Posts Tagged ‘Hard Coal Studios’


This is the second part of the preview to my novella Frankenstein: The Illuminatus Complex.

Part one of the preview is here.  A direct sequel to the story is here.

Cover by David Ellis.

Part Two

After reading this I knelt down and wept, but more tragedy was to come. It was as if Shakespeare himself had written a horrid play of my life, torturing me with his feathered pen. Mother received word that my father also had died. The details were strangely vague, but he and several other people had perished in some sort of laboratory accident. It was a shock almost too great to bear. Although our relationship had been strained, my mother and I both loved him. Two tragedies side by side were simply too much.

Mother was comforted to know I had no desire to follow in my father’s footsteps; instead I followed in my grandfather’s. Using some money my father left me I hired a ship’s crew and before I knew it I was a captain of my own ship. Being young and courageous I was anxious to see the world. In time I ran shipments to various places in the Americas, Africa, and the mysterious orient. On my journeys I sometimes took one of Grandfather’s logs with me, retracing some of his footsteps, reading his memories. Though I did not finish them all, they brought great comfort to me when I read them. They brought his presence close to me when sailing the Mediterranean, or when watching the sun set over the Atlantic.

Then the day came where I set out to do what my grandfather and others could not, cross the Northwest Passage. The day I left was a fine day. Mother greeted me at the docks. We both endured much tragedy, but she stood firm and proud of her son. Naturally she held some fear for my journey, the Franklin expedition still fresh in people’s minds. We embraced and spoke of our love for each other. “I can see your grandfather in you.” she said. That may have been the proudest moment of my life.

It was here the curtain raised on the third act of my Shakespearean tragedy. Like my grandfather, my voyage was not successful. Neither the ship nor my crew was sturdy enough to endure the arctic ice. Upon bearing the chill of the northern winds, I knew that neither was I. Soon I returned with a shame that tore at my very soul, I had failed. Worse news came upon returning. During my travels my mother had fallen into poor health, and died very suddenly. My entire being was wracked with grief and guilt. My father had abandoned my mother in pursuit of personal glory, now I had done the same, and she was gone.

Such a lonely creature I was now, my closest family gone. I couldn’t bear to look at the sea again. I sold my ship and became adrift on land. Misfortune continued; bad investments and ill luck got the better of me. Soon I found myself indebted to many with little resources of my own. Life had hit me hard, and I took to the bottle to wash away my sorrows. My time at sea was done I thought, and I became just another lost soul drifting in the streets. In youth we all dream of becoming someone great, but the cold truth was that now I was no one.

My last day in civilization was dark and dreary. I was wasting away at the local tavern. It was a rough rowdy place filled with brawls and debauchery. I sat near the door in my own drunken world. Suddenly A large hand slapped my back, a voice followed, “Victor, you know who we are?” I turned to see two large men standing before me. Misfortune had caught up with me again.

“Mr. Worth wants his money, and he wants it now.”

I was indebted to so many that I couldn’t even recall which one Mr. Worth was.
“We can do this the easy way, or the hard way.” one of them said.

I answered, “Don’t worry I have your money. I have it right here.”

I reached into my coat feigning to get some money. The two hesitated, fearing I’d draw a pistol. Instead my other hand gripped a bottle and struck one of them on the head. I threw up my chair knocking the other one down and dashed out the door. “Schultz, let’s get him!” I heard one of them yell as I ran out into the rain.

I wish I could spin a better yarn of an exciting chase, but truth is in my stupor I was lucky to get this far. Soon I stumbled into an alley and tripped over a pile of debris. Through the rain I could see my pursuers catching up to me. One had a gash on his face, the blood mixed in with the rain pouring down. His partner behind him said “Well, Schultz, I think he doesn’t have our money.”

“I think you’re right, Remus. We’re just gonna have to take what we can.” An evil glint flashed in his eyes as he pulled out a blade. Coming closer he leaned down to me, pointing the knife at my face smiling. “I’m gonna gut you like a pig!”

