I'm honored to announce my interview with Jeremy Maddox from The Surreal Grotesque. Jeremy has been interviewing names from the horror and bizarro communities for awhile now and his love of fiction is obvious and contagious. I've long enjoyed listening to his podcast, and all the peeps he has interviewed so far. This weekend I got a chance to rap with Jeremy in a very enjoyable conversation.
As it turns out, Jeremy is a fan of my newest Worms in the Needle and had some AWESOME questions and observations about it. Jeremy asked great questions that really got my brain juices boiling. Jeremy let me ramble on and on, so I honestly don't know if I ever gave any question a straight answer or if i had to take it through 'babble-town' first. Either way, we cover Worms in the Needle, drugs and their highs and side-effects, Heinous and beautiful brutality, working with Dynatox Ministries and MorbidbookS and Permuted Press on all the things I got cooking this year. Seriously, I had a lot of fun doing this interview and I think you all might enjoy giving it a listen.
Also, following my interview is one with Boot Boys of the Wolf Reich author David Agranoff. David is also the author of The Vegan Revolution with Zombies and the kung-fu epic Hunting the Moon Tribe. I very much look forward to digging on his interview as well.
Soooooo, take a hour and listen to us all commiserate and freestyle thoughts by clicking HERE
Monday, March 31, 2014
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
5: Early Damn It Massacre
The bright orange of the road construction signs announcing the upcoming road work stand out against the earth tones of the evergreen forest landscape. The morning sun is peeking through the tall pines and the shadows retreat back across the four lane road from it. A small line of traffic moves lazily up the winding road as if the vehicles themselves are still waking up.
A light blue Chevy pickup brakes suddenly in front of Tom and Anna in their black Honda. Already irritated, Tom launches into a diatribe against the Chevy’s driver.
“Are you kidding me? The sign says road work ahead, asshole, I bet there is another mile between us and it. And a up and down mile at that! I don’t want to be behind your slow redneck ass! Bullshit country drivers!”
Anna looks at the Chevy’s battered tailgate in front of her on the road, but says nothing. She glances at the clock on the car’s stereo and winces to herself when she reads 7:27 am in the neon green numbers. Tom hated being woken up early, and she had done just that. She had not only woken him up early, but done so sleep deprived, terrified, and inconsolable. Anna had endured a sleepless night, cuddled to Tom’s snoring shape in the dark, but unable to sleep herself for the grasshoppers chirping, clicking, and singing outside the hotel window.
Anna grew up in Chicago so she was more familiar with cockroaches than grasshoppers, and even being a novice about crop-eaters she fully expected them to be silent once night wrapped the sleepy town of St. Jim’s in its oily arms. Instead as she watched the moon rise higher and higher into the sky they got louder and louder. Around midnight the chirping took on a menacing tone, and she could her screams in the chirping, clicking, and singing outside. The sound became so overpowering it was if the insects had transformed themselves into the very sound they were making and using it to crawl all over her, tangling in her hair and sticking their heads into every orifice they can find. So she wiggled and thrashed as her mind and reality did battle in the dark of a strange hotel room. She was chewing the inside of her cheek raw, with tears streaming down her face when the first precious ray of sunshine wandered in from between the nicotine-yellowed drapes. It was all the provocation her exhausted and frightened mind needed and she was rolling Tom out of bed, demanding he take her from St. Jim’s and never let her return. At the time he was still more asleep than awake, so any fight he had was overpowered by her obvious, irrational or not, panic.
Now, he is grinding his teeth as he mad-dogs the light blue Chevy’s tailgate. He stomps on the accelerator and jerks the wheel hard to the side, so he can pass the Chevy. She realizes he has had plenty of time to wake up and be mad about it.
“I’m not following some redneck asshole who is going to slam on his breaks every time he sees an orange cone on the side of the road!” Tom shouts his words as they approach, but they aren’t directed truly at Anna or the truck’s driver.
The little black Honda squeals at the combination of increases in both speed and road grade as it jerks them past the pickup. Tom doesn’t even look over at the driver as he passes, he just huffs the word ‘asshole’ and keeps his angry eyes on the road. Anna does turn and look, taking in the square-jawed man’s weary appearance under his worn ball-cap. His eye are so bloodshot they almost seem crimson, and the worry lines on his forehead match the roadmap of illogical fear on Anna’s own forehead. He had a night like me, she thinks to herself.
Anna keeps her eyes on the Honda’s speedometer, expecting it to drop once they pass the pickup but instead it continues climbing. 55, 60, 65, 70, 75.
Tom stares at the road, a winding concrete snake slithering through Hoo-Doo County. Every few feet squat orange cones line the side of the old mountain highway, giving the concrete reptile vibrant markings to go with its blacktop camouflage. Another bright orange diamond shaped sign informs them they are losing the left lane in less than a mile.
“Seriously who is doing road work at seven in the damn it?” Tom yells and Anna bristles at the anger in his voice. Then, his choice of words strikes her as odd.
“Don’t you mean seven in the morning?”
Tom smiles back, an almost involuntary reaction to how amused he is by his own cleverness. “No, I meant damn it. From now on, the morning begins at 8:00 am, and anything before then is the damn it.”
