Monthly Archives: March 2019

Movie Review – Us (2019)

I got 5 on it, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with a review of Us.

Jordan Peele went from wacky comedian to serious horror film director in Get Out.  His challenge here was to prove he could keep the pace going, and he does.

The plot?  The Wilsons (Lupita Nyong’o as Adelaide/Winston Duke as Gabe) are a middle class family who bring their kids to Santa Cruz, California for a vacation with their family friends, the Tylers (Elizabeth Moss as Kitty and Tim Heidecker as Josh.)

Alas, the shit hits the fan when a family of dopplegangers arrives at the Wilson’s vacation home.  Each one of the strange intruders looks exactly like the Wilsons, but with the exception that they are basically feral monsters, looking to kill and destroy.

I’ve always thought that the best horror flicks rely less on CGI and more on feeling and emotion, things that are brought across through sights and sounds.  Peele excels with that.  The eerie facial expressions of “the Tethered” will freak you out, giving you a creepy look into the idea that we all may have a twin lurking beneath the surface and that twin may not be happy with us at all.

Sidenote – That may be the underlying social message of the film.  You see, as Red, Adelaide’s copy, explains, whenever Adelaide experienced joy, Red experienced pain.  Does one person’s joy cause another’s misery?  Perhaps that might be looking into things a little too in depth.  Or perhaps not.

All I know is this was scary, with some dashes of dark humor.  There are epic plot holes galore and the movie starts to fall apart if you put too much thought into it.  But Peele asks us to suspend disbelief and so we do…or should.  I don’t know if I ever did.  I still have unanswered questions.

Lupita has been a part of several big films this decade but as far as I know, this is her chance to shine in a lead.  Meanwhile, Winston Duke proves his versatility, from playing Black Panther’s ultra macho frenemy last year, to playing the happy go lucky, nerdy dad that his wife kids are embarrassed of here.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.  I might be a little hung up on the social message I perceived.  My two cents is that yes, elsewhere in the world, there are people who suffer while we watch TV and play video games and go to movies and go on vacations.  How best to address that though?  If you’ve been an avid news watcher over the years, it seems as though America can do no right in addressing the world’s ills.  Attempts to help are met with accusations of America trying to take over.  Attempts to stay out of the problems of other nations are met with accusations of being cold and uncaring.  Then again, maybe it isn’t about suffering people abroad.  There are plenty of people who are suffering right here at home.

My main unanswered questions lie within how the copies exist and how they work but to talk about that here would be to give it all away.  However, if you’ve seen it, feel free to discuss in the comments.

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Disco Werewolf – Chapter 4

DISCO_WEREWOLF_1

“Who is Disco Werewolf, Mr. Sugarshine?”  the girl asked.  “My readers are dying to know.”

“Mark my words, young lady,” Sweet Johnny said as he motioned for the girl to join him at the other end of the bar, out of earshot of any prospective snoops.  “Me allowing you access to this fantastic world is the absolute last time that I will ever do a favor for anyone.”

“What do you mean?”

“I called The New York Courant,” Sweet Johnny said.  “After getting the run-around for an hour and…can you believe?  Me, the Emcee of Funk, the Sultan of Soul, the Duke of Disco getting passed around on the phone for an entire sixty minutes?  Finally, I was able to speak to the city desk editor, one Mr. Ernie Pomeroy and he says you don’t work there.”

“Yet,” the girl said.  “I’m working on it.”

Sweet Johnny smiled.  “I like your style, kiddo.  I do.  And true, we were all nobody before we became somebody but you, my dear, are a nobody.”

“Please,” the girl said.  “Just a few quotes.”

“Claudette Jenkins is, and this is a direct quote from Mr. Pomeroy now, ‘A nice girl with a lot of chutzpah, but much too young to traipsing about the streets at night, looking for trouble.’  I agree and if you head for the door right now and don’t let it hit you where the Good Lord split you, I won’t bother to report that fake ID you flashed at me to the authorities.  Twenty-one my eye.”

“Ernie has been on a desk so long he wouldn’t know a good story if it bit him in his ass,” Anette said.

“That’s between y’all,” Sweet Johnny said.  “Bottomline, you lied to me, baby girl.”

“Lie is a strong word,” Claudette said.

“When you came to me a week ago and asked if you could come in, sniff around, talk to some of the dancers and get some quotes about Disco Werewolf, I feared you might be working on some kind of hatchet job,” Sweet Johnny said.  “But then I realized that all press is good press, so I agreed.  But now to find you not only don’t have an employer but aren’t even of an employable age.”

“I’m seventeen!” Claudette protested.

“Good for you,” Sweet Johnny said.  “And the supermarket is down the street, little bird, so fly, fly away and go see if they’ll hire you as a cashier, because they damn sure won’t hire someone your age as a reporter.”

“Mr. Sugarshine,” Claudette said.  “We’re talking semantics, here.”

“Semantics?” Sweet Johnny asked.  “Oh, my, now that’s a three-dollar word.  Where’d you hear that one? On the playground?”

“You’re right,” Claudette said.  “I don’t work for the New York Courant.”

              “No Shit, She-Sherlock.”

“But I am working on a story about Disco Werewolf,” Claudette said.  “But I can’t publish a story without answering the biggest question swirling around it, namely, the true identity of Disco Werewolf.  When I get that, there isn’t a paper in town that wouldn’t buy it from me so essentially, I didn’t lie to you.  I will get this story in print…eventually.”

“Go eventually stand in the corner and think about what you’ve done, baby,” Sweet Johnny said.  “Now pardon me, my viewers need me.”

Sweet Johnny stepped away, only to be stopped in his tracks by Claudette’s next words.  “You pay him, don’t you?”

A look of panic overtook Sweet Johnny’s face as he turned around.  “What the…who told you that?”

“No one,” Claudette said.  “Last night, I saw you tuck a wad of cash into his paw.  He isn’t just a regular customer who picked your disco over the other discos in town.”

“Flea infested rat traps, the lot of ‘em!” Sweet Johnny said.  “But Miss Jenkins, I’ll have you know that whatever business transpires between me and the illustrious Disco Werewolf shall remain between me and the unparalleled Disco Werewolf.”

“That line outside,” Claudette said.  “It was never that long before Disco Werewolf showed up.  You need him, don’t you?”

“Sweet Johnny Sugarshine needs no one!”

“I can read between the lines,” Claudette said.  “You’ll go into receivership without him.”

“Receiver-what?  Receivership?” Sweet Johnny asked.  “What are they teaching advanced accounting classes on that show with all the puppets you kids watch?  Get to steppin.’”

“I’ll go,” Claudette said.  “And I guess I could file a less interesting version of this story, one where the identity of Disco Werewolf remains hidden forever but…I’d have to mention that you pay him, that he didn’t just select your club because he found it to be the funkiest of them all.”

“It is the funkiest of them all!” Sweet Johnny said.  The Duke of Disco closed his eyes, exhaled, then calmed down.  “Look, kid.  If I knew who Disco Werewolf was, I’d tell you.  But I don’t.  Because he doesn’t talk.  He’s a giant werewolf, for Christ’s sake.  He barks.  He howls. He growls.  But he doesn’t make words come out of his mouth so he’s never told me his real name.”

“You have a business arrangement with him but you’ve never talked to him?”  Claudette asked.  “I find that highly suspect.”

“I talk to him,” Sweet Johnny said.  “He woofs or barks or sometimes just nods.  He doesn’t say shit, because, again, he’s a Goddamn dog man.”

“Huh,” Claudette said.  “Alright, I guess I’ll let the part about money changing hands slide but still, there has to be some way to find out who he is.”

Sweet Johnny held his hand out and waved it across the sweeping club scene, taking it all in.  “Child, look at there.  What do you see?”

“A bunch of idiots getting drunk and bouncing around until they puke.”

“Oh, Claudette Jenkins,” Sweet Johnny said.  “What happened to you that you have so little imagination at such a tender young age?”

“I’m black in America.”

“Touche, sister,” Sweet Johnny said.  “Touche.  But so am I and I’m older and yet, my mind is not as closed off as yours.  When I look out at all these people, I see dreamers.  I see people escaping from the hum drum machinations of every day life.  By day these people are doctors and lawyers, tow truck drivers, mail men, carpenters, hell some of them are even degenerate bums looking for a handout.  But they are also here in search of fantasy fulfilment. They don’t want to be Mr. or Miss Joe or Josephine Q. McGillicuddy, no m’aam.  They want to be disco kings and disco queens, the lives of the party, the beaus and belles of the ball.  They want to be beautiful, graceful, happening, or at the very least, they want to come here and pretend to be for a little while before their dreary lives come a-calling once again.”

“Are you getting to a point?”  Claudette asked.

“Indeed, little sister,” Sweet Johnny said.  “The point is, if you’re asking me the name of Disco Werewolf, I don’t know.  If he wanted me to know it, he’d most assuredly find a way to tell it to me, just as I am sure, if he wanted you and the readers you do not have to know it, he’d find a way for them to know.”

“OK,” Claudette said.

“Now,” Sweet Johnny continued.  “If you’re asking me to take a wild guess, I’d say our old pal Disco Werewolf is just like all of these people.  By day, he’s some kind of boring schlub.  Probably a loser.  A dope. Not much going for him.  He’s so saddened by his miserable life and his complete and total lack of an ability to turn his life around for the better, than he came up with a gimmick, got himself a werewolf costume and now he’s the king shit around here.”

“I thought that was you.”

Sweet Johnny grinned.  “Nah.  I’m just the Duke.”

“You think he’s wearing a costume?” Claudette asked.

“You don’t?” Sweet Johnny asked.

“He looks real enough,” Claudette said.

“Yes, well,” Sweet Johnny said.  “Looks real and is real are two very different things.”

“But you just said he can’t talk because he’s a werewolf,” Claudette said.

“I did,” Sweet Johnny said.  “But to elaborate, if he thinks he is a werewolf, then he must act as a werewolf and therefore, as a werewolf, he cannot talk.  Corgito ergo sum, Miss Jenkins.”

“What’s that mean?” Claudette asked.

“I think, therefore I am,” Sweet Johnny said.  “And if whoever Disco Werewolf is thinks he’s a werewolf, then trust me, he’s a werewolf.”

“Even if, technically, he isn’t?” Claudette asked.

“Well,” Sweet Johnny said.  “What’s the alternative?  That Disco Werewolf is an honest to God, genuine, bonafide, man stretching his body out to become a big ass wolf monster like in the movie pictures?  You believe that?”

“I’ve seen things,” Claudette said.  “It’s not impossible.”

“It not only impossible,” Sweet Johnny said.  “It’s downright ludicrous.”

“Now who’s lacking in imagination?” Claudette asked.

Sweet Johnny pretended as though he were wearing a cap, and tipped it the girl’s way.  “Very good, my dear.  You win this round of our verbal joust.”

“I don’t know if he’s real,” Claudette said.  “But everyone here sure seems to believe in him.”

“People will believe in all manner of wonderous things if it distracts them from the bitter, cruel world all around them,” Sweet Johnny said.  “I have a hunch you’re just too young to understand that.”

“Try me,” Claudette said.

“The sixties,” Sweet Johnny said.  “Oh, you were no doubt knee high to a dragonfly then, but let’s see.  The man who tried to bring this country together got shot.  Then the man who had a dream that white and black people would come together got shot.  Then the brother of the man who tried to bring the country together was shot.”

“JFK, MLK and RFK,” Claudette said.

“All my tax dollars aren’t wasted on public schools, after all,” Sweet Johnny said.  “But on top of all that, the man who said to hell with it, black people should go their own way got shot too, so really, there was no way to please anyone in that decade.  Plus you riots, bombings, murders, all kinds of death and destruction.  That’s all before you mention the war on the other side of the world that killed 58,000 Americans even though no one in charge could adequately vocalize why the hell any of them where sent there in the first place.”

Claudette nodded.

“This decade wasn’t much better,” Sweet Johnny.  “Nixon saw a desire among the public for the government to get shit under control and got his ass handed to him when he tried to control too much.  So, we said screw it, we’ll elect an idiot peanut farmer lacking in ambition who will just sit around and mind the store, but that led to the Arabs humping us on gas and the Iranians taking our embassy hostage.”

