GUEST BLOG: C. DARWIN DECAY Part One by J.C. Eickelberg

GUEST BLOG: C. DARWIN DECAY PART TWO by  J.C. Eickelberg

What are you telling me? I’m a freak?” Logan asked. He was visibly upset.

No. You’re not a freak,” his dad said. “You had genes spliced into you to correct a genetic abnormality. You’re as normal as I am.”

What kind of genes were used? Monkey? Dog? Slug? What am I?” Logan didn’t like hearing he wasn’t truly his parent’s kid.

You are as human as I am. Every piece of DNA used came from a person. You don’t have to worry about turning into a fish, or growing a tail.”

Yeah right.” Logan rolled his eyes. “I’ve seen pictures of people with tails, and little kids with enough hair for three people. I even did a report on Werewolf Boy. Is he a cousin? Or is mermaid girl?”

Nothing of the sort. Your genetic anomaly was corrected with valid strands of DNA. A flu virus was used to get the DNA into you and do what was needed. It didn’t make you sick. It made you better.” His dad reassured his son as best he could. 

“If anything, your eyesight might be better than anyone else in the family.”

Great. I won’t need glasses. What about me not wanting that treatment? Maybe I didn’t want it.” He glared at his father, disgust evident in his voice.

Then we wouldn’t be here having this conversation, and you wouldn’t have become the healthy young man you are,” his dad said. He looked at his son, tired of the conversation. 

“Is there anything else?”

When can I expect to start howling at the moon? Or should I make arrangements to catch a flight south to keep up with the flock? Are my wings going to start growing soon?” He chided his father.

He didn’t believe all his father had said about the source of DNA he was given as a child. “I’m pretty sure I remember the desire the hang out in trees.”

You always were a bit of a climber,” his dad admitted. “I’m going to say it again; only DNA from a family member was used. What do I have to say to convince you of that?”

Convince me? When half our family is built like gorillas? I don’t think that’s going to happen. I may as well be a gargoyle.” He shot this at his dad. 

“Darwin would roll over in his grave, messing around with a person’s genes.” Logan couldn’t help thinking this was a Lovecraftian conversation.

That’s not true. You’re not a gargoyle. Those reflexes of yours are more cat-like than a gargoyle’s.”

If not a gargoyle, then what am I? A snake like you for doing this to me?” He glared at his father.

“Why do I feel like I want to chase birds?” Not waiting for a response, he continued, “Come to think about it, I’m going out to go get something to eat. Do you want me to bring back a mouse for you?” He didn’t wait for a reply.

As far as he was concerned, he didn’t want to hear any more about what benefits he ‘inherited’ from the donated DNA. He just wanted to be like everyone else he met. All human, no mixed DNA. As much as his father said about getting nothing but human material, who’s to say the source didn’t start with the non-human material.

He stormed out of the house. Looking around the yard, he found the massive oak tree he spent so much time in as a kid. It had massive limbs reaching over the roof of his parent’s two story house. The lowest branch was head high. He easily leaped to this lowest branch, claws digging into the bark. Chirping birds fluttered through the neighborhood as a squirrel chattered farther up the tree. Nothing in sight calmed him. Friends down the block playing soccer held no interest. His tree companion kept yelling at him for joining it in the tree. A shadow moved over the tree. Warbles filtered down, announcing the hawk looking for something.

Logan moved silently up the tree. His movements sleek and quiet. A flurry of movement brought his attention to focus on his target. The squirrel darted passed him, moving toward the house. Its movement was too spastically for him. A better target presented itself as the squirrel made the leap to the roof. Making adjustments while moving through the tree, Logan made his leap as the hawk streaked toward the ground. Logan landed on the roof. The squirrel raced over the peek. Logan heard the door close.

Logan, what are you doing up there?” his dad said.

Like I said. I wanted a snack.” He held the hawk out to his father, still embedded on his claws. “Want some?”

