Tag Archives: horror

Night at the Kino: Terrifying Thirteen

Thirteen Fear-Filled Films Since 2000

This Friday happens to be a very special day; how rare is it to have a Friday the 13th occur in October. What are you going to do? If you have no plans, and are probably going to stay in, then this list is perfect for you! Why? Because I’m going to give you thirteen options for horror movies since the year 2000 (specific right?). Unlike my previous Night at the Kino, I wanted to introduce readers to the standout films that are considered modern. These range from zombie thrillers, possession stories, animated apparitions, even socially aware scares, and I’m confident that one of these films could get you in the mood for October (if you aren’t already). Now, how to find these films…well, there’s Redbox, some are on Hulu, but for the most…I’d say…do what you normally do (you know what you do, don’t you?). Below you’ll find them, and this is in somewhat of a particular order, but not one that is definite; honestly, take your pick, they won’t disappoint.

The Witch (2015)

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Hands down, I’d have to say this is the Control verse of modern horror. Robert Eggers meticulously crafted a truly tragic tale involving a Puritan faminly living in exile. Without revealing much of anything, I will say that the terror in this tale comes not from the supernatural but the human element. Where most films would focus on creating a grotesque or evil witches, Eggers turns the lens inward and dissects the nuclear family, one member at a time.

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The cinematography does a fantastic job of adjusting to the scope of the film, encompassing the entire woodlands and jumping to claustrophobic cabin settings. It truly is a terrifying film, and I dare you to try and watch it without feeling the dread on your skin. For his efforts Eggers won best director at 2016’s Sundance Film Festival. If you’d like to read my random movie review of The Witch, then click here

The Conjuring (2013)

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We’ve all seen plenty of films with this back story. A family moves into a home that happens to be possessed by an evil entity and it takes the family uncovering the secrets-with the help of some eccentric paranormal investigators-to break the curse. That’s this film in a nutshell, but that is only the surface of it. What James Wan’s The Conjuring did for horror (at least in my opinion) was focus on character development rather than diving right into the scare. This aids in the progression and pacing of the plot, which flows at a steady rate, rising to a dramatic climax in the end.

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Some people go crazy over the “Based on a True Story” label, but I will say, after doing my post-credits research, I was able to accept this title while others fail (The Warren’s were really out here, yo). Yeah, there are some jump scares and some cheap shocks, but the true terror of The Conjuring comes from its style of shooting. It feels campy, like a home movie at times, but that gives the viewer a closer approach to the terror, rather than capturing just reactionary moments.

28 Days Later (2002)

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Poster by Nathan Miller

Before Rick Grimes awoke from his coma to the end of the world, there was another hospital patient being welcomed to a zombie apocalypse in Danny Boyle’s (Trainspotting) 2002 thriller “28 Days Later”. The plot is simple, a virus in a research facility gets released and humanity is in deep shit. How deep? Well, when your blood comes into contact with the strain, you lose sense of yourself and become a zombie. And this is where “28 Days Later” shines, the ability to revamp a concept. Instead of giving us mindless ghouls like George A. Romero did (R.I.P. to a legend), Boyle went with a more savage approach, giving them speed and ferocity instead of shuffling. The characters in the story are survivors, they aren’t heroes of any sort, and that’s what I love.Most tales in the zombie genre have gun toting warriors, but this group outlasts the horde by using wit-and luck. 

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The cinematography is gritty and there is an overarching feeling of abandonment in nearly all of the locations. Makeup and Special effects shine with the trademark red eyes for the Rage virus, and who can get John Murphy’s chilling track “In a House, In a Heartbeat”. Overall, this movie is on my list for its revolutionary take on a common theme in the horror genre. Also, fun fact, Danny Boyle turned down knighthood in England.

