Ichor Falls

By Kris Straub

Indistinguishable

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

“It is a process which I derived empirically. All motion, either generated by or imparted to an object, obeys the same principle. When your arm moves, is the motion continuous, or are there discretized points, however small, at which there is no in-between?”

“The latter case, I would imagine, at some subatomic level,” I offer.

“Indeed,” he replies. “In my work, I have discovered it matters not the timeframe in which the motion occurs, nor the force that impels it. On film, during the traditional application of the process, the movement is indistinguishable from life. Would you agree?”

“Aside from the crudity of the animation as has been practiced in the past,” I say, “that is entirely the point.”

“Yes, you have chosen the perfect word,” he says, opening the black leather bag I have been eyeing since we entered the room. Perhaps he has noticed. “The stop-motion animator’s work is quite crude. I have refined the processes, and refined them again until the medium was freed of its old moorings, yes? A new art form emerged, and a new science. At a sufficient level the two are indistinguishable.”

“Many things seem to be,” I say. He smiles at this.

“But enough talk,” he returns as his smile is replaced with a stern air of professionalism. There is some hint of pride in his face, though, as he says “perhaps, to begin, I should introduce you to one of my assistants.”

He claps his hands three times. From a shadowy corner, a misshapen clay thing the size of a man shambles jerkily across the room towards us, its skin rippling as if plied by countless unseen fingers.

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Three Miles Up a Narrow Dirt Road

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

Leighton had given up on his garden faster than he’d given up on other hobbies, pastimes, occupations, acquaintances, friends. He’d started one out of the sheer boredom of living out here, in farmland considered secluded even for the Falls. His closest neighbors seemed to glean some kind of satisfaction from tending small gardens; they were at least three miles down the narrow dirt road in either direction, which he liked. Contrasted with the depth of Leighton’s other emotions, “like” was an ocean.

This garden, if it could be called that now or ever, had yielded nothing — a few stark white shoots that dried yellow and wrinkled; countless weeds; and, in the far corner nearest the back of the house by the rusting water meter, one sad green tomato immediately beset upon by caterpillars. He ran his fingers through what was left of his gray hair, and considered pulling all the plants up, but it was a thought that had come to him many times in the past, never acted upon. Let the earth do what it will, he thought.

Leighton’s existence was both bleak and self-applied. He had had a life once, known people once. A child of a stern upbringing, he had worked as a materials scientist, a metallurgist, for an iron ore refinery up in Point Pleasant for forty-odd years, and took early retirement. He attempted to teach physics to high school students for a year or so, but he had no interest in imparting knowledge to those too stubborn to receive it.

There was something pathetic, infuriating about youth today and their parents. The people of Point Pleasant — or anywhere really. People got on Leighton’s nerves; sometimes he couldn’t understand how anyone could stand to be a part of the world.

Ichor Falls was a dim town, a gray town, which appealed to him — the locals kept to themselves, and in all the time he’d lived out here he never considered himself one of them. The mist gave him a good, cold feeling. From this distance he could barely even make out the lights of the highway.

The feeling was broken, often, by the local newspaper delivery. The man parked his truck further south where the dirt wasn’t so soft, and walked the 300 yards up to Leighton’s mailbox. He kept thinking one of these days he’d have to move it further away from the house; as it is around this time of day he tried to be inside so as to avoid small talk. But here Leighton was, standing outside staring at his garden. He set his jaw.

The delivery man waved a long wave as he came closer with a stack of ads Leighton had no interest in reading. “Morning, Leighton.”

“Morning.”

“Last stop of the day. Always good to see you — means my shift is over.” He had made this joke too many times to count.

“Just in the box, please.”

“No time for chit-chat, huh? Something you’ve gotta get back to?”

“I enjoy my solitude, and I wish you’d respect that,” Leighton said, already moving towards his front door. He stopped and turned back to the man. “And if all you have for me is advertising, then make your last stop somewhere else.”

“You want us to suspend delivery, then? I can put in the form for you, but you’ll have to sign it.”

Leighton responded by angrily slamming his front door.

This was his never-ending experience with others — no matter what steps you took to be left alone, it intruded. It persisted. Wasn’t it obvious from the way he acted, Leighton thought, what his desires were? From the company he didn’t keep? From the places he refused to live? From the state of his garden? He had a house full of journals and books to read.

What could be more simple, more easily carried out, than to leave another man completely alone?

(continue reading…)

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Excerpts from A Room at Cedarspring

by on Aug.06, 2008, under By Kris Straub

“A Room at Cedarspring” (2008) is a locally-produced documentary by West Virginia filmmaker Warren Jeffs.

Cedarspring at the Falls, a gated community in the Elysia district, was completed in 2006. A sprawling confluence of townhouse, apartment and loft living, Cedarspring occupies one of the more scenic regions in or near the Ichor Falls area, nestled in the grasslands beside the falls themselves.

The community is made up of 80 townhomes, 50 lofts and 50 single-bedroom apartments, with the kind of aesthetic logic that puts ivy on the ten-foot-high brick wall that surrounds the complex — evoking Old World with none of that hard-to-sell history; beauty that draws you in without letting you past the front gate.

It’s a way to clamp a pleasant lid down on the less-savory aspects of the town. Despite the last decade of development and the boost to tourism, Ichor Falls is still rooted firmly in the American mind as a ghost town, a curiosity of a bygone age — if it’s in the American mind at all. The New Elysium Group, since its acquisitions in the 1980s, has invested a lot in a town comeback, but instead of a respectful merging of Ichor Falls history with a newly-planned future, New Elysium bulldozed the old; or, when required by West Virginia law, simply built around it.

(continue reading…)

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