Entry 0112: A Little Background on my New Call of Cthulhu Character

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LP: Dead Can Dance by Dead Can Dance

2016 4AD Records, CAD 3622, reissue

Favorite Track: A Passage in Time

 

Wendell Christmas sat on the stalled train, watching the cardinals flash red past his finger-spotted window. Just once he would like to fly…feathery wings growing from the curve of his back, flapping powerfully so as to sweep away all the dust at his feet as they slowly left the earth…just once he would like to fly back home to Buffalo. Instead the train lurched forward and the cardinals became faded brown dots in violet dusk.

He knew he should get some rest. Tomorrow he would start his week tracking turkeys, possums, and foxes. A customer of his had wanted him to bag and stuff a stag, but Wendell laughed and said he did not have the materials necessary. However, something bothered him about shooting a noble deer. As a child, he would explore the woods of his pappy’s farm and the deer would always find him by the lake, approached tentatively, but always approached and stood by him, sometimes drinking out of his cupped hands, all the time breathing heavily while their big black orbs tried to convey some natural message. Wendell used to believe it was his mother possessing the Cervidae, attempting to communicate supernaturally with her son. Wendell fumed over what he would say to her incorporeal spirit. Five years was not enough, yet, in an impassive way, he wouldn’t know what more he could say to her.

It was dark when the train pulled into the station. An active owl hooted like a watchman over the cold tracks and fallen pine needles. Wendell slung his heavy bag over one shoulder and made his way to the hotel. He would camp tomorrow, but now was too dark for him to find a safe spot by the river. Plus, a gloomy disposition had settled over him like a fog rolling off the water and into bay. A question nagged him: was his interest in taxidermy merely a coping mechanism for the death of his mother? He tried to tell himself many things: electrical and mechanic repair were hobbies that paid bills and tabs; there is a calming effect scooping out the entrails of a fresh kill; the complimentary thanks of a satisfied customer made his soul glide above snow-peaked mountains; the danger of the hunt and the silence of ambush; his mother had left the earth and it didn’t matter anymore and all Wendell had to worry about was feeding himself and satisfying his customers and be wary not to fall in love. The owl hooted again and then surprised Wendell by flying out with far-reaching wings. Its eyes were the color  of squash and its flight took him right over Wendell’s tall frame. As it went past, he could have sworn a sweet, raspy voice squawked, “Sunrise…”

At the hotel, Wendell climbed into bed after washing his hands with the soap he brought with him The mattress was hard, but Wendell expected worse. After a few moments of adjusting and relaxing, he reached for the Weird Tales magazine he brought with him. It was the black-bordered October 1923 issue. The frightening image of a snowbound ship and, presumably, the captain forced to walk the plank caught his eye at the newsstand. What strange and horrible stories this Edwin Baird published. Wendell felt a little rebellious collecting these pulps. His father would flay his skin with a poker if he knew.

Tonight, by candlelight, Wendell read a short story by a newcomer: H.P. Lovecraft. The tale was titled Dagon. When he was done, he took the candle to a window and stared out into the darkness, hoping to see the river in the distance. Nothing but tall trees with extended limbs greeted his vision. A slight breeze made every branch sway like a mummy’s outstretched arms. Wendell shook his head, but couldn’t laugh. An owl swooped by, catching a fat mouse that gave little squeal. He was sure it was the same owl and he knew for certain that he would see this same owl every night this week.

Who hunts the hunters? was his last thought before a queer sleep overtook him.

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Entry 0109: Why Never to Ask Me What I Had for Lunch

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LP: Hard Attack by MX-80 Sound

1977 Island Records ILPS 9520

Favorite Track: Civilized / Demeyes

 

Friends today learned the hard way not to ask me what I had for lunch. Food was still digesting in my belly so my brain was on fire with quick, silly responses. Here is the transcript (I am the Librarian Demon):

