Ichor Falls

Author Archive

Another toxic town

by on Jun.30, 2009, under Meta

Here’s a real town with almost the same backstory as Ichor Falls, except that it’s probably not also damned.


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Act of Kindness

by on Jun.12, 2009, under Submitted








**Attachment 17**

**Description:  Transcribed letter located on desk in hotel room.**

I should have listened to that little voice in my head that said “this is a really bad idea.”  Instead, the voice of reason was drowned out by the dozens of other voices telling me that nothing bad would happen, that everything would be okay and best of all I’d be happy for the rest of my days.  And then it all went to hell.

It started with an act of kindness.  Every town has its poor and destitute, Ichor Falls being no exception, and I always prided myself on giving them a few dollars every now and then when they ambled out of Lower Alethia and into Olympus.  Well, lately there had been a new homeless man around town.  Unlike most of the others, he was always ambling around, never sitting down and rarely ever still, and he was always in a good mood, blessing the day even when he had nothing to eat and nowhere to stay. He just stayed active regardless of the weather, whistling a tune with a spring in his aimless step. It was a great surprise to me then when I encountered him sitting at a bus stop in the middle of a torrential rain, just barely covered enough to avoid being completely soaked but it was evident to anyone who looked the poor old man was cold, wet and miserable.

I took him to a local diner, bought him a meal, and sat with him as he ate.  He gave me his name: Owens. As he ate, he told me tales of his days in World War II, when he was just sixteen, and then the war in Vietnam, about shootouts and fighting and the people he’d meet and the sights he’d seen. When I asked him what made him re-enlist after being in the Japanese theater, he said he went back during Vietnam because at that time he had longed to die.  Turns out his whole family got wiped out during the Ethylor Summer, and he alone survived watching the slow, agonizing and bloody deaths of his family.  He said that he’d come across one thing there in some tiny, lost Vietnamese village that let him smile again and gave him unfailing happiness despite the deep-seated pains of his life.  It appeared to be nothing more than carved rattan, something typical of southeastern Asian nations, so I didn’t think anything of its appearance.  It was just a box after all.

Take it, he said, to a hill, any hill where no buildings or anything man-made stand on any adjacent hills, and open it on at midnight on any night of a new moon, when the world would be in darkness.  I asked right out why the hills had to be empty and why everything had to be dark and he shrugged, saying only that if it wasn’t done right, then it wouldn’t work.  Not only would it not work, but there would be hell to pay afterwards.  It worked for him, he said, and even though he had recently lost his house in a brush fire, he still said what the box had shown him kept him happy even as a wandering vagrant.

He left the box with me as payment for the meal and said it was up to me to decide whether or not to use it. That was the last I saw of Owens.

As it so happened, a new moon was only a week away from that meeting, and while the thought was still fresh in my mind I decided I would give this a shot, if only to see what kind of hokey zen bullcrap was really going on here — it was more likely I’d get robbed than find happiness. Not a total fool, I brought a gun and a flashlight with me as I drove out of town to the middle of a large open field that as far as I knew didn’t have anything built in the area, climbed to the top of a hill, and turned off the light.

I should have taken the immediate sensation I had as a warning; the sudden lurch in my stomach as if the world had fallen away from beneath me, that I had dropped into a yawning pit of blackness darker than the night itself.  It only lasted a moment though, so I attributed it to nerves and took the box in both hands.  It wasn’t glowing, ticking or bleeding so I assumed it would be okay to open it, and so I did.

A new reaction came in the form of a shrill, bloodcurdling shriek, and again the sensation of falling returned, this time stronger, and darker if that makes sense. I jerked back to myself with such a shock that I collapsed on the spot to sat stupefied in the darkness.  The scream still echoing in my ears, I turned around in every direction scanning the darkness for the source, but even if it were twenty feet away I couldn’t have seen it.  Given the way it sounded though — like a strung-out woman gargling blood — if it were that close I’d know for certain.  Then, as my eyes rested upon a hill towards town barely illuminated by the glow of the city lights, the hill itself moved.  A silhouette of something, or many somethings seemed to pause, watching me, before slipping into the inky blackness of the night.  Thoroughly freaked out, I shoved the box into my coat, flipped on the flashlight and with my gun in hand ran for the car as fast as I could.

