Episodic stories of fantasy and science fiction.

Author: Ben Acosta Page 1 of 9

Short story and novel author based out of Tucson, Arizona. Freelance writer for George Takei "Oh Myyy" properties.

Seeking Dusk: Part 15

The wait is unbearable. I can hear their voices in the building, but force myself to not listen. It would be wrong of me to ignore an order from Lord Zadkiel. I can still speculate, though.

What would The Dominion want from a human? I mean, a soldier or messenger might talk to Dr. Matthews for information, but the combined sight of these angels encompasses almost all of creation. And for things they can’t see, they can speak with the archangels, or in extreme cases, The Creator!

Why manifest here themselves? And now that I think of it, where did Kushiel and Ariel take Rand? The human is talented, but the power of The Dominion would crush him.

The door starts to click open. I straighten up from the reclined position I had taken in the air as I played with my thoughts. As much as I’m questioning in my mind, I still feel the need to obey and assist these powerful beings anyway I can. …And, maybe follow the protocols a little more closely while they’re around.  Don’t judge me! I’ve seen enough mortals to know I am not alone in this reaction. I’m not used to them following me around all the time.

Dr. Matthews leads them back here, his face scrunched in thought. What did they talk with him about? What could perplex the good doctor so thoroughly?

“Thank you for your help, Alexander.” Lord Zadkiel came after the doctor. He’s taken to calling the human by his first name, which seems more than a little disrespectful. But then, he’s been like that since he landed…

“Of course, my lord.” Despite responding quickly, the doctor’s voice sounds far away. This is going to drive me crazy.

“If you learn anything else, please, pray to us. We will hear you.” Lady Puriel spoke reassuringly, which was strange to me. In my defense, it’s the first time she’s spoken like that since she landed.

The hosts piled out of the building, while I stood at attention. I thanked the good doctor for his help as they left. He finally looked me in the eye, and I could see more to his expression. He was scared. Terrified. I wish I could help, but all I could do is give him my own frightened look back.

The matters of hosts are rarely simple, but the Dominion are something else entirely. As Zadkiel put it, all of creation must be at risk for all five of them to land. But the secrecy is different. Last time they were here, they fought the threat of the Nephilim. An open war. Glorified in their actions and majestic in their terrible might. So to see them being so… subtle, is jarring.

But it makes me think of the kind of cloak and dagger missions Rand had been engaging. Have I really been the only one to still see this war as it was? To be left behind as my leaders and allies fight a new battle? I never did apologize to Rand. I suppose I now really should when I see him.

“Aluma, thank you for your assistance.” Puriel spoke to me with the same assurance she used with Dr. Matthews. I was still not used to it.

“Of course, my lady. What will we do now?”

Lord Zadkiel looked to his comrades and then to me. “If I remember correctly, you still have your own assignment to complete. You may resume your hunt. If we need you again, we will call upon you.”

I was stunned. But Zadkiel said I would be needed. That they needed someone to help guide them on earth. Did I do something wrong?

“Of course. I wish you well, my lord and ladies.” I took off into the air, too ashamed of the tears I felt. I did not want them to see. Dammit, Aluma! Get yourself together!

I soared over the rooftops of the city, not really looking for anything. Instead I fought with my emotions and questions. It would be wrong of me to disobey a direct order, but…

Was it an order? Zadkiel had said I ‘may’ go back to my mission.

“Piecing it together are you?”

I whip around, shocked at the voice I heard. Lord Zadkiel was right behind me. I didn’t even realize I had stopped flying forward.

“Well, Aluma, you are a loyal soldier. I was right to think I could trust you.”

“My Lord,” I exclaim, bowing as I do, “Where are the Ladies Muriel and Puriel?”

“Busy.” His calm demeanor was actually starting to worry me. “But you need not worry. I am here because I need your help.”

I would like to say I was humble, and not at all proud of his trust in me, but that would be an absolute lie.

“You’ve been a busy host, Aluma.” Zadkiel and I were floating around the city. While I’ve been torn between my feelings, I do my best to piece together what exactly is going on. Lord Zadkiel seems to be betraying the trust of the rest of The Dominion, but at the same time, I have to think that he has a reason for doing so. The whole of creation is in jeopardy, right?

“I suppose so, my lord.” The pride I had felt was gone, and instead replaced with my confusion.

“How many demons have you sent to The Pit in just these last seven missions?”

Was he genuinely curious? Potentially getting me buttered up?

“I am unsure. A few dozen?”

He smiles, “In such a short amount of time. A mere blink of an eye and so many of our enemies fade into the void. It is not just your strength, Firebrand. You can find where these creatures hide. Your tenacity in the face of demonic entities is nothing short of spectacular. This is why I need your help.”

“Of course. I am at your service, Lord Zadkiel.”

We slow to a stop, his eyes still searching over the city.

“Come, we shouldn’t talk in the open.” He floats straight down, almost losing me. I go after quickly, keeping my eye on him. He descends into an alleyway, taking care to examine the area around us. What is he hiding?

“My lord,” I speak calmly, “why are we taking such pains to not be seen or heard?”

When he appeared satisfied that we were alone, he spoke.

“Aluma, were you not listening when we spoke of The Box?”

“All of reality was at risk. I heard you, my lord.”

He sighs.

“It goes deeper than that. The Presence, The Creator himself might be in danger.”

