SPECIAL: VOLUME VIII - World's End Story Session!

This week's book discussion will be something a little different, and it will go on for two weeks.

This is both because I want to give people time to respond to this prompt, and because I want to give people time to catch up.

We are all at the World's End.  We have been waylaid and disrupted on our daily journeys from here to there, and we have wound up at a pub together -- exactly the kind of roadhouse where you would love to spend some time with strangers, if only you hadn't been in a hurry to get somewhere.

We have to sit and wait for days, with no phones, no devices, no books, nothing but one another and our imaginations to pass the time.  Thankfully the beverages are good and the place is hopping.  But it is strange to be stuck somewhere at the edge of the universe, in a blizzard or windstorm perhaps, with no one who knows our histories.  We can all be anything and we can say anything.

We each have a story to share.  And you have to share one.  It's your turn.  It can be true -- it can be false -- it can be fiction -- it can be hearsay -- it can be from someone else (with attribution).  It can be a link or a picture or a comic that you feel tells the story you want to tell.  But let it be the kind of strange experience you don't often confess, or the source of the mystery nagging at the back of your mind, or the unresolved curiosity you nurture and what sparked it.

Or, perhaps, you break down and insist (like Charlene) that you have no story.

All responses are valid as long as you don't steal a story that's not yours (attribute attribute attribute).  But the talking stick has passed to you, and everyone has a fresh drink and a comfy seat by the fire, and it's your turn to speak.

Tell us your story, stranger.


  • From @cosmicfunpalace on Twitter:

    "Confessions of a Laundry Faerie"

    "Imagine, for a moment, that it's tomorrow morning.

    You wake
    slowly out of a detailed, achingly realistic dream of being able to fly.
    It's always been a secret longing of yours, and you let go of the dream
    grudgingly -- but as you wake, you realize that something feels
    strange. You turn over and open your eyes, and discover your body is
    hovering several inches above the bed." ...
  • (Some people are sending stories to me on Twitter, I will link them here.)
  • edited April 2014
    The bones of this story are true.  Time and artistic license have decorated the bones.

    I moved to Georgia when I was 16.  Well, I was drug to Georgia when I was 16.  Our (very) North Atlanta suburb has not yet grown into itself.  Modern subdivisions separated themselves by acres and acres of forest.  These forests would soon enough become houses, gas stations and malls.  In the meantime my brother and me would traipse through the woods and explore the space between neighborhoods many weekends as we adjusted to our new lives.

    On one of these trips we were riding bikes along a gravel road.  Near our house this road led to several horse estates and farms.  We traveled farther along, farther than we ever had before.  After a while the road, still gravel, separated several hundred acres of nothing from the highway.  The trees in this nothing were sparse (by north Georgia standards), overgrown with vines with sickly looking underbrush.  The bright, cloudless summer day became oppressive and humid.  Yet we rode on.

    We passed it, it was so still.  We locked our bike wheels up when we saw it out of our far peripheral vision.  A hawk, a large hawk, stood on an old log by the side of the road.  Placid, not moving, not even looking at us.  We stared at it, wondered why it had not taken off as we passed.  My brother approached it slowly.  Only after he was but a few feet away did the hawk move its head to put both eyes directly at my brother’s.  My brother backed away more quickly than he approached.  The hawk turned its head again to stare at whatever nothing he was viewing before.

    I grabbed a largish stone and threw it past the hawk to one side.  A shot across the bow if you would.  The hawk flared its wings slightly, as if shrugging. It turned its head to look over its shoulder to look back into the acres of nothing behind it.

    I noticed a dirt lane.  One that looked like it had not seen use in years.  Our curiosity and an underlying desire to leave the hawk pushed us to ride down the lane.  A few hundred yards of biking brought us to a burned out house, overgrown with vines and weeds.  I imagined that this house was what the hawk was staring at.

    We returned up the lane, even more uneasy than before.  As we turned back toward home on the gravel lane, the hawk was still there.  We did our best to ignore it as we rode past.

    This was on a Sunday afternoon.  The next day at school I related the experience to a girl who sat behind me in English class.  She was Goth, though back then the name wasn’t in use.  As I told my tale her eyes grew wide, and she viewed me as though I was lucky to be alive.

    “That’s the murder house,” she exclaimed (almost breathlessly), “you are lucky to be alive!”  She was serious, serious enough for it to rub off onto me, just a little.

    She went on to relate how the father went crazy in the 50’s and killed the family then set fire to the house.  She claimed to have seen spooky things there when she went there at night on a dare.  I didn’t believe it.  However, she was cute, so I listened and enjoyed the little bit of extra attention that every teen boy desires.

    Today a mall fills the nothing, the house long tore down.  In the food court (and I am not making this up) there is a carousal that sits exactly where that old house stood.


