“I think I found a way around it.” Benny. Smiling. I’m thinking there’s no way.

“Bullshit,” I say. “There’s no way around. You’ve got the henchies camped to the left, and the right is a poisonous bog. You think we can swim through that bog, forget it, I’ve already tried. Well, Finn tried, and Finn is dead.”


“What do you mean exactly?”

“Follow me.”

I did, incredulous for a bit. But then I saw what he might be thinking. “Aren’t you forgetting something? What about that mad twenty-foot-tall buzzard up there?”

Benny pulled something out of his pocket. I smiled.

“You tricky son of a bitch,” I said.

Benny just kept on smiling.

Up ahead, everything kept on thinking we’d never make it through.

Surprise. I have complicated feelings on 2019. As we head straight for that most aspirational of drunken nights, I’m filled with frustration, anger, disappointment (mostly in myself), and the urge to lash myself several times and make myself promise to do better next year. I’m vulnerable as fuck to the hegemony of all the things I should do–or be, finish, or start. And all I’ve got in my head most of the time is, “I want a drink. I will not drink. I want a drink. I will not drink. I want a drink. Will I really not drink?”

Truly? Urgh.

My favorite joke of 2019: If I could drink like other people, I’d do it all the time. (I didn’t come up with that on my own. Someone said it in a meeting.)

636 days have passed one day at a time. I have not always done the next right thing, but I’ve stayed sober. In the words of Bill Murray, “So I’ve got that going for me. Which is nice.”

The title of this post is a weird half-pep talk / half-prayer I came up with for myself. It describes the version of myself I actually like–though not necessarily the version of myself I always am. When I manage to hold onto that image, things feel like they unspool in a more tolerable way. I guess that description feels like it’s taken several deep breaths already. Perhaps that’s why I like it. Nothing rah-rah-I’m-the-best-yeehaw about it, either, which is good, because that shit grosses me out. (I remember a time I could still listen to songs like Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” or Bill Conti’s “Gonna Fly Now.” Not anymore. Nope. Heroic music freaks me out. Feels like empty empowerment. Like an emotional pacifier.)

So, sure, I didn’t write a complete story in 2019. I meant to. I wanted to. I want to get back in the game. I want to put the sadness behind me and get back to work. I don’t intellectually see a reason not to. The trouble is more that I feel like a garbage person, and what does a garbage person have to say that anyone needs to trouble themselves with? That answer does not come easily to me.

Sorry. I know it’s tiresome to call myself a garbage person. Trying to stop.


Speaking of trying, I was never one to turn my nose up to New Year’s resolutions; I tend to admire the bravery of anyone setting earnest goals for themself. How else are we supposed to grow or evolve? Yet this year more than other years I remember, I’m conscious of all the ways the things I think I should do are measurements custom-fit to not fit me. A goal you know you’re not going to reach is nothing other than scheduled self-punishment. Might decline that invite this year, even if I hear it calling me this very moment. (Yeah, I’ve been reading things on the Internet that have pointed this stuff out. Didn’t come up with this on my own, either. I’m not that clever.)

“Oh, you should just set achievable goals,” you might argue. Mm. Yes. Achievable. Trouble is, there’s a lot of stuff that is achievable. I’ve written entire novels in the past. It’s not out of the realm of possibility to do it again. Doesn’t stop it from feeling like a trap right now.

And there’s that word, again, too: “just.” Just write another story. Just do the next right thing. Just be positive. Just be better.

It’s so easy. Just do it.

Just eliminate just from your vocabulary.


Just do the audiobook. Just edit the novels. Just write the script. Write the new books. Write the new stories. Read the books. Write the reviews. Exercise. Get fit. Learn how to live sustainably. Learn the new things. Get better at the old things. Do service. Make amends. Save the world.

I mean … for fuck’s sake. Some days, if I do the dishes and take out the garbage, it feels like moving through mud against the tide. So. Yes. I see the ocean of all that I should.

And I collapse on the shore.

So maybe for right now, I’m just going to sit here and watch the waves go in and out. Then maybe head back, cook dinner, do the dishes, take out the garbage, and put the kid to bed.

Then … I don’t know. Then we’ll see, I guess. But if I can be sad, patient, on time, far from perfect, and here until close … maybe that will be okay.

I still really hope I write something complete and new in 2020, but I might just (dammit!) keep reading self-help articles on the Internet and playing videogames way too late into the night.

Happy new year.

Before I even hit play, let me tell you where I’m coming from: I’m a man with pie, coffee, and coffee ice cream. I’ve seen the original run of Twin Peaks six times in full (yes, I even watch James Hurley’s god-awful subplot of death every damned time). Fire Walk With Me was misunderstood on release, and it’s among David Lynch’s best work. Personal favorite David Lynch film is Lost Highway, which just edges out Mulholland Dr., Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, and, yeah, Fire Walk With Me. (But for me, it’s an easy call.)

Federal Bureau of Investigation Agent Dale Cooper is likely my favorite character ever in anything, and the end of the original series was something I thought I was just going to have to live with for the rest of my life. It was a gut punch, I thought it was the end, and it really hurt me.

Until now?

I am beyond excited. I’m already a few minutes behind. Enough is enough.

Don’t know if this will be interesting to anyone, but … what the hell. It’s Twin Peaks. I’m doing it. Probably all wrong. Obviously … spoilers to follow.

Let’s rock.

<> <> <> <> <>


And we’re direct to the Black Lodge. I know this scene. Hello, old friends.

“I’ll see you again in twenty-five years. Meanwhile…” Laura Palmer’s “Vogue” moment. This show is already stirring the nostal….


They really surprised me with the timing of the opening credits for some reason. They snuck up on me in such a nice way, it was like a loved one giving me a hug from behind when I didn’t even know they were home. I kinda want to cry, it’s so beautiful.

Watching that again.

A couple thoughts. Just about the credits. Yeah yeah, I know. Me too. But … I have to. (Jesus, I have no idea how long this post is going to be. This could take me all night if I keep this up.)

After the redux of Coop and Laura in the Black Lodge, there are three new, spooky shots of Twin Peaks environments. What a goddamn (beautifully spooky) tease! The three new shots are all locations. No people yet. Then Lynch pulls back out, reverts to old stuff. Inside, I cry. It’s a couple shots from the pilot, and I KNOW THIS I’VE SEEN IT SIX GODDAMN TIMES. Give me the new stuff! But then he focuses on Laura’s face, again an old shot (oft-repeated, I’m wondering if this recycling is going to go on forever), and then … he drops the opening credits, with new footage of old locations set to that theme we know and love. Just like that, I fucking melt.

Mellllllllllt. I’m a puddle now.

I can’t help but think that is some seriously intentional shit. He knows what we want. He played with us a bit there. It’s such sexual editing, it’s kinda ridiculous.

[clears throat.]

