Ichor Falls



by on Nov.25, 2008, under Submitted


Darkness descended on Avery like waves. She watched it dance and shift on the walls of her bedroom, growing darker and darker the longer she watched it. The shapes undulated and swam never keeping a form for longer than a second. Sometimes she could recognize the shape. A person. A bat. Other.

People recognize patterns. That is what the eyes do. That is what makes art something than just a series of lines and colors. A TV show more than a splatter of dots. We find patterns everywhere. A fluffy bunny floating down a lazy path in the sky. A face in wooden paneling. Nothing new. Nothing strange. Just something the brain does to make sense of the world and to comfort itself.

But what was ever comforting and sense-making about the shapes on the wall?

Avery rolled over and pressed against her boyfriend’s naked back. She hated the feel of it. She had heard before that we choose our mates by scent. His smell nauseated her. She wondered if she should wake him up before her mom got home. She wondered if she even cared anymore.

She closed her eyes, and the shapes kept dancing on the backs of her eyelids.


Her mother didn’t care about Mike staying over. Or didn’t notice. Or just never came home. It wouldn’t be the first time.

They walked hand in hand through Lower Alethia not making eye contact, because that seemed like the thing to do. The eyes are the window of the soul. Also the first thing to decay. It had occurred to Avery that Alethia would have been the town’s eyes.

They climbed a tree in front of the parking garage and skipped pebbles over the hoods of oncoming cars. No school today to fill the void. So today’s agenda was petty vandalism and pot.

Mike launched a stone. It crunched into the passenger side window of a passing Lincoln. A corner of the glass spider webbed into tiny squares. The car halt to a halt with a piercing screech.

(continue reading…)

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Wolves of the Stillwood

by on Nov.21, 2008, under Submitted

There are no wolves in the Stillwood.

The gray wolves of Virginia were made extinct over a hundred years ago. According to the regular surveys by the National Forestry service, no sign of any such animal has been found since 1900. The occasional reports of large predators, just after dusk or late at night, usually by the occasional hiker or party of campers in the Stillwood (residents of Lower Alethia, nearest the woods like myself, know better than to try), receive the same tired reply from Animal Control.

“There are no wolves in the Stillwood.”

When a pet gets lost in the dark of the Stillwood and never returns… or worse is found, mauled, the blame falls on the usual suspects: foxes, wild dogs or teenagers with too much time and too little compassion. A few years back, when the Bradleys, a little family brand new to the Falls, had their boy David go missing from their own backyard, never finding more than scraps of his jacket and a little blood at the edge of the forest, the official response was adamant: this was a kidnapping, not an animal attack. Old-timers like me just shook our heads and muttered to ourselves:

“There are no wolves in the Stillwood.”

So, if you want to sleep at night this close to the forest, keep your doors locked tight and your shutters closed fast, if just to buy some peace of mind, to stop you from catching a glimpse of the Stillwood late at night. And should you somehow find yourself walking near, or God forbid through, the woods some evening, head home as quick as you can. Try to ignore the sounds of the night wind, howling as it does… it will only make your imagination run wild, after all. And should you see what cannot be polychrome eyes, shining through the mists from the underbrush or somehow in the branches above, or even through your gauze of your windows should you be blessed enough to make it safely home, take what comfort you can in this thought.

There are no wolves in the Stillwood.

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Shining One From Above the Clouds

by on Nov.18, 2008, under Submitted

Excerpt from “Displaced Gods: Mythology Connections Amongst Forgotten Peoples,” Dr. James W. Heyer; Bristol Press, St. John’s Fields, 1917

Of an interesting parallel between certain vanished African, Inuit, and Asian native groups, is a creation story gathered from the oral tradition of the Moneton tribe in West Virginia; where this creation story breaks from the others, however, is that it seems not a world- and mankind-creation story, but a very geographic- and tribe- specific location. Another way it differs from the others in the “Shining One” arc, is that it makes little mention of Shining One’s people or home (which in other stories, is always mentioned as being ‘above the clouds,’ or ‘beyond the moon’ [Kleiner, 1903]).

