Modern prosthesis aren’t keeping up with one fundamental cyberpunk promise — gimmicky inbuilt weaponry. Science fiction assures us that every replacement appendage will be augmented in some fundamentally lethal way. Will your cybernetic finger double as a lighter or a vacuum cleaner? No. Will it pulverize concrete or conceal a hidden spring-loaded blade. Absolutely!
Prosthetic arms are a miracle of modern science. When I was a kid, there were ultra-deluxe hook hands and the mannequin leg from the lamp in A Christmas Story, which is still amazing compared to a wooden peg leg. Modern artificial appendages are inching into William Gibson territory. All that’s missing is for a buzz saw to emerge as the hand recesses back into the metallic arm. “Let me slice that,” Gordon says as his office co-workers wheel in a birthday cake.
I suppose the problem is that in most fiction, war veterans with weaponized prosthesis are inducted into covert organizations or criminal syndicates, where buzz saw arms are practical upgrades. Insurance isn’t going to cover the twelve-inch titanium foldout blades for the guy who does office work for a government contractor. Ultimately, you can’t blame someone for turning to crime to cover the costs of their blowtorch hand or bladed running legs. Medicaid doesn’t cover those upgrades. You’d be lucky to get a corkscrew thumb or a micro-missile index finger hypodermic needle loaded with a paralytic agent. Thanks Obama!
Ultimately, human evolution has only one logical outcome . . .
I am behind schedule on my Orcs Killed My Parents book. Our old printer generates image scans more washed out than a Ralph Bakshi elf marinating in a bucket of bleach. The new art printer was a Christmas gift for my wife, so it was off limits until just now. But, that’s the good news. I now have access to a high quality scanner, received a nice set of Derwent Inktense pencils for Christmas (which are phenomenal, by the way), and have nearly completed two other projects that I will launch as a trio.
My original book is looking more suitable for Drive Thru RPG, and so I’ll be using the second title to experiment with the DM’s Guild. The third is a first entry in a series of micro-RPGs, a double-sided page in length, that I intend to sell for $1 each. Things are going to start happening to me now.
I’m compiling thirty-years of gaming notes, wisdom, angst, and a twelve-pack of whoop-ass into an upcoming series of Dungeons & Dragons supplements. If you like informal writing that enlightens as it insults the reader then this series is for you. Each book includes my very own crappy ink pen and watercolor pencil art. Expect the first book in the next week or two, which I will be offering through Dungeon Masters Guild. It’s going to suck be awesome!
Chapter 5: Ghosts of the Past That Are Actual Ghosts
Whenever I watch TV and see those poor starving kids
all over the world, I can’t help but cry,
I mean I’d love to be skinny like that,
but not with all those flies and death and stuff.
— Mariah Carey
“Looks like it’s just you and me tonight,” Melantha said after Salvador had left to return to his mausoleum. Between him catching on fire and arrival of the gillman pizza delivery guy, the evening’s sensual mood had been completely ruined.
“Yeah,” Gary replied. “I guess I had better break out some ice cream and the VHS collection of Frasier. Boooooo . . .”
Melantha felt grateful that even though Gary was dead, he could still be in her life. They had been dating for a year and had just broken up when he had died of mysterious causes that she still didn’t quite understand. There hadn’t been a funeral, or even an obituary. One day, he just showed up and explained that he had died and had come to haunt her for being such a bitch to him. His spirit still remained even after they had reconciled and become best friends.
“You’re not going to get me with that trick, Gary! I know that you can only become a ghost if you drink chocolate milk after midnight, and I know that all we have in the freezer is chocolate ice cream, which I saw you left out on the counter to thaw. Frasier though, I’ll take you up on that offer!”
“You got me! Boo. But you know it is lonely being a ghost with you being the only one who can see me on account of me having to hide in the closet whenever there are people around.” That was certainly true enough. There was still a pair of her underwear stuck to his ectoplasm, although that was kind of confusing. Gary typically hid in the linen closet, whereas most of Melantha’s underwear was on the floor of her bedroom with the rest of her clothes. “People don’t understand ghosts. They don’t understand me . . . nobody but you, that is. This white sheet makes me look like a racist.”
