The Thing Which Devours All

I sit in my comfortable chair, drinking beer from a blue goblet. I’m just fancy like that. With each sip thoughts of the current winter pass through my mind; so far it hasn’t been so bad. At least I’m not cold. Last year was cold, but last year I still worked at Walmart–you’ll always be cold there (cold with anger, that is).

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The Thing Which Devours All

What does this have to do with winter? I don’t know, it’s just a black and white photo of a flowering maple. I always come back to it when I scan my photo gallery. Years ago I took the picture. Like many plants, they flower in the spring, waxing and waning in the summer and fall, falling into a deep slumber in the winter months.

The snow, the cold. Nature has fangs, and it will use them. Not out of spite, and yet not without a reason. Just not spite.

Winter is like reality: it’ll swallow you whole if you’re not ready for it. Which is funny. Winter is a part of reality. It’s also a mystery. The holidays just don’t seem festive without the snow. A fresh covering of snow quickly changes a landscape into a marvellous wonderland. We don’t want it, and yet we can’t really live without it.

Somehow I feel as if I’ll never understand it.

As for the picture, black and white photography has its own mystery. Without any mystery,  things would get very dull, very fast.

Which begs the question: what is the thing that devours?

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The Mysterious, the Ominous–Whatever You Like

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The Mysterious, the Ominous–Whatever You Like

You know, I haven’t done a speculative entry for months now. Partly because I don’t know what to write half the time (which is the charm I suppose). The other part? I don’t always feel like pulling inane drivel from between the air molecules. It’s not as easy as it seems either.

But this quote illustrates an idea I’ve been grasping at for the past year (since the Enigmatic Monster Project began).

Dark nights. Dark in a suggestive way, meaning full of intent. Out of the ordinary. Not just the absence of light . . .

When is darkness more than just the lack of light? (When is a door not a door?)

Huh.

It seems that the more I think about the smaller things, the larger they become. Simple things become ambiguous. And yet the world still turns.

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It is What You Are

Two wholes that amount to two halves–

It is What You Are

–how tragic! Brought together, and held together by a fine line. Such a waste, light and dark tied to one another, so fragile, yet so inseparable. Balance achieved only through chaos. Chaos sitting quietly in its corner. With nothing to do, so little time for it, and eternity to look for (perhaps, or perhaps not). Balance tips its scales; why not, why make life so easy? A sea of grey reaching towards the horizon. A colourless void beyond. Why not? Why fight it? Simplicity? There is no such thing.

Two wholes which amount to two halves . . .

Or is there anything at all?

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Beneath the Rippling Mirror

On the other side of the river there is the tower, and the town surrounding it.

The River

Beneath the Rippling Mirror

Whenever he looked at the far-away tower, he felt a terrible longing for it. It always left him dissatisfied with his life after it had passed. Who were the people who inhabited it–those mysterious beings who seemed to be like him, but were not? Were it not for the river, he would have found out by now.

As it was, he was here. On the opposite bank with no hope of crossing.

The river itself was a strange beast. No animals came near the water, but he could never figure out why. Something was wrong, but he could never figure out what.

He stood away from the shore, looking out across the great expanse of water. The tower beckoned to him, but the river mocked him. His heart twisted itself into a knot of varied emotions, each one warring with the other. It had been years, and he still couldn’t understand why he felt this way. The urge to know burned at him.

But was it worth the knowing? Ultimately, the tower meant crossing the river.

Ultimately, that meant knowing the river.

Was it worth it?

A rather pitiful sigh escaped him. In defeat he crawled back to his den. For now, the river would wait, as it always had.

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For the Love of Trees

For the Love of Trees

The Man Whom the Trees Loved is another short, supernatural horror story from Algernon Blackwood. You can download it for free from Project Gutenberg, or buy it on Amazon for cheap (in mega-pack form).

By the way, we love Algernon Blackwood. Blackwood good. Delicious, even . . .

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Nothing is Ever as it Seems

Nothing is Ever as it Seems

Brooding Skies

Daylight does not amount to much when you start thinking differently–outside of the box–too many possibilities come into play, drowning you in their wake.

They found out the hard way, some might say, when they assumed that they were safe during the day. There is a common belief that things of evil come out under the cover of darkness. Perhaps it was not so much a belief as it was something’s sick joke . . . Perpetuating a lie is simple when one knows how.

But darkness . . . And daylight . . . what meaning did either of the two have if no one was safe? What was the point if monsters came in all manner of shape and size, all manner of disguise?

They would never make that same mistake again.

Amongst other things.

No one knows who they are, or what they did. We only know that they were.

Nothing is ever as it seems.


