Posts Tagged ‘blog: fiction’.

The Saga of Jordan Damascus

Alert Marksman Kimor K. has written in to say:

As I am certain that you are well aware of the latest exploits of the famous detective, Jordan Damascus, I shall spare you the details of explaining the relevance of this matter. However, you may find it interesting to note that Mr. Damascus was previously a rather highly decorated member of the armed services. (See: Wondermark #641) I am having difficulty understanding how such a high-ranking officer could have fallen into such incompetence, but I shall leave the interpretation of this fact up to you. Was he disgracefully discharged and now struggling to survive in a civilian occupation? Was he abducted by aliens and lobotomized? Does the armed services of this fictional company promote solely based upon the length of mustaches? We, your readers, would love to know.

Good catch, Kimor! Damascus is indeed a former military man. (If you notice the bottle in the latter picture, you may have an idea why he was discharged.) He was a Detached Leftenant with the King’s Eighth Regiment, the “Crackerjack Riders,” serving in a Rhodesian field post.

As is required by law, the Ministry of Foreign Service has retained copies of all correspondence sent from foreign posts, and after a thorough search of the Regimental Archives (with many thanks to Mrs. Myrtle Fumblebum in the Ministry’s head office in Chestershire-upon-Boffin) I have compiled the below, sent by Leftenant Damascus back home to his mother.

January 18.
My dear mum. This place burns me with its presence. Why did you make me enlist. No man shall this experience make of me; rather, a mongrel begging at the table for any scrap of sanity, any thinky, glistening sweet-fat to remind me that justice might yet exist in the world. The whole of Camp George is a dog fallen into a crevasse. Its legs are smashed to dust but the only thing to do is whimper. Please send any meats that will make the trip. Yours, J

February 5.
Mum. The Colonel is in receipt of your letter of January twenty-seventh. What did you tell him? He has turned more brutish than ever before. My ration of bootblack has been halved. A pinch of salt I had been saving in my pillow for Lent was discovered and burned in front of the men. This is not a good way to encourage thoughtful souvenirs for yourself. Write our MP and complain about this treatment. Affix my name; I have enclosed an extra signature here for your use in this. Cordially, J (here is the extra: J)

February 28.
Old dear mum. There is some mystery afoot. The Colonel says he has not heard from you at all, but he is suddenly possessed of a deep knowledge of my childhood and details known only to our family — including the way I became stuck in the chimney after eating too many sweets last Christmas. But here is a clue! I blamed the sweets as a ruse. If he had known the true story, he would have not mentioned the sweets at all. Someone has been feeding him information. Curiouser and curiouser, J

March 14.
Mumsie dearest. The Colonel is a man bewitched. He mumbles in his sleep about me and my childhood. I have tried prolonging his sleep with aether but the chemicals I purchased in a Salisbury bazaar proved to be counterfeit. He awoke in a rage and pushed my head through a series of walls. I believe the elixir I paid handsomely for to be simple extract of camel. This foul brew has many uses, but dulling cranial pain is not among them. I have not slept for days. Did you ever hear from the MP? Please advise him that the situation grows dire. I cannot see from both eyes at once. Ever your twinkle-fly — J

April 3.
Margaret. What horror I have described in the past was but a cheery Spring afternoon compared to the recent ordeal. The temperature and humidity in the camp resemble being inside of a whale at all times, even when asleep or bathing. We have but one bath-tub for the entire squad and I have been near the last in line each day on account of my declining vision. I would be last every time if not for one Private Muldoon, the battalion imbecile. He is continually convinced that the sky is the underside of a giant frog. The Colonel continues his tirade of abuse. This morning he called me a coward for stealing an apple from Broad Street, but this happened twenty-one years ago. Please advise. Until death, J

April 27.
Hello Mum. Please excuse the penmanship as I write this from the brig. The Colonel discovered an escape plan I had been formulating on an old bedsheet. I had thought to bribe Muldoon (who is possessed of a powerful energy) to excavate a tunnel from our barracks, to emerge ideally in Egypt. From there I should find a friendly native and return home by steamship. I have been roundly disciplined by the Colonel, but all the while Muldoon toils unawares. I imagine the man halfway to the Nile by now. I know not if I should live to see [illegible] underside of my arms. Please advise the response of the Bishop. Unblinking, J

