The Door Within the Door: Chastity Descends Beneath the Church

” …when rockets go up they bring ice down from upper sky to lower sky; ice stuck in lower sky will fall on us during Apocalypse. Earth is flat; earth stands on 3 pillars (the Most Holy Trinity); pillars stand on water at zero Kelvin; underneath this ice there is a bubble; and then the abyss. Zodiac is planetary prison of demons…Walmart has technology to administer mark of the beast to those who have cat bacteria in their stomachs…”

Yahoo answers respondent, “Does the big gulp horchata from 7 -11 have dairy?”

Last we left Chastity befuddled, almost ready to utter the Lord’s name in vain in sheer frustration as the licentious gnomes retreated back to the Gnome Dome through the secret garden entrance. Her attempt thwarted, Chastity retreats to the Community Center next to the Church by way of the Joseph Smith Fitness and Recreation Center. The direct route was currently inaccessible due to construction on the addition of a Joseph Smith Underground Water-park and Sauna made possible by gifts of the Lord to the LDS Church through the holy wealth accumulated by the industry and virtue of its members. Finally reaching the Community Center, Chastity smiles at the endearing set designs of the Sunday school group, which include anthropomorphic grinning rainbows and a cardboard replica of the tablet given to Joseph Smith which revealed to us the one true Truth of the LDS Church. For a moment Chastity’s imagination considered what it would be like if a golden-haired child—her child—were to play the very angel in the children’s theater that passed on the tablet to Joseph Smith. Remembering that the production of children would involve bodily intercourse, Chastity’s lips pursed as fast and tight as a dog’s asshole. To purify her mind, Chastity decided to pay a visit to the deeper recesses of the LDS Church to contemplate the sanctity of continence and perseverance.

Chastity, however, makes a few wrong turns at basement #7, leading her into a series of underground labyrinths—not the familiar labyrinths of Thomas Kinkade paintings and sparkling clean casserole dishes that formed the foundation of the one true Truth of the LDS Church, but instead luridly colored plastic statues and repeating images of a man with a swirly stick and a pointy hat. Chastity had strayed into the underground recesses of the Catholic Church that had also been building additions. Though his help was immensely needed in difficult matters such as constructing an underground labyrinth in violation of building codes, the Holy Spirit had not found it necessary to intervene in the building project and inform the Catholics that the extra .5 mile to the left would cause the labyrinth of the Catholic Church to accidentally intersect with the labyrinth of the LDS Church, though this author must emphasize that, in evidence of its superior virtue, the LDS Church was entirely in compliance with building codes. Chastity is so lost that hope of finding the wrong turn that took her here is forsaken. Meanwhile, pressure from the vile body urges her to pee. Chastity searches for a women’s room in vain, for this is an area in which only those who share in the features of the Lord dwell and, thus, all defecatory facilities are accommodated only to the bodily components that do worthily imitate those with which HE became incarnated unto. Chastity walks into the men’s room anyway.

Chastity comes in unworthiness unto the bathroom of the Lord, lacking one of the appendages essential to HIS being.
God had a cock, but everyone needs to pee…

Chastity steps inside the stall and finds a lone toilet paper roll. But, ah, the irony—no toilet! Chastity remembers in tragic irony all the times of frustration at airport bathrooms and filthy park restrooms where she hovered over the toilet, and even her early days at Joseph Smith academy when Eve’s punishment descended upon her for the first time—all innumerable instances in which she had already committed to the act only to realize that there was no toilet paper, but only a barren cardboard roll devoid even of the small tuft of still-glued on remainder! And now, in devilish mockery was a full-swollen roll and yet no toilet!!! What stands instead is…another door. Too compelled by the need for urination, Chastity does not stop to dwell on the oddity, but merely flings it open and hurdles on forward in desperate hope of finding a porcelain bowl. And need we mention the tenfold increase in sense of urgency when one is disappointed in their prospect? For all of us have known the sensation of finding a porta-potty and lunging forward only to find that a padlock secures the plastic portal to relief.

Chastity enters a bathroom stall, but, oh my, another door stands before her!
She descends!!!

She descends an immense iron staircase plummeting through a basement so deep that the bottom cannot be seen. Does Chastity traverse the void, her only hope to a toilet, or does she hold it in? The will of the urethral sphincters is undeniable.


The door slams shut, trapping Chastity in darkness. Yet she carries on with ardent heart, losing count of the many many stairs. After a good 10-15 minutes of descent, Chastity reaches the absolute limit of depth in the Sims. Finally, at the bottom, Chastity’s presence signals several hundred fluorescent lights to simultaneously turn on, revealing the presence of a set of thick, steel doors.

Having no precedent with which to evaluate such a situation, Chastity knocks on the door. If it is a bathroom stall, it does not seem to be occupied—but, ah! A laser beams down and immediately scans the biometric features of Chastity’s face while ominous Latin chanting blasts.