Little is known of the Moneton, save for isolated instances of trading “pelts of strange and curious nature” [Alvord, 1911], and having what local legend described as a “curious and hesitant nature — uneasy was their approach, and always did they seem to listen for sounds unheard” [Bidgood and Heyer, 1909].

(continue reading…)

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So Cold

by on Nov.17, 2008, under Submitted

Carl woke up, his eyes opening in darkness. He blinked once and then looked out the window. In the dim light of early morning, he could see snow falling in clumps and dizzy swirls. He turned his head to the side and looked at his clock. 6:00 AM. Far too early to be up. A faint flicker in his subconscious as he remembered… something. Something had woken him up.

He lay there, his mind working in sluggish turns, trying to remember a half-forgotten dream. He shivered a bit. In spite of the heater, it was chilly and goosebumps had risen on his arms. He blew out an experimental breath and saw a pale cloud. Christ, there had to be a window open somewhere or maybe he’d left open the front door when he came back.


He sat up now, the sleepmud that clogged his mind falling away rapidly. The voice, the slight whisper, that’s what had woken him up.


But it wasn’t a dream, he could still hear it. So quiet, so still that it was almost imagined, but it was there. A whispered voice as substantial as breath.

so cold

He looked around the room, his eyes trying to make sense of the dark forms around him, trying to see if there was someone there. But there wasn’t. There couldn’t be. He looked at the pillow that lay next to his own, as though expecting her to be there, but she wasn’t. He even lay his hand on that empty side, to see if there was some trace of warmth. But there was just a chill.

He released a shuddering breath and saw it caught upon the air, watched as it hung suspended and then faded.

so cold

A hand stroked his cheek and he pulled away from it. His skin tingled from the touch, but it had not been warm. Phantom fingers that were steel and stone and ice and drew the warmth from him.

It sounded like her. So much like her. He couldn’t move, just waited to see if he could hear her again, knowing that it was her.

i’m so cold

And again invisible hands touched his face, plaintive and lingering. He recoiled from them, his skin numb from that lingering caress.

He realized he was holding his breath and he let it out in a shiver. It stayed in front of him and hovered there and Carl swore he could see a face, briefly, quickly and then it was gone. Grey eyes, grey skin, grey lips formed in vapor. Such a brief glimmer but he knew the face, had seen it beside him every night for the last ten years. Every night except for the last. And now she was gone.

carl, i’m so cold

His heart beat out a staccato rhythm and he shuddered. His hands shook and his teeth chattered. The water in glass on the end table next to his bed had frozen over. Even the beads of condensation had frozen, small glass tears clung to the glass.

The hands again, holding the sides of his face. At first, that same light touch. But as he tried to pull away, they began to grip, hard and steely. He tried to free himself, to break away, to get away from the cold. His face went numb and his breath came out in rapid pants.

The face appeared again in the whorls. Her eyes staring at him and her lips parted.

carl, i’m so cold

He could see more details. That one hair that always hung in her face, even when it was in a ponytail. The small scar on her chin. The small, round hole right above her left eye.

She leaned forward, still holding his head and he let out a long low moan.

carl, i’m so cold

She kissed him. His lips cracked and froze. His eyes glazed over with frost. And deep within his chest, his heart labored to beat solid blood and then his heart turned to crystal.

He was so cold.

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Rage Against the Dying of the Light

by on Nov.14, 2008, under Submitted

I stare into the fire and I refuse to look away. There is something trance inducing about the way fire moves. It flickers, darts, licking and catching. I keep looking into the fire ignoring the shadows gathering around me. I have to ignore them. I’ve got to finish this.

I couldn’t tell you when all of this started. Some days it feels like centuries could have passed, that empires might have risen and fallen. So much time has passed…

I had just started working at the high school. I was just one more English teacher thrown into the mix to replace one who had retired the year before. An interchangeable part to teach the basic mechanics of grammar and that godawful Ethan Frome. The sadist who stuck that one into the curriculum deserves to be hanged.

