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Why Goons are the "Good Guys" of Eve - An essay by Asher
Quick note: This post took me a long time to write, many hours between conception, editing, and execution. If you would be so kind as to not downvote it strictly because you disagree with me, I’d appreciate it. If you think this is a low effort post, or doesn’t contribute to discussion, then please do. This started out as more of a bullet point list of reasons but as I rewrote it became more of a story of my experiences as they relate to Goons. I hope you all enjoy it more this way. One of the conceits of the war from the PAPI front is that “Goons are the bad guys of Eve”. I’ve found this narrative vexing, because over the last five years I think Goons have swung from comical Eve bad guys to the best of the large alliances in Eve. I’ll explain why I believe this is so. But first let’s address some things: One of the disadvantages of being around for so long is that we have to carry around all of the bad baggage from years past. There are a lot of “old twitter posts” some of which are pretty awful. Bad people, bad memes, and the like. Some of it is just stupid in retrospect, some of it deeply embarrassing. The positive news is that I think the alliance has become the leading example of what a large alliance should be in the game. Good to its members and a fun adversary to an outsider. Going back to 2015 Goons had gone through 1 “cultural revolution” which had defanged a lot of the casually terrible stuff that was common in Eve back then (ie: jewing was a common term for ratting/krabbing) but still had a lot of vestiges that wouldn’t be fully swept away until cultural revolution 2 (where we probably landed on the side of too heavy handed, but that’s a story for another day). However it was, in my opinion, peak “bad Goon” in terms of gameplay philosophy. Sion had just pushed the Viceroy plan - something I considered one of the most ill-conceived efforts to get content in quite a while. “Helldunks or blueballs” was the byword, and Reagalan snapping the phrase at some unremembered skirmish commander saying just that was the talk of the Eve subreddit. Spin was, in the most generous terms, pretty far-fetched. Line members were considered pretty dumb and the apparatchik were fairly devoted to passing down the party line. At the time I was an up-and-coming FC. I had already formed my Reavers SIG about a year before in Oct. 2014 and had won some heavily outnumbered fights against most expectations. I was getting a big push from alliance leadership and kept winning fights as I got sent out on mainfleets I was quickly got promoted into bigger roles to the point where I was running main fleets as the main FC. Laz was mostly AFK after winning B-R5 and trying to do the streamer thing, but still around for big fights. Not long after Vily left Goons. A few months later Endie, Elise and others would start aggressively lobbying me pretty hard to leave Goons and I started getting BIG CASH OFFERS on the table from other people as well. This was the start of the Casino War. At this point I think Mittens started sensing the sharks circling and promoted me to ‘skymarshal’. This is a mostly tongue in cheek position but one that meant you were in charge of the Goon military. At this point I had a lot of problems with the way some things were being handled in the alliance military, but I was fully committed to making change from inside rather than leaving my group behind (I had only been playing Eve seriously since 2013, but I’ve been a Goon since the early 2000s). One of my biggest problems was the “helldunks or blueballs” philosophy. I thought it was a great way to win one war but a terrible way to retain members. During much of 2015 I had the feeling that we were rotten to the core, that our strength was mostly fleeting. Although there were some specific moments that I felt could have stopped the Casino War before it started, (mostly by counteracting SMA’s mind boggingly bad decisions) I felt that theViceroy program and the disasterous lowsec campaign had already exposed a lot of our weakness to the whole galaxy. Despite the losses, the Casino War turned out to be a huge boon to Goonswarm and our allies that stuck with us. It got us out of Deklein into Delve which was (at the time) much better space. We would have never got rid of Deklein otherwise. It taught us a lot of lessons about sprawl and not fighting over-extended. It showed us the flaws in our organizational structure. But most importantly it opened minds to re-evaluating certain dearly held doctrinal beliefs. One that I wanted to challenge almost immediately was helldunks and blueballs. I felt that our guys being generally unchallenged lead to us having great numbers of fair weather friends who could be relied on for dunks but would split when the going got tough, both in Goons and throughout the other alliances in the CFC. In our exile to Saranen, we saw exactly that. My doctrinal belief was, and still is, that regularly placing your guys in tough positions results in better pilots and in people who are happier overall. We grow personally and as a group by overcoming challenges. A helldunk is a Pepsi Cola. A struggle overcome is a 14 year old scotch. After the Casino war we moved to Delve and were in pretty bad shape resource wise but you knew every person who stuck with you was true blue. I’ve never had more fun than my days in Saranen as the war wended its course to an end, and part of that reason was you knew that every person who was with you in Saranen would ride with you against all odds. I was determined to capture the ‘Saranen Spirit’ for people who were there and for those who would start playing or join us later. It took a while though. When we first arrived in Delve PGL followed us there with the goal of destroying us once and for all, but by this point there was no fat left. Every single person was battle hardened and the money and will to follow us had run out. We stopped his campaign pretty quickly. Change came slowly at first. We had a lot of wounds to lick, a lot of data to process and people were just tired. The first turning point against helldunks/blueballs came with our Hakonen deployment. We took a shot at Tribute with just carriers and dreads versus an enemy supercap force that clearly outnumbered us. It was a very fun deployment for us but we did eat a ton of negative publicity about how “bad” we were. I think it bothered Mittens a bit (maybe a lot) and I don’t think he had yet realized the value we gained out of it. After seeing GOTG’s impressive subcapital and supercapital contributions during the Hakonen deployment, we decided to deploy some of our combat SIGs to Pure Blind to begin harassing our enemies on that front, once again committing to an offensive in a deliberately handicapped fashion. For almost a year, we whittled down multiple alliances with relatively tiny subcapital fleets and the odd dreadbomb. All of this built up to a climax in 2017. X-47 was one of the most consequential fights in recent memory, and once again we put ourselves in a rough spot to get it. We started the titan fight with dead-even numbers against an enemy with Keepstar advantage and all that entails. Less remembered but even more significant was the oppressive tether doomsday bug/feature, which put our super fleet at a significant disadvantage. In the armor timer, we gave them the opening volley and it started off really poorly for us, but we ended up pulling out a victory. The hull timer was a much more lopsided victory in terms of Titan kills, , and the Keepstar death all but ended serious resistance in the war. Still, I remember the anxiety going into the fight, I don’t want to sound over-dramatic but I spent the whole night before prowling my house, unable to sleep. I had figured out the value of the Imperium supercapital fleet and it was in the millions of dollars if you converted it to plex. It’s a huge amount of pressure on the shoulders of the FC to know that if you mess up you could lose that for the people who put their trust in you. It’s also a very small group of people in video game history who can make a statement like that so it’s a fun and unique cadre to belong to and my respect to those of you who have shouldered that burden before. Throughout all of these campaigns, I think it became more and more clear that this new military philosophy was the superior one, and ditching the ‘helldunk’ strategy was the correct move. Over time I slowly pulled Mittens towards my view point on this - that there is something of more value than just numbers. Our doctrines started evolving too. This might sound comical, but for a long time Goons had avoided cap chains. It was thought that the Goon line member couldn’t handle it. Now when I see our fleet spreading ewar really effectively, and our very effective cap chaining logi, and multiple FCs all doing different tasks, I can’t help but smile. Hard work pays off. After X-47 we wrapped up that war and went home. We would come back in the not too distant future to finish the work we had started. We expected a stronger response in Tribute, but after an initial hard fight the regions were vacated and we glassed it. Unlike every other group in the game, we didn’t immediately find some renters or delegate an underling to occupy the space. We left it fallow and a really healthy ecosystem of small alliances has flourished. We didn’t know exactly what would happen in this space, but since we left Deklein we have very conspicuously and openly avoided taking space and sprawling out. And I was very satisfied to see what can happen when you leave some space open for anyone to use. After that last northern campaign, we went home again during the chaos era before we started our GEF campaigns the following year. Once again, we deployed against superior enemy numbers with capital superiority and fought outnumbered in two separate campaigns. At this point it felt like we had burnt away all vestiges of helldunks or blueballs. Coming into July I had this short convo with Mittens, and I think it illustrates how our relationship has grown and the trust that you can build even with people who initially had vastly opposing views on how things should be run: https://i.imgur.com/YyIE1bs.png I’d like to address a few more points that I think lie strongly in our favour: Supercaps – Goons have been opposed to them for as long as I can recall. All our CSMs have publicly come out in favour of them being nerfed, even though it’s long been to our strategic benefit for them to be strong. Over the last few years we’ve lost people in comparison relative to other alliances. Some people have aged out, some didn’t like the way we fought wars and went to climes that agreed with them more, but we’ve always had the most supers and we’ve constantly argued that they are unhealthy for the game. I have personally lobbied for them to be nerfed, in public and in focus groups with Devs, because it’s our belief that they are unhealthy for the game. Part of why we are being attacked is because our enemies believe that dreads can be used against titans much more effectively than in the past, and they can flex their numbers advantage in that area on us. If we end up losing because of this, we’ll have lobbied ourselves into that position. I think part of the gulf in perspective between us and our enemies, especially the TAPI FCs is that they just fundamentally view the game differently than we do. But at one point we were much closer. Vily left in 2015 in the middle of helldunk/blueball and copious spin and he’s brought the Goons culture of 2015 to Test. There’s a Test poster – who I won’t name because I’m pretty sure he gets off on being recognized – who has been making the argument that Test are more Goonie than Goons. And to him I say: I agree with you. Test have inherited the mantle of Goons and we became something else. Vily is Goons without the growth. PGL tried to destroy us in 2016 and thought we’d cave in like a rotten pumpkin because that’s what happened with his alliance. When we didn’t I believe he was shocked but he thinks it will be different this time. Well, I’m going to be the bearer of bad news for him because this group has been through much worse than we had in 2015. We have a lot of people who have been fighting consistently against people who had every advantage over them and they’ve come out the other end stronger. Will it be enough to beat 3x our numbers? Who knows, but I know these guys will be with me no matter what happens. I’ve been hearing the same story over and over in my fleets, I have pretty open comms (sorry Euros that I annoy with this policy) and people have been more reflective as of late. And I kept hearing the story from one guy after another about how they thought that Goons were the bad guys until they joined them. So tonight I asked my fleet to X up if they thought or had heard that Goons were the bad guys before they joined, this was the result: https://i.imgur.com/mJCEiS7.gif I’ve been pondering this, and wondering why people would join the bad guys. Every story varied but often people had tried other things and were unhappy and Goons were an unhappy choice initially but once they were in they saw how things actually worked and were happy with it. Some ended up by chance through a corp moving or just a friend invited them and that overcame their doubts. The point was that even though they heard we were the bad guys once they were here and got to experience our culture they saw it was different than what they had elsewhere. That’s partly why I think a lot of our guys are really passionate, they feel unfairly attacked. Now I’ve come a long way, but I want to address the 5 ton elephant in the room: The Mittani. I’m very aware that he said something stupid almost a decade ago. I addressed my thoughts in much more depth here. I don’t believe it was said with malice, but it still was an awful thing to say. However in my time interacting with him he’s always been a very passionate guy but I’ve never seen him suggest an untoward thing. He wants to win, he wants to use whatever legal way possible to do it and he’s a guy who’s shown a lot of growth personally. If he wanted to do something I thought was immoral I would hear about it and I wouldn’t support it, but I’ve never once been put in that position. I think a lot of you don’t understand that he’s a wrestling promoter. He can’t help but play a heel. He’s fantastic at it. And he’s fantastic for the game, lots of you guys on the other side want to win so you can wipe the smug smile off his face. This is awesome. More leaders should be like this, there are a few I really would like to do the same to (or have done in the past) and it’s great to have people that motivate you to fight them. The worst thing for this game would be a bunch of staid boring diplomats who didn’t inspire any vitriol. This game is about fighting after all. Another good thing about Goons and the Imperium is our diplomatic stance, although I don’t want a bunch of diplomats running the game I am very keen on keeping our words and Goons have done this more than any other group. Sister Bliss was talking with me about why Init has stuck with Goons and he said something about how every other group in the game had promised Init the world then screwed them when it was convenient and Goons were the only one who stuck to what they said and he values that. A few quick more bullet points:
Goons do not like renting. Of all the big alliances we’ve had the smallest rental program, we only reluctantly got into it when OTEC was broken and had to secure some income. We closed our rental program, but we kept out word and grandfathered our old renters so that they could stay and not lose what they’d agreed to. I think renting is a net bad thing for the game, actually very bad so I’m proud of this one. Culturally Goons have always opposed rental programs.
We forced the game into taking on all players regardless of skill point level. Groups like Brave, Horde, etc followed in our footsteps on this one. I firmly believe that getting players into groups that have the bandwidth to teach them the game with proven programs that know how to retain people is the best way to do it, rather than just hoping they join random highsec corp #1850 and hoping they aren’t run by toxic incompetent people.
Goons don’t sprawl. We’ve held 4 regions but 2 of those were more out of necessity than any desire to hold them. In one region we did the Querious Fight Club which has launched over 20 corps into nullsec alliances around the game or independently. Right now Pandafam covers 12 or 13 regions and is renting out many of them to aggressively botted alliances. If you look at the MER Frat is making more money than any other nullsec group and it’s not even close. Because of how densely packed we are our space is terrible for botting, probably the worst space in the game for it, which is another tick for us.
This is a personal one but Goon doctrines are more interesting. Screw Munnins, down with boring arty doctrines. I’m really happy we’ve been iconoclastic in our doctrinal decisions and have seen success with those choices.
So, that about wraps up my voluminous tome. What should you do with this information? Well, I hope no matter what side you were on you found it an interesting read. I’m not trying to convince anyone to not fight us. Jay and I were talking right as the war was starting about how we were in the perfect spot, no one expects us to win so if we do it’s more credit to us but if we lose it’s to be expected. If we end up back in an NPC station then I get to just replay my favorite time in Eve ever. But I hope I have shown you a little bit about why I believe Goons are one of the best alliances in the game right now, thanks for reading.
I am 36 years old, make $66,900, live in Portland OR and work as a Data Coordinator.
Section Zero: Background Hello all, happy hoildays! I stumbled upon this subreddit not long ago and have enjoyed the commentary and experiences everyone's shared. Wanted to add another perspective from a mid-30s first-gen American. I've had some missteps regarding careers and finances, but I feel like I'm in a slightly better place now. I tried YNAB in the past but I wasn't consistent enough with it. These days I use Mint to monitor my finances and have a "Finance Friday" each month to review all my accounts and spending. I currently live with my partner TJ and his dog RR. We do not combine finances, but he has been unemployed since March. I have helped him with some bills and basic necessities here and there until he finds his next job or career. My current financial goals are to just maintain a status quo and not get any debt until pandemic times are over. Then I will focus on a house remodeling fund and savings for taking care of my parents. Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances? My parents taught us about money from a frugal perspective. They are immigrants who worked in food service/factories. There was always this “save save save” mentality. Even when they started their own small business, we saved like there was no tomorrow. In high school, my calculus teacher bought us all “The Millionaire Next Door” book and had us read it as an assignment - that was my first structured introduction to finances. Did you worry about money growing up? No, there was always food on the table and a roof over our heads. I knew that our extended family would support us if needed. Was there an expectation for you to attend higher education? Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it? Yes. My dad didn’t finish the high school-equivalent in their country, while my mom did finish high school, but no college. My older and younger siblings took a different path in life after high school. I am the first and only in my family to graduate from college. My parents covered all tuition for my two bachelor degrees with the agreement that I support them fully during their retirement and send them gifts/extra money whenever I can. I feel very lucky and privileged that they were able to provide that education for me. At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net? 24 when I went on a work holiday abroad. My family was always available to help when needed, but the experience abroad helped me stand on my own feet. As an adult, I also inherited that “save” mentality and put a lot of my earnings towards savings. I didn’t date until my 30s, lived frugally, didn’t go out to eat/hangout with people, shopped thrift stores, and had very few hobbies. I am starting to “live a little” now though. Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? Aside from the tuition, my parents have helped with a down payment for my first house and living costs during periods of unemployment. Section One: Assets and Debt Retirement Balance If the place I was working at offered a 401k, I would always contribute up to the company match. I started my IRA in my mid-20s and would try to contribute the yearly max. I've stopped that the past 2-3 years though. My Other Brokerage is some play money, but I got tired of staring it and switched to index funds. I haven't contributed anything to it in a few years.
