Category Archives: storytelling

Am I Still A Geek?

When I created this image I really thought this blog was going to go another way.

In the past I would have no problem identifying with this statement:

I am a geek.

I don’t think that this is any kind of real surprise to anyone who reads this blog or knows me, but it’s not something that I bring up that often for public consumption.  Working in toys has really activated my geekery gene and since that is what I’ve been spending so much time on turning it into content for the internet seemed like the next natural choice. But as I’ve gotten back into my geekier pursuits I’ve noticed that I’m not feeling particularly connected to “geek” as a community – and I don’t know how I feel about that.

Why do we care?

In all likelihood you probably don’t, but it’s very possible that we are about to see a change to geek culture and since geek culture has been mainstreamed any changes that come are likely going to affect the entertainment industry in a massive way. I think my identity crisis is just a symptom of something bigger… maybe.

Being a geek is nothing new and we are somehow still in a geek culture golden age. If you were to tell me twenty-five years ago that some of the most popular things on YouTube, videos that were getting MILLIONS of views, were of people playing Dungeons and Dragons and other role playing games I’d laugh until I passed out. Put on top of that the fact that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is one of the most popular, profitable and unstoppable franchise factories making household names out of characters that no one knew of merely a decade ago? And the fact that Star Wars as a universe is still chugging along in mainstream media? And that I can find Iron Man action figures in just about every single armor that he has ever worn both on screen and in the comics? I tell you my little teenage heart would burst.

But it was not always this way.

I like to frame myself as a “proud geek,” but if I’m being honest that hasn’t always been true. Even in times as geek popular as now I tend to hold that part back from the spotlight. In the past I have justified this hiding because of my “brand.” On this blog and on social media I preferred to be an actor first, focus on career related things… and every once in a while toss in an obscure movie reference, mention that I need to go play D&D, or talk about Iron Man. But that was not very authentic in how much of my private identity can be tied back to what are considered geeky (sometimes VERY geeky) things.

Although some of the geeky things have gained a hip status, the fact of the matter is that all the cool popular people playing or involved in this stuff  are a very small, niche part of the people who play and participate in the core of geekery. The core audience still carries the stigma that was turned into stereotypes used in TV and movies, especially in the late 70’s through the 90’s. Hell, that was my bread and butter for most of my young acting career.

That’s me, in the broken glasses, as Kirby the Nerd.

You can see it in the faces of cosplayers, Magic the Gathering players, wargamers and hard core D&D enthusists; there is an underlying fear anytime they are around people outside of their community that they will be made fun of. And I totally get that, I have also had that fear.

I think that Simon Pegg has presented the best definition of the modern geek:

As he points out, this doesn’t just apply to things like superhero fans and Warhammer 40,000 players but sports fanatics and people who love cars too. But the stigma doesn’t follow the latter the way it does the former. Jocks and nerds may be satisfying the same itch deep down, but society in general views them in very different ways and always at odds.

I was at Rose City Comic Con this year. It’s the first con that I’ve been to since San Diego ComiCon back in either 2012 or 2014 (I can’t remember) and even longer than that since I went to a convention of any size that wasn’t related to the entertainment industry in some way shape or form. This year felt different than what I remember.

Some of my favorite childhood memories are of my dad and I going to comic cons all over Southern California (mostly the Shrine Shows in L.A.) looking for old Iron Man back issues, checking out old toys and collectables, and doing our best to bargain down a price with the dealers. At these shows I built a very impressive collection of Yoda memorabilia, got my first Iron Man action figure from the defunct Secret Wars line, and completed a volume 1 collection of Iron Man comics. 

I would spend my days reading comics and coming up with adventures for all my favorite characters in my head. The reading material came in handy for auditions as well since I was merely a passengers for nearly a decade. I was proud to know as much about the Marvel Universe as I did. I knew Doctor Who lore and stories that would surprise adult fans. I knew Star Wars down to the Tonnika sisters. But I had very few people that I could share all this with.

Junior High School, the worst of all the “schools” in my opinion, was when I met my core group of friends, people I still know and love to this day. Jeff Garvin was my entry point to the group. He and I met doing Annie with a community theater group (another thing that is generally considered pretty geeky, but that’s another blog post altogether). We shared mutual interests, Star Wars and comic books in a general sense, and he introduced me to his Dungeons and Dragons group. Jeff, Dan and Scott became my best friends through school. 

In addition to D&D we shared other common interests in movies and music. Star Wars and Indiana Jones were big favorites and we spent way too much playing the original X-Wing and TIE Fighter computer games. We tried some other RPGs and Dan, Scott and I all started playing Warhammer 40k. We had each other’s backs. We were our own little community and we could run in the circles of other geek communities without effort.

At Rose City Comic Con I was the outsider. Even though I’m an over 40-bearded-beer-gut-guy (a description that has come to be the standard archetype for the stereotypical geek) I saw the distrustful looks that came from the cosplayers and gamers and comic book fans. I imagine I must’ve looked like a dad who was missing his kid, especially since I was there by myself. There was a part of me that wanted to say, “Don’t worry I’m totally one of you.” But even writing that seems condescending and pointless, especially since geekdom and fandom are plagued by toxic jerks right now. I can’t find fault with the suspicious looks. If you didn’t know any better I could be one of those entitled, angry and anonymous man-children screaming about The Last Jedi. Toxic Fandom is the culmination of people who felt powerless finding a voice and, in most circumstances, trying to claim ownership on a fictional world that should be open to everyone. When that kind of “fandom” finds other people who feel the same we get things like what we saw with recent Star Wars stars leaving social media.

But that’s not what I want to see. Sure there will always be jerks, but in general the community is at its best when it is supportive of each other and when people who want to learn about and participate in the geekery are welcomed. Even though I got a lot of side-eye yesterday, the folks at the convention we all very polite and super excited about what they were doing there. That’s the part I like. That’s what I’d like to see more of.

To that point I’m going to start talking about my geekier pursuits here on the blog more. I may not feel like I’m directly linked into the community like I used to be, but I still D&D like a boss, build and paint 40k armies competently, and can still throw down in Supernatural continuity conversations with the best of them. The old saying goes “be the change you’d like to see” and I’d like to help put some positivity back into the geeky stuff that I love.

Please join me! Tell me about the geeky stuff you love in the comments. Introduce me to that thing you like that maybe you’re self conscious about. Let’s build a better community without entitlement and toxicity.

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Fun Size Horror HAPPY HALLOWEEN! – More Shorts and A Little History

FunSized_Keyart_color CROP

EDIT: This was originally written for yesterday, but it looks like it didn’t get posted, so I’ve made some adjustments and am posting today. Apologies to my friends who’s shorts aired yesterday that this blog wasn’t a portal for people to see your stuff. -C.A.

The shameless self-promotion train continues today as we have five spook-tacular shorts premiering today: Fun Size Horror web site

Since neither Rene or I have any shorts playing today (although they are absolutely worth checking out, it’s a good mix today) I thought it might be nice to give a little history as to how Rene and I got involved in this project in the first place.

