Submitted for your approval: Strange Love aka Monster Mingle,a dating service for the inhuman, a place where urban legends find romance, where full moons lead to fuller hearts, and all the thirsty singles have fangs.
This is how it works: illustrator Bryan Politte comes up with the creatures and author Drew Chial gives them their backstories.This is a place where you can catch up on the monsters you may have missed so far.
Meet Scryzon Wixelvox Gleep, a serial monogamist from the planet Monogome Prime. He’s had a crush on the human race ever since the Voyager probe entered deep space. Some say he’s clingy others say he’s a parasite… with a gestation as long as the relationship.
Meet Nólatha Torhorn, former elven maiden, former sacrifice to the Gods of Winter, and current custodian to a handful of artifacts that bestow her divine power. She’s looking for a warmhearted individual to help set fire to the ice cold idols that spurned her.
Meet Roddy Dirge, a punk zombie who needs vitamin B12 in order to stay cognizant or risk breaking his vegan commitment. He’s looking for a bodacious botanist who synthesizes nutrients from algae and has an affinity for the Dead Kennedys.
Meet Matilda MacDonald, aka the devil. She wants you to know everything you’ve heard about her is just bad PR. She’s here to enable your artistic temperament, and all she wants in return is one easy payment.
Meet Daisy Diode, a self-made woman on a mission to find the perfect connection. She’s searching for love in the clouds, or the cloud to be more precise. She’s got the tools to brute force her way into your heart, just look out for malware while she’s in there.
Meet Kadilia Caine. She’s been out of the dating pool for a while, but she’s looking to get her feet wet again. If you’re searching for someone to watch over you at night then look no further. All you have to do to win her affection is invite her in.
A man was found skinned alive in what police are calling a “Brutal ritualistic killing.”
In the Tanglewood neighborhood around midnight, a 9-1-1 caller reported hearing screams and seeing candles through the windows of the abandoned Chrome Works factory. When officers arrived they found a crime scene “straight out of a horror novel.”
The victim was chained up between the boilers in a prone position with their spine exposed and lungs stretched back into a pair of wings. “At first we took it to be a Viking Blood Eagle, but then we shined out lights on it and it lit up the room like a mirror ball.”
Both the victim’s skin and organs had been removed “with the pression of a skilled surgeon.” The victim’s musculature was coated in a silver lacquer. Both of the victim’s hands had been amputated and replaced with candelabras. A circle of spoons lined their hips, jewels hung from their ribcage, and mirror shards twinkled from their eye sockets. “It was as if the killers wanted us to burst in and shine our lights on it.”
Six high school-age suspects were found with masks, blood stained robes, daggers, and copies of Drew Chial’s controversial novel Reflective Surfaces. While the author could not be reached for comment the publisher released this statement:
Neither Elephant Publishing nor the author have ever claimed the ritualistic aspects of Reflective Surfaces were based in reality. None of the occult ceremonies were taken from known practices. None of the deities are rooted in a mythology and none of the supernatural elements can be linked to genuine belief systems. They were inventions of the author nothing more.
In promoting Reflective Surfaces, Elephant Publishing did not run an alternate reality campaign. We never built dummy websites for our characters, never toyed with readers on Reddit forums, and never doctored Wikipedia entries to reflect the universe of the story. While Reflective Surfaces had several book trailers none of them contained supposed “found” footage. We explicated marketed the title as a work of fiction.
The suspects were not known to us, our street team, or the author. They acted alone and of their own volition. We were just as shocked as everyone by their painstaking recreation of the chapter titled: The Chrome Plated Angel. From the handmade comedy masks to the snakeskin robes, they got everything right. From the twinkling crime scene to the raven hilted daggers they were holding when the S.W.A.T. team stormed in. These kids thought of everything.
And yet they brought the text to life entirely on their own. It just goes to show the power of fandom.
We join together with the community in applauding this ritualistic reenactment from the sidelines. They say that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery and everyone in the office here is positively blushing. Chial and everyone at Elephant Publishing tips their hats to these self-motivated suspects. In an era where book marketing proves more and more elusive this has been an absolute breakthrough.
October is here and with it another entry in the Simpsons’ 30 year Treehouse of Horrorcollection, a Halloween tradition, and a highpoint in an otherwise uninterrupted downward spiral into the holiday season.
These are best episodes to make you sentimental for a time before you worried about which utility to let slide for the month, when you were certain true love came to everyone, and you didn’t depend on medication just to get out of bed in the morning.
Why spend Halloween alone. Join the first family of animation for a midfall marathon of the macabre.
Treehouse of Horror XII
Hex and the City
Homer runs afoul of a Gypsy bringing death and destruction to everyone around him, and you thought your life was cursed.
House of Whacks
No need to stew in your own emotional juices. Let the Pierce Brosnan voiced Ultrahouse 3000 draw you a bath.
Remember when that first Harry Potter movie hit theaters? Oh what a sweet summer child you were, thinking you’d grow up to be a big rock star, plucking on that Squier Bullet Stratocaster, composing Rolling Stone interview answers in your head. Best not think about how J.K. Rowling is racking in the billions while you still can’t carry a tune.