“Is this soliloquy going anywhere?” Claudette asked.

“Soliloquy,” Sweet Johnny said.  “Another big word.  You must keep a dictionary under your pillow, girl.  And yes.  It is.  What I’m trying to say is that adults today have been through some shit, and we’re all tired of trying to find a solution from the government, from big business, from anywhere.  We’re all convinced that traditional groups and communities will fail us, so we’re looking inward, trying our best to fulfill our own wants and desires.  Some do it by sitting on their asses at home and sulking into a bottle.  Others do it by coming and here and dancing the night away.”

“I’d rather live in reality,” Claudette said.

“Yeah,” Sweet Johnny replied.  “But the problem with reality is that it’s all so very real.”

“Ahhhhhhhwoooooooooooo!”

Disco Werewolf leapt out of the rafters, somersaulted through the air and landed in the center of the dance floor to uproarious applause from his fans.

“Still think that’s a costume?” Claudette asked.

“I’ve been through too much shit in my life to think otherwise,” Sweet Johnny said.

The Duke and the wannabe reporter stood at the bar and watched Disco Werewolf get funky as Boo Boo Larue filled the night with song.

“I’m telling the doorwoman,” Sweet Johnny said.  “Tonight’s the last night you’ll be allowed in here.”

“Come on!”  Claudette said.

“Nope,” Sweet Johnny said.  “That’s it.  Stay the rest of tonight if you like, but if I see you drinking anything stronger than a root beer, you’ll leave early.  Got it?”

Claudette pouted.  “I got it.”

Sweet Johnny began to walk away, then stopped.  “Oh, and Miss Jenkins?”

“What?”  Claudette asked.

“It’s a free country,” Sweet Johnny said.  “I can’t tell you to stop digging for clues as to Disco Werewolf’s true self but do keep in mind, if he felt the need to become everyone’s favorite beast, then he must be running from something.”

“Aren’t we all?” Claudette asked.

“Indeed,” Sweet Johnny said as he straightened his tie.  “Still, maybe it’s better to let sleeping dogs lie…”

The Duke looked out onto the dance floor, where the werewolf was holding court.  “…and to let dancing dogs dance.”

Disco Werewolf – Chapter 3

DISCO_WEREWOLF_1

For those who had never been inside before, stepping into Sweet Johnny Sugarshine’s Electrostatic Groove Lounge was like landing on another plant.  The sights, the sounds, everything tantalized the senses.  The dance floor was made of thousands of individual squares, each one blinking a different color of the rainbow.  A disco ball hovered from the ceiling, bathing the room in a glow of twinkly lights.

Dancers in the gawdiest outfits moved to the beat.  Spins, turns, flips, they were all trying to outdo each other.  At the bar, booze flowed freely, with no one caring if anyone was overserved.

The house DJ took to the microphone to make an announcement.  “Good evening all you cats and kittens!  If you’re having a good time, let me hear you make some noise!”

The dancers roared with excitement.

“Now, clear the floor if you please, because it’s time to say hello to your host with the most,” the DJ said.  “He’s held many titles in his life.  Some call him the King of Swing or the Emcee of Funk.  Others, the Sultan of Soul.  But today, you know him best as the Duke of Disco…the one, the only…Sweet Johnny Sugarshine!”

Throughout the club, men stood behind massive cameras, recording all the action.

Poof!  A cloud of smoke erupted in the center of the dance floor.  This bought some time for a trap door to open that allowed the club’s proprietor to rise up on a moving platform.  Once the smoke cleared, it was as if he had magically appeared out of thin air.

Sweet Johnny Sugarshine was a dashing man in his early 30s.  From head to toe, his suit was golden, with the chains around his neck to match. His afro stood tall above his head and he had a smile so wide that it was hard to stay sad in its presence.

“Well, hello there my babies,” the host said into a microphone.

“Hello Johnny!” the dancers replied in unison.

“I hope you’re all having a good time in my Electrostatic Groove Lounge,” Sweet Johnny said.  “I wouldn’t have let you in had I not seen something special in each and everyone of you.”

“Wooo!” the dancers answered.

“You know, it’s funny,” Sweet Johnny said.  “About six months ago, the local cable access station came to me and said, “Johnny baby, we got to do something for all the people who will just never be hip enough to get down in your fly pad, you dig?”

Sweet Johnny strutted about the floor.  “And so I said, ‘Sure I dig.  What are we gonna do?’  And the cable people, and by the way, babies, if you haven’t hooked your television up to cable yet then you need to do so because let me tell you, being able to see cinema quality movies in the comfort of your own home is a real gas but let’s not get off track.  The cable people said, ‘Hell, Johnny baby, we’re gonna give you your own show.’”

“Wooo!” went the crowd.

Sweet Johnny looked directly into one of the cameras.  “So, to all your wallflowers at home, go on.  Get out of your Barcalounger and get some pep in your step, because it’s time for the festivities Sweet Johnny Sugarshine’s Disco Power Hour to commence!”

Across the club, the spotlight hit a main stage.  A group of musicians wearing bright colors played their instruments.  A breathtakingly gorgeous woman took stepped up to the microphone.  Her dress was white and covered with flashy gems.  Her eyelashes were long, her blonde hair stacked high on her head and she was revealing a staggering amount of cleavage.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Sweet Johnny said.  “Put your hands together and give it up for Boo Boo Larue and the Starlight Crew.  They’re here all week and right now they’re going to lay down their latest hot track.  Don’t you dare put your finger on it because if you do, it’s going to be scalded. That’s how hot it is.  Here’s Boo Boo with Love Another.”

              Boo Boo’s lips pressed out the lyrics:

Lover!  I never thought I’d love again.

              ‘Till I met you, my friend.

              You’re the best lover that I ever knew.

              Woo, ah-ooo.

             

              While all the action was broadcast live throughout the Tri-State area, Sweet Johnny switched off his microphone and moseyed on over to the bar.  There, his signature gin and tonic was already waiting for him.  It was on the rocks, just the way he liked it.

 

Moments later, a tall man, slender man in platform shoes bellied up to the bar.  He wore a silk, floral-patterned shirt, opened at the top to reveal a lush patch of rugged chest hair.  A golden medallion rested prominently on the patch.  His hide was covered by a pair of baby blue bell bottom jeans which were held up by a wide, white belt.  His golden hair was done up in a gravity defying perm.

 

Was the man happy or sad?  No one could tell his mood as his eyes were hidden away behind a pair of smoky colored shades.  He did carry an air of depression about him though, which was surprising, as he was in the company of two bodacious babes.

 

The bartender brought the man his usual – a pink cosmopolitan with a tiny little umbrella sticking out of it.  He sat and sipped in silence as the ladies ran their hands over his chest hair.

Five minutes passed.  Boo Boo moved on to another song while the patrons danced the night away.  Finally, Sweet Johnny cut the tension.  “Boogiedown Barry.  Are you seriously going to sit there like the saddest sack of turnips to ever fall off the back of the truck and ignore the Duke of Disco all evening?”

 

Barry scoffed.  “Ha.  Duke of Disco.  I’ve seen you dance, Johnny.  You’ve got two-left feet and all the rhythm of a rampaging rhino.  If anyone should be the Duke of Disco, it should be me.”

 

“Oh, here we go,” Sweet Johnny said.  “The green-eyed monster rears its ugly head once again.”

 

“You think I’m jealous?”  Barry asked.

Sweet Johnny swirled a swizzle stick around the inside of his glass.  “I know you are, daddio.  I can read it all over your face like a cheap dime store romance novel, baby.  Why don’t you take a deep breath, exhale all your resentments and let them go, before they eat you alive?”

Barry laughed.  “That’s rich.  You talk like a big man, but we both know you’d be nothing without me.”

“You think so?”  Sweet Johnny asked.

“I know so,” Barry replied.  “This club was nothing before I came along.  I could have danced anywhere, but I chose to dance here.  I liked your digs.  I thought it had a special savoir-faire, a certain je ne sais quoi.  But my moves brought the people out, Johnny.  If it weren’t for me, this place would have never gotten through its first year.”

Sweet Johnny sighed.  He reached over and rubbed Barry’s shoulder.  “You’re not wrong, hep cat, and for you’re the many funky dance moves you busted on my floor, I will be forever grateful, but you and my old man are cut from the same cloth.”

“Please,” Barry said.  “I’m nothing like that square.”

“You don’t think so?”  Sweet Johnny asked.  “Let me lay the straight skinny down on your head, you broke ass hustler.  There was a time when anyone who was anyone wanted to be caught alive inside the Dandy Haberdashery.  Jazz was all the rage but music fans are a fickle lot and once rock and roll took over, my old man refused to change with the times.  He kept trying to push Jazz on a public that was buying until he ended up in the poorhouse and he was just like you, ragging on me for being a sell-out.”

“You are a sell-out,” Barry said.  “You sold me out to a damn, dirty werewolf.”

Sweet Johnny held up a single finger.  “Rule number one of show business, baby.  Give the people what they want.  You hear the people ask for something, be the one who gives it to them and they’ll love you.  Give them something else and you’ll be tossed out into the trash can like yesterday’s rotten meatloaf.”

“What are you saying?” Barry asked.  “That I’m rotten meatloaf?”

“I’m saying that if the people wanted Boogiedown Barry, I’d give them Boogiedown Barry.  But they don’t want Boogiedown Barry no more baby.  They want Disco Werewolf.  The sooner you get that fact through your thick head, the better.”

“I hate that werewolf,” Barry said.

Sweet Johnny pulled a pack of smokes out of his jacket.  He offered one to Barry, who passed.  He took one for himself and lit up.  “Hate is a strong word.  And besides, doesn’t the world already have more than enough hate to go around already?”

“It could always use a little more,” Barry said.  “What about the dance competitions?  Those were my idea.  Those got people coming here.  Every geek off the street thinking they would come here, shake a leg, and be the next newly discovered star.”

“Those were your idea,” Sweet Johnny said.  “And I thank you.  I also never told you to stop competing in them.”

Barry downed his drink, pounded the glass down on the bar, then ordered another. “Bah! Like I could ever beat Disco Werewolf!”

“You need to stop letting Disco Werewolf live inside your head, dude,” Sweet Johnny said.  “Stop comparing yourself to that sexy dance monster and be your own man.”

“I can’t,” Barry said as he slurped his new drink.  “Disco Werewolf has ruined my life.”

Sweet Johnny shook his head in disgust.  “Fame is a fickle mistress, Barry.  Today she loves one cat, tomorrow another.  Hell, last decade, every red-blooded American male wanted to nail Elizabeth Taylor to the wall and now?  That old crone can’t give it away.  You think she sits around her big house, drinking and lamenting because everyone wants to stick it to Faye Dunaway now?”

Barry glared at Sweet Johnny, who instantly nodded in agreement.  “OK.  Bad example.  But you get the gist.  The glamour life is a great big game and we’re all players, baby.  When the game’s going your way, life is sweet than candy.  But when it all starts to go south, life is as bitter as a dill pickle.  At that point, you can either reinvent yourself and come back as something that all the other players want, or you can right off into the sunset like a sad yet, dignified cowboy, confident that you did all you can do in this life and you’ve got nothing left to prove.  Or you can just do what you’re doing right now and be a big crybaby about it.”

Without skipping a beat, Barry instantly replied, “Waah.”

“Whatever,” Sweet Johnny said.  “Don’t hate the werewolf, baby.  Hate the game.”

“I’ll hate that werewolf as much as I damn well please,” Barry said.  “He ruined my life.”

“I give up,” Sweet Johnny said.  “You have literally not comprehended a single word I have said.  Just count your blessings, Barry.  Look at you.  You got your looks.  You got your style.  You got your fine ladies.  At least Disco Werewolf can’t take that away from you.”

A howl came from somewhere high up in the rafters.  “Ahh-woo!  Arr, arr, ahh-wooo!”

The dancers went absolutely bonkers, totally out of control with excitement and anticipation.  The ladies pulled their hands away from Barry’s chest.

The DJ took to the microphone.  “Uh, oh, cats and kittens.  Did you hear that?”

