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Monday, September 26, 2016


The cast of characters in this story are a 38-year-old truck driver named George Di Peso, his 30-year-old wife Ruth, their three children: 12-year-old Susanne, 10-year-old Jean, and 7-year-old George, and, most importantly, one ordinary 1/2-inch (1 cm) diameter, 50-foot (~15 m) garden hose that was about to bring them international fame. No idea on the age of the hose.  I’ll just say that it had a lot of energy, so it must have been very young...

Thursday, June 30th of 1955 started out like any other day at the family’s four-year-old Downey, California home.  Should you want to take a peek at the scene of the crime, although I doubt that current owners would appreciate your visit, their home was located at 7739 Alderdale Street.

So here’s what happened.  Mom Ruth asked her daughter Susanne to go out and water the ivy that afternoon.  She came back into the house and told her mom that the hose was stuck in the ground. 

Huh?  What?

The two went back outside and sure enough the hose had somehow buried itself into the ground.  They tried pulling with all their might, but the hose would not budge.  Neighbors came by, but their efforts were futile.

So, they waited for dad to get home from work.  George Di Peso pulled with all the strength of his 170-pound (77-kilograms) frame, but he also had absolutely no success. 

He needed something much stronger.  A lightbulb went off in his head.  The car!   He hitched the hose to the bumper and popped it into low-gear.  No luck, the hose snapped close to its free end.

And here’s where it gets bizarre.  The hose appeared to be burying itself deeper and deeper into the ground.  It’s Alive!

Could it really be alive?  They decided to place a cloth marker on the hose to see how fast it was descending.  They measured that it had moved 18-inches (46 centimeters) in five-hours.

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Sunday, July 3, 2016

INSOMNIAC: Terrible Minds Writing Challenge

The unrelenting Wendig from his blog has once again prodded the fading embers of my sick little campfire of a mind and brought back enough fire to roast one thousand marshmallow words out of my plastic bag of imagination that I bought at the Seven Eleven during a Tequila binge?

Well, here it is, burnt and smoking, but I like 'em that way:


Cal’s doctor told him it was insomnia. Sleep state misperception. Pretty fucking vague term, thought Cal. Pretty fucking vague term that meant never really sleeping and never really being awake. He barely felt alive anymore. More like Purgatory, he thought.

     Do this, try that. No caffeine. No TV an hour before bedtime. No computer. No internet. Drink milk. Don’t drink milk. Try melatonin. Melatonin doesn’t work. Really? he thought as he watched blue light spill across his bedroom ceiling from the headlights of passing cars. Were they insomniacs as well? Not the cars, but the people in them; or maybe both. The slave cars kept awake by their unrelenting masters.

     Sometimes the cold helped, so he had upped the air-conditioning. At first, the cold had helped occupy his thoughts. It was sixty three degrees in his apartment, though all he knew was that it was cold, but not cold enough. Or, maybe it needed to be warmer?

     When Cal was a child, he slept. He could sleep anywhere. School, church, the backseat of his dad’s Chrysler, the crook in the tree that was in his backyard. Everything was crisp and clean back then. At age eight he realized there wasn’t really a boogie man in the closet. The world made perfect sense. Life was fair. Life was good to that naive kid. Then the world flooded in. The bad world, with bad air, bad water, bad food… evil people. People that meant him harm. People who didn’t even know Cal. People who didn’t even know they were evil. They made him itch, made him uncomfortable. He worked with these people. He was related to them. Cal couldn’t get rid of them. Their conspiracies against him spun webs through his mind, webs tickling, congesting then consuming his thoughts. Fat, bulbous black spiders sucking sleep from his brain cells, leaving dry husks cocooned in tumorous clusters. God, let him sleep!

     He had tried reading; the doctor had said to. At first it seemed to help. He’d gotten through the first hundred pages of Moby Dick before his eyelids grew heavy, the book slipping from his hands. Yet as soon as he’d put the book down and curl up under the covers, the thoughts surfaced like black muck from the bottom of a clear lake, dirty and vile. Or like a hundred shrill spoiled children screaming for attention.

     Tonight was no different. However, Cal had come to a realization. Or maybe out of shear desperation, his mind formed a rationalization. The voices weren’t going away. Oh, no; they were here to stay. It had been at least three years now. He knew it was time. Time to start listening. And Cal listened. He listened closely. He found things out. Powerful things. Dangerous things. Horrible things. Things that were inevitable.

