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PlayStation 4 - News • Discussion • Community

2010.05.17 23:15 BitWarrior PlayStation 4 - News • Discussion • Community

The largest PlayStation 4 community on the internet. Your hub for everything related to PS4 including games, news, reviews, discussion, questions, videos, and screenshots.

2023.03.30 00:30 AutoModerator General Questions Thread, March 29, 2023

A thread for new collectors to ask basic questions of the community.
Frequently Asked Questions below!
A longer version of the subreddit rules is here.
For questions specifically concerning bootlegs or vendor legitimacy, please ask in the Bootleg Megathread.
NSFW & Spoiler Guidelines
  • For Self Posts: include a bolded NSFW note next to links in that post.
  • For Links to sites/images: If the figure is NSFW, or the website has any NSFW content (including ads) be sure to tag your post NSFW and use the appropriate link flair.
Any collection posts containing bootlegs, comments advocating buying bootlegs, or links to sites selling bootlegs, recasts, or unlicensed merchandise will be removed.
People often ask about the legitimacy and/or safety of a number of websites which sell large resin statues. The more commonly-asked of those deal primarily in resins from studios which do not have a license from the Japanese IP holders to produce merchandise. Therefore links to those sites are not permitted here. Another sign is if MyFigureCollection doesn't list the either the statue, its manufacturer, or the shop it's being sold on.
My Figure Collection is like MyAnimeList... but for figures! Their database includes thousands of items which been produced during the last couple of decades, along with reviews of shops and other helpful articles. One can also list their own collection and post gallery photos.
AmiAmi HobbySearch Mandarake (sells rare figures) Good Smile Company Online Shop (often has exclusives) Good Smile Company US shop Crunchyroll Shop Hobby Link Japan (aka HLJ) Solaris Japan (MFC partner) BigBadToyStore (MFC partner, US retailer) Big in Japan (also has proxy service) Tokyo Otaku Mode Right Stuf FigureHaven Archonia (EU) Yorokonde (EU) Figuya (EU) Dekai Anime (UK) Gamersheek (UK) Jungle
List of retailers on MFC
/AnimeFigures' List of Retailers
Community Guide to Shopping in Japan
Nekomagic (News/Previews) NyaaFigurines (Reviews/Releases) Kahotan's Blog (News/Reviews) Figma Blog (JP)

Buying & Shipping

1. What’s the best place to buy my anime figures from?
That’s going to depend a lot on what works for you, but most people around here buy them from Amiami, Big in Japan, Hobby Search, HobbyLink Japan, or Tokyo Otaku Mode. If none of those work for you for whatever reason, there’s a list of reputable retailers in the sidebar that you can check out at any time. Be extra careful when ordering figures from websites like Amazon or ebay, as there are a lot of bootlegs on those sites. Don’t be afraid to ask in our Bootleg Megathread if you’re unsure.
2. What differences are there between the shipping options I get from most Japanese shops?
Below is a rundown of the main shipping choices you’ll get at most retailers. Keep in mind that if an order is large enough you will be forced to use one of the more expensive options, as SAL shipments have lower size and weight restrictions.
  • Unregistered SAL: Sometimes referred to as uSAL, is usually the cheapest method. It does not come with any tracking or insurance. Usually takes up 2-4 weeks for delivery.
  • Registered SAL: Sometimes referred to as rSAL, is insured for the declared value up to 6,000 yen. It comes with a tracking number and usually takes 2-4 weeks for delivery.
  • EMS: This method of shipping is much faster than either SAL options, usually arriving within a week of shipment. EMS shipments are insured for the declared value up to 2,000,000 yen.
  • Airmail
  • E-packet
  • Surface: Shops don't offer this very often. It's an actual cargo ship and slow as a result.
  • DHL: Becoming more available as an alternative to EMS on AmiAmi and other sites. Can be less expensive than EMS and of comparable speed, but may be more reliant on the specific geographical area being shipped to. The price is also determined by the size of the box. Offers their own tracking.
3. I placed two+ orders for figures at different times. Will my items be shipped together, or will I have to pay shipping twice?
Most shops will ask you to pay shipping on a per-order basis, but here are some that will allow combined shipping:
  • Amiami: You can combine orders here, as long as the orders ship in the same month. It doesn’t matter if the item is new or preowned. Any preorders that are set for that month can also be combined with other orders for that month. However, be aware that if the preorder gets delayed, Amiami will remove that item from that month’s shipment and place it on a new order. To combine orders on Amiami, use the “Combine Orders” feature under “My Account”.
  • Hobby Search: Hobby Search will let you combine orders that release in the same month, but you cannot combine in stock items with preorders. If you want to combine multiple preorders, or multiple in stock items, you can do so using the “Order Recombination” feature on your account page.
  • HobbyLink Japan: At HLJ, you have the option to send paid orders to their “Private Warehouse”, where you can store them for up to 2 months. When you’re ready to ship the items, you simply select which items to ship and HLJ will combine them into one shipment for you. To use this, just select the “Private Warehouse” option as shipping when you order.
If you’re unsure about whether or not a shop we haven’t listed will combine your orders, please refer to their individual FAQs.
4. When will I get charged for my preorder?
Most Japanese shops charge you once the item is in stock and ready for shipment. When that happens, they will send you an email asking for payment. Some shops (mostly overseas ones), will allow you to pay for the item up front though, if you’d like. A few with that option are:
  • Big in Japan (Japanese store)
  • Tokyo Otaku Mode
  • Anime Island
  • Crunchyroll
Keep in mind that overseas stores will likely get the figure a few months after Japanese ones, so pay attention to the release date stated on the website you are buying from so as to avoid that confusion.
5. Should I expect to pay customs fees when importing figures?
That depends on where you live. Here’s a quick rundown:
  • Australia: 10% GST is now assessed up front.
  • Canada: Minimum declared value for charges is around CAD$20 for regular shipments, and CAD$60 for gifts (gifting something only seems to lower the declared value by about CAD$40, not deplete it completely). When using Amiami, try their Small Air Packet option. It comes with tracking, gets there in about the same time as EMS, and is better at avoiding customs.
  • European Union: As of 1st July 2021, VAT has to be paid on all goods imported from outside of the EU. Retailers are supposed charge VAT for purchases under €150, however many Japanese retailers currently do not, so VAT will be charged when your order arrives in the EU. Orders that are >€150, VAT and duty will be charged by your local customs.
  • UK: As of 1st January 2021, VAT is to be charged by retailers for orders <£135. However, customs isn't currently charging VAT on parcels valued at <£135, even if the VAT hasn't been paid. Goods >£135 will have their VAT and duty calculated and charged by customs.
  • Mexico: Minimum declared value for customs fees is USD$300 for shipments by post, and USD$50 for shipments by courier.
  • United States: A shipment has to have a declared value of USD$2,000 before customs starts hitting you with fees, so you most likely won’t have to worry about them at all.
6. The figure I want is an exclusive, how do I go about ordering one outside of Japan?
You have three options for this:
A. Big in Japan is known to stock exclusive figures and ship to other countries. Usually the price is higher because they build in their proxy fees, but it’s easier than worrying about using a forwarder or proxy service. If you live in the US, Crunchyroll, Right Stuf, and Tokyo Otaku Mode also get exclusives sometimes, but out of the states the shipping can get expensive.
B. Forwarding Services: A forwarder is someone who you ship an exclusive item to so that they can forward the package on to you, usually for a flat fee + shipping. When using a forwarder you still make the purchase yourself, and enter their address into the shipping field. When the box arrives at the forwarder they will then stick your address onto the package and send it on its way.
Some popular forwarders are:
Be sure to read each sites instructions on forwarding carefully!
C. Proxy Services: With a proxy, you tell them what the item you’re looking for is and they will purchase it in your stead. This is handy for when a company doesn’t accept foreign credit cards, or you’re having trouble navigating a Japanese website.
Some popular proxies are:
Again, be sure you thoroughly read through each sites proxy instructions.
7. I see a bunch of really cheap figures that ship from China on ebay. Are those okay to buy?
Generally, no. They’re most likely bootlegs. If you want a second opinion on that, feel free to ask in the Bootleg Megathread that’s always stickied at the top of the sub.
8. What’s a bootleg, and how can I avoid buying them?
A bootleg is a counterfeit figure often made using rejected molds of the official product. They are usually priced significantly lower than the genuine article, and in order to make their profit, bootleggers use lower quality materials and have less attention to detail- resulting in a substandard figure.
The Bootleg Megathread that I mentioned in question 7 is a great tool to avoid buying any bootlegs. It has a few tips and tricks to avoiding them to begin with, and a few more on how to spot them if you’re worried you might already own one.
9. Does anyone know when figure X is going to be released? How do I know if it was delayed?
My Figure Collection (sometimes referred to as MFC) does an excellent job of staying on top of information like release dates and delays. If you’re curious about an upcoming figures release date, check there first. This information can be found directly under the “Releases” section on a figure’s entry. If you only see a month and a year in that section, it means the release date has not yet been announced by the manufacturer, and there is still a chance the figure could be delayed.
If you make an account on MFC you can also subscribe to comments, changes, and pictures via a checkbox on the right hand side of a figure’s listing. Subscribing to any of these things will allow MFC to send you an email anytime the subscription in question updates. Subscribing to “changes” is a great way to keep up with release dates and delays, among other things.
10. The figure I want is long sold out at normal retailers! What’s the best place to pick it up in the aftermarket?
A list of reputable retailers can be found under the “Shops” section of the /AnimeFigures sidebar. They all sell legitimate products, and many of them also sell figures second hand. However, the most frequently suggested second hand sites are Mandarake and Amiami- who has a preowned section that they update every night save Sundays and Japanese holidays around 1PM JST and again around 6PM JST.
AmiAmi grades their pre-owned items on a letter scale. The general consensus from buyers is that their ratings are conservative, so unless the item and/or packaging is specifically indicated as having significant flaws, pre-owned items from them are usually in at least as good a condition as their rating suggests.
Note: When you search Mandarake, you’ll get the best results by using the Japanese characters for whatever you are searching. If you don’t know them, you can find them on MFC by clicking on any of the “details” in that figure’s listing.
11. Amiami has a figure I’m interested in labeled as “For sale in Japan only”. Does this mean I can’t order it without a proxy or forwarder?
No, you can still order it. Amiami’s English site has that warning on many items, and it’s mostly meant to inform you that this product was made for a Japanese market, and as such, will have Japanese speaking/writing in it- so don’t expect any instructions to be in English. If Amiami doesn’t want foreigners buying a certain product, they won’t even list it on their English site.

Displaying Your Figures

12. What display cases do you recommend?
If you live near an Ikea try out one of these:
*If you decided on a Detolf, you might find that there is a lot of wasted space. Here are a few tutorials on raising the shelves or and adding extra ones in.
If you don’t live near an Ikea, Amazon has a few display options, though they are more expensive. Also keep an eye on your local Craigslist (or your country’s equivalent) and stores near you that are closing up.
13. What lighting do you guys recommend?
Ikea’s Dioder LED strips were discontinued after a long run. A current version is the Vattensten, if you're inclined to buy your case and lights at the same time.
LED strips have become very commonly available in recent years; most hardware and home furnishing stores carry a selection now. Just make sure that the lights don’t get too hot!
14. What are those clear plastic boxes that I see under everyone’s figures in their collection posts, and where can I get them?
Those are called risers. Most of us use standard acrylic risers like these. Some other, easy to find things that have been suggested are:
Check your local hobby store for the first 2 options, or your local hardware store if you want to make your own.
Another common suggestion is to visit The Container Store if you have one near you. They have a lot of things to choose from that can suit a variety of needs. Be sure to check out their standard acrylic risers, their Amac boxes, and the various display cases they sell (baseball cases, mini car cases. hockey puck cases, etc).
15. Should I keep my figures sealed?
That is, of course, up to you really, but here are a few things to keep in mind when debating this question:
  • Keeping it sealed can actually damage your figure. PVC figures usually have something called plasticizer in them, and that plasticizer needs to be able to breath. If a PVC figure isn’t exposed to oxygen, after a period of time the plasticizer starts to break down and form a sticky substance on the surface of the figure. Simply opening your figures and taking them out of the box prevents this from happening. If you happen to find plasticizer goo on one of your figures, Kahotan has a handy guide for dealing with it.
  • Unlike some other figure markets, keeping an anime figure sealed won’t raise its value by a whole lot. In fact, because of the plasticizer problem mentioned above, your figure could actually be in better condition if you open it versus keeping it sealed.

Finding the Right Figure(s) for You

16. What are "scales" and "prizes"? What is the difference between them?
Those are classifications for figures based on a few factors.
  • "Prizes" are generally more simply produced figures which are intended to be given as prizes for playing arcade games such as claw machines. They are inexpensive and lack the detail of scale figures, though some prize figure lines have standouts which may approach lower-end scales in quality. That is uncommon and often depends on the individual figure.
  • "Scales" are called such because they are nominally designed to be proportional to the dimensions of the character which they are based on. They are generally of much better manufacture and materials than prize figures, allowing for more detail in painting, accessories, or complex poses.
  • "Trading" figures appear in gashapon machines or as blind boxes on shop counters, often as sets which include multiple characters. As suggested by the class name, the randomness encourages trading. They are usually very inexpensively-produced, though as with prizes, some series are better than others.
  • "Non-scale" encompasses a variety of other categories. It is often used to encompass poseable figure lines such as figma (which actually do fit inside a broad scale classification) and Nendoroids.
In recent years producers such as Good Smile Company have attempted to further bridge the gap between prize quality and scales by introducing figure lines which are intended to be moderately-priced while retaining a higher level of detail than the typical prize figure.
17. There are so many figure companies! Who makes good figures?!
Obviously this is a very subjective question, but as a general starting point, here are a few well renowned figure companies:
  • Alter
  • Max Factory
  • Good Smile Company
  • Kotobukiya (usually hit or miss for people. Use your best judgement based off of the prototype)
  • Flare
  • Stronger
18. I really love “series X / character X”- how can I check if any figures were ever made for it?
My Figure Collection can be your best friend here. Simply do a search on the name of the series or character using the search bar located at the top right of the screen, and all associated figures pop up!
Alternatively, if you’re looking at a figure’s MFC entry, most of the text under the “Details” section can be clicked on and used to run a search.
19. How can I commission a custom figure?
None of the major figure companies (Alter, Kotobukiya, Good Smile Company, etc.) will take a commission for a single figure. This thread has a few websites in it that you can check out, or you can look into garage kits. Some kit painters would be willing to resculpt, frankenstein together, or otherwise modify kits for the right price.
If you're looking for help completing a garage kit, /brushforhire may be useful.

Keeping Up with New Announcements

20. How can I keep up with figure news (announcements, updates, etc.)?
Most people use a MFC combined with any or all of the following news sites:
Many figure companies are active on Twitter, so following them there is recommended for quicker news.
To use MFC for this I’ll quote question #9.
If you make an account on MFC you can also subscribe to comments, changes, and pictures via a checkbox on the right hand side of a figure’s listing. Subscribing to any of these things will allow MFC to send you an email anytime the subscription in question updates. Subscribing to “changes” is a great way to keep up with release dates and delays, among other things.
Most companies have one or more Twitter accounts. Some examples: Good Smile Company sales, Good Smile's USA branch, Max Factory, AmiAmi Hobby News.
21. Everyone’s excited about something called Wonfes….. what the heck is that?!
WonFes (short for Wonder Festival) is a biannual figure expo where many figure producers (both large and small) show off new sculpts and updates to figures already under way. Most companies save their most exciting announcements for WonFes, so we all look forward to the expo whenever it rolls around! Winter Wonder Festival is usually held in February, while Summer Wonder Festival is usually in July. The event has also spread to Shanghai, in the late spring.
22. One or two (or 15) figures were announced at WonFes that I’m really excited about! How can I keep track of their progress once the event is over?
MFC is always really quick about getting new WonFes announcements (or any others throughout the year, for that matter) listed in their database, so we suggest using that. To find a figure from the event you can search any number of things, including the name of the character or the name of the show. You can also use the tag search to search “WonderFestival 20xx_[season]” to see all items announced at that event.
submitted by AutoModerator to AnimeFigures [link] [comments]

2023.03.30 00:19 unnamed_accounts Gaining Weight and Strength

Hey, looking for advice on getting bigger! i will include details about myself and my goals to help show my body type and past history with training.
I’ve been ‘skinny’ my whole life yet athletic and fit. I am currently 20 years old weighing 140 at 5’11”.
I started seriously training hard in 8th grade, and continued until the end of my senior year of high school. i would say as a sophomore is about when i went from training hard and intense to training hard as fuck and intense as fuck😂fr. i was still skinny and wanted to get bigger for sports reasons. I had always been able to get stronger, the gains in strength and durability even were always there. however even at my very best physique at whatever point of highschool that was (likely senior year) i was still skinny. at best my muscles were a little more defined yet still very small. the strength i had gained made a phenomenal effect of my athletic performance, however as my organized competitive athletics ‘career’ came to an end, I my goals went from wanting to get stronger to wanting to get bigger. for obvious reasons. my strength/weight ratio had been very good if not very impressive for some time now.
after highschool, i trained intermittently, gradually less and less until about halfway through my second semester in college. i knew i wasn’t training enough for gains but eventually stopped anyways due to numerous reasons that all came from me being in college for the first time.
anyways i’ve gotten my membership back last week, and plan to continue lifting. let me tell ya, that two day sore after no lifting for a year at least was brutal😂 it feels good to be back though. with this, i am looking for advice on what i can do to help build size. the strength will always come for me, yet gaining size is something i’ve hardly been able to scratch the surface of. i’m hoping one of you has some tips on getting bigger as a skinny guy, thanks.
submitted by unnamed_accounts to WeightTraining [link] [comments]