Another howl.  “Ahh-wooo!”

“Disco Werewolf has entered the building,” the DJ said.  “I repeat, ‘Disco Werewolf has entered the building!’”

“Oh my God!” gasped the first of Barry’s galpals.  “Is Disco Werewolf really here?”

One more howl.  “Ahh-woo!”

The second lady grabbed the first lady’s hand.  “Come on!  We’ve got to find him!”

“Oh!” the first lady cried.  “I hope he’ll dance with me!”

And with that, the ladies bolted.  Barry flashed Sweet Johnny an I told you so face.

Sweet Johnny sipped his drink.  “Alright, baby.  I stand corrected.”

The Duke of Disco reached into his pocket, pulled out a few bills, and left them on the bar as a tip.  He then pointed at the sad sack.  “Even so, Boogiedown Barry, you got more pussy in your life than most men don’t get in a hundred lifetimes, so this funk you’re in is all on you.  Get your head on right and you’ll be feeling dynamite and out of sight.”

“Yeah,” Barry said.  “Whatever you say, Sultan of Something or Other.”

“Now, if you’ll excuse me,” Barry said as he straightened his color.  “I must mingle with my public.

Sweet Johnny didn’t get very far into his mingle when he was approached by a young lady holding a notebook and pen.  She was dressed way too conservatively for such a swinging establishment.  It wasn’t like she was dressed like a Grandma on her way to church or anything.  She just wore a simple striped polo shirt and a pair of tan khaki pants.

“Mr. Sugarshine?  Can I have a word?”

“Oh Lord,” Sweet Johnny said.  “Not you again.”

Tagged

Disco Werewolf – Chapter 2

DISCO_WEREWOLF_1

A long, luxurious stretch Rolls Royce limo pulled up across the street from the disco.  The vehicle was all kinds of tacky, from the purple paint job to the golden grill.  The window in the backseat rolled down.

The occupant was listening to the radio.  The sound traveled through the night air.

“Awoo, baby!” the disc jockey said.  “You’re listening to WNITE, New York’s number one station to listen to the disco tunes that make your body swoon, so get off your seat and dance to the beat.  As always, I’m Toe Tappin’ Teddy and I’m making my way through the top charts tonight.  By the way, we just got word at the studio that the one, the only, the incomparable Disco Werewolf has just made his way into Sweet Johnny Sugarshine’s Electrostatic Groove Lounge so if you’re one of the handful of lucky ones admitted inside, be sure to feast your peepers on that fuzzy dance machine, because I’m told when it comes to cutting a rug, there’s no one better than DW.  Awoo!”

The limo door open.  Out poured three foxy mamas.  The trio had been named after three of the occupant’s favorite jewels.  Ruby, Emerald, and Diamond – a black girl, an Asian girl, and a blonde girl, respectively.  All wore scantily clad outfits featuring skirts hiked high, leaving little to the imagination.

Whoever the occupant of the back seat was, he wasn’t very tall.  His purple hat, which featured a yellow feather sticking out of the zebra striped band, barely cleared the edge of the window.  A diamond tipped cane popped into view.

The occupant’s voice was high-pitched and squeaky.  “Bitches, do you understand the mission parameters?”

“Sure enough, Daddy,” Ruby said.

“Good,” the occupant said.  “Go on, then.  Do Daddy proud.”

The ladies turned heads as they sashayed up to Ecstasy.  Ruby pulled a plastic bag filled with white powder out of her purse and handed it to the doorwoman. “Big Daddy sends his regards.”

Ecstasy looked to her left, then right.  Seeing no cops in the vicinity, she grabbed the bag and stuffed it into her bra.  “Tell Big Daddy I’m much obliged.”

The doorwoman lifted the velvet rope and allowed the trio to enter, incurring the wrath of everyone waiting in line.

“Pipe down, you dirty animals!” Ecstasy shouted.  “Trust me.  If you’re ever good enough to go inside, I will let you know.  But rest assured, I never will because none of you will ever be worthy.”

Ecstasy looked at Bruno.  “We are going to get loose as a mother goose tonight.”

“Errm,” Bruno said.

“I might even let you do that thing.”

“Errm.”

“Right,” Ecstasy said. “Not in front of the riff raff.”

Back across the street, Big Daddy chilled and listening to his radio.

“Coming up next, it’s the hit single Love Me Freaky by everyone’s favorite disco kings from across the pond, the Vagabonds,” Teddy said.  “These British boys tore up the charts for years only to completely drop off the scene six months ago.  Where are they?  Your guess is good as mine, baby.  Perhaps they’re cloistered off somewhere, working extra hard on their next album, turning it into a surefire masterpiece.  Then again, if I were a betting man, I’d say one of the boys is holed up with a bimbo somewhere and can’t be bothered to entertain us anymore.  Oh well, if you see one of these lads, tell them Toe Tappin’ Teddy sure does miss them.  Until then, here’s Love Me Freaky by the Vagabonds.”

The end of a cigar peaked out of the limo’s window.  The end glowed red as it was puffed upon.  Smoke exhaled out into the air as the music played:

Love me…at your own pace!

              Love me…and repopulate the human race.

              Love me girl, your love’s so sneaky.

              Come on baby, and love me freaky!

Tagged

Disco Werewolf – Chapter 1

DISCO_WEREWOLF_1

Out front, the hot neon pink and yellow sign read “Sweet Johnny’s Electrostatic Groove Lounge.”  The line to get in stretched back for an entire city block.  Ecstasy Sublime, the notorious drag queen turned doorwoman, was notoriously picky when it came to selecting entrants.  After all, dancing the night away in the Big Apple’s premiere discotheque was considered by many (rightly or wrongly) to be a life changing experience.  Ergo, the honor couldn’t be bestowed upon just anyone.

Ecstasy wore a shiny, sparkly dress adorned with thousands of glittering sequins.  Her red wig stood a full two feet above her head and her makeup left her cheeks looking full and rosy.  Alas, there simply wasn’t a thing she could do about her Adam’s apple.

“I am so sorry, darling, but you simply are not on tonight’s list.”

“Well,” said a young man in his late teens with long hair.  “Check again.”

The doorwoman sighed.  “Sweetie, I can play the check it again game all night but truth be told, only the people who pique Mr. Sugarshine’s interest are allowed in the club and look at you.  You haven’t even had enough time on this earth to do anything remotely interesting, let alone appear as the tiniest blip on the Emcee of Funk’s radar.”

Ecstasy looked up and to the left, taking in the stoic face of the club’s bouncer, Bruno, who was six foot five and three hundred pounds of solid muscle, all stuffed into a black t-shirt and jeans.

“Oh dear,” the doorwoman said as she turned back just in time to see the lad’s face scrunch up.  The kid was choking back his own tears, trying but failing at the task of maintaining a manly façade.

“Tough love,” Ecstasy said.  “This is the part of my job that I hate with the passion of a thousand red hot fiery sons.  I really do.  I’m sorry, honey. Do you need a tissue?”

“No,” the young man said.  “It’s just, we’ve been waiting here for hours, you could have posted a sign or something.”

“Waiting in line for hours to be rejected at the door of Sweet Johnny’s Electrostatic Groove Lounge is one of the greatest experiences a New Yorker will ever achieve, child,” Ecstasy said.  “You’re not even a real New Yorker if you haven’t been told to get lost at the door at least three times so, let me help you with your first.”

Ecstasy put her hand on the youngster’s arm.  “Get lost, buttercup.”

The young man’s face turned red with anger.  “No!  I’m not going anywhere!”

A pretty blonde girl tugged on the kid’s arm.  She wore a little black dress, with blue eyeshadow.  “Come on, Derrick.  We tried.  Let’s go get pancakes.”

“Oh, yes,” Ecstasy said.  “Do go get pancakes, Derrick.  And don’t even think about coming back until you’re somehow relevant to the cultural zeitgeist of our fair city or at the very least, until you’ve done something about that hair.”

“What?” asked Derrick as he grabbed his locks.  “What’s wrong with my hair?”

“Nothing,” the girl said.

“No, Wendy,” Derrick said.  “I want to know.”

“It’s what they do,” Wendy said.  “They dump on everyone trying to get in, right?”

“It’s true,” Ecstasy said.  “I’m such a catty bitch, aren’t I, Bruno dear?”

Bruno was a man of few words.  “Errm.”

“Oh, my stars,” Ecstasy said.  “It would appear that Bruno is losing his patience, so if would skedaddle dear, I have to inform more people how they have failed themselves and how they might improve.”

The drag queen held the back of her hand across her forehead, pretending as though she might faint.  “Zounds, I say! A doorwoman’s work is never done!”

Wendy laughed.  Derrick wasn’t in the mood for humor.  He pulled out his wallet, retrieved two green portraits of Ulysses S. Grant and handed them over.  Ecstasy looked at them.  She handed one to Bruno, then folded the other and tucked it into her tissue stuffed bra.

“Thank you, doll,” Ecstasy said.  “Now be on your way.”

Derrick gasped.  “What?  But I just gave you…”

“I know,” Ecstasy said.  “And gratuities are always so humbly appreciated but seriously, kid, stop darkening my doorstep.”

“Fine,” Derrick said as he held out his hand.  “Just give it back.”

Ecstasy held her hand up to her ear.  “I beg your pardon?  I seem to have developed a nasty case of selective hearing loss.”

“I want my money back!”  Derrick griped.

“Huh?” Ecstasy asked.

A sound coming from high above the street broke the tension.  “Ahhwoo!”

Ecstasy clutched her tacky costume jewelry.  “Heavens to Betsy! Could it be…”

Bruno grabbed one of the two spotlights that had been shining into the air and pointed it at the top of the building across the street.  In doing so, he illuminated a character who was seven feet tall.  He wore a white leisure suit, a black shirt with a popped collar.

Also, he was a damn werewolf.

“Arr…arr..arrwooo!”

The line cheered as the beast, with all the grace of a ballerina,  leapt ten stories downard, only to land on his feet, completely unscathed.  As he crossed the street, he did a few twists and turns.  Fans hooted, hooted and hollered.  Cameras flashed.  An adoring female voice cried out from the crowd, “I love you, Disco Werewolf!”

Disco Werewolf pointed to the vicinity of where the voice came from, winked, then right there in the street, he cocked his hip to one side, pointed a finger in the air, and struck a pose.  The crowd ate it up.

When he was done hamming it up for the masses, the lewd and lascivious Lycan moseyed on over to Ecstasy and came to a complete stop.

“Disco Werewolf!” Ecstasy cried.  “Look at you!  You’re fun!  You’re funky!  You’re astounding and you absolutely ooze gallons of fabulosity from each and every one of your pores.  Tell me your secret, darling.  How did you become so stunningly spectacular?”

The furry man of the hour cocked backed his head and howled into the moonlight.  “Awoooooo!”

The line erupted with a chorus of “Yeah!” and “Woo hoo!”  Another female voice shouted, “Disco Werewolf!  I want to have your baby!”

“I understand,” Ecstasy said.  “A maestro never reveals the inner workings of his concerto.  I guess you’ll just have to remain a mystery, and a downright sexy one of that.”

Disco Werewolf growled.

“Are you on the list?”  Ecstasy asked.  “What kind of a question is that?  You are beyond the list, baby.  You’ve got a standing invitation from Mr. Sugarshine every night of the week.  You know that.  Go on in and get down with your bad self.”

Derrick was displeased.  “Wait!  I’ve been out here all night and I can’t get in, but this guy can just waltz right in and…”

Ecstasy held up her hand in a stop motion.  “And he can do whatever he pleases, as is the want of a Disco Werewolf.”

The drag queen looked into the monster’s yellow eyes.  “Don’t mind the lowly rabble, DW darling.  They know not what they say or what they do.”

Disco Werewolf barked.  He surveyed the line.  He stretched out a pointer finger.  He pointed at a blonde, a brunette, a redhead, a couple of black girls, a couple of Asian girls.  His finger moved about, selecting one girl after the next until it wavered in front of Wendy.

“No!”  Derrick said.  “Don’t you do it.”

Disco Werewolf pointed at Derrick’s girlfriend.

