BOOKS and BILLIONAIRES that I am Thankful For


If you like Fun and Fantasy with capital F’s then this is the book for you. It’s like taking your brain out of your skull and dunking it in Joy Juice. Sword and sorcery, magically strong heroes and evil sea demons, this book has got it all and it’s all punching you in the face with awesome. Plus, not only is it a new fantasy world, the quest also has some actual moral relevance to the society where it takes place and every page and every word presses into your eyeballs with the undeniable assertion “This matters.” It was written by someone who gave a shit and it shows.

For a brief while, in the 80’s, you could find a certain sort of entertainment that used violence in a way that made you feel both happy and clean inside. MacGyver, the A-Team and Knight Rider are but a few examples. I feel this was because it was a less cynical time in the country where people still believed 1. it was possible to effect positive change and that 2. one person could make a difference all by themselves and 3. some people really ARE just evil dicks who aren’t going to stop hurting people until you stop them. Larry Correia still writes in those kinds of worlds and I find that wholly refreshing.

We seem to live in a world these days that’s telling us that we’re powerless. That the problems we face are too intractable to solve. That history is a sort of chaos problem where human will cannot possibly guide the fate of the world. Perhaps, for the most part, that’s truer than I would like. But every now and again you find yourself standing at the pivot point where you CAN make a difference. And when that happens, it’s nice to have a worldview to draw on that will get your ass in gear.

Do yourself a favor and buy this book.

SCIENCE OF THE DISCWORLD by Terry Pratchett, Jack Cohen, Ian Stewart

My favorite experience in life is thinking something will totally suck and finding out that it’s actually incredible. I’ve read pretty much everything ever written by Terry Pratchett and after a while it became predictably incredible. The man was a genius and possessed of a unique and unparalleled skill to breathe humanity into his words. In fact, if we ever make a general AI (more later), I think we’re fine as long as it’s a fan of Pratchett novels. Anyhow, I was getting down to pretty slim pickings on the list of Pratchett novels and I picked up what I figured would be one of “Shit-List” works. This book was called The Science of Discworld and I took this to mean “A Money-Grab, but Hey, don’t you owe it to me after all those other great books?”

I’m a fan of Pratchett but I wasn’t expecting much from The Science of Discworld. I mean, I’ve written things that weren’t A Material, and I certainly don’t begrudge someone for not operating at peak performance at all times. I’ve got a Shit-List of things I’ve written. Yet, I missed the man and his mind and I didn’t care that what I was reading wouldn’t be his best work. That was my expectation going into the The Science of Discworld but I could not have been more wrong.

These books were written for me. If you, like the Death of the Discworld, often think “What’s it all mean, really? When you think about it?” and have a medium science and math background these are books you will enjoy without reservation. These books are the rarest of treasures: truly intelligent masterworks that don’t sacrifice entertainment for exactness. There were even, dare I say it, areas of knowledge explored in these texts that I hadn’t known about previously.

To put this in perspective, I was getting an oil change when I first started reading this. The mechanic came in and shook my shoulder and said “Man, I’m sorry. We just got so busy. Oil changes aren’t supposed to take two hours.”

I said: “I’ve been here for two hours?”

I’ve added Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen to my list of “people who I would like to talk to for hours and hours and hours.”


I have lots of thoughts about AI. I wonder what it means for something to be human and intelligent, what it is that keeps us all wrapped up together experiencing life as a cohesive agent, and how far you could expand the capacity of a mind before it just sort of divides or drizzles all over like a water drop on a sheet of glass that got too big. I have certain vague fuzzy notions of these things but I’ll save them for science fiction stories at a future date.

As it happens, Nick Bostrom also has a lot of thoughts on AI. He wrote a book, in fact. And this is a book that will absolutely knock you on your ass. You will get in your best ninja stance. You will give your best arrogant Steven Seagal talk about chi flows and how you are a former CIA agent. This book will still knock you on your ass. If you thought that you thought a lot about AI, Nick Bostrom is going to do to you with this book what Eminem did to the opposing rapper in 8 Mile and just destroy you.

I daresay, unless you are actually actively involved in AI research there is something here for you to learn and think about. Perhaps even if you ARE actively involved in AI research. Don’t want to take my word for it? What about Elon Musk and Bill Gates? They both vouched for this tome. I couldn’t pull my eyes off the page and it will actually also change how I write stories about the future. I don’t know that it’s ethical to talk about AI anymore without also talking about AI Control. Or as I will call it “AI Humanity.”

Perhaps, if I ever do become the more handsome and more appropriate Isaac Asimov of a new generation of science nerds, I can inspire a nascent AI Engineer to do the one thing that will save all of mankind. Teach the damn machine to care, kids! Biology is not humanity and in whatever shape our species survives, the light of humanity cannot be allowed to founder.


I am very good at talking to people, digging deep inside their heads, and figuring out what they really “are” inside. This allows me to portray realistic characters. I’m also very good at creating consistent economic models that I have absolutely no interest in implementing outside of fictional story settings. Jeff Bezos has similar abilities with the slight distinction that he also has the ability and will to use these skills in the actual, real, world. See? We’re almost the same except for that one tiny thing.

This year, while I was making a list of things to do like “Finish a novel” and “Lose some weight” or “Meet someone” Jeff Bezos was making a list like “Use automated drones to instantly deliver products to consumers” and “Expand a publishing paradigm that completely democratizes knowledge” and more recently “Launch a rocket into space and recover the launch vehicle.

I’m about to talk about Elon Musk in a moment, because I think Elon Musk might, disturbingly, be the most important human being alive on the planet Earth. But I also want to talk about Jeff Bezos because I don’t want it to be lost that he is also one of the most incredible human beings on this planet at this moment in time. While I don’t believe in the “Great Man” theory of history I definitely believe in what I call the “Great People” of history. History isn’t some automatic process. People have to show up to get things done and Jeff Bezos has definitely shown up and put skin in the game and the world is better for it.

The most valuable ability a person can have at this time in history is the ability to “Fuse” disciplines. A person must possess wide knowledge of medium depth, across a wide variety of intellectual endeavors, so that they have the precise acumen and understanding of first principles required to identify the true experts are in a field, and to then leverage their expertise together in novel ways to achieve incredible outcomes. Steve Jobs did this at Apple. Elon Musk is doing it at SpaceX and Tesla. Jeff Bezos is doing it every day in a million quiet ways to improve the consumer experience of an entire planet.

There was some kerfuffle recently that Amazon’s “Blue Origin” reusable rocket wasn’t as impressive as it was made out to be. There were a couple of articles that were making an actual informative distinction, but most of them were setting a truly fantastic achievement in hostile language. And to those who advance such ideas, I say: how dare you.

One of the few things that makes me genuinely angry is the expectation that people have that the world owes them these incredible inventions. The most perfect example of this I’ve ever seen is when someone invented bulletproof skin and people commented en masse to say that it wasn’t bulletproof enough. Where is YOUR bulletproof skin? Where is YOUR reusable rocket? Where is the last volume of YOUR sprawling grimdark Fantasy epic?

To reiterate, this is distinct from people who are trying to provide actual helpful scientific distinctions. What Bezos did wasn’t the same as what Musk is trying to do. Which is fine because neither he nor Musk said it was the same thing. It wasn’t until a bunch of dumbass “science journalists” started comparing the two that Musk had to provide clarification to defend his company. Which he did cordially and without hostility. And then there were a bunch of click bait stories about them having a dick measuring contest.

Jeff Bezos and his team accomplished a great thing. They deserve to stand for a moment in the sun. They should be strewn with rose petals.

“Science Journalism” was in quotes because it is apparently the one field that requires no knowledge of either of the two fields that comprise its name.


Elon Musk decided his goal in life was to build a sustainable energy infrastructure, eliminate fossil fuel use, and oh to make mankind an interplanetary civilization. And in whatever way I can, I want to help him succeed in those missions because I don’t know how much longer the Earth has for someone to get those things right. Those aren’t just interesting economic possibilities, they’re vital to the survival of humanity.

I arrive here with a sense of trepidation. I prefer either silence or great praise. I also find it important, however, to give correct praise. You see… I am forced to conclude that if Elon Musk is successful in achieving his stated goals at Space X and Tesla (and he is closer to this than most people realize) that he may be not only be one of the most important human beings currently alive, but one of the most important human beings in all of history. And not just history in the sense of human history or even scientific history. Elon Musk may become the one individual in all of history whose name should be in biology textbooks, next the place in the tree of life where humans become a multi-planetary species. This is also a terrifying and not-desirable state of affairs as the loss of a single individual could set back these technological advancements by decades, perhaps even a century, and we may not have a century to solve these problems. I’ll justify that enormous statement in a moment. If you’re impatient go up and click on the “Wait, but why link.” First, a defense of the man himself.

I see people compare Elon Musk to a super villain or describe him as having a “temper” or as being “too hard on people.” Some of these comments are jokes but some of them are not. I don’t think those people have ever had to lead others. Oh, they may have been technically “accountable” at one point or another, but they never had to lead. They’ve never had to take someone who didn’t believe, even in themselves, and turn them into something greater. To be the one who held the vision and chose the path to get there. Who felt the weight of failure and refused to be crushed by it. Who kept the faith even when there is no clear path. Elon Musk can feel the death screams of the human race and he is not paralyzed by them, as I am.

