Hellstar Reminism

So I got a philosophy for the end of the world inspired by a Junji Ito comic, Hellstar Remina, in some translations just the less fun Remina.  I’ve still never read the comic in English, so it’s based on my visual read of the story.  I’ll soon check out the translation to see what I’ve missed.  At that time, this idea may face some revision.  By the way, all of the spoilers for Hellstar Remina now, because it’s necessary to explaining the moral lesson I take from it.

Like a number of Junji Ito’s horror manga, Hellstar Remina depicts an apocalypse.  The planet Earth and most of its inhabitants don’t get through the story alive.  But this one was especially interesting to me because it shows different ways to respond to a species-level existential threat.  As a storyteller, Ito has long held an interesting tension between humanism and misanthropy – something shared with filmmaker Kiyoshi Kurosawa.  I wonder if this is just an attitude some dark-minded Japanese folks have and a known thing there, or if it’s just something anybody in the world might develop at random.

Basically, the way humans can be quite horrible is displayed unvarnished, or even exaggerated, but compassion and sometimes progressive values come through in other characters within the same story.  This isn’t always as simple as good guys over here, bad guys over there.  People start good, go bad, come back, do it again.  Usually you understand why the bad do what they do – see them as human, even when they end up as literal monsters.  Hard to describe, not always the same.  This might be getting off topic, because good and evil are a little more straightforward in this story than the extended canon of Tomie or Uzumaki.  Whatever, moving on…

The plot.  A scientist announces the discovery of a very abnormal new star in the night sky, with his daughter at the press conference.  I believe he named the star after her, causing an association in the public imagination between the girl and the star.  But pretty quickly, the star is revealed to be a possible threat to the Earth – heading toward it at incredible speed.  Is it a star?  Meanwhile, this doesn’t seem to be public knowledge yet, and Remina the girl has developed a fan club.  In particular she has three suitors.  One is a rich kid that shows her to his cool expensive fallout shelter.  But they seem to do a passable job of not monopolizing her affections yet.

The threat of the hellstar becomes apparent to the public and civic unrest menaces the scientist and his daughter.  Her fan club saves her, for the moment, but she’s separated from her father.  When the star slows down to stick out a giant tongue and gobble up another planet in the solar system, the people of the world go bonkers and come for girl Remina’s blood.  They kill the a couple of fan club guys and torture her for a bit.  Her father is killed.

The fanboys help her escape but they fall to infighting.  Seems they got a touch of the same craze as the rest of the world.  One of them has the sense of self to feel ashamed and leaves, but he didn’t have the presence of mind to realize that he left her undefended with the worse guy.  (He shows up later as just another murderer.)  Worse guy is the rich kid, and he hauls her back to the fancy shelter.  He tries to force himself on her, but his parents object.  They just want her dead like the rest of the world.  Mom slaps her around, then the fam drag her out to the crowd.

The story splits here between rich family and Remina.  Rich family theorizes that if they go to live on the Hellstar like fleas, it won’t notice them and destroy them like the rest of the world, so they pack up in a rocket ship and skate.  Back on earth, girl Remina is taken by the people of Earth, who have united in a massive doomsday cult, led by KKK-lookin’ creeps with torches.  She escapes them briefly, running into a solitary homeless man who has no idea what’s going on.  The two of them are tied to either side of the same cross that carries the burned remains of her father.

In space, the rich family set foot on the Hellstar and transform into melty piles of twisted bullshit.  HS Remina opens a second eyeball and licks the Earth.  This causes gravity to go haywire.  The cultists had set a pyre beneath girl Remina’s cross, but the cross gets lifted away.  A cultist cuts Remina loose to abscond with her.  The gravity of the Hellstar and Earth are dueling, which has people able to leap around like they have super strength.  Don’t get at me on the physics of this.  The cultist grabs Remina by the legs and smashes her against the sides of a broken building, like trying to dust a rug.

But he cut the homeless guy loose when he snatched Remina, and that guy comes to save her with roundhouse kicks and such.  Together they flee the cultists.  But as they’ve gotten used to the crazy light gravity, so have the cultists, and now they are being chased by what seems like everybody in the world, all crying for her blood in different languages, wielding any weapon they can find.  They’re flying through the air in a massive swarm.

Gravity shifts again.  The homeless guy and Remina seem to luck out, while the rest of humanity is dashed to the ground, creating an ocean of blood.  Girl Remina blacks out and wakes up in the fancy shelter.  The homeless guy and a few random non-murderer kids found their way into the shelter, and as Hellstar Remina devoured the earth, somehow the shelter was one of the crumbs that broke free to hurtle lonesome through space.  People are surprisingly celebratory about this.

Why are they happy?  They got away from however many billion murderers, and a planet that was just munched like popcorn.  But the room surely doesn’t have the resources to sustain their lives forever.  They’re surely going to die.  And that could well be all of us.  The story ends there.  What do you take from that?

I say, if everybody in the world is doing bad shit, be the one person who isn’t.  If we’re all gonna die, be kind to the people you are with, right to the end.  Ruin is living for hate, the only goodness possible in life is what we make by being kind in the ways we can, in the time we have.  Something like that.  Hellstar Reminism.

One could easily take different lessons from the story, perhaps worse ones.  And maybe there are explicit textual things I cannot understand from reading the comic book by image alone.  I’ll find out soon enough, which is why I’m spelling out this philosophy now before it gets altered by improved understanding of the source.  So there you go.

How Horror Fiction Has Fallen

So no bites on reading the stories I’ve posted lately, alright.  There could be a variety of reasons for that and not much point speculating and self doubting, but it did put me in mind of cultural shift that happened in my lifetime.  Horror fiction rose to become a giant market in the eighties, then collapsed so utterly there is no longer a horror section in most book stores.

