Shocking Excerpts From Santa’s Secret Mission Logs

By: Mike Richardson-Bryan

December 26, 336

They said it couldn’t be done, but I did it! Thousands of toys, all hand-made and hand-delivered to every home in Christendom, and all in one night! Oh, to see the looks on the faces of all those little boys and girls.

Maybe I should do this every year.

* * * * * * *

December 26, 339

What a mess out there. Rome has fallen and civilization is in ruins. Also, I lost a mitten.

* * * * * * *

December 26, 799

I’m exhausted. There sure seem to be a lot more Christians out there than there used to be. If this keeps up, I’m gonna need some help around here.

I wonder if those goblins that live on the other side of the Pole are any good with their hands.

* * * * * * *

December 23, 800

What a difference a year makes. Those goblins (sorry, elves) are miracle workers. All the toys are in the sack and ready to go with a day to spare. I’m gonna get those guys to help out every year, if they’re up for it. It’s too bad they subsist on fermented seal blood, otherwise I could really see them becoming a beloved part of Christmas lore, but oh well.

* * * * * * *

March 15, 1045

What a week. One minute, I’m a perfectly happy bachelor. The next, I’m hitched to some sturdy Ukrainian woman with one big eyebrow. She’s already riding me to lose weight and get a “real job,” too. That’s the last time I get wasted in Kiev.

* * * * * * *

June 5, 1388

A sad day out in the barn. After a long struggle, Comet finally succumbed to terminal antleritis. But on the bright side, the missus makes a fine stew.

* * * * * * *

June 12, 1388

Training a new reindeer. He’s not too bright, he’s blind in one eye, and he might have an inner ear problem, but he’s all I could get my hands on this year. The elves want me to name him “Comet II,” but I’m leaning towards “Ballast.” I’m not expecting much from him, but hey, maybe he’ll surprise me with one of those Christmas miracles. Fingers crossed!

* * * * * * *

June 22, 1388

Lost Ballast on a training run over the Black Sea. Poor guy corkscrewed in, bleating all the way. No Christmas miracle this year, I guess.

* * * * * * *

December 13, 1930

Just got a “cease and desist” letter. Turns out some sugar water company called Coca-Cola owns the exclusive rights to my image. How the hell did that happen?

* * * * * * *

December 26, 1941

What a rotten night. Lost Donder, Bonehead, and Meatball over Germany (stupid anti-aircraft fire), had to jettison most of the toys just to stay aloft, and when I got back home, I blew my landing and took out a wing of the workshop. Boy, nothing clings to your hair and clothes like the smell of burning elves.

* * * * * * *

December 20, 1947

There sure are a lot of kids asking for their two front teeth these days. It was cute at first, but I’m getting pretty tired of hanging out at the pub waiting for drunken brawls to break out, then crawling around on the floor looking for stray incisors. Still, lucky for me that elf teeth are child-sized.

* * * * * * *

March 2, 1952

I’ve been subpoenaed to appear before something called the House Un-American Activities Committee, whatever that is.

* * * * * * *

March 17, 1952

This is madness! I just spent the day defending myself from all manner of crazy accusations. So what if my suit is red? It’s been red for over a thousand years and no one’s complained. So what if I make frequent trips to Eastern Europe? There are millions of little boys and girls in Eastern Europe, aren’t there? So what if Mrs. Claus is from Ukraine? We’ve never discussed her politics, and if we had, it’d be our business and ours alone. What part of “I’m Santa Claus, dammit!” don’t these people understand? Arrgghh!

* * * * * * *

March 22, 1952

I’m so ashamed. Those awful men and their awful committee just kept at me until I couldn’t take it anymore. God forgive me, but I named names. Eskimos, mostly, but I think I may have mentioned the Easter Bunny, too. Oh, he’s gonna be pissed.

* * * * * * *

December 26, 1965

I’ve got to start reading those wish lists more carefully. But if you ask me, if a kid asks for “a barrel of monkeys,” he shouldn’t be surprised to wake up on Christmas morning to find his living room crawling with angry, feces-throwing monkeys plus a big barrel with a few dead monkeys at the bottom (they really, really don’t like it in the barrel, apparently). Oh well, live and learn, I guess.

* * * * * * *

December 1, 1994

Note to self: kill Tim Allen.

* * * * * * *

December 26, 1999

Another rough night. Blitzen gored some kid in Manila. I tried to buy the parents off, as usual, but they weren’t having any of it. One thing led to another, and I ended up beating the whole family to death with a sackful of Beanie Babies, which took, like, forever. So, long story short, Christmas won’t be coming to the Philippines for a while.

