Monthly Archives: May 2013

The Lost Art of the Mixtape

In trying to think about what to write about for today’s entry, I came across in my room a box of cassette tapes that I’ve had since forever, (well, the 90’s) but that’s like 20 years ago, so I suppose that’s almost forever.  And in looking through these gems, the soundtrack to Street Fighter, Soundgarden’s Down on the Upside, and other things from that great decade of music I saw my large mixtape collection, and it got me thinking about how that is borderline a lost art, if not definitely a lost art to the youth of today. 

 Now, when I say mixtape, I’m not referring to the only thing (to my knowledge anyway) that gets called that in underground hip hop releases, where new artists primarily go, or went rather, in the pre Youtube days, to get their name and their music out there.  No, I’m talking about the kind that you made up of songs you liked but didn’t own, either off the radio or off of your friend’s cds or tapes.  Your soundtrack to your life to whatever time period you were going through.

Well, that was one purpose of the mix tape, and I’ve made plenty of those over the years, until mp3 players came along at least.  Those are always great to take out and listen to when you have the time, and the, now retro technology to play them on, as they were/are veritable time capsules for your life at whatever stage you were going through.

I’ll go through one of them now, to give you a taste of what that was like, unfortunately I don’t have a cassette player anymore, but let’s take a trip back to the past shall we, here’s Winter Mix ’98

  1.  Ma$e- Bad Boys (Right off the bat, you’re hit in the face with about the 90’sest of late ’90s rappers outside of Coolio, what can I say, I have always had eclectic taste)
  2.  Beck- Pay No Mind (still to date one of my favorite Beck songs)
  3. Talk Talk- It’s My Life (okay while this one is from the ’80s, in high school, and today still I listen to a butt ton of 80’s music, it’s the decade I  grew up in, and the original is much better than Gwen Stefani (they say it’s No Doubt by that point it was Gwen Stefani basically with her back up band, cover from the early 00’s.)
  4.  Alana Davis- 32 Flavors (I actually had to look this one up on youtube, cause I did not recall this song at all, but it’s a pretty catchy pop tune)
  5.  Mariah Carey- Dreamlover (you really can’t hate on ’90s Mariah Carey, that was her best decade for songs in my book)
  6. Trebel Charger- Red (another one I had to look up, cause I completely forgot about this one as well. The first bit of alternative rock on this tape, really good song, sounds like it would fit right at home on an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Dawson’s Creek)
  7. Space- Female of the Species (another forgotten gem, pretty catchy Brit Pop tune, I (re) discovered after looking it up on Youtube just now)
  8.  David Bowie- I’m Afraid of Americans (I know a lot of people didn’t like the stuff Bowie produced in his brief late ’90s comeback, but this one especially *with Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails* I thought was just awesome)
  9. Morcheeba- The Music That We Hear (another one lost in my memory to time, but it’s a catchy almost Bond movie intro-esque pop song)
  10.  The Smiths- How Soon Is Now (Another ’80s tune technically, but this song blew up in the ’90s when a cover version was featured in ‘The Craft’, and then became the theme song to ‘Charmed’, first Smiths tune I ever heard, actually, and still it’s one of my favorites)
  11. Sisters of Mercy- More (had to look this one up as well, it’s a good goth/industrial tune though, with a catchy underbeat that would fit perfectly in some ’90s action  flick)
  12. Pearl Jam- Given to Fly (it’s not the 90s without Pearl Jam, not one of their more remembered songs but still a good tune from Eddy Vedder and Co.)
  13.  Curve- Chinese Burn (now this one actually was in an episode of Buffy, I remember now after hearing it again, good industrial/techno hybrid dancy song. )
  14.  Sublime- Summertime (it’s Sublime…Sublime is always good, any time)
  15. Blur-Beetlebum (Admittedly in some ways I preferred  Blur to Oasis, Blur was always more upbeat to Oasis’s moody Beatles esque rock)
  16.  Green Day- Time of your Life (if there was ever a song that summed up the late ’90s in a nutshell, or a montage, it would be this song.  The song that was my, graduation song, and I’m sure was many others since then *except that brief period when Vitamin C was a thing and had that song actually called ‘Graduation song’* )
  17.  Everclear- Everything to Everyone (another late ’90s staple of alt rock radio, still a good song that holds up to this day)
  18.  Shelter- All around the world (I do not recall this song at all, nor the band itself, Wikipedia tells me they were a Krishnacore band, no clue what that is either, and it’s not on youtube far as I can tell in my not really researching this article at all outside of what I can find easily in front of me…so hey it’s kinda like Fox news)

