Candyman at Guild Cinema

The original 1992 classic with the great Tony Todd, featuring a creepy Philip Glass score; a DARK ROOM HORROR co-throw! Grab your tickets now!

About this event

Dare you say his name five times? From the chilling imagination of horror master Clive Barker (Hellraiser, Nightbreed), comes Candyman – one of the greatest horror movies of the ’90s.

When grad student Helen Lyne (Virginia Madsen) begins working on a thesis about urban legends, she comes across the terrifying tale of the Candyman – a vengeful, hook-handed spirit who can be summoned by saying his name five times in the mirror. As her research leads her into the bowels of Chicago’s deprived housing projects and deeper into the Candyman’s world, Helen learns that some legends are best left well alone.

Expertly directed by British filmmaker Bernard Rose (Paperhouse) and boasting an astounding score by composer Philip Glass, Candyman ingeniously reworks Clive Barker’s original short story “The Forbidden” (originally published as part of his groundbreaking Books of Blood series) into a modern horror parable that remains as timely today as ever.

“Wonderfully playing against expectation, Candyman leaves you wondering where the story will go next, something missing in most horror movies.” – Monica Castillo, Bitch Media

“This Candyman can elicit some bona fide shivers while the picture that bears his name is high-caliber horror in its purest, most primal form.” – Michael Rechtshaffen, Hollywood Reporter

Stiffed by Elvira

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I’ve had quite a few people ask about our trip to Massachusetts last October for Salem Horror Fest. I can say for certain that it was a trip worth talking about. As a whole, the trip was an amazing opportunity. The city was beautiful and a dream to visit in October. I made several friends and built awesome relationships, both personally and for business. Dark Room Horror now has merch in two shops there, Black Veil Studio and Die With Your Boots On. We got to hang with the Murray brothers and almost met Bill Crisafi and Hogan McLaughlin. But, there was a darker side to the trip that has been casting a shadow in all the wrong ways. It’s time to address the mammoth in the tomb. As amazing as this trip was, one event soured most of our experience there… getting stiffed by Elvira. This sounds like a punch-line, and I wish it was.

Let’s start at the top. Salem Horror Fest was gracious enough to have our Blood Booth at their Haunted Harbor, free of charge. We had a large, Haunted Harbor branded backdrop and provided our merchandise and services for 2 weeks of their festival. We had the opportunity to meet and shoot with some amazing people, including Amelia Kinkade, Linea Quigley, Rachel True, Andrea Subissati, Alex West, Jason Marsden, John Kassir, and Quinn Lord. All of which came through our booth, and were genuinely marvelous people. They were all happy to come into our booth, hang out with us, bring in fans to take pictures with, and really seemed like they were there to have a good time. I can easily say that some of those days were the best that I’ve ever had working.

During our evening with John Kassir, the infamous voice of the Crypt Keeper, David and I (author of our short story, The Groaning Man) were given a mind-blowing opportunity to also be in a separate room, offering our printing services for the photo op with the Mistress of Dark, Elvira. This was not an opportunity we were planning on. The festival had hired a photographer specifically for her shoot. Needless to say, we were stoked to get to offer prints at our additional cost of $10 for a high quality 5”x7”, for those who wanted them. I sent David down the hall with the printer and I stayed set up for the panel with Mr. Kassir.

After a few sales, David was approached by Scott Marcus, Elvira’s Agent. It was at this point that he introduced his idea of not charging for prints and including them in the paid package fee to expedite the customer process in a now heavily, overcrowded room. According to David, this was taken to Kevin Lynch, the Festival Director, and he went with it. I feel it necessary to add that I was never consulted during this decision process. I would have been happy to go along with it as well, after making sure that things were set in place to make sure that my employee and I were taken care of.
As the evening went on, we naturally ran out of ink in the middle of the process. This is when I was told about what was going on in that room. As far as we had been told, there were a total of 256 people who purchased tickets to this event to have their picture taken with Elvira. After being filled in on the “deal”, with the already backed up line, I had to shut down my station to run out for more ink.
Naturally, I was stoked to have this opportunity. The slight frustration about not being consulted about a major decision like this was put to rest, knowing that we would be compensated for our efforts. We now had the potential to break even in one night. I ran out, put more money on my already hefty credit card, and got back to the event with ink for the rest of the photographs. David spent the remainder of the night, both at the hotel and at our Air BnB, printing the rest of the photos to be picked up the following day.
We had succeeded the following day in providing all of the prints that were asked of us. They were then organized and placed in the hotel lobby for people to locate and take the print that was now part of their original purchase.
After the event was dying down and business was being taken care of, Kevin, who had assured me that we would be paid according to the agreement, met with Scott Marcus and immediately became elusive. I chalked this up to his demanding schedule and felt no insecurity, due to them being so accommodating previously. After a few ignored phone calls and unanswered texts, I started to worry. I then found out that Scott Marcus had collected his money and bailed, and called the “photo thing” a rip-off, refusing to pay it. This, of course, was through the word of others who were working closely with Kevin, and not from Kevin himself.
After finally getting word back from Kevin, I received a short text that read “no contract, no deal”. To Kevin’s credit, he eventually got back to me expressing his disappointment in the way things went down and that he didn’t have the money to pay me, which wasn’t that big of a deal because I had been told that the responsibility fell on Scott Marcus and Casandra (Elvira). I then invoiced Scott for the number that we were told needed to be printed. After a couple “reminder emails” this became our conversation…

Scott Marcus (scott@elvira.com):
”Josh,

We did not order any photos. Our deal with the Salem Horror Fest was a certain amount of the photo opp, went to the photographer/printer.

You need to work this out with them.

Scott”

Me
“Hey Scott,

Thanks for getting back to me. I’ve gone through this with Salem Horror Fest. Their contract never involved prints. I’ve been told by multiple sources that a call came from you that each person who purchased a ticket would walk away with their digital image and a print, all included in their ticket price.
My business and I were not consulted in this arrangement and I only found out when we ran out of ink the first time.
I believe the bill is going to the right place. Do you have a higher-up that I can speak to about this?”

Scott Marcus:
“I am the highest person you can speak with and we never had a deal for this either written or verbal.

Scott”

It was at this point that I realized I was getting nowhere with either Kevin Lynch or Scott Marcus. I turned to anyone and everyone who was involved that night to find out where the responsibility lay for our compensation. The Guest Liaison for Salem Horror Fest, seeing how entirely fucked up this situation was getting, took the time to write out a full account of what went on from behind the doors of Salem Horror and Elvira’s agency. She sent this email to Kevin, Scott, myself and two others.
Kevin immediately responded in defense of himself, stating that the evening was far more chaotic than anybody expected and that the requested $2,560 was “an inflation of the actual value provided – especially seeing that only 221 checked in and even a smaller number was actually printed.” Also, information that had not been presented until now.
He then offered us $750 and said this would “more than cover the actual cost of goods” and ended with the statement “October is a long month for all of us, and we still have another week to go. I suggest we put this behind us and move on.”
I did not accept the $750. Based on my employee’s review of the events, as well as Salem Horror’s Guest Liaison, Scott Marcus was still responsible for the bill. I found Kevin’s response confusing, frustrating and a little insulting. Scott Marcus gave no reply.
I adjusted our invoice to reflect the 221 who checked in and re-presented it to the group, asking for Scott Marcus to fulfill his verbal agreement. I’ve yet to hear anything.
Kevin’s odd response led me to believe that more went down between him and Scott than he told me about. I’ve been left with the assumption that Scott and Kevin agreed that the burden was placed on Kevin. Again, this is only an assumption since Kevin has never actually mentioned that. It’s the only thing that makes sense to me, seeing how he jumped in the middle with such a left-field offer. This told me that Kevin was taking a side. He had every opportunity to jump in and say something like “hey man, you asked these guys to do something, be cool and pay for what you asked for.” but to my knowledge, he never took that opportunity.
I don’t feel like what I’m saying or asking is unreasonable in any way. We provided a service and deserve proper compensation. This is something that I personally feel is not cool. At Salem Horror Fest, I found myself in a position several times where all of us were taking steps to help each other out. The camaraderie that was built between the staff, a few other vendors and myself was something that I’d love to write a full blog about. I suppose camaraderie can be deceiving.
Salem Horror Fest has announced that they’re setting up for 2020. Despite the great times we had, and the amazing connections we made, we will not be attending Salem Horror Fest. I will not work with an organization that refuses to have your back or acknowledge that they messed up without throwing out excuses to let themselves off the hook. We’d found a group of people who were awesome to be around. This is a group of people and an event that I would love to support, but the way things ended left me in a deeper money pit, and very few people who I’d like to associate with.
A word of caution to those attending and getting involved with Salem Horror Fest: its a fucking brilliant idea, but I got the impression on more times than this, that they don’t have it all together yet. Yes, there is a need for grace, but as a whole, they probably won’t have your back when you need them to. Don’t put yourself in any sort of situation where you’re depending on them to back you.
This is a situation that I still wish to be resolved. Having met Casandra in passing, who seemed like a cool enough person, I can only assume that she doesn’t know anything about this situation. I would expect someone of her stature to fulfill her agreements herself or through her management. I believe Scott Marcus to be the primary issue here. He has acted unprofessionally and irresponsibly. Unless Kevin Lynch or Scott Marcus want to fill me in on the entire story, I believe that I am owed $2,210.00 for a completed service that was promised compensation.