Anna laughs out loud, the sound of her joyful glee tickling Tom until he is laughing along with her. The Honda’s speed drops back down, 85, 80, 75, 70, 65, 60. She squeezes his hand. He winks at her. Without saying the words, she apologizes for waking him up and making them leave before breakfast and he accepts. The little Honda speeds around a turn a little yellow sign recommends be taken at 45 mph or less, and they see where the left lane ends three hundred feet ahead of them. The wide, white rear-end of a nice RV blocks the view of the road as it sits idling and waiting on something ahead of them.
Tom stomps of the breaks harder than he means to, pitching them both forward sharply, then slamming them back hard.
“Son of a bitch!” Tom bellows.
“Afternoon already?” Anna quickly jests.
Tom smiles, though it looks uneasy enough if he would have laughed it would have been forced and fake. He looks into the rearview mirror at the Chevy behind them. He scowls at the reflection he sees.
“That asshole in the Chevy thought that was funny. Eh, I mean the RV making me slam on my breaks, not your ‘joke’.” Tom looks at Anna sideways, teasing.
“Well, he would have if he heard it. Roll down your window, and I’ll yell it out to him.” Anna waves her hand at Tom, motioning for him to roll his window down, but he playfully waves her back. She looks back to the man driving the Chevy and sees a wide maniacal smile even with the square jaw, though the bloodshot eyes and deeply etched worry lines are now hidden by the shade of the cap’s bill. The unmistakable crack of rifle fire echoes through the morning air, startling both Tom and Anna to the point of jumping in their seats. Anna ‘s eyes go back to the rear-view mirror where the man is the pickup, still smiling wide, is now nodding his head fervently.
“What the hell was that Tom?” Anna’s voice squeals slightly, but her buried fear has to vent some way or another. The echo of the rifle shot is having the same effect as the grasshoppers’ overnight serenade, a sinking drowning sense of dread and despair that almost brings tears to hers eyes as it steals the moisture from her mouth.
Tom opens his mouth to answer that it could be hunters but a metallic silver Ford Mustang zips up over the last hill, right around the blue Chevy and then Tom and Anna’s black Honda before the RV’s taillights bring it to a stop just past the Honda’s front bumper with even harsher grinds than Tom’s moments before.
“That is kinda’ funny from back here.” Tom concedes and both of them laugh at it as the RV’s complete stoppage stops the coiling line of morning traffic leading back into St. Jim’s. Its wide rear-end completely blocks the view of what is obstructing the road and causing the delay.
The instant the car stops rolling the echoing clapping of the grasshoppers’ song fills the air as if licking to taste the echo of the rifle shot. Anna rolls her window up, and rubs her temples, hoping to keep it together. Hundreds of brown and green grasshoppers are jumping from the forested roadside and hopping down towards the farmed fields surrounding hilltops like they are drawn by a strange dormant migration instinct. Anna looks away from the grasshoppers crawling and jumping all over the ground to the forested hillside ahead of them. The northern Idaho terrain has gone from rolling hills to sharp rugged mountains, with as much predictability as a pregnant woman’s moods in the time Tom and Anna have been traveling through it, and the road from St. Jim’s to the larger town of Falterwood is no different, with patches of farmed fields dispersed amongst the trees and all of it on ever-rolling hills of earth.
Anna’s wandering eyes, desperate to avoid the hundreds of grasshoppers, see a sign announcing an upcoming road as Tree Horn Ridge Loop Drive. How quint, Anna thinks to herself, but her inner voice is mocking and snide so Anna keeps it to herself.
From where they have come to a stop Tom can’t see any oncoming traffic, but he can see the left side of a massive yellow bull dozer. A tiny little grasshopper, as black as the Honda’s paintjob, leaps brazenly through Tom’s open window slapping its glittery purple wings in his face as it flies past to land on the dash board. The insect’s flight seems surreal and slow-motion to Tom who watches the dazzling purple wings with empty eyes. Anna screams and recoils. Tom snaps from his momentary stupor and laughs out loud at her reaction, but he catches sight of the man behind him and his laughter dies in his throat. The stone-faced man looks both worried and frightened; both emotions look foreign and uncomfortable on his shadowed face.
Anna reaches to her side for the copy of People Magazine she grabbed in Stillwater, keeping her eyes on the small oddly colored insect skittering around on the dash. She draws the magazine to her lap, and rolls it tightly with both hands. She brings her paper death tube down onto the unsuspecting grasshopper, convincingly squishing it and squirting orange innards halfway across the dashboard.
“Was that necessary?” Tom asks while looking at the orange mess smeared across the dash.
Without pause, Anna responds, “Absolutely. The chirping bastards kept me up all night, Tom. They damn near drove me insane.” Something in her tone tints the words with eeriness. She flinches with each tiny thud of a grasshopper throwing itself against the side of the Honda, her heart racing in rhythm with the soft thuds as it tries to crawl up her throat.
A scream cuts through the grasshoppers’ song, which swells and swallows the scream as it the insects meant to keep the scream a secret. Anna feels the blood flush from her face as she spins to Tom.