I sometimes encounter this with people I know.  I say, hey, check out this thing over here.  And they say they aren’t into horror.  This makes me wonder what’s different, between now and the ’80s.  Because right now we really are living the cyberpunk dystopia the ’80s predicted, a world of trash and fire and capitalism ripping through everything left that’s good in the world, politics so removed from reality that every apocalyptic thing that happens is just so many data points in the botox’d heads.  Even nuclear holocausts are back on the table of possibilities.  This is the ’80s on speed.  Where’s the interest in horror?

The ascendance of horror back then is often attributed to the dark undertones of the plastic pop universe, but other causes are possible.  The relatively uncensored images of the Vietnam War stained a lot of minds, and our equivalent wars were heavily, heavily filtered.  Desert Storm is a video game and a theme song in a lot of minds.  You could find images of graphic violence from that time if you searched for them, but you would not see them on the evening news.  The military industrial complex learned its lesson, and the reward was a US public very willing to go to war after that point.

There may be other demographic and market factors.  Westerns and other manly genres had a big collapse, almost like men just stopped reading anything?  That’s certainly the case now.  The vast majority of readers are women.  By that theory, it’s like men stopped reading until horror briefly lured them back in, then they fell off again in the late nineties – right as video games became so dominant in boy culture.

One person in my household read horror in the ’80s, but does not now.  She gives a reason which is just counterfactual – that the books got more cruel or violent over time.  She read Stephen King when he was relatively new, and talks like his later work was more violent?  Dude was as skeevy and creepy as anything from day one.  I think this lady’s just one of the blithe readers that somehow didn’t process the pedo content in It.  So I interrogated her a bit more and it seems she just read less of it for a while and lost her tolerance for it.  But why?

Within my own life, I couldn’t handle certain extremes of horror movies for much of my young adulthood, until I rounded some kind of corner on it.  Then I was watching Hellraiser and Dawn of the Dead and Texas Chainsaw Massacre and all that.  But another change came along.  Inspired by Takashi Miike, Eli Roth kicked up the transgressive factor in horror a lot, and I had to draw a line of my own.  I’m not that hardcore.  This mirrors my bf’s mom’s idea about what happened in her own life – “I didn’t change, the horror did” – but I think people can see the difference between The Grudge and The Human Centipede.  Amirite?

But horror literature is a whole other kettle of fish.  Unless your imagination is superb, you aren’t seeing things the way you do on film.  I could read much more violent content in books than I could handle on screen.  I can write horror worse than I’d ever want to see, and it doesn’t bother me.  It’s all entertainment, diversion, spooky fun times.  A spine tingler.

Why are so many people utterly uninterested in horror?  I had a kind of lousy friend who wouldn’t check out me or my bf’s stuff when it was just gothy, not actually involving any horror whatsoever.  Weenies.  Seems like 99% of all reading that happened 2000-2005 was the terf’s kiddie books, and the people who grew up on that never wanted anything substantially different from it.  Or maybe I’m just being a hater.  I don’t know.

This is mainly looking at fiction for adults.  There actually is a lot of horror content now – short fiction, tons of video games, especially in indie spaces – but booksellers don’t want to touch it.  And on a possibly unrelated note, I run into a lot of massive weenies.  Hi weenies.  I’m sure you’re lovely people and make the world a brighter place in your own ways.  Just wish I met more non-weenies sometimes.

Don’t Like Me? How About This Guy?

No comments on my entries to the first edition of The Midnight Collection, OK.  I wasn’t going to do this originally, but I’m posting what I consider to be the best story from the book.  Written by Joseph Kelly (not me or my ‘nyms), it compares favorably to Clive Barker.  Check it out.  My post here is just going to have the start of the story with a link to where you can finish reading it on The Midnight Collection’s website.  If you love or hate this story, or love expressing your opinion even when that is “meh,” leave a comment either here or there…


Joseph Kelly

Content Warnings:  Loss of Autonomy, Quasi-erotic Horror, Messiness, Mutilation, Murder, Mild Ableist Language.

He dreamt of cutting a body to pieces.  Like a butcher breaking up a pig carcass: this part for chops, that part for bacon.  An awful dream, repulsive.  Not just gross, but he was more disturbed by how he’d behaved in the nightmare: passive, apathetic, annoyed at the chore.  His stomach churned when he woke, sitting up in the rental cabin’s bed.  Sick.  What the hell was wrong with his brain?  He didn’t even enjoy watching horror movies, let alone that gore shit.  And he wasn’t prepping a Thanksgiving turkey recently or anything; he’d been vegetarian since junior high, save the occasional accident.

He fumbled around the cabin, knocking his hip into the cluttered furniture.  Cute place though.  Cozy.  Six days remaining, pre-paid, but he still felt the money draining minute-to-minute.  At least he’d gotten up early, after leaving the bedroom curtains open so the sun could wake him.  The kind host had made good use of the cleaning fees: the carpets shampooed, the upholstery Febreze’d.  Even left a stack of board games and puzzles by the sofa.  But who’d drive two hours into the countryside to assemble a thousand-piece patchwork of kitten parts?  That wasn’t what he was here for.  His eyes wandered to the easel set up in the living room.  It waited with a blank canvas pre-toned in rusty burnt sienna, ready to receive his vision.  Not yet, not yet.  The mantra of his life.  Morning light streamed through the sliding glass door: a white overcast sky, warmth already hanging in the air.  Gonna be a real scorcher, he thought in his dad’s voice.

