ewhightower

Posts Tagged ‘South Pacific’

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 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. I went first, and Bess handed her pitchfork up before she climbed the rope ladder. She said this was for safety, in case of marauders. She didn’t know how right she was.
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]

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Eight — C&R III, Midnight After Montclair

In Fiction, Theatre, Writing on September 22, 2017 at 12:15 pm

(You don’t need restful sleep, you need to know why the madness!?: start here.)

Day Eight: Wednesday, 26 July 2017 – C&R III,  Midnight After Montclair

The white globule shifts, a sideways pupil rolling into view. “It’s an eye! A creepy-ass goat eye just came out of that thing’s thorny squid vagina, and you want to sing?! The eye quivers, sprouting thick black eyelashes that angle up and jut down to the hood of the car.

“A-long the midnight trail to redemption,” Weedbeard sings. Jingles the Creeper shrinks back. Weedbeard continues:
“There’s a shadow lurking betwixt!
A-long the midnight trail to redemption,
There’s a quest that can’t be nixed!”

Jingles the Creeper is wary, grinning like a debutante who forgot which punch bowl holds the turd. The eye skitters toward the driver’s window on its beveled eyelashes. “Oh fuck no, those are spider legs. Fucking goat’s eye spiders, now? This is a really efficient nightmare buffet — ”

Weedbeard puts his hand on my arm. I glance at him. He’s completely calm. It’s like we’re not moving at all. Time slows down to stillness beyond the Kuiper belt. He says, “Sing with me, Brother. For human voices, raised in darkness, bring light where only despair has flourished.”

I want to tell him that I don’t know the words, that I sometimes struggle with harmony. I want to fall back on all my actory excuses, but something in his eyes – a deep, reassuring calm – quells every mote of uncertainty.

I’m aware of the goat’s eye spiders: there are six of them, now, skittering up the driver’s window, scratching and digging at the glass. The glass is cracking, a – ha ha – spiderweb of fractures.

I’m aware of Jingles the Creeper: its squid vagina hand palm is opening wider as it pulls its arm back to punch through the glass of the driver’s side window. It’s jabbering something out there, but all in the cab is the smooth, rich caramel of certainty. I know that the first thing it will do — if it breaks through — is pull my tongue into its maw with those millions of spikes in there; I’ll feel it chewing and ripping at my tongue and lips as I try to scream. It will send tendrils up my nose and down into my lungs to latch and drink, my jaw snapping, my head tilted back, I’ll be alive for all of it. Because in the tops of the trees it spins its eyeball webs, and no ranger will ever look for anything like that.

The stillness of Weedbeard, it soothes me. I’m aware of all the darkness getting ready to smash through the window, but it simply does not matter. He smiles, inhales, and we continue the song; I don’t know how I know the words, all that matters is that it’s a deep and delicious old-timey / bluegrass Americana pie, and every slice is heavenly:

“Along the midnight trail to redemption,
There’s a hole in the timely rind;
The longest midnight trail to redemption
Is the one you don’t want to get left behind!

And we’ve got one string between us –
As we stretch to reach the fret –
One string between us,
Plus the skin of our teeth, now, you can bet

That on the midnight trail to redemption
There’s a lot of tears that flow;
Along the midnight trail to redemption
There’s a shadow creepin’ up from the hidden below!

And though the park is dark
And the night is cold
We will find the light
To be brave and bold!”

It’s not a perfect song. But it seems to work. During that last verse, Weedbeard pops open the back of the uke and pulls on the strings, a ball of white material – salt? – clutched between the strings and his fingers. No ukulele strings should be able to stretch that far, but he pulls that thing like a longbow, holding the uke up by the neck and sighting through the sound hole.

Jingles the Creeper’s grin falters. Its thornfingers writhe. We sing louder; whatever Jingles the Creeper is saying or singing, we overpower it:

“Yes we’ve got one string between us!
And it’s used
To launch
This
Salt!”

