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The Road Trip & Other Shorts

Discussion in 'Reader's Corner' started by neko-sennin, Oct 25, 2008.

  1. neko-sennin AKA shadesmaclean

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    Oct 24, 2005
    I'm bringing back The Road Trip for Halloween, this time in the Lit Department, rather than misplaced in the Fanfic section. Bear in mind that in the meantime I have released the Tradewinds series, so whereas I had edited out TW connections in previous versions, this one contains names that might sound familiar to anyone who's read through Part 5. Keep an eye out. :wink

    Spoiler: Table of Contents
    -A Harrowing Real Life Account
    -The Road Trip 1-7
    -...At the Moon (poem)
    -The Attic (Additions I)
    -Enter Ye the Spooky Door... (poem)
    -Lost & Found
    -Paradigm Shift
    -Dark Reflection (poem, previously Untitled)
    -The House (Additions II)
    -Flawed Logic (a Rant)
    -Hallmark Holiday (Freestyle Holiday Gift Rap)
    -Time Marches On
    -The Black Box 1-5 + "On the Resistance"
    -Creepy Campus
    -Creepy Campus 2
    -Haunted Campus
    -The Truth Is In There.
    -Havre Has It!
    -Havre's Had It!
    -On Spooky Doors
    -Zakro Falls
    -The Red Machine
    -Unfinished Business I-II
    -Learn to Fly I-II
    -Flying Manhunt
    -The Killer Christmas Tree
    -Soundtrack & Subtext I
    -Journey Into Darkness 1-2
    -Soundtrack & Subtext II-III
    -Out of Character
    -With a Closet Full of Froot Loops
    -Refried Dreams I-V
    -Guitar Hero FAIL!
    -Bambi II: First Blood
    -Ghost House
    -Dead (to the World) & Loving It!
    -Killed In Action
    -Deck the Halls (Pyro Version)
    -Ghost Towns (lyrics)
    -Dead End Drive (lyrics)
    -Battle Hymn of the Insomniac (parody)
    -Insomnia (lyrics)
    -Slippage (poem)
    -Lost Verse (Silent Hill)
    -Lost Verse (Raccoon City)
    -Lost Verse (The Nameless City)
    -Losing It (lyrics)
    -What's My Name Again? (Blink 182 parody)
    -Gotta Go (Agnostic Front parody)
    -Follow the Leader (lyrics)
    -Been There, Done That (lyrics)
    -Clockwork (lyrics)
    -Pass It On (lyrics)
    -On Getting Old (poem)
    -No Way Out (The Empty Set)
    -Wrong Track (lyrics)
    -Twilight (lyrics)
    -Without a Trace (lyrics)
    -FF (Fast Forward)
    -(I'll Be) Staggerin' Drunk for Christmas (lyrics)
    -Last Time to Church (poem)
    -The Worrying Room
    -Unfinished Business (lyrics)
    -My Understanding of Truth (2015 Tribute version)
    -Free-Market (S)creed (poem)
    -The Closet (Additions III)
    -The Doors (Additions IV) + All-New Epilogue
    -What Holiday? (poem)
    -These Are the Days (lyrics)
    -Epic (lyrics)
    -The Story of Jesús (poem)
    -Just Once... (poem)
    -Unfortunate Son (poem)
    -Get Real (lyrics)
    -Sole Survivor (Tradewinds bonus "What If?" story)
    -Give 'em Hell! (lyrics)
    -Fearless Girl (poem)
    -I Want My Country Back (lyrics)
    -That Monkey Is Not Your Friend (poem)
    -P.O.W. (lyrics)

    MY DEVIANTART (and backup amp downloads) :http://shadesmaclean.deviantart.com/
    MY TWITTER: @shadesmaclean



    Last edited: Sep 12, 2017
  2. neko-sennin AKA shadesmaclean

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    Oct 24, 2005
    A Harrowing Real-Life Account:

    Before I get started on the road, I'd like to relate a really creepy thing that happened to me once. Being Halloween and all. This was something that happened to me a couple years ago, during my latter days in Oregon, and it's something that still gives me chills just thinking about:

    I was walking home from a session at Knight Library late one stormy night. I left the library some time between ten-thirty and eleven, so after trudging through downtown to the Ferry Street Bridge, then along the river in the pouring rain, it was probably at least midnight. It was just past one last stretch of woods before I made it to the Valley River Hotel, the VRC Mall parking lot, when I first spotted it.

    I remember at first just thinking it was someone else on a late night errand, though even in Eugene, where folks joke about having webbed feet, it was rare to see anybody out in so late in this weather. Yet for some reason, I couldn?t take my eyes off the shadowy figure. As the figure drew nearer, I finally figured out what my eyes had instinctively locked on to wasn?t the man himself, but his shambling, swaying gait. After all, I had long-since learned to spot drunken wanderers from a good distance, as, while most are fairly harmless, others can be quite troublesome. Still, there was something about his movements that I had never seen in a drunken stagger before, that was trying to raise the rain-dampened hairs on my neck the closer it got.

    In all my life, I have never seen another human being nail such a perfect zombie-walk.

    It all felt so unreal, every minute of it. This creepy figure in a dark raincoat slowly stumbling toward me, barring my path to the Mall? where I could at least get help from the security guards if need be? and my own feet drawing me steadily nearer, even as I tried to tell myself to calm down, that I needed to figure out what to do before we met. After all, on my right was a bank of blackberry thorns to climb, with only a fence and a deserted stretch of road beyond. To my right, the blackberry-choked riverbank, with the rain-swelled torrent of the Willamette to fall into. Only the trail behind me to retreat, nearly a mile to Coburg Road, and any hope of help.

    And that eerie certainty that when we crossed paths, he was going to lunge at me. One half of me kept refusing to retreat, given that I would have to go miles and hours out of my way to avoid him, and I had to work the next morning. The other half primed to shove my umbrella in his face and run like hell if he made any sudden moves. To make matters worse, the figure was swaying near the middle of the trail, so I found myself shifting slightly off to one side of the trail to stay out of arms? reach once we met, wanting to give myself some buffer space to dodge if he did try to attack me?

    I don?t know exactly what I expected, but my mind kept coming up with all sorts of creepy things the closer he got to me. His face was still shrouded in the shadows of his hood, so part of me kept expecting him to look like the walking dead, as George Romero himself would weep for missing the chance to film this guy in motion. Or would his face look perfectly normal, but he would do something creepy, like part open his coat to reveal only a cob-webbed rib-cage, or start doing or saying ominous and menacing things up close?

    Whatever my racing mind was expecting, what did happen was unsettling enough for me.

    As we closed the gap between one another, I could see his coat was dark green without sheets of rain between us washing out colors. The closer we got, the more unnerving his jerky zombie-shamble became as I realized that my eyes were not playing tricks on me in the darkness and limited visibility. Finally, I could see his face as we passed under one of the few lights along this stretch of trail, and though he at least didn?t look like a ghoul or anything, but it still did nothing to calm or reassure me. It only raised the question of how he could stay so on-center with his eyes closed. The winding of the trail, the swirling of the wind, the swaying, unsteady steps. It wasn?t that they were closed for only a moment, for I never took my eyes off him once we were this close, it was that he never opened his eyes once in all that time.

    Just kept putting one foot in front of the other, his lips working silently, as if in a trance.

    If he was even whispering, I couldn?t hear it over the drumming rain, and I couldn?t see even a sliver of his eyes under those closed lids. He paid me no mind whatsoever, not even turning his head to acknowledge my existence, and I felt it was probably safer to not draw his attention. I have a friend who sleepwalks sometime, but even his eyes are half-opened when he does it. I?ve never seen a drunk who could pull that off, and I?m not so sure even meth could do that, either.

    I turned, and even walked backwards for a good twenty feet or so before daring to take my eyes off of him. I don?t know where he came from or where he was going like that, but if he was content to keep on and not trouble me, I was willing to leave it at that. Though I recall a certain wariness as I got closer to Valley River Center; after all, that was where that guy came from, was always the way back into the neighborhoods along River Road, where I lived, and I was plagued for a good while with the irrational fear that there would be more of them. It was such a relief to see the Security truck cruising around like it was nobody?s business when I made it to the mall parking lot, still I kept my guard up as I crossed the foot-bridge and passed through the park to get to River Road.

    And frequently looked over my shoulder every step of the way, most likely spooked enough to break out running if I actually saw anyone at all behind me after that harrowing encounter.

    ...And now, on with the story.
  3. neko-sennin AKA shadesmaclean

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    Oct 24, 2005
    The Road Trip 1

    by Scott Springer​

    The sign read EYRIE.

    I remember that night as we both stood there for way too long, just staring through the fog at that sign. We went back to the car and checked the road map, just to be sure. But there was no ?Eyrie? to be found anywhere.

    Mark whipped his flashlight back at the road sign.

    ?Maybe we made a wrong turn somewhere,? he suggested. But I could tell from the sound of his voice that he didn?t believe that any more than I did. He scanned the map himself in the dim glow of the overhead light. ?Weird? There?s no Eyrie anywhere??

    ?You can?t find it either?? I asked, not liking the feel of this. The swirling mist that obscured much of the surrounding desert just didn?t belong in this climate.

    ?Hmm? You know, I was reading a while ago that New Mexico decided to change the road maps. Maybe Eyrie didn?t make the cut. It sounds pretty small.?

    ?Yeah, that must be it.? That sounded like a plausible explanation, so I agreed with him. I wanted to agree; this fog, and now this sign, had started me thinking about the sorts of tales you could easily spook yourself with out in the middle of nowhere late at night like this.

    We jumped back into Mark?s beat-up station wagon, a sixteenth-birthday present from his father. We jokingly called it the Woody, and a few of our friends? parents were appalled by the name? which we, amazingly enough, hadn?t even thought of? until we pointed out the phony wood paneling on the sides. Like in one of those old Beach Boys songs.

    The headlights were on the whole time, but neither of us cared; this road trip had been a disaster from the first stop. The Woody had managed to break down every 500 miles on the mile. The air conditioning refused to work once we reached the desert. We had run out of gas once, and had to push the car almost six miles to the nearest town.

    And now we were lost.

    Looking back, I knew there was something wrong with this whole scene, but I didn?t want to say anything because I was sure Mark would think I was nuts. Odd, given that we?ve been friends since grade school, and I was also equally certain that he could sense it, too. It felt strange at that moment to remember our graduation only days before.

    We drove on in silence, keeping our growing disquiet to ourselves. I still remember the time we went camping last summer, telling spooky stories until we were both too scared to go out of the tent, even to take a leak.

    I doubt either of us was sure if we should be embarrassed or afraid. I mean, we had been on a couple road trips before, but nothing quite this ambitious. Still, I know I at least thought we were accomplished enough to handle a three-day drive without too many problems. It bothered me that a simple wrong turn could steer us this far off course.

    The sign said 86 miles to Eyrie, and 111 to Cove? yet another town that we couldn?t find on our map? and over much of that distance, I almost suggested several times that we go back to the last town and continue in the morning. To this day, I wish we had, though I?m not sure it would have made much difference. I think we were already in over our heads, but I didn?t think so then, and neither did my friend, since he drove on anyway.

    Asleep at the wheel? that?s the best way I can come up with to explain it. We grabbed dinner in a town called Moriarty? which at least was actually on our map? and ate as we cruised down the highway, listening to our favorite mix tapes. Mark?s stereo had been our faithful companion on this journey, in spite of the rest of the Woody trying to fall apart under our asses. I have no clue when I first noticed the fog that had increasingly thickened after twilight, but now I felt lost, more so than the word itself can express. Now there was only the road, and we crept along with seemingly nothing beyond the headlights? beams.

    It really seemed that night that we could have driven right off the face of the earth, and I believe we did, in a way.
  4. Tyrael I prefer the term Dream Weaver

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    Apr 25, 2007
    I liked both: the first is atmospheric and very much a moment of realistic surreality. The image was a good one and your writing had a dark flow to it that very much suited the scene presented to us. The Road Trip has a good narrative voice, but since it is obviously just the start and how it unravels will dictate how effective you are.

    During neither of the stories did I get that cold sensation running down the back of my neck or the plunging in my stomach that horror give you when it reaches out to your heart and clutches it with a cold hand. Horror, like comedy, is, in my opinion, possibly one of the hardest styles to use as it looks to particularly evoke certain reactions from the reader whilst most pieces of writing can get away with entertaining or making a reader think.

    You have inspired me to try my hand at a horror short myself.
  5. neko-sennin AKA shadesmaclean

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    Oct 24, 2005
    The Road Trip 2-1

    PART 2: ?ARREST?
    I don?t know how long we rode on in contemplative silence, the night seemed to go on forever.

    Neither of us had bothered to restart the tape, so each of us was left to our own foreboding thoughts. I know I wanted to say something, but I couldn?t figure out what. Part of me wanted to tell spooky stories again? the only trouble was I was already as spooked as I had been that one night? but I also wanted to make light of the situation somehow. I was sure this was just another of those times when I had managed to give myself the hoodoos, and Mark and I would have a good laugh about it tomorrow.

    Then again, at times like that I?ve always managed to convince myself that this time it was for real, that this time the everyday world I knew would start to unravel, and something vast and mysterious would unfold around me.

    The main thing that struck me was that I couldn?t remember the last time a car had passed us in either direction, and that only served to add more to my growing sense of foreboding. I remembered telling myself, Well duh, who would be driving in this? Us. And to me, it felt like we were the last people on earth.

    Mark made me jump when he finally spoke, saying, ?Man, I don?t know if I can keep my eyes open much longer. What say we stop at this Eyrie place and see if they have a damn motel??

    I nodded my agreement. I knew what he meant; as eerie as it was out here, with everything drifting in out of the fog, it was also so quiet. At times I was almost certain this was a dream, and I was going to wake up to find that Mark had been driving all this time in silent boredom. Even when he turned the tape deck back on, it couldn?t quite drown out the underlying quiet.