 So yeah I hope you enjoyed that trip down my memory lane.  I’ve got very eclectic taste, what can I say?   But that in and of itself was just the one kind of mix tape, the personal soundtrack.  The other  kind, which I don’t have any actual examples of, was the kind that music fans, especially awkward, geeky music fans would use to tell their crushes how they felt about them.   This one I’ve done plenty of times over the years, well back when mixtapes, or cds were still a thing, you make a tape for your crush, loaded up with a few catchy, recognizable tunes at the start, then you hit her with the emotional stuff, shows how you feel, and then from that point it’s a  a nice balance of the two music types.     It never really worked, well for me, but still there was a kind of art to the whole thing, an underappreciated one, but an art nonetheless.    One that sadly has been lost in time, with music technology being what it is today.  Now, I’m certainly thankful for the boost in technology, still it’s a nice reminder of a more civilized age, before the dark times, before the Bieber. 

 

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Evolution of a story, plus bonus excerpt from my novel

So, as I mentioned in the previous entry, I, when in high school, wrote a script to do a movie based off myself, and my experiences with this one girl, which I screwed things up with (wasn’t the first time that happened, certainly won’t be the last), it was a pretty funny story, very heavily Kevin Smith influenced on the dialogue, pop culture references out the (Great) Gazoo, short too, like maybe 30 pages, but that’s all I did back then were shorts anyway. 

Anyways, that movie never got made, in high school after more life experiences and screw-ups, I got the notion to write that story again, but expanded, as my life had done at the time.  Again, the movie didn’t get made (too much party, not enough study…also not enough creation either)

So, a few more years go by, and I get the idea in my head to write the script again, this time centralizing the story around this girl I was friends with whom I was crushing on, she thought it was sweet and original, but then nothing ever came of that, the movie never happened either.  

A little bit down the road, after a breakup, me and my friend Mike Corrigan get the idea to turn our respective stories into a pretty decent length script called ‘Love is Genocide’, and the script was hilarious, but as with most our ideas, we get the idea but have no follow through with them.  So again, it went nowhere.  

So, cut to now, me with new writer’s ambition, and that story idea comes up again, so I decide to make that my first novel.  And it’s funny though, even as I’m thinking of the characters, and writing the first chapter, the story changes, it’s still in progress, and some of the key events do stay the same, but, for example, the character that’s long served as my ideal version of myself ‘Jack’, has evolved into Dex, who’s a slightly different character, an older brother popped out of the ether as well, filling in these gaps in my characters’ history.   It’s starting to take a life of it’s own, which is always the best thing that can happen to any creative person I think, when it comes to just getting it on paper, er…screen as it is these days.  

Well, anyways, what follows is an excerpt from the novel I’m working on currently, it’s set at about 2005-ish, mainly so I can include video stores as a viable setting, as well as some other dialogue which doesn’t work in the present day timeframe.  I digress though,I hope you all enjoy it. 

 

   

Chapter 1- Cosmic Castaway

 

At the start of the week, I’d really felt like I’d had my place in the world, I was one of the leading sales agents for Toys and Things.  Now, you’ve never heard of the company, but trust me you’ve seen their products everywhere.  You know those cheap knockoff lightsabers and assorted knick knacks you see at dollar stores everywhere, well, that’s where all that comes from.  Ok, it comes from Taiwan, but in between a little Asian sweatshop and your local dollar store is Toys and Things.  And in between there and the dollar store, was me. 

I’m normally more awkward then awesome, but here, in this place I was king.  After only a few months with the company I managed to rise from customer service drone # 245 to The Man, capital letters emphasized.  I get in this role of slightly sleazy, kind of trustworthy guy, and people buy from me.  If I could use this skill when talking to women I’d be like James Bond on crack, not that I needed that skill then, cause I’d had my girlfriend, Lisa, a pretty decent duplex and the coolest chihuahua ever, Raider.  I’ll get to him in a second, but Lisa was the light of my life, to use a cliche, but that’s how I felt. 