* * * * * * *

December 16, 2008

Why the hell didn’t anyone tell me about this “” thing before? Here I’ve been busting my hump for 1672 years, but now I can just “point” and “click” and be done with it. Hallelujah! I can finally fire the elves and free the reindeer and get myself that wicked tattoo of a naked chick riding a polar bear that I’ve always wanted. I just hope they accept payment in 4th century Lycian drachmae.


Letter from the Hogwarts Alumni Office

By: Mike Richardson-Bryan

Mr. Harry Potter

Godric’s Hollow


BS37 A10

Dear Mr. Potter,

Greetings from Hogwarts! Has it really been nineteen years since you last strode the hallowed halls of Britain’s finest school of magic? Even without the assistance of a Time-Turner, time truly flies.

A lot has changed at Hogwarts since you graduated. Aldis lamps have replaced owls, golf carts have replaced Thestrals, and safe, reliable lifts have replaced the more capricious of the moving staircases. And what’s that in the library? Yes, it’s the school’s very first computer, a Commodore 64, which I’m assured by those in the know is the very pinnacle of Muggle technology. Huzzah for progress!

And there have been important changes behind the scenes, as well. Long-overdue restructuring at the top has produced a leaner administration that is more responsive to today’s educational priorities, including student safety. Indeed, thanks to stringent new hiring practices, only one out of every three Defence Against the Dark Arts teachers turns out to be an evil imposter bent on murdering students.

But as much as Hogwarts has changed, it remains, at heart, the same school you knew and loved in your youth. Peeves still torments students and teachers alike, the Whomping Willow still exacts a terrible toll on migratory birds, and Moaning Myrtle still haunts the second floor girls’ lavatory despite repeated attempts at exorcism and generous applications of Febreze. And as it always has, Hogwarts continues to rely upon the generous support of former students like yourself.

Such support has never been more important. The recent unionization of the House Elves placed terrible stress on the school’s finances. That stress that can be felt everywhere, even in Hogwarts’ legendary kitchen, where the need for belt-tightening means that each student is now limited to 5 lbs. of pudding per meal. Increases in tuition have helped, but endless fee hikes are not the answer. So until Professor Longbottom’s Knut-tree experiment yields tangible results, we’re counting on the generous support of former students like yourself.

Your support will allow Hogwarts to maintain its position as a leader in magical research. Consider the work of Professor Chang, who has attracted international attention with her groundbreaking research into the mating habits of Dementors (not so different from the mating habits of middle-aged divorcées, as it turns out, only with a lot less crying in restaurants). Without your support, such research may not be possible.

Your generosity will also allow us to keep the lights on and the doors open at the Trelawney Memorial Wellness Centre. Today’s students face many temptations, from old standbys such as Butterbeer to more recent and infinitely more sinister addictions such as Gillyweed, or “Willy G.” as the kids call it (and take it from me, there’s nothing sadder than the sight of a once-promising student lying face-down in a pail of water, “tripping out” on Gillyweed). Without a place to turn, many struggling students will not find the help they need when they so desperately need it.

Finally, your support will allow Hogwarts to remain within financial reach of all deserving students. Scholarships for needy students are always in short supply, and scholarships for dead, undead, and demonically-possessed students are particularly hard to come by. Without your support, many reanimated students may be forced to abandon their studies and go directly into middle management.

So what can you afford to give? Before answering, think back to your time at Hogwarts. There was lots of hard work, of course, but there was always time for fun — chatting with your mates in the Common Room, sneaking out to Hogsmeade to buy sweets at Honeydukes (inevitably followed by hours spent chasing after an errant Chocolate Frog), dancing with your sweetheart at the Yule Ball, and the like. No doubt you have many such happy memories. If not, please check your Pensieve, they’re probably in there. And after reviewing them, I’m sure you’ll agree that you can’t put a price on good memories — but that if you could, it would include at least four figures.

The sad truth, Mr. Potter, is that financial support from your year has always been rather lean. This is not because your classmates are indifferent to the school’s needs, but rather because so many of them are dead, killed by You-Know-Who and his minions, often quite horribly (speaking of which, a few more bits of poor Dean Thomas turned up just last week, a testament to the awesome power of the Fulminare Viscus curse). Now, considering that You-Know-Who was after you the whole time and that your unlucky classmates merely got in the way, it seems only fair that you should do your utmost to make up the difference. I’m sure you’ll agree that your alma mater deserves no less.

Yours truly,

Fitch T. Fenwick

Director, Office of Alumni Relations

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

P.S. — If you need one more reason to support Hogwarts, then consider your old house’s Quidditch team. They’re suffering their worst year in generations on account of the sad state of repair of their equipment (the beaters must share a single tattered broom, and the seeker has no broom whatsoever and so must to run around making “whoosh” noises and hope that the Golden Snitch dips low enough to be snared from the ground, which of course it never does). Something to think about the next time you’re at Gringrotts, rolling in your money or whatever it is you do there when the Goblins aren’t looking.


