I’ve been headlong into a renaissance dip about codes and ciphers lately. I’ve gone on about this fascination numerous times on this platform, but now it’s simply become research for a book–for now.

A friend of mine gifted me with a year-long subscription to MasterClass, and a section of that wonderful resource is a number of authors that discuss their work: Neil Gaiman, Judy Blume, James Patterson, Malcolm Gladwell, David Baldacci, and even Dan Brown.

Brown’s series stood out to me because I’ve read more of his work than the others, but also because I can verify the man knows how to write a thriller.

One of the classes he teaches has to do with research, and to make sure your character is smarter than you. This is presumptively counterintuitive because the character must emanate from you. But in reality, even a few days of exhaustive research can result in a few paragraphs that are not only educated in print, but will outlast the half-life of retention that most things carry when we have no desire to pursue the subject extensively.

Same goes for innocence. I can be a jaded and cynical sort. I’ve no default setting to any thinking other than: mankind is nothing but a corrupt, self-serving dung heap that wraps himself in woke sanctimony to conceal his enmity with anything that carries the imago Dei.

Writing about circa-1979 childhood makes the innocence index a bit wider–mainly because of the technological limitations that slowed the overt plundering of childlike wonder.

Today, nine-year olds know things that should have been reserved for many years down the road. Mystery of any kind is a Google-search away. The hormonal idiocy of adolescent boys–one whose clandestine sins required planning, logistics, and a giggling sense of rule-violation to look at some centerfold poster on an uncle’s garage wall–no longer requires any of that. Every possible aberration under the sun is a click away. And sometimes an accidental click is all it takes to ignite a fire that ends in death.

And this–is why I believe we are all drawn to mystery; the idea that there is something around the corner that we don’t know. This is why I also believe that encryptions, codes and ciphers are one of the last holdouts for us–they still require a crucible of sorts. Granted, apps and algorithms have made it easier to parse anagrams, and reverse engineer a Playfair Cipher, a Ceaser Shift, or a simple substitution code. But there is no “Google” for these pursuits–the answers must be gained through traditional acquisition methods. Sometimes requiring one to physically-arrive at the spot in which an answer is to be found.

But there’s plenty of long-term ciphers that are not yet broken. I covered one of them briefly with Byron Priess’ “The Secret” (Nine of the twelve hidden keys have not been found since 1982).

The Dorabella Cipher hasn’t had anyone lay a glove on it:

Although I must admit. The claim that no one has laid a glove on it has been challenged–by a guy in a comments section I can’t relocate. He said he “Googled it.”

The background on this is at the link. I’m too lazy to write my own synopsis. Besides, it may come up in my book, and I don’t want to risk writing a better explanation here.

The world is too revealing. FaceBook has proven that it’s the worst place to post a puzzler. Imagine the modicum of brain cells required to simply obey the following:

RIDDLE: A plane carrying international passengers crashes, and the wreckage perfectly straddles the US/Canadian border. Where should the survivors be buried? DO NOT POST THE ANSWER IN COMMENTS!

Thirty seconds later, some screen-burnt avatar of continence and worldly wisdom posts:

“Nowhere. You don’t bury survivors.” (They then high-five themselves for their immediate equivalence to Marie Curie and Stephen Hawking, and slink away to their MENSA camps).

And this is why the cipher is so beautiful. Because it has a built-in indemnification for idiots. The information is there for those that want to seek it.

Jesus used parables for the same reasons, and really, in the exact same way. A man building his house upon the sand today–on Facebook–will immediately cause a debate as to “whether or not biblical views about the stability of malleable dirt as a foundational starting point are now considered to be myopic and unscientific.”

“But what about the idea that maybe Jesus meant that our physical and spiritual security is based in the integrity of planning–that what happens early van dictate what happens later?” Someone will ask.

‘You obviously hate science,” someone will say. “You probably go to Bethel.”

