Monday, November 5, 2018

An Ill Port in A Storm (a round robin horror, with friends of Cecil Disharoon)

If I’d only known the box collecting dust by my computer would rip the mystery off the existence in a way that would leave a fearsome wound, gaping...

Like they say, it was a dark and stormy night. (1 (All contributors footnoted below for flow!)

As usual, the goddamned wi-fi was down. (2)

Stranded from the whimsies of my outside world distractions, I amused myself-the things that pile up while one is engrossed overly much in online activities. Here was this box a friend overseas had posted to me, marked "Ether Net." I was amused thinking how Johann, Angela and I used to talk about Sir William Crookes and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and their Spiritualist propensity for describing entities in the "ether." 
I dusted off the box, fished out a cable, and looked for a port.

Which wasn't too difficult, for, as they say, "Any port in a storm." Unless they were talking about drinking wine in a tavern until the storm was over... (3)
The lights flickered and the shadows danced on the ceiling. (4

A hush fell across the bar as a stranger strode in from the rain...(5)

He was dressed all in black, rain poring from his long coat and hat, which shadowed his visage. The patrons of the bar stared at him, warily. (6)

None more so than Abe, visibly startled by the sparsely-damp visitor. He dried the spilled Natural Light draft from his gnarled mechanic's knuckles while taking a break from the pinging poker machine in the next room. 
It's the sort of night you might see a ghost, to be certain. Abe's often-lulled eyes betrayed just such a fear as they roved the roiling shadows that robbed the stanger intermittently of shape. )

"Port in a storm, fella?" asked Piper, pulling Gilley an imported draught, as well as her weeks' third double shift.
"A sweet chase at the end." The stranger's words rolled audibly over the storm,from beneath his brim. I felt he was attracted somewhat to my curious box, and was relieved when Gilley picked up his rhapsody about the recently-defunct Kepler Telescope.
"Imagine what it would've said," said Gilley, "If only it had been enough alive to appreciate the worlds it glimpsed. There's an epic poem there. Shame Bradbury is dead. Or maybe Clarke. Hell, even Ellison."
Abe shuffled back to gambling, providing the newly-hushed bar the mechanical cheer of impulseness again, aside from the smooth wine flow into the glass of the man in black.

Suddenly the door slammed open, but the chill was carried on no wind. It misdirected us as to how the shabby-haired little boy came to stand beside Abe at his game machine. "When is Mommy coming home?" pleaded the child. A coppery echo ferried his plaintive voice.
"She promised she'd tuck me in. Why can't she come home?"
"Leave me the hell alone!" spat Abe, twisting off his stool and storming out to our midst. He jostled Gilley's drink, passed close to the stranger and questioned him. "Did you bring this kid? Is this some stunt?" 
"Calm down, Abe!" said Gilley. The stranger peered from beneath his brim without a word.
"It's just a kid, what's your damn---" Gilley's words died in a gasp. (1)(Cecil Disharoon)

The stench of death drew a gurgling wretch from my throat and Gilley's bloodshot eyes appeared from beneath his brim. There was a dark gray mist hanging in the air and the boy appeared to float rather than walk across the floor toward me! His arm was extended and his fingers were twisted but definitely pointed toward me when I regained my breath! The shriek was nightmarish and Abe was sobbing as he turned to see me backing away only to be stopped by the wall behind me. (4)

The child-like form distorted into many mouths, a physical flow of tentacles from the inhuman mass that had spoken so plaintively. Piper cursed as she went for her shot gun behind the bar. Abe had no chance as he fell in the door way, crying out in terror.

The strangers eyes beamed darkly in thin slits, as his command boomed from beneath a drooping mustache. “The box! Touch the wires together!” I could feel him nearly ready to pounce for it, himself. I think he sensed my reflex to treat any movement as an attack. The pale fear on my countenance surely reflected my revulsion as I watched Piper try to draw a bead on the hungry thing ravaging the luckless mechanic. I didn’t know him so well- I’d known his family’s business since I first came to town in need of a tune-up. Simple common humanity alone evoked pitiful sympathy for last animal sounds to emerge from the victim awash in the invading storm.

The gun blast rocked my electrified nerves as I ferreted the workings of the bizarre gift placed within my care. Why me? I shed the confusion. React to the ebon interloper’s instruction- or die!
I could only hope, the split second I activated the connection, I had not played into some more loathsome machination. Then the spectral form inside sprang from between my shaking hands.

Wrestling with the eerily glowing form, the apparition that had terrorized us seemed once again pitiable, though no less revolting. United we watched its struggle, until the phantasm strands enveloped the murderous thing. Then before our eyes, it shriveled like an aging pepper. Then, the snare seemed to crawl with a life its own back towards the box I’d dropped on the barroom floor.

