wrong. She was amazing, and eventually the world would have known about her. It’s just that that hadn’t happened yet. The three of us were, as far as we could tell, the only ones really aware of how much potential we had. If everyone knew this about her, why had she been scraping by in a dingy apartment with us, trying to get enough money together to buy more art supplies?
“We should go back to Souhait,” Jerrod said after the funeral. “The gallery owner probably doesn’t know. We’ll need to get her pieces back before he trashes them when she doesn’t respond.”
Our trip was unnecessary. The gallery owner had Albina’s obituary blown up to large size and prominently displayed next to a tremendous collection of her work. It covered entire walls of the gallery, each piece with an explanatory card discussing when and why she had painted it. Where the prices had been on the cards, every single one was marked “SOLD.”
I was looking around for the owner to ask where he was sending the money when Jerrod grabbed my arm.
“Look,” he said, half-whispering.
Arranged in a neat circle on one wall were a dozen of his paintings.
“I don’t know that I want to be on display here,” he said. He sounded frightened.
“Then take them back. They’re your pieces.”
“Are they?” He pointed. “I never finished that one. That’s how I wanted it to look, but I couldn’t get it right. I swear I never completed it. And there! I never painted that. I thought of it, I knew it in my head, but I have never put brush to canvas for it. Not even to start it.
“How could they have any of this? How could anyone?” His voice was rapidly rising toward hysteria.
“Hey, let’s get you out of here,” I said, putting an arm around his shoulders. “We’ll come back tomorrow and get them taken down if you want. We’re all running on fumes right now.”
Privately, I thought again about the piece that Souhait had of mine. I’d never gotten around to looking for it at the apartment. Things had been a blur since Albi’s death. I wondered how this gallery had so much of our stuff. I wondered what else had been taken.
Back at home, Jerrod rummaged through his artwork, hunting for something.
“See?” he said finally, holding up a canvas. “I told you. It isn’t done.”
He was holding up something that could have been an early attempt at one of the pieces we’d seen in the gallery. It was the same general idea, but the colors weren’t right and the composition didn’t gel. Also, as he’d said, it was clearly incomplete. Parts of the canvas still showed through in some areas. It wasn’t what was hanging on the walls.
“I told you,” he repeated. “How can they have art I never finished?”
I tried to get him to calm down. I sat him down on the couch and poured him a drink. We’d go back in the morning, I said. We’d find the owner. We’d sort all of this out. It was a problem for tomorrow, not for this evening. Not right after a funeral.
I thought I’d gotten him to agree with me. I poured us both another drink. Somewhere in the middle of that one, I fell asleep on the couch.
When I woke up, Jerrod was gone.
Just one of those things, the police said. Wrong place at the wrong time. He’d been mugged. His credit cards and phone were gone. He’d bled out in the street. He was almost halfway to Souhait.
I went there to get his art taken down, like he’d wanted. They’d already expanded the collection. His photo smiled down at me from the main wall, next to an obituary lauding his talent, his bold innovation, his novelty. The rest of the gallery was plastered with his work. I recognized some of the paintings he’d been rifling through at the apartment the previous day. Most had already been sold.
And on the back wall, in a small but well-lit section by themselves, hung six of my paintings. The one that I’d seen the first night was there, along with two others I was particularly proud of. If I’d been asked to pick three pieces to best represent who I was and who I had been as an artist, those might have been them.
The other three bore my signature, but I did not paint them. Not yet. Like Jerrod, I knew the subject matter in them. I had thought of them, conceived them, and even made some attempts to put them to canvas, but they had never come out like I’d imagined. I’d set them aside to try again later, when I had better supplies, when I was better.
Yet here they hung, complete and perfect, exactly as I had pictured them. It was a triumph of my craft.
It was beautiful to see what I could become, given enough time.
It’s just too bad that I don’t have it.
Most artists don’t become famous until after they’re dead.
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2023.06.02 14:13 the-third-person I discovered one of my paintings in an art gallery

I’m an artist. Not one you’ve heard of, though that may be changing soon. Being an artist is about creation, not about commercial success. I wouldn’t mind getting the occasional acceptance mixed in with the constant stream of rejection, of course, but it’s a process.
A long process. They say that most artists don’t become famous until after they’re dead. I’d always hoped that I’d make it slightly before that.
I graduated last year with an MFA from a relatively prestigious institution, along with a dozen other folks who convinced themselves that an insurmountable pile of debt was the best way to jump right into the starving artist lifestyle. We were, as mentioned, a small class, so we all went to each other’s showings and were generally supportive, but I was only really friends with two of the others, Jerrod and Albina.
The three of us ended up rooming together for the last year of the program, and we kept that going post-graduation. Having other folks in the house who look through the mail with the same mix of hope and trepidation is surprisingly helpful. Alone, it’s easy to simply look at everyone else’s filtered life and assume that you’re the only one failing. When you come down in the morning to find your roommate crying in her cornflakes because her last eleven submissions haven’t even gotten the courtesy of a rejection letter, it’s a little easier to see that this is just how life goes sometimes.
One of our favorite Friday night activities was going to local galleries to see who they had on display. There were a few reasons for this. One, it gave us a good idea of what they liked to show, helping us hone our own submissions. Two, it was very cathartic to be catty about what had been picked. Three, a lot of the galleries had free hors d’oeuvres and wine.
I guess four, we liked art, but honestly it was hard to remember that sometimes. Sometimes looking at other people’s finished canvases just made me angry. What made them able to decide that they were done? What made other people agree that they were worth hanging on the wall? What justified the astronomical price tags next to them?
I’m not saying that this was anything but jealousy. I’m just saying that art and I are in a complicated relationship.
About a month ago, we went to a newly-opened gallery, Souhait. It was the usual setup: tall glass windows in front showcasing the art placed strategically on bright white walls within. It had the standard mix of oddly angled separators allowing the patrons to wander slowly through the room and discover the paintings one at a time. Basically it looked like every other gallery, but as it was a new opening it had better wine than most.
I was taking a casual tour of the perimeter when Jerrod appeared at my elbow.
“Hey, congratulations!” he said. “You weren’t going to tell us? I can’t believe you managed to keep this a secret.”
“Sorry, what?”
“Oh, yeah, ‘what’ indeed.” He steered me around several corners to where Albina was admiring a painting. “‘There’s a new gallery opening, we should all go, no reason.’ Congrats!”
I stared at the painting in disbelief. It was one of mine.
I was certain that I hadn’t submitted to this gallery. I hadn’t even heard of it until Albina had mentioned that it was opening. I would have remembered receiving a letter of acceptance, and I definitely would have remembered delivering a painting. None of these things had happened.
And yet there my art was on the wall. It had my signature, and my name displayed next to it on a card. I knew the piece. I’d done it two or three years ago. It was good, very representative of my style at the time, but I’d moved on and had stopped trying to get it displayed a while ago. The last I had seen it, it was six or seven canvases deep in a stack of pieces that I had nowhere else to put.
It was fairly obvious that that was not the case now. The proof was on the wall in front of me.
Albina and Jerrod were both praising me, so I just smiled and made vaguely humble comments. I must have submitted it. It wasn’t like someone had broken into our apartment and stolen a single piece of my art. It was both confusing and concerning that I couldn’t recall offering it to this gallery, but it was the only explanation that made sense.
I was still trying to puzzle this out when another familiar piece caught my eye. I nudged Jerrod. “Oh, so I’m the one keeping secrets?”
He raised an eyebrow at me, and I pointed across the floor. His eyes widened as he saw the same thing I had: one of his paintings neatly framed and prominently displayed.
“I didn’t even know you’d finished that one,” I said. “I swear I saw you working on it like two days ago.”
“Yeah,” he said, sounding a bit lost. “I was.”
“How’d you get the gallery to take it before it was even done?”
“Oh my God, look!” said Albina.
In the back corner of the gallery, occupying an entire corner, was a small collection of Albina’s work. It was expertly curated. I’d watched her develop her style for years, and the eight paintings chosen here perfectly encapsulated the entire range. Clusters of people kept gathering in front of them, and I saw more than one slip off to speak to the gallery owner about purchasing a piece.
“Albi, these are amazing,” I told her after we finally managed to get close enough to see them all properly. “This—some of these are absolute perfection. I don’t think I’ve even seen all of them.”
“Seriously, when did you do all of this?” asked Jerrod. “Some of these are definitely new. Unless you have a secret studio you’ve been hiding from us?”
He narrowed his eyes at her in mock suspicion. She laughed, shoving him lightly, but behind her smile I saw the same confusion that I’d heard in Jerrod’s voice, the same that I’d felt myself. None of us knew that our work was going to be on display here. Something was very odd.
We didn’t talk about it then. Oddity or not, our art and our names were on display, and there were free drinks to toast with. We refilled our glasses, congratulated each other effusively, wandered the gallery for a bit and then did it all again. By the time we were walking home, all concerns had vanished from all of our minds. We were successful! We could figure out how and why later.
The next morning, Albina was dead.
I woke up late with a hangover. Jerrod woke up later, looking even rougher than I did. There was nothing resembling breakfast anywhere in the apartment, so we sat and sipped our coffee silently. Albina’s door was open, and I think we both hoped that she’d gone out to get bagels or something and that we would shortly be provided for.
She wasn’t answering texts, and Jerrod and I were just starting to get concerned when there was a knock at the door. We opened it to find a policeman asking if we knew Albina Shevchenko, and if we had contact information for her family, and if we could come identify the body.
It had been a hit and run. She’d been dead by the time witnesses had gotten to her. No one had seen the car’s license plate. The police didn’t even pretend that there was a chance of justice.
They gave us her effects, including what remained of a bag of bagels. Somehow that was the worst part for me. She’d gone out to get something to celebrate with us. It made us complicit.
At the funeral, the priest spoke about her giving spirit and her wonderful personality, but most of all he spoke about her massive artistic talent. He went on at length about what she could have created if she had not had her span cut short. The entire gathering nodded along with him.
Jerrod and I exchanged looks. It wasn’t that he was wrong. She was amazing, and eventually the world would have known about her. It’s just that that hadn’t happened yet. The three of us were, as far as we could tell, the only ones really aware of how much potential we had. If everyone knew this about her, why had she been scraping by in a dingy apartment with us, trying to get enough money together to buy more art supplies?
“We should go back to Souhait,” Jerrod said after the funeral. “The gallery owner probably doesn’t know. We’ll need to get her pieces back before he trashes them when she doesn’t respond.”
Our trip was unnecessary. The gallery owner had Albina’s obituary blown up to large size and prominently displayed next to a tremendous collection of her work. It covered entire walls of the gallery, each piece with an explanatory card discussing when and why she had painted it. Where the prices had been on the cards, every single one was marked “SOLD.”
I was looking around for the owner to ask where he was sending the money when Jerrod grabbed my arm.
“Look,” he said, half-whispering.
Arranged in a neat circle on one wall were a dozen of his paintings.
“I don’t know that I want to be on display here,” he said. He sounded frightened.
“Then take them back. They’re your pieces.”
“Are they?” He pointed. “I never finished that one. That’s how I wanted it to look, but I couldn’t get it right. I swear I never completed it. And there! I never painted that. I thought of it, I knew it in my head, but I have never put brush to canvas for it. Not even to start it.
“How could they have any of this? How could anyone?” His voice was rapidly rising toward hysteria.
“Hey, let’s get you out of here,” I said, putting an arm around his shoulders. “We’ll come back tomorrow and get them taken down if you want. We’re all running on fumes right now.”
Privately, I thought again about the piece that Souhait had of mine. I’d never gotten around to looking for it at the apartment. Things had been a blur since Albi’s death. I wondered how this gallery had so much of our stuff. I wondered what else had been taken.
Back at home, Jerrod rummaged through his artwork, hunting for something.
“See?” he said finally, holding up a canvas. “I told you. It isn’t done.”
He was holding up something that could have been an early attempt at one of the pieces we’d seen in the gallery. It was the same general idea, but the colors weren’t right and the composition didn’t gel. Also, as he’d said, it was clearly incomplete. Parts of the canvas still showed through in some areas. It wasn’t what was hanging on the walls.
“I told you,” he repeated. “How can they have art I never finished?”
I tried to get him to calm down. I sat him down on the couch and poured him a drink. We’d go back in the morning, I said. We’d find the owner. We’d sort all of this out. It was a problem for tomorrow, not for this evening. Not right after a funeral.
I thought I’d gotten him to agree with me. I poured us both another drink. Somewhere in the middle of that one, I fell asleep on the couch.
When I woke up, Jerrod was gone.
Just one of those things, the police said. Wrong place at the wrong time. He’d been mugged. His credit cards and phone were gone. He’d bled out in the street. He was almost halfway to Souhait.
I went there to get his art taken down, like he’d wanted. They’d already expanded the collection. His photo smiled down at me from the main wall, next to an obituary lauding his talent, his bold innovation, his novelty. The rest of the gallery was plastered with his work. I recognized some of the paintings he’d been rifling through at the apartment the previous day. Most had already been sold.
And on the back wall, in a small but well-lit section by themselves, hung six of my paintings. The one that I’d seen the first night was there, along with two others I was particularly proud of. If I’d been asked to pick three pieces to best represent who I was and who I had been as an artist, those might have been them.
The other three bore my signature, but I did not paint them. Not yet. Like Jerrod, I knew the subject matter in them. I had thought of them, conceived them, and even made some attempts to put them to canvas, but they had never come out like I’d imagined. I’d set them aside to try again later, when I had better supplies, when I was better.
Yet here they hung, complete and perfect, exactly as I had pictured them. It was a triumph of my craft.
It was beautiful to see what I could become, given enough time.
It’s just too bad that I don’t have it.
Most artists don’t become famous until after they’re dead.
X
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2023.06.02 11:25 notyouraveragetwin I just need to talk

Its almost 4am and i don't think sleep is going to happen until I 'talk' about it.
My sister(45f) died January 7th of this year. I hosted a 'drink in remembrance' a couple weeks later when it became obvious my mother was going to drag this out. 'I want to wait til spring' she kept saying. It was not the official service by any means. There's a lot of meat and potatoes to this situation, just trying to think of the most relevant.
My mother casually mentioned she went up north to the cemetery memorial weekend to clean her parents headstone and stuff. I can't help but be upset.
The plot has been purchased, yet her ashes are still at the funeral home. There are no current plans to bury her soon. I'm starting to feel like she's doing this to 'punish' her. She died of an overdose.
In the last two years my mom and her have spoken 2 times. I talked to her weekly and saw her about 2x a month the last few months of her life. We talked Friday briefly and Saturday night she was gone. We were close.
My mother has made it clear only her feelings matter. I retrieved her personal belongings and went through them alone. I made the picture boards for the informal event I hosted. Alone. I have 2 other siblings... I feel extremely abandoned. She spiraled the past two years horribly. My family 'washed their hands off her'.
Yes she was a different person the last two years. But she deserves better than this. I need my sister to put to rest for the sake of my mental health. It's keeping me up at night. I'm so anxious, and I know its because I need to my sister to be laid to rest. Not sitting on shelf in a closet at the funeral home.
I'm willing to get her and keep her ashes with me until mom is 'ready', but I can't hear another lecture about how this isn't about my feelings.
I asked my older brother to talk to her, because his opinions and feelings matter.
I feel like my mother is being selfish. I have cousin's and her friends who kept inquiring about the official service(snow storm kept a lot of people home that day I hosted. And no, my mom didn't come to that. My dad did. He's irritated with her too but he won't say anything.
I thought my family was normal. We sure put on a good show because this situation has me reflecting on my life. And normal is the last word id use to describe my immediate family.
I don't know what I'm asking. I just had to ramble somewhere and i think I'm going to fall asleep soon now that I got this out of my head.
I miss my sister.
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2023.06.02 10:15 MilkbottleF Two Stories

The Castaway

The man on the raft had only hope to keep him alive now. The bones showed through his thin face. An endless moan escaped his trembling mouth. His eyes were bright with fever. He had been clinging to life for more than a month now on this wretched collection of planks.
All at once a new sound reached his enfeebled brain: a buzzing noise imagined in his delirium no doubt. But it wasn't —it really was a helicopter approaching slowly, flying over the raft. Saved! He was saved! The castaway danced about clumsily.
In the meantime a rope-ladder had been lowered from the helicopter. A man dressed in rags, his emaciated face overgrown with a coarse beard, was pushed brutally on to the top rungs.
The helicopter turned away and disappeared.
Now there were two castaways on the raft.

Happy Are Those, Like Ulysses...