Noroi (2005)

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Hands down, this is the most terrifying movie I’ve seen. Noroi: The Curse is a Japanese film directed by Koji Shiraishi and from the first time I watched it, I’ve been cursed. The first thing to note is the storytelling: using a “mockumentary” style of cinematography to capture the horror (similar to the original “The Blair Witch Project”). Often this fails because we’re bound to one point of view for it, but this film does a great job by using various sources of media to cover the story-news clippings, and both professional and personal recordings. It introduces us to characters and we get an intimate look at their lives, and how this curse is affecting, and ultimately destroying them.

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My favorite character has to be Mr. Aluminum Foil (you’ll see), his role is so vital to the plot because he creates a sense of panic every time he’s on screen. This isn’t your typical supernatural film, so don’t expect to be hit with the cliche like jump scares and melodramatic sounds; the film grounds itself into reality, and only steps foot into the abyss when it has reached the base of the spiral. A truly terrifying film for anybody willing to read the subtitles (if you can watch Narcos, you can peep this too).

The Descent (2005)

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Poster by Chris Weston

What happens when you take a group of spelunking woman who have underlying beef with each other, and pit them against the elements of nature, and a superior predator? If you watch Neil Marshall’s “The Descent” you’ll soon discover that answer. Firstly, having an all woman cast for this film is a testament to the versatility of horror-it’s not confined to the male genre-and that’s one of the main reasons I’ve listed it here. The premise alone is sure to breed fear, and then the writer decided to add a well-crafted back story behind the characters, which only added to the level of isolation and abandonment.

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Cinematically, this film pushes into new barriers, throwing us in the midst of extremely claustrophobic spaces, and using the natural darkness to add to the unknown element (also night vision was such a thing back in the early 2000’s). And who can forget that iconic scene when Sarah, played by Shauna Macdonald, emerges from the pool: it’s poster-worthy (which is why they used it as a promo). The Descent will have you afraid to explore any dark depths, whether they be caves or secrets.

It (2017)

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I read my first Stephen King book this year, “The Shining”, and it plunged me into a dark world, so when I heard that the classic “It” was being remade I was skeptical, but ready. Honesty Hour: I’ve never watched the original It-I am reading the book now though-but what I viewed in Andres Muschietti’s 2017 film was a very dark retelling of an already terrifying story. Clowns are easily the thing of nightmares; and Pennywise, played by Bill Skarskgard (“Hemlock Grove”) happens to be the most entertaining. Already from the beginning of the film we are cast into Derry Maine, and into the lives of the youth. The movie pairs both the innocence of growing up with the grim reaper of the gutters, and it delivers.

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Every moment was liable to worsen, as the film proved by keeping us on our toes. Why is this also on my list, because this is one example of paying homage to the source material. Hearing that Stephen King stamped this movie was enough for me to see it; avid readers know that it is rare for novels and films to find a common ground (Lookin at you “Game of Thrones”). It’s still in theaters, and makes for a perfect outing this Friday the 13th!

Kakurenbo (2008)

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Horror does not only apply to the human world, but to the digital as well, and Shuhei Morita’s 2008 animated short “Kakurenbo” is proof. Coming in at around thirty minutes, this film packs a dose of dread from the jump. The art style and background is haunting, and one is imprisoned in this game of hide and seek. A group of children come to play this mysterious game, Otokoyo, where oni (demons) come alive and seek the children.

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I remember watching this on Adult Swim, and having an entire new outlook on animated films. Once the story revs up, you’ll be upset when you find that the end is approaching; definitely something to view when you have some down time though.

Get Out (2017)

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Poster by Francesco Francavalli

There’s no way that I can go any further without addressing Jordan Peele’s breakthrough film, “Get Out”. Who would’ve thought black folk could do horror? (Because it’s not all devil magic). Aside from the social commentary regarding it-not brushing it’s importance off, there’s plenty of other think pieces out there-this is an engaging story. A “meet my black boyfriend” scenario gone wrong, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya, “Johnny English Reborn”) begins to uncover a secret behind his girlfriend Rose’s (Allison Williams) family. I have to give a shout out to the supporting cast in this film who really embodied their characters, Georgina’s meme worthy face, Walter’s sprint becoming an entire challenge, and Rod with his antics.

