Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Dragon Chronicles VII

VII.The mark of seven shoves our blight
As the chain of life shines over-bright
The pious look for any signs
SAGE departs on twenty-seven + two nines


Monday, December 28, 2009

Claustrophobic Dreams, a Letter from Gina

Dear Weezel,
I’ve been claustrophobic for years, but since I know my limitations I’m very careful not to place myself in any situations that may cause a flare-up.

Lately, however, I’ve been having a mind-numbing dream. I’ve experienced this dream about once per week for several months. Even thinking about it makes my heart race a little, but I’ll do my best to write the details down in this letter while they’re fresh in my mind.

In my dream I’m just pulling my car up to a large dark green house . . . The house is massive with gingerbread-like eaves and windows that remind me of half-lidded eyes for some reason.

I enter the house and find myself in a huge room. It looks like a ballroom and the furniture is ornate and expensive looking. The door I entered through has disappeared, but I see a smaller door far away in the opposite wall. I quietly walk to the new door that opens into another large room. These rooms absolutely sparkle with antiques and richness and I want to stay and explore each one thoroughly, but a nagging inner voice tells me that I need to keep moving.

As I move from room to room, I notice each room is smaller than the previous until finally I’m wedged into a tiny little room in which I can neither move forward nor backward. This room has a tiny little window in it also, but I cannot reach it no matter how much I claw and tear at the walls and woodwork trying to get to the window and out of the house.

At this point I usually wake in a cold sweat with blankets wrapped so tight about my body that I can barely breathe.

To make matters worse, I am a real estate agent and today I drove by the next house on my caseload. I say that I drove by it because I was afraid to stop . . . You see it’s that same green house that I’ve been dreaming about for weeks now.

Dear Gina,
Oh, dear! This is such a deliciously chilling predicament that I’m a tad speechless. I did a little research on dreams. Ask yourself the following questions:
· What element in my life right now seems most threatened? (Search for the ah-hah meaning)
· Is there a possibility that it could be damaged or hurt in any way?

A building in a dream usually points directly to a specific area of your life (your job? your affliction?).
Dreams of great buildings -- like you mention -- usually indicate the dream has a great meaning, and should be taken seriously, as well as any applied association.

Please Note: Before entering that house, I suggest you thoroughly analyze this dream. Your subconscious mind is trying to tell you something important. I’m enclosing a few links to help you. Good Luck!


Thursday, December 24, 2009

#fridayflash Snowman

Karen’s first glimpse of the house at 13 Cemetery Street brought surprise, then delight. She had expected a broken down dump or hovel knowing that now they lived on Viv’s paychecks with only occasional child support thrown in.

The quaint boxy home squatted in an open meadow. A large gray weathered barn overshadowed the yard with a blanket of darkness. Across the street grew the headstones responsible for the address.

Snow started falling as soon as the last of the household goods found a way inside and the U-haul returned to a local dealer. It seemed like the storm had been waiting patiently for the Parker family to complete their move.

“I thought it didn’t snow in Isla, Virginia,” Karen grumbled to her mother.
“Who told you that?” Viv asked as she folded bright dishtowels into a kitchen drawer.
“Didn’t you?”
“I don’t think it snows very often,” Viv said loading blue plastic tumblers into a kitchen cabinet. “This should blow over soon. I’m sure we won’t get as much snow here as we did in Turner, New York! Why not make the best of it and take Julie, Jen and Kathy out to build a snowman?”
“We should all go out and build it,” Karen said remembering some of their past snow monstrosities.

Viv pushed flyaway hair out of her eyes, gulped a swig of cold coffee, and swiveled to survey her almost ship shape kitchen. “You’re right,” she told Karen. “I’m about finished here. You go out to the barn and see what you can find for snowman apparel – there’s a trunk of old clothes up in the loft. I’ll get your sisters and we’ll be right out.”

Karen struggled into warm clothing, grabbed an empty box from the pile on the porch and trudged out to the barn looking for prime snowman duds.
The thirteen-year old giggled out loud when she found the jaunty purple silk top hat with its wispy red feather. The trunk held perfect attire for her snowman. Beside the cool hat the trunk coughed up a plastic carrot, two large green cat’s eye marbles, a dozen black buttons, a moth-eaten green crocheted scarf, a huge old red flannel vest, and even a tacky plastic Christmas wreath festooned with tiny red berries.

Across the street, the tombstones had become bumps in the snow. Karen saw her mother and three sisters already busy at work rolling the body parts through the knee-deep snow in the cemetery. Karen already thought of it as “our cemetery.” Everyone “ohed” and “ahed” over the snowman duds Karen brought onto the scene. The snowman became so large they finished assembly close to a thick heavy gravestone in the front of the cemetery for added support. Karen brushed away the snow on the marker to find one word engraved into the granite: Blucas.
The snowman -- now christened “Blucas” -- developed into a masterpiece. Fat and burley, with one broad white bicep reaching up to tip the rakish purple hat while his other arm carried the cheap holiday wreath like an oversized bracelet.

After the rest of the family plodded home, Karen remained behind. The snow had stopped, but as Karen reached up to brush the dusting of snow from his purple hat, she froze. The jolly snowman face created moments ago from discarded buttons and marbles now seemed to sneer down at her with chilling malice. Although the artificial face still smiled, the expression seemed changed: watchful and wary. Green marble eyes, vengeful and angry, burned down at Karen bringing an involuntary shudder through her body and sending her stumbling and weaving across the quiet street.