9.Treehouse of Horror IX
You could spend your evening debating which friends would be brave enough to speak at your funeral or you could let Homer’s living toupee clear your mind of that self-destructive ideation.
The Terror of Tiny Toon
Bart and Lisa find themselves trapped in an episode of Itchy and Scratchy. A premise that shouldn’t seem too far-fetched considering how much of your life is spent living vicariously through your TV.
You and Maggie Simpson have something in common, when Maggie discovers something in her genetic inheritance has made her into a monster.
Treehouse of Horror X
I know what you Diddly-Iddily-Did
Do you ever feel guilt stricken for something your haven’t done? Have you ever internalized a nauseating shame for a mistake you only thought of making? Well, before you crack under the weight of your self-imposed standards consider that you have yet to be involved with a hit and run.
Desperately Seeking Xena
Remember Xena Warrior Princess? Remember 90s primetime TV? Remember Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Remember The X-Files? Remember your idea for that couples’ costume you never got to wear, because you couldn’t find anyone willing to dress as Agent Scully? Well, maybe this cute little super hero spoof will take you mind off of your debilitating loneliness.
Life’s a Glitch and then You Die
Remember the dawn of the millennium when your gravest concern was the Y2K virus? When you thought moving to the city would broaden your romantic possibilities. Remember how you stayed in writing poems to coup with the days’ rejection while your friends wandered into romance like it was nothing? Whatever happened to them.
Treehouse of Horror VIII
The HΩmega Man
You know how you walk that streets at four in the morning and imagine you’re the last person on earth? Homer finds himself in that exact situation, yet he approaches it with a smile on.
Fly vs. Fly
Have you ever felt so small, so insignificant that you felt like a nonentity in your own story? Well, in this episode Bart turns into a fly and he’s still the center of attention.
Remember when you went on a shoplifting spree and stole a pentagram necklace from Spencer’s Gifts, a deck of tarot cards, and a book on Witchcraft from Walden Books? Remember when you told your friends you were Wiccan, then The Crafthit theaters and you threw all that in the broom closet? Well, now crystals and tea leaves are in fashion, but you no longer believe in anything.
Treehouse of Horror VI
Attack of 50-Foot Eyesores
Remember that Halloween party where everyone hit on your girlfriend and she left without telling you where she was going. Lard Lad is here to drop a nostalgia bomb on that painful memory.
Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace
You’ve had so many dreams about dying that you know for certain if you die in a dream you’ll still have to go to work in the morning.
When Patty and Selma visit without warning Homer answers the call of the void and phases out a existence. Do you ever wonder if there’s a parallel universe where your circumstances would be better? Do you find your eyes wandering to dark voids searching for a way home? That’s not normal.
Treehouse of Horror III
Clown without Pity
With the success of It: Chapter 2 and Jokerbad clowns are really having a moment. Perhaps you can take comfort in the fact that no matter how bad it’s gotten you’ve never resorted to clowning.
Do you ever feel like King Kong when you develop feelings for someone? A big lumbering fool imposing yourself on another person.
Dial ‘Z’ for Zombies
The Simpsons find themselves pursued by a horde of unrelenting zombies with no regard for their personal space. Kind of like the Halloween parties ragging throughout your apartment building. Here you are trying to enjoy a little Treehouse of Horrormarathon, but you can’t hear the TV with all the footsteps rushing up the common stairs, blaring subwoofers, and drunken banter on the lawn.
Treehouse of Horror II
The Monkey’s Paw
If you had four wishes what would they be?
A living wage?
A rent controlled apartment?
Cast more people in roles that are usually reserved for pets?
Or to simply remain functional as long as possible without another outburst?
It’s a Good Life
Endowed with God-like powers Bart forces everyone in Springfield to think happy thoughts for fear they’ll be turned into hideous monstrosities. A fear you should already know a lot about.
If you’re like a lot of people you hate the way you look, but do you ever wonder if you’d feel any better if your brain was transferred to another body?
Treehouse of Horror VII
The Thing and I
Have you ever harbored deep suspicions that you were someone else’s evil twin?
The Genesis Tub
How could God be all powerful, all good, and leave your life in the state it’s in? Perhaps we’re all mold in a petri dish for a second grader’s science fair project.
Are you constantly refreshing CNN’s main page asking, “Is he impeached yet? Is he impeached yet? Is he impeached yet?”
Let Kang and Kronos beam you back to a simpler time when campaign seasons were far less emotionally exhausting.
Treehouse of Horror IV
The Devil and Homer Simpson
When you see depictions of hell on screen do you ever get the nagging suspicion that you’re watching the coming attractions for your ultimate end? You should.
Terror at 5½ Feet
Have you ever felt like there was a gremlin on your shoulder cracking your skull open, crossing your wires, and ripping out all your good parts?
Bart Simpson’s Dracula
Do you ever think you’d have an easier time transitioning into life as a vampire than your neuro-typical peers? You don’t eat right, you only go out at night, and you already think of yourself as a parasite.
Treehouse of Horror V
The ghosts in the Overlook hotel targeted Jack Torrance because his alcoholism and unchecked anger left him vulnerable to their influence. Do you ever get the feeling you’d be the target in a similar scenario?