The Latin chanting ceases. “Welcome, Cardinal Dolan,” an electronic voice plays. The clicking of deeply embedded mechanisms unlocking sounds forth and the steel doors screech slowly open to reveal hundreds of feet of oriental carpet with giant stripes of gold piled one one top of the other like stacks of legos while the papal seal gleams in signal that these were in the holy possession of His shepherd. Chastity beamed in satisfaction, for the piles of gold were significantly less than she had expected. The vault of Joseph Smith that she had seen two years ago exceeded this amount several times over! As to why the vault had referred to her as “Cardinal Dolan” Chastity could not begin to inquire, for Chastity was unaware that, due to a precipitous increase in need to move money out of the official Vatican vault into the vault attached to a cemetery trust fund, the previous user had set the scan mechanism to automatically open for the next 24 hours to his name as his assistants rushed to transfer the contents.

The vault opens for Chastity, but Chastity opens for no one.
Chastity decides to count the money.

Chastity decided to count the money because it was there. And because she no longer had to relieve herself thanks to the surprise elicited by beholding a secret vault. The proud emblem of the institution of the truth of the only truth hangs on the wall.

Chastity counts almost all the way to five before her attention is disrupted by the noise of clinking bars of gold coming from behind. It appears that someone else has paid a trip to the vault…and also likes counting the Lord’s indulgences…

It was a tall figure in a strange hat and tightly buttoned jacket with emaciated face and a hat indicating high holy status. The severe black of his outfit contrasted unhappily with Chastity’s floral print like a death’s head next to a packet of bubble gum. “Who are you?!” exclaimed Chastity. “I had better ask first who are YOU?!” said the man in black, “since you must explain to me what your female presence is doing in a space reserved for HIS sacred priests?!! I am THE pope! Now, tell me who YOU are.” (Unforuntately, no one has yet created a Pope hat in the Sims. BELIEVE ME I TRIED TO FIND IT AND COULD NOT SO IF YOU CRITICIZE ME FOR DESIGNING THE POPE LIKE THIS YOU CREATE THE POPE HAT.)

“I,” replied Chastity with sharp indignation, “am a believer in the one true Truth of the Church of the Latter Day Saints of the Mormon Tabernacle!”

“Ah! Another heretic coming to undermine us! Of course!” screeched the emaciated man in black, “by spreading lies and rumors and calling up the power of Caesar and secular law to compel us to surrender gold from the holy vault! You think you can defeat us in court?! Well, let me tell you that our lawyers are legion! These funds are property of the cemetery trust and their extraction from HIS Church—I mean the cemetery trust fund—imperils religious liberty under the first amendment! Though it is the judgment of God that should cause you to tremble, heretic, for HE knows of your error and heresy even if the license of the secular society lets you live in lies and evil under its despicable first amendment and made up notion of human ‘rights,’ which asserts a notion of freedom as freedom from authority and everything true and good!”

Chastity paused to reflect…”like you?”

“YES!!!!” he SCREAMED…then he squinted his eyes and gave Chastity a glare of the kind of pride and contemptuous ex-communicative damnation to eternal torment truly worthy of the God of love.

Then, a sudden cold chill hit him. Perhaps a draft blew in from 345 feet upstairs where Winter was happening. Or perhaps he became aware of his own soul. Whatever the reason, he reflexively spun around to transform into Winter Garb. The Pope had, however, forgotten to change his outfit and stood in the shame of a DEFAULT BASE GAME SWEATER.

Chastity, with the keenness of vision to interior decor, skirt lace, and lampshade dust worthy of a respectable Mormon housewife, observed the non-matching seasonal attire with the icy raised eyebrow of silent judgment and pursed lips. As anyone knows who has been struck by the sharp dart of ice to the heart that is the silent judgment of the Mormon house wife, whether for loitering in a public space, defenestrating a piece of gum after rolling a car window down while Led Zeppelin plays from the radio, or displaying porn shoulders (literally people this is an actual word in the Mormon community for people wearing shirts that show their shoulders) it is a gaze more irreparably devastating, more implacably merciless and hard than the eye contact of the Gorgon or a DMV worker. The Pope, helpless against this dark magic, shudders in shame and begs to be redeemed.

“I’ll bring a casserole to the school play, I swear!” he screams from the terrified hole his soul has fallen into.

“Good. Good,” says the neutral, affectionless voice of Chastity, “and what else?”

“Um, well, um, I can show you the torture room. How would you like to see the torture room? Then, you promise, you…you won’t tell anyone I have a sweater that cannot be properly identified as either dark green or mauve? Please, it’s really cool. I have all sorts of pokies and pointies for the heretics. And some fire. There is also fire.”

Chastity scoffed, “maybe a bit of these gold bars can be sent to the Bank of the Latter Day Saints and I won’t even mention that it’s from the Sims H&M collection…”

“Oh god, no! Don’t tell! I have wines, from the Vatican cellar, over 1,000 years old! Take as many as you want!”

Full eye-lids went up from Chastity as she returned a cold, dead, horrified silence. Truly an institution that houses devil’s water beneath its ‘holy’ chambers was the anti-Christ.

Yet, curiosity compelled her. “Show me the torture chambers then…” she said.