“Right then,” Ecstasy said as she lifted up the velvet rope.  “Come along, ladies.  It’s your lucky night.  If Disco Werewolf says you’re the bee’s knees, then who is a tired old mother hen like yours truly to argue?”

The hotties were beside themselves with excitement as they abandoned the line and rushed in.  Meanwhile, a look of confusion overtook Wendy’s face.  She looked at the club, then at Derrick, the club, then Derrick.

“Time’s a wastin,’” Ecstasy said.

“Really, Wendy?”  Derrick asked.

“I’m sorry!”  Wendy said.  “But it’s Disco Werewolf!”

Wendy hightailed it inside.  Disco Werewolf blew kisses to the crowd then followed.  Ecstasy put the rope down just in time to keep Derrick from entering.

“Hey!”  Derrick said.  “Come on!  My girlfriend is in there!”

“I’m sorry, hun,” Ecstasy said.  “But there are a lot of men’s girlfriends in there.”

Tagged

Disco Werewolf – Prologue

DISCO_WEREWOLF_1

New York City – 1979

“Are we going to do this or what?”

In a dark, dank alley behind Sweet Johnny Sugarshine’s Electrostatic Groove Lounge, Private First-Class Steven W. Sykes, honorably discharged, felt the cold gritty pavement press into his knees as he looked up at the sizable bulge taking up space in the crotch of a pair of jeans that belonged to his longtime friend and army buddy, Rick Danfield.

“Yeah,” Sykes said as he took a deep breath, held it, then exhaled.  “Here we go.”

The moonlight glistened off of the gooey product that Danfield had applied ever so liberally to his curly hair.  “Come on, man.  This thing ain’t gonna suck itself.”

Sykes pushed his sunglasses up, leaving them perched on his forehead, sitting atop an American flag bandana he used to keep his long, brown hair out of his eyes.  “No…you got me there.  It certainly isn’t going to do that. Nope.  No siree Bob.”

Try as he might, Sykes just was not able to move his hand, mouth, or any other body party anywhere near his pal’s member.

“Jesus Christ, Sy-ko,” Danfield said.

“Don’t call me that!” Sykes barked.

“Whatever, man,” Danfield replied.

“I never deserved that nickname,” Sykes said.  “I served my country with honor and distinction in the war.  I was in complete control of my mental faculties the entire time.”

“Who cares?” Danfield asked.  “It was ‘Nam, brother.  Everyone did some crazy shit.  You mean to tell me you were able to walk around the jungle with an ear necklace  for four years but slurping the old salamander is where you draw the line?”

Sykes pointed a finger up at Danfield.  “I did not cut those ears off!”

“Whatever,” Danfield said.

“I found those ears!” Sykes said.  “I was holding them until I could return them to their rightful owners!”

“I’m not judging, man,” Danfield said.

“There’s nothing to judge,” Sykes said.  “Uncle Sam asked me to give Charlie hell and that’s what I did.”

“Fine,” Danfield said.  “But the fact remains that I’ve yet to find a steady chick, and you’ve yet to find a steady chick, so we might as well help each other out until our chick ships come in, ya dig?”

“It’s ridiculous that we’re both still single!”  Sykes said.  “Our fathers sailed to Normandy and cock punched Hitler and when they came home, they were swimming in poon, but we get forced to fight a war over the economy of a faraway Asian country where everyone is trading rocks for chickens and all the cooze says, ‘Oh no!  No hot snapper for you, baby killer!’”

“I ain’t kill no baby,” Danfield said.

“I didn’t kill any babies either!”  Sykes said.

“Check it out, man,” Danfield said.  “The country’s startin’ to pull its shit together.  Jimmy Carter done went and pardoned all the draft dodgers.”

“And those cowardly sons of bitches are pulling down more trim than we are!”  Sykes said.

“Everyone’s startin’ to heal,” Danfield said.  “Startin’ to forgive.  Only a matter of time before the public starts looking at us with the respect we deserve.”

“I’m not asking for much,” Sykes asked.  “I’m just tired of being treated like a criminal for doing what my country told me to do.”

“Aren’t we all?” Danfield asked.  “But hey man, can I give you some free advice?”

“If it will delay me getting a mouth full of man meat, sure.”

“Look at yourself, brother,” Danfield said.  “You got your fatigues on.  You got that bandana.  Everybody’s trying to forget ‘Nam and you’re a walking reminder of it.”

“I’m proud of my service, Rick.”

“You should be.  I’m proud of mine.  But you’re more than a soldier, Steve.  And a’int no lady gonna give you the time of day if you keep walkin’ around, lookin’ like a billboard for the least popular war in American history.”

“Fair point,” Steve said.  “But wait, why should I listen to you?  What do you know about scoring with babes?  You’re out here trying to get your sausage gargled by a man.”

“So?”

“So, that’s pretty gay.”

“What’s gay about it?”

Sykes shot his buddy a look as if to silently say, “Really?”

              “I’m all about the pussy,” Danfield said.  “But I’ve been thinking, what if all the gay dudes are onto something?  Would it be so bad to try it and then if I like it, I’ll go all in and if I don’t, no harm done.”

“No harm done?” Sykes asked.  “But then you’d be gay!”

“What?” Danfield asked.  “A fella gets his pickle smooched one time and that automatically makes him gay?”

“Of course, it does!” Sykes said.

“If a man writes one sentence, is he a professional writer?” Danfield inquired.

“Well,” Sykes answered.  “No, I suppose not.”

“If a man bangs a drum, does that get him a spot in an orchestra?”

“No.”

“If a man runs a single mile, does he take home a gold medal from the Olympics?”

“OK,” Sykes said.  “I see what you’re saying.  We’re young.  We’re in our prime.  We should be trying new things.  Sampling the smorgasbord of life, as it were.”

“Exactly,” Danfield said.  “Now, enough talk, man.  Get to work already.”

“You got it,” Sykes said as he smacked his lips together.  “I’m…uh…going in.  Going in for the big suck-a-roo.  Here I come and…hey, wait!”

“What now?”

“What if you don’t like it?”  Sykes asked.

“Then I will have learned I don’t like it and I’ll never do gay shit ever again,”  Danfield said.

Sykes nodded.  “OK.  That makes sense.  I’m sorry.”

“Nothing to be sorry about.”

“I’m just nervous, you know?”

Danfield patted his friend on the head.  “It’s cool.  Just let it happen.”

“Alright,” Sykes said.  “This…this’ll be fine, right?”

“Totally fine.”

“It’s not going to traumatize me at all,” Sykes said.

“I don’t see why it would,” Danfield said.

“OK,” Sykes said.  “Here I come…no big deal.”

“Just like chewing on a hot dog.”

“Right,” Sykes said.  “I love hot dogs.”

“Who doesn’t love hot dogs?” Danfield asked.

“Not this guy,” Sykes said, pointing to himself.  Ever so timidly, he moved his face closer to the bulge before abruptly backing away.  “Wait!”

Danfield rolled his eyes.  “Man!  If you don’t wanna do it, then just say so!”

“It’s not that!”  Sykes said.  “It’s just…we promised we’d do this for each other.”

“Yeah.”

“But what if me sucking your dick teaches you that you’re not gay, then am I still going to get my dick sucked?”  Sykes asked.

Danfield blew a contemptuous raspberry.  “Pbbbht!  Hell no.  You can’t ask a straight man to suck your dick.”

Sykes stood up and threw up his hands.  “I’m sorry bud.  I wanted to do this for you but I was promised a certain level of reciprocity and if there’s no guarantee that I’m going to get it, then…”

“Shit, Steve,” Danfield said.  “Do you want me to go first?”

Sykes thought about the question, then shook his head in the negative.  “No, because then if it turns out I’m not gay, I’m going to feel bad when I realize I’m too straight to suck your dick, you hear me?”

“I get it,” Danfield said.  “Maybe this experiment was ill-advised.”

“Nah, buddy,” Sykes said as he wrapped an arm around his friend.  “I just think we need to find some bonafide, legit gay guyswho would just like to slurp our poles for the joy of doing so, with no preconceived promises of reciprocity and…”

Grrrrr.

              “Rick?”

“Yeah?”

“Was that you?”

“I didn’t say anything.”

The pair headed for the street when the sound came again.  Grrr.

              “You hungry?”  Sykes asked.

“No.”

“Then, what in the…”

Grrr.

              From out of the darkness, two yellow eyes appeared.  They glowed.  It was sheer chaos.  The soldiers had no clue what was going on.  One claw grabbed Sykes.  The other grabbed Danfield.  Their heads were knocked together, causing them to lose consciousness.

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Disco Werewolf Begins

I’ve been in a funk all year, 3.5 readers.  I’m hoping for a day when I can really sit and concentrate, put in all my hours on crafting books.

In the meantime, I need stories that have that special ability to flow out of my brain, through my fingers and onto the keyboard.

I’ve been starting new books and getting stuck all year until recently, for some reason, the next story that has apparently chosen to use me as its vessel appears to be:

DISCO_WEREWOLF_1

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Text of The Star from Tales of Space and Time by H.G. Wells

universe-2742113_1280
It was on the first day of the New Year that the announcement was made, almost simultaneously from three observatories, that the motion of the planet Neptune, the outermost of all the planets that wheel about the sun, had become very erratic. Ogilvy had already called attention to a suspected retardation in its velocity in December. Such a piece of news was scarcely calculated to interest a world the greater portion of whose inhabitants were unaware of the existence of the planet Neptune, nor outside the astronomical profession did the subsequent discovery of a faint remote speck of light in the region of the perturbed planet cause any very great excitement. Scientific people, however, found the intelligence remarkable enough, even before it became known that the new body was rapidly growing larger and brighter, that its motion was quite different from the orderly progress of the planets, and that the deflection of Neptune and its satellite was becoming now of an unprecedented kind.

      Few people without a training in science can realise the huge isolation of the solar system. The sun with its specks of planets, its dust of planetoids, and its impalpable comets, swims in a vacant immensity that almost defeats the imagination. Beyond the orbit of Neptune there is space, vacant so far as human observation has penetrated, without warmth or light or sound, blank emptiness, for twenty million times a million miles. That is the smallest estimate of the distance to be traversed before the very nearest of the stars is attained. And, saving a few comets more unsubstantial than the thinnest flame, no matter had ever to human knowledge crossed this gulf of space, until early in the twentieth century this strange wanderer appeared. A vast mass of matter it was, bulky, heavy, rushing without warning out of the black mystery of the sky into the radiance of the sun. By the second day it was clearly visible to any decent instrument, as a speck with a barely sensible diameter, in the constellation Leo near Regulus. In a little while an opera glass could attain it.

      On the third day of the new year the newspaper readers of two hemispheres were made aware for the first time of the real importance of this unusual apparition in the heavens. ‘A Planetary Collision,’ one London paper headed the news, and proclaimed Duchaine’s opinion that this strange new planet would probably collide with Neptune. The leader writers enlarged upon the topic; so that in most of the capitals of the world, on January 3rd, there was an expectation, however vague of some imminent phenomenon in the sky; and as the night followed the sunset round the globe, thousands of men turned their eyes skyward to see–the old familiar stars just as they had always been.

      Until it was dawn in London and Pollux setting and the stars overhead grown pale. The Winter’s dawn it was, a sickly filtering accumulation of daylight, and the light of gas and candles shone yellow in the windows to show where people were astir. But the yawning policeman saw the thing, the busy crowds in the markets stopped agape, workmen going to their work betimes, milkmen, the drivers of news-carts, dissipation going home jaded and pale, homeless wanderers, sentinels on their beats, and in the country, labourers trudging afield, poachers slinking home, all over the dusky quickening country it could be seen–and out at sea by seamen watching for the day–a great white star, come suddenly into the westward sky!

      Brighter it was than any star in our skies; brighter than the evening star at its brightest. It still glowed out white and large, no mere twinkling spot of light, but a small round clear shining disc, an hour after the day had come. And where science has not reached, men stared and feared, telling one another of the wars and pestilences that are foreshadowed by these fiery signs in the Heavens. Sturdy Boers, dusky Hottentots, Gold Coast Negroes, Frenchmen, Spaniards, Portuguese, stood in the warmth of the sunrise watching the setting of this strange new star.

