They Took the Mask Off

Submitted by Bill St. Clair on Mon, 22 Apr 2019 06:44:44 GMT  <== Gloryroad ==> 

by George Potter

They took the mask off and
children burned,
and I ran outside
and vomited in the yard
and my dad picked the TV up
ripped it from the wall
and hurled it through a window
and said
in a dead cold voice:
"America has ended."

(He used to say "the American people"
and you could hear the pride.
Now he says "the American people"
and all you can hear is disgust.)

You were wrong, Mr. Elliot.
The world does not end
with a bang or a whimper.
Some worlds end
with the unheard screams
of children burning alive
inside a church.

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Bad Patterns

Submitted by Bill St. Clair on Sat, 26 Apr 2014 22:07:09 GMT  <== Gloryroad ==> 

An admirer of George Potter's writing sent me an email, asking whether I knew where he could find George's book, Bad Patterns. I have a copy, which George sent me I don't remember how long ago, but I am not willing to part with it, for less than lots of $$. So I had an idea, an idea that I think George would have liked, an idea that may even be legal, since George included no copyright page in the book. I photographed the whole thing, and put it up on this web site.

Go to to start reading.

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Submitted by Bill St. Clair on Tue, 08 Mar 2011 13:40:18 GMT  <== Gloryroad ==> 

George Potter has penned a spooky tear-jerker. Click now. Read.

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Welcome Back to the Blogosphere, George

Submitted by Bill St. Clair on Tue, 02 Feb 2010 12:10:20 GMT  <== Gloryroad ==> 

George Potter is blogging again at Market Theocracy. Well, he made three posts yesterday. "Pack Mentality" with Claire, says George. Whatever. I hope he continues at least semi-regular blogging. And I hope he mails my copy of his new book real soon now.

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Bad Patterns

Submitted by Bill St. Clair on Tue, 01 Dec 2009 12:17:07 GMT  <== Gloryroad ==> 

George Potter is selling a new book of stories. You can read lots of his other stories here. Details at the link and copied below.

14 Weird Stories

I just finished putting the final touches on it and it's ready to print. I'm going to do it differently this time. Send money order or cash (sorry, all I'm set up to handle) to the address below, for a signed, dedicated copy. Price is $25.00 shipping included. Include the inscription you'd wish and name to be made out to.

First batch will ship the 15th of December, ten days before Xmas.

Mail to:

George Potter
31 CR 142
Tishomingo, MS

(Please leave money orders blank. Hard enough to cash with no ID. )

Details: 14 stories and an essay (also weird.) 225 pages, trade paperback. I'll have the cover art uploaded in a day or so.


In The Hall Of Kings, Hungover
Hex (Five Scenes From A Crowded Moment)
The Worthy Lord
Four Scenes (From A Sick Culture)
The Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter
Five Questions (With Insufficient Answers) And A Single Shining Maybe
Why I Stole Your Identity
On The Short End Of Bountiful, Sometimes Minnesota
Coffee With The Last Man On Earth
The Paper Man Escapes The Great Broken Heart
The Perfect Prayer
The Woman Who Hitch-Hiked With Cats
Afterword: A Map Of Mankind

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Coffee With The Last Man On Earth

Submitted by Bill St. Clair on Tue, 27 Oct 2009 20:15:25 GMT  <== Gloryroad ==> 

by George Potter
[from here]


Mary Ellen sets the table with her usual care and eye for detail: the crystal sugar jar, filled fresh with Domino dots. The two piece creamer set her daughter gave her for Christmas, sterling silver, one for half and half, the other for skim milk. A similar, smaller silver decanter, this one filled with just melted dark Bavarian baking chocolate, in case her guest has a taste for mocha.

Her guest, she says to herself, and smiles.

The tablecloth is her best, of course; the durable white linen inherited from her mother and lovingly cared for. It's not something she whips out for any old company. The fact that the last few years have seen sparse company is beside the point. The white linen whispers special from every thread, every carefully maintained fiber. She wants her guest to know how much she appreciates his visits.

"My guest," she says out loud. She giggles, surprising herself, then blushes. As usual, she feels like a schoolgirl.

She glances at the clock over the stove. Ten minutes till noon. He always arrives at noon sharp. Time to see to the coffee.

Mary Ellen is, to put it mildly, a coffee snob. Automatic drip technology is banned from her home, as she is a partisan of percolation. The pot she uses is another heirloom, this one from her grandmother. It's an all-in-one set from the early 1900's, kept beautiful and shining, cleaned after every use. It is designed to be placed on direct heat, and she's always careful not to set the gas flame too high. Fire smudges on her pot would be ghastly.

She buys her beans from a little store downtown, pricey but worth it. Her favored brew is a blend of Arabica and Jamaican Blue Mountain: it's mellow but with a surprising strength and a deeply earthy bouquet.

She grinds a portion, fills and caps the inner chamber, and carefully pours in the proper amount of ice cold spring water. She lights the stove, adjusts the flame and sits the pot on the heat to work its magic.