“Follow me then,” said the Pope who exited the vault and made an immediate left, passing by His Eminence’s child containment chambers. The appearance of caged children clothed only in underwear with adjacent red velvet covered royal viewing loveseats provoked no response from her guide His Holy Eminence who walked past the cages with as little remark as if it had been a bread pantry.

“WHAT IS THAT?” shouted Chastity, having never seen pre-pubescent boys caged underground before. Only girls were to be caged! And besides, that was inside cabins where they performed housework until selected for marriage by a well-secured businessman. What madness was this?! The Pope continued walking as if he heard nothing.

“I said, ‘what is that over there?!'” yelled Chastity again.

“What is what?” said the Pope.


“What cages with children?” said the Pope.

Chastity sighed with exasperation. How many times was she going to almost utter the word ‘damn’ in a single day?

“Is altar duty over yet?” whimpered a meek voice.

“NO,” said the Pope to the child who then ran into the corner and began muttering and trembling with confused fear.


“I didn’t talk to anyone.”

“YES YOU DID. THOSE KIDS RIGHT THERE. RIGHT. LITERALLY. THERE.” She pointed directly at the crazed child that paced rapidly in a circle beneath the fluorescent light.

Lies of the secular liberal society designed to undermine super truth…” grumbled the angry voice.

“I’m not secular. I’m a Mormon!” screeched Chastity.

“Lies of the secular liberal society and the gays. And Jews. Gay homosexual secular lesbian Jews that control the media…the decadent society that cuts off the head of truth and bears it on a platter like a whore…” he continued to shake his head grumbling and grumbling while heading for the torture room. But first, he played a bit on the pipe organ because, as leader of a Sims Club, he needed to add enough points to be able to get themed t-shirts. Also, because it was part of the pre-torture room viewing ceremonial sacrament (there was a different preparatory pipe organ blast piece for the pre-torture ceremonial sacrament, which was the same as the pre-torture room viewing ceremonial sacrament but in a minor key).

Evidence of the value of this sacrament is validated by the glowing octagonal Sims club symbol. We know he is the leader because of the crown.

Though she hates admitting it to herself, Chastity secretly finds the torture tune rather catchy. After completing this necessary ceremony, they head into the torture chamber.

“You know every single person that has ever gone in and out of here has recognized our claim to supreme and total truth?”

“Really?” said Chastity admiring the royal viewing seats which were lined with the plush of baby pandas and dyed with the blood of infidels. Deep down Chastity recognized that this was way more bad-ass than the whitewashed Joseph Smith Community Center where 90 year old women sold watercolors of blonde babies and flowers.

“Tell me what the thingies do,” Chastity said with glee.

“Well, those three swords up on the wall over the supreme seat of supreme judgment can be used to provoke recognition of truth by externalizing human intestines.”


“And those giant flaring urns of eternal flame are NOT just for show. How else do you think you could heat up a poker until it glares white? And we wouldn’t want the soul to escape to eternal torment before it is shown truth through the loving efforts of our chamber members. The pokies can be made hot enough to cauterize gushing wounds.”

“Very clever!”

“This rug that you stand on right now was handmade in the Turkish Orient.”

“Aren’t they heathens?” asked Chastity.

“OH….uhhhh….what do you think of the scales of judgment on our table?”

The Pope pointed behind Chastity, who had formerly been admiring the knives on the wall to her left.

“The scales are always right,” he said.

Reason is supreme. The scale of judgment is right because it is the scale of judgment.

“How do you know that?” asked Chastity.

“Because they are the scales of judgment.”

“It kind of looks like they are tilting towards guilt even though they have the same amount of weight on either side right now.”

“That’s because the weight of sin is infinite.”

Thinking she had really snagged him Chastity replied: “Um. But isn’t God infinite?”

Chastity questions the authority of His Eminence.

“Yes. God is infinite,” the Pope replied.

“Then wouldn’t the scales be even? Because the two infinities would cancel?”



The scales of judgment, proudly juxtaposed by the WORD OF THE LORD.

“Because the scale is correct.”

“Wait, what?! You can’t know that.”

“Yes I can. It’s logic. Everyone who comes in here has been guilty. We know this because this is the room of guilt. To assume that the scales are incorrect because the scale is weighing towards guilt is a fallacy because you are assuming that all outcomes must be predetermined by probability instead of truth. You are, therefore, making the unwarranted assumption that it is not possible for all those to be brought in to be guilty, which is a non-empirical assumption. It is the prejudice of secular liberal ideology. Jews. Gay Jews. That control the secular entertainment industry.”

Chastity knew that something had just happened to her brain, but her Mormon education had not provided her with the term “mind fuck.” The great intellectual tradition of the SUPREME TRUTH had bested her biblical Sunday school training and Joseph Smith. She had no idea what he had just said, but he said it with such conviction and confidence in magical words she didn’t know so he must be right. Luckily, Mormonism had already prepared her to sit quietly and patiently while men explained.

“It’s all in the book of supreme truth,” he declared proudly and pointed to his fancy painted version of it next to Chastity’s seat, “This one is from the fourteenth century.” He looked at his watch. “Now, excuse me, but I’ve got to ensorcell some crackers in an hour.”

“Wait!” said Chastity.


