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This is a proud, proud, proud day for BYU

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J.K. Rowling and the Prince of Darkness – A Short Story

It was an act of desperation; Jo understood that much. In fact, she used desperation to rationalize what she was about to do. She knew that with just the flick of her hand she would commit the most abominable of crimes. Her hands shook as she held the bowl of chicken’s blood, splashing drops onto the floor which disappeared with an angry hiss. Arcane markings surrounded her, etched into the ground and walls with painstaking accuracy – a single deviation would fail to protect her from what she was about to summon.

Jo took a deep breath, exhaling out all of her frustration at her life. She was divorced, juggling a child while sitting in coffee shops scribbling on napkins because the heat had been shut off at her flat. She knew she had to do something but her book – nobody wanted to pick up Harry Potter, Boy Genius (though she couldn’t understand why a story about an orphaned genius mathematician wouldn’t sell).

“This is it, Jo,” she muttered to herself. Finally, after what seemed like minutes, she flipped the bowl over and poured the contents all over her shoes and floor.

A burst of smoke and flames shot up, scorching the ceiling of her flat. The lights browned out for a split second and the entire room filled with the scent of brimstone and burnt hair. She coughed, her body vainly trying to expel the awful smell. Finally, she realized that a large shadow loomed over her and she timidly looked up.

“WHO DARES SUMMON BEELZEBUB, PRINCE OF DARKNESS!” boomed the shadow.

Jo meekly raised her hand. “Well, I do, uh, sir.”

“WHAT DO YOU SEEK, PUNY MORTAL, THAT YOU WOULD SUMMON SATAN WITHIN THE BINDING CIRCLE?”

Jo straightened her spine, an uncommon courage filling her frame.

“I need to sell a children’s book to become rich and famous so that I can take care of my daughter!”

The shadow seemed to blink twice – even though shadows don’t blink and Jo understood that. Jo stood resolutely, daring to look the shadow in the…well, shadows don’t have eyes, but Jo assumed that inky black area would have eyes had it, well, been even slightly human.

Finally, the darkness filling her room seemed to shake, and a booming laughter echoed through her tiny living room. Jo cringed, hoping her neighbors wouldn’t be bothered enough to call the landlord. It would be most inconvenient if the stupid sod walked in on her summoning Lucifer himself.

“I ENJOY YOUR SPUNK, PUNY WOMAN. I SHALL GRANT YOU YOUR WISH. BUT FIRST, YOU MUST WRITE THE BOOK ACCORDING TO MY INSTRUCTIONS.”

Jo felt a glimmer of hope for the first time in months. Her wish just might come true! Her baby wouldn’t need to go without!

“Anything! Anything, uh, er, sir.”

“FIRST, YOU MUST CHANGE THE SUBJECT FROM MATHEMATICS TO WITCHCRAFT AND WIZARDRY, MY TOOLS OF POWER.”

“Reasonable,” Jo responded.

“THE CHARACTER IS TOO MILQUETOAST IN YOUR CURRENT DRAFT. GIVE HIM A DOSE OF COURAGE AND BRAVADO SO THAT CHILDREN WILL ACT OUT AGAINST PARENTS AND AUTHORITY.”

“Makes sense.” Jo considered the absolute chaos residing within households everywhere as children rebelled against exasperated mothers and fathers.

“MAKE SURE THE PROTAGONIST HAS FRIENDS WHO WILL STICK WITH HIM NO MATTER WHAT BUT WHO ARE ALSO NOT AFRAID TO SPEAK OUT AGAINST HIM IF THEY THINK HE IS ABOUT TO DO SOMETHING WRONG.”

Jo stopped. She scratched her head. “Excuse me, your, uh, Darkness? I’m not so keen on propagating evil to support my tiny family, but how exactly does this, well, further your agenda?”

“SILENCE!” the shadow boomed. Jo threw herself on the ground in fear. She trembled against the hardwood floor, her entire body anticipating punishment. Instead, the shadow continued his directions.

“IT IS VITALLY IMPORTANT AS WELL THAT THE PROTAGONIST’S MENTOR EMPHASIZES THAT LOVE CONQUERS THOSE WHO IGNORE IT AT THEIR PERIL AND CAN DEFEAT EVEN THE MOST OVERT ABUSES OF PHYSICAL POWER.”

Jo wondered if she should interrupt Satan once more, but decided to keep her mouth shut.