     It was five in the morning by the time he fell into a fitful sleep. Dreams swirled behind rolling eyes; pillars of fire seared his skin, dust and smoke choked his lungs, a crushing blow shattered his bones. Cal awoke, struggling free from the sweat soaked sheet that had bound him. Panting, he sat on the edge of his bed. Shaking, he tried to gain composure, reaching for the TV remote on his night stand, switching to the morning news report on CNN hoping the reality of the outside world would wash the thoughts and nightmares from his psyche.

     Cal didn't see what he had expected to see. There were no talking heads with perfect hair and knowing expressions sitting behind laminated plywood desks, green-screen images flowing in an LCD river behind them. All Cal saw was a lone reporter, who looked like he’d just rolled out of bed, hair askew, unshaven and bleary eyed, dressed in a polo shirt with the collar flipped on one side, shirt hurriedly tucked into wrinkled khaki pants. Cal would bet there was no camera man, just a camera on a tripod running a live feed. What was going on?

     “…US government has not officially responded to the current situation. As of this time, it is assumed that China has made first strike on New York City. An estimated six million dead, a million plus seriously wounded and near death. I’m… Dale Henry, lone reporter, ten miles outside city limits…” he broke down crying, “if you’re seeing this, within a matter of minutes, fallout from the nuclear… strike will be upon you… for the love of God…”

The feed went dead. Cal changed stations. Many were not broadcasting. FOX network was broadcasting out of California. He watched for an hour, even though “lone reporter” Dale Henry had pretty much said all that was known at the time, although they were covering reports of nationwide looting and vandalism. Military experts debated when to expect further strikes, and where. Cal watched in numb silence. He didn’t even think to call anyone. What would he have said?

     Sirens wailed outside, near and distant. A few rescue and police vehicles screaming just blocks from his street. Cal felt tired. He lay back on his bed, eye lids heavy. Even the wet sheet didn’t bother him. He became aware that the voices weren’t there. Cal tried to remember what ol’ Dale had said: fallout in a matter of minutes? Cal fell into a dead sleep.

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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Comb's Dear Nightmare

Another flash fiction challenge from the warped mind of Chuck Wendig at

Pick a title, write a story. I chose:

Comb’s Dear Nightmare


     Please excuse my penmanship and grammar as I hastily write this entry, but I fear that it is best that I transcribe this incident as soon as possible, while these sequences of events are still relatively clear in my mind’s eye. An eye that grows more clouded by the hour.

     Harold Comb has been a psychiatric patient of mine for the last two weeks. This writing concerns him, or should I say concerns what has happened in his regard. Comb became my patient through recommendation of a colleague, who shall remain nameless, for his protection. My colleague had sent Comb to me with what he said was some reluctance, and I should’ve read more into the waiver in his voice as he relayed the patient’s situation to me. It seems Harold Comb stumbled upon my colleague through pure chance, having wandered, delirious, no less, into a garden party at said colleague’s home. The lady of the house as well as the guests were frightened to the point of near terror, but my colleague was intrigued with Comb’s story and against his better judgement, calmed the poor fellow and even went so far as in offering to take the gentleman home, upon which Comb stated, “I have none!” and consequently fell unconscious. Comb was rushed to hospital and soon after became lucid once again.

     This is when Comb, with my colleague and the attending nurse by his side, told his queer tale in further curious detail. Comb stated that he was from the city of Ashtonworth, in the provence of Rhiley, in the country of Saldesta, a country that obviously doesn’t exist. He had no memory of how he came to be in our city. Comb, confused, didn’t recognize the names of any of the countries the good Doctor related to him either, although saying there was a country like “Germany” yet spelled “Jermeny” in his imagined world. Comb became agitated by the Doctor’s inquiries and refused to answer any more questions until his story was heard. The patient became physical and orderlies were summoned to restrain him. Once given a powerful sedative, he began to ramble.

     He claimed he was not a man, but a ten year old boy, saying he awoke in this hideous city in the body of a man. Baffled by his whereabouts and repulsed by his anatomy, Comb stumbled through the lamp post lit city streets until, in desperation, followed the sounds of laughter and music, lurching into the garden of the Doctor. At this point in the patient’s story, the Doctor asked what came before… could he remember? Comb lay silent on the bed, eyes closed. Just as the Doctor expected no answer, Comb’s eyes sprung open. He fought and strained against the restraints, clawing at the bed linens. Veins stood out in his neck, Comb gnashed his teeth, grimacing.

“That’s when they came! The ceiling! The melting…!”

