Monday, February 28, 2011

28 February 2011 (Poem for Highway 12)

The farthest I've ever been out to sea or from home

involved being suspended meters above water on

a bridge that looked like a centipede

that had collapsed and been reconstructed

mere years before. I was listening to carefully

considered music (months of planning, thought-

experimenting, to find that one song to hear

as the ocean cleared the horizon) laughing

nervously through the construction zone (whistling

through the cemetery)

and holding Brittany's hand when in the home


Then we were there.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

27 February 2011 (Where is my Mind?)

I awoke with a massive stress-induced (what else could've induced it?) headache and an empty feeling and a small feeling, and these feelings were strong enough I felt they merited a day off work. I called in, vague and tacit as possible about my symptoms, as though they were nebulous even to me. Which is not inaccurate. I don't feel a need really to justify my absentee, other than I've just been too angsty and over-fucking-whelmed with life to even contemplate another day in existential denial at WalMart.

My headache isn't actual so much as imminent. It keeps peeking at me from under my prefrontal cortex. I feel doomed. Maybe my headache is more spiritual or emotional. An existential headache, literally.

God fuck.

I want to go on a walk except I never have time. Something slow and nice with a breeze that smells seminal and my feet and joints don't scream at be from overuse and I know what direction I'm going in, one of four or a combination of adjacents. To know in what direction you're going: that's a hell of an underrated sensation.

Things so easily could be easier, but that would be too easy, right?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A horror story

I wrote this, oh. About four years ago. I'd just gotten this laptop, and, toying around with the idea of becoming a writer, I hammered this story out over a couple October nights. I changed it a bit, before posting it here. Mostly fixing punctuation errors and the like. The story itself is untouched, and not half bad, I think. I wanted to be a writer because I wanted to describe moods to people. Not plots or characters; just a mood. I think I captured the mood I wanted to, here. So it's a success, basically. It's quite long, especially for a blog-story (comes to about 15 pages on paper). But tell me what you think if you read it.


     Document found in a manila envelope in a nook in the wall of an upstairs room in a two-story home on the outskirts of Keeley, Missouri.

I wonder what you’ll make of this, whoever finds this. This is a record of something that happened to me and my friend and roommate Lisa D___ late last year. Last November. I have never told anyone about it; in fact, the thought of doing that is terrifying. To actually sit down in front of someone and let it out? To their face? Impossible. But this here doesn’t really qualify as telling, just remembering and typing, just like those what-I-did-during-summer-vacation essays in middle school. I do hope someone will eventually read this, though. What good does this do? Alleviate the confusion, I hope. Maybe I’ll find out soon. And this way I don’t have to look anyone in the eye. This is one of those things that doesn’t happen. Everyone knows this and so I can’t really tell this to most people. Not in person. Not if I want to make a friend.
   Lisa and I had this kind of ritual. This kind of thing you do because you did it once under innocent, beguiled circumstances, and then through nostalgia and aura and whatever you do it again and again, until it becomes a ritual, a habit that holds some kind of magic to break the monotony of life despite the paradox that habits and rituals are supposed to be monotonous.
     Anyway, our ritual was to simply walk through the town. That’s all. After we’d get home from our jobs on Wednesday, sometime around 7, we would walk from the house we were renting, Lisa and I, in lazy, roundabout fashion, through our little town and eventually end up at the unfortunately-named Gas & Dine convenience store down close to the highway. This is a ritual we started  a little more year ago; almost exactly, actually, a year before this event that I’ve been aching to describe actually happened. But anyway, it’s just that one evening after work we started to have a rather serious conversation. We had been rooming in this smallish house in town near the railroad tracks for a few months by then, and it seemed appropriate to take this conversation along for a walk. It was a warm November that year, and we went to the park at first, we sat down at the table and there was a bunch of kids playing nearby. Lisa was having boyfriend problems, that was the thing. She talked about this, and I just listened and made consolatory noises and didn’t say much, because I’ve never been a good advice giver. The park became too noisy after more kids joined the initial bunch, so we left again. We walked along the railroad tracks for a bit, then got thirsty and decided to head to the Gas & Dine. It was pretty innocent, you see. We talked about our love experiences at first, then we talked about the varying shittiness-levels of our jobs, we talked about our individual plans for the future. We walked down, it was somewhat twilit by then, down the lonely stretch of blacktop, past the decades-closed steel mill, black and utterly massive, and came to the diner/store/gas station. We went in and looked around at our options and got some candy bars and sodas and sat down at the first little booth thing by the window and talked and laughed a bit. The window offered a nice view of the sunset and the highway and even the factory across the highway was beautiful and everything felt still for a moment, which was nice. Then after maybe twenty minutes we walked back to the house in relative silence.
   Thus our ritual. Usually Wednesday evening. Usually, not always, with a quick stop at the park before the serious walking begins. Sometimes we’d stop at the park after we left the store. But the thing of it, that sense of stillness, a pause, and a feeling of mutual comfort, this was the magic that the ritual conjured.

