Monthly Archives: January 2013

Stairs

stairs

The stairs went down.

Every day I walked by them, and every day they called a little stronger. I tried reasoning myself out of curiosity; they were just maintenance stairs, leading to a closet full of paper towel refills and cleaning supplies. The only reason I never saw anyone on them was that I was never there after hours, when I assumed the custodians roamed.

Until the day I stayed late in my office, the day all the shadows at that spot seemed to point downward, the day I came to the head of the steps and stopped.

The first step was easy, up and over the gate that seemed there to keep out everyone but me. It only got easier after that. I felt the thrill of discovery, of forbidden things, which lasted the twenty-three steps to the bottom. All that was left in the post exploratory funk was to try the municipal door in front of me and I was free to return to my car, adventure impulse quenched. Yet at my touch the door swung freely open and my trepidation was overcome with the joy of discovery. There were more stairs! Against all common sense I plunged forward and down.

My second flight passed quickly as the first, and at its foot I found a third. My joy had coagulated into mania and I sped greedily down. At its foot I found a fourth, and a fifth, and eventually I lost track.

Reservation crept back in, and with it common sense. What practical purpose could a flight of steps so long serve? Why had there been nothing on each landing but the promise of more stairs? Why had I seen no sign of human habitation, no trash, not even a footprint? My steps slowed, then stopped altogether. My joy had evaporated. I had no sense of how long I had been descending, only that it was time to start climbing again. I turned back the way I came.

The stairs went down that way, too.

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Guilt

He sat on a bench in the train station waiting room, watching the women. His highly discerning eye sought out characteristics; he had a check list. Women who walked with a confident step were out. The same with older gals. Ladies who looked flustered were never a sure thing; he looked for secondary signs to confirm their vulnerability. Hair undone, short of breath, too much luggage.

He dropped behind a fair girl in her twenties and fell in step.

“I know what you did.” He told her.

She shot him a bemused look and walked a little faster.

“I know what you did,” he said to a harried brunette scrambling through her purse. She shot him a look that said she would flip him off if her hands weren’t occupied.

The morning waned. He filled up his thermal mug with free coffee from the carafe. He was about to write the day off and go home when he spied a promising sight. She was that nebulous kind of pretty that could have been late teens or early twenties, or perhaps even pushing thirty. Hair mouse-brown at the roots, leaking to kool-aid red in uneven streaks. Habitually pulling her skirt-hem down. Fingernails bitten to the quick. Nervous.

He strolled over as if making for the magazine rack behind her, stopping just behind her shoulder.

“I know what you did,” he breathed in her ear.

He was rewarded almost instantly. Her body stiffened, then slouched as if the string supporting her had been cut. She started blinking too much.

“Um, I um, what?”

He repeated himself. She tried to laugh, but the hand holding the map shook.

“I don’t know what you’re…” she shook her head.

Now he allowed himself a small smile.

“I know what you did,” he insisted.

Her mouth fell wide for a moment, wobbling, and shrank as suddenly as if she’d pulled a drawstring. Her eyes watered. Lower lip bunched out. Jackpot.

“Not here,” she whispered urgently, “please, not here.”

He nodded amiably, laying a hand on her shoulder and savoring her repressed flinch. “Of course, of course. If you’ll come with me…”

They left the station.

He let the silence drag on for too long, savoring the moment. The girl had drawn into herself, adopting a kind of waxen catatonia that looked like ardor when he drew her to his side. To any outside eyes (and there were a few, here and there) they looked like a young couple out for a stroll.

Ten minutes in, she burst into tears. It was shameful sobbing, blubbing her shoulders and spilling out her nose. He was still too enraptured in the moment to be disgusted.

“Oh p-please,” she gasped, “please, I’m so sorry, I know it was wrong, it’s all wrong—” she barked out another sob and buried her head in her arms.

He hid his glee behind a stern look. “Well, don’t you think that just makes it worse? Knowing it’s wrong, but still doing it?”

He was rewarded with a fresh wail as she tilted her head back, exposing her bottom teeth. Pretty, white, and even.

