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Everyday Drabbles #437: The Glass Key

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The girl stands in front of the door, the glass key warming in her hand. The door is somewhat less impressive. The unstained, weathered wood looks like it would break apart if she handled it too roughly.
When she was given the key, they told her it could only be used once, but that the door would take her anywhere she wanted.
She is paralyzed with indecision for a long time, but the door is patient. Finally, the old woman inserts the key, makes her wish and hears it shatter in the lock. The door opens, and she steps through.

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Everyday Drabbles#436: The Great Eye

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There are many great stone arches in the desert, each with their own unique magic. As night fell, the practitioners gathered hiked to The Eye, waiting for the moon to enter perfect alignment. They carefully assembled around the stone, and chanted and prayed as the moon rose like a pupil in a titanic eye, granting Power and Sight
As the moon moved into position, they grappled with intangible and imperceptible forces, bringing them to bear and opening a window into other places and times.
But windows work both ways, and on the lunar surface, the inhabitants observed them, and planned.

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Everyday Drabbles #435: The Dark Lord

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He sat on the Obsidian Throne, in his sable armor, with the greatsword Black Death beside him, and looked back on his accomplishments.
He had defeated the Dark Lord, taken the Castle Stygian, and led the Night Army in glorious conquest. And yet, his heart was heavy.
Until something caught his eye, a flash of color being smuggled out by an attendant.
“Stop right there! What is that?” The boy nervously revealed a piece of citrus fruit, spoils from the latest campaign.
He took it and ate it. This was what he was looking for. It was the new black.

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Everyday Drabbles #434: The Hunter

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He watched the sun rise through a thin stand of trees, his heavy breaths steaming. It had been a long night.
He had slain the beast, the town was saved, and evil had been thwarted. It was a new dawn. But the red glow of the sun seemed a bit too dull, and he smelled smoke on the wind.
Below, the village should’ve been just waking up. Instead, he saw burning houses and marauding soldiers. It seemed that the troops sent to hunt the monster had gotten bored after all.
He readied his sword for the next battle, weariness forgotten.

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Hugh Likes Video Games: 2020 Top 5

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Hello, readers! With not much else to do this year, 2020 was definitely a year for gaming. And gaming got a lot of attention this year, from the glossy spectacle of Final Fantasy VII Remake to the glitchy mess of Cyberpunk 2077. I tend towards a more indie bent in my gaming, but here are my top five games that caught my eye this year, as usual, in alphabetical order.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Nintendo
Played on Nintendo Switch

Let’s start with the biggest truth of the past year. 2020 was a garbage fire of a year, and in a year where we couldn’t just go and visit our friends, games became virtual spaces to meet up and visit. And for me, that mostly happened in Animal Crossing New Horizons. There’s not much that I would call serendipity this year, but Animal Crossing dropping in mid-March, just as everything shut down became a haven. A game about building refuge became a port in the storm for millions, me included. I wasn’t a fan of AC before this, and I doubt I would’ve picked up the game otherwise, but it allowed some peace and comfort in my life, as well as the ability to visit friends’ islands when I couldn’t visit their homes. I have mostly dropped off, prompting my villagers to complain about how they’ve missed me every time I pop back in, but ti was a needed balm for a few months.

Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout

Fall Guys
Mediatronic
Played on PS4

Fall Guys made the obvious leap of combining great ideas into one package better than the sum of its parts: Online Battle Royale Gaming and Obstacle Course Game Shows. The alchemy of cartoonish costumes and padded foam rolling logs works up to an oasis of calm and joy, even as I get knocked out one more time.

Hades

Hades
Supergiant Games
Played on Nintendo Switch

Hades is one hell of a game. Loaded with challenging gameplay, intricate systems, and a compelling story full of rich characters, Supergiant has created a masterpiece of the Rogue-like genre. While games like Dead Cells and Rogue Legacy had flirted with the idea of narrative in a Rogue structure, Hades doubles down and commits to telling a story that not merely progresses between runs, but relies on the life-die-repeat structure as a meaningful and necessary component. The result is a satisfying gameplay loop that makes even a bad run feel meaningful as players claw their way out of The Underworld, one room at a time.

