The Camera Man

1 Apr

The Camera Man


by Zachariah McNaughton


Reaper in a Wheatfield

28 Mar


Zachariah McNaugjton


The link is dead, sadly. Was a great online publication and I was proud when my piece got published. This is the only other place I can still find it online.



Reaper In A Wheatfield

(May 5, 1998)

This is what he saw
between waves of madness,
in the moments of frenzied painting-
these writhing wheatfields ecstatically woven into the ground,
these tortured trees screaming from his slipping mind,
piercing the framed silence of the landscape,
the reaper in a smeared white smock
hopelessly tying the mad shocks beneath a burning sun
and the field running on forever
and the distant town exhaling a sliver of smoke
above a churning sea, splashing squirts of indigo all over the shore
and even those clouds, in the distance,
stippled in as an afterthought,
wafting terrible and calm on the horizon.

I want to touch those thick swabs of paint
to feel what he felt
and run my fingers over his madness
spilled on the canvas.
I want to lick the blue-green sky
and taste what he tasted,
on his lips and on his tongue,
killing himself,
as I view his world in front of me, trapped in oil.

17 Mar


The Creation Myth of Matrimyrmida

In the beginning, the whole cosmos was an ocean of darkness. And in the center of the darkness, a single egg existed. It lay dormant for eternity. And then it hatched. A single pupa of life wriggling against the darkness. It ate the remnants of the egg shell and became a virgin princess. When she was ready, she took flight and despite the darkness, mated with 1200 alate archons, each of whom gifted her with a sliver of light as they passed into her, pulled away, and disappeared.

After the last of the alate archons died, Matrimyrmida had enough seed to sow the universe with stars, each one a loyal worker for the Queen. The stars foraged in the darkness and brought back sustenance to the Mother of Queens. She tasted it and was delighted. It filled her belly and the belly of her children. The children were pleased. All was well.

Then Matrimyrmida, according to her good pleasure, gave birth to many princesses, and many alates, children of the archons, and they mated in a vortex of dust and light. Each new Queen founded a new world. A Queen for every star in the sky.

And so it was for our world, many winters ago beyond counting. The mother of our world, whom we call Matrimyrmida, is in fact merely the daughter of the true, the original, Mother of the Cosmos and of all ants, Matrimymida.

The 13 Stupidest Things about Sarasota, FL

5 Oct

 The 13 Stupidest Things about SRQ

1.) Driving. I’ve driven in New York City, Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles, San Francisco, even in dread Michigan- but Sarasota consistently amazes me with its horrible drivers. I’ve nearly been run over when crossing at the crosswalk. The sign clearly said “Walk.” But the driver of an antique ’57 Chevy laid on his horn in anger at having almost hit me as he was making a right on red. I’m pretty I have the right of way. It’s as if the worst drivers across the country were imported to SRQ increasing exponentially in numbers during the holidays. I have to admit that I’ve become a worse driver during my stay here. The “No Holds Barred” driving culture gets to you eventually. Sarasota driving: The world’s worst drivers retirement home. Where they drive until they die. Hopefully they don’t take you with them.


2.) Speaking of the road- enough roundabouts already! I get the nostalgic appeal of a roundabout on Lido Key. But they are installing them everywhere. A block form my house, at Myrtle and Old Bradenton- an intersection that never had much traffic and very little trouble has been under construction for two years now. Why? So they can install two roundabouts at Myrtle and 47th. Pas necessaire. I suppose there is a silver lining if you happen to be one of the contractor’s being paid millions to inconvenience your neighbors.


3.) Not to mention of course, that the first time you buy a plate in Florida, it costs you approximately $400 in fees etc. $400. Imagine my chagrin when I went to the DMV to transfer the title of an old ’98 Honda Civic that I purchased form a friend for $800. I had to pay an extra $400. Boo. It’s not like the wealthy snowbirds have to pay this tax either… they continue their horrible motoring with license plates originating from their native states. A word of caution to my readers: beware Michigan plates.

bicycle crash

4.) Bike lanes? Anyone? For a place that doesn’t always bother to have sidewalks, you’d think they could put in a few bike lanes. Well, they only have bike lanes for the busiest most dangerous streets. Biker beware, and motorcyclist too. Florida has the highest cyclist mortality rates in the country.

