This Used to be My Job

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At almost midnight I stand before Grandma Whitkin’s grave. Buried earlier today. Ideally, I would have done this right after her death but the family doesn’t understand things like this. So I waited until it was just me and her. Just like old times, when I knew her as Susan.

Susan was a healer. Like most healers, she built up a residue of death in her body. It’s not hard to cleanse and purge the necrotic energies but she died suddenly, without warning, without preparing herself. The first time I got close to her at the viewing I could feel it. She won’t rise tonight or tomorrow but someday she would.

I kneel and plunge my left arm up to my elbow into the loose mound of dirt over the grave. Freshly turned graveyard dirt is a powerful conductor letting me reach the necrotic energy easily. I begin pulling it strand by strand out of Susan. It coils in my arm; contained, compressed. I control my breathing as my flesh tingles and fizzes under the skin. When I die, I have special instructions on how to dispose of my arm so no one has to do this for me. This was my job. Ensuring the dead stayed dead.

Well, the dead used to stay dead when it was my job but there’s a reason people like me retire early. I feel a blockage and pull hard. It pops free and a surge of necrotic energy burns up my arm. Something gives, blood flows; I jerk my arm out of the dirt. A ragged tear across my palm drips. I squeeze my hand shut and back away from the grave. Did I pull out in time or … A faint thud comes from the ground followed by cracking wood and the dirt begins to shift.

It’s been too long or I’m just not strong enough to do it properly anymore. The result is the same. After a few minutes, Susan begins to claw herself out of the grave. I pull my revolver and put two in her skull and one in her heart.

I wrap my scarf, I really like this scarf, around my bleeding hand. I wait a while to see if Susan will have a second rising and to see if anyone called the cops about gunshots in the graveyard. It’s all quiet for thirty minutes so I make a phone call.

“Hey Johnny, it’s Denise. I need a clean up in Northside Memorial Park Cemetery.”

“Denise? I thought you were retired.”

“Special job. It went a little sideways. One corpse, buried earlier today.”

“Ok, I’ll be there in thirty with my people. Stay safe. Bye.”

“I’m trying. Bye.” And then it’s just me and Susan waiting in the graveyard like old times.

Us – Reaction Post

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Yesterday, I went to see Us. Normally I don’t go in for horror and it’s kinda out of season but after sleeping on Get Out I knew I had to see Us in the theater.

I left the theater feeling unsettled. I walked outside and around the side of the theater into bright sunlight to record some quick thoughts. I accidentally ended up standing in front of the Us movie poster while recording. When I got back inside I was still feeling off. I didn’t really recover until the pre-roll for Shazam started an hour later. If I hadn’t gone to see Shazam, I don’t know how long it might have taken for me to recover.

Despite ending the film unsettled there were a few scenes that made me laugh. There was a tumblr post about how Jordan Peele has made the transition from comedy to horror. It pointed out that humor and horror are about building tension and the difference is how you release that tension. You can see this in many Key & Peele sketches that zig-zag between the two.

In Us, the bits of comedy never took away from the horror. The film didn’t linger in the comedy; it hit those beats and continued on. I do wonder if the comedy didn’t enhance the horror. Did those fleeting moments of mirth provide needed contrast to the near constant dread?

Some elements of the film, doppelgangers or clones, memories, personhood, are things that I often think about. I’ve touched upon them in some of my writing but not in a horror format. In a way, this film was made to scare me.

Rating 5/5

Spoiler thoughts under the cut Continue reading

I just read Paper Girls and so should you

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Paper Girls is a comic series written by Brian K. Vaughan with art by Cliff Chiang.

Go read Paper Girls right now. Don’t stop to read a preview or synopsis. Just go right now.

I somehow decided to read this series, without knowing anything about it beforehand, over the past couple of days. One of my podcasts just did an episode on it, which I haven’t listen to, but I don’t think that was the actual cause. I must have seen the name somewhere else as well but again without finding out anything about the plot or characters. It feels like my mind was wiped after I was convinced to read the series.

The titular paper girls are four teenage girls who deliver newspapers. The year is 1988. Something Strange happens to them. #scifi #surreal #mind bending

Early Spoiler: #time travel

Plot: Okay so the four girls end up on a time-traveling adventure due to two time-traveling factions from the future.

The time travel element is super well written. There are three or four timelines weaving among themselves that we see from the perspective of the paper girls as they try to get home.

