Sunday, December 29, 2013

"Childhood is the Kingdom Where Nobody Dies"

The children jumped rope and skipped down the hopscotch squares and sang a song that went like this:

He is near and he is far.
Closest house and furthest star.
No more sadness, no more fear.
He is far and he is near.

Nobody knew what the song meant. They had all heard it from someone else. If you lined up the children in a chain and asked each one where they had heard the rhyme, they would point to each other and if you were to somehow untangle, to reach the endpoint, you would find that the first child had heard it from somebody that wasn't there, someone they had met on the way home.

But nobody asked them where the rhyme came from. The children played tag and hide-and-seek and when the bell rang, they slumped their shoulders and dragged their feet back to class where the teacher taught them that two times two is four and four times four is sixteen, but any number times zero is always zero.

There were never any snow days, but whenever winter rolled around, the children always wished there were. They wished for a day when snow would fall like in the movies, when they would be able to see a snowflake that wasn't made of white paper, when they could build real snowmen and have snowball fights and when they got tired, they would go inside to drink hot chocolate. Nobody asked the children what they wished.

Nobody asked the children anything.

And then, one day, it did snow. It was not like the snow in the movies—it was not pure white, but a shade of blue. They did not see it come down from the sky, but rather it already covered the ground when they woke up. They woke up and their dreams had come true.

There wasn't enough snow for school to be canceled, however, so each child was dutifully dropped at school and each one trudged to class, their gaze looking out at the snow-covered playground.

At recess, they hurried outside to play in the snow, but the sun had already done its work and most of it had melted, leaving only puddles and wet grass.

And then they heard the rhyme:

I am here and I am there.
With snow and skies and frosty air.
Let's go where it snows all year.
I am there and I am here.

When the bell rang and none of the children returned, the teachers all went outside and found there was nobody there. There were manhunts and rewards and tearful pleadings, but none of the children ever came back.

If you stand in the playground in the dead of winter, however, and listen carefully, you can hear singing:

They are cold and they are here.
With all their friends so near.
Always young and never old.
They are here and they are cold.

"Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair"

My true love's hair is thick and coarse and black. Sometimes his hair feels soft, like feathers; sometimes, each hair is as hard and as sharp as a needle. Sometimes I wonder if his hair symbolizes his mood—but then I realize it's useless to wonder about my true love's mood or motivations. They will forever remain a mystery to me.

My true love's teeth are yellow and his tongue is pink. At night, he will crawl into bed with me and lick my face and I will whisper, "Good boy. That's a good boy." My true love's breath smells of meat and death.

I first met my true love when I was twelve. He followed me home one day after school and I asked my mother—begged, really—to keep him. She said no, but my true love followed me home the next day and the next and eventually I wore her down.

The first time my true love disappeared, I was distraught. My mother tried to console me, told me that it was bound to happen, of course, but I was inconsolable. After five days of crying, though, my true love returned to me. I was so excited, I barely even noticed the police cars and ambulances down the street. Not my problem—I had my true love back and I would never let him go.

Of course, it didn't work out like that. My true love would disappear for days on end and then come back to me. Sometimes he would be covered in dirt or dried blood, although I could never find a cut or wound on him. But I didn't care—as long as he came back to me, I was happy.

My mother grew suspicious of my true love over the years. "He looks the same," she would say. "He looks like he hasn't aged a bit." I would just shrug—I had noticed that, too, but it didn't matter to me. It just meant my true love would stay with me longer.

He stayed with me during college. He stayed with me when I went to my first party. I remember the drunken frat boys with their hands pawing at me. And I remember the next day when my true love came to me with their hands in his mouth. "Good boy," I said as I patted his head. "That's a good boy."

After college, I moved back home and found a job. Something to keep myself occupied while my true love is away. He is away for longer and longer times now. Sometimes I go months without feeling his fur between my fingers.

But it still does not matter. He is my true love and he will stay my true love until I am an old woman with gray hair. And as I lay upon my death bed, he will come to me and open his jaws and I will finally give away my heart to my one true love.

"After the Ball was Over"

After the ball was over, all that was left were ash and cinders.

I was just a servant. My job was to be as quiet and invisible as possible as I refilled the guest's goblets and wine glasses. I saw so many guests, all dressed in their brightly colored finery; princes and dignitaries, duchesses and regents. Twenty boars had been killed and cooked for this ball and their apple-stuffed faces looked at me as I passed them by.

I, like the rest of the servants, was nobody. Just someone trying to earn an honest living. The servants were all dressed in black, with the same black half-masks, so everyone would know who we were. The guests, on the other hand, had a variety of masks to choose from—everything from small diamond masks to elaborate face masks made from porcelain and gold.

Everyone noticed when she stepped into the room. How could we not? She was the most beautiful among them. Her dress was a golden yellow and her hair was a deep red.

But though she looked like them, she did not act like them. I later learned that she was a simple servant girl from a different house who scrubbed and cleaned. How she had managed to make such a gorgeous dress I do not know—perhaps it was magic. Perhaps whatever entity possessed her that night made it for her.

In any case, she tried to fit in, but could not. It was plainly obvious to the rest that, despite her beauty, she wasn't one of them. In fact, her beauty caused them to be more cruel in their whispers, creating more lies for their rumors.

