Wednesday, April 30, 2014


I'm trying my hand at horror again. I had decided that this would center around an adult. The childhood portion would last only a paragraph or two, and then I'd move on.

The story thought differently. I think a good aspect for horror is to have it unknown. Feed the reader only enough information so that they're interested, but keep the biggest reveal secret. What's so scary about the common day? If it can be explained, it loses its power. It stops being something that creeps in the night, and becomes the commonplace.

To hell with that.

It started small.

Objects appeared where I never left them. An action figure on top of the refrigerator, a mug of chocolate milk underneath the cabinets, small things that escaped the even smaller attention span of a child. My parents would laugh about them. "Boys will be boys," Mama would say, and Daddy would chime in, nodding his head in fierce agreement. Their little boy was a hell-raiser, and an inventive one to boot. There'd be no obstacle I couldn't overcome as I grew, the answer to a parent's prayers. They were proud of me.

When did that begin to change?

As I entered the first grade, the incidents graduated with me. Cups and toys stopped their wandering ways, only for more adult considerations to appear. A knife on my Mama's pillow, a crowbar in my Daddy's chair, a popsicle mouse staring from inside the freezer, they all made the circuit through my home. Pride turned to anger, and anger turned to fear. That happy household began to crumble. My protests didn't mean much. "I didn't do it!" I'd plead, "I'm so sorry!" I'd sob. Innocence or admission, neither mattered. I'd always get the belt in the end. After all, my words held all the weight of air.

I should have never told them about the man who stood outside my vision. If I moved too quickly, if I jerked in surprise, he was gone, a phantom slinking back into shadow. But if I sat still, if I summoned the right amount of patience and courage, I could study him from the corner of my eye. He was big and tall, with a broad hat and a long coat, a spot of ink dotting my periphery. Sometimes, if I focused long enough, I would hear him whisper. He would tell me to do things.

I didn't want to listen.

Of course, these flickers in the corner of my eye, those whispers on the wind, were all symptoms of an expansive imagination. Or so the psychologist said. His words were persuasive, and where they weren't, his prescription pad certainly was. Olanzapine, quietapine, lithium, they all were prescribed in short order, special medication for a special boy. 

They didn't make me feel special. They dulled my head, and stopped my dreams, turning a world of colors into stark black and white. My childhood was already waning. The medication delivered the final blow.

Even then, it would have been all worth it if only my parents could have loved me again. 

They smiled, certainly, but the expressions were strained from rehearsal and waning hope. The pride in their eyes had long since faded, gone to that place of lost dreams and crushed ambitions. They offered sweet assurances, but they always rung hollow with hesitation. After all, even I could hear their worried whispers behind closed doors. Ginger had gone missing.

I was the prime suspect. Hadn't the family cat always hated me? She would glare at me with her mean, green eyes, hissing, swatting, and striking whenever I would reach for her. I had the scars to prove her displeasure. Sure, she had been shunned for it the first few years, facing spray bottles and smacks for her efforts, but her suffering wasn't eternal. As my star fell, her's rose. She became my parents' surrogate child, an abnormal vessel to fawn over with normal affections. Hadn't I felt the sting of loneliness? Didn't I hate the cat for taking my place like I had hers' so long ago?

I did. 

That doesn't mean I wanted her to die.

That doesn't mean I killed her. I was wandering through the woods behind our house, zig-zagging through trees and over stumps. I had long since stopped playing. Playing requires energy, spontaneity, joy, things I neither had nor felt. I was a thirty-year-old man in a ten-year-old boy's body, jaded by the world and modern medicine. As I moved through the woods, filled with mild greens and bland browns, a burst of bright red caught my eye. My pulse quickened and I started to run. I knew what had happened before I even arrived.

There was Ginger, her mean, green eyes shut forever. They were replaced by red, equal parts rust and blood on the nails poking out. They went right through her skull and into the tree, pinning her small body against the bark. The limp cat glared impotently at me, with a hate that even death couldn't kill. I shook from my head to my toes. I had never seen a dead thing before, and there it was, in all its terrible glory. 

It's no wonder that he chose that moment to appear. He stood there, watching, waiting, savoring the moment as my small form trembled. I couldn't help but imagine an ugly smile curving along his lips, shaded by the all-encompassing hat. My heart tightened.

"Why are you doing this?!" I screamed. I twisted my head, too quick.

The dark man was gone.

But he left his laughter behind. It rolled through the woods as I reached for Ginger. It snaked between the trees as I pulled desperately at the iron, dried blood and flecks of rust burying themselves under my nails. It pounded through my skull as panic set in, my hands grasping at Ginger's body, pulling, tearing, ripping her from the tree. Her skin tore and then she was in my arms, with bits of Ginger left behind on the bark. I couldn't let my parents see her like that. I couldn't let them think it was me. 