    A quiet that was finally shattered by the flashing lights that rushed out of the mists swallowing the highway behind us. Mark later told me he was so startled that he nearly hit the gas. That probably would have been a bad thing, but on top of what happened next, I don?t really see how it could have made things that much worse. I remember feeling an inexplicable need to be anywhere else but here at that moment.

    Mark seemed to cruise for a moment or two in indecision, then he slowed down even more and pulled over.

    I thought, Well, at least we can?t get busted for speeding. According to the speedometer, we had scarcely gone over 30 in this foggy weather. But as the Highway Patrol cruiser drifted by and halted right in front of us, I almost told Mark to punch it; all the alarms in the back of my mind were telling me this was bad news.

    Mark was already fumbling for his registration papers as I watched the door open. When I saw the car visibly rise on its suspension, I expected a hulking brute of a state trooper, with a stern Southern sneer and dark glasses? but what I got had to be the very living stereotype of the fat police man.

    The first thing he did after squeezing himself out of his car was hitch up his pants. Or at least he tried to. It was an admirable effort, and under other circumstances, I would have had to try harder to not laugh my ass off, but there was something about all this that just wasn?t funny.

    I cracked my window as the stout cop leaned back into his car for something. In that moment, I wasn?t sure if I should lock my door, or be prepared to make a break for it, hell, Homer Simpson could outrun this pig! I had my window open all day? the only A/C we had? but it quickly cooled off after dark. That, and for some reason I just didn?t want that fog getting inside the car.

    But in his haste to get his papers in order, Mark had neglected to stop the tape, and so as the highway cop talked on his CB, his words were drowned out by Zack de la Rocha?s fiery lyrical admonition to Know Your Enemy, and I couldn't make out a word he said. Though on the plus side, he didn?t haul out a shotgun, as I was half afraid he would. I still don?t get it? I?ve been pulled aside by officers before, but it had never felt this nerve-wracking.

    He did pull out a flashlight, and the first thing he did with it was shine it right in our faces as he ambled over. His face became a growing scowl as he shifted the light down, and got a better view of the Woody and its host of opinionated bumper stickers with every step. He spent a long moment fish-eying what I suspect was Mark?s Bad Religion ?cross-buster? sticker, among others.

    Not even a ?License and Registration? or a ?Did You Know You Were?? speech from this guy.

    ?Turn that crap off, boy!? was the first thing he said to Mark, and I was glad it was him that jerk was talking to, because I was totally on edge by then. Though in the end I doubt it would have really mattered, Mark?s natural sense of diplomacy hadn?t failed him. He calmly reached over and killed the tape deck.

    Now the silence was all too complete.

    ?Montana, eh?? the patrolman remarked as Mark offered him his driver?s license. ?Seems like you?re a long way from home, boys.?

    ?We?re on vacation,? Mark told him. Though he kept a conversational tone, I could sense he too was getting nothing but bad vibes from this cop. ?My uncle lives in Fort Sumner, and we?re coming down to stay for a couple weeks.?

    ?Well, that?s not a problem,? the cop said, ?but I don?t think a couple kids like you should be out this late. ?Specially not in such bad weather.?

    ?Yeah,? said Mark, ?actually, we were thinking about turning in for the night when we get to Eyrie. Do you know how much farther it is??

    The moment I heard him speak that name, I knew somehow it was a bad idea, but I had no time to warn him. Sure enough, no sooner had my friend finished speaking than an inexplicable look crossed the officer?s face, flickering too quickly through too many emotions for me to read, but underneath them all was fear. And I?m pretty sure I was the first to notice that he had put a strip of black tape over his badge number.

    ?Come again?? he asked, and this only made my memory of the signpost stand out even more sharply in my mind.

    ?Eyrie,? Mark repeated, and I winced, wishing there was some way to tell him not to do that. ?That?s the next town, isn?t it??

    ?I don?t know what kind of stunt you?re trying to pull, kid, but you better knock it off now.?

    He kept Mark?s license and shuffled back over to his car. Where he again got on the horn and started talking to someone.

    I found a napkin from the burger joint we ate at in Moriarty, and fished a pen out of Mark?s glove compartment. Then I got out of the Woody, stepping out in front of it. If I couldn?t get a badge number, I was sure as hell going to take down his license and car numbers. I felt an overwhelming need for proof, I was sure whatever happened next was going to be hard for others to swallow.

    Apparently, Mark also felt something was wrong, because he also got out.

    ?Hey, you two!? shouted the officer as he leaned back out of his vehicle. ?Get back in your car! I didn?t say you could get out!?

    ?You didn?t say we couldn?t, either,? Mark calmly pointed out, and stretched his legs as I started scribbling down numbers.

    I was also trying to commit them to memory because I was honestly afraid Officer Fatso was about to come over here and take my pen.
  6. neko-sennin AKA shadesmaclean

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    Oct 24, 2005
    The Road Trip 2-2

    As I had feared, he started over in my direction, demanding, “Just what do you think you’re doing, boy?”

    “Just taking notes, officer,” was all I could come up with, the old adage Know your enemy still echoing in my mind.

    “There’ll be no need for that,” he told us, “because you’re comin’ back to Moriarty to spend the night.”

    “But we’re trying to get to Uncle Larry’s by tomorrow,” Mark protested, for the first time starting to show just how much this guy was getting to him. Or maybe he had finally noticed the cop’s badge, as I had.

    Somehow, over the course of that ill-fated argument, I had made my way over to Mark’s side, not wanting him to face this creepy cop alone.

    “You’re gonna have to spend the night in Moriarty, boys,” he told us, and he stared hard at Mark, as if he was trying to stare him down somehow in some bizarre contest of wills, “then we’ll call your parents.”

    I could tell my friend, as persuasive as he could ordinarily be, was having trouble holding out against the cop’s forceful gaze, and I tried to back him up, saying, “Officer, we haven’t done anything wrong. Just let us get to Eyrie, and we promise we’ll stop for—”

    “Dammit, boy!” thundered the cop, who by now was turning positively livid, “There’s no such place as Eyrie!”

    “But the sign back there said…”

    To his day I don’t know why I brought it back up. I knew it seemed to mess with this guy on some level. My best guess is that if he had acted more rationally, we probably would have quietly gone along with him, to where and to what end I don’t know.

    But pressing the issue could’ve been a mistake, for although it allowed us to see just how unstable he had somehow become, now the cop was also really pissed. He lunged at me, screaming, “I’ll teach you some respect, you little punk!”

    Unfortunately, I had studied Karate for a couple years, and my training kicked in with as little warning as that fat highway cop’s attack. Perhaps if I hadn’t seen that ham-fisted haymaker coming from a mile away, things might have happened very differently. But I sidestepped him before I knew what I was doing. Even as I moved, I thought, oh shit! don’t hit him you’ll go to jail if you hit him!

    I managed not to swing at him, but the damage was already done; everything was happening so fast. But the sound of breaking glass told me things had just gone from bad to worse. Before I even turned to face him, I knew he had just put his fist through the window, and I found a half-second in which to wonder at how old that model must be not to have tempered glass. I heard him scream a litany of his choicest words as he jerked his lacerated hand back.

    I was trying to find the words to apologize to him— for dodging his unprovoked attack, of all things— when he turned and fixed me with a look of blazing hate, screaming incoherently.

    And with that, he again telegraphed me long-distance with his other fist. And again I acted purely on instinct, shifting my center to avoid a second attack. This time, I had to pull a punch just a split second before I threw it.

    I watched in horror as the cop’s fist smashed into the Woody’s doorframe with a wet crunch that sounded like breaking fried chicken bones.

    All I knew was that things were getting way out of hand, and I couldn’t figure out how to stop it. This had quickly turned into one of those places in life where one cannot wholly account for ones actions. I know part of it was simple self-preservation. And perhaps part of it was also simple self-respect that drove me in this twisted confrontation, that on some level I showed a little pride in my fighting skills. That dammit, I didn’t train with Master Al for three years just to get bitch-smacked by some old man who was so fat he could hardly waddle. For all I know, he may once have been a great athlete… about thirty years and a hundred pounds ago. In that second I pitied him, but also knew he was a serious threat, of an inexplicable nature, and that I had to do what I did.

    Once he had made his move, I was left with no other choice.

    I watched warily as the cop staggered back, cursing and screeching, and everything he was doing to himself was getting us in deeper and deeper trouble. I was afraid that next he was going to somehow manage to draw his sidearm, and I had no idea how the hell I was supposed to defend against that. But that was when he paused in mid rant, clutching his chest with one bloody hand.

    All this time, Mark had jumped back and watched in unabashed horror, and now I joined him as the highway cop bellowed and howled. His jowls shook as he stumbled back to his cruiser. Only to stagger and collapse on the hood, bottoming out the suspension to the point that the bumper nearly touched the asphalt!

    It was then, as the officer lay gasping on the hood of his own ride, that Mark finally regained his mobility and rushed to help him. For my part, I ran over to the cruiser and picked up the CB mic. While Mark tried to piece together what he remembered of CPR, I shouted, “Officer down! Officer down! Send an ambulance to Highway 40! Near Eyrie! I think he’s having a heart attack! We need help!”

    I don’t remember how long I screamed into the mic, but no matter which way I tuned it, I was only answered with silence.

    “Who the fu.ck was he talking to!?” I demanded, throwing down the mic in abject frustration.

    “It’s too late, man,” Mark told me in the most somber voice I ever remember him using, as well as a term I’d never heard anyone use outside of really bad hospital dramas, “he’s dead. I’m pretty sure it was cardiac arrest.”
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2012
  7. neko-sennin AKA shadesmaclean

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    Oct 24, 2005
    The Road Trip 3

    We both stood in the piercing glow of headlights for several minutes before either of us did anything.

    ?Now what?? Mark demanded.

    ?We go to Eyrie,? I replied. It was all I could think of. ?We? we get the police and try to explain??

    ?Explain what? That we just killed a cop??

    ?But it was an accident? I mean, he did it to himself? You saw??

    ?Who?s going to believe us? Look, that car?s so damn old it doesn?t even have a video camera!? And we can?t just leave him here??

    ?We can?t mess with the body.? I told him. I couldn't believe I was referring to him as the body. Dead not even five minutes, and as nameless to us as he had been in life? ?It?s the only proof we have!? If we move him, they?ll think we have something to hide??

    The main thing I remember was being terrified that another car was going to pull up, especially another cop, and I was going to have to explain this. But a mocking voice in the back of my head kept telling me that no cars would be passing through here tonight. And somehow I knew even then that voice spoke truth.

    Mark was as scared of doing time as I was, so he said, ?Let?s hurry. At least try to get someone out here tonight??

    And he went back to the Woody, using the rest of the wet napkins to wipe off the blood on his hands while I picked up the mic and made one last attempt to radio for help.

    In the end, it proved pointless. To this day, I doubt there was anything wrong with the radio, but all I got was faint static. By the time Mark had finished wiping off his hands? and probably glad he had somehow managed not to get any blood on his clothes? I had completely given up on the radio.

    We drove on again in silence. I had inadvertently killed a man, and somehow it didn?t click emotionally. I thought I?d cry, or scream, or something, but all my mind was bent on was more foreboding. Make no mistake, I felt awful, but that awfulness just couldn?t figure out how to express itself.

    Part of me didn?t even want to believe it had happened at all. Just some disturbing dream I was going to wake up from in some motel, because it just didn?t feel real. But all I had to do was look at the shards of glass littering the seat behind my friend to know that something had happened.

    To steady my nerves, I finally broke the silence, asking, ?Don?t you think that was really weird back there? I mean that guy was totally tweakin? out.?

    ?Yeah?? Mark had clearly been thinking about it too. After all, he had just watched a man die before his eyes, and I suspect he was equally determined not to think about it right now. ?He totally flipped whenever we mentioned Eyrie? like there was something about it that messed with his mind? He was too spooked for this ?Eyrie? business to be a prank.?

    I didn?t know how to put it, and neither did he, but I think that officer was even more afraid of Eyrie and its so far unknown implications than we were. Looking back, I think we should have taken that deadly run-in? hell, the first road sign we encountered? as a warning. But for now we were sure we were closer to Eyrie than to Moriarty, so we pressed on.

    That, and I think puzzling over these mysteries gave our minds an alternative to dwelling on that morbid traffic stop.

    It turns out that we were indeed right, for the next sign we found told us that it was now 13 miles to Eyrie and 38 to Cove, and I wondered why anyone would go to the trouble of marking the 13th mile.

    But it was the sign next to it that really did it for me. There was a t-junction here, where Highway 40 intersected with an old dirt road. A second sign pointed in that direction, toward ?Scenic Naz-Nak Mesa? but I wasn?t really sure if I was reading it correctly because it had been slashed over with red spray-paint. It was what was written over that sign that both obscured the name of the mesa? probably yet another name we would never find on our map? and struck me with confusion and apprehension:


    I finally looked over to see Mark clutching the steering wheel, his face as white as his knuckles. He returned my gaze slowly, saying in a voice that was way too dry and choked for my liking, ?Let?s go back.?

    ?But it?s almost a hundred miles to Moriarty,? I remember saying. There was something about the words ?Project Metronome? that frightened me, as if something out of a ?B? sci-fi flick had somehow come to life, but Mark seemed even more afraid of it than I. I wanted to go back, but I also wanted to know. ?What?s wrong, man??

    ?I just figured out that cop?s last words,? Mark told me. ?He was gasping for breath? I couldn?t figure out what he was saying anymore? At first he kept saying ?no such place?? but then I couldn?t make it out anymore? But now I?m pretty sure he said ?metronome? right before he died? Why do all the signs say ?Eyrie? and ?Cove? but not Santa Rosa??

    I had no answer to that. I nearly laughed, hysterically if I had, at how we must have made a wrong turn at Albuquerque? like a bad joke. But I knew how he felt, so I said, ?Okay, we?ll go back to Moriarty.?

    Though I honestly wondered if we could. Project Metronome had just added an ominous new dimension to this problem.

    Mark looked down at the fuel gauge, then sat there for a long moment, as if resigning himself to the unknown, before telling me, ?We can?t go back? We don?t have enough gas. We?ll be lucky to make it to Eyrie at this rate.?