“MAKE SURE THE CHARACTERS EMPHASIZE LOYALTY, COURAGE, LOVE, FRIENDSHIP, TENACITY, RESOURCEFULNESS, AND A WILLINGNESS TO DEFY AUTHORITY THAT ATTEMPTS TO COMPEL THEM TO SPREAD HATE OR DISCRIMINATE AGAINST THOSE WHO ARE DIFFERENT.”

Jo caught herself sighing into the floor. She slowly picked herself up, wondering if the shadow would notice.

“BE SURE THAT THE CHARACTER DIES A NOBLE DEATH BUT RETURNS TO LIFE. THIS CONCEPT IS IMPORTANT AND MUST BE INCLUDED IN THE END.”

“Excuse me.”

“WHAT!!!” the shadow roared once more. Jo winced as she heard pounding from Mr. Zuckermann underneath. Most likely he was watching his game shows again; he always became so cranky whenever she so much as made the floorboards squeak during reruns of The Weakest Link, let alone have the Enemy of All Righteousness sitting on her couch.

“It just seems, it’s just…I don’t know how to put this, but,” Jo stumbled over her words, stammering wildly. How do you tell the Lord of Flies that his ideas were, uh, well…

“SPIT IT OUT, HUMAN WOMAN.” The shadow grew thick and angry. She could barely peer into her kitchen where a pot of tea sat warming just in case her summoned visitor became, you know. Thirsty.

“Well, it just seems like you’re ripping archetypes straight from the Bible. These ideas are not necessarily evil or even original.

The room grew deathly silent as the shadow extinguished all light. Jo felt herself falling into darkness, her stomach lurching as her body accelerated, hurtling through icy air, invisible, frozen talons clawing at her body. She tried to gasp but could barely catch enough air to breathe back in. This was it; she had opened her big, stupid mouth for the last time and now she would be thrust to Hell for her insolence and she couldn’t even provide for her daughter, oh her daughter –

Jo felt herself crash into the floor of her flat, her coffee table shattering underneath her. Mr. Zuckermann screamed in fury below, but Jo only cared slightly of his inconvenience; she was carefully, mentally reviewing the state of her battered body to make sure no shards of cheap plywood had pierced her ribcage. She wheezed and coughed as the air knocked out of her entered with great force from her lungs expanding rapidly. The shadow remained in her room, looking smug, despite the fact it possessed no identifiable body parts to even make so much as a simple facial expression.

“YOU HAVE RECEIVED ONLY A TASTE OF MY POWER, HUMAN.”

Jo decided to stay sprawled on the ground rather than try to pick herself back up again, even though she knew that trying to illicit pity from Satan himself was useless.

“Very, very powerful, sir. ”

“NOW, SHALL WE CONTINUE?”

Jo only nodded slightly.

“GOOD. NOW, ALSO REMEMBER THAT IT IS ESSENTIAL FOR REDEMPTION OF THE HUMAN SOUL NO MATTER HOW BLACK IT IS TO BE AN IMPORTANT THEME WITHIN THE SERIES. WHAT’S WITH THAT LOOK? THIS IS GOING TO BE A SERIES OF SEVEN BOOKS (WHICH HAS RELIGIOUS SIGNIFICANCE BY THE WAY, THE NUMBER SEVEN). HEY, ARE YOU WRITING THIS DOWN?”

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Healthcare of Darkness – A Short Story

So I’ve been trying to avoid writing anything controversial (I think I need a controversy detox) but this short story is not really meant to be controversial. One of my favorite logic professors once said that sometimes to prove someone wrong, you simply assume their claims are true – and then watch how ridiculous of a world it constructs because their original premises are flawed. A good way to prove people wrong indeed, but that’s not what this story set out to do. Rather, this formula also helps cure boredom and doldrums and allows me to imagine pretty fantastical, interesting worlds – yes, even post-socialized medicine apocalyptic Londons. This story is less a dig on those who oppose my opinions and more of a soft, gentle dig at overwrought hyperbole in general.

Ash swirled down on the almost deserted streets of London. Dark, dilapidated buildings sagged forward, their windows and doors a multitude of yawning maws gaping to swallow the residents of the soot-covered city. Jonathan walked down the empty sidewalk, approaching the lone figure standing underneath a flickering lamp.

“’Ello, ‘Enry.”

