Saturday, November 3, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: “How do you put out a fire with a can of gasoline?” –a friend

“Make sure the can is dry,
then use the flat bottom to blot out the flames.
Like a human being,
even if it’s filled up with something useless or dangerous,
it can still be put to good use.”

Friday, November 2, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: So Open, He’s Inaccessible

Dear Mrs. Welsch,

This letter has nothing to do with our legal trouble. As of this morning I’ve informed the school that I won’t press charges and want them to do the same. You need to know that as upset as some people are about this, I’m still only interested in what’s best for Darius.

Darius is an unusual student. I’ve encountered very few boys like him, yet every one of them was exactly like Darius. Your son is so open about himself that he is inaccessible. When I attempt to correct his conjugation in French, he interrupts me and yells the completion of the correction, chastises himself, and apologizes to me. It is always in that order.

Multiple times during the week before the incident, I observed him approached by other boys for conversation, but once invited for an opinion, he announces his beliefs and sets about examining them aloud, not allowing the other boys to converse with him; if they get a word in edgewise, he course-corrects his monologue and continues on, refusing to let anyone else in. I understand why your husband was offended at my earlier recommendation that he see a councilor, though I assume he is receiving help at the present time.

Whatever the root of his issue, he is suffering from a radical self-definition that refuses social connection. Every day he builds walls of his inner thoughts around himself. He is too open to be accessible, and it is preventing him from learning in the classroom and connecting with his fellow children.

Monday I gave him a moleskin in which to write some of his thoughts; as of Thursday, he had filled less than half a page. His radical self-definition only occurs when people try to talk to him. That kind of silence when alone could be part of what’s wrong. And to the end of finding out what’s wrong, I thought you would find my account of Thursday afternoon useful.

When I arrived at the cafeteria, Darius was already insisting on buttering all the other boys’ toast, and was enthusiastically explaining how it is to be done. One boy, whom I will not name, didn’t enjoy this lecture and tried to pull his plate away early. I do not believe Darius swiped the knife at him intentionally, but was rather pulling himself away to disengage. He cut his own cheek and I could see there was a fair amount of blood. When I approached to examine the wound and take him to the Nurse’s, he began rambling about a history of anemia in your family. His tone was a warning, even though his words were merely explanatory. I disregarded and tried to apply a napkin to his cheek, which is when he stabbed my shoulder. The other boys tackled him shortly after that and the police were phoned.

I checked on him twice before the officers arrived. I’ve never seen him talking that fast; the second time, I couldn’t even make out the words. I believe he was explaining himself to the plastic model skeleton in the Nurse’s station.

I don’t know what is wrong with Darius. From what I’ve heard, he won’t be allowed back in public school for some time. It is my hope that you’ll find him what he needs. If he’s ever ready to come back, I’ll do what I can to help him.

Diane Caddell

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Consumed Podcast: Horror Edition

Delayed by long travel times and Hurricane Sandy, John and Max finally got together in the wee hours of Halloween to discuss some great and accessible Horror. In particular, three unusual takes on staples of dark fiction: serial killers, vampires, and ever-loving zombies.

First was The Perfect Host, starring David Hyde Pierce as the world's most polite hostage (and possibly a terrifying murderer). If that movie was too cheeky, then they moved to John Ajvide Lindqvist's breathtaking vampire novel, Let the Right One In, and its bar-setting film adaptations. The podcast closed with discussion of the phenomenon around The Walking Dead - the little indie comic that turned into a blockbuster TV show, a novel, two videogames, and quite possibly a movie, all in shockingly short order. The Walking Dead is all about human morality tested by the zombie apocalypse, and the boys discussed how Telltale's videogame adaptation relishes in putting the hard choices into your hands.

So, feel like a little scary chat? Then you can get the latest Consumed right here.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Devil Gone Missing, Redux

Pat shot out of his chair when Conner finally came home. The boy’s clothes were crusted in brown grime and he was breathing with heavy excitement.

“Where you been, boy? Gone for four days without a word!” Pat said, pulling him inside. Conner followed his old man’s lead to the kitchen with such a smile that Pat could barely bear it.

