Sneak peek of my next story – The End (working title)

So, I haven’t posted much in this past week. Haven’t written much either. Started a new job recently, and spent this past weekend out of town visiting family. Don’t know if it’s been that, or just a resurgence of my usual depressed ennui, but I’ve been finding it hard to get motivated. I still write at least a few pages every day, most of it utter dross, but I haven’t been able to do anything constructive in that area.

Still, in the spirit of chugging on like a suspiciously optimistic engine (I know it thinks it can, I just don’t think trains should attain sentience. That’s one step away from Skynet), I’ve started working on a story idea I’ve been kicking around in my head for a few months now (I only broke 3 vases, and they were kinda shit anyway). This is a bit of sneak peak. If the first 3 paragraphs don’t grab the attention of my readers then I’m not doing a good enough job.

Now, since brevity is the soul of wit, I’ve run out of aplomb, and with absolutely no more adieu I give you….

The End (working title): A Sneak Peek – By, E.W. Morrow

There were times, before all this happened, when I used to think that if somebody handed me the keys to the Apocalypse I’d turn the ignition and drive the world straight to Hell. Halfway down I’d roll down the window and flip the bird to all those poor bastards in Purgatory. Those dumb schmucks still struggling up the endless mountain towards the Light at the summit, not realizing that the end had already come and gone. Sorry boys, show’s over. You took too God-damned long.

Those were always my darkest moments. Usually alcohol was involved in some way or other. Not always. These days I generally don’t think like that. Not because I’ve suddenly come to appreciate the value of life in all its splendor, or because I’ve decided to stop drinking. I just stopped because it became pointless, redundant. Somebody beat me to the punch.

It wasn’t as sudden as I thought it would be, the end of the world. The very end was. The very end was sudden, and violent. We saw the light of those final moments all the way over here in middle America, half a world away. It was just an eerie glow in the night sky, but we saw it, and knew what it meant. Yeah, the end was sudden, but the whole thing was long, tense, and confusing. In hindsight there were signs even before anyone knew to look for them. To be fair they weren’t obvious. In the early days there no troop deployments, no mass suicides, no parades or slogans or prophets come down from the mountains. There were only dreams, and feelings, and glimpses of things in the corner of the eye that vanished as soon as you even thought of looking at them. The whole world held it’s breath and never stopped, and in the end we suffocated.

Flash Fiction – Ring Finger

Ring Finger, by E. W. Morrow

Nothing he tries is working. The soap just makes the metal slippery, impossible to grip. Putting her hand in a bag of ice doesn’t cause the skin to tighten or the swelling to subside. No amount of yanking or heaving makes the ring so much as budge. Even when the skin breaks and a trickle of blood oozes under the silver band it holds tight. He has tried everything and the ring is still on her finger. Almost everything.

“Please,” she breathes. “Please, baby, don’t do this.”

There is only one thing left to do. The damned thing has to come off. He kneels and checks the restraints.

“It’s going to be fine,” he says. “We have to get it off.”

“Just leave it,” she sobs.

“It’s not safe.”

“Please…”

“No.”

“But…”

“No!” he screams.

“Why?” she pleads.

He doesn’t answer. She sobs quietly as he moves to the corner of the shed. He doesn’t tell her that he stole it, that the old woman haggled over the price of a necklace in his left hand while he slipped the ring into his pocket with his right. He doesn’t mention that she ran after him, yelling in a foreign language, that she tumbled and fell as she spat her curses at him. And he doesn’t tell her that the old woman visits him in his dreams, laughing at him.

What he does is pull the pair of hedge shears from the rusty metal drum in the corner, shaking off the cobwebs. He hefts it, feels the weight of the hardwood and iron in his hand, and gives it an experimental snip.

“What are you doing?” she asks in a ragged voice.

Again, he doesn’t answer. He just pulls out the handkerchief from his back pocket and gently, but tightly, ties it around her mouth. It’s so tight that it forces her tongue away from her teeth. He doesn’t want her to hurt herself. She feels a kiss on the side of her neck.

The screams of protest as he raises the shears into place are mercifully muffled by the gag. She tries to clench her fist but can’t stop the iron blades from curving around the ring finger of her left hand, just behind the silver band of the ring. The blades are cold. She squirms. He looks her in the eye as he does it.

Snip.

Writhing in agony her screams are muted and long. With one dirty hand he wipes his forehead, rubs his temples. There is a moment of silence broken only by the sobs, and then he breaths out a sigh of relief. Before it has time to drift away, his eyes catch a glimmer of silver and he gasps it back in.

On her left index finger, below the second knuckle, the ring sits, starring back at him mockingly.

With a weary, ironic laugh he lifts the shears again. Through a film of tears he stares into her eyes, and she silently pleads with him to stop.

“I’m sorry,” he whispers. “For everything.”

The screams end long before he is finally done.

Resources

Got a few links to share with you all tonight. This morning. Whatever. They are some good resources I’ve found recently and I think you should give them a look.

First off, thanks to those of you who read my latest post. I know it was just a rehash of an earlier story, but it marks the first time in my life that I’ve actually gone back to an unfinished story and tried to make it better. I haven’t gotten any feedback yet, but I’m hoping I will in the next few days.

Okay, over the past few days I’ve found 3 different resources for reading/listening material. I’ll give some links and I highly, HIGHLY recommend checking them out. Not only because they have some really good content on them, but also because they are free.

Tor.com – Many of you may know who TOR is. They do a lot of fantasy and science fiction publishing. It’s always been a secret dream of mine to have them publish a novel of mine.  Tor.com is a sister website to Tor Books devoted entirely to short fiction. Most of their stuff focuses on fantasy or sci-fi, with some horror and other speculative fiction. As far as I can tell, it’s 100% free and all online.

Lovecraft E-Zine – A web based lit-mag devoted entirely to works of Lovecraftian Horror. Eventually I think I will delete my story “The Pond” and submit it to this publication. They’ve had stories nominated for Stoker Awards for short fiction and seem to have a consistent amount of quality across the board. Check them out if you love the Cthulhu mythos, cosmic horror, or just good horror stories in general.

Pseudopod – This is probably my favorite discovery I’ve made. I love to listen to books. I love Librivox (check that out too if you haven’t) and Audible (though I haven’t been able to get anything from them in a while due to monetary concerns). Psuedopod is a podcast of great horror stories read by very good readers. I haven’t listened to many, but most of the onse I have listened to have had some bits from the authors describing their process/inspiration for the stories. It’s a great sight.

Check em out. Highly recommended, and I’ll be using them extensively in the near future.

The Pond (longer, edited version)

The Pond – By E.W. Morrow
Word Count : 3384

I’m sorry that you have to read this. Trust me when I say that I have done everything in my power to keep you from doing so. Maybe you won’t have to. It is possible that I will find the strength to continue on as I have, but lately that does not seem likely. Soon I will have to send you this letter, and I beg you to read it. Doubt it if you must, but please read it. Go to the pond in Fairgrove Park on a hot day, stay there until night, and see for yourself.

