Life is a bitch, but I am marginally stronger than a bitch!
, u/BruhMomentGee Other Chapters
— — — “You’re listening to 96.1 The Rocket
**: ‘The Gulf Coast Home of Classic Rock.’ We’re bringing you the hottest and hardest hits of the 2020s, the raw power you need to start your day right! This isn’t your parents’ radio station! Up next after the break, it’s Machine Gun Kelly and Imagine Dragons.”**
Stephen shuffled his feet in place, trying his best to ignore the lady in front of him writing a check for an individually-wrapped cinnamon bun. Did self-checkout machines even take checks? Who even carried checks nowadays?!
Besides the band, his weekday routine consisted of dropping Abigail off at her high school, grabbing a coffee, then the sky’s the limit. He had some time to kill before he was supposed to meet David and Mr. Rubin at Yesterdays’.
They'd tried to reach out to Leslie but received no reply. Perhaps he needed some space… more space than usual.
The old crone in front of him finally gave up on shoving the check into the cash slot and teetered away, grumbling. He approached the machine, scanned his coffee, swiped his credit chit, zipped up his hoodie, and was out of the store in three seconds flat.
In most parts of the world, the year progressed in a series of four distinct, consecutive seasons: the bloom of Spring, the heat of Summer, the cool of Fall, and the chill of Winter. Florida, however, was an affront to God and all His creations. It experienced a maximum of two seasons: the boiling-hot, muggy, overflowing-with-tourists season and the warm, dry, and empty season where natives could freely roam about without tripping over sunbathing, overweight retirees from New England.
Unlike July or August, which made the inside of a freshly-microwaved Hot Pocket feel comfortable, October fell squarely in the middle of the warm season with days ranging from perfectly temperate to so cold that most people had to don their sparse winterwear a month early.
The sun sat high in the clearest sky the panhandle had seen since August. The nip of the cool coastal breeze and the radiance of the sun, clashing together, made the day neither too hot nor too cold. The pines were still just as green as they’d been in the beginning of spring. The sidewalks and roads were dusted with a thin layer of white sugar sand swept inland by the blustering winds.
He took a long sip of his triple-shot mocha. What was supposed to be a perfectly reasonable cup of coffee was turned into a syrupy sludge with way too much cream and sugar, exactly the way he liked it.
It didn’t just feel perfect, no; it was perfect. He felt truly alive.
For the longest time, he felt that he was surviving, not living—life was a bolting horse and he was a hapless cowboy with his boot stuck in the stirrup. In an uncertain and changing world, he was stuck inside with no drive. Careers were leaving town in droves, sometimes leaving the planet
in droves. College was another dead end. What could he study? What was he interested in? The nightly news, dinner table conversations, and tales of Abigail’s woes brought nothing but anxiety for the future, and it had been endlessly frustrating. The easiest way to get rid of the crushing emptiness inside had been to heat up some pizza rolls and play Terraria 2 until his brains began to ooze out his ears, but with every new day came that same feeling renewed within.
He hadn’t felt ‘bad’ or anything, no, he had just felt nothing.
That was, until he met Aku… and Vaeka
It was all amusingly ironic. He’d avoided the Shil all his life under the careful direction of his parents and the ever-present fear of getting shanked in an alleyway by a vengeful insurgent. ‘Keep your head down. Don’t talk to the Marines. Don’t leave the house without your grinshaw spray.’
Now his best friend was purple through and through. Not only that, life felt… meaningful
again. Nothing much had changed, no, but it was like his perspective had totally shifted. He actually wanted
to play guitar, to go places, to see things, to face the dangers of this world, to spend some time with Vae-... There it is again.
He climbed back inside his car and sped off toward downtown. Cresting the highest point on Scenic Highway, everything was laid bare before him: the ancient railroad depots with decaying lines running to and from the port; the restaurants, boutiques, and homes comprising the historical district; the Three-Mile Bridge, a massive, multi-laned concrete monster connecting Pensacola to Gulf Shores; the sleek, purple monolithic resorts being erected on the horizon; cargo ships descending into the Imperial Base; the digital billboard of…
” Stephen’s coffee went down the wrong pipe.
As soon as it was possible to do so, he yanked the wheel to the side, forcing the car into an empty parking lot. It was only a minute or so until the advertisement looped around again.
Fifty feet off the ground, shining in all of its LED-illuminated glory, stood an advertisement for the grand opening of Yesterdays’,
a touched-up image of him and the rest of the band featured front and center. It promised, written once in English then again in Vatikre, ‘live entertainment nightly.’
His omnipad dinged in his pocket. It was a notification to accept the ‘digital fistbump’ from Bridger Advertising.
With a swipe, the omnipad sprang to life with light and sound. It was a video filmed from the audience’s perspective during the show enhanced with the pad’s native holographic display, creating a 3D augmented reality effect and giving the image real
depth. It was incredible… and horrifying.