If this was a fairy tale, the night would end with her dancing with a prince and losing a shoe. But this is not a fairy tale. The night ended when one of the guests—perhaps he was a prince, I do not know—got a bit too drunk and decided that he wanted her and tried to take her.

She resisted and pushed him away, but the damage had been done already. More whispers, more cruel lies surrounded her. As she tried to slip away, someone grabbed her dress and ripped it. She looked down at the rip, her mask slowly slipping from her face.

Someone must have recognized her—perhaps someone from the house she cleaned was at the ball, I do not know—for the whispers intensified.

I thought perhaps I should do something then, perhaps lead her outside, to protect her, to shield her. But I did nothing. Sometimes I wonder if I should have stayed and become ash with the others. I deserve it, for doing nothing.

Her mask was gone and her face was a vision of beauty and sadness and pain. She looked around at the various guests and then looked up. "You were right," she said. "You were right."

Then her face looked down upon us and her sadness had transformed into something else: anger. She was someone else at that point. Her body glowed incandescently, as if she was hot metal on an iron. She raised her arms, her hands upturned, and sparks flashes from her fingertips. The sparks caught on her dress and it went up in flames. She laughed and twirled around, the fire spreading out from her like waves. She was beautiful and deadly. Those closest to her burned first, then the rest. The fire seemed to be alive even as we ran. It caught those behind me with tendrils of flame.

I do not know exactly why I was able to leave and the others were not. Perhaps she wanted someone to spread the story. Perhaps she simply did not care enough to kill me.

All I can remember as I ran is the heat and the sound of her laughter. And after the ball was over, when all that was left were ash and cinders, as the smoke curled around me, all I could do was shiver.

Friday, May 31, 2013


That's right, folks, I have collected together a bunch of stories from this blog and a bunch more not from this blog and put them all together, along with some drawings and made an anthology:

Right now, it's on,, the CreateSpace eStore, the Kindle Store and on Smashwords.

Here is the list of stories within the anthology (anything with an asterisk can also be found on this blog):
  1. The Problems of Hell by JJJ
  2. The Truth Will Set You Free by Visitor*
  3. Exploring a Sealed Wing by JJJ 
  4. The Hum by alliterator
  5. Jack Frost by tgecko
  6. Inevitable by JJJ
  7. Decay by Omega
  8. Need You Like Water in My Lungs by alliterator*
  9. Soundless by JJJ 
  10. Penance by JJJ
  11. Lucidity Online Newspaper 21 by JJJ
  12. Underneath by JJJ
  13. Richard Cory by alliterator
  14. Nerve by Visitor*
  15. Possibilities by JJJ
  16. Shadow Play by Malus
  17. Talk on a Streetcorner by JJJ
  18. Closing Time by alliterator
  19. The Last Mistake I Will Ever Make by JJJ
  20. Precious Little Angel by Atik*
  21. Comfort and Joy by the Nameless One
  22. Amen by Omega*
  23. Eulogy for Howard O'Grady by JJJ
  24. Time/Place by CuteWithoutThe
  25. Salvation by ExorcistGamer
  26. The Day the Door Froze by DJay32
  27. The Witch of Gatlinburg by LizardBite*
  28. Teenage Gluttony by DJay32
  29. Saved by the Nameless One
  30. Insanity Door by DJay32
  31. Charcoal Sketches by Funden
  32. She Dreamt She Was a Bulldozer, She Dreamt She Was Alone in an Empty Field by Amelia
  33. Infection by JJJ
  34. Tick Tock by Proxiehunter
  35. Wish by DJay32*
  36. Merry Christmas, Mommy! by tgecko
  37. The March of Pestilence by ZacksQuest 
  38. Still Life by Manic Muse
  39. Chrysanthemums by alliterator*
  40. Statements Recorded From a Candlelight Vigil by JJJ
  41. Case File Juliet 005 by Proxiehunter
  42. The Farmhouse by Amelia
  43. Christmas Present by Amelia
  44. Shortcut by Malus
  45. Blood Music by JJJ
  46. The Midwinter Nights by ZacksQuest
  47. The Storm by TheSomnabulist
  48. A Great Man, Dying by the Nameless One
  49. The Ballerinas of Versiansa by DJay32*
  50. Wanderlust by JJJ
  51. Hell is Repetition by ExorcistGamer
  52. 152 Hours by tgecko
  53. The Hive by Proxiehunter
  54. Weak Foundations by Apostate
  55. William Wright by DJay32*
  56. The Monster in the Mirror by Shayde*
  57. Peter Pan by Visitor*
  58. The Thing Where My Eyes Used to Be by DJay32*
  59. Erosion by ExorcistGamer*
  60. Roses by Tigerhallam 
  61. The Suicide Note of an Anonymous Mother by RedRockingHood*
  62. Playtime with Mikey by Proxiehunter
  63. SUPER SPECIAL BONUS STORY by alliterator (only seen by two other people)
Go on then! Enjoy!

Saturday, May 4, 2013


They tended to find each other in lonely places: bus stations, airports at night, twenty-four hour cafes that served cup after cup of coffee. They would find each other and swap stories. The stories were always different, but always the same. They were stories of longing and loss and, of course, the search. The never ending search.

The one they lost might have been a husband or a wife, a son or daughter, or even just a good friend that disappeared. "They were there one day and then they were gone." That's how it went. That's how it always went.