Okay, but here’s the thing that really just blew my mind. Shot of the waterfall is now from above instead of below, and instead of floating downstream, we dissolve into chevron carpet and billowing red curtains. Black Lodge stuff. Where Agent Cooper is trapped. The place where I most want to see what happens next.

And that’s when my mind exploded. Because Lynch blends the carpet with the curtains, and I finally get it (I think): it’s all fire!

Key line from this story to date is: “Fire walk with me.”

It was there all along. It was written in the damn rug. The curtains billow over the chevron, and it LOOKS LIKE GODDAMN FIRE.

And when you walk on a carpet with that pattern, does the fire walk with you?

But wait, because I got more. The carpet is also… twin peaks. One set black, the other white. Black Lodge, White Lodge. Twins. Doppelgängers.

I can’t believe I didn’t notice this before.

Ok, ok. Enough. Got another hour and fifty-five minutes to get through, I’d better up the pace a bit.

Giant says: “Agent Cooper, listen to the sounds.” What in the unholy fuck is that sound? It’s a loop of some kind. “It is in our house now,” says the Giant. What the fuck is their house?

“Remember 430.” Ok, Giant. Got it. “Richard and Linda. Two birds with one stone. … You are far away.” I remember getting clues from the Giant before. They all came true. Better take note of this for later.

Might be men in smiling bags.

HAHA … That was such a silly joke with Dr. Jacobi wearing sunglasses over his multi-colored sunglasses. No idea why Jacobi is getting a shovel shipment.

And now we’re in New York City, I guess? (That was one glittering aerial shot, holy shit that looked good.) Here we have some magnificent shots of a man staring at a giant box with a hole cut in it open to the rest of the city? Haha, Banzai tree beside him is a clever little nod. Check for bugs, buddy. Or just shout “BANZAI!!!” really loudly. Either will work for me.

This dude appears to have been watching and saving footage of this empty box for quite some time. Composition looks a bit like an old MTV cartoon where he gets his mind blown by some rock ‘n’ roll.

Awww, Tracy seems nice. She’s brought coffee! “Z.” is on the cups. She can’t come in. She says words like, “Shoot!” and “Oooh!” He says words like, “Top secret!” and “Thanks, Tracy.” Heavy flirting ensues. I’m curious.

Cut to … Ben Horne!! And is that Ashley Judd? And Jerry! Who looks … like a hippie now? Jerry is terrific as always. He’s selling pot-infused baked goods. And doing better than Ben, seems like. That was perfect.

Cut to … Lucy!! Someone needs to see Truman, but apparently there are two now? Of course there are. Twin Peaks, after all.

Cut to … oh noooooooooo. Evil Agent Cooper. I feel worse. He’s got B.O.B. hair now, I guess. Long and gross as fuck. He’s messing with some weird people in the woods to collect Ray and Darya. Ray and Darya slip notes to a man in a wheelchair. Evil Agent Cooper referred to as “Mr. C.” So that’s what I’ll call him, too, I guess.

I don’t like Mr. C. It hurts a lot to think he’s been out there doing bad things for 25+ years while wearing Agent Cooper’s face. Ugh. And with no sense of style, either. Spray tan and garbage hair and bad clothes. I hate him. Someone stop him, please.

Back to Tracy and the Box-Watching-Man. The guard has vanished, but she’s brought more coffee! I have a really bad feeling about this.

Box-Watching-Man lets Tracy in because, hey, no guard to stop him? Was it really the guard that stopped him before? Odd.

Tracy … I think you should not be going in here. With your “Z.” coffee.

Oh good. He got this job from an “anonymous billionaire.” He’s supposed to watch the box in case something appears inside. This is quickly turning into Fifty Shades of NOPE!.

Uh-oh. David Lynch is on Showtime now, in case you were wondering. They’re doing it. Machinery disapproves.

Also, appears Tracy works for the “Z.”-brand coffee shop. There was a “Z.” on her dress. That is now off her body. Machinery REALLY unhappy.





…….. I ……. ummmmm……..

That was horrifying. Something appeared in the box. Bad things happened to the Box-Watcher and Tracy. Apparently, they met the ghostly equivalent of an angry food-processor. Holy fucking shit.

Punished Old Skool Horror Film-style for daring to have sex in a creepy setting, eh?

The male gaze is strong in this show.

Pausing here to ask: Where’s Audrey? Can I see Audrey next please? What about Shelley? I would like to see Audrey or Shelley or maybe both Audrey and Shelley now. Ok?

Mostly I need to know if Audrey survived that bank explosion. I really want to know that. Please tell me right now that she lived? Whaddaya say?

Survey says … nope. But hey, lookit — Buckhorn, South Dakota? Seriously?

Woman with groceries and her dog Armstrong smells a bad smell at neighbor friend Ruth’s door. Yeah… She’s dead. And what is this, Fargo now?

TELL ME ABOUT AUDREY! Grumble, grumble.

Spending a long time getting keys to Ruth-Who’s-Dead’s apartment. Maintenance Man Hank (not old show Hank, though I had a moment) seems suspicious carrying a giant bag of garbage(?) and a … doctor’s bag? I got my eye on you, Maintenance Man Hank. Why did they introduce you at all right now?

Oh Jesus. Ruth is SO dead.

Harvey and Hank are up to no good. Some deal or something. Hank is trying to cut Brother Harvey out. Seems like Renault brothers all over again to me, though. Shady, but red herrings all the way.

WHAT THE FUCK!!! Ruth’s corpse … severed head. Naked pregnant body. Uggggggggh. Wow, Bob, wow.

Someone please make them cut to Audrey next PLEASE!

Nope! Log Lady!! She’s calling Hawk. “Something has been lost. … The way you will find it has something to do with your heritage. This has been a message from the log.”

Hawk looks great. And his “Goodnight, Margaret” line was so sweet.

Wasn’t Audrey, but it was nice. I’ll take it.

Back to the plot about Ruth-Who-is-Dead-Not-Wrapped-in-Plastic — ok, great, so the pregnant portion of the dead body wasn’t Ruth. That’s terrific. And they found prints all around the crime scene, and the guilty man appears to be… Matthew Lilliard? Who is the school principal! His mom and dad are gonna be so mad at him!

Andy, Lucy, and Hawk on the case in Twin Peaks. Nice seeing them together. I was a little distracted by Andy’s fascinating stomach. He really leads with it. And it is quite round.

Principal Bill is getting grilled by cops. Not about Audrey. Turns out, there’s a gap in his alibi. He seems disturbed by his sudden awareness that there’s a mysterious gap in his story. Claims he gave someone a ride home because, “There was something wrong with her car … Something wrong …” RUH-ROH. This practically SCREAMS of B.O.B., but I thought B.O.B. was in Mr. C.

For the record, I don’t know if I’m spelling B.O.B. right. Bob? BOB? B.O.B.? No idea.