There are knights riding pterodactyls. Clones. Lots of time travel movie references. Surreal dreams. Interesting looks at 2016 and 2000 from a 1988 perspective. Lot’s of good ‘80s nostalgia and perspective. Overall the series is a metaphor for current vs future generations conflict.

The girls are so great. Diverse racial, religion-wise, and sexually. They’re smart and brave and care for each other and stick together.

Listen you may be thinking by now this sounds like “Stranger Things with girls” and you’ll probably be thinking that until issue five when the time travel shenanigans things really start to kick off. That’s when you will realize Stranger Things is “Paper Girls with boys but not as good”. Stranger Things wishes it was half as good as Paper Girls.

I just flipped back through the first few issues to write the previous paragraph and I saw things that connect to stuff in like issue 25-26. I’ve only just binged the series. I didn’t even try to decipher the future language (there’s a partial key in issue 15ish) that is used throughout the series. There are layers to this story that I haven’t started to peel.

I don’t know why you’re still read this go read Paper Girls. Issues 1-27 are out now and the series ends with issue 30 so now is a pretty good time to get caught up.

And here’s a little taste of issue 1 under the cut:

Continue reading

Sunset Watching

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Little Suzie came out while I was recording the evening conditions. “Tía Mary said to come in for supper,” she said.

“Tell her I’ll be in a couple of minutes.” I checked the barometer and noted the reading in my notebook.

“You tell her.”

I laughed. “Ok, I will.”

“Is the sunset going to be beautiful tonight?” I had made a habit out of watching the sunset and recording my thoughts on it even if it didn’t have much meteorologic value.

“Maybe. Why don’t you tell me?”

“I don’t know.”

“Look at the sky and tell me what you see.” I flipped to a different section of my notebook and began making notes.

She shaded her eyes and looked toward the horizon. “I see clouds.”

“Are they thick clouds? Thin clouds? Fluffy clouds? Cotton candy clouds?”

“What’s cotton candy?” I forget sometimes how long it’s been since things fell apart.

“It’s sweet and fluffy like a cloud you can eat. Maybe we’ll make some one day. Tell me about the clouds.”

“They’re long and thin,” she said.

“Cirrus clouds. High in the atmosphere where they can catch the light and bounce it back to us. Horizon’s clear so the light won’t be blocked. Could be a nice looking sunset.”

“What’s the most beautiful sunset you’ve seen?”

“The most beautiful sunset.” I paused watching the clouds drift. “After the bombs fell, we huddled in the cellar for two days. We were outside the blast zone of course but we weren’t sure about fallout or like radioactive wind. The cellar wasn’t a bomb shelter it was just a cellar so it was lacking in certain accommodations. We decide to risk going out and into the house.

“When we climbed out of the cellar, the sun was just setting. The sky was washed in brilliant vibrant colors. Reds, oranges, purples, violets. You’ve seen them but not like that. And the scattered clouds caught the light and practically glowed. We were awestruck and just stared until the horizon turned black and the stars took over the sky.

“With the spell broken we raided the house for blankets, pillows, batteries, can food, water, clothes, whatever we thought we might need then we retreated to the cellar still afraid of radioactive wind. But we weren’t so afraid that we didn’t watch the sunset the next day and the one after that. The second night there were no clouds to break up the bands of color. By the third night, the colors were beginning to fade to normal.

“The colors of the sunset are caused by sunlight being scattered by the air. When you have mid to high clouds then the light has something to bounce off and the sky gets some texture and shape. After the bombs, the smoke and thick dust clouds cleared in the first day but the finer dust and ash took longer to settle. So for a few days, there was a thin layer of particulate to reflect the light and boost the colors.”

“Suzie,” her mother, the aptly named Big Suzie, called from the back door, “Dinner time.”

“I’m coming!” she yelled back while running toward her mother.

“You too, Toni.”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said and slowly limped back to the house. We were lucky no bombs had dropped out here in the middle of nowhere. Then we were lucky more people came this way. Including Suzie.

“How’s the weather?” she asked, lending me her arm to get up the back stairs. I could have used the railing but this worked too.

“Oh not bad. Might rain day after tomorrow. Temperature is steady for now.”

“And the sunset?” I held on after reaching the landing.

“It’s going to a looker as long as the clouds don’t blow out but I doubt they will. You want to watch it with me?”

“Of course. Dinner first.”

“Of course.” It was a little awkward walking through the door arm in arm but we managed.