Oh, the cruel lot Leopold had been given in life. A wretched curse to be born into, one that emasculated the manliest of men — his complete inability to grow proper facial hair. Neckbeardèd as he was, and sideburned too, and he could not grow beard nor moustache. No more, he had decided. No more would he wait upon absent deity to correct his genetic misfortunes. He would take matters into his own hands. He would visit the moustache transplant clinic.
He waved his hand to clear the musty garage air and climbed into his tiny Bugler ‘32, unreliable thing that it was. The engine puttered to life on the third try, and he set off in a cloud of exhaust smoke. This might well be its final journey. But a worthy one. Encountering no less than three police checkpoints, he passed each by relating his tale of woe, and had each officer nodding in sympathy. “S’all right, mate, they’ll fix you right up,” they said, pointing to their immaculate constable’s whiskers.
Leopold double-checked the street signs. This seemed to be the place. He climbed out of his car, dusting himself off, then craned his head at the mouldering concrete block before him. Enormous brass lettering was fastened above the portcullis: MOUSTACHE CLINIC. The last “C” had dropped to its side. Emboldened by his dreams, he took a breath and pressed on. Heaving at the massive doors, he tried flinging them open, but they gave way much more ponderously. Nevertheless, once they’d given way, in a fit of theatrical fancy he shouted “Sanctuary!” The first syllable came out strong, but then his natural inhibitions kicked in, leaving the rest as an awkward squeak. He clamped his mouth shut, cheeks reddening. He found himself in a cavernous waiting room, plastic chairs lining the walls and filling the expanse. All were empty. At the far end, there hung an LED sign, displaying “001” in dull crimson. Beneath it ran a desk, staffed by a single man.
The clerk, shrivelled and beady-eyed, looked up from his newspaper. “Please take a number,” he called out, voice reedy. Now thoroughly ashamed, Leopold looked around, and found a ticket dispenser at the nearest row of seats. It was covered in dust. Wiping the button off with his handkerchief, he gingerly pressed the button. Some internal machinery spun up, clanked, whirred, whistled and spun down. It spat out a ticket a moment later, ink smudged across the ragged paper. Number 001.
He approached the front desk and waved the ticket. The clerk nodded approvingly.
“Here for a moustache transplant, sir?”
“That’s correct,” Leopold answered, though he had begun to have some misgivings about the whole enterprise.
“I’m afraid we’re quite out at the moment. Haven’t had a moustache donation in, oh, just under twenty years.” Leopold’s heart sank. There hadn’t been much hope, he supposed, after the great moustache plagues. The clerk squinted at his screen, green monotype reflected off his thick glasses, checking the moustache manifest. “One moment,” he said, fingers clattering at the keys. “Ah, yes.” He clapped his hands. “We do have one suitable sample left, as it turns out, but I’m not sure you’ll want it. It is, shall we say, of an older make.”
“Anything,” Leopold begged, “I’ll take anything.”
The clerk nodded and limped round his desk.
“Follow me, please. To the vault.” He waved a pass card in front of the steel door nearby, and it slid open with a hiss of pressurization. They stepped into a metal-plated corridor, feet clanking on the floor’s grill. It resembled a decontamination chamber, but no machinery seemed active. The door at the far end opened at the clerk’s approach, and Leopold soon found himself staring in wonderment at the massive heart of the facility. A massive pit yawned below, cordoned off by safety rails. Above, a a cavernous area stretched into—surely not the clouds? And along every wall and surface was a tiny cubby. Stasis cells, he realized. Hundreds of thousand of them, all of them empty.