Mrs. Principal Bill, Phyllis, seems put out having to surrender keys to the car and let the detectives search the joint. Suspicious lack of concern.

For a moment, I thought that was a human ear under the cooler in Bill’s car’s trunk. But actually, I have no idea what it was. Some kind of fleshy bit. Bodes ill.

Getting pretty soap operatic in the prison cell as Mrs. Bill confronts Principal Bill. Bill had a bad dream that puts him at the scene of the crime. Husband and wife appear to have been cheating on each other. Phyllis with this fella George, who is a man in a suit of some prosecutorial bearing. Hm.

Pan over in the prison cell from Bill to … ok. OK. It’s a wide-eyed inmate who vanishes into thin fucking air. H’OK THEN.

Ohhhhhhh shit. Phyllis gets home to find herself face to face with Mr. C. Who shoots her dead on sight. With George’s gun.

Maybe Bill is innocent after all.

Where’s Audrey???

Cut to … Even MORE new characters! A certain Mr. Todd and “Roger.” Doing things for someone. Roger wants to know why Mr. Todd lets XXXXX make him do things. That’s all for now!

Oy vey. Whole lotta plot threads getting thrown down here.

Now we’re in a diner with Ray, Darya, Mr. C., and “Jack,” who eats spaghetti. “One thing you should know about me, Ray, is that I don’t NEED anything. I WANT. And I want that information.” Jack wants spaghetti, though. Jack’s getting more spaghetti than Mr. C. is getting information.

Ray, pal … I don’t think you’re long for this world.

“She’s Hastings’ secretary. She knows what he knows,” Ray says. Who the fuck is Hastings? TBD? Or did I miss it?

Margaret on the phone again with Hawk, who’s walking in the woods. “The stars turn, and a time presents itself. Hawk, watch carefully.” Log Lady has lost a lot of her attitude over the years. She seems much more concerned. Or maybe we never got to see this side of her before? Can’t recall if I ever saw her talking to Hawk directly before.

Oh, well, hello there. The old pond entrance to the Black Lodge. Why on earth are you here, Hawk?

Back inside the Black Lodge, it’s nice to see real Agent Cooper again. One-Armed Man wants to know: “Is this future, or it is past? Someone is here.” Then he vanishes. Remind me to always say “someone is here” before I vanish, too.

HEEEEEEEY, it’s older Laura Palmer!! Well, if she isn’t a sight for sore eyes! She tells Agent Cooper he can go out now. Early parole?

I always love scenes between Cooper and Laura. They love each other in a nice way. “Are you Laura Palmer?” Coop asks. Laura, of course, answers, “I feel like I know her, but sometimes my arms bend back.” When pressed, “I am Laura Palmer. … I am dead, yet I live.” And then she pulls off her face and reveals bright white light.

White Lodge, perhaps? I’m thinking White Lodge here. Could be wrong. Love opens the door to the White Lodge. Fear opens the door to the Black Lodge. Laura always felt like a source of love in this show.

Laura kisses Cooper and whispers, “Whisper.” Then tells him something else I can’t make out that causes Coop to say, “Huh.” And then she gets sucked up into the ceiling screaming. I am filled with dread.

Curtains billow. The white horse is revealed. Same white horse that showed up in the Palmer’s house in a vision Laura’s mom had before Leland killed Maddy. Hm.

One-Armed Man is back. Asks the question again: “Is this future, or is it past?” Dunno, buddy. You tell me.

One-Armed Man and Cooper go to another room. O-AM points: “Evolution of the arm.” It’s a sycamore tree with a weird head stuck on it. Looks like something David Lynch made himself. “I am the arm, and I sound like this.” Makes a weird noise, vaguely resembling sound from the beginning of the episode that the Giant told Coop to pay attention to. Unclear if it’s a match for sure, though.

Either way, one thing is clear: “the arm” used to refer to the dancing dwarf in the Black Lodge, otherwise known as the Man From Another Place. Unfortunately, the actor who played the dwarf, Michael J. Anderson, died in real life. And has now been replaced. By a talking sycamore tree.

Now you know how David Lynch REALLY thinks of dwarfs?

“Do you remember your doppelgänger?” the arm/sycamore tree wants to know. Damn, this is getting a bit easy to follow, actually. “He must come back in before you can go out.” Old Braintree also doesn’t speak in the common tongue of the Black Lodge. Lines aren’t spoken backwards and played backwards like others. Speaks normally, kind of, as does Cooper.

Cut to … Mr. C. Who massages Jack’s jaw. For some reason? That’s all for now as far as that goes!

Mr. C. shows up to a hotel room where Darya is making a suspicious phone call to … Jack, she says … while sitting around in her lingerie.

The male gaze is strong in this show.

Mr. C. wants to know where Ray was earlier. Ray missed his appointment. Darya flirting desperately with Mr. C. She’s scared. Nobody is convinced. Mr. C.: “Jack is dead. I killed him two hours ago after he wired the car.”

Mr. C. wants to play Darya a message. It’s Ray. He’s in jail? Ray has spoken to Jeffries!! That’d be Agent Jeffries of Fire Walk With Me fame, who was played by a time-traveling David Bowie. Apparently, according to Ray, Jeffries wants them to kill Cooper, and the heavy lifting is left to Darya.

Too bad Evil Coop was listening to this phone call. Which he recorded. Two seconds before walking in the door. Or not even two seconds. Timing must have been pretty tight on turning the recorder off and opening the door.

“Are you going to kill me?” Darya asks.

“Yes, Darya,” says awful evil fucking guy with bad hair who wears the face of a saint.

Someone was going to pay Darya and Ray $500,000 to kill Evil Tanface. Darya is groveling her way through this. Evil Hairdo was supposed to go away tomorrow. Was supposed to return to Black Lodge (do it, dickwad!! GO!!), but he’s not going to (BOOOOO!!!! I want real Coop back!).

Evil Hairdo is looking for coordinates from Hastings’ secretary, apparently. Shows Darya an Ace of Spades with the symbol for Owl Cave doorknob thing on it. Darya pulls a blank. She’s scared. “Are you going to kill me now?” “Yes, Darya.” And he beats her unconscious, puts a pillow over her head, and blows her brains out. Leaves her with pillow over her head. Lynch makes sure we get a shot of a dead woman in her lingerie with a pillow over her head.

The male gaze is strong with this show. And I feel gross. It feels intentional now.

Evil Hairdo gets on the … satellite phone? … with Agent Phillip Jeffries. Sounded like Vile Cooper just said Jeffries was in “Nowhere.”

Jeffries takes pains to say, “You’re going back in tomorrow. And I will be with B.O.B. again.” Vile Cooper suddenly not sure who he talked to. For the record, it did not sound like Bowie.

Looks like Mr. C. wants to go to Yankton prison to pull information out of Ray. Downloads blueprints of nearby prison where Ray’s at to his magic suitcase of jackassery.

