Shadow Men

ShadowMen

“I done seen ‘im,” the man said to me, pushing the bill of his cap up out of his face. “Out the corner of me eye at first, but shor ’nuff, just like that bitch done said, they turned real.” He took another deep drag off of the oatmeal stout in front of him, leaving a light brown foam clinging to his mustache.

As he set the beer down, he looked at me. The bags under his eyes looked like they should be weighing down his eyelids, but there were prominent veins crisscrossing the surface of the eyes themselves which, apparently, held the eyes open to unnatural widths. I just sat silently, waiting for him to continue. He looked around a bit, then finally wiped the foam from the uneven fur on his upper lip, his eyes drifting back to the beer. They sat there for a long time, as if the beer could either hold the answers to all his problems, or just cause more. He must have decided that it was the solution, because he took another swig. The look on his face while he drank was the relish of a man who thought that if he could just get drunk enough, he might finally fall asleep. I had seen it before; hell, I’ve done it before.

I had known that this man had demons when he first sat down. The blind could probably even see that the man was battling darkness. That was why I had originally started a conversation with him, I only later started to get hints that I might get more than I had bargained for.

I swirled the ice around in the bottom of my nearly empty glass, waiting patiently for the man to continue. There was no doubt in my mind that he would. I had always been a people watcher, comes in handy in my profession. I didn’t yet believe that there had been shadow men following him, but my years of studying human reactions told me that this man believed whole-heartedly that this was the case.

After draining his glass and ordering up some whiskey, he turned back to me and said, “Don’t mind me, I shoul’nt be bother’n you with me problems.”

“It’s quite alright Mr…” I stuck my hand out. He took it and gave it a weak, half-hearted shake.

“Percy, Percy Oliver.”

“Nice to meet you Percy, my name is Ein Willington. I don’t mind you laying your troubles down.” Percy looked at me sideways, sizing me up. “Sure beats drinking alone,” I said, raising my glass then draining it of all but the ice.

To be honest, I don’t drink much, but I go to dive bars like this one fairly often and sit at the bar, looking for men with demons. Often all I have to do is make it clear that I’m willing to listen and they unload all their darkness as fast as they can. I generally just sit there, soaking up their stories of sorrow and pain like a sponge. I don’t really enjoy other people’s pain but, you see, I’m a writer, and sometimes I take bits and pieces from these rants to fill out my characters. Often people say something and I just think to myself, “Man, can’t make this shit up,” but then I put it in a book and people think I did.

Percy was different from most. Most of these people are looking for an excuse to talk about their problems, some don’t even need encouragement. Percy though, still looked at me long and hard, a battered fatigue and longing in his eyes. He wanted to tell me, in fact he had already started to, but he was afraid to finish.

“Go ahead,” I urged with a nod of my head.

“Are you sure?” he asked.

I smiled and nodded. He emptied his tumbler of Jack without so much as a shudder, then made eye contact with the bartender, who was standing down by the other end. The bartender grabbed the bottle of whiskey and brought it over. I watched Percy’s shoulders hunch as the bottle got closer. I thought the reaction was anticipation, but it was hard to tell. It was then that I noticed that the color of his suit wasn’t only brown, as I had originally thought in the poor lighting, but had thin stripes of green and red. I had originally liked the color but once I saw the red and green, my perception of the fabric changed. The pattern went from vaguely appealing to almost offensively hideous in that one brief moment.

After his tumbler had been refilled, he looked to me again and nodded.

“Well, I’s already done told ya ’bout the crazy lady on the bus, yeah? The one ‘oo grabbed me an tol me that she’d been followed by shadow people, people tha at first appear only out the corner of yer eye, but afer a while you kin look right at ’em an they don’t dis-pear no more.”

I nodded. He had told me very little of that already, but I saw no harm in encouraging him. He took another sip off his drink, then continued.

