More Decades

Posted in Essays and non-fiction on August 8, 2014 by stantonmccaffery

(Non-Fiction)

I’ve been thinking about death lately. Not in the morbid way that you probably expect from someone that writes horror, but in the softer more personal way. I’ve been thinking about the time I have left in my life and what I hope to do with it. I’m only in my thirties so hopefully I’ve got a few decades to go at least, but one never really knows. I always joke about pianos falling out of windows and perhaps one day one of those jokes will come back to haunt me.

I went to the doctors the other day for strep throat and was told, a little unexpectedly, that it looks like I have chronic high blood pressure. This runs in my family but the doctor said that even considering that I’m too young for this to start. I eat like I’m still a teenager and I don’t really exercise mostly because I view it as an inconvenience. If I have to get up earlier to exercise before going to work I usually decide to get more sleep instead. Hitting the pillow is easier than hitting the concrete or the gym.

If I want to have a few more decades here on earth it looks like I’m going to have to make a compromise. I’ll probably get a gym membership and plan on putting something other than microwavable burritos in my freezer. These have both been immensely difficult conclusions for me to come to.

Aside from the news on my blood pressure I also got a frightening phone call from my father. My mother fell in their yard and broke her knee cap. She’ll need surgery to wire it together. While this is really gangster (I mean, who brakes their knee cap?) and makes me even prouder to have her as my Mom, it’s also scary. I’m reluctant to believe that my parents are at the stage in their lives where falls are something to worry about. Though this isn’t about my own physical health it has gotten me thinking even more about mortality and getting old.

This all leads to what I plan on doing with the time I have. I don’t have a specific life plan. I’m not that organized. I do, however, have a general idea. I’ve said here in a previous post that I was trying to get better at the guitar and I’m going to stick to that. I think though that I’ll be putting more effort into writing. When I think about what I want out of life I think about making an impact, and while many guitar players have certainly had an impact on me, I think I’m more likely to have an impact through writing.

SM

Art Class

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on May 31, 2014 by stantonmccaffery

(Poem)

I liked art

Before

I took

Your stupid class,

You drunk.

 

Who

The Hell

Would let you near children anyway?

Working and Breathing and Living and Dying

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on May 31, 2014 by stantonmccaffery

(Short Story)

You wake up in a tent and you can see soft puffs of your own breath floating above your sleeping bag.

Standing over you is your former boss just as you remember her, sipping on coffee and asking what you’ll be working on today.

You run out the tent because you can’t stand to be around the cunt for another fucking second, but when you get outside you step into a white void, oblivion. It’s not even curious blackness that you could wander and get lost in. You know too well the loneliness of this nothing.

You go back inside the tent because maybe being around that witch is better than dying alone, but she’s not there anymore because even she has found something else. Instead you’re joined by yet another former boss who tells you that you need to prove yourself if you want that raise you so richly deserve. That bastard, you think, he’s been here two fucking months and I’ve got five years on the job and a master’s degree. He can go to Hell, but then, then you realize he’s not their either. It’s just you and all you’ve got are some shitty memories of how hard you worked but how at the end of the day none of it mattered one iota.

This is terror.

 

Guard Dogs of the Graveyard

Posted in Horror Fiction with tags , , , , on May 14, 2014 by stantonmccaffery

Image

(Fiction)

Around Newark, New Jersey there is an enormous cemetery that is actually divided in half by the Garden State Parkway. It’s about two miles down the road from Seton Hall University, where I went to graduate school. I heard a DJ saying on the college radio station once that he had heard multiple reports from callers about a wild pack of dogs roaming the cemetery. This morning on my train ride into NYC I noticed that you could see the same cemetery right before you pulled into Newark Penn Station. I’ve been reading Zombie short stories, so the below is the result.

 

Danny hung up the phone and walked down the hall to Rafael who was hosing down one of the empty cages. “A lady just called about the dog’s in the St. Luke’s Cemetery, Esposito. She said she was there putting flowers on her grandmother’s grave and a pack of six big dogs was running around.”

Rafael Esposito shook his head and turned off the hose. “I told you man, we can’t do nothing about those dogs.”