Inside the warm cheery kitchen, Karen found everyone gathered around the kitchen table with steaming mugs of hot chocolate. She noticed her family’s eyes all trained on a small gnomish woman perched on a stool holding a mug, which swallowed her face with each sip.
“Karen, this is Mrs. Ramsey, our neighbor.”
Karen nodded warily, the snowman temporarily forgotten.
“Oh my,” Mrs. Ramsey cackled. “All girls . . . wouldn’t old Blucas have a fit about this.”
As the family turned questioning gazes on her, Mrs. Ramsey took another healthy swing of her cocoa and then proceeded with her tale regarding the former tenant of this house.

“We never did find out if it was his first or last name,” Mrs. Ramsey said. “The neighbors round here just called him Blucas.”
“Blucas had him a wife and six daughters,” Mrs. Ramsey began. “Last spring, he kilt ever one of them right here in this house. Left a journal sayin women and girls were not fit to live with. Said the whining finally got to him and he needed to put a stop to it all. About a week after he got them all buried across the street, his heart give out and he died. I found him myself, ” she said sitting a little straighter. “He died writin in that old journal of his. He died writin about his new found peace and quiet.” She chortled. “Ain’t that a kick in the head?”

Viv quickly ushered the children from the room, but not before Karen heard her ask Mrs. Ramsey how Blucas had killed them all.

“We never found out.”


In the morning, Mrs. Ramsey stopped by again to visit the Parkers. She had some more good stories to tell them about the neighborhood.

What she found in the house would remain forever imprinted in her mind.
All dead – murdered in their beds.

In her haste to leave the house, Mrs. Ramsey tripped over a purple silk hat on the kitchen floor. She noticed a large puddle of water, some buttons, and an old wreath by the puddle and chalked it up to moving paraphernalia, however, why would a house full of girls have a pitchfork in the kitchen?


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

My Media Musings I

My Media Musings I:

Sometimes I have questions. Being a TV junkie in a world of other TV junkies, I’m going to heave a few television questions out to my devoted readers. Please feel free to answer, comment, or leave questions of your own -- for future musing.

[1.]What the hell is Fringe about? When this new program first aired, I missed the very first episode due to a conference. I thought this show might be Fox’s new X Files replacement, but I’ve watched every subsequent episode, and I still don’t know what’s happening. I know that the FBI is involved (like X Files), there is one male and one female agent connected (like X Files), and that occasionally a really cool monster shows up (like X Files), but basically I find this show very difficult to follow. I don’t know what dimension the characters are working in most weeks, but it seems there’re more than one. Anybody have a clue as to what’s going on here?

[2.]Does anyone remember that in 1977 a remake of Jimmy Stewart’s It’s a Wonderful Life came out starring Marlo Thomas? The movie was called It Happened One Christmas. Marlo Thomas played Mary Baily, the female version of Jimmy Stewart’s character. I may take a beating for this, but I liked this remake better than the original movie and I’m wondering why it never shows up during the holidays like all of the other sappy Christmas stories out there? Does anyone know anything else about this movie and why it doesn’t repeat like most others?

[3.]Is there any other person on TV as annoying as Mary Murphy? I used to really enjoy watching the show So You Think You Can Dance. This year I haven’t watched it nearly as much because I simply cannot take Mary Murphy’s screaming, braying, caterwauling, and unfocused judgments. Anybody else have an opinion?


Dragon Chronicles VI

VI. Caps do melt and waters rise
Torrents fill the darkened skies
Scoffers pause in their debate
The emu blinks but it’s too late


Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Ouija; a Letter from Abby

Dear Weezel,

I have a scary story that I can’t seem to get out of my mind now that Christmas is fast approaching.

The Christmas when I was eleven, I received an antique Ouija Board from Santa. To this day, none of my relatives admit to sending the board to me and my parents swear they don’t know what I’m talking about. Nevertheless, as I scratched the outdated, yellow-tinged gift-wrap from the old box, I noticed the game appeared ancient. The folded wooden board had obviously suffered many scratches and gouges across its frightening, alphabetized face. The metal planchette looked thin, rickety, and tattered, its glass window yellowed and cloudy with age, its felt sliders had worn to paper-thin scraps of fabric on its three tiny feet.

My sister Bonny and I immediately set up the board across our knees and proceeded to ask it questions. We had seen this done before on a recent episode of “Checkmate.”

With horrified fascination, we watched as the board spelled out a story about a restless spirit trapped in our house. His name was Golum Ace.

When we asked Mr. Ace how we could help him achieve a peaceful rest, we were instructed to check an old trunk in the attic for a missing letter to his wife. Golum could not move toward the light without this letter for his wife.

My sister and I grabbed flashlights and rushed off to find the trunk and letter. Sure enough, slid in behind the brittle paper lining of a tattered old trunk under the eaves in our crawlspace attic we found a thin, yellowed sheet of parchment with old-fashioned spider scrawls across it in letter fashion. The letter was signed with an ornate G. & A., but we could not decipher the words – they appeared to be written in a foreign language.

Although we tried and tried to contact Mr. Ace again on that Christmas night, the old planchette refused to move across the ancient Ouija Board ever again.

The next morning, the Ouija Board, planchette, box, and letter were gone and except for my sister Bonny, nobody in my family even remembers that this happened.