If you feel like helping out, post the pic below and tag @Elvira @Scott Marcus @Salem Horror and us, or simply share one of our posts on Social Media.

Dark Room Horror _ Stiffed by Elvira

 

Thank you for taking the time to read this. We hope this long-overdue issue will be resolved.

Josh T. Romero
Lead Creep

Professional Weirdo

It takes a lot of time, work, and dedication to become a professional in any field. Becoming a Professional Weirdo takes something else…

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I met Jordan Jonas on Friday the 13th, in July 2018. This was my first official Blood Booth at Sister Bar. He walked in around 1 am, wearing a Local Boogeyman tee, and hair that looked like it jumped off the cover of August 89’s issue of Metal Hammer Magazine. He and his girlfriend, Tiffany, had come into the bar after what I could only assume was the end of his set with a new glam metal band, touring through Albuquerque. It was that moment that I decided it was time for a “bathroom break” and that on my way, I’d casually let them know what we had going on in the corner. To this day, that decision has proved itself fortuitous.

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Naturally, one of the first questions Jordan is regularly asked when meeting someone is “are you in a band?” It tends to come as a bit of a shock when they’re met with “No, I’m a magician.” After being taken back, the wheels turn and they arrive at Criss Angel, then it makes perfect sense to them. While I happen to know that Jordan does not take any cues from Angel, the jump is enough for most people to settle aesthetic in their own minds, and accept it enough to move on or ask for a trick.

To address the elephant in the hat, there tend to be stereotypes and prejudices against magicians. People often think they’re geeky, nerds who always have a deck of cards, a sleeve full of scarves, and a dove who’s been inside a secret pocket for far too long. They’ve come across as douchey, tricksters who try to make people feel stupid or inferior. Jordan is all of these things. Just kidding. Though he probably really does have a deck on him at all times. …jury’s still out on the dove. At the risk of saying something as simple as “Jordan is different”, he’s shown me a side of magic that I believe anyone can genuinely appreciate. He has developed a craft that I view as pure art. That, coupled with his eerie stage aesthetic, makes for one of those nights out you’ll not soon forget.

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Jordan has curated a performance, both on and off stage that leaves you with an “oh fuck!” sort of feeling, coupled with a strong desire to find an exorcist, and quickly. All of the shows I’ve been to and been apart of, make me want to drop everything I’ve ever worked towards and focus the rest of my life on sleight of hand. Though that may seem overly dramatic, I don’t know if I can refute it. He works this crafted skill into a show that I can only think of as “Rob Zombie’s, The Shining”, but with less fog.

Some things that have struck me most about Jordan Jonas are his attention to detail and a work ethic that puts me to shame. I had the opportunity to film him a little while back, and during the process, I had every intention of not going behind his back or filming too closely, so as not to capture how he pulls off the weird shit he does. Two cameramen in a small venue leave you in positions where that’s not really an option if you’d actually like to capture something dynamic. Much to my surprise, not only did I see him perform new things, I still have no idea how the hell he pulled them off. I’ve seen the footage, and from every angle, it’s flawless. Later, he told me the number of hours he’d put into every angel being accessible to his audience and the camera. This is art.

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Jordan is a phenomenal magician. And, because he doesn’t fit the stereotypes of many others in his line of work, I feel proud to be in his circle of close friends. If you have the opportunity, go see one of his shows. Make a night of it. Being the horror fan that he is, the genre makes its way onto his stage in a way that feels so natural, it’s spooky. You may leave having experienced genuine joy, but I’d still recommend having your exorcist on speed dial.

Follow Jordan Jonas for dates and booking:
Instagram @JordanJonas13
Facebook /JordanJonas13

 

josh t romero and tamara gray romero
Josh T. Romero
Lead Creep

The Tell Tale Heart with Josh T. Romero

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“TRUE! –nervous –very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad?”

My head was resting on the interior frame of a small SUV, behind the driver’s seat, parked outside an outlet mall in California. I held a book that I can say without a doubt, has influenced who I have become today. Not to say that I am mad…
I was 15 years old when I read Poe’s short story, The Tell Tale Heart. It’s a quick-paced tale of terror that begins with the confession of a cold-blooded murder. I’d read various poems from Poe earlier on, and I could have honestly called myself a fan of his work, but it was after this reading that I fell in love with the work of Edgar Allan Poe.

The Tell Tale Heart is about a man who may not be alright in the head. It’s a first-person account of a man’s descent through madness as he recounts the tale of his murder of a man he loved. Despite his deep care, the old man’s vulture eye was responsible for our lead character’s misery.
“a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees –very gradually –I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.”
All throughout the intro, our lead attempts to relieve the reader’s anxiety of his madness, yet we get the feeling that the madness existed long before he decided to rid himself of the eye forever. Poe’s crafting of this story is captivating from the opening lines. He’s at a level that many writers today aspire to. His readers are never in a dull moment.

The story of this madman falls proudly into the horror genre. One thing that makes it so terrifying, even 176 years after it was written, is that this entire account could happen today. That comfort in knowing that if this did happen, it happened a long time ago, doesn’t come out much. You could almost see this entire account being replayed in a Netflix documentary in a court or interrogation room. Looking at how mental illness is handled in the US right now, this actually hits pretty close to home.

Naturally, this particular story forces us to ask the question, what is madness? Over the years, the term “madness” has decreased in popularity, and for good reason. It was used as a blanket statement for any person with any sort of mental illness. We’ve come a long way in the fields of mental science, but I wouldn’t dare say that we’ve arrived where we need to be. Films like Psycho, Carnival of Souls, Repulsion, Silence of the Lambs, and the more recent Joker, prod at a problem with the way we regard mental illness today. Previous generations have looked at ‘madness’ as something shameful that should be locked away. Even now, there are so many of us who refuse to speak of the hell in our psyche for fear of what others might think and how they will judge. 

I know we’re dealing with fiction, but more often than not, fiction gives us a pretty solid view of what a culture is facing when it is written. What would this story look like if this man wasn’t made to fear the label of madness? How different would it have been if this one man faced his demon in the eye and communicated the grief that he held the old man responsible for? It’s hard to say because the same thing is still happening today. People aren’t getting the help that they need for fear of rejection from others, and we don’t make it that easy to get help either. Though we have made tremendous strides in the world of mental health, it’s still widely seen as its own issue, unrelated to physical health and general well-being. 