Pippi Gothstockings: how was everyones lunch?
Hero Scientist: I had taco truck pork burrito with spicy salsa
Librarian Demon: let me describe mine: I stood waiting by the counter, counting my chin hairs.
Pippi Gothstockins: where is there a taco truck
how many were there
this is important
Librarian Demon: the food seemed to be taking its time as if the chef had to grow it, water it, sing it Brahms, then slaughter it herself
Hero Scientist: it is the best taco truck
in the BP parking lot in pleasant ridge
Librarian Demon: a man approached me with a plastic bag. “oh my food” i said
mostly to myself as the man returned to the screaming kitchen
Pippi Gothstockings: oh youre at other a—s
i forgot about that
we’ve talked about that taco truck
Librarian Demon: i walked back to the library briskly, remembering that I had to pay a prank on C——
at my desk, I unveiled my succulent prize: sytrofoam
the fork was handy save for my fingers which i dropped a few times
after securing my fingers, i decided to press my nose into the styrofoam, inhaling the robust odor of mango, until the foam was pierced and a semi-burning liquid filled my nostril
to eat, I use my teeth but I have learned of stranger ways
the colorful array of snap peas, zucchini, ginger, pineapple, and mango on top of the saucy red (jack the ripper) tofu was ruined by the pale brown rice. why did I get brown rice???
only after overcoming all my fears that my poisoners had finally found after i escaped Buffalo, i place foods in the many places of my mouth
to save for later
my stomach farted happily as the stir-fry tore holes through my lungs with a rush of nicotine tar
now I peek at my desk, smiling fondly at the tragedy of my lunch hour: sixty minutes of my life to take sixty bites and sixty bites for my marriage to fall apart, leaving me alone with my tofu gun
*noticeable silence from the other two*

Entry 0106: More Conan reviews

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LP: We are the Lazer Viking by An Albatross

2003 Ace Fu Records ace 023

Favorite Track: The Vitally Important Pelvic Thrust

 

Before I return to the bloodshed of Conan, I want to say Happy New Year and let it be as good as 2016 as far as record collecting goes. Last year, I found some of the rarest records I had been searching for, leaving me speechless yet again at the mass of goodies I have hoarded in my one bedroom apartment. One day, I will take a vacation and just list to all the records I own. I may have to take two vacations. Finding the Little Johnny Jewel Ork Records 7-inch made it feel possible that I could acquire all the crazy records I’m searching for. What would I do if I found an original the Return of the Durutti Column in all its sandpapery goodness? What if next time I walk in, I see an original New Rose single? Oh, the tasty possibilities.

Okay, jazz music is driving me nuts. I wanted to write but this is distracting. Don’t get me wrong: I like jazz music. But right now, it is not helping. I actually wrote “tastiness possibilities” and only just caught the error. I blame the keyboardist.

So, by Crom, let’s get to the violence!

“The Vale of Lost Women” – 1 out of 5 broken skulls

Robert E. Howard

 

Oh brother. Where to start with this tale? I enjoyed that it was told from Livia’s point of view instead of Conan’s, but, well, Livia is very proud of a whiteness while being captive of the Bakalah tribe. Then she offers Conan her body as a prize for rescuing her. Yikes! Instead she flees Conan and finds the vale of lost women, which has some lesbian suggestions, but they try to sacrifice her to a moth-god, which was by the far the best part. Conan saves her and tells he wouldn’t have slept with her because that would have been rape. Who knew Conan was a class act? Is he? His sexual policy seems to alter between stories (see the Frost Giant’s Daughter) so I am not sure what to make of this ending. Either way, this story was never published during Howard’s life time and perhaps it would have been best left that way. For you future Conan-reading people, feel free to skip this one. You are only missing out on racism.

 

“The Castle of Terror” – 3 out of 5 broken skulls

L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter

 

I’ve noticed that I prefer the weird tales of Conan. Something about combining the bloodthirsty action with the supernatural and the cosmic mindbending that reels me in like a fish swallowing the fly. This tale is more atmospheric than plot. In fact, the plot is a little thin. Conan is once again being chased by nature. This time a couple of lions. This already feels a tad unrealistic; I get Conan is the hero and faster than most humans…but lions?!? Just when he is about to turn and fight, he notices the lions have stopped chasing him. He has wandered too close to a dilapidated castle, a haunted castle. Conan enters and, despite seeing eerie spirits, decides to sleep. Well, I love Scooby Doo so I bought it. Then Conan realizes the serpent-people of long ago are ghosts trying to eat him! Nightmare fuel! He wakes only to find a shadowy demonic shape. But then, the cheesy deus ex machina happens: some soldiers also decide to enter the castle and quickly are devoured by the massive ghost-creature. Conan flees. Again, weak plot, but totally enjoyable with good images.

