The Room of Many Places

New York City went boom with the explosion of 27 Intercontinental ballistic missiles that hit simultaneously killing 24 million people. Most; immediately, some; eventually, and yet a few; get a pass. A pass to eke out an existence in the burnt-out hellscape of former-Manhatta. One guy, though, avoids all the other options and gets to discover a special little place those in the know call The Room of Many Places.

Kind of a stroke of luck, to be honest, with mass buildings coming down, raining debris, and the eventuality of fall out coming down over the entirety of the fifty-four thousand square miles of the megalopolis. It’s the fallout that helped create the perfect circumstance needed to gain access to his new home.


How did he get to be so lucky in a world on fire?

Be in solitary confinement, sub-basement level C, of the Brooklyn Federal Penitentiary on 3rd Avenue in Sunset Park.

Whatever the original crime was it has been deemed since that Barney was too much a danger to himself, to others, and to society to ever be set free. He has, as the technical term goes, a few screws loose. So when the radiation began to seep through the shoddy, lowest-bidder contracting, the reality that Barney has known his entire existence fades away.

Complete fluke really. Because turns out time and reality are soft and pliable when manipulated with X-rays and radiation.

There is a problem with bending reality and time, of making the status quo go bye-bye. It creates paradoxes. Truths, untruths, and a mixture of both. New realities might be based on the mind of the user, or random chance. For Barney, the Room of Many Places is bright. And the brightness has a physicality to it, the floor under his jail-flip-flops and what he assumes is a ceiling far over ahead but is shocked to look up and see the bluest sky filled with the fluffiest clouds. He wonders if he could leap and reach them when a loud cough pulls his attention back down to the brightness of the hallway. In front of him is a knight in black armor. He coughs again the sound echoing off the visor of his helm.

“Excuse me, I am very much allergic to x-rays.”

Barney finds himself thinking with the aid of every Barney in every existence to ever exist and they all make an agreement all at once, begging the question, “Who are you?”

“I’m a knight. I guard against invasion, for none are allowed here.”

“Where am I?”

The knight explains.

“What is The Room of Many Places?” Barney asks because even though he has the brain power of every Barney ever, most of the Barneys contributing also have a few screws loose.

And before the black knight has a chance to speak another voice assaults, this time from behind. He turns confronting a knight with gleaming silver armor. Through the visor a voice comes, “Do not trust this knight for he is the Black Knight of Lies and Betrayal. I am the Knight of Truth.”

Barney stops and lets his mind worry on this problem with all the collective Barney power of every Barney in every reality ever and as he is about to explain how absolutely confused he is by everything that has happened to him since the prison disappeared, like:

How can light be solid?

What is The Room of Many Places?

He has so many questions pop into his head all at once, that instead of fixing things they instead complicate things. Deciding asking one is better than sifting for the perfect one, so he goes with a simple one, “Am I dead?”

The silver knight says, No.

The Black knight says, yes.

And a voice from above answers, “How do you know you were ever alive?”

Barney looks toward the voice, “are you floating?”

“Floating? And by which definition would you like me to define the term? Maybe it is you who is floating. Maybe I should be the one questioning you about your status with gravity.” The speaker wears brown rusty armor and he is either floating or has somehow grown out of the white light-wall above.

And the infinite versions of Barney’s intellect sigh in unison deciding from now on no more questions.

Apocalypse and Sunshine

Cherry blossoms and a cool breeze under a mild sun. The hot dog vendor’s cart vents off steam from his product and makes stomachs growl. Birds chirp and old men sit on benches chatting the time away.

“He said no gods,” he wears a fedora and scratches at a mustard stain on his brown sweater vest missing the glob of onion on his trousers.

“I know,” says the other man who could be the twin of the first. Right down to the white orthotics and black cane. He didn’t eat a hotdog but holds a stale slightly gummed on pretzel in his palsied hand.

“Or monsters.”

“How dare you, but I know that also.”

“Only People.”

“I know.”

“So, what are we going to do? Things have already gone too far. We can’t just turn everything off and go home.”

“Be a people I guess. Can’t make the big guy mad.”

“How do you be a people?”

“Well, the way I see it we are the people of this bench.”

“What the hell does that even mean?”

“It means that if a census taker were to come right now and take the census of this bench we would be the people he would count.”

