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‘ODD? Anthology’ Contest!

Announcing a special SF Signal-hosted contest to celebrate the release of the unique new fiction anthology ODD?, which asks the question “Is it odd, or are you too normal?”

Edited by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer, ODD? is a mix of originals, new translations, and (hard-to-find) reprints that qualify as “strange fiction”, some of it surreal, some horrific, some fantastical, and all of it…odd. (Unless it’s just because you’re too normal.) This first volume features, among others, Amos Tutuola, Nalo Hopkinson, Jeffrey Ford, Rikki Ducornet, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Hiromi Goto, Stacey Levine, and Jeffrey Thomas–with new translations by Gio Clairval, Larry Nolen, and Brian Evenson of such classic writers as Gustave Le Rouge, Leopoldo Lugones, and Karl Hans Strobl as well as a brand-new story by Finnish icon Leena Krohn! (Full table of contents here.)

You could win a three-volume e-book subscription to the ODD? or even appear in the next installment!

How? Read on!


Just post your very odd true-life, non-fiction account of something that you witnessed or that happened to you in the comments thread of this blog post any time between now and Friday, October 21. Under 1,500 words, one entry per person, and anything above PG-13 will need bleeps.

The winner will receive a contract for their true-life story to appear in ODD?, volume 2, alongside amazingly odd fiction. The winner will also receive a three-volume e-book subscription. Two runners-up will also receive a free three-volume subscription.

THE CONTEST WILL BE JUDGED BY THE ORIGINAL ODDITY: MULTIPLE WORLD FANTASY AWARD WINNER JEFFREY FORD!

Check out this link for more information on ODD?, including how to become an Oddkin or Super Oddkin.

And now, enjoy this decidedly odd video…

About John DeNardo (13014 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

18 Comments on ‘ODD? Anthology’ Contest!

  1. Daniel Del-Valle // October 13, 2011 at 7:35 am //

    A childhood memory:

    The fifth floor of a New York tenement, west side, 125th st. and old broadway- a child (that’s me) slleps in his crib, next to him his parents sleep soundly. He wakes up a bit disorientated. It’s around three o’clock in the morning. Looking over to his parents, he’s about to call out to his mother, then he sees it-a dog is growling right up against the crib, saliva dripping from its sharp teeth. The scream takes up the whole room. His mother is by his side comforting him. He tells her what he saw, but she says he was only dreaming.

    A week passes. It’s about two o’clock in the afternoon. The child is playing with his toys. There is suddenly a banging at the door. The nextdoor neighbor is screaming for help. His mother opens the door to the sight of a woman holding her infant daughter tightly and screaming that there is a large brown dog in her apartment. It tried to bite her and her daughter. His mother tries to calm the women down as she glances to her son, who is frozen to the floor.

    “You stay here,” she says to our neighbor, ‘I’ll go and check.” The boy sees his mom disapear into the nieghbor’s apartment with his father’s baseball bat. After some minutes pass she returns.

    “I didn’t find anything.”

  2. An Odd Sunday Morning In Dublin

    I’m sitting inside a pub in Dublin, Ireland at 10 am on a Sunday. Though tempting, it’s far too early for a beer. Besides, I’m not here to drink, I’m actually “working”. I’m two-thirds of the way through my role as a support person for my wife, who is running the Dublin Marathon. I’m following a pre-arranged route, arriving at various intersections in the city at set times to hand my wife fresh water bottles, powerbars, and encouragement. At the last stop she informed me that, for some unknown reason, the organizers failed to install portable toilets along much of the racecourse. The facilities are scarce at best, so the runners are continually improvising.

    A pair of sweaty runners lopes through the front door of the pub. Tired and winded, the marathoners gag when they hit the smoke-filled air, which is visibly white. A group of ten men sitting along the bar raise their glasses and shout encouragements:

    “Good job, mates!”

    “For Christ sake, keep going, laddies.”

    “I’ll be joinin’ ya’s after I finish me’ pint.”

    The men laugh with gusto and backslap at each others jokes. I watch them with both envy and concern. I’d love to join the fun, but at the same time I’m hoping that they’re not heading off to church or jobs as taxi drivers anytime soon.

    The barman points to the far end of the room and says, “It’s over dere lads, make yerselves at home.” The two runners shuffle past me in tiny nylon shorts and sweaty bibs with numbers pinned on the front. They head into the restroom, leaving behind a group of bar patrons who possess a polar opposite view of the merits of exercise. But everyone present is nothing but encouraging.

    A few moments later the runners emerge from the restroom and head for the front door. They both turn their heads to the barman and thank him. One of the bar patrons points at a runner’s shorts and says, “Yer fly’s unzipped there lad.” When one of the runners looks down toward his zipperless crotch, the bar erupts into laughter.

  3. John Ginsberg-Stevens // October 13, 2011 at 7:37 am //

    Odd life stories? Well, I can probably only choose one, so I will go with the time I faith-healed a kindergartner of her speech impediment using evangelical sock-puppet theatre, and got my father mad at me as a result, so much so that he tried to get our church school to stop using me as a child preacher (I was 11 years old). That resulted in a chain of events that got my family expelled from the church and forced us to leave Florida for exile on Cape Cod.

  4. Oh dear, I did this one wrong, didn’t I?

  5. In Highschool I was walking around, ditching class with a friend of mine in my small downtown neighborhood. We walked and walked, and eventually he started telling me this story-

    How his mother was a saint. How she was a living saint and could heal people. She was better than everyone, angels visited her, and spoke through her. He was so happy to have a mom who was so amazing. He then said he was scared though, he was reaching the same age his brother was when she had to cleanse him.

    He had demons in him, the brother. Demons that came when he was sixteen. My friend said this was true, he’d seen the demons. And his mome took the demons out. She pushed him under water, made him breathe in the water. She beat the demons out of him.

    He told me he was almost sixteen now. And he could feel them in him, and then he starteed crying.

     

    I didn’t know what to say to any of that.

     

    Also? I think John wins.

  6. Graham Lowther // October 13, 2011 at 7:45 pm //

    BASKETBALL BLUES: (HOPEFULLY) SATIRICAL CONCERNING (BUT NOT OF) MY MUSICAL TASTES

     

    February 2011, I was visiting my parents at their camp in the Bahamas. (I live in Maine.) My sister and her fiancé were also there.