They had already surrounded me.  I don’t really know for certain how they did it, but I was aware of them on every side, darting out of sight just as my flashlight would fall upon them, their torn, blackened bodies gliding along silently beside me, some of them running on two legs, some on four, but all of them keeping perfect pace with me.  I made it to the car unscratched, only to find one of them on the roof of the car, perched and waiting.  It made that scream again, so much more horrible up close — human, once, a long time ago. Now it was wracked with open wounds and necrotic flesh.

I shot it.  I put three bullets into it and it jerked and flopped down onto the hood, leaving a smeared, bloody mess where it made contact, while the rest of the creatures held back just within visible range, watching with amused, sinister expressions on their misshapen faces.

Two hours later, I saw them again.  I had driven home, locked and bolted the doors and prayed I had seen things and that the still-present gore on my car was just my imagination.  That was when they started popping up in the darkness of the neighborhood, visible in almost every direction.  I called the police, and they came, but the things were too quick and would hide, scattering like flies with uncanny speed, climbing up buildings and darting behind trashcans.  The police asked me a whole bunch of questions and I answered everything, but they didn’t buy my story. They thought I was high — maybe I’d accidentally killed somebody. After an hour in the company of police in my home, that jerk Brana already started making out a citation for making a false report.  But as the cops searched, I could see those things peeking their heads into windows, lurking across the street and peering inside, avoiding the police like it was just a game to them.  And they watched, as I did, when the police drove away, their gaze as one turning back to me. They poked around the house a bit, but never came inside.  Day broke, and for the time being I was safe.

I tried and failed to find Owens, and tried and failed to find the body of the one I had killed, if anything to prove these things could die. Not knowing what else to do, I loaded my gun and as much ammunition into my car as I could and left town for a while, left the state. I rented a cheap motel with only one door and one window, and now I’m here, waiting and writing my story for anyone who might read it.  Night fell about an hour ago, and they wasted no time coming back for me.  I’ve accepted that I’ll never be able to run far enough away from them and I’ll never be able to hide.

I can hear them now, climbing over the motel, tapping on the window, knocking on the wall and door, but making no other sounds that might give them away. They know I can hear them. That scream still echoes in my ears, and I shiver just thinking about whether or not I’ll have to hear it again.

In case you’re wondering, I know what I did wrong; when I went exploring and looking for the body I found a tiny, almost unnoticeable shed built onto the far side of one of the hills.  To think, here I am, now, waiting to be killed by these things because of one run down pile of wood.

I hear more of them outside, and they’re gathering by the door.  If I don’t make it, spread the word and let my death serve as a warning.  Let everyone know that if you’re going to play with destiny, make sure you do it right.

**Addendum #6:


Submitted by A. R.

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Opossum Society

by on May.15, 2009, under By Kris Straub

My grandfather was a big card gambler, and told us a lot of wild stories from his traveling youth. He mostly kept to five-card stud and was a master at bluffing — given the nature of most of his stories and how we believed them, I guess he was at least telling the truth about that.

The story that stuck with me had happened in the summer of 1940, he said. He was on furlough and visiting his parents a few miles east of Ichor Falls. Landlocked and bored, he overheard at some dive that there was all-night gambling at a nearby Indian reservation, maybe Moneton or Mattaponi, I forget which. The story was that a local group of investors calling themselves “the Opossum Society” gathered there one night a month and talked big policy and local events; the things that had made them wealthy. Intrigued, my grandfather caught a ride near there, and walked a couple miles on foot the rest of the way.

Two things to remember about my grandfather: he was as slick and charming as anything, and he hated to play sober. He said they poured strong drinks there, and by the time he had the courage to wander over to the lone table where anyone was still playing, he was worried they’d kick him out for being too drunk. But he must have turned on the charm, because after twenty minutes or so, he’d been invited to sit down.

The game was five-card stud. My grandfather didn’t have much money, but he hung on in the early hands, and after an hour or so, he had a tidy pile of chips in front of him, to the surprise of the others.

The night wore on, the talk was lively and the drinks kept coming. An old woman came around with a tray of shots of whiskey, which she placed in front of each player. Each raised their glasses, and one man made a toast: “To the Opossum Society, and to new friends.” They all drank and the dealer continued with a new hand.

