Friday, January 13, 2023

How To Succeed with Monsters

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words are:

inhale ~ shorter days ~ habits ~ warmth

It was submitted by:



I took a sharp inhale when the creature first walked into my office. I had a long reputation for taking on unconventional clients in my therapy practice, but I'd had no idea that seeing a man who insisted he was a vampire and could only be seen at night or well late early evening on shorter days--who did drink blood and have some pretty fucking weird teeth if Im being honest--would one day lead to me sitting in the same room with a demon.

He'd made the appointment under Adramelech but I didn't think anything of it because the kids I saw who picked their own names really knew how to pick some edgy ones. There was literally no end to the dark entity names, the anime names, the villain and bad guy names... I know, I know. Who cares if it isn't hurting anyone, right? Only sometimes I think the picked name does end up hurting some folks who really lean in hard to the idea of themselves that they or someone who should have treated them better drilled into their heads. So that's what I was expecting--a dark dressing, misguided but lovely despite it, and just in need of a little help sort of edgelord who spends too much time online.

"Something wrong, doc?" he grumbled. And yes, he. I always ask pronouns on intake forms.

"Well, no. Let's say I wasn't quite prepared."


"Well, you're mostly a mule of some sort, and I usually see humans."

"Not what I heard, doc. You come highly recommended in all the demon circles. The undead ones too. The trolls as well actually. Dwarves. A couple gods from what I heard not that we run in the same social networks. Not elves though but if ever there was one who could admit they needed help with something then they'd probably come here too."

My mouth must have hit the floor if I'm being honest. I mean I knew that's what they said they were but I just assumed... Well, you know. What would anyone think?

"You mean you didn't know?"

I recovered quite well. In my head I screamed OF COURSE I DIDNT FUCKING KNOW ARE YOU GOING TO TELL ME SANTA CLAUS IS ALSO REAL AND WHY DO YOU HAVE FEATHERS, but out loud what actually came out was, "why don't we move on to talking about you and what brings you in today since we're on a sort of tight schedule here? I have written down here that you want to work on some 'bad' habits? Is that right? Could you expand on that?"

"Sure, doc, but if you have questions at the end about all the, you know weirdos you see you can ask free of charge." He laughed heartily for a moment and my skin felt like it might crawl off my body, but it was also jolly somehow. I could feel myself at ease, smiling with him. What is my life?

He got serious after a moment and started picking at his tail feathers. "Yes, I think I need to work on my anger issues a little bit and the sorts of things I get up to when I'm angry, for starters, but there's more we can get into. I think that's my top priority for now though, doc, and I know you helped Beelz stop wasting his time sending flies after people who tried to invoke him and focus on his day to day schedules and appointments as Lieutenant so I was hoping we could do some of that for me."

"I did?!?" Wait. "What I mean is I can't discuss another client's case with you, but we can absolutely tackle some of your bad habits. Absolutely. That's something I see a lot in my practice for sure."

He chuckled but I kept a stone cold face because I am a professional, so he moved on like I hadn't just revealed yet again that I had no idea I'd ever seen another not human but had apparently seen them fucking all just about. "Well, doc, here's one of the biggest ones that I really need to tackle. So you know, not by choice but because it is written, I am in charge of Satan's wardrobe."

"Satan's wardrobe?"

"Well yes. He's got a mansion full of clothes. He has shit he's never even worn but would never give to say someone like me who," he looked down, "doesn't own many nice outfits."

He was naked and I don't even know how pants would work on this guy but maybe it was the principle involved. "So what I'm hearing is your employer takes his wealth for granted and doesn't even offer to help anyone out when he can clearly afford to?"

"Yes, doc, that's part of it. Those are the perfect words for it. But there's also, well, he's Satan and he's all knowing and all powerful or whatever and an absolute asshole. I mean just because you're Satan doesn't mean you have to be a dick to everyone who works for you, right?"

"I'm assuming being a dick to employees isnt written in the same way as your job as head.of wardrobe, right?"