Weedbeard does just that, as we hold the last note in tasty harmony – and the ball of salt finds its mark – squarely in the gaping maw of the squid vagina hand claw. Sizzling, thrashing, twitching, it gouts green effluvium mixed with deeper chunky brown; scalded goat’s eye spiders plorp writhing on the hood of the truck, sliding off.

With a cry like a wounded castrato and a terrified Madagascar hissing cockroach, Jingles flings itself from the hood of the car, cradling its arm like a precious baby. We hear it crashing away through trees and underbrush.

We come to a halt. We’re at the stop sign where this back exit road meets the main entrance road. We’ve been driving for under a minute.

It feels like hours.

“Did you kill it?” I say. I’m a little too loud, and I can’t stop shivering.

“No,” he says. “It will be back. And probably stronger.”

“What can we do?” I say.

Weedbeard is silent for a time. Then he says, “Leave your car, I’ll have it retrieved. We’ve got to get away before the Fire Marshall sees us.”

I glance in the direction of the deeper park. The lights of multiple firetrucks are still flashing deeper in, but I can’t smell smoke anymore. It seems we may have avoided that danger. For now.

We switch places again – this time he steps out of the passenger door and walks around to the driver door as I scoot to my right – and Weedbeard sets the old firetruck in motion.

We take every road I’ve never seen before in Montclair. By the time we reach Weedbeard’s house, I’m shaking beyond control. I have no clear memory of walking inside. He pushes me into the bathroom with a towel: “Leave all your clothes outside the bathroom door. If I have to, I’ll burn them. But first they’ll be washed and searched for mites.”

“I keep a packed bag in the back of my car,” I say.

“Give me your keys; we’ll get that for you. Take your time. You swallowed enough of that water that you may need to do more than puke.” He nods toward the toilet and as if on cue, my intestines groan like a disturbed cow. “In the shower, you’ll find a tub of lemon-ginger salt. Use all of it. No matter what.” I close the door and avail myself of the facilities.

The shower is incredible. There’s a plastic jar with holes poked in the screw-top lid. The scent of lemon and ginger throbs off of it, burning my nose at first. Tears blur my vision and when I pick up the jar, a giant globule of thick green chunk sleurbs out of my right nostril. I feel it peeling more out of my sinuses.

It’s twitching.

I sprinkle it with the salt when it hits the shower floor and it sizzles, breaking apart and melting away down the drain. So I shake the salt onto my head and face, then fall to my knees as my sinuses birth an entire litter of giant chunk mollusks. My head feels like it’s wreathed in flame and I can’t breathe.

There’s a knock at the door. Weedbeard pushes it open a crack. “Forgot to tell you,” he calls above the shower. “Start at your feet. Wherever you start, the most will come out.”

I want to tell him to fuck off, but I’m vomiting a bullfrog-sized wad of lurching algaeic phlegm. He laughs. I kick the wall. He laughs again and closes the door.

After a few minutes of blorking these things out of my head, lungs and stomach, I sit back on the floor of the shower, breathing deeply the lemon-ginger steam. I feel reborn. But I’ve only used a quarter of what’s in the jar. So I sprinkle it on my feet and watch as every bit of toe fungus erupts out of me like the flaming snakes in a set of safe and sane fireworks. It’s disgusting. And it’s awesome. But, what the fuck was in that algae?

The sprinkling continues up my entire body, leeching and burning out any fungus. Strange things fall off of me. From my left shoulder, about a dozen fist-sized gelatinous brine shrimp. When they hit the floor of the shower, they burst into a sulfurous reeking pus that brings up another load of vomit. Which is good, because the vomit has what look like tiny fetal batworms squirming and squealing. I salt them and they crackle apart. From my ass crack, a nest of fuzzy crawdads that try to crawl up the walls of the shower. I will not tell you what my junk produced. I will only say that I will never eat pastrami again.

When the salt is completely emptied out, I unscrew the top and fill the jar with water, dousing my head in this way three times. By this time, nothing more comes to the surface. My body feels fresh, clean, new. My toenails are all completely healthy and strong. But legs feel like they’re made of rubber, and I’m moving very slowly.