Get down here,” he demanded. Logan landed next to him, as light as a cat jumping from a countertop. His father lowered his voice. “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times. No hunting in the neighborhood.”

Fine. You get the grill out. I’ll get this cleaned.” Logan smiled, showing off long canine teeth.

Good catch. That’s a big one. I’ve been wanting to catch that one, myself,” his dad said.

Logan went to the backyard to begin the task of dressing out his catch. A shadow sailed across the ground. He dismissed it as another predator scouting the neighborhood. His father made a grunting sound in his throat as another shadow passed, a larger one this time.

Dad, have you talked to Grandpa Everson lately?” Logan asked, mind lost in thought.

Not for a little while. Why do you ask?”

I’ve been thinking of him lately. I don’t remember much about him.” His dad watched his son carefully. “I was hoping to talk to him about our family.”

Why the interest? Anything your mother and I can help you with?” He watched as Logan began the task of preparing his catch for the grill.

I know all the stories you told me. I want to know what it was like for him growing up in the old country. Why did he move? Where does he live now? What did he do for a job at your age? What does he do now?” A shadow of doubt and a recriminating looked aimed at his father wasn’t lost as feathers fell to the ground.

Odd you ask about him. He just contacted me about coming for a visit. In particular, he wants to talk with you,” his mother said from the backyard. Her lithe figure, cat-like in her movements as she soundlessly crossed the deck.

Logan started at her voice. He hadn’t heard her open and close the back door, or walk across the wooden surface. “Mom, you’re too quiet.”

Not when I want to be,” she purred. “And I wanted to know what’s up with you. Why so much interest in knowing about the family? And why the hostility about being a healthy young man? Too many girls in the neighborhood chasing you home, wanting a boyfriend?” She reached to take the bird’s carcass and continued to prepare it more gently. A few bones were clearly dislocated from Logan’s efforts.

No. I just want to know what anomaly I inherited from the family.” He walked into the backyard toward the statuary his parents kept there. “What was it?” He demanded of the statues as he turned to his parents. He sat on the plinth of his favorite statue. An angel with wings hanging to the side, face looking down in concern.

I believe your grandfather was wanting to talk to about just that topic,” his mom soothed. She deftly finished with the bird as his father got the grill warming. A smile stretched across her face, white teeth set off by her sable complexion. He couldn’t help notice his familiar smile used on him. Even down to the canines.

That’s right,” came a baritone reply.

Logan turned to see a figure nearly taller than the statue behind him. In the growing shadows, he walked forward wrapped in a nondescript cloak. The width of his grandfather seemed just as impressive as the last time he visited. It was clear where his father inherited his size. Fear and awe settled on Logan as the immense figure walked into the yard. The chiseled facial features warmed with a smile in return of his mother’s…….

 

*********

J.C. works and lives in Wisconsin.  He has a beautiful wife and two active boys.  He enjoys spending time with family, reading, and, time permitting, writing.  Haunted and spooky places have always intrigued him.

Guest Blog : Where Nightmares Come From by Drunk Dracula

In this Guest Blog, Drunk Dracula wrote about nightmares. Check this out, and if you want more Drunk Dracula, check out his site at the end of this blog entry…. enjoy the nightmares 🙂
Where Nightmares Come From

My daughter once asked me where nightmares come from, so I told her the story my father told me and his father told him.

Long ago, there were no nightmares, only memories. Memories of the things men do and the things men see. Then sometime around the 5th Century, during the migration of Germanic tribes into what would become most of Western Europe, there was a Lord. And like many Lords of the time, he acquired land. He acquired this land the way everyone acquired land then, he conquered it.

It was in the aftermath of a particularly brutal battle, near the edges of a deep crevasse, that the Lord found a pale child wandering among the littered corpses. It was a girl, blackened by smoke and stained with the spattered blood of the fallen. She had dark eyes and a misshapen body with deformities that made even the bravest soldiers avoid her gaze and step from her path. Now this Lord was a generous one, loved by his men and his people, and he felt pity for this impish girl and he took her in, raising her within the confines of his castle.