Time and Punishment
You know a thing or two about time travel fantasies. You’re always wondering what might’ve happed had you met with a guidance counselor, hadn’t worked a fulltime job while taking a full course load, gotten on academic probation, and taken a break from college. If only you’d gone back to get a bachelor’s degree instead of trying to turn an unpaid internship into a career. If only you’d kept your LinkedIn notifications on and let your hypercritical friend have a peek at your resumé. Then maybe you’d have been financially attractive enough to someone who wanted children.
Then you’d have gotten the full Halloween experience. Your kids would look on with admiration as you carved pumpkins into their favorite cartoon characters. They’d roll their eyes at your attempt to recite catch-phrases in costume. They’d match your enthusiasm for trick or treating and come to appreciate your ability to carry two pillowcases stuffed with candy at once. But alas, here you are watching The Simpsons.
Budget cuts have forced Springfield Elementary to resort cannibalism. Kind of like how your long bouts of selfcare are eating away at the time you have left to turn this whole thing around. Maybe next year. Yeah, it will be warmer outside. You’ll have met some new people. They’ll have invited you to some Halloween parties. Pop culture will have provided you with better costume ideas. This year you’ll stay in with The Simpsons, but next year, next year you’ll be a whole new person.
Welcome to Strange Love (aka Monster Mingle) a place where urban legends find romance, where full moons lead to fuller hearts, and all the thirsty singles have fangs. This is how it works: illustrator Bryan Politte creates the characters and I (Drew Chial horror author) give them a backstory.
Meet Kadilia Caine. She’s been out of the dating pool for a while, but she’s ready to get her feet wet again. She has the power to glamour crowds into falling in love with her, but she’s never known true love herself. If you’re searching for someone to watch over you at night then look no further than Kadilia. All you have to do to win her affection is invite her in.
If you grew up Romani in the 19thcentury then Transylvania was the place to be, especially if you liked hawking pottery on a bed of splinters in the dead of winter. And if you didn’t? Well I don’t know about you, but I hopped a caravan to London and joined a burlesque troop.
Now Victorian burlesque is not the Vegas showcase you’re probably imagining. Our performances were less about splashing around in giant cocktails and more about telling tales. Less fan dancing. More pantomime. Less high kicks. More hijinks.
We performed Shakespeare (with a few subtle alterations). Our female characters were actually played by women (as were most of the men). And sure, our heroes were scantily clad caricatures, and yes, we did cram Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter full of innuendos: O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo? I need a happy dagger in my sheath.
I never got to utter that one. I had a habit of laughing through my lines. Audiences got a rise out of it, but it made playwrights go bat shit. Nevertheless, my time on stage put a smile on my face and potatoes on my plate, until the theater went family friendly and spat me onto the street. Many of my costars fell back on the world’s oldest profession, but I had loftier ambitions.
I took up modeling, posing for those animated carousels viewers spun by hand. Gentlemen would line up to watch me lift my skirt or tip my corset. They called them zoetropes and they called me a zoetrope trollop, sometimes a stroboscope strumpet, or a praxinoscope pretty, if I was lucky.
I was just happy to be in pictures, whether I was a flipbook floosy or stereoscopic stripper I didn’t care. I was an entertainer. I had a good thing going, until a fan caught up with me in Whitechapel and ruined everything.
LIFE CHANGING EVENT
I was walking home when I noticed something strange. The echo of my heels was falling out of sync. It turned out someone was trying to match my footfalls. It wasn’t long before I saw their shadow creeping up the cobblestones.
I hastened my pace, hoping to find a constable or some local ruffians. Instead I found a gaggle of gigglemugs spilling out of a pub. I weaved my way into the women and walked with them until I was certain my pursuer had buggered off. When I came upon a familiar shortcut, I left the gals to their gossip.
My pursuer was waiting for me there in that long back alley. His top hat cast a shadow down his brow, his mustache framed his muzzle in twin spirals, and his teeth were pressed so hard into his lip it looked like he had an underbite. He reached into his cape with a long leather glove.
I remember him offering me grapes and that the last words out of my mouth were, “Thanks, but I already ate.”
Then he ran a blade along my neck like he was bowing a violin and everything went dark.
When I came to a woman was kneeling over me. I took her for a sister of mercy until I saw the gash in her wrist. Maybe it was the lamplight or maybe it was my delirium, but I swore her blood was moving on its own, shifting and twisting against the wind like a living thing.
Smoke billowed from her wound, over her gloves, and through her fingers. Her skin was as pail as porcelain and her ballgown was a deep crimson red. I couldn’t see her face behind the veil, but somehow, I knew she had kind sympathetic eyes.
Eventually her blood spilled over my wound and ran down my collar. I felt a tickling sensation in the back of my throat, like a knot of snakes squirming down my gullet. I choked, writhed, and spat.
The woman shushed me, raised her veil, and revealed a pair of eyes with a catlike glow. “Don’t breathe. Just swallow.”
I did as instruct. It felt like I was drinking oxygen, like my lungs were thirsty, and my anatomy was upside down.
When the woman pulled her wrist back, I caught it and suckled on the gash. She patted my back, a mother nursing her child back to health, and in a way that’s what she was doing.