The figure nodded, pulling his hood back to reveal a darkened, filthy face. Bright, jaundiced eyes seemed to pop out of his dark features, and a craggy, toothy smile split open his cheeks.

“Mornin’ to ye, Jonathan. I s’pose yore here for the goods?”

Jonathan cringed, trying hard not to gag on Henry’s foul breath emanating from what was left of his jaw. They had once been schoolmates, even shared a flat together when they attended university. But now, the poor lad was only the shell of the man he once was – ruined, once and for all, by public option healthcare.

“It’s a shame, really. Yore face I mean –“

“Eh, drop it, Jon. It’s nothin’, really. It’s the NHS, afterall.”

Poor Henry, Jonathan thought. If only Parliament had let physicians set their own wages as dictated by market forces, instead of working for the government. Perhaps somehow the surgeon’s skill would have been better – better enough not to botch a routine mole removal that resulted in the poor sod losing half a jaw. Ever since then, he’d never been the same.

“So, you here to peddle for my wares, I s’pose?” Henry’s scratchy voice brought Jonathan back to reality.

“Listen, I need the good stuff. The Advil. My –“ Jonathan lowered his voice to a conspiratorial whisper. “My mum’s ill, you see, and I’m afraid if she don’t show any improvement by Tuesday next, the death panels’ll git her.” The last dependent clause Jon uttered sent a shiver up his spine.

“Oh, right right. But the bloody Downin’ Street-owned bilgers won’t ration the Advil out to ye, am I right?” Henry’s elbow poked Jonathan’s ribs painfully as the filthy man dissolved into a mixture of spasmodic coughs and wheezing laughs.

“Oh, we can get it for ye, but there’s a price,” Henry finally said quietly, his watery eyes now a steely yellow. “My wife is due for a tyke –“

“Oh, congratulations,” Jonathan robotically interjected, absentmindedly.

“Yeah, thanks. Problem is, bloody Parliament says they want to take my baby away and abort it or something of the like.”

“Bloody shame, really. I know London’s overpopulated and all, but couldn’t we at least send the bloody poor blighters out to India or some-“ Jonathan caught himself, his sentence caught in his throat, gurgling.

Henry spat on the ground – even his phlegm was a filthy black – as Jonathan focused his gaze on the only clean speck on the blackened wall of the local sweatshop factory next to him. The whole neighborhood used to be quite posh – until, that is, the creation of the NHS. Now all the poor private insurers were absolutely bankrupt and millions of claims agents and CEOs were out work. Henry was one of them. Undesirables, the rest of society called them.

He remembered well the fear that whipped through the nation as those who avowed themselves as the Cromwell Party vowed to bring morality and decency back into British politics. A flurry of unpopular legislation later and the NHS came into being. Nobody liked it at first, but that’s how government worked. Soon, people couldn’t imagine a life without the NHS, robbed of their capacity to make decisions for themselves. Infant mortality skyrocketed as well as unemployment. The government fulfilled their promise that British citizens would no longer worry about cancer; now, a bloke could pitch over from anything, even the common cold, if he like. Old diseases came back after all the good doctors shipped out – polio, smallpox, even the bloody black plague would ravage outside villages.

People would go into hospitals complaining about a headache and came back with a lobotomy. The neighborhood boy broke his right arm while climbing a tree, but he came back with a left arm missing and his right arm still broken. But of course, Parliament kept such a tight lid on anything that nobody realized the squalor they lived in – nobody, that is, except the academia. But they kept quiet. If poor blokes were dying of dysentery or cholera, no skin off their noses.

Jonathan was no supporter of the change by any means; he had openly denounced the roving bands of vigilante “capitalist hunters” who ferreted out those who professed belief in free enterprise. But he had to be careful if he didn’t want to be labeled as one of “them,” them being the bloody capitalists that had ruined the country with a depression unparalleled. In the best case scenario, they were severely beaten and quietly shipped to America several weeks later. In the worst case scenario, the dirty money grubbers were never heard from again.

Jonathan ventured a gaze at Henry, whose face displayed no remorse or shame of his fallen status. Once a CEO of a thriving health insurance company, he had provided millions of dollars willingly to the people of London, providing the best customer service and unparalleled coverage. Now, he was forgotten, branded with the polemic label of “capitalist,” portrayed as only greedy, amoral, self-serving.