Once the tiny Aku on his screen finished the number, a title card appeared, giving the name of the band, showtimes, and admission prices at *Yesterdays’—*all of it written once in English and once in Vatrikre.
Not only that, there was a datanet link.
He had to talk to David now.
— — — Yesterdays’
occupied a former office building, a two-story concrete box which used to house the administrative department of the old steelworks. A fresh coat of paint and a neon sign had turned the place nigh unrecognizable.
Stephen spotted David’s old truck, or rather its descendant since every last part sans the frame had been replaced at least once. The old clunker had been running since before David was born and would probably outlast him too.
Stephen slid into the adjacent parking spot and disembarked. David was close, but where?
Years ago, the factory permanently closed its doors. The production lines and the old high-ceiling warehouses were all knocked down except for one, and the door to the massive sheet metal barn sat wide open with a light on inside.
Stephen peeked around the corner. Mr. Rubin was showing off the space, now transformed into the beginnings of a concert hall, to an enthusiastic David. “I’m thinkin’ string lights wrapped around these columns here and lining the soundbooth.”
David scratched his chin. “You know, they’ve started selling those floating chandeliers.”
“I want to keep the decor Human
though. It’s part of the appeal. They don’t want to see Shil stuff if they ain’t on Shil. That’s like going to an authentic foreign-food restaurant for their chicken tenders.”
“Hear me out, what if they’re really good
“I don’t feel like tryin’ to learn how to keep a chandelier afloat though. That sounds like an insurance nightmare waiting to happen.”
He left his hiding place and marched toward the two of them, clearing his throat for attention.
David greeted him. “Hey, you’re early! What do you think?”
“You’ve got explaining to do,” he snarled. “Why is there a picture of my face fifty feet up over highway ninety?”
“Hold on,” David instantly threw his hands up in surrender. “I was going to tell you. It was going to be a surprise.”
“Surprises are supposed to be enjoyable for the surprise-ee, not ruin their day. You can’t just do things like that without asking us first, David! The- the last thing I wanted to see this morning was a giant digital billboard with me on it. Who took those pictures anyway?!”
Marine.” A devious smile spread across his face.
“It was my fault,” Mr. Rubin spoke up. “I had to secure the deal with the advertising firm or the sign wouldn’t have been up by the opening date.”
David nodded. “I talked through the whole thing with Rubin.”
“You didn’t talk it over with me!
” Stephen retorted.
David pinched the bridge of his nose. “I was going to! Honest! Rubin’s part of the deal, we’re in this together, so I went to him first! It was necessary.”
Mr. Rubin chuckled nervously. “Ah hell, call me Mutt. We’re all men here, aren’t we?”
of us. Steve-o, if you have a problem with it, then tell me why. Why shouldn’t I put us on a billboard or make a website, huh?”
“Because we’re a team, and teams make these kinds of decisions together.
You’re being a… a regular dictator! You’ve done this before, making decisions without us. That’s my face over a major highway! That’s a serious breach of privacy.”
“You want to talk to me about teamwork
? You sing sometimes and you play guitar, congratulations. What kind of extra work do you put in to help the band succeed, hmm?”
Stephen opened his mouth to protest, but the words didn’t get a chance to escape his lips.
David continued, “We’ve played together for years and I’ve been working my ass off handling all of the managerial work totally by my fucking self. I’m the one who gets our broke, washed out, sorry looking hides into those dive bars and blues festivals coated in enough chewing tobacco to melt your skin off so that we can get the tiniest, little, itty-bitty bit of notoriety and cash to go along with it. Have you ever thought for a goddamn second how hard it is for a cover band with no merch, ads, or socials to fulfill ticket quota? Of course you and Les both fucking haven’t because y’all are both trapped in your little ‘woe is me’ worlds only thinking about yourselves. Meanwhile, I’m trying to haul you both out of the gutter and I get nothing but pushback. You want people to come to your shows? This is how you do it.”
David placed a firm hand on Stephen’s shoulder. “I get it, life is shitty, but you can only get out of it what you put into it. The universe doesn’t give returns on investments you never make! Have you thought once about the future? About trying to improve your station? You want to be a rock and roll star
, don’t you!?”
He pushed David’s hand off his shoulder. “Who said I wanted to be a star?”
“Stephen, you’re in a cover band. We play bars. We’ve always played bars. Look, I’m sorry I didn’t inform you of all this ahead of time, but we’re fucking losers.
We still have bills to pay though, and the free publicity Aku is giving us will make it so we’ll never have to worry about quotas again.”
“You think I don’t know what you’re doing, don’t you?” Stephen wasn’t going to let him play innocent so easily. “You’re going to fill those seats with Shil! Why else would you put us on the datanet?”
