Thursday, November 1, 2018

The Sunset Crow

For as long as Mary could remember her father had an obsessive interest in sunsets. Her earliest memory was of cresting a western-facing ridge to watch the sun sink, fat and bloody, behind the mountains on the other side of the valley. She was four years old. She still had the photograph of that sunset. It was the sunset with which she and her father compared all others. Her bones ached, spine tingled whenever she looked at this photograph-- long after she grew bored of the whole sunset affair.

When Mary was six or seven she asked, "Why do we watch sunsets Daddy?" Her father's eyes went opaque, consciousness scattering like fossils of light to the edges of his inner world. Minutes passed, and the little girl had assumed her father didn't know the answer, but then as they came upon a rocky promontory on their hike, the sun exploding violets and robin reds behind horizon clouds, he said, "When I was a boy a crow visited me in my mother's garden. I was picking blackberries for one of your grandmother's famous pies. But this was no ordinary crow. It perched there on Simious, the Scarecrow, on its straw-filled burlap arm and then spoke to me. I was twelve. This crow said, 'The night is your mistress. You will try to fight your desires, your dark inheritance, and follow the sun in vain hope of a neverending day. But you will fail. Mother night will have you then. All that is yours will go to our mother's eye.' These words of course confused me. And I eventually forgot all about them. But then when I was a young man of twenty-one, the crow returned. My mother was buried by then, her plot on a small hill facing west. On her deathbed, your grandmother said to me, 'My grave must face west, toward the setting sun. I cannot hold back what may happen to you and your line if you do not honor my simple and humble request.' And so of course I honored this. But three years after she was buried, while I visited her gravesite, the crow found me there. It said, 'I was born from your mother's vileness as were you. We are brothers. This woman below is not your mother. You must have only sons; if you have a daughter she must die by your hand.' Then the crow flew off and I never saw it again. Then you came along and I felt nothing but rapturous sunsets, neverending dusk thoughts, and vowed to never honor the horrible crow's murderous decree. You and I are against the crow forever, locked in an eternity of sunsets." Her father never again told her this story.

Mary felt the presence of the crow long before it ever made a physical visit. Whether in dreams, or some hypnotized state of reverie that came after watching a sunset with her father, as was their custom. At twelve, beyond menarche, she became bored with the sunset watching routine, and even spiteful toward both her father and the sun, growing pale of skin and distant of emotion. But she still kept the rite alive, as she had no intention of upsetting her father, or destroying his sense of accomplishment and pride. This father had raised her all alone; she never knew her mother. All father would say about her was, she was a wicked woman, nameless, whom he had never known to be pregnant but came to him a year after her birth, and left the daughter for him to assume sole parenthood. She had no name for the child, and so he called her Mary.

She walked the night streets after her father went to bed. The moon became her secret love. The sun brought to the world light, density and green life, but this moon gave these shadowscapes mystery, formlessness and danger, muted everything green to smoke and black etchings on an dim orange sky. Somehow it opened the veins of all that was living and spilled out blackest blood, hardening like shellac on death trees. She could move about these demiurgic scenes and not be noticed by anyone. Only the raccoons and cats and possums paid her any mind. Anonymous red-eyed night, colors that mocked the sun.

When she was fourteen she slipped into a house through an open basement window, and creeped about the place for hours, eating food from their kitchen, watching the children sleep, looking at the family's many photo albums, masturbating on their sofa. The small housedog at first was scared and hid behind a laundry basket, but eventually it became comfortable enough with her to sniff at her hand, and allow Mary to scratch it behind the ears. Inside this house-- which she visited in the dead of night many times-- there was a ceramic crow on the mantle, gleaming black eyes her. On her last night inside she took it for her own.

When she was sixteen the crow came to her one night while she idled in a pale yellow-lit school playground. The crow landed on the raised seat of a see-saw. At first startled, then an overwhelming calm bathed her. She expected it to speak, like it did for her father, but it never did. She knew already what it had to say. She'd known for a long time now.

The sunset was amazing. It was her eighteenth birthday. And reluctantly she had agreed to spend it with her father, deep in the mountains, rather than with her friends drinking and partying all night. She would be leaving soon for college, what was one more sunset to humor the old man. But she was dead-set on this being the last, even if she had to be blunt and cruel with her father.

But she had to admit, after all these years of sunsets piling up on sunsets, a massive bloated corpsepile of suns, this one was extraordinary. Special. Fire reds bled into clouds streaked with surprising crow black feathers. There was something terrifying there along with its beauty. A truly unforgettable last sunset to be shared between daughter and father.