And this is how I thought my miserable life would end, killed in a dingy alley over a minor gambling debt. In my mind I could do no worse. Resigned to my fate I looked up at him hunching over me. The blade was approaching my face when I heard a small popping sound. Schultz arched back and let out a wet gasp. A pool of blood emerged from his stomach, and he fell dead beside me. Over his body I could see a short man covered in black behind Remus. He held a tiny gun in his hand. A whiff of smoke rose out of the barrel and disappeared in the rain. Then he put his gun away. I had no idea who this was. For all I knew it was different criminal I owed money to who wanted a piece of me for himself. Shultz lunged at him. This mysterious man lifted a gloved hand in the air and grabbed Schultz’s chin. Schultz convulsed violently, the smell of cooked flesh filled the alley, and soon Shultz lay dead beside his partner. His eyes burned out of his sockets. Who on earth could this be? Was I imagining things through drunken eyes? Was this man some sort of super-being? I learned later he had an electric device in his glove, which ran a current through his victim, frying him from the inside.

“Who are you?” I called out.

A peculiar voice whose accent I couldn’t quite trace spoke. “I saved your life. That’s all you need know for now. Come.” He turned away and began walking out of the alley. I was in an almost a dreamlike state as he led me out of the alley to a large black carriage. I remember its horses were so enormous, with the deepest black manes. “Get in, Victor, all will be explained in due time.”

“Where are we going?”

He turned to me one last time. His face was pale and he had dark sullen eyes. “Would you rather stay here and see who else is looking for you?” I said nothing more and entered the carriage. In the back compartment I sat alone, while my companion sat in the front. He was silent when I asked his name or how he knew me. All I could do at that point is sit back and try to settle my spirits. Looking out over the rainy streets I’d passed out from exhaustion.

When I awoke I looked out the carriage to see a large metal gate in front of a stone mansion. The rain had let up and the moon illuminated the night sky. I let myself out of the carriage and asked “So where are we?” Again he did not answer as he opened the large oak door and directed me inside. He finally spoke to me as we ascended the marble staircase.

“Your benefactor will explain everything, but first you must get cleaned up. A hot bath has been drawn for you with a clean set of clothes set aside. You are probably famished so a meal is being prepared. After that you will meet your benefactor, and all will be explained.” Had I been in a better state of mind I might have been more cautious in accepting such strange hospitality, but earlier in the day my life almost ended, so I did not object. Even if this was some form of trickery, I was just as well prepared to live it up, and live it up I did. After a hot bath and a shave I found the new set of clothes. There was a comfortable pair of shoes, a fine cotton shirt, and a dinner jacket of better quality than anything in my wardrobe.

Next was dinner. Not since my mother was alive had I such a fine meal. I feasted on all variety of meats, the finest cheeses and freshest vegetables the earth had to offer. This nourishment brought me back to my senses, and now I wanted to know what was afoot. My quiet companion came in and said “It is now time.”

I was led from the dining hall into a large library. It was a maze of huge oak bookshelves filled with books on every subject imaginable; the arts, science, literature, history, religion, the forbidden arts, and more. While walking across the fine carpeted floor I even recognized a few books on ocean life, including two volumes of Mysteries of the Great Submarine Grounds. Scattered throughout were large tables accompanied by many chairs, enough to host a large audience for reading sessions or whatever pursuit’s intellectuals did. Only one man waited to greet me, a small frail man with a few wisps of white hair. Around his neck was a strange medallion of a crescent moon. Great wisdom hung from his eyes. My first impression of him was pity. He sat at the head of two rows of chairs; at his table was a glass lamp. To one side hung a peculiar painting of a bird-headed man standing atop a sun. He laid eyes on me and spoke.

Now Read the rest of the Story!



Frankenstein: The Illuminatus Complex is a novella I wrote that can be purchased here. 

Discover the Secret of Frankenstein, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea! What is the secret history of the Frankenstein experiment, and will the world survive its revelation? Thrill to the opening saga of the Crosso-verse, where worlds of fiction collide!