     

    After spending some time at a beach, my mother, sister and her fiancé and I were biking back to the camp. We passed a basketball court where a group of people were setting up musical equipment–amps, etc. My sister and her fiancé stopped and talked to them while my mother and I continued biking.

     

    Back at the camp, it was reported that the people at the basketball court described themselves as a blues band from Tennessee. They would be performing at the basketball court that evening.

     

    My listening tastes are mostly in rock or jazz or experimental music of various kinds. Blues generally all sounds the same to me but still, I don’t dislike it generally. It seemed it might be a fun excursion, so I went with my mother, sister and her fiancé, biking to the performance that evening.

     

    The musicians had set up facing the basketball court, on one side. Facing the opposite side were a number of chairs. The audience consisted of a group of family or friends of the band, several locals sitting in the chairs or standing in the general area, others watching from nearby houses, and locals engaged in two basketball games, one at each end of the court–one with younger kids, the other with older–though the audience-like nature of the basketball players seemed uncertain.

     

    The musicians were accomplished (to varying degrees) at playing popular pop songs, and their own Christian rock songs.

     

    They played one blues song.

     

    I spent most of the time watching the basketball games.

     

    In the middle of a song played by the lead singer/guitar player without the rest of the band, he began unmercifully strumming the same chord again and again, like a scratched LP playing in a short loop. “I forgot the next part,” he said. I had my doubts. I suspected an intentional antic.

     

    “Are you all enjoying this?” he asked as he continued repeating the same chord.

     

    Between songs he would sometimes go into religious spiels. I remember something about the importance of not using (unnamed, enticing sounding) drugs.

     

    After the Christian rockers finished, a local band played calypso/gospel and reggae/gospel which I very much enjoyed, especially in contrast to what I had just heard. While listening with enthusiasm, I noticed the lead singer/guitar player of the Christian rockers walking around the chairs. I had the impression he was circling us, closing in. He walked up beside me, looking at me, seemingly trying to ascertain my receptivity to whatever was on his mind. I shot him an evil eye and he moved on to my family and family-to-be. I could not hear everything said but it appeared he was asking them to put their names in a book he was carrying.

     

    On our way back to the camp, I had to brake hard to avoid running over a giant land crab. My mother, sister and her fiancé all stopped and marveled and persuaded it to scuttle to safety off the road.

  7. The King is Dead

     

     

    In the summer of 2002, I met King Arthur. 

     

    Of course, I didn’t know who he was at the time. It took months of friendship before he felt comfortable revealing his secret identity to me. 

     

    The king, who went by the name Peter when he was among us mere mortals, was engaged to my best friend. All three of us were working at a supermarket in New England, in the same small town where we had all attended high school. I was 16, and they were a little older, maybe 20 or 21. 

     

    I had grown up two houses down the street from his wife, and we were best friends. So when she eventually married Pete, I really made an effort to get to know him. And it helped that the three of us all worked at the same place. 

     

    Money was tight, so the two of them shared an apartment with some roommates, just a couple of towns over from the store. After work, we’d chill at their place, watching Dragonball or taking turns shooting up zombies in Resident Evil. They were really into LARPing, which wasn’t really my thing. But looking back, it’s easy to understand why Pete spent so many hours in the woods, hacking away at invisible monsters with his Lord of the Rings replica sword.

     

    By the middle of July, the three of us were spending almost all of our time together. One night at the supermarket, Pete approached me while I was in the break room.

     

    “There’s something I need to tell you, but you have to promise not to laugh,” he said, blushing and clearly needing to get something off his chest. 

     

    16-year-old me was all the things I am not at now at age 25: naive, compassionate, and unfailingly kind.  Accordingly, my response was: “Of course I won’t laugh.”

     

    Pete sat down on the other side of the table, and explained it all.

     

    “I’ve been having these really intense dreams. You know the kind of dreams that tell a story? Like, each time you have the same dream, you get a little deeper into the story, see a little more of what’s going on? Well, this dream starts with me in a full suit of armor. And it’s like, the camera pans out, and you see hordes of knights rushing towards me. And I can feel the ground shaking, feel the blood pumping in my chest. There’s a great battle, and then it all goes black. I have these other dreams, too. A woman in a tower, a knight in a garden. And it took me a while, months even, to see how it all pieced together.”

     

    He took a moment to take a swig from his Mountain Dew, and asked, “Are you sure that you promise not to laugh?”

     

    “I told you. I won’t laugh,” I said, growing more concerned by the minute. 

     

    His face went perfectly still. In complete and utter sincerity, he looked deep into my eyes and said, “I think these dreams are trying to tell me that I’m the reincarnation of King Arthur. I think that I’ve been brought here, to these modern times, to bring back honor and chivalry to our way of life.”

     

    What do you say to that? What do you do, when it’s revealed that your new friend is a bit crazy? He was completely serious, and I was completely flabbergasted. 

     

    For my part, I took my mom’s advice: if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all. So I smiled encouragingly, and he continued.

     

    “And in the dreams, I’ve been recognizing the auras of other people I know. I’m not the only one who’s been reincarnated. My roommate Mike is my best friend, and I think he’s also Lancelot. My other friend Jeremy, he’s our Merlin. And you. I think…I think you’re my Guinevere.” 

     

    My eyes flicked up to the clock on the break room wall. Time to go, for so many reasons. Just smile, and make for the exit.

     

    “Oh, uh. Wow, Pete. That’s pretty…incredible. I have to get back down to the floor, though.”

     

    “Oh, I’ll walk with you! You haven’t even heard the best part! In 2008, I’m going to take us all on a quest. There’s this lake in Scotland, and at the appointed time on the vernal equinox, we’ll go out to the center of the lake on a boat. And that’s when I’ll open the portal to Avalon.”

     

    “How do you know where it is?” I asked, foolishly engaging him. 

     

    “I saw it, in a dream.”

     

    “Oh. Of course.”

     

    As we neared the sales floor, I punched back in. Turning back to him, he looked me in the eyes again. 

     

    “Promise me you’ll keep this between us? You know how jealous the ol’ ball and chain gets.”

     

    “Um, yeah. Yeah, obviously.”