“Can I…maybe…sometime…witness a torture?”

“Only cracker consuls get to witness a torture,” he replied, “and becoming a cracker consul is a right reserved only for those who possess all the holy appendages in image of the LORD…But since you liked it so much, I’ll toss in this personal thumbscrew as a souvenir.”

“Really? Can’t I participate in any way?”

“Well, I guess I could make you a cracker chamber maid…”

“What would that involve?” chirped Chastity, happy to fulfill woman’s destiny for God.

“Cleaning and prepping the torture room. And feeding the…leaving food outside to be consumed.”

Then I can watch a torture?”

“Then you can listen to a torture outside the chamber doors.”

“You mean where the children are?”


Chastity smiled, having, for once, bested his intellectual and holy eminence.

“Sigh…I will show you where you can sit.”

The Pope led Chastity back outside the torture chamber doors to the chamber of child containment. Sitting beneath the emblem of His Holy Eminence in the royal viewing seats Chastity watched as the children, upon seeing the Pope, immediately began muttering some ritual.

“As feeding duty leader you are to slide trays of nutrient clay into these metal flaps.”

“But what if I want to bake cinnamon rolls?”

“That is fine…” he grumbled.

“Yay!” cheered Chastity. And for the first time in his darkness enshrouded entombment a child smiled with eyes of hope and delight upon hearing Chastity utter the words “cinnamon rolls.”

Chastity’s heart cheers as it feels called by the essence of womanhood to the duty of cinnamon roll baking in the name of the Lord.

Then, shifting his eyes around, the Pope’s face turned white with shock and then red with rage. He let out a deep growl and grumbled, “So it happens again…”

“So what happens again?” said Chastity.

“We are missing another one…”


“There have been…disappearances among the confined.”

He gave out an angry glare at the children which fell into shuddering silence.

“None of the cracker consuls or myself have yet solved the mystery…but at the rate of approximately once a month, one of the contained vanishes…without a trace. There is no hole in the wall. Only a small piece of purple paper with a psychedelic eyeball on it in the place where a child once stood enchained. All we have on the camera is…every now and then…the image of a pointed red hat and a small bearded thing…if I were mad I would almost liken it to a Gnome…”

Chastity’s face turned white as well with recognition, “I know of what you speak!” she cried.

“Do you?!”

“I’ve seen them. I haven’t yet tracked them. I’ve tried! That’s how I ended up here! In your Eminence’s Holy Chambers, “I was looking for them! Sometimes I hear—“

“The sound of Indian Trap music?” he said, finishing her sentence with horror.


“Then come,” he replied, “I must introduce you to other cracker consuls. We must share what we know. Though the fresh turnover of children does help preserve the palette of the priests from satiation, it would be better if they simply aged out in the time necessary for the statute of limitations to run out and for their means of disposal to be known…we’ve made some progress on researching the disappearances, however. We think it is likely due to the secular liberal Jews that keep trying to make documentaries about us.”

“I know, they hate us too. But if only we had the gold… “

“Yes, the LORD makes it known who his chosen are. The Catholic Church’s holdings are at least TEN TIMES the holdings of the LDS Church.”

“You are right. How can I argue with the most palpable evidence of the Lord’s favor?” replied Chastity. Then, in that moment it was decided. Chastity joined the Pope’s Sims club and also acquired an octagonal rainbow above her head. And the joint search began for the infidels’ opium den began. A persecution would be had in the name of the LORD!

And the search for the Gnome Dome of Opiome truly began…

Meanwhile, deep in another recess beneath the Church, the Gnomes were preparing plant medicine for ceremony space in the ritual of welcoming in the LSD conference in which the latest liberated child was to be inducted.

Will Chastity and the Pope successfully track the Indian Trap Music and purple strobe lighting to their source? What exactly is happening with the Gnome Dome of Opiome? Find out in the next episode!

Option 3

(TW: depression and suicidal ideation)

Enlightenment as described in the yoga sutras isn’t a state of eternal bliss, it’s the ability to decouple the self from all external influence, and, as a result, feel nothing. You’re aiming for no karma, not good karma. Only then can the cycle of reincarnation be broken.

If that idea of enlightenment held any water, given that she couldn’t come up with a way to definitively prove reaching enlightenment is possible, Aileen figured she was close.

She barely felt anything anymore.

Right now, her focus was on the bannister, which although light-colored, had begun to collect individual flecks of dust she could see if she brought her eyes to hand-level and squinted hard enough. It had accumulated to where she couldn’t make out individual particles inside the acute crevice where the handrail met the post. She disturbed them with a sharp puff of breath. The largest dislodged particle was helical, and although it would have been satisfying to see it move like a tiny spring, it instead shot up three times its height and floated an unimpressive half-inch away from its initial position. Blowing it again wouldn’t be worth the effort. The measly half-inch was still probably the most exciting thing to happen to that slinky-looking piece of fluff since her son moved out; a couple weeks ago, it may have been shaken loose by shockwaves of thumping feet or caught in a fingerprint, but now it and thousands of its barely macroscopic peers had taken up permanent residence all up and down the handrail where hands didn’t touch.