Diary Of A Missing White Woman

By: Mike Richardson-Bryan

Day 1

I’ve been abducted! There I was, waiting for the bus, when WHAM! Next thing I know, I’m in the trunk of a moving car, my wrists and ankles are tied with jumper cables, and I’ve got a lump on the back of my head. OWWW! My abductor didn’t take my grocery list or lucky sudoku pen, though, so I can at least make a record of my harrowing ordeal.

Day 2

Woken up this morning by my abductor opening the trunk and throwing in a warm Tab (gross) and a packet of peanuts (stale).

I’ve discovered that if I’m quiet, I can just make out the radio, so I’ll be able to listen for news of my abduction. There hasn’t been anything about me yet, though, which is just as well since I need time to work on my angle. The way I see it, I’ve got three options: (1) all-American girl; (2) girl next door; and (3) popular party girl. I’m not sure about “all-American girl” (too much pressure to be peppy), and I definitely don’t like “popular party girl” (which is just code for “slut”), so I guess that leaves “girl next door.” I think I can pull that off as long as no one finds out I was downtown to return a defective vibrator to the Love Mart. Of course, the other women in my Jane Austen book club will want to slap the piss out of me for letting anyone characterize me as a “girl” at my age, but I was getting sick of flans anyway.

Oh, and I’ve decided to call my abductor Tom. He reminds me of that Tom guy at work who tells people we hooked up in the supply closet. What an asshole.

Day 3

Tab and peanuts for breakfast again.

Spent most of the day considering casting. Which of today’s top-tier starlets should play me in the big budget screen adaptation of my harrowing ordeal? For my money, it has to be Anne Hathaway. She’s smart, she’s sexy, and she has a touch of that old school class, even if she gave away the store in that gay cowboy movie. Fingers crossed!

Still nothing on the radio about my disappearance.

Day 4

Starting to get a bad feeling about this abduction. I mean, I’m spending all my time cooped up in a trunk, and for all I know Tom is just driving in circles. What’re they gonna call a movie about that? Trunk of Terror? I’d better work on titles so I have something to run with when the time comes.

Day 5

Woke up this morning to find the trunk wide open and Tom sound asleep up against a tree. Got myself a Tab and some peanuts from the cooler and locked myself back in the trunk. At least one of us is taking this abduction seriously.

Day 6

Could I be more pissed off? I finally make the news, but then they cut away to some stupid story about a fire at a clown college. WTF? Nobody even LIKES clowns! What a rip.

Day 7

Just had a close call. Tom had let me out to help change a flat tire when a motorcycle cop came out of nowhere, took one look at me and the jumper cables, and started asking questions. Tom just stood there like an idiot, mumbling something about tinfoil underwear, while the cop reached for his radio. Fortunately, he was watching Tom so closely that he didn’t notice me sneaking up behind him with the tire iron. It took one whack to put him down and two more to keep him down. I felt a little guilty about it afterwards, but it had to be done. No way am I being rescued one lousy week into my harrowing ordeal. I mean, I’d be lucky to score a made-for-cable movie after only seven days. Goodbye Anne Hathaway, hello Anne Heche.

Day 8

More news about me on the radio. Apparently, my so-called loved ones could scrape together only $3,500 for information leading to my safe return, which oddly enough is EXACTLY how much I have in my checking account. That better be a coincidence.

Also, who do they have on to plead for my safe return? Mom? Dad? Little sis? No, it’s Tom from work, blubbering that all he wants is to feel me safe and sound in his arms again. GET OVER IT, TOM! One drunken Christmas party grope-out does not make us Tristan and Isolde.

But on the bright side, they also say that MY Tom is now suspected in the death of a motorcycle cop, so they’re ramping up the search. Yay! That alone ought to be enough to bump my story up from Entertainment Tonight to Larry King Live.

Day 9

What a day. I’d barely finished my Tab and peanuts when we ran out of gas. Tom let me out to push, but he wouldn’t untie me (not even my ankles), so it took FOREVER to reach a gas station. Still, I bet Anne Hathaway would look terrific struggling to push a car along a deserted highway, and that’s what counts.

Day 10

Not much going on today. We’re parked somewhere and I hear a muffled sound coming from nearby. What is that, digging?

I’ve thought of a title for my movie: Driven to Despair. It works the car angle while avoiding any reference to the trunk. Cha-ching!