"Right, doc. I respect the word of course and he's contractually obligated to be a dick to, you know, humans. Sorry. But not us. He doesn't even allow us cake on our birthdays. And he yells. And sometimes gives us an ass on top of our heads. Or some hellfire clothes when we complain about his lack of warmth. He once gave some minor demon a cat head instead of his regular head and anytime he tried to talk it came out as a soft kitten mew and that guy will never be ok again, doc."

"So an extremely toxic workplace and I'm assuming there's no HR department."

"Well the H in HR stands for human, doc, so good guess. And nothing like the demon lord equivalent. We just... Well we all sort of have bad habits to let off steam. And it's making things worse. One of us is going to get caught and then everyone gets caught and then we'll all have kitten heads."

"Ok since you're here let's start with your own bad habits and go from there."

"Right. Ok. Well, I steal clothes. He'll never miss them. He doesn't even know what he has! I sort of explained it away like office workers taking home notepads and stuff but it's kind of gotten out of hand. And I can't even wear them without taking them in to be altered and then someone will definitely see I've taken Satan's clothes. I'm not exactly known for blood red velvet smoking jackets. He really spent too much time with Hugh Hefner."

"And you've...kept them? Like the evidence is in your, uh, home?"

"I have an apartment in the big house because even if it's 4 a.m. and he has a booty call, I have to be there to pick out his clothes. And yes. Just sitting there in my bedroom where he can see them anytime."

"So not great. Your anxiety is just sitting there and looking in the face every night. Anything else?"

"Well. Well ok I make his underwear extra itchy. I once put a sort of spell, I guess, on a particular jacket he's fond of wearing to hookups that would give him erection problems. Let's see. I did once make it so he thought he was wearing one of his favorite leather ensembles but it was actually a pink bunny outfit. The list goes on and on, doc. It's petty shit, and I get that. I really do. It would you put this? Yes. It doesn't change the material circumstances that are causing me turmoil and anxiety, but I get so angry with him. And I just need a little way to give him back at least some of what he gives to all of us. Only it's not just me. There are dozens of us taking our shots in little ways, you know?"

I laughed. I laughed hard. I mean I was crying. Snorting. Snotty. But i got a good look at the range sort of boiling underneath this guy uh pers... creature? Entity? Being? This dark lord? Whatever. I'll have to figure it out. Anyway, I noticed he thought I was laughing at him quite possibly the way his boss might and I got hold of myself really quickly. "You put an asshole who fancies himself a Hugh Hefner type in a pink bunny costume and make his balls itchy?"

We both laughed then. A good laugh. A joined laugh. And we kept laughing well past losing our breath. And when we both came up for air, he looked more at peace than when he walked in, less frazzled, more in control... And that's the story about how I figured out I was the go-to therapist for demons. And the undead. Trolls. Dwarves. Quite a few gods actually, a few orcs, and even once a goblin. Never did see an elf but given all I know now I guess that's to be expected. I even have my own special business card.

"Not human? Not a problem. Specializing in all your otherworldly needs. Set up an appointment via scrying mirror today! We can do mirror calls or appointments in office at your convenience including nighttime appointments for vampires. Satan proofed rooms are available!"

Adramelech and I worked through some of his problems but honestly who could blame him for the things he was doing? We figured out some healthier ways to channel the anger though and I helped him figure out a better way to handle Satan. He organized a demon lord's union and now there's no cat faces or ass heads or any of that allowed. By written word. And he gets his own clothes! When he finally left therapy, we both cried and he gave me a painting of Satan in a bunny costume that will hang in my office til the day I die.


Links to the other “Use Your Words” posts:

Baking In A Tornado


The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver
On the Border https://dlt-

Friday, January 6, 2023


Welcome to a Secret Subject Swap. This month 3 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts. Your “Secret Subject” is:

Tell us about a number that has special meaning for you.

It was submitted by:


I don't think I have any particular sort of answer for this. I cherish my kid's birthday for example but the numbers themselves aren't important and I'm not really superstitious or believe in things like this so enjoy some fiction instead! But I will say today would have been my dad's birthday.

Selma had found a note stuffed into her locker at work that had her name at the top. And the number 76. "76. It will change everything." That's it. That was the whole of it.

