These stories are my way of processing the pandemic without dealing with it head on. I did that once when I wrote a blog about having COVID-19 symptoms. In it I related a string of bad luck.
First I got sick. Then I got laid off. My boss used the lockdown as an opportunity to “right size” her business, despite the fact that our UPS Store had lines out the door. After two weeks of unemployment I was asked to come back. Another employee was showing COVID-19 symptoms and they needed the support. I was afraid I might still be contagious and I wasn’t eager to return to an unsafe environment. I was told “Now or never.” I went with never and lost my unemployment benefits.
That story was one of my most successful blog entries. It was off the cuff. But that kind of intimacy can’t be forced. You can’t reproduce it to increase your metrics. I considered journaling my depression throughout these turbulent times, but I didn’t want to overexpose myself. I ran the risk of sharing personal details that would made me unemployable or exhaust my readers’ empathy.
So I changed tactics. I wanted to write something topical, but I didn’t want to overwhelm people. I decided to come at the news from another angle. I’d address the pandemic, but I’d add monsters to it.
How Monsters are Helping My Sanity
I like stories with moral messages, but I tend to beat people over the head them. I get up on my soap box and give a ham-fisted speech that scares people off. I’ve been writing for twenty years and I still struggle with subtext. My best stories happen organically once I’ve abandon my commentary. They follow Stephen King’s adage: entertain first, enlighten second.
When I started writing news parodies I thought I was putting a creepy spin on what The Onion was doing. Then these pieces turned into thought experiments. The question, “How do I address the plight of essential workers during the pandemic?” became “What if people really did have to work through a zombie apocalypse?”
The question, “How do I take the OK Karen meme and apply it to witches?” became “What if magick was real and witches were subject to online harassment?”
The question, “Would people go out if there were giant spiders everywhere?” became “But what if there really were giant spiders everywhere?”
I became less interested in writing commentary and more interested in playing up the absurdity of these stories. These fantastic times pair well with fantasy creatures. Writing about these heightened realities makes this one bearable to me. My monsters have allowed me to reclaim my imagination from so much of what’s going on.
This pandemic is soul crushing. This lockdown is depressing and the state of the economy is demoralizing. Many of my favorite coffeehouses, bars, and restaurants are closing for good.
I have a friend who’s a nurse in New York. I have another friend whose care facility has had several deaths. I’m healthy and relatively young, but I got much sicker than I expected.
I’ve spent weeks trying to get through to the unemployment office. I’m still waiting on my stimulus check. I’ve been applying for every job I think might put a dent in my expenses, and yet I have too much free time. I’m single. I live alone. I haven’t seen any of my friends in months.
My monster stories are keeping me going. I know I ought to be better about sharing them, about building the old brand. I’ve been told to start a Patreon, but I don’t have that kind of following. Not yet.
I’m open to feedback. Please let me know if you’re digging what I’m doing.
Remember last April when the news was filled with stories of murder hornets? These two-inch insects were annihilating bee colonies, tearing heads off drones and collecting thoraxes to feed to their young. Beekeepers treated violated hives like crime scenes and agricultural biologists were on the hunt for the culprits.
After all the hardships 2020 had thrown at us we thought killer hornets was as bad as things could get. How wrong we were. The hornets were but harbingers for that which lay deeper within the earth.
Six Months Later
Winter is coming. Ducks are flying south only to be ensnared. Building frames are teeming with drooping white sacs and skylines are filling with webbing. A curtain of silk stretches from the Eiffel Tower to the hotels below. The roman Colosseum has been fashioned into a nest and the Leaning Tower of Pisa is hanging by a thread.
“It’s like a goddamn Roland Emmerich movie out there.” Said General Duke Granger, head of the Arachnid Warfare branch of the U.S. Military. “There’s netting stretching from the Washington monument to the national mall. And the whole thing is dotted with the kibbles and bits of tourists.”
170 ton spiders, as long blue whales, tower over cities. With redwood length legs, concrete piercing claws, and truck sized fangs. The spiders are proving disruptive.
The first appearance was in the financial district of San Francisco. A giant spider stomped down California Street, stepped into a sinkhole and caused a gas main explosion. The shockwave rippled through the 555 California St Tower. Senior members of Goldman Sachs halted their meeting to check on the commotion.
Marshall Kirkland, an investment banker, was on the other side of the building. He said it was hard to hear what was happening. “First came the car alarms, then the sirens, then the emergency tone, and just underneath there was this terrible slurping sound.”
It turns out the slurping was the spider sucking a victim’s brain from his cranium.