It was a while before I had the strength to sit upright. When I did, I saw rainbow trails around the moon. The lanterns seemed like bonfires, and the bricks and stones glowed with firelight.
The women ran a finger along my scar. “We’ll have to do something about that.”
She unclasped the choker from her neck and put it around mine. She leaned into my ear and whispered, “Stay out of the sun baby bat. If he gives you silver, send it back. Only eat for show, but keep garlic off your plate. Only drink from those who wish to drink from you, feel for the hastening of their heartbeat, and never quench your thirst completely.”
In my blood drunk stupor, I ran my fingers through her hair. My sire smirked. “Parting is such sweet sorrow.”
Then she fell into her own shadow, leaving me to fend for myself.
A few World Wars later I was finally getting the hang of being a vampire. I traveled the French countryside, touring the vineyards and the bunkers, wetting my lips on the blood of fascists.
In London I abided by my sire’s code. If I felt a donor’s pulse quicken I eased off my fangs and sent them on their way. I never left a gentleman hemorrhaging, but those Nazis, well, I drank them down to the vasopressin. The ones I caught rounding up Romani, I drained them down to the sodium. By the time I got to Stalingrad my code had become: if they had German fatigues on, they were fair game.
By the end of the war I’d developed a reputation. The Axis powers called me die rote Witweor the Red Widow. The Allies called me Glinda the Good Witch. Good or bad a reputation meant I had to keep moving. I crammed all of my worldly possessions into a shipping container and left the mainland.
I traveled on a Norwegian cargo tanker chasing the polar night from one hemisphere to the other. When I got lonely I glamoured the sailors into believing I was a crew member. I read their fortunes between poker games and they told me tales of trolls, fossegrimen, and Krakens.
I sipped from two crew members a night, not thinking to clean my fangs between feedings. At the time I knew nothing of bloodborne pathogens. When the captain got sick. The crew followed. I cut to half rations, then a fourth, then an eighth. The crew survived the trip, but they were all blood brothers when I was done with them.
When the time came to settle on dry land, I chose Seattle. The Emerald City had everything I needed: ports, a near yearlong overcast, and great food. People here eat so much salmon that you can taste it in their hemoglobin. I went from starving at sea to overfeeding on land.
MY HOBBIES AND INTERESTS
Not all vampires learn to glamour. Those who don’t rarely last a year. Either they develop anemia or the hunger drives them into a feeding frenzy and they get struck down by the Hellsings.
I’m one of the lucky ones. I have a gift and I do not squander it. Call it hypnosis. Call it seduction. Call it neuro linguistic programming. I call it fun.
It used to be if I wanted to glamour someone they had to be in the same room. I’d beckon a dapper young suitor to the candelabra and challenge him to a staring contest. He’d get lost in my eyes, in the optical illusion of my irises: the slithering blood vessels, the swirling speckles, the strawberry seed patterns. I’d stare daggers into the keyholes of his soul, lift the pin of his neocortex, then his behavioral center, and finally his audio cortex. Then with a quick twist of the tongue we’d click.
Pioneering vampires tried glamouring on broadcast television, not to lure victims, so much as to sell things. The fact that you don’t drive an Edsel is a testament to the limits of those old tube screens. Still they tried throughout the evolution of the medium, but they couldn’t make it happen. So, I thought I’d try my hand.
I was studying neuroscience just for kicks. I convinced my class to do a study on chromesthesia. Chromesthesia is a phenomenon where certain sounds trigger certain colors in certain listeners. My theory was that I could evoke specific images in my subjects, like hypnotic swirls for instance.
I spent months with each subject, reading guided meditation scripts at a soft even pitch, singing Romani folksongs with fast bright tones, and whispering the contents of classmates’ journals.
I explored my subject’s cognitive pathways for days, but each one reacted differently. Each subject had their own color palettes. There was no universal pitch.
I was about to give up when I noticed the effect the sessions were having on my classmates, each of whom were neurotypical. I found them outside the booth rubbing their foreheads on the acoustic panels like they were cats. This happened whenever I’d spent a session whispering. My classmates described an electrostatic sensation, a tingling that ran up their scalps, along their necks, and down their spines.
At the time I thought I’d invented Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (or ASMR), but it turned out Bob Ross had beaten me to it decades in advance. Of course he had, that soft-spoken shaman.
I decided to broaden the experiment. I chose a medium outside of the FCC’s jurisdiction where a live audience was guaranteed to be watching. I started webcamming.
Being a camgirl reminded me of my days as a zoetrope trollop. I was back in tiny top hats, leotards, and corsets, but I wasn’t showing much skin, I was whispering fantasies into a microphone. In this scenario I was a starving vampiress in desperate need of a donor, and I would do anything, I mean anything, for a few drops. Don’t make me beg.
I lured subjects into private chats, met them under bridges, and brought their fantasies to their logical conclusions.
Satisfied with my findings I decided to harness the power of the net to find the Chateau Rothschild of the vampire palette: the blood of virgins, but where would I get it?
That’s when I discovered Incels. Incels were a community of virgins who came together to vent about being involuntarily celibate. It was like finding a cellar lined with preserves that would never expire.