This whole project is the brainchild of my friend Zeke Pinheiro. He’s a director/writer/editor and you’ve probably seen his and my names together before particularly if you remember a horror film that we were trying to get made called The Pom Pom Massacre. The one thing we ran into, time and time again, was a lack of ability to get the film funded. Even after a successful Kickstarter to help get the development funds we needed, we just couldn’t lock the financing down. This happened for a few projects in a row and it started to feel like we were always looking for money and never actually making anything.

Last November I got a call from Zeke while I was on set for a commercial. He said that he wanted to make 31 short films for Halloween and release one every day in October. They would all be self-financed so we wouldn’t need to lock down funding. He and I know too many talented people, if we could just find a few that wouldn’t mind helping us out we’d probably be able to do it. That being said, I was a bit flabbergasted. But, it sounded like a hell of a lot of fun and I’m always up for a challenge so I told him I was in. After that he reached out to Mali Elfman and Michael May, two other friends of ours in the industry. Together we started building a plan.  That plan was to reach out to other filmmakers we know and see if they were into the idea of:

  • Creating a short film at 2 minutes or less. (This idea changed later.)
  • It would be self-produced and funded. (We had no money to offer anyone.)
  • The creator maintaining all rights and intellectual property.
  • They licensing us the right to air it through the end of 2014 on whatever distribution we can get, even if it’s just our own YouTube page, and have the option to participate in a bigger release if they choose.

Simple plans with a simple goal: get projects into production and get them seen by the public.

Thankfully a LOT of filmmakers we picking up what we were putting down and we were pleased to have more projects pitched than we were even able to use!

This is the first of what could be an annual event. So many great little shorts have come out of this and there is so much talent that Rene and I have had the pleasure of working with now. I look forward to how those relationships grow. I hope you’ve enjoyed the shorts this year. Check out the Facebook page and come to the public screening if you’re in L.A. on November 2nd.

See you next time!

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52 in 52 Story 3 “The Headache”

