“As Thou Wilt (Ms. Self-Destruct)”- short story released in the Strange Behaviors Anthology

My story AS THOU WILT (MS. SELF DESTRUCT) is included in the recently released anthology Strange Behaviors: An Anthology of Absolute Luridity published by Nihilism Revised. This anthology contains 30+ stories and 420 pages of the weird, bizarre, mad, and just plain revolting, as the title and artwork suggests. So snuggle up in your favorite reading nook and keep those support peacocks close if you dare to order, intrepid readers!

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My story was conceived and written a few years ago as an unchecked ego, downhill, destructive, stream of conscious, one-act play. The dating scene, ocean waves, gossipy waterfalls, cubist kingdoms, and tigers whizz by quickly, but, like all failed relationships, it all makes sense in the end. Although an older story of mine, I didn’t submit it to many places thinking it needed the right platform to have its desired effect. I think I’ve found a proper home for my grotesquerie to invade the world. Enjoy.

Thanks to S.C. Burke editor! Amazon link here if you missed it : Strange Behaviors

Product Description: In the land of the lurid, the weird are wonderful, and the behaviors on display are at their strangest. Welcome to Strange Behaviors! An anthology of literature’s freshest and loudest voices, a new-new wave of dangerous writers – letting their words run wild with madness. The stories that melt from their minds are emotionally charged, surreal, nihilistic, grotesque, horrific, depraved, often humorous, and always with a depth that just keeps getting deeper and deeper. This is literature for the misfit minds of rebellious readers. Join us… Featuring: Sam Richard. Theresa Braun. Jordan Krall. M.P. Johnson. Nicholas Day. Donald Armfield. Austin James. Alex Karl Johnson. Charles Austin Muir. Joseph Bouthiette Jr. Michael Faun. Zak A. Ferguson. Jason Morton. Mark Zirbel. S.C. Burke. Eileen Mayhew. D.B. Spitzer. Howard Carlyle. Christopher Lesko. Ben Arzate. Rob Easton. Catfish McDaris. Dav Crabes. Dani Brown. Nicholaus Patnaude. S.E. Casey. Ross Peterson. Brendan Vidito. Justin A. Mank. Benjamin Clarke Younker. John Claude Smith. Shaun Avery. Kyle Rader. Calvin Demmer. Evelyn Joyce. Gomez Aggonia. Gentry M. Calhoun

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Year End 2017 Writing Wrap Up and Resentments

In 2017, I did some research on the psychology of resentment according to Nietzsche, Dostoevsky, Orwell, and others. Certainly, resentment has driven the political climate in the 20th century to great ruin, but it is also present in shaping our own identity and behavior. It’s a powerful and universal emotion (it’s no coincidence that the second bible story—Cain and Abel— is all about it) and I’ve been honest in recognizing when it rears up in me.

Before we delve into the resentments, the good things first. My two favorite books of 2017 were THE SECRET OF VENTRILOQUISM by Jon Padgett and CREEPING WAVES by Matthew M Bartlett. These two weird horror books were a joy to read, masterfully capturing the spirit of the genre and stoking my imagination. I prefer stories based on philosophy, and the ontological underpinnings of degradation and rot were front and center in both books. Click the titles for my full ‘existential’ reviews.

One of my regrets (not quite a resentment) is that I didn’t do more reading. I have discovered many authors and books that I am excited to dive into, but I need the time and patience to actually sit down and read. Reading is a necessary step to make anyone a better writer, and this is where I need to put in the road work. Currently, I am reading the short story collections ALECTRYMANCER by Christopher Slatsky and BEHOLD THE VOID by Philip Fracassi with OCCULTATION by Laird Barron on deck. I read a great story by Livia Llewellyn this year online (she conjured such a creepy atmosphere which was so dead-on perfect that it really fired up my resentment meter) and must get something by her soon.

Onto the resentments! For psychologist Carl Jung, the pathway to higher wisdom is only accessible through your ‘shadow’ self, which is the really dark and nasty parts of us we don’t like to admit. Most people deny their resentments, but repressing what is an essential part of us can lead to anxiety, depression, and worse. Think of the metaphoric warning of the intractable horror of the over-civilized Dr. Jekyll and the animalistic Mr. Hyde. Jung argued that we should shine a light on resentments to bring them into our whole, a much healthier condition than Jekyll/Hyde. He didn’t stop short of just naming the darkness, but encouraged a celebration of our rascalarity.

So have I been conscious of any resentments that well up in me. Generally, there are two kinds. We resent when we are truly wronged, or, and this is far more common, we resent when projecting our own failings onto others. Both inform us of the obstacles either external or internal that we need to overcome and which require action to resolve.

