All posts by jvarina

I'm trying to take pictures of God; He's everywhere and we've done such a fantastic job of not seeing him. If you're here then look closely, and you'll find something about yourself in these images.

The Art of Destruction

*Author’s Note*

I am steadily navigating my way through my second novel, and this journey has proven to be more intense than the previous; but, my progress is constant, no matter how few words are written per day: the story is still being told. I’m keeping the details of this second plot close to my chest, along with the title, but that does not mean I am unwilling to share an excerpt. I will give no background or foreground knowledge about the story, I will simply leave this task to your own imagination. And then, when you’ve finally forgotten about it, I will have completed this second work. (also excuse any grammar errors, this is still draft I).

“What must a man do when he has become tired of everything, but himself? Does he spend his days shamelessly entertaining the dull crowd of fodder, or does he disappear into the chasms of his own being, becoming a recluse and myth in the process?” Baudelaire spoke as he lit the oil lamp that hung in the corner of his sculpting studio. It was a lavish construct, crafted by an architect who was known for his appreciation for space and silence. Various works lined the walls: a replica of William Blake’s David and the Dragon was above the furnace, a scroll that had a Chinese character written in calligraphy, and two bastard swords that had been shipped from Italy. His residence was a den of relics, pieces made by the hands of daring artists who ventured beyond the conventions; however, they did not come close to the majestic collection of sculptures that he’d created.

Baudelaire ran his finger along the bridge of Pope Paralaxiu, the supreme religious leader in his generation, and blew away the marble dust. “Another completed model, and yet I have been unable to shake this stirring in my soul. Why does my heart not well up as it did when my hands first took hold of the chisel?” On his carved desk were various tools that he used to sculpt, and pinned on the wall, above the counter, was his first hammer. Nostalgia beckoned his attention to the metallic tool. “Ever since my boyhood, I have done nothing but create. Sculptures and paintings, critical essays and discussions, and yet, what have they brought me? Where is the joy that is supposed to exist at the end of an arte? Have I been chosen to be deprived of it, malnourished from this nutrient that my soul craves in order to survive?” Next to the toolkit was a leather pouch the Church’s messenger had delivered; Baudelaire noted that religious men tended to carry gold faster than they did the gospel. “And this,” he opened to reveal both jewels and gold, “are men foolish enough to believe I create in order to amass a fortune of these arbitrary trinkets? Coins and gems, and coins and gems, and COINS AND GEMS! That’s all they wish to reward me with rather than…well I doubt they will be able to reward me with anything that can satiate my restlessness,” he confessed to himself. The flame flickered and plume of sawdust danced in the embers. “I am wasted here! This life is but a fool and it is because society has no desire to do anything, but consume. They care not for intellectualism or philosophy, or even how to become a human being. No, they are solely focused on the productions and consumption, turning us artists into beasts of burden who must birth the objects of their desire. How many eyes have I molded that are more authentic than the irises of those who gaze upon them?” There was an angered tone in his voice which caused him to reach for the bottle of fermenting wine that he’d left under his desk. Removing the cork with his molars, Baudelaire recklessly took a swig that could’ve cured dehydration in a dying man. His lips were removed from the bottle, along with the hammer that was on the wall. “And what am I left with, but marble and blood?”

Suddenly, the hammer came crashing down on the desk and rocked the frame, tipping the pouch over. The mass of gems spilled and Baudelaire swatted them away with his hands. Emeralds and coins went flying across the floor as if a star had just exploded and released cosmic shrapnel into space. “Well I say damn the trinkets! Damn the constructs of this world!” Again, the hammer came crashing down against the desk until he turned the head on the bust of the Pope. Soon, pieces of marble were scattered across the floor and the skull of the sculpture sunk into itself. A thick cloud of sediments and dust escaped from the remains, and Baudelaire bared a devilish grin. “They are not aware that artists are not just creators…the live for destruction too!” His aggression brought the weapon down, repeatedly, on the face until it was reduced to a pile of smoothened rubble. One of the eyes had been tossed towards the painting on the wall, and Baudelaire rushed towards it, flailing madly. He tore at the piece, and sparked the furnace to life, by tossing the oil lamp into it. Now he was surrounded by darkness, and the only source of illumination was from the mouth of this oven; but the shadows did not prevent him from stopping his rage. “Countless days I have spent shouldering myself to this society in hopes of living comfortably. I have put my own person aside just to enter their realm of reality. But I dare to take him back. No, they will not have this essence of me, they must not! I will leave, and erase my name from this world. I will become the myth that men whisper to each other with envy. I will show them…that to live as one’s own self is a far greater luxury than the royal jewels of a corrupt court. And if I do not…then let my soul be eternally tortured by the curse of feigning an existence. I have wasted enough of my precious ego trying to craft my ideas into tangible constructs, just so men and women can criticize it for not meeting a noble standard.”

The furnace burned brightly for Baudelaire had cast nearly all of his possessions into the flame while shrieking. He took one more, drowning swig of the bottle to drain the wine, and he tossed the glass into the oven, which exploded upon contact. A few stray embers escaped into the engulfing darkness, and the madman dropped his hammer on the floor; the resounding chime of the metal brought him out of his berserk-like rage into reality. Into the destroyed studio that had once been decorated with the most majestic of man’s creations. “It is pointless to change the world. It is pointless to attempt a coup of society’s consciousness. No more…I will resist no more. I will depart. Leave this existence where it stands and forget all of this had ever happened. After all, death is the only release from this suffering.” He brought the chisel that had been with him since the beginning to his wrist. The jagged edge nicked his skin and instantly drew blood.

Amidst the wreckage he laid, with his palms coated in the dust of the shattered sculptures. The gnawing flame had tended into something more docile. A stray beam of the dawn infiltrated the dark expanse, bringing with it a faint light and warmth to the phantoms that had comforted the deranged man throughout the night. His tired eyes followed the sunbeam from the port of entry-a cracked window he purposely never fixed-towards something positioned on a column. Baudelaire rose from the rubble, dusted off the destruction, and guided himself to the surviving piece. His eyes widened, “what can I say about this moment that will do it justice? Indeed, if I were a man who did not believe in the power of fate, I would truly mark this off as a sign from the divine.” He removed the chisel from the base of his wrist and set it in his pocket, freeing his hands so they could tacitly inspect the lone statue in front of him. “But…I am not sure if this is a smile from fate. Could it be something more? Why, out of everything that was destroyed tonight, did this manage to survive the chaos? This is by no means a coincidence and, perhaps, it is a possible answer to the questions that plague my mind.” His hands traced along a smooth jawline that was defined like a majestic cliff. The lips that were placed in the center were slightly large, but thin enough to stay still when listening.  “I will only…” eyes sharp as arrowheads, “believe in…” his eyes. “You.” Fragments of soon-to-be-forgotten figures were thrown across the floorboards, all lying underneath the mold of his own face. Although, it has been near the other pieces, it had somehow avoided the destruction. “Only I remain.” With this realization his knees buckled, and tears streamed from his eyes as the chisel rolled out of his hand. The rage that had fueled his rampage was gradually substituted by exhaustion; he now lay flat on the floor, devoid of any sensation. Unconsciously, as if being controlled by the statue, Baudelaire raised his hand toward the crack of light and attempted to snatch the divinity, disguised as particles of dust, just as a man does when he is finally himself.

Gangrene

Ein

“Grand Wizard Zaltua, I fear…that we’ve made a grave mistake.” A stream of white static ran across the laptop screen, distorting the image of a young, raven haired woman.