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Look at how much the film has shifted our culture, allowing more black stories to be told by us. And, the final bit that has to be addressed is the comedy (I’m a firm believer that any modern horror has to have it). Peele transfers his “Key and Peele” skit writing into the script, making room for fresh dialogue that naturally flows between each character; the comedy gave us the comfort we needed to get through this scary ordeal.

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

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This might be closer into the thriller era, but I will set it on this list anyways. I am one of the folk who enjoyed the original “Cloverfield”, and when this one appeared on Hulu, I decided to watch it. Now, like everybody else, I assumed that it was going to be the same take from a different point of view, but instead this film went in the opposite direction. Where the first film featured a monster raging through the city, this one focuses on the monsters inside of men, and what happens when three individuals are forced to occupy a bunker.

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Without giving away too much, John Goodman’s portrayal of the pragmatic Howard was one of the most underrated performances of 2016, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, as Michelle, held her own against him. The film has its moments of joy, but there is always a tension looming in the claustrophobic cabin, and it often ignites into confrontation. Aside from the other thematic elements, I have to say that the characters shine the most, and I believe that comes from the small number. Having fewer people on screen can create time for development and exploration.

Signs (2002)

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Aliens in a cornfield? Cmon that’s fresh af. M. Night Shyamalan brought the world one of the greatest plot twists with “The Sixth Sense”, so naturally there was already an air of mystery surrounding this film. And then, you hear the cast: Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Abigail Breslin, Rory Culkin, and they welcome us into the Hess family. When a mysterious sign appears in the crop field in front of Hess family, it will push the renounced reverend Graham to uncover the mystery.

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Signs is unlike any other film on this list, it’s horror being in the unknown. We are graced with many moments in the film (the foil hats, Merrill’s monologue, Shyamalan’s cameo), and I like how they all relate back to this unknown entity; it’s all speculation, and it translates to the viewer as well. By the end of the film you’ll be wondering if any of it was real. Oh yeah, it’s on Hulu now!

The Babadook (2014)

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Another film that is currently on streaming sites is “The Babadook”. Yo, don’t let the people fool you, this movie is a scare, it’s just from an angle that is original; because what’s more fearful: a phantom from a child story booy, or a mother’s struggling battle with grief and a child that fails to behave. Director Jennifer Kent takes a leap into her own world utilizing set pieces and a cryptic style of storytelling, relying on an erratic rhythm rather than a steady pace. Do we ever know what “The Babadook” is, or isn’t; does it even matter?

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The desaturated color tone of the shots enhance the already grim tale, and Essie Davis’ portrayal of Amelia forces the viewer to share in her grief. And this is what makes the film scary, because once we’ve identified with this mother, we are sensitive to her plight but ultimately we’re enraged that she won’t address the issues. This frustration is converted into fear whenever the supernatural element is added, and since we’re in such a volatile state, we’re already ensnared. But it’s only an hour and a half of imprisonment, and will surely make you keep the lights on a little longer this weekend.

 

Drag Me To Hell (2009)

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After he blessed us with the “Spiderman” Trilogy (starring Tobey McGuire), director Sam Raimi returned to his slapstick horror roots with “Drag Me To Hell”. When Christine Brown (Alison Lohman), a loan officer seeking a promotion, denies an elderly woman her loan, she is inadvertently cursed, and what a curse. It keeps the audience laughing long enough for the tension to build, turning back to the terror at a moment’s notice. The humor is amped with Justin Long cast as Christine’s boyfriend Clay Dalton, who often has smart remarks for every scenario.

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The film is true to Raimi’s genre blending of comedy and horror, even the antics of the supernatural are borderline hilarious (the maggots in the mouth scene). A must watch for any of his fan (if you watch “Mr. Robot”, you’re a Raimi fan).

