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Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Eight — Dark Carousel III

In Fiction, Horror, Theatre, Writing on October 17, 2017 at 12:06 pm

(Hi, friends! New to this story? Avoid the spoilers below; start here.)

Day Eight: Wednesday, 26 July / Friday, July 12, 2001 – Dark Carousel III

I resist at first, but Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit leans in an brushes her lips across mine. I follow. She leads me past what I now know are the stage left stairs. Nobody sees us. We’re among picnic tables, turning right and going down three steps to a shadowed terrace. She draws me to the darkest corner, furthest from all sources of light. In the moment, goosebumps and arousal fight for dominion.

Re-visiting the memory, I’m galvanized by fear:

We’re on the rooftop picnic terrace above the mens’ dressing room.

As if on cue, a sound floats from the trees on the dark slope beyond:

“Ma-Ma … Ma-MA …”

It’s like a whisper; it could be mistaken for a night bird. I didn’t notice it at the time. My impulse, in the clarity of hindsight, is to turn and run. Only for some reason, I can’t flex this memory. I’m stuck. And Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit is kissing me, so it’s much easier to just give in.

“Close your eyes,” she says. I do. She says, “The moon is waning, did you know?”

“Yes,” I say. “My mom’s an astrologer – ”

She stops my mouth with another kiss, then says, “The moon is waning and the dust will blow.” Then she knees me in the balls.

I gasp, eyes popping open, as she blows something in my face. It’s powder or dust and I feel little bits of it get in my eyes and on my lips. I’m gasping, choking, sputtering. I can feel my eyes swelling up. The urge to rub them is overwhelming. “What the fuck was that?!” I say, raspy, coughing.

“The webs of fate have all been spun,” she says, and she sounds ecstatic. Euphoric. She puts something on her tongue and kisses me, shoving her tongue into my mouth as she pushes me to the cold hard concrete. I’m trying not to cough into her mouth, but whatever is on her tongue is in my mouth now, and it’s crunchy. Like, bugs crunchy.

At the time, I thought she was trying to be kinky. Clumsy, embarrassing, potentially fatal kinky, but still — sex.

Pulling up my shirt, she breaks the kiss. Knowing what I know now, I realize she isn’t really trying to undress me. The concrete is cold and rough on my low back. I want to tell her this is really uncomfortable, but it feels like my throat is closing up.

“Ma … ma?” from the shadows in the trees just beyond the terrace. It sounds excited.

She’s whispering, grinding against me, and I hear her words this time: “This day’s the last you’ve seen the sun. This day’s the last you’ve taken bread. This day’s your last, your end’s begun. The dark moon grows, your breath’s unspun, the webs are strong, you’ve lost the sun, your lust is crumbs, the bread is mold – ”

I want to tell her I’m surprised at her use of internal rhyme, because she’s strictly an ABAB kind of girl — but I’m distracted by the click of something metallic. I try to open my eyes. They’re swollen mostly shut. In spite of that, I can see movement now among the branches, in the darkness beyond the terrace. A shape is coming closer.

Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit puts a cold, sharp blade against my low back, on the left side. She says, “I promise you will Not.” The blade cuts into me. “Get.” I struggle back from her, trying to push her off, but her fingers are pressing, rubbing a stinging substance into the slice. “Old!

Even with my eyes swollen mostly shut, I can see something strange in her face: her left eye has something shiny in it. Something … golden. I marvel at it a moment before the shape in the darkness raises up above and behind her. It looks like a fleshy scorpion’s tail, but all wrong. Unnatural and revolting. It jiggles as it moves with such wrongness that I sit up fast and straight – smacking my head into Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit’s nose.

She cries out, clutching her face.

Electric light floods the terrace. The thing of wrongness is gone. Blood is pouring down Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit’s face.

“What the hell’s going on here?” I hear a familiar voice. “Laurabell? Is that you?

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Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Eight — Dark Carousel II

In Fiction, Horror, Theatre, Writing on October 16, 2017 at 12:07 pm

(This is a serialized narrative. I’m telling this story in order. To avoid confusion and spoilers, start here.)

Day Eight: Wednesday, 26 July / Friday, July 12, 2001 – Dark Carousel II

“Oh sure, she’s so hot you fainted,” Billy is saying. There’s mockery there, but deeper down I hear the venom that would eventually poison our friendship. With my eyes shut, I regain some perspective: I’m in another memory. It’s Friday, July 12, 2001 – we’ve just watched Noel Antonio Escobar give a lovely singing of Billy Bigelow in Carousel at Woodminster Amphitheatre, Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit (who would later choose Laurabell Beaujolais as her stage name, of course) is my … undefined intimate romance. I’m twenty-seven years old, I’m not in any pain and I have yet to make the cascade of mistakes that characterized my 30’s.

The jingling has stopped. Wait, why was I concerned about bells?

I open my eyes.

All of this has happened in seconds. I stand back up, a little wobbly. Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit is “concerned,” Billy Seltzer rolls her eyes. The cast of Carousel is bowing. I applaud, whistling. They bow again.