 

“The Snout in the Dark” – 2 out of 5 broken skulls

Robert E. Howard, L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter

 

This second collection of Conan short stories has been great, but it ends on a mediocre note. This was an ambitious story with a lot to chew on. I suspect Howard realized it would have been a better novel and that is why he scrapped it. We have too much world building to do in this tale to make it work: there is a caste/class social system; there is a web of betrayals against the Queen; there is the strange wizard character who needed more background; there is the Snout in the Dark; there is a captive prisoner (with more damn white emphasis); and there is Conan playing a sort of Yojimbo kind of role. I really liked the first part of the story. The head of the Queen’s guard is imprisoned and thinks he will only be locked up but then comes the Snout! Unfortunately, the Snout is a limited scary creature. In fact, after this initial scare, the Snout seems like a poor choice to mount a rebellion against the Queen. It seems like in order for it to be effective, you would have to have your victim captured and tied up, which seems to defeat the point. That aside, the end of the story offers an interesting look at anarchy as the town destroys itself.

Two books in and I am really glad I am reading Conan the Barbarian. Sure the stories are a little bit the same (and then last few had some elements of racism and sexism), but they remind me of my favorite elements of fantasy books and video games: each story introduces a new city, custom, villain, dastardly deed, and Conan heroics. I cannot wait to discover his other adventures and I wonder if he will ever meet his end? Unfortunately, I do not own the third book yet (it is a bit rare) so I don’t know when I will return to Hyperborea, but until then, slay all the monsters!

Entry 0104: Mix Tape 2016

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7-inch: She is Beyond Good and Evil by the Pop Group

1979 Radar Records ADA 29

Favorite Track: She is Beyond Good and Evil

 

2016 was a terrible year. I shed many tears, clasped many a friend to my shoulder as we tried to hold each other up. However, 2016 was a great year in music for me. I discovered two bands that I binged on, finally got Hex Enducation Hour by the Fall, found some of my favorite punk albums as originals, discovered the groove in Veneuzuela during the 70’s thanks to Soul Jazz Records, and, like every one else, enjoyed the Stranger Things soundtrack. In fact, after making this list, I discovered this year I spent a lot of time listening to early electronic/industrial music–a good bit of it instrumentals. Needless to say because of the size, I am not going to put them in any particular order. You are going to have to be your own DJ (or just use the shuffle button).