“Wouldn’t that census taker want to know particulars?”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know, like religion and skin color and education level?”

“I would tell them the truth.”

“What’s the truth?”

“I would give them my name.”

“Which is?”

“My name is Legion, for I am many.”

“Stop, it is beyond certain that the census taker would have heard that old line, you’ll give the game straight away with it.”

“And you would what? Give him our real names? And that wouldn’t give even more away? Just picture the news headlines, ]] have come to earth when will the malady mayhem begin? When will the seven trumpets blare?”

“Do you really think they have time to print another run of papers? Things are pretty much about to kick off any second.”

“I know. Just fantasying.”

“Look, I know you are disappointed they didn’t catch on any sooner. Whether you checked with me, or not, they certainly had enough clues. But here we are. Go ahead stand up on the bench and shout it out. Let everyone know what’s about to happen. It might make you feel better.”

“I wanted a war.”

“You get slaves.”

“I have had slaves, I wanted to lead a great army and ride a bloody path across the earth. This? This is too— “

“Easy, yah I get that. Look we didn’t pick each other, we got punched together by fate. And now we make due.”

“Speaking of due.”

“You’re right, lets’s get started.”

Dance of Swords

There is a certain poetry to The Way of Swords. Yes, it is about steel and strength, speed and endurance, truth and beauty but also balances on the soul of the wielder. And this is a special ceremony. A moment in which a great power is released out into the world. A power of good to fight against the scourge of evil. Whatever form that evil takes. This temple is the last movement in a grand test. A test that kills and maims and demands the taker give everything they have to their god. And now, the student enters. He is battered and bleeding, maybe he is walking with a slight limp. He has been over a mountain pass and through a forbidding swamp. Yet even if injured he moves on the tips of his toes, graceful and ready as he faces his final challenge, his master.

The master is hunched on a curved spine leaning on a piece of birch and says, “congratulation on reaching this far learner. Surely you must be tired, but before you can rest you must answer three questions.”

“Yes master,” the student replies.

“First, what is essential to combat?”

The student answers without pause, as is expected, “the body must strike before the mind is sure.”

Then, an attack from behind. The assailant, dressed in black, swings a stick of bamboo. The Student slices with his own bamboo stick taking the attacker across the middle. The strike would have been deadly. The attacker rolls away certain to be bruised tomorrow.

“Impressive, you know much, Journeyer. Surely you must be tired.”

“No, master. I shall not rest until I am finished.”

“Why not learner, why should you not rest if you are tired?”

“I must always be alert. I must always be ready to face Death for living by the sword means living with the sword. Forever bonded from baptism to my final battle. And only in death shall we be separated.”

Maybe, in that moment, the downward arc of the perfectly quiet attacker might have triggered his reaction, maybe, not that it matters much being how swift the student’s defense was and how severely the leaping attacker was repelled. Writhing in agony he was quickly helped from the temple by two of the monks standing in the shadows.

“You are indeed a great warrior. Your awareness is mystical. But you must of course have scorn for those you have beaten.”

“I respect all effort for even in the slightest breeze a lesson can be learned.”

“What are the tenets of our order?”

“I shall never kill. I serve the god of compassion, life, and the earth on which we live. And beyond all else, my life will be spent in the pursuit of peace and justice.”

“Very good. Now, will you face me?”

“Of course master.”

The master’s attack was quick. The birch staff comes up and licks the student’s sword hand. In shock, the bamboo rod begins falling to the floor as the birch staff re-aimed for a direct attack on an exposed neck. But at the last minute, the neck disappears and instead of the bounce of a free bamboo training sword hitting the ground, there is the grunt of air being forced out of ancient lungs.

The upward strike would have killed instantly.

But what follows is laughter and celebration. This is the moment the student began this education for so many years ago. Maybe even a decade of training to become the creature he is today. A creature of reflex and virtue. Love and compassion. Solitude and tenet. The training is conducted alone. There are no classmates to confide in or hate or love or count on. It is lonely and brutal. And now as the monks of the order file in, each carrying a candle, except the one swinging a hollow metal ball filled with incense. The fragrant smoke is intoxicating.