Instead, Elon Musk does what he does because that’s the only way he can get things done. He has set before himself the challenge of increasing the human capacity for sustainable energy generation and storage and space transportation. To do this, he has to push individual humans to their utmost limits, extracting from them all of their useful capacity. This then expands the extelligence of the entire human race. Before you judge that as being cruel, imagine what enormous faith that takes in humanity. To so strongly believe so much that any person is capable of more than they imagine, that you make them believe it too.

Consider how close he has already come to landing an ORBITAL rocket back on Earth. Once he does this to the point that the rocket can be reused, the cost of launching something into space fall dramatically. The idea of putting human beings on Mars falls well within the economic realities of even a faltering economy. This, by the way, is a feat that neither the United States nor the Soviet Union were able to accomplish at the height of the Cold War with nearly unlimited budgets. Granted, he hasn’t accomplished it either but even that miss is the equivalent of shooting a postage stamp with a rifle from the top of a skyscraper on a windy day. When he finally does land a stage? Remember where you were that day, because it won’t be too long after that, that people are walking around on Mars.

Oh, there will be problems. Check out Kim Stanely Robinson’s latest novel Aurora (not recommended unless you’re a die hard nerd as it is very bleak) for a selection of the problems of colonizing other worlds. We’re going to face problems of dazzling complexity during the colonization of Mars and people WILL die. For the first few decades people will basically be living inside of submarines. But now that we have a human being dedicated to that vision who approaches problems with an attitude that problems are there to be solved, it WILL happen. Those problems WILL be solved. And humanity WILL find its place off this world, starting with the planets of our solar system.

Holy shit.

I wish there was something more I could do to help Elon Musk succeed and I would like to press that drive onto the few of you who are reading this. I plan to buy a Model 3 as soon as it’s affordable for me to do so. I would have gotten solar panels but they’re not available in my area yet. I’ve even written a few Mars stories set in the near future, where Space X plays prominent and powerful roles and I’m submitting them to contests. This makes me happy in ways I can hardly even describe.

No Words

I wrote a long thing about the Paris and Beirut attacks. I took it down shortly after publishing. If you saw it, I took it down because I couldn’t find words that didn’t feel hollow. I think any words of mine are kind of meaningless at this point. I also don’t really know what to do that’s of any use so I figure it’s better to just not say anything and do something when it comes time to do something.

There are people with things to say though. For example, this is a great piece my Maajid Nawaz.

In addition, a father in Beirut threw himself at a suicide bomber trying to save his child. He failed at that, but he did save other people.

What the hell does some guy in Idaho have to say to that? I wish it had never happened. I wish he’d lived and his daughter had lived. I wish those people in Paris went home with their families and loved ones. Doesn’t change a damn thing but that’s how I feel.

I’ll also add, in case this somehow worms it’s way into your subconscious: If an evil person comes for treasure, give them the treasure. You can always get more later and it’s not worth your life. But if an evil person comes for blood, never stop fighting. Throw yourself at them. Gouge out their eyes. Turn, for a moment, into a vicious animal with no conception of good or evil. That might be the only way you or anyone else has of making it out alive.

And I hope you never have to do that.


I just finished a rough draft of a short story and I’m going to submit it to a contest. It’s quite good and I like it. I was going to recommend some books here but I’ll save that for a week from now so it’s not connected to this.

Quietly Beautiful Things

I once read a testimonial from a subscriber to National Geographic magazine who found himself stuck in an active War Zone. As we can all agree, this was unfortunate. More unfortunate, he was later captured by soldiers.

After some unkind tossing about, threats of death, etc, the soldiers got around to searching his wallet for valuables. Here, there was a bit of luck, for they chanced upon his National Geographic Society card.

Confusing him as someone who worked for the magazine rather than a lowly subscriber, the soldiers became immediately friendly and announced that he represented the only group of people in the history of the world who had never tried to pillage their country for its natural resources.

He was released, unharmed.

That is the sort of reputation an organization can achieve only through years of blood, sweat and tears and devotion solely to the truth.

About a week ago, National Geographic became a Fox property and its editorial staff was laid off. It is unlikely in the extreme that the magazine will survive the acquisition in any non-sensationalized form. Rather than finding myself angry, I instead find myself thinking “oh, of course.” National Geographic magazine was a quietly beautiful thing, taken for granted and like all quietly beautiful things you never really know how much you loved it until it was gone.

In cynical moments I don’t think we live in an age that’s good enough for National Geographic anymore. Our age of social media, twenty-four hour news networks and feelings over facts has no place for National Geographic magazine as it was. In some ways, it was the last print publication that actually tried to report on things.

Reporting in the modern age is all about sides and political narratives, clips and soundbites. It goes right around your higher nature and aims right at the unresolved issues you have with your mother and/or father and exploits the ways that makes you emotionally susceptible to propaganda and advertising. Modern media certainly has no time to seek out the subtle breath-taking beauty of an Afghani girl’s sad green eyes or for taking long ponderous journeys through exotic locales that offer a thousand questions about what the world is and where it’s going but don’t wrap it all up into a pro-conservative/pro-liberal package.

I’ll miss National Geographic the way it was, and I hope I have more appreciation for the next quietly beautiful thing that comes along.


There is no intimacy without vulnerability.

It took me quite a long time to understand that. I’ve always been good at appreciating art or considering complex scientific principles. Things, in other words. I am excellent at things. One of the best. I am less good with people.

For most of my life if I found myself getting too close or too attached to someone I’d push them away and make sure I never spoke to them ever again. I’d react to the words “I love you” like most people would react to viable death threats. Then I’d go do something that hurt so much that I wouldn’t have to look at who I was and what I was doing to myself…

Then the unfortunate circumstances of a few years ago happened and I thought to myself: Nothing could ever hurt me more than this and if anything like this happens again I won’t have anywhere else to go other than where I’ve gone.

Change is hard and slow and there’s a lot of backsliding. And I felt small in the ways you can only feel small when you’re doing things you’re not very good at. And I thought what reward could there be for this, that makes it worth it? I’ll never be as good at being human as other people. It’ll never click for me.

During a date, I found Red Robin too overwhelming and couldn’t stop shaking after I got home. I always seem to be able to make it out of the crowd before my adrenaline crashes. So there I was, trembling, and feeling stupid for being unmanned by Red Robin. Intellectually, I know most people with PTSD are other people with childhood trauma but Jesus is it hard to believe, even to yourself, that it’s okay to be freaked out by too much noise and Towering Onion Rings.

Crucially, however, I didn’t walk off into the night by myself. In the past I did this so I could go hide behind a tree somewhere until I stopped shaking where it would be safe to drive. I’d had too much therapy by that time to do this again. My date was with me as I got home and forgot to turn off my car after parking it in my garage. As I stammered and strained to be able to hear things. As I apologized and explained that I get overwhelmed by crowds of people. As I realized I felt safe doing this in front of her and that I was in love.

And I put my head in her lap and she stroked my hair and I didn’t need to tremble anymore and that was a finer thing than any book or theory I ever read.

Checking In

Tomorrow Land

What a movie!

The positivism. The gung-ho, get-it-done attitude. The absolute refusal to give-up. Very much appreciated as I tend toward the bleak and I need a bit of optimism to balance me out. Very much recommended if you aren’t completely dead inside and have a little bit of spark left for what it was like to be a child and believe anything was possible.

The Martian


Shut up and go see it right now.

Other than for the plot-essential density of the Martian atmosphere everything in this movie was super accurate. Great. Fantastic. Daring. Same as above, it really demonstrated that you have to CARE and TRY and THINK. Not enough movies get that critical mixture right. Caring AND Trying AND thinking. You have to do all three.

Go see these movies.

They really helped me believe in the future.

Also, google the new Tesla. That car also makes me believe in the future. That thing is driving itself for the most part. Finally starting to feel like the year 2000.


That last thing I wrote was a bit preachy but one of the rules I use for trying to decide what is or is not correct on a social level is: “Does this embarrass the species in front of aliens?”

Try it out.

I do it all of the time. Then I try to do the thing that will allow the following exchange:

ALIEN MOM/DAD/POD THING: Xulum, why couldn’t you just study warp-engineering like your brother/sister/pod-kin, Zootfin! I didn’t spend fifty solar revolutions in a fusion mine for my son/daughter/pod-spring to become, literally and very hilariously in this context, an anthropologist!

XULUM: Today, Mom/Dad/Pod Thing, the Humans did something truly, breathtakingly beautiful.


Will not be out this Halloween.

I could apologize for this, but will not.

There’s no way I could finish them and have them be decent. “Family of Fang and Claw” is basically a novel of short-stories that interconnect (combined length would be about all of my available short-fiction to date, maybe a smidge longer, so no wonder I couldn’t finish). It concerns a family of dimension-traveling monsters that try to destroy the boundaries between the worlds. Somewhat like the Lovecraft Universe, but with an anthropocentric twist. Human beings are what keep the barriers in place and the Family tries to break the barriers by tearing apart humanity.

Some of the stories will be named after members of the Family, who all have regular names and then also evil names such as:

The Joy of Breaking Beautiful Things

The Hate You Feel for Those Who Love You

The Sin that Stains the World

The Worship of Wickedness

Other, non-name, stories include:

The Wound in the World

The Order of Edges

The Door of the Dark

Howler’s Haunting

The Gateway God

A bit alliterative but I’m happy with what I have right now but it’s time to shelve it. Last year I had the idea for some stories. This year I figured out they all connect and how and started all of them. But, lo that it is distant, the Halloween “feeling” is leaving me.

I’m trying re-gear and get back in the novel, which is probably better for my overall enthusiasm as well. The horror stories take me into a dark place which is difficult as the girlfriend (who is bubbly and happy and keeps the dark at bay) will not return for some months.

