A Lonely Game of Chess

 

I have not been writing as much as I wanted to the past half a year, but that’s going to change. I finally finished off a short story that took much longer than necessary, but I am trying to get back into the groove. Some stories I plan to submit to magazines, and others I will simply post here.

Without further ado, here is A Lonely Game of Chess:

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Boredom from being the only person on the island had persuaded me to make a chess set. Why make a chess set which is meant for two people when I was only one? The curiosity made me scratch my matted beard. It had been so long since I had seen another soul.

I dragged myself from my shaded bed at my camp and shook the sand from what remained of my old clothes. I didn’t need to dress up for anyone, but it was nice to protect the few remaining untanned spots on my body from getting burned. I started walking inward to the center of the island before realizing I had forgotten my “knife.” Sighing, I turned around and tugged the warped metal scrap from the sand where I had drove it into ground before taking a nap. With my improvised knife swaying by my side, I set off in search of suitable wood to create the board and pieces.

I dragged a branch from the forest behind me, leaving a trail of agitated sand in my wake. The wood was like all the other wood on the island: oppressive. It reminded me of the “paradise” I was stuck in, and the ridged, brown exterior rubbed against my much-too calloused hands. I dropped next to the dormant fire pit at my camp and pulled the branch across my lap. Its weight rested comfortably on my lap, just like my children when we used to watch television together. I wished I could play chess against them or, better yet, just see them.

I shook my head to rid myself of the pointless memories. I glanced out beyond the beach, the edge of my prison, to the limitless ocean. I wasn’t ever going to see them again.

I grabbed my knife and started getting to work, sawing and hacking at the wood until I broke it into smaller chunks. I cut them smaller and smaller, assembling thirty-two small cylinders of wood that I could work with. The assembly of future pieces sat around me in a semicircle, looking upon me with anticipation. I picked up the nearest piece and started whittling it with the sharpest point I could find along my improvised tool. Not used to doing fine movements with my knife, it only took a few minutes until it slipped off the unfinished piece I was holding and sailed right across my finger.

“Damn it!” I grumbled as I dropped the pieces of wood I was working on.

I had forgotten about speaking; it had been so long. My laughter bellowed from the camp–another unfamiliar sound. How long had it been since I had last heard someone say anything? Weeks? Months? Years? To think that the first word I would hear from someone, including myself, after so much time would be a curse would have been the exact thing to make my wife roll her eyes at me. A throbbing in my finger drew my attention to the lazy volcano of blood oozing out of it. The sand between my feet was already marked with scarlet rainfall from my wound. I hadn’t observed my hands in a long time. I turned them over in the midday light, observing how much they had changed from the gentle, protected hands I used to have. Dark brown, thick, and dirty hands that were definitely not mine were what I was now seeing. My fingernails were long, ragged, and had a line of dirt and sand underneath them where the nail met the skin. I watched the fine stream of blood trickle across with my hand with bated interest. I would have killed for a shower and a band-aid at that moment to rid myself of these grimace-inducing hands. I wiped my hand on the rags that remained around my waist and resumed whittling my chess set after the flow of blood subsided.

After a few days, I looked upon the fruits of my labor with satisfaction. It wasn’t perfect, but not much was on this wild island. They were unrefined and coated with blemishes, but it was a small semblance of order. I reached into the fire pit and retrieved a small chunk of cinder. Like a paintbrush, I marked half the pieces and half the squares on the crude board with black residue.

They were turning into something resembling the world that I used to live in before being lost to my fate on this drop of anguish in the middle of a deep blue sea. It was beautiful and tame.

And I?

#

I moved a white pawn up two spaces. I didn’t want to play an entire game in one sitting, though. I wanted to savor this minor distraction from the mindlessness of living on the island. I picked up a nearby stone and colored one side of it with the cinder. I put the stone down with the black half faceup for when I returned so I would know whose turn it was.

I touched my stomach with a shaky hand as a growl informed me that it had been too long since I last ate. I picked up my knife and approached the towering coconut trees not far from my camp. Craning my neck as I shielded my eyes from the midday sun that I was looking directly into, I spied a batch of suitable coconuts. I looked around until I spotted the belt that I had fashioned from the wreckage and wrapped it around the tree. Using the belt to prevent me from sliding down, I shimmied up the tree. I paused near the top and took in my surroundings. The oppressively blue horizon stretched as far as I could see with no salvation in sight. A breath of salty wind pulled me out of my reverie and I grasped both ends of the belt with one hand while I sawed at the branches until six coconuts fell down to the sand like a small meteorite.

After cracking the shells open and picking at the coconut meat, I wandered back to the chess board. It was black’s turn, and I mimicked white’s move by advancing a pawn up two spaces.

A now satisfied and quiet stomach was starting to make my eyelids droop. That combined with a warm wind was lulling me off to my bed and I walked back to the layered leaves with a sleepy compliance. But not before turning the stone back over to indicate that next turn was white’s.

My eyes fluttered open. Another day in paradise… I rolled over on my mattress of leaves and saw the chessboard and decided I would do the next move before doing anything else after my brief nap. I rolled to my feet and I made my way over to the board. It was white’s turn and it was decided to move another pawn forward, but only one space this time. I flipped the stone over the black side and then decide that it would be a good time to relieve myself.

I went to the far side of the island which I had designated as the toilet area. By the time I got back to camp, enough time had passed that I went back to the chess board.

I scratched my chin through my beard while I debated my move. I removed my hand from my face and picked up another black pawn and moved it kitty-corner to the first white pawn that was moved. It was likely a sacrifice, but I wanted to keep pressure on white.

I pursed my lips, wondering if that was the best action as I flipped the turn marker over. Best not to worry about it and take a walk on the beach. I liked the muted feeling of the sand on the bottom of my calloused feet. The sun was beating down on me and I started to get a sharp feeling in my forehead like a bore. Maybe it would be best to get out of the sun.

I hurried back to my camp and took refuge underneath the shade of the coconut trees that had long since been robbed of the coconuts themselves. Expectedly, white took the black pawn that had moved up too far. The white pawn stood where, moments before, the black one had presided. It cast a long shadow across the board in unison with the other pieces. As I was flipping the turn marker over, a strong gust snaked through the trees, causing fireflies of sunlight to dance on the sand and chessboard as the breeze agitated the trees’ attempt to obstruct as much light from hitting the ground as possible. Almost masked by the wind, I swore I heard a twig snapping in the bushes near me. I had not seen anything bigger than a bird on the island and I froze in place fearing what could have caused that. I craned my head to hear anything more as the wind died down again, but the forest was again silent.

I inched my way to the bed where I had left my knife and held the warped metal in front of me like a fencer, dueling an unseen phantom. Despite the warm air, a chill slithered down my spine, leaving my hairs sticking out like icicles. The sun had noticeably shifted across the cloud-spotted sky before I got up the courage to move again. If anything else was on the island—or any other survivors—I would have surely ran across them by then.

I went into the woods to sate my curiosity. And my fear that something else was out there. This time, there were bushes and groves I swore I had never seen before. Unspoiled sites being discovered for the first time by me and my ludicrous worrying. The sun was dipping its toes into the horizon and it illuminated the few thin clouds above me with a brilliant orange glow. I saw no concerning signs while patrolling the forest and I felt confident that the noise was either imagined or from something innocent like a branch falling from one of the trees around my camp. The very camp that I was aiming to return to, but all the surroundings were somehow even more unfamiliar. It was impossible that I could not find my way on an island as small as the one I was on, yet I couldn’t seem to find any recognizable landmarks. The sun finally disappeared into the ocean like a coin being thrown into a fountain, and I wished myself good luck with it. The darkness was increasing and my hopes of finding my camp were fading along with the light.

Blind without the sun, I felt my way to a tree and sat down next to it. Leaning against the tree, I pulled my knees to my chest and held my knife in front of me to shield myself from the dangers of the unknown. My forehead found itself resting on my knees while my ears strained to hear anything around me in the unseen silence.

A touch on my back jolted me awake. I jumped up, whipping my knife behind me only to see that there was only the silvery tree I was previously leaning on, creaking back and forth in the wind, now bathed in moonlight. My heart pounded in my ears and I scanned my surroundings when I spotted a recognizable rock to my right. Still wary after being so rudely awakened, I sneaked over to the stone and knew it to be just a few minutes’ walk from my camp. With the moon to illuminate the path, I made my way back to my camp, my pulse drumming in my ear the entire way.