My bag is sitting inside the bathroom door. I dress in fresh, clean clothes and join Weedbeard at the table, where there’s a small stack of correspondence and a steaming cup of lemon ginger tea.

I’m thinking about this chain of events when Weedbeard walks back in with a tray of charcuterie and freshly baked olive bread. “You’ll note,” he says, “that there’s no pastrami.”

I cant imagine even a nibble. He says, “Eat. You need it.”

I dip a tiny piece of bread in thick homemade mustard and as I bring it to my mouth I’m ravenous, reaching for meats and, oh my, grapes and — yikes, not the cheese —

“Eat the cheese,” Weedbeard says. “Live cultures.”

“I’m lactose intolerant — ”

“Your body will tolerate it. This is special cheese. From a monastery, Mont Perdu, in the French Pyrenees,” he says. Something in that name rings a deep and secret bell in my memory. He watches my eyes as I take a small bite of the cheese.

I see snow and a mountain path. There’s an old man struggling in the cold, fumbling for something in his robes. From the darkness below comes a howl.

“What the fuck?” I say.

Weedbeard looks satisfied. He sits back, munching on a piece of the cheese himself, washing it down with tea that smells different from mine. “I think it’s time for you to read the next letter,” he says.

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Eight — C&R II, Montclair After Midnight

In Fiction, Theatre, Writing on September 21, 2017 at 12:15 pm

(It’s like a delicious enchilada, only slightly creepy: start here.)

Day Eight: Wednesday, 26 July 2017 – C&R II, Montclair After Midnight

I stare at Weedbeard a moment, formulating my question. I don’t want to spook him.“Is there a reason you didn’t tell me this earlier?” I say.

“I didn’t expect you to interrupt our gathering,” he says. “That shows real gumption. But the thing in the trees – what did you call it?”

“Jingles the Creeper.”

“Right. Jingles. Well, if it weren’t for you, we wouldn’t have known it was there.”

“It stuck a leaf up my nose. Twice.”

“Ah,” he says, to the floor. Then he looks me in the eyes. “That tells me it wanted us to know it was there. You’d better keep reading. But first, sip your tea. I’ll prepare charcuterie.”

I sip my tea. There are more letters. But I’m trying to wrap my head around everything that’s happened tonight. It’s after one in the morning, I’m wide awake, and an old hippie is preparing sustenance. I’ve only met this man once before, but I am comfortable here. I feel safe. For the first time, in fact, I feel like I have some purchase on these uncertain slopes.

I find myself going over the events that followed Weedbeard’s fortuitous arrival. I’d barely had time to jump into the cab of his vintage firetruck before he threw it into gear and the truck lurched forward. “How did you find me?” I’d started to say. It came out as, “How did youfucking Christ, do you have a gun?!

Jingles the Creeper, leaping out of the darkness, strides long and springy like a goddamn evil gazelle, launched itself from the shadows. I hadn’t watched it moving before now.

My impressions, formed in a moment of headlight illumination: horizontal stripes, head to toe. Poofy pants, poofy sleeves. What I’d thought was a lace ruff is a ruffly collar of the same striped material. Tight-fitting striped socks, left hand gloved, right arm held just behind itself – why? Face bone white, eyes and lips lined in black. Circles of rouge on the cheeks. An impression of strange marks on the forehead –

It lands on the hood of the truck – ah! Running on stilts! – they clatter on the metal hood, it can’t find purchase. It’s grinning, giggling, jingling, holding on to a point above the front window.

“Friend of yours?” Weedbeard says, resigned, calm.

Jingles the Creeper raises its right arm, and it isn’t an arm at all. It looks like the dead, black, wet trees of winter – the fingers long, gnarled, tapering to needle-sharp points, glistening and covered in thorns. At the center of what would be its palm is a vulvic squid mouth, chomp-chomp-chomping, thick green ichor leaking from it.