It’s cathartic to go look at the darkness for a while, but it’s not fun to live there.


In sixth grade, the store ran out of shoes that fit me. Or rather, the store ran out of a “selection” of shoes that fit me. This was before e-commerce, so I more or less had to walk into only shoe store in town and say “What do you have in a thirteen?” and then wait for them to show me the white New Balances shoe I wore for the rest of the time I lived in Aberdeen. At one time I must’ve had about six pairs of that same shoe at different stages of age and decay.

Around the same time my feet Hobbit’ed, I stopped being able to find ANY hat that would fit my head. Even when asking a salesperson to “check in the back.” Once, at the sawmill, a coworker put on my hardhat by accident and it fell down around their eyes. On me, the same hardhat looked like one of those helmets they give to kids to reshape their skulls.

The circumference of my head is about twenty-five inches. Hat sizes max out at just under two feet. If I put on a baseball hat, it looks like I’m wearing a yarmulke with a brim. My father jokingly calls refers to my plight as “The Buffalo Head.” However, he also once literally tried pounding a football helmet on my head with a small sledge hammer to show me that “I could definitely play sports if I just tried.”

I should have seen this most recent development coming, as I’ve also never been able to find gloves that fit. I mean, when I worked in a lab my hands kept bursting out of the latex gloves they provided like I was transforming into the Incredible Hulk. It happened every time I tried to grab something. Now, it turns out, they also don’t make that many rings in my size.

I kept googling ring-size charts for men and couldn’t find even a single chart that went up to my size. And this is my ring finger. It’s not my middle finger. Or my thumbs. It’s like the second smallest finger I have! Looks like I’ll have to go to a jewelry store to get it measured as I’m literally in uncharted territory.

Draw your own conclusions from that last bit.


If you feel truly down in the dumps, like nothing could ever make the world right: Go see a therapist. Find a name right now. Book an appointment as soon as you can and just go. Tell them whatever you’re feeling no matter how embarrassing or unflattering it may be. And then just give it time.

It’s worked for me and I used to write short-fiction about the genitals of semi-famous celebrities learning Karate and sword fighting other genitals.

The Future

I hate the term “Mixed Race.”

It’s not only outdated, it never actually meant anything in the first place. What’s being mixed? What’s a race? How is race so elemental that after you mix it, the result doesn’t get to have its own identity?

It needs to be replaced.

Here’s why:

1. It gives credence to the idea that a persons primary identity exists in their melanin content, the straightness or curliness of their hair, and/or the shape of their eyes.

Apart from the fact that our brains are super-computers specifically designed to notice these things, they are of no importance in the eyes of the universe.

2. On that same front, it’s an inter-species embarrassment.

The term “mixed-race” makes no intuitive sense, once you remove the qualifier of human from intuition. Imagine for a moment what alien anthropologists think when they study us. Imagine that they have a great big alien college several light years away where they try to figure out all the reasons that humans murder each other.

I imagine one of the alien professors figured out some time ago (to the incredulous gasp-analogues of the rest of its species) that if you filtered the electromagnetic emissions from a human being so you could only look at 390nm to 700nm (the visible spectrum, which by the way is about as thick as if you sliced the thickness of a credit card into 1,850 sheets, on a spectrum several kilometers long) that people were fighting and killing each other based on these emissions.

Furthermore, imagine their confusion when the professor explains that if two people with slightly different emissions had a child with still slightly more different emissions that this would be considered a child without a pure identity of their own. If you think about it, and remove your specific biases, that’s really what it means.

3. You have enough people trying to tell you who you are, anyway.

Or trying to vampire you into being what they think you should be. Or playing into your fears of being all alone if you don’t be what they want. You’ve got one life to figure out who you are and who you want to be and you don’t need someone else dumping all of their emotional bullshit on you.

4. There’s been enough history for us to know that race is temporary, anyway.

One day there will be a museum called “The History of Racisms.” In this museum, there will be a bunch of statues of cavemen with different shaped foreheads throwing rocks at each other. Then, there will be statues of tribes with different clothing throwing spears at each other. So on and so forth, all the way up until you’ve got some statues covered in different kinds of plaid holding bagpipes stabbing each other with swords.

The tour guide, will explain that “Yes, the MacDonalds and the Campbells killed each other and barely thought of one another as human. Later, after their kids had sex with each other, they became one people and assumed the title of ‘Scottish.’ Some of these people later went to America, where together with the descendants of the Western European population, they all had sex with each other and combined to become something called ‘White People.’ No, funnily enough, they did not consider themselves to be ‘mixed-race.’ We can find no instances in history where any large group has ever thought of themselves as ‘mixed-race’ for a very long period of time. Generally, after a time, they assume a new name and then agree with each other that things have always been that way.”

5. It’s an archaic form of racism.

Racism is probably always going to be around in some capacity, but some forms will always be more relevant than others. Irish racism is pretty much dead. Black racism is very much alive. In a few thousand years, these will be forgotten, and people will probably speak Enginese and laugh at people eating Korean Tacos and say “That is such a Chimexican thing to do.”

My hometown is backwards. It’s like a wildlife preserve for downtrodden white people. We have racists there who are still racist against things that no one else has been racist about for two hundred years. There’s an old guy in my hometown who is legitimately still racist against Polish people. He thinks they’re all idiots. Still. In the year 2015.

At a certain point, it’s not even hurtful. It’s just embarrassing.

Don’t be that guy.

6. We owe it to our children to pass on a better world.

Colonialism was terrible. Perhaps the greatest wound of modernity. It’s a shame that we now have a culture where we tie the sins of Colonialism into scientific development, the hope of democratic republics and all the other positive aspects of the Enlightenment, but those wounds run deep. And the traditional oppressors have hardly failed to bear fruit into the present.

The wounds run so deep that at first there doesn’t seem to be any way to overcome them.

Except the hope that by billions of individual acts of love, forgiveness, acceptance and compromise the bloodlines of oppressors and oppressed will cross into a new people whose heredity is love, courage and belief in the future. Children who, if lacking the certainty of such freedom, have at least the hope to transcend the sins of the past.

All that leads me to propose the following: Replace “Mixed Race” with “The Future.” Name a people what they are, by the common threads which bind them together. These children are the Future.

We focus so much on war that we forget to examine the quiet and continuous process by which we adapt to overcome the obstacles in our path. We’re changing, already, very slowly and every day. All over the world.

Look at what our children will be.

Ain’t they beautiful?

No Interesting Information

I have been back from my road trip for a while, but now I am even MORE back in the sense that I have time to write an update. I’ll have to summon all my courage though because my girlfriend is back home for the next few months and now every time something makes a noise in the middle of the night I suddenly jolt and say “Who’s there?!?” It is the middle of the night right now, in case it wasn’t obvious from the context of that previous sentence. Also, I’m not a coward, I just have a hard time caring enough about my own life to defend it against hypothetical invaders so I’d rather not be bothered.

Anyway? What’s new? I put a needless question mark after anyway. That was exciting. You? Anyway? Writing has been slow. I intend to hit that a lot harder the next few days. Had a few family emergencies that stalled production but I’ll hit it harder. Everyone is okay.

It occurs to me I should try and go write actual paying words now.

I’ll have more exciting news for everyone that has been reading me for a super long time waiting for a happy ending in about four or so months.


I’m Off for a Bit


I’m going on a road trip for the next several days and with prep I didn’t have any time to write an update. Other than for this one. So enjoy!

I spent most of my time the last week working on “Family of Fang and Claw” stories. I’d be very short on time if I tried to publish them this October so I’m thinking it might be next year. It’s very important to me they all be at the highest possible quality.  Although that might be a false perception on my part since I’ve spent more time lately working on the novella length stories than the ones that will only be between 2-4k.

After October, wherever I am, I’m dumping those and putting energy back into the novel. If I don’t finish, I’ll pick up writing on those again around late August. The start of autumn always makes me feel like writing horror stories.

Also, I bought some WWII posters to hang in my house in my ongoing strategy of telling myself to just man-up and do things instead of moping about contemplating eternity. You can buy those and other ones like it here if you want. Some of them make me laugh, such as the one of a girl wearing a sailor uniform saying “Gee! I wish I was a boy! I’d join the Navy!” and then at the bottom it says “Be a Man and Do It!” It makes me think complicated thoughts about how we are a much better society now than we were then in a innumerable ways… but I sometimes wonder if we could ever hope to win in a conflict on the scale of WWII with the way we are now.


Here’s a snippet I wrote out of boredom trying to juice myself up. I in no way ever intend to finish it. I was trying to remind myself not to be boring.


Every twig, branch and thorn bush had its chance at me as I tumbled down the hill. My mouth kissed a rock and it sliced my top lip open between my front teeth, chipping both and causing me to choke on what little air hadn’t been knocked out of me. I hit the road at the bottom of the bluff with a rolling series of thuds, the hot pavement pan-searing every side of me as I came to a stop.


Had to get up. Had to flex every muscle in my stomach and get up. Even when those muscles were torn. Felt blood leak out of a hundred places in me that the thorn bushes had cut open. Guess the pan-searing hadn’t locked in the juices. I’ll remember that the next time I see a steak advertisement.

Pterodactyls don’t give medical handicaps though. Especially when they’ve been animated by an alien zombie virus super weapon. So I staggered on.

I opened one swollen eye, squinting against the noon sun and looked around for Mavis. I saw a red splotch a ways ahead where the incline of the hill wasn’t really there at all and I figured that was her.

Well, I hadn’t known her that long anyway.