“Well, a’ first I jus laughed ‘er off. She was a crazy lady, ‘ow much could it mean? But couple days later…” he trailed off, his eyes sinking back to the glass in front of him. There was a little spot of liquid that had dripped onto the wooden surface, just on his side of the glass and he looked at it for a long time, then reached up and grabbed a napkin. While he wiped up the spot he said, “Few nights later, saw the first’n.” He left the napkin on the bar in front of him, just to the right of his glass then looked up at the empty space behind the bar briefly, then back to me. “I was walk’n by the window an I thought I saw someone standin’ out there looking at me. When I looked he was gone.”

“I see how you’s look’n at me. I though I jus had the eeby jeebies at first too.” He turned his attention back down to the little napkin. “I jus laughed it off, but tha crazy lady’s words came back runnin through me head, ‘at firs they’s only ‘pear out of the corner of yer eye, they looks like a trick,’ she had said.” He started to scratch at the crumpled napkin, tearing it apart slowly and methodically.

“Then I was look’n in the mirror, and I jump when I see a guy stand’n right behind me, watch’n me wash me hands, just standin there like it’s the mos natral thing in the world. I jumped an looked, but he was gone when I did.”

He left the napkin alone for a second to take another swig off his whiskey, then, without looking up, he continued, “afer that, I started see’n em more ofen. Every shadow, every reflection looked like a man, watch’n me.”

He looked back up at me, his eyes pleading, “I stopped sleep’n. I started ‘ear’n things too. Jus babbling a’ first, but then it became a command. Same one over’n over.”

I was growing a little concerned about where the man might be going with this. We all know the story of Mr. Berkowitz and the neighbor’s dog commanding him to kill all those people. “What did it say?” I asked.

“It said to tell people ’bout em an they’d leave me ‘lone.” He took another sip off the tumbler. Tears were starting to mount in his eyes, “I’m so sorry,” he said.

“What are you sorry about Percy?” I asked. I noticed that the hair on the back of my neck was prickling up and I was getting cold sweats.

He took a quick glance at the row of empty bottles on the counter opposite the bar. The tender was down by the pretty girls at the end again. Percy looked back at me before he spoke, but stole intermittent glances to the empty bottles while he did. “Afer the voices started, I tried to fight em. I tried ta defy em. They got bolder.” A tear escaped his panicked eye and trailed down his face. “Started leav’n the shadows. Started stay’n there when I look at ’em. Try to ignore ’em, but I know they’s there, watch’n me.”

He looked down at his glass and the tear dripped off of his face, landing among the tatters of the napkin. His body was shaking now and his breathing had grown ragged. “They’s even ‘ere now,” he whispered nodding his head to the empty bottles. I glanced up at the mirror behind the bottles. My blood ran cold and I nearly fell off my bar stool as I saw the figure of a man standing behind me.

“I’m so sorry,” I heard Percy crying as I turned to look at the nothing behind me.

“So sorry,” he repeated, while I smirked and shook off what I was sure was just getting caught up in the moment. The “ eeby jeebies” he had called them. I was seeing a man there, because I expected to see a man there, I was just freaking myself out.

“I’m so sorry,” Percy sobbed again.

“Don’t worry about it Percy.” If he thought it was going to end, perhaps he’d stop seeing them, I thought to myself. Then he might sleep, and become mentally sound enough to realize just how ridiculous these hysterics were.

Well, I made sure Percy made it into a cab that night, and haven’t heard from him since, but let me tell you, I’ve been seeing things. There are shadowy creatures that watch me, I can’t sleep because I’m always looking for them. I’ve been tormented by shadows that say, “Retell and we will move on.” Tricks of they eye that linger when you look directly at them.

The shadow men are real, and now you know.

I’m so sorry.

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San Diego Comic-Con 2014

Hey all!

I went to San Diego Comic-Con this year! It was a blast. I thought I’d share a little more about the experience. I do have a story to post this week, so it will happen on Thursday.