…Excuse me?

“I’m sorry, sir, but that’s not possible. He is-”



Neon Noir: The Twelfth Beat

Rupert was a close friend with Alessandro Gaudio, the head of the crime family. He’s a fixer, a fighter, and has his own long history making things happen in the city.

Ryan Shane

Lady Vash had taken Mr. Shane’s drink rather than wait for a new one. She shooed one of the men off the stool and took the seat herself. If anyone would recognize Rupert, it’d be her.

And yet, she also didn’t offer up Bella.

“Rupert, you lost your charge and made a mess trying to get her back. Why should I think she’d be safe with you?”

He looked around at his men, a little uncomfortable. Likely didn’t appreciate being talked down to in front of his men.

“You know it’s more complicated than that. She was with the Belrose boy.”

“I assume that’s been taken care of.” Vash sips her drink, never taking her eyes off the man.

He sighs, but his shoulders still look tense.

“Yes, but if they haven’t started looking for her yet, they will soon.”

“Because you told them?”

“I would never!”

The two in charge glared into each other’s eyes. Mr. Shane looked away, and saw the other men in the room all looking sheepish in their own ways.

“Leave us,” Rupert orders, then turns to Ryan. “That goes for you too, boy.”

Vash takes a sip, seemingly ignoring the tension she caused.

“No, he stays.” Rupert scoffs at Vash’s statement.

“We’re talking about this in private!”

“And so we shall. I trust Mr. Shane, especially more than I trust you right now. And I’m just a little lady. What would I do if you turned violent?” Vash smirks.

Rupert turns to the rest of his men, who seem confused as to whether they should leave or not.

“Well? Get out!”

The men quickly shuffle outside. Left in the room are Rupert, Vash, and Mr. Shane awkwardly looking between them.

Rupert collapses onto the couch and buries his face in his hands.

“Thanks for the excuse. Honestly, I don’t know what to do, Vash.”

“I figured as much. Who found the body?”

He sighs before answering.

“Carlota. I don’t know how she got here before me. I talked to the neighbors and it doesn’t sound like she knew who lived here, but there’s a chance she knows. And that’s assuming the shooter didn’t leak it to the family already.”

Vash sets her glass down on the counter.

“About that: What have you heard?”

Rupert leans forward and looks up toward Mr. Shane. The bodyguard shifts his shoulders around at the eyes boring into him.

Vash speaks again.

“That wasn’t just for show, I trust him. Beyond the fact he owes me, he’s like a damn puppy in his loyalty.”

Mr. Shane’s eyebrows narrow as he looks at his boss. Not exactly the most dignified description.

“You can’t be too careful. Things are going to hell.” Rupert leans back in his seat again. “I’m not sure what the family knows, but I did learn more about the would-be lovers.”

“Lady Gaudio didn’t tell me what went down, but I carefully put out some feelers. What I heard shook me.”

“You can skip the part about their relationship. I’m already caught up on that.” Vash grabs and downs the rest of her drink.

“No, you aren’t. Raphael wasn’t just involved with Bella. He had three more women on a damn near rotation.”

“Which paints an even bigger target on Bella. Goddamnit.” Vash slams her glass back down.

“I could tell from her voice she didn’t shoot the boy, but it’s not likely the Belroses will see it that way. They hear Raphael was screwing around on her, and they’ll think she killed him out of jealousy.”

Vash stands up and paces around the room. She crosses her hands behind her back taking glances out the window every so often.

Then she walks over to one side of the room and pulls up the carpet. She presses on a few planks of the wood flooring and lifts a loose one, pulling a small bag out, before replacing the flooring.

“What is that?” Rupert questions.

“Bella borrowed money from Kegs to run away. If the Belroses are going to be after her, might as well not have someone else too.”

“Hand it to me and I’ll take care of it. And I just need you to tell me where Bella is and I can get her out. After that, the families can go to war for all I care.”

Vash pauses, looking between the bag and Rupert. She hands it to him.

“I’ll send you a message when we can get her somewhere safe for the transfer. Keep your ear out, or you might miss it.”

He takes the bag and gives a nod to her.

“Thank you, Lady Vash. I’ll get this right to Kegs.”

Ryan continues looking between the two, nervous as anything and fighting the urge to say anything.

Rupert stands and heads to the door.

“I’ll be waiting for the word, Vash.”

“You’ll get it soon enough.”

With that, Rupert takes his leave.

As soon as the man was out of earshot, Ryan urgently whispers to his boss.

“What was that all about?! Bella owes the money to Lenny, not Kegs!”

Vash walks into the kitchen, digging through the cupboards.

“Yes. That’s right.”

“So you knew you were wrong?”

“Mr. Shane, why did we send you here first?”

Ryan hasn’t gotten a lot of sleep, and the day has been long and complicated.

“I was supposed to draw the men away from the apartment for you to get the money?”

“Specifically, you were supposed to draw away the Belrose men. The ones who we thought discovered the body.”

Ryan thinks about this, and shakes his head.

“You can’t be saying Rupert is in on it? Yeah, he’s kind of a crumb, but after the Belroses got rid of the body, why wouldn’t Rupert look around here?”

Vash continues digging around the kitchen. She seemed very intent on finding something.

“Because he’s not that dumb. He claims the family don’t know who owned this apartment. But if the cleaner for the Gaudios is hanging around here when no one else knows what happened? Why risk it?”