5.) And then of course most bars don’t offer a non-alcoholic beverage. Want tea? Milk? Anything other than beer? Sorry, you’re out of luck. So on Friday evening, (statistically the time of week with the most car accidents,) you drive out to the bar to meet friends or catch a show. Not only are you risking your life getting there, but then you are all but required to purchase a beverage that impairs your ability to drive. If we really think drunk driving is a problem, we ought not to merely lower the blood alcohol limit and stiffen the penalites, we might also consider offering non-alcoholic beverages at the bar. Just a thought. In Europe it’s not a big deal to order a hot tea or coffee at the pub. In Florida, they look at you like you are crazy. Most places won’t even let you bring in water for yourself.

6.) And let’s say a bar owner catches you smuggling water into his bar in a desperate attempt not to die in a car crash on your Frida night. Guess what? He can trespass you, for life. That’s right. In Florida, you can be trespassed from a property without trial for the rest of your entire life simply from one phone call. Meaning if you sneak in a water when you are 21 years old, it is still a crime to return to that property when you are 80 years old. Kinda Like Sparta.

7.) And Florida does have a draconian feeling. You can’t throw a rock without hitting the security booth of a gated community. Many of these HOA’s disallow you from painting your house a different shade of gray than all the other houses in the community. And the houses are oftentimes the exact same model. Welcome to Florida. Resistance is futile.

8.) So you’re finally able to post bond after getting arrested and trespassed from your favorite bar for sneaking water into the establishment. You walk down the street that night on your way home. Suddenly you hear a sound. The sprinklers have started up. Spraying you, as you walk on the public sidewalks, with reclaimed water. Essentially sewer water. Stuff that is unsafe to drink and smells like rotten eggs is now being sprayed on your stomach, back and legs. No warning. Suddenly you are soaked with sewer water. You smell like your homeless.

9.) Homeless in Florida? Sorry but you’re fucked. The ACLU, currently in a suit against the City of Sarasota for their alleged use of its trespassing ordinance to single out the homeless, cites messages of a Sarasota police officer texting another officer, “I’m the Bum Hunter tonight.” It is currently illegal to sleep in public in Sarasota. Basically it’s against the law to be homeless in SRQ.

10.) And though comparatively mild compared to the rest of the nation’s winters, Florida can get hold. At night it often freezes during the winter. A stupid pattern I have noticed during Florida winter is the native Floridian, wearing sandals and a t-shirt, complaining about how cold it is. They stay inside and crank the heat, (if they have an inside or heat for that matter.) I know people who will heat their house to 78 degrees Fahrenheit. Which is absolutely ridiculous since, during the summer the same people would complain about the heat if it were 78 degrees inside, and set the air conditioning to 70 degrees. Choose an ideal temperature and stick with it. If you like 72 degrees, then don’t cool below it or heat above it. Consistency people!

11.) And when it comes to making fires, native Floridians are the worst. My first month in Florida, I built a small campfire while on a canoe trip. Unsure whether Spanish Moss would burn well or not, I tried to put it in on the fire. It smoked, crackled, and shriveled, but it did not burn. Way too moist. However, in the years since the early naivete of my Florida stay, I have witnessed on numerous occasions people from Florida throwing Spanish Moss on the fire. Now everyone gets one free pass. But oftentimes the same person will continue to thrown on Spanish moss even after I have asked them to stop. They always give me the same argument, “It will burn eventually.” Maybe. A bucket of water will burn away eventually. It still doesn’t help the fire. Please don’t even get me started on rotten logs. Or wood from sappy, green tress. I once warned a man not to lay a certain log on the fire. In his drunk, ignorant, Floridian confidence, he assured me, “It will burn eventually.” That night the large bonfire was large enough to melt large, glass bottles of wine. A week later, with a fire every night, and the log was still clearly visible in the center of the fire. Please Florida, think before you throw something on the fire.

