Not a Miracle Worker

Alistair,

I’m a doctor at a relatively prestigious hospital. A couple weeks ago a man came in complaining of a pain in his stomach. It persisted long enough that I finally ordered an MRI. Long story short, his entire thoracic cavity has been replaced with a single enormous worm. Since then, people have been coming in more and more frequently – two, then three, then five – all showing the same symptoms. I’m a little out of my depth here, especially considering that that worm seems to be latched into the base of their occipital lobe, specifically. Any advice?

A Doctor, Not A Miracle Worker in Lyon


Not a Miracle Worker,

I do, as a matter of fact, have advice.

But it’s not for you. Because of the Hippocratic Oath. Pass the phone to someone else, preferably Lyon’s version of a redneck.

Alright. So what you’re going to want to use in this situation is a large gauge shell packed for maximum spread. Buckshot might seem like the move, but that’s a mistake. The Children of the Drake have a “saddle” segment (much like an earthworm) and that’s the part that you need to wreck. The reason you want spread is that at any given moment it’s anybody’s guess where in the host’s chest the saddle is located. It may take a few rounds, but if one of the pellets hits home, you’ll know pretty much instantly because the host will collapse. 

Just so we’re clear, what I’m advocating here is not murder. Instead, this falls into that weird grey/green area that deals with ”killing” nonsentient zombies and any other undead persons/objects. Regardless of how necessary it might be, it’s uncomfortable because you’re killing a seemingly animate human. Rest assured that the host has been meaningfully dead for weeks… any quasi-human behaviour/functionality/brain activity is only being permitted by the Child of the Drake for the purpose of maintaining a healthy host body until its form is fully developed and it can emerge, fly away on leathery wings and lay eggs of its own.

Alistair

Monochromat

Alistair,

There’s a popular new fad going around my school. It’s these little devices that flash different colors up in sequence. I’m colorblind, so I can’t actually appreciate the colors. It’s getting unsettling. Outside of class, everyone just stands in the hall staring at them. They don’t play videos, they don’t play games, they don’t have information. It’s just colors. Now it’s started to get out of the school, and everywhere I go, it’s just people staring at their hands, watching the colors. I’m getting concerned that maybe there’s something sinister going on here. Any advice on how to combat a possible mind-dominating corporation?

Monochromat in Sherbrooke


Monochromat,

One of the first things I would do is start pretending to use the device. When the “corporation” inevitably starts sending orders through the devices to its vast standing army of living automatons, one of the earliest orders will involve identifying dissenters. 

With the simple disguise of carrying a colour-flashing device you can set to work trying to figure out where these devices are coming from and who is setting the patterns. The evil mastermind won’t see you coming, partly because he will underestimate you but mostly because Geoff is notoriously bad about leaving his back door unlocked.

Alistair

Time Crunch

Alistair,

So I kinda thought that I was the hero of my story: slay an evil dragon or two, make friends with a good dragon, inherit a kingdom, lead them into a glorious and new age. I’m outside the evil dragon’s cave, though, and… there’s a lot of bodies and cooked pieces. And it’s occurred to me that I might actually be one of the guys who dies before he ever makes it that far. Any way to crosscheck?

Time Crunch in Kingston-Upon-Hull


Time Crunch,

If you have to ask, you’re screwed.

The reality is, it takes much more than ambition to fulfill your shopping list of feats of greatness. If you don’t have a very specific ancestry, you’re not about to inherit a kingdom; if you don’t have a very specific edge, you’re not about to defeat a dragon of any description. In both cases, if you have what you need, you usually already know about it.

So if you must proceed, make sure that you launch your attack from a spot where the true hero who follows you will be convenienced by the step that your hollowed-out armour provides. 

Parting thought… Are you sure this is an evil dragon? Consider reordering your agenda to incorporate befriending a dragon ally earlier in the game. It might be exactly the edge you require for defeating the other dragons further down the road.

Alistair

Who Profits

Alistair,

I was sent a video of a crow staring into a camera. After about fifteen seconds, the skin falls off and the skeleton flies away. Then there are words that say “Send this to someone else or die in three days.” I’m not sure what the ethical solution is, but the skeleton bird has been stalking me in real life for a day and a half and I’m kinda not interested in betting on a chain letter.