Some people feel an unhealthy attachment to their native town; and if circumstances force them to settle down away from home they cannot bear the thought of dying so far from their birthplace. Alas, things are not always easily remedied. In the past, many unfortunates realized, too late, that they would breathe their last many miles from the consolations of home.
Fortunately, progress has changed all this. Nowadays, the dying are conveyed to their home towns by express train. A miracle of devotion and organization now makes it possible for them to die at the very spot where they were born; but few are aware of the altruism and self-sacrifice required to enable the near-defunct to make this last journey.
Let us make a brief survey. The dying are collected from hospitals and homes and loaded into an ambulance coach. As the departure time approaches, the coach is taken from its siding and coupled to the train. Old people brought in by van keep arriving. At last the whistle goes and the train starts.
This marks the beginning of a period of real torment for the ambulance men. The express runs at full speed. The ambulance coach is connected fore and aft to other coaches and its weight, together with that of its contents, reduces the cushioning effect of the springs so that it waltzes madly with each piston-stroke of the engine. Despite all this jolting and bumping, the ambulance team have to complete the sorting which was only partly done before departure. Their job is to arrange and classify the bodies into compartments, each carrying the name of a station. Crowded together and almost unable to move their arms and legs because of the obstructing stretchers, the unfortunate ambulance workers forage in the enormous heap of the moribund, feverishly classifying them, breathing air that is wholly noxious.
During the seven-hour run from Paris to Bordeaux each ambulance clerk must sort, on average, fourteen thousand old people without a break. Since most of these special trains run at night, the work has to be done in the smoky flickering light of wretched oil-lamps. New coaches lit by electricity have been put into service but the bulbs often prove defective. Only last September a team making the return run to Paris in one of these coaches had to use candles fixed on syringes.
And sorting is not all they have to do! The bodies for each station have to be put into sacks, tied and put aside. There's not a minute to lose. The hands of the clock turn relentlessly, the thermometer mounts inexorably, the end of the journey approaches. Furthermore, an express does not stop at every station along the line, so when it passes through a station the sack or stretcher must be thrown out of the coach. Two or three minutes before the expected time an ambulance man pressed against a door peers questioningly into the distance. Opposite him a delivery man stands doubled over against another door, clutching a bulging sack to his chest, ready to throw it out at the word of command. 'Now!' shouts the first man, and the sack is catapulted into the darkness on to the platform or track where it is soon collected by employees of the local funeral service.
This expeditious method of delivery is not free from its dangers and risks. Accidents are still common. Only recently a policeman on duty on a station platform was knocked down by an old man falling on top of him. Another time, at the spot between Abbeville and Calais, where the train runs over a series of bridges only a few miles from the sea, the ambulance man, misled by the darkness, tumbled a stretcher into the mouth of a river. This only came to light the next day when the stretcher was recovered floating in the open Channel several miles away, ripped open with three-quarters of its contents pillaged.
-- Roland Topor [Tr by Margaret Crosland and David LeVay]. Published in Stories and Drawings (Peter Owen, 1968.) See also: "Feeding the Hungry"
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2023.06.02 06:37 critical_courtney [A Bargain for Bliss] — Chapter Ten (Sequel to The Fae Queen's Pet)

[A Bargain for Bliss] — Chapter Ten (Sequel to The Fae Queen's Pet)

https://preview.redd.it/cnhmfefy9j3b1.jpg?width=1410&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=d762824a51aed78f4cc9200da8eb5d908d8292d0
Previous Chapter
Chapter Ten:
Heading back from axe combat training with Ceras, I detoured and headed to the lakeshore instead of the palace. Though I was right outside the gate, I wasn’t too interested in heading inside yet.
I wanted to sit in the sand and grass and wait to see if a ship carrying my girlfriend would sail by. It’d been a few weeks since Lily left Perth by boat for an assignment in the Tulip Court, and I’d missed her terribly since.
My bed was awful lonely, and I missed the late-night conversations we used to stay up and have, legs intertwined as we shared a chair and ate popcorn together.
Of course, I loved finally getting to spend some time with the queen as she’d been busy working on her proposal for Bliss. But Lily was a different kind of energy, and she occupied a separate piece of my heart, one that ached for her.
Pulling my legs up to my chest, I remembered that we’d be leaving for Kilgara, where every court in Faerie would meet on neutral ground while the rulers of each land decided who would host the upcoming Bliss.
I was to remain in my wolf form the entire time from the moment we left Featherstone until we returned for my protection of course. Supposedly, I would be harder to attack or capture when I weighed 200 pounds and had razor-sharp fangs and claws.
And I’m sure my inner wolf would appreciate the long spur to stretch her legs as we traveled beside the queen and put every wandering stare her way in its place.
That was two days from now, of course. And now. . . was now. In the moment, my heart, a piece of it, anyway, felt lonely. It missed the fae that connected with me on a more human level than the maelstrom of glamour that was her majesty.
While I sat there watching the occasional redeye buckfish leap from the water to catch a dragonfly on the surface, I heard a certain piskie approaching from the palace.
Barsilla’s wings buzzed as she flew around and into view, carrying the little clipboard she always had with her.
“Oh, hey Barsilla. Did you need something?” I asked, lifting my chin from my arms where it’d been resting while I sat there.
Varella’s left-hand lady cocked her head to the side, looked down at some tiny scribbling she had, and then stared back up at me.
“Ceras mentioned you seemed extra moody during your combat training today, and now I find you out here moping by the lake.”
I raised an eyebrow.
“I’m not moping,” I said, with all the convincing tone of a teenager stamping her foot. “I’m just. . . resting after a hard workout. That’s not illegal in the Raven Court, is it?”
Barsilla rolled her eyes like a mother dealing with a sulking teen. Dammit, what was that suddenly all I could think about?
“Your mortal emotions aren’t something the queen can afford to be distracted by right now, especially not with the summit coming up. And make no mistake, she will be distracted if she catches you moping. So, you might as well tell me what’s wrong so I can waste my time fixing it and avoid any diversions on the queen’s part,” the piskie said.
I let out a sigh and turned my attention back to the lake because my problem was simple to describe and impossible for Barsilla to fix. . . unless her magic included the ability to summon my girlfriend at the drop of a hat.
“I miss Lily. That’s all,” I said, putting my chin back down.
Barsilla opened her mouth and then closed it again. She thought before speaking, but I don’t think it did her a lot of good because she was still going to inevitably be a jerk about this.
“By the gods, you’re such a needy puppy!”
Then she rolled her eyes a second time.
“But that is a problem easily fixed. Follow me,” she said, and I stood, wondering what she intended to do.
Barsilla led me back into the palace and into a room I’d never been in before. Feathers stood outside the room protecting it but slide aside for Barsilla and me without a word.
The room we walked into was filled with paintings of ravens, crows, and magpies. Some sat in trees, some by rivers, and others under bushes, scavenging for fallen nuts and berries. There must have been about 20 paintings in different styles ranging from lifelike portraits to impressionist scenes.
“What is this place?” I asked, still looking around at all the artwork.
“This is the Hall of Winged Messengers. Our queen will sometimes use these birds to contact others discreetly,” Barsilla said, coming to rest in the seat of a large red velvet chair.
“She uses. . . the paintings to talk to other people?” I asked, scratching the back of my head and trying to picture how that would work.
Varella’s left-hand lady shook her head. But I did notice that she didn’t roll her eyes this time. That was progress. . . for me anyway. I tended to ask a lot of stupid questions. Or at least, questions faeries would find ignorant because I didn’t know any better.
Deciding to teach by example, Barsilla instructed me to select a bird and walk over to the painting it sat in. I still didn’t know what the hell I was doing, so I found a magpie with black and white feathers and blue-tipped wings. The painting it sat in showed the bird huddled between several wildflowers, perhaps hunting for something to make a nest with.
“Hold out your hand in front of the bird and say, ‘Queen Varella commands you to carry my words.’”
I wasn’t sure what would happen, but I slowly held out my right hand in front of the painting, palm up flat. Then I said, “Queen Varella commands you to carry my words.”
At first, nothing happened. And I gave Barsilla a look of suspicion. Was she making a joke of me? It would be like the fae to pull a prank like this on a mortal unfamiliar with their ways.
She just motioned that I turn back to the painting. When I did, a magpie hopped off the canvas, suddenly springing to life in a three-dimensional world. It flew off the artwork as if the oil paint was being rewound in time, returning to its paintbrush.
But instead of turning back into paint, the animal kept its form and hopped down into my open hand. I felt its thin twig-like talons hop across my hand as its head tilted from side to side. The bird looked like it was waking up from a long hibernation. Then it looked up at me with its red eyes, black dotted pupils focussed directly on my face.
Looking back at the canvas, I noticed the bird missing from its scenery. Only the wildflowers and sky remained.
The magpie continued to hop around in my hand, stretching its wings and turning its head this way and that.
“I. . . is this a real bird?” I asked, looking at the piskie that was just half the magpie’s size sitting across the room from me.
She hovered closer, and I expected the animal to see her as prey given their size difference. But the magpie made no move to leave my hand.
“That bird is made from the queen’s glamour, as you carry in your wolfheart. Only those with her majesty’s magic can call forth these birds and send them out into the world,” Barsilla said, motioning to the other ravens and crows. It was a room full of carrion callers.
Despite my expectations that the bird would start chirping or cawing in some way, I found the animal strangely silent. It might occasionally look away, but otherwise, the magpie seemed to do nothing more than observe me.
“So. . . how does this work exactly?” I asked. “Am I going to write a message on a tiny piece of paper, and this magpie will carry it to Lily? Like on Game of Thrones?”
Barsilla furrowed her brow.
“This isn’t a game, pet. And you don’t need to use a throne to send your message either. I swear, you mortals say the weirdest things. The first thing you need to do is hold the magpie up to your chest.”
“Why?”
“So it can hear who your heart beats for, who you want to send a message to. I still find it strange that not only does our queen have a soft spot for a mortal, but she’s also willing to share her puppy with her subordinate. Still, it’s not my place to question her,” Barsilla said.
I slowly held the magpie up to my chest as instructed. Part of me felt like I was still being pranked. But the magpie just hopped over to my pinky finger and placed its ear against my breast, closing its eyes and listening to my heartbeat.
“I will question you, though, royal pet. Describe for me your heart when you think of Lily. Then tell me how it compares to when you think about your mistress. I simply can’t imagine being in love with both of them, a queen, and a spy,” Barsilla asked.
When the bird was finished listening to my heartbeat, it skipped back into the center of my palm and started watching me again, presumably waiting for whatever message I was going to give the bird to carry.
And it wasn’t bad enough that I had to figure out the exact words I wanted to send to Lily. I had to answer prying questions from Barsilla about my feelings? Fuck. Even I didn’t understand my feelings half the time.
Polyamory was a new thing for me. Being gay took me long enough to understand. I mean — I understood on some level what it meant to look at girls in my high school and think, Fuck, she’s so pretty.
The way talking to a crush left my heart jogging in place like it was warming up for a marathon took weeks and months to sort out. Then I had to try to figure out if a girl felt the same way about me, and fuck was that even more difficult.
But I did figure it out eventually.
Now here I was still trying to figure out how to love two women at the same time when each made my heart quiver in different ways. They made other parts of me quiver as well. But that was neither here nor there.
And Barsilla wanted, what? An essay on how they made me feel? Shit. I’d have an easier time lecturing her on quantum physics.
“What do you want me to say?” I asked.
“I want you to tell me how two fae ladies I’ve known for much longer than you make a werewolf howl in heat,” Barsilla said.
I scoffed. No way was I telling the piskie things Varella and Lily had done to make me howl in ecstasy. But the more I thought about it, I realized she wasn’t asking about deeds, but emotions.
Fae weren’t like mortals. Their understanding of our emotions and motivations was limited to what they observed when they took a vacation in the realm where time still flows.
That’s part of the reason I connected so deeply to Lily. She was half-human, and that meant it was easier to talk to her about my fears and dreams, really lay them out on the bed sheets in front of her. And she understood. Gods, she understood. Maybe that was what Barsilla wanted here. . . to understand.
“Well. . . Lily — see — she makes me feel like there’s no one in the world except for us when we’re together. Like reality and all its problems and the people who make them are so far removed because she’s taken my hand and guided me to a place of gentle love and sweetness.”
The piskie wrote something down on her clipboard and nodded.
“And your mistress? How does she make you feel?”
Taking a deep breath, I considered the morning we’d had a couple days ago.
“My mistress. . . she makes me feel like I’m in the eye of a hurricane. All the power in the world to destroy anything that tries to do me harm while I’m kept safe and sound at the center of the storm. With her, I feel like I’m going to be swept away at any moment, but when it happens, the place I’ll be swept to is in her arms. And I trust that whether I’m on the ground or in the sky she’ll protect me.”
Barsilla smiled as she took more notes.
“What was all that about?” I asked, cocking my head to the side like the magpie in my hand.
She finished writing something and then looked back up at me.
“Now you know exactly how you feel about each of them. No more wishy-washy shit humans do. Love each of them with the full confidence that you can love two people at the same time and be loved by each of them simultaneously.”
With that, she started to fly over toward the door. Barsilla stopped just before opening the exit and looked back my way.
“When you’re ready to send your message, hold the magpie up into your direct gaze and speak to it as if it were Lily. The moment you look away or lose focus, it’ll fly away to carry your message, regardless of whether you were finished.”
Then, Varella’s left-hand lady left me alone with the magpie. I felt a little nervous about getting my message cut off. It didn’t take much to distract me. I suppose that was something I had in common with the corvid I was holding. My brain could think, shiny! at a moment’s notice. Perhaps that’s how I fell in love with two different faeries in the first place.
But instead of getting distracted, I thought about my girlfriend, the lesbian faerie I missed cuddling with every single night, the gay girl who wasn’t just part of my dreams, but my waking world as well.
Holding up the magpie about a foot from my face, I looked deep into its crimson eyes and said:
“Dear Lily, I miss you more than you can know. And I hope the bird that tracks you down over in the Tulip Court doesn’t make me sound too clingy. I’ve yet to see how fae react to clinginess. But in case it’s negative, do me a favor and pretend this message is a lot more breezy and cool than it actually is.
“Featherstone feels lonely without you. I’m happy when I’m with my mistress, but in other moments, my heart pines for the girl who plays board games with me in my room and holds me close when I bolt awake after a nightmare about my father until I come back to reality, safe and sound.
“But I know your mission is important. I would never ask you to come home early and risk disappointing our queen. So instead I’ll just ask two things. First, think of me in the moments when that mask you wear feels a little too tight and smothering. Remember that I’m here waiting for you in a place where you just get to be Lily, my girlfriend. Not a wing for the Raven Court. Second, come back to me safely. Because even though I know you’ve been doing this for years, and you’re the best spy my mistress has. . . I might still worry.
“Oh, and bring me back a cool Tulip Court souvenir if you can. Maybe a tulip? Actually — scratch that, magpie. That’s three things, and I said I’d only ask two. Seriously. Don’t repeat this part to my girlfriend. It’ll make me look stupid, like I don’t know how to use a winged messenger. So you’re not gonna say this last part, right?”
I was interrupted by the sound of Barsilla’s raucous laughter coming from outside in the hallways and looked away for a split second, fearing she’d overheard me.
When I looked back, only a single black and white feather remained in my hand.
“Aw, shit.”
submitted by critical_courtney to redditserials [link] [comments]


2023.06.02 06:14 LeutnantzurSeeFritz The Exploits of Irving Reese Part 30: All My Dream Fulfilled