I bellow/sing, “Escobaaaaaaaaaar!”

People in front of us turn to stare at me.

Billy Seltzer takes two steps to our left, pretending not to know me.

this is something she will do in the future on a much larger scale, then pretend she didn’t do it and tell mutual friends that she doesn’t understand why I “abandoned our friendship” …

Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit puts her hand on my arm in an attempt to “calm” me.

this is something she will keep doing over the next many months – try to control my behavior, to edit my demeanor, to gently chastise me for not spending every waking moment literally polishing the figurative golden statue she demanded I sculpt of her in my heart …

These prophetic memories are less disorientating than the first. I find them useful: they’re like emotional ballast, keeping me stable – reminding me that I’m just a re-visitor here.

But why am I here?

The curtain call is over, people are gathering their things and leaving. Our seats are in the back of Section 4, which is house-right of the center section.

“It’s gonna take him a minute,” Billy Seltzer says. “Let’s sit. I fucking hate the crowds.”

A young mother walks by with a sleeping toddler in her arms. They’re jingling! Terror shocks through me and I give an involuntary fight-or-flight twitch: backwards over the seats to the back of the house, sprint for the entrance — this escape path is clear in my mind. Then I see that the toddler is wearing a onesie with little jingling bells in the peak of its elfin cap.

I relax. But — why am I relaxing? Why was I scared? There’s something nibbling at the back of my mind.

Alarm fades and the question follows it to sleep. We watch as parents and grandparents are gathering their sleepy, unconscious or bored kids and grand-kids for the long trek back to the cars. I hear more than one grandparent say, “Did you like the show, honey?”

I let those people get far away, then say to the ladies, “As though a child of six is going to be just riveted by Carousel? This baffles me: grandparents being excited to take their grandchildren to see Rodgers & Hammerstein. These shows are not fast-paced, the subject matter tends to be a little bit heavy, and kids aren’t going to relate to any of the characters.”

I’m talking a little too loudly, making an aesthetic proclamation. Strutting for Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit. Watching myself do this, I cringe at the memory. I don’t say it, but the words may as well be silently appended to the beginning of every sentence: I went to the Boston Conservatory, and …

“You don’t know that,” Billy Seltzer says.

I say, “Little kids are going to say, ‘Golly, I sure do want to be Curly in that dream ballet down there’?”

“I think the Dream Ballet might have a lot to do with certain little boys realizing they might need to do some musicals,” says Billy Seltzer.

I laugh. “You have a point. We must proselytize! Bring all your grandchildren, conservative grandparents, and let Musical Theatre work its bright and sparkly charms!”

Billy Seltzer is smiling, but she turns away; I see it in her eyes: a jealousy I didn’t catch at the time. “I’m heading down,” she says. “I think there’s a bathroom down there.”

there wasn’t …

“We’ll be down in a minute,” says Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit. As Billy picks up her jacket and blanket, Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit takes me by the hand and draws me away, to the right, up the last few steps to the back of the amphitheatre, heading toward the actual restrooms. She’s turning to smile at me, allure her clear intention.

she may as well be wearing a neon sign …

I figure we’re heading for the restrooms and I want to ask her if she’s going to poop with that same expression on her face, but she turns left at the top of the far house-right stairs, drawing me down. I follow, of course, and when she pauses at the fork in the stairs, I see right through her pretense of debate. She knows exactly where she’s taking me. She turns and looks at me, an eyebrow arched in sexual promise, then draws me toward the cement walkway on the right.

At the time, I had no idea where it went. Now, I see it with two sets of eyes: not knowing in the moment where we were going, and the knowledge what happened when we got there, which – until now – I had entirely forgotten.

I try to pull back, to stay in the light.

It’s impossible.

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Eight — Dark Carousel

In Fiction, Horror, Theatre, Writing on October 13, 2017 at 5:04 pm

(Tell your friends to read this story so you guys can chat about it over absinthe. Tell your enemies to read this story so they will come to you and say, “Why did you tell me to read that? Now I’m afraid to poop. I’m so afraid to poop!” Because your enemies are clearly idiots. Start here.)

Day Eight: Wednesday, 26 July / Friday, July 21, 2017 – Dark Carousel

Judy steps between Weedbeard, myself and the door. She fixes her eyes on mine. She’s calm, firm and strong like Half Dome. She says, “Ed, I want you to think of a girl you once knew. That may take you some time – I know a lot about you.”

I laugh at that – and manage to push Weedbeard back a step.

Judy is still speaking, though: “This is a girl whose eyes looked blue when you met her. She came along at a time when you needed healing, and at first you thought that she might be the one.”

This tickles memories from over a decade ago, but there is power welling inside of me, filling me from my feet upward.

Judy is distracting me with her damned words: “Again, Ed, that could describe a lot of the women in your past – you’ve needed healing all your life. And that’s okay.”

