My horror novella Terms and Conditions is now on Bandcamp! Find out what happens when an artist accidentally sells his inspiration to the devil.
Download the audio from Bandcamp:
These last few winters, the arctic chill has given me a good reason to stay in, to sink into my introversion. I’ve made a habit of hibernating, stocking up on movies and curling up to the warm glow of a TV screen. Come spring time, my prolonged isolation makes it hard for me to reenter society. Real people don’t talk like they do in the movies.
This spoken word mantra is my attempt to break myself of this habit, to brave the cold and do something with my nights, to stop waiting for the groundhog to give me the all clear, to help kick old man winter in the keister. I hope you enjoy it.
Instagram finally has some competition: an image sharing application programed by demons, setting out to torment users through touch screens, cursing cameras, and casting voodoo onto viewfinders. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, this photo viewer sees exactly what makes users so impure.
This is an invitation to hear a sales pitch from another dimension. A place where the technology we take for granted takes more than we bargained for. A place of vanity and disappear. Tune in, because the advertisement you’re about to listen to is coming straight from the Twilight Zone.
Even though this piece has the city of Minneapolis in the title, it could take place anywhere, anywhere artists sacrifice their standard of living in pursuit of their dreams, anywhere they persist despite all their failures, anywhere hope is in a shorter supply than fear. This is for those of us who feel like we’re on the tip of a hungry tongue, waiting to be chewed up and spat out. Continue reading In the Mouth of Minneapolis (Audio Short)
Just in time for Halloween, comes five flash fiction stories about modern monsters taken out of their element. Each one is dark, fiendish, and utterly comedic.
Be sure to check out part 1, right here.
Pinhead finds the Rubik’s Cube
At this point the Rubik’s Cube wasn’t a threat to Theodor’s intellect. It was a threat to his masculinity. The orange side had been solid for half an hour. The other colors refused to go along with the program. His solution was to drink more wine.
Theodor randomly twisted the puzzle until he managed to make a blue T shape. He reverse engineered the process and replicated it on the other sides. He turned the bottom until he made a red cross. Another strategy came to him while he dug into the lower corners. He downed his glass and applied this method everywhere.
All that was left were a few straggling colors on the edges. Turns out, these were the bastards of the bunch.
Theodor chucked the cube into the fireplace, topped off his glass, and struggled to get the cube out without searing his fingers. He’d beat this thing, even if he had to get creative.
Several glasses passed. When Theodor turned the final piece into place the room began to shake. The chandelier swung back and forth, scattering crystalline patterns across the room. Either Theodor was drunk or there was something wrong with the shadows the lights were casting. Those dark spots didn’t stop at the walls, they pushed through them, making holes, holes that grew with the swaying of the chandelier. The pendulum motion eroded the room, revealing four long caverns beneath the bricks.
Theodor peered in to see four figures approaching. They were dressed like clergymen in some kind of bondage gear. There skin was pallid, the color of death. As they neared, the light revealed tears in their garments where fresh wounds gushed in torrents.
A hulking creature entered the room. The skin of his upper lip was stretched over his head. His teeth chattered. A bald, but feminine figure, entered beside him. She had a ornamental tracheotomy with wires holding her throat open for all the world to see. A mountain of blubber crossed the room to join them. His eyes were sewn shut. The gashes in his chest were wide open, basting his belly in blood.
The trio made room for a final figure, who took his time stepping into the light. There were slits in his robes where a network of piercings zigzagged across his chest. His face was covered in a grid of pins, meticulously hammered into his skull.
Theodor fell over the arm of the chair he’d been sitting in. “Who are you? What are you doing here?”
Pinhead stepped forward. “We are connoisseurs of suffering, looking for fresh gashes to suit our palates. You solved the Rubik’s Configuration and we came, so that you too may taste our pleasures.”
Theodor ducked behind the chair. “No thanks, we’re all good on pleasure here. Feel free to leave the way you came in.”
The female licked her lips. “This one teases, claiming ignorance.” Her throat opened and closed as she spoke.
Pinhead reached out. The cube flew into his grip. “We cannot return alone, not without some fresh flesh.”
Theodor pointed over the armrest. “There’s some ground chuck in the fridge. Help yourself.”
Suddenly, the chair filled with a series of hooks. They linked to chains that drooped from the ceiling.
With a flick of the wrist Pinhead flung the chair across the room. Twirling his fingers he directed the chains into a holding pattern over Theodor’s head.
Pinhead passed the cube from hand to hand. “All right, you’ve whet our appetite. The time has come for the main course.”
Raising his hand to direct the hooks, Pinhead noticed a red square shaped sticker on the tip of his finger. He examined the Rubik’s Cube. It was missing something. “Did you peel some of these blocks off and switch them around?”
Theodor tried to speak through panicked breaths. “Does, does that matter?”
Pinhead spun around on his heel. “Cenobites, return to the Labyrinth.”
The female balled her hands into fists. “But he solved the box, we must play with him, pierce his flesh, draw his pain out into exquisite pleasure.”
Pinhead shook his head. “It doesn’t count. He cheated.”
Pinhead tossed the counterfeit cube at Theodor’s feet. Then they were gone.
The Clowns of America International Vs. Pennywise
Pennywise was already gnawing on the microphone by the time the attorney for the plaintiff approached the bench.
She folded her glasses. “Now that was a fine story. If this was the first time I’d heard of Pennywise: the dancing clown bringing balloons to kids at the hospital, I’d say you were a hero.”
The defense attorney shot up. “Objection: badgering.”
The judge twirled her finger at the attorney for the plaintiff. “Get to the point.”
The attorney tongued the inside of her cheek. “Could you tell the court what those balloons were filled with?”
