Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Searching of Noth House (Part 2)


Elizabeth Knowles didn't believe in magic. She thought that people who performed rituals often entered strange emotional states. They became suggestible, and perhaps they hallucinated. She believed that people saw what they wanted to see. So do many of us.

She drove up through the rural Virginia countryside -- past flat green fields and abandoned store fronts laced with weed and moss -- toward her new home. She listened to a weather report on the radio. A fog was stealing over the area, and by night it would be quite thick. Knowles allowed herself a small, grim smile at the thought of it. It would be perfect. Her car's trunk was filled with several dozen mirrors of all sizes, wrapped in sheets and packing material. They rattled in the dark as she went over cracks in the old pavement. Her clothes lay bundled in several suitcases on the back seat, along with boxes of cleaning supplies, and a crude handmade crucifix. She had carved the cross herself out of apple wood, shaping the Christ from a yellow candle. When she was done, she pricked the thumb and four fingers of her left hand, daubing each of them on a different spot to mark the five Holy Wounds. Next to the crucifix was a copy of the Compendium Maleficarum, and a small black book written in Old High German.

Up ahead finally, she spotted the dark three-story building. She'd seen it in so many news reports, but Elizabeth had never actually visited, not even during the inspection. In front of it was an unmarked police car. Glen Chambers, a detective with the State Police, stood leaning on its side, waiting for her. He was a tall, thin man with dark straight hair, black eyes, and a deeply-lined face. He had divorced twice. During the investigation the two of them had spent weeks together in her home, and they'd become quite close. Neither of them acknowledged that, and after police closed the case there had only been a couple of phone calls and then silence for almost a year. Their eyes met as she pulled the car up beside his, and they smiled warmly.
"Well," said Elizabeth, stepping out of the car and appraising him. "I guess you got the news from Frieda. C'mere." They hugged, and then she turned away and began to unpack.
"You're not going to stop me," she said with her back turned to him.
"Frieda was just worried, and..."
"Frieda is a superstitious busybody. You don't believe in any of her nonsense."
"Neither do you," he said, looking at her car and fighting the impulse to help her.
"Neither do I," she said.
"Then why do it? Why?" He stood in her way and stopped her, and the two of them were looking at each other again.
"Do you think you're going to remember something?" Glen asked. "That there's some detail? There isn't. There isn't, okay? You told me everything. I made sure of it. The case is over; it's..."
"Don't you tell me that," she said sharply. "Don't you dare."
And now it was his turn to look away. Just for a moment.
"All I meant was that..."
"What? That Stephen Noth was the one who killed my daughter? Is that what you're saying to me? To me?"

Stephen Noth, an unemployed machinist from Ashland, was the previous tenant of the house. The task force identified him as a person of interest in three disappearances in the case. Thirty-six law enforcement officers entered his house one morning at 4:30, and a young SWAT officer shot and killed him on his staircase. Prosecutors closed all 13 homicides without trial.

"Look, Elizabeth... You can talk to me about this." He softened his voice. "I'm not trying to stop you from doing anything. Frieda was worried about those books. But I don't care about that. I'm just worried you're going to walk into this house, and you're going to close yourself off and just... go crazy."
"Yes," she said simply and firmly. "That's the idea."

And there was nothing else he could do to keep her away. He took out his card and pressed it into her hand.
"Keep this somewhere handy," he said. "I want you to call me in a couple of days to check in. If I don't hear from you I'm breaking in. Okay?"
They took a moment to say goodbye, and they both remembered that thing they had never put words to. Det. Chambers got into his car and left.

Elizabeth Knowles spent the next hour dusting and scrubbing the floor in the front parlor of the house. When she was finished she opened all the windows in the building, walking from room to room feeling small and afraid. Before long the fog came, and the mist began spilling into the empty, cavernous place. That was when she set each mirror out until scores of them surrounded her, propped up against walls with some lying on the floor. She lit a small fire in the fireplace with logs and some newspaper. When it became hot she quickly placed the crucifix on top, where it could gradually catch fire. The figure of Jesus melted, the wax running together with bits of her own blood into the fire, until it was gone. She felt the beginnings of some kind of seizure and began to cough. As she whirled around and stumbled to her knees she could see that the room was quite filled with mist and smoke.

The mirrors were filled with shadows. And before she collapsed, Elizabeth thought she saw letters forming. The message only appeared for an instant, and then she was unconscious:

STP DOINGG THS TO ME PLESE


(Image is of a seance in the 1920's from Wikimedia)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"You're Gonna Wish I Took Over The World" -- A Message From The Antichrist


You know what? Screw you people.

I've spent the last 30 years of my life quietly amassing power and killing off my enemies, getting ready for that crucial moment when I could just take over. It wasn't easy. I made sacrifices. I meet someone on eHarmony, and we start swapping messages, and that first time I start talking honestly about my goals... I get frozen out. I don't have friends. The only living thing in my apartment is a cactus and a crystal with a human soul trapped in it, because I don't even have time to take care of a friggin' cat. I'm lonely, and I'm burnt out. And for what? So you guys could act like I was going to wreck everything?

