Two Sentence Terrors

Two Sentence Terrors

Been seeing a lot of these style of micro-story going around and figured I’d do a list myself.  Here’s 1o little two sentence horror stories for you. Thanks Lisa for the idea.  These were fun to do!

1.)  It wasn’t the being lost in the woods, or the approaching sunset, or the fear of wild animals that terrified Carol.  It was the screams she kept hearing in the distance.

 2.)  Brian pried open the clam, hoping that it would be the one that had a pearl worthy of Lisa, but instead of a prize he found a tiny bloody eyeball resting on the meaty juice where a pearl should be. It blinked open and it’s color was exactly like Lisa’s.

 3.)  Amanda understood why Lubbo, their golden retriever, would always sit outside the door to Dougie’s room even after they’d lost him. What she didn’t understand was why he’d recently taken to growling at it.

 4.)  The smell of smoke had awoken him in time and, despite burns, Jamal kicked down the door and staggered out of the blazing house.  There were men there, he thought were firemen, until they began to pour gasoline onto him and pushed him back toward the house.

 5.)  Mark had known that participating in the Fright Fight game show would require him to do some disgusting things and eat some horrible stuff.  What he hadn’t known was that months after the show he’d still be able to feel the maggots moving around in his guts.

 6.)  “Nurse, I don’t see what there is to talk about since the patient died yesterday.”
“I know doctor, but the cancer is still growing.”

 7.)  When they’d cased the house there had been no sign of a dog, so Mike was very surprised to see a food and water dish on the kitchen floor. But he was more terrified to see that the water dish was filled with blood.

 8.)  In his last moments Private Murrow saw the angel standing twenty feet away near the severed bottom half of his body and muttered, “Thank you, Jesus.”
The angel smiled a row of fangs and responded, “I’m not that kind of angel.”

 9.)  When the aliens came they brought with them a religion that forbade the killing of any living creature and humanity was relieved. Of course, that was before we realized they considered human eyes a delicacy and had no problem harvesting from the living.

 10.)  On Monday morning Mary entered her newborn baby’s room with a bottle and found an identical copy of her baby in the crib, four of them on Tuesday, and eight of the things on Wednesday. By Sunday morning Mary entered her newborn baby’s room with a knife.



Coming to the Crossroads

Coming to the Crossroads

The sun never rises at the Crossroads.  Oh, it peeks up in the morning, just enough to paint the horizon in a dusky pink melting up into the indigo night, but it never lasts.  It surrenders soon enough and moves straight back into a violet twilight.  It tries this every few weeks, but nobody pays much attention.  There’s enough neon, blue streetlight, trash fire glow to the Crossroads that nobody misses the sun.  The stars never stop shining at the Crossroads.

Shadow’s Wake is the fourth issue of the Mark of the Cloven.  It’s Eshu the Trickster’s turn for a story and the majority of his tale takes place in the Crossroads.  What is it?  Well, it’s the spirit world, sort of…  it’s a place where all the spirit worlds meet and intersect.

When Eshu wants to he can melt into the shadows in one place and emerge from the shadows somewhere else.  The Crossroads is what is going on behind the scenes.  It’s a massive city, outside of places, that connects everything together.  A vast spiritual city of skyscrapers, cathedrals, and factories all built on the intersection of a dozen rivers, a hundred train lines, and thousands of highways with everything leading out to different places.  Bridges connect buildings, tunnels burrow through, and ramshackle additions hang like fungal growths.  Possible futures may be hiding in the reeds upriver.  The past may be a rusty bus ride across town.  Alternate realities can be found in the flashing strobes of a night club.  The land of the dead lurks in church basements.  Time is liquid, gas, and solid. It is the mother of mazes with every type of architecture piled into impossible combinations.  A night place comprised of dreams (sometimes nightmares) where every twist could bring you to another world.

And Eshu knows all it’s paths.

When Eshu vanishes into the shadows, he enters the Crossroads, this glorious mad city, makes his way around until he finds the exit he wants, and comes back to reality moments later.  Or sometimes before.  Who knows?  Sometimes the trip is quick.  Other times it’s a lifetime of struggle for the immortal Eshu.  Not all the spirits are friendly and not all the doors are unguarded.

The Trickster Eshu has been hiding a whole other world in his shadows.  One that leads to infinite possibilities.