“Servant of almighty Saturn, what has your mind troubled?” Zaltua inquired as he cautiously leaned forward into his computer screen. “Come share with me what has you wretched in agony, and let us find some sort of understanding.” The feedback in his voice rang through the speakers, filling the man’s office with a mighty echo. Expansive textbooks with enlarged Latin symbols covered the table, black robes were cast along the damp floorboards while empty picture frames hung along the chipped walls. Thirteen thin black candles had been arranged in a near perfect circle; the majority of them had been melted, exposing a charred wick. The room smelled of body odor, rotting fruit, and mercury, a common (but toxic) ingredient in many necromantic rituals.  Zaltua directed himself to the left side of his display and noticed that he was receiving another call.

“Wait. Malach is on the other line, I’m going to transfer him to our call.” The Grand Wizard moved his mouse towards the green camera button and double-tapped his device.

“Malach…he’s calling you?” the woman asked in near disbelief. Her face alone made the Grand Wizard question his previous choice as the video feed from Malach appeared. The normally robust, mid-twenties man was now a skeleton; his fragile frame was beyond anemic and there were mustard yellow patches on his skin.

“Grand Wizard,”the frail man spoke into his microphone.

“Malach, what has happened to you? Why…do you look-”

“Malach! What have you done? The police are out looking for you,” the woman on the opposing screen shouted. The Grand Wizard scratched the arch of his curly eyebrow and waited for her to finish ranting.

“Bezel, was it? We are not personally acquainted, but I am curious as to why you contacted me and not Malach as we intended. I’m hoping that he will be able to dispel this confusion.”

“Grand Wizard, I’m asking you to help us because we’ve gotten ourselves into a dire situation.” The woman’s face was distorted by the fluctuating static. Her features were plain and her cheeks were free from any foundation. Her brown eyes shone like those who still exuded youth, yet they were also darkened and full of impending doom. “Malach…you’ve got to get away”

The enigmatic man spoke into the web camera, his rancid breath fogging the lens. “Nonsense. Grand Wizard, allow me to introduce, septum Bezel. She is somewhat new to our craft, but has shown great potential.”

“Malach, please…” the young woman begged. The Grand Wizard found it difficult to juggle between the two video streams, while he impatiently waited for their intimate conversations to invite him.

“Two completed seances, the conjuring of a familiar, there are even rumors that she summoned a succubus to perform…certain services,” Malach teased, although his sickening frame made the flirtation seem cynical.

“Let’s not forget you Malach. Aren’t you the Midwestern man of Macabre? Your ambition carried our teachings to the internet, now the entire world is able to witness our arts.” Bezel shot her comment back across the screen with elven-like accuracy.

“Your praises are welcomed but thin. I have no need for such titles and trivial matters,” Malach curtly remarked. He adjusted the black device, changing the angle of the webcam. His fingernails were raw and black from being gnawed, and his pale wrist was hairless and thin to the point where the veins were exposed.

“My liege, my teacher, I must confess to you.”

“Malach what troubles you?” Zaltua inquired while he adjusted the brightness on his computer display.

“The truth, how blinding it is. What I have just done will shape the nature of the world, erecting a new pillar of society with necromancy etched at its peak. I have accomplished a feat that none in this age have been able to attempt. I do believe that I have been chosen to usher in a new world. And there is no room for false prophets.”

“Then it was a success…” the young woman quietly muttered into her microphone, but the words  were lost due to the poor connection.

“Malach, what has gotten ahold of you? You’re not making any sense.” The Grand Wizard then turned his attention to Bezel, “and why have you yet to tell me anything?”

“My apologies. I…I am still shaken to see Malach on the other line. He’s jeopardizing his safety. However, I digress. Grand Wizard, have you watched the news at all today?”

“No, I was occupied for most of the day,” he confessed.

“The local news is abuzz with a story, our story; however, they will only present facts that are alternative to my version. It is only by this version will you be able to understand what has befallen us in Lindsborg. Malach…do you wish to share it?” Bezel asked while she positioned herself in her desktop chair.

“No, I will let you speak. I’m going to listen to pass the time,” Malach stated as he devilishly grinned at the video stream belonging to the Grand Wizard. His eyes shone as if he were content to patiently wait while she shared her story.

Bezel exhaled and removed her hands from her desk. “Well, Grand Wizard let me to tell you my truth…”

I, myself am a native of Kansas, however, I hail from the outskirts of Wichita. Being the daughter of farm hands I was blessed with an uncanny strength and vigor, my mother often commended me on the passion of my spirit. The agricultural lifestyle was mentally exhausting, despite what others may say. One must remember everything from the harvest moon to the distance between planted seeds as well as the rain and dry seasons that happen all too often in the Midwest. Although quite handy with the hoe, unfortunately I was not a stellar student. After graduating with one cord (for what, I do not know), I performed various odd jobs and peculiar tasks in order to help my family with their bills; this monotonous routine continued until I met Malach this previous summer.

I’m sure that you are familiar with Malach’s past, but for the sake of this story allow me to grace your ears with his origins. He was conceived to be a drifter; born to a carnival worker who traveled throughout the Midwest. His mother died during childbirth and some blame the doctor who oversaw the delivery (those in poverty usually have poor health-care). This sudden hardship left Jeremy Thomas, Malach’s father, in a tight bind while he raised the boy. Thomas was an entertainer of  little fame in the circus industry; but there are rumors that he included young Malach in his strange performance, which some say included rope bindings, searing fire, and the blood of bats. Whatever account you choose to believe is strictly contingent upon your own desire. As the generations changed and people became socially conscious, less individuals visited the freak-show, leading to the eventual closing of the carnival. Malach and his illiterate father were forced to temporarily settle down in the town of Lindsborg, Kansas. Lacking any real education save for the skills he learned while on the road, his father had a great difficulty finding a stable job, pushing them to the brink of poverty. This streak was broken when one day, by fate or luck (whichever is your preference), his dad was hired. The job? Working as the caretaker of a morgue. Since Malach had grown up around the circus and had no knowledge of public school system, his natural assignment was to aid his single parent. Together, their days were spent embalming the recently deceased, stuffing ashes into elaborate vases, dressing the corpses for the wake, all while maintaining the integrity of the county morgue. Being only a teenager at the time, Malach was not allowed to directly handle the bodies; however, tragedy struck again and his father became ill. The city officials permitted Malach to take over his position since he’d been trained (plus so few were willing to stomach the stench of embalming fluid). Now, exactly when Malach decided to give his soul to the eternal abyss I am not entirely sure, but he has mentioned to me that his choice was based on the failing health of his sole parent. For months, he watched his sickly father toil with the dead; and sure enough, he was buried on the boy’s nineteenth birthday. Since that fateful day, Malach has been a dutiful servant of Saturn, furiously studying the arcane arts in hopes to become a Grand Wizard. It would be another four years before our paths crossed in the most unusual of circumstances.

During the summer, I managed to pick up a new position of employment that seemed to fit my lifestyle. I’d only begun dabbling in dark magic when I was hired at the apothecary. While working as a clerk in the local herbal shop (the only shop for miles), I was tending to some freshly grown rosemary, when he entered the store. Upon first glance, I would have never guessed that he was an apprentice of the arcane for he wore jeans, a plain black t-shirt, and his face was free from any tattoos or piercings; one would even consider him somewhat handsome. We exchanged the usual customer/clerk banter until it came time for him to procure the items on his list. I immediately recognized the peculiarity of the objects requested-for they lacked practical or culinary use. The items included worms wood, frog’s breath, nightshade, a clove of yellow garlic, lamb’s ear, and the petals of a black dahlia. At the time, I myself was still scratching the surface of the powers of Saturn, but I was informed enough to engage him in conversation regarding the black dahlia-it is the ideal vessel for one to use in binding a departed soul to this world. Naturally, my bond to him was solidified; a man who, like me, was no stranger to death, willing to entreat with the dark wonders. I considered him to be the ideal magician, an alchemist unafraid to conjure creations from the netherworld. How refreshing it had been to meet another; for too long I believed myself to be the only seer within one hundred miles. Our companionship was instant, and the two of us spent the entirety of the summer performing rituals and recording them to be broadcasted. And thus began our journey as neo-necromancers.