"You grow tired of these outings, Mary, my daughter." It was not a question; most certainly a statement. She remained quiet, entranced by the horizon's performance. For it surely was a performance, murder as art, a mutilation of the sun by the sharpened black steel of clouds, crow-devised. It made her quiver all over, but especially deep within her womanhood. As if she had swallowed the sun there.

She placed her hand on her father's face and stroked it gently, like never before, like the woman of the night who was her mother.

Joseph was deeply shamed by what he allowed to happen on his daughter's eighteenth birthday. But he kept his shame to himself. Three other times that last summer his strangely smirking and alluring daughter came to him, and three times he acquiesced. Gave in to her black electric touches. The words they exchanged during these dark couplings were few and far between.

"You've seen the crow then?"

"No daddy. I am the crow." But she giggled to show she was just joking.

In August Mary left to attend college. But he had not seen her for a week. She spent that last week with friends in a remote cabin high in the mountains. Communing with the crows, bathing naked under the moonlight. He should have listened to that crow so many years ago, and killed his daughter, the very day that magdelene brought her to his doorstep. The woman's words came back to haunt him: "This is your contract. This is your spawn and seal."

In September, after weeks of following a flock of crows through cove-haunts, endless undulations of tree-teethed ridges, he found their roost and poisoned hundreds of birds. Then there in the forest, naked, covered in filth, he ate a hundred dead and dying crows and fell dead himself into an anonymous puddle of pine dreck and limestone slurry.

Mary went out for a late night stroll, well beyond her dorm at Black Mountain College, past the campus and into the small town of Black Mountain itself, a hamlet nestled high in the mountains. It was chill, foggy and blacker than any night she'd ever seen in her life. The few streetlamps gave light only for a few steps before she was plunged back into blackness, moonless and ripe with an unsavory secret. She had never before been afraid on any night time outing, but this night fear came to her in compounding waves.

Night was no longer night, but a chasm calling to her. On the edge of town she came to the Museum of Stained Glass, but the doors were locked. Looking behind her she saw nothing of the town anymore, but only ripplings of black on black, as if the town was a miasma of crows. She felt her only refuge was to break into the Museum. She found a large rock and hammered at the padlock and chain on the huge oaken double doors of the stone building.

On about the tenth try the rusty old padlock finally gave way and she threw away the heavy chain with a ringing thud. Behind her a cacophony of crows pressed like a gravitational field, like an overprotective father against a cruel unfeeling world. She was certain then it would consume her, shred her to bits.

She slammed the double doors shut and slid the iron rod brace across the width of the doors. Perhaps only a false comfort, but for now she felt safe. Inside, it was not dark. Votive candles in chandeliers hanging low lit the hallway all the way through to the main exhibit, a massive thirty foot high stained glass window. It took her a moment, breathless, heart thumping like a frenzied meth murderer in her chest, for her brain to stitch together the pattern of a crow, in brilliant varied shades of black and smoke-gray glass. It looked to her as if the massive bird was quaking into life..

Then an explosion of glass rained thousands of crows upon her, slashing her each time in their finite death dives. Glass crows slashing at her cheeks and eyes, sliced off one ear, stuck dagger beaks deep into her breasts. Then by bastard physics one flew up her skirt and lodged deep within her dripping dark blossom. Her mind went pure static then, pleasure and pain turned up to their highest human levels. She fell unconscious there inside the Museum of Stained Glass, amid the shattered pieces of a lost work of art.

Outside, our Mary of the Moon-- Mother of Crows-- slipped out of the clouds like a strutting streetwalker and a solitary crow nibbled at the earth, yanked out a ripe juicy worm and ate it whole.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

excerpt from prologue to mystery novel:

