A poem about the harsh social cues you never want to see.
(Download the instrumental version here)
Some of us are so in tune with our Seasonal Affective Disorder that we prep for it. Here’s a manifesto for those of us who plan for hibernation. A lyrical tribute to agoraphobia, full of rhymes, mixed metaphors, and alliteration.
An Outbreak of Cabin Fever
Sensing an epidemic on the horizon, the birds evacuate. Seeing an infection spread across the leaves, the squirrels dig fallout shelters. Watching the clouds, we wait for an air born agent to whiteout the earth, and blot out the sun. We sense an outbreak of cabin fever, a transmission of isolation.
Stocking up on comfort foods, we can our emotions before they go bad. We insulate our hearts before they freeze shut. We look across the bar for something to wrap ourselves in, to heat our beds when we get the chills; an autumn romance, a snow blind date, an eleventh hour Valentine.
Fishing for compliments, we feed our egos just incase we have to live off of them. We bait our lovers to tell us something that will last through winter. Something to quote in front of the mirror. We ask them to pad it out to keep us warm, to fill it with enough hot air to inflate our self images.
Stuffing our pillows with short term goals, we rest on stockpiled New Years’ resolutions. We count plans like they were sheep. They always seem more realistic once we’ve fallen asleep. Our calendars are crossword puzzles begging to be filled. We write list poems in our daily planners, haikus under our reminders.
Filling our DVRs, every night is movie night. Building endless streaming queues, we binge through every TV series. Every weekend is a marathon. We’ve watched The Wire. You don’t have to tell us about it. We’ve seen every frame of Breaking Bad. We’re way ahead of you on that. While you’re catching up with The Walking Dead, we’ll be digging into series from the seventies. We’re half way through Night Gallery.
We stack books, when we run out of shelf space. We fold pages, when we run out of bookmarks. We have so many options, all we ever read are spines. There’s a hardcover propping up every lopsided desk. There’s a paperback on every surface. The nightstand is cluttered with cliffhangers. The coffee table is teaming with tragedies. The toilet is flooded with fables. Escapism is always at arm’s reach. Fantasy is always a couch cushion away. Distractions are falling out of the ceiling.
We may be alone, but we’ll never have to be alone with our thoughts. Continue reading An Outbreak of Cabin Fever
This is the fifth collection of my best Tweets under the hashtag #YouKnowYoureAWriterWhen. Click here to catch up on the first part. These were inspired by @KMWeiland. Her blog is an excellent resource for writers looking to become authors.
The temperature falls
Cabin fever rises
We all catch
The same thought virus
We prepare our homes
For the contagion
We prepare ourselves
The big bad wolf
Is at the door
The raven pecks
Shakes his chains
Old Man Winter
Rob the mind
Starve the heart
Bricks in hand
We wall ourselves in
They huff and puff
And we take it on the chin
We’re dismay preppers
A horde of hoarders
We’ll never have to
Look past our borders
We see red
With our attitudes
Dreaming of a White Christmas
Waking to the winter blues
We go stir crazy
Mixing up our metaphors
Going out of our heads
Behind closed doors
Rob the mind
Starve the heart
The eye rollers
The chin raisers
The marble counting
The mixed messengers
The somber smilers
The cheer exuding
Rank and filers
The long nodders
The collar biters
The head ducking
Out of sighters
The leg crossers
The seat adjusters
The wall erecting
The fair weather friendlies
The mute greeters
The face forgetting
The blind spotters
The selective seers
The magicians deciding
The social climbers
The crowd surfers
The bridge building
The rolling stoners
The flattening boulders
The cool operating
The boulevard bouncers
The list they scroll through
The police enforcing
A charisma curfew
The heroes of exclusion
The enemies of empathy
The ducks always sending
Swans out to sea
The wheat reapers
The chaff removers
The hired hands separating
The bad from the pure
The black listers
The quality controllers
The assembly line full of
“My favorite jump scares toy with your expectations.”
Cue the Psycho Strings
In horror movies, jump scares make teenagers lose their popcorn, while veteran viewers hold onto their Milk Duds. Veterans know the rhythms of the genre. They know what it means when the score fades beneath a howling wind. They watch the victim tiptoe through a long uninterrupted shot. They know when to expect a cat to jump out, and when to expect a killer. While teens wince at the simple sight of blood, vets yawn at all the spiritless slaughter. If they’ve seen one hook pop out of someone’s throat, they’ve seen them all.
They’ve been exposed to far too many cheap chills, generic gotchas, and bargain BOO’s. Without good storytelling, panic feels passé, alert seems antiquated, and carnage seems commonplace.
Veteran viewers have been inoculated against these dated daunts. They lean back in their seats, with comfortable dry pants, secure in their immunity. What if there was a new strain of jump scare, one that resembled those creep show clichés, but broke through their resistance? Continue reading Cue the Psycho Strings
This is the fourth collection of my best Tweets under the hashtag #YouKnowYoureAWriterWhen. Click here to catch up on the first part. These were inspired by @KMWeiland. Her blog is an excellent resource for writers looking to become authors.