May 20.
Greetings Mum from the centre of the earth. Or someplace not far removed — a cell clearly just shy of the outermost circle of Pandemonium, such is the heat and misery of this place. The Colonel suspects me of being a spy for the French. As he is suspiciously versed in every minute of my past life, I do not know where he thinks being recruited by the French may have occurred. He claims that my loyalty turned Gallic here in the camp and that I have yet to meet any actual foreign agents. Still no sign of Muldoon but I imagine the tunnel will be discovered any day. Please write the Colonel in my defence and apologise to the Bishop. Rottingly, J

June 16.
Mum, this life has ruined me. My strength and resolve are sapped. The Colonel has claimed to have merely guessed correctly all those facts about my life. I believe him either a liar or possessed by a nefarious spirit. I do not think I can perform an exorcism in this pagan country without risk to my own person. The cell has become a coffin. Mother, your son dies as he writes. Please send copies of the Post, it is dreadfully dull down here. If I ever see the sun I shall be grateful the rest of my days. Sad sad sad sad sad sad sad [this continues for three unbroken pages] — J

June 29.
Mum: By trying a little each day, I have managed to bend the bars of my cell cumulatively the width of the smallest fingernail. At this rate I may celebrate my eightieth birthday outside. The Colonel visits daily, but simply makes noises. Either I have forgotten language or this country has made savages of noble men. Pretend you have no son so that you may one day be surprised if I return. In a vat of oil, J

July 17.
I am free! I have solved the mystery that has haunted me these many months! The Colonel is a madman who has stalked me since infancy. He has worn cunning disguises so as to be never recognised. A dream brought on by putrefied soup revealed the evidence to me incontrovertibly. The dizzying heat provoked a fugue state of sorts, in which I apparently shoved my left ring finger into the cell’s lock until it malformed into the shape of the required key. I have been wedded to a door, Mother. Do not send gifts; they will not make it in time — for I return! As soon as I murder the Colonel. Excited for the future. J.

July 19.
Mother everybody in this camp has been transformed into a bat. I will attempt to do the same. Put the kettle on. J

July 22.
O Mumsy. I am in Crete but not on purpose. The Colonel makes a poor boat. Back on the Continent soon. You know, I think I might make a good detective.

Thanks, Kimor! Folks, feel free to write in with these questions any time you like.

The Science-Doktor’s Vengeance

Science-Doktor Vondurdauðahöfuðkúpa watched through the tall, sloped windows as Eyjafjallajökull began to spew clouds of brown, billowing ash.

“This will prove that I am serious,” he sneered, checking his command console for the blinking light that would indicate a phone message. Those fools at NATO headquarters had missed the deadline to respond — and now had paid for their impudence.

“Seriously weak,” came an echoing voice. Vondurdauðahöfuðkúpa whirled. Bond. But no matter — the volcano had been triggered. The Englishman was too late.

“It’s no use, 007,” Vondurdauðahöfuðkúpa shouted, pulling the Beretta PM12 into his hands. “There’s no stopping the volcano now! Europe will be blanketed in ash within days! They tried to play games with me,” he said, cocking the submachine gun and tracking the spy’s slow walk across the polished marble floor. Bond’s confident posture angered him. What did he have to be confident about? “Now they realize what a threat I really am!”

“I’m surprised you had the money to pull this off, Vondurdog,” Bond said coolly, tracing a finger along the lines of the command console. He looked like he was itching to turn a knob, press a button… but the spy showed commendable restraint. “After the whole banking debacle. You must have been very well invested.”

Vondurdauðahöfuðkúpa fumed. He knew. He had to know! “The Icelandic government is very hard-headed, it seems,” he growled. “I had a very simple ransom demand — and was left without even the courtesy of a reply. After that exercise of my power, you would have thought the world would have learned to listen!”

“Tsk, tsk, temper temper,” Bond cooed, and Vondurdauðahöfuðkúpa brought the Beretta up in rage. BRAPPPPP — Bond dove — and the geologic destabilizer controls went up in a shower of sparks. That cost fifty thousand krónur! Bond had goaded him into it. The rat was nowhere to be seen.

“This is just the beginning,” Vondurdauðahöfuðkúpa crowed to the empty room, slowly circling with the gun at the ready. Where was he hiding? “Eyjafjallajökull was just a throat-clearing. If my demands are not met, Katla will be triggered next — and it will drown all of Europe beneath a sea of ash and magma!”

“That’d be a good trick,” came the voice from across the room, and Vondurdauðahöfuðkúpa whirled, firing another long burst into the far corner. The glass face of the seismolostroyer console disintegrated into green dust. And with the click of his empty gun, Vondurdauðahöfuðkúpa knew it was over. Bond’s shadow felt somehow cold as it covered him.