 

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Look at this Big Dump

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Look at this Big Dump

Okay, it’s not that big, it might not even be that great. We think it’s pretty neat. For those of you who enjoy sketches, enjoy this piece of eye candy.

The Eternal Heist

monacle_duckThe Eternal Heist

Thinking about book covers and the process involved with their design has had me thinking about The House on the Borderland.

There is no cover for the book yet. But it has been on my mind for weeks, rest assured. With all of the things I’ve been doing this December, it’s been rather busy. HOWEVER, what I have been thinking about is something I’ve come to refer to as the eternal heist. It’s tied to The House on the Borderland . . .

What is the Eternal Heist? I’ll tell you what, I’ll spare the long exposition, because you’ve probably figured out what it is: theft, larceny, and the never ending cycle it involves.

But what are we stealing, precious?

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Mundane Things, Part Two

Four Weird TalesMundane Things, Part Two

When I went back to reading Four Weird Tales, I noticed something in the grouping of the stories. It seemed to me that the first two stories dealt more specifically with beliefs. We know that if you believe something, it will colour the way you see things (a nice rose tint, perhaps). For the sake of argument, I’ll say that The Insanity of Jones and The Man Who Found Out deal more specifically with beliefs and their effects upon perception; in a nutshell, a certain belief affects the way these characters think and act, and ultimately how they see their day to day lives.

(Well, that was slightly redundant . . . Only just slightly, a little tiny bit . . . Maybe.  )

If those two deal with belief and perception, what do the other two deal with then? Again, for the sake of argument, I’m going to say that they deal with what we see. That is to say, we see before we perceive. Everything else follows after that . . .

. . . I see therefore I think, and then I think some more . . .

(And maybe I discern some great truth? Or see something.)

The Glamour of the Snow was right up my alley; I loved it because it was a perfect mix of all of my favourite things. Now in that story our main character isn’t seeking out great truths or hunting down enemies from certain past lives—he’s leading a normal life, working by day and socializing by night (while still managing a reasonable bed time too, I bet). There’s nothing abnormal about him, so when our antagonist comes waltzing right in he doesn’t know any better. It looks like a normal person, and that person is a lady!

Naturally, things follow their course. We know well before he does that something is amiss. The minor side characters know what’s going on before he does, because he doesn’t truly know what he is actually seeing.

Because he hasn’t seen anything like it before.

(And if he doesn’t know what he’s seeing, what on earth is he going to think?)

This can be argued to death. But I think you get my drift. Just a little food for thought. Now let’s take a moment to salute those authors of horror and weird fiction—and thank them—for ruining perfectly mundane things!

We all know those authors of horror and weird fiction scare only out of concern for our well-being.
So let’s take a moment to keep it monstrous. Love the monster on Facebook.
(Facebook is pretty creepy sometimes too. Remember the time when the status box asked you what you were doing? Remember when it called you by name? WHOA!)

Mundane Things, Part One

Four Weird TalesMundane Things, Part One

Or, Four Weird Tales, by Algernon Blackwood. Lately I’ve been on an Algernon Blackwood kick. I’ve mentioned it before, the way Blackwood writes is very simple; he takes very mundane situations and objects, turning them into interesting tales. The previous story was The Wendigo, a quick read with an interesting premise. Here I am looking at two stories in the book: The Insanity of Jones and The Man Who Found Out.

As we all know, the horror genre is all about eliciting a fear response within its audience, taking very familiar things or situations, and then turning them upside down. After seeing Scream, can you look at your garage the same way still, or do you think twice before going in there alone? Horror is not necessarily in your face, though. Often, it’s more subtle. Sometimes you may not even know it’s a horror story till you get to the end, or till you read it again.

Now, is Four Weird Tales considered horror, or is it just weird fiction? Well, in this case the lines can be easily blurred. If you think about it, H.P. Lovecraft wrote a lot of weird fiction, and most (if not all) of his work was also horror . . . So . . . This neither confirms nor denies anything, meaning that it’s all up to you. Too many choices can slow things down, ironically, so does this mean that nothing gets done?

Algernon Blackwood likes his horror to be more about awe, according to Wikipedia, which makes sense to me. Perhaps that’s why I’ve been enjoying his work so much. The thing I like about these two stories is that the main characters can be sane, or they can be insane; and they’re obviously written in a way that forces you to make a decision. It’s a very intriguing thing to think about; reality and perception are two things which can be very frightening . . .

What it all comes down to is that you really don’t know if what you see is actually there, or if you are perceiving things as they are, or if there is anything at all.