We’re heading up the back exit road, full throttle, and Weedbeard says, “Take the wheel, my friend.”

He lifts himself up in this yogic sideways thing and I slide under him, taking the wheel as he lowers himself into the passenger seat. I don’t even begin to understand how he could do that unless I’m hallucinating or he’s secretly a Chinese gymnast. But my eyes are glued to Jingles.

Out of its vulvic squid palm is plorping a gooey white ball in a milky film that looks like sausage casing. So much for Jimmy Dean. It’s bok choy at breakfast from now on. Jingles sing-songs at us like … a puffy-pants creeper in the night:

“Now the time for fun and games
Has fallen by the road;
Let us sing the darkling names,
Let us mount the toad!” He says these things like they’re really good ideas.

Weedbeard unlatches the passenger windshield – this is a firetruck from the early 1900’s – reaching behind us to a gun rack. He’s obviously going to load a shotgun and blast this fucker off the front of the truck.

Jingles the Creeper continues:
“Let us play and gad about,
Let us taunt and jeer,
Let us bite and rip and taste
The soft-yet-crunchy ear!”

We hit a huge pothole and Jingles the Creeper slips backwards a moment, its right stilt hitting the ground and snapping under the car. The scream that comes from its mouth is like a little girl. If the little girl really likes having her leg broken off. And is maybe also a demon of the netherhells. But – it was a stilt. Right?

Screaming the sing-song in complete clarity, Jingles says,
“So much fun to fun and grin –
Grin to fun and smile,
Smiling, smiling, fun fun grin,
Fun for all the while! (Fun-fun.)”

It pulls its leg back up and I see no splintered wood, but a broken knob of blue-black bone, a joint like a backwards knee, thick hairs sticking out of the bone itself. All of this in a couple of seconds, as it screams its demony girl child scream. It turns its eyes on me and licks its lips, its tongue pushing out of its mouth like the meatus and glans exposed from within an inflamed, pus-oozing foreskin; there’s something glistening and black in its mouth, like oily hair.

“Glaughble, gloughbrle, [gagging noise]
Hurk, hurk, [gag, gag] hurk –” says Jingles the Creeper.

Three more gloopy globules have come out of its squid vagina hand mouth thing, and the first one lands on the hood of the car, where it sticks a moment. Jingles is leaning in toward the passenger side of the windshield, pushing its head under the glass, giggling and keening as it sing-songs our baffling death menu. This fatherfucker is clearly pleased with itself:

“Klorghp, klorghp – gauuuuuugh –
Hurk and hurk, and hurk and hurk and hurk!”

“The fuck are you doing? Shoot it!” I say.

“I’m preparing a little ditty we once sang in the moonlight,” says Weedbeard, not a care in the world. I glance over. He’s tuning a ukulele, humming. “You good with harmony?” he says.

Jingles the Creeper scoots closer to the windshield.

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Eight — Correspondence & Revelation

In Fiction, Theatre, Writing on September 20, 2017 at 12:15 pm

(Newman? Williams? Elfman? Hermann? Your choice. But there’s only one way to know: start here.)

Day Eight: Wednesday, 26 July 2017 – Correspondence & Revelation

May 2, 1952

Miss Bess Tremaine
1908 Julia Street
Oakland, CA 94618

Dear Bess,

I am typing this letter to you in Miss Fitzsimmons’s Typing Class. Today our exercise is called, Posture and Prose. And so I am writing to you with the most ladylike posture imaginable. Unlike Sadie Ballard, who looks like a roast ham got drunk in a basement saloon before rolling down Lombard Street during a lint storm.

Perhaps that is not the most kind and generous thing to say about Sadie Ballard. I am ladylike after all, and Ladies are always properly behaved. Let me find a more ladylike way of expressing my thoughts. Ah, I have it: Sadie Ballard smells like old vegetable soup. The kind with Okra in it. Slimy. Best left for the piglets you’ll sell to upwind slaughterhouses.