     

    Needless to say, I tried to avoid hanging out with him alone after that. I wasn’t remotely attracted to him, and I was even less attracted to the idea of having someone so delusional in my circle of friends. I started hanging out with classmates, people my own age. I focused on getting ready for college. I hardly ever saw my old friend, or King Arthur, unless we were at work. 

     

    Years later, I heard a story about him. He made a move on another girl of 16, and he used that same “You’re my Guinevere” line on her. She bought it: hook, line, and sinker. Peter divorced my former best friend to be with his new “Queen.” 

     

    To my knowledge, he’s never moved away from his hometown, and he’s never opened a portal to Avalon. 

     

    At least, not yet.

     

  8. Paul and I have spent the afternoon in the cinema, seeing Independence Day. We are now walking home, discussing the film, and have agreed that it is silly, undemanding but very good fun. It is Sunday, sunny, intensely hot, and the streets are empty. At the junction, we part temporarily, Paul to go to the off licence, me to continue the walk home, to get dinner started.

    On my own, I start to notice just how quiet the street really is. No voices, no car engines, no people. I can hear my own footsteps. A faint momentary breeze sets up swirls of dry leaves and scraps of paper before subsiding again. I’m on my own block now and usually, on a Sunday afternoon at this time, there are a few people around, but there’s nothing, no one. It feels a little eerie.

    I let myself into the house and the cats do not come to greet me as usual. I reason that, being cats on a hot summer’s day, they have vanished deep into the coolest recesses of the house, like any sensible feline would, but their absence is discomfiting.

    I turn the oven on to heat up before I put the joint in, and while I’m waiting for it reach the right temperature, I wander into the sitting room, and turn on the tv to watch the news.

    What’s going on? There’s a flying saucer, on the lawn of the White House. What? Is this really the news? Now they’re showing an old clip from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Now they’re showing more flying saucers. There’s a calm voice in the background talking about alien landings. No matter how hard I try I cannot make this make sense.

    The rational part of me remains certain that aliens exist only in fiction and not in this world, while the sf fan in me is thinking, ‘my god, they’re real and they’re finally here’.

    And of course, that explains why the streets are empty. Everyone is glued to their tvs, watching, wondering, scared, excited.

    Where’s Paul? Why is he taking so long to get home? Has something happened? Will I ever see him again? Should I go and look for him?

    There’s a commercial break. I could just go out and look …

    What? A commercial break? When aliens have just landed? Wait a minute. Where’s the tv listing?

    Oh, I see. Tension snaps. It’s not time for the news just yet. I’ve blundered into nothing more disturbing than a programme about the making of Independence Day.

    Then there’s the sound of a key in the lock, Paul appears with a bottle of wine, a cat appears at the foot of the stairs, outside a car pulls up, doors slam, people call to one another, the street is alive again.

    But for a few moments, I really wasn’t sure …

  9. The Rat

     

     “Don’t you see them?” my mom demands. She has hold of my arm with one hand while the other points to the carpet in front of the couch. “They’re jumping all over. Here. Here. There, and there!” Her hand darts to each place.

    I don’t see anything but couch and tan carpet. I’m frightened. I remember playing with my Lego blocks here. I want to play with them now.

    I shake my head, manage a soft, “No.”

    “Well, I can see them.” Her grip on my arm tightens, then relaxes. “They’re very small. Maybe they’re too small for you to see.”

    I nod. My mom lets go and leaves the room.

    #

    I remember I was in fourth grade when a rat chewed a hole in the ceiling. The hole was right above my mother’s bed, in the one bedroom we shared. She told me several times how she had woken up in the night and seen the rat staring at her, its eyes glinting.

    That was before the flea infestation began.  Mom guessed that they had been on the rat, it had died, and so the fleas came after us, since we had no pets. 

    I don’t remember how long the infestation lasted, but I do remember us taking a week’s vacation and leaving a flea bomb fogger behind. Mom hoped we’d be able to get rid of the fleas that way: go on vacation, wash all our clothes, wash ourselves, stay in hotels while the insecticide did its work.

    The vacation was wonderful. We went to the mountains, visited Tweetsie Railroad and the Linville Caverns, climbed to the top of Blowing Rock and drove along the Blue Ridge Parkway. I remember it as the first time I saw mountains. I kept imagining what it would be like to live there, in little houses clinging to the slopes, lost amongst the trees. It was spring, and the weather was perfect. 

    I didn’t itch the whole time we were away.

    #

    I step up onto the quartz and walk along the garden border, arms out, balancing. I reach the end of the long, shaped block of stone, turn around, and do it again. And again. Checking my watch, I know mom’s been inside for at least two hours, way longer than she’s ever been at our landlord’s. 

    “I need to tell them about the rat and the flea problem.  They have to do something,” she had said on the drive over. Then: “I hope they’ll understand about the rent.”

    I’m bored to death and worrying. Mom’s afraid we’ll be evicted if she can’t pay the rent, and she doesn’t want to rely on her parents for help.

    She comes out later. Her face is closed, her jaw set. She moves like a lumbering freight train. I follow her to our orange VW station wagon.

    “They won’t give me an extension on the rent,” she says. “Maybe Ellen or Anthony will loan me the money. Just until the end of the month.”

    I’m not sure if she’s talking to me or not.

    #

    I come in from playing outside. Mom is busy cleaning. There are white garbage bags here and there, full of things. She’s stooped over, head pointing into my closet, grabbing things and shoving them in a bag. My monkey stuffy, which had been my uncle Albert’s, is in the bag already. I can see its plastic face pressed up against the white of the bag. 

    Mom picks up my favorite stuffed animal, a basset hound with big droopy eyes. I had bawled my eyes out one December when I saw the larger version of the stuffy at Roses. Mom had said then that we didn’t have the money to buy it, no matter how much I wanted it. At Christmas that year, I had unwrapped a smaller version of the hound, which mom had gone back and gotten for me.

    I ask her what she’s doing. She tells me that she’s decided to throw out all of our linens and soft things to get rid of the fleas. I start to cry. She says its the only way to be sure there are no eggs in the house. 

    #

    Within a few days or weeks–I no longer remember–mom had moved us out of the duplex. I don’t know if she got a loan from her siblings or if she paid the rent.  All I remember is that we took a few belongings and moved into a hotel in Salisbury for a week or so. 