The moonlight cast a different sort of shadow over my camp that night. The sort of shadow that hides things best not dwelled upon. I inspected every bush, every edge of a tree, to see if anything was there with me but I was alone. I didn’t like the idea of having an open bed and decided that I should build a small cabin to protect myself. I reluctantly started making my way to my bed until I glanced at the chessboard. The moonlight cast an eerie, silvery glow of the undarkened pieces.

I glared at the board and the white piece that had so ruthlessly taken my pawn earlier.

“Damn that white pawn,” I grumbled as I advanced my queen across the board to remove the offending invader.

I stared at my queen for a few moments before flipping the turn marker over so white was face up.

The leaves rustled as I got comfortable on my bed, but my mind was still racing. As I stilled, the crinkling of my bed was replaced by the whispers of the breeze shuffling through the trees. I had never noticed how the trees whisper at night right before one falls asleep.

#

I wake up feeling like I had never gotten such little sleep. It’s hard to open my eyes and it feels like there are stones keeping them shut. I try to remove the weight and rub the sleep from my eyes. I inadvertently get sand in one of my eyes from my finger and it tears up. That’s certainly one way of waking up.

The pain convinces me to get up as I now rub the sleep, sand, and tears from one eye. I should probably go to the stream and wash out my eye. Maybe get some breakfast. No, my clear eye spots the chess board. I need to make white’s move. I fumble my way over without the aid of one eye and stumble over a small rock, slightly tweaking my ankle. I grumbled under my breath as I hoist myself back to my feet and limp the last few steps to the board.

Something is wrong.

A white pawn was not directly in front of my black queen last night, and yet, there one is–moved up from its side of the board. I take a step back and the turn marker sneaks into view. That, too, is not how I left it as it now shows the black side.

It is black’s turn.

I spin around, spotting shapes in every shadow.

Did I do this without remembering?

Is someone else here?

Is something else here?

The breeze picks up and the trees sing out in a chorus of whispers. Bushes around me start to dance, and I hope it’s just from the wind.

Novella Rejection

Tor had an open invitation for novellas in January of 2016. Tor was looking for sword and magic fantasy submissions, but with a focus on non-European origins since most fantasy is obviously European/Medieval inspired. I unfortunately only found out about the invitation about a week before the closing of the acceptance period, but I decided to go for it, and I wrote a novella in less than a week.

I settled on writing about a roaming hunter/forager tribe (heavily inspired by the Plains Indians) being raided by a nearby civilization in order to bring back offerings for sacrifices (heavily inspired by the Mayans). The raided tribe enlists the aid of other nearby tribes to unite against the underworld lord that has become too greedy with its demands of sacrifices. There are also elements from the Iroquois, Hopi, Aztecs, Nazca, and a few others mixed in as I tried to pull elements from various indigenous North and South American civilizations. The result was a hastily written story that ended up being almost 23,000 words.

I then waited with fingers crossed for 328 days to hear the verdict.

It was declined.

I am not too bummed about it. It was a rush job and I wasn’t terribly pleased with it myself, but I tried. I would also like to thank my friend Amber for providing a second set of eyes and some pointers. I don’t think it is good enough to further pursue publishing, so I thought I would share it here for any who are interested in reading it.

Cummings – A Sacrifice of Innocence
Click on the above link to view/download the pdf.

Accepted in One in the Hole anthology

A while back, I saw an open invitation to submit either  poetry, non-fiction, or short stories for an anthology set in my hometown, Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

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I decided to participate and ended up coming up with a short story called The Buffalo Boy, which is a fictional piece about a kid and his parents coming from California to visit Jackson. The child has an affinity for Bison, and gets awfully excited about them whenever he comes across one. The Buffalo Boy is a lighthearted tale and I hope it is whimsical enough to entertain you. I enjoyed writing it, and I am honored that the editor, Charley, accepted it.

Here is the page with my story:

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I don’t make any commission or anything on any sale, but if you would like to purchase the anthology and check out my story and the other works within, the link to do so is https://www.createspace.com/7181342.

Now I just need to get around to finishing my other stories and submitting them as well.

Into The Vault

This was another dream that I had while in University. Although I was in Chicago at the time, my dream started off in my hometown, Jackson, WY.

My dream started off with me standing in front of the Staples store on Broadway in Jackson. I was actually looking at the other side of the street where the Taco Bell is (was? I heard it shut down actually). In my dream though, it wasn’t a Taco Bell, but rather another fast food restaurant that I had dreamed about being in this place in other dreams (I unfortunately haven’t written any of those dreams with this recurring location down, though). While looking across the street, I was tlaking with some unknown person to my side until a school bus came by, which I boarded. I was whisked away to school (which is just odd, because I was already 19 and in University at the time), and I walked into a classroom. Inside the room were only 3 other people – my old roommates, Greg and Josh, and another random person.

We left the classroom and started walking around the school. At first, the school seemed quite normal, but we did end up finding a hangar inside the school with a spaceship parked inside.

My memory got fuzzy, unfortunately, so I don’t recall quite how it happened, but I somehow ended up north of Jackson with the others. It is the middle of winter and the entire area is blanketed in snow. The air was cold enough that it hurt to breathe, and in addition to that, it is dark.

Greg kept insisting that he had to go north of Jackson over some moutain range, but I needed to go south of Jackson, towards Etna (a small town south of Jackson). I ultimately decided to just go with greg and have my dad pick me up at our destination by reasoning that going south would be boring and crossing the mountains would be more exciting.

The 2 others (Josh and the random person) decided to follow us as well, and we all took off towards the mountains. Once we got to the mountain, we started ascending it, but we quickly found a door in the side of the mountain that led to a bomb shelter like the one from Fallout 3. One of us managed to hack the door’s security and we entered through the now open vault door.

Inside, everything was surprisingly well lit, but completely deserted. We kept going deeper into the vault, walking through doors and hallways, with us hacking the doors each time. It reminded me of a construction site with all the rooms because there were still production and manufacturing goods like they were making the place and then just abruptly stopped.

After a while of exploring the vault, we found ourselves at a gift shop so we started looking around what it had to offer. Inside the shop was a cool variety of anime, star wars, Magic the gathering, and other various nerdy stuff. Basically everything I was interested in. I picked up a gold-plated Death Star, which was met with the wrath of Josh because he snapped at me, exclaiming that he was about to pick it up. I don’t know what agreement we came to afterwards, but we worked it out and I got to keep it.

The other random guy and I decided to keep going and we went through a couple doors and as we were walking through the doors we came across a long hallway and upon investigating the attached rooms, we found that there were classes of people in there. I can’t recall what was so bad, but by looking in and listening, we could tell things were not good, and we had to get out. I believe it was giving off some serious cult-like vibe.

The two of us turned around to leave the way we came, but Greg and Josh had decided to follow us, and they were entering the hallway. We signaled for the two of them to be quiet and to stop entering the hallway, which they luckily complied with. The other guy and I started creeping our way back to the exit, but someone in one of the classes saw us and signaled an alarm for the others. Two people wielding batons exited from one of the rooms adjacent to the hallway and started running after us.

The four of us now took off, running away from them as quick as possible. All the doors that we had hacked and passed through were now closed, so we had to run away from the guards and then rapidly hack the door so we could open it and continue fleeing. I remember it being incredibly fast-paced, exciting, and stressful as we were chased. We kept gaining ground as we were running, but every door slowed us down, allowing them to gain considerable ground on us.

We were before one of the last doors, about to make our escape, but the baton-wielding goons had almost caught up to us. I awkwardly managed to pull out a knife that I had in my pocket, and I hurled it at the bigger of the two goons, who was trailing slightly behind the smaller, quicker one.

The knife somehow managed to land squarely in his throat, which was confirmed with a gurgling that came from him as he dropped to the ground. The other goon paused and glanced back at his companion before looking at me again with a horrified look on his face. In that time that he turned around and looked back at me, I had pulled out another knife that I had on me (I honestly can’t recall where I pulled it from this time) and had closed the gap between us.

I had the knife pressed against his throat, and in an attempt to freak him out, I put on a playful tone, much like Harley Quinn would do.

“What?” I playfully coaxed him, “You’re not going to let us run and have a little fun?”

Terror washed over his eyes, and in that moment, I woke up from my dream.