I’m tempted to admit that I’ve digressed into a topic for another write-up, but I don’t believe that I have. I believe that what makes Poe so powerful is his ability to make his readers confront a subject that they would otherwise avoid, much like horror as a whole. Mental illness, malevolence, birth defects, and the murder of a seemingly good man become conversational. In a utopian world, I would argue that horror may not exist. There would be no reason for it. In our world, the horror genre exists as a light into the shadows of the uncomfortable and the unknown. We find comfort in those shadows, knowing that we’re not alone. When we see somebody like Poe writing a story like this, we’re not the only ones who see how fucked up things can get. I think that Poe believed that this genre calls out for a response. I believe that it’s up to us to look at the issues being addressed and make our response known.

195 years ago, Edgar Allan Poe put his voice to work in a way that’s still active and relevant today. For this reason, and more to go, hail horror. Hail Poe!

 

josh t romero and tamara gray romero
Josh T. Romero
Lead Creep

THE SYSTEM OF DR. TARR AND PROF. FETHER with David Burchell

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“Believe nothing you hear, and only one-half that you see.”
Our protagonist here, whilst on a venture through the southern stretch
of France, finds himself just miles away from a personally much-lauded
location: the Maison de Sante. Private madhouse. A place flown famously
throughout the airs of the medical community due to its unorthodox
treatments, rehabilitations. The system of soothing. This system, although
still strict at its parameters, acted as a better angel for the peoples
there. Punishments were eradicated. Confinement was a rarity. And although
still watched, there was a freeness which allowed said lunatics to wander
unwaveringly, donning the wears of sane and rational.
Upon his arrival, and with the presciences given to him by his
knowledges of the system, he begins wary, at the meeting of a young, and
beautiful, woman, a pianist. Subtly, he remains wary of her, fitting her
perhaps into the camp of the insane. But, such things progress as to elude
him, as certain aspects of hers find definition and detail—and as, at the
excusing of herself, his host, the formidable and stoutly Monsieur
Maillard, quite bafflingly reassures him of her sanity. His niece, the
young lady, is a most accomplished woman. After which, our protagonist is
regaled in rigorous explanation the changes to the system, that the
patients are not to be left liberty, that, due to a bulwark or two,
confinement is very much a thing in place. Sad, but exciting, news. There
becomes talk, both of the system’s successes and failures. “There is no
argument which so touches the feeble reason of the madman as the argumentum
ad absurdum,” says his host, proudly. The line here delves psychologically
into the machinations of the mind. Said patients in particular believed
themselves truly as chickens, and thus were encouraged and affirmed to be
so, fed only the foods of the diet of the chicken, the nonsense of the
conclusion effectively negating the crotchets and beliefs. More of this
I’ll touch on later.
Preceding a tour of the institute, it is suggested a dinner be in
order, so as to ease the stomach and the mind.
And so the evening begins.
At the table, our character is faced with very many a strange thing,
watching at the gathered guests dressed up wild and weird and overtly
lavish, stared at with the burgeoning towers and excess heaps of food, and
gallons of drink. There’s a consistent wariness plaguing him, and he
wonders again if these guests are actually patients, and if he’d been lied
to, as a means to some end, perhaps to ease him in, alleviate some shock.
But as the feast makes way, he is very swiftly assuaged of such suspicions.
These are intelligent beings, witty, and eclectic, personages, important
peoples. Excusing some of the lavisher and stranger ways in which they
dress and speak, he lowers his guard, giving in gracious to the night.
But therein lies the fault.
What starts as cordial and civil conversation, regaling their guest— our protagonist—with anecdotal tales of patients past, ascendantly swirls
into a competition of sorts. Each patient story professed out louder than
the last. Each move of the belief, acted out. The clamor rises and bubbles
and settles. Howls are heard, from some other chambering of the Maison, to
do the same. Guests at the table whisper each other’s ears, halting them
from rising upon the table, from the methods of the acts. A slip of
Monsieur Maillard’s lips, as he scolds a one of his beloved guests for
acting out, perturbs our character, as she is addressed with the namesake
of the woman she spoke: a patient believed of themselves to be a hen. But,
again, as is per our protagonist’s usual, he is persuaded of his fears
otherwise, due to the respectable, and formal, nature of his host. The host
who begins to speak so direly.
He begins again vaguely, as he’d earlier, to tell our hero of the
newer system in place, the system of a Dr. Tarr and a Prof. Fether. Cutting
that short, he merges into discussion of the dangers of letting the loons

that short, he merges into discussion of the dangers of letting the loons
run free, as they are unparalleled in wit and cunning when lumped together
so freely, as they can put on airs of sanity, rationality, mindfulness. He
talks of a rebellion that occurred one sometime ago, in which the patients
surmounted the doctors, swapping places, caging the sane, and charging, and
empowering, the insane. He talks of a man they welcomed in during this, a
stupid man, to poke fun and to play and to heckle with. An unassuming
fellow. And but how would he know? What, with their fancy dress and
bountiful feast and drowning drink? What, with their intelligences? Their
stories? Their committals to the method and to the act and to the system?
He tells to him that, in his honest, honest opinion, that that newer
system, enacted by the loony man in charge, the head rebel, was a better
system than whatever older one they used: “simple—neat—no trouble at all—in
fact it was delicious it was . . .”
The lunatics break free.
Pandemonium descends from the outs and ins of the Maison de Sante.
The bands plays frenetic a feverish Yankee Doodle.
The guests and partners and members all lavish and light find finally
a freedom, breaking the methods of their acts, blowing whistles of tea and
croaking throats of frogs and spinning rounds and rounds and rounds of
teetotums.
The windows, in they break.
Monsters attack.
Tarred and feathered monsters attacking backwards their captors,
captives.
And the whole of the night fades into traumatic memory.
To me, the System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether is a tale what warns of
supposition, of rumour, of gossip, of the dangers of believing conniving
parrots, trusting alone in appearance, hanging on tight the threads of
prejudice, and stereotype. Rutting the paths of beliefs passed on to you. A
dangerous, dangerous system, no matter how long it’s been in place. A story
of cat killing curiosity, lavish in its dress, but blunt in its execution,
telling our protagonist from the start exactly what this is, with an ending
perhaps more viscerally ironic than the whole of the piece.
Lamenting upon the tragedy of that night of the Maison de Sante, no
matter how far he scours, library after library, for the printed works of
Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether, he cannot seem to find them.
And so the arrow . . . Never made . . . Its mark.
Remember, Reader, if you will:
“Believe nothing you hear, and only one-half that you see.”

 

 

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David Burchell
Writer

The Fall of the House of Usher with Dr. Casing

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The historical context of Edgar Allan Poe is always worth noting when discussing his work. The United States was plagued by Tuberculosis and chattel slavery. This comes across in his poetry through a variety of motifs. Do you remember reading Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher (or, perhaps, having it read to you)? I believe this particular poem is a not-so-subtle commentary on race, racial purity, and the transmission of property (among other things) within a traditional line of people. I will tell you why.
Do you recall what was so remarkable about the Usher race? The narrator immediately pulls us into a gloomy scene as he describes a long day of traveling by horseback until he was finally “within view of the melancholy House of Usher.”* He then describes his childhood friendship with the proprietor of the house and continues to note, “the very remarkable fact, that the stem of the Usher race, all time-honored as it was, had put forth, at no period, any enduring branch.”* The remarkable thing about the Usher race is, in part, the fact that it made sense for the narrator to call it a race instead of just a family. No new branches from the stem of that family line means, well, as the narrator explains, “in other words, that the entire family lay in the direct line of descent, and had always, with very trifling and very temporary variation, so lain.”* The Usher bloodline was kept pure, so to speak. It never varied. The narrator denotes this lack of variation as a deficiency. After all, he is referring to a lack. The Usher race lacked deviation. It lacked diversity.
The narrator considers “this deficiency…while running over in thought the perfect keeping of the character of the premises with the accredited character of the people, and while speculating upon the possible influence which the one, in the long lapse of centuries, might have exercised upon the other.”* The narrator is looking upon what he calls the “melancholy House of Usher” as he considers the connection between the lack of genetic diversity, the character of the Ushers, and the result of these things after centuries of continuation without variation. The narrator also considers the connection between the house and the family to be as unyieldingly entrenched in sameness. He explains that, “the consequent undeviating transmission, from sire to son, of the patrimony with the name, which had, at length, so identified the two as to merge the original title of the estate in the quaint and equivocal appellation of the ‘House of Usher’.”* The estate and the bloodline bore the same name and ultimately referred to the same thing. And, of course, the title The Fall of the House of Usher refers to the falling of the Usher race as well as to the crumbling fall of the estate as it crushes its proprietors after one fell atop the other. So, the story ends, and we are left with the notion that an attempt to keep others from crossing our borders might eventually lead to self-destruction.