“No, Gary. They have pointy heads,” Melantha replied. She touched him where his shoulder would have been had he been human still. His ectoplasm felt like two-hundred thread count linen, and it really did feel like there was a human shoulder beneath his spectral outer layer. Gary had explained that she was the only one who could touch him on account of her being a deep and caring person who felt more and felt more deeply than other people. This was true.
Gary would have smiled had he been alive. Instead, his face was an unchanging white expanse punctuated only by two black eye holes through which Melantha sometimes thought she could catch a glimpse of his human eyes. At least once, a nose had protruded through one of them, which Gary had explained was a ghost glitch, like when his ectoplasmic exterior fell off and he looked like his old naked self. Ghosts were much more confusing than other supernatural beings.
“Hey baby, I hear the blues a-callin’, tossed salad and scrambled eggs!” Gary crooned while inserting the Frasier tape into the VCR, which was like a Blu-ray player but bigger and with an oversized rectangular slot.
Melantha laughed, because he sang like shit. He inserted the tape slowly and sensually, teasing the tape into the gaping orifice. It reminded Melantha of their time together, the countless nights of . . . passion? No. It had not quite been passion. Gary was awful at foreplay and had once punched her in the breast because he hadn’t known what else to do. He said that the spirit world had taught him a lot about sex, but everything Melantha had read about ghosts said that they did not have genitalia. Gary denied this. She didn’t argue, because embarrassing a ghost was too sad to imagine.
While she waited for the show to begin, Melantha slipped a Licki brush into her mouth and began grooming her cats on the couch. The brush simulated the action of an actual cat tongue, which allowed Melantha to bond with her cats as though she were a true part of their pride. She felt a rush of feral feline hormones as she pawed at the couch on all fours, running the artificial tongue down the back of her favorite cat. Excitedly, she realized how much Salvador would enjoy it if she licked him with its silicone bristles.
“Why are you fondling yourself while licking the cat?” Gary asked. “Boo?”
“Sorry. I was just thinking about someone special. This device bonds me to the cat on a physical level, but it bonds me to my vampire lover on a spiritual level that transcends all understanding. I forgot you were here.”
“Oh, yeah. I forgot vampires were real. That was really scary having a monster in the house.” Gary almost sounded sarcastic, but Melantha knew better.
“How can you say that? You’re a ghost!”
“Oh . . . yeah. I forgot about that too. Boo. By the way, all of your beer was sucked into the spirit world again along with the leftover Chinese food.”
“Crap. It’s just like in Ghostbusters.” That was the worst part about having a ghost in her apartment. Her fridge had become a gateway to the other side, his poltergeist powers kept clogging the toilet and filling the shower drain with hair, and some otherworldly agent kept shopping online with her credit card. Gary insisted that supernatural purchases couldn’t be returned, refunded, or donated to the homeless, but what was she supposed to do with a men’s electric razor?
“Yeah, I know, but fortunately I’m here to stop angry spirits and demigods from escaping your refrigerator. Booooo!”
“What would I do without you, Gary?” Melantha said more than asked, because it was a rhetorical question. Frasier had started playing. It was the episode where Niles and Frasier have to handle an awkward situation involving their father. She had seen it already, but every fresh viewing revealed some overlooked detail or deeper meaning. Melantha was quite sure that their psychic housekeeper, Daphne, was a reincarnation of her. She was always freaked out by the screaming skeletons in every episode though. Nobody else ever seemed to see or hear them.
Gary plopped down on the couch and threw a spiritual appendage around Melantha’s shoulder. His ectoplasm shifted, and she was reminded how even in death he wore the same black, size 10W SAS sneakers that he had inherited from his grandfather. Somehow, they looked even more worn out than they had been before he had died.
“You know, boo, that I’ve been haunting you nearly as long as we were dating,” Gary said.
“I do.”Their situation reminded Melantha of nearly a decade ago when she had been the only survivor of a plane crash in the Rocky Mountains. A charming man, named Downy Soft Feather, who was half Bigfoot and half Native American, had gently nursed her back to health with his pillow-soft hands and butterfly kisses. She could have stayed there forever, but an aggressive rescue party had killed Downy Soft and burned down his log cabin in the process of retrieving her. They had then attended a Metallica concert before bringing her back to civilization.