I think university might have been stressing me a bit…

Cruising on Bikes

Another dream that I had from back in my college days. It really was an uneventful, although pleasant dream.

My dream simply went that Josh, my old roommate, and I were riding around on motorcycles.

Josh had a motorcycle, and I have wanted one for a long time (and still do), and we were just cruising across the country on our motorcycles.

While driving in my dream, one of our bikes broke down so we had to stop and fix it before we could continue.

And that’s about it, I was just watching us cruise down the highway from a perspective like a helicopter following us, not really much more to say.

Dragons In The Tram

I lazily walked into the tram after the other passengers departed. I liked to stand, and I took up my standard position opposite of the door, holding onto the rails. It was like any other morning: I was still half asleep on my way to work, and we were nearing my stop. The usual message stating what stop we were coming to and what connections could be found there played throughout the tram, but then there was an additional message.

“Bitte achten sie Drachen, Ihre persönlichen Gegenstände mitzunehmen.”

Please remember to take your belongings….dragons? I couldn’t have heard that right, but it sure sounded like it. I must have just still been half-asleep. The tram stopped, I got out, and then went to work.

After I finished work for the day, I went back to the tram and was leaning on the wall when we passed by the central station. The normal announcement played as usual, but then again, I heard an additional message.

“Bitte achten sie Drachen, Ihre persönlichen Gegenstände mitzunehmen.”

I couldn’t help but laugh at this point. There was nothing else they could be saying, but it was too ludicrous. My laughter attracted the glares of some other passengers which instantly made me resume my silence, although I still chuckled on the inside. Several days went by, and again, I kept hearing this odd new message when passing by important tram stops.

It had been almost a week since this additional message started playing in the tram and I was going out for the evening with my girlfriend, who happens to be a native German speaker. We passed by another main stop and without fail, I heard it again.

“Bitte achten sie Drachen, Ihre persönlichen Gegenstände mitzunehmen.”

“Did you hear that?” I eagerly grabbed her arm, hoping for her to confirm what I was hearing.

“Hear what?”

“The announcement they just said! About remembering to take your stuff?”

She hesitated, trying to recall. “Umm, I suppose… Why?”

“Because it sounded like they said something about dragons remembering to take your things!” The way she furrowed her eyebrows together in slight confusion was a stark contrast to the boyish smile I had on my face.

“I don’t think that’s what they said…” She trailed off, not sure if I was being serious or not about my claim.

“They totally did! Listen next time he says it, you’ll hear it!”

We went out for the evening, and when we were coming back, I made sure that she was paying attention. She heard it with me this time, but remained insistent that I was just hearing it wrong. I figured she was probably right, and I dropped the matter.

A couple days later however, it happened. I got in the tram and there, standing like I usually did, near the next door, there was a dragon! Surprisingly enough, it was just standing there, looking as bored and annoyed as everyone else on their way to work. With red scales covering the majority of its bulking body, gnarled claws protruding from its hands and feet, it was the last thing I expected to see on the way to work.

It was slumped against the wall opposite of the door, its big underbelly reaching far out into the walkway. It was tall enough that it had to stoop down to prevent its head from hitting the ceiling of the tram, its long neck pushing its head almost 3 meters into the air. Its scaly arms dangled by its side, swaying back and forth with the motions of the tram. It had a dangerous looking tail which wrapped around its leg and crossed the walkway in the tram, almost going to the door itself, forcing everyone to delicately step over the tail and the spiked barb at the end. With its wings (which were smaller than I would have thought) pressed up against the tram, the morning sunlight was partially blocked out, further amplifying its ominous and intimidating presence by casting it in shadows.

I was afraid at first. I wanted to run out of the tram, but surprise and fear locked me in place, and I was stuck inside the tram with the dragon once the doors closed. What would it do? Would it attack anyone? Nobody else paid it much attention. How was nobody else as surprised by this as I was? I looked around the tram, hoping to see anybody else struggling with the situation like I was, but I only saw more bored and disinterested people.

The dragon wasn’t doing much, and just as I was starting to come to terms with the situation, it started to take in a deep breath. I could only think how that was was going to be the end, it was going to breath fire on all of us! But instead of turning the entire tram into an inferno, it let out a long, bored sigh, and then reached up and straightened its tie. A tie? I didn’t even notice it at first! I was too wrapped up in taking in the foreign, scaly beast in front of me, I didn’t even notice that it had a tie around its neck. It was a normal sized tie, but its bulky neck made it look more like a simple thread hanging around its neck, which is why I didn’t see it at first.

The dragon finally took notice of the fact that I had been staring at it for several stops. It slightly turned its head towards me and looked me dead in the eyes until our eyes locked with each other’s. Our eyes remained locked for a few seconds since I simply couldn’t look away until the dragon made a gesture by moving its head very slightly, but quickly in my direction. I instantly broke our mutual gaze and quickly started looking out the window instead, hoping that I didn’t anger the dragon into attacking me.

I awkwardly stood there, trying to look at everything else but the dragon, until we finally got to my stop. Shortly before getting there, the dragon had moved from its perch opposite of the door, and had shuffled over to the door, getting ready to disembark as well. As we approached the next stop, the familiar message rang throughout the tram.

“Bitte achten sie Drachen, Ihre persönlichen Gegenstände mitzunehmen.”

Most people didn’t pay the message any heed, but upon hearing this, the dragon perked up, turned around and shuffled back to where it was previously standing. It then then reached down with a loud groan and grabbed a briefcase which it had apparently almost forgotten. The tram stopped, the doors opened, and I watched dumbfounded as the dragon, along with all the other humans, and even a dog, shuffled their way out of the door. With my mouth agape, I couldn’t help but stare at the dragon as it walked away with all the other people shuffling around it without any care. The doors then closed, startling me into action since I should have also disembarked there. By the time I reached the doors, they were fully closed and the tram was in motion, forcing me to go an extra stop and making me late to work.

It isn’t every day that I see a dragon on the tram, but on average, I would say that I see one every few days. They don’t seem to bother anyone, nor does anyone else seem bothered or surprised to see them. I wanted to approach one and ask them, but I am not even sure what language to speak to them in. They all seem to understand German due to understanding the messages, but my German isn’t perfect, and the thought of attempting to speak to a dragon in German is intimidating to say the least.

One of these days I might ask one of them where they came from, and why I have only started seeing them in the past few weeks, and why nobody else is even slightly fazed to see dragons taking the tram. But until then, I will just continue to observe them getting on and off the trams, sometimes forgetting something behind, but always being saved by the helpful announcement:

“Bitte achten sie Drachen, Ihre persönlichen Gegenstände mitzunehmen.”

Fin

This story was inspired by the trams in Cologne, Germany. A few weeks ago, the trams started adding an automated message right before arriving at some of the more important stops and hubs. They are kindly reminding people to grab their stuff, but what I heard at first was “Bitte achten sie Drachen, Ihre persönlichen Gegenstände mitzunehmen,” which would translate more or less as “Dragons, please remember to bring your personal effects” (Drachen means dragons in German). I asked my S.O. what they were really saying, and even they wouldn’t give a straight answer, sometimes saying “Bitte denken sie daran, Ihre persönlichen Gegenstände mitzunehmen,” and sometime “Bitte achten sie darauf, Ihre persönlichen Gegenstände mitzunehmen.” Both would more or less mean “Please remember to take your personal effects with you.” Their indecisiveness has convinced me that I heard the announcement correctly, and they are just trying to hide the fact that there are now dragons taking the trams within the city. I tried many times to record it, but the ambient sounds kind of drown out the message. You can listen for yourself though by playing the following audio (unfortunately someone says something at the very beginning, but this was my best recording after several attempts):

Origin and Battlefield 3 Suck

This is actually a really old post that I meant to write a long time ago, but I kind of simultaneously stopped playing Battlefield 3, and Origin seemed to improve itself (in addition to the fact that I didn’t actually have a blog when this issue presented itself). As such, I more or less indefinitely shelved this post, but recent developments frustrated me and prompted me to decide to actually post it. First, the old/original problem(s):

Basically, I was having issues with both Origin and Battlefield 3 in some manner or another. At first Origin worked fine enough, but Battlefield 3 was just bugged beyond being playable. The major issue I had with BF3, other than some random bugs, was that my character would start spinning uncontrollably whenever I did some keystrokes, like changing the volume, which was sometimes necessary as I started a game and realized the volume was too quiet or loud. Anytime I change my volume, or a few other commands, my character would just spin in circles, and there was no way to stop it, forcing me to quit the game. Added with the fact that it took a few minutes to connect to any server/game, and it was a frustrating experience having to quit out and start over all the time. After looking in the forums I found that a lot of people were having the same issue. Luckily, a solution was to be had, and some laptops had functions to control things like the volume, and they usually had some interaction with an “Fn” key, commonly found on Acer laptops (which mine was). The solution was to go to your processes and close “lmanager.exe.” That would fix the issue, but that also shut down all Fn key-related commands, so I could no longer change the volume… It was annoying that tons of people were having the issue I was having, but that the developers never figured out an actual solution, although the cause and issue were known.

