I have, however, signed up for Smith’s e-mail list—the least any potential supporter can do—and have enjoyed his e-mail blasts. One recent message caught my eye: a blog post entitled “Time to Fix a Problem.”
Indeed, I’m hoping to write some original short stories this summer (and hopefully some new songs, too). I’m not sure if it’s feasible, but I’d like to have a collection of new original stories out by the time school resumes. We shall see.
The story is a short parable riffing on the saying “the grass is always greener on the other side.” Visitors to the protagonist’s land keep telling him how terrible and crummy the place is, and instead brag about the greatness of their home.
The glowing talk of the visitors’ homeland churns away in the mind of the protagonist, until he finally decides to pay a visit. What he finds depresses and angers him: nuclear war, corruption, violence, declining birth rates, normalization of pedophilia, famine, depravity, etc.
Feeling cheated, the protagonist returns to his own home, and realizes how much he took it and its charms for granted—but there’s a twist (I recommend reading the story, which takes about three minutes, for the full impact; twist revealed below).
When I revived the blog on WordPress in late 2018, I never intended to write daily. I’d maintained a Monday-Wednesday-Friday posting schedule on the Blogspot blog, which I shifted over to WordPress on 1 June 2018. I kept that pace up briefly, but when school resumed I left the blog dormant until late December 2018, and after three days of consecutive posting by happenstance, WordPress informed me I was on a three-day “streak.”
That caught my attention. At that point, I decided to write daily for the month of January 2019. It seemed like a fun a challenge, and I figured it would help build an audience and give me something constructive to do during the slowest month of the year.
After that, I thought, “Eh, why not go to fifty?” From there, 100 didn’t look too difficult.
At one point or another we’ve all experienced the situation where we’ve seen or heard some new idea, word, or concept, and suddenly, we see it everywhere. When I bought my car in 2020, I suddenly began seeing Nissan Versa Notes constantly.
“Recommendation” is perhaps a strong word for this story, which is, at times, excessively wordy and confusing—and that’s coming from me!
“Ghost story” is also, perhaps, a bit of a misnomer, though there does appear to be at least one—and possibly three—apparitions in the story, although that’s never made entirely clear.
It’s the wordiness and lack of clarity, though, that paradoxically make the story interesting. Walter de la Mare was a poet, and brings something of poetry’s attention to the consonance of words. At least, I’d like to think that’s what he is going for here; he clearly enjoys playing with language, almost the way a punster does. It makes for tedious reading at times, but does have the effect of keeping the reader guessing as to what is really happening.
But I digress. The real “ghosts” are the ones haunting the protagonist, Jimmy, a listless young man who has taken possession of his late uncle’s rambling London townhouse. Jimmy apparently has no occupation, and lives by selling off the sumptuous possessions his aunt and uncle left behind. Jimmy is also something of an eccentric insomniac, who finds it difficult to sleep unless bathed in candlelight (at least once in the story he sells some household items so he can purchase candles).Read More »
Today’s short story selection, Michael Noonan‘s “The Personality Cult,” comes from Terror House Magazine, an alternative online literary journal that publishes some excellent works from newer authors (although, it should be cautioned, they publish anything, including pieces that are borderline smut; browse with care). Indeed, two of my Inspector Gerard stories will appear there later this month. I’ve been reading Terror House Magazine for a couple of years now, and have been impressed with the gems they publish. “The Personality Cult” is one such precious stone.
I won’t do much more editorializing than that, as the original post is quite lengthy and detailed. I will add that I love short stories, and find the form chillingly effective for horror. The brevity and concision of the form encourages horror writers to deliver chills and terror straightaway, and allows for frights to be the focus.
“The Shed” takes place in a small town in Michigan in the first decade of the twentieth century, and focused primarily on the rough-and-tumble adventures of the town’s boys, all under fourteen. The boys are scrappy, plucky, and fun, and spend their days exploring town, splashing in the local waterhole, and generally doing the kinds of things boys did before they were shut up in classes for eight hours everyday.
The boys’ favorite play place is a dilapidated shed that belongs to the local railroad company. They use the shed as their base of operations, and as a makeshift jungle gym. However, they strenuously avoid one dark corner of the shed, in which resides The Shadown, an iridescent, subtly shifting, amorphous mass of malevolence. The boys know, instinctively, to stay away from it, but otherwise tolerate its malignant presence.