401k: $34,127 (5% company match on contributions)
Brokerage: $22,421 ESPP
Roth IRA: $40,615 VTIVX
Rollover IRA: $15,760 VTTHX
Other Brokerage: $7,235 VTI
Coinbase: $1,286 ETH (mostly just playing around with it)
Equity if you're a homeowner Purchased my first home for $382,000 with 20% down, right before lockdown earlier this year. Perfect timing, right?? I plan to live here until my retirement. My parents contributed $15k while I used most of my savings for the rest.
Current Equity: $80,371
Savings account balance: $3,073 Checking account balance: $7,800 Credit card debt: I charge everything on my credit card for the points, then pay it off each month using my checking account balance. Student loan debt: Traditionally no student loan debt as mentioned in Section Zero. Section Two: Income Income Progression (listed as gross income with cost of living area): High School
$11/hourMCOL - Helped with small family business.
College and first “career” job
$12-19/hour MCOL - I did events/banquet serving after classes and had an internship doing software administration.
$22/hour MCOL - Junior web developer. I realized after a year that programming was not my calling.
Mental health break
$12/hour LCOL - Work holiday abroad. I got a steady banquet server job for that whole time. It was enough to live minimally in a hostel, do weekend trips, WOOF and figure my life out.
College (again) and second “career” job
$12-15/hour LCOL - Decided to go back to school for a different bachelor's degree. While pursuing that degree, I worked at hotels and events as a banquet server again. I also did “search engine evaluation” whenever there were tasks available.
$36,000/year salary LCOL - Software administrator at a casino after graduation.
$39,000/year salary LCOL - Systemsanalyst at same casino. I left after 2 years, feeling disillusioned with the casino industry. I moved back home with my parents until I could get back on my feet again.
Third “career” jobs
$20/hour HCOL - Entry level advertising role. I was applying to all types of office jobs and that was my only bite.
$45/hour MCOL - Cold-called from a global company who needed someone with my software administrator experience from the casino job. It was an 8 month contract. Although I was starting to love my advertising job, the increase in pay was no question.
$65,000/year salary MCOL - After the contract ended and a few months of unemployment, I landed my current job at the same company. It is an “early career” role according to their job levels.
$66,900/year salary MCOL - Cost of living and merit increases after 2 years on the job. Pre-COVID we got a $5000 bonus each year. They have now stopped bonuses as well as all COL and merit increases.
Main Job Monthly Take Home: Monthly Net (paid bi-weekly): $2,758 Deductions:
Side Gig Monthly Take Home: No side gigs at the moment, but I am thinking of signing up on Upwork.com and doing Excel/data entry projects to help pay the mortgage. Other Income: TJ’s friend will be staying with us for a month in January, who will pay rent of $800 including utilities. Depending on how that goes, we may take on a roommate in the spare bedroom long-term. Section Three: Expenses Mortgage - when I bought the house, the plan was that I would charge TJ a portion of the mortgage costs as “rent”, but since his unemployment I am now covering it all myself. Regular Monthly Payment: $1677.57
Taxes & Home Insurance: $326.52
HOA: $30/year Retirement contribution: Nothing additional than what's been mentioned. Savings contribution: I used to do $50-100/month, but since COVID I’ve stopped contributing to my savings account. Investment contribution: None at this time. Debt payments: $100/month towards TJ's credit card balance of $2,307. Donations: $10-20/month, usually towards Omaze or Planned Parenthood. Utilities:
Natural Gas: $30-80/month
Xfinity internet: $60/month
Cellphone: On my parents plan. Subscriptions:
LinkedIn: $29.99/month for TJ’s job search - he’s found it very useful.
Amazon/Netflix/Hulu: We piggyback off family and friends’ accounts.
Nintendo Switch Online: 19.99/year
Gym membership: Pre-COVID I did Orangetheory for a year. I started to pick up free exercise equipment from Craigslist this year, so we have a small garage gym now and utilize YouTube exercise videos instead. Pet expenses: $10/month. TJ has stockpiled some Costco canned dog food before unemployment, but once that runs out I will likely cover the costs. We also started to make homemade dog food to help supplement. Car insurance: $460 every 6 months. Car is paid off. Regular therapy: I will start in the new year. Not sure what the costs are yet, but I will use my HSA to pay. Vitamins/Medications: $20/month Groceries & household items: $75/month Miscellaneous (eating out, house purchases, gifts, etc): $100/month Section Four: Money Diary Monday 6:30am Neighbor starts up their truck. We joke that it's our natural alarm clock. They idle for about 15 minutes before heading off. I go back to bed. 9am My real alarm goes off. I put the electric kettle on for some morning tea. While it's boiling, I do my morning routine: drink glass of water, take synthroid, use bathroom, brush teeth, quick shower. I then make tea - Jasmine Pearl English Breakfast with dark forest mix. I started ordering loose leaf tea in large amounts back in March instead of small bags or single serving packets. Seems more economical since I drink it daily. I let the dog out into the backyard so he can do his morning routine. 9:30am I go through my daily tasks for work. They entail checking processes and reports to make sure they ran successfully overnight. I then answer some emails and catch-up on Slack channels. 12pm Lunch is leftover roast chicken and quinoa from Saturday. I heat it up in the instant pot. Love that thing! Almost every meal of ours involves the instant pot. We hardly use the stovetop. We then walk the dog to the business park across from our neighborhood. There's a very short trail that runs along a drainage creek by the business park. It's quite muddy, but has a nice woodsy feeling. Over the summer, we saw sumac trees there as well. Free sumac spice! 1:30pm Department meeting on Zoom. Our director announces his resignation on the call. Everyone is shocked! Layoffs were announced for next year but this was not a part of it. I think it's a good move for him and he doesn't have to have this worry of layoffs over his head. 3pm I meet with an engineer from another team and talk about a data source they are in charge of. He helps me out in understanding it and we identify most of the fields that I need for a project I’m starting. 5:30pm I check in with my partner. He's been watching LinkedIn tutorials on internal recruiting, job coaching and general computeoffice skills. It's a career change that he wants to make - something where he can talk to and help people. He doesn't have a bachelor's, only an associates, and hopes these tutorials will get him a leg up in the job search. I sent him some entry level HR admin roles the other day and remind him to apply. I then heat up leftovers: homemade chana masala and rice. I add some butter and coconut milk to thin it out, so there's enough for both of us. 10:30pm I take some magnesium, vitamin D and Airborne. I say goodnight to the dog who sleeps in the office. Then I say goodnight to TJ. He sleeps in the spare bedroom on weeknights due to his snoring keeping me up. I'm a light sleeper while he is a pretty deep sleeper. Daily total: $0 Tuesday 9am I check Reddit Secret Santa. My match seems like a really good person. Not sure what to get, but most likely will purchase something off their wishlist. I wish I was more creative with my gift giving. 11am Meeting with business stakeholder. She submitted a few changes to an existing data process about a month ago. I make the change while on the call and have her test. Success! Marking it off the todo list. I love when we can finish things directly on a call. 12:30pm I come out of my office to make lunch. I notice my partner is not home. I check my messages and see that he's stepped out to pick up a few things. I ask for celery, carrots, and kombucha. $17. I make a quick charcuterie board for lunch: Costco salami, cheese, homemade hummus and Triscuits. It's a simple, fast meal that’s always in our rotation. 2pm My partner is back and we take the dog out for a walk and quick round of disc golf at a nearby park. We mask up and play only a few holes. Disc golf is a pretty frugal activity, you only need 2-3 discs to get started. TJ remarks that my throws are getting better, but then again they weren't great to start with. We talk about Christmas/Birthday gifts on the way back home since he was born on New Years Day. He mentioned snowshoeing but asked to not spend that much. I'll do some research! 5pm I think about personal career projects. Should I put up a portfolio of projects somewhere? I decide to try and pull some Yelp data. There’s not a lot of data points that I was interested in. Regardless, I tinker with it for an hour. TJ asks if I'm hungry. I said not so much, but felt thirsty. Maybe some ginger soup tonight? 7:30pm Dinner is served - ginger carrot soup made in the instant pot. We eat some rice crackers with it. Lately I feel like we've been eating more vegetarian dinners. It definitely helps stretch our food budget. We end the evening by finishing Fargo season 3 on Hulu. Daily total: $17 Wednesday 1:30am I'm woken up by the dog. He's been sneezing a lot and wheezes at random intervals. TJ doesn't have the money for a vet visit but I've offered to pay as long as he calls to make the appointment. I give the dog some coconut oil, rub his belly until he seems better and go back to bed. 7am Garbage day. We usually put it out the night before but I forgot. I get up to go, but TJ handles it. I think, at least. I'm too sleepy to pay attention and go back to bed. 9am I wake up and rinse some dishes that have piled up and put them into the dishwasher. We both grew up in households that had a home dishwasher, but forbade from using it. It was drilled into us that hand washing saves more water, unless you had a restaurant/industrial dishwasher. I think with modern home dishwashers, that's changed, so I wanted to try it out with our dishwasher and monitor the water bill. Don't have any dishwashing pods or powder, so I put some OxiClean in it. 12:30pm I overhear TJ on a call with a recruiting agency. It seems to be going well, lots of laughing. I heat up some taco lasagna that I freezer meal-prepped last month. 2pm Collaborate on a project at work with an engineer. My manager put me on this project since I was asking for an assignment on a more technical team. I'm learning tidbits here and there, but I don't feel like it's structured enough. 5pm I do an Orangetheory-At-Home workout and try to break a sweat. It's not the same as going to their studio. 6pm Charcuterie for dinner. Our fridge is full of store-bought and homemade pickles that go super well on a charcuterie board. Daily total: $0 Thursday 7am I wake up tired. The house has been feeling more cold, which woke me up a few times. We keep the temp at 72F during the day, at night around 68F since we thought the bedrooms keep the heat in pretty well. My mistake! 9am I do my usual morning routine and login to work. My team mostly spends the morning sending each other emojis. 11:30am Lunch today is mini quiche, frozen chicken and veggie entree, and hot dogs. Not the most cohesive meal, but it fills the belly. 12:30pm TJ heads out to his mailbox that's 30 minutes away. He is still waiting on his tax return and a 401k withdrawal. His taxes had to be filed by mail for some reason, then the IRS office shut down due to COVID. So he wanted to see if it arrived yet at the mailbox. He also takes the dog to the vet's urgent care on his way. They didn't have any regular openings available until the end of the year, and the dog seemed to be getting worse. I give TJ $40 to mail a gift package to a friend in France and also reiterate that I'll cover the vet bill when he gets it. 4:30pm I pay some bills, my favorite activity (not)! Sewer bill: $59.44 (billed every 2 months). Geico bill: $459.60 billed every 6 months. Then I follow up with my mortgage officer over email. I had sent her some documents for a refinance quote last week, but haven't heard back. Rates keep dropping, so I'm told, but what does that really mean? I do some research on realestate. 5pm TJ messages me and says he'll be back for dinner. I ask him to pick up some Popeyes via drive thru since we both don't feel like cooking today. Popeyes is currently our fancy “going out to eat” food. $24.17 for a 4pc dinner meal and a 2pc dinner meal. Daily total: $583.21 Friday 8:30am Busy morning at work. My phone is buzzing with emails and Slack messages. I try to answer them while I make tea. 10am Zoom Department happy hour. We reminisce about our director and then play those Jackbox party games. Some of them are hard! 11am TJ asks if he can make me anything for lunch. He suggests savory oatmeal, quick and easy. I tell him that I really appreciate him making meals/doing chores/etc without me prompting. We've been having conversations about "house project management" and mental load because I did most of the chores or I had to continually remind/tell him to do it. I'm really happy to see us progress on this front. I decide to work through my lunch break so I can end the day early. I don't often do that, but I'm ready to get the weekend started. 2pm I check on TJ in the spare bedroom and ask if the dog has been fed yet, since he was nipping at my feet. I notice something off about TJ and ask how he is doing. TJ is depressed about his personal life, career, finances. He doesn't know what to do, spends half the day meditating and reflecting on past trauma. I've been prodding him to get a therapist but he is confused about his insurance. He makes an appointment with a primary care doctor first. I feed the dog some homemade dog-friendly beef stew. 4pm My mom swings by the house (but doesn't enter). She currently works at a school who distributes free USDA food boxes since March. There's often many boxes leftover that would go to waste, so she will grab a box for us. Onions, potatoes, beets, turnips, eggs, cheese, butter, frozen veggies and frozen chicken. She also brought her vintage pasta maker. I asked last week if she ever used it these days and her reply was “no, feel free to have it”. I love pasta and noodles and figure it would be great to make it ourselves as a frugal hobby. 8pm We catch up on Mandalorian and watch silly Youtube videos before heading off to bed. Daily total: $0 Saturday 9am I open up my web browser and look at Craigslist and NextDoor for free stuff. I've been scouring for free landscape rocks, pegboards, and wood for house projects. I had this grand ambition to redesign our backyard. It faces our neighbor and currently the fence is pretty low. They can see into our kitchen and bedroom and we can see them. But y'know, COVID and going from dual income house to single income means it all has to be put on hold. So I've been looking for free items in the meantime. Over the past months, I've gotten planter pots, plant cuttings, a raised bed, stepping stones, all from free listings. I don't see anything worthwhile so I go and make some tea. 11am I look at Amazon and make some purchases for Reddit Secret Santa. A foodie kit, DVD of their favorite movie, and some cute pens for their writing hobby. $54. I hope they like it! 12pm TJ heats up leftover stir-fry for lunch for us. I put on some Binging with Babish and we watch how to make pasta. We have a plan - TJ makes the pasta, I make the sauce. Perfect date night activity at home. We watch some more videos on pasta and noodles to educate ourselves. 4pm I start prepping veggies. Big batch of onions, canned tomatoes, ground beef and butter in the instant pot. Meanwhile, TJ works on the pasta by following Babish's instructions. 7pm We gorge on fresh made pasta and bolognese sauce. It's so good! We end up watching Fargo. 11pm Usually I'll be in bed by now, but it's a Saturday and not tired yet (probably because of all that pasta). We play some Kirby's Dream Course on the Switch. Daily total: $54 Sunday 10am Quick walk around the neighborhood with the dog. He's on a new routine now with the medicine he's taking. It seems to be helping his breathing issues. 11am The pasta maker and flour is still out since we didn't clean up yesterday. There's some old pie crust in the fridge so I roll it out with the pasta machine for mini quiches. (Sally's Baking Addiction blog is my go-to place for her all-butter crust and quiche recipes btw). TJ helps by mixing up the eggs. 3pm I play some Genshin Impact (GI) on my phone while TJ plays Starcraft in the office. I don't usually play gacha games, but the Zelda BotW-style of GI appealed to me. A gacha game is a game with randomized characteitem boxes that you use real-money to purchase a “pull” or to spin the wheel. I know the gacha parts of the game can be a real money sink if you get addicted to them, it’s almost like gambling. My main team is Fischl, Bennett, Barbara and Noelle. I level up to AR 22 and look up free-to-play tutorials for the game. 6pm There's some leftover pasta from yesterday, enough for both of us. I throw in some roasted beets to round out the meal. We watch more Fargo while eating. Almost done with Season 3! 10pm I find a tour operator who offers a small, socially-distant snowshoeing tour up on the mountain. I reserve for two people - this will be TJ's Christmas/birthday gift. $75. Off to bed for another workday. Daily total: $75 Weekly Total: $689.79
Food + Drink: $41.17
Fun / Entertainment: $75
Home + Health: $59.44
Clothes + Beauty: $0
Section Five: Reflections Aside from the car insurance bill, this was a typical week for me, COVID or not. We make the majority of our meals at home and usually splurge on drive-thru/delivery once every other week. I may have overspent on the Secret Santa gift, but I don't often give gifts out to friends. It's not something our family does either. For TJ’s Christmas/birthday gift, we usually talk upfront about costs. I’ve gifted him fancy restaurant experiences the past 2 years, since we can share that experience, but obviously can’t do that now. Snowshoeing is a nice change of pace. The conversations with TJ this week have given me thought on how to approach him differently about finances and working together in a relationship. I’m still unsure about the future financially, particularly as my parents near retirement age and that TJ has pulled out his 401k to pay his debts. I don't know if I can support both my parents and TJ together, so I am finding ways to upskill and/or side hustles without becoming a workaholic or bogged down by stress. Writing this money diary was also the first time where I really paid attention to my past income and current income. I might be contributing too much into ESPP that could go towards the 401k or mortgage instead? I also seem to have been underpaid for what I did in past jobs, even in a LCOL area.
