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He thought he could feel something hard inside, a little node of flat firmness underneath the pliant flesh. Bone, he thought, unalarmed, or cartilage. He sipped his coffee and looked out over the crystalline white yard, breath steaming, evergreens peeking through where snow had fallen off the branches. He absently scratched at the lump. He dug deeper with his fingernail, could feel the outline of the object inside the lump. It seemed to recoil deeper into his arm at his probing. It had a sharp but smooth ridge and was about a quarter-inch long.

Alarm woke in him, distant at first, then closing in as he continued to feel around the lump and explore it. The lump was familiar and alien at the same time, him but not him. He pressed harder and felt a slight pop as the fluid released and trickled down his forearm. As he did, he noted a new lump arise just inside his left wrist, a smaller one beside it.

The recessed object now rose from the original lump like an undersea volcano, white and streaked with red, sharp and hard. A tooth. A fucking canine tooth. In my arm. As the oddness of this registered, new lumps arose on his thighs, shoulders, feet. He tried to shake the first tooth out of his arm, panic taking hold and whispering in his ear like a lover, but all he succeeded in doing was to splatter blood out over the pristine white yard, each droplet sinking in as it lost its warmth to the snow.

Lumps erupted and swirled on his scalp and on his genitals. Teeth, legion in number, erupted from these newly formed lumps, sprouting up and coalescing, moving centrally to line up, his navel at the center. His navel tore open, the lines radiating out to form a mouth in the middle of his abdomen. The pain was like fire, the sensation of tearing muscle, skin and sinew so unbearable he nearly swooned. He felt himself bent into an angle, his head forced into the mouth at his midsection by the draw of this new opening. He felt the bones of his spine crack, realign and break as he doubled over.

In up to his shoulders, further. He curled in, a thick slurping sound emanating from the mouth at his center. Tighter and tighter he went until his feet disappeared into the mouth. Like a reverse Cheshire cat, the mouth folded in on itself, emitting a final breath of graveyard air into the chilly morning, then it, too, was gone. Being dead proved a bigger problem than Reuben had prepared for. He normally bought the right thing, the perfect thing. Reuben had accumulated so many fine things, hand-selected items that better painted the picture of the man he was.

Then a doctor exposed that picture for its one flaw, and Reuben began to make different preparations. First he planned the diaspora of his beautiful things, the stars that formed his constellation. The Porsche Speedster went to his younger brother, Tim, because Tim would learn to care for something if it was beautiful. When the ink dried, Reuben summoned the last of his vigor and planned his send-off. The flowers were lilies- no primroses or carnations.

He demanded bluebells arranged into one bouquet and also chose a live quartet with a penchant for holding notes a half step long. He then had a fine suit tailored to his new dimensions. Everyone else is walking on eggshells. The final item brought Reuben the most joy. The funeral went as planned. His shimmering oak box was lowered as his chosen prayer was intoned and in its surface, every person Reuben ever loved watched their reflection get smaller. The earth settled and Reuben awoke. He was not prepared for this. The smell got him first: formaldehyde and something else.

Hours later it was the density: the titanium, oak, and six feet of earth. His screams died in front of his face. It took four long days for Reuben to realize he was rotting. The smell grew dense in the airtight box. The worst part was the echo in his still functioning brain, the words being paired with the grim smile of the funeral director. The words repeated themselves over and over in his fetid head. Reuben pushed every silken inch. There was no pain then, just the words repeating themselves: a thousand year guarantee. They perfected a chip, that when implanted in your brain, would allow you to read the thoughts of others.

At first, everyone was excited, and they all clamoured eagerly to get the first few. As soon as they were proven reliable, anyone who could afford it bought one. At first, it seemed perfect.

The Day My Therapist Dared Me to Have Sex With Her

Murderers and criminals were caught easily, and you could judge how a relationship could go on the first date. There was a petition to get the chips removed, which was successful. Unfortunately, their brains had been altered by the chip. Online support groups popped up and scientists everywhere began researching ways to reverse the effect. It turned out that some random on reddit had the answer.

Circular reasoning maybe, but his solution worked. I was always poor, I could never afford the chip. I can hear them moaning and shuffling outside my door right now, desperate for mine. The weekend was finally here. It had been a long week, and you really need this reprieve to maintain sanity. The speed limit is 35 here, but you pull up behind a red truck going well under.

You feel a little bad, having honked at someone probably just looking for the right road, but you let it go quickly. You make it a couple more miles down the road until you need to turn on your headlights. Again, you have to slow down to below the limit. You honk again. This time his right blinker turns on, and he pulls off to the side. You go around and speed up. You watch him in the rearview mirror. It might as well be midnight in these woods. The closer you get to home, the faster you go. Cops never watched these roads. Just two miles away, you come across a sharp corner at speed. You come to a stop and look behind you.

