The Listening Tree
My new book THE LISTENING TREE is now available at lulu.com and on amazon. Since I had so many projects this past year with different writing opportunities, this book was a break from the norm for me. It’s a short poetry form book that delves into growing pains and the hardships we face in our youthful years. My son, Tony, came up with the title, and the beautiful canvas art was done by my daughter, Lana. They consulted me on each page and helped me gear it toward a middle school through high school aged audience to let them know they are not alone. Here’s the description:
There are times when everyone feels the world is against them. There are times when everyone achieves a milestone they want to share. In either of these cases and more, all we want in those moments is for someone to hear our thoughts and listen. The Listening Tree is our escape place. It is a place where judgement is void, and a place for peace of mind. Within these pages are thoughts many of us have throughout our youthful years. It is intended for all people to let them know they are not alone.
THE LISTENING TREE is available in print for $4.99 at https://www.lulu.com/en/us/shop/rick-pipito-and-lana-pipito/the-listening-tree/paperback/product-8j8knk.html?page=1&pageSize=4
and available in digital for $2.99 at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08ZNWYL11/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=the+listening+tree+rick+pipito&qid=1616501170&sr=8-1
X-Men God Loves Man Kills pt 1 – X-men Audio Drama
After a few delays the next episode is live! I had a hand in editing as well as a voice role as George the Purifier, and he’s a real prick. Give it a listen as well as the whole series, and share. It’s live on every major podcast app as well as the video version on youtube below. Thanks to Karl Dutton and Scyther Podcast Audio Dramas whole cast for constantly bringing about great work! #xmen #audiodrama #podcast #marvel
X-Men Days of Future Past (The Audio Drama) by Rick Pipito
If you’ve been following me, then you know that I have written an audio adaptation for the season 3 premier of X-MEN THE AUDIO DRAMA. My take on the Days of Future Past storyline is something that has been a dream of mine for ages, but finally come to life. I’m also hard at work finishing my next book THE LISTENING TREE, as well as writing a first draft for Scyther inc for another episode that’ll be Wolverine centric.
You can listen to the first two seasons on your favorite podcast app in order to catch up prior to this episode. They can be found on your favorite podcast app. Without further adieu, here’s the season 3 premier of X-Men The Audio Drama.
Days of Future Past (X-Men The Audio Drama Season 3 episode 1):
Written by Rick Pipito based on the work by Chris Claremont
Produced by Karl Dutton
Music by Declan Gillgalon
Featuring the voice talents of: Sam Devereaux as the Narrator, Rex Anderson as Logan (Wolverine), Tariye Peterside as Ororo Munroe (Storm), Ryan Laughton as Kurt Wagner (Nightcrawler), Jason Rivers as Professor Charles Xavier, Vinay Nariani as Senator Robert Kelly, Isobel Wolff as Dr. Moira MacTaggart, Steve Porter as Avalanche, Thomas Lee as Pyro, Margaret Ashley as Destiny, Katherine Black as Rachel Grey, Cameron Hendrix as Bishop, Monica Kelly as Polaris (Future Magneto), Tanzie Fennelly as Rogue, Kevin Gaddie as the President, Nick Anne as Gyrich, Oscar Stavemyr as gang leader, Ryan Craig as Sebastian Shaw, Drew Kallen as Fred Dukes (Blob), Dara Seitzman as Raven Darkholme (Mystique), Keith Seymour as Warren Worthington III (Angel), Jeannie McGinnis as Kate Pryde, Maddie McGinnis as Kitty Pryde, and Joey Sourlis as Peter Rasputin (Colossus)
Audio Drama Announcement
I’ve just completed the final draft of a major project for Scyther Audio Dramas. If you’ve been following me on social media then you already know the clues I’ve dropped, but as of yesterday I can officially make the announcement.
I just completed the final draft, which already has gone out to the production team and voice actors. I’ve been hired to write the season 3 premier of X-Men The Audio Drama. My story will be an adaptation of “X-Men Days of Future Past”. I based most of it on the original print with nods to the 90s animated series and the live action movie, but all with my own spin on the events, of which I’m super proud. There’s even an alternate ending, which was cut from the final for a better version, but I hope to at least release that in script form once all is completed.
This has been a dream project of mine for years to write for a Marvel or DC story, and it’s finally happened. If you haven’t checked out X-Men the Audio Drama, then you should now. It’s on the podcast app for free and you won’t be disappointed. Catch up on the first two seasons before this one hits.
Dream Project & Update
Well I’m wrapping up the writing on my new book aimed at ages 10 – 18 about growing up and the range of emotions we deal with. My daughter is putting the finishing touches on the cover art and I’ll share that as soon as it’s ready. I’m looking at a late September release for print and digital copies.
In other news I’ve been hired to write an audioplay adaptation of a major storyline involving characters that I grew up loving and still do. These are characters you are all familiar with and I’m excited to share the news as soon as I can. In addition to the writing of the season 4 premier, I’ll also be voice acting in it. I’ll announce the role(s) with my next update.
Now to get back to the tight deadlines and everything else I’m working on. Hope you all have a good week.
Oh and feel free to guess what the project is. First one who guesses correctly will get a free download of one of my novels.
20 Forgotten Retro Video Games II (NES Era)
Well since my previous post visiting the Atari era of games was so popular, I figured I’d jump right into a part 2 with the NES era. As with my prior installment I want this to focus on the more forgotten games. Sure, Super Mario Bros and Tetris will always be remembered, but they will stand the test of time. Some of these others were decent games that weren’t of a huge franchise, but have all been somewhat forgotten.
If you have any you think should be added, feel free to comment or start a discussion below on which brought the best or worst memories for you.
20 – NARC (1988) – I first played this in the arcade and remember losing plenty of quarters to it, but something about a more realistic (in the sense of blood) game at the time, it was appealing. You were a cop on a mission. That mission? Well, you weren’t really undercover like a real NARC would be, so you just wiped out waves of bad guys to get to the drug dealer boss at the end. It was a run and gun style game, but you could team up with a friend for some great co-op action. Just don’t run out of lives.
19 – Xenophobe (1987) – To say this isn’t a rip off of the Alien movie franchise would be a lie, because the aliens are very similar in many ways, but the story is quite different. It’s not locked solely in space, so whether in a base, in a city or elsewhere, you could grab two of your closest friends and eradicate the “Xenos”. My issue was the timed aspect. Each level had to be done before the timer ran out. I’m not a fan of being pressured to complete video game objectives in a certain amount of time.
18- Lemmings (1991) – These pesky little guys/girls who keep walking, until they reach their goal or perish, quickly became a fascination of mine. Using ladders, ramps, bombs and other tools I could make them reach their goal safely. In return I’d get to advance another level with them as the difficulty increased each time. The two player angle wasn’t as good as playing alone because the split screen just took attention away from the solo player’s task. This game spawned two spinoffs as well as the sequels: “Lemmings 2: The Tribes,” “All New World Of Lemmings,” “3D Lemmings,” and “Lemmings Revolution.”
17 – Jackal (1988) – The concept was simple. You (and a friend if you want) are dropped off in the middle of enemy territory with a jeep. You must drive, shoot, and avoid deadly enemy fire in order to rescue the POWs and save the day. Okay maybe the concept was pretty unrealistic as no one (not even Rambo) could do all that, but it made for a very entertaining albeit challenging game.
16 – The Adventures of Bayou Billy (1989) – It may look like Crocodile Dundee, but instead it’s Billy West (no, not the same Billy West involved with Futurama). Billy West is a vigilante bent on taking down the crime lord in the swamps of the south. What was great about this game wasn’t just the impossible side scrolling brawler that it was, but there were two levels where the light gun came into play. If you didn’t have the light gun you could always use the controller to control the crosshairs, but it was much more fun with the pinging of the light gun’s trigger. There were also levels where you drove a vehicle giving it a wide variety in type of play. This game easily got shadowed by it’s more popular competition like Double Dragon, but it’s still a fond memory and actually had more to it.