Pennywise fluttered his eyes. “Blood, but that’s just because helium is so unhealthy for young lungs. Still, my balloons float. They all float down here.”
The attorney nodded, unfazed. “In addition to offering laughter therapy, what are your other contributions to the hospital?”
Pennywise straightened his posture. “I deliver bodies to the morgue when the staff is occupied.” He smiled showing a mouth full of shark’s teeth.
The attorney grabbed a folder of her desk. Six hobo clowns sat at the table, gripping their bindles in anger.
The attorney waved a document. “Isn’t it true that under your watch at St. John’s, seven bodies went missing?”
The defense attorney slapped their desk. “Objection: speculation.”
The judge rolled her eyes. “Sustained.”
The attorney for the plaintiff approached the bench. “Permission to treat the witness as hostile.”
“On what basis?”
The attorney looked to the demon clown, leering at her with those glowing amber eyes.
“He keeps flashing his fangs at me.”
The judge looked to the stand to find Pennywise pulling a series of knotted snakes out of his pocket, discarding the slithering pile on the courtroom floor.
She nodded to the attorney. “Okay, I’ll allow it.”
The attorney for the plaintiff waved a document in Pennywise’s face. “Isn’t it true that you were the nurse responsible for delivering each of the missing bodies?”
Making puppy dog eyes, Pennywise shift his head back and forth. “May-haps.”
“So what happened to those bodies?”
The court erupted in laughter. Pennywise honked his nose and gave the gallery a little wave.
The judge struck her gavel. “Order! Order!”
The attorney snapped her fingers to get Pennywise’s attention. “Are you familiar with the term coulrophobia?”
The clown shook his head. “Nyuk-nyuk.”
“It means fear of clowns.” The attorney motioned to the frowning hobos behind her table. “Clowns like the Clowns of America international, who feel misrepresented when someone claiming to be one of them takes a position in a children’s ward with the sole purpose of feasting on cadavers.”
Pennywise yawned, plucked out his eyes, and started juggling. “I get peckish, after a couple of cartwheels. So sue me.”
The attorney for the plaintiff waved her hands over the clown’s empty eye sockets. “Um, Mr. Pennywise, that’s exactly what we’re doing here.”
Nosferatu Goes on a Cruise
The passengers should have known something was wrong when they found bathrobes in the ballroom, slippers in the internet café, and jewelry in the buffet.
It wasn’t until crew members vanished in the middle of their duties that people started complaining. Barbers left men with shaving cream dripping down their beards. Estheticians left facial masks to harden. Acupuncturists left patients full of pins. It was like they’d gone out for smoke breaks and never came back again.
No one noticed when the DJ went missing, because his playlist kept right on going. No one thought much of the skull in the miniature golf course, it fit the pirate motif, everyone just played around it. No one noticed the Blue Man Group’s changing lineup, but when passengers came for an encore performance of the onboard musical, they were surprised to find the entire cast had been replaced with their understudies.
At night, passengers said they saw a strange shadow on the jogging track: a hunchback with ears like a bat. Others reported seeing something in the spa, waiting beneath the bubbles: a pale face with glowing yellow eyes and big buckteeth. Others saw the figure in the atrium, in a long black coat, riding the elevator up and down. It kept its hollow sunken gaze fixed on them.
The ship’s final meditation session was cut short when a passenger opened her eyes to find the person next to her with a gaping neck wound.
The chief security officer couldn’t deny it any longer. They were riding with a killer. The C.S.O. set a sundown curfew. The crew found his remains smeared across the corridor: his severed arm still hanging from the railing, his fingers discarded in potted plants, his head yawning inside a life preserver. What little flesh remained was lathered in pepper spray. It seemed like he sprayed his attacker and they acquired a taste for it.
That night, the creature stalked from cabin to cabin, smearing blood across the port holes, drenching luxury linens, and brutalizing mini bars.
The communications officer tried to contact the mainland, but something had gnawed through the equipment. The crew found his mangled corpse on top of the funnel, surrounded by discharged flare guns. When they discovered burn marks on the upper decks, they realized he was firing at someone.
By the time the wave pool ran red with blood, it was too late for everyone. The masts filled with bodies, with the flesh stripped down to their calf implants.
The few survivors barricaded themselves in the crew’s quarters. They were forced to make a last stand when one of them moved some of the wreckage to retrieve her Botox injections.
By the time the toilets overflowed with sewage, there was no one left to complain. The ship was a ghost, haunted by a stowaway who slept between the engines. He hid in the dark and waited for the vessel to run aground.
Freddy Krueger has that Dream Again
Freddy watched his prey from the shadows of the Nightmare Factory. The kid was a bookish little dweeb, in a tweed jacket with leather patches. When the kid walked through a steam vent the pressure revealed his teenage combover.
Freddy’s guttural laughter echoed off the equipment. He chuckled until he felt something on his tongue, like a piece of gravel that fell in while his mouth was open.
Freddy swished it around. It felt like his cheeks were full of stones. When he spit them out he saw they were actually teeth. When he tongued the holes in his gums he felt a set of fresh molars coming in. They too fell from their sockets. When Freddy spit again a tooth got stuck inside his gullet.
Freddy coughed, but it wouldn’t come out. He slit his throat, catching the tooth in his glove. It was too large to fit in his face, like a toy a dentist would keep on his desk.
He smirked. “Well, that was Freudian.”
Freddy usually dug through his prey’s subconscious, pulling out props, costumes, and sets, but this kid was pushing things onto him, a white blood cell attacking a virus. The dweeb had himself a powerful imagination.