“Then what was he doing here?”

Vash feels a false back to a drawer and quickly works to remove it.

“Trying to find something to track her down.”

She pulls out an envelope, looks inside and gives a smile to Mr. Shane.

Ryan was sure this night was far from over.

The 19th Century Paranormal Investigator: Chapter 25

I’d love to spend more time lying here, but there’s work to do.

“No time to rest just yet, Con.” I struggle to my feet, my chest aching in such pain. “We have to find out more. This demon is down, but not dead.”

Con looks annoyed as he sits up.

“So what? We tie him up with that special rope of yours? Torture him to make him talk? Not sure how well that’ll work.”

“Now that’s just silly.” I shuffle back towards my bag, hoping I remembered the healing powder. “We clearly don’t need rope. It’s incapacitated from its injuries.”

Con shakes his head. “Okay, but what about talking with it? These things only speak that weird stuff. Unless they’re pulling from people’s memories, they don’t speak no human language.”

“They speak Enochian, similar to the angels, but there are ways to translate that, if necessary. However, I don’t think we need it since you have a rather useful skill.”

I make it to my bag. Rifling through it, I find what I had hoped. A small vial of a glittering dark powder. It can mend my wounds, and heal my bruises, but it costs something most aren’t willing to give.

Luckily, I am not most. I pull a small pinch of dust out and throw it at my chest. The effect is immediate. Bones literally snap back into place. Blood starts flowing again through mended veins.

The pain increases to unbelievable levels for an instant, but becomes non-existent soon after. I groan and then stretch, making sure everything is as it should be. My chest feels almost like new. Well, except my clothes. But I can mourn my coat later.

“Hey, Branner. What is that stuff? I could use some after that fight.”

“You do not want this, Con. It’s dried blood of the fae. It can heal wounds and extend your life, but it costs a bit of your humanity each time. The more severe your wound, the more it takes. And with you being half demon, you have very little to give. Your demon abilities will have you healed soon enough.”

I replace the vial in my bag. “It’s time to get to work. Let us see what this beast knows.”

I cross back to the mayhem the battle with the demon left. Not much could be done about it, but I’m sure the Doctor’s staff will clean it all the same. The creature that had been tormenting us was lying sprawled on the floor, pieces of his arms and torso missing from his body. So much was more visible now.

Between the dust, blood, and outlines of wounds, I could see his entire form. The serpent tail fused to the humanoid torso was as strange as last time, but there was a stranger sense to it. Like it didn’t belong, even to such a foul beast as this.

“I’ll need one more item.” I run to the pile of destroyed bookshelves and start sifting through the wreckage. The statue I was initially trying to get should be in here. After a short search, I find it.

“Con! I’ll need you to hold on to this. It should help you acquire a connection with the beast,” I call back to the boy.

As he walks over to get the figure, the doors to the study burst open. Several servants enter the room, followed by the undercook, and finally Doctor Maladar himself. They gasp at the destruction in the room.

I look around from the destroyed bookcases, to large holes in the walls, to the beast itself, sprawled upon the ground.

“I’d tell you this isn’t what it looks like, but I can’t imagine what you believe this to be.”

I was not very gifted with humor, but I had been told it helps to disarm a bad situation.

Gatekeeping and Critique in Anime

My week started off with a fairly relaxing day. Worked on my car, napped a little, and decided to try to get back into Yu-Gi-Oh Duel Links like the anime fan I am.

Then I ran face first into the dumbest of takes I’ve ever seen.

Twitter Screenshot: "If all your common knowledge of anime, is Demon Slayer, Naruto, Inuyasha, Bleach, One Piece, Fate, Dragon Ball Z, Sailor Moon, Gundam, My Hero Academia, Yu-Gi-Oh & Ghost in The Shell, then you're NOT an anime fan!"

"Normies stay the fuck out of Anime!"
Hear that? If you watch and enjoy only these multiple, hundreds of hours shows, GTFO fake fan!

The above tweet went viral today, mostly with people denouncing it, which is great.

Gatekeeping and You

It’s really impressive how foolish this thought about gatekeeping is. If you know only these anime, that’s still hundreds of hours of media to take in. That takes dedication and effort to watch and enjoy even a few of these to a certain degree.

Gatekeeping is nothing new. Star Trek got a reputation for being for nerdy men, despite the fact that the series was arguably kept alive by its women fans. Still, you can find incredulous people testing the knowledge of women who say they like the show.

Years on, and you can still find people with this mentality across the internet. Just tell someone you like the MCU or DCEU movies, or that you’re really into gaming. Odds are, if you’re a man, it’s just accepted that what you said is true. If you aren’t, expect to be questioned by a self-styled defender of the hobby.

The Purpose of Critique

Another thing that comes up here is a lack of understanding as to the purpose and effect of critique.

You see, the person who wrote the shit take up there explained why they wrote it.

Twitter Screenshot: "So it seems like a lot of idiots missed the point of this post. What i'm saying, is that if that's the ONLY shows you watch & nothing else, then that's a problem."

"The main reason i said this, is because of this bullshit article about Kill La Kill."
I wish I could explain how dumb this is.

The article the Twitter user links to is this one. It’s a fairly innocuous critique of Kill La Kill and the gulf between the show’s sexual humor and the message it tries to get across.

