The Malaise…

Warning!

If you’ve had enough of the bullshit, or are anywhere near your point of being overwhelmed, maybe skip this one. It gets ranty.

So, I’m standing in my kitchen mug of black coffee in one hand, Solo cup full of dry Lucky Charms in the other, when the malaise hits me.

(as an aside, does anyone else think “malaise” sounds like what happens if you leave mayonnaise out for too long? Just me? Okay then…)

And like, I get it, everybody’s got the malaise recently. Worldwide pandemic. Stay at home orders. Absolute clueless cunts running our government.

Yeah, we got 99 problems and a bitch ain’t one.

I dig.

Like, here’s another thing:

I tend to believe the old adage that 98% of what we think of as Evil is just Stupidity.

I feel that in my bones.

But staying abreast of the news lately has convinced me that a non-zero portion of the broader populace, and a larger portion of our governing body, are actively nudging across the line into that 2% of pure fucking villainy.

Ever have that one friend? You know the one, they have problems, they know what the problem is, they even know of possible solutions, but still, they don’t do a goddamn thing to change their situation?

(Everybody has one of those friends. If you don’t, then it’s you sweet pea. Look into it.)

Prime example:

The vice president went to visit a facility full of COVID-19 patients. I saw it on the news.

And the only person not wearing PPE was him.

Why?

Did he think we wouldn’t recognize his Jonny Quest lookin’ ass with a mask on?

Does that motherfucker think Jesus is his personal protective equipment?

Well, maybe that last one, given the current VP.

But no, he’s just shilling for a particular bullshit piece of propaganda being used to prop up a bankrupt worldview/ policy stance.

And it’s shit like that, and assholes in positions of authority who are consummately bad examples -for any reason, give me the malaise.

It’s examples like that that lead to roughly 75% of the people at my local grocery store not wearing masks or taking any kind of precautions.

Seriously strips away my hope for the human race.

Here’s another coin tossed into the well where we’ve chained hope to die:

Fekkin’ politicians, super-rich cocksuckers, using this crisis to funnel more of the taxpayer’s money into the pockets of other rich cocksuckers, and leaving to poor and middle class to choose between privation and destruction, between staying home, staying safe – and starving, or risking actual death in order to line someone else’s pockets or to help the Stupid-Fucking-Stock-Market™ rebound.

And here’s another-fucking-thing for my heaping helping of the malaise:

Food.

Right. Some basic bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy shit.

Farmers are discarding huge amounts of produce. Literal tons of edible food, being thrown away. (And we already do enough of that when there wasn’t a pandemic on…).

The news telling me that livestock producers are looking to kill hundreds of thousands of animals because too many processing plants have been closed, and they can’t get them to slaughter.

Not for nothing, but did any of you Tweedle-Dee Twats think about just letting the poor animals live?

(Maybe they did, but I’ll bet you a stimulus check – that we’re not going to get again because rich fucks want us to be serfs and indentured servants – that this decision to kill off stock came down to financial considerations rather than humane ones.)

Kill the animals. Let the food go to waste.

When we have hungry people all over this country, and at least some infrastructure, vis-a-vis food banks, to distribute it to them?

And why?

Because of fucking money, that’s why.

Because human greed.

If there ever was a time for Americans to wake up and see exactly how we’re killing ourselves, it’s now.

This is the fucking moment.

All the stars have aligned.

The scales have been yoinked from our eyes.

And still, we don’t.

Some of us won’t.

Fucking WON’T.

And that gives me the malaise.

(Also the fact I kept trying to spell malaise as mailaise this entire post.)

Thanks for listening.

Keep your heads up and your guillotines sharp.

Until next time…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Quarantine Recommendations…

…Or, as I like to think of them: Sanity Savers.

Really just a list of entertainments that I dig.

(I’ve been meaning to get around to this for a few months now. Quarantine seems as good a time as any…)

Books

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo.

Excellent contemporary fantasy. (probably qualifies as urban fantasy, but whatever). It’s dark, beautifully written, and noir as hell. Also hard to put down. If you weren’t already a fan of the author, you will be within the first few chapters.

 

Jade City by Fonda Lee.

I think this also probably qualifies as urban fantasy, but it’s quite a bit different from what you’ve come to expect from the genre. The writing is, at times, lyrical and poignant even as the action is brutal. Grabs you and keeps you reading.

 

Where Carion Gods Dance by Brad C. Hodson.

This is a collection of dark short stories. Each of then by turns scary and disturbing. If you love the thrill of what might be hiding in the night, get this book. Really. Get. This. Book. You can thank me later.

 

The Nightside Series By Simon R. Green.

There are like 12 books in this series. I’ve gone through 6 or 7 of them at the time of writing. Insane, paranormal noir. Urban fantasy having a menage a trois with Tales from the Darkside and My Life with the Thrill-Kill Cult. Good, violent fun. First book is Something from the Nightside.

 

Wanderers by Chuck Wendig.

Holy hell, this book kicked my ass in the best possible way. Dark, contemporary fantasy. Long as hell, and eerily prescient of our current COVID-19 related circumstances. I don’t know if you’ll thank me for the recommendation, but you’ll enjoy this book regardless.

 

And, if you have any time left after those, there’s always:

Television

Altered Carbon – season 2.