“Turn us around, Tom!” She yells louder than she means to.
He turns to look at her, but traffic gives a sudden lurch forward. The progress only lasts for a few feet before the line of vehicles comes to rapid stop again. Anna’s frightened eyes scan the traffic, but are drawn above it to the darkening sky. She screams without fully realizing it when she sees the swarm of giant black grasshoppers leaping towards them with glittery fans of vibrant purple reflecting the newly risen sun in terrible prisms as they move.
All hell breaks loose.
A short, stocky man wearing an orange hardhat and a green safety vest dashes into view next to the RV. He is swinging a SLOW/STOP sign at several dog-sized black grasshoppers hissing and jumping at him. The RV’s taillights flash bright red as it attempts to back up, but it smashes the silver Mustang’s front end and stops cold. The Mustang’s driver, a middle-aged man in Dockers and a brown and orange striped polo-shirt, stomps out of his car shaking his fists at the RV. Dockers takes a few long angry strides in the direction of the RV as if he is planning to march right up to the side door like it was a trailer in a trailer park. He takes a good three steps before he finally sees the road worker struggling against the big black hoppers. Dockers makes a funny face, and looks around, as if he expects to see a camera crew hidden in the shadows of the evergreens. Instead, Dockers watches the road worker slap one black grasshopper away with his sign, just as another leaps onto the man’s broad shoulders. Its mandibles tear through muscle and sinew to scrap against his collar bone. The man falls face forward onto the side of the road, fighting weakly against, not only the grasshopper which took him down, but, anther two which scamper onto him through the cloud of dust his tumble stirs.
As the dust clears Anna watches one of the black grasshoppers perched on the road worker’s back digging out his spine while keeping its insect eyes on her. Dockers watches the same thing, and his hand twitches slowly several inches from his door handle, but his numb legs are frozen in place and his reeling mind doesn’t think to lean over slightly to reach the handle. He begins screaming as a group of giant black grasshoppers charges him.
More screams erupt from the RV and the side of the road is suddenly crowded with people in tacky tourists clothing getting shredded by the attacking swarm. Anna watches a mother attempt to shield her daughter, only to get her arms eaten, and then watch her young daughter get decapitated by a black grasshopper the size of a bear. Anna can’t pull her eyes away from the scene, despite how horrendous it is. Each and every person who has tried to flee has been taken down by one or more giant grasshoppers and torn apart by twitching mandibles and barbed legs. Dockers unfreezes from his fear just as a sleek oil-backed grasshopper at long as he is tall tackles him to the ground. The man screams into the asphalt as the monster tears at his spine, pulling most of it away with one firm tug of its powerful mandibles. Anna turns away from the massacre to scream at her pale-faced boyfriend again.
“Tom, turn us around!” Anna screams the words and Tom shifts into reverse without taking his wide eyes off the carnage ahead of them. His muscles freeze after completing the initial shift, and he applies no pressure to the gas pedal to complete the retreat.
The roar of a bulldozer rivals that of the insectiod army as it rumbles into view on the opposite side of the RV as the slaughter, crushing orange cones as it rolls forward. The blue Chevy behind them jerks hard to the side and pulls around them, barely missing the Honda in its rush.
“Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god,” Anna repeats the modern trauma chant while Tom curses at the Chevy as it jerks past him, smashing over road cones and charging the bulldozer which just appeared. The stone-faced driver of the Chevy doesn’t have time to avoid the bulldozer as if he somehow missed its loud diesel-reeking appearance. The bulldozer’s large yellow blade tears through the Chevy’s front end like claws through flesh. The Chevy’s driver doesn’t scream as he truck is engulfed in flames and shoved into a grinding, smoking retreat by the bulldozer. After hitting the truck, the dozer changes direction and forces the flaming pickup into the woods on the opposite side of the road from Anna and Tom. As it rumbles past them, neither Tom nor Anna see a driver in the bulldozer, just several grasshoppers climbing all over the construction vehicle.
An old man clad in rags staggers alongside the RV. He drags his hand along the side of the RV leaving a smeared crimson handprint which stands out vividly against the RV’s bright white. The old man’s long face is streaked with the same crimson as his hands and his long tangled beard hanging down to his belly is a vibrant scarlet with weak streaks of gray. He looks at Tom and Anna, his eyes swirling rainbows of dark neon colors which chill them both deep in their souls.
“What is this all about?” Tom whispers his question to himself.
The traffic behind them surges forward in the wake of the pickup, effectively blocking Tom and Anna’s planned escape. A colossal grasshopper leaps from the trees and lands on the top of the RV, crushing the massive vehicle down a few feet and making it sway as it settles. The RV creaks loudly as it sways and comes within inches of hitting the bearded old man, who ignores both the swaying RV and gigantic grasshopper atop it. The sleek monster hisses and spits at the little Honda before jumping at it.
“Holy shit, get out!” Tom yells as he opens his door and throws himself onto the asphalt.