I’m not going to lie, I agree with the article. But there’s plenty of people who don’t. The important thing here is that the article isn’t calling you a bad person if you enjoy the show. And it by no means wants the show to go back and fix every little instance of hypocrisy.

The Anime Gatekeeper™ is worried that people like the one who wrote that article, don’t understand anime. They’re worried that people who don’t understand anime will change the hobby and make it worse. And most of all, they’re worried about Censorship! *gasp*

The problem here is that it treats the hobby like it’s a zero-sum game. If someone who “doesn’t understand anime” is making their opinions known, then that drowns you out, and the anime you want won’t get made.

Which is ridiculous. There is so much anime out there for any kind of viewer.

The critique is about improving the messaging of Kill La Kill, not about censoring it. It may help someone who doesn’t want to see something like that avoid it, or may help someone making a new anime improve their storytelling.

But it’s also just an article online, not word of law. Plenty of people will ignore it, and make the anime they want to make, weird sexual jokes and all. They aren’t going away and killing your own hobby isn’t an appropriate response.

Again, out of the two screenshot tweets, I can’t figure out which is dumber. I really can’t explain how wrong they are.

Here’s the truth: Do you like anime?

No? Okay, you aren’t an anime fan. That’s totally fine.

If yes: Congrats! You’re an anime fan! It doesn’t matter if it’s just Demon Slayer, Naruto, Inuyasha, Bleach, One Piece, Fate, Dragon Ball Z, Sailor Moon, Gundam, My Hero Academia, Yu-Gi-Oh or Ghost in The Shell, you’re still an anime fan.

If you like Berserk, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Attack on Titan, Elfen Lied, One Punch Man, Kaiji, or even Kill La Kill, you’re also an anime fan.

The only thing gatekeeping does is ensure your hobby will die off. Including people helps to make it grow and flourish with new ideas.

– Ben

Seeking Dusk: Part 14

“Aluma, being so accustomed to the workings of these humans, would you mind showing us to the one called Alexander Matthews? We would have words with him.”

Zadkiel exited his crater as the other of The Dominion did the same. He came right towards me, while Ariel went off to the side, seemingly to speak with Puriel.

“Doctor.” Rand’s voice popped up again, unexpectedly.

Zadkiel looked genuinely surprised. “Excuse me?”

“He has a medical degree. He prefers to be called Dr. Matthews.”

Rand! Now is not the time for semantics!

“Oh, that is cute. Humans giving themselves titles.” Well, that was a bit condescending of Zadkiel…

“He earned it! And his healing proficiency has saved your soldiers more times than I can count!” The fury of the human was beginning to show. Dammit Rand.

“Oh, don’t be so dramatic. I am very grateful to one, anyone, who would serve The Presence, but the affairs of the hosts are so far above you humans. Your lifetimes are so short, as is the knowledge you can accumulate.”

“And it’s that very knowledge you now need from a human, so give it a little respect,” Rand sneers.

Oh that is enough!

“If you two would please stop posturing!”

I swear, whether they be hosts or apes, men are all the same. Maybe I should have used more caution around my superiors, but I’ve never been one to make proper decisions.

Still, I gather up my composure and continue my mission. “Now, if you would all please follow me, I can take you to the mortal you seek.”

“Not all of us are going. Zadkiel, Puriel, and Muriel will accompany you. Myself and Kushiel must away to other business.” Ariel spoke floating away from Puriel, their conversation appearing to be concluded.

I give a bow of acknowledgement.

“As you wish, Lady Ariel. Please, let us go. The sun is coming up, and our human friend is not as well shielded from mortal repercussions as we. He likely needs rest.”

“Actually, could we borrow your comrade? The human warrior might be of use.” Kushiel spoke while studying Rand. What could they have in mind for my friend?

“I suppose… Rand, what do you say?”

He walked around, looking over the angelic hosts, inspecting what little trinkets and things he can see.  It was all a show of course. I’ve seen Rand do this before. Feels it makes him seem more perceptive than he really is. Does he really think-

“I’ll go with them. Looks like they could use my help.”

…I think Kushiel just relaxed a bit. How the hell does Rand get away with this shit?

“Then it’s decided! Let us all away!” Zadkiel’s enthusiasm caused me to smile. Just a bit.

As we flew through the air, the three Dominion that accompanied me kept looking around the city and making comments. Some thoughtful, others a bit condescending.

“Look! Most of these buildings are larger than the Tower of Babel! Amazing what humans can do in a few thousand years!”

“The females in these images are barely wearing any clothing… Are such advertisements directed at the men, or the women? And what is the secret of Victoria?”

“The telecommunications implemented are impressive, but seem to be poorly utilized.”

It was exasperating at times, but at others, it was amusing to see such powerful beings amazed at the technological advancements of these humans. They sometimes forget, but Lucifer fell because he couldn’t see their value. And it’s best if more of my brethren could learn to understand these creatures.

We finally reach the home of Dr. Matthews. The sun is fully risen by now, but I can only hope he’s not still sleeping. It was a long night. We land outside the building, in an alley way.

“It’s common human courtesy to rap upon the portal and wait to be invited in before entering,” I explain.

“That seems frivolous! Why not just enter the building! Our matter is of the utmost importance!” cried Puriel.

It certainly didn’t seem that way when you all sat staring at the giant television screen downtown for the better part of half an hour…

“Please, this is their realm. It is best if we abide their customs.”

