The Sign Said

by David W. Jones

© 2007 David W. Jones

The door slammed behind us, its motion stirring the fog that filled the cavernous space we’d stepped into. Empty echoes came back, distorted by time and odd shaped spaces hidden somewhere in the fog. The fog smelled of stale garbage and diesel fumes.

A step ago, on the other side of the door, the air had been clean and airconditioned, the mall filled with the reassuring sounds of people talking, its floor smooth and shiny new.

Now the floor under my sandals was rough, rocky with lumpy stones that clattered away as I shifted my left foot off a sharp rock.

The fog slowly started swirling around about twenty feet in front of me and my girlfriend, like something was coming toward us. A jerky sort of scraping sound came from the direction of the swirl – a dragging, halting step.

My girlfriend turned toward me and said, “Umm, Lauree, I told you -”

“I don’t want to hear it,” I snapped.

“You don’t have to be rude just cuz you’re hungry. Going this way was your idea.”

Before I could respond, a shopping mall janitor stepped out of the fog where the scraping steps had been. He didn’t look special – just another one of those old, slightly-creepy looking guys that I’m sure are bred somewhere like dogs to be janitors. He even had nicotine stains on his teeth when he opened his mouth, licked his lips, and smiled.

“You girls lost?”

I looked at my girlfriend, but she just glared back at me. She’s my best friend, but she can be really brain-dead sometimes, you know? So I looked back at him and said, “Yeah, somebody said this was a shortcut to the Gulp’n’Go Burgers on the other side of the mall. You know how we get there?”

The janitor slowly licked his lips, like he was tasting his lunch again. A really tasty, recent lunch. Then he lifted up a clipboard I hadn’t noticed before in his hand and marked something on it. I glanced around and saw that the fog had crept around us, right up to our backs. Then the janitor looked over our heads into the fog and spoke.

“Hey! Gotta shipment for Gulp’n’Go Burgers.” He looked us up and down. “Looks a little raw, it’ll need some processing.”

“WHAT?!!” my girlfriend screamed. I turned and stared at her. Then a thick, hairy – uh, no, furry! – hand reached from the fog behind her and clamped around the side of her head. The thick wrist turned a little, and her head was suddenly lying sideways on her shoulder. I saw her eyes swinging wildly around in panic as she started to fall. Another thick hand came from the fog and held her upright.

Then a hand clamped onto the side of my head. A hard twist, a sharp snapping sound, pain – then all I COULD feel was the rough scaly skin on the palm of the hand grinding the backs of my earrings into the skin behind my ears.

My girlfriend’s wild eyes suddenly fixed on mine. Then she said something. Even though she had no breath anymore, she and I had learned to read each others’ lips ages ago.

“I told you the sign said ‘Employees only’ – ” Then her eyes glazed over and closed. I guess cuz she had screamed she had less breath remaining than I did.

She was lucky.

A voice growled behind me, speaking in some snarly language. Shapes – things – came out of the thinning fog, and began carrying us toward what looked like industrial-size food processors.

Happy Hallowe’en!

People are made of stories

The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling by Ted Chiang — Subterranean Press

“People are made of stories. Our memories are not the impartial accumulation of every second we’ve lived; they’re the narrative that we assembled out of selected moments. Which is why, even when we’ve experienced the same events as other individuals, we never constructed identical narratives: the criteria used for selecting moments were different for each of us, and a reflection of our personalities. Each of us noticed the details that caught our attention and remembered what was important to us, and the narratives we built shaped our personalities in turn.”

Results of a writers block exercise

Tonight’s Sisters in Crime meeting had a ‘writers block’ exercise: take 3 different images and write a story based on them in 10 minutes.

My three photos were all from a small town in Greenland:

  • A picture of a hotdog stand owned by a man from Denmark
  • A group of girls dancing traditional Greenland dances
  • A view of the town’s small fishing port

My results have kind of a Grendel vibe to it, and a noir aspect courtesy of reading some French noir fiction recently:

Tired of his bridge, the Danish troll opened a hot dog stand. Right near the port where tourists came to eat hot dogs and watch traditional dances.

His mother, who still lived in the water of the port, stole crabs and fish from the fishermen, and children from the tourists.

One day, he ran out of hot dogs.

He called to his mother in ancient Trollish: “I need one of your children.”

“No, I’ve eaten the last one. Get your own!”

No threat to any of this year’s Pulitzer Prize winners, but fun. And having fun writing certainly makes dealing with writers block easier!

This video game sounds like fun for us who like stories, storytelling and American history

Where the Water Tastes Like Wine review: Finding truths through myth and legend | PCWorld

Hear stories, tell your own, hear how your stories come back to you as retold by others. And experience how the American mythos formed and is reforming.

Fascinating and makes me want to subscribe to Steam to get it.

More games like this, please, Steam!

My, this site about fairy tales looks fun!

SurLaLune Fairy Tales is a good reminder that real fairytales are dark and dangerous, meant for adults. Not Disney’s weak, watered-down kid stuff.

SurLaLune Fairy Tales features 49 annotated fairy tales, including their histories, similar tales across cultures, modern interpretations and over 1,500 illustrations. Also discover over 1,600 folktales & fairy tales from around the world in more than 40 full-text Books.

Dark Paradise: Mysteries in the Land of Aloha – Tentacles of Death

After the tight focus of the other stories, this one feels sprawling. And sloppy: SWAT, Swat, swat – three different renderings of the same acronym? Yes.
It starts with a man murdered using a tako spear, apparently because his wife brought home the wrong picture from her Wine and Canvas event. Apparently the picture she brought home was actually a clue to a conspiracy by a large militant Native Hawaiian group (led by the obligatory evil maniac) to take over the state. Even at the end, when the maniac is caught, we’re told that this group has its deadly secret tentacles everywhere throughout the islands.

Nothing new here, with a strong trace of racism to it. And hypocrisy, since it was white American business men conspiring with the captain of a US Navy vessel in Pearl Harbor who took over the sovereign Kingdom of Hawaii using force. I regard this story as the usual “because we (white colonialists) are violent thieves that take things that belong to others, EVERYONE ELSE IS OUT TO DO THE SAME THING TO US!”

Bah. I didn’t particularly enjoy it. Not just for the racism, but also for the weak plotting and so-so characters. I might award this the booby prize as the worst story in the book.

Perhaps you’ll like it, anyway, so go buy your copy of the anthology, read it, and let me know what you think in the comments.