      This happened  last November. About four months ago. The thing, I mean. This will sound melodramatic I imagine, but the thing just pretty much made me a mental wreck,  I just want to say how odd it is that a person can experience this one day and still go to work and function correctly the next day. I think that that’s not the case with , for example, the death of a loved one or something like that. But like I said, things like this don’t happen, so maybe that means we can ignore them easier, to lie to ourselves about hallucinations and weary minds. Yet it’s also life-affirming. I can’t really explain what I mean by this, except that I almost wish that you could’ve experienced this for yourself so you can understand.  But at the same time, it terrifies me. I know, this all sounds fucking incoherent and it is, maybe the best thing to say is that it pretty much fucks you up for awhile and you hide it pretty well and convince yourself you just went crazy for a second and then you get better and you feel better and yet you’re still scared shitless. And you’re still hiding it. These things aren’t supposed to happen and we all know this. I’m trying to keep this casual.
  Okay, like I said, it happened in November. It was a Wednesday early in the month and I had stayed home. I called in sick, not because I was sick but because I felt an unrelenting need to not be at work. I felt too good to go to work. This is the only reason I ever call in sick. I sat and wrote and watched TV all day. This makes me feel better. There was a fire in that place, as my Grandma says, and I was so comfortable and content in my pajamas all day. I prepared a nice meal for me and Lisa that afternoon, and she came in at 6:30 I think it was. She was a bit early anyway. This made me happy. I truly like Lisa, who’s pretty and smart and kind of sad and who I love to make laugh.  But anyway Lisa was early and I love her company and so I felt pretty much even more content.
  She told me about her day at work and I told her about my day at home. I let her read what I had written, a funny bar story, Bukowski-ish , and she laughed and said she loves it and that I am so talented and this made me feel even better. We sat down to the meal and chatted a bit. We have a small table in the small kitchen and this is where we sat, and as it grew darker outside the weak yellow kitchen light grew more significant to the mood and pretty soon we were done. I asked, “ Walk?”, for this was a part of the ritual too, we never just went, we had to ask, and she said “Yeah!” Like I‘d just offered her a beer after a shitty day at work. We quietly pulled on our shoes and  heavy coats, turned off all the lights but the porch, and away we went. Most of the houses we passed still had Halloween decorations and appurtenances out, not out of laziness I think but because of the way that moods seem to linger in small towns like this one. Jack-o’-Lanterns’ grins and sneers had begun to rot. It was just beginning to get noticeably dark now, and it was somewhat windy. This is tornado season in Missouri and there had been watches and advisories issued.  The sky hung low and  heavy, but there were patches where you could see stars just starting to be visible. You could also see the moon. It was full, and just rising over the trees to the east.
    Lisa and I had just begun our conversation when we hit the park. We made various observations about the people we worked with, talked about maybe going to the movies on a double-date with our significant others sometime in the near future. We only sat for a minute though. A rest only. Then we were off to the railroad tracks. The intersection  where we hit the tracks is right on the end off town. On the left, the tracks lead into a more rural area, with fields on both sides, and the tracks are lined with trees, starting about twenty feet from the tracks themselves. On the right the tracks cut through town. This is the route we’ve always taken. We usually follow this for about half a mile and then hit the asphalt again at another intersection, then on to the Gas & Dine. This time however I was drawn to the other side, the side me and Lis have always said we should explore someday. I told her we should try this way tonight, and she didn’t argue. So we turned left. A ways down the line the town-sounds kind of faded, except for the engine noises of the occasional vehicle stopping and then proceeding at the intersection. There’re no sounds now, not even crickets, this late in the season. It was pretty cold, just shy of uncomfortable. As I walked on the ties I looked down. I could see the white bits of gravel stuck down in the hollow parts of the ties; they stood out in the darkness like little impish smiles. I could smell the oilish odor of the tracks. Really I don’t know why I’m telling you this part; it’s just that it seems necessary. Not important, but it seems to play a part, and maybe it did, under the fabric of things. I don’t know. This entire incident has taken on this special viewing lens in my memory; that may be an illustrative way of saying it. Through this lens every incident of the walk-- everything I saw and smelled that night, everything we said, -- it all seems to be linked and all important. I think about it late at night and it’s like I can almost grasp this underlying pattern, this hidden, tacit ritual whose requirements were filled inadvertently. Something I’m not supposed to sense but for some gap or tear, reality-fabric-wise. But then, this sort of thing never happens, really.     ( I keep hitting these interludes; the annoying ones were I go, “These things just don’t happen.” It’s sort of a tic I have. And I think it’s kind of a survival mechanism, too. Either way, both ways, I apologize and will struggle to stay on topic. But here we go again; these things don’t happen. Maybe it didn’t happen, I think sometimes. But then I’ll look over at Lisa, and see something in her eyes. A thing that must also be in my eyes. It did happen.)
