Twins in Death
A Tale of The Weirdo
By Brett N. Lashuay
Chapter Eight: Concerning Birds and Clones
October 25th, 2002
There are several warehouses on the waterfront on the island of Manhattan. Some of these are empty; some have been empty for years. There is one particularly, which had been transformed into a private work area. It was a large empty space in which he could be alone. He held a fourteenth century great sword in his hand, the hard edge glinting in the dim light. The Weirdo had his eyes closed and thought about the stereo that suddenly switched on.
A small pair of speakers made specifically for the white iPod sitting in it waited idly for him. The Weirdo looked at the speakers, a two-liter of cola sat next to it. He closed his eyes and a song began to play. It was sweet, quiet and of an even rhythm. He began to swing his sword at imaginary opponents, waiting for the imaginary attack.
He began with the ordinary sword movements, keeping his feet stationary as he swung the mighty blade. This was just for a warm up. He would go into the real work later. He began to move around more, the blade swung through the imaginary warriors as he began to charge through the empty space. His feet dragged across the brushed concrete floor, his path being set out in the dust. He swung the sword around as he moved quickly through the rows of metal railings. He set one hand on the aluminum tube and hurled himself over it as he struck out at the imaginary foes. His blade moved faster that most men could have moved a sword that size, a fact he was not unproud of.
He finally stood still and simply began to swing the blade around in a large figure eight. He let the faint sound of the blade lull him into a light trance. He listened to the quiet whistle of the blade as it sailed through the air, which is a fairly hard thing to do. A sword needs to be set into a perfect cut in order to make a good whistling sound, a large sword like he was using does anyway. He heard the flapping of a bird’s wings over the slight whooshing of the sword whipping through the air. He heard a sound he couldn’t quite identify, followed by the very recognizable sound of bare human feet walking across a tiled floor.
There was the shattering sound of breaking glass, accompanied by a muttered oath. His eyes snapping open, he moved slowly through the warehouse and watched as a small woman pulled a shirt over her head. The clothes had been sealed in plastic and kept in the warehouse for years. This meant that the white shirt she was pulling on as well as the jeans she slipped into were nearly ten years out of date. She quite obviously hadn’t seen him, yet. The Weirdo set his sword down and walked to a support beam, leaned against it and took in a deep breath.
“You shouldn’t be here.” He said as a way of announcing his presence.
She didn’t think, she simply reacted, and it was all she could remember to do. Her legs bent, her right arm raised to fend off a blow, and her left hand grabbed the handle of the knife. The steel blade cleared the sheath and swung outward into the empty air, far enough away to let him see the blade but not to cut him. There was something careless to his movement as his hand flashed and took her wrist. He had done this for a long time, and she had reacted without thought.
“You shouldn’t play with knives, either. You could get hurt.” He bent her wrist and let the knife drop from her hand, he caught the handle as it fell and looked at it. “Nice piece, though.”
“Thanks.” she said suspiciously, narrowing her golden eyes.
He watched her face while pretending to admire the knife. There was something about her, something that scratched at his mind slightly. Her eyes darted briefly to his face, then elsewhere, obviously looking for an avenue of escape. He maintained his grip on her wrist, but loosened it just enough that it wouldn’t hurt her. She didn’t struggle, which was a bit odd as well. There was something more here, but he just couldn’t seem to get as good a hold of it as he had of her.
He studied her; the long blond hair framed her face in wild tangles. She was well fed, had nice muscle tone, and good skin. Her face sparked some kid of faint recognition, but he couldn’t place her at the moment. Her eyes were intelligent and proud, more than the average person who would break into a warehouse. She wasn’t a street person, which made him wonder for a moment why she was stealing clothes from a disused warehouse. He decided that either he really didn’t want to know, or he really, REALLY, did.
“So tell me,” he said conversationally while releasing her hand, “What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this? Particularly with no clothing but a dagger which could fetch over a hundred thousand at auction?”
Crazily, Kestrel found the old punch line running through her head, ‘Just lucky, I guess.’ She fought the urge to utter it. Had she known him better she would have tired the quip. The Weirdo simply looked at the knife, his hand open and the knife resting along his hand.
“It’s a long story, and it’s none of your business.” she snapped.
Her hand struck out and caught the hilt of the knife and she began to run. It occurred to a part of her mind that this man held the knife almost like he was offering it to her. It also occurred to her that she didn’t hear any foot falls behind her. She looked behind and didn’t see him. It was all too easy, which meant a trap of some kind. Still looking behind her, she ran headlong into something solid. She fell to the ground and looked up at the man in the gray trench coat.
“I love stories.” He said. How the hell had he managed to get in front of her? She found her gaze frozen on his face. That smirk, that face…
Kestrel didn’t know why, but she knew she HAD to get away from this man. Instinctively, she brought her leg up, aiming for his groin. The next thing she knew, she was face down on the floor. She didn’t even see or perceive him moving, she was just there. She could feel the man’s hand squeezing her knee, his arm pressing down on her shoulder.