With a flash, its highbeams turn on and you hear it peeling out. You whip your car right and watch the red truck fly by. There it is again. The same red truck. Always ahead of you, yet following you. Its driver side door hangs wide open. And so does the front door of your house. That was what my Granpa told me when I was five years old and accidentally broke the old mirror that hung in the hallway of his house while I was pretend sword-fighting with a broom.

I never got to really ask him much about it, because Granpa was dead the next morning, found dead in his bed by my Dad. They said he passed peacefully in his sleep. As I grew older, I heard more and more about luck, both good and bad. Some called it auras, some called it fate; but the one that seemed to feel right was karma. Doing good things could bring you good karma, doing bad things brought bad karma. And, like luck, I felt that karma could be influenced by the same actions, and I saw enough of it happen to believe it. In high school, I once saw our football coach walk under a ladder that was being used by painters in the gym.

The next day, Coach Clark fell off the top of the bleachers at the football field and broke his neck. While I was in college, I dated a really cute girl named Amber. During a heavy thunderstorm one day, she opened her umbrella inside the student center before going out into the rain. On her way home later that evening, she lost control of her car and sailed right over an embankment; the authorities said that she most likely died on impact and felt no pain when the car caught fire and burned.

Right now, she is upstairs taking a nap after I had slipped a couple of crushed Ambien into her coffee, while I am downstairs setting fire to the drapes with a lit candle and watching the fire spread to the carpet. As I walk out the door to my car, I wonder just how many times I will have to do this before people start to believe in bad karma. As soon as my wife got home I took the car and left. I was so done with everything. I was a deadbeat drunk dad and I was much better off where I was going then sitting at home and drinking away what little money we had.

You could say I was being selfish. In a way I was doing them all a favor. I was doing my kids a favor. Perhaps they will forgive me in time. They will do what I failed to do. They will do good in school and move on to college. They will make their mother proud. Well here I am. I planned where i would swerve the car off the bridge.

I planned which side I would veer the car off to make it look like it was an accident. Here I go. The car flies off the bridge exactly where I planned it to. Everything goes slow. And then I think about everything my kids will go on to do. I smile and look back to see the sky one last time. My fascination, however, is more of a medical one. Using dead organs and muscle and tissue built around a skeleton to create life?

Seemed impossible, but I always kept an open mind. My colleagues would never agree to work with me on this conceptually flawed experiment, but Peter Goldstein had the funds to let me work toward my dream. He gave me the money when I asked, and I did all the work: finding fresh bodies, harvesting the organs and muscle and tissue and bones, assembling the pieces, finding the chemical mixture to bring the dead tissue back to life once more.

Years of work to find the perfect ingredients. I need to get them from a living specimen. I plunged a hidden syringe in his neck and sedated him. The body would not last much longer. I needed the parts now. I laid him down on my operating table and began to work. I completed the work on the creature and began pumping the chemicals into its body.

If my calculations are correct, it is mere minutes away from being a living being. The sedative must be wearing off from Peter; he is beginning to stir. I hope he is as excited as I am about this momentous occasion. The ten ton weight pushed me off my feet and slammed me into the library wall. I felt something leaking inside as I scrabbled for purchase on the hot metal. The smell of burning rubber and the crunch of bone washed over me as more cars spun off the road, and I prayed for survival. It all came back at once.

I opened my eyes and gazed at the dead and dying. Men, woman, children, all wrapped around the wreckage of the bus and half a dozen other cars it smashed along the way. Rivers of blood and broken bits splashed down the streets and pooled in the potholes and ran through the grates. Some of them still lived, writhing, sobbing, clawing at the wreckage of the world around them.

I sprawled over the hood of the bus and felt my life drain out. She was a beautiful 14 year old girl with blonde, curly hair and big blue eyes. She had many friends for she was one of the most popular girls in school. Her greatest pleasure was fashion. She was always dressed in the newest, fanciest most expensive clothes. Just this week her father bought her a ridiculously expensive green Italian leather jacket which she wore always, everywhere. Her second greatest pleasure were horses. Just last month her father bought her a ridiculously expensive, imported german dressage horse, which she bragged about to anyone who would listen.

Just yesterday, Linda was out riding said horse, galloping across acres and acres of farmland. She was hit by surprise. Never had something so unpleasant happened to her and she wondered when someone would arrive to comfort her. Surely someone must have seen her fall, everybody always looked at her! But not today. No one saw her vanish into those tall crops on the field. She called out, but no one answered. She lay there for what seemed like hours between tall, green crops. And when she heard the sound of farming machines approaching, she grew to hate that damn, grass green jacket.