       So I’m not going to describe every fucking thing, but some of it needs to be told I think. For my own sake, please bear with me. At one point me and Lis came across this long narrow body of water, not a pond, not a puddle, running parallel to the tracks. So we sat down on the rail and looked at it for while, in silence. It was thick, with a skin of scum on top. We threw rocks into it for a while, being amused at the way this skin broke under impact and eventually rejoined. I think we laughed at it. Here’s something; when Lis and I stood up to get on our way, we heard this sound, at first we both thought it was a train whistle, a bit unnerving (despite our many walks along the rails, a train’s never actually gone by on our walks, as they seem to mostly run early in the morning) but harmless. We got off the tracks and walked as far from the tracks as possible, when we realized that the sound was organic, that some animal was making that sound-- god it seemed impossible-- but yes, at one point the noise began to take on this quality, this pain. It’s weird trying to describe this; it was a howl, a deep strange howl. It touched me to my soul. And not in the way being in love, or viewing a beautiful piece of art touches one’s soul; this twisted sound, it wrung my soul dry.
       We couldn’t tell where the sound came from, only that it was mercifully  far away. Lisa looked at me, her eyes so big, our faces were mutually drained of blood. We started back towards town immediately, our ancient rusty survival instincts having been fired up. We were panicked and scared, quite simply put. Once we were back in the glow of the streetlights, we apparently felt safe enough to talk again. Under a guise of rationality we talked of the possibilities, of coyotes and stray dogs, and minds addled by the somewhat inherent spookiness of the night. There was a fog settling in, Lisa said, fog can distort sounds, has strange acoustic qualities. The wind was getting stronger. And the wind howls. Have you ever heard a tornado? I asked her, They make these horrible sounds. We both knew it was not a tornado, however. It wasn’t that windy, and you could still see the stars at certain places. We were both uneasy, still. Haunted a bit.
   For some reason, we both decided to continue on the Gas & Dine. By then it was quite dark, the streetlights really making themselves known. The moon was huge and bright even behind the clouds. Suddenly we became excited and happy, out of terror. It’s another one of those weird things, how be scared for a bit makes you open up and really get excited (when said terror becomes retrospect). We joked and laughed and howled, but kind of softly. We got to the spooky old steel mill and we ran past it screaming. (After we pass the mill there’s this really tiny house before we get to the store. Just this real box of a house. It’s tiny enough to make us speculate about the psychological inclinations of the person, a single person, within. Me and Lis make up stories about this person. Like that his bathroom is wallpapered with newspaper clippings of obituaries and murders, or pages of the Book of Revelations or something. Or that he was abducted by aliens. That man has had many exciting adventures.  His door was opened when we passed this time, making the place seem all the more odd to us. So we ran by howling.) Then we came to the fuel towers of the gas station.  It was something like 8:20 at this point, the place closes at nine, and there were actually a few cars pulled up to the building, and one at the pumps. I always feel this nervousness at this point, because I feel like we’re going to walk into a hold-up or something. Which of course isn’t what happened. 
   But the people that hung out there were nonetheless a somewhat dusky people, small town white trash. I’ve never minded this, not really. There’s something that can almost be called reassuring about the bromides of that kind of culture. But anyway.
   I held the door for Lis. Then I followed her in. There’s a handful of tables in the place, but it’s still first and foremost a gas station/convenience store. Racks of junk food, soda, diapers, and toilet paper. The actual diner food can be called Trucker’s Gourmet maybe. I imagine it comes in a can upon which is an image of a disgruntled, scruffy man giving the thumbs up. It’s all soaked in grease and is the root of the vast majority of heart attacks and erectile dysfunction in America today. We find some iced cappuccino and order some potato wedges from the desk clerk and sit at our table by the window. On the store side of the table is a rack of general automotive items like spark plugs and taillight bulbs. There’s a person buying a six-pack, and two older grease-filled-looking guys at the table in the far corner. The workers (there’re no waiters/waitresses, just employees) are doing their closing chores.
