15.10.08

7 - first snowfall


Enjoying the comforts of mundane activity.

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The first snowfall always brings little visitors. I always wake up on that late fall day with toes as cold as ice. I always throw back my heavy sheets and hop-skip across the cold wooden floor to the closet. I always pull on my puffiest white pullover, a pair of soft, thick sweatpants and my warmest wool socks. I always look out my windows, coated with that rough white frost into the calm white world that the night as left me. I always stir up some sweet, dark hot chocolate and fix myself a fresh, toasted croissant. I always pop my head out the front door to fetch the day’s paper. I always trace the multitude of tracks left in the snow on my front porch with my finger, trying to count how many separate sets of bare little feet have been pacing around my house while I sleep. I always pick up the little pouch left on my doorstep by the visitors. I always open it and count out the eleven yellowed teeth contained within. I always slip on a pair of warm boots and walk the parameter of my house, making sure each window and door is firmly secured.


do you believe in x
Wednesday October 15rd, 2008

14.10.08

6 - hello


True crime on TV always leaves me a little antsy.

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With the whistling of the kettle, I tossed aside the pillow propped in my lap and hopped off the warm leather of my couch as if I’d sat on hot coal. Quickly unplugging the kettle, I emptied its scalding contents into my eager cup, already equipped with a teabag. I stood agape in the aromatic cloud of steam only momentarily before being snapped out of the trance by the sound of gunshots from the television. I raced back to my seat as the true crime show I’d been watching took up where it had left off before the commercial break.


Shaky-cam footage soaked in contrast and blur and filters abstractly portrayed a re-enactment man murdering his wife and child without really showing anything. It was the typical ‘family-friendly’ method of depiction that relies on simply suggesting the murder. I could swear they just run the same footage through different filters for every instalment of the program. Some footage of running feet here, a close up on an unsteady hand holding knife or a gun there, a quick shot of the killers eyes, another of a beautiful TV child crying and screaming in fear, his mother weakly trying to act the human shield for him. I see nothing but it portrays the loss of two actual human lives. It’s strange how things work.


I accidentally sipped at the warm mug in my hands a little too early, burning the tip of my tongue numb. Decidedly placing the cup back on the coffee table, I focus my eyes once more on the television. The show is about to wrap up: There’s some final footage of the killer’s confession, a narrator’s open ended musings about the nature of crime, and a last update on the criminal’s current status. On April 7, 2003 Christian Longo was found guilty of the murder of Zachery and Sadie Longo. On the sixteenth, the same jury sentenced him to death by lethal injection. Credits.


I turned down the volume and let my head fall back onto the cushioning of the couch. Lazily, I squinted at the clock. 11:35 pm. I’d usually be good for another couple of hours but I’d taken my sleeping meds a little early. Punching the rubbery off button on my remote with a jerky thumb-motion, I raised myself once more from the couch. Swaying a little, I lurched into the hall. Quickly realizing I’d forgotten my mug, I whipped around to snatch it. Tea ever so carefully balanced in hand, I continued floundering towards the stairs.


As I placed my first foot upon the steps, I heard the slightest muffled thumping from the upper floor. It felt strange to think that the thumping had been continuing all day and I simply hadn’t noticed, but the thumping continued, steady and slow. I cracked and fell prey to my usual nervous habit.


“Hello?” I called up the empty stairwell, louder than I’d intended. I flinched at the sound of my own voice despite myself.


No one responded of course. I figured I’d simply left a window open, allowing a door to be blown around in the breeze. Carefully balancing the cup in my hand, I hopped up the remainder of the stairs. Slowly opening the door to my room, I peak my head into the bare bedchamber. Thin curtains flapped by the tall window near the bed. Walking into the cold gust and closing the window, I looked for what was continuing to cause the resonating thumping. At a loss for an explanation, I let that harmless, thoughtless word slip from my lips once more.


“Hello?”


do you believe in x
Tuesday October 14rd, 2008

13.10.08

5 - thanksgiving

Reflecting on a childhood thanksgiving dinner with the family.

With four smoke-stained cream walls staring me down from the shadows, I sat on the thin basement carpet and basked in the cold light of a static-plagued black and white television. I itched at the collar of my dress shirt. The other handful of kids populating the scratchy carpet occasionally made similar efforts, all of us dressed in our uncomfortable Sunday best. The bitter autumn wind pressed its hungry mouth up to the single tiny window and let out a slow breath. The rattling was audible, even above the din of adults laughing and clinking glasses upstairs. I’ve never seen a house as deep into the woods as my Grandmother’s. It always takes us half an hour to slowly work our way over the bumpy dirt roads. I always enjoyed the trip back out. Long after the sun has set, the car rocked me to sleep, the bright headlights illuminating the forest before us, the gentle hum of the portable cassette player in my lap.