My best friend has changed and I don’t know if our friendship will survive.
So quick info: Jess(24) and I(25) have been friends for almost 11 years. Sure we’ve had our ups and downs but in the end we’ve always been there for each other and supported each other through everything. She was in a abusive relationship for a couple years after high school which produced her son(5)and daughter(3). Ultimately she and her children got out safely and she was granted full custody. 2 years ago Jess began dating my husbands best friend Casey(26). They are so good together and I truly am happy for her. About 6 months in she and her children moved in with Casey, and she was able to go back to college and get a law degree. This allowed her to secure a job in her field so this year they got a house together. 2 weeks after they moved Casey proposed and they are set to get married this next fall. Don’t get me wrong I am really happy for them both, however since they moved (3 bedroom townhouse to an upscale 5 bedroom home) she has changed and I’ve been finding it hard to be around her. DH first noticed when Jess gave us a tour of their new home and now looking back on it I can see it too. She was very ‘look how nice my house is’ with a mild snobby/condescending/tone when she talked about each room and how she had talked Casey into buying the house even though he wasn’t 100% sold on it. At the time I thought she was just excited about owning her first house though the comment about Casey was a little weird. The rest of the visit was ok. I noticed when Jess took myself and 2 other bridesmaids to her first dress appointment in October. She initially wasn’t looking for ‘the dress’ just getting a better idea of what she wanted as she was torn between a few styles. Long story short she ended up finding ‘the dress’ that day (she looks gorgeous in it, it’s definitely her dress). Well she went to go pay for it and didn’t have enough (dress was about $1,500) so she called Casey and asked if she could borrow money and pay him back next paycheck. He said no. I could see the embarrassment on her face when she had to ask to set up a payment plan, and repeated how she’ll be able to pay it off once she gets her next paycheck. She complained the entire way back. First about how Casey wouldn’t borrow her the money (he has a cushy Job in a technological field), then it evolved into how he’s making her sign a prenup(aside from the fact that he makes a decent bit more than her he has several properties he has/will inherit that he wants to keep in his family. He is an only child of an only child). I honestly tuned her out at this point, however I did begin to think she might not make as much as she says she does. Recently we did a zoom party where we bridesmaids played a game to determine the maid of honor (despite the fact that a year earlier she said if her and Casey got married I’d probably be her maid of honor). Only 3 of us actually participated and surprise to no one she picked me under the stipulation one of the other bridesmaids help with the bachelorette party. Side note: my husband and I do ok. He has a factory job, and I’m a stay at home mom for our 2 children. In my spare time I work on my writing career. Sure we might live in a 2 bedroom apartment and have only one car but despite that I’d like to think we live comfortably. We’re able to keep food on the table, and bills paid with a little wiggle room. So with that said the stipulation is basically because I can’t afford the type of bachelorette party she wants(rent hotel rooms, go to casinos, drink, that type of thing). Honestly I might just say screw it and let the other bridesmaid be maid of honor. The thing that really set me off was at the end of the call it was just Jess and I. She wanted to get my opinion of the styles she had picked for the bridesmaids dresses (they’re beautiful but all of us are probably going to need alterations of some type). Well the conversation turned to wedding rings and I mentioned how my husband and I were planning on getting new, nicer wedding rings since our original ones have become too small and worn out (they were a $30 set, we couldn’t afford much more at the time). I showed her pictures of the rings my husband and I picked(his is $100+ engraved titanium band, mine is $300+ swirl style sterling silver cubic zirconia ring) all she said was “oh they’re nice” and then went on about how her engagement ring cost $500+ and how the stones were real, etc. by the time I hung up the zoom I wasn’t sure I wanted the ring I had picked anymore. I have since gotten my husband his but every time I go to order mine the conversation just repeats in my head and I never complete the order. Her mom use to joke with her before Jess and Casey got together that she should date Casey because he make so much money he could take care of her and the kids and as horrible as it sounds I’m wondering if that’s exactly what she did. Idk if our friendship will survive though I do want to try and make things work because we’re all close friends (even our kids) and I really don’t want my husband and kids to possibly lose their friends because of issues with mine and I do genuinely still care about her. Idk if I need advice or to rant or what but anything helps.
...“You know what I'm here for!” Effie’s words rang out as Ernie watched on at the unexpected turn of events. “The funny thing is I really don’t know.” Ernie stood there and took in the scene. Was this the first time he had seen this type of outburst in the District? Ernie tried to recall, but now wasn’t really the time to reminisce on bad memories. Something was afoot. Something about Ugo threatening them that was for sure. But if Ugo wanted somebody to fight him this would never be his plan of attack. “Would you care to enlighten me then, I wouldn’t mind this either way!” Ernie shouted back, his tone was neutral, the tension of the situation only increased, but he didn’t see a need to fight back even now. “They sent us here, because they wanted us to steal your notebook!” Ernie heard the voice of Jenny behind a tree. Things started to make sense to Ernie, the hiding, why it wasn’t Odin’s people doing this, and that outburst. “And what do you two intend to do?” Ernie moved his backpack from his back to carrying it on one arm. “Well if you help us, you could send them a fake notebook! It’s not like we like those fuckers anyways!” Jenny replied beyond the trees. Well that wasn’t so difficult was it, it only took one or maybe both of their ire to get to this arrangement. Ernie weighed this against the prospect that they were lying to him, but if it came down to it it would just be either a fight now or a fight later. “Alright I’ll help you! I’ll be in my cabin manuscripting! You two wait outside, this will take less than an hour!” Ernie shouted back over as he started to walk back to his cabin. “Your funeral..wait what?!” Effie flipped as Jenny clapped an arm on her, “We did it, we can get out of this shitty situation.” Effie looked around, The Murder receded back into herself. “Did that really just happen?” She held out the hope that it really would be that easy, she wanted to believe it but she felt a slight pang of confusion, guilt maybe? Jenny continued on, “We just have to make sure that he does his end of the deal and we’ll be out of here in no time.” Jenny looked at Effie’s face as she noticed the change in expression, “You okay there? You let out a bunch just now and if you wanted to talk about it.” “No I’m ok, come on we have to still keep an eye on him.” Effie brushed Jenny’s arm off and made her way closer into the clearing with Jenny following. Well, that was somewhat anticlimactic. If you were hoping for a match with some more carnage in it, how about checking out a race out of a monster-filled urn and voting on it? Scenario: Sound’s Garden Eastern Strip - Heartache Casino VIP Room “So kind of you all to come again,” a man dressed garishly in gold spoke to a roomful of wealthy highrollers, a lounge area with a wall taken up by a screen large enough to make the place double as something of a particularly cozy home theater, a setup which had typically been reserved for two things: watching games organized by Heartache Casino’s owner on the closed-circuits of buildings he owned, and being rented out for private parties and banquets. “This is pretty unconventional,” a dark-haired sniper remarked between drinks, staring at the screen as it showed, largely, several shots of a building in Downtown Los Fortuna, which seemed to have rapidly grown occupied by a small group of Stand Users, some of whom familiar to the district’s regulars after some close shaves in the subways both occupied, “but it’s brilliant… Just needed to get your tech guy to get cameras in there, now you have a huge show for free.” “Should you be drinking, Seido?” The gold-clad owner asked, raising an eyebrow, “I mean, if something comes up…” “If something comes up, I’m off-duty, I’m just a guest right now, and I can shoot well enough sloshed to get myself out of a bind. If you wanted me as security, you should’ve hired me for that… Though really, I’d have rather been down there raising some hell if I was gonna shoot things.” Tigran sighed, finding that fair enough, he supposed… He wasn’t going to hire this man when he was buzzed, and he wouldn’t do guard detail for free either. Apparently, the man literally came to the city walking out of a bar into the flag unveiling, so he shouldn’t have been surprised. Still, though, even with moods high here, nobody seeming to mind the way anonymous characters like Oh No and Conqueror Worm mingled among them. Sure, they were kind of a low-priority target right now, with protests in the Business district, the hell-on-earth about to be unleashed Downtown keeping their worst nightmares busy, and the usual BS in places like the Waterfront and Industrial, but the man once noted for his supremely smarmy overconfidence had been feeling more anxious lately, probably because the Entertainment District’s criminal underground had taken some losses recently. Things were riding high with several successful games, and the arrival of Conqueror Worm, revitalizing everything that they had thought they’d known and opening up whole new possibilities of what games might be possible to organize from a place of safety, all while not asking for a penny of payment. He was a weird guy, but a valuable asset, and all that was understood to be asked in return was that they pretend not to know exactly who it was underneath that big fleshy suit. And then, the next time they had an in-person event, a bunch of them died in a fire, and on the way to… Well, who knew why he was there, but something happened that got a formerly active manager and ‘game’ organizer murdered blocks away from the site of the flames. Was it a sign, then, that the old ways really were dying, that they needed to change with the times or lose this subculture of theirs entirely? Maybe, and maybe some would leave it like that, but Tigran “Golden” Sins knew another source of common ground with every one of their games to go wrong, to go awry, to risk the future and safety of all that they were, all that they had. Everything (besides that time he got punched in the face) that had gone wrong, from Thutmose leaving them, to events that were supposed to be disastrous bloodbaths going well for the ‘players’ and ruining bets, could trace back somewhere. And she was sitting there looking very disinterested, nursing a sparkling juice in a very expensive evening dress and earrings, recently bought by the only man in the world he believed to be above himself. “Having a good time, Metra?” Fox asked the star known to much of the city as TD/MD, smiling smoothly and paying her more attention than the event itself, where he was significantly more public than before. He’d spent how many thousands on her in a few days? “Sure, yeah,” she answered, with a clear disinterest and foul mood. “I understand if you’re not… we’re all sorry to have lost Thutmose. Most likely by where he was, whoever killed him would have done the same to us had he not interfered. So he would want you to have a good time, right?” “Alright, everyone, last calls!” Conqueror Worm called out, many eyes looking all over. After getting back from camera work, he’d volunteered to handle bets, on account of his utter disinterest in profiting from his work there. Damn shame, honestly; Tigran loved that weird golden Stand-hurting sword he’d always been swinging around, and something belonging to a regional founder would be a hell of a get to wear around. “We know all the key players in that little downtown scuffle, so let’s hear it! Who’s biting it? Who’s comin’ out? Who’s gonna have the highest bodycount? Is anyone even gonna get IN?” That Oh No guy, from the Institute, spoke up through that voice changer he almost always had on in his coverings. “I think that… Three people will manage to find their way inside. Nobody on this betting board.” “Ooh, bold words from our boldest regular!” Worm leaned in close, asking, “how much’re you puttin’ on that?” “Nothing,” No responded, “I just want to see what comes of it… I’m almost disappointed you needed to ask.” Peas in a pod, those two. Tigran sighed, figuring he might need to drink through these proceedings, only to glance at Metra, suddenly, seeming to smirk, ears twitching as if that special pitch of hers had picked something up. “What? What’s so fun now, that-” The heavily reinforced, hidden doorway to the VIP room burst open, bisecting the hollow yet burly door guard as sand and rocks spilled out of its hollow crevasse, the only herald within seconds of a quintet of Stand Users barreling in, led by a trio on two motorbikes as two others, curious but energetic, followed. “All that you’ve done ends here, Fox!” Around the same time, Heartache Casino Public Floors “Uh… Glitch? I think… it might be good if we… go?” William Eyelash was not liking it here very much. His hyperactive coworker and teammate had practically dragged him here after what was otherwise a simple delivery performed in place of Zebra, who had been busy enough delivering food to the other side of the city. William was the one supposed to carry it out, but Glitch had practically jumped at the opportunity to do so. Glitch herself, meanwhile, seemed to be very content eating some fries which she (very regrettably) had to actually buy instead of simply snatching it away from a poor, unaware bystander, and had already ordered another plate because they were just that good. Security was too tight, somewhat on edge - the moment she got close to someone or something, they immediately turned their attention to her. Still, she didn’t want to deprive herself of one of the many pleasures of life like that, so she didn’t mind paying too much. “Mmrgh..? Why sho?” “W- well… you know… uh...” William wasn’t sure how to say it - he was scared enough of Glitch’s erratic mannerisms most days, and that was while he tried to steer clear of her. Were he to directly oppose her, he’d have no way of knowing what she’d do! On top of that, he couldn’t help but notice that she seemed slightly… on edge. She was usually hyperactive, but she seemed to be even more eager to jump from one thing to another recently, and to ignore anything that even slightly stressed her out. Considering everything that happened to the staff at the Elephant Bones recently, it made sense for her to be stressed, even if she didn’t really show it usually. “... um, you know the rumors about this place… right? ” Glitch turned to look at William, tilting her head “Hm? What rumors?”