   We’re still in that odd mood where everything strikes us as hilarious. We giggle at our little table and the guys over in the corner glare at us like a couple of old bulldogs and we laugh harder. It feels like if we stop laughing, stop being this way I mean, it feels like if we calm down, the animal, the monster we heard will get us and gobble us up. This is our talisman. I think about this and I laugh and I tell Lisa this and she laughs.
   But we stop.
   We stop when the old man in the red truck pulls up to the station. He’d pulled in doing maybe like sixty and hits his brakes and the tires squeal. I realize that I’ve never really heard tires squeal up close before and that it sounds just like it does in the movies. This is really the beginning of the story. I’ll get to it now. Maybe you can see, if not now then later, why it took so long to get here. This guy pulls up right in front of the door and flings the door open and I think, what the fuck is this, and the guy kind of swings out with the door and falls out on his knees and stands up. I know right away that this man isn’t drunk, as he certainly looks, but that he is terrified. He is The Messenger. We are the herd. He has a Message. We have something to be had or lost.  I seem to understand all of this immediately. I look at Lisa and see amusement draining from her eyes, and then seeing something wary filling them.
   The man runs to the door, a terror grimace on his face. When he opens the door he shouts, “It’s kilt me! Don’t let it kill me!” We see now that he is bleeding, quite profusely, from a wound on the left side of his torso. I’m thinking simultaneously about all that blood and that the guy actually said “kilt” instead of killed. I think I was still smiling a little. This guy had everyone’s attention, but still, no one moved. We were all just cemented to where we sat or stood. I think about this a lot. How no one moved at first.
   Nothing seems to move until the next thing happens, which was…well, this growl came from the dark outside. There is no other sound suddenly. The old guy is very still, and this metallic whining creeps out of his throat. I look outside and see no animal, but I realize that  the old guy’s red truck has a shattered windshield and long like, claw marks down the side. I look back at the man and he’s still just standing there wide-eyed, like a rabbit that just gives up because it knows it’s been kilt. I consider how he’s not like a messenger after all, he was just a terrified hunted man that saw light and needed that light because the light’s a safe place. The growl, which is a low deep sound and hasn’t stopped, gets closer and I’m still staring at this old man’s eyes so it’s Lisa that sees it first and she screams. I jump then, snap out of it, and look outside.
   This is what it was; There is a werewolf out there. It walks like a man, on two legs, except it is hunched over enough to maybe use its terribly long arms if it were in a hurry. It lumbers into the lighted area under the gas pumps, it limps a little. I suddenly realize that I’m really seeing this and I’m propelled suddenly up off of my seat and I think maybe I scream a little too. The thing is kind of hurrying-- a weird, too-quick, arm-swinging gait-- over to the door, so I grab Lis by the arm and pull her towards the back of the store. When I look back the wolf had gotten to the old guy and was proceeding to pull him apart, doing so in an almost playful manner, making these sounds, like he was curious, a kid dewinging a fly. The workers and the six-pack guy are imitating me and Lis, pulling themselves as far back from the gruesome spectacle as possible. I see the little old desk clerk over behind the soda machine, sneering and gagging, as if trying to force a scream that became stuck. We are people seeing a thing we know is impossible. The two guys at the table are still sitting, unbelievably, staring at the thing as if it were a trivial curiosity. The old man is screaming silently. The wolf is twisting his arm around in the socket, again and again, the way you can keep twisting a wire or something to get it to break in two. Finally the arm gives and breaks loose, and the wolf gives out this victorious yap sound, extremely loud and sharp. He starts pummeling the poor old guy, who seems to be in some kind of understandable shock, with his own detached arm, tail wagging. The door, wall, and window are sprayed with little droplets of blood with each swing of the arm.
   In the light I can see the wolf better. If it stood up straight instead of hunched it would probably be over eight feet tall, as it was it came to about the height of an average man. It was covered in thick grey fur everywhere except it’s chest and stomach area, which is somewhat more sparsely furred. I can see its somewhat blotched flesh through it. The torso is thin and, well, dog-like, even if it is a massive dog. The legs are thick and powerful-looking though, the arms long and wiry and obviously terribly strong. The head is difficult to describe; it is obviously a wolf’s head, yet there are characteristics that are un-wolf-like. Maybe you’re thinking more human-looking, but that’s not quite right. In fact, there’s very little to suggest any relation to the human race in this thing, other than its bipedal stance. But there’s actually something almost cat-, or maybe even snake-like in it’s face, the way it moves and looks around, its expressions. I think it would be safe to say that maybe what I saw that night had never been a man, thus not an actual werewolf, but that’s entirely speculation, and I would no more claim to know this definitely than I would claim to know the hour of my death. It was simply a demon, from Hell’s heart or Man’s I pray I’ll never know.
