Monday, December 1, 2014

Riffing On Some Weird Fiction Titles...

How about a few Weird Fiction titles that have left an impression on yours truly, circa 2014?  This is not comprehensive, though I expect to do reviews and/or little blurbs as part of my writing repertoire...again.  Again, though I cannot let it take over! I used to write music reviews, dear god, gods, and all in charge of distracting the writer, and lost track of my own writing, so...they'll come when they come, but I am consciously making an effort.  Not just for Weird Fiction as I'll get into Horror and all its motley relations--dark fiction in general--but I’ve been threatening to do this one for awhile, so now that I’ve completed my novel, Riding The Centipede, I can take a deep breath, read more, write outside of the parameters of that beast, and…let’s get to it.

Starting big...


 Ana Kai Tangata--Scott Nicolay

I’m going to ramble a bit as I’ve wanted to say something about Scott Nicolay’s astonishing debut collection ever since I finished reading it.  No, wait…it was probably around the time I finished reading “The Soft Frogs” I knew I had to say something.  So I wrote notes, a mess of them, fragments, observations.  Let’s see if I can make sense of them.

Shall we?

I remember reading the first story “alligators” a few years back, enjoyed the details, yet thought the ending was rushed.  I knew I wanted more, though, to follow Nicolay’s growth as a writer, because he had something here that compelled, despite my misgivings about the ending.

Growth was fully attained with the release of his debut collection, Ana Kai Tangata.  Though, to be honest and in retrospect, it was all there in “alligators,” intentions and presentation clearly defined.  I simply had to acclimate to what Nicolay was doing as a writer.

That said I skipped it, wanting to experience something else, something new.

The eight mostly long tales in Ana Kai Tangata posit a densely woven exploration of the exterior and interior landscapes to create a concise, hyper-realistic picture.  Layer upon layer, a CT scan delineated with words.  In every story, the psychological terrain is not only expressed by the motivation of characters, the terrain they are immersed in is paramount to the whole picture, bleeding into the character’s mindsets…or vice versa.  There’s deep knowledge and understanding of Weird fiction, but the tales are firmly set in the here and now, utterly distinct and uncompromising.  Nicolay has vision and sets forth with unwavering determination to convey this vision to the utmost of his immense talent.

He succeeds on every count.

I didn’t even read the title story.  I watched it as it played out on the cranial cinema in my head.  I may never have visualized a story as lucidly as this one, caver Max’s fumbling breakdown something to behold, the final image annihilating any pretext to hope.  As with many tales here, the casual asides are an essential part of the story architecture.  Offhand comments, many of them of a sexual nature, are also essential to each story’s psychological foundation.  

The only other tale I’d read by Nicolay before diving into AKT was “Eyes Exchange Bank,” from the Shirley Jackson award winning The Grimscribe’s Puppets anthology.  I could see again Nicolay was doing what he did in “alligators” until a paragraph toward the end ("Ray opened his mouth to reply, but his tongue had gone numb…”) stopped me dead in my tracks.  Nicolay had somehow touched perfection, an astonishing feat, a dense, beautiful depiction of dread, a kind of psychological (again, everything here touches on multiple layers with the perceptive reader) erosion manifested in an incapacitating way, a split second in one’s personal Hell.  I re-read the paragraph a few times before moving forward, absorbing what he had done. Fascinated…

This is something he does.  The compulsion is to re-read the tales because they so deeply cut into something inexplicable and beyond my understanding.  But I want more.  Nicolay is addictive. 

“Phragmites,”perhaps the most detailed story and threaded with Navajo nuances throughout—more than threaded, it's woven into the text—punches once, then once again, a brutal, harsh finale.

“The Soft Frogs” (probably my favorite story) sinks into the shallows of Jaycee, a lost soul driven by punk rock and blow jobs and not a whole lot more.  Connecting with a woman known as Eye at an abandoned Convent patrolled by the title amphibians, it may sound like a preposterous premise for a story, yet the details as always really flesh this one out, and the soft frogs made me think of early 20th century horror, as if they were born back then, but mutated into what they had become, now.  And, please, don’t take a look under Eye’s shirt…

“Geschafte” (probably my…favorite…story…) (ahem) is a masterful descent into urban dread, deeply hallucinatory, a fever dream of erosion on every level (outward, inward...), ending with a shocking image that feels like something culled from the finest of Japanese Horror.  A curious thought?  No matter, it’s brilliant.

(I've just noticed I've used the word 'erosion' three times already. Interesting...and I'm not changing it.)

“Tuckahoe,” a short novel, opens with an extra limb found at a car accident on the Parkway south of Tuckahoe.  This may “feel” like the most traditional tale, yet it’s still prime Nicolay, veering all over the place, from a realistic bout of rough sex, to a labyrinthine rural nightmare, to a finale that is about as cruelly horrific as any you might encounter…though at this point, we’ve encountered many worthy contenders among these pages.  

Perhaps the best way for the reader to acclimate to Nicolay’s mad scientist masterplan is with “The Bad Outer Space,” in which a precautious [edit: I meant precocious, excuse me] five year-old experiences a spin on weirdness that is of a level of expression that is crystal clear.  Simplified, if not simple.  And so different from anything expected.  But, again, that’s where all the tales go.