My grandfather said the tone of the game changed. All the din of small talk and high conversation was replaced with the quiet shuffling of cards, and the clinking of chips. Sensing this, my grandfather bet conservatively — but it became increasingly difficult as the pot grew.

Finally deciding the most he’d be out was the money he walked in with, he went all in on the next hand. The entire table called, and the cards came down. Although there was a clear winner, and it wasn’t my grandfather, all eyes on the table turned to one of the other players, who had trash cards and no chips left. Sweating, he plead with the dealer, the others in the society, even the old Indian woman.

“You know the rules,” said the winner. At this, the losing player burst into tears and, knocking over his stool, ran out of the place whimpering and moaning.

The other players congratulated my grandfather, saying he’d played a good game, and that he had an open invitation to play next time they gathered. The old woman came around with another tray of shots and set them down, when my grandfather said, “no more for me, thanks, I’ve got to get home.” But she insisted he drink. He asked why.

The winning player leaned in and told him.

“It’s the antidote.”

—Based on a story my dad told me of a dream he had.

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Candle Cove

by on Mar.15, 2009, under By Kris Straub

NetNostalgia Forum – Television (local)

Subject: Candle Cove local kid’s show?

Does anyone remember this kid’s show? It was called Candle Cove and I must have been 6 or 7. I never found reference to it anywhere so I think it was on a local station around 1971 or 1972. I lived in Ironton at the time. I don’t remember which station, but I do remember it was on at a weird time, like 4:00 PM.

Subject: Re: Candle Cove local kid’s show?

it seems really familiar to me…..i grew up outside of ashland and was 9 yrs old in 72. candle cove…was it about pirates? i remember a pirate marionete at the mouth of a cave talking to a little girl

Re: Candle Cove local kid’s show?
YES! Okay I’m not crazy! I remember Pirate Percy. I was always kind of scared of him. He looked like he was built from parts of other dolls, real low-budget. His head was an old porcelain baby doll, looked like an antique that didn’t belong on the body. I don’t remember what station this was! I don’t think it was WTSF though.

Re: Candle Cove local kid’s show?
Sorry to ressurect this old thread but I know exactly what show you mean, Skyshale. I think Candle Cove ran for only a couple months in ’71, not ’72. I was 12 and I watched it a few times with my brother. It was channel 58, whatever station that was. My mom would let me switch to it after the news. Let me see what I remember.

It took place in Candle cove, and it was about a little girl who imagined herself to be friends with pirates. The pirate ship was called the Laughingstock, and Pirate Percy wasn’t a very good pirate because he got scared too easily. And there was calliope music constantly playing. Don’t remember the girl’s name. Janice or Jade or something. Think it was Janice.

Re: Candle Cove local kid’s show?
Thank you Jaren!!! Memories flooded back when you mentioned the Laughingstock and channel 58. I remember the bow of the ship was a wooden smiling face, with the lower jaw submerged. It looked like it was swallowing the sea and it had that awful Ed Wynn voice and laugh. I especially remember how jarring it was when they switched from the wooden/plastic model, to the foam puppet version of the head that talked.

Subject: Re: Candle Cove local kid’s show?

ha ha i remember now too. ;) do you remember this part skyshale: “you have…to go…INSIDE.”

Re: Candle Cove local kid’s show?
Ugh mike, I got a chill reading that. Yes I remember. That’s what the ship always told Percy when there was a spooky place he had to go in, like a cave or a dark room where the treasure was. And the camera would push in on Laughingstock’s face with each pause. YOU HAVE… TO GO… INSIDE. With his two eyes askew and that flopping foam jaw and the fishing line that opened and closed it. Ugh. It just looked so cheap and awful.

You guys remember the villain? He had a face that was just a handlebar mustache above really tall, narrow teeth.

Re: Candle Cove local kid’s show?
i honestly, honestly thought the villain was pirate percy. i was about 5 when this show was on. nightmare fuel.

Re: Candle Cove local kid’s show?
That wasn’t the villain, the puppet with the mustache. That was the villain’s sidekick, Horace Horrible. He had a monocle too, but it was on top of the mustache. I used to think that meant he had only one eye.