Timelessly, after the box closed with a hiss, we all stared after its motionless form. Our eyes drifted to the impassive visitor, and Gilley was the first to finally request an explanation. He stammered: “How…? Who…? Wha…?” Then, mixed into a nervous laugh: “Fuckin’ ey!!!”

The night-clad stranger stood, but did not advance, merely staring at Abe’s remains. “I could smell gasoline and automotive oil on your friend there- from that and his hands, I would presume he was a mechanic. It’s a logical deduction he was contracted for a repair, on the car belonging to the woman of the child we saw. It’s entirely possible some other crime was committed, but without a motive, I think it likely he committed no violent crime- only negligence. A faulty tire seems less likely than some malfunction in the poor woman’s steering. I would guess this was the repair the man failed to properly perform.”

“How in God’s name would you know?” said Piper, as the macabre vision of Abe’s mangled remnants began to translate in her adrenalized brain.

“Forgive me if my intuition yield a cold review of the departed,”
said the stranger, stroking the corners of his mustache.

“You see, I’m working from the nature of this device- what I’ve discerned of its workings. Anecdotal evidence suggests, within a radius as yet unclear to me, heightened emotions can call forth constructs of a nature, one might not imprudently call, otherworldly. The same invention then provides a sort of snare to capture the monsters in their physical form---too late, I’m afraid, to save your fellow patron.”

He reached out his gloved hands, in which I immediately placed the infernal box. “I see you require no coercion in ridding yourself of the thing. I can promise nothing of my own character or wisdom, but I will take it hence with no questions, by your leave.”

“Just get take it and go, please,” said Piper, still gripping her shotgun. “Wine’s on the house.”
“I will do so,” said the stranger, tucking it beneath his arm. “Bear in mind, it’s activated by a profound sense of guilt. Whatever’s eating a man may...well...I shall not be glib. Guilt is the province of the living.” He turned halfway out the door beside the ravaged corpse, and gave a hint of a smile.

“As for what mysteries this machine lays bare...let life have its mysteries. May we live to resolve their stories, and imagine our wits, a match for injustice. May we engage them. Before they engage us.”

His presence evaporated by the occluded moonlight, even as the storm abated. Piper took the grim task of calling emergency, while Gilley played some hunch, restored wireless service yielding some marvel to his hands. Myself, I shuddered at the memory of a Honduran woman I’d kindly referred to Abe’s service some weeks before. I remember her gratitude as she took on my casual recommendation: our town had a handy answer to her suspension trouble.

Contributors, Thank You!

1- Cecil Disharoon
2 (Keith Howell) 3- (Danielle Piper Proctor) 4- (Joe DeAloia) 5- (Jo Duffy) 6. (Angela Dawn Disharoon)

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Brother, can ya spare a little empathy?

I was inspired by a charming meme I've seen go around. I guess I had to see it at the right time, or enough times, or from the right person to inspire me to say something possibly worthwhile in return.

I really do agree. You know the hardest thing about opening up, though? I bet it's no different regardless of gender, this thing: we feel the need to put out something aspirational, funny, and in no way add to the lurking potentially depressing atmosphere around anyone who may be reading/ listening. We know we should let all the negatives, go, and wield the light, and not be self-centered. And sometimes, we also think no one will express empathy or support, and we'll feel like we opened up and hah, here's more proof you can't count on anyone (which is not empirically so, but we're not talking about being purely rational). But learning to avoid that risk of vulnerability is as bad in its own way as people being dramatic for attention. But you can't understand how others you care about feel if you lose track of how YOU feel. How YOU feel- if you are striving to keep it to any kind of standard- is going to call on you to be truthful It might very well require you try to express yourself to someone else. There may be a quality in that listener- hell, sometimes the fact they aren't a great listener! Or maybe it's just your dog, who at least won't interrupt, talking. The qualities of your audience will allow you to see the shape of your own thoughts. Know thyself.
Even if you simply sit down to write, like this, you at least get to see what's going on inside. If you're inspired to write to someone- like half of this was intended- they just might evoke strength and perspective in that expression.

I want to be clear: I feel like a lot of the meanness going on these days stems from an unhealthy attitude about this very thing! Its consequences are catostrophic. On virtually this very day, two years ago, I watched an inability to simply go get therapy build, along with a lot of attitudes festering online, fuel a man's destruction of all his closest family relationships. So many horrible opinions are the result of men disconnected from their feelings, and then, the ability to see other points of view. It flows right into the lives of many bitter women, too. It is bitterness, including each gender, that leads to demonization, cruelty, blind stupidity- opinions that then utilize a fraemwork of other falsehoods that seem to connect with the entire negative identity. The denial of Facts themselves can be followed right back to our opinions of ourselves. When we reject the truth about ourselves, we reject truth in objective matters outside ourselves, also. It's all part of one big embrace of lies.

