Saturday, October 25, 2014

Nightmare Fuel, Day the Twenty-Fourth

Heading into the home-stretch of this project with a quick science-fiction trifle. I like the ideas here, but feel that the execution was a little heavy-handed. It's another story which could benefit from some more time, but the train ride only takes but so long.

Yes, this is another reference to The Little Mermaid. Remember, stories are culture.

See what you think, and enjoy.

She's the first one through the doors when the store opens. Not just any modshop - this is the good modshop, the superpremium one with the real licensed, goods, genuine trained technicians on hand to make sure the transition goes well.  It's the day after Andrea's seventeenth birthday, the second day that she can legally shop here.

"May I help you? First time?" The attendant, a woman not much older than Andi, swishes her tail around the air in complex patterns as she approaches the day's first customer, her ears twitching gently in the air-conditioned shop.

"Yes. Well, not my first. I mean, I dress all the time. It's just my first... well.."

The stranger smiled and touched Andi's arm. "Yes, I do know what you mean. I dressed for years before my first mod." Her tail twitches a bit as she speaks."It's not too long ago that's all there was. If you were otherkin... well, you dressed up, and that was that."

Andi nods. "But these are real, right? I mean, you really feel them."

The shop attendant gently took Andi's hand, put it on her tail. "Feel." It was furry and warm and alive in her fingers. She wrapped her fingers around it and squeezed lightly, causing the cat-girl to playfully yelp. "Gentle... tails are sensitive. Are you also a cat?"

Andi shook her head, walked to the display case. "That one." It was a black sheath dress, the inkyblack of the deepest sea. Inklyseablack fabric melding seamlessly into treelimb-thick tentacles with dark purple suckers. Catgirl frowns.

"The Ursula? It's nice, but most girls who go for the Ursula are more... you know..."


The catgirl's ears flip backward, flat against her head. "You know.. you have the figure to be an Ariel." She points at a classic single-fin design. "the fin even splits in half. You know, so you can have legs and what comes with them..."

Andi shook her head. "I'm not an Ariel. I'm an Ursula. I need tentacles. Lots of tentacles. OK?"

When Andi finally tried it on, it fit like a dream. The dress - really a colony of nanobots, but it's nicer to pretend it's a dress - clung as if it were tailored just for her (because it was nearly alive and, in a sense, was). As the ursuladress dug its way into her body, to her nervous system she felt the tentacles, all pins and needles like extra legs that had fallen asleep. Two tentacles wrapped her legs, the rest splayed out around her, reaching towards the floor, lifting her body. SHe thought it would be awkward to walk - it always was in costume - but these felt vibrant and alive, part of her. It helped that her center of gravity was lower,  her body more stable. She walked out of the shop.

She even managed to climb up onto a bus on her own, proudly, feeling more comfortable in her movements by the second. She saw the cute hip boy checking her out, gave a flirty wave with two of her tentacles. He smiled. "Lookin' good. Lose some weight? Going to graduate to an Ariel? I LOVE Ariel's." He winked. Andi felt her tentacles involuntarily tighten, like a whole-body fist. She turned her head away.

"Leave her alone," she heard another man respond. "And stop objectifying. Besides, Ursulas are hot. If she put a few pounds on, she'd be perfect."

Andi fled the bus a stop ahead of hers, took the next one the rest of the way home.

The next day she left her Ursula dress at home, already feeling a tingle of phantom limbs where her tentacles should have been.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Nightmare Fuel, Day the Twenty-Third - The Escaped Artist

This is another little experiment. One of the neat things about social media is that it gives us a number of windows through which we can see the world, each of which is an individual perspective. As a writer, it can create a natural way to view the same event through different points of view.

Not much else to say about this, except that the picture is my own from lower Manhattan (no image prompt yesterday, for some reason), and the TimeTravellerSanger character is, of course, a nod to real-life time-travelling anarchist Steampunk Emma Goldman. Yes, I just referred to a "real life" time traveler. 


Event Invite:
In the spirit of the Great Houdini, see Great Escape
The Artist will be Manacled, Straightjacketed, 
SUSPENDED in a STEEL CAGE more than 900 FEET over
bustling Downtown Manhattan!

Will she break free, or fall to an untimely death?
Come one, come all, and see!

[Shared to Past Futures by TimeTravellerSanger with the following note:
"Anyone with me for this? As odd as it is to travel all the way to the twenty-first century for an old-timey escape act, I'm never one to deny the chance to see a woman free herself of chains. If only she could as easily slip the chains of the patriarchy! ]

Now trending #TheGreatEscape [Selected posts from social media regarding The Great Escape]

#TheGreatEscape is a ripoff of #Houdini and waste of time. I like my women to STAY tied up.

