Fiction

Dispatches

They started some time ago. Too long for me to pinpoint an actual date. Maybe two, maybe three years ago. Possibly more. Just one night, I started having them. Dreams. But not quite. The sort of dreams that feel more like memories. The kind that after waking up the next morning, you’re tearing through the house looking for that thing you lost because you suddenly remembered where you last left it. And when you inevitably don’t find it, you furrow your brow and just question the reality of it all.

They were of that variety of dream. The ones that stuck around. And as soon as you began to let them fade beyond the realms of memory, they came back to you at night.

That is until they became more recurring. From every so often to every two weeks to every week to just about every time you close your eyes. And they left me waking up in the middle of the night, getting on my phone or tablet or laptop and just searching for answers. Every search left me without nothing. Not an inch closer to an answer.

It affected my work. I could see it in the eyes of my coworkers. The way my superiors spoke to me. Saw in the disappointed looks of my family. And how my friends would text me at random. Some even calling, their voices heavy with concern.

I shrugged it off, of course. Told everyone it was nothing. That I was just preoccupied.

“Is there anything I can do to help?” the question repeated with each phone call conversation or text message.

By the end of it, the dreams became more vivid. And the warning repeated itself: Stay away from Night Ocean.

A searching online for it led me to a short story by R. H. Barlow and H. P. Lovecraft. It led me to a novel by Paul La Farge. It led me to countless articles and essays about the two works of fiction, but nothing concrete. And having never read either, it made no sense to me why the warning would echo in my ear.

I thought it was crazy. Or maybe I had been going a bit mad. These dreams were eating away from my sleep schedule. Perhaps I heard the title of the story in passing. Or maybe I misunderstood the warning in my dream. And I shouldn’t dwell on it. After all, they were just dreams. And dreams are nothing more than the subconscious speaking to us.

A lot had changed in my corner of the world. It’s not too far fetched that I would have some unaccounted stress lying below my facade. Later that morning, I phoned a friend whose profession was to assist trouble minds like mine. He, of course, wouldn’t take me in as a patient and I hadn’t expected him to. My reasoning was merely to ask for a suggested therapist. Someone as good as he if not better.

He chuckled at my slight stab to his ego, “Glad to have you back, Marrow.”

“Glad to be back,” I replied.

After making an appointment with one Doctor Angelina Cortez, I readied myself for work. The day, uneventful as it were, went by in a blur. People smiled at me. Most were happy not to see me sulking around. And my supervisor called me into her office and told me, “Whatever it is you’re doing, keep it up. I’m glad to have the old you back.”

On the way home, I stopped at the book shop I frequented often. Black Spire books stood hidden on a block of coffee shops and delis. I’m told it started off as a mom-&-pop store. It stayed within the family through the generations. And due to our small town nature, it thrived. The current owner, the great-granddaughter of the original owners, greeted me as I entered the building.

“Marrow,” she said, “long time no see, man.”

“Sorry about that Shelbs,” I said, “I’ve been preoccupied a lot with work.”

“Nah I get it, man,” she said. And her smile faltered, “Listen, I know we don’t really like talk outside of this place or whatever, but if you ever need to talk about it, we can.”

“Really, Shelby, it’s fine,” I managed before changing the subject. “Got the latest issue?”

“Are you kidding me? You haven’t been here for months, I saved you the back issues too.”

From behind her counter, Shelby pulled out a small stack of publications, issues of a poetry magazine that I’d taken a liking to.

I thumbed through one issue as Shelby asked, “You ever gonna publish anything in that magazine? Your stuff is good, Marrow. Like really good. The people at the poet’s corner really love it.”

“Maybe,” I replied,

And then I saw it. Inside the April issue: “Night Ocean” by Amber K. Gonzalez.

“Hey Shelbs, I gotta go,” I muttered. “How much do I owe you for this?”

I paid and got back into the car, dropping all but the April issue – just last month – onto the passenger seat. I flipped to the page and read the three-line poem, the only one published by Amber. Amber, who I hadn’t heard from in all this time. Amber, who blamed herself for the misfortunes of my life. Amber.

Arriving home, I found the mail scattered on the floor. The seasick green envelope standing out among the others. Her name written on the corner in her perfect script: Amber K. Gonzalez 42 East Gilman Avenue, Night Ocean.

No state. No zip code. Not even a fucking stamp.

I rip the fucking thing open and out slipped note. Small. Handwritten. Smelling of her perfume and the sea.

“It’s beautiful here, Marrow.
“Come find me.
“Everything goes quiet in Night Ocean.”

The same three lines as her poem. The poem I can no longer find within the pages of the April issue.

It takes me longer to notice the blood stained fingerprints left at the corners of the page.