    The chill I felt then had nothing to do with the desert night. I pictured myself walking out in the fog, and I knew he was right. I told myself, maybe someone there could tell us what?s going on, maybe even knew something about that crazy cop.

    ?Okay,? I agreed, pausing a moment to get out the rest of it, ?but just for gas. Then we go back.?

    Mark nodded, and we drove on.

    As we drew near our mysterious destination, I felt less and less concerned with clearing my name, and more afraid of what we were going to find in Eyrie, the town that cop was so afraid of.
  8. neko-sennin AKA shadesmaclean

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    Oct 24, 2005
    The Road Trip 4

    PART 4: ?EYRIE?
    Even in the fog, we saw the lights of Eyrie from a couple miles away. I wasn?t sure just what to expect, my mind kept conjuring up every small town from every horror story I knew. The mist seemed to thin out as we drew nearer, and at least I was glad for the increased visibility.

    As we rolled into town, I also counted our blessings in that we still had a little gas left. I didn?t want to set foot in this place, let alone be as vulnerable as we would have been walking.

    Still, both of us were acting nonchalant about the whole thing, and the first thing Mark said upon looking at the dark, empty streets was, ?Bet everything closed at five.?

    ?Yeah.? It was indeed a quiet little desert town, not much different than all the others we had driven through in the last day or so. Aside from the vibe. It was more than just the unnatural fog, there was something amiss about this place, and the more we tried to ignore it, the more it seemed to press in around us.

    In small towns, gas stations are not hard to find; all we had to do was stay on Highway 40.

    ?Okay?? I remember saying, ?we just fill up, and get directions to the nearest police station.? I think I knew then how a wanted man felt turning himself in, since this was effectively what I was about to do to myself.

    ?Alright,? Mark replied. I don?t think he had any other ideas.

    So we both stepped out, Mark walking over to the gas pump, I to the vending machine near the entrance. Of course keeping one another in plain sight. I fished out several quarters, just to discover that I would only need one.

    ?Hey Mark!? I said, ?Check this out! Glass bottles! And for a quarter!?

    ?What kind?? Mark asked me.

    I paused and looked down at the labels. The machine was big, blocky, and red? but I had never heard of Cam?s Cola. ?I don?t know. Sounds like some local brand.? Though in my mind, there was nothing ?local? about the sound of that name. Like all of the others we had encountered, if just sounded like it didn?t belong. ?Have you ever heard of something called Cam?s Cola??

    He actually left the gas pump plugged into our tank when he rushed over to see this.

    Previously, we had been acting pretty cavalier about this place, but as he stood next to me then, I began to realize that it was entirely too silent here, even for a small town after midnight. There was the hum of the lights, and the little clinking noises of the Woody?s engine cooling off, but that was it. No traffic, no air conditioners or fans, not even a whistle of desert breeze.

    I took a deep breath, then plunked a quarter in experimentally. I pushed the button for cola, and it dropped a bottle into the opening. I had to use my keys to pop the lid open, but it was good cola. Damn good cola.

    ?Holy crap!? I remarked, a testimonial no Cam?s Cola representative would ever hear: ?This stuff tastes even better than the brand name pop!?

    Mark took a sip, then put in a quarter and got a root beer.

    While he filled up the tank, I pushed open the door of the gas station, keeping the front window in clear sight. I was both surprised at the door being unlocked, yet somehow also expecting it. I told myself that while this may be a one-horse town, they probably still gets a lot of late-night travelers at the service station.

    ?Excuse me,? I said, ?can you tell me where the??

    I trailed off as I realized I was talking to no one; I was paying so much attention to not letting Mark out of my sights, I had failed to notice the room was empty. There was something about that that just didn?t satisfy my sense of reason, that made me like this place even less. I felt the distinct urge to go looking in the back, to prove that the station clerk was just out back taking a whiz or something?

    But I decided that I wasn?t about to let us get separated that easily. That was always how it happened in horror movies, and I wasn?t about to play the part of The Guy Who Gets Killed First.

    Instead I called out, ?Hello! Anybody home?? We just bought some gas and need to pay for it??

    My voice trailed off at that point, and I wondered if I even should have opened my mouth at all. I remember feeling as if I had just summoned something, and didn?t want to stick around to see what. I tried to tell myself that it was just nerves, but I found myself walking back to the door more briskly than I meant to. Outside, Mark was just screwing the gas cap back on as I stepped out. He looked up and asked, ?So, did they say where it is??

    At first I couldn?t answer him. I felt too lightheaded. I refused to pause, even outside, I just kept walking toward the Woody. Every second feeling certain that something big, ugly and evil was about to come snarling out of that gas station at any moment. I don?t know what came over me, I just felt this dread certainty that we should have taken the dead cop?s weapons. It was all I could do to not break out running then and there.

    By the time I reached the Woody, it had passed. Somehow I knew that if something nasty was going to happen, it wasn?t going to let us escape that easily. Pulling myself together, I told him, ?No, there?s no one in there.?

    ?Hmmm?? Mark thought for a moment, and I could tell from the way he kept looking around apprehensively that this place was getting to him, too. ?Let?s call the operator and see what we can find out.?

    He walked over to the phone booth, near the vending machine, and I kept close at hand.

    Mark picked up the phone, then put it back down.

    ?What?? I asked, somehow already knowing the answer.

    ?Line?s dead,? Mark told me, all emotion draining from his voice. ?I think we should go back. This is wrong? all wrong??

    I knew what he meant, but somehow I also knew that we couldn?t, that on this stretch of highway there was no Moriarty, no matter how far back we drove.

    ?We need to find out what Project Metronome is,? I told him.

    We both stood there in silence, drinking pop under hazy street lights as we tried to figure out what to say to each other.

    Then there was no more time for debate. Both of us heard the howl from out in the desert, and it was a sound the likes of which neither of us had ever heard before. We had heard plenty of coyotes the night before, but while this had a similar ring, it was distorted, and reverberated in a way that made the hair stand on both of our necks.

    I think we both bolted for the Woody at the same time. I remember jumping in, and feeling a selfish sense of relief that Mark had to go all the way around to the driver?s side to get in, basically that he couldn?t leave me behind even if he tried. But once he got behind the wheel, I couldn?t wait for him to put the pedal to the metal.

    Unfortunately, the car wouldn?t start. This of course is the scene in any horror flick when the monster (or monsters) would come out and attack. I kept looking around frantically while he tried to start the engine.

    ?Start!? Mark pounded his fist on the dashboard. ?Dammit! Start!? Not now??

    I was afraid the Woody was going to be the death of us, but then it finally started.

    And so we pealed out, flooring it as we raced out of town. We slowed down a couple miles out of Eyrie, as the fog thickened again. Now neither of us was quite sure why we had panicked, and so we were both feeling rather sheepish.

    Mostly I just felt like I had made it to the end of the horror story. We had both come out of Eyrie alive, and our ordeal was finally over.

    Little did I realize just how wrong I was.
  9. neko-sennin AKA shadesmaclean

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    The Road Trip 5-1

    PART 5: ?COVE?
    We rode on again without conversation; it seemed that silence was the watchword on this dark journey. It was so awkward, and totally different from our typical ongoing dialogue about anything and everything. Especially when one might think we had more to talk about then than we had ever had in our lives.

    I still don?t know what made that unholy sound, and I hope I never have to meet it. There was something about the way that howl sounded, and even more in the freaky way it echoed, that otherworldly and unnatural don?t even begin to describe. I?m not even sure how much of it was the source of the sound, and how much was caused by whatever was happening there that night, but both of us watched the road warily as we went, expecting some monstrosity to leap out of the fog at any moment. Mark suggested later that perhaps a coyote was all it really was, and maybe the distortion we heard had something to do with Project Metronome, which we both agreed, even at that point, must be the source of all this trouble.

    It was only when another sign drifted out of the mist that I realized we had spent too much time brooding over that noise when we should have been paying attention to which way we were going. My fragile sense of relief evaporated when I read this new message of ill omen:

    COVE 22
    HIGHWAY 42 JCT 39

    All this time, we had been driving in the wrong direction.

    I could feel panic threatening to trample my senses, everything sliding out of control. I looked over at Mark and saw that he was still coming to grips with the situation. The idling of the engine was the only sound as we both sat there wishing that hateful sign didn?t exist.

    ?This is not happening,? he muttered.

    And I, quite frankly, wished I could just agree with him, as I usually did when he said things like that. The idea to do what I did next had popped into my head several times since our fateful meeting with the mad highway patrolman, but until then I just didn?t have the nerve to try it. (Hell, it had even occurred to me to try it once before the cop, just on a whim.) I think I was afraid of what I already knew would happen.

    Without a word, I reached over and flicked on the radio.

    Not the tape deck, mind you, the radio. The censored, commercial-drenched pop-fruitopia wasteland of the airwaves. Mark knew I couldn?t stand it? it was like Chinese water torture to me? and he just turned and stared at me, first in confusion, then in alarm. I know the same idea must have occurred to him at some point; I just beat him to the punch.

    He didn?t utter a sound as I scanned up and down the dial. First AM, then FM. White noise was all the rage that night, for it dominated all frequencies. Not that I was terribly surprised? as I said, this was the sort of thing I was dreading. The irony, that I would actually want to hear the radio.

    I flicked it off just as quickly, for in that moment I feared some creepy voice was going to start speaking, telling us the sorts of things we really didn?t need to hear right now. We control the horizontal and the vertical, perhaps. Or maybe an advisory of foggy weather? oh, and listeners, remember to be on the lookout for otherworldly predators roaming the desert. Or the call letters of some station no on earth has ever heard of. Though what really spooked me was the thought of some voice getting on the air and addressing us, right here in our car.

    ?Never liked radio anyway,? I muttered, but it didn?t come off as smartass as it should have. ?We went too far, Mark. We should have turned back before we met that cop??

    ?I know,? he replied. I could tell that the simple act of driving had steadied his nerves somewhat. At first I was afraid he was going to try to argue that somehow this Project Metronome had merely disrupted communications, that perhaps the town had been evacuated? Perhaps he considered such possibilities, for he muttered, ??Something like that, there?d be army guys everywhere? roadblocks? something?? Then he said, ?I don?t think it?s the radio, either. Something about all this scared that cop? I think he was completely out of his mind by the time we ran into him.?

    ?I killed him?? I said. ?I killed him, and I don?t even know his name?? To this day, I wish I had thought to dig around and try to find out who he was.

    ?You didn?t do it on purpose,? Mark told me, his voice firmer than I had heard it all night. ?He was going to turn on us sooner or later, you saw how out of control he was? You did what you had to. You? you tried to do right, and it all went wrong? I know you didn?t try to kill him? Let?s talk about something else.?

    I again tried to picture myself explaining this to a judge. To my mom. To my own best friend, if he hadn?t seen it with his own eyes. I appreciate what he said, and maybe he was even right, but it just didn?t feel that way. Though I fear I may be called upon to fight in the future at this rate, I hope I never have to cause anyone else?s death. His face will haunt me for the rest of my days, no matter who absolves me of it.

    And again I forced it from my mind. Mark was ready to talk about the situation, and I suggested that if we were going to have a chance in hell of surviving this, we were going to have to get our act together by the time we reached Cove.

    I think the conversation did us both a world of good. Much had happened in the last couple hours, and we needed to clear our heads and come up with as much of a plan as we could. Over the dark, hazy miles between Eyrie and Cove, we compared notes, discussed ideas, and tried to prepare for the unforeseen. For that half an hour or so, it felt more like old times, Mark and I hitting the old drawing board.

    By the time we reached the outskirts of town, it felt like we were ready for anything short of space invaders.
  10. neko-sennin AKA shadesmaclean

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    Oct 24, 2005
    The Road Trip 5-2

    We had debated the best approach, and realized early on that there was no hope of stealth in a station wagon, to just roll into town as if unaware that anything was happening. Though we expected Cove to be as empty as Eyrie, we decided that our greatest (and most likely) threat would be military police, in which case we might be turned back if we were lucky. (But sneaking around would ruin any chance of that.) Next in line was locals, whom we feared might be as crazed as the highway patrolman we met. (Since we had no real weapons, we decided to play dumb and try to avoid any hostilities.) As for anyone (or anything) else that may have taken up residence there lately, Mark kept the tire iron under the seat. We knew we would probably have to get out of the car sooner or later, but we hoped not to have to reveal our only weapon unless it was absolutely necessary.

    I think we both held our breath as we rolled into town. It was even worse than Eyrie; that damn road sign changed everything. A possible murder rap, bizarre howling in the night, unexplained phenomena, an empty ghost town, and now it all had a name: Project Metronome. Of course, it may have had a name, but it was still without a face. In spite of our preparations, we really had no idea what to expect.

    When we encountered no one and saw not a hint of activity, it did nothing to ease our fear that we were walking into a trap. Under the glare of streetlights, a stillness that betrayed no sign of human presence. One place after another, just abandoned to the desert without explanation. It gave me the creeps, somehow just knowing that every house and building we passed was empty.

    We had both agreed to find a gas station first. Fill up. Act normal. On some level, I think we both still believed that we could still just turn around and drive away from all this.

    As I suspect that poor cop thought he could. After all, he did come up on us from behind. I really think he did try to drive back? Who knows what the name of the town was that he found back there? I doubt it was called Moriarty.

    Of course, while we?re on the subject of cops, we didn?t make it directly to the gas station. For, sitting on the curb at the next intersection was a police car with its lights off. But we both still immediately recognized it for what it was. Mark hit the brakes, and I feared in that moment that our game was over before it had even begun.

    But there was no response from the car; it was as empty as the rest of the town. I don?t know what possessed us, but we parked nearby, and Mark and I got out. Mark looked around to make sure we were alone, then he took out the tire iron. We may never meet the source of that ungodly sound, but that night we were more afraid of it than we were of any reaction the locals might have to us.

    Mark stood back, covering me, as we agreed. I don?t know how he always talks me into things like this. Then again, he is stronger than me, and would be able to do more damage if push came to shove, so I guess it made some sense. The cop car?s window was wide open, so I could see it was unoccupied. I opened the door and took in the scene before me.