David froze, refusing to meet his eyes. With a sigh, he continued. “Yes, you got me, that was my plan. I talked everything over with Mutt and we’re going to capitalize on foreign tourists. If they want the ‘authentic Earth heritage’ experience, this’ll be the place they’ve got to go, where their sisters demand
they go because we’re tearing the roof off every night.”
So this was the plan all along. David never did anything without a motive lurking beneath the surface. Offering a bus seat to someone? The guy next to him reeks of weed. Inviting someone over to hangout? Nope, you’re helping him rearrange the furniture. But this one, this one takes the cake! “It’s all a game to you!” Stephen accused. “You can’t do anything, even the things you love, without… sticking dollar signs on it!”
Without missing a beat, David clapped back with, “if you’re good at something, never do it for free.”
“Did you just quote the Joker?”
David shrugged. “It’s a good quote. Where’s this magical land where starving artists didn’t need cash? I’d love to go live there myself, you know.”
“I know we need the money, but… we can’t do
He didn’t understand. There were clearly defined lines one should never try to cross. He spoke in hushed tones. “David, they’re purps.
You know how much trouble we could get in, how much trouble they
can be… especially to people like us
Stephen wasn’t sure what kind of reaction he could expect from David. Possibly an agreement? A mutual expression of concern?
What he didn’t count on was for David to start laughing at him. “Aw c’mon, it’s 2041 and you’re still scared of the space babes?”
“I- I am not scared of them!” Sweat began to pool on his forehead.
David raised his vocal pitch an octave. “Oh nooooo! A giant, sexy Amazon is offering me a free ride to Valhalla!”
David pretended to cower in fear. “My poor goody-two-shoe sensibilities are being threatened by carnal temptation! Somebody come save me from my wildest dreams!”
He clenched his hands, knuckles turning white as snow. “You don’t understand.”
“No no, I think I do. You melt onto the floor every time one looks your way. Stand up for yourself. You’re a Human, dammit, so act like one instead of some limp-wristed tena’vati.
“I SAID-“ He reached out to grab a hold of him, but David slipped from his fingers like an eel.
A partition came between them both, the portly form of Mr. Rubin—Mutt—held them both an arm’s length too far apart. “Gentlemen, please! Both of you!”
David separated from the tangle of limbs and brushed himself off. “No quarrel here, just figuring out the root of the problem,” he purred with a smirk.
The red faded from Stephen’s vision, but the knots in his stomach remained. Time to bail before more trouble. “I’m going to talk to Aku, asshole!”
“Hey wait, come back! I was only fooling. Why so serious? Shit, that’s the Joker again…
” David’s voice trailed off into nothing the further away Stephen got from him.
He marched back to his old civic, slid in, and slammed the door in fury. “DAMN IT!” Tena’vati
was a word that carried great weight in conversation. The Vatikre translation is simple: the suffix ‘-vati’ meant ‘people’ while the prefix, ‘tena’, is the word for ‘man.’ Together, the direct translation is closest to ‘people of man.’
Or more accurately, ‘male.’
To a Shil, it was only a word. To a Human, it was a grave insult, a condemnation of their entire being; spineless, soft, coddled, and cowardly.
And the only Shil male he knew was often more of a man than he was. Oh, the bitter irony.
Staring off into the horizon, watching another cargo ship rise up over the starport and vanish in the midday sun, he couldn’t tell what he was more mad at: David’s teasing… or the feeling that he was right
Aku drew a new crowd to their shows—a distinctly purple one. Seeing their wide-eyed, enamored faces staring daggers into your soul with equal parts adoration and… …Hunger…
It was terrifying. Crowds were scary enough already without looking like they wanted to eat you alive. After avoiding anything having to do with the Shil for all his life, this kind of attention was very new, very alien.
With a shudder and a roar, the car sprang to life. He could worry about the future later. For now, he had to warn Aku about David’s business ventures.
— — —
Their hotel was surprisingly… normal.
It was the same cookie-cutter, five-story box on the side of the highway that one could find every few miles across the country: beige walls, unprovocative decor, tile flooring, the works. The newer hotels always had massive, sprawling first floors with high ceilings to better accommodate alien guests while the second floor and up retained their Human proportions.
They were staying in room 210. On his way to the elevator, Stephen noticed a burly security guard, glowering while standing watch in the hall just next to the exercise room. The man leaned against the wall, keeping himself just out of view from the windows. A dented can of grinshaw spray hung loosely from his belt.
As Stephen was passing, he caught the faint impression of something pinkish out of the corner of his eye.
In the far corner of the room, with her back turned toward him, Vaeka sat at a lateral pulldown machine nearly too small to support her frame. Dressed in only a gray sports bra and sweatpants, she grunted and strained completing rep after rep with the weight set to maximum, the entire rig shuddering every time the stack of metal blocks tapped the floor. ‘Clunk, clunk, clunk.’