2023.03.30 00:14 Greedy-Archer8675 i can’t stop stalking my old friends

i really need to get this one out for other perspectives.I (f 16)had been apart of an online friendgroup that barely lasted a year from 2020 until 2021.Things ended on extremely bad terms and i dont really want to go into details but ill briefly summarise.Things had been problematic around the group members because of issues we couldnt handle because of bad communication or just being too afraid to speak up.So of course these issues just escalated further until some of including me drifted away slowly.The friendgroup parted in a way that we basically had groups within the group,you know.But that wasnt really a solution for me and my other friends who were deeply hurt by the action of the other people in the group.Since i cant hand out names ill just say that we were 7 people,1 was not always active inside of the group but we were still all close with them separately,leaving 6 active members.And from those 6 people there was a formed trio that slowly started to drift away and do things together as a trio and just excluding the rest.That also includes just blatantly ditching on us when we had plans all together.One example was that me and two friends of the group were actively watching a show together(this was known to the other members and of course sometimes we had another friend watching an episode with us,we were act rlly glad ab that.This was all done in a discord server we all were in too)and when we finally got a night to continue watching together as we couldn’t due to busy schedules,that one friend who was in that infamous trio just basically ditched us to be in a voice call(that was again,very public to our eyes since we had a privat server for all of us)with the said trio.That pissed me off very much and that person,lets call them M noticed that very much too but only texted our friend about it without reaching out to me.I only found out about that after the conflict after the friend(not M)reached out to me. But now to the conflict part.Unfortunately all of those bottled up emotions escalated so that we,the remaining three,snapped.We werent really nice about approaching it since we were pissed and basically letting out all of those ugly bottled up emotions.I personally regret lashing out to a very specific person of that trio because i used to be very close to them.But the day after the conflict we made a small groupchat(we had a discord server and an imessage group,as well as each others various social medias)talking about how we shouldnt have lashed out too much.That lead to me apologising to M but not to the person I lashed out on.Oh sorry,let me make it a bit clearer. The trio contained of person P,person M and person T.So basically the day after the conflict P sends this long paragraph saying that they want to work out things for themselves and wanting to leave the group.I dont know why,but i never apologised to P,most definitely because i thought i was right at the moment.I dont know if im a bad person for this,but i personally dont think my lashing out specifically on person P was uncalled for.I sure regret some snarky comments i made but i also still deeply cared about them.I was a hurt kid (it was around middle school quarantine times i was in the group)at the time and also remember crying after sending my last text to person P.And i think you can guess where im leading on to. After person P left the group,the rest of the trio suddenly did not want to talk things through.Person M ignored our texts and person T had a weird change in behaviour. Cutting this whole thing short since it wasnt what i wanted to talk to in the friend place:Person P deletes all of their social media that we have of them and person T and M leave the group too. That for matter of fact had me raging. And here comes the main thing,after some months my friend(f 17)of the old friendgroup (whom i still have a very close relationship with)sends me a very sketchy twitter account.It was person P. Oh boy i was livid.P basically made a whole new internet identity in which they continued to post their regular stuff.They had a new name which they had on various platforms like tiktok too and even blocked us on our main accounts meaning they really wanted to avoid us specifically.Fortunately(or actually unfortunately)my friend and i had privat accs on tiktok which we got back on to after the fallout.I personally didnt want to go on my main acc anymore because it just hurt me so much.And then hell just begun honestly. That friend and i never healed,i blame it on us being teenagers but also just on our personalities.Were both quite emotional and really deep in touch with our inner conflicts.We often reflect our behaviour and see it as wrong but we also cant stop.So yeah,we started to stalk Person P on a regular basis,at least me.As i also said before,person P and me were very close before the conflict and we also had a lot of common interest and unfortunately trauma bonding too.I couldnt really let go because i was just so confused on how quick person P was to move on as i was still really emotionally unstable.Some months later person P deleted all of their social media again but recently,after almost a year theyre back.This time i found out when i jokingly went through the twitter following of person M who didnt block me on twitter.Thats actually something i do to friends and such too its just when im bored really.Except i didnt actively stalk person M,it just came into my mind after months and thats when i saw it.And also to make one thing clear,my friend and i didn’t actively try to stalk or find out any new information about all of them.Since only person P deleted all of their social media,we of course still had access to M and Ts platforms so we sometimes would check them out to see what theyre up to.Thats also not a good thing to do and i acknowledge that but thats also my main problem.So back to the story,Person P made another acc.Its the same internet identity though.And as much as i said i healed from this to my friends,im still deeply hurt.I feel betrayed in a way,that person P said they wanted to work out on themselves but still were so close with the former trio members.Im still so bitter about it and i cant stop checking their acc,looking if they posted anything.Im also having a lot of impulsive thoughts,like commenting on their acc with an acc that they couldnt mistake as anyone but me(i didnt do it and i dont plan on doing it just to keep my pride)but i want a reaction,a conformation that they still think of me because i cant stop.I dont know if i should ever text them.I still have their number on my old phone but i blocked them so i stop myself from impulsively texting.I just cant stop those impulsiv thoughts.I want to have one last conversation with all of them,but mostly also with P.But ill regret it and honestly i dont want to be friends with them anymore.But i cant stop this obsession and that my friend is also as deep as i am in it doesnt help me Im just still really hurt and i dont know what to do about it.Sometimes i wish i never met them at all I also tried to really control myself and stop me from checking out their accounts and it honestly didnt help me really much,it only made the catching up on information when i finally gave up my self restraints make me feel worse.And i know thats just a me problem that i need to work on myself but i really need advice on how to heal properly.Because nothing really works.Im still haunted by all of those 'what ifs' and if they all think about me like i think about them too. I find it ridiculous that this whole thing is still bothering me and i honestly needed to rant about this
submitted by Greedy-Archer8675 to offmychest [link] [comments]

2023.03.29 23:44 ReinhardtEichenvalde We are not here to learn lessons, we are here to explore

This is my theory of why reincarnation happens born from me researching NDE's, biology, and ancient religions. I believe that consciousness, which we call "god", is an emergent property that exists outside the material universe and was possibly born with the universe. It's pretty clear that life is innately composed of consciousness, and it uses matter to sustain itself in this very universe. That explains why most microbes are essentially immortal unless they take damage or are eaten by other microbes.
Think of the four greek classical elements: Water, earth, fire, and air, and a fifth element called "ether". I believe that is what consciousness is. Photosynethic bacteria are composed of minerals, they take heat from the sun, use water for chemical reactions, and absorb or produce air. But how would the greeks know this is what caused life?
I believe that consciousness can absorb information and in the process take it back to the other realm. This is why life gets more and more complex, because it learns more about the material world, and thus organisms can get more and more evolved. After all, how does it make sense that random mutations can suddenly cause multicellular life from single celled organisms?
It's quite clear that we all started off as these small single celled organisms as mere sparks and eventually as they died, the came back. Why? Because consciousness has an innate need to explore this universe and will do anything to ensure that. So souls began doing what they needed to fulfill that mission.
However, that also means that our "god" really only cares about us collectively instead of individually. After all, why would it? It simply needs us to explore this universe and will allow us to diversify to do that. Species go extinct all the time because they can't fit their environment. Human populations have plummeted multiple times in history, and yet we all keep getting more intelligent.
It's quite clear that our souls come here to experience life, but we all have different ways of achieving that. That's why some of us like to learn, that's why some of us want to reproduce and other's don't, that's why some of us are born prodigies and seem to pick up on things faster than others. I think it's because our brains have evolved to filter consciousness much more easily. It also explains why we get bored and seek out new experiences when we become too comfortable.
The idea that we are here to learn lessons is incredibly flawed because learning lessons is a result and not really a goal. Not to mention it conveniently ignores a lot of suffering. There are people who are born into slavery and will never leave slavery their entire life. They spend their entire lives taking commands and being told not to think for themselves. That goes against the entire concept of Karma and is completely out of the control of slaves.
Not to mention there are some people who are born in such opulence and affluence that they are driven by stimulation. They don't have a single original thought in their head and are essentially infantilized by society because they have capital. What lesson can a pampered individual learn in this life?
There are children who die in all stages of pregnancy. There are children who will be killed by cancer, a biological disorder before they can even utter their first word. They can't learn lessons.
It's quite clear when you look at the history of this form of reincarnation it was written by people who were already born into wealth and had all their needs met. Not to mention it's simply from their point of view. I believe that since our brains still aren't evolved enough to consider all perspectives, our true understanding of the nature of the universe get's muddied by our inherent biases.
To me it seems that reincarnation is simply a naturalistic process with the goal of making life more complex so that it can increase the survival or organisms in this world. Life itself started on the sea, then moved into land, and then into the air. Due to human ingenuity it's now possible that we can even bring life to other planets. I believe consciousness wants to explore the entire universe and that's why it allows reincarnation.
submitted by ReinhardtEichenvalde to Reincarnation [link] [comments]

2023.03.29 23:35 GuardMost8477 Entitled Dad

Just found this sub and am sure after 32 years at a high end retailer I could share some stories.
This one was more recent so I’ll share this. My Store is located in a very affluent city just outside of DC in the MD suburbs. It’s not uncommon to see many expensive cars in the area. What is uncommon is to see a screaming red, badass Ferrari parked in a spot that’s clearly designated by signs for “Pregnant Women or those with Small Children.” I was pulling into work and saw the car go into the spot. Mind you there were plenty of spaces open with no other cars nearby further back in the parking garage. I thought, wow. Either that’s a cool pregnant lady, or, can you fit a car seat in the passenger seat of a Ferrari, or, could it just be an entitled prick. Take one guess. A perfectly able man gets out of the drivers seat, followed by his perfectly able teenage daughter in her private school uniform and they stroll into the store. Had I not been working I probably would have rolled the window down and said something, but I chose to stay gainfully employed at the time.
Great example that Dad was for his kid. Yeah honey. The rules don’t apply to us. Just the peasants. Lord. I don’t fault anyone for doing well in life and liking expensive nice things. What I do fault is arrogant, entitled jerks like this.
submitted by GuardMost8477 to EntitledPeople [link] [comments]

2023.03.29 23:34 TooFineTony Elly De La Cruz 1st Bowman Chrome Auto FS/T. Price and players I’m looking to trade for in comments.

Elly De La Cruz 1st Bowman Chrome Auto FS/T. Price and players I’m looking to trade for in comments. submitted by TooFineTony to baseballcards [link] [comments]

2023.03.29 23:31 SunsetRunner04 Graduate Student: Best place for beginner fitness training on campus?

I will be starting grad school at OISE at the St. George campus next fall! As someone who has never worked out at a gym before, but wants to tone my legs and arms, train for future marathons, and more generally establish a healthy active lifestyle in my 20’s, I’m looking for on-campus gyms that support compete newbies in making fitness gains (e.g, drop in classes, staff who help with using equipment and maintaining proper form, tours).
I’m not sure about what will be covered in terms of gym membership once I enter grad school, but it would be ideal if I could use the facilities without having to pay extra.
Does anyone have any suggestions? Thanks.
submitted by SunsetRunner04 to OISE [link] [comments]

2023.03.29 23:30 Few-Distance156 West Niagara high school set to open in September 2023

West Niagara high school set to open in September 2023
Students in Grimsby, Lincoln, and West Lincoln will soon have a new high school to attend. The West Niagara Secondary School, which has been under construction since 2021, is expected to open in September 2023.
The new school is located on 20 acres of land on Durham Road, fronting on to King Street, on the border of Grimsby and Beamsville. The school will accommodate up to 1,500 students from grades 9 to 12 and will offer a range of programs and services, including Specialist High Skills Majors, French Immersion, and International Baccalaureate.
The school will also feature state-of-the-art facilities, such as a triple gymnasium, a fitness centre, a library learning commons, a cafeteria with a stage, a music room, an art room, a drama room, a greenhouse, and a technology wing.
The school is part of the District School Board of Niagara’s (DSBN) plan to consolidate three existing high schools in West Niagara: Beamsville District Secondary School, Grimsby Secondary School, and South Lincoln High School. The plan was approved by the DSBN board of trustees in 2017 after a public consultation process.
The DSBN says that the new school will provide more opportunities for students to learn and grow in a modern and innovative environment. The school will also foster a sense of community and belonging among students and staff from different backgrounds and areas.
The DSBN invites the public to attend its open house events to learn more about the new school and its programs. The open house events will take place on November 28 at the Grimsby Campus, November 29 at the Beamsville Campus, and December 1 at the Smithville Public School.
More information about the new school can be found on the DSBN website and the West Niagara Secondary School website.
submitted by Few-Distance156 to NiagaraNews [link] [comments]

2023.03.29 23:30 StepwiseUndrape574 GTA V Added To Xbox Game Pass, Possible GTA 6 Release Date News Emerges

Fans of Grand Theft Auto V, who don't already have the game on Xbox One, will be happy to hear about the latest news from Microsoft. The game has been added to Xbox Game Pass, so players with a valid subscription can play the game on the console. GTA V launched back in 2013 and remains a very popular game thanks to online content updates and a massive modding community.
GTA V is also one of the most viewed games on Twitch and is regularly in the top five games on Steam. Rockstar hit a home run with GTA V, and adding it for free to Xbox Game Pass may bring gamers to the franchise that haven't yet tried it out. For Xbox One gamers with an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate or Xbox Live Gold membership, access to the frequently updated Grand Theft Auto Online service is included. One sad bit of news is that GTA V is only offered on the console; it's not available on the PC with Game Pass.
While GTA V is still wildly popular, fans are clamoring for the next installment in the franchise: GTA 6. GTA 6 details recently leaked from a claimed beta tester and enticed us with visions of the game. A new rumor claims that GTA 6 won't launch until 2021, however, nothing official from Rockstar has been offered about GTA 6 so far.
The leak from a few days back was posted on Reddit and was later removed by moderators there. It's unclear if Rockstar pressured them to delete the content, but the leaker claimed that the game has a huge map that covers two major cities, Carcer City and Vice City, said to be based on Boston and Miami, respectively. True or not, GTA V fans are looking forward to GTA 6, even if it is a year or more away.
submitted by StepwiseUndrape574 to gta5moddedoutfits_ [link] [comments]

2023.03.29 23:15 Blakeroid [Store] 30 Knives, 100 Playskins, 10+ Crafts AK Case Hardened T3, 4x Stockholm Holo Crafts, 4x Antwerp Holo Crafts, 4x MLG Holo Crafts

I'm only looking for trade offers, not intrested in cash trading.
(Prices updated 03/27-2023)


Steam Profile
Name Exterior and Float Buyout (BUFF Value) Sticker Price
AK-47 Case HardenedTier 3 #867 Blue Mag FT 0.19 $ 304,95 $18.26
StatTrak™ AK-47 Blue Laminate Crown (Foil) and Krakow Gold, "Scream AK" FT $ 275,91 $1283,11
M4A1-S Printstream4x G2 (Holo) Stockholm 2021 FT 0.24 $ 159,00
USP-S Blueprint 4x Cloud9 (Holo)Antwerp 2022 MW 0.09 $ 101,00
StatTrak™ Glock-18 Water Elemental 4x Movistar Riders (Holo)Stockholm 2021 FN 0.02 $ 99,00
AK-47 Neon Rider 4x Liquid Fire (Holo) MW 0.09 $ 98,00 $74,48
MP9 Hot Rod 4x G2 (Holo) MLG Columbus 2016 FN 0.02 $ 87,13
AK-47 Bloodsport 4x NAVI (Holo) Stockholm 2021 (3 scraped once) FT $ 82,08
AK-47 Nightwish 4x FURIA (Holo)Antwerp 2022 FT 0.18 $ 65,00
UMP-45 Blaze 4x G2 (Holo) MLG Columbus 2016 FN 0.03 $ 50,82
AK-47 The Empress4x Furia (Holo) Stockholm 2021 FT $ 42,12
M4A1-S Nightmare 4x Team Spirit (Holo) Stockholm 2021 FT 0.18 $ 23,50
Desert Eagle Midnight Storm MW $ 18,33 $68,12
Name Exterior Buyout
★ Skeleton Knife Crimson Web WW $ 1077,62
★ M9 Bayonet Autotronic FT $ 956,57
★ Butterfly Knife Urban Masked MW $ 713,27
★ Ursus Knife Fade (90.5%) FN 0.03 $ 652,03
★ Flip Knife Doppler (Phase 4) FN 0.05 $ 537,19
★ Hand Wraps Cobalt Skulls FT 0.16 $ 626,00
★ Sport Gloves Nocts FT 0.16 $ 490,00
★ Bayonet Damascus Steel MW 0.07 $ 402,58
★ Stiletto Knife Damascus Steel FT 0.17 $ 319,64
★ Skeleton Knife Boreal Forest FT $ 305,81
★ Survival Knife Case Hardened #35 60% Blue WW $ 257,00
★ Sport Gloves Scarlet Shamagh WW $ 237,37
★ Falchion Knife $ 203,44
★ Bowie Knife $ 190,48
★ Survival Knife Crimson Web BS $ 189,24
★ Stiletto Knife Night Stripe BS $ 181,30
★ Survival Knife Stained MW $ 179,34
★ Ursus Knife Night Stripe MW $ 172,42
★ Stiletto Knife Scorched BS $ 169,65
★ Stiletto Knife Forest DDPAT BS $ 167,47
★ Gut Knife Slaughter FN $ 167,45
★ Stiletto Knife Safari Mesh BS $ 166,01
★ Ursus Knife Damascus Steel FT 0.20 $ 163,10
★ Huntsman Knife Black Laminate FT $ 158,44
StatTrak™ AWP Asiimov WW $ 157,13
★ Huntsman Knife Black Laminate WW $ 152,91
★ Flip Knife Safari Mesh FT $ 147,08
★ Flip Knife Scorched FT $ 145,26
StatTrak™ AK-47 Bloodsport FT $ 134,70
★ Classic Knife Urban Masked FT $ 131,06
★ Moto Gloves Eclipse WW $ 118,68
★ Gut Knife Blue Steel MW $ 110,67
USP-S Printstream MW $ 103,10
★ Huntsman Knife Rust Coat BS $ 100,70
★ Survival Knife Scorched FT $ 100,48
★ Survival Knife Safari Mesh FT $ 96,99
★ Shadow Daggers Stained FT $ 87,16
★ Navaja Knife Safari Mesh FT $ 69,83
Desert Eagle Printstream MW $ 69,39
AWP Containment Breach FT $ 68,73
USP-S The Traitor FN $ 53,66
M4A4 Bullet Rain FN $ 52,93
M4A4 In Living Color FN $ 48,35
StatTrak™ P250 Undertow FN $ 45,87
StatTrak™ AWP Neo-Noir FT $ 45,70
M4A1-S Player Two MW $ 44,20
M4A4 Neo-Noir FN $ 37,13
Desert Eagle Kumicho Dragon FN $ 34,80
SSG 08 Blood in the Water MW $ 33,42
AK-47 Nightwish FT $ 22,92
AWP Chromatic Aberration FT $ 19,44
M4A1-S Cyrex MW $ 18,11
Sir Bloody Skullhead Darryl The Professionals $ 16,38
StatTrak™ M4A4 Evil Daimyo FN $ 14,42
USP-S Road Rash WW $ 13,93
Galil AR Urban Rubble FN $ 11,33
Elite Trapper Solman Guerrilla Warfare $ 11,21
MAC-10 Stalker FT $ 10,51
M4A4 Desolate Space MW $ 10,34
AK-47 Green Laminate FT $ 10,10
Sawed-Off Kiss♥Love MW $ 8,55​
Buff Store
submitted by Blakeroid to GlobalOffensiveTrade [link] [comments]

2023.03.29 23:10 docXfamas [H] Bundled Games from HB and Fanatical [W] Wishlisted games, PayPal/TF2 keys



MARCH 2023 games
Safe in Our World Charity Bundle 2023
FEBRUARY 2023 games
Survival Instinct Bundle
JANUARY 2023 games
DECEMBER 2022 Monthly Bundle Leftovers
Black Friday VR Voyager's Pack
NOVEMBER 2022 Monthly Bundle Leftovers


Biomutant - LATAM/RU/CIS/SEA/IN key Hero's Hour - TR key
Mainly looking for PayPal (accepting most of the currencies, fees may slightly differ)
MY REP Wishlist
TF2 keys/ Csgo keys
submitted by docXfamas to SteamGameSwap [link] [comments]

