Tag Archives: writing

The Cabin

My truck rattled along the gravel road, taking me further and further from civilization. The old logging trail ran alongside a creek bed, long since dry thanks to the lack of rain this summer. Even with our drought the trees still held their vivid green canopies. The forest ceiling blocked out the sun with only the occasional beam of light piercing through the thick growth.

The cabin was the last place I wanted to go in this heat. No air conditioning would be killer this time of year. The humidity alone was nearly unbearable, but the gentle breeze blowing through my truck window kept me cool. It was almost pleasant, but I knew it wouldn’t last.

I approached the final stretch and began to ascend. The hill the cabin was situated on would have offered a great view had the forest not been so thick. The cabin was old. It had been in my family longer than I knew. It was like a relative that you were “encouraged” to visit every so often. My dad had requested I go out and check on the place since he hadn’t been able to get out here this year. Ever since the surgery, he hadn’t been moving as well. I know he loves the place, so I couldn’t say no. Hopefully he could make it out for deer season, but it wasn’t looking likely.

The road broke through the trees into the small clearing at the front of the cabin. The old structure looked more worn down than I remembered. The paint weathered, the wood beaten and rough. It was clinging to life, the only sign of humanity within miles of nature’s domain.

I stopped the truck and hopped out, instantly feeling the sweat beading down my face. I grabbed my bag from the bed of the truck and went to the small outhouse that was nestled beside the old building. Hidden inside was the key ring that opened the front door. It was tucked away exactly where it was supposed to be, a faint layer of dust covering the shiny keys.

Opening the door, I could feel the oppressive heat blast like a wave across the threshold of the cabin. The air was stale and choked with dust. I entered and dropped my bag on the old pull-out sofa that would be my bed for the night. Bugs pinged off the torn screens as I opened the windows.

What looked like movement caught my eye as I glanced out into the forest. I squinted, not making anything out in the brush. Probably a deer or a coyote. They practically infested these parts.

Grabbing the axe from the utility closet, I went out to chop some wood. It would take a fair amount to get me through the night if I wanted to be spared from total darkness. My hands began to callous over as I worked on a fallen tree, chopping up decent size logs before I could split them. It took me three trips, but I was able to get all of the wood back to the porch.

On my final trip, I returned to find the door swinging lazily in the breeze. I could have sworn that it was closed the last trip I made. I cautiously opened the door, hoping not to find a coyote or some other wild animal had somehow made its way inside.

No one was there.

I stepped inside and froze.

All of my belongings were neatly laid out on the sofa. It was like someone had gone through my bag, inventorying everything I was carrying.

My eyes took in all of my things. Everything was there, except my truck keys.

I grabbed the axe from the porch and hurriedly put the wood inside the building. Closing all the windows, I locked the front door and frantically pulled my cell phone from my pocket, dropping it to the wooden floor in the process.

I dialed my dad’s number and he answered on the third ring. I choked out what happened as I paced along the inside of the cabin.

Expecting him to try and calm me down, I was surprised by what he told me. After I finished telling him my story, he was quiet for a moment.

“Stay inside, lock the door, and don’t leave for anything. I’ll pick up the extra set of your keys from your house and meet you at the cabin in the morning. No matter what you hear or see, don’t leave that building until I get there in the morning.”

I thought he would tell me that it was probably just a hiker playing a trick or something like that, but upon hearing his warning I knew that he was deathly serious.

Nightfall approached slowly and I spent my time nervously looking from window to window. Even before the sun dipped below the horizon, I built a fire in the fireplace. The heat was overwhelming, but the thought of waiting until dark to build the fire was out of the question.

I huddled next to the sofa, axe in hand as I awaited the sun. I must have dozed off around 1am because when the banging on the door woke me up the fire was dying.

Grasping the axe tightly, I made my way to the door. With each step I took the banging became louder. It was still pitch black outside the windows as I tried in vain to see what might be waiting beyond the doorway.

“Who is it?” I asked timidly.

The banging stopped.

I choked up on the axe and steeled myself. “Who is it, damnit?”

The sound of fingernails tracing over the wood door was the only reply.

