Water Under the Bridge

Black Lagoon

This week’s prompt is: 15. Bridge and slimy black waters.

The Resulting Story: The Valley Vathek

An auspicious place, bridges. Cross roads between two places, they are a place of uncertainty. Not surprising, then, that a number of bridges are haunted, particular by the ghosts of babes. The image of a bridge at night, lit by only a lantern, with black bubbling waters running beneath is a strong one.

If I were to focus on the bridge, I could include the horrible things beneath, such as trolls and tax collectors eager to make off with you belongings. Bridges, as frequent places of suicide, may also contain helpful ghosts or deeply disturbed forces that feed on such misery. The pain might be unimaginable.

A handful of supernatural creatures might assist in these drownings. The ahuizotl from Mesoamerica and the Rusalka from Eastern Europe both drown their victims, either by force or by lure. The Sirens of Greek myth had similair schemes in mind. Any of the three could lurk near our bridge.

On the other, there is a particular neglected (and quite Lovecraftian) monster that comes to mind with black slimy waters. The Creature of the Black Lagoon is one of the neglected universal monsters. No reboot for him, unlike the mighty trifecta of Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Werewolf (no sexy one either, so all perhaps is well). But as he’s appearance shows, he has that aquatic feel that the Deep Ones sometimes bear. His capture of a human female is…not terribly Lovecraftian necessarily, though Lovecraft’s racial prejudices could certainly play in. On second thought, it is akin to that strange son of Dunwich isn’t it? Or perhaps Dagon?

How then, could we work the Creature of the Black Lagoon? A troll like thing, haunting the bridge? Its Beauty and The Beast inspiration played for horror?

I would first try to wed the morbid nature of the bridge and the Creature. Perhaps it is borne of the dead spirits, congealed into a single body. A sort of demon of mud and leaves animated by the despair of men. Or perhaps it is the reason for the dead, a creature dragging ‘suicides’ below into the waters. An investigation may reveal such a creature, giving us a well practiced protagonist either way.

Such a protagonist, to be poignant, ought to be near a bridge. Either some association with the bridge, or perhaps at the end of life forced to confront it, or the youth of life seeing death so early. Either extreme of age would work well.

That is what I was able to unearth, fellows. What have you found?

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A Humming in The Dark


This Weeks Prompt: 14. Hideous sound in the dark.