The power is reaching my heart. If Judy would just shut up, I know that – very soon – I’ll throw Weedbeard through that door and leap after him, just to prove that there’s nothing there and we’ve won!

Judy plants her feet and places her hands before her in a stance of, what, conjuring? Protection? It looks familiar to me, but from where? She says, “What makes this girl different from all the rest is that her eyes didn’t stay blue. In fact, they never were. Not since before the first time you saw her. But you saw the slip of her mask. On a very specific night, in a very specific place – they turned from blue to … ”

“Golden,” I say.

The world flips over. Everything on the floor crashes through the ceiling. I need to escape before it lands on me, so I slip straight down – only, up – through the floor.

And I’m falling. There are hundreds of people below me, screaming? No, cheering –

I land with a slam and a lurch and I hear myself say, “Earthquake, sorry, I’ve eaten too much garlic,” to the lady next to me.

She doesn’t notice because everyone’s on their feet, cheering as Julie Jordan is taking her bow. And now here comes Billy Bigelow – and it’s my old friend Noel Escobar. “Holy shit, we’re at Woodminster!” I say.

“Of course we are, silly,” says a young, sultry voice to my right.

I turn and there she is. Brunette. Blue eyes. Full lips. Porcelain skin.

cracking porcelain, paper hands …

I brush that thought aside, noting that it would make a good detail in a short story about a haunted theatre. I take her in my arms, kissing her full on the mouth. She complies, willing, and as I feel her press her body against me – firm, full breasts; muscular thighs – I am overcome with incandescent desire. The people around us fade away and I am unzipping her jacket, reaching to –

“Jesus, Edward, calm down – it’s not that cold!” This from my left and the spell is, well, not broken exactly, more like put on hold. I turn and that lady isn’t a stranger; she’s my friend Billy Seltzer – friend and former lover, she who eventually regretted introducing myself and the Sizzling Bhuddist Yam Pot to my right: Laurabell-Beaujolais Grausamkeit.

I haven’t seen Billy Seltzer in over a decade …

For a moment, I see events yet to come as though recalling their memory, and the world splits in two: my eyes lose focus, vision splitting and going sideways as I land heavily on my ass in a hard plastic bleacher seat. Everything is spinning and I hear, faintly, something I don’t want to hear at all: underneath the applause and cheering, bells.

Jingling.

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Eight — C&R X

In Fiction, Horror, Theatre, Writing on October 12, 2017 at 11:54 am

(Sometimes you are dusty. Let these mummified hands brush you clean. Listen to their first insidious whispers here.)

Day Eight: Wednesday, 26 July / Friday, July 21 2017 – C&R X

As he braces himself to fire,Weedbeard’s right bootheel touches a small patch of the insect grool and is burned away on the right side. He doesn’t notice, racking a fresh charge with a lever on the underside of the shotgun as he shouts, “Rocksalt, Fatherfucker!” The second blast is a dull roar; my ears are still ringing from the first.

The blast of salt tears through the baby doll, its larval plorper and the rotting hand, burning chunks splattered backwards onto Dolly Lurker’s porcelain skin – which now cracks, like actual porcelain. Dolly Lurker is gnashing its giant flapping shutter trapdoor teeth, breaking spider legs with juicy, meaty chunkings; the arm of the rotting hand holding the nightmare baby doll jutting off at an odd, jaunty angle like FDR’s cigarette holder. We have nothing to fear but a giant mouthful of spider legs! This thought is all mine, and it’s a relief to not hear others in there.

Weedbeard racks a third charge with the lever – I look over: this is a revolving shotgun. I say, “Fucking rad!” – but I’m drowned out as Weedbeard bellows, “Thrice-blessed by Rabbis, Priests and Pagan Conjurers! Smoked in the Smokey Smoke of Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme!”

As he says those last five words, ancient harmony wells up around us: thousands of monks, angelic choirs, every hippie who ever lived? Whoever it is, there is a moment of soul-wrenching beauty as that harmony coalesces around Weedbeard. He fires the shotgun on the button of the musical phrase.

There is a strange stillness to the blast – the salt crystals meet a barrier in the air for an instant, but the words Smokey-Smoke appear in the air, in a circle, around the blast. Is this the smoke of the blast, or the smoke in which the salt was smokey-smoked? I don’t know. But it puffs out into those words and then is sucked into every shard of salt – and the barrier is broken.

Dolly Lurker is blasted back against the wall, shrinking, two hands reaching up to hold its cracking face together, spider legs scrabbling at odd angles for purchase on anything. One of them is caught on the doorjamb of this upper door and rips out, falling to the floor with a clatter. Weedbeard has racked a fourth charge and blasts the leg away from the door; it shatters, but even the shards twitch and jumble about. I have a feeling that they’d slice anyone they could reach right now.

“Ma-MA! Ma-MAAaaughlghghghllllrrrrrghhhhh … ” Dolly Lurker sounds like it’s back down at the bottom of the stairs. I’m standing – when did that happen? – and I move toward the door to look.