… And then goes next door to see … Jennifer Jason Leigh! Who’s glad to hear Darya’s dead! She was getting jealous. And she has a husband. He needs them to go somewhere for later plot developments.

Ugggggggh… Evil Hairdo to Jennifer Jason Leigh: “Ohhh. You’re nice and wet.” REALLY?!

I am sullied.

Back in the Black Lodge, the sycamore tree tells me how to spell Bob. It’s Bob. Bob Bob Bob.

“Time and time again.”

Please, Cooper, get out of here and kill your asshole evil twin already!!

Coop happens by Leland in the Black Lodge. Leland looks so pained. “Find Laura.” Poor Leland. Still so tortured.

Coop wanders back to the One-Armed Man and the Arm-Brain-Tree: “Something’s wrong,” One-Armed Man says. “My doppelgänger,” the tree responds. I do NOT want to see crazy tree’s evil twin. Or do I? No, I do. I really do.

Coop opens curtains to see Evil Coop driving on a highway before Evil Tree opens up the damn chevron and drops him out of the Black Lodge with the one-word farewell of, “NONEXISTANT!”

Coop lands … on top of the box in NYC. Apparently right before Tracy and her Box-Watcher met their demise. They’re about to walk in. Coop is in the box now, but the box is going all sorts of shaky. Coop is … minified, and sent flying back out of the box into … space???

Because apparently no one wants to tell me about Audrey or Shelley this episode, we check in with Mrs. Palmer while she smokes and drinks a Bloody Mary and watches an amazingly violent nature show on TV. That’s all for now on that front!

Then we go to the Roadhouse!! And it’s … not Julee Cruise, but it’s another band that is playing similar music. Super mellow dreamy Roadhouse stuff, and … SHELLEY!!! WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?!?!

And James!! I never liked James much. But for some reason… I’m kinda happy to see him now. Old Roadhouse feelings.

“James is still cool,” Shelley says. “He’s always been cool.” HAHA. That’s funny!

And… was that… Bobby? Kinda didn’t look like him, but I think it was.

Credits??? Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat.

<> <> <> <> <>

Final thoughts: That was awesome. I want more, please. A whole lot of stuff just started. If Cooper doesn’t get out of the Black Lodge soon, I’m going to start getting really antsy. Evil, tasteless Coop must be stopped.

But seriously: where the fuck is Audrey Horne???

Happy October! In the spirit of the season, I’d like to offer a ever-so-slightly revised version of a story that first appeared as “Radiation” in my collection, I Held My Breath as Long as I Could. I hope you enjoy it!

Through the window beside my desk, the setting sun bathed 72nd Street red. On the other side of the wall, my roommate Randall banged around the kitchen and cursed about missing frozen lasagna. It was impossible to focus. These were my last days in apartment 13D, and, though I’d found a new place to live, I hadn’t yet found a new place to work. The latest draft of my resume would have to wait until after dark, or even the following morning, when I could think without Randall’s violence chopping the knees out from beneath my every thought. 

I’d used the last clean plastic cup as an ashtray, so I drank Seagram’s 7 straight from the bottle instead of going to the kitchen for a new glass and risking contact with Randall. I dropped onto my bed, put my feet on the sill, and opened a horror novel to pass some time. 

Two more weeks, and it would all be over. 

A few meager sentences deeper into the book, Randall barged into my room without bothering to knock. 

“Have some lasagna today, Hair?” he said. Randall never met a person he couldn’t saddle with a nickname. I was Hair, or Hairball if a girl were present, because of my first name, Harrison, and my long hair. He knew I hated the names, but it didn’t stop him. 

“No,” I said, wishing I had the nerve to say something mouthy, like, Go fuck yourself, Randall.

“Well, it was there this morning, and I know for a fact I didn’t eat it.” 

He waited for me to say something, but I pretended the conversation was over and returned to my book. 

“Fucking asshole,” he said. He slammed the door on his way out. 

I have trouble reading when I’m angry, and getting drunk only makes it worse. By quarter to eleven, I was blitzed and had given up on the book. I was working my way through a boxed set of The Prisoner and had just exhaled the first drag of a second joint when I heard a small plop. It gave me pause, and I looked back at the window, thinking maybe a bug had flown into it. Didn’t see a thing, so figured it was nothing. Then my toe exploded with sudden sharp pain. 

I brought my foot up, slapped it hard with the palm of my hand, and crushed something creamy against my skin. I looked at the mess in my hand as blood pattered from my toe to the floor. The remains between my thumb and forefinger looked like a piece of rigatoni in some kind of alfredo sauce. There were sharp, bristly bits on the underside of the noodle, and its guts were thick and sticky. 

I looked back down at my toe and examined the cut. It was deep. The sucker had bit me good.

I ran to the bathroom, pulled the shower curtain back, turned on the cold tap, stuck my toe under the faucet, and tried not to pass out. I’ve always been bad with real blood, especially my own. That night was no exception. As I washed the bite mark on my toe, my mind slipped away like a man exiting a subway car and disappearing in a crowd, and I fell headfirst into the tub.


“Open your eyes, Toolbox.”

Dreams about macaroni salad and sailboats with Egyptian hieroglyphics slipped off, scurrying back into the corners of my mind. Above me, Randall was laughing, his Ken-doll blonde head looking oh-so-perfectly affable.

He’d turned the tap off (it had been left on when I passed out), but the water had yet to drain. We’d never had it out over what exactly I was upset about, nor did I intend to get into it before I moved. Gina was in the past. Let her stay there.

“I heard you fall, then you didn’t answer. Thought you’d died or cracked your head open or something.”

“Wouldn’t you have loved that.” 

He laughed. “C’mon, I hate you, but I don’t want you to die. What happened?” 

“My toe,” I said, sitting up a bit and pointing to where my foot dangled out over the tub. 

“Cut it pretty good, looks like.” He patted me on the chest. “You’ll live. I’m gonna go feed my birds.”

He left me to bandage myself up. We’d met through an Internet posting when my last good friend in the city moved to Texas with his new wife, and it had been all right with Randall for a while. For a while, it seemed like we were going to be friends–another Craiglist win. 

Until Gina.

I poured hydrogen peroxide over my left toe, watched the foam fizzle, and only then thought about the weird moment that had brought me to my present state. 

What the hell had bitten me? 

After wrapping a plastic bandage around my toe, I went back across the hall and pushed my door open wide.

At first, I didn’t see anything. Everything looked normal. And then I saw one of them. 

The radiator in my room was one of those white rectangular jobs that ran along the wall beneath my window. Most of it was obscured by my twin bed, but a small portion of it remained exposed between the foot of the bed and the right-hand wall. Nearly hidden by the bed’s shadow, emerging slowly from the lip formed by the top and front panels, inched a small, white slug, barely bigger than the first joint of my thumb. 

What the fuck?