All but one. The clerk manipulated a control panel, and a robotic clamp descended from the ceiling. It dove into the blackness of the pit below, its way illuminated only by a faint blue glow of internal machinery. Leopold could barely make out the sight of it clamping onto the cryo-container with unsteady claws. His heart raced as it retracted and manoeuvred to the drop-off point beside them. With awkward gentleness, the clamp set the container on the black-and-yellow grate. The claws popped off with a dramatic piston hiss, and the clamp retreated back whence it came. The clerk stooped to examine the container for damage, then entered a four-digit code into the lock. The box cracked open, smoke billowing out. Leopold covered his mouth, squinting to glimpse the bristles that would be his. The smoke dispersed.
It was a Hitler moustache.
He hung his head in shame. A single tear rolled down his cheek.
“I’ll take it.”
More scavenged bits from my Nanowrimo entry.
The pounding at the door jarred him from his sleep. By the damned, they’d tracked him down! He darted his eyes. A weapon, he needed a weapon - and of course he’d left the splitting axe outside. He sprung up, grabbed something heavy off the table and rushed the door. No way of telling how many they were. He hesitated - the pounding came again. He knew these people. If they couldn’t take him alive, they’d just burn the stead. Better to go down fighting, damn it all. As quietly as possible, he unbarred the door and steeled himself. He wrenched the door open, weapon raised high.
He stopped himself from smashing the young woman standing outside. She hadn’t so much as flinched.
“You’re not my uncle,” she said.
“Is that a ladle?” She pointed at his armament.
“Uh. Yes. It is.” Embarrassed, he lowered his arm and glanced around. There were no huscarls of Tulla behind. Just her.
“Who are you, and where is my uncle?” she demanded. “If you’ve harmed him in any way, there will be hell to pay!”
Arvek didn’t know what to make of it all, and decided to just go along with it. The girl was dressed in a strange attire, a patched robe with strings of beads and charms hanging off, and a collar adorned with animal bones. Under her hood he could make out her fierce expression, and her long black hair. A shaman, or a witch? Best not to aggravate her any further.
“He’s around back,” he said sheepishly. Here he was, a veteran of a dozen battles, disarmed by an unarmed girl half his size and half his age. She turned to go behind the house. Arvek waited a moment, and followed.
He found her kneeling by the desiccated corpse he’d evicted yesterday.
“Was that way when I found him,” Arvek managed. She nodded without looking at him.
“I should like to bury him,” she said, tone as unwavering as before.
“You could try, but the ground’s hard and I’m in no shape to break it.”
“Then I can wait.”
She trudged to the front. Giving the corpse one last shrug, Arvek followed her inside.
This week’s Thunderdome submission, using the prompt “cheese.” That’s it. I can do cheese. In NEWS STYLE.
Celebration turned tragic yesterday in Ipecac, Alberta, where seven people are dead, their hopes and dreams crushed by the enormous cheese wheel unveiled earlier that day.
Claimed to be the world’s largest, the wheel broke free of its moorings and rolled down Main Street, crashing through storefronts, carving town hall in two and flattening a novelty cheese wheel-shaped vehicle, mercilessly trampling bystanders under its iron girth along the way.
The wheel’s rampage ended when it became lodged in an empty ice rink, where it spun like a hubcap.
“Damn waste of cheese,” said local resident Einar Marsh.
While no charges have been laid, local authorities were quick to suspect foul play.
“It’s those Puckton shitbirds,” said sheriff Sam Paxton, pointing to sabotage.
“Those second-raters have always been jealous of our cheese. Well, I got a message for them: we’re coming for you, you sons of bitches.”
Puckton representatives were quick to disavow any involvement in the disaster and offered their condolences.
“It is our intention,” said Puckton spokesperson Dag Maxwell, “to pursue this honourable blood-feud using peaceable political means, such as pressing the claim on our cheese wheel as the biggest in the world still standing upright.”
Indeed, the neighbouring towns have been feuding for years, each disputing the other’s claims to dairy-related world records.
Puckton claims the records of world’s largest cottage cheese cottage, world’s largest Babybel, and world’s largest cow, a record since rescinded once astute observers discovered it to be an elephant painted black and white.
This isn’t Ipecac’s first brush with dairy-caused fatalities.