We put our daughter to bed upstairs in her room every night, and yet we found her on the couch in the living room every morning. At first we thought she was sleep walking, but she never was afraid when she woke up, thrown off by the unexpected nocturnal change of location. We tried asking her about it, but she never gave us straight answers. My wife grew tired of it.

Every morning we found her on the couch, sleeping soundly. Then my wife decided to stay up and wait for her to come down from her room. We put her to bed, closed the door, and I got into bed like normal while my wife stayed watching the living room through the glass doors of the hall. No more than five minutes after we had left, our daughter came down to the couch. I knew because I heard the living room door open and my wife started talking softly. After a few minutes, their voices started rising.

I got up and went to see what was wrong. I walked in, and my wife was standing at the bottom of the stairs, while our daughter cried and begged her not to go up them. I picked her up and held her, trying to calm her down, and my wife went up. She started crying even more then. I set our daughter down and walked to the stairs. I walked up slowly to the top, and turned to her room. I opened the door, and the light was off. I stepped in the room to flip the light switch, but nothing happened.

Then the bulb in the hallway started to flicker. I turned around as it went out. All I saw was a blur of black that even dimmed the darkness around me. The door slammed shut, and the wails of our daughter reached up through the floorboards as the overture to my final moments. All there was at the end was darkness, screaming, and teeth.

I awake with a jolt. Gasping for air, I inhale deeply. Dank, moldy air fills my lungs. Lying there, I try to move my arms. Slowly, I lift them from my sides, only to hit something just a few inches above them. Making a fist, I rotate my hand and knock on the object in front of me. And it sounds solid. The air is thick and putrid. I sputter and wheeze, trying to expel years of dust. My whole body moves, and my knees hit a bit too hard on the wood above me. Trapped, like a nut inside a shell.

Methodically, I maneuver my arm to reach the metal broach pinned on my jacket. I scrape and chisel into the wood. Hours go by. The stagnant air ripe with sweat and tainted body odor. I can feel wood shavings on my wrist and arm. The oxygen in this wooden box is dangerously low. The heat and rancid air burns my lungs. The wood above my hand starts to buckle and I can feel dirt and debris pelting my hand. Mustering every last ounce of strength, I force both my hand up and the wood gives way.

Dirt and rocks flood in, and adrenaline kicks into high gear. Clawing, and climbing, I make my way forward through the loose soil. My hand suddenly pops through. Pushing myself out of the dirt and into the daylight, I survey the area. I can hear scratching and digging around me. I can see other holes where others had already made their way out. I shamble over to the water fountain in the middle of the graveyard. Still missing the top of my head and jaw where I used the shotgun…. Over a third of the population was believed to be infected, they said, and I alone breathed a sigh of relief.

It started with anger, I know that much, a burning, churning rage that clawed through my belly and set my nerves on fire. I think I hurt someone. I think I might have hurt a lot of someones, actually. Very badly. No more disgusting images, no more monstrous desires, no more sick thoughts every hour of every day. He pricks her thumb, hums as the machine processes the sample, and then frowns.

I step up to the desk, grinning widely even though the horrible, whining voice of the parasite is telling me to smash his stupid face into the desk right there, in front of everyone. Not long now, you horrible little bastard. I present my thumb proudly. The sting of the needle feels like victory, and I inhale deeply as the machine whirs. Whenever I need to use the bathroom at night, I am always filled with a sense of terror.

As soon as I flush the toilet and switch off the lights, I run as fast as I could, feeling that someone or something is chasing me until I reach the safety of my own bedroom; closing the door behind me and hiding under the protection of my soft blanket. Last night, as I flushed the toilet, washed my hands and switched the lights off, I was greeted by the same darkness that usually made me cower and anxious. A thought came to me, that maybe I could get over this feeling of dread if I faced my own nightmares.

I stopped myself from running and walked at a normal pace, trying to block horrific images inside my head by counting my steps. I reached my bedroom safely. I smiled at my achievement and gave a sigh of relief. Just then, my bedroom door closed behind me. I turned around and I saw it; the one that caused me fear every time I used the toilet at night. Reverend Pip Popoff pressed his hand down on the forehead of the elderly woman before pushing her back, causing her to briefly trip over herself.

The audience cheered, eagerly eating up the bullshit laid in front of them. I sighed, trapped in line along with the rest of the idiots. Popoff adjusted his microphone before heaving me onto the stage with a heavy grunt. He was an old man, wearing a tight tweedy suit and speaking with a fake southern accent. In his eyes were pupils of an almost solid blackness. The audience laughed. With this righteous hand, demons, I cast thee out! It was like a dream, I was floating above the scene, having a clear view of Popoff and… myself. My body turned towards me, its eyes now bearing the same darken pupils.