  • "Take this," She said to me, handing over a bundle. And with the next hoof-fall, the horse, the lady, and the storm had vanished.

    Yes, perhaps that is how i'll tell the story. I try to wipe the rain from eyes again, forgetting how useless that has become over the last two hours. My left eye stings for a moment, until the flooding sky clears it out again.  A large streak of oil has gathered on my arm, dripping from the bundle as I transfer the weight again. I will need to stop soon, to take care of my charges.

    Later, at the Inn, a trade of an earcuff for a place to stay, and meal to eat. A bit of art, offered in payment - most likely to be melted to coin, or if the gods be loving, at least sold off for some coin. But there is little love from the gods in these times, and less love for art during war. There is no music here in the main hall, no song. 

    Retiring to my room, I unwrap the bundle, setting the rain-soaked cloth to the side to dry out. No water on the inner layer - good, I didn't need to stay up all night doing that again. Unrolling the oil-cloth, I examine the pieces again. Each of the twelve is of a different design, some very simple and a few extremely ornate - the fitted ruby flashing out of the silver hilt on the fourth one. Some almost unrecognizable, except for the obvious intent of their function. "This end near you, the other end at things you don't want near" as Mac used to say.

    Oh, Mac would be having a grand time now. Perhaps he is, out there somewhere, sides splitting with laughter. "I told you boy, you spend too much time looking for trouble. Now, close your mouth, I know what you're going to say...."  You did always know my arguments, Mac - whether it was on the temperature of the forge, or who I had my eye on. And you were right (you old bastard),  a distracted mind at the hammer is one that is looking for trouble - even if he doesn't want to be.

    Ugh. Speaking of distractions, how long has that one been singing? Yes, the next one is here, in the room. Off to the left? No, not there. Underneath the window....

    14 Swords
  • I tell you, without false modesty, that I am an artist of some reknown.

    Paper and canvas and stone beneath my hands become windows into whatever world, whatever memory, whatever emotion I wish to send you. If I capture your image, it will look more like you than you ever have. It will, in fact, look like the you that you have despaired of ever becoming, the you that you have only seen in your head, and yet I remove no blemishes, soften no imperfections.

    I see everything. And I set it down, everything that happens, everyone near me and those I seek out, every event of note and every private moment and every trivial circumstance from which I can nonetheless wreak beauty and truth. Not a thing has happened in my sight that I have not shared with the world, to our mutual benefit.

    And yet one night I saw something I could not draw. And so I will tell you of it instead, and hope my words can evoke the images my hands have not the skill to portray.

    One evening I chanced to be at a party, a raucous celebration filled with music and food and friendships and those enemies you are glad to see because it means your future will continue to be an interesting one.

    I had drained my wine and, weary of the tiresome people even a good party brings, I escaped for a breath of cool air and some balm for my soul. For this home was on the shore, and to step out the back was to step on white sands and instantly become a very minor character in the endless, epic tale of the ocean.

    Have you stood before the ocean, my friends? Have you felt its indifferent power, that realization that not only can the sea kill you in many, many ways, but that it will be utterly unaware it has done so and unrepentant should it ever somehow find out?

    For some, this realization is a crushing one. For some, it is a challenge to be met with wood and rope and muscle. For some, it is a Siren call that ruins them from ever living anywhere else, because the sea will always be in their head no matter where they roam and they will return, one way or another, before they die.

    For myself, the ocean is an endless visual feast that renews my soul. I have drawn and painted the ocean in its many moods more than any other person or place. To see the waves, to feel the wind and the spray, to hear the crashing water is if someone had wiped the charcoal and paint from my brain and left me ready for a new day. I see by your smiles that for some of you it is the same, unless you're just humoring an old man.

    On this night, the world rested heavily on me indeed. There were clients who had not paid what they promised, and expenses for my home and medical bills for my wife and the steady fear for my young ones that never goes away, and those insecurities that plague even such as I. The ocean beckoned to me like an understanding lover at the end of a long day.

    I left my boots in the grass and approached the lapping waves. There was no moon that night and only the starlight to guide me but it was enough, it was barely enough. Think of it: The roar, the wind, the taste of salt on the air, soft blue light bouncing from the sea to be swallowed almost instantly by the hungry black sky. Diamonds flung carelessly across the night, a sight to delight the hardest heart.

    And yet I was unmoved. My troubles held me down and smothered me until
    just walking on until the cold waters closed over my head seemed like a sensible idea indeed.

    And then, and then.

    They came with barely a sound. Birds, hundreds, flew over the waves, following the shoreline and passing a stone's throw in front of me. I could not tell you what breed they were; I know only that they were white and flew in silent formation in a seemingly endless stream. I remind you, this was a pitch black night, and all I could see was a wing here, a pointed head there, flashing over and over in the silver starlight so it was if I was watching a school of fish gracefully flying through the midnight waters of the sky without end. It was glorious.

