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.
When I grew up social networking involved passing notes, pirating movies was done on VHS, and the only wearable technology was Nintendo’s Power Glove. Young Adult fiction was stuck in the choose-your-own-adventure era, cable dramas had yet to hit their stride, and streaming video was still in its infancy.
We didn’t have the options of today’s generation. Most of us watched network television. Those of us who grew up to write stories, shared a lot of the same influences. Continue reading Own Your Influences→
In 1895, Robert W. Chambers wrote a horror collection called The King in Yellow. Each entry was about a person who had the misfortune of reading a play called The King in Yellow, a play that had the power to drive each of them insane.
H.P. Lovecraft was so inspired by The King in Yellow that he fabricated his own tome of forbidden knowledge called the Necronomicon. The King in Yellow went on to inspire John Carpenter’s films In the Mouth of Madness and Cigarette Burns. Its influence can be felt in The Ring and most recently True Detective, which references the king, the yellow sign, and Carcosa by name.
Submitted for your approval, a photo application with a very unique function. Through its lens, you’ll see into another world. A world not too far from our own, where vanity is condemned with words but embraced with pictures, where self esteem depends on the perception of one’s peers. There’s only one subtle difference; this app goes beneath the skin to bring our true selves to the surface.
The subject can try to hide, show their most symmetrical side, cock their hip to look slender, but our digital mirror will make the facts clear. It erases slight squints, sucked in cheeks, and upturned chins. It takes fish lips, frog tongues, and duck faces off the menu. It shows the cracks beneath the glamour, the sadness beneath the humor, and the cowardice beneath the peacock feathers. It expands the frame to show the whole picture.
While most photo applications are exhibitions of vacant expressions, ours is a gallery full of empathy. Each portrait invites the viewer to peer through the windows of the subject’s soul, to see through the eyes of their storm, to get lost in the surrealistic cyclones swirling in their thought clouds. Other platforms distill those dark spots, ours shines a light on them, our only filter is the truth.
While Instagram has users staging candids, rehearsing off the cuff poses, and engineering their all natural looks, Insta-Damn shows their spirits. They can go through the chore of looking like they’re having fun, pain themselves to seem laid back, inflate themselves to seem down to earth, but Insta-Damn shows users for what they really are.
These are not the aura pictures you get at the fair. These portraits lay all of your personality’s deformities bare.
Early adopters have little reason to embrace the humiliation, but when they see everyone in their feeds using it, they’ll come. If peer pressure doesn’t get to them, curiosity will. Who doesn’t want to know what they look like on the inside? Who doesn’t want to see their ideas take shape? Who doesn’t want the purity of their heart graded?
It’s been said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, Insta-Damn sees you with eyes that are utterly clear.
Submitted for your perusal: your dirty little soul. Look upon it at your own risk, because these selfies come straight from the Twilight Zone.
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.