Boy, that sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it. This winter, the living skies have been more than usually lively, and have offered freezing rains followed by the kind of temperatures only Antarctic explorers look upon as acceptable, screeching winds, and the usual crop of parhelions (which I understand some places treat as a rare source of wonder).
I mention this for two reasons. First, I am still labouring along on The Novel, from which no vacation is allowed if it is ever to be finished. Second, there has been another flash-fiction prompt from Chuck Wendig, on the topic of travel woes, which I thought I should pursue to remind myself that something other than The Novel exists.
Thus, Getting There is Half the Fun. Yes, a well worn title. I know. My brain is riddled with the cracks of temperature stress.
Just a little ephemeral thing I did that I want to preserve… at least for a while:
In honor of the best event the calendar year offers, I’m posting another little look at my own interactions with the misty realms of which we know but dimly, with an explanation of Why I Believe in Ghosts. Like last year’s excursion, the most startling thing about the whole affair is the title of this announcement post. Also like last year’s post, this is not to say that there aren’t chills to be had from reading it… if you consider the broader and ongoing implications of true ghost stories.
I was listening to a fellow speaking of human sleep arrangements lately, and on the way to his main point, he mentioned some people from the Solomon Islands objecting to what their London hosts thought was lavish treatment, a separate hotel room for each one of their party. “What,” I’m told they asked, “if one of us has a nightmare?”
Dreams are funny things. I can see how people can come around to the notion that they present a window on an actual separate reality, since there is sometimes such a wealth of detail in unfamiliar settings that it is very hard to credit the subconscious with such inventive powers.
…but then there are the dreams in which things are so deeply wrong that you really, really hope there’s nothing at all to that notion, because the partitions between the wings of the multiverse are just not thick enough if that stuff is on the far side.
Guess which sort I’m going to recount for you? I have been battering away at the novel and a story for an anthology I’d quite like to get into, and so haven’t been able to run up stories for this enterprise in a while, but last night’s vision of global, possibly universal, destruction was so affecting, I thought I should at least try to squeeze some of it out of my head for presentation here. So, if you ever wondered idly to yourself, “What sort of nonsense is running around inside the heads of writers,” I offer a small but vibrant sample. Be careful to not get any on you, it is almost certain to stain your clothes.
I’m offering a story today, Remarkable Value, Unbeatable Location, for which I had to look backward in my own life to get some of the details. I’m currently living the North American dream, revelling in my status as owner-occupier of a fully detached single dwelling. Apart from not having anyone but myself to complain to when the drains get clogged, it’s pretty good stuff. I have previously rented, as the last story indicated, and before that I lived in a variety of apartment situations (although the vertical four-plex in Korea was apparently called a ‘villa’, despite the Korean trouble with the letter V, to distinguish it from one of units in the vast thousand-person blocks). It’s the apartment life that the current story is founded in.
Anyone who has lived in an apartment setting will have a story or two about inconsiderate neighbours– it may be over-egging to call it a common horror, but if you think of is as an induced inability to relax in your own home… well, that’s pretty horrible. The Romans were onto something, calling apartment buildings insulae— like shipwreck survivors washed onto the shores of an island, the people living in a block find themselves sharing accommodation with a bunch of strangers. Even if there aren’t cannibals and tigers, things can get a bit tense because none of them have quite the same idea of correct conduct.
Hyperbole sure is easy!
For Hallowe’en, I thought I would offer a small recounting of a ghostly encounter of my very own. Like a proper real-life ghost story, it does not have a very firm narrative line, and it also doesn’t have much that a dedicated sceptic can’t dismiss out of hand.
There also isn’t, at least on the part of the teller, horror. My hair remained unwhitened. My flesh barely crept at all. But there is a lingering sense of having something happen which, dismissive sceptics be damned, satisfies Occam’s razor most readily by saying, “It was a ghost.” Which, for someone who enjoys writing this sort of story, is kind of neat.
Another flash story to prove I still care about this enterprise while I’m typing my fingers the very bone working on possibly-saleable works. Today’s presentation, Valuable Role, stems from a writing prompt mentioned by a friend on a pretty good little story he posted only a couple of days ago. It is about the sort of support a person of exceptional capacities should expect from those around them, and it is lightly horrifying.
The thought process was almost exactly this, in fact: “Pretty good. But not the one I’d write.” Well, isn’t that just like a writer? I’m sure others will check into both our stories, have exactly the same thought, and will produce completely different results. Which is also just like a writer. To continue on the theme, I rather ignored the word limit of the exercise my friend was writing to, because I am very in love with my own voice (and want my readers to feel they have has a satisfying serving, too).
The barrage of submission and rejection continues, by the way. I’m sure I’ll get something over the walls eventually!
I’m sure you’re aware of it by now, too. There’s a lot of advertising money being spent to explain that fact to you, coincidentally attached to suggestions regarding repair. Women are, I discover from these informative commercials, even more broken than men, despite the evident stupidity and incompetence of fathers who blunder into kitchens.
Since human breakage is a nice place to go for horror, the new flash story Exciting New Designer Jeans follows this notion into the exotic lands of reductio as absurdum. It started life as just a product name, popping into my head from wherever these intrusions spawn, and the story is an attempt to exorcise it.
…and it’s not that different from what went before. This first post-alteration-of-policy story is a shorty, as promised or threatened. Human Endurance is a horror story without a supernatural element, which is a little unusual for me, but it does stick to my preference for implication rather than flaunting.
I also want to mention that this is likely to hold for some time the record for “story held only in the mind,” as the basic images in it have been drifting around in my head for at least six years but I never before got around to as much as writing down a single note to fix it in the world before actually writing the thing. This is, I think, a poor practice, and I’m going to try to avoid it in the future.
The new Current Story is called A Stroll in Breda, and I have a lot of trouble deciding what genre it lies in. It is a very gentle excursion into weird fiction, lacking the brutality of finish that marks horror, and without the overt unreality of fantasy. As you’ll see in the tags, this had led me to stuff its octagonal peg in both a square and a round hole at the same time.
There is an something of authorial personal experience to this piece, but only trace elements. My father does indeed come from Breda (or an immediately adjacent village which has since been absorbed), and I have stood in several of the places mentioned. The Mastbos, for all its trim plantation nature, has the power to be a very eerie place in the right light. The beer is unreasonably good, and not just in the little bar across the street from the old tank.