    My first thought was panic, and regret.

    Why? I see your confusion, but I urge you to think, just for a moment, like an artist, and to remember we are all
    of us insane.

    I was upset because here was the most beautiful thing I had ever experienced, and there was no way to ever show it to anyone else.

    Can you imagine my anguish? The birds were sensed more than seen. The darkness was nearly absolute. A drawing of this would be lifeless mud. I could not freeze this image because movement was what made it magic. I could not set it on paper because to capture it thusly would be to imprison it and kill its spirit. For years inside my head, as I stood there, my depression grew as the universe conspired to ruin me.

    And then, and then.

    The cloud inside my head dwindled, and boiled in upon itself, and went away. For the first time I could remember, certainly the first time since I was a child, I let myself relax and delight in the world around me. I didn't look at it thinking how to recreate it. I didn't look at it as something that would bring me acclaim and fortune. I just... enjoyed it while it was happening.

    It went on for a time. I could not tell you how long, or how briefly. I only knew that while the sparkling silver stream of birds flew before me, I was content and full of nothing more than wonder and gratitude that I was in that place at that time.

    When it was finally over I got my boots and returned to the party, and then to my home, and to my life. I still create images of what I see, and I am still renowned for doing so.

    But more and more, there are sights and times I keep for myself and show no one. And when people talk of me now they remark on how happy I am, and they will never guess that the works of art I value the most are the ones in my head that I will never, ever try to create.
  • Via Youtube comment from rrpilot, @rrpilot73 on Twitter:

    "Creepy story?....I'm a locomotive engineer, one night we ran over a
    ghost with the train. That was pretty weird. Came around a curve at
    50MPH, girl standing in the tracks and there's no way we didn't hit her,
    except that me, my crew and the police never found anything or any
    evidence that she had ever been there. Very odd."

  • edited April 2014
    VIDEO FROM MARIAN:  Welcome to the World's End.

    Tell us a story!
  • I've worked on the railroad since 1992 and have seen some weird stuff, this was by far the weirdest. So this was in 1996 (ugh, I'm getting old) around 3AM and I was the engineer on freight train from Oak Island yard in Newark NJ to Port Jervis NY. This was my regular assignment at the time and was quite routine. My crew consisted of myself, my conductor and my engineer student. 
    We came around the curve heading northbound at Sloatsburg station and far off in the distance I spot a person standing in the track. I began to sound the horn and bell, the person simply remained in place, people 'playing chicken' with trains is a very common occurrence and so I wasn't too concerned yet (although my inexperienced trainee was quite excited).
    As we drew closer I could clearly see that it was a girl in her early teens, black hair, nightgown and no shoes. By this time even I was growing concerned as my certainly eardrum shattering hornblasts were obviously having no effect, at this point I assumed we were dealing with a suicide by train (unfortunately quite common).
    We were running an EMD SD-60 locomotive, due to the design of the cab there exists an approximately 15 foot blind spot at the very front of the locomotive that is not visible from the controls. She was still standing there when she disappeared into that blind spot. At the speed we were moving it would have been all but impossible for her to jump away at that point, I immediately placed the trains brakes into the 'Emergency' position and called the Rail Traffic Controller to report that we had struck a trespasser. We stopped rather quickly (for a train) due to the combination of that being a steep uphill grade and the fact that I had a light train that evening of only about 3000 tons. As soon as was safe the conductor and trainee ran back to find the body and if possible offer first aid. As soon as we stopped I secured the locomotives and began to check myself. The first thing I noticed was the lack of any blood, brains, body parts etc. on the locomotives plow that usually accompanies striking a person or animal, I began to work my way back along the train inspecting underneath with my flashlight for the body, by this time the police had arrived and were assisting my crew back by the station in their search. Never found anything, in my career I've hit a lot of things and I KNOW we hit that girl, no evidence of any kind that she was ever there. At the time they were doing construction work around that station and the whole area was covered in soft dirt, the only footprints that we ever found were all workboot types that obviously belonged to us and the workers....there is absolutely no way she could have walked to where she was standing without leaving even a single footprint somewhere....in the end the police chalked it up to a very lucky teen who played chicken with us and we departed. The cab was dead quiet the whole rest of the trip, we all know what we saw, my trainee was so rattled by it that he refuses to discuss it to this very day. I worked that territory for several more years before moving on to other assignments and would always get a bit apprehensive when we approached that station at night. I never saw anything odd there again.
  • When Ray Bradbury died in the summer of 2012, I recorded a reading of one of his stories: http://www.aarongolas.com/no-news-or-what-killed-the-dog/
  • I think if I was stuck in an airport (or wherever) during a storm and I was the only Alaskan present, I would probably talk about Alaska. I wrote this after a trip out of state last summer. 

