Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Jade Dragon's Curse

Arthur Freeman couldn’t explain it.  Normally the trinkets he encountered on his business trips were of little note.  But for some reason, this particular statuette—an intricate, jade dragon—had caught his eye.
“You are interested in that statue,” a smiling storekeeper stated a bit obviously.
Arthur grimaced.  As a salesman himself, he knew how to play hardball.  “I don’t know if I’m interested as much as I am curious.  What can you tell me about it?”
The shopkeeper, a thin, Chinese man, widened his grin.  “That, sir, is a very special statue.  The jade dragon is an important part of our culture, and this one is very valuable.”
“What makes it so ‘valuable’”?
“That is a good question.  This statue once belonged to a monk who was an expert healer.  It is said the owner of this dragon will experience good luck and vitality.”
Arthur had to fight the urge to laugh.  “That’s certainly a colorful backstory.”
The shopkeeper twirled his long, white mustache.  “Yes, but it is not just a tale.  It is true.  The monk was very devout and used the dragon to help focus his thoughts when healing others.  He is known to have saved many lives.”  He paused to close the case containing the dragon.  “But I am not sure I can sell this precious artifact to you.”
Arthur looked stung.  “And why is that?”
“This statue, if given to the right person, is very powerful.  To the wrong person, on the other hand, it would bring devastation.  The spirit that dwells within this dragon can be vengeful if ignored.”
“What do you mean?  How does one ignore a statue?”
The shopkeeper appeared disappointed by Arthur’s questions.  “This is not merely a statue, sir.  Its original owner knew this and attended to the spirit’s needs.”  He clasped the case closed.  “It does not sound as if you would be as willing to do so.”
“You won’t even consider selling it to me then?”
The shopkeeper began to speak but seemed to reconsider his words at the last moment.  He stood quietly, in thought, for another second or so.  “You would have to promise to care for the dragon’s qi and meditate on its truths.  I would not want to be responsible for what might happen to you otherwise.”
Arthur smiled and nodded.  “I will treat it with the utmost respect, I promise.  Do you accept credit cards?”


“I don’t understand how you do it,” Deidre Freeman said with a smile and a kiss on her husband’s cheek.
“And what’s that?” he asked.
“Everything.  You’ve been working so hard lately but don’t even seem tired when you get home.  Did you go running again this morning?”
Arthur nodded.  “Five in the morning.  I like to watch the sunrise while I’m out there.”
“Well it’s certainly working for you,” she said as she patted him on his ass.  “Just don’t burn yourself out.”
Arthur smiled as she left the bathroom then began to strip for the shower.  As the water hit him, he sighed in contentment.  Deidre was right; everything really was going well recently.  In fact, it’d all started a few days after he’d arrived home from his trip to Beijing.
A strange thought crept in as the steam rose around him.  Why had he recently experienced such a drastic change in energy?  He was almost fifty—not old, but also not at an age when you suddenly feel more athletic.  Deirdre was also correct in saying he was working longer hours at the office.  So far, though, the new schedule hadn’t caused him any stress.
Arthur shook his head.  It couldn’t be.  The very idea that the jade dragon statue could have something to do with his newfound vitality seemed ridiculous.  He smiled to himself as he let the water wash away the silly notion. 
It was time to get to work.


“Can you believe it?”
Arthur looked at the heavyset, angry man sitting across from him and smiled.  “Nothing we can really do, Hank.”
Hank Carson glared at Arthur.  “You don’t think the new quotas are unreasonable?”
“I suppose they are,” Arthur shrugged, “but at least we have jobs.”
“We have to fight this, Freeman, and you know it!”
“You can if you want to, Hank.  I’m just going to put in the hours and keep my head down.  You know management’s been laying people off the past few months.  Hitting these numbers is our best bet to keep our jobs.”
Hank gritted his teeth.  “Some of use can’t pull all-nighters like you’ve been doing, Freeman.”
“You mean you won’t; you could if you chose to.”  Deep down, Arthur this probably wasn’t true.  Hank Carson was so out of shape he usually broke a sweat walking to his car every night.  He was just tired of getting shit for choosing to work a little more lately.
“Screw you, Freeman, and your high-fucking-horse.  You don’t think we know what you’re doing?  Ease up or you’ll get the rest of us fired!”
Arthur shook his head as Hank stomped from his office.  He’d not be bullied into being lazy and risking his job.  If Hank were in better shape, he’d probably be able to work late, too.  Maybe Arthur should loan him the jade dragon. 
The thought, though meant only in jest, made Arthur feel a little uneasy.  He pushed the idea aside and went back to his paperwork.