It gave a sly wink before walking off stage and joining my mother. As much as I hate to do it, I roll up my sleeve and stick my hand down the disposal. At these times I always second guess the wiring. Matted up chunks of black hair are all intwined in the mechanics of the disposal. I turn my head and push deeper into the disposal until I notice a smiling 2 foot figure sitting on the counter. Why is it up there? I turn to look at the drain once more. I hear the sound of rustling cloth and quick, light footsteps. I turn my head again expecting to see my daughter, but instead the doll was standing by the light switches.

I can now see the patch of black hair missing from the back of its head. I look down towards the drain with the sudden realization that I needed to pull my hand out, now. The mission was simple. Travel to Keplerf and populate it. Easy, right? I mean, a small base camp had already been set up by probes and robots sent years ago on previous missions, all with success.

The camp was pretty basic, but contained the bare essentials needed to sustain the first landing party and the planet supported life. This planet was to be renamed upon the success of mankind first setting foot upon its soil. The technological culmination in what the human spirit can achieve when threatened with extinction. This ship was to be the first of several to arrive. Its builders and designers would never know of its outcome. They would be long dead. All told, five vessels were launched.

Each with a particular mission, with the ultimate goal to colonize Keplerf. Our vessel was launched a year before the others.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017) - Dance Fighting Scene (5/10) - Movieclips

Our mission: ensure the arrival of the other ships went smoothly. Build wooden shelters, start crops, secure the camp from predatory animals with a fence and of course, catalog everything. Like the twelve Olympians, there were twelve of us on board; 6 men and 6 women, in stasis.


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No one could survive the light-year journey alert and awake. Scientists and programmers are both intellectual types; logical and analytically thinking. A mission this critical, to save the human race, brought together the best scientists, mathmeticians, engineers and programmers the world has ever known. Computer programmers and engineers building precise machinery and software. The existence of humanity required nothing but the best of the best.

We arrived at Keplerf, precisely on schedule. The ship was pre-programmed to land without any human intervention. Funny, after light years without a single problem, that the scientists would calculate the landing procedure in meters, and the programmers would code the sequence in feet…. Was it something you ate? Something you came in contact with? You always do. But it will heat your body up, make it inhospitable for this god damn virus. You grin to yourself, thinking about the hypothetical choice your body has given this infestation: Stop attacking, or leave, or die.

In any case, you win and they lose. If only these germs could grasp how puny and insignificant they really are; how could they not realize your body would fight back and that, inevitably, would win? With that thought, you are willing to wait years, decades, hundreds of laps around the sun if you must, content in the knowledge that no plague can destroy you.

And then. No more itching. No more queasiness. The germs are eradicated; a result of their own actions, nonetheless. You relax back into your natural orbit, beauty and well-being restored. You are eternal, indomitable. As you stare out into the far-off reaches of space in every direction, you wonder if they were ever so naive as to call your body their home. The waitress placed a plate of steaming enchiladas, smothered in cheese and onions, with a side of guacamole salad in front of Brian.

A sweet tea was just out of reach of his left hand. It was an old bedroom game. The scene played out in his head as a figure began to emerge in the sunset. Brian was half way through the plate; the waitress had refilled his glass of tea three times, when a patron deposited an absent minded quarter into the juke box. It was Robert Earl Keen, one of her favorites. Brian shook his head. Keen had no idea how right he was. He glanced out the window, studying the approaching figure. It was closer now.

Brian could almost make out its features. By the time he unlocked the door to his old pick-up truck, he could clearly make out the details of the figure he had been watching. The fetid corpse trudged closer and closer to the diner. Rotted flesh dangled from crackling bones, and the white gown it once wore was now a filthy rag. Brian slid into his truck and closed the door. I was a doctoral research student and had received a small bursary to attend, but due to my teaching duties that week, I found myself driving up alone fairly late on the Thursday evening.

At the time I was driving my beloved old Mini and had a bit of an embarrassing affectation for all things retro. I was therefore carrying a ridiculously old Nokia mobile with the battery life of a Spinal Tap drummer and absolutely no internet capability. I had pulled over into one of the parking areas of the national park at Aviemore, where I specifically chose one of the smaller car parks that acted as an access point for hill climbers — these areas permit overnight parking, are generally off the main road and are unlit, which I thought would best facilitate a quiet rest before I started driving again.