My sister and I have stopped bringing it up because they all look at us like we’re crazy. We know it happened!

Thanks; it’s a relief to get this creepy story off my chest.

Abby H.

Dear Abby,

I’m familiar with the “Ouija Board” which has been around since about 1890. Your story sent a delicious chill down my spine as I pictured the happenings of that long ago Christmas Day. I’ve always known the Ouija concept was mysterious and I’ve heard lots of controversy and cool stories surrounding its use, none quite as unique as yours.

Here is a link to an online Museum of Talking Boards – FYI, and I’ll also include a link to another more informative page about Ouija. I think I know what happened, but ultimately you’ll need to form your own conclusions. Thanks for writing and I hope you have a peaceful Christmas. You deserve it after keeping this under wraps for so long!

Ouija: The Most Dangerous Game

Friday, December 18, 2009

#fridayflash: Gas Premium

The service station appeared at the top of the rise like a dilapidated child’s toy. Old gas pumps and a ramshackle building looked as if they had been set down on the grass by a giant child and then abandoned at naptime.

Lisa relaxed at the sight. The yellow “low fuel” light had blinked on about half an hour ago and her car had been acting funny ever since. She could hear her brother now.

“Dumb blonde!” it was her usual rebuke for lighting out in a hurry without checking the gas gauge.

Lisa screeched to a halt before one of the old-fashioned black opaque gas pumps and flew from the driver’s seat like a paper airplane in a windstorm. She waited a mere moment before scouring front and sides of the gas pump looking for the nozzle. What an odd-looking pump. Although it looked old and rough, it felt smooth and glassy – cool to the touch despite the heat of the day.

Just as she was about to give up and search out some assistance, her fingers touched a ribbed hose poking from the side of the pump and she yanked it roughly towards her car, shoving it home as easily as a plug in a socket.

Lisa relaxed slightly as she listened to gurgles of the gasoline and smelled the pungent fumes. As she waited for the tank to fill, she ran her hands absently over the ribbed black hose before her. Like the pump it was attached to, the hose flexed smooth, cold, and slick, like snake or lizard skin. The cold sliminess traveled dreamily up her arm. From somewhere in the depths of her mind, she felt a quick nuzzle, tickle, buzz, sting on her forearm which yanked her back to reality with a jolt.

“Hello . . .” Lisa stepped into the rickety windowless building still rubbing her arm. “I need to pay for some gas.”

The building was empty. Not a desk, no chairs, no tools, and no people; just an empty husk of a building which echoed her footfalls and calling voice. Lisa reached out a hand to touch the weathered boards. To her surprise the walls felt smooth, glassy and cold, not rough and splintery like wood should feel.

A queasy feeling rumbled in Lisa’s stomach and she felt a brief sensation of falling rapidly – like a fast elevator trip. She backed quickly out of the empty cubicle, her heels grinding thankfully against clumps of stunted grass bristling out of dusty clay.

The sky above surged with sickly purple and yellow clouds. The horizon wavered in the distance reminding Lisa of heat spikes seen in desert backgrounds.

“Now what do I do?” her mind asked her absently. The warm desert wind pushed her light hair back from her sweaty brow and deposited sand shards in her wide blue eyes. Lisa, eyes scrunched shut, pressed her back against one of the old gas pumps and inched her butt downward until her car blocked the gritty wind and she was sitting on the curb in front of the old-fashioned gas pump. As she carefully worked to blink the sand from her eyes, Lisa felt another quick nuzzle, tickle, buzz, sting – this time on the small of her back. She rubbed the spot as she stood and backed away from the old pump.

“Hey, you,” a garbled voice called out.
Lisa turned and watched the creature approach from the small building. The being towering over her had coal black eyes, and even blacker tentacles. The tentacles protruded from different parts of its body moving with grace and speed. One hovered over his eyes to block the searing sunlight, one smoothed his black hair in place as the wind ruffled it, one held a clipboard and pen and seemed to be taking notes, and another pointed at Lisa.

“Miss, that’ll be $15.50 for the gas, please.”

Lisa watched mesmerized as a yellow tentacle sprouted from her forearm, reached into her jeans pocket, pulled out a ten and a five and shoved them into the grasp of the waving black tentacle before her. More tiny yellow tentacles sprouted from different parts of her body. One large tentacle emerged from the small of her back, opened the car door and yanked Lisa inside. As she grasped the steering wheel with her hands, the small tentacle whipping to and fro from her forearm turned the key and the car sped away.

The black tentacled creature squinted at the car driving off and then at the bills waving before his eyes. He shook his head, bouncing long and short tentacles about like dreadlocks.

“Dumb Blonde,” he muttered ambling back into his station while a tentacle busily noted the fifty-cent mistake on his clipboard and another shoved the bills into his back pocket.

Gas Pump Blues


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Dragon Chronicles V

V. Wars and famines near a close
Powers struggle over bloody foes
The Hero emerges from a fiery pit
As the Simian retreats with faded wit

New quatrains of the modern Michel Nostradamus


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3

In 1974, when New York was but a young city, a pretty good movie called “The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3” shrieked onto the screen. Walter Matthau starred as a subway dispatcher forced to deal with the hijacker of a subway train, played by Robert Shaw just before he made “Jaws.” The ransom demands were simple: One million in cash delivered within the hour or hostages would be killed, one hostage per minute.

