Thursday, October 31, 2013

Nightmare Fuel, Day the 30th. Wrapping up a month of horrible things

Today is All Hallows Eve, a fitting day to close out the 2013 Nightmare Fuel season. IN the past month, I've shared fairy-tales, all-dialog stories, flash pieces, poetry, Keroac-style wordsalad, a homemade Zen koan, and more. We'll wrap with an homage to one of the great American writers of short horror fiction. If there's a prompt today I may or may not put a bow on the month tomorrow; we did repeat Day 19, so I'll count this as 31 entries in 30 days.

Thanks, as always, for listening.

"Against the Wall"
by L Czhorat Suskin

Weeks have past, months blessed by his absence, yet still I hear his voice. In my dreams, yes, but also in my waking hours, no matter how far from my cellars I hear him.

"For the love..."

I remember everything. The thousand injuries of my foe, and now this, the thousand and first.

Blessed by his absence I have called these months, but in truth absent he is not. He whispers to me through each stone, through each brick. A thousand and one steps from my cellar he whispers still, a thousand and one feet from my cellars I hear his whispers.

They hear him as well. No fool am I, I know that they are there and I know that they listen to the stones. It was Fortunato himself who told me, told me with that obscene, grotesque gesture and his talk of Masons. Oh, how I wish I had heeded the warning, how I wish to have chosen to lead Fortunato to some other doom through his appetites. But no, fool I was we marched onward, through the path chosen for us in the catacombs, never once to look back.

"For the love of..."

His whispers I still hear, but there is more. I know, deep in my bones I know that you hear the same. Every brick in this accursed town whispers his story, repeats his last words. If his last words they were, if his infernal magic has not brought him escape, if his brothers have not heard already, have not unearthed him, are not plotting, plotting their vengeance.

I am well practiced with rapier. I have taken to carrying my trowel, the very same trowel, as my main gauche. You will not stop me. None of you will stop me.

I know that you hear. There will be this time no libations. No Medoc, no Amontillado. 
Image by our hostess, +Bliss Morgan 
You protest? Still you protest your innocence? Fool. I heard the whispering in the stone, and I know you hear it as well. I know you are of them, and heard his last words. Hear it from my lips, from living human lips, once more before your death.

"For the love of God, Montresor".

Yes. For the love of God.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Nightmare Fuel, Day the 28th. Attick Door

Day the 28th as we count down towards the end.

This one is a skeleton of a real story, and a metaphor. It's another that might be worth revisiting at some point.

"Attick Door"
by L Czhorat Suskin

They say that "Cellar Door" is one of the pretty phrases in the English language. Cellar doors themselves, of course, are some of the loveliest things you humans have made. Warped metal shedding flakes of green paint and rust onto waterstained concrete stairs, battered and warped portals between the aboveworld and the cool living earth below. I can even forgive you the iron, just this once. Just this once. The cellars themselves - not finished basements with wood paneling and shag carpets and air-hokey tables, but honest-to-the-queen cellars with earthen floors, sometimes posts of that damn iron again holding your house up. Not too tall like the building above, but just perfect so you have to stoop a bit while we walk upright. If you see us. Cellar doors are lovely and special. Ask the shade of Poe, ask Drew Barrymore.

I do not live behind a cellar door.

Times, I'm told, change. We change. Oh, there are cellars still, but not so many. The cellars that still exist are old as you measure things, still shinynew to us. They smell of wet earth and history. When I departed home to make my way, I was warned that I would find no cellar door. There'd be no woodpile or coal-bin behind which to hide a passageway to my brothers, away from prying eyes. None of the revels I knew from my youth.

I live above an attic door.

It's treacherous here, beneath the iron roofnails. The prickly pink cotton-candy colored brambles leave tiny itches in my skin. My parents visited once, only once, just after I moved in. My mother caught her wing on a roofnail, still has the scar. Just a little notch, really, but she'll never be back. The nightsky just the other side of thin layers of wood and tar aren't quite enough for her, the nighttime call through a vent across a span of tamed grasses not enough community.

from +Lindsey Clements 
This place has bred mischief in me. No shoes to help mend, no pastries to bake, no craft and no industry. I'll steal the odd sock and curdle some milk and scare some pets. It's been a way of passing time while I wait for word that someone has moved out from behind their cellar door, that I can find a new space beneath.

Then I started hearing the voices in the wires.

They run through my attick aerie, and if you listen closely they positively hum with whispers of love and sex and commerce and gossip from far-off lands. Some nights I've learned to whisper back, learned to steal a packet here or there, to slip one in. My wings have grown thinner, skeletal. My eyes see things they haven't before.

They say that "Cellar Door" is one of the pretty phrases in the English language. But perhaps, if I stay long enough, they might
say the same about the attick door.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Nightmare Fuel, Day 27. Dragonbones

For this one I ignored what the picture looked like and instead used the one in my head.

The ones in my head are always much prettier.
 Chas Redmond on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution license.

by L Czhorat Suskin

Some say that the bones were the remains of a gargantuan beast caught by the island's mightiest fisherman.

Some say that the great beast was not captured, but crawled out of the sea to die, that the elements flensed its bones clean of meat or that the long-ago villagers devoured it.

Some say that the bones were always there, long before people. That the dragon - for they are the bones of a dragon - were leftover from the making of the world.