“Is it story time, yet?” He asked with child like exuberance.
“Who the hell are you?” She asked.
“The Weirdo.” He said. “Annoying son of a bitch at large.”
She glared up at him, and it was one of those looks that promises death and dismemberment. If The Weirdo had been a better man, he would have let go and run to get out of the sight of those hateful golden eyes. He, instead, squeezed her knee just a little bit harder. It hurt pretty bad, she wanted to yelp from the pain, but only bit her lip.
“Didn’t you get your ass kicked yesterday?” She snarled, an Irish accent slipping into her speech. She also instantly regretted the remark.
His response was to dig his fingers in harder, not enough to damage just enough to hurt. She felt the tendons stretch, her hands grabbed at his. If he squeezed a little harder, he could pop the kneecap off. She winced and sweat broke out on her face. She wasn’t going to cry, she would not scream, she wouldn’t give this sick bastard the satisfaction.
“Think before you speak.” he said coldly. “You might not always get as nice a guy as me.”
He let go of her knee and it struck the hard ground. She winced as it hit and rolled over to rub at it. She glared up at him, wondering why she was having such a strong reaction to someone she’d never met. He looked familiar, like someone who had hurt her once, but she couldn’t remember.
“Asshole.” she said.
“He’s not the asshole.” A voice very similar to The Weirdo’s said. “I’m the asshole around here. He’s just the cunt.”
Loki walked out from behind some packing cases, standing behind Kestrel, who found herself between the two of them. She felt rather like a mouse who had suddenly found itself between two rival cats and they were about to fight over which of them got to kill her. If she ran when they started fighting though, she could just about get away in the confusion.
“Hello, asshole.” The Weirdo said moving back. He drew out the forty-five and raised it with both hands.
“Hello, Bro,” Loki said brightly as if he were in an illegal state of mind. “Whaddya know?”
“There’s a little girl between us.” The Weirdo said pointing his left hand down and holding the pistol steady with his right.
“Not for long.” Loki said flicking open the straight razor. His eyes then looked at Kestrel. “I know the both of you. How interesting, that both of you should be here as I was hunting him. How do I know you?”
He held it loosely in his left hand, his right hand waved high into the air as he held the left arm limply at his side. Her golden eyes widened as she looked at the razor, something about the way he held the blade was familiar. Something about, the way his pinky stuck out. He lifted the blade and was about to strike when his eyes met hers. She was frozen on the floor as she looked up. The Weirdo watched the blade open, saw him look down and did the intelligent thing.
There was a sharp, loud crack, like a firecracker going off. Loki’s head snapped back and he fell to the ground. He held his right hand to a large cut that was now on his forehead as he got up. The bullet had only creased his skull, but there was a profusion of blood from the wound. He looked at the Weirdo and raised his middle finger, his tongue flickering out of his mouth as the wound sealed itself before his eyes. Loki then turned and began to run. There were three more loud cracks, followed by the small clinking sounds of shells hitting the floor. She turned to watch Loki run, there was something familiar about the way he moved, she knew him.
“Fuck!” she heard as a darkly cloaked figure vaulted over her.
She watched as the one who was called The Weirdo ran after the one in the red leather coat. That coat, she knew that coat. there was something buried in her mind called out about the red leather coat. It was like some sort of red flag which had lost the link to what the red flag belonged to, that there was simply the alarm left. She couldn’t let her self dwell on this of course, they had left her and she wasn’t going to give up an opportunity like this.
“Son of a bitch is fast.” The Weirdo thought to himself as he ran after Loki.
“Run, run, run.” Loki said to him. “Run, run as fast as you can. You can’t catch me, I’m the Lokibread man.”
Loki had kept running, working his way up stairs and down halls. The key, he knew was to keep The Weirdo just out of range or he could shoot again. He quickly found himself at the top of the building. He looked at The Weirdo as he burst out on to the roof. Loki looked out onto the river beyond and with one great bound, flew into the air. He then kicked his legs as if he were playing Peter Pan on the stage.
“Hyper fucking twit,” The Weirdo said shooting at him some more.
He took off, and flew over the water and watched as Loki landed on the loading dock of a large boat. He landed behind him and was shocked to find that Loki could suddenly move like a snake and knock him over. The Weirdo rolled on the aluminum and got his bearing. This boat’s loading door wasn’t meant to be stood on. In fact it was just strong enough to keep out the weather. The Weirdo could feel the stress of the bodies on it, the bending, and the buckling that was only going to get worse. He figured it should hold him, but he wasn’t sure. Loki bounced around as The Weirdo tried to walk along the support struts, hoping not to cave the door in.