    It was just like something out of those old ?Bermuda Triangle? stories, only this boat was as landlocked as could be. Yet what I saw made me fear the true nature of Project Metronome still more. The driver?s seat may have been empty, but in the passenger?s seat there rested a box of stale donuts, opened but uneaten, and a mug of cold coffee sat on the dashboard, undrunk. And to top it all off, the keys were still in the ignition. The first ghost ship ever issued by? the Cove PD?

    I stared at that insignia on the side of the car even longer than I had at the interior. Seeing the word ?Cove? on that logo made it more real, more plausible than the signs had. And discomfortingly less dreamlike. After all, anyone could just put up phony road signs, but this?

    ?I don?t think we?re in New Mexico anymore, Toto,? Mark said from behind me.

    And I was already agreeing with him, as if on some level I wouldn?t have before. I took it as confirmation that we were indeed alone in this ghost town, and on some ungiven signal, we both dropped all pretense of acting casual.

    I reached in and unlatched the shotgun mounted on the passenger?s side of the dashboard. There was also a flashlight that looked like a Mag, but was marked as a Cam Light. Since the keys were still in the ignition, I pulled them out and unlocked the glove compartment, finding spare shells and a powerful-looking revolver? a spare sidearm was my guess? and a small box of ammo and a holster for it as well. We popped open the trunk and found more ammo, a second flashlight, as well as a first aid kit, a megaphone, two walkie-talkies, and a crowbar. There was some other junk, but we didn?t see any use for it.

    We spent a couple minutes arming ourselves, taking turns watching the streets for any sign of activity, then prepared to explore the derelict town of Cove.
  11. neko-sennin AKA shadesmaclean

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    Oct 24, 2005
    The Road Trip 6-1

    Mark carried the shotgun, I had the pistol. He kept his armed, I kept mine holstered for the time being. In my hand I held the crowbar, and slung over my shoulders, my backpack, now stocked with a combination of equipment from the cop car and the Woody. We each had a flashlight and a walkie-talkie? just in case.

    ?Groovy,? Mark said in his best Bruce Campbell imitation, and we both shared a nervous laugh.

    Then I said, ?Let?s try to stick together. With any luck, we won?t have to use these things.? We had checked to make sure the walkie-talkies actually worked, but we were unsure of their range, not to mention their battery power, or what effects the night?s mysterious phenomena might have on our signal. ?Sorry. I just really don?t want to get separated out here.?

    ?Not even to use the john?? Mark asked, a crooked grin creeping up on his face.

    I rolled my eyes.

    ?Hey,? he laughed, ?I?m just trying to lighten things up.?

    ?You know,? I told him, ?in horror flicks, it?s always the smartass who gets killed first.? Then I wished I hadn?t said that, as if I had somehow just jinxed him. ?Sorry. You know what I mean. I just don?t want us to end up shooting each other or something. This place? it?s like it?s haunted??

    ?Yeah, I know.?

    Mark jumped back inside the Woody, and I rode shotgun? literally. While we were arming ourselves, we had concluded that the first thing to do before exploring was to set up our escape, so we set right out to find a gas station. It turned out to be as vacant as the one in Eyrie? the lights were still on and everything? leaving us free to top off the tank. We also filled several gas cans from the store shelf and stowed them in the back of the Woody.

    We were now ready to explore Cove. For real. But where to start?

    That was the question both of us pondered, scanning up and down the dark, foggy streets. They set the sort of scene out of which anything could materialize without warning. When Mark tapped me on the shoulder, I started and almost screamed.

    ?Shit!? I muttered. ?Don?t do that!?

    He pointed down the street, and it only took me a moment to figure out what had caught his eye: a small house with a single light on. All of the other homes were dark, so I immediately became curious about who had left the light on for us. It struck me that we might not be as alone as we had originally thought, and I was glad for our weapons.

    We pulled it together and headed for the house. About half way there, the mist parted in a swirl of breeze, and for a moment we saw skidmarks on the road, as if someone had peeled out in a major hurry. I took a step in that direction, and nearly tripped over a wide-brim hat. I picked it up and saw that it was marked as New Mexico Highway Patrol.

    There was something seriously not right about that, and after a moment I figured out what it was. As that crazed highway cop lay dying, and Mark made his desperate attempt to save him, I had been trying to radio help? and the officer?s hat had been sitting right in the passenger?s seat of the cruiser. But if this wasn?t his hat, then whose? The idea came to me in a flash of insight that wasn?t quite deduction.

    ?His? partner?? I mumbled, wondering what could have happened here to so thoroughly unhinge a veteran lawman.

    ?What?? Mark asked me, understandably.

    ?I think he had a partner,? I told him. ?The dead cop. And I think something really bad happened here. See, it says New Mexico, which means it came from??

    I was about to say our world, and my entire train of thought derailed. My rational mind resisted it fiercely, but the rest of me was starting to see that resistance as foolish, and I had an increasing amount of reality to back it up. I could see a similar conflict playing itself out on Mark?s face, and I couldn?t help noticing the irony. I, who had always professed to believe in other dimensions, had always insisted such things were possible, now found myself face-to-face with the real thing. And my mind was trying to reject it.

    Dammit, boy! There?s no such place as Eyrie?

    I remembered the doomed cop?s words, and knew somehow that he had been here in the last few hours. I also took stark comfort in the fact that so far our sanity was holding up a lot better than his had. Then again, we also had no idea what happened here, or if it still posed any danger to us.

    The fog parted again, and for a moment I could see how close we had come to trampling important evidence. In the dust, near where I found the hat, were two sets of footprints. The only thing that had saved them from being erased was the angle from which we had approached them. One went forward, then shuffled back toward the beginning of the skidmarks. The other, though, simply stopped just beyond where the other set halted and turned back. As if the other person had wandered off into thin air. Every time I picture those footprints, the image always raises the hairs on my neck a little.
  12. neko-sennin AKA shadesmaclean

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    The Road Trip 6-2

    Having no more clues to mull over here, we decided to move on to the house. We knocked several times, but there was no answer. The door was locked, but Mark loved to tinker, and had figured out how to pick locks years ago. Though we kept our guard up, just in case someone was here.

    I turned on a light in the front room, illuminating a most habitual degree of clutter. We moved cautiously through the house to the room with the light on. It turned out to be a bedroom with a desk near its lone window. The light we saw from the street was coming from a small desk lamp. On the desk were haphazard piles of papers.

    There was one page in the center of the desktop, with a pen sitting next to it. Purely on impulse, I picked it up and read:

    To Whomever Finds This:
    If you are reading this, then that means I was able to get out of Cove before they found me out. I dare not mention my name because the Company has people everywhere on 42. They started there, and now I?m sure they?re paying off the authorities here with their so-called ?development? money. Ever since Camcron Industries built that ?research facility? up in Dusty Heights, there have been strange lights and sounds from out in the desert. I wrote a letter to the paper about it, but they never printed it. I fear they?re playing with things that should not be tampered with. I fear something awful is going to happen. Now I see a police car outside. I guess they?ve come for me. Now I doubt anyone is ever going to read this, but still I hope someone out there will find the tru

    And at the bottom of the page was scrawled two words:


    The note was written in a very hasty hand, increasingly so near the end, and to this day I wish whoever had written it had taken the time to be more coherent, or at least give more details. If he was so afraid of getting caught, why had he bothered to write the damn thing at all? The image I had in my head was of some paranoid old man, trying to be melodramatic, and feel more important than he thought he was, and instead just ended up making this conundrum even more of a pain in the ass. Then again, like the officer, he may have simply been out of his mind by the time he wrote it.

    But at least now we knew where to start looking.

    I let my eyes drift across the table, searching for further clues, and I found only one, a road map. I stuck the note in my pocket, and we unfolded the map on the table. As we expected, it contained the names of places we had never heard of. And a couple we had.

    ?Highway 42?? Mark remarked.

    Then again, according to our map, we weren?t on Highway 40 anymore. At some point past Moriarty, New Mexico, we had ended up on The Old Mesa Road, which intersected with Highway 42 (marked as a triangle, rather than the familiar ?shield? symbol). There was a way station near the junction, and a scattered string of smallish-sounding towns dotting Highway 42. Dusty Heights, Coyote Downs, and Ashton being the nearest. Someone had drawn an ?X? in between a place called Dusty Heights and scribbled the words RESEARCH FACILITY in the same hand as the note.

    I also looked down Old Mesa Road to see that the last town before Eyrie was called Stark, not Moriarty.

    ?Come on. Let?s go,? I said. If this note was to be believed, then there wouldn?t be much else to find here in Cove. ?It?s time we got to the bottom of this.?

    ?To Dusty Heights?? Mark asked, but I could tell from his tone that there was no need to answer. His voice reflected the same determination and cautious optimism as my own. I think the same idea had occurred to him, for after a moment he said, ?Let?s go. We might still have a chance.?

    Though my mind still hung on to the pretense of denial, I was more than convinced by then that we had somehow wandered into another world.

    And if this Project Metronome was the cause, then perhaps we could find a way to use it to get back to our world. Perhaps there was still time to reverse whatever ?Camcron? had done here. The Company? that phrase just sounded really ominous to me.

    I folded up the map, and we made our way back to the gas station. We stocked up on food, and more Cam?s Cola now that we could get it inside for free, as well as some other gear. While Mark cleaned up the broken glass from the back seat, muttering ?Dad?s gonna kill me?? and such, I started packing for our journey to Dusty Heights. Once all was in readiness, Mark started the engine.

    And nothing happened.

    Try as we might, neither of us could get the Woody to start this time. For a moment there was a return of the panic that had plagued us in Eyrie, but this time cooler heads prevailed. Mark?s father had insisted he learn as much about cars as he could before allowing him to have one, so I covered him while he popped the hood and made a brief examination of the rest of the car.

    ?On the bright side,? he told me, ?I?m sure no one?s messed with it. It was probably just time for the Woody to break down again.? He yawned, then added, ?And I?m so damn tired I?m gonna fall asleep standing. What time is it anyway??

    I looked at my watch. According to it, it was now past 7 AM. And I said, ?Almost seven-thirty? Shouldn?t it be dawn by now??

    And the heavens answered with mocking silence.

    Though I knew what he meant. I was also having trouble keeping my eyes open in spite of the night?s excitement. Yet it was still dark out, and I wondered how so much time had slipped through our fingers. I wondered if we might just have to get used to the darkness and fog here.

    ?Let?s get some sleep,? he said as we got back in, ?and I?ll see what I can do when I?m awake.?

    As I locked the door and leaned back in my seat, I thought about suggesting watch shifts, but in the last couple minutes I had come to realize that I was as worn out as he was. So I closed my eyes, trying not to think about the fog that dimmed the world outside, and I thought to myself, We crossed the border? We?re in the Borderlands? This is what happens to places that get lost and forgotten? This is what becomes of all those places people stop in that no one else has heard of? Places between places? Real ghost towns? We?re in the Borderlands?

    This is the last tired thought I remember thinking before I drifted off.
  13. neko-sennin AKA shadesmaclean

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    The Road Trip 7

    I woke up because I was too hot, and I had to take a piss.

    I blinked my eyes against the glare to find myself sitting in the passenger?s seat of the Woody. It took me a moment to realize that the reason I was so hot was because it was now broad daylight out, and in another hour or so, Mark?s car was going to become a bake oven. The sky was now a blank blue desert sky, without a single cloud, nor a hint of last night?s fog.

    I wondered in that waking moment if it hadn?t all been a dream.

    Then I looked at the bottle of Cam?s Cola. Then at the shotgun lying across Mark?s lap. The broken window behind him. I glanced out the window to see that we were still parked out in front of the gas station in Cove on the Old Mesa Road.

    And I remembered that I did have a dream that night. One that I would never forget. Then again, that?s what I suppose I get for sleeping in a haunted place. In the Borderlands.

    I dreamt that that dead highway cop and his partner were cruising around Cove near dark. The two cops get out of the car in front of the house where we found the note and the map. They both look around again, clearly confused and more than a little alarmed, not only by how deserted this place was, but at how they had driven up and down Highway 40 for years and had never been here before.

    I stand on the street nearby, telling them to turn back, to leave while they still can, but they don?t hear me.

    All I can do is stand there and watch as the two officers walk toward the house with the light on. The sun is slanting, now casting everything in an eerie golden twilight, a storm color, though there?s not a cloud in sight. I?m thinking about how I don?t trust that light, when one of the officers takes one step too far and walks into nothingness.

    I see him try to stop in mid step, but it?s too little, too late. I see the fat cop stop in his tracks, eyes bugging out. I hear what I know is the vanished cop?s voice, crying out for help, every word distorted and echoing weirdly, much like that howl that scared us out of Eyrie. After a moment of this, his partner finally finds his voice, and he cries out in surprise and horror, then backpedals toward the car. At which point he promptly hits the gas and tears out of Cove in squeal of burnt rubber.

    As I sat in the ever heating car, I found I still got goosebumps thinking about that dream. This place was haunted, even by day. And somehow I knew that was what had actually happened last evening.

    Mark awoke with a start, but at least he didn?t pull the trigger. In fact, he seemed quite surprised to see a shotgun in his lap. He looked around, then at me. Seeing the Cam?s Cola bottle in my hand, he cocked his head and said, ?That was no dream, was it??

    ?Nope,? I told him as I opened the door and got out. ?I?m gonna go take a whiz.?

    ?Don?t have too much fun,? said Mark.

    ?Don?t I always?? I replied. But once I stepped out onto this haunted ground, I discovered that it held the power to instill fear even at high noon. The whole way behind the gas station, I kept picturing myself vanishing like that cop?s partner did. What I finally had to accept was that from now on, that might be a risk either of us would have to take in the desert, though the more I thought about it, the more I began to suspect that whatever happened to make people disappear was over right now.

    Even so, I was still relieved to see that Mark hadn?t gone anywhere in my absence, and was now working on the Woody while sipping a Cam?s Old Fashioned Root Beer.