At this point, the Doctor felt it best to sedate Comb, and the patient slept through the night with no further incident. The following day, Comb remembered nothing of the previous night. He gave my colleague his address, and even provided identification, which was verified. The Doctor explained his unusual behavior from the night before to Comb, who showed legitimate concern for his actions. He even admitted to suffering blackouts, but being a bachelor and living alone, had no realization of ever leaving his flat. The Doctor calmed him, saying this may have been the first time, but he recommended that Comb should see a sleep specialist, which you already know, I am. The Doctor also explained that he felt my studies and practice of hypnotism may be beneficial. Comb became my patient the following day.

     My first session with Harold Comb was uneventful. I simply related what I knew of him and his situation, explaining that through experimental hypnosis techniques I intended to eliminate the blackouts, sleep walking and hypnogogic delusions he was experiencing. Delusions that remained buried in his subconscious; Harold Comb, in his concern for his mental health, agreed, signing the necessary forms of treatment and release. I scheduled Comb as the last patient to be seen today, excusing my receptionist an hour prior to his arrival. Unbeknownst to my receptionist or Comb, my treatment was anything but sanctioned, and the fewer who knew, the better.

     Comb showed precisely at 5:30, although he seemed different than he did in our initial meeting. He diverted his eyes and shuffled to his seat across from me, with no greeting. I did get a greeting upon forwarding one myself, however. I quickly went over the procedure that would include a mild sedative. I held back that I would also be administering a dose of a drug that causes temporary paralysis of the limbs. As I stated, this technique was unorthodox, but not without warrant in my studies. Comb took the pills, first putting the pills in his mouth from his right hand, then taking the glass of water from me with his right also, swallowing with one gulp. Comb’s left hand was clenched tight, and must’ve been since entering my office. I proceeded to put him into a hypnotic trance, using a series of suggestions and mannerisms I’ve perfected over the years. Soon he was under my influence. I grabbed my pen and pad.

“Harold, can you hear me?”


“I need you tell me where you are.”

“In your office.”

“Tell me about you. About the boy.”

“Oh my God. I don’t belong here. They brought me. What? Why are you here? I want to go home! This isn’t me! Mommy, this isn’t me! Don’t! Take me home! OH MY GOD THEY’RE HERE!”

     Comb sat across from me, trembling, staring passed and above me, frozen stiff in that chair. I turned, instinctively, I turned and looked! I shouldn’t have! I shouldn’t have looked! God help me, a black cloud was forming in the corner of the room. I watched incredulous as slim, smoke like tentacles sprouted from that sickening black mass, tendrils stretching out… I threw myself to the floor, covering my head with clasped hands as I heard the bloodcurdling shrieks of poor Comb! Comb, unable to move, unable to avert or even close his eyes! Seeing it all! Then came the sounds, the guttural sounds of a man drowning, air being forced from lungs… then silence.

     I came to sitting in my chair just moments ago, the chair that sat across from where Comb had been sitting, Comb's chair now empty. My shirt soaked through with sweat. My hands gripping the arms so tightly, my knuckles ached upon loosening my grip. I’d fallen asleep. Comb had never been here. It had been a dream, a nightmare, I told myself. Comb had shrugged off the appointment. I felt a rush of relief course through me. Then I noticed something. Lying beside the chair across from me. A small object. I picked it up. A small toy, a little metal car, but unlike any metal I’d felt before. It was ice cold to the touch. Then, in realization, I looked into the corner of the room behind me. There, a small black cloud, the size of a walnut, pulsing.

     I still sit here as I write this. The cloud grows ever so slightly by the hour. I feel I should leave, but will that stop the inevitable? No.




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Friday, January 15, 2016

The River's Mask

     I remember my Dad and I going fishing. We did a few times before the divorce. Probably when I was around eight. We fished in the river not far from our house. The Cherry River. We didn’t live in the country, but didn’t have to. That river cut a swath right through my home town. God, I hated that place. Lived in the not so great part of a not so great Midwestern industrial town. I remember fishing. Baiting the hook with something alive, watching it squirm; wondering if it could feel pain. I’d hoped so. I hated fishing more than I hated that town. Don’t really remember much of what my old man said in our few short years of acquaintance, but I do remember that day, and what he said that day. Probably because I was hot, sweaty, bored and miserable and would rather have been anywhere else.

“Boy, see the water there?”

“The river?” I asked. I cringed a little, expecting a slap to the back of the head.