I noticed as I read the stories, I gathered a deeper understanding of what Nicolay was doing—not attempting, but doing—and my enjoyment of the stories as I read them grew exponentially.  After the final story, I went back and read the first story, “alligators,” and the ending was perfect, the final image and build-up before it, powerful.

I had learned well…

I could go on.  There’s a lot to embrace with these stories.  A lot to learn (hey, I know nothing about caving, but since a couple stories here touch on the subject with genuine depth and knowledge, now I do).  Read them all.  Don’t just read a couple and think, well, I’ll finish this later.  These tales are meant to be absorbed in large chunks over short time.  Ana Kai Tangata is a fully immersive, mind-altering masterpiece.  Required reading for anybody into Weird fiction...or anybody who wants to experience words as well as read them.  Mandatory...and, as noted at the beginning of my ramble, fairly astonishing. 

PS. Forgot to mention, David Verba's artwork is spot-on for what Nicolay does with words.  A perfect pairing.


Before I move on: Dynatox Ministries.  You need to clip and save the link and make regular stops at the site.  They specialize in limited edition chapbooks.  The Dunhams Manor Press imprint deals with Weird Fiction.  You need these titles, but need to be timely.  Here and gone asap…

Some examples... 


Far From Streets--Michael Griffin

“We can’t spend our lives in between.”

Married couple Dane and Carolyn take the road less travelled, losing track of life and, with Griffin’s measured, precise presentation, the sway of Time, splitting the seams that connect modern convenience with personal happiness and even sanity.  Dane’s quest for a simpler life wrought in the bones and atavistic at heart disintegrates for both of them into a harrowing nightmare of decay and malaise, all within a house in the woods, and the surrounding mysteries of a forest as much a character in the tale as Dane and Carolyn.  Psychological devastation has never been as subtle... 

Michael Griffin’s Far From Streets is a 21st century modern classic of the Weird, a tale I’m sure would meet with Algernon Blackwood’s approval.  Griffin is putting together a collection as I type this.  I cannot wait to read it!


Weird Tales of a Bangalorean--Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

A sense of being caught in between, in a limbo land of subtle dreads mounting a slow demise via attrition of self and soul, resonates powerfully in Satyamurthy’s haunted tales full of decay and filth, embroidered with the culture of India and religious/spiritual subtexts.  We start nowhere, we end nowhere, but it’s not the same nowhere.  There is a singular mood that dominates the collection, a shroud cover that almost suffocates, not unlike the work of Simon Strantzes.  Excellent!


Christopher Slatsky—No One is Sleeping in This World.

A brief tale about the influence of architecture, of “sacred geometry,” perhaps...or is it the schizophrenic have found their god?  The city as sentient being?  Strangely captivating.  More, please.  An inspiring tale, triggering a lot of deep thought from yours truly.

The following title is not from Dunhams Manor Press, but deserves your attention.

Gateways to Abomination--Matthew M. Bartlett

Bartlett spins the dial to a radio jacked into the psyche, where the nightmare world unravels and a surreal dream-logic pushes the tales along with real intent in this curious and most satisfying collection that seems at all times to be spilling off the edge of the page.  That's the dream-logic in motion and often taking over; at times, what happens seems to have come to Bartlett right then, at the moment he types whatever mad words are to follow.  Some tales come off as bruised snapshots suggesting something more, but the collection as a whole resonates with a distinct tone that connects them all.  Fascinating and…self-published?  Some smart publisher needs to sign Bartlett up Now.  He knows what he’s doing and I Want More.


There’s more Dunhams Manor titles for me to catch up on (T. E. Grau’s The Lost Aklo Stories, Joseph S. Pulver’s Fatally-Coloured Gestures [excuse me for this, but Pulver deserves a special mention here: if you want to read a masterful meshing of Noir and Weird, by all means, pick up his novel, The Orphan Palace; you may know his short work—and should—but that novel is something special], and a few more), as well as some Horror titles, too.  I started Kate Jonez’ Ceremony of Flies and was immediately hooked, so looking to get back into that, as well as a couple of releases by one of my fave writers, Lucy Taylor (Fatal Journeys and A Respite for the Dead), S.P. Miskowski’s finale for the Skillute Cycle, In The Light, and many, many more. 
(We all speak of our TBR piles.  Who are we kidding.  There's no catching up.  It grows, we dip in, we make strides, it grows more.  Never catching up...)

I’m leaving out tons.  Excuse me.

Have you read Ian Welke’s The Whisperer in Dissonance? Sly, deceptive, subtly devastating.

Okay, Now I will stop.

Just read.  There’s so much wonder to be had.
Over 'n' Out...for now.

Monday, September 22, 2014

What Kind of Hallucinatory, Weird Horror Could Be Inspired By "Dandelions"?

Dandelions.  You know what they are.  White weed puffs you blow on, make a wish, and giggle afterwards at the nonsense of it all.  More so: "a widely distributed weed of the daisy family, with a rosette of leaves and large bright yellow flowers followed by globular heads of seeds with downy tufts."