He broke out the loaf of bread he’d packed, made a PBJ with the complimentary jelly packets the host had left on the kitchenette counter.  A salad bowl-full, so deep he could bury his hand like he was fishing around in a trick or treat basket.  How much did they think he needed?  The Jelly-du-Jour was classic grape, squirted over his sandwich with a humorous squelch.  It’d be good to get outside early before locking himself indoors with the A/C blasting.  He took his breakfast out to the patio table to admire the view.  That’s what you paid for, the pics that enticed you to impulse-book a week.  A pond with croaking frogs, a patch of dense forest.  No neighbors to rev lawnmowers or kids tearing around on dirt bikes.  The sandwich gummed up his mouth, and he choked it down with a glass of tap water.  The modern monk, fueling himself for a day of illuminating manuscripts.  More like daubing around paint for twenty minutes then wiping it all off.  But you could hope.

He stood, stuffing the bread crust into his pocket.  Almost tossed it in the pond, but that’d give the ducks a stomach ache as bad as his own.  A nature walk sounded nice.  Clear his mind, be a chance to think.  He’d follow that rasping bird call, see what little weirdo was making it.  He set out, passing the pond, the frogs sleeping off last night’s concert.  The woods were cooler, made him glad he bothered with the flannel shirt.  He hiked over lumpy ground, still achy and groggy from poor sleep.  Chopping up a body, for fuck’s sake.  Sawing at an ankle, dead foot clammy under his palm.  Passive, emotionless.  He shuddered, shaking his head to knock the thought free.

Leaves rustled, branches creaked, and that distant bird-call rang out.  Squeaky, manic laughter: more birds chattering over each other, having a little shindig.  A streak of scarlet flitted through the boughs, a latecomer to the party.  Weep-weep, one of them bleated like a depressed dog toy.  He followed, taking a deep breath of fresh air.  A woody scent, that Christmas smell.  Expensive turpentine, not the cheap turps he bulked out his brush washer with.  He leaned against a trunk, closing his eyes to feel the peace.  Turning into a real Bob Ross out there, just needed a squirrel in his pocket.  Bob probably never got much into abstract expressionism though.

A tapping sound emerged—tonk-tonk-tonk, like tiny wooden mallets.  Woodpeckers?  Pockmarks studded nearby trunks, holes seeping gooey sap.  Looked like they’d been mowed down by gnomes with tommy guns.  There—more red, a riot of woodpeckers swarming an old stump.  Ten of them maybe, all crowding in.  He watched them and laughed.  Too bad he left his phone on the nightstand; Dad would love this.  But you couldn’t pack that shit around if you really wanted to unplug.  The birds went to town on that stump, hammering away, cramming their beaks into the gnarled wood and gulping tree blood.  A new scent—something sweet, maybe whatever got those little guys so amped up.  Apples… baked apples, fresh out of the oven.  And an animal musk, like a fox marked its territory.  Wasn’t the birds.  Birds didn’t smell, did they?  They were so absorbed in their meal, you could reach out and grab one.  He crept forward.  How close would they let him get?  Closer, though he couldn’t move like a ninja.  Leaves crunched under his boot, but the birds didn’t flinch.  Another woodpecker arrived, fighting for space at the buffet.  The bird it displaced squawked and waggled its long, creepy tongue.

He was right on them, ready to live that childhood dream of sneaking up and petting a seagull.  Did he dare?  He reached for one, its back turned.  Close enough to see the stark mosaic of its wings, the crimson head, total Woody Woodpecker style.  Inches away, his hand poised, wavering.  He went for it, biting back a smile.  The bird’s feathers were silky smooth, its skin warm beneath.  Man, what Snow White shit was this?  He stifled a childish giggle.  Another one, feathery soft.  It vibrated, boring a hole into the wood.  The scent—stronger now—apple cinnamon Pop-Tart, like when he was a kid.  They didn’t even make those anymore.

A flow of sap trickled down the knotted bark.  The stump stood hip-height, roughly torn, the wood crackled and grey.  A dead tree, rotted apart.  Why was it dripping sap then?  Had to be something alive in there.  He reached for a rivulet, and a bird shrieked and flapped at him.  He jerked back, not wanting a hole in his painting hand.  The animal smell grew stronger, like sweat?  Fresh sweat, not rank B.O.  Apples and sweat, a little vanilla.

A ray of sunlight peeked through the canopy, lighting the sap a brilliant crimson, candy-red.  His stomach ache vanished, and now he only wanted a taste of that stuff.  The woodpeckers wouldn’t clear space, crowding every inch.  An impulse struck him, tingling down his arms.  He lunged forward, kicked the stump, waved his hands and shouted.  But why?  What an asshole move, scaring off some creatures enjoying their breakfast.  They stayed rooted longer than he expected, but flapped off in time, trilling and screeching.

All for him now.  He knelt, eyes tracing over the twisted wood.  This was what got them so hot and bothered?  A pool of the sap glistened translucent scarlet, and he dipped his finger in.  He thought it’d feel like stand oil—sticky as honey.  But it was slick, and he dove to lick it off before it dripped down his shirt cuff.  You’d imagine maple syrup, the expensive stuff, but it wasn’t sweet really, almost savory.  Apples cooked in salted butter?  The taste changed in his mouth, even with one drop.  Apples, to a salty, musky taste on the afterburn.  He dipped into the pool again.  Wouldn’t drown your pancakes with it, but there was something compelling there.  He sucked on his fingers, rolling his eyes around like an amateur sommelier, considering the flavor.  No, it was sweet now, more cinnamon sugar.  He took another sample, laughing: pretty Winnie the Pooh of him.  He had to pull himself away, wipe his hand off on his pant leg.  Maybe he’d find a jar and get a souvenir to take home.

Back to the cabin, and the color of that sap stuck in his mind.  It’d look good on the sienna.  Just add some black and white streaks like those crazy birds.  He slid onto the stool, picturing the composition already.  Yeah, a dark rectangular frame, then red in concentric circles.  The colors were barely on the palette before he was laying them on the canvas.  He worked steadily, only stopping to switch brushes, dab more medium.  Didn’t even need music to get in the zone.  He stretched back, and sweat trickled down his spine.  Christ— he was still in his flannel, and the sun was blasting through the window.  The thermostat read 89F.

