Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Reading List Grand Finale

Books completed in December 2011:

"The Recognitions" (William Gaddis) 12/1/11
"The Agonizing Resurrection of Victor Frankenstein" (Thomas Ligotti) 12/2/11
"The Turn of the Screw" (Henry James) 12/7/11
"Backwoods" (Natty Soltesz) 12/11/11
"Ghost Story" (Peter Straub) 12/11/11
"Supernatural Horror in Literature" (H.P. Lovecraft) 12/14/11
"ACT" (NJ Rhoades) 12/14/11 *
"The Face That Must Die" (Ramsey Campbell) 12/15/11
"Powers of Darkness" (Robert Aickman) 12/21/11
"Lady Gaga/Terry Richardson" (Lady Gaga/Terry Richardson) 12/30/11
"The Hill of Dreams" (Arthur Machen) 12/30/11

2011 Reading List total:

1. "Welcome to my World" (Johnny Weir) 1/12/11
2. "Cold Hand in Mine" (Robert Aickman) 1/14/11
3. "The Mechanics of Homosexual Intercourse" (Lonely Christopher) 1/20/11
4. "Illuminated Shadows" (James Champagne) 1/20/11 *
5. "Eat When You Feel Sad" (Zachary German) 1/23/11
6. "The Marble Index" (James Champagne) 1/25/11
7. "Brigit" (Andrew Champagne) 2/15/11
8. "Gravity's Rainbow" (Thomas Pynchon) 2/25/11
9. "Demons by Daylight" (Ramsey Campbell) 3/4/11
10. "Neuromancer" (William Gibson) 3/7/11 *
11. "Don Quixote" (Kathy Acker) 3/16/11
12. "Snow Crash" (Neal Stephenson) 3/31/11
13. "Shoplifting From American Apparel" (Tao Lin) 4/1/11
14. "Franny and Zooey" (J.D. Salinger) 4/7/11
15. "The Failure" (James Greer) 4/8/11
16. "The Gospel of Anarchy" (Justin Taylor) 4/16/11
17. "Dhalgren" (Samuel R. Delany) 4/21/11
18. "There Is No Year" (Blake Butler) 4/25/11
19. "Star Maker" (Olaf Stapledon) 5/1/11
20. "Death in Venice" (Thomas Mann) 5/3/11
21. "The Celestine Prophecy" (James Redfield) 5/9/11
22. "Selfish, Little: the Annotated Lesley Ann Downey" (Peter Sotos) 5/11/11 *
23. "The Quantity Theory of Insanity" (Will Self) 5/15/11
24. "Principia Discordia" (Malaclypse the Younger) 5/18/11 *
25. "Topology of a Phantom City" (Alain Robbe-Grillet) 5/21/11
26. "The Archaic Revival" (Terence McKenna) 5/23/11
27. "The Wasp Factory" (Iain Banks) 5/27/11
28. "Stories Toto Told Me" (Baron Corvo) 5/29/11
29. "The Oblate of St. Benedict" (J.K. Huysmans) 6/2/11
30. "Ubik" (Philip K. Dick) 6/8/11
31. "Ecpyrosis: The Best of Starfire Vol. I" (Various) 6/12/11
32. "Messengers of Deception: UFO Contacts & Cults" (Jacques Vallee) 6/15/11
33. "Earth Inferno" (Austin Osman Spare) 6/18/11
34. "The Book of Satyrs" (Austin Osman Spare) 6/18/11
35. "A Scanner Darkly" (Philip K. Dick) 6/20/11
36. "Nineteen Seventy Four" (David Peace) 6/21/11
37."Nineteen Seventy Seven" (David Peace) 6/24/11
38. "Nineteen Eighty" (David Peace) 6/28/11
39. "Nineteen Eighty Three" (David Peace) 7/2/11
40. "Q.B.L. or the Bride's Reception" (Frater Achad) 7/7/11
41. "Graves" (Thomas Moore) 7/9/11
42. "The Book of Lies" (Aleister Crowley) 7/13/11
43. "The Book of Pleasure (Self-Love): The Psychology of Ecstasy" (Austin Osman Spare) 7/14/11
44. "The Focus of Life" (Austin Osman Spare) 7/16/11
45. "Anathema of Zos" (Austin Osman Spare) 7/16/11
46. "Querelle" (Jean Genet) 7/19/11
47. "Myths of the Near Future" (J.G. Ballard) 7/29/11
48. "Empire Star/Babel-17" (Samuel R. Delany) 8/12/11
49. "The Waves" (Virginia Woolf) 8/19/11
50. "Lost Worlds" (Clark Ashton Smith) 8/26/11
51. "Grimscribe: His Lives & Works" (Thomas Ligotti) 8/28/11
52. "The Great Gatsby" (F. Scott Fitzgerald) 9/5/11
53. "The Remains of the Day" (Kazuo Ishiguro) 9/11/11
54. "Nova" (Samuel R. Delany) 9/12/11
55."Mrs. Dalloway" (Virginia Woolf) 9/20/11
56. "French Hole" (Dennis Cooper) 9/29/11
57. "Tropic of Cancer" (Henry Miller) 10/2/11
58. "The Age of Nothing" (James Champagne) 10/3/11
59. "Confessions of a Mask" (Yukio Mishima) 10/8/11
60. "Vineland" (Thomas Pynchon) 10/17/11
61. "Scared Stiff: Tales of Sex and Death" (Ramsey Campbell) 10/21/11
62. "Confessions of a Guidette" (Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi) 10/22/11
63. "The Marbled Swarm" (Dennis Cooper) 11/2/11
64. "Wormwood" (Poppy Z. Brite) 11/19/11 *
65. "The Haunting of Hill House" (Shirley Jackson) 11/24/11
66. "The Boy With Pink Hair" (Perez Hilton) 11/30/11
67. "The Recognitions" (William Gaddis) 12/1/11
68. "The Agonizing Resurrection of Victor Frankenstein" (Thomas Ligotti) 12/2/11
69. "The Turn of the Screw" (Henry James) 12/7/11
70. "Backwoods" (Natty Soltesz) 12/11/11
71. "Ghost Story" (Peter Straub) 12/11/11
72. "Supernatural Horror in Literature" (H.P. Lovecraft) 12/14/11
73. "ACT" (NJ Rhoades) 12/14/11 *
74. "The Face That Must Die" (Ramsey Campbell) 12/15/11
75. "Powers of Darkness" (Robert Aickman) 12/21/11
76. "Lady Gaga/Terry Richardson" (Lady Gaga/Terry Richardson) 12/30/11
77. "The Hill of Dreams" (Arthur Machen) 12/30/11

*= book I've read at least once in the past

currently reading:

"The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick" (completed Part One)

Reading Lists of the Past:

2008 reading list:

1. "The City and the Pillar" (Gore Vidal) (Jan. 3) 1948
2. "Sway" (Zachary Lazar) (Jan. 9) 2008
3. "Paradoxia" (Lydia Lunch) (Jan. 12) 1997
4. "Eden Eden Eden" (Pierre Guyotat) (Jan. 23) 1970
5. "The Maimed" (Hermann Ungar) (Jan. 25) 1923
6. "Jack the Modernist" (Robert Gluck) (Jan. 25) 1985
7. "The Stranger" (Albert Camus) (Jan. 26) 1946
8. "Less Than Zero" (Bret Easton Ellis) (Jan. 30) 1985 *
9. "The Torture Garden" (Octave Mirbeau) (Jan. 31) 1899
10. "Zombie" (Joyce Carol Oates) (Jan. 31) 1995
11. "The Atrocity Exhibition" (J.G. Ballard) (Feb. 7) 1970
12. "Play it as it Lays" (Joan Didion) (Feb. 10) 1970
13. "The Blind Owl" (Sadegh Hedayat) (Feb. 10) 1937
14. "La-Bas" (J.K. Huysmans) (Feb. 15) 1891 *
15. "Against Nature" (J.K. Huysmans) (Feb. 22) 1884
16. "Moravagine" (Blaise Cendrars) (Feb. 29) 1926
17. "Briefing for a Descent Into Hell" (Doris Lessing)(March 14)1971
18. "In a Glass Darkly" (Sheridan Le Fanu) (March 18) 1872
19. "The Weaklings" (Dennis Cooper) (March 22) 2008
20. "The Mage's Holiday" (Tom Champagne) (April) 2003
21. "Invisible Cities" (Italo Calvino) (April 9) 1972
22. "Exercises in Style" (Raymond Queneau) (April 17) 1947
23. "The Wild Boys" (William S. Burroughs) (April 21) 1969 *
24. "Downstream" (J.K. Huysmans) (April 21) 1882
25. "The Crying of Lot 49" (Thomas Pynchon) (April 27) 1965
26. "The End of the World Book" (Alistar McCartney) (May 1) 2008
27. "Foucault's Pendulum" (Umberto Eco) (May 8) 1988
28. "Us Ones in Between" (Blair Mastbaum) (May 10) 2008
29. "The Man Who Fought Alone" (Stephen R. Donaldson)(May 23) 2001 *
30. "Valis" (Philip K. Dick) (May 26) 1981 *
31. "Angels of Perversity" (Remy de Gourmont) (June 30) late 1890's
32. "Monsieur de Phocas" (Jean Lorrain) (July 6) 1901
33. "Inferno" (August Strindberg) (July 10) 1897
34. "Soul Kitchen" (Poppy Z. Brite) (July 19) 2006
35. "Monsieur Venus" (Rachilde) (July 20) 1884
36. "A Haven" (J.K. Huysmans) (July 26) 1886
37. "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (Truman Capote) (July 30)
38. "Surfaces" (Thomas Moore) (Aug. 7) 2008
39. "Bat-Wing" (Sax Rohmer) (Aug. 13) 1921
40. "Convolvulus & Other Poems" (Kenneth Grant) (Aug. 14) 2005
41. "Recollections of the Golden Triangle" (Alain Robbe-Grillet) (Aug. 18) 1978
42. "Gamaliel/Dance, Doll, Dance!" (Kenneth Grant) (Aug. 23) 2003
43. "The Other Child & Other Tales" (Kenneth Grant) (Aug. 27) 2003
44. "Our Lady of the Flowers" (Jean Genet) (Sept. 3) 1943
45. "The Street of Crocodiles" (Bruno Schulz) (Sept. 7) 1934
46. "The Hearing Trumpet" (Leonora Carrington) (Sept. 10) 1976
47. "En Route" (J.K. Huysmans) (Sept. 10) 1895
48. "Some Kind of Love" (Jack Dickson) (Sept. 14) 2002
49. "God Jr." (Dennis Cooper) (Sept. 21) 2005 *
50. "The Beetle" (Richard Marsh) (Sept. 22) 1897
51. "Action Kylie" (Kevin Killian) (Oct. 20) 2008
52. "Against the Light" (Kenneth Grant) (Nov. 5) 1997 *
53. "The Elementary Particles" (Michel Houellebecq) (Nov. 15) 2001
54. "The Miracle of the Rose" (Jean Genet) (Nov. 22) 1946
55. "Teatro Grottesco" (Thomas Ligotti) (Dec. 17) 2008
56. "Grimscribe" (Thomas Ligotti) (Dec. 23) 1994