Freddy had to assert his dominance. He listened to the factory floor, hearing footfalls around the corner. He turned to find his quarry just beyond the brim of his tattered fedora.
The kid squeaked at the sight of Freddy’s charred peeling face. Freddy opened his glove, flashing the blades that made up his fingers. He ran them along the pipes, drawing out sparks, leaving steam in his wake.
The dweeb sprinted down the tunnel, charging right through the Door of Dread. Sunlight shined over the threshold, casting the boilers in an awkward light. The little runt was already leading the way to his deepest fear.
Freddy ran through the door to find himself in a high school class room. The students burst into laughter at the sight of him. Usually, the dream demon had full reign over the extras in the nightmares he was running, but these kids were improvising.
The teacher removed her spectacles. “Mr. Krueger. Where are your clothes?”
Freddy looked down to find he was wearing his glove and nothing else. His burnt skin was exposed. “I must have forgotten them.”
She rolled her eyes. “I trust you remembered to study for your final exam?”
Freddy scanned the students’ faces. Sure enough, the dweeb sat in the back of the classroom, hiding when he should’ve ran. Freddy made a beeline for him, when the teacher grabbed his arm. He spun around to slice her belly, only to find his claws padded with apples.
The teacher plucked one off and directed Freddy to his desk.
Freddy turned to sneer at the sniveling twerp, who was holding onto his pencil for dear life.
“Eyes on your own paper, Mr. Krueger.” The teacher snapped.
Fine, he’d play along. If only to let the little bastard twist in the wind.
Freddy read the first question:
“12 friends agree to stand guard while the others sleep in shifts. They assume that everyone will need a minimum of 4 hours of sleep. School starts in 6 hours. How many groups will they need to break into if only 1 group volunteers to take 2 separate sets of 2 hour naps?”
Freddy sliced through the page, reducing the desk to splinters.
“Something wrong with your test, Mr. Krueger?” The teacher folded her arms.
Freddy shot up, “Listen here, you stupid bitch. I’m about to give you an education in pain–”
The teacher pulled a lever on her desk. The tiles fell out from under Freddy’s feet. He found himself falling through the clouds right beside his prey.
Freddy shouted. “Seriously kid, we go from losing teeth, showing up to school naked, to falling through the sky?”
The dweeb flailed his arms. “What’s your point?”
Freddy shrugged. “Nothing. I just had you pegged for a writer and this all seems rather uninspired.”
The dweeb nodded. “Oh, I am a writer. I’m just kind of a hack.”
Freddy shrugged. “Fair enough. Hey, which would you rather fall into: a pit of snakes or a pit of spikes?”
Weighing his options, the dweeb cocked his head. “Surprise me.”
Beetlejuice Messes with the Ghost Hunters
Steve, Jason, Adam, and Amy huddled around their audio equipment.
At first, the Ghost Hunters assumed a radio signal had bled onto their electronic voice recordings, but when the playback said, “Hey buddy, did the redhead come with you or is that cherry ripe for the picking?” they changed their minds.
Upon reviewing the audio the team discovered the same grizzled voice answering all their questions. Back at the old mansion they’d waved their micro-recorders in the air. At the time they heard nothing, but now this entity sounded like it was speaking right into them.
Steve’s voice blared over the speakers. “If you’d like to communicate, please complete the following rhythm.” On site, Steve had knocked on a wall to the beat of Shave and a Haircut, stopping just shy of Two Bits.
No one recalled hearing anything at the Deetz estate, but on the recording the entity didn’t just complete the rhythm, he sang along, “Shave and a haircut, no shit.”
Usually they had to loop an EVP over and over again, picking each word out of the static until the answers made sense, but this voice, grizzled as it was, came through loud and clear.
There was a piercing whistle. Adam jumped back from the audio equipment.
The whistle was followed by a full marching band stomping through a can-can with the brass section blaring and the cymbals crashing.
Steve turned to Amy.
“Is that Offenbach?”
Amy nodded, it was.
The grizzled voice returned with a southern drawl. “Come on down to the grand opening of Beetlejuice’s Emporium of the Paranormal. We’ve got your residual hauntings, we’ve got your poltergeists. Demons? We got ‘em. Every suite comes with HBO, vibrating beds, and a portal to a dark oblivion. Spend the night and get a wake up call from a shadow person.”
Adam paused the tape. “This has to be a joke, right?”
Amy shook her head. “The EMF meter spiked in that room.”
Adam’s finger hovered over the play button. “Yeah, but there was something strange and unusual about that home owner. Miss Lydia Deetz, she was talking to herself the entire time we were there. She could’ve had an earpiece tuned into a confidant who was jamming our equipment.”
Amy didn’t buy it. “Did you get cellular reception in that house?”
“No, but come on, ghosts don’t know about paranormal investigators, let alone advertise to them.” Adam hit play.
On the recording, Steve asked, “What do you want?”
The music faded back in behind the voice. “Beetlejuice is the name, and all I want is to hear you say it. What’s that Walter White?” The voice shift into a spot on impression of actor Bryan Cranston. “Say… my… name.” Then it shift back. “What’s that Florence and the Machine?” A woman sang, “Say my name” dragging out the last note on the word “name.” Then it shift back. “What’s that Destiny’s Child?” Three female voices harmonized. “Say my name, say my name. When no one is around you, say Beetlejuice I love you.”
Beetlejuice’s southern drawl came back thicker than before. “That’s right, all you gotta do is say my name. Not once, not twice, but three times and admission is on me.”
There was a horn like a New Year’s noisemaker.
“Come on down to Beetlejuice’s Emporium of the Paranormal. Bring your unwed teenage daughters for a free season pass. It’s beetle mania.”