    Mom made me wash with an anti-lice soap each day. I was terrified of the little things. The thought of them crawling on me while I couldn’t see them… 

    Eating at Waffle House the whole week was nice, though.

    Mom would leave me at the hotel sometimes while she went back to the duplex to pack up the stuff that was safe to move.  She was afraid most of the time, worrying about what she would do, where would we live, how would we get by?

    She found an apartment in a converted house in Salisbury, where the rent was lower. The neighborhood was poor, but okay, and right by the high school. We lived there for eight years, until I went to college.

    The apartment echoed during the first few months after we moved in.  It was an old house, with wood floors and windows that start just a few inches off the floor. We had no drapes. For beds, mom bought us lawn chairs and foam cushions. It wasn’t comfortable, but I got used to it.

    The fleas didn’t come back. 

    #

    When my oldest daughter was in kindergarten, she came home with lice once, caught from one of the other kids. My wife and I followed the usual regimen: wash anything that’s fabric, bag up what can’t be washed, steam clean the carpet, etc. We used the lice combs and the anti-lice shampoos for a week, per the instructions on the box. A few months later, we had to do it all over again. The same kid at school that had started the first infestation had brought the lice back.

    It wasn’t until then, when my wife and I were combing each other’s hair, picking out the nits, that I realized what had really happened when I was in fourth grade. 

    I remembered when my mom and I were still living in the duplex, how she had told me one time of finding fleas encysted in the acne bumps on her back. I remembered that she had gone to the doctor about them, but there weren’t any fleas there when the doctor examined her.

     

  10. I don’t believe in ghosts, but I have met a few—most of them in Scotland. The most unquiet bunch waited on a hilltop in the middle of the Midlands. 

     

    “Hilltop” sounds impressive, like Weathertop, like some majestic lookout crowned by ruins dignified in their decay, but this place was just a little hill surrounded by trees and sheep, barely visible unless you stood on it already. A ruined castle did crumble on that hilltop, but it was not crumbling in a graceful or tragic manner. There’s a difference between swooning dramatically and simply smacking your face on the floor after you pass out. 

     

    Even if the set designer of my little ghost story chose to scorn the classics of gothic literature, somebody backstage knew the proper cues: a fog rose up among the tree, and surrounded the hill. Hardly remarkable, for Scotland—but, then again, most of the hauntings I encountered were hardly remarked on by the locals. “Oh, right, sorry. The ghost in that room hates men with beards. No wonder you didn’t get any sleep. Here, switch rooms. No bother, no bother, try the one across the hall tonight.”

     

    I digress. Back to the hilltop. 

     

    While walking across those unimpressive castle grounds, I noticed that I was angry. I had no reason to be, but that didn’t seem to matter. Old grudges and petty bits of unfinished business came bubbling up into memory, as though my brain were searching for reasons why I felt the way I already did.

     

    This isn’t right, I thought (angrily). I don’t think this anger is actually mine.

     

    In that instant a whirlwind took shape and surrounded the spot where I stood. Dried leaves spun in a perfect circle, twelve feet or so in diameter, and that circle began to contract. So I picked up a stick and drew a smaller circle in the dirt, around myself. It seemed like the obvious thing to do.

     

    The whirlwind contracted only as far as that line. Outside my little barrier it continued to howl. Inside I continued to stand. The wind did not abate, and I had nowhere else to go. 

     

    These circumstances went on for a bit. It’s strange to feel simultaneously terrified and bored. (The anger was gone. No, that isn’t true, but I no longer felt it. I watched it surround me instead.)

     

    “I’ll leave,” I said aloud, “but you’re going to have to let me go.”

     

    The whirlwind vanished. Leaves fell, hit the ground, and stayed there.

     

    I stepped slowly outside my circle. Then I left, and got lost. Sheep can be surprisingly sinister looking when you run into them in dense fog. Eventually I found the town, and my room, and my bed. 

     

    Now for the punchline. 

     

    The next morning I glanced at an old map in the hostel lobby. The precise spot where I had been standing the day before, the place that expressed rage with wind and leaves, belonged to the executioner. His ax severed hundreds of heads on that spot. It’s possible that the heads are still unhappy about this. Frustrated by a lack of lungs, they all make do with the world’s wind.

     

    I wonder if the local executioner had worn a beard like mine. Might shave before traveling next time.

     

    It’s tempting to make this anecdote a bit more odd. I’d like to add busking penguins, or set the whole thing in a less obviously haunted environment. But I can’t. This is simply what happened, and honesty compels me to omit the penguins. 

  11. After our apartment burned, we moved to a 1920s style stucko house at the corner of 6th and I Streets. It was a strange little house, painted an obnoxious poppy gold. Since one such house wasn’t enough, there were three identical houses planted next to it on a modest plot of land, marking us clearly as “renters.” Although I didn’t recognize the area, it was strange coming back to this corner of town since I was born ten years earlier in the hospital that once stood across the street.

    Several times my mom found me sitting at the end of our hallway talking into the upright wall heater. I was an odd kid to begin with, growing up across the street from a cemetery will do that to you, but this was too much for my mom. Finally, she asked me why I was sitting there talking to the heater.

    I told her that I wasn’t talking to the heater. I was talking to Charlie who lived inside of the heater, and that this was the only place where I could hear him. My mom smiled. Amused. Her odd little girl was just being normal and talking to imaginary friends. Thankfully she didn’t suggest, yet again, that I go outside to make some real friends in our new neighborhood.

    Sometime later, our landlord came to collect the rent, and he and my mom got onto the subject of “me.” My mother told him the story of how I would sit by the heater and talk to my imaginary friend, Charlie. Our landlord looked confused and asked me why I picked that name. I shrugged and told him that I didn’t pick it. That was Charlie’s name.

    Our landlord then told the story of how a family once lived in a big house right where our quartet of golden houses now stood. The family had a son named Charles who died in a fire. Rather than rebuilding, they sold the property and the four cookie-cutter rental houses were built in its place, including the house that we had just moved into, which was across the street from the hospital where I was born.

