I have a few short (oh-so-very-short) jokey stories spread out over the PPMB, so in order to put them in a place where others can actually see them, I figured I'd bow to internal pressure and make another one of those "assorted goodies go here" collections. Y'know, because the last one of those I did displayed the very pinnacle of literature and all that.

(who needs talent when you stare longingly into the void?)

Anyways, since they are pretty short, I combined them all into one update (or chapter, I guess you could call it). Should enough new snippets appear out of nowhere, I'll add another chapter.

Err...that's it, that's the author intro. Um, thanks for reading (it's always much appreciated), hope life isn't too much of a drag for you, and as always, I don't own diddly.


1.

Tyranny of Evil Men, or: Absurdism is a bitch

Mack pushed open the door of Lawndale's lone Blockbuster, a VHS copy of Muppet Treasure Island tucked under his arm, and quietly made his way to the return slot. Or at least he tried to be quiet-he was forcing every move his limbs made to be as utterly normal and inconspicuous as possible, so naturally he looked like a giant freak who could only walk in slapping gallops. He saw the freckle-faced clerk peek out over the top of his X-Men comic, but the overwhelming apathy caused by minimum-wage paychecks ended any interest after only half a second, leaving Mack free to gallop at his own pleasure (so long as he didn't bump into anything).

He didn't want to hesitate. Thrusting the VHS out in front of him, Mack took two long strides, jammed the movie into the return slot, and then bolted from the store like he had just discovered a bomb. Outside on the sidewalk he held onto his knees, panting from the sudden burst of speed and the electric impulses from his nerves.

"Alright...you did it," he said, still panting. "You got it there...nobody will know...you didn't rewind..." He stood up straight and tried to take in a calming breath. "Feels good...right? Feels good to break the rules a bit."

Something in his body answered with a resounding no, and Mack nearly pitched over to vomit up his last four lunches. Two heaves and he was done-after that he was already turning to run back into the store. Mack didn't even wait to wipe the rancid spittle of his mouth as he ripped the comic away from the clerk and shouted, "I want to re-rent Muppet Treasure Island!"

He ran home after that and immediately rewound the tape. Once the blue screen blinked and became the FBI Warning, Mack flicked off the TV and sank into his couch. A moment of silence passed over him before he brought one fist down on the arm rest and used the other to swipe at the opened VHS box. It slammed into the wall just as he rose from his seat.

"Dammit!" he said. "Why the hell can't I be evil?"

He didn't expect an answer, but would have appreciated one all the same. Instead, he sighed, sat back down in his couch, decided that breaking the VHS would just mean paying for a new one out of his own pocket, and dejectedly decided that all he could do was waste time. He pressed play on the remote hard enough to leave an indent in his thumb.

"I don't even like this stinking movie," he said.


2.

Children's Author Banned From Every Library in America
© The Associated Press

LAWNDALE—Children's author Daria Morgendorffer, best know for her infamous debut novel Robots Have No Souls (And Neither Do You), has been banned from displaying her novels inside the public libraries of America, as well as entering any library outright. The decision was finalized after a lengthy battle in the Supreme Court, where all nine judges voted to uphold the new law despite objections from First Amendment groups.

"Yeah, we know, this violates a whole bunch of statutes," Justice Samuel Alito—the author of the court's decision—told reporters. "But we're going to be honest with you guys: one look at her books and we just didn't care about the law anymore."

He added under his breath, "I don't get why someone like that would think it's a good idea to write children's books."

The troubles for Ms. Morgendorffer began after Maryland parent's groups objected to Robots Have No Souls (And Neither Do You) being assigned reading for their children. The book follows a young boy named Milton McReady, who discovers a malfunctioning robot hiding out in his backyard. The plot involves graphic scenes of violence against robots as well as thinly veiled slurs, but parents believed that the ending made the book ultimately unsuitable.

"So the parents—who are kinda dicks towards robots—end up coming around at the end," John Kelly—the chairman of the Protection of Children's Future Committee for the Protection of Future Children—said in an interview. "That sounds just fine, right? Well turns out, the reason they find their conscience is because little Milton discovers that humans and robots are just scraps of malfunctioning junk soullessly clanking around on a dying Earth. The book even says something to the effect that we, 'All die alone and turn into spare parts in the end, so being prejudiced seems pretty stupid to me.' I mean, what are we teaching our children, exactly?"

Ms. Morgendorffer's latest book—Tammy And The Dirty Money—concerns the protagonists inheritance and how she spends it. The novel starts with Tammy wishing to donate the entire $50 million to various charities. However her plans are stymied when she discovers just how many charities require funding; the number of charities that embezzle funds; and that her relatives wealth was created through a system that traps and dehumanizes the very people she is trying to help. After becoming an alcoholic at the age of 15, Tammy gambles away 75% of her inheritance, racks up a large amounts of debt with the casinos, and is eventually killed by a hitman, sent by her creditors, at the age of 17.