  • edited April 2014
    I've only just been able to get copies of  vol. 6 and on to read, so I'm hoping to catch up by this weekend, but I'll post a story here.

    I've got several, perhaps I'll share others. Some true, some fictional, and a few that I can't verify one way or the other (as they were told to me by others, and I'd 100% give credit where it's due should I decide to share one of those.)

    This one is 100% fictional. It's a piece of flash-fiction I wrote in Dec. 2009:
    Only Way Down
    by Zachary Totz

    It's a long way down from here.

    I can see the people gathered below me. Some yelling for me to jump, some trying to talk some sense
    into me… most are probably just waiting with apprehension to see what I do. I can't see any of them clearly, nor can I hear more than the faintest traces of their words above the strong wind blowing across the rooftop where I'm perched.

    I step back from the ledge, my tie whipping to the side from the gale, my coat fluttering about me. A
    pounding noise comes from the door I've barricaded shut behind me, and I can hear a voice shouting through a bullhorn. The words are unintelligible due to the insulation in the building's walls, but the
    meaning is obvious. The officer calling into it is trying to talk me down. He's trying to tell me that everything's going to be alright, that I've got so much to live for, but he doesn't get it. Nobody does.

    For the better part of the past decade, my life's been a living Hell. My dad's murder, my wife's many affairs, the day my son got hit by that truck and never woke up… The moment where after twenty years of hard work and loyal service, breaking my back and giving myself numerous ulcers to help my company get where it is today, and I find out that in the name of 'streamlining' the workforce that I'm out on my ass and unable to make ends meet and dig myself out of the enormous debt I've been dragged into… No. There's no way that the police officer trying to talk me out of my decision knows what I'm going through. What brought me to this.

    I step toward the edge again, breathing slowly, controlling my heart, so that it doesn't over exert itself and explode in my chest before I even have a chance to follow through, and I look down. The crowd is bigger now. News vans are pulling in, and cameras of all sorts are being turned in my direction. Good.
    I want them all to know. I need them all to understand.

    The pounding behind me grows louder. The police behind the door must've found something to use as a ram to try to break through my barricade and keep me from my task. The voice has stopped, though. He's leading the charge, I suppose. For a second, I consider just removing the debris I'd piled up and letting him onto the roof with me. Letting him do his job. Letting him talk me out of this. The thought passes.

    The firetrucks have given up trying to extend their ladders up to me. None could possibly reach high enough, and the man that I figure must be the chief seems to be trying to decide what to do. I take out a scrap of paper and a pen to help him out. I scribble three words on it, crumple the note into a ball, and let it drop. It drifts in the wind a little bit, but manages to fall close enough to the man to catch his attention, and I can almost picture the look of grim determination on his face as he calls out the orders to his men and they rush to ready the net like I'd asked. Just in case.

    I turn away from the edge again, and take a few steps toward the door, just to give myself some distance before rushing forward and hurtling myself out into the air.

    I know already how it all will end: with questions. "Why," they'll ask, "why, despite all the evidence to the contrary, did I think I could do such a thing?" and I can't even begin to imagine their questions should I
    succeed. They'll never understand, though, not even if I were to tell them.

    I know that no man has ever flown before, but despite it all, I felt I had no choice. I just had to try.
  • edited April 2014
    [[I have absolutely ZERO idea why it's formatting weirdly. It looks completely normal in the edit window, so... yeah.]]

    EDIT: Still have no idea why it formatted weirdly, but I'm gradually fixing it.

    EDIT #2: Finally fixed. Annoying, but necessary.
  • Well shoot. I was going to post my story here for easy reading, but it's too long. Sorry guys! I'll provide links though. I have a text version you can read with your eyes, and an audio version you can read with your ears. Your choice.

    This is a science fiction story I wrote a while back. I was lucky enough to get an audio version of it included in episode #2 of the relaunched Current Geek podcast. (It is me reading the story. I accept all blame for any audio issues.)

    As did so many of the great love stories, it all starts with a boy, a girl, and a comb...


    by Gord McLeod

  • Yes please, all!  Thank you!  Do read one another's links, the ones I have read so far are fan-frakking-tastic.

    And feel free to post as often as you like!
  • Here is one I wrote some time ago. Not really the kind of story I'd tell in an inn, but felt I could share.



