Archive for epistolary

Fragment from THE NIGHT SHADOWS REPORT: Ghosts in the Dark

Posted in Original Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 19, 2017 by smuckyproductions

The air is turning cold in the forests and mountains; autumn is staking its claim. In honor of the darker weather, here is another fragment from THE NIGHT SHADOWS REPORT – this one relating to the character’s search for answers in a nebulous, eerie world. 

The mountain looks down on this room every night, just an outline against the stars. I stare at it from the window, listen to the wind slipping through the pines and the shaky hoot of an owl; but the mountain is all I can see. I intend to initiate a staring contest between us. It hasn’t accepted the challenge.

When it’s this late at night, with the bloodstream clogged and the air cold, inky – no need for ghouls or winged beasts or God up there. The town has its own ghosts roaming the dark. The ghosts of the miners, for example, trekking through the trees from that final place of rest that no one has bothered to uncover yet. The ghost of that suicidal woman, Janet, a rather new shade. Ghosts who lost their jobs, rich families who abandoned their legacy and patronage; fathers trying to start a fire with wet matches in the dark. And the missing girl, Stephanie. Her ghost is the most intangible. I still don’t know where she’s been or where she’s gone. I can feel all of them at the window if I try hard enough – maybe the regulars can, too, and that’s why they drink, to convince themselves it’s just the wind. And it is just that, just a lonely breath in the other room, gone cold by the time you hear it. That’s one thing about the city. Nights are just brown or grey gloom, depending on pollution, and you know someone, somewhere is still awake; the night and silence are never complete. Here, they’re sovereign. Anyone who wanders out there at this time of night might as well be a ghost, because no one will be there to see them, and with just the moonlight cast upon their doomed steps – there! There he is, at the window. Going to tell me one more story. This time the beast’s already breathing down my neck. My own breath, and it hardly stirs a hair.

Mom hated that I got drunk. But she never understood the medicinal effects. It’s fair, isn’t it, to get drunk? Breath no longer cold; vision unreliable enough to blame these shapes on the poison, a side effect. Graham and Roselyn and Stan get it. They’ve learned the secret of living with this empty air. But not with the ghosts. No, I suspect there’s no secret to that; the shadows will continue to creep, creep closer to the window and tap – polite until they lose patience.

But even ghosts need to sleep, and dream. My vigil on the mountain ends. It’s already against the window. I won’t invite it in.

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Fragment from THE NIGHT SHADOWS REPORT: Last Chance

Posted in Original Writing with tags , , , , , , , on September 14, 2017 by smuckyproductions

I’ve always struggled, as a writer, with finding specific instances that develop a character’s goal while giving the reader a reason to sympathize. With the current novel revision, that’s something I am trying to overcome. Here is an early introduction to the protagonist and narrator – hopefully it inspires a twinge of empathy. 

July 19th:

A slow and average afternoon at the bookstore, no A.C., sun oozing in yellow strands through the dusty windows. The old paper and shelves gave the air awful, sedating mustiness. Nothing to do but stare and fan oneself, think desperately of something far away. The first customer in an hour relieved me of my boredom and asked if I could recommend a book on writing. She smiled, a little nervous, embarrassed. “You’re a writer?” I said. “I want to be,” she replied, wringing her hands. So I smiled, too, and laughed a little, quoted a favorite teacher who put my doubts to rest a while ago – “Anyone who writes is a writer.” She laughed, too, and asked, “What are you working on?” Like she really wanted to know.

And as I tried to think of a response, the boss strut over, stretched to her full imposing height. She exuded enough ice to cut the heat through her presence alone. The customer glanced warily at the boss – she must have felt the air cool – then hastily made her purchase, and went off to learn what I’m supposed to already know. When the door jangled shut, the boss tapped on the register and glared at me with her teeth slightly bared for a moment until she was certain she had my attention. Then she intoned, “You’re selling books. You’re not writing. Not on my time.” She returned to her full height and the edge of her lip twitched, expressing her triumph, before slinking away. I could have argued the contrary, but she walked away before I could think of anything to back up my case. Still haven’t found evidence in my favor. Any supporting statement would be a lie. But it doesn’t have to be. This is the last chance, buddy. Before I melt to this register forever.

I keep thinking of what Dad would say when he started his stories. “There are some things, Luke, that we were never supposed to mess with.” Or, “that we were never meant to find.” I had no idea what he meant back then, just that he was going to give me all his attention and tell a story. Now I want to know why he chose that phrase. Some things. What things?