Or are they?

Not in the hands of a writer of dark fiction.

Let's see, going over my records, this hallucinatory, truly Weird short novelette was written perhaps 4-5 years ago.  Submitted a couple times to good responses, though passed on by the magazines.  Then,  in 2012, it was accepted for publication in a pro magazine that went so far as to say they were going to make it a centerpiece of their first issue.  I was, of course, stoked.  But as it goes in the publishing world, the magazine never got off the ground.  Sadly, "Dandelions" had to hit the submission road again, though in the editorial comments about the story, the editors noted that, "it doesn't really start until page 4."  I took that to heart and edited it down, cleaned up the beginning.  Sent it out a couple more times, got a couple more rejections. 

At some point in August of this year, Dynatox Ministries/Dunhams Manor Press posted on FB they would be accepting submissions.  A few people noted I would be a good fit for them. I thought, what the heck, let's hit them with "Dandelions." 


As I read over the text, I realized I could make it better.  With this mindset, I tore the tale apart and put it back as it initially was, but stronger, faster...the Six-Million-Dollar "Dandelions."  Lost some words but this wiry beast was ready to be unleashed.

How about a blurb?  Let me whip something up.

"Two couples on vaction leave the world behind.
They end up at an old hotel, where the proprietors seem...curious.
Teresa warned Max something was wrong when they got there.
He should have listened to her.
Time is a weight dragging them down...

A vast field of dandelions holds the key to a harrowing, hallucinatory finale."

Sure, roll with that and this from the publisher: "A slow burn into frightening weirdness."

Here's the link for purchase.  Limited to 50 copies.  Buy now, before it's gone, gone, gone...

Buy more from Dynatox Ministries/Dunhams Manor Press (Dandelions is part of Dunhams Manor Weird Fiction), as well. I should have some of their books waiting for me when I get back to the states in the middle of October.  Can't wait to read them!  Use the above link, click to product, check em out and make Jordan Krall, the guy behind this excellent small press, a happy guy.

Also, since it says, hey, by the author of AUTUMN IN THE ABYSS on the cover, let's link you to that lovely title here.


Monday, June 30, 2014

SQ Mag Presents My Visceral/Psychological Horror Tale, "It's Only Going To End Badly."

Actually, a lot of my tales are visceral and psychological.  Depth charges, y'know? Dropping something deep into the subconscious realm to think about amidst the physical mayhem. Perhaps. 


The origin of the story: I was living in Portland, OR, with my ex-girlfriend in a funky studio apartment. This was the early 2000s.  Out back, a smattering of small statues and a struggling garden...and beyond the fence that separated the apartment complex from the residential houses, there was a couple that let the World know when they were having a...disagreement.  Waves of hatred flooded into our apartment on more-often-than-should-happen occasions.  (Once, when I was going to be out for the evening, I told my ex to play some SPK--Information Overload [this track is the opener, "Emanation Machine"] if she wanted to shut them up; that evening, they argued, she set up the CD player and speakers against the window screen...and told me, yes, she did play it and, yes, they shut up, but by perhaps the fifth song, she could no longer take it!)

Where was I?

I used this couple as a starting point on a story I had no idea what it would be, but knew I wanted the tension amped up to unbearable...and for the level of something weird--you'll see--to overlay that...and then, with no idea where I was going, a trapdoor in my creativity opened up to the psychological possibilities.  After the reader has been strung out to the snapping point, it all slams to a sinister finale, totally unexpected.  Deeply wrong.

I hadn't submitted the story in a while when the SQ Mag 2013 Story Quest competition came up and thought, yeah, why not? SQ Mag does quality Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror. My Winter's Bone influenced tale, "Ring Finger," was published there, so obviously they have, um...good taste. Ahem...

I tweaked it and sent it off.  Made the finals, brought a smile and, more so, this weird tale that I often don't know what to make of had found a home. 

Here, for your enjoyment or to make you uncomfortable or...well, there are many possible reactions, is "It's Only Going To End Badly."

There's also links to my two books, Autumn in the Abyss and The Dark Is Light Enough For Me, after you read the story and think, hey, I need to read more John Claude Smith. :-P  (Of course, I've linked the books here, too. Easy access...)

When I say strap in tight, it's mandatory for "It's Only Going To End Badly." 


Sunday, June 15, 2014

J.G. Ballard--Crash & Something "Beautiful."

Oh, I know. Been too long. Time to get back in the proverbial saddle and ride the blog again. It kicks and rattles; it rumbles and tumbles. It makes me write odd sentences like the previous one.


The lovely Ginger Nuts of Horror Website ran my The Book That Made Me post, for J.G. Ballard's Crash.  It was a tough, yet easy decision. I juggled it and Clive Barker's Books of Blood, Volume One, a real eye-opener for many of us, but I kept coming back to Ballard, so roll with it I did. You can find it via the hyperlink in red above.  It was way too much fun to write.  I hope you read it and enjoy it as much as I did writing it.


