Archive for nature

Sterile Fairy Tales: the Atmosphere of Beaver Creek

Posted in Dark Musings, Original Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 17, 2017 by smuckyproductions

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For a few years now, due to my mother’s rather unique event-planning job, I’ve been able to make brief visits to the Colorado village of Beaver Creek. This mountain resort does not qualify as a town in the traditional sense. Just west of Vail, its activities and infrastructure are limited to hiking, skiing when there’s snow, and indulging in decadent sustenance. Its main feature is the quiet, a well-protected amenity. Wealthy families make up the bulk of the population here, and they come to seek privacy, peace. They build or purchase massive houses in the woods, most designed to mirror Swiss chalets or copper-plated Viking halls, but without real texture or age to cause functional problems. On average, these houses are occupied two or three months out of the year – some, a bus driver noted while discussing the issue, for all but a week or two. The houses spend most of their time in silence.

The village, with its European kitsch architecture and Romantic mountain backdrop hovering just beyond, projects the personality of a luxurious fairy tale. Such majestic forests and complete nights, the royal houses, can’t avoid the comparison. But all fairy tales succumb to dangers that disrupt their pristine little worlds and call for an adventure to prevent utter destruction. Here, danger has been scrubbed from the walls, plowed from the earth – it’s a resort, after all, and there’s no room for such things. Up here, even the scenery seems curated; the trees are lush and plentiful, the namesake creek a central, controlled factor in the village’s layout; a spectrum of flowers and eternal fields and quaint ponds dot the landscape beyond each twist of road. At the edge of autumn, where we teeter now, the leaves have begun fading to gold almost on cue. Amidst the concealing trees, the windows and metallic siding of houses reflect the sun, hinting at their hiding places.

But if this is true, why does one feel an omen arising from the trees at dusk? Why do the empty houses wink with sinister enigmas from between the branches? Surrounded by careful sterility and curated sublimity of the village, an overactive imagination will naturally conjure phantoms in the shadows; and the shadows lay thick here in the decadent, abandoned rooms. The windows rarely illuminate from within, and the rooms hardly ever flicker with moving shapes. They aren’t humble houses – some tower three, four stories, occupy an entire acre, brooding in hushed glares as loudly as their owners will fill them when they return, if they ever do. It seems that the air would eventually have to compensate for those prolonged silences. What would the echoes form as they bounce off the walls when there’s nothing to absorb them? What emerges when the people no longer fill their rooms with molecules and breath; what do their private escapes leave behind?

Likely nothing. But in such an alien, sensorily absorbing environment, one imagines things. The controlled paradise is, in the end, rather empty; and I enjoy it more when I fill it with strange muses. It’s my greatest pleasure up here, pretending that the spirits have risen to haunt the hollow spaces, fill the gaps – though it always leaves a hole in my own mind, because it seems that darkness must come to these places, and I hate to think that it is so well-hidden behind those reflective windows. Passing by, one would never know.

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Story Fragment: LAPPING WATER (1)

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

As I’ve been spending time in small town Colorado, this story has been pricking at my brain. It’s a quiet horror tale about first dates, first sexual encounters, and the dark, cold hole these events can open in a young person’s mind. I picked a section from the story’s center. 

Lor avoided the lake by habit. There was something about its undulating green surface, the extent of its depth partially hidden, that made Lor feel nauseous. He could blame it on too many childhood viewings of Creature from the Black Lagoon, which planted the image of that giant webbed hand grabbing at his legs, but it went into something more subconscious. The sound the water made as it slapped against the shore was the worst – it made Lor’s chest compress and his ears ring. His parents loved going down every Sunday, and he went sometimes just to appease them, as long as he could excuse himself from a ride in his dad’s rented boat. His dad always showed disappointment in his expression, but didn’t argue. Lor was happiest when homework or general malaise gave him a concrete reason to stay home. The lapping sound always got to him, and stayed until he managed to fall asleep. He thought of telling Avery this and imagined the response, comprised simply of laughter. It was a means to an end, anyway, and maybe Lor would be distracted enough to forget the sound. So he let Avery take him there.