What with it being Scotland, it was raining lightly and the air was chill. I lowered my seat and pulled my coat over me, drifting off fairly quickly as the rain drummed pleasantly on the roof of the car. I woke with a start some time later. I was in darkness, slightly disorientated and vaguely aware that I had heard a thump somewhere on the bodywork of the car. I was by no means panicking, sure that it had just been the metal chassis settling as the engine cooled, and I picked up my mobile to check the time. I was cursing slightly under my breath about the fact my battery had died when I heard a distinct tap-tap-tap on the lower side of the passenger door.

I was unnerved, and I reached across the seat to check the door was locked. I certainly do, and I was quietly chiding myself for being a baby when the tap-tap-tap sounded from the rear passenger panel. I immediately shut up and stared at the back window. No movement, no shadows.

A bit exasperated with myself, I switched on the engine, turning the hot air on to clear the windows. It took an age for the windows to clear always did with my old Mini, thanks to a bust fan on the passenger side , and I sat for a couple of minutes before I began to see more clearly through the steam. My heart about plummeted to the floor when a brief movement in the wing mirror caught my eye. Something was lurking around the back of my car. I immediately switched on my headlamps, and the car park ahead of me was flooded with light.

There were no other cars, which I found comforting, assured that it must therefore be an animal I had seen in the mirror. I was restoring my seat to its normal position when something clattered deafeningly against the window by my face. I screamed pure instinct and immediately pealed out of the car park, a thick fog still obscuring the majority of my rear windows.

My heart stopped hammering about ten miles down the road when I realised that no-one was following me. By the time I reached my hotel in Ullapool just over two hours later, I had decided I had most likely been hit by a bird, or possibly a bat, and had laughed at my skittishness. I got out the car and stretched my legs in the bright car park of the hotel, enjoying the cool air after being cooped up for so long in a confined space. When I went to collect my bag from the back seat, I noticed an envelope tucked underneath and opened it with curiosity.

You should be more careful about where you park at night. I sat in the passenger seat for almost ten minutes and wrote this while you slept.

Character Worksheets

Your passenger window can be eased down by hand. I drove home from the festival early on the Sunday afternoon, determined to make the journey in one daylight trip. I had my window checked at a garage back in Glasgow and sure enough, the locking mechanism was broken. Chills overcome my body as I hear the soft thuds of his steel-toed boots approaching. I was walking home from school, as usual. Every day or something to that effect he comes here, wherever that is.

He strides, seemingly in slow motion, over to the chair he tied me to. And as always, he unsheathes that damned blade. And as always, he draws the knife, over and over, upon my exposed skin, which has long since acquired an odd pallor. Where there used to be bare arms and legs, there are now jagged, dark red lines. He is silent, as he always is during this ritual, only allowing himself a small chuckle when his knife finds a particularly painful scar. If this were a movie, I would have overpowered him, taken his knife, and escaped.

I used to imagine myself leaving this place and running away, far, far, away, and never having to look back. All I imagine now is the only possible future left for me: my corpse, lain across the floor, more crimson than pale, and drained of blood. I have long since realized that these thoughts are the only ones that hold any truth to them, and this was confirmed when, upon finishing, he whispered into my ear,. I have accepted the fact that I will die here.

Any fantasies I had of salvation were just that: fantasies. And now, they are shattered, permanently.

Lost & Found: A 5 Year Journey

My boyfriend is such a lovely man. He does the sweetest things like leave me little pieces of jewelry on my pillow or brings me my favorite flowers and a new dress. One day I get back to the house to find that dress and all of the jewelry he has given me were lying on the stairs with a note. I smile as wide as possible. I quickly go into the bathroom and change into the dress which is a flowing cream colored gown that looks like a toga and the bangles made of bone with feathers on them.

All lovely gifts that he had given me over the months we had been together. The last thing to go on was this beautiful gold necklace that had amethysts and jade at intervals throughout the piece. I walk up the stairs to see rose petals scattered across it and open the door to our room. Every available surface of our room is filled with candles and it is the most romantic thing I have ever seen. I step inside and see the rose petals leading to our bed. It is only after I hear the turning of the lock and see the demonic circle painted onto our sheets that I realize that there is a fine line between romantic gestures, and preparing a sacrifice.

For years, children would remember past events that could not be explained. Or dying in a car accident. Or falling off a mountain. Mind, these were things these kids had no way of knowing about. The freaky memories would be long forgotten by the time they reached school age. The claustrophobics would panic at even the hint of a too tight space, feeling the smothering agony of oxygen leaving them without actually experiencing it. Acrophobics would choke up just looking at a tall building, their hearts beating fast at the terror of being at the top and slipping….