Loki waved the razor around his head in a fancy manner, circling The Weirdo. The Weirdo reached into his pocket and produced his knife. He squeezed the pocketknife’s blade and opened the knife half way, pressing it against his thigh to open it the rest of the way. Unlike Loki’s constant moving blade, The Weirdo’s stayed still in the air. The drop point aimed directly at Loki, needing only to stab and not make the slash that the razor required. Loki slashed, the blade cutting long arcs through the air, which gave away his moves long before be could strike. The Weirdo leaned back and stabbed forward, Loki jumped back just far enough to avoid the point of the knife. The Weirdo punched with his left hand suddenly, contacting the face. He stabbed again and caught the gut of the man and then brought his knee into the groin and then struck the face again. The secret to a good fight, and one most people who study fighting without actually doing it don’t seem to realize, is not one strike to kill but half a dozen. One hit never does it, but five or six hits, in quick succession almost always will. The Weirdo twisted the knife as he yanked it out and punched Loki in the face again.
He was quite annoyed to find Loki hadn’t actually died, but instead he bounced back, his skin sealing up and the blood simply spreading over smooth skin. Loki laughed as he leapt into the air and landed on the roof around The Weirdo. The blood then sank back into the skin or whatever it did when it vanished.
The Weirdo walked along the struts as Loki bounced around him. He looked at the face of the thinner man. He was noticeably thinner than The Weirdo was. His shoulders were narrow, his cheeks more hollow, but it was still his face. The Weirdo’s hair was long beyond his collar and tied back into a ponytail, a result of his isolation. Loki’s hair had been buzzed, bleached and dyed pink. It formed a fuzzy pink dome that reminded The Weirdo of an old GI Joe figure with real hair.
Loki’s hand sung around again, in a manner that might make one think that all he had learned about fighting had come from bad kung fu movies. These fighting styles usually come to nothing more than an ass kicking for the person. Unfortunately, Loki’s speed and strength, along with the fact that he appeared to actually know something about fighting, made the whole thing difficult.
“You’re very sloppy.” The Weirdo said.
“Fuck you.” Loki said.
“Oh I see, a philosophical discussion is it? Shall we discus the finer points of Descartes or Nietzsche?”
Loki swung his blade in a lazy arc, deciding that he had no interest in Nietzsche. The Weirdo dodged the attack easily, diving to avoid the clumsy swing. He had read a lot of Nietzsche. Frankly he found Nietzsche a little frustrating and annoying. He stabbed Loki in the stomach again, blood spilling over The Weirdo’s hand as he pulled the knife out. He stabbed the knife again and cut into Loki’s glasses. The wire frames buckled, the plastic lenses shattered, bits of plastic caught the sun’s light and flashed a tableau. Shimmering red plastic flew through the air, sparkling in the sunlight. Loki’s eye wasn’t in perfect alignment with the tip of the blade, and again the skin gave and the blade struck bone. The tip of the blade sank under the skin, running along the bone of the skull and tore large cut across the right temple. The Weirdo’s knee flung upwards and struck Loki in the groin, he then tore his blade loose. The blood now mixed with the artful decoration of shimmering plastic to add a dark red splatter across them. Had it been paint and not blood, The Weirdo could have very well sold it to an art galley. Of course you never knew with some art critics, it might sell very well as was.
Loki fell back, his right hand against that side of his head. He fell back to the floor and shuffled several feet away, looking at his blood gorged hand. A tiny shriek finally emitted from his mouth, a short harsh sound like a mouse. The blade hadn’t cut the eye itself, simply gouged at the bone around it. The wound closed up and soon only a white scar remained. The Weirdo noted this, his own face didn’t scar at all, but it didn’t heal as fast either. His own face returned to its original shape after it healed, which would take at least a day or two. He watched as Loki took off what was left of his glasses.
Loki examined the smashed steel of the frame, and the hole where the plastic lenses had been. He looked at The Weirdo and then down at the glasses. He held them in his left hand, as if considering their weight in the world. As far as sunglasses went, they were fairly expensive. When considering the debt load of a major nation however, they were barely worth the bother of mentioning. He shook his head and set them down next to him.
“That was an expensive pair of sunglasses you just ruined.” Loki said as he began to stand.
“Material possessions are fleeting.” The Weirdo said.
“I have heard that.” Loki said standing. “My father used to tell me that.”
The Weirdo watched as Loki reached down to the roof and picked up his razor blade again. The man was panting, and seemed to be trying to hold back the next comment, but it came anyway. He was unable to push that other statement away, or to hold it back. It was going to come whether they wanted to discuss it or not.
“Although, he also used to say that I was a piece of filth, and that regular anal rape was what I deserved. He used to claim he was cleansing my demons, as demons are apparently allergic to semen.”
“What a delightful tale.” The Weirdo said.
“After I kill you, it won’t matter.” Loki said. “Once you’re dead it can’t have ever happened.”
He again swung the blade in a wide and clumsy arc, like someone who had seen this work in a movie. The Weirdo’s left hand grabbed Loki’s left wrist, and his right hand came up. The blade went straight up Loki’s nose and should have lodged in his brain. There was a cracking sound of Loki’s nose breaking, or the blade catching in his skull, hard to say which. Loki was unfazed and hit The Weirdo in the throat with a good deal of force. The Weirdo fell to the ground and gasped deeply for a moment before regaining control. Loki reached to his face and yanked the blade from his skull, tearing away a good portion of his nose with it. The Weirdo had rolled onto all fours and was trying to regain his breath. Loki gave a savage kick to The Weirdo’s side and rolled him over. He lay down on The Weirdo, their two faces next to each other. Loki grabbed The Weirdo by the face and put the blade next to his eye.