Cover by David Ellis. 

I also wrote a short sequel to this story which can be found exclusively online here. 

Another sequel is exclusively on this blog.

Below is a preview to Frankenstein: The Illuminatus Complex..

Part One
The actions of my father hovered over me for most of my life. At times they were like dark clouds raining sorrow upon me, while other times those same clouds were white with hope and illumination. In my young life I tried to strike out on my own to make my own name for myself, but in this feat I was not the victor, as my father named me to be.

My early years were happy. As a young boy my father filled my mind with the wonders of science and the mysteries of the world. He was a prideful, if sometimes boastful man. He named me Victor after himself, saying I was his greatest achievement. As I grew older I learned this pride was a mask to hide his occasional insecurity and aloofness. Mother on the surface was a kind, gentle woman, but underneath laid a great strength and iron like sturdiness. From her I learned literature, which I regrettably neglected in my manhood, but as a boy I knew of the great poets like Milton and Shakespeare, and from both parents I was blessed with a happy home. Or as Charles Dickens wrote, my home was a place “in default of a better, those I love are gathered together.”

My father was a scientist, respected and admired. As a child I often heard him boast of the wonders of science during this enlightened age. With a great passion he believed that science would bring mankind into a bold new era. “Each day,” he boasted, “science marches on to the limits of human knowledge. One day soon, mankind will grow so wise, that we will know what it is to be gods!” Regrettably it was this overconfidence that led to his undoing, and had drastic consequences for me and the rest of my family. As I grew older he was often away with his work. For months he’d toil away in his laboratory, refusing to see any visitors.

With my father absent I began spending more time with my grandfather, my father’s father, as well as Great Aunt Margaret. Grandfather was a retired sea captain. He still had his ship, and during these years he taught me some of the ways of sea life. He held some interest in science as well, which I believe was the spark that sent my father on his boundless quest for knowledge. My grandfather at times felt guilty about my father’s neglect, as if he felt responsible or had erred in some way. Hence he began spending time with me, passing on what he could. He adored my mother. In his youth he had briefly been a poet, and gave my mother many old editions of books from the greats like Homer and Shakespeare. In fact, much to the chagrin of my father, he once gave an original copy of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, by Mary Wollstonecraft.

One of my fondest memories with him and Great Aunt Margaret was sailing near Greenland. We watched the sun set near the top of the world. Amongst us were gargantuan icebergs, the purist white in color. Floating next to them we were like ants staring at a cube of ice. The chilled air was so fresh and pure, as if we were breathing the air of a new world. Our breath visible in cold thick primordial clouds, it was as if we were the first life forms to breathe on this planet. “There,” my grandfather said, ‘lays the Northwest Passage. Not very long ago the Franklin expedition was lost somewhere in that ice while trying to find a trade route between Asia and the New World.” I had heard of the Franklin expedition. The mystery of its fate was the talk of the day. Two ships, the Erebus and the Terror, which were equipped with new powerful steam engines, had vanished. They were commanded by Sir John Franklin. Recently Francis McClintock’s expedition returned from its two year journey to find the lost Franklin ships. They did not return with good news. Near King William’s island in the Canadian Arctic, skeletal remains of the lost expedition were found.

I mentioned to my grandfather rumors that the lost expedition resorted to cannibalism. It was a fiercely controversial topic. Franklin’s widow, Lady Jane Franklin, verbally attacked anyone who made such a suggestion. She even had the support of Charles Dickens, who wrote several pamphlets on the matter. When I asked Grandfather his opinion on the topic, he paused for a moment, staring into the deep ice, as if he’d just remembered some long-forgotten tragedy. “I braved it once.” He answered. “I once tried to pass through the arctic.”

“Really, what happened?”

“I was just a little older than you. The ice was impossible to get through. Almost didn’t survive, my crew was close to mutiny. What we saw was, impossible……. monstrous.”

