Monday, October 31, 2005

Spooky Literary Treats
in lieu of razor blades & candy,
from the friendly ghouls of the ULA...

Halloween Horror Haiku!

by Leopold McGinnis

Hooked killer on loose!
Young couple hear thump, drive off


Spider bite on cheek
Itchy, inflamed and swelling


By J.D. Finch

I’m not going to tell you what happened, step by step, because I never was the analytical sort. That and you’d call me crazy if I tried. But maybe you’ll see the truth if I lay it out plainly to let you decide for yourself. After all, you know and trust me. So why am I getting stressed, right?

It was in that blown glass shop we used to go to – the one with all those tacky front porch flags for sale. (I never really "got" those things. But the country’s ever-plummeting intelligence level leads me to believe folks can’t be bothered to remember names anymore. Easier -- and less mentally rigorous for the poor drones -- to identify each other by symbols: "Oh, here comes ‘cow jumping over moon.’"; "I wonder what ‘sailboat on the bay’ has been up to lately?"; "When did ‘juicy slice of watermelon’ get back from vacation?")

But when a stiff breeze blew through the shop I thought it was a bit threatening, considering the large collection of delicate glass pieces. It left one flag tangled amidst itself and revealed behind it a woman who looked nothing like you. You’re probably wondering why I’m telling you that. It’s akin to saying "the news tonight is there’s no news tonight", right?

Anyway, her mirrored image, refracted by a hundred glass balls in a fragile domino-like row was you. Though there were variants in much iteration, I managed to pick out my favorite version of her. That is, of you.

Another breeze arose and the flags that had remained untangled fluttered their own images across the glass balls creating a Technicolor film strip of you in movement. Perhaps dazzled by the balls a few moments too many, when I looked back the source of your reflection was gone.

And then I began wondering if I had unconsciously reversed reality: was the truth of identity in the images and not the brief glimpse I’d had of the source?

I made my way carefully through the shelves and racks of glass art and decorations. I pushed through the rows of garish flags, my progress fed by my desire to find that living version of you I had seen.

The silks whipped the side of my face and kites hanging from ceiling strings grazed the top of my head. At last covering the entire space of the shop without success I approached the proprietress. She greeted me with silent disapproval.

"The young woman who was in here – do you know where she went?" I asked in rushed, clipped words that made me realize I was breathing heavily as my heartbeat raced.

"You’re the only one that’s been in here within the last half hour, sir. And if I may offer a bit of friendly advice, I think you should slow down. Are you always so…insistent? It’s not good for your health, you know. I had one like you in here a while back and next thing I knew, he was having a heart attack right on my sidewalk."

"Thanks for your interest in my welfare," I began again, trying in vain to sound unconcerned and relaxed. "But…"

"And besides, you might consider this," she interrupted and indicated an "If you break it, you bought it" sign behind her.

I turned away without comment. I was in no frame of mind to tell her that my health was just fine, while her opinions meant as much to me as a bicycle to a fish.

I began to make for the door, yes, now more calmly, I thought -- though my need to find you was slaked not at all -- when I was jerked to attention by an incredible piece of glass.

It had been blown, as had most of the others in the shop, but this one made those look like pretty but trivial bubbles a child blows on a lazy sunny summer day.

This massive ball, at least four feet around, was fluted with hundreds of indentations, each with tiny ridges, which worked in concert to create a wave effect across the entire surface of the piece. As it slowly spun on its turntable discrete spectrums of color inhabited these waves, which continued to merge and separate without end as they brightened and darkened with the sunlight and clouds that played a game of hide and seek through the front door and windows. Within moments I saw the waves take on the quality of casually hanging hair, while the light hit so two of the indentations stood out from the rest, like the eyes of a spirit. And then with another quarter turn I saw the face within the glass, terribly real, was you again!

"How much do you want for this ball?" I asked the proprietress, who on my return I startled so that I imagined she believed I’d gone.

"That’s strictly a display piece sir," she said politely, yet with her well-rehearsed ‘you don’t exist in my world’ aura. "It’s not for sale at any price."

"Rubbish," I said. "Everything has a price. Just name it."