2009 reading list:

1. "Songs of a Dead Dreamer" Thomas Ligotti (1/6/09) short story collection
2. "Gnosticism" Stephen Hoeller (1/9/09) religion
3. "Voudon Gnosis" David Beth (1/10/09) occult
4. "My Work is Not Yet Done" Thomas Ligotti (1/12/09) short story collection
5. "Hospital" Thomas Moore (1/23/09) poetry
6. "Nausea" Jean-Paul Sarte (2/18/09) novel
7. "Kierkegaard for Beginners" Donald D. Palmer (2/20/09) non-fiction
8. "Ariel: Restored Edition" Sylvia Plath (2/21/09) poetry
9. "The Bell Jar" Sylvia Plath (2/23/09) novel
10. "Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos" Various (3/12/09) short story collection
11. "The Mind Parasites" Colin Wilson (3/23/09) novel
12. "The Philosopher's Stone" Colin Wilson (4/2/09) novel
13. "The Magus" John Fowles (4/27/09) novel
14. "Snakewand/The Darker Stain" Kenneth Grant (5/2/09) novella collection
15. "Noctuary" Thomas Ligotti (5/8/09) short story collection
16. "Lovely Biscuits" Grant Morrison (5/21/09) short story collection
17. "Ugly Man" Dennis Cooper (5/23/09) short story collection
18. "The Space Vampires" Colin Wilson (5/30/09) novel
19. "Cities of the Red Night" William S. Burroughs (6/29/09) novel *
20. "Safe" Dennis Cooper (7/7/09) novel
21. "The Show That Smells" Derek McCormack (7/8/09) novel
22. "Count Magnus & Other Ghost Stories" M.R. James (7/11/09) short story collection
23. "The Burning Bombing of America" Kathy Acker (7/11/09) novella
24. "Great Expectations" Kathy Acker (7/18/09) novel
25. "Empire of the Senseless" Kathy Acker (7/19/09) novel
26. "Florida" Kathy Acker (7/22/09) novella?
27. "The Place of Dead Roads" William S. Burroughs (7/27/09) novel *
28. "Blood and Guts in High School" Kathy Acker (8/1/09) novel
29. "Perdido Street Station" China Mieville (8/4/09) novel
30. "A Season in Hell/Illuminations" Arthur Rimbaud (8/5/09) poetry
31. "The Shit of God" Diamanda Galas (8/6/09) poetry
32. "Ficciones" Jorge Lois Borges (8/9/09) short stories
33. "The Consumer" Michael Gira (8/17/09) short stories
34. "Funeral Rites" Jean Genet (8/26/09) novel
35. "Inherent Vice" Thomas Pynchon (8/28/09) novel
36. "The Thief's Journal" Jean Genet (9/10/09) novel
37. "The Western Lands" William S. Burroughs (9/16/09) novel
38. "Magic & Mystery in Tibet" Alexandra David-Neel (9/18/09) Hindu/Buddhist
39. "The Gita: a New Translation of Sacred Hindu Scripture" Irina N. Gajjar (9/19/09) Hindu
40. "Official Book Club Selection" Kathy Griffin (9/23/09) biography
41. "Shy" Kevin Killian (9/30/09) novel
42. "Ether, God & Devil/Cosmic Superimposition" Wilhelm Reich (10/3/09) philosophy?
43. "The Letters of Mina Harker" Dodie Bellamy (10/10/09) novel
44. "The Interior Castle" St. Teresa of Avila (10/20/09) mysticism
45. "Lost Souls" Poppy Z. Brite (10/29/09) * novel
46. "Marthe: The Story of a Whore" J.K. Huysmans (10/29/09) novel
47. "The Dhammapada" Buddha (10/29/09) * Buddhist
48. "Downstream" J.K. Huysmans (10/31/09) * novella
49. "The Wall" Jean-Paul Sartre (11/2/09) short stories
50. "The Plague" Albert Camus (11/6/09) novel
51. "The Flowers of Evil" Charles Baudelaire (11/10/09) poetry
52. "The Informers" Bret Easton Ellis (11/14/09) * novel
53. "Cold Print" Ramsey Campbell (11/25/09) short stories
54. "Against Nature" J.K. Huysmans (11/29/09) * novel
55. "The Late Work of Margaret Kroftis" Mark Gluth (12/4/09) novella
56. "In November We'll Burn" Andrew Champagne (12/10/09) novel
57. "The Picture of Dorian Gray" Oscar Wilde (12/16/09) novel
58. "No Exit" Jean-Paul Sartre (12/25/09) play

2010 Reading List Total:

1. "The Devil: Perceptions of Evil From Antiquity to Primitive Christianity" (Jeffrey Burton Russell) 1/1/10
2. "V." (Thomas Pynchon) 1/11/10
3. "Naked Lunch: The 50th Anniversary Edition" (William S. Burroughs) 1/16/10 *
4. "Hollywood Babylon" (Kenneth Anger) 1/19/10
5. "T.A.Z.: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism" (Hakim Bey) 1/29/10
6. "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" (Lewis Carroll/Camille Rose Garcia) 2/1/10 *
7. "Impossible Princess" (Kevin Killian) 2/7/10
8. "Satan and the Early Christian Tradition" (Jeffrey Burton Russell) 2/19/10
9. "Child of God" (Cormac McCarthy) 2/23/10
10. "The Origin of Satan" (Elaine Pagels) 2/27/10
11. "The History of Hell" (Alice K. Turner) 3/2/10
12. "Blood Meridian: or the Evening Redness of the West" (Cormac McCarthy) 3/13/10
13. "Good Girls Don't" (J.M. Cosentino) 3/14/10
14. "Tongues Tied to Anchors" (Laurence Wilhelm Lillvik) 3/20/10
15. "No Country for Old Men" (Cormac McCarthy) 3/22/10
16. "The Road" (Cormac McCarthy) 3/26/10
17. "Grimoire" (James Champagne) 3/30/10 *
18. "Despair" (Vladimir Nabokov) 4/7/10
19. "Invitation to a Beheading" (Vladimir Nabokov) 4/13/10
20. "Port of Saints" (William S. Burroughs) 4/18/10
21. "Maldoror" (Comte de Lautreamont) 4/23/10 *
22. "Turmoil in the Toybox" (Phil Phillips) 4/25/10
23. "Mere Christianity" (C.S. Lewis) 4/29/10
24. "The New Testament" (various) 5/2/10
25. "The Abolition of Man" (C.S. Lewis) 5/3/10
26. "The Great Divorce" (C.S. Lewis) 5/9/10
27. "A Grief Observed" (C.S. Lewis) 5/10/10
28. "Lolita" (Vladimir Nabokov) 5/15/10
29. "The Screwtape Letters"/"Screwtape Proposes a Toast" (C.S. Lewis) 5/15/10
30. "Wittgenstein's Nephew" (Thomas Bernhard) 5/19/10
31. "Pnin" (Vladimir Nabokov) 5/20/10
32. "Death Sentence" (Maurice Blanchot) 5/22/10
33. "Less Than Zero" (Bret Easton Ellis) 5/26/10 *
34. "American Psycho" (Bret Easton Ellis) 6/3/10 *
35. "Psycho" (Robert Bloch) 6/4/10
36. "Moonchild" (Aleister Crowley) 6/12/10 *
37. "The Book of the Law" (Aleister Crowley) 6/13/10 *
38. "Imperial Bedrooms" (Bret Easton Ellis) 6/17/10
39. "Coma" (Pierre Guyotat) 6/22/10
40. "Pale Fire" (Vladimir Nabokov) 6/30/10
41. "The Conspiracy Against the Human Race" (Thomas Ligotti) 7/11/10
42. "Smothered in Hugs" (Dennis Cooper) 7/12/10
43. "Tao Te Ching" (Lao Tzu) 7/14/10
44. "Necronomicon" (Simon) 7/19/10 *
45. "The Naked Civil Servant" (Quentin Crisp) 7/20/10
46. "The Hellbound Heart" (Clive Barker) 7/24/10
47. "Books of Blood Volume I" (Clive Barker) 8/3/10
48. "Closer" (Dennis Cooper) 8/8/10 *
49. "Kwaidan: Japanese Ghost Stories" (Lafcadio Hearn) 8/8/10
50. "Bruges-la-Morte" (Georges Rodenbach) 8/10/10
51. "Frisk" (Dennis Cooper) 8/11/10 *
52. "Try" (Dennis Cooper) 8/15/10 *
53. "Guide" (Dennis Cooper) 8/19/10 *
54. "Period" (Dennis Cooper) 8/21/10 *
55. "Scorch Atlas" (Blake Butler) 8/22/10
56. "Crash" (J.G. Ballard) 8/29/10
57. "The Curse of the Blue Figurine" (John Bellairs) 9/7/10 *
58. "Brother Curwen, Brother Crowley: a Correspondence" (Aleister Crowley/David Curwen) 9/8/10
59. "American Campgrounds" (Philip Best/Peter Sotos) 9/9/10
60. "The Cathedral" (J.K. Huysmans) 9/25/10
61. "The Malady of Death" (Marguerite Duras) 9/25/10
62. "Recollections of the Golden Triangle" (Alain Robbe-Grillet) 9/25/10
63. "Imperial Bedrooms" (Bret Easton Ellis) 9/28/10 *
64. "At the Feet of the Guru" (Kenneth Grant) 10/2/10 *
65. "Hidden Lore" (Kenneth & Steffi Grant) 10/3/10
66. "Songs of a Dead Dreamer" (THomas Ligotti) 10/5/10 *
67. "Obsessions" (Joseph Mills) 10/9/10 *
68. "Soluble Fish" (Andre Breton) 10/11/10
69. "The Upanishads" (translator: Eknath Easwaran) 10/12/10
70. "First Steps 2 Forever: My Story" (Justin Bieber) 10/15/10
71. "The Spiritual Teaching of Ramana Maharshi" (Ramana Maharshi) 10/17/10
72. "Uncle Silas" (J.S. Le Fanu) 10/21/10
73. "Siddhartha" (Herman Hesse) 10/27/10
74. "Frankenstein" (Mary Shelley) 10/28/1
75. "ACT" (N.J. Rhoades) 11/7/10
76. "The Collector" (John Fowles) 11/8/10
77. "Dark Awakenings" (Matt Cardin) 11/19/10
78. "Communion" (Whitley Strieber) 11/20/10
79. "Close Range: Wyoming Stories" (Annie Proulx) 11/27/10
80. "The Problem of Pain" (C.S. Lewis) 11/28/10
81. "The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman" (Angela Carter) 12/8/10
82. "The Man Who Was Thursday" (G.K. Chesterton) 12/10/10
83. "Dark Entries" (Robert Aickman) 12/30/10

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Leftovers II: The Snow Globes of Patient O.T.