One swollen foot in front of the other, each toe full of hurt and wanting to burst like a zit, I ran like hell, hot wind making me sweat until I was slick all over with blood and saline. There was a tunnel up ahead, maybe two hundred yards. Like one of those roadrunner Looney-Tunes tunnels.

I didn’t think there was any sprinting in me, but since I was too hurt to think, it turned out there was. It was only when my right arm started flopping every which way that I realized it had come out of socket. I held it close with my left, screaming bloody murder the whole time. It helped and besides, from all the flapping I heard, there was no way that fucking bird wasn’t bearing down on me.

I almost tripped over my shotgun, completely stupefied that it had somehow made it down the cliff ahead of me. Spent most of the strength I had bending over to pick it up. All I got for my trouble was the stock. The barrel was still on the ground.

Well, it wouldn’t have killed a zombie pterodactyl anyway.

I stumbled, falling on my out-of-socket shoulder which was so painful I saw black for a moment. And then I saw light again, except I realized it was the gleam of a semi’s hood ornament coming through the tunnel I’d been about to run into.

I rolled into the middle of the street, keeping low. I couldn’t let some good Samaritan ruin this. I put the ‘dactyl call to my lips and blew hard. Hard as I’d ever blown. I had to get this timed just right.

I saw the ‘dactyl swoop around and make a line for me. Looked like old leather and shit done up in scales and teeth. I laid perfectly flat, counting on a slight incline in the road. I put the ‘dactyl call back to my lips and blew again. This time I used a finger to seal the hole in my lips so I got a louder call.

The semi’s engines roared ever louder. I laid ever more still and prayed ever harder.

The ‘dactyl was only a few feet above me when shade covered me and the call was knocked from my lips. I was back in the sun again in seconds, more pan-searing on my back and butt. But when I finally managed to do a sit-up I saw a confused truck driver getting out of his cabin and I saw a bunch of green slime all over the road and I smiled.

My name is Guadalupe Maria Santiago.

I’m a Fallen Angel and I fight Extraterrestrials.

This is my story.



I Don’t Even Know What This is About

Howdy all, just checking in! Hope life is well, etc etc. Or, if you’re cursed by a lack of the sort of experiences that let you appreciate wellness, I hope you get a few appropriate bumps in the road. Whatever you need.


Putting the novel on the back-burner a bit and working on some horror stories. I need to manage my energy level and excitement and that’s what I’m doing. I’m working on a story that I’m very excited by that is told “Fairy Tale” style with modern characters in a gothic boy’s school setting. A bit spoofy but mostly violent action-packed FUN, which will help break up some of the bleak ones a bit more.

I’m hoping to finish 13 stories for the collection because… y’know, Halloween. Some of these stories are ridiculously messed up. If not this Halloween, then the next. Important thing is to get it completely right.

I had the idea for the story I’m working on now while watching “Insidious 2” with the girlfriend. She’s very jumpy and I’m very sighy. While earlier that day I cried while watching “Polyanna” (because I am dead inside to everything but the naive innocence of children) every time the ghoul jumped out on the screen I’d just sigh while Amanda was crawling up my arm. That’s not scary to me.

Scary is when someone gives up on living and stops caring and can’t feel anything. Scary is going through your whole life like you’re asleep. Scary is being in the thrall of a maniac and having to pretend everything is normal. Scary is the people who love you turning out to be monsters. Scary is finding out that YOU were the monster.

I don’t get scared by someone with a burlap sack on their face.

I get scared of the way I feel when someone with a burlap sack on their face is giving me a reason to let loose.

There’s only one thing I’m afraid of in the dark and it’s me.

I’m hoping to bring some of that to the stories.


I no longer have a twitter account.

It was making me too angry.

Being dead inside, I pretty much only have one button: People being bad to kids. Or not protecting kids. Or even abstractly making up all sorts of bullshit excuses about how kids aren’t kids. And it makes me so angry that I… well, you know how people always say they’re so angry they’ll do something and then they never do?

I’m not that guy.

If I worked in a giant skyscraper and was told the super powerful billionaire at the very top had hurt a child, but was getting away with it for “reasons,” then while everyone else would be expressing disdain at the water-cooler I’d be walking to the elevator. Several minutes later, my coworkers would look over to the window and see the billionaire at the top of the skyscraper flapping past. And after that I wouldn’t much care what happened. Which sounds like one of those things that dudes say to sound tough, but which having seen people die I can attest is not really that cool a thing.

It’s not right to be angry enough to strangle the life out of someone even if they pretty much deserve it. Not when you know what it means to strangle the life out of someone. There are some elements of the whole Hugo fiasco that involve people being shitty to kids (Sad Puppies are the good guys in this part of the thing) and it makes me think some not good thoughts about people.

I’m really only on twitter to hear about book releases. I’m not popular enough anymore for there to be any kind of demand, so twitter is just for my personal use. So in that context it makes seeing that stuff unavoidable. I decided today that I’d rather not have to see it at all. Seeing it makes me chomp at the bit to DO something and I don’t think I could be a good man and do anything relevant so I’m just going to not have a twitter.


Rainbows, unicorns and lollipops now eh?

I’ll just close by saying it’s important to try to be a good person even when you’re really psychotically angry and choose the better path. Because even if it’s only “technically” wrong to kill someone that still makes it wrong and you can’t plead “They had it coming” before a judge. Right is right. Do the right thing.


I’m so tired.

Me! With Updates!

Well, I’ve certainly failed to update the blog in recent days. The cost of living I suppose. Anyhow, I woke up at 3am and couldn’t go back to sleep so I figured I’d fill you in on the latest happenings.

First, I’m going to make some toast with some blackberry jam and a couple of eggs. I’ll be right back.

Never mind, I had cold vegetable pizza instead. I didn’t want to wake the girlfriend making eggs. She’s a light sleeper.

These are the kind of hard-hitting facts you get from me when I blog at 3am.

Progress on the novel is still slow. I haven’t really been able to get on my laptop much at all in recent days so all writing has slowed in general. I’m still trying to rework the first act and put more action in there. Going straight into the second act without fixing the first would mean compounding errors. And I need something to grip the attention through the first act. I’ve got a half-shaped prologue and first few chapters but everything else is embarrassingly incomplete. I’ll keep grinding away.

I want this to sparkle like a “Holy Shit” diamond. Meaning, a diamond so wonderful it makes you say “Holy Shit.” Which to me is a pretty high standard since I once saw the Hope Diamond and didn’t find it all that impressive and was much more taken by a round quartz orb from ancient China that was probably only worth $11.

Also poking at some of those horror shorts I did a while back. They’re all connected and I still want to release that at some point. Title would be “The Family of Fang and Claw.” Halloween would be the ideal time, of course but if I can’t get it done by this Halloween I can do it by the next. The problem is that they’re all seriously disturbing and it makes me feel weird to write them. I wrote one involving elder abuse and as soon as I walked out of my office, my girlfriend immediately said “What’s wrong?” and I just sort of sighed and shrugged. So progress there has been slow as well.

I’m trying to write more active stories as I realize that’s something I’ve been afraid to do for some reason. ACTION, people! ACTION!

No more malaise stories.

Gonna punch a monster in the face.

Also, my brother had a baby. Gorgeous baby girl. Makes my heart warm to think about. The world, huh?


“Nightly Knocks on the Door of a Doctor” was an effort to teach myself to imply more than the immediate events described. Hope I succeeded. It made Nare cry and that’s pretty hard to do as her heart is formed of cold black iron. I want to be as good at implying “world” stories as I am at telling stories of the world if that makes sense. I think with Fantasy that’s essential to the setting. Robert Jordan was a master of that. So is Brandon Sanderson. So is George RR Martin.

Learn from the best!

One day I want to have a sprawling series of books all set in the Tide World and to live in Oregon by the coast, only to be killed in the Cascadia earthquake before I’m able to complete the series. Or, y’know, I could just learn to write romance and buy an island and get killed by a tsunami there. The important thing is to own land near water, be successful and make lots of money, and then drown tragically.

Anyhow, hope you liked that story.

Cathulu just brought a mouse in the house and I had to run all over trying to pick it up and take it back outside. Saved it right before she swallowed it, and now it’s on my front porch in shock, probably.


I kind of feel about SFF Fandom the way I feel about my family, which is that there’s a lot of love there coupled with an even larger amount of embarrassment and just general jaw-dropping moments of “What the eff are you doing? What the hell made you think that would be a good idea? Couldn’t you have just tried to get along?”

To steal a line from Sam Sykes, the Hugo Award is like that weird thing your grandma owned that you never really cared about that much, but which your mom and dad fought with all of your aunts and uncles about inheriting. Have you ever seen an Avon Pheasant? The Hugo Award is like an Avon Pheasant, in that it’s a status symbol which doesn’t belong to the modern age and you can kind of sort of see what the allure used to be. But that doesn’t stop your aunt and uncle from talking shit to each other when they’re bickering about who should have it.

To me anyway. I’m very much of the school that the work is its own reward. The hardship endured for the accomplishment is what gives it meaning, etc.

I realize that’s a dick thing to say because it takes away from winners of the award. But if someone showed me a whole case full of Hugos, I’d have the same emotional reaction as if I saw a case full of Avon Pheasants. I would say “Oh, that’s lovely” and quickly move on with discussing other things. It’s certainly not something I’d fight to defend, or be upset over someone else having. But I do care about people caring about things because hurt feelings can bring out some real ugliness.