They would go to the police and the police would find nothing. There would be nothing to find. No trace, no trail. Only empty spaces and apologies. They would cry and grieve.

And then the dream would come to them. The dream of their son or daughter, of their husband or wife, of their good friend, their face a portrait of sadness, of grief. And in the dream, they would say two words, just two words: "Find me."

And so they went off on their search. Bus tickets, plain trips, cars driven down lonely freeways. Their search would bring them to a hundred, a thousand different places, but they would never find the one they were looking for. So the search became never ending. They sold their houses; their new home was the space between here and there. Between now and forever.

After they swap stories in the lonely places, they would exchange pictures of their loved one, their lost one, imploring the other if they had seen them (nearly always getting a negative reply). After that, they would get up and go to the next place, on a plane or bus or simply on their own tired feet.

"Blood-Marked Morning"

The cuts were long but not wide, sitting on the torso. He stared at them and prodded one, wincing at the sensation.

The room was decorated with the skulls of dogs and bowls of rosewater. He poured one into his wounds, and they came back to life.

He hissed in pain and the world went white for a moment.

He was sitting in that whiteness for a small eternity, staring at the whiteness until spots formed before his eyes and those spots resolved into teeth, a snout, sneering eyes.

Then he was back, standing in his room. His wounds were bleeding again, not just the recent ones but their hundred predecessors. The wood of his floor was going to break eventually, turning deeper and deeper red each day.

He feels like he's going to run out of blood eventually, but he knows that isn't going to happen. This is his punishment.

He laid on the floor, taking solace in the ivory scowls which surrounded him and waiting for it all to pass.

"Mission Statement"

We know he's coming by the sound of his cane rapping on the floor and the wheezing of his breath. We can hear his instructions whispered by the millions of microscopic mouths floating unseen throughout us.

He resonates with us and because of this we follow him. No coercion, dehumanization, death. We are those who have transcended the outdated notions of Hippocrates. We are those who seize knowledge more vigorously than any other and don't release it until it's been crushed and its blood spilt.

Those of you running to your religions have your own problems to face. You would be surprised to know how many masks and screams are hidden within your day to day lives. We're all the same, and we all take the same bait. If you think long enough, you may even come around to our line of reasoning.

Not that you'll have much time to.

"Return to Me"

Come back to me, my sweet.

You struggle with the locks, trying to work your way out of the room you worked so hard to keep yourself in.

You told your friends to help, to barricade you in. You couldn't check, but we can both see now that they didn't take you seriously.

I'm not going to hurt you. I never was. It's no more me talking than it is you walking out your front door.

I'm nearby. You and I can sense each other in the night, because we need to.

I'm sorry I scared you when we first met, and I'm so glad that I knew how to get you back. We can be together forever now, and all it cost was my soul.

Follow me. Our mistress is calling.

Friday, May 3, 2013

"Dirty Rainwater And A Cheap Cigar"

Today Edmund laid in dirty rainwater in an overpass tunnel and smoked a cheap cigar. It was the most relaxed he had been in weeks.

It just became clear to him that there was no real fighting what was going to happen to him. The rain water went through the cell openings on his exposed back, filling every gap rather quickly. The water continued then throughout his body, slowly replacing his blood.

This was happening, it wasn't going to be painful and as death's go it was kind of the best he could have asked for.

With his last bit of consciousness intact he took a big puff of the cigar.

"Farewell world, hope we see each other soon."


Walk with me down the streets of blood
Don't falter, my dear, or stumble
The straight and narrow is for the weak
The twisted and black for the humble.

The tolls will come, and pay we shall
Pluck out our tongues and our eyes
What good will such things do for us
In a world without crying and lies?

I see you slow and spy the end
Glass eyes make no mistake
The choice to walk this path, my dear
Was never yours to make.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

"Small Dreams"

Humans sleep. Some mammals hibernate. Insects rest. Fish enter trances. Microorganisms have periods of stasis.

In some sense, everything sleeps. And everything dreams.

Imagine the nightmares of being chased by predators, and the unseen things in the night. Imagine entire worlds made of bloodshed, wet raw meat and stinking carcasses.

Imagine what strange basic concepts a nucleus must generate, painting with long strokes the fears and hatreds which will last for aeons  What would such a creature think -- if it could -- were it told its actions would lead to the birth of gods?

These dreams are out there, circling chaotically in a mass of screaming evil at the center of thought and feeling. One god that didn't need to be born, but opened the door for the rest.

Sleep lightly; your dreams have forsaken you since the dawn of time.

"Time Travel"

Have you ever high-fived your future self? It's easy, if you just picture yourself in the future, high five that, and mimic the picture. These things are big loops, simple things to learn as long as you can remind yourself to complete them.

In fact, with practice you may find yourself making nods to plenty of things you haven't done yet, all of them personal in-jokes, writ large across the story of your life. You'll perfect this talent and hone it to an art form  and you'll feel accomplished (and congratulate yourself several minutes beforehand).

But then comes the day when you start crying, and you don't know why. You'll feel frightened and alone for reasons you don't understand. You might run away. You might kill someone. In the end, it doesn't matter.

Those feelings, for those couple of weeks when you're still alive and still "you," come from your future. They're warning signs that something's been reading the story of your life, and that it's chosen to rewrite the ending. 

Suicide will seem favorable, but you'll be unable to commit it. The loop must be closed, and the hands made of wood and history, reaching calmly from the future, will already be tying up all of the loose ends.