2016 Mix

Song ————— Artist

  1. No One Can Find the War – Tim Buckley
  2. Carnival Song – Tim Buckley
  3. Pleasant Street – Tim Buckley
  4. Hallucinations – Tim Buckley
  5. I Never Asked to Be Your Mountain – Tim Buckley
  6. Once I Was – Tim Buckley
  7. Phantasmagoria in Two – Tim Buckley
  8. Get On Top – Tim Buckley
  9. Strange Feelin’ – Tim Buckley
  10. Buzzin’ Fly – Tim Buckley (Now in my top ten favorite songs of all time)
  11. Gypsy Woman – Tim Buckley
  12. Other – S U R V I V E
  13. Dirt – S U R V I V E
  14. Copter – S U R V I V E
  15. Angels and Demons – Echo and the Bunnymen (another favorite!)
  16. Erotic City – Prince (I already loved this song, but I rediscovered it)
  17. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Lee Ving
  18. Another Christmas Beer – Fear (a classic!)
  19. Soldier of Love – Arthur Alexander (also knew about this one but was excited to get it on vinyl)
  20. She is Beyond Good and Evil – the Pop Group
  21. Mind Your Own Business – Delta 5 (also just super excited to get on vinyl)
  22. I Remember – Suicide
  23. Radiation – Suicide
  24. Mr. Ray – Suicide
  25. Touch Me – Suicide
  26. Harlem – Suicide
  27. Breath the Fire – the Soft Moon
  28. Circles – the Soft Moon
  29. Out of Time – the Soft Moon
  30. Parallels – the Soft Moon
  31. Insides – the Soft Moon
  32. Want – the Soft Moon
  33. Black – the Soft Moon
  34. Wrong – the Soft Moon
  35. Deeper – the Soft Moon
  36. Rainbow Demon – Uriah Heep
  37. Sunrise – Uriah Heep
  38. Spider Woman – Uriah Heep
  39. Rain – Uriah Heep
  40. Sweet Lorraine – Uriah Heep
  41. Tales – Uriah Heep
  42. The Magician’s Birthday – Uriah Heep
  43. Green Machine – Kyuss
  44. Le Coeur Au Bout Des Doigts – Jacqueline Taieb
  45. Laisser Tomber Les Filles – France Gall
  46. Roller Girl – Anna Karina
  47. Je Suis Folle De Tant T’amier – Arlette Zola
  48. Black Star – David Bowie
  49. Lazarus – David Bowie
  50. I Can’t Give Everything Away – David Bowie
  51. Nine Plan Failed – Adam and the Ants
  52. Never Trust a Man (With Egg on his Face) – Adam and the Ants
  53. Paralysed – Gang of Four
  54. What We All Want – Gang of Four
  55. In the Ditch – Gang of Four
  56. Song I – Wire
  57. Internal Exile – Wire
  58. Dead Weight – Wire
  59. Still – Wire
  60. I’m on Fire – Chelsea
  61. Decide – Chelsea
  62. Blank Reflection – Nots
  63. Inherently Low – Nots
  64. Entertain Me – Nots
  65. Ha Ha Ha – the Julien Ruin
  66. Just My Kind – the Julien Ruin
  67. Cookie Rd. – the Julien Ruin
  68. Lookout – the Julien Ruin
  69. I Decide – the Julien Ruin
  70. Mr. So and So – the Julien Ruin
  71. Time is Up – the Julien Ruin
  72. Calverton – the Julien Ruin
  73. Araguaney – Vytas Brenner
  74. Amor en Llames – Pablo Schneider
  75. Machu Picchu – Un Dos Tres y Fuera
  76. Polvo Lunar – Miguel Angel Fuster
  77. Basheeba – Angel Rada
  78. Son De Tambor y San Juan – Un Dos Tres y Fuera
  79. Dame de Comer – Miguel Angel Fuster
  80. Caracas Para Locos – Ofrenda Vytas Brenner
  81. Panico a las 5 a.m. – Angel Rada
  82. Deny Everything – the Circle Jerks
  83. Back Against the Wall – the Circle Jerks
  84. What’s Your Problem? – the Circle Jerks
  85. Nine Million Rainy Days – Jesus and the Mary Chain
  86. April Skies – Jesus and the Mary Chain
  87. Stranger Things theme – Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein
  88. Kids – Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein
  89. This Isn’t You – Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein
  90. The Upside Down – Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein
  91. Hanging Lights – Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein
  92. Over – Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein
  93. Danger Danger – Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein
  94. Making Contact – Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein
  95. Breaking and Entering – Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein
  96. Baby Please Don’t Go – Budgie
  97. In the Grip of a Tyre Fitter’s Hand – Budgie
  98. Jumping Someone Else’s Train – the Cure
  99. Plastic Passion – the Cure
  100. Fire in Cairo – the Cure
  101. Dusseldorf – La Dusseldorf
  102. Time – La Dusseldorf
  103. Rheinita – La Dusseldorf
  104. Geld – La Dusseldorf
  105. Miss Fortune – Faust
  106. Der Garten Sandosa – Amon Duul
  107. Ein Wunderhubsches Madchen Traunt von Sandosa – Amon Duul

 

Whew, enjoy. It could have been longer.

Entry 0100: Jazzer Prose

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LP: Naked City by John Zorn

2016 1972 Records, if34, Reissue

Favorite Track: A Shot in the Dark

 

The jazz in my nose was getting out of hand. Fingers of it zooting and scatting around like an unfinished melody. Blood in my face constricted thinner than a sixteenth note. Walking diagonal through the crowd to get away from the stage but it’s brighter at the bar counter with twice as many tough guys acting petulantly.  I should have brought a book; had a quiet night. But, no, I’m trying to escape myself for one night–like truly escape myself. I want my thoughts obliterated. My ego exterminated.

Oh, hello there reader, you are trapped in the hell of my mind’s narration, which, I should warn you, is faulty. Since you are joining me in this song and dance, I should introduce myself, although if you find me talking in third person, please get our your eraser and finish me off. You are as much a part of me as I am of you, so don’t get confused. My name, for this number, is Zorro X. I’m 27, male, mostly white but I suspect my grandmother for some dalliances during the war, and a bit on the scruffy side. I used to write novels that got me in all sorts of trouble, but that stopped after I fell in love. She kissed me once and said my mouth tasted like peaches, which is strange because fruit and I haven’t seen each other since the second grade. We married for a bit, but then she left taking my typewriter with her. My eyes are hazel, sad-looking, and I nervously chew my lower lip some times. I’d go around nude in a cape and call it fashion but the police have to protect the children or someone these days. Maybe all their hands are itchy. Instead, I wear the same orange turtleneck, dark pants and darker shoes. I walk around like I’m pretending to be Tim Buckley, but, if I were to sing, I would hiss.