The Research: In The Dark of the Night

The year is one thousand nine hundred and sixty-eight. And something isn’t right. Mrs. Vel knows this, as she sits in her house, staring out the window into the night. She’s known it for quite some time. The neighbors have stopped coming to visit. They’ve not left their houses for days. Mrs. Vel knows this, she’s watched every morning.
“I wager they’re just down with some sickness dear. Don’t worry much on it,” Mr. Vel said when she asked. Mrs. Vel was smarter than that though. There wasn’t any sickness coming through.
She’d seen the Spanish flu came rolling through, and polio, and the Asian flu. She’d seen what a cold looked like, what sickness smelled like. And the neighbors certainly weren’t sick. No,something else was going on.
Mrs. Vel watched for cars at night too. Sometimes black ones would drive by, with their front lights off. She’d see them in a glimmer or two, or under a street lamp for half a moment before they faded away. Black long cars, tinted windows. Always driving the same way, down the block.
“They just circle around somewhere else. No need to make a u-turn in a suburb,” Mr. Vel said when she mentioned it one night. Mrs. Vel doubted that too, however. So many cars, and they couldn’t be the same car. Unless that particular car was able to circle the lot in a matter of seconds. No, that wouldn’t make sense at all.
At night, there were noises too. Deep humming noises, somewhere in the distance. She swore it started eleven years ago, but Mr. Vel said otherwise, as you might have guessed. Mr. Vel, in his button up and perpetual slouch, little more than a jelly roll of a man, never believed her. But she heard it. A deep, resonance in the air. Like someone had left the fan on miles away.
“Weren’t there more bees?” she asked one day, staring again outside. It was daylight, though the streets were empty.
“What?” her husband asked, looking up from the paper.
“Weren’t there more bees when we grew up? I hardly see any anymore,” Mrs. Vel replied.
“Course there were, but we were in the country then. Less wild things in the suburbs,” Mr. Vel said with his predictable shrug.
Mrs. Vel bit her lip. No, no something had happened to the bees. Something smoked them out. Maybe they heard the humming too?
And in 1965 the lights started. In the distance at first, great orbs of light humming through the sky. Mrs. Vel would see them, or maybe their shadows, floating above houses. Houses no one lived in anymore, and that Mr. Vel asserted no one ever had. Failed public housing, he would say. But they had neighbors, she knew that.
Mrs. Vel wondered at all this, as the dull humming in the night continued. Sometimes at sunset she would feel it before she heard it.186. 186. 1234567890. Sometimes she thought if she listened close enough, awake in her bed, that she would understand it. That it was saying something.
She started seeing things out in the houses. Men with strange long tongues hanging out, and big wide mouths gaping. Mr. Vel always looked bemused when she pointed at them, hand to her mouth.
“They’re neighbors, dear. Sure, little funny looking, but hey, it could be worse. Not any homos or blacks among them,” he’d say.
“Look at them, Bill! Look at them!” she whisper in panic. They weren’t people, not proper people. Hunched over and carrying crates in. Mrs. Vel stared as they unloaded things. Their TVs made horrible blue lights, with tik-tiking sounds on the static. Mrs. Vel knew they weren’t what Bill said. She’d park her car outside, peering inside. She saw them, flat faced, big eyed, big-mouthed creatures. Monsters, she’d mutter.
Mrs. Vel knew monsters. Her father had a cleft jaw. Her grandfather had some illness that made him swing about wildly. Something he caught overseas. She’d seen the sort of people who came back not-quite-right from the wilds. She knew them well.
She talked to a friend on the phone about moving.
“Nothing like that no,” she heard from the other end. Yes, Mrs. Vel’s friend hadn’t heard the humming either. But it was perfectly natural, she said, just the sound of so many jets these days. Did she know how many more jets flew these days?
Mrs. Vel called her son. Her son, off in college, told her that he had seen them too. She was relieved, until he told her he had seen them inside out. That they had flashing lights inside their hearts, and only ate honey. He had seen it, he explained in his dead-eyed way, in all his dreams.

When Bill didn’t come home one day, Mrs. Vel boarded up her house. She knew they did it. The humming did it. She wouldn’t go outside, she ate what she had in cans. She’d stare out the window, certain they were coming. She didn’t know if they left there homes. Maybe they were sick.
Mrs. Vel was certain that something had gone wrong. The humming was doing something to the world. It had smoked out the bees, it had messed with people’s minds. This wasn’t normal. The year was one thousand nine hundred and sixty-nine, and something wasn’t right.
Mrs. Vel saw men in suits, in every shadow. They came to her door, right up to her door, at her door with suit cases and papers. Mrs. Vel never answered. They might have made the noises. She kept as steady as ever, unmoving if she could. Mrs. Vel only made noise to nail in boards. More boards, covering everything except the window she looked through.
When Bill returned a few days later, he’d wonder at his neighbor, who never came out anymore. Poor thing, he thought, must have gotten sick. And then he would get back to his paper. And Mrs. Vel, across the street, would scream silently at night.

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In The Dark of the Night

This Week’s Prompt: 14. Hideous sound in the dark.

The Resulting Story:A Humming In The Dark

Dear Necromancers and affiliates, this is a particularly frustrating topic. Hideous sounds are…well common. As staples of horror go, strange sounds in the dark are about as standard as lights flickering. So, to compensate, let’s look at the nature of sound.

A dangerous sound, or ‘Brown Note’ as tvtropes calls it,is a rather common motif. There are of course, the sirens of Greek myth who lure men to their death. Like wise with some mermaid stories, where the sound is alluring more than hideous and draws men to drown themselves.

For simply horrifying noises, there is always the Poe story of the Tell Tale Heart (included below for your viewing pleasure), who’s beating drives the guilty mad. The image of madness inducing music comes in Mr.Lovecraft’s work as well, with the Music of Erik Zann.