Before anyone could debate it, Amy did as he instructed.
“Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice.”
The studio’s fluorescent lights flickered off. A spotlight blinked on in the center of the room.
Beetlejuice boomed over the speakers. “Ladies and gentleman, please welcome your host with the most, a man who thinks The Exorcist was a comedy. If you haven’t had him inside you, then you haven’t been possessed. Here’s… Beetlejuice.”
The figure slid into the light decked out in a striped suit. His long thin hair flowed behind him. His eyes were encircled in dark spots. His smile revealed a set of yellow teeth.
Beetlejuice threw is arms open and his palms burst into flames.
After getting a lot requests for prints of my art I decided to open a store on REDBUBBLE where you can find prints and a whole lot more.
Just in time for Halloween, comes four flash fiction stories about classic monsters in compromising positions. Each one is dark, fiendish, and a bit more risqué than my usual fare, but those aren’t the only things they have in common…
Dracula Gets a Checkup
Dracula worked the thermometer between his canines. When he took it out it read seventy-degrees. The mirror over the sink hung open, reflecting an indentation where the vampire was sitting. He slammed it shut.
Maybe one of those bright young things from last night was into holistic skincare. He or she could’ve covered a zit in garlic. It could’ve run down his or her neck. Maybe he or she played a little too rough, threw out a tendon and rubbed garlic on to keep the inflammation down. Maybe it was still on his or her breath when he or she swapped tongues. That’s the trouble with masked affairs, you never know what you’re going to get.
Lying on the exam table, Dracula replayed the masquerade in his head. He did an inventory of everyone he’d touched and everyone who’d touched him. He counted bodies on his fingers. The longer he waited the heavier his eyes got. When he woke up the walls were covered in plastic.
A doctor stood over him in a hazmat suit. “Mr. Alucard?”
Dracula sat up.
The doctor flipped through a chart. “It’s not food poisoning.”
Dracula sighed. His bright red eyes traced the borders of the hermetic bubble. “What’s all this then?”
The doctor ran his glove down a long list. “When the blood work came back, you tested positive for a couple of things.”
Dracula examined his hand. “It’s not silver poisoning is it?”
All those buckles and gags from last night, he’d just assumed they were stainless steel.
The doctor consulted his chart. “Argyria? No, but you did test positive for diphtheria, malaria, measles, polio, and typhoid fever, but it was the smallpox that got you on the CDC’s radar.”
Dracula stroked his chin.
“Mr. Alucard, have you visited any virology labs recently?”
Dracula shrugged. “Not that I can recall.”
The doctor’s mask did little to conceal his skeptical squint. “Think on it. There’s two places you could’ve contracted it. Maybe you can remember if the guards spoke English or Russian?”
Dracula twiddled his talons. “I haven’t been to the motherland in a long time.”
The doctor nodded. “Okay, that narrows it down. Do you recall wandering into any subterranean layers sometime this week?”
Dracula clicked his nails together. “The bondage dungeon might have been underground.”
“I was blindfolded, escorted by a choke chain through a field of glass, nails, and razor wire.” Dracula shook his head. “All and all, it was a pretty tepid affair.”
The doctor nodded matter-of-factly. “Do you think you might have come into contact with any bodily fluids at this gathering?”
Dracula chuckled. “Might have? I was swimming in them.”
The doctor tapped his fingers to the muzzle of his mask. “Now this is important, do you think any blood might have gotten into your mouth?”
Dracula looked to his feet. They dangled over the exam table. “Well, I do partake from time to time.”
The doctor dropped his chart. “How long have you been drinking blood?”
Dracula tilted his head back and forth. “Since, maybe say, the rise of the Ottomans.”
The doctor threw his hands up, walked to the border of the bubble, and turned on his heel. “Mr. Alucard, you might not want to give me a straight answer, but the CDC will want to know all about your bondage and bloodletting gathering. If you can’t tell me where it was, can you at least tell me the name of the group who was running it?”
Dracula was already shaking his head when the answer came to him. He snapped his fingers. “The Aristocrats.”
Frankenstein’s Monster inquires about his Donors
Victor watched the monster gaze beyond the balcony. The creature seemed less interested in the village below than the stars above. “Father, where did I come from?”
Victor joined his creation. He swirled a large glass of wine. “I thought that was self-explanatory. You were stitched together from dead bodies.”
The monster squeezed his forearm, feeling for the place where the threading linked it to his bicep. “Yes, but where did these pieces come from?”
Victor gurgled the wine in his mouth, before gulping it down. “Well son, there once was a family of traveling performers…”
The parents were escape artists and magicians, while the children specialized in gymnastics and juggling.
They wandered from town to town, chasing traveling circuses. Every time they caught up with one they performed for the management and every time they were left in the dust behind the caravan. Until one day the father came up with an act so stupendous he knew the next traveling show would have to hire them.
Back then, I was not the surgeon I am today. I’d spent my residency giving first aid to carnies: treating animal bites, scorched throats, and unspeakable sexual maladies. I happened to be in the management’s office when the traveling family came.
The father was a born hustler, promising fear, intrigue, and titillation while his wife, son and daughter stood with frozen smiles behind him. Management tapped his pocket watch. That’s when the father reached into his sack and pulled out a pair of axes. We examined the blades while his family brought out axes of their own.
At first they simply passed their axes back and forth, like hot potatoes, but then they started heaving them, working themselves up to a fluid motion. Soon the entire family was juggling.
When the first blade slipped it claimed the young man’s arm. Fluid shot out of the wound in angry bursts. The boy bit his lip without making a sound. His father instructed him to use the pain. The lad powered through until he collapsed. We figured it was part of the act, because the others kept their axes in play without so much as batting an eye at their fallen family member.