There was a peck on the door. Not a knock, but a gentle rapping that wasn’t sure of itself. This was not the beak of a raven, but that of a hummingbird. Yawning in the hallway, I thought I’m not putting my pants on for that.
The tapping stopped, whoever it was. The Jehovah’s witness had second thoughts about sharing their beliefs with someone with such an unkempt hallway. The vacuum cleaner salesmen doubted his product would do me much good. The petitioner doubted someone with that many bottles on their porch cared about wildlife preserves.
The stairs creaked as the mysterious solicitor slunk back to the sidewalk from wince they came. I shuffled over to the kitchen to attend to the pressing matter of eating ice cream straight from the tub.
My roommate had asked if I’d borrowed any of the cash on his desk. I’d helped myself to some of his razors, deodorant, and clean socks, but I wasn’t aware that he’d left any money out.
I caught movement out of the corner of my eye; a shadow beneath the back entrance. A key clicked into the lock. There came a rapping, so faintly came a tapping, and my ice cream hit the floor. I squeezed my knuckles into fists and positioned myself in front of the door.
It screeched open to reveal an intruder. His face was slick with sweat. His skin was sun dried, red enough to hide the cysts along his hairline. He was shirtless, an emaciated golem. His skin left none of his rib cage to the imagination. His shorts were a patchwork of grass and blood stains.
His hand shook, wielding the key like a prison shank.
I stepped forward. “How’s it going?”
The intruder leapt back. “Is, um, Mike home?”
Shaking my head, “Nope.” I put my hand out, “Can I see that key?”
Feigning to set the key in my palm, the intruder dropped it on the floor. Lowering my eyes, I missed his getaway. The intruder slid down the railing, tapped one foot on the mezzanine, and leapt down the stairs. He was ghost.
So it turned out this was the tenant I’d been brought on to replace six months ago. He’d been stealing DVD box sets and pawning them for drug money. Here he was to make another rental from my roommate’s library.
Running down the stairs, I saw no clear sign that the intruder had left the building. My hunch was that he hid in the basement. Flashlight in hand, I made my way through the cobwebs and the mouse traps. Shattered glass cracked under foot, announcing my position to the darkness. I scanned the abandoned storage closets. There were deflated bike tires, doors stacked against the walls, and circular saws in the laundry room sink.
There was a color crayon picture on the work bench, a crudely drawn man with a handlebar mustache. A series of violent lines sliced through his gut, a gash of black across his middle. A caption down the side read:
I DIDN’T DO IT, BUT I KNOW WHO DID.
He’d been living down there. Who knows for how long? In the coming months, I would jump whenever the wind rattled the doors, put my ear to the walls, listen for bumps in the night, look for silhouettes through the blinds, and drudge into the basement to check for boogeymen.
Though the intruder never returned, the intrusion haunted me. Continue reading The Boogeyman in My Basement
There’s a reason why vampires still rise out of crypts. It’s the same reason why packs of werewolves roam the countrysides, ghosts linger in abandon lighthouses, and demons wait in attics beside Ouija boards and Twister mats. There’s a reason why every flash of bright blue light hides an alien vessel, why squadrons of witches streak across the moon, and why zombies clog the interstate. It’s the same reason why Bloody Marry is on call behind every reflective surface, why trolls make living rooms of covered overpasses, and why every tomb, no matter how far from Egypt, is stacked full of mummies.
These monsters have stood the test of time. They’ve been vetted by generations of storytellers. Each creature has deep cultural roots and instant brand recognition. We see elongated canines, dripping with blood, and we know what to expect. We hear doors slam, see furniture stack, and we anticipate a chill in the air. We see a sickly girl chained to a bed, shouting obscenities, and we expect her head to spin like a sprinkler firing pea soup across the walls.
These creatures have the staying power to crawl up from the pits of the public domain. Their mythos are classics. New works based on them are never dismissed as fan-fiction. Good writers borrow, great writers steal, and if you’re going to be a thief you might as well steal from the best.
Writing a story about vampires or werewolves is like filling out a mad-lib in reverse. The character attributes are already there, all you have to do is come up with the situation. Writers who take on these monsters are like DJs remixing mythologies. The tune never changes, all they have to do is drop a fresh beat. Like grade school students passing a story around, writers using these monsters contribute to an ongoing plot. They expand a vast universe that’s populated with characters with strikingly similar names.
What do you do when you want to tell your own story? Continue reading Build Your Own Monsters
This is the third collection of my best Tweets under the hashtag #YouKnowYoureAWriterWhen. Click here to catch up on the first part. These were inspired by @KMWeiland. Her blog is an excellent resource for writers looking to become authors.