15 – Bubble Bobble (1986) – Bub and Bob have been turned into bubble dragons and must traverse 100 levels of cave monsters in order to reach their girlfriends who have been kidnapped. Who caused all of this? Baron Von Blubba. All you had to do was use your bubble blowing skills to entrap an enemy and pop the bubble to eliminate them. It also featured multiple endings, but the true good ending you could only get if you played co-op. I’d list the 20 sequels that were made plus the spinoff, but that’d take up half this page. Just know it was good enough to have some sort of ongoing legacy all thanks to the original that we may have all forgotten.
14 – Operation Wolf (1987) – A shooting game using the light gun. It was one of the first arcade like shooters that put you in a first person view as you run through a concentration camp to rescue hostages. It was a scroller, so while you didn’t physically move your character, the screen did that part for you. All you had to do was point and shoot. If I recall correctly there is more than one ending depending on how many hostages you successfully rescue. It had three sequels: “Operation Thunderbolt,” “Operation Wolf 3”, and “Operation Tiger.”
13 – Dragon Warrior (1986) – This was really the first great RPG style game. Known as Dragon Quest around the world, it has had several spinoffs, sequels, cartoons and other media interpretations under the Quest name. But Dragon Warrior is a forgotten title by many. It gave a close up view of the enemy you were fighting, making you feel as if you were in the game. That first person fighting perspective combined with an overhead map to traverse and strategy of leveling up and equipping your characters is what made this game so well rounded and a series which is relevant in gaming today.
12 – Marble Madness (1984) – Okay, so technically I first played this game on Atari, but it was the NES version that had more levels, better controls and graphics, and was all around just better. It was very nerve wracking however, and your patience would be tested as you guided your marble ball through the obstacle courses within a certain amount of time. It not only looked 3 dimensional for the time, but actually used physics that were very close to how a ball would roll on such a course. A sequel was planned but eventually scrapped because other similar games were inspired by this stand alone game.
11. Battletoads (1991) – These guys were basically the Ninja Turtles but toads and with different villains. It might have been a rip off in a way, but it was still lots of fun. Its sequels continued to be pretty decent too (except for Battletoads/Double Dragon, which was really a selling gimmick because the game was terrible). I vaguely remember an animated series that had to be as bad as Captain N the Gamemaster, because the existence of it is very faint in my mind. Still, despite them not being as cool or well received as the TMNT, the first game was a great coop beat-em-up.
10 – Arkanoid (1986) – I really don’t know what it was about this game that I loved so much. I do still enjoy it today, don’t get me wrong, but the concept is so simple there’s not much to it. You take the game Pong, turn it vertical and bounce a ball into blocks until there are no blocks remaining. Occasionally a powerup dropped and you could multiply how many balls were on screen or even shoot bullets to help you out. Just don’t pick up the power down that will shrink your paddle. The sequels “Arkanoid Revenge of Doh,” “Arkanoid Doh it Again,” and “Arkanoid Returns” were the main sequels with many breakout like knock offs trying to replicate the awesomeness of this one. There was even an Arkanoid Space Invaders crossover game made.
9 – Commando (1985) – Not to be confused with the film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, its concept was similar. You’re a lone soldier facing ridiculous odds to rescue POWs and defeat the evil army forces. Now here’s the interesting thing that I didn’t realize until now… It had its sequels “Mercs” and “Commando 3: Wolf Of the Battlefield,” but “Bionic Commando” and its two sequels are also part of the franchise. They get a bit more sci-fi as the main hero has been injured and gains bionic parts, but the fact that they are all intertwined makes me like this game even more. Commando is one of my favorites from that era.
8 – Kung Fu (1984) – The main character is directly based on a character Jackie Chan played, but has no relation to that continuity. It was a side scrolling punch and kick game with no fore or background movement. You just had to fight to survive and make it past a ridiculous amount of enemies who didn’t fight very well at all. “Kung Fu Master,” “Kung Fu Master 2” and “Vigilante” are all follow ups to this original game (which in Japan was called Kung Fu Master). I was determined to beat the bosses in each level, but I’m not sure I made it past level 4. Still, it provided hours of entertainment.
7 – Kid Icarus (1987) – Greek Mythology tales were some of my early favorite stories, so Kid Icarus hit the spot for me. I remember flying up and up as my bow and arrow eliminated other mythological beasts and traversed the underworld, Earth, and Olympus to face off against Medusa and others. “Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters,” and “Kid Icarus Uprising” were its sequels, but neither look to be as great as this one was memorable for me.
6 – 1942 (1986) – Being a pilot during 1942 over the Pacific would not be something I imagine an easy task, but the game made it lots of fun. The powerups were great as you fought waves of enemies to reach the end of each level and eventually win the war. It was followed by “1943: The Battle Of Midway,” “1944: The Loop Master,” “19XX: The War Against Destiny,” and a prequel “1941: Counter Attack.” They are timeless games that we’ve seen tons of similar styles pay homage to over the years. I’ll never get tired of these an playing it with a friend was even stimulating.
5 – Spy Hunter (1983) – I realize this was out in arcades and for the Atari for a few years before NES came along, but it was the NES version that was the big hit for me. I always loved racing games, but something about this being the top down view made it unique. That uniqueness was amplified obviously by the face that your car could shoot and gain other weapons, then go into boat mode and so on. Spy Hunter was difficult. I never made it past the 3rd section without cheating, but the repetition of playing it over and over never bothered me. I just wanted to play it. Its sequels were just as fun and increasingly got better (give or take) with each installment: “Spy Hunter 2,” “Super Spy Hunter,” Spyhunter,” “Spyhunter 2,” “Spy Hunter,” and “Spyhunter: Nowhere to Run.” Notice that the later sequels reused the title as a way to reboot the franchise, but still serve as a follow on to the original plot, and even included actor Dwayne Johnson as the title character.
4 – Gauntlet (1985) – Oh my poor allowance. Since I didn’t actually own a NES, my brother and I would play the arcade version of this game constantly. How many quarters we spent could have probably bought us a Nintendo over the course of the two summers we spent playing this and the next game I’ll mention. I always chose the warrior and he chose the elf. Then I’d shove him aside when he’d shoot my food as my life ticked away in the game. There was so much about this game that was annoying, yet somehow became so much fun. It’s another that I never beat but thankfully the NES version gave you passwords when you made it to certain checkpoints. I can see death chasing me down the corridors as the machine said in a muffled voice, “Warrior is about to die.” It haunts me. There were some great sequels too: “Gauntlet II,” “Gauntlet: The Third Encounter,” “Gauntlet III: The Final Quest,” “Gauntlet IV,” “Gauntlet Legends,” “Gauntlet Dark Legacy,” and “Gauntlet The Seven Sorrows.”
3 Rampage (1986) – What do you get when you cross a King Kong wannabe, a Godzilla wannabe and a Giant Werewolf with human DNA? Well you get this game of course. Rampage was great because you destroyed buildings, ate people, caused mayhem, and even though you were the badguy of the game it was just so much fun being evil. Sometimes just to piss my brother off, I’d turn on him in coop mode and punch him off a building. It wasn’t nice, but heck I was playing as a bad guy character, so it was justified. The sequels were even more fun and gave new characters the spotlight as well as returning ones: “Rampage World Tour,” “Rampage Universal Tour,” “Rampage Through Time,” and “Rampage Total Destruction.” There was also a spinoff and a movie made starring yet again The Rock.
2 Excitebike (1985) – Whether racing against the clock or against computer opponents, this game took trick dirt biking and brought it into your living room. The highlight of this game for me though was that you could build your own tracks and race them. I recall making some impossible scenarios and then proving I could beat my own tracks without falling off the bike. It was a simpler game, yet satisfying. It also had a few quasi-sequels: “Excitebike 64,” “Excite Truck,” “Excitebots: Trick Racing,” and “Excitebike World Rally.”
1 R.C. Pro Am (1988) – Radio controlled cars were huge in the 80s, but if it was raining outside this was the next best thing. Driving a track with your friends or alone, upgrading your RC cars and winning the races. The games may not have lasted that long, but the memories always will. This, alongside its sequels “Super RC Pro Am” and “RC Pro Am II” paved way for many generations of combative style racing games such as Mario Kart and more.