So I begrudgingly kept playing BF3, albeit without volume control, but then Origin itself had to start having issues (for those of you don’t know, Origin is a program you have to open in order to play Battlefield 3, just like Steam, if you are familiar with Steam). Origin started having an issue in that I just simply couldn’t click on anything, meaning that when I opened Origin, I couldn’t click on Battlefield 3 to start playing the game itself. It was as if there was an invisible layer on top of the Origin window that made me clicking on anything impossible, although it was all there. Because this happened while I was trying to reinstall Battlefield 3 due to a lot of server connection issues I was getting, it meant that BF3 wasn’t installed while the Origin bug reared its ugly head, and I couldn’t click on the option in Origin to download it again. I tried restarting my computer, and that didn’t help. I eventually reinstalled Origin itself, and it worked long enough for me to reinstall BF3 before becoming unclickable again. I could at least right click on the Origin icon in my taskbar and start BF3 that way, but the inability to use Origin itself got on my nerves. This eventually seemed to get patched after a month or two.

I then ended up taking a break because I got fed up with the game’s other bugs I was having, and I came back a few months later. More issues. Now Battlefield 3 would just crash after every 5 or so minutes of playing. I looked on the forums, and there was a post with 99 pages (which is about 2,000 comments) of people complaining about the same issue. Each page in a forum thread can have 20 posts, and there were 99 pages in a forum thread specifically talking about this issue, and the thread had maxed out – nor more comments could be made in it. I unfortunately can’t find the thread anymore, which is a shame because it was almost comical how long it was, and I can only assume that the thread was deleted. Regardless, if you google for “battlefield 3 keeps crashing,” you still get plenty of results to illustrate my point. It was astounding that there was a thread in the game’s support section that had maxed out, and yet there was no response from the developers that I saw, and no solution presented itself that actually worked. I kind of lost respect for DICE as a developer at that point, which has made me terribly hesitant to buy any more of their games. There were some solutions that others posted, but nothing worked for me, so I again just stopped playing (although I didn’t even really start this time).

A few months passed, and I again decided to try playing BF3 again. This time I kept getting kicked out of games because of PunkBuster, which is an anti-cheating program, although I never cheat in games (I don’t really see the point). It seemed that PunkBuster wasn’t installed or set up right, and the game figured I was cheating. I tried messing with the setting, but it seemed that the only solution was to actually download PunkBuster, which I did, and it luckily did solve that issue. I was able to log in and play for a solid half an hour. I unlocked some attachments for the M249, which was my favorite gun, and as it goes, I again took another break for a little.

I came back after a couple months, ready to rock-and-roll with my M249, but all my unlocks were locked again. It seems that the server had no memory of me ever using it, although I definitely had. I tried contacting support, but they were worthless. Trying to get a hold of DICE just got me forwarded to EA’s general support (EA is the publisher of Battlefield 3). They seemed to just ignore actually reading what my issue was, and went through the typical questions asking if my internet connection was fine, or maybe it was a latency issue due to my internet provider, or maybe my cache was bad and needed to be cleared. While these are all generally good IT steps, the fact that the server lost my progress was nothing I could cause, influence, or change. The guy did not help me at all, but he did end up giving me some coupon for like 15% off the Origin store though (although I ended up giving it away because I just didn’t feel like buying anything through Origin). So I started playing the M249 again and got some of my old unlocks, but at this point, my patience with Battlefield 3 had gotten at about as thin as it would.

I played BF3 off and on (luckily without many more hitches), and I continuously considered buying BF4, but after all the issues I have had with BF3, I just couldn’t pull the trigger on that purchase. DICE seems to always have buggy games that only get good after a few years, but I most notably didn’t want to buy Battlefield 4 because DICE, among other developers/publishers, have got into the bad habit of forcing you to buy season passes because they sell you the base game, but a bunch, if not all of the expansions like new maps have to be paid for. That always rubbed me the wrong way, especially because it can leave you on desolated serves if everyone ends up playing on maps you didn’t buy. I am fine with cosmetic DLCs, or at least DLC content that doesn’t create exclusivity, but that is absolutely what you don’t get with the Battlefield franchise.

Note that I also had purchased the first Titanfall in the past, which I also played from time to time, without any real issues. Titanfall 2 just came out recently, and one of the things that attracted me to it was that they said that they would never charge for more map packs or any other actual game changers. I bought it about a month ago when it was on sale, and I have been having a blast with it. I actually just ended up uninstalling Battlefield 3 without any hesitation as I am now a bigger fan of Titanfall’s developer, Respawn. I also haven’t had any major issues playing Titanfall 2, and it has been fun, so I will just let that be my shooter of choice for now instead of the Battlefield franchise.

With all that being said, now to the new issue:

This post has been mostly anti-BF3, although Origin had its issues at one point. Regardless, after a few months, the only Origin issue seemed to get patched out, and then an entirely new version of Origin made things even smoother. However, about a week ago, I came home after drinking a bit, and I just wanted to play a few games of Titanfall 2, but Origin just wouldn’t work. It kept showing up in the taskbar, but with no options if I clicked on it. I would close the process, but every time I tried opening it, I would get the same issue in that it would only show an icon on my taskbar and not actually let me play the game. This happened whether I started Origin or Titanfall 2, and in either case, Origin would start, but then it wouldn’t continue farther than only Origin appearing in my taskbar. I ended up looking on some forums and some people recommended clearing my Origin cache, which I did, although it didn’t help. I eventually reinstalled Origin, and that luckily solved this issue.

Like I mentioned, I mostly just forgot about this post, but this recent run-in with Origin rekindled my memory, and I felt like letting all my frustration about Battlefield 3 and Origin out. I don’t even play Battlefield anymore, and I don’t plan on buying one unless they get rid of the season passes like Titanfall 2 did. I can’t say I have really had any serious issue with Titanfall 2 luckily (knock on wood), and Origin has largely behaved for the past year or so. Let’s just hope that this one issue I just had was the only I will have for a while.

Poisonous Spiders

Again, from my university days, I had a dream that I went to some relative’s house and had to use their bathroom to poop. When I went to the bathroom and looked at the toilet, the area between the toilet and the wall was saturated with cobwebs, and the cobwebs were teeming with a bunch of small poisonous spiders. I obviously didn’t want to sit down right next to a nest of poisonous spider and possibly be bitten, so I simply left.

I think this dream ended, however it might have been related to my following dream, or it could have been the same dream.

The next part / next dream started off with a bunch of kids I knew (all who were a couple years younger than me, but I can’t actually recall who they all were anymore). We all went on some expedition to some sort of power plant or factory-like location. Something went wrong and we had to evacuate for some reason, unfortunately I can’t recall what exactly. I came back to the same location after many, many years with another small group and the place seemed completely devoid of humans, abandoned. However, it was now infested with tons of small poisonous spiders. As we were walking through the complex, a lot of little hatches started opening to either side of us and people were crawling out, some of whom I recognized from the original expedition. Everyone seemed to have forgotten me for some reason, even though I recognized them. After the initial encounter, we found their leader and were exchanging notes and words with each other. We discovered that the people who lived there had already made it possible to live entirely underground, and they were amazed to figure out that we (as other people) lived mostly above ground. They explained that they sometimes came above ground for necessities or when they found out that people were in the factory, like we were, and wanted to investigate.

One of the new people in the new expedition I was with was amazed and disgusted that they could do this and thought he had to kill them all because they had become… “something else.” When he was told that they had a self-contained underground ecosystem, he frantically pressed “Well what do you do about plants?!” The underground dwellers said that the plants grew just fine (apparently these plants didn’t need photosynthesis to live). The person in my party that was interrogating them became crazed with the fact that the plants didn’t need sunlight, at which point he backed off very ominously into the shade underneath a building, fading into the darkness (note: he was dressed like a dragoon the entire time for some reason). My dream then ended.