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity
Omega Force
Played on Nintendo Switch

A prequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the game is set during the Calamity one-hundred years before that game opens. While that game featured cutscenes that revealed glimpses of that conflict, this game shines by letting players fight out the epic war. Using Dynasty Warriors combat is a stroke fo genius, as that series lends an epic grandeur to the conflict, and we can see how mighty Link and the Champions really were. The game also lets players drive the Divine Beasts, essentially ancient elemental giant robots, for some even more epic destruction.The result is an engaging mix of fan service and mythic tragedy (plus some time travel nonsense) that makes this title stand out from others in the -Warriors series.

Merchant of the Skies

Merchant of the Skies
Coldwind Games
Played on Nintendo Switch

A delightful little indie game that didn’t see enough love this year, Merchant of the Skies is a steampunk airship trading game that sees you buying low and selling high across an archipelago of floating islands. Along the way, you upgrade your ship, set up facilities to harvest and refine goods from raw materials, set up a fleet to deliver them, and discover the region’s hidden secrets. This was a perfectly chill game with a lovely pixel art style. There is no combat to worry about, and as long as you can keep your ship powered, (or pay for a tow to a refueling station) the game keeps going. This friendly management sim hooked me pretty quickly, and had me playing for one more run to clear that next upgrade or uncover the next island. While the game did tend to want to autosave a bit too often for my taste, which left me cooling my heels at a loading screen, It was the perfect game to relax with in a stressful year.

Everyday Drabbles #433: The Gimmick

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It wasn’t enough anymore to be the best, now racers had to have a gimmick, too.
He’d given his whole life to the sport and he thought he’d have earned a bit more respect by now. Although if he were being honest, he never expected to be driving with gray hair, much less a full white beard.
But as he put on his suit and looked over the cherry-red paint jobon the finished rocket car, he couldn’t help but feel ridiculous.
“Well, let’s give the kids a show.” He practiced the laugh as he secured his helmet.
“Ho. Ho. Ho.”

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Everyday Drabbles #432: The Long Walk

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It was the last week of December, a soft place in time between one year and the next. She walked through empty streets, the air slightly foggy from the melting snow, the pavement slushy.
As she walked alone, she meditated on her past and her future.
It was an artificial construct, of course. Just the arbitrary fall of holidays on a calendar creating a lull. But she felt that the world was suddenly full of possibilities. It was as though she could disappear in that fog and emerge somewhere else, to start again.
So that is exactly what she did.

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Hugh Likes Comics: Top 5 of 2020

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This year was a rough one for Comics. Covid-19 forced a distribution shutdown, with ramification that were felt throughout the industry. But there were still a plethora of great books that came out this year, and while I don’t have enough space to expound on all the outstanding books I read this year, here are five of my favorites, in alphabetical order. Spoilers abound below!

Empyre
Written by Al Ewing and Dan Slott
Drawn by Valerio Schiti
Colored by Marte Gracia
Lettered by VC’s Joe Caramanga
Published by Marvel Comics

At first glance, Empyre is just another Marvel Comics alien invasion story. The Earth is pushed to the brink of peril, and then saved at the last minute by Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, etc. etc. But look past the surface, and there is so much more going on.Empyre concludes with a same-sex royal wedding in space, with all the Avengers and Fantastic Four as guests of honor. It reaches to the roots of Marvel Universe history, both in-story and in publication, and embraces that past while stepping into the future. The status quo for superhero comics is typically dark, putting the heroes on a never-ending back foot, with another crisis just around the corner. The end of this book does acknowledge that nothing good lasts forever. But today, the Kree / Skrull War is over, and Comics Are For Everyone. Make Mine Marvel!

