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The man might have been a 1914 banker. He clack-clacked across the wooden floor of the inmate barracks, the pointy tip of his black, bat-wing umbrella scratching a staccato tattoo as he went.

He had a pointy little Van Dyke beard, obviously dyed black, and slicked-back hair. He was dressed in tails, pristine white shirt, white gloves, spats…he had on a lush, fur overcoat.

Around him, human skeletons crawled across filthy, dark floors, desperate for a few fallen crumbs to shove between their dry, cracked lips.

Maybe they could capture a fat, hairy vermin, some denizen of the dark crawled inside to nibble at a fallen comrade…corpse.

Outside, the wind howled cold and threatening, like the Three Witches of Macbeth, assembled around the burbling cauldron that was this camp, this festering pot of disease and hunger.

He stopped at the central throne of the undisputed king of suffering and want.

A miserable old man sat at a rickety chair, his face a comic mask of grief. Before him, a few derelicts were bent, and the Nineteen Fourteen Banker couldn’t, at first, see what it was they were doing.

The man, apparently, was missing a leg, the Banker finally surmised. What’s more, it looked gangrenous and infected…or perhaps someone had come along and lopped it off recently, and the wound was still fresh.

–Yes, that must be it, he said to himself. There was a trickling pool of blood spreading, slick and black, across the dirty floorboards. Thirsty men plunged their dry, scabrous tongues into it. He felt himself wretch.

What was worse were the two or three men gathering around the old man’s dripping stump; they were fighting each other eagerly for a little nibble.

The Banker turned, held his glove hand over his mouth, felt his stomach lurch.

Later, in the dust and grime that grew on the wall like a second skin (while he was as alone as a man could be while surrounded by such a sickening throng) he wrote, for unknown reasons, in the dust.

He traced the letters carefully with his index finger, noting that they came out a little too thick, too smudged. All the same, his graffito seemed readable enough, if not somewhat cryptic.

VISUAL EVIL, it read.

Whatever that meant.

It was not many days before he was another grey, withered thing. The staff of the place receded into the distance, dim shadows conveying hunger and want. Outside, the birds still flew in an azure sky.

“Flanking her side, carrying the immense basket like some wobegone character out of a popular bedtime story, the dopey runaway came up silently, softly, too perplexed by her own sudden swell of stifled grief to realize, in embarrassment, that tears were streaked down her too-puffy face. Misses her daddy, he thought, in a manner that was half detachment, half amusement.
“Overhead, seeming to float above them, looming like some fairy tale castle penetrating the vault of the sky, the ruins of Beachfront Amusements reared upward, the old wooden coaster rotting like the bones of some unearthed prehistoric monster. “–From “The Murder Castle” (Unfinished)

Originally posted on Passages:

So I am sitting in church,
with my mother–
who is pawing through some sort of forbidden book…
Everyone has vacated premises–
(is there anything so eerie as an empty church?)
I want to leave;
reminds me of a dream I had once wherein I was sitting in church two hundred years ago.
There’s a skinny young girl in front of us wearing lowrider jeans.
She has dirty blonde hair, ratty thrift store clothes, stained Tshirt
She looks mentally handicapped, I think.
As if in response to this she pulls down the waistband of her jeans, revealing an adult diaper.
I am too disgusted to respond
But I get up and demand that we leave this instant;
But mother is too engrossed in her booklet,
And I stop to consider how this particular scene came into being–
And who would believe it, anyway?
Someone, somewhere intones, “The evening and the…

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Originally posted on Passages:

So I’m tasked with cleaning up the floor,

but there is a pesky dog keeps wandering around,

messing everything up. If I liked dogs, I’d say she were beautiful.

–So maybe I’ll share my chicken lunch with you, I think. I sit down on the ratty old carpet, and the dog it down next to me. She’s pretty eager. I start feeding her the fried chicken in large portion. I worry she’s going to bite my finger in her eagerness.

I realize there are little bits of fried chicken I’ve dropped all over the ratty, light brown carpet. I try to get the dog to wander around and eat these, like maybe I’ve trained her to do so, or something.