It wasn’t long before an ax chopped off the daughter’s leg. Now she must have been a tightrope walker in an earlier incarnation of their show, because she hobbled along on one foot without missing a beat. Her fresh stump sprayed blood into management’s spectacles. He worked the droplets in his fingers, tasting them.
I’d suspected blood tubes and prosthetic limbs, but when the stench of rotten meat hit, I doubted my hypothesis.
When the young woman collapsed her parents kept her remaining blade in play. They now had six between them. The few seconds where they kept those axes flying were truly amazing, but it wasn’t long before the father had lopped off his wife’s head and her ax flew straight into his sternum.
Management sat petrified, realizing he’d witnessed something authentic and not some macabre magician’s trick.
My horror was overtaken by my desire. Here I’d been paying grave robbers for fresh corpses when four of them were delivered to my doorstep. The family might not have been the best performers, but they were generous donors.
I was already wrapping up the bodies when the father reached out and grabbed my ankle. Blood gushed over his lips as he drew his last breath.
I don’t know why, but I had to ask him, “What were you planning on calling this grizzly act?”
He smiled faintly and opened his arms wide. “The Aristocrats.” Then his eyes rolled into the back of his head.
The monster peeled back his sleeve to examine his skin He spotted the scars where the axes left their impressions. “Father, I don’t like this story very much.”
Victor nodded into his wine. “You know son, I don’t like you very much.”
The Hunting of the Wolfman
The Wolfman ran through the forest. His pursuers were hot on his heels, breaking twigs, hooting, and hollering. What they lacked in strategy they made up for in numbers. He’d never backed away from a fight before, but there were so many of them in the clearing.
Spotting silhouettes in the moonlight the Wolfman had taken them for a heard of deer. Charging headlong he watched as they stood on their hindquarters. Spinning around he realized he was surrounded by bipedal beasts much like himself.
Their human frames had paws, claws, and big furry ears, but they weren’t werewolves. They were werelions, weretigers and werebears.
A pair of ears rose from the underbrush, followed by whiskers, and big buck teeth. It looked like a giant rabbit feeding on a fox. It was clear, the food chain didn’t apply here.
The Wolfman felt a breeze on his neck. He turned to find a weregiraffe looming over him. He fled before the creature’s hooves could come crashing down.
The Wolfman sprinted downhill. When he heard the sound of rushing water, he thought he was in the clear. There was secret path across the river. Soon the rapids would be between him and his pursuers.
The Wolfman searched the riverbank for a bridge of rocks beneath the water. That’s when a werezebra tackled him. The zebra held him down as a werepig undid his belt.
All of his pursuers rushed out of the woodwork, but rather than snap at his jugular, they feasted on the sight of him. The werezebra bent the Wolfman over as the werepig pulled down his pants. The crowd gasped.
The Wolfman felt his tail wagging in the breeze, a nervous reaction to the situation.
The creatures bickered.
“How is he doing that?”
“Maybe it’s animatronic.”
“Do you recognize that costume?”
“Are you sure this guy’s a furry?”
“If he is, he’s not a member.”
“He’s got to be, we rented every camp ground from the highway to the river.”
The Wolfman snarled. Slobber oozed from his fangs. The werezebra let go.
The Wolfman spun around and bit the pig’s snout clean off. He thought he’d taste blood marinating the raw pork he’d bitten into, instead he tasted cotton. He spat it out when he spotted a wire frame sticking out.
Scanning the other monsters the Wolfman spotted zippers, sneakers, and open butt flaps. The man in the pig costume shuffled back to the group.
The Wolfman tucked his tail between his legs and cleared his throat. “You think I’m a member? Member of what? What do you sick people call yourselves?”
They all spoke in unison. “The Aristocrats.”
Cthulhu Crashes the Monster Mash
The nightwatchman shivered beneath the blanket. One side of his hair was black, the other had gone white. From where I stood his head looked like a Yin-Yang.
He sang, “I was doing my rounds, late last night. When something moved into my flashlight. A creature from the lagoon began to rise. And suddenly to my surprise…”
Then he stopped.
Detective Greywood shined his light in the watchman’s eyes. The poor bastard didn’t blink.
Detective Greywood snapped his fingers. “This is how he’s been answering all our questions. We ask, he takes a few minutes to compose a verse, then he sings. It doesn’t matter if anyone’s around to hear it.”
The watchman perked up. “He did the mash, he did the monster mash. He did the mash, it was a graveyard smash–”
Detective Greywood tugged me out of earshot. “You don’t want that knocking around in your head all day.”
“Was there a verse about a lagoon in the original song?”
“No, I think he’s trying to tell us the assailant emerged from the pond.”
“And the victims?”
Detective Greywood pointed to three sets of tire tracks. “I’m betting these lead to a hole in the fence.”
We followed the tracks to three mountain bikes. One was handlebars deep in the muck, one was wrapped around a headstone, and one was dangling from a willow tree.
“I don’t know art, but I know what I like.” Detective Greywood pointed to a statue in the distance.
Its robes were brown with blood. There were cracks in its sides. Someone had driven severed arms into the granite. The statue’s wings lay in the grass next to its head. Its face had been replaced, presumably, by the heads of all three of our victims. I say, “presumably,” because they were wearing masks.
Detective Greywood tilted his gaze back. “It’s not every day you see a totem pole made from Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolfman.”
I didn’t realize my teeth were chattering until I tried to speak. “It’s got eight arms, like Ganesha.”
Greywood chuckled, “Or an octopus.” He slapped on a pair of latex gloves and pulled something out of one of their hands. “Yoink.”
