Monday, October 31, 2011

real ghost in my front yard

I was taking a picture of the Halloween decorations in my front yard shortly after dark, and I believe I captured a real ghost in amongst the fake ghouls and goblins.  Check it out for yourself...


Friday, October 28, 2011

Jimi Hendrix Lives by Charles Parramore

Jimi Hendrix Lives

by Charles Parramore

The day after Kiley broke up with him, Jacob went wandering around downtown Savannah in a haze. He wasn't sure how long he'd been walking before realizing he was lost. He would have believed this to be impossible. He must have covered every nook and cranny of this part of the city at some point in time, but nothing around him looked familiar. As he absorbed his unfamiliar surroundings, a storefront so quaint, it should have been on a postcard caught his eye.

     Dean's Records, the sign above the red and yellow canvas awning read.
    'Plain enough,' Jacob thought as he opened the door. A tingling bell announced his arrival.
    He stood in the entranceway marveling at the place. It was a hipster's paradise. Shiny, vinyl records lined the walls and lay in stacks a foot deep on tables as well. He'd never seen so many in one place. The Beatles were singing about starting a revolution on the overhead speakers and an old timey cash register sat unattended on a counter near the door. He glanced around the store in search of a proprietor or another customer, but saw no one.
    He shrugged and picked up an album off the top of the stack in front of him. "Long Live Spaceman by New Millenium Falcon Crest?" he said aloud, staring at the psychedelic image of a giant frog leaping into the air with a grotesquely long tongue capturing an eagle from the sky on the cover. “That’s obscure enough.”
    He had never heard of the band Left Switch Pony or The Greatest Hits of Marshall Pavaloni either. It wasn't until he came to the tenth record down that he found a performer he was familiar with. He stared at it, trying to figure out if it was someone's idea of a joke or some strange tribute. The album's title: Wanderlustscapia, was written in large, bubbly candy cane red and white letters across the top. But the picture and name of the artist below it sent chills down his spine.
    It showed a gray haired Jimi Hendrix with a giant afro jamming passionately on his guitar. Bubbles of every color sprung from the instrument. Jacob picked up the album, half fearing the strange thing would shock him on contact. He turned it over and searched the fine print on the back for a year.
    "2010?" he said to himself. None of the tracks were familiar to him: Fine Devil Woman, Rainbow Parachute, Snake Eyes in the Dark. There was no price tag, but this was something he had to have; for the novelty if nothing else.
    "Find something you like?" a man's voice asked from behind him.
    Startled, Jacob dropped the record back on the stack. He whirled and nearly bumped into a man who looked nearly as strange as the album he'd just held. The top of his head barely reached Jacob's chest. He wore a tie-dyed shirt, a threadbare pair of khaki cargo shorts, equally worn Chuck Taylor tennis shoes with no socks and a tie-dyed shirt. But his most prominent feature was his goatee. It must have reached four inches below the man's chin and looked sharp enough to cut steak. He had more chin there than on his head. All that remained of it there was a few scraggly white tufts concentrated around his temples.
    "Dylan Dean," the man said, offering his hand. "Are you a Hendrix fan?"
    "Jacob," he answered. "I am, but I've never heard of this album." He handed it to Dean.
    The man held it reverently, admiring the cover art. "Well, I have, indeed. Just saw the man in concert about a month ago in Chicago. Would you believe Lennon made a cameo on the keyboards during the last set? The crowd went so wild I thought they might riot."
    Jacob laughed, but Dean didn't crack a smile.
    "How much do you want for it?"
    "Oh, nothing in this store is for sale. You might say I'm selective about my customers. When I see one I like, I give them what they want for free. That cash register you see doesn't even work. I just like how it looks."
    Jacob laughed again. "That doesn't sound like a very lucrative business model."
    Dean smiled without parting his lips. "Don't worry, young fellow. Money's no object to me. You're going to love that album. Take it home and listen to it right now."
    "Seriously, sir. How much do you want for it?"
    "I am serious, Jacob. It's yours. And you know what else? I think your lady friend will love it as much as you. But don't hurry off. I might have some other selections you'd like. Stay and browse awhile."
    The place was as fascinating as its owner, but something about the fellow and his establishment creeped Jacob out. He did search the album titles with his eyes long enough to think he saw a jazz album with a grandmotherly Janis Joplin on the cover and a photo of a gracefully aging Jim Morrison posing with a komodo dragon. Chills ran down his spine and for a moment when he turned back to Dean, he saw the spiral pattern on his shirt begin to swirl. It took an act of will to tear his eyes away.
    "Is something wrong?" Dean asked.
    "Oh, no. Just had something on my mind."
    "I see. Well go home and listen to Jimi. He cures what ails you I've always found."
    "Okay. I'm going to lay this twenty on the counter here. I just don't feel right taking it for free."
    "Suit yourself, Jacob. Things will work out with Kiley. You'll see."