“I could kill you right now.” Loki said. “I could cut you open.”
The Weirdo could unfortunately tell that Loki was fully aroused at the moment, and was beginning to fear the worst. Loki raised the blade and sank it in to the aluminum sheet that severed as the door for the dock. He looked at The Weirdo’s face and slowly got up off The Weirdo. He took a few steps back, allowing The Weirdo some room.
The Weirdo got up into a sitting position, and reached behind him, drawing the Thompson machine gun from under his coat and raising it up to fire. Loki leapt from the roof of the boat and fell into the water. The Weirdo ran across the roof and got to the water a moment after the splash that meant his antagonist had hit the filthy water. He fired into the water, even though he knew it useless. The cracking of the gun called out over the water. He looked at the water and raked it a few more times for good measure. For all his trouble, one fish floated to the surface, and not a large one either. To explore his frustration with the situation, he shot the fish. In fact, he thoroughly shredded the fish with his machine gun.
“Shit.” The Weirdo said. “Shit.” He remembered leaving the girl in the warehouse. “Ah, fuck me.” he said.
She would be gone by now, she looked too smart to hang around and wait for a killer to come back for her. He looked at the boat he was standing on and thought that he should probably explain to the occupants exactly what the hell had happened to their boat. He was too tired through, besides they’d find out.
He wanted to know why Loki had just left, why had he given up the chase suddenly? He got off the top of the boathouse and flew back towards the city. He got back into the streets and began to walk around. He looked around him and heard something scraping behind him. He turned and saw an old drunk with his left hand extended.
“You got any change so I could get myself a sandwich?” The man said.
“Sure.” The Weirdo said. He pulled a bill out of his pocket and handed it over.
He saw that it was a fifty and shrugged internally. What could he do? He was going to have to be the affluent charity guy now. Not that it mattered it never really mattered. It was just a physical thing, and he’d be dead soon (he’d have to jump) so it wouldn’t matter. It wasn’t like he was scrounging for cash. He had all the money he’d ever need really. He had more than enough, because there was always more money.
“Thanks, mister.” The drunk said, and mysteriously added. “Karma man.”
“Let’s hope so.” The Weirdo said. “Let’s hope so.”
He watched the old man walk away and thought that maybe, just maybe, the world was a lot more screwed up than he had previously thought. This was a disturbing thought because he hadn’t had a very complimentary view of the world to begin with. He wondered what the old monks would say about that.
© 2012 Autumn Knight Productions
I do hope you’re prepared for the fact that you’ll hear the phrase “How do you make marshmallows?” again and again and again. People seem to think that marshmallows are simply plucked from Marshmallow Trees somewhere, probably in Morocco. The thing is, it’s very simple. Boil sugar and corn syrup and then put it in a mixer with some gelatin and mix for a while before pouring it into a pan. Yeah, that’s it, good luck!
Okay, it’s slightly more complex than that, but not by much. And yet, people will look upon you as though you had conjured the marshmallows out of thin air and will expect you to perform further feats of magic. Understand, you WILL be asked to bring poor Mittens back to life, to stop the seas from raging and if at all possible, to put things to right like they were in the old days that never actually existed. If you can handle the responsibility, then make these marshmallows with my blessing. If you’re worried about being able to perform the requests people will make of you, then you may wish to wait until I post my “How to stop the raging seas” and “How to bring kittens back to life” instructions. The only way to stop requests to bring back the old days is a short, sharp smack upside the head and a pronouncement that someone needs to understand reality. It’s helpful to have one of these marshmallows on hand after you smack someone, as anything can be forgiven after eating one of these things.
Here is the method, so that you might make some on your own. Get three envelopes of unflavored gelatin. All gelatin envelopes are a standard amount, ¼ an ounce. At least this has always proven to be true wherever I’ve traveled and found the need to make gelatin products. If France, Germany, Japan, America and Canada can get along with the idea that a packet of gelatin should only contain so much, than I think Spain and Australia can be trusted to follow along with this program. So you want ¾ of an ounce of gelatin. If you’re of the vegan persuasion, you can get some agar powder, which I’ve been told can be substituted on a one-to-one ratio. Agar is kind of expensive, and I have no reason to need it, so I can’t say I’ve actually tested it. However, I don’t want vegans to think they can’t have any marshmallows, so I’m including this information. Either way, get the gelatin/agar and put it in your mixing bowl with half a cup of water to bloom for a while. It doesn’t mater if it turns into a mass of gel at the bottom of the bowl, it will melt when the hot syrup is poured on it. Speaking of syrup…
You’ll need about 1 and ½ cups of sugar, or 12 ounces if you prefer. You will also need 1 cup of light corn syrup, which presumably doesn’t need to be weighed as I’ve never seen a weight measurement attached. One might presume that as a liquid, it can be trusted not to change volume when shifted, but as nothing else is measured by weight I think someone was just showing off. You’ll notice a moment ago I mentioned honey. Good for you spotting that, well done, three points for you. You can replace the corn syrup with honey, which will give the marshmallows a strong honey flavor. If you go for honey, you don’t need any other flavoring, although you can try to mix in things that will compliment the honey flavor. Also remember that depending on what kind of honey you use, the resulting marshmallows will not be white but a shade between very pale yellow to a nice light gold color. The darker the honey, the darker the marshmallow, but they’ll only get really genuinely yellow with food coloring. I would add food coloring to the gelatin while it blooms if I were you, if you desire coloring that is. You can experiment with this for a while because sugar, gelatin, corn syrup, and food coloring are all pretty cheap if you buy right. If you buy wrong, it could run into the millions. The only problem will be getting rid of all the marshmallows, which actually can be pretty easy as well. Once people have real home made, they seldom want to go back to the jet-puffed variety.
