Super-Short Fiction: Journey

The Traveler stands upon the cliff’s edge, facing the vast wilderness before him. The land is lush and vibrant, colored myriad hues and shades the names of which the Traveler does not know. This untamed and sublime forest, brimming with loud, energetic life, calls to the Traveler, beckoning him to venture into its unseen depths. And though he knew he faces grievous harm–and likely death–the Traveler fears not, anticipation burning within his quickening heart. Taking a deep breath, the Traveler throws down his rope, securing the end to the cliff before beginning his descent.

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Concerning Video Game Nostalgia and the Retron 5

I’m a dumb-dumb. You will see evidence of that if you stick around this blog long enough. One early example of my dipshit nature came in late 1987, when I asked my dad for a Sega Master System. Mind you, dear reader, I didn’t really know anything about the system. I saw one at a neighbor’s house during a birthday birthday party and thought, Hmmm, that looks cool. That was the extent of my Master System knowledge. 

Dad, ever the faithful divorced father, bought me a Nintendo Entertainment System instead–the NES Action Set to be precise. I was angry that my dad had ignored my request but I didn’t let my disappointment show. Instead I had my uncle help me hook up the console, popped in the included Super Mario Bros. / Duck Hunt cartridge, and instantly fell in loving with video games. Oh my, how hard I was hooked, and so quickly, like a junkie discovering a drug he never knew he wanted. I was an instant convert, and the next several years were spent largely finding excuses to play more video games.

Unfortunately my family (my mom, sister, and I lived with my grandparents who happily supported us) didn’t have a lot of money so those opportunities were few and far between, at least until my teen years. I got to check out new games via rental stores once in a blue moon but most of my gaming experiences came from birthday and Christmas game gifts. Whether I was renting or getting a gift, I usually received one game per occasion. I played the holy hell out of the few games I got my little hands on, digging as deep as I dared, learning every nook and cranny of games such as The Legend of Zelda, Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest (and what a bastard that game was), and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (also not that good). Naturally this passion for gaming continued through the years, from the Sega Genesis to Sony’s next-generation effort, the PlayStation 4. 

Sadly I no longer own any of my old consoles. They are all easy enough to find used on eBay but few work well on newer HDTVs because of their extremely-out-of-date video/audio connections. This is where a console like the Retron 5 comes in, allowing owners to play Gameboy, Gameboy Color, Gameboy Advance, Famicom, Super Famicom, Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, and Mega Drive games, all in one device. You can also plug in and use original NES, SNES, and Genesis controllers, along with the included Bluetooth wireless controller. Sounds like a small gaming miracle, right?

I wish I could sing the Retron 5’s praises but unfortunately it is far from miraculous. First strike: the build quality. This thing looks and feels like a piece of plastic dogshit. The body is weak, likely to break if you don’t handle it with extreme care, and almost certainly prone to scratches. The cartridge slots are very stiff, making the simple act of inserting and removing carts an arduous task. I was afraid I might break the damn console when I first tried prying Super Mario Bros. out of the NES slot. 

Then there’s the controller, which not only feels awkward in your hands but also weighs too much considering its size and does not feature a d-pad, utilizing a finicky analog stick instead, which makes next to no sense. I appreciate the Bluetooth connectivity–I hate wires–but that’s about the only positive thing I have to say about this damn controller. Considering this might be the only way for some people to play games if they haven’t hit up eBay or flea markets for used old-school controllers, this is a terrible first impression. Don’t be an idiot like me, be sure to get a real controller first. No matter what you use, you’ll be able to use it with any game due to the Retron’s software. You can even remap buttons to your liking, which is a great feature.

Okay, I should stop because this is starting to sound like a damn review, and I’m not a critic. And honestly, the innards of the Retron 5 are what really matter, and in that regard it’s a pretty good emulation machine. But at $140 (assuming you get it from an authorized retailer, and not some shit-head third party seller) it’s a bit too pricey to recommend to anyone that isn’t a hardcore retro gaming enthusiast. If you’re just looking to play Metroid one more time, consider hunting down a good emulator for your computer instead. Then you can use a great controller like the DualShock 4 instead of the Retron 5’s uncomfortable box thing. Plus there’s the whole saving money thing, which is always a plus.

Super-Short Fiction: Friends

Two men stood facing one another on an otherwise empty street. The angry sun above made the ragged dusty path beneath their boots glow a brilliant white.

“John, I honestly didn’t think you’d show.” The speaker, Aaron Winter, spit tobacco juice to his right, his hand casually resting on the pistol holstered on his left hip. “Well, more like I wished you just stayed the hell at home.”

John Hawkins, unarmed yet unearthly calm, laughed. “Oh hell Aaron,” he said, the playful smile on his lips fading fast. “You know me better than that. I always keep my promises.”