The intruder was in the foyer but could see the babysitter sitting on the sofa with her back to him. Most of the lights were out, save the dull one in the kitchen over the sink. Her face was glued to some movie on the tv. The child must be upstairs asleep by now. But he was prepared for anything. In his gloved left hand was a large kitchen knife he had grabbed on his way in from the laundry room. His spun the handle in his grip a few times to try to calm himself down. Getting in had been a cinch. It was a small miracle considering he didn't really have a plan for breaking in, although he had scoped the house for a few weeks. No dogs, poor street lighting and every Friday night the couple left the house with a dumpy looking babysitter, though she did have huge tits.
The latch on a side window had been unlocked, so all he had to do was pull out the screen, and pull himself through. “Easy peasy", he whispered to himself. Once inside the dark laundry room, smelling vaguely of fabric softener and cat pee, he was immediately worried that the babysitter could hear his labored breathing, and then his own heart beating, but he soon realized this fear was ridiculous. He had finally done it. He’d broken into a home with the occupants still inside. Up till now every house he’d been inside without permission had been empty. But the kick had worn off on that fairly quickly. He never stole anything, he just snooped around, enjoyed the time inside as long as he dared (longer and longer each time), and then slunk home to his parent’s house, either walking along the train tracks or on his bike if the trek was longer. This was his birthday present to himself tonight though. He had just turned seventeen. Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy... here we go.

Earlier that evening Cindy Ballard arrived at the Lawrence’s to watch their daughter while they went on a date. The Lawrence’s had been married for ten years but they still ogled over each other and went on regular ‘date nights’ once a week, giggling and grabbing ass like stupid college sweethearts, playing bogus courting games. Cindy was a little embarrassed by these people but they payed well and the child, Mildred, was a quiet kid and gave her no trouble. And who was she to judge? Her parents had fought constantly, and got divorced when she was ten. Her mother was a miserable bitch and her father dead from liver disease. The Lawrence's were alright people, better than most. She could kick back on their leather sofa, drink a beer or two and watch cable tv. Listen to their vinyl collection. Sometimes she’d leave MTV on in the background and spend the whole evening chatting with her friend Sarah on the Lawrence’s fancy cordless phone. But tonight, after Mildred went to sleep, she wanted to try on some of Stephanie’s night gowns. She’d done it once before babysitting for another woman, but she hadn’t dared it again. She was both exhilarated and ashamed from doing it the first time. But several months had past, and nothing ever came of it, so the desire had crept back in. She’d decided to do it again. She was twenty-two and ‘a raving pervert’, she told her friend Sarah, the only other living soul who knew about her funny little kink. Sarah had said only, 'Well, I don’t see the harm. Just ask me though if you want to try on anything of mine.” And they both had laughed at that.
Just before leaving, Stephanie reached into her purse and snatch a fifty dollar bill and handed it to Cindy. “We’ll be a bit late tonight.. hope that’s okay. Here’s a little extra.” Cindy was stunned, but snatched the fifty like a little kid snatching a lollipop. “Not a problem, Mrs. Lawrence, and, thanks!” Stephanie patted her on the shoulder, smiled in a weird way, looked her up and down and turned toward the front door. Her husband was standing there in a faux-gallant pose, holding the door open for his lady. “After you, my dear.” Stephanie,eyes sparkling with goofy wit, looked over at Cindy and said, "Manners will get you everywhere." Cindy cringed a little inside, but remembered that lurid smile from Stephanie and felt a warmth grow in her crotch. Cindy had fantasized about being seduced by both Lawrences but nothing up to this point had ever given her reason to think anything was truly possible beyond that. Then she thought again about the woman’s lingerie collection, which she had noticed before was quite extensive. Tonight maybe she’d search a bit more and see what other secrets turned up. "

Friday, April 10, 2015

Too Far Down That Lonely Road

The mountain wind is never really coherent, especially when you want it to be, but he listened intently anyway, as if it might tell him something he didn’t already know about himself, about the way the world works. He stood just past tree line on Fenister’s pasture, the grass still low and winter brown, muddy in a few spots, some birds scrapping across the field looking for cold worms, finding none, then flying off eventually to that line of oaks shadowing the northern edge of Fenister’s land. Beyond the oak line the forest was nearly unbroken, save for a forest service road swirling invisible into the foothills, then on into the main Unaka range, way up to rime level, where the wind babbled even more violent and chaotic, wrapped now in gray towels of cloud, the peaks hidden from view.
     He walked on through the pasture toward the rust colored barn, bales of hay arcing the entrance like giant paleolithic tusks. He could hear the snorting of a couple of cows inside. The gambrel roof rose stark and uneven against the gray sky, but still the building looked as sturdy as it did when it was built by his great-grandfather in the 1930s. Maybe it was just something in his mood today, something dark in his bones. Coming home was never easy.
     Walking down the long graveled drive towards the sprawling white house, his blood went cold. He started shivering and hitched up his jacket. Perhaps it was the wind kicking up, but more likely it was the thought of seeing him after all these years. It wouldn’t be the questions asked, but the questions not asked, the blank expressions, the unwelcoming glint in his father’s eyes. And maybe all that was justified, but it made him cold and jittery all the same. Why was he even here? Just a primal instinct to return to his boyhood home, even though he only came back to Rainford’s Gully for another, far different, reason. It wasn’t like he was coming home for good. Only a short week. There was no point in seeing his father at all.