Who Profits in Barquisimeto


Who Profits,

I know who that is. She’s one of those mostly harmless persons at this point in history, and it’s very unlikely that she would actually kill you if you don’t share the video. That said, she’d probably appreciate it if you did. She’s not becoming nearly as popular on social media as she would like, which is a hard blow for a Slavic Ancient One to accept. 

If you are a gambler, try the following: don’t just forward the video to one person. Share it to thousands. Make it blow up. If you can capture footage of Baba Yaga’s featherless form stalking you and attach it as proof that she actually follows up, it will probably help the viral content accelerate. She will probably reward you handsomely for your proactive assistance. It won’t occur to her until too late that she won’t be able to do any kind of follow-up on the thousands of people now sharing her video (she is NOT omnipresent… barely present at all, if we’re being brutally honest about it).

Alistair

Hearing You

Alistair,

I recently spoke with a man who claimed to be a door-to-door phone service salesman. Once I signed the contract, however, I found out that I had signed away my soul as part of the contract. Unfortunately, the service is fantastic so I don’t want to get out of the contract wholesale. Any advice for just the soul clause?

Hearing You Now in Kassel


Hearing You,

The short answer is No. This door-to-door salesman was never that interested in providing you with a phone service so much as he was keen on getting his hands on your soul. Your question is as silly as asking if there’s a way to get a regular service provider to give you four bars without the unpleasantness of having to pay phone bills. The answer, in most cases, is just simply No.

All that said, a regular phone provider doesn’t particularly care where you got the money with which you pay your bill. They don’t care, for example, if it’s even your money. They simply don’t ask questions as long as the bill is paid. You feel me?

Alistair

Better Garden

Alistair,
A few blocks away from where my family just moved, there’s a house that eats children. I can’t relocate because of work, but I’m interested in not having my kids devoured by a California bungalow. They keep skipping school to sit on their bikes outside the chained fence, staring at the windows for hours on end. It’s getting old that I have to drive over there and pick them up every afternoon. Any suggestions?
Better Garden in Huntington


Better Garden,

This is a localized problem. As such, either remove the problem from your locality or remove yourself from its locality.

If you’re not interested in moving to a new neighborhood, then it’s time to assume a demon-hunting role. I have some experience with this field. First off, you’re going to want fire-retardant clothing and a melee weapon that has been polished to a mirror shine. Apply oil from the tail gland of a lemur (or, failing that, a small quantity of Brylcreem) to the blade of your weapon, kick down the door of this Cottage of Death and start taking the structure apart. This will excite a defensive posture from whatever being is occupying that space and it will attack you. Obviously, this is both what you want and what you don’t want simultaneously. Such is the life of the true venator

Now you kill it. Go at it with some confidence. As strong and scary as demons might seem to the uninitiated, it’s worth noting that most are in really poor shape from want of exercise. Sloth is, after all, a pretty cardinal vice. That said, you’ll pretty quickly figure out why the fire retardant clothing is important. Once the enemy is vanquished, exit the building quickly. It should burn to the ground on its own which will earn you the thanks of local parents as well as a nod of approval from the homeowner’s association.

Whatever you do, do not take a gun. I cannot emphasize this enough.

Alistair

Hamlet

Alistair,
My uncle died and willed me a human skull that seems to have a malevolent spirit inside. Well, I assume it’s malevolent. The jaw is chained shut, but it tries to bite me every time I get close. Should I dispose of it? How?
Hamlet in Fort Worth


Hamlet,

I once enjoyed dinner with this guy who had been faced with a similar problem. In his case, he arrived at the somewhat obvious conclusion that bone is more fragile than hammers are and so destroyed that vessel of torment.

Here’s why I wouldn’t recommend that approach: The skull is a container. Obviously it’s not a great container in the sense that it’s not particularly watertight, but for the purpose of the metaphysical it’s a perfectly suitable jar. So what happens if you break a jar full of water? Water gets everywhere. Now instead of water, picture malevolent spirit. 

So what I would recommend is that you put the skull in a box and bury it somewhere that people are unlikely to dig it up. Like somewhere in the middle of the Sahara or under discarded car parts in the garage of a lazy man. Whatever you do, don’t unchain or break that sucker. You probably don’t want to be transformed into a delicious veal cutlet.