Arthur watched as a young woman in spandex bent over to pick up a dumbbell.  There were all kinds of benefits to his new gym membership.
With a grin and a grunt, he returned to his own machine.
As the weights glided along, Arthur couldn’t remember ever being more relaxed.  He’d joined the gym a week ago after complained to Deidre he felt “pent up” and needed some form of release.  She’d suggested it right off.  Damn, if she wasn’t always right.
The problem was finding a twenty-four hour gym close to the office so he could go very early in the mornings.  It also had to have a pool—Arthur was very fond of swimming.  This one, with its bright lighting, large weight room, and Olympic-sized pool was perfect.
Arthur glanced back at the woman stretching across the room.  The other clientele didn’t hurt, either.
Suddenly he felt a twinge of pain in his shoulder as his muscles locked up.  Quickly setting the bar down, Arthur knew something was wrong.  He immediately began to rub at his arm, but the searing in his shoulder seemed to be growing.  He hoped he hadn’t torn anything.
Arthur rose gingerly and made his way to the locker room.  He could feel the eyes of the woman on him as he hobbled past.  It made him feel old.
It was the first time he’d felt that way in weeks.


Arthur hurriedly turned the lamp back off again.  “I didn’t mean to wake you,” he said apologetically.
“That’s okay,” Deidre mumbled as she rolled over to face her husband.  “Working really late tonight, huh?”
Arthur nodded.  “I didn’t really have a choice.  Have to meet the sales numbers or I’ll wind up like Hank.”  Arthur’s belligerent co-worker had been let go a little better than a week earlier.
“Well try to get some rest.  You look terrible.”
Arthur furrowed his brow at the comment but held his tongue.  He stumbled into the bathroom and began to peel off his wrinkled suit, but froze upon seeing his reflection.  Deidre had been absolutely right.
Frowning, Arthur took a moment to inspect the dark circles under his eyes, the wrinkles cropping up all over his tired face, and his spotty, ashen complexion.  It all added up to a less than handsome sight. 
Arthur was in shock.  Not more than a few days ago, he’d felt like a teenager again—full of energy and a “go get ‘em” attitude.  Now he looked like this.  What was more, he felt an exhaustion he hadn’t in quite a while.  Arthur stared at the sad creature in the mirror.  How had this happened?
When the answer to his question actually dawned on him, Arthur was reluctant to believe it.  Dropping his clothes in the floor where he stood, he quickly shuffled from the bathroom and down the hallway, stopping when he’d reached the living room.
There it was on the shelf, grinning back at him: the jade dragon.  Could it really be behind both his original strength and sudden fatigue?  The old man had warned him not to ignore it, but he had anyway.  What if his good luck had run out and been replaced by something much more malevolent?
“Are you all right?”
Arthur tore himself away from the idol to find his wife standing in the doorway.  She looked concerned.  Suddenly he felt like an idiot.
“Yes.  I’m fine.  I just thought I heard something, that’s all.  Let’s go to bed.”