I thought about telling Randall, calling him over to show him, but I’d seen too much of him already that evening. I went into my room and closed the door.


Because my stepfather was an exterminator and could handle bugs just fine, I decided that it didn’t take much to handle bugs. One day I woke up and decided all bugs were my friends. Instead of squashing them, I’d throw them out a window or put them in the garden or whatever was most convenient. I didn’t hate any of them. Spiders, roaches, silverfish–whatever, it didn’t matter. They were all cool. 

When I saw the bug on the radiator, I didn’t immediately fear it. It was simply some new kind of bug I didn’t know about. So what if one of them had bitten me? My stepfather would’ve killed them on sight, but not me. I would understand them. 

I went down on my stomach and put my face close to the edge of the bed-frame. I shined a penlight into the shadows and gasped at how many I saw dripping from the metal, spreading in a growing arc across the floor. A few opened their mouths, peeling open where a harder seam ran around their soft, gooey centers. I counted at least two rows of small, sharp teeth. They didn’t have eyes, or anything else in the way of sensory organs. 

Little white mouths–that’s all they were. 

A wet, rippling, slurping sound drew my attention to my left. Directly beside the bed, a second group of them writhed on the side of my desk. Some had climbed the wall onto the corner of my bed, worming along my pillowcase like leeches. It was like a creeping tide of boiling white cheese. 

I lost my cool and pushed back across the floor to the opposite wall and shrieked with a spasm of revulsion. So much for kumbaya. 

Few people, I’m hoping, know exactly how it feels to communicate telepathically with carnivorous macaroni and cheese. Imagine a bully twisting your arm behind your back until you feel like it’s going to break. Now imagine that arm is your brain and every word spoken at you is a lightning flash of migraine-like pain. That’s what it felt like when they spoke to me. Every word was a bolt of misery.

If you continue forward with this plan of relocation, we will kill you and your roommate Randall. If you want to save your life and his, you must make him move out. If you have not made any progress by this time tomorrow, we will draw additional blood. 

We believe we have communicated our message. We will depart. 

Be aware: what you see of us is nothing against our sum total. What we say comes from throughout the walls. 

My eyes welled with tears from the pain. I was seeing three or four of every one of the creatures. Every new breath brought a flare of awful sensation to my head. I remained, curled in a fetal ball, drooling on my floor, waiting for the misery to end as the creatures moved back to the darkness under the radiator.


I grew up with Gina outside Dover, New Hampshire, where we lived across the road from each other. Her father wasn’t a drunk like my stepfather, but he could be just as cruel. One day after her seventh birthday, he took Gina to a farm and let her pick a rabbit to keep as a pet. A month later, as punishment for Gina refusing to eat her eggplant dinner (Gina wanted real meat), Gina’s father went outside and butchered fluffy little Lavender. He made her watch while he hit her pet with a maul and ripped its skin off. Later that night, she ran away to my house. For a handful of amazing minutes, I held her while she wept. When her father came over, my parents made her go back with him. I followed, yelling at him while my mother struggled to hold me back, until he turned and charged me, sending me running for my mother’s arms. He spat at the ground, called me a faggot, and told me to stay away from his daughter. My mother cursed back at him and told him to leave before she called the police. I still remember the shine of Gina’s tear-filled blue eyes as she looked back before her father yanked her inside slammed the door between us. 

After that, I dreamed we’d grow up, marry each other, and live in a house somewhere far away in another state. We’d raise rabbits and never, ever kill them. 

If you’ve read your Steinbeck, you’ll know it’s no good dreaming about rabbits. The years passed, and she dated tougher, more imposing guys.

Gina Wallingford–the one I never had; the one I could never let go. 

She was a librarian working in Queens when I moved to New York City. I brought a freshly-minted degree from the Harvard School of Design and a head full of hopes of wooing her as an accomplished big city architect. I got in touch, we hung out a bit, but she didn’t suddenly become into me because I was accomplished and had money. For me, it was enough to see her again. 

Then Randall moved in. Randall was someone who attracted women easily, almost thoughtlessly. It just happened with him, in a way I always envied. I blamed it on him being a good-looking veterinarian, which is a powerful combination for a woman who loved animals. When Gina started routinely asking whether Randall would be coming along to the things I invited her to, would Randall be coming later, what was Randall up to, was Randall seeing anyone?–well, it didn’t take an architect to read the writing on the wall. 

One night, they were out somewhere. I don’t know what happened, but I received a call from Gina. She was sobbing. All I could make out was that Randall was some kind of asshole, our apartment was toxic, she couldn’t see me anymore, and goodbye. 

When Randall came home, he was all smiles and had another girl giggling on his arm. 

“Easy come, easy go, huh?” I said. 

“Fuck’s wrong with you, Hairball?” 

“Who’s this creep?” his new girl said. Randall waved it off, and then they were gone, laughing, stumbling to the other side of the apartment. 

A month later, I lost my job. I decided it was time to move out of my toxic apartment. Maybe then Gina would start returning my calls.


When I woke up the next day, I found the nearly empty bottle of Seagram’s 7 beside me in bed, where some portion of its content had soaked my mattress and my t-shirt. My head still ached, but it wasn’t an unfamiliar feeling for me. My mouth was the kind of dry that extended to the back of my throat. The first glass of water didn’t take well and brought my gorge up. 

Good morning, me, I thought, flushing vomit down the toilet. I rinsed my mouth with tap water and spotted some dried blood on the floor near the bathtub. 

And there I stopped, contemplating the insanity that floated in my head. Little made sense. 

There was still a bandage on my toe. I unwrapped it and looked at the wound. 

Bite marks. Still there. 

Randall, I thought, panicked. I exited the bathroom and checked the living room. No sign of him. His bedroom door was closed, and I went over and knocked. 

“Yo,” he said from the other side. 

I could hear his damn birds, chirping and fluttering their wings. Randall liked birds a lot, and he had five separate cages in his room to house them. I wasn’t going to miss waking up to their infernal racket. 

“You okay?” I asked. 

“Why wouldn’t I be?” On the other side of the door, I heard him cooing to his pets. 

“Just checking.” 

“You’re just checking if I’m okay?” 

“Yep. Later.” 

“You’re a real psycho, Hair. You know that?” And back he went to his cooing. It must’ve been feeding time. 

I was about to walk away from his still-closed door when I thought to warn him, to tell him, what, exactly? 

Hey, I met some monsters last night. They want you to move out instead of me. 

Yeah, and how was that going to sound? 

Also, why me, anyway? I was a mess. I was unemployed. Why had they decided I was the guy they wanted to keep around? No creature, human or otherwise, really wanted a disaster like me for a roommate. Was I fracturing in my own head? Was I imagining it all? 

But the bite, I thought, sitting down on my bed. The bite proves it happened. 