And on and on. usually, it’s a pile on after that. And they’re right.  Mainly because there’s more of them.

And because, you know:


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Jim Carrey, and the The Clutch That Is Killing Us

1517514912364-thecableguyIn the process of writing a book that draws from my own childhood experiences, I’ve been forced to try to relive the technical and informational limitations that define well over half the reason it’s worth using as the setting/plot/backdrop of the whole narrative.

I’ve read a million articles, seen a million memes, and come across a million “mic drops,” “hot takes” and Twitter fusillades that attempt to set the record straight; The good old days are an illusion. There was no such thing.

Of course, the horridly-political and divided tendencies to immediately pigeonhole someone pining for the “days of yore” as some chromosomally-hacked Jim-Crow throwback is usually the subtext of attempting to attack the the man of straw before he leaves the barn. But there is so much more to an expressed desire to “get back” to something that doesn’t mean a retrograde return to our sins. There is something to be said for the pace at which life is moving, the pace at which we absorb it, and sheer amount of information, stimuli, and synaptic assaults we’ve acclimated to as time passes by.

So back to my own memories. As I was writing the book, one of my characters blazes home to see his favorite TV show so he doesn’t miss it. Re-runs were neither a sure thing nor predictable, and replays of any medium simply did not exist in 1979–at least not in in any sensibly-affordable form.

Specific to my case was The Six Million-Dollar Man. To watch my favorite show required planning, availability and the ability to not imperil one’s logistical freedom by virtue of getting grounded. In other words: It took effort.

Part–or for that matter–most–of the magic in the process had not so much to do with the show itself as it did the process of waiting. A week–sometimes two depending on holidays and network specials, presidential interruptions and even pyrotechnic outbreaks in the Middle East, we a normal part of life. The cumulative anticipation for the next episode was palpably one of the greatest feelings in the world to a young kid.

In today’s world, an occasional series works like that, but once the continuity is broken, one can simply hold out for the Netflix dump next year. or, for that matter, if you’re into Stranger Things, you just wait for the instant drop of the entire season, and hope that some caffeinated insomniac doesn’t wreck it for you before you log into Facebook eight hours after the release.

But this is what we’ve acclimated to. On Mt. Everest, Advanced base Camp at 22,000 feet requires a two-week stay to replicate blood cells that will keep from killing you when you enter the “Death Zone.” Without first acclimating there, you will have a brain swell that will kill you outright.

The problem with this is that this implies the acclimation at 22,000 feet is a healthy thing. It is not. It is a prophylactic measure meant to “not kill you as fast at it normally would” on your final pitch to the top of the world.  But make no mistake:  You are sustaining damage to your body either way.

We. Are. There. Now. Culturally, mentally, technologically. Even politically. The Zeitgeist of the age now has our minds and bodies spinning at maximum velocity. Our Facebook feeds are scrolling like the NASDAQ ticker. Twitter has 140 characters that can end careers, lives, marriages and friendships. It’s designed to algorithmically key in on your anxieties, fears, outrages and Achilles heels–and magnify them. To exalt them to the highest altar in your life.

Add to that the structural contempt for families, fathers, and anything resembling a cohesive unit, both by the sheer cultural mockery on television and cinema, as well as the market roadblocks that force some into a workplace they didn’t want. The mental hard drive is spinning at hypersonic rates, in a culture that spins at hypersonic rates, diluting a job that spins at hypersonic rates, with days that end with us staring at screens that provide hate and loathing at hypersonic rates.

We are at Advanced base camp.

Suddenly, a virus come along and the hypersonic rates in the world of the physical life is shut down. Bodies become sedentary. Minds become anguished. Income becomes tentative, and households become frozen. Governmental edicts keep changing in fits and starts and hopes are immediately dashed by a media eclipse that refuses to allow any hope at all.  Don Henley was right about these people.

Theoretically, a slowdown would be peaceful. In the “good old days.”

But not now.

