Soup

I was downing a spoonful of tomato soup when my dad spoke up.

“Is that him?” he asked me. Looking up, I followed the direction his finger was pointing in. We were at the restaurant to kill a few hours before our show. The him, or it I should say, was someone I had dated once. I say that word tentatively because I was really just playing around . . . Being young and naïve . . . I don’t know what you’d call it. I wasn’t exactly in my right mind at that time.

He didn’t see us, or at least I don’t think he did. The woman he was with looked familiar. What is it with him and going after women who look like his mother? I should add that mother is also tentative. Master or mistress was more the correct term. Keeper would work just fine, too. She also reminded me of someone I knew in high school. Natalie? Or Madelaine?

“I never knew he was bi,” I murmured to myself. What did I care, though?

My dad seemed surprised. “What did you see in that schmuck?”

I shrugged my shoulders. To be honest I couldn’t tell him, because I couldn’t remember a single thing. I don’t think he really had that much of a personality to begin with.

Then again, he wasn’t that much of a human, if you follow me.

That poor girl was in for a rather nasty surprise.

“Oh well, he did you a favor, didn’t he?” That was my dad again.

“You have no idea,” I told him bluntly. “He’s on a whole different plane.” Despite being in the same general area as he was, I wasn’t really bothered that much by it. Thankfully.

That poor girl, I thought to myself again. Then I quickly reminded myself that this city was crawling with his kind. As I downed another spoonful of soup I heard my dad say something about cleaning up the riff-raff. I couldn’t help but smile.

ashkenaz

Nowhere But Up

There is nowhere for us to go.

Nowhere but up.

Sometimes I pray for the end to come.

If not in a silent whimper,

then in a cacophony of screams.

As long as there is an end.

As long as it is anywhere but up.Theo_icon

A Hunted Man

She gave him a quick side glance. What are you? she thought. This stranger wasn’t like most of the men she met on her daily routine; there was a certain troubled air about him, an apprehension . . . It was in the way his eyes would wander across the street, like he had no idea where he was going, or what he was looking for. He was going through the motions.

What’s more, there was something that made him stick out; she couldn’t place a finger on what that something was. Maybe she knew him? No, that’s a far stretch, I’ve never seen this person before in my life. Maybe . . . The first thought that came to mind when she first saw him was: wow, he’s really old. He looked to be in his mid-thirties, which did little to explain that thought. Who could really tell now, though? Few people she had met looked their age . . .

Still . . .

He ended up seated a few tables away from her, just close enough to keep an eye on him. Who are you? Did you follow me here, after you noticed me watching? Was I really that obvious?

The stranger ate his meal in silence, occasionally looking at the people around him, not quite casually but with a definite questioning look. The more she observed the man the more she realized how tense he really was. He was about to snap.

She stood up to leave; just as she was about to exit the cafe, another questionable man came in. This one was searching the cafe, as if expecting to find someone there.

The other man, she noticed, had vanished.

So, the wandering stranger is a hunted man? Why? The questionable man: he was an enigma. An uncomfortable one. He was an albino, or appeared to be; there was something about the pigmentation in his skin overall, lacking in any of the undertones one would expect. The man was simply dead white.

Like a maggot.

A pair of sunglasses obscured part of his face, but not that pointed chin. He was average height, but for some mysterious reason she kept telling herself that he was bigger than that. After arguing with herself for two seconds it suddenly dawned on her that the albino was not human. Not with those proportions . . .

She walked away without another moment of hesitation.

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The Field of Storms

I did this sketch many eons ago.

I did this sketch many eons ago.

The Field of Storms

Alone in the field you could see the Stranger, looking feeble against a backdrop of black and grey—black and grey because the vast stretch of sky was filled with angry clouds straight down to the horizon. His head was upturned, scanning the clouds for anything unusual, but there was nothing to see. A deep rumble sounded in the distance. It was all the Wanderer needed to egg him on.

The Wandering Stranger began at a brisk pace. A drop fell on his face. One was soon followed by another, which soon became a steady drizzle. The Stranger quickly looked back to see if anyone was following.

