Where Xu Fu Flew To

On January 11, 210 BC, an escort of the Emperor’s guards accompanied Xu Fu as he disembarked and walked up the docks. The guard’s expressions were as uninviting as the thousands of black banners flying over every building in the city.

There’s no reason he won’t believe you again... compose yourself lest you fumble.

China was unified for the first time. But the legalism inflicted upon the population left many longing for the good old days of constant war. The state’s supremacy over the individual was raised so that people lived in fear of saying the wrong thing, thinking the wrong thought, of their cart length being an inch short of the standard.

As they approached the palace, they passed two gangs of prisoners en route to execution. Xu Fu recognized several of them as court advisors from his last visit and asked one of the guards what they’d done.

“They failed. Three times the Emperor asked them to find eternal life... some others are illegal philosophers, and the rest were hiding history books in their homes.”

A few minutes later, Xu Fu found himself at audience with Qin Shi Huang, a man mad with the quest for immortality.

“Nine years ago, I sent you over the sea to find the immortal grass. Five years later you returned and said you needed craftsmen to retrieve it. I gave you forty ships and sent you off again. You’ve returned now with what news?”

Xu Fu licked his dry lips.

“My Emperor, this time the immortals there placed a great dragon in the sea, blocking the way. I will need many more men, archers... We are very close!"

Of course, Xu Fu had no intention of coming back a third time. He and his flotilla would start a new history in Japan.


Two Bills and a Pile of Bones

Bill had made a name for himself; several of them actually; a few of them profane but still complimentary in a backhanded way. Many knew him by “Medicine” ever since he saved the life of a young Indian girl by biting off her rattlesnake-poisoned finger.

He was a scout and one of the best. Like most scouts living in the wilds and wearing buckskins, his was life was a mystery to those who employed him yet he’d earned his share of respect. Colonel Custer made comment that he was "perfect in horsemanship, fearless in manner, a splendid hunter” but he also added that he was “as modest and unassuming as he was brave." This last compliment evidently pushed the limits of truth because Bill was anything but modest when it came to his good name.

One of his names was “Buffalo” and there was a rival claimant in town. By coincidence his name was Bill also but the argument was only over who could continue to use the “Buffalo” moniker.

So, sometime around the 17th of August, 1867, the two met on the field of battle in Logan County, Kansas to settle the argument. Eight hours later, the score was in: 69 kills for the newcomer Bill Cody, 48 for Bill Comstock. Honorably, Bill went back to being “Medicine” Bill and didn’t claim the title of “Buffalo” again.

“Buffalo” Bill Cody proudly carried his title for another fifty years, racking up his kill-count into the thousands.

On the other hand, Bill Comstock didn’t have to live with his defeat very long. A year later he died the typical ugly death of a scout, his dead body used as a shield against the attacking Indians.

The American Bison, and the Plains Indians who depended upon them, wouldn’t fare so well either.



"Nickie Hugh"

As morning broke in the little parish of Borgue in the south of Scotland, Hugh climbed down from the loft in the barn and walked stiffly past his house and down to the creek. The dirty wig on his head was backwards and his shirt was covered in little patches he’d cut from his trousers.

When he reached the brook, Hugh knelt down and removed his hair-piece and held it under the water until he’d recited the Lord’s Prayer ten times. Lifting the sopping wig onto a branch, Hugh sat down cross-legged and stared. At first the water poured out of the woolen strands in a thick stream and Hugh’s eyes remained transfixed on the sparkling braid. Soon the stream slowed to a steady drip but Hugh’s gaze didn’t move. It remained focused on a point of air a few inches below the wig.

He sat like a statue for two hours, eyes unmoving, until the wig was completely dry and the silence was finally broken by his mother’s voice.

“Hugh, what are you doing?”

Hugh didn’t answer, didn’t turn around, but ever-so-slightly began to rock back and forth.

“Hugh, there’s someone I’d like you to meet.”

Hugh stood and turned to see his mother with a young woman.

“This is Nickie, Hugh,” his mother said.

“Nickie Hugh,” he repeated and turned his head swiftly away.

"No, Hugh, Nickie Mitchell," she corrected but Hugh was already on his way back to the creek where he began arranging pebbles into neat little stacks.

“Nickie Hugh.”

There was no term yet for Hugh Blair’s behavior on this July 4, 1745, but the court records detailing the challenge and invalidation of his arranged marriage to Nickie Mitchell due to mental incapacity would later be used to document the earliest identified case of autism.


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Miracle Mike

Mike lived like a rock star. However, since it was 1947 and rock and roll hadn’t yet arrived, Mike was a bit ahead of his time. Traveling the country, drawing crowds, living out of hotel rooms, making absurdly easy money. But Mike was pushing the envelope every day. He’d been on the road for eighteen months and inevitably the road began to take its toll. He put on weight. The stubble on his neck was a premature grey. And the unfortunate incontinence...

Late one evening, in a dirty Phoenix hotel room (sometime around March 15, though we’ll never know the exact date because of the ensuing cover-up), Mike’s breathing became labored. Panic set in and he began flailing furiously, desperate for a gulp of air. His manager, Lloyd was in the bed next to him and leaped to his feet at the commotion. Lloyd had been through this a few times before and knew exactly what to do. Unfortunately, when he reached for the medical bag that he always kept on the nightstand, it wasn’t there. He’d left it at the show. Without it, there was nothing he could do to clear the blockage in Mike’s throat. The Heimlich Maneuver hadn’t yet arrived either...

That night, Mike would share the same fate of so many others that lived the fast life, cheating death, until it would finally catch up to them. And he would become an early part of an oddly long list of celebrities (Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, John Belushi, Anna Nicole Smith, and David Carradine to name but a few) whose lives ended tragically and suddenly in a hotel room. But that is where Mike’s similarity with mega-stars ends...

Mike’s stage name was “Miracle Mike.” He was a chicken and his miracle was that he had no head.


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