Dr. Casing
Doctor of Philosophy

Edgar Allan Poe: “The Fall of the House of Usher” (http://www.gutenberg.org/files/932/932-h/932-h.htm)

HAIL POE

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Edgar Allan Poe.
The Tomahawk Man.
Progenitor of what some may deem as horror, the psychedelia and the
psychosis and the wherewithal of the human condition, writ upon the pages
of burgeoning, and troubling, times—whilst going through his own troubling
times, mind you: rifling through the waning cupboards of poverty,
circumstances orphaning, abandoning, coming to awful grips with the loss of
both his Wife and Mother at the early hands of tuberculosis, struggling the
throes of alcoholism, addiction, defamation. All drenched atop the
minuscule praises and recognitions he received, and the lack thereof. These
things for him compounded a depression, a life of traumatic events,
tragedies, resulting ultimately in an early, and quite befuddling death. A
mystery of mysteries. An unfinished horror story in its own right. A
haunting thing, really.
Poe was an apotheosis of the literary worlds, stretching out far across
the globe of genre. The man accredited with the namesake of a god: the
creator of detective fiction, as found within the confines of The Murders
in the Rue Morgue. The perpetuity of his inspiration and influence washes
deep, apparently beaconing out to workers and writers such as H.P.
Lovecraft, and Stephen King, and . . . and just about any avid fan or
writer or creative tucked dusty within the wheelhouse of horror. And
whether that be cosmical or societal or psychological or deeply, darkly
fantastical, Edgar Allan Poe understood truly its important, and
irreplaceable, nature within the wide of literature, within poetry—within
media. Utilizing the fragrances and tones of loss and trauma and grief and
isolation and hysteria, Poe weaved for us a twinkling scape of frightening
stars, ghastly, gravid constellations through which we can discern and
discuss and contemplate the incongruities of our own reality, of our place,
of our interpersonal relationships, and how we may navigate such twilit
vistas. He understood that horror was man’s truest name, and, that without
it, there’s not much beauty of life to see.
Our dearest, dearest Poe carved it up a stain across the plinth of
nighttime sky. Shoveling snows, beneath cloudy coverlets and fogs on
moonfull nights, you can hear it—you can feel it. It’s that warn against
the lightless corners of abandoned streets. It’s that name of yours called
distant in the hush. It’s that flush of instant fever writhing wretched
within your skins as the footsteps step ever closer and you freeze . . .
And so let us here, us doubly troubled souls at Dark Room Horror, take
you there for a moment or two, or three, to peek at the beneaths of those
gauntish, guilty floorboards, to discuss the whapping beats of those
hidden, telling hearts, and to unrest awhile uneasily, as we do delve into
the works of the Tomahawk Man. If only he could see us now, we wonder.
What a laughter that would be.
-David Burchell

The Tell Tale Heart: Josh T. Romero

The Fall of the House of Usher: Dr. Casing

The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether: David Burchell

 

Community in Horror

One of the biggest lessons that Scooby-Doo taught me is that there is safety in numbers. Shaggy, either out of wisdom or fear, knew that greater than anybody else in the group. He experienced camaraderie and lack of it and applied that knowledge of both situations to create his understanding. In many ways, I relate to him. His fears, though silly, tended to be rational, based on his personal experience. As fans of the horror genre, I believe we can all understand that. We tend not to have many irrational fears, but seeing the world for what it is, our fears are based on reality. This is not a factual, blanket statement. I’m sure there are some of us who still have a very real fear of letting your foot or hand, hang over the sides of our beds while we sleep. I’m not here to judge, I’m just pointing out that we may not have any proper ground to stand on for this one.

During an interview, John Carpenter was asked why people are drawn to his films and why he’s so successful. His response was that “we’re all afraid of the same things. It’s those fears that unite us as people.” The first time I heard that, it hit me in a heavy way. We all, at some point in our lives, feel alone. Whether that feeling is real or imagined, there’s hope in that statement that says we’re never alone. Every thought, feeling and idea we have is based on our surroundings. As depressing as that could sound, I believe that something as powerful as the feeling of loneliness, assuming you don’t want to stay there, can be turned into a desire to move. More than anything, there’s a lot of disconnect due to our own perception of how things are and how things should be. The lie that most of us tend to believe is that we have to keep at it alone, or that it’s something that can’t be changed. The truth is, there is safety in numbers. When we’re together, we’re powerful. 

Community is simple. It’s all about living life with like-minded people or people who share a common goal. To have that community, every person doesn’t have to agree on everything. In fact, the ability to challenge each other’s thoughts is how we grow as people! Community is something that can be built as long that there is a common goal. The only caveat is that it needs to be a goal worth fighting for. If the idea is too small and other opinions are too strong, the relationship will break. More than anything, we need a common ground as people. We can not grow as individuals or as a nation on our own. This is a call for that community. I believe to achieve a genuine community, it will be a challenge. But I also believe that challenge breeds progress, and if we don’t see progress as a worthy goal to chase after, we’re screwed. 

I don’t have a desire to grow the horror community. I think a goal like that would actually harm what’s already there. In an attempt to evangelize the non-horror lover, terms like “smart horror” have been coined to prove to the world that there’s more to it than just the guts and gore. Intelligent horror stories are being written now, much like intelligent horror stories were being written into Greek mythos. In my personal opinion, I think labeling something as “smart horror” is a bullshit cash grab to make another dollar off a larger audience. Yet, at the same time, I am very happy with the mainstream strides the genre has made because ultimately, it will result in more content for the lovers of the genre. 

Horror is a confrontation genre that opens the door to discuss the things we fear the most. It has the capability to challenge the way we think. It enables us to see life through a different lens and face the things we all fear. It forces us to confront those fears as opposed to living a life of elusion. I believe that challenge can produce progress in our lives, and all the more if we do it together. Get to know your local horror community. Make things happen and live life together with the goal of growing together. 

As for our area, know that’s the goal. We want to meet, and know as many people as we can who share a love for the macabre. We want to push further and further out, not to expand the horror community, but to bring this one tighter together. 

We believe that community is important and that it’s something worth fighting for. 

 

 

The Groaning Man

The Groaning Man Concept Art-02

July 19th, 1977. 12:43 AM

The Groaning Man is out there. Somewhere.

I write this with hope that, as I scribble down these unreal words, his moans will turn back to the breezes they once were, and it’ll all have been a wild, wild dream. But even now, as my pencil dulls, I hear him still.

He has followed me for three days; has haunted me for nights the same—tonight being the third. No matter how the trudge, how steep the hikes, how fast I find my way through the spiry woods, he always finds me. I’ve tried being discreet, veering from the walked trails, tramping the untouched soils, leaving not even so much as a snapped twig to catch my scent. Nothing seems to work, and, as crazy as I must sound to whomever has their hands upon this desperate scrawl, I swear that I can feel his eyes upon my head, right there at the very back. I feel them there now. So much so that even as I mark these words, I’m spinning the circles of this tent just to keep him away from me.

I feel delusional.