Some say many things, even secret things. That it is the dragonbones that bring good fishing and pleasant weather. That isn't what matters. What does is that the bones have been there as long as anyone could remember. That arches of its ribs, taller than a house, bent upward to the great spine, forming a sort of tunnel. That even on the calmest day, a steady breeze blew through the archways. Some say that this breeze was the breath of the very island. Each year at Midwinter the villagers would gather for the dragonbone festival. The bravest and strongest would walk through the archway and against the wind, which would increase in power to a gale capable of speeding the fastest ships.

No things remain the same forever, and the people of the dragonbones one day learned that they had a ruler, a man who'd won control of the island in some dispute with another who did not own it. The ruler sent envoys and surveyors and, eventually, governors to each of his new islands, where one of them found the dragonbones and their mysterious wind.

Now the ruler was and enlightened man, believing in knowledge over all else. Enlightened men seek to take the world apart, to see its inner workings. That is one thing which elightenment is. So came more surveyors, scientists, astrologers (an enlightened man leaves no avenue unexplored) and all their entourages, followers, hangers-on.

They studied the dragonbones, they measured the breath of the island.

After a months' time they reluctantly told the leader they'd learned nothing. The fault was not, they told him, entirely theirs. To properly study a thing requires laboratories with bright artificial lamps, powerful microscopes, the various arcane tools of the scientists' mystery. A sandy beach populated with bare-breasted native women  was simply not the place for undistracted, uninterrupted science.

The bones were taken.

The ruler was an enlightened man. He wanted science, wanted to learn, but wouldn't leave the islanders without their dragonbone festival. A new set of plaster-cast bones arrived, weeks before the midwinter festival.

On the island's coldest night, their bravest and strongest walked through the plaster archways, against a mysterious wind.

Some say that the plaster bones have always been there, long before people to make them.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Nightmare Fuel, Day 26 - Enlightenment

This one I'm not sure about. There are elements that I like, but it veers a little close to the trope of romanticizing and exoticizing East Asian philosophies without really living or understanding them. It's too easy to make a game or a plaything out of someone else's culture in a way we'd not do with our own. That's not what I intended to do here, but I can see a manner in which it could be written that way.

I'll present it in the respectful spirit in which I meant it, but with misgivings. 

by L Czhorat Suskin

The pilgrim came to the temple, seeking enlightenment. 
He listened to the monk, meditated for hours on each cryptic saying, on each raised finger, on each stroke of the broom. He gained confidence in his understanding, confidence that he was reaching his goal. One he came to the master, fat with pride, and proclaimed that he knew that motion lay neither in the flag nor the wind, but in his mind.

The master turned the pilgrim into a crane for a lifetime.

The pilgrim who had lived as a crane climbed the hill, far above the bamboo forest, and came to the temple. He watched the master rake the rock-garden each morning, shaping it in some arcane pattern. The pilgrim who'd been a crane meditated on the patterns of the stones and on each cryptic saying, each raised finger. Staring at the patterns in the sand awoke memories of his life as a crane, visions of the temple from high above, a scrap of rock nestled in the woods beside the glittering jewel of a lake. He  repositioned the rocks a bit each day, cleared his mind and gave his body to the task of raking. Each day the master would walk through the garden, spoiling with footprints and each day the pilgrim would fix it. After twenty years the valley and the temple became a part of him. He'd trace the patterns with his eyes closed, each stroke perfect.

The master turned him into a silkworm for a lifetime.

The pilgrim who had been a silkworm who had been a pilgrim who had been a crane walked slowly, contemplatively through the forest towards the temple. On reaching the temple, the pilgrim hid in a basement cell for fourteen days. He emerged to find Master Shuoj waiting outside his door with a stick. The master beat him soundly.
 Richard Elzey on Flickr.  Creative Commons Attribution license.

Master Shuoj turned the pilgrim into a turtle for a lifetime. 

The pilgrim who had been a turtle who had been a silkworm who had been a pilgrim who had been a crane approached the ruins of the temple, long since abandoned.

In the emptiness, he found enlightenment.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Nightmare Fuel, Day the 25th. In the Fog

Image courtesy of Bill Collins
This is another little bit of an experiment, and another ghost story. As we get closer to Halloween, there should be more ghost stories.

This is Day 25, but my 26th posting (remember, we did day 19 twice). So, there will perhaps be six more of these, perhaps five or four. Then we'll move on to something else.

"In The Mist"
by L Czhorat Suskin

She came back today. The photographer. That's all I know her as. She never talks to me, never acknowledges me. She appears through the mist, as if a ghost. Sometimes I see her when I'm taking my walk through the grounds, sometimes I'll just hear the crunch of footsteps on grave, and know she's near. I'll sometimes see her, a shape in the distance, sometimes hear the clickclick of a shutter-release and know that she saw what she was looking for. Sometimes afterwards I'll see her 

She came back today. The photographer. That's all I know her as. A silent apparition in the mist, as if a ghost. I see her as I walk the grounds but never where she came from or where she goes to. She's watching me, spying on me? Why? What does she know? She's never close enough to speak, and before I can get close enough she's vanished into the mist, as if she never

She came back today. The photographer. That's all I know her as. She didn't see me, but I saw her, outside the main hall, her eyes straining through the thick fog hanging over the institute. It's always foggy here, always cold. Always so very cold and wet. I can't remember the last time I saw the sun, or the last time I felt warm and 