The Something "Beautiful" deals with the strange path of my story, "Beautiful."

From Editor/Writer Christine Morgan's Sabledrake's Lair website review for Autumn in the Abyss, the first two opening paragraphs:

"Side note just to say, I first encountered the work of this writer when he submitted a story for an anthology I was putting together, and I could not believe what I was seeing. I was sure it had to be a mistake, why something like that would be sent to ME.

Because, holy smokes, it was amazing. It blew me away. I about broke my fingers banging out an acceptance super-quick to lock it down in case there’d been a mistake. I mean, wow. Wow!"

Yeah, that's the reaction "Beautiful" gets.

So, it was published in that anthology, Fossil Lake, in January. 

Soon thereafter, writer/editor Ted E. Grau got in touch with me about the story, as I had initially sent it to him a year earlier. He loved it, but it was too short word count-wise, so he passed.  But it stuck with him.  Putting together a special issue of Strange Aeons to be sold excusively at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival, he asked if he could use the story. Since the rights were mine, I said sure. It appears alongside some top-notch Weird/Horror fiction writers such as Richard Gavin, Jeffrey Thomas, Gary McMahon and more. Fantastic company.

But the path does not stop there!

Because of circumstances out of their hands, the initial edition of Fossil Lake barely made it out of the gate.  The editor, Christine Morgan, took the reins and directed a second edition publication of the book in April via her own publishing house, Sabledrake Enterprises.

Yes, you read that all correctly. In one year, in less than half a year, my story, "Beautiful," has been published three times!  Craziest path I've ever experienced with a story.

I wonder if there will be a fourth?  Ha, no, no, but the easiest path to pick it up and check it out now would be in the second edition of Fossil Lake.  So, please do check it out. That story...oh, my! Sometimes, well...  You just need to read it.


More blogs sooner than later.  More stories, poetry, madness, and, oh, yeah, have you bought Autumn in the Abyss yet? Check the reviews! Look Inside! We're rockin' 'n' rollin' and you should join us for the dark ride.


I would some day like to own every version of Crash ever printed. Every version. 


Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Subtle, Surreal Flash Fiction Story: "Tumbleweeds."

I've posted this before, but figure since that was a couple/few years ago, let's re-acquaint ourselves with this surreal lil' horror tale.

I was reminded of this the other day when I commented on a thread on FB how the Original Outer Limits left a big impression on my wee, warped mind, remembering afterwards an episode with sentient tumbleweeds or some such thing, and how I am sure something from way back then influenced the tale that is the focus of this blog post.

Is it just blog or is it post or blog post? Ahhhh, thinking out loud.

Anyway, I was also reminded of the title story to my new collection, Autumn in the Abyss, and how it goes surreal toward the end, what with an appearance by Jack Kerouac and, well, you'll have to see.  If there's such a thing as Extreme Surrealism, it might qualify, haha...

Anyway, for your reading pleasure or amusement or brow-furrowing WTF was that, John Claude?, I give you "Tumbleweeds."  Originally published in the Small Bites anthology from around 2005, I believe.  An oldie but not bad, not bad at all.

500 words and...




By John Claude Smith




     The red mottled diaper rash that had spread down Tommy’s thighs inspired cacophonous vocal complaints from the baby. 

     “Darrin, he needs his ointment and a change.  What are we going to do?” 

     They both froze as the feverish wind continued to howl and lash, tumbleweeds bounding like stray beach balls across the strange, full-moon bathed luminescence of the desert.  But the howling that most perturbed them had nothing to do with the wind.  It seemed there was a pack of coyotes prowling the perimeter of the tiny ramshackle shack. 

     A pack of coyotes whose presence remained a mystery. 

     The car had broken down twenty yards from the shack.  Lacking a cell phone connection, Darrin and Carrie, with baby Tommy in tow, had made a dash to the shack for the slim possibility it would have a phone or, at the very least, that it would provide a more comfortable shelter.  They were wrong on both counts.  There was no electricity in the abandoned shack and the one glassless window permitted the wind’s turbulent trespass as it rustled dust and debris within the cramped confines.  They even had to prop a wooden chair against the door to keep it shut.  

     Now, with the desperate, forlorn howl of the coyotes resonating all around them, any trek back to the car to retrieve the diaper bag, idiotically forgotten in their haste, seemed unlikely.  And yet, as Darrin peered out the lone window, all he saw were loping tumbleweeds. 

     Tommy increased his volume, drowning out the coyotes’ chorus.  Or had they retreated?  Minutes passed in which only Tommy’s harried screech and the whining shriek of the wind battled unsuccessfully for dominance.  Darrin’s squint-eyed perusal out the window still revealed no sign of coyotes.  He had yet to see any, having only heard their agitated wails.          

     “I’m going to chance a run to the car.”

     Carrie hugged the bawling baby.  “Are you sure?”       

     “I think the coast is clear.”  

     Without hesitation, Darrin moved the chair and darted out.  Carrie yelled, “Be safe,” and re-propped the chair against the doorknob, all the while feebly attempting to pacify Thomas. 