“This is like the third person this week that’s called,” said Danny. He tapped his fingers on his animal control officer badge that he had hooked to his belt.

“Ralph, or Mr. Sciorno, the man that used to have my job before he retired?”

Daniel nodded.

“He told me,” said Rafael, “don’t never mess with the dogs in the St. Luke’s Cemetery. Ralph said they’ve been there for years, been there longer than even he could remember and he said they were there for a reason.”

Danny tried hard not to roll his eyes. “What reason?”

“I never asked man,” said Rafael. “If Ralph told me something, I listened. Maybe you should try that some time.”

Danny walked back to his desk and thought about how much better it would be to work at the police department. But Danny was crazy and even in Newark that was so hard up for officers no one in their right mind would ever hire Danny as a cop. At the end of the day, after he vented to himself in the bathroom mirror about that dumbass Esposito, he figured that was alright. Fighting criminal’s dogs was close enough to fighting actual criminals.

When Danny got off of work he went home and ate meatloaf his mom left out for him. Then he went to his room in the basement and got his double-barreled shot gun. He stuffed a hunting knife into the side of his boot. When the sun fell he drove his truck to the St. Luke’s Cemetery and started walking along the headstones looking for the dogs. The street lights from all the nearby highways gave him enough light to see the pack running off in the distance.

In quick succession he fired two shots and fell two dogs. “Fuck Esposito and that dumb old fart.” The remaining four dogs came closer. They were like no other breed he’d ever seen. “Damn chupacabra,” he said. He shot two more. Then another. The last dog leaped.

Danny dropped the shotgun when the dog sunk its teeth into his arm. He could feel the teeth cut his jacket and then dig into his muscle. He swung his arm and carried the whole dog’s body with it. He bent down and pulled the hunting knife from his boot. “Stupid fucking dog,” he yelled. Then he stuck the long knife hard into the dog’s ear.

The next morning he wore a long sleeve shirt to work so no one would see the bandage. He turned on the TV in the office when Rafael went to gas up one of the trucks. It was tuned to a local news channel and there was a news lady standing in front of the St. Lukes Cemetery. He got real nervous until he realized they weren’t talking about the dead dogs. When he realized what they were talking about he damn near shit himself.

“Empty graves,” said the news lady. “That’s all there is left in the St. Lukes Cemetery. As you can see, in front of every headstone is a gaping hole.”

The camera did a pan of the graveyard to show dirt strewn about and countless gaping wounds in the green earth. Danny’s hands got sweaty holding the remote.

The news lady kept talking. “Local residents say that last night the dead came from their graves to walk the streets.”

Danny thought he was going to pass out. He thought maybe he was getting sick from his mother’s meatloaf but then he thought no, it wasn’t the meatloaf.

“The question remains,” said the news lady. “Why now? What kept the dead in their graves for so long?”

Danny rubbed the wound on his arm. He knew the answer. He ran down the hallway to the bathroom and then threw up in the toilet.

What about Fear?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on May 12, 2014 by stantonmccaffery

A confession: I go to church. I go every Sunday. I’m on the church council too, heck, I’m president of the Church Council. I say this with a little reluctance because as an aspiring horror writer I think there’s an assumption that you have to be a Satanist or an Atheist at least. What can I say; I’m a man of many apparent contradictions.

I see nothing wrong with this seeming conflict because I was fortunate enough to grow up in a church that encourages thinking and even…doubt. And doubts I have, trust me.

My church isn’t the church of sin and apocalypse, it’s the church of hope, reconciliation, and love. Believe it or not, I get some ideas for my stories or the themes within them from church sermons and liturgy.

I’ve wrestled over the years with many of the ideas I hear about in church. Hope was a big one for a long time because I just couldn’t find all that much to be hopeful about. That’s changed over the last year in part because of my writing, but now there is something else I’m wrestling with. I’m not sure how I feel about the whole fear thing.

I’m quibbling with progressive Christianity’s take on fear, that because we live in God’s world we have nothing to be afraid of. I’m sorry, but I’m still afraid of a lot of things. I’m afraid of going into ridiculous debt. I’m afraid of never paying off my student loans. I’m afraid of messing up as a parent. I’m afraid of dying alone.