I focus my energy to push the air in front of the door to give the impression of a short succession of knocks. There’s a shuffling of books and papers from inside as I wait for the man to open the door. When he does, he seems surprised to see me.

“Aluma, what are you-“

He stops as he notices my guests. Another human who’d never seen The Dominion. But unlike Rand, the doctor knew their significance. And he froze, unsure of how to react.

“Greetings, Doctor Matthews. May I present to you, members of the Dominion order of Hosts. Lord Zadkiel, Lady Puriel, and Lady Muriel.” At the mention of each of their names, the angel gave a bit of a nod.

“H-How do you d-do?” The doctor gave a bit of a bow, but kept his eye fixated on the beings of light.

“We are well, thank you Doctor Matthews. Please, might we come in?” Zadkiel spoke with the joviality he so adored.

“Of course!” The human bade us inside, quickly scampering about, attempting to straighten up and clean what he could for his guests. Puriel looked unimpressed, but Zadkiel seemed to delight in the frantic movements of our host. Muriel just kept her affable smile on, not paying attention to much of anything.

“I’m terribly sorry, I wasn’t expecting guests.”

“That’s quite all right, sir.” Zadkiel seems to have taken Rand’s words to heart. At least, I hope so. “Now, if you don’t mind, we have a few questions of you.”

“Anything for the servants of my Lord.” As he spoke, Dr. Matthews moved his hand towards the crucifix around his neck. I could see him mouth a little prayer to himself and his god.

“Thank you.” Zadkiel tursn towards me. “Aluma, if you could please leave us, this matter is private.”

“Excuse me?” I can’t contain the surprise with a hint of anger in my voice.

No but seriously, what the hell?

“The subject of this conversation is not for you. I am sorry.” There was no twinkle in Zadkiel’s eye this time. I was to not know what they talk about here.

I give a quick bow and float out of the house. Despite this, I feel a void in the house, as one of the Dominion shield the room from anyone getting in.

This entire matter is perplexing me.

Mild Mannered: Issue #10

I’m lying on my couch, holding my phone above my face. My eyes are glued to the little “Saved” counter on my profile on the Fantastik Comics website. In the time since I got home, the number had gone above 1,000.

The front door opens and closes as Kara gets home from work. The unique jangling of her keys tells me she’s carrying something in her hands.

“Jules! I bought food!” She yells out, probably assuming I’m in my room.

“I also used the money from your account to do it…” she says more quietly, not realizing I’m on the couch.

I don’t react to this though. I’m still too focused on the rising number on my profile. I have an audience now. There are going to be people looking at my art just because a stupid, haughty, well dressed stranger told them to. That’s pressure I don’t need.

“JULES!” Kara yells up the stairs.

“I’m over here.”

She pops her head in the living room, holding what looks to be takeout. We probably should have just got groceries, but I’m not exactly complaining either.

“What are you doing in here? I figured you’d be obsessing over your computer.”

“I didn’t make it that far. I got caught on my phone here.”

She sits down next to me, setting the bag of food on the table. She holds out her hand, and I place my phone in it.

The light shines and flickers across her face as she flicks down to refresh the page.

“A lot of people have been looking at your profile…”


She jumps off the couch, eyes glimmering with energy.

“This is amazing! See, you have a following now! I told you your art would be good enough!”

I snatch the phone out of her hand. I tap the screen, perform a quick search, and hand it back to her.

“It wasn’t me. It was him.”

Kara takes the phone and sifts through the artwork Tobias had submitted. She seems impressed, but her face contorts with furrowed brow.

“I don’t understand.”

I explain everything that happened at Michael’s shop while we eat. When I mention that Tobias has comic strips that go viral online, her face lights up with understanding.

“Oh! I think I’ve seen one of those. Never really thought about who drew it though.”

She pulls out her phone and starts scrolling through it likely, to show me.

“Yeah, it’s just, I don’t know how to feel about this. On one hand, this is likely the only way I was going to move forward in the contest. On the other, it feels wrong that I only got by on a chance encounter.”

Kara finishes finding the comic and hands me her phone. It looks like someone else edited the word bubbles to make a funny meme, but I don’t think I get it.

“You gotta relax, buddy. Successful people often work hard, but they all got a lucky break somewhere along the way. Maybe this is yours?”

I finish scrolling through the comic and set her phone down.

“But is this a lucky break, or is it just cheating?”

Kara throws her hands in the air.

“I give up. You’re completely hopeless.”

“Hey!” I exclaim.

Kara stands and walks away, taking her takeout box with her.

“You’re hopeless. You catch a lucky break, and decide to sit there, over analyzing it. Do you know how badly some people would love to be you right now?!”

“But I didn’t get there on my own! What kind of man am I if-”

“What are you even talking about?! ‘What kind of man are you?’” She mocks. “You’re the kind who doesn’t know what he wants, and is too afraid to go for it when he does, and when he’s forced to have what he wants, he asks if he deserves it.”

“I mean, you don’t need to say it like that.”

She sets the takeout on a counter, and turns to face me.

“What was the name of the last guy I tried going out with?”

“It was Rodrigo, right?”

I’m not sure what just happened here? What is her point?

“His name was Rodney.” Her voice is low. Quiet.

“Why does this matter? You shut him down because you thought he was boring, didn’t you?”

