A NIGHT LIKE NO OTHER...

The music rose to a near deafening volume even in the private room that hopefully would occupy most of my time.  I did my best to ignore it and focused my attention to the stripper in front of me.  She sauntered closer until I could feel her body heat radiating onto me.  In arm’s length she outstretched a slender limb.  Her hand began caressing against the flesh of my cheek then sliding down my neck to the lapels of my suit before stopping at my shoulder.  I gasped, but not at the sight of an almost nude woman with raven locks and tanned skin standing before me.  My mind launched backwards to just a day prior.

            I remember violent eyes in the dark.  Two thick arms shot out, one latching like a viper with steel jaws into the shirt fabric over my shoulder.  Force took over, shooting me back against a brick wall causing a groan to fire out of my lips. 

            She had pushed me back against the posh leather of the couch.  Both arms were laced across my shoulders with her hands rushing to my scalp, fingers rifling with abandon through my hair. She disengaged.  The stripper arched her back to look down on me.  A crimson grin widened across her face, displaying a set of perfect teeth.  There was a hungry look about her.

            Somehow he managed to hover over me in pure dominance.  Already taller than me, he’s become a towering juggernaut.  There’s a look about him, passed the violence, through the simple intent of murder.  The flashing gleam of dull light I see across his broken teeth hint at a malign sense of cruelty.  A desire to satiate a gluttonous and foul need.  Dirty fingers attached to yellow nails reached out and clasped the bottom of my chin.

            I felt her slender hand cup my face, her eye flashed with a desire passed artificial eroticism.  She pulled me forward and she moved closer.  Shifting her weight, a naked leg moved upward against the outer area of my thigh.  Her hand moved, pushing me slightly to the side.  A roll of cold sweat trickled down my temple as my mind fought against the internal static in its struggle to stay in the present.

            There was a jerking motion, his arm swung in a haymaker.  I felt his fist crash against my temple causing me to stagger and feel my balance shatter.  I toppled and felt the world turn upside down as I crashed to the filthy cement. 

            She pushed me off to the side, forcing me stare into the neon lights pumping to a trashy techno beat.  I felt her weight position itself over me in an act I was sure went against the set of regulated acts of simulated sex.  There she was on top, mounted over me in choking submission.

            I gasped for air through a mouthful of blood.  I knew he wasn’t done yet.  Standing what seemed like a hundred feet over me, he dropped square onto my chest with the force of a meteor crashing into the Earth.  I spewed blood in a series of pathetic coughs.  I looked up at him.  That ravenous smile

MONSTERS, MYTHS, AND THE MEN WHO CREATED THEM: ROBERT E. HOWARD AND H.P. LOVECRAFT

Molded corridors erected from cyclopean stones wrapped about in a never ending maze of forgotten and mismatched catalogs of ancient oddities.  Was I left in some abandoned ziggurat that stood sentinel on some black and lonely landscape in the farthest corners of the Earth?  Or had I been transported to a location outside of the confines of human reality?  Seeing through the foreboding darkness I came to the realization I stood in neither, I had simply wandered to a neglected part of the museum.  These were the hallways of a wing long forgotten and never truly brought to any deserved luster.  As I stood under the plethora of relics found within the domes of sunken kingdoms and weapons pried from the boney hands of dead kings a pang of sadness enshrouded me.  Truly it would seem my colleagues and even their pupils had never thought of how much was owed to this treasure trove brought to us so many decades past.  How we were able to carve our own paths through the unknown and mysterious in thanks to the knowledge brought to us by our forebears, these long dead and forgotten men who ventured out without so much as a thought for the glory and riches that cloud the minds of others in our field. 