In the remake, Denzel Washington and John Travolta are great. I tried to watch this movie as an up to date interpretation of John Godey’s book and not a remake of the original film. In my opinion, the mystery and suspense of the book were well portrayed in the movie remake – which is not usually the case.

These are two of my favorite actors playing a mind game that is clever and well executed. Is there any actor in the world who could play a catholic, crazy, smart guy better than John Travolta? -- I’ve been watching him in action since Welcome Back Kotter! -- His last line in this movie is delivered with such anguish, woe, thankfulness and grit that it’s mind blowing. Washington, it seems, doesn’t even have to try. Both these guys could be the people they portray.

The year is now 2009 and the ransom has inflated to $10 million. Washington’s Walter Garber is under a slight cloud for possibly accepting a bribe on the job; we are still led to believe that he’s probably an okay guy. His adversary, Travolta’s Ryder, sports an ugly black mustache and a weird neck tattoo. Always a cool a villain, Travolta also has most of the really good lines in this movie.

Travolta overplays a little while Washington seems to underplay just a tad. James Gandolfini shows up in a droll little part as the mayor, although his character seems like spliced together moments in the careers of other, more newsworthy, people.

Throw in the cash getting tied up in a weird car accident, a NYC subway rat crawling up a pants leg, and a completely normal gallon of milk showing up on the set, and you have all the heart-stopping elements of a halfway decent movie.

In my opinion, the New York City of 1974 was a scarier place to be than NYC is today. 911 has turned the Big Apple into more of a victim than an evildoer. I still think you can’t beat the attitudes of the people of NYC. This movie had plenty of attitude! I’m quite sure that the flick received an R rating for traditional NYC language and violence.

The Taking of Pelham 123, Book by John Godey

Friday, December 11, 2009

#fridayflash: The Red Velvet Dress

“Mother, look what I found.” Ellen bounced through the bushes, an old fashioned round hatbox the color of dry mustard swinging from her hand on a length of gold braid.

“It’s a hatbox, Honey, older women, like Grandma Kelly, used to keep their good hats in them so they wouldn’t get crushed in closets."

“There’s a dress in it.” Ellen jumped back and forth a bit impatiently. “A beautiful dress. Can I get it? Huh? Please, Mother . . . It’s so beautiful. It’s the beautiful-est dress I ever saw.”

“Most beautiful, Honey” I corrected absently inspecting an antique brass cricket on a picnic table covered with aged bric-a-brac.

“Moth – er . . . will you look, please?”

I reluctantly tore my gaze from the antiques on the table. Ellen carefully set the dusty round box on the picnic table’s bench seat -- at my knee -- and rocked off the tight fitting lid. A pleasant lavender aroma wafted up to my nostrils. Smoothing back layers of creamy yellowed tissue paper, I pulled out a pretty, old-fashioned red velvet dress from another era. Cream colored lace as dainty as spun silk graced the collar and cuffs, while a jaunty red velvet ruffle encircled the hem like a boa.

Knowing the pitfalls of neighborhood yard sales, I carefully inspected every inch of that dress looking for flaws, moth holes, tears, stains, etc. The dress seemed to be in great shape for a garment of such obvious age. I held it up against Ellen’s front, and it looked like a good fit.

“Is there a price on it,” I asked, suspecting the cost would be beyond our current yard sale budget. “It probably belonged to Miss Sara, or Miss Amy -- years ago. It looks like it was never worn.”

Ellen searched the box for a price and found a little $1.00 sticker stamped on the bottom of the hatbox.

“Well, the price is right,” I smiled and peeled a dollar bill from my yard sale wad; usually Ellen didn’t placate this easily at yard sales. She grinned back and scampered off with the money to pay for her treasure.

The pretty dress in its mustard colored hatbox received an honored spot in Ellen’s room. Many times over the next several weeks, I noticed her stroking the soft folds of the dress, murmuring to it like it was a doll or a puppy.

My mother stopped by for tea on the day when Ellen first wore the dress. I watched the color drain from Mom’s face when Ellen approached her wearing the red dress. I heard her tea cup smash to the floor and witnessed Grandma Kelly retreating into a corner of the kitchen whispering, “Polly? Polly? It can’t be!”

“Mom,” I shouted. “Mom, what’s wrong?”

Ellen stood before my mother with a little smirk on her face . . . for a moment, in that dress, it didn’t even look like my Ellen. Her hair looked darker, curlier, her eyes seemed larger, wider.


“Yes, Mother.” She turned toward me and I saw that of course it was my Ellen . . . The light must have been playing tricks.

“Go play in your room, Honey, Grandma Kelly’s a little upset. Maybe you should put the new dress back in its pretty box so you don’t get it dirty.”

Grandma Kelly clutched at her bosom and watched the child leave the room. “That dress,” she whispered. “Where’d you get that dress?”

“After the two old Chase sisters, Miss Sara, and Miss Amy died this summer, the town held a huge yard sale to pay up the taxes on their old house. Ellen found that dress in the Chase house . . . she really loves it.”

“Get rid of it,” my mother hissed. “They buried Polly in that dress.”


“Polly Chase was Miss Sara and Miss Amy’s younger sister. Polly was born wrong . . . she liked to hurt people. They said whenever she stamped her little feet -- people were apt to get hurt . . . or even die. The townsfolk said she killed her own mother. I’ve always thought that was why Miss Sara and Miss Amy never got married. Never wanted to have children. I think they were afraid after Polly. Such a pretty little thing . . . no one would have ever known . . .”