He lost count after twenty five, completely oblivious to how long he’d been staring.
He began to drift toward the gym entrance. Placing his hand on the door, the guard called to him in a gravelly voice barely above a whisper, “Hey, I wouldn’t go in there…” His voice was stern, laced with an undertone of contempt.
Stephen hesitated for a moment…
But only a moment.
He pulled the door open to be blasted by cool, recycled air tinted with the scent of… was that lavender?
With every motion, every breath, the chiseled muscles in her back rolled and weaved together in hypnotic waves. Beads of sweat raced down through the valleys and dips in the cords, trailing all the way from her shoulders to her waistline. Her hair, the color of polished obsidian, glistened in the unnatural white light as she finished her set with a deep, melodic exhale. She snatched a water bottle the size of his thigh off the ground and took a drink. Tilting her head back, she emptied the remainder of its contents onto her forehead then stood up…
And turned around.
Now he knew how the gazelle felt in those nature documentaries.
“Oh, hey!” She greeted him with a nod and a smile, lacking even the smallest flinch of surprise. “What are you doing here?”
If she were just any other Marine, he’d already be counting his exits and backing away slowly, but Vaeka? Vaeka was different… somehow
. It was difficult to put into words, the unfamiliar feeling. The height, the muscle, everything that was usually petrifying to behold was somehow… not.
Their encounters with each other had up to this point been nothing short of extraordinary. He’d almost been stun-blasted and hauled in for questioning by her pod. He’d spent a night he didn’t remember being carried home in her arms as that godforsaken Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster
worked its way through his system. The thought of being completely helpless like that in the presence of Shil’vati rattled him to his core, but no harm came to him that evening. He’d tried to apologize for the trouble, but she brushed it off as simply an act of common decency. Her words that day still echoed in his mind. “Are you going to go out there as a Human, or a tuskless Shil’vati? Unless you’ve got character issues that need to be blasted from orbit, do me a favor and never change for anyone.”
Staring up at her golden eyes, he made a promise—a silent vow left unspoken—to be the friend she deserved to have, or perhaps… more than a-...
“Hellooooo! Fleet command to Stephen!” She pretended to knock on the top of his head. How long had he been standing there?
“I- I came to see Aku, to speak with- uh, him.” Even now, it was still hard to meet her eyes.
“It is, I think…”
“Huh. Anyway, the little twirp’s up in our room. It’s starting to feel like I’ve got to keep him under lock and key sometimes. Give me a minute, and I’ll walk you there.”
He was perfectly capable of doing it himself, but didn’t want to protest.
After wiping the equipment off with sanitizer, she bent down to retrieve a bright ball of fabric lying on the ground. He respectfully averted his eyes after a disrespectfully long period of deliberation.
Uncrumpling it, she pulled the shirt over her head and pulled it tight. “Ready?”
It was activewear with Trade Shil script written across the chest. It was difficult to read them without giving the impression of blatantly staring at boobs. He parsed the words and sounded them out. “This body… is a machine… that turns… men… into fathers?
“You can read- EEP!
” Vaeka shrank, cowering from his sight with her arms squeezed across her chest in a vain attempt to hide the lettering, lest it offend his sensibilities. “I-it was a gift! I swear!” She blurted out sheepishly.
Seeing a big, burly fist of the Empress squeal in embarrassment of wearing a shirt that wasn’t even that
dirty; all the fear washed away in an instant.
A fist pressed to the mouth couldn’t block the oncoming torrent.
He started to laugh.
He laughed and laughed until the furious dark-blue filling her face began to color his own.. “Ahahaha!! ‘Wheeze!’
“Alright! S-stop laughing!” It was hard to see through the tears, but she was pouting
After a few more moments, he’d calmed down enough to come up for air. “Tha-tha-that's hilarious! Whew, sorry! Heheh… Ow
“Uh, yeah. Humph.
” She laughed nervously and grabbed her bag. “Anyway, ahem
, I’ll lead t-the way up.”
They exited the gym under the sour glare of the security guard. “Same time tomorrow, Edgar?” She quipped with renewed confidence. The man never replied and only continued to stare them down, a gaze so cold it sent an involuntary shiver down his spine.
It wasn’t only security that was in a sour mood. The receptionists and housekeeping staff all stayed far away from Vaeka, only shooting her the occasional curious glance or barely-disguised sneer. The pair of them sought refuge in the stairwell.
He could barely keep up with her as she took the steps three at a time. “Nice hotel. The staff are… nice
Vaeka huffed. “It’s nothing new. You get used to it after a while.”
“How long have you been a Marine?”