She doesn’t quite get the point, methinks.

Later, I’m standing there like a dim bulb with a broom in my hand, and all the other students have gathered to sit…

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Originally posted on Passages:

I felt like maybe I had stepped into a Dickens novel. Or, maybe, someone had teleported me, unknowingly, back to the heyday of the Great Depression: An impossible street vagrant from another time, dressed in raggamuffin tatters and a huge, old-fashioned cap that could have come off of the still-warm skull of Oliver Twist, lead us down into the abyss world beneath the city, the place where, apparently, he had managed to carve out a personal kingdom for himself.

–I wonder about alligators in the sewers.

–It’s hokum. I been down here a long, long time, never had any problems.

–Somehow, I can only think of you as the Artful Dodger.

He looked at me quizzically. Obviously, he had never read that book.

–It’s from Oliver Twist. You remind me of him.

–Oh.

He laughed, said

–Just call me The Artful. Or Artie. Or anything you have a mind to…

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Originally posted on Passages:

His face bore the pallor of death–

I said this and stopped suddenly. The boy beside me rolled over, said, –And I’m sure you know all about it.

–It’s a weird movie, anyway. A color movie of Bela Lugosi. But the cop character looks as if he’s been embalmed.

–Maybe he’s a ghost.

I peeped over at him suspiciously. Was he having me on?

–You don’t believe in ghosts, I reminded him. To which he replied:

–I don’t know. I suppose anything is possible.

I roll over. We sleep. I feel the familiar ticking pattern beneath the mattress.

I turn over, wake him back up, say,

–There’s something moving around down there.

He said, groggily –That’s just your imagination.

I pulled back the covers. There was a ticking below the mattress, as if someone had put a little clock or timer below there.

–The Tell-Tale Heart.

–What?

–Not important. Get…

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Originally posted on Passages:

Running around in the front yard of a trailer on a country road. Low, flat fields stretching out for miles. Empty, yawning yards in the distance. Flatlands of alfalfa.
Auntie sitting on the metal steps of the trailer, and I decide to exercise by running around the one tree planted in the center. Pages from an old Raymond Chandler paperback blowing to and fro.
–We tried to read that in class. No one had heard of it before.
(Neither had I)
In the last house I occupied, my mother helped me move in, but I hid from her a strange object found–
I knew it was bad news, okay? I sat with a square of wood, felt the possessing entities move through me, moving the pointer (which was really just a square of wood) across a bare table.
Apparently, whoever had lived there before had left behind a calling card…

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Originally posted on Passages:

We were driving past the college, and Auntie lean out the window and say, –You see her over there?

And I turn and spy her, some old woman

sitting cross-legged in back of a building must be one hundred years old.

And my vision sweeps up and around her as we pass.

–That’s a strange sight for a residential neighborhood.

–Place has fallen on hard times. Except for the college. It just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

–I wonder, I say, if that’s the girl they say pretend to be dead. Like she trying to make a point about something.

–About time, maybe?

She is squatting as if somebody plop a mushroom underneath her. No emotion, just a stiff, cold stare like a crouching shopwindow mannequin of a hundred years previous. She could be meditating on the nature of her own death, for all I know.

–But some girl dress…

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Originally posted on Passages:

–So this place. I can’t figure it out. Use to be?
The woman was a large, pear-shaped figure carrying a mop absentmindedly. She had a short, conventional haircut, and nondescript features.
–I’m not sure, myself. I just work here.
She said this last comment as if it were witty repartee. The entire place had the feeling of a prefab shopping mall mixed with a medieval keep. Perplexing.
–Architecture almost occult. Like the place has its secrets buried in every nook and cranny, crevice. You will either never see another building like this again, or, twenty years from now, cities will rear up these sorts of buildings to the cold, grey skies.
He suddenly felt a little embarrassed. He was waxing too poetic.
The cleaning lady, quite obviously, had no idea what he was talking about. She smiled; she had remarkably bad teeth.
–Oh, the place has its secrets, alright.
She…

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Originally posted on Passages:

New sounds. I am all aflutter with joy.

Extreme Volume Pop – “6”

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