I was going to do a fancy piece with lots of flowery words and statistics to celebrate this milestone, but then I figured that there wasn’t any reason to punish those of you who helped me get here. I don’t have any funny stories ready to go, and I’m feeling too sentimental for the self-deprecation to kick in. So I thought that I would share something from the original Vaults From Uncle Walt. I’ve picked through the stories which survived the Purge of 2000, and chosen one of my favorites. It sums up pretty nicely who I was half my life ago, and it brings back… memories.
Here, reprinted for the first time in at least a decade, I present for your reading enjoyment:
Lords of this World
Our next door neighbors were dead. Our house was stolen. The alcohol on our breaths was owned by someone who didn’t even know we existed. We toasted our dominion of the dead and abandoned over a bottle of Tequila. The smoke of clove cigarettes filled the air, mingling with the stench of grief, fear, and loss. Lords of this World.
The house had been well kept, and even the emergency crews that had forced everyone out after the loss of their next-door neighbor and his family had been unable to prevent the touching, but all-in-all, futile gesture of packing all the furniture in plastic wrap. Their homes would be just as they remembered them, though they would never be back to know. And it was thus that we found them, everything perfectly preserved, the final moments of the tragedy recorded in the dust collected in these modern pyramids: no longer homes, now just simply empty tombs of buried lives, of hopes, lost dreams.
The Lords of this World had to climb around the back, where the mudslide had been convicted of breaking and entering: a lesser charge than that of the quadruple murder one door down. So underneath the soiled blue tarp we crawled. And into a house filled with all those buried memories of terror. As the sun sunk beneath the hills, the shadows gave leave to these to bums hiding from the world.
It smelled of mud. That may sound obvious, but it wasn’t at all expected. Maybe we wanted the distinctive odor of the couple who had previously resided. All we got was mud, and the trunk of a pine through the downstairs bathroom. There was no excitement for two seventeen-year-old wannabe dreamers. Just the decay of ruin. There was no inherent glory in defiling an abandoned red-tagged house. So we became Lords of this World. This was to be our domain. This was our place to pretend that the world could be different. This was highly illegal.
The liquor cabinet was on the second storey. A couple of bottles of Monarch Vodka- sure, the cheap shit!- a fifth of Gin, half a bottle of Rum, three-quarters a fifth of Tequila (maybe ten sips of Chambord), a bottle of homemade Kristmas Kaluha and 2 litres of Tonic Water in the miniature fridge that hadn’t worked for a month and a half. Oh, and one can’t forget the forty home-brewed beers just outside the sliding glass doors.
We grabbed the Tequila and Chambord and headed upstairs to check out the view. Just a couple of bedrooms and a plugged-up toilet. So much for the Palace of the Lords: it was a real fixer upper.
It had been dark for maybe twenty minutes, so naturally, these seventeen-year-old Terracrats grew less cautious (until, it is reported, they sang quite loudly with joy- and just a smidgen of drunkenness- and, as I recall, we were severely out of key). We settled down on the third floor to make a dent in the Tequila, but I think it put more of a dent in us. I had a state-imposed curfew I would be missing, my associate had emotional issues we had yet to deal with, his girlfriend (my ex)’s old house was two doors down, and a high school Biology teacher, his wife, and two children had died next door, not even two months prior.
“Lords of this World.” we mumbled back and forth to each other that night. Carpe Nocturne. The music of youth and death played loudly that night, creeping us both out.
Before leaving our Estate, we snuck back down to the second floor in search of flashlights. Considering how drunk we were, that we had only a lighter by which to navigate, and that they were right in front of our faces the whole damn time, I’m surprised we beat the sunrise.
Dread filled my stomach upon our departure across Herren’s graveyard. Sea-stained toys rusted across our path, memorials jumped in front of us like black cats, and the moon howled right back at us. We were traveling from dream through reality to memory:
A week before the slide, Henry, their dog, after two years of uncompromising animosity, suddenly reversed his decision and befriended me, following me home twice. A week before that slide I was ripping my heart out over the love of my life… and investing in another. A week before the slide, I’d had nothing. A week before that slide, I hated him, the son of a bitch.
The morning of:
I awaken to an ambulance in my driveway. “What the hell’s an ambulance doing in our driveway?” “A house slid into the Sound.” “Whose?” “I don’t know.”
The morning of:
I run up the hill, turn the corner. My heart beating through tears on Stand By. Gotta make sure she’s okay, just a little further. Stop. She’s okay. Walk slowly back. Cry tears of grief for my relief.
The morning of:
“Did you hear about Dwight?” “Yeah! There’s a goddamned ambulance in my driveway!”
The mourning of:
“Could you describe him? Was he well liked?”
“Sure, he was hard teacher, but definitely a great guy. Everyone who got to know him liked him.”
“They all died.” “I know… But what about Henry?” “How could you ask that?”
Tears slid down like mud and rain, killing a part of people as surely as it had done Dwight Herren. But there was so much doubt. No one had the answers they so desperately needed. No one knew. At least, not until it was too late. Herren’s memory was crucified on Network News for having violated housing code.
The Lords of this World walked across his grave.
I have left everything as it was ten years ago. Like the tarped-off ruins of life gone sideways, I’d like to leave this “memory” intact. I will say that I’d forgotten just how short my stories were back then. But then again, I was inspired by nearly everything, and had a lot more adventures than I can seem to muster now. Maybe I just needed to be reminded of… things which I seem to have forgotten. Thank you, everyone, for inspiring me to take this stroll down NE Battle Point Drive. I’ve talked a lot about the last time when I was writing almost every day, but I’d forgotten just how much I really liked it. Could I do a better job of it now? Probably. But I don’t know it it would feel the same.
I’ll make a deal with all of you: I’ve got, as of my writing this, 108 views until I reach 2,000 for 2015 alone (December wasn’t my best month), and when I get there, I’ll not only do a special podcast with the Derpdevil (and possibly guest appearances from a couple of other people!), but I’ll sit down and try to do a modern take on Terracrats. I’ll warn you right now, though, that there’s a good chance it will suck. If it doesn’t work, I’ll hang its carcass up as “Bonus Feature”, and think of something else.
Thank you guys for helping me drag my dream a little closer to reality! I’ll see you all again tomorrow as we return back to normal.