I’m aware that most tales of the macabre begin in the bellows of a thundering storm; however, this story starts underneath the Midwestern sun in the town of Lindsborg, Kansas. Fall was evident everywhere one turned: the color of the leaves had transformed from green to orange and brown, diesel tractors hummed while lands lay bare from harvested crops, and Main Street was decorated with turkey feathers and images of pilgrims. Thanksgiving was but a week away, and the entire town was preparing for the fellowship and feast. With a population of less than three thousand, this place had all the essentials of a small town. We lived in the Rust Belt and streets were lined with old buildings, the relics of the steel industry. There was only one of each civic institution, one police station, one library, one hospital which only had two floors; we were lucky enough to have a movie theater. Although the majority of Lindsborg foundations were eroding, it was the people that carried the essence of life. Smiles and waves were exchanged upon passing, and the churches were always packed on Sundays. Nearly all the townsfolk were acquainted with each other, although, we were considered outcasts from their sappy society (and for good reason).

After successfully completed the conjuring of a bat familiar on Sunday, Malach and I decided to return back to his residence and recharge our energies. For the past month, we toiled to gather the ingredients and perform the spell; under the waxing moon of the previous night, our combined efforts were rewarded. The fresh remains of the bat reanimated and took flight for a few moments, before plummeting to its grave. Astounded, I watched the impossible become real; however, in my partner I could sense a senseless anxiety plagued him, seeing as the assigned tasks were somewhat simple to his standards. Malach had years of experience over me, yet he was tasked with the apprentice-level spells to perform. For the past month, he’d been wanting to expand his level and begin his Abysmal Trials-our nightmarish ordeal to become a Grand Wizard-but he’s had little chance to practice at that high of a level. Knowing this, I could only stay so excited as the black leathery wings of the bat finally stopped beating against the soaked earth.

When we finally reached his home (which was a studio apartment), there was a young boy sitting at Malach’s doorstep with a stick in hand. To distract himself, the boy was poking at something black and formless that was on the ground. As we approached him, our natural human instincts arose, and I tried to locate a parent in the surrounding area; but, before either of us could address him we were halted what we saw. The object that he’d been toying with was a bloated, dead, black rat. Maggots and gram-negative bacteria had eaten through the creature’s flesh, giving the unsuspecting passersby an uncomfortable view of its spoiled innards. And the boy’s repetitive, and I dare say, joyful tapping of the branch against the deceased beast made the cold run through my bones. Strangely enough, the boy who looked no older than seven wore a magnificent garb; jewels aligned his puffed shoulders, mushroom-colored boots shone in the light, and his pants were neatly tailored to fit his frame. But…what I remember most vividly was the shape of his pupils, they engulfed the entirety of the young boy’s eyes. And how black they were, darker than any new-moon night that I’d witnessed in my twenty-four years of life. There was something…sinister, about the young boy. His presence alone had intensified the pulsing of my veins, and my vision became hypersensitive, turning the sublime sunset into a kaleidoscope of twilight terrors. As we neared him, I caught sight of a strange object sitting next to him. A box, a package roughly the size of a small cabinet drawer. It was made out of cardboard, yet it was soggy and there were also black ten-gallon trash bags tied around it. There were recent reports that orphans had been seeking homes, but judging by his stance I knew the boy had not come to seek refuge. The enigmatic child cocked his head to the side and greeted me with an ivory white smile; how perfectly defined his teeth.

Malach was the first to approach him, for it was his apartment; the child lifted the medium-sized package off of the sidewalk, placing it in his hands. “This is the will of your father,” is all that he said before skipping down the sidewalk, eerily dancing towards the outskirts of town.

As he faded from our sight, the bindings that had been around the base of my jugular were loosened, and my vision returned back to normal; and yet, I’ve been unsuccessful in removing his grin from my memory. The rat lay on the sidewalk still, with the boys stick impaled within the stomach. Upon entering the apartment, the first thing Malach did was unwrap the package; had his father’s will finally been found? Although he’s rarely discussed it, Malach had somewhat of a disagreement with his father before the man’s expected death. I assumed this to be part of his driving force in his journey with the dark arts, as the loss of a family member can make one resort to a new reality. He tore through the cardboard while I contemplated the origins of the delivery boy. His late father had indeed worked in the circus business, and it was true that there were freaks among men (depending on how one defines man); but this boy was no carny, he lacked any desire to entertain. How long had he been waiting here for us anyways? Scraps of the package were thrown across the furnished apartment and Malach beckoned me to join him at the brown dining room table. We pushed the circular placemats to the side, making room for the object that had been gifted to us, and together prepared to uncover this mystery.

A book, or rather a grimoire. The binding was wrapped in a splotchy gray, self-lubricating substance, giving the pale tome the appearance of lungs excised from a chronic smoker, and around the edges were the objects that resembled human incisors. What exactly had Malach’s father given him? A flaccid maggot crawled out from underneath book onto the table and I quickly swatted it away; it was customary for old texts to house insect eggs, especially if they’d been in storage. My insides lurched at the sight; although I dabble in necromancy, I was never a fan of maggots. As Malach opened the cover, a foul stench came out from the pages. Typically, his apartment smelled of fried bacon, scented candles, and herbs; that was all replaced by the putrid odor that resembled what one would experience while trekking through a peat bog. On the inside of the cover were two feathers, bound at the quills, that had a congealed liquid at the tip. Being an expert in alchemical ingredients and apothecaries, I immediately recognized it as the feather belonging to the white vulture; yet, I’d never heard of a single spell that required the use of such a prized item. Some spend their entire life without ever laying eyes upon one, and here we were, with two in our possession. Next to the feathers was a small rectangular container that held a jagged, cast-iron, black needle; there was also a strange ring with a gray jewel in its hilt. While I inspected these peculiar contents, Malach hurriedly flipped through the pages until he momentarily paused with his finger hanging off one of the ‘teeth’.

“The pages, they’re blank. All of them.”

Continue reading Gangrene

Hope in an Abandoned Home

Thirty Pieces of Silver – Antonio Smith

Back in February, I collaborated with a talented NC artist, Antonio, to create this music video. We combined our crafts, his words and my vision, and this was the product. For this week’s Terror Tuesday, I plan to show this video along with what happened during the shoot. The short story below is an entry from my journal, that was written shortly after experiencing the fear associated with creating this work of art. The video matches up with the theme of this month, and if you’ve seen it, then watch it again and try to find a new interpretation of it. Enjoy.

Based on a “True” Story

I am here again, trapped within an abandoned house with the joker, or rather his reflection in the form of a man with tattooed hands (and yes, love is this word). We were ready to shoot the music video we scheduled at the beginning of the year. And, what a day, what a glorious day. A dance recital in the woods, sun setting as we capture the releasing of a spirit that has taken root in all of us. There is more than eyes and hands in this work, our very lives, the fabric of this branded existence, the dream after one thousand sleepless nights. We are invested to the point that the sentinels who guard the hourglass of Midas, momentarily quit their posts to allow us thieves draped deception to rob them blind, leaving only an oil soaked feather. I damn near say that the world’s axis tilted a degree, gripped by the suffocating feeling that has parasitically latched onto our own golden moment…

…It is so cold that I can see the dying air escaping my pleural cavity with ease, the dust from the strange rubbish twirling in the flashlight beam. It is odd, the material that we stand upon is most bizarre. At first glance, one expects to experience the same phenomenon as taking combat boot to desert sand. However, our first journey to this demolished home dispelled our foolhardy hypothesis. The rubble was, honestly, soft, gentle like clouds; but the tarnish below is far from the graces of heaven. I imagine this to be the place of a ghost, not of the dead kind, but the living who have decided that disappearing is better than a decision. Gone, so far removed from the eyes of a bittersome society that milk cartons remain unchanged for there is no hope in discovery. We are nefarious trespassers, bringing our self-centered art to a domain of imminent despair. Who were we to foolishly encroach upon this shambling foundation, as if it were vacant? Upon first entry, I knew in an instant that this house had something of a beat beating in the desolate closet.

