Free Fiction! “Broccoli”

Hey you! Do you like broccoli? I actually love the stuff, because I’m a weirdo who thrives off green and orange foods, but maybe you’ll identify with June. At first.

***

June slipped her leafy greens to Barkie. The Golden Retriever never refused a snack, after all. She kept this up until Barkie stopped eating.

One trip to the vet confirmed: too much fiber from too much human food damaged her intestines.

“What does that mean?” June said, old enough to know what death was, though she had no experience with it.

“The vet was very clear. He said, ‘You’ll have to put her down.’” Her dad held up a needle. “He even gave us this so we could do it at home.”

Then he stuck the needle in June’s arm.

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Doki Doki Literature Club! review: A must-play game

First off: Spoiler alert.

TL;DR: This FREE meta-game that plays the player is not only an innovative manipulation of genre tropes and a punchy satire, but is also one of the most empathy-inducing games I’ve played to date, combining psychological horror and tearful poignancy in equal measure. HIGHLY recommended. In all. Freakin’. Caps.

This game’s a visual novel, so almost every single thing I could/will say is a spoiler. If you haven’t played it, do so now, and come back when you’re ready.

That said, Doki Doki Literature Club! might be, hands down, one of the best games I’ve played in recent years.

Granted, its art style was average, the dialogue predictable, and the characters fairly generic archetypes, but this game succeeds for two reasons: its plot and the fact that it plays the player.

 

If you’ve done as I told you earlier and played it, you’ll know how predictable it is that Sayori commits suicide. It’s written in every line. From the opening scene, where she runs up having overslept again, my brain went to severe clinical depression (at least, I hope it’s predictable, or that means I’ve known a strangely high amount of very unwell people). Yuri’s subsequent suicide is equally predictable. However, these moments are predictable on purpose, playing Monika becoming self-aware against her inability to do anything about it. The moments have to be obvious, because she can’t actually change her world, just exacerbate its existing qualities, like Sayori’s depression.

Monika’s self-awareness is one of the more subtle parts of the game. The meta-plot of this game–the game itself falling to pieces as the script gets destroyed and rewritten–becomes increasingly tense and horrifying. Visuals glitch, music distorts, the screen zooms in odd ways, and images flicker so quick they border on a subliminal assault on the player’s senses. Then she ‘stops’ time (or, simply draws attention to the fact that time doesn’t exist in her world), which eventually leads to you deleting her. She realizes how much it sucks to get deleted, so she restores everyone else.

Here’s why Doki Doki Literature Club! might be one of the most important games of the past year. When the game resumes and the club continues under the resurrected Sayori’s leadership, she knows everything, just as Monika did. But, if you spent as much time as possible with every available character, Monika doesn’t take over and ‘delete’ the game itself, like usual.

Sayori thanks the player for having tried to help everyone by listening to their problems and bringing them happiness. She appreciates the effort you’ve gone through by saving and loading to experience every path in one run, and says, even if you didn’t get to fall in love with someone, that’s okay.

“We all love you.”

…I can’t recall the last time any game awarded the player for empathy. These last words, full of platonic, appreciative love, aren’t about who you tried to ‘romance’ throughout the game. They’re expressing gratitude that you were a true friend to each possible person.

I’ve played a lot of disturbing games. I grew up on Silent Hill and Fatal Frame, where mutilated bodies were common–where suicide is not a possibility, but an expectation. I’ve played horror, adventure, action, shooters, and RPGs, but even games with morality systems, even the most in-depth games like Legend of Zelda, never held up to this.

Most games that encourage you to do the right thing offer rewards. In Legend of Zelda games, being a hero results in new weapons, heart containers, unlocked areas, and other rewards. Silent Hill games that offered moments to be good to others did so more to inflict horror at your failures rather than pride in your successes. The Fallout games treat morality more as a matter of convenience, as evidenced by perks that reset karma to zero so you can pretend you’ve always been a good person.

Doki Doki Literature Club! is the first time I’ve ever played a game and simply felt glad to have done the right thing. No reward involved, no drastically changed ending, just the characters saying, “Thank you.”

Perhaps its the fourth-wall breaking theme of the characters wondering about their own significance, and if they matter to anyone because they’re a game character with automated friends, but their gratitude at the end makes for a very heartwarming ending.

There aren’t a lot of games out there that encourage empathy these days. There are fewer that do it well. So, more than simply saying I enjoyed DDLC, I respect it, too. It’s a feat of gaming the player at its finest, but those who sift through the files and put in the time to treat each character well are sure to be glad they did.

Damned Words 30

In the mood for some flash fiction? Check these folks out!

Pen of the Damned - where angst and horror flow freely...


Step Settle
Mark Steinwachs

Step. Settle. Step. Settle. The corn sways in the mid-day breeze, its subtle vibrations through the soft ground giving me cover. The hard-packed road would signal my presence and must be avoided. I close in on the barn, and much needed rest. She’s killing us off like we tried to do to her. Mother Nature’s a tough old bitch. Her method is brutal, releasing a previously unknown toxin from the ground that eats through anything. Your last few minutes spent as a writhing, chemical-burned mess, just like we’ve made her for centuries. We learned quickly. The rich live in the sky, the rest of us…. Step. Settle. Step. Settle. I get to the edge of the field, plotting my course. I should be able to make it before she realizes I’m here. Preparing to push off, my foot slips on the soft earth sending shockwaves below…

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Cyborg Sunday, update 4.22.2018: Writer’s life, giving up coffee, and applying for my dream job

Somehow, I thought that

Giving up coffee would suck.