The monks moan their hymns and words, hymns and words that the student knows deep in his soul. Hymns and words that he will be entrusted to use in his quest. A quest to spread peace and love. Then the ceremony begins and he is stripped of his learner wraps, dinge colored and frayed yet they protected him from nudity and the elements for so long and now he stands there in both making stoicism difficult but he manages, it’s his job, after all, to stand it all, to defend against it all, to beat back it all, all at great personal peril with the one caveat- he can never kill.

He is surrounded by monks who give him new wraps. White. Bleached with holy magic which will forever prevent them from staining. Then the chainmail, mithril with a slight blue tinge to the smithing, then they place pounded steel on his shoulders, chest, arms, and legs, leather on his feet and hands.

The symbol of Bryil is placed around his neck. His head bows at the weight and reverence of this moment in particular. The beauty. The connection between mere mortal and the divine. When the monks part next it is to expose the head of the order, the high priest. He wears robes of scarlet and in his hands is the Sword of Blessing Curse. One drop of blood on its perfect surface and it will crumble to ash along with his every promise. Once the hilt is gripped in his fist the sword of peace is his and the monks turn him and push him from the temple into the swamp beyond.

The moaning humming words and hymns continued up to this point but cease immediately when he leaves the temple. The quiet behind him is unnerving. Just the chirp and grunt of swamp. As if the temple itself vanished. He knows not to look, though. He knows that his time there as a student is over. Behind him the temple might as well have vanished because from now on he is the order, a knight of The Word and Hymn, so he turns his new leather boots in the direction he feels he has work to do.

A Little Solitude in a Crowded Universe


“Cow pasture for hundreds of miles, so much land it would take a month to walk across it.” They stand together on a yellow flower-dotted hill looking down past a small stream into old growth forest.

“A month, huh?”

She nods.

He doubts that, but doesn’t care. He also doesn’t care that he is nearing 60 and this isn’t a legacy land purchase more of an attempt to get away from every single other human being on the planet. He looks at the woman no older than his daughter, how different the two seem. This one covered in make-up and a come-fuck-me dress desperate to sell land to someone famous and the other all the way on the other side of the world helping war refugees. One of three and the other two weren’t doing too bad either. The boys are never still and their success grows exponentially off of his. And after a lifetime of beating his fists into what in his youth seemed unyielding, now he has too much and finds himself wanting nothing at all.

“I’ll take it.”


She turns and immediately starts walking back to the helicopter giving the whirly motion above her head which gives the pilot the sign to start the engines, which he does.

The businessman with everything doesn’t move. He stands still staring out over the land, something he always wanted and now was his, solitude.

“You coming?”

He shakes his head no, “My lawyers are expecting your call,” and he begins walking down toward the woods below.


Where have you gone? We miss you!

It wasn’t difficult trading everything for the nothing of solitude. He had it set up before he left really. His sons were already hands-deep into the business and when he contacted them months later they played like they never even noticed he was gone.

All three visited with their families.

RVs, and solar panels, and sat phones, and wires running, and generators blasting their rumble into the air, kids screaming and playing, and dogs barking then a week later back to nothing again. And he didn’t miss the noise. He didn’t. Really.

So how could they possibly miss him?


He feels the fire as he enters the orange glow. Crisp flames lick brush and destroyed timber. There is a whine of metal distressing under intense heat.

The sat phone is back in the truck. And the truck is twenty miles back toward the homesite. The why of both is simple. He is a fool who liked to hunt with no distractions. He knows he has gone twenty miles because land nav is easy. Why he has gone twenty miles, though, is complicated. It started out following a buck with a round in its flank to witnessing a sudden explosion in the sky.

The crash was over quick.

Was it lightning, or something else Godly he’ll never know but the resulting eruption brought the thing down to the ground. The crash lay him on his backside with his ears ringing. Instead of going for the phone, though, he went for the answer to what the fuck.

It was an hour later when he was walking through destroyed timber and a sense he should turn and go the other direction. Yet still, he approaches the shiny metal tube still on fire, and one end ruptured. He holds his rifle out in front of him as he approaches.

He calls out, “anyone alive in there?” and as he gets closer, beyond the twist of metal, he sees what looks like a human form trying to crawl its way to safety.

He throws down his rifle and does the old man shuffle over to the form and grabs it under the arms to drag it free. So light. Like dragging a Halloween scarecrow. Turning it over he wouldn’t have been surprised to find the shiny jumpsuit empty, instead, he vomits.