There was a huge conflict over the Hugos this year. As my girlfriend tends to note, I don’t really get that excited about much. If it’s not a war crime, I can’t muster much outrage and feel that most things can be resolved by people talking and assuming positive intent and forgiveness. Obviously, I really like Larry Correia but I also like John Scalzi and pretty much all of the other people involved (there are a couple people I wouldn’t leave alone with a kid or a woman, which is the worst thing I know to say about someone).

George RR Martin in particular went out of his way to look after people he perceived as getting shafted, which is what I think doing the right thing is all about. And if that Avon Pheasant meant a lot of them and they were hurt, then I’m damn glad he took the time. He didn’t have to do anything, but he did, and that’s awesome and commendable. Also, I don’t know if it’s just me, but from that description it seems way better to lose a Hugo than to win one. I mean, I’d rather spray whipped cream all over George RR Martin and get drunk than have to wander around awkwardly holding a rocket-ship penis thing and smiling uncomfortably in photographs. You’ve never seen someone uncomfortably smile until you’ve seen me try to pretend I’m comfortable in crowds.

I don’t really agree with what anyone in SFF Fandom has to say that often (you can really tell the SFF Fandom grew out of people reading stories about Chosen Ones and Good vs Evil in their formative years) but I like to hear a multitude of voices. I prefer a world in which people are arguing rather than a world in which no one talks at all. I also don’t believe professing to believe in something immediately transforms all of your actions into correct and virtuous actions, or that by trying to do right a person becomes free from human foibles.

There’s a lot of problems in the world and I think the only way the problems get solved is if people pick the ones that are the most important to them and really focus in. While, also, simultaneously recognizing the fact that it’s important for other people to think other things are important so other shit gets taken care of.

I hope it gets figured out in future years. Hard to see how. Wish someone would go full Ghandi on it.

What I mean, is that if this can happen, there’s really no excuse for everyone not to sit down at a Denny’s at some point (I say Denny’s, because it’s impossible to have any kind of delusions of grandeur inside of a Denny’s, because Denny’s strips you down to your basic most true self, shows your the darkest reflection of humankind, and leaves nothing over for bombast when you’re halfway through a Grand Slam and thinking about all of your poor life choices) and talk shit out with the intent of making things livable for everyone.

Anyway, that ended up being longer than I thought. I’ve been following the “controversy” pretty regularly (my girlfriend refers to it as “the Internet Hate”) since it broke out and just wish there was some kind of “Peace Talk.” Avon Pheasants shouldn’t dehumanize people.

Nightly Knocks on the Door of a Doctor


At night, no common person in common circumstances knocked on the door of a doctor. For only in matters of life and death, when hours and heartbeats grew precious, did a common person dare such an expense. That winter night, the knocking penetrated the crisp cold air of the Old Neighborhood like thunder.


Doctor Gapato snored, unperturbed.


The knocking came again, echoing down silent streets and quiet alleyways. Still asleep, Doctor Gapato turned over in his bed and put his pillow over his ears. In a dream, he murmured a few words of prescription and snuggled deeper into his blankets. Somewhere, a cat meowed. Somewhere else, a dog barked.


The knocking came again.


Finally, his wife’s finger, hard as steel, stabbed him in the ribs like a saber.


“Gapato!” Vidria hissed, “Go see who it is! If you wait till they wake the baby, I swear you’ll need a doctor yourself!”


Doctor Gapato tried to snore one last time, but Vidria’s finger struck in a dozen places, landing a flurry of blows like a master swordsman. He hiccupped and came suddenly awake.


“Yes dear,” murmured Gapato.


Gapato stood, half-asleep. He changed from out of his nightclothes into his fine pants, his fine shirt and his fine coat. He grabbed his medical bag from out of his closet. He grabbed a lantern and lit it, taking a moment to smooth his hair and moustaches in a hallway mirror. His face was hale and hearty, his beard sleek and black.


Gapato was halfway down the steps when his visitor found the door knocker. The knocker clanged like falling bells. The baby cried a moment later and Vidria cursed the curses a proper lady could only curse in the early hours between sunset and sunrise when the part of the mind able to judge propriety could not be woken.


When Gapato reached the door and opened it, he was the picture of professionalism.


“How may I be of assistance?” he asked.


A young boy stood in the snow, hat in hand. He had the hardened look of a gang-runner, with his bright sash of colors to go with the bruises on his face, but there were tears in his eyes all the same. Gapato’s flushed with relief. The gangs were said to always pay on time and he hadn’t wanted to worry Vidria about their finances.


“My poppa sir, it is his stomach. I tried for Doctor Taotista, but he is gone away. I know not where, or I would not trouble you. They say it is his app… appendis? I cannot say the word! Please hurry, sir. My family does not have much, but what we have we will give to you!” the boy flashed three silver coins, tarnished black.


Doctor Gapato bit his lower lip, bent his knee and put a reassuring hand on the boy’s shoulder. The boy seemed so small there. So frail. Under the hem of the boy’s collar, Gapato saw a gang tattoo. What had this young man seen? What had his life been like up to this point?


For that matter, how much did he and Vidria owe the grocer?


In a deft motion, Gapato snatched the coins and pocketed them.


“Young man, you have reached the finest surgeon in this city. I have just the thing to treat your poppa. Wait one moment, I will be back and then you will show me the way.”


Gapato left the boy at the door. He hurriedly and quietly made way to his library, pulled out a medical text and flipped through the pages. The lantern light flickered and important words seemed to be eaten by the shadow of the spine. Gapato had graduated from medical school less than three months ago. He had assisted with removing an appendix twice. One of those times had been on a cadaver. Gapato had never performed the procedure by himself. He read through the procedure twice before realizing he had not put on his spectacles. When he did so, the words began to make much more sense. His hands trembled only slightly when he placed the book back on the shelf.


It was Gapato’s first night visit since moving to the Old Neighborhood. He would have to celebrate later. It must mean the community was finally accepting him.


Later, when Gapato ran through the dark, following the boy and trying not to slip on the ice he reflected that he was so preoccupied trying to commit the procedure to memory that he would not be able to find his way home.




“Poppa! A woman! A woman, poppa!”


Little Hector jumped in the middle of the bed, shouting at the ceiling. Vidria slept unperturbed, her eyes covered with a blue silken mask Gapato had bought her on their anniversary, and one perfect tanned hand laying across her pregnant stomach. Gapato, knowing that Hector would appear one way or another, had merely waited until the last moment to get out of bed.


“Did you hear, poppa? There is a woman! A woman has come, poppa!”


Hector was now leaning over Gapato in the manner of small children and fiddling with his father’s earlobes. Finally, Hector whispered with uncomfortable, close moistness into his father’s ear.


“She said she is having a baby right now and something is wrong.” Gapato stared at the ceiling, wondering what it was he had been dreaming about. These days, it seemed he had dreams of uninterrupted sleep. How tired did a man have to be to dream of sleep?


“She said she might have the baby right now on our steps, poppa!” Hector screamed in Gapato’s ear.


Gapato bolted upright, throwing on his clothes in a blur of lace and buttons. Seconds later, he walked toward his door. Hector made to run after him and in one deft move Gapato picked up his medical bag, spun, picked up Hector and threw the child at his mother on the bed. Hector laughed the entire way. Still asleep, Vidria’s arm snaked out from under the blankets and grabbed the excited boy and held him pinned to the bed where he could not interfere.


No longer needing a mirror, Gapato walked down the steps of his home lighting lanterns as he went and straightening his hair.


He found the woman in the entryway, as pregnant as Vidria.


“How far along?” he asked.


Gapato took a bottle of alcohol from his bag and splashed it on his hands.


“Eight months,” the woman said.


Gapato nodded, giving her room to say more.


The woman took a moment to stare at some of Hector’s toys and a pile of unwashed laundry and hesitated. She looked back at the door and her hands again found her stomach. Gapato rolled his eyes in the darkness. He wondered what this woman’s house would look like if he barged into it unannounced in the middle of the night.


“I went looking for my midwife. I see Mother Loras, but she was gone and the father-”


The woman stopped and her face spasmed and her breath grew short.


“May I feel?” asked Gapato.


Gapato pointed to her dress.


“Certainly not! I am a lady! I keep the faith! I’m not some-”


“Do not knock at my door at this hour and not let my husband do his job!” Vidria shouted from upstairs. Between each word lay a thousand implied threats.


The young lady breathed hotly, but moved her hands aside in acquiescence. Gapato felt along her stomach, trying to remember what he knew of childbirth. He pressed hard enough to cause pain, but still he pressed. Finally, he realized that the baby was positioned the wrong way.


“Perhaps you could give me something to delay the birth? I should have another month,” the woman asked.


Gapato shook his head.


“You are having this child now. It is not for you or me to say otherwise. Drink this.”


Gapato gave her what remained of the alcohol he’d used to clean his hands.


“Mother Loras said drink was not good for the child.”


“You will need it,” Gapato insisted.


Generally, when a child was born, Gapato had to do no more than catch the infant and suppress his guilt at taking credit for the terrible labor the mother had endured. That night, he worked for hours, sweating, shoving, reaching inside of places out of medical necessity. He was covered with sweat. Eventually, Vidria came down to help. They pushed and pulled for an hour. Then they sent Hector to fetch three neighbors.


Madame Beluccios, who was well into her seventies and had eight children of her own, declared after an hour they were bringing a giant into the world. Gapato was thankful she was there, for he did not think he could ever have found the words to do what was necessary. As Gapato, Vidria and the two male neighbors, who were staring very hard at the ceiling, all pushed on the visitor’s stomach, Madame Beluccios guided Hector’s tiny hands into a place Gapato had been hoping would remain a mystery to him for at least another several years.