It was encrusted with blood. I didn’t realize it was a video camera until he opened the viewfinder.
While Greywood watched the video, I investigated the scene behind the statue. There was a makeshift alter made from pizza trays and beach towels, fragments of candles sticking out of wax puddles, and an ancient book. Its leather binding was warped. It almost looked like a face.
“Detective Greywood, I found something.”
Greywood stepped around with his head in the camera. He shut it the moment he spotted the book. “Well well well, old leather face, we meet again.” He pressed his radio. “Call the bomb squad, tell them we need the remote disposal unit.”
“What is that?”
“The remote disposal unit is a robot with tiny metal arms.”
I shook my head. “No, that.”
“That’s the Necronomicon: an account of the old ones and the means to summon them. Open that up and we’ll have tentacles up are asses within the hour.”
“What are you talking about?”
Detective Greywood sighed. “The elder gods created humanity as a punchline to an elaborate joke. Every so often, they like to get into people’s faces and do a little insult comedy.”
I shook my head. “I’m still not following.”
“That book is full of heckles by Abdul Alhazred. Read them and you’ll find yourself in the old one’s spotlight. If the watchman’s song is true those kids summoned one of the ancient water beings.”
Greywood slid the camera into an evidence bag. “These boys were filming themselves reading from it, probably as a framing device for a video full of graveyard BMX tricks.”
A strong gust upended the book. It skipped across the graves and fell open at my feet. The arcane script was so large I could see it from where I was standing.
I still don’t know why I thought I’d understand those words if I read them aloud, but I did. “That is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange aeons even death may die.”
Detective Greywood drew his weapon. “You stupid son of a bitch!”
The cemetery shook. Headstones shot out of the ground like corks. Steam rose from the pond as it boiled over. Tentacles shot out from the water. They wrapped around tree trunks, pulling something up from the depths. Water splashed across the crime scene. A giant figure blotted out the sun.
“Down here, you squid faced bastard!” Detective Greywood kept shooting until he’d emptied his clip.
The book washed up onto my shoes. I felt the pages flipping at my ankles, compelling me to read further. So I did.
“The outer ones, the old ones, and the sunken ones will come together, a cosmic collective of indescribable power, and you shall know terror by its true moniker: the Aristocrats.”
After getting a lot requests for prints of my art I decided to open a store on REDBUBBLE where you can find prints and a whole lot more.
Something haunts the attic of my imagination, locked in an old trunk, it watches my movements through the keyhole. While I stack character traits, it lies in wait. While I lay scenes on the card table, it bides its time. While I wave my marker, connecting plot points across the wall, it stares at my rolling chair with bright green eyes, a prince watching a throne, waiting for his time to come.
Entering the attic of my imagination, I find streaks through the floor boards. The trunk sits beneath the window, the keyhole positioned to see out into the real world. Trying to drag it back to its place, I give up part way. Distracted, I read the notecards scattered across the table, I toss half of them to the floor. There’s just no room for them anymore. I need this section of my imagination to process something I’ve been thinking.
Jotting a word down, I set it on the open space. The card says: INDECISION. The floorboards creak. Thunder claps off in the distance. I set the word OBLIVIOUS in an empty spot. There’s a thump. The lights flicker. I set the word UNREQUITED down. There’s a crash behind me, a click, followed by the groaning of a rusty hinge. Turning around, I find the trunk has moved. Its lid has opened on its own.
Peaking inside, a swarm of locusts engulf my eyes.
The trunk was filled with all of my romantic compulsions. Every time I develop feelings for someone, the infernal crate starts filling. The self doubt, the jealousy, the fear of rejection, all these things start rumbling. I can stack books atop it, hammer nails in, put it in a dark corner of the room, but sooner or later the trunk bursts open.
Once that happens, darkness takes over my imagination. My characters break down, my plot points get painted over, and my scenes get scattered. The story I’m developing disappears as the specter of a doomed romance leaves its mark on everything.
I wrote the following in my early twenties, back when my best ideas were abandon in favor of an overwhelming urge to vent. Its wordy, silly, embarrassing, and completely honest. Recently, I dug it up and gave it the musical treatment. I hope you like it.
The third law of thermodynamics
The one we all love to hate
I poured my heart into something
That didn’t reciprocate
I syphoned out all my good parts
To feed your perceptually aching machine
I slowed myself to crawl
Just to keep it going
Like a vampire blood donor
Like an eleventh hour Valentine
I put so much of myself in you
But you’d never be mine
You’re feeding off my entropy
I’m running out parts to give
I’ve been dying long enough to know
That dying is no way to live
It’s safe to assume
It’s safe to foresee
Even if it makes
An ass of “u” and “me”
It takes an addict
To spot another addict
Ah fuck it, I admit it
I really am psychic
The only law that Murphy had
The one that we all try to break
I left so much room for error
Our foundations were bound to shake
I always came when you were jonesing
For the high only I’d provide
Who knew you could quit cold turkey
And let this whole thing slide
Who knew you’d leave me in this bath tub
In this motel up the street
Dry ice freezing my skin off
You only take the parts you need
When I signed on to be your lover
Did I sign on as a soul donor too?
How could I hate myself enough
To give my love to the likes of you?
It’s safe to assume
It’s safe to foresee
Even if it makes
An ass of “u” and “me”
It takes an addict
To spot another addict
Ah fuck it, I admit it
I really am psychic
Struggling with a hostile work environment, Mark imagines the perfect hideaway, only to find it expanding into his real life.
Mark’s footfalls echoed into the distance. The hall had the dressings of a ballroom, and the length of a tunnel. No matter how far he went, the point at the end never changed shape. The banner beneath the ceiling must have stretched for miles.