12.) My final complain about Florida? The pitiful amount of solar power in the electric grid. Germany gets over half of its total power from solar. They share the same latitude as New England. Florida gets less than 10% of its energy from solar. Rick Scott recently defunded a solar power initiative. According to the FPL website

” for the full year 2008, FPL Group reported net income on a GAAP basis of approximately $1.64 billion, or $4.07 per share, compared with $1.31 billion, or $3.27 per share, in 2007″.

That is NET income!

So there is a silver lining to the lack of solar energy if you happen to be the CEO of FPL. There’s two sides to everything.

zachariah skylab

11 Nov

(Zachariah Skylab)

The Leafcutter Exodus

7 Nov

The Aristeia of Exolab

Halfway through Deadwatch Leptgas ordered the platoon into formation. Her orders came sharp and salty up and down the line. The sudden severity in her tone chastened the late sleepers and they were packed up and ready to go in a short time. All thought of the previous evening’s revelries were scattered like a cloudy dream and each ant sobered with the remembrance that they were thousands of clicks away from a home that they might not ever smell again.

Leptgas ordered them into three squads. Exolab stood ready at the head of the formation while Falma took the rear. Leptgas took up a position in the second squad. They marched out in short order. Brisk movements and quiet steps, no ant needed to be told the importance of speed and stealth in their movements. It was all or nothing now. Their legs were in the bound in Matrimyrmida’s intricate web of destiny.

They moved through the tunnels connecting them to the surface, only slightly slowed by the various bottlenecks they had erected in defense of the now abandoned warren. At the entrance, they halted and sent out two scouts to conduct a quick reconnaissance of the surface. A vivid, alkaline tension hovered over the platoon as they waited for the scouts to return.

Finally Exolab reappeared in the entrance.

-Something’s wrong. There was a battle recently. No movement at the moment.

The signal was passed down the line and then the reply came back.

-Proceed. With caution.

The ground smelled alarming. Strange hemolymph and withered alarm trails criss-crossed their path. They passed a pair of dead Trader ants, decapitated and ripped in half. Then they passed a dead Slaver ant. Ragged stumps dangled where its legs had been. They zig-zagged through the battlefield remains until they reached the great road. They recognized it by the spongy texture beneath their feet. Without stopping, they crossed the broad center square at the center of the four mammoth entry mounds. Exolab led them to the mound directly across the way from the one they had emerged from. A Northwest brisk breeze swept down on them, slicing against their moist antennae, bringing the scent of Trader ants. On one of the mounds they observed movement. Exolab doubled their pace. They passed through the remains of the battle without stopping to observe the corpses. Exolab didn’t stop at the entry way, but instead barreled her way inside until the rest of the platoon entered after her.

She signaled.

-Slaver scents in the vicinity.

The soldiers in the platoon had fought slavers before, but that was in the relative safety of their home territory. Isolated and outnumbered, however, they stood little chance of driving off a full slaver raid. The platoon halted and Leptgas consulted with Falma.

-If we head back, the Traders will be waiting for us.

-If we move ahead, we will run into the Slavers.

Leptgas sighed. They were caught between two enemies. Day was breaking outside. They were running out of time to find a safe harborage.

Exolab waited for orders at the front of the platoon. The scent of slavers grew stronger. She transmitted a silent signal to the ant behind her. And then they came.