Hey, that sound has finally stopped. I wonder if that’s good or bad. Guess I’ll know soon enough.


An Open Letter To O.J. Simpson From The Real Killer

By: Mike Richardson-Bryan

Dear O.J.,

It’s me, the real killer. I bet you never expected to hear from me, and yet it was inevitable that you would. Allow me to explain.

I had committed the perfect crime. Two innocent people lay dead, victims of my murderous rage, and I had gotten away scot-free. The possibility that an innocent man might be wrongfully convicted for my crime was an unexpected but positively delightful bonus. Everything was going my way.

Imagine my surprise when, upon your acquittal, you dedicated your life to tracking me down and bringing me to justice. I had a good laugh about it, at first. “Oh, no,” I said to myself, feigning a tremble, “O.J. Simpson is gonna sleuth me out.” But the laughter soon gave way to panic when it became clear that you were serious. Dead serious.

I’ve been living on the run ever since, and it hasn’t been easy. Indeed, I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in twelve years — twelve years! — and when I do sleep, my dreams are haunted by the slow, soft, unrelenting tread of your Gucci loafers as you draw inexorably closer. Oh, how I’ve come to despise you and your noble quest.

And yet, I must also tip my hat to you. No one would have blamed you for retreating from the public eye and living a life of quiet dignity on your meager $25,000 / month NFL pension. But instead, you took to the streets, determined to clear your name and avenge your beloved ex-wife and what’s-his-name.

If only you knew how close you’ve come over the years.

You almost had me at that country club in Miami. I was so intent on my form that I didn’t even see you coming. If I hadn’t sliced into the trees off the third hole, you would have spotted me for sure. Fortunately, you stopped to belittle a caddy, and I, recognizing your commanding voice from afar, lay low amongst the dogwoods while you played through. Call it a mulligan.

You almost had me again at that Indian casino in Fresno. I was hitting the tables hard that night, trying to forget my troubles. I had just rolled a hard eight when you rounded the slots, your laser-like eyes scanning the room for signs of villainy. If those frat boys hadn’t accosted you for autographs, I might have had to ditch my chips in my mad flight for the exit. I guess Lady Luck was with me that night.

But you came closest of all at that spa in the Hamptons. I was working as a towel boy in order to get close to my next victim, a beautiful blonde hot-rock masseuse and part-time ear model from Newfoundland. I had just about won her trust when you appeared and ordered the works. Oh, you were good — even ensconced in a detoxifying full-body seaweed wrap, you remained in a state of cat-like readiness, set to pounce the moment I showed myself — but I hid in a hamper until you were gone. Another clean getaway.

The masseuse, like so many others, is alive today only because of your meddling. But do they thank you? No, to this day they condemn you for a crime you didn’t commit no matter how much any reasonable man in your position would have wanted to. Yet you press on, undaunted, like Batman or Spider-Man or Black Vulcan, as heroic as you are misunderstood. Perhaps when your doubters read this letter, they will finally understand.

The shame is that the two of us are a lot alike. In different circumstances, we could have been friends, if not brothers, or even twins, identical in every way except for the fact that I’m a cold-blooded killer whereas you’ve never killed anyone in your life, not even some ungrateful skank who totally deserved it and her poncy friend who should’ve minded his own business. But the cards are dealt and there’s no going back now.

And so, my worthy adversary, our deadly game of cat and mouse continues. I will never stop, driven as I am by murderous impulses not shared by yourself even when provoked. And you, in turn, will never flag or fail in your single-minded pursuit, driven as you are by a thirst for justice that no quantity of Cristal can quench. On and on we will go, hunter and hunted, predator and prey, until only one of us remains. So be it.

Good luck, and may the best man win.

Yours truly,

The Real Killer


Excerpts From Diary of a Rejected McDonaldland Character

By: Mike Richardson-Bryan

Oct. 16, 1970 — Just got back from auditions for that new McDonald’s campaign. Man, they weren’t kidding when they said they wanted “colourful characters” — there were clowns, burglars, pirates, guys with cheeseburgers for heads, and a bunch of midgets who looked like pubic wigs with eyes — but I was the only talking owl, so I must’ve stood out. Fingers crossed!

Nov. 9, 1970 — First day of rehearsal. Met the rest of the cast, including some kind of purple mutant named Grimace. Seriously, who names their kid Grimace? And he’s so fat, he looks like he couldn’t crack his knuckles without getting winded. I shouldn’t have any trouble acting circles around those freaks.

Nov. 16, 1970 — Another tough rehearsal. I think I twisted an ankle during the human pyramid, but after downing half a bottle of Tylenol in the washroom, I was good to go. No pain, no gain.