No End in Sight
In a frank press conference General Granger expressed pessimism about our chances. “The spiders don’t bleed. It’s like their pelts are made out of cast iron wool. We’re pumping them full of rounds faster than Northrop Grumman can make them. We have RPGs cross firing all over the city, and our heavy artillery cannons aren’t making a dent. We’ve crashed drones into their eyes. We’ve tried everything from napalm to citrus. They keep right on webbing soldiers up.”
President Trump has ordered General Granger to stay the course. “We’re winning bigly against the spiders. I think we’d win faster if we someone found a way to make spray bottles bigger. Spiders hate those things.”
There are still no concrete answers where the spiders came from. General Granger has heard all of the theories. “Those Berkley climatologists think we did this. Like the spiders were lying in wait until it got too hot. The eggheads at Mount Weather think it’s a spontaneous mutation. Like the spiders took a dip in a nuclear waste repository. Me? I think someone boasted she could weave better than the gods and they punished her by turning her into a spider. I think these things we’re facing are her children.”
The Threat is Getting Worse
The spiders have venom so acidic it burns through tanks in seconds. One spider destroyed a troop of British Challengers with a single burst. The medical personal who approached the ruins were exposed to neurotoxins. They died before they could administer the antivenom.
Spiders have discarded hollow husks in every city, draping kills over powerlines, bus stops, and playgrounds. They’ve turned bridges into hanging traps, shattered skyscrapers, and rendered entire residential districts uninhabitable.
Worse still is how widespread the spiders have gotten. They’ve trounced through suburban streets, leaving tornado-like destruction in their wake. They’ve worked their way to the heartland, picking fights with irrigation equipment. And satellites have just spotted a blanket of webs covering the Appalachian Mountains.
At the time of this writing America lacks the infostructure to calculate the damage much less tally the dead, but there are estimates that put it in the billions.
People Are Still Going About their Business
The National Guard has ordered everyone to remain inside, but in our travels for this article we spotted large groups of young people. They were tending gardens, stacking woodpiles, and hanging out in garages. All places spiders like to go.
We asked why these twenty-somethings weren’t that concerned and this is what they told us.
“The spiders are big, but they’re slow. They’re mainly webbing up old people. I’m young and spry. Why shouldn’t I be able to play volley ball?”
“Yeah yeah yeah. I know. Their silk slices through flesh like razor wire, but I have twenty-twenty vision. I should be able to go for a run.”
“So there’s a few egg sacs in my evergreens. That’s not going to prevent me from barbequing. Look those things are barely moving.”
“I didn’t have arachnophobia before. Why should I start now?”
“The news makes it sound like there’s a Stephen King story on every street, but I don’t know anyone who’s been cocooned. Do you?”
“Quite a few people, yes.”
“See, I have no idea who that is.”
“We all have to die sometime whether it’s from a meteor or a giant spider. There’s nothing we can really do about it.”
General Granger disagreed with this line of reasoning. “If you see a huge ass invertebrate on the horizon you can drive in the other direction.” He ran a hand down his forehead. “Unless you’re so bereft you’ve resolved yourself to a slow painful death.”
This was General Granger’s final interview before he was stung and killed by a murder hornet. We thank him for his service.
Avid readers have stronger imaginations than people who experience stories exclusively through film and TV. As much as I love those mediums they’re made for passive consumption. Books put readers in the director’s chair. Sure the author chronicles the events, but its up to readers to visualize them. Readers have to cast the characters, provide the wardrobe, build the sets, and block out the scenes. The author does everything they can to make their story an enjoyable read, but the reader has to meet them halfway. Horror authors exploit this relationship by baiting readers into picturing their worst fears.
Have you ever noticed how the tension in horror movies deflates the more you know about the monster? The more you see it, the more you understand its rules and where it came from the less you’re frightened. The monster is less of a living breathing part of your mind and more of a static thing on screen. Suddenly there’s a barrier between the two of you keeping things safe and boring.
That’s why many horror authors never show the monster. They leave the audience to do all the heavy lifting. This approach works well on people with active imaginations, but readers who don’t feel like engineering their own bogymen feel cheated.
Horror writers need to strike a balance. Here are a few of my favorite techniques for doing just that.
Pose a Compelling Mystery
A well-placed spark will lure readers, like moths to flames, to their dread ridden doom. Pose a supernatural situation that’s simple to grasp, but hint at an explanation that could only be an awe-inspiring revelation.