He tore off his shirt, set the A/C to full bore.  No way it was that hot already at…  The wall clock read ten till noon.  Hours had passed like nothing.  He stuck his head under the kitchen faucet and let cold water run down his neck.  Felt great with the A/C rushing on his wet skin, but how’d he let it get this bad?  Was the work really so absorbing?  He turned back to the easel, staring in amazement.  Halfway done, maybe more.  Remarkable headway for a canvas that size.  Looking sharp too, that black, white, and red so striking with the sienna peeking through.

He slumped onto the leather sofa, eyes drawn to the painting, itching to return to it.  How long had it been since he was this focused?  The next move was obvious: get the palette knife in there and make some vertical streaks like the birds’ feathers.  He forced himself to choke down another PBJ before returning to work.  Nobody back home would’ve dreamed he’d make good on his talk of getting away and finally finishing something.  Probably thought he’d be jacking off 24/7 and crying about the Wi-Fi.  But it didn’t matter what they thought.  This was what he paid for, what he took time off for.

The day drained by, and he was still focused enough to swap that finished canvas for another.  Cobalt and Hansa yellow now, in overlapping triangles like the gleams in the starlit sky outside the window.  Night already!  The frogs had been singing for hours, and his back screamed at him for spending all day on that awful stool.  He hobbled to the living room couch and refueled himself with a bag of gummy worms.  Gelatin wasn’t vegetarian, but they were sitting on the counter and he couldn’t be fucked to make another PBJ.  Sorry horses, or whoever’s bones got boiled.  He looked back at his work, shaking his head.  Now this canvas was almost done too.  Crazy, absolutely crazy.  The creative bug got him again, like the old days of studio all-nighters, only stopping when campus security came around to kick him out.  Maybe it was as simple as getting out of the house.

The painting still called to him, but he’d be crippled tomorrow if he didn’t rest his spine.  He scraped layers of paint from his forearms and flopped on the stiff bed, mind buzzing.  Corny decorations clustered the room: wooden unicorn, a framed bible quote.  That lame print of a pink sailboat on a purple ocean—you could do something with those pastel colors.  Break out the silver paint and palette knife, scrape it on thick for texture.  Let some black streak through: the shadows beneath those mellow waves.  Exhaustion overtook him, and his plans interspersed with dreams.

Carving pumpkins at the kitchen table, scooping out their slimy guts, seeds raining on the newspaper Dad had laid out.  Smelled like sour tomatoes, but he’d imagined pumpkin pie or Mom’s nice autumn candles.  Back in the old house, but he wasn’t a kid.  Orange goo clung to his hands, strings of slime hanging down.  The dream changed and Dad became someone else, watching him with an unkind presence.  Maybe Kyle; he didn’t get it.  Ab-ex is for boomers, he’d say as a joke.  That’s art, huh?  Splashing paint around like a 1950s alcoholic?  Rothko wanted to do realism.  Kind of sad, yeah?  And then he couldn’t change.  Everyone wants color fields forever.  What if you got stuck that way?  Couldn’t make anything real, just blobs until you die.

Wasn’t Kyle though, with his lip-ring accenting that permanent smirk.  It was a stranger.  How’d they get in the cabin?  The doors were locked.  No one should be there.  Yet, there they sat in the old IKEA chair, just out of sight, just on his periphery.  Their presence was overwhelming, vibrating, like fingers working into the whorls of his brain.

A song—he didn’t recognize it, but it fluttered in and out on a fuzzy connection, playing on a decrepit, tinny speaker—Got to get to you, baby—the pumpkin vanished, the table vanished—Honey, come set me free—nothing in the dining room but a face it hurt to look at, like peering at the sun…


Or purchase the whole Midnight Collection e-book through Ko-fi or Amazon.  A physical copy in paperback is available through Lulu.  You may be able to purchase it through other sites soon, but it’s nice to not give Bezuggs a cut, and purchase on Lulu gives more money to the cause.  And lastly, you can just read the collection for free at the Collection’s website.

Fiction by Me: Supply Chain Banditos

Alright you busters, time for my last post about the first issue of The Midnight Collection.  Nobody has seemed much interested, but this story is my personal best.  Didn’t like the last two?  Give this a spin.  My post here is just going to have the start of the story with a link to where you can finish reading it on The Midnight Collection’s website.  If you love or hate my story, or love expressing your opinion even when that is “meh,” leave a comment either here or there…


Bébé Mélange

Content Warnings:  Capitalism, COVID-19, Poverty, Gun Violence, Murder, Robbery.

My name’s Diana and the first time I thought about this kind of thing, I was, like, twelve years old?  This had to be about 2020.  Covid was new, and it was weird vibes.  The “boomer remover” joke was funny, but it didn’t matter, you would catch serious nerves off the grown-ups.  They were bouncing from one freak-out to the next one, like whatchacallem, bumper cars?

My family had an apartment and you know, it had a lot of mildew.  Is it mold or mildew?  It was probably bad for us, but you don’t smell it unless you leave the house and come back to it.  I didn’t have a bed.  I was sleeping in the living room, on the couch.  Well, I don’t really remember sleeping because the lights, and sometimes people would come in and play TV or video games, and I’d be in and out of sleep so much.  But when you’re a child, that’s OK.  You’re good at it.

I remember the room was pretty small; even small as I was, it looked small.  But when you’re all sunk in the couch cushions and close to the ground, you can imagine it’s bigger.  The carpet was light brown like desert sand—dirty too—so I dreamed it was a big desert.  The biggest thing in front of me was one of those wall TVs nobody put on the wall, sitting on cinder blocks with all the wires and video games around the bottom.  In my dreams, that was a big old rock like the ones they have in the Southwest.

