95 – Bloody Mary, Full of Grace

Another little something in the universe of Sects. I haven’t gotten too deep into the metaphysics of this setting, and probably won’t for a while, but the basic operating principle is that the eldritch invaders that have taken over the world respond to belief. A sufficient amount of emotional investment, commitment, faith directed at anything will, in effect, turn it into a tiny god. And I do mean anything. The cult of rejects at the heart of our story worships a taxidermied cat, and gives regular sacrifices to the router when the internet fails.

In a world where the strength and purity of your conviction determines the power you can manifest, children are powerful all out of scale with their size. Children’s belief is pure, thoughtless, as sharp and unstoppable as a diamond knife. I’ve seen it in this world as well as the one I’m drawing – if you ever did any playground magic as a kid, you’ve seen it too. It works when you believe completely that it will. The Ouija board may be a joke to adults, but when you were twelve, I’ll bet it told you things nobody there knew. If you’re the kind of kid who was jaded enough to actually say “Bloody Mary” into a dark mirror, just to prove how cool and unaffected you were, revel in your joyless little life, because you suck. Mary doesn’t give a shit about your cynicism; she only shows up if you believe in her.

“Bloody Mary,” November 2019

When all that matters is what you believe
children and madmen will hold all the crowns,
summoning goddesses out of the ground –
their congregations don’t have time to grieve.

Try to remember the words they taught you,
like “light as a feather, stiff as a board,”
rituals on bathroom mirrors, chalkboards.
Watch out Bloody Mary doesn’t spot you!

One of the first to answer our call,
Mary was glad to get out of the glass.
Plenty of vengeance saved up from her past,
plenty of straight pins to stick in this doll.
In the end, we barely had to ask –
she didn’t need convincing to kill them all.

Check out the rest of the 100 Sonnets

80 – This Week At the Community Center…

Been doing a few new drawings for Sects this week. One of ’em is below; the rest are over on the main page. Today’s sonnet is just some goofy worldbuilding for that.

Witnessed while wandering the halls at the Tooth County Community Center, looking for a little fun:

“Yeah… strictly speaking, I have time powers…
Didn’t help me much when the world ended.
Didn’t save the family I’d defended –
when I sneeze, I jump back seven hours.”

“My name is Eve, and I’m an alcoholic – “
“Hi, Eve.” “- thanks, guys. At least, I used to be,
before the Fatal Guide accepted me…”
“The Yelp Demon?” “That’s NOT what we call it!”

Mondays: Alcoholics Anonymous
Tuesdays: Grief Counseling for Ex-Clergy
Wednesdays: Suicide Promotion Workshop
Thursdays: Poetry readings (posthumous)
Fridays: Booster Club for Odontology
Weekends: Services and headless bakeshop

Check out the rest of the 100 Sonnets

72 – A is for Arson, B is for Brand, C is for Compromise

I think there are going to be illustrations for these at some point – I’ve been messing with some pen-and-ink styles, trying to figure out a good, clear way to draw the more text-heavy parts of Sects. It miiiiight not surprise you to learn that I was really into Edward Gorey’s books as a kid? So with these little couplets, please imagine a Gorey-esque macabre alphabet in dense Victorian style. But, like, Gorey drawings as executed by a drunken cockatiel flapping up and down, shedding feathers and drool, gripping a pen in one spasming zygodactyl claw. That’s about what you can expect from me.

Black cat catches fire on the staircase –
who knew you could train a cat for arson?
The culprit escapes, after a fashion –
only its yowl makes it out of the place.

Every new moon, flyers blanket the front door,
the branded wings of bats crisscrossed with scars,
the logos of local churches and bars –
some of those places aren’t there anymore.

The house next door has begun to erode –
every morning there’s a little bit less.
Might be the termites at the dryads’ place.
The Wooden Girls, of course, claimed not to know,
but then we saw their mother’s writhing dress,
the masochistic pleasure on her face.