I moved over the old treasures collecting dust and towards the end of the main exhibit.  My eyes navigated to the walls that housed massive arms and suits of fully complete armor.  I recalled the stories of how they came collected by a man, driven by the desire to escape the confines of a corrupt and decadent time and to blaze back into the primordial wilderness where instincts sharpened a man like whetstone to a blade’s edge.  Conflicted with his own physical weakness I knew this mind sought to become stronger and in turn ventured and search for the most savage and brutal names that could be deciphered.  He ventured searching for the old lands before Pangea, back to Hyperborean times before even Atlantis itself had been swallowed by the unforgiving sea.  He continued in his search, moving through the Age of Enlightenment to frontier days, until finally a tragedy would take him, and his name would be lost to the aethers of time. 

From the tales of mighty heroes and primal warlords I looked towards the other walls.  There were no implements of war to be seen, but the aura of dread was palpable.  Parchments of dried human skin moldered under their glass cages.  On each and every one, thin, lines, of indiscernible script were written in human blood.  These were the words to bring about the Ones that lived beyond our mortal pale of understanding and no scholar alive would be so foolish to test such things.  Above the glass, rows of old gold jewelry were displayed having been pulled from the very depths that took Atlantis, relics of priests who belonged to cults that still hide in the darkest corners of civilization.  Elder Signs adorned the walls, symbols representing lost and unknown power that only brings doom and madness to those unfortunate enough to succumb to temptation.  The thoughts of shrieking inner voices made me think of the individual who had unearthed such terrible sights.  A talent whose name brought some notoriety today but was lost to obscurity while he drew breathe.  He was a mind whose own demons sung songs of insanity and fueled notions of xenophobia and fear of the Other.  It came as no surprise to me why one such as this would look into the ruins that housed eldritch oddities and foul anomalies instead of being drawn to what was truly frightening: the mundane. 

I stopped, my footsteps that had echoed throughout the confines of the forgotten wing were now silent like the dead things we housed in the museum.  Before me I stared at an empty wall where two frames, once glinting golden, now rusted with a brown foulness that comes with being lost in the void of forgotten names and unknown achievements.  My eyes strained as I glared at the spaces where two portraits should have been housed.  In that musty, dark, hall where the tomes of lost sorcerers and the swords of fabled lords rested, I knew what I had to do. 

 

MONSTERS, MYTHS, AND THE MEN WHO CREATED THEM:

 ROBERT E. HOWARD AND H.P. LOVECRAFT

                         

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Their influence is a permeating ivy that has latched across the foundations of speculative fiction for decades past and will continue so seemingly into the foreseeable future.  The works of Robert. E Howard’s barbaric hero, Conan of Cimmeria, and H.P. Lovecraft’s countless eldritch monsters such as Cthullu and Dagon have been lifted from the yellowed pages of pulp magazines and moved through time and across media.  But the while the characters live on and are imitated over and over, the credit that should go towards these individuals goes largely absent are instead lambasted by countless criticisms on modern topics such as race and misogyny.  Robert Erving Howard (or R.E.H) and Howard Phillip Lovecraft crafted countless tales that have managed to live on past their own names, talents, and struggles as writers and as individuals.  It is through this curation project that the argument will be posed that these two authors should be recognized for their contributions in the various genres of speculative fiction they have touched.  

Though the works of R.E.H and Lovecraft have maintained a devout a following, namely those who can actually place a name of the writers to their accomplishments, they have largely gone unnoticed, save for their shortcomings.  While Howard is known for his iconic character, Conan, at best Howard’s work is left to be relegated as tropes and satire.  But upon closer inspection at Howard’s entire body of work, readers can see a wide array of themes that transcend not only the sword and sorcery genre he made famous, but also the confines of the pulp fiction world.  Even in Conan and alongside other characters such as King Kull and Bran Mak Morn, Howard utilizes a wide array of Celtic imagery and descriptions have been become synonymous with the idea of the noble Irish warrior.   The dark and dusky maned warrior hailing from a cold and misty land has been a staple and can still be seen in Dungeons and Dragons and Masters of the Universe, and in modern interpretations of Spartacus, just to name a few.  To the surprise of many, Howard’s heroes were not only one dimensional killing machines who got the girl at the end like in so many pulp stories or modern movies.  King Kull was a warrior who used his intellect to outsmart his enemies, Solomon Kane was a puritan so dour and morose about the evils he needed to eradicate, and Howard wrote that Conan was a man mountainous mirth and equal somberness, providing more than just a muscle bound Austrian.  One if not the biggest aspect that Howard brought to his writings that is utilized in many other stories is the idea of wilderness vs society, barbarism vs civility, and the notion that the most complex society is doomed is key R.E.H’s stories.  To some this is considered a mode of existentialism by a man who felt he was witnessing the degradation of the world around him.  Through a cornucopia of themes that began as feelings and the internal struggles of a troubled Texan morphed into a legacy that grew and spread through various artists. 

