Alchemy of Shadows: A Snippet

Tuesdays, my daughter has two ballet classes, an hour long one early evening and another, a half-hour long, later just before it’s time to head to bed.  Thus, my Tuesday evenings are pretty tied up.  As a result, I think for most Tuesdays I’m going to do stuff here that can be put up quickly:  snippets, “blasts from the past”, and maybe musical interludes.

Today we’ll go with a snippet from my most recent novel:  Alchemy of Shadows:

The locker room was dark, the only light came from my flashlight. I let Jeff lead the way since he had been there before and I had not. We passed through the room to a tunnel leading out to the field.

“You won’t need that.” I jumped at the sound coming from ahead of me.

My flashlight winked out. It didn’t dim or die. Just, one moment it cast its beam of light, the next instant it didn’t.

My hand dove into my satchel, feeling for one of the flares. Before I could pull it out, dim illumination grew around me. Stadium lighting, set to a low level, cast a pale glow over the field.

I left my hand in the satchel, my fingers caressing the flare. Darryl, or the thing riding him, had not even bothered to search us, let alone take our satchels. Hubris? I wondered, or simple confidence? I hoped it was hubris.

Near the center of the field, Ata stood, Becki at his side. Becki had her hands together in front of her waist—tied, I guessed—and Ata held her by her left elbow. I could hear inarticulate shrieking; her attempt to curse, I was sure, around the ball gag that blocked her mouth.

I had to suppress a grin at her pluck. I’m sure Jeff would not have understood.

Nearly a dozen football players formed a double row between Ata and where Jeff and I stood. They weren’t in uniform, just casual clothes. Jeans, mostly, and T-shirts advertising what band or TV show the individual favored.

And sunglasses. Every single one of them wore sunglasses despite the dim illumination.

“Shadows,” I whispered to Jeff.

He looked at me and shrugged.

I left my hand in the satchel, fingers wrapped around one of the flares.

I stepped forward between the two rows of players. Jeff strode alongside me. We continued until we faced Ata, about six feet from him.

“That’s enough right there,” Ata said. He grabbed Becki by the arm and pulled her to him. From his jacket pocket he pulled out a knife and flicked it open, holding it at Becki’s throat.

My throat went dry. I licked my lips. It was Paul, all over again.

“Becki!” Jeff started to step forward.

“Ah ah.” Ata pressed the knife against Becki.

Jeff stopped. We stood in silence, just looking at Ata for several seconds. I wondered why Ata was using a knife considering what the freezing touch of a shadow could do.

“What? No demands to know what we want?” Ata asked.

I shrugged. “Does it really matter? I’m here. You can let Becki go now.”

“You are here of your own free will?” Ata pulled the knife away from Becki’s throat.

I grinned a lopsided grin. “Does duress count?”

Ata laughed. “Close enough.” He frowned. “What are you doing with your hand? Bring it out where I can see.”

I pulled my hand slowly out of the satchel, fingers wrapped around the flare—regular magnesium flare, not one of my new ones, not yet. My thumb stuck through a loop of wire that fastened to the striking strip from a book of matches. A quick jerk and the strip would rub against a match head inside the flare, igniting it and setting off the flare.

Ata pointed at me with the hand holding the knife. “What’s that?”

I smiled and jerked my thumb back. Light exploded from the flare.

“Catch.” I tossed the flare in Ata’s direction and spun, facing the football players now charging me like an avalanche of monstrous bodies.

I grabbed another flare and lit it, tossing it between me and the onrushing human giants.

“Get Becki,” I called to Jeff. I grabbed another flare.

The football players stopped their charge, recoiling from the light. Three more flares lit the region before me like daylight. Beyond the glare, I could see the team fleeing.

“Adrian!” Jeff’s scream jerked me up short. I spun.

Becki lay on the ground, a pool of red spreading from her throat. Jeff knelt at her side, his hands hovering above her as if he were uncertain of what to do, afraid to touch her.

Ata was nowhere to be seen.

I swore and dove for Becki. Throat cut. Gott in Himmel, I thought, the cut went almost completely through to the spine. Her eyes stared sightlessly in the harsh light of the magnesium flares. She was not dead, not yet, but with a wound like that unconsciousness would have taken her almost instantaneously.

Want to see more?  Here’s the book:

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Kindle ebook free with purchase of paperback from Amazon

I was born in the year 1215 in a small town in Westphalia As a boy, my parents apprenticed me to the famed alchemist Albertus Magnus. Under his tutelage I grew to adulthood and learned the mystical secrets of alchemy including the manufacture of the Elixir of Life. I have gone by many names through the centuries.