My main goal for the year was to become a better writer. Reading other’s work, writing as much as I can (anything including blog posts), and asking for feedback with other writers/readers was the plan. I’ve admitted my failure in the reading department and I could have written much more. Saying I didn’t have ‘the time’ would be a lie—frivolous distractions, laziness, and flagging motivation were the main culprits. However, on the last front, I did trade several stories with other authors. Seeing my stories through another’s eye was a little scary, but proved to be a revelation. More than helping to better the individual story, the general feedback provided me some vital clues of my weaknesses and blind spots as well as some of my writerly strengths which were equally hidden to me. Thanks to everyone who has read for me this year and have been candid with the comments!

I’ve been fortunate enough to have a number of flash fiction and short stories published over the last year. However, nothing was pro-paying or widely read. This is probably a garden variety resentment among writers—why did I get rejected to market X, or, why did so-and-so’s story get accepted over mine, etc. Truth is, I didn’t submit to many high profile markets in the first place, not wanting to waste my time with the inevitable rejection I assumed I would get. Also, I had a goal of publishing a short story collection of Christmas horror stories which never happened. I wrote all the first drafts in 2016 and figured I would edit them during the year and publish. However, I never felt the editing was done, and dragged my feet on commissioning a cover for it anyway. I felt a great weight off my shoulders when I decided to shelve it until 2018. Despite my protestations of a lack of time, deep down I know I am capable of improving the stories if I honestly put in the work to become a better writer.

The greatest resentment over a specific story of mine was a short story I disguised as an am-writing blog post titled: Self-editing Tips and the Doorway to Enlightenment. The ultimate purpose was the fiction element, an existential descent into embracing the ‘shadow’ self. The actual writing tips I used were only meant to be misdirection to the unfolding horor. However, the comments I received were about the usefulness of the writing tips which were either because no one really read it, or my story set-up and execution was too obtuse. The shame of a mockumentary taken literally.

Also on the resentments reel in 2017 was Facebook. Gaining exposure is difficult so I joined up this year fearful I was missing out on a batch of readers just pining for my stuff. However, it’s never that easy. I admit to anxiety and some measure of dread when receiving messages or anything posted to my timeline as I am oblivious to proper social media etiquette to respond as well as paranoid of other’s ulterior motives. Facebook is probably not that hard or sinister. My resentment is probably me dragging my feet in learning it functions and using it more. It may help too if I don’t view every person who attempts to interact with me so cynically as if they are some wild dog set loose in my house.

Of course, there are many more resentments, too many to list, some amazingly petty, others pointless, but accepting my shadow hopefully will help me to become a better and more productive writer. Owning up to my fears, indignations, and jealousies, the right path is becoming clear, as opposed to the idealistic one we all like to believe exists where short-cuts and tricks can get you by.

Thanks to everyone who stuck it out to the end of this post. I’ll leave with a link to a free story I posted late in the year which may be my unconscious way to sum up my 2017 in writing. My working title for this was ‘The House of Flame’; however, I figured out why I was compelled to write it, made some changes, and retitled it the fitting, RAINBOWS AND RESENTMENT.

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-S.E. Casey

 

The Toy Gun Factory- Flash Fiction Story

My Christmas horror flash fiction, THE TOY GUN FACTORY, has been chosen as the seventh day of Christmas story in the Horror Scribe’s December contest. Twelve days before Christmas, a stygian tree mysteriously and anonymously is driven through the Shaker Hills Mall parking lot setting off a myriad of sinister phenomena including the reviving of the dilapidated toy gun factory at the edge of town. While there is no demand for what the shuttered factory is producing, they pay. On Christmas, in someway, we all pay.

Thanks to Horror Scribes for running this contest. Everyone please check out their site and the other eleven stories in the contest (one a day wrapping up Jan 5th). Also, they run periodic 300 word story contests, so my fellow writers take note!

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THE TOY GUN FACTORY         *CLICK FOR LINK*

 

The Long Way Home – Short Story Published in Weirdbook #37

The latest quarterly issue of Weirdbook (#37) has been recently released and includes my story THE LONG WAY HOME.  Thanks to Douglas Draa, editor of Weirdbook, and the staff. I am happy and honored to have one of my weird, horror stories chosen to be included. As the name would suggest, Weirdbook is a publication that presents stories of sci fi, fantasy, and horror in the ‘Weird Tales’ tradition.