 

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Figure 1  Many authors name Howard as a source of inspiration.  This includes Charles Saunders and even artist Frank Frazetta.

While many creative minds utilize the elements crafted in Howards Sword and Sorcery genre few in scholarly texts acknowledge his influence.  Authors such as Michael Moorock have created their own fantasy worlds in a similar style to Howard while at the same time, working with their own creative voices.  Interestingly, fantasy author Charles Saunders cites Howard as an influence to his work in creating visceral fantasy stories set in a universe steeped in African lore while at the same time acknowledging Howards racial shortcomings.  Though many can see hints of Conan or other Howardian heroes in popular culture without knowing who Howard was, it may come as a consolation that these ideas have long stood the test of time and became a staple in the genre.  Even in comic books characters like Claw the Unconquered and Corsair and his Starjammers stood side by side with comic images of Conan and others. 

 

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Figure 2  The themes used by Howard are not resigned to just Sword and Sorcery pulps.  Even children shows utilize the stoic barbarian hero in cartoon shows such as Thundarr and He-Man.  In comics Powell uses the loner thematic in many of his comic books.

Though Lovecraft’s name has weathered the storm of time somewhat better than Howard’s, many namely view Lovecraft as a virulent racist and the creator of a multi-tentacle monster.  But if it were not for the works of Lovecraft and essentially his invention of the Cosmic Horror genre, writers such as Stephen King, Clive Barker, and Alan Moore would not have created their own memorable works.  Lovecraft’s themes such as forbidden knowledge, old and alien monstrosities and their indifference to mankind, and eldritch dimensions, are used by many other creative minds.  Videogames such as “Bloodbourne” and “Darkest Dungeon” utilize the horror thematic Lovecraft created to bring new types of interactive horror to the mass audience.  For decades movies have taken much from Lovecraft as seen in “Hellboy”, “Evil Dead”, and “In the Mouth of Madness”.  But possibly the biggest contribution Lovecraft created was his willingness to allow others to take what they wanted from his works.  Lovecraft corresponded with other writers such as Ashton C. and even Robert E. Howard through hundreds of letters.  Between these and others in Lovecraft’s list, the Lovecraftian Circle, a group that shared ideas and branched off one another.  While such groups would not come off as revolutionary as it seemed, Lovecraft seemed to encourage others into his mythos.  Even well after his death, others have taken up the mantle of tending to the Old Gods and the Elder Beings in Lovecraft’s fiction. 

 

Figure 3  Bruce Campbell has starred in quite a few movies that feature Lovecraftian elements.  While not directly citing his influence Octavia Butler utilizes Lovecraftian aspects in her writing.  Of course King and Del Toro created many Lovecraftian works.

Judging by their influence and legacy, Howard and R.E.H deserve more than the cult icon status they have accumulated posthumously.  Not only do their creative works stand the test of time, but their influences also inspires countless others.  Through Lovecraft the Eldritch world of Weird Fiction flourishes and from Howard Sword and Sorcery continues to be a staple for many.  In the end, both Lovecraft and R.E.H died before their respective times; one from stomach cancer and the other from suicide, and because of those circumstances the world never truly had the opportunity to see either reach their full potential.  But in the time they worked, Howard and Lovecraft left worlds of extraordinary fantasy for everyone. 

