Archive for December, 2016

Storytime: New Year’s Resolutions from 325 Sherman Lane, Apartments A-F.

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016

As of this year 2XXX, I, Elizabeth, do solemnly resolve:
-to brutally pulverize the fat, oafish face of Tommy beyond all recognition.
-to drop-kick each and every one of Christine’s fuzzy little ratbags through her window and eventually her face.
-to shatter Donovan’s feeble, half-repaired skull in my bare hands.
-to smash through Samantha’s ribs and tear out her diseased, Grinch-grade heart and eat it in front of her.
Also I will punch Steve.

To-do 2XXX:
Steal ‘the murder weapon’ from Donovan’s gun locker
Write ‘the confession’ using Christine’s signature
Plant ‘the evidence’ on Elizabeth’s phone
Set up ‘the victim’ by using ‘the murder weapon’ described in ‘the confession’ and ‘the evidence’ on Samantha’s smelly, insane, morbidly morbid, certifiable face
And get Steve to phone the cops

Perform a clearing sweep on room A first where the leaderman head captain officer resides TARGET IS ARMED WITH ARMS USE SHOTGUN BE PREPARED TO BAYONET
Advance through front B exterminate all witnesses no civilians here they are all insurgents i have heard tommy doing it late at night it won’t goddamned stop
Take a breather and the meds actually no just a breather no wait no time to breathe PUSH ON
Target Charlie aka ‘BACKWOODS’ aka ‘SAMANTHA’ is versed in GUERILLA TACTICS and also may or may not be a GORILLA they are cunning and have infiltrated us do not be fooled by her BRACHIATING or EATING POUTINE or laying of BEAR TRAPS
Entrench through the ceiling and drop down on top of target Delta Christine and kill her immediately to establish DOMINANCE over her WILD BEASTS
Leave building to confront cops and EXPLAIN MYSELF in a BLAZE OF GLORY
Remember to demote Private Steve before leaving building for insubordination and delinquency in the line of duty

Samantha Cote’s 2XXX Resolutions
-I shall go to Donovan’s room and wish him a happy new year and then I will skin him.
-I shall be more open and honest with Elizabeth by jointing and gutting her.
-I shall apologize to Christine for repeatedly attempting to trap her cats by trapping her in a deadfall just inside her apartment’s door and leaving her to be consumed by them.
-I shall smoke Tommy out of his rank den with my largest cigars and shoot him when he emerges on general principle and fairness.
-I shall give Steve a scarf.

Christine and Booboo and Huggles and Tabitha and Mopsy and Daniel and Boojum and Siberius and Jim-Bob and Gareth’s Big Plans for the New Year
-Buy a new litter box because poor old Mopsy’s legs are giving out aren’t they sweetums?
-Give tuna more regularly, so the mercury puts Daniel into a coma and he doesn’t yowl from 2-8 AM as often, the silly thing.
-Get more precious babies; the gene pool’s getting awfully thin in here and Gareth’s such a funny-looking thing I don’t even know what his babies would look like, if he had genitals.
-Put a knife through the heart of every last one of my gormless, furless, loveless neighbours and feed their smelly carcasses to my adorable children.
-Ask Steve to pick me up some more milk now and then.

Stephen, 2XXX
you know I sure would LOVE it if I made more pancakes

Storytime: Safer Than Sorry.

