Copycat panda express cream cheese rangoons
Fast food news, reviews, and discussion
2008.06.15 19:41 Fast food news, reviews, and discussion
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2023.03.24 22:06 UnaffiliatedCookbook Mimic recipes: A collection of Panda Express copycat recipes
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2023.03.24 21:30 Trash_Tia In my town of Brightwood Pines, murder was legal. I didn't question it until I started getting toothache.
Murder was legal in our town of Brightwood Pines.
I had grown up seeing it. At eight years old, I watched a man come into our local café while I drank my peanut butter chocolate milkshake and shot two people dead.
There was no malice in his eyes, or any kind of hatred. It was just a normal guy who smiled at the waitress and winked at me. Mom told me to keep drinking my milkshake and I did—licking away excess whipping cream while the bodies were hoarded out, and pooling red was cleaned from the floor. I could still see flecks of white inside red, and my stomach twisted.
But I didn’t feel…scared. I had no reason to be. Nobody was screaming or crying.
The man who had shot them had sat down to eat burger and fries, and didn’t blink an eye. That was my first experience seeing death—and not my last.
With no rules forbidding murder, you would think a town would tear itself apart.
That is not what happened.
Murder was legal, yes, but it didn’t happen every day. It happened when people had the urge. Mom explained it to me when I was old enough to understand. “The urge” was a phenomenon which had been affecting town’s people long before I was born, and there was no real way to stop it. So, it didn't stop. Mom told me she had killed her first person at the age of seventeen. Her math teacher. There was no reason or motive. Mom said she just woke up one day and wanted to kill someone.
Unfortunately, it was her math teacher who had gotten in the way. I always wondered why she described her killing so vividly to me. I was eight years old, and mom spent hours detailing how she had successfully managed to sever his head from his body with nothing but a phone charger, and a knife taken from her kitchen.
That specific killing became more of a bedtime story to lull me to sleep.
Mom would sit on the edge of my bed and tell me all the ways she had wanted to murder her math teacher—describing how it felt for his blood to spatter her hands and paint her face.
I didn’t like her smile when she told me about her killing. Sometimes I got scared she was going to murder me too. Growing up, I have been constantly on edge. Every day I woke up and pressed my hand to my forehead, asking myself the same questions. Did I want to kill anyone? And those thoughts blossomed into paranoia when I wasn’t sure what I was feeling. It’s not like I didn’t know what it was like.
Dad had let me hold a knife, and taught me how to properly hold a gun, and mom gave me lessons in severing body parts. Both of them wanted me to follow through with The Urge when it hit me inevitably, and I wanted to fit in.
Our elementary school teacher had told my class as little kids, that The Urge was part of growing up, and if we fought it, if we tried to get out of it, our mind and body would face the consequences. She didn’t elaborate, though I didn’t really want her to. All our teacher had to say was “bleeding from the mouth” and “severe reaction in the brain” and I was already squirming, along with my twelve other classmates. The Urge became something I anticipated instead of fearing. Because, if I got it—if I had my first kill as young as my mom, then my parents would be proud of me.
When I started middle school, our neighbors were caught killing and cannibalising their children, turning them into bone broth. I knew both of the kids. Clay and Clara. I had played with them in their yard and eaten cookies with them.
Clara told me she wanted to be a nurse when she grew up, and Clay used to tug on my pigtails to get my attention. They were like siblings to me. No matter what my parents said, or my teacher’s, my gut still twisted at the thought of my neighbors doing something like that. Days after the cops had arrived, I saw Mrs Jenson watering her plants. But when I looked closer, there was no water. She was just holding an empty hose over her prize roses.
I stood on my tiptoes, peering over our fence. “Mrs Jenson?”
“I am okay, Elle.”
Her voice didn’t sound okay.
“Are you sure?” I asked. I pointed at the hose grasped in her hand. “You forgot to turn your water on.”
“Mrs Jenson…” I took a deep breath before I could stop myself. “Did you like killing Clay and Clara?”
“Why, yes,” she hummed. “Of course I did. I slurped up that bone broth like it was my prize tomato soup. They were…. delicious.”
I nodded. “But… didn’t you love them?”
She didn’t reply for a moment before seemingly snapping out of it and turning to me with a bright smile. With too many teeth. That was the first time I started to question The Urge.
It was supposed to make you feel good, acting like a relief, a weight from your chest. Killing another human being was exactly what the people in our town needed. But what about killing their families and children?
Did it really make them feel good?
Looking at my neighbour, I couldn’t see the joy my mom had described in her eyes. In fact, I couldn’t see anything. Her expression was the kind of blank which scared me. It was oblivion staring back, ripped of real human emotion. Mrs Jenson’s smile stretched across her lips, like she could sense my discomfort. I noticed she was yet to clean her hands.
Mrs Jenson’s fingernails were still stained a scary shade of red. Instead of replying, the woman moved towards my fence in slow, stumbling strides. She was dragging herself, like moving caused her pain, agony I couldn’t understand. It was exactly what my mother had insisted didn’t exist when killing. Pain.
Humanity. All of the adults told us we would not feel those things when killing. We wouldn’t feel regret, or contempt. We would just feel good.
It was a release, like cold water coming over us. We would never feel better in our lives than when we were killing—and our first would be something special. When Mrs Jenson’s fingers still slick with her children’s blood wrapped around the wooden fence, I found myself paralysed. Her manic grin twisted and contorted into a silent wail, and once vacant eyes popped open. Like she was seeing me for the very first time. “I want to go home,” she whispered, squeezing onto the wooden fence until her own fingers were bleeding.
“Can you tell them to let me go home? I would like to see my children. Right now. Do you hear me?” Mrs Jenson wasn’t looking at me. Instead, her gaze was glued to thin air.
She was crying, screaming at something only she could see—and for a moment I wondered if ghosts were real. I twisted around to see if there were any ghosts, specifically the ones of her children, but there was nothing. Just fall leaves spiralling in the air in pretty waves.
“Mrs Jenson is sick,” she told me once I was sitting at the dinner table eating melted ice-cream. It tasted like barf running down my throat.
I didn’t see Mrs Jenson after that.
Well, I did.
She looked different, however.
Not freakishly different, though I did notice her hair color had changed. I remembered it being a deep shade of brown, and when my neighbor returned with an even wider smile, it was more of a blondish white. When I questioned this, mom told me it was a makeover.
The Urge affected people in different ways, and with Mrs Jenson, after having her come-down, she had decided on a change. Mom’s words were supposed to be reassuring, adding that there was no reason to be scared of The Urge.
But I didn’t want to be like Mrs Jenson and have a mental breakdown over my killing. I wanted to be like mom and have a glass of wine and laugh over the sensation of taking a life. Mrs Jenson was my first real glimpse into the negativity of killing because it was so normalised. Dying, for example, wasn’t feared.
From a young age, we had been taught that it was a vital part of life, and dying meant finding peace. When I first started high school, I expected killing to happen. Puberty was when The Urge fully blossomed. Weapons were allowed, but only out of classes. In other words, under no circumstances must we kill each other in class, but the hallways were a free-for-all.
I had seen attempts during my freshman year, but no real killing.
Annalise Duval was infamously known as the junior girl who had rejected The Urge, and thrown out of school. Struck with the stomach flu on the day of her attempted killing, I only knew the story from word-of-mouth. Apparently, the girl had attempted to kill her mother at home, failed, and then bounded into school, screaming about laughter in the walls, and people whispering into her head.
Obviously, my classmate was labelled insane—and judging from her nosebleed, the girl’s body had ultimately rejected The Urge, and her brain was going haywire. Nosebleeds were a common side effect. I heard stories from kids saying there was blood everywhere, all over her hands and face, smeared under her chin. She had been screaming for help, but nobody dared go near her. Like rejection was contagious. Annalise survived. Just. I still saw her on my daily bike-ride to school.
She was always sitting cross legged in front of the forest with her eyes closed, like she was praying. The rumor was, after being thrown out by her parents, the girl wandered around aimlessly, muttering about whispering people and laughter in her head. It was obvious her rejection had seriously affected her mental state, but I did feel sorry for her.
It wasn’t known what had caused her to reject The Urge, though some of the kids in her class did comment that she had been complaining of a loose tooth beforehand. Mom told me to stay away from her, and I did. Annalise Duval was the first and only case of rejection, and thanks to her, I knew exactly what would happen if it happened to me too. So, I ignored the bad feeling about my neighbor, and forced myself to anticipate the day when I would get my very own urge to kill. I waited for it.
On my fourteenth birthday, I confused a swimming stomach and cramps for The Urge, which turned out to be my first period.
I remember biking my way home, witnessing a man cut off a woman’s head with an axe.
It’s funny, I thought I would be desensitised to seeing human remains and severed heads, glistening red seeping across the sidewalk, but it was the passion in the man’s face as he swung the axe and dug in real hard, chopping right through bone and not stopping, even when intense red splattered his face and clothes, until the woman’s head hit the ground, which sent my stomach creeping into my throat.
Then, it was the vacancy in his eyes, a twitching smile as he held the axe like a prize.
Part of me wanted to stay, to see if he had a similar reaction to Mrs Jenson. I wanted to know if he regretted what he had done, but once I was meeting his gaze, and his grin was widening, the toe of his boot kicking the woman’s motionless body, I turned away from him and pedalled faster, my eyes starting to water. It wasn’t long before my lunch was inching its way up my throat, and I was abandoning my bike on the side of the road, and choking up undigested Mac N’ cheese onto steaming tarmac.