She takes her place at the table and waits. In some ways, this is the best part of these visits: the lovely anticipation. The delicious knowledge of company coming, of considering pleasant topics of conversation, of waiting to hear the laughter and see the smile of her very welcome guest. And all the while the cheery rattling gurgle of coffee being brewed, filling the air with that wonderful aroma.

A blessed moment.

As the minutes sweep by she thinks of her husband Mike, who passed on a decade ago, taken too young from stress and bad genetics. Only fifty six when he died. She thinks he would have liked her young guest, that they would have gotten along famously. Mike had been such a curious man, and such a lover of conversation. He could talk about far way lands and times for hours and hours.

And her guest could tell such stories!

The second hand finishes its sweep and the noon hour arrives.

With it comes her guest, fading into reality from nothingness. It takes less than three seconds, to go from an empty chair to her friend and coffee date Eric.

Eric is a young man, and handsome. He is about twenty, with large dark eyes and short blonde hair. He is tall and thin, but muscular. His face is somewhat delicate, but not feminine. His smile is lovely.

He wears a strange outfit. It looks something like a jumpsuit uniform, though the material is like nothing she has ever seen.

He is from, he says, a little over a million years in her future.

He is, he says, the last man on earth.

And he is here to save the human race.

"Good afternoon!" she says, as she always says.


The first time Eric visited, it scared Mary Ellen half to death. She turned around and was faced with a strange young man in her kitchen.

She'd actually yelled. The poor boy was more frightened than her after that. It was a testament to his charm and persuasiveness that, in less than ten minutes, she'd been so relieved and calmed that she could do her duty as a host with an invited guest and offer him coffee.

Eric took to her brew like an addict born. He praised it. Such things were only myths and legends where he came from, she learned.

That first day was so surreal, and -- even now -- she was amused at how quickly she had accepted his story. Perhaps it was simple loneliness that caused her to be so accepting, but she was of the mind that it didn't matter.

As the last man on Earth, the last human being, Eric too lived a life of loneliness. He had only the massive and indescribably powerful computer network for conversation. It was this computer that cracked the secret of time travel, and was -- even now -- running the vast simulations that would pinpoint the exact moment in the past where intervention would save the species. Save them from the catastrophe known as 'The Big Crash'

"It's somewhere close to the here and now," he assured her, enjoying his third cup. "We've established that. That's why I never leave your house. Until we know the exact moment, and what exactly to do, there's no point in me endangering the mission and perhaps mucking up the timeline further." He helped himself to a warm-up. "That and your wonderful company and excellent coffee, of course," he assured her with a grin.

So they talked, became friends. He told her stories of the far future and she told him stories of the near past. But mostly they talked about themselves. She spoke of her daughter's workaholic ways. How she was married to her job and the idea of grandchildren seemed less likely every day. She shared with him the bittersweet memories of her husband. He opened up about what it felt like to be engineered for a purpose, and how he'd never understood loneliness until he met her.

Secretly, Mary Ellen dreaded the day when the computer finished its work and Eric's goal was in reach. If he managed to alter the past and re-arrange the future, if he was given an entire society to interact with, why would he waste his time with her?

But she pushed such thoughts aside. She had never been a person to allow the end of a thing to spoil her enjoyment of it while it was happening. That, she knew, was a recipe for misery.

So, like a good cup of fine coffee, she savored it while she could, sip by delicious sip.


As soon as he doesn't respond to her greeting, Mary Ellen knows that something is wrong. Something horrible.

A glance at his eyes seals the deal. He looks despondent. He has been weeping. She goes immediately into damage control mode.

"My dear, what on Earth is wrong?"

He stares at her for a moment, tears threatening. Finally he speaks, his voice wavering.

"It's over," he says. The words have a funereal sound. "It's all over."

For a moment her heart goes cold, and she thinks he means their visits. But that's obviously not it, since here he is. A deeper concern strikes her.

"The computer?"

He nods, controlling himself with visible effort. "It finished the simulation this morning. There's nothing we can do. Nothing I can do."

"I don't understand," she says, mainly to keep him talking. She pours him a cup and adds his usual two lumps of sugar and dash of half-and-half.

"Neither do I, really," he admits. "The nature of time is still a mystery. But the computer is certain. There is no specific change that will alter my present in any way. The human species is dead, and will remain so." His voice comes close to breaking. "The Big Crash cannot be undone."

"Oh, my dear," she says, compassion flooding her. "How awful."

He takes a single sip of coffee, almost from habit. "The work of a lifetime. Made pointless in an instant."

"Not pointless," Mary Ellen says. "You had to try."

"Try and fail," he mutters. "What am I supposed to do now?" He stares at her with pleading eyes. "Why should I even bother any more?"

Mary Ellen realizes something, with the sudden flash that accompanied all her true insights: despite the eons between her and this young man he was exactly that, a young man. Why, he could be a grandson to her! What did technology or knowledge matter when faced with troubles that only experience could guide you through?

Half a million years of forward time meant less than forty three years of moment-by-moment experience. Despite his loneliness and drive, despite his vast intelligence and the information at his command, he had never experienced loss. He'd never felt it. He didn't know how to live through the pain.