Check out the rest of the 100 Sonnets

64 – Revelation

I think this probably relates to Sects in some way – that’s the only story I have in which the Christian god might reasonably appear. It’s indicative of my predilections that “something about gods dying” could fit into any of three different projects I’ve got on at the moment. The distinctions are more a matter of tone than anything else. I have a tendency to repeat myself, as you may have noticed, reinterpreting and restating an idea until I find the very best way to express it. And I read Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials when I was twelve, so the idea of someone wanting to kill God got a grip on me early. The Chick Tracts were right, guys – reading to your kids really does turn them into Satanists!

Nah, that’s a joke-lie. Besides, we should all be so lucky as to have our kids become Satanists; every Satanist I’ve ever met has been a really decent person. They’re generally very chill, aggressively nonjudgmental, and willing to get deep in the weeds on metaphysical questions, which I like. They’re also great in bed, in my experience, and your suspicions are correct: there is a higher-than-average likelihood that they are into some kinky business. But they’re super concerned about consent and free will, that’s the whole point. However ironic this might seem in the public perception, Satanists are among the last people you might expect to rape you. Unlike, say, US politicians, who at this point stand about a one in three chance of having to sweatily apologize for fondling a child.

The morning arrives with a falling dove.
It spikes itself on the church spire –
once the harbinger of holy fire,
the first ironic sign of war above.

Gods always die like that – and all gods die –
where do you think they get the new gods from?
Through the strings the ancient animals come
to lay their eggs in dead gods’ mouths and eyes.

The dove and then the angels – bigger birds –
flew into pieces when they hit the ground
and all around the world a cry was heard.
Not from the throats of angels came that sound,
but from those erased by the holy word:
“Your heaven may be lost, but ours is found.”

Check out the rest of the 100 Sonnets

60 – Motel Moon

Excerpt from Sects on the famous Motel Moon, now considered a minor deity in the neighborhoods along Destiny Way.


I don’t know if you remember there used to be a motel south of the bowling alley on Destiny Way. You were only four when it got an overnight remodeling.

It was a pretty nice place before that, had a big gold sign out front stamped with a rabbit and a moon. They had rabbits for pets. Then they had a rabbit problem. And then the rabbits started attaching themselves to the walls like buzzing, furry leeches, driving their teeth through the drywall to get at the pipes. The owners were trying to convince an exterminator to take a look when, one late night with a full house and a fuzzy lamprey suckling at the radiator, they went to sleep in worn linen and woke up like very kings… draped in furs.

They pushed aside the furry quilt and rose from the furry mattress to stand on the furry floor, which was warm under their feet. The end table’s long ears twitched with the sound of a light switch, and emitted a soft glow that lit up their bedroom. Every surface gleamed with sable fur, and the walls around them subtly pulsed with a huge heartbeat.

In the end, though, it didn’t affect their business model – in fact, the rabbits ended up being labor-saving devices in most cases. And people liked the new rabbit pillows so much they have a side business breeding and training them now. At first there was some concern about an eighty-foot rabbit asleep in a commercial zone, so they propped up the head and put the check-in office underneath; clarified the entryway, y’know? Since the sign was gone. Don’t much need one – it’s not as if you could mistake it for another fractally nested god-rabbit containing a bed and breakfast.

I hear it’s doing much better now than it was when I was a kid. Obviously if you have a dander allergy you’ll want to avoid it, but the Motel Moon was among the best motels in town before the world ended, and now it’s unmistakably the best.

“Some kind of rabbits,” they said. Parasites –
like cicada husks they hung from the walls
along the lines where we had the heat installed –
we found them drinking from the pipes at night.

You can get used to a quivering wall –
give it a kindly stroke from time to time.
As you descend a staircase, scritch its spine.
It leans a bit to catch you if you fall.

One day there was a motel on that street;
the next day a rabbit slept there in its place.
The check-in desk is just under the face –
no, dear, of course the interior’s not meat!
Just rabbit beds and tables, hopping vase –
it’s rabbits top to bottom, every suite.