The show got a new showrunner for season 2. And while it is neither as dark, as sexy, nor as violent as season 1, it’s still well worth the watch. (I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a critical breakdown of the season, but I’m naturally lazy, so that may or may not happen.)

 

I’m not Ok with This.

Of all of my TV recommendations, this is probably my favorite. The misadventures of being a high school misfit with burgeoning paranormal powers. Just go watch it. You won’t be disappointed.

 

Sex Education – seasons 1 & 2.

Funny. Heart-warming. Tear-jerking. Worth every minute.

 

Marvelous Mrs. Maisel – seasons 1, 2, & 3.

Still good. Still funny. Looks like they’ve already been green-lit for season 4.

 

Motherland: Fort Salem – season 1.

This show is currently premiering, every Wednesday. I’m really enjoying the alternate, paranormal history premise. Show’s got me hooked and tuning in every week.

 

Love, Death, and Robots – series 1.

It’s a bunch of animated shorts, only connected by the theme of the anthology’s title. Worth your time, and can be taken in smallish chunks. Definitely enough laughs to get you through.

 

The Kingdom – seasons 1 & 2.

My favorite zombie series.

 

Dracula – BBC Moffat/ Gatiss version.

It’s told over 3, hour and a half-ish episodes. While I have reservations about the third and final episode, on the whole, I still recommend the series.

 

So, that ought to hold you over for a week or two…

Maybe.

Please leave a comment with your own recommendations, or start a discussion about the ones I’ve mentioned here. I love hearing from you folx.

Until next time…

 

 

 

 

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Capitalism Sucks: Pt 1

It seems, as I grow older, I drift further and further left in my politics.

So, let’s intro this subject – which I’ve been compiling a looooong list of rants about – with a little style if not much grace.

I’ve had many a conversation with people I consider learned and thoughtful, and whenever I bring up the failings of Capitalism, invariably they will say something akin to: “There are bad actors in everything. Blame the people that abuse the system, don’t blame the system.”

That sounds reasonable…

…Okay, no it fucking doesn’t. Not if you think it through.

Capitalism incentivizes people to be inhumane to each other.

That guy who bought up all the hand sanitizer at the beginning of this COVID-19 crisis?

He was being a good capitalist.

Those scum-fucks on television, telling us we should all risk our lives to open the economy back up, so their fucking stock portfolios can recover?

Those assholes are being good capitalists.

That circus peanut we call a president, using the office to shovel money into his own businesses?

A. Good. Capitalist.

Capitalism has led those with plenty, with magnitudes more than they need, to keep others – those without even the barest – to live in degradation, squalor, violence, exploitation, and despair.

Capitalism tells companies who get tax breaks or receive bailouts that it is in their better interest to buy back their stocks – thereby raising the price of said stocks and making the company look more profitable than it is – instead of investing in business infrastructure or living wages and healthcare for their workers.

Capitalism tells its practitioners to press the advantage and to take all they can without regard to who or what it damages.

Oh, and one more thing capitalism has done for us:

It has led people and their governments to ignore the existential issue of our age:

Climate Change.

Will future generations have a habitable planet to live on?

Capitalism instructs us not to care about such things if they endanger the ability to make a profit.

(For those of you that would like to argue about the good things capitalism has done, I’ll be happy to refute that idea by showing you that what you’re referring to isn’t capitalism per se, but a severely regulated version of it. Ok, so I’ll do that. But not today. Today is for screaming until you pass out and hoping the dreams you have while unconscious are better than the unlubricated merry-go-round world we are living in at present. Good luck with that.)

Until next time…

 

 

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Apocalypse Now-ish…

APOCALYPSE – a Greek word meaning revelation of things unknown.

First off, calm down.

Seriously.

Calm. The Fuck. Down.

(And wash your damn hands!)

Second: This is not the end.

and louder for those in the back:

THIS. IS. NOT. THE. END!

It really isn’t.

It might feel like it, especially if you’ve watched any of the president’s press conferences.

But it’s not the end.

What it is is a genuine Apocalypse: a revealing of things unknown.

(Now, to whom, exactly, they were unknown is a shifting thing, depending on the subject, but none of us knew them all, so it still counts.)

So, I’m compiling a bit of a list, so that most of the newly known things get out to the people who don’t yet know them.

Things like:

I bet you didn’t realize how often you touch your damn face until you tried to stop doing it.

Okay, so that’s a silly thing, and this list isn’t exactly silly, except when viewed from a severely jaundiced point of view – but gallows humor is a friend of mine, so I indulge it.

Here’s another: Funny which jobs are considered essential services isn’t it? Less funny when you realize medical professionals make up a smaller percentage of that group than say, convenience store clerks, grocery stockers, and Walmart cashiers. Maybe if they’re so essential – which by now you know they fucking are – maybe they should get paid a living wage to do what they do for our society? Maybe, just maybe, if someone works any job for 40 hours a week, they should be able to make a decent living off of it? Something to think about.

Related to that last point: if you didn’t know there were a bunch of Uber-Capitalist scum-fucks willing to sacrifice you and yours on the altar of profit, after watching about 2 hours of any “conservative media” – like, for instance, Hastur, Hastur, Hastur News, or the unfair and imbalanced network that shall not be named – you’ll no doubt have seen the people, including the President, suggesting that you should risk dying, and killing others, including the ones you hold most dear, to go back to work so the fucking stock market will go back up.