Again, I’m sorry, but someone has to know. I regret that it has to be you. Hopefully you will reach the same conclusion I have, and will do what must be done.

For posterity’s sake, I should record my name here in writing. I am Abraham. My friends used to call me Abe, back when I had friends. Forgive me, but I won’t put my surname down here. Not for my sake, but for the sake of my parents.

You remember my parents? Old, even when they were young, and intensely spiritual. You used to remark how they never seemed to get mad, but never seemed to be happy. Stern. They are always stern. Everyone I meet assumes that I am named after our 16th president, but in point of fact my parents love biblical names, and so their inspiration came from the much older Abraham. They could not have known the morbid irony of the name when they chose it. I will come to that later, but please do not tell them. They must already suffer the ignominy of a college graduate for a son earning minimum wage at a series of jobs he can’t seem to keep, and I wish to spare them any further shame. I’ve had my current job, cashier at a local toy store, for three weeks, but already I think I am close to being fired. I have missed too much work, and I think my coworkers have started to complain about the way I look at the children who frequent the store.

I’m sorry, I’m getting off topic. You deserve a proper, simple explanation. Murder. I have done murder. Willingly, and enough times now that I have lost count. None of the deaths were meaningless, or done in anger, and I am not asking for forgiveness, only understanding. Not personal understanding, though I think that will come to you in time. I just want you to understand the reason, why so many had to die, and why more must die in turn.

When my troubles began, I used to worry, that the bodies would be discovered. Foolish, I know, but isn’t that the way of the world? We spend all our time worrying about trivial things while the real problems, the real dangers, lurk just below the surface. Out of sight, out of mind. Of course, one day the hidden danger will surface, and then we’ll kick ourselves for not giving it the respect it deserved.

In my defense, when I began I did not know how deep the pond was. My dreams were full of dark visions of waterlogged, algae coated corpses bobbing just below the murky surface. In my dreams they would whisper to each other in noxious strings of malice laden bubbles that never made it to the surface. One day, when there were enough of them, they would rise from the shallow waters and find me, drag me back to the water and hold me there in their clammy embrace forever.

Like I said, foolish. I am not so lucky that such a mild fate awaits me there. I still do not know how deep those waters run, but I know it is far deeper than any pond should. And I know that there are far worse things lurking in it than my own crimes could ever create.

Think carefully. Do you remember the pond? Few people ever seem to. When I used to question acquaintances about it their responses were always vague, as if in remembering it they could only see it in the corner of their mind’s eye. These days I do as little as I can to draw attention to the pond, but you need to remember. It is relatively small, no more than a half a mile in circumference. Small reed beds dot it’s edges. A pair of old willows on the far bank droop over the pond’s surface, their supple branches dipping low, drinking in the water. I can’t imagine anything that would want to drink that scummy greenish water but the willows seem to thrive on it.

I don’t know it’s name, or even if it has one, so I’m afraid I can’t give it to you. I suppose you could call it Fairgrove Pond, since it squats in a secluded corner of Fairgrove Park. Most of the park’s visitors seem content to lounge in the shade of the broad, leafy oak trees near the parking lot, or else frolic in the more open spaces toward the middle, but one or two can usually be found strolling nearby. It is bordered on two sides by a low, impenetrable bramble and on a third side by a low, chain link fence. If you’re spry you can park your car on the side of the road and hop the fence. It lets you avoid a traffic light or two and it surprises me that in all the years I’ve gone there no one has put a gate in. It surprises me, but I’m glad for it.

I fed it again last night, the pond, but I fear that soon I will have to do so again. The weather has been unbearably hot this month, and this past week it rained nearly non-stop. I know many were happy for the reprieve from the heat, and should I have been fortunate enough to live anywhere else, I would have agreed. But there is a reason that thunder stirs me from my dreams of dead men, and a reason my waking hours are more terrible than my dreams. Rain disturbs the pond. It churns the water, raises up the algae and decaying organic matter and brings the smell of death to the surface. This is true of any pond, but in mine, worse things are disturbed.

It had to be last night. Yesterday, I saw a group of children playing by the water’s edge. Their parents were quite some distance away, chatting inanely bemoaning the heat and commenting happily about the lack of homeless that used to sleep in the park in the summer months. Stupid people. I watched the children playing, watched them throwing stones and sticks into the water, and I knew that I could get to them before their parents even knew what was happening. I wondered which one I would take, if I had to, and whether the others would thank me for it after. Probably not. They never do.

The children squealed when there was a splash and a plop and ran back to their parents, each one trying to yell louder than the others. There was an argument about whether it had been a turtle or a frog they’d seen. Nobody watched the water. Nobody saw the ripple become a wake that sped to the center of the pond and vanished. Nobody but me.

I started with animals. The first had been a dog, and an accident. He’d slipped his leash one evening and ran into a bed of reeds at the water’s edge. The reeds had thrashed suddenly, there had been a yelp and some splashes, and then I never saw the dog again. When my sister came back from her vacation I told her it had run away. I even put signs up around the neighborhood and went with her to the shelters looking for it. I never told her what really happened. Never mentioned the slimy, ropy thing that disappeared into the depths as I approached. Never commented how, the next day, the evil smell around the pond seemed to disappear.

I didn’t start giving it things right away. At first I ignored it, though I would go back from time to time over the next few weeks, always during the day. I started noticing things. The lack of geese or ducks. The way the surface rippled in the absence of any wind. The way the stench built up after a rain. One night, about a month after the incident with my sister’s dog, a young couple went missing. Apparently the girl was a policeman’s daughter, and, after their car was found locked and parked next to the chain link fence by the nameless pond in Fairgrove Park, the search made the evening news. The next day I went to the park, and the foul stench that usually hung in the air was gone.

After that I started giving it things a few times every month. Always after a hard rain, always when the smell of death was strongest. There were a few cats I’d coaxed into my apartment with a bag of treats. And a white rabbit and a pair of ferrets from the local pet store. For some reason it never occurred to me to try anything that was already dead, like a ham or a turkey. Somehow I just knew that the thing in the water wanted warm meat. During the day I would go and watch as runners jogged around the water, as children skipped rocks and hunted for frogs far from the view of their parents, and it was all I could do not to break down and shout them away. None of them gave the pond so much as a backwards glance as they left, ignorant and happy.

For the first few months I saw mercifully little of the thing in the pond. All I caught were quick glimpses of something black and slimy, something that glistened in the moonlight and wrapped around it’s prey like a ball of snakes. But I was finding it harder and harder to catch animals to throw to it. Eventually the pet store would grow suspicious of the numbers of small furry animals I was purchasing. During the days I would visit the pond, and I’d watch the children playing along it’s edge, blind to the danger they were in. The pond became a dark, omnipresent thing in my life. It clutched at me where ever I went and whatever I did. For months I had been its keeper, its source of food, and now I was failing it, and its disappointment was quickly turning into anger. A deep, gnawing apprehension filled my every waking hour. I knew that if I didn’t feed it soon, the pond would feed itself, and it would not stop until both its hunger and its rage were sated.