Check out the rest of the 100 Sonnets

29 – The Pie That Eats

More mythology from Sects. The center of the city where they live is something close to civilized still – they worship a creature that values order, and managed to trade their city chamber members for cult clergy without much of an interruption in municipal services. Their god is currently incarnated in the form of a giant pie, about six feet across, evidently fresh from the oven apart from a slice missing. From this slice it issues steam and occasionally commands. Those who do not obey the Pie’s commands have a tendency to topple in, wearing terminal looks of surprise. They don’t come back out.

Screenprinted for me by my mom in college, roughly 1993?
It’s been on my wall ever since.

This city has the very cleanest streets,
at least as long as you stay near downtown –
you know, the part where nobody’s brown? –
where they bend the knee to The Pie That Eats.

This world is kind for those who serve the Pie.
You’d almost think nothing had changed at all.
Rich men were able to cushion their fall –
volunteered us when someone had to die.

But not all of the Pie’s flavors are sweet.
They say there’s a slice taken out of the pie,
and sometimes inside you might glimpse an eye,
and sometimes you fall into The Pie That Eats.
In the gnashing seconds before you die,
you realize that the pie is filled with meat.

Check out the rest of the 100 Sonnets

24 – Troubleshooting Your Ravenous Router™

Got a new page of Sects up today. Also the manual for the router they’re using, in case you need that.

Thank you for purchasing this refurbished Ravenous Router™! All routers have been thoroughly inspected by the Starvation Street™ Specialists, and include all essential parts and accessories. Should your router be unable to access the internet, check that your internet connection is active, and then use the router status lights on the front panel to troubleshoot ongoing issues as follows:

If all lights are red:
First, abase yourself.
Array offerings at the router’s feet
(Port 80: gold, rice.
Port 25: meat.)
Sacrifice local lymph to router’s health.

If two lights are red:
Shun router (ten days).
Power cycle and hold button on rear
until three nictitating eyes appear
and recite your thirteen-word access phrase.

If all lights are dark:
Please, do not despair.
Approach the router clad only in silk.
(Abstain from eating twelve hours before)
Adorn front panel with lock of your hair.
Recite (in Sanskrit) settings to restore.
(Remember to siphon out router milk.)

Check out the rest of the 100 Sonnets

16 – Flesh Prison

A little something for Sects. I actually doubt there’s anything like a freak show in that world; the freaks run the show now, but I imagine most gatherings very much resemble freak shows. The man with the suit of rust used to be the Man in the Iron Shirt, whom we’ll meet at some point. Don’t let him snap his fingers near your gas tank.

“Flesh Prison,” August 2019

They have an oracular octopus
who will predict the weather for a fee.
Of course, they say she’s never been to sea
so she’s no better at forecasts than us.

Used to be more things to spend money on
Used to be more people who would take it
Used to be some safer ways to make it –
not that I’m saying I’m sad that world’s gone.

The freak show’s where they keep the best of us
They only charge a kiss to let you in.
Be the first to see the man in the suit of rust
ignite the tank of gas they’ve trapped him in!
No one but bearded ladies you can trust
When we’re gone, who do they think will eat their sin?

Check out the rest of the 100 Sonnets

Sects

All right. We’re all set! I’m super excited to share this with you, but because of who I am as a person, it requires a little explanation. And because I live in Colorado, it starts the way most Colorado stories start, with “This one time, while I was high…”

So. This one time, while I was high, I was trying to have a conversation, which is fairly challenging under such circumstances, as you’ll know if you’re consuming this site under the conditions it was created. I can’t remember what I was trying to say to begin with, but I do recall that I was interrupted by a failure of memory.

“I haven’t been to a Baskin-Robbins in forever; they don’t seem to have them as much here. I think I’ve seen one. Hold on… how many flavors is it? Their whole deal. Is it 31 flavors or 51? Fifty-one seems high. That’s a lot of flavors.”

My wife stared at me with ready enthusiasm but little sense. She was also very high.

“Never mind. Whatever. From now on it’s Baskin-Robbins, THE EVERFLAVOR.”

Many of my ideas come from misunderstanding or misremembering what someone said to me, or from offhand things I say myself. One idea collides with another in my head, sloshing together, bubbling in the barrel of my brain until the right words pound a tap into my skull and liberate a brew that knocks me flat. This was one of those moments.