It didn’t register to Aileen that the presence of a staircase implied her house had a second story. Her domain had been the porch and study, where the upstairs was used primarily as an art room, then later for toys and toddler beds and dollhouses, later still for homework desks and chemistry sets, places for her son and most of the neighborhood’s teenage girls to sleep, and on one occasion a makeshift bedroom for her closeted spouse during a week she’d rather forget. Nowadays, she made a round through the seven downstairs rooms at least once per day, making sure to use both bathrooms equally so they’d dirty at the same rate. She learned that the echo of her footsteps felt less empty if she stayed on rugs and carpet or wore socks. Sometimes she’d imagine a time-lapse of her cleaning the apartment, so it looked like there were dozens of busy Aileens in every room, but the fantasy always stopped before she ran out of tchotchkes to inspect and planted herself at her writing desk for hours. Doing nothing.

She would tell herself she was going to write and then sit down and pick at her skin and at times her eyes would wander searching for new imperfections on her body or the desk. Sometimes there was something interesting to look at, like a collection of Khalil Gibran poems, but lately she’d had to move all books to the living room. The sight of a book reminded her of a time when she used to be productive, when she could absolutely just beam positivity and preach self-love and self-care to an audience of people who’d maybe gotten out of worse situations than the one Aileen found herself in right now. And then those same people stopped her on the street to rave about how much her book helped them realize it was their fault they were upset, how they couldn’t change the world but they could change the way they saw the world, and that doing so made them happier, better, more productive people in general. She couldn’t understand why she’d felt okay putting her face on those fucking books.

Visualizing what you wanted was one of the ten or so concepts Aileen had made a living off of, one she had spent as many late nights rewording for various target demographics so that the message reached as many people as possible. So what she was trying to do was to take this message to heart, something she thought she’d done in the past but apparently could go further with, anyway she was trying to sit down and have a Ritual in Ceremony Space in which she imagined the directions her life could go and set an intention to direct the flow of her energy towards taking the one that spoke to her the most from fantasy to reality. Option 1 was to spend her adulthood and final days sitting alone at her desk in her clean-but-empty house having a Ceremony Space as she tried to figure out what to do. Option 2 was to marry either Matt or Derrick; Josh was out of the question, even though with that union she’d get back some of the art he stole.

Option 2 seemed to be just outside the peripherals of Aileen’s mind’s eye. She would always start with the wedding, and the wedding went alright, just some sort of basic shit with jars and twine and some fairy lights, foolproof and preplanned so she didn’t have to spend what little energy she had these days on something so transient. Then either Derrick would come home every day and tell Aileen what happened at crossfit or Matt would come home and not tell her what he was thinking. This is where the thought experiment kept turning into an anxiety hypothesis. Certainly there was no shortage of dead men for either suitor to run off into a fated perfect romance with, but she had no problem envisioning several hundred other ways she could ruin the relationship. Best case, she’d be stuck watching them slowly wither away to nothing.

One good thing had come out of her first marriage—she was confident in her ability to express what love meant for her. She knew enough to know it was nothing like what she felt for Matt or Derrick.

Option 1 or Option 2. Die in a loveless marriage, or die alone.

Aileen had written enough fiction to know where she was in the story: the low point right before the God of the Machine spits out an Option 3, hopefully centered around a tattooed Fabio who hated dust as much as he loved middle-aged single mothers. Option 3 was the one she’d been working on before she realized the same hundred-odd people lived in her world. Of those hundred-odd people, only two were single and remotely dateable. Matt and Derrick. So this Option 3 wasn’t possible in Aileen’s small world, her speck of dust. But there was another Option 3, one she thought about more than Options 1 and 2 combined.

She had the cowplant berries and a monthly pass to a spa with a sauna. Whether these were less painful, or electrocution, or one of the emotional deaths, or being exhausted in the 2×3 swimming pool she had installed to quiet her whims, she hadn’t been able to figure out yet. And it wasn’t like acknowledging it made it go away. She’d be brushing her teeth in the morning and it would pop into her head. Like Kramer. Like clockwork. Option 3.

Another one of Aileen’s golden self-help tips was to always surround yourself with a fantastic support system that Brings You Up instead of Puts You Down. The people that Brought Aileen Up were as impeccably trained in self-help and self-love as Aileen herself, with inhuman natural positivity to boot, and always had time to remind Aileen of the solution she already knew in her heart. The solution was to keep waiting. The solution was to keep waiting, keep envisioning, keep running her fingernail through the microscratches in the glass desk and the wrinkles around her knuckles, keep busy and get out of bed and do cardio and stay hydrated and go outside so you can meet your Fabio, he has to come eventually, he has to, because you have to have faith it’s going to happen.

But there’s not a man alive I haven’t talked to.

You have to keep searching, and if you give up searching, it’ll never happen.

But what if he just doesn’t exist?

You have to have faith that he does and it’ll just happen someday.