I don’t know when I made the decision. To this day I’m not sure I ever actually did. I think I just kept on going until it was too late. That’s what I tell myself, that suddenly I just looked back and the point of no return was spinning off into the distance behind me. It’s a comforting thought. But then, it doesn’t explain why I went to the park that night, or why I took the bottle of whiskey.

I never learned his name. He was just a homeless man who I’d seen there from time to time, who’d hit me up for spare change or a bottle of beer, whichever one I had on me. In my mind, whenever I remember him, I call him Isaac. It seems appropriate. I sat on a bench near the pond and waited. He limped up a few seconds later. He smelled like stale sweat and sour milk. It was almost refreshing, smelling something that good after the pond. I handed him the bottle and we talked. Or rather, he talked, I listened. He drank most of the bottle, though I had a few mouthfuls to calm my nerves. When the bottle was empty I said I had some more in my car, and we got up and started walking.

I like to think we would have kept walking if he hadn’t told me to wait just as we passed the pond. After drinking most of the bottle and needed to relieve himself. I gestured to the pond without saying a word. He gave me a crooked smile. That was the last time I saw his face, and that’s how I remember him, smiling a crooked smile. He trudged to the edge of the water and I heard him jangling with his ratty old belt. A moment later there was the steady trickle as he emptied his bladder into the water.

It reared out of the water then. Isaac must have had his eyes closed, because he didn’t react to it’s appearance. I saw it though. It was long and thin, like a massive tentacle or an eyeless snake, and it bulged slightly near the end near its mouth, a round hole that puckered and slurped at the air, as if tasting it’s way towards him. It was jet black and covered with mossy green patches. All along it’s length tiny versions of itself maybe six inches long sprouted and writhed. It rose up, sucking at the air, closing in on the space near the beggar’s head. When it got close enough I saw that the appendages had tiny mouths of their own. Each one was covered in what looked like little hairs that swayed independently of one another causing the whole thing to wriggle constantly and it’s outline to pulse maddeningly. It was only too easy to imagine each one of those hairs having microscopic mouths of their own, and tiny waving growths with mouths and growths of their own. Forever. The creature was a living fractal, a Mandelbrot demon from the darkest pit beyond my imagination. Each part of it was just a smaller version of the whole. Wildly I found myself wondering whether the thing in front of me was the whole creature, or whether this abomination was just one tendril of a massive, endless beast. My mind swam as I tried to imagine it’s bulk sitting at the bottom of the pond. I had no frame of reference for how big the thing might be.

The second tendril almost grabbed me as I was lost in thought. If the moon hadn’t been out, hadn’t gleamed on the sticky mucus covering it, I probably wouldn’t have seen it inching towards me in the gloom. Luckily I managed to stumble away just before it wrapped itself around my leg. I fell and scrambled away through the mud. I shouldn’t have looked back. I know that now. I should have dragged myself to my feet and ran and ran and never come back to that spot again. But something in the back of my mind made me turn, made me scan the ground fragrantly for the tentacle that could still be following me. When I finally saw it, it wasn’t coming after me anymore. It had doubled back and wrapped itself around the old man I’d led to the water’s edge. More and more tendrils were rising from the water, more than could possibly hope to fit around the poor man. An impossible number of sticky, pungent, sucking shapes reared and thrashed in the water, and countless more writhed below the surface. Those that could engulfed the man I’d named Isaac, wrapping him up like a mummy while the rest fought against one another for the tiniest fraction of the meal. Then they lifted the pitiful man high above the surface of the water and the whole thing convulsed. Then, slowly, it dragged him into the water, bit by bit.

I fainted then. By some twisted miracle I was still alive when the morning found me. I was covered in my own vomit and smelled of urine, but I was alive. The surface of the pond was placid, almost serene, save for a single nobly object near the water’s edge that disappeared with a plop the second I saw it. I staggered home in the pale light of dawn, and collapsed on my bed without showering. I slept for the entire day and night. That was the first time I dreamed of the pond. It wasn’t full of the dead, not yet. There was only one person in those waters: the homeless man smiling his crooked smile and staring at me with dead eyes.

As I said, it was foolish to think that the bodies would be discovered. The creature obviously consumed all of the evidence, but after the first few times I always worried that one of them, or one part of them, would be found and I would be hunted down. I have since moved on to other, more important, concerns.

You probably think me mad, and you’d be right. I have come unhinged from all that we know of sanity in this world. I admit this. With a strange clarity I have come to realize that the pond could not possibly contain all that I had seen. The most logical explanation, for what good logic can do us in a world where such things exist, is that the pond is not a closed system. Perhaps it is connected to an underground cave system, of which there are so many in these parts. I doubt it. The one lingering hope I still cling to is that this thing, this Mandelbrot demon, has no earthly origin. I pray, fervently, that what I saw is all I will ever see, just one tendril of madness poking through the veil of reality. The creature could indeed be endless, a never ending series of ropey tendrils and puckered mouths coiling and thrashing for an infinite number of eternities, and I would not care so long as I never have to see it again. Out of sight. Out of mind.

Do you remember your bible? I sometimes wonder if my parents did, when they named me. I remarked on the irony of my given name and how my parents could not have known at the time. Still, it’s a strange name to give to a child. In Genesis, God speaks to Abraham, and tells him to make a sacrifice of his son, Isaac. Abraham binds Isaac on the summit of a mountain, knife in hand, ready to do as God commands. An angel appears and halts him, telling him that he has been tested, his faith will be rewarded, and God commands him to cut Isaac’s bonds.

After all my sacrifices, God has not stopped me. Not my God, not any God. Certainly not the one in the pond. I take this as the clearest sign that what I do is necessary.

I try not to learn their names. Those who’s names I do learn I try to forget. Last night her name was Cheryl, and I think it will be some time before I forget. I hope that I will, just as I hope that nobody remembers the two of us drinking together in the back of the smokey bar on the edge of town, hope nobody saw me slip something into her drink, hope nobody saw us leave together or make it to the pond. She was in my dreams last night, plotting my demise with all the other corpses at the bottom of the pond.

But I’m fine with that. I’ve learned to live with it, learned to tell myself that the pond is safe for children to play around while I stand watch over the waters. One day the dead will come to me, one day there will be so many corpses in the dream pond that they can no longer hide beneath the surface. On that day, I shudder to think what I will do. At least I know that I will always have one source of food left to placate the thing in the pond. I only hope that someone will come after me, carry on my work. If you cannot do it, please find someone who can. Pleas, keep the world ignorant, and safe, for a little while longer.

When Math Attacks – Discussing my inspiration and why I like Cosmic Horror

Figured it was time for a good, old fashioned non-fiction post. Had to happen sometime. Just roll with it, see where it takes us.