The gamer chair and bean bag would be smaller rocks, and the junk like shoes and grocery bags would be little boulders.  Littler stuff like socks and tiny bits of paper and crumbs of dry food that get in the carpet.  Well, you know…

The sky was blue where the TV touched, mixed rainbow from the LED string stuck on the back of it.  That was like the day and the night sky all together, over my little desert.  Tiny people, sometimes tiny me, we’d be out in that desert—going here or there.  It didn’t mean anything.

Anyway, my mom’s boyfriend Peter woke me up that night, cussing softly in the kitchen.  He made a little noise, then came out to sit in the gamer chair—one of those rocking things with no legs that sit right on the ground.

He remembered I was there and turned the chair halfway to see me.  “I’m sorry, girl.  You wanna watch me play GTA?  Have something to eat?”

“No,” I said.  “I mean, I’ll be OK.  I can see from here if I want to.  Go ahead.”

He sighed and grumbled again.

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

“I don’t have my burritos.”

He was talking about those cheap microwave burritos.  I should have known he was mad that he didn’t have those, because I didn’t smell them.  They smell like cat poop, so much that my mom would think the cat farted, before Peter came out with two burritos on a paper plate.

“Did Mom forget to buy them?” I asked.

“Naw, baby.  It was the supply chain.”  He emphasized it, like it was real significant—a revelation.

I was interested, but still kinda dreaming about my desert.  “What’s the supply chain?”

“I shouldn’t tell you about it.  It’s grown-up stuff.  Scary stuff.  Covid stuff.”

“You have to tell me now.”

He told me about how the pandemic was making it so we run out of random things, because truck drivers got sick, and there weren’t enough cops to stop thieves.  Last time him and my mom went for groceries, they didn’t have his cat poop burritos, or sour cream, or trash bags.  If it kept up, he said, there’d be nothing left.

“What happens when there’s nothing left?” I asked.

“Total anarchy, like some Mad Max-type shit.”

“Oh.  Like GTA.”

“Oh yeah.”  He didn’t think about the game he was playing, how it was like he said.  You steal stuff and the cops can’t stop you.

He finished his baloney sandwich on the loading screen for San Andreas, with all the cool tattooed cartoon people, and I went back to dreaming under the TV-colored sky.

The bean bag would be the place where the bandits would strike.  I think in my dream it was like, a little bit Wild West, a little bit Grand Theft Auto.  The target was a big rig with wagon wheels, sticking to the trail behind Gamer Chair Rock—for the moment.  The bandits waited by Bean Bag Rock, loading their pistols one bullet at a time.

So that’s why I was thinking about it when I was only twelve.  Peter was a Samoan guy, very Christian, but maybe he didn’t always say the right thing to children?  It was probably fine.  I was fine.

There was a ridge on Bean Bag Rock where the banditos sat in a little row.  They had the high ground, and they were going to shoot up the truck from there.  Bean Bag Rock was in the shadow between blue day and the night of rainbow constellations, so the men could not be seen.  They were something drab and gray, between all the colors.

Why did I say men?  Of course, any kind of people can be bandits.  But when you’re a kid, you don’t know everything, so in my mind they were all men.  They were in sombreros, vests, and chaps.  One of them was real pretty, like Lil Nas X.  They were tiny so he would be lil Lil…  I’m sorry.

Anyway, the big rig wagon was chugging along, headed their way.  I figured there would be a guy on the passenger side with a shotgun.  Peter told me that’s why it’s called shotgun.

I didn’t want Lil Nas to get hit with a shotgun, because it can blow your whole head up.  That’s just gross.  So the bandits had to be smart.  The top of the truck was not bulletproof, and shooting downward with pistols has more range than shooting upward with a shotgun.  They just had to shoot when the truck was close, but not gone by yet, because you couldn’t get bullets through the back part of the cab as easy.  It’s heavy there, full of truck parts?  And the trailer is right there too.

Lil Nas held up a hand.  His arm was bare, but he had a cool pink glove with embroidered black patterns and two tassels.  He waved for the guys to get ready, and they all pointed their guns at the truck.  Some had pistols, like those big long ones you see in old western movies.  A few of them had rifles, with that part you cock to put out the shell and load another one?  Very cool.

It’s sad that the wagon driver and the shotgun man had to die.  But you can’t think about stuff like that, or you’ll never get your cat poop burritos and trash bags.  Or anything.  That’s what it all comes back to, in the end.  We all need to eat, but there isn’t enough stuff for everybody, so somebody has to lose…


Or purchase the whole Midnight Collection e-book through Ko-fi or Amazon.  A physical copy in paperback is available through Lulu.  You may be able to purchase it through other sites soon, but it’s nice to not give Bezuggs a cut, and purchase on Lulu gives more money to the cause.  And lastly, you can just read the collection for free at the Collection’s website.

Fiction by Me: Locusts

Curious to see people’s opinions about my own contributions to The Midnight Collection, I’m going to post them here, one at a time.  My posts are just going to have the start of the story with a link to where you can finish reading it on The Midnight Collection’s website.  If you love or hate my story, or love expressing your opinion even when that is “meh,” leave a comment either here or there.  My stories are quite different from each other, so if you hate this one, maybe the previous or the next will be more to your liking.  This one is a horror scifi poem…



Bébé Mélange

Content Warnings:  Classism, Capitalism, Loss of Body Autonomy,
Disordered Eating, Feces, Harm to People and Animals, Crowds

At the mouth of the bay,
A whole shipyard bent all of its powers
To accommodate one job—the last of its kind.
A megayacht of ungodly proportions—a floating city to raze,
Or rather, dismantle with environmental consciousness.
Gone were the times of conspicuous consumption
And of monuments to individual avarice,
And so the megayacht would die.