He named the girl Nocturne for her dark eyes and her peculiar habit of avoiding sleep and staying up late into the night, seemingly for days and weeks at a time. Despite her appearance, Nocturne soon showed a Jesters talent for making the Lord and the neighboring aristocracy laugh and enjoy themselves at her stories, tales and tricks.

This Lord also had a handsome son, a Prince who would one day inherit the throne, the castle, and its lands. The Prince, like the others, also enjoyed the antics of this new girl who was always by his Fathers side, telling stories and riddles to delight the crowd. But each night, the Prince would watch as Nocturne would whisper into the Lords ear at days end, leaving the Prince to question this girl jester and the way his father seemed enthralled by such a grotesque and deformed comedienne who never seemed to sleep.

Soon, the Prince was of age and he prepared to leave the castle for his studies. He embraced his father tightly, knowing they would not see each other for years. As he rode away, leaving the only home he knew for the very first time, he glanced back at the castle and the people surrounding his waving Father. The last thing he saw before the castle slipped from view was Nocturne, there at his Fathers side, whispering her whispers in his ear.

The stories reached the Prince in the final year of his studies. They seemed fantastical at first and claimed that his Father had become a monster, a bane to his own land. It seemed the Lord had begun taxing his people harshly and imprisoning any who could not pay, condemning them to the bowels of the castle to await some form of trial and eventually, a horrible death. There were tales of lavish sin-fueled parties where the Lord would fly into rages at others, often baiting guests into heated debates, only to shackle them in chains for disobeying his view or command. Neighboring Lords and land-owners avoided the castle, fearing the tales of torture, and staying clear of the screams that lasted well into the night. And within each chilling account, what each witness never ceased to mention, was that the girl Nocturne was there, with her strange whispers for only the Lord’s ear. It seemed that Nocturne was either immune to the Dukes blood rage, or the very cause of it. Now, with this madness consuming his Father, the Prince was told that neighboring Lords were preparing to siege the castle and divide its lands among them. As the Prince rode quickly for home, he knew that any such battle would be short, since recent tales told that much of the castle had been abandoned and now only the Lord and Nocturne lived within its bloodied walls.

As the Prince neared the castle, he galloped past the villages he remembered as a young man. Once vibrant and alive, they were now shells of towns, filled with the starving, the desperate, and the dead. The castle road was littered with bloated corpses and the creek he once played in as a boy ran red with blood.

The Prince burst into the castle, sword drawn, and called for his Father. From a splintered bench in the corner of the throne room, the Lords feeble voice replied. The Prince’s Father was now thin, with sunken eyes and trembling hands, but he stood feebly and reached longingly for his son. The Prince embraced his Father and asked if the stories were true. The Lord nodded, shame washing over his pale face. The Prince gripped his sword tight and roared for Nocturne, vowing to end this damnable reign of madness. She appeared behind him, whispering a welcome to the Prince. She was seated on the Lord’s throne, her small crooked body dwarfed by the immense gilded chair. The Prince lunged at Nocturne but his sword was halted inches from her throat by the call of his Father, who cried NO.

In labored gasps, the weak Lord told his son that Nocturne was no girl, but a witch raised from Hell that day on the battlefield. It was her whispers, her foul and tiny voice in his ear that spread the madness, a rain of nightly tales of horror that he himself would in turn make real by day. The Lord said he kept Nocturne here in the castle, fearing that her tales, should they spread through the land, would inflict the very same horrors that happened here at his home. With this, the Lord gripped his sons hand and looked deeply into Nocturnes black eyes and let out his last cold breath. The Princes eyes filled with tears seeing his dead Father. As for Nocturne, she laughed. It was a tiny laugh, but a laugh that filled the Prince with rage. He stood and stared into that small witch’s eyes and in one swift motion he sank his sword through her down to its hilt. Nocturne’s laugh went silent and her eyes bulged black, dark blood seeping from her mouth. A watery, bubbling sound crept up from deep within her, traveling up her throat and past her bloodied lips. It was one last whisper. An evil sound that echoed throughout the castle, past its gates, past its lands and into our world.

