Monday 25 September 2023

Nest Of The Basilisk

Basilisk: (bæz.ə.lɪsk) - also know as the Serpent King, is a mythical beast with lethal breath and gaze, whose nest can be located by the scorched earth surrounding it.

A basilisk can only be slain by seeing its reflection in a mirror

Almost 20 years ago I read about a woman who arranged her own sexual torture and murder. She had met her killer in an online chat forum and willingly arranged to meet him at a hotel room far from her home where he made her final wishes come true. Her body was discovered and her killer arrested within 48 hours.

The police and public were horrified, even the administrators of the chat forum that catered to torturous fantasy roleplay and sexual death were quick to respond with a public statement, and instituted a rule that members found to be trying to make such arrangements would be permanently banned and the encounter sent to the FBI.

Fast forward to three years ago; I set out to write a novel about the incident and interviewed many participants in the online chat rooms. I was surprised to discover that the people who indulge in this fetish aren't the slavering maniacs I imagined them to be. The range pf their personalities and education level spans the width of society; students, professors, professionals, sensualists, and yes, some semi-literate thrill seekers.

I framed the story within a patient/psychologist relationship, and as it unfolds the psychologist begins to suspect his new patient is an emerging serial killer. The more his patient reveals about himself the more the psychologist believes he is a powder keg of murderous intent. Along the way the psychologist follows the breadcrumbs his playful patient leaves for him and becomes obsessed with what he finds.

Nest Of The Basilisk is a grim psychological horror, one that has taken me two years to work up the courage to publish.

Look for it in late October.

Aaron D McClelland
Penticton, BC

Monday 10 July 2023

Caravan Dreams

Quinn listened to the ghosts in the deep on every run. Her mama had taught her how. Once Caravan Dreams threaded its assigned departure lane; once the fore and aft disks spun up and the hole flashed open before the prow and the ship shuddered forward then jerked hard, straining the dampeners; once the stars blurred from ultraviolet to red, mama showed Quinn how to sit quiet in the whispering ship and open the comm wide in the range below military and cargo frequencies and put on the headset. Then she would hear them. Voices lost in time. The voices of the ghosts who plied the vastness of space long before Quinn was born. Long before Caravan Dreams left space dock to take their family past the stars.

Now Quinn runs the feed through the ship-wide sound plates so she can hear them no matter were she is. The voices driving Baz to his bunk below her own, his pillow pulled tight over his sensitive ears. He didn't like hearing from the dead. But Quinn did.

Though foreign and responding to call signs and names long slipped from memory, the voices reminded Quinn that Caravan Dreams was once a family long-hauler, its throat packed tight with cargo, its belly filled with brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles and cousins. A ship always alive with voices, family posted to all six watches meaning someone was always asleep, someone awake, someone eating and laughing, someone watching newsies or dramas in the rec hall.

Quinn couldn't sleep without the sound of voices in the ecosystem of Caravan Dreams giving her comfort, even if they were voices of the dead.

"Who was Gagarin?" a young Quinn asked mama after listening to the ghosts.

"He was a Russian man. The first in space." mama told her.

"What system did he visit?"

"Sol. Only Sol." mama said, "He only orbited Earth."

"Sol Prime."

"Yes, Sol Prime.

"It's dead now."

"Not completely. Some humans survive even today."

"But Auntie May taught us it was destroyed in the war by. the nukes."

"The cities died and most people, but some still live."

"And fight."

"Yes, they still fight. Now off to bed, Quinn.

"Yes, mama."

Aaron D McClelland
Penticton, BC

Friday 21 April 2023

The Pitfalls of AI

There is a stirring within Twitter's #WritingCommunity about AI replacing human authors, some decrying the extinction of the craft. The Writers' Guild of America is threatening a strike over the studio use of AI. They've discovered that the studios are taking the scripts they have written, and asking chatGPT and other AI text generators to come up with new plot ideas / character arcs, and then not paying the writers.

I don't ascribe to this doomsday thinnking. Writers translate life to words, AI researches and mimics

In the dirty-thirties, when John Steinbeck witnessed orange grove owners bulldozing tons of fresh oranges into a pit and covering them with lye to keep the price of oranges high, and they did it in front of starving migrant children. He saw a story that had to be written.

He bought an old WWI ambulance, tossed a mattress and coffee pot in the back and traveled from migrant camp to migrant camp listening to the stories told by the Okies. He absorbed not only their stories but their existence as well and won a Pulitzer Prize for Grapes of Wrath.