It is not human. The flesh is grey. Black mirrored eyes stare unblinking at him. Small slits for a nose then a small soot-stained mouth sucking at the air as if getting nothing. Then it dies. He shakes it, and considers doing CPR before deciding that was silly, and instead doing what he has been best at so far, nothing.

Appraising the crash site he decides the now dead creature at his feet must have been its pilot and did its absolute best to bring the craft down as safely as possible. A suppression system activates as if to give credence to his thoughts. Jets of foam spray out soaking the ground and trees and exhausting all flames. Curious, he decides to step inside. Why? It all could be a dream, so why not. Once there, his eyes adjust to the smoky gloom he finds himself bathed with. The glow comes from several giant globes. He cocks his head. Squints his eye. Doubting his sanity because it almost seems like he is looking at twenty copies of himself from forty years ago floating in globes of blue glowing liquid.

De Foe in the City

I live in NYC. So does he. Everyone here knows about De Foe. He strikes on quiet Sunday mornings. Late nights, drunk stumbling home at five in the morning. Lunch in midtown at the street-meat carts. Nobody can ever know when, or where, it is only the how one can be certain.

They say it starts with a feeling.

Maybe it’s primal. Something genetically bred in all humans. Nature’s own helping hand if it were. It spreads to the hairs on the nape of the neck, then forearms, hair standing on end like lightning were about to strike. In men, certain parts of their anatomy disappear. Things pucker.

The target often turns around at this point to find themselves staring into the very face of wickedness itself. Chiseled angular face with defined cheekbones, a strong jawline, and a thin-lipped mischievous smile filled with nicotine-stained crooked teeth. Shadow-filled deep-set eyes under thick bushy eyebrows arched like the joke is done and now it is up to you; laugh damn it! Laugh! His nostrils heave on his prominent previously broken nose as if sucking in the very essence of their victim’s life.

Sharp, rugged, and on film at least, charismatic; Willem Defoe will then chuckle and walk around their startled victim never to be seen in person again.

On Top of Everything

Barry is a human. And humans are the most powerful species in the Universe.

Now anyway. Yesterday, or even the day before that, the whole race would have been quite near the bottom if one were to concern themselves with a ranking.

All that’s changed now thanks to The Great Bottleneck Battle.

Oh, there are still things out there physically there, that make humans look like titty-sucking bugs. Stupid creatures. Hungry. Slimy. Evil things that live in caves and marshes and high up in the mountains of planets and physics far away. But they aren’t the point here. Humans are.

Barry is a soft little human who when naked would remind an observer of pizza dough in look, texture, and smell. The smell being slightly yeasty due to a medical condition involving gut bacteria he hasn’t got diagnosed for yet.

Always tomorrow with this guy.

Barry never walks barefoot, because it hurts.

Barry doesn’t eat pork that’s pink, or runny eggs, or drink anything that makes his stomach sweat.

Barry has never been in a physical fight either. Unless it counts when in primary school he would run from an assailant until winded and then he would ball up and take a few blows. His goal? To wear out his opponent.

Eventually, the bullies stopped coming.

And today, Boring Barry looks into the sky a member of the most powerful species ever to develop consciousness. Lucky to be alive during the final moments of The Great Bottleneck Battle. He watches it now determine humanity’s fate.

“Where are they?” his friend, Shiela, another of the universe’s most powerful creatures, a 360-pound female who gets winded standing up from her desk chair. They are in his backyard watching light from the battle erase millions of star from the night sky.

“Jupiter,” Barry responds. And he reaches a pudgy hand into her open bag of Cheetos, which she jerks away to keep for herself.

“What is that orange ball?”


“Why is it orange.”

“On fire.”

They stand still, silent, watching. The planet burns and the explosions and streaks around it, in various colors, mean the deaths of creatures never glimpsed by human eyes, and maybe not still for several months from now.

“How much longer do you think they will fight?”

“I don’t know,” says Barry, unaware, like everyone on earth, the battle ended an hour ago.

Stop of the Time-traveler

“Ah, love, let us be true to one another. Is this truly what you had bragged so loquaciously about?”

