Friday, May 1, 2009


Thelonius climbed the ladder through the open hatch in the roof of the chamber. Caleb stood by, watching the door at the bottom of the stairwell nervously.

He emerged onto the roof of the building and into thick fog. Like aural beacons, the grunting, motor-like vocalizations of loopers punctuated the sound-smothering blanket of fog. Immediately in front of him, protruding from the roof, was a wooden platform, and attached to that a pulley, which in turn was connected by a loop of rope to another pulley fixed on the cliff side, some yards above the roof. The upper pulley was not connected to anything else – it jutted out of the bare cliff face like a useless appendage. As he lifted his face to inspect the tools, a breeze wiped across Thel's cheeks, across his lips. He caught scent of something sweet and rotting, like blackened bananas or pipe tobacco.

Thelonius peered outward. Caleb had indicated that there was a stony beach just beyond the building, and beyond that water, but Thelonius could detect nothing of this in the fog. He could see no black bugs, and no loopers – only their calls he could hear, which sounded as though they were coming closer and closer to the shore. He looked hard, tried to discern shapes in the mist, but could only make out shadows and wisps of fog.

He snapped as many photographs as he could.

Click-snap -
click-snap -
click-snap -
click-snap -

In a breath, the fog roared. Raspy and omnipresent, the call seemed to issue from everywhere. It blared like a horn, but there were irregularities - like phlegm, like breath - all around the long, deep note, so low and resonant that it shook the men's bones and made the ladder clatter against the hatch's frame. Such huge lungs. The sound rattled the reporter's soul.

"Down here, pardner!" Caleb said.
"I'm coming back down."
The loopers' calls resumed. Thelonius put a foot on the topmost rung of the ladder and started to lower himself down.
The chorus broke - no longer howling, barking at one another like strange dogs, now the loopers were coughing.
"What didja see up there?" Caleb was already asking before Thelonius had even really stopped looking.

Impelled by the gunman's question, Thelonius did cast his attention once again in the direction of the shore. Fog, only fog – in the distance, water lapped.

And it rose. The loopers were coughing and farting ferociously now, and Thelonius could see, ever so vaguely, forms writhing in the mists. Below him, something shrieked. Some thing on the ground writhed and sputtered, scraping rocks beneath it. It was the size of a boar and its elongating-and-contracting body flipped on the stones like a fish dragged from water. But, God! There it was! Moving below him, in a window in the fog. A looper! Like a fish from water indeed; more like a giant black leech, it squirmed on the dark surface of the beach. From both ends of its many-segmented body pink antennae or tendrils or tongues lashed about in the air. It was absurd to think, but it seemed to be flagellating itself in the fog, which was mercifully moving to engulf the thing once again.

Thelonius understood now what was happening, or a part of it at least. Half-perched on the ladder, he turned his attention back to the water and watched the tide rising. But now he knew that it was not water that was rising in the wake of the fog's roar, but a moving mass of fine, black bodies.

(Thelonius failed against the foghorn call, -2 sanity, but was able bear with the terrors of the self-flagellating looper, and the oncoming tide. The latter is still pretty terrible: -1 sanity. Caleb was unshaken by the bellow from the sea.)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

From the Nuz: Stirring Looper Guts

"Haw. Haw-haw HAW." His overemphatic hacking could only barely be accepted as laughter. His mouth and his empty eye socket gaped at Caleb like two wounds made by the same weapon. "It was jest Louis an' me for a month. After that, I been here another week." He was madder than a loon – and only in the space of a month and a week? It was easy to see how he had gone mad – he sat in front of the fire stirring the kettle of meat preserves as it sat in the glowing, coal-like embers – but so quickly? "Oh, balls, nothing better than that smell, that burning sperg smell. Like to keep the place filled with the smoke, reminds them loopers what's what an' who's the head honcho around here ta smell their own fat burnin'."

The smoke was sharp like pine, acrid like rubber. It filled the second story room. Reddish pieces of blubber floated in the kettle as he stirred. It could've been turkey necks, except for the yellowish oil that rose from it in waxy bulges as the meat cooked, and except for the lack of bones. "The company had us established here as a mine, and Louis an' me were the rock men. Just me an' Louis and ten men, hard workers an' Indians, two packs. They done went their separate ways. The white ones went straight to hell with no scalps, I reckon. An' the Cibecue went off nuz. Nuz is that way," he said, and he indicated the direction by pointing down the beach. "Ain't no north south east west I decided. Shit on you if I know what happened to 'em. The Apache. There's nuz and there's zun." He indicated his directions again, and pulled his spoon from the kettle a little too quickly, slinging broth about.

There had been no change from day to night. Perhaps there was a sun here, somewhere behind that higher-than-high wall. If there was a sky, Caleb had no sense of its place – there had been a breeze over the blue waters, but no horizon. He had never considered being in a world where there was no sky. Arizona had a big sky; this place had only the weight of the wall and the fog, and a stony beach, into which this man's mind had surely been ground.

"So, I sang a lot to myself about Suzanna an' I took to eatin' the black bugs. I can play the fiddle, but ya ain't got one, an' I done shat on that idea already. That idea, I mean, going back to globe and fillin' the whore farragut fulla daylight and takin' up the stringer-dee agin. Oh Suzzana! Don't you cry for me!" He wailed, it wasn't anything like singing. He had two plates. "Louis'," he said as he spooned a hunk of boneless meat onto one of them and extended it to Caleb.

Caleb took the plate in his hand and sat it down in front of him. His gun had been drawn the entire time.

"So, pardner, ya gonna shoot me soon?"

"No. Keep talkin'. What were ya minin' for?"

The Old Man spooned another piece of meat onto his own plate. "Ya sure?"

"No – yes – fuck you. Tell me the story."