“But… but, that is no! That is a no!” gasped Hector.


Gapato rushed to his son’s side.


“When it is life or death, my son, then there is nothing too embarrassing not to consider. After this is done and we are rested, we must thank Madame Beluccios for teaching this to us. Now, feel for the baby. And grab him! Grab him for his life, and his mother, for that is what is at stake!”


Vidra coached the mother through the breathing exercises she knew. The woman lay half-dead with exhaustion. Finally, by description alone, Gapato told Hector how to move the cord away from the neck before it could strangle the child. Then, they grabbed the infant and pulled. Feet appeared, then a stomach and finally shoulders. The baby cried. The mother cried. Everyone cried. Gapato, too, wanted to cry but first he washed his and Hector’s hands. He was, after all, a doctor.


“Today my son, I see you on your way to being a man and I am proud of you. You will save many lives and the nation of Tall will have a fine healer in you. It is always better to save a life than to take one.”




The knocker banged against the door once.


“Gapato-” Vidria hissed, suckling their third and newest infant to her breast. A girl, a precious princess, Ismerelda.


“I know dear, a few more moments please. It is our first daughter, after all,” whispered Gapato, turning over in bed to stroke a lock of his daughter’s black hair..


“I will kill you!” an unknown woman shrieked.


“Hector! Tell them I will be down shortly!” Gapato sprang to his feet before Vidria’s finger had a chance to even touch him. Somewhere around the third step from the bottom floor he woke up and found his medicine bag and clothes all properly arrayed and smiled. One day he would not even smile at his growing mastery and on that day there would be almost nothing left to learn.


Hector held a cloth to a man’s face with one hand. With his other hand, and one of his feet, he fended off a woman with a knife. Laranso stood in a corner, only ten years old, and not knowing what to do.


“You bastard! With my sister! My own flesh and blood!” the woman spit.


Gapato caught her spit with a handkerchief and put on his most professional face.


“Thank you so much for seeking us out in your time of need. You have done everything correctly, but I see you yourself are in great distress. Take this and please fetch a Priest. I fear your husband might not be long for this world.”


In a series of motions as elaborate as a dance, Gapato gave the woman a tranquilizer, tilted the cup upward so she had no choice but to drink it, and squeezed her husband’s face wound hard enough that he screamed. The idiot had been protesting that he was only bleeding, which while true, was not the kind of truth that would stop his wife from trying to murder him. Just as quickly, Gapato cleaned the wound with alcohol, eliciting another series of screams, and brought out his scariest needle to begin stitching the cut. It was this action that caused the woman to break into tears, drop her knife, and run away.


Gapato smiled at Hector and Laranso who looked at him with awe. He could recall having similar feelings about his own father and it felt right that the cycle had continued. Tonight was a good night.


Gapato finished stitching the man’s face, waited for the man to pass out from the pain, and wrote a receipt which he then put in the man’s purse after subtracting an appropriate number of coin. He took these coins down to the cellar where he removed a wine bottle from a rack to reveal a hidden compartment full of coins.


“One day, you will both go to the Academy and have a proper education,” Gapato said, “and you will go to the finest houses in Newheart and treat men and women of great accomplishments.”


“Will they teach me such things as you did tonight, papa?” asked Laranso.


“Will they teach us honor and duty and to always help those in need?” asked Hector?


“Some things, only life can teach you. You will learn those things in time. But I also hope your life will teach more about what is the appropriate cutlery to use at a formal dinner then how to stop couples from killing each other.”


Mother Meranor knew Gapato wished he could have worked in Newheart, but he had fallen in love with a woman from the Old Neighborhood and she would not live anywhere else.




Gapato sat up in a chair before the door, a glass of wine untouched on the table before him as he watched a tranquil moon setting over the city. Men and women screamed outside. The Old Neighborhood was in riot. Some parts of the Old Neighborhood were even on fire. It was a bad night, but the wine smelled delicious, like lush grapes with a hint of old leather. A glass sat on the table in front of Gapato, untouched..


“Gapato?” Vidria whispered from the kitchen.


“Poppa?” Ismerelda called, a short time later.


“All is well, loves,” said Gapato.


Gapato looked to the sword-cane leaning against the wall nearby. The kind rich and angry young men used in duels. He couldn’t even remember where it had come from. One of the gang members he’d treated, probably. One of the ones without money to pay. Gapato would have destroyed it, for he could not have sold it in good conscience, but Hector had held onto it with fondness, and Gapato had taken to keeping it up as a reminder of the attraction to evil things.


There came a banging on his door.


Gapato drank the wine in one long swallow, stood and answered. He left the sword-cane leaning against the wall. He’d only taken it out there at Vidria’s insistence, though it had made Ismerelda cry to see her father hold such a thing


Five men stood in the foyer, faces covered in masks, eyes dark and glittering with rage. None of them had swords but a few had knives and one had a club that looked like it would break Gapato’s sword had he drawn it. Gapato stifled a yawn.


“I don’t suppose it would make any difference if I told you I was under the protection of the gangs? Both Olivera’s Sickles and Ribborto’s Grange Men?” Gapato sighed.


The men shook their heads. One held out a hand, insistent and demanding. The one with the club made a few threatening motions. Two in the back seemed eager to step inside.


“Would it make a difference that I was personally opposed to and deeply wounded by the new tax levies? That I would bring all the troops home from Nyria if I could? That I have spoken publicly against the conscription of our boys even against the gang-leaders who profit by it? That my own two sons are fighting for their lives this very moment? No? Well, that is to be expected. A moment, gentlemen. Vidria do you have the hors d’oeuvres?”


Muttering, Vidria appeared from the kitchen. She’d been preparing all night. She carried a silver tray in her hands. On it, were beautiful arrangements of fish, lettuce and cheese. She shouldered Gapato to one side and handed the tray to the burglars, lighting herself a cigar after she did so. When the men’s confusion seemed to reach a pinnacle, Vidria spoke.


“I am Vidria ari Espessa Illomina Gapato, niece of Don Fridrik Illomnia. Let me see, I think I know these faces… ah yes,” Vidria rattled off a series of names and a few family anecdotes.


In a series of embarrassed motions the men hid the weapons behind their backs. Each of the burglars made a show of politely taking one of Vidria’s hors’doeuvres before the one in the middle returned the silver tray.


“Thank you, lady Gapato! We will make sure no one troubles you this night! No need to tell your uncle!” said one of the men.


“Charmed,” Vidria muttered around her cigar.


“I don’t know why you made me take the sword,” Gapato yawned.


“We have a daughter to think of!”


Gapato snorted.


“She makes you look like a gentle little lamb.”


It was true, a moment later they found Ismerelda asleep in the kitchen with a cleaver held in one hand and several other knives hidden with remarkable skill in the folds of her dress. Gapato put away the knives, lifted Ismerelda in both arms and carried her to bed. She woke as he kissed her forehead.


“I would kill any man who ever tries to hurt you, poppa,” she said, wrapping her tiny fingers around his thumb.


“Better to be clever, little love. Better to give people a chance to remember who they are and what is right. Most will take the chance. Remember that, love,” said Gapato.


“I will,” Ismerelda whispered.


Gapato walked downstairs, sat at the table by the door and played cards with Vidria until eventually the screams subsided and the riot abated. Somehow, during the night, they had finished the entire bottle of wine. And then another bottle.


“You think the boys are safe?” asked Vidria


The sun had risen and Gapato knew it would only be a short while before people started to arrive at the door. He had time for a nap, maybe, before the deluge. Gapato picked up the table they had been using and moved it back to its formal position in the hall.


“They are in service to Prince Carlo, and they are guarded by boys from the Old Neighborhood. They are safe. I’m sure we will get a letter any day now,” said Gapato.


“We must do more to cherish Ismelereda,” said Vidria.


Gapato nodded.


Reaching out with one hand, Vidria pinched Gapato’s bottom. He swore, blushing, that she was an entirely different woman when drunk. She filled a glass of wine Gapato had emptied earlier and downed its contents in a single swallow. And then repeated the action.


Shaking his head, Gapato picked up the cane-sword and prepared to hide it away again.


“You know, Gapato, you look very handsome when you have a sword. Is it so wrong of me to seize the opportunity?”


It turned out he did not have time for a nap, after all.




Gapato woke up the moment before he answered the door, fully dressed, medical bag in hand and Ismerelda making preparations in his office. Rather than being pleased to find this was the case, he was only tired and eager to return to bed. A brief glance at his reflection in the front window showed his moustache was more gray than black. Age, it seemed, had finally caught up with him.


It was time Laranso returned to help with the practice, if only the damn war would end. The boy needed more hands on experience if he was to be as competent as Hector. Gapato opened the door with a sigh and began speaking at once. “You did everything correctly, all is well in hand, if you just come this way-”


Two soldiers stood there, in immaculate uniforms with brightly polished buttons. Gapato recognized one of them as a man he saw frequently who still had pain from a missing limb. The other soldier, he saw, was missing an ear and a few fingers. One of them held a small card, covered in gold filigree. Neither of them seemed to be in distress. Or rather, nothing seemed to be medically wrong with either one of them that hadn’t already happened a long time ago.


“You have the wrong house,” Gapato said flatly.


Gapato’s knee buckled for a moment and he had to grip the door handle tightly to stop from falling.


“Papa, what is it?” Ismerelda asked from the office.


“It is nothing, go back to sleep. It’s just some men who need directions,” Gapato snapped.


The soldier with the missing arm bowed deeply.