But did it? I took the bandage off and brought my toe to my mouth. I was skinny and fairly flexible, but my toe made it to my mouth in only one way. 

My teeth couldn’t have lined up better with the bite marks if I had I made them myself.


So either I was crazy and wanted to kill my roommate, or my radiator was full of well-spoken telepathic monsters that wanted my roommate to move out. Why such high-functioning grubs would give two shits about who lived in our apartment was completely beyond me. 

Sane or not, it seemed reasonable to think I would have to be there to either kill Randall or do the creatures’ bidding. Both problems were solved if I just didn’t go home. 

So I went to the movies. Three of them. I don’t remember what I saw. I sat in the dark and tried not to think while I chewed the hell out of my fingers. When the movie theater closed, I went to a diner. I didn’t have a job (I’d been laid off from my architecture firm), so what did I need with sleep? I took my book and stayed out, drinking cup after cup of coffee, until the sun came up and turned the streets blue. 

Looking at that light through the glass of the diner’s window, the dread I’d felt two sunsets ago returned. 

… we will draw additional blood. 

Everything around me–the coffee cup, the spoon, the sugar packets, the stainless steel creamer, and the tabletop–seemed real enough. I seemed real enough.

What if they were real? 

What if my absence didn’t matter a bit to their agenda?

I had to get home. I signaled for the check.

And isn’t that exactly what they want? 

Come what may, Randall deserved to be warned, whatever it meant he would think about me. 

What did Gina matter anymore, anyway?


“Randall?” I called, cautiously entering the apartment after my trip to the diner, fearing what I was going to find. 

It was dark, no lights on anywhere. Nothing moved. Nothing breathed. Randall’s door was open. His bed was neatly made. His birds’ cages were covered in their dark cloths. From the look of things, he’d been gone all night. 

I let loose a heavy sigh of relief and sat down on the living room couch, relieved more than I would have thought possible. 

Nothing bad could happen so long as he stayed away. It was getting brighter in the apartment, and for some stupid reason, it made me feel safe, as if the horrors wouldn’t dare come out in broad daylight. 

The couch seemed safer than my room, so I watched a Twin Peaks rerun (Donna, at the Roadhouse, mouthed the words to James: I want you, rockin’ back inside my heart … ). 

I don’t remember falling asleep. When I woke up, all the lights were on, and my head was pounding with such force, I thought the entire apartment was shaking. 

You think we are not serious. You are mistaken.

They were everywhere, crisscrossing the walls in thick, pulsing webs, coating the floor, and piling up like slush against the side of the couch or the legs of the coffee table and TV stand. In my shock, I fell off the couch. Before I could get up, they’d swarmed over me, and in the time it took me to push myself to my feet, I’d lost the index finger of my right hand. At first, I didn’t even feel it; I stood up, shaking my limbs free of the creatures, and as I brushed them off, I rolled my own finger under my palm off my chest. The bent joints hit the floor, where the sad little hook of flesh was quickly devoured. 

Blood spurted from the wound. I screamed and fell backward, my head swimming. Without thinking much about it, I squeezed my finger tight while I grabbed a lighter from the coffee table and held the flame to the wound, until the pain and the smell of my own sizzling flesh overwhelmed me. 

[Note to self: standard lighters aren’t actually hot enough to cauterize a wound. I think I did more damage than good with that Bic. Next time, try the stove.]

I might’ve passed out, but they started talking again. 

It is our sincerest hope that now you will be motivated to do what must be done. Randall cannot stay. 

I was in too much agony to talk, but they seemed to read my mind regardless of the incoherence. 

We don’t like his birds, Harrison, or his mind. We have lived here for a long time. We will never leave. We are molded from many. We are not alone. What we say is thought throughout the walls. 

I tried to tell them to go talk to Randall themselves, but the words didn’t come out. The pain in my head pulsed with ebbing frequency as the white tide receded, leaving me gasping on the floor between the couch and the coffee table. The skin on my face was cold, but sweat still rolled down my temples and along my jaw. I regurgitated what little I’d eaten, but I lacked the strength to move anywhere or do anything about the mess. 

Eventually, the pain eased, and I fell asleep blowing bubbles in my own puke.


When I woke, there was still no sign of Randall. I cleaned the floor and wrapped a large Band-Aid and gauze around my little stump. Caught between miserable alternatives, the last thing I wanted to do was to try and explain my injury to some knit brow in the nearest emergency room, but I knew I should go. Except I really didn’t want to, and instead I went back to my room and downed the last swallow of the 7. 

“Fuck it,” I said. 

I spent the day stoned and watched more episodes of The Prisoner. When I’d watched them all, I watched them again in a different order. Two more days passed in a similar fashion, with no sign of either Randall or the vile macaroni. When I ran out of liquor, cold pizza, toilet paper, gauze, and hydrogen peroxide, I called out for more of whatever I’d run out of. You can get pretty much anything delivered in Manhattan. 

I tried to think of a way to convince Randall of the change of plans. If I showed him my finger, he might well assume I’d bitten it off myself. Same went for my toe. 

I realized I looked like shit, so I showered and shaved. No use looking like a homeless person when you’re delivering the news from Crazytown. 

With no clear idea in my head, I ate some leftover fried rice and fell asleep.


In the end, I wrote Randall a note. 

Hey Randall, 

There’s some kind of weird bugs in the wall. They come out in swarms. They seem to mean us harm. I think it would be wise to clear out. I’m going to stay to sort this out with the building, coordinate exterminators and the like, but I think it would be best if you moved out, found somewhere safer to live. These things are EXTREMELY DANGEROUS! 

I’ve lost a finger. Seriously. 

I’m really not kidding. 

You need to go. Don’t forget your birds. I think they’re on the menu, too. 



I put it in an envelope, marked it with his name, and put it on his desk. Then I retreated to my room, locked the door, closed the drapes, and I waited. 

At least now they couldn’t say I hadn’t tried.


He came back a few hours later, and it didn’t take long for him to come pounding on my door. 

“Hey, the fuck is this shit? Are you kidding me with this, Hairball? Christ!”

Ah, I thought, he’s got a woman with him. He’d used the one sobriquet reserved for such occasions. 

I stood directly on the other side of my door. “No. I’m telling you the truth. You gotta go. It’s not safe here for you.” 

The handle shook. The door popped and cracked as he fought to yank it open. “Damn it, you better open this door!” 

“There’s millions of them, man. You gotta go. I didn’t make the rules.” 

“You didn’t make the rules? I’m losing my fucking patience with you! Open this fucking door!” 

“No. I won’t. Just go. Please. Tonight. Before it’s too late.”

“You’re a fucking psycho! You hear me? I’m not going anywhere. You piece of shit. You cowardly little worm! I’m staying! So you can go fuck yourself!” 

He pounded on the door once, hard enough to knock a nearby picture off the wall. The glass of the frame shattered on the floor. 