I backed away from the door, nearly tripping over the sofa in the process. Realizing how dark it was getting, I hurriedly threw wood on the fire, not taking my eyes off the front door and windows the entire time. The fire flared to life and I felt exposed. Anyone outside would be easily able to see me.

Huddling next to the sofa, I waited until the first rays of sun burst through the windows. I burned through all of my supply of wood, but I never let the fire die.

I was greeted by the sound of tires on gravel, and I looked out the window to see my dad pulling up to the front of the cabin, parking next to my truck. He slowly got out of the car while favoring his injured leg. He had a shotgun in hand as he waved at me.

Opening the door, I rushed out and nearly tackled him, I was so excited to see him.

“Come on boy, let’s get out of here,” he said anxiously, eyes scanning the tree line. I jogged back inside and grabbed my bag, carrying the axe with me the entire time. As I locked the cabin door, I saw something that made my skin crawl. All around the cabin, near the windows, the grass had been disturbed. I slowly walked around the cabin and confirmed it. Something had been watching me all night, slowly circling the cabin.

With my replacement keys in hand, I followed my dad’s SUV out of the small clearing and back towards the city. It wasn’t until we got back to his place that we were able to speak.

I told him what happened during the night, and he listened intently. After I finished, he said that we wouldn’t be going back there anymore.

“When I was a child, I went up to the cabin with your granddad. In the middle of the night, someone knocked on the door. When I went to open it, my father grabbed my arm and hushed me when I tried to speak. We waited until the knocking stopped, and he kept watch with his hunting rifle. The next day I asked him what was out there, and he wouldn’t say. His eyes got very distant and he said it was something that didn’t like us being on its land. He never talked about it again.”

Ever since that night, I’ve stayed out of the woods. I don’t think it has done any good. The other day I was tidying up my yard after a large storm came through when I found them.

Footprints in the mud, outside all of my windows.

Night light

Lying in bed is a strange thing when you think about it. We’re sleeping, at our most vulnerable, yet we present ourselves at waist height with out thin cotton sheets to protect us from the outside world. I don’t neccesarily trust the night, but some people enjoy it. Enveloped in darkness, barely able to tell if your eyes are open or closed, it gives me panic.

I used to keep a nightlight on, but not anymore. Yeah I know, I’m nearly 30 and still sleeping with a nightlight. But there’s a reason I don’t use one anymore. I want that cradle of darkness to keep out of sight all the things swimming around us, just outside of our vision. It’s easier to pretend that the things out there cannot see you if you cannot see them.

It was a hot summer night, and our A/C was on the fritz. We had a repair guy coming in the morning, but until then we made due with open windows and ceiling fans. The gentle buzz of faraway traffic and the calm whoosh of the ceiling fan made quite the suburban lullaby, and the light from the lamppost outside gently illuminated my room.

With the heat I was down to my boxers and a single bedsheet. Even though I would have been more comfortable without it, I never have been able to sleep well without at least a single sheet covering me. When I was a kid I believed that if you kept your feet outside the covers at night things could grab you. If they were inside the covers, the creatures lurking in the dark had to follow the rules. Covers were a safe zone, and you could rest comfortably knowing that you were hidden in the sheets.

I was tossing and turning as I usually do when sleeping without the modicum of creature comforts I’ve grown used to when I first heard it – the gentle creaking of my closet door. Cursing the worn latch that was the only thing keeping the door closed, I got up out of bed and made my way to the cracked doorway.

As I did I heard a low thump from the closet, almost like the sound of someone scrabbling backwards.

I froze, the beads of sweat cooling against my skin. I listened intently but heard only the gentle noise from the fan and the traffic from outside my window. It felt like minutes before I moved again, but I know now it was probably only a matter of seconds.

As though on autopilot, I moved to my dresser and opened the sock drawer. Finding the lockbox hidden under my unorganized piles of underwear and socks, I quickly twisted the combination into the lock and withdrew the snub nose .38 I had bought a few years before.

I hadn’t taken it out for years, but I knew by the weight that it still held 5 rounds of .38 hollowpoints. I grabbed the small flashlight I kept near my bed and made my way to the lightswitch near the closet.