Now, our minds and bodies have compensated for the lockdowns by increasing our synaptic dependency on the glowing screens that have literally changed a generation. More hate. More anguish.

Endless demands
A rape of personal and national identity

And yet, antes keep going up. There is no oasis. No peace. Atonements are demanded for sin by a nameless mob of unsatiated pitchfork-weidlers, never taking into consideration that atonement is meant to end at the door of forgiveness.  And forgiveness is the ethereal fantasy that dies the violent death of Rasputin; shot, stabbed and shoved under the ice.

No rest. Not for you. Not for your mind. Not as long as that “world” you hold in your hand or on that flatscreen is allowed to run unabated, when the clutch has been pushed in on the the other matching aspects of life. One half of the differentials are frozen. The car is running in circles at maximum velocity. and the gas pedal is jammed.

So what’s the answer at this time of life? Especially in a world held hostage to a virus?

Jim Carrey released a movie in the 1990’s. Not a barn-burner. Not a deep-dive into introspection and contemplation. In reality, it was nothing more than a vehicle for his pseudo-schizophrenic talents as a character actor: The Cable Guy. The main Character works as–get this–a cable guy, which suits him, since he knows everything about every show ever created. This is because his parents, unconcerned with the parental charge given them by God, decided that the television would be the perfect way to keep their son immobilized while they forged their careers, lives, and social nets.

Over time, he becomes a composite boiling-down of every character he had ever seen. And all his reaction to stimuli were cheese-clothed through the prism of his multiple “personalities.” One minute he was Mickey Mouse, the next Jackie Gleason, and if need be–the entire Bug’s Bunny lineup. Carey’s talent’s are on full display here, but one must wonder if the movie is autobiographical.

When the Cable Guy tries to forge a romantic relationship, he realizes that who he really is can’t be found, because he’s been permanently grafted into a tree of high-pitched voices, disembodied spirits and corporate avatars. This sets him off on a mission to destroy that which has taken him. As the movie comes to a conclusion, he blows up the conglomerate satellite dishes on the city outskirts. The minute media is silenced, we are treated to a montage of families turning inward; reading, playing games, interacting. The film literally argues against a spirit of the age in the 1990s that was already consumed by 24 hour news.

But the most poignant moment in the film isn’t this. it’s the moment before. Jim Carrey’s character is getting ready to blow the whole popsicle stand apart, when the love interest that was the catalyst for the entire thing pleads with him to explain himself. And while I doubt the writers of this film were looking for metaphorical glory at the time this film was released, there is ONE answer that confirms–we have pushed in the wrong clutch–and Jim Carrey delivered what is perhaps the most meaningful thing he has ever said:

Somebody’s got to kill the babysitter.”

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Yes, Minister: The Five Standard Excuses

One of my father‘s influences, was for him to constantly eschew network television in favor of PBS.  of course, this is before PBS became the current PBS.  This, would be where I’d discover Monty Python, Is There A Doctor In The House, and a myriad of lesser-known british shows.

None of them compared to Yes, Minister; a show that was so intellectually and satirically ahead of the pack.  Even as a kid, I found this to be my favorite series for brain-food.  I certainly glommed on to it, and it certainly catered to my inherent love with fooling about in the playground of the English language.

This clip is not an outlier.  Is it what made the series genius.  Based on the book, The Complete Yes Minister, the diaries of a cabinet minister.

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How in the world am I supposed to concentrate on writing my book, when Josh Gates still has a job?

Josh-Gates-WEBTake a look at this man.  I am holding him responsible for a momentary hiccup in my creative process.  And by that I mean 100 percent to blame for the fact that the only writing I’m going to accomplish tonight is one where I vent my spleen about my inherent jealousy of a guy who possibly has the greatest job on the planet: He’s the host of Expedition Unknown.