2023.03.29 22:52 hydra1280 Rose quartz/pink diamond theory

Although it isn't quite understood how gems came into being, what we know is that they absorb the life magic from different planets to create these gems that seem to sustain their own energy supply. But what is important is the initial conception of gems and what's more, the mere rotation of a gem enables the sustained shifting of a form. Using these pieces of information we can gather that regardless of the current state of the gem, if the gem has its functionality to form still enabled then the physical attributes will present themselves. Although Pink seemed to use the DNA from Greg to rewrite the laws of her constitution, the features of her new appearance as Rose is still evident. The curly hair, chubby body and placement of the gem all present similarities to Rose so it can be said that it is likely that at the very least, Rose kept some of her traits within Steven, now this may not seem as remarkable since humans take the parentage of both parents, and the shifting of forms is physiological with the choice being psychological meaning it mainly applies to current factors. But this gets even crazier when you consider how the design that the gems arise out of, though gems use the life force of worlds to create gems, the gems still take soil along with them in a superheated fashion. Take Amethyst for example, when she formed, she undertook the hue of her rock and was shaped depending on the size of the hole.
But above all, the real kicker is that Steven is a hybrid, his body contains cells just like any other human but it has some sort of reliance or dependence on the gem magic. This gives him a range of abilities but the one to focus on is how Steven can change his body, just like how the gems can create their forms from the rock, the explosion potentially being a rejection of the weaker materials. But when we re-centre this to Steven we can understand that through the projection of his gem powers, it is evident that Pink still has some of her code or information remaining. So though Steven has control and synchronisation with his gem, what we are seeing is not a new life but an evolutionary step where human existence has adapted to the gem and the gem has found the organic life form as a suitable host. But what we also can theorise is that it is not simply a compatibility but an emergence of power and dominance and that has been programmed or decided to self-impose its existence due to a lack of possibilities.
This means that what we are seeing in Steven is not the combination of forces either but a gestation, the diamond within is growing in power and strength through Steven as it takes in the possibilities of organic life. And using Stevens's ability to alter his form, Steven could potentially manipulate the gem's form in such a way by using his shapeshifting ability, this could potentially fast track the rate of evolution or adaptation to Diamond powers. But in the end, the possibility would be more or less, the same:
submitted by hydra1280 to steven_universereddit [link] [comments]

2023.03.29 22:51 RingoCross99 The Adventure Games (Section 3 of 4)

The Adventure Games (Section 3 of 4)
The Adventure Games
By Ringo Cross
(Chapter 2: continued...)
Luckily, I remembered where the room was. I led the way alright. Not because I was told to by some annoying bully, but because I wanted to. We all made our way towards the coffin room. It was in a corridor, at the end of the bunker, with only one other room.
The room was labeled “Mausoleum.” I opened the large steel door and turned on the lights. There were four unmarked coffins on the floor. I didn’t really think much into it at the time, but I did wonder why there were only four coffins and seven people. Not only that but didn’t vampires sleep in coffins? And if they were to have an accident, where would their bodies go? This was all a lot to take in. A thought came to me, I, I—
“Hey, jerkoff! Get out of the way,” Brock growled.
His insult snapped me back into reality. I quickly stepped aside so that he could get by with Aaron’s body. Roger and Markus rushed over and slipped the lid off the first tomb. Brock dumped the body inside. After doing so, he hunched over, placed his hands on his knees, and began to pant. “Damn. I’m out of shape.”
“Dude. You’re ripped,” I told him.
“How much do you think he weighs?”
“167 pounds,” Markus coldly replied.
Brock and I gave each other “that look” before we both shrugged his chilling comment off as a vampire just being his normal creepy self. He looked over at Markus, wiped the sweat from his brow, and told him, “I should be able to carry 167lbs no problem.”
Lisa took one step inside and was like, “Nope. Won’t be doing the coffin challenge.”
“Why not?” Brock asked.
“Too cold!” she shouted back.
“It is freezing in here,” I said.
“Whatever,” she said while leaving.
“Hey? Where’s the girl?” Brock asked.
“I’m right here! I-I don’t wanna look!” she said from the other side of the doorway.
Just then, right when everyone was properly freaked out. Right before any of us could really let the truth of what had happened sink in, the automated voice delivered another eerie message over the loudspeaker:
“Oh, no! Looks like you’ve suffered your first of several inevitable deaths! My condolences to the family. Ha! Just kidding. In all seriousness, please make your way over to the voting room in order to conclude today’s games!
For your convivence, the booth automatically unlocks after a fresh kill! Also, for your convenience, it is located right next to the mausoleum! You can’t miss it! There’s even a sign that says “Democracy” right above the door. Remember, only one person is allowed in at a time. Inside is a booth. There you will vote to see if you can guess who the killer is! If a majority of the votes are right, then the games are over, and you win your prize! If not, then the games will continue! Good luck!”
Chapter 3: Outsight
I woke up around ten in the morning. It was a tough go, trying to sleep after what had happened. Me and my bunkmate, Markus, had a long talk that night. Well, first, I made him swear that he wouldn’t try anything funny, like, you know, brutally murder me in my sleep.
The guy had a rough exterior, but he wasn’t so bad. It took a bit of convincing, but he eventually came to his senses and stopped assuming the worst of me.
I would be lying if I said last night was the worst sleep I ever had. I wouldn’t be lying if I said that it wasn’t too bad. It took a while to drift off. My mind just wouldn’t let things go. I was convinced this was a prank. There was no way Aaron was gone. And even if he was, it was a terrible accident. I was there. I saw the whole thing go down. Trust me... It was a fluke.
A killer amongst us? Nah, that was absurd. I told everyone as much and announced that I had abstained from voting. Coincidentally, I was the first to enter the small room and go into the booth. There was an option to abstain and that’s what I chose. I told everyone else they should do the same when it was their turn to vote.
We were all sensible people. Mostly everyone agreed with me that there was no way any of this was real. I made the sandwich he supposedly choked to death on but come on... sheer coincidence I tell you.
When Markus and I exited from our room the following morning, the first thing we did was hit the showers. The bathrooms were pristine. There was one for males and females, of course. The inside had a private section for showering and changing. I took a long shower and tried to clear my head. Hopefully today would be much smoother, I thought to myself, as I let the water hit my face.
Everyone was lingering around Roger’s room. When I got there, I asked what they were waiting for. Sarah told me they were waiting for him to wake up so they could see what the task was for the day. Brock’s patience wasn’t exactly the most stoic. He asked what time it was. I told him it was almost eleven. That was all he needed to know. He spazzed out and began banging on the door.
Roger opened it. He was wearing a wool robe that had his initial printed on the front. He smiled when he saw us, as if he liked the unwanted attention. Already knowing what all the fuss was over, he reached into his pocket, pulled out a sealed envelope, and without further ado, read aloud what we all were waiting for:
“Oh my, it looks like we have a riddle on our hands. Ahem. Here goes nothing: ‘Task 2: Even though I have fallen from grace, I have aged gracefully. For now, I leave flight to the imagination. And for now, all I can do is envy my feathered brethren who soar amongst stars and skies. I am free at the cost of freedom. We were judged by what was in the hand and not by what was in the heart. It would be a dream come true for us to all fly again together someday. For us to all shine with pride and purpose once more. We did not heed the hand of the Artisan, and like Icarus, we flew too close to the sun.’”
Roger placed a hand to his chin and thought it over. After spending a few seconds racking his brain, he shrugged and simply said, “I’m stumped.”
“Maybe it’s a mythical bird?” Sarah said.
“You mean like a phoenix?” Markus asked.
“Yeah. Or a griffon or something?”
“Nah. Too obvious,” he replied.
She shrugged, “Well, your guess is as good as mine.”
“My guess is Leonard Davinci,” I spoke.
“Hmm. Interesting,” Markus said.
“How is that interesting? And what does any of this have to do with figuring out who the Big Bad Wolf is?” Brock asked with a hint of mockery.
“Well, I think the riddle has something to do with Davinci’s flying machine. Maybe. No, not maybe. I’m sure someone has tried to build one in real life. If we can find out who, then maybe it’s a clue we can use to figure out who this imaginary killer is,” I explained.
“That’s stupid,” Brock said.
“I have to agree with Brock on this one,” Markus said.
“Whatever. Tch, you guys can crack jokes all you like, but I know I’m right about this.”
“Even if you were right. How do we find out without our phones?” Lisa inquired.
“You know there was a world that existed before smart phones?” I replied.
“There was? Yuk,” she spewed.
“Yeah, and we’d have to use this nifty thing called a book if we wanted information.”
“Like, whatever, I’m famished. Any of you see egg whites in the fridge?” she asked.
“You eat egg whites?” Brock inquired.
“Um. Yeah, who doesn’t?” she scoffed.
“I know right,” he chuckled.
“What’re egg whites?” Sarah asked.
“Sweetie, I feel so sorry for you. It must’ve been hard growing up poor,” Lisa crooned. She placed an arm around the girl in a rare display of affection for someone other than herself. “Let’s check the fridge. If they have any, I’ll show you. Oh, and they’re the best at filling you up without filling you out if you know what I mean.”
“Thanks,” Sarah said while blushing.
I blurted out, “Great! While you guys are off stuffing your faces, I’ll try to figure a way out of here. This is a shelter. Only makes sense for them to have a collection of encyclopedias lying around somewhere.”
“You do that, hero-boy. I’m late for my morning workout. Don’t bother me unless you kill someone else.”
“Whatever, dude,” I grumbled back. Then I looked over at Markus and asked him, “You in?”
“You go on ahead, man. I’ll catch up with you in the next life,” he uttered with drifting eyes. I could see that he was focused on Lisa. So much so, he butted into her conversation with Sarah, offering to help cook, which was received surprisingly well by them.
“I’ll go with you,” Roger said.
“What? Really?” I asked.
“Don’t look so surprised.”
“I’m sorry. I-I just wasn’t—”
“I’ve been to a place like this before. I know exactly where they’d keep an old pile of books.”
“Really? You have?”
“Yeah. Once.”
“That’s odd.”
“You really don’t trust me?”
“I’m leaning towards a no.”
The two of us made our way down the hall, past the sleeping quarters, showers, mini gym, and storage facility. During our leisurely stroll, I thought to ask him about his comment about being at a place like this before.
He looked over at me with a charming smile and said, “I’m glad you asked. So, not long ago, oddly enough right, I threw this wicked masquerade party in a bunker for this stupidly rich family of bluebloods.”
“Bluebloods? What’s that.”
“Humph. I forget you’re human. Look, kid, it’s a terribly long story, and I don’t know you all that well. Let’s just say they’re like royalty. They kind of run everything behind the scenes for... never mind.”
“For who?” I asked.
“Oh, look, the study!”
I found it odd and a little suspect that he was avoiding my question. It also wasn’t smart to be stuck in a room with yet another vampire. I hesitated, taking a step back. When he saw my hesitation, he smiled and gestured for me to enter before him. Reading my mind, he laughed and said that he might be a lot of things, but a brute-force killer wasn’t one of them.
I ignored my instincts and followed him into the room. If there was a killer, he was definitely checking off quite a few boxes, I thought to myself. Right before my imagination could really run wild, we heard a loud scream and a hard thud. We looked at each other in disbelief before rushing back down the hall.
When we reached the kitchen, we both stopped dead in our tracks. There stood the two girls screaming and hollering like there was no tomorrow. Sarah was pointing at the ground, but when I looked, there was nothing. Well, other than a knife on the floor.
“What happened?!” Roger exclaimed.
“Markus! He’s, he’s gone,” Lisa stammered.
“What? Where did he go?” I asked.
“He’s dead!” Sarah shouted.
“What? What do you mean he’s dead?”
“He, he got stabbed and, and, oh God!” Lisa cried.
“If he’s dead, where’s the body?” I asked.
Right before they could answer, Brock came crashing into the room. He was sweating and panting from exercise. The look on his face wasn’t pretty. He charged straight over to them and hollered, “This better not be a joke! I was in the middle of my work out!”
“What? No! No!” Sarah sobbed.
“Where’s Markus?!” he shouted.
“He’s gone!” she shouted back.
“This isn’t funny!” Brock yelled. “Nobody interrupts me when I’m working out, and I mean no one! The last person who did paid me back with a swollen lip!”
I stepped in front of him and said, “Hey, come on man. Chill out.”
“Why if it ain’t hero-boy to the rescue.”
“Pretty big of you to threaten a teenager.”
“What are you her knight in shining armor?”
“No. I’m just allergic to assholes like you.”
He shoved me out of his face with one arm, causing me to stumble back quite a bit. His strength caught me off guard. So much so, I quickly realized there was no way I was going to be able to take him down without a weapon of some sort. So, I quickly scooped the blade off the floor and pointed it directly at him. When I did this, he sneered and snorted, calling me craven. Screw it. I was whatever he said I was. I was tired of his stupid-bully-mouth and ready to jab the blade into his thick neck.
I raised the blade, but before I could strike, Roger dashed before me, and grabbed my wrist. I thought Brock’s speed and strength caught me off guard. Ha. Roger was on a whole nother level. I turned my head in his direction and noticed his fangs. He had this look... this twisted hunger about him. It was hard to describe let alone perceive. It was like staring into the eyes of your own custom-made predator. I wasn’t a person anymore. I was food.
“Knock it off, both of you.”
“He started it,” I muttered.
“And you tried to finish it!” Brock shouted.
“Give me the knife.”
“Fine, it’s all yours.”
When I dropped the knife into his hand, he let go of my wrist. While examining the blade, he spoke, “Now. As to your question. Yes, it’s true, his body disappeared. To be precise, it turned to ashes.”
“Woah. How is that even possible?” I asked.
“I don’t know. That’s just what happens when we die,” Roger calmly explained to us.
Brock stared at Sarah and Lisa, while asking, “And how did he die again, ladies?”
Sarah looked away and said, “Me and Lisa were cooking, and he was helping. And, and—"
“If anything, he was doing more flirting than helping. As if I’d date a vampire,” Lisa scoffed while looking down on the spot where he had perished.
Sarah ran her fingers through her blonde hair in frustration and angst. She pointed at the ham on the counter and said, “He was showing off his carving skills. I turned away for no more than a few seconds, and when I looked back the knife was in his chest. I-I don’t know; He was... he was just standing there, looking at me. He needed help—I-I... I tried to help! It was too late!”
“It’s ok,” I said before going over and comforting her. “It not your fault.”
“Wait. Wasn’t he a vampire?” Brock asked.
“That is correct,” Roger nodded.
“And vampires can only die if they get stabbed in the heart or brain, right?”
“Well, not exactly, that’s more movie logic than reality. But yes, something like that. We don’t die as easily as our human counterparts.”
“Whatever, so if that’s the case, you mean to tell me, he accidently stabbed himself in the heart?” Brock asked.
“It’s plausible,” I murmured.
“Plausible my ass,” he pointed over at Lisa and said, “And where were you standing?”
She folded her arms and rolled her eyes, mightily offended by his line of questioning. “What are you like, a detective or something? I think not.”
“Yeah, well, your good looks don’t fool me.”
“You’re such an ogre,” she groaned.
“You’re avoiding the question,” I told her.
“Tch, hello, if I would have stabbed him, Sarah would have saw me! And if she would have stabbed him, I would have saw her—we were standing right next to each other! Like, duh! What the heck?”
Brock backed down. He looked over at Roger and snarled. “Where were you again?”
“He was with me,” I told him.
“And what were you guys doing?”
“We were looking for the archives so we could solve the riddle. Before we could do anything, we heard screaming and rushed back here, same as you, buddy.”
“Don’t call me buddy. I’m not your buddy.”
“It won’t happen again,” I assured him.
“Hey! What’s your problem?” Roger asked.
Brock stepped right into his face. The two were eye to eye, staring each other down like boxers in the middle of the ring. “You didn’t like Markus, did you?”
“Sure didn’t. So what?”
“Why not?”
“Because he’s a bottom feeder.”
“Is that why you killed him?”
Roger took a step back and unturned. He shook his head in disappointment. I think he was more pissed with himself than with Brock. He let this stupid bully get him riled up with his stupid bully antics. I’m sure he could have easily slain him. Hell, if I was him, I don’t know if I would have shown the same level of restraint.
A-holes like Brock contributed nothing and deserved to be murdered in cold blood. I found myself daydreaming about wrapping my arms around his big, bully neck until the color had drained from his face and his miserable excuse for a life had flashed before my eagerly awaiting eyes. I fantasized about hearing and feeling him struggle to break free. Gasping, hissing—his feet kicking wildly, and his body bucking and thrashing; all in a hopeless plight to break free from my ironclad clutch.
I placed my arm around Sarah and told her, “You know how to play checkers?”
“Who doesn’t?” she asked with an odd look.
“Come on. Let’s go to the dayroom. It’s starting to get a little too crazy in here.”
“Strange...” she muttered.
“It’s not. I saw a checkerboard on the shelf. Let’s play. Tell you what. If you win, I’ll show you how to make the perfect smoothie.”
“Pfft, I’m not a kid.”
“Never said you were.”
“Ugh. Do we even have ingredients?”
“I think we do.”
“Ok. Whatever. Lead the way,” she said the last part sarcastically, as if I was being overbearing.
With a slight chuckle, I told her, “I used to work at a smoothie shop. My sister used to always stop by, and I’d make her these crazy monstrosities. Man... She loved that place, you know. She hated me for quitting. I had to move on. I was getting too old to be making smoothies for a living. So, for Christmas, right, I bought her one of those bullet blenders. She loved that thing. To this very day, whenever I visit mom and dad, she always asks me to make smoothies.”
Sarah wiped the tears from her eyes, looked up at me with a sad smile, and said, “That’s sweet.”