Now, you put those two items into a pan with half a cup of cold water and a pinch of salt, put the heat to them. You’re looking to achieve a maximum of 240° which can be divined with a candy thermometer, or a digital thermometer. It can be a bit lower than that, but only by a few degrees and it should not be any higher or you’ll have some real trouble down the line. I aim for 237° myself, but don’t worry too much. If it gets too hot, you can just re-add water. This should take seven minutes. If you don’t have a thermometer on hand, you can look up what the softball method means and use that. I have done both and they work equally well provided you know what the hell you’re doing, which I do. See, what you’re doing is boiling off the water to produce a perfect ratio of sugar to water. The temperature is a good indicator, because of a lot of science-y things that I’m not going to go into right now. Just be careful, because we are talking first and possibly second degree burns should you spill any of this on your skin.
When the mixture is to the proper temperature take it directly from the stove to the mixing bowl. I do hope you have a standing mixer, because otherwise you will be standing in one place for a long while. Ten to fifteen minutes, depending on the power of your mixer. Let’s assume you have a standing mixer, let us further imagine you have put the whisk attachment on and now allow us to imagine you are aboard a starship in orbit around an alien planet and have been asked to whip something up for the chief ambassador of the Jatravartid people that might really impress them. Hell, if we’re imagining, why pretend we’re in your kitchen hiding from your Aunt Margret? Start the mixer on low, to break up the gelatin and then slowly pour the syrup into the bowl. Don’t pour it into the middle, let it slid down the side of the bowl. Safety first. Remember what I was saying about second degree burns? Yeah, I wasn’t joking about that, and this stuff will stick to you and keep burning for months.
Once the mixture in completely in the bowl, then turn up the mixture to full power, or maximum warp if you’re on that starship I mentioned earlier. Then walk away because you’ve probably got 12 minutes if your standing mixer is anything like mine. If you leave it longer, you’ll get slightly stiffer marshmallows, leave it a shorter time and you’ll get denser, squishier mallows. Either way, you’ve got time to spray a 13 inch by 9 inch baking pan with nonstick spray and then put ¼ cup cornstarch and ¼ powdered (confectioner’s if you must) sugar together into a sifter and sort of tap out just enough to cover the pan. Put a cover on the pan, either a cover that came with it or aluminum foil. Then shake it to make sure the sides are nicely dusted. Now, you don’t need exactly 13 by 9 inches, you can use two smaller pans, or a 12 by 10 or even a 10 by 8 in a pinch. However, the thickness will be affected, so keep that in mind. Just make sure you thoroughly dust the pan. Putting too much of the powder mixture on the pan is frankly preferably to having not enough. Not to put too fine of a point on it, but these things stick like crazy and if you haven’t dusted your pans properly then I wish you every bit of luck in your endeavor to remove them from the pan properly, but will offer no actual help.
By now, your mallows should have gone through their 12 minutes in the mixing bowl. During the last minute, you can add vanilla extract. If the mixture is a big massive ball hanging to the whisk and looks like it would be very hard to get off the tines of the whisk, you left the syrup boiling too long. This is not a problem, the marshmallows will just be a bit stiff instead of light and fluffy. If you watch carefully, you can add a little water during the mixing process and thin the mix out a bit, but that’s advanced class stuff and I suggest just dealing with the stiffer mallows for now. If it’s a thinnish mixture that doesn’t hold to the tines hardly at all, you didn’t boil long enough and I’m not sure if anything can help. If there is too much water, the mallows will keep being sticky and sort of slimy. You can use them to make rice crispy treats though, so don’t abandon hope just yet. If it looks mostly like liquid in the pan, but it’s holding tenaciously on to the tines of the whisk then you’re just about perfect. Now spray a spatula with nonstick spray and work fast. I’ll talk about clean up later.
