Ho No

“So Matt, what would you like for Christmas this year?”
“Nothing.”
“Matt, you’re a ten-year-old boy, you have to want something!”
“It’s a Christian holiday and I’m an atheist.”
“What?! Well then what are you going to open on Christmas morning?”
“I’ll be live-streaming all day.”

That’s an excerpt from an actual conversation my mother had with one of her grandsons. When I was but a boy, I didn’t relate to the Christian aspects of X-Mas either — but Santa and presents sure made a whole lotta sense.

Frankly, I blame the lack of television for this kind of staunch anti-X-Mas stance. When I was young, we were forced to choose from a total of THREE television channels every night. Come holiday time, at least one of those channels was showing a Christmas-themed special in which it wasn’t too late to find out the true meaning of Christmas. Christmas Miracles were around every corner. Nowadays kids don’t even watch TV. Instead of the picture-tube, they’re glued to the YouTube.

And have you even tried shopping for kids today? When I was young, there were large toy-stores in every mall — EVERY aisle was filled with goodies. They’re gone. You have a few aisles in Target or Walmart now. What can a child reasonably put on his Christmas List this year? What? A bike? Scooter? Legos? Classic board games? Action-figures? Remote-control-vehicle? Xbox? TV? iPad/iPhone? Toy robot? Gift-cards? Movie-streaming/gaming-subscription service? Hmm never-mind.

But it’s like they don’t even care. They’re not inundated with commercial after commercial for hours everyday after school like I was when I was a kid. Frankly, most of the shows I watched were 22-minute long ads anyway (Transformers, G.I. Joe, He-Man). I knew all the latest toys and NEEDED every single one of them because all those ads convinced me. The same with cereal. I wanted every sugar-laden box they sold in the cereal-aisle and I made sure my mom knew it! But kids today? Psh, not even a peep, they don’t even want to go down and check out all the cool characters on the boxes — I always went cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.

I don’t know what to say, I guess it’s a rudderless generation — simply lost without the guiding hand of television. Every day and night I knelt before its glow and received without question the words it spoke. And I turned out fine. Well, I mean there was the anxiety, depression, sugar-addiction… whatever! It wasn’t TV’s fault, heck they had those World Wars before TV ever became popular. In conclusion, it’s never too late to learn the true meaning of Christmas: rampant unapologetic commercialism ushered in by a jolly old elf. Kids today need to get their act together and get their butts in front of the TV.

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When Wolves Attack

The wolves were thin and hungry. “We are wolves surrounded by a sea of sheep, we should not suffer this indignity!” said one. And so the wolves rallied, strengthening their ranks as they sharpened their fangs. When ready, they wandered beyond their territory, beyond the fences where the unsuspecting flocks lived. Their first strike was quick and the slaughter began.

But watching from their perched position on the Isle of Dragons, the dragons did not appreciate the aggression of the wolves. They sent their sentries to investigate. The wolves were in a vicious state and paid no mind to what the dragons said, even nipping at their heels as they chased them back to their island.

Of course, it’s never wise to irritate dragons. They are masters of the sea and sky. Soon the wolves would know what it meant for the sky to fall, for fire to rain, for tornadoes of flame to engulf and burn, and how those that take to the skies have friends in high places. For in the air, the eagles soar, masters of a vast wilderness, able to bring great resources wherever they’re needed.

But the wolves continued, believing in their own ferocity. The wolves felt themselves penned in, so they sought expansion and endless lands to roam — they looked east to where potential existed. Although those foolhardy wolves knew of the bears, they simply never realized how many actually lived among the bramble.

Besides, those bears were lean and looked as though they had nothing. The wolves gathered in their formation at the border of bear territory and began their attack. But for every bear that fell, it seemed as though two filled its place. The wolves tired themselves out by the slaughter. Soon it was as if three bears rose for every one that fell.

Unbeknownst to the wolves, the great eagles of big-sky country saw what was happening and dropped what was necessary to aid the bears. Then came the winter — so many wolves simply froze in place, unaware of how harsh the cold-lands could become. But while one side of the wolves froze solid in their ranks, the other side was roasted by dragon’s fire.

