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I am the dark half of someone who is respected elsewhere, someone who gives me the truly horrid stuff to write, stuff that attracts downvotes like horseshit attracts flies. Someone who doesn't have the balls to stand up and be counted, some whining, sniveling little coward.

I am the inferior/superior enigma of a personality, with the arrogance of a whipper-snapper and the servility of a pound dog. I am made of the stuff found at the bottom of base desires, the wispy unrealities of a dreamer, the vile instincts that ooze out from under the rock of civilization.

I don't like myself but I am perversely proud of me; I am a survivor. I am the one who picks both of us up and says, "Fuck them all" whenever rejection looms on the horizon. It is my job to keep us going, to act as if everything is normal, nothing is wrong.

I'll tell you a story, a story about what my other half once did and what I did to save his ass.

A long time ago he had a little house, had just moved in, as a matter of fact. Some of his buddies came over one night with a case of beer and they were all sitting around in the kitchen, getting drunk.

It doesn't matter what led up to it, but eventually these idiots went out in the back yard with a flashlight and several cans of spray enamel and painted pictures on the back wall of the house. Being well-oiled, they thought it was great art.

The next morning, after his buddies had left, the resident idiot was out in the back inspecting the handiwork of the previous evening. His next-door neighbors, a stuffy retired couple, came to the fence and asked "who in the world smeared that horrible stuff on your house and how are you ever going to get it off?"

I answered. I told them that I had done it. Because I liked art. I particularly liked the one in red and yellow, the free-form Mickey Mouse. We turned to point at it. When we turned back to address the neighbors they had quietly walked away.

See what I mean? I saved his ass. He'd never have had the guts to say something like that himself.

So last night after work I decided to go grocery shopping. The first thing unusual that hit me as soon as I walked in, right in the front of the store: it was the biggest display of Cap'n Crunch I'd ever seen in my entire life. It was a temple of stacked boxes of original, Peanut Butter, Crunch Berries, and all the other crazy kinds they have now. It went almost up to the ceiling. They were 4 for $10, I think. It was a Cap'n Crunch Mecca, an Incan temple made of Cap'n Crunch boxes, a place of worship for all those praying to the great Captain of Crunch. It was bizarre.

But, seeing as how I am now diabetic, I passed it right up. Not that I was a huge fan of the cereal anyway. Sure it tasted good, but I never liked the havoc it wreaked on the roof of my mouth.

After getting vegetables and chicken, I did end up at the cereal aisle. I was low on Raisin Bran and didn't want to run out of cereal. I eat a bowl almost every morning, I have since I was a kid. Yes, I'm one of the many people with fond memories of cartoons and a big bowl of cereal every Saturday morning. For quite some time now, even before I found out I was diabetic, I had abandoned the sugar-packed cereals in favor of stuff like Raisin Bran and granola. I don't know if they put more sugar in them nowadays or I grew out of needing that shit so sweet. But when I did, two of my favorites were Lucky Charms and Cocoa Puffs.

I am pleased to see that almost all the General Mills products are made with whole grain. They claim they all are now but there must be stragglers because the small boxes of Lucky Charms still don't have that nifty "Whole Grain" graphic on them yet. I spied a box of Cocoa Puffs that not only was now whole grain but also "75% less sugar" (made, in part, with sucralose, or Splenda). I decided, what the hell, I tossed it in my cart. It'd been ages since I'd had Cocoa Puffs and now that it was healthier I thought I'd give it a shot. So that was cool. But then I saw something that threw me, something new that I'd never even thought would exist. Something that made me think "WHY DIDN'T THEY THINK OF THIS BEFORE I FOUND OUT I WAS DIABETIC!?"

Chocolate Lucky Charms

Chocolate LUCKY CHARMS?! I had to do a double take. The marshmallows were the same, but the cereal bits were chocolate! It was almost like a marriage of two of my favorite cereals ever, the aforementioned Cocoa Puffs and Lucky Charms.