I was already centuries old when I encountered the creatures of darkness made manifest that I know only as Shadows. They have chased me down through the years for reasons I have never understood.

Light was the only weapon I had against these Shadows, light that could drive them back but not harm them. And so I ran. Every time the Shadows caught up with me I fled to a new identity, a new life, until inevitably they found me again. At long last, with nowhere left to run, I had to find some way to fight the Shadows, not just for myself, but for the people I had come to care about.

My name is Adrian Jaeger. This is my story

Who are You Trying to Convince?


So there was this:


And if you limited your vile hatred to actual Nazis that would be one thing. Of course, people would then be wondering what you were going on about since there are at most a few thousand such Nazis out of a country of more than 300 million. They actually are a “tiny minority.”  “Flat Earthers” outnumber them by at least a couple of orders of magnitued.  Their numbers are in the ballpark of people who believe The Earth is Hollow and UFOs come from there.  They get more attention from you and yours protesting them than they’d ever get on their own.  As one writer put it (paraphrased), “The pathetic skinheads calling themselves Nazis couldn’t organize a bake sale, let alone the conquest of most of Europe.”  They are meaningless noise, deserving only of ridicule and laughter.

That is, if you’re talking about actual Nazis.

But that’s not what you do. You apply the label “Nazi” or “Fascist” to anyone who disagrees with you. Suggest we should actually enforce our laws including immigration laws? Nazi. Suggest that our immigration laws should be aimed at what’s good for America first and foremost? Nazi. Suggest that maybe our trade policies should be based on furthering American interests and let others do the same for themselves? Nazis. Suggest that free speech is free speech and, yes, even your political opponents have a right to speak? Nazi.

According to you, this young lady is a Nazi:


You’re not pointing out people who want to engage in mass genocide. You are applying the term “Nazi” to people who have any disagreement with your policies and hoping that the cachet will make them seem as bad as the Nazis were. That only works to a very limited point, after which you simply dilute the power of the word itself.

You don’t want just actual Nazis dead. You want your political opponents dead. I don’t care what you call yourself. Your actions define what you are. And those actions are vile.

And look, here are some “Antifa” wags cheering a speech made up entirely of quotes from Hitler:

You may call yourself “Anti Fascist” all you want.  Your actions speak otherwise.  Or perhaps you mean “Anti” in the sense of “Antipasto”–where “Anti” means “preparing the way for”.  Far from being against Fascism you are the Sturmaibtelung leading the way to it, or perhaps you’d prefer the Chjornaya Gvardiya in the lead up to the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia.  Of course, both of those organizations were later purged once they had served their purposes to be replaced with other, more “official” organizations so you have that to look forward to.

But claims like that “This is what we’re fighting” crap?  I know it’s not true.  You know it’s not true (if it were, you would already be in a camp).

So who are you trying to convince?

Inspirations from a Bad Ending

I’m sure I’m not alone in reading a story which you’ve enjoyed right up until the end then go “No! Dammit!”, hurl the story against the wall–

–and then write your own story to fix the ending you hated.

That’s how The Hordes of Chanakra came to be. There was a comic series I read back in the day “Arak, Son of Thunder” The titular Arak was a Native American, the last (not quite, as he learns later) of his tribe who was adrift in a small boat at sea where he was picked up by Vikings and raised as one of their own (anachronistic since I don’t think Vikings were crossing the ocean that early, but, hey, comic book). For various reasons after raiding Lindisfarne (the famous raid that marks the start of the Viking Age) he separates from the Vikings and heads south into the kingdom of the Franks, where Charlemagne (referred to as Carolus Magnus in the story) and adventures proceed therefrom.
Second major character is the sorcerer Malagigi. Arak helps him escape from a witch that is holding him prisoner and befriends him.
Third major character is “Valda, the Iron Maiden”–a warrior woman, daughter of that Bradamante who was killed at Roncesvilles pass along with Roland et al. She starts as very hostile to Arak once they meet but as the story progresses a romance grows between the two. While I thought it developed naturally at the time, looking back I think it was actually kind of forced.

For the most part, I bought the comics as they came out and enjoyed them. I was frustrated when they had Arak and the other two go their separate ways but later they are reunited. Arak is on a quest by this point to reach his people who he has learned exist but are living in squalor. For reasons that are never quite clear (hey, comic book) instead of going North and hitching a ride with Vikings across the North Atlantic (he was raised by them so he should have an “in” there), he’s going East across the breadth of Asia and then across the Pacific back to the Americas. And, as it happens, Carolus Magnus has authorized Valda and Malagigi to accompany him and learn what they could for the greater glory of Frankland.