(You can also find this story, along with the previous parts here and here.)
Five Years Later
Irving and Enterprise were busy. Irving smiled at Enterprise.
“Today’s the big day.”
Enterprise nodded as she looked up the stairs.
“Olin! Are you ready?”
Olin ran down the stairs, wearing a pair of blue jeans and an olive green t-shirt. He smiled at her.
“Yes, mama.”
Irving and Enterprise smiled. “Then let’s go.”
The family entered the car and drove to their destination. Enterprise looked at her son.
“Are you excited for your first day of school?”
Olin smiled and nodded. Irving looked at his son with a smile while they were at a red light.
“Are you going to behave yourself?”
Olin once again smiled and nodded.
They soon reached their destination. Azur Lane Elementary School.
Olin, Irving, and Enterprise all got out of the car. They walked to the entrance.
Irving saw Oklahoma and Malcolm were there, as well as Littorio, Vittorio Veneto, Fabio, and Marsala.
Littorio was holding her son's hand. She smiled at her daughter.
“Maria, are you going to say goodbye to your baby brother?”
Maria smiled as her brother giggled.
“Goodbye Vincenzo. I love you.”
Vincenzo giggled as his older sister turned to leave.
Irving and Enterprise kept walking, but they noticed Olin was not with them.
Irving and Enterprise walked back to where Olin was. Enterprise squatted down to look at her son.
“Olin, what's wrong?”
Olin’s eyes were wide as saucers as a tear went down his face. “I’m scared.”
Irving smiled and placed his hand on Olin’s shoulder.
“I know you’re scared. You want to know some advice?”
Olin nodded as he wiped away the tears with his arm.
“It’s alright to be scared. It’s how we stay alive. However, it’s what you do when you’re scared that defines you.”
Olin nodded. But he was still not budging.
Enterprise smiled as she stroked her son’s brown hair.
“Olin. I’ll tell you something that I learned. Beginnings are often scary, and endings are often sad, so enjoy the middle.”
Irving smiled. “Olin. If it makes you feel any better, your friend Louis is here as well.”
Hearing Louis's name made Olin’s eyes light up.
“He is?”
Irving smiled slightly.
“Yeah. You guys can hang out together here, learn, and even make new friends.”
Olin smiled and hugged his mother and father.
“I love you, Mommy and Daddy.”
Irving and Enterprise felt tears go down their faces. They held Olin in their arms.
“I love you too, my little tack.”
Olin giggled. He made his way to where Louis was. He noticed a dishwasher-blonde boy with hazel eyes.
“Hi. My name is Olin. What’s yours?”
The blonde boy smiled.
“My name is Lucio.”
Louis smiled.
“Hey, your name sounds like mine. I’m Louis.”
Lucio smiled. The three boys made their way inside the school.
Irving, Enterprise, Malcolm, and Oklahoma watch their children walk into the school. Malcolm smiled as he walked up to Irving.
“I told you they would be fine.”
Irving nodded as he wiped away a tear. Malcolm wrapped an arm around Irving’s shoulder. Irving smiled.
“Hey, I was thinking. You want to hang out at my place? I figured since the kids will be gone a few hours, I figured we can hang out together.”
Malcolm nodded. “Sure. Sounds like an amazing idea. You want to come also, honey?”
Oklahoma nodded. “Sure. I could use the company. I'll also call New Jersey and Samuel to see if they want to come as well.”
Irving and Enterprise nodded as they went back to their car and drove away from the school.
Enterprise noticed Irving was not taking them to the house.
“Irving, where are we going?”
Irving sighed.
“To visit an old friend. I know you were wondering why there were flowers in the trunk.”
Enterprise nodded.
Soon, the couple reached a cemetery. Irving grabbed the flowers as they walked through the graves.
Irving stopped at a dark granite gravestone. He read it with a somber look on his face.
“Robert Sharp. 1918-1944”
Irving placed his hand on the gravestone.
“Hey, Robert. It’s me, Irving. I’m here to say hello again like I do every year.”
Irving turned his head as Enterprise stared at him. She smiled slightly as Irving looked at the gravestone.
“I’ve been great. I have a wife and a beautiful son. Even gave him your surname as his middle name in honor of you.”
Irving reached for the red roses and a pack of Lucky Strikes and placed them on the tombstone.
“These are for you, Robert.”
Irving felt a tear go down his face. He wiped it away.
“Well, I suppose this is goodbye. I miss you.”
Irving saluted the tombstone and walked back to Enterprise.
They got back into the car. Enterprise and Irving were silent.
Enterprise looked at her husband with a blank expression on her face. “I never knew you visited his grave every year.”
Irving smiled slightly.
“Robert was born in September, and I told him I would always try to visit him the month he was born. It’s a promise I made him on D-Day.”
Enterprise nodded and smiled slightly. “I’m glad you still care about him and think about him. All these years later.”
Irving smiled as he looked at Enterprise.
“Hey, how about we go to the park? It should not be too busy.”
Enterprise nodded, and the couple drove to the park.
The park was quiet. The couple found a bench, and they sat on it and relaxed.
The green leaves on the trees were changing color. Irving smiled.
“The trees look so beautiful.”
After a while, the couple got off the bench and walked to a fountain. Enterprise had a gold coin ready.
“Want to make a wish?”
Irving nodded. Enterprise flipped the coin into the water.
After a moment of quiet calm, Enterprise smiled at her husband. She held his hand.
“So what was your wish?”
Irving giggled. “I thought it was bad luck to tell another person what you wished for, as doesn’t it mean it will not come true?”
“C’mon, you can tell me.”
“Alright. I wished that I could spend more time with you and the children. The Commander has been having me run around like a maniac to do things around the base. I mean, it’s honestly better than the odd jobs I had back in the day. However, they vary so much in terms of importance and energy. One moment I’m making sure that all the meowfficers are in the cattery, the next I’m helping the Commander make his coffee.”
Enterprise giggled. “So you act like another one of the Commander’s secretaries?”
Irving blushed as he scratched his head. “I guess I am, in a way. I don’t mind it, however.”
Enterprise nodded. “I know I’ve been busy, doing missions for the Commander as well. Once I finished breastfeeding Olin, Vestal cleared me for combat duty. Vestal knows we are planning on not having any more children after Olin and Little Enterprise. My missions have mostly been training Little Enterprise. And helping Bismarck, Tirpitz, and Littorio train Maria, Marlene, and Helga. Those three can use riggings like their mother, but they still need a ton of practice.”
Irving laughed. “I heard Olin and the other boys tried to use their riggings.”
Enterprise giggled. “Yeah. The only issue is that they cannot use them for long. Poor Olin. I swear, after he used his rigging longer than ten minutes, he was gasping for air like he had run a marathon. I believe they would be more useful as coastal defense and recon.”
Irving nodded. “I’m sure the Commander will find a use for Olin and the other boys in the future.”
Irving looked at the trees. The birds chirped as h closed his eyes.
“I suppose we should head home. We don’t want to keep Malcolm and Oklahoma waiting.”
Enterprise nodded, and they made their way back to the car.
Soon, the couple reached home. Samuel and New Jersey were already there. Irving smiled.
“Hey you two!”
New Jersey smiled as she rubbed her belly. She was eight months pregnant with her and Samuel’s daughter, Nicole. She smiled as she waddled to the porch.
“We’ll be inside if you need us for anything.”
Soon, Malcolm and Oklahoma joined the group. The men played poker on the porch while the shipgirls sat in the living room together.
Malcolm sighed. “Hard to believe it has been five years already.”
Samuel nodded. “Yeah. Time goes by you fast, doesn’t it?”
Irving giggled. “Hard to believe you and New Jersey are going to have a daughter soon.”
Samuel smiled. “Yeah. What about you Irving? You thinking of having more kids?”
Irving smiled. “We already have our hands full with both Olin and Little Enterprise. I don’t want to push my luck.”
Malcolm nodded. “Same here. I’m perfectly fine with just Louis.
The men went quiet. Irving pulled out a small cooler full of cherry sodas. He passed them out.
“So, how have the others been?”
Samuel giggled. “Larry’s been well. I heard he and his marines are now Nagato’s bodyguards.”
Malcolm smiled. “I heard that Arizona and Warren are thinking about getting married soon.”
Irving smiled. “How about Littorio and Fabio?”
“They’ve been busy ever since Vincenzo was born two years ago. I heard Fabio gave him the middle name Alonzo, after a man who saved his life back in Africa. Maria has been well, from what Fabio has told me. She has been an amazing older sister to Vincenzo.”
Malcolm smiled. “How about the Sakura Empire?”
“They’ve been good as well. I heard Zuikaku found someone named Arata Kondo, and she has a daughter named Hana, and Atago and Haruto got married.”
“Anything on the Northern Parliament?”
“From what I know, Mihail Larinov married Kirov. They have a daughter named Anya, and a son named Aleksei. I also know Nikolay Simornov and Gangut are also married, and they have two daughters named Nadia and Vera. They also have a son named Dmitri.”
Irving smiled. “How have you guys been?”
“New Jersey and I have been good. She's excited about having a daughter, as thought we would never have a daughter. We dropped off Merle before you guys as we didn't know when the school opened.”
Irving smiled and nodded. “So you are having an October baby like I am?”
Samuel nodded. “Yep. It looks like October is a popular month for children to be born.”
“What about you Mal? How are you, Lou and Okie?”
Malcolm smiled. “Good. We dropped off Louis at school with you guys, and now we are just hanging out.”
After a while, the small party died down. Samuel and Malcolm left with New Jersey and Oklahoma.
Irving and Enterprise were once again alone. Irving noticed a sweet smell coming from the kitchen.
Irving entered the kitchen to see his wife taking some chocolate chip cookies out of the oven. He smiled.
“Those smell great, honey.”
Enterprise smiled. “Thanks.”
She embraced Irving and kissed him on the lips.
Irving giggled. “Mind me asking, but where’s Little Enterprise? I didn’t see her get dropped off at school.”
Enterprise smiled. “Oh, she’s with Yorktown II and Hornet II. She’s training to become a KANSEN like me.”
Irving smiled. “It’s a good thing both of our children are getting an education.”
He smiled.
“You want to dance?”
Enterprise nodded, and Irving grabbed an old 78 record. He placed it on the turntable.
The notes of “It’s Been a Long Long Time.” filled the room. Enterprise and Irving were in an embrace as they slowly danced in each other’s arms.
Enterprise leaned into his ear. “I love this song.”
Irving smiled. “Why else would I propose to you with it, and it was the first song we danced to at our wedding?”
Enterprise smiled back as they continued to slow dance to the music.
After a while, Enterprise and Irving were sitting on the couch. Irving placed his arm on Enterprise’s shoulder.
“Hey, you want to hang out on the porch together? We haven’t done that in forever.”
Enterprise nodded as they both got off the couch. They walked to the back porch in the backyard. They sat on the hanging seat together.
Enterprise blushed. “Irving, I have something to tell you.”
Irving smirked and giggled. “You’re pregnant again?”
Enterprise blushed and giggled. “No.”
Irving smiled. “Then what is it?”
Enterprise sighed. “I know.”
Irving’s eyes went wide as she pulled out the photo of her and Irving on the beach together. Irving laid back, as Enterprise placed her head on his chest.
“Vestal asked me if I wanted to read what was on the back of this photo. I told her yes. I knew about the wishes before we even got married.”
Enterprise smiled as she rubbed her husband's face.
“You know. I say we did a good job.”
Irving smiled as he nodded softly. He stroked Enterprise’s hair as she fell asleep on his chest.
He stopped to enjoy this moment between them. A moment that, sometimes, he thought would never come.
He smiled. He had done everything he wished for.
And he was complete.
(And with that, that's the end of The Exploits of Irving Reese.)
(I have already made a list of people I wanted to thank for giving me both the courage and inspiration, either directly or indirectly, to write this story. You can find that list on the AO3 version if you want to read it.)

(Thank you for reading The Exploits of Irving Reese. I want to thank every reader who came from AO3, Reddit, or even my old Fanfiction.net account. You guys gave me the courage to keep writing fanfiction, and I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart.)
(Here on reddit, I want to give a special thank you to u/TitanSlayrOG, u/ArchiveSlave, and u/Nuke87654, for giving me the inspiration to write in the first place. None of this would have been possible without you fellas, and I want to thank you, from the bottom of my heart.)
(I hope you fellas have a wonderful day.)
Yours ~LeutnantzurSeeFritzSalami Python
submitted by LeutnantzurSeeFritz to AzureLane [link] [comments]


2023.06.02 05:31 vhsbxby AITA for not moving back in with my mother?

So, I (20F) am a college student living in the dorms by myself this summer and have been ever since I came here. For some backstory, around three years ago when COVID hit, I was with my great-grandmother for spring break; then I got quarantined with her from there. I was very comfortable there because I was able to leave the house and hang out with friends (when quarantine was done) not be watched 24/7, had some sort of privacy, and I didn’t always have to watch my brother since I did that all the time when school was in-person because my mom (42F) did late hours (she now works at home after COVID). My mother and I already have a tipping relationship but back then it was awful. I felt happy with my GG, and she was mad, so she took me off the lease for staying with my GG.
So, I lived with my GG until I went to college in August 2021. So now fast-forward, we have a better relationship with each other, and my great-grandmother passed away in February this year and gave the house to my uncle. He has kids and a wife, so there wouldn’t be any room for me, and my grandma doesn’t really like having company at her house much (plus me living with her would remind her of how she didn’t get the house.) Anyway, that meant I didn’t have anywhere else to go. I had asked my mother if I could come back because and she had said in a snarky tone, “What’s home to you anyway?” I took that as a sign that she didn’t want me back home. Last week, I told her I didn’t start summer classes till the end of June, and she got mad asking why I didn’t just come home.
I told her about what she said about “what’s home to me”. She acted as if she didn’t recall it, then said it wasn’t meant to be taken “that way” and that I was being childish that I didn’t ask her about it. She then went on and on saying how I never want to be around her, how I don’t like her, and how I don’t respect her.
She kept bringing up things in the past how when were at my GG’s house for the funeral and we were supposed to room with each other, I had advocated we should be in separate rooms to avoid any conflict and I wanted to room with my brother since I hadn't seen him in awhile. I thought it was the only logical reason at the time, especially with everyone on edge. I got angry and started ranting about how I never said I didn’t like her but every time we are together that we argue, and it turns ugly so why even bother? Then we just started yelling at each other until she said she doesn’t want to talk to me anymore and she cut me off.
I don’t know if I’m the asshole for not giving it another chance and overthinking what she said but I honestly don’t want to move in if we still have heated arguments over the phone knowing it would be 10x worse in person.
A quick thing I do miss my brother and he understands what’s going on and why I don’t want to go back home. If anything, my mother, and him have a way closer bond.
submitted by vhsbxby to AmItheAsshole [link] [comments]


2023.06.02 05:24 Shoddy-Beginning1464 ISO Rental Home NW MS

Looking for a rental home in the Holly Springs, Olive Branch Southaven, Horn Lake areas. Prefer 3br but can deal with 2 and must have 2 bathrooms.
submitted by Shoddy-Beginning1464 to mississippi [link] [comments]


2023.06.02 05:18 RamenInTheSheets I'd like to share a story of a homeless man called Nobby that I like to think Linus is based off

I'd like to share a story of a homeless man called Nobby that I like to think Linus is based off
So firstly, before I get into it - Linus is 100% not based off this man - but I'm sure a lot of us have characters in this game that resembles real-life people we know.
Anyway! Nobby! He was a lovely man that loved to keep to himself. He was pretty much " famous" in my town for the sole fact he lived in a bus stop.
https://preview.redd.it/fbum03lbni3b1.png?width=700&format=png&auto=webp&s=0906968b45b7dab66c8c9fa1dbc9b58eb66b69b9
People respected him, and respected his space. No one would go into the bus stop, unless it was raining and then he would welcome people in. It was just little shelter but it was his home all year round. Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter - he would always be there.
The bus stop was also located right by a lake, on lucky days you'd might see Nobby taking a dip or a bath in it (I'm not even joking this actually happened and everyone at my school would say it was good luck). He was always dressed when he did this, and if he ever needed to change or anything I believe he would do this behind his home, not sure on that though.
Everyone had a story of Nobby, even me.
The first came from when I was a kid in the 90s. Me and my mum would get the bus outside his home all the time to go into town - and one time I decided to give him my pocket money so he could buy himself a McDonalds (it wasn't a lot only £1.99). A week later when we went to get the bus, he showed me the toy he got in the happy meal and he gave it to me as a gift. If I remember correctly it was a Space Jam toy, but I could be wrong).
My second moment was probably one of the most influential in my life. My school was near by and I would skip lessons and go hang by the lake, as we did back then. At one point I started "seeing" this guy - we were both young teens (13? maybe younger) and still figuring things out and not really knowing that we were gay. We just knew we liked to spend time together, holding hands, play fighting and even kissing.
We'd always do these things by the lake in a hidden area type part one day Nobby caught us. We were both shocked and didn't know how to react. All we were doing was holding hands, but as young queers at that point of time - we didn't think it was right or acceptable.
But Nobby simply smiled and said "it's okay" and walked off. We both left right aware and it did actually lead to us calling off whatever we were doing. But his simple comment left an impression on me and helped me come to terms with my identity.
As I got older I would go to his shelter to talk to him before getting the bus home. He never would really say much and I never really got to learn anything about him, but I did notice that whenever I or someone would talk to him, he would finish with "Thank you for talking to me".
Airel view of his home and the lake - both very close by a bit like Linus and the mountain lake
(Image pulled from google maps)
before anyone points it out, I know the bus shelter in this image looks different to the more recent one, but I will explain that
On multiple occasions, people tried to offer him help - by offering a place to live, from private tennats to the council, but he remained at the bus stop.
There really wasn't a lot known about Nobby apart from his name, that he liked to keep to himself, and that he was happy with where he was living.
There were LOADS of rumours as to why he lived there. Some people speculated that he had lost his family to a fire and now had a phobia of living in doors, others speculated he was just a hippie and "one with nature". In reality, no one really knew for sure and as far as I'm aware, no one found out.
There was even speculation around his name, in the 70's he was known as Ned, at one point this became Ted. Others knew him as Michale and David - but again no one know for a fact.
(I don't think anyone even knew if he had any family or anything).
One thing we can say is he lived at this bus stop for a long time. As mentioned he first moved in during the 70's - and he stayed there until the early 2000's.
He actually became so well known in my town that the bus stop was even given it's postcode/address.
https://preview.redd.it/3h9ctycaqi3b1.png?width=1019&format=png&auto=webp&s=c66f0cf524bc9a4fb6a84b4cbbfe74b60fa6b496
In 2005 some assholes destroyed his home. They trashed his stuff but even worse, they set it on fire - I couldn't find an image of the damage they did but it was bad. After this happened, the local community came together - my school and others hosted fundraisers and ultimately a local church got to work and rebuilt his home.
One step further, a local double glazing company fitted the shelter with the two windows you can see on google maps today - they even offered to fit a fourth wall and a door, but nobby declined this offer. He was happy having his shelter as it was.
He would attend local festivals and events but as I mentioned, he would really keep to himself.
https://preview.redd.it/i426idrdri3b1.png?width=786&format=png&auto=webp&s=6eec3d64b9ab440d41a9aad570e81da5b178918f
In 2006, due his declining health he finally took on the offer to move into a house. The council got him moved into a one-bedroom place quite quickly and he remained there until 2020 - when he sadly passed away.
I'm not too sure on who covered the cost for his funeral and the turnout was small however his memory was not forgotten.
A memorial was set up locally and the shelter now has a plaque that dedicates that space to him.
But anyway, that's the story of Nobby. The local homeless man that reminds me of Linus. I hope you've been able to see the links and connections to him.
He was an amazingly lovely man and I hope his memory is never forgotten.

https://preview.redd.it/m7iokptivi3b1.png?width=1039&format=png&auto=webp&s=1d93ddfd6629903c00040c8bd3c301cfadad5ec2
Couple of links for sources and proof:https://www.peterboroughimages.co.uk/nobby-the-tramp/https://www.peterboroughtoday.co.uk/news/people/final-farewell-to-peterboroughs-nobby-2503630https://www.peterboroughtoday.co.uk/news/people/calls-to-honour-memory-of-peterboroughs-nobby-2210060
Edit: Just adding in some more details below, a couple of folk asked me to get picture of the plaque so I went and did so!
So the plaque confirms his name as Micahel Ross - I did read some sources that disputed this, but I am guessing after he moved into his own place this was the name he went by.
https://preview.redd.it/rsa5a4z1sm3b1.png?width=4032&format=png&auto=webp&s=3773b7d7b770197dbffa48cf05f61ee266e75d59
The next two pictures are of the nearby lake, the first one being what he would use as a little hideaway area so he could bath and wash things. The second pic is the more opened up area.
If you zoom in you'll see some baby geese.
https://preview.redd.it/f6l682rgsm3b1.png?width=3345&format=png&auto=webp&s=a032e2b76c9394b299963bc948d38cf925addacb
https://preview.redd.it/bx30nvsism3b1.png?width=4032&format=png&auto=webp&s=598c32ea454c8fde86cca133de79d820b8f39b64
I forgot to mention in my post originally, but just like Linus and his place - within walking distance there is also a very small traintrack and station. It wasn't open so I couldn't go in to take any pictures but I leant over the gate to grab some.
https://preview.redd.it/wq1qdaqssm3b1.png?width=4032&format=png&auto=webp&s=5cb1231492ba37f3d10cb121a24328f2847e6f75
https://preview.redd.it/8sx75e5vsm3b1.png?width=4032&format=png&auto=webp&s=07b077baf7ae8fe29c0346c60f19a1906a983eb3
But yeah that's everything! Thank you everyone for reading about Nobby - I'm so happy to see that his memory is going to live on through others as well! He was such a lovely man and deserved to be honoured.
I did try to find the memorial, I remember hearing there was going to be a tree or something planted, but I wasn't able to locate this and I think it may have not happened due to Covid.
I have asked in the PeterboroughUk sub to see if anyone knows but we will see!
Thank you again for reading about Nobby!
submitted by RamenInTheSheets to StardewValley [link] [comments]


2023.06.02 04:45 Gameran Dexter Flux Presents: Sound-Off! - Part One

Previously unannounced press conference, May 31, 2023.