My mother told the story and my mind watched the pretty little girl in the red velvet dress shove an attractive dark-haired woman into the broken boards of an old well behind the Chase house.
Unable to tear my mind away, I watched as the little girl picked up her skipping rope and bounced down the garden path singing a little jingle:

“Polly, Polly Red Dress, she’s so sweet
Polly, Polly Red Dress stamps her feet
Polly pushed her mother and knocked her down the well.
Polly knows a secret but no one’s gonna tell!”

I’d forgotten that jingle. Throughout my childhood we sang that little tune while skipping rope, playing hopscotch, and countless other childhood pastimes. I’d never even thought about it. It was just one of those old jingles . . .

“What happened to Polly?” I whispered.

“Auto accident,” Mom said. “Polly and her father both died. Whole town turned out for the funeral. She had that dress on in the casket . . . I SAW her. Creepy little smirk on her face even after she was dead.”

I reached out and grasped my mother’s cold shaking hand. “You’re upset, I said. Let me make you a fresh cup of tea.”

As I plugged my old teapot into the outlet, I didn’t notice the worn electrical cord. Death enveloped me almost painlessly as the current surged through my body. Death took my mother, also – still clutching my hand. Death turned us into two lifeless husks on the cold kitchen linoleum.

From her room, my daughter skipped rope and sang a silly little jingle:

“Ellen, Ellen Red Dress, she’s so sweet
Ellen, Ellen Red Dress, stamps her feet
Ellen cut the wires and watched her mother fry.
Ellen knows a secret, more are gonna die.”



Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Can Fear turn into Fiction?

What scares you?

When I ask myself this question, I immediately remember summer camp, twelve year olds sitting around a campfire late at night listening to counselors tell spine tingling ghost stories with pitiful sounding titles like “Give me back my hand, or my liver, or my head.” That fear was so real I can remember it vividly – pounding heart and surging adrenaline; I outgrew most that childish type of fear – out grew but never forgot.

In the 70’s I read my first Stephen King novel and my fear again rekindled. This fear caused the tiny hairs on the back of my neck to stand up straight and gooseflesh to bubble on my arms as I read the chapter in The Shining where the hedge animals closed in on the main character . . . I swear I could hear leaves rustling behind me those words were so vivid, so compelling. These are two cool examples of things that have scared me through the years – there have actually been countless scary moments throughout my life.

For the past two decades I’ve worked to turn many of my own personal scares, fears, and nightmares into fictional short stories, flash fiction, non-fictional articles, critiques, commentary, and memoirs. Hopefully this is just the beginning, as I continue to work on my powers of observation.

Not only do I write about my own fears, I'm working on pulling in scary observations from co-workers, friends, relatives, and even strangers on the street, doctor’s waiting room, or at the mall.

My brain likes to play “what if.”
What if I was driving home from the mall and noticed a scrap of the loud plaid fabric skirt worn by my friend Silvia today hanging from the trunk seam of the beat up old Buick in front of me at the red light? What if that scrap of fabric was yanked from my site right before my eyes as I waited for the light to change?

What if the tiny, wrinkled, mild-mannered old lady at the end of our childhood street were really a practicing witch?

What if the unusual plant that you received for your anniversary were carnivorous?

What if . . .

Well, you get the idea.
With this blog, I hope to keep asking devoted readers
the ever-eternal question:“What scares you?”

Because that’s what I enjoy writing about.

The Shining

Dragon Chronicles IV

IV. Organic arcs come to call
Knocking cynics from the wall
Muted martyrs poised to dig
As neurons doze beneath the wig


Monday, December 7, 2009


Prey By Michael Crichton

I’m a reader. I read often and a lot. Some books I read to learn, and some I read purely for pleasure although I obtain new knowledge from everything I read.

Recently I finished ‘‘Prey’’ a techno-thriller written by Michael Crichton in 2002. All right, I admit that I’m sometimes BEHIND in my reading, this one has been on the shelf for a few years, but I still found it enjoyable reading even by today’s standards and I think it will make a great movie.

Narrator, Jack Forman, ominously tells us on the first page, ''Things never turn out the way you think they will.'' Jack is a 40-year-old programming manager in Silicon Valley. He has recently been fired from his job after detecting some shady dealings at his company. Now he is reduced to being a full-time soccer dad of three.

Meanwhile, his wife, Julia, has become ever more powerful at the company where she works, Xymos Technology. She is the kind of ambitious woman we’ve seen before in Crichton novels.

Odd events move us along as Jack and Julia's baby develops a weird red rash, which miraculously clears up when she undergoes an emergency room M.R.I. Memory chips in household devices mysteriously disintegrate. Julia grows tougher, tenser, and ever distant. The big question now becomes: is she having an affair?

Crichton's characters sometimes tend to be a bit flat -- and this novel had too many stock characters. No one does anything really unexpected, and the evil characters might as well be wearing signs reading: "DANGER! Will Robinson! DANGER!” Still, most of the dialogue isn't too wooden and unreal, and Jack is a tolerable narrator during this book.

“Prey” is a passable thriller. Crichton doesn't write with the greatest style, but his prose isn't terrible either. He certainly packs a lot into this novel -- science! Technology! Action! Domestic life! Marital infidelity! Monsters! The thrill of the hunt! Etc., etc. And he keeps things moving quite well.