 

Gok-seong or The Wailing (2016)

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Netflix has this movie on it’s catalog so there is no reason you can’t watch it this Friday the 13th. “The Wailing” is a South Korean film directed by Hong-jin Na, and it has crossed over into America for a very good reason. It’s terrifying. It’s hard to describe what this film is, because there are plenty of intertwining plots, but you watch a village become beset by an akuma, or demon. The film has great writing, both in terms of story as well as dialogue, each complementing each other. The conversations between the officers are often hilarious, and a great contrast to the macabre mysteries that are befalling the town.

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The soundtrack is spooky (yeah, I said spooky), and it really teeters on the shadow realm of acoustics. There are some scenes that leave you baffled (The Exorcism), and just when you expect the truth to be revealed, the film presses on further. It is a long ride, 2 hours and 36 minutes, but once the engine revs, you’ll be Wailing all the way until the end.

Conclusion

There you have it, folks. Ain’t no reason you shouldn’t be entertained-and terrified-this Friday the 13th. Of course, there are other notable works that I missed, and I feel cliche for making that disclaimer, but I’m going to do so anyways so you understand that my opinion is based more so on my immediate memory rather than a well devised agenda.. As always, feel free to comment or leave any feedback regarding my choices for films. Until next Tuesday…

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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.

 

 

Encounter

What terror, what fright, what dreadful delight to feel hair stand upon the nape of my black neck as if Tesla’s lightning surged through my skin. This feeling, this expression of my subconscious is but a mere smidgen of the infinitesimal matters of the heart (dubbed emotions, for lack of a better word), coming together within my rotting body. You may curiously wonder as to why I described my countenance as rotting, as to which I’d  simply reply: because death is the sole answer to the numerous existential questions regarding life; and scientifically speaking, our cells decompose as we move through the days. But I digress, for it is my ardent desire to share this woeful tale of of disaster to whomever may be daring (or foolish depending on the hour of the night) enough to listen. It is in fact, the duty of the artist to enlighten the common man; this one does by one’s art. Art is many things but the one thing it is not is a lie. Come, let me reveal to you the terrorizing situation that led to the creation of this piece, and then you may judge the validity of my sentiments.

Fright. Fear. Apprehension. As a young boy, I was no stranger to these fundamental principles, accepting at an early age them as my rulers rather than joy or comfort. This may indeed come as somewhat of a surprise to those who had the opportunity to behold me in my boyhood; my childhood was relatively free of suffering and anguish. Both of my parents had worked their way towards the middle class, and were employed in stable positions that allowed them to purchase a beautiful two-story home; it was here within these walls that I first discovered fear. At any given moment I am able to call forth the exact instant my heart tasted the juices of  dread for the first time.

At seven years old, I was more curious than any starving alley cat, sneaking around the house while my parents performed chores; however, during the summer months I was instructed to remain outdoors, which only furthered my budding desire for knowledge. The days under the blazing southern sun were spent playing with magnifying glasses, slaying imaginary beasts with sticks, and hurdling through the sprinkler system. If I had even a sliver of the wisdom I now contain I would have left the unknown alone and, in turn, removed this thorn of fear from my life; but alas time travel is, at present, still a modern myth.  Upon waking on the morning of a fine Saturday in the North Carolina countryside, I was tasked with helping my father with his outdoor assignments. We’d cut the front and back lawn, washed both the cars, trimmed the overgrown shrubbery , and threw down pine straw. Normally, our routine lasted until lunch time but on this fated day, we happened to finish early, leaving me with free time.