    Also, if you read it, give me feedback. I'm not a great writer yet, and could use criticism.
  • One day, when we'd been married for about a year, she asked me why my shirt smelled odd, like an unfamiliar perfume, and I admitted that it did smell strange, but I was unable to give any accounting for the odd smell. She told me, rather pointedly, to think about that and eyed me suspiciously. The next day, when I came home from work, she noted that same odd smell, and again I was forced to admit that I could smell it as well, but I was no closer to an answer. She informed me that I was running out of time to explain things.  The next morning, I sniffed my shirt before putting it on, when it was still clean, fresh out of the closet, and it had that same odd smell. I brought her the shirt and explained that it smelled odd before I'd worn it, and her eyes got big. She immediately ran downstairs to the shared coin-operated laundry facilities in the basement of our apartment building, where she grabbed a box of off-brand dryer sheets that someone had left down their, a box from which she'd taken a dryer sheet when doing laundry. She sniffed the box with its remaining dryer sheets, and it bore a now-familiar odd smell.

    Our marriage survived that pointless trial, but ten years later, I'm divorced.
  • The question is, do you
    believe in magic? And to what extent? As a child, I never wanted to
    admit this belief – if questioned about it directly, I would insist
    that of course I wasn't so naïve as to believe in Santa or the tooth
    fairy or the Easter bunny...but I loved making up stories about them
    for my younger siblings, often with very elaborate twists and details
    of my own. I would tell people, pragmatically, that I believed in the
    spirit of such things only...and while that was MOSTLY true, I also
    harbored a belief that the spirit of something can make it just as
    real as our imaginations will allow. To me, magic has always been
    firmly rooted in the real world. We are surrounded by magical things
    all the time, but we don't always see them as such, and most things
    thought to be too fantastic can be explained with different branches
    of science, or simply said to be an unknown for now. As they say,
    sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, to
    an uninformed person. Personally though, I don't think that makes
    magic any less real, it just means that we all have different labels
    for it. Honestly, have you ever had even a glimpse of advanced
    physics theories? Or seen what the human brain is capable of doing
    for itself? Pretty crazy stuff.

    As a kid, I enjoyed
    narrating my own stories. I would pace in my room, sometimes using
    toys or figurines as props, and narrate aloud some extremely
    elaborate, and ongoing, serials. The ponies and trolls had their own
    set of stories together (for instance), the porcelain dolls and
    stuffed animals had very different worlds of their own (sometimes
    each had its own story arc), and my best friend of the time made up
    her own stories (a vampire soap opera not unlike Dark Shadows in
    nature, which is likely where she got the idea) using barbies and
    other dolls. My room was really a library of untold stories. My
    mother would walk past, hear me going on out loud, and ask who I was
    talking to. When she found I was just talking to myself, she always
    looked slightly worried, and then mentioned that I might want to tone
    it down, because people might find it odd. Lesson number one in
    social norms, learned.

    When we would leave to go
    on vacation, the storytelling didn't end. I would tell my brother and
    sister stories in the car, and if I got a moment alone, I would
    continue the stories I had left unfinished at home. I can't even
    imagine, now, how very WEIRD this must have seemed from an outside
    perspective. I kind of assumed, like all children, that whatever I
    liked to do must be normal. It wasn't just talking, either – I
    would sing a lot, when alone, to supplement my stories. Some stories
    were made up specifically to go with, or were inspired by, a new
    favorite song. Sometimes, I would make up the songs myself, but I was
    always much better at taking someone else's piece of music and
    putting my own spin on it, or using it in my own way. I liked
    reinterpreting music (thus, why I became a music major in college).
    Singing during the course of a story always made it feel so much more
    REAL, and seemed to give it real power.

    But this isn't a story
    about me being a weird little kid, this is a story about the nature
    of magic. My favorite stories were almost always in a fantasy
    setting, or had magic involved in some way. I always felt, as a
    child, that there was more to the world than we could see with just
    our eyes, and that perhaps, there was a time in the distant past that
    some of our fantastic fairy tales weren't so fantastic. Perhaps there
    was a time that they were closer to reality, or that they at least
    represented a reality that was hard to explain.

    What is prayer or pagan
    ritual but active wishing, and aligning our minds and even
    subconscious with a goal that we want to bring about? Who's to say
    there is no power in that? My friend that saw ghosts – who's to say
    that she wasn't just very sensitive to impressions and strong
    feelings people left behind? Energy is never destroyed once created,
    and all that. Human touch can cause surges of brain chemicals which
    can actually help the body heal. Is brain chemistry that different
    from what we think of as magic? The world is such a fascinating
    place. THIS is what I wanted to tap into with my stories.

    One summer, when I was
    maybe 10 or 11 years old, we went to the cabin my grandparents have
    in northern Michigan. It was originally owned by my great gramps, and
    he built the sauna that we used every summer. It was a still day on
    the lake, and several family members had gone into town or were doing
    other work around the camp, and I had time to entertain myself. I
    remember vividly that it was a beautiful day and that I had probably
    already gone swimming – warm but not too hot, clear blue skies, not
    a cloud in sight. It was a touch humid though, and the air was very
    still, and I decided that was too boring. I began to tell a story
    about a sorceress that called up a storm.