Alas! If only it were all true. Sadie Ballard is sitting two stations in front of me, her every move balletic. Poised like a gentle doe, she wondereth on the in-side of her Dean’s List Brainpan, “Shall I flee hither? Or shall I flee thither? For I have farted, and I must allow others to bask in the magical dust I’ve bequeathed to them with my blessed sphinc!”

We are required to submit these letters before mailing them, so I might type something less honest. I certainly don’t want to straighten Fitzsimmons’s fright mop. I haven’t decided yet. I’ll wait and see: if Sadie Ballard does anything less than perfect before the last ten minutes of class, I’ll leave this letter as is.

Yours Most Sincerely,

[Handwritten Signature]

Miss Louise Archer
5694 Estates Drive
Oakland, CA 94611

PS, Did I hear you say you’re auditioning for that musical?

[Folded underneath this first letter, the following:]

May 2, 1952

Miss Bess Tremaine
1908 Julia Street
Oakland, CA 94618

Dear Bess,

Finally, a chance to write to you about all our exciting plans for the summer. I do believe you mentioned something about auditioning for the musical? Such excitement! Such ennobling artistic expression! And to be close to the enchanting Sadie Ballard, who shall surely have the lead in said expression of ennobling artistry – I just can’t wait.

All I do is listen to the recording. Over and over. I just hope that someone will see me as I see me: a diminutive, female Ezio Pinza. I watch his TV show as often as I can, by golly! I copy his every gesture. Sometimes I even put a potato in my –

Kainotophobia and killcrop kidology! Potato salad, that’s what. I heard my mother say the other day, “I wonder if everyone at the party will eat my potato salad.” And I said, “Mother, except for the cat hair, that’s a dang fine salad.” Oh, how we laughed.

Ever wonder what would happen if we went to college for manly studies like building fires and building forts in the woods? I’ll bet we’d fail, because we’re just girls. Ha ha ha, ho ho ho, where do I get these silly notions? Back to my needlepoint.

Truly and Very Very Very Sincerely Yours,

[Handwritten Signature]

Miss Louise Archer
5694 Estates Drive
Oakland, CA 94611

[Handwritten note at the bottom: Miss Archer, you are nothing like Ezio Pinza. Impersonating boys is a bad idea. Girls who build fires get burned. Needlepoint, indeed. Would that you were so industrious.
– Miss Fitzsimmons
]

[End Correspondence]

I set the letters down.

I’m sitting at a small, round oak table. Next to me is a steaming cup of fresh ginger tea. My stomach is barely settling down, but the tea – even its smell – seems to help. The table sits in a pool of golden light cast by an original mica lamp overhead. Across the room, just out of the light, stands Weedbeard, left arm crossed over his chest, holding his right arm at the tricep. His head is down, but his eyes are locked on mine.

He says, “That’s how it started.”

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Seven — Voice Memo V

In Fiction, Theatre, Writing on September 19, 2017 at 12:43 pm

(If you like to be frightened, at least know the backstory: start here.)

Day Seven: Tuesday, 25 July 2017 – Voice Memo V

[Sound: still garbled and watery; frantic sloshing through water, wet hands on concrete; in the background, growing closer from the right, jingling and high-pitched laughter.]

Edward: Not one single fuck do I give right now, I’m getting out of this fuck-cunted fountain. Nightmare where you can’t run fast enough from the monster, and now I’m in a fucking toxic algae bloom!

Voice: Splishy splashy, little fish … !
Toxic algae, be my pal, gee!
Little fishy, grant my wish!
Crunchy-cralgae,
Here … !
I … !
Come!

[Sound: light footsteps on concrete and jingles punctuate the last three words, moving just above and to our right.]

Edward: Do you have to do everything with internal rhyme? Fucking creepy shitbags!

[Sound: During the above, huge frothing splash of a fully-dressed 190lb man throwing himself out of a fountain into dry dirt and brittle weeds.
In the far distance, sirens and horn of firetruck.
Hands and feet scrabbling for purchase, we hear wet shoes squeaking, wet cloth squelching under the following:]

Edward: In the movies, everyone gets away so fucking easy

[Sound: car engine close by, brakes engaged, engine idling. Sirens are closer.]