A young musician is walking home when he’s attacked by a monster he can only see out of the corner of his eye: a wrinkled giant in tatters that may or may not be its own dead flesh. The monster unhinges its jaw, lets out a groan deeper than a cruise ship horn, and disappears. When the musician gets home he finds he can no longer play guitar. Turns out there are reports all over the city of artists experiencing similar attacks and losing their inspiration in the process.
An isolated woodland town is besieged by living nightmares, each one seemingly built to prey upon the resident’s worst fears. While most of these figures have the intended effect others appear strangely tone deaf, almost comical, suggesting the hand of an agent that doesn’t fully comprehend its audience.
Expect the audience to read your story over several sessions. Use those interruptions to plant ideas. Little mysteries for readers to mull over and leave them dangling at the end of each chapter. The best nightmare fuel is subtle. It works its way into readers’ minds slowly until they see their daily routine through the filter of your imaginings.
Leave Evidence of the Evil
The monster need not take the stage to own it. There are many ways to feel its presence. Leave an orgy of evidence, and readers will craft a composite of the creature themselves.
Picture this.It’s 1892. You open your chamber door to find it skewered. Something rammed the wood with enough force to leave hollow voids on the both ends of the knocker. You raise a candle to find craters leading up the cobblestones, and ripples in the puddles. Most of the oil lanterns have been snuffed out and the one that remains is shattered, belching flames.
This torch renders anything beyond it imperceivable, but you know there’s something out there weaving in and out of the tree line. Why else would the owls hold their tongues and the crickets yield the night to the wind?
You feel cold narrow eyes moving up your nightgown, pausing on your belly and settling upon your neck.
Picture this.It’s 2292. You’re aboard a long-range starship. The fluid drains from your stasis chamber, revealing fracture lines across your enclosure. You call out to the computer, “Open tube.”
The mechanism jerks hard, shattering the glass, spewing shards into the corridor. The lights that encircle the honeycomb hall blink red, some flicker out of phase with the others. Stepping over the jagged fragments of your chamber you find a bubbling black substance eating at the grates.
There’s a long gash looping around the walls, leading to a pitch-black med bay. Something long and chrome shoots out of the darkness. A blood speckled gurney lands at your feet.
Have Characters Test Theories
For me the creepiest scene in Paranormal Activityis when Micha sets out prove the presence visiting his partner Katie is physical. Micha spreads baby powder down the hall leading to the bedroom and aims a camera in that direction. That night the couple is awoken by a commotion. Micha finds talon prints leading up to the bed and streaks in the powder.
What I love about this scene is that is confirms the supernatural situation without demystifying the creature. It raises more questions than it answers.
Describe the Monster as Indescribable
Did you ever write an “exquisite corpse” story back in grade school? One student would write a sentence and pass it to the desk behind them. Horror writers can play that game with their readers. Here’s how. Just describe the effect the monster has on witnesses without revealing anything about its shape. This technique doesn’t rely on smoke and mirrors. Your monster isn’t skulking in the shadows. It’s just so overwhelmingly hideous that it’s beyond description. It’s maddening.
“What did the beast look like?”
“Do you not see? It turned Byron’s hair white.”
This was a favorite device of gothic horror writers.
H.P. Lovecraft referred to so many of his terrors as “Indescribable.”
Edgar Allan Poe referred to the sights beyond his chamber door as “Phantasmagorical.”
Meaning: a dreamlike and deceptive appearance that changes upon further examination
Gothic horror writers used the neurosis of their characters to illustrate the monster’s grandeur.
Give a Peak by Proxy
The hit Netflix film Bird Boxis about monsters with the power to drive people to suicide at the mere sight of them, most people that is. The monsters have a different effect on people who are already mad. Insane individuals feel compelled to worship the monsters, with the ferocity of cult members, corralling survivors and forcing them to bear witness.
The audience never gets a direct look at the monsters, but one tainted character gives us a peak. He lays out a series of twisted tentacle-riddled portraits on the coffee table. These rough Lovecraftian rendering gives us a sense of what awaits Sandra Bullock just beyond the blinds.
In Paul Tremblay’s “The Cabin at the End of the World” a character is struck in the back of the head and spends the rest of the story with a traumatic head injury. Sunlight gives him terrible migraines until he starts to see figures in the light. It’s ambiguous whether or not these figures are influencing the events of the story or if they’re a brought on by the bump on his noggin.
My favorite monster stories utilize strategic ambiguity. For every question the author answers they pose two more. That way when the monster does step into the light it retains its mystique. It’s the enigma of the entity that gives it free reign over the audience’s imagination.