People see them in everything, in movies, comic books, in television and of course in books.  It could be an endearing admiration that while Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft have mostly gone forgotten in the eyes of the public, their works have influenced other creative minds for decades and spread about through other media.  While both Howard and Lovecraft were men with their own faults that may have caused a divide between them and readers of varying minorities, the works of both weaved passed those binaries and into the hands of many if not most.  While people play videogames featuring dusky skinned, and half naked warriors or watch movies in terror at the sight of nameless horrors, those aforementioned divisions deteriorated and now many authors have taken different approaches to be more inclusive in these types of literature.  But in the end, it can be said that even that would not be possible if not for the longstanding influence and legacy left by both Howard and Lovecraft.

 

 

 

Figure 4 Even the world of anime incorporates Lovecraftian Horror.

 

 

 

 

 

WORKS CITED

Santvoort, Derk van.  “Casting Shadows Out of Time:  H.P. Lovecraft and His         

Influences and His Influence.”  Utrecht University August 2008.  Accessed 10   Nov. 2016.  http://dspace.library.uu.nl/handle/1874/31722                  

This thesis details the influence left by H.P. Lovecraft on several prolific writers, including Stephen King.  I will use this to map out some of the ways Lovecraft’s influence has spread throughout the years. 

 

Finn, Mark “Blood and Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard.” The Robert E. Howard

Foundation, 2006,  Googlebooks. Accessed 10 Nov. 2016.   https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=SrygBQAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PR5&dq=+robert+e+howard+%22robert+e+howard%22&ots=Q2zCt1tyKh&sig=7_5wR9PnUhI9pI65JlI63lAERA0#v=onepage&q=robert%20e%20howard%20%22robert%20e%20howard%22&f=false

This lengthy biography of Robert E. Howard will be used to detail some of his writing styles and imagery.  I will use this to show how despite not being directly credited his influence is still experienced by many throughout all forms of media. 

 

Evans, Timothy H.  “A Last Defense against the Dark: Folklore, Horror, and the Uses of

Tradition in the Works of H. P. Lovecraft.”  Journal of Folklore Research, vol. 42, no. 1, January-April 2005, pp. 99-135.  Project Muse.  Accessed 10 Nov. 2016.

https://muse.jhu.edu/article/181485

I intend to use this article as another way to catalog H.P. Lovecraft’s influence on writing and other media.  I would also like to use this to get on the topic of the criticisms both Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard faces when it comes to things such as racism and sexism. 

 

Bell, John. “A Charles R. Saunders Interview.” Black American Literature Forum, vol. 18, no. 2, 

1984, pp.  90–92.  JSTOR.  Accessed 11 Nov. 2016.  http://www.jstor.org/stable/2904134?Search=yes&resultItemClick=true&searchText=%28robert&searchText=e&searchText=howard%29&searchText=influence&searchUri=%2Faction%2FdoBasicSearch%3FQuery%3D%2528robert%2Be%2Bhoward%2529%2Binfluence%26amp%3Bprq%3D%2528robert%2Be%2Bhoward%2529%26amp%3Bacc%3Don%26amp%3Bwc%3Doff%26amp%3Bfc%3Doff%26amp%3Bso%3Drel%26amp%3Bhp%3D25&seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

I was briefly going to touch on this interview with a black fiction writer and the influence he gained from Robert E. Howard despite any racial tendencies he had.  Saunders suggest Howard was a man of his time, that will be looked at briefly, and how these conceptions about both Howard and Lovecraft should not prevent them from any due credit they deserve. 