I used my earnings camming to buy targeted advertisements aimed at Incels. Before long I was as drunk as a tick on top shelf hemoglobin.
So satisfied was I that I left my suitors with a little parting gift. I glamoured them, leaned in close, and whispered. “If anyone asks, you totally got fucked tonight.”
MY INTIMATE DETAILS
I have never been in love. Now I’m no virgin (I’m as far from that as Pluto is the sun), but I’ve never been in romantic love. I’ve drafted sex contracts with a haematophiliacs, embraced archduke elders in citadel spires, and forged blood bonds with strangers, but I’ve never entered into the kind of union described by Jane Austen. I have never felt truly known or accepted by another conscious creature, human or otherwise.
The problem with dating vampires is, well, everything.
We’re polyamorous pansexuals and yet our jealousy is legendary. We’re fickle fashionistas who wear lovers like accessories AND we’re ageist against anyone with less than a century under their belts.
“Oh, you charmed child of Tesla, that stack of tree leavings is what’s known as an encyclopedia.”
First dates with vampires always devolve into the same old ghoulish gibberish. We lie about all the bloodshed we’ve witnessed. We wave macabre merit badges and walk away knowing nothing intimate.
Meanwhile the problem with dating mortals is the hours they keep. We’ll be like ships passing in the night unless my partner is an air traffic controller. When a morning person switches to my routine, they get jetlag on the ground, they contract seasonal depression in the summer time, and they start jonesing for the sun.
Oh, and humans have to eat. Their whole culture is built around it: lunch meetings, dinner dates, brunch. Too bad I don’t own a microwave, utensils, or even a bowl. Worse still my culinary skills start and stop at boiling a potato.
My modeling career ended in that alley back in Whitechapel. Not only had my reflection disappeared, but my image stopped showing up on filmstock. It turns out film contains silver. Silver burns vampires and yet we don’t burn onto it.
It wasn’t until digital cameras hit the market that I could see my face.
I’d forgotten how bushy my eyebrows were, or how my ears peeked through my hair. Not to mention my bulb nose. Then there were the details I didn’t remember. My caramel skin had gone gray, my curly locks had straightened, and my fangs had changed the shape of my lips.
For the longest time my fashion sense was utilitarian: black halter tops and skinny jeans, like Joan Jett on a lazy Sunday. That changed when my webcam turned my TV into a full-length mirror. I started wearing more flair than just a choker.
MY PERFECT MATCH
In addition to never having fallen in love there are two other things I haven’t done. I’ve never had a familiar and I’ve never sired a vampire. I’ll be the first to admit I have issues with the way I was turned: the encounter with Jack the Ripper, the to be abandoned by my master. I chose a life of lukewarm loneliness, because I don’t want to put anyone else through that.
I’ve never had a familiar for the same reason I’ve never had a butler. We Romani are self-sufficient. We’re not used to being waited on. Too many vampires treat their familiars like unpaid interns, dangling the carrot of immortality over their heads.
“I’ll give you eternal life. Provided you pick up my dry cleaning in the meantime.”
Familiars are rarely groomed for the masquerade because they’re rarely turned. They’re glorified gofers, biking with coolers on their backs, hoping their master won’t throw blood bags back at them.
“I asked for type-o negative. This is minestrone.”
“Sorry master I must’ve mixed it up at the deli, which means… Mrs. Clifton got the… uh-oh.”
I don’t need a familiar, a twi-curious role player, or a bondage club fang banger. I need an entrepreneur. A self-made manifestation, like a necromancer, soothsayer, or paranormal podcaster. Someone with an active nightlife. Someone who already conducts their business in the third shift. Someone with the confidence to flirt with death and the kindly manner to open doors for her.
MY IDEAL DATE
My ideal date would be a trek across the Carpathian mountainside, a tour through the seven castles of Transylvania, capped off with a nice scenic sunset, but I’ll take what I can get.
We could shape shift into a pair giant bats and freak out visitors at the Space Needle, go hunting in the subterranean tunnels under Portland, or maybe just have a nice picnic… in the charred skeleton of a deconsecrated church.
It doesn’t matter. I am easy to please so long as you hold my interest, and if you don’t, well, there’s always room for a midnight snack.
In what many of his peers are calling “an inspired choice” author Drew Chial has deleted his current manuscript.
A screenwriter watching Chial from a nearby booth said, “Drew was hunched over his keyboard hammering at the home row, an artisan nearing the end of his creation, when the light bulb must’ve gone off. I couldn’t help but admire the elegant solution he found to his problem.”
A barista behind the espresso machine said, “I could tell when Drew felt that sudden surge of inspiration, because his whole body quivered. He gripped the counter, gritted his teeth, and shouted, ‘God damnit!’ Right at the eureka moment hit.”
William Falkner once told young writers to kill their darlings, to take the conventions they lean too heavily on and heave them into a coffin. Onlookers marveled as Chial murdered his darlings with reckless abandon, selecting his entire document, hitting delete, then tearing the pages out of his memo pad one by one.