Some of you may have read my latest post, The Pond. It’s not finished. It was a super rough draft and I’m still working on it. It’s also already one of my favorite stories I’ve ever written. I’ve always been a fan of Cosmic Horror, but I’ve never tried to write one before. I thought I’d take a break from editing to discuss this genre of horror, which I feel is depressingly underrepresented in modern horror, discuss a bit of history (as much as I can remember right now, anyway), some prime examples of it, how it fits in with modern horror, and finally discuss some of the inspirations for my latest attempt.

So just what is “Cosmic Horror”? I could go into some long winded explanation, give a textbook definition, and bore you to tears. Or I can explain it with a metaphor.

Take a trip into the imagination with me. You’re in the kitchen. It’s evening, dinner has been had and the dishes cleared from the table. Rather than let them sit in the sink, you decide to load the dishwasher before bed. You close the washer, get it running, then start wiping down the counters. You wipe anything soft enough (no twist ties or chicken bones) into the garbage disposal. You turn it on. *CRCHNKTKTKTKCHRTCK* Your heart skips a beat and you flail wildly at the switch to turn it off. Something was in there that shouldn’t have been. Something metal. Without looking, you know what it is.

*spoiler alert* It’s a spoon. It is always a spoon. It will never be anything other than a spoon. Never a fork or, god willing, a knife, something that could BENEFIT from a little extra serration. No. It will always be a spoon. And now every time you pop open a cup of yogurt you are setting forth on a perilous adventure! Why is this? Surely you use forks and knives just as much as spoons, but none the less it will always be a spoon in the garbage disposal.

And that’s cosmic horror in it’s most basic form. The universe doesn’t even care about you enough to give you even odds on it being something besides a spoon in there. In fact, you could think that, for some reason, some….thing contrives to ruin your spoons one at a time. I take it as the best case that there is no just and caring God in the universe.

Now, most horror writers would spice it up a bit. There would be some cabal dedicated to an ancient slumbering god who hungers for spoons in the deepest pits of reality. However, allow me to quote Monty Python for a moment and say “Strange dieties, lying in ponds, distributing cults is no basis for a cosmic horror. Supreme, cosmic terror derives from man’s complete and utter insignificance in the universe, not from some farcical aquatic ritual.” At least, I think that’s how the quote goes. It’s been a while since I’ve seen that movie. (No it hasn’t. It was yesterday).

Now, yes, I understand that a good story needs an antagonist. That’s what separates cosmic horror from some Nietzsche-ian existential rant. But I needed to bring up the first point so that I could fully explain the second. And the second point is this: the bad guy, doesn’t care about you, probably doesn’t even know you exist. For cosmic horror to be truly effective, whatever the protagonist is struggling against must be so huge, so intelligent, so ancient, that humanity is quite literally so much dust in the wind. And what’s worse is the fact that, however horrible, however mind bendingly insane, the antagonist represents the larger universe, and is, in all probability, actually “right”.

Most people probably know who the greatest Cosmic Horror writer of all time was. He was one of the most influential horror writers ever to have lived, perhaps surpassed only by the likes of Edgar Allen Poe and Bram Stoker (though Stoker took a hit when vampires started sparkling, but I won’t get into that now). I am, of course, talking about Howard Phillips Lovecraft. Good ole H.P. Ia Ia, Cthulhu Fhtagn! Other horror writers have their own universes that they like to deal with, H.P Lovecraft has a Mythos.

But why was he so influential? I honestly have to say that I have never been “scared” while reading any of Lovecraft’s stories. I got scared listening to one one time, but that was more due to the quality of the reading. No, I’ve never been given the shivers or hidden beneath the covers. No, he never scared me….until a few days after. And then it sank in. Until I realized just what was so terrifying about his stories.

Take “The Call of Cthulhu” for example. The story is told in the first person in the past tense. The narrator is alive, and well, and spends the entire story telling us of OTHER stories that he heard. I’m not even sure if there’s a term for that, it’s like… 1st person in the 3rd person. All of the action has already taken place, in a much greater way than other past tense stories. Cthulhu is defeated. He got hit by a boat and throw back into the pit. Case closed.

But it’s not. He’s still there. And he’s not the only one. There are an unknown number of similarly alien entities possibly looking to use the Earth as a playground. The narrator realizes this, and realizes that even though they have delayed them, evil only has to win once.

And let’s take it a step further. Yes, it’s a story. It’s fiction. Cthulhu probably doesn’t exist. But the real universe is a big place. What waits for us out there. How will it view us? Will it hate us? Will it even care enough to notice us as we are swept away? Can it be beaten? Or only placated for a time?

And let’s not forget we already find great and terrible mysteries in our world and beyond. Incredibly loud “organic” sounds emanating from the bottom of the ocean (now tentatively identified as an “ice quake”….possibly). Vast swathes of space 1 billion light years across (you could almost think that everything there had been…devoured). Scientists have created robots so advanced that they LIE to each other, essentially committing MURDER against fellow bot. The list goes on.

And that’s what makes Cosmic Horror so scary. Not the immediate threat of danger (though that is usually present), but the realization that the danger is never gone. Humanity could achieve a state of total peace and understanding and happiness and at any moment a vast, uncaring universe could gobble us up and we wouldn’t even be missed.

A little while ago I read a short story. It was by one of Lovecraft’s contemporaries, someone he was in close correspondence with. His name was Frank Belknap Long, and the story was called “The Space Eaters”. It dealt with 2 friends talking alone on a misty night when a mutual friend stumbles in, telling of a frantic ride through a forest and terrible creatures lurking in the mists high in the trees. As the story goes on they 2 friends realize that their new companion has a hole in the back of his head. The man claims he never felt it, never heard a gunshot, but that he did feel something wet trickling down his back. Upon closer inspection, the two friends realize that the man’s head is completely empty. No brains. They begin to speculate about the creatures the man saw, and where they came from. Eventually the reach the conclusion that the creatures are extraterrestrial in origin and, since they must have come from so long away, must be very intelligent. And very hungry.

Long story short, they eat brains. When I read this story, I, for some reason couldn’t remember why it seemed so familiar. A few days later I remembered. I had a memory of a rainy summer morning alone at home, watching television with my older sister. We were watching Monsters, an old show that ran for a while and showed re-runs on Sci-Fi channel before it turned to shit. And the episode was based on this story. And it was the most scared I had ever been in my life, maybe even to this day. I was young, elementary school age, and like I said, it was a rainy day, and it was a rainy day in the show.

Here’s the episode, if you’re interested.

Needless to say, I’ve been a fan of cosmic horror for a long time. And as I said, I think it’s sorely underrepresented in the modern horror scene. I suppose one day I hope to help change that. I love Lovecraft, but his stories are dated, and he was a terribly racist man. I hate the fact that I love “The Horror at Red Hook” and “Herbert West: Reanimator” so much, because they’re so god damned racist.