I’d have more to say about that, but it makes me too fucking angry.

And those aren’t the only carpet-bagger slug snot profiteers out there, no. Plenty of religious and conspiracy nuts are running head-long to Religious Barkers and Professional Conspiracy Theorists, and all of those cocksuckers have something they want to sell you, from supplements, to colloidal silver for you to drink – do not drink colloidal silver unless you’d like to spend the rest of your life looking like a fekkin’ Smurf – to food buckets, to shiny new tinfoil hats. None of which will help you. Neither will essential oils, Himalayan salt, or prayer cloths. Save your money for toilet paper, if you can fucking find any because people are generally easy to spook and panic bought that as opposed to canned food, dried beans, and rice.

Other revelations:

Most of our elected officials are useless panderers.

(I know, most of you knew that before, but some didn’t and they’re getting a brutal awakening during this crisis.)

Most people don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about, especially when it comes to the current pandemic. (Always do your own homework, folks. Always.)

Your cable provider is likely not giving you the download speeds you’re paying for.

Oh, and something else, something BIG:

You know how the government and various news stations and your least favorite uncle at the family reunion keep telling you we can’t end homelessness, or hunger, or student debt, or provide healthcare for everyone because “It’ll cost too much!”

Yeah, after the Federal Reserve magicked up 1.5 Trillion to dump into the stock market to shore that up, and then the government passed a 2.2 Trillion stimulus package – which is only supposed to be the first of many, by the way…

Yeah, now we KNOW that’s all bullshit.

We can afford it, if it profits the wealthy. No problems there. No debates. No consultations. No town halls full of questions and the inevitable yelling.

Nope.

Nothing.

Just pulled that shit out of a hat.

(The part that got the argument: the unemployment part. The part that helps poor and working people. That part some of our conservative representatives wanted to argue about – because they thought it was too much. Just fucking take that in for a minute, then go clean the blood out of your eyes.)

And maybe, beyond our government’s incompetence, the fatal profit motive of the super-rich, and other examples of human kind’s general inhumanity to fellow humans, maybe that’s one thing we should remember going forward:

That we have the ability, almost overnight, to summon up the money to end hunger, homelessness, poverty, and sickness. To rebuild our infrastructure, put every American back to work, and avert a climate disaster all at the same time.

We could do it tomorrow.

Easily.

And we don’t.

Okay, one last revelation for you, maybe the most important:

The only value worth voting or working for is whether or not we choose to help and take care of each other. Every other value you can name stems from that simple, basic fact.

This Shitty Apocalypse™ has revealed to us that we no longer hold that truth to be self-evident.

Maybe it’s time we thought about why; individually and as a nation.

I’ve spent a great deal of time pondering it lately.

Now it’s your turn.

Good luck.

Until next time…

 

 

 

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The Hungry Dark – Ch. 3

( If you’re just getting here, go read Ch. 1 and Ch. 2 )

___________________________________________________

“He’s waking up,” a voice said from somewhere above me.

“Yes, he is,” I tried to say, but it came out as more of a collection of sputters and coughs than actual words.

“Don’t try to talk yet,” another voice said.

My tongue felt three feet thick and covered in sand. Not talking, I could do. The rest of me wasn’t in the best of shape either. An ache, dull and throbbing, reached from the soles of my feet to the top of my head.

I’m on my back.

 That much I could tell.

It occurred to me, however dully, that being on my back might be why I suffered from the all-over-ache. My ears rang, and I guessed that the warm wetness on my lips and chin was not drool from my involuntary nap.

A year had gone by since anything supernatural tried to kill me.

Apparently, my streak was over.

The dream was nearly gone, but I could still see the Red Death; could still hear her words.

Something is coming.

“Looks like it’s here,” I said, unfortunately aloud.

“He’s trying to talk,” a male voice said.

“Good,” A female voice said from some distance away. “How’s his pupil response?”

They continued talking about me while I was distracted by a series of bright lights, shining first in one eye, then in the other. I heard sirens in the distance.

“I’m okay. Knock it off,” I said, but the words came out a bit slurred. “Maybe not.”

“Yeah, definitely not,” The female voice said. “Do not attempt to get up. In fact, don’t move at all if possible.”

The female voice sounded familiar. The scent of some floral body lotion fled under the pressing weight of newly opened smelling salts. More fingers prodded me from different angles.

The male voice asked me if this and that hurt. I wanted to tell him everything hurt, but not more than I would expect from being…

…What? Attacked by what? My mind wouldn’t wrap a coherent thought around it. I had been there, seen the thing, but I couldn’t process it yet. I didn’t think he’d understand either.

“Okay,” the female voice said. “How are his vitals?”

“They appear stable,” The male voice said.

“Bullshit,” She said.

“Cassandra?” I asked the blurred spot I assumed was the sky.

“Caleb Carson,” she said, still out of sight but somewhere overhead, “What have you been getting into?”

“Trouble,” I said.

I would have laughed, but just breathing hurt enough.

“The other guy?” I asked.

“Don’t worry about that now,” She said.

“Didn’t make it?” I asked.

“No. Was he a friend of yours?”

“No,” I said, “A client.”

It was a small lie, not one that would matter to anyone else, especially to the people responsible for the poor bastard’s demise.