Nov. 23, 1970 — I really misjudged Grimace. He’s a sweet guy, much smarter than his jolly fat monster shtick would have you believe, and he really knows his stuff. I bet he’s got a big future ahead of him if the weight doesn’t kill him first.

Dec. 2, 1970 — Unbelievable! I showed up for the shoot, raring to go, but the producer pulled me aside and told me I was cut. Cut! He said it’s something to do with my name not testing well, so I offered to work under another name — any name they wanted — but that wasn’t good enough for him. So, just like that, I’m out. But I’ll show them. The world hasn’t seen the last of CholesterOwl!

Dec. 4, 1970 — Grimace dropped by to see how I was doing. I wasn’t doing so well (oh, sambuca, you can be a cruel mistress), but it was nice to see a friendly face. Haven’t heard a peep out of anyone else.

Jan. 25, 1971 — Saw the first McDonaldland commercial today. I hate to admit it, but it looked good, real good, and everybody was in fine form. They gave my part (sigh) to one of the midgets.

July 16, 1972 — Keeping busy. Doing five shows a week at the dinner theatre, and I’ve gotten nothing but positive feedback about that public service announcement I did for the STD clinic (thank God mom didn’t see it). Climb, climb, climb…

Dec. 7, 1973 — Did lunch with Grimace today. He looked bad, sick and pale and fatter than ever, but he ate like a horse. I didn’t want to say anything, but when he ordered his third slice of pie, I suggested he slow down. He started to cry and said he feels sick all the time, but that whenever he tries to lose weight, that producer threatens to fire him if he drops a single roly-poly pound. God, I’d like to peck that jerk’s face in!

Jun. 22, 1975 — Grimace’s funeral is tomorrow. The synagogue isn’t on a bus route, but Poppin’ Fresh said he’d give me a lift if I chipped in for gas. I hope Lynn and the twins are holding up okay.

Sep. 23, 1975 — Just saw the “new” Grimace on TV. They didn’t waste any time, did they? I hope the guy in that purple fatsuit gets cancer of the tongue and testicles and dies.

Jul. 15, 1977 — Checked myself into rehab. The next time you hear from me, I’ll be clean and sober and back on track. Fingers crossed!

Jan. 16, 1980 — Knocked over another McDonald’s. Was on the way out when the manager mouthed off. Should’ve let it go, but for a second there, in the glow of the heat lamps, he looked a little bit like that producer, and that was it. Not sure how long I was on him, but when I finally got off, there was a bloody hole where his face used to be and he was dead. Sure hope I didn’t leave any clues behind.

Feb. 13, 1980 — Saw my lawyer again. He says my history with McDonald’s is gonna hurt me at trial. What am I supposed to do? Admit that I’ve also robbed two Dairy Queens and a Kentucky Fried Chicken? The system is stacked against a guy like me.

Mar. 13, 1980 — Expecting a verdict tomorrow. Lawyer keeps saying I never should’ve taken the stand, but I think I came off pretty well, and besides, Juror #10 was totally coming on to me, which can’t hurt. I feel lucky!

Mar. 17, 1980 — First day of prison. I was worried at first, after all those stories I heard in lock-up about birds in prison being ambushed in the shower and gang-plucked, but so far everyone’s been real nice. Maybe I’ll be okay in here after all.

Mar. 31, 1980 — Feathers finally starting to grow back.

Jul. 8, 1993 — Just came from the best Mascots Behind Bars meeting ever! Spuds McKenzie read some more of his poetry, Sugar Bear and Toucan Sam settled their differences and had a good cry afterwards, and the Noid finally came to terms with his unspeakable crimes. The healing has truly begun!

Oct. 24, 1993 — Had to shiv the Noid. I know he’s the one who raided my stash, plus I just couldn’t take the nonstop giggling anymore. He won’t have anything to giggle about for a while, that’s for sure.

Mar. 16, 2005 — Free! After twenty-five long years, I’m finally free! And mark my words, things will be different this time. No more ego, no more anger, and definitely no more drugs. This time it’ll be all about the craft. I’ve already landed an audition for a reality TV show about troubled product mascots. Fingers crossed!


The Kurgan Tries Speed Dating

By: Mike Richardson-Bryan

Setting: an upscale bar.

Date #1

Jan: Hi, I’m Jan.

Kurgan: I am the Kurgan. I am the strongest. You will always be weaker than I.

Jan: Can you believe we’re doing this? It seems so tacky, doesn’t it? But it’s so hard to meet people these days.

Kurgan: I meet lots of people once.

Jan: I know what you mean. We rush, rush, rush through our lives, and as soon as we meet someone, they’re gone, gone, gone. There’s no time to get to know anyone anymore.

Kurgan: I have all the time in the world.

