Till Death

JIMATHON JIMINY, an old man caked in dried blood and gore, enters, sits in his favorite chair with a roll of toilet paper and a large knife, and whittles away.

A voice, NINNY JIMINY, calls from somewhere in the kitchen.

NINNY: (off) Jimathon!

Jimathon ignores this.

NINNY: (off) Jimathon!

Jimathon turns to the kitchen, then back to his whittling.

NINNY: (off) Jimathon!

NINNY enters, looking like the twisted, mildly displeased specter of a murder victim.

NINNY: Jimathon!

JIMATHON: Tweak my thigh and kiss my ulcer, woman! Can’t you see I’m whittling this roll of toilet paper?

NINNY: Yes?

JIMATHON: Oh, good. I was afraid I was losing my mind there for a moment. What’s so important then?

NINNY: You left the gas on again.

JIMATHON: For Heaven’s sake, have you turned it off?

NINNY: No.

JIMATHON: I see. May I inquire as to the reason or reasons why?

NINNY: I’m dead, Jimathon.

JIMATHON: (considers this) Oh, that’s right – the accident.

NINNY: Accident? You murdered me.

JIMATHON: Are you still going on about that? I buried you, didn’t I?

NINNY: You have not. My body’s still rotting away in a trash bin beneath the kitchen sink.

JIMATHON: Alright, alright. But if you’re so preoccupied with being dead, why is your ghost bothering me about the gas, hm?

NINNY: Oh, I’m not a ghost.

JIMATHON: You’re not?

NINNY: Afraid not. I’m only the comforting creation of your desperate, dying mind struggling to make sense of its own impending, unintentionally self-inflicted return to nonexistence.

JIMATHON: I see… (puzzles this) So, no need to bother with the trash then?

Elsewhere: Audrey

DR.‌ ‌HOWARD‌ ‌FINE‌ ‌documents‌ ‌his‌ ‌thoughts‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌fashion‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌time‌ ‌-‌ ‌wherever,‌ ‌whenever,‌ ‌and‌ ‌however‌ ‌that‌ ‌might‌ ‌be‌ ‌at‌ ‌this‌ ‌point.‌

DR. FINE: When I first met Audrey McGuire in the bar of a hotel on the outskirts of Los Angeles, she was a fiery shock of red hair poured into a full skirt dress that teased a curvy figure beneath.

Her full, blood-red lips pouted at me as she performed a sob story about needing money for a bus ticket to Indianapolis, to stay with her mother after her husband had raised his hand to her one time too many.

The second time we met, Audrey was a willowy blonde wearing long boots and a short skirt, lying through thin lips about visiting her sister in San Francisco.

A beat. Then…

The third time we met, I observed Audrey gracefully flowing from one potential mark to the next, shedding her previous appearance between tables before seamlessly slipping into a new life with a single, gentle touch of each man’s hand.

One moment, she’s an olive-skinned beauty in a cardigan distracting a married man with her piercing blue eyes as she steals his wallet. The next, she’s laughing it up with a group of drunken suits pawing at a pair of milky thighs exposed by the short hem of her fashionable Mod dress.

I never gave a second thought to the way she’d temporarily leave with this or that man as she wore this or that face–sometimes an hour at a time, sometimes for mere minutes. But when some loud, dark-haired stranger in an expensive suit dragged Audrey away by the wrist, the panicked look she shot my way from a hauntingly familiar face convinced me to follow close behind.

A beat. Then…

I caught up to Audrey and that dark-haired stranger in the stairwell, just in time to hear a cry of pain closely followed by a drunken voice demanding to know why he had to hear from the boys at the office that his wife was moonlighting as a whore in a hotel bar.

Cynthia. Some poor housewife named Cynthia was probably somewhere cooking dinner for a husband she didn’t know was drunk in the stairwell of a hotel, threatening a frightened woman wearing her face.

And as Cynthia’s face attempted to lie her way out of a literal corner, Cynthia’s husband raised his hand. But as he raised his hand, her face changed. Her left eye darkened and swelled shut. Her bottom lip split and bled. And bruises appeared on her from head to toe.

Whether by fortune, divine intervention, or alcohol, Cynthia’s husband stumbled backward down a flight of stairs and scuttled out the door without another word, looking as if he’d just seen a ghost. Then once we were both sure he wasn’t coming back, I returned to the bar with a woman who looked like my dead wife.

A beat. Then…

Over the next several hours and drinks, I found myself lost in the glittering hazel eyes and gentle lines of my wife’s face as she shared the story of a life she never lived with a name she never knew. There was mention of a one-bedroom apartment in Shermer, Illinois, some boy named Reggie, and a kiss behind the high school gym that left her with no choice but to leave behind both Shermer and Reggie forever.

