My own (belated) NanoWrimo: Day One/Part One: “Annie, You’re Dead”

                                                    1 – If Oreos Could Talk 

She opened the Tupperware container and removed two more oreos, hoping that James wouldn’t notice they were gone when he came over later tonight; they were his private stash, that he kept at her apartment, and she liked to pretend she didn’t eat them.  She was wearing black and gold – an ornate black and gold necklace with decorative flowers on it, from the edgy clothing store she worked while earning her PhD.  She was wearing black and gold – and her hair was flipped a little toward the side, which she did sometimes to try to make it look more voluminous, although, she thought, the trick never worked really that well.  Still, when her hair was parted in the center, it looked too flat, like it was painted to the top of her head and stuck to the side of her face.  She didn’t much like that.  She had never much liked her hair, for that matter.

Her leggings were black, speckled with gold, and she had black knee socks on over them, because the weather was cold, and socks were more comfortable than shoes.  She had on a blazer which, really, she thought, was a bit excessive for the outfit, but then, it was early winter.  A thick, even layer of snow lined the roof of the little wooden shed across the street, which she could see through one of her apartment’s front windows, and at the edge of the window, where it met the wall, through the pane, she could see the house next to the shed, and the long icicles hanging off it like big crystalline needles.  It was winter, and so she wore a coat with her dress.

As for her friend Annie, Annie was dead, but that didn’t matter much.  Annie was dead, but Annie had always been a willful woman.  She’d adamantly resisted anything she didn’t like in life – at least, for the most part – and so it didn’t surprise Michelle anymore that Annie had resisted death.  For Annie was dead, but as Michelle had found out a few weeks ago, Annie wasn’t really dead, not dead dead, not dead as a doornail, the way decomposing corpses below the earth are dead – although surely, Annie’s decomposed corpse did lie beneath the earth, even as – however confusing it was – her embodied spirit hung out some days in Michelle’s living room, practically salivating for the latest gossip about their circle of friends.

Michelle thought of the theories of the specter that she was studying in one of her doctoral classes.  According to Jacques Derrida, the specter disrupted the binary between life and death, altered space and time, and signaled the presence of injustice.  Michelle didn’t see all of this happening with Annie’s presence, yet, although some of it was true.  Space and time were like they always were, linear, meandering, and perpetually vacillating between the stimulating and the mundane, with some long, anxious hours in between that Michelle usually filled by eating cookies.  But Annie certainly disrupted the binary between life and death, for once she had been alive, and then she died.  And now, though dead, some afternoons Michelle found Annie in her living room, asking for a cup of coffee.  And as for signaling the presence of injustice, well, that one was easy – or was it?  What type of injustice did Annie signal?   Michelle thought about it. Certainly, there were many possibilities, for further consideration, perhaps, at a later date.  After all, it was almost time.

She looked at the clock and it read 11:58 A.M.  Annie came at noon every day that she came, although she didn’t come every day.  Michelle thought it was funny, and very like Annie to come in the middle of the afternoon, when the sun hung high in the sky and warmed the earth with its rays – which it even did, sometimes, on cold winter days like today – instead of coming at midnight like Jacob Marley and ghosts in other ghost stories.  It actually made perfect sense.  Annie had been one of the warmest people Michelle knew.  In life it was almost ridiculous how much people liked her – or so Michelle thought on her more bitter days, when she was feeling competitive or imagining that nobody in the world liked her nearly enough.  There would be no logic or purpose to Annie coming at midnight, anyway, when Michelle didn’t have as long to talk because she was going to bed soon.  So Michelle was rather glad that Annie came at noon, and she washed the oreo crumbs off her hands as she waited to find out whether or not she would hear a knock on the door.  Sure enough, as soon as the digital microwave clock struck twelve – Michelle had no idea how Annie had adjusted her time to the microwave clock in her kitchen – she heard the gentle “rum, pum, pum” of Annie’s hand on the front door.

 

                                                   2 – The Afternoon of the Sassy Dead

Michelle made it a point to hurry to the door whenever her dead friend Annie knocked, which, like I said, was always at noon when it happened at all, precisely three hours and eighteen minutes before the mailman came, often with boxes of books or clothes for Michelle, or comic books for James, who sometimes had his stuff shipped to her apartment.  The first time Annie had ever come to visit, Michelle had been in the shower.  Annie displayed a mixture of patience and impatience when this happened.  Michelle emerged from the bathroom, dripping wet and in a towel, only to hear the rhythmic “thum, tum, tum” on her front door.  Not knowing, or not thinking, that it was Annie, she yelled “hold on,” and went upstairs to throw on some leggings and an oversized shirt, like the heroine of an 80’s movie.  The knocking continued, in an oddly rhythmic manner, so that it sounded vaguely like part of a percussion section or a high school marching band.  Michelle was both surprised, and a bit creeped out, by the steady, rhythmic, ceaseless knocking, accompanied by no voice.