The grandfather brought his whole family—
Son and daughter-in-law and grandchildren as well.
He brought them to bear witness to the end of an era
But they laughed in his face, laughed at his emotion.
Bitter tears flowed until his eyes ran dry,
And a time later, they flowed again.

The yacht had a flexible hull in three parts.
It was to flex with the waves of an ocean in full fury.
Those hull sections would be the last part dismantled,
Until that time, holding up the savages that crawled inside
So many termites taking apart a thing of true beauty.
This was the end of opulence, of nobility,
But the noble family could not see.

The grandfather sought their hearts one by one.
“Father,” said his son, “You still have your mansions on land.”
“Why do you need one at sea?” asked his daughter-in-law.
“You just don’t get it,” he cried and tried again.
At last, he came to be understood.
His grandson felt his sorrow.

They watched and wept.
The termites did their work, taking it all apart—
Furnishings first, then electronics and hardware.
Walls and decks came out at the same time as pipes and wires.
The fuel was drained with the greatest care of all.
As the hulls were at last carved apart,
They held hands and moaned.

That grandson understood the beauty lost.
As he grew into a man, he came to understand why.
Society had nearly been destroyed by endless consumption.
The world still burned from the aftermath of those fires.
Months of the year were spent indoors and cooled,
And the people blamed his class.
They blamed billionaires.

But it needn’t have been so!
The technology existed that such opulence
Would not need to run on fossil fuels and waste.
If they’d just stayed their revolution a few more years,
Solar and wind and nuclear castles could have
Been raised to honor the aristocracy,
And the world would still live.
What was needed was need.

The grandson knew that the engine of capital was need—
Not the natural needs of humanity, though hunger did help.
It was the needs that capitalists created by advertising.
That’s why advertising was strictly regulated
In the wake of their filthy revolution.
But the grandson did not need it.

He plied scientists with his wealth,
Schemed to stimulate need through other means.
All that was required was a subtle push—so slight a thing.
Make people feel reckless greed, reawaken their true nature.
Insects provided the model—socially communicating hunger.
They would find what made the locusts swarm,
They would instill just a drop in humanity,
And opulence could be reborn.

Amador was a repairist in the city.
People like him kept the electronics running.
When they did their job well, they didn’t have much work to do
And as the indoor season approached, Amador was done.
He was ready to fold up shop and relax in the cool.
Gold screens coated every window around him,
Protecting from the spring sun, gleaming.

But it was spring, and love called.
Amador’s affections fell on a barista—
A young man named David—but could the love be returned?
Did David prefer women? Or simply avoid customers?
Either would leave Amador cold, even as
The heat of the world began to boil.

One day, he saw David’s keychain—
A rainbow flag in resin and cheap metal.
Amador had put in the work to get familiar,
At least as much as was appropriate for a customer.
All that held him back at that point was the pain of rejection.
It was not an inconsiderable thing—but it would be brief.
Get it over with, like taking a shot in the arm.
But still… maybe tomorrow.

High above the coffee shop
The scientists had labored for years.
Their works were astonishing, unnatural:
A monkey that could eat its weight in minutes,
Mice that could leap over a desk if unrestrained.

The mammals subjected to these treatments had
Some qualities of the insects that infused them—
Yellow flesh and red eyes—for so long
As the effects did linger.

That was key—the effects should be subtle.
The final delivery to the people below must go unnoticed—
Something invisible in the air and the people go a little mad,
To want more than they need—and to need what they want.
They could make the effects fierce and short lived
Or subtle and longer lasting, but not perfectly,
And not predictably.

The grandson was convinced, though.
It was time, whatever over-cautious scientists felt.
The delivery mechanism was built into the HVAC system.
His engineers had been deceived about the purpose.
The substance would be dispersed from one room—
An untraceable concentration, so very low.
His ambition would be achieved.

“Release the chemical, Dr. Mercado.”
“I cannot. This could be a disaster beyond imagining.”
“Release the fucking chemical.” He tried threat and reward.
Dr. Mercado gave in, and the grandson’s excitement grew.
They sealed the room and activated the release remotely.
The concentration within the room would be deadly,
But if all worked as designed, no one would die.
The people of the city would be the first
Of a new world of consumers.

The grandson and Dr. Mercado felt it.
A vibration began in their limbs, their hearts raced.
They looked down at twitching fingers turning yellow.
A few stray molecules of the substance must have escaped,
But the chemical was triggered by proximity to others.
They scrambled away from each other and
The grandson locked his office door.

A high power venting system roared to life.
The release room evacuated its atmosphere through vents.
The substance blew across the city unseen.



Or purchase the whole Midnight Collection e-book through Ko-fi or Amazon.  A physical copy in paperback is available through Lulu.  You may be able to purchase it through other sites soon, but it’s nice to not give Bezuggs a cut, and purchase on Lulu gives more money to the cause.  And lastly, you can just read the collection for free at the Collection’s website.

Remember This? Or Am I Losing It?

I seem to have constructed a memory from whole cloth.  The internet is not backing me up on this, so it has to have been my imagination.  But it’s so specific.  This isn’t something like KinderTrauma, where it’s an old TV show I dimly remember being exposed to at the age of five.  This is something that should show up on atheist sites, and their opposition.  Something in our domain.

I remembered creationists editing Archaeopteryx into an edition of the bible.  Like there was a list of birds, there was one with an uncertain modern translation, and they just slipped it in there next to hoopoes and thrushes or something.  I even remember having seen one of these bibles, dimly.  But I can’t find jack shit about this on the internet.