It’s not all that bad.

“Doing Without” by Yours Truly

Bruce Lee once said, ““It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.”

I’ve decided to put this to the test by giving up coffee. I know what you’re thinking: “Uh, Kevin, you’re a writer! How are you going to do this? Without coffee, you won’t be able to stay up into the late hours of the night, hammering away at the keys as though they owe you money, demanding your sleep-deprived consciousness provides a few words that you can trick people into believing are compelling.”

Then I’m like, “I also don’t drink or smoke,” and you’re probably thinking, “Good Lorde, man, how dare you? There is such a long, glorious tradition of writers, American or otherwise, sinking into the mire of their own self-destruction in pursuit of what it really means to be human! You betray all those who came before you by rejecting such glorious decay!”

Okay, maybe I’m being a little dramatic. Plus, I don’t know you. Maybe you didn’t think any of that, but here’s a word of advice: you don’t ever have to be miserable or sleep-deprived to write. While certainly a little less tortured, being happy and healthy will bolster your sensibilities and give you more resilience. It’ll be way easier to keep writing, especially in the face of rejection, if your body and mind are well.

As far as my writing goes, I have nothing to report this week. I subbed a poetry manuscript, but no rejections or acceptances.

BUT… I just applied for my dream job. I’d be writing with a video game company I really respect. That’s all I’ll say. Don’t like sharing too much when things are still in the works. I have a good feeling about it, though. A real good feeling. Let’s hope giving up coffee has a butterfly effect!

Along those lines, I hear coffee increases insulin resistance in Type 1 Diabetics. There’s conflicting evidence here, and paradoxically, some suggest it decreases the risk of Type 2 in non-diabetic subjects. However, other data shows it exhausts the body’s endocrine system, contributing to the development of T2D and Addison’s Disease.

This bears significantly more investigation, both in my life and otherwise, because the prevalence of autoimmune disorders in modern America is unbelievably high compared to previous decades. If mass coffee consumption is linked to the development of such issues, we could potentially treat or prevent a number of conditions by eliminating it from our diet–or insurance companies could use a coffee habit as a ‘pre-existing condition’ and deny you coverage. Wouldn’t be surprised if they did this already for heart problems and blood pressure issues.

So far, it’s only been 2 days since my last cup, but I seem to have some increased insulin sensitivity, so that’s cool. I’ve been weening off via green tea though, so I’m not sure if the caffeine in that has an effect too, or if the insulin resistance comes from coffee itself. Either way, I’m saving money, so that’s cool.

And, doubleplusgood, lower caffeine means lower stress reactions. I’m super excited waiting to hear back about this job, so kicking caffeine to the curb was great timing.

I’m off to hurry up and wait, by which I mean write. Hope you have a great week!

 

COVER REVEAL and GIVEAWAY! “Visions from the Veil” is coming soon.

The long-awaited reveal of Visions from the Veil cover art is here! Feast your eyes upon it below, but be careful. There are some things you weren’t meant to see.

Share this page and be sure to tag @TheHoltoning for a chance to win a free electronic copy!

My thanks to Mar over at The Bold Mom for the cover design.

KEVIN HOLTON_VISIONS_WRAPPING

Cyborg Sunday, update 4.15.2018:

A leaf on the wind

Doesn’t care how hard its blown:

It enjoys the flight.

“Fate”

Hey everyone!

Bit of a mixed bag on my end lately, as I’m sure you can imagine, given that I missed last week’s update. A bunch of different events collided at once–visiting a tiny family member for her birthday, accidentally ripping out my Libre sensor, trying to find more gainful employment–and by the time I even realized I forgot my weekly post, it was, like, Wednesday.

Dull news: I got my Google Analytics IQ, so watch out, data! I’m observing you.

Epic writer’s news: My feature screenplay “The Mirror Game” won fourth place in The 2018 International Horror Hotel’s horror category! It was my first screenplay, too, so that was really something. There’s a festival starting May 31st and I don’t exactly have a lot of disposable income, but hell yeah am I going to go!

I also hit my 100th short story publication! Hit it a while ago, actually. I miscounted. My bad. Either way, that’s two resolutions off the 2018 list!

Lastly, stay tuned, because I’m having a cover reveal for Visions from the Veil soon, and it’s going to blow your friggin mind’.

I want to end on the high notes, so that’s all for now. Have an amazing day!

IT’S TIME TO FACE YOUR NIGHTMARES

People! Go buy this! It’s hella good.

Luniakk Publications©

The latest round of mental derangement from the mind(s) of Toneye/Eyenot has emerged from the darkest shadows of Luniakk Publications. We are here to steal your sleep. Are you ready to face your nightmares?

Your vision blurred, body buzzing with exhaustion, flashes of malevolent darkness in the corners of your eyes…they sense you slipping. They are impatiently tugging at your consciousness. You can’t stay awake forever, and when you finally do fall asleep…they will be there, waiting to greet you with open arms.
Delirium and psychosis are beginning to set in. Are these visions real? Or merely the hallucinatory projections of your sleep-deprived mind?
Close your eyes. Rest your weary bones. Find yourself in the darkest corners of my mind(s)…Of Nightmare Realities – from which you may never wake.

Cover created by the devilishly talented Mar Garcia of The Bold Mom and Disturbing Drawings.

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