Cameras are rolling as the owner of Mann Corporation, Shay D. Mann, hair in a perfectly put-together part, adorned in a navy suit and white tie, steps forward to a podium, in front of a WiR backdrop, microphone in hand.
Mann: My name is Shay Duncan Mann. And I am the new owner and proprietor of Wrestling is Reddit. I can assure you that your beloved Allen Paisner will be returning in the future, however, he could not make tonight's show due to some…
Mann smirks.
Mann: Legal complications. But fear not, I’ll be taking his place in the booth tonight.
The crowd erupts with applause and cheers, eager to witness the rebirth of their beloved wrestling promotion, even without Paisner for the evening.
Mann: Tonight, we embark on an exhilarating journey, as WiR takes a bold leap forward. I stand before you not just as the owner, but as a “fan”—a fan who understands the passion and dedication that this community shares for the world of wrestling.
Mann tries to hide a grimace as he proclaims his “fandom”. The crowd anticipates Mann’s next move
Mann: For too long, WiR has been dormant, unable to proceed, some of the talent trapped in Europe with no way home. But this, is no more! Today, we resurrect the spirit of WiR, bringing it back to life with a bang! And what better way to open things up by “Sounding Off"! Presented by the one and only, Dexter Flux
The crowd gives an actual cheer with genuine enthusiasm at the mention of Flux, their sort of god-king.
Mann: "Sound Off" isn't just a name; it's a rallying cry! It's a call for all of you, the WiR faithful, to voice your opinions, to express your passion, and to join us in this incredible journey. This event will be a celebration of everything that makes WiR special—the wrestling, the community, and the shared experiences that bring us all together.
The press conference crowd, whose papering becomes increasingly obvious the more Mann talks, is enthusiastic, as they eagerly hang onto Shay D. Mann's every word, perhaps a little too eagerly.
Mann: Tonight, in this very ring, our talented roster will ignite your imagination, deliver jaw-dropping performances, and create moments that will be etched in your memories forever. Sound Off! will leave you on the edge of your seats, craving for more.
The crowd roars with the excitement of a hair dryer pop.
Mann: But this is not just a show; it's a community. Together, we'll embrace the highs and lows, the victories and defeats. We'll share our opinions, engage in spirited debates, and build something truly remarkable. WiR is your platform—your voice will be heard!
The crowd erupts once again, their cheers echoing through the arena, showcasing their dedication to WiR, or getting paid to be there
Mann: So, my friends, get ready to immerse yourselves in the magic of WiR once again. Open your hearts, open your minds, and let the exhilaration of "Sound Off" wash over you! Tonight, we begin a new era—one that will redefine the landscape of this sport. Welcome back to WiR, my friends. Because Wrestling… is Revived.
With a sly smile, Shay D. Mann raises his microphone high, signaling the start of the show, as things fade to a video of Dexter Flux. His face is slightly out of frame as the camera points to his chest and chin.
Crowd: YEEEEAAAHHHHHH WE LOVE FLUX! WE LOVE FLUX!
Flux: Hey, it’s me, Dexter Flux. Welcome, uh, welcome you know, back to wrestl- Ugh, sorry, something was like, in my throat. Wrestling is Reddit. Welcome back to Wrestling is Reddit. This is House Party.

Knott's Berry Farm, June 1st, 2023.