Well, she did. She'd lost her parents and her only sister. She'd lost her husband. She'd lost friends and neighbors over the years. She wasn't used to it, of course -- you never became used to it. But she knew how to deal with it. How to keep on while the heart was hurting. How to let it ache without breaking.

And she could help him. She could help her friend.

"Eric, my dear," she begins, quietly. "You simply cannot let this haunt you."

He looks at her sharply. His expression wonders if she has gone mad.

"It will get you nowhere," she continues, pressing on. Her voice is steady and firm. "It will only lead to misery."

He is too taken aback for words at first. After a moment of struggle, he finds them. "Haunt me? Do you understand what I'm talking about? The last chance for the human race is gone. I have failed. Our species is extinct and shall remain extinct."

She nods. "Oh, I understand perfectly. I simply see no reason for you to beat yourself up over that fact. Nature is nature. What cannot be undone is done. Common sense." She smiles at him, a wise but cheerful smile.

His mouth is hanging open. He stutters, trying to argue.

Mary Ellen pushes ahead, unwilling to lose her momentum, her higher ground as she sees it.

"Everything dies, my dear. Everything. That's a fact of life and -- as you yourself and your wonderful computer have proven -- it cannot be changed."

Disbelief edges toward actual anger in his eyes. "A tragedy of this nature cannot be simply accepted as if..."

She cuts him off, knowing it's bad manners, knowing it may well increase his anger. She has to finish. "The only tragedy in death is if the life before the end was wasted. Was the human race cut short in its prime? Was the time it spend marvelling at the world and the universe in vain?"

Eric is stunned to silence. He slumps back in the chair.

"A million years from now you told me. A million years." She sips her coffee. "Seems like a nice long run."

"My purpose," he says, weakly.

She sniffs. "Your purpose is something only you can decide. It cannot be dictated or engineered into you." She sits her cup down, leans forward, and makes her final point.

"So. Will you waste your own life, wallowing in self pity and depression? You have so many years ahead of you. Will you cry them away? That would be a tragedy."

Eric closes his eyes, defeated. He sighs. Then he disappears, with a quiet sound and no fanfare. Without a farewell.

"Oh dear," Mary Ellen says. She didn't want that to happen. She decides not to worry on it. Her advice was solid, she should take it herself.

With nothing else to do, she clears the table and waits for tomorrow.


The next day dawns the same as any other, and Mary Ellen treats it as such. There is a bit of nervousness, an anxiety, as she goes through the routine of preparing coffee and setting the table, but she shoves such feelings deep into the back of her mind, remembering her own words from the day before. What is done is done.

The coffee is brewing, the kitchen filling with that blessed aroma, when Eric appears, right on time.

He smiles at her, not exactly cheerful, but without the heartbreak.

"Good afternoon, dear!" she says, as she always says.

His smile widens. He looks a little sheepish. "I thought about what you said," he tells her.

She nods, busy pouring. He thanks her and takes a long drink, as deep as the heat will allow. He makes a quiet sound of pleasure.

"You're right," he admits.

There will be no I-told-you-so. Mary Ellen simply smiles happily and nods again.

"And I made a decision," he continues, after another drink that nearly empties his cup. "A rather drastic one, in fact. I decided..."

He is interrupted by a sudden flash and a flat crack. Mary Ellen jumps a little, but manages to keep from spilling her coffee on the white linen.

On the table between them, two slim cases have appeared. Eric deftly unlocks and opens one. He spins it around to show her.

She goes wide eyed. Even to her amateur eye it's quite obviously a fortune in perfectly shaped gold bars.

"You've mentioned a spare room," he says, actually blushing. "Could you use a somewhat chatty tenant and some extra cash?"

There is nothing to say. She laughs, overjoyed. She holds out her hand and he grips it. They smile foolishly at each other.

A weight has lifted from her heart, a deep and abiding loneliness. And something else, something only now dawning in her mind: the idea of this handsome young man and her workaholic daughter, meeting. Eric could be so charming, so persuasive. Perhaps the dream of grandchildren was not so far fetched any longer?

She would see.

He is pondering too. An even deeper loneliness has left him, and something exciting has taken its place. No longer is he tied to a mandated course of action. No longer is fate a certainty to him. That's a terrifying prospect in many ways. But in speaks of nothing but adventure. Of hope.

One bright spark of civilization, of warmth and friendship is better than nothing in the face of eternal blackness. This he has decided. It will be a mere moment, an infinitesimal point in a cold eternity.

But could he really claim it is pointless? That it does not matter?

He smiles and straightens up. Mary Ellen is cheered to see it. She breathes a sigh of relief and goes for the pot again.

"Another cup, dear?"

The coffee smells so wonderful. He pushes his cup and saucer forward.

"Oh, yes. Please."

She pours. He thanks her. And in this simple ritual they refute nihilism. They refuse despair. He adds cream and blackness is lightened. Sugar melts in the heat and banishes bitterness.

He lifts the cup with calm hands and sips, tasting a model of the closed loop that was human history: finite, best enjoyed while fresh, and eventually finished.

It is delicious.