Long did the wolves howl at the border of the bears, but long did the bears hold their ground, one fallen body at a time. And like a spring compressed, the bears were pushed to a point so pressurized, that they eventually propelled forward with a frightening ferocity. The wolves knew not if their legs trembled from fear or if the ground simply shook, as bears charged full of rage.

Battered and starved for so long, the bears consumed everything along the way as they headed toward the homeland of the wolves. While from the west, the great eagles landed. Crushed between two unstoppable forces, the wolves retreated as much as they could. It would not be long before it was over.

And so it was, the eagles and the bears met and divided the wolf-lands between them. It was discovered how the wolves fed upon their own and committed atrocities unforgivable. The wolves were promptly defanged and watched like hawks, even to this day. But such is life in the animal kingdom, a world of beasts and brutes and violence unbounded.

Crimson Wishes

“In darkest realms where shadows lie, where goodness fails and angels die — let my voice be heard and heed my word…”
“Wait, are you sure about this?” he cautioned.
“Ahem!” she continued, “Through wicked ways I summon thy power, from sacrificial blood in the midnight hour.”
“Whoa!” he protested.
“Calm down, it’s just a tissue from my last bloody-nose,” she assured him.

She placed the crumpled tissue in the center of an encircled star made out of small rocks. She swiped a match across the box and lit the tissue. She told the boy to throw the image of his desire onto the small fire. He took the picture and held it over the flame until it caught. “It is done,” she declared. The boy breathed a sigh of relief.

Rob didn’t like the idea of resorting to black-magic but he was desperate, so he asked his goth friend Emily to help. Rob really wanted an Xbox One X, and he’d do anything to have it. He lived with his mom and little sister and they didn’t usually have money for Christmas presents, and this year was no different.

Rob woke up the next day feeling the same as any other day. In fact he almost forgot about the previous night’s escapade except he saw the flyer from which he cut out the picture on the floor. At breakfast, Rob ate the usual bowl of off-brand cereal he always ate. It was the weekend, so no school today — Rob wasn’t a fan anyway.

Of course Rob had tried asking Santa for presents in the past, but unfortunately, his mall’s Santa wasn’t affiliated with the actual Santa — thus none of his wishes were ever forwarded, so he never received what he asked for. It’s not well-known, but Santa Claus has a goth cousin named Satan Claws. It’s who little goth boys and girls write incantations to during the holidays.

Satan Claws’s minions received Emily’s incantation and got to work on it the next day. They procured an Xbox One X and wrapped it in red paper. But in this case, the red paper represented the blood of the innocent. As he was instructed by Emily, Rob placed a dead tree in the center of his room and adorned it beautifully with lights and ornaments (in mockery of its once living state).

The Winter Solstice finally arrived and Satan Claws sent his minions out to deliver the “Bounty of Blood” as it was called. Those that summon the power of darkness receive the fruit of their invocation upon the darkest day of the year. Rob woke up the following morning to find a present under the tree. He was so excited and rushed over to open it!

On the gift-tag it read “To: Rob, From: Satan Claws”. Rob tore the red paper away and underneath he saw what he truly desired, an Xbox One X! He couldn’t have been happier. That’s when he noticed another present under the tree. It had a similar gift-tag and wrappings. He opened it and found a black Misfits t-shirt, over-sized black pants, and some glow-lights inside.

That night, in celebration of the bounty received, Rob dressed in his new outfit, met Emily and her friends underneath an overpass, and danced to techno music in intervals of six-hundred and sixty-six seconds. Rob was welcomed into the fold and he even invited some people back to his house to take a look at Red Dead Redemption 2 on his Xbox.

Ready for Action

Michael woke up suddenly. He didn’t know why. But not long after, he heard a noise. It seemed to be coming from inside his house. Michael had a Benelli tactical pump-action shotgun for home-defense, a concealed-carry permit to accompany his Glock 26 subcompact pistol, plus a small arsenal of various rifles and handguns for impressing his buddies at the gun range. He’d been waiting for this day, a good-guy with a gun was about to go to war.