He dug a little deeper. “You want to fix it, don’t you? Make amends?”

She shook her head fast and loose, mouthing ‘no, no’ over and over again. He gently steered them to the left in a fork in their path. Up ahead, there was an area where the trail had been cut into a hill in anticipation of a road, leaving canyon walls taller than his head.

“Aren’t you sorry?”

She took a wavering breath. “Ye-he-he-hes!”

“Then don’t you want to make up for it?”

“I can’t!”

He was treading a fine line now. He had been careful to stay vague, but if she caught on now, well…

He shook her a little. She sobbed harder. “Why can’t you? Don’t you want to be good?”

“I can’t! I can’t!”

“Why?”

She stopped crying. Turned to look at him. “Don’t you know?”

They had come to the private place. He sensed control slipping from him, tried to assume a sterner mien to frighten her back onto his plan.

“Of course,” he snapped, “I know exactly what you did. Now you have to make up for it.”

Something was wrong. The corner of her mouth twitched almost into a smile and her nostrils flared and dilated like a hound with a scent.

“You don’t know,” she said, a note of contempt in her voice.

He resorted to shouting. “Yes, I do!”

“No you don’t.”

“I do!”

He pressed forward, invading her personal space, but she was shaking her head now, shaking her head and laughing while tears still streamed down her face.

“You don’t know,” she gasped through peals of laughter, “you have no idea, do you? What I did…oh God, there’s no way back from that.”

He switched tactics, becoming conciliatory. “Don’t say that. There’s always a way.”

She stopped laughing and crying. Looked at him. “Not that.”

Sweat beaded his neck and armpits. He saw her now, past the fingernails and the hair, and wished he didn’t. Her lip curled again in a sneer. Her teeth looked sharp.

He held up his hands. “Look, just apologize and we can forget this.”

She stared at him. Her gaze was so, so still.

A group of retirees on their daily constitutional came across a wet scrap on the trail later that evening, dismissing it as coyote leavings. A porter at the train station noted the insulated mug left on a bench and dropped it in lost and found. When it remained unclaimed a week later, he took it for himself. The only occupants of the bench were train passengers.

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The Gorsky Variations

Hidden Paintings make a big splash in a small town!

Morton County Mailer

It is unknown whether Stanislav Gorsky was a real artist, a collective of like-minded individuals, or perhaps even an established artist playing tricks on the art world at large. Certainly the only solid evidence found thus far for their existence is a stack of paintings in the Waylonville Hall of Color and Light.(est. 1972) The curator and sole surviving member of the Committee for Arts, Gerry Orton(73) says all are equally plausible. Gerry gives us his interview in an office slanted with late-afternoon sunlight—a dusty closet more suited to a school custodian than a well-known street artist. Rough mock-ups of his various chalk “dust-ups” festoon the walls, his only ornamentation. Gerry has been the sole fixture of the committee, founded in 1968 and disbanded seventeen years later, and curator of the town’s one and only art gallery. “Beats digging a ditch,” he laughs, as he clicks on the various panel lights jury-rigged throughout the gallery. Inhabiting the leftover building from the First Episcopalian church on Norvak lane, the structure was not set up for exhibiting artworks, or anything at all. Gerry leads us through a tangle of furniture and sculpture, the floor plan he laid out for us was an architect’s nightmare. “In those days, you took what you could. Now notoriety and nostalgia stop me from selling the place.” The notoriety he speaks of is the sudden upturn in interest the gallery has received, following the re-discovery of the Gorsky paintings.