Am I saying that we’re all crazy? Hell no. But if we begin to cast doubt upon ourselves, things can get a bit hairy. I was disenchanted after watching The Matrix, because it did just that: cast doubt upon how I see reality.

Everyone perceives things differently, sees things differently. Some people see things, some see them differently, and others see things that aren’t there.

Or are they there?

See what I mean? So, was Jones really insane, or was he actually living his life according to all of his past lives, settling accounts good or ill? And did the professor really find the answers to life’s deepest questions, answers so revelatory that he lost all hope for life?

Who knows what Algernon Blackwood was thinking on this one . . . The good thing about fiction, is that we don’t have to think to hard on it—it’s not real!

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The Wendigo

the_wendigoBefore I went on my outrageous tirade against The King in Yellow I decided that I really wanted to read The Wendigo by our favourite unassuming author: Algernon Blackwood.

Question 1: Why did I read The Wendigo?

When the internet was first introduced to my world, a whole new dimension opened itself up to me: a new dimension filled with old friends. Being an Apple groupie at heart, I immediately went to iTunes, and then downloaded podcasts, and like any self-respecting human being one wasn’t enough. Few things seldom are.

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The King in Yellow Must Die

Introduction:

Things have all gone their merry way, and now the end of October is upon us, which subsequently means the fall of the King in Yellow, ultimately signifying the end with The King in Yellow. And good riddance too; I nearly bored myself to death making stuff up. Lesson learned: Never make a blog series longer than three posts.

I promise to remain short, sweet, and simple from now on.

Conclusion Before the Conclusion:

Now I will tell you what I think the King in Yellow represents in Robert W. Chamber’s world: death. Wearing a different suit, that is. Think about it: a mask which is not a mask, tattered robes, insanity, chaos, confusion, melodrama . . .

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The King in Yellow, Part 5

Intro:

IMG_0730The King in Yellow has a hint of the romantic wherever one looks, from the first story to the last. If we were to draw any more conclusions, then the King in Yellow must be very fond of his Harlequins. That is, the ones where someone dies, or goes insane, or goes insane and then dies.

As long as there’s a touch of irony, and chaos reigns supreme I suppose!

Our journey has dragged on thus far, or so it seems. It appears that we may have come to an impasse: what is going on? Has the book gone insane half way through, like Ergo Proxy did in its run?

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The King in Yellow, Part 4

Second Thoughts:

I feel as if In the Court of the Dragon was meant as a precursor for The Yellow Sign. Now, from hints and riddles pried from the previous three stories we can now make several educated guesses at a few hundredths of what the King in Yellow is made of. None of it is sugar and spice, if any of you were wondering. Like any self-respecting fictional entity, the King in Yellow is best thought of as having no gender.

If you recall our character was chased down by a malignant, dead-white slender man in a black suit. On my second reread of the story I picked up on the man’s description. On my first read I assumed he was Death in the flesh. What if he’s Slender Man? Does Slender Man work for the King in Yellow?

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The King in Yellow, Part 3

Intro:

Another day, another dollar; and once again another blog entry. I hope that you all enjoyed the reprieve offered to you by Jon, an integral member of Team Monster and our comic authority. Who know’s what he’ll pull from out of his sleeve in the future?

As October falls downward in a steady spiral, each day brings us closer and closer to the launch of the very first edition of The Enigmatic Monster. Who knows what will happen next?

Who knows what other monstrosities we will birth?

Another day, another dollar; and once again another blog entry. Insanity. That’s what I offer you; it is in all likelihood one tenth of the essence of the King in Yellow. So, in honour of Fall, and in the spirit of October: we shall fall downward in a steady spiral, until we can fall no longer.

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Peril In Panels: Hellboy

Greetings, o kind reader. This is Jonathan Kruschack, co-host of the Enigmatic Monster Project Podcast and this is Peril In Panels, the hip, new column all about monsters in comics. Which I’m using as a soapbox from which to blather on and on about comics because why else would I do anything, right? And I’m going to be talking about monsters in any way, shape or form that they’ve appeared in comics. From cosmic entities that pierce reality to slug people who thirst for flesh (while fearing salt) to crazy, unstoppable axe-murderers baying for your blood. If it’s monstrous and appeared inside of a panel in a funny book, I’ll be sure to be all up in its grill. By which I mean I’ll discuss it as intelligently as possible.

Oh, and I may have to periodically give out some spoilers which I will clearly indicate beforehand and I’ll try not to reference once mentioned. Because I’m such a great guy. Forgive me if mistakes occur, in an effort to make get this article out as fast as possible I’m editing it myself and I am in no way qualified to do that.
I’m unsure how long I’ll be doing this so I figured I better start off strong.
So our first subject is the world savin’, Right Hand of Doom havin’, paranormal investigatin’ Hellboy.