Three large Slavers appeared at the end of the chamber. Fear shot through Exolab. They seemed surprised to see her. In an instant, she concluded that her death was inevitable and that she needed to buy the platoon as much time as possible to escape. Dropping the emergency alarm, she did the last thing the stunned Slavers expected- she charged madly at them. Slicing through the antenna of the first, and gashing the foreleg of the other, she nimbly jumped past them and charged deeper into the tunnel behind them. Two of them immediately gave chase. She ran much faster and entered the next chamber where an entire squad of Slaver soldiers rested in one corner.  Without pausing, she dashed through the open area an through another tunnel on the far side. One of the soldiers tried to head her off, snapping at her viciously, but missed. Down another winding tunnel and through several more chambers, Exolab moved as fast as she could as more and more pursuers joined the chase. Moving ever deeper through the mound, she only stopped briefly to observe over a dozen Slavers chasing after her. She plunged into the next corridor, passing beneath the legs of another slaver before it could react to her presence. At last she reached a broad room with a low ceiling. She saw slaves of all types and species, Traders, Smaragdina, Ghosts, Thieves, even a pair of small Fireans huddled in the corner. She ran up to the Fireans and shared trophallaxis with them before her pursuit caught up. She spoke in a ragged trade creole.

-There’s a platoon of Atta here on a mission against the Eciton. They’ve likely moved to the Southwestern mound. In the name of your Queen, and our shared enemy, Eciton, please help them if you can. Please do whatever…

The last part of this signal was cut off as the slaver soldiers caught up to her and sliced into her abdomen before ripping her apart limb by limb in a frenzy of violence. The Firean slaves watched helplessly.

Lefiomic stood directly behind Exolab when the Slavers had first appeared. Sensing Exolab’s alarm pheromone, along with the presence of the slavers, Lefiomic has signaled:

-Slavers encountered. Suggest immediate retreat.

It took several very long seconds for the signal to be transmitted, during which Lefiomic witnessed Exolab’s mad charge through the Slaver trio. Two of them chased after her, but the third approached Lefiomic where he stood. The slaver was only three jumps away when the order came back confirming her recommendation. Having witnessed Exolab’s audacious maneuver, Lefiomic was inspired to try one of her own. She attacked the slaver as it approached her with its jagged mandibles snapping. When she came into range of the slaver she immediately jumped backwards, feeling the swish of the jagged mandibles as they narrowly missed her head, and then the click as they swung closed and open again.

She remembered the words of her old battlemaster, “Never attack a slaver from the front. You will lose seven times out of eight.” But she had no choice. There was very little room in which to maneuver. She couldn’t run yet as the platoon was still partiall jammed, trying to turn around and retreat. She needed to think quickly as she backed slowly away from the oncoming scissor saws of the slaver. Backing up, she bumped into Farchik behind her. Something poked her gaster. She felt for what it was with her hind leg- one of the pikes they used for spider-hunting. She grabbed it with three legs and pulled, nearly knocking Farchik off her balance. Farchik sensed what she was after and pulled the quick release. The harness rolled off and Lefiomic was able to wield the pike. She pointed it in the direction of the slaver- a desperate gambit- but she had to try something. She jabbed at the slaver’s head, partially penetrating its thick chitin. The slaver grappled it betweeen her mandibles, snapping the head off the pike. Lefiomic responded by pushing off of the slaver with the remaining stump of the pike, wedging it between the head and foreleg of the slaver ant. The slaver kicked and squirmed but for the moment, Lefiomic had it pinned against the wall. She was only able to hold it for a few seconds, but it was enough for Farchik to signal to her from behind that the way was clear and the platoon had left for the surface.

Lefiomic hesitated. As soon as she released her grip, the slaver would attack. She preferred to give the platoon a few more seconds if she could.

-Retreat! I’ll hold here a little longer.

Farchik hesitated a moment, then disappeared down the tunnel towards the surface.

Lefiomic stared the slaver in the face. “Seven times out of eight you will lose to a slaver head on.”

Accepting her death as an inevitable fact- just like Exolab, who by now was just as certainly dead, she chose to give her platoon an extra couple seconds. She would fight until the end. The slaver raged and twisted, contorting itself into unlikely positions, trying to break free. With a loud crack, the pike splintered in two. Lefiomic didn’t wait for the slaver to regain its balance. She ran away as fast as she could. At this point, evisceration would gain her platoon nothing. Without slowing down, she racked her brain for some tactic that might work against her pursuit. There just wasn’t enough time for an ambush or a surprise. She sensed the low vibrations of the slaver. It seemed to be gaining on her.