    Jacob left as fast as he could, trying to tell himself he hadn't heard the man say her name. He didn’t dare look back. 
    'He looked like a demon hippy troll or something,' he thought. He'd covered a quarter mile before realizing he was soaked from rain. He worried that the Hendrix album would be wet and ruined before he had a chance to hear it. He stuck it under his shirt and hoped for the best.
    When he reached his apartment, his cat, Pandora, greeted him at the door. He stroked her under the chin as she wrapped herself around his legs purring like a thunderstorm.
    "At least you still want to be with me," he told her.    
     He recalled the things Kiley had told him in the past and how hollow her words to him were now. She used to tell him how good looking he was, how his blue eyes were the purest she'd ever seen, and how she thought he was the most fascinating guy she'd ever met. She loved how he was always in search of the big questions. But then it all changed. She said he loved books and music more than her. 
    "You're so weird sometimes," she said. "I'm embarrassed to bring you around my friends. They've started calling you the Mile Off Boy because they think you're always looking a mile off somewhere."
    "I don't think it’s weird to want to learn all the knowledge you can soak into your head? Do you think that, kitty cat?" he asked Pandora "But I guess it's just as well. I'm not the kind of guy who needs a girlfriend anyway."
    They'd been together for six whole months. He was twenty-five years old and it was the longest he'd ever had a girlfriend. She was the only girl he'd ever been in love with, too. He knew he was strange in some ways, but she'd known that going in.
    He took the record out of the cover and took a moment to admire it. It seemed to be in perfect condition. The vinyl gleamed in the light as he turned it in his hands. The man who'd given it to him was certainly crazy, but Savannah was a city suited to crazy people and sometimes crazy people were the ones who saw things best. Jacob loved music like moths loved nightlights. He had a great singing voice too although he had no intentions of ever sharing it. He had shared it with Kiley a few times.
    "Oh my God," she said the first time she'd heard it. "You should be on American Idol. You would freaking win."
    He'd sung Peaceful, Easy Feeling by The Eagles. It was corny, but she really made him feel that way.
    He put down the needle and in a moment, Hendrix's voice came pouring through the speakers. There was no doubt in Jacob's mind it was truly him. The voice sounded distinctive and haunting as ever, but mellowed and more precise than in his youth. His guitar playing too was undeniably Hendrix, but infinitely more polished than anything he'd played in the sixties. Jacob lay on his back and let the music wash over him. He dreamed of chasing Dylan Dean and Kiley in circles around a psychedelic sky.
    When he woke some hours later, the record had finished playing. Outside, the rain still fell. The clock on the wall told him he'd slept for nearly four hours. To make sure he wasn't crazy, he opened his laptop and Googled Hendrix. It confirmed what he already knew. The artist died in London of a drug overdose on September 18, 1970. 'Maybe it's some secret, unreleased stuff or something,' he thought. And how had that strange joker known Kiley's name? He didn't want to think about it.
    He shoved his hands in his pockets and discovered the twenty-dollar bill he'd left for Dean and an unfamiliar piece of notebook paper. He wondered how they'd gotten there. Dean must have been a reverse pickpocket or something. He unfolded the paper and saw lyrics of a song written across the page in madly loopy, but exquisitely neat script. It seemed pure nonsense the first time through, but something about it compelled him to read it over and over. Something clicked in his subconscious and the song's significance became clear. The words ingrained themselves in his mind. He began to hum them softly and soon a melody came to him. Soon, he sang with all the power his voice could muster. It swept him away. His voice and the song seemed to comprise his existence. He wondered who could have created it and why Dylan Dean had given it to him. It was the best gift he'd ever received.
    He caught himself thinking of telling Kiley about it before remembering he couldn't tell her. He'd gotten in the habit of telling her almost everything on his mind and now it seemed that had been a mistake. She didn't care what he thought about any more. But the song understood his pain. It understood everything. It transcended everything. Singing it, he felt a hot rush through his brain that spread through his body. He'd never tried a drug stronger than pot, but he guessed this must have been what it felt like. But the feeling of well being that drugs elicited were an illusion. This was genuine. It was all the awareness and knowledge he'd sought in his lifelong habit of reading and thinking delivered in a compact package.
    Awakening. Nirvana. That's what he'd found. That's what the crazy record store owner Dylan Dean sneaked into his pocket. His heart raced and sweat dripped from his face. The trip to and from the store and his memory of the man itself seemed to have a dreamlike quality now. But he still held the man's paper in his hands and Jimi Hendrix's impossible record still spun on his turntable. He walked across the floor to see it, needing to reassure himself again of its reality.
    He picked the record off the table and read the label in the center of it.