“Doctor Gapato, is is my duty as a lieutenant in Home League to inform you that both-”


Gapato stumbled back several steps, as if struck.


“No! You have the wrong Gapato! My sons are doctors not soldiers! They are nowhere near the front lines! They serve the Prince!” Gapato shrieked. He collapsed back into the hallway, barely able to breathe. Heart racing and the world closing in. Not like this. Not at night. Not when his sons were hundreds of miles away and there was nothing to be done and the news was days old.


He would have known, wouldn’t he? He would have felt something…


The soldier closed his eyes to fight tears, and continued, “to inform you that both of your sons died in direct defense of Prince Carlo, who was grievously wounded by enemy action outside Chavannah. Without their noble sacrifice, his life may have been lost completely. Our King wishes to extend his personal gratitude for their sacrifice as well as the sacrifice made by your family during this time of need.”


“Both?” Gapato asked in a weak voice.


The soldier nodded.


And that quickly, Hector and Laranso were beyond Gapato’s healing.


Tears fell unashamedly down Gapato’s face. Ismerelda helped him to his feet in time so that Vidria did not catch him so totally unmanned. Gapato managed to tell her when she came downstairs. With perfect formality, Vidria took the card from the soldiers, a card with the personal signature of the King, and thanked them politely before closing the door. Her eyes were clear from all pain before she fell into Gapato’s arms and wailed.


She had always been so much stronger than him. His children had always been so much better than him. No parent should bury their child. It was not in the Oath a doctor took, but it ought to have been.




They said the King hated the Old Neighborhood and Gapato could not deny that was true. When Prince Carlo took the throne, covered in burns and thirsting for vengeance, conscriptions increased to the point that there were almost no young men at all in the Old Neighborhood. No one to work in the shops or chase pretty girls or lift heavy things. Only old men and women with sad faces and little cards with names on them.


It also seemed the King had a vendetta against the gangs, for he rooted them out with a vengeance. Not just the younger gangs who fell quickly to violence and were eager to carve out space for themselves, but the older and established gangs who kept peace and vice in a mostly non-violent balance. It was as if King Carlo knew all of the Old Neighborhood’s secrets. All of its dark corners. No place could live under such light.


Gapato barely had strength to make it to the door when he heard the knocking. He did not sleep much these days. The nightmares were too frequent. Always, he dreamed of the war with Nyria and saw Hector and Laranso burning alongside Prince Carlo. The only thing that brought him any pleasure was the knowledge that Ismerelda had married well and was expecting her first child. If they lived far away, then it only made him that much happier to know the war would not touch them.


“Yes? How may I be of assistance?” Gapato whispered.


Gang Captains, though none wore a sash. A dozen of them, all huddled around a man with more knife wounds than healthy flesh. Even through the blood, Gapato knew him. Vidria’s uncle Fridrik. A man no one from the Old Neighborhood would ever dare to touch. Gapato motioned them into his surgery without a word.


He cut for hours that night. He cussed a dozen men to complete a hundred tasks. But in the end, Vidria’s uncle died. Neither Gapato nor Vidria cried. Fridrik had been old and while honorable had much innocent blood on his hands. All their tears had been cried for Hector and Laranso.


Over the next few nights, Olivera Hespasso died of an arrow through the lung, though Gapato had heard of this secondhand from another doctor. Ribborto Gaspi, on the other hand, was long dead by the time he arrived at Gapato’s. The King had killed them all.


There was one gang now, and it was the police and they were more brutal and corrupt than ever any of the gangs had been. Gapato’s business boomed, with broken skulls and broken teeth and broken spirits.


It was not possible to say exactly when it happened, for no one knocked on Gapato’s door and announced it, but at some point during the deaths of the three Dons, the Old Neighborhood died too. The gangs, for all their problems, had kept order there. Had kept the Old Neighborhood politically relevant.


Now the Old Neighborhood was just a bunch of old buildings where widows lived. The King hated the Old Neighborhood, they said. It was only some years later, when Gapato saw the King at an assembly, covered in burns and scars, and somehow strangely reminded of a boy he had seen on his doorstep a night many years ago, that Gapato began to believe he knew why.


Gapato held Vidria tightly each night, wrapping his arms around her as if she were the world entire.




When Gapato woke that winter night to the sound of a fist banging on his door, he awoke with the scent of blood already in his nostrils. Another wound, another illness, another death. It amazed him that they had not blended together, but remained distinct in his memory. He waited for the poke in his side, but none came. He waited for the knocker to knock on the door, but none came. Vidria had died just before the knocker, and of the same cause, namely old age.


Gapato had not had the heart to replace either of them, though the Old Neighborhood was more full of eligible widows these days than blacksmiths.


“Coming!” Gapato said, before he was fully awake or aware.


When he had a few moments to gather his senses, he grumbled to his memory of Vidria that he was moving as quickly as he could and took a few creaky steps toward his slippers.


As a younger man he’d simply worn pants to bed as a matter of course. Well, one had to make some concessions to age. He drew on a pair of trousers and stuffed his nightshirt into it, not caring how it bunched awkwardly around the waistline. Next was his fur coat and hat. These were on a coat-stand next to his bed and now indispensable in the winter.


Gapato contemplated the distance to the door as if it were miles. Even the absence of stairs could not motivate him. It had only taken him a single night-time emergency after the passing of his wife to finally move it into his bedroom and out of the hall by the door. Vidria’s things remained in their old room, untouched and undisturbed. Each thing, exactly as she had left it.


The knocking was insistent. Thunderous, even.


“Coming, I said!”


They’d better have brought a carriage if he had to go anywhere. He was not young enough to be getting on horseback without time to take his breakfast first. Let alone in the snow.


Doctor Gapato walked around a mess of furniture in total darkness. His feet knew the way well enough in the dark, but when a stranger knocked on the door they’d eventually need a lamp and like as not they’d have forgot to have brought one of their own. Gapato grabbed a lantern hanging outside his bedroom door.


He took a moment to check himself by the lantern light in the hallway mirror. Skeletal and gaunt. his moustache whiter than snow and thin as cobwebs. That was Doctor Gapato. Soon, someone would knock at his door and he would not answer, and then some other poor physician would be woken not with one emergency but two.


No matter, though. Tonight was not that night. There was enough life in him to do his job.


Gapato sighed and pulled on his gloves. Then he picked up his bag from its place by the door. Not there simply for convenience, but because some days he was too tired to carry it any farther after he came home. His hands were steady enough to wield a scalpel, still. That was a small blessing. He was not useless yet.


“Yes, yes, I am here!”


A renewed burst of knocking shook the door again as he opened it.


Gapato swung the lantern toward his foyer with the brazen lack of social propriety that any person who had lived to his advanced age eventually found. It was an inspection which simply said that he did not have long enough left on the earth to waste time on pleasantries. The lantern illuminated three guards. Palace guards.


“You are urgently needed at the palace on royal business,” said the lead guard.


A carriage waited behind the men. Two fine black horses were teamed to it, their harnesses slick and brown and glistening under the reflected moonglow on the snow. Doctor Gapato grunted.


It seemed, in that moment, an illusion that the Old Neighborhood had been fine once. As vibrant and strong as he himself had once been. There was no need for lantern light to shine on the dilapidated buildings which now abutted his house for him to inspect its fall from grace. And no need for him to look back at his own house to marvel at its chipped paint and cracked boards. Though he had long since thought himself dead to them, Gapato heard the cries and wailings of sick and starving children as though his ears were made new by the nice suits of the guards.


There was no reason someone from the palace would send for Doctor Gapato. None at all. His only paying clients were policemen, these days.


“Well, this is a first,” Gapato said, stifling his concerns, and accepting the hand of the first guard that offered to help him through the snow.


His hips hurt. His back ached. The cold seemed to seep into his joints and freeze them to the point of paralysis. But deep inside, in a warm place not strictly connected to his body, his mind was bright and sharp as a razor’s edge.


Who was it that had sent for him?


Why, after all these years?


Gapato was lifted more than helped into the carriage, for which he was both mortally offended and eternally grateful. A woman just into her middle years sat across from him, the brim of a cloak lowered over her face.


“The king is not well,” the Queen said.


Doctor Gapato nodded, sadly.


“Let us get on with it then,” grunted Gapato.


It had come at last.


Gapato was eighty years old. Ancient and withered. He had lived far longer than he had ever thought to live. It was a beautiful night, even considering the cold. It was not such a bad night to die. He had grandchildren, after all. A grandfather was old enough to die.




The King’s face was a mess of burns and scars, but that was not what made him scream. The burns had been there for over forty years now. The burns were battle-wounds that might cause him pain on cold nights such as this, but earned in defense of the nation they were not a source of shame or discomfort.


No, the king screamed for different reasons.


Gapato recalled that the King’s father had had the same affliction later in his years. He remembered the first time someone had knocked on his door. He remembered a little boy who had worried over his father’s “appendis” and smiled despite the circumstances. Gapato wondered how long the fool man had waited before calling.


“I will need boiled water. Alcohol for cleaning my knives. An assistant to hold him down. Here, you’ll do,” said Gapato as he thrust his bag into her royal majesty’s chest.


The Queen stumbled back a few steps but dismissed the guards and the other attending physicians and sent them on their errands. She ordered them not to enter the room again. Gapato put his hand on the King’s stomach, feeling for hard spots.


“He waited three days before calling for help?” he asked.


The queen paused.


“Six,” she said.


Gapato laughed.


“Stubborn bastard. He always was. Always insisted he was fine when his father brought him to me. I was never sure. Not completely. How much has he told you?” asked Gapato.




