Posts Tagged ‘horror’

It’s getting to be the Holiday™ Season® again, and we all know what that means:

Consumer catalogs mailed to every door in the country.

One of these consumer catalogs that arrived at our house was an American Girl catalog. You’ve probably heard of them: they’re the people who make various polyethnic dolls that live all throughout History Times. Now, since there are not and have never been any people living in the Johnson Household who fit into American Girl’s target demographic, I fully expected the catalog to go to that great recycling plant in the sky. But since I wanted to read something quick while my waffles were in the toaster (as I am a compulsive reader), I picked up the catalog, and flipped through it.

Now, I have seen some scary things. I have stared into the abyss, where madness and chaos doth lie. I have stood atop tall mountains and slid down them at high speeds with nary a butterfly in my stomach. I have even cleaned out what has come out of my brother’s dog’s butt (although that tested the limits of my sanity).

Suffice it to say, I am a brave and hardy fellow.

Which means that when I say that the following images WIGGED ME THE FUCK OUT, you can know how incredibly fiendish and terrifying they are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Axolotl Ceviche readers with sensitive stomachs may want to avert their eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No, seriously. You’ll want to back off now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, fine. Don’t say I didn’t warn you:

DOLL-SIZED PAJAMA OUTFITS.

WITH IDENTICAL GIRL-SIZED PAJAMA OUTFITS TO MATCH.

 

 

 

 

I can’t imagine what kind of parents would ever buy these… garments for their CHILD. I mean, considering the vast existential horror of the advertisements, don’t you think that any sensible head-of-household would immediately picture their sweet baby angel permanently disfigured by the mere touch of the outfit, burned and warped so that it turns into nothing more than a surface on which bleeding pustules grow, their infant-smooth epidermis contorted into a vessel for dark bile and hate?

I mean, look at this:

 

 

 

Looking at this picture, we can see a number of children, ostensibly happy, carrying dolls with the same appearance and ethnicity of the girl who bears it.

Now, wouldn’t any logical, sane person assume, when looking at this picture, that each doll was once human? And that she, when she was a living, breathing girl, had a dark twin, an evil doppelgänger who cast some manner of enchantment on her, cursing her to take the form of a doll forever, while her evil twin walked the earth in her place?

ISN’T IT OBVIOUS?

Of course, this final image seals the proof that American Girl is actually some kind of evil, supernatural force working for the active destruction of the earth and the bringing of the Apocalypse. Like Wolfram & Hart, only less cuddly:

Look at this picture. Now, normally you would assume that this was an ordinary-sized girl, holding an ordinary-sized doll.

But look at the evidence. The size of the furnishings. The rendering artifacts. The tasteful, modern sans-serif font in the product description. No, clearly the doll is actually THE SIZE OF A HUMAN CHILD, and has been turned into a doll by a MALEVOLENT, TEN-FOOT-TALL GIANTESS.

And do you know what’s worst of all? THEY DID THE SAME THING TO THE LITTLE GIRL’S CAT.

So, that’s American Girl for you. They’re enchanters, black magicians, possibly Satanists, and cat-murderers.

Tell your congressman.

And for the LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, IF ONE OF THESE DARK PAMPHLETS APPEARS IN YOUR MAILBOX, DO NOT TOUCH IT, LEST ITS CORRUPTING MAGICKS DRIVE YOU MAD. I WILL COME BY AND DISPOSE OF IT, FOR A NOMINAL FEE.

~ Ian

 

 

 

 

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Happy All Hallow’s Eve, everyone!

Or actually, it isn’t really Halloween while I’m writing this. In actuality, I am writing this at 7:43 PM on October 30, a time that many of you may know as THE PAST. But, through the magic of WordPress’s “Schedule” option, I’m making this entry post automatically when it reaches noon on October thirty-first!