    Cam?s Cola and candy bars: it?s a hell of a way to start your day! After our nutritious breakfast, Mark and I finally got the Woody running again and we were on our way. We left Cove and traveled to Highway 42 without incident.

    And without meeting a soul.

    Now I sit at a way station at the junction, staring out at empty railroad tracks running parallel to an equally lonely Highway 42 as I finish this account. We had to stop here a few hours to fix the Woody again. Again. So I took the opportunity to write down everything that has happened to us so far. Later, while searching through his stuff before we set out, Mark realized that the highway cop had left his driver?s license lying on the blacktop somewhere on the forgotten miles of Old Mesa Road. But I could tell he wasn?t about to go back for it.

    Not like a Montana license was going to do him any good in this dimension anyway.

    I wrote earlier that Project Metronome was without a face, but now I realize that it does have one, at least for me. I will always associate those words with the face of that dying highway patrolman, and the existential horror that gripped him in his final hours.

    Now Mark and I prepare to face the horror head-on. As soon as we?re ready to leave, we will drive to Dusty Heights and try to find this research facility mentioned on both the note and the map. I don?t know what we?ll find, or if we have any chance of finding our way back, so I?ve left this account of our road trip in the hopes that anyone else unfortunate enough to pass this way will find it.

    Out in front of the way station is a sign, and I found some paint and wrote ?INFORMATION? in big red letters, and an arrow pointing to this building.

    I remember when we were in middle school, Mark and I vowed to make a road trip to New Mexico after graduation and explore the desert. I never would have imagined it would turn out like this. I remember one of Master Al?s other students quipping once that his aunt always insisted that everything that gets lost ends up in the Twilight Zone, and I think that sums up our road trip in a nutshell. I can just hear Rod Serling now: ?I present to you two friends, two young men traveling together in search of adventure. They are about to get more than they bargained for. For one foggy night, they crossed the border and drove into the Twilight Zone? or something like that.

    Now it?s a long road ahead of us, and no idea where it will lead.

    This production paid for by Camcron Industries and its subsidiary, the Cam?s Cola Bottling Company of Dusty Heights, Mesa District: proud sponsor of Dusty Heights Schools, Public Library, Coyotes Batball, and the Birkin Institute Research Facility.
  14. neko-sennin AKA shadesmaclean

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    Oct 24, 2005
    Author's Notes

    -original version: October 13-31, 2002
    -additional editing: October, 2008

    Spoiler: word count (FP stats)
    01 = 765
    02 = 2623
    03 = 1174
    04 = 1548
    05 = 2095
    06 = 2169
    07 = 1209

    07 = 11,583

    This one wasn?t written for any Writing Challenge, just for Halloween that year. I just barely finished it in time, but it was well-received by those who read it, and I?ve posted it for future Halloweens since.

    Unlike the others (which still might be able to do so), this story does tie in with places and events from a longer series I?ve been writing, Tradewinds, which was previously in the closed-door phase. Since then, of course, I?ve started releasing that series one part at a time, so for the fist time, this is the ?full? version of the story, including names anyone who read chapter 20 of ?The Flathead Experiment? might recognize. At the time, I had been reading a lot of Lovecraft, and I decided to take a crack at the ?first-person epistle? type tale, only with a more modern take. Yet still that existential, There-Is-No-God-In-Heaven, harsh, uncaring reality thing going on. I don?t know if I succeeded, but I did enjoy writing it.

    -Standing backwards, Scoot.

    PS: All 7 episodes of the Spooky Door podcast are now out. Feel free to check 'em out for a little Halloween fun:

    official site

    Stay tuned for Tradewinds 06: "Falling"...
  15. neko-sennin AKA shadesmaclean

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    At the Moon

    by Scott Springer

    Laugh at yourself.
    The great cosmic joke?s on you.
    Here today, gone tomorrow;
    An unseen clock is ticking.
    A time-bomb waiting to go off
    On the next thing to go wrong.
    No brakes, any second you could snap.
    Or just hysterically laugh.
    Howling at the dark side of the moon.
    Out-of-control anxiety, fear,
    The origin of religion,
    Muttering strange prayers at the dark.
    Broken-record rituals
    Keep the nightmare at bay?
    Of shadows, specters, shapeless, nameless fears,
    Red glowing eyes staring out at you
    Through the gloomy mist at the back of your mind.
    An unseen presence
    Past the beam of your flashlight.
    Silent voices laugh in the corner,
    But you can hear them.
    Even if no one else can.
    Thoughts that flap on leathery wings,
    Horror that simply is, as if for its own sake.
    Consciousness teetering on the razor?s edge of reason,
    On the jagged, ragged edge of Reality,
    Threatening to fall away
    Into the depths of a nightmare without end?

    -June 13, 2001

    This one was a poem that pieced itself together one night while I was working at a certain fast food establishment, about what it would be like to be alone with my mind back then. Aside from a few chapters in the Book of Hondo, I haven?t written much poetry, I?m seldom in the spirit.
  16. neko-sennin AKA shadesmaclean

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    The Attic 1-2

    by Scott Springer​

    Lynn stood at the top of the stairs. Before her was the closet she and her older bother used to fight over. To her right was the door to her room; to her left was her brother’s. She took some keys out of her pocket and opened the door to her brother’s old room. She was sure Mom knew she had taken to locking it these days. As if anyone actually used it anymore…

    The door swung open, releasing a gust of air that struck her as too cool for an upstairs room on a summer day. It was the first time she had actually entered this room in over a year, but the first thing her eyes were drawn to was still the attic. The latch was still locked, and the boxes she had stacked in front of the door last spring were still there; even so, it hardened her resolve.

    She was glad they were moving.

    Lynn stood there for a long moment, noticing anew how barren the room looked now, its slanted walls devoid of posters, its floor absent of any meaningful furniture. In the year-and-a-half since her brother’s disappearance, his bedroom had evolved into a kind of storage room. A place to put things and forget about them.

    She understood that now.

    School would be starting again in a couple weeks, which meant that they would have little time to get settled into the new house. At least she was still in the same school district. Having to say goodbye to all of her friends and start the seventh grade all alone would have been too much on top of this.


    Lynn summoned up her will and walked toward the door, fighting with each step the urge to turn around and leave. After all, she had almost convinced herself that what had happened that day really hadn’t, that her brother really had just gone out to play and gotten lost in the big, bad world… but with each step she took that day became more real and immediate in her mind.

    At last she stood before the door. The nightmares. The latch. The boxes. The locked doors. And now she was unbarring these things one by one, telling herself that Dad was right. She had just made it all up, all the things she never told him, never told Mom. She wanted all the lies to be true so she could stop blaming herself and be rid of this fear so she could do what she needed to do.

    To get on with her life.

    Hesitantly at first, but with increasing resolve, she removed the boxes. At last she stood before the door…

    * * * *​

    …Lynn and Patrick stood face to face, locked in a battle of wills.

    Pat had dared her to go out and shut herself in the outhouse behind the yard. Even though it hadn’t been used since the Eisenhower administration, it still reeked in there, and she had seen mold-covered shapes that she was certain used to be turds, with bugs and centipedes crawling around in it. Though it was the most disgusting thing she had ever seen, she had done it, so now it was Pat’s turn to take a dare.

    And she had proposed a doozy.

    It was an unseasonably warm February day, the third in a row, and most of the snow had melted off. Yesterday, on his way to the bus after school, he had taken a “shortcut” past the steps going down to the bus stop, instead slipping on some mud, and getting to the bottom a little faster than he had intended. Naturally, Lynn had been there to see the whole thing, and she still hadn’t stopped laughing about it.

    This morning, he had awakened to the jolt of her jumping up and down on his bed, gleefully shouting, “Earthquake! Earthquake!” Pat, his back still sore and stiff from his little shortcut, wasn’t having any of it. He simply scissored his legs, sending her sprawling across the bed next to him.


    “Shut up!” he moaned, yawning and rolling over.

    “Muddy-butt! Muddy-butt!” she chanted in that sing-song voice which she had clearly outgrown only when her friends were watching.

    “I’m tryin’ to sleep…” he muttered. “So I got a little mud on my ass… what’s the big deal?”

    “Hey! You said a bad word!” Lynn told him. “Do you want me to tell Mom?”

    “Do you want me to tell her you were jumping on me?”

    He had her there.

    And so she had had to wait another boring hour for him to get up, and now it was payback time.

    Now they stood before the door in Pat’s room. Both of them knew the door led to a kind of attic that had never been made into a real room. Dad had said it was full of old junk left in there by previous owners. The house had been built before the turn of the century, and had been added on to several times in its history.

    “But wouldn’t you rather see me go in the outhouse?” Pat asked. “I’ll even
    use it, if that’s what you want.”

    The door to the attic had an ingenious latch that locked every time the door was shut all the way. Taped to the door was a poster of Yoda, and she had heard Pat tell one of his friends that it made the door look more “friendly” or something.

    “No. I dare you to go in and grab something from the other side.” She would later recall seeing how strangely unnerved her big brother had seemed then, but she pressed him anyway.

    “But it’s all dirty in there,” he protested.

    “I’ll tell all your friends you’re chicken.”

    Perhaps if he had told her about the latch rattling at night, about the dreams of the disheveled old man who goes in there and never comes back out… But now he had no choice but to go in, and he didn’t want to psych himself out. Instead, he undid the latch.

    In the gloom beyond lay a long, low room, boxes and trunks and other junk stacked against the walls. He had to duck under the ceiling beams, and he was dismayed to see there was no light bulb in here—

    Then Lynn shut the door, the latch locking with a mocking click.

    “Hey!” she heard his muffled cry. “Let me out!”

    “Ha!” she laughed. “How do you like it!”

    “I’m serious, sis!” Pat’s voice told her. “You gotta let me out! This isn’t funny!”

    He started pounding on the door.

    Then she heard the sound of something being dragged across the floor in there.

    “There’s something in here!” Pat’s voice screamed. “Help! Help!”

    Still she held the latch for good measure, telling herself that if she let him out now, he would just laugh at her and tell her it was all a prank. And, as usual, you fell for it.

    Pat screamed and started pounding even more frantically. A moment later, she heard what sounded like even more things being dragged across the floor in there. By now she could hear him screeching incoherently, and she was now afraid to open the latch because she was sure that whatever was in there was real.

    At last she could stand no more, and she bolted from the room, slamming the bedroom door behind her and retreating to the familiar comfort of downstairs, leaving the unreal nightmare behind, Pat’s screams becoming less and less audible…
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2010
  17. neko-sennin AKA shadesmaclean

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    The Attic 2-2

    ?Lynn had sat downstairs watching cartoons for the rest of the afternoon, constantly keeping an eye on the door next to the stairs. When Mom got home later that evening, she told her that Pat had gone outside to play. That was her story, and she was sticking to it.

    Naturally, the police were never able to find him.

    Now that she was opening the door once again, she wondered why no one had thought to search in here. One glimpse inside, though, told her all she needed to know about why grownups ignored this door. She marveled at how all of this could be on the second floor of her house.

    Slowly, cautiously, she advanced, leaving the door hanging wide open so she could run. Some nights, she was sure she had heard her brother whispering from the closet door to let him out, promising he wouldn?t tell Mom and Dad. But she had been too afraid and confused and ashamed to go in. And too certain that if Pat was still alive, he would have raised his voice a long time ago.

    Compelled by an overwhelming curiosity, she stepped around the corner. There she saw an old trunk. On an unknown compulsion, she opened it.

    Before she could see through the thin veil of dust she?d raised, she heard an ominous click from around the corner.

    ?No?? she breathed, trying to figure out what had possessed her to come in here in the first place.

    But before she could turn to run, the dust began to clear, and what she saw in the trunk froze her in her tracks. Curled up in the box was a skeleton. And she recognized the shirt hanging from those bones all too well.

    Struck dumb with terror, she fell backwards, stumbling as the strength ran out of her legs. Stumbled right into the open wardrobe behind her. As the coats closed in around her, muffling her breathless screams, the heavy wooden door swung shut?

    * * * *​

    ??Lynn? Supper time!? called Lynn?s mom from the bottom of the stairs.

    Still no answer.

    ?Honey! I made your favorite! Pizza!? She always thought it was funny that she could summon both her daughter and her husband with those same exact words. But right now she was worried. Now that she thought about it, she couldn?t hear Lynn?s radio playing, and she had been listening to it constantly during this last week or so of packing.

    At the top of the stairs she noticed that the door to Patrick?s room was still open. She had been out to buy groceries earlier, but before she left, she had come up and shut the door to the attic, figuring that her daughter had forgotten to. Now she wondered.

    ?Did I shut you in there?? she asked, walking up to the door. ?If I did, I?m sorry.?

    She opened the door and stepped inside, having no idea how sorry she would be?

    * * * *​

    Don walked into his house, and immediately sensed something was wrong.

    He had just returned from a cross-country long-haul job, and he had figured no one had answered him the last couple days because they were all busy packing.

    ?Bev! Lynn! Anybody home!? he called.

    But he could see that very little packing had been done in his absence. The house only answered him with waves of stuffiness, and an underlying smell he couldn?t quite determine.

    At least until he came into the dining room and found the furry pizza, which smelled positively rank. The whole place looked and felt like it had been unoccupied for days.

    After exploring downstairs, he went up.

    Much to his dismay, he found the door to his son?s room hanging wide open, though he couldn?t quite put his finger on why this worried him. The room itself was strangely chilly for late August, so he opened a window. When he turned around, he saw the boxes stacked next to the attic door.

    ?So she did it?? he muttered. When he suggested that Lynn go retrieve any items of interest from the attic as a way of getting over her mysterious fear of Pat?s room, he hadn?t actually expected her to go through with it.

    He opened the door and stepped inside, only now he wasn?t quite sure where he was. The dingy room in which he now stood looked nothing like the half-room he remembered from when they first moved here three summers ago. For one thing, he barely had to duck to avoid the ceiling, and now the room branched around corners in two directions.

    ?There?s no way all this could fit in our house?? he muttered.

    Right about then, a puff of breeze blew the door shut.