Vondurdauðahöfuðkúpa spun quickly and tripped the spy. Bond’s voice-transmitter still active, the cry of pain seemed to come from the far corner of the room. A clever ruse! As Bond hit the ground, Vondurdauðahöfuðkúpa stomped on his wrist to dislodge the Walther from his hand — but Bond wrapped a leg around Vondurdauðahöfuðkúpa’s knees and brought the Science-Doktor down with him. They fought for the gun in silence, the sky outside darkening with the growing cloud from Eyjafjallajökull.

A shot rang out! Vondurdauðahöfuðkúpa flinched, his ears ringing from the sound and his hands burning from the powder — but he felt no bee-sting of a bullet, only the thin hum of some far-off machine spurting to life. “You’ll have to do better than that, 007,” he growled. But the spy only smiled.

The geologic destabilizer’s agitation-paddle caught Vondurdauðahöfuðkúpa in the side of the head, wrapping its auger-talons around his jaw and skull and dragging him across the room, chewing a furrow in the hard black floor. Vondurdauðahöfuðkúpa pulled at the talons with his fingers, but they were double-bonded titanium, designed to fight the pressures of plate tectonics. A man was no match for them — less so, a pane of tempered glass. The paddle pushed Vondurdauðahöfuðkúpa through the window and out into open air.

Then it stopped, the long arm of the paddle hovering above the burning, roiling mouth of Eyjafjallajökull, shards of glass falling to vaporize in mid-air. Vondurdauðahöfuðkúpa gaped back at Bond, who delicately brushed dust from the shoulders of his jacket.

“Well, do it,” Vondurdauðahöfuðkúpa squealed with as much force as his tight-gripped throat could muster, kicking his legs in the ash above the long drop to Hell. But Bond only smiled.

“Do you want to know why NATO never called?” he shouted through the window at Vondurdauðahöfuðkúpa. “Do you wonder why your ransom demands were never answered? Why nobody trembled in fear when you threatened to collapse the banks, or trigger the volcano?”

And then, as Vondurdauðahöfuðkúpa’s eyes bugged out high above the flaming glacier, Bond held up a single, severed telephone cable.

“They never even knew it was you.”

Strivey’s Last Day

Modeling a lovely Survival Kit bag! Photo by Carly Monardo.

Thank you to everyone who came out to the Emerald City con in Seattle! We had fun at the TopatoCo Castle and especially at the TMH Live pre-party. I’m very much looking forward to sharing the video of the event with you, as soon as it’s ready!

I also wanted to give a special thank-you to Shari for this wonderful sketch:

You may remember Shari’s spirited prequel to this comic. These are the sorts of things that arise when I livestream the comic-makin’ process! We get to chatting while I’m putting the comics together, and every little piece that goes into the work gets an elaborate backstory. Shari’s piece made me wonder just how Strivey got himself into that pickle in the first place…

It was an ordinary day for Strivey. He’d heard there might be some lettuce underneath the back porch of the big blue house, so he took a wide, ambling stroll around the side of the building, finding sure footing in the grass as the sun paced him. He liked to time his walks with the sun this way, keeping steadily in that pleasing light, and he fancied himself an escort for that old yellow friend, showing him the way across the old footbridge over the course of an afternoon, or around a large tree, or behind a big blue house.

But today, as they walked slowly and carefully together, the sun managed to tangle itself behind a stand of scraggly branches, and no amount of Strivey’s coaxing could urge it back out. It happened this way often, to Strivey’s chagrin and despite all his urging, and usually it took all night for the big lunkhead to free himself and meet Strivey sheepishly back in the morning. Strivey would shake his small, wrinkled head, and the sun would start to shine brighter and brighter as if saying “I know, I know,” and then they would go on a long walk again.

Today was no different. So by the time Strivey reached the deck behind the big blue house, it was dim; and even though the dimness of evening is never the best time to look for lettuce that might be hiding, he’d come this far, and he was hungry. He peered about in the deck’s corners and crevices, and when nothing was evident beneath the deck he managed to make his way on top of it, and then from there into the house itself, and from there down a long hallway and into a room which was emitting a bright glow as if the sun had beat him there. “That crafty devil managed to sneak in ahead of me,” thought Strivey, as he nosed his way through the doorway.

The sun was smaller in person, a tiny glass figure shouting fiercely at a woman’s leering face. Immediately Strivey knew something was wrong — for his friend’s light, though bright, was not warm, having been trapped within this bulb of glass like a genie captured in a bottle, and the woman was the trapper.