There was none.

Again, the Wandering Stranger picked up the pace, to keep in time with the rain, which was soon turning into a steady downpour. It didn’t take long for them to run. The sky belched thunder once more, and then again two seconds later. It then became dark. All that could be heard was the roar of the rain, followed by the crash of thunder. Overhead, a spear of lightning arced across the sky; another one followed it, this time splintering in three different directions.

The Stranger let out a guttural shriek. His foot had gotten caught on a rock; a split second later and he was down on the ground rolling in the muck. He slid down a shallow hill into a small stream. Coughing for air he struggled to lift himself up, which he did, after struggling for a full minute and a half. With his heart pounding he began his pace anew. He was teary eyed, although he wouldn’t admit it. During his brief struggle, the wild thought of drowning had strayed into his mind.

To drown in a stream would mean a miserable end. But it would end this curse all the same. It was, after all, the curse which had forced him to leave his home, abandon his name, and wander forever.

It was also the curse which had given him a new name: the Wandering Stranger.

His reverie was quickly shattered. Lightning struck the ground ten feet ahead of him; even from a short distance he could smell the charred earth, and feel the crackling energy in the air. He veered off to the right in his mad dash. What he needed, more than his name, more than anything, was shelter.

Something in the distance caused him to squint his eyes. In the gloom he could see a copse of trees up ahead. He felt a gush of relief.

For what seemed hours he ran, slipped, and fell on his way to the copse. When he finally reached the shelter of the trees the Wandering Stranger let out a triumphant yell. Looking around he noted that the copse consisted mainly of birch. The trees still glowed white in the gloom. He could hear the rumble of a nearby river. At this point it would be swollen. He leaned against one of the trees, feeling its smooth trunk on his spine; every part of his body ached from exhaustion, and the cold only added to the pain. There was nothing he could do about it, as usual.

It was his curse.

A surge of red hot rage surged through him; it came and went. He would wait out the storm here, even if it persisted all night. No one would look for him in such adverse weather. Any trails left behind, any scents, and any signs would be washed with the passing of the storm. For now, he was safe.

The Wandering Stranger closed his eyes.

Theo_icon

The Red Thing . . .

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The Red Thing . . .

I took this photo years ago. Naturally, I would have no recollection of the red thing. I couldn’t tell you if it was really supposed to be in the picture.

And there you have it: your mystery of the week.

What is the red thing?

(Points for creativity 🙂 )

ashkenaz

The Bus that Took Her to the Stars

stars

The Bus that Took Her to the Stars

Something was not right about that man. Marianna watched him warily from the corner of her eye. He sat a few seats behind her on the opposite side of the bus. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but it was there. The back of her neck itched from his stare; it took all that she had not to reach up with a hand. It took more not to move. She would have liked nothing more than to do that. But that would mean having to look at him, and that’s what he wants, isn’t it? she thought to herself. Perhaps she could out-wait the stranger? She had already toyed with the idea for the past hour; it was lucky she was on her day off. Lucky! She coughed.

Once she had read somewhere that the thing you were afraid of was the thing you knew you had to do. With an inaudible groan she pressed a button and before she knew it her feet were carrying her off of the bus. It felt as if she weren’t entirely there.

The decision to get off had been rather abrupt.

She did get a good look at the man however. Or a good look at his clothing–his face was buried beneath the shadow of a bowler hat and a thick woollen scarf. Again she had the odd, sickening feeling that she had seen him before. Or, if not exactly him, then someone of his ilk.

A large part of her, the reserved part, raged against the idea that there was a conspiracy against her. Not that would-be friends and family had never done something so ridiculous before, but because absolute strangers doing it to her was stupid, idiotic. Marianna grimaced at the idea. I can’t believe I’m actually considering that kind of bull shit!

Her thoughts returned to the man. No one else seemed to want to look at him on the bus, as if he made them uncomfortable. Even she shuddered to think of the memory. The way he had sat, hunched in as if he were larger, was what caught her attention in the first place, not his unwavering stare. He wore a trench coat, which wasn’t really odd; everything about his dress was normal. The stranger just stuck out like a sore thumb, like he was out-of-place.