“How much do you suspect?” asked Gapato.


“Everything,” whispered the Queen.


Gapato laughed again, all black humor and hard amusement.


“I always wondered, how did he avoid you seeing his chest after you had married?”


The King was beyond reason now, but he still fought as Gapato cut his shirt away. Oh, the wily goat knew even now that it could all come undone. Knew in a place beyond rational thought and cold calculation. Knew the way an animal knows to fight or run away from a predator. Forty years he’d kept it secret. Forty years when one second might have brought it all crashing down. But Gapato had cut off too many shirts to be thwarted, and he cut a neat line down the middle of the King’s fine silk shirt and some of the fight went out of the man.


“He said the scars were not becoming. He did not wish me to disgusted. We were both so very young. I had thought he would trust me in time,” whispered the Queen.


At last Gapato wrested the scraps of the fine silk shirt away from the king, revealing a chest of hard muscles and smooth skin…


… marred only by the gang tattoos of a hardened criminal.


“Of course,” sighed the queen.


“His father’s appendix gave out at the same age. Thank Mother Meranor he was not foolish enough to try cutting it out himself. Such a small thing, but he has waited a long time and it may be beyond hope now. I will do what can be done.”


Doctor Gapato sterilized his knives while the Queen tied the King down to the bed. Then Gapato began to cut.




Such sweet screams.


Rich and royal and resounding.


Gapato had never enjoyed causing a man pain before.


This boy had put so many men into Gapato’s hands both before and after the coronation, and now Gapato used those same hands to make right what had been broken. To fix a murderer. He cursed the oath which compelled him. Cursed the bright love that the memory of his sons brought to him, because he wished he could be filled with hate instead. Enough hate to kill a man in his care.


The organ was bright red and purple and swelled with angry heat, when he found it. Gapato cut it out with a deft move of his knife. He applied the expensive iodine and cleaned the wound. It was the last of his antiseptic. His very expensive antiseptic.


When the King was still and asleep, Gapato sewed shut the hole.


“The next few days will decide whether or not he lives. Keep him rested. Keep him still. Do not let him move. Lots of water, no alcohol. He may want to numb the pain, I have some herbs for that. You will have to take a firm hand with him. He may have broth and meal to eat. Nothing more than that for the first two days.”


The Queen nodded her understanding. She sat next to the King, pulled the covers up over his chest and then stroked his face with a sad smile.


Gapato took small sip from a vial in his bag. Something to help him sleep. There would be need for sleep.


“Guards!” the Queen called.


They entered the room.


“Arrest this man! Listen to nothing he says! And throw him into the farthest cell in the dungeon until his majesty awakens!”


They were gentle with him, which was a small blessing. They even gave him a blanket and a nice bed to sleep. It was not such a bad winter’s night. Gapato had not expected to live a moment beyond the last stitch anyhow.




Gapato slept for two days. Slept deep and hard as if to make up for all the sleep he’d lost all those nights. A younger man might have tried to stay awake longer, drinking in the last few sights life had to offer even if they were of straw and stone and cell bars. Gapato had eighty years of sights and not nearly enough dreams. So he slept and dreamed of his wife and his sons, now dead, and all the other lives he might have lived. He dreamed of them all visiting Ismerelda, of spending the day with her four children in the countryside. He dreamed a thousand such dreams.


Each dream was perfect and wonderful.


When Gapato was awake he had warm food and good wine, brought down from the palace kitchens. And more dreams. A glut of dreams. And still not enough.


On the third day, the guards came again and carried him out of the cell and back to the King’s room. Gapato made no fuss. He was too old for fuss now.


Gapato  was placed in a chair, for which he was grateful, as he found himself still tired and kitten-weak. The King  was barely in better condition but his coloring was back, although it was hard to tell given so much of his face was covered in burns. Quiet, the King motioned with his hand and dismissed the guards.


“Doctor Gapato,” he said.


“My how you’ve grown little Carlo,” said Gapato.


The King grunted.


Doctor Gapato laughed.


“Did you know before?” the King asked.


Gapato shrugged.


“I suspected. Some people in the Old Neighborhood suspected as well, but we never spoke of it. If it hadn’t been you, we’d have been hung for defaming the Prince. If it was, you’d have hung us for knowing your secret. I imagine with the burns and the confusion of you both having the same name, it was easy for the switch to be made. You needn’t have conscripted all of them and sent them off to die, you heartless rat.”


The King sighed and nodded.


“It was war. I conscripted everyone. I was sad to see so many of the people who knew me die. I was also relieved. That is what it means to be king.”


Gapato studied his old hands.


“I saw you during the coronation. I treated you too many times not to suspect but I had never seen much of the Prince so I could not be sure. How did it happen?”


The King smiled.


“As you said, mostly confusion and mistaken identity. It has been such a terrible weight, you know. It will be good to be free of it, even in a small way.


“I was in the Prince’s personal guard. A lot of us were recruited from the gangs for our fighting experience in those days. Your sons… I regret what happened. We were ambushed. The Prince was an idiot. Always putting himself too close to the front. I took his clothes to draw away the enemies. It was the only chance. I was promised medals, I never dreamed to earn a crown.


“I was burned beyond recognition. The true Prince was burned to a crisp. The Nyrians are cruel. I woke screaming. Such pain as I had never dreamed. Your sons were afraid to remove my clothes, and when I was awake I refused to let them. Your sons had already mistaken me for the Prince. Too many people referred to me that way. There was no way to extricate myself without dying. And the King was old and wanted his son to be alive. Who was I to refuse?”


“They saved your life,” the doctor said.


“I know. I wish I could say I have regretted it every day, but it is an old wound now. How did you put it together?” said the King.


Gapato shrugged again. There was too much to explain and it wouldn’t haven’t meant that much. Dates hadn’t matched. Accounts of the battle hadn’t matched. A few bribes here and there over the years and let him ferret out the truth, which was that the Prince had executed his sons and tried to cover it up. He’d thought the revelation would have hurt more. But his sons were dead either way. Still, he’d needed to know why. And then it was only a matter of putting it together..


“Did you know you were the first person to ever pay me a night visit? I remember you, still, in your little sash asking me to come help your poppa. Your three silver coins, all black with tarnish. Three silver coins will not be enough now. For this? I want a hospital. In the Old Neighborhood. And a weekly gift of food to the poor there. Death benefits for the widows. I don’t care how you justify it. You killed my sons. You owe me a legacy.”


“Done,” said the King.


There was a crackling fire in the chamber, now fading to embers. Gapato felt the cold creeping back into his joints. Death would not be so bad.


“I poisoned myself after your surgery was done. I’ll sleep for the most part until it happens. Take me home and put me in bed. I can’t teach a new bed the shape of me quick enough for comfort. If you are concerned I’ll say something, her majesty can bring me meals and wine until I pass. I will not need her for long. I have never been served by a queen.”


“I had considered letting you live on in the dungeon,” said the King.


“You would do that, and think it kindness wouldn’t you? My way is better. Cleaner. Honest.” Gapato fought to stay awake. The poison would be slow to kill him. He’d sleep most of the time. There’d been no time to put something better in his bag after he saw the Queen. He’d had to make due.


“Why didn’t you kill me when you were cutting me open? No one would have known,” asked the King, and that was the closest either of them came to mentioning the murder of Hector and Laranso.


“Have you forgotten so much of the honor of the Old Neighborhood? I would have known. I taught my sons better. I taught all of my children to give people a chance to do the right thing. Not to seek vengeance. You have been a cruel king. Perhaps if you live, you might be a better one. Your deaths profits me nothing. For their memory, you have another chance. ” Gapato said simply.


Silence stretched, and Gapato felt himself falling further into a sleep from which he would never again be awoken.


“Do you know that you were the one man my father admired above all others? That all children in the Old Neighborhood were told to look to the example of your family? That Dians and Galenites were united in their admiration of you? The way they spoke of you… I always wanted them to speak of me that way but violence came too easily to me. I am older now, but even so I do not deserve your forgiveness. A king cannot apologize and I am a king now, wherever I came from, and I find that to be a king is terrible. Perhaps no man can have such power and not be corrupted by it. Much better to be a Doctor. Much better to fight the true enemies of humankind and be made sanctified. I cannot change the past, but I have heard you and you have my thanks. Goodnight, Doctor Gapato.” Tears made long and meandering paths down the scars of the King’s face.


Gapato thought of a boy, and three silver coins, and a need to pay the grocer. He’d only ever wanted to live. That was all.


Gapato slept all the way home.




Night came to the Old Neighborhood.


Night and cold and silence.


Fewer children cried with hunger. The King had heard their plight, so it was said, and become like the old gang Dons, finding something like mercy in his old age. There was new paint on the buildings, although not the best paint and the boards were still old and cracked. Food could be had if you were hungry and not afraid of religion. Matters of life and death still stirred people from their routine and sent them out into the darkness in search of a doctor. There was a hospital now and it accepted all and they found what healing there was to be found there.


It wasn’t like the Old Neighborhood of the Old Days, but nothing is ever like it is in the Old Days. But still, it was better than it had been and people could live there. People could get married and raise families there.


Lastly, there was a house where no one lived, but which old people would pass and make the sign of the Wheel and the Eye. It was not haunted, though some younger children supposed it was and for this reason left it alone. Some people put flowers there, in remembrance. Some walked by with legs set straight and remembered bones mended and smiled and tipped their caps. The door of the house had no knocker. But it mattered not, for no one knocked on that door any longer.