@EscArtist is so brave! Good luck to her!

@EscArtist is doing #TheGreatEscape in #NYC. Bring binocs and hope she escapes from her clothes!

#TheGreatEscape looks fun. Why doesn't anyone do things like that anymore? Yay for @EscArtist !

  Traffic alert: Street closings , parking restrictions Friday for #TheGreatEscape. Watch with the rest of #NYC, but take the #MTA.

Should get a great view of #TheGreatEscape from behind the Buddha statue in my meditation garden. Maybe  Buddha and I will wave toher


Editorial - The Path Well Travelled (excerpt)

What the female escapist calling herself "The Artist" is embarking on is nothing more than the time-honored tradition of a minority mimicking a task already done perfectly well by a male and calling herself a "groundbreaker". While it may help her feel good about herself, the only ground she'll actually break is the Vescey Street sidewalk if her escape stunt doesn't go as planned. Even her fans can agree, she's no Houdini...

[Escaped Artistry Blog]
live blogging this with speech-to-text.

Straightjacket is snug, chains in placed. Door closing with a solid clunk.

So glad to see a nice crowd here.

Hope the live stream is running.

Now going up. ...

[Live blog ends here]


[Excerpt from The Daily Post]

... but excitement turned to confusion and to concern as the crowd witnessed absolutely nothing from the steel cage. The Artist's liveblog had long since stopped, and the few observers with binoculars could see the Artist's unmoving silouette through the steel grate. After several hours, rescue teams were dispatched.

What they found may be a mystery for the ages. What observers took for The Artist was her straightjacket, still tangled in the steel manacles.

As of this time The Artist has not been seen.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Nightmare Fuel, Day the Twenty-Second. Meeting Minutes.

The challenge with image-prompts is that sometimes they speak to me and sometimes they quite honestly don't. 

Today we'll back away from narrative and play with the idea of what a story is. I originally conceived this differently, and might return to a similar form at some point. 

Meeting Minutes

Date: -6 (tentative)

Z (observer)

  • Review of schedule
  • Verification of termination date
  • Demolition plan
  • Discuss next steps

-Note: Participant names to be redacted from official record.
  1. There is lack of consensus as to schedule.
    1. Y pointed to disparity in scheduled reign of lizards vs mammals
    2. T contends that rate of physical advancement is faster, spiritual slower.
      1. Points to overall ecosystem damage, mass extinctions, etc.
      2. Concerns re: extraplanetary spread of mammalian ethos
      3. High projected time to repair especially aquatic ecosystems
    3. Z is concerned data is obsolete
      1. Worst projections re: use of worldkiller weapons not met.
      2. Geopolitical situations appear to have broadly stabilized.
      3. Z reminded of emeritus observer status. Further opinions will not be welcomed or recorded.
    4. B, G concerned that current project isn't "finished".
      1. Point to ad hoc philosophical/spiritual improvements.
      2. Offer no clear schedule as to when enlightenment condition will be met.
      3. Y is not convinced that this state can be achieved unassisted.
        1. Suggests third manifestation. This suggestion is denied due to schedule constraints.
  2. Overall project state at this point is not indicative of a successful finish.
    1. Mechanical/temporal advancement far surpassing spiritual advancement.
      1. No signs of this trend abating.
      2. M considers temporal/mechanical advancement in and of itself a success
        1. B considers it irrelevant. This point was sharply disputed.
        2. Broad consensus that risks of mechanical versus spiritual disconnect too great to accept M's position
      3. This project is not to be considered successful.
Next steps:
    1. Y petitioned for a closing-day manifestation. This is under consideration
    2. Apocalyptic Methodologies to be reviewed, field tested
      1. Plague  in equatorial continent
      2. Fire in low spirit/high population areas
      3. Madness in high temporal wealth areas
      4. Meteorological methods in lightly populated areas
      5. Repeat of meteoroid impact not considered at this time due to potential damage to successors.
    3. Following review, demolition to begin.
    4. Detailed plans for next phase to be developed concurrently, reviewed at next meeting.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Nightmare Fuel, Day the Twenty-First.

As I said earlier this month, I love fairy-tales. These kinds of stories are our cultural heritage, but only valuable if we keep them alive with constant revisiting, re-imagining, and retrofitting into a world much changed over the centuries since they were first penned.

I'll leave you with a question about the cliche: do you fear the sheep because it might be a wolf in disguise, or pity the wolf for having to dress itself as a sheep? 


