Reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated…

It has been a loooong time since I posted on this humble blog. Too long. The past 6+ months have been a bit of a rollercoaster for me. I finally gave up on my CPAP machine around the beginning of August, and I saw no significant difference in how I felt without using it. Another large chunk of money down the drain. Prior to that, in the beginning of July, I lost my job. The company I worked for was in a major business rut and they needed to cut costs, so I was one of the first to go. Unlike the last time I lost my job, back in January of 2008, I wasn’t immediately devastated. I tried to stay as positive as possible, because if I ended up with another lengthy unemployment it would have broken me. I am a big fan of the power of positive thinking, having gone through what I call the death spiral of negativity. So I clung to the belief that I would find a new job quickly, and at the end of August I was offered a new position. I started the new job on September 16th, and I am extremely happy with both the work and the company. The best part about the new job, however, is the benefits package. My health insurance is now far better than it was previously, and I actually have dental coverage now! And it’s a good thing, because back in December I was told I needed a root canal and a crown. The combined total for both would have cost me over $1600 without insurance. On my new plan, the root canal was covered in full, and the crown came in around $400. That was HUGE. The only downside to the dental coverage is that they only allow for a certain dollar amount to be covered each year, so with the cleanings I will need for the remainder of the year I’m pretty much tapped out. But it’s nice to know I can get things done without causing huge financial stress.

With a new job helping to ease my financial pain (and my positive thinking mantra), my overall attitude perked up tremendously. I started writing again, some of which I will be posting here shortly. The things I won’t post here, well, I’m not sure they’re ready for public consumption just yet. But who knows.

One thing that I cannot forget to mention is the final factor in boosting my attitude – new friends. Since I started using Google Plus, I’ve met a ton of wonderful and amazing people. But over the past 6 months (ish) in particular I’ve met some people that have really helped me, in so many ways. They know who they are Smile.

Alright, time to wrap this up and get ready to post some fiction!

Time is fun when you’re having flies…

Just a few days ago I hit the 2 year anniversary of my humble little blog. Things haven’t exactly been…busy around here, especially during the past 6 months. So many things have conspired to keep the words from flowing out of my brain.

Back around the beginning of the year, I finally decided that the time was right to have a sleep study done in the hope of discovering why I am constantly tired. The result was a diagnosis of sleep apnea, which is apparently the malady du jour since my father and 6 of my friends also have it. It seems oddly disproportionate to know that many apnea sufferers, which is similar to the large number of left-handed people I know. Regardless, once that diagnosis was made I figured that the answer to my sleep problem was a slam dunk – get hooked up with a CPAP machine and sleep well, awakening refreshed and energized for all the things I want to do! Unfortunately my slam dunk struck the rim and failed to hit net. I feel…better, but it’s not where I thought it would be based on the results of others and the one test night I had as part of the sleep study. However there are still many factors that go into getting a good night’s sleep, which may include increasing CPAP pressure after I have my next consultation with the sleep center. I hold onto the hope that things will still get better down the road.

On top of sleep issues, the past month has been a miserable time for other health related issues. It started with a head cold that moved down into my chest, leading to what I thought was a case of bronchitis. I did a 10 day course of antibiotics after a doctor visit, but wasn’t feeling any better. While all of that was happening over the course of about 3 weeks, allergy season arrived – in full force. A second doctor visit resulted in another diagnosis – asthma. Now, several years ago I was told by a pulmonary specialist that he suspected I had a mild case of asthma, but he couldn’t confirm that diagnosis unless I moved out of my house to stay away from my dogs for three weeks. Yeah. That was just not happening, I mean how many people could just up and leave their home for that long? So, no official asthma tag was ever placed on me, but it fit with certain things so I always assumed it was true. Now I have further evidence, as it appears that the head/chest cold and my allergies both aggravated the asthma. After a 5 minute Albuterol treatment in the doctor’s office, I noticed a huge difference. A visit to the pharmacy and many dollars later, I now have 2 inhalers and a 5 day course of Prednisone to get me past my breathing difficulties.

With the exception of my allergies flat out not wanting to behave, I’m actually starting to feel better. I still want to claw my eyes out of my head, but they will fall in line after I get past the worst of the allergy season kickoff extravaganza. Then I can get back to some creative work, and perhaps some day I can grace my horde of blog subscribers with some more fiction (I can still call a half dozen people a horde, right?).

Those moments we can never forget…

Today is the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that left thousands dead in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania. It will be a day filled with remembrance and sadness, when many of us reflect on this and other events that remain etched in our memories forever.

Most of us can recall in vivid detail exactly where we were and what we were doing on that morning. I was at work, and the person in the cube next to me was listening to Howard Stern on the radio. I remember hearing someone on the program saying that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center, and my first instinct was that it was a terrible joke. Then someone else in the room mentioned it. Pretty soon dozens of us were in the cafeteria watching the news, and discovering that is was a deliberate attack rather than a tragic accident.  And then the second plane hit.

The rest of the day blurs into hours of news footage and shock mixed with feeble attempts to get back to work. It was a whirlwind of information that kept me stunned. But it wasn’t until later that I experienced the defining moment of the event, for me at least. While the destruction and loss of life in NYC and at the Pentagon were truly profound, what sticks out more for me even today are the events of United Airlines flight 93.

As the passengers of flight 93 began to learn of the other crashes, they realized that their own flight was destined for a similar fate. With a will that speaks volumes to their character, they rose up and ensured that their flight would not be used as a weapon, sacrificing themselves so that others would live. To this day I have trouble thinking about that effort without becoming emotional.

Between those passengers, the first responders at all of the crash scenes, and all of the others who helped anyone in need on that day and after, an enormous amount of courage was displayed that can never be forgotten.