   The thing is done with the old man now, so he bends down and bites his throat, ripping out a large chunk. There’s not much arterial spray, because of the already substantial blood loss I imagine. The wolf looks up suddenly, at me and Lis, and I feel warm fluid soaking my crotch and pant leg. There’s a long moment in a short one; it feels like we, me and the wolf, lock eyes for an hour. Its eyes are an amber color. I see sadness there, maybe another thing which suggests humanity in the thing. But actually, this is something that occurs to me in retrospect, and maybe it’s not true at all.
   I see the wound blossom on the beast’s stomach before I actually hear the gun shot. It yelps and sneers at the source of the shot, one of the corner guys. The guy was apparently packing heat, a fairly large handgun of some type. I don’t know guns. The wolf repositions itself to pounce on the guy and I can see the muscles tense up in its legs. At this moment I feel Lisa grab me, I look and see that we’re right next to the hallway that leads to the restrooms and storeroom, and Lis is indicating that we should run. I realize, later once again, that I was somewhat dazed. Understandably. So Lis kind of leads me down this way. There are horrible sounds, screams and gunshots and ripping sounds, but me and Lis break through the storeroom and find a small loading dock with a roll-up door. It isn’t locked but the latch is stuck so Lis kicks at it and I follow her example and finally it screeches open and we’re free. There’re still screams coming from inside and I actually am thankful for this, it means the wolf is distracted and that there’s a chance for escape. This is survival instinct and not inhumanity I believe, or want to, and anyway what the fuck could we do but try to live?
   We run so fast. We hit the road and this gives us a view of the front of the store but we don’t look back until we hear the screams dwindle down to a scream, a woman’s,  and then finally stop all together. We stop and turn. At this point we’re maybe three hundred yards from the place-- we’ve passed the little box house anyway-- and we just stare wide-eyed at the Gas & Dine. It looks so still. Then a howl breaks the silence, that odd warbled sound from before, but a little different maybe. The wolf never appears though, for as long as we look. We turn and run.
   We didn’t stop for help at any house, even though, in retrospect, this would have been a smart thing to do. We just ran straight for home. Tromping along, in that miasmal terror, all I remember seeing are streetlights, house lights, how all these glowing orbs came together in that blur. I remember the moon.
   We came to our house and paused on the porch steps in the glow of the bare light bulb above the door. It hadn’t followed us it seemed, and we felt safe then, there at our little house. Surely a false feeling, not a mile from the attack, but oddly powerful. Lisa and I embraced like rediscovered friends. For a long while I simply kept my eyes closed. When I opened them the first thing I saw was the jack-o’-lantern on our steps, the only Halloween decoration we’d put out. It was crushed, its guts violently strewn around. I look at the neighbors’ lawns and see the same thing on their porch steps. Some kids I guess.
   Like I said somewhere up there, that was about four months ago. It’s odd how my mind will treat this whole thing when I reflect on it. It’s like being in a constant state of denial about the color of your eyes or something, how I just wish I had dreamed it or imagined it. Lis and I…how we just dance around the thing, even when we talk about it. We can’t say anything about it. Maybe there’s nothing to say. We don’t really walk anymore, of course, except to the park occasionally. In daylight. Around people and smiles. The Gas & Dine is closed; there was an investigation, they say it was a robbery gone wrong, no survivors. No leads, the videotapes for the security cameras being stolen, they say. Oh I wonder what the cops thought when they saw those videos. But then, surely this thing has attacked before. It scares me sometimes, thinking about how some people surely know. Thinking about missing children, missing animals. Not long after the incident I heard about a few cows in the fields a mile or so north of here, the direction from which we heard that initial howl that night, being found mutilated and partially eaten.
   The paper described those killed at the Gas & Dine as being murdered with a firearm. Gunshot victims all. Their guts on the inside and uneaten. I know different. Another thing, I know mine and Lisa’s faces had to be on those surveillance recordings, yet we’ve received no contact from authorities. No threats or bribes for silence even. This puzzles me. But there are lots of puzzled people around. 
   We can’t stay here. Lis has made plans to move back with her family up north  in the city.  I need to go back to school. And city life has found a recent appeal to me. The moon doesn’t shine so bright there. The gunshot victims are gunshot victims, thankfully. Ha ha.