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The Most Perfect Of All Prayers

Submitted by Bill St. Clair on Tue, 27 Oct 2009 14:57:31 GMT  <== Gloryroad ==> 

by George Potter
[from here]

He found his first goddess on his fourteenth birthday. She was a slight and lovely creature with huge eyes, wild black hair and a smile that combined innocence and ignorance. She was standing on the corner, right outside his house, naked in the moonlight, shivering with cold.

He brought a blanket down with him, and wrapped her in a gentle cocoon. She sighed and leaned against him, grateful for the warmth and attention. He tried to lead her inside but she did not understand. He finally just picked her up and carried her.

Carefully, he laid her on the couch and propped her head with his favorite pillow. He made her tea with extra sugar and real cream. Those huge eyes glittered with unreadable emotion. She had no voice but a high and chiming laugh. She seemed to like the cartoons he played for her, smiling and gasping and laughing right on cue.

His father was disturbed, but said nothing. He simply left early for and stayed late at work. His mother worried but made the goddess breakfast. They had eggs and bacon and toast for the three days that she lived.

Then she withered quickly and died, gone in a few hours, leaving nothing but a vague scent of jasmine and the memory of a sweet laugh.

He folded the blanket and put it away, sure he would need it again soon. He cried a little and prayed to her every night, wishing for her back as he had wished her into existence.

His next goddess appeared a little over a month later, this time tall and slender, with hair of brilliant gold. She spoke, this one, a few simple words at least. She liked to wander around the apartment, examining everything closely, naked save for glory.

His father, utterly mortified, went to stay with his brother upstate, and his mother took to haunting the library and grocery stores, inventing errands, to avoid the divinity that had invaded their home.

He was happy, though, watching his goddess in her insatiable curiosity, her coltish motions and slender limbs almost a parody of grace. She was fascinated by everything, and was overjoyed to learn the names of common things.

A week that one lasted. A lovely week in a miserable winter.

"This can't keep happening," his mother told him as he wept in his room, hands clasped before him, knees sore and bruised from kneeling. "This is not the way the world is supposed to work, love."

"It's my fault, isn't it?" his father said. "I read you all those stupid myths when you were a baby. All those foolish stories of gods and men and them gettin' on together." His voice broke on the last word. "My bloody fault."

He ignored them both, and prayed harder, begging the universe to send him another goddess. To send a vision of beauty and love that would last.

But the universe chose to ignore him. He was almost twenty years old before he found another goddess, well away from frightening his parents and perhaps better suited to the care and feeding of the divine.

And divine she was, far more fully formed and complete than his earlier lost loves. She showed very little fear of anything, and came to him, finding his dorm on campus with no problem. She spoke in an eloquent tone, with a vocabulary larger than his own.

Tall, again, with a mane of red curls like spun copper. Green eyed, fair skinned, features so perfect that every artist on campus threw themselves at her feet, begging to paint or sketch her. She refused them sweetly, though. She had interest in him only, unwilling to share the loveliness that she offered as a gift.

Beyond her beauty she was kind hearted, and funny. She made his days complete and happy, from first light until he wrapped his arms around her in the dark, and breathed deeply of her lovely scent.

He allowed himself to hope; allowed himself to think that this time, she would stay.

He was wrong. One morning her smile was simply gone. Then the sweet gleam in her eyes. Then the words and music of her voice began to diminish. All that was bright and alive in her gradually drifting away.

He refused to give up so easily this time, spurred on by the sadness in the voice that called his name over and over. He bundled her against the cold and carried her, adrenaline and fear making him strong, across campus towards the infirmary, hoping feverishly that the medicine of man might slow or stop the maladies of heaven.

They never made it. Halfway there she simply began to fade away, growing lighter and less substantial in his arms. He fell to his knees, weeping, begging. There was just enough time for her to whisper his name once more, to gift him with a smile, and for the briefest of goodbye kisses.

Then she was gone, dissipated in the moonlight like night mist struck by the sun.

He howled his rage and loss at that uncaring moon. He had to be sedated, restrained.

They kept him for a week. In the end, he lied. He said his girlfriend had left him and he'd taken it badly. Said he'd over-reacted and was over it now.

He took a pistol into the woods and found a peaceful spot, and even a few more tears to shed. He placed the cold metal to his temple and closed his eyes, thinking of her divine face and how it had shone in the reflected light of the moon.

"Don't be a fool, lad," the voice said.

He whirled on it, startled. Several feet away stood an old man. He looked to be in his 80's, tired but not done yet with the world.

"You should ask yourself," he added gently, "what exactly you have done to deserve a goddess?"

"Who are you?"

His visitor merely laughed. "An old fool with scars on his knees from praying, and light in his soul from attempts to be worthy." The smile he wore was quite satisfied, as he turned to leave. "And there are some who say the two things are very much the same."

He dropped the pistol and simply stared, frozen in confusion, for several moments. The old man had nearly vanished by the time he recovered his wits, called out, and gave chase.

It was an impossible task. No matter how he hurried or what crafty trails he took, the old man stayed relentlessly ahead of him.

At last he found himself in a bind, cornered near the edge of the wood by brush and briar, somehow lost on a path he'd walked a thousand times. He saw his savior make his way to an expensive black car. He cried out once more, almost desperate.