And so, they travel through the Middle East, to India, across southern Asia to China, and finally to Japan.  Malagigi, however, is having dreams. Turns out the dreams are prophetic. Carolus Magnus is going to be crowned as Emperor of the Romans on Christmas Day, 800AD.  Valda, when she learns of this, decides that he’s going to need all his knights so she has to go back. Arak has to go forward. She goes back Arak goes north and East (apparently the idea is he’ll island hop up from Japan to Siberia and across the Aleutians, then down from Alaska–no, it didn’t make sense to me either). That’s it. The end.

Later, during DC’s “Crisis on Infinite Earths” Arak and Valda met briefly during one of the time and space warping battles in that giant crossover and we learned that he did make it back to his people, but again they separated, the end.


And so, that was the origin of The Hordes of Chanakra. Kreg was the “stranger from a strange land” (an analog of our world). Kaila was the warrior woman. Shillond the wizard. And I set as a key plot goal to have _this_ romance have its happy ending (more or less). The story, of course, as I wrote it evolved in completely different directions and bears little resemblance to its inspiration, but that one point, the romance between Kreg and Kaila (and I mean “romance” in the sense of the growth of a committed, loving relationship–this story is not one for on-stage sex) remains.

Because, dammit, that other ending sucked.

On This Day August 18: The Roanoke Colony

The Roanoke Colony was founded in the summer of 1585.  Bad relations with the locals induced many of its members to return to England a year later with Sir Francis Drake, who had stopped by the colony on his way back to England after a successful raiding expedition in the Caribbean.  A relief fleet, arriving shortly after Drake’s departure, found the colony essentially abandoned and left a detachment of 15 men to maintain English presence and to preserve the claim to the island.  In July of 1587 a second expedition of 115 colonists arrived, finding the detachment had been obliterated.  They found only a single skeleton that might have been the remains of one of the detachment.  Might.

The colonists were ready to head back to the ships at that point, but the ship’s master Pilot would not allow it and insisted that they establish a new colony on Roanoke.

The leader of this second expedition, and governor of the colony, was John White who was accompanied (among others) by his daughter Eleanor White Dare and her husband and her husband Ananais Dare.  Nothing has been said of the difficulties Eleanor had crossing the Atlantic in the creaky sailing ships of the day while in the advanced stages of pregnancy but she gave birth to the first English child born in the New World on August 18, 1587 (the first “On This Day” event).

White established relations with some of the nearby tribes, including the Croatan, but the ones who had fought the previous settlers would not deal with him.  One of the settlers was killed by a native while searching for crabs.

The colonists were in sufficient difficulty that they persuaded Governor White to return to England and ask for further supplies and assistance.   He agreed to do so, setting out in the winter of 1587 despite the difficulty and danger of winter sailing, leaving behind his daughter and her family, including the infant granddaughter, Virginia Dare.  Before leaving, White instructed the colonists that if anything happened to them, they were to carve a Maltese cross into on a tree nearby.

White’s first attempt to return to Roanoke in 1588 was thwarted when the captains of the two ships attempted to engage Spanish ships and seize their cargo and so increase their profits from the voyage.  Tables were turned when the Spanish ships proved victorious and seized the English cargo.  With nothing left to deliver, White returned to England.

Because of the ongoing war with Spain, three more years passed before White was able to try again, gaining passage on a privateering (private vessels carrying “letters of marque and reprisal from their government authorizing them to attack and capture shipping of a belligerent nation, basically legalized piracy) expedition led by John Watts and Walter Raleigh.  They returned to the site of the colony on August 18, 1590, what would be the third birthday of Watts’ granddaughter Virginia Dare.  They found the colony deserted.  There was no sign of any struggle or battle.  The buildings were neatly dismantled, indicating that wherever the colonies went, they departed in no great hurry.  The only clue was the word “Croatan” carved into one tree and the letters “CRO” in another.  No Maltese Cross to indicate something bad happening to the colonists was found.  White took this to mean that the colonists had moved to Croatan Island (today known as Hatteras) but a storm was brewing and his men refused to search further and so, the next day, they left.

It was not until 12 years later that anyone returned to Roanoke to investigate what happened.  In 1602 Raleigh led his own expedition, guaranteeing his sailors pay so they would not be distracted by privateering.  However, first on arrival he spent time looking for items that he could sell in England and still make a profit from the trip.  By the time they could turn attention to the fate of the missing colonists, the weather had turned bad and they were forced to return.  Shortly after these events, Raleigh was arrested for treason which put an end to any further efforts on his part.