I realize there are plenty of sports games I could put on this list, but I feel they fall into their own category for a later post. There are other great games for NES that a list of 50 wouldn’t suffice. I can’t mention them all, but for my 20 forgotten games there is an honorable mention. Bad Dudes was released in 1988 and while this street brawler wasn’t nearly as good as some of its competition, it was better than others and still ridiculously entertaining.
20 Forgotten Retro Video Games (Atari Era)
I had a sudden flashback the other night to a game I played in the early 80s, and they kept on coming to me. These were video games that had minimal story in today’s standards, but a plot that seemed above all else for their time. They helped shape my passion for telling stories in books today. I figured I’d list just a few of them and would love to hear if you remember these or any others that stand out to you pre-NES era.
If you’re younger (because let’s face it I’m showing my age with this post), then you might want to check these out and let me know what you think (even if the controls are quite unnerving.) My brother Dan helped throw a few of these together, making the list complete.
Here’s my top 20:
20 – Ninja (Atari 8-Bit 1986) – I may have broken a controller playing this at one point because of the sometimes unresponsive controls, but it was still a cool game. As the ninja you could use your combat skills, throwing stars, knives, and sword to battle other skilled enemies in a fortress. I always died when having to battle more than three at a time, but it was still fun and different than any other game of its kind because each screen up down left or right brought you a different challenger(s) and layout.
19 – Pitfall! (Atari 2600 1982) – Pitfall was an easy way to satisfy someone wanting to play the role of Indiana Jones. The thing was you were Pitfall Harry and it was a totally different story. Regardless the feel was there and it was frustrating and fun at the same time. I remember always wondering if there was an end to the game. Apparently there is but I was never able to beat it in under the time required, so I lost out finding that final treasure. Its sequels were even better. “Pittfall II: The Lost Caverns,” Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure,” Pitfall: Beyond The Jungle,” and “Pitfall: The Lost Expedition” were all better evolutions of their predecessors and maintained that same theme that made the original so good.
18 – The Riddle of The Sphinx ( Atari 2600 1982) – As the Prince of Egypt armed with a sling shot, it was your goal in this vertically scrolling game to solve the Riddle of the Sphinx. It combined arcade style action and artifacts. While you fought off enemies, you had to collect the artifacts and take them to the right places to solve the riddle and gain access to the Temple of Ra.
17 – River Raid (Atari 2600 1982) – Dan reminded me of River Raid and I’m not sure how I forgot about this one. You flew a plane over a base and down a river to take out enemy forces. Simple I know, but it’s sequel “River Raid II” was even better and felt as a true continuation to its predecessor. Either way if you owned or played one of these, then you had to play the other to get the full experience.
16 – Enduro (Atari 2600 1983) – Dan chose this one as well and I can’t disagree. Enduro was way better than pole position or any other racing game of the time because it had changing times of day and visibility. It seemed like an endless racer at first, but there was a trophy you’d earn if you got so far. If I recall correctly you could even be entered into a drawing if your score was high enough for an actual real car for a limited time upon release (though no 5 or 6 year old was going to do that.) It was a great marketing ploy for parents to buy copies for their kids or even better yet themselves.
15 – Necromancer (Atari 8-bit 1982) – Necromancer is one of those mindless gems. You take control of a wizard and grow an army of trees to combat the evil necromancer and his minions. It’s a fast paced game that puts you center screen to rotate and destroy orc like creatures and more. There’s also a side scrolling level similar to Donkey Kong’s approach where you have to go up and down ladders. The trees you successfully grow in the first level join you in the second level. Make it through the next few levels and you face the Necromancer in a graveyard. (fitting I know). It was frustrating and yet somehow fun.
14. Aztec Challenge (Commodore 64 1983) – There isn’t much control-wise to this game. You basically have 3 heights of jumps (or movements left and right on some levels) which you can perform as the screen scrolls by and you have to make it past obstacles to reach the final challenge and qualify to be the Aztec people’s champion. I never made it halfway through this game I don’t think, but it was lots of fun and the music was catchy. Perhaps this garners a replay sometime soon.
13. Archon: The Light & The Dark (Atari 8-bit 1983) – Think chess, but with so much more. This utilizes goblins, wizards, a shapeshifter, a phoenix and more characters on a square chess board. Each movement you make is strategic, but when two opposing characters meet on a single square, it goes into a combat screen. There you move around and battle out who will be the victor of the area and who will be captured. It was done so well that it got a sequel called “Archon 2: Adept”. Even today and despite the graphics this game can be a lot of fun.
12. Forbidden Forest (Commodore 64 1983) – There seems to be a year and a fantasy theme running here, but stay with me. This by far has the worst graphics of any of the games I’m mentioning, but something about it mesmerized me and had me playing for hours even though it is sort of endless in a way. There are four levels that alternate between day and night as your lone archer fights through waves of giant spiders, bees and skeletons until you reach the Demogorgon boss, who you can only see in flashes of lightning, making it a challenge. There were two sequels, which I haven’t ever played, “Beyond the Forbidden Forest,” and “Forbidden Forest 3.”
11. Wing War (Colecovision 1983) – This game was extremely difficult because it required finesse when flying your dragon character. You had to compensate for your momentum and be careful where you landed or flew. Your extra lives came in the form of eggs hatching into dragons in your cave. The objective was to gather a crystal of each element and return in to your cave without countering the elements you already had (for example no water if you have fire in there first). Then you’d face off against a dark creature shown in the pic to get the final crystal and return it to win the game. There was a slightly different version for Atari, but the Coleco version was much better graphic wise.
10. Xevious (Atari 8-Bit 1983) – Plot? Fairly simple. You fly a craft from an above view and take out waves of Xevious forces threatening to destroy the Earth. This game was annoying when trying to avoid bullets, but the variety of enemies and replayability was great. It ended up having a few sequels, “Super Xevious,” “Xevious 3D,” and “Xevious Ressurection” as well as spinoff games.
9. Beachhead (Atari 8-Bit 1983) – I also include it’s sequel “Beachhead 2: The Dictator Strikes Back” in this because the four levels in each game can pretty much be combined into an ongoing story. Whether you are a boat navigating a mine field or shooting down enemy battleships, a tank driving with bad controls over and around obstacles and taking down a boss that looks like a dirt pile, or a ninja type guy throwing knives until the enemy dictator falls, this series was unique in the varieties of gameplay controls it had. There was a remake, but nothing is as nostalgiac as the first and second one.
8. Solaris (Atari 2600 1986) – Solaris was probably the best game graphically for the Atari 2600. In it you were a space ship with limited fuel in search of the planet of the title’s namesake. Along the way you’d warp to various sectors of space and planets where there would be alien threats, civilians to rescue, or corridors to traverse. My brother and I played this a lot in search of the planet and despite how many times we tackled it, we only ever beat it once.
7. Mail Order Monsters (Commodore 64 1985) – This game wasn’t that great as far as playing it went, but there was a certain degree of satisfaction in building your own monster and its traits, then taking it into combat against your sibling or friend. You could fight against the computer too, but it was much more fun as a multiplayer than anything else. It was also the closest thing you could get to Godzilla scale monster fights.
6. Karateka (Apple II 1984) – This game was very difficult because of the slow combat mechanics and pace of it, but the graphics were groundbreaking at the time and the animation was very smooth. It was fun and frustrating to spend the time to fight your way through the dojo and battle Akuma (the game’s boss). Worse than the fact that you could easily get your butt kicked by his henchmen, the villain also had a hawk that would occasionally fly into the screen and wipe you out. Sure, it had all that negativity and the stereotypical girl in distress, but there was something about it that stuck. I’m pretty sure the girl you are trying to save would have been better off and probably more capable of fighting the boss and his minions herself then just sitting there waiting.
