Friday, December 10, 2010

"The Day After"

Hey, look at that. I can write a story with a happy ending that's actually fun to read! NO WAI YES WAI!

"The Day After"
Aaron M. Smith- December 2010

“Ow, ow, OW! Kill the engine! Carl, kill the engine!” I cried.
“Why?” Carl shouted from the front seat.
“Because I said!” I yelled, the tie tightening on my windpipe.
The engine cut, and the fan belt stopped trying to strangle me. Carl came around from the driver’s seat and looked at me.
“Why’d you stick yer tie in the car?” He said.
“Just get me the hell out of here!” I yelled.
Together, we extricated my tie from the engine. It was shredded, completely ruined. I wiped the oil on my hands onto my tuxedo pants. They were black anyway, I rationalized.
“Give me your tie,” I said.
“What, why?” Carl demanded.
“Because it’s my wedding day!” I snapped. Carl obediently undid his tie and passed it to me. I tried to concentrate on my double-winsor and not fantasize about strangling my groomsman with it.
“Hey, you guys got the car running yet?” Ethan crawled out of the back seat of the car, holding an ice pack on his head.
“Well look who decided to wake the hell up,” I said. “Thanks for joining us.”
“I can’t help it if I drank more than you last night,” Ethan said, shielding his eyes from the oppressive California sunlight.
“You passed out after six,” Carl prodded.
“Stan? You guys figured out what’s the matter?” My brother, Graham, came out of the back seat and joined the three of us at the front of the car. He looked into the open hood and shook his head as if he knew precisely what he was looking at.
“Fan belt’s blown,” Carl said.
“No it’s not, it’s right there,” Ethan said. He was the only one of us who knew a timing belt from a tanning bed. “Everything looks in it’s place. I don’t see smoke anymore. How long has it been since you checked the oil?”
“The what?” Carl said.
“Okay, that’s it. I give up,” I said, walking around to the driver’s side. I sat down on the ground at the driver’s door and looked at the road. There was an impressive amount of nothing on the road between Vegas and L.A.
“Now don’t panic, Stan,” Graham said, walking around to the side with me. “It’s going to be fine. The wedding isn’t until four. We’ve got plenty of time.”
“We’re stuck in the middle of freaking nowhere, my wedding is two hours and two hundred miles away,” there was a sudden BANG! from the front of the car, followed by a whole lot of black smoke and a whole lot of coughing. “And we’re short one tie. Please tell me when I can start panicking!” I didn’t mean to shout, but I couldn’t help it.
“But think about last night—wasn’t it worth it?” Said Carl, sitting down on my other side. His white shirt had two huge, black, hand-shaped grease smudges across it.
“How the hell should I know?” I asked. “My head’s still killing me. I don’t know what you paid for those drinks, but it was too much. I might as well have drunk varnish.”
“It’ll all come back to you next time you check your Facebook. I took a ton of pictures,” Ethan said. I turned around. He was tapping vigorously on his iPhone.
I put my head in my hands. It was over. The greatest day of my life, totally ruined. Shelly was going to kill me. She’d practically killed herself getting everything together- the venue, all the invitations, the seating chart…
“Stan, look,” Graham said.
“Graham, I don’t want to hear it. I just don’t.”
“No Stan, look!” He voice rose, and he jumped to his feet.
I looked up. A long black car, the first car we’d seen in nearly an hour on the lonely desert highway, was speeding toward us. I stood up to get a better look at it. I thought it was just a Lincoln or something, but the closer it got the stranger it looked. Was the heat playing a trick on me?
Moments later, a huge black limousine had stopped on the road in front of us. I approached the back windows, squinting at my own reflection in the mirrored surface. My forehead was sunburned, and there was a black grease smudge across my cheek. My reflection slowly vanished as the window slid down, air conditioning rushing out to meet my face.
A beautiful woman with short, curly brown hair and plump apple cheeks grinned out at me from the darkness inside the limo. She stuck her head out the window, looked around, then giggled when she saw the thick cloud of smoke now rolling from open hood of our car.
“You let Carl drive, didn’t you?”
“…Sandy!?” Graham said, rushing to the window.
“Ethan texted me, told me you guys were in trouble.” The maid of honor winked at me. I turned around and looked at Ethan, who managed to give me a thumbs up with his iPhone hand while pressing the ice pack to his head with the other. “Good thing Shelly left early. Had to meet the caterer in L.A. before the ceremony. Said we could take the limo back on our own.”
“Sandy,” I said, literally blinking back tears. “If I wasn’t getting married today… I’d ask you to marry me.” Another bridesmaid from within the darkness of the limousine giggled. I turned around to see Carl heading to the limo.
“Hey Sandy,” he said. “You guys got an extra tie in there?”
“Just shut up and get in before we’re all late!” She said. 

Monday, November 29, 2010

"Vacation, pt.2"

This week's entry is a sequel to a piece I wrote back in August (new window) that I originally meant to write immediately after the first, but time got away from me and the sequel never materialized. In case you're wondering, I intend on writing a part 3 also. That'll be in the works as soon as I can crank it out.