 

Dowd, C. "The Irish-American Identities of Robert E. Howard and Conan the Barbarian." New

Hibernia Review, vol. 20 no. 2, 2016, pp. 15-34. Project Muse.  Accessed Nov. 11 2016.  doi:10.1353/nhr.2016.0027.https://muse.jhu.edu/article/627084

This article looks at how Robert E. Howards writing cultivated the idea of the Irish or Celtic hero in the minds of many of fantasy readers today.  I want to use excerpts from this to show how Howards influence in the Sword and Sorcery genre inspired many ideas of what the Celtic hero looks like to modern day fans. 

 

Parsons, Deke. “J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert E. Howard and the Birth of Modern Fantasy.

McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2014. 26 November 2016.  pp.  115-120. WKU Library.  Accessed Nov 20.  2 016. http://www.myilibrary.com.libsrv.wku.edu?ID=663899

This excerpt touches on how Robert E. Howard’s work themes helped shaped fantasy writing into what it is today.  The themes that Howard utilized are detailed along with ideas as to where and when they manifested within Howard himself. 

 

Breakiron, Lee A. "The Cromlechers." The Nemedian Chroniclers 9: 17.  Robert-e-howard. 

Accessed 19 Nov.  2016.  http://www.robert-e-howard.org/nemedianchroniclers9.pdf

This older fan magazine details biographical information on Robert E. Howard’s life.  From these experiences and how he lived a level of detail on the themes in Howard’s work takes new light.  Theses facets of his personal background allows people to how Howard and his writing took shape.   

IMAGES AND VIDEO

Movie clip of “The Whole Wide World”.  “Robert E. Howard describes Conan.”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2MwAy6njlM  Uploaded on Oct 28, 2007 by jroge008

Force of Will Movie Trailer.  “Exert your force of will: Cthulu is coming.”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UkNuW66uGfA.  Uploaded on Sep 20, 2016 by TokyoPop TV.  Acces

Photograph of H.P. Lovecraft.  Biography.  www.biography.com/people/hp-lovecraft-40102

Image of Robert E. Howard.  Counter-currents.  www.counter-currents.com/tag/robert-e-howard/

Images of Robert E. Howard.  Onaunderwood.  onanunderwood5.blogspot.com/2015/09/barbarism-and-civilization-in-letters.html

Powell, Eric.  “HillBilly” and “The Goon.”  Thegoon.  www.thegoon.com/

Photograph of Octavia Butler.  Bookfans.  bookfans.net/wp-content/uploads/images/Octavia_E._Butler_15800.jpg?c3d821

Photograph of Stephen King.  Parnassusbooks.  www.parnassusbooks.net/event/author-event-stephen-king-ryman-auditorium

Frazetta, Frank.  “Self-portrait.”  Wikipedia.  en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Frazetta

Masters of the Universe movie poster.  Supercultshow.  supercultshow.wordpress.com/2014/03/22/masters-of-the-universe/

Thundarr the Barbarian image.  Thundarr the Barbarian Wiki.  thundarr.wikia.com/wiki/Thundarr_the_Barbarian_Wiki

Photo of Michael Moorock.  Goodreads.  www.goodreads.com/author/show/16939.Michael_Moorcock.

Photo of Alan Moore.  Followingthenerd. www.followingthenerd.com/comics/ftns-comic-creator-month-alan-moore.

Photo of Guillermo Del Toro.  Wired.  www.wired.com/2009/05/mf-deltoro.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Under Furious Rains and an Angry Sky

               Sitting in the worn chair before the desk as I have done on so many nights before, a rush of ivory light rippled across the ebony sky.  White veins across the heart of Nyx’s breast expanded and pulsed a second time before an explosion of thunder heralded a cavalry of a million raindrops.  While some may take pleasure of these sensations, my memory flew back to a time most treacherous.  Through days, months, years, back to a moment when my escapades intertwined with those other long dead minds lured by ambitious gain and foolhardy bravery. 