I reached the switch near the door and raised the .38, finger sweating against the stainless steel trigger. My heart was pounding in my chest as I flipped on the light and opened the closet door. Bright light flooded into the dark space, illuminating everything I had stashed in there over the years.

Nothing was out of place. I scolded myself for being so paranoid and quickly locked up the revolver, annoyed at myself for being so frightened at such a mundane noise.

I switched off the light and went back to bed, heart rate slowly dropping to normal, when I heard the door creak open again. I almost started laughing until I hear the door fully open and hit the wall. A second later, a few plodding thuds came from the direction of the closet, and I pulled the covers down slightly to peek.

Emerging from the closet and tiptoeing as if trying not to wake me, was a being, at least nine feet tall and hunched below the ceiling. It’s long, spindly arms blindly groped at the wall as it looked in my direction, apparently unable to see the abject look of horror on my face. It continued its quiet progression and quickly slipped out my bedroom door.

I don’t use a night light anymore. If it’s still ever in my closet, I figure I’d rather us not be able to see each other.

Shadowmen

Lying in bed you’re likely to catch a glimpse of something in the shadows. Every culture has legends about shadowy figures, and ours is no exception. Shadow figures are humanoid shapes the brain sometimes sees when immersed in nearly total darkness. They generally take the appearance of an adult male, sometimes wearing a distinctive hat.

They usually appear when you are falling asleep and your brain is settling down.

Usually.

Continue reading Shadowmen

Titan

I gasp for air in the drain pipe as my shoulder pounds in pain. My  vision is swimming. Slowly my eyes adjust to the darkness and my torn up palms trace their way along the bottom of the tunnel. Scrabbling deeper into the dark, I curl into a ball every time I hear that damn sound.

I had been walking home from my office when I heard it the first time. My boss, Parker, made me stay late again and I was starting to curse myself for deciding to jog to work this morning instead of driving. Taylor was trying to get me into shape for our upcoming vacation and I was doing a shit poor job of actually listening to her. I know she doesn’t want to be the woman hanging out on the beach with the husband equivalent of a beached whale, but getting myself to be motivated was harder and harder to achieve.

Walking alone down the darkened backstreets didn’t bother me. I preferred it to the howling masses that seemed to live on Main Street at this time of night, swarming between the bars and restaurants that dotted the road in the middle of town.

Alone with my thoughts and the quiet music seeping through my headphones, I made my way down the darkened alleys. I figured I was alone until I turned the corner.

“I don’t want to hurt you, man, but I will. Give me your wallet and your phone and don’t try any shit.”

The man, really a boy now that I think of it, couldn’t have been older than 17 or 18. Time stopped and I noticed everything. His eyes were ringed and bagged, fingernails ragged and chewed. He looked paler than I was, and the unmistakable tremors and sweating indicated some kind of drug use.

It’s easy to feel detached now, but then all I found myself focusing on was the boxy shape of a Glock 9mm handgun pointed directly at my chest. Adrenaline kicked in and before I knew it I was holding my phone and wallet above my head, as though they were an offering to the gods.

The kid was shaking the gun at me and yelling, but by this point I had no idea what he was saying. The sounds of the world were being droned out by the noise of blood pumping in my ears. He waved the gun, and I realized he wanted me to drop the stuff on the floor.

Practically throwing my phone and wallet, I dumped them on the floor and took a few steps back. The thief scooped them up and with that he was gone. The sounds of the world slowly faded back into perception, and I was left standing in the dark alley with nothing left but the encroaching feeling of nausea.

Then I heard the scream. The scream was panicked and primal. At first I thought it was an animal like a rabbit or something, but my brain connected the dots when I heard the clattering from the Glock hitting the asphalt.

I worked up my courage and approached the brick corner at the end of the alley. Peering around the edge, I could see the legs of the thief dangling from the rooftop as he was slowly being pulled over the ledge.

The smell of copper and ozone filled my nostrils and the only thing I could hear was a sickly popping noise. Every morning when we wake up, Taylor likes to pop her back. I hate that noise. It bothers me to my core and even though I ask her to not do it, she can’t help herself. She just grins at me and struggles to crack her back multiple times in a row. This was like that, but left me feeling like I was going to throw up.

