Friday, July 16, 2010

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Precious Machine


Al Bruno III

(for Ray Garton)

A rusted electric fence surrounds the walled facility and the facility itself is a series of squat single story buildings connected by hallways. Every window is barred, every door is bolted, every surface is gray or blue. In this way the Kaydeross Asylum keeps the murderous nightmares of its prisoners tucked away from the world of ordinary madness.

Orderlies move through the hallways and buildings like ants, jaded boredom has rendered them faceless and emotionless. They go through their routines but have long ago stopped seeing their charges as human beings. The physicians and psychiatrists assigned to this place are no better, any thoughts of rehabilitating their patients have long been ground away by the never-ending crush of State-required paperwork.

Only Dr. Annabelle Masters truly cared about what went on here. Despite being the director of the facility she still made it a point to oversee the progress of the women remanded to the Kaydeross Asylum. There is a framed photograph she kept on the wall of her office, it shows her standing within the center of a crowd of women wearing faded hospital gowns and slippers; she is smiling despite the fact she is standing with a group of convicted murderers.

As I went through Dr. Masters's office my gaze returned to the picture again and again. There was something about the patients that haunted me- despite their smiling faces their eyes seemed to be screaming.

I was just a temporary administrator sent in to replace Dr. Masters while the investigation into her disappearance moved forward. It was my job to restore some semblance of order to the facility but I already knew it would be no easy task.

A tall bookcase occupied one side of the room, some of the texts shelved there were the standards of our profession but others had fallen out of print after being dismissed as bald faced quackery.

After this I turned my attention to her desk. It was ugly, gray and metallic. It reminded me of the sort of desk a schoolteacher might have. I searched through the drawer and found one had been locked. It took some effort but I was able to break the lock and found seven files that were thick with handwritten notes and EEG readouts.

Dr. Masters's notes were written on cheap onionskin paper, her handwriting script was cramped and strange, reading it was hard going. There was one folder for each of the Kaydeross Asylum's more infamous charges. She had been interviewing and treating these murderesses secretly.

No it was more than that, she had been experimenting on them.

Even now I can recall some of her notes almost perfectly-

...the Precious Machine continues to perform better than expected on Leslie Knapp but she resists treatment. She claws at the air and calls the names of her children. The modified styluses titter and scratch at the paper, there is something beautiful about the patterns they make. When I playback the audio tapes it almost sounds like an animal is skittering in the background like a rat gone wild with the urge to gnaw...

A search of Dr. Masters's office revealed no audio tapes or electroencephalogram, and her notes were maddeningly vague as to what exactly she was trying to accomplish.

Exhaustion, confusion and the murky February afternoon conspired to make me drowsy. I sat down in Dr. Masters' leather-backed chair and leaned back. I meant only to rest my eyes but I was soon asleep.

The dream that came was at first very literal, I was sitting in the office with the cryptic files spread out before me. There was a hollow rapping at the door and I called for the visitor to enter not looking up from my work. Once the visitor stood on the opposite side of the desk I became gripped with a childlike terror. I did not want to look up but my head moved of its own volition and I found myself staring at a figure from my long-abandoned faith. I knew that frail, beatific gaze and those stigmatic hands. But the crown of thorns he wore was metallic and it sparked. My breath caught in my throat as the figure opened his mouth to speak but all that came out was a faint scraping sound like a record that had reached the end of its song.

I awoke then, choking and gasping like a nearly drowned man, but the scratching sound continued. Once the dream had faded away and I was calm, I realized where the strange noise was coming from.

Initially the orderlies balked at my request insisting that the moving of furniture was a job for maintenance but I insisted. Once the heavy mahogany bookcase had been moved a doorway was revealed.

We forced the door open and found what must have once been a storage closet. The so-called 'Precious Machine' was there and it was, as I had thought, a strangely modified EEG machine. A tangle of wires led to a web of sensors that resembled the crown I had seen in my dreams. The EEG had long run out of paper and the styluses scraped and scratched on the bare rollers.

And beneath that crown of sensors was a desiccated figure, she had only been missing for a little over a week but the flesh had an almost mummified look to it. We could only identify the body because of the name badge clipped to the lab coat, and by the eyes, the perfectly preserved eyes that stared back at us.

Oh how Dr. Masters's eyes screamed.

(Recommended Reads) "Necrofiche" by Maria Protopapadaki-Smith

Albert walked up to the funeral parlour feeling happier than he had in a long time. For the last few years he had been performing his mortician duties listlessly, but today he felt that he had a purpose. He was about to enter using the front door, when he saw that the funeral director was in the reception area with clients. He decided to access the mortuary via the side entrance...


click here to read the rest

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

(Recommended Review) AND YOU CALL YOURSELF A SCIENTIST! examines and explicates the film ORCA

One of the golden rules of exploitation film-making is always to include a scene that no-one who sees your film ever forgets. When Orca first played TV here it was, for reasons that escape me at this distance – never mind what distance! – the film that everyone was planning on watching. The next day, my school was full to overflowing with distressed adolescent girls thoroughly traumatised by the scene of Mrs Orca’s miscarriage. I’m willing to bet that none of them have ever forgotten that scene. In fact, I’d bet that no-one who has seen Orca has ever forgotten that scene. On that level, Orca is a great success. On most others, well....