“Hey, Joshua!” Brock shouted.
“We’re voting for the Narc tonight!”
“My name is Lisa, thank you very much! And I’m not a freaking narcissist, for your information!”
“Whatever, lady. There’s definitely more to you besides vanity and good looks, nobody’s that dense to join for a blue check mark,” Brock told her before turning his attention back to the rest of us. I did find his reasoning ironic. I was thinking the same thing about his wish, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.
Anyways, back to Brock’s stupid announcement. He raised his hands, as if to gain everyone’s attention, and then shouted out, “This time we ain’t getting it wrong! We all vote for the Narc so I can go to Malibu!”
“Screw you!” Lisa snapped before marching from the kitchen and joining us in the dayroom. She snatched the remote and turned on the television. I was sitting on the couch, right next to her. Sarah was sitting on the floor, right across from me. I placed the checkerboard on the coffee table and began setting up the pieces.
“Ewww. They don’t even have Netflix,” Lisa moaned.
I looked over at her with a raised eyebrow and asked, “Huh? Why would a doomsday bunker have cable?”
“Ewww. What? No! I said Netflix not cable. Who even has cable? No one’s that stupid.”
“I do. Can’t live without my ESPN.”
“Ugh. That’s because you’re gross.”
“What? How is that gross?”
She looked over at Sarah and said, “Geezer.”
Sarah covered her mouth and giggled. Then when I wasn’t looking, she sneakily made the first move. I didn’t care. I was confident in my abilities. I pushed my checker piece forward, and I told her, “Hah. This should be a walk in the park.”
She quickly countered my move and said, “Ha! Don’t bet on it.”
“Oh, wow, nice one,” I told her.
Seeing the two of us carve out a sliver of joy in a place as joyless as this caused Lisa to cry out in envy, “Ugh. This is stupid. I totally hate this place. I swear. You guys are so lame.”
“Oh, it’s not so bad, minus the two accidents,” I said in an obvious attempt to be optimistic. I didn’t want Sarah’s mind to start wondering. She was only a kid. Man... Her father was a real piece of work. If it were up to me, he’d be the one who was trapped down here, not her. I made a mental note to ask that shady agent, what’s his name? Ah, Agent Adams, why the hell they thought it was a good idea to use kids in their ludicrous experiments.
“So, Sarah. Where’re you from?”
“Maryland,” she sang.
“Nice. What part.”
“The boring part.”
“You feeling alright?”
“Sure. Fine and dandy.”
“You said it like you wasn’t.”
“What would you like me to say?”
“I know. Things have been a little crazy. Don’t worry though. We’ll get through this.”
Lisa cried out, “God! I wish I had my phone!”
She had the nerve to throw a mini tantrum, like a brat whose parents had taken away her privileges for the night. I couldn’t help but look over at Sarah with a loving smile. She smiled back at me, trying her best not to giggle at her bunkmate’s display of selfness. The more I thought about it the more she reminded me of my sister. I... I didn’t want to think about it, but I... I was just happy to see her light up once more. I could only hope my sister was feeling the same. Hopefully it wouldn’t be too long before I saw her again. I imagine she was worried sick about her big brother. Knowing her, the first thing she was going to do was run her fingers through my hair and call me dogface, like the mean but sweet little brat she was.
I tore my eyes away from her, long enough to tell Lisa that, “There’s more to life than social media.”
She glared daggers at me. “If I were the killer, I’d do you next for being so obtrusive.”
“Maybe Brock was right. Maybe we should vote for you?” I told her with a hint of laughter.
“Whatever. Waste your vote. What do I care?”
“You should take a more positive attitude.”
“I’ll start when you stop.”
I looked over at Sarah and smiled. “You’re the only person who still has a roommate you know.”
“I guess I’m lucky.”
“Eh. I don’t know if having a bunkmate like Lisa makes you lucky. I mean, you never know. You could be sleeping in the same room with the killer.”
Sarah and I both waited to see how she’d react. She didn’t even bother lifting her eyes from the television. Instead, she hissed like an angry feline.
Sarah couldn’t help but giggle. “I like you your funny,” she told me.
“He’s completely unbearable,” Lisa countered.
“To be honest, I probably won’t vote for you. I think you’re right. This whole thing’s stupid.”
“Are you going to abstain again?” Lisa asked.
“Yeah. Probably.”
“Yeah, me too,” Sarah seconded.
Chapter 4: Blindsight
The night went well, relatively speaking. It was odd returning to my room without Markus. I kept having these strange nightmares about his death. Every time I’d wake up and check the top bunk, hoping against hope, and confusion, that I’d see him lying there.
I probably got no more than three or four hours of sleep. The other four were spent laying around restlessly, racking my mind over how I couldn’t wrap my mind around any of this madness. If there was a God, now was his chance to show me a little light, I thought to myself as I drifted off into yet another one of those semi-conscious/semi-unconscious states.
Just thinking about Sarah put a smile on my face. I wasn’t going to let anything happen to her. While we were playing checkers, I learned a lot. I found out that she never knew her mother. She said that there was a woman, who was like a mother figure to her. She said that her father considered this woman to be the most beautiful person in the world. I found the way she phrased it odd, but figured she was just messing with me. Hell, a lot of things about this place were odd, or so I thought.
The rest of the night went surprisingly well. It was like Markus never existed. The only time it hit me was when I was alone in my room. After checkers, Sarah and I went to the kitchen, where surprisingly, we were joined by Brock and Lisa. We had a merry old time. I made smoothies for everyone, except for Roger. He had locked himself in his room with another pricy bottle of whiskey.
The good vibes came crashing down at the end of the night when it was time to vote. Brock had practically demanded we vote for Lisa. He harangued us with a barrage of threats and empty promises.
Whenever I pushed back and asked how he could be so sure, he wouldn’t do anything but brush me off. Even when I pressed the issue all he could say was, “It’s obvious she’s the killer.” And if I didn’t vote for her, “We’d be stuck down here even longer.”
Hmm... ok. That wasn’t really an answer I thought to myself. When he saw that I wasn’t fully on board with his harebrained scheme, he did what bullies do best. Pushed my buttons with reckless fighting words.
He had the nerve to ask if I wanted to go home and see my precious sister again. He told me it would never happen if I didn’t vote for Lisa. Then he asked Sarah if she was ready to show her father how wrong he was. He even asked Roger if he was ready to take his rightful place amongst the elites. He pushed everybody’s buttons that night, with less than eloquent speech about doing our part by voting for Lisa. We all tacitly agreed, less because we wanted to, and more because it was the only way to get him to shut up.
The voting room was very small. Only one person could enter at a time, or the actual door to the voting booth itself wouldn’t budge. The whole thing was a bit overboard to be frank. It had all the bells and whistles typical of any state-of-the-art security system.
There were eight buttons in total. Seven out of the eight corresponded with our images on screen. The last corresponded with the option to abstain. This had been my go-to button thus far. Only after pressing one of the eight buttons would the door automatically unlock.
This was why we had all tacitly agreed to vote for Lisa when Brock had schemed up the dimwitted idea. It really didn’t matter how much he huffed and puffed. He had no way to blow our house down. We could vote for whoever we wanted, and he would be none the wiser.
The vote failed that night. When this happened, Brock and I had a bit of a verbal spat. He called me out for abstaining. Things almost got ugly. He went so far as to call me idiotic and undemocratic. He really pushed my buttons when he claimed that I was setting a bad example for Sarah.
I tried to explain it to him, why I had been abstaining this whole time. Holding out on the possibility that this was all a sick prank to see how far we’d go. Call me naïve all you want. But I believed in the good of man... and vampires, I guess. I refused to believe that any of this nonsense was real.
What if two government agents, who claimed to work for a department you never heard of, and couldn’t Google because they toyed with the paranormal, arrived at your doorstep with an incredible promise to save someone you loved. What price would you be willing to pay?
All you had to do was enter into what seemed like, at the time, a very innocent event they aptly named the Adventure Games. Would you say no?
Oh. And trust me, I know what you’re thinking. “There had to be another way.” And you’re right. Maybe there was, but time was of the essence. My sister was dying and tomorrow couldn’t wait.
Sorry about that. It was just something I needed to get off my chest. Ok, so like I was saying, before I went on a tangent. My decision to undermine the process, by not voting for Lisa, like Brock demanded, really got under his skin. He ended up not talking to me for the remainder of the night. I was fine with that. It’s not like he was the most personable guy on the planet.
He decided to get blasted out of his mind on boozes. I guess he had had enough because he really let go. Everyone called it a night after that, everyone except for Brock. It didn’t matter, he could do what he wanted. We all locked our doors and hunkered down for the night. I did check on him from time to time, only to see him slouched in front of his door. He was singing and swearing like a lonesome sailor stranded somewhere on Drunk Island.
He blathered about having a ton of Navy buddies, and how he never worked up the courage to enlist. I would say we talked off and on, but that would be a lie. He drunkenly and wantonly confessed and professed to things I would consider nonsensical and other things I would consider mildly and surprisingly sensible.
The calm and quietness of the night was broken by an eerie scream early in the morning. It was so ear piercing and undeniable. I knew without having to think; something dire had happened. Someone else had died. I jumped from my bed and rushed out the room. The screams came from Lisa and Sarah’s room! Oh God, I thought to myself, as I began banging on the door like a maniac. “Hey! What’s going on?! Everything okay?! Hello?! H—"
The door opened and what I saw made me place a hand to my mouth in horror. Lisa was hanging from the top bunk by the neck. The sight was rather unsightly. Her tongue hung from her mouth and her eyes were wide open. Her frail, pale frame made to look like a Jack-o’-lantern swinging from the porch of a cloistered cul-de-sac.
I stepped from the room and gaged. Brock and Roger came crashing through only to be met by the same wretched sight. “Oh, dear God!” Roger cried out before swiftly exiting from the room. He placed his back to the wall and exhaled as if he had been underwater.
“What happened?!” Brock shouted.
“I-I-I don’t know!” Sarah screamed.
“What’d you mean you don’t know?” he yelled.
“I don’t know! I-I woke up and saw her like this!”
Brock backed off. His eyes bounced up and down as he studied Lisa’s corpse. After a while, he shook his head and said, “The guilt must’ve gotten to her.”
“That doesn’t seem right,” I said.
“Isn’t it obvious. She hung herself. The guilt from being the killer must’ve been too great.”
“Eh. I don’t know, Brock,” I said.
He came over to me and gave me a light shove in the chest. “Yeah, and if you would’ve voted for her like I said, we wouldn’t be stuck in this stupid predicament.”
“The killer could be you,” I said.
“Ha! Is that so, tough guy?”
“You’re the only tough guy.”
“What are you getting at?”
“Who knows, maybe the whole drunk thing was a routine.”
“Yeah. It was and I snuck into their room and strung her up while Sarah was sound asleep. You need to work on your detective skills, hero-boy.”
I stepped into his face. “What’s your problem?”
He stepped into mine. “You’re my problem.”
That’s when I told him, “I’m sick of your mouth.”
“Oh, yeah? Take your best shot, hero-boy.”
“Call me that one more time and I won’t hesitate.”
“Hey! Hey! Back off!” Roger cried out.
He swiped Roger’s hand off his chest and snapped, turning his fury and ire on the vampire. “Don’t think I didn’t see you! You sneaky bloodsucker!”
“What are you going on about now?” Roger asked.
“I woke up in the middle of the night! That’s right. I snapped out of my ‘drunken routine.’” Then he pointed at Roger and claimed, “Right before I went to my room, I saw this creep, creeping down the hall.”
Roger rolled his eyes before dismissing his accusations out of hand, “Please. I was getting ice.”
“Ha! That’s the best you can come up with?! You were getting ice? Hah! That grand suite of yours doesn’t come with an ice machine?” Brock asked.
“Oh, darling, if I wanted to kill Lisa, you would be the last to know. I may not look the part, but I do know a thing or two about hunting your kind.”
Bully laughed as if somehow Roger’s statement was a gotcha moment. Then the oaf treated our ears to, “So, you just admitted to killing people! Ah-ha!”
“I am a vampire, if you haven’t noticed.”
“Ugh. Whatever. So, you don’t have an ice maker in that killer suite of yours?” he asked.
“Apparently not, or I would not have been caught dead fetching ice from the kitchen.”
“Yeah, well, if for some reason when we all vote for Lisa tonight, like we should have done last night, and the game doesn’t end, we know who to vote for next.”
“Spare me,” Roger said with a contemptuous hiss before adding, “And the girl? What about her?”
“What are you going on about?”
“My money’s on her.”
“Hey! I didn’t do anything!” she cried out.
“I don’t know, sweetheart,” Roger told her.
“Screw this,” she said before storming off.
I gently grabbed her by the arm before she could scamper too far and said, “Hold on.”
“Are you going to accuse me now?”
“No. Of course not.”
“Then let me go.”
“Let’s hear him out.”
“So, you are siding with him?”
“I’m not siding with anyone.”
“Then let go of my arm!”
“Roger, you dirty rascal,” Brock laughed.
“What’s so funny?” he asked.
Brock placed a hand to his chin and took on the role of amateur detective. After ruminating, he said, “Ok. So, let me get this straight. You think a scrawny teenager somehow strung up a grown woman—with not so much as a peep coming from the room, huh? I examined the body. No scratches, bruises, or other marks that would indicate struggle. The only bruising is around her neck from the makeshift noose.”
Roger glared at Brock. He didn’t even bother to respond, instead he looked over at her and said, “Sarah, my darling, may we see your hands?”
“For what?” she asked.
“To see if there are any marks.”
She raised her arms without flinching. That age-old teenage defiance oozed from her voice when she asked, “And why would there be any scratches?”
Roger frowned. He looked at her with a suspicious eye and said, “Thank you.”
“Whatever,” she muttered before storming off. I could hear her mumbling invectives to herself as she made her way down the hall.
“Ok! Great! So, we’re all voting for Lisa this time?” Brock announced.
“Wait. Can we vote for a dead person? And if we do, does that even count?” I asked.
“Uh, why wouldn’t it? I’m sure we can vote for Aaron, or Markus too if we wanted—their names still appear on the screen when you vote, right?”
“Yeah, but they could be trying to throw us off.”
“Can you just vote for Lisa this time, pal? I’m trying to get the hell out of here.”
“Sure. What’s the task for today?” I asked.
“The what?” he asked with a flustered expression.
“You know? The daily task or whatever. Last time it was a riddle that we never solved.”
Brock threw up his hands and then began making his way down the hall. “I’m done with this.”
“Let’s at least put Lisa’s body in the tomb. Then we can all head to the kitchen.”
“Sure. Why not,” he grumbled back.
“Hey, Roger, can you read the task for today—we did get another card, right?”
He snagged the red envelope that was sticking out of the front pocket of his fluffy wool robe and waved it back and forth, saying, “Already one step ahead of you.”
Brock glared at him. I could tell that his suspicion had firmly settled on Roger. I knew what he was thinking because I was thinking the exact same thing. Why was he given the grand room while the rest of us were forced to sleep on bunkbeds? What was he hiding? Why was he assigned the job of reading the task cards? If there was a killer, did they want to make it so obvious as to lull us into a false sense of absurdity?
“You two go on ahead. I’ll take her body to the burial room,” Roger spoke. His voice was a bit raspier than usual. I noticed because the timbre stabbed into my thoughts, helping the conspiracy locomotive in my head gather a good head of steam. And with that, all I could do was utter, “Uh, ok?” in response.
He winked, and said, “I’ll be quick.”
Brock wasn’t having it. He stopped dead in his tracks, turned around, and said, “Anything, you’d like to confess while you’re at it?”
“I’m not going to drink from her corpse if that’s what you’re thinking. I’m a vampire not a ghoul. And besides, feeding on stale blood won’t help any. If anything, it’ll only make my carvings that much worse.”
“Uh... Ok...” I muttered.
He walked over and gave me a pat on the back. “You’re overthinking it. It’ll be faster this way. I can use my unholy talents to dispose of her body much faster than the two of you combined.”
“Thanks,” I murmured before looking over at Brock to make sure he was hearing what I was hearing.
“Freak,” he uttered aloud before walking away.
This was one of those moments where I shrugged and followed Brock. He looked back when he saw me and just shook his head in disappointment. As if I was the reason we were stuck down here. God. If there was a killer and it wasn’t Lisa, I hope they got rid of this jerk next. It was a crude thought for a crude man, I thought to myself as I watched him run over and tap Sarah on the shoulder. When she looked back, he pretended like it wasn’t him. I guess teasing her was his way of trying to cheer her up. He also reminded her to vote for Lisa, so we could all go home for the umpteenth time.
She wiped the tears from her eyes and nodded innocently. I walked over to make sure everything was okay. When Brock saw this, he threw his hands up and told me, “Chill bro, I wasn’t doing anything.”
“Yeah. Sure you weren’t,” I scoffed.
“I know she’s like a sister to you. But you’re not the only one who can talk to her, you know.”
“I never said I was.”
He tapped her on the shoulder again and said, “Hey, sorry about Roger back there. Accusing you of murder. To be honest, I’m starting to think he’s the killer.”
“Thanks,” she muttered.
“Tell you what, I’ll make you guys breakfast.”
“Wow? Where’s the real Brock?” I asked.
“Whatever. You’re not the only one who used to work in the food industry. My first job, well, more like my first and a half job was at IHOP.”
“What’s a first and a half job?” Sarah asked.
“It’s a long story,” he said while making his way over to the fridge. “Any requests?”
“Nope,” we both said.
“Great, I’ll see if we have the ingredients for a few omelets.”
“What about Roger?” I asked.
My question almost ruined his jovial mood. He turned around and gave me an ugly scowl. “Roger can F off.”
“That’s mean,” Sarah said.
“He’s a vampire. He doesn’t need to eat.”
“I think he does actually,” I said.
“No, he doesn’t. That’s stupid.”
“Dude,” I uttered in frustration.
“What? That doesn’t make any sense.”
“They’ve both been eating this whole time. Markus was in the kitchen, helping Lisa and Sarah when he died.”
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2023.03.29 22:48 RingoCross99 The Adventure Games (Section 2 of 4)