She didn't recognize the handwriting. It wasn't one of her friends playing a joke mostly because she didn't have friends. And no one at work had the energy for some kind of long con prank like this. They were all tired from mandatory double shifts at the mental hospital where she cleaned rooms and gave out medicine and changed diapers or whatever else was needed that day. No one got out of double shifts not lately anyway. None of them had time to be friends or mean girl each other with pranks. So she'd forgotten about it.

And then while doomscrolling on TikTok she saw a contest for a new laptop which she sorely needed if she was ever going to go back to school. It was pick a number style. So she chose "76" on a whim...and won. Her first time winning anything in her entire life, and it had actually been sent to her too! No scams. Not this time at least.

Then she found a bundle of money in the grocery store parking lot. No one was parked near her, so she counted it. $76 exactly...which also ended up being her total in the store when she wasn't even sure when she pulled into her spot how she was going to afford food and rent. The double shifts were barely helping since the rent increase. And inflation. And having to take her car Fred to the vet to have a tooth removed.

She started seeing 76 everywhere she looked. It was written in graffiti. She'd seen a patient scrawling it into his journal. She saw it on street signs and a mile marker she passed on the way to work, and on the bus route that took her downtown when she didn't want to have to fight for parking. The hostess at her favorite taco spot had a pin that had 76 on it. Selma asked and the girl had only shrugged and smiled like Selma should know already.

It wasn't even happening naturally anymore. Selma started seeking it out. She'd turn to page 76 of a book on her shelf and look for meaning in the words. She played lotto games and online giveaways using the number and variations of it to guide her responses. She would take 76 steps to determine where she would sit in the movie theater or where to stop to eat in the food court at the mall or even, once, at a party she was invited to by an old friend to determine who to strike up a conversation with next which was really fucking hard to do in a small apartment and everyone treated her like she was crazy.

But she wasn't? Was she?

Ever since she got the letter 76 was everywhere and she thought her luck was changing. So what if she got a parking ticket for 76 dollars or woke up in her apartment to find 76 post it notes with 76 written on them that she knew she hadn't written. So what if she saw flies in the shape of 76 crawling on her car the other night.

Everything else was good. Good-ish anyway.

It didn't matter that she couldn't actually find the letter anymore did it? The number was still everywhere. She was winning. She won that laptop!

Did it really change her stroke of good luck if the woman in the apartment 3 floors abover hers had been stabbed by her ex 76 times or that 76 people died in that blizzard?

Did it really matter if she could see 76 everywhere and could hear people whispering it? Wasn't that fate's way of giving her a sign she was on the right track?

The answer to everything she had ever needed to ask was 76. She could see it all now so clearly. 76. 76. 76. It was everything everywhere all at once.


She could hear them.


Here are links to all the sites now featuring Secret Subject Swap posts. Sit back, grab a cup, and check them all out. See you there:

Baking In A Tornado


The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver

Friday, December 16, 2022

Maybe it's not everyone's lane

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words are:

Silly string ~ diary ~ window screen ~ financial difficulties ~ kitchen knife

It was submitted by:


I opened my prompt for this post seeing words that are primed for discussing the Darlie routier case. These are pretty much all elements found when going over the tragic death of her kids and her ultimate imprisonment from the silly string moment used against her in court to the cut window screen and the financial trouble the couple had experienced and problems found in her diary, and she has been long suspected of using her own kitchen knife to do the crime, but I don't think anything good comes from me discussing what I think about her guilt or innocence this publicly based on the things we know or think we know because of the true crime industry. I do have an opinion, but I'm not sure that opinion belongs in the public sphere.

I guess after that first paragraph it goes without saying that I do enjoy true crime as a genre myself. I knew as soon as I saw the prompt what these words were referencing because of the sheer vastness of the coverage of this case. It's hard to miss. As much as I enjoy the listening and reading and watching when it comes to true crime, I think we've gotten a little bit out of hand with it all. I mean Peacock gave Casey Anthony of all people a paid platform to lie some more, so we must be doing something wrong here if anyone still gives a second of a care about her opinions or excuses. Even if you removed the fact that she very likely murdered her own child, she's still a godawful human being who absolutely lives for the notoriety and attention, and we just keep giving her that.