Exotic Meats Club

I found a prompt called “Each month, a member of the Exotic Meats Club hosts a dinner and tries to one-up the last month’s host. Ever since Karl hunted and served a Yeti, things have started getting… weird.” I got a little liberal with the story. Of course, my initial instinct was to have things progress until they finally ended up eating humans, but I saw that the other responses to this prompt already had that pretty well covered. I decided to change it up a bit, and I deviated from the prompt a little bit, but I still think it turned out interesting enough.

Exotic Meats Club

Mike lived a relatively quiet life in retirement in a pleasant cabin in the woods in Northern Montana. It was quiet, and after a long and exciting life, it was exactly what he wanted. In violation of his peace, his daughter, her husband, and their 2 kids, his grandchildren, were to come and visit him for a weekend while they were driving across the country on a road trip. Mike wasn’t very thrilled about it, but it had been almost a decade since he saw them, and his grandchildren were just babies of 1 and 2 years old when he last saw them, so he grudgingly agreed to let them stay at his place for a few days.

It was about noon when their car pulled up into his driveway. A trail of dust followed the car from the bumpy dirt road they had to take to get to his house, and Mike couldn’t help but smirk knowing that Michael, his daughter’s husband, would be upset that the car was now dirty as he prided himself on looking sharp at all times. The car stopped and Michael, Amy, Mike’s daughter, and their 2 children, Ricky and Logan, all got out of the car. The children started running around the car, eager to get out and stretch their legs. As Mike anticipated, Michael closed the door and looked disapprovingly at the car and mumbled about needing it washed. Amy instantly went up to her father, excited to see him.

“Dad! It’s so great to see you! How have you been?” Her smile radiated as she embraced him.

“Hey there doll, it’s great to see you too.” Despite his previous apprehension, he was genuinely happy to see her. Mike didn’t dislike Michael, but he definitely enjoyed pulling on his leg. Loud enough for Michael to hear, Mike loudly asked “And how is ‘little Mikey’ doing? Fretting about the car I assume?” Only 1 minute, and he already had to start.

“Oh stop it dad! You know he doesn’t like that.” Amy laughed while playfully hitting his arm.

Michael had to resist rolling his eyes before he came over and shook hands. “Hello Mike, how are you doing?”

“Oh, still alive, still fighting.”

“Kids, come here and say hi to Grandpa!” Michael shouted at his kids. They both obediently came over and greeted and hugged Mike before hurrying off to run around some more.

“Come in! Let me show you guys where you will be sleeping.” Mike escorted them inside where they wound down, cleaned themselves up, and mildly conversed until dinner when they all sat down in the dining room. Mike had prepared steaks with potatoes and corn on the cob, which was laid down in front of everyone.

Like most younger people, Ricky was picking at his food after they started. “This meat is weird, what is it?” He inquired.

“It’s just a normal steak Ricky, be grateful and eat it” Michael snapped at his son.

“Oh it’s not just any steak” Mike began, “have you ever had bear?” Mike questioned Ricky. Ricky shook his head, causing Mike to laugh. “Well you have now, this is a black bear that I hunted myself a few weeks ago!”

“Wow, cool!” Logan was previously indifferent to the meal, but upon learning that it was bear he became much more enthusiastic about it. Seeing his enthusiasm, Ricky also started devouring his meal. Michael let out a slightly disapproving grunt, not excited to be eating a bear.

“Oh dad, stop it! We all know that you just bought some steaks from the store.” Amy was used to some interesting tales from her dad, and while she knew that he did hunt, she didn’t think he still had it in him to hunt a bear.

“Oh I did, I could show you the garage where I cleaned it up, but I don’t think the kids need to see that.” He was mildly annoyed that they didn’t believe him, but he was also used to it. A lot of his stories seemed to incredible to others, but this was just the tip of the iceberg.

While eating, the conversation turned to more benign topics like the family, work, retirement, and all of the other catching up they had to do. As dinner was winding down, Mike caught Logan staring at a mounted jackalope above the entryway to the dining room.

“Do you know what that is Logan?” Mike was obviously eager for an answer.

“Well…” Logan was unsure of himself. “It looks like a rabbit, but rabbits don’t usually have horns like that.”

“Aye, that’s correct. That’s because it’s not a rabbit, it’s a jackalope. Very similar, but jackalopes have antlers, and not horns actually.”

“I have never seen one before.”

“You probably haven’t, they are really rare. I hunted that one actually.”

“Really?!” Both Logan and Ricky were enthralled. This was new, exciting, and a bit odd for them.

“Oh stop it dad! You’re always messing with people.” Ashley was trying to calm down the kids before they got too caught up in Mike’s “stories.” “Ricky, Bobby, he’s just messing with you, you can buy those at souvenir shops, they don’t really exist.”

“Oh they most certainly do. They’re actually pretty territorial too. I had one chase me away while I was peeing too close to his den too.” That remark got Bobby and Ricky laughing.

“Did you eat that meat too?” asked Michael, somehow eager to get in on this conversation, which resulted in Amy rolling her eyes.

“I most certainly did. They don’t have too much meat, but it was some good jerky for sure!” Amy decided to get up and take the dishes to the sink. Even after so many years apart, she had heard so many stories while growing up she didn’t feel like hearing anymore. Michael got up to follow her and help with the dishes, leaving Mike and the children alone.

“What other meats have you tried?” Logan was slowly getting wrapped up in hearing his grandpa talking.

Mike couldn’t help but let out a very hearty laugh before growing somber. He looked happy, yet sad at the same time. “Funny you should ask that actually,” he softly said before resuming his normal volume, “let me tell you kids about the time I spent in the Exotic Meats Club.”

Both Logan and Ricky became very attentive and looked at him with greedy anticipation. “As you both know, I used to hunt a lot, and I still do. I like to be able to catch my own food and reap the fruits of my own labor. In my many years, I had joined various clubs and organizations devoted to hunting and food. I eventually found the perfect club, which merged exotic hunting with exotic foods, and it was called the Exotic Meats Club. It was there that I met a few good friends, namely Karl and Steve. All three of us enjoyed hunting and eating various animals. We tried it all: ostrich, llama, lion, camel, kangaroo, crocodile. We thought we had tried about everything crazy we could that we could hunt, but then Karl, Karl got something amazing. A Yeti! He was on a hunting trip in the Himalayas, hoping to get a rare snow leopard, but instead, he found a Yeti!”

“A Yeti?” asked Logan incredulously.

“Yes, I know, it sounds crazy, but he really did. He even managed to get a photo standing over it. One second, he gave me a copy and I have it somewhere.” Mike wandered off into his room for a few minutes while he searched for it. The kids silently looked at each other, but before either of them could say anything, Mike returned with a box filled with some of his most treasured items. He fumbled through it for a minute until he found the photo he was looking for. Mike carefully handled the picture as he showed it to them. It was an old black and white photo, grainy and worn out, but it did depict a man with a gun standing over a lightly colored, hairy, ape-like man in the snow.

As if that proved everything, Mike continued his story. “Yes, so Karl shot a yeti and managed to bring us back some meat for myself and Steve, as well as the other club members. We had all heard of yetis before, but much like you, we figured them to be the topics of folklore and nothing more. How wrong we were though. It was after Karl shared his yeti meat with the club that we met Steffan.

Steffan was a peculiar guy. He was German, had short hair, but a long beard, and he spoke flawless English except for the fact that he could never properly pronounce his ‘th’ sounds.” Mike had to chuckle to himself as he recalled Steffan speaking. “Anyways, Steffan approached us. You see, Steffan was also an exotic animal hunter who enjoyed trying various meats. Steffan was far more experienced than anyone else in the club though. He used to be in other even more private, secretive and exclusive clubs of a similar nature, but he didn’t care for the pretentious people, so he opted to hang out in more relaxed clubs like ours. Nobody else in our club even knew of yetis except for Steffan because he had indeed already hunted yetis before. There was a whole world of super rare animals that one could hunt, you just had to know where to go and how to find them.”

The Jackalope

“Alright you crazy bastard! I didn’t even know that such a thing existed, how are we going to top that for next month’s meeting?” Steve was besides himself. He was super excited to be eating yeti, but there just wasn’t any topping it.