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(that was a ghost sound, not a party sound, by the way)

For this edition of CWW, we have yet another poem. This isn’t any ordinary poem, though. A couple weeks ago, I was thinking about a special poem to post on Axolotl Ceviche on Halloween, and I started thinking about what the creepiest form of poetry is. And once I considered the answer, it was obvious:

Children’s skipping rhymes.

Seriously. Picture it. You’re all alone in a creaky old house. Night has fallen, and a chill mist blows in from the moors. The house is dark, and as you head up to bed, you hear it: the tinkling sound of a girl’s laughter. Unsettled, you tell yourself it was just a trick of the wind, and then you see her: a little girl, dressed in a pretty blue pinafore, her face shrouded in shadow. In a voice like the tinkle of windchimes, she recites:

Ring-around-the-rosey, 

Pocket full of posies,

Ashes, ashes,

We all fall DOWN!

As she says the last word, a flash of lightning illuminates her face, and you can see that she has no eyes…

If that didn’t wig you, I don’t know what will.

Anyway, I wrote a creepy children’s skipping rhyme. And then, because the rhyme itself suggested a whole rich history, I decided that I’d write some of that history up, creating a fictional explanation for the fictional rhyme.

Happy Halloween, everyone. Wherever you are, may your night be filled with tricks and candy, and may shadows always cross your path.

~ Ian

 

Ten little girls walked out of town, 

One little girl went tumbling down. 

 

Nine little girls went out at night, 

One little girl didn’t feel quite right.

 

Eight little girls went looking for eggs, 

One little girl had broke her leg. 

 

Seven little girls stood on their heads, 

One little girl just woke up dead. 

 

Six little girls squished through the mud, 

One little girl got covered in blood. 

 

Five little girls would dance and shout, 

One little girl couldn’t find the way out. 

 

Four little girls cried out for their mum, 

One little girl was just struck dumb. 

 

Three little girls played silly games, 

One little girl got caught in the flames. 

 

Two little girls flew through the sky, 

One little girl caught the Devil’s eye. 

 

One little girl went and cried for help, 

One little girl was burned in Hell. 

 

No little girls came back that day, 

Wonder what their mother will say?

 

Ten little girls walked out of town,

and ten little girls went tumbling down. 

 

The preceding children’s rhyme is dated as having originated around the year 1705, possibly in Philadelphia (it was certainly common by 1790, when British folklorists Wycombe and Tully, in their first trip to the new United States, recorded it being sung by children in Newton, Massachusetts, and a Georgia lawyer and slaveowner Geoffrey MacAnder noted in his diary a variation of the rhyme “which a Negro girl learned me as a boy”. It spread to England in the 19th century, and has been a popular skipping rhyme for generations, common up until the 1940s.

Like many children’s rhymes, it is claimed that the rhyme is based on historical events (such as the oft-cited and possibly spurious claim that “Ring Around the Rosie” dates back to the Black Death). However, as far as I can tell, the rhyme is based on a very old story: that of the Maids of Shrewsbury.

Shrewsbury, New York, was a village of about five hundred inhabitants located on the Hudson river, near the location of Poughkeepsie. In the year 1684, eight full years before the Salem Witch Trials, the people of neighboring villages reported that several young women between the ages of twelve and seventeen (the accounts differ as to the number, although it is usually given between five and fourteen) were running naked through the woods, cavorting with Indians and making noises like animals. The men of Shrewsbury, fearing witchcraft, allegedly locked the girls up in a cellar. However, shortly after midnight on the night of Saturday, August 16, 1684, neighboring villages saw a number of “huge winged beasts” rising from above Shrewsbury, which “screamed like women”. These beasts took off in all directions. Shortly after this, at around 3 0‘clock in the morning, there were a number of bright flashes from above Shrewsbury, visible for twenty leagues around, which looked like “colored lightning”, in the words of the contemporary minister from Kingston. The next morning, when a number of locals visited Shrewsbury, found that the village had disappeared– not burned to the ground or destroyed, but simply vanished, as if it had never been there. The visitors found a number of burned, dismembered female bodies in the nearby woods. For years to come, it was believed that the area where Shrewsbury had disappeared was haunted. Reportedly, the same phenomenon of “colored lightning” has occurred on the night of August 16 several times in the same part of New York, the most recent in 1891.