    Strange, but true…

  12. This the story how I have not seen UFO: Waking up in the middle of the night, because there’s a sound like something metallic falls down all the stairs of our building (which *could* be my 80 years old neighbour’s walking stick. :-(). Opening the door –  the stair-room is perfectly lit by a green light, but there’s nobody outside. Returning back to sleep. Next day my eyes hurt – like that time when I forgot my sunglasses at home in mid July. (But it’s already October and I didn’t forget my sunglasses yesterday). Actually sunglasses help, also my eyes is OK in the offices with regular bulbs – it’s only florescent ones make my eyes hurt. So sunglasses on all the day in the office and the day is long. Coming home in the dark (which is easier on my eyes) and grouping in the dark stair-room for the key hole in my door, cursing hose committee that still didn’t repair the light feature that one of the neighbours had accidentally torn out while caring a new sofa upstairs (and thus shorting all the lights in the stair-room. Windowless stair room. Only after somehow managing to unlock the door and turning on light in my apartment (thank god not a fluorescent one among them) remembering the night and the brightly lit empty stair-room.

     

  13. It was my first year living independently. I finished university, got my degree, moved halfway across the country to start a new career path. Life was just beginning yet it was really yet to begin. I found the cheapest place I could for $90 a week and moved straight in. The 8 unit block hinted at a mystique for my new life. I thought it was going to be a bit like Melrose place but instead it was more like the Crystal Palace in Breaking Bad. The denizens of this abode were strange and awkward creatures, each of them different in their sadness to the others.

    The couple next door were abusive and quite frustrating at times. He was a small little weedhead, she was very young and very pregnant. They would either disappear for days trapped within the confines of that small shoebox of an apartment or when they would surface it was to stand outside my door screaming at each other while he would punch brick walls to prove his passion for her. I doubt they lasted to today to be honest. Next to them was an old retiree, the sort of sad lone ranger who lost at life and still continued on a shell of what he was. You wouldn’t wish his existence on anybody, really, it seemed to be pure sorrow. At the end of the road were the young blue collar couple. They seemed nice enough, if you could consider bourbons for breakfast nice.

    Upstairs, we had a reclusive father shirking his duties to the world, there was a young couple that always seemed to have more young couples staying on their floor. They also had a restraining order out against the weedhead below them. There was a strange old man who never really surfaced or said anything and the final allotment was empty. Probably always had been, hopefully always would be.

    I kept to myself most of the time but attracted all their attention the night I came home to find a snake cuddling up with my shoes near the door. The slither sent me straight back out the door. I called the proper authorities, I wasn’t going down like some fool hero. While I waited outside my door, Mr Blue Collar shuffled down with a beer and a smile. He wanted to know what was keeping me outside. When I elucidated him on the situation of my scaly friend his eyes lit up. He asked if I minded him having a go at catching the thing. I was tired, had been driving all day, and all I wanted was to get out of my clothes and lay down in bed. I told him if he could manage the feat he was more than welcome to try. I was stupid enough to believe he could actually do it.

    Mr Blue Collar returned with a homemade trident spear. He was an Aboriginal bloke – I assumed he had the credentials to wield such a weapon. He certainly swaggered into my room like Alby Mangels didn’t have nothing on him. The bravado lasted about ten seconds before he jumped up on my couch and started stabbing haphazardly at my floor like he was trying to smother a grease fire with a needle. The last thing you want to see the fearless hunter do is look behind himself, then frantically back in front, then behind again, and then leap back out of your apartment. He had lost the snake.

    The authorities turned up and confirmed the fact – my new pet had been scared into some shadowy crack of my abode. Mr Blue Collar mumbled an apology and scurried off to his snake-free sleep nest. I tucked my jeans into my socks and went to bed. I was just too tired.

    The snake didn’t rear its head inside my apartment again. The next I heard of it was the following weekend when a squeal in the communal carpark stirred me out of bed. This complex frequently had cars outside pulling bagels on the bitumen, drunken fights on the stairs, music too crappy to ever be proudly played loudly. I slept through everything this nightmare through at me – even the weedhead’s cousin who was thrown through a section of the fence by a few cops about a month prior. I knew how to block out the superfluous but my subconscious obviously knew I’d want to be present for what would follow on this glary Saturday morning.
    The snake had slithered up the driveway, scaring Mrs Blue Collar enough to

     make her spill her entire 8am bourbon and cola on her return trip from the mailbox. By the time I got outside, I was just in time to see her reemerge from her apartment (with a fresh top up in hand) while her diligent husband took round two to the snake. It was seen exiting the complex through the three inch gap under the fence but he wasn’t going to let this cowardly snake run away from the fight. Mr Blue Collar held the spear over the fence and stabbed blindly into the wild brush. He didn’t seem to understand the concept that a spooked snake and three inches of exposed ankle might not be a good combination.

    The snake, ever the self-preservationist, slipped past him and made a bolt back down the driveway. Mrs Blue Collar lost yet another quality half litre of bourbon and the rest of the Mighty Snake Killing Gang (of which we were joined by the weedhead and his lady) stupidly chased after the venomous creature that only wanted to get far away from us.
    Mr Blue Collar somehow managed to slip in front of the pack and finally scored the victory he was so eager to secure. The trident spear pinned the neck of this writhing creature to the base of the tree that provided the solitary blip of environment out all our front windows. The tail of the snake slapped about like a blind kid playing tag and its captor started to giggle with glee. It wasn’t the most warrior-like response but I guess adrenaline does weird things to all people. It certainly affected Weedhead as he screamed:

    “KILL IT!”

    Everyone paused. The snake was stuck, sure, angry, definitely, but it was not dead and didn’t look like it was dying. I didn’t particularly want Mr Blue Collar to lift the spear to go for the decidedly unlikely kill shot to the head and it was instantly apparent that while Weedhead might be calling the shots he certainly wasn’t executing the plays. The snake pushed the dirt around uselessly and we all wondered what would come next.

    I picked up a large rock – I’ll admit it. We’d angered the beast and surely revenge was its only thought. No one was going to call the authorities while we had a dangerous and yet native animal speared to a tree. Something had to come next in this strange détente As I walked up to the snake a voice above me boomed.

    “I’ll handle it from here, lads.”