5. Pepper II (Colecovision 1982) – You’re an angel who can change into a devil in a quest to zip up the grid blocks on each maze. It’s an endless game as far as I can tell, with increasing speed ala pac-man levels. To me it’s more fun than other games like it with a unique story that kind of makes sense. Just beware the zipper ripper and floating eyeballs that will be a thorn in your side, especially as you progress. Toss in the funeral theme from Alfred Hitchcock Presents and a brief Zip-a-dee-do-da, and you can’t forget this one.
4. Space Fury (Colecovision 1981) – The lead alien in this game frightened me a little when I was just a young kid, but that’s what made this game so fun for me. I wanted to win to make it go away. The play itself was the fun part though. It took what Asteroids was and turned it into a colorful battlefield where you could upgrade your ship after each level to have different armor and weapon fire. The music was superb and added to the alien’s eeriness. Little did I know until writing this, that they made a sequel called “Ms. Space Fury,” which had the same music but was a platform style with a female alien.
3. Zaxxon (Colecovision 1982) – With a diagonal area to traverse and tons of colors, there was nothing unattractive about this game. Each area was a new base you’d invade until you got to the robot Zaxxon, who was difficult but not impossible to beat. No matter how many times I played through this I was always entertained and could play more. It had 3 sequels: “Super Zaxxon,” “Zaxxon’s Motherbase 2000,” and
“Zaxxon’s Escape,” but none will top the original.
2. Mr. Do (Colecovision 1982) – I had the original version where the character looked like a snowman, but the main port’s main character was a clown. It didn’t really make a difference because the game was the same either way. It was a digging game with each map resembling the shape of a number. The goal was to collect the cherries so you can get your extra pass to the next level. Apples hung from above that you could use to crush the enemies, but you were also equipped with a bouncy power ball that you could throw and have reappear in your hand. If I were to pick my favorite childhood game of this era, Mr. Do might be at the top of the list for the amount of levels and variety of play. There were also 3 sequels: “Mr. Do’s Castle,” “Mr. Do’s Wild Ride,” and “Do! Run Run,” none of which I ever had the pleasure of playing.
1. Time Pilot (Colecovision 1982) – The version in the arcades actually had an extra level which would have just added to this game, but the four level version I had is still a game I keep hoping they will remake with a modern twist. I didn’t even realize it had a sequel without the time travel element called “Time Pilot ’84.” The original put you in the role of a pilot who traveled to different time periods (obviously), and battled with planes from each era. At the end of each level was a boss ship ranging from a zeppelin to bomber to a UFO in the version with the extra level. If you beat the boss flyer, then you’d be transported through time via a very cool looking (for the time) portal effect that stretched across the screen.
There is one final game worth mentioning, but it’s not in my top 20 because it was in my mind impossible to go anywhere. The difficulty level made it so unplayable that I never made it halfway through the first level. That didn’t stop me from trying. So, for my honorable mention I give to you The Last V8. It was released in 1985 for the Commodore 64 and had great graphics and sound. It was the control for the car and the fact that you had to do extremely fast navigation so that you didn’t run out of fuel that made this impossible. It turns out there were only two levels anyway, so apparently I wasn’t missing much. One version had a third level, but who cares because no one could really do it at least in some reasonable time frame.
Big Eats Small Kitchen
Well quarantine does sure make strange things happen. If you follow @homemadedelish on Instagram, then you know we’ve been doing some live segments in the kitchen as she creates some amazing food and I assist with doing whatever I can to keep it entertaining and help out. lol.
Apparently after the last few times broadcasting, there has been a HUGE positive response about the two of us and what we do. It’s partly why we brought back Think, Sip, Write. But we decided to continue doing this a few times a week with cooking segments or something food related.
We will be going live again tonight around 4 pm Eastern Time, as well as a few more nights this week and then after that. If you feel like joining us and have any questions to add to the fun, we’d love to have you visit live.
Just make sure to follow @homemadedelish on Instagram so you are notified when we are on. This will also let you know when we go live with guest interviews for Think, Sip, Write. #bigeatssmallkitchen #thinksipwrite
Think, Sip, Write: episode 72 with Tony Luke Jr
Roberta and I chat with Tony Luke Jr about acting, quarantine, music, moving, food and more. Check it out.
An original tune I wrote a few years back with John Caputo called, “Alcohol Suntan.” It’s not quite the electric version, but just as fun to play and sing.
Think, Sip, Write: ep 70 with Chef Brian Duffy
Roberta and I chat with about food and restauranteur and TV Chef Brian Duffy during quarantine. #thinksipwrite
Think, Sip, Write: ep 69 with Mina Say What
Our #thinksipwrite episode becomes fun when radio and public personality MinaSayWhat drops in during quarantine
Think, Sip, Write: ep 68 live chat with Tony Bruno and Miss Robin Austin
The long overdue return of #thinksipwrite has arrived. This season we are chatting during quarantine with some well known guests. First up are no strangers to the sports world. From the studio of the Tony Bruno Show to ours at home we chat with Tony Bruno and Miss Robin Austin about isolation, food, and of course sports.
Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer”
Being all couped up in the house I’m sure has everyone looking forward to a hopefully COVID free summer. I always blast this song with the windows down on a nice day. Figured I’d do my own little arrangement of the Don Henley classic and see how it goes. If the video doesn’t work embedded, then click the link.
Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin'”
I remember seeing Tom Petty in concert during the late nineties. It was a time when I was going through a few issues of my own and music really got me through it all safely. I decided to cover Free Fallin’ in the hopes that it’ll get you all past this crazy time and to where we can resume some sense of normalcy.
One of my original instrumentals written a few years back. I’m beginning to post some of my songs as well as covers during this pandemic. I hope everyone is staying healthy and safe. We will get through it. Enjoy the music.
One way to deal with quarantine and boredom
I hope everyone is staying as safe and cautious as possible. I know being confined and having limitations is something that takes time to adjust to, so for those of you who like a good read, my ETERNAL HUNGER SAGA is FREE on Amazon digital through this coming Monday.
Of course you can buy it in print too, but we are all struggling, so I hope you have some time to read a good book or 12! Yes, this is the entire series in one collection. 12 novels, 12 spinoff shorts and extra bonuses.
Here’s the link. Please spread the word and leave a review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or lulu.com https://www.amazon.com/Eternal-Hunger-Saga-Rick-Pipito-ebook/dp/B085GH1LZZ/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1584728232&sr=8-2
The Eternal Hunger Saga & Digested Concepts
It’s a double release day! Now for the first time you can get in its entirety, THE ETERNAL HUNGER SAGA. This multi-award winning anthology includes the novels: FLESH AND LEFTOVERS, BLOOD THE SECOND HELPING, BONES AT BREAKFAST, SOULS 4 SUPPER, DEVIL’S DESSERT, TECHNO FEAST, GENETIC MORSELS, PLANET ATE, DEVOURED UNIVERSE, A COURSE FOR HUMANITY, THE THIRST OF CAIN, and CONSUMED BY WAR.
Also included are the 12 spinoff short books: ZOMBIE INCIDENTS, LEGENDS OF VAMPIRE, IN CASE OF WEREWOLF, GHOSTLY HAUNTINGS, DEMONIC ENTITIES, VIRAL UPGRADES, EVOLVED MUTATIONS, ALIEN ENCOUNTERS, COSMIC ORBITS, THE LOST HOUR, THE LOST DAY, and THE LOST YEAR.
In addition to those is the quick short THE LINGERING QUESTION, which wraps up a lose end, as well as a choose your own adventure style story called THE ETERNAL SURVIVOR, which puts you (the reader) inside this universe.
THE ETERNAL HUNGER SAGA is available now in hardback special edition for $59.99 here , in softback for $54.99 on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Lulu , as well as in digital format for $29.99 on Amazon.
While you’re at it be sure to grab a copy of DIGESTED CONCEPTS. It is an unedited behind the scenes companion for the saga, where I explain my inspiration, share some insight into what was factual and deleted concepts, as well as my writing process and ten year journey making these books. You won’t want to miss it.