The Adventure Games (Section 2 of 4)
The Adventure Games
By Ringo Cross
(Chapter 2: continued...)
His theatrics made us all blush. I closed the pantry, took a deep sigh, and made my way over to the table. I glanced nervously into the eyes of what had become my unwanted audience. They were all waiting impatiently for me to begin what was arguably one of the most awkward, forced introductions in recorded history:
“H-hello. My name is um... um... Joshua Graham. I’m originally from Waterbury—uh—Connecticut, sorry. My parents relocated to Clayton, Missouri when I was twelve. I have one sister, she just turned seventeen. She’s the reason I’m here. Phew. Man, I, I told them I’d join if they’d help her. They agreed and I, um, well, and now I’m here, right? There’s really not much else to say—oh, I’m 29, work for Amazon, delivering packages all day. That’s pretty much it. I live a pretty normal existence, oh and I’m... human? I don’t know why we have to mention that, but whatever,” I told my unwanted audience while standing there and waiting for any unwanted questions they may have had.
“So, basically, you already got your wish?” Bully asked with a mouth full of sandwich.
“I guess you can say that.”
“Humph. That’s suspicious.”
“How is that suspicious?”
“How isn’t it suspicious?”
“Man. My sister was literally days away from dying! I traded my wish for her life.”
“That explains the name tag,” Bully laughed contemptuously at me.
“You’re a real piece of work. But thank you for reminding me to take this stupid thing off,” I said while peeling the name tag off my shirt.
“It’s noble if you ask me,” the Lover said, with a wink and a smile. Then he kind of gave me an innocent little bump, indicating that I should step aside, as if the spot I was standing on had become the place to be. I obliged and he began his longwinded introduction:
“Greetings, everyone. As you already know from today’s prior announcement, my name is Roger Pierson. I hope this doesn’t come off as a jump scare, but I’m afraid I am indeed one of those filthy ‘nonhumans’ she was talking about. I’m a vampire to be precise, but please, please you have nothing to fear. I’m not some starving brood waiting to kill you in your sleep,” he said before tittering away like an amiable courtier. “Ok, where was I, oh, yeah—”
“Wow, wow, wow,” Bully managed to stammer out without choking. “What do you mean you’re a vampire?”
“Humph. I don’t know how else to describe it,” he said with a slight sigh and shrug.
“Bro. Are you being serious right now?”
“Deadly serious—ok, so I probably shouldn’t have said that. That wasn’t funny,” he said before placing a hand to his chest and huffing in displeasure. “But no. In all seriousness, I’m totally a vampire.”
“This is unreal,” the Followed muttered.
Roger placed a hand to his head in exasperation, “Oh devil, I knew this was going to be a hardship. Why wouldn’t it be? I’m obviously telling a bunch of randoms the most shocking bit of news there is.”
“I call bs!” Bully said rather mockingly. He folded his arms and looked over at Roger with an annoyed expression. “Dude. Come on. This isn’t the time for pranks. We got enough going on as is.”
“It’s true...” the Rationalizer spoke. He had been lingering around in the shadows for so long I forgot he was a part of the group. He slowly made his way over to us, and added, “He’s not lying. Now let him finish. If this is our only task for the day, I’d like to be done.”
“Fine. The floor is yours,” Bully said very sarcastically and mockingly of Roger.
Roger took it in stride, showing off his decorum. “Thank you, and thank you,” he told the two gents before finding the main road again, after that volcanic segue. “Where was I? Ah, yes, that’s right. Ok, so like I was saying, I am a vampire. I’m 44 years younger,” he paused for a moment to gather his thoughts. His eyes lit up in fanciful imagination. “Ah, yes! How silly of me. I almost forgot about my precious Ana. Ok, everyone, last but certainly not least, let me tell you a thing or two about my darling sister. Oh, my, you guys are going to love this. Her name’s Diana but we call her Ana. She just finished her blood rituals with a strapping young lad from a noble family! It is to a lesser house but a decent, well pedigreed one. I’m so excited for them and for this amazing marriage! I can’t tell you how much this helps increase my already voluminous profile in vampiric society. Hmm... I wonder... Maybe that’s the reason I was given the master bed? I must be the highest ranking notable in the bunker? Pfft. Any who. Like I was saying, ‘nobility’ and ‘royalty’ are interchangeable terms in the vampiric world, since technically we aren’t the real power behind the throne. Hope this doesn’t come as a shock, but the real power behind the throne belongs to our—”
“Put a sock in it already!” Bully barked.
“Excuse me?” Roger asked with a scowl.
“You heard me, stick to the point!”
“How rude,” Roger uttered. “Fine. As to why I’m here. Isn’t it obvious? I’m here because I was promised patronage from one of the elven original vampiric houses! Any order will do, since we live in LA, I’m thinking it’ll be the Vandervelt order. There’s no way I’m getting into the Báthoric order. Or the Dracul, or the Hapsburg, or the Windsor. Yeah. It’ll probably be the Vandervelt’s. They’re like the only ‘American’ clan,” he bumbled and mumbled. There was an odd pause. He looked at us and quickly realized we were all staring at him as if he were a madman, not only for talking to himself but for talking to himself in front of us about things we had no clue about. Seeing this, he wiped the sweat from his brow and nobly carried on, “Whew. Ok, so I know that was a lot to take in. Sorry about my little conniption there. Oh, and as far as work, hah, labor isn’t really my thing. Oh my. Now that I think about it, I’ve probably never worked a day in my life. When I do ‘work,’ as you commoners say, I coordinate parties and other high-end affairs for the highborn.”
Everyone looked at Roger. No one knew how to follow that up. I looked over at the Follower and gestured for him to go next with an innocent head nod. I think he picked up on what I was putting out there. Because he stood from his chair and gingerly and clumsily made his way over to what had quickly become the speaking spot of shame.
When Roger saw this, he cringed as if the boy was a smelly hunk of meat. He hurriedly got out of his way, trying his best not to stare. I’m guessing he didn’t have much experience with humans, let alone urbanites. To him, we were all probably repulsive smelly hunks of flesh. He was too stuffy and uppity to appreciate anyone who didn’t appreciate fine linen or fine dining.
The Follower tore off his name tag with a shaky hand. Then he waved at us, all unsure of himself, like this was his first time addressing a group:
“Sup? Name’s Aaron. Just turned eighteen. Little bit about myself, as you can see, I like tattoos. I’m into stoner and skater culture. Grew up in Virginia Beach. I’m mixed so you know I try my best not to be no vulture and always rep ‘the culture.’”
He made an odd hand gesture when he said the last bit about ‘the culture.’ Then, as if that wasn’t already cringy enough, he carried on, saying, “Right now I’m part of the gig army. Uber Eats, Lift, Spark, Insta, all that good stuff. I don’t know man, it ain’t like it used to be when my parent was growing up. Everything was cheap. It’s hard out here nowadays. That’s why I joined. They said if I win, I can get a full ride to Duke. I’m a huge Blue Devils fan. If I was taller, I swear I would’ve been a baller, but it’s whatever now. That stuff’s old news,” he abruptly stopped, but before leaving so someone else could talk, he looked over at Roger and blurted, “Oh, and I’m human! If what bro said is true, I think vampires are sick man! You gotta tell me more, big homie, I’m all ears!”
Roger folded his arms and smacked his lips as if what Aaron said had left a tart taste in his mouth. He didn’t even bother with a remonstrance; a simple eye roll and an “Ugh” were enough to convey his disdain.
Aaron got the message and hastily sat down next to the young girl. She leaned over and whispered into his ear while staring at Roger. The two erupted into laughter. The type of boisterous uproar only teenagers could get away with. We all just kind of looked around waiting to see who would take the initiative and go next. When no one else stepped up to the plate, Bully finally decided to go next. I could tell he had an attitude. This guy was going to be trouble I thought to myself.
He stood there for a moment, frowning and fuming, like he wanted to smash something. Instead of giving in to his lesser angels, he held his head high and gave in to his better angels: “I’m a human, like everyone else here,” he peeled off his name tag while grumbling, “Stupid nonsense. My name isn’t bully. I’m not a freaking bully. My name’s Brock. Brock Berger. I’m twenty-five, and as you can clearly see, I’m heavy into the fitness scene: weightlifting, deadlifting, flexing for the ladies, all the usual stuff muscleheads do,” he said before flexing his bicep muscles.
I can’t lie, even though he had the personality of a milk carton, he was Zyzz levels of ripped and about as aesthetically pleasing as a Greek god. He gave the Narcissist a wink before transitioning his front double bicep pose into a Greek god pose.
She glared and scoffed at him, “Can you like, hurry up? I’m not here to find a boyfriend.”
“If I win—no. When I win, I get a brand-spanking-new Wrangler Sport and an all-expensive paid road trip—from my home state of Maryland, all the way to Malibu! I can’t wait! Malibu here I come baby! Wahoo!”
Brock continued to cheer for himself like a total you-know-what. Once he was done being bothered with us, he went over to the fridge and grabbed a whole jug of OJ. The bastard began chugging it straight from the bottle. I had never seen someone drink so ravenously. I suppose all those muscles came with a hefty energy demand.
Everyone waited to see which brave soul would take the floor next. There was a bit of awkward silence. But before things could turn from awkward to downright uncomfortable, someone spoke: “The name’s Markus. I don’t really have too much to say. I’m 33, unemployed, my last job was at a call center. I’m into comics, I’m also a vampire, and if I win, I get a million dollars, hard cash.”
Roger’s eyes lit up. He raised his hand as if he were a student gaining the teacher’s attention. When Markus saw this, he asked him what did he want.
Roger said, “Wow. You’re not much of a charmer. Riddle me this? You’re a vampire, correct?”
“Yeah. What about it?”
“Pureblooded, by any chance?”
“Nope. No chance.”
“Oh, that’s too bad.”
“I take it you are?”
“Naturally,” Roger crowed.
“What are you guys talking about?” I asked Markus.
“It’s nothing,” he mumbled.
“Oh, it’s definitely something,” Roger chortled.
“I’m what you’d call a brood.”
“What’s that?” Aaron asked.
“All it means is that I wasn’t born a vampire. I was human once. I was changed into one. So, in our world, vampires like me are considered impure.”
“How is that a bad thing?” I asked.
“I know right?” Aaron seconded.
“It’s not. I don’t feel like explaining. Let’s just finish introducing ourselves and move on.”
Roger scowled as if his lowly thoughts of Markus had somehow exceeded expectations. I had no clue what the beef between them was. I made a mental note to find out more. If I wanted to do that, I would first have to find a way to get one of the last two people to go.
The only two contestants left were the girls. The younger of the two, the one whose name tag read “Teenager,” tried to make herself smaller.
When she hunched over into a ball, all eyes seemed to naturally gravitate towards the Narcissist. I don’t know if she was daydreaming or what. But when she finally noticed what was going on, she stopped playing with her fingernails. Her cold stare said it all. She folded her arms and stewed for a second. Then, to everyone’s shock and relief she complied. She didn’t bother standing up, she just sat there and began angrily addressing us:
“Tch. This is so stupid, whatever. I’m already so over this. Name’s Lisa Pilgrim. 21 years old, 50k followers on Instagram. I’m human, like, I don’t know what all this vampire talk is about, but it is so not cool. Only reason I’m even here is because they promised I’d get a blue check mark if I participated or whatever.”
“You joined for a blue check mark?” Brock asked with a chuckle.
I jumped in and said, “It’s not like your wish is any better.”
“You guys are so clueless. If you don’t know why it’s important that’s not my problem. I’m not your mother. I know because I hate kids.”
“Wow. Ok,” I told her.
“Anyways,” she said with an eye roll to die for, before returning to nothing, I mean, staring and playing with her polished fingernails as if we were nothing.
The only person that was left was the girl. She peeked around the room nervously before ducking her head back down when we exchanged glances. Since no one else was going to do it, I walked over, crouched down in front of her, and gently asked if she wouldn’t minding introducing herself.
She peeked over her knees and smiled nervously. Her cheeks were rosy red. I could tell she absolutely hated me for coming over and putting her on the spot like that. I knew it was a bit trashy, but I was hungry, tired, and frustrated. The sooner she got on with it the better.
“Fine...” she sheepishly squeaked before standing up. Her eyes darted around the room. She glared at me for a moment more before getting on with it: “Hi. My name is Sarah. I’m human. I’m sixteen.”
When she told us her age everyone was a bit taken aback. How in the world was she allowed to participate in whatever this was without parental supervision? Seeing our baffled expressions, she added a bit of clarification: “It’s not like it was my idea. I know what you guys are thinking, and I would never sign up for something stupid like this.” She took her name tag off and ripped it into pieces, grumbling, “My father’s so controlling.”
“He did this to you?” I asked.
“That’s brutal,” Brock said.
“Why?” Markus asked.
“Why what?” I asked, taking somewhat of a defensive stance on behalf of the girl.
“Why’d he do it?” he asked her with folded arms, as if he was questioning her story.
She gave a slight shrug and said, “It’s complicated. I did some things I probably shouldn’t have, and he kicked me out. Oh, and I don’t get anything if I win. Well, I will get to see dad again, but I have mixed feeling about that, considering how harsh he punished me.”
“That’s awful,” Roger said.
She swiped the tears from her eyes and told him it wasn’t anything she couldn’t handle. He went over and gave her a cautious hug, making sure not to invade too much of her personal space.
“Thanks,” she shyly spoke.
“It’s okay, honey. I’m here if you need me. Trust me, I know what it’s like to have overbearing parents. Why being born into a pureblooded family will do that to you,” he said with a playful wink.
Markus unfolded his arms and grumbled, “This guy,” as if rubbing in his status wasn’t irritating enough. He was being condescending as well.
“You know that automated voice sounded a lot like you,” Brock told her.
“Excuse me?” Sarah said.
“The lady who was over the loudspeaker when we first walked in.”
“What about her?”
“She sounds like you.”
Sarah shrugged but said nothing, staring at him as if he had lost his marbles. I went over and gave Brock a playfully slap across the shoulder, “Better be careful. She might kill you first, tough guy.”
He laughed, “Yeah right. If anything, I need to be worried about you, hero-boy.”
“What do we do next?” Aaron asked.
“Food,” I quickly replied.
“Ok, let’s do food,” he snorted.
Lisa turned away in disgust. She stood and headed for the recreational room, which was right across from the kitchen. Markus took her seat at the table but said little to nothing. Roger headed straight for the whiskey cabinet, which was to the right of the kitchen cupboards. I had no idea it was a whiskey cabinet until he opened it. He briefly examined the contents within before seeming genuinely impressed with the selection.
Brock opened the fridge and began helping me make ham and turkey sandwiches. Aaron and Sarah were sitting down next to Markus, asking him a bunch of question about being a vampire. I probably would’ve joined in, but I was too hungry to think straight.
Aaron seemed pretty animated, asking a million and one questions about the odd and surprising ins-and-outs of being a real-life vampire. There was much laughter and banter. For this to be a kill box, we all seemed to be having a good time or whatnot. The mind was funny like that. It was like our traumatic entrance into this insane asylum, and all the questions, and all the problems that came with it had been forgotten.
“So, you guys don’t live forever?” Aaron asked.
“Not even close,” Markus replied.
“Aw. That sucks,” Aaron moaned.
“I want to be a vampire!” Sarah smiled.
“Yeah, me too!” Aaron exclaimed.
“Trust me, you do not want to be a vampire,” Roger mentioned while pouring himself a glass of whiskey.
The two looked over at him and waited for him to elaborate. When he didn’t, they turned to Markus and waited for him to explain. Markus just shrugged, leaving the two youngsters in the dark.
“Speaking of which. What was that all about earlier?” I asked Markus after placing a plate with a sandwich and some chips down in front of him.
“What is this for?” he asked with a suspicious snarl.
“Vampires need to eat, right?”
“You just answered your own question.”
“I’m not eating this,” he told me.
Brock came over and sat a plate down for each youngster. He gave Markus a playful push and said, “He didn’t poison it, I helped him make it.”
“Humph,” he grumbled under his breath as if he was pissed off by Brock’s insinuation.
Brock laughed while grabbing a stack of sandwiches off the counter like a Gothic king fresh off a good sacking of Rome. “I’m going to the rec room. Wish me luck, maybe I’ll get lucky with the Narc. You guys enjoy your stupid vampire talk. And you better eat your sandwiches, or I’ll make you a five finger one next time! Losers! Ha!”
“What a jerk,” Sarah mumbled.
“I’m not a jerk, I’m a bully, remember? Respect the name tag!” he shouted while walking away.
“Anyway,” I said before turning my attention back to the group. “So, like I was saying, what was that all about earlier when Roger was chiding you?”
Markus looked over at Roger and watched as he sipped his drink like the intellectually vacant elitist he was. The way he examined each whiskey bottle was revolting. Markus hid it well enough, but I could see the anger and resentment in his eyes. He took a bite into his sandwich, staring at me the whole time he chewed, as if I had done something sinister to his food. The ire roiled in his eyes a moment more before he finally gave up the goose and said, “Like I said, Roger is what we call a pureblood.”
“Because he was born a vampire, right?”
“So, he thinks he’s better than you?”
“All purebloods do,” he said.
“Wow, you can be born a vampire?” Aaron asked.
“I know right. So cool,” Sarah smiled.
“It’s not what you think,” he replied.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“There’s really no difference. It’s just their way of discriminating against us so they can keep all the good stuff to themselves.”
“I don’t get it,” Aaron said.
“Me either,” Sarah added.
“I get it,” I said.
“You do?” Aaron asked.
“Yeah,” I said before taking a bite out of my sandwich. “It’s their guys’ version of poor and rich. Humans, like Markus, who were altered into a vampire are considered less than and called broods. Those who were born into the blood are considered rich and given privilege.”
“Oh, I see now,” Aaron uttered in astonishment. “Dang, dude, that’s pretty messed up.”
Markus frowned, “What pisses me off is how he acts like he’s nobility. They’re even worse. Those blueblood bastards. They pretty much hate us all.”
“A blueblood? Ah, man, you just threw a monkey wrench into the equation. What the hell is that? Is that a step higher on the social rung of injustice?” I asked.
Markus sighed. I could tell he wasn’t too eager to give us, what had to be another mind-numbing explanation. “They’re basically the ones who rule over us. They’re completely insane and do nothing but kill each other, and us too, if we get in the way of them killing each other. Think Game of Thrones, but with vampires.”
“Never seen it,” Sarah said.
“Me either,” Aaron seconded.
I shrugged and said, “Good show.”
“Are you allergic to sunlight?” Sarah asked.
“Really?” I asked.
“Yeah. Really.”
“Garlic?” Aaron asked.
“Crosses?” Sarah asked.
“How are you not harmed by sunlight? I think he’s pulling our leg,” Aaron said.
“Me too,” Sarah smiled.
“Hey, Roger?” Markus said.
“What is it?” he asked.
“Are we allergic to sunlight?”
“No. Why would we be?” was his reply.
“That’s what you see in the movies,” I said.
“Stop believing everything you see in the movies,” Roger said with a soft chortle.
“Wow, that’s crazy. You’d think it would be more like in the movies,” Aaron mentioned.
“Why would we be harmed by the one thing that our prey utilizes more than anything? That would be like finding a shark that’s allergic to water,” Markus said.
“Let me guess, you guys don’t get any superpowers either?” Sarah asked.
“Nah. Not really,” Markus stated.
“Really?” I asked. “So, what’s the point in even becoming a vampire then?”
“Just picture the best version of yourself. That’s what it’s like to be a vampire.”
“Humph. I hope you’re right,” I mentioned as my thoughts drifted to my sister.
Seeing this made him raise an eyebrow. “You want in? You want to be one of us?”
I told him, “No.”
“You sure? You seem pretty invested,” he replied.
“It’s... it’s my sister.”
“Ah. I get it. That’s rough.”
“Get what?” Aaron asked.
“His sister was attacked by one.”
“Wow. Is that true?” Sarah asked.
“Yeah. And if everything those agents were saying is true, my sister became one.”
“Oh my God, that’s epic!” Aaron gleefully and naively exclaimed.
“She was on the verge of death.”
“Really?” Sarah asked.
“Yeah. That’s why I’m here.”
“Aw. That sucks,” Sarah muttered.
“I know right,” Aaron said.
“Don’t feel bad man. It’s pretty much like that for everyone. It’s a real crapshoot.”
“Why is it like that?” Sarah asked.
“Well, if it were that easy to become a vampire, everyone would be one. Our job is to blend in and not be seen. Prey is supposed to outnumber its predators. I know it’s not glamorous, but it’s not supposed to be. It’s more ‘uncanny valley’ than supernatural.”
“Uncanny what?” Aaron asked.
“Uncanny valley,” he repeated.
“What does that mean?”
“Well, it really applies to AI. For some reason the more realistic AI appears, the more repulsed and negative the human emotions. There’s like a mathematical threshold that delignates acceptance from fear. Theory has it, this inert fear goes way back to a time when humans were hunted by a species that mimicked them. Crazy part is they’re right. It was a primitive version of vampires called Grigori. You see a true vampire stays just below the peak of the uncanny valley curve. We hide in plain sight just out of reach of human insight. I’m not doing my job if you know. The worst thing that can happen is for you to know.”
“That’s pretty sinister,” I said.
“That’s nature for you,” he replied.
Roger walked over and stood behind Markus. He listened to our conversation while examining the stupidly expensive bottle of scotch in his hand. “You shouldn’t be telling the kids scary stories before bed.”
I could tell our little conversation tickled him by the amused look on his smug face. When no one responded to his grim warning, he told us, “Very well. I’ll be in my room if anyone’s interested.”
“No one’s interested,” Markus mumbled after making sure Roger was out of sight.
“I heard that,” he shouted back.
Roger’s response caused Sarah and Aaron to burst into laughter as if it was the funniest thing they ever heard. I chalked it up to youth before getting up from the table to go and examine the whisky bar for myself.
I saw something out of the corner of my eye. At first, I thought it was a trick of the light. When I looked over, I saw that it was Markus. He was standing there, silent, and still as a lion, right before it pounces on its prey with a lethal neck bite.
Meanwhile, Sarah and Aaron were at the table laughing and giggling away about things that my twenty-something mind could not possibly comprehend. She tapped him on the shoulder, leaned over, and whispered something shifty into his ear. Aaron looked over at me before nearly erupting into a million pieces from unadulterated laughter.
I shook my head and pulled a bottle of Jim Bean from the cabinet. I placed two shot glasses down on the counter and looked over at Markus.
He frowned a bit before saying, “You think it’s a good idea to drink?”
“No. But, so far so good, right?”
He checked his watch. “The night’s still young.”
“Eh. I think Brock might be right.”
“Ha. He isn’t.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Just look at him. Does he look like a human who’s right about anything?”
I glanced over into the dayroom and saw Brock and Lisa engaged in a half-hearted conversation while watching TMZ on the big screen. The two kids were in the kitchen doing what teenagers did best. And Roger was supposedly in his room. So far no one stood out except for him.
I guess Markus read my mind because he said, “I don’t trust him either.”
“Who Roger?”
“You know it.”
“Yeah, but I also know you’re a vampire. And if it wasn’t for the task, you wouldn’t have mentioned it. Roger on the other hand. He has a cruel honesty about him.”
“Ha. I see. You don’t trust me either?” Markus said with a slight snicker. He grabbed the shot of whiskey and took it to the head. After exhaling, he said, “Remember. I’m a brood. The lowest of the low. I used to be human. I know what it’s like. But those types, they have no idea. They have no sympathy or compassion for you. They don’t know what it’s like to be what you are.”
“Humph. Is that so?”
“I wouldn’t lie.”
“When someone says that it usually means they’re lying,” I told him.
“Whatever, man,” he grumbled.
“Who spoke to you? I wonder was it the same two agents who spoke to me?”
“Was one a woman with black hair. Looked to be about your age?”
“Yeah. And the other was some older gent who seemed to have a chip on his shoulder.”
He nodded. “I’ll never forget that asshole.”
“What was his name?” I asked.
“Agent Adams,” he said before putting a hand on my shoulder. “Let me tell you, I’ve seen some sketchy figures, but that guy. He takes the cake.”
“Really? Why do you say that?”
“Want to know something crazy?”
“Depends on how crazy.”
Before he could respond, the two youngsters agitated us yet again with their wild giggling. Sarah tapped Aaron on the shoulder. She glared at me while whispering what had to be another crude remark into his ear. He looked over at me and was in absolute stitches. After wiping away the tears of joy, he anchored the last bit of sandwich above his mouth. Sarah said, “choo” “choo” like a train, right before he dropped it down the hatch. This as you can imagine made him snort and chew wildly.
I turned my attention back to Markus and did my best to try to ignore their teenage antics. “What were you saying?” I asked him.
“Want to know a secret?”
“Depends on what it is.”
“We’re not the only—"
Markus paused when we heard a loud commotion. I whipped my head around to see what was going on. That’s when I saw Aaron floundering in his chair like a fish out of water. His plate came crashing down. Black and purple veins wiggled across his face like vines wrapping around an old Roman column. His eyes bulged in terror. He gripped his neck and wheezed in horror.
Sarah jumped from her chair, knocking it over. She backed away while screaming hysterically. I rushed over and began slapping Aaron across the back. The commotion drew Lisa and Brock’s attention. Brock hopped over the couch and dashed into the kitchen.
“Oh my God! He’s choking!” Lisa cried out.
“What do we do?” Sarah frantically asked.
“You’re doing it wrong!” Brock shouted as he practically knocked me over. He wrapped one arm around Aaron and knocked over his chair with the other. Then he secured both arms around Aaron’s stomach and began applying abdominal thrusts. I could hear the panic in Brock’s voice. He gave it a good effort, yelling and screaming for Aaron to hang in there the whole time. Aaron was slipping in and out of consciousness at this point. After a few more agonizing moments of this, his body went limp. Brock let go of the kid’s body and headed straight for me.
“What happened?!”
“Nothing! Why are you asking me?!”
“Because he’s dead! What did you do?!”
“I didn’t do anything!”
“Why is he dead! Why?!”
“Let me check for a—”
Brock blocked my path. “Uh-Uh. You’re not going anywhere, mate. Not until we sort this out.”
“Please! Somebody! Check for a pulse! It might not be too late. We can still do CPR!” I screamed.
“Brock’s right. He’s dead,” Markus spoke while glancing down at the body. The way he calmly pronounced Aaron dead was very unsettling.
It wasn’t suspicious enough for Brock apparently, as he wasted no time laying into me once more, “Start talking, hero-boy,” he practically demanded.
I backed away and said, “Dude! What’s your problem? I was over there by the whiskey bar with Markus! The kid. He, he just started choking!”
Brock stepped right into my face, killing whatever illusion of personal space I had managed to regain. He growled while staring me down, going over scenarios in his head as to how he could take me down. “Is that so, hero-boy? You telling me nothing happened? He just started choking out of the blue, huh?”
“Maybe you should be asking the girl that same question,” Markus told him.
Brock and I kind of gave him the side eye when he said that. It’s funny, in what was arguably our most heated moment, he gave me one of those “are you thinking what I’m thinking” expressions. I was and the tension between us came to a screeching halt.
We both looked over at Markus and then the girl. There she was, kneeling over Aaron’s body, bawling her eyes out, apologizing for things she had no control over. She kept telling him to wake up. And that she was sorry. The moment spoke for itself. Her grief wasn’t from guilt. I had no idea where Markus was going with his accusation.
“Oh, look at you, you’re a real tough guy,” Brock told him with a sneer.
“I’m not a tough guy,” Markus fired back.
“Oh yeah?”
“That’s right.”
“Punk,” Brock bellowed under his breath.
“Hey, hey, hey—come on guys!” I shouted when the two got in each other’s face.
Markus turned right then and there. I could tell he had lost control by the flash in his eyes. The realization made it considerably harder to breathe. I don’t know what it was. I suppose his transformation tapped into something primal. Something that instinctually told me to run. His fangs... I-I couldn’t take my eyes off them. I imagined him going into a feral frenzy and unleashing unstoppable pain and power upon us all.
“Yeah, that’s right go head and show us your true colors, vampire scum,” Brock stated.
He groaned at Brock’s comment. For some reason, he kept stealing glancing at his neck. I imagined he desired nothing more than to drain his life essence with a brutal bite to the neck. If he seized the jugular vein instead of the more desirable carotid artery, surely, that would be enough to put an end to his bullishness.
Having had enough, Lisa spoke up, “Guys, knock it off already. Gah! So stupid.”
“Yeah, come on, guys. It’s not worth it. Back off. Let’s figure this out,” I told them.
Brock tried to side-step me so he could get to the vampire, “I bet you did it!”
“Did what?” Markus asked.
“Killed him!” he said, pointing to the corpse strewn about on the floor.
“He didn’t! He was standing over there with me! I promise you! The girl didn’t do it either. They were laughing and joking the whole time.”
“Ok, so what happened?” Brock asked me.
“It-It was an accident. That’s right—he must’ve choked on the sandwich! It’s... It’s the only thing that makes sense,” I hurriedly explained while looking baffled as I thought about my own baffling explanation in real-time.
“Yeah, the sandwich you made,” Brock said.
“You mean the sandwiches we made?” I asked.
“I don’t trust either one of you,” Brock spoke.
“Yeah, well, I don’t trust you either,” Markus told him.
“Don’t you guys have superpowers or something? You must have mesmerized him!” Brock shouted.
“You watch to many movies, pal,” Markus hissed.
Just then, as if things weren’t chaotic enough, Roger huffed and puffed his way towards the kitchen. I could hear him grumbling about the loudness, and about him being the only civilized one out of the bunch. His ranting came to a halt when he bent the corner and saw Aaron’s body sprawled out on the floor. Before he could ask what happened, I yelled, “It was an accident! He choked on a sandwich!”
“The sandwich you made!” Brock exclaimed.
“Hey, back off before I hurt you!” Markus snarled before shoving him out of my face.
Brock stumbled sideways. He looked alarmed and surprised by Markus’ strength. I guess it must’ve finally dawned on the meathead. The fact that he was squaring off with something designed to kill him. He quickly backed down, like the bully he was, and determined he’d have better odds studying the crime scene.
I could tell Markus wanted to end him right then and there, but out of civility and decency he held back. He centered himself until he had returned to normal. Relief washed over his senses after wrestling control of his primal urges back from the vampire within.
“Thanks man,” I told Markus.
“Don’t mention it,” he grumbled, I could tell by the way he said it that he wasn’t fully convinced that I had nothing to do with it.
This was crazy. What the hell did I sign up for? I asked myself. I could tell everyone was thinking the same thing. Because everyone just kind of looked at everyone else with an accusatory eye.
Aaron’s body was twisted, as if his final moments were his most miserable. He was laying on his back. His hands sprawled out and his face black and blue. I looked away after looking into his eyes.
“Dammit man,” I muttered.
“What do we do now?” Sarah sheepishly asked while wiping away another round of tears.
“What did the lady say?” Brock asked.
“What lady?” I asked him.
“You know, the voiceover—from when we first came in; she said something about coffins,” he stated.
“Oh, you me the burial room?” I inquired.
“That’s right! W-We gotta take him there. Come on let’s go,” He stammered out before hunching over and quickly scooping Aaron’s body off the floor.
It was surprising and haphazard, the way he did it, but hey, I suppose perfection wasn’t the goal. He had Aaron slung over his back, like a sack of rotten potatoes, showing off his might in the process. He looked me dead in the eyes and said, “Lead the way, hero-boy. I wanna make sure I keep you in my sights.”
submitted by RingoCross99 to u/RingoCross99 [link] [comments]