What an ugly shade of pink the walls is, the peeling of chips long untouched reminds one of scabs upon the knee. And here we stand, those who are too fearless in our pursuit to pursue and question our invasion.

 

Until her voice broke through the shivering darkness, “What is that on the wall?”

 

What wall? There should be no wall that is unfamiliar to my eye. I recognize these walls for they have graced my sight twice, and you know what they say about the third time. We pause, my camera flashing. It reflects, and the Joker keeps asking to break the mirror. My attention back on the wall, and this note. The letters are illegible unless one crosses into a risky threshold, choosing details over safety. We peer at the parchment that has been, admittedly, carefully positioned upon the wall. A tick, a scratch, there is a mischievous sensation upon my brow as my lips curl to read the lettering.

“God has given us two ears-” this alone was enough to make me retreat to the uncharted forest in my mind. I dared not allow my creativity and curiosity the best of my rational mind, forgoing a magnified view of the sheet, allowing the Lovecraftian unknown to stay at a distance. Insanity besets those shamelessly brave enough to know. Leaving the note, she suddenly remarks, “there’s another.”

Now I am bound by the principles of man to venture into the realm of shadows, aimlessly wandering the cosmos for some degree of truth. I pause the right brain and allow its contrast to tarry me through the Styx, serving as an eternally dependent Charon, ferrying me through this phantom permanence. This note is bubbly and childish as if it were lazily drawn on the picnic table in the blood orange haze of summer; and, yet this is hung at a height that no sapphire-eyed youth could reach. No, this is the working of an adult. Neatly hung at such a fright-filled height was the name, Felicia. A star decorating the “I”.

A pointless phrase escaped my chapped lips, the Joker well aware of our situation. Change has always been the hope of man. It is in his hastily constructed will where this belief originates, and here, I pray, it takes its last breath. To hope for change is the existence of the enslaved for its tangible as the gut-wrenching apprehension that now has wrapped its icy whip upon my ankles. See, we were experiencing a moment of so-called “change”, and the desire to escape through the shattered window exponentially increased. Where was hope, written by hands enshrouded by blood and shadow, upon the wall where the ghostly message had been etched? No, hope had no domain here, bound to a rusted chain that once obliterated the proud spirits of my precursors. How can one aspire to have hope while being strung by the hands of the faceless puppeteers, the slightest twitch of fingers has the power to divert the direction of my fate?

It is inevitable, and the witching hour draws near; yet, this cabin has us trapped in an illusion, unaware of the surrounding nature. Tension has us gripped and my passion dares me to throw my hands in hopes of pressing forward. Even after use, I come no closer to understanding hope, but it has saved me again.

We begin and the red sphere floating in the corner of my eye, serving as a necessary metronome. We film, and create, and shot, drones to the hive mind of art, risking our beings in the pursuit of a sealed truths. Only our hands have the power to restrain this horror, but we are unable to undertake a task; we are but guppies on a galleon. He begins, lips moving in the boreal night, but words he does not speak. Indiscriminate slurs, a grave-bound grunt spoken by a writhing tongue. And I feel the curiosity of all those who will view this as if one member of the audience was tasked with being the only visual sensation; a theater full of obscure faces will use this as law. I am serving as the owl of Athena, providing convex visions to those who were too indisposed to explore this derelict residence.

As he performs, and the pressure of his spirit sets the room ablaze, I am reminded of the curse. The hex has succeeded, turning my attention away from reality, tossing my mind into a gutter of primordial ooze and corrosive ambition. I am the wall, the very point where the nail has been amended to the wrist upon the back of Felicia’s canvas. Did I just hear a twig break under the nonexistent feet or is the blood rushing through my jugular misplaced? The pulse of my viscera cannot be contained by elastic veins alone, spilling art into the apprehension. My vertebrae have been reaching the qualms of a surrender, each click, and sense filling my eyes with the spectrum of light.

Will the floor break, finding my foot in some body-filled basement only to become the next stiff addition?

Maybe the beast that breathes in the thicket, behind the window in the eastern corner, will ignite their inhuman muscles. I can see the glorious moment now, a monster with snarling teeth, drenched in the fresh kill, will appear. In a flash, he will have torn through my abdomen with one precise swipe of his jagged claws. Oh, how foul it will be to witness the splattering of my organs, however, they say that disembowelment is in this season. Lying on the soft earth, half the man I used to be, I’ll notice the striking quality of his objects of terror. The bulbous nose that resembles a cliff above putrid waters, the ivory bloodlust that has materialized in his pupils; how they reflected the dying light. And his jaw, how shapely defined as if Michelangelo was commissioned by the commander of the Ninth circle, and given inspiration one final time to chisel centuries of undiagnosed violence and maddening thirst for my erythrocytes into this panther-like mandible. The last thing I may very well see may be the foamed jaws of the beast of Revelations hibernating in the home we have invaded.  They say hope is found on the inside, maybe I will locate it among my distended cecum?

Alas, that was only a noise, and so far as modern science has extensively proven, noises are unable to disfigure the body such as mine. The Joker continues his hysterical rituals, my camera can no longer predict his movements. Erratic and spastic as if a queen ant had entered his chest, and burrowed into his ribs; there she laid ten-thousand eggs, all circulating through the four-chambered dungeon of crimson walls; and after being carried around to his appendages, they all decide to hatch and gnash at his tissue. Moving in ways that no normal human should contort, I am unable to predict him with my third eye (camera).

Now, it is me and this newly birthed creation, standing in the corner of a grimy room; but we may have been in limbo. My friend, who I’ve shared memories and substance with has disappeared beneath the finger-painted makeup. In his representation, physically; but, is a spirit that has been bound to a cursed object.

Ah, the rose. It makes sense, with the bottle half-empty. A bowl of packaged fruit waiting to be drained, the smears across his neck and mouth. This…this is a blood sacrifice, and I’ve been deemed worthy to die in this archaic ritual. Since before the fall of Jericho, there have been sacrifices requiring a living host who will face the end with hope.

Again, there is that damn word, how it pollutes my mental capacity for rationality. To lose that would mean to fail to find Rand’s individuals, yet it poisons me. Noxious fumes and toxins travel, disguised as particles of chance occurrences.

 

Why do I continue to have hope in the face of utter terror?

 

Do I not feel the bindings of my wrist, the pain that has yet to save me from this illusion. It is considered deprave to dream for something so impossible as hope, only the wise men and alchemist understand its working, and I am neither.

This golem in front of my lens has condemned me to this brief instant, altering the flow of the Nile, only for a moment. We exist as one, shared by two: source and projection. Each providing the devil with some contract written in the dark, by ink from a leaking thumb. When did we barter our souls, was this the unknown entry fee, the ante to bet on this moment. The candle in front of his blackened lips has finally burned out, and I am returned to the real. It seems that my hand was possessed by this idea, causing a Gothic style to dip from my dying pen. I am returned to the bar, the comfort of light upon my neck. But there is a fragment of me, still locked within that infernal moment, for upon completion is where things turned.

Our video called for an assortment of props: a series of Frank Sinatra records, the torso of a jester toy, wick and spark, a rose that reached the fragility of the end. But none were as fascinating, and oddly placed, than the mirror.