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The King in Yellow, Part 2

Addendum:

I noticed something while going through The Repairer of Reputations for part two of The King in Yellow mini-series. I had named the main character incorrectly. The main character of that short story was named Hildred Castaigne. Hildred was, however, the son of Hastur.

It may be interesting to note though, that a certain author (and a few others), while reworking the entire Lovecraft universe, called the King in Yellow an avatar of Hastur, who in turn was one of the Great Old Ones. It will also be of interest that Lovecraft was in turn inspired by the work of R. W. Chambers, and included symbolism from the King in Yellow in some of his stories.

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The King in Yellow, Part 1

Now here is something which ties in nicely with the previous article on paranoia. Truth be told this fits in nicely with perspective and mental health, if one wishes to see it that way; I certainly do.

The King in Yellow:

Who and what is this King in Yellow—this stranger in the tattered robes? Is he death personified or is he the essence of insanity? What is he that he himself, and even his sign, should be feared?

After all—and truth be told—the King in Yellow is only from a book.

Enter into this world that Robert W. Chambers has created, a world where a cursed book holds the secrets of life, truths to terrible to behold. This is a book which has been banned. All who read it experience insanity. Some more to than others. Those who cross paths with the King in Yellow are touched in so many ways, ways good and bad. In this book are their stories.

The Repairer of Reputations:

I pray God will curse the writer, as the writer has cursed the world with this beautiful, stupendous creation, terrible in its simplicity, irresistible in its truth—a world which now trembles before the King in Yellow. When the French Government seized the translated copies which had just arrived in Paris, London, of course, became eager to read it. It is well known how the book spread like an infectious disease, from city to city, from continent to continent, barred out here, confiscated there, denounced by Press and pulpit, censured even by the most advanced literary anarchists. No definite principals had been violated in those wicked pages, no doctrine promulgated, no convictions outraged. It could not be judged by any known standard, yet, although it was acknowledged that the supreme note of art had been struck in The King in Yellow, all felt that human nature could not bear the strain, nor thrive on words in which the essence of purest poison lurked. The very banality and innocence of the first act only allowed the blow to fall afterward with more awful effect.

-The King in Yellow, by Robert W. Chambers

Hastur, sane or insane, knew what he saw then . . .

. . . Which leaves us to wonder if we’re not all living a fantasy, one which ill-fated Hastur has become disenchanted with. It begs the question: are we the fiddlers on the roof, or is he the feral cat out of the bag?

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The Two Faces of Paranoia

A plot twist. An undefined terror which defines my own terror, my own deep-rooted fear. That I am not alone in this is a slight relief. That I don’t know what to do with that is not.

A relief which relieves nothing? How ironic!

I’m so tense, I could almost destroy myself. Where do I go from here? What do I with that? One can only reassure themselves so much. Sooner or later, the horrors of my mind will be released. They demand it.

That my fear is based off of something so inconsequential is no surprise—some of our worst fears have their basis in nothing. Some would laugh. Others would be delighted to hear such an odd thought.

Is this paranoia? Yes, but then maybe not. I could go on explaining what this fear is, what it is and isn’t, and everything else in-between.

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Metamorphosis

Who am I?

I am we; we is who . . .

. . .You are you.

How do you do?

There is one problem in life which plagues us, vexes us, curses us, heckles us . . . It is what?

What is it?

Identity; that is what. It is one thing for you and I to fuss about ourselves and the lack of understanding our peers seem to give us. We cringe at the thought of what others may think. Oh no! you say to yourself. What if they found out I was human after all?

Heaven forbid if they do.

It just wouldn’t do to have pitchforks and torches shaken in your direction. Oh no!

But imagine waking up to find that you were not who you were when you last went to sleep . . . You’ve woken up, transformed into something verminous.

In Metamorphosis, Gregor Samsa did just that. He woke up not himself. Who was he? What was it? Who was what? It was like a mid-life crisis of nightmarish proportions.

How could such a horrible fate befall Gregor Samsa? Selfless Gregor Samsa, the travelling representative who had worked especially hard to help his parents out of debt? Thoughtful Gregor Samsa who had wanted to surprise his sister by sending her to the conservatory?

In the bitter end they came to hate him, and I saw for the first time the subtle hints of evil which his family portrayed. Neglect, hypocrisy . . . Perhaps the question was never Gregor Samsa’s identity, but that of his mother, father, and sister. They were not the people he thought he knew.

Did they try to help him? Yes, but then that help gradually dwindled to nothing. In fact, it was their attempt which killed him; they should have let him out, to be free.