2023.03.29 22:47 rainbowsandsausages Best convertible car seat fit

Hi fellow CX5 owners,
We got our 2021 CX5 carbon not expecting to find out we were having twins. Well... yeah, that happened. We are now ready to upgrade to a convertible car seat, and I'm having trouble deciding which would be most comfortable for the almost 1 year olds. The thing that would be the most helpful is if would could anchor middle and passenger, instead of both back passenger seats.
So long shot-- does anyone know if Graco SlimFit3 LX 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat could be my unicorn that would fit next to each other, middle and passenger?
Or, for the size of the back seat, which convertible seat do you recommend? We aren't the tallest people, but it's not the biggest car, and feel cramped with their infant seats.
submitted by rainbowsandsausages to CX5 [link] [comments]

2023.03.29 22:46 RingoCross99 The Adventure Games (Section 1 of 4)

The Adventure Games (Section 1 of 4)
Have a blast!
The Adventure Games
By Ringo Cross
Chapter 1: Insight
I stepped into my apartment, placed my back to the door and sighed in relief. Thank God I was home. I hadn’t been for the past few days. I was at the hospital watching over my sister with our parents. Just when we were starting to get our hopes up. Just when we thought she was going to make a full recovery, she took a turn for the worse.
It all felt more like a curse than an affliction. My sister went from a healthy, happy-go-lucky teenager, to a fever-stricken soul, stranded somewhere between the land of the living and nonliving. She had a sudden case of sleeping beauty syndrome. The doctors didn’t know for sure, but they suspected the strange bite on her neck was the culprit. Two neat puncture wounds rationalized away as an animal bite. We all knew what it really was, it’s just that no one wanted to be the one who was crazy enough to say it.
It was like her body was slowly wasting away. Was she becoming undone, or perhaps something else altogether? Eh... Who knows. I did know one thing for sure, it was all too grim and preposterous a reality for my parents to accept. No matter what the doctors tried or how hard mom and dad prayed for her deliverance, she just kept getting worse while acting stranger.
It was like she had been pulled from the world, and we had all been pulled right along with her, into a strange new world that made no sense. Her doctors told us that at the rate she was deteriorating, she didn’t have much time left. God. I wish this was the part where I told you, “I became a superhero and saved her life.” Maybe in my own roundabout way, I did become something of her savior.
The truth is, what happened to her, I... I never saw it coming. Did vampires really exist? I couldn’t tell you how much or how long this question had tortured my mind. I was going to do some serious digging and get to the bottom of this. Because if there was any way to save her; to stop her from fading, I swore to find it.
My phone began to ring. It was my parents. They were at the hospital, keeping vigil at her bedside. I shook my head while thinking about how much of a toll her sudden illness had taken upon them. They were both so virtues and upright. Their faith in God had really been shaken. I turned my phone on silent mode. I-I didn’t want to talk to them. I needed time to grieve on my own.
I wanted a beer. No, I needed a beer. Something cold and inebriating to free my mind from the pain of watching my little sister slip away. I’m surprised I made it this long without dipping into my reserves, I thought to myself as I reached into the fridge and grabbed a cold one.
I just sat there at my kitchen table. Reliving as many memories of us together as I could. There were so many. I... I adored her more than life itself. She could do no wrong. Her smile... it... it haunts me. My God, I never knew pain like this. I had never followed my parents down the “righteous path.” I always considered myself a person of logic and reason. Simply believing in a higher power wasn’t enough for me, neither had it ever been enough to ease the void of loneliness within me.
But after this, how could I not believe in God? How could I explain away my grief? All I wanted was for this to all make sense. Maybe it was her time? Even if it was, why like this? Why so tragic and bitter? There were just too many reasons why I stopped believing. Crazy thing was, right now, I desperately wanted to believe. I wanted to close my eyes, clasp my hands together, and pray for a miracle. I tried but couldn’t bring myself to do so, no matter how strong the desire. There was no God, and a crisis wasn’t my chance to retreat.
I had seen the dark side of faith. The way my parents justified what happen to my baby sister by saying, “God has a plan” made me sick to my core. Just thinking about it made me nauseous. My faith had been stretched to the breaking point a long time ago. This was just the sad culmination of a collision between faith and obstinacy. The explosion went off like a bomb in my head. The pain was truly limitless... I just hoped her death didn’t turn me into a serial killer. I smirked at my own inane, insane thought before downing my beer.
I grabbed another beer to drown my sorrows in. Just then, there was a sudden knock at the door. The slight but unmistakable tapping surprised the crap out of me. So much so, I almost spilled my beer. I figured it was my ex. She had planned on stopping by a bit later to return my key and to pick up the last of her things.
When I looked through the peephole, I saw two people standing there in black suits. The sight threw me off and made me briefly sick to my stomach. Little did I know, I should have followed my gut instinct, but instead, I foolishly opened the door.
“Hello, Mr. Graham. My name’s Agent Adams. This is my partner, Agent Harris.”
Before I could process what was happening, Agent Harris extended her hand and said, “Pleasure.”
“Um... You too, I think? I guess? Hope I’m not in any trouble?” I told her.
“You’re not,” she smirked.
“Who are you guys again?”
“We work for the government,” she said.
“The FBI?” I asked.
“Ugh. Everyone says that. I guess it is the suits,” Agent Adams grumbled. He shook his head in annoyance before adding, “We work for the Department of Homeland Security. DPI for short. It’s the paranormal division.”
“Who again?” I asked him.
“Eh. The Department of Paranormal Investigations,” he clarified with something of an attitude.
“Huh. Never heard of it,” I spoke.
“Can we come in, Mr. Graham?” he asked.
I thought about it for a moment. I didn’t like this Agent Adams guy. He gave off a bad vibe. My first mind was to tell them to kick rocks, but I decided against being so brash and rash just in case they had a warrant. I wasn’t thinking straight. My sister’s woes weighed too mightily on my spirit. Before letting them pass, I did ask to see some identification. I’m not that stupid. Had to be sure they weren’t pulling my leg.
Agent Adams flashed his badge with a slight grumble. Agent Harris had no problem letting me see hers. She was at least pleasant, I thought while examining her government ID. I also wondered why someone so young and attractive had been stuck with someone so old and unattractive. I bet she hated her partner, I thought to myself with a smirk, as I let them pass through the door.
Agent Adams took a seat at my kitchen table without me offering. His partner looked at him a bit perplexed before waiting until I said, “It’s ok. You can have a seat.”
“Thank you,” she replied.
“So, what brings two DPI agents to my home? You sure I haven’t done anything illegal?”
“Hmm... Maybe there is something you’d like to confess, Mr. Graham,” Agent Adams spoke.
“I don’t know. Maybe I have an old parking ticket or something minor like that.”
“We don’t handle citations,” he replied.
“Sorry. Dumb question.”
“Apology rejected,” he uttered.
“Uh-hm. Forgive my partner he can be a bit—"
Agent Adams brought his hand to his chin. His abrupt gesture caused his partner to pause mid-sentence and look over at him. The two exchanged glances. He paused for a moment more before saying, “That’s a nice brand of beer. I haven’t had a cold one in a while.”
“Would you like one? I have plenty.”
“Really?” I asked.
“You offered. I accepted.”
“Uh, what about you, Miss Harris?”
“It’s Agent Harris. And no.” She looked over at her partner with a raised eyebrow, “Can you not drink on the job? It’s unprofessional.”
“Fine,” he grumbled before reaching into the inner pocket of his suit coat to retrieve his vape pen.
“Are you sure? Like I said I have plenty.”
“I’m sure. I am the senior agent after all. Probably should set a better example and all,” with a wink he added, “If you survive, I’ll come back and take you up on that offer, Mr. Graham.”
“How do you know he’ll even want to participate?” his partner asked. I could hear the annoyance in her tone. She groaned before telling me, “Sorry about that.”
Agent Adams let out a heavy cloud of steam. He studied me a fair bit longer than I was comfort with. Especially someone like him, whose eyes were grey enough to sting. He took another hit from his vape pen. This time blowing the steam in my direction. His wrinkled face blocked out by the heavy cloud as he said, “Oh, he’ll join, alright. He’s not in any position to refuse.”
“That’s pretentious,” she grumbled.
“Hah. It’s the truth.”
“What the hell is this about?”
“Your sister, Mr. Graham,” he said.
“What about her?” I asked.
“We know what happened.”
“Um. Okay? Creepy.”
“Uh, what my partner is trying to say is that we might be able to help. I reviewed her chart. I think I know what the problem is,” Agent Harris explained.
“What can a couple of government agents do that a team of doctors haven’t already tried?” I asked.
“Your sister. She was bitten by a vampire, Mr. Graham,” Agent Adams stated. He paused for a moment to study my reaction before adding, “You seem like a clever guy. I’m sure you already suspected as much.”
“So, they do exist,” I mumbled to myself.
“Yes. The vampire who attacked your sister was probably desperate. He broke what are a set of well-established rules called Blood Codes.”
“Really? Vampires have rules?”
“There’s always rules, Mr. Graham.”
“Whatever. And where is this freak? I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on him.”
“He’s already been dealt with.”
“By you guys?”
“By his overseer.”
“Good. I hope his death was slow and painful.”
“It was. Their methods are very draconian.”
“Then what do you need from me?” I asked.
“What about you? Would you kill to save your sister?”
“I would if I had to,” I affirmed without hesitation or reservation. I suppose I only spoke so confidently and assuredly because I thought it was a hypothetical. I mean this was the government after all. They would never ask me to do anything crazy, right? But then again, I would’ve told you you were crazy if you would have told me vampires were a real thing before my sister was attacked by one. Still, his question was odd. And the more I thought about it, the more it disturbed me.
Agent Harris chimed in, “Um, Mr. Graham, I’m sorry. I don’t know why my partner said that. You shouldn’t have to kill anyone. For you, it’s probably more a matter of participation than annihilation. If we did require you to do such a thing, rest assure, we’d provide you with all the materials necessary to succeed. Before you ask, we’re on your side, Mr. Graham. We want you to see your sister once the games have concluded.”
“The games?” I asked.
“Yes. If you enter our game, we’ll save your sister’s life. No questions asked,” she replied.
“What kind of game?”
“The Adventure Games.”
“The what games?”
“Adventure Games,” she smirked.
“What’s the catch?”
“Well, the games could be dang—”
Agent Adams quickly butted in before Agent Harris could reveal the truth. “There’s no catch, Mr. Graham. None whatsoever. Don’t listen to my partner. She can be a bit too detail orientated.”
“The devil is always in the details,” I muttered.
“But not a cure for your sister,” he coldly replied.
“Hey. What is that supposed to mean?”
“What do you think? Do you want to waste time going over the fine print, or do you want to step up to the plate and save your sister?”
I thought about it for a moment. “Eh. How do I know I can trust you to keep your word? I mean the government isn’t exactly super trustworthy.”
“Know what, I like you, Mr. Graham. Tell you what I’ll do. Humph. If you agree, we’ll transfer your sister to our facility, right away. That way she can get a jumpstart on her treatment program before you even set foot in the games,” he checked his wristwatch and added, “We can get her there by midnight. Let’s see... hmm... typical turnaround for blood sickness is what? Maybe a few hours if we play our cards right?”
“Six to eighteen hours is more accurate,” Agent Harris clarified to her partner’s chagrin.
“Close enough,” he grumbled.
Agent Harris ignored him. Turning her attention back to me, she said, “I have some good news and some bad news. Which would you like first?”
“Give me the good news.”
“Ok. Based on her chart, it looks like her affliction has progressed beyond normal blood sickness. Once we administer the antidote, she should be fine, but there’s always a chance she won’t make it. I’m sure our techs back at the lab will make the process as painless as possible for your sister. This is what I can do for you if you decide to join the project. I promise we’ll have her call you before you leave for the games.”
“Great. Where do I sign?” I asked.
Agent Adams put away his vape pen. “You don’t sign. You signing something doesn’t matter. We’re dealing with information above top secret, Mr. Graham.”
“Whatever,” I shrugged.
“There is one other thing,” Agent Harris said.
“The bad news, right?”
“Right,” she nodded.
Agent Harris looked over at her partner. She was careful not to reveal anything more until he nodded his head in approval. Some of the info they had already revealed was pushing the line above top secret into ‘black protocol’ territory, or what agents at DPI called “above top secret classification.”
Agent Adams nodded before quickly returning his attention back to vaping, retrieving the addictive device almost faster than he had put it away.
Agent Harris cleared her throat. “I’m sorry, Mr. Graham. Your sister’s illness has progressed too far. We can save her, but she won’t be human anymore. She’ll be a vampire. The transformation is irreversible I’m afraid.”
“Really? A vampire?”
“That is correct.”
“Jesus. I need a smoke,” I said as I jumped from my chair and grabbed the pack of smokes sitting on my kitchen counter. I lit one up and began pacing back and forth like a madman. With a bit of reluctance, I turned to Agent Harris and grumbled, “How fast can we get this done?”
“Now, if you agree.”
“That fast, huh?”
“Yes. We already have a team standing by. One phone call from us and they’ll began the extraction.”
“I already told you, I’m in.”
When I reaffirmed my commitment, Agent Adams looked over at his partner with a smug “I told you so” expression. He stood and extended his hand for me to shake. “Good choice, Mr. Graham. You’re a real champ.”
I shook his hand while glaring into his eyes. “You guys better not be trying to pull a fast one.”
“We wouldn’t. You’re not that important,” he smirked before blowing a cloud of steam into my face. “Goodbye, Mr. Graham. I’m sure I won’t be seeing you around,” he sarcastically added before heading for the door.
I shook Agent Harris’ hand. She removed her shades and told me, “Good luck, Mr. Graham.”
“What do I do next?”
“Pack light and wait.”
“Really? That’s it?”
“Yeah. We’ll be back in a couple of hours to take you to prescreening.”
“Sounds fair.”
“Good to hear.”
“So, what are these ‘Adventure Games’ anyway?”
She placed her shades back on. Her expression distant and cold. “Sit tight. We have to make a few arrangements and finish up some paperwork on our end before I can reveal any information. I’m sure the paperwork will get approved by the time we come back for you. Once this happens, I’ll explain everything you need to know.”
I just stood there dumbfounded by the moment. I could hear Agent Harris discussing Agent Adams’ conduct as they let themselves out and began making their way down the hall. Apparently, Agent Harris was disappointed that he had asked me for a beer. She pointed out that this was an obvious workplace violation, and how he could be terminated for his conduct. He found her chiding amusing and told her he had no intentions on drinking on the job. When he made this claim, she was incredulous and asked what possessed him to even ask in the first place.
I could barely hear them at this point since they were standing by the elevator. But I believe his response was something on the lines of, “I wanted to read his reaction. If he handled himself wisely, I knew we wouldn’t have a problem recruiting him for the games.”
“And if he reacted poorly?” she asked.
“Well then, your little behavioral profile would have been wrong, and we would’ve had a head start on finding his replacement,” he told her.
I closed the door in disgust. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, or if they could even be trusted. I knew it too. That cliché feeling had reached all the way down to my gut. My conscience... the good angel on my shoulder was telling me to run.
With a heavy heart, I chose to ignore the voice. My sister’s life hung in the balance. Sometimes in life you had to take risks. My choice to go along with these agents and their dubious claims wasn’t a tough or noble act. It was one wrought from desperation. What were my options? Not joining meant my sister would waste away until it was too late. Phew. This was a lot of pressure. My back was against the wall literally and figuratively.
I let out a long sigh and mustered the courage to begin packing. I hadn’t gotten much sleep either. Hopefully the car ride to wherever we were going would be a long one, and I could get some much-needed rest, I thought to myself as I shoved way too many things into my bag.
Tears escaped from my eyes. I had to stay the course. I had to hear her voice. I finally broke down and prayed to God, asking him to look over me. I still didn’t believe. I don’t know why I did it. I guess out of hope or necessity. My sister meant the world to me, and my parents, I don’t know what they would do if she perished.
Chapter 2: Foresight
The following day was a blur. I was taken to a massive facility that stood in the middle of nowhere. It was on the outskirts of the outskirts. The place was so far removed, they didn’t even bother with a blindfold. There was no elaborate story of denial, or even the whole “we cannot confirm or deny” troupe.
Nope. This was a secret facility where the government housed and did God knows who or what to who or what. From what I gathered, they performed strange experiments on poor sods, such as myself, who had foolishly signed their lives away. I gulped and told myself to shut up. If you think negative things, then you get negative results.
A group of oddly dressed soldiers called “acolytes” escorted me from the transport van to the staging area. I was able to check in with my sister, just like the agents promised. She was doing much better. The thought put a smile on my face and was all the motivation I needed. Now all I needed to do was win, so I could see her again.
