Thursday, May 5, 2011

There's A Serial Killer In This Nursing Home

One by one, they're dying. Someone -- some fiendishly intelligent maniac -- is killing people at this nursing home. I have no idea why, or how to stop him. But the signs are unmistakable. Heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure -- no one at this place survives more than three years. Why do the staff not notice it? Are they somehow involved? Could the killer be hiding among them? I have to uncover the truth.

Moe Conner died suddenly last night. I heard the doctors muttering about complete organ shutdown, but they didn't know why it happened... even though they've been monitoring his vital signs continuously since he was diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer. What kind of poison could cause Conner to die the way he did without leaving a trace? And Helen Trombeck, the woman in 302... she just stopped breathing while her whole family was in the room watching. What chemical would cause a 98 year-old woman to just go like that? Did he spray it on her food? Did he inject it into her IV?

Three days ago it was an unnamed stroke victim -- a vagrant who'd lived here since they found him at a bus depot. And before that, back during the heat wave in July when the power went out... it was a series of heart attack victims. Whoever is preying on these people uses a variety of weapons and tactics. It seems almost random, the way he's taking lives. Almost meaningless. I have to figure out what he's up to. But so far... I can't.

It's like a puzzle that tantalizes me with its complexity. Two people eat dinner together in the cafeteria. The next day one of them is gone, and the staff are packing away his things for a bored group of relatives trying to act stricken. Then the survivor dies a week later, but he's killed in a completely different way, probably by a completely different poison. I see new people wheeled into the rec center almost weekly. Some of them last months. Some die within the day. And no one can tell me the reason behind it all.

I must figure out his plan. The staff admitted me six weeks ago, and the doctor's tell me my tumor is not shrinking. The killer will use my declining health as an opportunity to strike if I'm not careful. It's hard to think here. The lights hurt me and the smell is awful. Down the hall, almost every day, I can hear a woman crying without relief. No one will visit me. Some days I barely know who I am. But I must be strong. Because one thing is very, very clear: If I don't stop him, he'll get all of us.

Hop-Frog: The Plot Thickens

This is Part 3 of "Fool's Fire," the quasi-puppet show version of Edgar A. Poe's Hop Frog. In this section our hero comes up with an idea -- a wonderful, awful idea. Here is Part 1 and Part 2.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Look, Nobody Wants An Exorcism Here

Let's act like adults. We all know how this is going to end up if we don't negotiate; We've been through this before. You're going to pray and fling some holy water around like you're the big swinging dick. I'll start in with the vomit and the crazy talk. A little levitation, throwing some furniture -- I dunno... I'm just thumb nailing. But my point is maybe you get one more butt back in the pews and maybe you don't. What's guaranteed is that people are going to get hurt and stuff's going to get broken.

Everybody loses in an exorcism. That's my point.

Sure, you've got a solid, unbroken record. But you're not some 20 year-old seminarian. You think you can just fly back from an archaeological dig in northern friggin' Iraq and go round for round with me? I don't think so. And yeah, you have an assistant, but he doesn't look like he's up for any of this. The guy has a Sam Harris book in his bag. Really. Ask him about it. I think he's going to head for the door the minute your angina starts acting up.

Not that I'm all that eager to spend the next 24 hours tied to a bedpost. I mean, that's seriously no fun. But if you're willing to meet me halfway I think I can talk to the other demons and work something out.

Here's what I'm thinking: Number 1, we keep the girl. But we tone this crap down. No more peeing on the carpet or going all Wicked Pictures on the crucifix. She becomes just another surly, moderately evil 12 year-old girl. Believe me, we can work with that. There's nothing a full-blown possession will accomplish that doesn't already happen in your average junior high school.

Number 2, you mark this one down as a score, and nobody on our end makes any noise about it. Go ahead. You guys have other problems to deal with, right?

We avoid an eviction, you avoid ugliness and dry cleaning bills... everybody wins. Well, almost everybody. But how many pre-teens are you really going to save? Heh -- Don't answer that. Some of us in here used to be lawyers.

Anyway, that's the deal. I'll give you some time to think about it -- I've got some stuff to handle in the Mideast anyway. But I think this is the smart play. Remember: when you start saying Hail Marys... nobody benefits.

(Note: Photo of Pazuzu statue in Louvre Museum by Rama; used under Creative Commons France license.)

A Treasure of Horrors from Cornell University

Cornell's Institute for Digital Collections has scoured the university library for some of the freakiest images in literature, and dumped them all on an unsuspecting web. Above I have posted an image from Collin de Plancy's Dictionnaire Infernal to grab your attention. The collection has plenty of this kind of thing in its Angels and Demons collection. I am particularly struck by this woodblock from Latin America that has a woman pouring poison in her father's ear. And this witch on a broomstick spiriting an infant to some ugly end. As well as these images of possession and insanity.

It's ample evidence that horror has a long and distinguished cultural history. Wear those plastic fangs with pride, people. You're in good company.
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