Why am I so determined to lose myself for a night? Well, you are here reading about me so I see you want to lose yourself too. But I can’t read and anyways don’t have the time for it. I’m all for kinetic energy. Death will come when I can no longer dance.

The band is really doing strange things on stage: the saxophonist is popping balloons with the horn and the drummer keeps making rainbow showers wet the front row. I’m getting a vibe that they are secretly summoning monsters. The creep factor is all over the place like a particularly hungry moss. There is a back exit just past the bathroom but I’ve got a pair of eyes on me from the shadows. A boy and a girl. The boy is an obvious nerd: skinny, glasses, poorly cut hair, nostalgic T-shirt. A real stereotype. The girl is a bundle of red curls, jewelry, and awkward bone structure. They are pretending to listen but they are trying to read me like you. If you are working for them, I’m going to ask you to stop. Double-crossing the author is a bad idea.

My fear only grows the closer I get to the bathroom. At first, I don’t even see the line, but then the people in the line are weird. Like something is going on in the bathroom that just may be very untoward…and this excites the line. There’s a couple of shooters, some pocket hands, a vomiter, and an old man making his own music like he was center stage and it was Woodstock all over again. I can’t see over all the shoulders and trench coats to see what is happening in the bathroom, but the light is flickering on and off. Smoke or steam has the mirrors fogged. There is a glimmer of movement.

And another glimmer as the boy and girl approach me. After this dance and song combo is over, reader, you and I have to talk. Sometimes I just don’t want to be myself but I always have to be someone when people talk to me. You are ruining my ride.

“Excuse me, Zorro, excuse me,” the girl says, her eyes wide and imploring. She’s not timid, I can tell by her gait, but she is timid now. Do I scare her? Intimidation is a weird game: you always do it when you don’t mean to.

“Yeah, who are you kid? Can’t you see something queer is going on in the bathroom and I don’t mean the fucking kind.”

“I’m Beets and this is the Count. He doesn’t talk much but we are big fans of yours.”

Oh shit.

The boy is looking for an autograph. He holds out a copy of Pantless Capeman Goes to Summer Camp with it open to page 137, which is my most illegal work. I tell you, dear reader, I always pick the wrong days to get all jazzed up.

“Look, don’t be flashing that in public. And besides, I’m a shell of a man I was. My name ain’t worth the ink in your pen.”

“But Zorro, you work Lizard People in Sacramento single-handily ousted a president. Love Bumps popularized orgies for years. And what can be said about Beefheart’s Undies, a collection so vulgar as to–”

“Yes, yes, Beets. I know my own career. The less said better. Look I’ll autograph it, take a photo, whatever makes you happy. It’s not that I don’t want to meet you fans, it just should have been one of the other 300 days in the year. Tonight, I need to not be Zorro X. Got it?”

The boy nodded and started to put the book away, but I snatched it out of his hands and started to scribble my autograph until I realized I drew a pair of titties wanking off an erect penis. Damn. I swear I was writing my name. Now the reader and these kids know I’m a full-fledged pervert. Well, this song is almost over and there are monsters out in the hallways now (I can hear the bloodcurdling screams and the rendering of flesh)  so there is no time to worry and I sketch my name around the balls because if you are going perverted you may as well let it all hang out there.

Beets continues to talk, “You’ve inspired me to do lots of things, Mr. X. I only drink coffee at 3 a.m., I listen to Tim Buckley but sing like a cat, I haunt the inside of people’s minds and I don’t wear underwear.”

Shit. These kids really studied up on me. And the underwear thing is bothering me in another way.

The bathroom line breaks up as what was going on in the bathroom reveals itself in shuddering, soul-destroying horror. Only one goofy tall man with wispy facial hair remains, pockethand working furiously.

“Okay, kids. We may as well snap that picture. I always thought that a book should end with a picture. You know, to let you know that you imagined everything wrong.”

They hugged me tightly as the camera flashed and then we were swallowed up.

 

Entry 0098: Haunted Library Story?

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EP: Halloween/Escape from New York themes by John Carpenter

2016 Sacred Bones Records SBR156

Favorite Track: Halloween theme

 

I’ve been asked to write a short story that includes libraries so I am going to use this blog entry to play around with some ideas. If anyone was asking how I come up with story ideas, this is how: I just start writing and see where it goes. Later, I’ll think about it (maybe) and throw out the crap, keep the good, and keep on writing, repeating this process as many times as needed or until sick of the tale.