     Standing on the oblong screened porch before the front door, he wondered if Jaz was still around. Nah, he was in his sixties when he was still a teenager living here. After knocking several times, and waiting for what must have been a full five minutes, the door crept open. Door had that same ominous creak. And then a tall, gaunt and stooping old black man regarded him out of the depths of the inside dark. It was Jaz alright, wearing that same black frayed stetson, with maybe a few more holes than when he had previously seen it. The man refused to be called a 'butler’, demanded to be referred to as a 'Majordomo’. His father allowed Jaz to thrash him and his siblings if they ever spoke offhanded towards Jaz, and especially if they called him, 'butler’ which was an insult resulting in inquisition-type draconian punishments.
     “Well now, if it isn’t Master Raymond. Returned from whereabouts unknown...” A slow smirk resolved over his dark wrinkled face.
     “Majordomo. I’m happy you’re still with us.” Came across as flat and condescending, but how else could it have come across?
     “Ah yes sir. Your sister came by not 2 months ago, with little ones in tow. Have you had the pleasure? Delightful scoundrels. Reminds me a bit of you two in your prime...” Yet still blocking the way into the domicile with force of an eight year old man’s nearly preternatural presence.
     Raymond, winced, as if pierced by a sun mirage, “My father...” But that was all he could get out. A dry heave when a glut of predigested material seemed more appropriate.
     “Your pop is out back, at the stables. His old horse has been suffering from the strangles.. Whipping her ain’t going to do no good. She old. You should go see the old man. I assume you is here for that and not to set your eyes on my pearly whites again. The man has regrets, you know.”
     “Thank you Jaz. I’m glad you’re still around anyway. Maybe I’ll stop back by on my way out. You’re a good man.”
     “I am at that.” And then the door creaked closed again. Solid as any Christian man’s denial.

     He went out behind the house towards the stables. Underneath a cockeyed hickory tree his old man was beside a black quarterhorse laying on its side, a whip in hand. The black horse looked slick with sweat but otherwise didn’t move. His old man’s face was flush with anger, tears, and regret. He sat down on a tree stump and dropped with whip into the December dust. Overhead it was just another gray Tennessee December sky.
     He stood beside a small rock pond, no doubt built by his father, the burbling of cool water keeping his presence unnoticed. Or so he thought.. Not looking up from the horse, the old man spoke, “You picked a good day for this.” The words were laced with a flavor of spite he knew well. Raymond didn’t say anything, but walked a few steps closer. He watched the horse for a reaction rather than his father. The horse didn’t move, not even flinch. It wasn’t sleeping, that’s for sure.
     “This here is Sky Tripping. She’s won her fair share of barrel races. She’s only fifteen. Poor girl, too young to go.”
     Then suddenly the horse heaved and stirred up a bit of dust, remaining still once more. The horse was not quite dead yet. The heavy eyes leaked a purulent discharge so she probably couldn’t see much. But the poor thing’s ears flickered a bit, as if seeking out a promise. His father sighed and turned to reach for his rifle, which was leaning up against the stable door. “This isn’t going to be pretty. You might want to turn your head.”
     “Nothing you can do?”