Years went by, and the Prince was eventually killed in battle, the castle divided among the aristocracy. The tale of Nocturne, the Lord and the Prince was almost lost to time and the long shadows of a growing and aging Europe. But some still share the tale of the sleepless Nocturne, the girl who was something altogether not human, a creature beyond the grip of sleep, or night or day. For what the King said that day to his son was true. When Nocturne was killed, she was released from that castle and into the ether, adrift in the world. She is now free to whisper to more than just one old Lord. Her whispered stories and tales and riddles can now reach us all while we sleep. Gone are the Kings, Dukes and lands of old, now there are factories, industry, automobiles, and airplanes. But Nocturne remains, creeping silently into the bedrooms of men, of women, and especially of children. Like she did with that long dead Lord, she whispers into your ear while you sleep, and breathes vile tales of terror, of dread, of lifes poisons witnessed throughout her days on this Earth.

Maybe she’ll whisper in your ear, or maybe she already has. Because she, my dear daughter, She is where nightmares come from.

More Drunk Dracula here

Guest Blog: The Sign by Kay Tracy

The Sign

I have always struggled with these things. There are signs everywhere to give you direction. You see them, Stop signs, Green lights. These are for those obvious things in life or death. Where to look, though when things are not as obvious as you, or I, might wish them to be? It depends. There was the day that everything was in place. It was ‘ON!” I had planned it to the second! Every detail covered, every contingency accounted for. Or so I thought. All of it. I was ready to proceed, then, it began to snow. Lightly, but enough to mean there would be tracks, visible evidence would be heightened. It was a sign, a signal that this was not to happen. A ‘No’ go. Or perhaps, they chose to direct me to something, or someone, else.

I hate when anything interferes. They will only wait so long you know. I HAVE to appease them. I don’t do these things for just myself. No! You have to understand, they have very far reaching desires. My small contributions to their demands help keep them contained. Satisfied, if you will. Or so I hope. They hunger, and I try so hard to keep them in check. Of course, they frighten me. You would fear them as well, I know it. If you realized just what those dim shapes you glimpse now and then, just out of clear view, really were. Be glad that don’t. God knows, if he exists, there are days I wish I did not have. There is no time for self-pity.

It’s time now. Everything is in place, ready. Now to wait for the sign if this thing is to be done. There are people everywhere. Firefighters. Adults, and small children. And the firetrucks are inside. They could be a disadvantage, this will be very difficult with so many. I am sure I have done everything as instructed, according to the plan, but I need the sign. I have to know if this will be the time, and I am to go ahead. Is it on? Is it now? I look up, and there, above me, I see it, my answer, shining clearly.

photo credit:  centennialbulb.org

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Kay Tracy is now retired, and has time to do all the things she thought she never would do! She loves to travel, play Magic, and write.

Guest Blog: The Blind Seeker by Kay Tracy

 

The Blind Seeker
by Kay Tracy

The lousy weather was holding, with the same miasma of fog and overcast. Lack of sun will make people do and see strange things, so they say.

The usual snarl of homeward commute traffic seemed worse than usual today. There are always those people who drive like, well, I guess idiots would be the more polite word to use. Cutting people off as they weave from lane to lane, trying for that extra car length they just know will get them home faster. It had a been a long day, and I was not looking forward to the rest of the commute. I pulled my truck off the road to take a break, and have an early dinner. I enjoy finding small out of the way places to patronize, and my hunt for something other than the standard fast food or drive through took me a couple miles distance from the highway. This stretch of road should have seemed familiar, I had driven here before, but there! That place was new, a small Taqueria, with a big hand lettered sign, “Fresh Tamales!” Well! If you have never had a fresh from the steamer hand rolled Tamal, you are missing one of life’s great pleasures! The sweetly plumped corn meal holding the tasty secret of filling that the individual making them takes such pride in! Not very large, this place Only 4 tables, a counter near one wall, and a door opening into a small Botanica shop. I looked for the owner (it is always the owner who works in these places) and wandered next door, into the attached Botannica. The scents of the food from the kitchen mingled with numerous herbs, powders and scented candles from the Botanica. My stomach was growling.