For the first time in my life I felt a sense of purpose swell up in me. For one moment I was the mirror image of my father, fiercely confident and determined. “Each year,” I blindly boasted, “better and stronger ships are being built. If you continue to teach me the ways of the sea, one day I can break the Northwest Passage!”

I was expecting to find pride and excitement in Grandfathers eyes, but instead those eyes continued to look toward the north in a cold sense of dread. It was an anticipation of dread, as if he could see some secret evil Pandora’s Box floating in the icy sea before us. “Seek happiness in tranquility.” he muttered. I didn’t understand, but he continued. “A friend, a very good and dear friend once told me, seek happiness in tranquility and avoid ambition.” This seemed something uncharacteristic of my grandfather to say. He went on, “Your father, I tried to teach him many things about science and the world. My departed friends advice is something a father can’t bear to pass on to his son, and I wouldn’t wish to pass it on to you either, but I wish to tell you this. We all have moments where triumph eludes us; do not let this burden you. You still have much life ahead. Never lose your ambition, but know this. Man’s ambition can push him to the greatest heights, but, if too reckless, can sink him into the coldest deepest sea. Remember this on all the journeys of your life.” With that he returned to his cabin, where he remained for the rest of the evening.

I awoke maybe 1:00am that night. There was a noise coming from somewhere on the ship. Was another ship at sea with us? Were we being raided? I opened my cabin door and peered into the blackness outside. My eyes could see nothing, but my ears heard a noise from Grandfathers’ cabin. It was the sound of his voice shouting out in terror! Was he being attacked? I rushed to his cabin, flung the door open, and there he lay before me. On his bed he was twitching, his arms thrashing in the moonlight shining through the window. In his sleep he called out my name, “Victor, Victor, no, no!” I called out to him, shaking his body when he awoke suddenly. He sat up and looked at me with a fear in his eyes. Margaret ran into the room, I asked what he was dreaming about, but he refused to speak. I pressed him for an answer but it was of no use. The nightmare had passed, so I returned to my quarters, but Margaret stayed with him. I heard her quietly whisper “It’s ok. It’s ok he can’t hurt Victor.” Was I in some kind of danger? Was my father? Of such questions, I would get no answer.

My father’s recurring absences caused my dear mother much distress which came to a boil one Christmas day. Mother hosted at our home; her family was there, as were my grandfather and great aunt. Uncle William was there as well, wearing a fine red dinner jacket. Seeing my whole family together was always a pleasure. When I was a boy they showered me with gifts, as I was the only child. This day however, a tension simmered in the air as my father was absent. He promised to be home, but warned he might be late.

That evening, just as my relatives were about to leave, my father came stumbling in. He looked exhausted, as if he had not slept in days. Mother was silent with embarrassment. What would her parents think? Everyone was quiet as they continued to quietly creep out.

My father meekly tried to apologize. “I’m terribly sorry everyone, I’m afraid I lost track of time. Thank you for coming. I’m sure you all had a nice time. Brother William, good to see you.” William shot a nervous grin. “I’m sure you all had a good meal. Elizabeth is a fine host isn’t she?” He glanced at my mother hoping to save face, but she shot him glare so harsh I thought lightning would leap from her eyes. My grandfather also looked on disappointingly. My father’s side of the family was small and sometimes felt the lesser compared to my mother’s side. My father crept over to him and softly spoke. “Father, it’s good to see you. I’m terribly sorry about being late. But actually I need to talk to you about…”

My grandfather interrupted sternly, “I think you need to talk with your family. Margaret and I are leaving now.”

“Oh, you’re leaving? Oh yes, I guess it’s getting late. Well, we must talk soon. Merry Christmas!” His father and aunt said nothing as they walked out the door.

Once all our guests left, my parents had a horrific fight. “Elizabeth, I’m terribly sorry but I’ve been working furiously and haven’t slept in days.”

“It was Christmas Day! Victor, you missed Christmas with your family, with your son!”

“Again I’m terribly sorry Elizabeth, but please know this. Please know that the work that I do, I do it for you and for our son. What I do will bring incredible glory and honor to our family name.”