Our argument didn’t last long enough to become heated. I can tell you that at its conclusion three things were true: I owned the ball; the shop’s front door had its OPEN sign turned to CLOSED; the proprietress now modeled one of her own silk flags – "Good Morning Starshine" was what they called the cheesy celestial design – rather too tightly around her neck.

But now, here you are. Or rather, here is your image, turning slowly in the light, where I can appreciate the shimmer of your multicolored eyes and the glinting highlights in your hair; earthbound starlight projected to meet a halo of changeling hues that undulate above you and make a small universe of you for my hungry eyes.

It’s almost enough to make me forget that you’re no longer here, in fact. To make me regret that after you coldly said I would never have you I jammed on the car’s brakes, sending you into the windshield, shattering the face and ending the life of the one I loved.

I don’t know who made this wonderful ball -- the proprietress didn’t live long enough to offer the information. But I know that local glass sculptors go to the town dump to get cast-offs, including windshields from car crashes. You see, I guessed I'd find you like this, but never imagined you'd be such a masterpiece.

I’ll go back to the shop after the shock of the murder there has passed. Maybe the new proprietress will know who created this thing of beauty.

But only I will ever know how beautiful you are turning for me so gracefully in the sun.



by Frank Walsh

Something ran across the television screen
when no one was looking.
The housewives, the eighth graders taking the vow of abstinence,
a creationist with a biological science text book in one hand
and a scientist with a Bible in the other,
thought they saw something and they wanted to buy it
for a song and a dance preferably from Walmart China.
From my sickbed cardboard rattled with tubes under the over-
pass, I thought I had seen everything in lieu
of what was, I tried to remember another time when
the police beat something to death with their moving violations
but it turned out I was wrong, every stone was left unturned,
because there it was finger prints written all over its face:
The Thing That Couldn’t Die.

Take it from one who never made out in the back-seat
of the Moonlight Drive-in on a Summer Friday night underage
when it dawned on me the Japanese physicists
in black and white three piece suits who covered up nuclear licorice
only scratched the surface and melted a runaway iceberg
burning the ravioli in the process, since what those little men
with big ideas had on their hands besides latex gloves
was the Thing That Couldn’t Be Killed For Certain.
Did it have a head in the sense we’d grasp in three dimensions
and, if so, did that head have mouths to feed
far superior to an inside trader conflict of interest or not?
Or no one could make heads or tails or else were too scared to call
911 and tell the Federal Reserve to watch the skies
for STDs and spermacidal.

But the shadow of a doubt never crossed my mind, it was, despite
the General Theory Of Relativity, the Thing That Couldn’t Die
riding at the head of the motorcade, waving its stump behind
bullet-proof windshields, blowing sweet nothings
to the crossing-guards from various holes in the argument,
without flinching because it didn’t have eyes but sun-glasses
polarized. The Thing That Couldn’t Be Killed changed shape
like you sometimes change socks and underwear. It was
cited in Church most every Sunday especially after
a Saturday of heavy drinking and domestic violence come rain
or shine performing marriages between a man and his private property rights.
Once a small child named Catfish reported to his parents as they sat down to a Last Supper at the nickel
and dime that he’d seen the Thing That Couldn’t Care Less
soiling the national past-time but that didn’t make a dent
they checked him for bite marks
and went back to their repast
at the fork in the spoonful but especially the knives.



A Creepy Sonnet

by Jessica Lynn Disobedience

With a straight-razor, you shaved off my scalp;
And a bonesaw cut through my delicate skull.
The bats escaped the belfry - I was a hull,
An empty shell, until you stepped in to help.
You took their place, inhabited the hell
That is my brain. Once infested with howling ghosts,
You came in, and then my head played host
Only to thoughts of you - and just as well.
The bats and ghosts were gone, but you were there
To keep me company, to fill my days and nights.
But one day you took off, without a warning;
Your presence missing from my brain, where
Now the bats have returned, to what is theirs by
And the ghosts fly about my skull, screaming and


by Wred Fright

Every night before Jennifer went to sleep she folded her arms across her chest to save the undertaker the trouble in the morning. She would try to lie as still as possible. The effort would snap her wide awake no matter how sleepy she had been when she had gone to bed, and she would keep her eyes closed tight, listening to the crickets serenade her through the open window in the heat of August, the cars whizzing by on the road in front of the house, her neighbor Mr. Moore bidding his cats good night, the occasional laughter from her parents watching television downstairs, and the creaks and moans of the house as it settled in for the night.