The older woman in the shop must have heard my stomach, as she greeted me warmly and asked me “Comida?”- Food? I nodded and said “Yes! Tamal con Pollo por favor” I replied “Three, er Tres”. My Spanish is not that good and I forget the words sometimes!

“Give me a moment” the old woman replied, her English was impeccable, as she winked at me slyly! She was tall and on the thin side, not quite gaunt, but her face showed her bone structure, as well as her laugh lines!

She ushered me back to the restaurant side and placed a small plain black wooden box on the center of the table indicating that I should sit there. I sat looking at the décor. Painted plaster walls, scenes from Central America? Step pyramids, bright feathered birds, or were those the head-dresses of Mayan or Aztec kings or priests? The woman returned and brought me a frothy cup of chocolate. Mind you this is not the chocolate of my childhood in Pennsylvania, all milky and sweet. No! This was chocolate as the Aztecs might have prepared it, spicy, with a hint of chile, whipped to a frenzy!

I know I said I liked out of the way places, and I am always willing to try new things, but that chocolate, if you are not used to it, has some odd effects on one! I looked up, as I dabbed the chili sweat from around my eyes.

The woman came out to sit down at the table, “they will be a few more minutes” she informed me, “you cannot rush the magic of the Tamal, it happens as it should.”

She opened the box that had been placed on the table, earlier and took out a black cloth, spreading it out, carefully smoothing out the wrinkles. “While we wait,” she said, “Shall we see what there is to be known?”

“I am tired of the traffic,” I said, “ And I am hungry. Do I need to know more than that?” I said, laughing slightly.

“Perhaps she replied” as she lit two small candles and stood them in small cups just inside the box. I looked as she looked, down, and saw there was a shallow bowl, sort of, the only black. She was staring into it, a sort of glazed look coming into her eyes. I saw the candles reflected in that bowl, flickering yellow lights, and other colors too, red, blue, reflections from the wall paintings? I leaned in closer to see. A trick of the candlelight? I blinked as her hand appeared and she sprinkled some sort of fine white powder over the bowl. My awareness came back suddenly, and I leaned back, after all, it IS California, and there are many things a “powder” could be! The old woman spent a few more minutes gently waving her hands and staring into the bowl when suddenly her face became grave. She picked up both of the candles and turned them over into their little cups. The candles out, she closed the box and got up. “Your dinner is ready now”. Swiftly she went to the kitchen, leaving me to sit, blinking from the change in lighting. There, then. I saw it. The top of the box. There were faint white marks on it, letters? Writing? I leaned closer, yes, there it was. I could make it out, “6 205 Muerte”

I took a moment to think, 205, that is the road, the highway I had been on, that traffic nightmare!

Just then my Tamales arrived, and the aroma seemed to make me forget all about the box, and the commute. I carefully untied the strip of corn husk and peeled it free so I could take a bite, and burned my tongue, just a bit, on the hot steaming cornmeal. The clock from back in the little kitchen chimed 6 pm. The old woman turned on a tiny television she had on her counter as she brought me more chocolate, she smiled sadly at me then, as she filled the cup again for me. She placed a small vase filled with marigolds onto my table as she removed the little black

box.