Four years ago, its enormous block of feta partially crumbled, delicious debris striking a bystander, killing her instantly.
And two years before that, a Puckton man drowned in Ipecac’s “world’s largest tub of yogurt” under muddied circumstances.
Still, under the punishing August sun, authorities have thus far been unable to dislodge the enormous cheese wheel from the rink.
Even as the town reels from the disaster, however, some residents are already planning ahead.
“I can see it already,” Marsh said, pointing to the rink.
“Ipecac, Alberta: home to the biggest fondue pot in the world.”
More scavenged bits from my Nanowrimo story.
Arvek awoke startled and bleary-eyed at first light, his body aching. He burned with fever, but at least he hadn’t passed in the night. He rose to his feet, body protesting, and set forth immediately. With no supplies, it was folly to wander the forest, but there was no turning back. He didn’t know where he was going. He only knew he could never return to Tulla.
A weak sun loomed overhead as he stumbled over treacherous roots, his feet dragging. The chill was in his bones again. He was going to die in this godforsaken place. He was—
He was standing in a glade, a small cottage in its mid. He couldn’t believe his luck. No smoke poured from its chimney, though, and its windows were shuttered. Wary, he approached the shack and gave the door a knock. It swung in a fraction from the blow. Through the crack he saw only darkness.
He pushed the door in, and dim light filled the space. He panned his eyes, taking in the sight: cold hearth. Dusty shelves. Rough stools. Corpse in bed.
He crept in to approach the cot, snow billowing in behind him. The poor bugger had been gone a long time, by the looks of his sunken features. Hardly any smell either. Could’ve been old age or the plague, he couldn’t tell. Either way, he hoisted the stiff up by the scruff of his shirt, grabbed him under his arms and flipped him out of bed.
“Sorry, friend,” Arvek murmured, “but you don’t need a bed to rest no more.”
He dragged the body outside and around the back, propping him up against a tree. It’d be proper to bury him, especially since he’d left a perfectly fine cottage behind, but the ground was frozen and Arvek was weakened. He found some logs piled under the woodshed instead, and retreated back inside.
He got a fire going, and the stead was warming up steadily. He examined the containers on the shelves, looking for any foodstuffs. The first few clay containers had turned up only congealed rot. One pot contained a small amount of flour, still good. The last one held a short sausage link. They were dried out, but he wasn’t in a position to be choosy. He tore a sausage off and took a bite. Bone dry, dusty, but not rotten. Good enough. He went to recline on the cot, and to change his dressings. This place seemed safe enough. It would be good to stay here and rest for a few days
Sifting through my (failed) Nanowrimo entry for the bits that aren’t complete dreck. (Just mostly dreck.) Here are the initial few paragraphs.
Arvek was freezing to death. He wasn’t sure if he was bleeding to death too, but it felt like the only thing keeping his insides from spilling out were his clammy fingers. He limped his way through the knee-deep snow, biting his lip with pain, but the forest was near - inching ever closer, now. He dwelled for a moment on the scene he’d left behind in Tulla, but he couldn’t focus. He saw only fragments: a limp arm in a pool of blood, a black dagger through an eye socket, three men dead— He shut his eyes and dispelled the image. His pace slackened for a moment, but the wind carried a voice so clear it could’ve been whispered in his ear - he twisted around to make sure no one had sneaked up on him, then redoubled his pace.
He reached the forest edge. Out of breath, he leaned up against a tree, huddling in his cloak. His eyes darted as he watched the snowy field behind, darkened by nightfall save for the distant torches and the shadows in their wake. The crisp air carried the howls of their hounds. They were showing no signs of turning back yet. He glanced at the forbidding forest, its skeletal trees unable to provide much shelter, and took a hesitant step forward. Better to die a free man than like a dog.
Better not to die at all.