Judy and Weedbeard both grab my arms and pull me back. I’m fighting them. Why?

“You heard the voice, didn’t you, Edward?” Judy says.

“It’s got a deeper hold on you that it would if you’d never heard it,” Weedbeard says.

They’re strong, but I’m determined to look through that door. I’m dragging them toward the opening. It looks innocuous. Just a doorway. I say, “How do I tell you both to fuck off but in a very respectful way?”

Weedbeard steps in front of me, grabbing me by the shoulders. I’m able to push him toward the door. I’m not usually this strong. “This is why I told you the memory was unsafe!” he says. “This doorway is warded and therefore acts like a portal – memories are malleable and can be changed here! You passed out when Alan fell, you didn’t see all of this. You need to step back to your present before you alter this leaf of time!”

But I’m pushing him. We’re almost at the door. I’m winning.

It feels so good!

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Eight — C&R IX

In Fiction, Horror, Theatre, Writing on October 11, 2017 at 11:45 am

(Do you like the marzipan? Yes you love the marzipan! Do you like the licorice? Maybe not the licorice! Only take a bite. Only take a bite. Bite and bite and suck the taste: licorice and marzipan, everything that’s moist. Take your first nibble here.)

Day Eight: Wednesday, 26 July / Friday, July 21 2017 – C&R IX

It’s like a cartoon. Dolly Lurker is thrilled with this turn of events, eyes lit up as it regards us, pausing before slamming into the doorway again. Another pause and it’s clapping its weird tiny hands like a giddy, evil fop before the next wall-shaking assault.

“How long since these wards were refreshed, Judy?” Weedbeard says.

“No way to know, Bill. Alan was in charge of this portal.” Judy is running toward Joel’s office, all business.

Another fully-voiced sentence in my head, What vast emptiness awaits all devoured by the deadening? It’s the other voice – the not Dolly Lurker voice. Good to know I’m hearing multiple voices. But this question has been nibbling at the back of my mind: how far down will Obi-Wan-point-five fall before he lands? I still hear him screaming as he falls.

“Do we know the basis of his warding?” Weedbeard says.

“I think he was trying to charge it up right before he stopped making sense,” Judy says, stepping into Joel’s office.

Dolly Lurker is whispering something to us, gesturing us closer with its little paper hands. It wants us to come closer, but Weedbeard and I scoot back. Dolly Lurker frowns, then grins bigger than before – we can hear its mouth stretching – and a veritable forest of jagging, grabby giant spider legs vomit forth, scrabbling at the floor, their massive raptorial tarsus claws gouging the concrete. In my mind I hear,

No, no, no, no, no you will not get away. Oh my, oh my, oh my, no you will not.

Aloud, “Ma-MA! Ma-MAAAAAAAAAA!

One of the claws is reaching, scratching at the upper left corner of the doorway, searching for a target I cannot see. It flinches as the little purple sparks of the warding singe its long, thick tactile leg hairs.

“Will the wards hold?” Weedbeard says.

“I’m not waiting to find out!” this from Judy as a shotgun roars over our heads. Judy is knocked onto her ass from the force of the blast. All sound fades as it tears into Dolly Lurker, sizzling black burns that send the spider legs back into that still-growing mouth for a moment; they’re in there, glistening, their tactile leg hairs rustling as Dolly Lurker’s face lights up in beatific rapture.

“It’s breathing! Gun!” says Weedbeard, reaching to catch it — again, without looking — as Judy throws the shotgun.

A massive, gnarled hand punches from the center of the bunched spider legs – fingers blue-black with deep, dry gangrene – punching all the way out and through the door. A wave of decay rolls from the hand, and the memory of chunky rotwater boils over in my mind. Clutched in the hand is a squirming baby doll, its face scarred and stitched with a patchwork of different colored skins, some light, some dark, some fresh and soft, some old and leathery. They look like actual human skin. One eye is blue, its eyelashed lid blink-blink-blinking at us. The other socket is dark, but not empty. Something wet and larval squirms in that darkness, and under the cloth of the baby doll’s body is a squirming mass of living insectoid terrors, devouring and hatching by the billions every second, their juices and chunks staining the cloth and dripping through to land like gooey, sinister espresso, thick and sizzling on the concrete.

“Ma-MA! MA-MAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!” Dolly Lurker’s screeching would deafen anyone not already ear-numb from a shotgun blast.

Something is worming its way out of the dark eye socket, a sleurmy winged plorper. The baby doll’s fingers twitch and clutch at the air, its mouth opens to show way too many square teeth.

“It’s larval!” Judy says, “Kill it before it lands!”

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Eight — C&R VIII

In Fiction, Theatre, Writing on October 10, 2017 at 11:34 am

(This part is not where to start. Be not the silly person. Instead, start here.)