    I paced up and down by the
    stone path that led down
    to the dock, and I began calling up the vivid details of exactly HOW
    the sorceress called her power. She called on the directional winds,
    she reached for them with her hands and pulled them towards her. She
    manipulated air currents and humidity. She talked to great bodies of
    water and trees and touched all of the elements in her quest for
    power. As I told her story, I began chanting what sounded to me like
    words of power, and dancing wildly down the path, sweeping my arms as
    I called to the winds. (I can only imagine an adult seeing this from
    afar would think I was possessed. My poor parents.) I then began to
    sing a storm song, loudly, calling on more power....power that it
    seemed to me, briefly (in my adrenaline fueled brain) that I could
    actually feel. This felt more real, to me at that moment, than any of
    my other stories. It was like, briefly, I WAS the sorceress. When the
    dance was over, I fell down on the ground, exhausted, and just stared
    at the sky as I felt a breeze come up off the lake for the first time
    all day. I then completely forgot about it, having had my fun, and
    went on about my day.

    That night, an enormous
    flash storm came up, seemingly out of nowhere. I was awoken by crazy
    amounts of heat lightning in the sky, more than I had ever seen in
    one place, and my father racing outside against strong winds to dump
    water on our campfire coals before they got scattered. (I have only
    ever seen one storm that was worse in my life, and it was accompanied
    by a tornado.) I sat in bed and stared in awe outside, eventually
    throwing on clothes so that I could poke my head outside to feel the
    sheer power of the storm, before being shooed back in. It was truly
    incredible. At that moment, I knew exactly how the sorceress felt,
    and I also learned how superstitions are formed.

    Do I believe in
    coincidences? Sure, they happen from time to time. Do I think my
    young self may have tuned into subtle weather cues, perhaps felt a
    touch of electricity in the air despite the beautiful day, and just
    ran with it? It's possible.

    Do I believe in magic? (Is
    there anything more magical than a truly powerful storm?) Do you?  

  • It's been pointed out to me that my first post isn't visible to everyone, because of course, silly Facebook. Sorry folks, should have realized! Re-posting now. This is what I tend to describe when chatting with outsiders about my lovely state. 

    The slow process of becoming Alaskan

    July 10, 2013 at 12:36pm 
    I have turned into such an Alaskan, and this is painfully obvious when I've gone on vacation and then come back. The process was slow at first, when I was in college flying back east still felt like coming home. But the longer I've lived here (over a decade now, I think collectively I've been here for almost 13 years), the more going anywhere else seems foreign and novel. I compare everything to how it is in Alaska. Flying into metropolitan areas gives me mild heart palpitations because of how dense the buildings are (this time, it was Chicago/O'hare). Flying over middle America just kind of makes me sad - all the nice, neat little squares of farmland just look SO unnatural to me, and I can't help but think about how the land used to look before us humans decided to shape it like we wanted. Everything looks overly structured, the roads look too clean (and smooth pavement KEEPS AMAZING ME), the air even smells different (heavier somehow - the air in Alaska just smells so clean and light, but it's also a lot less humid, so that surely has something to do with it). The sun in the summer seems even brighter, more direct, the heat feels nicer (again though, lack of humidity). The sun seems to just drop out of the sky and sunsets are over in a flash, which always takes me by surprise. I began to really long for my long Alaskan sunsets, that could take hours before the colors were completely gone, if they fade at all (summer time, of course - sunsets are still long in the winter, but then they fade into the long dark). The UP of Michigan definitely reminds me of rural Alaska with the lack of big stores and the windy roads (and there only being one way to get to a lot of places), but the bigger cities seemed a little too uniform to me. Too many of the exact same restaurants and shopping centers and businesses. We Alaskans sure do strive to be different - we have some big box stores, but there are so many unique little shops and places to eat and we do nourish our small businesses, and I missed that. Mountains in other places don't look like real mountains...they're too round, too green on top, they don't seem wild or jagged enough to be anything but hills. And from the sky, they look so little! And seeing a sketch of the Anchorage skyline, with the mountains in the background, made me grin like an idiot. Yeah, I missed this place, with its vast expanses of wilderness, it's ridiculous daylight hours (one direction or the other), its rough roads and dirty cars, its mountains that are close enough to walk to, its clean air and wonderful sunlight and painfully beautiful sunsets, the fact that towns and even cities seem barely carved out of the earth, like humans haven't been here long enough to truly take over and mother nature definitely rules over us all.....there's just nothing like it. 


    It was a good trip, but it feels good to be home. 