. “Uh... well… about the ED… and the fighting rings… I saw an article about it on the Hermod, and… i- it could be dangerous to be here for too long...” hearing William say that, Glitch seemed to recede for a bit, thinking to herself. “Mmm... well, it hasn’t been a problem yet! Right? Besides, the other chips haven’t arrived yet!” Glitch didn’t want to think much about it - so long as these fighting rings were away from her, she could just ignore them and go on with her life, but if it really was here, then maybe it would be good to avoid this place… but the fries were so good... Glitch took another look at the table she was sitting at and at the plate of fries she’d ordered. She grabbed a handful and ate them. “Mmm… after the second order of chips comes! Then we leave! But only after then!” “Alright...” William didn’t like this very much, and he couldn’t help but shoot nervous glances around as Glitch finished up. Just about every staff member here was on edge and uncomfortable - he knew how to notice these things, and it would make sense if this place really was connected to the underground. Ugh… Why did he come along with Glitch? He’d just have to hope that the second order would come soon, and then they’d be able leave just as quickly as they came in. Naturally, as if fate itself had conspired to screw him over, he couldn’t help but pick up on ‘something’. Guards around the floor peered nervously into their phones, and most of them began rushing towards the stairwell. Glitch had noticed as well, her ears picking up on the nervous murmurings of the guards and their hasty footsteps. “Uhh… G- Glitch, something’s happening, we should-” “Pleh! Can’t you wait just a second! The chips aren’t here yet! This isn’t-” Before Glitch could finish her sentence, something flew into the room - the body of a security officer, clearly tossed away by some stand, flew from the entrance to the second floor, and landed right in the middle of a group of more security officers. “Oh god oh god it’s happening oh no oh no oh no oh-” William was, as expected, positively freaking out by now. Meanwhile, Glitch was keeping her ears peeled out, having picked up on something… interesting. The voice of two people she vaguely recognized from “Taste of Fortuna” a month or so back. “Hey! That’s Agnes! And that other chef whose food is good! Even better than the chips!! What are they doing here, fighting?!” Soon enough, Agnes and Arpeggi really did pop into the room, their stands summoned as they staved off some guards with them. Much to William’s chagrin, Glitch grabbed onto his hand and summoned [Vida Loca], before hopping onto it, the massive feline hoisting him onto it as well, before running right towards the source of the commotion… And right into the footpath of a terrifying giant who seemed to suddenly fall from the ceiling, several eyes along its body looking to them as its head rotated 180 degrees. “Well, wouldn’t you like to know?” Several minutes earlier, A Few Stories Lower - Sound’s Garden Abandoned Subway “Are you sure this is the place? Seems pretty fucking trashy to me, honestly…” “That’s what makes it a secret passage, Agnes… They’re not exactly rolling out the red carpet to tell you how to get there.” “Ugh, Astronomia wasn’t built for this shit. You’re paying if something gets stuck somewhere.” “You’ve crashed it how many times this month alone?” Arpeggi Osso Buco sat in the sidecar of a motorbike driven by one Ananas “Agnes” Bayley, through the abandoned subways of the Eastern strip. He’d meant to take this trip alone, like he had before, but of course, this fucking guy had to be the first on the team to learn that he was a Stand User, an active vigilante, and not only in part responsible for a certain cult’s influence plummeting to nothing in Los Fortuna, but had dedicated himself to making an enemy of the blight of the Entertainment District. “Fuck it, I’m down.” “You’re… What?” “I’m down. Fuck those guys. I don’t even need to ask any more questions, they’re an absolute disgrace to be shown up by a real villain, and if you’re hunting their boss down, I’m with you.” “You are the last person I would want watching my back in a-” “Or I can tell Gabanna what you’re doing so soon after getting SHOT last time you tried your luck with these guys.” “…bastard. Okay, just don’t get in the way.” Minus a near-scare with RCR’s nightmarish train nearly running them down without noticing, and Arpeggi having to explain at some point that it was both private information from a set of informants and news now publicly printed in multiple sources about the higher-ups of this organization, it had mostly gone smoothly since then. As they drove closer to the underside of Heartache, Arpeggi signaled for Agnes to stop, noting a destroyed set of hollowed-out mannequins of sorts, smoking and smelling like gunpowder. “Hell is that?” Agnes asked, looking down, but Arpeggi, in turn, didn’t quite seem surprised. Before he could explain, however, another, distorted voice cut through. “You’re late.” The revving of a second motorcycle, a sport bike, had quietly synced with Astronomia, and the pair looked up to see a figure clad in orange and black, winglike scarf drooping upside-down, its rider atop the ceiling of the tunnel. “You.” Agnes spoke with contempt, despite having never seen the Black Angel in person before, only for them and their bike to drop down right in front of them, flipping in midair to land gracefully. “You didn’t tell me you were bringing a friend, let alone… Him.” The Angel sounded dubious about Agnes’ presence, adding, “since you took time picking him up, I’ve had to start picking off these weird… hollow doll-guards myself. They almost noticed me in time to signal the boss. I really don’t have the time for this today.” “Sorry about that, he insisted,” Arpeggi wrote off, not wanting to explain the somewhat unsurprising (“ran into one another while doing their vigilante rounds, got to talking about the ED mainly”) story how he and the Angel met, “and he’s here right now… Say what you like about him, you saw that Being So Normal, I assume. He’ll be an asset.” “I’ll kick your ass-et,” Agnes grumbled, “fighting them alone my ass. Ugh, teaming up with masked hero types like this… Pisses me off. We should be kicking each other’s asses, Angel.” “Deal with it,” the Angel wrote off, before adding, “our contacts in there… They said basically everyone we might have any reason to get is on that floor with them, watching Downtown.” “Right, some madman is acting out there,” Arpeggi noted, folding his arms and looking Westward, “I take it that’s why you’re in a hurry? You want to deal with them quickly and head out there next?” “You got it,” they answered, “and admittedly, there’s a reason I had to come here first… Something I’m going to prioritize the highest, and if we take too long, I’ll have to leave having only done that.” “You’ve got a grudge, is that it?” Agnes asked, “you wanna punt some fucker before moving on?” “That’s… not why I’m targeting him,” The Angel noted, before adding, “that sword the Conqueror Worm always has on him… The ‘Sword of Sir Aurel…’ The future of the city might depend on me getting that Downtown. The contacts say he still has it with him, just like on that stream.” “You’re pissing me off, pretending you don’t care about just one-upping that bastard,” Agnes chided, adding, “act like you’re ‘heroes of justice’ all you want… I’m doing this because these guys piss me the hell off, and seeing them fall will make me laugh. Do all of us a favor, cut the bullshit, and admit you’re gonna enjoy this, yeah?” The others didn’t say too much more of note, then, beyond the Angel briefly examining Astronomia, putting something all over it that they claimed would ‘make it maneuver better,’ which Arpeggi had to calm Agnes into accepting, especially considering it meant they could ride up stairs with relative ease. “Alright, from this secret passage, it’s a straight shot up a few flights of stairs to the VIP room… We should be able to burst it down without ever disrupting all the public patrons and fortifications up on 1F. Hold on tight, you got that?” The motorbikes revved, then, and the Angel’s led Agnes in seeming to leap into the air, driving up and along the walls of the stairwell, before a long-haired figure emerged from the Angel, aiming something at a metal reinforced door, firing into it a few times, and it shifted in place as Pork Soda rushed towards it, placing a tab on the material before ripping it away, liquid metal blasting in the opposite direction the door would fly and swing at rapid speed, swinging like a deadly projectile and cutting more powerful puppet guards away as the three burst in. Arpeggi called out, “All that you’ve done ends here, Fox!” Not long after Arpeggi called that out, Fox himself, of course, was quick to stand, as were a few bold-looking members of the crowd, hurrying towards the fighters with his own accompanying doll-guard, small enough to hold in two hands and, with his large frame, swing like a hammer-thrower, lobbing up towards them and bursting open into a mess of pointed rocks as he drew closer, repelling Arpeggi’s immediate attempts to approach. The swinging door, embedded with odd screws and still gushing metal soda, began to fly towards him, only for the sound of a rifle to fill the room, a single warping bullet putting out every one of the odd screws and careening it to strike Arpeggi back, sending him flying down the stairwell before either the Angel or Agnes could react. Seido, sitting at his edge of the bar, finished downing his drink, holding his weapon in one hand and grinning a bit, slurring slightly, “thas’ goin’ on your tab, boss…” Fox smirked, then, rocks and sand swirling around him and beating back the remaining attackers’ efforts to burst forward. “Let’s not fight up here, gentlemen… I’ve set this place up nice for a very special guest. Take it downstairs. Seido, consider yourself on the clock now.” Worm, then, seemed to realize the Angel was staring at his movements, diving down into the floor below to the terror of the 1F patrons, and the rider hurriedly cut away from the clash, leaving Agnes to fend for himself against the rocky onslaught of Fox, all while Oh No watched and Seido, quickly, lined up another shot. Even on this upgraded bike, he knew the only response to make there. “Fffuck this!” Pork Soda reached for Astronomia, a tab appearing on its wheel which, as the Stand weathered rocky blows, it pulled, blasting Agnes back into the stairwell, where he hit the wall with an, “oof!” before hopping off of his ride, which crashed and plummeted down as he abandoned it to slide down the railing, doing a cool combat roll to cover Arpeggi and the Angel as they rolled into the first floor, clearly concerned about what Conqueror Worm being there would mean for the patrons. Fox and others were shortly behind, with a certain exception. Though nobody could hear it, by Metra Doria’s choice, as soon as Seido had spoken that aloud, she’d kicked up the chair she’d been sulking in all ‘party’ long, a pair of headphones appearing along her neck as a blast of sonic energy kicked it directly into the head of the hitman. Her heart skipped a beat, then, and she muttered under her breath, “shit, that actually worked… I got lucky, huh?” “Entirely,” Oh No agreed, stepping forth himself and stretching, producing a very large, intimidating revolver from his cloak and beginning, idly, to load it, “but don’t treat that as a failing, TD/MD… You saw a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and you had the instincts to take it.” No closed the chamber, starting leisurely towards the stairs after the rest. “This is getting tiresome, isn’t it? You see it too, how dull this has gotten… What potential they’re wasting here. What do you say we speed along what’s been a long, long time coming?” “Well, wouldn’t you like to know?” A golden, shining sword appeared out of the giant’s gross hand, and his presence alone made Glitch want to wretch, the smell of the Conqueror Worm fell, and vibes even more rancid. “We got two more troublemakers here, eh?” Worm asked her and William with an amused tone, “Hell just broke loose here, and you’re tryin’ to run headlong into it! I like that! I like that drive! So what do ya say? Attacka them!” Glitch didn’t know this guy, but something about his gleeful nature, the way that William murmured to himself in alarm when he spoke those distorted words, made her hairs stand on end, made her want to hiss and immediately turn her attention to him, and it seemed, then, that Worm could sense this. “Another one who ain’t a fan, huh?” He shook his head. “Disappointing, but typical.” At that, he ducked into the floor, before attempting to burst out from underneath and drive his blade up into Vida Loca, barely being scraped before hopping away from the rising attack and meeting it with a sharp, harsh claw, beating back his raw strength with her Stand’s own. “I don’t know who you are, but you’re really not the kind of bad news that’s any fun!” Glitch called out from atop her mount, pulling off in time to avoid the ambush of a hollowed-out guard and note two others bothering William. “That guy looks underage… He ain’t allowed to be on a casino floor without ID!” Worm declared with amusement, fully expecting what came next as several of the doll-guards attempted to strong-arm him. “G-get away… Get away from me!” William was freaking out, then, and fairly fearing for his life, allowed Ocean Eyes to manifest, swinging and spraying acid all around, which bounced uselessly off of Worm’s hide, didn’t so much as drop near Glitch or Vida Loca, and melted away the threats in an instant. The casino floor was pandemonium then, several high rollers, some random patrons, and of course, every named member fighting, Stands flying. Arpeggi expertly caught rocks tossed by Fox, only for him to still control them even as they were made to burn by NEXT LEVEL 2, though this eroded away much of the sands of his barrier, backed up by Agnes as he very competently kept a rocky barrier up regardless, Metra standing close by, shifting her eyes. The Black Angel tried to drive headlong into Worm, continuing his mess of a situation, while Glitch, mostly, managed to sneak off on her own, trying to find a way to support William and calm him out of whatever this was. “Don’t move,” a modulated voice behind her said, and she heard something click behind her. “Mrr?” She turned, then, facing the barrel of Oh No’s revolver head-on. “This might be a bit loud… But it’s about time this ended.” Before Glitch could react, No had pulled the trigger twice. Neither shot so much as grazed her, but seemed to hit tables, cameras, walls, ricocheting about in apparent chaos, before finally… “I… What did…” Blood ran down the organizational ringleader’s outfit, bleeding both from a massive wound to the back of his knee and opening a massive hole in his shoulder, as the rocks he had been flinging around dropped like… Rocks. Tigran’s voice was the next thing to ring out through the casino, now mostly abandoned bar the combatants. “TOBY!!!” Fox hadn’t even heard the shots fired, thanks to Metra, let alone noticed their angles; after all, the only one he knew of who could make a shot like that was knocked out and drunk upstairs, not to mention loyal to Tigran’s paychecks. No twirled his gun around, holstering it and patting the bewildered Glitch on the shoulder. “Thanks for holding still… Didn’t want to hit you and ruin it all, after all. Hmmhmmhmahaha!" “You… You motherfuckers!” Tigran wanted to cry then, especially as the others drew closer, seeing everyone who had fought against an ally of his here as little more than an enemy. Still, though, facing them off, he had to calm himself. “Stand down,” Arpeggi demanded, “you’re outnumbered, completely.” Tigran, rather than giving up, began to speak again. “You know, as the owner of this casino, I know the power of ‘games’. You see, if you call it a ‘gamble’, that sounds so… negative, no? So you call it nothing more than a simple ‘game’. That’s what draws people in. Getting people to play ‘roulette’ is harder, but if you call it a ‘roulette game’ and mask it correctly, it’s so, so, easy… However, the moment the ball is launched, it doesn’t matter, does it? No difference between a ‘gamble’ and a ‘game’... the ‘contract’ is the same - you abandon your money for ‘entertainment’ and for a slim ‘hope’ that you’ll succeed this time and make bank… It’s all thanks to these ‘games’... All of you lot, don’t you think so? Aren’t ‘games’ great? Hell, I’ve got an idea for one we can play right now…” “Wh- what the hell are you talking about!” Arpeggi shouted out in anger. “I’m not putting up with this shit! You want a ‘game’?! Sure, fine! Here, how about this one - I go up to you, and have fun beating the shit out of you!” rushing towards Tigran, Arpeggi readied a punch and swung towards him - only for his fist to stop in midair, hitting against some kind of invisible barrier. He reeled back from the impact, stumbling backwards, feeling… weak. A look behind him revealed that Agnes, Glitch, William, and even Metra, the Angel, and No seemed to be feeling the same, struggling to remain upright. “Y- you ‘agreed’... heh…” Tigran’s previously panicked expression quickly faded, replaced by a wide grin. “You agreed to it! You agreed to the ‘game’!” By now, Tigran broke out into uproarious laughter. “Always! They always fall for it, tempted by ‘games’! You… you idiot! I put the answer right in front of you, and you still missed it! ‘Games’, by their very nature, are tricks! Illusions! And my [The Grid] has the power to facilitate that! By agreeing to the game, my [The Grid] forces you to participate! There’s no escape now - you’re trapped in this ‘game’ of mine!” As he realized he had screwed them all right at the last moment, Arpeggi’s vision began fading, and he fell onto the ground with a thud, blacking out. ???, an hour later, Heartache Casino VIP room “Alright! Seems like our contestants for the first impromptu