Karl simply laughed. “I don’t know man, I was surprised by it myself. I guess I have achieved the magnum opus of getting exotic meats for our club.”

“Excuse me gentlemen.” Mike, Steve and Karl all turned to face the man who had approached their table they were sitting at with dirty, but empty plates in front of them from the Yeti steaks. “I couldn’t help but overhear you guys, and I must personally congratulate you, Karl was it?, on your recent find. Zat is something that not everyone gets to do.”

Karl, getting slightly cocky with all the compliments, boasted, “well I can’t imagine that anyone else has done this before,” finishing off his sentence with a triumphant laugh.

“I wouldn’t be so sure of yourself. While I can’t say zat I have personally ever shot a yeti, I have got some other more exemplary animals.”

“Such as?” Steve asked, almost sneering at him.

“Oh, we have different animals in Europe, I have hunted animals like Wolpertingers and even Werewolves, and I am now touring the Americas for other animals.”

“Who are you?” Mike asked. He found this mysterious man’s story hard to believe, but then again, they had just finished eating yeti steaks.

“Forgive me! I have not properly introduced myself. My name is Steffan Bergheim, I am from Germany and am also an avid exotic animal hunter and eater. Like I said, zere are many exotic animals, and I would like to show you more.”

“Why?” Mike asked, not out of suspicion, but solely because he didn’t understand why Steffan would want to show them these things.

“I find you 3 pleasant, like most people in this club. I have been a member of various other organizations that focus on more exotic, almost fairy-tale like animals, but I did not care for ze ozer members, so I more or less ‘retired’ to zis club. I figure I should pass on some information zough. As such, it would be my pleasure to invite you 3 out to a hunting trip in eastern Wyoming next month.”

“What is there?” Karl had hunted there before, and there wasn’t anything too exotic. “I have hunted antelope there. Bison tend to be a little more west, but we might find that there? On the other hand, bison aren’t that rare, and we have all had that.”

A grin crept across Steffan’s face. “Of course, but have you had jackalope? It’s like a rabbit, but with antlers.

“A jackalope?!” Mike laughed. “Those don’t really exist, they are just made up!”

“You do realize that you just ate a yeti, or?” Steffan was almost smug, and the other 3 grew quiet.

They decided to go hunting together, and after meeting up in Sheridan after a few weeks, they all went camping. Steffan made sure the location was right, the bait was correct, and all other variables were as needed. Sure enough, at midnight, prancing across the prairie was a small herd of jackalopes. They all got one, and the following Exotic Meat Club meeting was celebrated with a roast of jackalope stew and potatoes.

Interrupting Mikes story, Ricky posed a question to Mike, “Is that where the mounted jackalope came from?”

“Exactly,” Mike cheerily replied. “I didn’t buy a fake imitation, I actually hunted it, dressed it, stuffed it, and mounted it, along with eating the meat. But back to my story.”

The next month, they decided to get a little more adventurous. Steffan invited them all to Mexico. Again, Steffan knew how to find their next target, the elusive Chupracabra. They had to use goats as bait, which they bought from a rancher. The traps were correct, and they all managed to trap a Chupracabra each.

“I thought these were only made up, but now I am actually eating one!” Steve remarked at the next meeting. The Chupracabra meat had a consistency like cow tongue, and it was cut into thin fillets and friend in a pan with olive oil.

The other members were furiously curious at how these 4 were getting animals that they all previously thought had never existed. The 4 kept their secret to themselves though, and despite constant attempts at getting answers out of them, whether by coercion, tricking, or just following them, nobody managed to find out where they went.

Again interrupting Mike’s story, Amy and Michael had finished the dishes and had come back into the dining room.

“OK kids, I think you have annoyed your grandpa enough” Amy chided them.

“No really, I am enjoying myself” Mike declared.

“We want to keep listening!” Ricky and Logan simultaneously protested.

Amy and Michael looked at each other. “Well, if you want to keep them busy for a while dad, I think we will just go for a walk alone for a while if that’s alright?” She looked at Michael, who also seemed excited to have some peace from the children.

“Most certainly. Take a flashlight, they are by the door!” Amy and Michael left, leaving the 3 alone again. “Come on boys, let’s go in the living room where the fire is at.”

The boys hurriedly ran into the room while Mike prepared hot chocolate for them. Shortly afterwards, he entered the living room, handed his grandchildren the hot chocolate and sat in his chair in front of the fire, looking at the couch that the 2 boys sat on, sipping their drinks. Mike opened a beer he had brought into the room with him, took a sip, and then continued.

“So, where was I? Ah yes, we had found and eaten Chupracabra. It reminded me of snake actually, but a bit irony tasting for my taste. Anyways, Steffan invited us out again.”

Bigfoot and Europe

“One of ze more exclusive animals I would like to try is Bigfoot” Steffan explained to the other 3 at lunch one day while eating parboiled Koala.

“Bigfoot?” Karl was unsure of himself. “Is that different than the yeti that I shot?”

“A little, but zey are very similar. I am told zat while zey are not much different, ze bigfoot is unique to north America, and zat is part of the reason I am here, touring ze Americas.”

“Well we would gladly join you in that, if you would allow us to join?” Mike was eager to try anything new.

“Oh of course! It would be a delight, and a help, to have friends along.”

They assembled a week before the next club meeting and flew to Flagstaff, Arizona, where they would scour the Rocky Mountains for the elusive Bigfoot. This was also Steffan’s first time, but he had guides from other people, and although it did take a few days, they eventually did manage to find a Bigfoot, albeit just one. Steffan shot it, and they all posed in front of it for a picture, and in time for the meeting, the next Exotic Meats Club was presented with Bigfoot burgers.

While eating their meals, Steffan decided to break the news to the other 3 “It has been a pleasure hunting with you guys, but I have more or less tasted what I wanted to taste in America, and I zink I will return to Germany.”

“No way!” Steve was visibly upset. “It has been too amazing learning about all these new animals and trying the meat, we don’t want you to leave!”

“I know, but anytime you guys can come to Germany or Europe, I would be glad to show you around.”

They looked at each other. Steve, Karl and Mike all had jobs that allowed them to work anywhere. A silent confirmation between them happened, and then Mike asked “And what if we came next month, got the meat, and came back to our meeting? In fact, we could all fly out to Germany for the next few months if you would like to show us some European animals that we could taste.”

“Zat would be wonderful!” Steffan was excited to have them all join him in Europe on a regular basis.

The next few months went by as planned with Steve, Karl and Mike all going to Europe on a regular basis, hunting with Steffan who showed them a new animal, and then returning for the monthly Exotic Meet Club meetings. They hunted wolpertinger in Germany. It reminded them a lot of the jackalopes and rabbits of North America. They hunted centaurs in Scandinavia. They were tricky and dangerous. More intelligent beings that worked with tools and traveled in packs, they were all lucky to get out of there without any harm. The centaurs tasted unsurprisingly like a mix of horse, but also pig. They got bolder and Steffan got more comfortable showing them more dangerous things. They hunted werewolves in the eastern European Alps. Very tricky, they can only be hunted during full moons, and they are extremely violent and dangerous. Karl actually got clawed by it while they hunted it, but luckily nothing serious happened as a result. The werewolf was like dog, stringy, and tough. They started practicing with harpoons and eventually went down to the arctic circle and hunted mermaids. They needed scuba gear, and had to be very careful not to rupture their gear while underwater if a mermaid attacked them. The mermaids were quick, but they eventually cornered one and got it with their harpoons. The mermaid was like a very dense tuna, and they smoked it over oak planks.

Ricky and Logan were fixated on his stories. What he related to them was so incredible, they were in awe. Additionally, the descriptions of the different dishes they made with these new animals made their mouths water. At this point, Amy and Michael had returned from their walk and wanted the kids to go to bed.

“We don’t want to go to bed!” Logan protested. Ricky was less vocal as he was growing tired, but he still didn’t want to stop listening to Mike.

“Aw come on Amy, I am almost done. What about another 15 minutes?” Mike tried to barter with her over the right to keep telling his story to the kids.

Amy sighed. “Fine, whatever, we’re on vacation. Fifteen minutes. We are going to go get ready for bed, but I want you two brushing your teeth in 15 minutes!”

“Yes mom” Ricky and Logan obediently complied.