The Headache
                You had another headache, but this one was worse than normal. Ever since you were offered to be a partner in your law firm you had been getting headaches of varying degrees. This was the worst so far. It was the kind that starts behind your eyes and then crawls under your temples before it ends up nesting itself in the sides of your head. Painful, what you imagined a migraine might feel like, but you had never had one before to compare. All of the other muscles in your head were tense, tight with the pain. It was like there were invisible fingers in your head pulling all the muscles and tendons taut. You tried pills, over the counter stuff, but they didn’t work. You tried drinking it away, but it was the middle of the day and, being a new partner and all, you didn’t want to be drunk chasing away a headache should someone need you or want to conference. You sat in your office chair and tucked your face into your palms trying to massage away the pain. You loosened your tie and unbuttoned your shirt before you leaned back in the chair trying to stretch out all the muscles in the rest of your body hoping that, by virtue of being part of the same whole, your skull might loosen up too. The chair leaned back and you reached out your arms, grunting quietly, with your eyes squeezed shut. You released the stretch, but stayed leaned back. Your eyes opened and you saw that it was dark out. The day had completely gotten away from you. It was after hours, about 7:30, only the associates and researchers would still be here. You should have been at home. You sat back up, blinked your eyes and stretched your mouth. The pain was getting worse. Now your vision was getting blurry. You probably needed to see a doctor, but all you could think to do at the moment was get some sleep. Yeah, that would help, sleep. You’d just take a little nap and then get home and call in sick. You needed a day or two to recover. Maybe work from home? You got up from the chair and made a move toward the couch. You bumped into the corner of the desk. The sudden new pain relieved your head for a split second, you really enjoyed that second. You got to the couch and flopped down with a thud. It wasn’t the most comfortable couch in the world, purposely so no one felt too comfortable in your office (it was a tactic the firm used with all of its lawyers) but at this moment it felt like a cloud and you passed out before you even hit the cushion.
You woke up the next morning with the sounds of the office whispering through the door.  It must have been early because the phones weren’t ringing off the hook yet and you could only hear the secretaries talking to each other, probably gossiping about their bosses before they came in. You started to get up and winced in pain, the headache wasn’t gone yet. It wasn’t any worse, but it wasn’t much better either. At least your vision had returned for the most part. You looked at the clock: 6:15. You didn’t have much time before the other lawyers would start arriving for work. You wanted to get out before they saw you. It’s better to call in sick instead of being seen as sick. You didn’t want to be viewed as weak, especially since you hadn’t yet established yourself yet. You forced yourself off the couch, stumbling a bit as you did it. You made your way to the desk and collected your things and grabbed your coat. When you opened the door you were assaulted by the light and sound, it was enough to make you wince. Everything was surrounded by a halo and your ears throbbed with each ring of the phone. Your assistant caught sight of you and hurried over with a concerned look on her face.
                “What are you doing here?” She grabbed your coat out of your hands and helped you put it on.
                “I got sick, I slept here. I still don’t feel good.” Your voice was strained and dry. It was hard to talk.
                She helped to get you to the elevators, “I’ll clear your schedule. This will all be fine; you just need to get some rest.” She smiled in a soothing way and helped guide you into the elevator car. You smiled back as well as you could as the elevator door closed. The trip down was gratefully quick as you rubbed your forehead trying to relieve any pain that you could. When you reached the lobby the doorman was ready for you and led you to a car that got you home. The ride home was forgettable, since you spent it with your face firmly planted in your hands rubbing your temples. The door surprised you when it opened and you almost fell out, caught by the driver before you could hit the street. He helped you to your door and once the door closed behind you everything went black.
                When you slept the nightmares came. You were taken back to your first day on the job, the tour that you were given of the offices as you were introduced to the other lawyers and support staff. But instead of the power suits and dresses you saw that day, everyone was draped in black robes with hoods that concealed their identities. Where once there were desks and cubicles there were now chains hanging from the ceiling over grates that were slick with blood and small tables that had tools of torture set upon them, some still gore covered. On the first day that you remember, you were introduced to a lawyer named Peterson who had a hearty laugh, a belly, and very little hair. In this nightmare-scape he was a rotund torturer in a leather smock who was peeling the skin off of a screaming naked woman with red hair – although it wasn’t clear if her hair was naturally red or if it was blood soaked. His laughter as he did it chilled you to the bone. There was a background noise of moans and cries of pain. You could hear muttering whispers that always seemed to be right behind you, until you turned and saw that there was nothing to make such noise. You began to look for a way out, some avenue of escape. Running to doors that somehow led you back to the torture floor, running down the stairs to the lobby only to find the doors guarded by demon dogs that barked flames and drooled bile. Grabbing chairs you attempted to break the window glass only to see the glass turn to flame and re-form, unscathed, keeping you trapped in this hell-vision. With nowhere else to go you retreated to, what you hoped was, the safety of your office; closing the door and barricading it with your furniture – the only furniture that was that same as it was in the real world. You backed away from the door and turned to go to your desk. Your chair, tall and black leather, was faced away from you and began to slowly turn. As the chair turned you heard a piercing ringing in your ear, like a high pitched test pattern sound. As the chair turned it became louder and more unbearable. The noise brought you to your knees and you felt blood begin to pour out of your nose. Your eyes vibrated and the chair still turned. When you finally saw what was sitting in your chair you screamed at the sight of it! Its face, so terrifying you can no longer even remember it; your memory so traumatized that it attempted to remove it, smiled at you as it hissed your name.
                Then you woke up. You were covered in a thick, greasy terror sweat that had a raw odor and tainted the sheets. The pain of your headache was retreating like a shadow to the back of your head; not completely gone but so much better that you actually smiled with relief. It was morning. You had slept the whole of yesterday and last night. As you got your bearings, you checked your phone: only 3 emails, all from the senior partners sending well wishes and telling you to take all the time you needed. That was unexpected. Being a partner certainly had its perks. You got up from your bed and changed into fresh track pants and a t-shirt, something dry and comfortable. In the bathroom, when you washed your face, you could see that you looked better. Whatever you had was a real doosy! You walked out of your room and smelled food; someone was cooking in your home! You made your way quietly and quickly to the kitchen where you found your assistant, Lucy, cooking you breakfast.
                “Good morning,” she was making pancakes and frying some bacon. “I’m glad to see that you survived. How are you feeling?” She flipped a pancake and took the strips of bacon off of the griddle.
                “I’m much better.” Your voice was still horse, but sounded much better than yesterday. “Is there coffee?” Lucy reached up and grabbed a mug while pulling the carafe from the coffee maker. As she poured you noticed that you could hear the sound of the liquid hitting the cup clearer. You could hear the bacon snapping too. Your hearing in general seemed to be generally keener. “I’m surprised to see you here. Were you sent to check in on me? Make sure that I wasn’t dead?”
                Lucy smirked, “Actually, that’s about right. The senior partners would hate to lose someone so promising so soon after they are made partner; especially since you haven’t finished you initiation yet.” She wiped her hands on a kitchen towel and removed the apron she had been wearing. For a slightly older woman she was very attractive. Honey blonde hair done very neat and tight in a French twist. Her suit was impeccable, in a soft brown that was form fitting without being snug. Her shoes walked the line of fashion and function so elegantly that you knew they must be expensive, but they weren’t ostentatious. She picked up her purse, Hermes, and pulled out her phone, dialing with a single touch of the screen. “He’s doing much better,” she smiled and looked at you out of the corner of her eyes. “Yes, I will give him the file.” She hung up the phone and pulled a file from her purse, placing it down on the counter next to your breakfast.
                “Now that I’m better they need me to earn my keep, eh?” You smirked at her and bit your bacon. Pulling the file toward you and opening it. You saw a grisly murder scene that took you by surprise. “Is this part of the initiation?”
                “That’s right.” Lucy walked up next to you and pointed at a few key things in the file. “This was one of Peterson’s clients. She was a high ranking investment banker at Goldman-Sachs and they found her dead in her apartment.” Her finger flipped the page over showing a picture of the victim before she was killed. “Kathy Walker, she was a real she-bitch in heels who loved to make deals.” When you looked at the picture it was unnerving, Kathy Walker was the woman you had seen in your nightmare; the redhead being flayed alive. Now, here she was plain as day, and the crime scene photos showed her skin had been removed in several places.
                “My God! Who did this?” It was odd, even though the images were beyond gruesome, you continued eating.
                “The police don’t know, they never know. She was one of our clients so we are keeping a close eye on this one. Since you’re new and barely know Peterson the senior partners want your opinion on it.” Lucy began to walk to the door to leave.
                “Do the partners think that Peterson did it?”
                Lucy stopped in her tracks and laughed out loud, “The senior partners don’t care as long as the fees are paid. But, should Peterson or anyone in the firm come under suspicion, they would like to have some ammunition for any defense that may need to be launched. See you tomorrow!” And without any further explanation Lucy left and you were stuck with your breakfast and a file folder.
                This was your first look at a murder file. Everything you had worked on in your professional life so far had been mergers and acquisitions, contracts, and other money related deals. In fact it was your ability as a deal maker that caught the attention of the firm in the first place. You had just finished the buyout of a small start-up, Mercy Medical, which made cancer testing machines. Their rival was a much bigger company, IntegraTest, Inc., who wanted the patents for the cancer test. It was you who structured the deal so that all of the patents were included in the final purchase price and effectively eliminated any royalties that would have been owed to the creators of the test. It was a dick move. You knew it, your bosses at IntegraTest knew it, but it was your job to sell it and sell it you did.  Even the other team’s attorneys didn’t catch it – until it was too late. When the case was taken to civil court the judge threw it out. The other side even got a slap on the wrist for not being thorough enough.  But you knew it was just good lawyering, and apparently Shaitan, Fahleen & Associates agreed. As you were shaking the hands of your IntegraTest bosses in court, a representative From Shaitan, Fahleen & Associates approached you and handed you a card. They were offering challenging assignments, a full support staff, and significantly more money. It was all you could do not to quit on the spot and accept their offer. And now they wanted your opinion on a major murder.
You smiled as you drank your coffee and reviewed the case. The facts laid out in the report included that she was found in her home, dead. She was in her dining room, nude and suspended by rope to the lighting fixture over the dining table. Marks on her buttocks and legs showed signs of being lashed or whipped (“possibly sexual” was jotted as a note in the margin) and there were long strips of skin missing from her back, arms and stomach. Her breasts, face and vagina were clean of blood. Make-up and powder were used to make the skin still appear alive, as if those parts were being put on display. The pictures showed that her face, although limp in death, still bore some of the pain and terror that she must have experienced as she died. It was horrifying. You were still eating, and enjoying it. Then a drop of blood fell on to the picture. Then another, and another; you had a nose bleed and it was bad. Running to the sink, you grabbed a towel and held it to your nose. As you looked up you saw a face in the reflection of the kitchen window – the face you saw from your dream! Your mouth fell open and blood poured from it as your ears filled with the painful ringing and the pain gouged into your head. You tried to scream, but nothing would come out. Reaching out for anything to hold you up, you collapsed on the floor and passed out.