"Vacation, part 2"
November 2010- Aaron Matthew Smith

“This is stupid,” Roger said.
“It is not,” Allison argued. “I know you paid for dance lessons and I feel bad that you didn’t get to use ‘em.” She stood across from him on the wooden deck on the back of the beach house. The sun had set an hour ago, dying the whole scene midnight blue, though the moon provided plenty of light to see by. “I know you like dancing.”
“You’re not supposed to know that,” Roger muttered.
“Shut up. We danced to ‘Under the Sea’ on my Little Mermaid tape when we were kids, remember? You had more fun than I did. Now come on, show me.”
“There isn’t any music,” Roger argued, gesturing with the hand holding his beer, sloshing some out onto the deck.
“Will you just teach me how to dance already?” Allison teased, taking the beer from him and setting it next to her own collection of empty bottles.
“Okay, okay. Fine. Here, put your hand on my shoulder,” Roger said, taking a careful step closer to Allison. He placed one hand on her waist. She obligingly put one hand on his shoulder and allowed her other to be taken in his free hand. “Okay, now when you feel me move, you move too, okay?”
“Ooh baby,” Allison laughed, snorting.
“Okay, forget it,” Roger said, which only made Allison laugh harder.
“No, no, I’ll be serious, I promise. I promise.” She snorted again, then cleared her throat and tried to stand up straight, though she couldn’t hide the little drunk grin on her face.
Roger noticed the grin, and the familiarity of it made him smile. He hadn’t smiled like that when he and Jamie were together.
He started to move, and she let him lead. He moved the two of them around in a light circle on the wooden deck just like he’d learned months ago. His flip flop caught a time or two on the uneven wood, but even despite that and the beer he was a pretty good dancer.
After a revolution or two, Allison started to get the hang of it and leaned in to Roger, laying her head on his shoulder. She could hear his heart speed up, and it made her smile.
“What was going to be your and Jamie’s first dance song?” She asked.
“Save the last dance for me,” Roger said.
“I hate that song,” Allison said.
“I chose it,” Roger said.
“I hate it now too.”
For a moment, Allison didn’t know how to respond. Then she started snorting again, and before she could stop herself she was laughing out loud, leaning on her old friend entirely. Roger couldn’t help it- Al’s laugh was infectious, and soon he was laughing too.
“Who needs her?” Allison said after catching her breath.
“Eh, I didn’t want to marry her anyway,” Roger said, and almost believed his own lie. “Screw her.”
“Screw her!” Allison bellowed, thrusting one fist into the air. Her flip flop suddenly caught on an uneven plank and she stumbled, kicking over several empty bottles. Roger caught her around the waist and nearly fell himself, which just started Allison laughing all over again.
Roger hoisted her back to her feet, cradling her around the shoulders with both arms. She looked up into his face, her warm brown eyes huge in the moonlight. Her laughter vanished suddenly, for a moment she simply looked into his eyes. In the next, their lips met. Her lips were larger than his and he felt briefly like she was going to drool on him, and their teeth clacked gently. Nobody’s ideal first kiss, but Roger didn’t care. They kissed for a long minute, slowly finding a rhythm like they had when dancing moments earlier.
The kiss could have lasted for a minute or an hour; Roger couldn’t tell. But when it finally ended and he pulled away from Allison, his best friend, and when he looked down into her huge brown eyes and she smiled up at him, a huge weight felt like it had been lifted from his shoulders.
“I love you,” he mumbled.
Allison’s brow slowly furrowed, and the cold feeling that Roger had felt in his stomach many times that night returned with a spiteful passion.
“What?” She said.
“Uh,” Roger said, lifting Allison fully to her feet. She stood on her own and took a step back from him.
“I…uh, Roger,” Allison said, averting her eyes and tugging a strand of straight brown hair behind her ear.
“No, I, forget it. I’m drunk.” Roger said.
“No, no, Roger, it’s just that…” Allison wanted desperately to say something, but the beer kept her from forming a coherent thought. “I love you too, I mean, but… you’ve been hurt, really badly, and I just…”
“No, no, it’s okay. It’s my fault, I should’ve… I mean, I shouldn’t have…yeah,” Roger stammered. “Oh, look, we’re out of beer. I’ll go get us some more.” And he turned and walked inside, his shoulder colliding with the sliding glass door as he staggered inside.
Allison looked at their cooler. It had at least half a dozen beers floating in the ice water.
“Crap,” Allison mumbled to herself, plopping back down on the worn deck chair. Why’d she have to say that? Of course she loved Roger. She’d loved him since they were kids. There hadn’t been a day when he and Jamie were together that she hadn’t wanted to slap him across the face and say ‘What are you doing with a girl like that!? But he’d genuinely loved Jamie, once upon a time. And he was hurt. The last thing Allison wanted was to be a rebound fling. She wanted to be there for him… but not like that.
She looked through the sliding glass door, which Roger hadn’t closed behind him. The door to the fridge was standing open, but Roger was nowhere in sight. He’d done this ever since they were kids. He was hurt and embarrassed, so he was hiding by himself somewhere.
“Crap,” Allison said again. “Why couldn’t I have just lied to him?”

Sunday, November 21, 2010


First things first:
You: “Aaron! It’s been a while since you posted anything. What’s the deal man?”
Me: “I’ve had my hands full for the last month or so.”
You: “Seriously, that’s your excuse? What could you have been doing that’s kept you so busy?”
Me: “I proposed to my girlfriend, and she said yes.”
You: “Oh.”
Me: “Yeah.”
You: “Wedding fever, huh?”
Me: “Pretty much.”
Okay, I’m overdramatizing a little bit. I did get engaged at the end of October, and it’s been good so far. She’s handled pretty much everything (the venue, the preacher, tracking down a reception area, etc). The only thing I’ve had to do so far is pick out a first dance song (“Baby You’ve Got What It Takes”, Michael Buble’) but it’s still been a hectic process.

That said, what I have today isn’t a new short story (been trying to wrap up another novel idea recently), more of an observation. Yesterday my brother and I were in a book store when a handful of children ran by, screaming something at their mother.
My brother: “Man, kids are just like drunks.”
Me: “…that’s pretty good. Can I blog about that?”
Him: “Sure, as long as you don’t make any money off of it.”
Me: “Don’t worry, it’s a blog.”
(Seriously, I can’t even figure out how to make anything off of these stupid banner ads)

But he was right; the similarities between drunks and children are strikingly similar.

  1. Short attention span. Many people have found themselves in the following situation: That one friend gets drunk and decides what a great idea it would be to discuss the time in fifth grade when you puked on yourself on the school bus (or another similarly uncomfortable topic). If you’ve encountered this situation before, you’ve likely discovered that the easiest way to put an end to the awkward situation is to change the topic. For instance, you could bait your political friend into the fiendish nature of free-market capitalism. Just be sure to not inadvertently pick another topic that leads to another awkward conversation. 
Similarly, children can easily be distracted from one topic to another. Parents swear by this technique. Kids don’t want to eat their vegetables? Misdirect their attention to the cake at the end of the meal, and they’ll destroy those peas. The drunker the individual is, the more childlike they may become; as such, it’ll take less and less effort to distract them from the potential party-stopper.

If he or she is drunk enough, a set of jangling keys may suffice.