Looking above me is when I first saw it. It’s head was shaped like an over-sized pumpkin. It’s empty, raw eye sockets stared back at me. Below it sat a gaping hole where a mouth should be.

I turned and ran. My feet pounding against the pavement as whatever it was began trailing me across the rooftops. As I passed alleyways and empty streets I realize that whatever it was, it was clearing the 20 foot gaps between the buildings as easy as you or I stepping over a crack in the pavement.

Whatever the thing is, it’s big. I can hear its joints pop as it lopes across the buildings next to me. I can hear a low dry croaking sound each time it lands after a jump.

I turn towards the river and hope to lose it in the forest lying along the shore when I make my mistake. I trip, whether it’s over a rock or hole in the ground, it ends with only one thing. I tumble down the embankment and slam my shoulder into the concrete drainage pipe.

Now, climbing through the pipe I realize that I can hide out here until morning. Then my heart sinks. I come to a locked security grate. I’m barely twenty feet into the pipe when I hear the sickening, cracking of joints and see a filthy and white bony hand work its way towards me. As I press my back against the grate, the thing leans further into the tunnel, plunging me into complete darkness.

Storytelling and RPGs

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m a huge nerd. I absolutely love role playing games; both running them and playing in them.  I run into one problem though: I get sidetracked by other games.

The games I play in I have a blast with, so that’s not the problem. It’s when I run games that I get distracted. Lately I’ve been running Traveller. Traveller is a space opera, in which players generally find themselves moving across a subsector of space, scraping by and high-tailing it from one system to the next. In a word, it’s basically Firefly the RPG, more so than the original Firefly RPG.

Continue reading Storytelling and RPGs

Stalled

Gary saw her first and yelled at Tom to stop the bulldozer. The dozer ground to a halt just before knocking into the first support column of the horse barn before us. It wasn’t like any kind of barn I had seen before at least. Owners said it was a breeding barn. 86 stalls where they would try and breed race horses. A lot different than the barns you see on TV. Not painted red wood or anything like that, but made of sheet metal.

Continue reading Stalled

On failure

I’ve been recently told that I need to slow down on my projects or I’ll burn myself out. This is a valid concern (given my New Years pushups and running resolutions) however with writing and my side projects, I feel like slowing down will burn myself out. I am enjoying creating content for others to read. I can only hope it’s entertaining, but the goal here is to create something worthy of just two minutes of someone’s time. Just a year ago around this time I heavily started writing. I’ve always written, but I wouldn’t have called myself a writer until then.

Back then, I was terrified of criticism. I would worry about each piece I was thinking of showing to people, and then show them only to select groups from where I knew I would get positive feedback. I would never dare put my writing up online for fear that someone wouldn’t like it. Just getting one negative review would be enough to throw me into a shame spiral. But you know what? Now I don’t really care about that.

I just started on YouTube working on my podcast. It has been a long time in the making, and my friend Graham is lending his amazing sound mastering experience to help supplement my writing. We’ve gotten pretty positive responses, but also something that I’m not used to. Now, for the first time I’ve received visibly negative feedback.

I got my first dislike, my friends.

What would originally have destroyed me has actually inspired me. I try and think of what I can do differently for the next video instead of beating myself up about it. When I look at my project’s failings, it’s not out of self-pity, but to continue to improve and thrive.

A few posts ago I mentioned that I had scrapped the work on my novel. People I know, to put it simply, politely freaked out. They worried about all the time I put in to the current drafts. What they didn’t realize was that I was already on my third attempt at the same story that just wasn’t working. I had invested all told about 40,000 words on writing that I was trying to force to work. Now I don’t believe that all writing is inspiration and magically flows through you or some such. Writing is work, in some cases harder than other things. But when you can’t shake an idea and keep it as a sacred cow, you can’t improve on it.

So, I scrapped it. There are still copies of it on my hard drive so I can’t say I dramatically burned the thing to the ground, but I no longer consult them. I started writing fresh and shed the plot elements I was so concerned were needed, and ended up having my characters take me to where I needed them to be. Yes, writing is work, but sometimes there are those moments when the words talk back to you. You just put them to paper and they glow. Other times you stare out the windows wracking your brain for the next big step.