     Instantly, the coyotes commenced with a caterwauling racket, accentuated by Darrin’s anguished, stunned cries.  Carrie gasped, clutching Tommy tighter.  She heard meaty ripping sounds, distraught yelps from Darrin, and finally, silence.  Even from Tommy.

     It seemed the wind even paused, before brusquely shaking the shack some more.

     There was a dull knocking at the door. 


     She glanced out the window—no coyotes—and swiftly, anxiously pushed aside the chair, prepared to drag Darrin in with her free arm if necessary.  The wind shoved the door open.  She did not see him.         


     A tumbleweed struggled against her ankles.  “Help me,” it pleaded, in Darrin’s voice.

     “Oh…my…” she whispered, dumbfounded.

     Looking out at the tumbleweed cluttered landscape, she noticed with shock and bewilderment that none of the tumbleweeds were tumbling to the wind’s relentless caress anymore. 

     They were slowly, steadily pacing towards the open door.    
Creepy, eh?  Surreal, for sure.  I like what that does even now. I can't say that about all of my older fiction, but this one brings a smile.
A new blog/post/blog post/dear god(s) what do we call it? will be up soon; sooner than this one. I am thinking a Horror Book Recommendations list and/or/and one for catching up on the reviews for Autumn in the Abyss (here's the latest Goodreads review; great stuff, eh?) and I really need to catch up on publications, stories just out and upcoming...and even poetry.  So, a lot waiting in the wings, but for now they will glide above us awaiting my next blog/post/blog post/help, please help...
Here's a house under attack via those nasty tumbleweeds.  I told you they're sentient... 
:-P :-)

Friday, April 25, 2014

Part 3 (The Finale) Of My H.P. Lovecraft & Hunter S. Thompson Mash-Up, "The Shadow Over Las Vegas."

You ready? 

You only think you're ready.  Trust me. Nobody's ready for this madness. 

First, let's take a deep breath before leaning back and strapping in (and, my, doesn't THAT sound like, what?) and let me say if you are enjoying this, you might enjoy my new collection, Autumn in the Abyss, too. I mean...Jack Kerouac, or someTHING(s) using his form, make(s) an appearance in the title novelette.  Darker stuff, but bound to literary influences.  You'll see...

Okay, now that you've checked the book and fallen in love with the Sexy Beast on the cover and ordered a copy, allow me to intruduce you to...The TRUE Great Old Ones!

Yeah, when in Vegas--Holy Shit! Is that...? 

[lifts the cosmic veil.  Oh, yes, IS!]





     The main event, a cavalcade of Marilyns stomping across the stage, each one made to pout and prance and eventually end up above a grate that shot hot air into their nether regions, lifting their dresses to panty revealing height, much to the delight of the ogling eyes of those in the audience, as well as the so-called judges, a collection of  bottom tier celebrities, no names and nameless, forgettable sorts who gained fame hosting this or that game show, acting on this or that demoralizing “reality” show—really, nothing real there, try these drugs, they will show you things to make your pubes straighten—essentially filling space in the ever obese celebrity fifteen minutes of fame warehouse, was hosted by Mr. Warhol who understood the value of nothing and so made nothing his goal.  Talent, who needs talent? We’ve got faces and bodies and desperation on display and wouldn’t you like to be a star?  And what if they saw what I saw on these drugs, star-bodied creatures, fish-eyed with twinkling intent and who knows what purpose?  Observing this chow line to Hell, Nietzsche’s edict made concrete, the abyss not only looking back but laughing at us—humans--for the folly of our deteriorating existence, I felt the fear escalate; or was that disgust?  I mean, could we not expend a little compassion in this commemoration, instead of making it an extended sales pitch to 21st Century Fox and NASA, “Here, here’s your new star, she’s Marilyn incarnate.  Eat her soul as well.  Make her a star, or send her to one…”

    Pathetic I say, but my take on it would be more succinct: place a bed on the stage and make all of the Marilyns strike a death pose, clothing optional...except for the Marilyn I saw with the Disney-inspired anomalies. 

     What was I doing here?  People watching again, that was always the point of it all anyway, watching the natives stumble like drunken giraffes, flirtations bandied like bad sitcoms, a paradox if ever there was one: the mere format zeroed in on the lowest common denominator; and worse yet, watching the ugly make connections that should short out the electricity in every neon sign in Vegas if their copulating culminated in procreation but no, procreation was not their goal and so, if any sperm won the battle and invaded the egg, I was sure a morning after pill or a clothes hanger three months later would scrape the evidence away.

     People were my business. That and drugs.  Business was plentiful in this obscene parade of demoralized wannabe stars.  Stars, like what the yigs always made me see. 

     My attorney seemed particularly giddy this evening. As we awaited the event’s commencement, we grabbed a table with “Reserved for Josh Brande” posted on it--Brande’s claim to fame: former game show host, hidden video victim caught with his pants down in a most unflattering situation, culminating in a CD release of sappy love songs, his feeble warbling seeming more appealing to weasels than humans--and scribbled our names on it instead, blacking out Brande’s name, only to be accosted by Brande and causing a scene in having him escorted away for impersonating himself: “That’s the man, the imposter: Brande is in Hawaii, we have his itinerary here”—waving my notepad about as if any information within would verify anything passing from my lips—“and the police have been looking for him ever since.” 