She came back today. The photographer. Footsteps on gravel, the ratchetclicksnick of film advancing and the shutter closing. shutter, shudder, shudder in the cold fog. She came in thin boots, in a dark windbreaker. She should know it's not wind, its fog that seeps into you and soaks your bones with wetcold so you'll never be warm again I've not felt warm in years not felt warm since before

She came back today. The photographer's ghost. I've figured it out now, so proud I've figured it out. It was all there, once she came into the institute, once she walked past me without seeing she's a ghost they don't always see the living they don't always see. She went inside today the first I saw her inside she raised the camera I heard the word on her lips, she didn't see me but I heard her say 

She came back today. The ghost. An apparition in the mist. I know she's watching me, I know it's about me. Maybe  the nurses told her something. I never trusted the nurses, they said the doctor would be back soon but I never trusted them and I was right he's not been back I'm lonely. So lonely I wish even the ghost could see

She came back today. With her camera, into the fog. I follow her through the corridors, knowing now that she haunts them. Knowing that she's a ghost. I know something now about what a ghost sees, I wish I knew why she chose here to haunt. Why she chose me to haunt. I know the two words on her lips as she takes her pictures. "beautiful

Alone today. Alone in the beautiful desolation of empty corridors, stone walls coated with slick green moss drinking in the everpresent fog. 

NMF Day 24 - Who You Gonna Call?

A bit playful with the title of this one; a callback for those of my generation.

After all, what's October without a ghost story?

"Who You Gonna Call"
by L Cz
horat Suskin

Who you gonna call?

You gonna call me. You gonna call me, cause I hear better, see better. 

geishaboy500 on flickr
Creative Commons Attribution license.
What calls him, what lures him out, out of the bed late nights, weak moonlight washed out in the yellow glare of sodium lamps? Maybe if we didn't rend the night with streetlights and stoplights and porchlights you'd see too, but the night's gone around here. Just ancestral memory from the cave-dwelling just-found-fire days.

Yeah, I said ancestral memory. Don't I look educated to ya? You know what they say when you assume.

Anyway, the night's still there, at least a little. And the ones we put there. The restless spirits, the nightwalkers, the poltergeists, the haunts. You know that's what it is, right? That walks him back in past the wolf's hour, mud on his shoes, swearing up and down he don't know where he's been? The doc didn't help, the shrink didn't help, the pills don't help. So you come to me. Cause if it's nothing the docs or shrink or pills can fix, it's gotta be spirits, right? I mean, you know he's not traipsing through the mud at night to get a little somethin somethin from a lonelycute neighbor, right? Or did you try that kinda investigator already? 

You know there used to be witches here. Young girls, troublesome girls. The kind who'd lure men out with tricks and magicks and deals with devils. naked dancing girls out by a bonfire back before we broke the night with the streetlamps and stuff.

Some say they're still there, even after we drowned them and burned them and hanged them. Still luring men out of their beds late at night, still tempting, still magicking.

So they got their hooks into your man, from past the veil? Bring him back tired and worn?

So.. who you gonna call?

Nightmare Fuel Day 23 - The Canny Ones

This is an odd one.

Again, I wandered away from the prompt - pretty far. I started with the image, came to a story, started to write it and the scene I saw in my head at the start just wouldn't fit. So I'll leave you with what came of this, and let you think of how you see it.

Thanks for stopping by. 

"The Canny Ones"
by L Czhorat Suskin

We once knew ourselves. We once knew where we were.

All of the things that make us who we are - our sorrows, our anger, our canniness and a thousand thousand other things - all of those thousand thousand things once lived within us. Within the balance of humours in our veins, behind the shell of our misshapen skulls, within the chambers of our beating hearts.

Sometimes one of us was too canny or too sorrowful or too angry. The sorrowful ones would sit alone and weep, the angry ones would rage and bluster. The canny ones, they were the worst of all. They'd pick at the weave of the very world, threatening to unravel just a thread. They were unpleasant or dangerous or just unhappy, the too-canny ones or too-sorrowful or too-angry ones. 

So we'd fix them.

So I'd fix them.

I am, truth be told, too canny by far. Cursed to see the world as a network of levers, balances, of puzzles. Cursed to restlessness, to discontent. It is, I suppose, quite OK on balance. It is acceptable because in my madness I can where people are wrong. Where the bile pushes too hard against the chambers of their stomach, where the blood flows too hot within the chambers of their heart. So, with ice flame, with knives and needles, I fix them.

I could fix you. Right now with the knife. Right here, that spot in the back of your head where the extra spirit is building up. You can feel it, can't you? Pressing all the way through to your eyeballs, making you see terrible things. That's why they brought you to me. Because you see things that aren't there, because you see things that give you ill dreams.

I can fix you with this chisel and this knife and this little bonesaw. 

I can fix you, but I won't. 

I'm getting old, my hands tremble. Not much, just a little. No amount of bleeding or purging or trepanning will fix that. I'm simply worn out.

But you... you're too canny and a touch mad. You can learn.