I didn’t tell mom about the man, and more importantly, my odd reaction to his killing. I wasn’t supposed to be feeling sick to my stomach. Murder was normal. I wasn’t going to get in trouble for it, so why did seeing it make me sick?
I had been taught as a little kid that visceral reactions were normal, and it was okay to be scared of killing and murder. However, what our brains told us was right wasn’t always the truth. Our teacher had held up a teddy bear and stabbed into its stuffing with a carving knife.
We had all cried out, until the teacher told us that the bear didn’t care about dying. In fact, it was ready to find peace. And it didn’t hurt him.
In other words, we had to ignore what our minds told us was bad.
Mom told me I would definitely start having conflicting feelings before my first killing, but that it was nothing to worry about.
I did worry, though. I started to wonder if I was going to become the next Analise Duval. Maybe the two of us would become friends, sharing our delusions together.
My 17th birthday came and went—and still no sign of The Urge. I noticed mom was starting to grow impatient. She had a routine of coming to check my temperature every morning, regardless of whether I felt sick or not.
“How are you feeling?” I couldn’t help but notice mom’s smile was fake.
She dumped my breakfast on a tray in front of me, and when I risked nibbling on a slice of toast, she dropped the bombshell.
“Elle, you are almost eighteen years old,” she said. I noticed her hands were clenched into fists. “Do you feel anything?”
I considered lying, though then I would have to kill someone—and without The Urge, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to do that.
“I don’t know,” I answered honestly, propping myself up on my pillows. “Most of the kids in my class—”
She cut me off with a frustrated hiss. “Yes, I know. They have all killed someone and you haven’t.” Her eyes narrowed. “People are starting to notice, Elle.” She spoke through a smile which was definitely a grimace. “And when people start to notice, they get suspicious. I’ve been on the phone with three different doctor’s this morning, and all of them want to book you in for an MRI. Just to make sure things are normal.”
“MRI?” I almost choked on the apple I had been chewing.
“Yes.” Mom sighed. “We can’t ignore that things aren’t…. abnormal. You are seventeen years old and haven’t had one urge to kill. The minimum for your age is one kill,” she said. “Minimum. Elle. You have not killed anyone, and when I bring it up you change the subject.”
I changed the subject because she started asking if I wanted to practise. I wasn’t sure what “practise” meant, but from the slightly manic look in her eye, my mom wasn’t talking about dolls or teddy bears. It was so-called normal to practise killing. There were even people who volunteered to be targets at the local scrapyard. Most of them were old people.
Joey Cunningham in my class told everyone his uncle took him to practise when he was thirteen—and he had killed three people without The Urge. Five years on, Joey had accumulated a total of fourteen kills.
He never failed to remind everyone almost every class. I could taste the apple growing sour in the back of my mouth. Mom was just trying to help, and it’s not like I was doing this intentionally. The idea of going to the scrapyard and killing random people, even if they gave me permission to, wasn’t appealing in the slightest. “I’m okay.” I said, and when mom’s eyes darkened, I followed that up with, “I mean… I have spare time after class, so…?”
I meant to finish with, “Maybe.” But the word tangled in my mouth when I took a chunk out of the apple, and pain struck. Throbbing pain, which was enough to send my brain spinning off of its axis. For a moment, my vision feathered, and I was left blinking at my mother who had become more silhouette than real person. I was aware of the apple dropping out of my hand, but I couldn’t think straight.
The pain came in waves, exploding in my mouth. When I was sure I could move without my head spinning, I slammed my hand over my mouth instinctively to nurse the pain, except that just made it worse. Fuck. Had I chipped my tooth? Blinking through blurry vision, I knew my mom was there. But so was something else.
As if my reality was splintering open, another seeping through, I suddenly had no idea where I was, and a familiar feeling of fear started to creep its way up my spine. The thing was though, I knew exactly where I was. I had known this town, this house, my whole life.
So that feeling of fear didn’t make sense.
The more I mulled the thought over in my mind, however, pain striking like lightning bolts, something was blossoming.
It both didn’t make sense, and yet it also did. In the deep crevices of my mind, that feeling was familiar. And I had felt it before. No matter how hard I squinted, though, I couldn’t make it out.
When I squinted again, a sudden shriek of noise rattled in my skull, and it took me a disorienting moment to realise what I could hear was laughter. Hysterical laughter. Which seemed to grow louder and louder, encompassing my thoughts until it was deafening. Not just that. The walls were swimming, my posters flashing in and out of existence before seemingly stabilising themselves. I blinked. Was I… losing my mind?
Maybe this was a side-effect of rejecting The Urge.
“Elle?” Mom’s voice cut through the phantom laughter which faded, and I blinked rapidly. “Sweetie, are you okay?”
The word was in my mouth before the thought could cross my mind. I shook my head, swallowing. “Yeah, I’m… fine.”
She nodded, though her expression darkened. Scrutinising. I knew she couldn’t wait to get me under an MRI. “Alright. Finish your breakfast. School starts in half an hour.” Mom stopped at the threshold. She didn’t turn around. “I really do think practising killing will help a lot.”
I flinched when another wave of laughter slammed into me—faded, but very much there. Definitely not a figment of my imagination.
Checking in my bedroom mirror, I didn’t have a loose tooth. Even thinking that, though, panic started to curl in the root of my gut.
When I was sure I wasn’t losing my mind after checking and rechecking the walls were actually real, I got washed and dressed, grabbing my backpack.
My brain wouldn’t shut up on my way to school, and my gut was twisting and turning, trying to projectile that meagre slice of toast.
Annalise Duval had complained of a loose tooth before she rejected The Urge. Was that what was going to happen to me?
Was it all because of that stupid apple?
At school, I was surprised to be cornered by a classmate I had said maybe five words to in our combined time at Briarwood High.
Kaz Issacs was one of the first kids in my class to be hit with The Urge, and almost ended up like Annalise Duval. I don’t even think it was The Urge. I think he was driven to kill through emotions, like so many adults had tried to tell us wasn’t real. Kaz was a confusing case where a teenager had actually blossomed early, or not at all, and struck with his own intent.
People argued that there was paranoia, and the local doctor insisted he was fine, though I couldn’t help wondering if it wasn’t paranoia.
Kaz didn’t need The Urge. Halfway through math class, two years prior, I had been daydreaming about the rain. It rarely rained in Briarwood. Every day was picturesque. I did remember rain. I knew what it felt like hitting my face and dropping into my open mouth and cupped hands. When I asked mom if it was ever going to rain, though, she got a funny look on her face. “Sweetie, it doesn’t rain in Briarwood.” She told me. Which just confused me even more. It’s not like I had imagined the feeling of freezing cold rain, and my own shivering as I splashed through puddles without an umbrella.
The more I pried into these memories, I realised there were no puddles in Briarwood. It never rained. So, where had I jumped into puddles? Did I really dream of my experiences in the rain, and if so, how?
How did I know what it felt like? These thoughts came over me pretty much every day, and that day had been no different.
My gaze had been on the windowpane, trying to guess what a raindrop would look like sliding down, when Kaz Issacs let out an exaggerated sigh from behind me.
In front of him, Jessa Pollux had been tapping her pen on her desk. It wasn’t annoying at first, then she kept doing it—tap, tap, tappity tap. And then it was annoying. I could tell it was annoying, because Kaz had politely asked her three times to stop making noise, to which she had ignored him, and if anything, tapped louder, this time drumming in frenzied beats on her workbooks. Now, I had grown up learning that The Urge came with no warning or motive, or reason. It happened whether you liked it or not. Kaz was… different. His case was rare.
This time he did have a motive, and despite having it hammered into us our whole lives that killing didn’t need a reason and was not driven by negative emotion, my classmate did have a reason—and was in fact driven by anger.
Anger strong enough to murder.
This time, I saw it happen in clarity. When I caught movement in the corner of my eye, I was twisting around with the rest of the class, to see the boy halfway off his chair, his fingers wrapped around a knife.
The girl instantly knew what he was going to do, even without turning around. We weren’t supposed to be scared of dying, I thought dizzily, watching the girl let out a wail and dive forwards, her eyes cartoon like. Like an animal, Kaz already had a tight hold of her ponytail and tugged her back. Though in fight or flight, this girl was screaming, flailing.
She didn’t want to die, I thought.
Was that normal?
Mom always insisted if it was our time, it was our time. If someone attacked us, even family members, then we accepted it.
I caught the moment her elbow knocked into the boy’s mouth, just as he drove the blade of the knife into her skull. Until then, he had been panting and laughing, his eyes lit up with an insanity I only knew from my mom’s tales.
She told me stories where her friends had gotten pleasure from killing. As quick as it had come, though, the euphoria of taking someone’s life left the boy’s eyes, and he dropped to the ground, one hand over his mouth, the other slipping from the knife.
The teacher was already commenting on no murder allowed in class and ordering Kaz to go and clean himself up. I wasn’t sure he could hear her though. When he lifted his head, I glimpsed something seeping through his fingers, running in sharp rivulets down his wrist.
And then my gaze was flicking to his expression which was definitely not what I was expecting. Replacing joy and unbridled pleasure was fear. His eyes were wide, frightened, lips twisted.