One of our mothers called us from atop the stairs. Dinner was ready. My eldest cousin hopped up off of her stomach and twisted the volume knob on the television until it clicked off. A Walk to Remember popped into black silence, and the basement was suddenly altogether too dark. With the uneven pattering of a dozen little feet nervously racing up the stairs, we reached the warm light of the hallway. Our parents were already circling around the table where the food was arranged, slapping down servings on their own large china plates.


Personally, I dislike the bland taste of turkey; I dislike the obnoxious, mucus coloured stuffing; I dislike the runny gravy; I dislike the pasty taste of mashed potatoes; I dislike thanksgiving altogether. After fetching my own little paper plate I decorate it with a dinner roll and a few leaves of lettuce. As I made my way to the dinner table with the other children, my dad halts me to inspect my plate. As usual, my organized plate is snatched from my hands and polluted with a large slice of turkey and a pile of stuffing. Unable to help the slightest wrinkling of my nose, I thanked my dad and returned along my path towards the table. Hands joined, a prayer is said and everyone begins to eat.


A few of my relatives scraped utensils across plates as they ate. Some chewed with mouths open. I lowered my head and began the task of eating. I exiled the turkey and stuffing away from my lettuce with a plastic knife and began consuming the wet, green leaves. Distracted occasionally by paltry conversation with a relative asking vague questions about my schoolwork, I finished what I’d selected to eat in a matter of minutes. Unable to flee the table and brush off the sordid remainder, I slowly sawed away at a slab of turkey. Piercing the tough flesh of the slice I had isolated, I lifted it. A thin, stringy strip of the meat was still connected despite my committed knife work, causing the slab to upend itself. Extruding from of the underside of the slab sat a fat, hairy toe with a yellowing, broken nail. Not stuck in the meat, but simply a part of it as if it had never belonged anywhere else. I slowly slid my chair back from the table and excused myself.



do you believe in x
Monday October 13rd, 2008

Note: Please excuse my absence during the prior week. I died of alcohol poisoning on the 4th.

3.10.08

4 - bulbs

A young businessman comes home to a surprise.

Returning late from a business trip and more than a little jet lagged as a result, I entered my house bleary eyed and tired. Flipping the light switch in the hall proved ineffective to my dismay. Fumbling my way to the closet with only the light from my cell phone to guide me, I searched for my box of spare light bulbs. After hastily tossing the vacuum cleaner and a few coats to the side, I found the dusty little box. Clinking as I extracted a bulb, I strained my arm towards the fixture to remove the expired bulb. Barely within the struggling reach of my fingertips, I twisted it. To my surprise, the hall was suddenly illuminated. Retracting my arm, I placed the bulb back in the box and pondered how the bulb could have loosened itself. Weighing the possibility of myself ever knowing how against the amount it really mattered, I retired the thought.

Having delt with mysteriously faulty electronics after a six hour flight and a two hour drive home, I was in a particularly foul mood. Resolving to fix myself a drink and a heavy dose of Tylenol, I shambled into the kitchen. A sickening case of déjà vu poured through my veins like black sludge as I found flipping the switch about as effective as clapping my hands and dancing around the light bulb.

My first thought was to check to see if the television was where I left it. The whole sequence of events reeked of a bizarre robbery. Sprinting through the darkness, I nearly ran straight into my TV, affirming its continued occupancy in my house. In fact, nothing had be disturbed whatsoever. This of course is aside from the minuet unscrewing of every light in the entire house. As I trudged through the procession of dim rooms, tightening each bulb, a sense of unease flooded me. In order to tighten the light my bedroom I had to fetch a screw driver at some point to open a fixture. Whoever had done this, had it been a person, put quite a bit of effort into it.

Despite the exhaustion lapping at the edges of my consciousness, a compulsion coursed through me. I couldn’t sleep until every single light in the entire house was once again functional and illuminated. Working slowly, but as steadily as I could I wandered through the remainder of the house, each time dreading leaving a lit room for the next one painted in black shadows. I passed the night in a fog of paranoia; even the fridge lights were restored. Against my better judgment I even ventured into the basement and the attic. Turning bulbs with shaky, sweaty hands until the safe dusty yellow light graced me once again, I determinedly saw my task out.