“Yes! But you don’t care enough about me to ask why I haven’t tried finding someone since. You haven’t asked why I started picking up more shifts.”

I wasn’t sure what to say. I’ve been sitting here worried sick about this art contest and Michael and I couldn’t tell you what my best friend was doing the last few weeks outside of work and talking me through my shit.

“Jules, my mom cut me off.”


“She wasn’t exactly happy that I dropped out of college. We’ve been going back and forth for months, but she finally pulled the trigger.”

“Kara, I’m so sor-”

“I don’t want to hear it. I don’t want to hear how sorry you are. I just want you to stop being so damn sorry for yourself.”

Goodbye to 2020. 2021 isn’t starting much better.

We Open on Death

My grandmother died December 29th, 2020 to COVID-19. To call it a punch to the gut would be an understatement.

She’d been better and worse over the course of the month, a month which saw us all get infected with the virus causing a worldwide pandemic. But while I only suffered a fever, and my parents had little in the way of symptoms, my grandmother kept getting worse.

It’s horrible to lose someone so close to you like this. It’s painful and broken and nothing feels like it should. I’ve lost people in my life before and all this is, is another open wound. A sore exposed to the harsh realities of the world.

Patsy Escalante was color in a gray world. She loved drinking and calaveras and traveling. And the poor response of this government killed her.

Riots and Traitors

How can one characterize what happened earlier this week? A bunch of right wing assholes, high on their own gas, took to the capitol building and broke in with intent to take hostages and plant bombs. You can make arguments about their intent, but enough wanted violence that to associate with that puts the same on everyone involved.

I understand the need to do everything you can to make a change when you see something you think is morally wrong. The problem is the absolute lack of self-reflection. Before the dust had the chance to settle, conservative assholes already tried to turn this around, claiming the left and the media didn’t give the protests last summer the same amount of vitriol.

Except they did. The media absolutely tried to paint the civil rights protestors and rioters last year as nothing more than violent maniacs. This is despite the fact they had a very clear motivation for their protest and most of the time the police instigated the violence.

So what happens now? Now that the literal man-child who was running this country with his Twitter account has lost his Twitter account?

I’m not going to lie, I’m not super optimistic. Democrats have a poor record holding themselves against Republicans. I mean, Bush Jr. and Trump both lost their popular votes. The populace has been pretty liberal for a while. And yet we still have so many problems passing progressive policies.

Hopefully, the right-wing politicians that enabled this riot, that enabled Trump and his draconian policies, that have tried to take every dollar they can from this country and give nothing back are held accountable.



Oh, I’m getting married. I mean, I talked a little bit about this to family and friends, but it’s happening. We downsized due to COVID-19, but we’re planning to sign the certificate on April 4th, 2021, and maybe some kind of ceremony or reception at a future date.

We’re sorry we can’t do something bigger to celebrate our day with everyone, but to us, the most important thing is that we can spend our lives together.

If you’re interested in helping us out. We do have a wedding/married life fund you can contribute to at this website.

The fund will help us try and save up to purchase a house so we can start a family. Anything you can give is appreciated.

There isn’t much there for me to talk about today. A lot has happened in the last few months, and I’m still trying to process most of it. Hopefully 2021 can improve over the last four years, but that outlook doesn’t feel reasonable given how the year started.

My love to you all reading this.

– Ben

The 19th Century Paranormal Investigator: Chapter 24

I try to push myself off the ground when I hear my protégé crash into the beast. The sound of breaking wood tells me they landed on one of the fallen bookshelves. I can’t waste too much time. I use my cane to pull myself back to my feet. Looking over, I see Con grappling with our unseeable enemy.

Well, I was going to throw him my cane to use as a weapon, but he seems too busy for that. I can only hope he doesn’t need it, seeing as it’s all supporting me right now. I struggle to move forward, needing to complete my modified ritual.

When I initially discovered this stone, the shenwu had it set in the middle of a room, with channeling energy used to create a powerful protection field. I experimented with the stone myself and found different effects the talisman could produce based on the kind of energy put into it, as well as other controlling factors, such as my chalk lines. The circles I drew crossed over each other, allowing me to push the energy from one side to the other. The intersecting lines would condense the power from the stone into a beam of light that should do more than stun our adversary. While it can’t kill the beast, I can hope for incapacitation.

I lay the talisman upon the ground in the middle of one circle. I’ll need Con to bring the monster into position to finish this, but I have to say, this kind of encounter becomes much more simple with the addition of a half-demon child on my side.

I look again to my helper. Con and the demon were having an intense battle of strength. The boy could throw a rather spectacular punch, which became especially impressive when you realize how much larger the creature is over the child.

But it was the passion that moved me most. The feral zeal with which he attacks was admirable. While his fighting was unrefined, he understood enough about the way he and his enemy act to render such training unnecessary.

Con takes both of his hands together and slams them as hard as he can into the beast, sending it flying, not entirely unlike what the demon had done to me not so long ago. The beast crashes into debris and I realize this is my chance.

“Con! Catch!” I throw the cane to the boy. Con grabs the stick in midair, looking a little perplexed in addition to the exhaustion he must feel.

“I need you to move the demon to the center of this circle,” I point to the chalk drawing with the talisman in the center, “once there, hit him with the gem on the end of the cane, while focusing your energy similar to how I had you do so with that truth spell earlier. It will electrify the beast and…”


“I got it, Branner.” And with that he jumped back into his fight.