With that rousing introduction, we now cut back to the day of, with a drone shot of the ring set up at Knott’s Berry Farm, fans on makeshift stands in the berry field, a parking lot and farmhouse off in the far distance, before [off brand royalty free music] begins to play!
Crowd: YEEEAAHHHH
Through the makeshift curtain, Tony “The Milkman” Stevens appears, wearing a pair of off-blue tights with cow white print, a single blue elbow pad on the left side, with a pair of gloved hands- in which, he holds a pristine white umbrella. The Milkman points his umbrella right down the lens of the camera…
Milkman: Good to be back, fellas, and good to see you, Mr. Cameraman! Been a while.
Mann: And here comes the Milkman, and a huge ovation from this crowd! But no Horde jacket with him!
Woodbridge: Or any jacket. But we’re in Anaheim, its hot out
Mann You’re right. But he did prepare for rain.
The Milkman hands off his umbrella to a fan at ringside, before sliding under the bottom rope, and ascending the left hard camera turnbuckle, firing up the crowd, before doing a backflip off the top rope, and into the ring!
Crowd: YEEAAAAHHHHHH
The Camera cuts back to the entranceway, as the music changes, to Skillet
Crowd: BOOOOOOOOOOO
Jericho Styles appears on the ramp, adorned in an Allen Iverson Nuggets Jersey. He blows off a fan’s high five attempt, before sliding into the ring and taking a position opposite of Stevens.
Babaganoush: WiR fans… welcome to Anaheim California, the beautiful Knotts Berry Farm! Welcome! To Sound Off! Presented by Dexter Flux.
Crowd: W-I-R! W-I-R! W-I-R! W-I-R!
Banaganoush: Our opening contest is scheduled for one fall to a finish. Introducing first, to my right… wrestling out San Jose California, weighing in at 217 pounds, Jericho… Styles!
Crowd: BOOOOOOOOO
Babaganoush: And his opponent, to my left. Weighing in at 208 pounds…
Crowd begins to rise
Babaganoush: Wrestling out of… Brooklyn, New York! Tony… “The Milkmaaannnnnnn” Stevens!
Crowd erupts into indiscriminate cheers
DING DING DING
The Milkman and Styles circle each other as the bell rings, before Styles takes the initiative with a lock up attempt, which he quickly transitions to a rear waist lock. Milkman thinks on his feet, and grabs the arm of Styles lifting it above his head, and turning to break the lock, before using it to get behind Jericho, who uses his size advantage to overpower Stevens and apply a hammerlock, using the position to turn Stevens around, and take him down to the mat with an arm drag, maintaining control of the arm, which he quickly leverages into a pinfall…
ONE
Milkman gets his free shoulder up!
Crowd: Yay!
Woodbridge: JZ leveraging some technical skill here in the opening moments of this one, but can’t keep the Milkman down!
Mann: Only one count for Styles
Styles refuses to relinquish his grip on the arm, and as Stevens gets up, pushes him back into the corner before he can balance himself. Styles whips Stevens across the ring to the other corner, before charging in and being met with Milkman’s knee! Stevens capitalizes on his newly made opening by delivering a sharp kick to the chest of Styles, before whipping him against the ropes. Styles charges back, and tries to use his momentum to catch Stevens with a hip toss, but can only get Stevens a few inches of height off the ground before the Milkman lands on his feet, lifts and Styles up for an atomic drop, which forces him to let go of Stevens. With his arm now free, The Milkman plants himself, and delivers a [devastating lariat]. With what self-preservation he has left, Styles rolls to the outside, and onto the grass.
Woodbridge: And The Milkman just leveled Styles with that lariat!
Mann: Not something we’re quite used to seeing from Stevens, some hard strikes early in this one that really seemed to throw Styles off his game.
Styles pulls himself up by the barricade, to the direct ire of front-row fans who continue to heckle him. Back in the ring, Stevens throws himself off the far-end ropes, charges in for a dive… before Styles ducks down to avoid being hit. Stevens doesn’t change speed, and instead, throws himself between the ropes for a 6-1-9 that hits nothing but air, launching himself back into the ring, and landing on his feet. After this feat of dexterity, and with Styles on the ground outside, The Milkman takes a bow for his efforts.
Crowd: YEEEAAHHH!!
Four dues in front of the hard cam: WE LOVE MILK! WE LOVE MILK!
At a count of eight, Styles, returns to the ring, and the two wrestlers square off again. Styles gets the better of the two on the lockup, delivering a stomp to Stevens’ foot, before kneeling him in the stomach. Styles lifts Stevens up for a suplex, but Stevens shifts his weight and lands on his feet behind him! The Milkman attempts a German suplex, but Styles throws a firm elbow to the jaw and repositions behind Stevens for a German attempt of his own. Stevens gives Styles a receipt with a firm, calcium-hardened elbow of his own, before bounding over to the ropes, and attempting a lionsault to a standing Styles! Styles catches him, but Stevens slips free, pushes Styles into the corner, and he takes a chest-first bump. Stevens harnesses his agility once more to get into poison-rana position on the shoulders of Styles, but Styles uses one arm to flip Milkman off balance and send him tumbling to the ground. Quickly, Stevens attempts to transition to a sunset flip but has to abandon ship as Styles tries to poke him in the eyes, jamming his finger into the canvas as a result. Stevens uses the moment to leap up to Bret’s rope, turn around, and deliver a dropkick to Styles! Stevens then rolls to the apron, and pumps up the crowd with a wave of his hand…
Crowd: YEEEAAAHHH WOOO!!
Guy already 4 cheap beers in: I hate this Styles guy!
…and delivers another springboard dropkick, this one from the top rope! Stevens flexes for the crowd, before rolling into a cover…
ONE
TWO
Styles gets a shoulder up!
Mann: Does The Milkman seem a bit different to you, Woodbridge?
Woodbridge: Milkman definitely wants to show off early, he looks like he hasn’t lost a step!
Mann: Maybe even gained one, and it almost feels like he’s being a bit disrespectful of his opponent, don’t you think?
Woodbridge: And what are you insinuating?
Mann: Well, maybe performing in front of a WiR crowd again has him a little more amped than usual! Trying a lot of those high-risk maneuvers early- we’re only a few minutes into this one, folks!
After the Kickout, Stevens signals to the cheering crowd, runs off the ropes, and attempts a wheelbarrow bulldog, but as he pushes himself up, Styles swivels his hips, and Stevens face plants into the mat.
Mann: And Stevens’ showing off cost him there!
Styles knees Stevens in the stomach, before putting his head between the legs, and sets up for the Styles Clash! He can’t lock in Milkman’s arms, and Stevens uses them to push off the mat to sit up above Jericho! Stevens tries throwing a punch at Jericho’s head, but he pivots his plan, and adjusts to deliver a powerbomb! As he releases, Stevens adjusts his body and manages to mitigate some of the damage by landing awkwardly on the back foot, stumbling back into the ropes.
Mann: If Styles hit that, it could have spelled an early end for Stevens!
Stevens pulls himself back to his feet using the ropes and charges back in with a clothesline attempt, but Styles sees it coming, grabs the arm and uses it to shift the momentum, and lifts Stevens for a tilt-a-whirl Backbreaker!
Crowd: BOOOOOO
Mann: And Styles seems to be in control here.
Woodbridge: Stevens took some early momentum, but Styles has had a counter for everything Stevens has thrown at him.
Styles pulls Stevens up to his feet by the hair, before casually flipping one of Stevens’ arms over his shoulder for a uranage position before holding his arms out to the crowd!
Crowd: BOOOOOOOOO
Styles smirks at the boos incoming, and throws Stevens with a t-bone suplex. Once Stevens is planted, Styles stomps the stomach to force him to sit up, before stretching the arms behind for a surfboard stretch!
Styles: I’m a technical wrestler now, assholes!
Mann: Styles slowing things down here, grounding the Milkman
Woodbridge: Not a bad strategy, we saw how The Milkman was in control with a faster pace!
One guy holding up a sign with Goku: WE-LOVE-GOKU! WE-LOVE-GOKU!
Everyone else in the crowd is deafeningly silent
Styles: AND WHAT WOULD GOKU DO HERE, STUPID IDIOT?
Styles breaks his hold and approaches the hard camera ropes to yell at the fan more
Styles: Dragon Ball is overrated trash!
Styles kicks Stevens back to the mat
Styles That one was for you, fucking weeb!
As Stevens once again rises to his feet, Styles punches him and he falls back to the mat, just for Styles to pick him back up, and line up against the ropes, for an irish whip. As Stevens returns to sender, Styles throws him straight up in the air… and football punts him in the chest on the way down!
Styles: Hey weeb guy! This one’s for you too! I saw a Japanese dude do it once!
Styles lifts Stevens up, sets him up with the arms behind the back… and delivers a slow, sloppy [tiger driver], before placing a single foot on the chest, and flexing
ONE
TWO
Kickout!
Crowd: YEEEAAAHHHH
Woodbridge: Well, he didn’t quite get all of it.
Styles takes time to put Stevens in a Camel Clutch.
Mann: And it seems Styles didn’t want to get left out of showing off!
Woodbridge: Well, he certainly nailed Milkman with that kick, but the Tiger Driver left a lot to be desired.
Mann: Styles seems to have control of this match when it’s slowed down, wearing Stevens with this technical wrestling prowess.
Woodbridge, reaching under the desk for a paper bag: Everyone wants to be a hero in front of the first crowd in two years
Styles releases Stevens from the hold by battering him in the back of the head with a forearm, picking him up by the scruff, and bouncing him off the ropes for an Irish whip and hitting him with the kitchen sink! But Stevens wastes no motion, and grabs the leg, turning Styles over for a rollup!
ONE
TWO
THR-
Kickout!
Crowd: BOOOOOO
Woodbridge: He almost got him with that rollup! From out of nowhere!
The Milkman tries to capitalize, but Styles returns the favor with a boot to the stomach.
Styles: I’ll show you to make a damn fool out of me!
Styles hoists Stevens up for a vertical suplex, before taking two steps and chucking him across the top rope! The Milkman bounces off the top rope, makes a deflating noise as the air is forced out of his lungs, and flops down to the floor outside!
Mann: Styles with some kind of inverted lawn-dart maneuver! Woodbridge, do you know what that’s called?
Woodbridge: Nope.
Crowd: BOOOOOO
Styles: Come on, milk boy, you have anything else for me?
Stevens crawls back into the ring, holding onto his ribs, before Styles once again kicks him in the stomach, and applies a chin lock in the ring.
Mann: Styles has found his target! If Stevens can’t breathe, he can’t fight!
Woodbridge: The young Styles showing some veteran instinct here, Mann, if Stevens has the wind knocked out of him, he can’t perform those high-flying moves he was nailing Styles with earlier!
Styles turns to the side, and locks Milkman in a body scissors, using his legs to apply pressure to the ribcage. Stevens tries to use his free legs to push both men closer to the ropes, but can only move them a few feet. Stevens smacks the mat with his free hand, and a guy in the crowd does it to the barricade. Stevens smacks the mat again, and a few more fans join in.
Crowd Smacking the barricade
Stevens pushes towards the ropes again, making more progress. Styles sees this, and releases the hold, grabbing Stevens by the hair with one hand, tights in the other, and pulling him up to his feet.
Styles: You want the ropes so bad, here, have them!
Styles runs over to the ropes with the Milkman, and hurls him between the middle and top rope, dumping him to the outside where he lands with a noticeable thud. Styles follows him to the outside, taking his time to savor the boos of the crowd, before delivering a knee to a rising Milkman, and lifting him for a vertical suplex on the grass! Styles rolls into the ring… and back out again to break the count. Despite the present beating, Stevens once again pulls himself to his feet.
Crowd: YEAAAH
And Styles knees him in the ribs.
Crowd: BOOOOOOOOOO
Styles rolls Stevens back into the ring before taking a moment to confront the drunk fan who jeered him earlier. After his verbal exchange, Styles delivers a scoop slam to Stevens to keep him down, and the pressure on the body, before sliding into a cover.
ONE
TWO
Kickout!
Mann: Forcing Stevens to exert more energy there on the kick out, after continuing his assault on the ribs. A very solid strategy by Styles in this one.
Styles picks The Milkman up once more and prepares another vertical suplex, but the Milkman slips free! Stevens lands behind Styles, hooks his arms, and goes for a crucifix pin!
ONE
TWO
THRE-
Styles barely escapes! The Milkman wastes no motion as Styles rises back to his feet, bouncing off the hard camera ropes, and forcing Styles to drop back to the mat to avoid a strike. Stevens bounces off the opposite end, and Styles barely avoids him once more, this time with a slide-step that sees him almost lose his balance. Styles tries to save his momentum by charging at Stevens as he bounces off the ropes a third time, but Stevens pulls down the top rope, sending Styles to the apron! Stevens kicks Styles in the knee, before going through the middle rope to meet Styles on the apron. Styles tries to sweep out the leg of the Milkman, knocking himself down to one knee on the attempt, but Stevens jumps over it, and catches Styles with a Calcium Kiss Superkick that sends Styles to the grass below!
Crowd: YEAAAHH
With his foe grounded, Stevens looks to the crowd, positions himself in the middle of the ring, and before Styles can discover where he is, Stevens takes flight, springboarding off the middle rope with an Asai Milksault! On the landing, Stevens’ left knee awkwardly hits the uneven yard, and he visibly grimaces before falling backward.
Mann: And both men are down after that! Stevens with a ferocious comeback attempt, but he may have hurt himself!
Woodbridge: Someone hasn’t been taking care of their lawn.
Stevens hears the air exit the crowd, and pulls himself up, giving them a reassuring thumbs up, before using the leg he landed on to kick Styles in the back of his knee, before throwing him back into the ring. Stevens puts one leg into the ring through the middle rope, before looking into the crowd- and deciding to ascend the turnbuckles instead! The Milkman leaps, and delivers a diving hurricanrana! As Styles tries to roll to the ropes, Stevens uses their good leg to stomp on his chest, before pulling him back to the middle of the ring, and hitting a Standing Milksault! Stevens maintains the cover!
ONE
TWO
THR-
Styles gets a shoulder up!
Woodbridge: And Stevens throwing everything into this assault on Styles, but it still wasn’t enough to put him down!
Crowd: Let’s Go Milk-man! Let’s Go Milk-man!
Stevens picks Styles up, and lifts him onto his shoulders…
Woodbridge: He’s going for the Milky Way!
…But the injured knee can’t hold up the weight, and both men crash to the mat.
Entrance Music begins to play as a small, skinny wrestler in a leather jacket waltzes towards the two downed competitors
Crowd: BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
Mann: And that’s Raven Van Loupe! Van Loupe is here at Sound Off!
Woodbridge: These two formed an alliance last time we saw them! But will it hold after the time off?
Van Loupe enters the ring, despite the protests of WiR official Tai Ni Wong, and glances at the pair as both try to pull themselves up, Stevens using the ropes, Styles on his own. Van Loupe looks back and forth… before kicking Stevens in the injured knee!
DING DING DING
Babaganoush: And here is your winner…
Van Loupe helps Styles to his feet, and the pair begin to lay the boots on Stevens.
Babaganoush: By disqualification as a result of interference, and striking a WiR official…
Styles takes the knee of the downed Milkman, and lifts it above his head, before thrashing it against the canvas.
Babaganoush: At a time of…
Van Loupe has Styles lift Stevens by the hair once more, before she runs to the ropes, jumps off the second rope, and Styles pushes The Milkman into the cutter.
Babaganoush: Ten minutes and twenty-three seconds…
Styles and Van Loupe stand over Stevens, and Styles prepares to deliver the finishing blow as he signals to the crowd that he is looking for the Styles Clash!
Banaganoush: Tony “The Milkmannnnnn” Stevens!!!!!!
Van Loupe: Are you done?
Van Loupe gives Styles a thumbs up, but as he goes to finish off Stevens, a mighty howl plays over the speakers as a short, scruffy man runs to the ring.
Woodbridge: That’s The Werewolf!
Mann Johnny, A Werewolf, is here! And he’s rushing to the ring!
Styles lets Stevens flop back down to the mat, holding his knee, and turns to face the incoming Werewolf as he slides under the ropes and into the ring. Styles steps before Vna Loupe to intercept, but the fresh Werewolf knocks him off his feet with The Pounce. The Werewolf comes face to face with Van Loupe in the center of the ring!
Crowd: AWOOOOOO
Mann: Pandemonium has broken out in the first match of Sound Off! And the fans are loving it!
Crowd: WE LOVE WERE-WOLF! clap clap clap clap clap WE LOVE WERE-WOLF!
Woodbridge: The Pack Wolf and the Werewolf facing off in the center of the ring!
Mann: And these two have unfinished business! The Lifeblood exists because they took issue with being left behind for signings like Werewolf!
Johnny feints left, before throwing a right jab! The Werewolf unleashes Pack Tactics on Van Loupe! As he stops throwing punches, and signals for another pounce, Styles kips up, and levels the werewolf with a lariat!
Crowd: BOOOOO
Van Loupe and Styles begin to wear down the Werewolf, delivering blow after blow to Johnny as the boos rain from the crowd. Van Loupe delivers a stomp to the knee of The Milkman to keep him down before they and Jericho set up to finish off styles…
When an Italian Flag appears on the video screen, and an absolute guido of an Italian-American, hair dripping with greaseslowly walks out from behind the curtain, wearing a Shohei Ohtani jersey!
…A Shohei Ohtani… New York Mets jersey.
Crowd: BOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
Mann: That’s The Apex! Arturo Stiglione! Stiglione is in the yard!
Stiglione slowly scopes out the scene on his way to the ring, seeing the downed Milkman on the left of the ring, the downed werewolf on the right, and the standing Lifeblood members in the middle. He slowly ascends the stairs and stands across from Van Loupe and Styles.
Wodbridge: And The Apex, not a fan of Johnny, a very terse relationship between these two.
Apex: Hell ova job ya done hea’
Van Loupe: If you know what’s good for you, you’ll stand aside, and maybe we won’t hurt you.
Apex: Dont’cha mind me, just monitoring the situation.
Styles pulls Van Loupe aside, and the two have an impromptu conference, before nodding along, and continuing their attack on Werewolf.
Crowd: BOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
With The Lifeblood’s backs turned Styles looks down at his fist. He looks down at the blue and orange he’s adorned in, and loosens up his arm. He points to the back of Styles, who senses the crowd rising, and turns around… to be met with a spinning backfist!!
Crowd: YEEEAAAHHHH
Mann: Styles has made his choice! And he chooses to stand against The Lifeblood!
Van Loupe hears his body hit the canvas, and turns around, to be met with the sight of a downed Styles! The Apex takes off his Mets jersey… to reveal an Angels jersey! The Werewolf is back on his feet, and he and the Apex come face to face! Van Loupe rises back up at the wrong time, as the two share a nod, and deliver a double clothesline! Seeing the situation turn against him, Styles slinks to the outside, and grabs a chair from under the ring, before sneaking back in behind the Werewolf and Apex, who have turned to the hard camera. Styles raises the chair to strike…
...And gets blasted by a Calcium Kiss from The Milkman!
Crowd: WOOOOOO
The three faces are all back on their feet in the middle of the ring, standing tall! As the three begin to celebrate…
“It’s a Psychobilly Freakout!
Mann: That’s the music of Mason Saunders! But where is he?
Saunders’ music plays, but the entranceway remains empty.
Woodbridge: He’s behind us, Mann! He just jumped the barricade!
Mann: But he’s outnumbered, Woodbridge, both his allies are down!
Undeterred by the numbers disadvantage, Saunders slides behind the faces, and as they recognize the trap, Saunders is already in the ring! The Werewolf approaches first and throws a jab that almost seems to bounce off the chin of Saunders. Saunders simply stares, and when the Werewolf tries a second one, Saunders swipes it aside with a tree trunk arm, before launching into action and dropping the Werewolf with a right hook, which catches the Werewolf cleanly on the jaw, who slumps backward onto the canvas. The Milkman tries to charge to his aid, but Saunders delivers a pump kick to put him back on the canvas. The Apex tries to make a move while Saunders’ back is turned facing Stevens, but he fails to do any damage and is swiftly thrown aside. Saunders drops the Milkman again, before turning around to face Apex… who turns around, and flees the ring as fast as possible!
Crowd: BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
Mann: And Stiglione, getting out of dodge as soon as he can!
Woodbridge: And turning tail and running, Stiglione is out of here!
As Stiglione flees up the entranceway, the rest of the Lifeblood begins to pick themselves up. Saunders puts the Werewolf pack down on the canvas with a scoop powerslam, and boots him out of the ring. The Lifeblood stand united, and face the hard camera, Stiglione and Werewolf removed, and the Milkman down on the opposite end of the ring. JZ ascends to the second rope of the left turnbuckle, Van Loupe to the right, and the three all pose for the hard camera!
Mann: And the Lifeblood, although not victorious in the match, is victorious here in the aftermath!
Woodbridge: But wait, The Milkman is trying to get back up!
Mann: Stevens of course, left for the picking, as other members of The Horde are all the way on the other side of the Farm preparing for their match later!
Stevens struggles to pull himself up to his feet, knee buckling under him. Saunders perks up, and stops his pose. Stevens staggers to his feet, and before he can get very far, Saunders turns, and with blinding speed nails Stevens with a disgusting lariat that nearly takes his head off!
Woodbridge: And the Milk has gone spoiled.
The Lifeblood circle the downed Milkman like vultures, and Van Loupe drops to one knee, and picks up the Milkman’s head by the hair! JZ gets down as well, and the two strike a pose, with Milkman’s body as the centerpiece!
Mann: A statement made, by the Lifeblood
Woodbridge: To me, Mann, it looks like the statement was made by Saunders, Van Loupe, and JZ just picked up the scraps!
Van Loupe, holding up Milkman to the Camera victoriously: Take a look, WiR, this is the future! We are the Lifeblood of this company, and don’t forget that!
The camera pans out to JZ and Van Loupe celebrating over Milkman’s body, while Saunders stares from behind, before fading out to a commercial break.
Javier: The following contest is scheduled for ONE FALL, with a 20 minute time limit. Your referee for this contest is Mia So Hung. Introducing first, from Montreal, Canada, weighing in at 119 pounds...... GIGI♥ V!
Crowd: BOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
A significantly smaller but incredibly loud section of the crowd: YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!
Music begins to swell in the background, and the crowd continues their jeering (and occasional unbridled simping) until Gigi steps out, running her hands down her body to the lewd Ashnikko verse.
Mann: Gigi here, surrounded by her legion of fans, who are then surrounded by a legion of people who absolutely despise her. As it should be here in WiR.
Gigi saunters to the ring, taking vaguely suggestive selfies with her ravenous fans on the front row, and generally seeming uncaring about the forthcoming match.
Woodbridge: And given her successes recently, it’s gonna be easy to overlook a competitor like Li Xiao, which very easily could prove fatal.
Gigi steps into the ring, as Javier starts his announcing again.
Javier: And her opponent, from Hong Kong, weighing in at 105 pounds... LI XIAO!!!
A unfamiliar metal song blasts out from the speakers, and a rather familiar hyperactive martial artist bounces out from behind the curtain!
Crowd: YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!
Xiao charges down the ramp with a head of steam, hyped and ready to fight.
Mann: Xiao has some of the most devastating offense in this company, and if she’s able to keep momentum, it could very well shatter Gigi’s plans of making a statement here!
Woodbridge: Yeah, sure, but Xiao’s a tag team specialist first and foremost. She comes in to deal damage and then gets out before she takes too much abuse.
Xiao hops into the ring, and the referee pats both competitors down, before gesturing for the bell.
DING DING DING
In an interesting turn of events, Gigi and Li Xiao start off with a collar-and-elbow tie up in the center of the ring. Gigi takes quick advantage of her height and weight advantage to gain leverage and force Li Xiao backwards into the ropes.
Mann: Gigi starting off with the basics here, knowing Li Xiao is nothing if not an incredibly explosive fighter.
Woodbridge: That’s right, Xiao wrestles like my grandpa used to make moonshine, god rest his soul!
Gigi sets herself, and when Xiao tries to push off the ropes and get Gigi off, Gigi directs the momentum into a modified biel, throwing Li Xiao across the ring! Gigi takes a moment to smirk and pose for the fans - a mistake, as Xiao rolls through the throw and hits the ropes on the opposite side of the ring!
Mann: Incredible strength from Gigi!
Gigi turns around into a sprinting palm strike from Xiao, staggering backwards into the ropes yet again, and Xiao follows up with a big kick to the gut! Gigi’s doubled over, and Xiao drops her with a DDT!
Woodbridge: Xiao’s fired up, and she’s quite possibly looking to end this match before it even gets started!
Xiao with the cover!
1!
2!
Gigi kicks out right at 2, and rolls up, obviously shocked and dazed. The crowd in attendance is split, with the wrestling fans excited to see Gigi on the ropes, and the Gigi fans absolutely in shambles. Xiao is up quickly, as Gigi staggers to her feet - Xiao hits the ropes, springboards, and catches Gigi with a beautiful headscissors!
Crowd: WOOOOOO!
Gigi rolls through, runs the ropes, and comes back with a head of steam! Xiao dodges a clothesline attempt, shoves Gigi to the other rope, and gets ready for the comeback - Gigi catches the ropes! Xiao charges in to press the advantage, and eats an officially branded Gigi♥ boot to the face! Xiao is absolutely rocked, staggering backwards, and this time Gigi takes the initiative and absolutely levels Xiao with a clothesline! Xiao spirals to the mat, and Gigi blows a kiss to the fans in attendance!
Gigi: I am your future champion, and this is the match I’m booked in?
Gigi catches Xiao with a boot to the back of the head! Xiao rolls over, and Gigi drops a knee onto her throat, before going for the cover!
1!
2!
Xiao muscles out of the pin, clutching her head!
Woodbridge: We got two high fliers here, these women make a livin’ out of dodging attacks. Anything that lands here is going to be devastating!
Mann: And right now, it looks like Xiao is barely conscious after those blows to the head!
Gigi gets up, and winks at her fans in attendance and watching live throughout the world.
Crowd: BOOOOOO!/YAAAAAAAAAAY!
Gigi saunters over to Xiao, and plays up the boot she’s about to give - SMALL PACKAGE! SMALL PACKAGE!
1!
2!
Gigi kicks out, and her mood instantly changes. Xiao is staggering to her feet, and takes a full on slap to the face!
Crowd: OOOOOOOOOH!
Mann: What a slap from Gigi, obviously assisted by her official Gigi♥ gloves, sponsored by Fairtex!
Woodbridge: Gigi’s pissed now, and you could hear that slap all the way in Los Angeles!
Xiao clutches her face, and Gigi follows up with a huge kick to the gut! Xiao falls to one knee, and Gigi finishes the trifecta with a roundhouse to the head!
Crowd: OOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHH!
Xiao collapses to the mat!
Mann: And Xiao’s down! What a kick!
Woodbridge: That kick nearly took her head off, Shay! I don’t know if she’s even conscious down there!
Gigi’s prepared, and is looking to finish this, climbing to the top rope! Xiao is flat on her back on the mat, and Gigi takes the leap, flipping forwards with a swanton! Xiao is still conscious, though, and rolls away in the nick of time, leaving Gigi high and dry!
Crowd: YAAAAAAY! KUNG PAO! KUNG PAO! KUNG PAO!
Mann: I... feel like that’s problematic, somehow.
Woodbridge: Nah, ‘sfine, don’t worry about it.
Xiao grabs for the ropes, pulling herself to her feet, but is obviously still dazed from the kick!
Woodbridge: Xiao’s hurt!
Mann: You see this a lot in Li Xiao singles matches - she’s got an incredible offense, but she’s fragile at best in-ring!
Gigi is holding her back, and glares at Xiao in frustration!
Gigi: You were supposed to stay down! it was going on Tiktok!
Gigi charges forward, ready to avenge her mistake, but takes a knee to the gut! Gigi staggers for a second, only to get a chop to the neck! She’s reeling! Xiao with a forearm! Xiao with a elbow strike!
Crowd: OHHHHHHHHHH!
Xiao takes a step backwards, and lets out a KIAI, before charging forward with a roundhouse - NO! SCHOOLBOY FROM GIGI!
1!
2!
Xiao kicks out at 2.6, rolls to her feet, and is immediately back on the offensive, catching Gigi with a kick to the gut!
Mann: Xiao was going for her trademark flurry of blows, and that roundhouse could very well have ended this match!
Woodbridge: Sure, but it doesn’t look like Gigi’s in a better spot right now anyway!
Xiao measures, as Gigi slowly gets back to her feet, and steps through the ropes, stalking her opponent! Gigi’s up, and Xiao leaps onto the ropes, going for a springboard - GIGI HOOKS HER LEG!
Crowd: BOOOOO!
Xiao loses her footing, and falls neck-first onto the ropes, before collapsing to the outside of the ring!
Mann: Gigi with a lightning-quick reversal!
Woodbridge: Xiao might be seriously hurt down there!
Gigi regains some of her confidence, and gives the crowd an innocent smile, completely ignoring the competitor she might have seriously injured. As the count reaches six, Gigi finally springs into action, rolling out of the ring, and grabbing Xiao by the hair!
Gigi: That’s what you get for ruining my moment!
Gigi pulls Xiao up to her feet, and throws her into the ring. Gigi rolls in as Xiao fights to one knee, then to her feet! Gigi smirks, and stands in front of Xiao, posing for the crowd -
WHAM!
Xiao with a JKD backfist!
Woodbridge: River City Knockout! That’s Biff’s move! What a moment to strike!
Gigi is staggered - falls to one knee - then gets back up, just in time to eat THE CRANE KICK
Crowd: YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!
Woodbridge: CRANE KICK! CRANE KICK!
Gigi is down! Xiao is staggering after landing the crane kick, and collapses to a knee herself! Xiao takes a moment to collect herself, then throws herself into the cover, hooking both legs!
1!
2!
3!
NO!
Mia hits the three count, and Xiao rolls off, sure she’s won the match, but Gigi’s right hand is on the ropes!
Crowd: BOOOOOOOOOOOO!
Mia explains to Xiao, who is obviously frustrated, but nods. She takes a moment to kick Gigi’s wrist, knocking her hand off the ropes, before climbing to the top rope! Xiao steels herself - leaps - corkscrews through the air!
Woodbridge: Xiao’s Wing!
Gigi gets her knees up! Xiao lands back-first onto Gigi’s knees! Xiao bounces halfway across the ring, clutching her back and neck, and lands on her chest!
Crowd: BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
Mann: And Gigi has just enough in the tank to get that counter in!
Gigi, with what seems like massive effort, rolls over, before crawling towards Xiao, who seems to be completely out of it. She crawls over Xiao, with a knowing smirk, before hooking her legs around Xiao’s head!
Mann: Gigi looking for the Paywall, this modified figure four choke!
Woodbridge: And half the audience is looking at something else right now.
Gigi torques Xiao’s already injured neck back, cutting off all airflow! Xiao struggles for a moment, but is trapped in the center of the ring! She crawls forward, but Gigi leans back, torquing her neck even further! Xiao swings back with an elbow, then another, but her arm is caught by Gigi’s free hand! After a moment of struggling, Xiao finally relents, and taps in the center of the ring!
DING DING DING!
Javier: And your winner, at a time of 7:53.... GIGI!
Gigi rolls out of the ring, obviously the worse for wear, clutching her neck after the crane kick to the skull!
Mann: And Gigi with a hard-fought win after these two threw everything at each other in a absolutely brutal short match!
Woodbridge: Xiao’s not a singles competitor on her own, but she showed just how brutal her brand of offense is when it needs to be - if Biff has the same resilience he used to have the tag division might need to be on notice!
submitted by Gameran to wrestlingisreddit [link] [comments]