  • Submitted by John Kovalic of Dork Tower!  That's @muskrat_john on Twitter:

    There is an art to making a fool of yourself in public.

    Some people are born to it. Others have it thrust on them. Still others have a reporter from the National Enquirer ring them up one lunch hour, simply because they proposed to their fiance in the funny pages.

    If you, like me, belong to this latter group, you may be unfamiliar with the concept of “shame.” You may also lack the ability to think things through that would otherwise make a rational person go “Whoa!”

    Appearing in the National Enquirer falls into this second category. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. For the full story – “CARTOONIST DRAGS DOLL DOWN IN TABLOID DEPTHS – SELF-ESTEEM SEEKS LEGAL SEPARATION” – you have to go back a ways, to Christmas, 1994.

    I’d been dating Judith for two years before I finally got it through my thick skull that this was a woman you have to hang onto. She was everything I’d ever wanted in a companion: she was beautiful, she was fun, she was witty, she was devastatingly intelligent and — most important of all — she obviously wasn’t choosy...

  • This is not a true story. It's inspired by a kernel of a true thing that made me wonder what would have happened if things had turned out very, horribly differently. As a writer, one of the themes I return to is character -- what makes us who we are? Is it who we decide to be? Is it our acceptance of how others see us? Do we make choices because of who we are, or do we become who we are because of the choices we've made? These questions form the heart of this story.

    The story is too long to post here, and there's no text version of it online because it was originally published in a now-defunct zine that had requested to be the only site for it online. BUT it was also performed live at the Liar's League in London, and that audio's still up. So here's "Getting Away with It."

  • Well, rats. Was going to share the link to another short story of mine, and discovered the zine that published THAT is also defunct. That's depressing. Anyway, the first one will be fine for my contribution, though I'm not crazy about the reading. The second one was just going to be a lighter selection, since "Getting Away with It" is pretty damn dark.

  • Do you still have your copy anywhere?  We'd love to read it!
  • Oh, I still have a copy, it's just not online, and I think it's too long to fit in the comments box here. Plus, it has a lot of cursing. I don't know if that's a dealbreaker!
  • Curse all you like. Or just post it anywhere else (a one-use Tumblr?) and link to it here, with a cursing warning.
  • ... and that's when Jill remembered she has a completely empty Tumblr she's never decided what to do with. Ha!

    Both stories here:


    "Getting Away with It" is the same one I posted the audio for above. "My First Naked Nazi" is the funny one with all the cursing. Hope you enjoy!
  • Submitted by @scoughtfree to me via email:

    A fairy tale

        This isn’t my story, not really, but I’m going to tell it anyway.  It’s a bedtime story, a fairy tale, and it’s the only story I can remember my dad ever telling me.

        So there’s these three brothers, (and my dad never said their names but there were always three of them), and they get tasked by the king to go out and catch a magical bird.  And the king tells them to be careful because you can only catch the bird at dawn, when it falls asleep, but you have to watch it all night long before you catch it.  And the other thing, a couple other things, really, is that the bird is magical and that no one has ever caught the bird before, no one has ever come back from trying to catch the bird. 

        The first brother, the eldest, steps up and tells the king that he’s going to catch the bird and bring it back.  He tromps out into the deep forest and finds the bird on a branch, just quietly staring at the moon.  So, he waits, sitting at the base of the tree staring at the bird that’s staring at the moon.  And then the bird starts to sing and his eyes get heavier and heavier until he falls asleep.  And then the bird pooped on his head, (and here my dad would make a squick noise and flatten his hand out on my head to simulate being pooped on, something that made me giggle like crazy), and when the poop landed on his head, he turned to stone. 

        When he didn’t come back the next day, the middle brother said that he was going to catch the bird and went out with a net in the dead of night, going deep into the woods, passing tree and stone and tree and stone and tree and stone, until he sees the bird.  He waves the net at the bird but the bird just ignores him.  He jumps up and down and tries to catch the bird but the bird ignores him.  He tries to climb the tree but when he touches it, the bird starts to move like it’s going to fly away.  The middle brother decides to sit under the tree and wait.  Song.  Sleep.  Squick.  Stone. 

        The youngest brother goes out the next night, taking with him a knife and some lemons.  He follows his brothers’ steps into the woods, seeing stones that remind him of them, picking up the net, and finding the bird.  He watches the bird, and hears it begin its song.  The minute he sits down, the minute he starts getting sleepy, he takes the knife and cuts his hand.  The pain wakes him up a bit but the bird keeps singing and he starts getting sleepy again.  So he cuts the lemon and squeezes the juice of the lemon into the cut in his hand.  And the pain of that keeps him awake.  He goes through every lemon he brought with him but he stays awake and at dawn, the bird falls asleep so he catches it and brings it back to the king and is rewarded and his brothers aren’t stone anymore and everyone lived happily ever after.