     My attorney, giggling now: “And be sure he gets the full treatment, anal probes and gloved fist inspection, that’s where he keeps his stolen Screen Actors Guild card!”

     Brande looked befuddled but it’s probably the best (only) real publicity he (or his imposter?) has had in years.

     Our vibrations were shaky, impatient.

     “Stop this charade and get to the point!” I yelled, toward the stage, where some preliminary entertainment, as in not really entertaining but filling space, had dragged on for way too long.  My attorney handed me a couple of flat green pills that looked like miniature pyramids and said, “Take these.  You’ll really like these.”

     So, the time had come.  I was not about to turn him down, but now it was my time to make a move as well.  I may have seemed oblivious, but I was not dim beyond the duty at hand; I had been debriefed about events in motion, I just did not think it would really come down to me—where was LeGrasse?

     I stopped a long-legged waitress in full gallop with a “Whoa, darlin’,” and set the table for our defense: in defense of the human race.

      “We need two Grande triple shot espressos, double whip, jigger of soy with a pinch of almond and caramel and adrenochrome, and snap to it!”  It was a ridiculously unrealistic concoction, but the waitress only giggled and snapped gum, able to walk and chew with a modicum of efficiency.

     My attorney grew gruff.  “You know how I get around that stuff.  It makes me gassy and my brain hurts and…I want to be in control tonight.”  But he was already losing it, I could tell.  His resistance was already crumbling.  The Starlight Circus’ version of Starbucks was geared toward the space crowd, aliens and astro-wannabes of every sort.  Starbuckaroos: cosmic coffee for space jockeys, grim grounds that left a black hole in one’s soul.  I’m sure this would make him see the truth.

     It would make him see the True Great Old Ones.

     But I could use some help in my simmering battle, not sure how this was going to pan out and why did the FBI even think I could pull this off? 

     LeGrasse, my FBI connection, was supposed to run things, but since he was nowhere to be found, it was all up to me, and I only wanted to watch and ingest more drugs, as I had always done.  Of course, the FBI’s insistence that they could get me any drug imaginable, without recourse, was incentive enough for my cooperation.  But still…where was that fool?

     Our waitress slinked up and set our drinks down.  I paid her and patted her ass, “For luck,” I said.  I was going to need it.

     My attorney and I stared into each other’s eyes, searching for something, making a deal, unspoken, but understood.  We both knew where we stood: with our asses planted firmly in these too hard chairs as the cavalcade of Marilyns began to prance over the grate, and the hot breath of lust blew warmly onto their straining thighs, moistening their objectives. 

     After a slight diversion, entranced by the morbid exhibition, I returned my gaze to my attorney’s.  He had never broken his.  He spoke.

     “I will not drink any of this.  I cannot drink any of this tonight—”

     “Why tonight, my friend?  What’s so special about tonight?”

     As if playing it off, he said, “Nothing special, I’m just…” but words escaped him.  He drooled as the drink, one he had never tasted before, awaited his slithering tongue’s approval.  I had to find a way to break his will, to make him drink, to make him see the truth.

     To save the human race.

     “I’ll make you a deal.  I’ll take these pyramid-shaped pills—”

     “Nyarlathoteps,” he said.

     Nyarlathoteps.  Sounded vaguely Egyptian to me; my perceptions were still sharp. 

     “I’ll take these Nyarlathoteps as long as you drink some of that delicious, mind-altering, hallucinatory liquid magic.”

     He shivered as if a chill ran through him.  His drool was collecting in his massive belly, dripping further, a waterfall of desire. 

     As he continued to quiver, his will being broken by the smells and promise of exotic tastes within the cardboard cup, I tried to play it off as if nothing more was in motion, turning to see the most hideous sight imaginable on the stage.

     “Shades of J. Edgar Hoover, LeGrasse, what are you doing up there?”  But it was obvious what he was doing.  LeGrasse, my FBI connection, was wearing a dress and doing his best Marilyn impression, stumbling over stilettos and mortifying myself and all within reasonable viewing distance as the grate blew up his skirt and the stuffing in his white panties--not an FBI registered gun for sure--throbbed with a life of its own. 

     The groan that passed through the casino was of an eldritch resonance rarely heard.

     LeGrasse winked and cooed, “Hollywood is a place where they’ll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul,” puckered, and blew me a kiss, on the house.  I ducked, not wanting this sorry fool’s wayward affections to corrupt my flesh or focus: I knew his soul was already girdle-squeezed and shrinking with every wobbling stiletto step.     

     I turned back to my attorney, knowing full well that threats without follow-up were worthless.  I raised the two Nyarlathoteps to my lips and popped them into my mouth.

     My attorney took this as his cue to give in.

    “Shit!” he growled, taking the cup and tossing the whole thing down his throat.  He smiled and leered and attempted to grab mine as well, but I needed the caffeinated potion in order to counteract all the drugs that came before and direct the hallucination in progress.