  I went for a walk last night. It’s only recently begun to be bearable jacketless weather in the evening. Lisa was out and I was feeling a restless pull. So after staring blankly at the TV and seeing and hearing nothing and feeling suffocated by my own walls I left the house. Everything was dark or lit up yellow-orange by porch- and streetlights, and I walked to the intersection there where we’d turned left instead of right like we always did. Sometimes I get this idea that our walk really was a ritual, one used to chase away our daylight troubles before bedtime to let us sleep easier. But this turn was a bad ingredient, a deviation that brought this horror into existence. I know this is wrong. But maybe I walked last night to hunt a piece of something I left there by the tracks lined by trees. Maybe I chased after it; I know I must’ve looked like a man haunted by loss as I hurried down the street. Loss of precious banality. Of the quotidian. Every thought I’ve thought since that night is like a form of mental babbling, at best a kind of mumbling. There’s a lack of foundation on which to make a thought into a certainty, it’s like. So I walked until I got out of the town’s earshot and I found the swampy little pool by the tracks, this time of the year devoid of scum and just a black little glassy space. I sat in front of it and nothing came to me and I started to feel foolish. I sat and chewed the inside of my cheeks for a bit. The moon was waning gibbous. I stood and spit in the water and walked back. When I came to the house I paused in front of the door and pretended that this was the first time I’d been there. I opened the door and stepped into the warmth. I went to my room, God how comfortable the house, even the musty people-smell of it, sat on my bed for a bit, and decided to write the whole thing down. I’ll put the thing on paper and see what it becomes. It hasn’t become easier, I can tell you. I’ll put these pages in a manila envelope and I’ll leave it in some room in the house when I leave; not hidden, but not conspicuous. I don’t want my land lord to see it. I hope someone from out of town finds it. Maybe someone who knows what to do. Because I sure as hell don’t.