The next thing you knew you were in the elevator in your firm’s building, going up. You were dressed in one of your finer suits, one of the new black ones that you bought after getting the job, and mid-conversation with Peterson.
“…then he says, ‘all right, buddy, you’re coming with me!’” Peterson finished his punch line and then both of you laughed. You didn’t remember the beginning of the joke, but you genuinely laughed as if you had. And you felt taller. “So, did you hear about my client? Yeesh!”
“I did, were you too close?” You didn’t really care, but maybe he had new information.
“Eh, no, not really; I handled her deals and did things when she wanted them done. Frankly I was planning on dropping her as a client.”
“Really?” You were truly confused, “why would you cut loose a major investment banker? Her billables must have been astronomical!”
“They were; ‘were’ being the operative term there.” Peterson leaned in and spoke softer, “she was starting to have a problem paying her fees.”
“No way, a high ranking executive at Goldman Sachs had a problem paying? Hell, from just what I saw in the crime photos she could have sold one art piece in her collection and covered months of whatever you bill.” Peterson gave you a confused look, as if he didn’t understand what you were talking about. Then you panicked a little. Were you not supposed to let on that you had seen the crime scene; that you knew about the report? Then Peterson smiled, “have you had your initiation yet?”
“I… I’m not sure. I think so?”
Peterson’s face relaxed and he slapped you on the arm, “You’ll know, trust me, you’ll know. It’s like falling in love, you’ll feel it all through your body and it’ll be the greatest thing that ever happened to you.” That seemed a bit exaggerated, but Peterson had a big smile on his face and didn’t say much else the rest of the way up.
When the elevator opened Peterson nodded at you, still smiling, and went off to his office. You turned left to go to yours. Waiting outside your door were the senior partners, Allan Shaitan, Lee Fahleen and Robert Beasel, and Lucy. Lucy was holding a bottle of champagne and an empty flute while the senior partners all held flutes that were full. Allan Shaitan, the founder and managing partner of Shaitan, Fahleen & Associates, stood in front smiling at you with thin lips as you approached. Both Shaitan and Fahleen were similar in appearance; they could almost pass as brothers. Both were completely bald, shaved clean, and tall. Mr. Shaitan was very thin, but didn’t look feeble. His body seemed like it was always coiled and ready to strike. Lee Fahleen wasn’t as slender as Shaitan, and had fuller lips and cheeks, but in almost all other respects looked the same. They both had very light brown eyes that could be confused as golden if you were in the right light. And they were pale, both looked like they had never seen the sun. Robert Beasel, on the other hand, was fat. He had thick black hair that was always slicked back and a black van dyke that looked sculpted on his face.  His eyes were dark too, almost void of color, like the light wouldn’t reflect. Of the three senior partners Beasel was the toughest to read. As you approached they began to clap softly and Lucy poured champagne into the flute that was to be given to you.
“So glad you are still with us,” Shaitan approached with hand outstretched to shake yours.
“I’m glad to be here,” you smiled as you shook his hand and then grabbed the flute.
“We were concerned that perhaps the new position was too much for you,” Beasel was gruff and it didn’t sound like he was joking.
“Quiet, Bob, don’t be ridiculous.” Shaitan turned back to you, “may we go into your office?” He opened the door and the three of them walked in before you could respond.
“I’ll be right outside if you need me.” Lucy closed the door when she left. Shaitan and Fahleen sat on the couch and Beasel remained standing as he drank his champagne. They allowed you to put down you things before they began to speak.
“We had hoped to do this yesterday, until you fell ill.” Shaitan put down his flute and crossed his hands in his lap. “We wanted to speak to you about the case file we had Lucy drop off with you. Have you reviewed it?”
“I have,” you responded quickly, “I have it here.” Then you reached into your case and pulled it out. “I was curious, is this part of my initiation?” the three of them laughed softly between themselves.
“It does appear that it may, since you ask.” Shaitan stood and walked over to you, “That is why we gave it to you. We need you and that deal-making mind of yours to review all of the deals that we have on file for her, all the work Peterson did.”
You must have looked like you had a question on your mind, Beasel answered before you could ask, “Since her untimely death we need to make sure that there is no way that the firm, or any deal made by lawyers of the firm, can be tied to her death.”
“Should I work with Peterson on this?” You asked as you finished your champagne.
“If you must, but try not to take up too much of his time. This is review work and we prefer to have him on new business.” Shaitan finished and then moved to open the door. The other senior partners left the room. “We do look forward to whatever you may find.” As they walked out you moved to sit at your desk. You called for Lucy to bring you all the Walker deal files and prepared for a long day. Before things got too busy you checked your email and calendar. A new event was scheduled for the next night, a company gathering at 8pm here on the main floor. You called in Lucy to ask what the event was.
“It’s for you!” She replied with a big smile on her face, “It represents the end of your initiation. Every lawyer in the firm who makes partner is thrown one. They are truly decadent. We always like it when someone makes partner.” A party, thrown in your honor! That was far better than what you had imagined the initiation might be. If it was just some research and then a party, well then here’s hoping they need to initiate you every year! By the end of the morning the first file boxes had been delivered to your office. It was going to be a long day.
The first few boxes were filled with fairly standard deals: real estate, long term planning, references to financial documents and investment plans. There were cars that were in her name and cars in the company’s name. Race horses and vacation homes, a variety of things that one expects to see when dealing with the ridiculously wealthy. You were about ready to call it quits until you got to the last file in the last box. It was a thick cardboard folder with no title. Inside were pearlescent vellum sheets that appeared to have no writing on them, yet were slightly greasy to the touch. A smell was coming off of the pages and your head began to hurt again; the pain crawling back into your temples and the sides of your skull. Blood dripped from your nose on to the vellum and was soaked up into it, like the pages were drinking the blood. You couldn’t believe your eyes, but it didn’t matter because you were in so much pain.
Then you were back in the nightmare-scape you were in before. The office turned into a carnal slaughter house. Sounds of torture came from behind office doors. You could hear Peterson’s sickening laugh from down the hall. This time was different, though. This time you were in a black robe too. A group of robed figures walked past you and, without realizing it, you began to follow. They walked down the halls until they approached Shaitan’s office – but it was transformed into a dark temple with torches gripped in the hands of corpses with eyes and mouths sewn shut. Shaitan was naked and daubed in symbols that seemed to defy their two dimensions. Beasel and Fahleen sat on the sides of the dais where Sahitan was standing. There was a chanting that you could hear, but no one’s lips moved. Shaitan was looking up, hands reaching toward the ceiling that was filled with an inky blackness that seemed to move and undulate under its own power, like ocean waves or desert sand in the wind. Slowly he lowered his arms and then lowered his gaze. His eyes were a bright golden yellow and he was looking at you! He said a word that you couldn’t understand and then you jolted awake!
You were in your office. It was 5:15pm. The sounds of the office were still in full swing. It was a dream – no, a terrible nightmare. There was a soft knock on the door. It was Lucy.
“Just checking to see if you need anything before you go?” She had only opened the door a crack.
“No, thank you, but I think I will leave soon. Could you please have the door man get me a car?” There was still a feeling in your head, like a scratching on your brain, but no blood. What a terrible nightmare.
“Of course, it should be waiting for you when you’re ready.” She closed the door and you could hear her at the desk calling down. You put away the file and tried to shake off the feeling you had; the helpless feeling from not knowing what was happening and hoping that it would all just go away. The car was ready when you got down to the lobby and it took you home in short order; certainly in better condition that the other day. All you needed was more sleep; it seemed to be doing the trick. You cooked yourself something in the microwave and then went right to bed, early and ready to sleep everything away.
Your dreams that night were still nightmares, but different than before in the office. In these were in a small row boat on a dark lake where you couldn’t see the shore. The sky was perpetual twilight, deep purples and blues, with no visible source of light. There was no sound of anything natural; no water against the boat, no waves, no fish or insects, not even your own breathing. The only thing you could hear was a tone, a tone that pulsed like an EKG or a sonar ping. Slowly it rang out; always alone with just the row boat and the pulse. You tried to call out, but your voice sounded muffled, like you were in a recording studio or padded room. No one could hear you no matter how loud you screamed because there was no one to hear you and your voice wouldn’t carry anyway. Giving up you leaned back to lie down in the boat. As you rested you head on the wood you opened your eyes to see the face that had been terrifying you staring back at the end of your nose!
You woke up screaming, wretched terrifying screams like a child who believes his parents dead or that there are monsters, real monsters, under her bed just waiting to grab a foot and pull. It was morning, you had made it through the night, but the light didn’t make you feel any safer. In a hurry you got ready, scared to be in the shower to long or to look down at the sink for fear that the face will return when you aren’t paying attention. Even though the light of day was shining through the windows, you still turned on as many lights as you could, just in case. Being on the streets was better, at least with other people around the face would have a harder time sneaking up on you. You avoided looking in reflections on your way to work, and that was probably for the best.
When you arrived Lucy took great care of you. There was coffee and a bagel ready for you. The boxes of Ms. Walkers other deals were prepared for you to review and everyone was excited about the gathering later that night, senior partners, partners and their assistants only! Very exclusive and exactly what you needed after the week you had. Settling in with the first of many boxes, you called Lucy.
“Yes?” She was chipper and light on the other end.
“I believe I should make a doctor’s appointment. I still haven’t been feeling well and think I could probably use a checkup.”
Lucy giggled softly, “I can make an appointment, but you don’t need one. I’ve seen this happen to new partners for years. You’ll feel much better after the gathering.”
Hearing that actually made you smile, “OK, but if I’m not feeling better by tomorrow morning I’m going to need that appointment.”
“Very good, we’ll cross that bridge if we get to it.”
You spent the rest of the day going through the deals, more of the same like you saw the day before; until you got to another thick cardboard folder, with the vellum sheets inside. Again your head began to hurt, the pain reaching deep into the center of your brain. Small rivulets of blood dripped from your nose and fell on the vellum, but this time the blood did not soak into the pages. This time it created words, words that spelled out a contract for Karen Walker. You stumbled up to your feet, blood now starting to drip from your ears, and with the folder in hand made your way for the door. When you opened it you could see it was night out the windows of the rest of the office. You turned and it was night out your windows as well. How did that happen? You took steps toward the lobby and everyone looked at you.
“It’s time!” Lucy called with a grin on her face. Everyone on the floor went to their desks and their offices. You watched, barely able to stand, as Lucy stripped down to nothing and threw on a black robe. Peterson laughed from down the hall and walked onto the main floor wearing a black robe and a necklace of skin strips around his neck, flies buzzing around it as it rotted.
“Finally!” Peterson yelled, “You’re taking too damn long!” Peterson slapped you on the shoulder and it was enough to knock you down. Dropping the folder you tried to get back up, but you were too weak. You were always too weak. Lucy and one of the other assistants picked you up off the ground and stripped you and then dragged you down the hall to Shaitan’s office. In your wake were rows of figures draped in black robes and then the chanting started. With blood now trickling out of the corners of your eyes it was getting hard to see. What you could see was Shaitan on a small dais with Beasel and Fahleen sitting on either side. Above him an undulating inky blackness that covered the ceiling.