The time traveler stops. Her face turns red, auburn hair falling into her eyes. Her sky blue eyes brim with tears. “Don’t you see? This is all wrong. All of it. I don’t understand what happened. Where I’m from, this is a vast fortress of wealth and knowledge shared by everybody. One of many around the world in which humans are treated with dignity and honor.”

Lord Matthew Arnold glances down his nose at her, eyes bored. She knows that’s the height of Victorian insult – to act unbothered in the face of a major fuck up. She turns her back on his judgment and continues trying to repair the ship. Of course, it breaks down. Of course, she messed up such a simple task. Gather proof. She stops banging on the engine because she realizes that she was putting too much emotion into her work and damaging it even further was not going to help. All she wanted was to try to find proof that her father’s work was not lunacy.

Time travel was possible. Because here she was. But then that same part of her mind that allowed her to accept reality chimes in – maybe it’s impossible because instead of traveling through time, you disrupt time by exchanging realities.

She thinks of her father before her mother died. They both worked so hard on this contraption. The work eventually killed her and ruined him. Are they down there now, happy in this alternate version of her 2022? Is she even alive?

Distracted in the absence of trying to force the spare timing chain into its housing, she finds herself staring down into the town she knows as San Francisco, but a fun-house-twisted-dirty version of it. A giant red-with-rust bridge spans the waters between the town and elsewhere. Such a dangerous waste of resources for a planet with such a finite supply. Every choice affects every human, something many philosophers preached in ancient times. This ideal was in full effect in her 2023. In place of this very bridge was a mag-lift ferry system with minimal eco disruption. Something her grandfather’s generation put in place following the Mohawk Accord of 1756 down to the letter.

“Do no harm.”

Lord Arnold coughs as if looking to draw her attention. It works, and she looks back at him to find him pointing above her inside the cylindrical vehicle. She looks at where he is pointing and, at first, she thinks he is pointing at the F.B.I. lock she broke off the controls to take the vehicle and go back to 1850 London and try this whole bit of stupidity in the first place. She doesn’t notice right away the gauge flashing red, indicating a broken timing chain, is off. This means she is free to fix her mistake and take his lordness back. Or at least try. Which, in her mind, might fix all this hell. In her research on who to take, she picked Lord Arnold because he was the lead voice in keeping the world clean during the industrial age, and returning this lord and member of parliament meant adding his voice of reason in the fight against digging for energy.

“What, pray-tale, are those?”

She sees he was, in fact, pointing at the ribbon of black asphalt that cut like cancer through the pristine woodlands north of San Francisco, where they found themselves. Little boxes cut across it, leaving a trail of gray smog behind.

“Some kind of transportation,” she says.

“How do they run without horses?”.

She sniffs at the dirty air. “Judging from the exhaust, I would guess they use some kind of combustion.”

“Oil derivatives?”


He gazes at the vehicles with wonder. “They are so various, so beautiful, so new. It’s hard to believe the devils were right all along. ‘When ignorant armies clash by night,’ by Jove.”

Suddenly, she looks at him in fear. Has she stumbled upon a fix for all of this? It was not about returning the lord to his time and place after all. She gripped the hammer tightly in her hand, deciding that sometimes violence was the best solution when fixing a mechanical problem.

Look, I don’t Think You Can Save Yourself

Look, I don’t write this down because I think you can save yourself. But as an excuse for what you must do next if you even want to try.

First, let me tell you; I understand.

When you go to Providence, you go to the Lovecraft Museum and library. End of story. The place is magnificent. Situated in the back of the John Hays Public Library, it comprises the largest collection of Howard’s personal effects, journals, drawings, and every book he owned in his life. Even the naughty ones. Of which, not to be too judgy of the eldritch-bard, but he did have some bizarre tastes.

I was there, once, late into the night, on my last visit, picking through this very selection. The Lovecraft museum is in the basement, it’s windowless and tends to be quite dark. The building itself once was a church transported brick by brick from Europe in the 17th century. On land again, whoever ordered the twenty-boat shipment was not to be found. That, in itself, a mystery that has never been solved. The stones sat at the docks for ten years before the Rhode Island Governor made the decision to erect the building. It’s gone from governmental offices, to Brown university classrooms, to finally its current condition; library.