Ginger had to disappear.

I clawed at the earth, tearing chunks of grass and dirt out, inch by inch. There was no ceremony, there were no words, but there were plenty of tears. I wish even one of them had been for Ginger. That day, they were all for me. I was so scared of losing what little I had left because of that dark man. I still had a family, no matter how dysfunctional, but if they saw the cat...

I returned home covered in dirt, just a boy at play. My parents eyed me, but asked no questions. It was better that way, for all of us. I soon curled up in my bed and looked up at the ceiling. He wouldn't stop until everything was ruined. I had to stop him. I just didn't know how. I squeezed my eyes shut and watched the dark that surrounded me.

It had all started out so small.

Why did it have to change?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Thirteen Troubles

I've just recently finished the outline for the second book. I should get on top of that my next off day. Until then, I was trying to explore another section of my world. I've got Europe and even America figured out. There are other elements, though. Africa, Asia, South America, places to venture and explore.

Maybe this has the potential to be something more.

The wind howled and the heavens roared. Lightning tore the air sharper than any fangs. It was a day inhospitable for man or beast, where the bright Hour of the Rabbit was as black as that of the Rat.

And yet she dared tread. Her wooden sandals clacked with purpose against the worn wood of the bridge as the black river surged beneath. The wanderer's eyes descended to the frothing waters where the kami dwelled below, a river god driven mad by time. It raged and hungered, with no regard for who or what its target might be. The quick glance left the wanderer frowning. If she fell in, she would be lost.

She resolved to not fall in. Down she knelt in the middle of the bridge, where the old timbers crested at their highest. Before her she set her blade, its scabbard old and scarred. Behind she left to the wind, whipping her hair one way before throwing it another. The wanderer closed her eyes.

And then waited. The storm faded and the tension trickled, until she was left with Nothing. No fear, no worry, no yesterday, nor tomorrow. She didn't know if long hours had passed or mere minutes. All was Now, and there was Peace in it. She was briefly aware of wet feet smacking against the bridge, of angry growls, and twisting forms, but they were Unimportant. They were passing and transient, the briefest of flickers in grand Eternity.

That impermanence almost got her killed. Down came a claw and up leapt a sword, leaving behind red steel, realization, and a lonely stump. The wanderer's eyes were open, focused on a slimy creature of sickly green. The beast was a kappa, and its screech was ended by a simple slice of the sword. The monster's head rolled quickly across the bridge, back down to the river from where it been born. Its bare red pate and the surrounding petals resembled a lotus blossom rushing downriver. It was a beautiful sight.

If only it was the last. More kappa leapt from the water, the embodiment of the river god's rage. A dozen sorrows, some big and others small, many proud but a few shrinking, stood before her. They were terrible and pathetic to behold, with puffed chests and bent backs, the sorrows of a dozen lifetimes given grotesque form. The river would only be at peace once they were all vanquished.

"I am Fuko! My style is nameless, and my surname forgotten, but they still spell misfortune for you!" Her blade bit the air, flinging off blood in a red line. Her dark eyes dared them to cross it. "Let us see how the fury of a river god fares against that of man!" With that her sword slipped back into its sheath, held to the side as her knees bent low. She entered iaijutsu, needing every split-second the fast-draw style could grant her. With body tensed and sword ready, Fuko waited.

She didn't have to wait long. The kappa leapt and ran across the bridge, their war cries mingling with their screams. Three times did her blade leap, and three times did life leave their clumsy bodies. Kappa tumbled in halves and pieces, their fearsome eyes gone dark. But still they came. Claws rent her hakama, others tore at her arms, and yet her sword still sang. The scent of the storm slowly faded, only to be replaced by that of meat and blood.

When it was all over, Fuko slumped against the bridge's railing. Sweat and blood ran rivers along her body, staining her already ruined clothing. She paid it no mind. Clothing could be replaced. Victory could not. The wanderer had won another battle in a long, unending line. It was a pattern she couldn't keep up. Perhaps the next would be her last, or perhaps it would be far down her winding road. The timing didn't matter, honestly.

A woman who fought monsters was destined to die. Fuko opened her eyes just in time to see lightning flash across the sky. The storm hadn't ended. The battle wasn't won. There had been twelve troubles on the bridge, but a thirteenth lurked just below. Fuko twisted. Her iaijutsu had been fast, but now her movements were far too slow. Claws wrapped around her chest and pulled her through the brittle railing.

As resolved as she was, Fuko fell in.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


For two years I've wrote. Holidays, weekends, any day that I didn't feel exhausted from the daily grind. I've gotten good. Hell, I'll say I've gotten great. I've gone from barely legible squibbles on the screen to sentences that I even find beautiful. I've done it for the love of the craft, certainly. I don't think I could be a complete person if I didn't write. Some part of me aches, hell, screams, to put words to paper. Of course there were other considerations to this breakneck pace.