She would also listen to herself, the rise and fall of her breath, the rustle of the sheets as she would involuntarily kick or move; she even thought she could hear her heartbeat if she was quiet enough. She imagined the roar of her blood as it rushed through her body and felt the warm breezez stir the dirt and sweat that clung to her skin. In the flush of summertime, she could never seem to get rid of that dirt and sweat no matter how many times she washed her face before she went to bed. She could feel the grime lying there on top of her Sometimes she wondered if that was the cancer but she knew it was not.

After a long time of lying there, she would hear the television shut off, and her parents climb

the stairs. It felt odd to move again after lying still for so long, but she would uncross her arms quickly and lie still again, pretending she was sleeping. The floorboards would creak and the footsteps would draw nearer and she would almost want to sneak a peek but she kept her eyes closed tighter than ever. Her mother would kiss her on her forehead, and say, "Goodnight Jennifer. God Bless You," and then the footsteps would fade and the floor boards creak in the opposite order. She wondered why her parents couldn't tell she had cancer, but she was relieved because she didn't want to worry them like they had worried over Aunt Sally. That was when she had learned about it.

Jennifer remembered the arguments from the spring time. Her parents had been arguing a lot. She knew it was something about her. It was always when she was out of the room.

"She's too young Carl! Jennifer's only six years old. You seem to forget that. I'll stay home and she'll stay with me," her mother shouted.

"She has to learn about it sometime! She's my only sister Ann! I want Jennifer to know her before . . ."

One day the argument got very loud, and then there was silence. Her father came upstairs and told her they were going to visit Aunt Sally. Her mother didn't come with them. When she and her father got to the hospital, they rode the elevator to the third floor. Down the hallway, in a little white room was Aunt Sally.

She had her head shaved and Jennifer didn't recognize her at first. She smiled weakly at them. She was lying down and tried to sit up, but Jennifer's father said,

"Sally no! Lie back it's fine."

"Carl, leave me alone, I want to see my little Jennifer. Come here darling," she patted on the bed, "How's my one and only godchild."

And then Aunt Sally kissed her and Jennifer tried to stay still but she drew back. She felt Aunt Sally's dry and cracked lips on her cheek and a drop of spittle brushed off on Jennifer's cheek.

The next time she saw Aunt Sally was at the funeral home, the mortician's place, where people went before they went to the cemetery. It was there she saw Aunt Sally lie with her arms crossed and heard the word "Cancer" again and again. That night she had the first dream.

She was sitting in the field behind her house. It was a beautiful summer day. The letters appeared like on Sesame Street and begin to dance. First the "C," then the "A," then the "N," until the entire word arrived and began to chase her. The "C" hounded her, attempting to catch her in its hungry jaws with the entire word following like a train behind. She ran terrified, but it was always only one step behind. It was then she knew she had it.

She was determined no one would know. She didn't want her head shaved. She didn't want to go to the hospital and be hooked up to tubes, and be around nurses and doctors, and eat the awful food her parents talked about. If no one knew, she would just go peacefully in her bed. She knew there was no chance of beating it. Her parents had said that so many times while Aunt Sally had it. It had eventually become a form of shorthand. After meals, her father would sigh and say,

"It's only a matter of time, I suppose."

"Yes," her mother would sigh, and they would both stare into their cups of coffee. Jennifer had tried coffee once. It had tasted terrible. She wondered if it gave you cancer.

After dinner, they would always watch the news. She wasn't interested in it, but she wasn't allowed to go outside and play that late, and she didn't like being alone so she brought down some coloring books or some of her toys and played on the floor while her parents watched the news. Occasionally she would hear "Cancer" and look up. Something was causing cancer. Asbestos, saccharin, Cigarettes. She once asked her mother what cancer was. Her mother said, "When something good turns bad."

Jennifer wondered how she had turned bad.