Earlier this year, I thought it might be interesting to start work on a second short story collection, this one revolving around the following concept: all the stories were to have been set in a city called Thundermist (a thinly veiled nightmare recreation of my own hometown of Woonsocket, Rhode Island). The working title was to have been Sabaziorum: The Thundermist Tales (or something along those lines). The idea was that there would be around 7-8 short stories and a novella. However, upon completing 4 of the stories (and slowly starting a fifth), the project began losing steam... as the months have gone by this year I've gradually lost interest in writing weird short fiction: I still enjoy reading it a great deal, but I've felt as if I've said all I've had to say on that topic and the newer stories I had created, while technically well-executed, were lacking passion and just repeating themes and things that I had already written about in my first short story collection, Grimoire. Still, I feel the 4 or so stories I created have some merit, so for the curious, I've decided to gradually post them on this blog, so that they can at least be read.

This second story, "The Snow Globes of Patient O.T.", was actually the fourth and final story I worked on for the proposed collection. The title of the story was inspired by the Einst├╝rzende Neubauten album title Drawings of Patient O.T..

The Snow Globes of Patient O.T.
by James Champagne


“Searchers after horror haunt strange, far places.” So begins “The Picture in the House,” a short story written by H.P. Lovecraft on Dec. 12, 1920. It was a statement that had resonated with Daphne Broadmoor ever since she first came across it many years ago, while flipping through the 1985 corrected sixth printing of Arkham House’s publication of Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horrors and Others, a book that she had stumbled across on her father’s bookcase when she was a child, a book with a green dust jacket featuring a Raymond Bayless illustration of Cthulhu emerging from his sunken tomb at R’lyeh. Throughout her twenty-five years of existence, Daphne had known quite a few people fixated on buildings possessing an eidolic glamour: one friend of hers had been obsessed with an old chemical factory situated in the city of Los Diablos (an obsession which had led him to insanity), while another of her friends, Timothy Childermass, adored a church known for its beautiful (and supposedly haunted) frescoes. As it was, there was one place she herself was utterly fascinated with, which, though it was not far from her, was certainly strange: Saddleworth Clinic, a hospital for the mentally insane.

Daphne Broadmoor was born and raised in the city of Thundermist, Rhode Island, and at an early age became obsessed with Saddleworth Clinic, which could be found on the outskirts of Thundermist, not far from Lamb’s Blood Cemetery. Saddleworth Clinic was located atop a flat hill, which in turn towered over a nearby shopping center. The grounds of the Clinic were paved, though weeds grew through cracks in the pavement, and all of the buildings seemed to be in an advanced stage of decay. The Clinic was made up of a number of 4-story cottages that surrounded a circular driveway, along with a few other buildings, such as an infirmary, a chapel, and a small power plant that provided the Clinic with electricity. The cottages, which was where the patients were held, had been built in the 1880’s, and they certainly looked it. They boasted solid rubblestone walls and brownstone quoins, along with arched windows with stick style porches. The outer walls of many of these buildings were covered in vines, and most of the windows were broken. With a few of the cottages, large reddish-brown stains could be found on the walls beneath some of the windows, making it look as it the buildings were crying tears of blood.

For as long as she could remember, Daphne had been fascinated by the buildings that made up Saddleworth Clinic. Sometimes her father would go to the shopping center located at the bottom of the hill, in the shadow of the Clinic, and she would often accompany him. On such excursions she would often gaze out the car window longingly at the decrepit old buildings that made up the Clinic, and her father, catching these expressions on her face, would warn her to stay away from those buildings. When she would ask him why, his usual response was that they were haunted by the ghosts of patients who had been treated cruelly by the hospital’s staff. Naturally, this only served to further inflame her interest in the place. Those old buildings, all alone up on that lonely hill, seemed like something out of a different epoch, as if they had been cut & pasted onto the landscape by some omnipotent antiquarian of architecture, and they looked utterly incongruous when compared to the extremely modern-looking shopping center only a short distance away. To stare up at those haunted and ramshackle buildings (especially during sunset) filled Daphne with a sense of desolation and melancholy that was almost exquisite. It was as if the buildings that made up the Clinic were astral transmitters, broadcasting the final death rattles of lost worlds and forgotten Aeons. All her life, Daphne had been blessed (or perhaps cursed) with an overactive imagination, and she often amused herself wondering what the interior of the buildings of the Clinic must be like, what sort of inhabitants one could find within its walls.

For many years, Daphne had assumed that Saddleworth Clinic was abandoned, that it had been shut down for some time. This perception was proven false in the summer of 2011. On a warm July day, Daphne found herself behind the wheel of her car, driving down Main Street through Thundermist’s downtown area. She had her radio on, was listening to a local station named 8-Bit FM, a station that only played music from video and computer games: right now they were playing the song “Sim Will Build,“ taken from the Sims 2: Apartment Life PC game. She drove by the Thundermist Museum of Work and Culture, the Ye Olde English Fish & Chips of Yore, City Hall, the YMCA, the post office, the police station, the library (where her friend Timothy worked), and assorted tattoo parlors, Chinese restaurants, bars and taverns, Domino’s Pizza and Burger King, Walgreen’s and Dunkin’ Donuts.

Finally she pulled into the parking lot of Duncan’s Drugs, her favorite pharmacy. Daphne exited her car, locked up, then stepped into the drugstore. As she entered the building she nodded to Duncan, a tonsured old gnome with a wrinkled tortoise-like face who sat behind the counter reading that day’s edition of the Thundermist Times. Inside the pharmacy it was air-conditioned, and music was playing over the speakers, “Caribou” by the Pixies. The only other customers in the place were two well-dressed middle-aged white women sitting next to the main entrance, one of whom was clutching a purple satin pillow, resting on top of which was a hairless cat. These two women kept giving Daphne strange looks. Maybe it was because Daphne was black, and Thundermist’s African-American population was very small. Or maybe it was just because she was wearing a pair of pointy cat ears on her head. Daphne shrugged and headed to the back of the store, where the comics were kept.

Daphne found the comic she was looking for (the latest issue of Grant Morrison’s Batman Incorporated), along with some food for her pet hamster (named Babalon), then made her way to the front counter, where she paid for her items. “Hot as hell outside, ain’t it Daphne?” Duncan asked as he accepted her cash and placed it in the register.

“Sure is Duncan,” Daphne said. “Anything interesting in the paper today?”

"Just a car accident that happened last night on Route 23,” Duncan said, referring to a road that led one out of Thundermist. “Old Man Gabriel wrecked his car, was nearly killed. He claimed that he didn’t see what him… the cops think that a deer must have ran out of the woods and he smashed into it, though the cops found no deer nearby, no bloodstains other than those belonging to Old Man Gabriel.”

“That’s weird,” Daphne said as Duncan bagged her items.

“I’ll say. I was just talking to Officer Wilde who was in here a few minutes ago. Said that they took Old Man Gabriel to Landmark Hospital, where he’s still ranting and raving about that damn nonexistent object he hit and other nonsense. You ask me, I think the only thing that Old Man Gabriel’s been hitting is the bottle again,” Duncan confided.

“You’re probably right,” Daphne said as she took the bag from him. “Thanks Duncan, I’ll see you around.”

On the way out of the store she passed by the two older women and heard a little bit of their conversation.

“Althea, is it just me or did Mona look a little out of it at the meeting last night?” one woman asked to the woman who was holding the pillow with the hairless cat.

“Haven’t you heard, Lydia?” asked the woman who was apparently named Althea. “Her son Peter was committed to the Clinic last week.”

“Really?” Lydia asked, going a little pale. “Why, how awful. What’s the matter with him?”

“Mona didn’t tell me much, something to do with uncontrollable tremors,” Althea sighed as she stroked her odd-looking cat. “They had to lock him up in a padded cell. The doctors say they’ve never seen a case like it.”

“Poor Mona,” Lydia said, holding a gloved hand to her mouth.

“That’s a beautiful cat,” Daphne commented to Althea as she passed them by.

“Thanks, it’s a Sphynx,” Althea said with a hieratic smile.

Wow, I had no idea that the Clinic was still operational, Daphne thought to herself as she exited the drugstore, stepping back out into the sweltering July summer. As she walked back towards her car, she ran into her therapist, Dr. Roxy, a thin middle-aged woman with short red hair and heterochromatic eyes, As always, Dr. Roxy was wearing some sort of Native American necklace along with Navajo sterling-silver and turquoise dream catcher dangle-earrings. Dr. Roxy’s office was located in an office building right next door to old St. Durtal’s Cathedral.

“Good afternoon, Daphne,” Dr. Roxy said in a pleasant voice.

“Hi Dr. Roxy,” Daphne smiled. “Long time no see.”

“Indeed,” Dr. Roxy said. “I’m kind of curious as to why you cancelled your appointment with me a few weeks ago.”

“To be honest with you, Dr. Roxy, I’ve been feeling fine,” Daphne said.

“I’m so happy to hear that, Daphne,” Dr. Roxy said with a smile. “I take it you’re still taking those pills I put you on?”

“Indeed I am,” Daphne said.

“I only ask because I know you can be forgetful,” Dr. Roxy sighed. “And you’ve been having no visions as of late?”

“It’s been awhile since the last one,” Daphne said. “Though I still don’t understand why so many people equate visions with insanity. My friend Timothy told me that St. Teresa of Avila had visions, and she was eventually declared a saint.”

“Yes, but St. Teresa had a vision in which her heart was pierced by a lance held by an angel of God,” Dr. Roxy pointed out. “What did your last vision consist of, Daphne?”

“A walrus-demon sodomizing a seraph,” Daphne admitted sheepishly.

Dr. Roxy smiled kindly. “I don’t think the Vatican will be canonizing you anytime soon, dear,” she said. “Anyway, I have some errands to run, so I won’t keep you. Should you ever need anything from me, or if you wish to make another appointment, you have my number.”

“Okay. Nice seeing you again, Dr. Roxy.”

“You too, Daphne.”

Daphne watched Dr. Roxy disappear into Duncan’s Drugs. She then climbed into her car and cranked on the air conditioning. She decided to go home and have lunch. But then she spotted a building across the street, one she had never really noticed before. It was a small and seedy-looking two-story building, with dusty windows and a sinister character. Above the front door was a sign with the following words on it: KIRKBRIDE’S CURIOS.