DIGESTED CONCEPTS is available in softback for $12.99 at lulu and in digital format for $2.99 at Amazon
*The Eternal Hunger Saga and Digested Concepts are copyright 2020 by Rick Pipito. Cover art by Dan Pipito
The Eternal Survivor – a choose your own fate adventure
I’ve always wanted to create a choose your own adventure style book. The holidays have been frantic, but amidst the chaos I managed to make a quick one through an app, and it’s here now to share with you all. If you’ve never read a book like this, then you need to know to pick an option given as you’re reading and follow it to the destination. In this case I’ll be posting it free for you here, so the destination won’t be a page, but instead a paragraph number. Enjoy and let me know how far you get your first time in the comments! I decided to forgo publishing this one in book form because of lack of timing with artists etc, but it will be part of the upcoming Eternal Hunger Saga release.
THE ETERNAL SURVIVOR: A Story Where You Choose Your Own Fate
(Follow the instructions with the decisions you make to the underlined paragraph)
Text (C) 2019 Rick Pipito (all images were found in the public domain)
You find yourself on a gravel road stretches before you. How you got there you do not recall. Its endless expanse beyond the horizon is only slightly less tiresome than the feel of stone beneath your feet. Morning fog and dew saturates the surrounding trees on both sides of the path. The eerie setting is enough to send a chill down your spine. Goosebumps form as hair stands on the back of your neck at the added sound of slow groaning coming from the left. It sounds as if someone is injured.
Keep walking & ignore the sound – Goto Paragraph 37
Hurry to help whoever is in trouble – Goto Paragraph 36
Arm yourself with a fallen branch – Goto Paragraph 35
You continue to eat and drink what you’ve been given, deciding that it would be rude not to. When she returns to see you’ve finished it all she smiles claiming, “Those are all very good for your blood. Perhaps you’ll rest some more and join me later for another bite?” How could you turn down such a generous offer? You take a nap and then follow her when you wake into the dining room. Only a large chalice sits at the head of the table near one end. You quickly notice that it’s only set for one and something tells you this is all wrong. She turns to you with a grin that reveals two long fangs among her top row of teeth. Before you realize what is going on she extends her index finger and slides it across your throat. As blood pours from the wound, she catches it in the chalice and takes a deep gulp. “This is becoming way too easy,” you hear her say as you choke on your life fluids. The world fades from view and you find the end.
As your hostess graciously exits the room, you carefully get out of bed. Judging by the time of day you wonder why the shutters to the windows are all tightly shut. Not an ounce of sunlight can enter. Making your way to the bathroom you find that the only decor not in perfect condition is the mirror. It is shattered creating a pixelated image of you on its surface. You sneak out of the room and into the foyer where a macabre scene of darkness is illuminated only by a few dim accent lights. The odor of copper makes you curious as to where the hostess is, so you tiptoe further and find a table with a chalice. You admire the cup and walk to the windows to see that not only are the curtains drawn, but the windows are painted black on the inside. Something alerts you and you turn in time to see the mistress glide into the room. It’s as if her feet aren’t moving but she is floating with each step. With irritation she asks, “Has no one ever taught you manners? You shouldn’t wander in someone’s home uninvited.” You apologize and hand her the chalice admiring the craftsmanship. As she accepts you realize that she has no reflection in its shiny surface. As impossible as it seems you begin to put the pieces together. The disgust she’d shown at the mention of garlic, the shattered mirror and windows hiding the outside light, the scent of copper and the food she’d given you that is good for your blood, and the way she glides when she walks with no reflection. You deduce that she must be a vampire! Backing away your fears are confirmed as she reveals fangs. You grab the nearby lamp and throw it at the window. Sunlight flows in the shattered frame as the hostess recoils and falls over a chair. You quickly scoop up one of the broken wooden legs and tell her to let you leave. It only makes her angry. As she flies towards you, you place the wooden stake between the two of you, and her body begins to twitch with the impalement. Her grip does not let go of you so you hurl yourself and her through the broken window. As the light causes her body to turn to ash, she mutters one final thing, “I curse your soul to walk with a primal urge. As I hate day, you shall fear the night.” Her ashes blow in the wind and you take off running. Hopefully you’ll find a safe place soon. You’ve made your way to the nearest town just as the sun sets on the horizon. You worry about what the vampire mistress said to you before she died. If it were any other day you’d have laughed it off but today has been a strange one indeed. Your skin itches with the thought and you realize you need a shower. Your body aches as if your bones are breaking, and it makes you want to know more about how you got on that road yesterday. Your head pounds and you rub your temples only to notice that your hands don’t feel right. Peering down you see that they’ve grown elongated fingers, patchy hair and mangled nails. Your vision wavers and a guttural howl escapes your lips. Time passes and you see visions of horror. Like a waking nightmare people scream upon seeing you and cry as you rip them to shreds. You wake up the next morning in someone’s home and realize what has happened. You are human again but throughout the night you were a murdering werewolf. The stranger’s home reeks of blood and you use the shower and an oversized set of clothes to clean yourself. Then you wonder what to do next.
Turn yourself in to the police – Goto paragraph 32
Leave town – Goto paragraph 33
End your life – Goto paragraph 34
You don’t belong here and aren’t going to solve your amnesia from the day before if you don’t get moving. Placing the tray to the side, you go to the window and realize that the shutters are locked. Quietly you make your way down the steps and to the front door. It too is locked with no way to open it. The woman appears behind you and holds you in an embrace that you cannot escape. You try to break free but she whispers into your ear seductively, “Leaving so soon?” Then she laughs as she bites deep into the jugular vein on your neck. As she drains your blood in long deep swallows your energy fades. Your heartbeat slows with each breath until your life extinguishes. This is your only escape. The end.
You do what any good soul would do. You head towards the light and hope that your past sins are forgiven. Upon repenting and reflecting the gates to paradise are opened to you. Your soul is at ease among the angels and Lord of all good. It’s truly a happy ending. The end.
You cannot be forgiven for what you’ve done, even if it wasn’t your fault. You embrace the darkness and sink to the depths of hell. Once there you realize it’s too late to change your mind. Evil and torment surrounds you as you scream in pain. It is a pain that will last forever as your immortal spirit burns for the rest of eternity. The end.
You don’t feel right heading towards heaven’s light knowing what you’ve done, and no one in their right mind would want to go towards the darkness of hell. So, you drift towards a lone soul and ask what other choices there are. The soul claims that there is a way to return to your body. If not you can just stay here with the soul with no purpose but to guide others. But if you decide to return to life there is a cost. What it is, the guide does not tell you, only that it is a fate very few will be able to endure. Any fate is better than none. There is still good you can do on Earth, so you decide to breach the wall between the realms and enter your body once again. You wake to a stiffness all over, but rigormortis has not yet fully kicked in. Your body is still warm with current, and you know that the curse of the werewolf is gone as well. Unzipping the body bag from the inside, you sit up to find you’re riding in the back of an ambulance. When it comes to a stop you open the doors to the rear and leap out. As you turn around to see if you’re being followed you are shocked to see that you are, but not as you’d imagined. The guide said there would be a cost, but you had no idea it would be like this. Bursting from the back of the ambulance is a creature unlike any you’ve heard of before. It is both peaceful and frightening looking. This is no angel or demon, but instead a half breed of both called a Nephilim.
Kneel and pray – Goto paragraph 29
Run from the godly being – Goto paragraph 30
Confront the Nephilim – Goto paragraph 31
After the chair is prepped you feel the cool needle sting the side of your neck. The Nanomachines rush to complete their task but a blip in the technology causes them to react differently. Instead of fixing your memory, they alter your brain to be artificially controlled. You no longer have access to your own body, but the cybernetic machines do. Your choices are no longer yours. Enjoy your days as a cyborg drone. The end.