Mike let out a chuckle. “Yes mom!” he called after her sarcastically. “OK, so we have 15 minutes, but,” he hesitated for a second, recomposing himself, “luckily this story is almost over.” He paused and breathed in deeply. “So, Steffan wanted us to go after one of the biggest prizes an exotic animal hunter and eater can go after: a kraken!”

Kraken

“You see, not many people can take on a kraken” Steffan explained to them while dining over hippo confit. “You need a capable team, one that works well together, which is part of ze reason that I wanted to take you all under my wing at ze very beginning. I wanted us to get aquatic experience, because we will need it to get one of ze highest prizes you can get.”

“Wow, sounds exciting!” Steve was enthralled. Mike was cautiously optimistic.

Karl was much harder to persuade. “I don’t know,” he began. “It sounds dangerous.”

“Oh of course it is!” Steffan reassured him. “I know you got hurt while we were in the Alps, but I trust that if we work together, we could get a kraken!” There was such passion in Steffan, such a desire, that it infected the others. “Zey say that kraken meat is some of the most buttery and savory of meats that one can find” he decided to add on.

“OK, let’s do it then. The others in the Exotic Food Club will be so angry at us” Karl had to laugh about it, and eventually the whole table was laughing with anticipation, but also a healthy dose of nervousness.

The time came. They had rented a decent sized fishing boat and had equipped it with the necessary harpoon systems. They sailed into the northern Pacific Ocean. The bait was correct, the harpoons were right, everything was perfect. And yet, tragedies can happen, and so they did. Karl hesitated when the kraken surfaced, he froze up. The kraken came at them, and without Karl’s harpoon hindering the kraken, it hit the boat, wrapping its tentacles around it. Steffan, Mike and Steve all tried frantically to use their remaining harpoons, but it was too late. Steve slipped on the icy deck, the kraken grabbed him and pulled him below. Steffan loaded up his harpoon gun and fired it time and time again, no longer focusing on effective shots, but shooting wildly in a frantic haze. The harpoons didn’t do much other than anger the kraken, which then smashed its tentacle into Steffan.

The boat started to roll, getting tipped over so that it was upside down. With that, the kraken lost his grip on the boat, and with its injuries, it let itself float back into the water, away from these attackers. Steve was taken down to the bottom of the ocean with it. Steffan was still in the boat when it had rolled over. The kraken had crushed his ribs when it hit him, and with water flooding everywhere as the boat flipped over, Steffan had also met his end as a result of his injuries and the cold water. Karl had got enough of his wits about him as the boat started to flip to signal an SOS signal before he and Mike clambered on top of the overturned boat.

“I knew this was a bad idea, and now we are going to die out here” Karl said, huddled in a ball to ward off the cold.

“We were so close…” Mike started to cry and Karl just looked at him before lowering his head onto his knees.

Mike shifted his head away from Ricky and Logan as he was telling his story, hiding a tear rolling down his face. “And with that, Steffan and Steve died, and I stopped hunting extremely exotic animals and decided to be like Steffan and only hunt more commonly known and accepted animals, like the bear we had for dinner. Karl also retired, now fairly skittish of animals.”

The kids were awe struck. They were young enough to believe in fantasies, but old enough to not believe everything one said. Ricky wordlessly went up to mike and hugged him after seeing him sniffling, but they still weren’t sure. There were so many photos that he had though, which he had been showing them throughout his story. And he told it with such detail.

As if on cue, Amy came into the room, ushering the kids off to bed. “OK boys, go brush your teeth and go to bed, it’s bedtime!”

“But that was so amazing” Logan started to protest.

“Yes yes” Amy wanted them in bed half an hour ago and was getting impatient. “All of his stories are. Did he tell you how he used to race clouds, or how he got in trouble for accepting bribes from trolls to make unnecessary bridges, or how he used to teach crabs karate, or how he used to sell tree-hole permits to squirrels?” She looked at the kids and then at her dad with smug grin and raised eyebrows.

Mike just laughed. “I have had some odd jobs and hobbies in my days, I admit that. I have retired though, and I just hunt on occasion and still sample exotic meats.”

The kids were a little disappointed that his story might not be true, but they weren’t surprised in the end. Amy and the kids went to bed, and Mike sat there on his chair, watching the fire burn out while he reminisced about the past.

“My life has been full of extraordinary events, I give them that.” Mike was thinking out loud. “I can prove it to them though.”

Mike then went and oiled up his hunting rifle and prepare a lot of snacks. Wendigos usually came out at the early dawn, and he would use himself as bait. Wendigos fed on the gluttonous, so he would gorge himself in the field until a wendigo came. Then he would shoot it and show his family the dressed corpse, and also have a great dinner. Wendigo meat was a little gamey, but very tender, and quite fatty, and it was excellent when grilled with a lemon-herb spice. He set an alarm for 5 in the morning and then went to sleep. At 5 his alarm went off, he grabbed his warm clothes, his snacks, and his loaded gun and headed out the door.

I haven’t had wendigo in a long time. Mike though to himself. I am really going to enjoy this.

Review of Working at Frys (It sucked)

 A Review of Working At Fry’s Electronics

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I have worked at many places over the years: fast food, electronics retail, construction/labor, restaurants, and in offices, just to name the biggest ones. Most places are fine, but one place stuck out as being the most vile of places to work at, and that is Fry’s Electronics. I have wanted to write about this for a long time, ever since I quit, and I guess I am finally getting around to it.

As it goes, I had moved to Chicago in the year of 2008 to go to University at DeVry University (which was another terrible experience, but that is best saved for another time). I was going to university, I had an apartment, and I needed money in order to pay for my apartment, food, etc.

I found a job at a Fry’s Electronics in Downer’s Grove, which wasn’t far away from my house, which was pretty convenient. It was also an electronics store, which I had worked at before, so I was well suited for the job. I remember the first odd thing about working there was before I even started, and I had to go get a drug test. I have never needed a drug test for any other job in my life before. Lucking I wasn’t doing heroine at the time (I mean, I still don’t, but I wasn’t then either), so my drug test came back clean. It was weird though because I had an interview with another person with the same time, and we both went together to the clinic for the drug test. She was joking that my drug test came back positive though because my results took 2 weeks longer than hers did, but it worked out in the end.

I finally started working at Fry’s, and there was immediately some odd things about working there. For starters, it’s an electronics store, so you would think they would have modern computers, but no, the store ran on some terrible point of sales system that looked like you were working with MS DOS. OK, maybe they just don’t want employees surfing the internet or playing solitaire, fair enough. But wait, what are all these screeching sounds I am always hearing? Oh, it’s dot matrix printers. I was born in 1990, so I was 18 at the time, and while I grew up with Windows 95, I had never even seen a dot matrix printer before in my life because everyone else was at least up to the 90s in their technology/printers, but apparently not a giant electronics store…

We were also all forced to wear button up shirts and ties, which was totally overkill for being a simple electronics store. They demanded white button-up shirts, and since I was a poor college student, I could only really afford one. Since I had to face product (i.e. pulling boxes forward after customers removed the most front ones so the shelves looked nice), and since there was a lot of dust on the shelves, the cuffs of my sleeves ended up turning gray from collecting so much dust, even after washing the shirt. C’est la vie.

The clock-in and clock-out system was really annoying too. I will admit that I should have just come earlier, and I was just kind of “meh” about the whole situation since I was a college student. Regardless, the way the clock-in system worked was that everyone had a card you had to swipe (or maybe it was a PIN on the card, I can’t quite recall) when you wanted to clock in and out, but you only had a +-5 minute window to clock in. I typically started work at noon, so I could clock in between 11:55 or 12:05. I usually aimed to get to work at noon exactly, but if there was any sort of traffic for any reason, and it pushed me to more than 5 minutes late, I would have to get a manager to approve my clock-in. I would understand if someone was drastically late, but having to get a manager just because I was 6 or 7 minutes late shouldn’t have been necessary every time. At one point I did try to come much earlier, but they absolutely would not let you clock in early, so I was just sitting around for 15 minutes, wasting my day and not even getting paid for it, before I could finally clock in at 11:55. That prompted me to aim for being “on time”, which sometimes didn’t work out right. There were also clocking out issues, but I will come back to that later. First I would like to mention some other questionable things about Fry’s.