John heard about the ghost in the stacks on his first day of work. It was the same tale he heard when he started working at Alden Library in Ohio and the same at the main branch in Buffalo. As the cataloging librarian told the tale (with extra emphasis on the old card catalog still found on A stack), John had to bite back a bit of sarcasm. Librarians were intelligent, crafty, and curious, but a strange streak of superstition invaded the profession like a stain on an asylum wall. In Buffalo, Ruby the children’s librarian read Where the Wild Things Are backwards every Bills game day. John heard at an ALA conference about a director who covered his naked body with dewey decimal numbers before boarding planes.

Of course, John believed he lived a more pragmatic lifestyle. One of the main library missions was to assist its users with education. There was no room to spread false rumors, poorly researched health articles, and certainly nothing about ghosts–humankind’s silliest fear from the olden days. So, naturally, it annoyed John to no end that this library had two rare book rooms: The Pierce Grayson’s Rare Books and Antiquities located on the climate-controlled third floor and the unmentioned one none of the patrons knew about down in the stacks, sometimes colorfully referred to as the Dead Room, that held all the occult literature. A waste of the taxpayers money, John thought about the Dead Room, but he didn’t dare voice that opinion. Everyone he worked with was in love with it. They constantly quoted John Dee and Madame Blavatsky and the Victorium Witches Handbook, the only supposed copy in America.

John had left for the day when, at home just about to open a bottle of pinot, he realized he forgot to set up the holiday display at the reference desk. He had learned real fast that everyone in Melas took Halloween very seriously and the Halloween display was revered by the whole community. John groaned. Tomorrow would be the busiest day of the year and he was feeling rather burned out. It didn’t help that his ex-girlfriend just told him she was seeing a distant friend. He signed corking the wine bottle but knowing he would stay up an hour later than normal to drink half of it when he returned. Putting on his jacket, John walked briskly through the fallen maroon leaves. The brittle crunching attracted the curiosity of a beady-eyed rat, who sniffed a couple of times at John, but returned to the warmth of the dilapidated building it came from.

The door opened without noise and immediately John noticed a lamp on in the back office. Adam probably left it on again. He was rather absent-minded and always in a rush to run to his hippie girlfriend. John hung his jacket on the coat rack and walked around the art installation–a nine-foot tall spider made out of painted soup cans. The eyes were Campbells and they seemed to follow him as John began to feel an eerie dread prickling the back of his mind. Damn, am I really going to get superstitious now? he thought and then laughed. No, he just had a lot of his mind and he was letting the stress get to him. When he got to the reference desk, he found the Halloween display already up. Books with ghastly illustrations, scary soundtracks, and videotapes of Vincent Price and Boris Karloff were arranged in a kindof spider web pattern. John froze, pondering. Perhaps Adam put it up, he thought then dismissed the idea. Adam was lazy and probably sat on the computer face-timing his lady. Maybe Barb? John was about to turn around and leave when he remembered that Barb was on vacation.

Icy shock ran through his body. For a moment, John was positive he heard a terrifying humming–an unearthly noise made of nonhuman vibrations. It’s just my heart, he told himself. He went into his office to check the schedule. Somebody remembered to put it up, that’s all, no big deal and other pathetic attempts of calming himself crowded his mind, making him more anxious. The schedule added to the growing dread: only Adam and John worked today.

Maybe I put it up without realizing it, John thought, at least, it is done so I can go home and forget everything over a bottle and a fire…

He went back to look at the display just to make sure his eyes weren’t fooling him. It was there, but the center piece was missing. Spiderfeast was a book written by the town’s founder, Viktor Leitfield. In it, he claimed that Melas was built to worship the spiderqueen Shebboth, or so the rumors say. The book was bound tightly in thick, white cords resembling spider silk and nobody had opened the book in close to two hundred years. It was kept in the Dead Room.

John sighed and fetched the key from his desk. That’s when he heard the scuttling of a million tiny legs.

Entry 0097: Night Spells

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7-inch: The Peel Sessions by the Happy Mondays

1990 Strange Fruit 677022, Limited Edition, Olive Green

Favorite Track: Tart Tart

 

Night Spells

 

The witch crawls into the base of the tree, greased

body slick and marked with arcane stars, loping predators,

and strange fruits peeling. Her voice is like the howling

wind through wheat fields, over babbling streams,

incanting…incanting…always cursing. Her eyes go white.

So do mine. I’m in my bathroom and I fall to the floor.