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*Click for Link*

THE LONG WAY HOME is a Halloween inspired tale written in October 2016 specifically imagining the holiday’s utter absurdity.  While the season has passed this year, my story is also about cold, remote places. Who chooses to live in such frigid and inclement places even though they have the means to move, and why? Given this week’s cold that has gripped much of the US, including my home in New England, it is certainly a relevant story. Hopefully, it will warm the reader, as the ending caught me off guard. Although I had a decidedly chilly destination in mind, the story took an unexpected warm left hand turn. I ended up keeping my impetuous choice, some stories just need to be.

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Night Swimming- Short Story available at Double the Books

My flash fiction story Night Swimming (click for link) is available to read in the Double the Books Magazine November issue (#16). Drowning, nowhere hotels, useless keys, cosmic mermaids, and death kisses in a tidy 1,000 words.

Thanks to Candace Robinson for encouraging me to submit. Also, KayCee (no relation) and Natasha, the editors at Double the Books. Check them out, short stories, poems, and all the writing posts you’d ever want.

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Rainbows and Resentment

Rayne decided she didn’t like Barbara. It was the wrong century to be named Barbara. And, truth was, she didn’t particularly care for the name in the last.

However, she had chosen Barbara, setting her beach towel down in the unoccupied square of sand next to her. Rayne figured her beach-mate had the curves and bikini to draw some eyes, and perhaps those a little out of Barbara’s league would settle on her slightly older, less shapely neighbor.

So far, no luck.

What irked her most wasn’t Barbara’s relative youth or superior figure, but her flippant attitude. Rayne thoughtfully had offered her some suntan lotion. However, Barbara rebuffed her gesture with a dismissive story about how her towel prevented her from burning.

Did she take her for a  fool?

Let her fry then. Rayne secretly wished for something in the second degree range.

However, after two hours of midday Florida sun, her sunscreenless friend didn’t appear to color let alone burn. Rousing from a nap, Barbara stood. As she picked a wedgie and adjusted her top, Rayne searched for tan lines. Astonishingly, she found none.

“I’m going for a dip,” Barbara announced. “Would’ya watch my stuff?”

“Sure,” Rayne lied.

Barbara stood on the edge of her towel as if it a cliff. Finally, she took a giant step off, jogging toward the water.

Rayne studied the supposedly enchanted towel. Even accounting for her Barbara-resentment, she determined it a pitiful, tired-looking thing. The edges were frayed like mice had gnawed it, and a corner had unraveled. Its color was faded, the hues and tones weary. The pattern itself was odd—frowning rainbows stitched at chaotic angles into an exhausted blue background.

She couldn’t help feeling a little sorry for it.

Do it.

Rayne didn’t know from where the impulse came, but over the years she had learned to listen to her inner voice. Quickly, she gathered her things. Her red thermos was missing its top. She kicked at the sand, but couldn’t locate it. The container would be useless without it, but it couldn’t be helped, she needed to go. Snatching up Barbara’s ratty rainbow towel, she crammed it into her carry-all and left.

***

She couldn’t sleep. Muffled voices and applause seeped through the thin walls of her apartment. Through the steady cadence and intervals of laughter, it was the familiar soundtrack of late-night television. The words were too distorted to make out, but still Rayne frustrated herself trying. It would go on until morning, the half-deaf old lady in the apartment next to her having fallen asleep despite the racket.  There was no use calling her phone, or pounding on her door. She was dead to the world until morning; not even a fire alarm could wake her.

However, tonight, the intruding television noise wasn’t the cause of her restlessness.

Climbing out of bed, Rayne shuffled to her dresser.  She turned on the lamp and removed its shade. It would take a little while for it to heat up. Her carry-all was by the front door, not that her apartment was big enough that it took much time to retrieve it. Grabbing the hastily balled up rainbow towel, she shook the sand away before carrying it back to her bedroom.

She placed a finger on the exposed lightbulb withdrawing it quickly. It was already dangerously hot.

Do it.

Setting the towel on the floor, she stood on it. She drew in a deep breath and grabbed the bulb.

Nothing.

Rayne counted to ten before letting go. Her fingers were unblemished and unburned.

Do it!

Kicking the rainbow towel into the bathroom, she twisted the shower knob to her usual hot setting. However, she reconsidered and cranked it all the way. By the time she took her pajamas off, steam filled the room. Throwing the towel onto the sizzling shower floor, she jumped on top of it.

The water ran over her, dousing her hair, pouring over her torso, and cascading down her legs, but there wasn’t any pain. With more curiosity than fear, she examined her skin. It wasn’t red, bubbly, or otherwise scalded.

DO IT!