Alistair

Chirpy

Alistair,
I have recently had my brain swapped with that of my pet cockatoo. I’m typing this – painfully – using my beak, while trying to distract my body by throwing seeds on the floor. It looks like it’s broken my nose trying to pick it up. Good recommendations for a clinic to return my brain back?
Chirpy in LA


Chirpy,

By “had my brain swapped” I assume that you mean that you’ve had that portion of your subconsciousness swapped with the cockatoo. I will be operating on this assumption for the duration of my response for the following reasons: (1) You speak as if you are self-aware as a human, while combating reflexive cockatoo behaviour. If your full consciousness was that of your pet, you wouldn’t even know what a keyboard was, let alone how to use one, because cockatoos have never been all that impressed by electronics. (2) If you physically exchanged your actual brain with a cockatoo, you would have a nut-sized lump rattling around in your skull that doesn’t hardwire into your neurological system properly. So you’d be dead. Your cockatoo, sporting a bizarrely-huge brain for which it cannot supply adequate oxygen with its circulatory system, would also be dead.

Assuming that this letter finds you before you kill yourself in some instinctive attempt at flight, you can do one of two things: (1) Just try reversing whatever happened to create this problem in the first place. I would only recommend a “clinic” for that procedure if there was a clinic that administered the initial swap. (2) Failing that, work at retraining your brain. Neural pathways are hard to manually rewire, but it’s not impossible. Start by using your hands when typing. It should be noted that you will never fully rebuild human instincts or eradicate the cockatoo instincts. This means that you will always be a weirdo, most notably in your reproductive habits.

Alistair

Chuckles

Alistair,
I am an ancient demigod, returned from a death that was no death for one of my stature. In the meantime, my look was co-opted by a children’s show character. Now, everyone who encounters me is, instead of awed and terrified, mildly amused. What should I do to regain my sense of terrible presence?
Chuckles in New Amsterdam


Chuckles,
I’m sure that by now you’re very tired of being told to make the best of the situation. True, some malevolent ancient beings have been able to work with an innocent or whimsical appearance and even to make a net benefit, you seem to lack the necessary je ne sais quoi to properly pull it off. However, there is this to be considered: Children’s show characters are, by and large, not created in a vacuum (certain exceptions notwithstanding). They are designed to appeal to children, using bright colors and simple shapes in a sort of pleasant condescension. If you do, in fact, resemble a children’s show character, some measure of these likely apply to you. Humanity is afraid of many things – the dark, their own minds, the phrase “We need to talk”, anything smaller than them, anything bigger than them, anything that looks too much like them, anything that looks nothing like them – but from a frankly staggering list “Bright colors and simple shapes” may be unsettling in large quantities but not, on their own, frightening.

What I’m suggesting is that perhaps nostalgia has gotten the better of you. You say that everyone is amused and not frightened, but throw your mind back and wonder if perhaps those memories of frightened masses are, in fact, a little rose-colored fiction. I advise learning to love yourself and becoming a stunt double for your presumably more well-adjusted doppelganger.

Alistair

Efficient

Alistair,

I work for a corporation described by most as “evil”. While we can debate the ethics of the matter – strict interdepartmental discipline doesn’t necessarily equal evil, even if a little bit of fire is involved – the fact is that we’re going places. Or would, if the CEO wasn’t constantly spending money on pet projects. Rather than spending a moderate amount on kidnapping someone and holding them hostage, or in establishing a water monopoly, he insists on constructing orbiting lasers and convoluted plots to discredit media rivals by faking stock market crashes (which was super dramatic and theatrical but immediately and easily invalidated). 

I’m going to do it regardless, but I’m interested on the net morality when I murder and replace him.

Efficient in Catania


Efficient,

Given that you’re going to do it anyway, I’m curious to what use you would turn this knowledge. If the net morality was, say, an unmitigated good, would you turn away or just murder several bags full of infant animals in order to right stakes? Likewise, if it was a negative, would you set a line item into the budget for charity? I think what you want to hear is that your imposition of order will be a net good, and then you can feel vaguely superior to your predecessor for having lowered his carbon footprint by no longer having frivolous private jet chases.

More importantly though, morality isn’t really a budgetary line item. Negatives and positives don’t cancel out. It’s more of a baggage situation; all of it gets run through the bonfire of judgement and you have to sift through the ash on the other side to pull out the valuables. Which is a terrible metaphor on a number of levels, but I cannot be bothered to come up with a better one.

Short version: If you ice your employer but give everyone dental, you’ll probably be the main one to second guess the decision. When you start and finish the guessing is really a personal issue.

Alistair