I wanted success.

Money, wealth, the pass from the day-to-day monotony of the 9-5. Then I wouldn't have to wake up for a job I dreaded. Then I wouldn't have to perform my passion as a hobby, cobbling together stories in any spare time I could graft together. I could be a professional storyteller, and damn the rest of the world. The finish line was publication, and then I would be free.

Except it isn't, and I won't. The publishing world's a good deal more complicated than I ever thought, with some lucky ticket items getting fortunes while most get the equivalent of pocket change. Even if I get published, that isn't a ticket to a better life. It's only one more step on a long road. You can imagine my reaction, the traditional five stages of Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression. You spend two years with tunnel vision, and you're bound to feel a little pain when things don't come up alright.

Of course there was Acceptance somewhere in there. I may not be a success in a year. Hell, ten years might be too optimistic of a goal. I might spend my entire life at this and never get to the lofty perch of full-time writer. That's the chance I take.

In everything involving love, there's a risk.

And I love writing. If I put it down now, I put down part of myself, that creative force that twists and writhes inside of me, bubbling up when I tap the keys. It's something I can't do without.

Monday, April 14, 2014

I Will Humbly Accept the Food.

The stone scraped against the sword. 

Yet the word was wrong. "Scraped" would imply that the movements were rough, even violent, when nothing could be farther than the truth. The motions defied the meaning. Each scrape was slow and gentle, guided by love and care. How could those feelings not have blossomed? The sword had served him for years.

Just as he had served it. The stone stopped, tucked into the man's palm as his spindly fingers slid along the blade. It was strong, beautiful, perfect in its singular purpose. It was a purpose the old man forgot in his admiration. The sword bit him for his carelessness, blood beading along his finger and rolling along its length.

He didn't even flinch. It was exactly as the old man deserved. What he held was a not a friend, nor a lover, but a beast. To wield a sword was the same as grabbing a tiger by the tail; one might twist it in a certain direction, but should never wait to meet it. To grow too familiar with a sword, to treat it too lightly, was to invite a violent end. It had happened to Ryukoge, and Sansoro before him. If the old man continued, he would just be another in a long line of fools. No, the sword was to be honored, ordered, but never befriended. It was his servant and his lord, but never his equal.

Yet he loved the piece of metal more than he ever did any man. With a sigh as soft as a whisper, the old man drew a piece of paper along the blade's curved length. The paper went black as the blade grew bright, held to the light for all to see. They admired and feared it, and rightly so. Utsukushiiho had long tasted the blood of men, and would drink its fill again this night.

"Thank you for waiting gentleman," murmured the old man, sliding the blade cleanly through the air. It soon stood rigid, tip to heaven, hilt to earth, one hand below the guard and the other at the cap. The warriors shuffled uneasily around him, a dozen different blades flashing in response.


The sword bit into flesh. 

This time, the word was perfect.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Mount Sinai

It. Is. Finished.

Like Moses before me, I've descended from the mount, hair shock white, eyes wild with divine madness, and carrying the weight of revelation in my head and hands. It is finished, and it is good, and dammit, you better like it too! 

I've completed the book that I'm tentatively calling Dead Man Walking. I've already sent it off to a few agents, and maybe I'll get some nice replies. If not, well hell, I'm going to keep going one way or another. I've already done the hard part. I talked to a freaking burning bush, and the hell with those who say different.

Now I just have to wait for the next step. You hear that, agents? Something, something, melting down the golden idol of Baal, something something, please love me.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


Where the fuck did this come from? I don't know. I've never done a story quite like it, and I suppose I wanted to experiment. Forgive me if it's rough, but I at least had a lot of fun making it. There's a great feeling of accomplishment when you try something new.

I should be getting the book back from the editor come tomorrow. Let's hope it's full of great things.

"Clarissa? Clarissa? For the love of God, answer me!"

Silence. His eyes creeped up to the clock, its thin arms stretched to one and thirty, exactly. He had called out her name for that last half hour, only to have deafening silence be his answer. He felt a cold sweat run down his back. She knew how important this was. If they were just a minute off...

Where could she be?

The old man's bones creaked as he finally rose from his plush chair. Every step was pain, but desperation made it bearable. He would have to suffer it if he was to survive the night. He stumbled across the creaking floorboards, leaving the safety of the firelight.

The big house swallowed him up. The groan of the floor echoed through the home, twisting the whines into something worse. A shudder ran up his spine, and his steps quickened. That sort of reflection would only drive him mad. He moved from room to room, inspecting the curtains that concealed the windows, a single candle providing a sad little glow in the middle of each. Every room was blissfully the same.