    Jimi Hendrix. Are You Experienced? Recorded 1967.
    He closed his eyes tight, sure he was misreading it. But the same words awaited him when he opened them. With a trembling hand, he placed the needle on the record again. It whirred for a moment and then Hendrix's guitar broke out with Foxy Lady. He let the song play halfway through before switching it off. This was a record he'd owned for years. He knew every track by heart. It wasn't the same one he'd heard earlier: the impossible one sung by a man forty years older than he'd been the day he died.
    "Am I going crazy?" he asked himself.
    The paper with his magical song was still in his pocket. He unfolded it and saw the words still there in the same overly flourished script. It was proof enough that something profound had taken place today. He began to hum them again. They felt so large, so powerful. They seemed almost too much to contain within himself.
    "I've got to tell someone about this," he said to Pandora, who watched him warily from her perch atop the windowsill. "If I don't, I will literally explode."
    He dialed Kiley's number. She answered on the third ring.
    "What do you want, Jacob?" she said. Her voice told him he’d woken her up. 
    "I've got to tell you about something that happened to me," he said.
    "Okay. But make it quick. I've got to work in the morning."
    He told her all that had happened to him. He spoke in a rush, not because she'd told him to hurry, but because it was the most intense thing he'd ever discussed with anyone.
    "Sounds like you had some crazy acid trip," she said when he'd finished.
    "No. It wasn't. I've got the song right here. I want to sing it to you."
    "I know it wasn't an acid trip. I just said that it sounds like one. But seriously Jacob, do you really think I can believe a story like that?"
    "No, but I believe you can hear the truth in the words of this song."
    She sighed and something about the sound of it told Jacob she did love him after all.
    "Go ahead. You act like you're going to spontaneously combust or something if you don't."
    He sang and didn't stop until he'd finished the last note. His voice sounded purer and stronger than it ever had before to him. When he was done, he wiped tears from his eyes.
    "That sounds like something you'd write," she said. "Don't get me wrong. It's really good. But those sound like your words, not those of a weird stoner looking dude from some record store on The X-Files."
    "No, Kiley. I can't take credit for it. I'm telling you the truth. It was this dude who slipped it in my pocket somehow. That and the twenty bucks I gave him too. I'm being dead serious."
    "I know you are, Jacob. I really do. You know what I think? I think you had some kind of weird freak-out episode because I broke up with you. You dreamed or hallucinated all that shit and while you were in the midst of it, you sat down and wrote that song."
    "But the handwriting isn't mine, Kiley. You should see it. It looks like how Satan would probably write."
    "Is it all loopy, but straight up and down like some weird calligraphy?"
    "Yeah. How'd you guess?"
    "I saw you write like that one time. Remember we got really drunk making rum daiquiris and you wanted to play this spontaneous poetry game. That's how you were writing then. It kind of freaked me out, but then you passed out a couple of minutes later."
    "I remember that night. Most of it at least. But I don't remember writing poetry. I remember waking up puking the next morning though."
    "Yeah, I kept those poems. I liked them even though they didn't make a bit of sense. Kind of like that song you just sang except that's something else. It does sound like something out of this world even though I don't think I quite get it like you do."
    He thought about it. "Okay," he finally said. "If everything you're saying is true, then something's really wrong with me. I'm bipolar or schizophrenic or something.”
    She laughed. "Hell yeah you are. It's okay though. You're kind of cute that way."
    "It's okay? I'm certifiably crazy and it's okay?"
    She didn't answer and the silence hung so long between them, he thought she'd hung up.
    "Want me to come over and let me hear that song in person?" she finally said.
    "Now? I thought you said you had to work tomorrow."
    "I was lying."
    "If you come over, are we still broken up?"
    She offered him that sigh again. "Probably not," she said.
    When she got to his house, they sat up most of the night. He didn't sing the song for her, but they did listen to Hendrix as they made out on his couch. When the sun was rising the next morning, he watched her sleeping in his bed. Only the day before he'd been sure it was a sight he'd never see again. Outside, the wind whistled through the streets and buildings. He threw on a pair of shorts and left her sleeping. He took the paper with his song off the night table and stepped outside. Although it was a clear morning, he couldn't recall another day when the wind had howled with such fury.
    What you hold so dear in the dead of the night, let it go in the morning light.
    That was a line from the song. He walked to the edge of the street with the paper in hand and when a particularly strong gust struck his face, he let it go. He watched it swirl higher and higher into the air until it sailed out of sight.
    "Dylan Dean will find it," he said to himself. Then he went inside and snuggled close to Kiley. The song clung to him. He hummed it until he drifted off to sleep.