I haven’t slept; I cannot do that.

When I finally cocoon myself in, I lie quiet as can be, peering over these thin sheets at that arched, flap door. I keep my vision on that zipper. Waiting, just waiting for it move, for that flap to open on up to let that man who groans like the drunk and dying in. But nothing happens. And still I cannot sleep. I won’t sleep.

I refuse to.

July 19th, 1977. 6:58 AM

I did it; I don’t know how I did it, but I did—I didn’t once close my lids.

He left just before daybreak, but up and until he was still out there, stumbling longly through the stones, groaning, taunting. I feel it that each night he gets just a little closer, tracing his steps like the rings of these trees, finding his way to the center of some nightmare labyrinth. I feel that when he finds it is when he’ll find me, and by then I’ll not have it in me to keep these tired eyes of mine opened.

Waiting game.

He’s watching me right now. Itchy, matted, swirling hair—his watch is warm and achy and dizzy like clustering progressions of age and time. It’s creeping toward my face. Slow, but blunt. Heavy bones; weirder pressures at my temples, and brittles in my cheeks. Making me second guess. Making me bask in the sun a bit too long. Hard to breath. To think. Only thing that’ll have it leave is if I scratch that itch at the back of my head. And I’ll not do that, not for lack of want, and not for disbelief, but simply for the plain truth that I fear. Better mind tells me that if I put my fingers there, what I’ll find is him—that Groaning Man—I’ll see him with fingers dug into eye sockets, feeling his sweats and sicknesses, hearing his groans.

And he’ll see and feel and hear me.

Because he’s watching.

But I have a plan.

I’ve got to go.

July 19th, 1977. 11:11 PM

I—I think it worked. I truly think it.

He’s not come. All that is, is the slight pattering that puts a rain, a frog’s croak or two, a hum of wind. But not a groan. Paid with tangled knees and arms and elbows for it, but hadn’t that been the plan?

Stay awake a while longer, better mind sits upon my shoulder, chatting, just to see.

Sure. But it’s past his times. I will stay a while longer here, edge of sanity, crooked back, itchy fever, but dare I fantasize that I’ll catch sleep?

I don’t think anything has ever sounded sweeter.

I’ll keep the lantern.

July 20th, 1977. 2:16 AM

I awoke unmoving, unable to curl even my toes. Flap was open, and it was dark—none in the way of remnants were left in the lights of the lantern.

The flap was open. Someone had opened it, sleuthing around my tent while I was in sleep, doing God knows—

What hell is happening to me?

Need I even guess who?

I thought it was safe to fall there, upward into those lands of dream; I thought he was gone.

Not safe.

There’s a pitchfork here now, too, and after my body came again to me, I noticed it propped against one corner, skewer-side-up, cracks and all. It’s not mine. It’s just sitting there, pushing against the walls of my tent, widening its world.

It’s not mine, and it’s—

Not safe, I’m repeating to myself, droning the words till they leak from my lips like babble, not safe—but then again, you’d already known none of this was safe, hadn’t you? When you left?

Unfumbling sleep: now that’s an idea!

One of those ones that had always seemed like a shinier object than its actual gleam. The real thing’s chipped. Its breaks painted over. And the pillow of it never really puffs like you’d want, it just sort of crumples inward, meek, pathetic.

I would keep the pitchfork by the bed—
Now that’s an idea!
—if not for the fact that I can’t.

I don’t trust it. I don’t want to touch the stains of what it’s been used for. I’ll keep my fingerprints for now.

Wide awake.

Not for long.

July 20th, 1977. 12:59 PM

I’ve done nothing—nothing but sit in my tent, watching the fork.

It’s bothering me. It sort of makes this whole thing more of an unreality—I can believe it when bad things happen to not-so-bad people, for we’re full of it, and we keep it going. But this is alike to nothing. Better mind tells me this. He tells, too, that this shouldn’t be happening. Not as if it was a tragic family’s tree, or a spot of unluck, or just a mere circumstance. But as if it wasn’t right at all.

Can’t be happening, better mind tells me, not this. Not here.

But it is. He’s waltzing about these woods, kicking stones, groaning groans, leaving behind his tools and droppings and messages and threats, leaving me mindless—but better mind doesn’t leave. He takes it back. He wonders. He looks at it a way that I cannot. I trust him. I didn’t lose my life just to actually lose my life, slit by blades, by forks, by insane hands, in the middled nowhere of the fucking forest.

It’ll fight, that better mind.

He’ll fight if I can’t.

July 20th, 1977. 1:17 PM

Outside is deathly—
Not safe.
—and unwelcome. Cold. Not along. How’d it snap so chillingly? That drastic? Sun was high. I felt it slump through the ceiling as an oven, a smokestack. I felt its fever, ‘twas why I got out to begin with. Get fresh. Find a splotch of shade. Watch my back. Maybe gouge my eyes and shove some sticks down my throat and bury my head in the mud and—
Now that’s an idea!
—scream and lose my mind and scream.

But all that’s gone to the cold.

Sun’s high still. But it’s just pretending, teasing, fooling. It’s up there, better things to do, worthier worlds to warm. Cold.

Cold and I aren’t along.

There are footprints.

Does that matter? asks better mind, along the ride, curious. Because if you’ve not been delusional, then you’ve known that they’ve been there. Not just now. Not just last night. But every night.

Yes. It does matter.

It matters, predominantly, because of how he walks whilst groaning as he does.

The prints are in a line. Heel to toe to heel to toe. Left, right. Together. Neat. And they’re small like a lucky child’s. There’s another. What I’ve been hearing is something almost not a man—maybe a bit evolved, a tad devolved, a thing. And to find its feet, and to find that they’re bizarrely bitty and perfect and ridiculous? Well, that’s what better mind would call—
Not safe.
—a good time to hit that road.

Off I go.

July 20th, 1977. 6:34 PM

Packed. Split. Hiked. Didn’t even try hurrying—what’s the point?
He rides the maps of demon constellations; he uses chalky stars, argent, baffling, to light his way like harbingers in dust. They’d find him home. Always, they’d find him home. Now his home is me and mine.

Drank icy mud from a creek. Ate nothing. Held a tree, its webby bark creasing furrows upon my brow, its must talking broken language to my unfluent nostrils. Prayed—I prayed to what made sense; I prayed to the trees. I prayed for these days to become chasm, for that eater to open on up and swallow that man who moans and groans, for that man to be another’s problem—least till I’m free from him.

Free from this life of running.

But then what? Better mind bothers. Doesn’t play our rules so how could you ever be free?

But how do I know?

I don’t even know if I’m dreaming or dying or in delirium.
Got to a glade, a bitty clearing, and set my camp. I planned no fire. The day’s cold; the night’s frigid splinters. But I planned no fire. Still can’t eat, although my stomach whimpers like a misused pup, huffs like it, too. It eventually slumbers. It can’t understand neglect, but it can’t do much in the way of avoiding it, either.

Sit. Roll. Something about a good boy.

I’ll handle the cold.

I spent the last of daylight gathering sticks and leaves, as many as findable, as suitable, and bringing them round the tent. I put them there, in wonky piles, below the flap of the door where my feet go in and out. Easily breakable ones. Ones that’d make those loud crunches when stepped. Alarms. Hands of the Grandfather clock. Because sleep’s the night nurse—and if I go down under that dewdrop at the end of her needle, then I’ll be longly gone, slipped into the catharsis of deep dark where even dreams leave well enough alone.

But tonight, when he comes home, the sticks ‘ll wake me.

I’ll be ready.

My pencil sets the sun, giving rest to that lovely liar, trading shifts with the moon—but at least the moon isn’t false. It watches how its coldness humbles and breaks and makes howl the beasts of the brush. It watches fair.

But I have a feeling that it’ll turn its blind eye.

Tonight.

When the Groaning Man comes.