      And in a hundred observatories there had been suppressed excitement, rising almost to shouting pitch, as the two remote bodies had rushed together; and a hurrying to and fro, to gather photographic apparatus and spectroscope, and this appliance and that, to record this novel astonishing sight, the destruction of a world. For it was a world, a sister planet of our earth, far greater than our earth indeed, that had so suddenly flashed into flaming death. Neptune it was, had been struck, fairly and squarely, by the strange planet from outer space and the heat of the concussion had incontinently turned two solid globes into one vast mass of incandescence. Round the world that day, two hours before the dawn, went the pallid great white star, fading only as it sank westward and the sun mounted above it. Everywhere men marvelled at it, but of all those who saw it none could have marvelled more than those sailors, habitual watchers of the stars, who far away at sea had heard nothing of its advent and saw it now rise like a pigmy moon and climb zenithward and hang overhead and sink westward with the passing of the night.

      And when next it rose over Europe everywhere were crowds of watchers on hilly slopes, on house-roofs, in open spaces, staring eastward for the rising of the great new star. It rose with a white glow in front of it, like the glare of a white fire, and those who had seen it come into existence the night before cried out at the sight of it. “It is larger,” they cried. “It is brighter!” And, indeed the moon a quarter full and sinking in the west was in its apparent size beyond comparison, but scarcely in all its breadth had it as much brightness now as the little circle of the strange new star.
      ‘It is brighter!’ cried the people clustering in the streets. But in the dim observatories the watchers held their breath and peered at one another. ‘_It is nearer_,’ they said. ‘_Nearer!_’
      And voice after voice repeated, ‘It is nearer,’ and the clicking telegraph took that up, and it trembled along telephone wires, and in a thousand cities grimy compositors fingered the type. ‘It is nearer.’ Men writing in offices, struck with a strange realisation, flung down their pens, men talking in a thousand places suddenly came upon a grotesque possibility in those words, ‘It is nearer.’ It hurried along wakening streets, it was shouted down the frost-stilled ways of quiet villages; men who had read these things from the throbbing tape stood in yellow-lit doorways shouting the news to the passersby. ‘It is nearer.’ Pretty women, flushed and glittering, heard the news told jestingly between the dances, and feigned an intelligent interest they did not feel. ‘Nearer! Indeed. How curious! How very, very clever people must be to find out things like that!’
      Lonely tramps faring through the wintry night murmured those words to comfort themselves–looking skyward. ‘It has need to be nearer, for the night’s as cold as charity. Don’t seem much warmth from it if it _is_ nearer, all the same.’
      ‘What is a new star to me?’ cried the weeping woman kneeling beside her dead.

      The schoolboy, rising early for his examination work, puzzled it out for himself–with the great white star shining broad and bright through the frost-flowers of his window. ‘Centrifugal, centripetal,’ he said, with his chin on his fist. ‘Stop a planet in its flight, rob it of its centrifugal force, what then? Centripetal has it, and down it falls into the sun! And this–!

      ‘Do _we_ come in the way? I wonder–‘

      The light of that day went the way of its brethren, and with the later watches of the frosty darkness rose the strange star again. And it was now so bright that the waxing moon seemed but a pale yellow ghost of itself, hanging huge in the sunset. In a South African City a great man had married, and the streets were alight to welcome his return with his bride. ‘Even the skies have illuminated,’ said the flatterer. Under Capricorn, two negro lovers, daring the wild beasts and evil spirits, for love of one another, crouched together in a cane brake where the fire-flies hovered. ‘That is our star,’ they whispered, and felt strangely comforted by the sweet brilliance of its light.

      The master mathematician sat in his private room and pushed the papers from him. His calculations were already finished. In a small white phial there still remained a little of the drug that had kept him awake and active for four long nights. Each day, serene, explicit, patient as ever, he had given his lecture to his students, and then had come back at once to this momentous calculation. His face was grave, a little drawn and hectic from his drugged activity. For some time he seemed lost in thought. Then he went to the window, and the blind went up with a click. Half way up the sky, over the clustering roofs, chimneys and steeples of the city, hung the star.

      He looked at it as one might look into the eyes of a brave enemy. ‘You may kill me,’ he said after a silence. ‘But I can hold you–and all the universe for that matter–in the grip of this little brain. I would not change. Even now.’

      He looked at the little phial. ‘There will be no need of sleep again,’ he said. The next day at noon–punctual to the minute, he entered his lecture theatre, put his hat on the end of the table as his habit was, and carefully selected a large piece of chalk. It was a joke among his students that he could not lecture without that piece of chalk to fumble in his fingers, and once he had been stricken to impotence by their hiding his supply. He came and looked under his grey eyebrows at the rising tiers of young fresh faces, and spoke with his accustomed studied commonness of phrasing. ‘Circumstances have arisen–circumstances beyond my control,’ he said and paused, ‘which will debar me from completing the course I had designed. It would seem, gentlemen, if I may put the thing clearly and briefly, that–Man has lived in vain.’

      The students glanced at one another. Had they heard aright? Mad? Raised eyebrows and grinning lips there were, but one or two faces remained intent upon his calm grey-fringed face. ‘It will be interesting,’ he was saying, ‘to devote this morning to an exposition, so far as I can make it clear to you, of the calculations that have led me to this conclusion. Let us assume–‘

      He turned towards the blackboard, meditating a diagram in the way that was usual to him. ‘What was that about ‘lived in vain?’ whispered one student to another. ‘Listen,’ said the other, nodding towards the lecturer.

      And presently they began to understand.

      That night the star rose later, for its proper eastward motion had carried it some way across Leo towards Virgo, and its brightness was so great that the sky became a luminous blue as it rose, and every star was hidden in its turn, save only Jupiter near the zenith, Capella, Aldebaran, Sirius and the pointers of the Bear. It was very white and beautiful. In many parts of the world that night a pallid halo encircled it about. It was perceptibly larger; in the clear refractive sky of the tropics it seemed as if it were nearly a quarter the size of the moon. The frost was still on the ground in England, but the world was as brightly lit as if it were midsummer moonlight. One could see to read quite ordinary print by that cold clear light, and in the cities the lamps burnt yellow and wan.

      And everywhere the world was awake that night, and throughout Christendom a sombre murmur hung in the keen air over the country side like the belling of bees in the heather, and this murmurous tumult grew to a clangour in the cities. It was the tolling of the bells in a million belfry towers and steeples, summoning the people to sleep no more, to sin no more, but to gather in their churches and pray. And overhead, growing larger and brighter as the earth rolled on its way and the night passed, rose the dazzling star.

      And the streets and houses were alight in all the cities, the shipyards glared, and whatever roads led to high country were lit and crowded all night long. And in all the seas about the civilised lands, ships with throbbing engines, and ships with bellying sails, crowded with men and living creatures, were standing out to ocean and the north. For already the warning of the master mathematician had been telegraphed all over the world, and translated into a hundred tongues. The new planet and Neptune, locked in a fiery embrace, were whirling headlong, ever faster and faster towards the sun. Already every second this blazing mass flew a hundred miles, and every second its terrific velocity increased. As it flew now, indeed, it must pass a hundred million of miles wide of the earth and scarcely affect it. But near its destined path, as yet only slightly perturbed, spun the mighty planet Jupiter and his moons sweeping splendid round the sun. Every moment now the attraction between the fiery star and the greatest of the planets grew stronger. And the result of that attraction? Inevitably Jupiter would be deflected from its orbit into an elliptical path, and the burning star, swung by his attraction wide of its sunward rush, would ‘describe a curved path’ and perhaps collide with, and certainly pass very close to, our earth. ‘Earthquakes, volcanic outbreaks, cyclones, sea wa ves, floods, and a steady rise in temperature to I know not what limit’–so prophesied the master mathematician.

      And overhead, to carry out his words, lonely and cold and livid, blazed the star of the coming doom.

      To many who stared at it that night until their eyes ached, it seemed that it was visibly approaching. And that night, too, the weather changed, and the frost that had gripped all Central Europe and France and England softened towards a thaw.

      But you must not imagine because I have spoken of people praying through the night and people going aboard ships and people fleeing toward mountainous country that the whole world was already in a terror because of the star. As a matter of fact, use and wont still ruled the world, and save for the talk of idle moments and the splendour of the night, nine human beings out of ten were still busy at their common occupations. In all the cities the shops, save one here and there, opened and closed at their proper hours, the doctor and the undertaker plied their trades, the workers gathered in the factories, soldiers drilled, scholars studied, lovers sought one another, thieves lurked and fled, politicians planned their schemes. The presses of the newspapers roared through the night, and many a priest of this church and that would not open his holy building to further what he considered a foolish panic. The newspapers insisted on the lesson of the year 1000; for then, too, people had anticipated the end. The star was no star–mere gas–a comet; and were it a star it could not possibly strike the earth. There was no precedent for such a thing. Common sense was sturdy everywhere, scornful, jesting, a little inclined to persecute the obdurate fearful. That night, at seven-fifteen by Greenwich time, the star would be at its nearest to Jupiter. Then the world would see the turn things would take. The master mathematician’s grim warnings were treated by many as so much mere elaborate self-advertisement. Common sense at last, a little heated by argument, signified its unalterable convictions by going to bed. So, too, barbarism and savagery, already tired of the novelty, went about their nightly business, and save for a howling dog here and there, the beast world left the star unheeded.

      And yet, when at last the watchers in the European States saw the star rise, an hour later it is true, but no larger than it had been the night before, there were still plenty awake to laugh at the master mathematician–to take the danger as if it had passed.

      But hereafter the laughter ceased. The star grew–it grew with a terrible steadiness hour after hour, a little larger each hour, a little nearer the midnight zenith, and brighter and brighter, until it had turned night into a second day. Had it come straight to the earth instead of in a curved path, had it lost no velocity to Jupiter, it must have leapt the intervening gulf in a day, but as it was it took five days altogether to come by our planet. The next night it had become a third the size of the moon before it set to English eyes, and the thaw was assured. It rose over America near the size of the moon, but blinding white to look at, and _hot_; and a breath of hot wind blew now with its rising and gathering strength, and in Virginia, and Brazil, and down the St. Lawrence valley, it shone intermittently through a driving reek of thunder-clouds, flickering violet lightning, and hail unprecedented. In Manitoba was a thaw and devastating floods. And upon all the mountains of the earth the snow and ice began to melt that night, and all the rivers coming out of high country flowed thick and turbid, and soon–in their upper reaches–with swirling trees and the bodies of beasts and men. They rose steadily, steadily in the ghostly brilliance, and came trickling over their banks at last, behind the flying population of their valleys.

      And along the coast of Argentina and up the South Atlantic the tides were higher than had ever been in the memory of man, and the storms drove the waters in many cases scores of miles inland, drowning whole cities. And so great grew the heat during the night that the rising of the sun was like the coming of a shadow. The earthquakes began and grew until all down America from the Arctic Circle to Cape Horn, hillsides were sliding, fissures were opening, and houses and walls crumbling to destruction. The whole side of Cotopaxi slipped out in one vast convulsion, and a tumult of lava poured out so high and broad and swift and liquid that in one day it reached the sea.

      So the star, with the wan moon in its wake, marched across the Pacific, trailed the thunderstorms like the hem of a robe, and the growing tidal wave that toiled behind it, frothing and eager, poured over island and island and swept them clear of men. Until that wave came at last–in a blinding light and with the breath of a furnace, swift and terrible it came–a wall of water, fifty feet high, roaring hungrily, upon the long coasts of Asia, and swept inland across the plains of China. For a space the star, hotter now and larger and brighter than the sun in its strength, showed with pitiless brilliance the wide and populous country; towns and villages with their pagodas and trees, roads, wide cultivated fields, millions of sleepless people staring in helpless terror at the incandescent sky; and then, low and growing, came the murmur of the flood. And thus it was with millions of men that night; a flight nowhither, with limbs heavy with heat and breath fierce and scant, and the flood like a wall swift and white behind. And then death.

