Morbidus Joe by Matthew Marchitto

I can't quite remember how the idea for this story started. It might have been with the image of Morbidus Joe, and the question of why is he so morbid all the time. Or, it might have been with the idea of someone being so focused on one thing, like it could fix all their problems, when really they were looking for the wrong thing the whole time.

****

Every Thursday Morbidus Joe cried himself to sleep.

On Friday he’d trudge through his office in a stupor, blaming and hating himself for his melancholy mind.

On Saturday he’d stay indoors curled up in a blanket.

On Sunday he’d resolve to get over himself and stop making excuses.

On Monday he’d rev his Brimstone Squealer down Hellfire Highway, feeling like he could take over the whole underworld.

On Tuesday he’d finally do it, he’d ask Gluttonous Gal to go on a date.

Morbidus Joe had met Gluttonous Gal in an eatery, and every day since then they’d meet for lunch and spend an hour talking. Gal would order an eye of newt, and Joe would have a cup of lamentations. She told him about her job devouring the dammed, and he told her about his job tallying sins.

Morbidus learned that Gluttonous wanted to visit the Styx and maybe see Charon in person. If she was lucky she’d get to see him dump a penny pincher into the river. Morbidus Joe had never thought of travelling before, but it sounded like fun.

Tuesday came, but it didn’t feel right. “Tomorrow,” Morbidus Joe thought.

On Wednesday Morbidus Joe lost his nerve.

On Thursday he decided it was a bad idea and cried himself to sleep because nothing was ever going to change.

Morbidus Joe didn’t hate his life, but he didn’t like it either. Every day was the same, and it was the sameness that Joe hated. If he could ask Gal out, then maybe it would make things better.

The next three days passed Joe by. He trudged around in a stupor that lasted longer than normal. He felt wrong, like something inside was twisted.

On Monday Gluttonous Gal was telling him about a screamer she’d devoured, and when she was done Joe blurted out—

“Do you want to go on a date?”

Gal’s face contorted from shock, to flattery, to sadness.

Joe regretted asking.

“Morbidus, I like you, but not in that way.”

He wanted to walk out onto Hellfire Highway and let himself be crushed into dust. Why couldn’t he just keep his mouth shut?

Gal looked nervous. “But we can still be friends, right?”

Friends? Morbidus hadn’t even thought of it, but a friend was better than a date. And Morbidus needed a friend right now.

“Yes, I’d like that very much.”

On Tuesday Morbidus Joe tallied the vacation time he’d never used.

On Wednesday he bought two tickets to the Styx and told Gal they could go this very weekend.

On Thursday Morbidus Joe fell asleep thinking about everything he needed to pack for the trip.

A Pinprick in Time by Matthew Marchitto

This story started with the image of the Chronicler, though I wasn't sure what to do with it. I'd wanted to try and write extremely short fiction, so I decided to mix the two together and try to make a super short story mixed with the evocative image of the Chronicler. At 200 words, it might be the shortest story I've written, and maybe the hardest.

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I’m a chronicler, and I’m dying. Before I go, I must find the impossible timeline.

I travel between realities, sailing past our possibilities, our mistakes. They echo in my periphery, an explosion blooming like a mushroom, the rat-a-tat of lead bullets, the arc of a bloodied sword, the crunch of a wooden club.

I sail to the center of eternity.

A pinprick of light pierces my vision like a sunspot. I hold it in my hands and extend my consciousness into it.

I see everything that is, will be, and has been. It fills me with heat. My flesh boils, my mind reels. But still I search.

And my eyes well with tears. A world of peace, without violence, without hate. Sobs wrack my chest. The truth I had known but hoped to be wrong is laid before me. It is a timeline without humans.

In my final moments I enter this world. Sit on the warm grass, feel the earth’s breeze on my cheek.

By the time you hear this I will be dead. I couldn’t find it, but I still believe that out there in the unfathomable infinities is the impossible timeline. Don’t give up.

Gary the Orc by Matthew Marchitto

This story started with the simplest of ideas, an orc named Gary. From there it grew into something a little silly and a lot bloody.

***

Garuk’tchuk’kai’ruk’ury, chieftain of the Red Hand orcs, slayer of the ogat’thu, and conqueror of the man-filth kingdoms, breathed deep of the crisp dawn air. The sharp ringing of hammers on steel and the roaring burn of churning furnaces greeted him. Today was going to be a good day.

Garuk’tchuk’kai’ruk’ury was renowned, feared, known for brutal swiftness and deft strategy. The man-filth called him Green Fury. The elves called him Soul’s Bane. The dwarves called him Stone Crusher. His friends called him Gary.

Gary strode through his chiefdom. Burly orcs nodded to him as he passed. Gary nodded back, taking note of who had earned themselves new tusk rings.

Oguthula, a scrawny orc with a gray beard to his knobby knees, shuffled after Gary.

“Oguthula, I don’t have time.”