I recall one detail he wrote of that stuck with me; on a cold morning he approached a woman in a camp who was cooking breakfast for her husband and grown son. He asked if he could warm himself by her fire. She welcomed him to. He described stepping forward and reaching out, and when he felt the heat on his hands he shivered, his body acknowledging how cold he really was. An AI could only copy that, never create it with 'personal' experience.

I think the true danger of AI is the further dumbing down of future generations as they rely on AI to think for them. This past week I've heard two young reporters on NPR pronounce the word 'important' as 'impor-unt', telling me they've only heard the word spoken amongst their peers and have never read it.

The United States has led the way in anti-intellectualism for two hundred years, with each generation becoming more ignorant than the last, and look at the shit-show their country has become.  Image these borderline cretins relying on AI for thought, and when that happens how a generation can be steered to any nonsensical mindset if a government weaponizes a central AI;

"War is Peace"
"Freedom is Slavery"
"Ignorance is Strength"

Oh, how they will love Big Brother.

Aaron D McClelland
Penticton, BC

Monday 2 January 2023

From 'Crimes Would Pardon'd Be' - a Devil Brigham Case File

A Butt-Shot Bishop

Deacon Fraser had sat quietly praying in the private hospital room beside the snoring Bishop for almost an hour before his superior awakened with a series of snorts, coughs, and moans.  It had taken Bishop McClure a few moments to collect his awareness that he was still in his hospital bed twelve days after suffering his injury.

As a fledgling priest, Deacon Fraser had been loaned to Bishop McClure to assist with his recovery and to act as private secretary during his convalescence.  He was intimidated by the often loud and demanding McClure, but served humbly in the grace of the Holy Mother of God.

"Archbishop Linus sends his prayers for your speedy recovery after the grievous assault on your earthly body, with the fervent hope that your pious soul is unrelenting in its service to our Lord, Most Reverend."

"Is that what he hopes?" McClure sputtered, "Arrogant man, the Archbishop, taking the name of one of our saints."

"It is said that when attaining a higher station, a new name represents a new life in our order, Most Reverend"

"I know what it represents, you young fool.  I was speaking to his character."

"Of course, Most Reverend." Fraser bowed his head.

"Oh, I am weary of lying on my side all the day and night to nurse my injury." McClure sighed, "I am weary of the food they bring me, weary of the rough hands of nurses who bathe me, weary of it all.  God, give me strength and relive my pain."

Fraser crossed himself and kissed his crucifix.

"What news of the savage who tried to kill me?" McClure asked,  "Is he in chains?"

"Not as yet, Most Reverend.  I spoke with Sergeant Brightworth today as I do every morning and he reports their best tracker is still on the hunt."

"It's been almost two weeks!" McClure shouted, then farted and winced.

"You are still in great pain, Most Reverend."

"Of course I'm in pain.  As you would be with this wound.  I was shot in the back by a filthy indian set to kill a white priest."

"Yes, Most Reverend." Fraser answered, wondering if the buttocks were considered part of the back.

"When the savages are caught, I want the boy transferred from the Inkameep school to St. Joseph's in Williams lake.  They know how to deal with reprobate savages there.  I'll contact the Headmaster myself and recommend daily beatings until that filthy animal is subdued or in the ground."

"He is just a boy, Most Reverend." Fraser said, aghast at the violence the Bishop espoused.

"He is no more than an animal.  Sired by animals.  Raised by animals.  And if he fails to renounce his filthy culture and come to the Lord and rise to the status of a Canadian citizen, he will be put down like an animal." McClure sputtered.

It is his pride that speaks such venom, Fraser thought to himself, shame from his wounded buttock.

"Have you met with the so-called Chief of the tribe?"

"I have, Most Reverend.  He expressed his deep regret of the attack on your Holy self, and wishes you a speedy recovery."

McClure snorted with derision.

"He also does not believe that Ruff, the young man who travels with his grandfather and cousin, fired the shot as he has always been a good boy who has assimilated with the Naramata community."

"Indians lie, young Fraser." McClure said, "It is a well-entrenched nature of their breed."

"I'm not sure, Most Reverend."

"I am sure.  You haven't worked with savages as I have.  They are a pack of liars, thieves, and drunkards.  Next you meet with the Chief, inform him his tribe will be held financially responsible for my hospital stay and Doctor bills, plus a fifty percent tithe to the Church for this vicious attack."