Wednesday, December 21st, 2016

On the three-hundredth and fifty-ninth year of the Second Regime of the Second Age of the Highly Noble Realm of Nonbec, two great and significant events occurred.
First, the census reported that the Highly Noble Realm had attained, at last, a population of one million free and fine and flourishing citizens.
Second, on the day of the grand parade to commemorate this occasion, Tigly, the Grand Marshall of Nonbec, had his pocket most audaciously picked. Were it not for the keen eyes of his Upper General at his side the thief would’ve escaped; as it was the scoundrel was apprehended after not more than a dozen paces, and after the parade she was brought before the courts to stand trial, be sentenced, and be imprisoned, in something like that order.
Tigly himself stood in witness, from behind a discreet and unobtrusive bit of panelling, for he was most surprised at the events that had unfolded.
Was this not the day that Nonbec had swollen to one million free citizens? Was not this cause for all to rejoice? Was not he, himself, Grand Marshall Tigly, the most beloved to ever hold his post? With baited breath he awaited the thief’s explanations, their rationale, their motive, their defense.
“Defend yourself,” intoned the judge, ceremony and boredom mixing into a rich porridge of indifference.
The thief remained silent.
“Defend yourself,” repeated the judge. “Defend yourself. Defend yourself!” and sixteen times more the judge repeated those words, until the prisoner was taken away with defense still unuttered.
It was a scandal. It was a wonder. It was unheard of. A criminal’s explanation could not harshen their sentence, only soften it. Lies might be spoken, but if uncovered, could not change this. It had been long centuries since a common pickpocket had been imprisoned – the fate of the despicable and uncontrollable only, now used for a mere thief.
If a doctor had been consulted, the explanation for this turn of events, unprecedented in all the years of the Second Age, might have been rendered visible: the thief was deafer than a post, and dumb to boot. But there was no doctor present, and so the Grand Marshall was left to his own bewilderment, and his own doubts.
“Tell me, my Upper General,” he asked the next morning at breakfast, “am I not loved?”
The Upper General’s face creased with downright geological thought as she consumed her first hard-boiled egg of the day; whole canyons carving themselves through her face. “More than some,” she said at last. “Less than others.”
“What?!” exclaimed Tigly. “But I have led Nonbec into the greatest flowering of free citizens ever to live? One million within our borders!”
“No one can be loved by everyone,” she said with a shrug.
“And would those who do not love me, harm me?” he asked.
The Upper General thought about this for three more eggs. “Maybe,” she decided.
“Do you know who these persons may be?”
“Would they set a pickpocket upon me, in the time when all were expressing their greatest love for me?”
The Grand Marshall fiddled with the shards of her last egg.
“Maybe. It is a wide world, and a full country. All things are possible, none unthinkable.”
The Upper General had been appointed to her post on account of her two qualities: unflinching determination in war and a ruthless commitment to absolute honesty. Many things might have been kinder, later, if she had been just slightly less scrupulous.

In the evening the Grand Marshall summoned his Head of Servitors. It felt wrong, to make the request he spoke under a full blue sky.
“There may or may not be plotters against me plotting uncertain things of unknown magnitude and unverifiable malevolence or malice,” said Tigly.
The Head of Servitors bowed. He always bowed. It was the only manner of communication permitted to the Head of Servitors, and in the nuance and flow of his bow there was much information – some of it graspable by the most unlettered farmhand, some of it interlayered meaning instructed only to the Grand Marshalls in their hidden and illuminated manuscripts. Nobody knew how the Heads of Servitors taught each other. Perhaps they had their own books, unknown even to the Grand Marshalls. Perhaps they simply got the hang of it.
The particular bow of this particular Head of Servitors relieved Tigly, who slumped happier in his chair. “Good. Please. I ask of you, find the guilty ones. Find them and halt them. Please. And do not kill them! We must know what is causing this.”

By morning there were seven trials running, whose defendants ranged from petty nobility to ostentatious nobility to a single highly disgruntled Servitor still in his blackened night-shift armour. All defended themselves in a most vigorous manner and specifically and thoroughly rebuffed the very inkling of a notion that they would ever hide and plot against the Grand Marshall in the shadows.
And Grand Marshall Tigly watched from behind his discreet and unobtrusive panelling and despaired, for in their eyes he saw the sullen embers of resentment and disgruntled tempers, and he knew that they wished him ill. By his hand he wrote, by the Head of Servitors it was carried, by the judge’s eyes it was read, and by evening all seven defendants were down in the cells. The one and only Highly Noble Prison of Nonbec was completely full, a situation that had not held sway since the Wicked Birthday of Grand Marshall Hom in the First Regime of the Second Age.
This caused many murmurs, which, like ripples, spread quicker than they look. They started in the courts and they seeped through the streets and they slid out to the very borders of Nonbec where they rebounded and reverberated backwards through the country over and over, a growing mutter and fearful fuss.
That month, as the Grand Marshall presided over the launching of Nonbec’s newest ship, voices mocked him from the crowd.
That night, as the Grand Marshall spoke to the Head of Servitors, quiet feet slipped into the city.
The next morning, as the Grand Marshall worried over his breakfast again, the cells were double-filled.
“Tell me, my Upper General,” he mumbled. “Am I not loved?”
“By some,” she said. “But fewer than before. There are rumours.”
The Grand Marshall turned paler than his omelette. “But I locked them up!” he wailed. “The Highly Noble Prison of Nonbec is double-filled! How can I fix this?”
“You can’t lock up everyone,” said the Upper General.
“No,” said the Grand Marshall miserably. “No.”
But he thought about that. And that very evening, the Head of Servitors fetched the Head of Construction, and soon the sound of fresh masonry became common throughout the palace. Nonbec Castle, like Nonbec, was growing. Downwards.