I fanned my burning tongue and looked up, “ Thank you” I said, just as I saw the news started up on her little TV. There it was, the same flashing yellow, and colors I had seen in the little bowl. There! On the news. The reporter was pointing as the crawl along the bottom had something about a multi-car crash on 205, that just happened. The image was very jumpy- the cameraman was running after the reporter with his gear, (they had been in the counter-commute lanes) There it was, I stared, transfixed at the tiny screen’s image, and looked again. Three of the cars in that wreck, I recognized them, they had been near me in the commute, when I pulled off! One of them had been the idiot weaving in an out trying to pass everyone on the road. And then, there was that truck, mangled, familiar looking…

 

Free Fiction Friday: The Ratter by Kay Tracy

The Ratter by Kay Tracy

I remember the first time. A warm late spring day in Lake Charles. It was humid and sticky. I did not like it, it was very ” unpleasant”, but momma insisted. “Too many to feed” she told me. “You won’t be eatin’ them when they are grown so…” I was six. I had no idea how to do this. This tiny baby rabbit, one of 6. I asked momma how I should do it. “I don’t care!” she said “You just go handle it girl!”

I was known as a curious child. By that I mean I was always looking in books, and encyclopedias to learn new things. I experimented. A lot. Momma mostly left me alone then. I think she might have been just a little afraid by the time I was ten. Did you know that alligators like the taste of rabbit? Among other things.

I had a nickname, though folks never used it to my face. I knew they called me ‘the Ratter’. I really didn’t mind. They paid me to deal with their “pests”. Sometimes they paid me very well. It wasn’t so bad now. You just had to figure out what the best type of bait was. The rest was usually quick, and almost too easy. I told myself way back when I was six, that “If I ever stop caring about doing the killing part, I would stop doing it.”

Momma used to say I had a gift, that what I did was a service that folks needed. She said I should be glad she made me take that task when I was little. She might have been right.

Sometimes things take a little longer than others. That can lead to certain ‘odors’. I learned that ammonia can help with those. Not too much though, just enough to do the job. The real secret though, like I said, was the bait. All the difference in the world between working easy or hard is in the bait.

No one ever asks how, or when. I never ask why. All folks want to know is “How much?” I always ask about a ‘deadline’, and what sort of ‘pest’ they want me to take care of. It keeps me busy enough, and I like my big house and car.

Funny how some folks never had a momma to teach them that they should “Just go handle it!”
That’s okay by me though. I always take the time to do things right. I care about my work. I think it shows too!

Well. If you ever need my services, just contact me.

Disheveled Dreams : Guest Blog : Slither by Valarie Savage Kinney

 

Excerpt:

Something was wrong.

Zari knew it, even as she fought against the nightmare that had engulfed her. Thrashing about in her mind as well as in the bed, she pushed herself to awaken. She was trapped in that gauzy middle ground between hard sleep and clarity.

And she was suffocating.

The snake was everywhere: over her, inside of her, shoving itself into her eyes, her mouth, her belly. A serpent bigger than she was, it filled most of the room. Couldn’t Emmett see it? Didn’t he hear the hissing, the horrible echoing of it that was hammering her ears? The air was heavy, tangible, too thick to breathe in and she struggled for air, arching her back in a desperate attempt to suck in oxygen. The gigantic serpent slid over her, releasing a sickening slurping sound with each movement. Zari could feel the slime dripping off of her. She shuddered, squeezing her eyes shut. It was melting into her, sealing its revolting body to hers with a scalding heat that made her cry out in agony. “No!” she cried out. “No, no, no!” The snake laughed, a hideous, wheezing sound that left goose bumps on her skin.

“Zari! You are one of us! You are one with us!”

“No!”

“We are Slither! We are bound together!”

“I won’t! I won’t do this!”

Horrendous cackling filled the room, permeating the air, sticking to her skin like a layer of filth.slitherdreams

Zari’s eyes snapped open and watched in terror as the face of the serpent dissolved into the face of the little girl, Kayde, smiling prettily. The face stretched and changed again, this time to a face once dear to Zari, one she hadn’t seen in many years. Chocolate brown hair buzzed short enough to show skin peeking through it. Short enough that it felt soft as the first sweet locks of an infant. Narrow violet eyes set in deep sockets with puffy dark pockets of flesh sitting immediately below them. A wide red mouth with deep, puckered lines about the lips. Impossibly straight, white teeth. Square chin. Nan’s features were older and seemed to have softened in some ways and in others looked harsh and wrinkled.