     We were linked as one, my mind and his, mine in the driver’s seat.  His, trembling in the backseat, wishing it were in the trunk.    

     In our eyes the ceiling opened up, and a universe of stars seemed to align themselves in ways I could never imagine. 

     “The stars are right, the stars are right,” screamed my attorney.

     “Not quite,” I said, smiling as satellites within the star systems neared us.

     “What?  What is that?” My attorney scooted under the table.  Around us, people grumbled at our antics, not understanding the magnitude of what was unfolding within our vision.

     The True Great Old Ones ambled into view.  My attorney let out a sound drenched in such fear as to demote all previous definitions of the word to obsolescence. 

     It stumbled from the right side of the sky, the drunken master of dulcet blandness: Dean Martin.  From the left, the hideous cyclopean essence of the ebony one: Sammy Davis Jr. 

     My attorney whimpered with such abandon as to lose all hold on his masquerade, dissolving into a diseased, writhing mound of chum, a squiggly conglomeration of fish heads and tentacles and fins, flaking scales, aged green sea-algae, and serpentine madness.     

     From dead center, the ultimate in crooning egotism, the Lord of Las Vegas, the Grand Meatball…the dread that is--

      “Sinatra!” cried my attorney, falling under His spell.  “Sinatra!”

     As my attorney thrashed about, whiplash tentacles decapitating enough Marilyns to make this more a Jane Mansfield memorial the audience scattered, miffed. 

     All that was left was to let it play out.  As the concert went on--the celestial serenade--my attorney began to melt, captivated, and yet the spell they cast was the one thing that could deter his quest for world domination.   

     The stench attained a pungent magnitude that assaulted my nostrils.  The percolating eddies of his essence reverted back to their primal form, the first boiling seeds of life that swam in the seas.  I doffed my hat in remembrance.

     “You gotta clean that up, buddy,” said one of the casino bosses, dressed in a space suit and looking quite orbital, staring bug-eyed at me through his helmet. 

     “Do you know what I just did?  I just saved humanity from an eternity of slavery at the hands of the Lovecraftian version of The Great Old Ones—”

     “Yeah, yeah, well, we’re trying to put on a show right now and if you’re not going to at least sit down, I gotta ask you to leave.  I mean, there’s a stage full of headless Marilyn Monroes about to do a chorus line and…”

     His rambling fell on deaf ears.  I should have known better.  I was drafted into the role of savior, and what does it get me?  Ignorance from the very beings I was meant to save; annoyance from those who I had just rescued from the infinite drudgery of sub-human existence, cowering at the fins of the slobbering Great Old Ones.

     I felt myself shudder at the bad choices I had made. 

     I wanted nothing more to do with this pitiful race.

     I looked to the floor and my dead friend—yes, he was my friend, even if his intentions seemed nefarious, even if he probably would have eaten me at some point, he was a better friend than any of these castoffs and dilettantes salivating over the obscene display on the stage to my left.  On stage right, the grumbling persisted.

     I grabbed a menu and the marker we had used earlier as I stared at the still singing True Great Old Ones—corrupt, deceptive bastards, all--and began to float toward the stage in the skies.

     Passing by Sinatra, He winked as did Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr.--a momentary flux of blindness that shadowed the whole menagerie in the blackest gulf imaginable.  I gave them the single finger salute, the same one I felt inclined to flip toward the confused mob below me, growing smaller as I surged toward the stratosphere, and as insignificant as insects—I wanted to crush them all.

     Floating onward, I popped a few more shub-niggaruths, a few yigs, took a drink from the Milky Way, and decided anywhere but this ignorant galaxy was fine by me.

     “I hear there are great drugs in the great beyond,” I said. 

     “That’s true, but rumor has it that it will cost you your humanity,” Sinatra said.

     “Humanity,” I laughed.  “A cheap price for a good high.”

     He curled His brow as if a comet where streaking through it.  I held up my hand-scribbled sign, and He laughed, almost as if He understood. 

     I looked at it and smiled.  This choice could be no worse than the one I had foolishly made on Earth.

     I was a Man on the Move—rising higher, deeper into the stygian vista, referring to definition # 2, a., in Webster’s Dictionary: “dark and gloomy”—just sick enough to be confident, crazed…driven

     “Yog-Sothoth or Bust.”        
Well, now that you know the truth...
"The Shadow Over Las Vegas" was way too much fun to write.  Hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did having Lovecraft and HST trample through my brain and out my fingers via the keyboard.
Oh, the Josh Brande reference: in my first collection, The Dark is Light Enough For Me, Brande is one of the main characters in the final story, "Things That Crawl (In Hollywood)."  Yes, that's the story with the, um...the Mutated, Autononous, Still Living Body Parts of the Stars...and Brande's mutated body part, because of plastic surgery, is his...
Stop!  Don't give it all away, John Claude.
Here's Marilyn Monroe, that traitor, getting her groove on with some tentacled audience member, courtesy of artist, Edgar Sandoval.  I tell ya, it was a madhouse.  A Madhouse! 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

H.P. Lovecraft/Hunter S. Thompson Mash-Up, Part 2: "The Shadow Over Las Vegas."