If you’re interested in modern cosmic horror, check out the works of Laird Barron and Brian Brian Lumley. Also, some of Clive Barker’s stuff from Books of Blood is great, especially “Midnight Meat Train” (much better than the movie).

Now, this got way longer than I’d hoped, and I still don’t think I did a good job, but whatever. I just want to mention a few things about my latest story, my ideas behind it, my “inspirations”, what have you.

First off, if you aren’t sure what a fractal is, or who Benoit Mandelbrot was, check out these two videos. If you are, groovy.

I have a pond nearby my apartment building that I go walking by sometimes. It’s fairly nice, but it has a tendency to be a strange greenish blue color and smell of rotten eggs. The former is probably from runoff from nearby roads, parking longs, construction, etc… and the latter, I learned, is because in hot, calm weather, shallow ponds separate into different temperature levels of slightly varying density and composition. All the really putrid stuff sinks to the bottom. When it rains, the water is disturbed and the icky stuff rises to the top, mixes with the runoff, and smells bad.

I wanted to write a story about that, but I didn’t know how. I figured there would be something in the water, probably something pulpy and tentacly, as water monsters are wont to be. But I wanted it to be different, it needed something special. So, I thought maybe the main character was feeding it. Sure, why not. But it still wasn’t weird enough. So I thought maybe it wasn’t a tentacle, maybe it was covered in tiny things. And that’s when I had the idea to make it a living fractal.

I really liked that idea, the fact that an abstract mathematical idea could be given flesh. It had a weird, twisted kind of logic but the abstraction let it stay alien and strange. From there I knew that I wasn’t just writing a monster story anymore, I’d taken my first steps into understanding cosmic horror.

So, yeah, that’s what I’ve been thinking about the past few days. Wanted to get it down, organize my thoughts a bit, maybe share some of my insights. If you made it this far, thanks for the read, hope it was enjoyable.

The Pond

(Hey all. I thought it would be fun to share a story that I haven’t edited yet. I wrote this today in one sitting in about 2 hours, and I haven’t gone through and made changes. I’ve scanned it for spelling mistakes, but that’s it. If I get some feedback on it I’ll probably post an edited/more complete version of it later.
On a side note, I didn’t realize until I was almost done with the story just how much it resembles a Lovecraftian version of Little Shop of Horrors, but I decided to finish it anyway.
I’d love it if people would give me critiques. What’s missing? Does it need more characterization, a slower build, more characters, more mystery about the thing in the pond? Anything else I could do to improve it? Let me know.
If you can’t think of anything, that’s fine, just sit back and enjoy some cosmic horror, Lovecraft style.
Thanks)

The Pond – By E.W. Morrow

I used to worry, after the first few times, that the bodies would be discovered. Foolish, I know, but isn’t that the way of the world? We spend all our time worrying about trivial things while the real problems, the real dangers, lurk just below the surface. Out of sight, out of mind. Of course, one day the hidden danger will surface, and then we’ll kick ourselves for not giving it the respect it deserved.

In my defense, when I began I did not know how deep the pond was. My dreams were full of dark visions of waterlogged, algae coated corpses bobbing just below the murky surface. In my dreams they would whisper to each other in noxious strings of malice laden bubbles that never made it to the surface. One day, when there were enough of them, they would rise from the shallow waters and find me, drag me back to the water and hold me there in their clammy embrace forever.

Like I said, foolish. I am not so lucky that such a mild fate awaits me there. I still do not know how deep those waters run, but I know it is far deeper than any pond should. And I know that there are far worse things lurking in it than my own crimes could ever create.

I fed it again last night, but I fear that soon I will have to do so again. The weather has been unbearably hot this month, and this past week it rained nearly non-stop. I know many were happy for the reprieve from the heat, and should I have been fortunate enough to live anywhere else, I would have agreed. But there is a reason that thunder stirs me from my dreams of dead men, and a reason my waking hours are more terrible than my dreams. Rain disturbs the pond. It churns the water, raises up the algae and decaying organic matter and brings the smell of death to the surface. This is true of any pond, but in mine, worse things are disturbed. You will find no ducks or geese swimming on the surface of the pond after a rain. Humans, alas, are not so intelligent.

Yesterday, I saw a group of children playing by the water’s edge. Their parents were quite some distance away, chatting inanely about the weather. Stupid people. I watched the children playing, watched them throwing stones and sticks into the water, and I knew that I could get to them before their parents even knew what was happening. I wondered which one I would take, if I had to, and whether the others would thank me for it after. Probably not. They never do.

The children squealed when there was a splash and a plop and ran back to their parents, each one trying to yell louder than the others. There was an argument about whether it had been a turtle or a frog. Nobody watched the water. Nobody saw the ripple become a wake that sped to the center of the pond and vanished. Nobody but me.

I didn’t always give the pond humans. It started with animals. The first had been a dog, and an accident. He’d slipped his leash one evening and ran into a bed of reeds at the water’s edge. The reeds had thrashed suddenly, there had been a yelp and some splashes, and then I never saw the dog again. When my sister came back from her vacation I told her it had run away. I even put signs up around the neighborhood and went with her to the shelters looking for it. I never told her what really happened. Never mentioned the slimy, ropy thing that disappeared into the depths as I approached. Never commented how, the next day, the evil smell around the pond seemed to disappear.

After that I started giving it things a few times every month. Always after a hard rain, always when it smelled of putrid death. There were a few cats I’d coaxed into my apartment with a bag of treats I’d bought at the pet store along with a white rabbit and a pair of ferrets. For some reason it never occurred to me to try anything that was already dead, like a ham or a turkey. Somehow I just knew that the thing in the water wanted warm meat.

For the first few months I saw mercifully little of the creature. All I caught were quick glimpses of something black and slimy, something that glistened in the moonlight and wrapped around it’s prey like a ball of snakes. But I was finding it harder and harder to catch animals to throw to it. Eventually the pet store would grow suspicious of the numbers of small furry animals I was purchasing. During the days I would visit the pond, and I’d watch the children playing along it’s edge, blind to the danger they were in.

I don’t know when I made the decision. To this day I’m not sure I ever actually did. I think I just kept on going until it was too late. That’s what I tell myself, that there was never a point where I could have turned back, that suddenly I just looked back and the point of no return was spinning off into the distance behind me. It’s a comforting thought. But then, it doesn’t explain why I went to the park that night, or why I took the bottle of whiskey.

I never learned his name. He was just a homeless man who I’d seen there from time to time, who’d hit me up for spare change or a bottle of beer, whichever one I had on me. I just sat on the bench and waited. He limped up a few seconds later. He smelled like stale sweat and sour milk. It was almost refreshing, smelling something that good after the pond. I handed him the bottle and we talked. Or rather, he talked, I listened. When the bottle was empty I said I had some more, and we got up and started walking.