The ending of the story is bitter-sweet, no matter how you look at it.

Fate, I believe, would have been kinder to Gregor had he not tried so hard. He could have had a life . . .

Hell House

The House on the Borderland

I am not superstitious; but I have ceased to deny that things happen in this old house—things that I cannot explain; and, therefore, I must needs ease my mind, by writing down an account of them, to the best of my ability; though, should this, my diary, ever be read when I am gone, the readers will but shake their heads, and be the more convinced that I was mad.

-Excerpt from The House on the Borderland, by William Hope Hodgson

The House on the Borderland

I do not want to do this; it is not a thing which I relish very much, and yet I do it nonetheless. Someone must . . .

. . . So I will take the plunge. I read a small line which described The House on the Borderland as being long-winded, or something like that. The story does goes on a tangent for about half of the book, and yet I find myself disagreeing with that statement.

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Lair of the White Worm

Lair of the White Worm

“Seeing where the head of the monster was, the two men ventured a little further forward, and saw that the hidden mass at the base of the shaft was composed of vast coils of the great serpent’s body, forming a base from which the upright mass rose. As they looked, this lower mass moved, the glistening folds catching the moonlight, and they could see that the monster’s progress was along the ground. It was coming towards them at a swift pace, so they turned and ran, taking care to make as little noise as possible, either by their footfalls or by disturbing the undergrowth close to them. They did not stop or pause till they saw before them the high dark tower of Doom.”

-Excerpt from Lair of the White Worm, by Bram Stoker

The Willows gradually lead in to Lair of the White Worm, a lush, sprawling narrative. It took me places I never expected . . .

Okay, I’ll spare you the purple prose.

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Unassuming

“They rose upwards in a continuous stream from earth to sky, vanishing utterly as soon as they reached the dark of the sky.”

-Excerpt from The Willows, by Algernon Black.

The triumph of The Terror turned into the trepidatious tale of The Willows.

Algernon Blackwood.

Say it slowly. Doesn’t his name just make you want to shout? Whether you shout in joy or in pain is up to you, however . . .

Allow me to take a few moments, just to compare Blackwood with Lovecraft. I’m no expert on either, I’ll be the first to admit, but I’m fairly certain I’m a good judge at feelings. The feeling I get when I read or even hear the name Algernon Blackwood is fear. Not an overwhelming fear. No. Just a hint. Less is more, as they always say. It’s the subtle type of fear, that insidious fear which worms its way into your mind, turning it against you.

When I hear HP Lovecraft I feel something close to romance. But a more philosophical kind. It’s also an enigmatic name all in itself. Because it’s an unassuming name. It’s like a whispered challenge at the back of your mind. Just when you think you’ve made up your mind about the man, when you’ve thought you’ve figured him out, he presents you with a silver plate.

The horrors of his mind are on that plate.

A little plate of dread that you never expected. Not even once.

What’s more is that in each story that plate has a nice cover; you can cover what you wish to ignore.

If you can already see something then you can readily hide it with relative ease. A small mercy.

When I began reading The Willows I had no idea what to expect. What strikes me now about the story is that it starts very innocently. A man is recounting his experience of a certain expedition made with a friend. The two are paddling down a European river in their Canadian canoe.

Why? I don’t know. Why not?

I was reminded strongly of the two friends in The Hound. However, whereas the two in The Hound were complete idiots, the two in The Willows were not. These men didn’t mess around with things they didn’t understand. They stuck to their guns.

In this trepidatious tale I was taken on a journey which suddenly took a rather unexpected turn. I was presented with things I never would have expected from Blackwood. I finished the story in two or three days. It both disturbed and satisfied me.

I saw much of myself in that story. Not from the characters themselves, but from their experience. As I read on I was presented with ideas not unlike my own. I was perturbed all the way through.

It was my ability to relate to the story which frightened me the most.

Algernon Blackwood has no mercy. The Willows had no convenient cover. He fixed up the plate and then kept it on the kitchen table for everyone to see.

It looked delightful and we took a bite.

Then the bite bit back. And it wouldn’t let go. As the pain grew and grew our eyes opened wider, and we began to see all that there was to see.

But only a little.

Because a little is a lot!

Our minds then completed the rest of his dangerous design.

We spun about, downward in a dreadful spiral, and we all knew . . . How could we be so unassuming?

“We’d better get off sharp in an hour,” I said presently, feeling for an opening that must bring him indirectly to a partial confession at any rate. And his answer puzzled me uncomfortably: “Rather! If they’ll let us.”

-The Willows, by Algernon Blackwood.

P.S: His design, or his aim, was to scare us.