Now, I met her about a year prior, at this goth club I’d go to on thursday nights in Norfolk, now I know I mentioned before that I fucking hate clubs, but this isn’t necessarily true, I hate club music, most of it, and the goth club was so unlike anything I’d ever been to before, for starters the music was a nonstop blast of hard rock, industrial and alternative, stuff I can get down to on a regular basis. Not that I’d ever really considered myself a goth, but I did buy a pair of those big raver pants with the extra pockets, cause at the time it looked co..okay I thought it looked cool at the time, really I just looked like MC Hammer with extra storage space, or at least that’s what Lisa said when she first saw me.

I heard her obnoxiously cute voice say those words over Mindless Self Indulgence’s Faggot while I was sitting at the bar, and I turn my head, and the most adorably cute short little blonde girl in a Batman t shirt is in my direct line of vision, and I was done for from that moment. 

“The girl at Hot Topic said this was a good look for me.”

 

“She lied.” Lisa said, and did this cute half smile thing that further sealed my fate.

I just kind of stared and my mind went blank other than just how awesomely cute this girl was in front of me.

“So..are you going to buy me a drink or just stare at my tits all day?”

“Um, buy you a drink..wait what..I wasn’t staring at your um..”

Then for the first time in my life I heard the cutest laugh I’d ever heard up until that point.  It was like angels singing dipped in honey and rolled in nutella. 

“I’m fucking with you, though you can buy me a drink if you want, I would not complain, trust me.”   Again with the smile….dammit.

“Yeah, no problem at all, I’m Dexter, by the way.”

“Nice, you’ll have to show me your laboratory sometime.”

I laughed, in actuality I was a little tired of the laboratory jokes since that show came out, couldn’t there be a cooler character called Dexter out there in pop culture land?  But I digress, this girl was like I said, really cute, and flirting with me, with me!  This never happens to me, not ever.

“Oh, I’m Lisa by the way.”

A name, I had a name to go with this vision in front of me.  Yes, I’m fully aware I’m cheesier than a Velveeta and Kraft truck accident, this is me. 

So I bought her a drink, and we hung out at the Waffle House afterwards, got to talking about everything and nothing, and then a few weeks later I made her a mix cd, and it actually worked for once in my life.  And next thing I know, despite living at my parents house, I had this amazingly gorgeous girlfriend, and then we got the dog…and moved in together  And then they lived happily ever after….or so I thought.

“I just can’t do this anymore Dex.”

“Do what?”

“This, all of this.  I can’t do this anymore.”

“What…I thought you were happy?”

“Happy, Dex?  I’m practically turning into Suzy Housemaker here in the suburbs..this is not what I was meant for.”

“Meant for…I thought we were meant for each other, you’ve said that this whole year.”

“Us, maybe…but this suburban homemaker stuff….it’s so…conventional and boring…it’s not me, it never was.”

“Fine, then, I’ll quit my job, we’ll move out to New York…Chicago, Hollywood…wherever, it doesn’t matter where we go as long as I have you.”

“No, you can’t do that Dexter, I know you wouldn’t be happy, this is your dream right here in this life, this is what you’ve always wanted, it’s never been what I wanted, I just got so sucked into you somehow that it made me think that’s what I wanted, but it isn’t, it never will be…I’m like a bird Dex..”

“You’re seriously breaking up with me quoting Nelly Furtado lyrics?”

“I never said…yes, that’s what I’m doing.  I’m ending this now, before I hurt you.”

“But you’re hurting me now doing this, can’t you see that?!” Tears were starting to form in my eyes at this point.

“You’ve always loved me more than I’ve ever loved you.”

“That’s just how I am, I’m a hopeless romantic, and without you just hopeless. If you loved me as much as I loved you, we’d never get anything done but lay in bed all day.  We certainly wouldn’t have been able to afford this place on that.”

“I’m sorry Dexter, I’m so, so, sorry.  But I’m not happy in this life, I need to move on with my life, find new experiences, see the world.

“But you’re MY world..”

“I’m sorry Dex….I have to go now, we can still be friends, right?”

I didn’t respond back to her, not in words anyway, . 

My heart had been just ripped open, and she was Kano.  I was done for.  FATALITY.