I like to think we would have kept walking if he hadn’t told me to wait just as we passed the pond. He’d drank most of the bottle and needed to relieve himself. I gestured to the pond without saying a word. He gave me a crooked smile. That was the last time I saw his face, and that’s how I remember him, smiling a crooked smile. He trudged to the edge of the water and I heard him jangling with his ratty old belt. A moment later there was the steady trickle as he emptied his bladder into the water.

It reared out of the water then, inched it’s way toward the soggy ground the beggar stood on. He must have had his eyes closed, because he didn’t react to it’s appearance. I saw it though. It had a mouth, of sorts, and it puckered and slurped along the ground, as if tasting it’s way towards him. It was jet black and covered with mossy green patches. And it was long and thin, like a tentacle, or a snake, and it bulged slightly near the end, near the mouth. All along it’s length tiny versions of itself sprouted and writhed. It rose up, sucking at the air, closing in on the space near the beggar’s head. When it got close enough I saw that the appendages had tiny mouths of their own. Each one was covered in what looked like little hairs that swayed independently of one another. It was only too easy to imagine each one of those hairs having microscopic mouths of their own, and tiny waving growths. The creature was a living fractal, a Mandelbrot demon. Each part of it was just a smaller version of the whole. Wildly I found myself wondering whether the thing in front of me was the whole creature, or whether this abomination was just one tendril of a massive, endless beast. My mind swam as I tried to imagine it’s bulk sitting at the bottom of the pond, perhaps linking itself to a vast network of caves and underground rivers, sending bits of itself out all across the town, the state, the country, even the world. Maybe growing so large that it burst through the seams of reality, sending only the smallest portion of itself into our dimension to feed.

I was so lost in thought that I almost didn’t see the second tendril creeping towards me in the gloom. If the moon hadn’t been out, hadn’t gleamed on the sticky mucus covering it, I probably wouldn’t have seen it at all. Luckily I managed to stumble away just before it wrapped itself around my leg. I fell and scrambled through the mud. I shouldn’t have looked back. I know that now. I should have dragged myself to my feet and ran and ran and never come back to that spot again. But something in the back of my mind made me turn, made me scan the ground fragrantly for the tentacle that could still be following me. When I finally saw it, it wasn’t coming after me anymore. It had doubled back and wrapped itself around the old man I’d led to the water’s edge. More and more tendrils were rising from the water, more than could possibly hope to fit around the poor man. An impossible number of sticky, pungent, sucking shapes reared and thrashed in the water, and countless more writhed below the surface. The thing lifted the pitiful, writing mummy of the old man above the water and convulsed. Then, bit by bit, it dragged him into the water.

I fainted then. By some twisted miracle I was still alive when the morning found me. I was covered in my own vomit and smelled of urine, but I was alive. The surface of the pond was placid, almost serene, save for a single nobly object near the water’s edge that disappeared with a plop the second I saw it. I staggered home in the pale light of dawn, and collapsed on my bed without showering. I slept for the entire day and night. That was the first time I dreamed of the pond. It wasn’t full of the dead, not yet. There was only one person in those waters: the homeless man smiling his crooked smile and staring at me with dead eyes.

As I said, it was foolish to think that the bodies would be discovered. The creature obviously consumed all of the evidence, but after the first few times I always worried that one of them, or one part of them, would be found and I would be hunted down. I have since moved on to other, more important, concerns.

I try not to learn their names. Those who’s names I do learn I try to forget. Last night her name was Cheryl, and I think it will be some time before I forget. I hope that I will, just as I hope that nobody remembers the two of us drinking together, hope nobody saw me slip something into her drink, hope nobody saw us leave together or make it to the pond. She was in my dreams last night, plotting my demise with all the other corpses at the bottom of the pond.

But I’m fine with that. I’ve learned to live with it, learned to tell myself that the pond is safe for children to play around while I stand watch over the waters. One day the dead will come to me, one day there will be so many corpses in the dream pond that they no longer hide beneath the surface. On that day, I shudder to think what I will do. At least I know that I will always have one source of food left to placate the Mandelbrot demon in the pond. I only hope that someone will come after me, carry on my work, and keep the world safe for a little while longer.

Rudy

I took a sip of lemonade as I lounged in a rickety picnic chair on my back porch. Needs more vodka, I thought, but it was alright for now.

“Nice day,” I said, even though it wasn’t. It was humid, and hot. The sun was low and right in my eyes. I squinted at the horizon through my aviators.

“Yep,” Rudy puffed in reply. The smell of cloves chased away the smell of honeysuckle and crabapple. Maybe to him it was. He always seemed to wear long sleeves these days, even in the heat.

“Don’t remember you smokin’ before.”
“Just started.” Another puff. Sweet whisps of smoke hung around him like a veil. “Want one?” he asked.

“Naw, not today,” I replied. It hadn’t been that long since I decided to quit. I took another sip of my vodka lemonade instead. It was still cold. I held the glass against my temple, rolled it across my forehead a few times. Beads of sweat dripped down the glass, mixing with the sweat on my brow. Through the wet blanket of the afternoon’s heat, a thought occurred to me. It was something I’d wondered before, but I couldn’t remember when. Maybe…

“You ever—wonder why you’re here?” I asked slowly. Out of the corner of my eye, through the haze of smoke, I thought I saw Rudy smile. That was new. Or rather, it was old. It was the old Rudy, that smile, but recently it was new.

“You always were an existential drunk,” he said. His voice was laden with nostalgia. Mostly happy, but with an underlying tone of sadness.

“That’s not what I meant,” I continued. “I mean…”
“I know what you meant.”
I paused for a moment, waiting for him to say something more. Rudy just puffed his cigarette in silence. I took another sip of my drink.

“So…” I prodded.
“So what?”

“Do you?”
“Do I what?” I got the sense that Rudy was teasing me. It just didn’t sound much like it.

“Do you ever wonder why you’re here?” I asked, then clarrified “You. Specifically.” Rudy chuckled. Or was it a sigh?

“Not really,” he said.

“Not really? How’s that?”

“I think I got a pretty good idea.” The ghost of his smile had faded behind the smoke. It seemed thinner now. I could almost make out his features. Curly hair, long nose, thin lips. Just like I remembered. He took another drag and the saccharine veil thickened once more.

We sat in silence for a while. I refilled my glass from the pitcher at my feet, but not before tipping the last of the vodka in it first. The sun dipped even lower in the sky. Blue was slowly obliterated by a bloom of gold and pink.

“Would it help if I said I was sorry?” I asked after long time had passed.

“I’m not here for that,” he told me. His voice was quiet, distant. Rudy had always been quiet, but never so distant.

“I know, I just…” I began
“Wasn’t your fault.” He said flatly.
“Yeah, but…”
“Could’ve happened to anyone.”

“But if I hadn’t…”

“Wouldn’t have mattered. You know that. You saw the tape. Read the report. Nothin’ you could do to stop it.”

I took another drink, a bigger one than before.

“I could have saved you,” I said after the pause. My voice quaked.

“No.”

“Yeah, I could’ve.”

“Not both of us.”

