Night in the Lonesome October

I’ve been reflective lately.

Yeah, you say, what else is new?

Hear me out.

Ten months ago, I grudgingly returned to social media. I’m not proud. I definitely did it to sell books, but something else happened. I made some new friends. That was pretty cool. And yeah, I did sell some books, which was also pretty cool.

But I still saw a lot of the ugly things that drove me away in the first place. Hypocrisy, petty arguments, dismissive comments, and manufactured outrage.

Then I got tired, frustrated and depressed.

Back in June, I restarted The Mangum Show podcast. Recorded a ton of content. Paid for a logo. The works.

Unfortunately, I ran into some technology roadblocks. Skype recordings are inconsistent in terms of quality. I can’t seem to figure out editing in Audacity. Then my MP3 converter just decided to stop working.

I got tired, frustrated and depressed.

Marketing yourself, man. I’ve done a lot of it this year. Even paid for some ads, which produced mixed results.

Through these last ten months, I’ve learned a lot.

I’ve learned videos get the most attention on this site. As a result, you should expect more videos.

I’ve learned social media is STILL toxic for me. I won’t be deleting my accounts again, but I do plan on cutting back my time on there significantly.

I’m working full-time again, so time is more precious than ever. I want to spend it on things that are worthwhile.

Videos that bring more visitors to this site. Patreon-exclusive content. The Mangum Show will continue, too, albeit in a different format. Plus, writing, writing and more writing.

This is probably not a particularly organized blog entry, so much as it’s me thinking aloud. If you’re still here, thanks for indulging me.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering: this October, I’m reading lots of Richard Laymon and Bryan Smith instead of watching the same movies over and over again.

Blood and Brimstone, Chapter 14 – Free Serial Novel

The Devil was waiting for Windom in the clearing beside the highway, some twelve miles outside of the Tennessee town of Yester Castle. In the blue-gray dusk, the magma bubbling under the Devil’s cracked skin glowed hot and bright, but it was the stink of meat hanging from his cape that drew Windom’s attention.

Windom turned off the highway and met the Devil thirteen paces into the field. The Devil’s lips spread. Windom couldn’t quite call the expression a grin.

“Windom,” the Devil said, voice distorted like wasps lived in his voice box, “I see you’ve once again emerged victorious. When will they learn?”

“When they’re all dead, I reckon.”

“And I reckon there will always be others. Men such as yourself are too dangerous to be kept alive and anyone on earth who meets you learns that all too quickly.”

“I find out who keeps putting out these hits, could take him out and just hide for a while, catch a breather.”

“I’ve never seen you as the type to want to catch a breather.”

“All this running and killing gets old, all I’m saying.”

The not quite smile of the Devil widened. Eyes narrowed into slits. A gnarled claw rose from beneath the cape, stroked his chin. Gave the illusion of considering something, but Windom guessed Old Meat and Magma had already made up his mind about whatever was on his mind.

“Perhaps a side job would provide a nice diversion for the time being. The ones trying to kill you could be…placated…for now.”

“Wish you would do that more often.”

“Then what hold would I have on you.”

If the Devil was to be believed, Windom was one of his sons. Didn’t matter much to Windom. He’d grown up never knowing his father. All he knew was that he’d been born with the abilities to draw deadly powers from symbols that just appeared in his mind, to confuse people to the point where they would remember nothing of their interactions with him, and he didn’t seem to age much. He could be one-hundred-seventy, could be one-eighty. He’d stopped counting at ninety-nine, and he didn’t look much older than forty-five. Didn’t hurt much either.

Windom snorted. “What’s the job?”

The Devil reached over to the side of his cape and unhooked a dripping strip of meat. With his other hand, he caressed Windom’s cheek, slipped a finger inside Windom’s mouth and pried open Windom’s jaws. He held out the meat and placed it on Windom’s tongue. The blood trickled over Windom’s palette, sweet and buttery, a kick of spice, hint of bitterness. Old Meat and Magma used a killer marinade. Windom closed his eyes, closed his mouth and let the meat dissolve.

As the juices leaked into his cheeks and gums, a symbol burned in his mind’s eye. Angry red flames encircled each line. Animals danced in a spiral: a hawk; a wolf; a lion; a fish; an octopus. They moved, disappearing into the symbol’s center and reemerging at its edges. The symbol grew in size and brightness until it blinded him. He gagged on sulfur and vomited light. The light split into two wormy appendages and collected into twin orbs of flame. The orbs became square-shaped; the lights dimmed, revealing levitating books with rugged, parchment covers. One bore the fiery symbol. The other was titled The Cosmic Heart. Windom’s job, his mission revealed itself to him as he dwelt on the tomes.