He lands elbows first, but lands with enough momentum to smack his chin on the highway before he rolls away from the car just as the grasshopper smashes it to shards of metal and plastic with its girth. Tom sees blood splattered across the wreckage of the flattened Honda after the massive hopper smashes the next car in line, and he knows Anna didn’t make it out in time. He has no time to mourn his lost love, because a dog-sized hopper pounces onto his chest almost immediately. The monster smashes his ribs, and drools black slime onto his pale-face. The mutant grasshopper has two rows of eyes, quickly clicking mandibles, and a circular mouth lined with rows of sharp teeth. Tom panics and smashes the grasshopper in its closest eye. The creature lurches away blinded from the lucky strike, but another uses Tom as a launch pad crushing any ribs not already destroyed as it leaps of off him.
The momentum of the grasshopper’s leap rolls Tom’s battered body on the highway like a rag doll. Tom raises his hand at the people behind him, he can’t draw a deep enough breath to scream. His eyes relay his panic and pain to the people in their cars and trucks as he reaches feebly for their help. The grasshopper he temporarily blinded crawls over him slowly, methodically, severing a limb at a time and tearing at his back with its barbed feet in the middle of the highway.
The man with the red face and beard stumbles up to Tom’s scattered remains. Both his eyes seem to be rolling different directions, but it is impossible to tell because of their wild rainbow hues. He yells something unintelligible and hundreds of normal grasshoppers converge on the severed limbs, avoiding the old man completely.
The stunned drivers behind the scene slam into each other in their panic as the swarm of grasshoppers overtakes them on its way into St. Jim’s.
Two leather-clad bikers run screaming for the safety rail only to be gutted and flayed before their abandoned motorcycles hit the ground.
A white-van full of juvenile delinquents and two probation officers locks the doors to no avail as bear-sized black grasshoppers smash themselves into the windshield until it shatters in. Hundreds of black grasshoppers swarm the jagged opening and the next instant arterial spray colors the unbroken windows.
A team of sheet-rockers exit their battered work-truck swinging their hammers like savages. Neither makes contact even once before they are attacked. The driver manages a frightful war cry before a hopper nearly as big as him leaps onto his back and bites off the top of his head. The other man watches his friend die, and decides to retreat. He reaches for the door handle stiff with fear. An eight-inch long grasshopper lands on the sheet-rocker’s outstretched arm and rips ravenously at the tender flesh of his wrist. Blood spurts to the blacktop with every beat of the man’s heart. Others smell the spilling blood and swarm the whimpering man.
Screams join in the grasshoppers’ song as the massacre concludes in violent bloody fashion leaving no survivors on the gore-stained highway. The old bearded man, the hermit known as The Corn Eater, waddles towards the town which he wandered away from so long ago, his bare feet slapping the concrete and flinging blood with every step. He sees through the eyes of the swarm, and back in the decrepit shack the Pulse in the Dark glows terrible neon colors pleased as it watches the swarm advance through his shimmering eyes.
Next 'episode' will be posted Tuesday, April 1st.
You can find more of my scribblings HERE.
Friday, March 21, 2014
4: The Corn Eater and the Pulse in the Dark
He has to leave.
He hears the grasshoppers outside his shack; they hiss and chatter drowning out any other sound from the forest morning.
He has to leave and he doesn’t want to.
He lives to serve the Pulse in the Dark. He wandered the ridge and forest for years, feeling the Pulse’s dark power long before he stumbled upon it. It called to him in his dreams, and frayed his sanity while attempting to summon him. He left a family behind to stare at its cosmic colors as it twitched and glowed, just poking out of the dirt. He knew he saw very little of its full shape, its malevolent girth trapped under the wright of the dirt. He marveled at the perfect smoothness and the rainbow of dark neon colors, so strange and alien, shimmering within it. He built the small shack around it, and its colors would reflect off the wooden slats as if it was stainless steel. He lost his sight, for he only sees for it now. He has been rewarded by being able to see through the Pulse, and all that it has seen in its eons of existence.
He feels its power and its hunger. He knows the grasshoppers will feed the Pulse, but he will taste the flesh and taste the blood as well.
He eats only the food that the Pulse forces to grow right around the shack. He is accustomed to the thick thorns and sharp barbs that grow up the length up the stalk. He peels the bright red cob expertly and eats the kernels greedily, so juicy, tangy and bitter-sweet as it runs down his chin into his haggard beard. He has scoured the forest for more of his food and found none. He has skipped through the moonlit fields kept by the other humans, and found none. He knew other humans once, but he doesn’t remember when. He has also sacrificed his sense of time to the Pulse in the Dark.
He doesn’t want to leave and he doesn’t know the words to express his feeling. He slaps his head; his brain once understood the high-points of the English language but the words have faded. He once used his voice, which he has grown to hate so much, to speak and communicate with other humans. He knows that the same way he knows he has survived snows and suns and storms and cuts and bruises and failure and fear. He knows not how he knows anything, other than by the grace of the Pulse in the Dark.
He is human.
He is human and he hates himself for it. He loathes his shape and his skin. He longs to be smooth. He longs to drown in the glow. He hates humans, and hates himself for being human. He sees more than humans, so much more.