Instead of confronting her wonderful support system with people who Bring Her Up with the sad reality that they don’t have any proof this is going to happen, the number of times Option 3, the real one, pops into her head while she’s carrying out the blindingly obvious strategy of waiting and having faith, so simple a kindergartener could come up with it and it’s a miracle that someone experienced like Aileen couldn’t do it on her own, the fact that maybe no one, not even a perfectly executed support system whose Bringing-People-Up abilities have been compared to a genuine stairway to heaven, could come up with a solution because there is none. There’s no Deus Ex. There’s no happy ending. Aileen was a problem who couldn’t be solved.

But it clicked once for Aileen, in the middle of a lecture on how important it is to have hope from a woman who wore harem pants and ear cuffs, the latter of which could double as dread beads in a pinch, who had tan lines from toe rings and whose turquoise jewelry was charmingly, effortlessly authentic and not at all like the mass-produced baubles people bought to look like her, that the message wasn’t for Aileen herself. It was for them. It was for them to believe there’s no problem that couldn’t be fixed through a positive gung-ho attitude, which made it possible for they themselves to sustain that selfsame attitude and continue making the world a brighter place. Aileen’s negative thinking wasn’t serving her, she was a false Scotsman, a downer, she needed to do a training in India, she needed to learn true patience, she needed to let go of her expectations and separate herself from everything.

So she did, the first thing to go being the group whose onslaught of positivity was Putting Her Down. Claudia she kept. Claudia repeated the same platitudes as much as the rest of them combined, which only suggested to Aileen how thin the veneer was, that if Claudia really needed to hear “it gets better” that often, she at least had to be doing as poorly as Aileen. Claudia had a husband who was a Joke Star, besides, she could make it look like an accident and no one would be the wiser.

That’s the other half of why Aileen’s house is empty so often. Some information can’t be communicated by talking, or at all, because it has to be realized by each person individually. Often these are the simplest statements. Be yourself. Empty, until the person who the command is directed at understands what that means. It can take years to know what that means, to be yourself. Understanding that you’re going to die—not intellectually, actually coming to terms with your own death—no matter how knowledgable or virtuous one’s life was, is another such bit of information. Aileen knew her friends weren’t ready to hear that. She didn’t need to remind them that for someone who didn’t believe in reincarnation, the only easy way out was a hard restart, and if she tried that, she wasn’t coming back. She was the unresolvable problem, and she was Putting People Down.

And Aileen knew that, compared to Claudia’s shaky veneer held together with tequila and a prayer, these friends had self-helped themselves into an impenetrable barricade. A whole forest of positivity. A forest that would either be brought down, toothpick by toothpick, or blackened in one spectacular inferno, or perhaps a combination of both, until the beautiful greenery of regeneration and hope vanished and one truth remained. The pain of shared existence.

“Joy bonds people for an instant. Pain bonds them for a lifetime.”

Except as soon as the words appeared in Aileen’s mind, she knew they weren’t true. There was no guarantee. What if two people experience a traumatic event together, but the trauma was the only thing they had in common, and they can barely stand each other when it ends? What if the pain causes irreparable neurological damage?

Aileen spread the sebum around on her face and considered that, maybe, she had been the problem all along. The inevitability of death, of suffering, of uncertainty—words every child knows, like the mandate to Be Yourself, meaningless until given individual meaning—these are universal. So why can’t she go about her day like everyone else?

There was a time she could, as a self-help author. She’d been happier when she was pretending to have the answers. She’d been happier sharing her truth, stomping around in her own barricade with her face on the fucking back cover, again why’d she do that, possibly alienating the people who, like she did now, needed it most and knew none of it was real. That guilt alone made her cringe on a good day, on a bad day sent her back to bed bawling and needing to rid the world of the one self-help author she’d feel no remorse about culling, telling herself to do it before she recovers to spread more divisive mistruths.

But then she had been chosen as the poet of a truth where the action of forming a narrative perverts it. Aileen had tapped into a pain shared by all living beings, marinated in the River Styx. Doomed by a feeling she couldn’t ignore or communicate. She understood the prophet Cassandra, the prophet cursed to deliver prophecies no one would believe, understood that the people who wouldn’t believe Cassandra weren’t fools, and yet Aileen was spared even the smug satisfaction of believing herself.

And yet.

“Joy bonds people for an instant. Pain bonds them for a lifetime.”

And yet it was untrue, and yet Aileen could point to her baptism in suffering as the one thing she loved about herself. She felt the pain of the calf being lead to slaughter, the butterfly limping at the end of its lifespan, the grass crushed beneath the sole of a shoe. She felt the smoke in the lungs of San Myshuno residents, the bleaching of the Sulani corals, the horror of a Strangervillian losing control of their body. She walked by tombstones and neither ignored nor wept, but nodded in acknowledgment. She understood the people in her support group were connected to the same pain, just as she was to the flora, fauna, and people, no matter how sterilized their lives are, no matter how hard they work to fight it.

There would come a day where it would bubble under the surface no longer, and overflow, making a wretch of the deniers. And then Aileen would listen as she wanted to be listened to, and feel what the speaker felt, and share what she couldn’t.