"They are a poor people, Most Reverend."

"And will become poorer until they learn to be Canadians instead of Godless heathens.  This is a Christian nation founded by good and powerful men and the sooner the indians accept that the better off they'll be." McClure told Fraser, "Invite him to bring his elders to Mass in Arawana and ask Father Urban to devise a sermon that illuminates the joy of servitude to the Church."

"Yes, Most Reverend." Fraser bowed his head once more.

Deacon Fraser was troubled as he walked to the train station to ride up the hill to Arawana and meet with Father Urban and fulfill the task set by the Most Reverend Bishop.  

His childhood placed him in New Westminster, a young member of Saint Peter’s Parish.  He'd been a timid boy then – as he was a timid man now – terrified of the chaotic and rough play of other boys his age and even those younger.  He never got the hang of sports, nor unravelled the mystery of arithmetic, and didn't understand the unpleasant humour of his peers, but like all boys he ached to excel at something.  Young Fraser found it in the Church.

His Parish Priest took pity on this frail timid boy and encouraged his obsession with the history of the Church by allowing him free access to the Parish library.  Fraser would spend hours in the dim room, tucked in a nook under the single window with a heavy tome splayed open on his legs.  He was fascinated with Eusebius' writings on Peter the Apostle, one of the three earliest pillars of the Church, along with James the Just and John the Apostle.  Peter had formed the Jerusalem ekklēsia, and led the early soldiers of Christ to convert the heathen Jews and Muslims to the true faith.

Reading Church history filled young Fraser's mind with images of struggle and triumph and he began to imagine himself as part of a great spiritual army, fighting a war to save all men's souls.  While most of his peers took their delight in the cheaply printed comic books of the era; The Yellow Kid, Little Orphan Annie, and lusted after Fritzie Ritz, Fraser was shaping himself to be a Church historian and ached to be part of a Holy Army.

At the age of seventeen he took his vows and sought out mentors in the Catholic hierarchy, and met then Bishop Garrison who would one day ascend to become Archbishop Linus.  Garrison fostered Fraser's greatest passion and appointed him to be one of his secretaries, setting him the task of gathering modern writings of noteworthy Priests in British Columbia to carry the tradition of the Church's recorded history forward.

Fraser had at last found his place in the world, compiling and cataloging sermons and writings that inspired and represented the current efforts of the Clergy to save the souls of human kind.  These men were the newest generation of the Soldiers of Christ and Fraser set a life goal to become one of them.

It was while at this duty that Fraser came across the Sermons and writings of a Priest named McClure – a man who had journeyed deep into the southern desert lands of the province to bring the word of God to the savages who'd lived for generations without the blessings of devotion and prayer.  McClure spoke of lofty battles against the savagery and superstitions held by the heathen natives, turning them from their false gods of land and wind and water.  Away from believing in the pagan spirit world and that animals had souls.  He spoke of the delight reaching their children and turning them away from the ways of their tribes and toward the light of the Saviour.

This was a Holy man pulled from the pages of the Church's early historic writings, a man destined for greatness, perhaps one day being Canonized to take his place beside Saint Peter,  Saint John the Baptist, and Saint James, son of Alphaeus.

Reading further writings about Father McClure, Fraser found him to be a kindred spirit; another boy shunned by his peers, failed at school, but finding his path in a Church library to become a crusading member of the Clergy.

So when Archbishop Linus told Fraser of how Bishop McClure barely survived an assassination attempt by a heathen indian and was hospitalized with a grievous wound, Fraser grew alarmed.  When the Archbishop said the Most Reverend Bishop required a secretary to assist him during his recovery, Fraser was elated to volunteer and travel to the wilder lands of the Okanagan to fill that position.

It was Marcel Proust who cautioned his readers to never meet one's heroes, for the man Fraser met was not the man his writings portrayed him to be.  Bishop McClure was not the Crusader of Christ Fraser thought he was, who he met was a bitter man filled with anger and spite with a near bloodthirsty lust not to save the indian soul, but to punish it.  

Speaking to other local Priests, Fraser learned that they fell into three categories in regard to the Residential Schools run by their order; those who were ignorant of what happened there, those who were disgusted by abuses at the hands of the school's Priests and Nuns on the children, and those who saw them as prisons more to punish godless children than to save them.