Two years after they had graduated – Henry in Business Management, Jonathan in English Literature – his old college mate had shown him a wall plastered with letters dripping with praise and relief that Henry’s insurance company was there to cover all the costs of this procedure or that. The old man’s face beamed that day, content that he had built an industry that truly helped people. He often poked fun at Jonathan, asking him how his soul crushing academia desk job was, offering a job to “help real people with real problems, instead of fictional people with fictional problems.”

Now the face showed nothing; simply a blank, stained canvas with nothing left. Some days, when Jonathan needed Henry to smuggle in contraband medications too hard to get a hold of through the NHS, his old mate’s eyes still shined with tenacity and life. But lately, those days were fewer and far in between and he could see the light fading.

He knew he shouldn’t pity one of the capitalists, but, Henry was a mate after all, wasn’t he? Alma mater, in fact, and surely he could pull some of the strings he held within the government to help the poor man.

“Listen Henry,” Jonathan said, nervously licking his lips. “Listen closely. I could help you and Patty get out of here, somewhere where you can have a baby without it gettin’ aborted. I could get you into America if you like-“

Henry’s face twisted into the façade of a monster, and Jonathan took several steps back, recoiling in terror. The former CEO’s bloodshot eyes bulged out of their sockets, his cracked, bleeding lips peeling back from his decaying gums, pulsing veins lining the tendons in his neck.

“It’s too late!” he screamed, grabbing Jonathan’s shirt with both hands, roughly pushing the meek professor up against the wall. “It’s too bloody late! Obama! He passed it! He passed the healthcare bill! It’s over! He passed it!” And suddenly, the crushed man crumpled to the side of the street.

“He passed it! He passed it!” His final, foul breath exhaled quietly out of the still gaping mouth.

Jonathan shook the corpse off of his Oxfords, brushing them, and hastily backed away from his former friend, finally sprinting down the street in fear.

Moments later, Jonathan met Patty, informing her awkwardly of her husband’s death. The woman’s face seemed not even to register the news; she sank into her chair as if carrying a heavy weight despite being a slight, malnourished ninety-three pounds.

“Tell me, Jonathan. What were his last words?”

Jonathan’s voice faltered. “He said…he said your name.”

The woman merely nodded. “He was a kind man.”

“Yes, he really was, Patty.”

But both Patty and Jonathan knew it was a lie. It all was.

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Local graffiti “intellectual” and “informative”

American Fork, UT – Local residents complain about graffiti vandalizing public buildings, but you won’t find anyone complaining about one graffiti-laden bathroom stall at the nearby American Fork Walmart. Residents have expressed gratitude to the unknown punks who scrawl such subversive and politically charged messages such as “F— globalization” and “Why don’t people question what the TV says? You’re all sheeple!”

“Usually, you have people writing dirty messages, or saying ‘Eff this’ or ‘Eff that’ or ‘I hate the cops,’ or maybe a crude pictograph of bodily functions and parts. But the messages being written on the stall walls of the bathroom are very intellectual and informative,” according to Walmart night shift custodial manager Robert Garlow.

“Here’s one of my favorites. It’s very eloquent and it really speaks of the corrosion of journalistic integrity in the day of 24 hour cable news and entertainment talk shows: ‘F— the S—heads on FOX, CNN, and MSNBC.’ Really brilliant, if you ask me,” Gallow said, as he pointed out some graffiti to curious Walmart customers.

Other favorite passages of locals include “If you don’t like this country, immigrants, than I suggest you work through legitimate channels of the government to enact change within the system rather than pursuing a self-destructive, delusional philosophy of fighting the system, thus legitimizing the demoralizing and demonizing rhetoric directed towards your demographic, F—ers,” as well as “Liberals suck money out of the government budget and the paychecks of American taxpayers through rampant, uncontrollable and unaccountable government spending like they suck my [smudged and covered by additional graffiti].”

Talk has been made to preserve the bathroom stall walls as a work of art, and several local museums have started to bid on it, hoping to make an exhibition that guarantees success as the radical bathroom graffiti makes it fame in local circles.

However, not everyone is happy about the discovery of these now famous bathroom stalls, specifically what this implies. Semi-famous blogger Mark Kelly has commented, “The fact that America’s most intellectually stimulating conversations happen through graffiti in bathroom stalls shows how the public discourse of America has collapsed. This is all clearly the fault of the recently deposed and defunct Bush Administration.”

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Stop a train, wrestle bears

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