Positioned in the corner, in front of a child’s sock, it was erected. Angled as a corpse would be if it rose from the dark soul, its appearance is enthralling. Mesmerized by the reflection of this broken foundation, who knew such a beauty could thrive under forgotten objects? It was the production teams designation to leave the mirror for this so-called Felicia. If she were a spirit, I do believe this mirror has the power to return flesh to her, at the expense of divine currency. Surely, you don’t behave such blasphemy at free. Now, if our missing hostess happened to retain some degree of her assigned humanity, then this will serve as a portal to her pain. In her reflection may she finds suffering because only suffering has the power to remind the unconscious that life has an energy, a force that is beyond the measure of man’s greatest inventions, the gears will never understand the guarantee of the grave. A mirror, what change will this bring to this place?

Will…will I dare not utter this, for we are still under the derelict roof, but perhaps we can connect telepathically, for our values have been expressed through this ordeal. I apologize for this vain intrusion, but I must rationalize this decision with someone. I have stated time and time again, until my cords are raw with regret, that my life has been melded to this, proving that Prometheus is still bound. My heart goes to Sisyphus, maybe he will understand this ravenous plight. We will inevitably change the life of this house, clinging onto the shore of the last wave. Men have always held action higher than the idea, but unable to project this will into a stable reality. It is in moments like this, with terror lurking, that we have to cling to our fundamental values, most notably fear of the unknown. I am consciously choosing to throw an anomaly, a reflective surface in the dark abyss, surrounded by demolished furniture and dusted beer bottles. Notes strung upon the wall like strange fruit. Naturally, it was customary, and strangely courteous of us trespassers-bandits in some way-to leave something behind. We have taken the eternity of this place, no longer will it remain anonymous. It has been brought to a life of perpetual suffering.

To craft a project; this one goal has taken us through the caverns of an abandoned Thanatos, and we have conspired with the warden to leave a treasure upon our completion. Will the prisoners of this wooded Hell find a glimpse of God, resting inside their bosom-

Still, the word escapes my tongue, and I cannot speak the truth, not yet.

Hastily, we exit through the same path that brought us to this studio of terror, greeted by the shadowed thicket. The vines tangle with the tendons of the wilted branches as if they gained momentary animation, and let Arachne perfect her craft. We hack through with arms and machetes until one final ditch remains. A dried moat that, once, possibly isolated this crypt from the rest of the road. I half expected the snarling beast to grip me before departing, and tear me into pieces at the very end.

A well-timed step, a brush of the pine green, the feel of familiar bark in my hand: freedom.

Who knew the street was only five-feet away from the edge of the forest? Above lies darting comets, illuminated dots waiting to be connected by frost-bitten fingers. The silhouette of my car, enshrouded by the darkness that can only be found on the roads ungraced by a constructed street light. How splendid the cosmos are, how we forgot that infinity is just above.

 

I remember now, how it felt when that sensation comes alive, that word that has finally turned from noun to verb: hope.

Haunting Harmonies

Sounds and Screams

Disclaimer. I am not a trained musician/lyricist. All songs were recorded in my closet with a camera microphone and instrumentals made on GarageBand 2014, so I apologize for any issues with the quality.

What is it about a sound that affects us so much? Auditory sensations can have a significant effect on our being to the point that music can calm a restless child, can entice an amorous feeling in lovers, and can even bring tears to eyes at a funeral. So continuing my study of fear and being, the next topic to unearth is sound. Can these same sensations and sonic vibrations send shivers down our spine? If music is the language of the soul, then it is quite possible that agonizing screams and cries of terror could somehow communicate with the soul. What, then, would your being say when it heard the snapping of a jaw or the tale of a cannibal on a dinner date? And what of the lyrics? If terror and fright are somehow weaved into a poetic tale, gracing a complimenting instrumentation, would we accept them as music? I present my own answers to these questions with the work that I’m bringing on this week of Terror Tuesday. Somehow, I’ve picked up my musical habit ( I was a trumpeter for one year) and have begun creating my own sounds. The songs you may, or may not depending on your patience, listen to are written, composed, and produced by yours truly ( you can tell by the quality). However, if you choose to engross your ears, then look past the technological shortcomings and listen to the language of my soul.

 

 

Night at the Kino: Groundbreaking Terror

Welcome once again to another Night at the Kino; however, this evening seems to be a bit more macabre than normal. As part of Terror Tuesday, I’m dedicating this month to horror, and what better way to introduce people to the genre than by reviewing movies that are landmark films. Each of these are original in their own right and have set the foundation for the majority of the films (both terrifying and cringeworthy) that we watch today. They may not all be considered “classics, ” but they have a permanent foundation in horror. Of course this goes to say that these are my opinions; however, I’ve been studying the genre and have made valid points to serve as evidence for my choices. There is a movie up here for every person too, despite what you may think. Watching the occasional scary movie can sometimes be a cathartic release of any potential fears that exist within your mind, so if you have nothing to do after reading this, why not stream one of these tales of terror. I try to keep the spoilers to a minimum as well but read at your own risk.

First in Fright

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This is a film you’ve probably never heard of, and you may, honestly, never watch but I’m starting my list with this entry because it is the first “horror” film (even before Hitchcock’s Psycho in 1960). The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari or Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari as it is known in Germany, its country of origin, was released in 1920 during the silent film era, and yes this is a silent film. The story follows Francis, his friend Alan (who happens to be in love with the same woman as Francis), the woman, a strange carnival, and an even more bizarre booth owner. Dr. Caligari comes to the festival and wows the crowd with a somnambulist (a sleepwalker), Cesare, who also has the ability to predict the future. What happens after this is a series of strange murders, a kidnapping, and a finale that will leave you with the taste of confusion in your mouth. “Gothic horror” is evident in the story, but is also present in the entire production. By utilizing various color filters and handpainted sets, the director Robert Weine thrills us with a visual display of psychedelic madness. My favorite aspect of this movie was the use of the musical score and how it overlaps whenever characters are “speaking,” it’s a genius way to combine visual and auditory sensations without having the actual dialogue. Remember, this is a silent film made in the 1920’s, during the German Expressionism movement; what they did for this film may be considered rudimentary to today’s standards; however, this movie opened the door for the horror genre in cinema.

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Favorite Line: “How long will I live…?” “Til the break of dawn”


Dying of Laughter

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In 1984 Big Brother rules and Oceania is at war with Eastasia, but in our reality, away from the Orwellian nightmare, we were graced with another form of terror. Wes Craven came to the director’s chair once again after successfully completing both The Hills Have Eyes and The Last House on the Left, but this time he approached the genre with a new idea, comedy. This unlikely combination of terror and laughs introduced us to the maniacal dream-murder Freddy Krueger in Nightmare on Elm Street. In a small town, on Elm Street, a group of teenagers finds their dreams haunted by a ghoulish man with a claw on his hand. Interesting fact: Craven got the idea after reading a report about a group of Hmong men mysteriously dying in from nightmares after refusing to fall asleep. What makes this movie so iconic is the villain. I’d argue that this film is carried more by Kruger than the protagonist Nancy, mainly because he was an entirely different villain than the previous movie monsters and masked killers. Krueger is a witty but ruthless, comedic but sadistic, a hilarious but horrifying character who throws in dark humor just before he mercilessly kills his victims. Craven also steps it up with the gore and the death scenes, for each one is uniquely crafted to the situation and the dreamer. Plus, this movie is the debut of everybody’s favorite pirate, Johnny Depp.