“I was going to clap, but as an I.T. professional I knew that Drew had given himself plenty of room to backpedal. He could’ve easily gone back within his document and recovered the previous version. Then Drew raised his laptop up over his head and brought it down hard on the linoleum. The logic board tore through the chassis, like a broken bone, sending the keys everywhere. Still, I held back my applause, because I knew data recovery was still a possibility. That’s when Drew went behind the counter, grabbed an urn of scolding hot coffee, and poured it onto the debris.”
“When Drew tipped that crumpled aluminum enclosure to his lips I didn’t think he’d actually drink from it. But when he guzzled that sludge of circuits and transistors down I knew he was writing on another level than I was.”
Shakespeare once wrote that, “Brevity is the soul of wit and tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes.”
By Shakespeare’s logic Chial has lopped off his gangrene appendages, cauterized the stumps, and left us with a novel that must be clever as fuck.
Every writer wishes they had their own soundproof room. A foam fitted chamber where the only distractions are the scuffling of their clothing, blood swishing in their eardrums, and heartbeats reverberating through their bones. Alas most writers find themselves in cramped into honeycomb habitats where audio pollution is a given. Megaphonic metropolises, with their medical motorcades and high decibel helipads, aren’t planned around clear headspaces.
That’s why so many authors abandon their apartments for the apparent sanctuary of coffeehouses, but there they find all manner of new auditory interference: stockbrokers who don’t know how to modulate their voices, coders beating rhythms into keyboards, and serial venters bending the baristas’ ear.
That’s why it’s so refreshing to hear about a writer who managed to distance himself from all of those distractors. Author Drew Chial has pioneered the perfect technique for establishing his own boundaries and it’s called: being a creep.
“I used to carry a pair of backpacks set one on the stool to my right and one the left, but the staff got wise to what I was doing. That’s when I decided to make myself the reason patrons decided to move on.”
Whether he is letting his gaze linger too long on a young woman, reading over his neighbor’s shoulder, or treating the bar like a standing desk Chial is a master at establishing boundaries.
“When a Tinder date sits down beside me I align my eardrum like an eavesdropping satellite. Then I draw out my expressions like I’m giving their date the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment in my mind. I start typing when they get quiet, but it’s always the same thing over and over again: All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.”
It’s this mastery of non-verbal communication that allows Chial to get his work done.
“I’ve got a secret weapon to manage all manner of personal space invaders.”
He has a sack full of airline liquor bottles to pour into his coffee for whenever an alcoholics anonymous one on one sets up beside him.
Chial keeps attractive women away by staring at the door like a lost deer, theatrically double then triple-taking as people walk in.
“I like to slide on a pair of sunglasses like I’m hiding my eyeline, leave them on the tip of my nose, and wait until the moment we make eye contact. Then I push them up and mouth breath heavily. Do this enough times and you’ll have the bar to yourself. Oh, and keep a DSLR camera on the counter. I don’t know why, but that also works.”
Chial even has a tactic for dealing with other creeps.
“The hardest bubble-burster to deal with is another writer. They’re already in their own little world, only vaguely aware of the lunacy in their periphery. That’s why I bust out my restless legs and play my swivel seat like a percussion instrument. From the footrest to the the counter I am a blur. It took a while to hone this skill. The first few times it felt like I was running a marathon, but now I never skip a leg day. I practice with a double kickdrum peddle at home. Whenever a fellow writer makes the mistake of entering my domain I just cue up my headphones and tap out some Norwegian death metal.”
You may have noticed that Chial’s revolutionary boundary defining methods are catching on. A fleet of creeps have spread throughout the nation’s coffee houses, utilizing Chial’s self-care techniques. So the next to you see someone in shades, panting like a dog in heat as you make your order, give them their space. They’ve got writing to do.
Too many horror writers insist on gendering their demons. Intrepid incubi gallop down gothic hallways, while sultry succubi scurry up satin sheets. Beasts have balls. Ghouls have gaps, but one progressive author is challenging all that.
Drew Chial sketched a bipedal figure in his notebook. Its hair, shoulders, and hips were obscured in shadow. Drew traced the rounded edges. “I don’t want readers to have a clue what the monster is. I want it to be a vague alien threat, something salivating at the end of the corridor. If I tell you what the monster’s sex organs are you’ll have that much more of an understanding and find it less frightening.”
Readers are conditioned to make assumptions about monsters’ gender identities, because grammar dictates it so. The millipede of meat that’s winding up the spiral staircase is either a ‘he’ or a ‘she,’ but our assumptions about this arthropod’s identity are problematic.
Chial is challenging the linguistic illuminati one pronoun at a time.
“I thought I could just find all mentions of the word “He” and replace them with “It,” but there were complications. At first I did everything to avoid the monster’s pronouns. For instance: He wrapped his boneless appendage around his victim’s neck, punctured the skull with his talon-tipped tongue, and slurped the brain matter out at his leisure. Became: The creature wrapped a boneless appendage around the corpse’s neck, punctured the skull with a talon-tipped tongue, and slurped the brain matter in slow gulps.”
“The problem was the more I avoided possessive pronouns the clunkier my sentences became. That’s when I started using they, their,andthem.I just had to conjugate the verbs so it was clear I was using ‘they’ in the singular.”