Jan: I wish I felt that way sometimes.

Kurgan: You never will. Your brief, mortal life will slip through your fingers like the smoke from a burning village, and nothing can stop it. It’s almost over already.

Jan: Stop! Stop!

(JAN bursts into tears and stumbles, half-blind, towards the washrooms.)

Date #2

Mindy: Hello, I’m Mindy.

Kurgan: I am the Kurgan. I am the strongest. You will always be weaker than I.

Mindy: You look like an animal lover. I love animals, too, especially dogs. I have three dogs at home.

Kurgan: I don’t like dogs. As a child, I was thrown into a pit to fight with hungry dogs for scraps of meat. It’s hard for me to look at a dog without wanting to punch it.

Mindy: That’s awful!

Kurgan: Or kick it, whatever.

Mindy: That’s even worse!

Kurgan: What was I supposed to do, go hungry?

(Suddenly, MINDY points behind KURGAN with one hand while reaching into her purse with the other.)

Mindy: Hey, what’s that?!

(When KURGAN turns to look, MINDY whips out a Taser, zaps him with it several times, and then disappears into the crowd.)

Date #3

Stephanie: Hi, I’m Stephanie.

Kurgan: I am the Kurgan. I am the strongest. You will always be weaker than I.

Stephanie: So, do you like music?

Kurgan: Sometimes. I’m partial to Queen. I have all their 8-tracks.

Stephanie: Ha-ha, that’s funny.

Kurgan: Seriously.

Stephanie: I love music. I couldn’t go out with a man who didn’t like music as much as I do. Music makes life worth living.

Kurgan: No, what makes life worth living is fishnet stockings. I have yet to meet a puny mortal woman who doesn’t look better in fishnet stockings. As it happens, I have some old fishnet stockings in my car. I could go get them and you could try them on. What do you say?

Stephanie: “What do I say? I say, Dig a hole and get in it, you pig.” That’s what I say.

(Fuming, STEPHANIE flings her drink in KURGAN’s face and storms off.)

Date #4

Liz: Hello, I’m Liz.

Kurgan: I am the Kurgan. I am — oh, never mind.

Liz: You’re the gimp, right?

Kurgan: The what?

Liz: The gimp. The guy hired by the organizer to be the biggest loser in the world so all the other guys look better by comparison. You’ve got to be the gimp. I mean, look at you.

Kurgan: I am no such thing, puny mortal.

Liz: It’s okay, you can tell me. I’m not really here for a date. I’m doing field research for my Ph.D. in anthropology. I know how these things work.

Kurgan: I am no gimp.

Liz: Oh.

(Long, uncomfortable silence.)

Liz: So, do you like cooking?

Kurgan: What’s wrong with the way I look?

Liz: Nothing, it’s just that…well, you might be a swell guy, but you don’t look like date material. I mean, your head looks like it was shaved with a piece of broken glass by a wino with the shakes. And your clothes? Leather, studs…and is that chain mail? I hate to be the one to break it to you, but punk is dead. And as for the Kurgan thing…okay, I know it’s hip to identify with ancient cultures these days — my old roommate was into the Maori thing, she even got one of those swirly tattoos — but you could do a lot better than the Kurgans.

Kurgan: What’s wrong with the Kurgans?

Liz: They weren’t nice people. Did you know they used to throw children into pits to fight with hungry dogs for scraps of meat?

Kurgan: Actually —

Liz: Trust me, if you want to score tonight — or any night — you’re going to have to reinvent yourself. Grow some hair, buy some new clothes, and for God’s sake lose the Kurgan thing. It wouldn’t hurt to take up some hobbies you can talk about, too. Women do love to talk, you know.

Kurgan: But —

Liz: Oh, and be a pal and don’t out me to the other daters, okay?

(LIZ shoots him a conspiratorial wink, then switches off her concealed tape recorder and heads for the bar to wait for her next date.)

Date #5

Jenny: Hi, I’m Jenny.

Kurgan: Hello, I’m, uh, Bob. Bob O’Kurgan.

Jenny. Tell me about yourself, Bob.

Kurgan: I, uh, like to take things slow. Also, I love animals, especially dogs. I love music, too, all kinds of music. But most of all, I love to talk. I could talk all day and night without the slightest prospect of crazy, bone-breaking sex in the offing. Talk, talk, talk, that’s me.

Jenny: Oh, God, not another new-age wimp!

Kurgan: Huh?

Jenny: What happened to all the real men? The kind of men who love ’em hard and leave ’em sore, who like their animals three inches thick and medium-rare, whose idea of music is drinking themselves blind and playing the drums until the cops show up? That’s the kind of man I’m looking for.