Author bio: Charles Parramore lives in Valdosta, Ga. with his cat and his very pregnant wife. He runs frequently these days and is getting back in the writing groove. For now, he passes his days working as a mental health counselor at a state prison.

A Hair On the Heart by Chris Castle

A hair on the heart

It began with lie.
Not one that people would notice; just enough to get slip through the flimsy double doors and into the ward itself. She was pretty and articulate; it was enough to win over the matron and the doctor who sat at the desk. As she left them behind, the lights above flickered, just enough to make her wince. She blinked twice, heavily, and then began to look for his bed.
For a long while, the nurses remarked how dedicated the young woman was; each day she would bring fresh flowers, each evening she would haggle for an extra five minutes at the end of visiting hours. Most nights the nurses would concede the time just to sit and admire her. Every day she would quietly read from the same book. One nurse had slyly followed the young woman as she read and noticed it was only ever five pages, no more, no less.
Once, the youngest nurse remarked how she thought it strange the woman never actually touched the patient, not so much as a pat of the hand on arriving or leaving. The girl, barely out of school, looked around for approval and found only a sea of disapproving glances come her way. The visitor had, by then, become something of a saint in the ward, and the girl was shushed and ignored in equal measure. Later, in tears in the bathroom, the youngster resolved to never speak out like that again.
The patient, an elderly man, began dying at the end of the month. The sign, as always, was the way the tatty curtains were drawn around the bed. It was not so much an act of privacy as a red flag to those who worked in and around the ward; from the doctors on call to the cleaners late at night. This system angered many of the nurses but it was, in short, the most practical way to draw attention to the ailing patients. The hospital, long decayed and on the verge of closing, cut corners at every opportunity. The doctor who treated the old man had once sourly remarked how the building would soon resemble an egg-no corners-and others in the smoking room had laughed though he had not intended it as a joke. 
The matron took the young woman to one side as she arrived and sat her down on the cleanest of the orange plastic chairs meant for delivery men or new visitors-such an inappropriate colour, the nurse had always thought-and told her the bad news. She explained how the old man had ‘taken a turn for the worse.’ The nurses used sayings over science when death reared its ugly head, and this woman in particular had become something of a master at it. Once, she had suffered a recurring nightmare of being informed about a terminal illness. The faceless doctor of her dream would only speak in metaphors and euphemisms and the illness was as much a mystery as the time she had left. Each night she woke up screaming, the traces of the lipless doctor whispering in her ear still at the edges of her mind.
The young woman seemed to accept the news with good grace; she nodded and smiled gently and asked all the suitable questions. Her voice was shaky, of course, but her eyes were clear; the sign of a strong woman in a crisis if ever there was one. She rose from the chair and drew the book closer to her chest, as if shielding her heart from the bad news. She began to walk away, stopped and turned around. Her humble request for an extra twenty minutes was accepted in an instant. The matron shushed her away as if they were old, familiar friends.
The night nurse, the same young girl who had once pointed out the woman’s non-contact with the patient, gently pushed her head around the curtain once (after politely coughing-the irony of doing this in a  ITC ward lost on her) and then left the two of them alone. She had briefly seen how upset the young woman looked, how raw, and immediately felt guilty at her earlier observation. Once, having being left broken hearted, the young girl had stood in front of a mirror with a knife over her wrist; the expression of pure agony she saw in the reflection was what the young woman carried with her now. She turned the corner and resolved to make the twenty minutes stretch out as long as thirty, if it was at all possible.