Must be some kind of antique store, Daphne mused to herself. She wondered why she'd never noticed it before. She decided to go into the store and have a look around. So she got out of her car again, crossed the street and opened the door, stepping into the murky gloom of the shop. She looked around the emporium. The small room was very humid and filled with large glass showcases, many of which were covered in dust, the interiors of which housed baubles and relics resting on velvet cushions. On the walls were shelves holding a number of plaster cast objets d’art, antique sculptures and waxen effigies, mainly Oriental images though there were a few Egyptian specimens also. Daphne peered into a few of the showcases, but their outer surfaces were so filthy she could only make out the dim outlines of the objects contained within. So she decided to check the shelves on the walls instead. Daphne walked past row upon row of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, hawk-headed gods and crystal Baphomets and diamond dogs.

Finally, she found a curio that caught her interest. It was a snow globe of medium-size, with a small flat wooden base. Daphne carefully picked up the snow globe and inspected it. Within the globe was a miniature wintry landscape, and embedded within this landscape were five enlarged Scrabble tiles, bearing the letters L, H, O, O, and Q. Standing within the shadow cast by these letters were two tiny figurines. The first figurine was that of a woman, who was wearing a black fedora tilted atop her head and, on her body, a dark green robe that was slit open in the back, revealing her shapely buttocks. The second figurine was that of a centaur with the head of a pigeon, and in one hand it held a long spear. Daphne gave the snow globe a gentle shake and watched the artificial “snow” inside swirl around the Scrabble tiles and the two figurines. Staring inside the globe, she marveled at how intricately detailed the figurines were, despite their small size. It was then that she noticed the words carved into the square wooden base of the snow globe: In the Shadow of the Calcified Dominion. Beneath those words were the letters “O.T.” She couldn’t quite put her finger on it, but something about the snow globe seemed to intrigue her, and she desired to learn more about the mysteriarch who had crafted it. With that goal in mind, she sought out the proprietor of the emporium.

Daphne headed to the counter at the back of the shop, said counter being situated next to a green baize door. The only object on this counter was an old-fashioned cash register. Standing behind the register was a curious-looking fellow who Daphne decided had to the shop’s proprietor. He was a man of indeterminate age, his face being caked with theatrical make-up, his moustache waxed with the right tip pointing upwards and the left tip pointing downwards, as if it were a tiny hairy magician miming the maxim “As Above, So Below.” Strings were tied to his arms and legs, strings that rose upwards to the ceilings. Daphne raised her eyes and saw that these strings were attached to wheels that were in turn embedded into an extensive network of grooves that had been cut into the emporium’s ceiling. This Aschenbachian proprietor, who Daphne assumed must be named Kirkbride, saw her staring at the strings and commented, in an insinuating voice, “You must pardon my outr├ę appearance, Madame. An obscure neurological condition that hampers my movement forces me to make use of these strings to get about. It’s not as if I wish to take on the appearance of a desiccated marionette.”

“Uh, okay,” Daphne said. “I was wondering if you could tell me anything about this snow globe?”

“The snow globe you hold in your hands is the work of Patient O.T., my dear,” the proprietor said.

“Who is Patient O.T.?” Daphne asked, confused.

“He’s a patient at the Saddleworth Clinic,” the proprietor explained. “His real name is Orlando Triffid, but he prefers to go by the alias of Patient O.T. You see, the Clinic features a number of workshops, overseen by a Dr. Nolgate, that allow the patients there to exercise their, ah, creative muscles. My humble shop ends up receiving a lot of artwork designed in those workshops. One of our more popular items are the snow globes of Patient O.T.”

“Sounds fascinating,” Daphne said. “I’d like to buy this. How much does it cost? I don’t see a price on it.”

“I made a deal with Dr. Nolgate that the patients are allowed to set their own prices for the goods they create,” the proprietor said. He reached underneath the counter and pulled out a dusty sheet of paper, the front of which was covered in neatly-typed words. He scanned the list until he found what he was looking for. “The cost of that particular snow globe is: a few drops of the buyer’s blood.”

“Excuse me?” Daphne asked, just to make sure she hadn‘t misheard him.

“Remember, Madame, when it comes to the objets d’art issued from Saddleworth, I don’t decided the prices,” the proprietor said in an apologetic voice.

“Well, I guess I could spare some blood,” Daphne sighed.

The proprietor reached under the counter again and pulled out a small vial. “All you need to do is prick your finger and get a few drops in this vial,” he said. “Do you have a pin?”

“I think I can find something in my purse,” Daphne said. She reached into her purse and fished around until she found a safety pin. She pressed the sharp end against her left index finger until a bead of blood appeared, wincing slightly in pain as she did so. The proprietor held the vial out and she let a few drops of blood drip into the vial. When he had taken enough he corked up the vial and returned it under the counter, while Daphne reached into her purse again and found a Disney Little Mermaid band-aid that she proceeded to wrap around her finger.

“Okay, you’ve got your blood money, will that be all?” Daphne asked with a smirk.

“Let me just go wrap this,” the proprietor said. He gripped the snow globe in his hands and headed for the green baize door, the strings connecting his limbs to the wheels in the ceiling above keeping his frail body upright. He opened the door and disappeared from sight. A few moments later he came shambling back into the room, now holding a neatly-wrapped parcel in his hands. Daphne took the wrapped snow globe from him, thanked him, and left the store. She drove back home, to her tiny house located near Vernon Park, and once inside she unwrapped the snow globe and set it on the mantle of her living room fireplace.


The following day, Daphne drove back downtown, this time with the intention of visiting the public library. Her reasons for visiting the library were twofold: first, she wanted to say hi to her friend Timothy, and second to see if she could find out any information on both Orlando Triffid and also Kirkbride’s Curios. She pulled into the parking lot in front of the library and looked the building over: it was a fairly small and modern-looking building, with a large clock built into the brick wall above the main entrance. Daphne had fond memories of visiting the library during her childhood, where she would often take part in their summer reading programs.

Daphne stepped into the air-conditioned library, headed over to the information desk, where she saw her friend Timothy Childermass reading the Tartarus Press edition of Powers of Darkness, a collection of strange stories by Robert Aickman. Timothy was her age, an attractive young gay man with an emo hairstyle reminiscent of the one sported by Adam Lambert during his American Idol days. When he noticed her walking towards the desk, he put his book down on the counter and smiled at her.

“Hey Daphne,” he said.

“Hi Timothy,” Daphne smiled back. She knew he liked being called Timothy but not Tim. “How’s work going today?”

“Very slow,” Timothy sighed. “What are you doing here?”

“Just dropping in to say hi,” Daphne said. “I was also wondering if maybe you could do a little bit of detective work for me when you get off of work today. I think it would be right up your alley, you loving mysteries and all.”

“What kind of research?” Timothy asked, his interest piqued.

“I’m trying to find any information I can about a patient being held at the Saddleworth Clinic, over near Lamb’s Blood Cemetery,” Daphne explained. “The patient’s name is Orlando Triffid.”

“I can check the microfilm in our archives later on,” Timothy said as he jotted down the name ‘Orlando Triffid’ on a nearby notepad. “Anything else?”

“Yeah, see if you can find any information at all on a business named Kirkbride’s Curios,” Daphne said, and she gave him the shop’s address.

“Okay, I’ll look into it and see if I can dig anything up,” Timothy said. “You want I drop by your place tomorrow night?”

“Sure, that would be cool,” Daphne said. “Well, I guess I’d better be off then, I don’t want to keep you from your book.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Timothy assured her. “You working tonight?”

“Yeah, it sucks,” Daphne sighed. She worked at a local cricket farm.

“Tell me about it,” Timothy said. “Anyway, it was nice seeing you.”

“You too, Timothy,” Daphne said as she patted his hand. “Bye.”

* * * *

Timothy stopped by Daphne’s house the following evening. She invited him in and had him take a seat in her living room. In his hands he was holding a manila folder that held a few sheets of paper. The two engaged in some idle chatter, though during the conversation Timothy kept gazing nervously out of the corner of his eye at the odd snow globe located on the mantle above Daphne’s fireplace. Finally, they got down to business.

“So, I did that research you wanted me to do,” Timothy said. “Not that I was able to find out a whole lot. But I did learn some things that might interest you.”

“Cool, like what?” Daphne asked eagerly.

“Let’s start with this Orlando Triffid character. I wasn’t able to find out all that much about his early years, other than the fact that he was born on the island of Phraxos, which is located in the Aegean Sea. His parents, who were emigrants from the country of Zembla, died when he was very young, and he ended up being raised by a friend of the family, a local millionaire who was rumored to be a wizard. Orlando moved to the city of Los Diablos when he was a teenager. During his high school years he worked part-time at some chemical factory that turned out to be a front for the local Mob. He had to find a new job after the place got shut down. Have you ever heard of the Axxon N. scandal?”

“Can’t say I have, no,” Daphne said, shaking her head.

“Don’t worry, it’s all in my notes. Anyway, after graduating from high school Orlando moved to England, where he got involved with Frater Aossic’s New Isis Lodge. This was sometime in the mid-1950’s,” Timothy went on.

“What is this New Isis Lodge?” Daphne asked.

“An occult Lodge of the O.T.O. founded by the occultist Kenneth Grant in 1955. They believed they had discovered a ‘transplutonic’ planet, New Isis, and they were interested in channeling transmissions from it,” Timothy said. “Following the lodge’s termination in 1962, Orlando moved back here, to Thundermist. He started up his own business, designing and then selling snow globes of his own creation. You’ll never believe where this business was located: at the exact same location that Kirkbride’s Curios resides at today.”

“You don’t say,” Daphne said, a little taken aback. “But how did Orlando end up as a patient at Saddleworth?”

“He ran afoul of the law in 1977,” Timothy said, while consulting his notes. “Locals were starting to vanish and the Thundermist Police Department traced these disappearances to Orlando’s shop, which, in case you’re curious, was named Orlando’s Ornamentals. The police got a warrant to search the place, and in the basement they discovered an enormous aquarium containing the skeleton of a gigantic alligator-like creature. And as if all that wasn’t bizarre enough, they also found heaps of human bones scattered around the tank, mostly belonging to women. Forensic science eventually revealed that these bones belonged to the locals who had gone missing. Although it was never proven that Orlando Triffid had killed the people in question, police still had enough evidence to put him on trial, where he was found clinically insane and locked up at Saddleworth, where he’s been ever since: that was back in 1978.”

“He must be a pretty old guy, then,” Daphne said.

“No kidding. When the cops arrested him they also searched his house and found a very strange library, consisting of lots of books on occultism, thaumaturgy and space voodoo.” Timothy sighed and put down his notes. “If you don’t mind my asking, Daphne, what’s your interest in this guy anyway?”