The horror writer is the architect of shadows. The readers are interim landlords. We lease them the long dark hall and they fill it with their nightmares. Eventually we move our own terrifying tenants into these atmospheric locations, but only after they’ve been lived in.
Horror writers take universal fears and intensify them. They add dumpsters full of oil slick tentacles to long dark allies. They perch gremlins on airplane wings and send great white worms into enclosed caves. While those fears prey on our animal instincts the fears that plague our modern world are social, romantic rejection being chief among them.
With all the new apps and etiquette modern romance is scary to navigate. We write bios to express what makes us unique, while burying our private peculiarities. We put carefully curated images out there hoping somebody likes what they see. We scream into the void and shudder when it whispers back.
I want to take that fear and add monsters to it.
With the help of my friend Bryan Politte, a professional creature illustrator,I’ll be creating a series of dating profiles for freaks, demons, and urban legends. Bryan will illustrate each sinister selfie while I write the dating profiles, which will read like flash fiction horror stories.
Our goal is to make something spooky that goes beyond parody. Each piece will be chilling and heart rending at the same time. This won’t be a mockery of the dating scene, but rather a love letter to the misfits caught up in it.
These monsters won’t be exaggerations of the worst people you might meet online. They will be mirrors of all of us. These monsters will lead with their red flags in the hopes of finding someone who doesn’t spook easily. They will overshare their sins in the hopes of being understood. They’ll flaunt the things we hide. They will be every bit as monstrous as we secretly believe ourselves to be.
We think this concept is pretty cool. If you do too then help us out by voting on a name, and if you have a better idea for one then we’d love to hear that too.
Meet Noelle, a Hollywood transplant that’s been subsisting on instant ramen and false hope. She’s on the verge of moving back into her mother’s trailer when her agent convinces her to take a meeting at the Oralia Hotel. Enchanted by the art deco atmosphere Noelle signs a contract without reading the fine print.
Now she has one month to pen a novel sequestered in a fantasy suite where a hack writer claims he had an unholy encounter. With whom you ask? Well, he has many names: Louis Cypher, Bill Z. Bub, Kel Diablo. The Devil.
Noelle is skeptical, until she’s awoken by a shadow figure with a taste for souls.
Desperate to make it Noelle stays on, shifting the focus of her story to these encounters. Her investigations take her through the forth wall and back again until she’s blurred the line between reality and what’s written. Is there a Satanic conspiracy, is it a desperate author’s insanity, or something else entirely?
I’ve been having this weird reoccurring nightmare. The thing is I’m not up on all that dream interpretation jargon. My brain keeps trying to tell me something, but I keep missing the point. Maybe you could help me figure it out.
The dream takes place in a vast palatial estate in the middle of the forest. I have no idea who owns the property or why they built so far from civilization. All I know is that the beds are always filled and that the guests have no clue how they got in them.
While this can be a jarring experience, the guests always seem to settle in. No one ever makes a break for the exit. Besides, where would they go? Every window looks out onto bark surfaces. The pantries are surrounded by towering evergreens. The dining hall is built upon a swamp and the bedchambers sit in a field of reeds.
The forest is well on its way to reclaiming the building. Maple seeds swirl through the skylights, vines droop from the rafters, and pollen is built up on everything like snow. Muskrats swim beneath the floorboards, frogs congregate on the windowsills, and raccoons and crows fight for perches on the shingles. There are cobwebs in every corner, nests in every crossbeam, and cocoons in every gutter.
For its part the estate refuses to go quietly. The support beams are always groaning, the foundations are always settling, and the shutters are always slapping against the side of the building.
The estate has a footprint the size of a castle, yet there are no grounds, no carriage houses, and no paths leading to the front steps.
There’s only one way to find this place.
I come here on nights when I’ve spent too much time pacing the apartment, too much time in the kitchen drinking, and too much time on the pillow thinking. I lie down in the city and rise up from my bunk in the woods.
Despite the size of the estate I can’t help but think of it as a cabin. Perhaps it’s the pine strips stacked floor to ceiling, the hardwood screeching under foot, or the log furnishing. Perhaps it’s the quilts hanging from the banisters, the moose antlers, or the smell of maple in the air.
No. Dream logic isn’t story logic. Transcribe a dream, and you’ll see. Or better yet, tell someone an important dream – ‘Well, I was in this house that was also my old school, and there was this nurse and she was really an old witch and then she went away but there was a leaf and I couldn’t look at it and I knew if I touched it then something dreadful would happen…’ – and watch their eyes glaze over. Continue reading Syphoning Nightmare Fuel→
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.