No one made the connection between the past life talk of all these children and the phobias they later exhibited until scientists studying epigenetics, past memories and other things passed down through DNA, became all the rage. The truly irrational phobias. They struggled to understand it, to scientifically explain it. One day, a geneticist who I bet had been toking one too many joints, had an idea. He designed a machine that measured the energy of a dead body in a whole new way, and was disturbed to find that energy only left the body when it had completely decayed or burned or whatever.

A portion of that energy traveled right on into the next body, the most viable fetus it could find, and that is how scientists discovered reincarnation and death memories. Which leads me to my biggest fear. Many claim trypophobia is not a true phobia. What makes this fear so strong in some and non-existent in others? Imagine what happens to the carcass decaying underground in a box, the maggots and worms making food of it.

Imagine a sort of lingering consciousness as your body is consumed around you and you are unable to move in your death. Your death memory transfers into a new body. The thing is though, you may have forgotten all about your former death, but the phobia still lingers. It started simple with army grunts like me.

Each time one of those monsters would pop-up we would send jets and tanks and try to hurt them the best we could. Still most of the time a couple of town would get flatten before they went back to the sea. Despite our best efforts we were considered supremely incompetent and not enough to prevent the possible extinction of mankind. We needed better weapon, our first really big success was with the robot suit. I can remember being so happy the first time I saw one those damn critter beaten to a pulp.

I think that was 30 years ago. But of course we are not fighting mere animals here, they adapted to the big guys and eventually we had to find something new once again. The first thing the eggheads did was to create some Frankenstein like creature. I think they piece the thing together from all the remains they had gathered over the years or mashing DNA together.


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Worked really well at killing them, at least until the beats decided to stay hidden for a while and the thing went berserk from the lact on action and tuned on us. Before too long we had to turn half of south America in a nuclear wasteland in order to transform the damn creature in a pile of ashes. It just needed something with a better brain, a human brain to be more precise. The brain was the only human part they needed, the rest could be altered. They started to ask for volonteers.

I remember the first time I saw one, I wondered which monsters I had to shoot. The Irony is that back in those days they actually had a human shape. They were not so bad, but in order to keep winning, they had to become more brutal, stronger and more savage. Nowaday, they easily do more damage than the monsters they are supposed to fight. The worst thing is that they truly are our only good line of defence, but we always need more of them.

One day the brass will probably start to just snatch us up in our sleep. The fields have been barren dust for nearly a year now. And they fed us for weeks. But the meat eventually ran out, as it always did. And once again, our stomachs clawed away at themselves, with nothing to eat for days, days that were churning into weeks. The children cried as I butchered the poor creature, but their tears dried as our small house finally smelled like cooking meat again.

She was weak, getting weaker. And my son was stronger—he just needed some food. My husband was long gone at that point. No guidance. No help. No forgiveness. I begged God to answer me, to tell me what to do. He was silent as the night sky, silent as the slowly dying world around us. I pulled out the large cooking pot. And the cleaver. There was no use in delaying the inevitable, stretching her timeline out, letting her suffer, needlessly collecting the dead until everything was dust.

I had decided to use the threadbare pillow on her. To walk into their small room in the dark of the night, as they tried to sleep off the pain of their empty stomachs, and put it over her face, pushing down, guiding her to some kind of final sleep. Lead her to the endless dark where there was no pain. My hands shook, one on the knob of the door to their room, the other clutching the pillow. I whispered a plea—. I opened the door to find the job had been done for me.

My child. My eyes welled as I looked upon the horror of my bloodied daughter. There is something out there- the most atavistic of human fears. Some people say that this fear of the unknown is something that is relevant for evolution. Fear of the dark kept the early man from stepping out in the night, saving him from the big cats lurking in the shadows. The night time jungle used to cast shadows into the hearts of the bravest men. Many who foolishly stepped out, never returned or lived to tell. Most people today think that the fear of the dark is an absurd idea, and feel brave and invincible in their cozy urban electrified homes.

I should know better. You see, I am old, quite old. I commanded the beasts back in the time when it mattered. This task had been entrusted to me, and for millennia, I ensured that a fear of the dark stayed in humans, using my pets for the purpose. I did not enjoy this, but I feared that if humans strayed out too far in the dark, something much sinister would get them. I continued instilling fear in their hearts, for their own good. My days are coming to an end now, and I can no longer strike fear in you. I feel sad for all of you, for what I was saving you from is sinister and dark beyond your imagination.

I had never been sure what to expect when my wife cooked. She was always on blogs finding recipes that, in all honesty, were above her skill level. Not trying to be rude, but there we are. How extravagant! Mind you, Mrs. Darville and I had been seeing each other secretly for months. I had been wondering if she knew about us. Darville would have to run out the back door half dressed. She had even gone as far as to get a tattoo of a bear on that little behind after the nickname she gave me.