Rays of light cut through the curtains, setting the tiles aglow. Walking with his eyes shut, he felt the sunshine on his nose. He could go on this way, counting windows without ever running into anything, or anyone.
The help was on holiday. There was no dust to polish, the sheets tucked themselves in, and the meals came out of their trays prepared. This gave Mark the freedom to ride the banisters down the stairs, to line couch cushions like dominos, to juggle Faberge eggs, ming vases, and leather bound first editions.
Wearing two story drapes like capes, Mark was a bachelor in a castle, an emperor of emptiness, the king of a kingdom known to no one.
The grounds were too vast to cross in a day. Mark had to set up camp in an uncharted guest room before finding the strength to press on. He had to traverse the deserts of the zen garden, the hilly expanse of the miniature golf course, and the pine highways of the bowling alley.
With each trek through the building, Mark discovered something. Feeling droplets on his forehead, he looked up to see water sculptures shooting streams through the chandeliers. He climbed staircases so wide, he mistook the steps for rows in a theater.
Crossing the library, Mark happened upon a fleet of fire engines labeled with the dewey decimal system. He didn’t understand their function, until he needed a ladder to get something.
To save time, Mark rode a dirt bike across the courtyard, weaving around gazebos, hedge sculptures of video game characters, and a pride of bronze lions covered in bird droppings. He could’ve used the field for crops, for football games, or as a landing strip for commercial planes; instead he filled it with street signs to give himself an idea of where he was going. There was always a new path to explore.
The estate was ever expanding, but there were no contractors, no designs to sign off on. Mark didn’t have to suffer the sight of plumbers’ cracks, the sound of catcalls, or radios blaring. This was his project. He was the surveyor, the engineer, and the foreman.
He didn’t break his back carrying the stones up the mountain. He didn’t run a wheel barrel full of mortar across the foot bridge, or dig the trenches to fill the reflecting pools.
Mark’s castle wasn’t built from the ground up, it was composited. The parts weren’t airlifted in, they materialized from it.
In the city, Mark’s studio apartment shared its walls with shouting brawls. Arguments echoed from floor to ceiling. He fell asleep to surround sound domestic disputes, quadrophonic make up sex, and the off tempo rhythm of creaking mattresses. Counting backwards on his pillow, Mark wasn’t sure if he ever lost consciousness.
In the morning meeting, Mark made the coffee hoping no one would call on him. His eyes stung every moment they were exposed to oxygen. They felt heavy enough to sink into his skull. Collecting cups, he was a satellite orbiting his coworkers.
Lee, his boss, followed close behind, tapping each employee on the shoulder, in a variation of Duck Duck Goose.
“So what’s your goal for the day?” Lee breathed down the staff’s necks until he got an answer.
Crouching, Mark cradled the cups in his arms.
Lee moved onto his next victim, “What do you aspire to learn today?”
Reaching for a napkin, Mark’s stack toppled over. His security blanket rolled across the floor. Panicking, he clutched for the cups.
There was a tap on his shoulder.
Lee smiled, he’d found his goose. “So Mark, what could you do differently to achieve success today?”
Mark looked to the ellipsis in his thought cloud. “Not drop the cups?”
Lee tossed him a line, Mark left him to tow it back in. Unlike the sales team, Mark had no figures to beat, no positive encounters to share, no acknowledgments to give.
Passing by a senior staff meeting, Mark heard Lee refer to him as an “Automated automaton. Good with numbers, but unable to compute casual conversation.”
Filling his thermos at home, Mark avoided the water cooler. He couldn’t understand emotional reactions to the weather, pride in parking spaces, or interest in other people’s children. He managed big accounts, but small talk went over his head.
When Lee mandated psychological assessments, Mark feared it was to uncover his glitch.
Sitting outside the therapist’s office, Mark paged through an issue of Home magazine, a catalogue of living room layouts, throw pillows, and patio furniture. Reading an article on Feng Shui, Mark scanned the waiting room.
Opening the door to her office, Dr. Jennings found Mark dragging a fern to the other side of the chairs.
Wiping the dirt from his palms, Mark only spread it around. When Dr. Jennings offered her hand, he went in for a hug, careful not to pat her on the back. When she directed him to a love seat, he lay across the armrests.
Dr. Jennings squint to hide her amusement. “Don’t worry. This is an informal chat, a way to gage the team’s overall satisfaction. Management thought this would be a little more personal than a survey.”
Nodding, Mark changed his position.
Settling in, Dr. Jennings read her chart. “How do you see yourself fitting in among your peers?
Mark shrugged. “The tall person in the back of the group photo.”
Dr. Jennings shook her head. “I’m not looking for a literal answer. Think of this office as a family. Which member are you? Do you see yourself in the driver’s seat, on the sidelines of a soccer game, or are you sneaking in a cartoon when you should be doing homework?”
Mark rolled his eyes, “I’m haunting the attic. I’m not sure if anyone even knows I’m there.”
Mark never had the courage to see a therapist. Now one had been delivered to him. He made the most of this captive audience. Thinking it essential to give Dr. Jennings the whole picture, he got abstract. Over-sharing, he linked childhood humiliation to emotional scars left by ex-girlfriends. Looking at Dr. Jennings notepad, Mark watched her fine script devolve into automatic writing.
Running out of pages, Dr. Jennings decided to switch mediums, inviting Mark to try guided meditation. She came up with the scenario, leaving just enough space for him to fill the holes.
Dr. Jennings chose her words carefully, “I want to give your thoughts a beginning, middle, and end.” placing an emphasis on the word “end.”