Two hours before he grabs you and the loop finally closes, you'll feel relief that it's finally over. One hour before it, you'll have forgotten who you are.


I don't know how long I have left. Even as I type this, I can feel my mind slowly slipping away.

There was no stopping him. He appeared out of nowhere.

I thought I was hallucinating at first, nobody else ever saw him. But he was there. And he was all too real.

My family was taken first. The entire house, burned to the ground. I barely managed to escape.

And all the while, he stood there, staring, as if this was nothing new.

I was on the run for the next few days. Rushing from town to town, sleeping in ditches and eating from dumpsters.

And he would stand there, watching.

Then he changed. The tentacles appeared, and I felt he was no longer just observing. He was acting.

Every time I saw him I would hear it: nothing but static at first, but then music. Haunting music, calling, calling me to him.

I tried to ignore it. It didn't work.

I would go for days hearing nothing but the noise, until I could no longer stand it. I cut my ears off.

The music stayed.

Now, he appears before me, and I can do nothing but sit and stare back.

I can hardly think now. I am using up all my effort to type this, and I know that as soon as I am finished he will take me completely.

So I write this as a message: No matter what you do, or where you go, he will get you. And until he does, he will stand there, always watching, until you unwillingly climb into his warm embrace.

"An Unbroadcast PSA"

SHOT: A brunette girl, about 15 (actress never determined) sitting at home, on a computer. Ominous music is playing.

CLOSE UP: A progress bar, downloading 50 songs at a fast pace. The progress bar is red, and a skull and crossbones decorate it.

PAN: Girl’s face, smiling awkwardly.

SHOT: A cliché school hallway. The girl closes her locker and looks around guiltily before listening to an mp3 player. The hallway is full of people, but they fade out of the shot.

CLOSE UP: The girl’s face, shocked, almost comically.

SHOT: A Hispanic boy as old as the girl (actor unidentified), standing in the hallway. His eyes shift out of proportions and somehow dominate the frame. Viewers report the phenomenon as nauseating. The music grows frantic.

SHOT: The boy running at the girl, now shot in real-time from one angle. He pounces on her as she screams. His body blocks any view of her.

SHOT: The girl lies dead, her ears ripped off. The blood and gore are realistic.

SHOT: The boy is chewing on her eyes, and his body begins to fade away. He turns to the viewer. The eyes remain after the rest of the boy is gone. This shot is held for fifteen seconds.


"Reading in the Bathtub"

Come here, child.

Your father brought you here looking for work, is that correct?

Come closer. Don’t worry, you're old enough to bathe yourself now. You won't get sucked down the drain. 

Is that a book you're holding? Could you read it to me?

Don't worry, child. You can whisper and I'll hear it. Your father's out now, at any rate, so there's no need to worry about him. 

Me? I'm just a fairy, child. I live in the water. You can't see me because I'm so tiny. 

Oh, don't worry about crushing me. Us fairies are strong. The other fairies tell me you're a smart child.

I'm sure your father did warn you about the water here. That's because it has minerals in it. It isn't safe to drink. But it's just fine for sitting in.

Child, you're hurting my feelings. Won't you climb in and read to me?

That's it. Here, I'll help you in.

Now, now, don't scream. Your father isn't home. Now, why don't we conduct this little test reasonably?

Fine, if you insist on trying to escape...

Oh, listen to that. The garage door's opening. Your father's going to check on you in approximately twenty-two seconds. In five, it'll be too late.

Shh, child, shh. You're not drowning, you're becoming part of an experiment. I want to see the effects I have on a young intellect.

He's looking for you now, but you're unconscious. And while I'm slipping away into these pipes, I'm still very much a part of you.

"Just a Chat"

So the old man I was running from visits me last night and asks to talk. It was in a warehouse, old and unused, while I was trying to catch some shuteye.

And he walks up to me and asks me to listen to him for a while. Says he isn't going to hurt me cause he doesn't need to.

And I'm tired and a little drunk and I say yeah, fine, whatever.

And he just sits there and he tells me about people. He's got our number, alright -- he's got all the numbers we've written down filed away.

I thought he was just some old guy who eats memories, but he's not; he is the memories and the history and the writing.

So he tells me about all of the bad stuff people have done. And how it all keeps happening, over and over again. And then he tells me my whole life story.

And he points out all the bad shit I've done, and all the mistakes I've made. I don't have to remember them, now. And then he shows me how stupid it is to fight him. And I agree, because what else is there to do?

So then he makes me an offer.

This morning, when the sun came up, I got up and I didn't remember anything before the last few weeks. I have a clean slate, and an employer. And I'm going to kill some more people, except now I’m going to do it for the right reasons.

You can't fight history.

"Bad Medicine"

A tourist bolts down an unfamiliar alleyway. The metal box is biting into his chest, the liquid inside sloshing everywhere, but he clutches it regardless.

This man doesn't know where he is, or the majority of what happened after he drank what was apparently a spiked cocktail. Escaping a total stupor and a medical gurney in the absence of his host, he'd only had a moment to arm himself and run.

The box, which is now his only possession, was once painted white, but now the paint has chipped, and the latch rattles as he runs. Bits of it have been peeled away, revealing black-red rust. It’s decorated with a series of stickers with pictures of skulls and biohazard warnings.