And if you haven't made yourself acquainted with Elizabeth A. Kingsley's work you should, she is a fantastic writer, thoughtful and witty.

THE NIGHTCRAFTER has honored me with ' the Versatile Blogger Award'

I want to thank THE NIGHTCRAFTER aka Joanie M. Rich for recognizing and enjoying my work.

Here are the award rules...

I am also supposed to tell you seven things about myself... So here goes...

1.) My wife and I were not supposed to be able to have kids but we had one anyway. Go figure.

2.) I hate movies with talking animals that talk to people. They just bother me... I don't mind cartoons that do it but things like ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS or G-FORCE creep me out. Even MR. ED bothered me when I was a kid.

3.) I tried for about twenty years to make my living as a writer, now I just give my stories away and to be honest this is the most fun I've ever had behind the keyboard. I'm not say that YOU dear reader won't make the big time but some artists perform at Carnegie Hall and others perform on the streetcorner. I like my street corner just fine these days.

4.) I make iPod playlists for each project I work on. Back in the good old days I did the same thing with mix tapes. Sometimes I can look at an old story and think of the song that inspired it.

5.) The epilogue for my serial novel IN THE SHADOW OF HIS NEMESIS was written first, then the entire manuscript followed. The entire middle of the story had to be revised when the characters went off script.

6.) My second serial novel is already finished. THE COLD INSIDE will have about 170 weekly installments and should start in the 2011 and complete in 2015. (Assuming of course that I do not die , that you dear reader don't find anything better to do or that Prince isn't right about the Internet being 'over')

7.) It terrifies me to realize that I may be one of the most mature adults I know... yes me. How did that happen?

Well I hope those revelations didn't scare you all away for good!

I should be passing this award along to other deserving souls soon...

(Recommended Article) ALL THINGS HORROR reviews the utterly awesome LAKE MUNGO

Each year the After Dark horror fest unleashes eight films onto a dwindling and skeptical public. The majority of films released by the imprint fall somewhere between inept and SyFy's Movie of the Week. The problem is so many of the films have been terrible; the proverbial diamond in a lump of coal can go unheralded. This year's Australian import Lake Mungo is such a film. It's been one of the best films no one has seen this year. Trust me, don't let the fact that it's an After Dark film frighten you (or in the case of AD NOT frighten you) from seeing it). Normally I pride myself in writing fairly non-spoiler filled reviews, but for some reason, despite writing a few drafts of this post, I find myself unable to talk about it without giving too much away. Don't worry; I've posted tags in order to provide fair warning. Better yet, feel free to watch the film first, then head back and see if you agree, or go on and tell me I've got cottage cheese for brains...

click here to read the rest of the review

(and if you have not seen LAKE MUNGO then for God's sake do it NOW!)

(Recommended Reads) Kate Sherrod's Poetic Farewell To HARVEY PEKAR

There's nothing words and pictures cannot do,

Is what he taught us, long ago. Pekar,
Quotidian and wry, your work is through
And now it's left to us to keep your star
A-shining brightly, just as you have done
For my beloved Turkel; I can't wait
To get your adaptation of his fun
And moving opus, WORKING, though I'm late
In asking for it. What a perfect pair,
The two of you, both lost to this plane now.
The real world may seem dull, but those who care
To give an artist's eye to it see how
It truly is a splendor. Harvey, thanks
Among my saints, you'll e'er be in the ranks.

(Recommended Reads)*AT THE BIJOU* Most Proudly Presents J. DANE TYLER's 'In Short Order'

He drags on the cigarette and lets the smoke out through his nostrils in a gray-blue plume. It clashes with the red vinyl of the stools, chairs and pocked countertop. A lump of adobe which used to be a pile of donuts fossilizes under a glass cover at the L-turn. A waitress is smacking her gum and flipping through pages of a bright magazine with tattered corners and a permanent crease in the center...


click here to read the rest

(Recommended Reads) "Caretaker" by Louise Dragon

"You're treating the street people like pets," Everett said as he watched his new girlfriend pack squares of leftover lasagna into a foil lined cardboard box...

click here to read the rest

A scene from MST3k that had me laughing so loudly that the neighbors called the police

Monday, July 12, 2010

(Recommended Reads) "Fundo" by Donald Conrad

Matthew Fundo wanted to die. His internal thought processes had become external mutterings and people were giving him space as he walked away from his burning car...


 click here to read the rest