At the last second, I cross my arms to save my face.

All is dark inside my head but I feel my body jerked

as if connected to the witch by a string, a thin, cold

invisible thread in the tapestry of fate.

An amount of time passes where I probably ground my teeth.

Upon waking, I find myself on my side, vaguely aware

I had fallen, but unsure exactly what had happened.

The tiles are white with smudges beneath my hands.

But on each arm, right before the crook of the elbow,

are two perfectly symmetrical circle, broken at the

sinister side, made of blood.

Entry 0095: Silverfrost Forest, part two

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LP: Blues for the Red Sun by Kyuss

2014 Rhino Records R1 61340, Dali Records

Favorite Track: Green Machine

 

“The thing about Silverfrost Forest is that it changes shapes. The trees are sneaky: they stand tall and proud while you view them, but as soon as you walk past, they slouch and tip-toe around, their branches dragging through the snow and wiping away your footsteps. One should never travel about alone in Silverfrost Forest, but I was seven, impulsive and cocky, probably believing I was creating the world around me and in complete control.”

Stan paused and looked at the stranger. His somber face gave him strength to continue. It had just dawned on him how long it had been since he told this tale. How long he had bottled it up.

“The trees move because the witches command them. I even have reason to believe that the witches planted the first ancient trees eons ago so as to hide their foul treachery and to be guardians. But I will get to that later. At this point, I was merely lost. I was bundled up good with heavy boots and jacket. I didn’t wear a hat, but my wool scarf was tied around my head and ears. I knew there was a river somewhere west of the house and if I could follow it, I could come to a bridge that I knew to be not far from the back of our cabin. But everywhere I looked I just found more trees, taller trees as if they had giant hands with goliath fingers that blocked out the sky despite having no foliage.

I was starting to wonder if I was going to have to build a fire and had started to gather up some stray sticks when I saw something move. It was a blurry, squat shape, hairy but not fur. Long, unwashed hair. For her…if it was a her, I never realized that witch was a gendered term that might not necessarily apply so easily to these things I met called witches…for her stubby legs, she moved in a sleek manner as if she were skiing. I don’t think she saw me, but that made me more afraid for she came from behind me and walked past with great indifference. Now the idea of a fire seemed terrible, but was still a necessity. The temperature was dropping.

My father raised me to be an outdoorsman. I knew how to make a snow cave and to slope it upwards so cold air stays lower. My father was fond of building benches into the side walls to sleep on, laying on his pack and staring up through the ventilation hole and whispering stories about the forest being alive. I guess maybe that was why the appearance of the witch didn’t completely shock me. In all ways, my father taught me how to survive.

The light was bad and getting worst. I know it was the trees fault. But I dug up snow and started packing it, swiftly but methodical. Panic is your worst enemy. I was just about to finish the cave when I felt strange and dizzy for a moment. I put some snow in my mouth and sucked on it while I looked around. My heart began to beat faster and inside my mind I recited a mantra in an effort to calm myself. There was nothing out there but the white snow made gray in the falling darkness. And the trees which seemed to form a solid wall around me. And an owl hooting but not visible. And the cracking of branches as the weight of snow became too much. Some ice flashed like lightning in the far distance.

The river!

And then came the witches…”

The stranger interrupted, his hand lifting his piece and exchanging its place where Stan’s knight sat. “You are lying to me.”

Stan frowned. He knew this story…it was his story…he knew the truth, had witness the brutal events, how dealt with those…things…yes, they couldn’t be women or men or human or even of this world…what did this stranger know about any of this.

“I have to beg to differ, but I was there and I…”

“You were hexed. The story you think to be true is false. A cursed memory. Not yours. But go ahead and tell me it if you wish,” he said in a flat voice and dismissing hand, “then I will tell you the true story, if you can stand to bear it.”

to be continued…

Entry 0092: The Continuing Wrath of Conan

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7-inch: Ceremony by Wussy

2016 Damnably DAMNABLY045

Favorite Track: Ceremony (cover)

 

More Conan reviews! *Spoilers*

“The Hand of Nergal” – 2 out of 5 broken skulls

Robert E. Howard and Lin Carter

 

This story begins in a fascinating manner: Conan has become a mercenary in the Turanian army and is in the pitch of battle against the forces of Munthassem Khan. During the combat, Conan watches a field commander be slain by giant shadowy bats. The descriptions of these beasts are beautiful and, once again, the cosmic horror of Lovecraft stands out. Conan swings his sword and slices one open but it just reforms. Conan begins to go numb but remembers a conveniently found talisman in his pouch and pulling it out causes the shadowy bats to flee and warmth to return to his body. Then he faints. When he wakes up, he is alone on the battlefield. He picks his way forward finding a horse and then a nearly naked lady still alive. She has come to find him and bring him back to the sorcerer Atalis, who wants to over throw Munthassem Khan.