I knew they, whoever ‘they’ were, wouldn’t care that I hadn’t taken his case, or that I hadn’t even believed him when he came to me for help. All they would know is that I was a witness. Thanks to Barbara Hicks and her rag of a local tabloid, ‘they’ would know my reputation. They would know that for paranoid certain. This wouldn’t be the last time I had a run-in with whoever the hell had done this. I needed to be better prepared for the next encounter. But, just then, I didn’t feel prepared.

More like nauseous.

“Could you move the smelling salts a little farther away please?” I asked.

“Huh?” The male voice said.

“Making me sick,” I said, trying to control the urge to vomit.

“Oh,” He said, “Sure.”

He chucked the broken paper container away.

The smell gone, my insides began to calm down. It also didn’t hurt that the world stopped moving.

“Thought you worked nights,” I said, some of the sluggishness easing off my brain.

“Do,” she said from somewhere above. “Just booking some overtime running the rookie around.”

“You let the rookie check my vitals?” I said, only half-joking.

“Seemed like good practice for him,” she said.

“You had a cardiac event,” he said.

“Had?” Cassandra and I asked in unison.

“Yes,” The male voice said, “It’s gone.”

“Are you reading those instruments correctly?” She asked him.

“Pretty sure,” He replied, confusion tinting his voice.

“Pretty sure doesn’t cut it,” she said. “Hold on.”

Before I could ask why exactly I should hold on, everything in my universe jerked forward.

“Get up here and drive,” She commanded.

Somewhere between the sudden, violent stop and ‘drive’ I realized I was in the back of an ambulance. The world that swam back into focus confirmed my suspicion.

“You’ve got to be reading the monitor wrong,” She said. “Even if the event has subsided, there should still be residual effects. Heart rate, BP, something.”

“Check for yourself,” He said, climbing out of her way.

“Don’t start her back up yet,” She said to her rookie, “And kill the sirens.”

“Why the hell…” He began.

“Just do it,” She blurted out. “I’ll take care of the paperwork.”

The rookie raised his hands in surrender and disappeared into the cabin.

“Thanks,” I said.

“Don’t thank me yet,” She said, the usual warmth draining from her voice. “I saw your street. Saw the other guy. No way I’m taking you to a hospital full of patients before I know whatever it was is not going to happen again any time soon.”

I could hear the words, “potential victims” resonating in the way she said patients. I wasn’t about to argue the point.

The memory drifted like a shadow across my mind. Huge, blocking the sun, it swooped down on us in the street — a giant raven, its eyes burning fire; wingtips trailing black smoke. You could almost see through it, like thick, roiling smog. I tried to push him out of the way while grabbing for my pistol. Two shots, I know I hit it. I know I did. Nothing. Then it screamed. And the world exploded in a spray of glass and heat.

How much could I tell her? Cassandra had seen the aftermath of a few of my run-ins with the unknown. She was a good medic and didn’t ask too many inconvenient questions. But the answer to this question might get me tossed in for seventy-two hours psychiatric observation. Seventy-two hours in a psych ward is a long time, especially when something would almost certainly be looking to remove me as a potential problem.

Play dumb.

I’m good at that.

“Don’t really know what happened,” I said, hoping the grogginess lent my tone some believability.

“That doesn’t help me,” She said, pushing a strand of blonde hair away from her face with the back of her forearm.

“I realize that,” I said, as apologetically as possible. “Just let me out somewhere. I’ll be fine.”

“Doesn’t really work like that,” She said.

“Then leave the back doors open when we get to the hospital,” I said. “Just be momentarily careless. I’ll slip away. My vitals are normal.”

“So?” she said.

“So, I’m in no medical danger,” I said, making it up as I went. “No reason to rush. No codes to call or whatever. Just take your time and I’ll slip away.”

“Simple as that?” she asked, disbelief deepening the creases around her eyes.

“Simple as that,” I said.

I hoped she’d buy the lie. Even if she did, there was going to have to be an explanation of this at some later date, providing I survived until a later date.

And I was just getting used to the idea that I would live to a later date before all this happened.

Do you drink?” I asked her.

“Yeah, occasionally,” she said.

“When this is over, I’ll buy you a drink or three and try to explain it,” I said.

“When this is over, I’ll let you,” she said.

 

At the hospital, the doors to the ambulance were mysteriously left open, and both EMTs went to check on something at the same time. I slipped away. I owed Cassandra one. Oh, she wouldn’t think so. She would think she was doing what was best for the people who might get hurt if whatever happened on my block happened again. No, she wouldn’t think I owed her one, but I did.

I slunk away from the hospital, trying to not look like I was slinking or limping. I hurt everywhere. A cab was in the parking lot, dropping off somebody or other. I slid into the back seat and gave him my address. To the cabby’s credit, he didn’t so much as look at me cross-eyed while I pulled the sticky monitor patches off my chest and ribs. They’d cut my shirt open to place the tabs. I buttoned my jacket to cover the fact. From across the street, I would have looked strange, like a flasher without the courage of his perversions; up close it would be obvious. I just hoped no one would get that close until I had time to change.

Your luck doesn’t run that way.

 No. It usually doesn’t.