Am I losing it?  Discuss my inadequacies in the comments.

Fiction by Me: Four

When posting about The Midnight Collection, I’ve been hoping to see people’s opinions about the collection as a whole.  But I can understand, slow times on FtB, not a lot of people ready to read a rando dark fiction collection at the drop of a hat.  Well then, at the very least, curious to see people’s opinions about my own contributions.  I’m going to post them here, one at a time.  My posts are just going to have the start of the story with a link to where you can finish reading it on The Midnight Collection’s website.  If you love or hate my story, or love expressing your opinion even when that is “meh,” leave a comment either here or there.  My stories are quite different from each other, so if you hate this one, maybe the next will be more to your liking…


Christopher Scott Shelton

Content Warnings:  War, Mutilation, Death, Vomit, Disease, Gun Violence, etc.

The valley was cold, but the soldiers had fire.

They had battled all spring and summer.  The spring rain, then the summer melt of mountain ice, had by turns rendered the plain into stinking mire, and the contribution of blood and rotting men was not insignificant.

Late summer dried the earth, late fall firmed it, and the fighting had at last thinned to nothing.

The valley was cold, but the men welcomed the firmness of the earth, the way it did not invade every inch of their clothing, bearing leeches, fleas, and maggots.

The valley was cold because the hot blood of men was no longer spilled upon it.  So great had been the summer slaughter that the barricades and trenches were fortified with bone and dried flesh as much as earth.

And yet soldiers still lived there, with fire to warm them, hiding in a pit, feeding on rats and wild birds.  The war had forgotten them, and they loved it.  They missed bread but would not dare to give voice to complaint, lest they be heard by heralds and scouts and generals, sent to where flesh was still split for territory and ideology, for monarchy and for its enemies.

They quietly ate their rats and birds and contented themselves, until the day when a hussar appeared on a shining white horse with filthy black and grey hooves, his lance low and swinging as if to spear any dogs or beggars that he should chance upon.

The hussar wore a hat like the iron-plated prow of a warship, tall and narrow.  His livery was drab green with faded silver buttons and braids layered thick as chain armor, his high boots a strange ivory suede besotted with the same grime as his steed’s hooves.  They had both walked earth more pliant than the frozen pack of the soldiers’ shelter, of their wasted battlefield.  He sneered through an orange moustache and rode by the men.  They cringed away from that lance.

“Cowards, traitors, hiding in holes.”  Was he Prussian?  Belgian?  None recognized his accent or uniform, but all sensed his authority.

“Nonesuch,” said the sergeant.   “We were ordered to hold this field, and that is what we are doing.”

The hussar pivoted his mount expertly, and it pranced past the men again.  “I suppose the war here is won, and the prize of that struggle is the peace you now enjoy?  Yet elsewhere, men still try their valor.  Elsewhere, men still suffer and die for what is right.”

“We answer to an officer of greater station within our army.  Send one to us, if it pleases you.”

At the end, the horse stamped, turning in place but not walking their line again.  Her master was stone in his saddle, unmoving despite her agitation, demonically resolute.

“Far be it from me to question their command.  If you are to hold this field, then hold it.”

The hussar spurred his steed into a jump, traversing the trench in one motion.  As he passed over the men, he split a saddle bag and something terrible splashed loose.  They quailed away, and the foul substance splattered at their feet.

He rode away, and they beheld his strange offering.  The bag had been filled with bilious vomit.  What bizarre sort of man would have such a thing?  The soldiers quickly buried it in whatever soil they could dislodge from the frozen firmament.

They had quickly buried it, yet the miasma somehow escaped that soil, tendrils creeping into men’s bodies in the night and day that followed.  None were spared.  Each in turn became vomitously ill, a few nigh unto death.

Throughout the ordeal, thoughts that had been carefully secreted away in their survivor reverie were at last given voice.  Should they try to go home?  Find another place to hide?  To truly desert, where heretofore they had merely allowed themselves to be deserted?

The sergeant saw that the first men to fall ill were soon to recover, and with bitter scorn for the mad hussar, dismissed the idea he’d pose any further risk to them.  He ordered the infantrymen to stay with him in the trench.

In truth, none were so hale as to seek an unnecessary march at that time, and they were relieved to have the decision of apathy made for them.

Anon, the hussar returned with a yet wealthier cavalier—a dragoon in deeply black wool with white silk appointments, riding a brilliantly red stallion.  The high iron pot of his helmet was lacquered black, gleaming like a river under a crescent moon, topped with an outlandish silver crest.  He was so heavily laden with swords that it would no doubt be more hindrance than help in combat—blades of every size and description—but his chief weapon was a long, heavy, and intricately carved cannon.

This dragoon spoke with a yet different foreign accent—was he Aragonese?  Alsatian?  “My brother spoke true.  There are worms here, where once warriors drew arms.  Sickening.”  He was olive skinned with oiled black moustache and blood-red lips.

The hussar replied, “I would have said no such thing.  The appearance of knavery is merely an appearance.  Their sergeant spoke of a purpose in their repose.”

“Ah yes,” said the dragoon.  “To hold the field.  Can you hold this field, sergeant?”

In his anger, the sergeant gained some courage, but not so much as to stand up, expose his body to attack.  His furious head peered from the trench like a badger backed into its burrow.

“I’ll not waste time in parlay with vagabonds in shiny suits.  To precisely which army do you belong?”

A ball tore his head apart, having passed through the shoulder of another soldier on the way to its mark.  Scraps of his face flapped in the air momentarily like a discarded orange peel, then his body slipped away.  The dragoon had fired with perfect accuracy, despite taking no effort whatsoever in aiming.  It had been truly fired from the hip.