“N—Nan?” It couldn’t be possible. Could it?

“Child. You’ve been gone so long. You’ve got to come home now. It’s time for you to accept your gift,” Nan said, warm and inviting.

“I don’t want it. I won’t be like you, like Mama. I want to be normal,” Zari said, insistent.

“Normal? What, like this poor excuse of a man you’ve chosen to bed?”

“Leave Emmett out of this. I love him. I’m happy. He doesn’t know about… this, and he isn’t going to. Isn’t there any way I can get out of it?” Her voice was desperate, pleading.

“Get out of it? Renounce your bloodline? How do you propose to do that?” A harsh, barking laugh escaped Nan’s lips.

“I don’t know! Just… get it out of me!” Zari cried.

Suddenly, Nan was human again. Sitting atop Zari’s chest, she set about her grim task—wrapping a transparent film about Zari’s head. Horrified, Zari attempted to reach up to stop her, only to find her arms were cuffed to the bed. Digging the back of her head into the pillow, Zari screamed.

Nan wrapped the film tightly around Zari’s face, pulling hard as she stretched the film to wrap around her head one more time. Nan grinned broadly as she worked.

Emmett, Emmett, Emmett! Help me!

She was suffocating. There was no air, no air…

*********

Valarie Savage Kinney is a writer and Ren fest junkie. She resides in Michigan with her husband, four children, and two insane little dogs. She is the author of Just Hold On, Slither, Heckled, and short stories in various anthologies.

Slither by Valarie Savage Kinney

http://t.co/VYqWGEN0wG Slither Kindle

http://tinyurl.com/j7vo7d2 Slither Amazon UK

http://t.co/zr22CDT3BU Slither Kobo

http://t.co/s8980p6O5b Slither Google Play

Crafting Horror: Theatre of the Mind by H.R. Boldwood

Crafting Horror: Theatre of the Mind

by H.R. Boldwood

How do you define theatre of the mind? In its broadest sense, theatre of the mind uses sensation to evoke a person’s perception and imagination.

Some folks might think of the old-time radio programs of the 30’s and 40’s when fascinating stories played over the airwaves and transported people to another place and time. In 1938, Orson Well’s radio broadcast of War of the Worlds managed to spawn national panic by convincing us the Earth was under attack by Martians!

And he did it using primitive sound effects that pandered to the listener’s ear.

Baby boomers might picture a more high-tech version of the theatre of the mind. Take, for example, the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter attraction at Disney World (circa 1995 -2003). In an effort to entertain and heighten the anticipation of the line-weary crowd, Disney broadcast a brilliantly crafted preshow infomercial from the intergalactic company, XS Tech, which boasted, “If something can’t be done with XS, it shouldn’t be done at all.”

The crowd chuckled. Surely, disaster awaited.

Once the program began, the Chairman of XS Tech, an alien named L.C. Clench, announced that he would travel to Earth via the teleportation tube in the center of the auditorium.

But something went horribly wrong. Suddenly, lights strobed, steam hissed, and alarms sounded. The audience saw just enough to know that it wasn’t L.C. Clench who had arrived in the teleportation tube, but a hideous winged alien instead. Oh no!

The tube slowly cracked, then burst wide open. The alien escaped! And just when it seemed like it couldn’t get any worse, the power in the auditorium went out. The audience was thrust into darkness. A technician rushed to fix the problem, but by the sound of it, he’d been savagely killed by the extraterrestrial beast. The audience was trapped, harnessed into their seats in the pitch-black auditorium with a vicious alien on the loose!

The floor shook as the alien tromped around the room. The audience heard his tortured breathing, felt his hot breath down the backs of their necks. They twitched as his tail skittered across the backs of their calves and screamed as saliva dripped down on them from above.

Miraculously, the power was restored, the lights came back on, and the monster was captured just in the nick of time.

