Archive for fragment

Fragment from THE NIGHT SHADOWS REPORT: Gates to Hell

Posted in Original Writing with tags , , , , , , , , on September 26, 2017 by smuckyproductions

Another fragment from THE NIGHT SHADOWS REPORT – the rewrite is nearing its end, but this page comes from the story’s start. Musings on popular urban legends that, while eerie in their own right, mask the true horror that they imply. 

Junior year of high school I got a little obsessed with Gates to Hell. Our lovely country has its fair share, so the urban legends suggest. Always threatened to go on a road trip and visit each of them, oil lantern and book of psalms in hand. Never found anyone who wanted to go with me.

There’s some good ones out there, anyway. The residents of Clifton, New Jersey, for example, believe that a tunnel system below their fine town burrows into the fiery pit itself. The further you go, the closer you get to the Devil – but you might not find your way out. Pennsylvania has several, maybe thanks to those good-hearted Quakers. In Downington, a father murdered his family and opened a door through which supernatural beings descend. Luckily for the locals, they can’t come back up. York has not one, but seven. Step through the first and the other six will appear, but no one has made it past the fifth without losing their minds. Even Kansas has one, not that they’re much else to do out there but talk to demons. Residents of Stull warn against (mostly in vain) staying overnight in their old cemetery. If you’re brave enough to try, you might lose sense of time, and hear the terrible echoes of past ritual sacrifices made on the dead ground. Those who can steel their nerves against these sensory assaults might see the gates open – but local law enforcement is not liable for those who decide to go through.

Our culture conjures these stories almost without effort, it seems, simply by dreaming and hoping. Spooky ones, but nothing beyond that – just a little chill to pass the time, no harm done. Sometimes the veneer doesn’t cover the rotting truth, though. There’s the Devil’s Gate Reservoir in Pasadena, other side of the continent. In 1957, a boy strayed just a few feet ahead of his hiking group, rounded a corner, and vanished. Seconds out of sight, enough to erase him from the world. And the same happened in ’56, ’60, kids plucked from the air without a trace, fates never justified, families deprived of their chance to say goodbye.

It’s sensible that people would create these tales of devil holes and witches, in the wake of something like that. They give intention and reason to these mysteries. Better to blame pure evil than accident, a tumble into a ravine, or some confused soul seeking to transplant their pain onto someone pure, unsoiled, and convince themselves that this is justice. Let the demons take responsibility – we aren’t capable of that cruelty. There’s a story there, no doubt. But the demons can only provide so much distraction before they announce their horrible alibi.

Autumn Fragment: CROSSROADS

Posted in Halloween, Original Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 21, 2017 by smuckyproductions

Autumn comes upon us tomorrow – here is a piece of a story called CROSSROADS, about a group of bored kids who occupy themselves with a dangerous, demonic game. It’s the time of year when we hear whispers in the air, bone-dry leaves tapping out code that something waits for us beyond the sky.

IMG_5748

Andy didn’t tell us all the rules at once – probably came up with them on the fly. He never wrote them down, and we never forgot them. “It only comes at dusk,” he said. “It needs those shadows to make itself real. Where it comes from, everything is shadow, beyond shadow. In the daytime or the moonlight, it’s just air. It can watch but it can’t do anything. So we have to bring it things right at sunset – so it can grab them up.” But also, “We can’t look right at it. In its real body – it’s too gnarly. Our brains would – BAM!” Fishface jumped at that one, and Andy cackled at him. Jenny hit his arm to make him stop – that laugh was ugly.

This went on for a few weeks, until the rules started to sound the same, and we were wondering what kind of game this was after all. We didn’t do anything different – still snuck into the movies, stole cigarettes, kicked trash around the newly-filled river – except we stopped going to the barn. No one brought it up, either, so we didn’t miss it. But we were still bored. Jenny started demanding answers. What was the point of the game? How did we play? Andy told us in pieces, but after a while we got the basics: we had to steal an offering, and take it out to the barn at sunset, and leave it there. If the offering was good, we’d get to live. But if it was bad, the thing in the dark would take us to its crypt and keep us there forever. Andy repeated this last part all the time. He never smiled when he said it. “Okay, sure, offerings – but when do we take them? Whenever we feel like it?” Jenny snapped one day. Andy glowered at her when she said it. “Don’t joke,” he said. “It’ll tell us when. We’ll know.”

When he said this, the game got interesting again. We all waited. Sometimes we didn’t talk at all, in case we missed the call. The wind – turning cold, brittle – might carry a slithery voice any day. Our teachers stopped yelling at us to pay attention, because we were listening, just not to them. Nighttime became something holy for us. In our bedrooms we stayed awake and tilted our ears at the empty windows. Of course, nothing happened, nothing came to us; though Jenny and Fishface sometimes talked about funny dreams, where they walked into the barn and fell down into a hole, but the hole was really a mouth that was about to clamp shut. Sometimes they woke up and their sheets were pulled off their bodies, they said. Andy chuckled, “That’s part of the game.”

It was toward the middle of September, when the leaves just started changing, that Andy told us the game had started. We were a little jealous – how come he got to hear the call and we didn’t? “Because it’s my game, turd faces,” he said.