Shaitan spoke, “Karen Walker died to bring you here.  Make me wait no longer.” And then your head split, cracking in the back where the bones meet to make the crown and tearing through the flesh and muscle that holds it all together. Your eyes bled as they fell from your skull, nothing was holding them in any longer. Your chest ruptured sending gore and viscera across the room and on the bodies of the faithful who danced and writhed in it. Your skin fell off of me and then I was you. I took your skills and I took your identity. You took my place in hell.

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Filed under 52 in 52, 52 stories in 52 weeks, creativity, horror, monsters, projects, scary, short story, storytelling

52 in 52 Story 1 “The Magician”

The Magician
Rosario enjoyed walking down to Byron’s Pub. It wasn’t far from her apartment, she didn’t need to worry about drinking too much, and, especially on summer nights like tonight, the night sky looked perfect. The streets were spared of traffic and when cars did drive by they were moving at a respectable speed that was appropriate for the respectable suburb that she called home. And it was Friday.
Friday, just hearing the word in her head made her feel better. Sitting in her “cube farm” (as Richard from IT calls it) organizing and distributing data from one server to another in regard to car insurance claims is, for Rosario, one of the most soul killing things that she has ever done so when it’s finally Friday… words uttered by human lips would only make a mockery of weight that she feels lifted off of her shoulders, a weight that returns all too quickly by Sunday night.
But for now it is Friday and she is all decked out: her new black skirt that looked like real leather in the dark, a fun dark blue top with sheer sleeves and a bodice frame that showed enough cleavage to walk the line of tasteful and slutty, and her shoes – oh the shoes! The pride and joy of her going out collection! A particularly expensive purchase made in a bold moment of choice when she decided that she was a grown up and deserved a pair of expensive shoes. They were black, like an insect’s shell, and had a distinctive red sole. She almost felt guilty walking this far in them, but they were surprisingly comfortable and what good is owning a pair of decadently expensive shoes if you aren’t going to wear them? Her curly dark hair bounced around her shoulders in time with her steps. She could feel the weight of her make-up, more than she usually wore, braced against her face. She was in costume and ready for curtain.
A car pulling out of the parking lot of the complex where Byron’s Pub sat in the far corner yanked her out of her head. Following along the sidewalk that leads directly to the door she looked to see if she recognized any of the cars around the building. None looked familiar. It was still early, just a little after 8 pm, so there was still hope that someone she knew would come out, in the mean time getting a drink or two certainly couldn’t hurt. As she got closer she caught a whiff of the place, the smell of gourmet sliders on the griddle, stale beer, and that little bit of cigarette smoke that places like this still can’t avoid. The sounds were there too, loud conversations, clicking dishes and Heart’s Barracuda playing over the sound system at a volume that was high enough to hear over the business of the restaurant, but still low enough to be able to talk to people. There was a spot at the bar near the center – a perfect place to have ready access to the bartender – that would be her perch for the night.
Ricky was working and he smiled when he saw Rosario and motioned that he’d be over in a minute. Ricky was a college kid who had given her his life story a few months ago during a particularly empty night when there weren’t many people to talk to. She remembered the big details, his family lived close by and that he was studying communications and really wanted a job in public relations, but she preferred to think of him as more of a “bartender boyfriend.” In that way he was perfect! He was polite, attentive, and just the right amount of flirty. He never made a move, but always hinted that he would. He was younger than Rosario by a few years, he couldn’t have been older than 24, and it was enough of an age difference where she’d never reallythink anything would happen (certainly not a serious relationship) but after a margarita or two it was nice to fantasize. Athletic and approachable with dark hair and eyes, not too handsome but handsome enough; he made his way to Rosario, “Hey, you’re in early tonight. Get you a drink?” He winked as he finished his question.
“Yes, please, “she responded with a flirty turn of her head making sure he got a full look at her big brown eyes, “a margarita.” As Ricky wen to make her drink Rosario turned on her stool and surveyed the room. Just a little over half full, it was clear that there was still some time before the evening dinner crowd would change over to the fun, night time crowd. There were business men in dress shirts laughing over beers in booths, office girls (not unlike herself) sharing stories over glasses of wine. The dining room was visible from here where families were eating burgers and chicken fingers and a variety of salads and soups. It was life, plain and normal, right here on display. Nothing strange or extraordinary, so a drink is exactly what she needed.
Margarita one: The switch over started. It began with the families finishing dinner and going home, back to television and bed. Then the business men left, ribbing each other about how their wives would be mad and how they would be back to work on Monday. Then the office girls, the younger ones ready to move on to different hot spots. As they all left, the evening crew arrived: the pick-up artists, the neighborhood boozers, and the late twenty-something crowd, like herself, who wanted to take the edge off the week. The music volume rose slightly and it was time for drink two.
Margarita two: Her friends arrive. Well, friends may be too generous a word. These were her Byron’s friends, the friends that existed only within these walls and only for a few hours each week. Jenny, the life of the party, she introduced Rosario to Fireball shots and Tim. Ugh, Tim, the less she thought about him the better. Tina and Sarah, the bar gossips, if these girls saw or even heard about something happening they were talking about it (and probably exaggerating a bit). Bill, the professional drinker, who no one really knew much about; he was a trivia machine who always had a fresh drink in his hand. He was also the only person, besides her parents, who called her “Rosie.” They greeted Rosario as they arrived, giving hugs and smiles and starting conversations that would be forgotten by morning.
Margarita three: Rosario starts feeling the full effect of liquid courage. As the conversations drifted on and topics began to get scarce Rosario started to feel brave enough to branch out of her little circle.
“Hey, Rosie,” Bill was trying to get her attention as she scanned the bar. “Who are you looking for? Aren’t we interesting enough?”
“Bill, you leave her alone! I think someone might be on the prowl tonight.” Jenny cocked her eyebrows on the last sentence and made a playful growl noise at Rosario.
“Wait, Rosario is looking to hook up?” Sarah popped out of nowhere, with Tina right behind, “Who is it? Did Ricky finally make a move?”
“Hey guys, I just serve the drinks!” Ricky winked at Rosario as he walked away to pull another beer for Bill.
“No, sorry, I just wanted to see who was here.” Rosario covered her eyes with her hand embarrassed that she had been caught and shouted back over to Ricky for one more. As she turned back she noticed a man coming in and sitting at the bar. Not bad looking, brown hair done in a casual “it dried this way” manner and dressed casually, but still neat: nice jeans, a button-up shirt, and a hip sport coat that looked like black velvet. He was just attractive enough to get her attention, but not keep it. Ricky dropped off her drink and she went back to her friends.
Margarita four: Rosario’s curiosity got the better of her. Tina and Sarah had left, they were going to a party at a friend’s apartment, and Jenny was starting to get a little hand-sy with Bill who didn’t seem to mind too much. Rosario’s eyes drifted back to the stranger she had noticed before. He was still in his spot, nursing a beer, and rolling a coin in his fingers making it flip in between each finger before grabbing it with his thumb as it went over his pinky and bringing it back up to the top to make its way back down again. He was doing it over and over again, never stopping. It was fascinating to watch, almost hypnotic (especially after a few margaritas). He seemed to be watching the TV over the bar, some baseball game, but his fingers kept flipping the coin like they were on automatic pilot. She wanted to meet him. She didn’t know why, but she wanted to meet him.
“Hey guys, I’ll be right back.”