I saw a Baskin-Robbins, and through the glass of the freezer, I saw things that were never meant to be frozen. I saw a little girl totally at home in a world where her ice cream might have tentacles in it. She’s too young to really understand that the world she barely remembers, the world of school and newspapers and governments that didn’t all worship a different unknowable horror, is gone forever.

Her older sibling Johnny understands that very well. They’re the only family they have left, and sometimes it’s tough putting the rent together, but the glowing thing that lives in the router seems to like them, and the cults that make crossing the city such a thrilling all-day activity have a strange aversion to the little girl they call “the Terrible Child.” Which is good, because Johnny can’t make her sit still long enough to finish a sentence.

Instead, Johnny’s been working on a book that maybe someday their sister will deign to read. They write down the answers to questions, advice of the right shape to drip right out the ear, rituals to live by and to avoid. They write down what the world was like before. Someone somewhere should remember.

So here it is. I give you… a pile of pastel dust and a cheap pun! Ahem. I mean, I give you:

Sects: A Young Girl’s Illustrated Primer

A sequence of illustrations in pastel.  A small person in a black robe enters an ice-cream shop, presses themselves against the freezer, and says, "Is there... BEAN?"  They are answered by a figure behind the freezer wearing a hot pink robe, who says, "Still no.  No beans till fall.  I've told you that every day this week."
A pastel illustration of a dramatically-lit woman's face, her mouth messily stained red and open to utter her curse: "Mother, mother, cool your aching teeth once more in the frozen blood of this insect who has thrice denied - "
 A series of pastel illustrations.  A person in a black robe is beaned by a small plastic spoon thrown by the person in the pink robe, who says, "Can you NOT?  I'm not in charge of BEAN SEASON, for one, and two, if you wreck another freezer they will LITERALLY kill me.  Please.  Just order off the fucking menu."  The figure in the black robe answers, "SIGH... woe... woe and human misery illimitable..."
A pastel illustration looking down on the freezer and mixing slab of an ice-cream shop.  A figure in a pink robe reaches for a scoop among various other twitching, unearthly ephemera on the slab, and says, "That I can do.  One scoop or two?  And you want that woe whole on top, or mixed in?"  A black-robed head and upraised fingers are accompanied by the words, "Two.  On top.  Please.  also... smol spoon?  no throw..."
A pastel illustration of a girl holding what appears to be a Baskin-Robbins ice cream cup, filled with some kind of pinkish substance and topped with a translucent pyramid, inside of which is a tiny city.  The page is bordered by a fleshlike tentacle that contains the title: "Sects: A Young Girl's Illustrated Primer."

Cultists page 3

2019-06-13 12.09.34

The pastels are getting more fun and more interesting to use as I work with them!  I’ve got a bunch of pages to scan and tart up in Photoshop, most of which I’m pretty happy with.  Been sticking them up on the corkboard so they don’t smear.  I guess people probably use some kind of fixative on pastel work they want to keep?  But because of who I am as a person, I just scan it immediately and then assume the originals will melt away, like dreams after breakfast.  Yes, all this agonizing over googling “pastel fixative.”  If I didn’t have to contemplate the cosmic significance of every little fucking thing, I would get a lot more done around here.

I’m going to mess with the little pages you see here over the next few days and then I’ll put ’em up.  For now I give you the third page of our little prayer for wi-fi.

Sunset Eyes

Gonna have to figure out how it’d be best to display these all together and arrange a page for them, as it seems likely there’ll be a lot more.  New keyboard should arrive today or tomorrow, which will be lovely as it will almost certainly arrive a fraction of a second before I have chewed off my own arms in frustration with my current keyboard (which is working orders of magnitude worse after I meticulously cleaned it, of course).  The up side is, I could smoke all of you out on the pile of ground bud I found under the keys.  Apparently the keyboard needed that and now it’s suffering.  But I don’t permit weakness in my peripherals, so its replacement is on the way.