Issue Four we get to follow Eshu home.  This chapter is shaping up to be some absolutely amazing stuff.  I’ve got it all outlined, am working final details, and have finished the first few scenes already.  I’m dipping into Australian aborigine mythos for some of the spiritual elements and am finding a treasure trove of imagery to fold into the Horsemen series.  I’ve also created a duo of villains for this issue that are unlike anything I’ve ever seen in comics.  Can’t wait for all of you to meet them.

Mark of the Cloven: Shadow’s Wake drops in July.  Welcome to the Crossroads.

Oh, and fyi, that sweet Eshu pic was done by the incredibly talented John Jennings.

Green River

Green River

There’s always been something magical to me about the Chicago tradition of turning their river green for St.Patricks Day.  This goes back as far as I can remember.

There’s a picture of me somewhere, on my third birthday, at an ice cream parlor called Farrell’s.  Farrell’s was in Woodfield Mall, back when Woodfield had a grocery store, pharmacy, pet stores, toy stores, and those cool dome fountains with the waterfall where you could go underneath and see three portholes displaying fish tanks.  Mall’s were a very different place when I was three, and Woodfield Mall, Farrell’s specifically, was the only place to get my favorite drink; Green River.  The novelty of drinking something bright green was clear to me, even at three, as I posed with a tall glass of Green River and grinned for the camera.

Now, Farrell’s would normally have been a once a year birthday treat, but I’ve got the lucky distinction of having my birthday exactly half a year from St.Pat’s.  My sister’s birthday is half a year from New Years Day.  So, since both our “half-birthdays” fall on holidays, they were actually a big deal in our house.  A sort of “mini-birthday”.  No presents, but certainly worth a trip to Farrell’s for Green River on St.Patrick’s day.  To this day, I still use the holiday to mark my half-birthday.  It makes St.Pat’s, just a little more special to me.  Sure, I’ve got some Irish blood.  My grandma is a redhead, chain-smoking, crazy woman named Mollie McPhee.  But I barely know her and the birthday connection was always stronger with me than the blood heritage.  It’s not like I was raised Irish by any stretch of the imagination.

By the time I was seven, Green River was gone, the soda company had stopped distributing in this area.  I was in my 20’s before I saw it on store shelves again, freaked out, bought two six packs, and drank them over 24 hours.  To this day, it’s a sporadic sort of thing to find.  I keep a bottle of it on my desk at all time.  I’ll never drink it.  I just always want one around.

The appeal of adding green to a drink is magnified with the green in the river.  There have been years where I’ll go down a day or two after they dye it and just sit somewhere and watch it.  It’s so strange and unreal looking at first, but the longer you sit there, the more normal it seems.  It’s the perfect example for how something so basic can change a setting tremendously.  I’ve been told that one the strengths in my writing is often the unique landscapes and the vibrant colors.  I developed a lot of that from sitting on the edge of that green Chicago River thinking about how colors apply, and how basic things can be changed, just a little, to make entirely new environments.  But while I do that on the page, Chicago does it for real.  We make this world the way we want it, and if we want the water green, we can do that.  To me, that green water isn’t just tradition, it’s a reminder that we’re in control and that the world can be different if we want it to be.

This year, it’s not lost on me that Gale is turning three two days after St.Pats.  The same age I was so excited to guzzle green pop.  It makes me wonder what she’ll be remembering forty years out.  Monday is officially St.Pats and the weather’s not looking awful.  I think perhaps I’ll take Princess Thirza down to see the magical green river for the first time and see what sticks.

Creatures I’ve Been Attacked By

Creatures I’ve Been Attacked By

For anyone who was ever interested (and I know you all are) here is a list of creatures that have attacked, tried to inflict damage, bitten, clawed, swatted, or poisoned me.