“OK Rosie.” Jenny and Bill were too into each other at the moment to care. Rosario slipped off her bar stool and headed for the stranger. Walking was a little bit tougher than she expected. She started to wonder if this was actually a good idea or just the tequila talking. After a few more steps she didn’t care, she was going to meet the guy who was flipping coins no matter what the motivation! She got to the spot next to him and tried to be as graceful as she could.
“Hi,” she smiled as she said it.
He seemed surprised, but turned and smiled, “Hi, are you Jessica?” Rosario was taken aback. Who was Jessica? And why did she care, she just met this guy?
“Oh, no, I’m Rosario. I was down the bar a little with some friends, but I noticed you flipping that coin in your fingers and, well it sounds stupid now that I say it out loud, but I wanted to meet you.” The coin was still rolling in his fingers.
“Well, it’s nice to meet you Rosario. Sorry for the confusion. I was supposed to meet someone here tonight and I’m starting to think that I’ve been stood up.” He was still rolling the coin.
“Well that’s a terrible thing to have happen. Would you mind if I kept you company while you wait?” Rosario was feeling brave. Being this close she could see his eyes, they were a very clear blue. It was a very contrasting color compared to his skin and hair. She was surprised that she hadn’t noticed them when he came in earlier.
“Uh, sure, if you don’t mind hanging out with a guy who can apparently chase off a blind date?” He laughed as he finished and she did too. He was still rolling the coin.
“So… you’re still flipping that coin?” She pointed down to his hand and then took a sip of her margarita.
“Ha, yeah, “he looked down at his hand too and brought it up between their faces. “This is an old habit that I don’t bother trying to stop. It helps me with my concentration and with my dexterity. I’m a magician.” Instinctively Rosario rolled her eyes and groaned. “Wait, hold on, I’m not just your average magician. I don’t do card tricks to pull rabbits out of hats, well, not often at least. I’m the real deal.” Rosario made an “are you fucking kidding?” face and spun on her stool to leave. What a waste of time. “No seriously.” Then he tapped his finger on her glass and her drink, almost gone, suddenly filled back up to the top and salt re-crystallized around the rim of the glass.
“Shut. The fuck. Up.” Rosario sat back down; jaw dropped and put the glass on the bar, hands trembling.
Ricky came over, “You guys need a refill? Oh, never mind; just give me a holler if you do.” He winked at Rosario as he walked away.
“What the fuck.” Rosario looked at him again. His eyes were brown now, a light brown that matched his hair and skin tone. “What the fuck?”
“I told you, I’m a magician. Go ahead, try it. I promise, it’s exactly the same as what you were drinking before.” Rosario looked down at her drink. It looked just like the other margarita’s she had been drinking all night. Maybe she had too many?
“No, no way!” She leaned in and whispered sharply at him, “Did you work this out with Ricky, because I swear…”
“Ha! No, no I haven’t worked anything out with Ricky. But it’s pretty cool, right?”
“It’s scary is what it is! No wonder you scared away your date! Did Jessica know about this?” Out of panic and without thinking about it she took a sip to calm herself. It was a margarita, same as she had been drinking all night. “Oh my God. OK, no bullshit, how did you do this?”
He smiled a friendly smile that was surprisingly reassuring after what had just happened, “Magic. Real, honest to God magic. The kind you read about in fairy tales and fantasy books.” He was so matter a fact about it that Rosario found herself calming down and pondering what this all meant. Magic? Real magic in real life? This is 2014 and all of a sudden she was supposed to believe in magic? She took another sip; this was quite a bit to get used to. “Are you OK? I really didn’t mean to scare you.”
“Uh, well, yeah I guess. I may need another one of these. Can you just do that whenever?” She sipped again at the margarita.
“Eh, yes and no. Right now, no, I’m tapped out. I need to build up the energy again to do it, but, all things being equal, yeah I could do it again. But I don’t want to take the bar tender’s job away from him.” He winked and then signaled for Ricky, “Another round, please”
“Sure thing,” Ricky nodded as he poured a beer for a different customer.
“So are you, like, Harry Potter or something?” Rosario took another sip to finish off her margarita.
He made a face and half nodded as he thought about how to answer. “Not really, I’m more like a scientist applying a technique or a cook following a recipe.” He started rolling the coin again.
“I don’t understand?”
“I know it’s a hard thing to wrap your mind around. Now-a- days nobody really understands magic. Most of the secrets were lost during religious purging and pogroms and then those religions kind of took magic’s place. But that’s the tricky thing about it, magic, religion, exorcism; any supernatural effect you’re going for is really just the appropriate application of a person’s will guiding the energy forces of the universe.” Rosario’s face went blank. Ricky dropped off their drinks. He kept rolling the coin. “I know it sounds complicated, but it really isn’t. It’s all about the amount of focus applied by the magician. Prayers, incantations, chanting; all of these are just methods of focusing the mind and then manipulating the existing forces that surround us.”
Rosario finished her next sip, “Like The Force?”
“Well, yes? I guess, kinda’, in a very simplified way. Except now we live with all these electronic devices, WiFi signals, radio signals, copper wiring everywhere, metal pipes and girders, all kinds of materials that get in the way. So a lot of the really impressive magic, like the biblical stuff or the things in a game of Dungeons and Dragons, aren’t as easy to do as they used to be. That’s why we haven’t seen a dragon for thousands of years or have wars fought with a hail of fireballs raining down from the sky. Things that the ancient Egyptian priest and the witches of Salem used to be able to do just aren’t as possible in the modern world. For those kinds of effects you need to get away from it all, abandon civilization, get out to the deep deserts, rain forests, places where the natural order is still fairly undisturbed.”
“Like the woods?” Rosario took another sip, not breaking eye contact and trying to keep her drunk brain from drifting.
“Sure, yeah, but even more remote if you can. Conclaves and covens, whatever you want to call them, gather there and study and pass on the techniques. It’s not Hogwarts but it’s how the art is maintained.”
“Is that where you learned?” Rosario was completely fascinated now. And slurring.
“Yeah, it takes a lot of study, a lot of study, but my parents and my grandparents passed it on to me.”
“So, there must be, like, wizards everywhere!”
“Actually, no. Between organized religion and shrinking attention spans there aren’t many magic users left in the world, but we get by.” He kept rolling the coin and his eyes started to have a blue hint again.
Rosario took the last sip of her margarita and looked at him hard, searching for any sign of a lie. “So, if the city and all the stuff in it makes magic weak why don’t you live out in the boonies?”
“Are you kidding? Have you been out in the middle of the jungle or some Arizona desert? I have, there’s nothing to do and the people are nuts.” He knocked back the last of his beer, “Nope, I like the city. Besides, I’m not that dedicated a magician.” He continued to roll the coin in his fingers. His eyes were bluer. “Actually, I am going to visit my dad after this. I know it’s getting late but they can do some pretty crazy stuff, do you want to come?”
She did, Rosario definitely did want to see more, especially now that his eyes were becoming that light blue again. But the last, tiny sober part of her brain thought better of it, “I don’t think that’s a good idea, “she slurred, “I’ve definitely had too much tequila to make good decisions.”
“I know.” He reached up and tapped the side of her head. She instantly felt stone sober and had to pee like crazy! “Go the bathroom, quick, I just sobered you up and your body wants to get rid of all the booze. Think about it and let me know.” Rosario got up and made her way to the bathroom, legs practically crossed she had to go so bad, and he turned back to the game rolling the coin in his fingers.
Rosario sat in the stall; she had pee’d for about two minutes straight. Not an exaggerated two minutes, a real two minutes. The water in the bowl was a deep orange and the whole stall stunk of tequila, and there was still more coming out. Now that her head was clear she seriously considered what to do. She did want to see more. Just seeing what she had seen was pretty impressive, especially the getting sobered up part, and the thought of what might come next was very exciting. But she had just met this guy, a guy she literally walked up to tonight just because he was flipping a coin in his fingers and she was drunk. Was that part of his deal? Was this all just a clever trick to get her back home with him? But how could it be, there’s nothing that she knew of that could 1) re-fill her drink and make salt crystals appear and then 2) suddenly, instantly, sober her up! Hell, if this was some kind of drug then maybe she should go home with him because he could sell that drug and make a mint! She finally finished and made her decision. Tonight she wasn’t going to play it safe, it’s Friday and if she’s going to have an adventure tonight is the night to have it. Besides, she thought, given what she had seen already if he is a creep and he can do what he says then she’s screwed whether she goes or not. She gathered herself, washed her hands, and committed to her decision with a mental “you can do it” to herself in the mirror.
