Tuesday, June 20, 2006

that downward spiral

That Downward Spiral is an excerpt from from Alistair Vogan's short story collection Beyond Good and Eviler.

Scott found his way inside the Wendy's, ordered and sat alone at the periphery of tables and chairs fastened to the floor. He sipped his coffee while he watched the other cars zip past on highway 401. It was like a race and they were getting ahead.

Twenty minutes passed. The coffee was getting cold. What was Emily doing? He looked towards the door with the icon of the woman stamped on the plastic square. She didn't emerge. Unexpectedly, sitting by himself and suddenly aware of it, he missed her. He realized that other men at this point would begin to worry about their missing consort, so he tried, thought maybe he could be worried, but ultimately was distracted by the large cheek of a woman's buttocks which he realized was being pressed against the back of his skull. He looked up just as the woman, looking down in a studied, bored manner, noticed him. She’d thought his head was the back of a chair. She apologized listlessly and moved an inch closer to the back of the line. She wanted a cheeseburger. In 11 minutes she'd order a "cheeseburger" but there wouldn't actually be any cheese on it. Not any thing a person seventy years ago would recognize as cheese. Scott looked at the menu, her ass, then the picture of the hamburger illuminated from behind, and thought the cheese looked like an orange bathroom tile. Suddenly the woman jerked around and swiped him viciously in the ear with the faded ski-pass fastened to the zipper on her ski-jacket. "Kyle!?" Scott winced, and checked his ear irrationally, to see if it was still there, then his hand for blood.

"What?" a voice yelled in the distance by a simulated driving video game.

"Kyle. Get the hell over here!" and then looked at Scott who was holding his ear. She scowled at him like she couldn't believe she'd let his head touch her ass.

The door to the woman's washroom opened and displayed the chaos within. Scott forgot about the pain. He thought he saw Emily coming. He stood up but realized it's wasn't her. I am worried, he thought. See? He sat down and looked around Wendy's lost, like a golden retriever tied outside a supermarket.


Inside the bathroom Emily caught a glimpse of Scott before the door shut. She knew by the position of his eyebrows in the middle of his forehead that he missed her. Well, good, she thought.

So she took her time. She washed her hands. She had a detailed conversation with a nice lady about the nice lady's new teeth. The woman reminded her of her aunt Elsie, and she was learning stuff.

It hadn't always been this way. This she knew. She hadn't always had to put up with this. Really, he was a good guy, she thought, as she nodded at the woman's teeth. A lot of people didn’t really understand him like she did. Jesus. Had she just thought that? she wondered; because that sounded really stupid …Anyway, this rough patch would pass. Definitely. She was really certain. She would never walk out on him. That’s for sure. She would never walk out on him... Anyway. She smiled and promised herself she'd start flossing. She watched the nice older lady leave then she washed her hands for the forth time, starting to feel a little guilty.

She gathered her strength.

Outside the women's washroom, Scott looked up and saw her exit the bathroom business-like. He felt like he hadn't seen her in weeks. He was happy. He smiled and stood up, thinking they'd leave, but she sat down. "It's a madhouse in there." She took a coffee and spotted “those teeth” in line. "Good. My coffee's still warm." She yawned and adjusted herself, not looking at Scott who, she thought, was really struggling hard to look incredulous.

"What's going on? I thought you were kidnapped."

"Oh that's sweet. You were thinking about me?"

"...What’s that mean?"

She locked eyes with him, "The traffic is picking up Scott. Maybe we should get going."

"Well...you were gone a long time," he said uneasily. “…I was really worried.”

She asked him how long but, yep, he was stumped. He pulled a number out of a hat. "Uh. About eleven minutes maybe?"

She shrugged.

“I went twice. I thought maybe I’d missed you somehow.”

"How do guys get out so quick?" and took a long look at him, trying to measure his sincerity.

But he thought she was waiting for a response. This disoriented him. "Mmm. Seriously? You want to know?" he asked.
"No. I don't think so. Thank you," she said coldly, feeling she had allowed herself to inadvertently lose control.

"Well, most of us don't wash our hands."