      China was lit glowing white, but over Japan and Java and all the islands of Eastern Asia the great star was a ball of dull red fire because of the steam and smoke and ashes the volcanoes were spouting forth to salute its coming. Above was the lava, hot gases and ash, and below the seething floods, and the whole earth swayed and rumbled with the earthquake shocks. Soon the immemorial snows of Thibet and the Himalaya were melting and pouring down by ten million deepening converging channels upon the plains of Burmah and Hindostan. The tangled summits of the Indian jungles were aflame in a thousand places, and below the hurrying waters around the stems were dark objects that still struggled feebly and reflected the blood-red tongues of fire. And in a rudderless confusion a multitude of men and women fled down the broad river-ways to that one last hope of men–the open sea.

      Larger grew the star, and larger, hotter, and brighter with a terrible swiftness now. The tropical ocean had lost its phosphorescence, and the whirling steam rose in ghostly wreaths from the black waves that plunged incessantly, speckled with storm-tossed ships.

      And then came a wonder. It seemed to those who in Europe watched for the rising of the star that the world must have ceased its rotation. In a thousand open spaces of down and upland the people who had fled thither from the floods and the falling houses and sliding slopes of hill watched for that rising in vain. Hour followed hour through a terrible suspense, and the star rose not. Once again men set their eyes upon the old constellations they had counted lost to them forever. In England it was hot and clear overhead, though the ground quivered perpetually, but in the tropics, Sirius and Capella and Aldebaran showed through a veil of steam. And when at last the great star rose near ten hours late, the sun rose close upon it, and in the centre of its white heart was a disc of black.

      Over Asia it was the star had begun to fall behind the movement of the sky, and then suddenly, as it hung over India, its light had been veiled. All the plain of India from the mouth of the Indus to the mouths of the Ganges was a shallow waste of shining water that night, out of which rose temples and palaces, mounds and hills, black with people. Every minaret was a clustering mass of people, who fell one by one into the turbid waters, as heat and terror overcame them. The whole land seemed a-wailing and suddenly there swept a shadow across that furnace of despair, and a breath of cold wind, and a gathering of clouds, out of the cooling air. Men looking up, near blinded, at the star, saw that a black disc was creeping across the light. It was the moon, coming between the star and the earth. And even as men cried to God at this respite, out of the East with a strange inexplicable swiftness sprang the sun. And then star, sun and moon rushed together across the heavens.

      So it was that presently, to the European watchers, star and sun rose close upon each other, drove headlong for a space and then slower, and at last came to rest, star and sun merged into one glare of flame at the zenith of the sky. The moon no longer eclipsed the star but was lost to sight in the brilliance of the sky. And though those who were still alive regarded it for the most part with that dull stupidity that hunger, fatigue, heat and despair engender, there were still men who could perceive the meaning of these signs. Star and earth had been at their nearest, had swung about one another, and the star had passed. Already it was receding, swifter and swifter, in the last stage of its headlong journey downward into the sun.

      And then the clouds gathered, blotting out the vision of the sky, the thunder and lightning wove a garment round the world; all over the earth was such a downpour of rain as men had never before seen, and where the volcanoes flared red against the cloud canopy there descended torrents of mud. Everywhere the waters were pouring off the land, leaving mud-silted ruins, and the earth littered like a storm-worn beach with all that had floated, and the dead bodies of the men and brutes, its children. For days the water streamed off the land, sweeping away soil and trees and houses in the way, and piling huge dykes and scooping out Titanic gullies over the country side. Those were the days of darkness that followed the star and the heat. All through them, and for many weeks and months, the earthquakes continued.

      But the star had passed, and men, hunger-driven and gathering courage only slowly, might creep back to their ruined cities, buried granaries, and sodden fields. Such few ships as had escaped the storms of that time came stunned and shattered and sounding their way cautiously through the new marks and shoals of once familiar ports. And as the storms subsided men perceived that everywhere the days were hotter than of yore, and the sun larger, and the moon, shrunk to a third of its former size, took now fourscore days between its new and new.

      But of the new brotherhood that grew presently among men, of the saving of laws and books and machines, of the strange change that had come over Iceland and Greenland and the shores of Baffin’s Bay, so that the sailors coming there presently found them green and gracious, and could scarce believe their eyes, this story does not tell. Nor of the movement of mankind now that the earth was hotter, northward and southward towards the poles of the earth. It concerns itself only with the coming and the passing of the Star.

      The Martian astronomers–for there are astronomers on Mars, although they are very different beings from men–were naturally profoundly interested by these things. They saw them from their own standpoint of course. ‘Considering the mass and temperature of the missile that was flung through our solar system into the sun,’ one wrote, ‘it is astonishing what a little damage the earth, which it missed so narrowly, has sustained. All the familiar continental markings and the masses of the seas remain intact, and indeed the only difference seems to be a shrinkage of the white discoloration (supposed to be frozen water) round either pole.’ Which only shows how small the vastest of human catastrophes may seem, at a distance of a few million miles.
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Text of The Crystal Egg from Tales of Space and Time by H.G. Wells

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There was, until a year ago, a little and very grimy-looking shop near Seven Dials, over which, in weather-worn yellow lettering, the name of “C. Cave, Naturalist and Dealer in Antiquities,” was inscribed. The contents of its window were curiously variegated. They comprised some elephant tusks and an imperfect set of chessmen, beads and weapons, a box of eyes, two skulls of tigers and one human, several moth-eaten stuffed monkeys (one holding a lamp), an old-fashioned cabinet, a flyblown ostrich egg or so, some fishing-tackle, and an extraordinarily dirty, empty glass fish-tank. There was also, at the moment the story begins, a mass of crystal, worked into the shape of an egg and brilliantly polished. And at that two people, who stood outside the window, were looking, one of them a tall, thin clergyman, the other a black-bearded young man of dusky complexion and unobtrusive costume. The dusky young man spoke with eager gesticulation, and seemed anxious for his companion to purchase the article.

While they were there, Mr. Cave came into his shop, his beard still wagging with the bread and butter of his tea. When he saw these men and the object of their regard, his countenance fell. He glanced guiltily over his shoulder, and softly shut the door. He was a little old man, with pale face and peculiar watery blue eyes; his hair was a dirty grey, and he wore a shabby blue frock coat, an ancient silk hat, and carpet slippers very much down at heel. He remained watching the two men as they talked. The clergyman went deep into his trouser pocket, examined a handful of money, and showed his teeth in an agreeable smile. Mr. Cave seemed still more depressed when they came into the shop.

The clergyman, without any ceremony, asked the price of the crystal egg. Mr. Cave glanced nervously towards the door leading into the parlour, and said five pounds. The clergyman protested that the price was high, to his companion as well as to Mr. Cave—it was, indeed, very much more than Mr. Cave had intended to ask, when he had stocked the article—and an attempt at bargaining ensued. Mr. Cave stepped to the shop-door, and held it open. “Five pounds is my price,” he said, as though he wished to save himself the trouble of unprofitable discussion. As he did so, the upper portion of a woman’s face appeared above the blind in the glass upper panel of the door leading into the parlour, and stared curiously at the two customers. “Five pounds is my price,” said Mr. Cave, with a quiver in his voice.

The swarthy young man had so far remained a spectator, watching Cave keenly. Now he spoke. “Give him five pounds,” he said. The clergyman glanced at him to see if he were in earnest, and, when he looked at Mr. Cave again, he saw that the latter’s face was white. “It’s a lot of money,” said the clergyman, and, diving into his pocket, began counting his resources. He had little more than thirty shillings, and he appealed to his companion, with whom he seemed to be on terms of considerable intimacy. This gave Mr. Cave an opportunity of collecting his thoughts, and he began to explain in an agitated manner that the crystal was not, as a matter of fact, entirely free for sale. His two customers were naturally surprised at this, and inquired why he had not thought of that before he began to bargain. Mr. Cave became confused, but he stuck to his story, that the crystal was not in the market that afternoon, that a probable purchaser of it had already appeared. The two, treating this as an attempt to raise the price still further, made as if they would leave the shop. But at this point the parlour door opened, and the owner of the dark fringe and the little eyes appeared.

She was a coarse-featured, corpulent woman, younger and very much larger than Mr. Cave; she walked heavily, and her face was flushed. “That crystal is for sale,” she said. “And five pounds is a good enough price for it. I can’t think what you’re about, Cave, not to take the gentleman’s offer!”

Mr. Cave, greatly perturbed by the irruption, looked angrily at her over the rims of his spectacles, and, without excessive assurance, asserted his right to manage his business in his own way. An altercation began. The two customers watched the scene with interest and some amusement, occasionally assisting Mrs. Cave with suggestions. Mr. Cave, hard driven, persisted in a confused and impossible story of an enquiry for the crystal that morning, and his agitation became painful. But he stuck to his point with extraordinary persistence. It was the young Oriental who ended this curious controversy. He proposed that they should call again in the course of two days—so as to give the alleged enquirer a fair chance. “And then we must insist,” said the clergyman, “Five pounds.” Mrs. Cave took it on herself to apologise for her husband, explaining that he was sometimes “a little odd,” and as the two customers left, the couple prepared for a free discussion of the incident in all its bearings.

Mrs. Cave talked to her husband with singular directness. The poor little man, quivering with emotion, muddled himself between his stories, maintaining on the one hand that he had another customer in view, and on the other asserting that the crystal was honestly worth ten guineas. “Why did you ask five pounds?” said his wife. “Do let me manage my business my own way!” said Mr. Cave.

Mr. Cave had living with him a step-daughter and a step-son, and at supper that night the transaction was re-discussed. None of them had a high opinion of Mr. Cave’s business methods, and this action seemed a culminating folly.

“It’s my opinion he’s refused that crystal before,” said the step-son, a loose-limbed lout of eighteen.

“But Five Pounds!” said the step-daughter, an argumentative young woman of six-and-twenty.

Mr. Cave’s answers were wretched; he could only mumble weak assertions that he knew his own business best. They drove him from his half-eaten supper into the shop, to close it for the night, his ears aflame and tears of vexation behind his spectacles. “Why had he left the crystal in the window so long? The folly of it!” That was the trouble closest in his mind. For a time he could see no way of evading sale.

After supper his step-daughter and step-son smartened themselves up and went out and his wife retired upstairs to reflect upon the business aspects of the crystal, over a little sugar and lemon and so forth in hot water. Mr. Cave went into the shop, and stayed there until late, ostensibly to make ornamental rockeries for goldfish cases but really for a private purpose that will be better explained later. The next day Mrs. Cave found that the crystal had been removed from the window, and was lying behind some second-hand books on angling. She replaced it in a conspicuous position. But she did not argue further about it, as a nervous headache disinclined her from debate. Mr. Cave was always disinclined. The day passed disagreeably, Mr. Cave was, if anything, more absent-minded than usual, and uncommonly irritable withal. In the afternoon, when his wife was taking her customary sleep, he removed the crystal from the window again.

The next day Mr. Cave had to deliver a consignment of dog-fish at one of the hospital schools, where they were needed for dissection. In his absence Mrs. Cave’s mind reverted to the topic of the crystal, and the methods of expenditure suitable to a windfall of five pounds. She had already devised some very agreeable expedients, among others a dress of green silk for herself and a trip to Richmond, when a jangling of the front door bell summoned her into the shop. The customer was an examination coach who came to complain of the non-delivery of certain frogs asked for the previous day. Mrs. Cave did not approve of this particular branch of Mr. Cave’s business, and the gentleman, who had called in a somewhat aggressive mood, retired after a brief exchange of words—entirely civil so far as he was concerned. Mrs. Cave’s eye then naturally turned to the window; for the sight of the crystal was an assurance of the five pounds and of her dreams. What was her surprise to find it gone!

She went to the place behind the locker on the counter, where she had discovered it the day before. It was not there; and she immediately began an eager search about the shop.

When Mr. Cave returned from his business with the dog-fish, about a quarter to two in the afternoon, he found the shop in some confusion, and his wife, extremely exasperated and on her knees behind the counter, routing among his taxidermic material. Her face came up hot and angry over the counter, as the jangling bell announced his return, and she forthwith accused him of “hiding it.”

“Hid what?” asked Mr. Cave.