 

The cabby dropped me off a block away. I wanted to see how far the damage had spread. That, and I wanted to scout my block and see who was poking around. Justin I could handle, maybe. But if Barb had loosed her hounds to find a scent…

…Well, I didn’t want to be the fox in that hunt.

None of the buildings on the adjacent street were damaged. The glass from all those car windows exploding had made a hell of a boom, but it looked like all it did was rattle the windows on the surrounding blocks.

I am thankful for small favors.

I rounded the corner to see detective Justin Hagen, and a small detachment of uniformed officers walking the scene. No way to slip past them.

Balls first, then.

 I strolled up as nonchalantly as possible and picked my hat off the ground. It lay a couple of feet from where Justin stood, eyeing the area. The back side of the fedora was crushed all to hell. I stood there, straightening it as much as I could, and trying to think up a convincing lie for the authorities. The dead guy would be easy. The block full of blown-out car windows would be a different story. I surveyed the wreckage, trying to think up something plausible. I failed utterly.

The street was covered with pebbles of shattered glass. From one end of the block to the other, no car was spared. I was glad I had parked in a garage down the street. The streetlamps had melted in their cases. A few globs of melted glass hung in stalactites from the charred lamp heads. The buildings had been far enough back from the epicenter that most of their windows survived with only a light crazing. Car alarms should have been going off and weren’t. A smoky slick lightly dusted all the nearby vehicles.

Okay, how the hell do I explain this?

 Don’t.

 I took a few unsteady steps. What was left of my energy rapidly drained through the soles of my feet.

You’ve just been blown down by a giant, supernatural raven. How should you feel?

 Must’ve been some kind of reaction to whatever the big bird was slinging. I hoped it would pass, soon.

“Just the man I was looking for,” Justin said when he noticed me.

“I swear Detective, she said she was eighteen,” I said.

“Funny,” he said, his tone both tired and grim. “What do you know about this?”

“Not much that I can tell you on the street,” I said.

“Okay,” he said and dragged out the word.

“Come up to the office,” I suggested.

He nodded, and we headed for my building.

“The DB?” he asked as we walked.

“A client,” I said. “Well, a former client.”

Justin arched an eyebrow at me, and we ducked inside.

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The Hungry Dark – Ch. 2

If you’re just joining the party, go read Ch. 1.

____________________________________________________________

The worried, flabby man. The giant, looming shadow…the dream had been strange. Strange and disturbing, but just a dream all the same.

Funny that I found myself thinking it over on the walk across UTK’s campus to Terry’s Halloween party. Not counting the garish and ghoulish decorations the residents had plastered on any surface that wasn’t moving, over the last year and a half, I’d gotten used to odd nighttime visions.

Yeah, but they usually only happen when you’ve been knocked out.

 I couldn’t remember being knocked out recently, but my dreams are generally weird. Suppose this was just barely recalled bits from the night before. Still, my brain worried at it like it was trying to remember a familiar word suddenly forgotten. I tried to set it aside, but it itched, just faintly, in the back of my mind.

The walk to Terry’s place wasn’t long, even after stopping to pick Hannah up at the Dry Glass. She dressed as one of the Brides of Dracula, slinky almost sheer fabric and low neckline with lots of powder to pale her olive-toned skin. A black wig concealed her chestnut hair. I missed most of the walk, my mind flitting back and forth between how Hannah’s costume hugged her figure and the crazy dream about the giant bird. Beholding the spectacle of Terry’s decorations in full glory rinsed the thoughts cleanly from my head.

The battered crests of tombstones jutted up through the tall grass like bones poking through dead flesh. The remains of animals, some small, some not, hung sporadically from the bent and blackened spikes of the buckling wrought-iron fence. Shreds of clothing once white, now soiled and bloody, rippled in the branches of a gnarled weeping willow.

We all thought it.

“Terry really goes all out for his Halloween party,” Hannah said in a childish glee that only comes from no longer being a child but remembering it fondly.

“Sure does,” I said.

Amnesia means I have no such memory of childhood, but it seemed like an appropriate response.

We ambled up the broken steps, negotiated the tangled sidewalk, and went up the dramatically creaking porch steps and knocked on Terry’s door. Hannah did the knocking. I stopped to pat the weather-beaten stone lion that sat sentinel on Terry’s front step on its craggy head.

Terry answered the door, a patina of disappointment on his face, well what of his face I could see. His usual shiny, bald noggin was covered, neck to crown, in a fine, downy fur. Tusk-like fangs protruded from his lower lip in a gruesome underbite. His glasses were replaced with sickly-yellow contact lenses. I couldn’t figure out if he was going for comical or scary. Knowing Terry, it was probably both.

“You didn’t ring the bell,” He said, motioning to the hangman’s noose dangling from the door jamb. “I rigged it especially for tonight.”

“Aw,” Hannah said, kissing him on the forehead. “Did we ruin your night?”

“Not at all,” Terry said, smiling through his overlarge lower canines.

I reached up and pulled the noose. A deep, almost gravelly voice bellowed, “You rang?”

Hannah giggled, and Terry beamed.

As usual, I had no clue what the voice was a reference to.

I hate amnesia.