Whether the story of the Maids of Shrewsbury is true or not is not for a historian such as myself to decide. However, it is known that the vanishing of Shrewsbury was a key influence on the town fathers of Salem, Massachusetts, during the witch trials, and perhaps began the witch-burning craze in America during the late 17th century.

(from Marcus Amesbury’s Life in the Colonial Hudson Valley, 1967)

I think this is all the evidence I need as for why the man is my fucking hero.

I completely forgot that it was Creative Writing Wednesday.

Because I am an idiot.

Anyway, because I didn’t prepare anything, and there’s only an hour of Wednesday left today, then I decided to pull out the opening to a story that I wrote back in the summer. It’s about plants.

Maybe I’ll post the full story sometime. For now, this is just a fragment.

Hope you enjoy.

~ Ian

 

Apartment 29

Lyndsi Salvatore kept plants in her apartment.

It began as a hobby, a way to keep herself sane while she job-hunted. She’d been fired from her job as a salesperson at Agilix Software, so she had a lot of free time. At first she job hunted, but as time wore on, she found herself going out less and less, sitting around in her apartment in her pajamas, watching crappy TV and eating junk food.

One day, when she was out on a routine grocery run, she passed a gardening store on Bascom Avenue. She thought, hey, what the hell, she’d go in and have a look; she had nothing but time on her hands. So she went in and came out with a snake plant (Sansivieria trifasciata), because she liked how it looked.

The next day, she stopped at the same store to get fertilizer. The man behind the counter talked her into buying an African Violet (Saintpaulia ionantha pendula), an Umbrella Plant (Schefflera arboricola), and a rubber plant (Ficus elastica).

The weeks turned into months and she was still jobless, living off her savings account and her parents’ money. Her apartment slowly filled with plants. First the main room was filled, then the bedroom and bathroom. Harsh California light filtered into her bedroom through the winding leaves of an English Ivy (Hedera helix), becoming soft and green. Her apartment was humid and full of the smell of plants. Sometimes she felt like she was breathing through a thick soup. Apartment 29 was filled with green, velvety-soft shadows.

To be honest, even though her savings account was rapidly shrinking, she liked having plants in her apartment. When she was eleven, Lyndsi’s parents took her and her two sisters on a vacation to Costa Rica, and they’d walked in the high cloud forests. The light and humidity in her apartment reminded her of that Costa Rican jungle, and her apartment was transfigured into a treasured childhood memory.

Even so, she was occasionally aware tha she had a problem.

“I feel like I’m turning into the neighborhood cat lady,” said Lyndsi to Yu-mei, her last friend from Agilix Software, as they ate lunch at a Mexican restaurant in Campbell. “Except that I’m not a cat lady. I’m a plant lady. My apartment is overrun with plants.”

Yu-mei was originally from Taiwan, and refused to eat Mexican food despite the fact that she had lived in California since childhood. Even so, she humored Lyndsi by nibbling tortilla chips and sipping a Mexican coke while Lyndsi ploughed through her chicken-and-nopales enchilada. “You know, having plants isn’t necessarily not a bad thing,” she said. “I mean, plants’ll never shit on your floor or puke on your furniture.”

Lyndsi took a sip of her draft Negro Modelo and licked the beer mustache off her upper lip. “I know. It still doesn’t make me feel any better.”

“Hey, did you hear about that case in Santa Cruz County where there was some mountain man who kept, like, thousands of cats in his trailer?” asked Yu-mei. “They were starving, ‘cause the guy who owned them fed them next to nothing. So they started eating each other. Eventually there were corpses all over the place, and the SPCA had to be sent in to clear away the bodies. The guy got serious jail time. I heard that one of the workers described it as a ‘feline mass grave’.”