I was engaged in taking notes on a particularly bawdy tale when it dawned on me how late it was. See, time tends to slip by on me sometimes. Days can pass when I am enraptured with a project. Thankful this event was not as negative as that but I had certainly gotten a nice start on this project. But, alas, somehow when I went to exit the building I found that, one; it was past midnight, and two; I was locked up tight in the building till morning.

I guess I could have called the nonemergency line for the police department, but as a bibliophile, this was not a bad set of circumstances of which I certainly planned on having a laugh with the head librarian about when he came in later.

Also being a sufferer of insomnia, normally, I was also certain I could make best use of my current predicament by returning to my research. So I did.

Upon doing just that I was shocked to find this same figure, the one in the picture above, sitting on the book I hauled off the shelf earlier.

You see, it wears the ancient tattoo symbols of a Pict warrior? Those symbols mean it fights for Gods whose names humans long ago forgot how to pronounce. The symbol of the moon is a clue as to why I was finding it when I was.

Baffled, I approached and upon doing so the thing turned and growled.

I say growled because what other sound could the thing have made before it brandished its spear at me and leapt off the table? I was beyond shocked. An icy sludge filled my body. I couldn’t move, but I could watch as it dove landing on my oxford-clad foot whereupon it began to stab me over and over again, each time issuing that same high-pitched grunt.

When the pain finally broke through my stupor and I regained control of my leg if not my whole body, I did the only rational thing one could have done in that situation and kicked the foul being off.

In shock I watched it flip in mid-air and land back on the page I was reading. It growled and I was certain it was going to leap again, this time instead of damaging my foot it would go for my throat and that would be it for me. I turned to run but the damage done already prevented use of the foot, which was perfect not moments ago, and I fell flat onto my face in extreme agony.

I turned, sobbing, and just happened to grab a newspaper collected in a bamboo holder as to defend myself. I brandished it like a sword and the idea struck me that ultimately saved my life. I pulled my trusty zippo out of my coat pocket and lit the pages on fire. I lit all that pages on fire.

No one knows who ordered those stones sent from England, but everyone in Providence knows who burned down the Lovecraft Museum, me. And If you want to protect your family; be ready to do whatever it takes.

Write to me at any time, just remember to include my DOC number or the penal system will just toss your note in the trash.

Good luck!

The Living Tree

“Dreams are sometimes enough Robert.”

 Robert knows he is dreaming. He does not need a figment of his imagination to tell him so. 

“Are you ready to see what you have worked your whole life for?”

The dreamer does not answer, because he knows he is sleeping and no answer could possibly make that much of a difference to wherever this is taking him. 

It seems though, with a sky on fire from a setting sun, he is being led up a rocky path.

Robert is not young. He leans on a long ash rod. His hip aches. He tries to remember when last he had a dream that hurt. Nothing comes to mind though. Dreams don’t hurt.

“Your future Robert is a gift the universe has promised you since birth.”

The voice that speaks seems to be just ahead of him, but Robert can’t locate the speaker. His eyes have gotten bad. Milky blue cataracts keep much of what he once enjoyed behind a filmy view. He still has his imagination though and pictures the voice belonging to a slender woman with long auburn hair. 

Her words are lyrical. 

“Do you remember your birth Robert?”

Robert scoffs, of course, he doesn’t remember his birth. He met a man who claimed to remember his birth once though. He was adamant. He cried a lot, this man, He had the scars of war on his body. He had been burned. Tortured for being on the other side. His shoulders did not work. His knees did not bend. He was a wretched wreck of a human being. 

“I remember your birth, Robert. I have been there every step of your journey. When you learned to swing your broadsword in great sweeping arcs. I was there when you took your first maid, your first life, had your first through seventh children. I have forever been your shadow.” 

Smells hit Robert. Every smell of his life, the good mixed with the bad. The sea and death and great meals, flowers and women, his children, burning wax, good black ink, and freshly pressed paper. 

The wind blows and through the rustle of thick leaves, he hears a soft moaning wail. It’s eerie and penetrating and yet beautiful. It reminds him of a funeral keening and a lullaby mixed together. 

“Come old man the path may be steep but you are near the end just follow my voice and claim your reward.”

Robert does not speed his feet. He takes his time soaking in every experience. It’s not every day one dies and he wants each and every moment of his eternity- if that’s what this is. 

If it’s not, if this is not the last moment of his great life, he will milk it, nonetheless for everything its got.