Strivey tried to turn back and flee, but he was, after all, a tortoise, and a sprint back toward the hall took him about twenty minutes.

Next up: Comicpalooza in Houston, TX, March 26-28!

What happened that day

A hundred birds leapt at once from the shaking earth. A leaf fell; the first of many, as the pounding grew stronger, more violent, more energetic. A slight burning smell tickled the nose of a dog, trotting across a field. At the next deep, crackling slam, the dog turned and ran the opposite direction.

First to break the surface was a finger. It looked like a potato being rejected by the world, jutting suddenly forth from the ground like a coin had been dropped in some slot: “Potatoes – 10¢.” Someone must have dropped a dollar in, because nine more soon followed, pop-pop-pop. They flexed and the caked brown dirt fell off at the cracks and seams. Beneath was red — burning red, the red of a body in a sauna, the burning of a soul sent back, to finish up.

The hands spread the earth away on both sides like a swimmer surfacing, a smooth, easy motion that swept up great mounds of field, rolling right over trees, trucks, squirrels, the lot. Hills now existed in these places, and behind them, canyons. The arms broke the ground, the sleeves steaming but whole, hanging heavily like great bags of rope. The hands found the crust of the planet and pushed against it — and then the hat crested. And then the head was through.

When its face touched air it drew a ragged breath, and with that sharp intake came power: it breathed again, and again, and then it rose. It stood and sought out the sky. It sought out the land on either side. Then it sought out a tree. It stared at the tree, steadily, until the leaves withered and began to burn.

By now the road was crowded with cars, with trucks, with shouts and the jangle of telephones. As the distractions drew the man’s attention, a line of bright hot flame sped across the road, exactly following his gaze. The first car his eyes washed over began to burn. Shouts turned to cries, but these sounds were far-off. The man did not notice. He lifted his feet and set them down. He walked away.

The flame spat itself out in a long line toward the horizon, before petering out as the man’s gaze extended into the distance. Buildings stood there. He made for them, leaving behind the cars, the people, and the deep, hot tunnel he had climbed. For weeks he had climbed; for months he had fought his way through the earth. Today, the day with the air, was a good day. It was the start of something beautiful.

This day — the climbing from the pit — had been anticipated by many. Some waited for him in Springfield, at the tomb; others favored the memorial in Washington. A few even camped out near Hodgenville and the old log cabin. For many years there had been whispers that he was returning. Everybody had gotten ready for him; everyone expected him to welcome them, to praise them, and for him to take up their burdens.

They were wrong. He did not know those people. Their constant wails were brambles in his ears; their prayers were caterwauling bleats, one litany of sobs after another.

So when the day came that his eyes flashed awake, he fled, kicking away from that sound, into the heat and the liquid and the blessed, blessed silence.

By the time the first flames began to lick the buildings of Perth, everyone knew what was happening. It’s just that no one had expected him to take the long way up.

The new shirt is printed on American Apparel Organic Edition in the very lovely Galaxy color!

The Adventures of Jack Bulletproof

The Cop Who Plays By All The Rules

The night pecked spotty rain against Officer Jack “Bulletproof” Bulletproof’s patrol-car windshield. Through the dappled glass, a Jeep sat idling on the highway shoulder, its blinker still flashing at the black cornfield beyond. In the seat next to Bulletproof, Officer Daytona Follies frowned at the cruiser’s computer. “Looks bad, Jack,” she said, glancing up at the Jeep. “One prior, time served, for petty theft. Could be a runner.”

Bulletproof eased his door handle open, taking in the situation. “Let’s proceed,” he finally said. “With caution.”

Follies nodded. Affixing his cap smartly, Bulletproof stepped out into the sprinkling night, his flashlight tracing a line through the Jeep’s side windows, illuminating a mound of blankets, a couple fast-food bags, a book. When the light reached the driver, Bulletproof tensed — the man was a scarecrow, folded behind the wheel like a coat hanger in a shoebox, his limbs lean and ropy. Still, best to take it by the book. “License and registration,” Bulletproof said, and the man complied.

The license told them nothing they didn’t know, and the tags were in order. Bulletproof handed the cards back to the driver (one Wenslow Ramplewaithe of 418 Oakwood), who squinted in the glare of Bulletproof’s Maglite. “Do you know why I pulled you over?” Bulletproof asked, careful not to let his tone betray any irritation. The man was a human being, after all, and it wasn’t his fault it had been a long shift for the cops.