July 21st, 1977. 12:02 AM

Sticks.
Awoke to starlight. Phosphorus. White-hot. Awoke to the strobe flash of some defunct machinery taking the tent with its lights and brightnesses. I couldn’t see—but I could hear.

I could hear the sticks. And the flap. The flush of what was barely a breeze wiggling through the opened airs. A crunch. Something, something—that Groaning Man out on the scree of sticks, bumbling as a catawampus does, coming in. I could hear him planning. By the shade of the visor of my hands, beyond the white lights, I could faintly see the flap—where it’s zipper stayed. It was open. Only a foot, give or take, but enough to show that it wasn’t merely a trick of the mind, but a reality. My reality. The zipper juddered. It looked caught, its teeth stuck to the fabrics.

It’ll be undone, better mind said, soon.

I was being urged there, to pluck at the zipper and rip it shut, to stab at that Groaning Man with that pitchfork from that place I’d not known. Oh, now that’s an idea! But it wasn’t. Couldn’t be. Because that would’ve taken me to the edge of light, where all the world falls into the away—further than even now; because, although the light was lonely, the night was lonelier—and the groans and moans of that man lonelier still.

But you’re not alone, are you? Better mind tacked on to the list of incongruent worries. Pretending that you didn’t see what you saw, you know, when you were unfreezing the dream? Corners of the eyes do . . . Not . . . Lie.

More sticks sounded.

Not safe.

What had I seen, if anything? Did I look to the flap knowing all too well that the shadow in the corner was another unfit object? Something unbelonging? And did I attempt to convince myself that the light was lonely? That it couldn’t possibly have held what the sides had said it did? Did I up-and-down swear to better mind that that’s what it was, just illusion, just dust, just wickeder dreams—just a loose mind dropping its screws out on trail.

What had I seen?

Sticks outside; sticks inside.

Corners of the eyes . . .

A man inside the light, inside my tent, inside my—

Do not lie.

He’s speaking.

July 21st, 1977. 3:34 AM

He’s gone, now. Light, too.
Thin recollection. More is in absentia than in vividity. Remembering his materials is hard, it’s wrong, but remembering his voice isn’t—and his name—and remembering what he first said, that Groaning Man, that man inside the light.

“The fork you’ll want,” he’d said, unseen, the scratch of his voice waxing, waning, “the fork you’ll need.”

Then what happened?

I became a sinking feeling.

Biggest worry come to life, shot into focus, burned.

He beckoned me come near, and although he’d grown the light into a nova both disheveling and building, a conundrum that felt right and wrong, I did come near. What were my thoughts as I walked the light? Well, I remember rushing waters—streams of consciousness and phobia and bafflement. Salty waters. I remember dipping them, being whelmed by the waves of an earlier death than I’d planned for myself, drowning—but then the seas came crystals. My mind shut; better mind whistled a whispering gale just to illustrate the emptiness I’d found. I was without my worry. It’d never been a clearer pond to stare my reflections, and not a skipped stone’s ripple could’ve breached that clarity. Yes, I remember a word or two about acceptance as I walked toward the Groaning Man.

I asked him what this was.

“Not now,” he told to me, the light brightening at that now, “but a time to pass.”

And why was it, the light, such a power? I couldn’t see through and beyond, but still my eyes went wider, thirsting, hungering, wanting for its more. It wasn’t blindness—no, I’d thought that it was the perception of unplumbed depths, something usually out of my reach. Our reach. A seeing not of normalcy, and that was when I realized the light was him.

And why was he, the light, such a power?

I asked him what he was.

“Nothing new, but not nothing,” he chanted cryptic, and he smoldered, “I am adaption. A way to masque from view—we all are—and even now, you, and I, are not to be seen as anything but.”

But what?

“As anything but the Lume.”

With a mind made of clouds I would’ve wanted more, asking, and asking, prodding, fretting, but I was then of the unshackled skies. And better mind a flitting hawk across them. And at every unanswered question the light seemed to trickle, spreading its tendrils back into the soil of the earth—or wherever it’d homed and nested. It, and he, were leaving.

But before he dimmed complete he spoke a passive wile.

“I am not to convince, but that your attention is found, I feel it to tell a tale—a short one. If your curiosity is to be entertained, if that fork aside your pillow haunts your sleep and dream.” He lowered, but even the lowliest of his suits was loftier than the highnesses of any and all the glimmers that I knew to exist. In, he winked, and out. I thought that I could almost place his figure; but again, thought wasn’t much of a thing I knew, then. He told the tale. “Up upon the Velvet, what’s known to you as the observable, seeable universe, there is a skulking thing. It’s distant. That we know. But it’s there, and it’s moving, and isn’t the sole idea of distance is that it is something to be crossed? No matter its lengths and times and agonies? Tell me—” he sunk slightly into the fabrics of my tent. He was quickening. “—do you watch it at night? The Velvet?”

I told him that, time to time, I do.

“Haven’t you noticed?”

What was there to notice? Was it missing from me? Noticed what?

“That the blinks that once were, familiar ones, important ones, are now not such things?”—and—”would you have even noticed?”

I wondered what he was getting at. Better mind hummed a broken, little tune of such melodies as not safe and now that’s an idea and corners of the eyes do not lie. What did the sides see then? That ever opening flap and zip? That crunch of sticks? That buggering of another man or woman or thing outside? Coldness? We were in the tent still, sure, but were we different than from before?

I asked him where we were.

“Never mind that,” he said, just a flicker of his once was, “I’ve taken much time and space, but if you’re still curious as to how to solve these questions—then all you need to do is simple.”

How simple?

“Each night, as before, I’ll be round. You’ll hear me, like you have, and all you’ll have to do is grab that fork with your barest hands, open that door, and come to meet me. You’ll have safety, I can keep that promise, but only if you come outside. Beyond that I keep no promise.”

I’d think about it; better mind would think about it.

He would linger, always groaning, always showing up—always waiting for a night decided on moving. That Groaning Man; that man inside the light; that man unnamed to me. Grab that fork. He’d assumed. The fork you’ll want. Fork you’ll need. He spoke his name, and, albeit hesitantly, I spoke mine. That was last light. He was gone, the only bit of him a pair of heel-to-toe, toe-to-heel foot prints, bitty ones, burned into the bottom of my tent like bleach on blood—and collapsed in front with its daggers pointed at my toes, almost willingly, was the pitchfork. It thrummed.

I’d think about it.

July 24th, 1977. 4:42 PM

Haven’t yet left.

Why would I pack it up and get on with it when there’s really nowhere that I’m going?

Watched, waited on, wondered.

Every day I stay with the fork, unblinking, skirting around what needs to be done, sort of huffing and puffing but never really blowing down house. Piggies under good graces—my good graces. These days I thumb it over, all throughout the longest hours of my weirdest years, just what it would be like to touch that fork. I mean, I do—I grab it by the gloves of my sheets, kick it around with steel toes, bring the bridge of my nose to hover right where the wood meets the metal, and stare it, relentlessly—but I never grab it bare. That’s what he wants done.

And although, when he was light, I felt the tinge of safety that a nice and neat neighbor knocks upon your door; when he isn’t light I feel sick.

And every night he comes. And every night he groans. And every night he asks of me those questions whose answers better mind has filed, rabidly, away between the folder clap of words such as rather and I’d and not. And every night I listen and I hear and I do not call back, and as long as I can keep from touching that fork, I’m safe.

As long as I can keep from touching the Velvet.

Better to watch where it’s just as nice, better mind tells to me, better to stay inside.

And so why would I ever leave?

Home’s just as nice.

July 25th, 1977. 1:07 AM

Woke from nightmare.

In it, these woods and this tent were crumpled—the top had blown away, light had gone, everything felt like slow, spongy sand. Tree and rock and critter sank into the sponge; and so did I.

Better mind tumbled the sphere, bouncing off and around the higher branches of lower trees as some darkled figure, like an acrobat in hay day; better mind jumped and swung. And there was a sound, one unbelievable, of the push of rackety, interrupted water. As if a river swelled and slumped. As if it didn’t matter, here and now, to disregard the ways of the natural world. I felt like lonely stones in the hush of the bottom of that river.