Me as the 10th Doctor. My lady as Jenny

Me as the 10th Doctor. My lady as Jenny

We went Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The main Exhibit Hall at the San Diego Convention Center was packed to the point where it was tough to achieve more than a penguin shuffle. The rest of the convention center was crazy, but not as packed as the exhibit hall. To give you an idea of how many people were there, let me just say that the Exhibit Hall is over 525 thousand square feet (http://www.visitsandiego.com/facilityinformation/buildingoverview.cfm), it was insane.

I think I summed it up nicely on friday when I tweeted “Nerds, nerds everywhere and not a word to tweet.

On Friday, I put on a suit, cocked my tie to the side, put on a pair of glasses, and called myself the Doctor (Tenth Doctor, obviously). My girlfriend dressed up as Jenny, from the Doctor Who episode “The Doctor’s Daughter” and her friend Amelia dressed up as the eleventh Doctor. I thought the two of us dressing up as Ten and Jenny was pretty funny for a lot of reasons.

The panel on comics in higher education was really interesting, though more about how the guys 40 thousand person online class about comics worked out. Also, the Condor Con table (http://www.condorcon.org/html/mainmenu.html) was playing a Doctor Who game, where you get badge ribbons for good guys or bad guys and have to take pictures of people with ribbons of the opposite side. Based on how many pictures of the enemy you get, you worked your way up the chain. You better believe that by the end of the day I had earned my “Time Lord” ribbon. I thought it was a good idea and was a lot of fun.

 

XenaAndGab01

Xena and Gabrielle waiting for the trolley.

Saturday was a different kind of day. My lady and I dressed as Xena and Gabrielle. I got a lot more attention than I expected and people wanted to take pictures of me with my hairy Xena legs every couple of steps. It was a little overwhelming. You should have seen the double-takes people did when I walked into the men’s room… Classic.

Early in the day Steven L. Sears (who wrote for and co-produced Xena) introduced himself and wanted to take our picture, which was kind of fun.

We went to a few panels. The one with John Barrowman had everyone in the huge hall giggling non-stop, but sitting in that outfit was extremely uncomfortable. I don’t understand how you lady folks deal with the whole having boobs thing.

Later we took the obligatory photo of Xena and Gabrielle making out which, I’m sure, is described on one of the early pages of just about every piece of Xena fan fiction.

Xena and Gabrielle kiss... like they do in the fan fiction... probably. Sorry, it had to be done.

Xena and Gabrielle kiss… like they do in the fan fiction… probably. Sorry, it had to be done.

After going home and changing we went back downtown The House of Blues to check out the Suicide Girls Blackheart Burlesque, which was entertaining. Sorry gents, no pictures of that one, I’m sure you can find them with the googler machine.

 

We expected Sunday to be a little less crazy, but there were probably just as many people there as there were on Saturday. We put on our Stargate gear. Forced to pick a favorite show, I’d have to pick Stargate. This being said, you may be surprised by the fact that I had no Idea that Christopher Judge (Teal’c) would be there. When I found out I squealed a little and we went to found his table. In real life he smiles a lot. I was still very intimidated and took an awkward picture with him, then walked away without anyone using the word “indeed.” I know… I failed.

Us in our Stargate gear with Christopher Judge!

Us in our Stargate gear with Christopher Judge!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Those of you that follow me on Twitter (@imasillypirate) or are my friends on Facebook (official author page coming soon) already know that there was another adventure going on in parallel: the adventures of the Lego versions of us.

Wandering around the convention center... Not lost like SOME PEOPLE.

Wandering around the convention center… Not lost like SOME PEOPLE.

Waiting in the hall for panels!

They waited patiently in the hall, waiting for panels!

Watching a panel. Notice that there are three of them on that one chair, and there could be many more. Lego Comic Con would need far fewer chairs.

Watching a panel. Notice that there are three of them on that one chair, and there could be many more. Lego Comic Con would need far fewer chairs.