So today I remember those that lost their lives on that fateful day, and grieve with those who survived.

New Year, New Game Update

Earlier in the year I posted about my plans to run some new games, having been inspired by Gnome Stew’s New Year, New Game contest. As with most plans, this one did not survive contact with the enemy, but I did manage to run one of my planned games.

At Gen Con I was able to run a game of D&D Next using the second public playtest documents. There were a few bumps, mostly because I wasn’t using a battlemat or minis and one player was used to having them in play, but overall we had a great time. Our Fighter really enjoyed the Combat Superiority class feature, and used it to great effect both adding damage to his attacks and minimizing damage to himself. There were some tense moments after the Cleric was taken down by a spear to the chest, but one of the other party members was able to stabilize him and give him a healing potion, and he was right back in the fight.

So far I’m enjoying where this next version of D&D is going, and I’m encouraged by the fact that the plan is for the playtest to take about 2 years. It seems like they really want to do this next edition right, and I’m willing to wait and see how it comes out.

How about you, dear readers? Have you run a new game, or started a new campaign yet this year?

How it all began…

This is a piece of short fiction I wrote as background for a character I’ll be playing in a new campaign, using the Savage Worlds RPG. The campaign is a modern day horror setting, with elements of the Cthulhu mythos. I hope you enjoy it.

My name is Daniel Thompson, and I’m a surgeon. I’m writing this down because it’s already been taken away from me once before, and I don’t ever want to forget it again.

It was mid summer, and I had just finished a difficult five hour surgery. I needed to relax, let off some steam, and get away from the hospital before starting another long shift the next day. I was looking for my buddy Trip in the maternity ward, hoping he’d be able to join me for a beer, when I spotted him in a room that had far too many occupants. Trip was attending to a very pregnant woman, and surrounding them were a nurse, two police officers, and four men in black suits that I pegged as Feds of some stripe. My friend was in a clearly agitated conversation with one of the suits, and excused himself just as I approached the door.

Trip was born Robert Stephens III, which should explain his nickname. We were like two peas in a pod, and delighted in causing groans among our mutual friends and coworkers whenever we were together. The most prominent groans resulted from our nicknames – mine is Skip, because of the several years of school that I bypassed, but that’s another story. We loved to announce our entrance to a room with “Get ready for a little Skip and Trip!” Yes, we did.

On this particular occasion, neither one of us was in much of a silly mood, and Trip was the one doing the groaning. “Can you believe this, Skip? I can’t even get them to wait in the hall!” He rolled his eyes as he dragged his fingers roughly through his hair. “What’s the deal, are they FBI?” I asked him, and caught myself mimicking his fingers-through-hair move. “Not sure, but I think they’re military. Apparently this frail woman, who is clearly about ready to pop out a baby, is some kind of cult member. AND, surprise, she’s extremely dangerous – if you can believe that.”

The woman didn’t look very dangerous, and thinking back I can’t really remember much about her at all, except for one thing. She had a tattoo on her arm that looked something like this:


I was about to ask Trip about getting out of there for a beer, when the woman let out a howl that was part here-comes-the-baby and part oh-my-god-what-is-happening. Trip dashed back into the room, took up his catcher’s position at the pregnant woman’s feet, and lifted the sheet.

It’s at this point that my sanity comes into question, and no matter how many times I go over the events in my mind, they keep unfolding the same way. I was hoping that shock had somehow painted things in a different light, but if anything the mind usually covers the unexplained with the mundane – not the other way around. Trip knelt down and lifted the sheet to see if the baby was crowning, and a…tentacle…shot from underneath, grabbed him, and flipped him across the room. He must have hit the far wall, because I heard a sickening thud. At the same time the woman began screaming as if she were being disemboweled, and another tentacle grabbed the cop at her side and threw him out the window. At that point, for a moment, I actually lost my shit.

By the time I regained control of my senses, two of the suits had pulled large caliber pistols and began firing at the pregnant woman, while another seemed to fling a…a bright ray of light at her. I couldn’t see the fourth suit from my vantage point, but someone was calling in backup so I assumed it was him. The second cop and the nurse had been closest to the door and came screaming out into the hall, nearly knocking me over in the process. I felt like I needed to help in some way…any way…so I started towards the door – just as the woman’s body split apart. The…thing…that came out of her was a dark mass of tentacles and black ichor, and as it squirmed past me into the hall faster than it should have possibly been able to move, the air around me felt…greasy and wrong. The suit that had thrown the light was the first one out the door after it, and he screamed at me to stay back. The two shooters were right behind him, and they sped off down the hall in pursuit of whatever horror had just erupted into our world.

When I finally entered the room, “backup” was sitting underneath the broken window speaking calmly to someone on his cell phone, seemingly oblivious to the broken bone sticking out of his lower leg. Just past him lay Trip, his head turned completely the wrong way and at an impossible angle. Instinctively I went to him and checked for a pulse, knowing full well that I wouldn’t find one. I pulled his coat up to cover his head, and went to tend to the suit’s broken leg.

The rest is a blur of activity, questions, more questions, and still even more questions. The suits’ backup must have arrived at some point, because the whole scene was locked down tight, and at some point I was being examined by some other doctor as if I was also a victim. When the suit who called for backup was being taken away on a gurney, I distinctly recall hearing someone say that a helicopter was waiting on the roof, and someone else pushing the up button on the elevator instead of down, in the direction I would have taken him. Right before the elevator doors closed, the suit looked out at me and said “You did good back there. You kept your cool. I’ll be in touch.” At the time I had no idea why he said that…but I would shortly find out.

Shortly after that another suit took me off to the side, held his phone up to take my picture, and took my memories away…