     Snow was now falling over the high terrain. You could see the light gray threads, different from rain, fanning down out of the clouds. The wind picked up. Front moving through apparently. There would be several inches lain down by morning on the highest ground, maybe a dusting down here in the narrow valleys. Won’t be the kind that clings to trees, too dry, he thought. He didn’t turn away, but kept his eyes on a pendulum between his father raising the rifle and the horse shimmering in the cold light. Declan aimed at the top of the head, beyond the nasal cavity, to make sure the bullet hit all brain. He’d put down his first horse when he was 12, and tried to get his own son to put one down around the same age, but Raymond couldn’t stomach it. Some boys were like that. But Ray had been his only boy. His daughter Judith had no issue, and put her first sick one down before she hit fourteen. Maybe that’s where their rift had started. Raymond still loved the horses, wanted to ride, be around them, groom them, but Declan made it a matter of principle to keep him away. That became Judith’s job.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Richard Bates, Jr's directorial debut,'Excision' really knocked me out, in a good, damaging way. Traci Lords and AnnaLynne McCord just hit some perfect notes concerning parental dysfunction and creeping, pathological mental illness. Traci Lords was really impressive as the upper middle class domestic hausfrau, with little bits of warmness crackling through her cold exterior. While AnnaLynne McCord's performance as the disturbed and quirky Pauline was the major character on display, she just wouldn't have been as effective without Traci Lord's oddly moving, subtle performance. 'Excision' aspires to black comedy and social satire but descends inexorably into grim painful nightmare. For most of its duration it's a horror film in embryo. Behind every madcap demented joke or reference is painful melancholy reality ready to break through the surface. The movie's never comfortable-- never really lets you adjust and just laugh at human folly and weirdness, or allows you some hip detached appreciation of this quirky 'coming of age' tale. That said, the film can be blatantly derivative and bad at times (it owes a lot to Todd Solondz's films, esp. 'Welcome to My Dollhouse'). To be expected perhaps from a first time director. But these stylistic flaws (or homages) enhance the overall effect of the movie, rather than detract. The ending is perfect, and hits you with all the raw and emotional power any true horror fan deserves. I was really impressed and will give it another watch soon.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


YellowBrickRoad-- one of the better horror movies I've seen in a while. Similiar in theme with Blair Witch Project, but also different too. The ending is as icy as they come.

Also, dont listen to the bad reviews of this film, they totally miss the boat.. The increasingly disorienting, vague aspects are to me plusses, not minuses to the film's overall effect. Basically every negative review includes some comment along these lines: 'the lighting was bad, the movie dragged, and the ending was vague, and the first kill was ridiculous'. Wrong! The atmosphere of this movie never fucking lets up, just keeps escalating the fear, disorientation, confusion, fucked up psychology, a beautifully portrayed unraveling of sanity. Some of the special fx were a little off or cheesy, but didn't detract too much.

So if you require your horror movies to absolutely make sense, have at least one survivor in the end make it back to 'comfortable reality', need cats or bad guys jumping out of dark closets every 5.5 minutes, need everything about the horror construct explained, you probably won't enjoy it. The worst thing that can be said about the movie is it IS derivative, the plot is not all that original and borrows a lot of themes from Session 9 and Blair Witch Project, but succeeds in my view on the unrelenting build of atmophere, and the total physical and psychological breakdown of the team sent out to explore the woods.

It also borrows a bit from M. Night Shamalot's, The Happening, which happens to be one of the worst horror movies ever made.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Anaal Nathrakh's, 'The Codex Necro'

So this week I’ve been listening to a lot of technical death metal, black metal and extreme noise metal, more so than usual. This album caught my interest, and after doing a bit of research, turns out it’s considered a more recent masterpiece in the genre by many, which is no surprise. Of course, by nature this brand of metal is intense, frenzied and aggressive, but this one hit me a little harder than most. It feels more serious, more accomplished, and all this without knowledge of the lyrics. (They apparently do not publish their lyrics). The songs are wildly inventive brutal attacks, with only a couple tracks missing the mark with me. I can’t help but think of the Tasmanian Devil cartoon while listening to this, cyclonic and heartlessly destructive. All the riffs feel like they’re spinning out of control, shifting at blinding speed, pulverizing the listener, keeping him constantly off balance. Pure sonic frenzy for frenzy’s sake. This band accomplishes what Slipknot in their wildest dreams wishes they could accomplish.

The Howling (1981)

Not being a huge fan of ‘the big three’ creatures of horror, werewolves, vampires, zombies, I did at least enjoy this film. The story is simple; there is nothing at all unpredictable about the plot. And it all develops quickly, perhaps too quickly, which comes off as clunky in parts. The special effects were decent, but since I’m simply not all that awed by special effects in horror movies, I felt the transformation scenes were the least interesting aspect of the movie. Yeah, yeah, develop that wolfish snout already, I’m getting bored…

Another weakness I thought is the theme of the ‘old ways’ vs. the Colony’s attempt to ‘tame’ the werewolf instinct toward violence wasn’t fully explored. Could of been a deeper, more resonating film, but instead they went for the cotton candy, please the masses approach. Was rather surprised to see John Sayles in the screenplay credits– but a writing gig is a writing gig I suppose. This movie didn’t wow me like a horror cult classic should, but I liked it nevertheless. The tongue-in-cheek ending and the constant wolf references gave it a self-referential charm as well. Dee Wallace was cute and captivating throughout. 2.5 stars.