They arethe serpentine silhouette whose secretions scorch the tiles beneath theirfeet.
Theyarethe mouth breathing mutant dragging a robe of cobwebs behind their back.
Theyare the humongous hunchback whose plates scrape the ceiling above them.
Edgar Allan Poe described his ghosts as phantasmagorical shadows, existing beyond the veil of perception. The narrators that spotted one of these phantoms, could never fully comprehend them. Chial has modernized Poe’s method by obscuring his creature’s genitals. Maybe the monster is gendered. Maybe it’s agender. Maybe it’s intersex or maybe it’s chimerical, something that shifts sexes right before its victim’s eyes. Whichever the case Chial has bypassed the audience’s prejudice by eliminating the patriarchal paradigm.
“I’ve been trying to refer to my monsters as ‘They’ for a while now, but Microsoft Word’s grammar function kept imposing ‘He’ or ‘She’ on me, but I’ve upgraded to the 2019 edition and those little green underlines are gone. Still, Word 2019 has a ways to go. It still autocorrects ‘themself’ to ‘themselves’ forcing me to type it twice.”
Hopefully the people at Microsoft will heed Chial’s words and stop trying to dictate which pronouns paranormal entities can use. Software publishers need to understand that language is fluid as are many swamp creatures. Language needs to evolve as a show of respect to underrepresented people AND to accommodate a horror writer’s desire to enshroud his monsters in mystery.
Local author Ryan Nilsson was struggling to reach his wordcount goals when a stranger tapped him on the shoulder. She said, “Hi, I’m Riley,” and extended her hand. “You must be Kevin.”
“Riley was beautiful, outgoing, and most likely farsighted.”
Before Ryan knew what he was doing he was shaking Riley’s hand and she was parking in the seat beside him. Riley looked around the room, like a secret agent checking for a tail. Her face turned red as she turtled into her collar. “Sorry. This is the first one of these online things I’ve been on.”
“Me too.” Ryan concurred.
“Really? Oh, good, so it’s not just me. What are you working on?”
Ryan recalls he crisis of conscience. “I saw the conversation branch into two distinct paths. One where I fessed up that I wasn’t Kevin and another where I pitched my novel in vivid detail. I’d resolved to tell her the premise and the make my exit, then she leaned in with those big bright eyes and asked the three words every writer longs to hear, ‘Then what happens.’ So I kept going until I was in too deep.”
When it occurred to Ryan that the real Kevin must be right around the corner he packed up his laptop, ready to make a swift albeit awkward get away. That’s when Riley suggested a charming restaurant around the corner.
“I got swept up in her enthusiasm.”
When the hostess sat the couple in a booth by the bar Riley realized something and cupped her hands over her mouth. “Oh my God, I’m so sorry. I just remembered you don’t drink.”
“I was quick to surmise that the real Kevin was two years sober, a diabetic, and vegan.”
Ryan kept Riley talking while he struggled to cobble together an order.
“The menu was a mine field.”
Ryan read things aloud non-committedly and Riley shot them down.
“That has feta cheese.”
“Fried Brussel sprouts.”
“It looks like they fry them in fish sauce.”
“Don’t you know that diet soda is really bad for diabetes?”
Riley left her phone on the table when she went to consult with the hostess about the menu. A series of texts from Kevin streamed down the screen.
Is this the right place?
Where are you?
Ryan spat out his gum, pressed into a fingerprint Riley left on her glass and used the impression to unlock her phone. He discreetly blocked Kevin’s number and entered his own under Kevin’s name.
“When Riley came back I settled on the field greens salad and a water, but it was the steak frites and the Sazerac that were calling to me.”
Throughout the meal Ryan did his best to keep the conversation on Riley’s side of the table.
“I assumed Kevin had already cycled through the basics: favorite bands, places to travel, career goals, and all that, so I had to get a little more abstract.”
Ryan combed over his salad and asked. “What was the weirdest thing you saw this week?”
As it turned out Riley was studying abnormal psychology and she had seen quite a bit. “I was reading a study on the bystander effect. The subjects were sorted into large groups and small groups then one actor in each group pretended to have a seizure. People in the small groups tried to help, but people in the large groups pretty much let the actor drop dead.”
Ryan had come across the same study doing research for his writing. The conversation became game of ping pong with Riley serving up the unethical experiment and Ryan hitting back with how he’d already fictionalized it.
“I had no idea Yoga instructors were so well versed in clinical psychology.”
Ryan nodded, swished the water around his mouth, and took his time formulating a response. “Oh yeah, with all the mindfulness there’s a ton of overlap.”
“It’s refreshing to see you’re not adverse to the scientific side of things. I was afraid you were going to be much more metaphysical.”
Ryan and Riley had a lot in common, but scrolling through Kevin’s Facebook profile in the bathroom Ryan found he and Kevin did not. “We have similar hairstyles until you look at Kevin from the side profile and you see the manbun.”
The real Kevin was also not as science friendly as Riley had hoped. Ryan reported. “I was less than one page down before I stumbled upon an anti-vaxxer meme, two pages when I found a video questioning the moon landing, and I’m pretty sure the Dalai Lama never said, ‘Depression is a choice.’”