"A stroke of genius!" I thought as I began to salivate. Alas, I could not purchase it. But maybe I'll try it someday.

One more weird thing. This morning my six-month-old son was talking in his sleep. I heard him on the baby monitor and got up and went into his room. There he was, asleep, on his belly as usual, and he was baby babbling...but in his sleep. Talking in his sleep before he can talk. It struck me as odd. What is he dreaming about?? Who, in his dreams, is he talking-but-not-really-talking to?

Of course babies, like anybody else, talk in their sleep. It makes total sense. Yet it doesn't. Talking in your sleep before you know how to talk...it just hit me as very strange.

Yeah, my pants smell like teriyaki.
There are worse things they could smell like. I mean, when it really comes down to it, the root of teriyaki is just a salty smell. It could be a bitter beer smell, or even old wine or something.

So my poor girlfriend is sick with obstructive tonsilitis, a condition I managed to suffer through for the first five years of my life, so I can sympathize. As horrible as this sounds though, its really a stroke of luck. If she were sick with something horrid like mono, (or chicken pox as haven't had that either) I couldn't be around her at all. But, my lack of tonsils allow me the freedom to stay at her bedside while she takes gatorade intra-veinously, as well as cook her some damned good ramen. I even go to the lengths to deliver said ramen. This brings us full circle to why my pants smell like teriyaki.

So tonight was a bit of a learning lesson. The lesson is simply: don't keep a bowl full of soupy ramen in your lap while attempting to drive a stick shift on a dirt road.

The alleyway behind my house was dimly lit, but by habit I took it much faster than I well should have. Some asshole who should have put his money into a better house rather than a snappy car has taken habit to parking his new BMW in the middle of the alleyway, causing me to swerve around it. The ramen did not spill. When I swerved again to miss that fucking rooster that crows at every hour during the night, and never once during the morning, the ramen refused spill. Naturally however, as I was trying to make a fairly quick left turn onto Park Ave with cars approaching rapidly from either side - my confidence high from not spilling any ramen yet - the ramen spilled.

A few things went through my mind over the next few seconds. First, "Oh shit, I just spilled ramen on my book." (I was buffering the heat from the bowl by keeping it on a novel I am reading for my Japanese war lit class right now.) Second, "Wow, this is going to look bad." (Noticing the beautiful pattern the liquid had made on my crotch) And finally, "oh shit, thats hot." What followed was an audible scream. It struck me as odd (even as I was screaming) that it took a few seconds for the soup to heat up my pants enough to scald me.

Anyway, it wasn't that bad. The burning stopped after a few seconds, and I stopped carrying the ramen in my lap. There has to be an easier way to transport it though; I just need to figure out what that is. My girlfriend was appreciative, so it was all worth it in the end.

My lawsuit with Top Ramen is now pending, for their failure to warn me that ramen might be hot once cooked.


At Windmawr Market you can buy anything from crypsid-sized copper saucepans to slaves from a dozen species and specialties. Windmawr is where the worlds meet. North of the market live the regular townspeople. South of the market, through Poisoner’s Gate, are those who dwell in darkness - the thieves and murderers, the free shadows, the spirit-whores, the priests of the outlawed gods, the chemists of dreams and nightmares, and the Kyth Sareia. And the girl with the golden eyes.

Through Myrmidon’s Gate, on the north-eastern side, the Palace is but a few minutes’ journey, and west of the market is – what’s that? The girl? No, forget about her, she means nothing right now. I was talking about Windmawr Market. This is where our tale begins. Now, then –

Who is she? I can’t tell you that. The girl with the golden eyes is one of the great mysteries of Charcoal’s adventure. I can’t tell you who she is until I’ve told you about Charcoal himself, and the young wizard, and Calico and the Chief Crypsid. This is the traditional way, and not lightly should it be altered. Now, as I was saying –

You have no respect for tradition, do you know that?