“Our family name! What does your family name look like to my mother when you abandon your wife and child on Christmas Day? Where is your glory then?”

“Good heavens, I did not abandon you! I’m here now!”

“It’s evening Victor, everyone was worried about you! Why are we not as important as your foolish laboratory experiments?”
Upon hearing that Father flew into mad fit. “Woman you don’t understand! We are on the verge of something remarkable! Something that will change mankind, it will change the whole world forever!”

Mother began sobbing, “What you’re doing is going to change this family forever.” She turned and walked away, saying “There’s some food left, clean the table when you’re finished.” There were only a few hours left of that Christmas day, and it would be the last one we would all spend together.

About a week later my father did in fact speak with my grandfather. We all went to his and Margaret’s home for dinner to celebrate the New Year. My father had stayed home since Christmas, but his mind was always pre-occupied. Things between him and mother had not mended. In private I asked him what great project he was working on, but, as much as he boasted of its importance, he would say nothing more. Dinner was not much different. There was only superficial conversation, talk of current news, the looming civil war in the Americas, local politics. There’d been various thefts on the docks. My grandfather’s ship and a few other ships were looted. Fortunately no one was hurt, and Grandfather said he lost nothing of value. After dinner mother, Margaret, and I went into the reading room and left my father and grandfather to talk. I strained my ears to try to listen, but heard little. After perhaps 20 minutes alone I heard my father shouting in a manner I’d never heard from him. “You must give them to me, I must see them!” The anger in his voice barely covered a sense of panic and desperation.

“Son, please forget this foolishness. Your family needs you, not some scientific monstrosity.”

“Father, you don’t understand, I cannot fail. It’s too important. I must have this to bring honor to our family name! You must not stand in my way!”

We all knew the tragic truth that day. My father, whom I’d loved with all my heart, had become a blind arrogant man who held dreams of scientific glory above all else. Grandfather sternly warned him, “You are nosing into matters which you can’t possibly understand, let alone fully control! If you go down this path it will unleash monstrosities that will not only consume you, but will consume everyone you love!” But my father would hear nothing of it. We left his home and all Father did was complain that his father was standing in the way of his own greatness. He said he needed to return to his work, and as he left no words were exchanged between the three of us.

The next period of my life was the most tragic. A series of events occurred that shook me to my core. The first tragedy was that my father would never see his father again. Soon after they last spoke my grandfather and great aunt perished in a fire. It was the first time in my young life that I felt the pain of loss; the man who was a second father to me was gone. In his will he left me his ship. On the docks I boarded the empty ship, reminiscing about our voyages together. I sat in his cabin where I remembered him having that terrible nightmare. Below his bunk was a small heavy wooden chest with a large metal lock. Shortly before my grandfather died he delivered a key to me, and I found the key fit this lock. Inside I found a series of logs. These were his ship logs from his days as a sailor. He’d left them to me. His old coat he’d worn at sea lay inside along with other personal effects. There was a small painting of him and Margaret along with me with my parents. Atop the books lay a handwritten note. It read

“To my Grandson;
If you are reading this then I have passed from this earth. Margaret and I are most proud of you. We love you as though you were our own son. I leave you the logs of my voyages. You won’t understand this now, but at times I was tempted to leave these at the bottom of the ocean, where many of my friends and companions rest now. In my time I’ve learned that some things are best left unknown. Yet I leave them to you, as I leave you my complete legacy. May you learn from them, and may they guide your life toward noble things. Weep not much for me, for I’ve led a full life. It was Shakespeare who said, “Cowards die many times before their deaths. The valiant never taste of death but once.” Be brave my beloved grandson, be brave.”

Now get the rest of the story!

Preview Part 2.

Classic Horror Comics: Curse of the Mummy’s Stone is now available digitally. Written by me with art by Sarah Benkin, who also drew Shock Value for my website. 