It was the exact same expression I had seen on Mrs Jenson. A cocktail of confusion and pain, followed by a sense of emptiness. Like neither of them could understand where they were, or even who they were. I guessed that was what The Urge did, or the variants which contorted in people and made them reject it.
Like a wounded animal, Kaz’s frenzied gaze scanned our faces and he blinked, before realising his nose was bleeding. “Fuck.” He muffled under his hand. The boy jumped to his feet, and in three shaky strides, he was pulling open the classroom door and disappearing down the hallway in a stumbled run. The next day, the boy came to class with his usual smile.
When I asked him what happened, he explained it was just an ”abnormal reaction” and he was fine. Kaz’s words were strange though.
He wasn’t even looking at me, and his smile was far too big. He got his first kill though, so that gave him bragging rights as the first sophomore to come of age. Kaz Issacs and Annalise Duval both had similar experiences. One of them had clearly lost their mind, while the other seemingly avoided it.
And speaking of Kaz, it wasn’t the norm for him to be talking to me at school. But there he was, blocking my way into the classroom.
“Hey.” He was quick to side-step in front of me when I tried pushing him out of the way.
There had been an instance the year prior when I considered asking him to prom. He was a reasonably attractive guy, reddish dark hair sprouting from a baseball cap. But then I remembered what he did to that girl in front of him. I remembered the sound of his knife slicing through skin, cartilage and bone, and despite her cry, her wails for him to stop, he kept going, driving it further and further into her skull. I couldn’t look him in the eye after that.
“Can we talk?”
My mouth was still sort of hurting, and I was questioning my sanity, so speaking to Kaz wasn’t really on my to-do list that morning.
Kaz didn’t move, sticking an arm out so I couldn’t get passed him. “Have you got toothache by any chance?” To emphasise his words, he stuck his finger in his mouth, dragging his index across his upper incisors.
“Like, bad toothache.” His voice was muffled by his finger. Kaz leaned forward, arching a brow. “You do, don’t you? Right now, you feel your whole mouth is on fire and yet you can’t detect any wobblies.”
The guy’s words sent a slither of ice tingling down my spine. He was right. I hadn’t felt right since biting into that apple.
When I didn’t say anything, his lip twitched into a scowl. “Alright. You don’t want to talk.” He raised two fingers in a salute. “Suit yourself.”
“What do you mean?”
He shrugged. “When you feel like talking, I’m here, aight? I’ll be your support system or whatever.”
Kaz’s words didn’t really hit me until several days later when I woke up with a throbbing mouth, knelt over the corpse of my mother.
The Urge had finally come. It was something I had been anticipating and fearing my whole life, terrified I wouldn’t get it and end up ostracized by my loved ones. But when I saw my mom’s body, and the vague memory of plunging a kitchen knife into her chest hit me, I didn’t feel happy or relieved. I felt like I had done something bad. Which was the wrong thing to think. Killing was good, the words echoed in my mind. Killing was our way of release. How could I think that when there was a knife clutched between my fingers?
The weapon which had killed her. Hurt her. How was this supposed make me feel good and not like I was dying? My mother's eyes were closed.
Peaceful. Like she had accepted her death. The teeth of the blade dripped deep, dark red, and I know I should have felt something which was joy, or happiness. Except all I felt was empty.
I felt despair in its purest form which began to chew me up from the inside as I lulled from my foggy thoughts. I screamed. I wasn't supposed to scream. I wasn't supposed to cry, but my eyes were stinging, and I felt like I was being suffocated. I saw flashes in quick succession; a room bumbling with moving silhouettes, and the smell of... coffee. Mom never let me try coffee, and I was sure we never had it in the house. So, how did I know the feeling of it running down my throat and quenching my thirst? How did I know the aroma of crushed coffee beans struggling to prick at memories refusing to surface? My mouth throbbed once again, my thoughts growing foggy and distant.
Just like in my bedroom, the walls started to swim. This time, I dived to my feet and jumped over my mom’s corpse, slamming my hands into them. They were real. I could feel them.
Even as I slammed my fists into them, however, somehow, they felt wrong. Like I was hitting an object which was supposed to be real but wasn’t. Almost as if on cue, there it was again.
Laughing. Loud shrieks of hysterical laughter thrumming in time to dull pain pounding in my back tooth. Blinking through an intense mind fog choking my mind, my first coherent thought was that yes, Kaz was right. I did have a loose tooth, and when I was sure of that, I was stuffing my bloody fingers inside my mouth and trying to find it. I had grabbed at the knife feverishly, my first thought to cut it out, when there was a sudden knock at my front door.
Slipping barefoot on the blood pooling across our kitchen floor, I struggled to get to the door without throwing up my insides.
Annalise Duval was standing on my doorstep. I had seen her in an odd assortment of clothes, but this one was definitely eye catching.
The girl was wearing a wedding dress which hung off of her, the veil barely clinging onto the mess of bedraggled curls she never brushed. Blinking at me through straggly blonde hair, the girl almost resembled an angel. The dress itself was filthy, blood and dirt smeared down the corset, and the skirt torn up. But she did suit it, in a weird way. “Hello, Elle.” The girl lifted a hand in a wave. Her smile wasn’t crazed, like my classmates had described. Instead, it was… sad.
Annalise’s gaze found my hands slick with my mother’s blood, though barely seemed fazed.
“Do you want to see the wall people?” She whispered.
Until then, I had ignored her ramblings. Then I started hearing the laughing, and suddenly “wall people” didn’t sound so crazy after all.
“Can you hear the laughing?” I asked.
“Mmm.” She did a twirl in the dress. “That’s how it started for me. Laughing. I heard a looooottt of laughing—and then I found the wall people.” I winced when she came close, so close, almost suffocating me. “Nobody believes me and it’s sad. I’m just trying to tell people about the wall people and they label me as crazy. They say something went wrronnnggg with my head,” Annalise stuck two fingers into her temple, miming pulling a trigger. “I’m not the wrong one. I know about the wall people, and the laughing. I know why I got the urge to kill my mom.”
“Annalise,” I spoke calmly. “Can you tell me what you mean?”
Her eyes were partially vacant, that one slither of coherence quickly fading away.
Instead of speaking, I took her arm gently, and pulled her down my driveway. “Can you show me what you found?”
Annalise danced ahead of me, tripping in her wedding dress. She cocked her head. “Did you kill your mother?” Her lips twitched. “That’s funny. According to the wall people, you’re not supposed to kill someone until seasonal two.”
The girl blinked, giggling, and I forced myself to run after her. Jesus, she was fast. Even wearing a wedding dress. Annalise leapt across the sidewalk, twisting and twirling around, like she was in her own world. Before she landed in front of me, and her expression almost looked sane. “I wonder which season it will be. Will it be Summer? Maybe Fall, or Winter. I guess it’s not up to you, is it? It’s up to The Urge.”
Laughing again, the girl grabbed my hand, her fingernails biting into my skin. I glimpsed a single drop of red run from her nose, which she quickly wiped with the sleeve of her dress, leaving a scarlet smear. “Let’s go and see the wall people, Elle,” she hummed. As her footsteps grew stumbled, blood ran down her chin, spotting the sidewalk. I don’t know if coherency ever truly hit Annalise Duval, but knowing she was bleeding, her steps grew quicker. More frenzied.
“Your nose,” was all I could say, when rivers of intense red strained the girl’s dress.
Annalise nodded with a sad smile. “I know!” she said. “Don’t worry, it will stop when I shut up.” Her smile widened. “But what if I don’t shut up? What if I show you the wall people?” To my surprise, she leapt forward and flung out her arms, tipping her head back and yelling at the sky. “What if I don’t shut up?” Annalise laughed. “What are the wall people going to do, huh? Are you going to explode my brain?”
When people started to come out of their houses to see what was going on, I dragged her into a run.
“Are you insane?” I hissed out.
Annalise seemed to be floating through awareness and whatever the fuck The Urge had done to her. “Don’t worry, they’re just peeking.”
The girl had an attention span of a rock. Her gaze went to the sky. “They’re going to turn the sun off so I can’t show you.”
Her words meant nothing to me, before the clouds started to darken, and just like Annalise had predicted, the sky started to get dark.
Knowing that somehow this supposedly crazy girl knew when things were going to happen only quickened my steps into a run.
Halfway down the street, Kaz Issacs was riding his bike towards us. Which I found odd. Kaz didn’t own a bike. He rode the bus to school.
“Elle!” Waving at me with one hand, his other grasping at handlebars, Kaz pedalled faster. “Yo! Do you want to hang out?”
“Peeking.” Annalise said under her breath.
Ignoring Kaz, I nodded at Annalise to keep going, though the boy didn’t give up. We twisted around, and he caught up easily, skidding on the edge of the sidewalk. When he came to an abrupt stop in front of us, his gaze flicked to Annalise. “Shouldn’t you be praying in the forest?”
The girl recoiled back like a cat, hissing out, “Peeking!”
Kaz shot me a look. “Of all the people you could have made friends with you chose Annalise Duval?” His eyes softened when I ignored him and pulled the girl further down the road. Kaz followed slowly on his bike.
"Where are you going anyway? Isn't it late?”
It was 4pm.
I decided to humor him. “We’re going to see the wall people.”