All right, all right. The girl. She was beautiful, that goes without saying. But she was Kyth Sareia without a doubt, and you know what that means. The young wizard first saw her when he was an apprentice, buying herbs for his Lady in the oldest part of Windmawr Market, where the walls of the houses lean so close together they become vaulted ceilings over stalls and alcoves selling cloth, and spice, and ornaments and animals. She was the same age as him, but she carried herself so regally he thought she must have been a princess from some faraway land. Only the fact that she had no guards, no entourage or minders made him doubt her royalty. That, and she wore no shoes. He saw her several times during his apprenticeship, and wondered about her for years, and his dreams were filled with golden eyes on many a night.

She aged slowly, if at all. Every time he saw her, she looked exactly the same. Her robes would be different, and she might wear her hair differently, but she always seemed the same age and she always had that same faraway look in her eyes, or perhaps it was only that he could read no emotions in those alien eyes. They were more than a little disconcerting, but detracted not one bit from her beauty.

The mystery, the beauty, the faraway expression – Kyth Sareia from head to foot, at least the parts that could be seen. But perhaps not all of her. You might think that her destiny was as inalterable as the war that is coming – it doesn’t matter if it comes this year or the next, no one can doubt that it is coming. But people and wars are more complicated than you think, and their fates can swing on things as small as snowflakes. There was more to this girl than mystery and beauty and faraway looks.

She liked to steal apples. She would walk through the market wearing that faraway look like a cloak of invulnerability, and everyone knew what she was and glanced away, watching for thieves. And she would stop at a farmer’s stand, and gaze around like a woman who lived in dreams, and snatch! Her hand went under the folds of her robes, and there was one less apple in the pile nearest her. And she would drift away as if she had all the time in the world, as faraway as ever, crowds melting away before her.

The young apprentice’s Lady was more generous than most, and he had never been hungry since entering her service. But in the society of apprentices it was traditional to learn something of thiefcraft, and a good deal of prestige came with the claims of having stolen such and such from this merchant or that one, whether you needed it or not. If one of his fellows had done what she did, he would soon reappear, jauntily munching the stolen fruit and grinning to his mates in the crowd. But the girl with the golden eyes did no such thing. She wandered on, stopping here and there at a rugseller’s stall or a spice merchant’s alcove or a crack in the wall with a pile of rubble heaped around its base, as if she was going to repeat the larceny or transubstantiate before his very eyes, but she didn’t do that either.

He followed her as closely as he dared, and still lost her from time to time but always found her again, until he came to the crack in the wall. There he stopped. The crack ran from eye level down to the piled rubble, widening into a little hole just before it disappeared under the rocks. And there, sitting improbably on a flat stone right by the hole, was as shiny and ripe an apple as you could ever wish to see. She had not even taken a bite.

The girl was just about to disappear into the crowd, heading towards a tall arched side corridor with never a backward glance. Then the apprentice glanced down at the apple once more, and it was gone, simply gone.

He knelt and peered into the little hole. But there was nothing to be seen there, no sign of an apple or anything that might have eaten it. And when he looked up again, there was no sign of the girl either. He stood up, shaking his head with a broad smile at the audacity of his golden-eyed dream, and reluctantly went back to his Lady’s business.

What does it mean? Ah, you grow impatient again. People your age make the second to worst audiences – always what does it mean, who is that girl, get to the point get to the point old man! I told you to let me tell the tale in the old way, but you wouldn’t hear of it. Well, that’s too bad. If I told you now what it means, it would ruin the story and you wouldn’t believe me anyway. Now, attend and be silent, and I will speak of scarabs and salamanders.

I will speak of the Great Fire of Shaltan.

I will speak of Charcoal.

But my throat grows dry. You wouldn’t have a few coins to buy an old man a drink, would you? Ah, wonderful. Go on then, I’ll wait for you.

There is at least a partial explanation for some of this. - DM

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