And classically, there is the music of Pan’s pipes, which brought madness with them. We should never forget that part of Pan, lest his woodland nature trick us. From him come’s that dreaded Pied Piper after all. And of course, the ritual cries of Dionysus’s companions There is thus potency in these sounds to affect the mind, and there hideousness maybe more than simply uncomfortable.

The Greeks do not have monopoly on this horrifying trope however. The banshee’s cry signals impending death, an inevitability rife with material to mine. Notably, there is disagreement in regards to causation. Does the banshee wail for the foreseen death, or does the wail cause the death? Do they curse or confirm?

Then there is the Aswang. Oh, the aswang. Briefly, brothers and sisters, indulge in something that terrified me upon discovery. The aswang makes a terrible tik-tik noise as it stalks through the night looking to eat babes and unborn children. But importantly, the noise is louder the farther away it is (a trick the fae employ as well), allowing this predator to confuse its prey. The sound invokes no more terror then these shape-shifting monsters do on their own, but such noises in the dark are worth a mention.

All this in mind, a monster may be necessary for this story. A monster tied with madness and certainty, it seems, an inevitable creature. Poe’s Tell-Tale is inevitable, Pan’s pipes always play, and the Piper must be paid, and the banshee sees that inevitable death (or creates it). We have a strong theme, then, of trying to resist fate. Of going mad when forced to, pardon me, face the music.

Darkness is likewise a potent symbol of inevitability. Death is often, in the West, dark cloaked, and the realms of the dead are dark places. Night comes, and in darkness the world goes when it ends. A creeping darkness, there fore, with its strange music and piping is a potent embodiment of fate and death.

What sort of man fights death then? What woman resists fate? Perhaps a certain Russian?

Is the fate death literally, or some death of hope? Some misery of unhappiness that cannot be escaped?

I find the second more entertaining. What terror awaits, my fellows? Tell me what you think.

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The House In the Mangroves

This Week’s Prompt:13. House and garden—old—associations. Scene takes on strange aspect.

The Research: Home and Hearth

There’s a House beneath the Mangrove trees, up on the northern hill. The Homeowners Association should do something. Its an old house, been there since the sixties. Square top, square walls. The man who owns it, strange man, is old. Old and private, staring out with only one eye. Occasionally he has the decency to wear an eye patch. Sometimes he has no decency at all, and slips around the yard stark naked at night.

But the lawn is the travesty, dead brown grass stabbing up through the rocky ground. The mangroves, they make these great swooping arcs over it all. Birds like to crap on them, and sometimes it looks like a snow storm has swept through. Something really should be done, with that chic statues outside. Big smiling faces sitting on cupids. A few hunched over dog-men are placed around. They smell, the neighbors say, like formaldehyde.

The house has three floors, all with windows. Windows wide open. They always glow faint blue, and you can hear from the street the sounds of old commercials for Warbonds and football games between the static. On Saturday’s its cartoons, Looney Toons and local broadcast cartoons. The kind of cartoons that have big talking ships or strange rubber suited monsters. At least, that’s what the kids say.

Mr. Leman says there are puppets in the closet, near the crates of rat poison. Of course, in this town, it’s foolish to forget the rat poison. Rodents and pests Even if it accidentally kills a pet, like the fluff of fur in the driveway of the house. Someone should clean it up, its beginning to rot and no one wants flies. They get nasty, nipping at your feet like mosquito.

The garden in the back is well kept, large green bushes blocking out the flowers. There white, ashen things. The mangrove trees sometimes starve them, but mostly their fine. There are rat bodies in the roots, the help says. Suppose it makes good fertilizer.

He has red skin, and the doctor says his veins are bursting with blood. His blood presumably. The doctor didn’t say. The garden is well kept, lined and orderly. Some nights he snoops around, shining lights into the sky. The light pollution is intolerable. Maybe he’s signaling something. Planes or wolves in the woods. The children say they see things moving out there. Probably rats.