The dislike on my video was more puzzling than disheartening, but I get it. A week ago I sent Graham a new cut of recordings I did for the next episode of the podcast. I waited for a response because I wanted to get in to it, and he replied that I had made my voice so gravelly and stuttered that I sounded like a barely literate Batman. I thought I had sounded creepy, he thought that me being ‘creepy’ sounded like I didn’t know how to pronounce the word ‘exercises.’ He was brutally honest about it, and I loved it. I learned more about recording in that 5 minute conversation than spending time trying to figure out what I think people would like. It’s been one of the most helpful criticisms I’ve gotten in my career.

Like any other blooming YouTube sensation, I tend to exaggerate but I also watch my click-through-rate and advertising statistics. They make sense to me now. They ebb and flow just like everything else and the goal to getting views isn’t just good marketing, but also providing great content. I had run ad campaigns that shot up my views, but did little to keep people except for a dedicated core of viewers and readers around. I was getting my 15 minutes without any of the benefits.

Moving forward, I’m working on making myself better in all ways. I’ve started doing my pushups again, and now I’m learning how to use video editing software in addition to the sound aspect of the project. Graham has his own projects to worry about, so the more I can help him with the mundane aspects of the editing the better. But I need to start considering my technical skills in addition to my creative ones. Graham is awesome with sound because not only is he a skilled musician, but he’s also passionate about all aspects of recording music. Thanks to this podcast, he’s transitioning into Foley work as well. It is as new a field to him as recording and video making is to me.

That’s what I need to learn how to do. Not just focus on the technical or creative aspect, but both. They can live together in harmony and don’t need to be mutually exclusive. I can watch CTR’s and also not compromise myself as an artist or whatever pretentious spin you want to put on it. People will like things, people will hate things, but if you want to be successful you need to keep putting out work, and scrap your sacred cows when they aren’t working for you.

I was so afraid of failure with the podcast initially that we had the episode recorded for months before it actually hit the internet. It was my first foray into the audio arena of the internet, and while it isn’t perfect, it was a start. Scrapping my novel and starting over has been the best decision I’ve made yet, as I’ve written more in two days based around the same general elements than I have in the last month on this project. It all comes down to not being afraid to admit failure, but not letting that failure stop you or slow you down. That’s how we learn and that’s how we prosper. If I hadn’t gotten rid of my flawed progress on my story, I would be rewriting the same 40,000 words. Just spinning my wheels unhappy with everything, but since I had already gotten that far, there was nothing I was able to do.

Getting that far is only part of the trip, the other is making sure the journey is worth it. If Wally World is closed, savor the journey, but also turn the damn car around and go to Disneyland.

Thoughts on Recording

So I’ve been getting slightly into the technical side of audio recording with my buddy. Graham, who is an awesome audio engineer, has been guiding me through the worst of the pitfalls, but for the moment I’ve been doing a lot of experimenting with it myself.

It’s actually been fun as hell!

I always wondered just why exactly it was so prohibitive with regards to cost to get in to, and now I get it. I’ve been using free software and have been seeing the limitations. With video editing, I’ve run in to the same problem. My wife, the graphic designer, has access to a bunch of Adobe programs except the ones for video production. Windows Movie Maker can only take you so far.

Either way, I hope you guys enjoy the work we’ve been putting in to the podcast. Sorry I’ve been a little sparse on updating on here, but I’ve been working on audio-only stories, as well as print-only stories. I’m debating whether or not to start adapting ‘The Map’ for corresponding audio pieces as well, but I feel like I would want to get a stable of amateur voice actors for that one.

So timeline wise coming up, you should be able to hear the new podcast episode come out next week. I should also have a few new stories for the next week as well. I’ve been trying to do a few horror let’s plays as well, but there have been technical as well as ‘Chris-in-front-of-the-camera-with-nothing-to-say’ limitations.

Regardless, I’m having fun, and should have some impressive stuff for you guys soon considering how quickly we’re learning. Thanks for checking out our stuff, and consider subscribing and liking stuff on our YouTube page!

Thanks everyone!