So far so good. But then this is where the tale slacks. We learn that Munthassem Khan was once a good ruler, but when the Hand of Nergal fell from the sky it corrupted him. The only counter is the Heart of Tammuz. Note: both of these are ancient Mesopotamian gods. Conan leads an attack against the Khan but fails, however, the Heart of Tammuz and the Hand of Nergal grow into giant beings that fight each other until nothing is left. The Khan also turns into ash.

For the first time in these stories, the cosmic aspect disappoints me. It is nice to see that Conan is not the “hero” of the story in the conventional sense of him slaying the evil monster/person (*see story below), but the two strange artifacts just turning into cosmic beings and disappearing makes for a lacking ending. Also, what happened to the bat creatures from the start of the tale? I wanted to see Conan figure out a way to kill them. Compared to the rest of this collection, this story falls short in two ways: one) premise is too similar to all the rest but lacking the great details or atmosphere of the other tales and two) cop out ending.

“The City of Skulls” – 4 out of 5 broken skulls

L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter

 

I believe this was the longest tale in the story. The length added to the story making it feel like the first world-adventuring story in the entire collection. So far, most of the tales involved Conan arriving in a city, learning where some treasure is, trying to steal, and killing lots of people. This time we have Conan in an army again with a friend named Juma, who I really hope returns. Juma is a tall man from Kush, who is ferocious in battle yet laughs pleasantly. Their army is defeated, Conan, Juma and the princess Zosara are captured and taken to the fabulous land of Meru, whose origin we learn later on in fascinating details. Shamballah, the capital of Meru, is known as the City of Skulls and everywhere Conan looks, skulls looks back. I shivered once when I imagined if Ben Templesmith drew a picture of the City of Skulls.

The rimpoche, Jalung Thongpa, wants Zosara as a bride. Conan attempts to rescue her, but his magical staff knocks him unconscious. Oh no, in addition to the kill count, I should have kept track of how many times the barbarian falls unconscious. Conan and Juma are sentenced to slaves and whips crack as we are reminded of a brutal and nasty part of history even the United States tries to cover up. How sick and twisted are people to look at another human being and see nothing there but an animal or worse, to bind them in fetters and beat them, starve them, and rob their dignity. Of course, Conan and Juma find a way to break free after what I assumed was seven nights of rowing. They kill some of the slavers, but do not have time to free the other slaves, leaving us readers in a bit of a moral quagmire.

Upon return to Shamballah, they find a magic ritual going on, Zosara is tied up naked (of course), and an excellent fight scene happens. The statue of the god Yama comes to life and hypnotizes Conan, but Juma throws Jalung Thongpa under its foot, which crushes the rimpoche and then slips smearing his remains across the dais, which is the most descriptive and brutal death in the series so far. Way to go Juma! I love this character. The death of the rimpoche causes the statue to become stone again and Conan, Juma, and Zosara leave. Then comes the silliest part of all the stories I’ve read so far! Conan tells Juma he is going to return Zosara to the bridegroom waiting for her. After a month journey, he does so and they are rewarded with gold. Juma asks him why he returned a good looking woman who was obviously fond of him and Conan replies, “I don’t want to get tied down, but the heir to the throne is already on the way.”

Zing! That’s pretty terrible, so I will just shake my head. Despite the ending, I am down with the story. I felt this one could be filmed as a movie as it is, although they would want to expand on the history and action scenes. But there is plenty to work with as a reader of these tales: good battles, travel albeit in the terrors of slavery; rebellion, magic, a crazy statue coming to life, and more action. The pacing felt good and enough of the environment was given its lore to feel real. Juma is the best “sidekick” Conan has had and I hope we see more of him. Also, it is nice to see Conan doing other things beside thieving although what isn’t  being a mercenary justifying looting corpses because you were paid to hack them apart?

Overall, the first book in the Conan series was really good. The best story, in my opinion, was “The Tower of the Elephant” and we had only one mediocre story, “The Hand of Nergal”. What happens in the next book, I have no idea, but I love the Frank Frazetta cover.

Entry 0073: Campfire Tales

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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.