Blood and Brimstone, Chapter 13 – Free Serial Novel

When she finished sessions for the day, she gathered all her notes and her laptop. She flipped to the first page of her legal pad so it would sit more comfortably in her bag. The symbol Katie sketched that morning caught her eye and made her pause. She studied the image, its curves and angles, the herd of animal impressions spiraling toward its center. There was something undeniably captivating about it, though she was sure she had never seen it before. She traced the angles with her index and middle fingers. The paper hissed at her touch.

Having studied the occult during college, she had a hard time believing she didn’t recognize the symbol. She thought of Dr. Carlyle, the professor who she interviewed for her thesis, and wondered if he would know something about the symbol. A part of her wanted to let it go, but she was worried about Katie.

Every once in a while, in her profession, a client came around who she felt connected to. Something deeper than a patient-therapist relationship existed between them. The first time it happened, she fell in love with a patient named Arthur. She had just graduated and Arthur was close to her age. When they spoke, it reminded her of good music, each instrument a complement to the other, shifting between each voice in perfect time. After one particularly passionate session, he kissed her, and she let him. She even returned his affections. Realizing her error, she recommended him to a colleague and told him they couldn’t see each other personally, or professionally, because it just wasn’t right. Six months later, he committed suicide. Hanged himself in the foyer of his parents’s house.

While Ruthanne had no romantic feelings for Katie, she did think of the young woman as a friend. She had a personal investment in Katie’s recovery. Because of this, she had no qualms going above and beyond to figure out ways to help. She would never let Katie go, not like she let Arthur go. Sometimes a therapist lost a patient, but she refused to lose another she cared for this deeply, especially not when a possible answer lay before her. If she could find out more about the symbol, she might better understand what Katie was going through.

Ruthanne reopened her laptop and looked up Dr. Carlyle’s phone number. She dialed, not expecting him to answer. On the third ring, he picked up.

“Dr. Carlyle? It’s Ruthanne. Ruthanne Weiss.”

“Ruthanne, well, hello. How are you this evening?”

“I’m okay. I’m sorry to bother you, but I was wondering if you could look at something for me. Can I scan it to you?”

“Sure, you still have my email?”

She read it back to him.

“That’s the one.”

“Great, I’ll send it right over.”

“What are you sending me?”

“It’s a symbol one of my patients drew. I… don’t recognize it, but I thought you might.”

“Still chasing spirits, I see.”

“Did you ever stop?”

“No, I don’t suppose I have. Go ahead and send me the image.”

“Will do. Thanks.”

“So long, old friend.”

They hung up and she went to the office scanner, typed in his email, and sent the sketch of the symbol. She waited, sitting still for the first fifteen minutes, and then she started pacing. When he didn’t call back a half hour later, she tried calling him. No answer.

It’s okay. Just give him time. Maybe he’ll call tomorrow.

She took the sheet from the scanner and stared again at the symbol. It hypnotized her, until she made herself stuff the paper into her bag, and finally left the office.

Dark Dreamer

More nightmares last night. Some of them were so horrific, I’m not comfortable sharing them here despite this blog evolving into a dream journal of sorts. Let’s just say I more or less lived out scenes from my latest novel We Are the Accused. And yes, I’m linking to the book, because I’m broke and need the money.

I reached the midpoint of my dinosaur apocalypse novel today. I punctuated the end of the book’s first half with the sort of scene that made me uncomfortable to write. Since I write horror, I guess that means I’m doing my job.

School starts tomorrow. I hope the nightmares subside, mainly because I’m really going to need the sleep. I see my therapist on Wednesday (for financial reasons, I can only see her once a month). Hopefully, she can offer some insights, and maybe even some technique for dealing with these awful dreams.

I was talking to my pal Shane McKenzie about them. We entered a discussion about life’s balance, and how pleasant (though sometimes sad) my dreams were when my head was falling apart. Now that my waking life feels somewhat ordered and aimed towards a purpose, my dreams are more frightening than ever. Is this balance necessary? I don’t know. Smarter people than us probably have that answer.

Do you know? Sound off in the comments if you do!

Dead Fish and Bad Dreams

One of our fish died last night. Found him in the filter. He was a black guppy that shone blue in some places when he was happy. His life didn’t live long, and he died because we’re new to the whole fish ownership thing. His name was Midnight.

Not the best way to start the morning, I’ve got to admit.

More nightmares last night. In the first, I was working on a building. My coworkers and I had too much material, but were forced to use all of it. Getting around was very hard. I ended up jumping into a nearby bay and swimming away. Massive construction cranes loomed on either side of me as I swam. When I woke up, I could still see their impressions, there in the darkness of my room until I fell asleep and back into another dream.

In the second nightmare, our fish tank kept getting larger and we kept adding more and more creatures. A giant hermit crab killed our snail. Alligators tried eating our fish. Water was everywhere. Our house became an aquatic habitat, dangerous to navigate.

In the third, I took a train somewhere I didn’t want to be and couldn’t find a train back. When I finally did, I fell asleep on the train and wound up back in the place I didn’t want to be. I woke up screaming.

This is my new normal. Good morning.