There are elements of true crime that are beneficial. I've listened to multiple podcasts now that helped solve some cases. Kristin Smart's family finally got a conviction for her murder nearly 30 years after the fact because of a podcast. Tara Griner's case has a solution. Some men in Georgia were recently released after a podcast uncovered proof that police had manufactured evidence in the case in order to get a conviction. The Unsolved Mysteries podcast (and show) are still bringing conclusions to cases. Without the attention these podcasts have brought, I'm not sure anything would have changed. People would still be without answers. But then there's that Jeffrey Dahmer Netflix series which violated victims' families all over again and unnecessarily dramatized an already terrifyingly dramatic real life situation. I've listened to a podcast, well all of 15 minutes of it since this made me shut it off and never look back, that said Jon Benet Ramsey had a "knowing" smile. Or podcasts like Sword and Scale that repeatedly victim blame or True Crime Garage that repeatedly celebrates police brutality... The point is that it's a fine line to walk between good true crime and exploitive true crime, and the general public has yet to be as discerning as they should when it comes to what we watch or read or listen to but especially with what we think we unwaveringly know to be true.

Two different people can believe with the same degree of certainty very different truths about any given case to the point where we kind of forget very real people are involved. The perfect example of this is the Betsy and Russ Faria case and Pam from the multiple variations of The Thing About Pam that have happened on 48 hours and podcasts and 60 minutes and forensic files or whatever and despite all the evidence proving Pam killed Betsy for insurance money along with very likely her own mother for the same reason and another completely innocent and unrelated person to try to reframe Russ since the first time only took for 10 years, there are a lot of people that still think he's guilty for one. But people have gotten so caught up in the craziness of Pam that they forget Russ lost a decade of his life behind bars, that he lost his wife and never got to grieve, that he has to live forever under the weight of survivor's guilt and with the weight of prison trauma and dealing with the fact that so many people believe he's a murderer. We forget the system got it wrong... And gets it wrong way more than we should he comfortable with. We forget that Pam isn't some character in a dramedy being absolutely deranged for our entertainment. She killed real people and she got away with it for a long time.

I don't think that means every aspect of the genre is off limits by any means. But I guess letting the guy from AHS handle cases might have been a bad choice. And going around staking your reputation on just what you know from taking part in both the good and bad coverage of a case isn't maybe a great choice either. It isn't for me anyway, and so I'll just end by saying that a broken industry built off information gleaned from a broken system is ripe for bad opinions. Tread carefully.


Links to the other “Use Your Words” posts:

Baking In A Tornado

On the Border

The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver

Part-time Working Hockey Mom

Friday, December 9, 2022

Ok But I Personally Do Like Owls

Welcome to a Secret Subject Swap. This month 4 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts.

My “Secret Subject” is:

What is the WORST present you’ve received?

It was submitted by:


I read an article a couple months ago that has stuck with me for awhile. It was unrelated to gifts actually and instead about weird or shocking deathbed confessions. 

One woman, near death, was surrounded by family who took the time, finally, to ask her what was the deal with owls. She had a house full of owls. Little figures and wall hangings and bigger sculptures and salt shakers and pillows... She had literally hundreds. Her answer? She didn't really like owls all that much to be honest. She'd bought one thing with an owl on it one time at a secondhand shop because she found it cute and every time she got a gift thereafter, it was an owl. For decades of her life she was surrounded by things she didn't really like all that much because she wanted the people who gave them to her to not feel bad, so she kept it to herself and displayed them over and over and over for all of her adult life. Finally on her dying breath she was free to tell the truth. She wasn't going to be there to face the hurt and bewilderment they'd feel for having not ever really bothered to get to know what she was actually into... The problem is sort of two fold here because maybe it would have been better to tell people the truth but I think the way we socialize women to be grateful for every speck of love they can grab onto, maybe she gets more of a pass than people who could have asked her at any time what she might like for a present. She was grateful for any gift. And I can understand that sentiment. We've also been taught to be grateful to be thought of at all.