2023.06.02 00:59 JoshAsdvgi THE FOUR BROTHERS

THE FOUR BROTHERS

THE FOUR BROTHERS; OR INYANHOKSILA (STONE BOY)
Alone and apart from their tribe dwelt four orphan brothers.
They had erected a very comfortable hut, although the materials used were only willows, hay, birch bark, and adobe mud.
After the completion of their hut, the oldest brother laid out the different kinds of work to be done by the four of them.
He and the second and third brothers were to do all the hunting, and the youngest brother was to do the house work, cook the meals, and keep plenty of wood on hand at all times.
As his older brothers would leave for their hunting very early every morning, and would not return till late at night, the little fellow always found plenty of spare time to gather into little piles fine dry wood for their winter use.
Thus the four brothers lived happily for a long time.
One day while out gathering and piling up wood, the boy heard a rustling in the leaves and looking around he saw a young woman standing in the cherry bushes, smiling at him.
"Who are you, and where did you come from?" asked the boy, in surprise.
"I am an orphan girl and have no relatives living.
I came from the village west of here.
I learned from rabbit that there were four orphan brothers living here all alone, and that the youngest was keeping house for his older brothers, so I thought I would come over and see if I couldn't have them adopt me as their sister, so that I might keep house for them, as I am very poor and have no relations, neither have I a home."
She looked so pitiful and sad that the boy thought to himself, "I will take her home with me, poor girl, no matter what my brothers think or say."
Then he said to her: "Come on, tanke (sister).
You may go home with me; I am sure my older brothers will be glad to have you for our sister."
When they arrived at the hut, the girl hustled about and cooked up a fine hot supper, and when the brothers returned they were surprised to see a girl sitting by the fire in their hut. After they had entered the youngest brother got up and walked outside, and a short time after the oldest brother followed him out.
"Who is that girl, and where did she come from?" he asked his brother.
Whereupon the brother told him the whole story.
Upon hearing this the oldest brother felt very sorry for the poor orphan girl and going back into the hut he spoke to the girl, saying: "Sister, you are an orphan, the same as we; you have no relatives, no home.
We will be your brothers, and our poor hut shall be your home.
Henceforth call us brothers, and you will be our sister."
"Oh, how happy I am now that you take me as your sister.
I will be to you all as though we were of the same father and mother," said the girl.
And true to her word, she looked after everything of her brothers and kept the house in such fine shape that the brothers blessed the day that she came to their poor little hut.
She always had an extra buckskin suit and two pairs of moccasins hanging at the head of each one's bed.
Buffalo, deer, antelope, bear, wolf, wildcat, mountain lion and beaver skins she tanned by the dozen, and piled nicely in one corner of the hut.
When the Indians have walked a great distance and are very tired, they have great faith in painting their feet, claiming that paint eases the pain and rests their feet.
After their return from a long day's journey, when they would be lying down resting, the sister would get her paint and mix it with the deer tallow and rub the paint on her brother's feet, painting them up to their ankles.
The gentle touch of her hands, and the soothing qualities of the tallow and paint soon put them into a deep, dreamless steep.
Many such kind actions on her part won the hearts of the brothers, and never was a full blood sister loved more than was this poor orphan girl, who had been taken as their adopted sister.
In the morning when they arose, the sister always combed their long black silken scalp locks and painted the circle around the scalp lock a bright vermillion.
When the hunters would return with a goodly supply of beef, the sister would hurry and relieve them of their packs, hanging each one high enough from the ground so the prowling dogs and coyotes could not reach them.
The hunters each had a post on which to hang his bow and flint head arrows.
(Good hunters never laid their arrows on the ground, as it was considered unlucky to the hunter who let his arrows touch the earth after they had been out of the quiver).
They were all perfectly happy, until one day the older brother surprised them all by saying: "We have a plentiful supply of meat on hand at present to last us for a week or so.
I am going for a visit to the village west of us, so you boys all stay at home and help sister. Also gather as much wood as you can and I will be back again in four days.
On my return we will resume our hunting and commence getting our year's supply of meat."
He left the next morning, and the last they saw of him was while he stood at the top of the long range of hills west of their home.
Four days had come and gone and no sign of the oldest brother.
"I am afraid that our brother has met with some accident," said the sister.
"I am afraid so, too," said the next oldest. "
I must go and search for him; he may be in some trouble where a little help would get him out."
The second brother followed the direction his brother had taken, and when he came to the top of the long range of hills he sat down and gazed long and steadily down into the long valley with a beautiful creek winding through it.
Across the valley was a long plain stretching for miles beyond and finally ending at the foot of another range of hills, the counterpart of the one upon which he sat.
After noting the different landmarks carefully, he arose and slowly started down the slope and soon came to the creek he had seen from the top of the range.
Great was his surprise on arriving at the creek to find what a difference there was in the appearance of it from the range and where he stood.
From the range it appeared to be a quiet, harmless, laughing stream.
Now he saw it to be a muddy, boiling, bubbling torrent, with high perpendicular banks.
For a long time he stood, thinking which way to go, up or down stream.
He had just decided to go down stream, when, on chancing to look up, he noticed a thin column of smoke slowly ascending from a little knoll.
He approached the place cautiously and noticed a door placed into the creek bank on the opposite side of the stream.
As he stood looking at the door, wondering who could be living in a place like that, it suddenly opened and a very old appearing woman came out and stood looking around her. Soon she spied the young man, and said to him: "My grandchild, where did you come from and whither are you bound?"
The young man answered: "I came from east of this ridge and am in search of my oldest brother, who came over in this direction five days ago and who has not yet returned."
"Your brother stopped here and ate his dinner with me, and then left, traveling towards the west," said the old witch, for such she was. "
Now, grandson, come across on that little log bridge up the stream there and have your dinner with me.
I have it all cooked now and just stepped outside to see if there might not be some hungry traveler about, whom I could invite in to eat dinner with me."
The young man went up the stream a little distance and found a couple of small logs which had been placed across the stream to serve as a bridge.
He crossed over and went down to the old woman's dugout hut.
"Come in grandson, and eat. I know you must be hungry."
The young man sat down and ate a real hearty meal.
On finishing he arose and said: "Grandmother, I thank you for your meal and kindness to me.
I would stay and visit with you awhile, as I know it must be very lonely here for you, but I am very anxious to find my brother, so I must be going.
On my return I will stop with my brother and we will pay you a little visit."
"Very well, grandson, but before you go, I wish you would do me a little favor.
Your brother did it for me before he left, and cured me, but it has come back on me again.
I am subject to very severe pains along the left side of my backbone, all the way from my shoulder blade down to where my ribs attach to my backbone, and the only way I get any relief from the pain is to have some one kick me along the side."
(She was a witch, and concealed in her robe a long sharp steel spike. It was placed so that the last kick they would give her, their foot would hit the spike and they would instantly drop off into a swoon, as if dead.)
"If I won't hurt you too much, grandmother, I certainly will be glad to do it for you," said the young man, little thinking he would be the one to get hurt.
"No, grandson, don't be afraid of hurting me; the harder you kick the longer the pain stays away."
She laid down on the floor and rolled over on to her right side, so he could get a good chance to kick the left side where she said the pain was located.
As he moved back to give the first kick, he glanced along the floor and he noticed a long object wrapped in a blanket, lying against the opposite wall.
He thought it looked strange and was going to stop and investigate, but just then the witch cried out as if in pain.
"Hurry up, grandson, I am going to die if you don't hurry and start in kicking."
" I can investigate after I get through with her," thought he, so he started in kicking and every kick he would give her she would cry: "Harder, kick harder."
He had to kick seven times before he would get to the end of the pain, so he let out as hard as he could drive, and when he came to the last kick he hit the spike, and driving it through his foot, fell down in a dead swoon, and was rolled up in a blanket by the witch and placed beside his brother at the opposite side of the room.
When the second brother failed to return, the third went in search of the two missing ones. He fared no better than the second one, as he met the old witch who served him in a similar manner as she had his two brothers.
"Ha! Ha!" she laughed, when she caught the third, "I have only one more of them to catch, and when I get them I will keep them all here a year, and then I will turn them into horses and sell them back to their sister.
I hate her, for I was going to try and keep house for them and marry the oldest one, but she got ahead of me and became their sister, so now I will get my revenge on her.
Next year she will be riding and driving her brothers and she won't know it."
When the third brother failed to return, the sister cried and begged the last one not to venture out in search of them.
But go he must, and go he did, only to do as his three brothers had done.
Now the poor sister was nearly distracted.
Day and night she wandered over hills and through woods in hopes she might find or hear of some trace of them.
Her wanderings were in vain.
The hawks had not seen them after they had crossed the little stream.
The wolves and coyotes told her that they had seen nothing of her brothers out on the broad plains, and she had given them up for dead.
One day, as she was sitting by the little stream that flowed past their hut, throwing pebbles into the water and wondering what she should do, she picked up a pure white pebble, smooth and round, and after looking at it for a long time, threw it into the water.
No sooner had it hit the water than she saw it grow larger.
She took it out and looked at it and threw it in again.
This time it had assumed the form of a baby.
She took it out and threw it in the third time and the form took life and began to cry: "Ina, ina" (mother, mother).
She took the baby home and fed it soup, and it being an unnatural baby, quickly grew up to a good sized boy.
At the end of three months he was a good big, stout youth.
One day he said: "Mother, why are you living here alone? To whom do all these fine clothes and moccasins belong?" She then told him the story of her lost brothers.
"Oh, I know now where they are.
You make me lots of arrows.
I am going to find my uncles." She tried to dissuade him from going, but he was determined and said: "My father sent me to you so that I could find my uncles for you, and nothing can harm me, because I am stone and my name is "Stone Boy."
The mother, seeing that he was determined to go, made a whole quiver full of arrows for him, and off he started.
When he came to the old witch's hut, she was nowhere to be seen, so he pushed the door in and entered.
The witch was busily engaged cooking dinner.
"Why, my dear grandchild, you are just in time for dinner.
Sit down and we will eat before you continue your journey."
Stone boy sat down and ate dinner with the old witch.
She watched him very closely, but when she would be drinking her soup he would glance hastily around the room.
Finally he saw the four bundles on the opposite side of the room, and he guessed at once that there lay his four uncles.
When he had finished eating he took out his little pipe and filled it with "kini-kinic," and commenced to smoke, wondering how the old woman had managed to fool his smart uncles.
He couldn't study it out, so when he had finished his smoke he arose to pretend to go. When the old woman saw him preparing to leave, she said: "Grandson, will you kick me on the left side of my backbone.
I am nearly dead with pain and if you kick me good and hard it will cure me."
"All right, grandma," said the boy.
The old witch lay down on the floor and the boy started in to kick.
At the first kick he barely touched her.
"Kick as hard as you can, grandson; don't be afraid you will hurt me, because you can't." With that Stone Boy let drive and broke two ribs.
She commenced to yell and beg him to stop, but he kept on kicking until he had kicked both sides of her ribs loose from the backbone.
Then he jumped on her backbone and broke it and killed the old witch.
He built a big fire outside and dragged her body to it, and threw her into the fire.
Thus ended the old woman who was going to turn his uncles into horses.
Next he cut willows and stuck them into the ground in a circle.
The tops he pulled together, making a wickieup.
He then took the old woman's robes and blankets and covered the wickieup so that no air could get inside.
He then gathered sage brush and covered the floor with a good thick bed of sage; got nice round stones and got them red hot in the fire, and placed them in the wickieup and proceeded to carry his uncles out of the hut and lay them down on the soft bed of sage. Having completed carrying and depositing them around the pile of rocks, he got a bucket of water and poured it on the hot rocks, which caused a great vapor in the little wickie-up.
He waited a little while and then listened and heard some breathing inside, so he got another bucket and poured that on also.
After awhile he could hear noises inside as though some one were moving about.
He went again and got the third bucket and after he had poured that on the rocks, one of the men inside said:
"Whoever you are, good friend, don't bring us to life only to scald us to death again."
Stone boy then said: "Are all of you alive?" "Yes," said the voice. "Well, come out," said the boy.
And with that he threw off the robes and blankets, and a great cloud of vapor arose and settled around the top of the highest peak on the long range, and from that did Smoky Range derive its name.
The uncles, when they heard who the boy was, were very happy, and they all returned together to the anxiously waiting sister.
As soon as they got home, the brothers worked hard to gather enough wood to last them all winter.
Game they could get at all times of the year, but the heavy fall of snow covered most of the dry wood and also made it very difficult to drag wood through the deep snow.
So they took advantage of the nice fall weather and by the time the snow commenced falling they had enough wood gathered to last them throughout the winter.
After the snow fell a party of boys swiftly coasted down the big hill west of the brothers' hut.
The Stone boy used to stand and watch them for hours at a time.
His youngest uncle said: "Why don't you go up and coast with them?"
The boy said: "They may be afraid of me, but I guess I will try once, anyway."
So the next morning when the crowd came coasting, Stone boy started for the hill.
When he had nearly reached the bottom of the coasting hill all of the boys ran off excepting two little fellows who had a large coaster painted in different colors and had little bells tied around the edges, so when the coaster was in motion the bells made a cheerful tinkling sound.
As Stone boy started up the hill the two little fellows started down and went past him as though shot from a hickory bow.
When they got to the end of their slide, they got off and started back up the hill.
It being pretty steep, Stone boy waited for them, so as to lend a hand to pull the big coaster up the hill.
As the two little fellows came up with him he knew at once that they were twins, as they looked so much alike that the only way one could be distinguished from the other was by the scarfs they wore.
One wore red, the other black.
He at once offered to help them drag their coaster to the top of the hill.
When they got to the top the twins offered their coaster to him to try a ride.
At first he refused, but they insisted on his taking it, as they said they would sooner rest until he came back.
So he got on the coaster and flew down the hill, only he was such an expert he made a zigzag course going down and also jumped the coaster off a bank about four feet high, which none of the other coasters dared to tackle.
Being very heavy, however, he nearly smashed the coaster.
Upon seeing this wonderful jump, and the zigzag course he had taken going down, the twins went wild with excitement and decided that they would have him take them down when he got back.
So upon his arrival at the starting point, they both asked him at once to give them the pleasure of the same kind of a ride he had taken.
He refused, saying: "We will break your coaster.
I alone nearly smashed it, and if we all get on and make the same kind of a jump, I am afraid you will have to go home without your coaster."
"Well, take us down anyway, and if we break it our father will make us another one."
So he finally consented.
When they were all seated ready to start, he told them that when the coaster made the jump they must look straight ahead.
"By no means look down, because if you do we will go over the cut bank and land in a heap at the bottom of the gulch."
They said they would obey what he said, so off they started swifter than ever, on account of the extra weight, and so swiftly did the sleigh glide over the packed, frozen snow, that it nearly took the twins' breath away.
Like an arrow they approached the jump.
The twins began to get a little nervous. "Sit steady and look straight ahead," yelled Stone boy.
The twin next to Stone boy, who was steering behind, sat upright and looked far ahead, but the one in front crouched down and looked into the coulee.
Of course, Stone boy, being behind, fell on top of the twins, and being so heavy, killed both of them instantly, crushing them to a jelly.
The rest of the boys, seeing what had happened, hastened to the edge of the bank, and looking down, saw the twins laying dead, and Stone boy himself knocked senseless, lying quite a little distance from the twins.
The boys, thinking that all three were killed, and that Stone boy had purposely steered the sleigh over the bank in such a way that it would tip and kill the twins, returned to the village with this report.
Now, these twins were the sons of the head chief of the Buffalo Nation.
So at once the chief and his scouts went over to the hill to see if the boys had told the truth.
When they arrived at the bank they saw the twins lying dead, but where was Stone boy? They looked high and low through the gulch, but not a sign of him could they find.
Tenderly they picked up the dead twins and carried them home, then held a big council and put away the bodies of the dead in Buffalo custom.
A few days after this the uncles were returning from a long journey.
When they drew near their home they noticed large droves of buffalo gathered on their side of the range.
Hardly any buffalo ever ranged on this east side of the range before, and the brothers thought it strange that so many should so suddenly appear there now.
When they arrived at home their sister told them what had happened to the chief's twins, as her son had told her the whole story upon his arrival at home after the accident.
"Well, probably all the buffalo we saw were here for the council and funeral," said the older brother.
"But where is my nephew?" (Stone boy) he asked his sister.
"He said he had noticed a great many buffalo around lately and he was going to learn, if possible, what their object was," said the sister. "Well, we will wait until his return."
When Stone boy left on his trip that morning, before the return of his uncles, he was determined to ascertain what might be the meaning of so many buffalo so near the home of himself and uncles.
He approached several bunches of young buffalo, but upon seeing him approaching they would scamper over the hills.
Thus he wandered from bunch to bunch, scattering them all.
Finally he grew tired of their cowardice and started for home.
When he had come to within a half mile or so of home he saw an old shaggy buffalo standing by a large boulder, rubbing on it first one horn and then the other.
On coming up close to him, the boy saw that the bull was so old he could hardly see, and his horns so blunt that he could have rubbed them for a year on that boulder and not sharpened them so as to hurt anyone.
"What are you doing here, grandfather?" asked the boy.
"I am sharpening my horns for the war," said the bull.
"What war?" asked the boy.
"Haven't you heard," said the old bull, who was so near sighted he did not recognize Stone boy.
"The chief's twins were killed by Stone boy, who ran them over a cut bank purposely, and the chief has ordered all of his buffalo to gather here, and when they arrive we are going to kill Stone boy and his mother and his uncles."
"Is that so? When is the war to commence?"
"In five days from now we will march upon the uncles and trample and gore them all to death."
"Well, grandfather, I thank you for your information, and in return will do you a favor that will save you so much hard work on your blunt horns."
So saying he drew a long arrow from his quiver and strung his bow, attached the arrow to the string and drew the arrow half way back.
The old bull, not seeing what was going on, and half expecting some kind of assistance in his horn sharpening process, stood perfectly still.
Thus spoke Stone boy:
"Grandfather, you are too old to join in a war now, and besides if you got mixed up in that big war party you might step in a hole or stumble and fall and be trampled to death.
That would be a horrible death, so I will save you all that suffering by just giving you this.
" At this word he pulled the arrow back to the flint head and let it fly.
True to his aim, the arrow went in behind the old bull's foreleg, and with such force was it sent that it went clear through the bull and stuck into a tree two hundred feet away.
Walking over to the tree, he pulled out his arrow.
Coolly straightening his arrow between his teeth and sighting it for accuracy, he shoved it back into the quiver with its brothers, exclaiming:
"I guess, grandpa, you won't need to sharpen your horns for Stone boy and his uncles."
Upon his arrival home he told his uncles to get to work building three stockades with ditches between and make the ditches wide and deep so they will hold plenty of buffalo.
"The fourth fence I will build myself," he said.
The brothers got to work early and worked until very late at night.
They built three corrals and dug three ditches around the hut, and it took them three days to complete the work. Stone boy hadn't done a thing towards building his fence yet, and there were only two days more left before the charge of the buffalo would commence.
Still the boy didn't seem to bother himself about the fence.
Instead he had his mother continually cutting arrow sticks, and as fast as she could bring them he would shape them, feather and head them.
So by the time his uncles had their fences and corrals finished he had a thousand arrows finished for each of his uncles.
The last two days they had to wait, the uncles joined him and they finished several thousand more arrows.
The evening before the fifth day he told his uncles to put up four posts, so they could use them as seats from which to shoot.
While they were doing this, Stone boy went out to scout and see how things looked.
At daylight he came hurriedly in saying, "You had better get to the first corral; they are coming."
"You haven't built your fence, nephew." Whereupon Stone boy said: "I will build it in time; don't worry, uncle."
The dust on the hillsides rose as great clouds of smoke from a forest fire.
Soon the leaders of the charge came in sight, and upon seeing the timber stockade they gave forth a great snort or roar that fairly shook the earth.
Thousands upon thousands of mad buffalo charged upon the little fort.
The leaders hit the first stockade and it soon gave way.
The maddened buffalo pushed forward by the thousands behind them; plunged forward, only to fall into the first ditch and be trampled to death by those behind them.
The brothers were not slow in using their arrows, and many a noble beast went down before their deadly aim with a little flint pointed arrow buried deep in his heart.
The second stockade stood their charge a little longer than did the first, but finally this gave way, and the leaders pushed on through, only to fall into the second ditch and meet a similar fate to those in the first.
The brothers commenced to look anxiously towards their nephew, as there was only one more stockade left, and the second ditch was nearly bridged over with dead buffalo, with the now thrice maddened buffalo attacking the last stockade more furiously than before, as they could see the little hut through the openings in the corral.
"Come in, uncles," shouted Stone boy.
They obeyed him, and stepping to the center he said: "Watch me build my fence."
Suiting the words, he took from his belt an arrow with a white stone fastened to the point and fastening it to his bow, he shot it high in the air. Straight up into the air it went, for two or three thousand feet, then seemed to stop suddenly and turned with point down and descended as swiftly as it had ascended.
Upon striking the ground a high stone wall arose, enclosing the hut and all who were inside. Just then the buffalo broke the last stockade only to fill the last ditch up again.
In vain did the leaders butt the stone wall.
They hurt themselves, broke their horns and mashed their snouts, but could not even scar the wall.
The uncles and Stone boy in the meantime rained arrows of death into their ranks.
When the buffalo chief saw what they had to contend with, he ordered the fight off.
The crier or herald sang out: "Come away, come away, Stone boy and his uncles will kill all of us."
So the buffalo withdrew, leaving over two thousand of their dead and wounded on the field, only to be skinned and put away for the feasts of Stone boy and his uncles, who lived to be great chiefs of their own tribe,
and whose many relations soon joined them on the banks of Stone Boy Creek.
submitted by JoshAsdvgi to Native_Stories [link] [comments]


2023.06.01 21:55 Mark5ofjupiter Every Practical Fusion I can think of off the top of my head.