Until he reached the kitchen. It was there that everything was all wrong. The curtains were drawn and the candle snuffed, covering the room in the full moon's ghostly light. The floor and countertops shone, strange, ethereal, making his heart hurt with their eerie beauty. The old man rushed to the window, clasping the cloth. He knew that he shouldn't look outside, that whatever he saw would only haunt him. Yet curiosity overcame the man before he could close the curtains, and he raised his eyes out on the yard. It was there that he finally found Clarissa, bathed in the moonlight.

She had died screaming, that much was obvious. Who wouldn't have, with their limbs plucked away one by one, like a child might the wings of a fly? It hadn't been merciful enough to stop at her limbs, though, no, such mercy didn't exist in such a creature. A wicked cut rose from her navel and settled between her breasts, a vivisection worthy of Mandela. She was allowed to bleed out as she leaned against the oak, beside the swing she played on as a child. He remembered her laughter. Now all he could imagine were her whimpers. A moan rose from the old man's lips, but no tears followed. Sights like these had dried up all his tears years ago.

"Clarissa," he whispered. "Why didn't you come and get me? You of all people knew...!" But there was no use. No amount of chiding could change the present. There was nothing he could do for her now. The light had long since faded from her brown eyes. She was his last grandchild, and now she was dead.

The old man pulled the curtains shut.

Then he sped to his office. In it was the safe, and in that, was the key to his survival. All he had to do was open it, and he would survive another night. Everyone was gone, and it hurt, but at least he could continue. Throughout the years the old man had seen people come and people go; it was the rhythm of life. It was only in the last thirteen that they began to exit with alarming frequency. They first was his wife, Elaine, taken by a merciful God as part of some great plan, the priest had reassured him.

The Lord's attention quickly grew to be less than kind. Tragic drownings, sudden car crashes, raging house fires, they all began to consume friend and family, one by one. He had watched old associates perish, children pass, and even his beloved grandchildren die. With each death, the next became worse, until it had escalated to the violence beside the old oak tree. It didn't take long for the old man to see the deaths for what they really were.

Revenge. The old man had done things best left unmentioned, dealt with things that he shouldn't have, and he was paying the ultimate price. It was not his soul that he had sacrificed, but his happiness. The thing out there had kept him alive all of these years not out of kindness, or foolishness, but a fiendish understanding of loneliness. They died, the old man lived, and he came to regret every year increasingly. Surprisingly, he still wanted to live. As much as he might hate life, the old man couldn't part from it. He knew misery was on this side of life, but the unknown scared him even more. He clung to life like a child clings to their mother, uncomprehendingly but fiercely. It had spared him until now. But that was when Clarissa was alive. He was now all alone.

He would be next.

The old man froze in his flight. The floorboards creaked, but not by his feet; those groans came from behind. They whined and winced, the slow, methodical steps of the victor. It had gotten into the house. All the precautions, the wards, his painstaking efforts, they had been for naught. It was in, and he was old, and he would die.

"No! Not yet! You won't get me yet, you bastard!" he screamed. He cursed his legs, and he cursed his age, and he cursed the arthritis that had plagued him for years. He cursed them all, and drew power from the curses. His pace quickened, and his body flung for the office. The creature was far behind when he twisted the office door open.

Here, too, a candle flickered, the faint light suggesting terrible things. Faces grimaced from the walls, and strange shapes occupied his desk. All seemed to twist with every flicker of the flame. He didn't fear them for they were familiar, trophies and treasures of an inglorious past. They had served him well and others ill, but he found no succor in them that night. Only the glint of the metal safe provided any hope. Only its contents promised safety.

The old man bent, his knees shuddering and his back aching. His fingers shook wildly as they settled on the combination lock, the insidious child of age and fear. As the house groaned, his hand only shook harder. He twisted and turned, a little too far here, a little too short there, the mind willing, but the body rebellious. The steps only grew closer, and his mind only screamed louder.

"Damn you, work!" he screamed. For once, his body listened. 23 clicked without a problem. 5 snapped shortly thereafter. 18 followed, with the safe letting out its characteristic groan. The old man's heart leapt. He was safe. He had made it in time. All he had to do was reach into the safe, and everything would be fine.

Except the footsteps had stopped. In his haste, he hadn't realized they had ceased long before he had opened the safe. Only now did he realize his blunder. Only now did he realize his fate. Only now could he feel the cold breath blowing down his neck and the large form hovering over his back. A hand, long, thin, and terrible settled on his shoulder. Its touch was light, but its weight heavy. It carried with it the weight of a life.

"You were the first," he whispered, his voice trembling.

"And you're next," it replied.

It was right.