A long day, just in, not going to mess around.  What's that saying? Do you know how to make God laugh? Make plans.  Well, yeah, so, here goes, without further delay.  Digging deeper into the misadventures of our fearless, loathing-worth, something-or-other narrator as the drugs take hold in the City That Never Sleeps. 

Part 2, we're settling in, setting the stage...before Part 3, and True Madness.





     My attorney had called in to the Starlight Circus on our behalf (NASA, in need of funding, had dropped the government and taken up with Vegas in mounting a more viable form of income), the event of which my reportage was deemed worthy being the 21st Century Fox/NASA sponsored Marilyn Monroe Weekend of Memories commemoration of the fiftieth year of her death, a perverse celebration littered with every conceivable Marilyn Monroe imitator this side of Jupiter, culminating in a contest to pick the very best Marilyn Monroe to carry on with a movie contract and manufactured career, and to promote whatever NASA needed them to promote.  Whores for the universe, prostitutes in league with Republicans, Satanists, and whatever other demented legions would flock to this horrid place this weekend.

     I always used a phony name when checking in during my writing ventures; my infamy was legendary, at least in my own mind.  But I did not always have a say in the name, especially if my attorney got hold of the reservations.  I looked at the piece of paper in which he had scribbled my nom-de-plume and cringed at his perverse humor. 

     “Sir,” said the fiftyish female hotel employee in charge of checking in the wasted souls, looking bored, but I was made squirmy by the bubbles rising to the ceiling as she harrumphed impatiently.

     “John…Wayne,” I said, hiding my face in shame.  I wondered how many others were checking in under the names of dead movie stars, self-destructive rock n’ roll musicians, or assassinated presidents.  My attorney laughed, slapped me on the back, and said, “C’mon, Duke, we can deal with this later.”

      I looked at him and could swear bubbles were floating from his mouth as well.  The ceiling was looking crowded.  I watched bubbles battle bubbles in a popfest of grisly proportions.  There was effervescent death everywhere. 

      I knew I should not have followed the shub-nigguraths with the yigs: if Las Vegas is no town for shub-nigguraths, it was definitely no place for the psycho-madness of yigs.  But they were the only ones handy when I reached into my pocket—and this, mere minutes after I had inspected the plethora of ingestible, mind-altering drugs in the trunk; idiot!  I was feeling like a rat in a cheeseless labyrinth, lost and confused.  What was I doing here?  What was the true purpose of this venture?  Would that demented fuck LeGrasse show up any time soon with answers, or would I just ride this one like an endless wave?

     After finding that we would have to deal with it later--our room was not ready--we wandered to the hotel bar, past hairy fish like beasts and star-faced denizens drunkenly swimming about.  I worried about my Acapulco shirt--would the colors run?  Would I run?  Was there any hope?  How long would it take for the yigs to run their insidious course?  I’d only taken two, but two amidst the constant ingestion of drugs over the last twenty-four hours must have been two too many. 

     I began to do the breaststroke across the bar, much to the annoyance of the fish-eyed denizens in attendance, when my attorney turned to me and said, “I advise you to head to the room now, before you get yourself killed,” and tossed me a green key that felt like the weight of the world--and me no Atlas.  I dragged the key on the ground as I slinked out of the bar and made way to the elevator.  One of what I expected would be the deluge of Marilyns was stepping out of the elevator, her dress showing much cleavage, and I sniffed her there, wondering if that is where they had hidden the Zapruder Tape—or possibly the lone gunman--and she said, “Oh, Mr. President, wait until Jackie and the kids go to bed.”  I pulled back, having almost been stabbed by her nipples; nipples that pushed at the fabric with impressions more akin to Mickey and Minnie Mouse.  I closed my eyes and yelled, “Disney have mercy!  Take these freakish things away from me!”

     When I opened them again, I was on the bed in the room, a pillow case stuffed in my shorts, mustard spirals decorating my nipples like exploding solar systems—no famous mice here, only condiments--and my attorney sawing wood in the same dissonant timbres as his singing.

     “Wake up!” I said, kicking at him.  “We have a job to do and…your snoring is the most horrible thing I’ve heard since your singing.”

     He smiled and pulled a harpoon gun from under the bed.  “Don’t make me use this.  There are plenty of scavengers hanging out at the window and I know they’d enjoy a little tender meat.”

     Tender my ass!  I was solid as SpongeBob SquarePants.  Squishy even.  I laughed, my mind skipping about and wandered toward the balcony where I saw them, these things crawling all over the window, eyeless, mottled flesh, flapping useless wings.

     “I need a drink,” I said, turning from the aberration, knowing I needed more than a drink.  But God would never show his face here.

     At least not the human incarnation of God. 

     It would all come down to me.
Tomorrow.  Oh, tomorrow... The final part is at least the length of the first two parts and, trust me, you don't want to miss it.
:-P  :-)
This handsome fella was found wandering through Vegas, looking for an All-You-Can-Eat Seafood place so he could feel at home...