Yeah, I know it looks overdone, but there's really sheep that look like this. You should know by now; the pictures are all over the internet. And really, why the hell not? If you're gonna look like a sheep you want people to relax, to get to know you and to not be scared. So you don't just look like a sheep, you look like the most adorable damn sheep there is.
Image shared from the "1 Million Women"
Facebook group

You know they aren't really that nice. Oh, they look all fluffy and cute like kids' toys, but they have a mean streak. Not really mean, but more cliquish than a gaggle of middle school girls. Even if you look like one of 'em and smell like one of 'em, if they don't know you you get that cold shoulder of mutton. Another drink?

Yeah, I guess they would have their reasons, but you know I'm not like that. Not really. I really am a nice guy, even if I hunger sometimes. We all get hungry, but that's all anyone ever says about me. Yeah, I've heard the stories. It's OK if you tel them sometimes. Everybody does.  Some of them are true, some are stretched so far that the true part gets kinda lost in all the extras people add. The bit with the three builders was like that. You'd think that nobody had seen a thatched roof before. Or that they saw it and just kept going because a thatched roof isn't quite crazy enough.

And for the record, I only took the tiniest bite out of the sun. It still burns sometimes, but we all burn sometimes. If you could look at it without going blind you could even see the corner that's missing. I still have that in my belly.

I knew you'd ask about her. Everyone asks about her. I'm not proud, but not for the reasons you think.  It's another story everyone gets almost all the way wrong. It's one of those stories people tell so much that they don't even see that it makes no sense. The path is the shortest way. That's why it's the path. When a girl volunteers for a chore that takes her away from home for a while and she takes a shortcut that's really longer, don't you think she has something else in mind? Girls get hungry too, especially  young ones just growing into their hungers.

I really liked Red, OK? I don't admit things like that but... she was special. She had style, just enough of an edge to be really interesting. Not enough edge to keep her safe, of course. It's a real shame.You could see it in how she walked, how she dressed, in her voice. The sweetgirly innocence was as much a costume as I'm wearing now. Really it was.

Yeah, I know the stories. The stuff with me and her granny is an outright fabrication. Really it is. And with her... well, not to be vulgar, but you know that "to eat" can mean more than one thing, don't you? Yeah.

They always like about the grandmother, but they always leave out a bit about the woodsman. Didn't it ever feel weird to you that he just  happened by at just the right time? That's some coincidence there that Dickens himself would be embarrassed to write. Yeah, I know who Dickens is. Lupine don't mean stupid, you know.

Anyway, like I was saying, the woodsman isn't just some random guy.  I'd never met him, but could see the resemblance even if he didn't call her "Daddy". That look in his eyes.... I know they say that I'm big and bad, but that's a look I'll never forget. More animal, more wild, more cruel than even my brothers.

I don't know. I really don't. The stories say he killed me, and maybe that's what he thinks he wanted to do. Maybe I ducked and that's why it ended like it did.

I don't think so.

His eyes, in that moment in the woods, weren't really on me, but on her. She'd grabbed that red coat she loved to cover herself, but it wasn't his gaze she needed to hide from. There's a lot of the story they make up, but it was true that he had an axe.

I'm not proud, but you'd have run too. You may as well admit it. I could hear the blade cutting the air, hear her scream cut off by the thunk of steel on flesh. Did he miss me because I ran? Or did he hit his target?

I don't know.

There never will be another Red, but there will be other girls curious to explore what's beyond the path.

I'm not wearing this for the next girl.

I'm wearing it for the next huntsman.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Nightmare Fuel, Day the Twentieth

A rare afternoon post as I catch up to make up the one I missed.

I tend to be smarter in the morning, so we'll see how this one goes.


He's at one of those between ages. Your kid is a toddler, no longer a baby. He still has that wobbly toddler walk, could sometimes make those two-word sentences little kids do. Sometimes you even understand him. Sometimes.

The season is late fall - also an in-between time. It's too late for apple-picking, to early to huddle inside by the fire. A day for the park, for toddling through fallen leaves, dried brown and crunching underfoot. That's the  kind of day it is when you see her.

Photo by Andrea Trask
You don't think much at first; it's a nice grassy park, one of the last days still pleasant enough to frolic outside. Truth be told, you don't even  notice her. What you see is the stroller. It's weird that she left her stroller in the  middle of the lawn, between trees. No kids are playing near it, but that's not weird. Strollers are boring. You'd think she''d have pushed it against a tree and out of the way (you're sure it's a she - men almost always hover near their strollers and bags and kids' bikes. It's one of those things), but you might be adding that later. It's hard to know.