When days came to an end it was time to hop on the trolley and head home.

When days came to an end it was time to hop on the trolley and head home.

Once there they collapsed in exhaustion. They had a long weekend.

Once there they collapsed in exhaustion. They had a long weekend.

 

All in all, Comic-Con was a lot of fun. If possible I plan to go again next year!

Smoke-Sentry

20140702-210113The red light flashed in the darkness.

“That one was twenty-nine seconds, the last one was thirty-two,” I thought to myself.

With every second that ticked by my six o’clock alarm inched a little closer. I needed to sleep, but I couldn’t tell if the little light on the smoke detector was flashing regularly and I just couldn’t count seconds perfectly or if the changing interval for the flash meant something. Maybe the battery was on its deathbed. Maybe it was an indicator of an internal malfunction and ignoring it I would be putting my sleeping family in danger.

I hadn’t started counting at the last flash, so I waited, staring into the blackness of the room around me. I couldn’t see a thing, those new thick curtains I had put over the window really did their job. There was no light in that room, aside from one damn flash roughly every thirty seconds. I stared where it should be on the wall, waiting.

I saw the flash out of the corner of my eye. Apparently, my eyes wandered in the dark. I then started counting off as regularly as I could in my head. Nice even seconds. Of course, I could have grabbed my phone and gotten a more accurate time, but that required light and movement, two things which would elicit unpleasant noises from the wife sleeping beside me. I rested my eyes as I counted through the first twenty, the light had yet to flash in less than twenty, so it was as safe a time as any. When I reached twenty, I opened my eyes and looked back into the darkness where I knew the smoke alarm should be.

As I neared thirty, I willed the light to blink, if it blinked right at thirty twice in a row, I could rest easily. That would mean that it was supposed to flash regularly, twice a minute and that my counting had probably just been off the few times before. Hope of getting it this time drained slowly away as thirty came and went, replaced by thirty-one, then thirty-two. As we rounded thirty-four without a flash, I started to wonder if maybe I had missed it. I was starting to panic a little when, at thirty-six the red light finally flashed out into the darkness. That had been a long one.

I started to count again. Could anxiety be making me count fast? There was definitely no small supply of anxiety.

When this one took a mere twenty-four seconds, I sighed, then caught myself. To make too much noise would wake the missus – I’d never hear the end of it.

Maybe there was a pattern to the intervals. I decided to sit out this one and contemplate the pattern. After reflecting over the previous few, and coming up short, I decided that I needed more data and returned my attention to the flashing.

Two years before, in the break room of the Smoke-Sentry corporate office, Larry turned to Bud and commented, “You know, this new model of detector I’m working on seems to work pretty well, but for some reason, something in the circuitry of the prototype is making the indicator light flash interval vary by a few seconds.”

Bud frowned thoughtfully, then took a long sip off his coffee cup.

Larry continued, “Probably already spent thirty hours trying to debug this one, any ideas?”

“Naw,” Bud said after a long silence, “just leave it, nobody’ll notice.”

2014 Unleashed Surf Dog Competition

Yesterday I went to watch the Unleashed by Petco Surf Dog Competition (http://unleashedby.petco.com/surfdog).
Yes, that is exactly what it sounds like: dogs surfing.
It was a lot of fun, and here is a video that I put together with my footage from the day.

 

WitchHunt.com

WitchHunt

He created WitchHunt.com to bring lonely witches and warlocks together – a place for a practitioner of the black arts to hunt for companionship. Witchery, he assumed, being a very lonely way of life.

He designed it so that users could upload onto their dating profile all sorts of stats about areas of proficiency, likes and dislikes, goals and aspirations, and even cauldron preferences. He then devised clever algorithms for matching users with their wants.

The code all worked like a charm and once he had it all clean and polished, after many years of work, he was finally ready to launch the finished product. There was only one problem.

Witches don’t exist.