You can suffer so that they may be healed.
Seabamirum on Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution License.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Nightmare Fuel - Day 22 - I Dare You

This is another prompt I had no idea what to do with, so I made a poem of it. The breaks in meter were deliberate and meant to create a mood. You can judge if they succeeded. .
"I Dare You"
by L Czhorat Suskin
I Dare you, you said.
You dared me to bring the thing up to my head.
This empty white carcass unfilled with the spirits
the alien spirits
the alien spirits of insectlike dreamers
of insectlike dreamers with insectlike dreams in their insectlike heads.
You dared me, I said.
I'm not a woman who'd deny a dare
It is a magic that will make me bold
to risk a terror far beyond compare
a cause to brave a soul destroying blow
from insectlike dreams in insectlike heads
I dare you, you said to take the thing up to your head.
This horrible thing that we found by a corpse.
That we found by a corpse that was twisted in pain
That was twisted in pain from the mad spirit thing that insectile curse that drove into its brain.
My eyes remained upon you as I touched
the wretched bonecold frame up to my brow
Into my brain I feel its alien touch
My eyes unblinking, staring past the thing
I dare you, you said
You dared me, I said.
I took the thing up to my head.
I listened to whispers and insectile murmers
to insectile murmers that fill me with dread
They'll linger, they'll linger
these insectile murmers
they'll linger long after I pull the thing off of my head.
This foolish mad dare
this glorious dare I know what they're thinking,
I'll see them eyes open
You'll see them yourself
you'll see them you'll see them you'll see them
if only you'll take take up this horrible thing,
you'll take it right up to your head.
So join me, so take it, so join me
I dare you.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Nightmare Fuel Day 19 - The Heretic

Day 19, redux. The prompt was posted after I wrote the story, so I circled back. This deals with a theme I've been playing with in my head, but not in a way which I find entirely satisfactory. Anther one to revisit.

"The Heretic"
by L Czhorat Suskin

The warlock was drinking, more and faster than usual. His name was Chris, but we called him the warlock. The only man who'd stayed with the coven past learning that most of us were gay and no, we wouldn't let him watch. Nobody knew what he did or where he went between meetings; at first glance we'd thought him homeless with his wild, unkempt beard and yellowing teeth. At  a closer look, his clothes were always laundered, his body clean and well-nourished. So not homeless, but with his wild beard and wild eyes none of us could imagine him at a nine-to-five type of job. The one time Gail asked him what he did he'd shrugged it off with a wave of his hand and one word. "This."

"what do you mean, this? Are you a professional warlock? Is that a job?"

He gestured impatiently with his half-smoked cigar. He always had a cigar. "You asked what I do. Right now, I'm doing this with you. Other times I do other things."

This, at the time, was a blessing for the full moon. Strength and health for the month ahead, acknowledgement of our place on the great wheel of existence, all that kind of thing. It was one of those fall evenings when the dark sneaks up on you but it's still warm enough to be outside without a jacket, but just barely. It was the time of the harvest, or would have been if any of us didn't work in real estate offices or retail stores or law firms. Poor Gail sells real estate, and I think she believes this stuff for real with an intensity well beyond the rest of us. She doesn't just believe. She believes. For the rest of us - or at least for me - it was always half needing to get out of the house, half a lingering "fuck you" to the patriarchy after years ago women's studies classes and maybe the last sliver the idea that something must be out there, that the world has to be a bit more than we see it to be.

And no, we never saw the warlock as part of the patriarchy. He was always too harmless, to hapless, to much an outsider. Male, but not of the male structure.

Or so we thought.

This year's ritual was nighttime, nighttime outside of town at a small graveyard behind an old stone church. Or in front of. It doesn't matter. What mattered was hallowed ground, consecrated not by the church but by the restless spirits of those souls whose mortal remains rested beneath. Old markers, worn thin as cardboard, thin as the shadows cast in the moonlight.

Seated together we were, side-by-side-by-side, a ring of whatever we were a ring of. Gail between me and the warlock, her hand in mine dry and cool as always her voice dry and cool in the dry and cool fall night air, the words from her lips hot and wet and with the names of Goddesses and spirits and

her hand wrenched free from mine, Gail jumping up and spinning glaring her eyes on the warlock

"" Her words were ice, cold ice, her eyes burning on his.

"The same as you. Invoking the aspects of God."

Her voice was ice. "What are you talking about? We worship the goddess here in all her aspects and the great wheel of nature, and the spirits of all things."

His eyes were as bright as hers, almost glowing in the moonlight air.

The circle broke, we sat uncomfortably, angrily. The warlock pulled a hip flask from his pocket, took a long pull. He sketched a pentacle in the dirt with one grubby finger. At the points his fingers traced complicated symbols, unreadable in the dimly light earth, "Hagiel, Uriel, Saint Jerome, the virgin, the Christ. Aspects of the Godhead into which he poured his divinity."

Before Gail could speak, I cut  her off "The pentacle looks like the craft, but your words sound like the patriarchal Christian bullshit we're trying to get away from. Uh.. no offence."

The warlock jabbed a finger at me. "They all have names. This" he gestured expansively with the half-burned cigar, indicating the church, the graveyard, his earth-sketched symbols, "this was all old a thousand years ago. This would be our heritage, if we didn't forget."

He turned his back towards us, speaking quietly towards the church, towards hallowed ground, his voice in rough latin. The words were gibberish, but the cadence familiar, comfortable.


Through the flow of words we heard names. Uriel and Hagiel and Sameal. The Magdalene. The Virgin. Gail turned away, back towards her convertable and her apartment and real-estate listings.

I took a step closer to the warlock, felt my voice joining his, speaking words I didn't know I knew.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Nightmare Fuel, Day the 21st: The Painting

Day the 21st. I'm still one behind my usual one-behind schedule, but will either catch up or fall farther behind with a couple days of upcoming travel.

