Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Nightmare Fuel, Day the 13th. The Mourner

The idea of "stunt blogs" is a novel, digital form of performance art; it's turning a facet of ones life into a performance, it's audience interaction, it can be a statement.

Think Julia and Julia, The Year of Living Biblically, Zero Impact Man. The latter two especially sought to make a statement, while the former was, perhaps, more of an explanation.

The following tale is of a stunt-blogger, with a darker subject matter. 

"The Mourner"
Some deaths I knew would be better than others.

When I had the idea for the blog, I'd not thought about that, but it seemed obvious. 

Really, it's a great idea for a stuntblog. 52 weeks of mourning. Every week I pick an obituary at random, attend the funeral, talk to the family if they'd let me. 

And I'd mourn.

Week 30 now, nearly six months dressed in black. Six months of open caskets and closed, of shiva calls, of weeping, red-eyed widows and widowers and children and parents.

The children's deaths are the best.

I know it sounds monstrous, but there are never more hits on the blog than after the funeral of a child. There've been five so far, two girls and three boys. The girls really brought my little community of internet mourners together in grief. It really is what I'd hoped for when I started this project; an English poet once said that the death of each man diminishes him, for he is involved in mankind. We should feel that way. We should. 
Their deaths are making the world a better place.

And, through my words, perhaps some of us do.

How much better and kinder would we be were we all like that, if we all mourned each death, each life lost?

Such are my thoughts as I drive home after another awkward-strange lunch at a stranger's home, talking about another human brother. That one won't be a good death; too old, too undistinguished, I know he'll not capture the audience's imagination, yet I'll still mourn.

Such are my thoughts as I navigate the suburban streets, far from my home. As headlights illuminate the young girl carelessly darting into the street, I see a flash of bright blond hair, of tiny tennis shoes, slender bare arms. Young, beautiful.

I gun the engine, turn the wheel a bit.

This one will be a much better death. Senseless, brutal and sudden, it will help bring the world together in love.

Flesh and bone crunches against steel, the sticky wet sound of brotherly love.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Nightmare Fuel, Day the Twelth - A Bug in the Code

It's an even dozen days! 

This is another quick sketch, and a riff on an interesting idea in modern physics: what if the universe as we know it is a simulation, created in another universe? What if that universe is in turn a simulation?

Is there even a "real world"? Does that phrase mean anything?

And if you learned for sure that the world wasn't as it seems, how would you act? Below lie, perhaps, a cautionary tale.

"A Bug in the Code"

They say the universe might be a simulation.

Because you're knowledgable, you realize that this could explain all those old stories about gods and goddesses, about the ages of miracles. Adjustments to the parameters, the implementers tinkering and, perhaps, playing.

Because you're clever, you now know weird happenings, feeling of deja-vu, and that moment you walked into a room and forgot why for what those moments are.
  • Glitchy programing.
  • Partial reboots when patches are installed
  • A bug in the system.
Because you're not smart, it never occurred to you to wonder what this world could be other than a computer program, to wonder if this metaphor would seem naive to your grandchildren as the idea of gods and wizards appears to you.

Because you're cunning, you know that exploits can exist, they do in all code. No simulation is perfect, after all. There are always cheats, rough edges, loopholes.

Because you're ambitious, you go searching. Out in the world, looking for incongruities. Things that don't appear as they should. An ancient tree growing in the wrong climate. An inexplicable door in the very living rock, far from where hands could have built it. Glitches, oversights. Perhaps the hiding ground of secrets.

Because you're naive, you expect to find these in places a human can reach, you expect doorways and portals on your scale, not tiny as in insect or tall as a mythical giant.  You expect a simple wooden door you can open, and you expect something you can use on the other side of it.

Because you're self-centered you think the simulation is about us, about people. It never occurs to you that we could be an artifact, a bi-product, a mistake.

Because you're not wise, you don't think about what an implementer would do with a rogue element tinkering from inside at the edges of the code. You don't think to carry your metaphor far enough to think that, if we were a programmer, you might be a bug which the implementers might choose to del---

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Nightmare Fuel - Day the Eleventh - FAQ for a Damned Soul

Another day, more bleary-eyed flash fiction after staying up way too late to watch a baseball game which left me, to be honest, more angry than a baseball game should.