You need to get the mixture off the tines as fast as you can without worrying too much. You won’t get it all, just try not to waste much. Then pour the contents of the bowl into the pan, scooping out as much of the mallow-mix as possible, and then flattening out the mixture into the pan as well as you can manage. This will be a bit of a pain because the mixture doesn’t want to flatten out. That’s okay though, just try to get the top as flat as you can manage, we’re not looking for perfection here. Okay, I’m not looking for perfection from you, I always look for it in myself. Take some more of that sifter with the cornstarch/powdered sugar mix and dust the top of the marshmallow slab. If you powder your hands, you can press it with your fingers to achieve an even distribution. Now comes the easy part, walk away for 8 hours. You can cut in as little as 3, but I’m going to go ahead and suggest waiting the full 8 or even 10 hours before de-panning the marshmallows. Cover lightly with the foil to keep the dust off, but allow some air flow.
When it comes time to de-pan, get a cutting board bigger than the pan. Put a little more powder mix down on the board and then do something for me. With your fingers (which I would pray are clean but as I’ve never found and god to be greater than me, and thus never found one worthy of worship, I’ll simply hope are clean) gently pry the sides of the marshmallow mass away from the side of the pan. Just reach touch the edge and gently pull to see that it all comes away. If it does that easily, then you’re ready. The top of the marshmallow should be dry, there should still be powder mix on top of it. If you didn’t boil long enough, it will be wet and have absorbed the mix. If you’ve done it just right, it should be sort of springy, but firm. Now, turn the pan over and let the large marshmallow slip from the pan and onto the board. OR! If you’ve done this right, you should be able to just pull the mallow from the pan. Either way, it depends on how dramatic you feel. A good swirl and bang of the pan onto the board sure does get the cats’ attention. Complacent bastards need waking up now and then.
Now, do you have the powder mix at hand? Good. Because you’ll want it. Now don’t mistake this giant marshmallow for your pillow, or you will have lived the reverse of that joke. Instead, using a pizza cutter, cut the mallow into long strips. You may need to put a little powder onto your pizza cutter. Once you’ve cut one way, gently pull the strips apart and lay them on their sides. There should be powder below them and the sides laying next to each other should be well powdered, there is but one thing left to do… powder the tops! Then, get back in there with your pizza cutter and cut them into cubes. Again, carefully pull them apart and roll them around the board with more powder until all sides are gently powdered and no longer sticking together. With luck, this can all be done on the cutting board and you can toss them back into the pan when done. Without luck, none of us can hope to survive past the age of three months. That being said, you can put the powder mix into a bowl and toss the marshmallows a dozen at a time if you like. Hell, you can drizzle hot sauce into the mix during the mixing stage and serve them up as a practical joke to the Jatravartid ambassador if it blows your skirt up. This is entirely up to you. I’m not here to tell you how to make your marshmallows, nor am I the marshmallow police. I am simply trying to tell you how you can make them at home, everything is up to you.
So let’s talk about adaptation for a moment. Almond extract is good, but you only need a quarter teaspoon because it’s strong stuff. Peppermint extract is nice, and though I’ve never tried it, I’ve been told that you can add Dutch process chocolate to the mix at the flavoring stage without much trouble. Just remember to add your flavoring within the last minute or two of mixing. Most extracts are made with alcohol, which has a low boiling point and will evaporate if left in the heat too long. You can even use pomegranate juice instead of water, which lends an interesting flavor and color to the mallows. I assume that cranberry, grape, apple, and prune juice would also work. As for clean up, this is 98% sugar. Just leave things to soak, they’ll more or less clean themselves. You’ll have to put things in the dishwasher, or go at them with a sponge, but just let them soak awhile and most the clean up work will be done for you.
I have no idea what the yield on this is. I can fill a gallon zip lock bag with them. Yeah, that’s your measurement, one gallon zip lock bag. They store for about three weeks, I presume, I’ve never had occasion to find out how long before they go stale. I will say though, don’t leave them out of the bag too long, they get… funky. The outside gets hard and ugly while the inside stays moist and it’s just unpleasant.
Okay, let’s try for the card sized version…
3 packages unflavored gelatin (or ¾ an ounce of agar)
1 cup ice cold water, divided
1 & 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup (Or possibly honey)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or other things)
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
Place the gelatin in a bowl with 1/2 cup of the water. Combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, sugar, corn syrup and salt in a saucepan. Place over medium high heat, cover and allow to cook until the mixture reaches 235°-240° (F) approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. Turn the mixer to high for approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Add the flavoring during the last minute of whipping. While the mixture is whipping prepare the pans. Combine the confectioners’ sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly spray a 13 by 9-inch metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add the powder mix to coat the pan.
When ready, pour the mixture into the pan. An oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Allow the mallow mass to sit for at least 4 hours and up to overnight. Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza cutter dusted with the powder mix. Dust all sides of each marshmallow with the powder mix.
Twins in Death
A Tale of The Weirdo
By Brett N. Lashuay
Chapter Eight: Concerning Birds and Clones
October 25th, 2002
The Weirdo walked slowly from the bar at one end of the room to the huge window that showed the backyard. Max flung the small plastic disk toward Jack who flew into the air to catch the plastic Frisbee. He looked at his children who were sitting with their mother. He wondered how Shannon would have looked as a mother. She would have had a pair of beautiful black haired children with blue eyes. Perhaps the children might have the light blonde hair of his mother even. His cheeks, of course though, they had to have his cheeks.
