Shattered amber

I walk between rows of stainless steel counters strewn with dark monitors and abandoned notebooks, lit by the flickering fluorescent light coming from the glass-fronted berths lining the walls. I walk to the one I need and lift open the door, helping out the young woman sleeping inside.

Thin and long-limbed, her skin is the color of birch bark, with coal tar hair falling to her shoulders. She allows me to take her hand, her amber eyes bright with curiosity as she peers at my face. I lead her to a locker, and in the dim blue-white light she puts on jeans, a grey cotton shirt, leather work boots. I watch her dress, and think of the times I’d watched her during her long, long sleep — her, and the others, too, most of their lights now extinguished.

The pack I’ve assembled for her sits askew on a desk near the door. She slips it over her shoulders easily, and after putting on my heavy mask, I open the hatch.

We walk up broken concrete steps to the street. Little has changed since my last visit outside: the asphalt is still buckled and torn, burnt trunks all that remain of the decorative trees. The flow of time has remained constant, I think, with some surprise.

She walks ahead of me, silhouetted against the cracked, jaundiced sky. No breeze stirs her jet hair as she takes in the new surroundings.

I walk to her, stumbling a bit as I clamber over the same rubble shes navigated with grace. She turns to me, and her eyes have already changed. Their light is dimming — so soon? — and their rich amber hue is fading to mirror the diseased and broken sky.

Final edition

stormy sky, author unknownThe radio crackled to life with a shattering burst of static, even though the battery in our old truck had died long ago, shortly after the all-devouring void reached the sister cities on the edge of the scorched and blasted lands where once crops grew tall. An old, old voice which may once have been human crooned to us, telling tales of the insignificant world we had known, before IT returned to claim ITS birthright. As the final light went out of the sky, condemning us to eternal darkness, the fading voice half-croaked, half-crooned, “And these are the tales of the Lake of Woe…”.

[The preceding was knocked off in a Facebook comment thread, wherein the poster asked for a three sentence story inspired by this image, written in the style of weird fiction author H. P. Lovecraft.]

Route 12, Takoma

…and other routes as well, and other routes as well, and other rooms as well, and other rooms, rooms, rooms, other riddles, too, other riddles, riddles riddles…

And why did I have to get wet today? Why did I have to get other riddles, other riddles, rooms, riddles, mustang, mustang, musTANG TANG TANG! Mustang Sally, mustang sally, rooms, riddles, routes…

[tuneless whistling for several stops]

Minipigs, minipigs, minipigs minipigs…

[sing-song] I’m singing in the rain, I’m singing in the rain, there’s a spiral in my brain, there’s a spiral in my brain, spiral brain, I’m singing a spiral in my brain, there’s a smile in my brain, smile, smile.


The middle-aged woman with thick glasses, five-o’clock shadow, and a Wizards jacket exits the bus.

Red Line, 8:30 Tuesday Night

2015-03-17 10.35.04

A middle-aged blond in a black hoodie, navy blue leggings, and scuffed black running shoes sits reading USA Today through her wire-framed glasses, her Coach bag secure on her lap. Her earrings are inch-wide silvery filigree hearts. She smiles at something she reads, a genuine and open expression on her face. The smile fades as she turns the page.

A young woman, Crumb-esque in design, stands at the pole reading her Kindle. Her thick thighs end in black leather ankle boots lined in blood red; her knee-length dress is black lace. She doesn’t smile, though whether from an innately sour nature or a particularly intense choice of reading matter, I cannot tell.

A fresh-faced young businessman boards in Friendship Heights. The leather brief bag in his hand is new, unblemished — he’s not had it for long. A bright blue golf umbrella is slung across his back by a strap, like a young ronin’s katana in a Kurosawa film. He stares blankly at his reflection in the train’s window for the duration of his ride.

At Brentwood a thirtyish black man boards, clad in a fluorescent green t-shirt and vest, with oddly heraldic day-glo orange bands on the cuffs and shoulders. A dirt-smeared cap of the same green cotton covers his hair. He stares at the phone in his left hand, his right holding a plastic grocery sack containing a carton of apple juice and a package of Huggies.