“Do I sound like I’m kidding?” I turned my attention to him. “You asked me if I had a toothache, right?”
His expression crumpled. “I did?”
I noticed Annalise was clingier with him around, sticking to my side. Every time he moved, she flinched, tightening her grip on my arm. She was leading us into the forest, and I swore, the closer we were getting to the clearing, the more town’s people were popping up out of nowhere. An old woman greeted us, followed by a man with a dog, and then a group of kids from school. Annalise entangled her fingers in mine, pulling me through the clearing.
Kaz followed, hesitantly, biking over rough ground. I caught him fall off balance for a moment before his hands flew out to grasp onto his handlebars. “Once again, I think this is a bad idea,” he said in a sing-song voice. “We should go back.”
When it was too dangerous for his bike, he abandoned it and joined my side.
“Elle, the girl is insane,” Kaz hissed out. “What are you even doing? What is this going to accomplish except potentially getting lost?”
“I want to know if she’s telling the truth,” I murmured back.
He scoffed. “Telling the truth? Look at this place!” He spread out his arms, gesturing to the rapidly darkening forest. “There’s nothing here!”
“No.” Annalise ran ahead, staggering over trippy ground. “No, it’s right over here!” She was still fighting a nosebleed, and her words were starting to slur. The girl twisted to Kaz. “You’re peeking,” she spat, striding over to him until they were face to face. “Stop peeking,” she said, her fingers delving under her wedding skirt where she pulled out a knife and pressed it to his throat. “If you peek again, I will cut you open.”
Kaz nodded. “Got it, Blondie. No peeking.”
Annalise didn’t move for a second, her hands holding the knife trembling. “You’re not going to tell me I’m crazy again,” she whispered.
“You’re not crazy,” Kaz said dryly.
“Say it again.”
“You’re not crazy!” He yelped when she pressed pressure onto the blade. “Can you stop swinging that around? Jeez!”
Annalise shot me a grin, and it took a second for me to realise.
Kaz was scared of the knife.
He was scared of dying—which meant, whether he liked it or not, the boy had in fact not gone through with The Urge.
I thought the girl was going to slash Kaz’s throat open in delight, but instead she looped her arm in his like they were suddenly best friends.
“Come on, Elle!” She danced forwards, pulling the boy with her. “We’re closeeeee!”
I wasn’t sure about that.
What we were, however, was lost. When the three of us came to a stop, it was pitch black, and I was struggling to see in front of me. Annalise, however, walked straight over to thin air, and gestured to it with a grin. “Tah-da!” Spluttering through pooling red, she let out a laugh.
Kaz, who was still uncomfortably pressed to her no matter how hard he strained to get away, shot me a look I could barely make out.
“I’m sorry, what did I say? That we were going to get lost? That Annalise is certifiably crazy and we’re very fucking lost?”
At first, I thought I really was crazy. Maybe Annalise’s condition was contagious. I could hear it again. Laughing.
But this time it was coming from exactly where Annalise was pointing—and when the girl slammed her hand into thin air, there was a loud clanging noise which sounded like metal.
Slowly, I made my way towards it, and when my hands were touching sleek metal, what felt like the corners of a door, more pain struck my upper incisors. “Holy shit.” Kaz was pressing himself against the door, and then slamming his fists into it. “The crazy bitch was right.” His words hung in my thoughts on a constant cycle, as we delved into what should have been forest.
After all, we had been standing in the middle of nowhere. The laughter was deafening when I stepped over the threshold, and I had to slap my hands over my ears to block it out. Through the invisible door, however, was exactly what Annalise had described. Wall people.
All around us were what looked like television screens, and on those screens—were people. Faces.
They were not part of the laughter. The laughter was mechanical and wrong, rooted deep inside my skull. The faces which stared down at us looked like normal people, men and women, with some of them teens, and even younger children. Annalise and Kaz were next to me, their head s tipped back, gazes glued to the screens. Not the ones I was looking at. The ones on tiny computer monitors.
It was when I was tearing my eyes from our audience, did I start to see what made Kaz stiffen up next to me. One screen in particular showed his face. He was younger, maybe a year or two. No, I thought, barf creeping up my throat. It was when he had killed that girl.
His hands clasped in his lap were still stained and slick with her blood. The Kaz on the screen seemed a lot more laid back, his feet resting on the table in front of him. There was a cockiness in his eyes I had never seen before. This boy’s eyes were cruel. “Why exactly have you signed up for this program?” A man’s voice crackled off screen.
“Duh.” Kaz held up his scarlet hands, a grin twisting on his lips. “So I can get my Darkroom rep back.” He leaned forward, his eyes wide. “That is going to happen, right? I don’t do this shit for free, and I’ve got one million followers to impress, man. Darkroom loves me. Even if I did go too far that one time, which wasn't even my fault."
“You are correct.” The man said. “Darkroom does benefit from its influencers. Our program aims to help satisfy certain… needs across the planet, by broadcasting them right here,” He paused. “You have killed five people before signing up for Darkroom, correct? Your parents?”
“Parents and brother,” Kaz chuckled. “I gutted them with my fave knife, and then filmed it. Obviously, my Tik-Tok got taken down with all the freaks in the comments moaning, and suddenly I find you guys! A whole lot of sick fucks, but who’s complaining, right? Not me.”
“And,” the man cleared his throat. “You will keep killing? We are aware the initial implant impacted your brain quite badly. In the subdued state, you will keep killing, as the so-called ‘urge’ says. However, in reality we will be sending signals to your brain which will make you kill.”
“Alright, do it.”
“Are you sure? We couldn’t help noticing during your first kill, you seemed to… well, react in a way we haven’t seen before.”
He cocked his head. “Did my fans like it?”
“Good.” Kaz held out his arm. “Do it again. And do it right this time. As long as I’m getting 40K every appearance, I’m good. You can slice my brain up all you want, I’m getting paid and followers. So.” His gaze found the camera.
“What are you waiting for?”
When the screen went black, before flickering to a birds-eye view, and then a close up of my house, I felt my legs give-way.
As if on impulse, I prodded at my mouth and felt for the loose tooth.
“That…” Kaz spoke up, his voice a breathy whisper. His eyes were still glued to the screen. “That… wasn’t me! Well, it was me... but I don’t… I don’t remember that!”
Instead of answering him, I turned to the startled looking boy when alarm bells started ringing, and the room was suddenly awash in red.
“Peeking!” Annalise screamed, dropping to her knees, rocking backwards and forwards.
Ignoring her, I focused on Kaz. Or whoever the fuck he was. “You need to knock my tooth out. Now."
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2023.03.24 21:16 twenty_liu When my father died, he left me a box of cassette tapes. I wish I'd never listened to them.
The last time I saw my father, my priorities in life were figuring out which houses on my street would be giving out the full-size candy bars, or how to score an invitation to Samantha’s birthday party at the zoo. So when I received news that he had died, I didn’t feel sad. I didn’t feel much of anything.
My brother, he had moved to London to be closer to his wife’s family and mom passed away a few years ago. Breast cancer. I don’t often think about my father but in those last months I’d thought about him a lot. I had to stay an extra year to finish up my degree and by the time I had graduated only my brother brought flowers to the ceremony.
So it came as a complete surprise when I found out that my father was not only a well-respected psychologist, with books and everything to his name, but also a well-respected psychologist who had left his entire estate to me. An actual mansion (albeit in Maine) with the eight bedrooms and those lawn hedges that needed frequent trimmings. I guess he never remarried either.
I’ve been living at the mansion for about a week now, going through his old things, tidying up where I can. It feels invasive in a way, and nosy, because I’m really just his daughter in namesake only. The mansion itself is like something out of a Disney movie; there are these white marble, twin staircases that wrap around the entrance when you first walk in and I’m still finding new corridors and doors that lead to rooms I haven’t seen. The main living room (there are a total of three) echos when you talk just above a whisper and a single bedroom in this place is about the size of my apartment back in LA.
Despite all that, I decided pretty quickly that I wanted to sell this place, not just because this is way too much space for one person, but because there’s something about it that gives me the creeps. It’s not run down or anything; no cobwebs in the corners or rotting wood beams, and if there are stairs that lead to a basement torture chamber, I haven’t found them yet.
No, it’s because there are these giant velvet wall hangings with some sort of crest or symbol on them that I don’t recognize. There’s a circle and in the middle there’s an assortment of rectangles and a line running through them, looking almost like a circuit board– I’ll be the first to admit I’m not the best at describing these things. One wall hanging, I could understand. But why are they in every single room, draped over chairs and blocking out windows?
And then there are the framed portraits. I found one that must’ve been my father; he vaguely resembled the man I remembered and I could see my eyes in his. But the other photos, men and women of all races ranging from early twenties to what looked like eighty. Who were they? There must’ve been about a hundred or so of these photos, placed all over the mansion and even a week later I’m still discovering new ones in the oddest places. Just yesterday night, I was reading on my phone when a noise outside startled me. When I went to pick up my phone, I found another portrait under the bed.
On top of that I’m a city girl through and through, and here, you get blank stares just mentioning the word “traffic”. It’s also about a twenty minute drive to the nearest grocery store, and all of the houses around me might as well have their own zip codes.