Hesitant to sacrifice his hour, Mark was a reluctant participant. Entering the wilderness of his imagination, he was told to picture an animal jumping into his path. He described a badger sniffing the air, climbing up his leg, and settling on his shoulder.
The badger said, “How do you feel about your output today? Is this your finest work, or could you aspire to do better?”
Dr. Jennings suggested Mark keep his answers to himself until the end of the session.
Leading her patient to a clearing, Dr. Jennings instructed him to fill it with something. “A treehouse, a log cabin, a beached submarine, it doesn’t matter, just the first thing that comes to mind.”
Watching a breeze draw circles in the grass, Mark felt it against his cheeks. Smelling the dewdrops, he took in the steady drone of the grass hoppers, rustling trees, and chirping birds.
Clouds rolled across the landscape. Their shadows morphed into geometric shapes, getting darker as they got smaller. Realizing why, Mark acted in the knick of time. He leapt from his position just as a support beam crashed down where he was standing.
A row of metal rained across the field. The dirt shift, propping the beams up, aligning each one into place. The ground embraced whatever the sky had to throw at it.
Staring into the sun, Mark watched its rays transform into amber arches, saffron spires, and scarlet shingles. Sprouting in spring-like formations, vines caught pillars on their way down. Bricks fell into perfect stacks. Leaves popped out from between them. Overgrowth ran up the building, before the roof had even come in.
In another world, Dr. Jennings continued giving her directions. She told Mark to go inside, she said something about a cup, its size and shape having some importance, but Mark didn’t hear her. He was busy moving in.
Crossing the estate, Mark bent time and space, moving from the top of the world to sea level without going down a single hill. One door spat him out in a tropical climate, while another spat him out in a snow covered forrest.
The porch overlooked a mountain range, while the parlor overlooked a beach front.
Each session took him someplace new.
Mark lay in a hammock as long as a fishing net, high up in the meditation chamber, a glass dome, with a view unpolluted by city lights.
Star gazing, he found the Andromeda galaxy, then the long streak of the Milky Way. Dimming the lamps, he waited for the Northern Lights to make an appearance.
Mark found his way to the dream house on his own. Pacing the apartment, he crossed over with his eyes open. Flicking the kitchen light, he watched torches spark to life. The banquet hall stretched out before him. Running the tap, he watched streams rise from the great fountain, feeling bubbles and coins beneath his feet. Taking a shower, the steam cleared to reveal the heap of coals in the palace sauna.
The real world was full of secret passageways to the other one. Smelling oak barrels the moment he stepped into the cubicle, Mark discovered a wine cellar beneath his desk.
Waiting in line at the bank, Mark listened to the Christmas music playing over the speakers. Closing his eyes, he overlooked his estate from the bell tower. It had grown from a mansion into a metropolis. He’d yet to eat a meal from every kitchen, sleep beneath every canopy, or relieve himself in every washroom.
Mark’s stays in the dream house grew longer.
Charging through an obstacle course, he stepped through tires lined across a balance beam, two stories above a ball pit. A few cartwheels later, he was safe on a platform. Running up a springboard, he leapt for a ring. When he grabbed it, it made a sound like a keyboard tapping. Moving hand over hand, he heard the clicking of a mouse button. Dismounting, he listened to the slow hiss of a seat release.
Although the gymnasium lights were the same color as his desk monitor, Mark’s work was far away from here.
Fearing his workout had pulled something, Mark felt a pinch on his shoulder. Turning, he found Lee’s talons squeezing into his tendon. Lee pulled Mark out of his trance and into his office.
Lee couldn’t wait for Mark to take his seat, before launching into his prepared speech.
“Mark, I know you’re not one for small talk, that’s why I’m going to give this to you straight.” Tenting his fingers, Lee tapped his lips. “Your numbers are down, my bosses want to put them out of their misery.”
Mark reached for the pen set on Lee’s desk. Tilting one toward him, the room shook, rumbling with a sound like cranks from a drawbridge. Lee spun around, opening the blinds to search for the source of the noise. Mark tilt the other pen in the same direction. The rumbling returned. Dust spilled from the ceiling. The tiles moved toward the window, fleeing the scene.
Shielding his face, Lee ducked behind the desk.
Moving onto the next accessory, Mark pinched a ball from the Newton’s Cradle. Lifting it up, he primed the pendulum. Thunder struck as it came down.
Cracks zigzagged across the support beams. The air was thick with sawdust. Lumber crashed down on the desk. Looking up, Mark found darkness where a corner office should be. A flash of lightning revealed the distant bricks of a vaulted ceiling.
The desk still had a few more toys for Mark to play with. Flipping a sand timer, he felt the chair sink out from under him. The carpet broke into tiny grains, sinking through the floorboards.
Lee shrieked, jumping out from his hiding place. Sand trickled through his fingers. He looked to Mark for an explanation.
Vaulting over the desk, Lee charged through the door with no mind for glass.
The staff shot up from their cubicles.
Ignoring his wounds, Lee spun around to find the ceiling tiles back in place, the desk free of debris, and the carpet in its proper shape. The chair was still spinning, but Mark was gone.
In the room with the vaulted ceiling, Mark listened to the rain tap on the glass. Cranking the window open, he peered over the edge, trying to figure out his location. In the dark, he couldn’t tell if the gargoyle on the roof was a chimera or a griffin.
Lightning flashed, revealing a part of the dream house he’d never been to before: a spiral steeple wrapped in a water slide. Stepping out on the gutter, Mark knew this would be a good night to explore.
Ever have that dream where you’re on death row and the only thing that saved you is when your subconscious lost the plot? This dream journal entry is all about the life saving awkward transitions you only find in dreams. Listen for the tone to shift, the title will make a lot more sense.