A final expedition went to the site in 1603 led by Bartholomew Gilbert.  However, once again bad weather intervened.  They only landed “near there” and, an encounter with natives in which Gilbert was killed led to the expedition being abandoned and returning empty-handed.

On the other side of the war with Spain that caused such delays in relief, the Spanish came across the abandoned colony in 1590 but thought it merely an outpost of the main settlement and they, too, left without providing any answers to what had happened.

After Jamestown was established in 1607, John Smith asked the local Powatan tribe.  According to his account Chief Powatan claimed to have personally led the slaughter of the colonists because they were living with the Chesepean’s, a tribe with which the Powatan’s were at odds.  William Strachey, in pursuing his own inquiries of Powatan, received much the same information and this was the conventional view of the fate of the colonists for many years.  However, some scholars believe Powatan’s account actually refer to the detail of 15 left by the first expedition, not those of the second, larger expedition.

And there things have mostly lain.  People love a mystery and so much has been made of the “mystery” of the Roanoke colony’s disappearance.  However, my own view is that it is almost certainly the most straightforward one.  The locals had already developed friendly relations with the Croatan people while having hostile relations with others.  When the relief they were waiting for was so long delayed, they simply abandoned the colony–either all at once or a few at a time–and went to live among the Croatan and had thoroughly integrated with them.  After Jamestown, Plymouth would be the next successful English Colony in North America and it would be nearly a century before colonists returned to the Carolinas long after any surviving Roanoke colonists would be dead and buried (or whatever the Croatan did with their dead).

That’s the simple answer.  But, of course, people don’t like the “simple” answer and so they cling to the mystery:  The mystery of the lost colony.  But perhaps, somewhere, among the descendants of that native tribe, a great-great-great-however-many-greats-grandchild of Virginia Dare, the first English child born on this continent, still lives.

That is mystery enough for me, I think.

The Arrow is Plugging the Wound: A Blast from the Past

Still under the weather, so here’s another Blast from the Past:

In other places I’ve made it pretty clear that I lean sharply libertarian and that the role of government should be sharply limited. “To preserve these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”  That’s it.  Going beyond what’s necessary to “secure these rights” is to go beyond “just powers.”

As I point out in earlier blog posts, a certain level of government actually helps to secure the basic rights of Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness (Part 1Part 2Part 3)

Obviously, we are far, far beyond that point.  To get there we need to cut government back, way back.

Here’s where I part company with many Libertarians.  They want to do it in one fell swoop.  Every part of government that is not part of the minimum necessary “to secure these rights” (which some consider to be “all of it”) must go.  Now.

That, however, may not be a good idea.  Oh, the end goal of getting rid of most of what government does may be a laudable one but the question is how.

Consider this analogy.  A man has been shot with a number of arrows and is lying there like a meat pincushion.  The wounds, if properly treated, are such that he can survive and heal.  If left as his he’ll bleed to death.

Some folk have the instinct to jerk out all the arrows since they’re what caused his wounding.

Very foolish that.  Those arrows are also plugging the holes so he doesn’t quickly bleed out.

This is where we are with government.  It’s bleeding free society to death, slow or fast depending on your perspective but it’s also “plugging the holes”.

Consider what President Dwight Eisenhower said about Social Security and other programs: “Should any political party attempt to abolish social security unemployment insurance and eliminate labor laws and farm programs you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group of course that believes you can do these things. Among them are a few other Texas oil millionaires and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”

Eisenhower was not endorsing Social Security and those other programs.  No, he was pointing out the reality that so many people had grown dependent on them that people would rise in such outrage that the “offending” party would be voted out of every office they hold, from President all the way down to dog catcher, and never be heard from again. [Ed. Note also what I had to say in Yesterday’s post, The Dismal Science.]

And the plain fact is that many more people are dependent on many more government programs than ever before.  Cut the program and people will suffer, in the short term at least.  Maybe, probably, they would if given time adjust to the new situation and the economic growth that comes from the increased freedom and less tying up of the economy caused by the government passing money back and forth from hand to hand with no new products and services to show for it would improve their lot.  But there’s the problem “given time”.  Most people will only see their immediate hardship.  As the line says from the movie Annie (the 1982 version; I haven’t seen the 2014 version and don’t intend to) “People don’t eat in the long run.”

Thus, while reducing the size of government is a good thing–indeed, it’s something that must happen if we’re to remain anything resembling a free and prosperous country–great care must be taken in how its done.  It needs to be done gradually–we didn’t get where we are in an instant and we won’t get back in one either.  We must be prepared to deal with the “bleeding” that will come from removing each “arrow” lest instead of a healthy, prosperous nation we end up with an exsanguinated corpse.