But it was what I found tonight that was by far the most unnerving. I’d just finished dinner - Mac and Cheese with cut up hotdogs - a dish that felt almost insulting to the kitchen it was made in, when I decided I’d spend some time tonight organizing more of my father's things. I had KEEP, DONATE, SELL, and TRASH piles with the KEEP pile looking the most lonely by far.
There was one room I hadn’t spent much time in, that I had only peeked in for a brief moment when I first arrived. Judging by the handsome mahogany desk, the floor-to-wall bookshelves and the velvet green chaise lounge and leather chair, it was unmistakably my father’s office. There was something about this room that I wanted to save for last and there was no real reason for it, nothing I could express in words, anyways.
The room had been arranged with obvious care. I felt a sense of familiarity when I walked in, traced my fingers across these books I’d never heard of, wondered if my father had actually read of all them or if they were for display only. But it was what was tucked under his desk that caught my attention, a cardboard box with a single word scribbled on it.
My name. My father wanted me to find this - but why?
I wasted no time in peeling off the packing tape, bracing myself for disappointment but hoping for something more. Well, it was a good thing I had prepared because I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t a little let down by what was in the box.
Cassette tapes. Twenty or so cassette tapes, stacked neatly in rows and on top of each other. I pulled a few from the top and they were all labeled with names and a number - patients of my father, perhaps?
Now, I may be showing my age here but I’ve never actually used a cassette player. It was by method of deduction that I spotted one sitting on my father’s desk, and after consulting trusty old Google, I was able to play the first tape.
To protect the identity of his patients, I’m going to use initials here. But I wanted to transcribe this session because while I’ve never been to therapy myself, something about this feels off to me. This is the tape that’s been labeled “RT 1”.
Dr. Ashton: Good afternoon. I’m Dr. Ashton, you must be R.
RT: (Ahem) Yes. Yes I am.
Dr. Ashton: Well R, the floor is all yours. Would you like to talk about what’s been on your mind?
RT: I’m a bit nervous right now, if you couldn’t tell. (Laughs) Too much caffeine this morning, that’s why my hands are shaky. See?
Dr. Ashton: Can’t blame you, coffee is what gets me through most days. I hope I’m not the one making you nervous, I promise my friends down at county jail all say I’m really nice.
RT: (Laughs) No! No it’s not you. It’s just uh, this is my first time doing this, y’know? My boyfriend he uh, he’s been kinda nagging me to do this, therapy.
Dr. Ashton: Mhm.
RT: It’s just. He wants us to come out to our families. It’s been a whole year, so I get where he’s coming from, I do. But my parents, my family. I don’t think they would…
Dr. Ashton: Support you. You don’t think they would understand.
RT: It’s not just that. My family, they uh. Think the term here is “religious fanatics”? (Laughs) Like straight up drank the Kool-Aid, think all sinners are going to Hell, burn in eternal damnation and all that.
Dr. Ashton: But you don’t believe in any of that.
RT: Of course not! I mean, c’mon. It’s 2019. You’d think that by now people can think for themselves.
Dr. Ashton: So it sounds like your family, they have some views you don’t agree with. And it’s causing issues in your relationship. Have you thought about putting some distance? Between you and them.
RT: Yeah. We talked about moving outta this place, to New York or maybe Seattle. That would be nice, I think. Different. But my mom, she uh. Well she has Alzheimer's. And I know in a few years she’s not going to… going to all be there. I know, right? If she knew I were gay she’d tell me I’m going to burn in Hell without even blinking. But she’s still my mom. Woman who raised me. Must be all that Catholic guilt in me. (Laughs)
Dr. Ashton: Tell me about your partner. How’d you two meet?
RT: Grindr. Romantic right? (Laughs) Neither of us were really looking for anything serious, but when you’re one of like 100 gay men within a 50 mile radius and you meet someone you actually click with? It was just supposed to be drinks, our first date. Then one bar turned to two, then three, and before you know it, it’s 4 in the morning and we’re getting burgers and milkshakes at Denny’s. I think the both of us knew what we had found.
Dr. Ashton: And how’s the relationship been? Any issues besides…
RT: Besides the one thing that’d destroy my relationship with my family? Ha! Things are nice, they’ve been good. I work nights and he works a 9 to 5 so our schedules don’t always line up but… we make it work.
Dr. Ashton: Am I sensing some hesitation there?
RT: Nothing gets past you doctor.
Dr. Ashton: Please, call me Gabriel.
RT: Oh uh, sure. But yeah it’s just that… okay so, I like my job. I work security at the hospital and I know it’s not the most prestigious thing in the world and I’m not making the big bucks. But I like it. I’ve always been more of uh, more of a night owl. And I really like my coworkers, y’know? It just feels familiar to me.
Dr. Ashton: Mhm.
RT: But M. He… he wants me to quit. To find something with more “normal hours”.
Dr. Ashton: Why does he want that?
RT: I guess it’s because he wants us to spend more time together? I don’t know. I think it’s sweet that he wants to see me more. We don’t live together right now and uh, it’s really only the weekends when we can see each other.
Dr. Ashton: And you’re okay with that? Only seeing him on the weekends?
RT: I mean, no. I want to see him more too. But it’s my job, you know? I’m not just gonna quit my job. And well, to be honest I’ve always had the feeling that… that he…
Dr. Ashton: That he?
RT: … that he looks down on it? I’m not sure. I don’t know if it’s in my head or… He’s never said anything to me, just wanna be clear. But when we’re out with his friends, he makes these little… little comments. Am I making any sense?
Dr. Ashton: Can you give an example? Of these comments.
RT: Yeah like uh, he’ll say stuff about how he’s the sugar daddy in the relationship. Jokingly, of course. He does make a lot more than me. What with his fancy remote job. We’re not living together right now but it’s something we've talked about. And I know you have to discuss finances before moving in with someone, I get that. But he’s always bringing up how he wants a partner to contribute equally to bills, that he doesn’t want to be supporting anyone. I get all of that! But it’s just something about the way he says it…
Dr. Ashton: Do you feel like these comments are digs at your character? At you?
RT: Honestly? Yeah I do. Like if he has a problem with how much I’m making, just tell me. We’re both adults right? Gotta communicate and all that?
Dr. Ashton: It almost sounds like he’s ashamed of you.
RT: You know what? I think that’s exactly it. I think he might be ashamed of me.
Dr. Ashton: So M, he wants you to tell your family about your relationship, even though that’s not what you want to do.
Dr. Ashton: And he looks down on your job, makes these comments in front of his friends. Do you ever wonder what he says to them when you’re not there?
Dr. Ashton: R, it sounds like people have always been telling you what to do, your family telling you what to believe in, M telling you that you need to go to therapy, you need to find a different job. Doesn’t that get exhausting?
Dr. Ashton: It sounds exhausting to me. Can I tell you something that I learned way too late in life?
RT: What’s that?
Dr. Ashton: “No” is a complete sentence. It’s okay to set boundaries, especially with those closest to you.
RT: I… I guess you’re right.
Dr. Ashton: And R? I don’t know if anyone’s ever told you this, or even if you think this about yourself. But I’m going to tell you right now, that you are enough.
RT: No one’s ever said that to me.
Dr. Ashton: Can you say it to yourself right now?
RT: Ha. Yeah uh, I… I am enough?
Dr. Ashton: There are always going to be outside influences R, like a close-minded family or a partner that doesn’t see your potential. But what’s important is that you see it in yourself. Because I see it in you. I see a man who has passion for what he does, who values the bonds of family, who desires to love and to be loved. A man who’s deserving.
RT: I… I’ve never really thought of myself in that way Dr. Ash– Gabriel.
Dr. Ashton: Well, that’s what I’m here for, R. To offer a new perspective. To help you see these things that you might not even have known.
RT: Wow, yeah. I mean. I just… You’ve given me a lot to think about. Really.
Dr. Ashton: And right on schedule, it looks like our time is up. I’ll be seeing you again next week? Same time?
RT: Yeah. Yeah I think I’ll be seeing you again.
I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t nice to hear my father’s voice again. A longing I didn’t even know I had. It had been so many years, yet hearing him brought me back to chasing ice cream trucks in the summer, flying kites on those especially windy days.
The therapy session itself, I’m no expert but it was a little weird, right? A little too personal? If anyone has more experience with this I’d love to know your thoughts because I plan on going through all of these tapes.
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2023.03.22 19:31 micktalian The Gardens of Deathworlders (Part 13)
Part 13: What you don't know can hurt you (Part 1) (Part 12) [A/N This one gets kinda dark in the second half so... yeah this is your warning.]
"How did you cook this meat to make it so…" Atxika was struggling to find the right words to describe what she was tasting. "It's rich, tender, flavorful, slightly sweet, and… something else."
"Buttery." Mik replied with pride clear in his voice. "I used a lot of butter and garlic when I seared it, then a lot more when I broiled it. The garlic makes it slightly sweet, but it's the butter that really kicks it up a notch."
"Is it real butter? Where'd yah even get it?" Sarah's question came through muffled as she was still savoring a particularly juicy bite of steak.
"You aren't gonna believe this..." Mik's grin grew a bit coy and he hoped she would get the reference without completing it.
"Do I even want to know what butter is?" Tens asked while watching some of the oil drip from the bite at the end of his fork.
"It's another dairy product, but this is a synthesized version of it. Also perfect copy though." The Martian clarified before taking another bite.