We can't be too hard on ourselves for not knowing everything- who knows everything? We can't be too hard on ourselves for having emotions, or we will have only hard emotions. Palm trees do not break in a hurricane, so often, because they are stong, but pliant. They naturally know when to bend as a response to great pressures. But sure enough, they are damn near impossible to break, because they are not rigid, yet they are not brittle. They can lose a few fronds and stay rooted.

Guys need to bear in mind the healthiness of sharing vulnerablity, at least, with someone they trust. It's so easy to get that impulse mixed up with ridiculous, even vampiric, drama regentry, or for the inherently noble, being negative or egotistical. Some guys are truly bearing an empathic load and great responsibilities. If they will only let their friends add their strength, they will find more capacity to summon that will- and benefit everyone in their life, all the more.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Do you feel we agree less on even calling the sky blue?

May I ask if you feel the discourse on what is Factual has degraded?

Or has it come to include and amplify the voices of more people who are not versed in a better set of objective facts? Or worse, has an agreement on what is moral and just- more intangible values- become the true victim? Do we delude ourselves there was a time when, disagreements abounding, there was a better consensus on 1) those moral values and 2) an evolving body of factual knowledge, which required at least a proper challenge via scientific method?

I am sure this also relies on what body of people we're discussing, too, and when. I would say the consensus 2) seems to have fallen into open dispute relatively more than 1), whose existence as a "are people inherently good or bad?" (Yes.) debate's continously documented.

I did grow up Evangelical, so I'm long since acquainted with facts chosen to serve religious doctrine (or The Truth, depending on how you feel there). That mode of thought, at least to me, either seems to have gone mainstream, or more people who previously had no opinion (often because they thought it was over their heads or not interesting). What passes for knowledgeable has changed in that we seem to be looking in the back of the book, if you will, for answers, then proclaiming conclusions without any rigorous exploration to 'show the work.' I've described a horrible way to turn in Math homework. Is that an analogy for what we now do as a society? Or am I selling the average person a bit short? Are we reaping the ugly underside of Convenience Culture, in pre-fabricated opinions we can then parrot passionately? I will say, religion- actual religion- was sort of fashioned that way for most believers. They were not expected to spend time on ecclesiastical studies at a scholarly or seminary level. What we were asked to do was read our Bibles, then take the Word of God at its word. You would grow stronger as a Christian if you read scripture and prayed. Most likely, you would come listen to the preacher deliver the inspired Word in sermons-and that was fine. Particularly if you attended whenever possible.

This pattern is also why I have in recent years recognized an idolotrous fervor for what passes as politically-inspired pieces of conversation. Now, some, many, still observe Evangelical culture as well. Some affiliates, and especially many outside that culture, wonder how its Jesus-inspired messages, as He is its central storyline figure, do not apparently clash with the rhetoric and aims of conservative policy. I do believe a fellow with whom I am barely acquainted reminded me, in a post to a mutual friend, that Evangelicism and Conservatism have at their core a distrust of human nature.

Now, returning to my initial question, which I'm not entirely sure I've supported with the tangent above, I ask if you think now, moreso than in decades before, people who never before professed interest in or credentials for being experts, or having given much thought really to the lines of cause and effect in policiy,

are adopting social media to drive and be driven by what is, when not examined, propaganda and misinformation.

I do think the average person did feel fairly confidently informed in their stances, however, simply because then, as now, the conclusions they've adopted seem reasonable.
But what I want to know is, are we divided more than ever by a subjective sense of reality that accepts an objective stream of testable hypotheses? Are we, wary of propaganda designed by nefarious parties that do not share our interests, becoming religious in our political fervor in a way that replaces religion, which, by its secular nature, embodies larger swaths of humanity who might dispute religious doctrine or mark the box, "I don't know," in favor of party lines? To the point of an evangelical level of devotion, and celebration of its figures and truths? Are we fallen to idolotry?

To my original point, Science, so long as you approached it with experiments you could reproduce, and results that moved the definition of factual consistencies, always held open the door, via method. to build upon its body of probable knowledge and acquire new discoveries.
Were we ever, more so than now, in accordance as to what's factual?

Did we ever agree more on things the way we agree the sky is blue?

Did we, not long ago in the past, have a better consensus of the facts from which we might proceed?

Is it worse now ---are we being conditioned to disagree more vehemently? Or does History contain our tumult's consistent cycles? Are we revsiting ideologies now we seem to have shed as inadequate to human survival?

Are we now, with each our definitions of 'blue' in our experience, unable to agree on problems beneath the blue sky?

Do we agree less on even calling the sky, blue?

Be chill, cease ill