“The crystal!”

At that Mr. Cave, apparently much surprised, rushed to the window. “Isn’t it here?” he said. “Great Heavens! what has become of it?”

Just then, Mr. Cave’s step-son re-entered the shop from the inner room—he had come home a minute or so before Mr. Cave—and he was blaspheming freely. He was apprenticed to a second-hand furniture dealer down the road, but he had his meals at home, and he was naturally annoyed to find no dinner ready.

But, when he heard of the loss of the crystal, he forgot his meal, and his anger was diverted from his mother to his step-father. Their first idea, of course, was that he had hidden it. But Mr. Cave stoutly denied all knowledge of its fate—freely offering his bedabbled affidavit in the matter—and at last was worked up to the point of accusing, first, his wife and then his step-son of having taken it with a view to a private sale. So began an exceedingly acrimonious and emotional discussion, which ended for Mrs. Cave in a peculiar nervous condition midway between hysterics and amuck, and caused the step-son to be half-an-hour late at the furniture establishment in the afternoon. Mr. Cave took refuge from his wife’s emotions in the shop.

In the evening the matter was resumed, with less passion and in a judicial spirit, under the presidency of the step-daughter. The supper passed unhappily and culminated in a painful scene. Mr. Cave gave way at last to extreme exasperation, and went out banging the front door violently. The rest of the family, having discussed him with the freedom his absence warranted, hunted the house from garret to cellar, hoping to light upon the crystal.

The next day the two customers called again. They were received by Mrs. Cave almost in tears. It transpired that no one could imagine all that she had stood from Cave at various times in her married pilgrimage…. She also gave a garbled account of the disappearance. The clergyman and the Oriental laughed silently at one another, and said it was very extraordinary. As Mrs. Cave seemed disposed to give them the complete history of her life they made to leave the shop. Thereupon Mrs. Cave, still clinging to hope, asked for the clergyman’s address, so that, if she could get anything out of Cave, she might communicate it. The address was duly given, but apparently was afterwards mislaid. Mrs. Cave can remember nothing about it.

In the evening of that day, the Caves seem to have exhausted their emotions, and Mr. Cave, who had been out in the afternoon, supped in a gloomy isolation that contrasted pleasantly with the impassioned controversy of the previous days. For some time matters were very badly strained in the Cave household, but neither crystal nor customer reappeared.

Now, without mincing the matter, we must admit that Mr. Cave was a liar. He knew perfectly well where the crystal was. It was in the rooms of Mr. Jacoby Wace, Assistant Demonstrator at St. Catherine’s Hospital, Westbourne Street. It stood on the sideboard partially covered by a black velvet cloth, and beside a decanter of American whisky. It is from Mr. Wace, indeed, that the particulars upon which this narrative is based were derived. Cave had taken off the thing to the hospital hidden in the dog-fish sack, and there had pressed the young investigator to keep it for him. Mr. Wace was a little dubious at first. His relationship to Cave was peculiar. He had a taste for singular characters, and he had more than once invited the old man to smoke and drink in his rooms, and to unfold his rather amusing views of life in general and of his wife in particular. Mr. Wace had encountered Mrs. Cave, too, on occasions when Mr. Cave was not at home to attend to him. He knew the constant interference to which Cave was subjected, and having weighed the story judicially, he decided to give the crystal a refuge. Mr. Cave promised to explain the reasons for his remarkable affection for the crystal more fully on a later occasion, but he spoke distinctly of seeing visions therein. He called on Mr. Wace the same evening.

He told a complicated story. The crystal he said had come into his possession with other oddments at the forced sale of another curiosity dealer’s effects, and not knowing what its value might be, he had ticketed it at ten shillings. It had hung upon his hands at that price for some months, and he was thinking of “reducing the figure,” when he made a singular discovery.

At that time his health was very bad—and it must be borne in mind that, throughout all this experience, his physical condition was one of ebb—and he was in considerable distress by reason of the negligence, the positive ill-treatment even, he received from his wife and step-children. His wife was vain, extravagant, unfeeling, and had a growing taste for private drinking; his step-daughter was mean and over-reaching; and his step-son had conceived a violent dislike for him, and lost no chance of showing it. The requirements of his business pressed heavily upon him, and Mr. Wace does not think that he was altogether free from occasional intemperance. He had begun life in a comfortable position, he was a man of fair education, and he suffered, for weeks at a stretch, from melancholia and insomnia. Afraid to disturb his family, he would slip quietly from his wife’s side, when his thoughts became intolerable, and wander about the house. And about three o’clock one morning, late in August, chance directed him into the shop.

The dirty little place was impenetrably black except in one spot, where he perceived an unusual glow of light. Approaching this, he discovered it to be the crystal egg, which was standing on the corner of the counter towards the window. A thin ray smote through a crack in the shutters, impinged upon the object, and seemed as it were to fill its entire interior.

It occurred to Mr. Cave that this was not in accordance with the laws of optics as he had known them in his younger days. He could understand the rays being refracted by the crystal and coming to a focus in its interior, but this diffusion jarred with his physical conceptions. He approached the crystal nearly, peering into it and round it, with a transient revival of the scientific curiosity that in his youth had determined his choice of a calling. He was surprised to find the light not steady, but writhing within the substance of the egg, as though that object was a hollow sphere of some luminous vapour. In moving about to get different points of view, he suddenly found that he had come between it and the ray, and that the crystal none the less remained luminous. Greatly astonished, he lifted it out of the light ray and carried it to the darkest part of the shop. It remained bright for some four or five minutes, when it slowly faded and went out. He placed it in the thin streak of daylight, and its luminousness was almost immediately restored.

So far, at least, Mr. Wace was able to verify the remarkable story of Mr. Cave. He has himself repeatedly held this crystal in a ray of light (which had to be of a less diameter than one millimetre). And in a perfect darkness, such as could be produced by velvet wrapping, the crystal did undoubtedly appear very faintly phosphorescent. It would seem, however, that the luminousness was of some exceptional sort, and not equally visible to all eyes; for Mr. Harbinger—whose name will be familiar to the scientific reader in connection with the Pasteur Institute—was quite unable to see any light whatever. And Mr. Wace’s own capacity for its appreciation was out of comparison inferior to that of Mr. Cave’s. Even with Mr. Cave the power varied very considerably: his vision was most vivid during states of extreme weakness and fatigue.

Now, from the outset this light in the crystal exercised a curious fascination upon Mr. Cave. And it says more for his loneliness of soul than a volume of pathetic writing could do, that he told no human being of his curious observations. He seems to have been living in such an atmosphere of petty spite that to admit the existence of a pleasure would have been to risk the loss of it. He found that as the dawn advanced, and the amount of diffused light increased, the crystal became to all appearance non-luminous. And for some time he was unable to see anything in it, except at night-time, in dark corners of the shop.

But the use of an old velvet cloth, which he used as a background for a collection of minerals, occurred to him, and by doubling this, and putting it over his head and hands, he was able to get a sight of the luminous movement within the crystal even in the daytime. He was very cautious lest he should be thus discovered by his wife, and he practised this occupation only in the afternoons, while she was asleep upstairs, and then circumspectly in a hollow under the counter. And one day, turning the crystal about in his hands, he saw something. It came and went like a flash, but it gave him the impression that the object had for a moment opened to him the view of a wide and spacious and strange country; and, turning it about, he did, just as the light faded, see the same vision again.

Now, it would be tedious and unnecessary to state all the phases of Mr. Cave’s discovery from this point. Suffice that the effect was this: the crystal, being peered into at an angle of about 137 degrees from the direction of the illuminating ray, gave a clear and consistent picture of a wide and peculiar countryside. It was not dream-like at all: it produced a definite impression of reality, and the better the light the more real and solid it seemed. It was a moving picture: that is to say, certain objects moved in it, but slowly in an orderly manner like real things, and, according as the direction of the lighting and vision changed, the picture changed also. It must, indeed, have been like looking through an oval glass at a view, and turning the glass about to get at different aspects.

Mr. Cave’s statements, Mr. Wace assures me, were extremely circumstantial, and entirely free from any of that emotional quality that taints hallucinatory impressions. But it must be remembered that all the efforts of Mr. Wace to see any similar clarity in the faint opalescence of the crystal were wholly unsuccessful, try as he would. The difference in intensity of the impressions received by the two men was very great, and it is quite conceivable that what was a view to Mr. Cave was a mere blurred nebulosity to Mr. Wace.

The view, as Mr. Cave described it, was invariably of an extensive plain, and he seemed always to be looking at it from a considerable height, as if from a tower or a mast. To the east and to the west the plain was bounded at a remote distance by vast reddish cliffs, which reminded him of those he had seen in some picture; but what the picture was Mr. Wace was unable to ascertain. These cliffs passed north and south—he could tell the points of the compass by the stars that were visible of a night—receding in an almost illimitable perspective and fading into the mists of the distance before they met. He was nearer the eastern set of cliffs, on the occasion of his first vision the sun was rising over them, and black against the sunlight and pale against their shadow appeared a multitude of soaring forms that Mr. Cave regarded as birds. A vast range of buildings spread below him; he seemed to be looking down upon them; and, as they approached the blurred and refracted edge of the picture, they became indistinct. There were also trees curious in shape, and in colouring, a deep mossy green and an exquisite grey, beside a wide and shining canal. And something great and brilliantly coloured flew across the picture. But the first time Mr. Cave saw these pictures he saw only in flashes, his hands shook, his head moved, the vision came and went, and grew foggy and indistinct. And at first he had the greatest difficulty in finding the picture again once the direction of it was lost.

His next clear vision, which came about a week after the first, the interval having yielded nothing but tantalising glimpses and some useful experience, showed him the view down the length of the valley. The view was different, but he had a curious persuasion, which his subsequent observations abundantly confirmed, that he was regarding this strange world from exactly the same spot, although he was looking in a different direction. The long façade of the great building, whose roof he had looked down upon before, was now receding in perspective. He recognised the roof. In the front of the façade was a terrace of massive proportions and extraordinary length, and down the middle of the terrace, at certain intervals, stood huge but very graceful masts, bearing small shiny objects which reflected the setting sun. The import of these small objects did not occur to Mr. Cave until some time after, as he was describing the scene to Mr. Wace. The terrace overhung a thicket of the most luxuriant and graceful vegetation, and beyond this was a wide grassy lawn on which certain broad creatures, in form like beetles but enormously larger, reposed. Beyond this again was a richly decorated causeway of pinkish stone; and beyond that, and lined with dense red weeds, and passing up the valley exactly parallel with the distant cliffs, was a broad and mirror-like expanse of water. The air seemed full of squadrons of great birds, maneuvring in stately curves; and across the river was a multitude of splendid buildings, richly coloured and glittering with metallic tracery and facets, among a forest of moss-like and lichenous trees. And suddenly something flapped repeatedly across the vision, like the fluttering of a jewelled fan or the beating of a wing, and a face, or rather the upper part of a face with very large eyes, came as it were close to his own and as if on the other side of the crystal. Mr. Cave was so startled and so impressed by the absolute reality of these eyes, that he drew his head back from the crystal to look behind it. He had become so absorbed in watching that he was quite surprised to find himself in the cool darkness of his little shop, with its familiar odour of methyl, mustiness, and decay. And, as he blinked about him, the glowing crystal faded, and went out.

Such were the first general impressions of Mr. Cave. The story is curiously direct and circumstantial. From the outset, when the valley first flashed momentarily on his senses, his imagination was strangely affected, and, as he began to appreciate the details of the scene he saw, his wonder rose to the point of a passion. He went about his business listless and distraught, thinking only of the time when he should be able to return to his watching. And then a few weeks after his first sight of the valley came the two customers, the stress and excitement of their offer, and the narrow escape of the crystal from sale, as I have already told.