“You’re dying,” the young woman said, trying to keep her voice level and calm. She had waited so long for this; she would not fail in the last few moments. The man’s eyes opened, rheumy and gummy, like sweets left for too long in a hot car. He looked at her and thought she saw fear in his eyes. Good, she thought.
“I hope you heard all the things I’ve said to you. About what I remember and what you did.” Her mind flashed to every word she had whispered in his ear; every one of his heavy, greedy touches, every jab of his too long nails. She had trained herself to talk for five minutes on each memory and then turn the page of the book in her hand. It brought one scar of history to a close and triggered the doorway to the next, fresh wound.
“What you did to me,” she said, her voice low and furious. The man twitched, flinching from her words. His stale old lips parted and he mouthed something. Feeling the old fear, she felt her body lock up as she tried to move closer. For a moment she drew breath, made a ten-count in her head and brought control back to herself. He was an old man now and couldn’t hurt her anymore. She forced herself forward, over him, almost lunging onto his body.
“I’m dying,” the old man said. His voice, when it came, was like a hair on her heart; a scratch she could not quite locate, an irritant. All the old majestic fear of his voice was gone now, all the power dissipated with time and rot.
“I know,” she said, exhilarated by the sudden sense of power she felt. She drew over him, her face casting shadows over his, feeling like the predator at last and no longer the prey.
“I know you’re dying, but I have to be the one to kill you,” she rasped in his ear and felt herself sear with heat as she said the words. He muttered something more and then lapsed into helpless, child-like mewling.
The young woman set aside the book and drew herself back over him. Without a second thought, she pinched his nose together and drew her palm over his mouth. The nightmare sensation-of the tongue, re-energised in death, lapping at her skin-did not materialise. She looked into his eyes as they faded and then let go when it was done. The act was so simple, she felt light when she levered herself away from the body. For a few minutes she resumed her position in the chair and reached over for the book. It sat in her hand, opened to some random page, until she was calm enough to gather herself up and leave. The lightness stayed with her as she stood and when she drew the curtain back, she surprised herself by not even taking a moment to look back at what she’d left behind.
The old man was taken to the morgue the next morning and the young woman was informed by the matron. A situation had arisen with work and she would not be able to witness the body. The nurse checked the next of kin and made arrangements, all the while using her best platitudes for the poor girl. Later, in the smoking room, all the nurses would mention the young woman fondly, and one or two would even make gallows-humour remarks about wanting someone like her to look after them in their last days, when husbands and errant lovers had all left or gone astray. Even though they would all soon forget about her, lost in their hectic, helter-skelter working days, they all smiled then, and thought of her as one of the good souls.
It was only the girl, the nurse who had once spoken out against the young woman, who thought it strange; strange the woman, who had been so committed, would suddenly not find the time to see him in his final state. Strange, that for one moment late last night, the nurse thought she’d seen the young woman’s shadow almost lunge across the space between chair and bed, as if she were set to attack. She thought all this, but stayed silent, still scarred by her previous admonishment of weeks before when she’d spoken up and the tears in the bathroom stall that followed. Instead, the young girl locked her lips shut and thought about the patients who still needed her help. The girl went about her rounds, determined to do a good job and tried not to notice the sting of doubt inside herself, like a hair against her heart, almost.  