Kurgan: Well, actually —

Jenny: I knew this was a waste of time. Well, Bob, you can tell all the other tree-hugging softies that Jenny’s not interested. See ya, loser.

(Disgusted, JENNY heads for the exit and doesn’t look back.)

Kurgan: Crap.


Zombie Outbreak in Small-Town Ontario as Chronicled in the Diary of a Teenaged Girl with a Hopeless Crush

By: Mike Richardson-Bryan

Dear diary,

God, nothing EVER happens around here. What does it say about my life when the highlight of my weekend is helping mom clean out the camper? Yeccchhh!

Dear diary,

Big news! Jason sat next to me at assembly today. I was so excited, I accidentally inhaled my gum and blacked out. STUPID! By the time I came to, Jason was gone, lured away by Jasmine AGAIN. Grrr!!! One of these days, she’s gonna get what’s coming to her.

Dear diary,

Went to another lame Battle of the Bands last night. One of the bands featured three original members of Loverboy, and they were barely halfway through their first song when their drummer went off his nut and attacked the judges (I think he actually bit one of them, too). They still won, though, which tells you something about the music scene in Ontario these days.

Dear diary,

There’s some kind of bug going around and it’s wicked bad. I sure hope it’s not that chicken flu that’s supposed to destroy mankind, unless of course it spares me and Jason and afterwards we get married and set out to repopulate the earth. In that case, bring it on!

Dear diary,

There was a big fight at the ringette game last night. It must’ve been ugly, ’cause apparently a lot of people got bitten and a few of them are still missing (including Mrs. Petty, my old home economics teacher, who I actually liked, although she wasn’t much of a teacher). The game was called, which is too bad for the ringette girls, who are having their winningest season ever. Go, Fightin’ Barn Owls!

Dear diary,

It seems like everybody’s got that bug that’s going around. On the bright side, so many kids are home sick that history class is down to just me and Jason (oh, and Mitchell, that geek with the lazy eye, but he doesn’t count), so we’re practically study buddies now. He even asked to borrow a pencil today! Unfortunately, I accidentally inhaled my gum and blacked out again. STUPID!

Dear diary,

Things are getting weird around here. People are going missing all over the place and a bunch of torsos turned up outside of town. The cops say it’s rowdy teenagers, but that’s what they say every time a window is broken or a car is rolled and set on fire or a family is attacked in their own home and eaten alive. Okay, so we did roll and burn that car that time, but it was Halloween, and besides it was only a Geo, so what’s the biggie? Stupid Nazis.

Dear diary,

My prom dress is finally done. It’s an explosion of plum satin with the biggest, puffiest sleeves you’ve ever seen and a TON of lace. And I made it myself! I guess I learned something in Mrs. Petty’s class after all. I sure hope they find the rest of her someday. Now all I need is a date. Fingers crossed!

Dear diary,

I have a date for the prom. No, it’s not Jason (big surprise). It’s Mitchell. I know, I know, but time was running out, and a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, right? I just have to remember to dance real close so I don’t end up staring at that wonky eye all night.

Dear diary,

The prom was awesome! The music was good, the gym looked great (SO MUCH BUNTING), and as for the dancing…HOLY CRAP, THAT LAZY-EYED GEEK CAN DANCE! We tore up the floor like it was Dance Dance Revolution on bathtub meth! Before I knew it, my shiny new dress was soaked with sweat and my hair and make-up were such a mess that I looked like Tammy Faye Bakker after a mop beating, but I didn’t care. In fact, I was having so much fun that when Mitch leaned in to plant a wet one on me, I just cocked my head and let come what may.

But then the zombies attacked. Yes, dear diary, actual zombies, a shambling horde of them, intent on gnawing the flesh from our bones. What a buzz killer.

Everybody ran for their lives. Me and Mitch ended up barricaded in the nurse’s office with Jason and Jasmine. We thought we were safe, but then Jasmine went all zombie on us (the selfish skank got bit back in the gym and didn’t tell anyone) and we had to finish her. Jason tried to do it, but he chickened out. In fact, HE SOBBED LIKE A LITTLE GIRL. I had to do it myself, and believe me, I killed the stuffing out of her. It didn’t feel as good as I thought it would, to tell you the truth, but I sure wasn’t complaining, either.

We were finally saved by the ringette girls. Just before dawn, they swooped in with nail-studded ringette sticks in hand and cleaned house, busting zombies left, right, and centre. I swear, if they don’t win at least their division this year, then there is no God.

Afterwards, me and Mitch slipped away and did it in the janitor’s closet. Yes, DID IT. And take it from me, dancing isn’t the only thing he does with gusto.