  1. Commentary on anything and everything. One of the easiest ways to distract the drunk friend featured in comparison one is to point out something- anything, really- in the environment. Your drunk friend will no doubt have a story or opinion one way or another on said object or situation. Beware, however; your friend is very likely to instead speak about the most noticeable qualities of the biggest, meanest-looking guy at the bar. If your buddy ever utters, “A Harley-Davidson jacket? Harleys are for wimps! I’ll say it to all eight of you!”, best to leave them to their own devices and clean up the mess afterward. 
If you have children, you have no doubt encountered “Mommy, look at this!”, “Why does that guy walk funny?” or “What does ‘combustible’ mean?”, you know that  everything in a child’s field of vision is interesting enough to verbally comment about at one hundred and forty decibels. Worth noting is how often this similarity coincides with the third comparison…

  1. Shouting. This one is obvious. If you’ve ever been around the drunk girl who honestly thinks “This song is about me!” or that guy who will “Totally kick your ass at beer pong!”, you know that some people cannot control the volume of their voices when drinks are involved. Why is that, anyway? I speculate that the alcohol adds a kind of white noise that they think they have to shout over in order to be heard. Eventually though, the white noise turns to a test pattern at the end of the night when there’s nothing else to see. 
Everything that a child sees is worthy of your immediate and undivided attention. And if you ignore him or her, you must not have heard them the first time and require a louder reiteration. If you did not find what he or she had to say funny, or interesting, or spiritually and metaphysically enlightening, you did not hear them correctly and the process must begin anew, continuing to increase in volume until the situation has passed or their attention befalls something else (refer to comparison 1).

Is my comparison unfair and one-sided? Of course it is. That’s my attempt at comedy. It’s a joke. I’m joking. I love kids and I’ve taken care of my share of intoxicated people (and been taken care of a time or two as well), so please hold the angry e-mails. It’s just comedy. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


I actually wrote this piece to submit into a creative writing contest. The guidelines didn't say anything about not posting the material elsewhere, so until I hear otherwise I'm going to share it here. Just in time for Halloween, it's another scary story. Rosewood resort is the vacation destination of only the most posh and well-to-do. By why was the island abandoned by its indigenous peoples in the first place? Read and find out!

Aaron Matthew Smith
October 2010

“Max! It’s amazing!” Tabitha said as she stepped into our room. She slipped off her sandals and tread barefoot across the plush blood-red carpet, then dropped her bags onto the king sized bed and walked to the extra-large Jacuzzi in the corner. I crossed the room, past the mini bar and plasma television to our private sun deck. I swung open the French doors, allowing a warm salty sea breeze to fill the whole room. The evening sunlight painted the sky a panorama of pinks and purples, reflected brightly on the endless black ribbon of ocean beneath. The sound of the waves crashing against the rocky bluff below the window washed over me like a tangible thing, and I felt the tension melt away from my body.
Just then a heavy gust of wind tossed the curtains on the doors.
“What is it hun?” I said.
“Hm? I didn’t say anything,” Tabitha said from behind me.
“Oh. Um, nothing. Must’ve been the wind,” I said. I glanced out at the tranquil ocean once more before returning inside, closing the French doors behind me.

“The island chain that Rosewood Island Resort is part of is made of volcanic rock.” the tour guide was saying, pointing to the rocky bluffs at the face of the island.
“Kayak tours right after breakfast? Whose idea was that?” I mumbled.
“You were the one who wanted to take the ‘adventure vacation’,” Tabitha replied. We were on the dark side of the island now, shaded from the morning sun by the island itself. High above, the face of the resort loomed over us.
My kayak bobbed uneasily in the green water as I guided it to the edge of the bluff. The water came right up to a sheer wall of blackish volcanic rock, covered in moss and lichens where the water lapped the face. This far down, the stone was remarkably smooth. Father up, though, it looked sharp, like it had been cut out with a tool.
Just then, a sharp wind whipped around us, tossing a cool, salty spray over our whole group. On the wind came a low, sharp whistle which rose in volume until it couldn’t be called anything but a wail. The pure torment and pain in it chilled me to my core. I looked around and noticed some of the others in the group getting visibly agitated. The tour guide who’d been speaking smiled.
“The water has eroded deep caverns and passages into the face of the island over the course of hundreds of years,” he said. “When the wind rushes through the natural stone caverns in the face of the island, it creates a hollow noise like you just heard. The locals came to call them the Caves of the Damned.”
“Psh,” someone said, and I turned to find our other tour guide by my side. I’d lagged behind the others when I was examining the rocks, and the second guide was bringing up the rear of the group. “Don’t listen to that guy. He’s from the mainland. I grew up on these islands.” He glanced at me with dark, serious eyes. “You ever wonder why no locals work here at night? It’s because we know well enough to get off the island after nightfall.”
I really didn’t want to ask, but I had to know.
“What happens after nightfall?”
“The island wakes up.”
 “What do you mean?” I asked.
“This island is more than two hundred years old. And it’s more than an island. It used to be a temple.”
“To who?”
“Who? No, to what. Nobody knows. When the island first woke up, everyone moved to the other islands and destroyed all evidence of the old order. Only in whispers and fairy tales does anyone remember anything about it.”
“What about you? What do you know about it?” I asked carefully.
“No sir,” he replied, shaking his head. “They don’t pay me enough to go through that. No sir. It ain’t worth it.”
“Meet me at the hotel bar at eight tonight,” I said, “And I’ll make it worth it.”