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Larry Brasington

Old pal to the Nautilus Engine, Larry Brasington, has released Pierre electronically to Barnes and Noble Nook.  Larry has a terrific way with words and you can count on an enjoyable read.

Check it out here:

And learn a bit about the man here:

Sunday, October 16, 2011

ThinkGeek :: Plush Zombie Slippers

ThinkGeek :: Plush Zombie Slippers:

'via Blog this'

The Nameless by Chris Castle

The Nameless

Jack Trump felt the coin burn in his pocket just as the midnight shift began in the factory. The penny, given to him in the trenches of Flanders by a dying soldier who understood magic, almost glowed in his palm. As the other men stumbled onto production line, Jack glanced out into the misty docks of London. Someone or something was inside those streets, touched by dark arts and once again besmirching the cobbles of the place he had fought so hard to defend. The manager called his name and he returned to the crew, his mind already working furiously at possibilities and plans.  
“What a place, eh?” his boss said, handing Jack his meagre wage packet. “Sometimes I look up from the invoices and play a game: which of them are drunk and which of them are hung-over. Two lines, except for you, Jack. Why is that?”
London prices don’t allow for many vices,” he said, smiling. His boss, a fellow soldier in World War One, was a good sort, even though he had a little too many luxuries in his life to ever fully trust.
“Apart from your trusty newspapers, eh Jack? Here, fresh off the press. Think of it as a bonus,” he said, pushing it over the table. His finger pointed to the story in the right hand corner.
“Another night, another murder in the streets.” He looked up to Jack and for a moment his eyes looked sad and tired, as if he were an old man and lost. “Sometimes, I wonder if London will lose as many citizens as we did over in the trenches. It seems to me like murder is as common as life these days.”
“Perhaps,” Jack said, lofting the paper up in lieu of waving. He left the man to his own sad ruminations and looked for a seat and a table at the nearby café. The penny glowed anew and he agreed with the idea of murder becoming almost a part of the routine in the capital; though in this case, he knew, it was anything but common.
The situation was almost as grim as the deed itself. A man, or something like it, was preying on the homeless of the city. Jack had heard such rumours for a long while and had the idea the crime may well have pre-dated the report. On his night-searches he had seen them, gathered around lit bins, rubbing their hands, hunched over the flames and saying nothing. It was their faces he recalled the most, how drained of life they had all seemed and defeated. The parallels to his own experiences abroad in battle were too close and he had looked away. How had this once great nation let so many become destitute, he wondered? And all in the shadows of palaces and parliament, for shame, he thought bitterly.
            The police had put the number of disappearances at nine, though locals voiced concerns the number was far greater. A politician had stood in-front of the press and given a statement, before bemoaning the sadness of their plight and the sadness the government felt at the unfortunate underclass. Several hacks noted how his gold cuff-links shimmered as he expressed his empathy and one actually asked how much the minister’s frock jacket cost before the press conference was swiftly drawn to a close, to an echo of muffled laughter amongst the associated press.
            Jack sipped a second cup of coffee as he noted the details of the case itself; how the men simply disappeared, without so much as a drop of blood. It was, one earnest street sweeper remarked, as if they had simply vanished. Upon interview, fellow vagrants shrugged at the idea of details or clues. They were, after all, strangers to one another, the nameless and unknown, smothered in the mists and kept at a safe distance from the respectable classes. He thought of the soldiers he had known, uneducated souls dismissed by all and sundry, who had fought like tigers on the battlefield, while former Oxford prefects cowered behind their maps and masks. As he paid for his drink, carefully slipping the one coin that mattered back into his pocket, Jack vowed to solve the mystery, as much for the boys lost in days gone by as for the poor souls of the streets.
Saturday night, Jack’s solitary night off, was when London came alive. All human life was here, he thought. From the gentry to the freaks, often together, each marvelling at the other in the back streets and the bars; one safe in the knowledge of escape at the night’s end, the other guaranteed at least a little weight to their purse and their pockets. He buried his hands deep into his pockets and stood to the edges of the revelry, his eyes wide open and his body coiled to repel any danger. Women, and then men, beckoned him and then taunted him after he waved them away. Smoke from the dens mingled with the fog, to make it seem as if all of London was a patchwork quilt formed of filth and debauchery. The occasional minister mingled amongst the depraved, extolling the virtues of the good book before succumbing to the painted nails of the women of the night, their ankle chains shimmering as they slunk into the supposed privacy of the dingy alleyways.