Ah, I must once again break you from your concentration to add in the one major detail regarding my residence; although my family had almost two acres in their name and nearly all of it, except for my home, was covered by a dense forest. The trees stretched beyond the reaching of my naive eyes, thorn bushes were tangled in Hangman’s knots, and behind the back porch was an inaccessible zone, or so I had been told since birth. But, as all seven-year-olds do, I believed myself to ready to conquer nature (how foolish). Upon first glance, my bosom was filled with an expected timidity, and I do remember there was some anxiety but these emotions soon polymerized; and, instead desire was dripping from my tongue. I longed for whatever may have laid beyond the edge of the forest; a primal passion awakened, one that I’d only experienced once while riding my bike without gripping the handles. And soon, I looked to the forest for my freedom, but what laid within the thicket was far from liberty.

With the rest of the day ahead of me, I began what may have become my first act of planning. Hustling upstairs with the fervor of a hunter with a new bounty, I procured my blue Batman book bag (The Caped Crusader) from my closet, a blanket, flashlight, and a disposable camera (one always needs proof when dealing with the unknown). I savored the last bit of sandwich made from my mother’s hands; how delicious her meals had been when I retained my innocence, ignorant to the existence of the other world. In front of me was the forest, a realm of bark and rotting wood, a secret that nature had purposely intended to keep; yet here I was, with brevity and the scent of pine straw in my hair. I can not adequately recall a distinct entrance, for the forest sprawled from the edge of our property line to the horizon behind the wooden gates my father had erected. Unfortunately, intimate details regarding the journey are hazy, but somehow my situation changed from curious to cautious as my pathway back home was eventually lost.

How many hours I spent in this desolate expanse of land I may never truly know, although I remember watching the sun disappear behind the decaying leaves. Now, there are two types of forests: the normal variety with woods and insects, and then there is the forest after dark, which is more acquainted with alien planets and Grecian labyrinths. Night drew closer and the silhouette of my home was lost beyond the mass of evergreen. The chirping of crickets became the screeching of buried sirens, vines that once hugged the bark hung like nooses that begged for my pulsing neck, and it was as if the darkness itself were made physical. I dare say that if I were to have extended my hand, I would have made contact with something, a shadow, or phantom perhaps. However, my hands were occupied with tightly gripping the flickering yellow flashlight. Realizing that I’d failed to replace the batteries in my flashlight after the most recent summer storm, I was left with no choice but to make a mad dash in whatever direction seemed the easiest to traverse. My feet carried my body through the shadows, my arms were constantly being scraped by clawing branches and fallen trees halted my progress, until a decaying root caught the bulk of my boot and sent my frame crashing into a bed of thorns. Indeed, the suddenness of the accident had shocked me but even as my eyes welled, my heart had yet to fully taste the nectar of the macabre.

 

Although blessed with natural agility I was not a dextrous child, and the excision of my appendages from the thorn bush drained the last remaining voltage from my flashlight battery. Placing my thumb underneath my tongue, I tasted blood, my blood. Rich in iron, but detestable in flavor; I quickly spat the liquid upon the bark of the neighboring tree, mixing with the pus-like sap oozing out of an infected wound. There was a rustle underneath the bed of leaves, the tapping of paws against the loamy soil, and for a brief second I was entreated to the whisper of the nocturnal beasts. Low, inaudible growls that originated from every direction, even above, filled the air while light was still unable to be viewed. My poor senses, they were but mere pawns at the mercy of the vengeful forest. Dead branches were clawing at each other like rabid animals, and the wind was coursing through the lifeless leaves, twirling like bones hung on an abandoned roof. In my state of panic, I imagined the trees coming to life and forming a massive barrier, isolating me from the entire world. Loneliness constricted my neck as nature reminded me of man’s eternal curse: that death was ultimately solitary act. As I stood in this overgrown temple, surrounded by the sentinels of the earth, my budding soul cried out in despair; had I found the end in the forest?

Continue reading Encounter

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 Shapeshifter.

Serial Streamer

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 at 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 festival. 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 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 how she would never stroke his chin again.

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.

This short came from the idea”what would happen if someone live-streamed a murder?”