    It was the lonesome stranger from upstairs who we rarely saw. He stood on his balcony majestically like a gunslinger kicking open the doors of a saloon. His shorts were so short I could see the parts of his thighs that surely only his monthly paid visitors had the pleasure of sampling. His blue singlet was so faded it bordered on grey. His dusty hat was dimmed just enough that we couldn’t see the fire in his eyes. He slowly ambled back through his apartment, down the stairs, and onto the front lawn to join us.

    The whip coiled around his shoulder wasn’t for show.

    Each blow he delivered to the snake’s buckling and breaking body felt like this old digger was finally getting one back at the world. Decades of pent up frustration and desperation were vented on this poor creature and it would never know why.

    Before the sad and furious spectacle was over, I was already back in my apartment. It was this day I finally realised where I was living and with whom I shared my living oxygen. I moved into a share house with some mates just over a month later. I didn’t want to spend my weekend mornings like that ever again.

  14. Back in the sixties, I moved into a tiny one-bedroom house in my very small home town. One day I came home from work and decided to lie down and rest for a little while before getting ready for a date that night. I had just settled onto the bed when a teenaged girl walked into the room. She was wearing cutoff jeans, a blouse tied just under her brests, white sneakers with no socks, and her brownish blond hair was in two ponytails just behind and above her ears. I should have been frightened, but she was smiling, and it was a warm and friendly smile.

    She walked across the floor and laid her cool hand on my forehead, then she turned around and walked out the door. Totally spooked, I jumped up and searched the house. All the windows were locked, as were both doors. There was simply no way she could have gotten either in or out of the house. I hunted high and low, even going so far as to look in the oven and under the sink, not to mention the kitchen cabinets. There was no one in the house but me.

    I told my mother about it the next day, and she said I was dreaming. When I insisted that I hadn’t been asleep, she told my sisters and they all made fun of me for seeing a “ghost”. I was very hurt that they’d make fun of me for telling the truth.

    A few days after that, my landlady came by to collect the rent. She lived next door, and was a kindly sweet woman. I told her about the girl, and she caught her breath hard as her eyes filled with tears. She said the girl I’d seen was her daughter. I asked how the girl had gotten into my house, and out of it.

    She wiped her eyes and said, “She was killed in this house. She’d just got married, and they were such a happy couple. Then he was cleaning his shotgun one day without making sure it was empty. It went off and killed her. I saw her once in this house, just like you described her. But I never saw her again.”

    I asked why she’d come to me then. I hadn’t known her. She shrugged and said, “I guess she just wanted you to know that it was okay for you to live in her house, that she wanted you to be as happy as she was here.”

    I never saw the girl again. But interestingly enough, I moved away a couple of years later, and one of my sisters moved into the house with her new husband. She saw the girl a week after she moved into the house. I don’t think she would ever have told me about it, but she told another of our sisters, who did tell me.

    A few years later, I was living in a state quite a distance from home, and only got home a couple of times a year. I had gone home a week before for a short vacation, and had been appalled at how ravaged my grandmother had become. She had cancer and they said she often didn’t know her own grandchildren. I went in to see her and she not only knew me, she whispered to me that I was her favorite of all her grandchildren. (It was true, she had always favored me, and everyone in the family knew it.)

    I was standing in the kitchen peeling potatoes when I saw my grandmother in the room with me. She was her usual plump self, not the skin-and-bones person I’d recently visited. She smiled at me with so very much love, and then just disappeared. I put down the knife and potato, because my eyes were too blurred with tears to see them

    At that moment, the phone rang and my husband picked it up and said hello in a cheerful voice. A few moments later his voice deepened and turned very sympathetic. He said, “I’m so sorry. Yes, I’ll tell her.” He hung up and told me that my grandmother was dead, but of course, I’d already known that, since she had come to tell me goodbye.

  15. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, my father was stationed at SHAPE, Belgium. Because the franc was so good, we had the monetary ability to live off base in Mons in a 300 year old mansion that the owner called “The Chateau de Mons.” This was an amazing house with an amazing backyard with an eight foot stone wall for a fence. All of my father’s friends started calling us the “Von Brozeks” because of this amazing home.

    Now, 300 year old buildings come with their own quirks like strange heating, funny noises, a long history and ghosts. Really. Even my skeptical father had an experience one winter morning when he came downstairs to turn on the heat. Someone walked up behind him. He thought it was one of the kids but when he turned around, no one was there. He swears he heard and felt six or seven footfalls behind him. This is just one example.

    On the day a ghost saved my life, it was a normal fall day like any other. Me and my siblings were home alone after school and, being 9, 9 and 11, we were being children. Children do a lot of dumb things. This particular day, we were daring each other to walk out of the second story window of my brother’s room and to see how far we could get across the patio top without losing our nerve.

    I cannot remember if I was the first kid out on the patio top but I was certainly the last. As I walked along, I slipped and fell. What I did next was do what anything on an incline plane does: I slid down the patio top. I remember hearing my sister scream my name. Then, I remember my sister waking me up as I lay on the ground. I remember nothing in between.

    My mom was called. I was rushed to the hospital having just fallen 20 feet to land on my head and right shoulder. The doctors were all mystified as to why I was not paralyzed or dead. Those who fall from that height and land the way I did almost never walk away unscathed. “Your daughter must have been limp when she hit the ground to only sustain a bruise. This is very unusual. Most people tense up when they fall. It’s a very good thing she didn’t.”

    When we got home, my father sat us all down to find out what happened. We quickly agreed that my sister and I were in the window, playing and my brother had come in and scared us. I toppled over out of the window and slid down the patio top. (Yes, they know the truth now.) When I was questioned why I didn’t tense up all I could say was that I couldn’t remember what had happened.

    Finally, my sister spoke up. “I think I know what happened.” We all turned to her. “I saw her fall and start sliding down the patio. I ran to the stairs and looked out that window. While she was sliding she was trying to grab anything. But there was nothing to grab. Then she looked up, her face shown white and she smiled at me. She went limp and just let herself fall over the edge of the patio.”

    Everyone was quiet for a time. Then my father asked, “Her face shown white?”

    My sister nodded. “It glowed.” She paused. “White.”

    We all looked at each other and then understood that the reason I couldn’t remember the sliding, the fall or the landing was because I wasn’t really there. Someone or something else had taken control of me at just the right moment to make me go limp and saved my life.