As we danced, the woman I struggled to call Audrey inquired about my work with childish wonder and glee. And as I explained the nature of the microscopic Sutherland Fluke coiled around both her central and peripheral nervous system, how it allowed her body to instinctively reshape itself in reaction to physical and emotional stimuli, she pulled her body closer to mine.

Audrey was gone by morning. And while I’m unsure if I’ve seen her in the years since–or if a person by the name of Audrey McGuire from Shermer, Illinois, ever existed–I do know a lost soul gave a lonely man one last night of happiness. And for that, I will always remember her.

The Magic Hour: An Occult Cult, Of Course

The sort of late-night radio call-in show with a host known only as MAGIC DAVE.

MAGIC DAVE: Ladies and Gentlemen. It’s the dead of night. You don’t know how you got here. (considers this) Huh. Neither do I. (shrugs) Congrats. You found Santa Carla Public Radio. This is “The Magic Hour” with Magic Dave. I’m Magic Dave, we are The Lost, and this is our hour, man.

Lines are open. Give us a call. Let thy sins be known.

Magic Dave looks to, fiddles with his board.

First caller – what’s your name, what’s your sin?

CALLER: (phone) Hey, Dave. Long Time Listener First Time Caller.

MAGIC DAVE: That’s a heck of a name you got there, Long.

CALLER: (phone) It’s a family name.

MAGIC DAVE: My condolences. So, what’s keeping you up tonight?

CALLER: (phone) Well. I may have recently stumbled across a literal demonic death cult, and I’m not sure how to feel about it.

MAGIC DAVE: Not the religious type?

CALLER: (phone) Yes, but no, except every other holiday. You see, in an entirely intentional attempt to isolate myself from any sight or sign of humanity as possible, I unintentionally found myself lost in some remote corner of Black Star Canyon.

MAGIC DAVE: That’s a cool story, man.

CALLER: (phone) Right. Well. Somewhere between realizing I had one hell of a walk back to my car and crying for my mother, I heard a strange chanting coming from deep within the old, abandoned mine shaft I’d foolishly chosen to expel both urine and insight into my predicament.

MAGIC DAVE: Happens to the best of us.

CALLER: (phone) To make a long hike through a dark, winding series of tunnels and tangentially related anecdotes short: I eventually found myself in a vast, underground cavern with an equally vast, underground lake. And in the center of the lake were a bunch of strange little men chanting a strange little diddy to a strange, yet maddeningly large, fleshy skeletal something or other sitting right there in the water like it was a kiddie pool.

MAGIC DAVE: There’s always that one guy hogging the hot tub at those places.

CALLER: (phone) Having spent my fair share of afternoons in Irvine, I can’t say I haven’t seen worse. But once I witnessed this entity drink the wailing souls of several middle-school science teachers, I figured I’d seen most of what they had to offer and politely left without signing the registry.

MAGIC DAVE: Well. It’s always a good idea to keep an open mind and expose yourself to new, interesting things. On a scale of whatever, how’d you rate your visit?

CALLER: (phone) Oh, at least a solid, mid-level cream.

MAGIC DAVE: I’m sorry to hear that.

CALLER: (phone) To make things even worse, I didn’t realize I’d left my keys by the toilet until I’d already made it back to the parking lot.

Elsewhere: D’ja Vu’larian

DR.‌ ‌HOWARD‌ ‌FINE‌ ‌documents‌ ‌his‌ ‌thoughts‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌fashion‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌time‌ ‌-‌ ‌wherever,‌ ‌whenever,‌ ‌and‌ ‌however‌ ‌that‌ ‌might‌ ‌be‌ ‌at‌ ‌this‌ ‌point.‌

DR. FINE: Feeding exclusively on those threads of time and space intertwined with some poor soul’s untimely, traumatic death, the D’ja Vu’larian’s morbid appetite is seen by some as a cosmic blessing in disguise.

Effectively a wholesale rejection of death itself, these individuals… I hesitate to call them “victims”… regain consciousness sometime in their own past, with only a faint, dreamlike recollection of what transpired.

But much like those affected by a Chronopillar, there is a serious philosophical discussion to be had regarding that lost part of us, devoured moment-by-moment, and now slowly digesting in the belly of some great, trans-dimensional worm.

Elsewhere: Smeltett

DR.‌ ‌HOWARD‌ ‌FINE‌ ‌documents‌ ‌his‌ ‌thoughts‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌fashion‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌time‌ ‌-‌ ‌wherever,‌ ‌whenever,‌ ‌and‌ ‌however‌ ‌that‌ ‌might‌ ‌be‌ ‌at‌ ‌this‌ ‌point.‌

DR. FINE: The very existence of the Smeltett has been a point of contention for millennia, with records of arguments spurred on by the sudden onset of a foul and malicious odor found in the form of rudimentary cave paintings in both Africa and central Asia.

Current research of the Smeltett leads many to believe that it is the female of the species which is responsible for the foul odor, used in an effort to attract the attention of nearby males, which are believed to be responsible for the… sound also associated with the Smeltett.