The book is a tad unbelievable in more ways than I could count; yet I kept turning the pages feverishly. Despite its silly moments, ''Prey'' is irresistibly suspenseful. You're entertained on one level and you learn something on another, even if the two levels do ultimately wander. Of course, I cannot say I was entirely surprised by the ending, which I will not divulge here just in case you haven’t meandered across this book yet.

This wasn’t the best Crichton novel I’ve ever read but it moved along well enough to maintain his reputation as one of the most ingenious, inventive thriller writers around. Thankfully I still have a few more of his novels on the shelf to read and I’m quite confident that when I’m through with all of them, I can start reading again from the beginning and still be entertained.

Prey by Michael Crichton


Friday, December 4, 2009

#fridayflash: Stairway to Heaven

The stone tower loomed out of the landscape like a gray-black splinter. Puzzled, I stared for a moment before retrieving a pair of binoculars for a better view. I’ve lived in this house for twenty-two years, looked out at this same scenery countless times and I’d never noticed this unusual and distinctly out of place stone tower shooting out of the countryside.

I glanced down at my friend Danny, passed out in a weird chalk outline sort of pose on the floor beside me. Should I wake him? We’d been cramming for college finals all night until we’d both collapsed sometime in the early morning hours. Was I dreaming? Stone towers don’t just grow . . .

I was, trying to gauge the distance between it and me when Danny stirred, sat up, and rubbed his eyes. “Wow, Man, what a night. Those Energy Shots worked great, but they wiped me out.”

“Danny you’ve lived here all your life, haven’t you?” I asked.

“Sure, sure, what’s up?”

“I’m seeing a stone tower out there in the woods towards Guilford. I don’t remember a tower anywhere in Guilford, do you?

“Shit, no . . .” Danny said hoisting himself up to look out the picture window.

Danny stared, swiped at his eyes with the heels of his hands, and stared again.
“Oh, Man,” Danny breathed, his breath sour and acrid, bounced at me from the window glass and I winced. He slowly turned his eyes to meet mine. I couldn’t tell if I saw fear, or humor in his gaze – maybe both.

“Have you ever seen it before?”

“Shit, no! That’s the Stairway to Heaven,” Danny said, his voice wavered, but once again I sensed more humor than fear.

“The WHAT?”

“My grandfather called it The Stairway to Heaven,” Danny said. “He swore he could see it out there in the woods the day before his heart attacked.”
“I’m telling, you Man. I didn’t see it then, but this is exactly the way he described it! A tall stone tower teetering up over the trees like that. He begged me to drive out there with him, but I couldn’t see anything. We all thought he was daffy in the head. The next morning he was dead.”

I looked carefully at Danny . . . was he putting me on? With Danny it was hard to tell.
“Let’s drive out there toward Guilford and see if we can find it,” I said.

“You crazy?” Danny almost whimpered. “We find it and we’re dead. Don’t you understand? The tower . . . it takes you to heaven. It means we’re going to die, Man.”

“Gimme a break,” I jeered. “You’re putting me on.”

Danny’s face cracked into a grin and he brayed laughter. “Had you going there, didn’t I?”

I scooped the keys to Danny’s green Saturn off the coffee table. “Come on, let’s go find it.”

Danny grabbed a couple of tiny red bottles of Energy Shot from the kitchen table and followed me out the side door guzzling another wake-up blast as he walked. He tossed the other to me and I drank it down without thought.

As Danny steered us out toward Guilford, I twisted and turned in my seat keeping the stone tower in site at all times.

We drove for almost thirty minutes through the gray pre-dawn mist. The tower hovered closer and closer. It didn’t grow as we approached, but rather the opposite. It shrank into the surrounding countryside, blending into the tree line like a stone chameleon. I didn’t take my eyes off it. Not even when Danny crested the edge of the quarry -- at the base of tower -- doing fifty and slammed into the sandy bottomed pit with enough force to stall the car and knock the wind out of me.

Fog swirled around the tower as Danny and I approached it. The old gray stones gleamed wetly . . .

Greasy looking stone steps wound up and around the tower in a narrow spiral passageway. As we attempted to climb, the steps crumbled like chalk sliding us back to the bottom of the tower.

Again we struggled to pull and push each other up the uneven steps, but once again lost footing and tumbled back to the bottom. This time I whacked my side good on something cold and hard. I found a rusty metal ring at the foot of the steps. Danny and I looked at it, looked at each other, grinned, and grasped the ring. It pulled open a heavy stone square showing more granite steps spiraling down into the dark.

Danny had a small penlight on his key ring; shrouded in its feeble yellow glow we started down the slick stone steps into the dark.

The stonewalls around us trickled water as we descended, still hyped up on energy drinks. The dank air rose up to greet us as muffled skittering sounds echoed from below. I once thought I heard the stone trap door above us grate back into place. It was as though I could see it in the whiter part of my mind, softly rasping closed. But the white, wide-awake part of me slowly receded, blackening into the cold stone abyss below.

Was that Danny screaming? Or was it me?


A State Policeman wound yellow crime tape around the trees at the opening of the old Guilford Quarry. The rear half of a bottle green Saturn jutted from the sandy bottom. Most of the front of the car was buried under a pile of gravel and dirt.

“Car had to of been doing eighty,” one policeman said to the other. “Damn kids’ll never learn.”

The policeman by the car scratched his head. He could see parts of both bloody bodies inside the car where they appeared to have died on impact, but could not explain the two sets of weaving tracks leading from the car and disappearing into the base of the quarry.


