Ichor Falls

By Kris Straub

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)

Skyshale033
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.

mike_painter65
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

Skyshale033
Subject:
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.

Jaren_2005
Subject:
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.

Skyshale033
Subject:
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.

mike_painter65
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.”

Skyshale033
Subject:
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.

kevin_hart
Subject:
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.

Jaren_2005
Subject:
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.

kevin_hart
Subject:
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.

Skyshale033
Subject:
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??

mike_painter65
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”

Skyshale033
Subject:
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.

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

Skyshale033
Subject:
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.

kevin_hart
Subject:
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.

Jaren_2005
Subject:
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.

mike_painter65
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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OSD09-H03

by on Jan.09, 2009, under By Kris Straub

“How — what — what kind of foods do they have?”

Four independent subroutines went to work analyzing the phrase uttered by the four-year-old: expression context, voice recognition, tone analysis, body language. Tone analysis needed to be the fastest, and luckily it was also the simplest. No quavering or whining detected. Had it been, the other subroutines would have been directed to stop, and control would be given over to an array of prewritten comfort dialogues.

Expression context came next. Eye contact from the child was only occasional. The image analysis package, in concert with the body language and expression routines, determined that the child, a fair-haired boy, was occupied by something below frame. The RFID scan identified it as a toy train, one of twelve toys in the room. The dialogue routine was updated with the name of the object, potentially to be used later if the child remained silent for a specified amount of time (“Hey, is that a toy train you’ve got there?”).

Voice recognition had been dissecting the phrase all this time. Tone analysis supported the conclusion that the child had asked a question.

??t k?’??d? fudz’ du ðe? hæv ?

“Food” triggered a subarray of typical questions, and once the substrings “kind of” and “they” had been identified and routed through the context and grammar parsers, it was a simple matter to locate the most likely question being asked.

The response set, indexed by question, was accessed and syllabically divided for the vocal synthesis package. Then, poring over a hash table of pre-identified lingual structures of the child’s father, the synthesizer generated an audio file by conflating the two data streams. The file is equalized to include a bassy subaudio component at 180 Hz, creating a comforting, warm “in-room” effect that mimics the tone heard by the child with their head upon the father’s chest.

Meanwhile, a 1280×700 image of the father, taken years ago when he was first deployed, is overlayed onto a digital model (from the neck up only — originally the Department of Defense had planned to include hands so the model could gesture, but this was abandoned early due to overcomplexity). The resulting hybrid passes through a series of basic lingual configurations (augmented with syllable-stress-driven head movements) and converted into a number of keyframes.

These individual frames can be presented directly on the viewing screen, synchronized to the audio file. A series of static-simulating filters create “webcam believability” and reduce Morian “uncanny valley” effects, which children have been shown to be particularly sensitive to. Once it was understood that they want to believe, the goal became to give them less visual fidelity, not more.

“They give us all kinds of foods here to keep us healthy. Lots of things like vegetables, steak, chicken. Even some of your favorites like pizza. You like pizza, huh, buddy?”

The microphone registers no audio response, but expression context identifies upturned corners of the mouth and squinting eyes.

“I miss you, daddy.”

A timer preset with a value of five minutes plus or minus anywhere from zero to thirty seconds reaches zero. A half-dozen randomly-selected dialogue trees are deallocated from memory.

“I miss you too, Josh. I’m coming home real soon, okay? Daddy has to go now. Be a good boy, okay? I love you. I love you.”

Somewhere in the room, a hard drive whirs.

Inspired by http://www.boingboing.net/2009/01/07/dod-wants-parent-bot.html

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Twenty Minutes in the Dark

by on Nov.07, 2008, under By Kris Straub

Kay bolted upright in bed.

She could swear she heard something. A crack, a thump; something low and bassy, but sudden, and loud, and it came from beyond the closed door to her bedroom. She moved her phone aside to see the bright red numbers on her nightstand radio: 3:03 AM.

She sat very still in the pitch darkness, her concentration entirely focused on what she could hear — which at the moment was nothing.

A minute crept by. She slept with every door in the house shut; something she used to do when she was younger because she was afraid of ghosts. She realized it was stupid to assume a ghost would bother to open a door, but it made her feel safer. Just as pulling the blankets over her head did, which she contemplated doing.

(continue reading…)

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The Stillwood King

by on Nov.03, 2008, under By Kris Straub

In 1806, settler Elijah Brown became lost for two days in what would later be named the Stillwood Forest, a deceptively-small wooded area southwest of Ichor Falls proper. When he returned to the town, Brown was gaunt, dehydrated and starving to the point of near death, and insisted that he was lost not for two days but nine. He also had carefully kept journal entries with the rise and set of the sun, and indeed he had made nine of them. Exhaustion and confusion clearly played a factor in augmenting Brown’s story — and of course, after a hard winter, there’s no record of how dehydrated and starved Brown may have been before getting lost.

Later expeditions into the Stillwood showed that the forest floor is incredibly thick with vegetation, with tall, rail-thin trees making most passage exceedingly difficult. Add to this three similarly-curving creeks and streams flowing off the Erytheia, the natural sound-dampening of the trees, and foliage sometimes so thick that it blocks the sky, and you have a recipe for losing one’s way quite easily.

(continue reading…)

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Curious Little Thing

by on Oct.31, 2008, under By Kris Straub

I have an odd habit a friend recently picked up on, a habit I developed about a year ago. He noticed that when I enter a room, any room, and shut the door, I turn my face away from it and close my eyes until I hear the lock click. Only after the door is fully closed will I open them. He gave me a hard time about it until I told him where it started.