He rounds a corner and tries to open the box quietly. He smashes the lock against the brick of a nearby wall, and the box creaks open.

The sound of clogs tapping stone nears him. The air suddenly smells of uncooked chicken and ashtrays.

Inside of the box is a murky, colorless liquid. It's strong-smelling, and he steels himself against it.

Another man, masked, cloaked and carrying a bonesaw, turns the corner. The tourist throws the liquid onto him and runs, not daring to look back. He hears the sizzling of acid grow quiet behind him.

He keeps running, but he's getting lost. Graffiti litters the walls, and all of the legible pieces are of corpses and medicine. The clogs continue behind him, methodically. He refuses to believe that his pursuer is still alive.

But the truth doesn't care what you believe. It's precise and surgical, and eventually his body will fail him. It’s already starting to. He supports himself on a wall and listens to the beating on the ground.

Then, the saw is upon him.

The mask burned away minutes ago, but the skin is untouched. He sees a face malformed by imprecise stitches and a dozen untreated infections, milky eyes wide with glee.

He falls, bleeding, as his assailant prepares for another surgery.

"Count the Faces in the Dark"

You lay at night, and you stare into the darkness around your bed. And, for once, you see their faces.

One, your mother. She was smiling at you from up on high, but now she’s grinning widely at you and you don’t know what to do.

Two, your best friend, gone since childhood. You heard he died, but couldn't look at the body. In hindsight, the cuts are minor.

Three, your college sweetheart. You never could find her. You didn't even know she’d died. Maybe she didn't.

Four, your wife. You turn to check that she's still next to you, but you’re not in your bed any more. Your bed is against the far wall, and it lies empty. There isn't a single crease on the sheets.

Fifth, your boyhood hero, the plastic face of a nameless action figure which you tried to forget in the shame of teenagerdom. It stares at you with perverse, static glee, and you notice that the walls are wrong.

Sixth, a childhood crush. You don’t even remember her name. She’s older now, but equally appealing. You stagger away from her and find the distance to the door is growing.

Seventh, your own. You stare at your own terror and confusion, all wreathed in darkness, and you feel long fingers, ones which aren't wholly there, reach through your skin and tug at your insides.

As you come apart, the shadows look on with neutral expressions.


All you have to do is raise one arm.

Raise one arm, and the crowd, the bungling, mindless crowd of plebians, goes wild.

That's all it takes in this mindless world. It's as if there is a puppet master guiding the people, one cold, stick-like arm to tug the fool sheeple into action. It is all a matter of tugging the heart strings.

With that power, you could take those heart strings, pull them out, move on. Move on to more venues. You could control a crowd, you could control a nation. It's all a matter of tugging at the heart strings.

You can control how they feel. You can control it by a simple mending of the words, or you could just take it by force. And going from that, it is so much simpler to go on. To take a world by storm. To be hailed as a messiah of the people.

It is all a matter of tugging at the heart strings.


In all my years of practice, I have only seen fools. Fools who gallantly enter, waste their money, and leave. What have they to gain? Nothing. They simply want the symptoms gone, so they can go, go to die in vain, never minding the sickness still within them.

A disease -- a virus -- it gets into your body. It starts assimilating what it can. Taking the cells, sapping the nutrients, and moving on. Humanity is like that, in a sense.

What is a cure? Is a cure a great serum that purifies the mind, the body, the soul? No. A cure is a cheap twenty dollar mixture of chemicals that covers up the disease.

That is why I am sending a message. A message to people, a warning of their futile efforts, a warning of their vain, useless attempts.

My message is disease.


What has my life become?

My life is nothing, just means to support my love for writing.
I don't even live anymore, my body is just a vessel there to observe, to exist within my obsession for my work.

Do you know what I do at work every day? I write, constantly clinging onto this habit of mine. I haven't properly paid attention to my work in months, ever since I started the whole ordeal.

This isn't life, I almost feel inhuman how little attention I pay to life.

I've been eaten.

"Cold-Hearted Boy"

On a regular winter day in Iceland, nothing but snow.

I sit in my room, cooped up in my computer.
Near my room, I hear laughter. Something I used to partake in, but has grown obsolete. Everyone knows how I feel about people, they intimidate me.
It's easier to stay away from people, than to get hurt.
With every hour, every day my heart starts to break a little more.
My room feels cold.

I am but a cold-hearted boy.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

"Paths Divergent"

They pulled him from the room with the padded walls. They forced him into a straitjacket, and pushed him forwards. He was silent as they marched him through the corridors and into the room. The door was firmly closed and locked behind him.

More guards remained in the room, not to keep him safe, but to prevent him from harming the other man.
The other man was small but sly, a psychiatrist. He sat in a swivel chair, while the man in the straitjacket had a small plastic one.

"So, how are we today, Charlie?" The psychiatrist smiled, his teeth an unnatural shade of white.

"Fine." The other man answered. His voice was flat, emotionless.

"Well then, let's continue where we left off last session. Do you feel ready to tell me yet?"

The man was surprisingly lucid, for the first time in months. "I'll tell you everything, but only if you send these men out. I don't want them to listen. Nasty little..." His hand clenched and unclenched reflexively as he muttered.

The doctor signaled to the guards to leave the room. He could always call them back. They unlocked the door and left, once again locking the door behind them.

"Good. Now, where do I begin?"