The old man turned to look. He smiled and waved. "Be worthy!" he called, and opened the door.

There was the single brief flash of a face, smiling in greeting as his savior settled in. A face of divine beauty and luminous spirit, of huge dark eyes meant only for one lucky worshipper. A face that split his heart and mended it in an awful, transcendent split second.

The car pulled away and left him stunned. He struggled from the wood and made his way to his dorm, placating his worried room mate with kind lies. He was both empty of feeling and filled with an almost painful purpose.

He would prove himself worthy, he vowed.

He threw himself into his studies with renewed vigor, becoming a model student. He joined every philanthropic organization that the school boasted, often rising to a lead position in weeks. He helped to rebuild churches and flood destroyed homes. He donated money and raised even more with a ferocious intensity and depth of feeling that often frightened those who heard him speak.

After graduation he chose a career that paid barely a living wage sent him to the most abject places in the world, and he wore himself ragged trying to make those places a little better. He argued for the sick and the lame and the poorest of world, facing down councils and committees of the richest and most powerful.

Bridges and damns were built on his initiative, rivers were held back and farmland seeded under his lead. He carried antibiotics and clean water to plauge ravaged villages, and served the starving with his own hands. He cradled and comforted dying infants that no one wanted and taught camps filled with war orphans to read and write and count. He was thanked in the prayers of a dozen religions and twice that many languages.

Many marveled at his depth of commitment and compassion, and the word saint danced often near his name.

When praise came his way, he deflected. He gently refused awards and fellowships and suggested that those who wished to honor him could do so by helping others.

In truth, he often felt the possibility of his goddess close by, some deep resonating note pulsing through his soul. Fear and desire warred, but he always turned from it. He was not worthy yet, he whispered to himself. He would not survive the gaining and losing of another goddess. He must be absolutely sure that he had earned her favor this time. Absolutely sure.

Decades passed, as decades will. He never married and had no children, instead using his name and what money he gathered to help hundreds of children across the world, children who honored him as a father though they'd never met him. Who took his name as their own out of respect and with pride.

Finally, the day came that so many who loved and respected him dreaded. He was an old, tired man. He shouldn't live alone in his simple house, with only memories and the worth of his works to keep him company.

They sent a strapping male nurse with a signed paper, all legal and well intentioned. He was to be brought to a very fine nursing home, one of the best in the country. His stay there would be paid for by the donations of hundreds who were awed and inspired by his selflessness.

"No," the old man told his visitor. "I cannot leave."

The nurse was confused. "But why not, sir?"

The old man smiled with great joy. "Because she will be here soon, lad. She is finally coming, to stay this time." He could feel her approaching presence, that deep resonance in his very center, now so powerful that the entire world wavered in harmony with it.

"I see," said the nurse, secretly taking a needle filled with dreams from his bag. He'd do his best to slip the injection quickly and well, so as not to startle the poor thing.

He was moments away from doing so when the door opened. He turned to look, expecting his driver wondering at the delay. The old man broke into a delighted smile, and stood.

The nurse would later admit, to himself, that what he saw walk through the door was a woman. But to say that was almost painfully simple, like saying that the Sahara is dry or that the Atlantic is deep. What he saw was more than a woman. What he saw was the personification of beauty and truth and the ephemeral virtue of grace made visible.

Her hair was not like the sun, it was the Sun, billowing waves of some heat beyond flame. Her skin was not like the moon, it was the Moon, cold and beautiful and shining with mystery and promise. Her smile was the glory of Heaven, her eyes were the portals to a thousand versions of paradise.

She was Athena on the battlefield, the sword of the righteous. She was Diana in her chariot, crossing the star tumbled sky. She was Venus risen, creature of storm tossed sea and foam sculpted form. She was Love, she was Life, she was a Goddess.

The nurse fell to his knees, weeping and terrified. But mostly he felt despair -- that this vision was not for the likes of him. That he was not worthy and perhaps would never be.

The old man reached out with shaking arms. She flowed to him like sunlight across a meadow. The embrace was less like two people joining than a single soul discovering itself complete.

The room, the very house, was unworthy. It began to smolder from such heat and light.

"Will you stay?" the old man whispered, eyes burnt to blindness, voice almost gone.

No, the goddess whispered. You shall come with me. You have proven yourself worthy of more than this life.

And together they became something beyond light and heat and the nurse, maddened, fled their union.

He came to on the street, clothes stinking of smoke, hair charred and eyelashes burned away, skin red with the radiance he'd witnessed. The fire department and police had arrived, as well as an ambulance. A paramedic was asking him simple questions in a slow voice.

In front of him, the old man's house burned. They'd later blame it on faulty wiring and call it a tragedy. A great philanthropist dead because of the greed of others, news reports and reforming politicians would cry.

But the nurse, who'd never speak of what he'd seen and felt, knew better. He knew the old man was not dead. That the house burned for the same reason he had fled -- because it was unworthy of the sight of such divine love.

He looked on the great red and yellow flames and saw not a funeral pyre but a sacrificial alter, one final bright prayer.