        Now, again, I said it’s not my story.  It’s not something that I’ve turned over and over in my mind, polishing and shaping like some fine gemstone, but I do think about it on occasion.  When I was younger, I loved the story because it was funny, a bird pooping on someone’s head and turning them to stone was about the height of hilarity for my six-year-old brain and, let’s be fair, my dad was gone six to nine months out of the year because of work so it was nice to have him around.  Then I got a little older and I hated the story.  I was certain, in only the way that a smart ass sixteen year old can be certain, that it was just another one of my dad’s clumsy attempts to remind me that the most important thing in the world was work, not friends, and that, whatever it took, you had to get the job done.  I packed the story away for a few more years and, when I thought about it again, I thought maybe it was my dad telling us the story of his family, in a really subtle way.  See, he lost his dad pretty young and he wound up working construction early, putting food on the table for his older brothers and mom, a pattern that pretty much continued until he died about five years ago.  I hadn’t really thought about that story since then, until I heard all the other stories tonight, and when I did I thought different about it again. 

        I started to think about the youngest brother.  I started to think about the cut in his hand and the lemon juice.  Did he hesitate before he did it, trying to figure out every option?  What did he think before he put the knife to his skin?  How deep did he cut?  Was there a scar?  Was there damage that went past that night?  Did he still have full use of his hand?  Did he wake up nights, a pain in his hand that wouldn’t let him sleep?  Did he regret what he did, even though it was for the best of everyone?  Could he still feel the knife on his skin, the lemon in his blood, the pain that saved his family?  I think about the youngest brother, and what he went through, and I think about my dad making a squick noise and flattening his hand on my head, and then I remember holding that hand in the hospital, looking at the husk that cancer made out of his body, and telling him what my siblings and my mom had told him, that it was okay, that it was okay, for once, not to fight, to let go, to fall asleep.  And then I told him something that I don’t think the others did, something that he had been waiting for: that I’d take care of everything, that I would be responsible for the family from there on out, and he relaxed and let go of my hand and slept.  An hour later, he was gone. 

        And now, when I wake up in the middle of the night, less and less as time moves on, a stone in my throat, on my chest, in my heart, heavy enough to sink the world, I stare into the darkness and think about the knife and the pain and the consequences of caring for others.  And then I think: Song.  Squick.  Sleep.  And I can fall asleep with a smile. 

        Thinking about it as I tell it, I guess it’s my story by inheritance and I wonder, if I ever have kids, and I tell them this story, will they keep it with them as I have?  Will it change as they grow older?  Will they love it as much as I do?

        Anyways, that’s my story.  I’m going to leave now and find a different table and wear a different face and tell ridiculous stories for the rest of the night.  If any of you walk up to me with even half a look on your face like you want to talk to me about this, I’ll smile, slow and polite, like you do to a kid you’re humoring, and then, when you start talking, I’ll quirk my head to the side slightly and say, so convincingly that it’ll get you to walk away, “I’m sorry but you must be thinking about someone else,” and then I’ll turn back to my ridiculous stories and my table and no one will know that I ever cried in the dark because it all hurt so damn much I couldn’t do anything else. 

  • edited May 2014
    Submitter by MaxWriter via email:

    World's End Story

    Several years ago, my x-wife (possibly just my girlfriend at the time) and I were sitting by the fire at the campsite a half-mile back from my Aunt's farm. We had gone out there and spent and evening together. It had gotten dark and a little cold and we were about to leave.

    Then we saw the light.

    Back in the woods, two red lights, one directly above the other, moved between the trees. They didn't rock, like they would if someone were walking with some kind of strange light. They floated, calmly and serenely from our left to our right, possible 20 or 30 yards away. It was impossible to tell the distance in the dark. It was odd and surreal.  They floated slowly.

    "Let's get out of here," she said to me.

    "No, I want to know what that is," I replied.

    I've always been a skeptic. I need proof. I need facts. I was a newspaper editor at the time and wanted to know what could possibly be floating, as if by magic or anti-gravity, back there in the woods so strangely.

    We watched the two red lights for a while. They never approached, but made a path parallel to us going from left to right. It took some time, and she was terrified. I was apprehensive and scared as well. They had the look of something made.

    I finally figured it out.

    The St. Joe River runs through those woods back there. Someone was on a boat with a red light. The lower light was just a reflection on the river as the boat floated slowly downstream.  We couldn't see any figures (or even the boat actually) but that was what it undoubtedly was. Someone was poaching, using the red light to see (which the animals couldn't as well) and probably hunting raccoons or deer or something.

    If I had left when she wanted to, I would not know, to this day, what those strange red lights might have been.

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