I’ve only had four years, or so, to catch up, culturally, to everyone I know. In the last year, Hannah had been introducing me to Elvis, and the Beatles, and something called Acid Rock. We hadn’t gotten to many television references yet, as I still didn’t own a TV, and the only one Hannah had was bolted to the back wall of her bar. My friends had made sure, especially in the lead up to the holiday that I’d been educated about some Halloween traditions. My friends made sure of that, especially in the lead up to the holiday. Terry was doing his own take on The Wolfman, fake fur completely covering his shiny-bald head. A scruff of beard around his jawline where his devil’s beard usually sat. I thought of going dressed as a detective from 1940s L.A. like something out of a Raymond Chandler novel, but Hannah said it looked too much like what I usually wore. She was right. On her suggestion, I ended up cobbling together a passable Frankenstein’s monster at the last minute. The spirit gum I used to attach the bolts was beginning to make my neck itch.

“And how is the abominable creation?” Terry asked.

“Booze good,” I said in my best Karloff impression. They’d made me watch all of the Frankenstein films, even the one with Abbott and Costello.

“It is indeed, and it’s that way,” He said, turning to the side and sweeping a fur-covered arm inward.

Hannah slid through the doorway first, making sure to brush her breasts in a full sweep across my chest as she slipped past.

“Excuse me,” She said, flashing me a coquettish glance before moving on.

“She did that on purpose,” Terry said when she was safely out of earshot.

“And God bless her for it,” I replied.

Terry sniggered and wrapped a sinewy arm around me, pulling me over the threshold.

The inside of Terry’s house lived up to the expectations set by the outside. Large spider webs with human skeleton-sized cocoons festooned several corners. Moldy black gauze hung in tatters and shreds from the chrome fixtures. There were bleeding candles, waxed hands of glory, and realistic skulls that had conversations with anyone who got too close to the bookshelves. The music drifted randomly between spooky mood music and old classics like the Monster Mash. The lighting followed the emotional tempo of the music, brighter for the old favorites and darker or even strobing for the mood pieces. There was a shriek from the back hall, followed by a string of curses and giggles. Terry looked at me and raised a fist in victory: the animatronic zombie cat he’d set up earlier in the day had just pounced on some unsuspecting prey.

Yes, Terry ‘The Horror’ Horrowitz had, in fact, outdone himself this year.

All manner of hags, haints, spooks, and specters populated the party. Vampires roamed the halls and linen-wrapped mummies lounged on plush leather couches. Succubae drank toasts with pirates and made passes at zombies eating finger foods. There was even a lady dressed as the Red Death from Lon Chaney’s Phantom of the Opera. I’d caught a lot of the old monster movies at the Dry Glass, Hannah’s bar, while waiting for her to close up. The costume was surreal in its detail right down to the skull mask. Couldn’t tell what, but something about it unsettled me. I chalked it up to lack of liquor and went to find the punch.

 

Detective Justin Hagen arrived at the party with his date decked out in a nearly perfect Errol Flynn Robin Hood costume, right down to the feather in his felt hat. The greens and reds seemed to compliment the deep caramel of the rest of him. And if the getup showed off his runner’s legs, I’m sure we had Max to thank for it. His companion and our resident medical examiner, Dr. Maxine Gault, was elegantly dressed as Olivia DeHaviland’s Maid Marian. She was taller than him by a good three inches and as pale as he was dark. They made quite a pair.

“Robin Hood eh?” I asked when I sidled up to them.

“I live for irony,” Justin said, smirking at me.

“You look positively lovely,” I said to Maxine.

“Why thank you,” She said. “And don’t mind him, I think the tights are chaffing his mood.”

“Is that what they’re calling it nowadays?” I laughed. “Where do you hide your badge in that getup?”

Justin opened a leather pouch on his belt, showing me his ID and his holdout 38.

“Should have come as the Sheriff of Nottingham,” I said.

“The Sheriff doesn’t get the girl,” Maxine said.

I looked at Justin. He looked at me. We nodded our agreement. Most of what passed for communication between Justin and me went unsaid. Because, why say it if you both already know?

“Where’s Hannah?” Justin asked.

“Think she went to mingle among the monsters,” I said.

“A lot of them,” Justin said. “Terry’s parties always this popular?”

“That’s what I hear,” Maxine said.

Justin and I both shot her a puzzled look.

“What?” she asked. “I work around campus, and I listen.”

“Fair enough,” I said. “Why don’t you two get some punch and I’ll go find my undead date.”

“We’ll meet you by the witch’s brew,” Maxine said, leading Justin by the arm over to the bubbling cauldron full of smoke and punch.

I wound my way through the crowd, which seemed to be thicker than just a moment before. The music took an eerie shift, and the lights dimmed to almost nothing. A group of ghoulish candy stripers passed close by, each one inflicted with wounds more gruesome and gorier than the last, everything from bruises to compound fractures, bone shards sticking through the skin. Giant gashes tore across torsos, exposing ribcages and viscera. The last one in the group seemed to have been crushed by something with hands like coal shovels. The lights strobed in time to a heavy tom-tom beat. Something large bumped against me in the darkness between flashes. The air turned dense and hot, making it hard to breathe. The music got spookier, more sound effects; wailing, sirens, thunder. The lights ebbed darker. In the crash of a drumbeat, I saw Hannah across the room. She was talking to some dude dressed as The Angel of Death. His coal-ash wings dripped ichor. The feathers seemed to curl around, cradling her. Something about the scene got under my skin. Too weird. Too close. Just too much. Maybe it was the itching on my neck, or the creepy music, or the vapor from the fog machine, but I had to get some fresh air.