Recognizing this, of course, makes me a horrible “statist” who doesn’t care about freedom.  Or so I’ve been told.

The Dismal Science

I’m not feeling well today so I’m probably going to go to bed early.  Thus, here’s an earlier than usual post.

Back in the 1849, Scottish Essayist Thomas Carlyle coined the term “The Dismal Science” for reducing interactions to supply and demand and declaring that people should be left alone, when Carlyle was arguing for the reintroduction of slavery to the West Indies to increase productivity.

While Carlyle’s arguments failed (thankfully) the term “the dismal science” took on a life of its own as it got applied to other assumptions people made about economics, claiming that economics demonstrated that bettering the lot of mankind was impossible (particularly in light of Malthus’s then current theories), that wages must fall to the minimum point, that, according to economics, the lot of mankind was crushing poverty forever.

Fortunately all of those “dismal” predictions were fallacious.  Malthus’s predictions have persistently failed to materialize.  Wages heading to minimum?  Less than 2% of full time jobs in the United States pay minimum wage or less.  In other words, more than 98%, the vast majority, of jobs pay more.  It’s almost like employers have to compete to attract productive workers from other employers.  And likewise, workers compete with each other to obtain good-paying jobs.  All of this leads to a dynamic and ever-changing balance a far cry from everyone being forced to accept starvation wages.  And economic growth has been outstripping population–growing fastest where there is the most economic freedom–meaning that the lot of “the masses” has been improving.

But there is another way in which Economics is a “dismal science”.  It’s dismal in the frustration of those who have some understanding of economics watching people without such understanding (or worse, people with an understanding) making decisions that economically range from bad to disastrous.

Consider minimum wage.  When people with an understanding of economics point out that increasing the cost of hiring people means that fewer people will be hired which means increased unemployment they dismiss that because unemployment did not rise much with previous increases in minimum wage.  Of course it didn’t.  For sufficient values of “much”.  After all, when less than 2% earn it in the first place, the most you’d get is a 2% rise and that’s if everybody earning minimum wage were let go.  So the overall unemployment rate will change little.  However, what’s important to consider is who those minimum wage workers are.  They are generally young people just entering the work force, people with no work experience, no references, none of the things that say “I’m a proven good worker.” Often, because of the economic and educational situations they grew up in, they are minority workers.  It is these groups where unemployment soars making it harder for them to get their initial jobs and become productive members of the workforce.

Or take health care, particularly health insurance.  People love requiring insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions.  Lawmakers who talk about requiring insurance companies to provide such coverage, and without raising rates over it, are ensured of widespread popular support.  That it is economically unworkable doesn’t matter to that support.  Even many of those who grasp the essential impracticality of the demand silence that voice within themselves because they want it so bad.  The only way it can be made to, sort of, work is to require everyone to have insurance–the business and individual mandates, which are as widely hated as covering pre-existing conditions is loved.

Then there are protectionist tariffs.  People want to “save jobs”.  This sounds good.  But lacking an understanding of economics they do not see what cost those jobs come at.  Look, if you put a tariff on imported steel, you save some steelworkers’ jobs.  But this is at the cost of steel being more expensive than it would otherwise be.  This increases the cost  for everybody who uses steel.  That means auto makers, machine tool makers, the people making stainless steel tableware, rebar manufacturers (and thus people making concrete structures and roadways), and so on and so on and so on.  All of these people will find their costs higher than otherwise.  And that is going to cost jobs.  But these jobs, unlike steelworkers who are concentrated, organized, and have a loud political voice, are scattered over many industries and sectors of the population and have no such united voice.  And so they are conveniently ignored in favor of the loud.

And so Economics is “the dismal science” as time and time again, people with even a basic understanding of economics watch in frustration as time and again people make exactly the wrong decisions that fly in the face of even the most basic economic principles with predictable results.

It’s Cassandra–gifted to be able to foretell the future but cursed so that no one would believe her–all over again.

And that’s dismal.

What’s happening with this site.

Just checked the “Alexa” ranking for my blog for the first time in several months. Running around seven million. Previously ran about 2-3 million. Note that that’s a rank, how far down it is in the list of “most popular websites”.  So, basically, traffic is tanking compared to everybody else out there.

I too a look at WordPress stats to see a little more detail, traffic has been falling off since about February of this year. From when I started the new blog in May of 2017 through February of this year I mostly ran 5-10 thousand visitors a month, with a few spikes when some particular post took off (generally related to “Instalanches” and once when Milo Yiannopoulos shared one of my posts). Hard to see, given the level of granularity and the random variation, but the trend seemed to be upward.  Then, March, April, and May of 2018 all had number of visitors near the bottom end of the range from previously, wiping out any gains in readership. Then, starting in June 20018) things really tanked starting in June with 1000 visitors, <800 in July , and (so far) <500 in August.