Let’s just put it this way.  Imagine staring at a pirate map one day, getting  hankering for where the treasure might be, and suddenly, and executive producer drops out of the sky and offers you a six-figure income to explore your theories.  That’s what Mr. Gates gets to do. He gets paid to to be some modern amalgam of The Goonies, a Cosby Kid, a Little Rascal, with a side order of “Indiana Jones-meets Jaques Cousteau” thrown in for good measure.

One minutes he’s crawling around some unmapped tunnel under the Temple Mount looking for the Ark of the Covenant, the next minute he’s on the east coast looking at potential Viking hieroglyphics.  Another minute he’s exploring some underwater cave looking for treasure and the next minute he’s rappelling down into some obscure villa to talk to some shaman with a disc in his lip about how his uncle may have been eaten by a Chupacabra. It just doesn’t stop.

Now, he’s taken me over the edge with his traipsing about looking for any of the the twelve buried cache boxes, from the book The Secret220px-The_Secret_treasure_book_cover

I’ll leave the minutae to this Wikipedia page for follow-up if you’re curious.  But here’s the breakdown.  In 1982, a guy buried twelve plexiglass boxes in major cities. he made a twelve sets of clues.  He had his artist buddy paint specially-coded iconography to match each set of clues.  He shuffled the pictures and the clues.  You have to figure out the city, and then the specific place her buried the boxes. Inside each box are some ceramic artifacts–to include a key that can be redeemed with the family for a jewel, and possibly other things. (Note: The cities and clues have been matched now, so at least the introductory stuff has been handled)

Thus far, only three of them have been found: Cleveland, Chicago, and Boston.  That leaves NINE, and one of them is in San Francisco (memo to anyone going there: There’s a high chance you’ll be gigged with a hypodermic needle if you fool about too much, or sustain a downwinder e. coli poisoning from that the poop-merchants roaming around now.  But have fun and don’t reach into things without vetting them).

I mention San Fran because that’s the one closest to me.  I just went to Barnes & Noble and saw the book, but this homie gonna hold out for a cheaper copy.  40 years has gone buy, I can play the long game. There’s a ton of other clues, history, poetry and lore in that book, and something tells me that simply going to the clues and pictures is the Failure For Dummies approach.

Now I must get back to my book.  But I just called Discovery Channel and told them my people will call their people and demand that Josh Gates give me his job outright.

In fact, please sign my petition here, and make sure he does just this.

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Chapter 1–The Mural

The mural had become a part of the background noise.

Elementary schools nearly always have murals, and this one was no different. Oak
Valley Elementary School’s mural was a known quantity–an accepted part of the historical record.

Painted in the school breezeway, the hard acrylics depicted a few cycles of the school’s alumni, along with notable teaching staff, cafeteria workers, and even surrounding fauna and annual celebratory events—all compacted in the classic way a distorted “fish-eye” lens of reality usually does. It was like an artist from MAD Magazine had captured the essence of fifty souls, cast it against the wall and had it stick.

The mural was also the primary wall/entrance to the school’s library, and Mrs. Clay, the
librarian, passed by it several times a day. It was customary to subtly turn look and see her own avatar amongst the painted throng as she passed through the breezeway; her rimmed glasses and somewhat militant gesticulation– the artist decided that her tendency and reputation to “hush the room”would be captured with a finger wave and a look of “concern.” She was thought to be harsher than she was, and she didn’t really appreciate the school-marm persona that seemed to follow her. But she learned to accept it as time went along.

Mrs. Clay got used to seeing it as she walked by, and taking a running tally year-to-year
of her own advancing age, which was only reflected on the wall in terms of increasing
contrast. But every now then her mind would play a Where’s Waldo variant by quickly
glancing at a different portrayal, and then say in her mind the name of the person she saw.

Some were kids that came through her corridors, and others were peers from the
Teacher’s lounge. But she could pop them off, day-to-day, like some rhetorical and
historical savant. Playing the mental game children do to avoid sidewalk cracks, Mrs. Clay held her very soul’s eternity against a subjective clock—two seconds: No Name, No heaven
for me.