            At the fringes of all this were the homeless, collected around the burning steel drums, their hands cupped, what clothes they had drawn close. Jack stepped into the enclave and saw one or two of them flinch at his presence. He drew out his hands to placate them, though it did little to dislodge the weariness in their eyes. What had been done to these wretched souls, he wondered? The sorrow he felt ran alongside the rage that bubbled underneath his skin. As he plunged further in, Jack noticed another sensation inside of him; for the first time that night, he felt a certain peace, as if amongst his own.    
 “Who goes there?” A voice cried out from the mists. Jack spun round and saw a figure unlike the others come out of the smear of fog. The man was quickly upon him, eyeing Jack suspiciously. His body was rigid and firm, unlike the others.
“I mean no harm. I’ve come to investigate the disappearances,” Jack said, holding the man’s eye. The man flinched, as if at war with himself and then cleared his throat. His voice was commanding and yet there was no effort in it and Jack recognised a soldier, or at the very least, a leader of men.
“Yet, you wear no uniform nor strut like a peacock, like those other fools. You are not a member of the constabulary; I’ll credit you with that, at least.” He broke his stare long enough to direct one of the other men to a stove, where soup bubbled enthusiastically.
“I am…a concerned citizen,” Jack said carefully, aware he was not in danger but also confident secrets were being concealed in this place. Sure enough, the penny roared in agreement against his thumb.
“I see in you what I’m sure you see in me. Aye, I do. You’ve walked through the backstreets and the cobbles to reach here, no? You’ve seen what goes on in the early hours of this, ‘our great nation?’ And what do you make of it, friend?” His eyes lit and pierced any clouds around them. He appeared almost like a preacher, with some manic glint in his eye.
“I see no great nation, just a country all at sea,” Jack answered, weary of becoming embroiled in debate. For as long as he could remember, Jack knew only one undeniable fact about politics; it cultivated many questions but delivered few answers.
“Aye, we are at sea and the rich walk on water because the bodies of our boys who died on foreign shores float just under the surface. The downtrodden suffer while the rich indulge. Tell me, is that what we fought for?” Another gaunt man came close and was directed to the tureen. When he looked back to Jack, his eyes glowed even more furiously.
“I fought and I survived. I will not speculate on any other outcome or theory.” Jack waited until the man nodded, seemingly satisfied with his response.
“A rare man in London, indeed. Not only do you speak the truth but you hold a man’s eye as you do so. My advice to you would be to never pursue politics; they would have you committed for such acts of principal.”
“The lost men?” Jack said, feeling the white heat from the coin almost searing his skin now. For a moment the man almost flinched but regained himself in the blink of an eye.
“Were lost long before they disappeared and you mark me on that, sir. I keep watch as best I can but I am alone; charity is much like maintaining your principals, I fear: A solitary pursuit.”
“I could stand with you,” Jack said and again saw a momentary flicker around the eye. The guilt radiated from him, as it did with so few souls. It was a noble man’s curse.
“I appreciate the sentiment but I work alone with these fallen men. It suits us as well as can be. I will try to stop the disappearances as best I can. I thank you all the same, sir.” He drew back, the conversation ended. Jack extended his hand and the man took it.
“And if more do disappear, sir?” Jack asked, as he gripped tight. The man gazed around before looking one final time into his eye.
“Do you honestly think they would have gone to a place more infernal than this?” 
Sunday night was the most farcical at work, not that it could ever be considered a tight regime at the best of times. Coming at the fag-end of the weekend, men were strewn along the floor, some still clutching their barely concealed bottles, while others tried to smoke away the last lingering feelings of their crazed nightly pursuits. The boss himself was to be found slumped over his desk, the office cabin a haze of smoke. Jack worked for a solitary hour and then edged out into the London night. Once or twice a fellow crew man had seen him slip away and had done little more than wink; safe in the knowledge Jack was pursuing some ill-gotten gains, the same as the rest of them. Jack winked back, thinking-if only they knew.
While the others kept their bottles of housewives-ruin gin, Jack held his book of dark arts. The penny was burning with a ferocity he had rarely known and by the time he had reached the homeless men, Jack had drawn out into his hand and noted it burned brighter than the steel drums. He noted too, that the men seemed to have dispersed into corners, almost cowering around the bins cast to the side. Before he had time to think more on it, a great mass of darkness shambled into plain view, it’s body a stack of bones, it’s head lolling to one side. Wincing briefly, Jack steadied himself and walked toward the creature, the penny high in his hand, the book withdrawn and clenched against his heart.
As he drew close, Jack could make out the monster with more clarity. It had artlessness to it, as if it moved without drive or rhythm. Even though it towered over him, Jack noted there seemed to be little real power to it. Rather than coiled energy, it seemed to permeate a sense of lethargy, as if the bones were piled together haphazardly in the shell of it’s body and could collapse inward at any moment. Jack confronted it, the coin fizzing with power and for a moment the beast’s head was illuminated, though at no moment did it react, not even to the white heat. The face again was almost a collective; a half dozen wane features, as if composed of a battalion of rotten, defeated expressions.