“Wow,” said Lyndsi. “How could somebody live with so many cats?”

“Beats me. People do weird shit over the hill.”

Lyndsi cut a piece of enchilada with the side of her fork and spooned it into her mouth. “Well, I’m not that bad. You would never need to call plant protective services for my apartment.”

“Do they even have plant protective services?”

“I have no idea.”

Yu-mei took another sip of her Mexican coke. “So, what are you going to be doing later this week? Any job interviews lined up?”

“You know I don’t have any interviews, Yu-mei.”

“That’s too bad.”

“Yeah. Getting fired from Agilix was the worst thing that ever happened to me. By the way– can you pay for lunch?”

“What? I thought we were going to go dutch!”

“Yeah, well, I’m almost broke. I’ve got about two hundred dollars left in my savings, and I’m pretty sure my parents are going to stop just letting me use them as an interest-free indefinite loan.”

“Oh. Well, if you insist, I can pay–”

“Plus I want to stop at that gardening store on Bascom on the way home. I want to get some fertilizer, and–”

“Oh my God, Lyndsi! You’re broke, and you’re thinking about buying plants?”

“Not plants. Plant-related parapharnalia.”

Yu-mei looked Lyndsi in the eye, and sighed. “Lyndsi, I was wrong: you have a serious problem. You’re broke and jobless. Stop buying plants, and plant-related parapharnalia, and anything other than what you need to survive. Do you understand me?”

Lyndsi sighed. “Fine. If you really want me to, I won’t go to the gardening store.”

“You have to promise me, Lyndsi.”

“Yeah. Okay. I promise.”

“Okay,” said Yu-mei. She smiled. “Don’t worry. I’ll get the bill. As a favor.”

But as she hugged Yu-mei goodbye, Lyndsi realized that she wasn’t going to keep her promise. She really needed fertilizer, and maybe a plant or two…

That gardening store on Bascom was great. They made their own special blend of fertilizer.

THE END…?*
*Of course it’s not the end. I still have the rest of the story to put out here. Eventually. ~ Ian

My favorite authors consistently fall into two categories:

  1. They have a consistent mastery of language, and use that language to achieve a specific effect, such as humor or poeticness. (Is that a word? Meh. It is now.)
  2. They write in a LOT of different genres and mediums.

Because of this, it’s no surprise that I’m a big fan of Neil Gaiman.

Gaiman’s writing is consistently deep, beautiful, and mythic. There are a lot of fantasy writers out there, but I guarantee you– none of them are quite like Gaiman. Trust me on this.

So when I say to people that one of my favorite writers is Neil Gaiman, I mainly get one response: “Oh. I’ve never heard of him. What book of his should I start out with?

This is not an easy question to answer. Because Gaiman’s writings are so varied, varying between humor and horror, children’s picture books and deeply adult graphic novels, I think that it’s a little bit hard to answer. Sometimes I’ll say one thing, sometimes another, but in any case, the right Starting Gaiman Book is kind of hard to decide. It varies from person to person.

Therefore, I have compiled this list of Neil Gaiman books to start you off on reading some of the most imaginative, well-written, and frankly insane fantasy you’ll ever encounter.

 

If You Are A Child, Or A Person Who Likes To Hang Out In Graveyards: The Graveyard Book

This children’s book adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book is probably destined to become just as much a classic as the work that inspired it. Essentially, The Graveyard Book is a collection of linked short stories that charts the adventures of young Nobody “Bod” Owens as he learns to grow up living in a graveyard in a small English city. (Please note, this book does start out with Bod’s family being murdered, and there are some particularly scary scenes that might frighten some sensitive adult readers. But it’s still really freaking good.)

Also note that this book won both the Newbery Award and the Hugo Award.

 

If You Sometimes Go Walking In The Woods, Hoping To Catch A Glimpse Of An Elf Or Dwarf: Stardust

Do you like The Princess Bride? Are you a person who never really outgrew faerie tales?