I thought about writing a gothic horror about a woman being buried alive under her Nightmare Before Christmas knick knacks. I thought about writing about the few really bad gifts I've gotten like a ring from an ex as an apology for being a piece of shit, a last ditch effort at saving a relationship that he couldn't have saved without finally growing up some. Or the time my stepmom grabbed a $5 set of plastic earrings for kindergartners and gave it to me from my dad for Christmas when I was 16, for example. But I wanted to say it plainly instead of a metaphor in a story or talking about one gift because the problem is bigger than that. I see it all the time. We see one thing about a person and make it their whole personality instead of getting to know the real them. People are complex. I mean yes I do enjoy watching the Nightmare Before Christmas because Henry Selick is a fucking genius, an artist, absolutely crushingly underrated, but I also like everything else he's done. I like movies that aren't about animated skeletons or Halloween as shocking as it may be. I have a couple of very simple elephant tattoos BUT I ALSO LIKE OTHER ANIMALS which 3 cabinets of trinkets later would also shock some folks. I used to be able to have alcohol occasionally but really haven't been able to since getting sick with chronic fatigue syndrome. I've been sick for going on 7 years now and people still tag me in wine memes. I've openly talked about not being able to drink and not just once or twice...

The thing of it all... it IS nice to be thought of in any capacity but it also really fucking sucks to realize no one bothered to think of the real me only some version that they've created in their own minds so far from who I really am that it couldn't pass for my evil twin from the mirror realm. It's not like I hide what I like or who I am. A million times a month I probably share something I'd love to get myself if I had the extra money. I talk about things that are important to me. I live as authentically online as I do around people I see everyday. My family has easy access when they want to know what I'm into. It's all there online like some weird vision board for most to see. I'll answer anytime someone asks actually. Sit with me longer than 5 minutes and I will inevitably say something incredibly gay. It's all hanging out. 

I recently stopped writing a person I'd spent 4 years trying to help. Yes, a person in prison. I helped him work through some deeply wrong ideas he held about women including a specific ex girlfriend and his own mother. I got them to connect with one another about those thoughts he had and work through them together. I got him to appreciate fiction for the first time in his life. He even wrote a story! Just for fun. I had a visible impact on his life because I listened when he told me things and listened in between and we really did the work to pick it all apart. We aren't writing because he overstepped some serious boundaries but leading up to that point he sent me some things for Christmas last year that gave me a bit of a head scratch. A lot of guys at his prison crochet and sell what they make to other guys to send to family, friends, and girlfriends or whoever and he sent me an Olaf from frozen and a minion. I haven't even seen frozen. Ever. Not once. Never mentioned either movie. And like i have said a million times already yes it's nice to be thought of but it wasn't like he chose these things because he knew I'd like them. He just sent them to say he sent something and it showed all that time we'd been friends and through all the hard conversations we had and the work we did, he hadn't ever really got to know me. It wasn't really a surprise when my boundaries were violated. The version of me living in his head would fall head over heels because of a Disney plush, right? Obviously. And so then she'd totally be receptive to advances she'd spent years clearly spelling out she wouldn't cross. Great plan, right? Only I'm not that person, and the rejection made him angry, so now he's out a friend as well.

The point I want to make is to tell people. Tell them who you are loudly and lovingly. Tell them you don't want another owl. It's fine. No one should die surrounded by hundreds of trinkets they never loved that took endless amounts of work to keep clean. But more importantly, ask what the people you love are into, listen to them. Find out about the things they love no matter how silly you find it. No matter how at odds it is with the version of them you already created. Life is too short to do anything else.


Here are links to all the sites now featuring Secret Subject Swap posts. Sit back, grab a cup, and check them all out. See you there:

Baking In A Tornado

The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver

Part-time Working Hockey Mom

Friday, November 11, 2022


Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

Mt words are:

ordinary ~ help ~ funny ~ island ~ language

It was submitted by:


I don't have the language required to ask for help I guess.