He was there, just like I’d asked.
Adrian (he’d told me him name at the end of the kayak trip) met me at the entrance of the bar. He saw me approaching and walked toward me. Without speaking, I removed a fifty dollar bill from the pocket of my jacket. He palmed the note, then turned and headed through the main hall of the hotel, toward the patio. I followed him.
In a moment we were out from under the high crystal chandeliers and soft chamber music of Rosewood’s main hall. On the patio a live band played smooth jazz into the night. He led me to the edge, down a short flight of steps and across a sidewalk that lead to the edge of the vast garden.
Finally he stopped at the steel guardrail on the edge of the bluff. Beneath us was the sheer cliff face where sixty feet below I’d touched the smooth face of the stone earlier that morning. He leaned on the guard rail for a moment before speaking, watching the moonlight reflect in the endless, rippling black ribbon of ocean.
“Can you hear it?” He asked. “Calling your name?”
 “I have heard it. How does it know my name?”
“How do you know to call the ocean the ocean, or to call dirt dirt? You’ve grown up, and you’ve learn the names of these things over time. It’s the same way with the island. It’s very, very old. Older than the oceans around it and the skies above it. It has learned many things.”
The wind drew up around us suddenly, and despite the balmy weather I was chilled. Then, I heard it. The same tormented wail that had come out of the caves beneath the island that morning.
Adrian didn’t react to the screaming, but he watched me carefully.
“What is that?” I asked.
“The screams of the people that the island has devoured,” he replied. “My grandmother told me a story, when I was a boy. About a man who wanted to know all that the island knew. He wanted to possess that knowledge and power for himself, so he tried to go into the heart of the island to claim it. And the island devoured him, just like it does everyone.”
“What’s down there?” I asked as I peered over the railing, my voice tiny.
“Nobody’s ever gone down to see and came back to tell,” Adrian told me.
The wind rose again, and the wailing began anew, louder and more tormented that before. Fear coalesced in a cold, hard lump in my stomach, but something else blossomed to life there. A morbid curiosity, a need to know just what was lurking down in those caves. Could there actually be something living down there? Or was the island actually alive like Adrian claimed?
Or was it all some sort of hoax, cooked up by a guy working a summer job to spook an extra fifty bucks out of a naïve tourist?
“How do you get to the caves?” I asked.
Adrian turned to me, his dark eyes huge in the moonlight. “You can’t be serious. You want to go down into the screaming caves? Do you have a death wish?”
“I have to know what’s down there.”
“I won’t have anything to do with this,” he said, and turned to walk away from me. I grabbed his arm.
“Just point the way.”
Adrian hesitated. He wouldn’t turn around and look at me. Finally, he pointed with the arm I wasn’t holding. At the edge of the guardrail, where the carefully manicured garden ended, was an old, gnarled tree. Out of the light from the garden lamps, it was nearly invisible.
Before I could ask anything else, Adrian had pulled free from my grasp and headed back to the resort. I stared at the mangled, dried tree for a while. Why had the landscapers not simply torn the thing up? I had approached it before I’d realized it, and was soon reaching across the guard rail to touch it. As I did, something out of the ordinary caught my eye.
There was a set of narrow steps carved into the rock face beneath the tree, just out of site from the garden.
Equal parts madness and wonder overcame me as I climbed past the guard rail, gripped the edge of the tree for dear life and slowly began to descend those narrow, slimy steps. After a few steps, I had to let go of the tree and press myself against the cold stone. I had to keep going. If I allowed myself to stop, I knew that I’d be overcome with terror and be unable to go either back up or farther down.
The wind had shifted and seemed to be howling from beneath me now, trying to either blow me back up the stairs or off into the roiling sea below. Finally the steps lead into a sharp crack in the face of the bluff, like a wound torn into the stone. I squeezed into the crack and was for a moment relieved that I was no longer in danger of falling into the roiling sea.
A scream, louder and clearer than ever before, tore at me from within the crack, and the wind that came with it felt like the hot breath of some colossal animal. I couldn’t stay where I was; it was either keep going or turn back. I was this far into the island. If I turned back now, I could never live with myself.
The starry sky above me vanished from site as I followed the crevasse deeper. It turned into a tunnel, and I found myself surrounded on all sides by damp, cool rock, pitch black save for my cigarette lighter. Every few moments the screaming wind would tear past me as if it was in a rush to escape the cavern, blowing my lighter out and plunging me for a horrifying instant in complete wailing blackness.
The tunnel widened as I followed it deeper into the island until I was walking through a great dark corridor. The walls and ceiling were so far away now that my meager flame couldn’t reach them. In fact, the only evidence that I was still inside the island at all was the damp, rough stone beneath my feet.
That is, until I came to the solid wall at the end of the tunnel. Its surface was smooth and flat, not at all like the rough floor I’d been walking on.
“What is this?” I asked no one, my voice echoing eerily in the impossibly black cavern. I slapped the bare wall with my hand. It was curiously warm compared to the rest of the stone. “Is this it? There’s nothing here.”
“MAXWELL!” called a huge voice, so loud that I dropped my lighter and clapped both hands over my ears. The wick on the lighter continued to burn as it lay on the floor. In the tiny flickering light, I watched the stone wall before me split like a colossal mouth, tearing open with a sound like a landslide near the floor and splitting up out of view. I opened my mouth to scream, but the sound was drowned out by the horrible noise that came from the opening, a whistling scream like the sound of tearing metal.
The floor beneath me shuddered and I was thrown from my feet, tumbling face first into the horrible opening. I landed in a heap on damp, warm stone. My cries were washed away in the screaming wind that surrounded me like a hundred grasping arms, and I watched in horror as the yellow light from the lighter vanished and the rocky chasm sealed itself up around me.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Review: "The Call of Cthulhu"

Mark Twain once said that "Classics are things that everyone wants to have read but nobody wants to read". In this instance, that statement couldn't be more wrong. This is one of those pieces of work that I'd always wanted to read but never had. Well, I found a collection of H.P. Lovecraft's short stories on Amazon and couldn't pass it up.

For those of you who have been under a literary rock for the last eighty years (seriously, it was first published in 1928 in Weird Tales. Crack a book.), the tale of Cthulhu is one of the most influential works of science fiction in the last hundred years, influencing such prolific writers as Neil Gaiman and Mike Mignola (and if you've never heard of either of these titans, please go to wikipedia and brush up on your comic book writers).

The Call of Cthulhu opens in the office of a young man (Francis Wayland Thurstonwho has just received a shipment of items from his deceased granduncle's estate. In the process of sorting his granducle (George Gammell Angell)'s estate he uncovers a journal that outlines his uncle's obsession with a particularly strange bass relief sculpture. In Angell's notes, Thurston discovers that a sudden outbreak of worldwide delirium struck several people in countries all over the world between March 1st and April 2nd, 1925, one particular incident striking a young sculptor at the Rhode Island School of Design, possessing him to create a bass-relief sculpture of a colossal beast with a vaguely humanoid body, membrane wings and a head like a writhing octopus. On the date that the sculptor created his horrific masterpiece, a series of unexplained earthquakes shook the globe.