“Stop!” The man said, stepping into the clearing. His hands were raised and for the first time, Jack thought he looked vulnerable. The creature stopped at the sound of his voice, as if under his command.
“This is what has claimed your men, surely,” Jack said, not for a moment lowering the coin, nor adjusting the book. Both were his shield and his armoury.
“Aye, it is,” the man sadly. As he reached them, he placed a hand onto the flesh of the monster and for the first time it seemed to react, the riot of flesh on its head tightening into a single look of peace.   
“You know?” Jack whispered, incredulously. He allowed a glance over to man and saw the sorrow and the guilt in his eyes. “Then what sort of abomination goes on here?”
“No abomination, sir, just…necessity.” He dropped his hand from the creature and concentrated on Jack, his face suddenly blooming with the idea of confession. “He’s one of us. We were here when he was born and we take care of him. We hide him and we…feed him.”
“Born?” The horror dawned on him. “The men…” Jack could barely manage to force the words out of his throat. He looked back to the mass of skin around the face and for a moment thought he saw dozen different souls swimming inside it. The truth drew up on him with a slow, rising terror.
“That’s right. We feed what we gave to birth to in this sorrowful place.” The man pinched his eyes and then seemed to summon an internal strength to continue. “He changed while under my wing. No doctors could cure it, no reason could define what he’d become. And I’d be damned if we took him out there, to the gentry, to become another freak to entertain the rich in their midnight circus shows.” The blood rose in him, the veins in his neck thickened like tubers.
“But how did he become…like this?” Jack darted his eyes back to the creature, dimly aware that it was passive now, little more than a servile pet. He looked over and saw the man swallow.
“The supplies…” he muttered, so low it was almost under his breath. He gestured with his hand to the huge soup tureen, bubbling in the distance. “No-one else had the same…symptoms, just him.” The wave of shame rode through him and his eyes watered. Jack made to speak and felt his throat dry. He took one step back and then a second.
“You fed them on…” he couldn’t finish the sentence. The man nodded solemnly and then found his voice.
“In the beginning, it was those who had succumbed to the cold or illness. Later…they volunteered, either for supplies or for…it.” Suddenly, the man looked impossibly aged, almost corpse-like and Jack wondered if he would fall there and then, into the dirt.
“This is madness,” Jack said, looking around to the cowering men, the burning bins, then back to the wavering man and beast. “This must end.”
“And then? What would you have us do then, sir? The book you clutch is yours and you believe in it. The corrupt preachers’ hold the bible and pretends to put their trust in that. The Koran says ‘let us draw a veil over our sins.’ That passage is the one I live by.” He looked up, hardened for a moment, the old strength returning to his eyes. “Tell me, what would you have us do?”
“But to eat the flesh…I must end this…thing. It threatens the safety of the nation,” Jack stuttered, feeling the hollow nature of his words. The man stepped back, as if distancing himself.
“And may Queen Victoria turn in her grave,” he said, fresh tears in his eyes as he turned away and walked over to the corner to find the other men.
Jack drew breath and gripped the coin harder in his thumb and forefinger. He pressed it against the forehead of the creature and felt a brief, all powerful scream from the dozen souls trapped inside the flesh. The book fluttered open, independent of him and fell open to the necessary page. Jack forced himself to read, the coin pluming sparks into the night sky as he did. After a time it was over and nothing was left bar dust on the ground. Finished, he turned and walked away, not glancing back to the men in the shadows, his head throbbing not with the act but lengths men would go to survive. The question swam in his head, repeating itself and gnawing on Jack’s conscience; what would you have us do?
As he made his way back, Jack drew his eyes down and away from the grotesques and the rich. He had no desire to bear witness to the luxuries the upper classes took at the expense of the poor. Once, he glanced ahead and saw a young woman, beautiful, between two fat men, famous from the stage. Her eyes were as sorrowful as those who swam inside the creature’s flesh and the men were more ghoulish than the selfsame beast had ever been. Jack Trump walked on aware the London fog was a cloak and a quilt to all that was devious and sorrowful in the world today. The penny did not burn, though he knew he walked among monsters.


Friday, October 14, 2011 That Damned Coyote Hill eBook: Heath Lowrance: Kindle Store That Damned Coyote Hill eBook: Heath Lowrance: Kindle Store:

I've mentioned this one before, but, I just heard that it was ranking at 88th place on Kindle's short story list. Pretty incredible, but I think we should try to help Mr. Lowrance along. If you like a good horror western short story and can part with a mere 99 cents, I hope you will consider going over to Amazon and downloading this little treasure.

Monday, October 10, 2011



That damned Heath Lowrance has done it again!  The bastard (hand)!  New e-story, "That Damned Coyote Hill", set in the ol' west, will be available tomorrow.

Click the link for all the details, but let me tell you, as someone who has already read the story (Friday night to be exact). It's moody, dirty, gritty, dark, muddy, spooky and oh so excellent.