The doctor tells you to relax and places the helmet on your head. It’s surprisingly comfortable as he turns the machine on. Your memories are translated to a console where he sits. Even he is impressed by the new technology, but his eyes widen at what he sees on the screen. Quickly he turns the thing off and removes the device from your head. Instead of telling you the results he claims that you have to leave. He knows what you’ve done but doesn’t seem to care about that. He tells you that your memories will return in time but if he tells you now then it could cause irreversible damage to your psyche. You are outraged but didn’t really believe it could work anyway, so you regretfully leave before he changes his mind about turning you in. Shortly after you leave you come down with a headache unlike any before. You wonder if you have a tumor or if it’s a side effect of using that helmet. So much has happened to you from being a werewolf, to dying and coming back without the lycanthropy, and just the whole mystery of who you are. You stumble and lean on a building. It’s a busy day in the city, but passers by don’t seem to pay mind to you. You can hear their thoughts as if they are your own and the noise becomes too much to bear as the pain increases. You scream for them to be quiet and as you do a wave of invisible force projects outward from your mind, hurling innocents through the air. Thankfully no one is hurt badly, but all eyes are now on you and multiple people are calling 911 about the incident. Your headache has subsided slightly, but you are left wondering what the best course of action is.
Act like nothing happened – Goto paragraph 26
Take a cab out of town – Goto paragraph 27
Tell them to mind their own business – Goto paragraph 28
You realize that the risk is too great. You don’t trust computers to fix you and can’t have the doctor turning you in for all you’ve done. Maybe one day the answers will come back to you. Until then this is the end.
Your curiosities about the aircraft are more than about your past, so you agree to fly it. When you sit in the saucer shaped object you know immediately that it’s not from this world. A tendril pierces the back of your neck without warning. It drains your new mental capabilities but in turn leaves you with the knowledge on how to fly the saucer and where to fly it to. Now you know the government was looking for anyone with a certain level of telekinesis, and you were just in the right place at the right time. You receive a mental communication from an unknown source telling you that you must go to them, but that you have to get rid of the two others with you in the ship. You’re getting tired of people telling you what to do.
Take them with you – Goto paragraph 23
Explore the universe – Goto paragraph 24
Eject your passengers – Goto paragraph 25
This is the government and you can’t trust a word they say. They’ve been behind conspiracies and misinformation for years. You stand and decline their offer firmly. Upon doing so, the woman looks at the pale man and nods. He removes his glasses to expose glowing eyes that seem to bore into you. You’re paralyzed and can’t move as the woman says, “We will do it our way. Lobotomize his brain and take what we need.” You can’t move and regret your decision. It looks like they are going to use your powerful mind to fly the craft without you. For you, you’ll be spending the rest of your days drooling into a cup and being tube fed. The end.
You don’t really trust them and tell them that you want to know everything they do about you, details about what you’re getting into, and a compensation before you agree to take on this strange offer. The woman does not agree and orders the pale man to convince you. You realize it’s not going to go the way you wish and release a mental blast that knocks the man and woman unconscious. You turn to leave but are blocked by two armed guards. They tell you to stand down before you repeat the mental attack towards them. An alarm sounds and you rush towards the only exit you know, which is the elevator. As the doors slide open you leap inside. Before you can press the button one of the guards wakes up, pulls out his handgun and fires. You have no time to dodge such a fast bullet. Your body falls back against the elevator and the doors shut. You die gasping for air as the wound on your chest soaks the floor. The end.
You are curious as to what the other buttons do, since they are labeled in an alien writing, but you decide it’s best to stick with the plan. Upon pressing the yellow button your saucer fades from current space and arrives at a time when many more stars are in space than you’ve ever seen before. This must be the future and your suspicions are confirmed when you turn to see there is a passenger with you. It looks like one of those grey aliens with the big black eyes that people always represent in movies or conspiracy theories. It’s as if it reads your mind and tells you telepathically that they are not alien but human descendants who watch over history and alternate realities. It explains that the Kids were needed to find one worthy human for this mission. Humans can’t be trusted in your time, but thankfully you’ve done the right thing. You present the object that your benefactors gave you to the Grey. It takes it and studies it as if reading it somehow. Then it tells you that you must fix anomalies in Earth’s history and help them protect your timeline. You find this odd that they’d choose you, but it’s got your interest peaked. The Grey tells you about a previous traveler from your species. They recruited him as one of the many protectors of the timeline, but he was killed in the middle of a mission. His body and clothes were eaten by whatever needed to feed, but he had a pocket watch that was left behind. You wonder what is so important about the watch and the Grey answers by explaining it was left in a time when technology had yet to exist on Earth. Its presence caused a ripple that could be catastrophic. Your mission is to retrieve it. If you succeed they promise to restore your memory as to how you got on that gravel road. It already seems like a lifetime ago, but you’re interested. They tell you the location and when in history you need to go. It’s clear that you can’t travel forward in time unless someone pulls you forward, so once the mission is complete, they will bring you back to the future. You wonder why they don’t just do it and they explain that it’s because their presence in the past would cause more of an anomaly than yours. They explain how to use the time device that they strap to your wrist and that the year is before modern humans walked the earth. Which year do you travel to?
47 B.C. – Goto paragraph 20
April 15, 1912 A.D. – Goto paragraph 21
78,072,481 B.C. – Goto paragraph 22
You access the hidden panel and see the three buttons. Each is labeled, but the markings are not in any language you’ve ever seen. You are curious about what the others do. Red is usually a warning on your planet but who knows what aliens perceive it as? You hesitate and then give in to your curiosities. Pressing the red button causes the flying saucer to jolt and come to a sudden stop. Then mechanical arms come out and place an environmental suit on your body. The problem is that the suit is made for the aliens who built this craft, not a human adult. You try to cancel the action by pressing numerous other buttons but nothing works. When the arms retract and your new suit is only half on you, the cockpit opens and you are ejected into the vacuum of space. The Kids must use this for spacewalks, but there’s no time to think about that. You feel agony as your body freezes and your blood boils. The pressure is crushing your organs from the sudden change and you’re suffocating. Even though you die quickly, it seems like forever. Forever is how long your corpse will drift in space. The end.
You locate the buttons with alien writing labeling them. You don’t know what it means, but you think you may need to use your instinct. Yellow on your planet means caution, so you are cautious and stay away from that button despite the alien telling you to use it. Red usually means stop or danger. That’s definitely a no go. Green is your safest bet you think and you waste no time pressing it. The saucer begins spinning like a gyroscope and your ship is whisked through a vortex. When it slows to a halt you look at space and see a lot fewer stars in the universe. You deduce that the green button must have taken you into the past, but how far you do not know. Science tells you that it’s at a time long before Earth and that the universe is still forming. You try to activate the yellow button but it sends a signal that won’t be received. The people from the future aren’t looking for your signal in this time. Your gut still tells you not to press the red button, so instead you begin flying the craft. You know that you must find a world suitable to build a new life on before you run out of air and supplies the military stashed in there. For you this is just the beginning of a quest to survive, but it’s an end to your current mission. The end.
You now understand that your actions have affected many others. The void will correct your place in history and your fate will be sealed. It is a major sacrifice, but you know you must take it. You step into the surrounding space and fall toward a black portal. Other portals surround you, but this one leads nowhere. They’ve told you such. As your body passes through there is no sensation. You cease to exist. Although humans are primitive to the Greys the aliens see you as a hero. You made the decision that none other could. The end.
You are outraged that they used you and though angry, you beg them to make you their time agent and spare your life. They decline the offer saying you are too filled with emotion to make intelligent decisions. They believe you will fail and order you to step into the void of nothingness. You shake your head and run. Deja Vu sinks in as it feels this has happened before. Yes. It has. You now remember it occurring and understand that it will all happen again. Perhaps this time you’ll make different choices. You close your eyes and pass through the portal to your time, but are missing your time bracelet as it has fallen off. You won’t remember any of this in a few seconds, but you’ll have a long road ahead… again.
Open your eyes – Goto paragraph 1
You tell the Greys that you understand how critical the situation is. You shouldn’t exist, but they cannot directly interfere for some missions to the past because their presence would alter events. You convince them they have no other logical option but to make you their field agent. All you ask in turn is that they allow you to exist to do so, and one day you promise that when there are no more anomalies, you will take care of the final one… yourself. They agree to the terms surprisingly as you must have sold it differently than the first time you met them. You become a very effective time agent for the Greys and even get to visit different versions of history that never happened in your time. It’s a life of constant adventure and you are the unsung hero that no one will ever know except for you, the Greys, and some Higher Power. And that’s enough to put your mind at ease. The end.