The thoughts were still there. They were there, but now Aileen thought them with the weeds and the rabbits and the mourners and the lost and the oppressed and the oppressors and her friend in the yellow sweater, and was driven by gratitude, pure artistic compulsion, to awaken this connection when it was needed most. She couldn’t envision fixing the unfixable, but would die trying to express the inexpressible.

But as much as she hated to admit it, it was too empty, the old house. It would be poetic to live alone, but honest to acknowledge her physiological needs, being that having another person around would make her just content enough to keep going.

She pocketed her old engagement ring, went to a bar, pinned two names to a dartboard and took a shot.

Matt it was.

Wallbreaking Epilogue: Matt rejected Aileen’s first proposal. You know something’s fucked when even the NPCs know it’s fucked.

Aileen’s real wedding (not the staged one in Grey Wedding) was as low-effort as possible, and it actually did rain. She picked out the eyeball ring herself.

Here’s the link to Grey Wedding if you want to see how some of the lines read with the new context.

Eyebleach with the Shallot-Lius

San Myshuno’s favorite necrophiliac is here to step in before things get too real.

The Small Onion & Destroy family

A week before Jasper found his nemesis in a multi-thousand-year-old snow demon, Xiyuan and his husband forego preparing for Winterfest in favor of a monomaniacal adherence to routine that rivals Groundhog Day—but here with the opposite message of Groundhog Day, since learning to love another person creates a loop, not breaks one.

That several k is in Sim years, so it represents several hundred k in human years under the current aging settings

The holidays promise to be low-key. There are no children showing up at the penthouse door begging for sugar for Bernard to jump-scare. Not even the most contrived situation could get Xiyuan and his not-hostile-but-not-too-enthused coparent in the same room. Everyone’s in-laws are overseas or rotting. Shu’s going to visit at some point, but the family-oriented spirit of the holiday is going to preclude any real discussion about what the hell he thinks he’s doing.

Xiyuan moves 5 feet from his perch and pushes the dual combination branch-fountain, a real double-threat, flush with the wall, creating just enough space to assemble the artificial tree. The needles are done up in an ombre increasing in saturation from their white tips to whichever plastic imitation branch they belong to, the deepest hue being an equal combination of forest and avocado greens. Like 60’s bathroom or diner green. The color seen draped over RVs with fake wood panels and in polished jukebox enamel and soulmated with burnt orange. Perhaps as a nod to the color’s history, or as an aesthetic challenge, or a symbol of rebirthing things that should have been dead for a long time, the pair have decided to revive the tradition by draping the tree in more than a pop of orange.

This is before Dolly figured out how to hold down the ‘Option’ key, ignorance of basic building controls being the single biggest strike against any claim to omniscience she may have had in this universe

In fall or summer the hubbub in the Arts Quarter courtyard would be partly audible from the gallery’s fourth floor. Today, the pro- and anti-capitalist sentiments being hawked by the street vendors and protesters, respectively, are caught in the porous blanket of snow before they can reach Xiyuan’s ears, and the layer of frost on the windowpane distorts the figures below into collections of refracted dots. He keeps his head still to distinguish the living, moving dots from the streetlight and plant dots. He visits daily to brush snow off the koi mural and sip his coffee on the south side of Casbah Gallery’s top floor. If he stands one foot away from the floor-to-ceiling glass panes, the chill of the air on his face and the vents warming his backside cancel out to the perfect temperature for enjoying a hot beverage.

The other mural is a testament to semiotic overload: whether the vandal is making a nihilistic statement about the future of the planet, rejecting the idea of diversity, or communicating the magnitude of their own toughness by superimposing a self-portrait on the blue dot itself, he can’t tell. He wanders downstairs to try and make sense of the stylized Simlish message repeated across the mural’s lower border.

He wanders deep enough in the courtyard to make out the protesters’ signs, which strike him as ambiguous in almost exactly the same way. The choice to pair the Earth with a reaper’s scythe—what does it mean? A warning for inevitable doomsday, a rant in favor of population culling? The woman with a megaphone yells out statements that no one in their right mind would disagree with, barring any prejudice against those who actually care about politics, or against the concept of protesting itself, passionate and just vague enough to deter opposition. It reminds him of a horoscope. The reader gets a prompt, the reader fills in the blanks; the less information provided, the more accurate the prediction will be.

Xiyuan comes out in favor of rainbow people to the surprise of no one.

Why yes, he does have a moment to talk about the environment

Two minutes after Xiyuan leaves, another Sim grabs the megaphone to deliver a monologue about the rent being too damn high. Passerby stop and nod in agreement.

Sims don’t pay taxes and have a plethora of options available for beating death. The colloquial phrase “nothing’s certain except death and taxes” couldn’t hold water in a kiddie pool, ladders or none. Either Sims have a parallel saying or the above is parsed as “nothing’s certain,” which trades cheekiness for accuracy.

He stops to pull the ends of his gloves further under his coat sleeves, which tenses the fabric against the webbing of his fingers. It’s unpleasant, freezing actually, but wandering the courtyard is Xiyuan’s preferred way of biding time. He examines the compressed snow on and between the cracks of his boots. White, he thought of the snow, a blank page or canvas, echoing the musical bookends that got stuck in his head every time, no matter how many white pages or canvases he saw, or any vast expanse of white, for that matter. In a day, the courtyard’s page or canvas would hardly be blank, mixing with dirt and heat from boots to create a sort of brown sludge with garnishes of dog piss near the edges of plant beds. But currently, it symbolized cleansing, healing. Rebirth.