Not safe, better mind’s age old adage sounded as coherent as whistles do to hound-dogs, but I knew it, nonetheless, not upon the Velvet’s groans and moans—and just how long do you think you’ll be able to stay this course?

The sponge engulfed me. No more moon; not a star dimpled the night’s sky. Least from my view. But, of course, I was swallowed then. I tried to reach for the edges, fumbling my hands for the lantern, for misplaced sanities, for lights of days that’d not yet come to pass.

Or was it for the fork?

Thing is, as vivid as dream can sometimes be, once that moment’s gone it’s still just billowed haze.

That, I can’t recall, if I at all reached for the fork. Why would I? Would it have ended the visions? Would it have made these sweats and sheets just a little bit less drenched? Does it matter? Either way, what I do recall is that my hands touched nothing—nothing except the sponge.

The tent heightened above me, stretching to the starless Velvet like some unreachable tower, and then the groaning men came. Not just the cries of one, but innumerable terrors. And not just men, no, women and children, too. And others. The night was starless, yes, but as they ambled over the walls of the tent, entering, and roofing, it, they blacked it out darker than even the deepest of wells. The volume was devastating; the emotions and pains behind their groans even more so. It was real. Griefs beyond my experience. Souls in never-ending horror they seemed. How else could you wail those wails? There’s no faking anguish like that.

Before they fully blacked the night, I saw the idea of better mind sitting on a long, spindly branch, kicking his feet, gazing on me in the depths of the sponge. He had a flower of sorts, with many buds and blossoms and thorns, that he plucked at. Petals floated down. Scaly things. He didn’t speak. But, as always, I could hear him in the movements and motions. Much was said; more went unspoken. He finished off one of the flowers stripping it of its last petal.

As high as he was I shouldn’t have been able, but I could see it in wild detail. It was alive, porous where its petals had been plucked, breathing its last.

Better mind let it fall.

As it floated to me, passing by and below the castellations of the tent, the groaning peoples flooded over the edge, toppling like frozen birds, consuming me.

They were deep and dark and velvet.

And as I drowned in them, all I could hear were the words of the flower of better mind.

Not safe.

Death awakened me.

I jumped, expecting the world to be the away and the Velvet to be the near. I thought that I’d find the prints of those thousands burned into the land. I felt that I knew that they were here, and that at any moment they’d be upon me, and that the dream wasn’t a dream but a warning.

None of those came.

But what did come were the agonies and groans of that man, that man inside the light.

He hasn’t let up since; he’s never gone on this long. I sit in shadow, the silhouettes of my few belongings blending together, the fork being the exception. What did come is the broken flower that I pass from hand to hand. It has no breath. It shouldn’t be here, I know, but I can’t let it leave. It’s perhaps the last left thing that is safe.

I know what comes next.

It doesn’t have to be spoken.

July 25th, 1977. 5:41 AM

Man didn’t leave till first light, earliest morn, lowest sun stride. Longest he’s been. What does it mean?

It means it’s time to grab the fork, a tired better mind yawned, isn’t that what you want?

Yes. But not like how it seems.

Got a day and a night ahead of me.

Keeping this short.

July 25th, 1977. 2:36 PM

I’m away.

I don’t know how far I am, but I know that I’m away—that’s good enough for now. I have the fork. Safe. Covered. Untouched. Left the tent behind; where I’m going I think it’ll do someone else more of a use than it can for me. I’m losing it. None of this is actually happening. Oh, of course, better mind tut-tuts, how could it be? Might as well do, and have, the favor that’s to show itself eventually. And I’ve found the perfect place.

It’s at a breaking jut in the riverbed where the land steps as a sudden cliffside. Water falls on sideways gardens, mossy patches splotch the eroded rock, life permeates. There’s a hum here. It’s nice. And off and up the side of the waterfall there’s a hint of indentation. Hard to tell, but better mind keeps replaying that single word: cave. Wouldn’t that be nice, too? I think, if that’s the case, that that’d be star writ. It won’t be a hard climb, the sides are steep, but the holds are many and . . . and right. I think I’ll do it there; I’ll be written in those stars before that Groaning Man comes to make it deep and dark and starless.

I’ll be Velvet.

And wouldn’t that be such a surprise, laughs better mind, for him to find you as you’ll be, for him to see that the fork went untouched, that you’d given up before ever really starting—now that’s an idea!

Mockery; another sign of the times.

It only drives me.

Time to climb.

July 25th, 1977. 2:50 PM

Was as a dream, that climb. That way in which the rock fit palm, every facet and edge; that way in which I became moment. It’s childlike, actually, for as lush as that waterfall crashed, I . . . I didn’t hear it. Not a drop. It was as if I’d earned the knowing that nature is deaf—truly deaf. And that that wasn’t a thing for worrying. No. Not at all. Whatever it is, it does speak, and it does listen, existing as fluidity itself. A language hard to hear. Even now, squatly hunched into myself and watching the backside of water, I cannot explain how it happened.

But, then again, I cannot explain much of anything anymore.

I’m having memories, flashes of a place I’d worked so hard to dull with time and forget and excuse. Terrible, awful, evil place. Back before life was real. Back when the bares of my feet walked unscarred. Back at Carrykettle. Back in the Turnabout.

If you can make through the Turnabout, better mind proposes, couldn’t you make through whatever whirls these are?

I feel at oddity, juxtaposed, for it was as a dream, that climb. Serenity. Deepest digs. And wasn’t that just what I’d set out for? A realer world, and a sharing of its breaths? Have I not achieved that, this bit of day? And I feel like I’d probably ask myself what better mind thoughts were about throwing the towel after such a nearness with actual life. I feel like I’d probably ask a whole lot more of myself. But these memories catch my words. And then I choke.

From above, the trees look as an ocean, the rustles amongst the canopies like low tides, the leafs like verdant drops of water—and through the shimmer of the falling river I can convince myself that that’s what it is: for everybody and all else it’s all smooth sailing. It’ll be sunset when I do it, when the blurs of colours beyond the water’s veil shine and smudge, before that Groaning Man comes from those distant, ashen peaks that are watching me even now, when the memories are at their most potent and the feelings and spurs are higher than the good of life.

Yes, it’ll be at sunset when I do it.

I’ll wash clean.

July 25th, 1977. 6:47 PM

Sun’s to set.

Time to go.

Send my loveliest regards.

October 11th, 1977. 6:48 PM

Sun didn’t set that night.

Time didn’t go as planned.

I replay it at this hour, every night, for I can feel it again as if it were but just a minute ago. I replay it always; and I’ll replay it now.

I stood upon the edge of the mouth of the cave with my toes upon the air, and the fork in my hands, wrapped up, hidden. I’d been thinking that it would’ve been better placed at the bottom of the shallows, drowning for the rest of it where I could ensure that it’d never haunt none but me. I’d have that sacrifice. In that moment I had felt secure, content with where this life had led me, and that, while it was indeed tragedy, it was just the flip of my coin. That’s all. It’d sounded convincing. Better mind, of course, got his words in edgewise. So did other ghosts. Images of distance. Of loved ones. Of the could be. But it was time to go.

“It’ll be at sunset.” I told to nobody, quiet as can be.

I’d clutched the fork to my chest, to the beats of my heart. It had had a heart, too. And a beat. In that language that’s hard to hear. But I had heard it. I’d heard it loudest when the arch of my left foot wavered over that open space of sky, trembling. Not from fear, mind you, but from allure. In that position it was I who’d had the choice. I was choosing to go. I knew it then. And I was at peace. Couldn’t you have chosen another of many paths? A weary better mind asked me. Of course I could’ve. I could’ve chosen to lay sleepily in the cave, never to come down, to melt into stone, to starve. I could’ve chosen to live. I could’ve chosen the fork, to see its underneath, to touch it and to follow that Groaning Man—that man inside the light. That was what was most curious. The fork. The Velvet. The constant fear that I’d had tented under in the days and nights of his pursuit.

