Featured

The Green Tunnel

The Green Tunnel originally appeared in LampLight – Volume 7, Issue 1, edited by Jacob Haddon

 

I leave the Volvo at the Springer Mountain Trailhead, keys underneath the seat. Walking away, new red backpack heavy on my hips, I realize I never want to see the car again. When I come out the other side, I’ll report it stolen, and cash out more of the settlement to buy a new car with fewer seats.

The new boots wrap my feet like second skin. I’d broken them in on day hikes in the winter, testing each bit of gear as it arrived. I made sure I could pitch the tent in the rain, strip the stove to clean each valve, patch the ultralight air mattress in the dark if it sprung a leak. I packed food into parcels — dehydrated meals, rice, and protein bars — and mailed them to post offices along the route. I have no intention of dying on the Appalachian Trail, no matter what my friends assume.

The thrum of cars gives way to the whisper of wind through spring buds and the crunch of snow underfoot. The sweat on my back cools in the morning chill. With the anxiety of planning and preparation behind me, there is only the fixed certainty of the next six months ahead.

I am each step, and then the next, and nothing more. I am the smell of Georgia pines and melting snow. I am sunlight on cold skin. Rising to the peak of Springer Mountain, I descend the other side without stopping to sign the register. On the first day, as I’d hoped, I lose myself in the immediacy. The sounds of rushing air and shearing metal that I’d lived with for a year slides into the background.

Continue reading “The Green Tunnel”

Featured

The Shrike

The Shrike was first published in audio on Pseudopod

 

By the time she’s thrown herself upright and grasped for the remote with shaking hands, it’s too late. She’s seen it. She’s heard the words. Instead, she stumbles for the kitchen sink, feeling her throat clench with acrid, stinging horror. The vibrant green and brown hues of the nature documentary wash the inside of her darkened apartment, sonorous tones of the narration hanging in the air. She tries not to listen as she hunches over the filthy, dish-choked sink, retching and gasping for air, but the words still come. Thorns. Impale. Butcher.

Coupled with ambien and supermarket gin, the nature documentaries had been the only thing that helped her fall asleep for the last month, but that’s over now. Ruined in a single fusillade of frames and words. She shuts her eyes tight, presses her face to the cracked tile of the kitchen counter as sobs rock her wasting frame. Behind her eyelids, she sees what she always sees. Trinity on the spike, wide and terrified eyes going glassy with blood loss as her little mouth struggles and fails to form a plea for help. But now the jagged spar of rusted iron in the little girl’s throat has a name, christened by the late night documentary on the cruel hunting habits of predatory birds.

Shrike. It repeats in her ears, a ringing bell striking midnight. Shrike. In the cold clarity of the moment, she feels a silver thread of relief. She knows the name of the thing, now. It is no longer just a factor, one link in the chain of her fatal, unforgivable mistake. The Shrike is an entity. It is something outside herself she can blame. Something she can hate.

Continue reading “The Shrike”

Featured

Last Halloween

Last Halloween was first published in FLAPPERHOUSE #19

On the last morning I will have with my son, I make him pancakes with fresh blueberries from the community garden mixed in the batter.  When the Patels from down the street heard the news, they brought us a flask of fresh maple syrup from the trees in the western woods, and I’ve chilled it overnight in the fridge. Butter from the community farm sizzles and spits on the griddle as Malcolm drags his feet down the stairs. Outside the kitchen window, perched on the skeletal frame of an old oak, the crow gazes at me. Its head crooks to one side and beetle-shell eyes flash in the October sun, fixed on mine. I look away.

“Morning,” I grunt, trying to keep the desperate quaver out of my voice. “Thought maybe you’d like to try some coffee with breakfast.”

He narrows sleepy eyes, skeptical of the offer, then shrugs. “Doesn’t it, uh, stunt my growth?” I wince, but he doesn’t notice.

“I think maybe one cup is okay.” I set the chipped, steaming mug down in front of him with the first batch of pancakes. “Just don’t tell mom.”

He tries to play it cool, like it’s no big deal, but I can see the excitement in the corners of his smile. He wraps his small hands around the mug, half covering the Notre Dame crest, and sniffs at the steam. I realize that I’m staring at him, so I look out the window again. The crow catches my eye and nods, then takes flight in a burst of sparkling black feathers.

Continue reading “Last Halloween”

Dogs in the Drywall

This is my final text of this story, as heard on Season 10, Episode 9 of the No Sleep Podcast.