He hears the wind blow against the shack, then feels it creep through the slots between planks and dance on his sandpaper skin. He hears the door rattle and his bony fingers cover his eyes and tap his forehead. He hears the grasshoppers’ song rise and fall in volume in rhythm with his taps
He sees through their eyes, all of their eyes. He knows the time has come. He has felt its hunger and He knew it would come to pass. He sees through the malevolent force which birthed the grasshoppers, as it sees through them, and it sees through him and he sees through it.
He taps his forehead with fingers stained blood crimson. He knows more will happen, and the Pulse in the Dark will grow, and He will drown in the neon glow.
He stands slowly and sways in place. He has to leave.
He can’t focus. He can’t balance or think. He knows more humans are about to be devoured. He knows this the same way he knows he has survived snows and suns and storms and cuts and bruises and failure and fear. He knows not how he knows anything, other than by the grace of the Pulse in the Dark.
He hungers. He feels the grasshoppers’ hunger.
He sees through their eyes and He tastes the flesh they devour. He finds it tastes akin to the food outside his shack. He stops tapping and the grasshoppers’ song begins to fade even as screams begin on the ridge.
He puts one hand on the wooden wall for balance and it creaks its complaint loudly. He gathers up his satchel and his walking stick.
He has been shown so much over his decades in the shack serving the Pulse in the Dark. He has seen sinister cities built from stone and metal and inhabited by beings far stranger than he could ever imagine or comprehend. He has seen the birth of the universe and all the violence left in its wake. He has breathed infinity in endless gulfs of freezing nothingness. He has seen the farthest reaches of space and time. He has seen the farthest reaches of soul and mind.
He watches now as the thousands jump towards flesh. He jumps along with each and every one. He hears their song blaspheme at the sky and all the flesh under it. He hears the grasshoppers call the flies to the blood.
He feels the dry summer wind as it blows against the heads of the thousands. He smells the primal fear of the other forest animals as they flee the swarm.
He has felt wind so scorching hot it would turn humans to crackling ash in a blink. He was safe in the shack. He has felt the swirling frozen winds so cold they hold worlds entrapped in ice for eons. He was safe in the shack. He has to leave, but he doesn’t want to.
He pushes the door open and the dozen of black grasshoppers of various mutated sizes waiting on him flutter their legs excitedly. He nods at the brilliant glimmering purple as if he understands each tiny clacking stroke as he plucks cobs of his food and deposits them into his satchel.
He hears a gunshot with his human ears. He hears the same shot through the thousand and it echoes in his skull as such.
He sees the human who fired the shot. He feels flesh tear away. He feels him crushed beneath his awesome weight. He tastes the flesh and he tastes the blood.
He knows one human has died, warm blooded and unbitten. He sees dirt fly and feels the Pulse’s excitement as human corpse and giant grasshopper both sink under flung dirt. He tastes more slaughtered flesh and uses the walking stick to steady himself.
He knows he will soon see through the eyes of humans. He knows this the same way he knows he has survived snows and suns and storms and cuts and bruises and failure and fear. He knows not how he knows anything, other than by the grace of the Pulse in the Dark. He feels his stomach heave and growl at the flesh the grasshoppers are consuming. He digs a cob of food from his satchel and peels away the violet husk with expert swiftness. He bites into the red and black cob, allowing the crimson juices to flow down his chin as his weak human stomach settles.
He sees through the eyes of the thousands.
He hears their song call the flies to the blood.
He is ready to leave.
Next 'episode' will be posted Wednesday March 26 2014.
You can more of my scribblings HERE.
Monday, March 17, 2014
3: The Invisible Creek
At the very base of Tree Horn Ridge runs a cool mountain creek, nearly completely obscured by the lush bright green ferns which grow so well on the shadowed forest floor. The bottom of the ridge is part of no well-trimmed hiking trail, and as such very few humans have wandered to the very base of the rugged ridge to marvel at the sound of the unseen creek. A few game trails cut in and out and around and through the pines and brambles, but the angles are so great and the terrain is so chaotic and uneven men couldn’t easy follow them. Other than the game trails only a single overgrown path crosses the ridge bottom, and it is only easily visible in a few places where it hasn’t been swallowed by hungry nature and time.
“It’s a desolate enough place without bolting state, Danny Boy.” Cliff persuaded his younger brother who wanted nothing more than to hit the fucking skids, and find a new town.
Of course, looking at the ten-to-twenty years he was facing for unknowingly toting a backpack half full of tweek to a good buddy of Cliff’s, who just so happened to be a freshly turned Tri-County-Drug-Task-Force-snitch, gave Danny a different perspective than his older brother. Cliff caught wind of the entire situation before Danny, and rather than worry his little bro, he simply went about planning their new life on the run.