One thing that always struck me as odd was that none of the model numbers from the laptops seemed to exist. I don’t have any actual examples on me, but I always liked to compare the laptops they sold just for my own enjoyment. Sometimes one caught my eye, and I would want to look it up online (not that I would be able to afford it, being a college student and all). I could never find any laptop I looked up though. As somewhat of an example, my current laptop is an Aspire v5-591g-70s6. If I look that up, I can see some actual websites with it.

laptop

Fry’s always had …some other model number though, and while there would be similar model numbers, a lot of the ones I was looking up that we had just simply didn’t seem to exist. I even looked at driver pages from manufacturers, and they usually wouldn’t have the model family listed, which was really odd. The best that I could figure was that these were all experimental models of some sort, and the manufacturers were testing new waters, or these were all failed models, which is why they went to Fry’s. I say this because I remember my manager getting all excited a few times about a bunch of computer peripherals like mice or webcams that we were going to get in that the manufacturers were selling for pennies on the dollar, obviously just to unload some product that didn’t sell well at all anywhere else.

An actual terrible things they did was reselling broken/defective products. They have an actual shrink wrapping machine behind the returns area, so when a customer returns something that could be shrink wrapped to look new (like if it came in a box), 95% of the time they would do just that and put it back on the shelf. If didn’t matter if it was actually broken or not. I worked in the computer peripherals department, where mice, keyboard, and components like graphics and sound cards were sold. I once saw the exact same graphics card go through returns at least 3 times. I knew it was the same one because it had a crease on one of the corners, and I even saw them shrink wrapping it up once. It was obviously defective, but they wouldn’t send it back to the manufacturer, they just kept boxing it up, hoping to sell it to another customer (presumably with hopes that one of them simply wouldn’t return it). I saw this happen with lots of things, so even if something looks new and unopened at Fry’s, it may very well have already passed through several hands, so buyers beware.

I really disliked my supervisor. He was weaselly, and he was buddies with the store owner, so any complaint against him fell on deaf ears. I was the pest person in my department (computer peripherals), and I know this because the place looked like a tornado came through before I started working there, and I organized and faced everything like nobody’s business. I worked very closely with the guys in the laptop department (since we were right next to each other, which is also why I was always looking up laptop models), and they all lamented on how things looked so much better since I worked there and they needed me because it was easier to up-sell peripherals for laptops they sold when they could easily find what they wanted to sell the customers. Our supervisor (the weaselly guy supervised both departments) obviously saw that, and heard praises about me, but never thanked me, but he wanted me to be there as much as possible.

Before I can explain what he did when I say “wanted me there,” I first need to explain how they organize the store, which brings me to the “clocking out” issue I mentioned at the beginning. I didn’t have many days to work due to school, so I worked Fridays and Saturday for 11 hours each. I worked from noon until 5, had an hour lunch, and then worked from 6 to 11, which is when my shift got out. Did I ever get out at 11 though? Absolutely not. It would range, and sometimes, if we were lucky/fast, we could get out at midnight, but sometimes we wouldn’t get out till 3 in the morning. I would average it at 1 in the morning. The reason for this is that every single item in the store had a sticker with the price on it. Most electronics stores have all the product lined up in the correct spot, with only 1 price tag on the shelf in front of everything, but not Fry’s. Theoretically, that wouldn’t be a problem it we just had to put a sticker on everything once when it came in. But Fry’s had to change the prices on hundreds of products every single night though. That meant that once the store closed, we would all be given sheets and sheets of new product stickers (printed with the lovely dot matrix printers), and we all had to walk around, finding each and every single product and putting stickers on it. The price changes wouldn’t even be anything amazing, like half-off or anything. Most times, prices would shift from $10.98 to $10.89 or some asinine change like that, sometimes a little up, sometimes a little down. I don’t even understand why they did that. Economics is about supply vs demand, and while I could see a noticeable change in prices encouraging people to buy more or less of an item, I hardly doubt the 10 cent differences made much of a difference in buying behavior. Coupled with all the hours it took the dozens of employees to do this, and I bet that any potential gains due to price changes would be dwarfed by the labor costs. The only thing that I could see it making sense with was for doing inventory, because we always had 1 sticker for each item (according to our MS DOS like system’s inventory), so any leftover stickers meant something was misplaced or stolen. I don’t see why they had to do it every night though, and this was really annoying because nobody was allowed to leave the store until everyone was finished. Yes, we were literally locked inside the store until this was done, every night. Once the store closed at 11, the main door would of course be locked, and the only way out of the building was through a fire escape door, which would naturally set off alarms if you opened it. The entire store needed to be done first, and then we would all clock out at the machine, and then assemble by one of the fire escapes near the front door. A supervisor would then override the alarm for a few minutes so we could leave. We would then have to step outside, and wait by the door for a few minutes until the alarm armed itself again, which meant that we all had to stand by the door in sub-zero temperatures a few times in the winter. So yes, there were issues clocking out due to literally being locked inside the store until a completely stupid and time-consuming task was done every night.

Revisiting what I said about the supervisor wanting me to be there: at some point the store obviously got in trouble for making people stay so late in the evening. It seemed to be based on the fact that Illinois has labor laws where you can’t work for 5 or 6 hours straight without a break, or something to that effect. I was getting really fed up with being locked in after 11 every evening, but things got much better when Fry’s started monitoring it severely after getting in trouble somehow. My manager would get a notice that I had been working since 6, and since I would have to legally take a break, I was actually sent home at exactly 11. It was amazing, and all the other flaws about working there didn’t bother me very much anymore. All good things must come to an end though, and that only lasted a week or two until my supervisor (without asking me beforehand) just decided to, quite smugly, tell me that he had change my schedule. My new schedule went something like noon until 4, with an hour break, and then 5 until 9, again then an hour break, and then from 10 to “11,” or something to that effect. Basically, he ensured that I had 2 breaks instead of one, so that I would still be able to “legally” be locked in the store without breaking the consecutive-hour law. I was legitimately the best employee in the computer peripherals department, and I was now pissed.

I went on the first of my now 2 breaks for the day, and brooded on my couch at my house (since I lived close enough, I usually just went home for lunch). I recall sitting there, debating whether or not to go back to that hell. I pulled out a quarter and decided to flip it. Heads, I go back, tails, I just don’t go back. I flipped the coin.

Heads.

Damn. But I mean, it was pretty bad working there, being stuck in there. Let’s try it another time. I flipped the coin again.

Heads.

Really?! No way! That place sucks! And I want to just punch the supervisor in his smug face. Let’s try this one more time, one last flip.

Heads.

Argh! It sucks there, working till around 1 in the morning is just terrible. I don’t want to show him that he can push me around like that. One more flip!

Tails!

Ha! See Bridger? It was destiny that you don’t go back!

At least that’s what I tried to tell myself. I simply just didn’t go back. I didn’t even feel like they deserved a phone call or anything, I just didn’t go back. I didn’t feel too good about that because I always try to leave bridges intact and not burn them. I have always left previous jobs on good terms, always with plenty of notice, and so on. In fact, the only times I usually have ever quit a job was because I was moving, or going back to high school or something. Fry’s Electronics was just terrible, they did some shady things with returns, and their lock-ins at the end of the night were total bullshit.

I quit my job, and started looking for another one. I had never got my previous check, because just hadn’t been able to come by and grab it (you had to come in and get it from the counter). I also needed my last paycheck, which would have been a little smaller since I quit. In any case though, I needed 2 paychecks from them still. I went back after the second/last one should have been available, but they didn’t seem to have it. They also didn’t seem to have the previous one. The lady handing out the checks, who I had seen on a very regular basis to get my checks, seemed to have no file or information on me, and conveniently didn’t seem to recognize me. That was frustrating. Fry’s skimped out on paying me for the past 2 weeks, and while I should have pursued it, it wasn’t really that much money (they didn’t pay well, just about minimum wage, and I only finally got a very small token raise a couple weeks before quitting, and I only worked 20+ hours a week), and more importantly, I just wanted nothing more to do with Fry’s. Good job Fry’s, your company sucks, and you swindled me out of 2 weeks of pay, and I was so annoyed with your company that it was worth it to more me to just not pursue it and not have to do anything more with you.

I never did end up finding another job, I had quit school, and I had run out of money, so I did have to move back home to my dad’s place in Wyoming. Maybe the 3 heads I got should have been a sign, but I just couldn’t take working there anymore. I did end up moving to Chicago again after a few months at home, so it all worked out in the end for me personally. Fry’s was the worst place I have ever worked, and I would never recommend working there, let alone even purchasing stuff from them.