But I don’t want to talk about the job. That’s not what’s important now. Hell, it wasn’t even important then.

It was just work, something to pay the bills while I tried to get my writing off the ground. Inside every English teacher lurks a writer, either failed or just starting out. I worked during the day trying to get sullen teens to appreciate books that I could barely stand and then came home to face crippling writer’s block.

I wasn’t very happy.

After the first week of school, I was drained. The last thing I wanted to do was write. But that Friday I sat at my desk at home and stared at that white screen, willing the words to appear. And nothing happened. Nothing happened. Nothing happened.

“Fuck it.”

(continue reading…)

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The Mutterings of Stillwood

by on Nov.12, 2008, under Submitted

Found within the folds of a brittle, yellowing newspaper:

Ichor Falls Sentinel, January 26,  1948
Ichor Falls, West Virginia
Stillwood: A brief survey of the case; dated the twenty-first of November, 1946.

Stillwood, a dark reach of nature’s grasping hand, storied by local legend, sapped the public interest in what came to be a singularly grim November month, during the waning days of the year nineteen forty-six. The primordial trees and curious thickets shone vaguely through an almost tangible mist -– crooked silhouettes of hunched copses waited patiently, conspiring against those who should enter their centred domain. The collection of gnarled trees, standing gaunt in their lofty heights, and the dwarfed coppices crowded about their grasping roots, illustrated the wretched wood; and the lurid presence of Stillwood was altogether unbearable.

At the turn of the month, the townsfolk, determined about their labours, and given to neglecting “unnecessary interest,” heeded little this daemonic manifestation; until later, approaching the advent of the following month, attention was brought about the first isolated cases of a controversial illness; caused by chemical exposure to a secondary compound, Ethylor, found in the sealants and varnishes commonly used to treat the inordinately brittle wood harvested from the outer thickets.

(continue reading…)

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by on Nov.12, 2008, under Submitted

Ichor Falls isn’t exactly what I like to call my dream town.

As if the name of this place wasn’t bad enough already the college kids who come in from Maple Grove University call it The Ick. Almost everyday the town is submerged in mist, and the clear days (technically they’re only clearer) always happen to be when I’m at work. The constant fog is so bad I can’t go out on a drive and enjoy myself without the fear of hitting a deer, or worse, a person. Even the simple act of having a barbeque in this town seems depressing. I usually spent my weekends trapped inside the house, only venturing out to go shopping downtown.

On one of these Saturdays I was sitting at home and reading a book. I’m usually more of a TV man, but I had the audacity to challenge the fog and buy a satellite dish. The reception was pretty poor and I still hadn’t made the change over to cable. After only a few minutes of reading, a knock came at my door.

I haven’t had any guests since I moved in, not even neighbors. I made my way through the house and peered out the window. To my surprise, an old man wearing clerical vestments was standing on the doorstep. He had a bible in one hand, and a crucifix was dangling from around his neck — a Catholic priest by the look of him. I wished he would go away, but I decided to answer the door. Better to rip it off like a band-aid and get it over with, rather than have him interrupt me again later.

“Hello,” I said as I opened the door. “What can I do for you?”

“My name is Father Thomas Caldwell. May I come in, sir?”

I didn’t want him to. “Sure.” I led him into the living room and offered him a seat. He took it with a smile. “Can I get you anything?”

“No, thank you. May I ask what religion you belong to?” Looks like he was getting straight to the point at least.

“Well, I’m a non-practicing Catholic. I haven’t gone to church since high school.” The father’s genial mood didn’t waver at this.

“On behalf of the congregation of St. George’s Parish, I extend an invitation for you to join us at mass tomorrow morning.”

“I appreciate the offer, but I’m not what you’d call a firm believer.”

“I implore you to reconsider. Some of the other… religions in town can be a bit more… persistent about obtaining new members. They wouldn’t bother you if you belonged to a church such as ours.”

“What, do you have a particularly bad case of Jehovah’s Witnesses around here?”