Books

Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff

“That’s the horror, the most awful thing: to have a child the world wants to destroy and know that you’re helpless to help him. Nothing worse than that. Nothing worse,” writes Matt Ruff in “The Narrow House,” just one of the many interconnecting stories that make up his novel, Lovecraft Country. Set in Jim Crow era America, the novel tackles racism in a Lovecraftian way. It’s done so well, it can’t even be considered ironic—can it?Lovecraft Country

Unless you’re a delusional nutcase, there is no hiding the fact that H.P. Lovecraft had some unsavory opinions when it came to people who didn’t look like him (i.e. a white male). This can make it difficult for a person of color (or a woman, for that matter) to enjoy the book without the nagging realization that the author penned a poem called “On the Creation of Niggers.” Or that, in his story, “The Rats in the Walls,” the narrator’s cat is named Nigger Man.

There is no forgetting that the greatest monster this country has to offer isn’t some unknowable creature that lurks in the dark or some interplanetary beast with an insatiable appetite. In the title chapter/story, Atticus is pulled over by a state trooper for no other reason than being a black man in a predominately white county. In “The Narrow House,” Montrose remembers his father’s death during a race war. In “Jekyll in Hyde Park,” Ruby is given a job opportunity that allows her to shed her blackness in exchange for white skin and red hair. Amateur astronomer, Hippolyta Berry explores a planet only few humans have set foot upon in “Hippolyta Disturbs the Universe,” only to learn she’s been the pawn of a dead man’s game in order to further punish the black housekeeper he imprisoned there. And the interconnecting plot has Caleb Braithwhite using these African-American characters as pawns in his elaborate take over of natural philosophers.

The novel is reminiscent of the Lovecraftian tales mixed in with dark comedy within the pages. It’s a must read for those into weird tales and escapism. For those who loved the film Get Out, this is the book for you. And it’s not just because Jordan Peele is producing the TV treatment Lovecraft Country.

Well, until next time, keep on huntin’.

Doldrums

“We Have Such Sights to Show You”

Adding new games into game night is difficult to say the least. The past week, I busied myself by reading tremulus by Sean Preston. Never having heard of tremulus before, its selling point wasn’t hard to pinpoint: it’s a storytelling RPG that incorporates Lovecraftian horror.

Our main game is Dungeons & Dragons in which Duckie holds the title of Dungeon Master. And I have no intention of usurping and dethroning him (not any time soon, anyway). Now that we have new people playing with us, I think incorporating tremulus into our game night might help with Duckie’s Book of Malor.

Unlike D&D, tremulus only requires two dice (per player). While the Keeper creates the premise and hazards, it’s up to the group as a whole to craft the story. This has been a sore spot with our D&D sessions. Most of the onus is placed on Duckie’s shoulders and that’s too much of a burden to keep to story going.

I’m not saying that this game will be our saving grace for our D&D nights; I think it’ll just help open and ease players into wanting to partake and add to the game.*

I haven’t finished reading the guide yet, but it’s great so far. I’ve been building ideas as I go along, hoping to create an omnibus of tales to send the characters into such a fright as we explore the deepest, darkest recesses of the mind.

*This actually happened during the last D&D session, when Crissy decided what the fortuneteller would say.
Personal

The Problem of the Puer Aeternus

My mind is killing me. On the one hand, with Sertraline in my system, my mood’s improved significantly. While scientists haven’t found a cure (to my knowledge) for innate cynicism, I’m not as angry after work as before. Also my dips are spread apart (two since I started taking the pill in March), so that’s something to cheer for. But I’m still scatter-brained, if not more so. An idea popped into my brain (around the same time I started taking the pill) and, nearly two months later, I’ve not written one word on the subject. I have, however, taken A LOT of notes on the matter. I’ve used my journal more times in the last three or four weeks than I have in the three years since I started it. While I’ve ultimately decided that left pages are solely for note taking, I have filled quite a bit of the daily thoughts right page. And both sides are related to the idea that I had while reading (you guessed it!) the side effects to Zoloft.

Because at the tail-end of 2015 I decided to dedicate 2016 to exclusively reading science fiction, horror, fantasy, and speculative fiction, I’ve been reading A LOT of Lovecraft mythos and any related texts. A story here. A story there. And the more I left myself drift into the world, the more the idea was fed. And while I don’t have one single clue where I want this idea to lead, I do know that a story (or several) can come of it. Revision, I’m told, is the greatest thing a writer can do to his stories, and a lot of my old tales and back burner ideas are coming to fruition with a twist.