The new cells were barely built before they were overflowing. The markets in particular were rife with rumourmongers, all in the sway of the mysterious forces that spoke against the Grand Marshall. Servitors lurked there day and night, hiding in the shadows, under carts, on roofs. People hunched in the streets, eyes darting, hiding something and not sure what.
The Grand Marshall made his yearly address to the city, making much of the historical one million free citizens, of the fine new work being done in Nonbec Castle, of the fine harvest, of the orderliness of the markets. Nothing was said of the rumours.
The rumours, however, spoke for themselves. An old woman laughed at him as he finished his speech, too elderly for anything as silly as decorum.
“They will rise up!” she told him. “They will rise up together! Idiot! Dolt!”
Grand Marshall Tigly made no reply, so aloof was his dignity and majesty and also his hands were shaking. The servitors were already in motion as he quit the balcony.

Cells could not be constructed fast enough. Old chambers were repurposed. Wine cellars. Basements. Ancient nooks and crannies where foundations had slipped were hollowed and expanded. Some of the deeper rock was porous, and the caves were utilized. And overutilized.
Nonbec was growing emptier. Nonbec Castle, however, was overflowing. In its guts.
“Tell me, my Upper General,” asked Grand Marshall Tigly, “am I not loved?”
The Upper General considered this, then stood up, three eggs left uneaten. She took Tigly by his arm and led him out of the room, up to the stairs, up to the very highest room in the highest tower of Nonbec Castle, where she began to point.
“There, in the south streets, you are feared. You locked away their governing council. There, in the north ward, you are hated. You imprisoned the patron of the orphanage. There-” and she pointed beyond the walls “-in Kensilwalk, you are despised. Every mason was jailed, for not working diligently enough in your prison. There, in East Elsin, you are loathed. The doctor was taken, and his surgeon. And there, in Manymaps, there is no one there to love or hate you at all, because every single one of them is imprisoned beneath our feet.”
The Upper General then left Grand Marshall Tigly and his terror, and never again had breakfast with him. The Head of Servitors found her before noon.

The anniversary of the census arrived. One million free and fine and flourishing citizens. What more would this day bring?
The answer, as presented to Grand Marshall Tigly upon a clean wax tablet by the clean, waxen hands of the Head of Servitors, was less.
“Six hundred thousand?” he whispered. “Where have the others gone? Have they hidden them away? Have they left, betrayed us to our neighbours? Where have they gone? Where are they plotting? Unless. Unless.”
He bit his lip. He dared not ask questions of the Head of Servitors. He dared not ask questions of anyone, not since the Upper General’s answers had seared him so very badly.
But the questions asked themselves, and they asked them fiercely and unendingly and so very hotly that he would wake up sheathed in sweat and screaming.
So he ordered, and it was done.
It was not done neatly, but it was done.
It was not done quietly, but it was done.
It was not done quickly, but it was done.
It was not done easily, not at all, not even a little, not by the end.
But it was done, and in the end, Grand Marshall Tigly stood at the doorway into darkness, staring into the gaping throat of the quarry that had swallowed all that malice and resentment and spite, the Head of Servitors at his side, and he felt… better.
“You have performed your duties admirably and fully,” he said.
And the Head of Servitors bowed most deeply. And with a little nudge of Tigly’s foot, there was one more.

The Grand Marshall woke up.
There was no sound.
There was never any sound, that was the beauty of it. No mutters. No mumbles. No rumours. No whispers.
He was alone and he was loved.
He’d woken up. In the middle of the night. Alone.
And his hands were shaking again.
Grand Marshall Tigly followed the shaking of his hands with the soft slapping of his feet, all the way up they took him, high above, high above. To the tallest tower. To the highest room.
And there he looked, and everywhere he looked, everywhere he saw, he knew the answer to his question.
But his hands wouldn’t stop shaking.
He stuck them in his armpits and hissed, turning his back on that happy, empty view that did not ease his worry. No, no, no. They were all gone now. They couldn’t hurt him anymore. They were in the dark, packed together, packed under stone and crammed in crannies and gone, gone, gone, gone.
“Am I not loved?” he asked, for the first time in how long.
“No,” said the Upper General.