It always gave me a smile. As I went to wash she opened the oven and I smelled an aroma so sweet, so succulent it was as if it snared me by the nose and pulled me back to the kitchen. The kind of spark that Mrs. Darville had used to lure me into her bed with ease. I meant to say whore. Mid sentence she took a still bloody steak off the serving platter and slapped it onto the bare, wooden table. On the backside of the steak, there was a small patch of skin left on the cut of meat. I could just make out the picture of a bear on the seared flesh. When you are admitted to a hospital, they place on your wrist a white wristband with your name on it.

But there are other different colored wristbands which symbolize other things. The red wristbands are placed on dead people. There was one surgeon who worked on night shift in a school hospital. He had just finished an operation and was on his way down to the basement. He entered the elevator and there was just one other person there. He casually chatted with the woman while the elevator descended.

When the elevator door opened, another woman was about to enter when the doctor slammed the close button and punched the button to the highest floor. Surprised, the woman reprimanded the doctor for being rude and asked why he did not let the other woman in. She died while I was doing the operation. My brother moved out of the house back in once he got his job as a Computer technician, and he recently went missing.

When I went to his house, it was locked, with 3 sheets of printer paper taped to the front door. I got out of my car to examine it more carefully. The LCD definitely showed signs of user related damage, as there was a large hole on the left side of the screen that fit a standard Phillips Head screwdriver perfectly. There was a webcam above the display as well, and it was also destroyed with the same screwdriver. Other than those, however, everything else on the computer showed minor signs of wear, like almost all of the keyboards keys were faded, but nothing to the extent that it could be considered unusable.

How long could this laptop have possibly run without a charging port to recharge the battery? Why did it exactly have a web cam, though? Curious as to what exactly is on the laptop, I ran inside to my basement where my old desktop was currently being stored. The only reason it was down there was because I forgot to bring that behemoth to the local SarCan to recycle it.

I went to push the power button when…. I rummaged around the basement to find my battery voltage tester and immediately withdrew the battery from the laptop and checked the voltage. Low and behold, it had no charge. With that, I unplugged the display from the laptop, put it back into the desktop and simply left everything downstairs. After leaving the basement I went to go watch TV for about 3 hours or so before going to bed. I was suddenly awakened from my deep slumber by the sound of the Windows start up jingle and fell out of my bed.

It was so deafeningly loud I swore someone was holding a pair of speakers right next to my ears. After I fell out of the bed, I stood up in a groggy daze, and for a minute or so trying to figure out what that sound was. The desktop! I must have accidentally hit the power switch while trying to switch monitors! I simply walked to the basement, but froze in the middle of the steps.

I just remembered there was no way my computer could have started up, because I have Windows 95 installed on my desktop. I had to make sure of it though. I checked behind the desktop and everything else was plugged in except for the tower. I removed the battery from the laptop again and re-checked the voltage. I re-inserted the battery pressed the power button on the laptop. I connected the CRT monitor back into the laptop.

And what I saw…. The task bar was empty, and there was no Start menu button. The wallpaper was black. Why would anyone do this to their desktop? Anyone could remove all the icons, but they must be pretty skilled hackers to remove the Start Menu button. Maybe this was a kids laptop. I was ready, or so I thought, to take the nothing cure. Life without food is darkness and headaches and restlessness.

I can't sleep. I can't read. Music—even soft, ridiculously washy music—seems jarring. My wife calls and asks how it's going at Camp Starvation: Am I dead yet? Not dead, but pissing the day away. Pissing on the hour and the minute and the second. If all else goes bust here, at least my man-Kegels will be super ripped. I hadn't bargained for so much bed rest, and if you can't sleep or have sex in a bed, it's just a slightly softer floor, and you're lying on it in the middle of your room, starving, wondering when they will come and find you.

I wake up feeling slightly better, if hollow and weak. My headache is nearly gone, and I've lost another three pounds. My stomach growls so slowly I can almost pick out words. Weirdly, though, I am not hungry. Shouldn't my body be tweaking with hunger right now? Apparently it should not. This is just the physiology of fasting at work. Even though I'm eating nothing, I am feeding very well, thank you. On my own damn self. I've lost twelve pounds. They say it's mostly water weight. Why am I carrying around all that water? Klaper lectures me on salt, a piece of nutritional apocalypse he clearly enjoys sharing.