To make matters worse, she fell down the stairs on her way to answering the door.  She had on fuzzy, wooly socks – Annie had first come about a month ago, and it was cold then, too – and somehow, as tended to happen with her, her foot slipped and she thudded down three stairs before grabbing her balance on the railing and composing herself, hoping, as she stood up and brushed herself off, that the mysterious visitor outside didn’t hear the ka-thump of her fall and the ensuing “Oh shit, ow, fuck” that exited her mouth.  It was, after all, a little embarrassing, and she was a little annoyed with this weirdly melodic and exhaustingly relentless knocker who was not going to stop knocking until Michelle answered the door.  She didn’t think to look out the peep hole, as you may have gathered by this point in the narrative, not even that first day Annie came, when she had no idea who was at the door.  To be truthful, it could be because the writer behind this story is a mere novice, and didn’t bother to think that most reasonable human beings would do just that before rushing to open the door  for an unexpected and anonymous guest.  Conversely, it could also be because Michelle was fixated on the challenge of getting dressed quickly and opening the door in a timely fashion, so she efficiently moved from one maneuver to the next, omitting any ancillary, unnecessary steps that would veer her off track and put more time between the first knock and her eventual ability to open the door, fully clothed.  Either version of events is plausible, and, as you’ve gathered, they’re not mutually exclusive, so you can decide what part of the story to believe.

“Hold on, hold on, hold on….” She had yelled, and then considered that she sounded rather rude.  What if it was someone of some importance knocking on the door?  The occurrence was not likely, but it was possible nonetheless.  And even if it wasn’t an eminent member of society – she chuckled and laughed at the exaggerated pompousness of her own wording – even if it wasn’t Barack Obama asking her to hang out now that he was retired, it was still important to treat people nicely.  Even if, she thought, they’re handing out religious pamphlets or selling candy bars.  So Michelle adjusted her tone and said, “Sorry, one second please.  I was indisposed.”

“No problem, Michelle, although I will say it takes you quite awhile to pull yourself together.  No wonder you were always late when you picked me up.”  Michelle didn’t really have time to consider this remark, although in the back of her mind, she recognized the voice and registered that the remark was, well, rather bizarre.  “Just as long as you get to the door eventually.  I haven’t seen you in awhile and I’ve heard you changed a lot since….well, since I saw you.”

Michelle had gotten more intrigued with that remark.  Who was this mysterious visitor?

Of course, the rest of the story tells itself.  But if you lack imagination – which you well might, in this age of consumerism and technology – I’ll tell it for you.  Michelle saw Annie, not dead, not decayed, not ugly.  She was wearing the cute artsie hippie outfits she always wore, and she was smiling.  Her cheeks were blushed, and a little fuller than they’d been in life.  She looked very much alive.  And for Michelle, it was one of those moments when she would have expected to be terrified but wasn’t, and was instead very calm and focused, like when her brakes went out on a busy road in the center of the city.  Annie looked, well, exactly like Annie, except happier and healthier than when she was alive.  The only other difference between Annie-in-life and Annie-in-death – or Annie between-life-and-death – was that this Annie’s feet were hovered just a little bit above the ground, so that she was suspended in mid air, about three inches above Michelle’s concrete porch.

“You can’t stand on solid ground?”  was thus Michelle’s first question – indeed, her first utterance – when she saw Annie.  Of course, it would have been customary to say hello, but Michelle had already conjectured that her dear, deceased best friend was now a ghost, and ghosts had always fascinated Michelle.  She wanted to understand how her undead friend operated, so to speak.

“Well that’s a fine greeting,” Annie responded. “Nice to see you, too.”  And then, without being invited, she nonchalantly floated into Michelle’s apartment, and headed straight for the oreos.  “Before you eat them all,” she said sardonically.

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My own (belated) NanoWrimo: Day One/Part One: “Annie, You’re Dead”

The Blue Man – Or, This is Not a Horror Story

True to the title of my piece, this is not a horror story.  Although, what I see now that I didn’t see when things like this happened was just how much my friend and I wanted it to be a horror story, how much we enacted the things that we read in our Fear Street books and our horror movies, and made the world of horror come alive, if, simultaneously, to our delight and our chagrin.  Again, this is not a horror story.  This is a childhood memory – a childhood memory I share on an overcast day in early November, when my frenetic, two-and-a-half-month mania has dwindled and I’ve suddenly fallen into this shifting state that fluctuates between focused, positive energy and complete depression and self-loathing.  This is not a horror story—at least, I hadn’t intended it to be so.  But, maybe it will turn out that way as I keep writing.  One never can predict the end of the story, after all—or, at least, I can’t—when one’s merely writing the beginning.  Continue reading “The Blue Man – Or, This is Not a Horror Story”