Now, while the thing was Mr. Cave’s secret, it remained a mere wonder, a thing to creep to covertly and peep at, as a child might peep upon a forbidden garden. But Mr. Wace has, for a young scientific investigator, a particularly lucid and consecutive habit of mind. Directly the crystal and its story came to him, and he had satisfied himself, by seeing the phosphorescence with his own eyes, that there really was a certain evidence for Mr. Cave’s statements, he proceeded to develop the matter systematically. Mr. Cave was only too eager to come and feast his eyes on this wonderland he saw, and he came every night from half-past eight until half-past ten, and sometimes, in Mr. Wace’s absence, during the day. On Sunday afternoons, also, he came. From the outset Mr. Wace made copious notes, and it was due to his scientific method that the relation between the direction from which the initiating ray entered the crystal and the orientation of the picture were proved. And, by covering the crystal in a box perforated only with a small aperture to admit the exciting ray, and by substituting black holland for his buff blinds, he greatly improved the conditions of the observations; so that in a little while they were able to survey the valley in any direction they desired.

So having cleared the way, we may give a brief account of this visionary world within the crystal. The things were in all cases seen by Mr. Cave, and the method of working was invariably for him to watch the crystal and report what he saw, while Mr. Wace (who as a science student had learnt the trick of writing in the dark) wrote a brief note of his report. When the crystal faded, it was put into its box in the proper position and the electric light turned on. Mr. Wace asked questions, and suggested observations to clear up difficult points. Nothing, indeed, could have been less visionary and more matter-of-fact.

The attention of Mr. Cave had been speedily directed to the bird-like creatures he had seen so abundantly present in each of his earlier visions. His first impression was soon corrected, and he considered for a time that they might represent a diurnal species of bat. Then he thought, grotesquely enough, that they might be cherubs. Their heads were round, and curiously human, and it was the eyes of one of them that had so startled him on his second observation. They had broad, silvery wings, not feathered, but glistening almost as brilliantly as new-killed fish and with the same subtle play of colour, and these wings were not built on the plan of bird-wing or bat, Mr. Wace learned, but supported by curved ribs radiating from the body. (A sort of butterfly wing with curved ribs seems best to express their appearance.) The body was small, but fitted with two bunches of prehensile organs, like long tentacles, immediately under the mouth. Incredible as it appeared to Mr. Wace, the persuasion at last became irresistible, that it was these creatures which owned the great quasi-human buildings and the magnificent garden that made the broad valley so splendid. And Mr. Cave perceived that the buildings, with other peculiarities, had no doors, but that the great circular windows, which opened freely, gave the creatures egress and entrance. They would alight upon their tentacles, fold their wings to a smallness almost rod-like, and hop into the interior. But among them was a multitude of smaller-winged creatures, like great dragon-flies and moths and flying beetles, and across the greensward brilliantly-coloured gigantic ground-beetles crawled lazily to and fro. Moreover, on the causeways and terraces, large-headed creatures similar to the greater winged flies, but wingless, were visible, hopping busily upon their hand-like tangle of tentacles.

Allusion has already been made to the glittering objects upon masts that stood upon the terrace of the nearer building. It dawned upon Mr. Cave, after regarding one of these masts very fixedly on one particularly vivid day, that the glittering object there was a crystal exactly like that into which he peered. And a still more careful scrutiny convinced him that each one in a vista of nearly twenty carried a similar object.

Occasionally one of the large flying creatures would flutter up to one, and, folding its wings and coiling a number of its tentacles about the mast, would regard the crystal fixedly for a space,—sometimes for as long as fifteen minutes. And a series of observations, made at the suggestion of Mr. Wace, convinced both watchers that, so far as this visionary world was concerned, the crystal into which they peered actually stood at the summit of the endmost mast on the terrace, and that on one occasion at least one of these inhabitants of this other world had looked into Mr. Cave’s face while he was making these observations.

So much for the essential facts of this very singular story. Unless we dismiss it all as the ingenious fabrication of Mr. Wace, we have to believe one of two things: either that Mr. Cave’s crystal was in two worlds at once, and that, while it was carried about in one, it remained stationary in the other, which seems altogether absurd; or else that it had some peculiar relation of sympathy with another and exactly similar crystal in this other world, so that what was seen in the interior of the one in this world was, under suitable conditions, visible to an observer in the corresponding crystal in the other world; and vice versa. At present, indeed, we do not know of any way in which two crystals could so come en rapport, but nowadays we know enough to understand that the thing is not altogether impossible. This view of the crystals as en rapport was the supposition that occurred to Mr. Wace, and to me at least it seems extremely plausible….

And where was this other world? On this, also, the alert intelligence of Mr. Wace speedily threw light. After sunset, the sky darkened rapidly—there was a very brief twilight interval indeed—and the stars shone out. They were recognisably the same as those we see, arranged in the same constellations. Mr. Cave recognised the Bear, the Pleiades, Aldebaran, and Sirius: so that the other world must be somewhere in the solar system, and, at the utmost, only a few hundreds of millions of miles from our own. Following up this clue, Mr. Wace learned that the midnight sky was a darker blue even than our midwinter sky, and that the sun seemed a little smaller. And there were two small moons! “like our moon but smaller, and quite differently marked” one of which moved so rapidly that its motion was clearly visible as one regarded it. These moons were never high in the sky, but vanished as they rose: that is, every time they revolved they were eclipsed because they were so near their primary planet. And all this answers quite completely, although Mr. Cave did not know it, to what must be the condition of things on Mars.

Indeed, it seems an exceedingly plausible conclusion that peering into this crystal Mr. Cave did actually see the planet Mars and its inhabitants. And, if that be the case, then the evening star that shone so brilliantly in the sky of that distant vision, was neither more nor less than our own familiar earth.

For a time the Martians—if they were Martians—do not seem to have known of Mr. Cave’s inspection. Once or twice one would come to peer, and go away very shortly to some other mast, as though the vision was unsatisfactory. During this time Mr. Cave was able to watch the proceedings of these winged people without being disturbed by their attentions, and, although his report is necessarily vague and fragmentary, it is nevertheless very suggestive. Imagine the impression of humanity a Martian observer would get who, after a difficult process of preparation and with considerable fatigue to the eyes, was able to peer at London from the steeple of St. Martin’s Church for stretches, at longest, of four minutes at a time. Mr. Cave was unable to ascertain if the winged Martians were the same as the Martians who hopped about the causeways and terraces, and if the latter could put on wings at will. He several times saw certain clumsy bipeds, dimly suggestive of apes, white and partially translucent, feeding among certain of the lichenous trees, and once some of these fled before one of the hopping, round-headed Martians. The latter caught one in its tentacles, and then the picture faded suddenly and left Mr. Cave most tantalisingly in the dark. On another occasion a vast thing, that Mr. Cave thought at first was some gigantic insect, appeared advancing along the causeway beside the canal with extraordinary rapidity. As this drew nearer Mr. Cave perceived that it was a mechanism of shining metals and of extraordinary complexity. And then, when he looked again, it had passed out of sight.

After a time Mr. Wace aspired to attract the attention of the Martians, and the next time that the strange eyes of one of them appeared close to the crystal Mr. Cave cried out and sprang away, and they immediately turned on the light and began to gesticulate in a manner suggestive of signalling. But when at last Mr. Cave examined the crystal again the Martian had departed.

Thus far these observations had progressed in early November, and then Mr. Cave, feeling that the suspicions of his family about the crystal were allayed, began to take it to and fro with him in order that, as occasion arose in the daytime or night, he might comfort himself with what was fast becoming the most real thing in his existence.

In December Mr. Wace’s work in connection with a forthcoming examination became heavy, the sittings were reluctantly suspended for a week, and for ten or eleven days—he is not quite sure which—he saw nothing of Cave. He then grew anxious to resume these investigations, and, the stress of his seasonal labours being abated, he went down to Seven Dials. At the corner he noticed a shutter before a bird fancier’s window, and then another at a cobbler’s. Mr. Cave’s shop was closed.

He rapped and the door was opened by the step-son in black. He at once called Mrs. Cave, who was, Mr. Wace could not but observe, in cheap but ample widow’s weeds of the most imposing pattern. Without any very great surprise Mr. Wace learnt that Cave was dead and already buried. She was in tears, and her voice was a little thick. She had just returned from Highgate. Her mind seemed occupied with her own prospects and the honourable details of the obsequies, but Mr. Wace was at last able to learn the particulars of Cave’s death. He had been found dead in his shop in the early morning, the day after his last visit to Mr. Wace, and the crystal had been clasped in his stone-cold hands. His face was smiling, said Mrs. Cave, and the velvet cloth from the minerals lay on the floor at his feet. He must have been dead five or six hours when he was found.

This came as a great shock to Wace, and he began to reproach himself bitterly for having neglected the plain symptoms of the old man’s ill-health. But his chief thought was of the crystal. He approached that topic in a gingerly manner, because he knew Mrs. Cave’s peculiarities. He was dumbfounded to learn that it was sold.

Mrs. Cave’s first impulse, directly Cave’s body had been taken upstairs, had been to write to the mad clergyman who had offered five pounds for the crystal, informing him of its recovery; but after a violent hunt in which her daughter joined her, they were convinced of the loss of his address. As they were without the means required to mourn and bury Cave in the elaborate style the dignity of an old Seven Dials inhabitant demands, they had appealed to a friendly fellow-tradesman in Great Portland Street. He had very kindly taken over a portion of the stock at a valuation. The valuation was his own and the crystal egg was included in one of the lots. Mr. Wace, after a few suitable consolatory observations, a little off-handedly proffered perhaps, hurried at once to Great Portland Street. But there he learned that the crystal egg had already been sold to a tall, dark man in grey. And there the material facts in this curious, and to me at least very suggestive, story come abruptly to an end. The Great Portland Street dealer did not know who the tall dark man in grey was, nor had he observed him with sufficient attention to describe him minutely. He did not even know which way this person had gone after leaving the shop. For a time Mr. Wace remained in the shop, trying the dealer’s patience with hopeless questions, venting his own exasperation. And at last, realising abruptly that the whole thing had passed out of his hands, had vanished like a vision of the night, he returned to his own rooms, a little astonished to find the notes he had made still tangible and visible upon his untidy table.

His annoyance and disappointment were naturally very great. He made a second call (equally ineffectual) upon the Great Portland Street dealer, and he resorted to advertisements in such periodicals as were likely to come into the hands of a bric-a-brac collector. He also wrote letters to The Daily Chronicle and Nature, but both those periodicals, suspecting a hoax, asked him to reconsider his action before they printed, and he was advised that such a strange story, unfortunately so bare of supporting evidence, might imperil his reputation as an investigator. Moreover, the calls of his proper work were urgent. So that after a month or so, save for an occasional reminder to certain dealers, he had reluctantly to abandon the quest for the crystal egg, and from that day to this it remains undiscovered. Occasionally, however, he tells me, and I can quite believe him, he has bursts of zeal, in which he abandons his more urgent occupation and resumes the search.

Whether or not it will remain lost for ever, with the material and origin of it, are things equally speculative at the present time. If the present purchaser is a collector, one would have expected the enquiries of Mr. Wace to have reached him through the dealers. He has been able to discover Mr. Cave’s clergyman and “Oriental”—no other than the Rev. James Parker and the young Prince of Bosso-Kuni in Java. I am obliged to them for certain particulars. The object of the Prince was simply curiosity—and extravagance. He was so eager to buy, because Cave was so oddly reluctant to sell. It is just as possible that the buyer in the second instance was simply a casual purchaser and not a collector at all, and the crystal egg, for all I know, may at the present moment be within a mile of me, decorating a drawing-room or serving as a paper-weight—its remarkable functions all unknown. Indeed, it is partly with the idea of such a possibility that I have thrown this narrative into a form that will give it a chance of being read by the ordinary consumer of fiction.

My own ideas in the matter are practically identical with those of Mr. Wace. I believe the crystal on the mast in Mars and the crystal egg of Mr. Cave’s to be in some physical, but at present quite inexplicable, way en rapport, and we both believe further that the terrestrial crystal must have been—possibly at some remote date—sent hither from that planet, in order to give the Martians a near view of our affairs. Possibly the fellows to the crystals in the other masts are also on our globe. No theory of hallucination suffices for the facts.

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Movie Trailer – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019)

A first look at Quentin Tarantino’s 9th (rumored to be his second to last) film.  Looks good.  Bonus points for a rendition of Bruce Lee in the cast.

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