Michael grabbed the Benelli obviously, and readied it for action, racking the slide underneath his pillow to keep it quiet. He paused a second and grabbed his Glock subcompact for backup. Because of the emergency nature of the situation, Michael dispensed with any other gear. It was go-time. To keep the element of surprise, he kept things dark and moved low and slow through his house towards the living room. “This f*cker’s dead,” he kept repeating to himself.

As he got closer, he was relieved to see light coming from the living room, that meant he’d have the advantage as he was coming from a dark hallway. He inched his way closer. Before he could even think about what he saw, it was over. Michael dropped to his knees as the shotgun fell out of his limp hands. Red was everywhere. None more so than on the man in the living room. But that man wasn’t done quite yet — from his bag he pulled out one more thing.

“An XBox One X!!!”, yelled Michael as he saw it coming out of Santa’s sack. “Ho ho ho!! Indeed it is!”, replied Saint Nick. “How did you know!!!”, Michael was ecstatic. He offered Santa some cookies and apologized for trying to blow his brains out. But that jolly old elf, with but a wink and a nod, simply shot up the chimney and got back in his sleigh. Michael could hear the reindeer as they ran off his roof and he heard Santa saying, “A merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

A Reasonable Response

Elder One: Who is this man that speaks as if he has divine authority?
Elder Two: He is a popular teacher it seems. But what he teaches corrupts the people, it diminishes the law and our authority over them.
Elder Three: A trouble-maker it seems. Let us send him to the civil authority to be executed. He is guilty of heresy by our laws and of treason by theirs.
Elder Four: Do you think it wise brothers, to condemn a man to death for merely interpreting our creator in a manner that’s proving popular with the people?
Elder Two: It is a corrupted teaching that violates the letter of the law!
Elder Four: But he’s committed no measurable offense.
Elder Two: A slippery slope! He must be dealt with lest we all fall!
Elder Four: Surely this is an overreaction. If he continues and the people follow, their fervor will dissipate over time. Whereas if we rob them of him, they will cling to his message even more.
Elder Three: A quick cut and the infested branch will be gone! There will be no spread of his message once the source is severed.
Elder Four: We are talking about killing a man just because he draws a few crowds? And if the creator placed this man on earth, as he placed us all, who are we to intervene?
Elder One: Enough of this! Let us concern ourselves with more important matters. It’s almost lunch!
Elder Two: Now you’re talking!
Elder Three: Oh thank goodness, I’m starved!
Elder Four: Finally, a reasonable response!

The story of a dystopian world where Christmas never happened.

Cellar Party

It was basically a party thrown by some organization my mom belonged to. We walked downstairs to where it was happening. A room with that classic checkered linoleum flooring — essentially the basement, but at least it had some small casement windows near the ceiling.

The food was laid out on long folding tables covered with tablecloths. I was spying the dessert table, no doubt. That’s my home away from home. Of course I didn’t start there, I was a good boy. I had a plate of ham and whatever else they served that night. Nothing spectacular, I mean what do you expect food for fifty to be like? It simply got the job done.

But now it was time. Dessert Time. I’m not a forward fella, but when it comes to dessert, I’ll certainly lead the charge. I sauntered over and took a look. Primarily cookies on plates sitting around one of those stainless steel coffee dispensers. Do I dare? Shall I partake of such delectable treats? Why what do we have here? Some chocolate chip cookies? Haha, you little delights, you look so good tonight.

I picked one up, ready to savor that ooey gooey chocolatey sweetness. I bit down, gently chewing the fine texture… wait. What. Why were these chocolate chips so chewy? And where’s the chocolatey taste? As a matter of fact, these cookies seem awfully granular, not smooth at all. WHAT THE F*CK ARE THESE!!! Blahhhgrgrrr! I spit it out.

I brought the remnants of the cookie over to my mother and told her there was something wrong with it. She informed me it was an oatmeal raisin cookie. Not only that, but there were no chocolate chip cookies on the table AT ALL. I would be going cookie-less and I was not pleased. It was on that day I swore a vendetta against oatmeal raisin cookies — how dare they masquerade as chocolate chip. They were a lie and should not exist!

