Monthly Archives: October 2013

Nightmare Fuel flash: Choosing Fate

Day 16


wooden witches

The time has come, my son. You must choose a card and read there the fate of the children of men.

No, Master, no! For I am not as the children of men and I am forbidden to look upon my fate.

Nevertheless you shall choose a card and you shall abide by its decree, be it for damnation or for glory.

No, Master, no, I cannot, for I am odd and strange and not like the children of men. I will be turned from their door and left to die in the wilderness.

Nevertheless you must go, for your fate has been chosen. You will go to your mother’s people. They will not welcome you, but for her sake they will make room for you, and they will allow you to feed the pigs and the cattle and the elephants.

No, Master, no, I cannot! For they will say I am one with the beasts, for my father was a beast.

Nevertheless you will live among them and you will bow your head and tug your forelock. You will learn their tongue and their ways, and you will die among them, as your fate has been chosen and so you must go.

No, Master, no, do not make me do this evil thing. For I am not as the children of men and I am forbidden to walk among them. If my fate is to tend pigs, then let them be your pigs, my master. If I must sleep among the elephants, let them be your pigs, my beloved master. For I have sworn to serve you all my days, and I will not break my word. I will not go against the curse that binds me.

Nevertheless you will go, my son, for fate has decreed your path. If you seek to defy it, much evil and grief will accrue around you, and yet you will not escape.

No, Master, no, for I see now that you are testing me. You threaten me with misfortune and damnation so that fear may guide my choice.

This is no test, my son. You must go, as the card has decreed. You chose it freely and you must abide by what it says. But you do not know what that path is. You do not know where it leads. You must walk it, will or no, to the end, but you do not know where or when that end comes. Any man’s eye may see that you are not as the children of men. One requires no inner sight to discern the harm they intend. But even the wisest seer who ever lived could not discern the nature of your path, whether for good or for evil. Many is the worthy man who has taken heart in the darkest of times and found his path from the pigsty to the palace. Many is the worthy man who finds love and joy and worthwhile service beyond the cart of elephant dung.

No, Master, no! I cover my ears from your evil tongue. First you threaten me, now you tempt me. I will not listen. I will not go.

Foolish boy! Have you given these many years to me, learning at my feet by the fire, only to reject me now when you most need my advice? I tell you, you cannot change this path. Embrace it willingly, follow it with all your heart, and you may yet find your joy. Run if you, will, but I tell you, it will find you in the end and your fall will be great, your misery eternal. Do you understand?

No, Master, no! Some demon has taken you. Some evil creature speaks through your beloved mouth and shines hard in your beloved eyes. I shall free you, Master, as I free myself!

Master? Master? Why do you not reply? Where have you gone, my Master, my Beloved?



flash: The Gargoyle’s Lament


Day 6

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Might I have been a buddha in another life? Crouched here like a frog, like the frog I am, I weep frozen tears upon barren soil. Children climb upon me and slide down my back, shrieking like little demons. Perhaps I am meant to lean like this forever, gathering their petty sins into myself and leaking them back into this dead packed ground.

Perhaps I myself am the sinner. Perhaps in that other life I have committed an act so heinous that it was not enough to return me to a lower form. Perhaps it was necessary that I should be frozen here, aware and unspeaking, to contemplate my evil. But I remember no such evil.

Perhaps that is my sin: that my heart is frozen and I refused to see.

Might I have been a frog who refused to become a prince? Might I have been the unenchanted frog who watched the princess with her prince and in jealousy became this frozen monster weeping tears that destroy all that would grow?

The children are not demons, despite their shrieks. Demons fear me in my ugliness and grief. But that does nothing for the evil that comes here. Human demons with guns and bottles, using my head as a table to measure out their transactions. Their hearts are as frozen as mine, and yet they go on living.

What have I done? What have I done?

I remember nothing. Nothing before this moment. I weep ice and I remember nothing.