Knock on wood, but if something were to happen to me, I didn’t really care. All that mattered was that little sis had finally turned the corner. I swear on my soul. This was more than I could have ever hoped for.
After answering an uncomfortable amount of questions and going through a battery of physical and mental tests, I was given the greenlight by the staff to join the event. This all happened at approximately 1400 hours the next day. I was taken away from the annoying, prodding techs in lab coats. I wouldn’t have mind leaving them behind, along with their invasive procedures if it wasn’t for the soldiers who escorted me to the staging area. They were cold and mechanical. They roughly shooed me to a section of the facility called Bunker 17, as if they were putting a dog back inside its kennel. We arrived at this damnable place, via elevator, twenty floors down.
To my surprise, there were already several people waiting when I arrived. They were all kind of just lingering about not doing much of anything. In front of us stood a pair of massive concrete doors that looked like the entrance to a mini fortress. We were all wearing these odd name tags. The moment made me sick to my stomach. The gazes of suspicion, intrigue, and indifference made me briefly curl up like a shrinking violet.
Hmm... No one told me I would be joined by others. I shrugged and figured as much. I was about to introduce myself when one of the soldiers radioed Command and informed them that we were ready to enter. Command radioed back and told them to give the signal. One of the acolyte soldiers gave a thumbs up, which I imagine they saw on the camera, right above the door.
When he did this an alarm sounded, red strobes flashed all arounds us, and the doors began to slowly creep open. The noise only added to the confusion and bewilderment. I took a step back, sure that the roof was going to collapse with every inch the doors gained. The whole thing was about as unnerving and uninviting as it could get. It looked more like a giant mouth slowly feasting upon the light, warning us to turn back, than an entrance.
We stepped inside only to be greeted by another set of massive doors. These were steel instead of concrete and looked like they could have been placed on the entrance to an impenetrable castle way up in the mountains. I looked back when the concrete doors begin to close. Only when they had fully shut, and we were devoured by the darkness, did the steel doors begin to open their mouth. The inner doors creaked and cranked, making the loudest, most-angriest sound imaginable. The process was excruciating and played on my mind almost as much as it played on my ears.
There was a great deal of radio chatter. The soldiers thrust us through the entrance. When we had all crossed the red line, one of them radioed Command, and the doors began to slowly close behind us. Fight or flight kicked in. I thought about making a run for it, but I could tell that that was bad idea by the way the soldiers were positioned behind the door with their weapons drawn.
I swear I could feel their laser sights more than I could see them in the piercing darkness. There was nothing like a big gun to chop through any language or mental barrier. It was louder and harder than any bull in any China shop would ever be.
I sighed when the doors finally closed behind us. My first thought was, what the hell had I gotten myself into? Followed quickly by, I can’t believe I let myself be talked into this. Before any of us could gather our bearings, the lights began to turn on. Once my eyes had adjusted to the blinding whiteness, I stood around like everyone else, amazed and surprised by the sight in front of me. It was funny in a sense. I was relieved by familiarity as it was the last thing on my mind.
It looked like a well-kept emergency shelter. The floors sparkled as if they had been waxed in preparation for our arrival. The kitchen and dayroom took up the bulk of the space. Before I could really sink my teeth into some good ole fashioned exploration, a voice could be heard over the loudspeaker. The prerecording was that of a woman, who sounded a bit robotic and automated, as if it had been altered to sound as friendly as possible. Which made it even more odd and creepy:
“Greetings, contestants! Welcome to the Adventure Games! These are the inaugural games, making this the very first event of its kind! So, consider yourselves lucky! The games have been lowered in difficulty by our wonderful technicians by approximately fifteen percent in honor of you being the very first souls to be taken.
I’m sure you’re all confused and have a lot of questions. Should I explain? Of course, I should explain! Well, here goes nothing! There are seven of you in total. You have all been locked inside of one of our many, many, many underground shelters! Bunker 17 to be precise. Which is part of the Northeastern Hemisphere Underground Network Systems, or N-HUN for short. That’s right! Your bunker is part of a much wider, global network that is maintained and operated by the New World Government Order or NWGO and members of the New Faith Alliance or NFA.
There are six levels of access in total. To gain access to the lower levels you need a “Marc” card. Which is short for Mark of Identifying numbers. Sorry average humans, only vampires and human personnel critical to the mission are given one. Don’t feel too bad, only high-ranking members of the NFA have access to the lower levels. And only super important people have access to the final level. Take my word for it, I’ve been down to level six and it’s definitely not a place you ever want to be.
I would tell you all about the many wonders, crazy contraptions, odd attractions, and foul creatures we keep below, but then I’d have to release the laughing gas... Just kidding... It’s actually sarin gas!
You have all been locked inside of Bunker 17. We stocked the place with plenty of provisions, so you won’t have to worry about starving to death for a very long time if anything terrible was to happen while you were away like, I don’t know, nuclear holocaust.
The recreational room is also state of the art. All the amenities you need are here. We made sure to provide our contestants with everything imaginable so all you’ll have to worry about is staying alive!
If you were to survive the games, which I highly doubt, then we will do as promised and grant you your wish, via taxpayer expense. There’s nothing the Illuminati loves more than wasting hard stolen taxpayer money on frivolous expenditures like elaborate “stress tests” on bunker sociology to see who’ll break.
All of you came here for a reason. One of you however asked to be here so you could murder everyone else who came here for a reason! Hooray for having zero conscience, our super mysterious serial killer contestant! How do you stop this maniac from murdering you? Why the answer is simple. Figure out which one of you is the murdering maniac and you win! That’s right, the game is officially over, and you can go home and enjoy whatever foolish thing you wished for. Hope it was worth it!
How might you rid yourselves of this psychopath, you ask? Please direct your attention to our voting room. Inside is a small stall, no bigger than an outhouse. At the end of each day, you will go inside, one by one, and vote on who you think the killer is. If the majority votes correctly then the game is over. If there is a tie or lower, then the games continue. Oh, and just to make things fair, the killer will always vote for themselves. This will continue until enough of you vote correctly or everyone besides the killer is D.E.A.D.
♫ Do-do-do dodo! ♫
Congratz subject number 4, Roger J. Pierson III. You have been assigned the master bedroom! Which means you are responsible for reading the daily tasks! What daily tasks you might wonder? Why they’re clues to help you solve the killer-mystery, so pay close attention!
How does it work? Each day Roger will receive a card from HQ, using our spiffy pneumatic system, with direct access to the master bedroom. Our technicians, who helped created this wonderful kill box, call these messages ‘Vital Tasks’. Gather in one place and read them carefully, but only if you’re interested in surviving.
Good luck everyone! Oh, and be sure to have fun while playing. There is a small suggestion box located in the recreational room, next to the TV. All suggestions are anonymous and will help us to not only create a better experience, but even more enjoyable deaths! Salutations! Enjoy your stay at our super-secret underground facility! Thank you for your participation in the Adventure Games! And remember, no matter what happens, you are a valued guest at Bunker 17!”
When the strange announcement ended, everyone just kind of looked around in confusion. It was one of those moments when you question reality. There were seven of us in total. Everyone was wearing a name tag. Each name was more of a twisted moniker than our actual name. I looked down at my own and saw the word “Hero.” I found this odd for a few reasons. The first being I wasn’t a hero. I was your average guy at best. The second, more chilling reason was I did not remember putting this stupid thing on. How it got there was a mystery. I suppose in the thick of the chaos, one of the lab technicians must’ve slapped it on before they rushed me out.
The guy next to me, whose name tag read “Follower,” began to spaz. I tried to calm him, but it didn’t work. He made a break for it, running all the way back to the entrance. “Let me out! I didn’t sign up for this!” he cried and screamed while pounding on the steel slab.
There was a tall, bulky guy, wearing a tank top that barely fit. His name tag read “Bully” and was glued to his chest. He flexed his peck muscles and laughed very loudly and rudely at the young guy. He looked over at me and then everyone else while wildly yelling, “Come on guys! They’re obviously trying to scare us. The lady over the intercom wasn’t even trying to hide how obvious it was with all those corny jokes. What is this supposed to be? Fallout: New Vegas?!” He hooted and chuckled.
“This is stupid,” the woman next to me said. I looked over and saw that her name tag read: “Narcissist.”
“Screw it,” the Follower said after seeing that he was making a fool out of himself by crying and wailing not only in vain but to the amusement of others.
“I want to go home,” a girl sniveled. I glanced over and saw that her name tag read, “Teenager.”
Bully’s laughter pulled me away from the shock of seeing a teenager in a place like this. I cringed when he hollered out “Guys! It’s not real!” as if he wasn’t making yet another useless PSA.
There was this guy leaning against the wall. He watched with folded arms as the Follower finally gave up the goose. I could have sworn he was just standing right next to me, but I could be wrong. His name tag read “the Rationalizer.” He looked over at us and asked, in a very matter-of-fact tone, “So. What do we do now?”
“Let’s go get the message like the lady said over the intercom,” I told everyone with a shrug.
“Good idea,” the Rationalizer said. I think he was being sarcastic when he said it, but who knows. A guy like that was difficult to read.
The seven of us traveled through the kitchen and recreational area. Then we made our way down the narrow hall, towards our rooms. There were two names assigned to each one, except for the master bedroom. I nearly jumped out of my skin when I saw that the Rationalizer was assigned to the same room as me. Seeing my discomfort, he gave me a pat on the back before opening the door to our room.
I peeked inside and saw a very clean but very bare bones living space. There were a few accommodations, just nothing like home. Let’s see, there was a bunkbed on one side, two lockers, and a large dresser on the other. The floor was just as cold, polished, and uninviting as the kitchen and hall. Turns out, the only thing they bothered to make warm and cozy was the recreational room. Oh, and the master bedroom, hate to forget that.
I poked my head in Roger’s room. If I hadn’t mentioned it by now, his name tag read: “the Lover.” He damn near kissed the floor when he saw how magnificent his stay would be. His reaction rubbed pretty much all of us the wrong way. The Narcissist’s in particular. When she saw her room, and realized she had to share with the Teenager, she hyperventilated. Unlike the Lover’s eccentrics, her selfishly induced panic attack put a smile on my face.
“Huh. Looks like they got at least one of our name tags spot-on,” the Rationalizer said while observing her antics and thinking the same thing I was thinking.
Bully nearly buckled over he laughed so hard. Seeing this and that he shared a room with this meathead, the Follower began laughing right along with him. I don’t even think he knew why he was laughing. He saw Bully doing it and just followed along. I shook my head. I did chuckle a bit under my breath. The whole thing was ridiculous, I thought to myself as I turned my attention back to the Lover. There was something about him that was different. I just couldn’t put my finger on what it was.
Was there a faster way to draw suspicion than being called out by name and given something. Not only was it something, but it happened to be the one spacious, well decorated, most comfortable room out of the whole lot. Silk pillows, satin sheets, and a handwoven quilt that was draped over the bottom of a lavish, four-post bed. The posts were shaped into gargoyles. Even his dresser was handcrafted, the wallpaper elegant, and the red carpet fit for royalty. I could go on and on, but I didn’t want my intrigue to turn into outrage. Not yet at least. This all could be a prank like Bully suggested.
Eh. I know I keep harping on the subject, but it was hella unfair. What could I do? Even if I wanted to take it there, what were my options? Try to take the room from him by force? Yeah. That’s smart. That way everyone would think I was the killer for sure.
I had never even thought about killing someone in my whole life. Ok... you got me. The vampire who nearly killed my sister was the only creature. Hearing Agent Adams tell me he had been cruelly dispatched by his masters was sweet music to my ears. My only regret was that I wasn’t there to witness him suffer. If I was, I would have begged the monster behind the mask to prolong his pain for as long as vampirically possible.
“Hey, pal! Hurry up! I’m starving,” Bully shouted, snapping my mind out of its downward spiral of dark, borderline psychotic thought.
“I’m grabbing the card now!” the Lover shouted back before seizing the plastic capsule that was ejected from a long, pneumatic tube system. He removed the card from the red envelope and read what it said:
Task 1. Introduce yourself to the others. State all critical information such as name, age, and reason you’re here. This is very important: reveal if you are human or not. Do not lie unless you are the killer. You may remove your name tag afterwards.”
After he read the card, we all glanced around at one another, wondering if this was indeed someone’s idea of a sick joke. Or perhaps this was a dream we would all wake up from very soon? I prayed for the ladder but feared and respected the former. My thoughts loud and sweeping amidst the awkward silence that had overtaken us.
Bully rubbed his stomach. “I’m hungry. You guys can keep standing around looking stupid if you want. I’m off to see what’s in the fridge.”
“Um. Gross,” the Narcissist stated before she checked the pockets of her stylish plaid topcoat. She gasped in exasperation before yelping in dismay, “OMG. But how? How did they even know?”
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“They must’ve taken it!” she cried.
“Taken what?” I asked.
She looked over at me with an expression that told me everything I needed to know. Then she groaned out the most unimaginative words imaginable, “God. I thought I smuggled my backup phone. I put it in my pocket, it should be here. Screw it. Guess I’ll just die of boredom.”
“Or you could reconnect with your other senses,” the Rationalizer said. He folded his arms and stared at the Narcissist hungrily. If she wasn’t so preoccupied with being preoccupied by nothing, she would have noticed his lecherous gawk.
“Whatever. I hate my life,” she sighed.
“What’s a ‘backup’ phone?” I asked.
“Old people, dude,” the Follower blurted before chuckling to himself at my expense.
“I’m not old. I just never heard of a backup phone,” I explained, my tone a bit defensive.
“My bad, bro. Don’t get mad.”
“I’m not getting mad.”
“Hey. Whatever you say, bro.”
“It’s your other phone just in case your non other phone dies. Tch. Duh. I have followers, you know,” she replied all hot and haughtily.
“Come on guys,” I said before making my way towards the kitchen. Bully was already there, rummaging through the cupboards like a man on a mission.
When he saw us, he looked back and said, “I’m starving, haven’t eaten since breakfast!”
“How are we looking? Plenty of good stuff?” I asked as I made my approach.
“Bingo!” he hooted and rooted, ignoring me like a butthole over a loaf of bread. He made some weird comment about how he couldn’t believe they had sprouted grain bread. And how sprouted grain bread was savage. And how sprouted grain bread aided in muscle recovery. And how sprouted grain bread blah blah blah; all bodybuilding nonsense no one else understood. I understood how rude he was, however. He practically commandeered the counter and began making himself half a dozen sandwiches with the ham that he had snagged from the fridge.
“How are we looking?” I asked again.
“Dude, we’re freaking loaded!”
I opened the large pantry and saw four shelves filled with cans. “Wow. Yeah, you’re right.”
The one guy, who had the master bedroom, the Lover, I believe his name tag was; he cleared his throat and said, “Ok. So, who’s going to go first?”
“First in what?” the Follower asked.
“Introducing themselves,” he hissed.
“Tch. I’m not wasting my time,” the Follower laughed. To be honest, he seemed like a nice kid, but his laugh was maddening. This high pitch chortle followed by a guttural snort or two. Ugh. Just thinking about it made my skin crawl.
“I think you should go first,” I told Bully.
“Oh, yeah? Why’s that?” he asked.
“Because you’re a big oaf.”
Everyone at the table laughed, including the Follower. He stood from his seat, still snorting, and said, “Dude! You have a mountain of sandwiches! You could have at least asked if anyone else wanted one.”
Bully laughed before and after taking a chunk out of his first sandwich. “Whatever. I worked hard to get these muscles. Judging by your appearance, I don’t think you’ve ever seen an honest day’s work at the gym.”
“Ouch,” the Follower nervously chuckled. He slinked back down in his seat and tried to hide as we all laughed at the poor guy’s expense.
Bully looked over at me as if he saw something he didn’t like. Before I could ask if he had a staring problem, he said, “What about you? You seem pretty straightlaced. Maybe you should go first.”
I looked around and saw everyone’s eyes fall on me after he had pretty much thrown me under the bus. I threw my hands up in defeat and told them, “Fine. It’s not like I have anything to hide; I’ll go first.”
The Lover gestured for me to take the metaphorical stage and said, “The floor is yours.”
submitted by RingoCross99 to u/RingoCross99 [link] [comments]