As I descended from the attic, not even bothering to brush the thick dust off of my expensive pants, the sun rose merrily in my bedroom windows. A thin smile graced my lips as I let my eyes slack and close. I lay on the cold fabric of my bed, the security of daylight the only blanket I needed.

Here is where I lay now, the old grandfather clock in the corner of my room chiming nine in the evening. The events of the previous night must have worn me down even more then I thought because I’m still so tired. My body aches, no, screams for more rest. Yet, I’m afraid to submit. Afraid I'll wake up in the dark.

do you believe in x
Friday October 3rd, 2008

2.10.08

3 - frau trude




A retelling of an old Grimm fairy tale.


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Once upon a time there was a small girl who was stubborn and wild. Whenever her parents said anything to her, she disobeyed them.


One day, with a ruddy, immodest face wound tight with spitefulness, she went to her parents and said “I have heard so much about Frau Trude. Someday I want to go into the woods see her house. People say such amazing things are seen there, and such strange things happen there, and I’ve become very curious.”


Her parents strictly forbade her, "Frau Trude is a wicked woman who commits godless acts. If you go there, you will no longer be our child.” But the girl still paid no attention to her parents.


On a blue, moonless night, the little girl snuck down the creaky wooden stairs of her little house ever so slowly. A little hand clutched at her face as if it would crack wide up without her iron grip holding it together.


As she scampered out of the front door, not even bothering to close it behind her, her bare feet slapped against the wet cobblestones of the darkened street. She could barely contain her self. She giggled and laughed all the way down the road. After much walking, she reached the wide path between the tall, tall trees. Thick branches hung over the little girl as she hopped into the forest, the stones growing colder beneath her feet. She was walking blind in the forest, without even the dark blue glow of the midnight sky above her.


As the little girl walked further and further into the dark, dark forest, she slipped off the path and something sharp stuck her foot. She cried out in fear “Frau Trude, do not bite my toes, for I have been walking without shoes and they are muddy!” The pain stopped as she jumped back. Her eyes had finally adjusted to the dark forest. She had stepped on one of the small broken bones that lined either side of the path. “Frau Trude might have won the bones of children, but she shan’t get mine.” cried the little girl fixedly.


“Frau Trude is cunning, but she surely cannot match you.” answered a big, fat man hanging high from a tree. His teeth glistened like knives in the dark and his skin was as red as blood.


The little girl grew pale and continued down the path, her cold little feet carrying her further into the woods.


As the little girl walked further and further into the dark, dark forest, she heard the baying of a wolf, and growling in the bushes. She cried out “Mister Wolf, you won’t find dinner here, for Frau Trude is waiting for me with tea!” The wolf stopped growling and sprung down the path at the mention of Frau Trude’s name. As she watched the wolf off, she saw the little house at the end of the path. “The wolf might have won rabbits, but he shan’t win me.” cried the little girl adamantly.


“The wolf is brave, but he surely cannot match you.” answered a man buried up to his neck in the dirt by the path. His wide eyes glowed like moons in the dark and his skin was as green as a saplings fresh branch.


The little girl grew paler and continued down the path, her cold little feet carrying her to Frau Trude’s home.


As the little girl walked closer and closer to the brightened windows of Frau Traude’s home, she heard the pleading calls of a wounded man in the woods. She cried out “Calling Man, do not tempt me from the path, for I have walked a long hour to meet Frau Trude!” The calls for help stopped as she responded. The man began to offer her sweets and delicious meat if she left the path instead. “The Man might have won another child, but he shan’t win me.” cried the girl obstinately.


“I am sly, but I surely cannot match you.” answered a man with no legs, walking on hands like spiders. His fat hung from his bones like toffee melting off of him and his skin was as black as the night.


The little girl grew paler and climbed the stairs to Frau Trude’s door, her cold little hands knocking at the wood. She peered into the illuminated window, not daring to glance back at the man.


Frau Trude opened the door and gleamed down at her.


“Why are you so pale?” She asked.


"Oh," the little one answered, trembling all over, "I saw something that frightened me."


"What did you see?"


"I saw a blood-red man hanging from a tree."


"That was a butcher."


"I saw a green man in the dirt."


"That was a huntsman."


"I saw a black man on your steps."