“Hmm, six or seven of your years, two of them spent here in House Reylia’s territory… er, Florida.”
“Where were you before Florida?”
. I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.” She flashed him a toothy smile. The worrying part was he couldn't tell if she was being serious or not.
There were no onlookers in the corridors: a blessing. Who knows what people would think seeing a guy like him and a girl like her entering a hotel room together?
She knocked on the door to give a head’s up before swiping her keycard.
Opening the door, a wave of heat nearly singed his eyebrows off. The old atmospheric control unit under the bedroom window rattled and groaned trying to meet the aliens’ demands. The old saying rang true: ‘some like it hot, Shil like it hotter
Aku was lying atop a bed, wearing shorts and some kind of form-fitting sleeveless t-shirt. He tore himself away from his omnipad and perked up. “Stephen!”
“Uh, hey.” He shed his hoodie to keep from being boiled alive. “There’s something I need-”
He couldn’t finish his sentence before a big, blue something
was shoved in his face. He grabbed hold of it curiously and held it out to examine. Oh… Look at that slim-taper mahogany neck, the tasteful thickness of it. Oh my God... It even has gold-plated bridge saddles.
“You like it? You’re… you’re not upset, right? I’m still going to use the guitar you gave me, but I really wanted to explore my options with different styles and… Is everything alright? You’re sweating.”
With a flick of his wrist, he strummed a quick chord. “Are you kidding? This is beautiful!”
Vaeka yelled out from the bathroom over the sound of running water. “We’re trying to find a new place to stay since this dunderhead can’t stop playing it all day and night!”
Aku grew sheepish. “In my defense, I only forgot to plug in the headphones one
He fiddled with the pickup switch. “This is… I’m almost jealous. Almost.
” Caught up in the excitement, he’d almost forgotten why he was here in the first place. “Erm, Aku?”
He didn’t hear him. “So I’ve been looking at this small studio apartment for rent about ten minutes from here; two bedrooms, high ceilings, full kitchen even if all the appliances are ancient tech. The stove runs on gas! Gas!
Real natural gas piped in through the walls! Besides that, I’m thinking full, postmodern Shil’vati interior design with a splash of Sevastatuvan rustic and Human-”
“Aku! David went behind our backs.” He felt bad for yelling, but he had to at least know.
“What do you mean?” Aku asked.
Stephen felt it was easier to just show him. He held up his omnipad showing a picture of the billboard. “I found out this morning. I’ve got coffee stains all over my dash now.” He switched tabs, pulling up Close Encounter’s new datasite complete with a taunting clipart UFO bouncing up and down on his screen. “I don’t know how he thinks he can do this without asking permission first! Is this even reversible after all that money and contracts and… Aku?”
Something was definitely wrong.
He didn’t even know Shil could turn that
pale. Was this some kind of alien heart attack? “Hey, uh… you okay?”
Aku, still white as his bedsheets, ran to the bathroom door. “Vaekaaaaa! We have a problem!”
She was out of the bathroom not even three seconds later, still dressed in her gym clothes. “Problem?!”
Aku removed the pad from his stunned grasp and handed it to her. He began to pace the room, hands clawing at his own face while muttering to himself in Vatikre. “Oh Goddess, Empress above, I feel sick. Could they? Shit, shit, shit! I can’t- I won’t-... no, no.
Vaeka sighed in relief. “Okay, it’s not bad. This address says the page is only available planetside. Earth’s datanet is restricted to local traffic only.” She jammed an accusatory finger in his direction. “‘Don’t worry about the videos, Vaeka?’
I told you this would happen!”
Stephen snapped out of his stunned silence. “What in the world is going on??”
He’d never seen Aku like this before. The tiny man grabbed a pillow from the bed and hugged it close to himself. “Stephen…” He looked at Vaeka. She gave him a silent nod of approval. “If I had to tell one person… I’m glad it’s you.”
“Tell me what? I-I’m kind of starting to freak out here.”
“Aku is just a nickname. My real name is Akurune Dorskulo.”
Stephen waited for him to continue. “...Yes?
Aku hit himself with the pillow. “Oh, of course you don’t! I’m dumb! Anyway, I was an initiate in apprenticeship under Her Majesty’s four hundred and thirteenth appointed Keeper-of-the-Song Mistress Tranja until…,” he choked on his own words, “until I wasn’t…
Those were definitely words, words that sounded important. ‘Cliffsinger.’
Wait a minute, Abigail was right
“You were a star? Like a famous person?”
“In a way.” He grinned with a hint of self-satisfaction.
It didn’t add up at all. “Then… what are you doing on Earth in a hotel?”
“Hiding from my wife with my sister.”
“Hiding from your wife and sister?”
“No, hiding with
my sister from
“Your sis-...” Suddenly, everything made sense, and didn’t, all at the same time. “I’m… going to need someone to start from the beginning… and more coffee.”