match of the day are waking up!” “Plrrr..?” Out of nowhere, Glitch found herself standing straight, awake, somewhere unfamiliar. She tried to listen to see what was going on, only hearing the groans of William, Agnes, and Arpeggi, indicating that they were in a similar position to her. Of course, there was also that voice - she was… a ‘contestant’. It wasn’t hard to roughly figure out what exactly she was a ‘contestant’ of. She, and... “...William!” Behind her was a whimpering noise, evidently William, and the sound of droplets of some kind of liquid splashing onto the ground, clearly [Ocean Eyes]’s acid. Ahead of her were Agnes and Arpeggi, talking between themselves about what the hell happened. Arpeggi sounded mad. Agnes… she wasn’t sure how he sounded. But she gathered enough from their conversation to understand that somehow, they were currently inside of a roulette wheel. Or rather, she, and everyone else, was shrunk, and placed into a roulette wheel. “Now, this match is simple - a deathmatch to see who manages to survive! However, since we’re at the heartache casino… there’s an appropriate twist involved! See, our combatants for today are fighting on a roulette table, and meanwhile, our spectators for today are placing ‘bets’ to see which colors win out! Representing ‘red’, we’ve got our very own ‘Fox’! On black, meanwhile, we’ve got ‘Tigran Sins’, who set this match up!” She summoned [Vida Loca] besides her, taking a look through the stand’s eyes and seeing the environment for herself. She was dwarfed by the room, trapped inside of this small roulette wheel. There was nowhere to run. William’s whimpers had escalated into sobbing, as [Ocean Eyes] hugged him from behind. Arpeggi and Agnes were arguing by now, shouting at each other. She took a deep breath. “Now… I won’t keep you waiting any longer, since I just know everyone here’s excited to see what happens! So...” First, Glitch got tossed into Los Fortuna and found a new home there, with the rest of the staff at the Elephant Bones. Then, they started getting into fights with other stand users - Shelldrake, Effie, Byte, William. She hadn’t been in one yet, but she knew very well the effects of them. Her friends had gotten hurt, some such as Father Blue even dying. Then the situation in the slums got worse, her home becoming less and less safe by the minute, her friends getting extorted and forced to work for ODIN, and now she and William were trapped here. “Three… Two… One...” She needed to get out. She needed to fight. She needed to win. She could overhear Agnes and Arpeggi bickering on the other side of the wheel, but knew that they were going to try and fight her and William as well. They had to. They’d been trapped by that man’s stand, and none of them knew what could be done against it, if anything. [Vida Loca] stood behind her, a constant vibration coming out of it and creating a loud hissing noise that was soon mimicked by [Ocean Eyes], drowning out William’s sobs. She knew full well that, even if he was her friend, William was also a dangerous killer, meek though he might have acted. As hard as that whole situation was to grasp, she understood something else - that the more she stayed near [Ocean Eyes], working alongside it, the safer she was. She and William had to get out of this. And if they wanted to get out of this... They would have to fight for their lives. OPEN THE GAME! (credit to magistelles for the image, both the censored and uncensored version!(CW: trypophobia)) Location: A roulette wheel in Heartache Casino, upon which players have been forcibly placed. The map here is roughly similar to the image of the roulette wheel above. The outer brown layer represents the rim, the yellow layer being the wooden slopes down towards the center, the black layer being the numbers, the red layer being the pockets, the next layer being sloped wood up towards the center, and the center being a metal tower. The map is 30 by 30 meters relative to the players, with the dotted tile being 5 by 5 meters. The diamonds are the metal bumpers, about half a meter tall, and the blue circle is a weighted metal roulette ball which is a meter tall, both heights relative to the players. The metal tower in the center is 8 meters tall relative to the players and the outside walls are 5 meters relative to the players. Players can not go past the rim of the roulette wheel. Goal: RETIRE your opponents! Additional Information: There is an invisible barrier keeping the players and their Stands inside the roulette wheel. Everything else will pass through as normal, but the players and their attacks will be blocked by this barrier. The barrier is cylindrical around the entire roulette wheel. The roulette system is currently automatic, 5 seconds after the ball falls into a pocket or stops moving entirely, it will start rolling again at top speed clockwise. The max speed of the ball is equivalent to B SPD and the ball is A DUR. You can expect it to make around 8 revolutions around the wheel before losing most of its speed if it is unimpeded by the players. If the ball is destroyed or unable to roll, a new one will be thrown in from outside.
"Nowadays, 30,000 yen is gone after you make one or two trips... So all that's left is to make more money, or go flat broke." You are being forced to fight here, and you hate it, so you might as well do something to cause the casino to lose money! Do whatever you can to constantly rig the roulette in favor of odds!
"Does that alien not know what 'holding back' means?" You were tricked by that asshole, and now you’ve got to fight these two bystanders?! Fuck, this makes you irritated. Destroy as much of the area as possible over the course of your strategy!
"I did say this seemed fun, but I wasn't talking about Cee-lo. I meant that it'd be fun taking your 30,000 yen from you." That girl over there is trying to rig the game, so play the agent of chaos and rig it towards the other end! Do whatever you can to constantly rig the roulette in favor of evens!
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Hello Mr Reddit and the REEEEEE army. I originally posted my story in EntitledPeople but I would love to share my story of 4 years of absolute hell (yes, this is permission to make a video of my story), and if anyone wants to read it there also, go ahead. I can guarantee there are a few details there that I forgot to include here, and vice versa. This is the story of a manipulative gaslighting ass (EX, currently 27 M) who saw a girl (me, currently 26) with stars in her eyes and saw an opportunity to crush them one by one. Maybe it can give someone else hope of escaping a bad situation. My story will be split into each year (each year starting with June 13 as that was our dating anniversary), and what happened when. I might not remember exact dates, as my divorce was finalized in 2017, but I will try my hardest to remember. Cast: Me, a hopeless romantic that has grown enough to recognize and not put up with BS...... and EX, the entitled ass whom this entire story is about (things I now recognize as RED FLAGS will be labeled), and others will be introduced when they come up.... TLDR: Gaslighting, narcissistic, manipulative EX preys on my naivete, and makes 4 years become 1950s subservient housewife slavery, forcing me into bedroom activities, and getting angry when I don't cater to every little thing that pops into his ego-inflated head Backstory: I have always lived with my parents. I have also always had a great relationship with them, and we were always close-knit. My siblings (21M, and 19F) never really had as close a relationship with our parents as I did. They always preferred to hang out with their friends rather than their family. I was always the "weirdo" in school and didn't really have friends because middle schoolers can be bitches. My parents had a one-in-a-million relationship, until my dad died this past April. It was pretty much a match made in heaven. They met in 1992 and just KNEW they would be married, and together forever. A week later they started dating. I came along in 1994, but due to some government mumbo-jumbo they couldn't get married or else they would lose their food stamps (they find a loophole a year later, and I pick their wedding date with chocolate pudding covered fingers). They had been married until my dad's death 25 years, and didn't argue EVER (amazing I know, I can hardly believe they were so lucky). I always hoped I would find a love like that. BEFORE DATING: We first met when I was a freshman (15) and he was a sophomore (16). We had gym class together, and would usually talk before the end-of-class bell with a mutual friend R who went to church with me (I no longer go to that church). He was gone a lot, but I didn't really know him back then, so I really didn't care whatsoever. YEAR 1: One day, about a month or so after I turned 19 (either late March or early April 2013), I was at Wal-Mart with my mom, my sister, and a female cousin (who was living with us at the time). We were looking at makeup, nail polish, hair products etc. At this Wal-Mart, the Beauty section was right next to the Pet section. I walked down to the pet section to look at the fish with my little sister, and a mutual friend J1 snuck up behind me and gave me a hug. I noticed EX was with him, along with J1's mom (who is literally batshit crazy), and someone else who I also went to school with, J2. We talked for a good half an hour before I had to find my mom, and they (J1, J2, EX) had to go. I thought nothing else of it. Another month or so later, I got a message on Facebook from EX's brother. He said that EX sent him a letter, and he wanted his brother to send it to me on Facebook. It was sweet, and he said he wanted us to start dating, and he would even ask my parents if he could. He did. In June, he showed up on my front porch (I would later learn that he had come to my house straight from jail, which sweet, simple, hopeless romantic me had no clue was a RED FLAG), I invited him in, and he asked my parents if he could have the honor of dating me. They said yes, and we were exclusive. He was very sweet at the beginning. Always buying me pop (soda, for all you non-Michiganders) and my favorite candy bars. Our first Halloween as a couple was spent with me sick on the couch, and him being allowed to spend the night to take care of me. Our first Christmas as a couple was spent with him in jail for unpaid fines (RED FLAG), and after he got out, we spent the entire next week together from the time I woke up, until I reluctantly crawled into bed. He would come over before I awoke, and he wouldn't leave until I was wrapped in my blanket and I could hear him telling my parents good-night. It was great. In May 2014. he had some problems with his grandma (she wasn't really his grandma. He was living at her house with his cousins (C, the "main" cousin, we add to the cast), and she was THEIR grandma, so EX just called her grandma), so my parents, EX and I had a discussion and my parents said he could move in. So, we move a spare bed into the basement (at this time the cousin we had living with us had moved out, and there were only 3 other people living with us), sharing with another couple (also cousins) living with us. So, after he moved in and being young and in love, we started THAT (this will come into play later). I soon found out that he had a "job" of sorts, helping his cousin's dad (CD) cutting down trees and splitting them for firewood (reliable side income for many in Michigan). Over the next 4 months, he would go to help them with firewood. Sometimes I went with him, just to get out of the house. YEAR 2 (starting 3 weeks or so after EX moved in): Within those 4 months mentioned in the previous "year", any time I went with him, CD would take his wife, C, and EX to "reward EX and C at the casino for hard work"....... And CD and wife would have me babysit their 4 brats while they were gone (putting it nicely, they were the definition of crotch goblins). So I didn't go much. One day in September we YEAH, and I went home the day after. He came home the day after I did. (NOTE: THIS IS WHERE THAT COMES INTO PLAY) About 3 weeks later, we went to his cousin's mom's (CM) place, because EX had agreed to help his cousin (C2, C's younger brother) clean his room. I was kind of chatting, small talk with CM. I had mentioned to her that we YEAH a few weeks ago. She asked me if I wanted to take a pregnancy test. I said "Sure, why not. Can't hurt. The worst is it could be negative" (ever since I was a little girl, I had always wanted to be a wife and mother). So I peed on it, and BIG REVEAL, IT'S POSITIVE! Very faint, but enough to tell it was there. I told EX because he was done helping C2, and he was just as happy as I was. But at the same time, he kept saying "Your dad's gonna kill me, isn't he?" So we went home. I pulled my parents out on the porch, and EX and I break the news "You're gonna be grandparents!" They were a little disappointed that we didn't wait until we were married (but they didn't either, so......). The next day I made an appointment to see my family doctor to confirm. He confirmed I was about 4 weeks along. He also said that since most of the OBs and midwives around that took medicaid did an ultrasound on the first visit, they would schedule my first visit about 7 or 8 weeks. I finally made an appointment for a midwife visit and starting WIC. I passed the next 3 weeks telling my friends and family. Everyone screamed with excitement, and offered congratulations. Finally my midwife appointment came! I excitedly relayed all the needed information, took in all the information she gave me, and then we headed down the hall to the ultrasound room. Imagine my surprise when I see on the screen TWINS!!!! EX was in the room with me first, and then I asked him to get my mom, but tell her it's a surprise. My mom came in the room and she was also very excited. But it was not all happy. Only one twin was alive. The other measured as though it had died within the previous few days. But still, I had a child inside me. I was growing a life. And I felt great. I had a relatively easy pregnancy. No morning sickness, no back pain, not really anything uncomfortable. But it was after my 2nd or 3rd midwife appointment that EX decided to go to CD's place more often (RED FLAG). His excuse was always "I don't want to stress you out" or "They need my help with XYZ". At the time I thought, ok, whatever. I guess he thinks it helps me. But no, I found out that every single time he went over there, they went to the casino, and he spent every last penny that he was "paid" for "helping" (RED FLAG). We finally ended up getting married a couple weeks after my 21st birthday (side note: I kept telling everybody "I can't drink, you do it for me!"). After we got married, I had a few labor scares. At the end of April, I had another labor scare (I was only at 34 weeks). Mom and EX took me to the hospital, and I was then sent to another hospital that had a NICU just in case my baby came early. EX got mad at ME for constantly having to drop everything and "take my ass to the hospital", and then said "I'm going to CD's house, I'm not talking to you, and when I get back this shit better be under control" (RED FLAG). Like, dude, I CANNOT CONTROL THIS!!!! Everything settled down, and at my next midwife appointment, they told me that I had mono, and that is what caused my labor scare. Little did I know that shortly after that I really would go into labor.... May: Labor started around 2AM. I woke EX, and he kept saying "Go back to bed". Uh, no, this is the real thing, no mistake this time. I wouldn't let it go, so we both got up. I was excited to finally meet my baby! We woke up his mom (EXM) (who had come for my baby shower 2 days prior, and we were letting her stay for 2 weeks). My dad was already awake, as he always had intuition about stuff like that. I remember when we walked out of our bedroom, my dad immediately said "You're in labor aren't you?" So I gave him a wide smile and a thumbs up. I called Maternity, to the midwife on call and explained what was going on. She said to come in, and that it sounded like it was go time. I told her that I would let my mom finish her shift at work, and we would be in shortly after. She said to call her before we leave, and she would let staff on the floor know that she would have a patient here in about 2 hours. After my mom pulled in the driveway, EX and I met her outside and I said "Don't bother turning the van off. It's time". From 2AM, 19 1/2 hours later my beautiful baby girl was born. My mom was the hero of the day, not EX. He went down to the main road every hour or so to smoke a cigarette. He slept through my worst pain because "he was tired" (no shit, you think I'm not????) (RED FLAG both). My mom was by my side the whole time. She