“You could say that.”

I just wanted him to be out of my house so I could get back to my book. “I’ll think about it, Father. I don’t think I should make a decision like that without serious thought.” I hoped he bought it.

“Indeed. I pray we see you there tomorrow.” He was sold! We shook hands and I showed him out. With the door safely sealed, I ran back to my reading chair.

As soon as I sat down there was another knock at the door.

Who could this be… ?

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History Lesson

by on Nov.11, 2008, under Submitted

Step right up, step right up!

Yes, you! Right this way!

Come and experience the one, the only,

the world renowned

Maximilien Isidore
proudly presents
(based on the works of Louis Daguerre, of course)

the Polyrama Panoptique!!

Proving that history is fiction today made fact!

Before your very eyes, we shall recount those years in which FREE MEN

stood up in the face of TYRANNY

fine virtues of course which we now know and cherish,

for in those days the people’s enemies led by TERROR
but our stalwart brothers lived by REASON!

This way, this way!

Under the folds of this tent you will find we have spared no expense,
left no stone unturned, no egg unbroken,
to bring you the most modern and advanced display of man’s progress!!

(continue reading…)

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My Life by J.G. Norrington

by on Nov.11, 2008, under Submitted

I got a job at the public library this summer. It wasn’t because I was strapped for cash — my parents were one of the prime investors in developing Ichor Falls, and they were always willing to help me “fund the local economy,” it was because I needed to get out of the house; away from the oppressively humid fog that circled our aging property.

The library is one of the only eternally cool buildings in town due to being constructed into the side of a hill; a network of sloping subterranean chambers, spiraling deeply into the earth so that the entrance was actually the third floor while the older books were down on the first. The story goes that the building was put here when a potential iron mine would not yield its expected fruit and the furious landowners gave up the land for public use. That was close to 200 years ago.

I was hired to do the dully repetitive job of transforming the card catalog into a computer database, another cog in New Elysium’s convoluted plot to revitalize the town. The third and second floors were a simple enough task; one card at a time, cataloging texts from the start to the finish of the last century. When I came across a particularly illegible card I would consult the ailing librarian, a Mr. Pennsworth, but otherwise I had started building up a fairly impressive database of hypothetical volumes.

(continue reading…)

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by on Nov.10, 2008, under Submitted

Business these days… it ain’t what it was.

Moved here back in… don’t even remember now; it’s been that long. Figured, town needs a convenience store — hell, the whole world seems to need convenience stores. Why deprive myself of a steady living? Built my little store. Easy access to the highway, to the town main road. No-brainer, right? Get the tourists coming in for the Falls, and get the locals who need a quick somethin’-or-other. I win, the town wins, works all around.

Seemed to work for a time, too: got the locals pretty regularly, got the tourists sometimes, even got the odd state trooper who was comin’ in to have a look-around.

That store was the first smart thing I did. Life just crawls by when you got worries. Bills to pay, job after job, letting you go, gettin’ fired or laid off. Not now that I owned somethin’ people needed, people wanted. Time went by, I didn’t even notice. Years. Made pretty good money for my station, though I can’t say I saved much. How the time did fly.

Did notice though, when the tourists started dropping off, and the state troopers started picking up. I still had the locals, but they started bein’ different locals: at first, it was just poorer than usual, slower than usual — had to repeat myself when talkin’ to them, y’know? Also noticed how they wouldn’t come in the store if the troopers were here — figured it was ‘cuz they were illegals or somethin’. Nothing against that — times were gettin’ tough all over, and s’long as they paid, I had no complaints.

Nights were hardest — long nights, just me and the store, the odd shufflin’ local coming in or goin’, the lights buzzin’ overhead. Got to talkin’ to myself, playin’ the radio to make it seem like there was more company — these new customers couldn’t chit-chat for crap, I tell you that. Some seemed more smarter than others, but even they wouldn’t talk; you’d get a grunt or three, but mostly they just stared at you with this gleam in their eyes.

(continue reading…)

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