Rosario left the bathroom and looked back at the bar. Bill and Jenny were gone, probably back to Bill’s place (that was going to be a good story next week) and Ricky was picking up the check from the magician. She gave herself one last shot to back out, but, no, she was going to do it. She walked back up to the bar and said, “All right, let’s do it.”
He smiled, his eye’s pale blue again, “OK, well we’d better go. We have a decent drive ahead of us.”
“How do I know you didn’t use some spell or something to get me to go with you?” She asked, giving him a shot to come clean if this was some kind of trick.
“Well, frankly, you don’t. But I did go to the effort of sobering you up; you do still feel sober, right?” She nodded. “If I really wanted to take advantage of you I could have actually messed you up more and just let that be that. But it’s rare that someone shows real curiosity about actual magic, even if you were pretty drunk. Like I said, we’re a dying breed. And it’s not like you need to be born into this, magic is something that can be taught and learned. So, maybe you come with me and like what you see? Maybe you want to start to dabble? Maybe that dabbling turns into real study? Who knows, you might take to it and start teaching others? This is a once in a lifetime shot. And I’ll even give you ride back if it doesn’t work out.” He smiled as he finished and held out his hand. Rosario reached for it and waved at Ricky as they walked out.
The car ride was more fun than she expected. They were headed for some woods at the base of the mountains. According to him it wasn’t a perfect circumstance but the coven could do more there than in the heart of the city. He drove a black Honda Accord. It was simple and well kept. He blared classic rock as they drove and they sang along to the songs that played: “Don’t Stop Believing,” “Jesse’s Girl,” “Magic Man” (the last one had them laughing). Even though it was a decent amount of time to drive it passed very quickly. Rosario started to think about what he had said; maybe she could learn magic? Even if it was just enough to keep refilling her drinks, that’d be enough, right? Or instant sober? She could drive her car to the bar again! Maybe even invest in some more fancy shoes! She’d never have another mistake like Tim. Ugh, maybe she could turn him into a toad to match his personality.
“You OK over there?” She must have been quiet for a while for him to ask.
“Yeah, I’m fine. I just started thinking about doing magic and what that might be like.”
“And who you could turn into a toad?” He smiled and turned back to the road.
Rosario’s jaw dropped, “How the hell did you know that?”
“You’d be amazed at how many people think of that as one of the first things they’d like to do with magic. There’s always someone in their lives who they would prefer as a toad.”
“Have you ever turned anyone into a toad?” She asked mischievously.
“Ha! No, never a toad, never a toad…” He drifted off at the end and they listened to the radio as they drove into the forest. The radio signal started to get weaker and the road went from pavement to dirt. He turned off the radio as the static took the place of the music and drove slower as the dirt road turned to mud.
“Well,” he said as he stopped the car, “This is where we need to get out. We’ll have to walk from here on in. No more road.”
Rosario’s eyes got wide, “I totally don’t have the right shoes for this. I didn’t even think about it!”
He scrunched his face and turned to the back seat, “I didn’t think about that either. You’re right, those shoes will not do.” He rummaged around a bit and then snapped his fingers, “I got it!”
“You’ll magically make my shoes into hiking boots?” She said hopefully.
“No, but I do have a pair of my hiking boots in the trunk. You’ll have to wear them barefoot and obviously they’ll be a bit big on you, but better than messing up the shoes you’re wearing.”
“Well that will be just fine, thank you.” He got out of the car and got into the trunk. He came back around to the passenger side and opened the door for her as she slipped her shoes off and turned in the seat to get the hiking boots on. They were big, but she could get the laces tight enough that she would be able to walk, at least well enough to get where ever they were going. She stepped out the car and he guided her into the woods.
“Leave your purse, or at least your phone. There’s no signal out here and any technology interferes with what people do out here.” Rosario flinched at first but then looked at her phone. Sure enough, no signal. It was a brick out here. She flopped her purse and phone on the seat and they headed off.
The woods were dark, the trees blocking out what little light there was. There were all kinds of motion and activity in the trees; animals and insects, the sound of water and crunching branches. None of it was scary or menacing, but Rosario felt like she was in an alien place surrounded by alien beings.
“Maybe we should have brought a flashlight?”
“Nope, remember any technology interferes. Besides if you want light…” he pointed his fingers at a nearby tree like a gun, “bang.” A bolt of bright blue lightning scorched out of the sky and nailed the tree he was pointing at making the loudest thunder Rosario had ever heard and setting the top of the tree on fire. “Now they will know where to find us.”
About five minutes later they started to hear rustling in the trees. There was low chanting and the sound of footsteps coming closer to them. The coven had arrived. They stepped out of the trees in robes wearing crowns made of the leaves and vines of the woods. Their faces would not seem out of place in the local grocery store. There were middle aged clean shaven men, women who you could tell, even in the dark, were wearing some make-up, older people who were well into their elderly years but seemed shockingly spry. There was only one who stood out, their leader, an older gentleman with a long white beard that seemed to glow in the dark (for all Rosario knew his beard may have been glowing). He smiled a big grin when he saw them.
“You made it! You came!” The leader hugged the magician like you would someone at the airport after a long trip and then grabbed his shoulders and looked him up and down. “You look good, and you brought a friend.” The leader came over to Rosario. Not quite sure what she should do she reached out her hand to shake his.
“I’m Rosario. It’s nice to meet you.” The leader took her right hand in his left and then grabbed her left hand and lifted her arms. Not sure what to do, Rosario just went with it even as he spun her around to get a look at her. The leader turned back to the magician and released her arms.
“She seems very nice. Is she sober?”
“Stone sober, sir.” Rosario blurted it out, excited that she had passed the first test.
“And are you a virgin?” The leader looked her right in the eyes as he waited for an answer with no sign of any emotion on his face. Rosario got nervous. What the hell kind of question was that? She didn’t want this all to come down to whether or not she had slept with someone before or not. A virgin? What was she, some kind of sacrifice? She decided to be honest.
The leader made a quick face, then smiled and said, “Nobody’s perfect. Come get her!” As he called the rest of the coven came toward Rosario and the leader pulled a wad of cash out of his robes, counting off bills to the magician. “Next time, a virgin please.”
“I’ll do what I can.” The magician turned to walk back to his car.
It was very clear to Rosario that this is NOT what she had signed up for. She tried to reach for him and called out, “Wait! Where are you going?!” The coven were wrestling her to the ground and tying her arms behind her back.
“Back home, to the city. I told you, they’re crazy out here. They do all kinds of old school incantations and crap. Whatever gets them focused.” He lifted the roll of cash that the leader had given him, “I’m just glad it worked out.” He turned to the leader, “Hang on to the hiking boots, Dad, I’ll grab them the next time I’m out.” The leader smiled and waved as he started chanting again and the magician turned back toward the car as Rosario screamed to be let go and was dragged deeper into the woods. The coven chanted louder as they walked away, all of their eyes turning light blue.
“Virgins, huh? Where the hell am I gonna’ find a virgin?” He got back to the car, opened the passenger side door and dumped Rosario’s stuff in the underbrush. As he drove away a bright flash lit up a section deep in the woods and it started to rain, a warm, summer solstice rain.