All the things I’ve mentioned could be disastrous, I think. There are real things to be afraid of and shit, I haven’t even mentioned cancer. Regardless of how much God loves us there will be no divine intervention to save me. Religion, real religion, isn’t magic, and no one is going to save our asses from the scary things we can encounter in life.

Here’s what I think our interpretation of fear should be. It’s part of life. It can even be helpful. It’s helped us stick around as a species and evolve. But fear shouldn’t control us. We need to push on even though there are big scary things lurking around the corner.

Being a Monster

Posted in Essays and non-fiction with tags , , , on May 6, 2014 by stantonmccaffery

Nonfiction

With the new Godzilla film coming out and all the amazing clips I’ve seen thus far, I’ve been thinking lately about monsters. Why do we like monsters? There are the surface level characteristics that we like: the bizarre physical features; the city smashing physical abilities; the inevitable battles they get involved in. But there is something emotional there too.

For myself at least, I can identify with monsters. I’m on prednisone right now for this nasty case of poison ivy, and, as the doctor told me would happen, as I wean off the prednisone I become incredibly irritable. I’m not sure if I could destroy Tokyo, but I’m pretty sure I could do some damage in Edison, New Jersey.

This isn’t really unique for me either.  For as long as I can remember I’ve had trouble with anger management. My mother actually recalls frequently how as a small child I would lose my shit in my play pen and fling toys across the room. Growing up was hard. I embarrassed myself with my anger and I alienated people.

I’ve gotten better with age (yeah, I’m like cheese), but it’s still there. I scream at neighbors for driving too fast in front of my house, I get in confrontations with rude people on the train, and I go batshit insane when I lose things. Sorry guys.

The first time I saw the original Godzilla movie, I cried at the end. I didn’t understand all this at the age of five or six, but I think to some degree I understood where Godzilla was coming from. He was pissed off. Maybe, he was scared. Maybe, as recent commercials have suggested, he was just hungry. Whatever it was, I think he and I are kindred spirits. We’re not hateful, just grumpy.

-SM

Worse Than Death

Posted in Essays and non-fiction with tags , , , , , , on April 24, 2014 by stantonmccaffery

Chuck Palahniuk says you should write about things that upset you. Franz Kafka hit a similar note when saying, “We ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us.” I agree with both quotes and have pondered them quite a bit, using them as motivators behind what I chose to write and read. In writing horror, upsetting is particularly important and more so, I think, is frightening.

Judging by the amount of religious reflection on the subject, I would say that for many folks, assuming they too follow the above admonitions, the issue that scares them or upsets them or wounds them is death. I, honestly, have never really been afraid of death. Okay, I admit, it’s a upsetting, especially in regards to loved ones, but it’s not all that frightening. Maybe I’m still too young for it to have really hit me. It’s possible I’ve still got that youthful sense of immortality. Maybe, but probably not.

Hell and the possibility of suffering in the afterlife have something to do with it. Past the age of eleven I haven’t believed in it. As I think I’ve made clear in my posts here, Hell is place on earth. We’re already there in many ways and we’ve made it a reality.

Death, I think, is an end, which makes it sad and unfortunate. It might not be an end to everything, however, it certainly is an end to our existence as we know it. But, and to a degree I suppose I am relying on faith here, it is also the start of something new; a new life; a new experience; a new presence; a complete absence; whatevs.

Here’s what upsets me and scares the crap out of me: continuation, the sense that something could go on forever. I get a nasty case of poison ivy each year that covers my body with leprosy-like lesions. It’s uncomfortable, it hurts, and it looks awful. Every summer when I notice the damn rash I get filled with the terrible and irrational thought, not that it could kill me, but that it will never go away. Imagine that, living the rest of your life with a hideous itchy rash covering your entire body. That’s worse than death.

Also what scares me is the thought of being stuck; in a bad job or in poverty in particular. To me, that’s the absence of growth and simply plain boring. A book that truly frightened me because it so accurately captured the dread of monotony and boredom was A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. The guy was stuck in a Soviet gulag filled with tedious, meaningless work that went on and on. Luckily, I’ve never been in a gulag, but the thought of it is terrifying.