 Angell goes on to discover that a New Orleans police office found a similar idol at the gathering place of a cult responsible for gruesome human sacrifices in the Louisiana swamps. When Thurston reads his uncle's account of a ship that became lost at sea and came aground on an island on the date of the worldwide earthquake (in a portion of the Pacific where there should have been no island), Thurston takes it upon himself to meet the sole survivor of the tragic voyage.

My problem with classics is that, after a hundred years, sometimes literature begins to lose its elasticity. That is, the language and the subject matter begin to lose their relevancy in modern society. I had the same issue the first time I tried to read the Lord of the Rings; at 13, I just couldn't follow the singsong manuscript. I have to admit, though, I had no such trouble with The Call of Cthulhu (before I get all sorts of hate mail, I DID eventually finish the Lord of the Rings, and yes, I loved it).

Lovecraft's style of writing is very internalized. Even in the instances where one character is speaking to another, very often rather than use actual dialog the conversation will take place like this:
"And then he told me the story of the moment that the boat capsized, and the horror that seized him at that moment stripped every once of hope from his soul."
While this style of writing is a little difficult to get used to, I think that in the end it adds to the macabre tension that Lovecraft is so well known for. The creativity for which he has become so legendary is on perfect display in The Call of Cthulhu. If you've ever heard the name of the Great and Terrible One before and you've never read the original short story, I recommend it highly. In a manner of speaking, it is to modern cult horror what Lord of the Rings is to modern fantasy.

Monday, October 4, 2010


I didn't realize it until I'd finished the piece, but this week's entry is a a sequel to a story I wrote A year ago this week (new window). Plenty of zombie tension and action await in the sequel to "Preparations".

Aaron Matthew Smith- September 2010

“How does it open?” Donny asked, squatting down next to me.
“You ain’t never seen an ammo box before, dipshit?” Sam asked, crouching next to the two of us.
“Shut up,” Donny said.
“Both of you shut up!” I said, leaning past the two of them. The trunk of the old Buick station wagon had nearly been sheared off in the crash and revealed a gaping hole in the old car. Heavy, waterproof steel boxes of ammunition were scattered across the road. Some of them had shattered and scattered their contents all across the battered highway, now littered with crashed and abandoned cars. Many of the boxes, however, were still in tact and sealed shut.
“And who made you the leader of this outfit, Mike?” Sam argued not because he disagreed but because he liked to argue. I didn’t dignify the statement with a response. In a moment the ammo box was open and we started sorting through the bullets.
“Ugh, mostly shotgun shells. We only have one shotgun.” Donny said.
“Are the keys in the ignition?” I asked. Sam walked around to the front of the car.
“Yeah,” he shouted, “but it’s smashed. No way we can drive it outta here.”
He came back around and started helping Donny and me sort through the ammunition in the rest of the boxes.
“I still can’t believe we ran out of gas,” Donny said, casting a forlorn glance at the Volvo we’d taken from the pawn shop manager.
“Well, we couldn’t stop at that Gas-N-Go back down the road. There wasn’t anyone there to activate the pumps.” I said.
“They never run out of gas in the movies,” Donny said.
“If this was a zombie movie, we’d already have run into three hot girls also on the run for their lives.” Sam said. The three of us grinned.
We took a few minutes to gather all the ammo we could carry and then headed down the abandoned highway. It least this part was exactly like I always expected. There were cars here and there, some that seemed to have stopped where they were driving, most off of the road along the shoulder or occasionally in pieces all over the road where they’d hit other cars. I couldn’t hear anything. There was no traffic noise, no animal sounds, nothing. Donny rifled the 9mm out of his backpack and cocked it, and the sound sounded like a shotgun blast in the silence.
“We’re getting close,” Sam said. “That radio broadcast said that there’s a military outpost in Pittsburg. We can still make it before nightfall if we hurry.”
“But we don’t know where in the city it is,” I said. “How are we going to find it without a car?”
“There’s a car!” Donny said, pointing to a red Explorer. It was stopped in the middle of the road, facing the wrong direction in the right hand lane. He started jogging toward it.
“Donny, hold the fuck up!” Sam called, taking off after him. “We’ve got to check it out first.” I followed the two guys to the driver’s side door of the SUV.
“Ah geez,” Donny said, stepping back. As I approached, I noticed the middle-aged man slumped over the wheel. There was blood all over the windshield, like his face had just exploded all of a sudden.
“Looks like the tank’s nearly full,” Sam said, all but ignoring the corpse at the wheel. “Let’s drag him out of there and get this show on the road.” He yanked open the door.
The guy at the wheel made a guttural sound and lurched up in his seat, blood spraying from a ragged wound on his neck. The three of us screamed and leapt back, guns flying from holsters into our hands. The guy at the wheel turned to face us, and I gasped. The whites of his eyes were completely red, like all the capillaries in his head had ruptured. He hissed and growled, trying desperately to get out of the car but got tangled in his still buckled seat belt. It was the first time we’d encountered one of them this close.
Sam cocked the twelve-gauge shotgun and took a step forward. Then he emptied both barrels into the guy’s face.
“Jesus Christ Sam!” I cried, clutching my ears with both hands. The interior of the Explorer was covered in gore. Sam’s blast had all but removed the guy’s head from his shoulders.
“What?” He said, his unconcern causing my skin to crawl. “We needed a car. He’d have killed us if I hadn’t killed him.”
I closed my eyes against the mess I the car as Donny stepped up to help Sam clear the body out of the car. I’d never killed anything before. I’d never even seen a real dead body before, outside of a funeral.
That was when the rear driver’s door opened up and a teenager hobbled out.
Of course. The guy behind the wheel hadn’t bitten open his own neck. Someone in the car had attacked him while they were driving.
The guy looked about my age. His eyes looked just like his father’s, completely red where they should’ve been white. He stumbled out drunkenly and stood there for a second, just staring into space. I tried to call out, but my throat was suddenly parched and no sound would come out of my mouth. Donny and Sam were still concerned with the corpse in the drivers seat.
Then the guy turned and saw me. His mouth opened and he howled, a sound like a combination of a hyena and the shriek of tearing metal, the kind of sound that should never come from a human throat.
Before the sound finished, I’d plugged nine bullets into the creature’s head. The gun was in my hand before I’d realized it, and the next thing I knew I was squeezing the trigger and no more bullets were coming out. Sam and Donny were shouting something in my ear, but they were ringing from the shots and I couldn’t hear them. The guy who’d climbed out of the backseat was in an unmoving heap on the concrete. I felt their hands on my back pushing me into the back seat, and I allowed myself to be lead into the car. I didn’t have the wherewithal to stop them.
I wasn’t worried about the blood in the car. The three of us seemed to be immune to the disease for whatever reason. Sam was wiping the gore off of the windshield with a t-shirt, and Donny was checking the glove compartment.
After a moment, I realized the car was in motion and I was starring out the window. We were back on the road to Pittsburg.
“Turn on the radio,” I said. I wanted to hear the military broadcast again. Anything to reassure me that out there, somewhere, life was still going on as normal. Donny fiddled with the radio, turning the dial all the way left, then slowly all the way to the right. Then, he did it again.
“Nothing,” Donny said. “I can’t get the station.”
“Stupid shitty old radio,” Sam said.
“What if that’s not it?” I asked. “What if they’re not broadcasting?”
“Why would they stop the broadcast?” Sam asked. He glanced at Donny, then in the rear view mirror at me. We were all thinking the same thing.
The engine roared as Sam floored the petal. It was still an hour to Pittsburg, and we were running out of time.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