Edward: Headlights! On the trees above me, please let it be …

Voice: Scribble-scrabble in the dirt!
Fearful panting, jeerful janting.
When I catch you, it will hurt:
Leerful lanting, tearful ranting!

Edward: How does it feel about headlights, I wonder? Oh fuckno – it’s here, stripey pants – on the wall of the fountain – yeurks –

[Sound: Edward scrabbling to his feet, stumbling.]

Edward: Run fucking run, fucking run you pudgy fuck …

[Sound: running feet underneath the above line, then a trip and a fall into leaves and dirt.]

Edward: Graughhh!

[Sound: a voice, male, from the direction of the idling engine: You hear that?
Edward is struggling to his feet, cursing, breathing hard.
Another male voice from the direction of the engine: What, you think it’s the old Witch of Woodminster?]

Edward: They’re right up there. Here we go –

[Sound: THUD, Edward falling to his knees in leaves.]

Edward: Fuck. Tree. Head. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. … Bleeding … Oh God …

[Sound: stumbling steps through leaves, panting, wet shoes squelching with every step.
Second Male Voice from car: It’s an old wives’ tale, man.
Jingles and snapping branches overhead.
First Male Voice from car: So you say, but my friend said he saw her.
Idling engine and the voices in the car are getting louder as Edward moves up the slope.
Sirens are much closer.
Giggles and jingles and branches rustling, snapping overhead.
Second Male Voice from car: Okay, fine: what does she look like?
First Male Voice from car: Covered in leaves. He called her a bog hag.
Second Male Voice from car: (laughing) Bog hag? Your friend into D&D and shit?
First Male Voice from car: That’s the thing. He wasn’t. And he couldn’t sleep alone for two years after.]

Voice (whispering, with glee): I’m above you in the trees

Edward: Finally. Haugh, it’s the police. Get these leaves off my face.
Excuse me, Officers?

[Sound: from the right, Ma-MA! Ma-MAAAaaaaaeuuuurrrghllllthhhh …]

First Male: What the fuck – ?

Voice (whispering, with even more glee): Jingle branches, queurky queranches!

Edward: I need your help –

Second Male: The fuck is in that tree?!

[Sound: Jingling, giggling, thrashing branches.]

Voice (whispering, with way too much glee):Yous will not escape from mees … !

Edward: Offfficcc –

Voice (whispering, with what can only be called an excess of glee): Tingle tanches, tingle tee … hee … heeeeeee … !

[Sound: hacking, retching, the splashing of chunky vomit]

First Male: Outside your window!

Edward (groaning, doubled over in pain): Fuchhthasserbrilighhhh … [Fuck, that’s a bright light.]

First Male (simultaneous): Jesus Christ!

Second Male (simultaneous): Jesus Christ!

Edward: Glorphloorgh, phflorgleblorg … [I’m sorry about the vomit, but this is an emergency.]

Second Male: Bog Hag! Drive!

[Sound: Police vehicle thrown into gear, tires screaming as it speeds away; Second Male’s voice fading with distance as he bellows, What the hell, man, what the holy hell?]

Edward: No!

[Sound: Shambling, squishy footsteps as Edward runs after the police car.
Sirens are blaring, close.]

Edward: Fuck. My car. It’s in the lot at the top of the hill. Wait …

[Sound: squishing footsteps halt. A jingle and a giggle from behind us.]

Edward: … I smell … smoke.

[Sound: Firetruck hurtling down the road toward us, horn blaring, siren howling.]

Edward: Oh shit. I look like the guy who’d set a fire. In a bog. To roast toads.

[Sound: screaming squeal of brakes, footsteps on gravel as Edward leaps to the right. Siren cuts off, window rolls down, a voice speaks from the driver’s seat:]

Weedbeard: Edward. Get in. We don’t have much time —

[Audio cuts off. Battery dead.]