                 I recall a night unlike any experienced before.  Years prior I was summoned by the pleas of some colleagues to assist in the acquisition and study of certain…texts from the derelict ruins far across the never ending sea.  It was in those crumbled walls did my hands fall on one of those leathery scrolls of dried, virgin’s skin.  Curiosity, a deadly affliction to most, had taken its hold of me as I stood alone while my comrades crept along other long neglected halls for other forbidden troves that once belonged to a society wiped out eons ago by unknown circumstances.  My hand trembled as I unrolled the scroll and exposed the faded red lines of nefarious script.

                 Shrouded by the faint glow of my lantern, five decades of research and study cataloged itself within my mind.  Finally able to remember the language that belonged to such scribbles, I whispered aloud each line.  In a blink of an eye, the orange burning comfort lounging idly atop a fallen pillar was gone.  Instead there was nothing save for an abrupt pitch.  The dark, a Stygian black cast out of Milton’s own Perdition enveloped my existence in one monstrous swallow.  The blackness seemed like nothing itself, and yet all-encompassing and tangible.  I was then plunged into a world that clashed with our own like Night and Day. 

                I stood a mere incorporeal thing.  Despite having been robbed of my body a shivering cold laced itself around my soul.  Was this truly a sensation of biting frost or merely the memory of such?  I could not fathom as panic began to set in.  Fears over the disappearance of my flesh and blood rattled me but only until my facilities reclaimed their hold of my ghostly brain.  It was when I looked about did I see that I had been transported and left inside a large circular room with a far reaching ceiling and surrounded by dozens of windows that gaped open before a sickly green sky.  Moving my phantom legs, I inched closer towards one of the windows and took a glance at where I truly stood.  By some foul twist of fortune a crackle of violet lightening whipped across the befouled heavens.  In that half-second I stared deep down into the clouded skies and realized I stood within some gargantuan spire that stabbed upwards from the unseen earth likes an assassin’s blade.  It was in that explosion of purple conflagration did I feel a second presence skulking about.  Though I was left a mere astral projection of myself, primal fears for my own safety amplified as I looked about the chamber to find who stood with me.  Emerging from some edgeless shadow a figure stalked forward.

                The figure was a shroud of twinging black that rivaled the very abyss that took me.  A juggernaut with tree trunk limbs and a body of layered and lean muscle piled onto a form that stood nearly twice my height.  It moved, each step taken a movement of grace obfuscated by prodigious size.  In the green aura of the toxic sky its make became clear to me. This thing was not enshrouded by some obsidian armor, no, its body was in and of itself that pitch blackness.  In its taut shape the being’s gender remained unknown, if such trivialities could be applied.  The figure’s eyes beamed with the glow as the heavens that surrounded us.  Stepping closer towards the edge of the nearest window, the being stood just beyond the precipice of descent. 

                In a flurry of motion that blinded my ghostly eyes, the phantom of amassed shadow shot both arms out into the open sky.  A dozen digits and clawed hands worked under the whims of a mad composer.  The skies reacted, twisting and swirling into violent mixes of color while thunder and lightning shattered whatever semblance of peace might have lingered in this misbegotten scape.  The stranger’s arms worked into more swings and arcs, moving with effortless fluidity as it created the invisible shapes.  With a long hiss, it raised both claws in a grand crescendo that preluded the finale.  

                There came a roar, a bestial sound that could mute even the shouts of the Almighty.  Even in my bodiless state I rattled with terror at the noise that would forever be etched on my psyche.  The deep bass of monstrous roaring seemed to come from all directions, and it was not until I stared directly ahead of my oblivious conductor I saw the source.  However tall the tower had been, the thing that rose from the clouds dwarfed even that.  The behemoth surged upward, its form an amalgamation of a thousand nightmares stitched together by an infinity of screams.  Could this have been the legendary Leviathan or colossal Behemoth warned about by priests and theologians?  Or was this something worse altogether like some intermingling of both titans?  I would never know.  I stared at the conductor of mayhem and saw at least one emotion I could decipher.  As the beast roared and ripped into the cosmos, the black stranger writhed in apparent bliss, in almost a sexual ecstasy edging closer to climax as the monster in the heavens ascended higher. 