The Blue Man – Or, This is Not a Horror Story

A Matter of Life and Death in the Belko Experiment

Belko one
Photo Credit-The Belko Experiment

Horror Blogger Confession:  While I usually drag Michael to see horror movies on opening night, a second viewing of Beauty and the Beast took precedence over a first viewing of The Belko Experiment this weekendI mean, the remake of Beauty and the Beast was soooo fantastic the first time, and I was seriously craving something uplifting.  Graduate school, after all, is stressful (this semester more so than last), our country’s being shit on by the most corrupt president and cabinet in U.S. history, and I’m kind of an anxiety head case as it is.  So I really needed to see Emma Watson affirm that she wants much more than this provincial life before she forms a healthy partnership with a lovable, furry CGI figure whose horns and stature make him look like Krampus’s gentler, non-demonic doppelganger.  I’m only human, and I love watching Lumiere, the talking Candelabra, sing about food.  So I put Belko on the back burner and all was well.

Continue reading “A Matter of Life and Death in the Belko Experiment”

A Matter of Life and Death in the Belko Experiment

It Follows, or Death Embodied

It follows
Photo Credit – It Follows

Over a year ago, when I started Just Dread-full, I wrote an extensive piece about a film I’d seen recently that had more or less captivated me.  The film – a low budget, atypical, but indisputably creepy horror flick – was called It Follows, and Michael and I saw the film four times in theaters when it came out.  There were myriad elements of this film that made it exceptional – its deeper characters, its unique treatment of setting and theme, its distinctly unsettling, creepy ambiance – but I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it was, about this film that made me want to see it over, and over, and over again.  Unsurprisingly, I purchased the film, and one December eve not so long ago, when I needed to take a break from course work, I watched it again.  And it occurred to me, after re-processing one of my all-time favorites, that It Follows, more than your typical horror movie, deals, both directly and symbolically, with our near-universal and immanent fear of death’s imminence, its inescapable closeness and the insidious fact that it could consume us, any time, without warning.  Don’t get me wrong: most horror movies use the possibility of death as a vehicle for frightening us.  But It Follows does so in ways that are careful, intentional, and cut to the core of our fear that just as the devil chases down rock n’ roll stars (at least, according to some of their lyrics) death is always following us, snapping at our Achilles tendon in hopes that we’ll bleed out completely and wink out from life on this earth.  And wouldn’t that be terrible.  But that is the beauty and terror of a film that is modest, subtle and independent, but remarkably genre bending and genre defining. Continue reading “It Follows, or Death Embodied”

It Follows, or Death Embodied

A Trip to the Bazaar: Stephen King’s “Premium Harmony” in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams

bazaarI’ve come to conclude that one of the richest elements of Stephen King’s Bazaar of Bad Dreams is the introduction he writes to each story.  I’ve also come to conclude that the stories aren’t scary, per se, but that’s okay; I don’t think he intends to scare as much in this book as he does in some of his more frightening novels, despite what the somewhat misleading book title would suggest.  What is particularly intriguing about The Bazaar of Bad Dreams is its rich variety.  Each story is distinctly its own entity, written with a different style.  I think variety in output is often the hallmark of true talent, though I need not make the argument that King is truly talented, because that seems like an understatement.  The stories stand alone as good writing, but combine together to form an eclectic view not on the infinitely terrifying, but on the darker side of life. Continue reading “A Trip to the Bazaar: Stephen King’s “Premium Harmony” in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams”

A Trip to the Bazaar: Stephen King’s “Premium Harmony” in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams

Snatch a Dose of Horror with “The Body-Snatchers”

body-snatchersRobert Louis Stevenson does horror supremely with “the Body-Snatchers.”  After all, what better sustenance for horror than a story about the illicit collection of corpses for money?  In life, we all face situations where we have to choose between right and wrong.  Sometimes, the right action is obscured, but usually the choice is clear.  Only, the right action is difficult to take, for various reason.  Such a conundrum becomes the impetus for further action in “The Body-Snatchers.” “The Body-Snatchers” is a gruesome story about the domino effect that follows a blatantly wrong choice, and the chooser’s concomitant fall. Continue reading “Snatch a Dose of Horror with “The Body-Snatchers””

Snatch a Dose of Horror with “The Body-Snatchers”

A Trip to the Bazaar: Exploring the Afterlife

bazaarWe all hope we’re going up to that spirit in the sky when we die.  If you’re a cynical doubter like me, you just hope there is, indeed, a spirit in the sky – a gate with a St. Peter-esque figure, surrounded by some winged cherubs and signaling entrance into eternal, infinite bliss.  But, hell, if that’s too much to ask for, I’ll take reincarnation, as long as I don’t have to come back as something lame like a flea or an earthworm.  I mean, haven’t we all thought, “Damn, I hope there’s something?”  I think even those with the strongest faith – and I don’t count myself among them – sometimes doubt the presence of an afterlife.  In any case, it’s something we all think of, just not daily or compulsively. Continue reading “A Trip to the Bazaar: Exploring the Afterlife”

A Trip to the Bazaar: Exploring the Afterlife