The officer’s men all scrambled to load their fallow rifles, and end this terror before it could take them.  But the dragoon stopped them with a single hand clapped on his own great cannon.  They understood his meaning.  The weapon had two barrels, and at least one of the soldiers would die in the effort.

Fear and fatigue broke their courage, and they let their arms rest.  Nobody dared to speak—to take the place of their leader.  The soldier with the wounded shoulder frantically tried to dress it, with no aid.

The dragoon calmly reloaded his spent barrel and still the soldiers did not try the same.  “Good, good.  That is discipline.  It takes more courage to follow orders than it does to resist.  For in resistance you risk some pain, a quick death, and in following your leaders, that pain need be endured a thousandfold.”

As he spoke, the hussar removed a saber from one of the many scabbards on the dragoon’s horse, and ran the blade through the stale vomit in his slashed saddlebag.  He tossed the sword down where the soldiers could reach it, then drew another and did the same.

“I’d like each of you to take up one of my swords.  They are all quite strong and sharp, I assure you.”  They still hesitated.  “Take them up.”

He slapped his gun and the soldiers complied, each taking up a poisoned blade as soon as the hussar laid it down.

They were all so armed, emptying the dragoon’s supply.  The trench was wide enough for two men to stand abreast, and as they looked at each other, they had a good idea of what was coming next.

“Without that mouthy sergeant, you count off a nice, even number.  Face your nearest fellow and raise your guard…”


Or purchase the whole Midnight Collection e-book through Ko-fi or Amazon.  A physical copy in paperback is available through Lulu.  You may be able to purchase it through other sites soon, but it’s nice to not give Bezuggs a cut, and purchase on Lulu gives more money to the cause.  And lastly, you can just read the collection for free at the Collection’s website.

Becoming Aware of One’s Nudity

Content Warning:  Sleazy Energy, Dreamposting

I’ve been waking up with the sun around eight and then having to try to go back to sleep, or just resting an hour til my alarm goes off and hoping that counts for something.  This morning though, I was able to return to sleep.  I used the time-honored method of having a quick wank, pardon my French.  This was, I think, a mistake.  With the limited time I had left to dream, my mind went to unsavory places.

Dreams about being naked or in one’s underwear probably come from noticing, in your sleep, that you are underdressed – and then incorporating that into the plot.  Much like nightmares about your teeth falling out seem connected to noticing that you have teeth, and your dream generatin’ brain piece thinking of the most obvious thing to do with that information.  So I became aware, in my dream, that I was only wearing underwear, and I set off in search of my clothes.  At some point, I was petting or snuggling with a piglet.  # Just Dream Things.

Along the way, people seemed to either mildly rib me, or sleaze on me – saying suggestive things, or assuming I was a rent boy or something.  One of the sleazers looked like either J. Allen Brack or Aron Ra.  He wasn’t trying to get with me, but he was explaining to me how his hedonistic posse would have parties where they watch somebody playing Elden Ring on a big screen.  His favorite part was (something not actually in the game) where a three-headed monster lady with pale flesh was dying and blood pooled up between her legs in the shape of pubic hair.  I quickly moved along.

At some point I was obligated to lay down.  I may have been talking with somebody, or trying to keep my head low to avoid being seen in my underoos.  The piglet from before rolled up on me from the side.  I wasn’t initially looking its way and it started snuffling at my face.  This may have been caused by my cat IRL.

The piglet started speaking to me in a manly voice, on a grade to Werner Herzog.  It seemed to think our prior snuggling was a sexual experience, and was giving me the business about it.  “Did you enjoy it when we made love, or did it feel awkward?”  I glanced over and saw that the piglet was wearing girly lingerie, and it kept badgering me.  It was repeating the question “Did you enjoy it when we made love?” but altering the second part of the sentence, like a poem.  I suspect this part of the dream was inspired by the Nine Inch Nails cover of Queen’s Get Down Make Love, which opens with a sample from the 1962 version of The Cabinet of Caligari.

The alarm clock woke me brutally and I had to race through my morning routine as usual, then get to work.  I’m surprised I remember any of it at all.  But should I be glad?

Music Questions and Groovy Ghouls

I hope this video plays on other sites and in most countries. If you can, take in this visual and auditory information, then consult with me when you have finished your assignment.

OK, to be honest, I have nothing profound to say about this. I pick up this and that, trivial info, from random curiosities and wikipedia, but the answers are often lacking. You can never really know what it was like to be there. So I’m still left with a few questions.

The lead singer of the Mary Jane Girls was a protégé & / or collaborator with Rick James, and I think the only actual MJ Girl on the recorded track. The other girls were stand-ins for tours, promotion, image. I expect on tour they’d just lip synch at most concerts, so they didn’t even need singing skills. Probably they were dancers first. But did they sing? I know sometimes singers would try to do the whole package as performers, sometimes with tragic results (I’m thinking of a breathless sweaty Paula Abdul performance on MTV Music Awards from long ago). How singin’ were the non-recorded Mary Jane Girls?

The lead MJG was a singer first and a dancer / performer second, right? I think it’s funny to imagine she just danced how she felt and the dancing girls had to try to coordinate to that. Try to keep up girls. Probably not, but who knows?

Other random thought, why is the white girl in a skeleton costume? I do think the combination of light eyes, blonde hair, and heavy makeup evokes the doll-look possession in the first Evil Dead movie, so she’s kinda ghoulish. I know cocaine was huge in this scene, which creates a strong association between the color white and death, but surely that’s my own projection. It’s just weird that one of them had a ghoul outfit and the rest didn’t. The song does have a spoopy vibe, anyway.

Still from Evil Dead (1979)

I rather like eighties funk, though I’m no expert on it. I feel like it lost something in the transition from the seventies, like feeling and soul, and then replaced that with this cold alien drug vibe that has a different and perverse kind of appeal. What do you think?