Entry 0073: Campfire Tales


EP: He’s Frank by the Monochrome Set

1979 I.R.S. Records IR 9002

Favorite Track: He’s Frank


“There’s a man in the woods…”

The recoil from the rifle shot still reverberated through the hollow with a rumbling descrescendo. Sparks were puffed from the fire on great clouds of smoke. The five boys sat on uneven stones more or less making a circle around the burning woods. Two or three of them had glasses of amber liquid in their hands while the tallest boy dragged on a medicinal herb and passed it to the boy with the most spaced-out eyes.

He said, “The Federal Reserve is involved with five conspiracies. They got their hands on money. They got their hands on time. They got their hands on the work force. They got their hands on the government. They got their hands on space.”

A rotund boy wearing a monocle (a weak boy I must insert into this cracked narrative, easy to chew) threw some dry sticks into the flame, “It’s getting cold. Was it always this cold? I think the last time I was in the Gorge, there was this squall…”

“There are wizards roaming our chain stores profiting on selling time and distributing money that gets you high…”

“There’s a man in the woods…”

The tallest boy arched his head back to take in the stars. They were crawling around again, a fuzzy matrix of possible routes through different universes. For a moment, he wished they would just make up their collective mind and freeze in place so he could assign them names in case he ever had to ask them for future advice. When he shifted his head back down to the fire, the stars came with him, showering him in a silvery waterfall.

“I’ve got a woman in my life now. Met her at karaoke at the Crepe Underground. Lovely, a kind soul, garrulous. I think I’ve only gotten two sentences in, which is probably why she is still dating me…”

“A large crack of lightning struck the tree fifty feet from me. Splintered the trunk in half. A piece of the bolt broke off and bounced toward me like a rolling sphere of jagged purple spikes. Came at me before my eyes could register what exactly was happening, but I knew the hairs were standing up on my arms and I had instinctively stopped breathing the hot air…”

“Stop quoting all the literature you read. Always with the scientific phenomena, the mystical experiences, the weird. You probably saw your bathroom light bulb burst when you went to vomit after a night of heavy drinking. And now you are trying to pass it off like a zen koan…”

The fire was waging now. The smoke grew thicker obscuring the five boys from seeing each other. The boy with glasses added more unnecessary sticks to the fire. The tallest boy looked up at the stars again, trying to lick each one. The red-headed boy whistled a love song about a girl with curly hair. Another rifle crack thundered around the ridge like shifting ice.

“They make twice the profits because they sell Staples their time to use their own business, but Staples has to pay for the time using Wizard Bucks, which they have to buy from a different Federal Reserve wizard who is using Staples’s own copy machine to make the Wizard Bucks. And they aren’t affiliated with Staples so they can pocket this double cash…”

“I should have been dead but the ball lightning exploded soundlessly before my eyes and in its place floated a will o’wisp. Just hovering and beckoning me so I trounced off into the forest, away from the fire, heading toward Star Gap Arch…”

“There’s a man in the woods…”

A gust of wind cleared some of the smoke before the boy with glasses threw on more wood. The tallest boy noticed their were four boys sitting around the camp. A cup of bourbon sat on a rock. No sonorous whistling fluttered in the air.

“You are always reading that pulp garbage. Monsters wearing human skin, alien devices that can extend your mind to the ends of the universe, impossible maths. I’ve always said you needed to become grounded in reality. Take a fucking science course. Rotate in the same directional orbit as the planet you are standing on. By the way, where the hell is that herb?”

“These wizards sell us our own atmosphere. Each breath enriches them. When Congress tried to extend the length of a moment,  they embezzled our tax returns to bribe lobbyists…”

An unseen bird flew over the camp and landed on a branch right along the cliff side. The tallest boy took back the herb and puffed. The smoke mixed with the darkness made his vision hazy, but he was distinctly aware there were only three boys sitting around the fire now. He glanced at the cabin but none of its lights were on.

“There’s a man in the woods…”

“Remember that story you told me about the Thing? Not the John Carpenter movie, but from that weird guy. An amorphous creature that haunted kids at sleepovers, threw knives with deadly accuracy, but whose Achilles Heel was a silver knife? Kind of ironic, if the author spelled out that it was killing all those children with knives that could kill it, but he wrote prose like a swollen eggplant…”

“You can’t fight them. You would have to ask them permission first and they will make you do all this paper work and you’ll just cut your wrist they fill out another Requisition to Draw Swords…”

In the blackness of space, the diamond moon began to put itself to sleep. The boy with spaced-out eyes couldn’t find his mug anymore but found another cup of bourbon and finished the rest of the rust-colored contents. It tasted more bitter than he remembered, but another puff and he was right back among the wizards.

“Wait, where did you even go with your ridiculous stories? You know I was kidding right? Always so sensitive. I like Poe and Machen and even Derleth can set a dark, unsettling atmosphere, but the woods are just woods. There are no monsters. There is no unspeakable evil out there in the beyond, watching and waiting.”

Silence breathed smoke, but no one had added wood in quite a while. The embers were increasing, however, spitting sparks with pops and crackles at an insistent rate. The boy realized he was alone but the cabin looked empty. Fear wrapped its cold, clammy hand around his neck. It was so strong that the boy thought somebody was really touching him and that sent even more shock into his system so that he could not run toward the cabin. Maybe there is something scientific about the supernatural…

“There’s a man in the woods…”

As the diamond moon sunk so did the embers extinguish themselves. The tallest boy stood above the other boy, wiping the blade of a knife on his maroon-stained overalls.


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