2023.03.29 22:40 seafoodchef On day 17.

Didn’t get to post a day 16 but I’m on 17 today! Anxiousness is terrible but I’m doing healthy coping mechanisms like taking walks, going to parks, getting the sun, eating proteins, and taking supplements. I’m a very busy body and work has been helping me keep straight. Night time is usually hardest for me because being lonely can scare me sometimes but it’s needed for growth. I’m going to look into a CrossFit gym membership and start working out so I can try and get a nice body. That’s my goal. And to save lots of money. Here’s to being another day clear. Respects to all of you who are taking the plunge and doing your best. I love you all who are in the first 4 days. You can do it. I believe in you! <3
submitted by seafoodchef to quittingkratom [link] [comments]

2023.03.29 22:36 deadpooliscool04 My Parent's Won't Take Care of Me or Themselves

Hey there, just needed to vent about my parents very briefly.
So I (19f) have been living with my parents up until about last year when I began college. I made the very conscious decision to move about 3 hours away to a secluded mountain town. Doesn't sound like a big deal, but leaving has made me really look back on my life and growing up. I don't think my parents are normal, or healthy, and I worry about my life because of this. I want other opinions on what I should do, what may be going on, if I'm the problem for viewing it this way to begin with.
My parents have been in an unhappy marriage for a long time. I was about 10 when I was complaining to my father(53m) about my mother, and for the first time, he didn't correct me. My mother (49f) is almost the sole problem from what I've seen. She is always cutting people off in conversation, specifically me, and has done this my entire life. She is always playing the victim and not taking responsibility, often using guilt to get out of things. She also uses her medical issues to avoid things, claiming to have a headache or that she feels well whenever she is confronted by others or simply something she doesnt want to do. There have been many times throughout life where we have made plans as a family that she has backed out on at the last second for whatever reason, leaving me and my father to go do whatever. The kicker? She is upset at the bond between me and my father. She separates herself from me and him and has been doing so for years, and then throws bipolar-like fits about being left out. This doesn't make me want to be with her more.
My mother is constantly on her computer or phone. She always claims to be working, but nobody works that much. It is constant. If she's not on the computer or phone, she's watching something on the television that's aimed towards younger children like bluey. If we're not watching something disney animated in the room with her, she tends to get upset. I'm extremely bothered by the fact that I've been told to keep my newly bought ps5 at my parents house since it's too valuable to take... and she has access to it. It bothers me because she badgered me every day for the past month about buying the harry potter game. She's going to have a new hyperfixation that makes her even more distant, irresponsible, and childish.
My mother quit her job and did not tell my father. She had a steady job as a law firm secretary, but was unfortunately unhappy. I understand that and support her decision to not work there any longer, but she decided to switch career fields to a middle school teacher. I know this sounds honorable, but my mother has no degree in education. If I were the school, I would never have hired her for how she treats her own children. My half sister (29f) was pressured by my mom when she was 10 into living with her abusive mother because my mom didn't want a step child. I learned this recently and ended up forgiving my sister for all the crap she put me through once I accepted it wasn't her fault who she learned it from. She constantly complained about rudeness in her last job, and now she comes home every day complaining about beef she has with literal 12 year olds. She didn't tell my father of the change until she'd already accepted the position, which really bothered him because the family took a major pay decrease that he hadn't prepared for because of her.
Over spring break, I realized just how bad things have gotten. My mother has become a lazy slob who does nothing. The house stinks of shit because the cats my mother begged for aren't being cleaned up after. I left my own cat in her care and she won't even clean his shit box. The cats have begun to piss on clean laundry and soft surfaces like blankets, carpets, and the couch as a substitute. My dad has always valued a clean home and a tight family so I know this is killing him- he is the only one doing any chores. There were dishes piling over the sink. She had constantly left her junk food wrappers along the floor, leaving her food open until it became stale. I used to be a slob when I lived in the house, mostly because I think of the influence I grew up under. Since moving away, I've lost weight and work out daily, have a healthy relationship with food. I keep my dorm very tidy and neat and find it stress relieving. Both my parents are overweight and do not brush their teeth daily. I have been to the dentist once in my entire life, when I was 11, and never since or before.
I cried over spring break because there was no food. My mom hadn't gone to the grocery store until the day before I left, so I lost a lot of the muscle gains I had worked so hard to get. Being healthy means a lot to me because of the environment I grew up in. I've told them this and I thought they agreed and supported me. I feel like a dark cloud is over that house that contributed greatly to my anxiety and depression through my teenage years.
I always felt like a bad child to them. I still do. On the night of my prom, my mother cried and demanded I come home so they could take pictures of me, even though they knew I was already an hour away at the event. They said I acted selfishly that night and that I should've invited my mom to my prom getting ready (which i had decided was going to be private between me and my best friend-secret ex girlfriend at the time) and the prom itself. Apparently I made her cry. I think about this often. I just wanted to have a good night and feel beautiful because it was something I had looked forward to since childhood and I couldn't even enjoy that. She took credit for several christmas gift I bought with my own money for my nephew, insisted she be credited for her success at my highschool graduation, and cried for feeling left out on my fathers birthday because me and my sister wanted to read a card to him privately. Over break, my mother asked my father in a very snappy voice what they were going to do for lunch that day since she knew there was no groceries... it was their anniversary and they had a steakhouse reservation 2 hours later. I didn't eat that entire day.
But enough about her, here's my father. I love him deeply. But he is judgmental. He has told me to my face while I cried about a boy that I shouldn't expect to get proposed to because my standards are too high. He refused to take me home from school one day while I had a panic attack in the bathroom because I was being bullied. He used to make me writes five page essays throughout my childhood up until the age of 18 if I wanted to watch a certain show that wasn't approved by him to convince him I could. He once called me selfish and insulting because I told a cashier to keep the change. He told me I was sexualizing myself when I was 17 and wearing a knee length dress.
Today I embarassed a group mate in my class as she did none of the project and had conveniently had an unmissable sports game that took her out of town, leaving me to do the entirety of presenting. The teacher told me she had claimed to contribute, I openly corrected him and he immediately changed our grade upon hearing the truth so I wouldn't fail because of her. There were maybe 10 people in the class. While I regret being so bold about it, she deserved it. It was a six month long project in a major class and I am not willing to let myself fail for her. A friend in the class said she was even proud of me for standing up for myself. But my father is disappointed. My father's called me selfish once again. Why am I always selfish for sticking up for myself? What has rolling over brought this family? It has brought anxiety, mental illness, and low self esteem. It brought me abusive relationships and self harm. I deserve better. I just want my parents to tell me that.
I fear my fathers judgement so much, I haven't dared speak word of what happened to me on graduation night, when I was raped and beaten in the basement by a boy I was seeing at the time. I just know he would blame me for having boys in the house after dark.
I just want to know what other people may think of this, please. I'm growing resentful of everything they do. I'm resentful they chipped in for my younger cousins car but not mine. I'm resentful they won't let me make any of my big life events mine. I'm resentful they are still calling me to bother me about my grades, which are all A's and B's. They judge me for smoking weed but I do it to forget that night in June. I'm trying to quit now actually. Every time I have asked for help finding an affordable therapist down there as this area isn't big into mental health, they forget. They say I don't remind them when I do it once a month.
I'm just tired. I wish I was supported. I feel like because I'm the only one who cleaned and tried to cook over break that I'm now mothering my parents. Let me know your thoughts and analysis please, and any advice would be appreciated. Thank you for reading.
submitted by deadpooliscool04 to Vent [link] [comments]

2023.03.29 22:29 Fickle_Pollution_747 do other self-harm free people feel triggered by seeing objects in view that they used to use to self-harm with?

Personally me (17F) made the great decision on April 23rd, 2021 that day would be my last one cutting. But since than I can't:
○ shower I wash my face, than my hair, than I have to SHAVE, I don't enjoy that I full-body shave because I swim and adore the aesthetic. I hate shaving my arms it really triggers me, I can't look at the razor it's terrifying, i just sit there and think for an hour, do it and cry than wash my body with soap and leave.
○ see razors, knives and sharp things they really off put me to the point itd either me or the knife that needs to leave. I'm a teenager, high-school kids enjoy showing off their the cool things like alcohol, phones, cars but there's the weird bunch that like to show off their weaponry. One guy pulled out a razor at the cigarette circle and was showing everybody and trying to cut his jeans. Seeing knives and razors and scissors make me shake a bit and breathe fast.
These things just make life hard because i constantly I am just having calm periods than I am cramped up forced to look at my darkest moments.
submitted by Fickle_Pollution_747 to venting [link] [comments]

2023.03.29 22:21 newsleafs Recommendation for new card after building credit?

I’ve been working on building my credit and I’m 22 with a 702 credit score, but I’m not sure what credit card will work the best for me. I have some basic good ones that I like for cash back, but I’m looking to upgrade to something with more benefits, particularly Travel. I’m open to paying an annual fee if the benefits are worth it, so I was thinking about the Amex Gold. I’d definitely use up the dining credits easily. I also like the shopping offers that come through on my Amex Everyday and I heard the Gold card has better offers as well.
I think it’s bit more tricky for me because I don’t have a preferred airline to travel with, the couple of trips I have taken in the past have just been me jumping on a good deal that was cheap with a particular airline.
I think it’s a better fit for me than the Platinum as I’m looking to increase my traveling for the next couple years, but it still won’t be super frequent and the stuff like lounge access won’t be used a lot. I was also thinking about the Capitol One Venture cards but it’s a little harder for me to make out which one would be the best fit. I would appreciate any insight or recommendations you could offer!
Total limit $12,450
MEMBERSHIPS & SUBSCRIPTIONS (delete lines that don't apply)
submitted by newsleafs to CreditCards [link] [comments]

2023.03.29 22:20 Flimsy-Time-3497 [Build Help (Student)] PC for PhD work in Robotics - Programming and Simulation

Hi everyone,
I'm a PhD student in Mechanical Engineering focusing on Robotics and I'm building my first PC. I'm hoping to get some feedback on my part list to see if it's a good fit for my needs.
Partpicker Link
Here's the current part list:
My primary use for this PC will be for robot (or autonomous vehicle) perception and localization. I often work with real-world camera, LiDAR, RADAR data and use the CARLA simulator as well. CARLA is a simulator based on Unreal Engine and provides a highly realistic environment for testing autonomous vehicle algorithms. I also use ROS (Robot Operating System) for programming. I use ubuntu OS.
I often work with pre-trained deep neural networks and would want to have the flexibility to train small-scale networks as well, which is why I chose the 4070 Ti. I looked for 30 series NVIDIA cards and 3090 was out of my budget range and 3070 had less VRAM than 4070 ti. Overall, 4070 ti came out to be the best option and I wanted to build around this card. Current build estimate is ~$1845 and my budget is around $1600. I am also looking for suggestions (for alternate parts) to make it fall within my budget range.
As this is my first build, I do not have good computer hardware background knowledge. I'm hoping to get some advice on whether this build is a good fit for my requirements.
Thanks in advance for your help!
submitted by Flimsy-Time-3497 to buildapc [link] [comments]

2023.03.29 22:10 macabeeI95 Mrs. Vanaria's Anti-LGBT Rhetoric

Mrs. Vanaria's Anti-LGBT Rhetoric
For months Waltham resident Deanna Monaco Vanaria has been making Facebook posts promoting the belief that schools expose children to sexually explicit LGBT-related material in order to "sexualize" or "groom" them, or pressure them to identify as LGBT, as part of a conspiracy to indoctrinate them in leftist ideologies. Yesterday, she re-posted a Fox News article about the mass shooting in Nashville, TN with a comment implying that "libs" who are supportive of trans people are to blame. The articled paraphrased a former FBI agent as saying that the shooting "is part of a pattern of mass shooters having 'sexual identity dysfunctions' and psychological confusion that must be addressed." This is egregiously false and this kind of rhetoric is almost certain to result in violence against trans people or people who provide services for LGBTQ+ youth.
Mrs. Vanaria's 3/29 post in \"The Waltham Loop\" Facebook Group.
This does not reflect the attitudes of most people in Waltham, though it's not surprising someone believes it given how widespread it is in right-wing media. It's important for the community to know about it in this case because Mrs. Vanaria is a very influential person in Waltham and active in Waltham politics.
Mrs. Vanaria and her husband Joe Vanaria work for Anthony Vanaria & Sons, a business started by Joe's grandfather that includes landscaping, snow-ploughing, and a landscaping supply store. According to public property records, Mr. Vanaria, his siblings, and their spouses own a total of at least $9.2 million of real estate in Waltham. This includes a multi-family residential property where they are landlords to at least eight households. According to a document filed with the city in 2020, they employee about 100 people, about 90 of whom live in Waltham. (NB there are also several people in Waltham with the surname Vanaria who are not related.)
During the 2021 Waltham election, Mrs. Vanaria was very vocal in Waltham FB groups and made negative posts and dubious claims about candidates Paz, Bradley-MacArthur, and Gamble. Claiming she was being censored in those groups, she started her own group called "Waltham Politics 2021 Know Your Candidates," later renamed "The Waltham Loop." While most members use this group to promote their businesses or local events, Mrs. Vanaria uses it to amplify far-right media trends including anti-LGBT "groomer" rhetoric.
In October 2021 she took part in a "Get Out the Vote" event with several candidates, holding signs for Ward 8 Councilor Cathyanne Harris and Ward 9 challenger Juan-Carlos Ascensio. Councilors Harris, McMenimen, O'Brien, Vidal, LaCava, and LeBlanc also took part in that event. In late October Mrs. Vanaria also organized a "Meet The Candidates" event. There had been two similar events organized by League of Women Voters and a coalition of environmental groups, but this one appeared to be more for conservative voters. Former councilor president Brasco and current council president McMenimen both spoke at her event although they had not taken part in either of the other two.

Mrs. Vanaria at the 2021 \"Get Out The Vote\" event. Photo: Waltham Channel.
Just before the election many Waltham voters received an anonymous mailer claiming that candidate Bradley-MacArthur is a socialist who wants to defund police, offering as evidence a screenshot showing that she invited Waltham DSA to one of her events. The content of the mailer was nearly identical to Facebook posts by Mrs. Vanaria making the same claims with the same "evidence". On Facebook, Mrs. Vanaria suggested the mailer was a false flag operation, sent by supporters of Bradley-MacArthur to get the "sympathy vote."
In February of 2022, when a challenge to two LGBT-themed books in the Waltham High School library was discussed in a school committee meeting, Mrs. Vanaria was one of two people who spoke in favor of removing them from the library. In her comments she said she was "furious" and called for WHS principal Brenda Pena to resign. Ms. Pena resigned just before the start of this school year and later said in an interview that a "vocal minority" made her feel unsupported in the role.
Mrs. Vanaria at the Feb. 2022 School Committee Meeting. Photo: Waltham Channel.
In her comments at the meeting Mrs. Vanaria said she did not have a problem with the LGBT community, "it was only about the book." However it's not clear if she learned anything from the many teenagers, parents, and educators who spoke that night about why the books are important to them-- since then she has continued to promote "groomer" rhetoric in her Facebook group, re-posting far-right media including Tim Pool and LibsofTikTok. She has also made several posts about supposed racism against white people and conspiracy theories about the January 6 insurrection.
The Vanarias have a financial interest in decisions made in our city government. They bid to provide snow-ploughing and landscaping services to Waltham, though I was unable to find info about how much work they have actually done for the city. In order to build their headquarters and landscape supply store on Felton St. in Waltham's south side they needed a zoning variance approved by the Zoning Board of Appeals and City Council. They currently park many of their vehicles on a property near Market Basket that is supposed to be developed as part of the 1265 Main St. project, suggesting they have a relationship with those developers, but I was not able to find more info on that.
The Vanarias also have a financial interest in decisions made by the federal government. According to public records, they received a total of about $1.6 million from the US government in the form of COVID payroll loans for 2020 and 2021 that were subsequently forgiven. In order to receive theses funds, they needed to certify that the loans were necessary to keep them in business. They also opened their landscape supply store in 2021.
Mrs. Vanaria is a good example of how someone whose attitudes don't represent a majority of Waltham can have a lot of influence here. She will likely be very active in this year's municipal election, and candidates who accept her help should be asked where they stand on her extreme and persistent anti-LGBT rhetoric.
submitted by macabeeI95 to Waltham [link] [comments]