And he felt himself changed by it.

He found himself praying, more and more often. He prayed not to the faith of his upbringing, nor to the God of his father. His prayers were neither promises nor pleas.

Instead, he prayed like a whispered love poem, an unabashed ode to a heaven with a mane of the sun, and eyes within which beauty and truth and worth became a single unquenchable flame.

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Five Questions (With Insufficient Answers) And A Single Shining Maybe

Submitted by Bill St. Clair on Mon, 26 Oct 2009 13:01:04 GMT  <== Gloryroad ==> 

by George Potter
[from here]

Q: What is the nature of God?

A: When the universe came to be, it was without form and void. That means it had no shape and consisted entirely of nothing. This was, obviously, an untenable situation. The shape lacking, imaginary particles that made up the universe were ashamed to be part of such a loser universe. They had to do something.

Lacking Craigslist, they settled on screaming piteously into the uncaring nothingness like whiny little bitches. Over the non-ages this created an atmosphere of existential annoyance. From this atmosphere a Being arose.

This Being was God.

God was, by nature, profoundly pissed off. It had been created by the sheer aggravation of countless shrieking, unsubstantial bits of loser. What else could It be?

It lit into the universe like a buzzsaw (though it may be more logical to say a buzzsaw functions like a just formed God). It pounded those noisy fucks into a shape, cursed them into temporal existence, and swore up and down that it would spend the rest of Eternity making them pay, pay, pay, pay.

And it came to be.

And God said it was good.

Q: What is the nature of Man?

A: The first Man was created when God got bored with abusing imaginary particles. It was all well and good, true, but It wanted something to hit that would have a bit more reaction. Would provide a little more tangible amusement. Would, at least, scream in a more interesting way.

So It invented some shit called dirt and formed a Man out of it. Being curious, it made another version, slightly different. As a joke, it kept both.

It placed the Man and Woman into a Paradise, made them a bunch of promises, gave them some rather arbitrary and stupid rules. Then It waited. You could almost see It bounce in impatient glee.

Sure enough, the brand-new foolish creatures broke the arbitrary and stupid rule and God did what God does.

It spent the rest of eternity making those pitiful creatures pay, pay, pay, pay.

And this, too, was good.

Q: Does Heaven exist?

A: What are you, retarded?

Q: Does Hell exist?

A: Look around, dumbass.

Q: What is the Meaning Of Life?

A: Don't you get it yet, moron? There is no meaning to any of this nonsense, other than what God decides to impose on it. The universe is shrieking nothingness. Your God is an angry psychopath who can't get over being created in a less than ideal way. Your life is an accidental confluence of ridiculous improbabilities focused on a single point in chaotic, traveling time-space.

Your purpose is to suffer. Your only goal is to return to oblivion once God has tired of toying with you. You can't even off yourself to hurry the process along, since that will just piss God off even more. It doesn't like It's creations trying to escape. It'll get bored with you when It feels like it, and not a moment sooner.


There is... well...

I probably shouldn't tell you this, since it will no doubt just give you pointless, tragic hope, but...

There are some scholars, certain thinkers, who posit, based on a rigorous study of the ephemeral rules they find themselves mired in, that God might eventually get over It's divine Issues.

I mean, it's possible. Almost anything's possible in such a pointless universe. Think about it. God's own whining might wake up an even bigger God who will put It's boot up God's ass and tell It to shut the fuck up and leave those stupid dirtthings alone, for itssake. That, listened to properly, those screaming particles are kind of nice. Make a sort of music.


And that's the saddest thing of all, really. That possibility of hope. That tiny, statistical if of compassion. That in all this impossibility of heaven and certainty of hell there might just be the opportunity for change.

Wouldn't that be good?

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The Prettiest Pillwhore In Pike County (A preview)

Submitted by Bill St. Clair on Sun, 01 Mar 2009 11:56:15 GMT  <== Gloryroad ==> 

George Potter has posted two chapters, a teaser, for a story from his new book. "Bad Patterns -- featuring the full version of this story and nine more -- will be available this Spring." Good writing, as usual from Mr. Potter, but leaves you wanting the rest. "This spring" means by June 20. Hope it comes earlier than that. I'm eager.

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Submitted by Bill St. Clair on Fri, 18 Jul 2008 23:56:32 GMT  <== Gloryroad ==> 

by George Potter

(for East End, with love.)

My name is Tyler McCammon and I am fourteen years old. I was born and raised right here in this county made out of mountains and the spaces between them. Polk County, Kentucky -- a small, hidden world of creeks and hollows, forests and the shadows they cast. "A great place to be from," my cousin David told me once "but a shitty place to be."


I have a lot of cousins. These days, most of them are dead, but that makes them no less my cousins. That is the nature of kinship where I am from, the unalterable connection of blood and name, history and the holy writ of hand printed notes in family Bibles. Nothing can separate those ties -- no betrayal or revelation dredged from the past. No hateful word or bloody conflict.

This accidental and chaotic plan of birth is indestructible. It is immune even to death.

I was twelve when people started dying.