Meanwhile, I needed to perform my end of this plan. Taking a seat on the floor in the circle opposite the trinket, I consider how to best enact my ritual. The chant I use for the talisman is a rough translation of the original Chinese words spoken to activate the stone’s mystic properties. But it’s been said that a spell spoken in the original language is stronger.

While I’ve been studying it since I first received the stone, I haven’t had a chance to test the properties. Now I need to decide whether I think the concentrated power from the English translation will be enough, or if I should attempt the Chinese phrasing in the event the extra power is needed. This beast is draining so much energy from myself and Con, that putting it down now is imperative if I hope to live to save these people.

I start chanting. In Chinese. I’m terrible, but the effect is activating. The chalk lines light up with the energy of the talisman leading me to think it will at least be equally as powerful.

Con is across the room, using something I never considered he’d might be skilled with; his agility. He leaps from wreckage to the beast itself, and lands several hits, then jumps to another destroyed bookshelf. All this taunting enrages the demon, whose attacks have become so much more violent, and yet, it works. The unbridled fury keeps the monster from refining his strikes and most importantly, keeps him from using his deadly fire eyes.

The boy is leading the beast back to my ritual. I’m keeping as close an eye on them as I can, without losing my concentration on the chant. Con’s tactics are much better than I’d have ever expected. He’s balancing his strength with his speed, attacking enough to keep the demon’s attention, but not enough to provoke an over-reaction.

His strength and agility are far beyond anything I could imagine a human has the capability to perform. Each move he takes is planned multiple steps ahead of time. His martial prowess is astounding. However, I’m reminded that each strategy and strike are learned from a life of need and want. You do not excel at violence like this without leading a harsh life.

Each step Con brings the monster towards me, echoes with the pounding of my heart. I’m worried. I’m regretting my choice of going with the Chinese chant. I should have gone with the translation I had been using. If this attack fails, I can’t guarantee we’ll make it out of this room alive.

No! I can’t think like that. The energy feeding into the talisman from myself can’t be tainted with doubt. This will work. This must work.

The beast is almost in position. Con runs right up to the demonic being and seems to slap its face. He then turns and quickly runs towards me. The monster is charging right behind him, ready to kill. Con stops right in front of me, flashes a smile and bends backwards, sending the cane right into the face of the demon. Sparks pour out from the gem, electrifying the targeted monstrosity who lets out the roar of all his agony.

I end my chant, letting the talisman do the rest of the work. The lines of chalk glow brighter when our final goal shows itself. The beam of light shoots up from the center of the second circle, piercing the enemy.

The roar of agony turns to one of pure fear as he realizes what is happening. As the light drills through the monster, portions of his being start to fade, unable to ever regrow in this realm. He pulls all his effort together to move out of the ritual, but the damage was done. He collapsed, more than likely cursing his immortality.

I let out a sigh of relief, hopeful that we can solve the rest of this mystery without further interruption. Con falls on his back, exhausted from his efforts.

“That was amazing…” he says, drifting off into unconsciousness.

“You certainly were.”

Japanese Curry Rice

If there’s one thing we all hate, it’s the long story before a recipe. That will not happen here. BEHOLD! The recipe we will be making today!


  • Sesame Oil
  • 2 regular carrots, chopped into chunks
  • 1 medium potato, chopped into chunks
  • Half an onion, diced
  • Umami spices
  • Water
  • Japanese curry roux
  • 1 square of chocolate
  • Hot honey, or regular honey and chili powder
  • 1 cup cooked rice
  • 1 serving of whatever cooked protein you choose


  1. In a large pot, heat about 3 tablespoons of sesame oil.
  2. Once hot, add onions, carrots, and potatoes.
  3. Add about 2 tablespoons of umami spice and mix generously.
  4. Once onions brown and become translucent, add about 8 cups of water and bring to boil
  5. Add the curry roux. This will vary based on brand, but about 2 full large squares is the norm.
  6. Add square of chocolate and about a tablespoon of hot honey
  7. Stir generously until curry roux is fully incorporated
  8. Plate cooked rice on half the plate, and cooked protein on the other half
  9. Scoop curry and cover the protein
  10. Eat while nice and hot


So, I never liked curry. This started when I had a job at Pei Wei and thought I just didn’t like their Coconut Curry dish, because I didn’t like coconut. But I then tried Indian curry at several reputably good restaurants and came to the conclusion I just don’t like curry.

This was my life for a long time, and while I often gave it a chance, I eventually just stopped even trying curry at all. That is until Pokemon Sword and Shield. Yeah. I learned to make this dish because of a video game. Sue me.

The game just made this curry rice dish look so good.

The minigame was simple, but I knew making Japanese curry rice had to be more complicated in real life. And I never liked curry before, so why would I even try to make it? That thought changed though. Playing the game created a mere-exposure effect and soon I became very curious about the dish.

Eventually, a Japanese curry rice place opened down the street from me. After playing this game so much, I decided to at least try it. And you know what? It was good. It was really good.

Now, to be fair, Japanese curry is different from Indian curry. It tends to be sweeter, made with apple and citrus flavors, but it’s by no means overwhelmingly sweet. It’s still very recognizable as curry. Some types of Japanese curry rice use less or no tumeric, which is a spice I don’t particularly like and its absence likely contributes to my love of this dish.