This one, I suppose, is another fable. It's certainly a big step back towards reality after yesterday's experiment with modernism. The image didn't quite speak to me, so I used the version in my head instead. That one worked better, at least for my taste.

"The Painting"
by L Czhorat Suskin

"You want to buy that one?"

"Yeah. I kinda like it. He looks distinguished. And out of place. I feel that way sometimes."

The painting in question was of a man of indeterminate age standing stiffly at a beach. He did in fact look distinguished with his graying hair, his conservatively cut suit, his stiff posture. Also more than a bit out of place, alone in the bright sunshine, slightly backlit by late morning sun on bright blue waves.

It wasn't, truth be told, all that much of a gallery. Paintings of various size from various artists hung haphazardly on the rough wooden walls of the old grange hall. Seascapes next to still-lives and portraits and oversized primitives of barnyard animals. And seascapes, and seascapes. It was as if some secret meetings were held in smoke-filled rooms somewhere on the island in which all of the local painters were told to give the tourists what they want. Or if most of the artists just figured that most of their clientelle was there on vacation, and nobody goes to vacation on an island to buy a painting of a city.

They were on vacation, the couple squabbling over the artistic merits of the painting. "At the Seashore", oil on canvass. I suppose oil and water do mix, in some ways and in some times.

"There are so many others here that are more interesting. That have more color."

She started to wander away, he tarried a moment longer. "I like it. I've always liked the beach. An... not fitting in."

He paused. "I just got my bonus. We can afford it."

"You want to spend that much? And bring that home? You serious?"

They haggled with eachother before haggling with the gallerist. They'd take it home on the condition that it hang not in the living room but the smaller space that they called his home office but he secretly thought of as his study. That the next piece of artwork they bought had some damn color in it.

The painting never felt quite right in the study. For one thing, the man couldn't figure out how to illuminate it. With no lights it was too dark, but whatever he did threw a glare across the image, washing out the figure. Still, from a certain angle he could see what he'd seen those months before in the gallery: the conservatively cut suit, the severe features, the barest hint of a smile. Then came a promotion and children and less time alone to contemplate.
Sam Howzit on Flickr Creative Commons Attribution license.

It was years later, on the eve of their move, that they discussed the painting again. The man flipped off the little spotlight he'd installed above it, but the glare remained, as if etched into the canvass. "I guess I ruined it. Too bad. I'd always kinda liked it." he looked over at her. "Leave it behind?"

"Hmmm.. now I like it. The change in the light makes him look ... different. He's fading , but you can still see him from the right angle. It's more interesting."

In the new house, they'd put it in the living room. The walls of his new home office would remain bare.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

NMF, Day the 20th. Not my Coven

This is another mad science experiment. It makes even less sense than the sheep meadow sheep from Day 10, but was at least an interesting departure.

A handful of literary allusions are sprinkled throughout, to two famous American poets. It also references a very specific place. I'm curious as to how obvious this is to those readers who are not me.

"Not my Coven"
by L Czhorat Suskin

They're not my coven. That's something I've not yet earned, if ever I will. Decent folk, wild folk, brave folk, yes. That and more. Puppets without strings, brave souls who'd leap a cemetery fence at midnight for the sheer joy of being where they don't belong, where they aren't wanted.

On the road together, to sing the body, Sergey driving and Jennifer shotgun the old car coloured like rust swaying the cradle endlessly rocking towards the shore, the end, the blue canary's primitive ancestry.

But they're not my coven. Brave and wild, supple and strong, they are earth and fire, air and water, but not spirit. I knew from the first I read their cards, from the laughter in their eyes as much as my inner oracle.

Each highway overpass is different from the next, and each gone in an eyeblink at each next eyeblink I sketch in the margin here, when we reach the end I'll have drawn the gate out of the world.

writing makes me carsick. It's been two hours.

They're not my coven. I may someday find one, but not today. They are my friends. And together we travel.

Late day light, stopped at a thin place thin like the bright place where the  howler met the poet  but not that, no never that. Clean, natural light here, warm emergency light glare behind white gauze Sergey laughing at nothing Jennifer laughing with him at nothing it's right nothing is funny, oh so very funny and it's so thin here. If this were a story it would start here, a tamewild place off the highway where we writ fairy-rings in vines and dirt and dreams. 

Where we finally broke free of the marionette strings off the the end.

They're not my coven. They didn't see them, didn't hear them, didn't see him when we stopped, him the childless, lonely old grubber, poking among the meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery boys. 

He's real. We're all real, in this thin place, near Paumonok shores. 

They're not my coven, but they brought me here, to the end, to the great monument like a phallus thrust upward at the gate of her, our mother. 

They're not my coven, but they brought me here.

To the End.

They're not my coven.

They might not bring me back.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Nightmare Fuel, Day the 19th. A Sketch, a Craft, a Scene

Yes, we missed a day here. Partly because I was away for the weekend, and partly because the daily prompt was late in arriving. I'll catch up at some point to get back to to the one-a-day for October. 

Since the daily prompt was late, I took the kids' craft from our day at the Washington Irving house up in Sleepy Hollow and built a quick story around that. Enjoy!

"At the Fence"
by L Czhorat Suskin

Madison looked forlornly at the skull. It wasn't much of a skull. A cheap plastic thing from what her grandmother would have called the dime store. Grams loved plastic almost as much as she loved dime stores and their recently-arrived tenfold successors. So many whimsical trinkets she could worry at and enjoy and not care about; a vision taking her morning constitutional in plastic baubles and bangles while her gold and diamonds slumbered in a hidden nook behind the flour.