"Great. Well." She said through curling lips, "That's really disgusting."

She tried to look around Wendy’s like she expected to see someone else she knew, someone more important to be specific, or, more generally, she looked in a way that suggested essentially that she had much better things to do than to sit at a table which was fastened to a floor.

Gradually she became conscious of the act of looking rather than actually seeing, and she could feel him watching her anyhow so she turned to him deadpan.

“So now what?”

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Terrifying Story

Terrifying Story is from Alistair Vogan's short story collection Beyond Good and Eviler.

Note: the following is the first three abreviated chapters of a novel-in-progress. Please pardon any indecisiveness that may appear to exist in terms of theme, character, style, story-line, genre or raison d'etre. And also pace. Pace and tone... and maybe direction. Really, it's a work-in-progress. It's to be published by Double Day, though, in the spring of 1999! Maybe. They don't seem to be answering their phone. 'Cause, have they relocated then?

A Disclaimer

This is possibly one of the most frightening stories you will ever encounter. This cannot be overstated. You are forewarned. I suggest, if you are weak-hearted, easily anxious or find comfort in animated films with talking animals and sweeping orchestra scores, you move along and find yourself elsewhere. Basically, this isn't for little girlz.

Ivan Von Noshrilgram, Sr.'s
Terrifying Story

Chapter One

The way it happened (Brace oneself)...

It was not long ago. It was a dark and humid night. Frightened, I ran from my house into the street. To where I ran and for how long, I can not really be certain. I would rather not think about it.

That night, thick, lead black clouds slid over the moon like glaucoma. Visibility was low. I bumped into things my mind could not identify. A thick humid wind swept across the landscape and tore at the shrubs, trees and my lone slouching figure as I entered the threshold of the Necropolis. A tree limb cracked and tumbled over a rooftop like a discarded corpse. Glass was heard shattering but only momentarily because the deep rumble of thunder muted it. Presently the rows of cold stone and the caste iron gate were released from the dead black night by a long artery of lightning cutting across the sky. A duck quacked menacingly overhead and with sinking dread I realized I had left my hairpiece on the dresser.

No. It was a woman's throaty scream I heard - perhaps of a cheerleader - emminating as if from the darkness itself, causing the hair on the back of my neck to bristle. Then, as I entered the threshold of the Necropolis an actual duck, (Anas Platyrhynchos), most certainly hovering menacingly directly above, unleashed such a most blood-curdling quack as one would not expect this side of Hades. Without hesitation I passed through the first row of dusty tombstones stealthily, then the next, and it was there that I saw a lone figure, in possession of a large rusted shovel, slip behind the base of an ancient tree. Watching his shadow cast upon the bushes I made out his awkward attempts to hide the shovel in his fedora. Naturally, being a private detective and familiar with all things evil and malicious, I was one step ahead of him. Ever so slowly, very slowly indeed, I slipped my hand inside my Holt Renfrew sports jacket and reached for my trusty revolver but, somewhat dismayed, I discovered my cordless electric shaver, by Braun. Reflexively I switched it on, began to shave - starting with precision at my left cheekbone and progressing with carefree movements towards my chin, even whistling a short section from Guys and Dolls! - and therefore gave myself away. Immediately I sensed the moist odour of rotting flesh. I began to gag when from behind two powerful, icy hands grasped my nostrils, and began to "yank" in opposing directions...

Chapter Two

No. Not quite right. Indeed...It was my throat. Yes. I distinctly felt the hands upon my naked throat. I dropped the blasted razor. Of course it is moments like this that action is required, decisive, precise and effective, even brutal. However I attemped to scream. Cold fear stifled it, and then, perhaps out of denial, while tapping my index finger upon my protruding lower lip I began to ponder why I would have allowed myself to leave the house anyway without the hairpiece. I am always punishing myself that way. In fact I can spend hours devoted to it. Was it intentional on a subconscious level? Was I my worst enemy? One cannot have an afro one Monday, then not Tuesday, but then have one again on Thursday. There are natural laws after all that everyone recognizes, I said to myself as I was being strangled and my razor buzzed at my feet.