Here goes nothing.
BombfloweBomb Barrel/Time Bomb + Shield: If enemies hit the shield, they go boom. And if you shield surf, you're propelled upwards with explosions.
Spring + Shield: Shield surfs propel you upwards. Basically, bomb shield but worse.
Wing + Shield: Makes your shield jump slightly higher.
Any EmitteWater Hydrant + Shield: Allows the shield to assualt opponents with elements. (Or water)
Light + Shield: Turns the shield into a flashlight.
Mirror + Shield: The shield now reflects light.
Elemental Gems + Shield: Allows for small bursts of elements when shield is hit.
Rocket/Octorock Balloon + Shield: Propels you up when guarding. Octorock balloon is slower and potentially lifts you up less.
Cart/Minecart/Homing Cart (I think) + Shield: Makes your shield a skateboard when surfing.
Weapon + Shield: Allows the shield to attack. It gains the properties of the weapon fused. (Ex: Blade, Hammer)
Elemental Gem + Magic Rod: Gives you an elemental rod.
Elemental Gem + Anything besides Magic Rod: Gives you a worse elemental rod.
Emitters + Weapon: Allows the emitter to attack with the weapon.
Shield + Weapon: Swords are unaffected, but you can now guard with spears and claymores.
Mushroom + Weapon: Makes the weapon bouncy. AKA, your final hit and charge attack's final hit have increased knockback.
Literally anything else Elemental + Weapon: Gives the weapon that element.
Light Dragon Parts + Weapon: Heals you as you attack.
Blunt Object + Weapon: Makes it a hammer.
Sharp Bladelike Object + Weapon: Makes it a blade. Unsure if this works with spears.
submitted by Mark5ofjupiter to tearsofthekingdom [link] [comments]


2023.06.01 21:24 RandomAppalachian468 Don't fly over Barron County Ohio. [Repost]