In addition to FaceBook, I am on Minds and Mewe–and I link my blog posts on both of them–but the problem is that most of the people are still on FaceBook so that is where I get most of the traffic I do get.  I get a handful of hits from a variety of sites that have linked one or more of my pages (although mostly they come to “Nobody wants to take your guns?”

Facebook has recently killed the automatic posting from WordPress and Twitter so I have to manually link to them on FB (as well as Minds and Mewe).

I checked my Twitter account. The auto links from my blog are going up there, but scrolling back I don’t see any likes/reshares/comments until I get back to June 25. None. Now I never got many of those but I got a few making that an awfully long dry period, starting right about the time my site hits tanked.

My content has not significantly changed from when I was growing to now.  And, frankly, I don’t think the number of people on the Internet who might have an interest in what I have to say (however few those might be) have decreased.  Nor do I think that the “market” for my mix of things is saturated that people are really having to choose between my blog and someone else’s out there. (If they are, I’d like to know what this other blog is…if it interests my own readers that much to lure them away, it’s probably something I should check out.)

Add in the recent cases of people being blocked/banned on various social media sites and muted on major search engines and questions arise enough to make me wonder if my posts are being suppressed/muted/shadowbanned on social media and by the big search engines.

Mind you, I’m well aware that I’m very small fish in pretty much any game out there.  I’ve generally “flown under the radar” as not having enough audience to draw attention. Nobody bothered to block/ban me because they hardly noticed I was there to begin with.  On the other hand, given “bots” and “scripts” and other wonders of modern automation suppressing even small fish like me might well be, for some people, a worthwhile “allocation of scarce resources that have alternative uses.”

The problem of immortality

Also to be found over at Fantastic Schools and Where to Find Them.

Okay, there’s more than one but I’m going to talk about the problem of starting over.

If one is immortal (in the sense of not dying from old age–we’ll presume you can be hurt or killed) in a world where immortality is not known and accepted, where you have to hide what you are, then you face the problem of having to start over from time to time.  In times past, that might be no problem.  Change venues, show up in a new town as a wandering minstrel or other traveler from a far place and you are simply who you claim to be and are able to pass as.  Gregor the Slow, who people are starting to look at strangely because of how well preserved he is for his age disappears and everyone assumes he ran afoul of a bear or something.   Three towns over, folk who never heard of Gregor look suspiciously at the new farrier come to town but, seeing as they had no farrier of their own having one set up nearby saving them from wasting half a day to have a horse shod at another town soon wins their approval.

There can be complications, of course, but generally speaking, one does not have to go far to find people who do not know you.  You do not have to worry about any difficult to forge government documents which local rulers (whether “democratically elected,” hereditary nobles, or governors appointed by a distant imperial capital) can use to access records going back to your early childhood.  There is no worry that your picture will show up in some news carried to your previous residence leading someone from your old life to recognize you.  So long as you live a relatively quiet life, there’s essentially no risk of anyone recognizing “new you” as “old you.”

Starting over is, in general, is a fairly straightforward task.  Walk out the door.  Keep going for a while.  Set up in new place.

In the modern age, particularly in the industrialized world, it’s a much more difficult task.  There are ID’s, public records, credentials needed for jobs that tie to records leading back into your past.  There are ways around them, but they tend to put you on the outside of the law and always at risk of discovery which can complicate your life considerably.

There is one point, however, where it is much easier to slip into a new life than at other instances:  starting college.  People often attend colleges far from the places where they grew up, providing an instant excuse for being a stranger to those around you.  College entrance exams, SAT’s and ACT’s can be taken by anyone.  You don’t have to be a current high school student to take them. (I know.  I’ve done it.)  You might have to generate a false high school record, although with some research you might be able to find an excuse for said records to be lost.  And if not?  Well, if you’re an immortal with decades or centuries to prepare you should be able to find some way to introduce high school records into the system, the quiet, studious one who sat over by himself and never made much impact on people so, of course nobody remembers him.  But nobody has to remember him to look up his name in the computer and send a transcript to the college.

And so our immortal enters college where nobody can be expected to know him.  Here he can earn credentials to find work providing a visible means of support because he can’t just live on several lifetimes worth of investments (for example) without people questioning how he got that wealth and where it came from.  While in college, his problem isn’t passing his classes for the most part; after all, he’s been down this road before and probably more than once.  Rather it’s getting just those grades that fit the role he’s playing–a reasonably good but not exceptional student (which might cause people back at the high school to wonder why they didn’t remember such an exceptional student), perhaps one finally coming into his own and exceeding what he did in High School (College worked that way for me, even without being an ageless immortal into the mix).