 

 

Super-Short Fiction: Emancipation

She sits alone in a corner booth, the coffee shop before her quiet and empty. Her fingers slowly tap her booth’s table, one by one, each hand, from pinky to thumb. Tap, tap, on and on she taps, beating a steady rhythm as she stares into the middle distance, the shop’s windows ink-black dark. She closes her eyes and imagines another world; a different coffee shop, one filled with light, laughter, crying, espresso machine whirs and drips–anything but this silence. Her fingers clench, fists forming, her nails digging into her palms. 

“This,” she says, both hands bleeding, “is not what I asked for.”

A Lethargic Cowboy on a Trail to Nowhere

Early on I promised to write a long piece about my growing disdain for hyper-violent video games, like the Call of Duty and Battlefield series, and my increasing appreciation of lighter indie game fare. I didn’t lie–I am in fact working on that piece, just not at this moment, because right now I’m writing this particular sentence. So, um, be patient, okay? That little slice of digital literary pie will be served up soon.

And yet, as you probably gleaned from the title of this post, I might not finish that piece soon. You might not see it show up here for a month. Hell, it might not show up at all. Maybe I was lying after all. Perhaps I’m just a rotten bastard and don’t give a date for what you think. Oh fuck, I had to mention dates–the fruit, not the other thing. I love dates, and I would totally love you unconditionally from now until the day I die if you would send me some, dear internet stranger.

But I’m not giving you my address so, um, figure that shit out on your own.

Back to my point, which is this: I might not be as legendarily lazy as Jeff Bridges’ iconic Dude; but holy shit, wow, I’m a human sloth. Look up “procrastination” in a dictionary–any dictionary, really, go ahead–and hey, there I am, flipping you the bird. I have a terrible fear of failure so I put everything off until the absolute last minute. Sometimes, if I think I can get away with it (and, on occasion, even when I know I cannot), I’ll just skip a project altogether, telling myself I’ll get around to it when I’m in the mood, like next year or something. I bet you can guess how often I actually do get around to those projects.

Okay, yeah, maybe I am nearly Dude-esque on the laziness scale. 

The source of my oh-fuck-it attitude is not unknown to me. I have a chronic case of lethargy. I don’t say that in the clinical sense. I’m not even sure that’s something you can be diagnosed with…is it? Anyway, I often have zero desire to do anything. I sit in front of my desk, staring at my monitor, hand frozen on my mouse, eyes locked but not really seeing what’s before them. I hate feeling like that, or I suppose I should say I hate not feeling. 

Going further down the rabbit hole, I can also point out that which causes my lethargy: my personality and emotional issues, a little thing called borderline personality disorder, or BPD. My emotions often wildly fluctuate, like violent ocean waves, rocking back and forth, up and down, even side to side. I can’t predict how I’ll feel from moment to moment. Certain things, such as songs, lines from a movie, even specific sounds, can trigger new emotions, be they positive or negative. How this causes me to feel lethargic is simpler than you think. I learned long ago to shut myself off from my emotions, feeling nothing inside but a cold stillness, a vague calm empty of meaning–which isn’t remotely healthy.

I don’t like the emotional roller coaster my brain tries to make me ride every day but I loathe cutting myself off from emotions, so I’m trying to find a happy middle ground. So far, I’ve been unsuccessful. Thus I aimlessly wander on a bland, blank, endless road, directionless. But I’m struggling out of this Sea of Endless Nothing, vigorously swimming towards the Shore of Purpose and back into the Land of Determination. This isn’t an easy journey I’m undertaking but I’ll walk every mile with my head held high and my guns ready, whether my fucked-up brain likes it or not.

Oh, um, I suppose the guns I mentioned in that last sentence are a metaphor for my… Hmm… Writing hands? Yeah, let’s go with that, shall we? My writing hands are holstered but ready to spring out when needed. God, no, that’s dumb, so damn dumb. 

Just forget I wrote that. I’m too lazy to edit it out.

Concerning Research and Tone

I am not a professional writer. Although I do hold a professional writing degree from WVSU, and have shared my writing online for many years, I have never been employed as a writer. That does not mean I treat writing as a hobby; I do not. I love and respect the written word too much to be so flippant. Thus I will never write a post about any subject without using facts and informed speculation. I will never make shit up for anyone’s amusement. I will not however bother with sources unless I feel they are warranted.

Having said that, I should also state that I am, first and foremost, a goofball. I like to make people laugh. Don’t expect this blog to be dry or mirthless. I don’t enjoy writing without a grin on my face, and writing the kind of boring, heartless tripe published by many websites today ain’t my idea of fun, so expect a lot of silly shite here. Again, I must say that does not mean I won’t treat any subject with sincere respect, but don’t expect me to write about speeding hedgehogs and fireball-hurling plumbers without a little frivolity.

Furthermore, don’t expect impersonal “one such as” or “should one choose” or whatever the hell people write to avoid saying “you” instead. “One”–whoever the hell that is–isn’t reading this piece, but you are. I don’t need to know you to speak to you directly, as if it is just you and me here. As far as the writer-reader exchange goes it is just the two of us. Just don’t expect back rubs. I don’t know you that well, dear reader.