Day Eight: Wednesday, 26 July / Friday, July 21 2017 – C&R VIII

I roll to my right, thrusting my left hand toward where I remember the door being. In the instant I reach, my eyes open and I see things in stillness and slow:

Weedbeard has cast the bag inside out; its contents, I can smell, are the saltiest salt that ever salted. They cut through the air like tiny diamond bullet crystals, slicing through the buttery light which has spread up the stairs and wrapped Weedbeard’s feet. They leave trails of clarity where they’ve sliced through the light: ordinary reflected daylight somewhat penetrating the gloom of a dark stairwell; I find unexpected comfort in that.

The turkeybaby and sporangia are turning back toward Weedbeard, screaming. The pink of the meatfrond is burned black everywhere the salt is landing.

Judy is reaching for my hand as I sprawl across the dusty red concrete floor; Obi-Wan-point-five jumps in over me. And though the voice in my head has been saying,

No, no, no, no, no I am already on your face, in your eyes, your hair, your pink and muscular tongue,

Obi-Wan-point-five says loud and clear, “Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this sun of York!”

Judy grabs my hand on the word sun, pulling me out on my back. Once I’m through the door, the voice in my head dims significantly, though I can still hear it:

Oh my oh my oh my how I would enjoy to rip that tongue from your muscular manly mouth

Its words are growing dimmer by the second, but on this side of the door, I hear:

“Ma-MA! Ma-MA!”

What eldritch strangeness is held at bay by this warded door? And why does it turn my inner monologue Lovecraftian? I shake off the Howard Phillips, trying to ignore Dolly Lurker’s fading voice in its unpleasant discord with its baby doll noise, focusing on what I can see: as he lands, Obi-Wan-point-five turns his back to the wall and sloping ceiling of the stairwell, pushing Weedbeard back toward escape. Weedbeard falls to the ground half on top of me, just outside the door.

for indeed your words are your power and I will sap you of it before I devour you.

“Ma-MA-MA! Ma-MA-MA-MA!”

I grasp Obi-Wan-point-five’s plan in an instant. The salt and oil are holy – or he believes they are. He is anointed and safe. He’ll push Weedbeard free, burning with salt the turkeybaby and sporangia that try to touch him, then follow.

Except that his shoes are slick with oil.

Obi-Wan-point-five slips backward from the force of shoving his friend to safety. As Weedbeard lands, Obi-Wan-point-five comes down hard on both knees, right on the edge of the top step. I feel sympathetic pain in my knees, hearing bone shatter.

“Ma-MA! MA-MAAAAAAAAAAaaaahhhhghghglerlklkggggllllllle!” It sounds triumphant, gurgling and frothing in delight, echoing in the stairwell and again from deeper in the basement.

A hand grasps Obi-Wan-point-five’s right shoulder. He looks at it, and though it is burning from the salt, it stays. Claws grow and dig deep into his flesh. Another hand, delicate and ladylike, grasps his left shoulder; he turns to look at it and sporangia on the wall to his left burst black spores the size of cotton balls in his face. He gasps, inhaling them by the thousands. He tries to cough, but they’re forcing their way into his lungs.

Obi-Wan-point-five’s eyes grow too large. More spores burst from around him. They were black at first, now they’re pink.

His eyes turn golden. Cotton candy colored spores are covering him, burning away from the salt, but covered over again by millions more in an instant, until a layer forms and falls off like a strange sweet shell in your Americana nightmare carnival: the salt is neutralized. All this in seconds.

The third hand snakes around his right side, into his pants.

Obi-Wan-point-five loses all control, emitting high-pitched, terrified screams. He is fighting like mad, unintelligible phrases bursting from his mouth: “Browning! Pyre! Cinderella! To bring my to outfit and now become necessary!” There is a sound like tearing cloth and I realize it’s the sound of his flesh ripping open. His screams are just screams now. Fluids stain the crotch of his khakis, running like rainwater down the steps behind him.

The porcelain skin. The grin too wide, stretched beyond the cheekbones. Like a smile pulled to ripping by the cruelest uncle with his too-thick fingers. The huge square teeth clattering the clatter of old shutters in a windstorm, Dolly Lurker’s face is next to Obi-Wan-point-five’s head, turning slow like a sloth to look at us – and I know now it’s been moving up behind him this whole time. A whisper in my brain ears:

Oh no, no, no, no, no, I’ve been moving up behind you for three years my tasty. Oh my, oh my, oh my, yes.

“Ma-MA! Ma-MAAAA! Play time!

Creaking and clattering from behind the teeth explode giant spider legs, grabbing at the doorway and yanking Dolly Lurker’s face forward, slamming into the wall and the doorjamb with force enough to shake the building. The mouth is vast and the hands (now small, ineffectual, paper hands) bat Obi-Wan-point-five side to side a couple times — like a playful kitten with a doomed mouse —  before smacking him inside.

The teeth come down, half-open, flapping like loose cupboard doors. I see his right rib cage and left clavicle crushed; nude white bone protrudes, jagged. His abdomen is pierced, his small intestine caught on a splintered bit of square tooth; the smell of hot dark shit and bright copper blood says death is near. His body is jerking involuntarily, like a man healed by a televangelist. Three of his fingers have fallen to the dusty red concrete, just inside the door. One of Dolly Lurker’s hands bats him farther into the gaping maw.