"That was the one that really influenced our decision," Judge Alito said. "I don't care who you are—that's all kinds of fucked up."

The American Civil Liberties Association decried the ruling, but also stressed that its staff will under no circumstances read the books in question. Contemporary author and advocate for free speech rights, Stephen King, offered similar comments, telling the Bangor Daily Press that he, "[hated] censorship but could only see mass-suicides in the future if too many people read [Daria Morgendorffer's] books."

"It's a complicated situation," he added.

In a press release, Ms. Morgendorffer denied that her books are excessively gruesome, stating that she "had never written a plot with crazed religious terrorists or a single Republican Senator," so as far as she's concerned, reality is "far scarier than anything I've written."

She doesn't plan on holding any further protests, however, noting that she never make the best-seller's list anyways.


3.

And I'll Whisper..."Excuse me?"

(based off an Iron Chef challenge asking us to write a story about Daria being Wonder Woman)

[Meanwhile, at the Hall of Justice...]

Superman: "It's just what we feared everyone-Darkseid is on his way to Earth!"

Aquaman: "That galactic tyrant's thirst for power is unstoppable! But why Earth? Why always us?"

Batman: "It's simple, Aquaman-a being with Darkseid's power would have to be the kindest, most gentle soul in the universe to not fall under the sway of his own ego! It's simply too big to leave the Earth and her people alone!"

Daria: "Good thing we outlawed monuments to ourselves, then."

Superman: "Uh...yeah. Anyways, Batman's right! So long as there are people to oppress, Darkseid will always be on the prowl for a target!"

Flash: "But the Justice League will always be there to stop him! And with us to stop him, there's no way the planet will ever be the victims of his crushing heel!"

Daria: "And here I was thinking we'd already hit rock bottom."

Superman: "Daria, I don't think you mean that..."

Daria: "If it makes you feel better."

Robin: "What's the plan, gang? How are we gonna sock Darkseid right in his big ugly jaw?"

Batman: "Patience my young ward! Darkseid may be brutal, but he's no idiot! We'll have to play this strategically!"

Daria: "Which somehow inevitably involves punching things and wanton property damage."

Aquaman: "We're the good guys, Daria-we do everything in our power to keep as many people safe as possible! Even when we're fighting!"

Daria: "Last I checked, there are still over 50 people missing in Blüdhaven."

Aquaman: "I-"

Daria: "Just adding to the Minutes."

Robin: "Holy Debbie-Downer Wonder Woman! I'm starting to think you don't like us very much!"

Daria: "Huh, I guess you do actually train with Batman after all."

Robin: "...um, as opposed to what?"

Daria: "Don't read the tabloids."

Batman: "Robin is right though, Wonder Woman. Your opinions are, shall we say, somewhat unorthodox for a superhero..."

Daria: "How many votes did you get in your special election?"

Batman: "I...we don't...we weren't elected, Daria."

Daria: "Really? That's odd."

Superman: "If you don't like the way things are handled here, Daria, then nobody is forcing you to stay."

Daria: "You need me more than I need you."

Superman: "I highly doubt that's-"

Daria: "How many foreign ministries are you in constant contact with? Do you know who the Swedish Labour Party Leader is? A lot of stuff goes on behind the scenes, and I have to say, they're pretty happy you're not involved."

Superman: "Alright, but-"

Daria: "Besides, this is a public service. I know how this works. The moment some idiot with too much time on his hands calls you a bunch of light and fluffy kids, Batman will go full fascist, Superman will grow a mullet, the Flash will be nine successors in by the time the next crises rolls around, and Robin...I don't even want to think about what's going to happen to Robin."

Aquaman: "And me?"

Daria: "It gets better. In theory..."

Superman: "I don't see how you being around is going to prevent that...if any of that is actually going to happen in the first place."

Daria: "You don't have to believe me, but at least trust me-ego's are bad. You said so yourself. And if you want to stay good, then you need someone to keep you from taking yourselves too seriously. Is anyone else up to the challenge?"

[Meanwhile, just beyond the Moon...]

Darkseid: "I don't understand! They should be here already! Where in the sulfur flames of Apokolips could they be!

Desaad: "Perhaps they are in consultation, my heinous liege..."

Darkseid: "By the Source, I hope they're kicking out that woman. She's so mean!"

Desaad: "Terribly insensitive, my liege..."

Darkseid: "Did you know she made Brainiac cry?"

Desaad: "Truly horrible, my liege."

Darkseid: "I mean, I know honesty is a virtue-" (spits) "But seriously, there has to be a point where you just accept it and go with the flow. Right Desaad? I mean, am I being too close-minded right now?"

Desaad: "Not at all my liege! Why, you're the very model of open-minded!"

Darkseid: "...hmm...right..."