I usually have an interesting story to go along with why I wrote a piece or what inspired me. But I don't have a really good explanation for this one. I love WWII period films and stories, and this sprung to my mind. I wanted to write a piece about safety, and someone whom you wouldn't expect to need it. 

Okay, I won't spoil it. Just read it!

Aaron Matthew Smith- September 2010

I leaned in and covered Samantha’s ears as another blast rocked our cramped shelter. The Baker Street tube station was a large one (as tube stations went) but it felt like a sardine can. I would have sworn that half of London was shoulder to shoulder in the nearly pitch-black cavern.
We were all couched and huddled, a writhing, sweating mass of humanity. My daughter clung to my legs and buried her face in my knees. My jacket was tossed across her, sheltering her as much as I could from the noise.
Not that the noise was the worst of our problems.
The image of a bomb tearing apart our shelter and raining concrete and shrapnel onto us leapt into my mind. There were hundreds of us hidden here. I stuffed the image into the back of my mind, focusing my mind on covering my daughter. Hell, she and I were lucky to have gotten in here as it was.
We were on the way to the grocery store when the air raids went off. I gave up looking for a parking spot and left the car on the street outside Baker Street station just before they closed and bolted the doors.
My wife and son are still at home. Were still at home. They’d have made it to the shelter nearest the house by now. They had to have.
Another blast, nearer this time, shook dust and chips of concrete and plaster down from the ceiling. I felt them collecting in my hair. Samantha let out a tiny whimper and huddled closer to me.
I leaned my back against the steel security door behind me. The last ones. Samantha and I were the last ones to make it inside before they closed the doors behind us.
“Daddy?” She whispered, tears causing her words to wobble.
“It’s okay, sweetie,” I cooed.
“Are you going to catch the bad guys?”
“Yes darling,” I assured her. “Daddy’s a policeman. That’s what policemen do.”
“What’s going on outside?”
I knew that she was asking questions to keep from bottling up her fear. “Well honey, there are a lot of bad guys out there. And there a bunch of policemen out there, too, trying to catch them. And they will catch them, I promise.”
“How long is it gonna take?” She asked. Her voice was stronger now.
“Not too long honey. We’ll be okay, I promise.” I couldn’t tell if I was reassuring me or her.
Two heavy thuds on the steel door at my back made me jump. A tiny scream leapt from Samantha’s mouth before she stuffed it back down again.
There was someone else out there.
The other people around me began to whisper among themselves in a hushed panic. I could feel the fear beginning to bubble up in my stomach as well, but Nazis wouldn’t have bothered knocking. They wouldn’t have even bothered with the door if they knew we were here. They would’ve just dropped enough bombs directly on top of us to cave the whole station in on our heads. It had to be a survivor.
I pulled my badge out of the pocket of my coat, draped across my little girl, and flashed it to the people around me. Their fear seemed to melt away as they saw it. At least they could feel better.
I stood carefully and leaned against the steel door as I pushed it open, just enough to allow a tiny sliver of light to leak in. The tunnel hall lights were out, but the hallway lead right to the street, and just a little light seeped this far into the tunnel.
Near the jamb of the door, I saw fingers.
“Stay here, okay sweetheart?” I whispered to Samantha. “Daddy has to go rescue someone, okay?”
She looked up at me and nodded, tears in her strong brown eyes.
I slipped into the hallway, leaving the door open just a hair. There was a man curled into a tight ball on the dirty concrete floor of the tunnel. His gray coat was covered in dark spots. I couldn’t tell if it was blood.
“Hey, are you okay?” I whispered. “We’ve got to get you inside.” I reached to him and tried to slide one of his arms over my shoulders to get him back on his feet.
When I moved his arm, I saw the pin. A long silver eagle on his right breast.
“Nazi,” the word whispered from my lips as I unconsciously lost my grip, letting him slip to the floor in a heap.
Hilf mich,” he wheezed.
“I…I…” I stammered. I looked around for something, anything I could use as a weapon. There was nothing.
Ich bin fahnenflüchtig.”
“I don’t speak German,” I said. I could hardly believe I was actually talking to one of them.
“Ich will kapitulieren.”
Wait. That word sounded familiar. Capitulation.
I opened his coat and checked his waist. He carried no weapons, not even a holster. He was totally unarmed. My eyes fell on a deep wet spot on his gray shirt, near his stomach. He’d been injured, and badly. But I couldn’t bring a Nazi into the station with all the others. There’d be a riot, he and I would both be buggered.
I yanked his leather jackboots off and tossed them as far as I could. Then I snatched the eagle pin off of his coat and did the same with it. He nodded as I did so. He allowed me to peel the coat off of his body, which I flipped inside-out and crammed into a tiny ball in the corner of the tunnel.
“Now, be quiet. Understand? Nein speaken?” I held one finger in front of my mouth and prayed that he understood the meaning of the gesture. He tried to sit up from the concrete and winced against the pain. He nodded frantically.
I took the weight of hi body on my own shoulders and hauled the heavy steel door open with my free hand.
“Make room,” I called. “We’ve got another, and he’s hurt.”