"Guide for Those Newly Damned to Endlessly Walk the Earth"

So you've been cursed to walk the earth, until the ends of time.

Join the damn club, or the damned club. I've done this too many times. I should write another self-help book, or a FAQ, or a maybe even "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Eternally Walking the Earth as a Damned Soul". 

First thing to know is that you're not alone. Oh, there aren't many of us, but there are a few. I usually meet the new ones because I'm the oldest, but the other ones are still around.

That is, after all, kinda the point.

First thing to remember is that almost nobody's story is what you think it is. 

If the story is about rebuking a god, remember that history is written by the winners; it's likely as not the old god throwing one last hissy-fit as he dies. Some say the endless walkers really ARE dying gods. You'll get to know us eventually. We do like to meet every hundred years or so for a drink, but try not to let the Eternal Huntman have too much. He's rowdy when he's in his cups, but if he has just enough he'll tell you the real story. I'll not give it away, but let's just say it's not one you'd tell to the children.
Funny thing, my story is the oldest one and closest to true. Just know it was long ago. I thought I was the smart one because I'd just figured out agriculture. My idiot brother figured out what gods want in terms of a sacrifice. You see where that got us.

It wasn't a bad gig at first, walking the earth. You could drift in with no history and they'd all assume it was a fight over a woman or something in some place nobody had heard of. There weren't many people yet, but there were still places nobody heard of. You could make friends in a way, then when you drifted off they'd all assume something. Sometimes you'd even come back a generation or two later and learn a story about the mysterious stranger. Then more people knew more people, places built up, and it got hard. Then came the Wild West and it got easy. And now? It's damn near impossible, pardon the phrase.

How do we do it? All differently. You might want to talk to the Wandering Jew. He's still mad at being made a cautionary tale about rejecting Christianity - remember what I said about stories being written by winners? Oh, anyway, he's always been a forward-thinking type. He picks up names and identities in the new online world the way I used to walking town-to-town. It's quite clever, really. He can make himself a free-lancer in something or other, earn a little coin, forge bonds as tight or loose as he wants. Then he'll fade and start over. It's a trick I should learn.

What else can I tell you? Get a dog. There's lots of walking in this job, it's almost part of the description. Somehow you'll always end up walking. You can still find quite spaces, and, on a foggy day still pretend that the earth is young. In the early-morning fog near farmland it's the same as it was a thousand or so years ago. So, you'll get a dog and it'll remind you of the wolf you trained a thousand years ago. You'll sometimes call it by the wrong name, sometimes wonder if the same dog-spirit has been following you for millenia. You'll tell it secrets about the world.

And if you see one of us wandering, carrying a lamp in the daytime or a book of prayers or an old tarnished horn to call the hunt that never ends, when you see one of us you'll know that whatever secrets we've learned in our eternal wanderings are shared by our eternal companions. And that when those eternal companions pass, there'll be a new one, as constant as time, as changeable as the weather. 

We were, after all, the first to train wolves to become dogs so we'd not walk alone.

It is our gift to the world that has cursed us. 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Nightmare Fuel, Day the tenth - Chapter 19 And A Half

This is a "what happens next" kind of story. Today's image is a beast of salt.

Stories have echoes, and salt can go many places. I went back a few thousand years for inspiration, both in content and style.

"Chapter 19 and a half."

And Lot awoke to knowledge of what he had done, and felt shame.
Still he was a righteous man, yet he felt anger at the Lord.
And so, he did an unrighteous thing.

And so Lot left his daughters with children and took up the great salt-pillar
In small wheeled cart and left the place where he and his daughters had hidden.
And so Lot called out to the Lord, but the Lord answered not. And so Lot travelled

And the sun was set upon the earth when Lot left the places of men,
coming at last to a distant and deserted shore.

And the sun rose upon the sea as Lot arrived at the ocean shore
And the cart with the great salt-pillar was at his side.

And Lot called upon the Lord. He sayeth unto the great and empty ocean
"Oh Lord, who liveth in all places, why must I suffer so?

I strive to be righteous and holy, yet my wife is turned to salt,
yet my daughters are great with child
I am alone.

And the Lord sayeth nothing.

And the waters grew angry, and great waves crashed upon the shore
At the feet of Lot and the base of the salt-pillar.