“You know me, Timothy, I dig the freaky stuff,” Daphne said. “See that snow globe I have on the mantle over there? I got it a few days ago at Kirkbride’s Curios. The owner of the place told me that it was the work of Orlando Triffid.”

“Kinda weird that the building where he ran his business years ago is still selling his stuff,” Timothy said. “I wasn’t able to find out all that much information about Kirkbride’s Curios, though, aside from the fact that the building it’s in used to be the property of Orlando Triffid. It was empty for a number of years until 1984, when it became Kirkbride’s Curios.”

“Thank you, Timothy, this helps me out a lot,” Daphne said. “Is that all?”

“Oh, wait, I almost forgot, here’s a picture I managed to find of Orlando Triffid, from an old back issue of the Thundermist Times,” Timothy said as he reached into his folder. He pulled out a photocopied image of Orlando Triffid. Daphne took the photocopy from him and gazed at the picture. It was a mug shot of Orlando Triffid at the time of his arrest, in 1977, when he had been around the age of 40. Daphne was kind of disappointed: she was hoping he would look like Joseph Merrick or something, but all she saw was a bland-looking, balding white guy, whose most distinctive feature were his oddly-colored eyes.

“His eyes look weird,” was all Daphne could think of to say.

“They’re glasz,” Timothy said.

“You mean he had fake eyes?”

“No, glasz is a type of eye color that consists of a blue backdrop, a thin layer of green, and small flecks of scattered gray. You know Chris Colfer from Glee? That’s his type of eye color also.”

“That’s why I love being your friend, Timothy, I learn something new from you everyday,” Daphne smiled. “Thanks for going through all of this trouble for me.”

“Ah, don’t mention it, you know I love it,” Timothy said. “You can keep the folder and all of the notes in it.”

The two talked casually for another twenty minutes, then Timothy got up to leave, mentioning how he had to be at the library bright and early the next day. Daphne walked him to the door and bade him good night. After he had left, she walked back to her fireplace mantle and stared at the snow globe. It seemed weird to look at it now, knowing that it had been crafted by a madman who had most likely fed a number of hapless citizens to a reptilian monstrosity. On the other hand, it would make an interesting conversation piece for a party in the future.

* * * *

Daphne paid another visit to Kirkbride’s Curios the next day. Unlike the first time she visited the shop, she wasn’t the only customer this time. Also present in the shop was a middle-aged woman and her anemic-looking teenage son. They were peering into the dirty showcases and squinting, trying to see past the accumulated layers of dirt and dust. Daphne paid them no heed and instead scanned the shelves lining the walls of the emporium until she spotted a new snow globe, one that hadn’t been there her last visit. This one was slightly larger than the one she had purchased last time, and its interior was divided into two sections. To the right was a miniature mountain range that Daphne guessed was supposed to represent the Himalayas of Tibet. These mountains were riddled with nests, and flying forth from these nests were large red birds with demonic faces. The red birds were seen frozen in the act of flying from the mountain range to the left portion of the snow globe’s interior, which was a miniaturized depiction of the city of Paris. The city was in flames, its shrunken streets littered with a multitude of tiny plastic corpses, victims of the avian ecpyrosis. Daphne picked the globe up, wondering how the birds were suspended in flight, as she saw no strings or hooks of kind any attached to them. She gave the globe a shake and watched it fill up with red “snow” that swirled around the ruins of Paris and the peaks of the mountains like a million bloody souls. She saw that this snow globe also had a title carved into its wooden base: Red Birds Will Fly Out of the East and Destroy Paris in a Night. Beneath this title two more letters had been carved: “O.T.” Daphne felt her breath catch in her throat.

She took the snow globe to the counter at the back of the store, where she again encountered the weird-looking proprietor. He smiled when he saw her. “Ah, Madame, I’m glad you have graced us with another visit,” he purred. “And I see your eye is as good as ever, as you have in your hands the latest masterpiece crafted by Patient O.T.”

“I think I like this one even better than the first one I purchased,” Daphne confessed. “It’s got kind of an evocative title.”

“Ah, yes, I believe it’s a reference to one of the Prophecies of Nostradamus,” he said. “Or perhaps to a song title off the Coil album Musick to Play in the Dark Vol. I. Who knows? Patient O.T. is an eccentric chap.”

“A little bird told me he used to have a snow globe business in this very building,” Daphne said as she set the snow globe down next to the register. “And that he was sent to Saddleworth because he was caught feeding the local populace to a pet alligator he kept in the basement.”

“You know how people around here like to exaggerate stories, of course,” he replied, waving one of his puppet hands in a dismissive manner. “That’s what happens when one lives in a small city such as this, where not a great deal of interest happens. I’m willing to bet that this so-called alligator was probably nothing more than a slightly larger-than-average Gila monster. When I took over this establishment, I initiated a correspondence with Patient O.T., and he swore to me that he never killed anyone, that he had purchased the bones from a mysterious local artisan for use in one of his snow globes, not being aware that they belonged to people who had been murdered. If Patient O.T. is guilty of anything, it’s naivety. But I can see by the look on your face that you remain skeptical, so I won’t try to convince you otherwise. Would you like to purchase that snow globe?”

“Yeah… so what do you need, more blood?”

“Let me consult the updated pricing sheet,” he said. He looked at the dusty list, then said, “The price that Patient O.T. set for this snow globe is: three locks of your hair. Does that sound like a fair deal?”

“Sure, hair grows back,” Daphne shrugged. “Can I borrow a pair of scissors?”

After the proprietor had supplied her with some scissors, she cut out three locks of her hair and handed them over to him. The proprietor thanked her and placed the locks in a Ziploc baggie. After wrapping up her new snow globe in a parcel and handing it over to her, he said, “Thanks again for your business, Madame Broadmoor. In the future, would you like to be alerted as to when new snow globes by Patient O.T. become available?”

“That would be great, actually, it would save me needless trips,” Daphne smiled. “Let me give you my cellphone number.”

After giving away her phone number, Daphne left the emporium, her new purchase in hand. She drove home, wondering as she did so what Patient O.T.’s next snow globe would look like.


Over the following weeks, Daphne purchased three other snow globes created by Patient O.T. as they became available at Kirkbride’s Curios. Like the first two snow globes she had purchased, these new ones were visually very impressive to look at, and quite evocative in the mysterious atmosphere they instilled in her mind as she gazed into their glass-enclosed worlds. One of them was entitled The Revolting Science of God, and the interior of the snow globe was done up to resemble a cosmic scene set in outer space, with stars and spiral-armed galaxies and glowing planets and falling meteors. Set within the center of this tableaux was a large floating goddess with the head of an ant, four breasts, eight arms, her legs folded in the Lotus meditation position, and a crown of sparkling jewels on her head. Standing in front of this odd-looking idol was the figurine of a tiny man shielding his face from her insectile visage. This snow globe had cost Daphne a few drops of her salvia.

Another of the snow globes was called Funeral Music for St. Gulik, and it depicted a typically wintry setting, one adorned with a large black cockroach whose body had been preserved via taxidermy. This cockroach stood upright in the center of the landscape of snow, next to a small Gothic-looking church whose rose window above the front doors had been replaced with an eye. Pressed up against the windows of the church were the faces of a number of tiny figurines, expressions of horror and loathing on their countenances. The price for this snow globe had been a portion of one of her fingernails. After purchasing this one, Daphne idly wondered what the cost of future snow globes would be. She hoped they would never require urine, fecal matter, or nasal mucus, because that would just be gross.

She received her answer upon purchasing the third new snow globe: this one had required just a few more drops of her blood, and a smaller amount than she had given for the first snow globe she had purchased. This snow globe, which was called Burrowers Beneath, was filled with a great deal of soil, and built up on the surface of this soul were a number of structures that resembled the houses designed by the Ancient Pueblo People. Meanwhile, below the surface of the soil, there were what looked like three large white tentacles that, even though they were stuck in place, still seemed to wriggle and undulate with a mind of their own, as if they could burst forth to the surface at any second.

As time went by, her collection of Patient O.T.’s snow globes was beginning to consume more and more space on the mantle of her fireplace. She found herself spending a great deal of time standing before this fireplace and gazing into each of the snow globes. It was as if she had a small number of tiny parallel universes at her fingertips, each one encased in glass and water, containing a fragment of some creepy elfland, a DNA sample of a Dadaistic heaven. Daphne tried to imagine how she would appear to the miniscule inhabitants of these glass-encased galaxies. Most likely all they would be able to perceive of her was a gigantic eyeball, perhaps belonging to some malevolent demiurge. Was that why so many of the figurines entombed in Patient O.T.’s snow globes had expressions of the most profound horror on their plastic faces? Was it because they could see a glimpse of God that is veiled from our own eyes, and that this God was one of madness and morbidity? Daphne found herself grateful that these tiny tortured souls weren’t cursed with consciousness, as then their suffering would be too ghastly to consider: they’d be doomed to a horror that never ended, trapped eternally on the borderland of death but never reaching the bliss of non-existence: frozen in Hell.

A few days after purchasing Burrowers Beneath, Daphne had to pay another visit to Duncan’s Drugs to buy some more food for her hamster. She walked into the store on another typically sweltering summer day, only this time she was the only person inside the store, aside from Duncan at the register of course. Daphne headed to the back of the store to pick up the hamster food. As she made her way there, the ground began to suddenly shake beneath her feet, and it was as if the whole world began to rumble around her. Losing her balance, Daphne fell to the ground and lay still, where she covered the back of her head with her hands. In her confusion, she thought, Are we having an earthquake? Finally, after a minute or so the rumbling began to lessen, then stopped entirely, and the earth ceased shaking. Daphne slowly got to her feet and looked around the drugstore. To her surprise, not a single object had fallen off the shelves, despite the massive tremors that had just taken place.

Daphne rushed over to Duncan, a panicked expression on her face. He looked up at her blandly, not phased at all. “Duncan, did you just feel that?” Daphne cried excitedly. “I think we had an earthquake!”

“Daphne, what are you talking about?” Duncan asked. “I didn’t feel anything at all. Are you okay, Daphne?”

“But I felt the whole world start to shake just now,” Daphne said, breaking into a sweat. “It was so bad I lost my balance and fell.”

“Maybe you fainted from the heat?” Duncan suggested. “It is very hot outside, after all. Look, Daphne, if there had been an earthquake just now, there’s no way my shelves would look this good. They’d have spilled their contents all over the floor, right?”

“But I didn’t faint… I was conscious the whole time,” Daphne said haltingly.

“Maybe you should just go home and get some rest,” Duncan said kindly. “Do you want me to call someone to give you a ride home?”

“No… no, I’ll be okay,” Daphne said after a pause. “I’m fine now.”

“Are you sure?” Duncan asked, still concerned.

“I’m sure,” Daphne said. “Thanks for asking, though.”

“No problem,” Duncan said.