    * * * *​

    While their parents and the realtor discussed disappearing persons, outstanding debts, and rational explanations, Ben and Zach scrambled up the rickety staircase to look around.

    As the grownups? voices droned on below, the two boys found a small door in one of the bedrooms. Ben undid the latch, and both of their jaws dropped at what they beheld.

    ?Whoa!? Ben breathed. ?I got dibs on this room!?

    ?No way!? Zach protested.

    Ben then scrambled into the attic, his little brother tagging along behind him.
  18. neko-sennin AKA shadesmaclean

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    Author's Notes

    -Original draft: February 1-2, 2002
    -Additional editing: January 15, 2009

    WORD COUNT: 2126

    This was the first serious short story I’ve written in full. Years ago, when Stephen King first published his treatise/autobiography, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, he included several writing exercises in the book, as well, at that time, as a little contest of sorts. Even after the original game expired, the members of the Stephen King message board carried on their own version, with a series of writing contests, the Writing Challenges. This was the first one I ever entered, the theme being Haunted Houses. The winner (the one who received the most votes from the other members) would get to choose the theme for the next Writing Challenge. Mine took fourth place out of about eight or nine stories posted, so I didn’t think that was too bad at all for a first attempt.

    The whole thing started with the dirty tricks I used to play on my little sister when we were children, and the simple “what if” of revenge that backfired in some horrible and unexpected way. The scenario itself inspired by the upstairs of my aunt’s old house, which was laid out very much like the place in this story. I also wrote several sequels about the house, but each one was weaker than the last, so I decided later to quit while I was ahead. This story seemed to work best all on its own.

    There is one more piece of the puzzle that I apparently forgot about when I originally wrote this note about the story. Though I don’t know if it’s true or not in real life, there was a creepy story someone told me when I was a kid, about a large family that lived in an equally large house.

    One day, the kids decided to play hide and seek, but by the end of the game, their youngest brother had gone missing. They searched all over the house, the grounds, eventually expanding the search to the entire neighborhood and a Missing Persons report, but it seemed as if their youngest child had vanished off the face of the earth.

    Many years went by, and the child’s disappearance eventually became a haunting family memory. As the youngest of the children grew up and prepared to move out on their own, their parents decided to sell the house, deciding that they no longer needed such a large place with all the kids out of the nest. As they were packing, one of the eldest of the children went up to the attic, a place full of seldom-seen relics and items that had accumulated over the three or four generations their family owned the place.

    In the corner, she found a really old trunk. Deciding to see what was inside, she popped the lid…

    An autopsy revealed a severe fracture in the child’s skull, leading them to believe that, all those years ago, when they were playing hide and seek, the boy went up to the attic, looking to out-do all the others in his choice of hiding places. More than likely saw the heavy wooden trunk as an excellent hiding place, and that the lid must have fallen shut on his head while he was climbing inside. Additionally, the trunk had a latch on it that, while easily opened from the outside, would have been impossible for a child to budge from the inside.

    The most likely scenario, given the level of skull trauma, was the he suffocated while unconscious inside a trunk that, ironically, nobody ever thought to look inside for more than ten years. He had indeed found the perfect hiding place.

    -Standing backwards, Scoot.

    COMING SOON: Tradewinds 08 "Centralict"...
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2010
  19. neko-sennin AKA shadesmaclean

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    Enter Ye the Spooky Door...

    Enter ye the Spooky Door, step beyond the lantern’s beams, ancient dark corridors to explore where nothing’s what it seems. Don’t get lost upon thy way, the path of nightmares and dreams, in this old place, the games it can play. Skeleton key in hand, the silence screams.

    The path looketh calm, but beware: tho all is silent in the Halls of the Dead, the machines that make nothing wait there until a blinking green light turneth red. Halls of locked doors, hidden danger; let not the lost child lead thee astray, to the wrath of the Phantom Stranger, ‘For we are many!’ the voices say.

    Dead words drift across the page, the wisdom of some ancient sage, echoes of a long-forgotten age, but arcane verse doth set the stage:

    Behold the sweet
    Lady of Twylight— tattered shadows billow from her mast, in the sea fog’s shimmering light, ’tis an eerie spectre of the past. The derelict adrift in the Misty Main, shades of men seem to man the decks, a ghost ship that’s the traveler’s bane, on a journey to nowhere uncheck’d.

    All aboard the Mystery Train, walk through the dimly-lit cars, away from the Twylight City, riding under fading, dying stars. All the passenger cars art empty and the destinations don’t connect, but this train doth run through every one; ’twill make the hair stand on thy neck.

    Nameless armies prowleth abandoned places, incomprehensible and vast; no one returneth who hath seen their faces: thou’rt through the looking glass.

    Nowhere to hide from the scanners, in this dark place of Shadows, thou wilt never find the Lord of the Manor; in the Halls of Power, no one knows. Creepy like a place from some old black and white movie show, to which no one wouldst even come: ’twas more real than they couldst know.

    A Presence in the room, of impending doom: don’t freeze up, for ye must runneth. Footfalls in the hall, to the book’s tomb, when something wickèd this way cometh…


    AUTHOR’S NOTE: This poem was originally written in The Book of Hondo, originally Chapter 11 of Tha Book of Flavor Flav. For the benefit of those who may not have read the Book, I’m posting this chapter here because it is relevant to the upcoming Part 9 of Tradewinds.

    COMING SOON: Tradewinds 09: "The Building Is Hungry!"
  20. neko-sennin AKA shadesmaclean

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    LOST & FOUND 1-3

    by Scott Springer

    Darek Chambers looked up the stairwell.

    For no particular reason, he had walked down to the first floor to begin with, and now he stared up at the square spiral that stretched to the dark, dingy reaches of the fourth floor. Ever since the first time Mom had taken him here, even before the divorce, he had been utterly fascinated with Courthouse West. That fascination had grown on him in the year or so since, and now he looked forward to every visit? though not for the same reason everyone else assumed.

    Let the good doctor think whatever he wanted; the real reason for Darek?s excitement haunted and tantalized him from above.

    During a couple of his sessions with Dr Evans, he had asked him about the place, and he had learned some very interesting things indeed. When it was first built, Courthouse West was originally a hospital. Later, after a newer hospital was built downtown, it became Courthouse West, and these days the building was used by a variety of public and mental health organizations. Some remnants of the old hospital could still be found, like the colored flaps above each door. All of them were set on hinges, and different colored flaps could be put out to signify different purposes. Though most of them were kept flat against the wall these days, Darek thought it would be cool if everybody actually used them.

    The building was built into the side of a hill, so that one had a ground-level entrance? complete with a grand stairway leading up to a waiting room on the second floor, whose rails he and his little sister liked to slide down? and this side was a basement level. He had just escaped from that waiting room while Mom was in the lavatory (which his mind always made quirky connections with the word ?laboratory?) and Claire was still in her session with Dr Evans, so now he was free to explore the building as he pleased. As his eyes again followed the angular twists of stairs and landings, he felt that sense of mystery he got sometimes (and sometimes got lost in) that he just didn't have the words to describe.

    Still lost in his childish sense of wonder, he started up the stairs. The first and second floors saw a lot of use, and even the third floor had some offices and such, so the steps were clean and well-lit. But beyond the third floor landing, the lighting was minimal, and the steps were dusty and dingy, as if even the janitor didn?t bother to go up there. Darek climbed on, drawing a toy laser gun out of his jacket pocket, a quixotically fierce and determined expression coming over his face.

    Time to step into the Unknown?

    A few months ago, Dr Evans had taken him to the fourth floor, probably to humor him. He had quickly discovered that Darek was more interested in that empty level than he was in anything he had to say while they were up there, and he hadn?t taken Darek up since. Instead of satisfying Darek?s curiosity, their brief session on the fourth floor had only aroused it. He had been up here before, but now he would get to see it through different eyes now that he was all alone.

    Through the eyes of a nine-year-old.

    Dr Evans had gotten permission from Maintenance, and borrowed a key, which he used to ?unlock? the fourth floor button of the elevator. Darek, of course, had tried his own experiments, and discovered, much to his disappointment, that the elevator only went to the third floor if you didn?t have the key. On the other side of the building there was an old-fashioned elevator, complete with the accordioning iron gate. But he found that, even though this elevator went all the way to the top, the outside door on that level was locked. Naturally, he had tried the stairs (at both ends) and discovered that those, too, were barred against him.

    At least until last week.

    The double doors at the landing were chained together with a padlock, or at least they were supposed to be. Only he had noticed, while playing on the stairs one afternoon, that the chains weren?t locked together anymore. But before he could go in, his mom had called him back downstairs for his appointment. Since then, he had been hoping against hope that no one had noticed the locks.

    Now that he stood before the doors again, there would be no one to stop him this time. No one called him away as he pushed the door open and stepped into the dark, dusty hallway. No one would intervene this time, as he stood on the threshold of another world.

    Darek was always wandering off into other worlds, much to his elders? consternation, and everyone, from his mom to his teachers, kept telling him to stay in the real world. He sort of knew what they meant, but the ?real? world was boring. And he wasn?t so sure if they knew what he meant, either. As he stood in the doorway, gazing down one side of the hall, then the other, he remembered what his Aunt Veronica, who often babysat them while Mom was at work, always said about lost things.

    It had become a running family joke that anything that got lost ended up in the Twilight Zone.

    And Darek believed it. Even things that he lost in his own home seemed to vanish without a trace. Most of them he had never seen since. (Mom often used the story to try to make them quit bothering her about things they couldn?t find, but it didn?t work; it just made Darek even more determined, not just to find the item, but also to find the Twilight Zone.) He reached for the light switch, only to discover that it didn?t work. In that moment, he hesitated, remembering how spooky this place had looked when he came up here with Dr Evans, and he almost turned back.

    Instead, he raised his laser pistol and ventured off into the unknown. He prowled up and down the deserted hallway, peering into drab, empty rooms with greyish, no-color walls and cobwebs in every corner. The paint was peeling off the walls in places, and there were exposed wires and pipes and missing ceiling panels. He wondered, and not for the first time, why they didn?t just fix the place up and use it? it would be fun to have a fourth floor.

    The view from up here was all he?d hoped it would be, he discovered as he entered one of the rooms and looked out the window. From up here, he could see the playground across the street; the next time he could talk Dr Evans into talking to him over there, he could look up at the windows on the top floor and know that he had been up there. There was something about viewing things from above that Darek never tired of. He looked out at the neighborhood beyond, and up at the sky.

    And was surprised at how dim and overcast it had become, clouding up like it was going to rain. When they had come in earlier, it was still a bright and sunny October day, part of what Mom called an Indian Summer, with the unspoken promise of good trick-or-treating weather this weekend. He wondered if he had only imagined dust-laced rays of sunlight flooding in through the windows as he was exploring only moments ago. In such sharp contrast to the gloom that shrouded this level, even on the sunniest of days. It was like waking up in a place out of a dream.

    He clutched his laser gun tighter, looking about the room and seeing it in an entirely different light than he had only moments before. Now he wasn?t so sure why he had been so excited about coming up here earlier. The quiet, and the realization that he couldn?t hear anything from downstairs. Somehow he was sure that this was what the Twilight Zone was like.

    The home of all the scary things he had seen on TV when he was little. Where all the things people lose end up.

    His gaze turned back to the window, and it scared him almost to panic to see how normal everything out there looked. In the Real World. While he was stuck in the Twilight Zone. In that moment, he feared that somehow the door to the stairs would disappear, and he would be trapped up here forever...
  21. neko-sennin AKA shadesmaclean

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    Oct 24, 2005
    LOST & FOUND 2-3

    ...When he saw a car drive by on the street below, it calmed him. To remind him that this wasn?t the Twilight Zone. That there were people right below him, and he was being silly.

    That he had gotten carried away, just as Mom always said he did.

    Still, he wasn?t as thrilled as he had been a few minutes ago. Being up here had lost its charm. Yet part of him already knew this was something to remember, that he would be haunted by this place for the rest of his days. His own personal legend.

    Like many things, he didn?t know how he knew, he just did.

    As he stepped out into the hallway again and headed back to the stairs, he happened to glance down the hall and see the L-turn that led to the other wing of the building. They say curiosity killed the cat, but no hard and fast law seems to apply to little boys. Laser pistol in hand, Darek decided to see what was around the corner before leaving this place, one last adventure in the Lost Level of Courthouse West. The Unknown compelled him, as it always did.

    On an odd compulsion, he leaned against the wall and edged toward the corner, imagining that he was in an enemy headquarters, and he was about to ambush the guards. He peered cautiously around the corner, half expecting to see guards, but of course it was just another empty hallway, not much different from the last one. Save that it was somehow darker here.

    When he heard an indistinct noise, he just about jumped out of his skin. Purely on reflex, he actually jumped out from the corner and started firing down the corridor. The barrel lit up with strobe flashes of red and orange, and from somewhere in the depths of its plastic casing came cheap electronic sound effects that had always sounded cheesy to him compared to the shots he heard in his mind.

    Darek stood there for a moment, picturing laser beams piercing the walls and doors, until that electronic chirping sound began to make him feel ridiculous. After another moment, he eased off the trigger and both the light show and the sound effects cut out. Of course, there were no Imperial Stormtroopers. No Decepticons. No Ruskies. The hallway wasn?t the least bit devastated by his attacks, and he was left just standing there aiming a toy pistol down an abandoned hallway.

    Feeling sheepish, and at the same time more than a little scared, he tried to figure out why he had started so bad. Or if he had even really heard what he thought he had. Or if his imagination had run away with him again. Everyone, everyone, told him that he had an overactive imagination. But to him it always seemed so real, and he was always disappointed when it turned out to have been all in his head.

    Sometimes, though, he wondered if the grownups knew what they were talking about.

    He told himself that this was an old building, and (at least according to the lore of Grownups) old buildings always made weird noises. To prove it to himself, he decided to put this hall to the test. Still pointing the gun out ahead of him, as if to ward off attack, he started toward the end of the hall. He was scared, but he was also mad about being scared. Imagining that he held a real laser gun, he resolved not to go back until he had seen what was behind the door at the end of the hallway. Telling himself with every step that there was no such thing as haunted houses, no such thing.