There is something strangely melancholy yet calming about nighttime train platforms. Stripped of the usual anxious crowds rushing about, there’s a quiet sense of emptiness, a caesura between destinations, caught between home and office, the burden of decision lifted away, a brief respite from care.


lestersIn the wake of yesterday’s midterm elections, I’ve been asked by a couple of friends what I believe in. Given that I don’t think they are looking for my version of Crash Davis’s speech in Bull Durhamwhich I’ve posted elsewhere, anyway — I’m guessing the interest is in my political opinions. Be careful what you ask for, my friends.

I believe that…

  • …lies are not facts, no matter how often they are repeated.
  • …the worth of a human being is not measured in dollars and cents, nor does a bank balance indicate intelligence or wisdom.
  • …giving more money to the wealthy in the hope that they will create more jobs is as sound an economic practice as taking out a bank loan to buy lottery tickets.
  • …women should be in complete control of their bodies, and any laws limiting that control should be drafted, endorsed, and passed by women alone.
  • …every American has a right to free health care and a viable income; America’s failure to provide this is the primary reason for our loss of stature in the world.
  • …the American Civil War was about slavery, period. Rebel states? You lost; get the fuck over it and build a real future.
  • …it is none of your god damned business what kind or how many people someone chooses to love.
  • …evolution should be taught in schools, and that creationism and intelligent design are not equally valid “theories.”
  • …climate change is real, human action is a primary factor, and we’re fucked if we don’t stop listening to liars pretend there’s an actual debate on the topic.
  • …the media is not obligated to seriously present an opposing view when that view is clearly bullshit, but that it IS obligated to point out bullshit whenever it’s presented as facts, no matter the source.
  • …America has returned to its founding principle: only rich white male landowners get a voice in government, except for the occasional rich woman or non-white citizen, as long as they keep quiet.
  • …corporations should not reap the benefits of citizenship until they are subject to the risks and limitations of citizenship.
  • …excusing evil, inhumane actions by invoking the magic word “capitalism” is a sign of a corrupt, likely irredeemable soul.
  • …there should be a Constitutional amendment striking all references in legal code to “marriage” and replacing it with “legal union.” Keep religion out of the law.
  • …America has changed from a well-intentioned, naive nation to one which is reveres its own stupidity.
  • …we have become a nation of short-sighted, greedy, self-absorbed assholes who worship the wealthy as gods.

I don’t believe that it’s too late to change course, to reverse the damage done to our national character, but…

I do believe we’re running out of time.

Frankenstein’s Meatballs

Frankenstein's MeatballsI am not about to go to this much trouble, but…

We have the technology to join different cuts of meat together, so why do we always make it look like, well, meat? Imagine a buffet of extravagantly assembled origami meatcraft: exciting carnivorous designs concealing mysterious and unexpected stuffings; beautifully engineered steak architecture supporting provocative pork sculptures; Gaga-esque wardrobes of stitched salami and tailored chorizo. Surely the possibilities would be endless?

To learn how to bring these meatballs to life to your table, check out Instructables.

Lit-Fic and Horror

Antique book witch Hallowe'en postcard

I found this LitReactor list of disturbing yet literary works interesting, not least because of the ten items listed, I’ve only read four. (I plan to rectify that soon.) Keep in mind, though, that it’s not a “ten best” list or anything of the sort. Thinking of all the additions I would make reminds me of how deep the field really is, and how pointless genre boundaries are.

Got any favorites you’d like to add?


Antique Hallowe'en postcard

Can you identify the horror or suspense films featuring these quotes (without resorting to Google)? Some are obvious — others, less so. And a couple may be flat out obscure. But they are all films that I like.

  1. “Good. Bad. I’m the guy with the gun.”
  2. “He has his father’s eyes.”
  3. “The sow is mine!”
  4. “What does he do, this man you seek?”
  5. “They’re coming to get you, Barbara, there’s one of them now!”
  6. “There are far worse things awaiting man than death.”
  7. “Wanna see something really scary?”
  8. “Well, a boy’s best friend is his mother.”
  9. “There’s a hole in the world like a great black pit.”
  10. “Now I know what it feels like to be God!”
  11. “If thine eye offends thee… pluck it out!”
  12. “It was beauty killed the beast.”
  13. “It was an evil house from the beginning – a house that was born bad.”

So how did you do?

[Edit to Add: Something went weird with the display of the comments. They’re being saved, but they aren’t displaying. I’m working on it.]

[ETA: Perhaps they’re only displaying in… the Twilight Zone!]

the stories, essays, dreams, and delusions of Marc Kevin Hall