Madison only knew about the walks from the old woman's letters. Even at the funeral, she'd spoken with nobody who'd seen her walking, who even knew that she still did it, day after day, for decades now.

Madison sighed deeply, took in the shiny new section of pickets, dove white against the dirty pigeon greys up and down the length of fence. Dark skid marks on dark asphalt, pointing at the new fence like a sign, a warning, a portent.

She reached up, a little above head level, and jammed the skull onto the central of the new white pickets. Something broke inside, a sicklyred bulb in one eye blinked alive for  a moment, then faded. A post-mortem wink.

Madison set the dollar-store hat with the fake ribbon atop the dollar-store skull. "Sorry, grams. Your real hat is safe at home. And sorry more people weren't there.

I'll visit."

It was a long week settling affairs, cleaning house, disposing of those goods no longer needed. Searches for more surprises like the gold bangles behind the flower, like the diamonds wrapped in old socks. It was past the time of dealing with Gram, and just dealing with the banality of death; cleaning up, filing away, discarding all that remained of a life.

Image by Me
Weeks passed without a return visit to the site, to the place it happened, to her makeshift shrine. On the eve of her departure, the last time she'd ever set foot in her old hometown, she came back.

The new pickets were already slowly fading to match their neighbors, a scar starting to scab over. The skull, just where she'd left it, grew mottled and worn, more like authentic bone than cheap plastic. Someone else had visited, added a colorful green scarf around the skull's neck, a cigarette in its plastic teeth. Madison felt an emptiness deep in her gut, spread through her chest and head. She leaned her head against the old pickets, just for a moment. Did this mean someone else loved her grandmother? Whatever it was, the shrine was gone. Taken for her just as Grams had been. There was nothing here for her anymore. 

She turned to leave, not seeing the single wisp of smoke from the gently burning cigarette in the cold plastic mouth of the skull.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Nightmare Fuel, Day the 18th. A fable.

No horror this time, but a simple fable.

Next week, watch this space for the promised return of some AV posts. It's been lots of fiction as of late. Not that that's a bad thing.

"Among The Greenwood Trees"
by L Czhorat Suskin

The forest was even greater when we first came to live in this place. The might greenwood trees stood tall, creating a living cathedral of shaded sanctuary for those who would choose to walk among their woods. Then, as our settlement grew to a town and the town grew towards adulthood as a city some of us became rich, as people always strive to do. And, it was natural that the rich would want a little more space.

So, they'd hire some lumberjacks and cut down a greenwood tree or two. It would make a little clearing, and island of sunlight within the great woods. Some said it better let them see the face of god.

This made the people angry and jealous. They didn't like that those who'd worked harder, been more successful, and given their town its share of wealth would be the only ones to see God face-to-face. Some of the older unmarried women, turned bitter from years of being spurned, started spreading lies that the real gods were the nature-demons within the trees. We knew that all they really cared for was to sneak out to the deep woods for some obscene rituals, and that without God's blessing they'd never have more than that. So, of course, we paid them no mind.

Then a few more men became rich, then a few more. Each rich man would cut down a few trees and then, when someone moved too close to him, find a place deeper in the desert and cut a few more. It wouldn't do to have a neighbor sharing your window to God, of course. Some feared that we'rd reach a time when the few rich men would devour the whole forest, that we'd lose the greenwood trees that gave Greenwood City its name. The crazy witch-women were disgusting perverts, but they may have been right that, without action, the forest might be lost.

It was Hutch who saved the forest for us. Hutch was a banker, and the wealthiest, most successful banker there was. When it came time to move his house, he had it built right into two greenwood trees, roof and walls and windows currently wrapped around trunks and roods and lower branches. He told everyone that even the brightest painted house was no more pleasing to God than His handywork in the great Greendwood trees, and that this was how he'd live.

The rich aren't fools, no matter what you may think,. They watched Hutch and learned from his example. Today, you can still see the great greenwood trees, if you take the time to visit a rich man's yard.
Photo by Drew Perlmutter of HuffPo:

Friday, October 18, 2013

Nightmare Fuel, Day the 17th

Here's another one. The image this time was blatantly horrific; nooses are scary to me because of their associated history.

I was going to take this in a slightly different and more realistic direction, but had trouble not being too literal about it. So, we get another short and, perhaps heavy-handed allegory.


"The Hunt"
by L Czhorat Suskin

"You sure Big City over there won't cause trouble?"

I tried to look relaxed, to wear my mantle of Big City hipster detachment, but the guy (Billy or Bobby or something like that. I'm awful with names, especially soundalike hick names) was intimidating. Persistent halitosis, unkempt beard, a bit of a beer gut and the muscles that come not from the gym but whatever work they do out here in the middle of nowhere. Farming or something, I guess.

Jack, as usual, spoke for me. As if I were a mute or a child. "Hey, he's my cousin. You trust me, you can trust him. kay? He's OK"

Billyorbobby nodded with a "he'd better be." We headed outside. His big dog (of some indeterminate breed) let him, he lead us and the bunch of locals who joined in. Jack had introduced them, but I'd plain forgot. Neighbors, an auto mechanic, the guy with the county's best moonshine. Jack whispered to me as we marched, "just be cool, k? Remember, it's like a war here. They steal cattle, curdle milk, even ruined the last batch of Jake's whisky. We gotta do what we gotta do."