Obi-Wan-point-five is still screaming, but now it’s the scream of a man falling, falling, falling. There’s a tug, then a tautness and a twang before his intestine rips from the tooth and follows.

Dolly Lurker is slamming its face into the doorway, pushing through. The corners of the door are sparking little purple sparks. 

The wall is cracking.

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Eight — C&R VII

In Fiction, Theatre, Writing on October 9, 2017 at 11:43 am

(Applebee’s sucks. In your heart of hearts, you know it’s the Fuller House of chain restaurants. If you love both of those things, you probably won’t like this story. If you loathe both of those things, you’re in the right place. Start here.)

Day Eight: Wednesday, 26 July / Friday, July 21 2017 – C&R VII

Lanky dark hair just beyond the doorjamb moves in a breeze I can’t feel. I see it now: an eye. Golden iris, pupil far too large. Locked onto me. Skin porcelain white. A gigantic, goofy grin, with way too many huge square teeth. The expression in that one eye: towering, giddy, ravenous rage. A clear thought forms in my head, the entire sentence sounding inside my cranium as though spoken, It wants us dead, and it wants to be the deadening.

Then another voice speaks in my head, shadows of terrified screaming beneath every vowel; my ears itch inside as it slithers around in my brain, unlocking every worst memory, breathing fresh fuel into every fear and insecurity:

No, no, no, no, no, my tasty, I am the deadening. Oh my, oh my, oh my, yes. I am the deadening. I am the deadening.

I shake my head against its slithering brain eggs; the nodule and sporangia all shift to focus on me with wet squish and plorpings. I’m trying to ignore the whirlwind of bad memories in my mind.

No, no, no, no, no, my tasty — all of the things. You remember all of the things. They are your esssssssence. Why try? You are that rejected ring. You are the miscarried child. 

Weedbeard says, “Alan, now!”

I can see outside the door, at last: Judy is there, and now there’s a face to the voice of Alan – it’s Obi-Wan-point-five! He’s throwing a Crown Royal bag full of something that isn’t a bottle to Weedbeard, who catches it without looking, eyes on the nodule. Obi-Wan-point-five is covered in oil. Judy is upending a box of kosher salt over his head, then pouring on more — olive? — oil. There’s another box of kosher salt nearby. I want to make a joke about savory sex, but I’m afraid to speak, and the voice in my head won’t stop:

You are the broken heart, abandoned promises, mistaken love, foolish indiscretion, erotic obsession, shameful indulgences, every dark and bad thing you work so hard to hide is why you should give up.

The nodule and sporangia shift back to Weedbeard – shphleurk-pop-pop-pop! – when he catches the bag, but I can’t stop shaking my head – I can feel it moving in there! – and they shift back to me, the frond fluffing to cover the ceiling and come halfway down the walls. It sounds, I realize, like a tom turkey puffing up his feathers. This strikes me as funny, until the nodule presses against the skin surrounding it, stretching the skin thin enough that it looks like the nodule will break through.

My tasty, when you tell this story, others will come looking for me, and oh how I want to be found.

It’s the face of a turkey. If a turkey was part vulture and part newborn baby. Grinning, with wriggling tongues for teeth, its eyes crudely-chopped mismatched triangles like a psychopathic jack-o-lantern. There’s a flickering light inside, casting horrid little shadows on the inside of its skull. It’s the light of a candle made from human tallow. How do I know that?

I am the one standing at the foot of your bed, that’s how.

Weedbeard is muttering something over the open Crown Royal bag, moving his hand in a pattern as he does so. The turkeybaby is getting closer to my face, the sporangia growing darker, like they’re engorged with blood.

I am in your closet, watching you sleep. Sucking at your dreams.

“You’ve got one chance, Edward,” Judy says, all calm business, tearing open and dumping the next box of kosher salt on Obi-Wan-point-five, “But you’ve got to shut your eyes. Trust me. Shut your eyes, and when I say NOW, you turn and reach out your left hand. We’ll try to get you in time. Edward? Shut your eyes.”

Mine are the grabbing hands waiting under your bed, reaching up to touch you.

I do as she says, shutting my eyes. Something warm and wet gloms onto my face, wrapping my head in flesh, clogging my nose, sealing my mouth shut. I try to breathe, to scream. I can’t!

I use your mouth to spill my seed in your lungs. Hold real still. Hold
real still. Hold real still.

“Edward, listen to me,” Judy says, her voice still low and calm. “It’s making you think you’re suffocating, but you’re not. And if you open them again, it’s going to breathe those spores right into your eyes and you will be lost to us forever, with no memory of any of this. Be ready, Edward; to your right, with your left hand. Trust me, you’re breathing. Just trust – NOW!”