Whew! That was a close one! And what a delight to the senses.

Both War of the Worlds and Alien Encounter are perfect examples of theatre of the mind.

But what about what we do — we horror writers? Aren’t we providing our readers with theatre of the mind?

We should be.

We ask our readers to suspend their disbelief hoping we can take them on a ride just long enough to tell them our tales. If we have any hope of achieving that goal, it’s going to be by making those readers actually live our stories.

We’ve been lectured to death to ‘show not tell.’ In essence, we are being told to engage our reader’s senses.

I read a David Farland writing tip recently wherein he quoted the words of the poet, Leslie Norris. “When it rains in your story, your readers should get wet.”

It’s that simple.

Perceptions and imagination are evoked through the senses. Ergo, if we manage our readers’ perceptions and awaken their imaginations, we can create an alternate reality for them.

We can put them in the jungles of Viet Nam, the furthest reaches of space, a haunted house, or even the bowels of Hell. And we do it by evoking their senses – sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch.

Here’s another outstanding nugget I’ve gleaned from David Farland’s tips: Not all people experience the world in the same way — much like we all don’t learn the same way. Some people learn by doing, others by watching, still others by listening.

It’s similar to the way people process what they’ve read. A person who learns by doing leans heavily on their sense of touch. That individual might prefer reading descriptions that are very tactile in nature. A person who prefers to watch and learn might prefer highly visual descriptions, while the person that learns by listening might prefer reading about the sounds of a setting.

That makes perfect sense – no pun intended. It also suggests that we need to incorporate all the senses into our stories, as often as possible. Including the senses artfully and in tandem helps create settings that transport our readers to the worlds we’ve created.

While we’re at it, are we letting our readers know what’s going on inside our characters’ heads? How they’re feeling? Internal dialog is a useful tool in this regard. My good friend, Killion Slade, introduced me to another dynamite tool, the Emotion Thesaurus, written by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. This book lists common emotions and their physical signals, internal sensations, mental responses, as well as cues of their acute or long term duration and cues of their being suppressed. It’s become one of my favorite resources and it makes it easier than ever to create three-dimensional characters to star in my theatre of the mind productions.

No, there isn’t anything new and groundbreaking about writing descriptors, whether they’re painting a vivid setting or our characters’ emotions. This stuff has been drilled into us for years.

But if it’s really all that rudimentary, why don’t we each look back at one of our stories to see how frequently we actually do it. According to Farland and other successful writers, we should be hitting all of the senses on just about every page. That’s a whole lot of seeing, tasting, hearing, smelling, and touching going on. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to start focusing on this a bit more.

I wonder how my characters will feel about that.

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  • David Farland is an award-winning, bestselling international fantasy author, widely known for his New York Times bestselling fantasy series, The Runelords. Interested people can sign up to receive David’s e-mailed writing tips at www.davidfarland.com.

 

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H.R. Boldwood is a writer of horror and speculative fiction. In another incarnation, Boldwood is a Pushcart Prize nominee and was awarded the 2009 Bilbo Award for creative writing by Thomas More College. Publication credits include, “Killing it Softly”, “Short Story America”, “Bete Noir”, “Everyday Fiction”, “Toys in the Attic”, “Floppy Shoes Apocalypse II”, “Pilcrow and Dagger”, “Quickfic”, and “Sirens Call”. Boldwood’s story, ‘In the Shadow of Fire’ will be appearing in the anthology “Saturalia,” published by Hyperion and Theia in late 2017.

Boldwood’s characters are often disreputable and not to be trusted. They are kicked to the curb at every conceivable opportunity. No responsibility is taken by this author for the dastardly and sometimes criminal acts committed by this ragtag group of miscreants.

H.R. Boldwood can sometimes be found writing as Mary Ann Back, whose collection of short stories “Dead Reckoning”, published by Grey Wolfe Publishing, is available at www.amazon.com.

Amazon Author Central address: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B01LWY22MD