Stones


Dawn reached through the sky as though it had ripped its way across a league of fetid grey – a lonesome stagnant pond which had stood for years waiting something, some speck of color.

Carl’s eyes seized the stones as soon as the sun waned upon them, his hands loosed thanks as they grabbed the hardened chunks of earth.

“Here!” he spat. “The stones are here.”

His father turned from a damp inlay of soil, his legs making the small mud puddles which held his feet swish a bit.

“Quick, boy,” he said. “Before any of them wake.” He moved quickly past the icy statues, their frozen positions stuck in the twisted and lifeless clutching motions from the night before. They had just barely survived. He fell to his knees by his son and helped him grab at the stones.

They tossed the rocks from the small hole and discarded them with small thuds into the wet dark earth.

Sweat showered each of them, sweat and languor. Neither had slept. They remained awake through the cold and the fear. His father had told him to stay moving. He didn’t know how, but he did it. He clawed at the rocks. Not another night, he thought.

“Here!”

His father pulled out from down behind the rocks a dust-covered pouch. Carl’s tears were lost upon the mud of his chest. “Open it,” he said.

The sun fell upon a wider patch of ground. The sky was clear. And below smiles as his father pulled open the cloth of the pouch, there was a twitch from somewhere lost amid the tall still bodies.

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Prepping for IT


And I just watched the trailer for It, and damn, that looks pretty good. I have a certain way of seeing things when it comes to horror films (*and really it’s that I just have standards. Can you blame me?) It doesn’t count if the movie uses sudden movements and loud sudden sounds to freak out the watcher.

No, I’m sorry, that’s not scary; it’s annoying.

Anyone will jump at that kind of stuff. Ridiculous. So yeah, if you want to make a real horror movie (not a “jumper”), it is my personal opinion that you need to really build something scary as opposed to zipping a sudden jump-out-at-you scene. Session 9 does this well. This one looks pretty good. I’ve always been a Stephen King fan, especially after reading his memoir on his craft, On Writing. When I was a kid, there was a period of time in which I was on a King kick, reading several of his strong novels one by one because I couldn’t get enough. The first one I read was Misery, then Cujo, I read Skeleton Crew and one or two others. I remember one of my favorites was Needful Things.

Anyhow, back to the film. It was a book I had always heard about and have wanted to read. I think back then it seemed like just too big. The size was something that, at the time, turned me off since I wasn’t ready for something like that yet. But here and now, many years later, I would very much like to take on that challenge.

And, if you haven’t seen the trailer, you should. In fact, here.

As you know I’ve been reading the entire Wheel of Time with my brother. We just finished Book Three; incredible thus far. I know I’ve dropped the link before, but since I’m already in the habit, HERE IT IS again. You can go here to follow our progress as we roll through the entire Wheel.

Other than that, life is dandy. I finished the first draft of a short story I had worked on for a couple of weeks and it was a relief to get it done. I also had some great writerly friends of mine give me some great feedback on that story. One of those even sent me some of her stuff back so I could get a look at it. I’m slowly getting my way through it, though, good stuff.

Finally I’m listening to the serial podcast S-Town by This American Life. My wife and I got into Serial when that came out last year, and it was really good. But, you had to wait for a week for each episode to come out. In S-Town, all of the episodes are already out. You can, if you’re so inclined, “binge watch them.” I must admit, whatever little skepticism I had about this cast was dusted and washed away after the first (maybe two) episodes you watch. I can’t say any more that that. Here’s the CAST if you want to go ahead and try your chances.

Other than that, folks. It’s back to writing.

Keep at it. No complaints.

-LP

Chasm


by
L.P. Stribling

Wicked games they played back then,

Childhood trickery (painful trickery), all masked in fun,

One was called the Sin of Chasm,

And she was the lucky one,

The chant still sticks –

First comes Faith, at the end, Reward,

Don’t look down,

At the Chasm of Gore,

The chittering teeth, the rot of the pits,

Lose your wits and they’ll ask for more,

But think of the reward!

The rope was taught between the rooftops,

And night around us – starry and cold,

The schoolyard dirt was the chasm below,

But naught to be seen in the frosty chill

of those evenings.

“Next Walker, Next slave!”

“Fallers force the Daybreak!”

Erma was a friend that night,

A friend of a friend,

She came not to be seen, but to watch,

Last girl in sight,

But the Chasm hungered, and forced a growl,

“Next Walker, Next Slave,

Chasm’s Worms on the prowl!”

She shook her head, shook her legs,

Tried to shake herself from their icky hands.

They pulled and prodded and forced her to stand,

Feet on the edge, and pushed up her hands.

She balanced and shook, and tears filled her eyes,

And the first step she took held our breath in the night,

Three steps across, we could hear her sniffles, her whines,

Though not a word did she yell, when her feet missed the line.