“You look devastated. Like you found Jesus.”

“Is he missing, too?” The boy sucked in air in little bursts, like reverse laughter. “I just spent days finding the devil. You’d have been so proud, Pat.”

He reversed-laughed some more and bent towards the sink. When the water ran over his hands the brown turned a little red and circled the drain. Pat’s eyes widened at the change of color.

“You did what, boy?”

Conner beamed at him from over his shoulder, scrubbing his hands with lava soap. “Finally cornered him at the dump. His tail stuck in an old box spring, and he’d dropped his pitchfork.”

“Boy?” Pat moved nearer to the door. “Boy, what did you do?”

Smoke began to rise from the sink.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Books That Scared Us

Earlier this month I asked any visitors who felt brave enough to share the fiction that had scared them the worst. There were a few take-backs, but ultimately ten readers and writers were willing to share titles. The first two were William Shakespeare and Michael Crichton, which tickled me, and it got weirder from there. As promised, here are all the fit-to-print entries, including my own confession of the book that got me to try to hide under my bed as a kid.

Jai Joshi said:Macbeth scared me quite a bit actually. That bit where Lady Macbeth asks night to "pall in the dunnest smoke of hell" so heaven can't "peep through the blanket of the dark" to stop her. *shiver* When Macbeth keeps seeing the knife in front of him is creepy. And when Lady Macbeth can't get the blood off her hands it just brings up all this icky scary feeling inside me.

Danielle La Paglia said:
I didn't read a lot as a kid, but in high school and junior high I read a lot of Poe and even a little King, but neither ever gave me nightmares. A lot of movies have, but the first book that did was actually Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. There was something about being stalked through the jungle and then when they found out the T-Rex could swim, it was all down hill from there. As far as I can remember, there have only been two other books to ever give me nightmares and those two I read in the last three years.

Sarah Ann said:

Feast by Graham Masterton freaked me out and scared me the most. People chopping off their own body parts, then cooking them and eating them... That novel pops into my head frequently.

Jessica said:
I really like And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie and We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. Both are wonderfully creepy. Lots of Michael Crichton for scary parts (Sphere, Congo, Jurassic Park). The basement scene in The Road by Cormac McCarthy. The final story in Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes. The one that used to give me nightmares as a child was Tailypo. My mother had to ban the librarian from letting me check it out every few weeks. And, of course, the Scary Stories trilogy for the pictures.

Erin Cole said:
This may sound weird, but the ending of Shirley Jackson's, "The Haunting of Hill House," freaked me out, one of those punch-like endings. More obvious though, was "The Relic," by Preston and Child and Dean Koontz's "Phantoms." The build-up in some of those scenes was intense.

The Elephant's Child couldn't help harkening back to television:
Books I could cope with. The early Dr Who with the Dalects terrified me. Exterminate. Now I think that expression has real charm. I read 'We have always lived in the Castle' recently. Not a comfortable read.

Vanessa Grasso said:
"Harold" from the Scary Stories trilogy scared the ever-loving bejesus out of me, and still does, if I think about it hard enough. The illustrations in those books were scary enough, but something about the way this scarecrow came to life slowly with nothing but hatred and malice inside of him... and then what he does to the farmers... ugh, I totally won't sleep tonight. THE WORST. [Also], Sphere by Michael Crichton actually freaked my shit out pretty badly, but I can't remember why (I think it may have been the jellyfish scene, actually). And the raptors in Jurassic Park (the book)... when they're besieging the compound towards the end of the book and EVERYONE is getting eaten... their intelligence... I dunno, that scene was about a thousand times scarier to me than the kitchen scene in the movie.

Sonia Lal said:
Brave New World was creepy, yeah. Very creepy.