I hear the dogs before I see them. It’s Monday morning, I’m in the bathroom stall, pants down, pretending to shit and making polite throat-clearing noises every few minutes. The rotten vegetable green paint on the walls never fails to give me a headache, so I have my eyes shut tight. Still, I can spend twenty minutes here, three to four times a day, eating up an hour. More if you factor in the round trip from office to toilets.

My legs are numb despite my best efforts to restore circulation. That’s my cue to stand up, to go through the motions of wiping, to flush, and to pretend to wash my hands. Before I can lurch upward, I hear them, inside the wall to my right. Nails clicking on pressboard and metal. Fur scraping drywall. Breath like a shuddering air conditioning vent. It’s right next to me, too big to be a rat, and far too real. I spin away, dopey grin on my face in some idiot desire to catch someone’s eye, to have a shared moment of surreal “did you hear that?” camaraderie, but I’m alone in the handicapped stall of a men’s restroom.

Continue reading “Dogs in the Drywall”

Black Stars Rise: New Fiction in FLAPPERHOUSE and True Detective Ramblings

flapperhousewhitecover

Firstly, this week marks the release of the first issue of FLAPPERHOUSE, a new magazine from editor Joe O’Brien. Joe is a long time visitor to the site, and I was honored that he asked me to submit. My story, “Axis Mundi”, (sample here!) is a sci-fi/horror story about derelict spaceships and divinity, is one of several new stories and poems to grace the pages of the first issue. It’s a terrific collection of varied voices, and the more I read, the more proud I am to be a part of it.

Secondly, I just finished True Detective last week. I wanted to hold off on the last episode for several years, just to inhabit the liminal space forever, but my wife demanded that we finish it. I’ve been enormously taken by the show, from the deliberate reference to the philosophy of Thomas Ligotti and other antinatalists in the first 15 minutes, to the series-wide use of weird fiction in general and Robert Chambers’ “The King in Yellow”in specific, the show was not only expertly written, shot and acted, it was also directly created to please me. Or, that’s how it felt across most of the 8 episodes. I’m fairly certain that this is, and will remain for some time, my favorite series on television, ever.

Since the show ended, I’ve been chewing on some things. One thing I’m maybe mildly disappointed with is that a lot of the intricacy of symbolism in set and costume design turned out to be coincidental more than intentional, but the show still has the feel of a puzzle box. And I adore puzzle boxes. With the writer mentioning that he’s a fan of some of my weird fiction authors (Ligotti, Barron, and Langan among them), and that he’s drawn direct inspiration from the genre (beyond the overarching King in Yellow references within the story), it had me on high alert for references, metaphors and symbolism. So, this is me pulling on threads and seeing what tumbles out.

Spoilers, obviously.

Right fucking

I’ll try, Rust. Here’s my thoughts on one of the repeating images and concepts from the show: Black Stars…

Continue reading “Black Stars Rise: New Fiction in FLAPPERHOUSE and True Detective Ramblings”

Metapost: 2013 – Year Two and “Jamais Vu, Issue 1” Giveaway!

So, here we are, 2013.

Sorry, yes, I am going to give away a copy of Jamais Vu Journal, Winter 2014, but at the end of this post (and one more on facebook, and one more on twitter), so feel free to scroll right past all this other hogwash.

Anyway, I didn’t quite hit my goals this year, but enough good was accomplished that I’m not going to lament about it too much.

I didn’t quite keep up a respectable output, still falling into the feast and famine patterns of writing a huge chunk and then not again for many days. Here’s the thing: I know “write every day” is the advice everyone gives writers, but… Sometimes that’s not possible. For me, with a demanding job and a family, it’s rarely possible, and just accepting that was a big step for me this year. It meant untangling a few threads of guilt at perceived failure from all thoughts of writing. If I found time, that became a good thing, not a reminder of yesterday’s failure . This translated into longer and longer stories, as I wrote four and five thousand words in a sitting. While I wrote two flash pieces this year for specific contests and calls, the other pieces I finished clocked in at 11k and 12k words, far longer than my old 2k word stories. I’m finding I quite like the wider canvas to work on, and that novelette and novella length stories are very difficult to find markets for… So, click through to see how this year stacked up:

Continue reading “Metapost: 2013 – Year Two and “Jamais Vu, Issue 1” Giveaway!”