Not a second passed then,

Plop – crack, plop.

She was still.

I looked down at the rope,

Eddie picked his hands off the line,

Wiped them on his outer vinyl.

His words loosed a gasp of smoke into the air,

“Nope!” he laughed.

“The Chasm claims another victim!”

Victory hit him and his arms darted

Over his head, Over his head.

He cheered in the night.

It was cold, so cold,

And under the stars, who knows how long she lay,

Before they found her,

Dismembered, I imagine,

A quiet girl, a lonely fall,

Victim to the Chasm.

The Turnstiles at Station 6


The Turnstiles at Station 6

by  L.P. Stribling

subway

       Grey was the only thing Sarah saw that Monday afternoon as she walked past Jason’s Apothecary, the ghost town’s last active building – at least the last one to reportedly have human activity in it before….the last one to have reports of sightings.

        Her mind came back to the grey of the place. The road, the cracks in the road, the buildings, the sidewalk, the sky, even her reflection as she passed by was grey. The color was there; she knew it was there. But it was still grey. Grey because she couldn’t see the color.

      You shouldn’t be here.

       She knew it. The voice in her head wasn’t usually all that smart. She’d blown it off tons of times before; this time shouldn’t be any different. But she did know she shouldn’t be here.

      You can still go back. Just tell ‘em you spun it.

      No. That would make her a liar. The bet was fair, she lost, and she has to pay the consequence.

     Sarah shook herself out of the dialogue with her mind and looked around the abandoned square of Millton Bend. She felt a chill flitter through her, a feeling which distinguished itself completely from the coolness of the wind upon her face.

     She scanned the buildings of the square, the graffitied brick walls, mottled with chips and  cracks, the windows, some covered with black bags and white tape, others boarded up or outlined with fragmented shards of water-spotted glass. Doors left ajar, entrances overgrown, all of it was one eerie piece of human time straining against being altogether forgotten.

       She had been to Millton Bend once when she was very young. Her cousin Doug had driven her through the town on their way south to visit another relative she didn’t know she had. She wondered where her mom and dad were that she had to have Doug drive her. She remembered the Bend square clearly enough. They had stopped there to look at the bookstore (Doug was a reader), and they crossed the the quadrangle from the car to the store and back, and left. But the beauty of it stayed with Sarah.

     Then, fallout. Bombs, disease, outbreak. She was too young to know the what, but she did remember the when. It was back in 2345, the year she turned ten.

     Her feet fell upon unanswered fluffs of dusty sidewalk as she looked around and reminisced. Even now as she walked through the abandoned town, there still seemed to be beauty, in some weird way.

     The years to follow began to bring the stories. People were leaving, not because they were getting sick, but because but because they were scared.

      People disappeared from their homes and businesses, from restaurants and from their cars. The majority of these scenes were accompanied by large quantities of blood and sometimes torn clothing. Then, not long after, came the sightings, the voices, people hearing the screams of their disappeared family members late in the night, seeing at times glimpses of impish things, silhouettes of short slender bodies and big heads. The activity always came in the night.

     Sarah directed her feet toward the square’s center, the subway underground. Her eyes caught the bold text, black on the faded and cracked white of the outer wall:

WELCOME TO STATION 6

       Sarah’s footsteps slowed, almost stopped, and shook her head. Designated by whatever fucked up numbering system the state incorporated (maybe it was the order in which the stations were built?), Station 6 had become synonymous with ghosts, demons, alien abduction – pick a childhood fear, Station 6 was it.

        Her breath shallowed at seeing the entrance to the station – a wide rectangular subterranean lowering in the earth allowing for three large escalators down to the underground speed train. She had never been here, not down there, but she knew the subway drill. You go down, you get tickets, you go through turnstiles, you wait for train. Basic.

     Knowing how the subway worked wasn’t the reason her hands and forehead felt cooler then from a new misting of sweat then. It was what she had to do, and how very stupid (not ‘stupid’ dumb, but ‘stupid’ insane) it was that her feet trod upon this quadrant of earth at all at that second.

      She turned back around, closed her eyes and exhaled.

      No, no, no, she thought. We’ve already come this far. Her mind tried sifting back through the fragmented reasons for her not to be here.

     Several months after the town was hit with the initial wave of the disappearing and people were still evacuating, a story came about which came to be known as ‘the turnstile hauntings:’ townspeople complain to authorities of sightings of unknown beings entering and exiting Station 6, police from Stachell and Arnison are sent over, flashlights go out, gunfire, all police are found slaughtered except one – huddled in the corner saying the words: “Turnstiles! CLICK-CLICK-CLACK, Turnstiles! Turnstiles! CLICK-CLICK-CLACK!”