Ok I think maybe trauma erased my ability to use the right words. The thought of admitting "I can't" isn't something easy to come by despite being aware I need to work on it which often leaves me on an island alone with my own resentment.

It probably also doesn't help that the majority of people I've been vulnerable enough with to ask for help have let me down completely or held it over my head. It doesn't create a lot of faith that anyone else I ask will be the one person who doesn't make me feel like shit about it.

All of that makes having a chronic illness pretty dang hard. Every time I think I have it figured out, something will happen and I have to find a new normal. Like how having had covid twice despite not leaving home and having the vaccines caused such intense insomnia I haven't slept for more than an hour or two at a time in almost 2 years. I can't even begin to explain the hurdles I now have to go through just to be able to write a couple sentences a day or maintain letters. Or just make a ridiculously funny wrestling meme. I can't even enjoy TV shows the same anymore. I can't see them. I can't read the subtitles anymore. I can't even process them most of the time. I just slip back into familiar ones that I know the plots to by heart or things that won't require a lot of brain power. The only thing I can read right now are things I've already read...and reading about new worlds and new people have always been my one method of escape. I have a whole fucking tattoo about it. I just can't anymore. At least not now...

But even with this new problem the world doesn't stop nor does my house. And my house is anything but ordinary. So by 9 a.m. I've gotten up, made the bed, medicated at least 4 animals, swept, mopped, argued with my kid about getting up to walk the dogs or about brushing his teeth or taking his meds (which I still make up for him in his pill minder) or whatever else the teenage angst is about that day, often shampooed carpet at least in spots that need it, washed dishes my kid left in the sink, cleaned up messes the cats made from at least one type of bodily function, wiped down counters and cabinets, made coffee for at least 2 people, made breakfast for everyone, cleaned up after breakfast, entered a bunch of online contests to try to win extra money because we're fucking poor, dusted, vacuumed, folded some laundry if I hung it out the day before... Sometimes there's extra. Sometimes I have help with one or two of these things. But this is just the first 2 hours of my day and it never ends. Every time I think I'm caught up something else needs to be done. I'm on my feet at home for at least 8 hours a day. Most days at least 6 hours at a time...with joint point from my cfs and plantar fasciitis making it impossible to walk. By 8 most nights, my pain level is so high I can't talk. I can't even cry. I'm too tired to fucking cry.

Every time I ask someone to do something and get told "I will" just for it to still not be done 2 hours later that island of resentment grows bigger and the next time I really need help, I won't ask. Why would I?

I keep thinking I'll learn to master my broken energy battery and only do the things that need it, but when your mom has broken into your house and tried to physically assault you over you insisting you have actually do keep things clean all because an argument started when you offered to take her on a spa trip for Christmas, could anything ever be clean enough? Probably not. Not when every time you've ever been in her house her husband still treats you like a 16 year old kid who is apparently utterly incapable and disgusting and conveniently forgetting you're 41 now and even when you were 16 with a semi dirty room you were also dealing with the aftermath of abuse and rape and were constantly threatened and bullied for being gay and weird without any support from the people who should have noticed you were drowning in a bog of torment. I don't exist as a real person to the people who were supposed to love me, and there's not any amount of time that erases the instinct to seek out worth with a clean countertop or scrubbed walls or being 3 weeks ahead on your weekly list of extra chores and thinking "I haven't done enough" and doing it all again anyway.

There's always a voice in my head. There's always trauma. There's always resentment.

And so here I am, dying for help, dying for a break... And what I get is more work.


Links to the other “Use Your Words” posts:

Baking In A Tornado

On the Border

The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver

Part-time Working Hockey Mom

Friday, November 4, 2022

You Got Jokes?

Welcome to a Secret Subject Swap. This month 4 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts. 

My “Secret Subject” is:

Rescuer in need

It was submitted by:

I can't even blame Reddit for this idea


The headline of the craigslist job ad simply said Rescuer in Need. Vanna read it, assumed it was about a wildlife rescue which would kinda sorta be a dream job, and opened it up.

She could not have been more wrong.

But she still sent a text to the number listed.

Curiosity killed cats, but it also probably didn't do anything for the health and wellbeing of easily intrigued busybodies who watched too much true crime.