The problem was that Shannon was dead now, about half a year had gone by, and she was at the bottom of the lake. He looked up at the picture of Shannon’s face, but it wasn’t her really. It was a flat image of her face, which was like a bad reflection in which the face was broken down into one a two dimensional object. She had been a bright vibrant woman, and this pale imitation was all he had left of her.
She was beautiful. Was, that is the operative word. Was. A set of machine gun bullets ended that beauty. The profanity of a machine gun tore through her like the worst kinds of insults made solid. Perhaps if they could find her body, in the lake where they put the boat out as they burned it, it could be beautiful still. After the fire treatment though, it was doubtful that you could even find the whole body.
He looked down at the fire that had suddenly jumped to life when he entered the room. His eyes fixed on the flames in the fireplace as they jumped and fell from the bricks that held them. His eyes stared deeper into it, and the flame grew hotter and stronger as he watched. His mind seemed to intensify the flames, which made his mind hotter, which made the flames hotter. He had fallen into a great funk ever since Shannon’s last words to him.
“I love you.”
Those were the last words she ever spoke to him, what words to echo around. He watched with tears that wanted to build up in his eye but didn’t have the strength to. Tears didn’t swell up in him very well or very long. His eyes didn’t seem to want to waste the water. If he yawned, he might tear up then, but not for the explosion of emotion. He had spent a long time getting his emotions under control and had for some time now been able to cut them off. They had taught him how to do that when he had been at the temple, while learning to control his body. It was like his heart had been half ripped away from his chest when he looked at her picture again.
“So much blood.” He said to himself quietly. “Too much blood, far too much blood.”
It did seem to him that death had followed his life rather closely. Mocking his attempts to thwart it by taking the people he loved as opposed to him. He had watched them die in front of him and had sat useless while it happened. Watched as death stalked people he loved and leapt on them, taking them. They had been pulled away from him, yanked from his fingers as he reached his hands out to hold them.
He had held Shannon in his arms, trying to use what the ancients called magic to keep her alive. His powers had ended up to be too little too late. He had seen the woman dressed in her black dress leave as her body stiffened in his arms. He had just caught the image of the Lady Death leaving with his lover’s soul. Some great being he had turned out to be he couldn’t even save the life of one little girl, who really needed him.
“A lot of time.” He said to himself, “A lot of time.” The words didn’t make any sense to him, he must be going mad.
“Man was never meant to live like you.” A new voice in the room said.
The Weirdo turned and saw the gray-eyed man again. His face had the lines of age, not a wrinkled old, but an experienced old. His gray eyes and hair made him seem older. He looked as though the ages hung on him like an ancient coat of mail worn by the soldiers of old. He seemed often to have been broken years ago and now just went around dispensing advice.
“We had to find someone who could handle death in all its forms.”
“When you say we had to find?” The Weirdo asked, “How do you mean that?”
“Death doesn’t appear in just one from.” The gray man said, as The Weirdo’s eyes fell upon Shannon’s photograph again. “She comes and goes in whatever form she likes. And her children run the gambit between mortal and angel.”
“Say that again.” The Weirdo said.
“Your Mister Death here.” The gray man pointed his right hand that now held a smoldering cigar that hadn’t been there before. “He was supposed to watch over you. Make sure that you didn’t suddenly wind up dead.”
“You didn’t seem to care that I wasn’t dying.”
“That’s what we were working for.” The gray eyed man said to him, the cigar was now unlit, in fact hadn’t been lit at all. “That and other things.”
He then slapped back a glass of scotch. The Weirdo looked around and re-noticed that there was no bar in the room. They were in a room that was a long way from a bar but here he was with a drink. He then looked down at the gray man’s hands that were empty. It was like watching a slight of hand conjuring trick performed by a magician who wasn’t even aware he was performing it anymore.
It was more than a trick by a slight of hand artist, it was like what a slight of hand artist wants to be, creates the illusion of being. It was the work of a true magician, probably one that had once done things of great import, but now just got himself drinks. He looked tired though, like someone who despite the drinks was not refreshed or getting any more drunk. He looked like he’d desperately like to be drunk, but that it just would not come.
“Why me?” The Weirdo asked himself.
“Because you’re the child of twilight?” The gray-eyed man suggested.
The gray man smiled and slapped down another glass of scotch. He tossed the glass into the air and as The Weirdo looked up for it, the cup was gone like a conjurors trick. It wasn’t just a trick though he had clearly seen the glass leave the man’s hand. He was beginning to wonder if maybe the guy was just screwing with him for laughs.
“Why do you do this?” The Weirdo asked.
“I thought you should have a few answers.” The gray man said. “Since you were asking yourself a few questions.”
“You’ve given no answers.” The Weirdo said.