— — — Next
I have an idea to make a poster like you would see in schools about the solar system or whatever that have exploded diagrams and charts. However, the intention isn't to put the posters up in school, but to post them online and perhaps put them up in bus stops or other places gorilla marketing style.
It would start with one benign poster like "How flour is made" and have cartoonish clipart style smiling figures of a farmer and a wheat field and tractor and legitimately illustrate all the steps ending with a the finished manufactured product of a package of flour on a grocery store shelf. It should not simplify the industrialization and scale of factory flour production. I think it's important to highlight that an advanced mechanized systematic and repeatable process is required to take this unusual shaped plant and make it into a commodified cube shaped product that is consumable from a grocery store.
However, that is just a set up to introduce the concept for a series of posters that is just factual ... and oh! by the way! ...now let's do milk... and have the same smiling cartoonish farmer and style.
Of course with a cube shaped commodified carton of milk you include the whole process just like the way flour was done including the separation of calves after 24 hours, the slaughter of the male calves.
Do the same for eggs, chicken, bacon, etc. Make a series with the same smiling farmer and factory farm worker. It would be as if the posters themselves are blind to the horror of their own message and just seem to be intentionally communicating, "Isn't industrialization a marvel!?"
The meat and dairy industries paint this picture of "Happy Cows produce Happy Milk" and do not talk about what goes into manufacturing these products. For the most part I think people are not making an active decision about the consumption of these products based on considered insight into how they are made. This method is non confrontational but also a bit tongue and cheek. I feel like people are more likely to consider veganism if they feel like they came to that decision themselves instead of had their cultural values attacked.
Is this a bad idea?
Is this a project others could help me with?
I am not a great graphic designer. I think a suitable team would be someone who is very familiar with the factory farming process for animal based products. I'm guessing first a storyboard/script could be created for a graphic design team to work from.
Zelda 35: Outlook on the ages 8:28 AM
on 02.08.2021 (server time) 0
A stretch of green pasture rolls out before me, hills, rivers, forests, villages, caves, swamps, mountain(s) and one big castle is a familiar landscape of unfixed size and design. Equipped with nothing but a sword and shield (and fire lantern by this stage) to tackle every secret and challenger it offered. Looking outward towards all of the adventuring playground felt so large and dangerous for a young child, unaware how their imagination would continue to be outdone by Links later arsenal. I always named my main character Link, because Link is my hero of this story and fit far better after naming my family and food in Earthbound every iteration in exploiting all of the NPC’s dialogue, laughing at them being doomed to compliment my choice of inputted letters.
When I was a young sapling of a human, with a mind eager to be full to the brim with gaming lore, I read and re-read Nintendo power magazines because children will drink up entertainment to mind numbing lengths, and within I saw several different styled artist portrayals of Link. There was the old fashioned link who resembled some sort of clipart pagan knight, the young Link from SmashBros’/Majoras Mask, there was chibi cel-shaded Link and of course there was badass adult OOT Link. I attempted to draw all of them but I was naturally drawn to the adventures of young Link.
-- I was unable to dig up my old drawings on account of the timing of this post but see the original link for my sketch up of little Link.
An old Pokemon save that I had been carefully crafting was corrupted on a battered GB cartridge and so something else had to be slotted in rather than put it down and go outside. In went Links Awakening and up opened a new world.
It was there within Links awakening did I enjoy sandy beaches, looked up at strange mountains, I cut grass over and over and over when my parents begged me to do something even remotely similar in reality, and the magical feather that granted Link a jump button which collided universes with the jumping Mario lands so much so that that chain chomper in the town HAD
to be more than just a fun add-in.
So I went in search of chests and heart pieces. At the time for me there was no more noble task. I thought myself a hit with the ladies.Links awakening was probably the first game I sought out every secret and fight without caring if an older brother could get me out of that mess. I can think of no more fitting rite of passage... for me.
There were massive revelations in collision detection which are larger and wider than what I had previously witnessed. The fact that Link could turn toward the enemy projectile, facing like a obese human target unafraid of the canon being fired at their gut, the bullet simply disintegrates upon impact with a light \
tink** sound and with that sound shattered my gaming minds eye. Pokemon this was not. Monkey Island this was not at all like. Such revelation gave confidence to my handle grip on the sword/gameboy and I went flailing like a mad man. With hindsight I should feel sorry for Link being controlled by a young child too eager for a reaction from every living thing that my sword could collide with.
A great deal of the series Heroic journey in a whimsical and ‘fairy-tale’ like setting is arguably been seeped into much of my own interests and what I am drawn to in media. A small boy/teenager who is facing a labyrinth of monsters of varying scales, long before Demon Souls took a more dark and literal take on this. It wasn’t long ago that I played ‘Marvelous: Another Treasure Island’ and seen Aonuma’s happy-feeling world building skills on full display as being a great deal of what I admired about Zelda, and seeing how there are many small pieces which make up different sides of the experience.