The whirring blades of my MD-902 throbbed against the warm evening air, and I smiled.
From 5,000 feet, the ground flew by in a carpet of dark forests and kelly-green fields. The sun hung low on the horizon in a picturesque array of dazzling orange and gold, and I could make out the narrow strip of the Ohio River to my left, glistening in the fading daylight. This time of year, the trees would be full of the sweet aroma of fresh blossoms, and the frequent rains kept small pockets of fluffy white mist hanging in the treetops. It was a beautiful view, one that reminded me of why being a helicopter pilot trumped flying in a jumbo jet far above the clouds every day of the week.
Fourteen more days, and I’m debt free.
That made me grin even more. I’d been working as a charter pilot ever since I obtained my license at age 19, and after years of keeping my nose to the grindstone, I was closing on the final payment for real-estate in western Pennsylvania. With no debt, a fixer-upper house on 30 rural acres all to myself, and a respectable wage for a 26-year-old pilot, I looked forward to the financial freedom I could now enjoy. Maybe I’d take a vacation, somewhere exotic like Venice Italy, or the Dominican Republic. Or perhaps I’d sock the money back for the day I started a family.
“Remember kleineun, a real man looks after his own.”
My elderly ouma’s voice came back from the depths of my memories, her proud, sun-tanned face rising from the darkness. She and my Rhodesian grandfather had emigrated to the US when they were newlyweds, as the violence against white Boer descendants in South Africa spiraled out of control. My mother and father both died in a car crash when I was six, and it had been my grandparents who raised me. Due to this, I’d grown up with a slight accent that many of my classmates found amusing, and I could speak both English, and Afrikaans, the Boer tongue of our former home.
I shifted in my seat, stretched my back muscles, and glanced at the picture taped to my console. Both my parents flanked a grinning, gap-toothed six-year-old me, at the last Christmas we’d spent together. My mother beamed, her dark hair and Italian features a sharp contrast to my father’s sandy blonde hair and blue eyes. Sometimes, I liked to imagine they were smiling at me with pride at how well I flew the old silver-colored bird my company had assigned to me, and that made the long, lonely flights easier to bear.
A flicker caught my eye, and I broke my gaze away from the photograph.
Perched in its small cradle above the controls, my little black Garmin fuzzed over for a few seconds, its screen shifting from brightly colored maps to a barrage of grey static.
Did the power chord come loose?
I checked, ensuring the power-cable for the unit’s battery was plugged into the port on the control panel. It was a brand-new GPS unit, and I’d used it a few times already, so I knew it wasn’t defective. Granted, I could fly and navigate without it, but the Garmin made my time as a pilot so much easier that the thought of going blind was dreadful.
My fuel gauge danced, clicked to empty, then to full, in a bizarre jolt.
More of the gauges began to stutter, the entire panel seeming to develop terrets all at once, and my pulse began to race. Something was wrong, very wrong, and the sludge inside my bowels churned with sour fear.
“Come on, come on.” I flicked switches, turned dials, punched buttons, but nothing seemed to fix the spasming electronics. Every gauge failed, and without warning, I found myself plunged into inky darkness.
Outside, the sun surrendered to the pull of night, the sky darker than usual. A distant rumble of thunder reverberated above the roar of my helicopter’s engine, and I thought I glimpsed a streak of yellowish lightning on the far horizon to my left.
Calm down Chris. We’re still flying, so it must just be a blown fuse. Stay in control and find a place to set her down.
My sweaty palm slid on the cyclic stick, and both feet weighed heavy on the yaw pedals. The collective stuck to my other hand with a nervous vibration, and I squinted against the abyss outside.
Beep.
I jumped despite myself, as the little Garmin on my panel flared back to life, the static pulling aside to reveal a twitching display. Each time the screen glitched, it showed the colorful map detailing my flight path over the ground below, but I noticed that some of the lines changed, the names shifting, as if the device couldn’t decide between two different versions of the world.
One name jutted out at me, slate gray like most of the major county names, appearing with ghostly flickers from between two neighboring ones.
Barron County.
I stared, confused. I’d flown over this section of southeastern Ohio plenty of times, and I knew the counties by heart. At this point, I should have been over the southern end of Noble County, and maybe dipping lower into Washington. There was no Barron County Ohio. I was sure of it.
And yet it shown back at me from the digital landscape, a strange, almost cigar-shaped chunk of terrain carved from the surrounding counties like a tumor, sometimes there, sometimes not, as my little Garmin struggled to find the correct map. Rain began to patter against my cockpit window, and the entire aircraft rattled from a strong gust of wind. Thick clouds closed over my field of vision like a sea of gray cotton.
The blood in my veins turned to ice, and I sucked in a nervous breath.
Land. I had to land. There was nothing else to do, my flight controls weren’t responding, and only my Garmin had managed to come back to life. Perhaps I’d been hit by lightning, and the electronics had been fried? Either way, it was too dark to tell, but a storm seemed to be brewing, and if I didn’t get my feet on the ground soon, I could be in real trouble.
“Better safe than sorry.” I pushed down on the collective to start my slow descent and clicked the talking button for my headset. “Any station, this is Douglass Three-One-Four-Foxtrot, over.”
Nothing.
“Any station, this is Douglass Three-One-Four-Foxtrot, requesting emergency assistance, over.”
Still nothing.
If the radio’s dead, I’m really up a creek.
With my hand shaking, I clicked on the mic one more time. “Any station, this is—”
Like a curtain pulling back, the fog cleared from around my window, and the words stuck in my throat.
Without my gauges, I couldn’t tell just how far I’d descended, but I was definitely very low. Thick trees poked up from the ground, and the hills rolled into high ridges with flat valley floors, fields and pastures pockmarking them. Rain fell all around in cold, silvery sheets, a normal feature for the mid spring in this part of Ohio.
What wasn’t normal, were the fires.
At first, I thought they were forest fires for the amount of smoke and flames that bellowed from each spot, but as I swooped lower, my eyes widened in horror.
They were houses.
Farms, cottages, little clusters that barely constituted villages, all of them belched orange flames and black pillars of sooty smoke. I couldn’t hear above the helicopter blades, but I could see the flashes on the ground, along the road, in between the trees, and even coming from the burning buildings, little jets of golden light that spat into the darkness with anger.
Gunfire. That’s rifle fire, a whole lot of it.
Tiny black figures darted through the shadows, barely discernable from where I sat, several hundred feet up. I couldn’t see much, but some were definitely running away, the streaks of yellow gunfire chasing them. A few dark gray vehicles rumbled down one of the gravel roads, and sprayed fire into the houses as it went. They were fighting, I realized, the people in the trucks and the locals. It was horrific, like something out of war-torn Afghanistan, but worse.
Then, I caught a glimpse of the others.
They didn’t move like the rest, who either fled from the dark vehicles, or fired back from behind cover. These skinny figures loped along with haphazard gaits, many running on all fours like animals, swarming from the trees by the dozens. They threw themselves into the gales of bullets without flinching, attacking anyone within range, and something about the way they moved, so fluid, so fearless, made my heart skip a beat.
What is that?
“Echo Four Actual to unknown caller, please respond, over.”
Choking back a cry of shock, I fumbled at the control panel with clumsy fingers, the man’s voice sharp and stern. I hadn’t realized that I’d let go of the talking button and clicked it down again. “Hello? Hello, this is Douglass Three-One-Four-Foxtrot out of Pittsburgh, over.”
An excruciating moment passed, and I continued to zoom over the trees, the fires falling away behind me as more silent forest took over.
“Roger that Douglass Three-One-Four-Foxtrot, we read you loud and clear. Please identify yourself and any passengers or cargo you might be carrying, over.”
Swallowing hard, I eyed the treetops, which looked much closer than they should have been. How far had I descended? “Echo Four Actual, my name is Christopher Dekker, and I am alone. I’m a charter flight from PA, carrying medical equipment for OSU in Columbus. My controls have been damaged, and I am unable to safely carry on due to the storm. Requesting permission to land, over.”
I watched the landscape slide by underneath me, once catching sight of what looked like a little white church surrounded by smaller huts, dozens of figures in the yard staring up at me as I flew over a towering ridgeline.
“Solid copy on that Douglass Three-One-Four-Foxtrot. Be advised, your transponder shows you to be inside a restricted zone. Please cease all radio traffic, reduce your speed, climb to 3,000 feet and proceed north. We’ll talk you in from there. How copy, over?”
My heart jumped, and I let out a sigh of relief. “Roger that Echo Four Actual, my altimeter is down, but I’ll do my best to eyeball the altitude, over.”
With that, I pulled the collective upward, and tried my best to gauge how far I was by eyesight in the gathering night, rain still coming down all around me. This had to be some kind of disaster or riot, I decided. After all, the voice over the radio sounded like military, and those vehicles seemed to have heavy weapons. Maybe there was some kind of unrest going on here that I hadn’t heard about yet?
Kind of weird for it to happen in rural areas though. Spoiled college kids I get, but never saw farmers get so worked up before. They usually love the military.
Something moved in the corner of my eye, and I turned out of reflex.
My mouth fell open, and I froze, unable to scream.
In the sky beside me, a huge shadow glided along, and its leathery wings effortlessly carved through the gloom, flapping only on occasion to keep it aloft. It was too dark for me to see what color it was, but from the way it moved, I knew it wasn’t another helicopter. No, this thing was alive, easily the size of a small plane, and more than twice the length of my little McDonald Douglass. A long tail trailed behind it, and bore a distinct arrow-shaped snout, with twig-like spines fanned out around the back of its head. Whatever legs it had were drawn up under it like a bird, yet its skin appeared rough and knobby, almost resembling tree bark. Without pause, the gigantic bat-winged entity flew along beside me, as if my presence was on par with an annoying fly buzzing about its head.
Gripping the microphone switch so tight, I thought I’d crack the plastic, I whispered into my headset, forgetting all radio protocol. “T-There’s something up here.”
Static crackled.
“Douglas Three-One-Four-Foxtrot, say again your last, you’re coming in weak and unreadable, over.”
“There’s something up here.” I snarled into the headset, still glued to the controls of the helicopter, afraid to deviate even an inch from my course in case the monstrosity decided to turn on me. “A freaking huge thing, right beside me. I swear, it looks like a bat or . . . I don’t know.”
“Calm down.” The man on the other end of the radio broke his rigorous discipline as well, his voice deep, but level. “It won’t attack if you don’t move too fast. Slowly ease away from it and follow that course until you’re out of sight.”
I didn’t have time to think about how wrong that sounded, how the man’s strict tone had changed to one of knowledge, how he hadn’t been the least surprised by what I’d said. Instead, I slowly turned the helicopter away from the huge menace and edged the speed higher in tiny increments.
As soon as I was roughly two football fields away, I let myself relax, and clicked the mic switch. “It’s not following.”
“You’re sure?”
Eyeing the huge flapping wings, I nodded, then remembered he couldn’t see me. “Yeah, I’m well clear.”
“Good. Thank you, Mr. Dekker.”
Then, the radio went dead.
Something in my chest dropped, a weight that made my stomach roil. This wasn’t right, none of it. Who was that man? Why did he know about the thing I’d just seen? What was I supposed to—
A flash of light exploded from the trees to my right and shot into the air with a long finger of smoke.
What the . . .
On instinct, I jerked the cyclic stick to one side, and the helicopter swung to avoid the rocket.
Boom.
My world shook, metal screeched, and a dozen alarms began to go off inside the cockpit in a cacophony of beeps and sirens. Orange and red flames lit up the night sky just behind me, and the horizon started to spin wildly outside. Heat gushed from the cockpit door, and I smelled the greasy stench of burning oil. The safety belts dug into my shoulders, and with a final slip, the radio headset ripped free from my scalp.
I’m hit.
Desperate, I yanked on the controls, fought the bird even as she spun toward the ground in a wreath of flames, the inky black trees hurtling up to meet me. The helicopter went into full auto-rotation, the sky blurring past outside, and the alarms blared in a screech of doom. Panic slammed through my temples, I screamed at the top of my lungs, and for one brief second, my eyes locked on the little black Garmin still perched atop my control panel.
Its screen stopped twitching and settled on a map of the mysterious Barron County, with a little red arrow at the center of the screen, a few words popping up underneath it.
You are here.
Trees stabbed up into the sky, the belts crushed at my torso, glass shattered all around me, and the world went dark.
Copper, thick, warm, and tangy.
It filled my mouth, stank metallic in my nose, clogged my throat, choking me. In the murkiness, I fought for a surface, for a way out, blind and numb in the dark.
This way, kleineun.
My ouma’s voice echoed from somewhere in the shadows.
This way.
Both eyes flew open, and I gagged, spitting out a stream of red.
Pain throbbed in my ribs, and a heavy pressure sent a tingling numbness through my shoulders. Blood roared inside my temples, and stars danced before my eyes with a dizzying array. Humid night air kissed my skin, and something sticky coated my face, neck, and arms that hung straight up toward the ceiling.
Wait. Not up. Down.
I blinked at the wrinkled, torn ceiling of the cockpit, the glass all gone, the gray aluminum shredded like tissue paper. Just outside the broken windows, thick Appalachian bluegrass and stemmy underbrush swished in a feeble breeze, backlit by flashes of lightning from the thunderstorm overhead. Green and brown leaves covered everything in a wet carpet of triangles, and somewhere nearby, a cricket chirped.
Turning my head from side to side, I realized that I hung upside down inside the ruined helicopter, the top half burrowed into the mud. I could hear the hissing and crackling of flames, the pattering of rain falling on the hot aluminum, and the smaller brush fires around the downed aircraft sizzling out in the damp long grass. Charred steel and burning oil tainted the air, almost as strong as the metallic, coppery stench in my aching nose.
They shot me down. That military dude shot me out of the sky.
It didn’t make sense. I’d followed their orders, done everything they’d said, and yet the instant I veered safely away from whatever that thing in the sky had been, they’d fired, not at it, but at me.
Looking down (or rather, up) at my chest, I sucked in a gasp, which was harder to do that before.
The navy-blue shirt stuck to my torso with several big splotches of dark, rusty red. Most were clean slashes, but two held bits of glass sticking out of them, one alarmingly bigger than the other. They dripped cherry red blood onto my upturned face, and a wave of nausea hit me.
I gotta get down.
I flexed my arms to try and work some feeling back into them, praying nothing was broken. Half-numb from hanging so long, I palmed along my aching body until I felt the buckled for the seat belts.
“Okay.” I hissed between gritted teeth, in an effort to stave off my panic. “You can do this. Just hold on tight. Nice and tight. Here we go . . .”
Click.
Everything seemed to lurch, and I slid off the seat to plummet towards the muck-filled hole in the cockpit ceiling. My fingers were slick with blood and slipped over the smooth faux-leather pilot’s seat with ease. The shoulder belt snagged on the bits of glass that lay just under the left lowest rib, and a flare of white-hot pain ripped through me.
Wham.
I screamed, my right knee caught the edge of the aluminum ceiling, and both hands dove into a mound of leaf-covered glass shards on the opposite side of the hole. My head swam, being right-side-up again enough to make shadows gnaw at the corner of my eyes.
Forcing myself to breath slowly, I fought the urge to faint and slid back to sit on the smooth ceiling. I turned my hands over to see half a dozen bits of clear glass burrowed into my skin like greedy parasites, red blood weeping around the new cuts.
“Screw you.” I spat at the rubbish with angry tears in my eyes. “Screw you, screw you, screw you.”
The shards came out easy enough, and the cuts weren’t that deep, but that wasn’t what worried me. On my chest, the single piece of cockpit glass that remined was almost as big as my palm, and it really hurt. Just touching it felt like self-inflicted torture, but I knew it had to come out sooner or later.
Please don’t nick a vein.
Wiping my hands dry on my jeans, I gripped the shard with both hands, and jerked.
Fire roared over my ribs, and hot blood tickled my already grimy pale skin. I clapped a hand over the wound, pressing down hard, and grunted out a string of hateful expletives that my ouma would have slapped me for.
Lying on my back, I stared around me at the messy cargo compartment of the MD-902. Most of the medical supplies had been in cardboard boxes strapped down with heavy nylon tow-straps, but several cases had ruptured with the force of the impact, spraying bandages, syringes, and pill bottles all over the cluttered interior. Orange flames chewed at the crate furthest to the rear, the tail section long gone, but the foremost part of the hold was intact. Easily a million-dollar mess, it would have made me faint on any other trip, but today it was a godsend.
Half-blind in the darkness, I crawled along with only the firelight and lightning bolts to guide me, my right knee aching. Like a crippled raccoon, I collected things as I went, conscious of the two pallets of intact supplies weighing right over my head. I’d taken several different first-aid courses with some hunting buddies of mine, and the mental reflexes kicked in to help soothe my frazzled mind.
Check for bleeds, stop the worst, then move on.
Aside from my battered chest and stomach, the rest of me remained mostly unharmed. I had nasty bruises from the seatbelts, my right knee swelled, my nose slightly crooked and crusted in blood, but otherwise I was intact. Dowsing every scratch and cut with a bottle of isopropyl alcohol I found, I used butterfly closures on the smaller lacerations that peppered my skin. I wrapped soft white gauze over my abused palms and probed at the big cut where the last shard had been, only stopping when I was sure there were no pieces of glass wedged inside my flesh.
“Not too bad.” I grunted to myself, trying to sound impassive like a doctor might. “Rib must have stopped it. Gonna need stitches though. That’ll be fun.
Pawing through the broken cases, I couldn’t find any suture chord, but just as I was about to give up, I noticed a small box that read ‘medical skin stapler’.
Bingo.
I tore the small white plastic stapler free from its packaging and eyeballed the device. I’d never done this before, only seen it in movies, and even though the cut in my skin hurt, I wondered if this wouldn’t be worse.
You’ve gotta do it. That bleeding needs to stop. Besides, no one’s coming to rescue you, not with those rocket-launching psychos out there.
Taking a deep breath, I pinched the skin around the gash together, and pressed the mouth of the stapler to it.
Click.
A sharp sting, like that of a needle bit at the skin, but it didn’t hurt nearly as bad as the cut itself. I worked my way across the two-inch laceration and gave out a sigh of relief when it was done.
“Not going to bleed to death today.” I daubed ointment around the staples before winding more bandages over the wound.
Popping a few low-grade painkillers that tumbled from the cargo, I crawled wriggled through the nearest shattered window into the wet grass.
Raindrops kissed my face, clean and cool on my sweaty skin. Despite the thick cloud cover, there was enough constant lightning strikes within the storm to let me get glimpses of the world around me. My helicopter lay on its back, the blades snapped like pencils, with bits and pieces of it burning in chunks all around the small break in the trees. Chest-high scrub brush grew all around the low-lying ground, with pockets of standing water in places. My ears still rang from the impact of the crash, but I could start to pick up more crickets, frogs, and even some nocturnal birds singing into the darkness, like they didn’t notice the huge the hulk of flaming metal that had fallen from the sky. Overhead, the thunder rumbled onward, the feeble wind whistling, and there were other flashes on the horizon, orange and red ones, with crackles that didn’t sound quite like lightning.
The guns. They’re still fighting.
Instinctively, I pulled out my cellphone, and tapped the screen.
It fluttered to life, but no matter how I tried, I couldn’t get through to anyone, not even with the emergency function designed to work around having no service. The complicated wonder of our modern world was little better than a glorified paperweight.
Stunned, I sat down with my back to the helicopter and rested my head against the aluminum skin of the craft. How I’d gone from a regular medical supply run to being marooned in this hellish parody of rural America, I didn’t know, but one thig was certain; I needed a plan. Whoever fired the missile could have already contacted my charter company and made up some excuse to keep them from coming to look for me. No one else knew I was here, and even though I now had six staples holding the worst of my injuries shut, I knew I needed proper medical attention. If I wanted to live, I’d have to rescue myself.
My bag. I need to get my go-bag, grab some gear and then . . . head somewhere else.
It took me a while to gather my green canvas paratrooper bag from its place behind the pilot’s seat and fill it with whatever supplies I could scrounge. My knee didn’t seem to be broken, but man did it hurt, and I dreaded the thought of walking on it for miles on end. I focused instead on inventorying my gear and trying to come up with a halfway intelligent plan of action.
I had a stainless-steel canteen with one of those detachable cups on the bottom, a little fishing kit, some duct tape, a lighter, a black LED flashlight with three spare batteries, a few tattered road maps with a compass, a spare pair of socks, medical supplies from the cargo, and a simple forest green plastic rain poncho. I also managed to unearth a functioning digital camcorder my ouma had gotten me for Christmas a few years back, though I wasn’t sure I wanted to do any filming in such a miserable state. Lastly, since it was a private supply run from a warehouse area near Pittsburgh to a direct hospital pad in Ohio, I’d been able to bring my K-Bar, a sturdy, and brutally simple knife designed for the Marine Corps that I used every time I went camping. It was pitiful in comparison to the rifle I wished I had with me, but that didn’t matter now. I had what I had, and I doubted my trusty Armalite would have alleviated my sore knee anyway.
Clicking on my flashlight, I huddled with the poncho around my shoulders inside the wreck of the chopper and peered at the dusty roadmaps. A small part of me hoped that a solution would jump out from the faded paper, but none came. These were all maps of western PA and eastern Ohio. None of them had a Barron County on them anywhere.
The man on the radio said to head north, right before they shot me down. That means they must be camped out to the north of here. South had that convoy and those burning houses, so that’s a no-go. Maybe I can backtrack eastward the way I came.
As if on cue, a soft pop echoed from over the eastern horizon, and I craned to look out the helicopter window, spotting more man-made flashes over the tree tops.
“Great.” I hissed between clenched teeth, aware of how the temperature dipped to a chilly 60 degrees, and how despite the conditions, my stomach had begun to growl. “Not going that way, are we? Westward it is.”
Walking away from my poor 902 proved to be harder than I’d anticipated. Despite the glass, the fizzling fires, and the darkness, it still held a familiar, human essence to it. Sitting inside it made me feel secure, safe, even calm about the situation. In any other circumstance, I would have just stayed with the downed aircraft to wait for help, but I knew the men who shot me down would likely find my crash site, and I didn’t want to be around when they did.
Unlike much of central and western Ohio, southeastern Ohio is hilly, brushy, and clogged with thick forests. Thorns snagged at my thin poncho and sliced at my pant legs. My knee throbbed, every step a form of self-inflicted torture. The rain never stopped, a steady drizzle from above just cold enough to be problematic as time went on, making me shiver. Mud slid under my tennis shoes, and every tree looked ten times bigger in the flickering beam of my cheap flashlight. Icy fear prickled at the back of my neck at some of the sounds that greeted me through the gloom. I’d been camping loads of times, both in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, but these noises were something otherworldly to me.
Strange howls, screeches, and calls permeated the rain-soaked sky, some almost roars, while others bordered on human in their intonation. The more I walked, the softer the distant gunfire became, and the more prevalent the odd sounds, until the shadows seemed to fill with them. I didn’t dare turn off my flashlight, or I’d been completely blind in the dark, but a little voice in the back of my head screamed that I was too visible, crunching through the gloomy forest with my long beam of light stabbing into the abyss. It felt as though a million eyes were on me, studying me, hunting me from the surrounding brush, and I bitterly recalled how much I’d loved the old Survivor Man TV series as a kid.
Not so fun being out in the woods at night. Especially alone.
A twig snapped somewhere behind me, and I whirled on the spot, one trembling hand resting on the hilt of my K-Bar.
Nothing. Nothing but trees, bushes, and rain dripping down in the darkness.
“This is stupid.” I whispered to myself to keep my nerves in check as I slowly spun on the spot. “I should have went eastward anyway. God knows how long I’m going to have to—”
Creak.
A groan of metal-on-metal echoed from somewhere to my right, and I spun to face it, yanking the knife on my belt free from its scabbard. It felt so small and useless in my hand, and I choked down a wave of nauseas fear.
Ka-whump. Creak. K-whump. Creak.
Underbrush cracked and crunched, a few smaller saplings thrashed, and from deep within the gloom, two yellow orbs flared to life. They poked through the mist in the trees, forming into slender fingers of golden light that swept back and forth in the dark.
The soldiers . . . they must be looking for me.
I swallowed hard and turned to slink away.
Ice jammed through my blood, and I froze on the spot, biting my tongue to stop the scream.
It stood not yards away, a huge form that towered a good twelve feet tall in the swirling shadows. Unpolished chrome blended with flash-rusted spots in the faded red paint, and grime-smeared glass shone with dull hues in the flashes of lightning. Where the wheels should have been, the rounded steel axels curved like some enormous hand had bent them, and the tires lay face-down on the muddy ground like big round feet, their hubcaps buried in the dirt. Dents, scrapes, and chips covered the battered thing, and its crooked little radio antenna pointed straight up from the old metal fender like a mast. I could barely make out the mud-coated VW on the rounded hood, and my mind reeled in shock.
Is . . . is that a car?
Both yellow headlights bathed me in a circle of bright, blinding light, and neither I nor the strange vehicle moved.
Seconds ticked by, the screech-thumping in the background only growing closer. I realized that I couldn’t hear any engine noises and had yet to see any soldiers or guns pointed my way. This car looked old, really old, like one of those classic Volkswagen Beetles that collectors fought over at auctions. Try as I might, I couldn’t see a driver inside the murky, mold-smeared windows.
Because there wasn’t one.
Lightning arched across the sky overhead, and the car standing in front of me blinked.
Its headlights slid shut, as if little metal shades had crawled over the bulbs for a moment and flicked open again. Something about that movement was so primal, so real, so lifelike, that every ounce of self-control I had melted in an instant.
Cursing under my breath, I lunged into the shrubs, and the world erupted around me.
Under my shoes, the ground shook, and the car surged after me in a cacophony of ka-thumps that made my already racing heart skip several beats. A weather-beaten brown tow truck from the 50’s charged through the thorns to my left, it’s headlights ablaze, and a dilapidated yellow school bus rose from its hiding place in the weeds to stand tall on four down-turned axel-legs. They all flicked their headlights on like giants waking from their slumber, and as I dodged past them, they each blared their horn into the night in alarm.
My breaths came short and tight, my knee burned, and I crashed through thorns and briars without thought to how badly I was getting cut up.
The cheap poncho tore, and I ripped it away as it caught on a tree branch.
A purple 70’s Mustang shook off its blanket of creeping vines and bounded from a stand of trees just ahead, forcing me to swerve to avoid being run over, my adrenaline at all-time highs.
This can’t be happening, this can’t be happening, this can’t be happening.
Slipping and sliding, I pushed through a stand of multiflora rose, and stumbled out into a flat, dark expanse.
I almost skidded to a stop.
What had once been a rather large field stood no taller than my shoestrings, the grass charred, and burnt. The storm above illuminated huge pieces of wreckage that lay scattered over the nearly 40-acre plot, and I could just make out the fire-blackened hulk of a fuselage resting a hundred yards away. The plane had been brought down a while ago it seemed, as there weren’t any flames left burning, and I threw myself toward it in frenzied desperation.
Burned grass and greasy brown topsoil slushed underfoot, and I could hear the squelching of the cars pursing me. Rain soaked me to the bone, and my lungs ached from sucking down the damp night air. A painful stich crept into my side, and I cursed myself for not putting in more time for cardio at the gym.
Something caught my left shoelace, and I hurtled to the ground, tasting mud and blood in between my teeth.
They’ve got me now.
I clawed at the mud, rolled, and watched a tire slam down mere inches from where my head had been. The Mustang loomed over me and jostled for position with the red Volkswagen and brown tow truck, the school bus still a few yards behind them. They couldn’t seem to decide who would get the pleasure of stomping me to death, and like a herd of stampeding wildebeest, they locked bumpers in an epic shoving match.
On all fours, I scampered out from under the sparring brutes, and dashed for the crumpled airplane, a white-painted DC-3 that looked like it had been cut in half by a gargantuan knife blade. I passed a snapped wing section, the oily remains of a turbo-prop engine, and a mutilated wheel from the landing gear. Climbing over a heap of mud, I squeezed into the back of the ruined flight cabin and dropped down into the dark cargo hold.
Wham.
No sooner had my sneakers hit the cold metal floor, and the entire plane rocked from the impact of something heavy ramming it just outside. I tumbled to my knees, screaming in pain as, once again, I managed to bash the sore one off a bracket in the wall.
My hand smeared in something gooey, and I scrabbled for my flashlight.
It clicked on, a wavering ball of white light in the pitch darkness, and I fought the urge to gag. “Oh man . . .”
Three people, or what was left of them, lay strewn over the narrow cargo area. Claret red blood coated the walls, caked on the floor, and clotted under my mud-spattered shoes. Bits of flesh and viscera were stuck to everything, and tatters of cloth hung from exposed sections of broken bone. An eerie set of bloody handprints adorned the walls, and the only reason I could tell it had been three people were the shoes; all of them bore anklebones sticking out above blood-soaked socks. It smelled sickly sweet, a strange, nauseas odor that crept into my nose and settled on the back of my tongue like an alien parasite.
Something glinted in the beam of my flashlight, and my pulse quickened as I pried the object loose from the severed arm that still clung to it.
“Hail Mary full of Grace.” I would have grinned if it weren’t for the fact that the plane continued to buck and roll under the assault from the cars outside.
The pistol looked old, but well-maintained, aside from the light coating of dark blood that stained its round wooden handle. It felt heavy, but good in my hand, and I turned it over to read the words, Waffenfabrik Mauser stenciled into the frame, with a large red 9 carved into the grip. For some reason, it vaguely reminded me of the blasters from Star Wars.
I fumbled with a little switch that looked like a safety on the back of the gun and stumbled toward a gap in the plane’s dented fuselage to aim out at the surrounding headlights.
Bang.
The old gun bucked reliably in my hand, its long barrel spitting a little jet of flame into the night. I had no idea if I hit anything, but the attacking cars recoiled, their horns blaring in confusion.
They turned, and scuttled for the tree line as fast as their mechanical legs could go, the entire ordeal over as fast as it had begun.
Did I do that?
Perplexed, I stared down at the pistol in my hand.
Whoosh.
A large, inky black shadow glided down from the clouds, and the yellow school bus moved too slow to react in time.
With a crash, the kicking nightmarish vehicle was thrown onto its side, spraying glass and chrome trim across the muddy field. Its electro-synth horn blared with wails of mechanical agony, as two huge talon-like feet clamped down on it, and the enormous head of the flying creature lowered to rip open its engine compartment.
The horn cut out, and the enormous flying entity jerked its head back to gulp down a mass of what looked like sticky black vines from the interior of the shattered bus.
At this range, I could see now that the flying creature bore two legs and had its wings half-tucked like a vulture that had descended to feed on roadkill. Its head turned slightly, and in the glow of another lightning bolt, my jaw went slack at the realization of what it was.
A tree trunk. It’s a rotted tree trunk.
I couldn’t tell where the reptilian beast began, and where the organic tree components ended, the upper part of the head shaped like a log, while the lower jaw resembled something out of a dinosaur movie. Its skin looked identical to the outside of a shagbark hickory but flexed with a supple featheriness that denoted something closer to skin. Sharp branch-like spines ranged down its back, and out to the end of its tail, which bore a massive round club shaped like a diseased tree-knot. Crouched on both hind legs, it braced the hooked ends of its folded wings against the ground like a bat, towering higher than a semi-truck. Under the folds of its armored head, a bulging pair of chameleon-like eyes constantly spun in their sockets, probing the dark for threats while it ate.
One black pupil locked onto the window I peered through, and my heart stopped.
The beast regarded me for a moment, with a curious, sideways sniff.
With a proud, contemptful head-toss, the shadow from the sky parted rows of razor-sharp teeth to let out a roar that shook the earth beneath my feet. It was the triumphant war cry of a creature that sat at the very top of the food chain, one that felt no threat from the fragile two-legged beings that walked the earth all around it. It hunted whenever it wanted, ate whatever it wanted, and flew wherever it wanted. It didn’t need to rip the plane apart to devour me.
Like my hunter-gatherer ancestors from thousands of years ago, I wasn’t even worth the energy it would take to pounce.
I’m hiding in the remains of the cockpit now, which is half-buried under the mud of the field, enough to shield the light from my screen so that thing doesn’t see it. My service only now came back, and it’s been over an hour since the winged beast started in on the dead bus. I don’t know when, or how I’m going to get out of here. I don’t know when anyone will even see this post, or if it will upload at all. My phone battery is almost dead, and at this point, I’m probably going to have to sleep among the corpses until daylight comes.
A dead man sleeping amongst friends.
If you live in the Noble County area in southeastern Ohio, be careful where you drive, fly, and boat. I don’t know if it’s possible to stumble into this strange place by ground, but if so, then these things are definitely headed your way.
If that happens . . . pray that they don’t find you.
submitted by RandomAppalachian468 to u/RandomAppalachian468 [link] [comments]