Ne’er would an oatmeal raisin cookie touch these lips. And not only the cookie, but the raisin itself was mine enemy. Whenever I saw that bonnet wearing Sun-Maid on the red box, I was struck with a tinge of rage as she sat there mocking me. I held that grudge for almost two decades.

It turns out that oatmeal raisin cookies are pretty tasty. I like the cinnamon undertone mixed with the gentle fruity taste of the raisin. Or “dried grape” as I like to think of it. Heck I can even eat a whole box of raisins, although I usually prefer the golden ones. But you see the point right? Why waste so much time and energy being mad at something so silly? Ridiculous right?

Well, unless you’re talking about cheesecake of course. For one, it’s not cake, it’s pie — the cake is a lie. Second, crushed graham-cracker pressed into a pie shape? Filled with cream-cheese? What IS that? Gross! No offense, but cheese does not belong in dessert. Gah, so gross.

Virtual Vehicles

It all started at the supermarket. I was in the car waiting for my friend to come out. Scanning the exit door, I noticed the oldest old-lady you’ve ever seen. She could barely push the carriage in front of her, she could scarcely find the keys to her car, she could hardly lift the groceries into the back seat, then she hobbled into her car. But zip, zap, zoom — she punched the accelerator and away she went, not an issue.

Funny isn’t it? A barely functional person has all the dexterity in the world when it comes to driving a multi-ton contraption of welded steel, a device that requires the proficiency to enact split-second decisions. Too funny in fact. So it got me wondering: what’s going on here. And then I knew. Driving is a “routine”. You get into a car, sit in the driver seat, turn it on, grab the wheel, place your foot on the pedal, and the routine begins. Autopilot turns on and away you go.

When I was a kid, I once went for a bike ride on a road that included a rather large hill. That day I went down the hill and pedaled along to increase my speed — which wasn’t a good idea. I was going too fast, my front wheel started to quiver back and forth, I got nervous and wiped out. My knee was a mess but I survived. At most, I was probably going around 15 to 20 mph down that hill.

Let me ask you this, can you normally make split-second death-defying decisions? I can’t obviously. Yet every one of us can somehow take a fire-powered land-rocket to speeds of 70 mph on a regular basis amongst other barely-functional people for DECADES and come out unscathed? Hm. Okay. In a physical reality, that doesn’t make sense.

For instance, how do we intuitively know how to drive? I don’t know about you, but my driving lessons were less than rigorous. My primary lesson was driving in a parking lot with my mom in the passenger seat for about 30 minutes. I even screwed up during the official driving-test and still passed. My test consisted of driving down an empty residential street (no more than 30 mph) and parking next to a curb — that was it. But that somehow qualified me for highway driving.

Yet if you sit me down in front of a piano or have me hold a guitar, I play like crap despite having toyed around with them for years. If you hand my 74 year old mother some hand-tools, she’s pretty incapable of using them — yet give her the biggest, most powerful tool you can legally purchase (a car) — and she’ll drive like the best of ’em. Funny huh?

So driving is a pre-programmed “routine”, so what. So what!? Well a routine doesn’t run in an isolated environment, it only runs as part of a larger program. The obviousness of driving serves to highlight the virtual-nature of the wider world. Unfortunately, driving speeds kept getting faster and faster — which becomes unbelievable at some point. But the program is accounting for this now: robotic self-driving cars.

On first blush, you’d think autonomous cars would be the unbelievable part of the story. That’s until you consider people that can’t even use a simple screwdriver or a hammer, let alone a cordless drill, are driving all the time without any problem whatsoever. Not long from now we’ll forget that people even drove cars and this plot-hole will be patched. Remember, people used to get around by horse, which was an autonomous vehicle of sorts. Even boats pretty much just float there when left unattended.

All we can do as players in this game is politely overlook such an obvious inconsistency. Though for myself, I use it as a reminder of what type of world this is: virtual. And I do that because I tend to take things too seriously. I see the illusions before me as real physical objects and react accordingly, which leads to a fear-filled time. But when I remember the illusionary nature of existence, and the fact that this is a manufactured environment, I relax and appreciate what an impressive place this is.

I guess I got a little more than I expected at the supermarket that day.