Relive the Golden Age of Monster Movies in Classic Horror Comics: Curse of the Mummy’s Stone. Famed American adventurer Howard Rider uncovers an ancient mummy’s tomb. While it may seem like just another day of adventure, what is he really looking for, and what deadly forces lurk behind his find? Classic Horror Comics simulates seeing a monster movie during Hollywood’s Golden Age, complete with pre-show news footage before the black and white feature presentation of terror!


For a long time I was hesitant to post poetry on this blog as I wanted to focus on writing about movies and comic books etc. However, I decided last April to blog some poems and some videos of me reading  for National Poetry Month. I noticed as soon as I made those posts I had a small audience and gained followers after just about every post I made.

So I decided to post this as well. The poems I’d previously blogged are from my collection Almost Normal, published in 2012. The topics of the poems include traveling to Asia, living on an Indian Reservation, and some poems touch on my other interests of comic books etc.

I like to think that the book kind of has an arc to it, that it portrays a young boy who liked baseball and boxing who later went down the path of eccentric-ness, then traveled the world a bit before becoming, well, Almost Normal.

You can purchase the book here.

Did I ever tell you about Rez Baseball?

There are so few people out here

that you cannot have two teams,

but the Indians can adapt to anything it seems.


You only have a few people at bat,

the field is where the rest of us are at,

and if a pop fly lands softly in your glove

then you get a swing at the game you love.


If one is tagged out you’ll see field rotation,

players from the field go to the bases,

the catcher goes to the bullpen station

and players recycle through the diamond animation.


Baseball in its purest form brings out the best in us.

Today there was no fighting,

no anger,

and no egos.

Just fun in the warm April sun.


Timeless music filled the air,

speaking of love, life, and things that are fair,

not death, killing, anger, and despair.

Cusses their tongues did not speak,

hatred their hearts did not keep.


I got to play Baseball tonight.


I hadn’t played Baseball in so long

that it didn’t matter if it was Rez Baseball,

it was Baseball.




My first time up I hit a single.

The Babe behind me hit a pop fly

and I knew at first I should have stayed

but my anxiousness overcame me

and soon my legs had swayed

swiftly to second,

and soon I was out.



my new position.

Playing in the open sky,

dreaming in the field,

missing the occasional pop fly.


But I got a few out,

and soon was rotated back in.

Two more singles

then batted in, RBI.

Scored twice in a game no one would win

but we all tried.


Before the Easter sun had set

behind the distant trees,

the gloves were handed in,

the players left,

and the game was history.


I know lady luck was on my side

and I knew it then.

So I went home and thanked my God

that I got to play baseball again.


From my collection Almost Normal

Reading my poem Buffalo 66 in Bloomsburg Pennsylvania

Buffallo 66

The roof is leaking in the $2 theater
dripping near my popcorn as the screen flickers.
I’m as excited at a 12 year old seeing Star Wars.

I’m nearly alone in my cinematic enlightenment.
It’s useless to say not another university student in sight.
Romantic notions of what college was to be faded to black,
and I am content to watch my first independent film.


With so few roads on the reservation

it’s hard to turn the wrong way.

But when the roads are long and it’s your first time

you wonder anyway.


For the next two years

whenever I’d drive by that green sign

I’d always chuckle to myself

and remember that time.


I missed the left turn.

I saw the sign but just my luck,

spray painted over it was “D.G.A.F.”

“Don’t Give A” you know what.

Reading at Jackson’s Java in Charlotte North Carolina. Charlotte’s longest running poetry event.

Punk Rock Japan Girl

You saw me in Shinjuku just wandering down the street.
Just off the jet to Japan by the grace of God we meet.
Next thing I knew you invited me to the show.
Couldn’t sing along except WHOOOAAAAHHHH!!!!!!!!!

Punk Rock Japan Girl invites me to the show.
Raise your fists fly through the air and go GO GO!!!