  16. This happened a few years ago. I had received from my Dad a book that I already owned, and in order to make up for it he replaced it with a series of three detective novels. The books were quite big so I decided to save them for the holidays. I think they stayed in a pile on my desk for a couple of weeks, without me touching them. Then Christmas came, and Dad got to them first. He read the first book, and after he moved to the second, I also started reading the series.

    Later that week, I remember having a nightmare. I usually have vivid, active dreams, but rarely nightmares and this one left me quite shaken up especially since it involved my family. In the dream, we had just brought back the VCR from the repairing shop (it had been broken for years), and we discovered that someone had left a video tape inside. We played it, mostly to check if the VCR was working, and we were shocked to realize that a murder had been recorded on it. We all panicked, convinced that the owner of the tape was going to come after us to retrieve the tape, and, since we had watched it, we were all doomed.

    Anyway, the nightmare ended and I tried to forget about it. It was just a nightmare and, like it or not, such things happened. The next morning, I asked Dad if he was done reading the book. I was close to finishing mine and I wasn’t keen on waiting. It turned out that he’d stayed up late reading, and he only had a few pages left, which was good.

    Imagine my surprise, when I started reading the second book. The key element was a CD instead of a video tape, but other than that the plot was basically the same. What shocked me was the fact that I couldn’t have known in advance what the book was about. I hadn’t discussed it with Dad, I hadn’t even bothered to read the synopsis from the back cover. So while Dad was reading in the other room, I had been dreaming about it. Spooky.

  17. chrisopher nadeau // October 20, 2011 at 11:33 am //

    I’m six years old when I see my first and only ghost. I still live in Detroit. It’s the late Seventies and the City is quickly transforming into the infamous place it will become from the 1980s on.

    I’m sitting at the edge of the walkway that once led into old Mr. Kendrick’s house. “Was” because he passed away recently. Apparently, one can only strip nude and stand in one’s window for the benefit of the teenage girls walking home from school so many times before the reaper comes a’callin’.

    Some have claimed they saw him lurking in the window well after his body was placed in the ground, but nobody ever mentioned if he had clothes on.

    I don’t know any of this. I’m only six and nobody has seen fit to open my eyes to the baser aspects of reality.

    For me, this is Mr. Kendricks’ house whether he is alive or not. And since this is the City, sitting on the stoop of the walkway in front of a dead man’s house is no big deal. Besides, I’m just resting.

    I only live four or five houses down the street, but I’ve been playing hard all day and now I just want to be alone. My friends all live at the other end of Mansfield and I’ll probably go see them later, but this moment is for sitting and playing with dirt and grass and watching older kids ride by on bikes, swearing like adults with shifty eyes.

    It’s bright and sunny out, a perfectly clear summer day. Very few clouds in the sky and all of them high up and billowy.

    Yet somehow there’s a flash of lightning.

    Even at the age of six, I know this is a rarity. Even stranger, the sky maintains its brightness for a while longer.

    Lightning strikes again, this time close by as the power lines above my head hum from the sudden intrusion of extra juice. I stand up, dropping whatever piece of earth I have in my hand, and start walking. For some reason, I head in the opposite direction of my house.

    Overhead, the clouds grow darker, closer. The not-do-distant rumble of thunder fills the air and my ears. Lightning strikes again, this time right in front of me, touching the ground with a noise so loud and unique I freeze in my tracks.

    That’s when I see the old man.

    He walks toward me, his gaze far away, movements smooth and fluid. Something’s wrong. He isn’t…solid. I can’t see through him but he looks muted, like the image on an old television set that is slowly losing its ability to present vibrant colors. And then there are his clothes.

    Even at my age, I know they’re not what people nowadays wear.

    His suit is the kind I will someday recognize from photographs of the turn of the Twentieth Century. He’s carrying a walking stick, but he doesn’t seem to need it to help him walk. He’s also pale, sickly, but that doesn’t seem to have any effect on his gait.

    I wish I could figure out why he doesn’t seem to notice me.

    I can’t move, can’t even turn my head or avert my eyes. The old man arrived in the lightning and he’s headed right for me.

    I try to call out for my parents but my mouth won’t move either.

    He’s still coming. He’s going to get me. He’s going to…

    The lighting flashes again and he’s gone.

    I can move.

    But I don’t, not at first. I remain in place, staring at the spot, waiting for the old man to return. It’s only when I’m convinced he won’t that I turn around and walk home.

    I don’t tell anyone about what I saw as if I’m not supposed to. For years after that, I watch the lighting, expecting to see the old man again. Eventually, I stop. Then I forget.

    Twenty years later I see him again.

    I’m standing under an awning in front of a grocery store during a tropical-style rainstorm. I don’t know why I decided to stop anywhere with such thick, black clouds hanging ominously overhead, but I guess I thought I could beat the storm and make it home before the inevitable downpour. No such luck. Now I’m stuck here until the rainfall becomes bearable enough for me to make it to my car.

    Lighting flashes nearby, power lines overhead buzzing from the overload. Something about this moment feel familiar, but I don’t care. I just want to go home.

    The woman standing next to me, huddled under her hooded jacket, shrieks each time thunder claps, so when the second flash of lightning flashes, I’m watching her and chuckling. The third flash catches my attention because there seems to be extra movement.

    That’s when I see the old man and remember. Oh, God do I remember.

    He hasn’t changed. Why would he? He isn’t alive. Or is he? I’m older now, so other ideas occur to me. Maybe he’s from another time and the lightning is opening a rift.

    I realize his origins don’t really matter because lightning is flashing again and he’s not going anywhere this time.

    And that’s when I notice him noticing me.

  18. Stan Carp // October 21, 2011 at 7:21 am //

     

    I’ve always thought at my life as one of the most normal possible, boring, mundane and without any slightest touch of magic. Except maybe with the fact that my mother calls me her “stars child” but most of the time I thought it is an abbreviation from my initials – Stan Carp, combined with the fact that I am an illegitimate offspring.

    Well, everything changed on 19th august 2006, at about 11 pm o’clock.

    I remember the date precisely because that was the night when I believe I might have saved my mum’s life, as well as I am certain I’ve rescued a very good friend of mine, named Chris, from drowning.