And so he should be good for the next twenty years or so when he has to abandon his new life and start over again, probably at a new college.

In fact, this provides such a natural break point for someone to start a new life that one wonders why it isn’t used more often in stories featuring immortals in an analog of the normal world (Highlander:  The Series, as one of the better known examples).

Another Snippet

From a Work in Progress:

Detective Ware stepped back so fast he almost jumped.  I looked down at my hand in his.  I had not even noticed his taking it.  He dropped it.

I looked at the woman he’d addressed as Belinda expecting to see raging jealousy on her face but saw only…confusion.

“James?  What are you doing here and who is…”

As I watched, here eyes drifted downward then widened.  Her face went pale.

“What in God’s creation is that?” She pointed at the vampire corpse on the floor.

“It’s a vampire!” Liz said.

I winced.  This was getting too complicated.

“I see what it is!” Belinda screamed. “It’s a dead body.  Why is there a dead body in my living room?”

I looked at Ware.  He was not going to like this but I had no choice.

“Miss,” I said, my voice sharp. “Belinda!”

She turned to face me, fury raging across her face, her mouth open to shout.  My eyes met hers.  I Pushed.

“Please, have a seat.” I Pushed through my words.  Confusion replaced fury on her face.  I pointed to a chair. “Please.  This can be explained but it will take some time.”

She lurched like a sleepwalker to the chair and sat.

Ware stared at me. “What did you just do?”

“Something I inherited from my parents,” I said. “I can sometimes…influence people.” I rubbed my temples. “I’m going to have a beaut of a headache.  It’s been too soon since…well, it doesn’t matter.”

“Influence,” Ware said.  He looked at Liz. “And did you?”

I sighed. “I didn’t.  I promise.  If I had, do you think she’d be jumping up and down talking about vampires?  No.  I can’t do it often and I don’t unless I absolutely have to.”

“And you had to here?” He waved at his wife who still sat calmly in the chair.

“I’m sorry, detective, really I am, but you saw that she was about to have a full meltdown.  I just…calmed things down a bit.  No harm has been done.  I’m just buying some time to figure out what to tell her.”

“But…” Liz waved her hands at the corpse. “Vampire.”

I looked at Ware and tilted my head to the side, my lips pressed thin.  He sighed.

“Liz, sweetie, you can’t tell anybody about the vampire.”


“No ‘buts’ Liz.  You can’t tell anyone.  Police business.”

“But…vampires.  They’re real.”

I sighed. “Yes, they’re real.  And they’re secret.  And they want to keep it that way.”

She started to speak and I held up a hand.

“A few times in the past, people became aware of the vampires.  When that happened, the vampires started to kill. Not just feed, but kill and kill and kill.  By the time they were done, a large portion of the population was dead, including anybody willing to admit to the existence of vampires.  A generation later vampires were reduced to legends and the deaths attributed to a plague.”

I wrapped my arms around myself and shivered.  I had seen Matei’s records of the event.  He had never admitted it, but I did not doubt that he had been part of that slaughter.  Whatever his behavior currently, I could never forget that he was a monster.  I hated myself for allowing myself to like the creature, knowing what I know about him.

“There are never many vampires.  There are several hundred thousand humans for every one of them.  They cannot fight you openly so if they cannot prey on you in secret, they turn to terror.  You cannot talk about this.  Nobody would believe you but it would be worse if they did.  Other vampires would come and they would kill your mother, your father, your friends, you, everyone you know.”

The throbbing in my head grew to the point of creating sparkles in my vision.  I squeezed my eyes tight for a moment then looked at Belinda.  The confusion on her face had transformed into shock.  She had heard and processed my words to Liz.

“What should I do with your wife?” I asked Ware.

“Ex,” he said absently then shook his head. “You need to release her.  You know how many rights you’re…”

I held up a hand. “Fine.”

I eased up on the push, pausing a moment to implant a suggestion that sitting and waiting was her own idea.  Shock, I thought.  Yes, shock at seeing the dead body and the blood.  Close enough to the surface that only a slight nudge presented it as a reason to obey my earlier instructions.

I released the rest of the push and sighed.  I still needed a handful of Tylenol but at least the sparkles had started to fade.

“What are you talking about?” Belinda rose to her feet like a wrathful deity and pointed a finger at me. “Vampires?  In my house?  Are you insane?”

“It’s real, Mom,” Liz said. “I saw the fangs and everything.”