Daphne decided to buy the hamster food some other time. She left the drugstore, still feeling confused. What the hell had just happened back there, anyway? How could Duncan not have felt those tremors? Had it been possible that the tremors were all in her head? But that couldn’t be: after all, they had been so powerful they had knocked her off her feet.

A nagging fear in the back of her mind compelled her to enter Kirkbride’s Curios. Once inside the shop she went straight to the proprietor, who nodded at her when he saw her approach.

“Ah, Madame, I’m sorry but there are no new snow globes from Patient O.T. available today,” he said in an apologetic tone.

“That’s okay,” Daphne said. “I just have a quick question for you. Am I the only person in this town who has ever purchased snow globes made by Patient O.T.? Or have there been other customers?”

“Oh, I’ve been selling them for years now,” the proprietor said. “Don’t you remember that day you first came in here, when I told you they were one of our most popular items? As I recall, prior to your interest in them the last two people I sold snow globes to was a young man named Peter and some old gentleman, whose name I forget.”

“Was it Gabriel?” Daphne asked, her blood turning cold.

“Might have been,” the proprietor shrugged. “Why do you ask?”

“No reason,” Daphne said, almost to herself. Without another word, she turned and left the emporium. She stood outside in the hot sun, almost overwhelmed by the intense heat. You’re not going insane, she told herself. You’re not going insane.

A second later she saw a snowflake drift down from the sky and land right in front of her feet. She stared down at it. Despite the fact it was over ninety degrees outside, the snowflake didn’t melt.

* * * *

That night Daphne had a dream in which she found herself standing before the buildings that made up the Saddleworth Clinic. In the dream it was the dead of night, and a horned moon hung in the sky, like the mocking smile of some enormous and otherwise invisible demon resting its head upon the sky as if it were a pillow. The air all around Daphne was filled with snowflakes, but these flakes weren’t falling: rather they were frozen in place, as if someone had hit the PAUSE button to the procession of time.

The cottages of the Clinic seemed to be calling out to her, beckoning for her to enter them. So she entered the one that was closest to her. Inside, she found that the interior of the building was in complete disarray: the floors of the hallways were strewn with shards of glass and trash of all shapes and sizes, and the surface of almost every appliance or machine was covered with either rust or dust. The walls weren’t in much better shape, as the paint had peeled off of most of them. In some places there were even holes in the walls, and from these holes Daphne could hear the sounds of what sounded like muffled snuffling noises, and the muted ticking of monstrous subterranean clocks, clocks buried beneath the earth long ago and ticking down the hours till Megiddo time.

This building was inhabited by a small number of doctors and patients, though none of these people seemed to acknowledge Daphne’s presence among them. The doctors were all dressed in soiled lab coats, their heads encased in dirty glass fishbowls, the scratched glass distorting the appearance of their haggard and weary faces. As they shuffled through the dark and lonely corridors of the Clinic, seemingly aimless in their peregrinations and utterly without a final destination in mind, they made notations on pieces of paper attached to the clipboards that all of them seemed to carry. At one point in the dream, one of these doctors strolled by Daphne, and she took a glance at what the doctor had written down. But it was just nonsense: “I'm a Labour party candidate and I'm okay - I prescribe phenoxymethylpenicillin to blowlamps all night and I teleport circuit boards all day.”

The patients were just as strange. Most of them were either clad in togas or completely nude, and most of them were wearing exotic headgear of some sorts: Daphne spotted funeral veils, bejeweled turbans, crowns of thorns and crowns of grass… she even noticed one patient wearing a fez. Many of them were stationed in their rooms, rooms that had no doors and whose windows were bereft of glass. As she walked by these rooms, Daphne peered into each one. One room was utterly without furniture of any sort, and in the center of this room there was a large mound of skulls arranged in a vaguely pyramidal shape, with a small family of crows crouched atop it at various places. In the northwest corner of the room a naked patient was huddling, her bare body shivering from the cold wind that seemed to blow at all times through the halls of that lonely Lupanare.

Finally, Daphne came to a door that had a small index card taped to the side of it. Written on this index card in a childish scrawl were the words “Patient O.T.” Daphne peered into the room. It was bloated with shadows, the only illumination being provided from a moon beam that fell into the room through a large crack in the ceiling. In the beam of this light Daphne could see a man seated at a worktable with his back to her. His shoulders were all hunched up and he appeared to be hard at work on a project. Daphne entered the room and walked over to the man. As she got closed, she could see that he was dressed in shabby clothes, and that his body was covered in spider webs, many of which rose all the way to the ceiling. Daphne was soon closer enough so that she could peer over the man’s shoulder and see what he was working on. She saw the man was in the process of constructing a snow globe. At that moment, he was creating a figurine to place within the globe, and Daphne couldn’t help but notice that the figurine bore a great resemblance to her own features. Next to the partially-constructed snow globe was a paper towel, and resting on this paper towel were some lockets of hair, a portion of a fingernail, and three vials, one of which was filled with a saliva-like fluid, the other two containing blood. Suddenly, the man stiffened and turned his head around to stare at Daphne. At the spot where his face should have been there was instead a glass orb built into his face, and within this orb was a large eye that was partly blue and party green, with small flecks of gray. Also swirling within this orb were hundreds of tiny white dots, that Daphne at first assumed to be snow, but on closer inspection turned out to be miniscule trapped souls.

* * * *

Daphne experienced a great shock in looking out her window the following morning. Outside, it was as if she were gazing at a winter wonderland: snow had covered every surface, the nearby lake at Vernon Park had frozen over, and large icicles hung from the overhang of her roof. Yet despite the fact she was freezing, the people walking down the street outdoors were dressed for the summer: some men weren’t even wearing shirts. Which made sense: after all, it was late July, and when Daphne checked her outdoor thermometer she saw that the temperature was 95 degrees. The weatherman on the local news channel confirmed this, as did the Weather Bug program installed on her computer. Yet it seemed as if Daphne were the only person who could see and feel this snow.

Which means that maybe this is all in your head, Daphne thought, trying not to panic. She placed a call to her therapist, Dr. Roxy, but only got her answering machine. Which wasn’t all that surprising, seeing it was the weekend and her office was closed. Daphne looked outside the window. Is the whole world like this now? she wondered. There was only one way to find out. She decided to hop into her car and drive out of Thundermist, and see how far this landscape of snow and ice extended.

So she put on her winter coat and exited her house, noticing as she did so that the people walking by on the streets were gazing at her as if she were a crazy person. She climbed into her car, gunned the engine, and started making her way out of town. The longer she drove, the more panicked she became, and soon she was driving pretty fast. Eventually she was on Route 23 and headed south, as far away from the city as she could. To distract herself she was blaring Coil’s song “Snow” at a very loud volume.

A minute later Daphne’s car crashed. Daphne was thrown out of the windshield, glass exploding everywhere, and she smacked against something like a fly splattering against a window, before falling back to the street. For a moment, she was unconscious. When she came to, she weakly sat up, the pain wracking her body almost agonizing in its severity. Dazed, she looked at the smashed remains of her car. The entire front portion of it was crumpled. Yet she had no idea what she could have hit. No other cars were on the road. It was as if she had smashed into an invisible barrier.

Daphne began coughing up blood. Delirious with pain, she dragged herself off of the road, her legs all mangled up and bloody. Once off the road, she collapsed on the frozen earth and gazed up at the dark gray sky. She saw a gigantic eye gazing down at her, an eye that was blue and green in color with a few small flecks of gray. Then the whole world began to tremble again, and the snow began dancing and swirling all around dying Daphne.

* * * *

Saddleworth Clinic.

Another picture of Saddleworth Clinic.

Entrance to one of the Saddleworth buildings.

Saddleworth Clinic in the 19th century.

Thundermist Public Library.

H.P. Lovecraft's The Dunwich Horror and Others.


Burrowers Beneath.

Sim Will Build.

The Pixies: "Caribou."

Coil: "Red Birds Will Fly Out of the East and Destroy Paris in a Night."

Coil: "The Snow."

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Leftovers I: The Aphotic Zone

Earlier this year, I thought it might be interesting to start work on a second short story collection, this one revolving around the following concept: all the stories were to have been set in a city called Thundermist (a thinly veiled nightmare recreation of my own hometown of Woonsocket, Rhode Island). The working title was to have been Sabaziorum: The Thundermist Tales (or something along those lines). The idea was that there would be around 7-8 short stories and a novella. However, upon completing 4 of the stories (and slowly starting a fifth), the project began losing steam... as the months have gone by this year I've gradually lost interest in writing weird short fiction: I still enjoy reading it a great deal, but I've felt as if I've said all I've had to say on that topic and the newer stories I had created, while technically well-executed, were lacking passion and just repeating themes and things that I had already written about in my first short story collection, Grimoire. Still, I feel the 4 or so stories I created have some merit, so for the curious, I've decided to gradually post them on this blog, so that they can at least be read.

This first story, The Aphotic Zone, was written in the summer of 2010 for my friend David Kelso's project "I Love a Genre," where I presume it shall one day appear. In terms of style and subject matter it is heavily influenced by Thomas Ligotti's masterful short story "The Chymist," from his collection Songs of a Dead Dreamer.

The Aphotic Zone
James Champagne

“All art is at once surface and symbol.
Those who go beneath the surface
do so at their peril.”
-Oscar Wilde

“It is easier to perceive error than to find truth,
for the former lies on the surface and is easily seen,
while the latter lies in the depth,
where few are willing to search for it.”
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Errors like straws upon the surface flow:
Who would search for pearls must dive below.”
-John Dryden

Good evening, my friend. Please, step a little closer to me, I can't hear you over the noise of the crowd. Yes, you presume correctly: I am indeed the artist known as Professor Noe. I take it this isn't your first time visiting the Melanoid Art Gallery? Ah, I was correct in my assumptions, then. Quite a turnout tonight, wouldn't you say? I'm not quite sure if I understand all the hullabaloo, though: it's all a bit too minimalist and abstract for my liking. Nothing depresses me more than seeing our lovely organic forms reduced to mere geometrical shapes, and to be honest I’m somewhat appalled by the Cubistic hereticism on display this evening. But there are too many people here for me to talk to you comfortably. Come, let us speak in this less occupied side gallery, where it is quieter and darker, and our only audience will be the shadows, who, even more so than priests, can be trusted to conceal a secret.

H'mm, that's much better. Oh, looks like this room is devoted to a retrospective of the art of Arthur Rackham. Why, that's much more suitable. Let's take a seat right here, underneath the gaze of his illustration of “The Gnat and the Lion,” from Aesop's Fables. Kind of a macabre image for a child's book, don't you agree? I mean, look at the horrific expression on the gnat's face, as he realizes he's about to be devoured by that sinister looking spider. What makes this illustration even creepier is how the gnat has the face of a human being, wouldn't you say? It allows us to place ourselves in his exoskeleton. Gazing at this mere drawing for children I feel a layer of frostbite forming on my vertebral column, a freezing sensation caused by the snowflakes of horror: my very favorite sort of spinal chill.