Danny didn’t take it so well, and after narrowly avoiding the two Hoo-Doo County Sheriff’s deputies asking for him at the front counter of the Fat Cam’s Burgers where he worked, he was ready to drop everything and run the hell away on foot for all he cared. He couldn’t leave without telling his brother the cops were looking for him, and telling his girlfriend Elizabeth he would have take off for at least a little while. Well, Cliff already knew, and he and his own crazy-ass girlfriend, Trisha, were waiting with bodies humming with crystal meth and supplies already packed for Danny’s run from Old Mother Justice. And Elizabeth refused to allow Danny to leave without her. Cliff was honking the van’s horn and shouting out the window for him to hurry up. Elizabeth was crying and not letting go of the hug she pleaded for. Despite being a year away from graduation, Danny knew she could in no way fathom how serious the shit was for him at the moment. He had been watching Cliff and his friends for long enough to know things could, and often did, go bad. Elizabeth had watched a few episodes of Breaking Bad. Nonetheless, she wouldn’t let go of him until he swore she could come along. She grabbed her bags and Cliff had them out of St. Jim’s and shimming down the dangerous mountainside down to the creek at bottom with two hours.
And now, the four had been camped out at the bottom very base of Tree Horn Ridge for a very paranoid but uneventful three days and the sound of a pick-up crashing clear up on the forest road above sent Cliff scampering uphill with his 30.06. In Cliff’s sudden absence Trisha is rubbing her fingers in the pale sweaty crevice between her pert breasts in their bikini top cradle and ripping Danny’s tee-shirt and jeans away with her eyes. Danny does his best to avoid her blatant ‘fuck-me-eyes’ by casting his own obvious glances over the fern-covered creek to the tent where Elizabeth still restlessly sleeps, and then to the path his crazed brother took when he scampered towards the sounds invading their solitude. Danny’s boyish good looks are a stark contrast to his older brother’s hard-edged features and Trisha is intrigued.
“How you doing, Danny Boy?” Trisha speaks in the sexiest voice she can muster after howling in passion all night with Cliff. Cigarette, whiskey and razorblade whispers.
“Doing pretty shitty, Trisha.” Danny answers, struggling to keep his eyes off his brother’s girlfriend and her nipples visibly stiffening behind the sheer fabric of her bikini top.
For as long as Danny can remember Cliff has been a little off. Despite Cliff being three years older, he was held back two times- so through high school he was only one grade above Danny. The younger brother watched his elder sibling relentlessly bully and torment the entire rest of the school seemingly at random. Danny has watched Cliff slam kids’ heads in their lockers; something Cliff called ‘slamming stupid’. Cliff has all kinds of colorful terms for his favorite physical assaults; stomping someone when they are down is ‘putting the boots to ‘em’ and low-blows to unsuspecting scrotums are ‘baby-killers’. Danny knows Cliff has tortured and killed animals, but he keeps his knowledge of such quiet from his brother because once Cliff found meth his mind started warping at a much sharper rate, and Danny didn’t want to see where that could be going.
When Cliff suggested Danny flee, his tone was mobster persuasive and Danny knew it was far more a demand than brotherly tip. In the three long days they have been here Cliff has been acting as if his mental nut has been going back and forth between too tight and too loose. One minute Cliff would be staring vacantly into the forest, his lips moving silently while drool pools at the corners. The next minute he would be boisterous and fun, but something sinister rings in the echo of his laughter. And the next minute his mood sours like grave-rot, and his ramblings take stranger turns which complement the murderous glow in his eyes. Danny in no way wants to push or test his brother at the moment.
Trisha, who could possibly be even more insane than Cliff, seems not to care in the very slightest. “Oh, come on, baby boy, this ain’t that bad at all.”
“Yeah, Trisha, it is. I’m totally fucked.” His voice cracks, betraying the fear he has been choking on for the past three days. “And that’s if Cliff doesn’t lose his last two marbles down here. I mean why here? This place has a nasty feel to it, don’t it?”
Trisha slowly, dramatically, inhales a deep breath. “It’s quiet out here Danny. And beautiful. I’ve been wet since we set our packs down.”
Danny ignores her last few words, and focuses on her first claim. “The shit it is, Trisha that clear-cut up there is crawling with grasshoppers, and the little bastards haven’t shut the hell up yet. Elizabeth and I haven’t slept for shit the past few nights, I’ll tell ya that.”
Danny winces when the chirping uphill intensifies as if taking cue from his words. His fingertips rub the black circles under his bloodshot eyes, and then try to massage the stress headache from his temples. “And I know Cliff doesn’t like Elizabeth. That makes us both more than a little nervous. Ya know?”
Something flashes in Trisha’s eyes, a realization she keeps silent from Danny. Her sultry and mischievous smile confirms his thought and makes him more nervous than enticed. She moves towards him, her eyebrows raising as she undresses him with her eyes and making no effort to hide the fact she is tickling her nipples through her top. “I think you are overreacting, Danny.”
Danny’s eyes go wide with disbelief of Trisha’s nerve. “Bullshit, Trisha. You know we can’t hide down here for much longer, much less forever. Sooner than later the cops will get them cuffs on me and we all know it.” Though he admits so much out loud his voice lowers to a whisper for the confession. “And, again, that’s if Cliff doesn’t kill us all before we can leave.”
He finally looks back to her, and realizes as he watches her right hand unashamedly reached up under her top and working her left breast, that she doesn’t care what he is saying in the slightest. Her eyes aren’t even on his face, but rather his crotch and she nibbles on her bottom lip as she openly stares. Acting completely on its own accord, Danny’s penis swells at the attention directed at it despite Danny’s terror. Danny blushes, and then spins half around in panic when he hears Elizabeth stirring in their tent across the creek. Before Danny can react to anything at all, Trisha steps uncomfortably close, rubbing against his throb and backing him into the tree behind him.