His methods were a depth unvisited to me, then, although I’d like to believe I’ve grown to understand.

I’d had choices; I had chosen the sunset.

Its last sliver was a hill on the horizon, coloured like the blood of magenta, a blinding swirl, set to disappear. But as I’d moved to step my other foot over edge, I’d realized that the hill remained, and so I’d waited.

And I known then that the Groaning Man had come early.

He’d stood atop that hill at the end of my world, beckoning, gleaming the starlight that he was. The fork spoke his language into me, all at a sudden clear and perfect, telling me to step on out.

The water’s warm.

And so I did.

I remember the wraps slipping from the fork. I remember the sponge—the mush from dreams—beneath my feet. I remember exactly how it felt to part that fall of water like translucent curtains. I stepped on out and, by God, the water was warm. We walked above that sea, meeting at the middle of the sky, and embraced one another. Yes, he was the light of the sunset, and I . . . I was its rise. I looked at the fork, at my hands. It was flesh; I was wood and steel. And we crackled white and hot, brimming, teeming with life.

He took me to the Velvet.

Above the Earth we began, spanning the solar system I’d lived and breathed, traipsing the Milky Way. He’d showed me the stars of the galaxy, introduced me to the ones still with voices, brought me to the mutes and the graves and the memories of the ones that’d lost. Then he’d took me beyond that. That night he showed me infinity, inexplicable reaches and probabilities, unnamed societies; he showed me the many worlds, the aboves of those lands, the stars and planetary entities and beings that flew upon the Velvet. And in, and above, all of them, I’d noticed a pattern.

“You see now, don’t you?” he’d asked me.

I had told him I did; I had told him that the lights were leaving.

“I have one more to show,” he said, solemn, “and then it is up to you.”

He took us to what I’d assumed were the hinterlands of existence, for it’d had the chills of no winter I’d ever shivered in. It was oppressively dark, and the sponge of the Velvet was more muck than sponge. We sank. Slow. Like dream. There were few lights left. He was dim, too. I opened to ask him what it was he’d wanted to see, but he’d told me: “Hush;” and “watch.” We’d stayed in the sponge, silent lights, and waited. At first, I hadn’t seen what’d needed seeing. I was confused. But it was better mind that kicked it in.

It was the Velvet. It was moving. And as we sat, and time marched, it’d moved closer, swallowing up the fallow lights that’d been left in exile. It wasn’t the Velvet. It was something else entirely, sludging its way across the universe, leaving absence as its wake.

It was why the lights were leaving.

“Been eating since start,” he’d told, “inside out.”

I’d spoken not anything. Groans made more sense. I remember letting loose a cry as if that knowledge was like no burns I’d ever felt twisted onto me. I remember sinking the mire, watching, squishing, as that eater rolled on by, the nothingness colour of greed. I remember a fade and a light and a warmth—

And then we were back, standing at the opened curtains of the waterfall, unspeaking. But before I’d walked on through, I’d looked at him, the Groaning Man, that man inside the light, and spoke the words: “The fork I’ll need.” He’d glowed as if to nod.

And then he was gone.

It’s tonight and every night that I walk these woods. But it’s tonight that I leave the fork. It took me a good, long while. To understand. To hear that language that’s hard to hear. But now I speak it. It comes as groans. Better mind says it’s the talk of the drunk and dying. But he knows better. I know better. They’re the prayers at the end of the world. It’s tonight that I leave the fork. It’s a woman, and she’s troubled . . . Troubled by me. But soon she’ll know. I’ll find her somewhere behind the fall of water just waiting to peek beyond its curtains. I, the sun’s set; she, the sun’s rise. I’ll show her the Velvet, and how the lights are leaving.

But before I do, I stare up at the twinkles that lessen night after night, and I think some things.

The Groaning Man is out there. Somewhere. His name is Cygnus, that man inside the light, and he is my greatest friend. We walk these woods with hopes and dreams, not just him, and I, but many. We talk with groans and moans, and we maneuver with nightmares and with dreams, and we show what needs to be shown—and if we’re lucky then we guess that the lights will return.

And out upon the Velvet we’ll fly.

But . . . now the sun’s to set.

And it’s time to go.

Send my loveliest regards.

—Deneb

 

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David Burchell
Writer | Contributor
IG: @uponthehillock
FB: david.burchell.7

Traipsing into human life in 1995, bred and borne in Albuquerque, New Mexico, David Robert Burchell has always had his curiosities about the deep and dark and fantastical. Raised by a Father whose birthday fell on Halloween—and raised by his own steps into childhood trauma, obscurity, and fear—he has secured himself a special seat in the Twilight Zone.

David is an author, writer, poet, artist, musician, avid reader, lover of all arts, and creator. He is currently working on his first, full-fledged novel, Mister Sunder, as well as his first collection of short stories that encompass all of the varied and intricate facets of this nifty, little thing we call horror. He has an intense appreciation of the craft, and is greatly inspired at bringing out, and highlighting, the truths within the lies—the non-fiction that exists inside the fiction.

In his meantime, he works at a cafe in the East Mountains of New Mexico, working, and living, on and with the land and; in his free time, he enjoys going on hikes and runs with his pup, Momo, going to shows, spending time and creating with friends, laughing and laughing and laughing, and continually tacking on to his list of stereotypical details.

Life worth creeping on.

DARK ROOM HORROR
We’re at the dawn of a new year and who the fuck cares?! I do. Ultimately, the biggest tangible change we see is the need to purchase a new calendar, but that need comes with weight. It comes with hope for a new season in life. A new year gives us a fresh start and a new perspective. These changes can be helpful to us and give us the chance to change the lens we see life through. At the risk of getting on board with the “New Year, New Me” bullshit, I do think this is the perfect opportunity to examine our past year, look to what went well and what went awry. It’s a chance to look back intentionally, knowing that all the bad can’t be changed but some can. Some good could have been better. Goals and aspirations are a good thing and one way to be intentional with our lives. 2019 gives me hope and the desire to live a life worth creeping on.
We’re always being preached to. Whether that’s by the local church, our motivational podcasts and icons, media advertising or the movies we know and love, everything has a message. You’re reading one right now! So often, when we respect the people selling the message, it’s easy to buy in and accept it as truth. There’s something counterintuitive about taking that extra moment to look at what’s being said, question whether or not it’s true to you and allowing it to impact your life accordingly. I believe that every person has the right to think and speak for themselves. I also believe that the minute you start telling somebody how to feel, you’ve crossed a line into propaganda. Be vigilant of everything given to you as truth.
We’re all afraid of the same things. John Carpenter has said that it’s these fears that unite us as people. The idea that a werewolf is hunting you down or a poltergeist is waiting in your tv is absolutely terrifying. But there are deeper, more natural fears we all share. Pain, abandonment, loss, the unknown, the inability to be who we want to be… these are fears that most of us can relate to. We’ve felt pain, we’ve been abandoned and we’ve suffered loss. By nature, the unknown will continue to be unknown, but the one thing we do have control over is our mind. Yes, there are some circumstances where people less fortunate don’t have the luxury of being in control, but the percentage of us who can and are reading this have the ability to think and feel for ourselves.
I believe that in order to live a life worth creeping on, you first have to know who you are and have an idea of where you’re going. You have to know what you think and what you feel. In order to create tangible goals for your life, you have to have ground to stand on. My only goal is to challenge every reader to think, feel, act and speak for themselves. As terrifying as it can be, we can’t live a life of fear. In order to progress, we have to challenge ourselves and fight against what we fear the most. We have been given minds for a reason. I imagine that reason is to be used.
Good luck to you and your journey this year. Let us know what your goals are for 2019!
-Josh T. Romero
josh t romero and tamara gray romero