As soon as Mik said that, both Tens and Atxika shot each other questioning glances. The grand buffet they were treated to the night before had been incredibly delicious, with Atxika having found a new love for cheese and ice cream. However, no amount of lactase and digestive enhancers could completely offset the amount of dairy she had consumed. Though Atxika didn't want to discuss the details, it was obvious her digestive system wasn't adapted to that kind of food. Despite the aftermath later on in the evening, the delicacies had all been so good she couldn’t refuse the invitation for an afternoon tour and dinner on Mik's ship, assuming she could safely consume the food.. The slightly modified diner table the four were all seated remained quiet for an awkward second as the oddly paired couple hesitated to continue eating.
"Don't worry, it doesn't have lactose or anything like that in it." Mik commented after seeing the look they were giving each other. "And y'all ate so much cheese and ice cream at the buffet that it would give an avid milk enthusiast stomach problems."
"I was about to say," Tens’s voice had a building laugh, "if this is anything like the dairy from yesterday, my future would include me gripping onto a toilet for dear life."
"Speaking of future activities." Atxika quickly changed the subject while using the side of her fork, rather than her knife, to cut another bite out of the incredibly tender meat. "After seeing this vessel of yours, I am quite curious as to your plans for your new one."
"Honestly, I'm not entirely sure." The expression on the bearded man's face implied he had lots of ideas, but hadn't finished thinking through any of them.
"Not gonna let yahr da borrow it, are yah?" Sarah chimed in with a note of genuine concern in her voice.
"Nah, fuck that guy. He and I had a pretty big falling out after I got out of the hospital." Mik's smile had all but disappeared at the mention of his dad. "Asshole thought me getting hurt would make me join his bullshit crusade."
"Ah." Sarah suddenly regretted her question. "I… uh…"
"Don't worry about it." Mik let his smile come back, though it seemed to be hiding something. "We'll talk about that later. But right now, I wanna talk about giant spaceships! Speaking of, how do you use your quite impressive vessel, Admiral?"
"Didn't Mia or Tarki explain all that during your tour?" Sarah blurted out while Atxika was still savoring the bite steak she had just put in her mouth.
"Well, they didn't give me a tour." Mik admitted while shooting Tens a nod. "Homeboy gave me one when we were high as shit a few days ago." Suddenly his demeanor completely changed as he quickly looked back and forth between Tens and Atxika. "I didn't just rat you out to the Misses, did I?"
"Ha!" Tens blurted out while Atxika covered her mouth as she giggled slightly. "She's the Admiral! She's got cameras everywhere."
"I neither professionally care, nor personally care, if Tens gets intoxicated on his personal time." The Qui’ztar added after quickly swallowing the bite she had been savoring. Her tone even seemed to imply she would be participating if she were in a position to do so. "I trust that he is a mature enough adult to act responsibly, despite how young he is."
There was a moment of pause where both Mik and Sarah's expressions became befuddled by the way Atxika referred to Tens as 'young'. To someone that didn't know the difference between Human and Qui’ztar aging, it would have been easy to assume that all four people seated together were roughly the same age. Though Mik had come to learn he was a few years younger than Tens, it would have been fair to assume the Martian was the oldest person in the room. Sarah, who was the same age as Mik but lacked the same obvious facial scars and wrinkles, didn't even have the same youthful demeanor and appearance as Tens. For Atxika, her rather sharp and toned features made her appear just as young and spry as her significant other. Hearing Atxika refer to Tens as in that way was not something either of them expected.
"Young as in years since birth." Seeing the looks she was getting, Atxika tried to explain the best she could with her limited understanding of biology. "Your species ages much faster than mine, especially during the prime of your life. I turned 57 this year but I won't start losing my strength for another decade or two. And I could easily live another 70 years if I stay in good health."
"And since I'm 34, I'd be lucky to live another 70 years." Tens jokingly added.
"You fuckin’ better." Atxika's voice sounded harsh for a second as reached over and pulled Tens into a side hug and kissed the top of his head lovingly.
"Daaaw!" Sarah cooed at the affectionate display before turning back to Mik. "But wait, yah seriously didn't see all the shite this ship has on it? It's like a full on colony station, just covered in guns."
"I mean, we saw it." Mik shrugged and gave her a blank look. "And it gave me a bunch of ideas to work from. I wanted to ask for some practical, personal advice from someone who runs a ship like the one I'm getting."
"Well, if you want my personal advice." Atxika spoke in a way that implied she would enjoy sharing that information as she slowly peeled herself from Tens. "The first thing you need to do is establish your mission. If you don't know what you want to use a ship like that for, it'll just become a useless money pit. For example, The Hammer’s mission is to act as a mobile fortress and base of operations for my Matriarch's fleet. He was specifically built with features in mind to accommodate that mission."
"Yeah, all that sounds pretty important." Sarah commented before squinting slightly and staring at Mik. "What kinda features did yah ask that robot guy to build yah, huh?
"Right now, it's just the spine, hull, and basic backbone infrastructure." Mik innocently replied. "It'll have the automated production facilities to build it up however I want later though."
"Did you have anything specific in mind?" Atxika's question carried a curious amusement.
"I think it would be really cool to have it be an extension of ChaosU." Mik leaned back in his chair and began stroking his beard. "Here’s what I was thinking. It'll have a bigger habitation and amenities section than The Hammer, but that'll also include a bunch of classroom facilities. More science stuff and places set up for students to do experiments safely. And, of course, a huge ass forest running through the whole thing. "
"But how would you generate revenues to pay for overheard?" Atxika quickly followed up. However, judging by Miks sudden change in expression, he hadn't considered the Admiral’s pointed question. "You have to take into account expenses such as crew costs, maintenance, upkeep, expenditures, and anything else that can come up. A ship like that can be self-sustaining, but not without careful planning and consideration."
"Yeah Mik, tell us how yah gonna pay for it wll?" Sarah chided with a mocking tone.
"I hadn't really thought about that." He replied while resuming stroking his beard.
"Oi, tell me this then. What vidja game yah get this hairbrained idea from?" The ginger poked him on the shoulder while he turned his head to shoot her a glare.
"TV show, actually." Mik couldn't help but let a smile peek through. "The one I tried to get you to watch with me for a while."
"Anime? Of course, you fuckin’ dweeb!" The ginger’s overly dramatic reaction and insult that didn't properly translate caused Tens to instinctively start chuckling.
"I have to admit." Tens's voice became slightly excited as he thought about the potential. "Having a school in space, where you could actually go and see the stuff you're learning about, would be way better than anything I've ever heard of."
"That idea certainly does have some interesting possibilities." Atxika commented while her mind ran through the logistics of that mission profile. "It would certainly be possible to run an operation like that, assuming profit was not an objective. It may even become profitable, depending on how much you charge the students, of course."
"I mean, I'd want it to be free." Mik said to the shock and confusion of everyone else at the table. "Like how ChaosU is free."
"Oh, so kinda 'free', but not really." Sarah rebutted while using air quotes when she said 'free'.
"What do you mean by 'free' in this context?" Tens asked the question that both he and Atxika were thinking, but Sarah already knew.
"It mostly gets paid for by tax revenues and donations." Tens half clarified. "Everyone pays for the education of the next generation because they had their education paid for by the previous one."
"Except if yah aren't a MarsGov citizen." Sarah explained with a tone that implied personal experience in the matter. "Then yah gotta pay out the arse just to get there. Sure, tuition is free. But yah still gotta pay for room and board and all that other shite. That'll cost yah an arm and a leg."
"I mean, there are loan forgiveness and work-study programs." Mik half defended his university. "But I was thinking something a bit more galactic scale."
"Oh?" Atxika's voice suddenly became far more interested in all this.
"Wait, like an intentionally interspecies school?" Tens was almost bouncing in excitement over the idea. "There's only a handful of those, and they're all incredibly prestigious."
"Oh, that's a thing already?" Mik almost sounded disappointed at the easily predictable revelation that he wasn't the first to want to put such an idea into practice.
"Yes, I graduated from such an institution." Atxika sat up a bit straighter in her chair to give this explanation the proper respect it deserved. "I was at the top of my class at the Grand Military Academy of Mui'Luiotl University. Though the university existed for several hundred years before my species' Ascension, we ultimately opened our enrollment to more and more species over time. It now operates as a fully interspecies institution, which is primarily funded by various GCC members, and accepts applications from the entire GCC. It took a few centuries to make all the proper accommodations for the less abled, but it was worth the costs."
"Wait, like disability accommodations?" Sarah's tone implied that the question was touching on something personal.
"We- we don't like to phrase it like that when it comes to other species." Tens interjected and used the word 'we' to imply the Nishnabe, but not necessarily the Qui’ztar. "A Kyim'ayik isn't disabled just because they struggle to move on Shkegpewen or can't physically speak our language. It's almost twice the gravity they evolved under and they have a different anatomy. However, some of the accommodations can be similar. But on Shkegpewen, for example, there are separate, more thorough, accommodations we make for people who are genuinely disabled."
"What do yah mean by that?" Though Sarah was slightly suspicious at the implications, the tone of Tens’s voice seemed to denote genuine compassion.
"It depends on the person and their individual needs. But, like with my cousin Kyet, you remember him, right Atx?" Tens briefly turned to Atxika who responded with a nod and pleasant smile.