"That's all the story there is. Don't care what we was minin' for, it's all still in there. I'm all done talkin' about harshus now. Been here a while, you know. I'm thinner now in my guts. My skeleton's gotten all small, and you see pardner I got no eye, them little black ones take your face if you're not up high enough when you sleep. Learnt it the first night here. Can't see no more can't talk no more!" He stood up. "Just go an' shoot me! Just put the bullet right in here ya sopping donkey's cunt!" He pointed to his eye-hole, touched the dry gouge with his dirty finger tip. "Yessir, dude, I don' care about your face or your balls, but by my balls! I am not livin' much longer now just do it, goddamn you and then shoot yerself. In the face you whore lickin' son of a bitch cunt monkey takin' a stroll on a stony beach like it's picnic season."

Caleb didn't respond.

"I fucked yer mammy til she called me Joseph," he said, almost as if asking a question.

Caleb watched the Old Man.

"Then I gave her to my Yaqui buddy, Loo Loo, and he strung her up like a brave by her ears and sodomized the old bitch like . . . like the fooker gollamphed on her like a cow trick on you turd."

"Sit down. Eat yer slop."

He bent over and picked up his plate. "This here yarfle slop in my gout? Eat it? Strip it? Here you have it!"

He slung the plate at Caleb, who fell onto his right elbow, managing to avoid the plate itself, but not the splattering of yellow oils and stewed ocean water. Hot droplets smelling like the fruited breeze from earlier landed on his neck, burning him.

"Ya like sperg, ya bafflin' turd? Ya like looper meats?" challenged the man as he stomped into the fire, throwing half-melted bits of glowing red looper flesh across the ground. "Here, fuck you! Shoot me!" He kicked the flesh-embers at Caleb. One landed squarely on his pant leg. It wasn't coal, but it was hot like a coal, and it was very near his groin. The Old Man took advantage of the moment and leapt through the fire. Standing over Caleb, he raised one foot in the air. "You shoot me! You shoot me now!"

(Caleb has been burned by a bit of fat! -1 hit point. This is combat! Initiative is on Caleb.

Thelonius passed a sanity check. -2 sanity for being thrust into this alien and confusing situation. Thelonius will be feeling the stress of the cumulative sanity losses, though he will not be insane.

Please include descriptions of your characters in your comments. To clarify, the scene is taking place inside a room, which is connected to a cave. In the orange glow of the fire, the stones from which the room is constructed seem to be made of dark stone taken from the cave. In this room there is also a pickaxe, and two sets of stone stairs cut into the wall of the cliff (into which the cave extends). One goes up, one goes down. Behind Thelonius, the cave is dark and seems to continue on an ascending grade.)

Monday, March 23, 2009


He woke up in the wet stone lap of a beach. Black, grey, green stones, smooth and long like tongues, pressed against his skin, against his flesh through his soaked clothes. Heavy, cold tongues. The water licked him.

The man wrapped his fist around a stone, and slid it across other stones. It made a wholesome scrawing sound as it slid. This was real, actual stuff in his hand and not a dream. Scrawing; clattering; shuffling of stones; the sounds of a man as he pushes himself to his feet. Fog, the dark blue ocean, the beach. Was he in San Francisco again – how? How many days had he lost?

With dope, the man was magic: he could turn coin into shit faster than kissin' a duck.

Had he laid his stony philosopher’s hands on Tall’s money – on that dead bear? – and turned it into dope? Had he taken a handful of that black resin and smeared it over the whole, long trail from Arizona to California? Had he rubbed out everything from the Lazy T to the Bay?

Elephant seals? Something like an elephant seal perhaps – this was not the Bay. The breeze was filled with an aroma alien to California – oregano blended with rich, ripe tobacco; and with something rotten but sweet, possibly delectable, like bruised and softened bananas. The chorus moved further away now – if he hadn't heard similar noises for himself in his childhood, he would have been horrified at the reptilian blathering of the creatures, and he would have been unable to imagine anything quite so strange being emitted from a mammalian body, from an animal as big and as real as a horse. But as he took in the sweet, old breeze that glided to him from over the waters he understood that he had not worked his familiar trick upon the trail - and that the voices could not be seals.

The trail had only been as long as a vein of metal in a stone wall in a bear's den. When he had touched the silvery metal, he felt its crystals under his fingertips. They were like sharp stubble, like three days of riding gone by on a man's face. The deposit had felt hairy, but nevertheless metallic, and when he felt these minute crystals under his fingertips, he tripped. He had fallen. He had landed on the beach.

The calls were gone, they had moved away quickly enough, and as a group. Elephant seals did nothing but lay on the beach and scream at one another. He brought a sleeve across his face. Soaked, it smelled of oregano, tobacco, bananas. The water itself emitted the odor and the man was bathed in its perfumes. It was not the Bay. The man's own urge to scream arrived only at that moment, but he did not let the cry escape from his throat. Something reasonable in him told him that he should remain unseen until he had seen more with his own eyes. It told him that his cries might invite the chorus on the beach closer again.

The guns and bullets were all there; hopefully they weren't ruined by the water. He sat down again, facing the direction that the cacophonic herd had gone – beach on his left, fog on his right.

Shortly the fruit-laden sea breeze cleared the air on his left and the man saw a high cliff face. No, "high" was too small. The basaltic stone seemed to stretch on forever in all directions – it did! It was as if the higher-than-high cliff face marked the end of the world. There was nothing above it and nothing at either end. There was only the wall, the beach, and the sea.

And the man.

And the herd.

The wall was much further away than the man had first reckoned – there would be perhaps an entire stony mile to cover before he arrived there. From here, he could see two tall buildings at the base of the wall. Hopi? – they were built right against the wall, and were nearly the same dark color as it. Crowning the one on the right was, ridiculously, an American flag.

It didn't feel like America.