"That was a charcoal burner."


"Oh, Frau Trude, it frightened me when I looked through your window and could not see you, but instead saw the devil with a head of fire."


"Aha!" she said. "So you saw the witch properly outfitted. I have been waiting for you and wanting you for a long time. Light the way for me now!"


The little girl’s skin grew tough and hard like the bark of a tree, her blood dried in her like firewood and her eyes grew blind and turned into knots in her skin. Frau Trude lifted an axe from the side of her fireplace and lopped off the obstinate girl’s little head. With that she threw it into the fire, and the little girl screamed in agony. When the fire was thoroughly aglow she sat down next to it, and warmed herself by it, saying: "It gives such a bright light!"


Wisps of smoke rose merrily out of Frau Trude’s chimney, above the tall, tall trees of the dark forest.


From a dim window in the town, a couple watched the smoke writhe against dark blue sky.



do you believe in x
Thursday October 2nd, 2008

1.10.08

2 - photograph


Kristine ventures into the woods to photograph monarchs and turtles. She sleeps soundly.

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On a calm afternoon, Kristine deftly made her way through the woods. Camera strap over her shoulder, she navigated through the dry brushery that crunched in time with her step. In only a few days, the school year would begin again. Kristine still had at least a year's workload ahead of her until graduation, but her mind was occupied with a more distant achievement. A scholarship for photography at Queens U. Hell bent on fleshing out her portfolio, she used the opportunity of her parent's last outing of the summer to venture into the woods to photograph wildlife. Wanting to ascertain a true variety of shots, Kristine resolved to spend the night in the forest.


After hours of kneeling silently by a toppled oak watching a monarch butterfly and waiting for it to take flight, after perpetual ages of leaning over a boulder trying to flawlessly capture a turtle basking in the sun, she retired to a small clearing to erect her pup tent. Meaning to only rest until true night set upon her, she set her watch to wake her at 11:30.


The beeping of the watch tore through her slumber. Rising from her sleeping bag, she took note of the light shining in through the thin walls of the tent. She considered that she only set the alarm a few minutes from when she dozed off, but a quick check corrected that assumption. She had accidentally set her watch for 11:30 AM, as apposed to PM. The night was lost, her parents would be home in hours, and they surely wouldn't allow her to stay the night in a forest alone. Trying her best to brush off the loss, she picked the camera up from her side and began flipping through the pictures on the digital display.


With shaky hands, she unzipped the entrance to the tent and sprinted out with an uneasy gait, her knees barely holding her above the ground.


In the tent remained the camera, tossed aside. Illuminated by the dim glow of the display was the final picture: A nicely positioned one of her inside the tent.


From above


Asleep.

end.


do you believe in x

Wednesday October 1st, 2008

30.9.08

1 - fingers

A tale of mail, and the man receiving it.

OR


It is only after I have been at my new flat for some months that I begin to receive mail other than bills and offers to enter prize draws. One of my first personal envelopes contains a scrawled message from an old acquaintance with whom I was friendly many years ago. I am distressed to read that my friend is deeply unhappy, and I am disturbed further to read that if he receives no reply to the letter I hold in my hands he will feel compelled to chop off one of his fingers with a kitchen knife. Days pass, full of inconsequential incidents: until a small parcel arrives. The postmark indicates that it is from my friend. With trepidation I open it.


Underneath the brown wrapping paper is a little box which bears the return address of my friend. There is also a stamp on the box, but other than this the package proves to be empty. I open up the box, but the space within is likewise vacant. A sense of relief floods briefly through me, and my days once more assume a comfortable aspect.


One week later, another identical parcel arrives. It too is empty, and I insist to myself that I will write to my friend. Time drifts past, and eventually I have ten empty parcels. It is on a Friday that I realize what I have to do.


With what I feel is admirable forethought I use my left hand to chop three fingers from my right. With the remaining two, I hack off all the fingers of my left hand. In considerable pain I place the fingers in eight of the parcels. There is a lot of blood, and this makes the use of cellophane tape difficult. With eight parcels wrapped, I hold the knife in my right thumb and forefinger. I look at the last two boxes.


As always, it is my inability to complete any task that drives me to tears.


end.


do you believe in x

Tuesday September 30th, 2008


Please note: Fingers is written by Stanley Donwood and recorded here without his permission. All other stories are 'original works', although many are based on urban legends or anonymously written nightmare-fodder snippets. I'm a thief. Hello.