Just another pathetic sheep following the herd

 For the last couple of years, I’ve been participating in Nightmare Fuel, an annual daily horror writing project run by Bliss Morgan on Google+ (  I’m a bit late getting on board this year, due to moving youngest to his first job, but here I am, starting on day 4 with a little ode to evil-eyed sheep: 


“It’s just sheep.” Marie puts her hands to her throat as if to hold in hysterical laughter, but tears glisten on her cheeks.

I can’t blame her. I’m pretty close to the edge myself. And I’ve just wasted five seconds of precious battery to illuminate the field so we can see that the noises that have been stalking us ever since we got lost are just sheep.

We’ve only been hiking in the dark for an hour or so. Until then we thought we were just a little behind where we should have been. The trail looked familiar. We could see well enough in the twilight. But where the trail should have flattened out into the valley and a mile through winding woods to the car, we found ourselves in something like a pasture, with a stream running down the middle.

By then it was getting too dark to see our path. We figured hell, it’s been years since we hiked this trail, maybe somebody cut down the trees and converted it to pasture. It didn’t look right, but when we went to check our GPS for the thousandth time, it couldn’t connect to its satellites.

No cellphone reception, either, but that’s not unusual in the mountains. Marie keeps trying, but I turned mine off to save the battery. That’s why I could turn on the flashlight app for just long enough to see the floppy ears and intent expression of the sheep leading the herd.

“Damn scary sheep if you ask me.”

“Oh, Carl, you’re such a city boy.”

“Their eyes were glowing,” I point out.

“They’re animals,” she replies, sighing loudly. “Of course their eyes glow when light’s shining in them.”

“They’re animals,” I repeat.

“What do you think they’re going to  do, eat you?”

“Worse than that.”

“What’s worse than being eaten by sheep? Check the GPS again. Maybe we have service now that we’re farther down the valley.”

“Why bother? We only have one way to go. Look how steep those ridges are.” Were they that steep when we started to walk this direction?

No. And they weren’t that visible, either. The moon has conveniently come out to light up the impossibility of going up the sides. It illuminates the sheep, grazing peacefully while lambs nuzzle at their mothers’ sides, seeking nutrition or comfort.

There’s no reason the sight should make my blood run cold. I tell myself to calm down and think, but I don’t seem to be listening. Only one thing seems clear: we have to get the hell out of here.

“This way,” I say, turning back the way we came.

The barely-a-mountain we came down earlier seems as tall and jagged as Mt. Everest.

“Back? We can’t do that. It’s too far. We’ll be stuck on the mountain all night.”

I wonder why I never noticed before that when she’s nervous, she bleats like a sheep.

“Even if we find the road at the bottom of this valley, which I doubt, we’ll be miles from the car. If we can even figure out which direction to walk.”

She starts to giggle. Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba. “Your ears. They’re all floppy.”

I turn to run up the steep path. Her laughter is like a whip into my flanks.

The moon peeps out again, momentarily illuminating a patch of green grass beside a shallow pool in the stream. I stop. The rippling water fascinates me.

I drink deeply. I have been walking too long without stopping for water.

Marie has gone up to the leader of the sheep. They’re touching noses, cautiously.

I wander over to the grassy patch and start grazing. Damn, the grass tastes good in this high meadow.


Home for a while, finally

After spending most of the last month on the road, it’s good to finally be home. 

We spent time in Rocklin CA (near Sacramento) visiting middle son and his fiancee — saw Point Reyes, visited vineyards in Napa and Nevada City, took time to drive over to Lake Tahoe for some hiking, some paddling, and dinner with friends, and ate crab on on the waterfront in San Francisco. 

From there, we went to Montana to visit my family. Lots of good times and a day trip through Yellowstone Park with my mother. The highlight was the biggest damn grizzly I have ever seen, only a few hundred feet from the highway. He was across a river from us, so it was safe enough, but close enough to be scary. They are such impressive animals. 

We came home for a couple of days, just long enough to go to our first art class, and then it was off to Pittsburgh to pick up youngest son and help him move to Madison, WI where he’ll be starting a new job on Monday. Flew home yesterday, in time for art class again.