Fragment from THE NIGHT SHADOWS REPORT: Pure Fear

Posted in Original Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 5, 2017 by smuckyproductions

For the past few weeks, I’ve been rewriting a deeply personal and tough novel called THE NIGHT SHADOWS REPORT. It’s a collection of journal entries, articles and interviews compiled by a young writer exploring childhood memories of a podunk mountain town, but he discovers a dark force and devastating truth that threatens to ruin him. Here’s a fragment from an early section, as he begins examining the memories before making the leap.

Fall of sophomore year, some friends and I left our little bubble to visit this abandoned mental hospital somewhere in the swamps of Jersey. It was a nasty old building, painted over with graffiti and gutted, aside from a wheelchair or two left to rust – memoirs of a hundred anonymous sufferers. We pitched in for a handle of very bad whiskey and sat in the dead leaves, drinking, trying to spot ghosts in the broken windows.

It got dark earlier than we expected. We stayed too long, let the sun go down without noticing. It was probably the whiskey that kept us slouching and murmuring. But without the sun we didn’t have much to say. We listened tentatively to the bugs cricking, the breeze knocking a few dry leaves together, metal creaking somewhere in the empty halls. In the dark, my nerves kicked up and built into fear, the most useless and loneliest kind. The building’s bulk was so dark and imposing against the sky’s final blue, leaning over us uninvited visitors who had nothing to offer but more trash. It might have been massive, but it would still be forgotten. I made myself a promise, hugging my knees against the cold, that I would crusade against this awful obscurity; I would not let myself succumb to this concrete skeleton’s fate. But the shadows of the asylum had an argument of its own: how could I, a much smaller thing, overcome something that even this behemoth couldn’t defeat? I wanted to scream at it to prove my point – I could speak, I could make noise, and it was just dust – but I decided not to disturb the ghosts. So we all stayed quiet until one of us announced that the last train would leave soon, and we shuffled down the path by the light of our phones, glancing over our shoulders every so often. We didn’t talk about it on the way home; never talked about it again.

I think that is the purest fear I’ve felt in a while, the electrifying and active kind that won’t let you sit still. I’m starting to feel it again.

 

 

Films That Haunt Me: NOROI (THE CURSE)

Posted in Films That Haunt Me with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 5, 2015 by smuckyproductions

Found footage is, and has always been, a point of contention. It tends to opt for cheap frights and frustrating characters, hiding behind the conceit of “being real.” But sometimes, there is a film that uses the found footage format for good, capitalizing on the horror implicit in the raw and unseen. One of these films is NOROI (THE CURSE).

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It’s maddeningly hard to find, but if one gets a hold of a copy, they are in for a nightmare. The film is played off as a paranormal investigator’s final documentary, looking into the disappearance of two unrelated children and the supernatural occurrences surrounding an actress who disturbed a mysterious altar. But the investigator finds that the disparate events are all caused by the same force, a powerful demon that is hell-bent on getting its tribute. And that’s when the real terror starts.

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There is something about this film that sets it apart from others of its kind. Perhaps it is the complicated nature of its plot, and the authenticity lent by the documentary format. While most films of this subgenre settle for a small set of characters and one location, this film involves a wide range of people, all touched by the same force. The variety of the characters gives the story a sense of reality – I always find it more chilling when a pattern is widespread, taking root in many places, because it means that the evil has no bounds.

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With a villain straight out of Lovecraft – the kind of ancient, omnipresent, but invisible evil that drives people mad – and a format that echoes the epistolary nature of those classic stories, “Noroi” instills itself with a suffocating dread. Few found footage movies have been able to achieve this, though they all try. (The only others that I can think of are ‘Marble Hornets’ (not a film, but so good, it counts) and ‘The Blair Witch Project,’ though that one is controversial.) This one stands, for me, as the pinnacle of what the genre can accomplish.

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Found footage in general has its roots in classic horror stories – “Dracula,” “Frankenstein,” and much of Lovecraft’s work, just to name a few, are set up as ‘found documents’ that relay a very real horror. Of course we know it’s fiction, but that format suspends disbelief just enough to convince us, while we’re immersed in the story, that we are witnessing something transgressive. If it’s well done. Which, unfortunately, most found footage is not. But there is immense potential in that underdeveloped format.

“Noroi” realizes that potential and, though it’s too slow and complex for some, reaches points of incredible terror. I still think of this film as a far-off nightmare that I tried to forget. Watch it, and see if it haunts you, too.