4.

It's a Shaggy-Dog Life

(formerly titled: "Dying in a Nightmare")

Jake finally understood things now, understood why his life always took a hard right off the overpass. Just like the main characters in all those noir movies he liked to watch, he paced around his house and laughed at how obvious the answer was: reality and God were one in the same, and God just so happened to be an evil son-of-a-bitch.

He didn't come to this conclusion by himself-obvious enough, Jake thought, since his father may have been right that he couldn't find his own ass if he had the US Coast Guard helping him. No, a few days ago a package had shown up at his office in downtown Lawndale, and buried in packing peanuts was a manuscript originally headed for the University of Chicago Anthropology department. Care of a Dr. Thoss, whoever that was. Apparently a colleague of this Dr. Thoss had done extensive research in an ancient Aboriginal group out of Australia that used to worship a pantheistic idea of God-used to being operative, because after a series of horrifying realizations, many in the group came to the conclusion that this God was less a benevolent guardian and more of a demon, a malignant presence that infected and pulsated throughout all reality. Omnipresent and Omnimalevolent-this apparently had driven half the natives into a nihilistic, suicidal state where-in they butchered their breather and then themselves, save for a few holdouts. They called this pandemonistic entity Nethescurial, though a name seemed unimportant to most of them. They were living in the nightmare of a demon, indistinguishable from it's evil, and forever subjected to torments both subtle and overt. Yes, Dr. Thoss (who was apparently of a steely sort, though the very utterance of this groups beliefs shook him dearly) fully understood the massacre that transpired. How else is a human mind to react to such a horrifying revelation?

Well, Jake sure as hell didn't understand what the fuss was about. For the first time in years he felt a thrill of pure happiness run through his body. He even jumped in the air and clacked his heels together-things were, in his mind, just Jim-cracking dandy, and you'd have to be pretty stupid not to see why.

He strode into the kitchen with a smile the size of the Eastern Seaboard on his face, a spring in his step, some other clichéd saying for happiness that he never used, not since military school. Daria and Quinn were eating breakfast, looking dour and bored as humans who didn't know the truth so often did. He walked behind his eldest child, Daria (he'd always felt bad about the social isolation she had to endure, but how could he feel bad now when everything was so great?) and gave her shoulders a hug squeeze. Daria coughed up a bit of her cereal onto her book, while Quinn slowly dropped her granola bar from her mouth, watching her Dad as though he was an escaped zoo animal that might try throwing Daria through a window.

"Heyya kids!" Jake said. "God, if it isn't a lovely day today!" He chuckled to himself:God, right-I think you mean the Great and Terrible Nethescurial ol' Jakey boy!

"Um," Daria said, trying to work her shoulders free from her father's grasp. "It's above average, I guess. Temperature wise."

"Oh it's better than that kiddo!" Jake said. "Way better! I don't think you could possibly imagine just how great it is!" He had a thought about Daria's general mood and view of the world. "Well," he added, "ya know, you just might understand."

Daria did as she always did: spit out a sarcastic response in the hopes that her problem would go away eventually. She said, "Did we strike oil in the garage?" While she said that though, her father's hands still clamped on her shoulders, she cast a glance at her sister that said, Help me dammit! Quinn made no move to save her.

Jake, however, didn't notice the glance or the sarcasm, but he did release her shoulders. He could barely keep his voice level, wanting so badly to just out with it and tell them the incredible news. "Oh Daria," he said, "you're thinking way to small!"

Daria just seemed to be happy to have her shoulders back, and had turned to her book the moment she was free. Mission accomplished, Dad was sidetracked-past evidence indicated that he'd ramble on and she only had to make a noise every few seconds for him to be satisfied. Quinn was staring with less intensity, but was still staring none-the-less.

As predicted, Jake carried on without his audience. Why shouldn't he? He was just too excited to notice when people turned their ears off.

He said, "Life is a nightmare, Daria! Don't you understand? Existence is pain and suffering and it's all because we live in a callous, evil world!"

"Mmm," Daria said, reading her book.

"We're not just passing the time until we die-we're actively in the hands of a murderous lunatic from which we can never escape!"

"Shame," Daria said, still nose deep in her book. Quinn was back to staring intently.

"And," Jake said, "we as conscious creatures were made to suffer! It's not just that we're a random accident of matter and genetics-we're actively playthings for a cosmic psychopath!"

"Mmm," Daria said again. Peter Watts' novel Blindsight was just getting good-she was being sucked into the world. Quinn had no such book, and was staring with her mouth agape.

"Man," Jake said, "I tell ya, I haven't felt this good in years!" And with another click of his heels he launched himself into the air and strolled out of the kitchen, whistling the keys to Bad Moon Rising horribly off tempo. Daria stared at her book. Quinn stared at Daria.

"Um," Quinn said. "Daria, was that, like, normal or whatever?"