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I am a leaf on the wind, watch how I soar

I title this entry with one of my all time favorite Joss Whedon written quotes, because while this isn’t a post about how that creator has influenced me and brought me further into the geek fold over the years, it’s perfectly sums up the way my life has been. 

Some people are born, right from the start with exactly what they want to do in life, and they go to school, finish school, go to school for what they want to do, and go off and save the world, entertain the world, in oft cases make butt-tons of money whilst destroying the world, but that was never my case.  I’ve never had that all encompassing desire, that dream well other than writing, so perhaps that’s to be my purpose. 

Though, I’ve come close twice to having an overall purposeful goal in my life.  The first time was while in high school, I’d started leaning further towards my childhood dreams of becoming a filmmaker after I saw the movie ‘Clerks’ for the first time, after my grandmother’s recommendation believe it or not, and saw that it was entirely possible to make your own movie, the way you wanted it to be, to tell the story that you wanted to tell.   So, all throughout high school I devoted myself to this passion, and found some likeminded friends that also shared the passion, and we took the Video/Film class, and made our movies on the side, well to be fair I acted for the first part until my friend Brad had graduated, and I’d “inherited” the movie making role, and well in junior year, a few friends and myself hashed out a script, really great, dark script about two lonely high school outcasts who meet and then get revenge on their tormenters in a dark fashion, and then pay the price.  This was pre columbine era mind you, so it was okay, it was just a movie.   

The next year, my senior year I directed and starred, (because at the time I still had aspirations that I could act) in the final version of that script, which I’d entitled ‘Lunchbox’ after the Marilyn Manson song….so ’90s.    And me and some good friends, we pulled off this movie, of course some scenes had to be altered, characters eliminated do to casting issues, and then some sound effects problems, or lack thereof of proper sound effects led to some interesting choices in the movie, a ‘lazer’ gun, a phone with a cow ringtone, before ringtones were even a thing.    And an altered climax, but we pulled off this short movie, and it was pretty damn good.  

My video/film teacher, Mr. Liebenberg, upon seeing this film, thought it was brilliant, and read a bit too much into some of the subtext I put on screen, saying that the character’s lockers, while separate from each other, were still close, meant some really deep thing about the characters themselves and their intentions, when in all reality that was just where the two lockers that we were able to use to film, were located.  But I went along with it though, because it sounds good, makes the project seem a lot more arty then I just wanted to make a movie.

I didn’t make another film in high school, well there were two other projects, a feature length American Pie (pre American Pie mind you) comedy called ‘Flamers’ which wasn’t about what you’d think with that title, that my friends and I had worked on, and ‘Bittersweet’, a script I’d written for a girl I’d messed things up with with my awkwardness.  It’s a story I’ve tried to repeat over the years,  and that’s now evolved into the novel I’m working on, well trying to work on currently.  But that’s a whole other story. 

So, from there I went to college for filmmaking, well video production really, at the Art Institute of Philadelphia, where I’d also encountered a great number of likeminded people, and we’d made some very hilarious short films, was also where I learned how to rap, but that’s another story.   We were pretty innovative, and stupid at the same time, taking backyard wrestling from the backyard into the dorm room with CCW,  or the pre Jackass and Tom Green show that we were working on towards the end there, and we’d done a lot of hilarious sketches, which had all gone to plan, both shows were to have been featured on the dorm’s  dorm tv channel. 

Unfortunately though, in between going to class, and making those bits of awesomeness, all of which I wish I’d had a copy of, or at least were on the internet, but I digress.  In between all of that, I’d also discovered partying,  for which, to paraphrase Dexter, of Dexter’s Laboratory, I did too much party, not enough study, and I got the boot from the school, twice in fact. 

So, the next few years I floated along, like a leaf on the wind, tried my hand at the rapping thing for a bit, with various friends, but nothing ever stuck.   So that’s how I ended up in the military, the Navy precisely, well I got into that because of my ex wife to be really fair.  I was happy, coasting through life, working at Blockbuster, but she wanted more than that out of life, stability, benefits.  And without a college degree where does one go for that, the military. 

So long story, well many, many stories some interconnected, some not, short, I did seven years serving my country, and while I’m extremely proud of the work I’d done, it never really clicked with me either, well had I been able to keep my original rate (job), it might have, but that’s in some other reality other than this one.   