But yeah, the villain was another marionette. The Skin-Taker. I can’t believe what they let us watch back then.

Re: Candle Cove local kid’s show?
jesus h. christ, the skin taker. what kind of a kids show were we watching? i seriously could not look at the screen when the skin taker showed up. he just descended out of nowhere on his strings, just a dirty skeleton wearing that brown top hat and cape. and his glass eyes that were too big for his skull. christ almighty.

Re: Candle Cove local kid’s show?
Wasn’t his top hat and cloak all sewn up crazily? Was that supposed to be children’s skin??

Subject: Re: Candle Cove local kid’s show?

yeah i think so. rememer his mouth didn’t open and close, his jaw just slid back and foth. i remember the little girl said “why does your mouth move like that” and the skin-taker didn’t look at the girl but at the camera and said “TO GRIND YOUR SKIN”

Re: Candle Cove local kid’s show?
I’m so relieved that other people remember this terrible show!

I used to have this awful memory, a bad dream I had where the opening jingle ended, the show faded in from black, and all the characters were there, but the camera was just cutting to each of their faces, and they were just screaming, and the puppets and marionettes were flailing spastically, and just all screaming, screaming. The girl was just moaning and crying like she had been through hours of this. I woke up many times from that nightmare. I used to wet the bed when I had it.

Re: Candle Cove local kid’s show?
i don’t think that was a dream. i remember that. i remember that was an episode.

Re: Candle Cove local kid’s show?
No no no, not possible. There was no plot or anything, I mean literally just standing in place crying and screaming for the whole show.

Re: Candle Cove local kid’s show?
maybe i’m manufacturing the memory because you said that, but i swear to god i remember seeing what you described. they just screamed.

Re: Candle Cove local kid’s show?
Oh God. Yes. The little girl, Janice, I remember seeing her shake. And the Skin-Taker screaming through his gnashing teeth, his jaw careening so wildly I thought it would come off its wire hinges. I turned it off and it was the last time I watched. I ran to tell my brother and we didn’t have the courage to turn it back on.

Subject: Re: Candle Cove local kid’s show?

i visited my mom today at the nursing home. i asked her about when i was littel in the early 70s, when i was 8 or 9 and if she remebered a kid’s show, candle cove. she said she was suprised i could remember that and i asked why, and she said “because i used to think it was so strange that you said ‘i’m gona go watch candle cove now mom’ and then you would tune the tv to static and juts watch dead air for 30 minutes. you had a big imagination with your little pirate show.”


Author’s note: Candle Cove is a work of fiction that first appeared online at this site on March 15, 2009. There was no Candle Cove television show in West Virginia or anywhere else for that matter. Read my interview on writing Candle Cove here, or my thoughts on the story here.

Creative Commons License
Candle Cove is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at www.ichorfalls.com.

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The Blue Man

by on Jan.12, 2009, under Submitted

If you see the Blue Man walk
Mind to him you do not talk.
For if you see the Blue Man smile
Your sweet soul he will defile
– From “The Blue Man”, traditional folk ballad

Samuel Douglas drove home from town, taking the main highway instead of the usual back roads that he was particular to. He hadn’t had much business in town, so his visit was short and sweet. Spending time talking to the other men who farmed the area, the last few holdouts who hadn’t been bought out by any of the big conglomerates yet. It wouldn’t be too long before Ned Harrison sold though. Crops weren’t doing well. Sick child in bed. Sell the land and get a pretty check in the mail. Maybe they’d even let you stay on and work the land.

Sam shook his head. There wouldn’t ever be a time that he’d work another man’s land, not for any amount of money. His was his and had been in his family since folks started coming out here to the Midwest and he’d be damned if he was going to be the one that let it go.

(continue reading…)

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The Damp Lady

by on Dec.29, 2008, under Submitted

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.)

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by on Dec.29, 2008, under Submitted

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.

(continue reading…)

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Chateau d’Augustine

by on Dec.11, 2008, under Submitted

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.

(continue reading…)

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by on Dec.05, 2008, under Submitted

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.

(continue reading…)

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by on Dec.03, 2008, under Meta

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.

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