Then, one day she acquiesced to some odd desire to just stop and take in the whole
scene. It was a large mural; 12 feet high and easily 36-40 feet long. It showed the
nearby basketball courts, which has a background feel to them like the river banks and
trails behind the Mona Lisa. Mr. Landry, a popular sixth-grade teacher, was well known
for his bald crown, razor wit, and inspirational teaching style, figured prominently in the
middle, wearing the dark slacks and white dress shirt with the rolled-up sleeves that had come to define him. He sort of took up residence as the first thing one’s eyes would see, and perhaps became the de facto subject of the mural—even though he was surrounded by a cast of the school’s historical cadre.

Mrs. Clay smiled as she dragged her eyes over the mural with an intensity she’d never
previously employed. Realizing she had never really studied the mural like this, she
began to see subtleties not previously-known to her.

It would be at this moment, that her heart would nearly stop. Then, begin to race. She could literally hear her own heartbeat audibly. For a moment, it literally felt like it was going to break a rib.

Her eyes remained frozen to a single place on that wall. The morning traffic for school was developing round her, and she didn’t even hear it—children were racing to class, bells were ringing. Books were being dropped and retrieved. Lockers slammed.

“Are you alright, Mrs. Clay?” asked one young face.

“Yes, yes, I’m fine,” she assured him. “Go ahead and get to class.” Her reactions were
more muscle-memory than social grace at this point. Not to mention her gaze never left
the mural.

But she wasn’t fine. She was frozen in time. She had no ability to collect her thoughts.
All she could do was retire to her desk in the library, and stare into space until the first
period of Library classes came through those doors. And even then, she was borderline

Something on that wall had frightened her. And there was no one she could tell.

© Copyright 2020, Ron Giesecke.  All rights reserved.

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Whoa. Seven chapters in already? Must be a stroke.


Obligatory Mark Twain Picture. Used to falsely associate myself with literary greatness. Plus, I too, have a mess of white hair that doesn’t play well with others.

I’ve spent considerable time on this blog, not only writing a fulsome, scurvy heap of odd things, like this long-form essay about Billy Squier’s meteoric fall from musical grace, and use it basically try to foment discord, distrust, and division between you and your fellow man, and the fact that many times, advice for those on the vertical march can be sabotage disguised as philanthropic hopes.

But that’s me and my general cynicism talking.  At least the article is funny, which is usually half of my goal.

Also, I’m probably a bad person.

I’ve also spent time reading the blogs I follow, and while my Facebook page has transmogrified from “a place to stay in touch with friends” to a vile, leaking malodorous colostomy bag of socio-political and interopersonal contempt in just a few years, my Blogging stream is generally devoid of politics and angst-ridden ruminations.  This is also code for “boring,” in the most general sense of the word.

I’ve also watched writers go from “burgeoning” to “Stratospheric” in a few years, and I happened to be there at the beginning, cheering them on.  Plus, we have signed first editions. privileged little twits that we are.

So now, it feels like it’s my turn.  This idea–this story arc–this narrative with a twist, mystery, paradox, conundrum and whatever else–is rolling out at a rate I didn’t expect.

One of the counterintuitive things I’ve seen work for many novel-writers, is to share rough swatches of their work on the blog–granted, not enough to ruin, spoil, desiccate, or metabolically-destroy the originality, form or idea, but to maybe generate even the slightest bit of buzz.

I’ve decided I will do this.  Tomorrow. High noon.  Be there, Alexander Hamilton. I’m tired of your smack-talk.  And tell that Lin Manuel-Miranda guy I’ve got some sweet flows to spit at him later.

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A few of you might remember–I was intending to write a book

Me–waiting on my original book plot to resolve

I have had basically three books in me that I’ve wanted to write:

  1. 1. One of them involves the Founding Fathers.
  2. 2. One of them involves blues legend Robert Johnson.