On Saturdays and Sundays, she went with her mother to the indoor flea market. Her mother ran a booth and sold jewelry and glassware. It was a shadowy, dusty place but was cool compared to outside and she liked it. Everything was old, and seemed like it had been there forever. Sometimes her mother would play cards with some of the other venders when it wasn't busy. They would all comment on her, and offer her food or toys. Sometimes they would slip her dollars and tell her, "What a good little girl you are--always listening to your mother!"

She would usually play on the floor behind the tables, or just sit in her small chair swinging her feet, humming to herself, or counting numbers, "One, two, three, four, five . . ." seeing how far she could go up before losing count.

Because they knew everyone there, and she didn't have to worry, her mother would sometimes let Jennifer run the booth while she ran to the restroom or Ziggy's restaurant to get them lunch. One day, an old man came up to the table. He was dressed neatly in a faded suit and wearing a small brown rumpled hat that fit his head perfectly. He smiled at her and she saw he had a small hole in the middle of his throat. Jennifer wondered what that was for, but she was too polite to ask him.

He bent down and looked at the jewelry, picking up a piece and examining it closely from time to time. Finally, he picked up a bracelet, gazed at it intently, and spoke, his voice a harsh metallic clicking. She couldn't understand what he said. "Pardon me," she said, as she had been taught.

He spoke again, slower this time, "How much for this piece?"

Jennifer motioned with her hands to see it. The man passed it to her and their hands brushed. His skin felt dry and cracked like Aunt Sally's. She turned the bracelet over and over again in her hands but couldn't find the price. She didn't know what to say, and was relieved when she saw her mother returning from the restroom.

Her mother slid between the tables to enter the booth. "This one?" she said to the man, "I'm sorry. It's brand new. I haven't had a chance to price it yet. Um . . . five dollars sounds right."

The man smiled and held a finger up in the air while digging in his back pocket with his other hand. Jennifer looked up following the man's finger. She thought he had been pointing to something but she only saw the rafters of the flea market was located in. The old man paid her mother, and she gave Jennifer the bracelet to wrap and put in a bag. As she wrapped it up, she saw the old man take out a cigarette and light it. He put it to the hole in his throat. Jennifer handed the bag to her mother who passed it on to the old man. The metallic voice clicked, "Thank you." He smiled and tipped his hat to Jennifer. As he walked away, Jennifer saw puffs of smoke drift backwards.

That night she laid in bed with her arms crossed as usual, under the covers so her parents couldn't see. She thought of the man in the flea market. She thought he was a magic man, or a robot like in the movies. She had wanted to ask her mother about him but they had gotten busy and in the rush she had forgotten to ask. Now she remembered him, and again she seemed to see him walking away with the puffs of smoke drifting back. She remembered his finger and how he had held it in the air like a magic wand. She fell asleep.

In her dream that night, the cancer was chasing her as usual, when the man in the suit appeared. He spoke in his metallic clicking, saying each of the letters, "C!" "A!" "N!" "C!" "E!" "R!" and pointing at them with his finger. As he pointed at each one, the letters disappeared. The old man turned toward her then and tipped his hat just as he had done in the flea market. He faded away then leaving only a hole which puffed smoke. In the morning, her arms lay at her sides. For the first time in weeks, she woke up without surprise.


Nasty plugs and fleshy bits:

Leopold McGinnis lives deep in the bowels of, where he stubbornly attempts to re-animate the lit-scene with kooky projects like GameQuest!

J.D. Finch is an undead satyrist who plans to appeal his 1692 conviction at the Salem Witch Trials!

Frank Walsh is a poetic werewolf, stalking the streets of Philadelphia in search of fresh verse and warm blood!

Jessica Disobedience is the zombified midwestern ghoulette who starred as herself in the cult horror classic, Return of the Wanna-be Bride of Tom Waits! Issue number 9 of her zine, Sad & Beautiful World is possibly for sale here!

Wred Fright used to edit this blog, until a jealous & psychotic Pat Simonelli KILLED HIM IN COLD BLOOD! Or, married him off and forced him into exile. Wred's book, The Pornographic Flabbergasted Emus, is forthcoming from ULA Press!

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