Belinda turned the finger at Liz. “You stay silent, little girl”

“But Mo-o-o-o-m.”

“Silent.  This is between me, your father, and his…”

I watched her search for the word she wanted to use.

“Consultant,” Ware said. “Ms. Herzeg is up from Nashville, consultant on the recent cult murders.”

“Is that what you were doing when I came in?  Consulting?”

“Belinda, I…”

“Detective Ware got word that there was a possible threat against your family related to the cult.  He called me about it and I was in a position to get here quicker.  As it happened I was just in time to stop the attack on your daughter.” I compressed the time.  No need to tell her about my handling of the body. “Ware arrived soon thereafter and saw how close we had come to losing your daughter.  I guess it was an emotional moment.”

“Emotional.  Right.”

Ware sighed. “Belinda.  There’s no reason for you to be…”

“Jealous?  Of course not.  We’re not married any more, are we?”

“No, but…”  He pressed a hand to his face and bowed his head.

“Um, Detective?” I touched his arm. “We have more important things to deal with right now.”

He looked at me, a strange expression on his face. Frustration?  Maybe regret?

“They’re still out there,” I said. “We’ve got to get your family safe.”

His face cleared immediately.  All business once more. “Both of you need to pack up an overnight bag.  I’ll have the department take you to a safe house.”

“I’m not going with your cop buddies.” Belinda set her hands on her hips. “It’s clear I can’t stay here.  Do you know how much it’s going to cost to get this carpet cleaned?  And the walls.  God, how did you get blood on the walls?  No, I’ll take Elizabeth to my mother’s.”

Ware looked at me, a question in his eyes. “Her mother lives in Fort Wayne.”

I nodded. “Should be okay.  I haven’t heard of any activity there.”

“All right,” Ware said to his ex. “But you can’t tell anyone where you went, not even…”

“I know the drill,” Belinda snapped.  I tried not to use the term harpy even in my own mind, but it was a challenge. “I was married to a cop for ten years.  Don’t talk to anybody. We simply vanish until it’s safe to come back.”

“Three can keep a secret,” Liz said.

Ware chuckled. “If two are dead.”

“I’ll go pack, Dad.” She held out her arms. “Hugs.”

I suppressed the urge to smile.  Divorced or not, Ware seemed to have a close relationship with his daughter.

As mother and daughter disappeared into the back of the house I touched Ware on the arm again. “You okay?”

“How are we going to explain this to the force?” He shook his head at the carnage. “God, if you’d just shot him or stabbed him, we could make a clear case of self defense but.  Cutting his head off?  The Prosecutor will be after your scalp.  Hell, he’ll be after mine too.”

I held up a hand. “We don’t, explain anything that is.  This isn’t the first vampire I’ve taken down by a long shot.  The body?  Well, while the beheading and garlic sewn into the mouth will have it permanently dead at sunrise, I’d feel much better with the body burned to ash.  As for the blood., I’ll see if Matei can set up a very discrete cleaning crew.” I suppressed a giggle. “Do you think your ex would appreciate some new carpet?  I don’t think anything is going to get this clean.”

“Are you shitting me?” Ware stared at me. “This is a crime scene.  We can’t…”

I held up a hand and spoke softly. “This is a vampire.  As far as the public, the force, and the prosecutor is concerned it never happened.  It has to be that way.”

Ware let his head fall into his hands. “Disturbing crime scenes, moving and concealing bodies, what else are you going to have me doing before this is over?”

I frowned.  Ware had been far to easy to convince.  My frown deepened with suspicion. Matei, I thought, what did you do?  Aloud, I merely offered an oblique answer to Ware’s question.

“Frankly, detective, I don’t think you want to know.”

I hoped this would be the worst we would have to do.  I feared it was the least.

2018 Indiana State Fair

I didn’t have a chance to post yesterday because I was busy taking my daughter and a friend of hers, Erin, to the Indiana State Fair.

We started with the girls having Funnel Cake (“Cookies and Cream”)




The “skyride” to the other side of the park.


Short break for dinner.  Athena had “loaded tater-tots”.  I’m not sure what Erin had.  I had “steak tips”.  the steak tips were seasoned heavily with, I’m thinking onion salt.  Very heavily.  Really, that was the only flavor I got out of it.  But…protein to refuel the machine.


One more ride for the girls:


Then, last but not least, the three of us together on one of the two Ferris Wheels.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get a good picture.  I’m guessing I the camera in my phone just wasn’t “fast” enough to stop the motion with the amount of light available.

A view of a small part of the fairground from the top of the Ferris Wheel.


A good time was had by all.