The town was laid out in little blotches – Main St. and the two schools at the mouth of the highway, hotels and cabins dotted along the river, with the neighborhoods breaking up space in between. Then there was the trailer park to the south, where the river started turning into marshland. The lake hid itself near there. On the opposite side of the road was the red sign for Maisie’s and the cupola for the American Legion, but the trees grew so thick on the shore that it might have been its own little world. It was always quiet, even when the tourists swarmed in July. Getting there on foot meant walking on the road in parts, or slogging through the bushes and mud. Avery made it fun. They had plenty of room to grab at each other and kiss in the dark – there were only intermittent streetlights, and otherwise just the moon to cast shadows over them. They kept warm until the path sloped down and led them through the trees, which whipped against their shoulders, the branches pressed so close. For a while Lor could only hear the whisper-brush of the pine needles and snatches of Avery’s breath; then it started. It was a calm night, so its rhythm was slow, patient.

When they broke through the trees and onto the shore, he saw it slinking against the rocks. In the white-blue moonlight, punctuated by stars, it was hard to tell where the lake ended and the forest began – its diameter was long enough to make the edges fuzzy. The water lulled, cold and black, along the jagged shadows of trees. For a moment they didn’t make a sound, just stood and listened. The longer Lor waited, the more insistent the lapping became; the lake’s vastness caused it to echo and expand, coming from all sides. But Avery just breathed deep and smiled – the sound didn’t bother him. A dim thought suggested that Lor should wonder why this was so. He didn’t obey.

“Come here,” Avery said, holding out his hand. Lor staggered forward. The beach was comprised of rocks, not a soft bed, but Avery sat down on them without flinching. He pulled Lor down next to him and put a hand around Lor’s waist, kneading lightly. The anticipation was strong enough to muffle the water, but not mute it. They pushed into each other at full strength – no one around to see them now. Avery’s flavors overwhelmed Lor’s brain and quieted it for the first time all night. It should have left room for the water to creep in, but Lor was busy making sure he was doing this right, grabbing at the best time, maintaining a good pace. Avery guided him. He had done this before.

It didn’t last long; the anticipation had sapped their patience. Afterwards, partially clothed, they panted on the beach. Lor could make out small details of Avery’s body in the moonlight – round, dark nipples and the beginnings of chest hair peeking between his ribs. There was a trail of hair leading down from his belly button that Lor ran his finger across. Avery didn’t look at him – he kept his eyes closed and breathed, grinned. Lor thought he could do this forever, lying in the dark and exploring this body. Then something cold slid across his foot.

Forbidden Tomes: THE STORIES OF ALGERNON BLACKWOOD

Posted in Forbidden Tomes with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 5, 2015 by smuckyproductions

 

Nature, and the wilderness, has always been discussed and mused over in literature. So few authors, however, have been able to capture its true persona: something massive and terrifying that we cannot understand. Few artists have better captured the awe and horror of the wilderness than Algernon Blackwood.

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One of the great influencers of H.P. Lovecraft, Blackwood got his start writing articles for adventurer and outdoors magazines – hunting, rafting, cross-country travelling, and various other subjects. His legacy lies in his fiction, though, which is centered around the same concepts. Blackwood himself was an adventurous man, often writing from experience. The stories he conjured are enough to convince us that we should avoid his tracks at all costs.

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His most famous tales – “The Willows,” “Ancient Sorceries” and my personal favorite, “The Wendigo” – place their protagonists, always level-headed and intelligent people, in the midst of the wilderness. There they encounter a force beyond their reckoning that brushes them for a moment, leaving them shaken and in deathly danger. Whether it’s riverside reeds that act as a barrier between our world and that of immense gods, or a wintry specter who rides on the wind and takes human souls, the force is always beautiful in a way, but also terrifying. In some cases, it is seductive, and traps its human prisoners before destroying them.

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Blackwood is remarkable in his ability to describe a setting – the Montana forests, the banks of the Danube, or even a normal townhouse – in a vivid way, then filling it with hallucinatory events that make the reader question reality. He is possibly one of the first practitioners of psychological horror. It’s all the more effective for his attention to the real places and people of his stories. Surrealism is easy to dismiss, but when it roots itself in a recognizable world, it becomes equally as real.

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While my favorite of his stories deal with wilderness, he also wrote incredible stories of haunted houses and occult dabblings – surreal, chilling evocations of the supernatural. Blackwood himself practiced the occult, belonging to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and these beliefs are reflected in these stories. Their themes of reincarnation (“The Insanity of Jones”) or experiments with beings from beyond the veil (“An Episode in a Lodging House”) are powerful, and have clear influence on authors like H.P. Lovecraft who cemented that type of horror.

For fiction that is at once beautiful and frightening, awe-inspiring and repulsive, Blackwood cannot be trumped. He creates works of sublime fear in a way that few others have attempted. As the winter wind moans outside, his stories will remind us of our place in the world, and the vast things that move beyond.