If we would have met when I was 18
I would have been so smitten with you.
I would have written you poetry and all that kind of stuff.
Maybe we would have met at the open stage
where I’d listen to your songs of hard edge and rage
and you’d hear my poems so soft and full of fluff.
You’d catch my eye in this small white town
and I’d wonder what you’d think.
Would I catch your eye at this party school
where like you I didn’t drink?
Desperately trying to impress you
I’d don whatever black I could find.
Hoping for your approval in pumped up manhood I’d unwind.

Punk Rock Japan Girl you’d have been the love of my life
and in punk rock reality you’d be my punk rock wife!
Across the dirty broken streets in jagged bliss we’d ride!
In one arm a stack of ripped up poems
in the other my punk rock bride!

And nothing would have stirred up more shit
than bringing you home for the holidays.
It would’ve been even better than bringing home a black girl,
because not only would it have been a gook,
it would have been a foreigner!
Not only would it have been a foreigner,
it would have been someone who speaks another language!
A 1000 cracker eyes peering out from behind the curtains
occasionally pulling back like closed eyelids
but still looking, wondering.
WHAT is this THING MURRAY brought home!
And only my mother would have been happy for me.

Punk Rock Japan Girl small mindedness we’d pound!
From the campus to the coal town
we’d spread rock all around!
Punk anthems and spiked romance we’d sing of every day.
Our last target would be those bigots we’d blow em all away!

Then that day would have risen
where you had to head back to Honshu
and I’d shed the Pacific in tears.
In mourning I’d wear black leather for a year
and every time I heard the Ramones I’d cry
because it would make me think of you.

Oh well, it would have been cool anyway.

Punk Rock Japan Girl I met you 10 years too late!
Didn’t know a dam word you sung
but I knew it sounded great!
Never knew I’d see such a sight when I came to Shinjuku!
Whenever I think of Tokyo I’ll always think of you!

Reading at the open mic at Woodstock in Seoul South Korea.

The Geekiest Moment of My Life.

It wasn’t even Dungeons and Dragons
that the average person might have heard of.
It wasn’t even World of Darkness,
Rifts, Gurps, Deadlands, or Call of Cthulhu,
that at least nerds knew.

The Role Playing Guild gathered in the dorms that evening
to play a homemade game
designed by one of our own members.
If only I could recall its name.

According to our character sheets
we are all aliens investigating an extra-terrestrial mystery.
We have strange names, equipment,
character traits and history.

We may have weaknesses
but can also achieve superhuman feats.
My roommate is a claustrophobic archeologist
who is allergic to dust.
We investigate the starship,
searching for clues, watching who we trust.

A student pokes his head in the window
wondering what on earth we’re doing.
The dice are out, the pencils are sharp.
We roll for initiative, and perception.
The game is on, and the TV is off.

I bet I was the only one who even knew.
It was Super Bowl Sunday.

James Murray reading the poem Almost Normal from his poetry collection of the same name. Poem below.

Almost Normal

Who knows when it ended,
but I know when it began. That summer my Aunt visited out of the blue with a pack of baseball cards and next thing I knew a whole world of diamonds opened before me.

My first and only team was the Phillies and the only sports hero of my childhood
was Mike Schmidt.
I watched his 500th home run against Pittsburgh, but at some point the ball dropped, as if on a whim, and one day I’d forgotten all about him.

I do remember dad giving his only fatherly advice, never bet on Philadelphia sports. After the Phillies one the game
and dad lost the gamble I’d sit in my room with my plastic Phillies helmet, and in the years before
I dreamt of science fiction sagas
I had fantasies of winning the big game.

In 1986, comic books greatest year, I knew nothing of Watchmen or Alan Moore. While nerds in newsgroups were trying to figure out who killed the Comedian I was finally figuring out how to ride a bike. While fanboys geeked out over
the Dark Knight Returns I was fishing on the lake,
shooting archery, eating smores.

Who knows why it ended, let alone when? All I know is when Tyson was in his heydey, and He-man was the Master of the Universe, I was climbing the hill, I read comics only sometimes, and I didn’t like girls yet.

I was almost normal.

The Almost Normal poetry collection can be purchased here.