She came to an intersection. She followed the direction that smelled strongest of her comrades. She wasn’t going to make it. She could sense the slaver coming closer and closer. Again she could hear her old battlemaster speaking in her ear.

“It is almost always dishonorable to be eaten from behind during combat if it can be helped.”

Lefiomic spun around and faced her pursuer. The slaver reared up and slavered in anger. Lefiomic charged into its open, waiting jaws. She jumped backwards just before the mandibles snapped shut. Then she charge again, closing her jaws over that of the slaver ants. The slaver, with its mass of rippling muscles and fetid body odor, managed to overpower her after a struggle, so that one her mandibles snapped completely off. Pain shot though her as the slaver moved on top of her. At least death was from above and not behind. But death didn’t come. The slaver whirled away.

Farchik attacked from behind. She had hidden and let them pass her to attack from behind. Clever strategy for a forager. The slaver bucked and kicked to knock Farchik off her back. As it did so, Lefiomic took the opening and sliced into its belly with its one good mandible. Then she pinned the middle leg of her opponent against the cave wall, pinning it, and sawing back and forth against it until it broke off completely. She immediately attacked a second leg, and then a third.

Two more slavers appeared at the end of the tunnel. Her current opponent flailed its body but could gain no purchase, pinned as it was between the two Leafcutters. As soon as the third leg gave way, Lefiomic turned and ran, with Farchik right behind her. They made it back to the surface. They followed the trail of their comrades towards another mound. The other slavers emerged from the mound, but did not pursue them further. They escaped!

Half a click later they caught up with the rest of the platoon en route to yet another entry mound of the Metropolis.  Everyone was accounted for, except Expidor Octo Lambda Beta, presumed killed by the slavers, a noble death.

There was no time to mourn Exolab’s death, however. Especially not for Leptgas. But practically, tactically, she felt the loss almost immediately. Exeptax took over on point and her inadequacy in that position quickly made themselves obvious. Without question, she was the fastest in the platoon, one of the fastest in the entire colony back home, but she didn’t know how to set a quick pace which the rest of the platoon could follow. As a result, she moved so quickly that the slower ants had to run at full speed, and were unable to keep up. The entire formation stretched out in a dangerously thin and unorganized manner.

Leptgas, from her position in the middle of the line, called for a halt. The signal took some time to reach the front, but Exeptax was moving so quickly that she failed to receive the order. She ran all the way to the entrance of the next mound before she realized her mistake. She hustled back to the gathered platoon and an irate Leptgas.

-Go to the back of the platoon and stay there. Watch the rear.

Leptgas had to restrain herself from lashing out and biting the stupid scout who endangered the mission. Leptgas took the lead herself and led the platoon into the mound. They made their way carefully through the mound and down into the inner warren. Although they were exhausted, Leptgas refused to let them rest until the tunnel connecting them to the surface mound was fortified and defended. The slavers or the traders might come upon them in a moment’s notice. If only she could signal to the slavers that they had no eggs, nor pupae, yet she knew that slavers were not particularly known for their rationality. They had little chance of resisting a full frontal assault from the slaver army but they did what they could. Erecting bulwarks, and crafting chokepoints at key intersections, and sealing off indefensible approaches.

Despite her business directing the fortifications she listened closely to Lefiomic and Farchik as they relayed their encounter. It was a close call. They were lucky their casualties had not been greater. Exolab had done well. Still, losing her veteran scout leader was like losing an antenna. It was difficult to function properly without her. Another detail caught her attention in regards to the account. The use of pikes as a defensive weapon against the slavers. They only had seven pikes left but Leptgas ordered that they were to be given to Lefiomic and any other ants standing guard duty.

They worked till Latewatch. Leptgas gave command to Falma and a squad to keep watch while the others slept. She ate a bit from their meager protein rations, then laid down and slept like the dead.

-Sorry Commander

-Go away Exeptax, I’m trying to sleep.

(Zachariah Skylab)

Other links

12 Jun