My name is Charles Richards. I am forty six years old and I have made some very bad choices. I had a job, working in an office. It wasn't much, it wasn't glamorous, but it was enough. I got by. My family got by. I had a wife, Milly, and three children, Jake, Beatrice and Jennie. They were the best family any man could have. Oh, they had their moments, but so does any family. When it came to it, we stood together.

Or so it had always seemed in the past.

One day, I came home from work and just slumped into a chair. I sat there for a while, letting myself relax and become calm. The next thing I remember is waking up. No, not waking up: there was no drowsiness. Perhaps I should simply say I regained consciousness.

I was in a bright white light. Looking around me, I could see nothing else. There was no indication of how far this light went on for.

I've always been quite emotional, and so naturally I began to panic. Who wouldn't have, in my situation?

I took a few steps forward. I could see nothing but this white light.

Suddenly I could see myself. Turning around, I could see myself there also. Spinning round, I could see myself in every direction. Reaching out my hand to one, I realized what they were. Mirrors. Hundreds upon hundreds of mirrors.

I began breathing fast. Looking down and above my head, I was trapped like a rat in a mousetrap. Until that moment, I had never thought of myself as claustrophobic.

A voice called from nowhere.

Hello, little one.

I tried to speak but something was preventing me. I could open my mouth, and breathe, but no sound came out.

Oh, you can't talk. Don't waste your breath, and don't worry. I only want to help you.

I was helpless; I had no choice but to listen.

You are not rich, but neither are you poor. Look into the mirror, and I will show you your future.

Staring into the silver backed glass, I saw clouds begin to form, and then clear, leaving an image of a person, a man. He was working at a desk, his head lowered. A voice called out, and the man looked up. It was myself. I was looking at myself.

I recognized my boss walking over, and shaking me by the hand. Straining my ears, I could hear him speaking. He was offering me a promotion! I could not believe my ears. This was no ordinary pay rise, but an entire new position. I would be the second most important man in the business.

The vision changed. I was at home, and I was arguing with Milly.

"You will not accept the job!" she screamed. "It's hard enough already, with you gone for hours as you are, leaving me alone to support our children, and you want to stay away for even longer?"

"I -- it's to support our family," I blustered.

"If you accept the job, I'll file a divorce." She was not shouting now, but whispering. Somehow it seemed more dangerous, more...venomous. "I'll take the children and have you removed."

"But -- Milly..." She had never acted like this before. "I can't leave you. You’re the only light in my life."

"Don't give me that nonsense," she snapped. "You're not taking that job, and that is final."

The vision faded.

The voice came again.

So, you see, what the mirrors show you is true. You will be fantastically lucky, a rich man, but you will turn it all down for your beloved wife. Or will you change the path of Fate itself, will you defy your Wyrd?

The light faded. As everything darkened, I heard the voice whisper one last time in my ear.

Only you can step off onto the less traveled path...


"So what did you do?" the psychiatrist asked. He already knew, of course, but he wanted to hear what Mr Richards had to say.

"I did the only thing I could." He smiled, grimly, not seeming insane at all. "I stepped onto a new path, the only way I knew how."


Court Case -- Charles Richards, #62750921

Subject placed on trial for the murder of his wife, Milly Richards. He was found lying in a chair, holding his wife's hand as she died, whispering the phrase "And now the paths diverge."

He was found not guilty on reason of insanity, and was transferred to Rothschild Asylum in Sussex.

Case has been closed.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

"The Rag-picker"

The mall was so crowded and Bronwen couldn't stand it anymore, couldn't stand being surrounded by people, talking and shouting and moving and she had to get out, she had to get away from everything. She slipped out of the crowd and into a relatively empty coffee shop.

Feeling guilty about being at the shop and not buying anything, she approached the counter, intent on getting a bottle of water. Radiohead's "Creep" started playing on the speakers and she noticed that the barista had two different color eyes. The left was green, while the right was brown.

"A water bottle, please," she said and the barista blinked and the color of her eyes switched. The right one was brown now, while the left was green. Bronwen stopped and backed away.

"Two dollars," the barista said and placed the water bottle on the table. Bronwen looked closer at her, trying to convince herself that she imagined it.

The barista smiled and suddenly she had three eyes, a third eye stuck right in the middle of her forehead. It fluttered open and looked at her with disinterest. It was a strange brownish green color.

Bronwen turned and ran out of the door. She encountered the same crowd as before, but this time she tried to get lost in it, tried to escape from whatever delusion she was having.

She followed the crowd wherever they went, but occasionally she would catch a glimpse of something off, something wrong. Someone would have an extra arm or too many fingers or a tail...

She was on the second floor when she saw it. She had just followed the crowd, trying to shut off her mind, going up the escalator, when she saw it digging around in one of the mall's trash cans. Its hair was long and stringy and dark red and its skin was mottled. It looked up from the trash and straight at Bronwen and she could see its thin face and there was something crawling underneath its skin, something trying to escape. It looked at her and opened its mouth and it had no teeth, only gums and a tongue that stretched out at her and she ran, she ran down the escalator again, down past the people rushing upward, ran until she was out of breath.

It was on the bus back home, after she had convinced herself everything was a delusion, that she only needed to see a psychiatrist, when a man sat down next to her. She didn't like people sitting next to her, but there was nothing to be done until it was her stop.