I must say, you're well-dressed this evening. What's that now? I do suppose my appearance is a little strange. After all, not many people wear all their clothes inside out in the same manner as I do. Furthermore, I also suppose that not all that many people walk around in public wearing a squid mask over their face. What can I say, other than that I'm shy? But that, of course, is a lie. I agree it is a most unusual-looking squid, what with its velvet jet-black exterior, those bulging limpid blue eyes, that webbing of skin connecting its tentacles like a cape of sorts. The mask I'm wearing is a representation of the Vampyroteuthis, more commonly known as the Vampire Squid. I won't bore you with the scientific details, it suffices to say that the vampire squid is a small cephalopod that lives in very deep portions of the ocean. Did you know that it's 300 million years old, and thus existed even before the dinosaurs? Or that it's one of the few animals in nature that can turn itself inside-out when faced with danger? That's why I found it puzzling when I read about a certain fictitious aquatic creature that had been deleted from the film The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, one Hydronicus inverticus... the filmmakers cut it from the film on account of them finding it too “ridiculous.” What rot! There's no form we can conceive in our mind that cannot be found elsewhere in nature.

But yes, quite an amazing creature, our friend the vampire squid. A shame it has such a sinister reputation attached to it. Some call it the “Dracula of the Deep,” as if it were some sort of garden-variety bloodsucker of the Seven Seas. But I digress. No, there's no need for you to introduce yourself, as your reputation precedes you, Monsieur Colwin. I have heard that you are a connoisseur of yourself, is that correct? By that I mean that it is well-known in this city that your extensive collection of art consists solely of portraits of yourself, executed by artists whose services you've employed. Yet you've never been completely satisfied by these portraits, no? Perhaps these so-called “artists” have succeeded, on a superficial level, in capturing your likeness, yet your “essence” (or, if you will, your anima) refuses to be imprisoned on canvas by their crude pigments.

Yes, my dear Adrian, I have heard much of you over the last few months. I know that when you had begun your expedition in the field of portraiture, you had initially sought out artists known for their lifelike, almost photo-realistic styles. And you quickly learned a bitter truth: any hack can portray the flesh, but it takes a true genius to paint one's soul. Naturally, you decided to undertake a more abstract approach, which led to a parade of Cubist, Surrealist, and other avant-garde portraits. And though these efforts came a bit closer to capturing the sum of all your parts, you were still left unsatisfied. Hence your recent employment of an experimental musician to record an audio portrait of yourself (I hear he mostly just recorded the sounds of your inner organs, such as your heart? A somewhat admirable approach, I must admit), or that troupe of world-renowned cloud-sculptors from China who had carved a nimbus likeness of your face in the clouds above the city last month. But even they all failed.

And now, you seek me out to do your portrait. Well, I won't lie, it is an honor, and I do so love a challenge. I am curious, however, as to how you have heard of me. After all, I only moved to this city a year or so ago, and I'm not exactly the most sociable and attention-seeking figure, despite my outlandish appearance. Ah, so you've heard of me through Cynthia Glassroad? Yes, we've met. I'm not surprised she doesn't know all that much about me though. It is true that I was born in New England, not far from here in fact, and that I was expelled from the Rhode Island School of Design for what they referred to as “Interspacial Anarchy,” if you can believe that injustice. No, I don't know what it means either! As to answering the other question you just posed to me a moment ago, no, I've never done a public showing of my work. In fact, I forbid the subjects of my portraits to show other people the finished work of art. You see, my portraits are more than just mere portraits. They're something far more unique and primal, masterpieces of nebulosity, if you don't mind my heaping praises on myself.

You mention the name Mabel Osterman. I recently did a portrait of her, and she was raving about it afterwards. What's that? Well, yes, she did spend some time doing another kind of raving, in that insane asylum I've heard so many good things about, but she only temporarily lost her mind. When she saw my finished portrait of her, the poor dear was just so amazed by it that she went a little bit out of her head. But she's calmed down now and the last time I saw her she was as right as rain, and if you don't believe me, just ask Cynthia and she'll verify my story. I think temporarily losing one's mind can be a good thing, actually... after all, what better way to appreciate sanity than by engaging in a torrid love affair with its psychotic twin? It's just like how good health would be meaningless without illness, and how virtue would be pointless without vice. I once knew a man, a philosopher of the greenest sort, who had the foolhardy notion that the existence of Evil was the greatest argument against the existence of God. But I disagree: I think that Free Will is the greatest gift that any deity could give us, and without vice, think of how boring we all would be... nothing more than pious little robots.

No need to hide your checking of your watch: I'm aware I have a tendency to pontificate. It’s a trait I inherited from my father, a most unrepentant deviant who was forever singing hymns of praise towards the untidy practice of undinism. Let's get down to business, as they say in bad movies. To summarize, for many years now you've been seeking out an artist to capture your essence in its most purest state, yet have never found anyone to satisfy your no doubt exquisite tastes and exacting standards. Well, I think me with me you've found your answer. After many years of experiments and tears, I have finally succeeded in discovering a new type of representational art that truly captures the interior splendor of my subjects. But if you'll excuse me, I have other matters to attend to now. If you wish for me to do a portrait for you, simply drop by my house, which is also where my studio is located. Here's my card, all the information you need is on there. H'm, maybe it is somewhat pretentious to refer to oneself as an “abyssopelagic portraitist,” but I find that to be a suitable description of my job. Yes, I do live across the Blackstone River, in the bad part of Thundermist; my house is actually located about four blocks away from an abandoned (and supposedly haunted) mental hospital: I take you've heard of Saddleworth Clinic. You know us artists, Monsieur Colwin, we just love living surrounded by bohemian squalor. So, I can expect a visit from you later on this week then? I very much look forward to it. Until then, I vamos.

* * * *

Why, good afternoon, my dear Adrian! So nice to see you standing on my front doorstep on this lovely October day. But you must be chilly, what with that bitter south wind blowing, so please, do come in, let me have your coat, I'll just hang it in the closet here.

I'd like to welcome you to my humble abode. I hope its appearance isn't too unsettling for you. Oh, no need to worry about alienating me, there's nothing that you can say that could possibly offend me. I guess it must look a little unusual: walls covered with pads of pink foam insulation, the exposed wires and plumbing, and so forth. Yes, it does look as if the walls of the house have been turned inside-out, so that one can see what is normally hidden. I'm sorry, could you repeat that? Yes, I always wear my clothes inside out, and I always wear this squid mask on my face, even when I'm at home, away from the sight of others. I suppose I just like to stay in character.

Come, let us retire to the studio. Tell me, Adrian, if you don't mind my calling you by your first name... you don't? Good. Now, do you know the true meaning of the word occult? No, nothing to do with mere witchcraft or sorcery, I'm afraid. The word occult comes from the Latin word occultus, which means “hidden,” or “secret.” The word itself refers to “knowledge of the hidden.” I myself have a fascination with things we don't see: the things that reality constantly shields from our eyes. Almost all religious, occult and spiritual belief systems and philosophies involve a search for this “hidden” side of existence. One could also make the same claim about art, poetry, and the like, in that very often we (and by “we” I mean artists such as myself) strive to depict things that we can see but that others cannot. We try to show people the world as seen through the eyes of God, and in my opinion, good art should reveal the other side of the veil, so to speak. Ah, but I see we have arrived at my studio. I hope you aren't immune to the beauty of spiderwebs... yes, there are quite a few webs in here. Most people would just sweep them away, but I like the ambiance they add to the room. And how could I, an artist, justify annihilating the toils of nature's greatest little eight-legged artisans? It's my firm belief that spiderwebs should be cherished and cultivated, not swept aside like trash. Moving on, let me briefly focus on the business aspect of my craft so that I can later continue with my philosophical discourse. Just wait here by the door while I go find the necessary papers on my desk.

Let's see, where did I put those papers? Pardon the mess, I really need to clean my desk one day. Where... is... it... ah! Here we are. This is a contract you'll need to sign if you wish for me to do a portrait of you. Yes, certainly, read it thoroughly! It basically states that not only are you forbidden from showing the final work of art to anyone else, but also that you will not discuss my artistic methods to others. Violation of this contract would result in me taking you to court, among other things. You inquire about the footnote that states “Those who break this contract will have their very soul hunted down by the 72 demons of the Goetia”? Oh, never mind all that, standard legalese, my lawyers insisted on its inclusion. Lawyers, what bothersome gnats! Let me know once you've signed, and then we can begin.

Excellent. Why don't you go and lie down on that gurney in the center of the room? That's where you'll be posing. Oh, you're feeling a little light-headed and woozy? That's weird, perhaps you've caught that cold that's going around. Now if you'll excuse me for just one second, I need to go turn on my iPod. Yes, I always like to listen to music when I work. Oh, by the way, could you also take off your clothes, please? I insist that my models be nude when I do their portraits. Nude as Father Adam in his prime. You can just leave your clothes on the floor. Very nice, very nice. I'm sure you've heard this before, Adrian, but you have a very beautiful body. Truly callipygian. Trust me, that’s a compliment: it means you have shapely buttocks. You look a little like Taylor Lautner, if you don't mind my saying so. Of course, you know what they say, it's what's on the inside that counts. One of those rare cliches that happens to be true, by the by.

The music? It's a song called “Rabbit Snare” by a British group named Throbbing Gristle. I see by the face you're making that you're not too keen on it. Or perhaps you're still feeling unwell? Don't panic... yes, it seems as if you're rapidly losing your ability to move your muscles. Almost as if you're becoming paralyzed. Oh dear, it could be that nasty cold that's going around. Or it might have something to do with the fact that pipes all over the interior of this house have been emitting a paralyzing nerve gas ever since you stepped through the front door. Yes, that's probably the most likely reason. It won't effect me because I'm wearing this handy mask, and I'm immune to the stuff anyway, but you're not quite as lucky. You need not worry, it's only temporary, it won't last. Let me just strap you down on this gurney and get you as comfortable as possible. Oh, please don't put up a struggle, even a feeble one such as this, it's very unattractive and completely a waste of energy. See, already your body is becoming comfortably numb. Soon you won't be able to feel a thing. In a way, I envy you, as my pain is constant. You don’t mind if I run my hands over your torso, do you? I like to get a feel for my clay before I start working with it.