held my hand through everything. Asshole EX couldn't be bothered with caring for his laboring wife..... Hell, my mom even cut my daughter's cord because "Damn that's gross!!!".... Through our next 48 hours (hospital policy), he was at the main road to smoke, or walking to Taco Bell more than he was in my room. It was like he didn't even care. When my mom came to pick all 3 of us up, she brought with her my grandma (my maternal grandmother), and EXM. Funny side note: while waiting for my release paperwork to be brought around, EXM told EX "I didn't know you could make something that cute" (XD). After I was released, EXM paid for all of us to get McDonalds. We got home and everyone was waiting to see my little princess (EX and I ACTUALLY AGREED that no one could post pictures, and that we wouldn't post pictures either, until after we returned home). My other grandma (paternal grandmother) and my aunt were helping my cousin (aunt's daughter, not the same cousin from the beginning of my story) (I also have stories about them, but they will be told some other time) at our house. My aunt and my cousin went to Wal-Mart the previous day to buy a bed (play yard/playpen with bassinet insert) for my baby, as my parents weren't able to buy it yet, so aunt and cousin basically saved them some money by buying my daughter's bed. Everyone oohed and aahed. We were happy. But after the excitement wore off a few days later and everyone went home, EX..... Well..... He was complaining about my siblings spending too much time on games, and tried using force to get them off the games (RED FLAG). A huge fight ensued after my sister basically called him a hypocrite (because in all honesty, he was being one. He was on his own games just as much, if not MORE than my siblings). Things got heated, he went to CD's house, and I went with him (though I now know I should have stayed home because the whole time we were at CD's house, he complained about the fight and tried to defend himself for being in the right.... No, no you were not EX) (RED FLAG). We stayed at CD's house and went back home the next day. Things were kind of tense at home. EX was gone a lot more than usual. After we took his mom back home, everything in our relationship took a turn for the worse. RED FLAGS everywhere. He would be gone all day with his friends, smoking weed and playing Magic the Gathering (a card game my family and I had long given up), or with C and CD. When he was with his friends, he would come home just shortly before or after sunrise. If I was awake he would badger me for YEAH. If I didn't relent, he would huff down to the basement to "relieve himself". That would also happen if I was asleep, or pretended to be. Many times he would fall asleep downstairs and I would have to wake him up to fix himself, to make sure my kid sister (or anyone else for that matter) didn't see him indecently. YEAR 3 (starts when my daughter is about 6 weeks old): RED FLAGS continuing from previous year: Whenever he was gone during the day, or staying with C and CD, he would demand I clean everything on an unwritten list, but who gives a damn if I have to take care of a newborn? I needed to clean first! Let her cry!!! I didn't clean what was on his damn list. I was taking care of my baby, doing my best to give her the best start in life. Oh, no, he didn't care. To him I was nothing more than a slave, put on this earth to cater to his every whim and satisfy his every need. "Take care of the baby on your own time! Worship the ground I walk on!"....... If I didn't have done what HE wanted done, he would yell, punch walls, pretty much everything short of shooting a gun (that if he did, he would be in violation of probation). He would always say "I'm going to CD's house. I don't know how long I'm staying there, but I'm turning my phone off. I'm not messaging you, I'm not calling you. I think I might have them take me to the courthouse so I can file for divorce!" See, every time His Majesty didn't get what he wanted, his number 1 tactic to "get me to change" was threaten divorce (this will be important later). This went on for quite a while. I was starting to realize I was happier when he was gone, but I thought it was because I didn't love him enough..... In mid to late December (maybe around the 20th?) we went to pick up EXM, so she wouldn't have to be alone for Christmas, and she would stay with us until after New Years. On the 23rd, EX got into a verbal fight with pretty much my entire family. With my parents over his constant use of the basement (which EX constantly called "his man cave"). With my uncle, B, over his poor treatment of me, EXM, and my daughter and how he's never home like a man should be. With my siblings, over what I can't remember now, but EVERYONE was pissed off at EX. So he did what he ALWAYS did, he called CD and begged to be picked up. EXM followed us into our bedroom so she could talk with EX. He turned to me (a few times while waiting for CD to get him) and said "Are you gonna be a good wife, and show them that you're on my side, and come with me?"...... No. No, I absolutely will not. We had plans for Christmas Eve, to visit family that we rarely got to see, and DAMMIT I AM NOT SHRUGGING OFF A VISIT WITH MY FAMILY SO YOU CAN THROW A PITY PARTY!!!!! So he left. We took EXM with us to visit my extended family, and everyone enjoyed themselves (I had a nice healthy cry of bottled up emotions over EX's outburst the previous day and him not being there with me). But I felt better afterward and joined my family once again. We all left in high spirits. EX came back early Christmas morning, and acted like everything was fine. It was not. He refused to apologize for anything. The tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife. The tension was there to stay. In a couple of months, for our anniversary, he went to CD's house again. This time it was only for a few hours. He came back with pop (soda), my favorite candy bar, and a small bouquet of flowers, trying to erase all his wrongdoings. It didn't work. Those "thoughtful" things were only a bandaid solution to the real problem... Things would only get worse. For the rest of this "year" he was gone more than he was home, "because he couldn't stand being married to a lazy useless wife who doesn't do her job right, or any job at all", but he asked for YEAH less, and for that I was happy. YEAR 4 (starts when my daughter is just over a year old) (Here comes the roller coaster, so buckle up for a long bumpy ride): He was gone 90% of the time. When he was home, he was starting fights with my family over stupid shit. He never apologized for anything. Hell, he STILL never apologizes for anything. But to be fair, I have him blocked on Facebook because of non-stop harassment..... Anyway, it was at this point I became almost apathetic in my marriage and relationship with him. I clung to my family and my daughter. They (and my dogs) were the only things that brought me joy. The final straw was Halloween (which we don't celebrate anymore, because reasons). Now, where I live, getting ready to trick or treat on Halloween is pretty much an all day thing. So I was getting my daughter and myself ready. EX headed toward the door and said "I want X Y and Z taken care of before I get back, or you can just take those damn costumes off right now." I didn't care, so I continued getting my daughter and I ready. He came back and said in a sickeningly sweet voice "You didn't get (tasks) done, but, because I love you sooooooooo much, you can still go. I'm probably gonna be at CD's before you get back, and I'll probably be gone for a couple days, because they need my help." So we went trick or treating. Then when we got back, I went to my bedroom to get my phone, as I had left it home to charge because I didn't have a vehicle charger. I went in my bedroom, and there, sitting on my charging phone, was his wedding ring. I was confused. I was hurt. I called EX, because I thought surely there must be some explanation. "Oh, yeah. It slipped off as I was putting on my jacket"..... Yeah, I called BULLSHIT!!!! That ring was so tight on his finger that it took some serious muscle to pull off. It COULD NOT just slip off. It was put there on purpose. I was stunned, and I ran to my parents for comfort. They dried my tears, and gave me courage. (Here is where the divorce threatening comes into play) They said "Well, if EX wants a divorce, give it to him. You know we're behind you and support you 100%." So I messaged him "I am done. I am leaving your things on the porch. You can get them and then leave." Within 20 minutes, he was in the driveway, trying to sweet talk his way back into my heart. My dad and uncle B were backing me up. I pushed EX away while handing him his things. EX got irate and started yelling, threatening to kick my dad's bad leg, accusing my parents of brainwashing me. No, EX. I haven't seen or thought more clearly in a long time. YOU have been brainwashing me..... The next weekday (I can't remember if it was Nov 1, or what date), I filed for divorce. Due to BS "squatter's rights" (because he lived at our house more than 6 months) my parents had to formally evict him. He had to be out within 30 days. Over the course of November, I spent most of the month at my paternal grandmother's, just down the road, because when I would stay at home, EX would wait until my dad and uncle were asleep, sneak into my bedroom, and sweet talk his way into YEAH. After he finished, he would go to his friend's house, and when my dad and uncle woke up again, they asked me what happened. We all agreed that shouldn't happen anymore. My dad told me that when EX was at home, milking that eviction notice for all it was worth, he would constantly play games on his phone. If he noticed anyone watching him, he would cry and mourn our marriage. Whenever EX left, my dad would call grandma's house and tell me it was safe to come back home. I would hand my daughter over to my mom, and get on the computer to check Facebook messages and whatnot. As soon as EX saw that I was available and online, he would rush back, and I would rush back to my grandma's. When there was about a week left before his final date, he walked down to my grandma's house. I answered the door, and EX was all smiles for my daughter. He was talking to her, but it was loud and directed at me "Daddy's got a lawyer, I'm getting a job soon, and my own apartment. Daddy's doing a good job to get you back!" I took my daughter back from him, and my grandma took her from me (note: fiery redhead with a temper to match) while she said to him "THE HELL YOU ARE! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING HERE ON MY DAMN PORCH?!?!".... and a loud argument ensued. My cousin (aunt's daughter) and her kids were also staying for a little while (her husband has a job that he's only home on the weekends). I brought all 3 kids inside, mine and her two, while grandma, cousin, and aunt were giving EX the ass-chewing of a lifetime. As he walked away down the road, grandma yelled after him "YOU STEP FOOT ON THIS PROPERTY AGAIN, I'M CALLING THE COPS ON YOUR SORRY ASS!". A few days later, he came back. This time it was night. Cousin's two kids were sleeping, my daughter was sleeping on my shoulder. I took my daughter inside when I saw him because I knew there would be yelling. There was. A lot. The cops were called, and they agreed to take him back to my parent's house because "with each party of a domestic dispute at different addresses, there's nothing we can do, except to return the wrong party to the rightful location" (fucking cops in my area, dumb as a box of rocks.....) So, EX finished out his notice, and had a memo notarized saying he would give up all rights to the house and property at (our address). For many nights in a row, I sat awake in terror, because I could smell weed outside my window. One night, he knocked on the window at 3AM begging me to let him in. It was because of that night, that my daughter (only about 19 months old at this point) began to suffer from night terrors. Sometimes, she still does to this day.... I woke my dad, the cops were called, and EX was caught a few houses down the street from matching boot prints. Every time I smelled weed outside my window, I woke my dad, and we called the cops. It took 3 times doing that before he went to jail. When he got out again, he didn't sneak around outside my window anymore. He just rode his bike by my house all the time, camped in our bushes out in the backyard (but we never actually caught him doing that, as he wasn't there at daybreak). When it was close to my birthday, EX decided that he was going to start his visitation AN OVERNIGHT THE DAY BEFORE MY BIRTHDAY......... I was devastated. It shattered my heart. I knew he only wanted to do that BECAUSE it was going to be my birthday... I cried, but I got my daughter ready that morning. She screamed bloody murder when he took her out the door with a smug look on his damn face. Throughout the day, he called the house to brag. Every one of my family members were in tears. Then, gloriously, EX called and asked if someone could pick them up. My heart was mended and a million times lighter! My mom, dad, uncle B, grandma, and me piled into the vehicle because I'M BRINGING MY BABY HOME DAMMIT!!!!!! We get to where he stayed that night, and my daughter was overjoyed to see me. He tried to be sneaky and kiss me, but I nipped that in the bud. On the way back home, he said "When we get back, she's sleeping in the living room with me. It's still my visit." When we got home he changed his tune "Ok, she can sleep in the bedroom"... I slept very well that night. Throughout the next 2 months, he would take his visits, but call me shortly after his time started or before his time ended giving me some excuse why he couldn't finish. One overnight visit, I seriously wish he would have called me, because he messed up her mental health.... The day after that overnight visit when he brought her home, he bragged that he got her to eat hamburger..... by shoving it down her throat (which she now has PTSD from, and is afraid to try new foods). And he bragged he got her to sleep by herself...... by shutting her in a dark, strange bedroom where she screamed from 8PM-2AM until she exhausted herself (which is why she now will not sleep without her TV, and is currently terrified of her bedroom at night because the cord to the VCR broke). The next day visit after that, he decided he would take at our house. Everything was going as well as could be expected. I left my phone on the table as I took my daughter to the bedroom to change her diaper. When I had finished, EX glared at me from across the room........ Then I noticed my phone in his hand. "Who the hell gave you the right to look through my damn phone?!?!?!" At this, he started screaming like a banshee "Our divorce is not fucking final. You are still my wife. I have every right to look through your phone, and you are talking to another guy?!?!?! WE'RE STILL MARRIED! THIS MEANS YOU'RE CHEATING ON ME!!!" At this, my dad woke up and bellowed in his deepest voice "YOU WILL NOT DISRESPECT MY DAUGHTER OR MY GRANDDAUGHTER IN MY HOUSE! YOU DO NOT LIVE HERE ANYMORE! YOU CAN GET YOUR SHIT AND LEAVE THIS HOUSE RIGHT NOW!!!!!!" I comforted my daughter because obviously a booming voice terrifies a child. He missed his next two visits. His visit after that, he asked me if I would stay with him and my daughter at his friend's house. I agree, if only to protect my daughter. That was a BAD mistake. We went over there, and EX sat my daughter in front of his friend's daughter's toys, and led me to the couch. He tried to cuddle with me, my resolve melted, and I let it happen, which I didn't want. When I finally left, he asked me if I could come for the next visit too. I did, to protect my daughter. One day in April, he sweet talked me into reconciliation. I really wish I hadn't, but I digress. It was a month and a half of staying overnight at EX's friend's house at least twice a week. I hated it. The only part I liked was when EX's friend put him in his place...... The very last time I visited with him, was May 27, 2017. My brother graduated high school. So did EX's friend's sister (S). EX showed up at the school gym. I thought he was being thoughtful when he held my daughter through the ceremony. But it was not thoughtful at all. Afterward, when everyone was trying to leave, he said to my daughter "Tell mommy bye and you'll see her in a few days!" OH HELL NO! I tried grabbing her out of his arms but he tightened his grip. "Uh, uh, uh, you can get her if you come to my friend's house for the night"..... So I did. S was sitting at his table drinking a beer in celebration. As I picked up my daughter I thought to myself "Young lady, you are not old enough to drink. I should call the cops right now. I mean they're just across the street". Things were going fine. I tried keeping to myself. After everyone that needed to left, and everyone else settled down to sleep, I laid quietly for a few hours. At around 6:30 or so in the morning, I got outerwear and shoes on myself and my daughter, and we snuck home. Thank God my dad was awake and unlocked the door for me. The two of us took a long nap, and I awoke to a message from EX "Hey, you need to apologize to S." "Why? What did I do?" "She and a couple other people heard you saying that she's way too young to be drinking" "But I didn't say it. I may have thought it, but I didn't SAY it." (Were they all mind-readers?!?!) "I don't care if you said it or not. Get your ass over here and apologize" (Why? You never apologized to my family for shit we all heard you say) "Fine, I'll be over in a bit" I left my daughter with my mom at home so that there wouldn't be any incentive for EX to entice me to stay. So I went back there, and apologize "Hey S, I'm sorry. I don't believe I said that, but you heard me, so I offer my apologies." And then I left to walk back home again. Through the next month, I pretty much gave myself house arrest. I didn't step foot outside my house, unless it was going to Wal-Mart. FINAL YEAR PORTION (June - October): When I finally decided to venture out into town, my mom, daughter, and I were going to meet up with her best friend, my auntie (Sh) her husband (T) and her 4 kids at a local park. Everything's going well, until speak of the devil, EX shows up. I handed my daughter over to my mom. EX tried to kiss me (in hindsight, I should have slapped him, and I would have had witnesses it was self defense), and he had a fit because "I didn't trust him with his own daughter" (damn right I don't!). He didn't leave, despite multiple warnings T would call the cops. EX didn't leave, so T made good on his threat and called the cops. Cop arrived, we all explained we were enjoying a cookout until EX started harassing us. Then EX stated outright "If I get my hands on (daughter), I'm gonna kidnap her". Cop told him to go to the court if he wanted his daughter so bad. He also told us that since we didn't rent the pavilion, EX had every right to be there, same as we did. So EX sat down with a smug look on his face, mentally gloating "I won, you can never get rid of me." I finally had enough, so I went to my mom's van under the guise of changing my daughter's diaper and her clothes, but really, to hide and hope EX would go away. T asked my mom to borrow her keys, went to the van, and said "Let's go for a ride". So we did. When we returned to the park, my dad and uncle B were there with mom and Sh. Dad asked about what happened, and when I got to the part about EX trying to kiss me, he said "Report his ass for sexual harassment". Dad helped me call the non emergency line of the sheriff's department. They sent out a police officer to mom, me, Sh, and T to give us statements to fill out, and told us to take them to the sheriff's department when we were done. On July 7, a police officer stopped by to let us know that because our 4 statements lined up with each other, that EX was arrested that morning. It was then that we all banded together, without threat of EX, to protect my daughter and I. Sh took us to the courthouse the next day, and I stopped the reconciliation. A few days later, my dad took me to the courthouse and I got a PPO (personal protection order) and he was not allowed within 100 feet of me or my daughter. He was arrested a few times for PPO violation. He sent me message after message on Facebook, and that was also PPO violation. When he was arrested for that, we had a hearing at the courthouse (for what exactly I can't remember), but as he was hauled up the stairs, he yelled to me "HOPE YOU'RE HAPPY BITCH" (yes, yes I am). The friend of the court (bitch on a power trip who thinks all moms are petty bitches) yelled at me about "the stunt I just pulled, having EX arrested while he was waiting for the hearing as I should have been"..... To be completely honest, in my mind I was throwing rose petals and making petal angels. It was sweet revenge after years of mental torture. We all celebrated that one. It was the last time I saw him (the last time my daughter saw him was the day at the park). After that, and serving his sentence, from what I heard, one of my relatives (don't know exactly which one as I have dozens in that area alone) scared the daylights out of EX by telling him "You leave OP and that baby alone, because you don't want to know what will happen". So EX has not tried to contact me whatsover, in any capacity, in over 3 years. No fake Facebook accounts, no asking friends to message me, nothing. I am happy to say that I am currently in a long distance relationship with a man who is the COMPLETE OPPOSITE of EX. Thanks for reading my story. I know it was long, but I feel better getting it off my chest to complete strangers on the internet :)
Angélica Gorodischer - Three Stories [Translated by Lorraine Elena Roses and Marian Womack]
The Resurrection of the Flesh [Tr by Roses]
These first two tales published in Secret Weavers: Stories of the Fantastic by Women Writers of Argentina and Chile, edited by Marjorie Agosin (White Pine Press, 1992):
She was thirty-two, her name was Aurelia, and she had been married eleven years. One Saturday afternoon, she looked through the kitchen window at the garden and saw the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. Men of the world, those four horsemen of the Apocalypse. And good-looking. The first from the left was riding a sorrel horse with a dark mane. He was wearing white breeches, black boots, a crimson jacket, and a yellow fez with black pompoms. The second one had a sleeveless tunic overlaid with gold and violet and was barefoot. He was riding on the back of a plump dolphin. The third one had a respectable, black beard, trimmed at right angles. He had donned a gray Prince of Wales suit, white shirt, blue tie and carried a black leather portfolio. He was seated on a folding chair belted to the back of white-haired dromedary. The fourth one made Aurelia smile and realize that they were smiling at her. He was riding a black and gold Harley-Davidson 1200 and was wearing a white helmet and dark goggles and had long, straight, blond hair flying in the wind behind him. The four were riding in the garden without moving from the spot. They rode and smiled at her and she watched them through the kitchen window. In that manner, she finished washing the two teacups, took off her apron, arranged her hair and went to the living room. "I saw the four horsemen of the Apocalypse in the garden," she told her husband. "I'll bet," he said without raising his eyes from his paper. "What are you reading?" Aurelia asked. "Hmmm?" "I said they were given a crown and a sword and a balance and power." "Oh, right," said her husband. And after that a week went by as all weeks do--very slowly at first and very quickly toward the end--and on Sunday morning, while she made the coffee, she again saw the four horsemen of the Apocalypse in the garden, but when she went back to the bedroom she didn't say anything to her husband. The third time she saw them, one Wednesday, alone, in the afternoon, she stood looking at them for a half hour and finally, since she had always wanted to fly in a yellow and red dirigible; and since she had dreamed about being an opera singer, an emperor's lover, a co-pilot to Icarus; since she would have liked to scale black cliffs, laugh at cannibals, traverse the jungles on elephants with purple trappings, seize with her hands the diamonds that lay hidden in mines, preside in the nude over a parade of nocturnal monsters, live under water, domesticate spiders, torture the powerful of the earth, rob trains in the tunnels of the Alps, set palaces on fire, lie in the dark with beggars, climb on the bridges of all the ships in the world; finally--since it was sadly sterile to be a rational and healthy adult--finally, that Wednesday afternoon alone, she put on the long dress she had worn at the last New Year's party given by the company where her husband was assistant sales manager and went out to the garden. The four horsemen of the Apocalypse called her, the blond one on the Harley-Davidson gave her his hand and helped her up onto the seat behind him, and there they went, all five, raging into the storm and singing. Two days later her husband gave in to family pressure and reported the disappearance of his wife. "Moral: madness is a flower aflame," said the narrator. Or in other words, it's impossible to inflame the dead, cold, viscous, useless, and sinful ashes of common sense.
The Perfect Married Woman
If you meet her on the street, cross quickly to the other side and quicken your pace. She’s a dangerous lady. She’s about forty or forty-five, has one married daughter and a son working in San Nicolas; her husband’s a sheet-metal worker. She rises very early, sweeps the sidewalk, sees her husband off, cleans, does the wash, shops, cooks. After lunch she watches television, sews or knits, irons twice a week, and at night goes to bed late. On Saturdays she does a general cleaning and washes windows and waxes the floors. On Sunday mornings she washes the clothes her son brings home—his name is Nestor Eduardo—she kneads dough for noodles or ravioli, and in the afternoon either her sister-inlaw comes to visit or she goes to her daughter’s house. It’s been a long time since she’s been to the movies, but she reads TV Guide and the police report in the newspaper. Her eyes are dark and her hands are rough and her hair is starting to go gray. She catches cold frequently and keeps a photo album in a dresser drawer along with a black crepe dress with lace collar and cuffs. Her mother never hit her. But when she was six, she got a spanking for coloring on a door, and she had to wash it off with a wet rag. While she was doing it, she thought about doors, all doors, and decided that they were very dumb because they always led to the same places. And the one she was cleaning was definitely the dumbest of all, the one that led to her parents’ bedroom. She opened the door and then it didn’t go to her parents’ bedroom but to the Gobi desert. She wasn’t surprised that she knew it was the Gobi desert even though they hadn’t even taught her in school where Mongolia was and neither she nor her mother nor her grandmother had ever heard of Nan Shan or Khangai Nuru. She stepped through the door, bent over to scratch the yellowish grit and saw that there was no one, nothing, and the hot wind tousled her hair, so she went back through the open door, closed it and kept on cleaning. And when she finished, her mother grumbled a little more and told her to wash the rag and take the broom to sweep up that sand and clean her shoes. That day she modified her hasty judgment about doors, though not completely, at least not until she understood what was going on. What had been going on all her life and up until today was that from time to time doors behaved satisfactorily, though in general they were still acting dumb and leading to dining rooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, bedrooms and offices even in the best of circumstances. But two months after the desert, for example, the door that every day led to the bath opened onto the workshop of a bearded man dressed in a long uniform, pointed shoes, and a cap that tilted on one side of his head. The old man’s back was turned as he took something out of a highboy with many small drawers behind a very strange, large wooden machine with a giant steering wheel and screw, in the midst of cold air and an acrid smell. When he turned around and saw her he began to shout at her in a language she didn’t understand. She stuck out her tongue, dashed out the door, closed it, opened it again, went into the bathroom and washed her hands for lunch. Again, after lunch, many years later, she opened the door of her room and walked into a battlefield. She dipped her hands in the blood of the wounded and dead and pulled from the neck of a cadaver a crucifix that she wore for a long time under high-necked blouses or dresses without plunging necklines. She now keeps it in a tin box underneath the nightgowns with a brooch, a pair of earrings and a broken wristwatch that used to belong to her mother-in-law. In the same way, involuntarily and by chance, she visited three monasteries, seven libraries, and the highest mountains in the world, and who knows how many theaters, cathedrals, jungles, refrigeration plants, dens of vice, universities, brothels, forests, stores, submarines, hotels, trenches, islands, factories, palaces, hovels, towers and hell. She’s lost count and doesn’t care; any door could lead anywhere and that has the same value as the thickness of the ravioli dough, her mother’s death, and the life crises that she sees on TV and reads about in TV Guide. Not long ago she took her daughter to the doctor, and seeing the closed door of a bathroom in the clinic, she smiled. She wasn’t sure because she can never be sure, but she got up and went to the bathroom. However, it was a bathroom; at least there was a nude man in a bathtub full of water. It was all very large, with a high ceiling, marble floor and decorations hanging from the closed windows. The man seemed to be asleep in his white bathtub, short but deep, and she saw a razor on a wrought iron table with feet decorated with iron flowers and leaves and ending in lion’s paws, a razor, a mirror, a curling iron, towels, a box of talcum powder and an earthen bowl with water. She approached on tiptoe, retrieved the razor, tiptoed over to the sleeping man in the tub and beheaded him. She threw the razor on the floor and rinsed her hands in the lukewarm bathtub water. She turned around when she reached the clinic corridor and spied a girl going into the bathroom through the other door. Her daughter looked at her. “That was quick.” “The toilet was broken,” she answered. A few days afterward, she beheaded another man in a blue tent at night. That man and a woman were sleeping mostly uncovered by the blankets of a low, king-size bed, and the wind beat around the tent and slanted the flames of the oil lamps. Beyond it there would be another camp, soldiers, animals, sweat, manure, orders and weapons. But inside there was a sword by the leather and metal uniforms, and with it she cut off the head of the bearded man. The woman stirred and opened her eyes as she went out the door on her way back to the patio that she had been mopping. On Monday and Thursday afternoons, when she irons shirt collars, she thinks of the slit necks and the blood, and she waits. If it’s summer she goes out to sweep a little after putting away the clothing and until her husband arrives. If it’s windy she sits in the kitchen and knits. But she doesn’t always find sleeping men or staring cadavers. One rainy morning, when she was twenty, she was at a prison, and she made fun of the chained prisoners; one night when the kids were kids and were all living at home, she saw in a square a disheveled woman looking at a gun but not daring to take it out of her open purse. She walked up to her, put the gun in the woman’s hand and stayed there until a car parked at the corner, until the woman saw a man in gray get out and look for his keys in his pocket, until the woman aimed and fired. And another night while she was doing her sixth grade geography homework, she went to look for crayons in her room and stood next to a man who was crying on a balcony. The balcony was so high, so far above the street, that she had an urge to push him to hear the thud down below, but she remembered the orographic map of South America and was about to leave. Anyhow, since the man hadn’t seen her, she did push him and saw him disappear and ran to color in the map so she didn’t hear the thud, only the scream. And in an empty theater, she made a fire underneath the velvet curtain; in a riot she opened the cover to a basement hatchway; in a house, sitting on top of a desk, she shredded a two-thousand-page manuscript; in a clearing of a forest she buried the weapons of the sleeping men; in a river she opened the floodgates of a dike. Her daughter’s name is Laura Inés, her son has a fiancée in San Nicolás and he’s promised to bring her over on Sunday so she and her husband can meet her. She has to remind herself to ask her sister-in-law for the recipe for orange cake, and Friday on TV is the first episode of a new soap opera. Again, she runs the iron over the front of the shirt and remembers the other side of the doors that are always carefully closed in her house, that other side where the things that happen are much less abominable than the ones we experience on this side, as you can easily understand.