Gerry claims that fellow committee member Miette(surname unknown) was responsible for discovering them tucked in between a number of monoprints and a single abstract canvas. At the time they were improperly labeled as the work of minor German expressionist Klaus Gorman, and so languished in storage as more popular modern prints rotated in the front galleries. This changed when the committeewoman loosed the wrappings on the painting in order to catalogue it for the new record system. “Her face was just pure, pure horror,” Gerry recalls, “and y’know she was a holocaust survivor, so that made her doubly sick.” Certainly the paintings aren’t easy to look at for even the most grounded individuals. The paintings depict a series of bizarre scenes, various surreal tableaus and landscapes, in an almost reverent light. Gerry proudly displayed us his personal favorite, titled simply “Heads.” The subjects of the painting, if they can be said to resemble any body part, do not immediately recall heads. Gerry led us to note that the artist often stuck to the same color palate as a reformation artist, though deliberately using one color definitely confined to the modern palette. Pthalocynanine blue shares the scene with various umbers and ochres, dripping from crevasses and thatching cliffs, giving a somewhat alien effect.

The paintings, in both their subject matter and color usage, often defy description (to trot out a well-worn cliché) as well as photography in the characteristic they became truly notorious for. Gerry kindly propped up “Heads” for our photographer as he attempted, with both digital and traditional photography, to capture the canvas. “It’s the creepy part about it,” Gerry says, wrinkling his nose, “they’re like vampires or something. He must’ve made his own paint.” Indeed, the article as published runs un-illustrated as hours of Photoshop and every kind of exposure could not produce anything discernible. Gerry assured us that it has been the same with every single picture, since the first day they were brought out of storage and photographed for the catalog. Now Gerry is forced to keep them under padlock from over-enthusiastic amateurs. He dons white cotton gloves as he walks us through the rest of the collection, all with as non sequitur titles as the first: “The Benediction,” “Host,” “Coffee Break.” The brush techniques are sophisticated, analysis has shown them to be made with a traditional sable round. The afternoon turned a corner into the shocking when Gerry beckoned us forward with portable lamp containing a UV lightbulb. The painting, when bathed with the light, changed completely. “It’s the same with the others,” Gerry tells us in a whisper. Indeed, it seemed more proper to whisper around the objets d’art, which had almost taken on a personality of their own. Gerry assured us that it was the same under different wavelengths as well; the canvas donated to the Morton laboratory for analysis has shown change even in infrared.

Psychoanalysis of the paintings indicate the subject matter and style as being similar to many schizophrenic patients. Often hyper-real to the point of being disturbing, the paintings seem to follow dream logic with the story they tell. In “Communion,” various long-necked humanoids sip golden light seemingly poured into their veins by a nearby bird creature who dwarfs the moon. “Daphne,” the sole painting with a proper name, seems to retell the fable of the nymph in a concrete nightmare, with the subject herself composed of various derrick-like structures. Gerry, art teacher at Teddy Roosevelt Junior High for many years, merely shakes his head and laughs. “Whoever could do this would have to be seriously [expletive deleted] in the head.” The subject and perhaps the cause of the paintings’ macabre manner is still unsolved, though to Gerry’s best guess it was a war of some kind, judging by Miette’s emphatic reaction.

The possibility that the artist was a member of the committee popped up early in the inquiry and has yet to be dismissed. Even Gerry says it’s possible, though he discounts himself on the grounds that “I was never that good.” He also vouches for Miette, citing her obvious disturbance at the paintings and her shock as evidence. “It’s possible we were harboring a frustrated Magritte or Dali for years and never knew. It’s easy to get discouraged in a little town like this, and the city only gives us the crumbs left over from the Rotary Club.” The paintings have stirred a certain amount of civic interest, and the city had even offered to buy the gallery another building. But Gerry says the asking price, five of the paintings to sell for city benefit, was too high. “The way I see it,” the septuagenarian says, “these paintings were here waiting for something. Now, I don’t know if it was me, or anyone even alive, but I know [expletive deleted] it wasn’t for some collector.”

The gallery is open on weekends 4-9pm, 6-9pm on Sundays. Gerry Orville can be reached through his nephew at darkkitsune88@geemail.com.

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Contest entry: Fungi

Due to end-of-the-year shennanigans and the fact that I have been a bit under the weather lately, I have decided to post my contest entry to the Bogleech creepypasta cook-off in liu of an actual blog entry.

Read “Fungi” here!

The entire contest itself is well worth checking out, with many upcoming(and current!) horror stars giving their gory best.

Check out the contest!

Regular updates will resume next week.

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