“Oh, but I have.” The gray man said. “Answers that just don’t have direct enough questions. I’ve given you perfectly straight forward answers, and when other pieces that I haven’t given you yet come, it will all become clear.”
“Why don’t you just tell me?” The Weirdo said with a half yell of frustration.
“It’s not time.” The gray man said.
“When will answers come then?” The Weirdo’s eyes began to tear, only slightly.
“You have no idea who I am do you?” The man in gray said standing up and walking over to him. “And even more so, you have no idea how close you are to being me.”
“So who are you?” The Weirdo asked with a whisper.
“When you figure that much out, I’ll be one step closer to retirement.” He stood up and took a drink from a bottle of cognac. The Weirdo in turn slumped into a chair, exhausted with the game. The gray man sat down across from him.
“No one retires.” The Weirdo said. “Weirdness told me that. All we do is move on to another job.”
“That’s not completely true.” The gray man said. “There’s such a thing as a retirement.”
“Not for us.” The Weirdo said, raising an exhausted finger. “We move from job to job. The position might change, even the job itself, but we keep going on. That’s what he said.”
“Weirdness has held the same position longer than the human species has been about. That’s why he’s the spirit behind all things weird. That’s why he took you under his wing for seventy odd years and sent you training through time and space.” He took a drink. “He wanted you trained to work forever. It’s been his plan to save the universe since before your race was a twinkle in someone’s eye.”
“Longer than that, eh?”
“Yup.” The Grey eyed man said.
“What are my kind?” The Weirdo asked.
“Ever notice how nice the finches are at this time of year? You can feel the gathering spirit can’t you?”
“But no one else can.”
“Why do I feel like your always trying to escape answering me?”
“I’m thirsty.” He said reaching down and pouring scotch into a glass and began to drink it. “Would you like a drink?”
“I try not to.” The Weirdo said. “Long standing depression and all.”
“I tell you this.” The gray man said. “In two years, this will all seem a dark dream, something unreal in your memory.”
“Everything seems like a dark dream in my memory.” He turned away. “My mother, father, brothers. Shannon.”
“You have no idea how many others know what you’re feeling. And you have no idea how much is going to change.”
“If they know what I feel, why don’t they come and talk with me.”
“Why do you stay in this palace?” The Grey man said. “You don’t wish to put your problems on others, you wish to keep them to yourself, and make the world safe for others.”
“Is that an answer?”
“As close as you’ll come to one.” The Grey man said. “There’s a lot you still don’t know about yourself. Things which could easily change you forever.”
“Then tell me.”
“Nope.” The Grey man said. “You still haven’t let her go.”
“You weren’t there.” The Weirdo roared. “You didn’t hold her in your arms as she was dying, listening to her heart beat end.”
“Wasn’t I?” The Grey man said, his face tightening. “You think you’re the only one it’s ever happened to?”
The Weirdo looked at the Gray Man’s face and leaned against the arm of the chair trying for a better look. He had a feeling that there was some great secret the older man was keeping from him. The man’s eyes looked like he wanted to tell The Weirdo everything but didn’t dare say anything.
The Weirdo remembered the way the gray man looked, standing on the balcony, The Weirdo going to talk to him, Shannon going downstairs to make breakfast. The machine gun bullets as The Grey Man tried to give The Weirdo a broach. The glass tinkling away as he ran to her. He wondered, in the dark of night, if he would have been killed if The Grey man hadn’t distracted him. Or if The Grey man had been told to distract him while his partner killed Shannon.
The Weirdo turned away and looked at his extended family. When he turned back, he found himself alone again. He looked down at the table where the man in gray had been, a crystal glass sat. The glass had been filled with scotch. A note that read, ‘have one on me’, sat under the glass. The Weirdo reached for it and then drew his hand away. Max didn’t want him to drink, and he owed Max something. He picked it up and thought about how the drink might help, and reconsidered. None of the other drinks had helped a damn, why would this one?
He set the glass down and looked at the fireplace, which was cold and empty. He thought that there had been a fire earlier. He set his hand down and found himself touching the black revolver. He lifted it, feeling the heft of the gun and then set it back down on the table. He hadn’t drawn it out, but the gun had simply appeared below his fingers. He looked at the gun and then out the window where the children were playing with the adults now.
The gun didn’t speak to him, but not like a normal object. It seemed to not speak like an angry wife sitting in the same room. She would never say something, but you knew that there was trouble. He wanted to ask it what was wrong but felt that was ridiculous.
The heavy door to the room opened and Bagheera walked in and jumped up on his lap. The cat meowed at him and looked up with an expectant look. He looked down at the cat, their minds would normally connect but he was too tired. He wanted to read the cat’s mind, but he could barely read his own at the moment.
“What?” He asked rubbing the cat’s head. “What do you want?”
“Row?” The cat meowed again. “Meow?”
“Yes, yes.” The Weirdo walked with the cat in his arms and moved into the kitchen where the food was kept.
“Did he find you?” Mrs. Pendleton asked.
“Yes, he did.” The Weirdo said. “Got his message across, too.”
© 2012 Autumn Knight Productions