Stairway to Heaven: Led Zeppelin Uncensored


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Dragon Chronicles III

In an earlier post, I promised a new prediction quatrain per week in the spirit of Nostradamus. Below is my most recent Dragon Chronicle:

III. Communications carve a new home
Hidden beneath the quantum foam
Mindless extremity forms a line
Power shifts and minds entwine


Monday, November 30, 2009

The Shawshank Redemption

The Shawshank Redemption is not your average prison flick. Whether or not you’ve read Stephen King’s novella Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption, you’re sure to enjoy this poignant drama.

Almost a study in the effects of incarceration, this movie has it all. Brilliant acting by Tim Robbins as Main Character Andy Defresne, a young man wrongly accused of killing his wife and her golf-pro lover. Ditto applies to Morgan Freeman as Red – the man who can get anything.

James Whittemore plays the tough old librarian inmate Brooke; his role touches upon man’s dependency on the penal system. Add a corrupt warden, maniacal guards, and homosexual thugs and watch this movie span generations symbolized by pin-ups of Rita Hayworth and Raquel Welch.

Keep an eye on the pin-ups. They play an important part as Andy learns the best ways to survive his life of hell known as the Shawshank Prison. If you’re a King fan, or even if you’re not – watch this movie.

The Shawshank Redemption: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Friday, November 27, 2009

#fridayflash: Remedy

Lottie’s flawless white hands smoothed silky folds of pink satin undergarments as she placed them into her squat old brown suitcase. A cool spring breeze drew her to the open window where moonbeams shimmered softly through sheer lace curtains. A brisk knock on the door and Lottie jumped back from the window, her beautiful sky blue eyes darting anxiously around the soft pink haven she’d cocooned herself into for the past five years.

“Go away,” she whispered.
Instead, as Lottie knew would happen, the door swung inward and Frieda bustled into the dainty pink and white bedroom.
Frieda, buxom and shapely in her blue satin nightdress and reeking of the remedy, stopped short and stared down into the hastily packed old satchel on Lottie’s pink bedspread.
“What’s this? You’re not still seriously thinking of leaving, are you Lottie Dear?”
“I’m not thinking of it. I’m doing it,” Lottie said flipping back her long blonde hair and snapping the latches closed on her worn old suitcase.

“You know what will happen to you without the remedy,” Frieda said, reposing into a pink satin armchair, like a queen on her throne. She clutched an ornate silver flask in her lovely, perfectly manicured hands.

“I don’t care, I’m leaving and I’m leaving for good this time,” Lottie said, her pretty face puckering into a frown as she backed toward the open door. “What we’re doing is wrong.”
“What’s wrong with wanting to look our best? What’s wrong with bringing a little pleasure to some lonely men? We have to make a living, don’t we? What’s wrong with that?” Frieda uncorked the slender silver flask increasing the pleasant lemony, jasmine scent of the remedy. “Are you leaving without tonight’s treatment? It’s almost midnight, you’ll revert soon.”
“We’re not beautiful, Frieda. It’s wrong to deceive these men. It’s wrong to take their money. This remedy you created is wicked—it’s addicting and evil. The remedy—it’s changed you—made your face and your body beautiful, but it’s poisoned your soul. It’s made you cold, calculating, and greedy. I often wonder, is any of my sweet sister really still in there?”

Lottie smoothed the folds of her old gray cotton dress with warty, liver-spotted hands. Her face began to sag on one side, her top lip splitting into a hideous fixed grin as words became harder to formulate. Tears sparkled in sky blue eyes. Beautiful eyes now receding into lumps of bone and wrinkled flesh which sprouted haphazardly across Lottie’s ravaged skull.
“Cuh wid me,” Lottie begged.
Frieda laughed.
Lottie shrugged her bent shoulders, grasped the handle of the old suitcase with a twisted talon, and limped out into the fragrant spring night.
“You’ll be back,” Frieda shouted from the window of Lottie’s old room. “You always come back.”


Note: I’ve discovered, through a little blog research, a movement called “#fridayflash.” It’s to post flash fiction (stories under 1,000 words )on our blogs each Friday: the stories are then rounded up into a collector site to give fiction writers some exposure. At least to each other.

It’s sort of an excuse to get us off our butts and doing something that we all aspire to do – write.

I think it will be lots of fun. Remedy is my first “#fridayflash” piece.

Flash Fiction: Airdog

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dragon Chronicles II

In a recent post, I promised a new prediction quatrain per week in the spirit of Nostradamus. Below is my most recent Dragon Chronicle:

II. Trades and commerce bulge and swell
The paper trail leads into Hell
A lifelong wafer fits the need
This new knowledge quells the greed


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Subtle Sorcery

Dear Weezel,
This is a little scary because I think my Grandmother is a witch.
Whenever I spend time at her house, I have nightmares and I see strange things. She lives deep in the woods with lots of bizarre plants in and around her house.

She grows huge ugly plants and I’ve seen her out in her yard whispering to the plants.
She dries a lot of the weird plants and often I see her cooking bunches of smelly plants in a metal pot on top of her wood stove. Sometimes when she’s stirring her concoctions, her eyes are closed and her lips are moving like she’s in a trance or something.