After a few slices of gluten free carrot cake the couple set out for Riley’s apartment for a non-alcoholic nightcap. When they passed the coffee house where Riley’s date was supposed to take place Ryan positioned himself to obscure the real Kevin’s view. When Riley knelt to tie her shoe Ryan knelt with his back to the window, lengthening his coat like privacy curtains.
The couple capped off their evening with two cups of chamomile tea and a sleepy eyed conversation about how worried they’d been about the evening with Ryan drawing from previous blind dates for inspiration.
At a certain point Riley propped her cheek up in her hand. “Here I was fretting I’d have buyer’s remorse, but you’re like the opposite of that. You’re like pride in ownership.” Riley yawned. “That came out wrong.”
Ryan didn’t pressure Riley for a farewell kiss. He didn’t insist they plan out their next date, nor did he linger beyond his welcome. He hugged Riley goodnight and showed himself out. He was a perfect gentlemen apart from that whole grand deception thing.
At the time of this writing Ryan is rigorously preparing for his second date, learning vegan recipes, studying yoga, and surveying the best colognes for covering the smell of alcohol. Behind the scenes he’s been forging a Facebook profile for his interpretation of Kevin, populating it with fake friends, and scientifically positive memes. He’s also been tracking the real Kevin, getting a sense of Kevin’s favorite places so he and Riley can avoid those parts of town.
On this day several decades ago my parents attended a ceremony in the woods between the graveyard and their newfound home. They knew the moon was waxing despite the overcast and they wore but wolfskins despite the chill of autumn. They were drawn off the trail by an chorus of windchimes and a network of twine. They came upon a clearing marked by stacks of stones. There they found the local homeowners association pacing in a circle muttering in tongues. Each member wore an identical wolf skin and each one held an old oil lantern high above them.
At the center of the circle was a long stone slab jutting from the earth like a comet. It was lined with objects of power: ruin covered relics, gemstones, and pendants. My parents took their places at the base and the head of the slab. There they were blindfolded and told to listen for the object that called to them. My father says he heard a flute. My mother says she heard a bell.
My father reached for something cold and cylindrical. When he lifted his blindfold he saw a jar full of grass stems. When he raised it a dozen green lights flickered awake. One of the homeowners had captured and cultivated fireflies over the long humid summer.
My mother reached for an object and recoiled. She felt her fingertip and found it wet with blood. It turned out the object that was calling to her was a long curved dagger.
The homeowners association instructed my parents to use these objects to procure a sacrifice before the new day’s sun came creeping over the horizon. My father twisted the lid off of the jar and set the fireflies free. Together he and my mother followed the lights into the thicket.
One deer carcass later and the night was won. I’ll spare you the gory details. Suffice to say the stone slab was red before dawn. The blood trickled and pooled onto the earth below where two tiny hands emerged from the dirt and viscera. My manger was a circle of rock salt at the foot of the slab. I wasn’t born so much as I was summoned and I didn’t cry so much as exhaled smoke rings.
Oh, and the hit single on my birthday was Endless Loveby Dianna Ross and Lionel Richie.
Every day author Drew Chial hikes 25 miles to ensure his novel HE HAS MANY NAMES has a place of prominence in every little free library across the city of Minneapolis Minnesota.
“I started carrying these microfiber gloves to make sure my magnum opus doesn’t look like it’s been gathering dust.”
While most of the Dan Brown and James Patterson titles stand spine to spine Chial positions HE HAS MANY NAMES with the cover facing outward.
“I want the occult iconography and Andy Warhol color scheme to bedevil readers into exploring further. HE HAS MANY NAMES? Ooh. Who might that be?”
This Monday Chial’s efforts finally paid off.
“My blistered bunions bore fruit! I couldn’t help myself. I took a selfie next to the gap where my novel used to be. My mother said she could barely recognize me. I’ve never looked so happy.”
While many think pieces are lamenting the death of the novelist Chial is an entrepreneur in a changing literary landscape.
“I went to Barnes and Noble with a trench coat lined with copies of HE HAS MANY NAMES. I’d slit holes in the coat so I could leave stacks in the endcaps. I didn’t even have to take my hands out of the pockets. I’d snatch a handful of copies of The Secretand leave my little devil book in its place. A week later I’d check on my contribution to the store’s visual merchandising. At first I was overjoyed to see that every copy of my book was gone, until I found a stack beside the dumpster with torn covers. That’s when I realized publishers paid to have their books featured on those endcaps. HE HAS MANY NAMES didn’t have a chance next to John Grisham or Khloe Kardashian so I went back to the white board and got to brain storming.”
Lightning must have struck because if Monday’s news is any indication all 300 hundred copies of HE HAS MANY NAMES Chial in little libraries throughout the city are about to be snatched up.
Chial hosted a celebration at the Minneapolis Marriott banquette hall to commemorate his victory. He toasted all 150 authors in attendance. “Neil Gaiman once said, “The model for tomorrow is… to try everything. Make mistakes. Surprise ourselves. Try anything else.’ And that my friends and colleges is exactly what I have done today.” Chial raised a glass of Dom Perignon. “To me!”