People who think that city traffic and city life are chaotic and confusing ain't never been in the woods at night with a bunch of hicks with lanterns and flashlights and dogs and shotguns and the barking and call of "there's one!" and the running.

I barely got a glance between trees as we started the chase, but I could tell that it was bigger than I'd expected.  Also dirtier. The size of maybe a ten year old child, its wings not the diaphanous beauty from picture books, but nasty lumpen things of oily flesh,  fluttering uselessly behind yellow-clawed arms.

One of the dogs had caught the wing in its mouth, was thrashing it to and fro.

In one frozen moment the thing looked at me, called out in a language that sounded between german and pure evil. Then the men were on it, tieing it with ropes and striking with tire irons and shovels and fists.

It ended the way it had to end, with a sturdy tree and a rope too clumsily tied to snap the thing's neck.

The locals started to wander off as the  thing started struggling, as dawn broke. BillyorBobby clapped me on the shoulder as he walked past. "Your first monster hunt."

I started to follow them, turned to Jack, "You're right. That was something I'd not believe."

Jack held my arm. "Wait. Watch. This part next is the one you'd not believe."

As the morning's first light touched the tree, the fairy monster slowly faded, like an old picture. IN a moment, all that was left was the empty rope.

"Ain't that a thing."

I nodded. "Yeah, it is." I'd noticed something odd, amiss, "Go ahead, I'll catch up. I wanna think about this a moment."

He left me with the rope and the tree, and the anomaly. At my feet, hanging from the shadow of the noose, was the shadow of the fae-beast. It seemed at rest, gently swaying in a hidden shadow wind. I knelt at the strange shadow, and found it to be a thing that I could lift up. As insubstantial as gauze, as warm and alive as a new baby. In my mind I could hear the things shouts as the men descended upon it and destroyed it.

To tear it in half was easy, effortless. It melted away to nothingness in my hands without another scream.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Nightmare Fuel, Day the Sixteenth. At the Crossroads.

The concept wandered a tad as I was writing this; it didn't end up quite where I'd expected, and likely doesn't fit the prompt as well as it did at start. 

"At the Crossroads"
L Czhorat Suskin

I only noticed them because it as raining, though I must have seen them many times before.

Two young men with the lean angular faces young men have, dressed in heavy cotton button-down shirts and faded work-jeans. It was the kind of misty late-fall day that sends the office-workers scurrying to their cubicle farms, delivery drivers huddled in their trucks, IT guys hiding in their secret lairs.

Not these guys. They  sat on a pair of the cheerfully painted Times Square street chairs, elbows resting on a sodden metal table. This being New York, nobody much noticed. Those with umbrellas used umbrellas, those without stuck to the part of the sidewalk beneath the metal scaffolding that always seems to linger in this part of town, the frame of a city constantly rebuilding itself. I noticed. I always notice things. And they noticed me noticing, at least the one with the sandy hair in the dark blue shirt (his dark-haired friend had his back to me.). Our eyes met for just a moment. His pupils were slittled, not vertically like a cat's but horizontally like a goats. Then he winked at me and his eyes were just eyes and a flurry of umbrella-bearers crossed between us and he and his friend were gone.

I wandered by the table and saw it there: a business card. 

Detailed Elementary Vital Integrated Logistics.

Solutions to all your problems.
Deal With Us.

I tucked the card into my breast pocket. It hung heavily there, a square of warmth against the chill wind. I walked out of the square, away from the crossroads, knowing that I'd call.

What I didn't know - yet - is what I'd ask for. 

I can't say I'm altogether satisfied with the above. The name on the business card was a little too clumsy, and I could probably find something better given the time and effort. Perhaps tomorrow's prompt will speak more clearly to me.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Nightmare Fuel, Day the Fifteenth. In which I write real horror.

Nightmare fuel, again.

No real introduction needed for this one, aside from the fact that I was inspired by the prompt rather than directly incorporating it.

This is horror. This is the stuff of nightmares.

"The Boy who Loved Carousels"
by L Czhorat Suskin

"More ride! Again! More" Billy was positively vibrating with excitement, with more energy than the carousel with which he was enamored. And what a carousel it was. This wasn't one of those shiny plastic things with electronically faked music, but a real antique carousel, whimsical horses and pigs and other beasts lovingly restored as they circled to the music of a genuine calliope. The day was nearly done, the crowds thinned to a sparse handful. This ride stood by itself, a little apart from the others. For some reason, Billy had been drawn to it. I lifted my son up to the bird-beast, his familiar weight easy in my hands. Fastened the strap (the once concession to modernity. Safety first!), and, after a moment's thought, hopped downward from the platform. Let the boy ride alone; toddlers aren't afforded all that much freedom these days.

The music started, the carousel started spinning spinning spinning. I snapped some cell-phone snapshots as Billy leaned forward, his arms around the beast's neck as his steed vanished across  the other and reappeared, a manic-toddler grin on his face as it went around vanished and reappeared vanished and reappeared vanished and...

...the unpainted birdbeast came back around from the other side, its back bare. My heard pounding, I vaulted the little fence to run around to the other side. DId he fall off his perch? And the platform? Did I strap him in wrong? The damn calliope continued to belch out its happy tune, the world spun around me like a carousel I got to the other side and a bit of my world collapsed when I saw


Sickly grass, trampled by dozens of feet, the carousel carouselling, the operator looking at me with a quizzical look and... nothing.