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Eight — C&R VI

In Fiction, Theatre, Writing on October 6, 2017 at 12:24 pm

(Your curiosity has gotten the better of you, now take control! Start here.)

Day Eight: Wednesday, 26 July / Friday, July 21 2017 – C&R VI

I feel pulled toward the first step, even as another cry echoes from below:

“Ma-MA … Ma-MA …”

It looks like there is light coming toward the dark doorway, a dim glow outlining shapes in the darkness not revealed by the light of my phone.

I hear Judy to my right, it sounds like she might be coming from the scene shop, but I can’t turn to look. She’s saying, “I think I heard it coming from over here, Bill – Oh Good Lord – ”

She’s much closer now, I think she’s just outside the door to my right. A set of footsteps has followed her; someone says:

“I thought this door was warded.”

“It was, Alan — it is. Where’s Bill?” Judy says. Her words are casual, her tone is one of deep concern.

From far away, I hear a man bellow, “Protego!”

Weedbeard

But that doesn’t matter, because at the bottom of the stairs, a hand is reaching around the right side of the doorjamb.

“Ma-MA … !”

Closer now, Weedbeard’s voice bellows, “Servo!”

I’m very cold. The light is brighter down there. Fingers numb, I drop my cell phone. I sense that Judy catches it, her reflexes quick. I note my surprise at this through a novocaine mist of fascination. The light looks like wisps of fog, it’s spreading and reaching along the floor to the doorjamb and beyond. It looks warm like butter, and I take the first step of the stairs.

Running footsteps arrive. I hear Weedbeard outside the door to my right. He bellows, “Praemunio!”

A wave of warmth washes over me from the right. I shudder at the initial contact, goosebumps covering my body. A second hand grasps the doorjamb below.

“Ma-MA! Ahauuughghghghghlllrrrrrblghhhhh … ”

One of the men gasps. Judy says, “No – it can’t be – ”

I’m shoved to the side, landing among boxes and large umbrellas – and Weedbeard is there, throwing a handful of white powder down the stairs. Where it hits, the concrete walls and steps sizzle as little black burn marks appear.

Something pink unfurls from around the base of the door at the bottom of the steps. It looks like a fern frond, growing fast. Weedbeard goes very still. I follow his lead. He moves a foot and the pink thing puffs and stiffens, expanding across the ceiling of the stairwell like a cobra inflating its hood. Only it sends out meaty pink tendrils that stick to the ceiling and walls, a nodule under the surface of its skin turning to follow any movement by Weedbeard.

“Alan,” says Weedbeard, and the nodule pulses out toward Weedbeard’s face when he speaks, as from all of the frond’s meaty surface little sporangia blossom with thick popping plorps. They look like strange lollipops: a thin white stalk supporting a dark pink candy. Weedbeard is more still than before, and I sense that he’s barely breathing.

I see movement at the bottom of the steps. The buttery light is much brighter, and with tarantulic precision something crawls around the doorjamb below the two hands – then grasps tight.

It’s a third hand.

 

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Eight — C&R V

In Fiction, Theatre, Writing on October 3, 2017 at 12:06 pm

(You’ve maybe clicked on this because I’m bugging you to read it, but you don’t know where to begin. Hint: start here.)

Day Eight: Wednesday, 26 July 2017 – C&R V

Beneath this last letter is most of a neatly-penned page from a journal:

May 10, 1952

Bess and I snuck out last night. The moon is so bright! We brought flashlights, but we didn’t need them. And by God, if she didn’t bring a damned pitchfork! I snorted so loud when I saw that thing, I think I may have inhaled a firefly.
We had all sorts of plans: walk to MVC, egg Sadie Ballard’s house, dance an actual quadrille. I liked that one until Bess pointed out that requires at least eight people. She’s a good dancer. She knows this stuff. So instead of all that, we climbed up into Georgie’s tree fort and smoked cigarettes.
It was so exciting and dangerous. Bess said, “Do you think Holly Granger was this excited when she ran away?”
I said, “I’m not sure. Because of her dad.”
Do you think anyone told the police – ?” Bess was saying, but she stopped. “Do you hear that?”
Hear what?”
That sound. Listen.” Bess gets annoyed with me when I ask questions sometimes.
I don’t hear anything – ”
Shh!” she said, “It’s like … sleigh bells.”
I was going to say something about Santa and the Nice List, but I just listened instead.
I hear it,” I said, “It does, it sounds like … ”
Jingles,” she said.
That’s when something

The page is torn and burned at that point.

I set it down, looking at Weedbeard. He sees the question in my eyes.

“Yes, I think that may be the first appearance of our enthusiastic passenger from earlier tonight,” he says.

“I have a fuckload of questions,” I say.

“Have some more of that cheese,” he says.

I take another bite of the cheese, which I’ve been quietly avoiding since the strange vision that came with the first piece.