Grand Marshall Tigly did not want to turn around. But in some things, the mind has no say.
Three hundred thousand had gone into the cells after the Upper General, and four hundred thousand before her. Then three hundred thousand atop them all.
A million free and fine and flourishing people, packed together, down there in the dark. Growing mad, growing together.
He recognized the Upper General, he was surprised to see. Not her face, not her body – both had run together with a million others – but her geology. The thing before him was a stratigraphic nightmare, in flesh.
(Average age of Nonbec Citizen: thirty; thirty million years of history)
It was taller than his tower.
Grand Marshall Tigly opened his mouth to say something, or anything, or everything.
But for some reason, no matter how long the moment seemed to stretch, he couldn’t speak a single world.

And they rose up. From below.

The Third Age of the Highly Noble Realm of Nonbec is most easily distinguished from its predecessors by a simple metric: from that night onwards, the measurable population of the country has never altered from ‘one.’

Storytime: Once Upon a Timetable.

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

Once upon a timetable, in a faraway area of operations, atop a slender, majestically expensive real estate holding, there lived a great and power CEO and Chairman of the Board who crushed their friends with an iron fist and made great peace and merriment with their enemies. In this way they were the objects of much envy and spite, which for them was the greatest of compliments and a panacea and balm to the very soul.
They were also having a baby; or, as they preferred to phrase it, ‘merging their genetic options.’
The delivery was smooth, swift, and medically spotless. The child was pasteurized, cleaned, tagged, swaddled, and delivered to his room without a moment’s pause. But as the proud parents were tidying up their suits, the doors to their room burst open. Only one employee of the company could afford to show such ill respect: it was the aged and venerable General Counsel and Secretary, for whom no thing other than analysis mattered and no thing other than poor math feared.
“Sir and Madam,” he creaked, “I bring the gravest of ill forecasts! I have consulted the auguries and forecasted the consultants, and I bring to you a spreadsheet that confirms this memo that will back up my own words: your child has a CONSCIENCE! See? It’s very small, but it’s there.”
And the CEO and Chairman of the Board hissed in great shock and alarm, but the memo and the spreadsheet both confirmed this to be true.
“This cannot possibly be a matter subject to my supervision,” said the CEO. “I am medically sociopathic.”
“As am I, as you are well aware,” said the Chairman of the Board.
“These things can happen, under ill tidings,” said the General Counsel and Secretary. “A bad budget in one’s youth, for example, can result in this. Or a childish flirtation with activism. In rare cases, even a single encounter can lead to this outcome. But fear not: I have prepared a five-point action plan.”
And the two Named Executive Officers listened to their esteemed General Counsel and Secretary and they knew his advice to be sagacious and acted upon it immediately.
First, the child was brought to the delicate, bloody fingers of the EVP, Human Resources, who severed the little conscience from his body with the utmost empathy, warmth, kindness, and people skills, despite the sheer amount of screaming involved.
Second, the little conscience was borne away, into the hinterlands of the corporation’s reach.
Third, the General Counsel and Secretary and EVP, Human Resources were unanimously fired without compensation for reasons of gross misconduct by the board and blacklisted from the industry. Wayward words puncture profit.