The next day Arthur overslept and was late for the first time in weeks.  He’d come slinking into work, hopeful no one would notice, but had immediately been called before his bosses, Mr. Dawson and Mr. Barlow.  The seat across from them felt like the loneliest place on earth.
“I’m sure you know why you’re here,” Dan Barlow said in a condescending tone.  “So we’ll just skip the formalities.”  He glanced over at Dawson, who was apparently sending a text message.  “What do you have to say for yourself, Freeman?” he continued.
“I’m very sorry I was late.  I’ve been working long hours and…”
“We all have, Freeman,” Barlow interrupted.  “Right now, that’s what’s necessary.”
Arthur nodded plaintively.
“I’m afraid we can’t have people staggering in at all times of the day,” Barlow explained in a disinterested tone.  “We’ll give you until the end of the day.”
Arthur was dumbstruck.  He sat quietly, letting the words gel in his fatigued mind.
“Do you have anything to add?” Barlow asked.
“You’re… you’re firing me?” Arthur stammered.  “Just like that?”
“You didn’t leave us much choice.”
Arthur could feel something bubbling up inside of him.  “I’ve been here longer than either of you!”
“I don’t see how that’s relevant.”
“With the hours I’ve put in recently, I’m late one damn time and you fire me?”
Dawson, finally taking notice of the situation, looked up from his cell phone.  “Please, Mr. Freeman—you’re making a fool of yourself.”
Arthur stood to point his finger in their faces, but found he lacked the words to express his feelings.  “BAAAAAH!”
The two executives stared at him for a moment or so then began to laugh.  “Yes, well said,” Barlow jeered.
Angry but embarrassed, Arthur turned and stormed out of the conference room.  He didn’t stop until he’d reached his car in the parking garage.  “Fuck them,” he said under his breath as he wrestled with his keys.  “I’m not going to stick around and help for even a minute longer.”
The drive home was difficult.  Arthur found himself somewhere between rage and tears, his mood growing darker with every passing mile.  Barlow and Dawson had just been looking for an excuse to fire him, that much was for sure.  They’d probably been salivating at the opportunity all morning, waiting for him to arrive.
“I was only an hour late!” Arthur growled.
He’d done everything they’d asked.  Come in early, stayed late, and met their quotas.  But he’d still ended up just like Hank Carson.  It wasn’t fair.
And what would Deidre think?  The very idea of disappointing her made him feel sick.  He’d always provided for his wife, done his best to make sure she wanted for nothing.  Now he was fifty and without a job.  He hoped she could understand and forgive him.
Arthur had just turned on to his street when he noticed something strange.  There was a car he didn’t recognize in the driveway, and it was in his spot.  He pulled to a stop at the side of the curb and sat there for a minute or so collecting his thoughts.  This car wasn’t completely unknown to him—he’s seen it before.  It belonged to an old co-worker of Deidre’s.  A man.
Quietly, Arthur made his way from his own vehicle and up the driveway.  Heading around the back of the house, he furtively inserted his key and opened the door before tiptoeing down the hallway to his and Deidre’s bedroom.
That’s where he found them.
With his head spinning, Arthur sought refuge on the living room couch.  He’d been unable to say anything, even after seeing his wife with another man, and had instead chosen to simply walk away.  Now he sat silently while they, oblivious to being discovered, continued their fun in the adjacent room.  The sounds of someone else making love to Deidre were almost more than he could bear.
But what had he expected?  All of the late hours at work.  All of the business trips.  Of course she had found solace in someone else.  He couldn’t really blame her.
Are you really that weak?
The words seemed to bore a hole right through Arthur’s brain.  But they hadn’t come from him.
Do you like the idea of someone else fucking your wife?
Arthur looked around for the source of the taunting voice but didn’t see where it could have come from.
How long will you let the world treat you like shit?
With a look of panic in his eyes, Arthur peered across the room and saw the jade dragon statue.  It couldn’t possibly be talking, could it?
I can help you, if you’ll let me.  But first I need to know you have what it takes.
“Why should I listen to you?” Arthur asked out loud.  “You’re the reason I’m in this mess to begin with!”
I’m not surprised you’d blame me for your problems.  It proves how pathetic you are.
Arthur buried his face in his hands.  “The shopkeeper warned me what would happen if I ignored you for too long.  Now you’re making me suffer.”
The old man was a fool and didn’t understand.  I have always wanted to help you, Arthur, but you won’t let me.
“Then why did you stop giving me strength?  I needed it!”
There is more to life than vitality, Arthur.  There is power.  But you never would have asked for the latter if I had not taken the former from you.
“And you can give me this power?  You have that ability?”
Yes, but you have to want it enough to do what is necessary.  Do you?
Arthur’s heart was pounding.  “What do want me to do?”
The question is not what I desire, Arthur.  You must throw off your life of weakness if you want more.
Arthur nodded.  He knew what the dragon required.
His face vacant of emotion, Arthur strode quietly into his bedroom.  As his wife began to scream, he calmly opened the top drawer of his bedside table and removed the handgun kept there.  The first bullet was for the stranger in his bed.  He toppled into the floor and lay still.  The second he had saved for Deidre; he wanted her to have time to realize what was about to happen.
Relief washed over his entire body as Arthur emerged from the bedroom, gun still in hand.  He’d done it.
I am impressed.
Arthur looked over at the jade dragon.  “So am I.  I’d never have thought I could do that.”
How do you feel?
“Strong.  I feel strong again.”
And you will feel stronger soon.  This was only the first step.
"First step?”  Even as the words left his mouth, Arthur knew their meaning.  Gathering a few items, he climbed into his car for the drive back to work.