Rumors turned into wild guesses turned into theories gleaned from television and radio and the few people around with access to the Internet. Soon enough the talking heads on TV were juggling glib excuses behind the smiles that grew more strained by the day. High handed assurances about viruses and recalled drugs. About accidents in food processing plants, and freak pollutant spills in rivers.

The truth was right there behind their eyes, the eyes that those false smiles could not touch.

And the truth was that nobody knew why people were dying. Nobody in government, nobody in the glass towers of corporate media. Nobody.

And nobody had any answers when the dead started coming back to life, either.

Aunt Cora strode like a man across the IGA parking lot, a determined walk that showed the big .45 Colt on her hip to maximum effect. She moved towards the pickup where I waited, shotgun at the ready, counting breaths in the silence.

In each hand she carried a giant grocery bag crammed to near breaking with whatever goods she could salvage. Food, mostly, with some soap and matches and other sundries tossed in. For months it had been four bags, two for each wiry arm. But that had been before word got out that the Oak Creek IGA was an easy spot to pick. Our weekly raids were not the only raids. Soon we'd have to find another trove to supplement our garden and the ever dwindling herd.

My aunt reached the door and opened it quickly. She slid the bags between us and climbed in, slamming the door and starting the pickup without a wasted motion. We were on the road, out of the city proper, before she favored me with a grin and I felt permission to drop the shotgun into my lap.

We'd made a safe raid yet again. The knots in my stomach began to unravel.

Just like Aunt Cora's smile. Less than a mile from the stone and barbed wire gates that shielded our property from the rest of the world, we had to brake suddenly.

In the center of the road, wandering in a daze that wouldn't last, we came across a pack of newly risen.

As they staggered past, a filthy blond woman bared her broken teeth in a bloody smile. And she laughed.

Aunt Cora cursed the rest of the way home.

The family meeting fairly boiled with tension. A dozen sets of eyes glared at each other across the kitchen table; moods made bad by being pulled from bed or other duties were worsened by the news. Aunt Cora, in charge by the simple fact of her intelligence and iron will, ignored the emotional minefield and charged across to her point.

"We got less than a year left here." she said, laying it on the line with no sparing of feelings. "They aren't confined to town and the garbage dumps anymore." Cold flint eyes met every gaze in the room and refused to back down. "They're spreading like wildfire."

"Like a virus." my dad said, by way of agreement. Cora was his oldest sister, and his only remaining sibling. Uncle Jack and Aunt Susan both died in the Battle Of The Bulldozer, when we raided the junkyard to claim the big Cat that served us in a thousand important ways. Their names were etched in honor on the steel plate above the living room fireplace.

"Less than a year." Aunt Cora repeated, after a quick glance of thanks to Dad for the support. "We've watched how they spread. We know how long it takes them to orient and begin to plan."

Nobody liked it, but nobody had any arguments against the facts. The only thing to do, it was agreed, was to pack up and move out -- looking for a safer, less scavenged place. Rumor had it that over the mountains, up Charleston way, there were several towns deserted by both living and dead.

The kicker came from my cousin Anna Lee, a quiet woman who rarely ventured an opinion. What she said caused every gut to recoil and every heart to ache:

"If they're this close they must have come from Fellow Hills." A quiet sentence, but it shattered the mood like a grenade.

Fellow Hills was the family cemetery.

The next few weeks passed quickly, a flurry of activity and back breaking work. In addition to the packing and sorting required by any move, the family had to repair and inspect its fleet of aging vehicles. At the same time, security was at an all time high. A raid was expected any time, from any direction. A continuous watch was instituted, with lots drawn and much grumbling.

Aunt Cora proved correct. The risen seemed to be orienting quicker than ever -- perhaps helped along by the veterans they ran into in their initial wanderings.

Even worse, Anna Lee was also vindicated. There could be no question in even the most doubting mind: the new risen were from Fellow Hills. They were our own kin.

This was a horror that made all the difference in the eyes of the family. To fight and destroy strangers, acquaintances or even former neighbors was one thing. The idea of sending your own blood to the second death an entirely different concept. Some refused to stand their watches, leading Cora and the other heads of the family no choice but to levy punishments. The internal dissent this fomented was too much to bear -- eventually a system of swaps and exchanges was worked out.

My cousin David -- thanks to his dead eye and essential nocturnal nature, as well as a distaste for lifting and repairing machinery -- stood a great deal of these swapped watches. Thanks to his good memory and eyesight, he also bore the brunt of being the reporter of verified kin among the hordes.

One morning I ran into him and found him pale. After some insistence he finally broke down and told me that he'd spotted his own baby sister -- dead six months -- on the perimeter.

"It was her, Ty. No doubt about it." He looked ready to weep. "She just stood there, staring right at me. Right through me."

Then the tears did begin. I excused myself, muttering about a trailer that needed loading.

The truth was that tears of my own were threatening. I remembered Gina as a jolly, sweet girl. The idea of her as a mindless eater of the living tore me apart.

On the night before we left Dad called me down to his study, and passed me a drink from his liquor. This surprised me. Dad rarely drank and often lectured the younger members of the family on the virtue of sobriety.