I struggled through the crowd toward Hannah. It was slog through invisible mud. The air itself turned viscous and slow. The crowd grew impassibly thick, drums throbbed, the lights dimmed and flared. I wished Hannah hadn’t talked me out of bringing my .45. It took forever before I squeezed through enough of the crowd to get to her. I popped through the last tangle of costumes, and Hannah was gone. In her place, Red Death.

“Sorry,” I said, almost bumping into her. “I was looking for someone else.”

“I know what you’re looking for,” she said.

The lights went out. The room shook. Someone screamed. The sound was not followed by cursing and giggling, but by more shrieks. The lights strobed painfully bright, then dim again. I could only see her eyes under the skull mask. They gleamed like wet emeralds. Her gloved hands cradled my face. The smell of soft leather and spent gunpowder washed over me.

I know you.

“Yes,” she said.

But you only come around when I’m…

 “On the verge,” she repeated in the same flat tone.

The screams around us grew louder, more terrified. The air filled with the sounds of panic and suffering.

On the verge of what this time?

 “Death.”

But if you’re here, then this is only…

 “Yes, but you’ve got to come back now.”

Okay, but first I’ve got to get Hannah.

Even as I thought it, I could feel the cold creeping up my spine. Red Death kept my face in her hands.

“If you have to,” she said, letting my face slip from between her gloves, “But be prepared.”

For what?

The crowd parted around her.

“Something is coming,” she said, and the sea of costumes swallowed her.

People jammed together, crushed by their own panic to flee. I couldn’t see what it was we were supposed to be fleeing from. The lights strobed. Each explosion of darkness brought with it a new series of pained howls and cries. The house rocked. The floor pitched under my feet. Hannah cried for help. I fought the crowd, and the heaving floor, heading in the direction of her voice. Lights blotted out completely. Music died. Space opened up around me. I couldn’t hear or see anything.

An odor, astringent and acrid all at once, like ammonia, crept into my nostrils. I forced myself not to choke on it. Heavy, stomping steps circled me. I spun in every direction, trying to get a fix on them. The scent intensified, impossible to ignore. The stomping grew louder and closer with every step. I lashed out at the darkness, fist whistling through empty air. A deep, guttural laugh echoed off the walls. It came from everywhere. I froze, hands clenched into loose fists, waiting for it to come. A hand, cold as winter wind and hard as granite, clamped down on my left shoulder. An icy sensation shot into my chest, wrapped around my heart and squeezed. The laughter, a sound like rocks being pulverized, filled my ears. My legs gave out. I hit the floor. Cackling, so loud it hurt, pounded on my eardrums and throbbed behind my eyes. I craned my neck to see. Eyes like burning coals stared at me from the black. The hand gripped tighter. The twin fires burned brighter. Heat baked my skin.

And then the world exploded in white.

_______________________________________________

Tune in tomorrow for th next thrilling installment.

The Hungry Dark comes out Thursday, 3/19. 5.99 e-book & 12.99 paperback, (USD). You’ll be able to find it pretty much everywhere online. But also feel free to request it from your local library.

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The Hungry Dark – Ch. 1

(So, the release of the new book is this Thursday 3/19, and leading up to it I’m posting the first three chapters, one per day. Today, here’s a chance to see how The Hungry Dark gets going.)

 

CHAPTER 1

The breeze drifting through my window was only cool in that it was a lower temperature than the air inside my office. Old buildings like mine often have heat that runs on a calendar. Sometime the end of September it kicks on, regardless of the weather. It was the week of Halloween, the air danced with the smells of Autumn, but it was a balmy 70 degrees outside. Which made it somewhere north of 90 degrees inside. Done for the day, I shut the window ready to bolt for the open air. I’d just mailed the itemized invoice on my most recent case. They’d brought me on to consult on an otherworldly phenomenon that turned out to be poor electrical wiring. It wasn’t a large fee, but it would cover my light bill the next month. If they paid.

I had just thrown on my coat and just got my hat situated on my head when a thin shadow knocked on my office door.

“Sorry, closing for the…”

I got a look at the knocker and the words died in my throat.

He wasn’t a frightful thing, just the opposite. Slender and flabby. A bit on the disheveled side and self-conscious about it. But the look on his face fought a war between nervous and terrified. I watched for a moment as the battle raged.

“Mr. Carson?” he asked.

“Can I help you with something?”

I didn’t want to help. I wanted to get on with my plans for the evening. I was on my way to see Hannah. But he was too pitiful, and I couldn’t help myself.

“My name is Ronnie,” he stammered. “I need your help.”

 He handed me a card. I used the motion as an opportunity to slide out into the hall with him, closing the door behind me. I took the card, then locked my office.

“I’m shutting down the official business for the day,” I explained. “If we can talk while we walk, come with me.”

Ronnie had a stunted but precise gait. Even though he was nearly my height, I had to slow my pace to not leave him behind.

“What can I help you with… Mr. Kelly?” I asked, surreptitiously checking the card to make sure.

“I need someone with your special skills,” he said.

“I’m not a wizard,” I said. “Or medium. I don’t read palms and I can’t tell the future. I don’t even know any card tricks.”