The Homeowners association wants to talk to him about his cars. Their old, rusting things, lumps of metal with rubber wheels. He doesn’t answer the door, but he takes in all his mail. And he gets a lot of mail. The post officer says its mostly magazines. Letters too, never packages. He plasters his windows with them sometimes.

Some men from Indonesia visit the house regularly. They stay up all night in the blue lit rooms watching television. They never drive, but don’t walk their either. Just there sometimes. Something really should be done.

He had chains and barbed wire delivered once. The convenience store owner saw him taking dirt out of the basement. Needs more room, he said. Needs more room. The state should investigate, if your allowed to do things like that.

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Home and Hearth

Hauntd House

This Weeks Prompt:13. House and garden—old—associations. Scene takes on strange aspect.

Resulting Story: The House In the Mangroves

What Mr. Lovecraft has proposed for us here is an interesting scene, perhaps. A home slowly warped by time serves as something of the plot to ‘Color out of Space’, and certainly haunted houses and creeping abodes are common enough. Why, we’ve already had a few corpses speak of them already, with Zinge’s strange house and the terrible abode of the vampire.

But this is a more civilized place, judging by the fact that it has a garden. The first format that springs to mind is the age old ‘country house poem’ which is, admittedly, antiquated but contains the necessary structure that can be bent to the purpose. Alas, if we go that route, I must admit my incompetence at poetry.

There is more of course. Firstly, is this a home or simply a house? A home is inhabited, I think, and the recounting of a peculiar boy (or girl) hood home might be a nice twist on it. Talking of summer vacations in Innsmouth or the like. Further, there is the ability for some old tenet to wander through the garden, and muse on how times have changed the place (No doubt, given our source author, for the worse).

A house meanwhile has all the strangeness of the unknown, a place where insight must be gleaned through the senses. It therefore has something of a mystery to it. It isn’t as obvious all the terrible things that could happen there, or have happened there. The inhabitants themselves become a piece of the strange puzzle.


A Lovely Vacation Site

As for the format, it seems by nature mostly expository. I don’t think this will be terribly problematic, and in fact could be modeled like the Tom Waits song ‘What’s He Building in There?’.  There is unlikely to be a shocking reveal, but instead a gradual increase in atmosphere, a density that is hopefully choking by the end.

Now, what element of horror could we locate? There is something like what we did last week, with gradual revelation of strangeness. Indeed a house lends itself to this quite naturally. The basements and attics are always full of terrible deeds and treasures, the closest always skeletons, and the bedrooms damned deeds. But if we are going to do that, we must keep some element of surprise. I recommend, then, we build our story like a house, with a central hub connected to seemingly disparate parts. Bit by bit we drop the pieces, unrelated at first, but binding slowly over time, until the last terrible truth is shown with something so simple as say, a doll.

Of course, there is also the notion of a haunting, a terrible ghostly presences still remnant in the house. Ghosts will no doubt take a primary role latter in our list, and as such, we will leave a full discussion of their lore until then. But for the mean time, an eldritch or haunted house is a classic archetype which could be built on. Stephen King, the Simpsons, Edgar Allen Poe, and more illustrious individuals have toyed with the notion, most recently with the House of Leaves.  Most influential on myself was Monster House, a strange film to say the least which scarred me out of Halloween as a child.
Monster House.png

The difficulty with such a prolific form, however, is that it is rife with cliché. We certainly, as proper necromancers, cannot bury a loved one in the walls or foundation. We cannot have some noxious beating noise, should avoid mass murders as the cause of haunting (particularly of children thanks to a certain franchise) and  suicides do to lost of loved ones. These have been played with endlessly, and with a limit on space, we do not have time for good reversal. A nebulous force of malice in the house may be do to something else, some other odd occurrence (perhaps simply a visit from a strange man? A seance that draws a long dead ghost to the place? Some unexplained unease?) is far preferable.

With that in mind, hopefully next week we will have something homely and domestically produced for you. What would you do, with such a place?

I’d like to also take a moment and recommend Lovecraftian Science, a wonderful blog which I will be certainly consulting for the more scientific side of things. The image of Innsmouth was found at their lovely site.

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