So, I’m out, on my own once again, a freelance writer, and no day job to speak of at the moment, but hopefully things change with that soon, since for one, I need money, and for two that’s where a lot of my inspiration comes from in my work is just life experiences, and you can’t have those just sitting on your couch.

 Basically in what all of this I’m trying to say is, that I was never a career based kind of guy, I’ okay with that, my story isn’t everyone elses, it’s my own.  Now let’s just see where this next chapter takes me.

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My Life as a Mutant, or How the X-Men changed my life

I previously wrote about how this year was the 30th anniversary of Return of the Jedi, and how it shaped me into the geek you see before you today, but there was another event that set foot in motion the comic book geek side to my personality, and that was in June, 1992, and an issue of X-Men (second series) # 11.    Well really it was the cover that stuck out to me, a great bit of art from Jim Lee, featuring a handful of the many characters in the series, in a great portrait, Wolverine standing front and center of course. 

Now, up until this point, while I was reading comics, and had made attempts at collecting them, putting them in large sandwich bags as a child, with cardboard cards remarking on the issue, and the value of the issue, it wasn’t until I’d picked up this issue of X-Men, a second part issue to the X-Men’s adventure in Mojoworld, a television obsessed extra dimensional villain.  Something about the art, by Jim Lee, and the story by Scott Lobdell spoke to me, it was something fresh and different.  Up until this point I’d been more of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan then any other comic thing really, and I’d been hooked since then.

While of course I’d heard of the X-Men growing up, and I recalled playing the Godawful NES game that had the name of the X-Men and that’s about it, it wasn’t until this moment that there was something more interesting out there, some characters that I could truly relate to. The X-Men were outcasts for their powers, I was an outcast for my awkwardness and geeky interests. (This was in the days when the kind of stuff we’re into was looked at in mockery, can’t imagine that kind of world anymore, but that’s what it was)  This was where I belonged, and it certainly wasn’t in the sewers of New York. 

 I’d started buying the book on a regular basis, and soon learned of the other X titles surrounding the series, which I also devoured.  Some people said that the books were too continuity heavy, even back then, but I managed to follow the story just fine, just took a bit more effort in doing so.  It was in the X-Men that I started venturing into the other books of the Marvel Universe as well, outside of my other favorite, Spider-Man and I got really into the vast intricasies of Earth 616 (that’s the designation for the Marvel Universe proper, for those not in the know)  How the characters from different books played into each other, and in the order that the stories connected to each other. 

 But even through all that it was the X-Men that always held my interest longest, from the gruff Wolverine, to the steadfastness of Cyclops, and of course the great comic book love story of the 90’s Rogue and Gambit it was quite an epic saga.   It also taught me that everyone is different, and that’s okay.  I remember when I was like 14 or so, and my parents had told me that one of my cousins had come out as being gay, I was just like, okay.  It’s no big deal, people are different, and I have the X-Men, and it’s storied list of creators for putting that viewpoint in me.  It not only taught me to be proud of my own talents, and interests,  odd as they may be, but it reinforced a spirit of tolerance that has stuck with me to this day. 

And it all stemmed from this one great series.  It’s been 50 years this year since the X-Men first appeared, written by Stan Lee and drawn by Jack Kirby.  And surprisingly to me there’s no fanfare or celebration, barely a mention at all of this anywhere.  Sure it’s also the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, and that’s also an awesome and highly nerdy event(s) in and of itself, I was a mutant long before I was a Whovian.    

A few classic storylines that  I highly recommend checking out, if you haven’t read them:

 The Dark Phoenix Saga-by Chris Claremont and John Byrne

X-Men: Mutant Genesis: by Chris Claremont and Jim Lee

X-Men: The X-Cutioners Song

And those are just a few that I can think of off the top of my head, and ones that are on my bookshelf, there’s plenty more great adventures to read, but those are just a few of my favorites that stuck with me. So, what are some of your moments that shaped your inner, and outer geek?

 

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The Return of the Jedi and the planting of the seeds for my forever geekdom

So, thirty years ago, tomorrow, I can recall my first memory, one that has stuck with me all my life and unbeknownst to me at that time planted the seeds for my geekdom, nerditry, whatever you wish to call it.  That memory, as I’ve mentioned from time to time, as well as the very title of this blog entry, is seeing Return of the Jedi on opening day, May 25, 1983.