    Emboldened by each step, though he wasn't quite sure what he was trying to prove to himself, he also felt a nagging suspense as well. His pace quickened as he neared the far end of the hall, as if he could keep anything spooky from happening if he could just get there before it could happen. All the same, he was deeply relieved to get to the last door.

    Darek tried to open the door, but it was locked. He kicked the door, feeling the tension escape him in a burst of frustration. He hated locked doors.

    As he turned and stalked back down the hall, he happened to glance inside of the rooms, and saw something small lying on the floor in the doorways. The strange part was that he knew what it was even before he got a good look at it. Even as he reached down for it, he dropped the toy gun.

    It crashed to the floor, the tip of the barrel shattering into tiny plastic shards.

    Darek hardly noticed as he picked up the worn leather batting glove that he already knew was a right-hander. Even as he undid the velcro, he remembered how he had found it on the playground a couple years ago. It had a logo with the face of a tiger on the broad velcro strap, and he had fallen in love with it at first sight. He used to wear it everywhere, just one more thing to annoy his mom.

    He was only six back then, but as he looked at it now, he wondered where it had been all this time. He couldn?t remember exactly when he lost it, but he still thought about it from time to time. When it was brand new, it must have been blue and white, but now the leather was faded to a dirty off-white. (Of course, he had always seen it as blue-and-silver, and granting him superpowers.) Experimentally, he put it on, noticing that it fit him better than it had back then, but it was still a bit too big.

    He slapped the strap in place and clenched his fist, as if he would never take it off again. (Though Mom would probably have something to say about that idea, like trying to get him to take off his winter ?power gloves? and chasing Claire around the house with them when she first bought them.) More than ever, he couldn?t help thinking about Aunt Veronica?s joke about how everything that got lost ended up in the Twilight Zone. Naturally, he was glad to have his old ?Power Glove? back, but he was also curious, and more than a little spooked about what it was doing here.

    He had just made up his mind to leave? to not press his luck in this place was that proving weirder than he ever would have guessed? and think about it in a place that wasn?t so eerie, when a dim glint of light on the far side of the room caught his eye.
  22. neko-sennin AKA shadesmaclean

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    LOST & FOUND 3-3

    He had just made up his mind to leave? to not press his luck in this place was that proving weirder than he ever would have guessed? and think about it in a place that wasn?t so eerie, when a dim glint of light on the far side of the room caught his eye.

    Lying in the doorway on the far side of the room was a ring. Darek rushed over, practically pouncing on it. And a ring of keys fell out of his jacket pocket, but he hardly noticed in his excitement.

    It was a cheap ring, with a fake emerald set in it. Of course, even a year ago, no one could convince him it was fake. To him, it was an ancient treasure he had found while exploring the ruins of a lost city. (A box of junk at a yard sale.) Unfortunately, he and Claire always fought over it, so he always hid it from her. One day, he hid it just a little too well, and even he couldn?t find it. He had searched all of his best hiding places, but he was never able to find it again.

    He set it on his index finger (Mom was no more able to talk him into wearing it on his ring finger than she was able to make him see that the stone was fake. That, and it was the only finger it would stay on anyway.), wondering if he hadn?t found his lost treasure in a lost city for real this time. He knew these were once his, and not someone else?s, and had been lost for a long time.

    And again he thought of the Twilight Zone, for a moment he was sure he was just imagining all this, and he felt a strange disappointment at the idea of losing his long-lost stuff. At the idea of his mysterious triumph being nothing more than a daydream.

    He was about to pick up his keychain, full of old keys he had gathered to explore a haunted mansion, when he saw yet another item in a doorway on the far side of the that room.

    As he neared this door, he saw that the lumped and folded mass on the floor was a denim jacket, and his heart leaped at the intuitive knowledge of what it was. He picked up the dark blue jacket, remembering how excited he had been when Dad brought it back with him from a business trip. He wore it whenever the weather was warm enough. So of course he was wearing it the morning of the last day of school last year. It was a hot, sunny day, a perfect first day for a summer vacation, and so he completely forgot it because it was so hot out. Naturally, he remembered later, but the Twilight Zone had already claimed it; Mom took him back to the school later, and neither the secretary nor the custodian could find it.

    He had been so bummed out that Dad couldn't help going out and buying him a new one. Taking off his jacket and switching, he found he even liked the way his old jacket fit better, the way it felt on him. And it was then that he found himself wondering what Mom and Claire were going to think when they saw these things. For a moment he was afraid they would think he had stolen them from up here, but then he remembered that this jacket had his name written on the tag, which made it really weird for him because he had proof that it was his.

    It seemed almost too good to be true.

    Darek looked expectantly at the far end of the room, wondering what other long-lost treasure he would stumble upon next. On the other side of the room, the door was closed. He noted, with an inexplicable apprehension, that it was a big white door, and that the room he was in was darker and dingier than the last, having no windows. And wondered what it would be like to be up here after dark.

    He shuddered for a moment in spite of himself. Still his curiosity overwhelmed him, and he decided that he would see what was behind the door. Then, he promised himself, he would leave.

    Darek turned the knob and opened the door.

    * * * *​

    Jillian Chambers (as she had kept her ex?s last name so as to avoid making her children?s lives anymore complicated than they already were) stood in the entrance to the dark hallway, Dr Evans a few paces down the hall.

    ?I don?t get it,? muttered Dr Evans, ?That door is always supposed to be locked.?

    There was something about his tone that Jill didn?t find very reassuring. Claire?s session with Dr Evans had ended while she was still in the restroom. Even then, she had had a very strange, ominous feeling that had prompted her to get back to the waiting room as quickly as she could. And there was Claire, playing on the railing of the big stairway.

    But no sign of Darek.

    This time she didn't give him a chance to be late for his session. Acting on a dread premonition, she had grabbed Evans and set out searching the building. After turning up nothing on the other three levels, they had turned to the deserted fourth floor, which was causing her a tremendous amount of anxiety that she just couldn?t quite pin down.

    For some reason, all she could think of was her sister?s stupid Twilight Zone superstition, and she cursed Veronica for even showing her son all those books about mysterious phenomena.

    ?Darek!? she called once again, knowing that if he would just answer, her nightmare would be over.

    ?I don?t know?? muttered Dr Evans as he looked around, ?Maybe he wandered outside or something?? Though he didn?t sound as if he believed that himself, remembering the look of utter fixation in Darek?s eyes when he saw this place. ?He could be over at the playg??

    ?Hey! Look what I found!? called Claire from around the corner.

    Jill was right on it, and she felt her sense of suspense crank up another notch.

    Lying on the floor in one of the doorways was Darek?s toy pistol. There was something about the shattered barrel that really set her nerves on edge. Because now she knew her son had been up here. Still, she couldn?t figure out why his being up here bothered her so much. It was old and abandoned, but Evans had assured her several times that there was nothing particularly dangerous up here.

    ?Darek!? she shouted again, the worry building up in her like the stormy clouds that had gathered outside. ?Darek Thomas Chambers! You come out right now! This isn?t funny!? If you don?t come out right now, you?re grounded until after Halloween!?

    And Courthouse West only answered her threats and pleas with mocking silence.

    ?I found his keys!? called Claire. She had wandered into the grimy, spooky-looking room only because the grownups were around; otherwise she would never set foot in a creepy place like this. And she recognized the keys all too easily. After all, Darek had been going on and on about his stupid keys, and his stupid haunted house, all month.

    Jill looked up from her son?s broken toy to see her daughter standing in front of a closet. As she walked across the room, she tried to figure out why this was stressing her out so much. At last she stood in front of the closet, telling herself over and over that Darek merely had a hole in his pocket, that was all.

    ?I guess he was up here? but this just doesn?t make sense,? Dr Evans commented as he looked at the broken pistol; he knew it was one of Darek?s favorite toys, and it bothered him to see it, and his ?haunted mansion? keys just lying on the floor like that.

    As abandoned as this entire level.

    Though, for all his concern, Evans couldn?t be nearly as upset as Jill. This just wasn?t right. What could possibly be so interesting about this closet?

    But all she could think of was her sister and her damned Twilight Zone, and somehow she knew, as only a mother truly can, that she would never see her Darek again.
  23. neko-sennin AKA shadesmaclean

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    -October 13 - 24, 2003; 4/28/09
    -word count: 3,912

    This one was entered in a Writing Challenge, but not on the main board, rather at a spin-off board another member was trying to start, dedicated to the horror genre in general. It didn’t do so well, only fifth or sixth place out of the stories posted there.

    The whole premise of this story was based on a real place I had been to as kid, a real abandoned fourth floor. I’ve always had a fascination with abandoned places, so few of them as I’ve gotten to see in my life. I was reminded of this place when I worked for a few months as a custodian at another building with an abandoned wing of its own. I worked the graveyard shift, so I got to have lots of spooky thoughts about this place. At the same time, I couldn’t summon the nerve to write about it while I was still working there, so it waited until I didn’t work there anymore. Both places are moods and images I try to conjure up in my mind when I’m writing spooky stuff.

    -Standing backwards, Scoot.

    PS: On a strangely related note, an old acquaintance of mine recently revived a message board that's been out of order for over four year, seemingly out of thin air. It's been up and running for an entire day now, and one by one old-school members are dropping in to visit, so I'm fairly sure it's not just a weird dream about recovering something once lost.

    Stay tuned for Tradewinds 10: "Reflection"...
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2012
  24. neko-sennin AKA shadesmaclean

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    Paradigm Shift 1-2


    Tyler came out of his office and walked through the busy kitchen to the front counter. He had been the owner and General Manager at Happy Burger for more than a decade, and he looked pleased at how busy— and profitable— his workers were being.

    He folded his arms and watched Mary as she greeted her next customer.

    “Welcome to Happy Burger, where life’s a holiday!”

    “Yeah,” said the man, who had two little boys with him, “I want two Hippie Meals with cheese— none of that special sauce, my boys don’t like it— and a Tooterfish Holiday Value Meal, with a diet… Coke, Pepsi, all tastes the same to me…”

    Tyler blinked as the man’s last remark seemed to catch up with him, for he had never heard of a Tooterfish Holiday Value Meal.

    “Okay,” said Mary, repeating his order, “…and do you want a red-hot pitchfork in the ass with that?”

    Tyler’s jaw dropped almost to the floor.

    But before he could utter a word of apology for her uncharacteristically rude remark, the man told her: “Yeah, and my boys’ll have an ounce of Alaskan Thunderfuck with their Hippie Meals.”

    “That’ll be three easy installments of $19.95,” Mary told him, “and if you have a Platinum Card, we’ll throw in a free keychain!”

    Before Tyler could find the words to demand what the hell was going on, a woman at the next register screeched: “…Rob me, you little bitch!” and immediately grabbed the next clerk, Tiffany’s, hair and dragged her over the counter, where an all-out cat-fight immediately ensued.

    Tyler stepped back a pace as the customers, instead of being horrified at this bizarre scene, turned to the new guy, Jed, and started making wagers on it. Tyler took another step back, this time bumping into a big fat guy named Robbie, and again tried to find his voice when he saw that Rob was playing Tetris on the cash register. With a look of increasing panic, Tyler turned to the kitchen he had passed through only moments before, to find three of the guys chasing each other around with sauce guns.

    When Tyler’s arm brushed past a vine, he looked up, gaping in even greater shock at seeing the entire ceiling was growing vegetation. And that all of the equipment seemed to be plugged into the grapevine.

    By now, two more employees were happily engaged in a grand swashbuckling sword fight, one of them trying to force the other into the fryer vats. Which seemed to have become a lot bigger in the last two minutes. The drive-thru crew was adopting out kittens and puppies to people riding on anything and everything from llamas to elephants. And janitor was grappling with his mop.

    Which appeared to be gnawing on his arm.

    Tyler looked over at the grill to see Dominic working away furiously as ever, still cranking out run after run of meat and putting it in the steam drawers, seemingly oblivious to the fact that they were now running on photosynthesis. Or something.

    “Dom,” said Tyler, knowing that Dominic had worked for him for over four years, and had always been a reliable worker, “at least you’re acting normal.”

    To which Dominic pleasantly replied: “God has retired. I am his replacement.”

    Tyler stepped away from the grill, eyes goggling at how much more “organic” the room had become while he wasn’t paying attention. Dominic took the next run of meat and fed it to a monkey who was now sitting on the kitchen table. Dom then took off his apron, flourishing it across his hand like a magician, and when he whipped it away, he now held a Happy Burger.

    “Ketchup only, the way these wankers can’t ever seem to get right,” Dominic announced triumphantly, then turned and started munching his burger as he walked away.

    Bug-eyed at a scene that was making less sense by the minute, he simply followed Dominic, who was now clad in a denim jacket for no truly apparent reason, out into the lobby. Where now there were ancient statues from all cultures sitting in cages on the tables.

    As they passed through, a group of little insectoid creatures descended upon the store chanting football plays, and attacked the customers. Several members of the crew powered up and challenged the evil-looking creatures.

    Outside, there were no cars; instead, an assortment of beasts of burden occupied the parking spots. Tyler looked ill to see that where his new SUV used to be, there now stood an ass.

    “What’s going on?” Tyler finally managed.

    “The old world was boring,” Dominic told him between bites, “so I decided to make it more interesting.”

    Stomping down the highway next to the store, Tyler saw horses, camels, llamas, elephants, even a line of dinosaurs, traveling in both directions. On the sidewalks, groups engaged in martial arts matches, on another people threw money at the punk rock band playing on the corner. Farther down the way, people were lying on the concrete in their bathing suits, tanning and reading a wide variety of books while an R2 unit was serving drinks.

    But it was when Dominic started fading into nothingness as he walked, leaving him all alone in a world that no longer made sense, and alarms started blaring, that Tyler finally screamed, dashing madly through this exotic new world and babbling incoherently…
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2014
  25. neko-sennin AKA shadesmaclean

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    Paradigm Shift 2-2

    …A hand slapped the alarm clock, silencing it yet again.