Unsurprisingly, all major contributions to research on the Smeltett have been submitted anonymously.

Elsewhere: Wah’wazzat

DR.‌ ‌HOWARD‌ ‌FINE‌ ‌documents‌ ‌his‌ ‌thoughts‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌fashion‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌time‌ ‌-‌ ‌wherever,‌ ‌whenever,‌ ‌and‌ ‌however‌ ‌that‌ ‌might‌ ‌be‌ ‌at‌ ‌this‌ ‌point.‌

DR. FINE: I hesitate to refer to such a frightening, malicious thing that gleefully toys with its unsuspecting, isolated prey as a mere “creature,” but the Wah’wazzat is certainly one of the most elusive, deeply unsettling entities I have ever encountered.

Because the human mind is fortunately, mercifully incapable of properly processing the physical appearance of the Wah’wazzat, wouldbe victims are left to question the origin and direction of the scattered sound of skittering, rustling, and faint breathing as the Wah’wazzat closes in for the kill.

If not for the fact that the Wah’wazzat is easily and conveniently startled by so much as a quick glance in its general direction, I suspect reports of missing persons would quickly outpace the obituaries in every morning paper.

Elsewhere: Whattamadoon

DR.‌ ‌HOWARD‌ ‌FINE‌ ‌documents‌ ‌his‌ ‌thoughts‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌fashion‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌time‌ ‌-‌ ‌wherever,‌ ‌whenever,‌ ‌and‌ ‌however‌ ‌that‌ ‌might‌ ‌be‌ ‌at‌ ‌this‌ ‌point.‌

DR. FINE: The Whattamadoon itself is hardly a creature worth making note of, as its teeny-tiny, squishy, toothless body makes it incapable of causing any physical, temporal, or psychological harm to any living creature.

However. The Whattamadoon’s web is notorious for snatching up any thoughts blossoming and fluttering about one’s head as they pass through the doorway in which said web is hung.

Fortunately, walking back through the web often allows an unwitting buffet to recover whatever million-dollar idea I totally believe you had before the Whattamadoon can feast upon it.

Elsewhere: Chronopillar

DR.‌ ‌HOWARD‌ ‌FINE‌ ‌documents‌ ‌his‌ ‌thoughts‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌fashion‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌time‌ ‌-‌ ‌wherever,‌ ‌whenever,‌ ‌and‌ ‌however‌ ‌that‌ ‌might‌ ‌be‌ ‌at‌ ‌this‌ ‌point.‌

DR. FINE: The chronopillar is a ridiculous looking, but wholly frightening creature with the ability to directly interact with the very fabric of time and space.

A single, undisturbed chronopillar has been known to devour upwards of several weeks of isolated space-time, leaving victims unaware that an entire summer has literally (and not simply metaphorically) passed in a blink of an eye.

But as frightening as such an event may be, it pales in comparison to the wholesale rewriting of our timeline whenever a chronopillar survives long enough to emerge from its singularity cocoon as a fully-grown quantumfly.

Elsewhere: Hik’kappu

DR.‌ ‌HOWARD‌ ‌FINE‌ ‌documents‌ ‌his‌ ‌thoughts‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌fashion‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌time‌ ‌-‌ ‌wherever,‌ ‌whenever,‌ ‌and‌ ‌however‌ ‌that‌ ‌might‌ ‌be‌ ‌at‌ ‌this‌ ‌point.‌

DR. FINE: Commonly found in the chest cavity of mammals, the numerous needle-like appendages of a fully-matured Hik’kappu not only serve as sensory organs, but also to stimulate what was once believed to be an involuntary contraction of the diaphragm.

Some researchers believe this serves little-to-no purpose, while others claim this is an effort by the Hik’kappu to coax its host into performing a rudimentary mating call. 

However, the manner in which the Hik’kappu enters the chest cavity of a given host remains the biggest mystery of all.

Elsewhere: Moh’ko

DR.‌ ‌HOWARD‌ ‌FINE‌ ‌documents‌ ‌his‌ ‌thoughts‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌fashion‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌time‌ ‌-‌ ‌wherever,‌ ‌whenever,‌ ‌and‌ ‌however‌ ‌that‌ ‌might‌ ‌be‌ ‌at‌ ‌this‌ ‌point.‌

DR. FINE: Perhaps one of the silliest of the countless woozles and wutzits I’ve encountered over these years is the Moh’ko, a solitary, beetle-like creature whose diet consists entirely of the mucus found in the respiratory tracts of primates.

Though mostly harmless to almost all but the very young or the elderly, the Moh’ko’s insatiable hunger has seen it evolve the ability to stimulate the production of mucus by means not yet fully understood.

That said. There is little-to-no evidence to support the claim that the Moh’ko is also responsible for the actions of those individuals inclined to ingest their own mucus.