He lasted some twenty minutes longer before he faltered, in pain and feeling faint. Collecting branches, he built a makeshift lean-to under a great pine, its bed of needles untouched by snow. His wounds seemed staunched, despite his poor bandaging - not quite the mortal blows they’d seemed to be earlier. Nothing to do but wait for daybreak, then. Bone-tired, he wrapped his cloak tighter still and fell to an uneasy sleep.
Jaroxian is dead. Xin Xin is dead. Williams, Jason, Fenn; dead, dead, dead. Only Triko is left. No fuel. Life support damaged. Hull breached. The Kestrel is adrift, and soon it too will be dead.
…just another session of Faster Than Light. On sale now for six, count ‘em, six dollars.
Originally written for the very first Thunderdome flashfic showdown with the prompt “a man agonizes over his potatoes.” 994 words.
It was eerie, at first, when the burger joints stopped serving fries. No more chips, no more baked potatoes. We thought it was just a temporary shortage. Just a bad year for spuds.
That was before the second strain hit. The blight turned potato crops into liquid rot overnight, exhaling black clouds of spores into the atmosphere. It was impossible to torch every field. The blight spread to every corner of the world and we had to admit defeat, and write off the potato. The tubers were gone, but life went on.
Yeah, life went on right up until I found myself shovelling flour into my mouth at 2 am, trying desperately to reach that ultimate starch high. I couldn’t deal with it, you know? I needed a potato, bad. You try and substitute it with sweet potatoes, yams, turnips… nothing was good enough. You heard about guys who killed themselves from injecting liquid starch directly into their veins. It got bad.
The conspiracy nuts were half right: the government had been giving us something to keep us docile, but it wasn’t in the water. It was in the spuds; something physically addictive so we’d never want to quit. The withdrawal symptoms started appearing immediately: nausea, crippling weakness, and finally, death.
Pretty soon there were spud addicts roaming the streets, desperate for just one more hit of starchy goodness. Going from house to house, begging, pleading, threatening anyone they suspected of hoarding any last potatoes. The hollow-eyed addicts grew in number by the day.
About a month into the crisis, the government announced that they’d cultivated a new, blight-resistant potato, and they’d be distributing rations via lottery. It just so happened that most of the winners were coincidentally friends of the regime. The food riots grew, so a state of emergency was declared - martial law and strict curfews followed.
I won’t lie. I did some pretty horrible stuff, just trying to satisfy the hollow hunger. Ran with a spud gang, some guys I knew from the old days. It was a free-for-all, since the cops were so spread thin from the riot suppression. Broke into houses, ransacked root cellars. If the owners were home we’d rough ‘em up and tear the place down. You had to keep an eye on the guy next to you though - if he found so much as a shrivelled up baby red he’d steal it for himself if he thought he could get away with it. So when we did strike gold, we’d divide it up then and there. This guy, Harris, he carried around the same scales he used to measure up dope with. Carved the potatoes into equal shares and passed them out. Saved us a lot of trouble - a guy who thinks he’s been cheated might try something real stupid.
Two weeks into that and I was running on fumes. Couldn’t think straight, just living for the next hit. And the city was running out of spuds. But word had it one of the senators had been receiving regular rations, so we decided to pay him a visit up in Highwood, a high security zone up until recently. Cops at their precinct had started deserting, so patrols were spread thin. If there were any potatoes left in this city it’d be there.
We staked out his house - all clear. Scaled the walls, sprinted across the grounds. Put a lawn chair through a window, and climbed into the living room. Things got a bit sketchy at this point - we didn’t count on rounding up the senator before he called security, so it was every man for himself. Two rooms over, a woman screamed. I tore off on my own, racing to find the kitchen. Nearly collided with Bragg in the hallway; he just shoved me out of the way and we ran in opposite directions. Stumbled into the kitchen when gunshots started ringing out - somewhere behind. Impossible to tell who shot who; didn’t care. Just meant I was running out of time. The kitchen was bare, but I spotted a cellar door. Wrenched it open and ran down, tripping over stairs. Must’ve hit a lightswitch along the way, because a naked bulb flickered to life as my feet hit the floor. In my stupor, I scanned the squalid room. Saw a shape in the corner of my eye, and turned my head.