Eventually, eating the dish at the restaurant was getting to be too much. My partner and I couldn’t spend that kind of money on it so often. But looking online, something that was regularly repeated was that curry rice was really easy to make. In fact, even restaurants often used pre-packaged curry roux.

The most popular brands for the roux are Kokumaro, Vermont Curry, and Java Curry. There is another called Golden Curry that’s not the worst, but man the others are just so much better.

The upside to Golden Curry, is that it’s really easily available. I can find it at my normal grocery store, when I have to do a little work for the others. Even then, my local Asian market has most of the good stuff, and online retailers can deliver the required roux. I recommend trying each, and mix and matching between all of these, as you may find a flavor combination you like.

Kokumaro and Vermont curry are my preferred mix

Lastly, we have the level of spiciness. I personally recommend getting as hot as you can stand or find. I’ve had the spiciest versions of these and felt they were very tolerable, though at this time, I had issues finding spicier versions than what you see in the photo above.

I’ve made this with some fancy ingredients, like nicely made shrimp or some perfectly fried tofu. But I’m also a gremlin who likes to just make this stuff quick, so frozen protein is regularly used as well.

It’s become a regular meal for us here, and the best part is that it makes so frikkin much of it. Leftovers for days and we could honestly always eat it. It’s really easy to mix up the protein and spices so it’s also very versatile.

Some things to keep in mind:

  1. The curry roux looks like chocolate. Do not bite into it expecting it to taste like it.
  2. The curry roux smells delicious. Do not bite into it without diluting it with water.
  3. The recipe makes a lot. You’ll have plenty of leftovers, so make sure you have containers that can store it all.

Let me know if you make it and how your version comes out!

Love you all,

-Ben Acosta, The Author

Life Updates, a New Endeavor, and Leaving Facebook

Hello random people who decided to read this!

I plan to use this blog to update people on Munerra and I, but also share my thoughts on news and pop culture. and really anything else.

If you want to receive emails when I update just for my life blog, click here to sign up for the newsletter. You’ll only receive 1 email a week, and hopefully that can keep you in touch on what’s happening with me.

So, updates: At the moment, Munerra and I are planning to move in with my parents temporarily to save money to buy a house. We’ll be getting a storage unit for most of our stuff this weekend, and slowly move a bunch of things in there. Our lease isn’t up until the end of November, so we can take our time.

Part of this plan meant cleaning out my parents’ garage for space for Munerra’s workout equipment. This was a pretty rewarding project that took it from looking like this:

To something a little more manageable.

A much cleaner garage
Holy cow, you can park another car in there!

There’s still a bit more work to be done in there, but we’re really proud of the work we’ve been able to do. Between this and the storage unit, our stuff should just be able to fit. Only just. Hopefully.

Our plan to get married next year is still on, but whether or not we’ll have the full ceremony we were planning is up in the air. If things aren’t looking a lot better in the next month or two, we’ll likely cancel, and have a courthouse wedding. Reception would happen at a future point in time, probably when it’s safe, possibly at the new house we plan to get.

Munerra has incorporated her business, and is working on the prototype for her product, so we’re super excited about that. You can follow her progress and get news about her ‘athleisure’ line when it launches by following her Instagram.

As for me, I’ve been keeping busy with my job, my side job, and maintaining this writing blog. Episodes should be starting again next week, so please read if you want to support me.

That’s about all I have for our lives. Now for the real reason you’re here.

You’re likely wondering why I’m deleting my Facebook. The honest truth is that I planned to for a while. Pretty much every social media company is terrible, and escaping their clutches online is difficult. Facebook is the biggest offender by far, but has also made it really easy to connect with other people and because of that, really difficult to avoid.

On a less serious note, Facebook’s excessive lies about video performance on the site helped lead to the current crumbling of popular internet comedy websites I enjoyed, which you know, sure. Not great.

More importantly, all the content generated by users also means a lot of really bad shit happens on the site too. Sure, you probably want to avoid political arguments with family members, which can be draining. But I’m talking about other things. Situations like the Cambridge Analytica scandal are where Facebook’s system of engagement and information harvesting can backfire on society. Which is bad, sure. But even then, it can still get worse.

The straw that ended up breaking my back on this was a recent episode of a podcast called Behind the Bastards. In it, they talk about violence and genocides that are exacerbated by groups weaponizing Facebook, made even easier by the fact that Facebook practically is the internet in many nations.

While plenty of social media companies are used for this kind of thing, most companies will apologize, make some vague attempt at addressing the issue, and move on. Facebook doesn’t even do that.

When Gambia sought to hold Myanmar accountable for genocide, and requested evidence from social media companies, Twitter offered up the information. Meanwhile, Facebook just refuses. They can’t even pretend to care. If you think Google is bad about a hands off approach to content moderation, you haven’t got a clue what Facebook is, or rather, isn’t doing.

Their content moderation teams are so small, and suffer so much psychological torture with little to no help from the parent company. Facebook doesn’t care how much they hurt other people and can’t even pretend.

At the moment, I’ll be deleting my Facebook account, and in time, the account of any service connected to Facebook. Instagram will be gone soon, as well as Whatsapp.

I hope you’ll join me in doing the same.

– Ben Acosta, The Author

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