Sunday, August 29, 2010


If you're a constant reader of my blog, you know that I like writing all types of genres, depending on my mood and what I've been writing and reading/watching lately. Most of you also probably know that my bother and (new) sister-in-law got married about a month ago. Congratulations Graham and Savanna! While they were on their honeymoon in North Carolina, I starting thinking about other not-so-romantic occasions to go to the beach. That led me to write this. I hope you like it!

"Vacation"- July 2010
Aaron Matthew Smith

“This place is beautiful,” Allison said, dropping her bags onto the carpet and crossing to the French doors at the end of the room. She swung them open, allowing a warm July breeze to sweep into the living room. The hiss of the tide seemed to relax her before it even reached her ears, as if it had magical properties that had nothing to do with water or sand.
Roger sat his own suitcase down and followed her out on the rough, wind-worn deck. The familiar smell of sand and fish touched his nose, and a sudden memory sprang to his mind. He shoved it away as quickly as it had come and walked back inside.
“We should probably get unpacked,” he said, worrying with the buckle on his bag. “We’ve got groceries, too. And I’m starved.”
“Oh yeah,” Allison said, walking back inside, leaving the door to the deck standing open. She wore a smile as if she had no other choice but to. “This place is just so… ah, it’s amazing!” She kicked her flip-flops off and walked to Roger. “Thanks so much for asking me to come with you.” She said, throwing her arms around his shoulders. The hug only lasted a moment before he broke it- he smiled crookedly at her for an awkward moment before going back to work on his suitcase.
“Hey, what do you want for dinner?” Allison said, ignoring the uncomfortable instant. The next week was bound to be full of them.  She crossed the carpet onto the linoleum in the attached kitchen in bare feet, tossing her long, straight brown hair over her shoulders. Roger caught himself glancing at her yellow shorts before forcing himself back to the task at hand.
“Ah, those Italian sausages we got at the store looked good.”
“Oooh, yeah. Perfect. I’ll cook, you unpack.” Allison said. She glanced back at Roger, who was adjusting his glasses on his nose. He always did that when he was nervous. She smiled to herself and began to empty the grocery bags onto the countertop.

“No, no, seriously! She actually said, ‘It’s going to be my special day; you’re just the guest of honor’!” Roger laughed, spilling a little beer onto the wooden deck top. Allison choked for a moment on her sausage then joined in the laughter.
“Oh man, Roger.” She said, taking a sip of her own beer. “What did you ever see in her, anyway?”
Roger didn’t immediately respond. He leaned back in the hard wooden deck chair (the beach towel he’d draped across it did nothing to soften the rough surface) and stared out across the ocean. The sky was a perfect orange-pink color, the ocean beneath it like a dark blue line that stretched as far as he could see. Tiny whitecaps far out flickered the warm pink and orange hues; the sea sparkled a symphony of light and shadow, and for a moment he was lost in another memory.
The first time he and Jamie had come here seemed like a lifetime ago. Hell, it might as well have been. Four years is a long time.  It was the first vacation either of them had taken with a significant other. Roger had paid for the entire thing out of pocket.
He suddenly remembered an incident on that trip- they’d driven around all night looking for a particular restaurant where Jamie wanted to eat. She was sure she’d seen it on their way in. When they were unable to find it, she’d gotten upset and they’d come back to the rental house empty-handed. Roger spent that night reading and drinking beer on a deck very much like this one.
“I don’t know,” he said softly.
Allison was quiet for a second, then said, “Hey, Rog, I’m… I’m sorry, that was out of line. I mean, you don’t need anyone asking you that right now. I…” she tried to form another sentence, but the beer muddled her thoughts. She cursed the two empty bottles next to her chair. After a moment, she gave up collecting her thoughts and said, “Just, sorry.”
“Naw, it’s okay…” Roger started, but let the sentence drift away with the tide. Allison dug into the cooler between them, fished out another beer, and handed it to Roger. He accepted it gratefully and twisted the cap off.
“I mean, you must’ve had some reason for staying with her for so long,” Allison just couldn’t help herself.
“Heh, I must have. And for asking her to marry me.” Roger replied.
“Well, there was that time you asked Crystal Hannigan to marry you,” Allison said. “And that was pretty serious, right?”
“We were in first grade, Allison.”
Allison shrugged. “She was a gold digger. She just wanted that sweet 72-count crayon box you had.” Roger snickered into his beer.
“But… I don’t know, things were great when it was just the two of us.” Roger said. “She just doesn’t know how to deal with people, that’s all.”
“She seemed to know how to deal with that sales rep just fine,” Allison said, then immediately regretted it. “Oh god, Roger, I—”
“Ha, that’s exactly what I thought when I found out.” He replied.
Allison bit her lip. “I’m sorry Rog. I’ve done nothing but stick my foot in my mouth since we got out of the car.”
“It’s okay Al, really. I’m not sensitive about it any more.” Roger lied.
“You big fat liar.” Allison said.
“Yeah, okay.” He had never been able to lie to Allison, ever since they were little kids. “But hey, the two of us got a good vacation out of the deal, huh?”
“The rental house was non-refundable,” she reminded him, picking up the plate from the deck and taking another bite of sausage. “I just love you too much to allow you to pay for the whole thing by yourself.”
The suddenness of the statement silenced Roger for a moment. Something cold flickered inside his chest, but he stuffed it back down. Jamie wasn’t there anymore. It was just him and his best friend, and a week of sun and sand and relaxation. He reached for the cooler to get a popsicle but almost yanked his hand back when he felt something slim and warm touch his hand.
He glanced up. Allison had reached into the cooler at the same moment he had, and before he realized it their fingers were twined together on top of the ice. He looked up into her familiar brown eyes; their glances met for only an instant before they both broke the gaze, glancing instead at the watercolor sunset that stretched endlessly before them. Their hands, however, didn’t move.   