Deacon Fraser's entire belief system and been challenged then shattered in the past week as Bishop McClure's secretary, and worse; given the parallel his life held with the Bishop's, he wondered if in time, he too would become bitter and hate filled.

As the train pulled him up the winding track to Arawana, Deacon Fraser wondered if Father Urban would be amenable to including the Local Indian elders in a celebratory feast of fellowship in the Church as well as a sermon.  Saint Lawrence's feast day was approaching and Fraser thought it apropos to honour him.  The irony that Lawrence had also been a Deacon when he was martyred was not lost on him.

Aaron D McClelland
Penticton, BC

Saturday 8 October 2022

Foundation ...

William Kennet, 'Sailor Bill' to his friends, stood outside his large tent overlooking the village of Naramata drinking his morning coffee.  He could hear his two daughters kicking up a mild fuss at his wife Sheila-Anne inside the tent, wanting griddle cakes for breakfast down at the Arawana Hotel.  Myrna and Clara didn't like porridge no matter how much brown sugar and sweet cream was on it.  The hotel dining room served fat and fluffy griddle cakes with butter and fruit syrups from blueberry to cherry to smother them with.

Their stubbornness made him smile.  They knew what they wanted and refused to settle for less.

Stubbornness was a sign of will, and will had got him where he wanted to be in life, and at that moment building a new house in Arawana was where he wanted to be.  The south Okanagan region with its acres of fruit trees and vegetables would be a goldmine for his transportation company, and the larger towns providing new customers for his other enterprises.

Three events brought him from Vancouver to the Okanagan Valley. The first was the reliable Southern Trans-Provincial Highway from Vancouver to Alberta, that skirted the south point of the valley.  The second was the recent availability of gas powered refrigeration units for his trucks.  The third, and most damning, was the 21st Amendment, repealing the Volstead Act and making liquor sales once again legal in the United States.  Sailor Bill had made his early wealth running Canadian Club whiskey south of the border in swift, three masted sloops.  But that ended on December 5th, 1933 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed the end of prohibition.  Like most rum-runners, Kennet knew the end of that gravy train was coming and invested in a new form of transporting goods; refrigerated cargo trucks buying produce cheap in far flung areas and delivering it to his Vancouver warehouse as fresh as the day it was picked.  The abundance of fruit and vegetables grown in the Okanagan made it a land of opportunity.

The Okanagan was a place begging to be staked, and drive his stake into its heart, he would.  Like he planted his stake in Vancouver long ago as a wayward delinquent, rallying Irish and French orphans around him to form the Beatty Street Boys.  They committed robberies and break-ins and thought they were rich because of it.  But when he saw prohibition begin, he knew selling booze bought legal in Canada and sold illegally across the border was the way to go.

He and the few boys from Beatty Street who followed him, started with a stolen and repainted twenty foot dory, rowing it across Boundary Bay in the dead of night from White Rock to Blaine.  It wasn't long before – by reinvesting their profits – they were sailing a single-masted sloop from Vancouver to Bellingham, then a two-master, then three, and soon a small fleet.  During those years he grew wealthy and powerful, meeting Sheila-Anne and producing his girls, making life complete.  But the tide had turned for Sailor Bill in 1933, so he turned his eyes from the sea to landward, and ultimately the Okanagan.  Here he would put down roots and grow his empire even further.

"You seein' dat, Bill?"

Kennet pulled his gaze away from the lake.  It was his main man and bodyguard Serge Chéret standing nearby pointing at something up the hill.  Kennet looked and watched a cowboy on horseback leading a blond pony toward Arawana Road emerging from Main Street in the town above them.

"Dey got cowboys, 'ere?" Chéret chuckled.

"No, Serge.  I think that's their Chief of Police."

"Don't got no Chief.  They Provincials like da rest."

"I know.  But people still call him Chief."

Chéret hocked and spat on the ground, following the mounted man with his eyes, "He don' look so tough."

Kennet smiled at Chéret.  His man was half French and half negro, a large and capable mulatto he'd put up against any man.  Chéret had fists of iron and handled the straight razor he kept in his pocket like a surgeon.  Now always decked out in the finest suits and hats, he was one of the original rough Beatty Street Boys who was dedicated to Kennet and had saved his life more times than Kennet could remember.

"We'll see." Kennet said, "We don't go looking for trouble up here, Serge.  Kennet Transportation Company is a legitimate trucking company and that's what we want everyone to believe.  We play it friendly until we're pushed."

"Den we push back." Serge said.