“Oh, brilliant,” I said. “Really sweet. I’m trying to warn you, do you a favor, you idiot.” 

I lifted the picture up. Shards of glass tinkled to the floor. I could hear Randall and his date giggling and wandering away. I closed my eyes and tried to calm the embers of rage in my chest.

Well, that went about as well as I expected it to, I thought. I considered leaving the apartment that night. Staying put us both at risk. If I left, maybe the monsters would kill him and maybe they wouldn’t, but at least I’d be out of harm’s way. 

I made up my mind to leave the next day. I’d rent a hotel room until I found somewhere else to go. Financially speaking at least, I could easily survive the few weeks it would take to get settled somewhere else. 

I’d already lost a finger for Randall (I had the stumpy finger to prove it); I’d be damned if I was going to lose anything else. 

And if the monsters came that night? Well, they would have to give me some points for trying. 

I rolled a nice, fat joint. Whatever happened, though, I don’t think it was because of the pot, even if the pot made it so much harder to deal with.


I was still pretty high when I woke to someone screaming. I first thought Randall was doing something to the girl he’d brought over. I bolted from my room and opened Randall’s bedroom door without knocking. 

They were both naked, but Randall had fallen to the floor. His blood swirled in the churning stew. The flesh of his arms was chewed to the bone. They were in his ears, in his mouth, and had torn through his left cheek. One of his eyes was gone, and the monsters worked fiendishly into the socket. 

I’d been right about the birds; the monsters dropped from the ceiling onto the cages, chewing through the cloth, and were now busy consuming parakeet, parrot, and blue macaw.

But worse than either of these two scenes was the girl on the bed. When I saw her–when I realized it was Gina–my legs buckled and I had to hold the doorframe to steady myself. Sadness choked me, and it was all I could do to look. It was so unfair. 

They’d worked their way up her body, consuming her legs and the soft flesh of her stomach. There they pooled inward while she tried to worm her way off the bed with arms were nearly gone.

I couldn’t let it continue. I went to the kitchen and found the largest knife. Returning, I crushed a few of the creatures, feeling them ooze and squelch between my toes as I reached for Randall’s head. The ragged stump of an arm reached for me, searching, pleading, and then I pulled his hair back, exposed his throat, and drew the blade across the unbroken flesh. 

I took his subsequent gurgling for gratitude. 

Then I went to the bed. 

“Hair,” Gina said. “Hair, please. Stop it.”

I can believe the monsters. I can believe the insanity. I can believe a lot of things, but I can’t believe she would call me that. 

I put my hand over her eyes, and I pushed her head back. Then I pushed the blade deep and drew it across Gina’s throat, thinking about the skinned rabbit behind her father’s shed and how I’d consoled her all those lifetimes ago.


I woke up in the bathtub. I crawled out like a vampire emerging from its coffin. The toilet was unflushed and full of vomit, which I’d splattered all over the sides of the bowl, so I spent some time cleaning that up to avoid going back to Randall’s room. 

I’d lost all sense of what day of the week or month it was. The light coming in the window of Randall’s room was the same early-evening shade of red it had been the night I first met the monsters. 

There was no sign of the previous night’s terrors. No blood. No bodies. Not a single morsel of flesh. 

The creatures had eaten everything. 

The bed was unmade, and the door was open. The covers to the birdcages were shredded, but all the birds were gone. 

They’d left my knife on the floor. I picked it up, and bent it toward me in the light of another day’s retreating sun. 

I studied my reflection in the blade. Questions I didn’t want to ask about myself stood paralyzed in my mind.


Okay. I’ll come clean.

There’s something I lied about, and it’s important I tell the truth. I owe it to Gina. 

The truth is, it wasn’t ever because of Randall that Gina stopped coming around; it was because of me. We–Gina and I–got into it pretty good the day she went and did something with Randall that neither one of them invited me to. I was pissed. I was drunk. I was stoned. Then I called her up and yelled at her, because I’d lost the will to pretend I wasn’t mad at her for dating Randall instead of me.

I’m sure in her mind, my anger came out of nowhere.

“I just think you’re a bad fucking person,” I told her. “You’re not good for me.”

“Why would you say that? You’re my best friend!”

“I’m your best friend? Are you fucking kidding? I mean … that’s pathetic. We haven’t talked to each other for years, and now we’ve only been hanging out a couple months. But hey, yeah, we’re best fucking friends! That’s fucking sad, Gina.”

“You’re such an asshole. I can’t believe you. You’re just drunk, you know that, right? You’re going to regret this all tomorrow. You’re going to regret this when we’re not friends anymore.”

“I am drunk, but me being drunk doesn’t have a goddamn thing to do with you being one of Randall’s whores, and I’m still going to think you’re one of Randall’s whores tomorrow because I thought it as soon as I woke up this morning. That’s right! I woke up, made some coffee, thought to myself, ‘Holy fucking shit is Gina ever a goddamn whore!’ Tell me: how did you become such a terrible goddamn person, anyway?” 

“Jesus, Harrison, can you even hear yourself sometimes?” She was actually crying. 

“I can hear myself just fine,” I said, “and I think I sound awesome.” 

“Well,” she said, and there was this wounded finality in her voice that satisfied me at the time and haunts me now, “I think you just became just another toxic relationship in my stupid fucking life. Have it your way. Goodbye, Harrison. Have a nice life.”

And that was it. She hung up; I hung up. 

It was one of those things that felt really good at the time and only felt worse the longer I went without being able to speak to her. Because she was right; I did end up regretting it. And after she died in my apartment? Let me just say that, whenever anyone says anything about not believing in regret, I expect to get pretty argumentative, and it’s Gina I’ll be thinking about. 

She was the love of my life, and the last thing I ever was to her was mean. 

Kneeling on the floor of Randall’s room the day after the monsters killed Gina and Randall, I found myself repeating my own stupidity: 

I can hear myself just fine, and I think I sound awesome. 

I can hear myself just fine, and I think I sound awesome. 

I can hear myself just fine, and I think I sound awesome.


You would think the beasts would have been satisfied, but they came back a night later. It was a long twenty-four hours; I wondered if police would be coming by to investigate the deaths and if I’d seen the last of those little white mouths. It was just long enough of a lull to make me think it was all going to be fine from that point on. 

At the same time, the conspicuous absence of the creatures worried me. For one, I felt some kind of resolution was needed. I didn’t know what I expected them to say (“Job well done!” seemed a bit cold), but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t seeking some sort of attaboy from them. 

Something that, at any rate, would let me know that we were square. 

But more than their compliments, I wanted to see them again to assure myself that they did, in fact, actually exist in the first place. 

They waited until around two a.m. the following morning, and then they woke me up one last time. Congratulations and accolades, however, were not what they had in mind. 

They came back pissed. 

When they woke me, they were covering the wall beside my bed, blocking the window, and spreading over the ceiling. Some fell onto my arms and face, and I brushed them off, retreating to the door before they screamed at me and brought me shuddering to my knees.