      Snap out of it. In and out.

      Sarah shook herself and looked again at the town from inside the quadrangle. She allowed her feet to drag themselves up to and past the entry doors of the subway station. Station 6, she thought. Each town outside of Ellison had a number indicating how many tens of kilometers they were outside of the capital. It made it easier to give a distance to the next stop; at least that was what made the most sense to her. 

      The sign came and went, and with the hollow call of another cold wind upon her skin, She opened the doors of Station 6 and entered.

     The doors closed behind her with an eerie creak – almost as if they were speaking their warnings to her from several months, maybe years, of disuse.

     Just down there. One quick turn, she thought, and I’m done.

     You need to get out of here.

       The voice in her head spoke truth. She knew it was truth, but it had been speaking to her the full four-hour drive down to the abandoned town, and none of the admonishments really stopped her at all. The steps in front of her were half shadowed in a deep dusty coal, while their lighted counterparts weren’t much better off – a musty mildew of luminescence, as though a mild glow hovered from where countless vagrants had pissed. And below, Sarah saw the turnstiles, a dull silver, arms awaiting her spin.

      She quickstepped down the stairs, the hollow clap of her steps making dusty echoes against abandoned walls. A chill of air enveloped her then, as she went down. She didn’t want to think about it. She made a bet, she lost.

      Let’s just get this over with.

     With the steps she took downward, the eerie echo of the police officer in the story – Turnstiles, turnstiles, CLICK-CLICK-CLACK.

      When her feet touched the base level, the air around her was thick and cold. The turnstiles were right in front of her. And beyond them the dark hollow of the subway’s lower level.

      She could hear her every breath. Her heart pumped with heavy and quick thuds within her chest. A chill trickled up her spine and she could almost feel the sweat glands release along where the tingle traveled.

      You shouldn’t be here

       “Shut up,” she said aloud into the haunted air. What would her inner voices have to say to that? Sarah dug into her pocket and removed her cell phone and switched on the video and  tapped the red recording circle.

       “Okay here I am. This is Station 6,” she said as she panned the camera around her. Her voice held something back – something that couldn’t hold back shaking much longer. She showed the long staircase and the door on the entrance level. She ended by bringing the camera back to her face. She exhaled. “A bet’s a bet, right?”

      With a jolt of courage (or was it craziness?) she filmed her hand reaching out to the turnstiles and pulled.

     CLICK-CLICK-CLACK

     She turned and quickstepped back up the steps (in the camera footage, one can hear the nervous increase in her breathing). And as just as she approached the door, she stopped (the camera jerked back to the hollow below, to the turnstiles).

     “Shit,” she cursed.

      Sarah turned back to the steps and, began to leap up two at a time in a nervous panic.

      “I hear something,” she said to herself (also caught on camera).

       She topped the stairs and turned off the camera (in the audio with high volume, there is a distinct clicking sound heard from a distance).

Jars


Jars
(a five-minute story by L.P. Stribling)

original

He collected them in a dark room, but they weren’t for sale. It’s not that there wasn’t a market. And it’s not that he couldn’t make a lot of money. There was, and he could. It was just that, in this particular realm of his life, he considered himself selfish.

“There we go,” he said. “One more friend in your circle.”

He spoke to them openly. He never heard their responses, but he knew that they spoke back to him.

When the police came to his house in early August, they did more than come with a warrant. They came with a team, each with ten persons or so. He was detained immediately. That was the easy part. They had to actually go through the house, with all of the rumors and stories weighing on their shoulders.

They found the doorway down into the dark after several hours of searching. They hesitated at first. They took deep breaths and full-charged flashlights, and they went down.

Their lights didn’t help from the horrors they found. Dead things hanging, rotten smells floating. Diseases, aches, and pains. Sicknesses of the word that were probably best kept from it.

And then, at some early hour of the morning, they found the jars.

Marla


 

 

Marla in the mirror

Marla awoke at 3:01 Tuesday morning. One minute early. She rolled onto her side and sat up in the dark. The subdued glow of the moon snuck past the window panes of her room and lightly kissed the hardwood floors beneath her bare feet. Her eyes were still a hazy kind of closed and yet she could still feel that light. She smiled knowing that it was her feet that walked first in the night’s light. She turned back to the body lying on its side under the covers behind her. Lazy worm. The thought ran across her mind and flashed away, as if it never were.

It was time, though. One didn’t wake and rise after midnight without the call.

She stood and walked a few short steps down the moonlit hallway and around the corner, feeling her way into the newly tiled bathroom. The his-and-hers vanity mirrors pulled her toward them. In her trance, she found her own reflection in the looking glass; the moon still caressing her eyes from the windows at the room’s rear to show her what she needed.