Far Sector
Written by N. K. Jemisin
Drawn and Colored by Jamal Campbell
Lettered by Deron Bennett
Published by DC Comic Young Animal

This rare gem of a book takes place in a distant corner of the DC Universe, far from the crises of the regular continuity, and also, I suspect, from editorial interference. Given their own canvas to work with, Jemisin and Campbell have built a beautiful, wondrous and troubling world in The City Enduring, a sparkling artificial super-metropolis where three distinct alien cultures live in apparent harmony, until Green Lantern Jo Mullein is called upon to solve their first murder in centuries, and uncovers a chilling web of oppression and dirty politics whose exposure may tear a civilization apart.Jemisin’s writing on this book is consistently amazing. It’s difficult to believe this is her first jump from prose to comics. Propelled by Campbell’s dazzling art, this ongoing title is not to be missed.

Heist
Written by Paul Tobin
Drawn by Arjuna Susini
Colored by Vittorio Astone
Lettered by Saida Temofonte
Published by Vault Comics

Gritty sci-fi crime dramas seems to be my jam this year, and Heist was another great one. After being set up by an evil executive and thrown in jail, Glaine Breld is out for revenge. There’s just two problems. One, the Dignity Corporation is so powerful it is completely untouchable. And two, everyone on the entire planet wants him dead. No big deal, because he’s got a plan to set everything right. All he has to do is get a crew together and steal the whole planet.
Full of twist, dark humor, and the blackest of cyberpunk high concepts, Heist is a hell of a ride.

The Ludocrats
Written by Kieron Gillen and Jim Rossignol
Drawn by Jeff Stokely
Colored by Tamra Bonvillain
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
Published by Image Comics

This book is weird, and also weirdly horny, for the sake of weird. Delightful and strange, Gillen and Rossignol don’t merely break the fourth wall, but stomp up and down and pee on it for good measure. Stokely’s art is intricate and full of clever sight gags, and the nonsensical plot, which follows a pair of Aristocrats on the case to stop the Hyper-pope from turning the world boring, is a mad-cap romp. This comic is chock-full full of axe-wielding maniacs, nefarious betrayers, and cannibalistic gastronauts, and those are the good guys! The funniest book I read this year!

Slaughterhouse-Five
Adapted from Kurt Vonnegut’s novel by Ryan North
Art by Albert Monteys
Published by Archaia
Faithfully based on Kurt Vonnegut’s novel of the same name, North and Monteys bring us along on Billy Pilgrim’s unstuck journey through time, from his capture in World War II and the battle of Dresden to his abduction to the alien planet Tralfamador and back. North’s script does justice to the story, capturing all the comedy and tragedy it evokes. Montey’s art is cartoonish and subtly colored, and is evocative and resonant. I knew going in this would be a book that I would either love or hate, and I’m glad it pulled off so ambitious an adaptation.

Everyday Drabbles #431: The Instrument

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She is the youngest of the group, practically still alive. The others rarely give her the use of the shell, but some business cannot be done remotely, and she still has flesh on her skull.
Thus, she will be leaving the collective. The other heads, still connected to the frame with cables and struts, hover and fuss over her like aunties around a debutante, giving instructions.
Then, she is back out in the world, her mechanical suit swathed in layers enough to disguise what she is.
She will complete her mission, and then she will return home to her family.

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Everyday Drabbles #430: The Survivors

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A light in the corner of the goggles, the holographic equivalent of a tug on his sleeve. He looked down and found himself standing next to a little girl pulled from some historical simulation. She looked up at him with wide, tear filled eyes. “What will become of me?”
Inside the compound, the Walkers were destroying everything they could. But he’d gotten out with the core processor, and there were backups all over the system. He sighed.
“You’ll be fine, as long as I don’t get caught. Now let’s move.” He shouldered the backpack and turned away, dismissing the hologram.

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