The child grew up to be a preteen, teen, young adult and prematurely bald in that order, possessing that most terrible and great combination of traits a Named Executive Officer could hope for: a tireless drive and an absent conscience. He was a Director by age eighteen; the new Chairman of the Board by twenty; and at the age of twenty-three he assumed a hostile takeover of the corporation and threw his parents screaming into the great unwashed, their golden parachutes in beautiful tatters.
They sparkled as they fell, and he laughed all the way home to the penthouse.
By age twenty-five he was nefarious; by age twenty-eight infamous; and on the day of his thirtieth birthday he was hailed far and wide by all and monied the most heartless and profitable CEO and Chairman in all the lands. Many were his holdings; prolific were his hidden bank accounts; feared were his double-reverse-takeovers, and for sport he would broadcast live feeds of him firing twenty employees at once in the great lobby of his palatial head offices.
Indeed, it was that very sport that was preoccupying him that fateful morning. He had just dodged a fearful plea for pity and was cutting down another ill-fated janitor when his most trusted Senior Vice President, Exploration tugged at his elbow and brought his pale flabby lips to his ears.
“Sir,” he whispered, through the wattled, mottled skin of his blotted face. “A Matter.”
And that degree of capitalization warranted interest. The CEO and Chairman nodded, eviscerated his sad opponents’ hopes and dreams with a flourish, and retired to the boardroom with his advisor, where he was shown a most alarming graph.
“As you can see, the generator surged here. To provide power to the doors. The doors that lead into the lobby that leads into the elevator that leads into the basement that leads into-”
But the CEO and Chairman was paying him no heed; his mind was whistling like a canary. He silenced the man with a hand, summoned his personal helicopter with the other, and gestured for his board of directors with his eyebrows.
“We fly to my holdings at the Buyin Tower,” he said. And they all wondered at this, for Buyin Tower was at the very backwaters of their master’s reach.
But they dared not wonder aloud, for they knew – constantly – that there had been two more of them at the years start than presently existed.

The flight to Buyin Tower was long and perilous, and many a distinguished Director lost their lunch to choppy air currents. Only the distinguished CEO and Chairman remained unphased; eyes fixed on the horizon. Yet a close examination, one that no one present dared, would have revealed a surprisingly thick film of perspiration coating his forehead and palms.
They landed at the door and ceremonially disemployed the pilot, so that no low ranking man might know this location and live. The CEO and Chairman would fly them back himself.
“From this point onwards,” he instructed his board, “do as I say, or perish.”
And they were used to this and thought it strange that he would remind them so, as if to say ‘eat regularly,’ or ‘breathe, even when asleep.’
The doors were automated, and slid smoothly apart without a hand to be lifted. A trickle of power from the building’s guts, which made the CEO and Chairman recall that awful graph. He shivered, and not from the air conditioning.
The doors shut quickly, quietly, and firmly behind them. Not quite behind them. The most senior member of the board had lagged a little, and the doors snipped off their leg with a mild chunk. Their hysterical bleats were ignored by the CEO and Chairman, and so too by his colleagues.

The elevator was huge, a great baroque monstrosity well out of place within the sleek polished glow of the lobby walls. No amount of recessed lightning could hide its ornate grotesqueness, or diminish the girth and bulk of its doors.
They all proceeded within – all quickly, this time. Just because nobody had noticed their former colleague’s pain didn’t mean they wouldn’t learn from it.
There was a slight jolt, a big bump, and a gradual drop. The elevator began to descend.
And as it descended, the silence, which until then had been regulatory, thickened. Hardened. Cemented.
A director shifted their weight from one leg to the other.
Another cleared their throat.
A third coughed far too loudly, muttered hasty apologies, and was crushed instantly under the sheer weight of awkwardness, their blood spattering as if from a mishandled gravy boat. Their nearest colleague’s pantleg was drenched, and as they pawed frantically at it, mouthing imprecations against dry-cleaning bills; they too were mushed under the weight of a thousand tons of social embarrassment.
Ding, went the doors.
And they all exited in orderly fashion, although not too slowly.

The basement was unlit. The CEO and Chairman produced a lighting app from his personal phone; the rest of the board trailed after him like a lost line of ducklings. The closest space to him was silently fought for; the illumination a greater trophy than any face time. The darkness was unhealthy here, and thick with menace.
This was no illusory fear. Hardly had they passed out of sight of the elevator when the farthest-lagging – a junior director who had been wide-eyed since the implosion of two of their colleagues – shrieked and was silent.
A minute later, another followed suit.
And finally, as the party reached the great steel door in the basement wall, they found themselves short a third. A chance sway of the CEO and Chairman’s phone as he fiddled with the lock shone over the path they had walked, and although he paid it no mind his directors could not restrain themselves from observing the frightful fates of their colleagues.
Careless janitorial supplies littered their path, so thickly that it was a wonder they had made it at all. One former board member lay bleeding in a bucket; impaled upon a mop-shaft; another sprawled in a heap of spilled containers, amidst mixed bleach and toilet bowl cleaner and chlorinated fumes. The junior director who had lagged the earliest was the most grisly sight, of what could be seen. One foot had become stuck in a dustpan, and they’d fallen head-first into the mouth of an industrial vacuum.