“Yeah. That. But the water itself. See how the sun reflects? Sparkles all inviting like? Saying, ‘you know boy, it’s a hot day. Bet you’d like to cool off. Bet you’d love to jump in right now, wouldn’t you, boy?’ There’s more to that river than the water, boy. The river is what’s underneath that water. It’s the current that’ll grip you, hold you down, drown you without a care. The broken beer bottles that’ll slice your foot wide open. You’d bleed to death before you ever made it home to your Mama. It might be the tree branch you can’t see, just below the surface, that’ll spear you like a bullfrog when you belly flop. You see, the water ain’t the river; it’s the river’s mask. People wear them masks, too.”

     I probably remember that because that’s the most he’d ever said to me that wasn’t a direct order.


      I really think we were made for each other. I first saw her in the dorm cafeteria. She was very pretty, beautiful in an awkward way. Thin, maybe she thought too thin, jet black hair and pale skin. A crooked nose and a slight gap in her front teeth. Glasses with black rims. She gave me a quick half smile. So quick that I almost didn’t see it. She cast her gaze to the floor, her fragile hands in her lap. I knew her hair smelled of strawberries. It was love at first sight. Corny, I know. Hey, she wasn’t my first.

     That was weeks ago. Man, hard to believe. Now we traveled the highway together, to an unknown destination. How mysterious. The place we were going didn’t matter. All that mattered is that we were going there together. We’d be together.

     She was studying pre-med. That made me proud, I guess. And why shouldn’t I be?

     I’d dropped out last month. She didn’t know that, and I tried not to think about it. Does it matter? She slowed the car down as it began to sprinkle. Brake lights flashed briefly ahead. How long would we drive on before she revealed where we were going? I should’ve been tired, since I’d been with her since dawn, but the anticipation of where we might stop had me wired. I talked about everything and anything, until it started to feel a little weird, so I just shut up. Why did I always do that? All those regrets and failings, wants and desires. They shouldn’t matter now. Not now that I have Diane.

     Dusk turned to darkness and we drove on. I turned on the radio. After a half-dozen silly love songs and a few embarrassing songs filled with sexual innuendo, I turned it off. If only I knew where we were off to, just me and Diane. Even though I’d only known her a short time, I felt as if I’d known her forever. Like since we were kids, or something. I’d watched her with children at the clinic she interned at. She loved those kids like they were hers. I’d see that half smile as she lifted a toddler and held him in her arms, the kid giggling. She had pets, too. Two cats. I saw the first one, a big fat tabby right away. The second, a Siamese, was shy or maybe aloof is more like it. She loved them equally. I hated the thought of them dying before her, breaking her heart.

    Headlights streamed in streaks across the windshield. Now I was getting tired. It was late. We were still driving. She hadn’t stopped for anything; food, gas even a restroom break. I supposed I could hold on. How much longer could it be? I’m sure she was getting tired, too. We’d both been going since early morning. I guess I’d bear with it all, I’d come this far.

    I thought to myself how pretty she’d looked getting into the car. I guess wearing what you’d call a conservative light-weight coat, khaki, tied at the waist, covering what I knew was underneath: a silky lavender blouse with a “v” neck, just barely exposing her cleavage. The blouse covering the lace push-up bra that only she and I knew she was wearing. A short black skirt exposed her long slender legs from mid-thigh, her feet styling black low heeled wedges. Yes, I know about ladies shoes. Whatever.

     My mind wandered to places I’d never been as the miles ticked on. Diane and I, in bed together, her in her coat, blouse and skirt, me naked, excited. Then alone… but then I snapped out of my reverie. We were taking an exit. Finally! She pulled into a motel.

     I kept still as she went in, not wanting to do anything dumb to spoil the moment. It wasn’t long before she came out and walked ahead. I followed in the car. I parked and stepped into the cold, wet night. I couldn’t believe my luck as she slipped the card key through the slot… before she could close the door, I pushed my way in. She tried to scream, but I was quick. I hit her hard over the head and knocked her out.

     I would be with her tonight.

    I carried her out around two in the morning, putting her in the trunk of my car. I just left her car in the parking lot. I drove until I got to Cherry River, on the outskirts of town. It was nearly dawn by the time I had her body weighted down. I sweated as I dragged her to the edge. I was too tired to carry her. I gave Diane one last kiss, and then rolled her into the murky water, the lazy current reflecting the moonlight. The river’s mask looked so calm. But I knew what lay under the surface. Detective, she hadn’t been my first.

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