When you eat too much salt, your blood gets saltier, so your brain tells your body it's thirsty. So you drink more water, diluting your salty blood, and with more blood pumping through your system, you get high blood pressure. I blink at him hopefully. There must be a loophole. My wife packs a little Ziploc of Maldon sea salt whenever we leave the house, and we litter it over even perfect bowls of food, like ice cream.

Klaper and I will have to disagree here, even though he has decades of credentials and experience over me. On my final day without food, I wake up at 5 A. I slept in! And all of a sudden, I feel tremendous. Light, energetic, unreasonably cheerful. This is maybe the runner's high of fasting, and it's hit me just as my fast is ending. Throughout my stay, a six-day fast has been regarded with amused smiles. Pathetic amateur, they don't say.

One doctor says everyone should do a long fast at least once in their lives. What's long, I ask. Twenty-one days. Maybe thirty. Now I see the appeal. Once you get over the misery of the first few days, things start to look up and you get this feeling that something profoundly necessary is happening inside you. I've lost sixteen pounds, and a deep bend at the knees is surprisingly pain-free. My hands no longer ache. My skin is clear. The whites of my eyes look Photoshopped. Klaper comes by to discuss my food plan going forward.

A water fast is pointless if you kill it with a cheeseburger. In the morning I'll have a juice of watermelon and celery, some grapes and melon at lunch. For dinner I get something they refer to as sloppy, wet greens. Perhaps they did not want to use the word watery. Then we discuss what I'll eat when I get home and, ideally, for the rest of my life.

It's pretty clear now what's really being promoted at TrueNorth. Fasting is not the star but just a tool to get you to radically change the way you eat. They call it a plant-strong diet. I call it vegan minus joy, where joy equals salt, sugar, and oil. Processed foods are out, and so is anything scooped from an animal's body, however local or hand-groomed the beast was. Some people would rather die than eat this way. Actually, if you believe that the diseases of kings are nutritional diseases, diseases of excess—some do.

In ever increasing numbers. On my first morning among the eaters, down seventeen pounds, it takes me an hour to drink my juice. The mouthfeel of this liquid is superior. Why even swallow? But when I do feel that juice roll down my throat, it's killingly decadent, as delicious as anything I've ever tasted, and the calories hit me like a jolt. I feel brand-new. I re-feed slowly, as advised, but it takes me days to feel deeply hungry again.

That ache and itch I used to have in my mouth, only to be soothed by salt and sugar and fat, is gone. My arthritis has eased up, too.

The Writing Cooperative

Klaper says I have the stats of a teenage boy. Not quite the infant I was shooting for, but it's close. It's time to go, and what I feel most strongly is that I could have fasted longer. A week more, maybe two. On the flight back my ears pop, easily, and the noise rushes in. My ears have never popped well in the air, and the pleasure of this effortless head-clearing is nearly sexual. It feels like someone has Hoovered out my sinuses. When I get home, I'm still pecking lightly at food, suspicious.

Every meal looks like my undoing. Salt looks like lye. Oil looks, well, really oily. We eat that why? Oh yeah, because it's a thick golden pleasure-delivery system. I take the stairs down to the street, and something is different. They've redone the steps in my building. They're easier, almost horizontal. But of course they aren't. It's me who's easier. I have no pain in my toes or knees, and I can make a fist, no problem. It's days after my water fast ended, I've been eating solid food again, and it would seem that my arthritis is really gone.

But it's hard to believe this sudden absence of pain will last. Maybe the fasting spooked my system, scared me out of pain. Check with me after the extreme reverse fast I face now that I'm home: the summer-barbecue months. And that's the problem. If there's a downside, it's not with the fasting itself. It's that the diet required to sustain the tremendous effects of a fast is rigorously difficult and, for many, probably unrealistic. The challenge in the kitchen is how you get to delicious—or maybe how you learn not to care, which is too grim to contemplate. Fasting helps kill your cravings, and it stokes your passion for fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and nuts.

Creative Writing Prompt: Today's the Day You Save a Life

To a certain degree. But what I notice is that I start to look at food as medicine, and the decisions I make at mealtimes have to do with what kind of medicine I want to be taking: the clean, bland kind with maximum benefits and zero negative side effects, or the lewdly delicious bad medicine with too many side effects to name? There's a deep canyon between the real world, or at least my real world, and the spartan ways of the plant-based whole-foods diet.

If I lived alone and shopped and cooked for one and had no life, this would be a cinch. If this sounds like I'm blaming my friends, I probably am. For now, I'm going to see if that old, sad approach called moderation has any sway here. It's never worked for me before. I tend to want my cake and your whole family's cake, too.

But if I feel the pain coming back, seizing my joints, I know now that I won't be reaching for pills. Particularly when doing nothing at all seems to work so much better.