You realize that you are in possession of a time machine. You can go anywhere in the past and then finish the mission later. You decide to travel to a point in history that you’ve been curious about since a child. Cleopatra’s reign in Alexandria. Ancient Egypt was your forte in school but the ruler there was an icon for all. Her beauty and power inspires and intrigues people even in modern times. You arrive in the middle of her throne room almost instantaneously. The records of the future miraculously are able to place you just where you want to be. Upon arrival you see the woman you’ve been so curious about, and she in turn sees you. That’s when you realize it was a mistake coming here. You are immediately seized by guards who strip you of your time device and bind your arms behind your back. They wait for their orders but it won’t be good for you. You do not speak their language and your arrival makes them believe you are some sort of sorcerer. You will be sentenced to a very harsh existence as a slave. That isn’t the worst part. Cleopatra now has your time device and once she figures out how to use it, history will forever change. The entire existence of mankind is now doomed thanks to your curiosities. The end.
You figure since you have a time device, that you can be a real hero and prevent innocent people from dying throughout history. You leap through time onto the bridge of the Titanic. It’s around 2:00 am approximately twenty minutes before the ship hits the iceberg which will sink it. You appear before the captain who finds your clothing odd and is obviously alarmed by your sudden appearance. You think fast and tell him that you are from the future and that he needs to slow the massive boat down to avoid catastrophe. The captain does so more out of curiosity. Then he sees the iceberg you claimed would hit the ship. He believes and thanks you for saving all the people on board you before you vanish into the past. Your intentions were honorable, but altering history should never be attempted. You never arrive at your next destination in the past because you changed the future. It is now one where you are never born. You cease to exist in this reality. You could say it’s the end, but you never had a beginning. The end.
You set the device like the Grey told you to travel back to the late Cretaceous period. You wanted to explore other moments in time, but you know that any slight variation in history could cause major changes in the future and you’re not ready to accept responsibility for that. You arrive in a flash surrounded by immense vegetation and plants you’ve never before seen. Giant insects swirl in a pattern overhead that at first glance look like birds. You move away from them and follow the indicator on your wrist device. There’s a clearing up ahead and it looks as though the pocket watch is just beyond that. Cautiously you step into the clearing and stop as you notice a giant animal that can only be a Triceratops. It looks strange though, unlike modern science depicts. In fact the other dinosaurs roaming the land look different from what you can tell. They aren’t so different that you don’t know what they are however and that is a point proven when you hear a strange grinding sound. To your surprise it’s not the roar you’d expect from what movies have portrayed. In fact, the Tyrannosaurus Rex has this new sound that is even eerier than what you assumed. You know it’s the T-Rex because the other animals in the area begin running the other way. With the clearing now a stampede, you wait for your opportunity and sprint as fast as you can. The triceratops turns and gives chase to you just as you slide and scoop up the pocket watch. Instantaneously you’re whisked back to the future and out of harm’s way. That was a close call and you nearly collapse from the anxiety. The Grey takes the stopwatch and congratulates you on your first mission. It then fulfills its promise to you to tell you the truth about what led up to you losing your memory and being on that gravel road. You yourself are a temporal anomaly since you came back from the dead. Originally the alien Greys brought you to the future because you were no longer supposed to exist in the present. They were going to send you into a void of nothingness as to not pollute the timeline of all reality. You struck a deal and told them you’d fix other anomalies to keep them safe and give you purpose. They denied your request and you ran. You leapt through a window of time and ended up on that gravel road with the transition wiping your memory because you didn’t wear the bracelet. The rest is history. You know now what they think about you and have a final decision to make.
Leap into the void – Goto paragraph 17
Return to the gravel road – Goto paragraph 18
Prove yourself worthy – Goto paragraph 19
You are certainly not jumping into a situation you know nothing about without backup. You take the two astronauts with you and use the controls to fly through inter dimensional space. You arrive on a planet much smaller than Earth where the creatures there are the size of an average toddler. You exit the craft with your copilots, but the sight of them causes the aliens greeting you to react. They claim that you have violated the peace accords. In response they produce small weapons and fire three short blasts. You and the two astronauts are vaporized instantly. The end.
You are the pilot now and will go where you want. Ignoring the alien’s demands you soar off into the depths of space. You tell the two astronauts with you that the aliens communicating with you are sending you on an exploration mission. To your surprise they are as excited as you and treat you as captain of this new vessel. Well, Captain, where will your journeys take you? To eternity and beyond… or something along those lines. The end.
You lie to the two astronauts and tell them that there are hidden panels on the exterior of the ship that have to be accessed simultaneously. They are hesitant but you convince them they have to do it while your mind accesses the console to power it on. They leave their gear inside with the intent on immediately returning once they access the panels, but that’s their mistake. As soon as they exit the ship you lift off slowly and exit the atmosphere. Adjusting the controls you blink out of sight and soar through interdimensional space. When the craft slows you see a planet much like Earth but smaller in scale. Upon landing you are greeted by aliens the size of toddlers. They appropriately refer to themselves as “the Kids.” They quickly tell you that you needed to come alone because bringing the others would violate some sort of intergalactic treaty and doom them all. They’ve been waiting for someone your size with advanced mental experience to handle a secret mission. They are too small to be able to do it and must send someone closer to human physiology. You don’t know what the task is but you agree to see what they have in mind. The Kids spend the better part of an Earth day telling you about the descendants of mankind. They weave a confusing story about some time far in the future where humans have evolved and made it their sole purpose to protect the timeline because not doing so destroyed their world. Your new alien friends claim that they have proof about what caused that destruction and they need a human to fly to a rendezvous point to be pulled into the future. It’s the only hope for saving mankind. You can’t argue with that. They tell you about a hidden panel with three buttons. You are only to press the yellow one. That will take you to where you need to go. They warn you not to press anything else or it could cause a catastrophic event. You climb into the saucer with the proof needed and soar into space once again. Now to send the signal to the future.
Press the yellow button – Goto paragraph 14
Press the red button – Goto paragraph 15
Press the green button – Goto paragraph 16
You act quickly and try to blend in. A few suspicious eyes glance your way, but you play it cool and walk away from the crowd with haste. You don’t get too far before two black SUVs with government plates pull up near you and men in black suits exit accompanied by three armed soldiers. The lead man shows his badge and tells you that you need to go with them. He claims he knows all about you and that there are no other options for you. Deciding not to press your luck, and curious as to what they may know you agree to cooperate. The ride is awkward and silent. Two guards are on either side of you with two suits facing you in a middle seat. The lone driver is separated by a divider window. The drive lasts just under an hour and consists of many twists and turns in the path, presumably to make you lose track of where you are. Then your vehicle is waved through a secure gate where you arrive at a hangar. You all exit the SUV and enter an elevator taking you countless levels underground. Finally you arrive in a conference room where a strange, tall man with pale skin sits. Sunglasses hide his eyes making you wonder if he’s an albino. A woman also is seated and she wastes no time telling you, “We know about your past, or should we say that we know about your future?” The statement confuses you and you wonder why you are here. She goes on to explain that a special team of astronauts need a person with your mental capabilities to fly a prototype aircraft into outer space. You want answers first, and they promise you that and much more if you agree to their terms. You have to decide quickly or the offer will be rescinded. Take it or leave it?
Agree to fly the aircraft – Goto paragraph 11
Don’t trust them – Goto paragraph 12
Demand they tell you first – Goto paragraph 13
You quickly hop in a nearby cab and tell the driver to step on it. You tell him to take you to the next town, and he doesn’t question you. It’s as if your mind forced him to do so. A few miles down the road you notice you are being followed by two black SUVs. The driver tries to escape them, but they close in and pin the sides of the cab between them. You manage to see a license plate and know that it’s the government. You try to project your mind but you don’t realize your own power. The two SUVs explode with your unknown force and you are stuck in the middle. As the cab rolls onto its roof and burns you know there is no one who can get you out in time. You perish in the flames along with the drivers of all three vehicles. The end.