Let me just tilt your head so you can see the TV on that wall. In a few minutes I'm going to let you observe Mabel Osterman's portrait session, as I videotape all such sessions. This session which we're doing right now will be recorded. In fact, the recording is the portrait. But I don't want to get too far ahead of myself. Before we can begin I feel the need to further explain my philosophy, which I hope will enlighten you about my working methods. And I apologize for the hoarseness of my voice: I spend so much time in communication with the spirit world, with the invisible Cobwebbed Ones, that it tends to put quite a bit of strain on my vocal cords. I also apologize for my somewhat extensive vocabulary. I adore archaic and antiquated words, and in my more delusional frames of mind I prefer to see myself as not only an artist but also as a necromancer of dead languages. My favorite word of all-time is “thanatoskiankomorphic.” I won't tell you what that means, though. I will only say that its definition reveals all there is to know about me. Or maybe I'm just lying. If some of what I'm about to tell you doesn't make much sense, bear in mind that the gas you're inhaling at the moment also causes the occasional audio (and visual) hallucination.

Now, earlier I was telling you about my fascination with things that are hidden, with the occult. As a child, I used to always take things apart, to see what they were like inside. My parents thought it was cute when I disassembled their VCR. They didn't think it was as cute when I did the same thing to the family parakeet, named Napoleon, of all things. Please don't misunderstand me, it had nothing to do with mere sadism. It wasn't as if I was also wetting my bed and setting things on fire, like so many other budding little serial killers-to-be. It was simply that I found surface exteriors boring. It was at some point during my teenage years that I determined to become an artist. Hence my years at the Rhode Island School of Design. The real reason I was kicked out of the school was because I drugged a model with formaldehyde and tried to turn her vagina inside-out. But the dosage was wrong and she ended up awakening halfway through the operation. Her screams alerted the campus police, who thus interrupted my work of art. I tried to explain to the Dean my philosophy, but apparently the college frowned on genital mutilation. The story never made it to the papers as the school didn't want bad publicity: I was simply expelled. I went through another depressive period, which was followed by a phase in which I studied a large number of religions, spiritual belief systems, Eastern philosophies, and so forth. Yet I found every single one of them lacking. During this period of my life, I also began a new career, that of a psychiatrist, and I started seeing patients, many of whom ended up becoming the test subjects of my future experiments.

One evening a couple of years ago, I went through a dark night of the soul, and at one point cursed the God who had created this world, who had hidden the most interesting things behind dull walls and tedious flesh. I was in such a state of despair that I considered taking my own life. As I sat in my bedroom with the razor in my hand I prayed, and I prayed, and I prayed... until He came to me: the man with the starfish head. Some would call him a demon, but to me, he was my savior. It was He that made me pick up the razor and slice open a finger on my left hand. I saw the blood begin to seep out, my own blood, and I felt dizzy, as if I were witnessing something unreal. It made me think: why do people sometimes get dizzy or light-headed when they see their own blood? That evening, I had a revelation: it's not due to a fear of the sight of blood, it's because we're seeing something we're never meant to see, something that has been hidden away from us. I began to think of the inside of the human body, and all the organs that keep us going, how one never gets to truly see one's own skull when they look at themselves in the mirror. This was the conclusion I came to: that our true selves can only be found within us, literally, that the ultimate occult grimoire cannot be found on any bookshelf but underneath our skin. We need to read ourselves to truly reach enlightenment. The haruspices who tried to divine the future by inspecting the entrails of sacrificed sheep were on the right track, and I foresaw a new brand of theology: the study of the divinity of the human organs.

“In the heart of every human being there exists a haunted house, a dark forest, a pagan temple, a crumbling Gothic castle, and a desecrated church. It is within these ruins that we find our true selves, it is through these dark nights of the soul that Nature is unveiled.” I wrote that, many years ago, when I was a pretentious teenager. Little did I know, back then, how true those words were. So... where was I? Ah, yes, my life following the revelation. First, I began wearing my clothes inside-out, as an outward display of the dedication I felt towards my new purpose in life. I then began carefully studying nature, seeking out animals who were capable of turning themselves inside-out. Sadly, I was only able to find but a few examples, such as the starfish, who can turn its stomach inside-out. Did you know that? And, of course, my beloved vampire squids. Once I discovered them, my metamorphosis was complete. I created this mask and gave myself a new name: Professor Noe, you see. I began practicing my art, gradually perfecting my technique. Granted, a few of my early models died, but these were regrettable casualties of art. Eventually, I saved up enough money to move to this fine city of ours, and I proceeded to build this house, a house that reflects my unique philosophy. And then, my career as an artist began in earnest.

Are you familiar, Adrian, with the term “Aphotic Zone?” Ah, forgive me, I had forgotten that you are unable to speak at the present moment: or do anything at all, for that matter. Back to the Aphotic Zone. Now there's a term you won't come across on a daily basis. Aphotic is a Greek word meaning “without light.” The Aphotic Zone, then, is the portion of a lake or ocean where there is little to no sunlight. Less than 1% of sunlight penetrates this zone, and as a result, bioluminescence provides the only light source in this area of the ocean. Of course, there are layers even further below the Aphotic Zone, such as the Bathyal Zone, the Abyssal Zone, and the Hadal Zone. But I've always found the Aphotic Zone to be most fascinating because it's the natural habitat of the vampire squid. As I formulated my new philosophy, I began to see the innards of the human body as a metaphor for the Aphotic Zone, that is, we carry within us the darkness of the deepest depths of the ocean, and one must never forget that water makes up a significant portion of the human body. Science and technology has given us bathyspheres to explore the lowest depths of the ocean, but has failed to properly equip us with a similar device for plumbing the alien seas beneath our skin and muscles. Ufologists have it backwards: why look to the sky for alien life forms when the ultimate UFO is our own body. The drowning king of alchemy is nothing more than our own unconscious desire to map out these unknown waters, our mare nostrum. To shed light on the Aphotic Zone inside the human body: this became the aim of my philosophy, the goal of my art.

Before I begin working on your portrait, let me show you Mabel's session. Now, let me think, where did I last leave that video? Probably with my collection of previously taped portrait sessions. Let me search the “O” list: Olafson, Ondic, Orton, Orwig, ah! Here we are. Mabel Osterman. Let me just get this started up now. Okay, from the beginning. There's Mabel Osterman, strapped down to the very same gurney on which you now rest, paralyzed, naked, just like you. And now there I am, hovering to her side, scalpel in hand. Do you see? Accompanied by that old song by R.E.M., “Turn You Inside-Out,” I'm cutting her chest open now, as if I were performing an autopsy on her. I hope you don't find all of this dull. It picks up once I reach her interior region, her glorious subterranean ocean, her darkly shining world. Ah! There... see how gingerly I handle her insides, how delicately I hold them up to the camera, how lovingly I caress them? Oh, how I love to whisper noctivigant nursery rhymes to the organs of my models. Adrian, my boy, if you only knew the scandalous things her liver told me.

Have you ever wondered what your jealous organs daydream? Starved of attention, they fantasize about nothing less than the desecration of our beloved surfaces. The flawless faces of innocent babies and beautiful children covered with foul saprophytic maggots. Supermodels losing their minds as the skin starts to flake off their faces, before their horrified eyes. Our lovely lakes and oceans befouled by enormous anuses shitting torrents of fecal matter into once-pristine water. Trees covered with taunting sores and bubbling ulcers. Noble animals melting and mutating into horrific new forms, their outsides suddenly resembling their insides. The young turning into the old, their bodies crushed by time, their skin rotting away: this is pornography for our organs.

A confession: even though I depend on people such as yourself and Madame Osterman to fund my experiments, and even though your very existence is necessary to provide a reason for my art to exist in the first place, it's a symbiotic relationship I find nauseating, as narcissists such as yourself make me sick to death. You're just like everyone else in the world, concerned with outer appearances only. All you care about is your face, your muscles, the flatness of your gut, perhaps even your genital area. Meaningless! Meaningless! Vanity of vanity, all is vanity. Do you ever stop and think about the organs keeping you alive, the organs that never get to take a break, never get to go on vacation, never even get to rest? Maybe you think of them only in moments of morbidity, or at those periods in life where after decades of wear and tear they finally start to break down and rebel. What is cancer but a violent insurrection against a despotic tyrant? What is a heart attack but a noble suicide? Do you know that every organ is like a snowflake, something totally unique and with its own individual personality? Yet no one cares, except I, the man who has given them a voice, the artist who listens to the nightmares of tissues, the agony of the plasma, and the lamentations of the blood. As I turn you inside-out, I plan on reading your insides like a novel, and what I'll discover will be a trillion times more interesting than any words that could come forth from your pretty mouth.

Sorry about that, sometimes I like to get on my high horse. Ah, here's the part of the video where I hold a conversation with Mabel's kidneys. Don't worry about infection, as you can clearly see in this video, I'm wearing gloves, and I would also like to let you know that I always sterilize my surgical equipment before doing the portrait. In addition, my little dark elves will put you all back together once I'm done far more skillfully than any mere surgeon could do. Listen to me, surgical equipment, as if what I was doing was mere surgery! No, the scalpel is my paintbrush. Oh, this is a good part: it's very exciting when I cut open the skull and expose the brain to light. How many people can claim to have seen their own brain? If only I could find a way to peel off one's face to reveal the skull beneath, then somehow attach the face back on... but my art technique has not reached that level yet. Perhaps in the future. Maybe I'll even try it out on you.

Still, all good things must come to an end. You might find this final part of the video curious. You might even ask yourself, “Why is Professor Noe pulling what appears to be the shadows of benthopelagic homunculi out of a jar and sticking them in Mabel Osterman's body?” Well, it's partly insurance: to make sure that the model doesn't reveal my secrets to the profane. Those little monsters, the dark elves that I mentioned just a moment ago (which, by the way, were hydroponically harvested on the shadows of demons captured from some festering Fairyland), will snuggle up in your guts and make sure you behave. Don't worry, after awhile you won't even know they're there. If that sounds crude, look at it this way: many artists like to sign their works upon completion. Consider those little monsters to be my signature, written within the walls of your body: a living and demonic autograph.

Mabel's been stitched up good as new, and our video has come to an end. Now it's your turn. But wait, what's this? Are these tears trickling forth from your eyes? Are you crying, poor Adrian? There there... I promise you won't feel a thing, and it'll all be over before you know it, though it might take you a few weeks to recover, and it will leave a scar. But I can assure you this: when all is said and done, you'll get a copy of the session, and you'll have that rarest of pleasures: the chance to see your very own Aphotic Zone, that Godly shadow that exists within you. I will show you treasures within you whose existence you never even suspected, buried deep within your interior la mer like sunken ships of gold.

And now, for the scalpel...

Picture of a Vampire Squid turning itself inside-out.
Link to a video on Youtube of the Vampire Squid.

Throbbing Gristle's song "Rabbit Snare."

R.E.M.'s song "Turn You Inside-Out."

"The Gnat and the Lion" (Arthur Rackham)

Taylor Lautner: what I imagine Adrian Colwin to look like