It happens to the best of us. You set out to write a story with fiercely original characters, but then a life event compels you to write yourself into the plot. Maybe you just had to get something off of your chest, but now you’re story has a you sized problem… and it might just do something to the real you to deal with it.
I’ve been writing in coffee shops for the last eighteen years. I wish I could say I did it for clever creative reasons, like I was dressing my characters in my surroundings, eavesdropping for dialogue, and reading faces for subtext, but really, writing in public just feels less lonely.
At first I entertained the fantasy that a manic pixie dream girl would pull up a stool beside me, glimpse at the wall of text on my screen, raise her eyebrow, and ask, “What are you writing?” (Which did happen… once.) At this point my goals have more to do with my word count for the day.
But I have been that guy, that guy that pitches his stories to baristas washing dishes at the bar, that guy whose day dreaming eyes lingered in the wrong direction a little too long, that guy whose head is so far up his own ass that he gives out his blog address instead of his phone number. You know, that guy, the writer who wears his identity on his sleeve.
Sure, I might have been a caricature, but at least I did the work. I was writing. I was a writer. I did the noun so I got to call myself the verb. Still I met my share of people who did one but not the other: men adopting the persona of a writer as a pretense to hit on women.
I call them “idea men.” They’re fun, charismatic, and commanding. They’ve honed engaging elevator pitches, but they don’t have the attention span to sit their asses in the chair and do the work. Their bibliography is but a theory. They’re the modern equivalent of the medieval minstrel, carrying on an oral tradition for the sake of flirtation.
I shouldn’t let these idea men get to me, but I do. Writing is hard. Finishing a novel is tough, selling it is tougher, letting an editor kill all your darlings can be even tougher still. If you’ve spent years crafting something that didn’t connect with anyone it’s hard to coax yourself to try it again, but those are the responsibilities that come with calling yourself a writer. It takes talent, training, and tenacity (and you’ve still got to get lucky).
It irks me when I overhear a pickup artist slip on the identity of a writer when it’s clear they haven’t done the work. It irks because I’m afraid that’s what other people assume I’m doing. I feel guilty by proxy.
That having been said I’ve written a how-to guide just for the fakers, the idea men, the pick up artists. I dare you to indulge me as I role-play with misogyny (and if this leaves a bad taste in your mouth, that’s kind of the point). Continue reading How to Pretend to Be A Writer→
How many times has this happened to you: your friends invite you to the bar and you arrive to find an interloper sitting in your chair?
This man, with his half goatee and camouflage cap, sticks out amongst the artistic misfits you usually hang out with. He slams the table, drawing the attention of the wait staff. He enunciates the words ha-ha-ha-ha-ha, like an alien who’s read about laugher and mistaken the onomatopoeia for the real thing.
Your friends look to you with pleading eyes, hostages too scared to signal for help.
The interloper flashes you a nasty sneer, a wolf signaling that this is his deer carcass. When it’s clear you’re joining the table he stands for introductions.
“I should warn you I come with a trigger-warning.”
He doesn’t shake your hand so much as he yanks it by the wrist. He says his name is Tanner.
You have to ask, “So how do you know everyone?”
Tanner doesn’t. He was eavesdropping, interjected himself into the conversation, and played musical chairs until he sandwiched himself between the women. Your friends were just too Minnesota nice to get rid of him.
It was the last semester of senior year and all the cool kids were boycotting prom in favor of something better.
Why rent a limousine when you could make an entrance in an art car shaped like a pumpkin? Why break the bank on a pastel dress when you could wear a piece designed by one of your friends? Why go to a twerk-a-thon in a hotel ballroom when you could go to a masquerade in the Hollywood hills?
Moira promised carriage rides around her estate, vaudevillian cabaret dancers, and a hard rock cello quartet. She promised sword swallowers, contortionists, and devils on stilts. She promised a magician with body modifications who did tricks with his magnetic hands, a pain proof man that hammered nails into his nostrils, and a death defying woman who escaped coffins buried underground.
She promised memories worth making, which was more than our school was offering.
Moira came from wealth and fame. She was the queen bee of our hedonistic hive. If she wanted to live out her Victorian carnival fantasy us drones had, to lace up our corsets, and come a-buzzing.
I was in such a hurry that I parallel parked diagonally: one tire on the curb, the other out into the lane. I didn’t mean to box in the car behind me, but I was running late and its windshield was so shattered it was no longer roadworthy.
On my way toward the church I noticed the neighborhood was in state of transition. There were Christmas wreaths, Easter egg shards, and Halloween gargoyles on every other lawn, pink papers nailed to every other door, and the windows were a mix of bars and boards.
I zigzagged down the sidewalk to avoid the dog turds, condoms, and shell casings that lined the way.
A scarecrow of a man stepped into my path. He wore a football jersey with a starter jacket tied around his waist. His hair was a bundle of straw, with a halo of split ends bleached blond by the sun. His face looked like a topographical globe in a vice: the forehead was cracked, the eyes were sunken ravines, and the lips were little mountain ranges.
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.