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Favorite Line: “Morality sucks”


“Based on A True Story…lol”

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You either love it or hate it, but you’ve undoubtedly heard of The Blair Witch Project (TBWP). Released in 1999 this film was a pioneer in the genre for one simple reason: found footage. This is a style of cinematography where the camera is angled from the point of view of the characters as if they were holding the device directly. What this does is add a new, intimate approach to terror. In TBWP, we follow a group of documentary students on a quest to uncover the secret of the Blair Witch, a mythical entity that is said to have lived in the woods. However, everything becomes increasingly tense as more strange happenings occur on their trip. If you’re looking for a film that gives you visual scares, then look elsewhere; the magic of TBWP is in the tense atmosphere that it builds. It’s heart-aching, dizzying, and traumatic while being a near-perfect imitation of a real camping experience gone horribly wrong. Although we may be too young to remember, this film also had an interesting twist when it came to promotion; it listed the three actors as missing on their website and utilized this gimmick to generate buzz for the initial release.

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Favorite Line: “I’m afraid to close my eyes, I’m afraid to open my eyes.”


Guess Who’s Going To Be Dinner

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Thomas Harris is a bestselling writer, and he is the creator of one of the most iconic cinema antagonists, Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Harris’ novel, Silence of The Lambs, was adapted to the big screen in the year 1991, and it brought a dramatic shift to the horror genre by creating the “psychological thriller” subsection. Up until this point, horror movies were weekend flicks for teenagers and thrillseekers to watch, but this film attracted new audience members for its compelling and deranged story. FBI agent Clarice Starling, played by a young Jodie Foster, is recruited by the bureau to interview (read: interrogate) Dr. Lecter, the ever-impressive Anthony Hopkins, in hopes of learning clues to help them catch a serial killer by the name of Buffalo Bill. Some would argue that this isn’t a horror film, but it contains many of the elements: a crazed killer who skins his victims, a second crazed killer with a craving for human flesh, a labyrinth (in both the plot and home), a kidnapping, torture, and character suffering. It doesn’t get more horrific than that. This is also groundbreaking for it was the first “not-horror-but-really-is-horror” film to win five Oscars, including Best Picture, further validating horror as a true paragon of cinematic art.

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Favorite Line: “Put the lotion in the basket!”


Late Night Cravings

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Our world today is completely oversaturated with zombies. The shambling corpses are in everything from one of the greatest comic book-to-TV adaptations to 4.99 cell phone games your seven-year-old cousin downloads over Easter weekend with the family. But, none of that would be the case if George A. Romero wouldn’t have come to the screen in 1968 (his feature debut) with the OG of zombie films, Night of The Living Dead. Plotwise this is insanely simple, a group of ragtag people has to survive in a cabin against a countless onslaught of “flesh-eating ghouls.” Now, the zombie was already a mythological entity that Hollywood had already tackled back in the 1920’s with White Zombie, but this film was the first time we saw the brainless, ravenous creatures that populate our culture. Romero’s skill lies in his ability to create both tensions between the survivors and the ghouls, but also within the group; also he cast a black man as the lead character, which was unheard of at the time (but that ending tho smh). The film is shot in black and white, but it was later remade in color. We owe a great deal of our culture to this film, and the best part is, the word “Zombie” is never used in this movie.  

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Favorite Line: “They’re coming to get you, Barbara”


Mask On: The Concealed Killer

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We in America have John Carpenter to thank for many of our scares. This director/writer invented some of the best themes for horror, and he did most of it on an indie budget, starting with Halloween in 1987. The plot is quite simple (it becomes increasingly more fleshed out over the series…sort of), an emotionless murderer escapes from his detention center and returns to his small town to wreak havoc on a babysitter and her friends; did I mention that it was on Halloween night? What Carpenter does with this film is give us a realistic predator/prey scenario, which is reflected in the visuals. The cinematography is unique because Carpenter employs extended tracking shots that almost give one the feeling of “stalking,” and he doesn’t rely on cheap gimmicks (i.e. jump scares) to frighten us; his “Shape” (aka Myers), as it was called in the script, does that for him. This film not only opened the door for the “masked killer” genre (aside from The Town that Dreaded Sundown), but it also birthed the career of Jamie Lee Curtis who plays the babysitter. Her character also establishes the theme of the “resourceful, clean-teen” survivor, although there is a scene of her hotboxing with her friends. If you’re looking for something that makes you feel uncomfortable after watching then this is the film for you. Also, fun fact about Michael Myers mask: the production team had excluded a mask from their budget, so left with only a few dollars they purchased a Captain Kirk mask (in the likeness of William Shatner) and malformed it to create the terrifying face we know and fear today.

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Favorite Line: “He hasn’t spoken a word in fifteen years.”


Love Can Be Scary Too

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This list of original sins wouldn’t be complete if there weren’t a horror film that included genetics, a mad scientist, and…romance? Enter, The Fly, directed by David Cronenberg. The version I’m reviewing is 1986 one, featuring Jeff Goldblum as our surprisingly charming Dr. Brundle. What separates this film from other horror films (and crappy remakes in general) is its ability to craft a love story that eventually spins into a horrific tragedy. Dr. Brundle is a reclusive scientist who has successfully created a teleportation device, but when his experiment goes wrong, he slowly starts transforming into something more insectoid and dangerous. But the beauty of this story lies in the relationship between him and Veronica, the beautiful journalist (played by the equally beautiful Geena Davis) who is writing an article about his project. We’re able to witness the transformation of our beloved protagonist into this bestial monstrosity, but we also watch the tragedy unfold as Veronica tries to save her lover. Patience is key in this film as the pacing is relatively slow, but there are elements of humor and drama that make the time pass until it’s time for The Fly to appear. This film was much more successful than its predecessor for two main reasons: the establishment of the story before the horror, and the special effects (it won Best Makeup at the following Oscars). Also, I stand by this claim that this film has one of the best climaxes I’ve ever seen.

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Favorite Line*: “I’d like to be the first insect politician.”

*Although not my personal favorite, the line “Be afraid. Be very afraid,” was improvised by Geena Davis in this movie.


Man and Madness

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Madness is the greatest sickness of the mind, and this list wouldn’t be complete if there weren’t a film that delved into this metaphysical plague. Take one scary novel from a NY Times Best-Selling horror author and the visionary mind behind Full Metal Jacket and 2001: A Space Odyssey and you have created the terrifying classic known as The Shining. Written by Stephen King, The Shining is about a writer, Jack Torrance (played by Jack Nicholson), serving as the caretaker of a lavish hotel in the mountains of Colorado. He brings his family along and together they experience evil, in both the supernatural and the real. It’s a dizzying tale that’s sure to make any viewer squirm as they watch Jack descend into madness. Director Kubrick may have steered away from the direct source material, but in it’s place he created a visual masterpiece, often revered as one of the most artistic horror films. In every shot, there is a hint of fantasy, but it’s overshadowed by the realness of the situation, making it akin to a dream (or nightmare) rather than just a film. The soundtrack is another redeeming quality; there is more silence than sound, which draws our senses in and whenever it does grace our ears, the noises are more chaotic than typical songs. What Kubrick does with this horror film is show you that the terrifying things aren’t what you show, but what you don’t. This gives the viewer an opportunity to formulate his/her own fear, and there’s nothing more frightening than what is within the mind.

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Favorite Line: “Here’s Johnny!”


How to Properly Handle a Possession

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Considered one of the most terrifying films of the 20th century, The Exorcist, directed by William Friedkin, did something that other horror movies in the past hadn’t considered, which was to make a film that explored the dark side of religion, specifically (as the title says) exorcism. Exorcisms were, and still are, religious practices to “excise” a demon from a human host; many religions have their variation of exorcisms, but this film tackles the Catholic Church. When a teenage girl, Regan, suddenly starts to exhibit some increasingly bizarre behavior, her mother Chris, played by Oscar winner Ellen Burstyn, goes to whatever lengths to save her daughter including recruiting a priest, who happens to be struggling with his own faith. The buildup of the tension and terror in this film is phenomenal; we slowly watch this normal girl become possessed by a foul-mouthed (and I mean foul) demon. It also has a very realistic approach to the story, because chances are you’re not going to take your daughter to Father Ignacio the minute she has an episode. Aside from the story, the other notable aspects of this film were the cinematography and soundtrack. The song “Tubular Bells” may be one of the most chilling melodies that have accompanied a horror movie. The visuals have a way of entrancing the viewer with recognizable and comforting symbols of religion (ex. Statues of the Virgin & Crucifixes) and then at the same time transporting them to a dark realm where children can crab walk up stairways and twist their heads. This film is an essential for any supernatural horror fan.