“Well . . . booooo . . . I was just thinking that maybe we could make it official. Maybe we could go back to being a couple again.”
“Silly, Gary! You know that ghosts can’t date mortals. You are only able to have romantic entanglements with fairies, Valkyries, and hardcore Norwegian black metal bands. Plus, I hate to remind you, but . . . ghosts don’t have penises.” Melantha gave the approximate area of his crotch a friendly rub to demonstrate. It felt weird.
“Right, because you have books about this stuff, dammit — I mean, boooo! But what if I told you that all of those books were wrong, and I’d know, because I’ve been to the other side –”
“You can’t have passed on or you wouldn’t have been able to come back and be a ghost. Trust me, Gary. I know a lot about the supernatural. Sometimes ghosts think that they still have human attributes, which is why you sometimes manifest as a naked man in my bed or generate ectoplasmic discharges into my used underwear, but that is all tied into the trauma of your passing. We really need to get around to resolving the unfinished business that is binding you to this plane of existence.”
“Right, but it’s like I said, booo! I think that unfinished business is us having sex.” Gary rose from the couch, and although he never actually quite floated, it looked like he was standing on his ghostly tippy-toes.
“Which isn’t possible, because you have no penis, so it is clearly a symptom of you avoiding your true purpose.” Melantha felt sad that there was no attraction between her and Gary. It wasn’t that he was a ghost — that would have been a huge turn-on in any other case. It was just that he was . . . well, Gary. “I mean, Gary, your parents still think you are alive. They bring groceries here, thinking you are my roommate, and I don’t have the heart to tell them you are dead.”
“Fuck’s sake! Don’t do that! Boo!”
“You need to give them peace. We already tried the pricey prostitute idea you had, and you know how that worked out.” It was a gross idea, and Melantha had only went along with it because she felt sorry about the Post Traumatic Death Disorder that he suffered from.
“I think, boo, that it would have gone better if you hadn’t told her that I was an invisible ghost, and that she could just keep the money if it turned out that she couldn’t see me. That woman was a very deep and caring person, and it would have worked out if you hadn’t biased her . . . uh . . . chakra against me. I mean, bit — er, boo! Look at the bulge in my ectoplasm! That’s all for you. Boo.”
“Well, we need to figure out something, because Salvador will soon turn me into a vampire, and I don’t know if the undead can interact with the dead. They certainly can’t watch Frasier together, because as a vampire my media preferences will change.”
“Yeah . . . right, a vampire. I’m sure that will work out. Boo.” Yet again, Gary’s spectral voice could easily be mistaken for having a tinge of sarcasm to it. “Listen, I’m going to go haunt the bar for a few hours and blow off some steam doing poltergeist stuff. Oh, and I forgot to mention that the leprechaun broke in again and stole twenty-dollars from you.”
“Again! Dammit, Gary! You were supposed to stop him. We spent six hours working together building leprechaun traps. We were supposed to have his gold by now!”
“Yeah. Boo. You keep believing in that stuff.” Gary turned away, and since he was a considerate ghost, he opened the door and closed it behind him instead of passing through and leaving a nasty stain that looked like grape jelly. Melantha heard him greet Mrs. Halls, although sadly Mrs. Halls would not hear him.
The Resident Evil movie franchise is barely coherent, but it could be worse. It should be worse, because the games are total nonsense. RE games are all about brief glimmers of horror, ludicrous premises, and ridiculous crap that totally undermines any sense of eeriness or suspense. They are made by Capcom, so inevitably you need to shoot a bad guy in his vulnerable spot to turn him into an even more powerful bad guy powered by several glowing nodules that are its only weak spots. Then you fight more zombies. Then you find out things aren’t really what they seemed and someone probably betrayed you.
Having watched what is hopefully the last Resident Evil movie, I have some advice for the director of the inevitable reboot on how to stay true to the franchise’s video game roots:
Camera Angles: Resident Evil movies can’t stay true to the games without awkward camera angles and abrupt transitions that leave the protagonist confused and often running in the wrong direction. As a bonus, the audience could be left totally disoriented, as though they were watching a Transformers film.