She exited the shower, turned off the water,  and wrung out the sopping towel. Not bothering to redress, she stumbled into the living room leaving a snail’s trail of water behind. Digging through the coffee table drawer, she found the lighter. After a few dry flicks, she managed to hold a flame. She used it to light her spiral patterned curtains. The old, dry fabric caught quickly. The fire raced upwards to the ceiling where it rolled like a tidal wave across room.

Spreading more quickly than she expected, Rayne hurriedly placed her towel in the middle of the room.  As the flames jumped to the walls and furniture, she leapt on it. It didn’t take long for the fire to surround her. For a moment it seemed to hesitate, but then it closed in.

Rayne bathed in the conflagration, soothed by the inferno’s luxuriant caress. For the first time in her life, she felt free—a weightless, unburdened soul. The chaotic passion of the blaze was everything she dreamed it to be. All those elusive night fantasies of flame realized, she basked in its grandeur until blacking out from the lack of oxygen.

***

Deafened by a thunderous rushing in her ears, Rayne woke under a bare night sky.  But it was everything below that mesmerized her. Glowing prismatic bands swirled in the depths of the rectangular abyss on which she lay, spectral arcs drowning in the emptiness of a god-like tapestry. With a vertigo dizziness , she wanted to melt into the infinite nothingness, but was thwarted by a stubborn buoyancy.

Like lava cooling, the terrifying beauty of the void subsided, as did the loud vacuum’s rushing in her head. The sights and sounds of the world in all its staleness returned, rumpled and worn like the towel beneath her.

She stood alone inside a skeletal ribcage of charred post and beam. The apartment was reduced to a smoldering husk, weightless ash swirling around her like black snow. In the distance, she could hear blaring sirens that incrementally grew louder. Soon, they would drown out the screams. Fires raged several doors down, her combustible gift spreading downwind. The tinny smoke alarm bleeps from the close-cropped apartments seemed feebly apologetic in response to the raging smoke and flame.

Rayne wrapped the towel around her to cover her nakedness. However, the residents on the other side of the street who had shuffled out to gawk at the pre-dawn mayhem didn’t notice. On the opposite sidewalk, coughing soot-smeared survivors shook and cried, the confused barking and mewling of their pets adding to the bedlam. In the dejected triage line, Rayne didn’t see the old woman from next door.

Strobes of electric red, white, and blue lit the street. The police and firemen made the scene at the same time. Rayne adjusted the tuck of the towel, the stitching of the rainbows rough against her cool skin. Standing on ground zero, she needed to leave before an overly attentive cop would put two and two together.

Joining the crowd, she hid in the milling of the herd. Despite her odd dress and ash snarled hair, no one noticed her walking against the current. She left the chaos behind exiting into a back alley.

The sky ahead was clean, the first light just coming over the horizon, a red blush in the eastern sky. She had nowhere to go; no home, close family, or close friends nearby. She had no money or credit cards for a motel room. Yet, the only thing that mattered was that sunrise, a strange optimism pushing her forward.

It wouldn’t be long before the sun would show itself. Rayne sensed the towel’s rainbows stirring as if anticipating a bigger and better fire. But this was ridiculous, she couldn’t just stride off the horizon into the dawning sun.

Still, she pushed on, leaving the bustle of the residential district behind. The grass was cool on her feet. Across the empty fields, the sunrise bloomed, the first rays curling around the shadows of the twin hyperbolic cooling towers of the power plant.

Like horns of some great atomic bull, they cut the horizon. And she found herself running toward that brazen beast and the radioactive fire shimmering in its belly. Somehow, she would open the yawning void wider this time and melt down into its core.

END

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Author’s note: I wrote this story last fall for an “evil rainbow” short story contest run by bizarro author Madeleine Swann, writer of the short novel Rainbow’s Suck (click for Amazon Link). My story didn’t win (and if read into the order she posted the stories, I may have finished second to last), however, I enjoyed writing it and after much procrastinating, I finally added some words and did some necessary editing.

Thank you, Madeleine! Bask in what you and your evil rainbows have wrought! Everyone would do their souls well to check out Madeleine Swann on twitter, youtube, and any other corners of the internet she haunts!

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What is a tickle jar?

Tickle Jar (n.) – an accumulation of recurring thoughts, material objects, or events over a period of time which are hoarded leading to obsessive fascinations and mythical pathologies.

My latest story Tickle Jar has been posted by FlashFictionMagazine.com.  Andy finds a curious object at the pool one otherwise plain summer day.  He decides not to tell anyone and a secret collection is begun.  Adding piece by piece to it over the years, will it become too much of a handful?

Everyone has a tickle jar.  What is yours?

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  TICKLE JAR- CLICK FOR LINK