Saturday, July 3, 2010

"What to do if you find a bag of money under a bridge", part 2

Rejoice, true believers! Your wait is over!
This week's post is the second half of a story that I posted last week (new window), so if you find that you have no idea what's going on, go back and re-read last week's post. And if it still doesn't make any sense, I'll make up some lie about my idiosyncratic, esoteric writing style and how you're just not sophisticated enough to follow a story with such deep, meaningful, well thought out characters and obscure symbolic storyline.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it. 

"What to do if you find a bag of money under a bridge", Part II
Aaron Matthew Smith- February 2003

I was convinced that human feet hadn’t crossed the sidewalk on this bridge in a LONG time.  Pigeons fluttered precariously overhead, and I remembered the time I was fishing with my dad under a bridge and an osprey had pooped on my shoulder. They always seem to hit the shoulders. To take my mind off of it, I looked over the railing of the bridge. I could see a man piloting a huge yellow-colored machine on the railroad tracks beneath, but I had no idea what he was doing. A hazy steam rolled off of the tracks where he had driven across them. On the other side of the bridge (where there was no sidewalk) I could see a massive brick smokestack poking up, with the name of some ancient tobacco company painted on the side in white letters. I wondered how in the world it was possible to build a smokestack that tall out of brick, let alone manage to paint legible words on the side. It could have easily been over a hundred yeas old. That, I decided, is the coolest thing I’ve seen all day. Over my side of the bridge, I could now see the top of a streetlamp that would light the road below at nighttime. The head of it was mere feet from the railing; I could have jumped and reached it. For a second I wondered what I would do if there was a twenty dollar bill poised somehow on top of that lamp. Would I jump for it? I laughed as I pictured myself hanging from the lamp by one hand, the other clutched around a little green portrait of Jackson, and I was reminded of a short story I read in high school about a man who had climbed out on his windowsill in a New York high-rise to retrieve a note or something. I couldn’t remember the name.  Naw, I thought, money on lampposts is like money in duffel bags under bridges; best to just let them be.
            As I left the bridge behind and my feet found concrete again, a building about a block away (though I was far from the land of city blocks by now) caught my eye. It had a pink sign in the window with black letters across it. As I approached, I could read the words Presentation Design. I broke into a run, my aching knees and hips protesting each step.  Finally! I had reached my destination. A bell tinkled as I walked into the front door, and I was immediately reminded of a pet store. The limited wall space was covered mostly with science-fictiony posters that I assumed were made by the company. A large plastic pond with a little fountain, the kind that you’d expect to see filled with tiny goldfish, sat in one corner. It had no fish in it, and I kept wondering what that had to do with presentation at all.  There was no bell on the desk for me to ring; instead, I waited and tapped my foot loudly enough, I thought, so that someone in the back would hear me.
            After a minute or two a tall, heavy-set guy wearing blue jeans and a T-shirt that said “My other car’s an X-wing” came out from behind a curtain that I could only assume lead to a back room of some sort.
“Can I help you?” He said in a tone more friendly than I’d expected.
“Yeah, please. I’m with the architecture department; I need to print out some drawings. I was told you have a deal with them?”
The man just looked at me as if I’d been speaking in French. Slowly he pulled a piece of paper from behind the desk. Typed across the top were the words “Student rates”. He handed it to me hesitantly, as if he expected me to bite him.  I took the page and read it slowly. I nearly gagged. Six dollars per square foot, IF I wanted to wait 3-5 days. I tried my hardest not make the “you’ve got to be kidding me” face.  I placed the paper back on the counter and pulled a ZIP disk from the pocket of my jacket.
“Well, I’ve got my files here. Can you print AutoCAD?”
“AutoCAD?” I was SURE he understood me this time, but I reiterated anyway.
“Yeah, AutoCAD? The drawing program? That’s what my drawings are in.”
”We can’t print
I felt myself beginning to gag again. “What?” I managed to choke out.
“We can’t print AutoCAD,” he repeated.  “You’ll have to save it as something else.”
I looked around the place, as if expecting someone to pop out with a camcorder and announce I was on some sort of hidden camera show.
“You can’t? Are you sure?”
“We can’t print AutoCAD.” The man repeated, like a parrot.
  I looked around; there wasn’t another person in sight. I glanced at my watch. Half past two. I’d never make it back in time to meet my girlfriend now. My mind searched for someone, ANYONE I knew that had a car that I could have called to pick me up, but I knew that most everyone was still in class. A taxi ride all the way back to campus would cost a fortune… I suddenly wished I had searched harder for that duffel bag full of money. Before I realized it, I had turned around and was walking back the way I’d come on Main Street. I had already crossed the metal bridge over the railroad tracks when it settled on me just how far I’d come for nothing. I was mad, but madder at myself than I was at the nerd that worked in the copy shop. I could have driven down here, but I was too cheap to buy gas. If only I’d looked harder for that money…
            As I walked, I stuck my thumb out at one side, not really expecting anyone to stop and pick me up. I was mostly curious to see if anyone would actually offer to give me a ride. A Mercedes Benz sped by me; okay, I could understand that person not picking me up. I mean I could go into alcoholic fits and vomit all over his expensive interior, for all he knew. A blue Ford Windstar, early nineties model, buzzed by, followed almost immediately by a maroon-colored van of the same make and model. Oh come on! I thought. Yeah, the clean-cut, blonde-headed college kid wearing the poster tube is too dangerous to pick up! Thanks a lot. I mean, it’s not like I look like a serial killer. I was suddenly reminded of that scene from the Addam’s Family movie, at the end when Wednesday Addams says, “I’m dressed as a serial killer. They look just like everybody else.” That thought made me smile a little.
There was some motion ahead of me; I’d returned to the land of the stone-walled cemetery and the ranch-style American dream. A tall man, had to be over six feet, was fiddling with something on his porch. He wore brown corduroy pants and a sweater that looked a few sizes too big for him, and his braided hair was topped with a brown derby that matched his pants. It was one of those hats that I’d always half thought about buying, but always thought that it would ridiculous on me. He now stood straight up and carried his bicycle built for two to the sidewalk, just a few yards in front of me. He lifted one leg and sat on the front seat.
Before I knew what I was doing, I’d taken a deep breath and swallowed what little pride I had managed to save from my experiences that day.
“Hey! Hey, man!” I shouted, and he turned around curiously. “Ya need someone to pedal the back of that thing?”