3. One of them involves a ragamuffin band of childhood friends that wreak all kind of unintentional havoc on their town with their overactive imaginations.

4. And oh yeah, there’s a fourth one in which a billionaire buys a Costa Rican island, extracts fossilized dinosaur DNA from congealed amber, and uses frogs to plug in the genetic gaps before cloning them, although I feel like this has been done.

Book idea number one has resulted only in a prologue, even after months and months of rumination, reworking, woodshedding, contemplative Mount Sanais, and such.  And there it is–five years later. Nothing accomplished.

Idea #3 has been the one that has been the most fun to contemplate, and also to do without the perceived need for micrometers, T-squares, block-and tackle, or a laser-guided plumb-bob to get off the ground.

Today, my brain painted a complete picture, which will be accompanied by action, along with some advice I recently read by Stephen King that said to just write your book and don’t think about anything other than the story (something like that).

To that end, I can foresee the rough draft being done in a few weeks or months.  I’ll shut my mouth about it for now.

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Comet NEOWISE–not one of those vainglorious prints you’ll be seeing on calendars

Comet NOWISE, July 18, 2020. Taken on sub-standard equipment with horrifically-deficient photography skills at the helm.

So I managed go out to the lake and acquire my own photo of this illustrious comet.  This is as good as it gets from me, even after having a guy with infinitely-more photographic knowledge build a wheelchair-access ramp up to my ignorance.

Canon Rebel t100 with a long lens that I believe, comes standard with the camera. It isn’t mine.  It’s borrowed.

I may try again on the night of the 23rd, which is supposed to be the apex of viewability.

Recent events being what they are, the downside is–it’s not going to hit us.


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Siri, or SOMETHING is not only listening to me, it’s actually hearing me

flanneryIt was a long time ago that I arrived at the conclusion that our technology is listening, parsing and ultimately categorizing us by political categories for boxcars when the revolution comes.

I know this because the most obscure conversations in my home about abstractions–say hand-held leather punches–will result in my receipt of either an email about leather punch sales, or having saddle-making tools show up as ancillary advertisements in my social media.

I recently had some back and forth on my Facebook about Flannery O’Connor, my affinity for her writing, and the fascinatingly-short life she lived.

All of a sudden, my inbox has a gift in it.

Think Christian–a site that prides itself on nuanced spirituality, intellectual discourse within theological contexts, and sometimes outright extrapolatory aberrance, sends me regular emails.  The tag lines are usually provocative enough to draw me in sometimes, as long as they’re not hunting for upward worldviews in atrociously-abominable cinema. (I’ve thought long and hard about submitting an in-depth attempt at parallelism between Friday the 13th and how cowering in a lake cabin is just like the Passover, but I just don’t have it in me.  I wilt at rejection.)

Yesterday, they got me, and I don’t think Siri was the culprit, unless Siri sent an email to Karen Swallow Prior and told her to post “Flannery O’ Connor’s Grotesque Grace.”

I’ll just cut to the chase.  A new, rentable documentary is out, and I’m going to watch it.  Here’s the trailer.  Take note:  Famous people apparently like her work.  I appreciate that. What I don’t appreciate is having my comfort zones challenged with thinking Conan O’Brien is a deeper guy than I wanted to believe.  I’ll take the Mulligan:


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In which I Plagiarize My Own Review of “What Our Eyes Have Witnessed,” By Stant Litore–from Five Years ago

Note:  This is a review I wrote a long time ago, about a book I absolutely love.  I decided not to re-blog it, because the editions (and subsequent book covers) have changed.

I also post this because my Facebook page currently has a daily feature in which I am listing books that have marked me.  This would be one of them, and so instead of posting without comment, I will link this blog post to undergird what would be an otherwise paradoxical post all by itself.