You are irritated at the thoughts you’d mentally read and yell at everyone to bug off and mind their own business. Some do, but the majority feel they need to act. One angry bystander shouts at you, “We saw what you did, freak!” Another spits at you and you become angry at the outpouring of hatred towards you. The headache returns and with each person approaching you begin mentally projecting them backwards. You don’t know how but your mind is now a weapon. It becomes addictive, but the people of the city stand together. They realize you’re a threat and no matter how powerful your mind, their unity is stronger. They band together and begin beating you. You fend off as many as you can but are eventually overcome. They don’t stop the beating until your heart stops its own rhythm. The end.
You realize that a half demon half angel could never be beaten or out raced by a mere human. Putting your pride aside you kneel and begin to pray. You ask the Highest Power in existence to save you from whatever the Nephilim has planned. To your astonishment the Nephilim stops and realizes that you believe with all your embodiment. It gives a half smile half frown and then vanishes through a portal. You live knowing that from now on your choices will be decided with much more care. You spend the next several weeks trying to piece together the gaps in your memory. You’ve had to do some less than honorable things in order to move on, but you now have at least some money and a goal. You need to find answers, and read a report about a doctor who has created a device to help Alzheimer’s patients retain their memories. You take a train ride for four hours and eventually arrive at the doctor’s office. After explaining your memory issues he claims he can help you in one of two ways. 1) he can inject microscopic nanomachines into your bloodstream to repair the damage blocking your memories, but your body may reject the foreign material. 2) he can use a helmet that will read your brainwaves, but while it will tell you what you want to know it’ll also tell him all of the bad things you’ve done.
Inject Nanomachines – Goto paragraph 8
Use brainwave helmet – Goto paragraph 9
Neither because of risk – Goto paragraph 10
You rush off as fast as your sore legs will carry you, but it isn’t quick enough. The Nephilim streaks across the distance and hurls you through the air. Your body slams into an oncoming vehicle with a sickening thud. The being has done what it came for. If you weren’t dead enough before you are now. No soul would ever want to inhabit the broken corpse you’ve become. The end.
You face your fears and stride up to the tall being and demand to know what it wants. It stares at you with amusement and simply says, “Your soul.” You ready yourself to fight if need be, but it is a useless effort. The Nephilim reaches a finger out toward you, and the second it touches your skin your body drops. There will never be an afterlife for you now as the creature consumes your life force. The end.
You run to the police station and turn yourself in for the murders of the man on the road, the vampire mistress, and the people last night. It doesn’t take long before they realize you’re telling the truth, yet they don’t believe you about the werewolf story. Once they see that it’s true and watch your transformation the next night, word travels to the townsfolk who demand your execution. You’re sentenced to the electric chair. You have no last words other than “I’m sorry,” and then they pull the switch. As the high voltage ends your miserable existence you feel at ease. The afterlife is calling. You feel weightless as time passes and you don’t know which way is up or down. You have no body as your soul drifts in the spirit world. You can’t float here forever. You have three choices.
Head towards the light – Goto paragraph 5
Head towards the shadows – Goto paragraph 6
Talk to a lost soul – Goto paragraph 7
You hastily leave town before anyone can find out. You realize that this is just the beginning of the curse, but perhaps one day you’ll find the cure. Until then you will be feared as each night tales of your violence will have everyone hiding in their homes. Eventually you embrace your animal half and learn to control it, turning your tendencies toward criminals. They become the prey and you the unwanted vigilante the world needs. This is your blessing and curse. The end.
Suicide is never the answer. You search the home and find a gun. After you pull the trigger you realize what you’ve done but it’s too late. Your human half dies from the bullet, but the Lycanthrope in you will live on to terrorize countless innocent lives. The end.
Just to be cautious, you grab a branch to defend yourself from whomever is moaning. To your surprise it is a boy who appears to be injured. When you ask him about the wound he recoils and tells you it was a scratch from in the woods. You can tell he’s not very good at lying, but invite him to walk along with you until you can find someone to help him. Using the branch as a cane for support you travel until coming to a fork in the road. It’s there where the boy collapses and can’t walk anymore. He looks extremely pale. When you ask if he’s okay he looks toward you and says, “Dad?” You quickly realize he is not addressing you but someone behind you. You turn just in time to avoid a man stumbling towards you. Then you remember the report about the unbelievable. Something viral caused people to turn into what appeared to be zombies. You sidestep and swing the branch just in time to knock the attacker away. He falls onto the boy and bites deep into the child’s leg. It’s already too late for him though as you realize both are of the undead. Using your makeshift weapon you swing the club at the father’s head. The zombie man’s skull crushes under the impact immediately, and the boy is pinned under the weight of his dead father. You are about to attack the undead child but realize you can’t bring yourself to do it. Instead you drop the branch and run for help down the left path. You keep running until your legs can carry you no longer. Then you collapse and pass out. You awaken the next day in the comfort of a bed which is not your own. You wonder how you got there as much as you wonder how you ended up on that road the day before. A woman you’ve never met before walks in and places a cool rag on your head. She’s one of the most beautiful women you’ve ever seen and something about her eyes mesmerizes you. “It’s a good thing I found you on that road before any of the creatures of the forest did,” she claims and then offers you a tray of food. You are starving and quickly shovel a fork full of the roasted vegetable mixture into your mouth. As you swallow the blandness of it you thank her and ask if she’s got any salt or garlic powder to season it a little. Her eyes narrow in contempt as she says “No. Salt is not good for your blood pressure and I despise garlic.” Instead she offers you a glass of red wine to wash it down with. It’s a strange meal you think as she smacks her lips together. Something about this woman is strange but you can’t put your finger on it. She leaves the room telling you to finish the bowl and drink, promising to return soon.
Finish the food & rest – Goto paragraph 2
Investigate the home – Goto paragraph 3
Get out of the house quickly – Goto paragraph 4
Worried that someone may need your help, you rush to the source of sound and find a boy who is limping in pain. You ask him what happened and the boy claims he lost his father in the woods. “My dad was sick since last night when he got home from work. We came out here to get away when all the craziness started.” You remember hearing something about an incident in the city but your memory is as foggy as the surroundings. After talking some more with the child you notice he has changed a few shades paler and before you realize what has happened, the boy lurches forward and bites a chunk out of your wrist. You shove him away and his head slams into a rock. Tired, confused and now sorry for your actions you sit down to rest. As the sun reaches its peak in the sky you are no longer worried about anything. All emotion has been replaced with the need for living flesh. You continue your trek down the road no longer a human, but instead a zombie. The end.
You continue walking for some time, finally coming to a fork in the road. One way is overgrown and you try to remember how you became stranded. Where are you? You look to the sky and see by the sun’s rising position which way is East. You sit to get some rest after the long walk. Perhaps a car will pass by and find you but you need to shut your eyes for a few minutes rest. As you relax against a rock you hear that groaning again, but it’s changed into a hollowed sound. Turning around to see the source you are horrified to find a pale and dead looking man. Before you can ask anything he lurches forward and bites into your shoulder. As you fall he continues to bite and eat you alive. Right before you die you wonder if you’ll become a zombie too. Then everything goes black. The end.
Animals of Oz #5: Bear Center
My daughter, Lana’s, favorite stuffed animal has always been a pink bear since she could understand what she was holding. Her final addition to the Animals of Oz series focuses on the Bears of Bear Center in Oz. These are toy stuffed bears run by the Lavender Bear king and his adviser the Little Pink Bear.
On the back of the painting she wanted a quote by L. Frank Baum. It reads: “Time is given for us to be happy and for no other reason. When we waste time, we waste happiness.”
What are some of your favorite characters from the land of Oz?
Animals of Wonderland #3: Walrus and Oysters
Deciding to not have the carpenter in this scene was a wise choice by my daughter. Lana wanted to focus on the series’ animals, so here’s her vision of the Walrus and Oysters. She chose a quote for the back of the painting by Lewis Carroll that reads: “Whatever is worth doing is worth doing well.”
What are some of your favorite characters in Wonderland?