My breath caught in my throat. It was an entire sack of potatoes. I ran my fingers along the fabric, then wrenched it open. Pristine spuds. My hands started shaking. These could’ve been the last potatoes in the world, and they were mine, all mine.
I twisted around. Harris hovered at the base of the stairs, gun in his hand. I said nothing and grabbed the sack, cradling it in my arms. His expression hardened.
“They’re all dead, you know,” he said.
I just nodded, couldn’t look him in the eyes. “Means we can split it fifty fifty,” I said.
He shook his head. “You’d better just hand it over.”
You don’t argue with a gunman. But in my mind, being deprived of potatoes seemed worse than death. I backed into a corner, fumbled for my knife. Waved it in the air a bit. He sighed, and shot me.
I did a better job crumpling than the sack of potatoes. The tubers tumbled out, spilling across the floor. I guess it says something about my state when my first instinct was to grab a fallen spud, and clutch at my gut wound second. He gave me an apologetic look and gathered up the potatoes. He let me keep the one I had out of pity, I guess, then climbed the stairs and disappeared. Well, I hadn’t come this far to die without a potato. I closed my eyes and bit into the tuber like it was an apple, expecting that crunchy, mealy taste.
It was a yam.
Flesh and steel flowed down 34th street, corralled by the glare of semaphores. Saul stood in the middle of it all, on a pedestrian island in the middle of the street, taking it all in.
He was trying to find the truth.
The truth that the controllers buried: the method of their manipulation. He knew they controlled everyone’s movements. Everyone’s thoughts. But how?
The traffic signals changed.
The signals flashed their binary commands, demanding complete obedience. He blinked.
How could he have missed it for so long? Their audacity was astounding - they operated in broad daylight. The evidence of oppression was right here, in front of his eyes, across the street - the glaring red hand of the pedestrian signal. His mind reeled with the implication.
This was huge. Saul whipped out his notebook and jotted it all down, his ballpoint leaving splotches of ink along his chicken scratch. For a moment, here on the asphalt island, he was oblivious to both bustling crowd and rushing traffic.
Hold on. Who was watching him? He stashed the pad and glanced to his right. Several men were crossing the street, headed right for him. One had a phone - who was he talking to? Oh christ, the guy was staring right at him. Saul turned around, trying like hell to look nonchalant and not doing a very good job. No exit behind - the signals had changed. His way out was barred by the controllers’ other tool: cars.
The man brushed by Saul’s arm as he walked straight past. Too close. Time to go.
On cue, the red hand changed to a walking man. Like obedient cattle the crowd lumbered forward. As Saul stepped onto the crosswalk, he knew he was being played right into their hands. They controlled his movements. They controlled everything. But who else was working with them? A woman in black stepped in front of him. Was that a pinhole camera in her purse? Or the guy to his right - awful big suitcase to roll around in the middle of the day. He had to get off the streets. Lie low somewhere they couldn’t funnel him around.
His foot touched the curb. A cop was standing right there, recording Saul’s appearance, no doubt, and conspicuously avoiding eye contact.
Saul broke into a sprint. He pushed through the crowd, causing a commotion. The cop looked up, registered the scene, and ignored it.
He was out of breath by the time he reached the end of the block, but there was no stopping now. As he reached the end of the pavement, he noticed two things: first, two department of transportation goons in yellow jumpsuits were standing on the other side of the street.
Second, the pedestrian lights had turned red.
No longer would he be bound by their will. No longer would they control his movements. He was going to walk. He ran into the street.
The truck smashed into him, sending him sprawling. His notebook flew out of his hands.