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Filed under 52 in 52, 52 stories in 52 weeks, creativity, projects, storytelling

Ray Bradbury: 52 Stories in 52 Weeks – My Project for 2014

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For 2014 I’m going to attempt to do the Ray Bradbury 52 short stories in 52 weeks writing hygiene exercise. It’s an idea that he brought up in a lecture, I’ve included a link below:

I started the video at the 2 minute 40 second mark, but if you have about an hour to watch the whole video it is worth it.

I’ve had a few ideas buzzing around in my head and they just haven’t found a way to get out. I think that the structure and discipline that this exercise will require will be a good way to at least get these things down on paper.

I don’t know if I’ll post them. I may decide that on a case by case basis, but I’m excited enough that I wanted to talk about it here.

Sometimes being creative takes a back seat to the things that we do to survive. If we’re very lucky, sometimes what we like to do creatively will end up earning us a living but more often than that we end up using our creative skills to help bring someone else’s creative vision to life. There’s nothing wrong with that, in fact  in many cases that’s how we get good at what we do, but eventually there comes a time when you have something that you want to make from your mind and then it’s up to you to find a way to get that idea out into the world. Given that I do not have hundreds of millions of dollars on hand and that I could use a lot of writing practice I have selected this exercise.

Apparently I’m not alone either, doing a simple Google search shows that there are Facebook pages and websites dedicated to the Ray Bradbury 52 Stories in 52 Weeks Challenge! I will probably not join up with any of these groups, but it was neat to see this idea has taken off.

I’ll be starting in January, although I have started keeping track of writing prompts so I have some ideas to pull from.

What do you think? Is this kind of challenge for you? Let me know in the comments.

See you next time!

P.S. If you want to get any of Ray Bradbury’s excellent books why not try Amazon? And if you want those books quicker, and access to the movies and TV shows available with Amazon Prime check out the free trial link below.

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Filed under 52 stories in 52 weeks, creativity, doing new things, new projects, projects, Ray Bradbury, storytelling, writing

Fun Video Friday – A Relationship in 5 Minutes by Restless Short Films

I was introduced to this video by The Philip DeFranco Show on YouTube. It is a well made clip about dating.

I think that this is a great example of good storytelling that doesn’t require any fancy effects or even any sets, just two good actors telling us something that we can relate too.

See you next time!

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Filed under fun video friday, storytelling, video, YouTube