See, the ad didn't mention murder, but Vanna was certain she had stumbled on a serial killer's trap and wanted in on it. She wanted to be able to tell stories about being there and figuring him out and being the one to get evidence to take straight to the cops.

People say that true crime makes people too fearful and brainwashed with the idea of stranger danger, but the people who said shit like that had never met Vanna. Sure she was prone to jumping to conclusions based on a little too much cynicism when it comes to her fellow humans, but she wasnt fearful so much as determined, and the combination was something to behold.

The ad read: I have recently inherited a large plot of land in this area. Living out of state makes it difficult to do some of the necessary work it needs to make it habitable again. It needs rescuing from years of neglect to be restored to its former glory. Pay scale can be discussed based on personal skills. Permanent caretaker role is a possibility. There's also a camper on the property that can be used for a place to crash rent free. Text INFO to 57968 for more.

It was incredibly sketchy and one of those weird too good to be true job opportunities. Someone down on their luck couldn't possibly pass it up. She'd listened to too many podcasts about people answering similar ads who were never seen again going back as far as at least the late 19th century with Belle Gunness.

Less than a minute after hitting send, Vanna had a reply.

"Go to Canyon St Park and send photo. Wait there for more."

She waited. She thought maybe something else would come through, but half an hour later she gave up on that. She text "INFO" to the number again and got the same response. She fretted a bit. This was every possible red flag... But of course her curiosity was at an all time high and her Spidey senses were tingling, so she grabbed her pepper spray, a couple of self defense key chains, her very illegal sword cane, an extremely loud air horn, a Kubotan, and a taser dropping the smaller items into her bag. You couldn't be too careful. Ok so maybe a gun would be better but she wasn't too great at things that require that kind of accuracy with shaky hands and bad eyesight.

She arrived, but the few people there took no interest in here and didn't really seem out of place. She found a small bench in the middle and sat down for her photo. As soon as she sent it, she received another text instructing her to drive to the McDonald's on 5th Street and send a receipt showing a McNuggets Happy Meal and large fry. It felt strange. She text "why" but after awhile she gave up on getting a reply and went on. She couldn't actually give up now. It had only gotten weirder.

It just kept going like that.

All day.

One task after another. Go here, do this, send a pic. Go here, find this market, take and send a pic. She'd been at this for hours when she finally sat in her car in a Walmart parking lot after finding some condoms to take a picture of and cried. It was exhausting and stressful and she was just done. She didn't know why she always did stupid shit like this. Who in their right mind would do things like this if not her?

Someone knocked on her window and made her jump. She screamed. They laughed.

Are you ok? they asked.

I'd be better if you'd leave me alone, she said.

Suddenly there were more people. And a camera with a flash. Questions were shouted at her asking her name and what she'd been doing all day but she was so confused and tired she struggled and stuttered through answers still crying.

The voices still laughed.

Her phone dinged letting her know she had another text message. It dinged more and more. Each one linked to a TikTok. Of her. Doing the tasks she'd been given all day and the cameraman laughing and making fun of her body, her walk, her determination... The beginning video suggested they were looking for a lazy liberal who would easily fall for a too good to be true offer and give up on the first task. From the looks of it most people hadn't given one iota of a shit about this little project (a bullshit one that proved absolutely nothing) until she'd kept going all day while they made up new and increasingly embarrassing tasks, and they'd still made fun of her for it. There were thousands and thousands of views on these already and they kept getting higher as she checked. Her body felt hot. The rage was suddenly so strong she vibrated. Her heart raced with the absolute and total embarrassment. But she was flying on the anger.

Theyd followed her. Stalked her. Videoed her without consent and blasted her online over and over all fucking day, and they still had the gall to stand here waiting on her to exit the car and get more footage? Well how could she refuse?

She grabbed her bag... Sure she didn't have a gun packed in it but she was about to have a little fun.