They stopped the ride and searched behind and under (oh god under there was so little room and gears to crush a small boy, thank got he'd not been caught there, but where? Where?)

The rest happened around me, like some kind of out of body experience. The fair grounds closed, questions and incredulity from the cops, from the earnest man in khakis and a white polo shirt with the fairground logo, from the cops again. A knot in my stomach, dread, nausea.

The knowledge that I'd have to tell her.

She made me go through the story a dozen times, then another dozen.

It was always the same.

"I still don't understand. Where could he be?"

"I don't know."

"How the FUCK could you not know? You were fucking THERE."

"I don't know. He was there... and then he was gone."

"He can't just be gone. People don't just vanish. What happened?"

"I don't know."
Original source (?):

We made phone calls together, posted up fliers with his picture, promising a reward we'd not be able to afford to give had anyone claimed it. I even snuck off to a storefront psychic, who was about as helpful as you'd expect. In crazy times you do crazy things.

I slept on the couch a lot. From there it wasn't too big a step to sleeping in a motel room, and in another apartment.

We don't speak much anymore. I don't think she's ever stopped looking.

I've never stopped looking.  Sometimes I just look at those last photos on my phone, those last few of him on the carousel. He's holding tight to the bird's neck, but then... he isn't. He's reaching forward toward something just out of frame, a look on his face that might be wonder. It seemed different than the last time around.

I wonder what he saw. I wonder where he is.

Sometimes I'll ride a carousel myself and look. I've not found it yet. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Nightmare Fuel, Day the 14th

Very little dialog again. This one is a bit rushed towards the end, but I love the idea behind it. IN any event, I've made it through an entire fortnight, one story a day. Every day. 

This is another one in which I took the prompt image semi-literally, and had it appear within the story. Read, reflect, let me know what you think.

From hill.josh on Flickr
via a CC Attribution license.

"Nighttime Walk"
L Czhorat Suskin

A whispered voice in the darkness, "Daddy, I need to use the bathroom." It wasn't quite real camping, but was as close as this father and son had come. The boy was old enough to be trusted with a small axe for cutting branches for firewood, but not much older. No journeys into the trackless wilderness for them yet, but this drive-up tent site in a lightly wooded state park made a nice waypoint between the back yard and the actual wilderness. The tent had gone up smoothly on the plat patch of earth they'd been assigned, they'd long since carefully doused the last embers in the steel fire ring with handfuls of earth.

The best thing, of course, was a little building with running water, showers, and real flush toilets a short walk away. The father took the lantern to walk his boy through the unfamiliar darkness.

The gravel path crunched underfoot as they walked quietly, beneath stars unfamiliar to the city-dwelling boy. By unspoken agreement they turned off the path for a shortcut, letting the trees obscure the night sky. They could almost feel that they were really alone in the woods.

The shortcut, of course, didn't take them to the bathrooms like they'd expected. If it had this wouldn't be much of a story. It twisted a bit this way, turned a bit that way. Brambles tore at their clothes. This was closer to the nightmare of being lost in the woods than the fantasy of losing oneself in them, but not by much. The path was still nearby. It had to be.

The lantern cast a little pool of light in which they saw only branches and brambles. Finally, at a point when both were a bit worried and the boy was whining about his need for the bathroom in ways that boys whine, the woods opened to the clearing.

It was the wrong clearing. Oh, a building was there, but nothing like the cheerfully painted restroom hut. This was an old shack, a working shack from the look of it. Cheap lumber indifferently nailed to a rough wood frame, paint of an undertermined color.

The boy's whispered wherearewewhatis that was interrupted by a bright light, brighter than their lantern, brighter than daylight, shattering the darkness. It was the kind of light that got your attention, light for road construction or a police barricade, not a rotting cabin in the middle of the woods in the middle of nowhere.

The light came with voices. Of course it came with voices. Shouted "we found em" and "we got you" and "if you know whats good for you". 

Gnomish figures - that's what they were, little men with pointy-red caps favored by lawn ornaments - marched into the clearing. The glaring light gave them a solidity that belied the absurdity of the very existence. The father stared, felt the boy press against his leg, arm around him, huddled close. These were angry gnomes, beatbeatbeat on the doorframe, swatting the eaves with absurdly long poles, pulling nets from weird little gnomish sacks. There never appeared to be more than two of them, but in a frenzy of activity and blur of motion that made them seem so many more.

Then one pulled the fairy from the ramshackle hut. 

She was everything you'd think a fairy to be after that fairy got a good thrashing by a solid chunk of gnome. Beautiful and delicate, diaphanous wings, torn like tattered scraps of cellophane. Her eyes - at least the eye that wasn't swollen shut - met the father's. 

He put a protective arm around the boy, stepped back. into the woods. 

The unnatural light faded, the lantern again illuminated ordinary woods, the edge of a clearing.

The bathrooms. The boy went in, did what he'd come there for.

They walked back, the long way this time, along the path. The boy started to question what they'd seen, but the father shushed him. His limbs felt heavy in a way that they'd not before. It's a heaviness he'd carry the rest of his days.

Morning came with a blush of dawn through nylon. They got up, remembering nothing of the night before.

The father still felt an odd heaviness, which he knew to be the cusp of old age.