“But I could have saved you,” I croaked. “If I’d swerved right instead of left it would’ve been me…”

“Don’t think that,” Rudy said. “Don’t ever think that.” How could he be so matter-of-fact about everything?

I downed half of my glass in one go. My hands were shaking and I managed to spill a bit.

“I was drunk,” I whispered. Maybe I hoped he wouldn’t hear me. He did.

“I know,” he said, not unkindly.

“You don’t mind?”

“No.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

“Why?” I asked. I didn’t know what else to say.

“My choice to be there. I knew the risk. You were my ride. My fault.” After that he was silent for a moment. Then, he said, “Besides, it’s not so bad.” .

“Oh.”

“And it was quick.”

There was another long pause filled with cloying smoke and cool booze. I didn’t bother filling the glass this time, just tipped the contents of the pitcher straight into my mouth. I still felt empty.

“You didn’t answer my question,” I said. “Not really.”

“You were being evasive.”

“Why are you here?” There was silence. “If you don’t blame me, why are you here? Shouldn’t you be gone? To….somewhere?”

Rudy puffed once more. Somehow he was still on his first cigarette.

“You know why,” he said finally.

“No,” I said. “I really don’t.” He chuckled another half chuckle. Or was it a half sigh?

“I just told you.” he said.
“Tell me again.”

“You’re my ride. Always have been, always will be.” I looked at him long and hard.

“So…” I began, unable to comprehend the next step in the conversation.

“So I’ll wait,” Rudy supplied.

“How long?”

“Until you’re ready.”

“Really?”

“Yep. I’m in no rush.”

The sky was almost dark now. The deep reds had gone leaving only indigo and deep, deep blue behind. Cicadas droned in the trees. The heat of the day started to leach away, leaving the humidity to stand watch over the night.

“Rudy,” I said as the last natural light faded.

“Yeah?”

“I think I’ll take that smoke now.”

(Wanted to write a quick story to practice dialogue, maybe one that was a bit minimalist.

Let me know what you think, like always
Thanks
~E.W.)

Untitled Piece

Michael’s mind was blurry and confused. He barely noticed what he was doing as took another storm candle from the plastic box, lit it with the butane lighter from the junk drawer in the kitchen, and placed it on a corner of the table. It added its light to the two at the opposite end of the table and the dozen or so on the sideboard on the north wall of the dining room. The soft orange glow in the room no longer flickered, not with so many sources to draw from, but it wavered from time to time in a fragile way. If Michael had been paying attention, he would have thought that the candles were at their darkest whenever his breath caught in his throat. Whenever his hands trembled in hesitation or a nerve twinged unexpectedly. Whenever he…

Michael snapped back to the present. He took the last candle and put it on the table’s final corner, brushing aside a fold of white bed sheet to make room. The lighter clicked impotently a few times. He shook it angrily. Michael’s stomach clenched and his breath ceased to come altogether. The darkness pressed against the candlelight again. Then the lighter sparked once, twice, and finally caught. The final candle bloomed into life. Michael, realizing he hadn’t been breathing, gulped a lungful of air and a dizzying wave of vertigo washed over him. He slid the lighter into the back pocket of his dirt caked jeans and ran his fingers through his greasy brown hair. With eyes closed he pressed his palms against the sides of his head and squeezed slightly, massaging his temples while digging into his scalp with the tips of his fingers. Slowly, the sensation of weightlessness passed. He felt a dull ache in his left hand and considered changing the bandages, but he didn’t move.

Instead he slowly but steadily increased the pressure on the sides of his head. The pain from his hand built to a persistent burning sensation. He squeezed harder. The veins in his temples throbbed painfully against his palms. Harder. The pain in his hand surged until it felt brand new. Harder! Beneath his bandages the gashes burst open and squelched. Harder! The dual pains of head and hand now pulsed in time with one another. He felt blood dripping down his wrist. HARDER!

A single tear welled up and slid down Michael’s cheek.

The pain hit a final crescendo and Michael’s arms fell to his side. He took a deep breath in and let it out with a noise that was half growl, half groan. He took a few more breaths and listened to the frantic beating of his heart, waiting until it had noticeably slowed before he opened his eyes. With new, post-cathartic clarity, he surveyed the room.

It was nearly empty. The crème colored walls were stripped bare and glowed orange in the candlelight. Tiny square divots in the carpet were all that remained of the high-backed oak dining chairs that were now lying in a disorderly pile in the living room. Michael had even ripped out the hanging lamp from the center of the room above the table. He’d thrown it on the pile of chairs, barely registering the crack and tinkle of Tiffany glass as he did so.

All that was left was the table and the sideboard, each bearing their own burden. He’d only left the sideboard in to have something to hold the candles at the proper height. He tried to ignore it. What held Michael’s attention was what was on the dining room table: the candles, the book, the bedsheet, and the body. He’d done as the book said. He had covered the body in an expensive white bed sheet that Michael had been forced to use in place of a shroud. He’d covered the sheet in writing. Sticky, red letters. His hand gave a sympathetic throb. He’d placed the old leather bound book at the feet of the corpse. Michael tried to ignore that as well, to ignore everything. All he cared about in the world was beneath the sheet in front of him. He leaned down and gently placed a kiss on the figure’s forehead, stroked where the cheek would be with his uninjured hand.

“Soon,” he whispered, knowing that words weren’t necessary. “Soon.”

(Let me know what you think

Thanks
~E.W.)

The Smell of Death

There it was again, that same smell from earlier in the day. It was a thick, sour smell that bit at the sinuses like a living thing. It made you think of tooth decay and boiling tar at the same time, of the worst kind of cigarette smell laced with rotten death. That had been what it smelled like before. Now it was the same, but a dozen times worse. It made Peter gag as he stepped out of one of the side exits of Harris Hall into the crisp evening air.

He walked on, hoping to quickly pass whatever invisible cloud he had walked into. The stench only got stronger. He tried breathing through his mouth but that only made it worse. It was so potent that he could taste it. The roof of his mouth started to tingle. He tried to hold his breath but it was too late. His lungs were already full of the noxious fumes. He quickly decided to try a different path, past the library and down one of the back roads. It was longer but eventually he would be able to swing back around and come at the parking lot from the east. He hooked right through the shadowy courtyard of one of the campus coffee shops, it’s windows dark and the maroon table umbrellas folded up for the night.

As he walked Peter tried to turn his mind to something else, to ignore the pungent odor, but it was proving difficult. The smell was so distracting that even simple thoughts got lost in the sensory overload. Maybe that was it, he thought. Just focus on another sense, something easy. Just not taste. Sound, then. He would focus on the sounds of the campus at night. There weren’t many sounds this late at night, this far from the dorms, but even without a wealth of foot traffic there were always sounds. The wind was rustling through the autumn leaves. A car in the distance was blaring it’s radio at full blast. More rustling, closer this time, more localized. Probably a squirrel or something.

And the soft, repetitive sound of footsteps behind him.