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Favorite Line: “What an excellent day for an exorcism”


Fear in the Final Frontier

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Let me go ahead and get my fanboy out the way and say that Alien is one of the best horror films ever made and my personal favorite. With only one other film under his belt, Sir. Ridley Scott used his creative genius and improvisation techniques to give us the deep space terror, Alien, in 1979. In the late future, where space travel and androids are common, a mining vessel receives a distress signal from a nearby planet. When the crew goes to explore, they uncover a mysterious “alien” lifeform that finds its way back onto their ship…and proceeded to hunt the remaining crew. The film contains classic elements of gothic horror but also incorporates science fiction as well, which sets the stage for this survival horror. Each character is fleshed out enough to have us care about them, the xenomorph was unlike any movie monster we’d previously seen, and the progression of the story is well-paced. There are also thematic elements in the story such as the life cycle of the creature, birth and death, artificial intelligence, and even some feminism. Ellen Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver, is worth mentioning too for her character is a break from the typical “helpless” female lead, in fact, Ripley is probably one of the most badass heroines in cinema history. The set design is another important quality; the Nostromo (the ship) is unlike any futuristic vessels. Most of us imagine space travel to be highly advanced, but this ship is a labyrinth filled with dead ends, claustrophobic ventilation shafts, aggressive steam, and other industrial elements. Even the antagonist, the xenomorph, goes through a change like the rest of the characters; tell me you weren’t terrified when it made its first kill as an adult. It’s design, along with the alien homeworld and Space Jockey, were creations of H.R. Giger (R.I.P.), a Swedish artist, whom Scott and the production team hired to be the art director. The “chestburster” scene is iconic and was unexpected by the crew (Veronica Cartwright’s reaction as Lambert is very real). What Alien did for horror was usher in the opportunity for genre-mixing, it blended so many aspects of cinema and art that it’s almost impossible to classify it as simply one. There are high tech computers and cryogenic chambers to appease the sci-fi fan, war-drama worthy camaraderie, and even elements of humor in the dialogue; but, what this film does most is generate fear, and it is this emotion that helps push it closer to the horror genre than the others. Regardless of where it’s classified, just know that this is a cinematic masterpiece and my number one film (in case you forgot).

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Favorite Line: “I admire its purity. A survivor…unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality.


Eulogy of the Essence

So there you have it, ten tales of terror on a Tuesday (say that five times fast). Now, I realize that there are plenty of other films that I did not cover, but these selected entries, to me, are the most groundbreaking when it comes to horror, either due to their effect on the genre or originality. Each of them has their own strengths and weaknesses, but fundamentally, they are complete, and for that reason, they sit as the pillars of my foundation of fright. When it finally comes time for me to tackle the dark side of cinema, I will be drawing inspiration from these productions. I hope you’ve enjoyed my review and take the time out of your week to catch one of these movies because a good scare can do wonders for the soul.


Deathly Double Feature

Life should have choices. There should always be more than one option, and often times there is (because inaction is a choice too). So, I’m going to give you two choices. The first story presented tackles the concept of the man inside the monster, while the second one covers the monster inside the man. These are my first two scary stories and I wanted to share them with you because today’s focus is on Groundbreaking Terror. Obviously, I wouldn’t be an apprentice of the arcane if I hadn’t tried my hand at the art, and for that reason, I’m going to share them with you so you know where I began. In retrospect, they are somewhat simple, but the effect they had on me is substantial, for I finally have stories that were of a darker tone. If you’re an avid follower of my works you may have already read them, but have no fear (lol) for there is something fresh coming for you, later on, tonight (like a masked man with a machete).  Without further ado, I welcome you to this next installment of Terror Tuesday. Enjoy.

 

Life-Stream

There was a slight glare from the light but she continued to look. It was darker than normal this afternoon, the sun seemed to go down earlier. The sound of heels tapping pavement could be heard on the other side of the alley. Instinctively she clutched her keys, placing them between her fingers. Her wedding ring made it difficult for the key to fit but somehow it slid in. Her phone in the other, using it as a guiding light, searching for the apartment number. Sirens wailed in the distance while television noises echoed through the hall. But then it became silent as if all the oxygen has suddenly disappeared. The darkness from the other side began to shift, slowly at first. Out of the void, a figure began to appear, the lights casting a dim silhouette over his face. And then a small light, a set of legs followed by hair and face. A woman. A lost sheep. Somehow she managed to step into his view, just when he was getting ready for the night. She seemed to be the perfect warm up for the approaching night. Tonight was his night. Under the mask, he could only hear his own breathing,

Inhale.

Exhale.

Inhale.

Exhale.

Until the rhythm became him, then he would go.

The front pocket of his uniform was glowing, a white phone peeking from under the cloth. He looked to the streetlight, and from under the mask, it looked like the light was fading.
She didn’t notice him until he was only a few paces behind her, how quiet he moved. A slight chill went up against her blouse, causing goosebumps to stand at attention. It was mid-May but between the silent bricks, it felt like December. Cold with a hint of the end. She looked at the houses, watching the numbers climb. Her own destination seeming farther, while the end was still following. A Mis-step gave him away, for his feet were in sync with hers. She turned to see a small figure, a teenager. His outfit slightly dirty, the singe of the day’s grime was still on his sleeves. His hands were long, they almost didn’t belong to him. The streetlight flickered and his face appeared, only for an instant. Pale skin and hollow eyes, until two pupils appeared from the dark circles. A mask. She thought back to her husband and wondered would she ever get to stroke his chin hairs again, the small ones that only she could see when laying on his chest in the morning.

He walked to his prey and reached into his pocket. A flash of silver illuminated in the alley. Under the mask, he could only see one thing, her. Her body began to grow larger as he lumbered towards her. Suddenly it grew smaller, and her feet began to move quicker. No matter, they always run. He turned to the left and continued down the hall. His phone still sitting in his pocket.
She ran down the halls, screaming for help. It wasn’t enough for the occupied apartments seemed to only house lights. She turned around and noticed that he was gone. A slight trickle began to crawl down her legs, the liquids from earlier making an escape as she searched for hers. Her phone light was now off and the keys were no longer within her hands. She crawled into the pile of trash next to the rusted gate. The smell was only tolerable because her life was on the line, but she still gagged. And then it became quiet, no longer rustling plastic and drastic heartbeats.

His hand reached down.

Her hair was snatched.

His shoulders bulged as he lifted her.

The trash bags rolled off her legs as she was taken.

He kneeled next to her and unsheathed his knife.

In the distance, a trickle could be heard, a fresh puddle forming in the gutter. In the dark it was colorless, but in the morning the street would turn crimson. He lifted her body off the ground and tossed her into the trash, the festival was about to begin and he was late. She wasn’t…enough. He reached down into his pocket and checked his phone. His screen mirrored that of the alley, his new canvas. Leftover blood was streaked across the LCD lights and for a second the cells made a kaleidoscope on his mask. A solitary red flash was pulsating in the corner until a hold transmission button appeared. He pressed it and the screen went black. A lone sigh escaped from the nostril holes and a set of words refracted off of his face. The screen read “Lost Sheep” and his transmission ended.