What really convinced me, however, happened last weekend. On Friday night I had a wicked bad nightmare where a shadowy figure chased me through Grandma’s garden of strange bushy plants; the plants reached for me with their slick rubbery leaves . . . I woke up then to find Grandma perched beside me on the bed, her face scrunched into a dried apple of concern above her narrow shoulders. I’ve been suffering nightmares for as long as I can remember, but that one grossed me out and I think Grandma knew it. I think she saw something in my eyes.

The next day, she gave me a little cloth cushion about the size of a bar of soap, and instructed me to keep it under my pillow at night and my nightmares would disappear. The little pillow smelled funny: kind of like mint and cabbage, almost a little sickening. It also crackled and puffed a bit when I squeezed it, but I placed it under my pillow like a good granddaughter.

AND my nightmares are gone. I sleep so well, I’m afraid I won’t be able to wake up on my own. I have the little pillow at home in my room with me now. I’m afraid to close my eyes without it. I guard that little pillow like my life depended on it; running home from school each day to make sure it’s still where I left it.

What’s wrong with me? Is my Grandmother a witch? Is she putting evil spells on me?
--Carrie H.

Dear Carrie,
Nature provides us with a magical pantry. Since ancient times plants and herbs have been used to improve our lives. Energy harnessed secretly by knowing practitioners can create a powerful balance – can guide fate with a blend of whispered mystery carried down through the ages. I call this subtle sorcery.

You are right to guard the pillow, it’s your natural instinct stepping in to protect you. The pillow was made for you and to work it needs to be near you: keep it safe. Your grandmother believes that she is helping you. It sounds like you believe it to. Set your fears aside and enjoy another good night’s sleep.


Friday, November 20, 2009

The King’s Magic

It all started during the Night Shift.

In 1977, in a small Massachusetts library, a bored housewife picked up a volume of short stories by an almost unheard of author. Thus, The Magic griped me in it’s fist before I finished my first King edition.

I became so spellbound by the words and workings of Stephen King; I guzzled everything on the library shelves bearing his name. Once I’d absorbed works already in print, new books and stories just didn’t happen fast enough. Have you ever harassed librarians and bookstore clerks? Tormented them as thoroughly as Pennywise plagued seven children in one of my personal favorites? It wasn’t a pretty picture.

The article in Time magazine first appeared in 1986. What a big mistake. Not only did the article feature a picture of his house, it printed his address. Needless to say, it took me no time at all to locate the big mansion in Bangor, then about four hours away. I burned rubber, making that four-hour trip in Maximum Overdrive – just content to Stand before the big black gates and gaze with Shining wonder at the Dark Tower of the most talented author of my time.

Soon I found a job and settled in the Bangor area to begin my phase of worship. I sent fan letters; I begged for an autographed photo. I even shot many pictures of the King mansion from every conceivable angle. I hate to admit it, but one Halloween in the late 80’s; I followed a group of pre-school trick-or-treaters right up to the doorstep and stood mere inches from the King Himself as he doled out treats to the youngsters. I was his number one fan . . .

Until I peeked into the mirror and spied Annie Wilkes peeking back. With the writing of Misery, I glimpsed Mr. King saying something important to his fans.
“Back off.”
I’ve changed my behavior considerably since Annie Wilkes swung her ax. I no longer haunt the neighborhood of West Broadway in Bangor. The King’s Magic is still with me but in a different way; I create my own magic.

My house in Maine is small, dark, and hidden: it lies quietly on the outskirts of Bangor. As I blaze ahead to where every fiction writer has gone before, I can now look back on those days of idolatry with fresh eyes. My Dark Half has always been here: waiting for the ax to fall.


Note from the author: The King’s Magic first appeared in the September 1994 edition of SKIN (Stephen King Informational Network), a newsletter published for Stephen King fans. All first time article contributors had to answer this important question: “What does Stephen King’s writing mean to you?”

SK Tidbit: Stephen King’s The Graveyard Shift was filmed in the town where I currently live. The film was shot at a small woolen mill where my son worked. My son, a high school student at the time, is actually in the movie for a split-second. Each day, during the filming, he would fascinate me with stories of how the movie was made. At the end of shooting, the crew gave him a Graveyard Shift tee shirt for his on-the-set assistance in the making of the movie.

Stephen King's Graveyard Shift

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Puppet Masters

I like an old horror movie from time to time. This Golden Oldie, circa 1994, from Hollywood Pictures recently aired on Cinemax. Directed by Jeffery Dashnaw, The Puppet Masters still holds enough punch to keep the interest of horror and science fiction fans alike. The special effects are a tad weak by today’s standards, but the story line is well thought out.

In the small, sleepy, town of Ambrose, Iowa – a UFO crashes to earth witnessed by three average teenaged boys. They don’t remain average for long nor does anything else in this cool thriller.

The aliens, who seem to be a cross between a stingray and a cicada, quickly flatten across backs and attach themselves to spinal cords. Hidden beneath bulky clothing, they control the minds of town residents. From their concealed positions, they branch out quickly making it all the way to the White House. Candidates needn’t worry, however, the president is miraculously spared when Donald Sutherland (the main Dr. Goodguy) realizes that his son (Eric Thal) is infected.

Julie Warner does a superb job as the beautiful scientist with a degree in alien life forms. The twists and turns of this movie make it an enjoyable two hours of solid entertainment. It is extremely difficult, as the movie progresses, for the watcher to distinguish the puppets from the uninfected. I would recommend this movie to all fans of horror and science fiction, provided you realize the special effects are from the region of 1994.