So much for high school. I can’t exactly say these were the best days of my life, but the idea that they’re over forever definitely leaves me a little sad. I guess that’s what growing up feels like.

Now look out, community college, ’cause here I come!


Redshirt Academy

By: Mike Richardson-Bryan

Okay, cadets, welcome back to the Starfleet Security Specialist Workshop. In Module I, we studied basic drill, chain of command, and tricorder etiquette. In Module II, you’ll learn how to recognize common dangers and how to deal with them.

Assisting me this session will be Ensign Kenner. He’s the fellow in the back with the large-bore phaser rifle and the nervous tic. Are you ready back there, Ensign? Is it set to you-know-what? Then we’re ready to begin.

Before we do, though, I’d like to address some of the comments I heard during the break.

Some of you expressed misgivings about a career in the Security Division. Now, it’s true that the life of a security specialist — or “redshirt,” as we’re popularly known — is a dangerous one, but space exploration is dangerous no matter what color your shirt is. Besides, a career in the Security Division offers all kinds of fringe benefits that you won’t find anywhere else.

For one thing, the Security Division has the best teams in Starfleet, including the defending parrises squares champions — go, Fightin’ Sand Bats! — so if you’re into sports, then this is the place for you.

For another thing, redshirts get more meal credits than other specialists. While the goldshirts and blueshirts are picking over their synthloaf for the third day in a row, the redshirts are eating like kings. Indeed, a typical redshirt eats so well that you’d think every meal was his last.

Finally, redshirts have the best opportunities for advancement in the fleet. Other specialists often spend years in the same position, but there are always openings for ambitious redshirts, sometimes two or three at a time. Heck, pass my course and you could find yourself serving aboard a starship next week.

So, to sum up, the life of a redshirt has its dangers, but it also has its own unique rewards, so keep an open mind.

Now, before we continue, let’s observe a minute of silence for the cadets who died during Module I, especially that guy from Spokane who was turned into a cube and stepped on.

Was that a minute? Who has a watch? Okay, let’s get started on Module II.

As redshirts, it will be your duty to protect the ship, the crew, and to a much lesser extent yourselves. That means knowing how to recognize danger and how to react accordingly. Of course, danger can be hard to spot on strange alien worlds, but you can always fall back on the tried-and-true techniques that have made the Security Division the respected institution that it is today. Let’s look at a few examples now. Ensign, start the film.

Here we see a landing party exploring a crash site. What’s the first thing they should do? That’s right, Ledbetter, they should split up, and pay close attention to how they do it: the captain, the science officer, and the doctor go off together in one direction, while the redshirt goes off in another direction by himself. That’s textbook splitting up. And now that the redshirt is all alone, the energy cloud that’s been waiting to pick the landing party off one by one can come out of hiding and attack him, like so. Ooh, that had to hurt. The redshirt is dead, but when he fails to check in later, his teammates will know that there’s danger afoot.

Let’s look at another film. Here we see a redshirt exploring alien ruins when suddenly he comes across a strange alien artifact throbbing with some strange alien power. What should he do? No, Birch, he should NOT report in and request instructions. Haven’t you been paying attention? I don’t care if he has TEN communicators and an Aldis lamp, that’s not how we do it. Anyone else? Right again, Ledbetter, he should walk right up to it and touch it, and there he goes. Ooh, that wasn’t pretty, was it? Again, the redshirt is dead, but when his teammates find what’s left of him, they’ll know to keep their hands to themselves.

Let’s look at one more. Here we see a redshirt exploring an abandoned settlement when suddenly a bunch of creepy children come out of nowhere and surround him. What should he do? Right again, Ledbetter, he should assume they’re perfectly harmless no matter how crazy or feral they look. Even as they inch closer and closer, picking up rocks and makeshift clubs as they do so, he should just stand there asking them where their mommies and daddies are until WHAM! Ooh, what a way to go. Once again, the redshirt is dead, but when his teammates see the children frolicking in his blood, they’ll know that those children are trouble.

Okay, enough films for now, it’s time for the real thing. Ensign, release the M113 creature. Isn’t she a beauty? Now, the M113 creature — or “salt vampire,” as it’s better known — feeds exclusively on sodium chloride, something the human body has in abundance. Don’t worry, though, the creature is perfectly harmless as long as OH MY GOD! BLAST IT, ENSIGN, BLAST IT! AGAIN!

Whew. Okay, how many did we lose? Three? That’s not so bad. Remember that Horta sensitivity training seminar we had last year? Now that was brutal. Shame about Ledbetter, though.

We may as well take another break. Everyone go get some coffee while we clean this up. When you come back, we’ll tackle Module III: Introduction to Zero Gravity Hygiene.