"Oh, sweet young man. Very compassionate with animals." She added in a considerate but slightly off tone. "Just a bit…"
"He's 40 now but he still very much has the mind of a child. Like an 6 year old child. But he loves animals. So we found a way for him to really feel like he's part of society while working with animals." As Tens spoke, it almost looked like Sarah was holding back tears. "He works for the Wildlife Conservation Council and puts in more hours than almost anyone else there because it's what he truly loves doing. They just make sure he isn't around animals that can hurt him, or that he could accidentally hurt. And because he works so much, he has more money than he knows what to do with."
"I love it." Mik replied while Sarah was still speechless. "Sadly, I don't think we have anything on Earth, or even Mars, that's quite like that."
"I'm glad yah can fess up that yah ain't perfect over there." Sarah quickly caught her snarky comment and continued in a much more considered wah. "But yeah, both our governments should really do more for the less-abled. Outta everyone, they deserve government assistance the most."
"To be fair, it isn't really our government doing anything, it's just people." Tens tried to clarify, however this only brought on confused expressions. "The government doesn't really treat him differently from anyone else. There's no special status or anything like that. People just do what they can to help people like him be happy and contribute to the Whole. Like I've said before, there's also something to do, even if it isn't absolutely essential."
"See, we have a vaguely similar concept, but I think there's one big difference." Mik's tone had suddenly become very academic as he carefully tried to change the topic away from something he knew Sarah was sensitive about. "We don't do things because they necessarily make us happy, or contribute to society and the universe around us. We do things simply because they generate wealth."
"Well, there's nothing wrong with generating wealth." Atxika interjected a bit too defensively. "My fleet does operate on a for-profit basis for the GCC Military Command. We generate enough revenue to both sustain the fleet and bring home wealth for our Matriarchy to help reduce the taxes required to fund our internal programs."
"Wait, how does that work?" Fearing that she may let something too personal slip, Sarah was glad to keep this new line of discussion going.
"It's part of the system related to the bounty Mikhail received." Atxika replied while gesturing toward Mik and then continued to cut up the last few bites of her steak to make it last longer. "My fleet's cut of that bounty could entirely fund the next few dozen deployments. However, we are using the funds to both improve the fleet and invest in our Matriarchy and people's quality of life. There are a massive variety of situations similar to that where a government, the GCC themselves, have problems that require solving. But they are either unable or unwilling to do so themselves. Either a government specifically will make a request and pay for a particular mission, or funds are provided from the GCC itself."
"So, yall just go around killing eldritch space monsters and get paid for it?" Mik's eyes had grown wide as he began thinking about living out more video game fantasies in real life.
"Kinda, but not really." Tens clarified for Atxika as she took a bite to avoid the question and be forced to make herself sound less cool. "Like, we do fight the occasional pirate and slavers. This last deployment we even ran a small campaign against some Chigagorians. But there's way more training, classes, and waiting for something to happen than actual fighting."
"Ah, just like any other military." Sarah laughed as she thought about all the hurrying up and waiting she had done over the past 4 years.
"And that is why our accommodation section has grown in the way that it has." From her many years as the Admiral of The Hammer, Atxika had hundreds of stories she could tell about the ways bored soldiers found entertainment. "By providing safe and controlled facilities for my crew to… relieve stress and boredom, it keeps them at their peak performance for when they're needed."
"Trying to keep the number of arrests in port down?" Though Mik's joke caused everyone to laugh, Atxika’s chuckle was especially hardy.
"Barely!" Mik and Sarah's translators picked up through the Admiral's laughter. "Doesn't matter what you do or what port it is, someone always manages to get themselves in trouble with local law enforcement. Every. Single. Time."
"Well, no sir. I don't think something like that would be possible." Sarah was shocked to hear her commanding officer try to continue a mission that had already clearly failed. "All of the information regardless of whatever drive system was used is beyond secure. I couldn't get access to it even if I tried."
"I don't think you understand the position you are in, Agent." The stern expression of the face being displayed on the screen implied the man considered that response to be insubordination. "Your mission objectives were clear and you are required to fulfill them per your contract."
"Sir, with all do respect, I am fully aware of the fact I am currently on an alien warship, surrounded by one of the most impressive military forces in the galaxy, and speaking on an unsecured line." Sarah hoped the General would be wise enough to recognize what she was trying to tell him.
"I was guaranteed that this line was secured by-" The General was suddenly taken aback by the direct tone Sarah had taken with him before she cut him off.
"For diplomatic purposes, sir." Sarah clarified. "They probably won't consider an intelligence operation to be covered under that diplomatic privilege."
"UHI is demanding results and that is not up for debate, Agent." The now more aggressive tone coming from the man on screen suddenly reminded Sarah of what Gabriel had mentioned to her. "That technology could disrupt the entire shipping industry and you either need to get your hands on it or make sure that MarsGov doesn't. Your contract is dependent on it. If we do not get the results we expect, you can consider it, and your position, terminated."
And with that, the face on the screen disappeared and Sarah was left alone with her thoughts. Though she had initially signed up for the Central Intelligence Division as a way to pay for college, things got far more complicated after a car accident killed her father and crippled her mother. Her father was the breadwinner for her family and his job as a manager at the local shipwrights helped pay the cost of treatment and accommodations for her mentally disabled brother. Now that she was the sole provider for both her mother and brother, the potential loss of income and benefits would make their life far more difficult than it already was. After a moment of staring at the black screen, Sarah leaned forward, rested her elbows on the desk, placed her head into her hands, and began to cry.
"I'm sorry for interrupting, Miss McAfree, but there is something I feel I am ethically bound to inform you of." The synthesized voice of The Hammer’s controlling AI called out to Sarah in a way that was as comforting as hand being gently placed on her shoulder.
"The fu-?" The woman replied in shock to the dimly light, empty room. "So yah were listenin'?"
"Oh, of course." Tylon replied while the lights in the roof shifted slightly and the holographic projection of the AI's dragon-like form appeared on the other side of the desk Sarah was seated at. "That was, quite obviously, not a diplomatic call. At this point, Military Command is… concerned about your government. Or, more specifically, certain small parts of your government which seem to have no accountability."
"So what?" Sarah asked while staring at the holograph, eyes still wet with tears.
"We are concerned, I am concerned, for the safety of you and your family." Tylon's simple statement caused Sarah's expression to become much more suspicious. "As part of the first contact team, defined by the first contact protocols for this particular event, you are guaranteed certain diplomatic protections. Protections which also extend to your direct family."
"Ok, but why are yah tellin' me this? It's not like I'm in physical danger, just financial." Sarah tried to clarify as she couldn't understand why Tylon was interrupting her with this.
"Are you sure about that?" The holographic dragon's face showed an expression of concern.
"What the fuck are gettin' at? Been listenin' to Mik too much are yah?" Sarah knew her government wasn't great, and it had a lot of areas it needed to improve on, but she couldn’t understand where any of this was coming from. "I don't care what that commie says, things aren't that bad. The dole is shit but-"
The hologram raised one of its claw hands to cut Sarah off as it was obvious by the look on its face that Sarah wasn't getting what he was saying. In Sarah’s personal experiences while growing up in what she considered to be upper-middle class, working-family household, life on Earth really wasn't that bad. There may have been a lot of people who survived universal basic income, but there really weren't any homeless people or anyone starving. Even on her family vacations to other countries, everyone seemed to have a decent minimum quality of life. If she lost her income and benefits from working for CID her family wouldn't starve, even if she had to stay home and take care of them both herself. Even though it would mean all of her dreams of one day becoming a space station administrator would be dead, neither she nor they would be.
"What I am about to share with you I have only shared with a very limited number of people who absolutely need to know." As Tylon started to speak, the screen in front of Sarah came to life and began displaying an UN-E Eyes-Only-Classification marked file. "I am not concerned about the minimum quality of life on your planet. I am solely concerned with the means by which your government enforces its control over its citizens."
"What the fuck is thi-" Sarah cut herself off as the shock of she was reading completely blindsided her. She knew her government did bad things, but not this. "This has to be fake."
"I am so sorry." Tylon’s holographic eyes showed the same pain that Sarah felt in her heart. "But now I hope you understand where the concern comes from and why we are having this discussion."
"Why didn't Gabriel do anything about this?" Sarah's voice had become completely despondent as she scrolled down and realized she wasn't the only person they had done this to.
On the screen in front of her was a CID report concerning the success of manipulating the circumstances surrounding UN-E citizens attending ChaosU. Everything from car accidents like the one her parents had been in to outright kidnapping and direct extortion. Anyone who had signed up for government aid to attend the prestigious and open Martian university was considered a target of these manipulations. If Tylon could find this information in its completely unredacted state, then surely both Gabriel and President River knew about it too. Though Old Man River's showing a relaxed attitude towards these forced spies now made sense, the lack of response from Gabriel did not.
"He is currently occupied in his meeting with Maser." Tylon began to explain in a tone which reflected Sarah's barely hidden rage. "But he explained it to me like this. His options were either to rain fire and brimstone as judgment down upon the sinners, and most likely cause untold suffering to innocent people in the process, or to work behind the scenes to do what he could to reduce the harm."
"My da is dead. My ma will never walk again." The tears were once again streaming down Sarah's face as she slowly began to break down. "I'll fuckin' kill the bastards with mah bare hands!"