“Dunno,” Ramplewaithe mumbled. Then his eyes lit — “Oh, if it’s that headlight, I’ve got a fix-it ticket already. I’m planning on getting it sorted tomorrow morning first thing.”

“You were going twenty-five miles per hour,” Bulletproof said. “On the highway.”

“The rain makes me nervous,” Ramplewaithe said, as Bulletproof watched a bead of sweat roll down his jawbone and disappear into his collar.

Bulletproof narrowed his eyes. “Step out of the car, please,” he said, as nicely as he could.

Ramplewaithe’s gaze darted from Bulletproof to Follies, standing by the passenger’s door with a hand on her gun, and back. Bulletproof could almost see the man’s brain tick through his possible options, and settle on the only logical one. He pried himself out of the Jeep.

Follies rounded the front of the car and leaned close to Bulletproof. “I don’t like this, Jack,” she murmured. “I say we take him downtown.”

“He hasn’t done anything,” Bulletproof whispered back. “He’s innocent until proven guilty.”

Follies spat on the ground. “He’s nervous,” she sneered. “Something’s up. I say we torture him. He must have done something.”

“Now, now,” Bulletproof said. “Let’s see where this goes.”

Ramplewaithe took off running, headed for the inky darkness of the cornfield.

“I got him, Jack!” Follies shouted, bolting after the man and whipping her Taser from its holster. “He’s coming down!”

“No!” Bulletproof called out, lunging into a sprint and grabbing Follies’ extended arm. The Taser fired into the ground, its prongs bouncing harmlessly against asphalt. Bulletproof reached the edge of the road as Ramplewaithe began sliding down the incline toward the field.

“Jack, are you crazy?” Follies cried, running up behind Bulletproof while struggling to fit another cartridge into her Taser. “I had him!”

“He wasn’t threatening lethal force,” Bulletproof said, squinting at the retreating form, gauging the distance. He plucked his baton from his belt and weighed it gently in his hand. “At his body weight, the shock might have killed him.”

“Well, if you’re not going to shoot him, you might as well run after him!” Follies shrieked, sliding partway down the incline, stumbling for her footing on the muddy slope. Bulletproof cocked his head into the wind.

Ramplewaithe reached the bottom of the slope, only a few short yards from the swaying, shadowed cornstalks. Bulletproof counted to three, hurled the baton, and pegged Ramplewaithe right between the shoulder blades. The man crumpled like a bag of baseball bats.

Follies slid to a stop. “Nice shot,” she said, and whistled appreciatively.

“The Department mandates we attend elective extracurricular training seminars twice a month,” Bulletproof shrugged. “I’ve been to the Baton Hurling one thirty times. It’s my favorite.”

Follies reached Ramplewaithe and turned the man onto his back. “Now listen here, you lowlife,” she growled. “Do we need to get rough here? I can dance all night.”

“Go to heck, copper,” Ramplewaithe spat.

“No! Ramplewaithe!” Bulletproof shouted, making his way down the slippery incline. “You have the right to remain silent! Anything you say may be used against you in a court of law! You have the right to an attorney! If you cannot afford one, one will be provided!”

Ramplewaithe parted his cracked lips to curse, then closed them again. “You’re right,” he breathed. “It’s over. Lissen. In the Jeep. Behind the back seat. Fifteen, thirty-two, ten.”

“Jack!” Follies cried. “Jeep! Back seat!”

“I’m not leaving your sight until he’s handcuffed,” Bulletproof said, reaching the bottom of the slope, picking up his baton and sliding it back into his belt. Ramplewaithe offered up no resistance, considering how easily he could be overpowered by the both of them.

They dragged the cuffed Ramplewaithe back and set him stiffly into the patrol car, Bulletproof directing the man’s head safely past the doorframe. The perp contained, they turned to the Jeep.

Behind the back seat, beneath all the blankets, was a safe. “Fifteen, thirty-two, ten,” Follies said. Bulletproof quickly turned the dial.

Inside was little Sarah Waterbury, reported missing the day before and the subject of a statewide Amber Alert. Gasping for air, she tumbled into the Jeep’s cargo compartment on hands and knees. Follies scooped up the girl, who seemed to be all right, save for a scare.

“If I’d Tased him, and he’d died or passed out — I don’t know what we would have done, Jack,” Follies said sheepishly. “This little girl could have died in there.”

“Ah, ah — save it for the statement,” Bulletproof smiled, reaching for his radio to call in the paramedics. “We’ll be up all night doing paperwork for this one.”