Here’s the thing; not everyone within the Judeo-Christian literary perimeter is going to appreciate the concept of Zombies being the backdrop for Bible stories.  But if–and I mean if–you give it half a second, you’ll realize that scripture is rife with references to the spiritual and physical death of man from the moment the serpent emptied the original meanings from words and then renovated them with his own philosophical, post-modern innards.

To wit: we are zombies; dead, scrambling silhouettes on this terra firma, with no end to the thirst or hunger. The typeologies fit better here than in any Jane Austen novel, no matter how intriguing the concept may be.  Lincoln as a vampire hunter was an appalling venture.  For Zombies to represent the  lifeless caricatures that fall short of God’s ideal makes them a perfect point of tension.  And we may see ourselves in them.

What our eyes have Witnessed, By Stant Litore, can be found here.


The second in the Zombie Bible series managed to leave the chronological biblical spectrum entirely, and take us to ancient Rome.

Caius, the head of the Roman Praetorian guard, is charged with the religious as well as the logistical protection of Rome. Thus far, the walking dead are but a distant, albeit audible afterthought, confined to ravishing the destitute lower classes in the outskirts–known as the insula.

When these barriers are breached in horrifying fashion, certain revelations begin to come with that moment—that all is not well inside the inner rings, and really—haven’t been for quite some time. And Caius knows this better than anyone.

Meanwhile, a Christian sect, led by Polycarp, is being held accountable for the outbreak, primarily for the crime of polluting Rome’s theological mashup with undiluted monotheism, and all the baggage that comes with a faith that exalts not the dead, but feeds the living and celebrates life after death. Roman culture, while expending its firsfruits to the dead who could not partake of them, completely ignored the living that could. Polycarp’s earthly mission involved chipping away at this behemoth. And the unity of communion—the breaking of bread is the accord in which this is brought to bear.

Caius is unable to hold the center, and is faced with personal traumas along with political decisions meant to allay the rage of vox populi –I won’t go into what those are here, because it gives away too much.

Polycarps’s band of devotees are gathering—at great personal risk—in the catacombs, a feature which helps undergird the horrid rumors that the communion they are taking isn’t symbolic—but cannibalistic—a major point in the ultimate prosecutorial proceedings against him.

But the book isn’t about logistical gamesmanship scenarios. It’s about relationships. Inside the isolated, patrician orbs of Rome, the people are hoping to hedge their hopes against the undead by the protections given them by their class distinctions. In the catacombs of devotion, those congregants are shedding, or subjugating their statuses for the sake of unity, and feeding the hungry, and opening themselves to the gifts that may give the undead a proper release from their torment and hunger.

Within this unified body, Polycarp gives authority and leadership to a young woman named Dora, a scarred, publicly-shamed pleasure slave. Upon paying a price for her, he sets her free, and then exalts her to his right hand with a new name.

As I said, the story involves relationships. And this one is key. It will touch your heart.

I fear of giving away more than this. It’s a beautiful and powerful story, rich in the historical nature Rome. But if I have to walk away with one message, I can say this. The idea of the walking dead as a horror linchpin alone is, and has been fascinating for me ever since I was a kid. But to see them as literal and metaphorical statements simultaneously gives these ones extra power. They can be seen as the simple, raging specters in the Via sanctus, or they can be seen as the composite boiling down of a nihilistic end, devoid of meaning—yet they are somehow starving for it.

In the inner circles of Rome, the barriers are physical. Assumptions of impregnability cause lethargy of spirit and lack of preparation for the ultimate breach. And when that day comes, all men are equal in the grip of the walking dead—and instead of being internally prepared for a glorious resurrection that saves them in the long term, they are externally destroyed by an aberrant resurrection in the short one.

In the margins, the poor and destitute, though hungry physically, also know that the physical hedge for them is improbable, if not laughable. Their equality amongst each other, however, was established in their communion with—each other, making death—in all its forms equal in scope—and an unworthy adversary against the Apostolic Gift, something that is only housed behind hedge of a pure and honest faith—the greatest hedge of all.

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