Oracle of seasons showed me environmental changes that WarioLand 3 had only displayed to me before, for me that was what Zelda brought out, a world where depending on my choice of tools to interact with the environment, will reveal more hidden treasures. Seeing things not be fixed in a game and it change as progress continues was a neat feature back then before that became a game by itself. Input and output are digital processes that keep proving to be rewarding.
It was not long before A Link to The Past was infront of me and a controller was made available. I don't remember the date but I remember how it went.
This lead to the next best and greatest gaming learning experience which was that it was funny to whack chickens with a sword, doing what even a young me knew full well was savage and cruel in the real world was just a boys will be boys action in the gaming world. Separation from reality was enabling my impulses to try out what should not be done without consequence. Thankfully my insistence on finding where the game would fight back came via a chicken storm of reinforcements which would prove greater than any other enemy in the game. There was and still is few game environmental punishments as impactful and as terrifying as when those chickens taught me that if I want to play in this world then, after a line gets crossed, the game would resist me inflicting any action not lessened by compassion.
Nowadays I see that some Zeldas puzzles are indeed a consumer friendly version of Adventures of Lolo and there were times the challenge was just right for my little hyper headspace. I was seeped in triforce lore and hyrule secrets and wondering why the Zoras looked like sea-dragon monsters in a Link to the Past but Nintendos polygon designs of Zoras in the 3D games were either rockstars or mermaids.
The image of a small boy within the forest stood upon a tree stump playing a flute that drew all the animals around him and coming close meant they all scattered, then the boy disappears. That was the simple visual power of early Zelda games that while certainly is intact in later entries, there was a power to when the early games kept the appearance of speech bubbles as few as possible.
A Links Awakening was re-released in color. A cardridge was again purchased because little that was sacred survived the storm of childhood wrath.
Navigating the neon bright coloured pixels that shaped the landscape of Links awakening was a sight that when beheld was truly odd but wonderful in equal amounts. I adore the weird side of Zelda that many people have pointed out when the developers spent too long in the cold steely side of realistic Hyrule that Ocarina sowed adoration for. Now anyone who has seen the Shadow temple in OOT will know that game contains out right horror, but the followup game on that console is a peyote trip. To me those colours, those simple sound effects, those charming three or four sprite animations of the NPCs walk cycles and that menu screen of what looked like a big Yoshi egg were all what Nintendo was for me. A Link to the Pasts mirror dark world felt like these developers letting out this wild side, I adored how every corner seemed rife with danger and the dark imagery that turned the happy world inside out. Later entries would build a greater aesthetic for what would become Zelda with Ocarina showing world building that no one had even expected from the Mario factory. It’s triumphs like those that remind me why Nintendo chooses carefully with Donkey Kong and Metroid.
One day my impressionable and bored mind, moody just looking at the threshold of teenage-hood, would be granted some playtime with Wind Waker before my older siblings came home and took over by force. When my hands steered that controller through a fresh new world, my brain soon overwrought Mario 64 gameplay muscle memory or how Majoras Link controlled and introduced me to how Zelda could have pirates and sailing and I was convinced that Nintendo was in direct communication with the dreamscape of every adventurous young boy and was finding ways to make them all come true in a game. ‘This was what I wanted and then some’, I thought to myself and now only they could let me play as a brooding wolf.
I have FourSwords on my to-play list since I now (finally) live with someone tolerant enough of me to play with me from the same room. I’m sure it will be a surprisingly enjoyable experience.I got pretty far into Minish cap when I had to return it to a friend but it was fun while it lasted.
Twilight princess came out around the time when I was done with colourful things and focused on things that resembled a cold world view outside our warm homes where struggling as part of living was a more grounded way of life. In a few years media would capitalise on ‘grit’ settings and tone when really all of my attention could be enslaved by something with an engaging story and heart (even if teenage me would have never used such words) and thankfully there was a handful of tonally challenging moments that certainly gave me what I wanted in a Zelda styled package. But this was traditional days, when the formula wasn’t to abandon it but double down and try and fine tune every gear, re-examine every bolt for efficiency, make the best version of that machine before you re-invent the wheel. Maybe a re-release will adjust the difficulty and make that game its most perfect version, if they can resist other adjustments like shortening the wolf segments or removing Links horrific demon face.
The issue being that Zelda showed my own love of these traditional formulas, I personally would have been fine with the Yettie mansion in Twilight Princess being the direction of how we would change it up going forward. This is why I’m suited to the role of game player and not a game maker.
I played both DS Zelda entries which were further exercise in showing the gimmicks the series would enjoy rolling out to make them appealing but I actually found the gameplay to be what I had enjoyed from older top down Zelda games, it is nice to be given a game that reminds you of a style and setting that you didn’t even know you missed. And Spirit tracks has some of the finest puzzle design on that system, Nintendo was throwing money at these and whoever was at the helm of the ship or train was steering it well even if it wasn’t for everyone.
Skyward Sword was released and the early gameplay promotional material showed it as a convergence of weird goofy Nintendo and the other styled they had so tried and tested (and perfected?) earlier and while I had fun it simplified world and new angles on dungeons felt more closer to what Okami had done before (no objections) or regardless it showed me that Zelda had to change with the times. The formula was in need of an overhaul if it was to survive in the new expanding gaming landscape and this was fine by me, I had played other grittier games and had even tried making a few of my own and I knew that the place Zelda held in my heart and mind would be shelved when love of alcohol and playing music would overwrite such things. I had finished Vice City without any cheats or sibling assistance, if there was an achievement to wear as medal of manhood I fancied myself as decorated with and envied for it.
It was encouraging as a cynical gamer who saw Skyrim as a new potent realm for adventure, that Zelda was improving its graphics and looking sharper and brighter than ever while seeming to expand more in options of interactivity, never allowing anything in the game which fall into 'collectable' done in quantity had to be executed with quality. A few franchises I shared almost equal love alongside or after Zelda did not prioritise such things as times and industry grew more advanced. In an age where anything held at deep reverence is rightfully up for skepticism, I still take a happy breath when my memory returns to these games.
I have not played A Link Between Worlds because I never owned a 2/3DS. I expect I will love it once emulation and my understanding of it catches up.
I have not played Breath of the Wild, there is now grey in my hair and I spent my own money on a PC rather than a Switch, a decision I’m sure I will regret when the next sequel gets announced. I’m happy Zelda took the extra leap after Skyward Sword and became something new to match modern sky-high standards for adventuring, interaction and customising. Maybe we will have a female link, maybe Link will look how you design him/her, maybe you’ll have carriage or an airship since horses have been overdone.
I’m no great fan of story being retold in restructured ways, even if we know where it ends up (hot potato ball of light boss battle followed up by pig God throwdown). People will turn out to see a Shakespeare play with a new cast and setting, or a remake of a classic movie with practically the same script or a movie so studio engineered you can see the story beats on the poster, or whatever the hell the FF7 remake is doing. Point is, Zelda is a simple formula and the destination has never been the core or even the best part of the experience, or so I assume, theres a type of player for every game type these days.
I was a child forced to give up adventuring in favour of studies and education and in fear living my life out without ever exiting my hometown which was scarce of adventure, but for quite a while the controller in my hand was forgotten by my mind and it was the extension which wield Links many weapons.
The greenest pastures around me were fields with land ownerships laws and cattle that really would gang up and fight back if I came at them, and any caves would most likely have made me into a missing persons case. That is a strange view of looking back at my past self but maybe writing the sentence will help me accept it was closer to the truth than I can see from an internal perspective.
Link will always be there, ready for me to guide him through the next dark cavern or against the next beast blocking my path or whichever item was placed to help me realise my potential and help me push that block over that switch with a satisfying *click
* followed by a unlock jingle.
Maybe Zelda is entering into a whole new chapter and Aonuma and Miyamoto won’t be around forever in order to oversee that the ship stays on course and maybe that will be for the better and it could be that what Zelda once held for me is in the past among many wonderful entires where I can forever go back and relive those grand adventures. Or maybe they’ll just remake Link to the Past and have me truly won over and Zelda at 45 will tell of how it saved me from the path that leads away from gaming and excitement of future green pastures is ahead, we can dream.
I'm doing my Christmas shopping and my fiance loves hot sauce. He bought one at the grocery store a year or so ago and really liked it. I think it was a red sauce, not green. But the only other thing I remember about it is that the back label had recommendations of what you could put it on. The recommendations were in the form of like basic clipart animals. It had like chicken, cow, and dinosaur. So we called it dino sauce (it's not the dino BBQ brand).
Does anyone else remember this hot sauce that is delicious on today's animals AND extinct ones?
I have a patch and I need the logo off of it. It's custom so I cannot find it online.
I have really hi res pictures of the patch but I'm trying to get a clean digital logo rather than a picture of a piece of fabric. The original file is totally gone, been lost for decades.
Is there a good program or tool I could use besides just tracing the thing? I don't have steady enough hands to do that, I've been at it for hours and it still looks like shit. It looks fine where I can just put in a polygon, but anywhere that I need complex arcs I cannot figure out what to do.
It's basically a chicken Clipart so it isn't terribly complicated, made up entirely of pretty regular shapes. I just want it to look clean and professional but I don't know how.
Thanks for the help!