I work for a water-seal company in St. Paul. We produce sealant for exposed wood — decks, boats, that kind of thing. You hear about sealant being a dirty word in the Ashland-Ichor Falls-Ironton area, but not all those companies were part of the infamous “Ethylor summer” that wiped out the local economy in the ’50s. I got sent to an industrial park outside of Ichor Falls on business.

I checked into this dismal hotel, the Hotel Umbra, that looked like the decor hadn’t been changed since 1930. The lobby wallpaper had gone yellow from decades of cigarette smoke, and everything had a fine layer of dust, including the old man behind the front desk. I hoped that the room would be in better shape. Mine was on the fourth floor.

Being an old place, the hotel had a rickety cable elevator, the kind with the double sets of doors: one of those flexing metal gates, and a solid outer pair of doors. I shut the gate and latched it, and pressed the tiny black button for my floor.

Just as the outer elevator doors were about to close, I was startled by the face of a young woman rushing at the gap between them. She was too late; the doors shut, and after a moment the elevator ascended.

(continue reading…)

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Lemon Blossom Girl

by on Oct.30, 2008, under By Kris Straub

My father used to take me to the Natural History and Science Museum, downtown, when I was six. That was where I first saw her.

I remember thinking what a pretty name for someone that was, the “Lemon Blossom Girl.” I have never been able to forget the time I laid eyes on the Lemon Blossom Girl, imprisoned in the tall glass case smudged with the fingerprints of all the other children who had come to stare at her. But she could not stare back.

(continue reading…)

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The Hirsch Camera (1870)

by on Oct.29, 2008, under By Kris Straub

A real object that has made its way into Ichor Falls folklore is the Hirsch Camera, on seasonal display at the tiny Rand Historical Society Museum near the town center. Its inventor, chemist Robert Hirsch, can claim ancestry back to the original eighty-two settlers of Ichor Falls. He remarked in letters to colleagues that the town “resided in a wonder-land of alchemical potential… I believe there is no more [diverse] geology West of the Alleghanies.”

(continue reading…)

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Totenkinder Nursery Rhyme

by on Oct.29, 2008, under By Kris Straub

Make my house from twigs and sticks
Father, father
I have no clay, I have no bricks
Father sings.

Build my house and make it strong
Mother, mother
It will keep you winter long
Mother sings.

In the evening tend the fire
Good child, good child
Careful not to let it higher
Good child sings.

In the morning, early morning
Ashes, ashes
Mother cries and father warning
Bad child gone.

— Traditional

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The Fulcrum

by on Oct.27, 2008, under By Kris Straub

You will either die or lose your mind if you reach the end of this sentence, so stop reading it — in the early 1930s, a research group of psychologists, semioticists and English professors in Austria were researching the fundamentals of understanding language; it was believed, rather than language simply being an arbitrary (albeit varyingly complex) system of mnemonics for our conceptualization of reality, that perhaps once learned and internalized, our use of language actually became embedded within the root thought processes involved in our filtration of external, ordered stimuli and thereby our very grasp of reality, and this team of researchers distilled what turned out to be a symbolic halt mechanism into a new kind of punctuation: not a period, or exclamation point, or question mark, but a cognitive “escape character” they referred to as the “ablation mark,” or fulcrum for short — though whether the word “fulcrum” betrays the visual appearance or actual textual annotation of this new punctuation really, REALLY should not be dwelled upon even though as a glyph it is fairly unremarkable (it operates differently when encountered as a component of grammar) — regardless you should have stopped reading this sentence long, long ago because at some point I’ve got to end it and it won’t be with a period, or an exclamation point, or a question mark, but with a fulcrum and only a fulcrum, because I’ve used all the colons, semicolons, parentheses and em-dashes I possibly can, and yet you continue reading, making it very difficult for me to continue to make this sentence grammatically correct, which it MUST be for it is the only thing keeping ME from dying or losing MY mind, because I DID see the fulcrum and began writing this sentence in an attempt to maintain my already-faltering grasp on a world of ordered concepts and symbols tied to meaning, to stave off the deconstruction of my earliest memories of language, since it is this deconstruction upon viewing the ablation mark that is so sudden and so SEVERE that the victim’s sensory perception actually briefly HALTS, leaving the mind locked in total isolation that cannot be described as darkness or even absence of darkness, which in turn brings about a catastrophic sympathetic response of the central nervous system, a response that I have only managed to DELAY with a PURELY GRAMMATICALLY CORRECT SENTENCE which I CANNOT ALLOW TO END, and yet MUST END, because I CANNOT TYPE FOREVER A PURELY GRAMMATICALLY CORRECT SENTENCE WHEN I HAVE USED ALL AVAILABLE PUNCTUATION, INCLUDING COLONS, SEMICOLONS, PARENTHESES, EM-DASHES, HYPHENS, SAVE FOR THE DAMNED ABLATION MARK WHICH IF YOU VALUE YOUR LIFE YOU WOULD BREAK YOUR GAZE WITH THIS SINGLE SENTENCE IMMEDIATELY FOR THE FULCRUM IS REAL AND IT IS ABSENCE OF ABSENCE AND I CAN’T GO ON USING WORDS LIKE “FOR” AND “BUT” AND “AND” TO STRING MORE CLAUSES ONTO THIS STILL-BUT-NOT-FOR-LONG PURELY GRAMMATICALLY CORRECT SENTENCE, SO GOD HELP ME AND HAVE MERCY ON MY SOUL, AND FORGIVE ME FOR WHAT I AM ABOUT TO DO, BUT I NEVER SHOULD HAVE OPENED THAT DRAWER IN HIS OFFICE AND IF I HAD NEVER READ THE PAPER I’D HAVE NEVER SEEN THE FULCRUM BUT GOD HELP ME I DID

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