    Dominic sat up in bed, saying to no one in particular, “What a trip!”

    All the same, he reflected, it had felt so
    real. He got up, went to the bathroom and splashed his face with cold water. Yet this did nothing to wash away the lucid feeling that still tugged at his senses. His hair stood in all directions.

    “Screw it,” he muttered, shunning the comb and instead throwing on his Happy Burger hat.

    He was about to go out to the kitchen and whip up some breakfast, already dreading the morning shift he would be grinding away at in less than an hour, when he happened to look out the window. And saw none other than his boss, Tyler Keith, running down the alley and screaming wildly. He glanced up, and the people flying around above the streets told him everything he needed to know.

    Dominic smiled. Today was going to be a wonderful day.

    -February 13, 2002
    -word count: 1063

    This was the second story I wrote for the Green Mile message board’s Writing Challenge, this time the theme being Dreams. This was best I ever did, third place out of about seven or eight stories posted. And probably the most favorable reaction I’ve gotten from a short story.

    The whole thing was based on a delusion/fever-dream I had one day whilst working at a certain fast food restaurant when I was still in college. (Though it would be many moons before I wrote it down.) As was often the case during the summer, I was hot, dead-tired (from being awake way too early in the morning), (probably) dehydrated, and massively sleep-deprived, but I had fun that morning totally rearranging reality to suit my whims. Then I splashed water on my face at lunch time and realized none of it was real. Bummer.

    -Standing backwards, Scoot.

    Coming Soon: Tradewinds 11 - Honor Among Thieves...
  26. neko-sennin AKA shadesmaclean

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    Dark Reflection (previously Untitled)

    Aside from the Tradewinds series, I don't really have much to offer at the moment, but when digging through some of my old notes, I did stumble across this untitled poem:

    Sometimes I look in the mirror
    And say to myself:
    ?Whatever happened to you?
    You used to be such a nice guy.?

    Then, about a decade of memories slam into me
    Like a movie flashback montage,
    And my reflection answers,
    ?Oh yeah. That?s why.?

    -circa 2004

    Admittedly, written during what was probably one of the darkest chapters of my life, a time I prefer not to dwell on, but every once in a while, you just have one of those days, you know?

    -Standing backwards, Scoot.

    COMING SOON: Tradewinds 12 - "Keep One Eye Open"...
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2014
  27. neko-sennin AKA shadesmaclean

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    The House 1-2

    by Scott Springer​

    As Charles stood before the house, a shudder ran down his spine.

    He just couldn’t reconcile this dilapidated building before him with the old, but strangely beautiful, home he had spent so many happy summer weekends seven years ago. The house stood at the end of the street, the very edge of the neighborhood, with woods stretching out beyond the back yard. In its original form, it was one of the oldest in the county, though he would never have guessed it back then.

    Back then.

    Of course, back then, the windows weren’t broken, and the paint wasn’t flaking off the walls. Back then, the smug, sick-looking weeds didn’t crowd the lawn as if they owned the place. Back then, the door wasn’t boarded up (to keep people out, and this thought made him shudder again in spite of himself), as if there were something dangerous in there. Back then, there wasn’t spray-paint on the walls, and the long-abandoned FOR SALE sign, where someone had slashed the words the house will eat you! in fading red letters.

    Back then, he used to hang out with his favorite cousin, Pat.

    Tacked to a phone pole nearby was a poster: MISSING: BARRY KELLY, and a picture of a little boy with a big glasses and an embarrassed-looking grin.

    “Guess it’s finally starting to show its age…” Charlie muttered.

    “Yeah, you said it, man.”

    Charlie almost jumped out of his skin, so lost he had been in his own reverie, that he had forgotten Dan.

    “You really are creeped out, aren’t you?” asked Dan. The junior to Charlie’s sophomore, Dan was the one with the wheels. Charlie had talked him into taking this little out-of-town field trip, and now he was starting to think that maybe this might be kind of fun. “I always wanted to see a real haunted house.”

    Charlie had told him all he knew over the drive here, and he hardly believed the place existed. It sounded too much like something out of a movie, but now he believed his friend might be on to something.

    According to Charlie, the first disappearance connected to the house happened in 1953, to Old Man Nelson. He had been a local handyman type, and one of his projects had been to build the second floor of this house. It would be the last of many renovations he had made to it since the 1930’s. Nelson disappeared without a trace, leaving only the “attic” portion of the second floor unfinished.

    The next owners of the house had been the Donovans. When they asked around at the Senior Center earlier this afternoon, they had been told that the Donovans never had any children. And never used the upstairs for anything. Jenny Donovan, though not quite all there at the ripe old age of 93, had seemed very clear on that, her late husband never went upstairs.

    After her husband died in 1987, Ms Donovan moved out almost overnight, and about a year later, Charlie’s uncle Don moved in. Pat was last seen February 11, 1989, and from then on, Don’s family instead came to visit them all the time. At least until the rest of the family disappeared in August of 1990.

    The house had remained unoccupied since then, but the stories didn’t stop there. June 24, 1991: Jennifer and Roger McCormick visited the house with a realtor; their two sons, Benjamin and Zachary, checked in but never checked back out. September 5, 1992: one Thomas Henderson, the realtor’s caretaker, vanished without a trace.

    Charlie had really done his homework.

    Charlie wondered these days if those were the only known disappearances, and now Dan wondered too. He had debated it the whole way down. How it was know that Uncle Don had taken out a second mortgage on the very house he allegedly disappeared in. How, while three witnesses saw Ben and Zach enter the house, no one actually saw them leave it. How Tom Henderson was struggling to get out from under $20,000 in college loans.

    Of course, Charlie had pointed out to him that searches for all of these people had turned up nothing. The house was the only thing that tied them all together.

    “Now what, Charlie?” Dan looked around. The street was empty, no one was about. He noticed that all the windows on this end of the street that faced the house seemed to keep their curtains and blinds shut.

    “Now we get to the bottom of this,” he told Dan. Charlie shrugged off his backpack and took out a pair of crowbars.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2013
  28. neko-sennin AKA shadesmaclean

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    Oct 24, 2005
    The House 2-2

    They pried the boards off the front door, thankful that no cars passed by, perhaps a bonus for being a dead-end street. The door was locked, but Dan (who had been obsessed with becoming an escape artist when he was in the fourth grade) easily picked it with a small file he carried.

    “What else do you use that thing for anyway?” asked Charlie.

    “If I told you,” and Dan smiled melodramatically, “you’d be an accessory to it.”

    They both laughed for a moment, but such close proximity to this place quickly stifled their sense of humor.

    The door shrieked in protest when opened, sounding impossibly loud in such a peaceful neighborhood, and both of them looked around anxiously before ducking in. A wall of rot and mold hit them as soon as they crossed the threshold, the smell of years. Yet the walls and floors didn’t look that rotten. The stench faded to a muted odor, and both of them wondered if it hadn’t all just been in their heads. Still, everything about this place seemed aged beyond its years.

    Charlie handed Dan one of several flashlights he had scrounged up for just this occasion, and they ventured in.

    “What a dump!” Dan remarked, seeing that neither wallpaper nor paint had put up much of a fight against gravity. “And Pat used to live here?”

    “I don’t get it,” Charlie told him, trying not to step on the lumps in the kitchen linoleum. “This place used to be really nice. I don’t know how it went downhill so fast.”

    They searched the first floor, finding nothing of note. Then they did what Charlie feared most. They went upstairs.

    The steps themselves were warped and creaky, and by the time they reached the top, they felt as if everything was slightly crooked. The lock, the only thing that had allowed Lynn to get any sleep during her final days there, was still on the door, but it was unlocked. When they pushed, it stuck for a moment, then ground open on crusty hinges.

    Dan shivered, glad now that he had stuffed a jacket into his backpack.

    The wave of chilly air carried Charlie on a tide of memory.

    “What the hell…” he muttered as he looked upon the attic door. Gone was Yoda, and in his place was a Ninja Turtles poster hung by a corner. There was also a pile of crushed soda and beer cans in the open closet next to him.

    “Hobos?” Dan asked nervously, though he had no idea why even a drifter would choose a room with such a terrible draft.

    “I don’t know. When I stayed here one weekend, I stayed the night in Pat’s room, and he told me something. He said he was scared of that door, that he was sure there was something in there…”

    Charlie walked up and undid the latch, as a few others had done before, but then he whipped out a screwdriver and popped the pins out of the door’s hinges.

    “Dude, you’re creepin’ me out here,” said Dan.

    “I don’t trust that door,” Charlie told him. “Now help me.”

    They removed the door and heaved it down the stairs for good measure. All the while doing this with the irrational expectation that something mean was going to leap out at them.

    Neither of them knew quite what to say when they looked into the open doorway.

    “That’s… just not right…” Dan didn’t know about Charlie, but what he saw here gave him a strong urge to go back outside and examine the roof. Mostly, though the urge was just to get outside.

    “At least we can go back,” said Charlie, and he crossed the threshold, noting with some surprise that he didn’t even have to duck to avoid the rafters.

    The room surely extended beyond the house’s floorspace. Beyond that, it also reached around two corners. This was in clear violation of all the rules Mr Northrop had made them read in Physical Science.

    Looking around warily, and frequently looking back to make sure the door was still gone, they ventured around one corner. The first thing they noticed was an open trunk. Out of sheer curiosity, they looked inside.

    “Pat…” Charlie gasped. Most people wouldn’t recognize the skeleton, but Charlie still recognized his cousin’s favorite shirt, even after all these years. Surely Pat didn’t deserve this.

    Seeing the skeleton, Dan cried out in horror, staggering backwards into the open wardrobe behind him. As he fell among the coats, he felt bony hands on his arms. The wardrobe door slowly swung shut—

    But Charlie caught one of the doors, letting Dan back out, starting and sputtering at the jumble of bones falling behind him.

    Before Charlie could even think to stop him, Dan took off. In the wrong direction. He noticed, with considerable alarm, that the other end of the branch also branched around two corners. As he stood gaping at Lynn’s bones, indecision gripped him as his friend’s panicked footfalls faded around still more corners.

    It was the thumping, dragging sounds he heard from beyond there that set him in motion as he completely lost his nerve.

    The next thing he remembered, he was standing out on the street, backing away from the house, as if it was something you don’t dare turn your back on. About halfway down the block he stopped, waiting. He stood there for what felt like forever, but Dan didn’t emerge.

    He was still trying to summon up the nerve to go back in when a police car pulled up behind him.

    “Excuse me, young man,” said the officer, “but I have a report of two kids prowling around. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that, would you?”

    Charlie tried to figure out how he was going to explain this.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2013
  29. neko-sennin AKA shadesmaclean

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    Oct 24, 2005

    -February 8 ? 10, 2002
    -word count: 9541

    This story was a sequel of sorts to The Attic, what originally ended up being a four-part series with the cheesy titles Additions, Division, Multiplication and Division. Each part got weaker and weaker, much like horror movie sequels. As such, it?s rare for me to ever go beyond the first story? quit while you?re ahead, and all that jazz? but upon re-reading it years later, the second part?s not so bad, and is actually rather creepy when left alone, without expanding upon it and diluting the horror of the original. So I decided to give the second story its own outing, and see how well it works as a stand-alone sequel.

    -Standing backwards, Scoot.

    Stay tuned: Tradewinds 13 - Derelict...
  30. neko-sennin AKA shadesmaclean

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    Oct 24, 2005
    Flawed Logic (a Rant)

    Years ago, a friend of mine tried to start a band while I was in college, and I took some time out from writing fiction (in the couple year gap between the older Tradewinds manuscripts and The Book of Hondo) to write song lyrics. A lot of what I wrote was pretty lame, though it did yield a few that had a chance of becoming songs if the actual band itself had ever managed to fully form. This was a fragment of something I wrote, what was supposed to be a multi-part piece, though, looking at it years later, this was the only verse I think is actually worth anything:

    FLAWED LOGIC (Excerpt)

    No global warming, no nuclear winter
    Not with a bang, but a whimper
    Hear the whisper, prosperity reverses
    Plutopia, dreams rolled away in hearses
    It?s all the mind-numbing routines
    Just the extremes with no in-betweens
    The lies that flash across the screens
    It?s the children chained to machines
    While the world ignores their screams
    And watches ads to buy their jeans
    The end that always justifies the means
    It?s the chronic early loss of innocence
    Decisions that don?t make any sense
    It?s the TV news that always lies
    Who edit reality right before our eyes
    Tucked away in a digital disguise
    It?s all the things that we?re denied
    They promised us the world, but they lied
    It?s their endless corporate greed
    Their backs turned on those in need
    The brain-dead masses who can?t read
    The everyday madness we all feed
    The code of silence, children can be so cruel
    Who play by it to fit in, to be cool
    The unwritten laws, the playground rules
    And those who stand by & watch like fools
    Till the Ignored shoot up their schools
    The riots & looters, catacombs of computers
    Loopholes for murderers & polluters
    Bandwagon recruiters & the American Jesus
    We?ve met the enemy & he?s us
    To watch the Grid go crashing down
    As lights blink out without a sound
    They traded the future for the past
    But it?ll be lots of fun while it lasts
    Common sense always stands trial
    Quick-fixes might work for awhile
    Just backups of all the lies on file
    Plugged-in, turned-on world in denial
    The fools who feed their minds junk-food
    With over 100 million screwed
    The sacred cows we all appease
    While they do just as they please
    That you can?t trust what you?ve seen
    On the all-knowing TV screen
    MTV & Fox, peacocks & eyes
    Hijacks the facts, no big surprise
    No one will realize till it?s gone
    Sit & watch the world Move On
    In the Almighty Dollar we trust
    While all we value turns to rust
    I?ll show you culture in a handful of dust...

    -circa 1999

    As you can see, "Flawed Logic" mostly just turned out to be a long, angry paranoid rant written by a college-age insomniac, but I can't help thinking this verse, at least, makes a descent anthem for International Buy Nothing Day, so I thought I'd put it up.

    -Standing backwards, Scoot.

    Tradewinds 14: "No Way Out"