No one questioned Arthur when he suddenly showed up again carrying a box to presumably empty his desk.  Even his bosses agreed to see him—he’d explained he wanted to apologize for his earlier outburst.  
Robert Dawson was the first on Arthur’s list.
“I didn’t want to leave on such bad terms,” Arthur began after Dawson’s secretary had left them alone.
“Yeah, well no one likes to get canned,” Dawson agreed while reading an email.  “Even when they deserve it.”
“Naturally.  I think everyone has a tendency to shift blame, really.”
“Like you, for instance.  You’ve pretty much shit away the company’s money for years on strip clubs and vacations, right?”
Dawson peered around his monitor.  “Excuse me?”
“No, I don’t think I will.  While you were living it up on the company’s dime, the rest of us were pouring our fucking lives into it.”
“Now wait a damn minute, Freeman!  Those trips were for business!”
“More excuses, eh, Bob?”
“I don’t have to explain anything to you, Freeman.  Get the fuck out of my office.”
“No thank you,” Arthur added with an air of civility.  “I’ve come here for a very specific reason, and leaving isn’t it.”  His hand crept towards his coat pocket.
“What’re you going to do, Freeman,” Dawson asked sarcastically, “shoot me?”
“I’d never dream of it, Bob,” Arthur replied cooly.  “The gun would make too much noise and then I wouldn’t get to kill Dan, too.”
The two men stared at each other for a moment, Dawson trying to gauge how serious Arthur was.  Then, suddenly, they both ran for each other, colliding in the center of the room. 
Arthur was quicker.  With a flash of seemingly inhuman speed, he removed a paring knife from his jacket, ramming it just below the ribcage of Robert Dawson.  At the same time, Arthur brought his hand up to strike his victim in the throat to stifle the scream.  Several more thrusts of the knife followed.  Within a few moments, Dawson had bled out and lay dead on the office floor.
You are almost there.  Do you feel the power growing within you?
Arthur nodded.  “I can do this,” he reassured himself.
Yes, you can.  Then you will have everything you crave.
Without a word, Arthur emerged from Dawson’s office and walked quickly to Dan Barlow’s.  He didn’t even pause at the secretary’s desk before bursting into the room.  Barlow looked surprised to see him but didn’t get up from behind the desk.
“How can I help you, Freeman?” Barlow tentatively asked.  There was a clear look of alarm on his face.
“I needed to meet with you,” Arthur explained.  “There’s something important I have to take care of.”
Barlow looked him over.  “Is it safe to assume you’ve already had this conversation with Robert?”
Arthur nodded as his hand once again started towards his coat.
“Don’t do it, Freeman,” Barlow said forcefully.
Arthur smiled.  “What was it you said to me earlier today?  Oh yes… you didn’t leave me much choice!”
With a yell, Arthur Freeman drew his knife and started towards Barlow.  But he never made it.  There was a loud pop as the gun Dan Barlow had been hiding under a stack of files went off.  Arthur dropped where he stood.
Cautiously, Barlow crossed the room to check on the whimpering he heard from a few feet away.  There was Arthur, no longer a threat, slowly bleeding into the carpet.  Why he’d thought Barlow wouldn’t immediately notice the blood—presumably Dawson’s—covering his shirt, the executive couldn’t guess.  Barlow assumed he’d just snapped and wasn’t thinking at all rationally by the time he’d stormed into the office.  
Barlow bent over to listen to Arthur’s final words.  He seemed to be whining about something and his face was contorted in pain.
“Why won’t you help me?” he mumbled.  “I did everything you asked me to do.”
Barlow instinctively knew the dying man’s question hadn’t been addressed to him.  But then who?  Stooping down, he picked up the box Arthur had been carrying and removed the lid.  Inside was a jade dragon statue.