The Unmistakable Smell of Wood Violets [Tr by Womack]
Translated for the first time in Ann and Jeff Vandermeer's Big Book of Science Fiction (Vintage, 2016):
The news spread fast. It would be correct to say that the news moved like a flaming trail of gunpowder, if it weren't for the fact that at this point in our civilization gunpowder was archaeology, ashes in time, the stuff of legend, nothingness. However, it was because of the magic of our new civilization that the news was known all over the world, practically instantaneously. "Oooh!" the tsarina said. You have to take into account that Her Gracious and Most Illustrious Virgin Majesty Ekaterina V, Empress of Holy Russia, had been carefully educated in the proper decorum befitting the throne, which meant that she would never have even raised an eyebrow or curved the corner of her lip, far less would she have made an interjection of that rude and vulgar kind. But not only did she say "Oooh!," she also got up and walked through the room until she reached the glass doors of the great balcony. She stopped there. Down below, covered by snow, Saint Leninburg was indifferent and unchanged, the city's eyes squinting under the weight of winter. At the palace, ministers and advisers were excited, on edge. "And where is this place?" the tsarina asked. And that is what happened in Russia, which is such a distant and atypical country. In the central states of the continent, there was real commotion. In Bolivia, in Paraguay, in Madagascar, in all the great powers, and in the countries that aspired to be great powers, such as High Peru, Iceland, or Morocco, hasty conversations took place at the highest possible level with knitted brows and hired experts. The strongest currencies became unstable: the guarani rose, the Bolivian peso went down half a point, the crown was discreetly removed from the exchange rates for two long hours, long queues formed in front of the exchanges in front of all the great capitals of the world. President Morillo spoke from the Oruro Palace and used the opportunity to make a concealed warning (some would call it a threat) to the two Peruvian republics and the Minas Gerais secessionist area. Morillo had handed over the presidency of Minas to his nephew, Pepe Morillo, who had proved to be a wet blanket whom everybody could manipulate, and now Morillo bitterly regretted his decision. Morocco and Iceland did little more than give their diplomats a gentle nudge in the ribs, anything to shake them into action, as they imagined them all to be sipping grenadine and mango juice in the deep south while servants in shiny black uniforms stood over them with fans. The picturesque note came from the Independent States of North America. It could not have been otherwise. Nobody knew that all the states were now once again under the control of a single president, but that's how it was: some guy called Jack Jackson-Franklin, who had been a bit-part actor in videos, and who, aged eighty-seven, had discovered his extremely patriotic vocation of statesman. Aided by his singular and inexplicable charisma, and by his suspect family tree, according to which he was the descendent of two presidents who had ruled over the states during their glory days, he had managed to unify, at least for now, the seventy-nine northern states. Anyway, Mr. Jackson-Franklin said to the world that the Independent States would not permit such a thing to take place. No more, just that they would not permit such a thing to take place. The world laughed uproariously at this. Over there, in the Saint Leninburg palace, ministers cleared their throats, advisers swallowed saliva, trying to find out if, by bobbing their Adam's apples up and down enough, they might be able to loosen their stiff official shirts. "Ahem. Ahem. It's in the south. A long way to the south. In the west, Your Majesty." "It is. Humph. Ahem. It is, Your Majesty, a tiny country in a tiny territory." "It says that it is in Argentina," the tsarina said, still staring through the window but without paying any attention to the night as it fell over the snow-covered roofs and the frozen shores of the Baltic. "Ah, yes, that's right, that's right, Your Majesty, a pocket republic." Sergei Vasilievich Kustkarov, some kind of councilor and, what is more, an educated and sensible man, broke into the conversation. "Several, Your Majesty, it is several." And at last the tsarina turned around. Who cared a fig for the Baltic night, the snow-covered rooftops, the roofs themselves, and the city of which they were a part? Heavy silk crackled, starched petticoats, lace. "Several of what, Councilor Kustkarov, several of what? Don't come to me with your ambiguities." "I must say, Your Majesty, I had not the slightest intention--" "Several of what?" The tsarina looked directly at him, her lips held tightly together, her hands moving unceasingly, and Kustkarov panicked, as well he might. "Rep-rep-republics, Your Majesty," he blurted out. "Several of them. Apparently, a long time ago, a very long time, it used to be a single territory, and now it is several, several republics, but their inhabitants, the people who live in all of them, all of the republics, are called, they call themselves, the people, that is, Argentinians." The tsarina turned her gaze away. Kustkarov felt so relieved that he was encouraged to carry on speaking: "There are seven of them, Your Majesty: Rosario, Entre dos Rios, Ladocta, Ona, Riachuelo, Yujujuy, and Labodegga." The tsarina sat down. "We must do something," she said. Silence. Outside it was not snowing, but inside it appeared to be. The tsarina looked at the transport minister. "This enters into your portfolio," she said. Kustkarov sat down, magnificently. How lucky he was to be a councilor, a councilor with no specific duties. The transport minister, on the other hand, turned pale. "I think, Your Majesty...," he dared to say. "Don't think! Do something!" "Yes, Your Majesty," the minister said, and, bowing, started to make his way to the door. "Where do you think you're going?" the tsarina said, without moving her mouth or twitching an eyelid. "I'm just, I'm going, I'm just going to see what can be done, Your Majesty." There's nothing that can be done, Sergei Vasilievich thought in delight, nothing. He realized that he was not upset, but instead he felt happy. And on top of everything else a woman, he thought. Kustkarov was married to Irina Waldoska-Urtiansk, a real beauty, perhaps the most beautiful woman in all of Holy Russia. Perhaps he was being cuckolded; it would have been all too easy for him to find that out, but he did not want to. His thoughts turned in a circle: and on top of everything else a woman. He looked at the tsarina and was struck, not for the first time, by her beauty. She was not so beautiful as Irina, but she was magnificent. In Rosario it was not snowing, not because it was summer, although it was, but because it never snowed in Rosario. And there weren't any palm trees: the Moroccans would have been extremely disappointed had they known, but their diplomats said nothing about the Rosario flora in their reports, partly because the flora of Rosario was now practically nonexistent, and partly because diplomats are supposed to be above that kind of thing. Everyone who was not a diplomat, that is to say, everyone, the population of the entire republic that in the last ten years had multiplied vertiginously and had now reached almost two hundred thousand souls, was euphoric, happy, triumphant. They surrounded her house, watched over her as she slept, left expensive imported fruits outside her door, followed her down the street. Some potentate allowed her the use of a Ford 99, which was one of the five cars in the whole country, and a madman who lived in the Espinillos cemetery hauled water all the way up from the Pará lagoon and grew a flower for her which he then gave her. "How nice," she said, then went on, dreamily, "Will there be flowers where I'm going?" They assured her that there would be. She trained every day. As they did not know exactly what it was she had to do to train herself, she got up at dawn, ran around the Independence crater, skipped, did some gymnastic exercises, ate little, learned how to hold her breath, and spent hours and hours sitting or curled into strange positions. She also danced the waltz. She was almost positive that the waltz was not likely to come in handy, but she enjoyed it very much. Meanwhile, farther away, the trail of gunpowder had become a barrel of dynamite, although dynamite was also a legendary substance and didn't exist. The infoscreens in every country, whether poor or rich, central or peripheral, developed or not, blazed forth with extremely large headlines suggesting dates, inventing biographical details, trying to hide, without much success, their envy and confusion. No one was fooled: "We have been wretchedly beaten," the citizens of Bolivia said. "Who would have thought it," pondered the man on the Reykjavík omnibus. The former transport minister of Holy Russia was off breaking stones in Siberia. Councilor Sergei Vasilievich Kustkarov was sleeping with the tsarina, but that was only a piece of low, yet spicy, gossip that has nothing to do with this story. "We will not allow this to happen!" Mr. Jackson-Franklin blustered, tugging nervously at his hairpiece. "It is our own glorious history that has set aside for us this brilliant destiny! It is we, we and not this despicable banana republic, who are marked for this glory!" Mr. Jackson-Franklin also did not know that there were no palm trees or bananas in Rosario, but this was due not to a lack of reports from his diplomats but rather a lack of diplomats. Diplomats are a luxury that a poor country cannot afford, and so poor countries often go to great pains to take offense and recall all the knights commanders and lawyers and doctors and even eventually the generals working overseas, in order to save money on rent and electricity and gas and salaries, not to mention the cost of the banquets and all the money in brown paper envelopes. But the headlines kept on appearing on the infoscreens: "Argentinian Astronaut Claims She Will Reach Edge of Universe," "Sources Claim Ship Is Spaceworthy in Spite of or Because of Centuries-Long Interment," "Science or Catastrophe?," "Astronaut Not a Woman but a Transsexual" (this in the Imperialskaya Gazeta, the most puritan of the infoscreens, even more so than the Papal Piccolo Osservatore Lombardo), "Ship Launches," "First Intergalactic Journey in Centuries," "We Will Not Allow This to Happen!" (Portland Times). She was dancing the waltz. She woke up with her heart thumping, tried out various practical hairstyles, ran, skipped, drank only filtered water, ate only olives, avoided spies and journalists, went to see the ship every day, just to touch it. The mechanics all adored her. "It'll work, they'll see, it'll work," the chief engineer said defiantly. Nobody contradicted him. No one dared say that it wouldn't. It would make it, of course it would make it. Not without going through many incredible adventures on its lengthy journey. Lengthy? No one knew who Langevin was anymore, so no one was shocked to discover that his theory contradicted itself, ended up biting its own tail, and that however long the journey took, the observers would only perceive it as having lasted minutes. Someone called Cervantes, a very famous personage back in the early years of human civilization--it was still debated whether he had been a physicist, a poet, or a musician--had suggested a similar theory in one of his lost works. One autumn dawn the ship took off from the Independence crater, the most deserted part of the whole desert republic of Rosario, at five forty-five in the morning. The exact time is recorded because the inhabitants of the country had all pitched in together to buy a clock, which they thought the occasion deserved (there was one other clock, in the Enclosed Convent of the Servants of Santa Rita de Casino, but because the convent was home to an enclosed order nothing ever went in or out of it, no news, no requests, no answers, no nothing). Unfortunately, they had not had enough money. But then someone had had the brilliant idea which had brought in the money they needed, and Rosario had hired out its army for parades in friendly countries: there weren't that many of them and the ones there were weren't very rich, but they managed to get the cash together. Anyone who was inspired by patriotism and by the proximity of glory had to see those dashing officers, those disciplined soldiers dressed in gold and crimson, protected by shining breastplates, capped off with plumed helmets, their catapults and pouches of stones at their waists, goose-stepping through the capital of Entre Dos Rios or the Padrone Giol vineyards in Labodegga, at the foot of the majestic Andes. The ship blasted off. It got lost against the sky. Before the inhabitants of Rosario, their hearts in their throats and their eyes clouded by emotion, had time to catch their breath, a little dot appeared up there, getting bigger and bigger, and it was the ship coming back down. It landed at 06:11 on the same morning of that same autumn day. The clock that recorded this is preserved in the Rosario Historical Museum. It no longer works, but anyone can go and see it in its display cabinet in Room A of the Museum. In Room B, in another display case, is the so-called Carballensis Indentic Axe, the fatal tool that cut down all the vegetation of Rosario and turned the whole country into a featureless plain. Good and evil, side by side, shoulder to shoulder. Twenty-six minutes on Earth, many years on board the ship. Obviously, she did not have a watch or a calendar with her: the republic of Rosario would not have been able to afford either of them. But it was many years, she knew that much. Leaving the galaxy was a piece of cake. You can do it in a couple of jumps, everyone knows that, following the instructions that Albert Einsteinstein, the multifaceted violin virtuoso, director of sci-fi movies, and student of space-time, gave us a few hundred years back. But the ship did not set sail to the very center of the universe, as its predecessors had done in the great era of colonization and discovery; no, the ship went right to the edge of the universe. Everyone also knows that there is nothing in the universe, not even the universe itself, which does not grow weaker as you reach its edge. From pancakes to arteries, via love, rubbers, photographs, revenge, bridal gowns, and power. Everything tends to imperceptible changes at the beginning, rapid change afterward; everything at the edge is softer and more blurred, as the threads start to fray from the center to the outskirts. In the time it took her to take a couple of breaths, a breath and a half, over the course of many years, she passed through habitable and uninhabitable places, worlds which had once been classified as existent, worlds which did not appear and had never appeared and probably would never appear in any cartographical survey. Planets of exiles, singing sands, minutes and seconds in tatters, whirlpools of nothingness, space junk, and that's without even mentioning those beings and things, all of which stood completely outside any possibility of description, so much so that we tend not to perceive them when we look at them; all of this, and shock, and fear more than anything else, and loneliness. The hair grew gray at her temples, her flesh lost its firmness, wrinkles appeared around her eyes and her mouth, her knees and ankles started to act up, she slept less than before and had to half close her eyes and lean backward in order to make out the numbers on the consoles. And she was so tired that it was almost unbearable. She did not waltz any longer: she put an old tape into an old machine and listened and moved her gray head in time with the orchestra. She reached the edge of the universe. Here was where everything came to an end, so completely that even her tiredness disappeared and she felt once again as full of enthusiasm as she had when she was younger. There were hints, of course: salt storms, apparitions, little brushstrokes of white against the black of space, large gaps made of sound, echoes of long-dead voices that had died giving sinister orders, ash, drums; but when she reached the edge itself, these indications gave way to space signage: "End," "You Are Reaching the Universe Limits," "The Cosmos General Insurance Company, YOUR Company, Says: GO NO FURTHER," "End of Protected Cosmonaut Space," etc., as well as the scarlet polygon that the OMUU had adopted to use as a sign for that's it, abandon all hope, the end. All right, so she was here. The next thing to do was go back. But the idea of going back never occurred to her. Women are capricious creatures, just like little boys: as soon as they get what they want, then they want something else. She carried on. There was a violent judder as she crossed the limit. Then there was silence, peace, calm. All very alarming, to tell the truth. The needles did not move, the lights did not flash, the ventilation system did not hiss, her alveoli did not vibrate, her chair did not swivel, the screens were blank. She got up, went to the portholes, looked out, saw nothing. It was logical enough: "Of course," she said to herself, "when the universe comes to an end, then there's nothing." She looked out through the portholes a little more, just in case. She still could see nothing, but she had an idea. "But I'm here," she said. "Me and the ship." She put on a space suit and walked out into the nothing. When the ship landed in the Independence crater in the republic of Rosario, twenty-six minutes after it had taken off, when the hatch opened and she appeared on the ramp, the spirit of Paul Langevin flew over the crater, laughing fit to burst. The only people who heard him were the madman who had grown the flower for her in the Espinillos cemetery and a woman who was to die that day. No one else had ears or fingers or tongue or feet, far less did they have eyes to see him. It was the same woman who had left, the very same, and this calmed the crowds down at the same time as it disappointed them, all the inhabitants of the country, the diplomats, the spies, and the journalists. It was only when she came down the gangplank and they came closer to her that they saw the network of fine wrinkles around her eyes. All other signs of her old age had vanished, and had she wished, she could have waltzed tirelessly, for days and nights on end, from dusk till dawn till dusk. The journalists all leaned forward; the diplomats made signals, which they thought were subtle and unseen, to the bearers of their sedan chairs to be ready to take them back to their residences as soon as they had heard what she had to say; the spies took photographs with the little cameras hidden away in their shirt buttons or their wisdom teeth; all the old people put their hands together; the men raised their fists to their heart; the little boys pranced; the young girls smiled. And then she told them what she had seen: "I took off my suit and my helmet," she said, "and walked along the invisible avenues that smelled of violets." She did not know that the whole world was waiting to hear what she said; that Ekaterina V had made Sergei Vasilievich get up at five o'clock in the morning so that he could accompany her to the grand salon and wait there for the news; that one of the seventy-nine Northern States had declared its independence because the president had not stopped anything from happening or obtained any glory, and this had lit the spark of rebellion in the other seventy-eight states, and this had made Mr. Jackson-Franklin leave the White House without his wig, in pajamas, freezing and furious; that Bolivia, Paraguay, and Iceland had allowed the two Peruvian republics to join their new alliance and defense treaty set up against a possible attack from space; that the high command of the Paraguayan aeronautical engineers had promised to build a ship that could travel beyond the limits of the universe, always assuming that they could be granted legal immunity and a higher budget, a declaration that made the guarani fall back the two points that it had recently risen and then another one as well; that Don Schicchino Giol, the new padrone of the Republic of Labodegga at the foot of the majestic Andes had been woken from his most recent drinking bout to be told that he had now to sign a declaration of war against the Republic of Rosario, now that they knew the strength of the enemy's forces. "Eh? What? Hunh?" Don Schicchino said. "I saw the nothingness of everything," she said, "and it was all infused with the unmistakable smell of wood violets. The nothingness of the world is like the inside of a stomach throbbing above your head. The nothingness of people is like the back of a painting, black, with glasses and wires that release dreams of order and imperfect destinies. The nothingness of creatures with leathery wings is a crack in the air and the rustle of tiny feet. The nothingness of history is the massacre of the innocents. The nothingness of words, which is a throat and a hand that break whatever they touch on perforated paper; the nothingness of music, which is music. The nothingness of precincts, of crystal glasses, of seams, of hair, of liquids, of lights, of keys, of food." When she had finished her list, the potentate who owned the Ford 99 said that he would give it to her, and that in the afternoon he would send one of his servants with a liter of naphtha so that she could take the car out for a spin. "Thank you," she said. "You are very generous." The madman went away, looking up to the skies; who knows what he was searching for. The woman who was going to die that day asked herself what she should eat on Sunday, when her sons and their wives came to lunch. The president of the Republic of Rosario gave a speech. And everything in the world carried on the same, apart from the fact that Ekaterina V named Kustkarov her interior minister, which terrified the poor man but which was welcomed with open arms by Irina as an opportunity for her to refresh her wardrobe and her stock of lovers. And Jack Jackson-Franklin sold his memoirs to one of Paraguay's more sophisticated magazines for a stellar amount of money, which allowed him to retire to live in Imerina. And six spaceships from six major world powers set off to the edges of the universe and were never seen again. She married a good man who had a house with a balcony, a white bicycle, and a radio which, on clear days, could pick up the radio plays that LLL1 Radio Magnum transmitted from Entre Dos Rios, and she waltzed in white satin shoes. The day that her first son was born a very pale green shoot grew out of the ground on the banks of the great lagoon.
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