Another "Quaaaack!" - this time yet more blood-thirsty, creating an expanding circle of waves over the black blades of the Necropolis lawn - and the violent flapping of wings too which pulled me from the security of my dream world. The "Anas Platyrhynchos" continued to hover above, periodically slapping its massive webbed feat - as dry as Dorothy Parker - against the sides of my skull. Oh its cry! Its heartless cry! "Surely this must be the winged messenger of Satan," I said aloud. "Kuuuwaaaaaaack!" it seemed to respond in its filthy avian code.

The assassin's hands laid upon my throat, to my surprise, seemed to vaguely lose interest in their quest; and I instantly changed form, very cleverly assuming the attitude one might when shopping for retirement gifts at Walmart for a loved one. But I was out of luck that eve. He was not misled, no, and so the talons returned with renewed vigour - though I was certain I had delivered a convincing imitation of discovering the perfect cow oven mitts for someone dear in middle-management. Perhaps my hearty, "Do I get air-miles then?" lacked the necessary emotional depth... Nonetheless, I found myself at the tipping point, struggling for my life, trying to free my neck from these shackles of bone and flesh. I wrestled as a young Charles Bronson, or Clint Eastwood might have; perhaps even reminiscent of stolid Russel Crowe in Gladiator. Finally, against my will, I let out the pitifull scream of a seven year-old girl, a math whiz, and mockingly it echoed from across the endless rows of tombstones. Also adding to the torment my roller skates caused me to falter - my right leg slid forward, my left back - ripping my slacks and I, losing my balance, shot sideways forehead-first into a pine, a sapling, really. It was more damaged than I was. Also, I dropped my Fran Lebowtz action figure. ...All this apparently unnerved the dark assailant.

Chapter Three
(the terrifying denouement)

And just like that the well-girthed bird arose into the night air and began moving south, its body black against the cold and sparkling indifference of a canopy of stars. Exhausted, I collapsed on the ground in a heap, and wept beside the sapling... now barely alive. My antagonist? I do recall his unfavorable laughter, and the sound of his footsteps as he stomped across the dry grass through the rows of tombstones, then over a gravel road and finally disappeared into the bushes... with my cordless electric razor, by Braun. Was I shaken? Oh yes! For a moment I was a man beaten perhaps. Delirious, and seeking comfort, I reached for a telephone and ordered a large Hawaiian pizza with double cheese, making sure to check for any existing drink specials cause they won't always tell you about them, will they? I like cream soda. However, none came! No part of my order. Because there was no telephone. Just as their was no gun; as there was no hair, as there was no "digity". Only terror. Terror. ...Terror.

Then, I slipped into the Void and experienced a dreamy nothingness - as if I was at that moment in my Remembrance of Things Past pajamas - and later, since I would spend the entire evening and much of the morning on wet grass, hives and a real zeal for scratching.

the end

Important Terrifying Facts

Terrifying Fact # 1: In 1975 ninety-seven people were murdered in the safety of their homes, while sleeping.

Terrifying Fact # 2: In Texas forty-nine people await the death sentence. Method: lethal injection.

Terrifying Fact # 3: I like cheese. (Maybe not so terrifying, in retrospect.)

Terrifying Fact # 4: The serial killer is often highly intelligent and a integrated member of society. He is not unlike you or I.

Terrifying Fact #5: I am not unlike you or I.

Terrifying Fact # 6: It takes a rotting cadaver 47 days before the lungs begin to collapse.

Terrifying Fact #7: No one knows why, but sometimes, often 15 hours after the time of death, the deceased's heart begins to beat again.

Terrifying Fact # 8: Death is a real commitment most are reluctant to make.

Dead people are good listeners.
Dead people are cool to respond with uproarious laughter but, alas, rarely snicker.
Dead people are the least productive in the workplace and frequently

Ivan Von Noshrilgram, Sr
(Distinguished philosopher botanist, wild game hunter, exotic animal trainer, extinguished firewalker, writer and humanitarian lecturer. And terrifier.)
Edited by Alistair Vogan