Dog (domestic and wild, small and large, bites, blood)
Cat (domestic, venomous scratch, bite, blood. ~yes people, cat claws are venomous, look it up)
Hamster (bites, blood)
Wild Rat (attempted bite, multiple times, different rats)
Rabbit (bite, blood)
Turkey (female-multiple, pecked, a lot…)
Dogface Pufferfish (bite, blood)
Iguana (bite, whipped with tail)
African Monitor Lizard (attempted bite)
Squirrel (threw nuts and sticks at me, may have been playful)
Anole Lizard (bite, no damage, they’re tiny)
Lionfish (spines, poisoned, and bite, bastard.)
Cow (chased, more than once, different cows.)
Bull (attacked a bus I was riding, touched his horn waving my arm out the window to annoy him)
Goose (chased and pecked)
Crows (multiple, dive bombed, pecked)
Macaw (bitten, blood, she started it)
Pincer Crab (clawed)
Tiger (knocked me down, jumped on me, rubbed sharp tiger teeth on my neck)
Bullfrog (bite, unusually cranky)
Sea Anemone (stung, poisoned)
Wasps (stung, many species, many times)
Spiders (bitten, many species, many times)
Bees (stung, many species, many times)
Cottonmouth (attacked, chased, didn’t like being poked with stick)
Polecat (bitten, blood)
Undetermined snakes (attacked, chased)
Goat (rammed, also cranky)
Freshwater Stingray (stung, poisoned)
Zebra Moray Eel, Picasso Triggerfish, and other various fish (bite, no damage)
Lovebird (bite, blood, misunderstanding)
Women (bite, claw, scratch, punch, kick, tear out heart, etc… very dangerous, approach with caution)

I think that’s everything.  I’ll amend the list if more things come to mind, or if more things attack me.

It is also important to note that despite several VERY close encounters I am, evidently, not offensive to skunks.

Skunks. They Dig Me.

Skunks. They Dig Me.

The What and Why of Me and The Horsemen

The What and Why of Me and The Horsemen

A lot of you know me as a horror writer.  Oh sure, I’ve mentioned that I do sci-fi and fantasy as well, but it’s not what people generally associate me with.  I’m also fairly close to finishing up my collection of short horror stories, Nest of Scars.  So finding out that I’m writing for an afro-centric comic book might come as a bit of surprise.  Here’s why.

Horsemen hits a whole bunch of my biggest buttons.  Button one, comic book settings are often an awesome hybrid of pseudo sci-fi worlds with iconic, somewhat mythological, archetype characters.  I like that blend of fantasy and futurism.  Horsemen is heavy on the mythos part of things so it lands squarely in my comfort zone.  These aren’t normal heroes, they’re normal people imbued with the powers of literal gods.  Very fantasy.

The world setting is a technologically advanced near-future where Africa has gotten its act together and has become the “New Frontier” and people are fleeing the dying American superpower.  For a long time the world saw America as the last frontier; the place you went to for hope and opportunity.  In the world of the Horsemen, this dynamic has been upset.  From an authors point of view it’s a fantastic platform for looking at globalization, post affluence American identity, and the direction and purpose of governance.

I’ve had several “raised eyebrows” that I’m writing for Griot.  Sort of a “shouldn’t you be black?” undertone.  I mean, what could I possibly know about writing a series of all black characters?  My response, generally, to this sort of thinking it as follows; that’s a load of crap.  It’s insulting to my creativity, empathy, and makes gross assumptions about my life experiences.  Black characters are fun to write.  There’s a degree of complexity in empowered black characters that is engaging and interesting.  It’s part of the appeal of writing Horsemen.  Another button.  Thankfully, the “wtf” response has been limited.

So that’s why I’m writing.  Here’s what I’m writing.
Those are the Deitis.  They’re gods who represent things like War, Religion, Lust, etc… Ages ago, there were tons of them and they were bad news for everyone.  The Orisha, humans transcended to a god-like equivalent,  whooped their asses, defeated them, thought they were dead, and then left the world godless so it could choose its own fate.  But these Deitis weren’t dead.  These ones survived, hid long enough to see the coast was clear, and have been messing with humanity ever since.  Now the the spirits of the Orisha have returned and empowered a normal human family to combat them.  These are The Horsemen.  That’s the general shape of the comic.

Here’s where I come in.

In the centuries that the Deitis have been around they’ve managed to accumulate a fair number of bastard children.  Born of the gods they’re fairly powerful but are usually unaware of each other, causing them to be no real threat.  Not anymore.  These bastard children are tired of living in their parents shadows in the slow rotting American empire.  They’ve set their sights on the new horizon.  They’re going to the African Union and only the Horsemen stand in their way.  Ready or not, the Cloven are coming!