The storekeeper waved as another satisfied customer exited his small curio shop.  Behind him, a second man grinned broadly.
“How do you do it?”
The shopkeeper chuckled.  “I tell them what they want to hear, that’s all.  The rest is easy.”
“And where did that one supposedly come from?” the second man asked.
“That particular dragon once belonged to an emperor who had many concubines.  It will give the owner sexual powers beyond his wildest dreams.”
The other laughed.  “And he believed you?”
“We hear what we want at times.  Desire can easily cloud one’s better judgment.”
“Well I’ll never understand why anyone would buy these stupid knock-offs, desire or not.”
The shopkeeper nodded as the other man disappeared behind a curtain to retrieve another of the many jade dragons kept in the back room.

**Want More?  Tales of Terror is now available.**

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Strange Email

Maybe you can help me with something.

So after I posted my appeal to Jonas, I was pretty anxious.  But he didn't respond the first day.  Or the next.

Then, out of nowhere, I got a really weird email.  I can't say if it was from Jonas since the email address wasn't anything I recognized.  The stuff in it was creepy enough that I thought I'd post it and hope someone might know more about what it could mean.  If nothing else, it might be entertaining for some of you.

I was happy to hear from you.  I have been waiting for you to try and reach out to me, actually.  It did take longer than I expected, though.  Did you not notice the messages I've been leaving for you?  I thought I was being pretty clear with them. 
Yes, it has been some time since we last saw each other.  But I am very much OK.  In fact, I would say I am better than ever.  There is a source of something... special here in Pale Forest.  A wellspring, almost.  I don't know if I'd call it power, though it certainly makes me feel differently.  And I crave it all the time now.  I guess one might compare it to a drug.  Either way, I'm not even sure you'd recognize me now.  Maybe that's the problem-- I could have walked right past you recently and you wouldn't have known.  I might have missed you as well. My eyes are not as good as they once were, though the other senses more than compensate.
I will try to contact you again tonight, directly this time.  Listen closely for my coming.  I will try and be more clear this time in my message, but you must pay greater attention to the changes around you, no matter how insignificant they seem.
See you soon.

There wasn't even a name attached and the email address returned an error when I tried to reply.  So that's a dead end.

Anyway, no one came to see me and I didn't notice any "changes".  I'm guessing this was someone yanking my chain.  Which pisses me off.  Maybe this means something to one of you, though.  If so, please let me know.  But try to keep the pranks to a minimum.  I'm trying to find a missing person.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Are You There?

OK, I've put this off long enough.

I'm "Reed Carter" (no that isn't my real name).  I was one of Jonas' few friends in Pale Forest.  I've been trying to get up the nerve to post for WEEKS.

This is crazy.  I haven't heard from Jonas since freaking June and I'm worried.  I've BEEN worried.  But I haven't said anything.  The people here are weird and I'm kind of afraid of them.

But then those short horror stories were posted and I thought maybe he was back.  I knew where he was hiding, so I went out there again.  I'd gone a couple of time but not lately.

The house he'd been staying in was still empty.  The windows were broken but there was no trace of Jonas.  Now I'm trying to reach him through his blog.

If you're out there, Jonas, you know who this is.  Let me know if you're OK.  I don't think I can help you anymore, but at least I'd know you weren't dead or something.

That's all I wanted to say.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Two Sentence Horror

After being awoken by the sound of something feral racing around in my backyard, I was relieved to hear the familiar sound of my dog coming through the pet door.  It wasn’t until I noticed him asleep on my bedroom floor that I truly began to worry.

Ted dashed in from the rain before removing his coat and opening his front closet’s door.  His usual hanger was taken already, though, by an unfamiliar jacket, still dripping water onto his floor.