At first, Peter thought it was just an echo from the high brick walls on either side of him, an artificial valley playing acoustic tricks in the nightly silence. But when he came to King’s Street, one of the narrow roadways that crisscrossed the campus, mostly frequented by school shuttles to take the lazier students to class, and he jumped over the part where the flagstone crosswalk was crumbling away he still heard them. He even heard a slight pause between footfalls a few moments later, as if someone had just jumped over the same spot on the path. Then they resumed their regular tempo.

Peter grew uneasy. Maybe it was just a consequence of watching too many real crime shows in his free time, or maybe it was the general creepy atmosphere of lonely, shadowy paths through old stone buildings on a late autumn evening. Maybe it was lightheaded-ness from trying to hold his breath. Whatever the reason, a niggling paranoia crept up his spine and settled in his hind brain. It may have been his imagination, but it sounded like each footstep came just barely after his own with a slight irregularity, as if someone were trying to mask the sound of their footfalls against his own. As casually as he could Peter glanced over his shoulder.

There was no one there.

Peter stopped walking and turned around. The sound of footsteps was gone, and there was definitely no one there. He was sure of it. Almost sure. Not unless they had ducked around that corner. Or behind that tree. Or into that especially dark alcove. He took a step forward, back the way he’d come. Nothing.

Suddenly the stench was back, stronger than ever. Whether it had been there all along and unnoticed or had caught up with him like a living thing he didn’t know, but when it washed over him he didn’t care. He spun on his heel and kept walking. Barely ten paces later the sound of footsteps started up again.

Peter quickened his pace. So did the footsteps. They had character now, an identifiable quanitity to the sound. Not the “flap flap” of flip flops or the “clack clack” of high heels. These were the dull “tump tump” sound of heavy work boots. Peter sped up even more, almost jogging now. The unseen pursuit matched his pace. Peter whirled around, keys in hand and sticking out between his fingers like tiny claws. This time the footsteps did not stop. Tump tump. They continued coming, still behind him. Tump tump. Peter spun again, tump, around, tump, and around, tump, until he was dizzy. No matter which direction he faced the sound was always behind him, always closing. Tump tump. The steady, rhythmic beat of footsteps was coming for him like the dreaded pendulum swing of a demonic clock. Tump. Tump. Tump. Tumptumptumptumptumptump….

Peter spun around one final time and ran as fast as he could. He broke from beneath the cover of trees and onto the university’s main concourse. He could see the library in front of him, the student union was to his left. The entire area was bathed in bright white light. Peter crossed the street and caught his foot on the curb. He twisted as he fell, landing on his back in the neatly manicured quad in front of the library.

There was nothing behind him. No sound, no smell, nobody. Just the shadows from which he’d emerged and a thin mist rising from a sewer drain into the coolness of the night. Breathing heavily he stood, brushing bits of grass from his jeans and straightening his book bag. He cast a few nervous glances around, this time to see if anyone had witnessed his panic stricken flight. But there was no one around. Peter stood a little straighter, barely even shaking now, and headed for the parking lot.

When death came for him, he was half way to his car in a brightly lit and nearly empty parking lot. There was no sound, no smell, and no warning. There was just a quick, violent pressure against his mouth and a sharp, wet pain at the base of his spine. He struggled for a few seconds, but the unseen force held him tight, pinned his arms to his sides, silenced his cries and even lifted him until he was nearly off the ground. Then there was a quick series of jabs, each one higher on his spine then the last, and his body went limp. Death came quick, and with relatively little pain. He was glad of that. As his senses began to fade and eventually winked off his only regret that his sense of smell was the last to go, that sour, evil smell had returned, that the last thing he ever knew in life was the smell of death.

(This was an attempt at building suspense and trying to throw an ironic, curve-ball kicker in at the end. Lemme know what you think.

Thanks
~E.W.)

Let’s Call it a Prologue – Obligatory First Blog Entry

Hello everyone, and welcome to my blog. I just want to take this opportunity to tell you a little about myself and maybe what I hope to achieve. Long story short, I want to become a better writer, and I’m going to be posting some of my content here.

I’m a 25 year old college grad living in Springfield, MO. I consider myself a nerd and have nerd hobbies, such as video games, painting miniatures, role playing, reading books and playing video games. I know I said video games twice. I play them a lot, and I’ve come to accept that.

Until recently I wanted to be a teacher. I’m fully certified in Speech and Theatre, but after a year and a half of substitute teaching I’m burnt out. The constant, daily struggle for dominance against an endless, ever changing sea of students just got to be too much. I wasn’t prepared for the loss. Cut off from the constant surety of purpose that I’d held for half of my life, I find myself adrift for the first time. I guess thinking back now, it’s no wonder that I started writing again. Being lost in the world I turned my attention inwards, and while I would like to say that this was a pleasant alternative, I find myself unable to do so. I wasn’t lying when I said I’d been broken, and the world inside my head became a dark, sad, lonely place to dwell.

To make a long story short there was depression, pills, therapy and frustration. And now, I’ve been trying to see if I can take that inwards perspective on life and focus it outwards again. And I’ve started writing.

I think I’ve always been good at writing. At least that’s what my grades always said (but let’s not get started on my views about the state of the public school system). I took writing courses in college whenever I had a spare elective, and I even got a story published in the school’s literature magazine (The Moon City Review). But up until now I’ve never really done it as a creative hobby. So now I’m going to try!

As I already mentioned, I’m a nerd. So I’m writing about nerdy things. Fantasy. Sci-Fi. And horror. Lots of horror. In fact, most of this blog will be dedicated to horror fiction. I can’t promise I won’t throw in the occasional rant, but that’s as may be.

My main purpose for starting this blog is to showcase some of the writing exercises I’ve been doing with increasing regularity as of late. For the most part, these “exercises” are just me writing whatever I feel like for at least an hour every day, though sometimes I will do more. I probably won’t be sharing these, for a few reasons. Mostly, because I’m not exactly proud of all of them. But that’s okay. Not all of them are meant to be shared. In some cases its the doing that’s important. And also, even if I am proud of them, sharing them serves little purpose other than to preen my own ego.

No, the writings I intend to share are the ones that began with a purpose, something I hoped to achieve. Most of these won’t be full stories. They will be short snippets where I attempted to improve one portion of my writing skill; things like dialogue, intense description, emotive writing, pace variation, etc…

I intend to share these writings because that’s where I’m at right now. I would rather hone my skill and attain a modicum of control over the craft before churning out any full stories. Eventually I would like to do just that, to feel confident in my own ability to the point where I can incorporate all these skills into a single story, and maybe even one day get some of them published. I don’t know how long that will take, but for now I don’t care. I’m just interested in improvement.

And so, with that, welcome. Please feel free to be brutally honest in any critiques you give. Tell me what I do well, and tell me why you like it, but also tell me what I don’t do well, how you can see it improving, or just give me ideas on what to try out next.

Thanks in advance,

E.W.