Once a year, my demon seeds rise from the soil to corrupt the innocent and harvest the souls of the damned, and once a year they’re persecuted for honoring tradition. They return to the pit telling stories of houses with lights out and signs saying, “No trick or treat this Halloween.”
As a practitioner of the ancient rites, I’m sad to see the PC police sanitize the season, safety-proofing torture chambers, and whitewashing the blood spatter off of everything.
Gone are the pillars of goat skulls, livestock bonfires, and mile long threads of chicken’s feet. They’ve been replaced with scented candles, costumes for cats, and Chia pet zombie heads. Gone are the jars of deformities, the spirit boards, and seance tables dripping with ectoplasm. They’ve been replaced with bobblehead banshees, slime flavored fruit drinks, and friendly ghost cartoons. The Casper-fication of the season leaves no room for demons.
Time was there were cloven hooves leading to every doorstep, robed carolers chanting incantations on every lawn, and wicker men filled with philosophers burning all along the horizon.
Now pagan deities pace abandoned shrines, kicking the dirt, waiting for a sacrificial offering to wander across their altars, only to be stood up by their once loyal followers. Your plane of existence used to be the best party in town. Now you’re casting our idols out of your schools and town halls. Macy’s ignores the season entirely, rolling out the tinsel and mistletoe long before it even starts to snow.
Maybe I’m looking at the bronze age with ruby colored glasses, or maybe people just don’t build effigies like they used to. Call me old fashioned, but those pagans knew how to make an entity feel welcome, filling our cauldrons with the ashes of their loved ones. These days demons are lucky to get Pixy Stix as an offering.
Humans keep removing the curses from the occasion. Not too long ago people proudly displayed captivity scenes on their front yards, where wise men chained up the innocent. They decorated trees with toilet paper, decked their halls with cobwebs, and strung crime scene tape from mailboxes to rooftops.
They turned CPR dummies into disemboweled corpses, gluing cereal to rubber abdomens, painting the flakes red to look like scabbing. They smeared kayro syrup along plastic pipes, laying them out like entrails, leading to trenches filled with dry ice that never stopped smoking.
They hung ornaments of eyeless dolls, severed limbs, and good old fashioned asphyxiated corpses.
My little hellions skipped up driveways hungry for poisoned candy corns and apples filled with razor blades. That all changed when people started giving them dental floss and teeth whitening gum. None of these Saccharin sweets had passed through witch’s hands, been soaked in virgin’s tears, or dipped in the bowls of unbaptized infants.
People need to put the heresy back into Hershey’s, the necromancy back into Nestlé, and blaspheme back into Cadbury. They need to taste the mark of the beast in their Mars Bars, black magic in their Blow Pops, and sorcery in their Sour Patch Kids.
Every year candy bars keep getting smaller. They’ve gone from “King Sized” to “Fun” to “Mini.” Now all that’s left are tiny droplets that give a vague hint of chocolate. My demon brethren keep pumping rock music full of subliminal demands, but it doesn’t seem to be getting top 40 rotation. What we want is either chocolate or blood. It’s not in your interest to keep narrowing our options.
One house gave my little hell spawns baby carrots, claiming it would help improve their vision. These people were oblivious to my children’s glowing eyes with their healthy red bioluminescence. As if vegetables weren’t bad enough, one house dared to give them raisins. Raisins, that’s one grape state away from the holy sacrament. They might as well give them garlic bulbs, dipped in holy water, with silver crucifix centers.
What the hell is wrong with people up here?
They’ve turned their backs on their heritage. They’ve taken the occult out of their culture. Costumes celebrating gruesome grotesqueries have fallen out of fashion. This will sound like a cliché coming from a demon, but I blame the children. Human children have lost their imaginations. They don’t have the attention spans to let their nightmares in.
Kids get their costumes from cartoons, rather than the Boogeyman in their closets (who ought to know something about fashion, considering where he spends all his nights). Kids wear cheap plastic smocks with pictures of who they’re supposed to be on them.
There was a time when they were all ghouls and goblins. I used to have trouble picking out my kids from the ferrel bands of blood crazed humans. These days they’re all princesses and super heroes, trailed by chaperones in big puffy coats. It’s only college kids that go out alone, and their costumes don’t leave room for demons to hide their exoskeletons. It seems like only succubi stand a chance of blending in.
People have forgotten the reason for the season is Satan, and to a lesser extant the elder gods that came before him, but really the old ones don’t even bother anymore. Cthulhu sleeps through it without so much as lifting a tentacle to hit the snooze button, and Dagon only gets up to catch the latest Tree House of Horror episode of The Simpsons.
Halloween is under siege by progressives. They want to pacify this time of possession. They want to cast out our dark sacraments from the halls of government, claiming a need to separate church and state, but debauchery isn’t a religion, it’s a philosophy.
Their agenda to secularize the holiday knows no shame. They want everyone to start saying, “Happy Harvest Festival.”
It’s Happy Halloween! With a hard H. H for Heathen, H for Heretic, H for Hellfire. Just because you rebranded something doesn’t mean it will protect you from my offspring. That’s them ringing your doorbell right now, with pumpkin pales and flaming bags of poo in their hands. You can try to civilize them, see if that gets them off your lawn, but my advice to you is just give them what they want.