And from the maelstrom Leviathan revealed itself
And it was an ancient beast with many arms like tree-trunks,

And Leviathan regarded Lot with a great eye, wider than the span of his hand.

The Lord saw into the heart of Lot and judged him as righteous, for his wish of penitence.
The Lord saw into the heart of Lot and judged him as unrigteous
for he had fled his charges.

Lot would not be father to the Moabites.
Lot would not be father to the children of Ammon

The Lord ordered Leviathan to give Lot the punishment and mercy of the sea.
To rend his flesh from his body, to drink in all that he was.

To this very day Lot swims the sea within Leviathan
To this day something of the righteous man lies within the beast.
The madness of Leviathan grows.

To this day Leviathan returns to the secret place at the short
A place far from the homes of men.

And so Leviathan carresses the great salt-pillar with tentacles like tree-trunks
Yet gentle as a lady's fingers.

It has fashioned the salt-pillar into a reflection of itself.
A great tentacle beast reaching to sea
Praying to the Lord for absolution.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Nightmare Fuel, Day the Ninth - Enter the Immigrant, With Bananas

Cartoonist Alice Glytxh said - with context that I honestly don' t understand - that "bananas are the most vile thing on the planet". 

Ray Comfort said - showing a complete lack of understanding of the basic history of agriculture - that bananas are proof of the existence of god.

Todays image contains bananas, which are tasty, nutritious -- and a horrifying symbol of the evils of colonialism and the horrors inflicted on our neighbors to the south.

Today's story follows.

"Enter the Immigrant, With Bananas"

I'd not felt this way in a long time.

That's not true. I'd never felt this way.

I know that I should have, that it should be part of how I was birthed, but I didn't yet know then, didn't understand. They say I drove the ox-cart, but that wasn't true. I was the oxcart, the skeletal beasts lumbering forth under the power of invisible spirits pulling at a decaying yoke, harnessed to a polished-wood cart, open inside for the carrying of treasure.

I was an invader. I took. Not as many as they feared, not as many as they thought, but I did take. If they heard the clatter of the wheels on hard-packed earthen streets, heard the rattling of the oxen in their harness, heard hoofsteps... they knew. I was coming, and I'd take. Shamefully their fingers would move brow to breast, shoulder to shoulder, invoking the protection of another invader from the same shores.

It never helped.

But that, I said, was long ago.

I'd seen, perhaps,  score of generations live and die here. This shore soaked into the bones that are all I am. Then, the tallyman, then the soldiers.

They were new, as I once was. They took, as I once did. They killed, as I do.

It's enough. These people, this place, is mine to reap. Not theirs. So, I ride the oxcart down streets now paved with stone, come in the nighttime hours to the homes of the ones from another distant place, those seeking a different kind of gold than I once sought. I taste in their spirits from where they came. I'll follow.

The journey is a long one. I could go overland, but follow the great boats under the sea. Oxcarts are not made for the seafloor, and generations rise and fall as I travel.

Generations are born and die on the world above. The oxcart, now lined with straw for the safe transport of bananas, rumbles undersea. I begin to forget my home, my history, even my name. There is only the drive forward, only the fire burning in my bones, still unquenched by the sea.

Sometime along the way I meet a stranger, walking the ocean floor. A very young spirit, some sort of hero-warrior travelling from near where I'm going to to near where I started. He wields a  wooden club, calls himself a pirate. I wish him well, but he is young, so very very young. The smooth ash cudgel still loosely grips in his hand, he continues on his way as I continue on mine, whispering words of mercy as I whisper words of vengeance.

I wish him well.

At long last I arrive. Not at the golden door with its welcome lamp, not even at the working entrance with loaders and unloaders, the kind of place the tallyman would favor. No, I arrive at the white sands where the grandsons of the grandsons of those I came seeking go to play. It's been a long time under the sea. Impossible multitudes of bananas spill forth from the oxcart as I leave the ocean, littering the shore as wooden wheels crunch against rocky sand.

I leave the green fruit behind to ripen, to rot, to feed the gulls. It doesn't matter. On each bundle is a sticker,on each sticker an accusation for those who understand.

I am far from the land which birth me, yet I've arrived. I'll leave the banana-choked shore behind me, my cart empty. I am empty.