I recall the lines, wrapped around the block, and possibly the surrounding blocks of the theater, outside (as this was still the pre-multiplex days), it was a warm day in late May, in San Diego, California.  My parents had seen the first two Star Wars films, and while I speculate that I may have been there for The Empire Strikes Back, I was only born a few months prior to that, and as such do not recall that one in the slightest.  But that matters not, for I was there on this day.

To keep me occupied during the long wait, and cause it was probably really hot, it was San Diego, after all, my mom stood in line, while my Dad took me over to the nearby department store, where he’d bought me a yellow Admiral Ackbar t-shirt, and an Admiral Ackbar action figure, whom I knew somehow that he was a ‘good guy’, despite the odd appearance.  And we went back to the line, with my first (to my knowledge), but definitely not the last bit of Star Wars merchandise I’d ever have in my life. 

  Even vaguer of a memory I remember going into the theater, and the movie started.  I imagine the crowd cheered and clapped triumphantly as the 20th Century Fox fanfare played, and the familiar blue letters appeared on the screen ‘A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…’ I don’t recall that bit exactly but I’m putting myself in these fans footsteps, they’ve waited three years to see this conclusion to the epic trilogy, with no internet to keep their fandom going for three years I can imagine it must be a lot like being in the Sherlock fandom from the beginning, but worse cause, you know, no internet. 

I do recall being scared and fascinated by the same time of the Rancor, as I saw Luke Skywalker thrillingly take on that monster without the benefit of a shrubbery…I mean lightsaber.  And of course getting my first glimpse at Darth Vader also was equally impressive.  But of course, the highlight of the film for me, at the time, was a toss up between seeing my new favorite guy Admiral Ackbar, in action (well sort of, he just kind of stood on the bridge of one of the cruisers and said ‘It’s a trap!) and of course the Ewoks.   They were like a less cutesy version of the Care Bears minus the cult trappings that those other walking teddy bear things had going on…seriously think about it) And they took down a legion of Stormtroopers.  Impressive, most impressive.

 It wouldn’t be for a few years more that I actually watched the movies in order, and started piecing together the larger story of the saga, (I remember the Wampa in Empire Strikes Back kind of freaked me out too, but what 80’s kid wasn’t first time they saw that)  But from that day forward, and while there were other key moments and other things that put my geek status firmly in place, the seeds for my nerddom were forever planted on that day, May 25, 1983.

 

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Dawn of Endless Summer

Great short horror story, highly recommend reading it

Words Becoming

There was something strange about the sky, when Dawn scrambled from the ashes. She didn’t remember much, apart from the smell. A mixture of charred wood and soaked skin, preserved like porcelain in atomic winter. The farm lay torn around her, but tornados are rare in Alice Springs.

Michael was sleeping next to her, before the explosion, his body wrapped around hers, comforting and warm. “Mike?”

She had looked for him in the ruins of their home, a mangled semblance of their life together, scattered across the desert, in the creek of Endless Summer.

After finding a photo of Ben, the only thing left of a son two years dead; Dawn sat in the sand perfectly still. Remembering Michael, she managed to claw her way into their fallout bunker, threw on some old clothes her late mother had worn to a science fiction convention in the eighties. Her parents were…

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Dawn of Endless Summer

Great short horror story, highly recommend reading it

Words Becoming

There was something strange about the sky, when Dawn scrambled from the ashes. She didn’t remember much, apart from the smell. A mixture of charred wood and soaked skin, preserved like porcelain in atomic winter. The farm lay torn around her, but tornados are rare in Alice Springs.

Michael was sleeping next to her, before the explosion, his body wrapped around hers, comforting and warm. “Mike?”

She had looked for him in the ruins of their home, a mangled semblance of their life together, scattered across the desert, in the creek of Endless Summer.

After finding a photo of Ben, the only thing left of a son two years dead; Dawn sat in the sand perfectly still. Remembering Michael, she managed to claw her way into their fallout bunker, threw on some old clothes her late mother had worn to a science fiction convention in the eighties. Her parents were…

View original post 2,584 more words

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