I see pools of light illuminating statues and ancient reliquary in what looks like a Victorian museum of antiquities. An older man, professorial in a three piece suit, is gasping as he struggles to pour a circle of salt around an ancient, sealed funerary urn on a marble pedestal. He mutters under his breath, words that sound like, “Mae Mirthin in chenouk hen galen thon, Protego! Servo! Praemunio!” A crash of shattered ceramic from the darkness behind him, and he freezes. A guttural chuckle rolls from the shadows. All color drains from the professor’s face as he falls to his knees.

The vision recedes and I reach for my tea. “What the hell is in that cheese?”

“It’s not so much what’s in the cheese, as it is what’s in you. The nature of the Mont Perdu Abbey and all it produces is to draw from within us that which is hidden, lost or obscured. It seems to me you might have some … lostness. Is there anything you need to find?”

“I lost time,” I say, before realizing I’ve spoken aloud. I eat a third piece of cheese.

“When and where?” Weedbeard says.

“Backstage at the theatre,” I say.

Weedbeard’s eyes widen, he leans forward: “Wait!” he says, “That memory isn’t safe!”

His voice echoes, fading down a long tunnel, blending with another sound until I’m standing somewhere familiar. I don’t just see it; I’m here. There are two or three mannequins. Boxes labeled GARLANDS and BANNERS. My cell phone light is on. I’m at the top of a set of dusty red concrete steps. They lead down to an open steel door. And from the inky darkness beyond,

“Ma-MA … Ma-MA …”

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Eight — C&R IV

In Fiction, Theatre, Writing on October 2, 2017 at 11:43 am

(Love spoilers? Read on! Hate spoilers? Start here.)

Day Eight: Wednesday, 26 July 2017 – C&R IV

May 5, 1952

Miss Louise Archer
5694 Estates Drive
Oakland, CA 94611

Dear Lousie,

Goodness, old friend, um … Can kidology yank or uproot rightminded, sober, eventempered ladies? Foolishness! How you carry on. I believe Miss Fitzsimmons is correct: you should be more industrious. Perhaps as applied to my first suggestion.

Regarding the musical, yes. I believe our summer months would be best spent basking in the tropical breezes of the Montclair District, with all its fog and tiny streets. But, to paraphrase Odysseus, how do we get in?

Lousie, Lousie, Lousie … you are my best friend in the world, but I have to tell you that it’s time to invest in a toothbrush. A girl has enough trouble getting a husband without sabotaging her personal appearance. I have some old ones I could lend you, just to get started. Mama uses them to punish the orphans, but a quick rinse and some borax should get them near new.

Sincerely Yours,

[Handwritten Signature]

Miss Bess Tremaine
1908 Julia Street
Oakland, CA 94618

PS, Friday is a full moon. Sadie Ballard shared this in Mr. Parker’s Astronomy lecture. It burst from her like a cry of victory. Mr. Parker praised her, as he should. Noticing the moon! Usually we need boys to point that out, but we never go near boys so it’s really admirable that she figured this out on her own.

[Handwritten note: Your concern for her teeth is admirable, but be nice about it. Awkward girls are lonely enough as it is. -10 points for spelling: L-o-u-i-s-e. I have friends at the theatre, I’ll call and ask if they need people to sweep up. You two aren’t what I’d call stageworthy. Re., Sadie Ballard: it is good that you recognize a role model. Now start modeling yourself after her and you may yet learn your role in life.
– Miss Fitzsimmons
]


 

May 7, 1952

Miss Bess Tremaine
1908 Julia Street
Oakland, CA 94618

Dearest Bess,

I went by the Firehouse the other day to see Bill. He said all the boys loved your mom’s potato salad, and they didn’t mind the kitty hair. What a relief that must be for you! If your salad is anything like your Mom’s, you’ll have no trouble boning up for that MRS Degree.

What a delight to have Miss Fitzsimmons’s personal hygiene advice and her help at the theatre. I’m so, so glad you mentioned that in our correspondence. She has been very helpful: she’s called them up and told them all about how we would be great hands at doing the laundry or sweeping up. How delightful. Now I needn’t bother auditioning at all, because I’m going to be doing peoples’ laundry. Which is my place. Whew! Embarrassment forestalled.

We must be sure to show up at 9:30 am on Saturday, which is when we’ll be expected to learn about how everything works there. Let’s be certain to avoid showing up around 5 pm, which is when the actors will be auditioning. I don’t want anybody to get the wrong idea.

Your Sincere Palsy-walsy,

[Handwritten Signature]

Miss Louise Archer
5694 Estates Drive
Oakland, CA 94611

PS, Without Sadie Ballard, I simply don’t know what I would think. On any subject. Let us celebrate Sadie in the moonlight! Mayhaps a midnight quadrille on Broadway Terrace? I’ll bring the pitchforks.

[Handwritten note: It is good that you recognize your place in daylight, but girls should be home abed at midnight. Please do not let me hear that you’ve been dragging farm equipment out in the dark. Are you ladies making grave mistakes like the Granger girl? Please learn from her foolishness.
Miss Fitzsimmons]