I hunger.

I will take.

The ones who live here deserve no less. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Nightmare Fuel - Day the Eight: Creating Monsters

A quick touch of horror for today's Nightmare Fuel stories.

Remember that the only monsters are the ones we create.

This one starts with an image, but the monster wasn't the part of the image which I found most frightening; to me the horror is on the whiteboard in the background.



"The Bad Lady"

Every night as I sit in my empty bed, I have the same thought:The stories are always about women.

Have you noticed that? It's a witch who threatens to murder and eat the young walkers in the wood.
A witch who freezes a young beauty in time, behind walls of briar.
A stepmother and stepsisters who keep the little ash-girl in rags.
A woman to tempt, a woman to trick, a woman to imprison.

I read too many of those stories to him, still read them to him. I really thought I was doing the right thing; they say reading to your children is important.

They say folklore is our heritage.

It's true.

My mother read the same stories to me, when I was a girl.

Is that why I blame her and not him? Is that why I told another story, one not penned by the Germanic brothers or the Dutchman? A story told through misheard snippets of conversation, not  intended for too-young ears?

No, that's not fair. He heard perfectly well what I my mother taught me, what I taught him. He heard what I believe.

I've come to expect his scream at night, almost to long  for its arrival just as sleep begins to take me. Every night I pray that this night I might sleep, but every night I know I won't.

It is, in its a way, my penance.

I find him always, in his bed, bolt upright, clutching the worn teddy bear his father had given him. Little heart pounding, eyes focuses on a shadow, a dark corner, an irregular pile of blankets.

"BAD LADY! The BAD LADY is coming to take me!"
Image source:

After all, he overheard time and again that the bad lady had taken his father.

So every night I sit awake in my empty bed, every night I listen for his scream, knowing that I'll come to his room to hold small boy and teddy-bear, guarding the darkness against a monster I birthed.

My throat is dry and my heart pounds, fearful of the stories he'll tell his children someday, the monsters he'll create for them.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Nightmare Fuel, Day the Seventh - Happy DeathDay!

This is another literal take on an image which could just as easily be metaphor. 

It is true: we celebrate some things and not others.

"Happy Death Day!"

You're Invited!

When:        November 1, 2015, 10PM to 2AM
Where:       Spruceyard Cemetary
What:         DeathDay Party
Why:           We celebrate the beginning of the life's adventure, but never the end. Come join us for a deathday celebration! Games! Slides! Bouncy-castle! Drinks! Food! Good times!

RSVP by October 7th, 2015

NO BLACK ATTIRE PERMITTED! THIS is a Deathday celebration, not a funeral!!

We all have that one friend, don't we? Not just the manic crazy one, but the quiet-crazy. The one who seems normal to outsiders, but comes out with really odd thoughts. Like a DeathDay party at a cemetary, the day after Halloween. It's the kind of event that feels weird, uncomfortable, and wrong yet strangely compelling. The kind of event that you just know if you missed you'd be missing out on some great stories.

So, I go.

I dress casual in  khakis and a button-down shirt, mindful of the "no black" admonition, arrive a late to find the party in full swing. And "swing" is the operative word; the promised bouncy castle is nowhere to be seen, but some enterprising soul has relocated playground equipment, including a slide and a full-sized metal-frame swing set - to the graveyard, the slightly rusted metal sharing space with the old stones, their markings long faded by the winds of time. How he got permission for such a thing is beyond me but the crowd - mostly too young and mostly too drunk - is eating it up, playing and laughing like the children they were all too recently.

I am not young, but not yet old either. There are, God willing, still a few more years before me than behind me. I'll admit it; there is a physical joy in taking a turn on the swings, in the juxtaposition of playfulness and death. The host himself follows me up the slide, our, small talk given weight by the venue: "It's a nice party, but I'm confused. Is someone dying? Are celebrating a specific death-day, or just death itself?"

He leaned close to me as I sat atop the slide, gazing down a smooth metal tracki toward the grave-markers below. His whisper in my ear was breathy, smelling of alcohol. "We're all dying. Perhaps... yours."

A shove in the small of my back sends me down, the bumps, rivets, and seems in the cool metal jabbing and poking my body as I slide inexorably and quickly toward the humble graves below.