The rye burned all the way down, but left a warm feeling and calmed my nerves. Dad's eyes looked haunted and his skin was a shade that reminded me of David.

I found out why when he passed me the set of photographs. My skin crawled and the effect of the liquor dissipated instantly.

In a set of six photos, clear as day, Jack and Susan mixed with the dead, faces emotionless, teeth crooked and rotting. Hair falling from their heads and losing its brilliant red in favor of the drab uniform gray of the risen.

I stared at the pictures longer than I wanted, until the hot tears faded. I refused to cry in front of my father.

When I did look up, he passed me the bottle again and I took the second drink of my life with gratitude. It did seem to help a little.

Dad lit his pipe, sighed, and stared at me. He attempted a smile. "We have to deal with what he have to deal with, Ty." he told me.

I nodded.

After a long pause he added, in a low voice. "But they're still our kin and we owe them the benefit of the doubt." His voice firmed up as he spoke. "We'll send them to the second death if we have to."

He stared at me hard, and I felt the fire of his conviction.

"But only if we have to."

The road was clear, to start with. Our convoy -- twenty trucks, the dozer, and a half dozen fully packed cars -- moved out with no trouble or resistance.

For the first twenty miles, at least.

The living were the first problems we encountered. Two years of scavenging and hard times had created gangs of bandits and outlaws all over. Most of them shied away from our obvious numbers and displayed firepower. But desperation creates a false bravery more powerful than madness, and we began to get hit before long.

It wasn't much trouble, to be honest. David and his snipers, from roosts on constructed crows nests, fended most of them off before they got close. Skirmishers on motorbike and horse cleaned out those that made it through that gauntlet.

It was a hundred plus mob of the dead who gave us our first real problem. They slammed us with their favorite mob tactic -- bum rushing the road en masse and letting their own bodies act as weapons. The lead truck -- thankfully armored -- tipped and fell down the side of an incline, gunfire roared, and the fight was on.

I was doing duty as a skirmisher, and -- by sheer luck -- found a trail that let me take my Kawasaki along a path that doubled around. I stopped quick, almost ditching the bike, climbed a nice sized oak, and started picking off the risen bandits as best I could. The movies were right about one thing: head shots worked best, but massive body damage would suit to send them to the second death as well.

I figured later that I'd been hit by a freaking rock. The wound on my head was from a blunt object, bruised and not too deep. I don't remember falling out of the tree. I remember coming to on the ground, hurting all over, and struggling up with effort.

And I remember the crowd of dead heading for me, slow to be sure, but fast enough. I turned to run and was confronted by a second crowd.

My heart froze as I recognized my aunt and uncle in that crowd. The damned things must have tracked us from the homestead, walking when we camped for the night.

Remembering my Dad's words, I turned and started firing into the crowd that wasn't kin. I could feel them closing in on both sides, and knew my number was up. When I ran out of shells, instinct forced me to the ground and there I waited for the end.

All hell broke lose, above and around me. I think I passed out for a few minutes. When I came to, I wasn't dead. I wasn't even hurt, and everything was strangely quiet.

I opened my eyes and, heart pounding, stood up.

I was surrounded by the dead. They weren't attacking, just staring at me. I stared back.

All of them were kin. My aunt and uncle were in the lead. I just stared, my face as emotionless as theirs.

Perhaps a minute of stunned silence lingered. Then a small figure made its way from the crowd. My little cousin Gina, her face bleached of color but her eyes dancing with an unreadable emotion.

She walked slowly up and held my rifle out, offering it to me with both hands. Her mouth twitched. The corners tried and failed to create a smile.

I took it, and nodded at her, dumbfounded. In the distance I could hear the occasional pop and crack of shots fired. The fight was dying down.

The other group of dead were destroyed. They were mostly torn apart, those not lucky enough to fall by my shots. Their guts and clotted blood decorated my own kin.

I nodded to them, still amazed and confused. They nodded back. When I turned and righted my bike, they did not move.

"Uh, follow me." I finally said.

They did.

It took most of my family a long time to accept the facts. Some of them still haven't and never will. Even amongst those who did, the acceptance was grudging and painful. Aunt Cora summed it up, in words my dad had spoken before: "We have to deal with what we have to deal with."

We don't mix, living and the dead. We just don't. They stay in their own little camp, a bit to the side and always downwind. I, who mingle with them most, have assured everyone that they don't stink -- but old habits die hard, I guess.

It was a harsh two weeks, our trip to the north. We lost quite a few family members on the trek. Soon enough they'd show back up, though, drawn by the unbreakable urge to be with their kin.

I'm their commander, for the most part. I'm the only one willing, I think.

No one can deny that they help, though. I privately think we couldn't have done it without them.

And it was no coincidence that my platoon of mixed fighters was the first to stand on the hill and gaze down at the town we decided to claim.

All families need a home, and family is family no matter the conditions. Some bonds are unbreakable.

I thought that, there on the hill. Then I laughed, and gave the signal to move out, arms ready.

Matewan, West Virginia lay like a promise below, quiet and hopeful. With a careful formation and a timed step, our army of the living and the dead moved toward it, our ranks -- and the bonds of our kinship -- unbroken.

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