You sit under a tree to check facebook on your phone, perhaps post a picture or two of the glorious fall day. It's OK, your kid is nearby, you're surrounded by other parents, and he needs a touch of freedom to run and play. It's the right thing.

Everytime you look up you see that he's a boundless bundle of energy, kicking up what seem to be literally impossible clouds of leaves, toddle-running around. You go back to your phone.

Minutes later he's toddled back to you, energy and attention span exhausted. You glance up and see her, a woman about your age, pushing the empty green stroller away from the lawn. She's leaning into the handles, pushing hard as if against a great weight. The stroller's wheels dig deep into the leaves as mother and stroller move away. Your boy looks longingly at the empty stroller, says something that might be "new friend".   

He can walk, but you carry him back to your car to bundle him in for the ride home.

Nightmare Fuel, Day the Nineteenth. In the Cellar

No battery. This is modern horror
I've slipped a day behind after missing a morning's writing to a dead tablet battery. Now, to work on catching up! 


All these years later, they're still there in the basement. It's a different basement, but they're still here with me. Maybe they followed me. Or maybe they live in all basements, at all times. In the secret parts of the basement where nobody goes. Behind the boiler. Under the oil tank. In the cracked parts of the foundation where tree trunk-thick waste pipes snake off to the underground. If I ever live in house without a basement - and that seems certain now -  I'd miss them almost as much as I'll miss her.

I first heard their voices when I was very young, when the unfinished cellar had a powerful draw. Other kids had their rec rooms and foosball games and even the glory of an air-hockey table, but I had a secret. A little nook under the workbench, smelling of sawdust and oil layered over damp, earthy secrets. Sometimes, if I lay very quiet, I could hear their whispering. Low, languid, earthynoises, deeper even than my father's bellow but so soft and gentle. I knew instinctively that those voices knew secrets, and if only I could learn their language all the secrets of the earth would open to me.

I never did learn their language, but I gifted them my secrets, adding myself to the trove lying beneath the earth. Such small secrets in hindsight! That it was I who dropped the flower vase, replacing it chipped-side back to hide my infraction. The skipped homework assignments, the voice raised against my younger brother. They became my confessors, to the point that when I was old enough to enter the slender wooden box in the rear of the church, I'd whisper through the screen that I had no sins to confess. Why would I? I'd given them to the very earth, and from the very earth was shriven. I'd later think of it as grounding a lightning rod; the earth is big enough to hold all the lightning from the world. Surely it could hold my little guilts.

I didn't think of them until years later. The usual. College, dating, wild parties (and what secrets I could have told of those!), eventual setlling down, marriage, children. You stop going to church.

Then a baby and the nights without sleep. You know how it is. Your job doesn't change, but there's suddenly this screaming little being that won't stop  screaming no matter what you do, and your wife makes you wake up in the middle of the night because she says it's your turn this time even though you wake up a full hour earlier than she does.

So, you finally get the screaming baby back to bed and, though you'd not done so in over a decade, you tiptoe to the basement, to the dark corners smelling of oil and mildew. That's what I do. It takes time to hear it, but the slow, languid earthvoices are still there, still whispering secrets. I added mine "I'm mad at her. And I'm mad at the baby."
Found on Tumblr with no attribution
I slept the remainder of the night peacefully.

The voices below heard more secrets. Most about anger, about disappointment, about thinking this was a mistake.

About my secretary.

Is that how she knew? Did the voices below tell her? I'm not stupid and I'm not uneducated. I know the tale of the king with the gold-touch and donkey-ears.

So I end up sleeping in the basement, on the spare couch. It's not too bad. I'm closer to the voices, and have some time to  myself. It's been some weeks, with not much of a thaw. Sometimes at night I crawl to the dark corner, listen to the secret voices whispering their indecipherable whisperings, and offer one last confession:

"I still love her. And the baby."

I look up from the dark corner to see her at the top of the stair, backlit by the kitchen lamp. I can't see her face.

WIthout a word, she closes the basement door, leaving me alone with the chorus singing my secret sins.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Nightmare Fuel, Day the Eighteenth

Sunday Nightmare Fuel is always shorter. The image inspired this fragment.


Outside the decaying cathedral is a plaque. It is written in a language nobody who worshiped there would understand.
This was one of the last buildings taken in the liberation, after the remainder of the city had been freed. The figures within represent celebrants in mystical ceremonies which would take place herein, in which a supernatural being would be praised and petitioned for boons. 

Despite the obvious fact that their myths weren't true, a number of these "worshipers" remained in the building, after the fall of the city. Their last words were a repeat of the myth that they would live forever.

It is to our everlasting shame that we failed to keep any alive for cultural
Image by Niki Feigen Source: