Friday, February 23, 2007

Ghost Creek 2007-2007

Aw, shucks. Is my face red? I think I'm going to discontinue my not-so-long-running serial "Ghost Creek" effective immediately. It was putting too much of a drain on my time and creativity, which could be better channeled into other projects. Like, say just for example, the "Black Monkey" revisions which are going well but with agonizing slowness. Plus, I'm not sensing much enthusiasm from the audience. In fact, I'm not sensing much of an audience beyond my sister. (Hi, Jen! Be seeing you in a couple weeks!)

I was coming to dread working on the thing. If it's boring me, I hate to think of what it's doing to y'all.

So, barring a swell of write-in protests (or strong sales of the 1st Season DVD box,) I'm dropping this project right now. The enormous relief I feel with this announcement convinces me I'm doing the right thing.

If you're starving for closure, the "deal" was aliens were planning a psychic invasion of earth. Faster-than-light space travel is a physical impossibility, but the aliens had perfected space travel via astral projection. The impending invasion was to be accomplished through our dreams. Our hero, Sean Preston (NOT Federline,) managed to steal alien technology at the age of 42. He went back in time to contact his 28-year-old self, who assembled a team of people with lucid dream abilities (called "The Frogwatchers") to combat the invasion. Sean @ 28 had not yet gained the courage his 42-yr.-old self possessed, so he bailed, going back further in time to trade places with his 10-year-old self. I had complex explanations for the abduction and for the mutant frogs and all kinds of surreal action scenes planned, but it just seems kind of pointless now.

Some good ideas there, some of which I may cannibalize for a future project, but for now let's just call it a failed experiment. (The parallel Christian Black tale "Dream Raider" is also hereby cancelled.)

Keep watching this space, though, for new rants and raves and writing news.

Sorry for wasting the time anybody may have invested in this thing.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Ghost Creek, Episode 5

PREVIOUSLY- Sean Preston, ten years old, traded places with his twenty-eight-year-old self. He awoke in a Chicago apartment, in bed with his older self’s girlfriend, Jubilee Bellefleur. Sean was completely overwhelmed by the accumulation of eighteen years of new knowledge in his older self’s brain, including the death of his mother and the truth about what Sean-at-28 went back in time to avoid.


“Sean? Sean?”

The man was limp in Jubilee’s arms. She shook him, but he would not wake. He was gone. Out of it. Completely shut down.

“Damn it, Sean.”

Laying Sean down on the couch, Jubilee stood and paced the room for a few minutes, cursing Sean for his cowardice. A deeper, more honest part of her wondered if she would have chosen a similar exit had she possessed Sean’s particular talent.

“Doesn’t matter,” she said aloud. All that mattered was what to do now.

Jubilee picked up the phone. Before she could dial, she heard the tone indicating she had a waiting voice mail message. She dialed the number and punched the code. Listened. Closed her eyes with sorrow. Today, it seemed, was a day for bad news all around.

“Let’s get you dressed, Sean,” she said to the senseless shell which had until recently contained her boyfriend. “We’ve got to go to the hospital.”


Moving Sean proved easier than she had feared. He was still silent, his eyes blank, but he obeyed her commands. “Put on these pants, Sean.” “Get in the car, Sean.” “Come with me.”

She led him easily through the hospital halls. There were four people in the room when she opened the door.

Sitting in a chair in the corner of the room was a young Japanese man reading a thick paperback book entitled “Chainsaw Moon.” His own name, Shozo Watanabe, was printed on the cover. Though he had written the book (technically, at least,) he had not yet read it all. There was desperation in his reading, a hunger, as if hidden in the book’s pages was the answer to a particularly vexing question. He did not look up when Jubilee and Sean entered the room.

A young, boyish-looking woman in a wheelchair turned from the window when they came in. She managed a weak smile. Her name was Sally Ross. She wore, as did the rest of them, a look of haunted sleeplessness. Dark circles under her eyes, a certain pallor of the skin.

The eyes of the man pacing the room were rimmed with red. He had recently shed many tears. His name was Henry Leary and he appeared ragged with desperation, like a man on the verge of total collapse. His face crumpled when he saw Jubilee and Sean, but he did not cry again. He seemed to have cried himself dry.

The fourth person in the room was the young girl unconscious in the hospital bed. Henry’s daughter, Joyce. Six years old but wearing the face now of someone ten times that age. Her skin wrinkled, her hair gray, her sleeping features conveying the weight of a lifetime of troubles.

“Oh my God,” Jubilee said when she saw her. “Is she all right?”

“The doctors can’t find anything wrong with her.” Henry sounded as tattered as he looked. “Physically. She hasn’t woken up yet, though. I don’t know if she’ll ever . . .” His voice just gave out into a dry wheeze, as if his tears had drained every bit of moisture from his body.

“What happened?”

“She’s been having nightmares,” Henry said. “So she came to sleep in my bed. She probably thought she’d feel safer. How’s that for irony?”

“Henry.” Jubilee put her hand on his shoulder.

“Thank God I woke up before . . .”

“What’s wrong with Sean?” Sally interrupted, wheeling her chair closer.

Sean was staring at the shriveled girl on the bed, jaw hanging open but otherwise displaying no emotion.

“Well,” Jubilee said. “That’s my big news. Sean has . . . checked out on us.”

Henry’s face snapped instantly from grief to anger. “No,” he said. “You mean he . . .”

“He’s gone, isn’t he?” said Sally.

“You little shit!”

Henry grabbed Sean by the shoulders. Jubilee pulled him off.

“This isn’t him,” she said. “This is the kid he used to be. He’s only ten years old.”

“What’s wrong with him?” Henry demanded.

“His mind snapped,” said Jubilee. “He couldn’t take it. He remembers everything Sean did, and it was just too much for him.”

“We need him!” Henry was frantic now. “We don’t stand a chance in hell without him.”

“We didn’t stand a chance in hell even with him,” Sally put in.

“Calm down,” Jubilee said.

“Calm down? We’ve only got six months left, Warner and Henley are both dead, and Joyce . . .”

He gestured with his hand at his daughter on the bed, waving away words too painful to utter.

“You were dreaming about Him when this happened?” Jubilee asked.

“Of course I was,” said Henry. “I dream about Him every night.”

Jubilee nodded. A presence stalked them in their dreams, taking a different form for each of them. Henry dreamed of a man with a black void where his face should be. Jubilee saw a huge dog with red eyes and flaming fur. Sean had always seen a gray alien with a bulbous head and huge black eyes. They all knew its shifting form was due to flaws in their perception. It didn’t matter what it looked like, though. It was the same malevolent being. Worse, it was but a harbinger. A single emissary sent in advance of the invasion. One was bad enough. They couldn’t imagine the terror a million would unleash.

“We have to get a hold of SAFT,” Henry said. “He’ll know what to do.”

“How are we supposed to do that?” said Jubilee. “Send a telegram to the future? He said he’d contact us again in September.”

“September?” Henry moaned. “Jesus.”

“I know it’s bad, Henry,” Jubilee said. “And I am sorry about Joyce. But we all have to chill out and try to figure out what to do next. Now does anybody have any ideas?”

“My frog turned white this morning,” Sally said. “Just pure white. That’s got to be a sign, right? That’s got to mean something.”

“I’ve given up trying to figure out what the damn frogs are trying to tell us,” said Jubilee. “Mine looks like his brains are coming right out of his head. You want to tell me what that means?”

Henry sat on the bed, near his daughter’s feet. “All right,” he said. “Let me see if I got this straight. Sean went back in time, that’s his thing, right? And he did . . . what?”

“He traded places with himself. Sent his ten-year-old self into the future and took over his own past.”

“OK,” said Henry. “So wouldn’t that change everything here in the present? I mean, if Sean went back to change his whole life around, we wouldn’t even know him, right?”

“No,” Shozu said from the corner, speaking for the first time since Jubilee walked into the room. “It doesn’t work like that. You can’t change the present by going into the past. The present already exists. It cannot be negated. Instead, a tangent is formed. A divergent reality.”

“A parallel universe?” Sally said.

“That is one way to describe it,” said Shozu.

“How can you possibly know that’s true?” said Henry.

“Because it says so, in this book,” Shozu said.

“Which you wrote.”

“The words came from my hand, but not from my mind,” said Shozu. “You know that, Henry.”

“Yeah, well, what else does this amazingly useful book have to say?”

Shozu looked up at the clock on the wall, then back down to the page open before him. He ran his finger down a column. “Today is the 12th, right?”


Shozu slammed the book shut. “It says that in ten minutes, some men are coming here to kill us.”

NEXT TIME: The maze. The morgue. The moon.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Ghost Creek, Episode 4

I know it's been a little while since I've been down to the Creek. Other projects have been competing for my attention and creative headspace, which brings me to some big news and some little news.

First the big- give me a big whoo-hoo because I have actually completed a novel! Actually, one exclamation mark doesn't quite convey how earth-shattering that is for me. So here's a few more: !!! Yes, "The Black Monkey" now officially has a beginning, a middle and an end, and those three parts more or less connect. I would feel more of a sense of completion if this first draft wasn't
quite so first-drafty. The vision part is over, and now comes a hell of a lot of revision. I actually enjoy the editing process, and I'm going to tackle it by copying the entire novel out by hand. (My fingers are cramping just thinking about it.)

The little news is that my evil twin, Christian Black (or am I the evil one? I can never remember) is posting a "shadow" version of "Ghost Creek" on the Literotica web-site. It is a parallel serial (with a lot more gettin' busy,) which might intersect with this one occasionally. (If you don't think parallel lines can intersect, you've never been at the corner of Gurley and Sheldon in Prescott, AZ.) His story is called "Dream Raider," and you can find it
here. The sad part is that it's better written than mine (at least at the start.) CB's kind of a sick puppy, but that creep can write.

(Of course, if you think erotica is "ikky," just skip it. You won't hurt his feelings.)

So, without further ado (not that I don't love ado,) here's "Ghost Creek":

PREVIOUSLY: In the basement of the mysterious house in the woods, Sean and his friends found a man claiming to be Sean’s future self- from the year 1999. Sean-at-twenty-eight made an offer which Sean-at-ten found irresistible; to trade places. This was accomplished with a kiss. Sean-at-ten awakes to find himself in . . .


He awoke. There was an overwhelming shock of dislocation. It was like being turned inside out, upside down and backwards. Sean looked through eyes which had degraded over the years. His older self needed glasses, and had been putting off getting them for years. The sudden near-sightedness was only a very small part of the incredible shift of perception. His body was different. Older, taller, heavier, post-pubescent. Eighteen years fell upon him with a crushing weight. There were bad teeth in his mouth, and fingers on his left hand which had been broken years before. He needed to shave; the rough stubble on his face itched with a maddening insistence. These appalling sensations assaulted him all at once.

He sat up in his bed with a start, as if jolted awake from a dream. He became aware, horror gradually mounting, that he was naked and lying beside another naked person. A woman. Sean’s child’s mind shrank back from her terrifying adulthood. She was a black woman, short hair molded to the pillow, eyes swollen with sleep. Sean knew her name was Jubilee Bellefeur, that she was his girlfriend, and that they had lived together for almost a year.

“Make some coffee,” she mumbled into her pillow without opening her eyes.

Sean was afraid to answer. Afraid that if he opened his adult mouth, his child’s voice would betray him.

He crawled from bed and found rumpled clothing on the floor. Sweatpants and a t-shirt with a picture of a young man on it, over the word “Nirvana.” Sean knew that Nirvana was the name of a rock band, that the man in the picture had been its lead singer, and that he had committed suicide several years before. Without even trying to, Sean found that he knew the words to several of their songs.

Far worse than the new sensations of his body was this knowing. Suddenly he knew so much. Eighteen years of new memory, stored in the adult brain, flooded Sean’s horrified ten-year-old mind. He knew about sex. He knew about disappointment. He knew about shame. He knew about disillusionment and heartbreak and failure. Emotional wounds which had long been healed for the man were fresh and new for the boy, as if every scab he’d ever had in his life were torn off all at once.

Staggering from the bedroom, Sean found himself in a cluttered kitchen in a small apartment. He knew it was the best he could afford. He knew he worked as a pizza deliveryman, and the addresses of several regular customers spilled unbidden into his head. So much of the new knowledge was utter trivia. Nearly two decades of sit-com plots and commercial jingles accumulated in his head in a deafening cacophony of useless information.

Beside the front door was a terrarium on a stand. Inside was another misshapen frog. Fat and squat, bulbous and boneless as a jellyfish, with tiny wiggling useless legs and what appeared to be its brain oozing in pulsing white bubbles from cracks in its head. The amphibian sat in a pose of yogic contemplation. It looked at Sean with sharp, intelligent eyes. Sean knew the frog’s name was Jizo. He knew where it came from; where all the mutant frogs had come from. This knowledge would have been horrifying on its own, but it was drowned in the flood of all the other new horrors Sean was suddenly aware of.

Pressing his hands against his skull as if this could contain the explosion which felt imminent, Sean stumbled into the living room. He collapsed upon the couch. Imprinted instinct compelled him to pick up the remote control and turn on the television. The set was tuned to a cable news channel. Sean saw the date posted on the screen; June 12, 1999. A cease-fire had taken effect in Kosovo (Sean-at-twenty-eight had only the vaguest concept of this conflict, so Sean-at-ten was spared at least that much.) The governor of Texas, George W. Bush, had just announced his intention to run for President in 2000 (Sean suddenly held strong political convictions which he could not begin to understand.) The new “Star Wars” movie was breaking box office records (Sean had the memory of seeing the movie, and of being bitterly disappointed by it. He knew who Jar-Jar Binks was.) An alleged serial killer named Larry Jacobs had eluded arrest in Houston, Texas, and was now the subject of a manhunt across the Southwest. (They’re looking in the wrong place, Sean’s brain told him, though how he had come about this certainty was buried too deep for him to access.)

The newscast went to commercials, for cell phones and web-sites, and Sean knew what these things were.

He turned off the TV. It was too much. Sean had been in this new world for less than ten minutes, and he already felt as if he were losing his mind.

If I haven’t already.

It did occur to him that perhaps he was not really a ten-year-old whose mind had been thrust into the body and brain of his twenty-eight-year-old self. A far more likely explanation was that he was in fact an adult man who had just suffered a cataclysmic breakdown; a complete shattering of identity. These weren’t the words Sean used. In his mind, the explanation was couched in much simpler terms:

I’m crazy. I’m completely insane.

The bedroom door opened and the woman named Jubilee emerged. She had pulled on a t-shirt which fit her body tightly, without covering much of it at all. Sean simultaneously felt childish embarrassment and adult lust.

“I thought you were going to make me coffee,” the woman said.

She flashed Sean a look of annoyance, which turned to concern when she saw he was crying.

“What’s wrong, baby?”

She came to him, sat close beside him on the couch and touched his tear-streamed cheek.

“You all right? What happened?”

Sean couldn’t answer. He couldn’t even speak. He was torn between a desire to fall into the woman’s arms and a need to bolt and run from her.

“Did you . . .” Jubilee looked deep into Sean’s eyes. Understanding suddenly filled hers.

“You did it, didn’t you?” she said. “You son of a bitch.”

“Wh . . .”

She shook her head. “Not you. Him. He did it. Or it is you, just the older you. Damn. It makes my head hurt just to think about it. How old are you, anyway?”

“Ten,” Sean managed to speak through his tears.

Ten? Holy shit. That goddamn coward.”

Sean knew then what his older self was running from. And how right he was to be terrified. More and more knowledge, burying him under his crushing weight.

“I want to see my Mom,” he sobbed.

“Oh, sweetie,” Jubilee’s expression softened, responding to the child within the man. “Your Mom died two years ago.”

And of course Sean knew that, too. He allowed the woman to hold him, falling into her warmth and softness. The man’s eyes closed, draping the boy’s tortured mind with blessed darkness.

NEXT TIME: The Frogwatchers. Chainsaw Moon. Hellhound on my trail.