“Sire, you must. The accounts are unbalanced, and the orb of quadrant calculation needs replenishing.” Ogulthula, the chiefdom’s accountant, said.

“Og, please. Just use the abacus.”

“And be lost to the innovations of the other chiefdoms? Never!”

“Fine, fine,” Gary acquiesced. “How do we replenish your quadrant orb?”

“I need the tongue of an ever living beast, the eye of a spectral nightmare, and the heart of a very smart man who might also be an asshole.”

“Og, I’m not killing Bill. How many times do we have to go over this?”

“But he stole my sheet of spreading and my cube of scrawling!”

“So go and ask for it back.”

“Not after he called me a bumblesnatch.”

Gary pinched the bridge of his nose. “Fine, a heart of a smart thing, possibly an asshole. I’ve got it.”

Ogulthula grumbled his thanks and shuffled away.

Gary sighed. A chief’s tasks were never over. He thought today would be simple, a few human raids, a few spoils of war, some relaxing grog. But, it seemed he’d have to go and get what Ogulthula needed.

Gary didn’t understand what it was accountants did. Og insisted they record every spoil, every ounce of gold, every bit of plunder they gathered. Including how much they tithed to the warchief, and for some reason at the end of each year they got some of it back.

It made no sense. Maybe that was why the man-filth called them savages.

***

It took all morning, but by brunch Gary had found Kragoa the Mutilated. Kragoa was an amorphous immortal writhing glob of undulating flesh. If Gary could answer three riddles, then Kragoa would bequeath one of his many tongues to Gary.

Gary got all three riddles wrong, said “fuck it” and wrestled the tongue out of Kragoa’s fifty-third mouth. With a swing of his axe and a spray of blood, Gary had the tongue of an ever living beast.

***

It was late afternoon when Gary reached the cultists altar at the bottom of the crypt. He was in luck, because an occult ritual was taking place at that very moment.

Gary didn’t have anything against cultists, he figured you can ooh and ohm as much as you like as long as it’s not in his backyard. Unfortunately, he needed the summoned specter’s eye, and the cultists wouldn’t let him have it.

Chop, chop.

Gary stuck meaty fingers into the ghost’s socket, plucking out an ice cold eyeball. He stepped over the cultists bodies, making sure not to slip on their innards.

***

It was late in the evening when he trudged into Ogulthula’s hut, battered and bloodied. He plopped the tongue and eye on the accountant’s desk with a sigh.

“I couldn’t find the heart. Can’t you make do with these?”

Ogulthula wrung his hands. “Well, actually, I, uh, I really only needed the heart. The rest was just for flavour.”

“You’re fucking kidding me.”

“Bill sleeps in every Friday!”

Gary white-knuckled his axe.

***

Gary placed the heart of an asshole beside the tongue and eye. He grabbed the goblin-phone and spoke into its ear. The goblin repeated each word, which was then screeched by a goblin sitting on the windowsill, which was then screeched by a goblin down the street, until the entire camp was filled with Gary’s goblin-screeched words.

“Bill, you’re the new accountant. Get down here and fix the orb of quadrant calculation. And have somebody clean up Ogulthula.”

I Fucking Love Life is Strange (and Why I Think Max and Chloe Should Return for Season 2) by Matthew Marchitto

Recently I played through Life is Strange and absolutely loved it. I haven't been able to get it off my mind since. Chances are that we're getting a whole new cast for season 2, but I wanted to make my case for why I think Chloe and Max should return for Life is Strange 2.

Spoiler warning for Life is Strange.

***SPOILERS BELOW***

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Bottom Line by Matthew Marchitto

Wil hated his job.

He’d been on his feet for sixteen hours, plugging his doohickey into circuit boards to make sure they worked. All the while the company’s eye watched him from above. A hovering deep red drone that recorded everything.

The only breaks Wil got were to take a piss. No food. No drinks. He didn’t need them. One of the benefits of Juice. The nutrient goop kept people like Wil upright for as long as the company needed. The stuff was cheap to make too. Wil wondered if he had the last job that robots couldn’t do, or if the robots that could do it were too expensive.

Wil wanted to go home, to crawl into his five foot apartment cube and pass out with the TV blaring.

The company drone hovered near. “Please, let me go home,” Wil muttered. The drone’s eye scanned him, and then a long needle jabbed into Wil’s arm. He felt the Juice surge through him, guaranteeing five more hours of work.

Tears welled at the corner of Wil’s eyes. He wanted to scream and cry and punch the dumb drone in its dumb robot eye.

Today was the day, Wil was going to quit his job.

Uncle Dan had said the same thing. Proud, sure, earnest to fight his way up to join the Lucky Few. But he couldn’t fight his way anywhere, and apartment cubes don’t abide late payments. Companies don’t like hiring people with fire in their bellies. Four months later Wil found Dan on the street, ragged and unkempt. Dan’s eyes were pleading, sad, hopeful. Wil couldn’t afford to help Dan and he didn’t know anyone who could.

Wil had rent to pay, groceries to do, and maybe he’d have enough time to watch twenty minutes of TV before bed.

“I’ll quit tomorrow,” Wil thought.

Goodreads Giveaway: Moon Breaker by Matthew Marchitto

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Moon Breaker is up for grabs over at Goodreads. Enter the giveaway for a chance to win a paperback copy of the prehistoric novella. The giveaway is open to residents of the United States and Canada, and it'll run for 30 days.

If you've been curious about the kind of stuff I write, this is a good opportunity to jump on-board at no cost.

EDIT (October 11, 2017): The giveaway has ended. Thanks to everyone who entered!

Worldbuilding Part 5: Smoke and Mirrors by Matthew Marchitto

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Implication makes your world feel vast and complicated. It paints images in the reader’s periphery, giving them an idea—a generalization—that’s just enough to fill in the blanks without spelling out the exact formula.

It’s smoke and mirrors, hand puppets making shadowy shapes on the wall. That’s the Imperiator’s Sanitarium, and you never want to go there. Why? Because we’ve seen someone refer to it with fear, or maybe someone who went in came out different. We don’t know what the Imperiator is doing in there, and we don’t need to. All we need to know is that it’s bad.

That’s just one example, but there are tons of other ways you can fill out your world using little details—each one hinting at the wider world without explicitly saying it.

An organic world has constants that affect all its denizens. These are things like trade, religious institutions, markets, etc. These elements can be littered throughout your world and have small levels of influence on your characters. This will imply that there’s a larger organic world, one that has its own ebb and flow outside of your narrative. This can be done with little bits of detail sprinkled throughout your story. A mention of trade routes, or how two different people view a religious institution, little moments that not only build character but fill out your world.

Keeping details vague can make your world feel bigger. Give them just enough to fill in the blanks, a few guideposts here and there will allow them to populate the roads with their own speculations. If we look at the above example, the Imperiator’s Sanitarium, we don’t need to know what they’re doing in there. Long descriptions of their experiments/torture/whatever will narrow the walls of your reader’s view. They’ll feel boxed in, and everything will start to lose its sense of scale. Leaving things vague, only giving hints of what happens in the Sanitarium and showing the consequences, gives room for the reader to fill in the blanks with their imagination.

The key is to convince the reader that there’s a whole lot of shit happening behind the scenes that they don’t know about. There should always be a sense that there’s more to learn, more to discover.

Small street level elements can add a lot as well. Things like magic lanterns, the way buildings look, or those crow/rat hybrids that are all over the city. This can take pre-established worldbuilding elements and show the readers how they’re integrated into the world. Necromancy is cool when the secretive underground cult is chanting and ohming, but it can also be dotted throughout the world. Maybe detectives raise the dead to ask them questions, or people make a wish when they see a roving spirit. Really, these elements can be integrated any way you like, but having them be constant, as well as showing how they affect the grander world—not just your plot—goes a long way in making the world feel expansive.

The local lingo can show how your world grew organically. If your denizens worship a fire god, then maybe they shout burn me! as an expletive. Language can play a huge role in cementing the believability of your world. The names of people and places should have a sense that they share an etymology, or if they don’t then maybe that’s also a worldbuilding element. If all the people/locations have monosyllabic names like Grot, Kur, Fin, and so on, when Ezekael shows up, we know he’s a stranger from a foreign land.

But don’t go overboard with made-up words, they should be sprinkled throughout the story. Too much all over the place can make your story unreadable (Mad Max gets away with this, but its lingo fits into the degraded sanity of the wasteland).

These are just a few ways to make your world feel big. Each, on its own, seemingly a little detail, but together they create a cohesive and evocative image. Give them try and let me know how it turns out!

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This worldbuilding series is less a how-to and more a way for me to try and figure out the big messy process of creating secondary worlds. Check out Worldbuilding Part 1Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

Mad Max (the Game): Is it any Good? (Spoilers) by Matthew Marchitto

Mad Max (the game) is one of the best licensed games I’ve played. In theory, it’s a prequel to Fury Road, but I don’t think the story is canon. The game starts with Max getting into a fight with Scabrous Scrotus, losing his Interceptor, and is left in the wasteland with nothing but his torn up clothes.

Enter Chumbucket, the deformed hunchback who believes in the Angel Combustion. He’s a black finger (a master mechanic) and thinks Max is his warrior saint. Max needs a new car, and Chum promises to build him the Magnum Opus—the car you will be upgrading throughout the game.

Max’s goal is to create a car that will be fast, durable, and able to carry enough fuel to get him to the Plains of Silence. As you get upgrades for your car, you’ll meet stronghold leaders, lunatics, scavengers, and a whole crapton of war boys.

The gameplay consists of two major parts, car combat and ground combat. Both are equally fun, but have their own little quirks and issues.

***SPOILERS BELOW***

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