Three walked through the great steel door.
The second was decapitated by a carelessly swinging light fixture.
The third was dragged to the end of the room by the sheer force of his CEO and Chairman. There, atop an ordinary, innocuous desk, awaited a tiny, unremarkable folder.
“Open it,” said the CEO and Chairman, the first words he had spoken since their arrival at Buyin Tower.
Hands trembled, mouth quivering, the director did as they were bid.
Inside, there was nothing.
The director gasped in shock, picked up the folder to be sure, and was struck stone dead in an instant by the sheer razor-edged sharpness of the folder’s edges, paper cut to the very bone.
The CEO and Chairman stepped over the warm, leaking body of his final employee and picked up the folder that had been underneath the folder. He shut his eyes, held his breath, prayed to himself, and opened it.
There, pressed like a butterfly between two sheets of glass, lay his conscience. Untouched. Unrevealed. Untaken.
And so great was the CEO and Chairman’s relief, so vast his overwhelming joy, so huge the weight removed from his soul, that he laughed outright.
And as he laughed, his hands trembled.
And as his hands trembled, his smallest finger – on his left hand – brushed the very rim of the tip of the edge of his conscience.

It was only a very small conscience. But it did its best.

Three months after the shameful and horrible vanishment of their esteemed CEO and Chairman, along with the entirety of the board of directors, the SVP, Exploration was unanimously elected CEO and Chairman and Boss.
It had been the most effective graph he’d ever designed.

Storytime: Less Traveled By.

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

Here are the places you’ve missed.
It’s alright. I’ve picked them up for you.

Under the mop bucket in the old closet there was a trapdoor. Under the trapdoor there was a tunnel. Under the tunnel there was a hole, and a drop, and a river, green under a blue-glowing roof of rock. Under there, there were things we don’t even have words for. I had to make them up. Pzqrwl. Vddlnk. Ket.
You’ll know what they mean when you’re younger.

Past that last sandbar you never dared swim, just a little farther, there was a shark in that lake. Asleep, just underfoot. If you bite her fin she’ll give you a wish and a piece of her mind. It’s a sharp piece, and if you head out even farther, ever farther, past the end of the dock you never dove from, you can cut through the bottom and drop into the old lake, where all the old fish go to spend forever.

That little runnel almost-path in the park never went into the ditch. It dipped and ducked along its edge, then turned into the trees and fell out of time and sight and came up again in old Gondwana, after the big split and before the little ones, when the world was still so much bigger than it is now and the breeze wouldn’t smell of flowers yet for twenty million years.

The railroad behind your backyard ended just around the corner and the curve, where the neighbors couldn’t see. The trains assembled themselves in a little cabin at its end, then rumbled past your home on their way over the horizon to make the one-way-trade with the fading people. That’s why you never saw the same train twice.

Up the top of the tree that was too high to climb before you moved, there was a spiderweb. In that web there was a spider. In its mouth was a fly. In the fly there was the soul of the immortal Queen Qorrallan, who lives underneath the roots of everything that’s died. If you catch the fly and save it, nothing you love will ever rot.

In the snack bar your parents never took you to, there was a glass skylight that opened up into the top of the sky instead of the bottom. That’s where they got their cotton candy that you never ate. It’s also why the place burned down years ago; nothing’s more ferocious than a wounded thundercloud, except its parent.

In the study of your mother in that desk that you never touched in the drawer you never opened there were ten thousand diamonds, each smaller and more valuable than the last. The smallest was thinner around than a hairs-width, and could’ve bought the entire country.

The side road beside the walk to school; that went down the hill and kept going down until it came out the other side of the street it started from. A Mobius street, the last of its kind and lonely.

Inside the house at the end of the road that never turned on its lights lived a family of raccoons the size of bears; a mother, a father, an aunt, and four children. They were why the cat went missing. They were why the power went out. They were why you moved out when you were too small to know.

Around the corner.
Behind the lot.
Past the intersection.
Across the bay.
Through the woods.
Over the hill.
Under the bushes
The other way.

I’ve been everywhere that you haven’t; walked every path you feared to tread. All the nowhere and never-beens I’ve seen, and now that’s all done and dead, I’ve got to say…

…You didn’t miss much.