Half asleep, I stumbled into my apartment during the middle of night only to find the hallway and kitchen lights wouldn’t work.  I’d just reached the living room lamp when a voice behind me whispered “That one’s broken, too.”

Though Jonathon was initially happy to hear his son had gotten over the fear of the monster under his bed, it didn’t last.  “Oh, no, daddy,” the child explained, “it told me it was moving to you and mommy’s room.”

I have a reoccurring dream where I’m being chased by an evil version of myself, and last night it finally caught me.  This morning I woke up and my shadow was right up against the bed.

Even though June considered herself to have a real “green-thumb”, today she had found something quite unexpected in her garden.  Given the state of decomposition, the body was already quite old.

Linda wasn’t usually troubled by impatient people knocking on the bathroom door; it happened at work pretty regularly.  Today, however, she’d stayed home…

I had just left town when I noticed a car that had apparently run off the side of the road and pulled over to help.  “Thanks for stopping,” the paper in the empty driver’s seat read, “now turn around.”

After stepping from the shower, Robert was shocked by how much gray he saw in the mirror.  The thing behind him had skin the shade of something that had been dead for weeks.

 “I can't sleep,” Kevin told his wife as he rolled over beside her in bed.  But, as usual, she was no help; she’d been much less talkative since her death.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Night's Chill


As I write, I find myself somewhat distracted by the thick, smoke-like breath I create with every exhale.  This bit of interruption is possible for two very distinct reasons.  One, I am still alive, as the breathing helps to remind me.  Secondly, I have taken to writing outside on my laptop where it is oddly cold for this time of year. 

While this decision might strike many of you as odd (and believe me when I say I arrived at this place through no lack of contemplation), I have decided I will no longer live in the crippling dread of the demons that come to me by night.  Of course, though I call them "demons", I have no proof they're anything other than racoons or some other nocturnal animal-- as rare as that would be here in the woods.  No, I have not seen them.  Nor have the crude traps I've setup around the house caught anything or even been sprung.  But what I have witnessed are the markings they leave on the trees-- wild scribblings that, despite their feral nature, do seem to be more than a simple marking of a territory.  Many are repeated in almost identical fashion, as if there is a sort of language behind them.  I have taken to trying to decipher it, but I wonder if the excercise is simply driving me mad. 

Additionally, there is the feeling I experience when the noises begin each night.  It's a sick drop in the pit of my stomach accompanied by the requisite goosebumps, and though this is probably little more than fear, it is followed by a nausea and dizziness that I can't simply explain away.  It was uncomfortable at first, but has grown debilitating lately, which I have attributed to being in a closer proximity to whatever is out there.  As a result, I have been incapable of actually going outside to confront my demons as I had originally planned.

Because of this, I have taken to staying outside as much as possible during the day.  As even being near the etchings in the trees causes the beginnings of the sickness, my hope is to use this smaller "dosage" to build up an immunity.  Maybe then I'll be able to actually endure being close to the source.  Of course, being successful in this might prove to be my greatest mistake yet.

Life, after all, often proves even more temporary than wisps of breath in the icy air.

Until next time...

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

I'm Losing It


I don't think I'm alone anymore.  The new house seems to be compromised already, but not by the same type of threat.  This is something new.  Something potentially even more dangerous.  Are the things that have found me even human?

Without giving my exact location away, I'll say the place I'm staying now is out in the woods itself.  I wasn't thrilled to find this out, but I also wasn't really in a position to turn anything down.  Now I think maybe I should have.

The noises started a few nights ago.  They were slight at first, almost timid.  In fact, I thought very little of them despite knowing there are no natural sounds in the forest at night.  Perhaps this was simply me trying to convince myself there was no danger where it actually existed.  Regardless, I know better now.

The almost imperceivable "rustling" sound came back the next night, but it was closer, and joined by another more disturbing noise.  It was a sort of wheeze, as if whatever was out there was smelling the air for something.  That rasp has stolen what little hope I had of the noise being anything easily explained as well as the majority of my sleep.  It's hard to rest with the knowledge you're surrounded by unknown threats.