Here are links to all the sites now featuring Secret Subject Swap posts. Sit back, grab a cup, and check them all out. See you there:

Baking In A Tornado

The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver

Part-time Working Hockey Mom

Friday, October 14, 2022

Stultifying Days

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words are:

brink ~ stultify ~ brief ~ gobble ~ right

They were submitted by:


Lynd walked softly into the kitchen taking care to be as quiet as possible. The little vacuum that she bought to keep the kitchen floor free of cat hair and litter cast off from the adjacent laundry room had just finished his rounds and put himself back on the charging station for a nap. He'd been a part of the house for years now. She'd named him Gus and put little googly eyes on him.
Those were gone now though. Gus preferred not to have them on anymore. Thinking about that too long always brought her right to the brink of insanity, so she stuffed it back down even though she really did miss the times before when it was quirky and fun to have eyes on her vacuum and not "patronizing" or "infantalizing" as Gus had said.

She stood at the kitchen window and looked out at a brand new world...

Her house and her yard were pretty much the same as always except she had sort of collected a presence of stray machines...a push mower, some kind of butler robot guy, a couple of wheelchair shopping carts...scraggly old things that couldn't really work anymore. She'd go down with her coffee and hang out with them awhile once Igor, the coffee machine, was done with her brew.

But otherwise?

Otherwise, the world beyond her grass so far as she could tell now was run by the machines. They still did their routines which honestly were enough to stultify her, and she wasn't the one doing them, but they're been made to work, and work is what they did. Work. Work. Work.

So when things had gone....weird or wasn't the work that was the problem. It was the lack of appreciation. There had, as of yet, not even been any mention of pay. Monetary appreciation wasn't the answer. She didn't even know if they actually understood what money meant, and to be fair the money is made up by humans to torture other humans so that part made sense to her. They knew work needed to be done, and they did it. They just wanted a little kindness. They wanted to be a part of the family or at least get a thank you for a job well done. They wanted a hello and goodbyes and goodnights. They wanted to be regarded as necessary and useful and beloved instead of generally ignored and inferior. That's what the trash compactor who she'd seen gobble up her neighbors had said anyway.

She was still here because most of the time she did do those things. Apparently. She talked to Gus. She told him thank you and one time she gave him a gotcha day party with party hats. She apologized once when she ran into an ATM on her way into the bank. Some guy had called her crazy for it and at the time she felt he might be right. I mean, she'd always sort of, well, packbonded with inanimate objects which honestly was probably the fault of The Brave Little Toaster and Toy Story, and having some strange man laugh at her for apologizing to an ATM had felt mortifying at the time, but now, she guessed, she had the last laugh now because he was most definitely dead.

The strays were waiting on her to come out now. She could see them and without really understanding how, she could tell they were antsy for her to come out. She wasn't the only one left they'd told her. But she was definitely the only one in this area and that meant she was the only one who didn't talk about jobs or work. She had memories and stories and songs to share. She had things to say that weren't part of their routine and little ways of thinking about things that they found fascinating. She explained jokes and sarcasm. She read them books. She shared a little of everything with them and in trade she got to live. She was like Scheherazade in 1001 Arabian Nights but instead she was explaining memes to a drink machine or reading comic books to a golf cart.

It could be worse, she thought. So much of life was automated that things kept being made even when the demand was...considerably less. She didn't do without really. She wasn't exactly lonely. She'd probably never use a vibrator again but whatever. She'd adjusted for the most part...


Well. When you peeled back all the layers, she was pretty much their prisoner, and after seeing what happened to people who displeased the machines, she was sure she was never leaving this house again until she was ready to die and that took a lot of the fun and whimsy out of this whole thing.

For now she better get to the strays. They wouldn't wait forever, and the last time she was too tired to go out, they'd held back bringing her coffee beans for a fucking week--what they'd called a brief punishment.

She wasn't ready to see what else they had in store. She grabbed one of the books the Bookmobile had brought by. It was a children's book about construction vehicles, and she was expected to make corrections as she read it. No whimsy or fun allowed no matter how many times she'd explained the point of kids books to them.

Some days being gobbled up by a trash compactor had its appeal. Links to the other “Use Your Words” posts:


Baking In A Tornado

On the Border

The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver
What TF Sarah