Alice, the protagonist, is running away from a zombie with no apparent goal in sight, suddenly the camera angle switches, she looks confused but notices a door that she had overlooked before. She rushes toward the door, and the camera angle changes again, leaving her so befuddled that she actually reverses course and runs into the zombie that she had been trying to avoid.
Green Herb: The central theme of the RE video games is finding green and red herbs, which you use to restore your depleted health.
Alice sits in a burned out car smoking marijuana. She is motivated to leave the car when she sees a pot plant through the window of a nearby house. She fights several zombies to gain access to the house and then harvests the plant to prepare another joint. She sits down and smokes it, which relieves her chronic pain condition.
Smashing Crates: True, Alice does search the movie set on occasion for equipment, but her visual pat downs are a mere tip of the hat to the game franchise.
Alice enters a room in which several crates are stored. She immediately pulls out her knife and slashes the crates until the wood explodes into tiny fragments. She finds a single box of bullets inside of each crate, which leads her to question what sort of company would package single items in such unnecessarily large and unwieldy containers without any packing material whatsoever. She then rips open every locker in the room in search of green herb and white powder.
Arbitrary Collectibles: Video game characters in general have an obsessive tendency to collect bottle caps, bobble heads, snow globes, and other assorted brick-a-brac. Yet the protagonist of the RE movies does not horde garbage.
Alice is talking to another character but pauses in mid-sentence when she spots something glimmering in the distance. She clambers up into an air vent and crawls through a convoluted series of obstacles so that she can take a potshot to dislodge the object wedged in a crevice. She returns to her companion with a bottle cap and says, “I think this will come in handy.” It doesn’t. In the director’s cut of the movie an additional half-hour of footage is devoted to her collecting bottle caps.
Bizarre Shenanigans: From a cinematic perspective, Resident Evil films get an A+ for defying common sense, but Capcom adaptations demand an almost Uwe Boll level of claptrap, as though reality were an inconvenient afterthought sunk in the wake of the S.S. Pandering to Pubescence. There just aren’t enough subterranean shooting ranges beneath small European mountain villages and elaborate columns of spinning blades integrated into prison security systems when you watch it on video.
Alice is fighting Whisker, the feline clone of Wesker, and ducks into a utility closet to avoid an attack. Since this is Resident Evil, it turns out to be a warehouse-sized room where the janitor stored his rusty meat hook collection. She looks around to see if she is alone and calls out, “Is anyone here?” A voice in the darkness responds, “Got some rare things on sale, stranger.” Alice spots a mysterious merchant standing in a corner and purchases some extra ammunition from him while he modifies her gun. She wonders how and why the merchant managed to infiltrate a secure facility rife with death traps and zombified predators to set up shop in a location with almost zero foot traffic. They make out.
So why do I make my wife watch these movies, sequel after sequel? They have zombies in them. Duh! I’d watch Fox News if it had zombies.
Great idea for a character! He is me, but all of the women want to have sex with me — I mean him!
Had another brilliant idea last night. A guy named Martin . . . something, something, something . . . naked women want to have sex with me — I mean, him! Women have no sexual inhibitions and like well-groomed mustaches.
Flying cars? Maybe, but this guy . . . this guy has two three secretaries. They don’t like wearing clothes, but sometimes I make them — I mean, him!
Going to call this guy Roger B. Leinhein.
Nevermind. Changing it to Chumba Womba. Jubal Harshaw. My editor thought I was talking about myself, which I wasn’t. Totally different guy!
Okay, so this Martin guy — no, wait! Martian! He’s from Mars! — starts a religion where everyone has to have sex with me — I mean, Jubal. Except Jubal plays it cool, and is like, “Nah, I’ve seen plenty of boobs,” but then he joins and has sex with loads of women near the end.
Great idea! Jubal is an author, but he is also a doctor and a lawyer, because he is super smart and really popular. Everyone likes him.
Going to call it Heretic. No, Stranger in a Strange Land. Nah. Jubal Gets Some!