And while journaling gives me a sense of control of my ideas, I wish I could focus on a project at a time. That’s not, sadly, how my mind works. I’m brainstorming stories, poems, essays, and the layout of my and Shaun’s backyard garden. Trying to figure out how to finance the renovations that my home so desperately needs. Trying to figure out if getting a manufactured house is a better deal. Figuring out if I’d actually use a bench swing in the backyard, right smack in the middle of our garden, beneath the large mesquite tree. I’m looking into things that would help my kiddo learn his letters, his numbers, his shapes, and improve his speech. I’m trying to make this blog more interesting, but I don’t have a niche and I don’t think I’m ever going to have one. Is that so wrong? I’m paying to keep my journal public. Let’s face it though, none of this is edited or matters to the average reader. Most of you just come to read the old posts about Bailey Jay or Izzy Hilton (only to be disappointed by the fact that none of those posts have to do with porn).

Then there’s work. And I don’t really want to get into the cha-cha-changes happening at [redacted] because my level of apathy has reached all new heights. I haven’t heard a single word about the other library job in such a long time, I’m sure that it’s just a pipe dream. I’ll start looking for employment in other venues because I don’t know how much of the dramatic bullshit I can take (well, when it involves me).

Doldrums

Blaspheme Baxton Goes to Innsmouth

"We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far."

I took Blaspheme Baxton out for a spin last night for some Second Life action. I opted on her and not Alphonso Bookmite because I thought some old buddies would be one. Portia was, but I wasn’t going to intrude on her Second Life action (no innuendo intended).

I first joined Second Life to handle the drama occurring in my life a few years ago. After establishing some sort of community in-world, I realized the virtual life came with its own baggage. I lasted a year before leaving it behind. Every now and then I like to jump on to see how everything’s going and to escape from my dull existence.

Last night I stumbled into Innsmouth, based on the fictional town created by H.P. Lovecraft which is most notably featured in the story The Shadow Over Innsmouth (which you can read here). I wandered (actually flew over) the city, visiting the structures and taking pictures. I felt the pull of something that I’m still unsure how to decipher. I’m drawn to writing something great, but I haven’t figured out what.

It’s a bit strange, I know. But one of the reasons I loved Second Life so much was the ability to breathe life into two avatars. Alphonso Bookmite was tame, a virtual version of me (though, I made him way more attractive). While Blaspheme Baxton acted as my inner demon and bad habits multiplied. She was also the more popular one among the friends. Which just proves that people tend to like me more when I act like a total asshole who swears too much. It could also have been for the fact that I made Blas as a female who was far from tame. (Originally created as a straight girl, but after several propositions for sex, I made her a lesbian. That, by the way, didn’t stop the propositions.)

Blaspheme Baxton died the same day Michael Jackson died. However, unlike the latter, she still haunts the world she left behind. She might just make a come back. Maybe not as the DJ she was known for in her last days, but as the character that I need.

If you’re a Second Life resident, look for Blaspheme Baxton in Innsmouth. Or wherever she may wander.

Doldrums

Finding Lovecraft Sexy

Love is a stairway?

“It’s weird how quickly you all say love down here,” Miranda said. Those might not have been her words, verbatim, but it is the gist of her point. And this was several years ago, when the world was still in front of us and we didn’t worry all too much about the future. When things were good between the both of us and before our personalities mucked up a good friendship.

We were sitting on Lydia’s porch as she and Jorell vanished somewhere. And they were the reason Miranda started this conversation in the first place. The couple had just formed a union and already they were throwing around the word love like candy on Halloween. And I couldn’t argue against her, nor did I want to agree with her. I was a guilty party of the love fiasco. Everyone I knew then was.

“Love is built up in stages.”

Several times in the past, I’ve been asked the same question over and over again. It’s the Haddaway single, minus the “baby don’t hurt me.” Everyone always wants someone else’s definition of love. Not because they’re too stupid to define it themselves, or because they honestly don’t know, but because love isn’t an easy thing to define. Even I find it hard to explain what love is, as there are several different types of love.

The love you have for a good book. That you carry for a good friend. The bond between a family. The type that cuts you deep in high school. The sort that makes you call the girl a funny name in elementary.

One of my former creative writing professors once told El Senor the reason he married his wife (and I’m paraphrasing here), “After years of searching for her flaws, I turned up with nothing. So why not marry her?”

Us, lying in bed, playing Every Word on my Kindle. Wasting the day in each other’s arms. Watching a movie together. Me, reading from my Lovecraft collection, she asks, “Do you have to read that sexy?” “It’s Lovecraft. I don’t think it’s supposed to be sexy.”

Just knowing that when you wake up in the morning and seeing her face, everything will never hurt again. Knowing that no matter the amount of bitterness you hold towards the world, the only thing that really makes you smile, laugh, feel even an ounce of happiness, is lying next to you.