You poisoned us! We will KILL you!

Something hit the wall, and I saw an impact smear of bloody, milky gristle. There was more buzzing behind me, and another half dozen flew in uncontrolled arcs across the room. 

The creatures were growing wings. Even as they spread out, an increasing number of the boiling mass were popping out of the crowd, flying like wayward popcorn kernels from an open kettle.

We cannot control it! You have murdered us! The wings weaken us!

They splattered over every surface in the room, leaving behind the contents of their gooey bodies, and I soon realized the gore coating my walls was the undigested remains of Gina and Randall. The portion of the white tide that was not currently sprouting wings was regurgitating my former friends onto my bed, my desk, and the floor. 

It was the birds! The birds have done something to us! We are poisoned! You must HELP US!

With all that was left of my strength, I thought back, pushed back against them, and their mental power must also have been weakened, because it was the only time I’d ever been able to do such a thing. 

“No more!” I yelled, and when the force of my refusal hit them, the remaining creatures exploded, coating every inch of my room and my body with blood and flesh.


Spent a few weeks in a hotel after that. Found a new place through an online ad, cleaned myself up, and made a good show of it in the interview. I don’t know if the police are looking for me, but I figure they probably are. I might leave town altogether soon, but I haven’t quite managed to pull the plug.

My new roommates seem really nice. 

But you never can tell about people, can you?

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Forget what you think you know about the contents of this masterpiece if all you know is the cinematic adaptation. Max Brooks’s followup to his excellent Zombie Survival Guide is that rare beast among all the reams of unending apocalyptica: it’s a story that’s as much about the world we live in now as it is a story of surviving hordes of the undead.

It’s a zombie novel where the insights about our world and all its cultures outnumber the flesh-hungry ghouls. It unfolds in short chapters that skip around the globe with delightful grace. There’s no main character, other than humanity itself. From the mountains of China and Russia to the shantytowns of South Africa to — yeah, buddy — the International Space Station — this book never settles down into a solipsistic American perspective. Brooks owns the title of his novel.

That so much fresh thinking could grow out of such tired ground gives me hope for humanity — and all writing in general.

Granted, the voices all end up blending together, and in a collection of alleged oral histories perhaps that’s a not-great thing. Yet as I continued reading, I was almost glad Brooks didn’t go too far with individualized voices because Brooks’s writing is clear and informative and rich in surprisingly well-imagined details.

At nearly every turn, Brooks uses encounters with the undead to speak about something else, something true about the way our various cultures operate. I’m in awe of this m’f’ing book. That anyone has been brave enough to write anything else about the living dead since this thing was published is incredible to me (though I am also grateful for some of those recent efforts, bless their rotting hearts).

I slid this one back on the shelf tonight feeling lucky to have it there.

View all my reviews

A long season of depression appears to be be reaching a conclusion. I’ve little to show for the last few months, and I have a great number of unfinished obligations. At this point, they’re almost broken promises. But if it’s writing or fiction related, it’s likely I’ve dropped the ball on it. This means critiques that have waited for months, stories that have barely progressed, and books that cry out for additional editing.

I’ve joked that I’m retired. I’ve joked that I should have chosen to get into carpentry instead of writing. Or been a microbrewer. Anything that could’ve proven more useful or worthwhile to others.

People like cabinets. People like microbrews.

But some people like the stories I’ve done. And, to be honest, I like a lot of the stories I’ve done. And I have a few others that I’m not leaving until I’ve fully crafted.

So I’m turning the lights back on. I’m firing up the machines. I’m sitting back down.

Fingers on keys.

And I’m going back to Daukherville.

Dark Screams: Volume One
Dark Screams: Volume One by Brian James Freeman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As a huge fan of Stephen King’s Creepshow, I was thrilled to see the long-lost short story “Weeds” in the table of contents for Dark Screams: Volume One. I knew it as “The Lonsesome Death of Jordy Verrill,” but it has even more barbs and thorns in prose form (as well as being a little bit less campy).

It’s a good, tone-setting start to a solid anthology of genuinely creepy stories that harken back to the five-short-story structure of Creepshow itself, or even the original EC Comics. “The Price You Pay,” by Kelley Armstrong, is a fast-paced, twist-a-second revenge story with bloody consequences. Even if I didn’t buy every turn the story took, it was a still a compelling read.

Bill Pronzini’s “Magic Eyes” is a classic tale of a potentially homicidal man in an insane asylum. Well told, though somewhat familiar-feeling in shape and feeling.

The last two stories are the knockouts here, however. Simon Clark’s “Murder in Chains” had me delighted from start to finish. A simple story about a man who wakes up in an underground chamber, chained to a stranger. I never knew where it was going, but it was suspenseful and exciting the whole time.

But when I felt certain that “Murder in Chains” would be my favorite of the lot, Ramsey Campbell’s “The Watched” put on a clinic of how to place one creepy detail after another for terrific effect. I’m still in awe of the construction and execution of this story, which focuses on a young boy, a spooky cop with odd requests, and the neighbors who live next to the boy and his grandmother. Well done story with a pitch-perfect ending.

So some stories knocked my socks off while others were a bit more average, but there wasn’t a dud in the bunch. I thought this short anthology was a whole lot of fun, and I’m definitely going to keep an eye out for volume two.

View all my reviews

Ed at Eleven is my comic horror anti-romance about a girl who leaves her cult to pursue a relationship with a local news anchor. Things get bloody from there.

It’s been kicked about and reworked in a number of ways since the summer of 1999, when I wrote an initial screenplay version in eight days. In 2010, I wrote the first draft of its current incarnation as a NaNoWriMo novel.

It took me a few years to really figure out how to edit a novel. The first revision to the book was hard as hell. But I kept hacking at the weeds, until the book swelled from just over 50,000 words to just over 80,000. Then I revised again. And again. And then I read through it and fixed some typos and errors.

This weekend, I started another huge push on the novel, trying to turn scenes that are “ok” into scenes that are “pretty great.” It’s a fun place to be.

So … I’m sorry if you haven’t heard from me in real life. I’ve been in the dark woods, tearing my hair out and such.

One more week of edits, and then it’s going out the door.

No point keeping a novel in the cave forever when it could be out there getting rejections. But even if a book is rejected, at least it’ll be getting read. 😉

So … like … yeah.

You should know, precious few people have liked anything I wrote. I’m constantly being beaten about the head and face by rejections. Tonight’s rejection was the first rejection I ever received for a novel.

Count that as progress if you want.


I’m going through the process, being surprised that I’m feeling hurt at all at this point (closing in on a hundred rejections whilst reading stories about the successes of too many other people at far younger ages), and taking the two-and-one-star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads because of course.

I really wish I’d gotten into carpentry instead of writing. No one argues with an adequate birdhouse.