    Yes, Chris is very much alive today because of me, although, as a married man, with one little children and another on the way, working 24/7, two jobs at a time, I don’t know if he’s very grateful for this.

    Just joking, of course!

    But, Iet  me tell you my odd story.

    It was a hot, starry, quiet night and I, Chris and our other best friend, Andrew, loved everything about it. Who wouldn’t? Three high school mates, on their last vacation, fishing for catfish, in a rented boat, on one of the greatest rivers in Europe – the majestic Danube. With a fishing line in one hand and a beer (I admit) in the other, we were happily whispering (yes, we never forgot the purpose of our one-night expedition) on different topics of interest for boys at that age.

    We were talking about girls, of course.

    Chris was in love with one of our classmates, a blond girl with huge beautiful blue eyes, and he just didn’t know what to do more to make her notice his many qualities that made him a-must-have-boyfriend.

    ‘’Maybe you should just go and ask her out!  I said just to tease him. I knew he’d been asking her out, unsuccessfully, since the 5th grade.

    Christ was about to throw me out of the boat or, at least, hit me with one of the paddles, when Andrew said he knew a case just as hopeless as our friend’s which, eventually, ended up well, but that he wouldn’t go into details for fear we might not believe him.

    Chris and I both thought he was a little bit intoxicated but, again, we had the whole night in front of us, a time and a place just perfect for laughing and amusing among friends, so we urged him to tell us everything, no matter how incredible it may be.

    ‘’First of all, this is a true story and you must take it as such because, as incredible it may sound, it happened in reality, to my father”.

    Both Chris and I knew that Andrew’s father, our school master, was a man to be feared of, not somebody to laugh at, and so did everybody in our school.

    “He was about our age when it happened to him and he said that it will happen to all men in our family at one point or another. It’s like a family curse, you know, but a curse which is not necessarily something wrong”.

    “Go on” whispered Chris and I nodded, unable to speak for fear they might hear the tremble in my voice. I felt as if I was about to hear one of those secrets that haunts somebody  all their lives and I even thought to ask Andrew to stop, but my curiosity just wouldn’t let me.

    “Well, Andrew said, he and his schoolmates had their prom party on the pontoon just a few miles from here.”

    “At the old harbor, you mean?” Chris interrupted him. “There is no pontoon over there”.

     “There was! My father showed me pictures with it, right before the fire burnt it to the ground.’’

    “Chris, let the man tell his story!” I said.

    “So, it was their prom night and my father was devastated because the girl he was in love with refused to be his date. He was truly miserable that night, among others because his dream girl Had-a-Date, and he spent most of the time leaning by the fence that surrounded the pontoon, watching the waves splashing on the pillars beneath him and thinking all sorts of morbid thoughts.

    His mood lightened only when the fireworks, the most anticipated moment of the evening, filled the sky and the water below them with a myriad of colors and shapes.

    My father raised his head up and watched the sky opening in front of his eyes like the curtain on a stage, revealing a canvas painted with the most beautiful shades imaginable. The play was about young people, living a serene life, surrounded by riches beyond imagination and …

    “Can’t you be more specific?” Chris interrupted him.

    I too, was curious about the stuff Andrew’s father has seen in the sky and I remember thinking that maybe Mr. Stan was maybe drunk or high at that moment.

    “I can’t! My father said that I must see the sky opening before my very eyes to understand the beauty and complexity of what he saw. Especially as the scene he saw was not motionless. The people were moving, the wind was blowing and he could even hear a most sweet music coming down on him.

    “He was definitely high” I concluded to myself, but didn’t say anything to upset my friend. He didn’t seem to suspect my thoughts, for he continued.

    “Yes, in face of such beauty my father felt all his sorrows dissolve and he understood he had a glimpse at the Other World and that it was the time to make a wish.

    “No kidding? What he wished for?” inquired Chris.

    “Well, he knew it should have been a good wish, something important and meaningful, but at the very moment he was about to wish for world peace or anything of that magnitude, he heard Her laughter. The girl he was madly in love, rested in the arms of another boy, laughing and making out with him. So, he forgot everything about being noble and such and wished he had a baby with that girl.”

    “Really? That’s all he could think of?”

    I poked Chris in the ribs to make him stop mocking Andrew.

    “Well, he didn’t have time to think of anything else, as the curtain in the skies fell down, leaving behind only black clouds tainted with burning gunpowder.”

    “What happened next”? I hurried, before Chris could make any nasty comments.

     “Soon, the dry woof of the pontoon caught fire and by dawn the place was turned to ashes.”

    “Has anybody died then? Asked Chris, but Andrew didn’t respond since the water near our boat begat to burn in the most vivid red I’ve ever seen and an influx of light surrounded us. Andrew was the first to look up and soon everybody was staring at the opened sky.

    It was then when I understood why Andrew’s father couldn’t be more specific when he described the world above our heads. Nobody could find enough words to depict something as beautiful as that, so serene and peaceful, so … transient.

    I barely had time to make my wish when the sky filled with angry clouds and the storm broke. The wind howled at us as if we were some dreadful sinners, the waves raised around like a horde of mad horses and made our paddles rise from their brackets and move frantically in the air. I saw Chris hit right in the face by the one just before the boat turned over and spilt us in the cold waters.

    I don’t remember how we got ashore, and even now I can’t imagine how I even managed to rescue Chris, who fainted when the paddle hit him, but I did it, without any help from Andrew (he assured me of it) or from any other superior power from the sky.

    No, because when the skies opened I said nothing about Chris. I wished only me and my mum to be happy and healthy.

    And we were, right after she got her brain tumor removed.

    Still, to be honest, as the doctors said, it was a miracle that they discovered it, just two days after my boat incident, and that it was operable!

    Furthermore, I am sure I had saved Chris on my own, because he never wished that I prevented him from drowning when the skies opened. Actually, his wish (to be with the girl with big blue eyes) never completed and I truly wish it never will, for I like Andrea and her green eyes.

    As for Andrew’s wish, I am not so sure how to account it.

    He wished for a brother, as his mum was two months pregnant at the time of our boat incident but, when due time came, she gave birth to a baby-girl.

    On the other hand, my mother always called me her “stars child”, and I might have helped save her life.

     

     

     

     

     

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