Your host, John Wiswell, said:
Some Horror got to me at some points, but nothing so affected me as Gandalf's apparent death in Fellowship of the Ring. I was visiting my grandmother's house, and had the book out after bed time. Part was that I read it too young for my own safety, either in my early teens or before that. Part was that I'd never envisioned fiction ever killing the powerful, wise mentor like that. Obi Wan had died, but in a brave puff of Jedi smoke. Gandalf, who was essentially Merlin and every other wizard in history to me, was dragged into the deepest shadows of the world by a whip and the foulest monster Hell ever spat out. It was fear of the dark, fear of falling, fear of losing guidance, and breaking what I saw as symbols of safety and empowerment all in the same couple pages. I tried to hide under the bed, but the guest mattress at Grandma's was too low to the ground.

Last and most pressing is Katherine Hajer'a description of a comic to which she can't recall the title:
This is terrible, because I remember the story very vividly, but don't know the title or character names (never mind the author). Okay: I was about eight, and my dad would let me pick out a comic book to get if he was in the smoke shop getting cigarettes (they had an amazing, rotating rack of comic books near the counter. I became a Stan Lee fan in that shop. But I digress.).

I never followed series properly, just got whatever had the coolest cover that month. So I wound up with some stuff that would probably be very rare and esoteric if I had been allowed to keep any of it.

And there was this one: the heroine, the title character of the comic, was on this SF world that was sort of like Earth's Dark Ages, in that she was an outlaw and it was a dangerous, backwards place to live. So her and her band of outlaws are always on the move. Apparently she always had a different outfit every issue. In the one I had, she wore a skintight camo catsuit with only one sleeve and one leg (yeah, totally practical).

They came upon this castle run by a beautiful and autocratic queen who always wore a golden mask over half her face. They are welcomed, but in the course of the stay the heroine and the queen come into conflict... in the end the heroine throws the queen over a staircase or something, and the mask comes off...

The artwork of the queen's burned, destroyed face gave me nightmares for weeks, yet I couldn't stop looking at it. The story had built her up so credibly as this regal-yet-cruel character, and the anguish the injury must have caused her was so palpable for me. It was so, so haunting, and all the more horrifying to have all this sympathy for this not-so-nice dictator.

The following issue the heroine was wearing this pure white disco outfit (remember, outlaw on Dark Ages-ish science fiction world -- totally impractical). Even though it looked cool, I stuck to the X-Men or something, because I didn't want to get that freaked out again.

Sorry, wrote you a very long answer to a short question. Hope that's okay.

Wish I could find out what the comic was!

Do you recognize Katherine's comic? Or do you have a particular piece of fiction that got under your skin? Share with us in the comments!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Hole of Evil

“The President says evil will always be a part of the world. We can intervene, arrest, try, analyze, medicate, rehabilitate and execute. No smart person is saying you can't do anything about any of the evil in the world. The President and I both recognize evil, and what you can do about it, which is why he hired me.

“Evil will persist, because it's a part of us, and its causes are so often so easy. That's where I come in. Where you can't eradicate it, socially and chemically, legally and ethically, I will dig my hole. I will dig deep and long, and erect walls thick and unyielding, and wrap their bonds around the vile. They will not see daylight or innocents. It will be my life's last work. The President’s work is to send as few souls to me as he can. My hope is that you will keep him honest.”

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: The Dark Man, Interrupted

“The Dark Man rose from the roiling ocean. Seaweed dangled from his many ears, and in his left hand he clutched a suffocating fish. All The Dark Man looked upon was grim--

“No, I don’t mean he was black. If he was black, I’d say he was black. The color of his skin doesn’t even matter. The guy has a bunch of ears. Listen.

“For you see, The Dark Man ruined the ground beneath his feet. It was tainted, soured, and all civilization within the reach of the sound of his footfalls trem--

“He was not Hispanic! His darkness has nothing to do with ethnicity. This is clearly a spiritual darkness.

“When the men of the world at last drew courage to confront The Dark Man, he raised his heinous gaze, and it fell upon their works, and their works--

“It is not like Black Comedy. He is neither ‘dark’ as in African nor ‘dark’ as in Coen Brothers comedy. It’s ‘dark’ as in Satanic! You know what?

“The Dark Man walked back into the ocean and never came back. Nobody knew why he came out. The end.

“Oh. Oh, you liked the ending? Well… thank you. I thought it was clever, too.”
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