Let me let you in on a little secret. My "world domination" plan had its drawbacks, sure. Executing everyone who didn't take the unholy mark is probably the biggie. But there was plenty of good solid reform in that thing. High-speed rail over the American continent. An energy policy that cut carbon emissions and upgraded nuclear safety. Basically a lot of what Al Gore was talking about back in 2000. You got rid of him too, and how well did that go?

Why am I cashing it in? I'm tired of being the bad guy. Every time I turn on AM radio or surf the net I hear that all that crap in the Middle East is my doing. Did I decide to cram three major religions there? Did I think to build a Muslim-Jewish co-op on the Temple Mount? No. You people messed that place up. I was just going to do some housecleaning, and then move on to my plan of running the world with cold, brutal efficiency. Man, you people really, really lucked out that that's not going to happen! It will be so much better leaving that part of the world to a bunch of Christian fundamentalists and the Likud party.

My prediction is that within four years you'll be wishing you all had 666 burned on your forehead, and I was hunting down the last of the righteous and saving Social Security. But fuck it. I'm going to buy up a couple of studios, and get into cable TV.

Suck it, bitches. You can take your chances with Michele Bachmann.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

I'm Almost Certain I Cut The Red Wire


I know how important this is.

When you read out the transmission with the instructions on how to blow the airlock to prevent the invasion from coming through I tried really, really hard to remember everything exactly. I know we're all that stands between the earth and 2.3 million alien replipods, and if we don't do this correctly mankind is doomed.

That's why I'm definitely, positively almost certain we got it exactly right. We dialed in the destruct code, disabled the disarming program, and then cut the wires to the main system. Well, of course I did it in the right order. I did all the wires in the order you told me. The order you told me, Pete. Yes, brown, magenta, amber, amber, green, red. Well, I remember that you told me what order to do them, and I am sure I did just what you said. I wouldn't have made a mistake on something that important. I am sure. Absolutely almost sure.

How sure? Well... certain. Practically certain. Almost practically certain. That red wire was cut. I'm positive of that, and I remember you telling me the order, so I am pretty sure I cut them in the order you told me. I am...

Look, I am ninety-nine percent... Stop crying. Lucy, stop it. Guys, I am totally sure. Totally almost sure we're going to be fine. That airlock is going to blow any minute, and the planet will be saved from those otherwise unstoppable face-sucking monstrosities. I am... really, really sure. I mean, even if I didn't cut the red wire -- NOT THAT I DIDN'T, BECAUSE I DID -- the replipods wouldn't be able to stop the destruct code. They'd have to be like, insane geniuses, and...

Let's just watch the airlock blow from the observation deck. It should explode any second now. We had 15 minutes when we left, and... How long has it been? Well, your watch is probably off. Christ, Lucy would you stop it? You're going to see your mother again.

Let's just watch from the escape vessel. Tell you what, we'll dial in the Armageddon Protocol, and when those things don't get through to us, which they totally won't, we'll just cancel it later. No one has to know. It's not like they're really going to have to detonate the nukes on the east coast, because I am really positively almost certain.

Francis Ford Coppola's Inspiringly Bad Movie


The year was 1963, and a young and very gifted would-be filmmaker got his first major break. A producer wanted (according to Wikipedia's account) to make the next Psycho on the cheap. He hired a man named Francis Ford Coppola to write and direct a movie that had a haunted Irish castle, a dead little girl, a family secret, and a beautiful blonde femme fatale who is trying to play a con that involves a scene where she strips down to her underwear. How could that possibly fail?

And yet, the product of all this greatness, Dementia 13... is nonetheless a bad movie. The acting is somehow wooden and melodramatic at the same time. The action scenes are hokey. The dialogue is packed with so much exposition it reminds you of that wedding party floor collapse disaster that made the rounds on Youtube a few years ago.

Why do I bring this up? Because you can still see Coppola's passion come through. A deeply twisted plot teams up with unnerving camera angles and great atmosphere, and they put on a brave, desperate struggle against a horde of classic B-movie flaws to see which will win out. The first death scene shows a corpse floating underwater at night while catchy, somehow creepy rockabilly plays. Then the corpse blinks, and you realize the movie is all about breaking your heart.

Coppola spent almost a decade after this movie working on stuff you've never heard of... and then he created The Godfather, The Conversation, Godfather II, and Apocalypse Now. And then he went and did some other cruddy movies, but managed to create a few more good ones as well.

Good films, bad films, half-good films, genius films, godawful films, and of course Godfather III, which can only be described in the language of Mordor, which I will not utter here. The lesson, in your humble correspondent's opinion, is you will never be completely vindicated, or completely cursed, by anything you do. Every project is a fresh start.

Whatever you're working on, just go ahead and keep at it until they plant you.

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