Reading the look on his face, I could tell I’d completely missed the mark with my assumption.

“I need protection,” he said.

“Why not go to the police?”

“You have a reputation for being able to deal with certain, odd occurrences,” he answered. “And I don’t wish to involve the authorities.”

We’d made it to the front door to my building, and I stopped.

When people don’t want to bring the cops in on something, it’s usually on the shady side of legal, at best. Keeping my license meant steering away from most of the extra-legal jobs that came my way. But I had a reputation for operating on the blurry side of the law. Unearned, but there it was. Sometimes it helps in dealings with the less savory crowd.

“I’ve found myself in business with people,” he said in a hushed voice. “Bad people.”

He displayed so many nervous tics and twitches that I would have taken him for a speed freak. Looking back on it, I guess he had reason. Outside, in the clear October light, I finally got a good look at him. He was slim and shapeless and looked incredibly small standing on the sidewalk in front of my office. In his mid-thirties, most likely, but the rings under his eyes magnified by coke-bottle glasses, and the pale skin draped over his bones made him look older. Ronnie was the least threatening person I had ever met. It’s probably why I dismissed his story as pre-Halloween nonsense.

“All the more reason to go to the cops,” I said. “They can put you in protective custody.”

His face sagged in frustration and fear.

“They have ways of getting to people, even people the police are guarding,” he said.

The situation was beginning to sound more and more dangerous, and less and less worth it. The feeling must’ve showed on my face.

“I can pay,” he added quickly.

No thanks.

 “Sorry,” I said. “I can’t help you.”

I stepped out of the door and down to the street. Ronnie dogged my heels, all but begging. I’m not the crusading type, so I don’t know what would’ve changed my mind. But just then I had no interest in helping a criminal escape the consequences of his actions, no matter how scared he looked or how much money he offered. I turned to tell him something to that effect and froze before my lips parted.

What little color there had been drained out of Ronnie’s cheeks. He shook. Not little tremors either, but jerky, full body shakes that looked just shy of convulsions. His rheumy eyes glazed over and tried to roll back in his head.

Then a shadow blocked out the sun.

Didn’t need intuition to alert me that the day just went sideways with extreme prejudice. I spun, .45 already in hand.

An oily black cloud dove from the sky.

I fired.

And the world drowned in darkness.


 

Tune in tomorrow, for ch. 2.

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WARNING: Political Shit…

Yeah, I’m back on the horse.

So, if you’ve read anything on this blog besides my book stuff, you’ll likely have noticed I tend to encourage people to get involved in politics, local, state, and federal – regardless of one’s political affiliation.

I do that because I think, other than possibly paying taxes, it’s the one duty we have to fulfill in return for the freedoms we enjoy. And it’s really not that difficult. Tedious sometimes, but not difficult.

And if you’ve been reading my posts for a while, you’ll also have noticed I tend to lean to the left of center. I try not to push those beliefs on people, because beliefs are by their very nature personal, and everybody’s got differing personal circumstances.

I tend to content myself with cheering you into action.

I’m not going to do that impartial rag here.

I’m voting for Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nominee for president.

If he gets the nomination, I’ll vote for him to be president.

If he doesn’t I’ll vote for whichever Democrat gets the nomination, save for Mike Bloomberg, because fuck that racist, classist, oligarch mother fucker.

Now, here’s my background, just to calm any fears that I might be one of those oh so frightening “Bernie Bros”. In the last election, I voted for Hillary Clinton. Early on in this primary race, I donated to Elizabeth Warren’s campaign, twice.

I no longer support Warren because she back-pedaled on healthcare. It’s that important a cause to me. I’m not a single-issue voter, but as the primary has gone on Warren has backed down from or seriously diluted her stances on most of the things I care about.

Things change, and we change with them.

Bernie has not shifted his stance one step.

He’s still pushing Medicare for all.

He’s still behind the Green New Deal.

He still wants to get rid of the for-profit prison system.

He wants to forgive all student loan debt – something we, as a nation can easily do, and something that will seriously boost the economy overnight.

He will end putting children in fucking cages!

Call me strange, but that matters to me.

Check out his platform for the rest.

As for electability, he’s gotten the most votes in all of the first states so far. Nevada looks like it will be third verse same as the first. He’s doing so well the media has finally had to end their total blackout of his campaign, although now they talk about him like his presidency will be the Decline of Western Civilization. It won’t.

He can get elected. And he can beat Trump.

I believe in Bernie.

To that end, all my political energies will be going to try to help him win the nomination and get elected as President.

Please take a look at his platform.

Please consider if he stands for what you want the US to be.

Then, don’t just talk about it.

Get out and do something.

This country and this planet are ours to lose or to save.

Which one do you want?

Until next time…

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The Hungry Dark… Cover Reveal!

The Hungry Dark - eBook

There it is.

Get ready for book 2, out 3/19/20.

(I’m still working on pre-orders.)

Until next time…

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The Hungry Dark – Announcement…

I’m working with the cover artist on the final version of the new cover. I’ll share that soon.

But the REAL NEWS is:

The Hungry Dark will be released on March 19th!

03/19/2020.

( Yes, for those of you who guessed correctly, it is the Spring Equinox. )

I’ll have to figure out how to make preorders a thing this year.

Wish me luck on that.

Until next time…

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