I sat in the corner of my room, numb. Tears unable to fall and words no longer forming. What had I just witnessed? The ending of an innocent life or the craving of a sadistic man. The two accounts both open on my screen, wondering who’s story was the real one. I was afraid, but most of all I was confused. How, how could I watch that? How could I sit still and experience the end of an existence? I wondered who was the real monster as the same night sky began to fall over my bedroom window.


Shapeshifter

The harsh wind licked the dusted snow off of the poorly constructed cabin. Positioned a few meters away from the edge of the cliff was the construct rocking along with the blizzard. Ice crept in through the gaps in the roof. A young man with an overgrown beard threw open the door and hurried inside. He wore a leather jacket with fur around the shoulders, a wooly hat, and had a pair of rugged binoculars wrapped around his thick neck. Using the lens, he peered out over the other side of the mountain. “We’re safe,” he frantically said to his younger brother, cautiously positioned against the wood. The eldest pedaled back from the frosted window, and slowly doused the oil lantern sitting on the floor.
“You got it, right? I saw you attack it with your knife, right?”
“I think, it was moving so fast I couldn’t even tell.”
“What’s that on your back?” the younger brother weakly whispered. The eldest quickly reached for the fire prod before removing his coat and bringing it to his nose.
“It smells like…sulfur,” he said.
“Was that some bear?”
“I…I don’t know. I can’t even describe it .”
The wind’s speed started to diminish as the indigo moon crept behind the peak of the mountain. “I shouldn’t have brought you up here, this is all my fault,” the eldest said.
“Don’t think like that,” the younger exhaled.
“No, it is, I should have waited until you were healthier before we did this.”
“If we would’ve waited, I may never have done this climb,” he passively smiled. “You know I wanted us to go on this trip, we’ve talked about it for too long.”
“Always the optimist, even in the face of danger,”
“Right…” the younger replied. “What do you think we should do? Bar the doors?”
“Smart idea. Whatever is out there, it’ll have a harder time getting through the door if we block it.”
“Did you get a good look at it? the younger curiously asked while gasping for air.
He shook his head, and specks of crystallized sweat bounced onto the frigid boards.

The eldest rose to his feet and began rearranging the furniture to barricade the entrance. He angled the massive dresser towards the door, tilted the circular table to block the exposed window, and broke the lantern to scatters shards of glass in front of each possible entrance. Sitting in the corner, the younger brother watched in awe at his resourcefulness.
“This reminds me of old times?” the eldest said while wiping his hands.
“Oh…does it? How?”
“Remember how we used to play in the woods. I’d build a fort, and you’d sit around waiting for it to be complete. We’d stay out till the sun went down, and we’d play that one game. I forgot what it was called,” the eldest said.
Shapeshifter…”
“Ah, that’s it. You always wanted to be it too,” he chuckled.
“Mhm.”
“Those were the days…everything was so simple back then.”
“And then I got sick…” he confessed.
“And then you got sick.”
“Who would’ve thought,” he coughed, “that ma and pa gave me the bad genes?”
“Don’t blame them,” he stated.
“I’m not. Nobody is to blame but myself, for being so weak,” the younger paused. A gale cut through the logs and stung their sullen eyes. “That’s why you wanted to bring me up here, right? To show me I wasn’t weak.”
“Guess you figured out my motive, huh?”
“I am the smarter one, remember?”
“Is that so,” the eldest laughed.
The repositioned furniture slightly creaked as the night progressed.
“Do you even want to take a guess at what that was?”
“It had two legs, and it stood upright.”
“I thought I saw a tail or something attached to it. But I don’t know any animals that stand on two legs and have a tail.”
“Ever heard of a kangaroo?”
The younger leered at his brother, “you think a rabid kangaroo is chasing us across the Appalachian trail?”
“No, but it is an animal with two legs and a tail.”
“Yeah yeah, so we have no clue then,”
“Do we need one?”
“Not really, so long as we survive,” the younger confessed.
“We should escape, first thing in the morning.”
The younger nodded before dropping his head back onto the wood. “I’ll take first watch so you can regain your strength. You’ll need as much of it as you can if we have to make a quick escape.”
“Wake me up when it’s time to switch shifts, or if you hear anything. I don’t care if it’s just an icicle falling off of the roof, wake me up.”
The eldest snapped his fingers, before reaching for the cast iron prod in front of the fireplace.
In the stillness of the moonlight, a slight echo rang from outside of the cabin. The youngest just managed to drift off to sleep, before the echo resounded. He frantically jumped out of his nap, but reached for his side immediately afterward; his muscles were spazzing once again. “Did you hear that?”
“No, what was it?”
“Sounded like a shout. Shit, do you think it found us?”
“Doubtful,” the eldest said.
“What about our tracks?”
“The blizzard probably covered them by now, even ol Ham-bone and his bloodhound nose couldn’t find us. And we put them lights out as soon as we came in.”
“Right, I forgot about that,” he exhaled. The silver moon shone its light through the window, flooding the cabin with ivory. As the beam crawled from one wall to the next, the younger brother picked his head up for just a moment to notice his shadow across the floor. His sickly frame was barely visible; the radiation had eaten away at much of his muscles, leaving a crackling skeleton in its wake. The youngest twirled his wrists, watching the darkness give form to his figure once more before glancing at his brother; his eyes trailed the floor until they reached his sturdy boots. The eldest peered through the sliver of the window that was available, gripping the metal prod. The moon retracted behind a slight wave of snowy clouds, but for a short second, the younger brother failed to recognize his brother’s shadow. Along the floor were the shades of his boots, the iron in his hand, and even his hat; but in the areas where his body was visible were absent.
“Hey, bro-“
“Shhh,” he interrupted before placing his bony index finger over his lips.

The youngest remained quiet as he watched his brother from his corner of the bleak cabin. The remaining light from the moon dissipated, leaving them in complete darkness.
Huff. Huff. Huff.
Trying to control his breathing, the youngest clasped his shaking hands together and tightened his fingers around each other.
Huff. Huff. Huff.
A low growl came from outside the cabin that caused the younger brother to lose his rhythm. Unable to see his brother, he forced his buckled knees to curl, giving him enough momentum to rise. Using the wall as support, he nudged himself closer to the entrance, hoping to catch his brother. As he leaned against the sturdy board, the growl increased in volume, whatever was outside, it was coming their way.
“Brother, brother, where are you?” the youngest whispered. When he experienced the gnawing silence, he assumed that his whisper wasn’t loud enough, but he couldn’t even hear his brother breathing. The growl suddenly changed into something more of a shout, a primal cry. “Brother, please help,” the youngest whispered once more. Footsteps shuffled along the boards, and suddenly, he felt a frigid hand against his shivering arm. He had recognized the grooves of his brother’s hand before he pulled him down.
“It’s outside,” the younger stated.
“Yeah, I heard.”
“What should we do?”
“Maybe wait?”
“Right, the entrances are blocked. There’s no way it can come in.”
“Exactly…” the eldest voice had a sinister tone in it.

Continue reading Deathly Double Feature

Favorite Colors

There is a color in the horizon that does not belong.

It waits until the sun’s patrol is done to appear

A thief capable of stealing the pupils of children.

It springs forward from the monotonous grey

Providing proof of promises to young lovers.

 

This color is a fire that burns only for a few

Leaving a cloud of black smoke in it’s wake.

This is God’s favorite color, (or at least I’m convinced).

Appearing only when he wants it to

Serving as a blanket to wrap up our sorrows and satisfactions.

 

It looms over vast lakes and dense forests,

 

Able to grant the mother a moment of reprieve;

It is this color that I aim to add to my easel

 

Painting it upon my bare chest

Every time it appears.

 

I pray to carry it,

Always,

continuing live in this borrowed time

As a radiant child

Destined to illuminate the world.

 

May I always feel the warmth of God upon my face in the sunset.