"Yes.  Only then."  Kennet said, turning his gaze on Joe Morelli's crew working in the excavation for his new home, "But now we need to ask around.  Get to know this copper before we meet him."

Chéret hocked and spat again at the thought of asking around about a flatfoot.

"And stop doing that, Serge." Kennet said as he walked toward the excavation, "It makes you seem crude and uncultured."

The breeze climbing up the hill brought the earthy scent of the lake with it and ruffled Kennet's hair as he made his way toward the building site of his new home.  He missed the salt rich winds coming off the sea in his smuggler days, but did like the quiet of the small Okanagan town.

"Mister Morelli." Kennet called as he neared, Morelli lifting his head from the foundation he was creating; gluing large, glacial till stones together with thick mortar, assembling the round rocks into a perfectly level and squared foundation for the house to come.

He and his crew had reached ground level from the pit labourers had dug under his direction, including pony walls that would support the load-bearing walls above.  The spaces between and around the stone walls would be backfilled and tamped to pack them tight, anchoring the house that would stand above the silt cliff that edged his property to the West.

"Yes, Mister Kennet?" Morelli set down his trowel and climbed up out of the excavation.

"How is it coming?"

"We'll have the crawlspace walls finished by the end of the week and start on the chimneys and fireplaces while the walls cure.  You can schedule your carpenters to start in ten days."

"So, ahead of schedule."

"Yes, sir."

"Good.  That's good." Kennet said, admiring the man's craftsmanship, and appreciating that his crew kept working hard even though their boss' back was turned, "I know you live on the other side of the lake, but what can you tell me about the policeman people call Chief over here."

"Detective Corporal Brigham?"

"Is that his name?  Brigham?"


"What's he like?"

Morelli shrugged, "I've never met him, but people seem to like him.  I've heard he's a tough one.  A man criminals don't like to mess with."

"Lays down the law with a heavy hand?"

"Yes, sir.  People say he lives up to his name."


"No, his first name." Morelli squinted at Kennet, backlit by the morning sun, "Devil."

"Devil." Kennet repeated, "Good to know.  Thank you Mister Morelli."

As Morelli climbed back down to his work, Kennet looked back up the hill but the cowboy was gone.

"Devil." Kennet whispered, "I guess we'll see."

"Crimes Would Pardon'd Be"

Aaron D McClelland
Penticton, BC

Tuesday 13 September 2022

Vory v zakone

 In the time of the Russian Tsars, Vorovskoy mir (Thieve's World) existed as a massive criminal organization in Russia.  During the Soviet era, when Stalin and others sought to eradicate the Russian "mayfia", the Vorovskoy mir leadership saw the writing on the wall and began a transition toward Vory v zakone (Thieve's in law), manipulating the bureaucratic communist system of government to have organized criminal leaders placed in high positions of authority.

It was during the era of Perestroika led by Mikhail Gorbachev and his glasnost (openness) policy reform that Vory v zakone reached for its highest power, a power that still exists today.

In 1987, while visiting Russia, ex-MI6 espionage officer David John Moore Cornwell (John le Carré ) reported that Gorbachev had issued a secret edict "... which sanctioned the privatization of the Soviet Communist Party and opened the door to the free-for-all scramble for State assets that turned post Communist Russia into a criminalized society".  This saw the emergence of the Russian Oligarchs.

Between 2000 and 2004, Vladimir Putin engaged with many oligarchs, reaching a "grand bargain" with them. This bargain allowed the oligarchs to maintain their powers, in exchange for their explicit support and alignment with Putin's government.

This is Putin of 2022; a grandmaster of Vory v zakone, a criminal leader of hundreds of ultra rich mob bosses overseeing hundreds-of-thousands of criminals who carry out voter fraud; propaganda campaigns; assassinations of their enemies both inside and outside Russia; illegal disruptions of other countries both through physical attacks and cybercrimes; and the attempted absorption of Ukraine for its vast resources and strategic position in eastern Europe.

Russia is a criminal state led by a criminal despot who cares nothing about the liberty, wellbeing, or rights of his own citizens nor those of any other country, who's sole aim is to rape the environment to increase and maintain his own wealth and absolute power.

Aaron D McClelland
Penticton, BC

Tuesday 5 July 2022

Nest Of The Basilisk

Basilisk : (bæz.ə.lɪsk) - also know as the Serpent King, is a mythical beast with lethal breath and gaze, whose nest can be located by the s...