Last time we’d seen the barn, it had been all lightning and rain, big blasts of thunder like drum beats. It set the right mood. This time it was a nice evening, a little cool, no stormclouds waiting on the skyline. A school night, too, to make it worse. The weather didn’t matter, Andy assured us – when it called, it meant business, gloom or sunshine. The problem was the offering, of course. Jenny suggested jewels from her mother’s vanity drawer. Fishface thought of hamburgers – “It’s hungry, anyway, you said.”

“None of that,” Andy snapped. “It told me what it wants.”

Story Fragment: LAPPING WATER (2)

Posted in Original Writing with tags , , , , , , , , on September 7, 2017 by smuckyproductions

Another piece of this story, about a teenage boy’s phantasmal, frightening first sexual experience in a small town. To read the first segment, click here. 

Lor crouched on the beach and blinked into the water. The moon rippled over the surface, turning it into a broken mirror. That was all, cold light and emptiness beyond. Lor’s lungs filled and he sputtered – Avery couldn’t be gone. His shirt and belt were still on the beach. Lor crawled closer to the water’s edge, gripping the rocks to keep himself steady, and tried to see beneath the ripples. There, it might have been a face – grey, bloated features – but was it Avery’s? Was it Lor’s? The lake lapped, slow again, in mocking, nonsensical reply. That was the only sound; no soft breath, no wailing. Lor felt that empty noise rattling his core again. Maybe that cry had come from him.

He couldn’t know how long he stared into the lake, waiting for a response – he hadn’t checked the time when they arrived. The air had embedded in his skin, a complete chilling of his blood, but he couldn’t leave Avery down there. Every few moments the moon shook on the water in the shape of a face, a reaching hand, and then smoothed out again into the hateful mirror. He clutched the rocks and waited anyway, lungs rattling with moisture just as Avery’s must have done. Lor watched until his fingers burned with cold and he saw the lake rising toward them. Jerking back, he escaped it, and left Avery’s clothes on the rocks. Like a coward he ran.

The town still showed a few signs of life when Lor stumbled onto Main St. The asphalt glistened with moisture, soaked by some accident or aberration, because it couldn’t have rained. Droplets of water gleamed on the windows, going dark as the store owners closed up for the night. The streetlights wavered overhead, murky and partial. Lor tried to see through the light, but caught only glimpses of faces – all slack, greyish, staring back at him with drooping mouths. He made sure to avoid their soggy eyes. If he touched them, he understood, he would sink into them. Their skin looked so soft. His limbs were frigid and clumsy, but he managed to dodge them. As he swept past he heard their breath – wet sucking, tongues sliding, searching. Near the mini golf course, he thought he could hear their wet feet slapped on the concrete in pursuit. Or maybe it was only one set of feet. Avery, with his big hair plastered into his eyes, and lips parting to let water dribble out; gurgling as he said, The water’s sweet. The water’s warm.

Lor ran. Even though it hadn’t touched him, hadn’t dragged him under, he could feel it on his skin. Slick, clinging moisture. His hair hanging down, clothes sticking to him. He wiped his forehead and his palm came away with a greenish slime. It had covered him, made him dirty all over. Avery’s mouth trickled into his ear to confirm it. Sweet… warm.

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.

 

 

Story Fragment: PAYMENT

Posted in Original Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 16, 2017 by smuckyproductions

The first page or so to a short story that is more or less complete. Please share thoughts in the comments – perhaps the full version will follow. 

PAYMENT

He had expected, when the knock came, for the grip on his throat to tighten at last into a fatal clench that would finish him off before he could get to the door. Instead, the grip released. The fear of a decade fizzled into a low-grinding acceptance. He preferred the choking.

The knock came once, and Stephen knew not to make him wait. He stumbled to the door on traitor feet and pulled the knob, which put up no resistance, no sympathy. Then the night gushed in and unfolded and the man with the briefcase stepped forward. Rendered in motel fluorescent, the image disappointed Stephen. The lips had deflated. Their kiss, the sealing embrace, wouldn’t do much for him this time. But the amber eyes were more truthful, showed more of the hellfire behind them.

“Hello,” said the salesman.

Stephen moved to the side and allowed the salesman to float into the room. His presence brought the shroud of night with it and dimmed the already-weak lights inside. As he passed, Stephen noticed subtle, peeling burn marks along his skin. Ten years ago it had been perfect, enough to make anyone jealous, addicted.

“All that hounding and hunting will do that to a guy,” the salesman said, unprompted. He sounded like he’d swallowed too much gravel. “The vessels are only supposed to last five years. You, however, you made yourself hard to find.”

The remnants of Stephen’s charms – pentagrams drawn in sheep’s blood, holy dust sprinkled at each window, packets of forbidden herbs that had long gone impotent – dangled or dripped around the room. “Well, I gave it the ol’ college try,” he muttered. “But I still heard you coming.”

“Be grateful I’m just an associate,” the salesman said. “An executive would have started flaying you in dime-sized pieces by now. You’re my first case. We’ll just pretend those extra years never happened.”

“Yeah, sure, lucky me,” Stephen said, and sat heavily on the couch. The rusted springs groaned at him. He looked down at the cushion to make sure he could reach beneath it when the time came. The salesman sunk down next to him. Stephen forced himself to stay still when a bony but gentle hand settled on his knee. He looked at the salesman, an inch from his face, and for a miserable second Stephen remembered the first time he had looked. It had stirred his soul to meet those eyes, promising lots of golden things. Out of all the smeared glasses and buzzing neon of the bar, those eyes, the only things that shone.