Nine stories, released monthly, one for each of the seven Horsemen all leading up to a climactic two-part finale.  Here’s the schedule.

  • Yemaya’s Chapter – November 2013
  • Ogun’s Chapter – January 2014
  • Oshun’s Chapter – March 2014
  • Eshu’s Chapter –  May 2014
  • Oya’s Chapter – July 2014
  • Shango’s Chapter – September 2014
  • Obatala’s Chapter – November 2014
  • Grand Finale Part 1 – January 2015
  • Grand Finale Part 2- March 2015



My Bottles

My Bottles

I love bottles.  Mostly glass bottles, although others types can win my fancy.  I like them tall, short, round, or fluted.  I particularly enjoy them in colored glass or with unusual lips or shapes.  Handles and stoppers are a bonus.

I have an unreasonable love of bottles.  Just ask my wife, she’ll tell you.  I have several boxes I refuse to part with in the basement.  I’m building a wall of bottles in the Forte’ workshop.  I feel a real pang of loss when I see even so simple a thing as a bottle of Two Buck Chuck in the trash.  It is not unusual for me to find myself in a resale shop, trolling the kitchen areas, picking out rectangular bottles of blue glass, or little round clear oil and vinegar bottles, or perhaps, something with a fat bottom in smokey grey.    My fish tank has colored glass bottles in it, under-lit through the filter plate and gravel.

I may be a bottle addict.  I’ve come to terms with this.  I’m in recovery, of sorts.  I still want to bring the empty bottles of wine home from restaurants Jill and I go to, but I don’t ask for them anymore.  I may not be able to carry them to the trash myself, but I can allow it to happen without too much fuss.  I no longer… well… I don’t often buy alcohol based solely on the attractiveness of the bottle anymore.  Recovery!  I’m getting better.

But what is it about the whole bottle thing anyway?  Why on earth am I such a freak about it?  I think I can tell you.

Bottles are mysterious.  Especially bottles with no labels.  They’ve got this feeling about them that they could contain… anything.  Something delicious, smooth, sweet.  Or perhaps poisonous.  They might have something old, strong enough to make your chest burn and your eyes water.  It might be fizzy.  All these, flavors, tastes, and sensations, are modified, the moment you first taste them, by the container they’re poured from.  If I pour you a tiny glass of something from a jug with an xxx on the side, you’d expect it to taste like turpentine and pack a whallop.  If I pour something from a long slender green bottle into a glass flute, you’d expect crisp, light, airy.

The bottle is the expectation.  And, like so much of life, expectation is often better than reality.  An empty bottle captures this sensation of hopeful excitement almost perfectly.

When I was about fifteen I was out in the woods.  Hours from anywhere, not lost, but just wandering, no idea where I was.  When the time came to go home I’d head East and eventually hit the highway, take it North, and make it back.  But at the moment, I could not tell you where I was.  I’d been following a dry creek bed for over an hour, all rocks and overhanging bushes.  It was quiet, the tree canopy was split by the dry waterway and light kept pouring down from the left leaving crisp bright spots on the stones, and cool shadows on what would have been the banks.  I saw this weird greenish-white reflection slithering on the bank, about fifteen feet from any light.  Using my hand to make my own shadow, I was able to track it back to a cleft between two of the creek stones and there, at the bottom, was a bottle, catching the sunlight and throwing it around.  I took it out.  The thing was tiny, about five inches long, body shaped like a coffin.  It was actually white but dried algae had given the reflection a green tinge.  It had clots of dirt inside it, and looked like it was, impossibly, full of marbles.  It looked old.

As it had caused me to stop, I looked around, wondering where it might have come from, and noticed something odd.  A bunch of the rocks on the bank were straight.  Too straight.  Leaving the bed I discovered the foundations of an old mill.  I found a hand dug well and several other old building foundations.  It was all so overgrown I could have walked right through and never noticed it.  I spent about an hour, poking around.  Trying to determine what building was what.  Imagining what life there must have been like.  A tiny American ruin, discovered on a reflection.

I still have that bottle.  I don’t know what it originally had in it.  There’s no way I’ll ever know.  I don’t know who owned it.  Or who threw it into a creek by the mill, a creek long since dried and dead.  I can’t even say how old it is.  I’ll never know these answers.  But I do know what it has in it now.  It’s the same thing as all my bottles.