                The madness became too much. I knew I had to leave, needed to return to my body and retain whatever semblance of myself that could be saved.  It was in that moment of panic, the conductor paused, the throes of passion ended.  It twisted its nightmarish visage towards me.  Though I was sure I was invisible the eldritch giant loomed over me, staring at me with its fiery emeralds.  I froze unsure of how to proceed, helpless against the unknown.  At that moment the choice, if any, was ripped from me.  The stranger lunged forward, sending a six-talon grasp shooting towards my face.  I shut my eyes fearful that my soul, ripped and torn from my body would haunt this foul and bizarre world. 

                I gasped, feeling my lungs burn for oxygen as if I had been holding my breath for hours.  Blinking I came to realize I had returned to the dingy ruins of a forgotten people.  Sweat poured down my body as I spun about, making sure this was not some trick of the eye.  I turned to see my lantern still abundant with oil and continuing to burn its tender, reassuring light.  Scrambling for my watch I came to realize only a scant fifteen minutes of my life had been stolen.  As a sense of calm began to return my ears picked up the sound of raindrops chiming along with the padded drumbeats of thunder….followed by a scream.

                With my astral body and flesh entwined together once more, I ensured to keep both intact.  Lantern in hand, and my pistol formally resting in its holster now drawn, I readied myself for any altercation.  At the entrance of the room, I saw one of our guides, a timid and frightened lad.  He called out to me, to warn me that an incoming storm threatened to flood all roadsides and that a nearby cadre of bandits were camped too close for the comfort for my comrades. A hasty escape was needed before we were all trapped in this second hand sarcophagus and left at the mercy of bloodthirsty cutthroats.  I nodded to the boy, holstered my weapon, and with my free hand snatched up the parchment that linked me with the mad conductor and to a world that thankfully, remained so far away.

                As now I reclined against the welcoming embrace of my chair I stared outwards, no more grateful for any more misery brought on by the rain. 

 

On This Night of All Nights...

                 Words could not express the utter awe and fear that befell upon me when the news of my comrade’s discovery came to light on that fateful day so long ago.  Such a sight could not have been the grand design of the fleshy, mortal, hands of humanity.  But by some chance, if what my colleague’s eyes had laid sight on had been the creation of man, then the mind that directed such servants must have originated in places the normal mind dare not tread.  As this night draws to a close, this night when spirits take leave of their dark and stifled soil, and when creatures of maligned intent scour the darkened streets, my heart travels back to one of so many  poor individuals that plague my life, and the foul fruits of his efforts

                The old man took me along the winding path. He was a grizzled sort, the kind who lived out here because he had too, because too many people in town knew certain things about him.  It didn’t matter to me as long as he took me to the right spot.  Still, out here in the middle of nowhere along rows of dense wood and unmanned acre I truly didn’t know what to expect.

                “Just right along this way.”  He grumbled before pointing to a rock.  “Watch out now, don’t want to roll back down to where we started eh?”

                “I suppose not.”  I answered, trying to match my feet to his.  “How much further anyway?  It seems like we’ve been at this for hours.”

                “Just a little longer, you can just about make her out over the tree line.”  The guide motioned with his hand.

                My eyes strained looking past the ancient trees. Up and over the green leaves large vertical protrusions jutted lines of rock that seemed to match the crashing waves of the long distant sea.  Intrigued but no less perturbed by my guide’s subterfuge I continued in hopes that his surprise would be worth my while.  Still, I grew annoyed with my guide’s inhuman stamina.  It seemed like he could hike like this for days on end without so much as breaking a sweat.  I on the other hand, had morphed into a near dehydrated, sausage red, monstrosity, assailed by the humidity and sun. 

                “Now tell me again how did you find this wonder of nature?”  I managed to huff.  The exertion of the uphill trek was taking its toll.