"No." Tylon's voice came through in a way through said he truly understood her rage. "That would be too easy on them. What we will do is much worse."
submitted by micktalian
to HFY [link] [comments]
2023.03.22 09:29 BonesJackson My weekly grocery deal list 3/22 - 3/28
FREE Juantonio's Tortilla Chips 11-15oz digital coupon Weds only limit 1
Pork Sirloin Chops $0.88/lb bone-in
Produce Sale! Large Hass Avocados, Mangos, Iceberg Lettuce, Large Lemons $1/ea
Produce Sale! Vine Ripe Tomatoes, Large Fuji APples, Large Navel Oranges $1/lb
Ice Cream Signature Select and Baskin Robbins 2 for $6
Coca Cola, Pepsi, 7UP 6-packs 3 for $11
Tostitos, Ruffles, Lays, Sun Chips $2.49 when you buy 3
Challenge or Danish Creamery butter 16oz $2.99 digital coupon limit 4
Tillamook shredded, sliced, chunk or cream cheese $2.49 digital coupon
Gallo Salame 13-15oz $4.99 digital coupon limit 4
Mandarins 3lb bag $2.77 digital coupon limit 1
80/20 Ground Beef 6lb pack $1.88/lb digital coupon
Fresh Salmon 7oz $3.99/ea digital coupon limit 4
Deli Cookies or Brownies 4-16ct? $2.99/ea digital coupon limit 2
Signature Select Apple Juice 64oz $0.99 digital coupon limit 2
Garlic or Shallots 3 for $1
Avocados bagged 7ct $3.99 digital coupon limit 1
Haagen Dazs bars or 14oz containers 2 for $5 digital coupon limit 1 Friday only
Medium Avocados , Bell peppers, Cucumbers, Large Tomatoes, Large Navel Oranges, Yellow Onions $0.88/lb
Foster Farms whole chicken $0.99/lb
Shrimp 16/20ct $4.99/lb
Fresh Express salads 2 for $5
Blueberries Blackberries Raspberries 6oz buy 1 get 1
Canned Tuna 5oz $0.50/ea digital coupon limit 5
Fresh French Bread loaves $0.99 Fri Sat Sun
Russet Potatoes 5lb bag 2 for $3 F S S
Tuna Frozen steaks 2 pack $3.99 F S S
Post Cereals 10-12oz $1.99 when you buy 2 F S S
Doritos Lays Ruffles Party Size $2.99 when you buy 3 F S S
Coca Cola Pepsi 7UP 6pack $2.99 when you buy 3 F S S
Ragu pasta sauce 16-24oz 2 for $4 digital coupon
UTZ bulk cheese balls (cheesy poofs?) 20-23oz $4.99 digital coupon
Bayview canned vegetables 15oz 10 for $10
Navel Oranges $0.97/lb
Marie Callender's Bowl or Health Choice Cafe Steamers $2.47 digital coupon limit 4
Sunnyside Farms Butter 16oz $2.97 digital coupon limit 4
Foster Farms chicken nuggets 33.6oz $4.97 digital coupon limit 4
Pace Picante Salsa $1.97 digital coupon limit 4
Volpi diced pancetta or prosciutto 4oz $3.97 digital coupon limit 4
Ruffles, Doritos, Simply Cheetos $2.49/ea when you but 3
Cheez Its, Pringles $2.49/ea when you buy 2
Raley's Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts $1.77/lb digital coupon limit 2
Cheerios Large Size $2.97/ea digital coupon limit 4
Chips Ahoy 7-13oz $1.97/ea digital coupon limit 4
Smart & Final:
Chicken Dark meat $0.99/lb limit 4
Strawberries 1lb 2 for $5
Green or Red Seedless Grapes 3lb pack $5.99
Navel Oranges $0.99/lb
Ataulfo Mangos $0.79/lb
Wheat Thins or Oreos Family Size $3.99
Allegra Pasta 16oz $0.99/ea
First Street canned vegetables 14.5-15.5oz $0.99/ea
Tropicana OJ 52oz $3.49/ea digital coupon limit 4
Pork Shoulder $1.99/lb
White Onions 3lbs for $0.99
Pork Leg $1.57/lb
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Whole Tilapia $1.99/lb
Salt 26oz $.079/ea
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Roma Tomatoes 2lbs for $0.99 Weds Sat Sun only
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Pasilla peppers $0.69/lb Weds only
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Green beans $0.99/lb Weds only
Beef Flap Meat $8.97/lb Sat Sun only
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Broccoli or Cauliflower $0. 79/lb
Iceberg Lettuce $0.79/ea
Limes 2lbs for $3
Pineapples 2lbs for $0.99
Monterey Jack Cheese bulk Joseph Farms $3.79/lb
Queso Fresco $3.99/lb
submitted by BonesJackson
to MontereyBay [link] [comments]
2023.03.21 11:12 NoDoctor4460 1960s Koala Cafeteria Restaurant menu, Hotel Maria Isabel, Mexico City
2023.03.21 05:47 refture My 2023 guide for Boba in the Greater Sacramento Region
I'm a foodie that visits local restaurants and shops twice a week to support our local economy and recently, I've been obsessed with boba. Well okay, I've been obsessed with boba for a long time and I reckon it would be nice to share my favorite boba locations for this subreddit.
First and foremost, I'd like to explain different kind of boba places because it can get kinda confusing. Most boba shops are actually franchises from Taiwan, the most prominent right now is T4 since they have a lot of locations. Back then, it was only Quickly and Tapioca Express but nowadays we have a lot of options.
Then we also have other franchises like Bober, ShareTea, Presotea and the likes. And finally we have home-brewed locations that started here and finally starting to spread elsewhere like Rose Tea Lounge.
Anyways, to start, I'd like to keep it simple by just making my personal top 10 boba shops.
As always, it's subjective and I'm sorry in advance if I didn't pick your favorite boba shop locations.
- Presotea (Elk Grove) - The reason this place is number 1 is because most of their drinks are above average, most other boba shops specialize in specific style of drinks like Happy Lemon with their salted cheese but I find Presotea to have great milk tea, smoothie and tea. Also they brew their tea when they're making the drinks instead of making it hours prior.
- Rose Tea Lounge (Elk Grove) - This is a great one with obvious inspirations from boba shops at LA like Omomo. Similar to Presotea, they have great drinks all around, though it's obvious their milk tea flavor is outright stolen from Ding Tea's milk tea, but I don't care, it taste great.
- Feng Cha (Folsom) - Best brown sugar drinks in the boba franchises, its called Dirty Boba, but strangely enough, this location is different compare to other locations. In here, you have to make sure to order Dirty Boba with Creme Brulle. That creme brule is a must, other locations add it for free.
- Teaspoon (Davis or Roseville) - This franchise is a bit more different compare to the rest due to their modern take on flavors. They basically mix their flavors and sell it as such like The Lady Bug which is a Passion Fruit with Kumquat flavoring. Their milk tea, while strong, is great as well. Again, this is a modern take to boba shop flavors, but I find this place has the best offerings during summer because of how refreshing the flavors are.
- ShareTea (Davis) - A classic franchise that momentarily having a lot of troubles. Elk Grove used to have one but now it's called Trustea since they broke away from franchise (same flavor still). The great thing about this place are their coffee milk tea, fruit tea and smoothie with ice cream on it. It's a shame that the Natomas location closed down.
- Happy Lemon (multiple locations but I prefer 65th street) - This boba shop specialize in a drinks with salted cheese as a foam. I know it sounds weird but it's addicting. Just get the A1 or A2 and make sure to sip it instead of using a straw.
- Ding Tea (South Sacramento) - Shaky suggestion ever since the ownership change but still probably one of the better places to get black milk tea.
- T% (Midtown) - Again, another shaky suggestion because of their inconsistency the past times I've tried. You can do better but if you're in the area, you might as well.
- T4 (16th Street) - Multiple locations of this but 16th street is probably the best one. Anyways they used to be the hype a few years ago during the advent of boba shops but it quickly died down as more specialized boba shops open in the region. I recommend their Green Tea with Mango Ice Cream and Rose Oolong Milk Tea here.
- Tapioca Express (Natomas) - Very very old establishment and a franchise as a whole but honestly? It's for the best. This boba shop doesn't specialize in anything and they pre-make everything but that is okay, it's not for everyone, but that is okay and hands down one of the best places to customize a drink. You want mango with honeydew snow? You got it.
- I completely forgot about two boba shops, both at North Natomas. One is called T18 which has great strong milk teas and Mr. Sun with their fruit tea (I always get their Mango Green Tea). They are both respectively in the top 5 spot but at this point, I'm too lazy to rearrange it. But if you're curios, I would probably put Mr. Sun at #3 spot and T18 at #5 spot which would bump down pretty much all the boba shops downward of it. Then of course there's tastea but I only get their watermelon heaven during summer haha
And before anyone mentions Bober, I'm sorry but I just don't like the place. Their tea taste like watered down tea with a hint of dirty rag to it. And yes... I tried it 4 times with the same experience. I can't fathom why it's still open but hey, it's my personal opinion.
submitted by refture
to Sacramento [link] [comments]
2023.03.20 23:55 scemes Rayzor Ranch Panda Express
Why dont they have cream cheese rangoons anymore :(
submitted by scemes
to Denton [link] [comments]
2023.03.20 21:34 MatchaBunnyCos Proper Intro cause I haven't done one yet