The situation seems to be moving towards an inevitable end, as last night the sounds were right up against the walls of the house.  The rustling is now more of a scraping noise, which makes sense with what I found outside today-- the trees nearest the porch were scratched pretty severely.  Most confusingly, though, there was definitely something coherent about the marking, as if there was some sort of message in them.  If it is indeed a language I certainly don't recognize it, but the speculation makes me feel sick.  What are they communicating to one another out there in the dark?

I can't believe it, but I'm actually contemplating going out there tonight to see for myself what has been sniffing around the house.  I've almost convinced myself that the truth can't be any more horrifying than the anticipation.  Of course, that might not be true.  If the things rip me to pieces, I suppose I'll have my answer.

Until next time...  

Sunday, May 12, 2013



As promised, I've been looking into some of the more cryptic or unknown people here in Pale Forest.  The first on my list was the foreman at the mill, Stanley Fouts.

Fouts is a large, imposing man.  He is almost entirely bald-headed (and has been for years), but incredibly hairy everywhere else.  His dark, deep-set eyes are usually hidden in a perpetual scowl, and his frame is heavy-set but powerful.  I remember him being a harsh man, even back when my father worked at the mill.  The years have done little to soften him.

He was furious with me when I was caught at the mill, which now seems only natural given what I found out about him.  Of all the people in Pale Forest, Fouts is perhaps the most ardent "seperatist" around.  He cares little for those he doesn't know personally and shows open disdain for anyone not from town.  He apparently includes those who've migrated to Pale Forest (including me) in this general hatred.  He is also quite secretive in his affairs, which seems to go hand-and-hand with the Pale Forest "us against the world" mindset.

As a result, it's been difficult to find out much about him.  But I managed anyway.

Stanley Fouts traces his family back to basically the earliest days of Pale Forest.  They have always been involved in the mill, as well, with at least six foremen coming from their ranks (some of the records have been lost or simply left blank, so the exact number is impossible to find).  In fact, the Fouts line is sort of the de facto blue-collar group here in Pale Forest.  That's a badge of honor, by the way; very little is judged with higher esteem here than doing one's duty without fail.  Of course, that fact also lead to the family's blackest moment and darkest secret, too.  Some sixty years ago, Warren Fouts, a previously outstanding member of his clan, let the lineage down.

Though it took some real digging to figure it all out (most of the blight had been stricken from history) there was just enough to piece together most of the story.  Apparently Warren overstepped his rank-and-file stature by trying to become more.  It seems despite the fact his job should have been passed along in an almost genetic fashion, he wanted a greater degree of power than it could afford.  In fact, he even ran for mayor.  Now, in most cultures, this wouldn't seem like a big deal, but there is a sort of caste system here in Pale Forest.  And Warren had violated it.

Why he did, I can't say.  The was no print given to his side of the story.  The backlash, though, was swift.  Not only did Warren Fouts lose the election (to Jack Huntley's great-great-uncle, no less), but the transgression set his family back for years.  It wasn't until Stanley, in fact, that they were again trusted enough to be elevated to the top position at the mill.  Obviously, Warren's stain took a while to wash away.

I can only imagine how much Stanley would appreciate me sharing this on the Internet.  He has undoubtably done all he can to make the entire thing disappear so as to avoid any further embarrassment.  Of course, the type of person who'd go to such lengths to maintain secrets is exactly the type of person I'm most interested in exposing.

Until next time...

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Insufferable Wait


While I would love to return to the woods and check out the path again (perhaps love is the wrong word, but I do plan on going back), the area has since been roped off as a "protected" zone.  Apparently, some rare bird's been spotted there and now no one is allowed encroach upon its habitat.  Of course, I've never seen any living things in there, let alone an endangered bird, so the whole thing is more than a little off.  Add to that the fact the Mayor's office is directly responsible for the move, and you get what looks more than a little like a cover-up of some sort.  The presence of guards seems a little heavy handed for protecting a bird as well.  Regardless, the path is currently off limits.

So, instead I've been trying to find out more about the players involved in all of this.  I've written about Mayor Huntley several times, and there's very little else to say about him, but there are others I'd like to investigate.  I'm going to spend some time researching the tattooed man and the mill's foreman, Stanley Fouts.  Perhaps there is more on them than I previously imagined.

At least that will give me something to do.