                “Few weeks back.  The townies thought I was just being me own drunk self.  Took some wheelin’ and dealin’ but I knew I had to get a man like you out there.”

                I turned back to the rocks in the distance.  Just next to the downward crags of rock a new set had appeared.  Parallel yet opposite the rocks seemed to form two hands grasping into the waves in the mountainside.  Curiosity overrode my fatigue and I followed along at a quicker pace. 

                Before long, higher we moved past the curtain of trees that kept this secret so inveigled and kept from sober minds.  At last we stopped a circular clearing, my guide said nothing instead he gave a winded groan and planted himself on a nearby stump, flask of whisky now in hand.  For me it no longer mattered as my eyes met that of a titan’s. 

                She was hideous, ghastly, a gargantuan visage that looked down on me with unblinking eyes.  Her alien gaze looked deep inside me, the lips of her small mouth pursed in silent judgment.   Past the distorted and warped face I stared in awe at the face of alien beauty.  It was only when I heard my guide’s voice I had remembered I was not alone.

                “You like her?  I call her Barb.  Sometimes when I get drunk I like to have it out with her.” 

                I stared at the rock for what seemed like hours trying to discern her makers.  Those diligent sculptors of a distant bygone age were lost into the ethers of time.  I could not fathom the reason or the cause for such a sight to stare down in condemnation of the little men below her.  All I knew for sure was that this was love at first sight.

10/20/2016

 Some time prior I recall the account of an old acquaintance.  A once cheery demeanored fellow whose life tumbled into the ashes of despair.  But can the void torn asunder by loss be grafted whole by the return of that same presence?  Or does the aura of dreadpermeate from the once beloved sights of those long past from the eyes to the deepest recesses of the mind?  I record this account and hope that this answer never befalls myself. 

The bell signals the eleventh hour, chiming above the radio. I do my best to keep the volume loud to take in our favorite song, but the old thing is barely audible drowned out by the clock. After a strenuous day my mind was addled and body, now ravaged by time, weak with fatigue. The house is pitch black, save for a sole street light shining through the side window.

I take a second to look about the darkness and notice how the shadows crawl from the corners. The recent gift of loneliness brings a newfound desolation to a place once full of life. My weathered hands caress the length of the wooden stair rail. The closer I approach the bedroom, the less that streetlight penetrates the enveloping darkness. Despite the obsidian shadows that enshroud the hallway, years of repetition allowed my feet to locate what was once our room.

Entering my chambers a pair of small yellow orbs greets me in the night. Just then memories of the day when we found Old Miss as a kitten flood back. My ears pick up her faint purring; it brings me a moment of comfort. In one arm I take the hefty feline to the bedroom window, the open space allows me to take in the night’s summer air.

Old Miss sniffs for moment and hisses before leaping down the roof and to the alley behind the house. How many times had you stood at this very spot to watch that cat make the same trip over and over?  How many times had I taken such moments for granted? I knew the answer. With a long yawn, I put an end to my pondering and shut the window. Finally, I plant myself on the bed. The once luxurious furniture feels less hospitable now that it is only occupied by one. Before lying down my eyes look to the nightstand, the gleam of a picture frame glimmers faintly. Though not visible the contents of the photograph are vivid in my mind.

The sun soared that day. You were there, that blond hair against the blue backdrop of the afternoon sky was further complimented by that permanent smile on your face. My head falls onto the pillow.  I begin to stare into the blank ceiling. I cannot recall how long I lie in my waking slumber until the bells begin to chime, signaling midnight has arrived.

My eyes begin to close but a movement rustling by the dresser pops them open. Had it not been for my fatigue I would swear I caught the sight of two small yellow orbs. No, it is just my mind I tell myself.  In my ears a blaring racket from downstairs finds its way up to the room. The sounds of static intensify until a familiar song comes clear. Never had our radio gotten that loud. I now find myself frozen in our bed, all too aware of the presence lying next to me.