"I call it the Rag-picker," the man said. She glanced at him and he looked back with sunglasses over his eyes.

She didn't say a word, just scooted away from the man and looked out the window. And she saw the thing again, red-haired and mottled, digging in the trash. She gasped and then heard the man say, "It picks at the rags, the discarded ones, the dregs and outcasts."

She looked as it dug deeper into the trash and then asked, "What is it?"

"It's a stain," he said. "A black mark on the world. A mistake, a defect."

It turned up its face from the trash and looked at her as the bus pulled away. Its tongue was still too long and was licking the inside of the trash and Bronwen closed her eyes and tried not to think about it. "What does it want?" she asked.

"To feed," the man said. "Probably. I'm not sure. But I know it won't go away. You'll keep seeing it. And the world around you will become riddled with mistakes, with imperfections and stains and weird mutations. Until you are living in the Rag-picker's world."

"And then?"

"And then I don't know. Nobody knows."

She turned to look at the man and asked, "And how do you know all these things? How did you know it was after me? Who are you?"

The man's skin was wrinkled and sagging. "I'm a remnant," he said. "An echo of a man. I'm just here to warn you." He took off his glasses and suddenly he had too many eyes. "Like I was warned."

He opened his mouth and his tongue was too long and then she was alone on the bus.

She left at the next stop and walked home. She tried to ignore other people, only catching the occasional glimpses, once of a woman with three mouths, one of a child with thorns growing from his skin.

She walked back to her home and tried to keep herself from going insane.

And the Rag-picker followed.

"The Shrouded One"

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful maiden.

Or, perhaps, a man.

Most likely of all, it didn't matter.

She – or he – or the Shroud (for that is what we call her, or him, or it doesn't matter) must have come to be through divine means. Brought down to Earth by angels, for they feared the beauty of the Shroud might lead them into temptation. The essence of Gaia, manifest, the purest beauty Mother Earth could muster. A wish given form, the most glorious imagining from the most brilliant artist, who gave his soul away with a handshake if He could bring her – or him – or it didn't matter – into being.

One thing we could all be certain of was, at a meaningless point in history, someone decided that they could not bear such loveliness in large doses. Hidden by a long, trailing veil of black, the Shroud was draped in the plainest mantle to be found anywhere and covered from head to toe. If the Shroud had a head, or toes. Most likely, it didn’t matter.

Loveliness of such high caliber was not to be shared so freely. To look upon the face of the Shroud was the greatest blessing one could ever receive; gladly, we slaved away, toiling ourselves to death for one more glimpse of what that veil concealed.

To look upon her – or his – or it didn't matter – the Shroud's face was an honor that not a single soul among us deserved. Beauty takes pity upon the ordinary.

We looked upon the Shroud's face, and felt inexplicable pain, something beyond all description. The sensation of our hearts being torn apart, nerve by nerve, breaking into millions of glass pieces. The feeling of every vein in our bodies singing, soaring being bliss and overwhelming us with so much awareness of ourselves that we ached. A burning, piercing, thrilling ache.

The clarity, the single-mindedness, the enveloping knowledge that something so beautiful existed, in our plain and ugly world. Our unworthiness made our hearts literally break, in our chests.

From that moment onwards, everything else seemed horrifyingly dull. Twisted. Hideous. We followed the Shroud, holding the long train of the mantle, kissing the ground she – or he – or it didn’t matter – walked upon. Every step was striking. Every sway and flutter, captivating. When the Shroud would speak, it sounded like a thousand ethereal songs being sung at once – the tinkling of chimes, the warm whisper of the wind, the lifting tones of music that filled us and made us believe magic could exist. Serenity, like a lure, audible even to the deaf.

It was enough to drive us mad.

Once upon a time, we believed there was a purpose to this world. A ridiculous notion, now. There is one purpose, one glory, one beauty, one reason to live.

We wish the Shroud to look upon is. Most likely, nothing else matters.


This is how my brother died.

My brother, James, and I always loved to play tag in the woods behind our house. Even though it was just the two of us, we had a blast! We'd usually give each other enough time to go hide somewhere in the woods, and then the chase was on - and boy, was there a lot of hiding spots. Sometimes, I'd wait for what felt like hours until I heard my brother trampling branches and leaves. Since I was a fair sport (and sitting in uncomfortable positions for a long time wasn't something I liked to do), I usually came out and said "You got me!"

But James wasn't like that at all. He used to tease me because I'd have walked past his hiding spot several times, and it was usually something you didn't know could be used as a hiding spot unless you looked closely. For instance, one day he managed to hide in a pile of leaves... and right below that was a small den that some animal must have used in the winter. You see what I mean? He was a master at our game.

On the first day of Spring Break, we rushed out into the woods, ready to begin a great day of tag and the other nonsense children get into. Like usual, we used "Rock, Paper, and Scissors" to decide who was 'it'. I lost, of course, so I closed my eyes and waited a few moments while James rushed off into the brush.

And the game began! I ran off in the direction my brother had went, and this time I was determined to find him. NowI was going to be the master at this game. But as time went by, I started to give up hope. That's when I heard it - a sneeze, coming from my left. Knowing there was only one other person out in these woods, I crashed through them and came face-to-face with James.

It wasn't the best hiding spot that he'd had: It was a small opening in-between some trees with a bush blocking the rest from sight. My brother was sitting under a tree, his eyes on this vine that was growing on it.