Danny clears his throat and reminds Trisha about his brother, her boyfriend, the crazy bastard scampering up the rugged mountainside, “I’m talking about Cliff, Trisha. When you two ain’t making love or whatever, he is ranting and raving about this Corn Eater character, where the creepy hell did that come from? I think he might be going all deep end and shit. Ya know? Should we be worried?”
Trisha licks her lips, and holds her finger to her chin as if she if really concentrating and trying to maintain a level of cuteness which she never really possessed. “Not sure, Danny, can’t think past this throbbing I got below. But, I can tell you, me and Cliff ain’t ever ‘made love’. It ain’t nice, it ain’t pretty. Hell, Cliff calls it ‘scrogging’.”
Danny was using the term to be polite, after hearing them indeed engage in very rough and very loud acts of mutual stimulation that he couldn’t in his right mind call actual coitus. Both Cliff and Trisha seemed to enjoy not only grunting and screaming as loud as possible but giving graphic and commanding play by play that only served to mortify the inexperienced lovers in the next tent over. Danny’s semi-erect prick flexes further at the memory of the things he’d listened to over the past three nights.
“Uh, okay. What about this Corn Eater guy? Is that some dude Cliff knows from jail? Is it, like, some hip new cartoon character I’ve been missing because it’s senior year and all? And I’ve been studying my ass off until now so I could get into a decent school. And I am in love with my girlfriend and not ready to go to prison for someone else’s bullshit. Damn it, Trisha, are you listening to me at all?”
Trisha leans forward, pressing her warm body against Danny’s pulsing nervousness. “Yeah, I guess maybe he is getting crazier. The last time he fucked me up the ass he choked me out. I had a headache when I woke up but it was pretty cool. Some people would call that crazy.”
Across the creek the sound of the zipper on Danny’s tent is muffled by the grasshoppers’ song above as Elizabeth crawls out into the morning. As she emerges, before she even looks for her campmates, Elizabeth’s voice whines at the daybreak. “Where are you guys? Why are the grasshoppers sooooo loud? What’s going on guys?”
Trisha watches the younger-plainer-safer- girl slink from the tent flap, and grabs Danny’s growing erection through his jeans as she leans close enough to kiss. “Do you want to screw me, Danny? Do you want to strangle me?”
A man’s terrified scream silences the grasshoppers’ song for a brief instant before it erupts tenfold again. Danny’s legs go numb with irrational fear just as Trisha gives his unit a firm enough tug his jaw drops in shocked response. She takes full advantage by leaning forward and cramming her tongue down his throat.
Elizabeth finally notices them and her shriek is furious and pained, “Danny! What are you doing?”
At the same moment, Cliff’s voice shouts down at them as he crashes down the impossible grade like a madman, his heels kicking pebbles and dust on them all, “Grasshoppers! Holy faking shit, guys, grasshoppers bigger than me and you! Grasshoppers, guys!”
Danny doesn’t know who he should turn and apologize to first; he only knows he needs to get the hell away from Trisha. He puts his plan into action without fully thinking it through. With a frustrated grunt he shoves Trisha away while her lustful tongue still probes his mouth.
Too late all around.
“You’re going to die, little bro!” Cliff, who watched the whole exchange from a slightly elevated position, shouts as he holds the 30.06 to his shoulder while sliding down the terrain recklessly fast. Cliff is silhouetted against the morning sun and the trees, but his lines blur at the sheer number of grasshoppers snapping through the air around him. Behind Cliff, and showing far less respect for the narrow game-trails, are several dog-sized and bear-sized black grasshoppers chasing after him. “You are a dead man, Danny!”
Danny feels as if he is suddenly caught in a chaotic whirlwind of emotion and insanity crushing in on him from every direction. He feels Trisha’s fury and her relentless lust clawing at his crotch and throat. He feels Cliff’s pure kill-crazy rage like a rain of nails on his back. And he feels Elizabeth’s harrowing confusion and sudden sorrow like calamitous nausea stuck in his throat. Despite Trisha being the closest and Cliff being the most dangerous Danny turns to his heartbroken girlfriend first.
When Danny turns his back on him, Cliff bristles with indignation and steadies his rifle best he can while still sliding down the steep tree-covered ridge side. Cliff sees the back of Danny’s head through the scope, but the instant before he squeezes the trigger a large black grasshopper clips his shoulder; knocking him off balance and tearing away scraps of his camouflage jacket and the flesh underneath with its rear legs as it careens past him. The bullet meant for Danny goes up and over him, crossing the creek to sink into Elizabeth’s forehead. The bullet explodes out the back of her head, flinging chunks of splattered brain and broken bits of skull against the nylon tent with a wet thwack. Danny cries out his own agonies as she falls back onto their tent with a look of betrayal on her face under the little black smoking hole in the middle of her forehead.