Until next time...  

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Ghosts of the Past


I apologize for the lack of updates, but finding a new home proved to be not altogether easy.  Then there was the matter of getting the Internet connected even after I'd moved, since the place had been empty for some time.  Add all that up, and very little has been accomplished of late outside of finding a safer base of operations (how's that for making myself sound important?).

Now I can get back at it, so hopefully the next few days will be filled with exciting news.  I appreciate your patience, though, so I'll leave you with a story my father once told me.

He'd been working long hours at the mill when a very strange thing happened as he was leaving for home.  His keys were not even in the driver's side door when a sound to his left startled him.  It was dark-- even the lights around the mill were mostly off for some reason-- so he couldn't quite tell what he'd heard, but it reminded him of a large animal digging through a trash can.  Then it sounded again, but closer.

My father said he began frantically looking for the right key (his duties at the mill meant he carried many) as the noise seemed to be creeping closer.  As luck would have it, he then dropped the entire keychain in his haste, losing it instantly in the enguling darkness.

By now the sound was right on top of him, but he still couldn't see it's source as he searched desperately along the ground in front of him.  Then, in his mind, he saw the image of the flashlight he carried on his belt.  He'd forgotten all about it in his sudden state of panic (the fact that my father was so bothered is noteworthy in and of itself as he was generally quite emotionless). 

Almost reluctantly, he reached down to the light before bringing it up and switching it on.  Immediately he screamed as the beam illuminated a single pair of mishapen eyes about chest level!  He said he didn't remember much of the night after that and it wasn't until he was found the next morning, having apparently passed out beside his car, that he finally came home.

This story was only related to me once, and even then the act seemed more an effort to rid himself of the memory than actually share anything.  Eventually the entire thing was written off as a product of fatigue by the mill's appointed investigation.  My father refused to speak about it afterwards.

As a child, the story haunted me, but I'd pretty much written it off as well over the years.  Now, as things continue to reveal themselves, I am forced to revisit those opinions with a more open mind.  Perhaps there was more than exhaustion at play that night.

Until next time...

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Stench Under the Porch


The hard truth that I've been found seems unavoidable.  I guess I can't be surprised; it was seemingly inevitable.  Still, I would have liked to have remained hidden until I had a bit more evidence.  The past few days, however, have made it clear that's not possible.

It began Monday.  I was on my way out when an overpowering odor assaulted me.  At first it was just too extreme for me to even guess where it was coming from, but as my senses adjusted-- as much as they could, anyway-- it became clear the stench's origin was somethere beneath me.  As I was on the porch, the task of locating the foul smell was a bit daunting.  Nonetheless, I resigned myself to climbing down underneath the house.  I did put on a small, white, filter mask and my work gloves first, though.

As it turned out, the process of finding the source of the odor was a short one.  Immediately after flipping my flashlight on and sending bugs scurrying from the unwanted beam, the somewhat macabre scene turned my stomach.  There, improbably, was a dead deer!  It had been shot, apparently, but how it had managed to wedge itself under the porch was a mystery.  I spent the next hour dragging it out.  I've attached a picture, though I'm not sure why-- perhaps I just want you all to know what I'm dealing with.

Unfortunately, it wasn't the last of its kind.  Yesterday it was a large dog that turned up dead and moldering under the wooden boards in front of my house (I'll spare you the visual evidence this time), and today the stench is back again.  I haven't yet gone to investigate, but I am tired of this morbid ritual.  Even more than that, though, I'm fearful of what this portends.

Obviously, whoever is leaving these "gifts" intends them to scare me, and while I am not really worried about winding up beneath the porch, I am concerned that now I'm being spied on.  My detractors have done quite well in disrupting my plans with nothing but my blog to work with.  How will I accomplish anything if they have my location?

Plus, there's the matter of actually removing the carcasses every day.  It's not at all pleasant, and knowing that someone is coming here during the night to drop them off is disturbing.  I actually tried to stay awake last night, and managed to stave off sleep until after four in the morning, but I never heard anything.  How is that possible?  The process of placing the bodies must be far quieter than removing them.

I guess it's time to move on from this house as well.  At least the next location will likely smell better.

Until next time...