"Got you," I told him.

He didn't respond at first. I was about to ask again, but he turned to acknowledge me and said "Okay." And that was it, apparently. He closed his eyes as if he were counting, and I rushed out to find a hiding place. I hadn't noticed anything weird then, but looking back on it now... it wasn't like James at all.

Over the course of the day, James became more withdrawn, not saying anything. Around our third playthrough, he even started carrying a 'spear' with that vine wrapped around it...

The final time we played, I hid in a tree. My brother had never acted like this before, you see, and it was starting to scare me. I stayed still for several moments, looking out into the forest to see if I could spot my brother. But... there was nothing. I could neither see nor hear him.

I looked down at the bottom of the tree and saw him standing there, looking up at me.

I froze in fear, not knowing what to do. I hadn't heard him arrive!

He started to climb up towards me, so I climbed either until there was nowhere else to go. And he continued up towards me, that spear on his back...

I looked at him, fear in my eyes, as he reached my level. He was still for a moment, then took the spear off of his back and pointed it at me.


I was confused as he started to climb down. I guess on some level he wasn't that violent, but I half-expected him to push me out of the tree or stab me in the gut. But he didn't - he just disappeared into the woods.

I ran home crying. I didn't know what to do. Mom was in hysterics and Dad went out to look for James, but it was fruitless. He was nowhere to be found.

...Until a few days later when they found him walking along the highway. They didn't know what was wrong with him; he didn't respond to any vocal commands, and he would try attacking anyone that got close to him. They hospitalized him, got him to calm down, but... He's never spoken anything since that day.

Mom and Dad look after him now. He lives in his old room, not really doing anything except staring into space. I come and visit him, see if he'll awake.

But seeing that vacant expression on his face haunts me all the time, because it makes me think... did I do this?

"The Green Man"

I stood by her bed when she talked, day in and day out. My mother had been a strong woman, but the day had finally come when she'd been out gardening and she swore she saw a man made of leaves and flowers.

I told my son that it was natural. We didn't have a history of Alzheimer's, but sometimes you got unlucky. It wasn't a fun talk for him, but he's a good kid and he accepted it without much trouble.

I'd go visit her every day, too. She'd insist that she was fine, and we'd talk. I worked hard at keeping mentions of the plant-man at a minimum. The garden grew lusher than ever, and I supposed she was just perfecting her masterpiece while she still could.

Eventually she started forgetting things. It was weird, but reading went first. She'd never been a bookworm of a woman, but she kept a few favorite volumes lying around her house, and a couple of times she tried to flip through one, and she didn't understand a word. I tried to teach her the alphabet again, but it was just gone.

She kept saying she saw the green man wandering around outside, that he would stand in her garden. She kept saying this until she lost speech.

We hired an expert, a nice woman who said she could use pictures to help us communicate. FOOD. SLEEP. BATHROOM. YES. NO. and so on. She worked well enough for a while, but then the day came that my mother stopped using silverware and stopped understanding pictures and began to frustratedly gnaw on the one with a picture of FOOD on it.

She was moved to a hospital when she tried to attack me. Her nails hadn't been trimmed in a while, and she didn't recognize me. I could tell it in her eyes.

I sold her house a few weeks later to pay for her treatments, but on my last look around while I was saying goodbye to the old place, I saw that the garden was growing lusher than ever.

Every time I went to see her, my son and my wife wanted to be there with me, but I refused. I wanted them to remember her for all the great things she'd done and not for this. The doctors were considering putting her under, like a dog. They'd strapped her to a table and she just thrashed and screamed every day. Her hair was growing out too long, her body becoming frailer, but they fed her regularly and well. Her eyes grew sunken and her jaw began to jut.

One day I came in and I didn't see my mother but a spindly thing, squirming at the straps which had to be tightened further and further.

And one day, before I could go to see her strapped to her table in her enclosed cell, I heard the scream change. It fluctuated, higher and higher and then deeper before becoming... primordial.

They wouldn't let me see her body as they took her to the morgue, but her covered table was dripping with clear slime which pooled at the tiled floor in tiny puddles which shifted slightly in various directions. Then they seemed to dissipate, and the hall was empty.

"Notes Scribbled in a Ripped Page"

Was in the woods for many days, but coming.
Growing in the woods but done now and coming
Losing thought
It grows slow while I thought losing
Writing too hard but must tell
All green when first saw
Vines thorns leaves hungry
Green mouth not food
Not food
Outside door
Losing thought
Losing me
Green came took away thought took away me
Green here now
Not food
Thought food
[unintelligible scribbles]

"In Bloom We Grow"

Botany captivates my interests effortlessly.

I opened the door to the botanical museum to be immediately greeted by the rich scent of flora. I strolled in and admired the scenery, not noticing that the Dionaea muscipula I had planted weeks prior were curling up within themselves. The aroma of the plants surrounding me filled me with nostalgic reveries of ecstasy and life's beauty. By the time I saw my Venus Flytraps, I didn't care that they seemed to be wilting backwards; I had always thought they were ugly flowers. Hahaha, very ugly, not pretty like the new pods blooming around me.

Vines motioned out of the new pods, and I tried dancing for them but they didn't want me to dance. They just wanted me to bloom. Bloom with them.

In bloom we grow.

I like plants.