Archive for December, 2008
Once upon a time, you brat, there was a spoiled little prince who wouldn’t eat his dinner if he didn’t want to, and nobody could make him because he was a prince.
And one day, there was fish for dinner and the fish on the prince’s plate was green and purple, and the prince wouldn’t eat it because he said it looked nasty. But that night the prince woke up screaming, saying he dreamed that a huge green and purple fish stood over his bed and said “You’ll have me, brat, one way or another!”
And every year, on the anniversary of not eating his fish, he dreamed the same terrible dream. One day when he was king, he came home from holiday with his sweetheart, and said he was going to marry her. She was very beautiful but her skin and hair were always damp and she had big eyes that didn’t blink, and she wore green and purple all the time. And the king married her.
And the night after they married there was a terrible scream from the royal bedroom, and they found the king lying in the big royal bed completely mad, and the damp lady was nowhere to be seen but on the pillow beside the king was a little green and purple fish! And the king was mad for the rest of his life, and if you don’t eat your greens now, you little creep! The Damp Lady will come and turn you mad too! No, it would not be more fun than spinach!
(Reprinted with permission from “Ethylor Voices: Effects of phenolic toxicity on the folkloric imagination in Ichor Falls, Mason County.” Hiram Whipporwill, Miskatonic University Press 2007.)
The sound of jet engines blared in the tiny rooms. Victor plugged his ears and waited for the howling to stop. He really hated to be the one to do this. But there was really no one else.
Those Servers needed rebooting, and that’s all there was to it.
He pulled his fingers from his ears. The worst was over. Soon the Servers would drone into the back as just white noise. Now the tune of John Denver’s Country Roads – that was a sound he could never ignore.
He pulled his phone from the belt clip. It was illuminated by Mary’s photo. She wore an exasperated smile and black strands of hair hung in her face. It was the first photo he snapped on the phone; she had just woken up from a nap.
Victor sucked his lower lip, his thumb hovering over the big red Decline button. He walked over to the window behind his desk. The phone reported no bars, and the call disconnected. He clipped the phone back to his belt and his hand went instinctively to the white band around his finger. He twisted the skin between his thumb and forefinger — his personal worry stone.
He rested his forehead on the windowpane. It was damp with cool condensation from the mist hanging in the air. He almost wished he could stay here forever. Opening his eyes, he could almost make out the distant lines of Sweetbrook Hospital, a wraith in the distance. The blinking blue light of the heliport told him where he was.
This was his lighthouse. If he ventured too close, he’d wreck himself on the rocks. Mary would be getting off work right now. If she pulled the night shift. No. He would stay over here. His office was on the upper floor of what used to be a Haelig Meyer department store, its floor cluttered with deceased computers. He’d stay over here in MIS. That’s where they preferred him anyway.
“My friend,” said a voice from behind accompanied by a hairy brown hand landing on his shoulder. “I got you tickets for speed dating at Sharkie’s. They have karaoke!”
“I’ll have to pass… my heart will always belong to Mary.”
“That is the most melodramatic thing I have ever heard,” Ramir scolded. It always amazed Victor — the only place he’s ever actually seen the cliché Indian systems admin was here in the Falls, of all places. “And yet they make fun of arranged marriages. Look, they work. The secret is that the husband and wife lead separate lives…”
Victor chuckled. “Hey, want to take a ride today?”
“And if the hospital needs us?”
He patted the pager on his hip. “They know where to find us.”
It always surprised people to find out that there even was an IT industry in Ichor Falls. Half of the town was still on AOL, assuming they had any Internet at all. Even facilities the size of Sweetbrook Hospital were wired. There were no actual paper trails with medical records, thanks to Bill Clinton and HIPAA. Some nurse left a senator’s STD screeen out in the break room one too many times.
The real issue here is that prior to 1998, Sweetbrook had no records.
Victor pulled his truck into the dirt lot in front of Amaranth Mental Hospital. Ramir whistled when he dropped out of the passenger side. Victor couldn’t blame him — even at high noon it was creepy as hell. He decided the mist might actually help the old folks in the New Haven Rest Home right across the hospital. Wouldn’t have to look at the thing.
Upon the polished tiles of alabaster marble glided a figure gaunt and garbed quaintly. The bleak hallway of opaque white lingered into a coiling miasma of black –- infinitely cold and eddying in its pitchy depths. The odd décor of arabesque patterns upon the papered walls gleamed whitewashed beneath the moonlight, which spilled forth from casements draped in blood red. Through these windows, dusty parapets rose ominously against the pink sky, their blackened faces looming over vacant battlements in silent vigil. Hills blanketed in dense wood rolled beyond a stone bulwark, and at their edge sat a small town glowing dimly in the growing light.
Augustine’s passage through the ghastly corridor produced upon the cold marble floor an unnerving serpentine slithering. The starkness of his black robe hypnotically coalesced into the shadows. He passed tall portals of dark wood lacquered unsparingly with mephitic oils, and stone daises whose glassy surfaces reflected the sputtering sconces, dim flames tossing luridly in the musty darkness. Upon each dais sat an odd figurine or statuette; artifacts carved intricately of ivory or pristine obsidian, resembling those things which the mind can conceive only in the darkest of nightmares. Oily portraits of noblemen grinned at his passing; their fragile vampiric countenances suggesting a time long ago. In the lofty heights of the rustic ceiling were folding stone faces and wooden girders veiled in cobwebs and the dust of time.
Augustine approached a dark portal lacquered heavily with pungent oil and ornamented by a charm of silver, encrusted with a profound ruby of sharpest red. He placed his hand upon its curved handle, pausing briefly to breathe deeply the peculiar odor. The bitterness of a half century fooled his senses as a knave of time’s breadth. He heard faintly a discordant ringing of gothic bells from another chamber and then a queer chant accompanied by an evil plucking of lute strings. His thin lips melted into a tight line and he entered the room.
It destroys a family, this kind of winter. Towns have a long memory — the Falls especially, though the memories of people are mercifully (or unfortunately) short. In a little less than seven months he and his mother and sister will move away, at the onset of what will be called the Ethylor summer. That season will be remembered.
But no one will remember this winter. Not even him. He is still a child, only in second grade, and while he will dream about this for years to come, he will not remember. The thoughts will tumble out of his mind shortly after they move across the river into Ohio.
Submissions have started to slow, guys. It ain’t that your stories aren’t good enough, there’s just a lot fewer. Plus I think the passing of Halloween made everyone feel less creepy.