Daria tore her eyes from the page and regarded her sister. "What?" she said.

"What Dad just said. Is that...I donno. I mean, did you hear what he was saying?"

"No," Daria said. "I was nursing my shoulder."

"He was talking about life being like a nightmare or something."

Daria almost said That's Dad's MO but stopped herself. As much as her father cursed the world around him, he usually sounded like a man in pain when he did so. She was focused more on the throbbing pain in her shoulder than the tone of voice her father had been using, but it sure sounded like he was happy. A lot happy-the closest comparison Daria could find was that he'd maybe found a winning lottery ticket in the glove compartment of his new Lamborghini.

"He was saying that?" she asked Quinn. Her sister nodded.

"And stuff about God being a psychopath," Quinn said. She looked on the verge of being concerned. "So...is that normal stuff to say? Or has Dad-"

Daria was rising from the table and putting her book down before Quinn could finish. "I'll go talk to him. Get the number for poison control ready-he might've inhaled something when we weren't looking."

Her father was in the parlour, reaching for his car keys and smiling like he'd just been tickled by a supermodel. He saw Daria coming towards him, saw the look on his face, and almost let out a sigh. Almost-he was too happy to even let the fact that his daughter didn't understand get him down.

"Goin' for a drive kiddo!" he said. "I got places to be and people to see!"

"Are you feeling all right?" she asked.

"All right?" Jake said. "Daria, didn't you hear? I'm doing better than ever!"

Daria gave him a suspicious look. "Quinn said you were talking about life being...a nightmare?"

"Sure was!" Jake said. "Hey, haven't you said the same thing a few times?"

Daria ignored that and pushed on. "She also said you were talking about God being some kind of Hannibal Lecter in the sky."

"Oh," Jake said with a growing smile, "that might've been too kind. God's way worse than that!" He suddenly looked very serious. "Sorry, I mean...Nethescurial."

Daria blinked. "I...sorry, what?"

"I got a package at the office, and it changed my life!" Jake said. "Apparently these Australians think the entire universe is God and God is evil, and just one look at that manuscript had me dancing like I was in a rock concert!"

Daria blinked again. "Come again? I'm starting to think I have a concussion."

"Don't you see?" Jake said. "It means I was right! My life sucks because God is evil and there's no hope for happiness in this world! I'm not just a victim of circumstance, I was destined to suffer and there's nothing I could've done about it! This is just supposed to be how it is! Isn't it great?"

Once more, Daria blinked. "I take that back," she said. "I know I have a concussion now."

"I don't have time to explain," Jake said, opening the door and stepping through it. "I gotta tell your mother about this. Hell, I have to tell my mother about this! Just think what she'll say when she realizes that she couldn't have escaped Mad Dog if she tried!" Before he closed the door, he turned to stare directly at his daughter's face and took on the countenance of a Priest in a children's ward. "Now remember Daria: we suffer because we exist, and it'll only get worse. See ya later!"

And like that he was through the door, out to the car, off to tell his wife the good news. Or he would have, if he hadn't backed directly into a young couple riding their bikes across their driveway entrance. Their bodies thumped against his back windshield and a thick coat of red stained the glass. Daria was standing in the doorway still: she screamed, Quinn saw the scene and then screamed herself, the couple gurgled blood, and Jake stood their with a smile on his face saying, "Well if that isn't the damndest thing, huh?"

When confronted by the police on the edge of his driveway a few moments later, when the questions about his intentions became more and more accusatory, Jake just deepened his smile.

"Hey hey hey fellas," he said, "nothing to worry about here, right? We just gotta remember: God hates us all and this was going to happen eventually anyways, right?"

FIN


That last story is partially inspired by Thomas Ligotti's short-story "Nethescurial", and if you haven't read Ligotti before...um...

He makes Lovecraft look optimistic by comparison. Not necessarily scary - I mean, I guess that depends heavily on what you find scary and how much you've either accepted philosophical pessimism (like I have) or how confident you are in the face of it's positions - but in terms of his opinion on life, the universe, and humanity in general, it's bleak as shit and pulls no punches. If you liked "True Detective", and in particular Rust Cohle's well-practiced way of looking on the dark side of life, then...well in theory you at least won't mind Ligotti, being that a great deal of Cohle's dialogue seems almost completely lifted from Ligotti's "The Conspiracy Against the Human Race". Minus the bits of optimism that Cohle's throws in there - absolutely no optimism has ever graced a page with Ligotti's prose on it. He's like Arthur Schopenhauer as a horror writer.

Anyways, that tangent aside, ba-de-bad-de-that's all for now, folks! If/when enough Daria vignettes get written down, you'll probably find 'em here. If they're long enough to be a story all their own...then they'll probably be a story all their own. Maybe - I don't know how to plan things.

As I said, hope all is well and thank you very much for reading!

Cheers.