Well then, this book is for you. It’s a fun, romantic, smart fantasy novel that evokes the traditions of Olde-Schoole Faerie Tayles™.

I’d also go so far as to say that this book would be perfect for early teens and precocious tweens as an introduction to Gaiman’s oeuvre. However, parents be warned: there is a (very short) sex scene in the first chapter, and later on in the book is an uncensored F-bomb. It’s very unlikely that your kids will care, but you know: parents are a little weird about stuff like that. So I’m just warning you guys.

 

If You Wander Around In Cities, Exploring Interesting Abandoned Houses And Opening Unmarked Doors: Neverwhere

I’ve heard this book described as “a Goth Alice in Wonderland”. While there are definitely influences from both Goth culture and Lewis Carroll, this book is really a hodgepodge of all sorts of things.

Richard Mayhew, a young office drone, saves the life of a homeless girl on the streets of London, and journeys into a hidden underworld beneath the streets of the city, a world only known about by the homeless population of London, a world of magic and miracles. The book is filled with fascinating characters, from the flamboyant Marquis de Carabas; to the warrior woman Hunter, most skilled bodyguard alive; to Islington, the Angel with A Secret.

This book is also notable for its villains, Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar, who are both hilariously funny and utterly terrifying at the same time– which is a delicate balance to walk.

 

If You Just Want A Quick Weekend Read: Anansi Boys

The follow-up to the brilliant American Gods (about which, more below), Anansi Boys is the only work of Gaiman’s that I’d consider a “romp”. Fat Charlie Nancy, at his father’s funeral, learns that his father was the African trickster god Anansi. He also learns that he has a long-lost twin brother who inherited his father’s powers. Hijinks and shenanigans (and, dare I say it, monkey shines?) ensue.

Side note: This is the only book about black people by a white author that I’ve ever read that doesn’t manage to be oversentimental or racist. It’s also a lot of fun.

 

If You Have A Short Attention Span: Fragile Things

This is a collection of short stories that spans the gamut (I know! A whole gamut!) of genres, with fantasy, horror, SF, and realism represented in abundance. There’s a few love stories, and a few funny stories, and a few erotic stories, and much more besides. There’s not much to go wrong with in this collection. It’s brilliant, and an excellent gateway drug.

 

If You Enjoy Humor, And Are Not Too Put Off By Blasphemy: Good Omens: The Nice And Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch

Good Omens reads like the Book of Revelations written by Douglas Adams.

I’ll let that just sink in for a second.

Side Note: The coauthor of this book is Terry Pratchett, British humorist, knight, and creator of the Discworld series. Sir Terry is also one of my favorite authors, and if you want to read some of the smartest, funniest fiction of the last fifty years, you should try to pick him up.

Hmm… I might actually have to write a Gateway to Discworld blog post sometime.

Let’s put that on the shelf for now.

~ Ian

 

P.S. One final note…

If You Are Starting To Read Neil Gaiman, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD AVOID THESE BOOKS:

American Gods:

This book isn’t bad. In fact, it’s brilliant.

But the problem is, it’s not a good book to read if you’re new to reading Neil Gaiman.

I’ve been known to describe this book as a hybrid of Jack Kerouac and Stephen King, with a little bit of Beowulf thrown in for good measure. But that doesn’t begin to sum up the bizarre madness of this book, which is a kind of road-novel ghost-story fantasy-epic, with all the gods of both the old world and the new running around America and engaged in a psychic war that threatens to engulf reality.

It’s really bloody good. But it’s not for new readers. The sheer amount of strangeness that eminates from the pages of this book is probably enough to put most people off.

Sandman:

The Sandman series of graphic novels is one of the best, most imaginative works of fantasy since Lord of the Rings.

It’s also two thousand pages long.

So yeah. I’d recommend staying away from it until you have enough time (and money) to make the commitment.