Between the big hopper crashing into him and the recoil of the high-powered rifle Cliff loses the last little bit of control he has over his slide. Gravity takes him, slamming him face first into the mountainside before flinging him off the sheer cliff face he had scampered up twenty minutes before to fall the last thirty feet and land flat on his back with a crack Danny feels in the arches of his feet.
Trisha abandons her arrogant, aggressive demeanor and screams as thousands of grasshoppers swarm them from the clear-cut above. The air is suddenly crowded with grasshoppers of all sizes. The black and purple monsters flutter and jump alongside their common cousins, hissing as they charge. The smallest of these attack the screaming Trisha as if drawn by her fearful wails. Sleek black hoppers eight inches and longer land on her and tangle up in her hair chewing at her scalp, while others sink their sharp appendages into her flesh to secure them a feeding spot they can’t easily be removed from.
Danny tries to run across the creek to reach Elizabeth, but several dog-sized hoppers leap at him from all directions making the fifteen-foot journey impossible. Danny ducks the giant grasshoppers as they soar through the air clicking and flashing their brilliant purple wings, but Trisha is too distracted with those in her hair and those already feasting on her. A hopper Danny narrowly avoids cuts back sharp the opposite way and bounces off of Trisha’s ribs with enough force to knock her into the fern-covered creek unable to scream with the shards of broken rib stabbed through her lung meat.
Danny hears Cliff still screaming death-threats at him over the clacking and hissing of the swarm, but also the roar of a few colossal hoppers crashing recklessly through the trees. The sheer number of grasshoppers stirs the dirt from the forest floor, and these new massive black grasshoppers knock trees from their path as they lumber down the ridge-side. Danny finally reaches the creek bed, and he nearly vomits when he spreads the ferns apart looking for the creek. He finds it, first try, and the chunks of meat floating in the cool clear mountain water and the small brown normal grasshoppers nibbling at it unnerve him so much he nearly falls face-first into the creek himself when his weak legs threaten to give up.
Danny looks back at his brother and sees Cliff crawling in his direction, dragging his useless legs behind him to flop in awkward positions with his pained progress. The live trees and half-decayed logs flung out of the way of the advancing giants rain down from above. Danny is amazed as several crash to the forest floor around Cliff in shocking explosions of earth and wood, but none slow his furious crawl.
“I saved you, Danny! Ia!”
Danny hops the crimson creek and steps quickly to his dead girlfriend on their crumpled tent.
“I’m gonna offer you up to him, Danny! Ia! Ia!”
A single six-inch black hopper sits on Elizabeth’s forehead directly above the wound, its mandibles clicking rapidly and dripping a pinkish froth. It flutters its legs and Danny marvels at the brilliant purple glimmer.
“Danny! Noob bartok cythh! IA! IA! IA! Danny!”
Cliff is moving quickly away from the base of the cliff where he landed, and screaming with such force his eyeballs bulge in their sockets, veins throughout his neck and face swell and his face reddens.
“He’ll let me in his shack when I bring him your flesh, you ungrateful little shit! Ia, Danny! Ia! Ia! Ia!”
The madness screeching in Cliff’s voice finally pulls Danny’s tear-rimmed eyes away from Elizabeth to his furious brother. Danny regards Cliff briefly but movement on the overhang above and draws Danny’s eyes. One of the giants, easily the size of a pickup truck balances on the edge of the precipice where Cliff fell from, hissing down at the brothers. Cliff smiles dementedly up at Danny, but as he opens his mouth to say something the giant lets go and drops its weight down onto Cliff’s sprawled form smashing his legs to pulp and forcing unidentifiable innards out his mouth before it bounces high above a ducking Danny. It lands with a thunderous crash next to Elizabeth and begins digging at the hillside. Danny’s eyes dart back and forth between the hopper burrowing into the dirt next to his dead girlfriend and his dying brother as cub-sized hoppers attack him. Cliff can’t scream in pain through the organs being forced out his gullet, but he moans long and loud as the hoppers eat him alive, a strip of flesh at a time.
With the giant grasshopper distracted and most of the other mutants feasting on either Cliff or Trisha’s corpses, Danny chuckles silently and scampers up the hillside opposite Tree Horn Ridge. As he escapes Danny looks back over his shoulders to survey the bedlam below. The hoppers have torn the flattened remains of his brother into no less than three separate chunks they nibble at. Others trample down a swath around Trisha’s fast-disappearing corpse. And the largest of the bunch, its mottled black exoskeleton a pitch of black so dark Danny sees terrible cosmos swirling as it moves, is digging a hole in the hillside next to his lost love. He exhales sharply and resumes his escape.
Before he reaches the apex of the small hill a cat-sized hopper latches on to the back of his leg. Its feet dig into his muscles, and its mandibles tear at Danny’s meaty thigh severing his femoral artery during its frenzied attack. Danny staggers as his world darkens. A second hopper, twice the size of the first lands on his back and sinks its mandibles into the back of Danny’s neck; killing him before he can scream. Danny’s dead body flops back the way he fled and he tumbles all the way back to the invisible creek with the two hoppers still clutched tight to his fresh corpse.
Down the overgrown path through the camp something malevolent stirs, and feeling it the grasshoppers sing while they eat.
Next 'episode' Friday March 21, 2014.
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