“Or out of time. Shit!” It was already late in the evening. I must have lost track of time, she thought. She looked at her watch, then checked her phone. And groaned. Both the watch and the phone were dead.

There is a logical explanation for this, she told herself. Her heart rate increased just a little, regardless. The phone had been left to charge last night, this morning the batteries had been at full capacity. It hadn’t charged properly. The watch on the other hand had been bought brand new, just last week in fact. The battery needed to be replaced. Marianna told herself those two things over and over, as if she were trying to convince herself of the fact.

What the matter boiled down to was coincidence. It was strange, and frightening, but it was still just a coincidence.

The whole time this had gone through her mind Marianna had walked down the street, looking around in every possible direction. With a sickening feeling in her stomach, she realized that she had never seen this neighbourhood before.

This wasn’t even the same town.

She stopped dead in her tracks. Her beating heart was the only thing she heard. Even when the light snapped out of existence, she could still hear the sound of her heart.

Thump, thump, thump, thump. Thu-thump, thump, thump. Thump, thump, thump, thump. Thu-thump. Thu-thump.

Thousands of stars began to wink in and out around her. They were cold stars, hard stars, and they were all grouped in pairs.

Eyes. I can see their eyes. Marianna closed her own eyes against the stars.

She felt her life turn to nothing.

She was nothing.

ashkenaz

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).

IMG_0647

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?

coopid

Old Bones

IMG_0062

It’s exactly what you think.

Old Bones

I was cleaning out the attic when I stumbled upon a mouldy box. It was hard to miss; it had a strange musk about it.

When I opened it I found the most exquisite thing–rotten bones, darkened with age, and covered in lichen–but I knew I shouldn’t have seen them that way. They were (to be clear) rotten bones. The smell emanated from them, and I’m sure that’s where the rot came from too.

Still, they caught my attention, inspired my imagination.

Until my fingers began to shrivel. They were green, and grey.

Covered in lichen.

The doctors were able to save one of my hands–the left one–but my right arm was amputated up to the elbow. After that, I knew better than to pry around in places I didn’t belong. I even took the liberty of moving.

Away from that diseased place.

I’m sure the house is tainted. It’s been on the real estate market ever since then; it will only be a matter of time before it meets its fate with an arson. I can guarantee it.

Theo_icon

An Inconvenient Monster

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An Inconvenient Monster

Apparently we weren’t safe. Not during the day, not even on the water. Crowds wouldn’t deter them. As reality would have it, we were sitting ducks. Nothing could stop it.

We would be forced to fight it.

Theo_icon

 

It’s Not About That

IMG_1066

Look beyond the post. Who gives a damn about it being in the middle of nowhere?

It’s Not About That

What was the attraction? That is, what drew my eye past the post? Was there something beyond it, or was that thing right in front of my face? My eyes could never get a good focus on the thing–they somehow managed to slide off of it each time. Things like that make you wonder: what the hell happened here?

What’s going on?

What am I not seeing?

I never lingered there for more than five minutes. The post and the field it was located in were both on private land.

Until about a week ago, I wouldn’t have called myself paranoid, but when I flicked on the local news I saw the most bizarre story. The owner of the land had been arrested for murder. Except . . . the victims did not match the identities of any missing people.

The remains of ten bodies have been uncovered. So far the DNA results are inconclusive, but as of yet the forensics team have been unable to identify them as human . . .

Paranoid might be the wrong word. I never know what to think anymore. All I can do is wonder about that field, the post, and the forest beyond it where the bodies were found. And, how I knew something was wrong.

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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.

Theo_icon

 

1st Issue Now Available:

Team Monster is proud to announce the release of The Enigmatic Monster, issue 1.

There are two versions available:

download

read

Once more we would like to thank everyone for their support. For the time being Team Monster will be looking into making more issues for the project, but who can say for sure? Let us know what you think about our work; we welcome any and every suggestion/constructive critique that you have to offer.

If you like what we’re doing, and find it to be quite awesome, spread it to the far corners of the world! 

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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