The eyes staring back at her were red and pink, filling hollows in a pus-ridden sea of green and dappled grey. The smile in the reflection held a fence – white-picketed with razors, each with its own murky stew of mold and filth.

Marla, it said. Razor smile stiff, waiting. Its voice was deep and dull, and loud. A hive of bees rattled awake mid-slumber. Loud enough for five Marlas to hear at all times, in all places. It was this loudness that called her; it had been calling her since long before.

“Marla”, she whispered back. Marla.

I thirst, it said.

“And you must feed,” Marla answered, voice quiet and dragging.

Ah, my pretty, pretty girl. And what would you have for me?

            “..pretty girl,” Marla’s lips mimicked the words with an unfeeling smile. “I have what the Master commands.” Her body stood tall, yet seemed to be held erect by a force unseen. Her torso shifted slightly, regaining balance when the body began to tip . “I will have always what the Master commands,” she said. Her eyes peered into glass through a glazed screen of ‘dead-to-the-world.’

Yes. Good, it said. What the Master commands. And does my pretty know what the Master commands?

            “Something warm, something red, and something with rhythm,” Marla uttered in an eerie memorized whisper. “Something warm, something red, and something with rhythm…with rhythm.”

Ahh, the wicked fangs released a sigh of contentment, the cold blue lips on the other side creeping up the sallowing walls of the decaying fangs. The rhythm. Such an important matter. Yes, good. Something with rhythm.

On the other side of the mirror, the sickly smile remained on the girl’s face in a reworking of mouth and skin. Her ghoulish eyes were unblinking, and traversed the glass, still holding lock upon Marla’s own eyes, half-lowered as they were when she had entered.

From somewhere above in the dark, as if in the flawless workings of a silent marionette, the thing’s arms raised at the wrist until they were directly out in front of it. The palms flashed outward, toward Marla’s world, revealing their unearthly truths in the foggy vision of the room’s light.

Beneath the open surface of one palm, an eye, thick and beastly, grabbed at Marla’s image across time, space, and dimension. The other palm cracked wide with its own set of teeth, worn rough and brown from aeons of consumption of bone, flesh and lies. The teeth grinded with slow, purposeful passes as the mouth inhaled and exhaled its own fetid expulsions upon the glass of its world.

It’s time, Marla, the mouth spoke from the hand, the voice was the same strident buzz that came out of the girl, whose head was now down behind the two extended hands. Cracks of lightening broke around the girl, a storm in the world beyond the glass. And through it, the buzz of the voice was as clear as water. Bring it here, Marla. Bring your Master his due.

The scene closed in a thunderous clap of silence, and Marla again stared into a replica of her own world. Turning from the mirror, she walked out of the bathroom, leaving the cushion of the moonlight again, and disappeared down the hallway, away from the bedroom and into the darkness of her midnight house.

 

She stood there and waited for the worm of his form to shift and turn. The silver of her blade was a fleeting glint in the midnight sun when she brought it down into his chest from above her.

The worm writhed and spun, spewing rosy guttural pleas into the air. What came from him was a song, a song to celebrate the Master. Marla knew this. In one bare hand, she held a clawed grip on the worm’s cheek, the other, now becoming wet and thick with the worm’s gift as, again, faster, she brought down into him. What she held in her hand was no longer silver.

While the droplets of him sprayed, fell, and colored her, Marla’s eyes remained half-gazed on her work.

“The Master must feed,” she said, each syllable lending tone to her carving. She knew he could not hear her words. The worm was too concerned with his own selfish keep. “The Master must feed,” she said again, louder.

And with three final plunges into the warm puddle of the worm’s now still shell, her voice thundered in a sonorous inhuman buzz.

WARM! RED! RHYTHM! It yelled. THE MASTER WILL FEED!

 

Marla released her grip on the worm’s sticky scarlet face and left the muddied hilt of her tool visible above its buried lower half. She dipped both hands into the body’s warmth and, with several rips and tears, removed the warm rhythmic bundle of him. Still pulsing beneath her half-shut eyes, she dismounted her hunt, and walked again with dutiful step to her place behind the vanity mirrors.

The glow of the moon behind her was lower now, softer, weaker. And the girl beyond the glass doors licked her own cold lips through the yellow muck of her angled fangs.

Yes, my pretty girl. Yes, you’ve done well. Now, Marla, give the Master his lamb, a flailing tongue followed, tickled was the daemon at its prize.

Marla, of course, obeyed, looking down at the warm now slow-beating prize she held. She watched the drips of it fall from her underturned knuckles in to the darkening pink pool of the once white basin in front of her. She watched the droplets run down her downy skin, and Marla’s smile was unfeeling.

The girl beyond the glass growled a deep victorious growl, and the Master fed.

 

 

 

*thanks to IrishxoxQueen for use of the photo