He’d almost forgotten the dread he felt at having to meet his son that night. It was the first time he’d felt it. He needed to believe this was transient, too.

It wasn’t a front; he actually did already celebrate with his dads.

If Shu had any similar feelings about the disastrous failure in familial cohabitation, he was refusing to play his hand. He was steering the conversation clear of anything heavy, offering and soliciting only empty-calorie informational nuggets like what anyone did today or was hoping to receive from Father Winter. Things Xiyuan barely had to think about to answer. The quarter of a day, along with the months between his son moving out and him remembering that family-oriented holidays exist, at any rate, the quarter of a day he’d spent choosing which points to make or gloss over seemed like a waste. The sketches he’d spent hours erasing and revising looked like shit next to the strokes that flowed out as natural as the one-word expected response to how his day was. Such a conversation was best left to the pros. Losing his train of thought in the effortless, ceaseless flow of anecdotes, he’d forgotten that was an option.

Windenburg’s former ghost lord/San Myshuno’s current face of #relationshipgoals understands something is bugging his husband, but can’t get any information beyond the occasional sigh, the half-start of a sentence promising to express what exactly is wrong this time, the unsolicited remark on what activities his progeny used to enjoy. Part of Xiyuan can’t reconcile current Shu with the kid who once licked a block of resin to see what it would taste like, but to Bernard, Shu is Lord Byron but less of a dick. He’s like having a child without the unpleasant experience of being around a child. Their feet are both too big and too small, don’t you know? It’s creepy.

No gift exchange occurs during the meeting. Shu’d insisted on it. That was one of the things Xiyuan tried to analyze in his downtime in the months and quarter-day leading up to the meeting—was he planning a surprise, a welcome one this time, a gesture Xiyuan would have to refuse to be blindsided by and match with his own? His solution was to keep an envelope in his jacket pocket, just in case, and if not now he’d give it to his son on New Year’s. Another small relief; it was a genuine, no-nonsense request for lack of gifts. The young man prepared nothing beyond some pun on the word presents/presence.

Maybe he’d underestimated Shu’s ability to be genuine. It wasn’t like he tried to hide anything before.

The exchange, instead, occurred next morning and involved only two participants. It wasn’t an event foreshadowed by any fanfare, or any mention that it was happening. The couple had long eradicated the need for conversational filler. One displayed emotion with the precision of a character actor and transparency of an anime character and the other retained the aristocratic tendency to narrate what he was doing at any given time. It wasn’t like he didn’t expect his husband to swivel his head without moving any other part of his body, last of all the brush from the canvas, to check what he was doing. It was a reassurance. I’m here, everything’s okay. The gift he received was a reflection of that sentiment. I’m here, nothing’s changed, nothing’s going to change, I’ll always be here, and everything’s okay.

An easel. It was an easel.

Then they left (with a mild nod and a “Shall we?”) to try something they’d been meaning to all winter.

In human years, Bernard is in his mid-40s and Xiyuan is at least 50. Give them a minute.

If there is a soul reading this, a single soul, who thinks Bernard is a heartless bastard, was responsible for his own and Mimsy’s death, was put in the game as an irredeemable antagonist to scare children, cackled as his livelihood was reduced to ash, look at this. Please.

At least a couple people have declared this “the gayest thing they’ve ever seen.” As the frogs in a conspiracy theorist’s water supply.
And of those people, a couple still have amended their previous statement with “nope, that’s even better.”

A ride into the freaking sunset, is what these two are.

So we’re almost up to the present day, but have one more story to knock out before that can happen. Consider it a season finale. It’s heavy enough for the author to need to provide preemptive eyebleach. You’ve been warned.

Before we hit the wall/fall off a cliff/other vertical metaphor signifying the point of no return, here are links to download CC-less versions of these guys in their current state and give them some hope of a stable life in at least one timeline. Enjoy.

All Catastrophe Theory characters

If your trash cans are full, your spirit is empty, and you need an ascetic to take care of both: Ana Asteya

If your female Sims are bored or need someone to enthuse to about rom-coms: Chantel Lucas, Xishu “Shu” Liu, Genevieve Haskins

If your lesbian Pagan club needs another member: Kendra Espinosa and her dog Yuggoth

If you want Charlie to avoid talking to your Sims too, and apparently Jo’s Maxis-curated, oh well, she’s stuck in this mess now: Charlie, Josephine and Jasper Jeong-Espinosa

If you want to give Aileen a happy ending: Aileen Jensen (Grey Wedding actually happens slightly later)

If you need a couple heavy-hitters, including the lush legend herself, and also Hector: Mike Jeong, Claudia Espinosa; Hector, Mona and Perry Jeong-Espinosa

And, finally, Xiyuan and Bernard Shallot-Liu are a requirement. Highly recommended for anyone who’s ever had a bad day.