The transportation goons looked at his twisted body, expressions blank. They looked at each other. One nodded to the other. He looked at Saul again, and said:
Dusted off and finished an old transcription of Bright Waters from Aquaria - one of the best Metroidvania games I’ve played, and a downright beautiful piece of work. The soundtrack was composed by Alec Holowka and it’s got some pretty catchy tunes.
Anyway. Arranged for four cellos, slightly rough effort. The usual!
Full sheet - https://www.box.com/s/4b1457ca9ff2535afef8
Cello 1 alone - https://www.box.com/s/31c5b4e7861adb0823eb
Cello 2 alone - https://www.box.com/s/8750a397c849b8a4e413
Cello 3 alone - https://www.box.com/s/fb6d04f3ec297b909e46
Cello 4 alone - https://www.box.com/s/9e89ba54deeabbd294e6
.SIB - https://www.box.com/s/fa8c3edbe9811ece7ab3
.MIDI - https://www.box.com/s/b1bace4a11e1691893f2
Legend of Grimrock is a pretty rad game with a pretty rad main theme composed by Stakula of Alamaailman Vasarat. And hey, it’s got the cello front and centre already, so of course I had to transcribe it! It’s not perfect, but it’s mostly faithful to the recording. Blame any deviations on my basically untrained ears.
It’s got two parts, so play it with a friend or something. Or stick with the main voice, because it sounds pretty good solo too.
Both on one sheet - https://www.box.com/s/f949a888eb14251775ef
Cello 1 alone - https://www.box.com/s/a4678c7f3454fb72da51
Cello 2 alone - https://www.box.com/s/c03c2cfd4f1549f2ff7f
.SIB - https://www.box.com/s/159f3e602ba4ae47eff7
.MIDI - https://www.box.com/s/2c161428f211997a966d
The manacles tore at his wrists. His legs weren’t restrained, but curse his stubby feet, he couldn’t touch the floor. Panicked thoughts raced through his mind. Ah-ha. He could go along with her twisted demands and lull her into a false sense of security, then use his neighbourhood watch training and mauve belt in No Kando to deliver an axe kick to her throat, knocking her unconscious for approximately ten minutes, and then, with his feet, fashion a small hook and rod from the seat cushion to fish the pin from her bob cut, use it to pick the lock using his teeth, toss the chair through the window and make a daring rooftop escape.
“Now, mister Curio, we believe you’ve stolen quite a bit of money from us,” she began. He beamed a manic smile.
“Yes! I confess! I did it! It was me!”
“Oh? Well that was easy. So where did you hide—” This was his chance.
His kick stopped about two feet short of her, and quite a bit to her right. She frowned.
“Ah. Do you have any issues with your depth perception, by chance? I can refer you to a specialist, if you’d like.”
Curio looked away. “Er, well, if it isn’t too much trouble, that would be much appreciated,” he managed. “Actually, I’ve been meaning to have it looked at, but it’s been so busy lately, you know,” he added, trailing off. She nodded.
“Oh, just put down your leg for goodness’ sake. You’re embarrassing us both.” She cleared her throat. “Now, about that money you owe us…”
Chitin limbs scraping against catgut? Oh, it’s just spider cello.
(That’s ten legs, count ‘em. Sorry. It was just THAT IMPORTANT.)
Shocking. Max Payne 1 transcriptions are a dime a dozen, but there was nothing for Max Payne 2 on cello - SUPERIOR TO ALL OTHERS - and I will
fight leap sideways and shoot in slow motion anyone who disagrees. So here’s my go at it.
(The theme for Max Payne 3 is basically this, by the way. Just with some bits moved around.)
The midi sounds horrible, by the way. And it’s off-tempo. Not sure how to fiddle with it, since I’m only savvy enough to be able to export it from Sibelius. So with that in mind, you can load it up in your preferred notation program, but you probably shouldn’t listen to it for reference. Have a go at the real deal for that! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omQ-7wZTXvI