Friday, June 28, 2013


One night thirty-nine years ago we were watching TV, my siblings and I. There was a program on called “Trilogy of Terror.” It was a Dan Curtis production. We knew that name from his daytime success, “Dark Shadows.” 

The first two stories had their merit, but didn’t catch our attention. We had watched it for the title, and so far, figured we got gypped. It was just something that was on. 

Until the last story, “Amelia,” at the appearance of the “genuine Zuni fetish doll.”

The doll is about a foot and half tall, holds a spear, has wild hair, and a big wide mouth filled with lots of pointy teeth.

Based on the Richard Matheson short story, “Prey,” the film version requires the actor hold three phone conversations and speak to herself aloud occasionally over the course of twenty-six minutes, with no other actors, just herself. A demanding task, and Karen Black rises to the challenge.

We hadn’t seen “Easy Rider” or “Five Easy Pieces”—both with Jack Nicholson. We just saw a lady who was easy on the eyes, in an Elizabeth Montgomery sort of way for me—Montgomery was in “The Legend of Lizzie Borden,” also on ABC, a couple of months prior that year, 1975—and were interested to quickly learn that, according to the scroll that comes with the doll (purchased at a 3rd Avenue curio shop) the little golden chain mustn’t fall off of the doll: “Should this chain be removed, spirit and doll will become one living.”

As soon as she put down the doll, failing to notice that the chain fell off right away, that’s when we were hooked.

It didn’t impress us in the slightest that the same woman starred in several roles that night. In fact, I seem to remember finding it sort of unaccountable why one woman starred in various roles in the stories.

The young pretty brunette living in the apartment building calls her mom to let her know she wants to spend the night—er, evening—with her new anthropology teaching boyfriend on his birthday.

Realizing that she has disappointed and upset her mother, she calls the boyfriend. She tries to explain that her mother needs to see her, too. Black’s reaction to the phone—from which we hear nothing—lets us know that now the boyfriend is upset.

After hanging up—upset—she happens to notice that the doll isn’t on the table where she left it in the living room. That’s odd…

We hear the pitter-patter of little feet.

She fishes around under the sofa, and goes around behind the sofa, camera down close, with her face right in reach of anything hiding…

A noise comes from the kitchen. 

“What’s going on?” she says. And goes into the kitchen.

A shadow flits past. She’s definitely not alone. Can it be? Did the hideous Zuni doll actually come to life? Will this story pay off, or will it be like all the others? Will its Gothic esthetic be of the Ann Radliffe type, or School of Scooby-Doo, wherein the highly atmospheric seemingly supernatural events prove to remain in the realm of the mundane, or will its esthetic fall into the “Monk” Lewis mold of the supernatural being exactly that?

Chalk one up for “Monk” Lewis! Turns out, a Zuni warrior doll with a kitchen knife is as real as it gets!

Fifteen years after “Psycho,” on TV, in color.

An ETA Hoffmann story in miniature. Most people are probably familiar with the beloved holiday classic “The Nutcracker,” but few know it comes from a creepy German Romantic reviewer of music—first-run Beethoven stuff, even—with a penchant for weird dolls in fiction that very much influenced young Edgar A. Poe. 

There’s just something about the Doll Gone Wrong. From Talky Tina in a classic episode of “The Twilight Zone”—“I’m Talky Tina, and I’m going to kill you”—to Corky the ventriloquist dummy in “Magic,” to the climactic conclusion of “Toy Story” when Woody scares Sid, the Doll Gone Wrong hits a nerve. It speaks to the manikin, little spirit-self, found worldwide that Fraser discusses in “The Golden Bough.” 

The Zuni hunter doll, with its Indian connection—it doesn’t look remotely Zuni—nonetheless calls to mind as the source of the conflict the theft of the American land. Two years before Stephen King’s novel “The Shining,” there’s a scene in (thank you, Bates Motel) a bathroom with a knife. 

Ultimately though, it’s Black’s performance that carries the show. What could have gone really badly doesn’t because of her. Acting is reacting. Here, Black has to react to a wooden doll. Which by itself is rather silly-looking. But she makes it come alive.

Personally, I very much dislike that Dan Curtis apparently requires Amelia try to—grab? stop?—the kitchen knife jabbing out of the suitcase in which she traps the doll. What does she think she’s doing? Of course she’s going to get cut! But on the other hand—the one less cut—hey, we were an emotionally engaged audience.

I’ll refrain from revealing the ending. Suffice to say, an indelible image. Makes me wonder if Stanley Kubrick wasn’t influenced by it, actually. I wonder if he got any input from Jack Nicholson.

From an interview I watched on YouTube (“VICE Meets: Horror Film Star Karen Black”), I learned that Karen Black did not like the idea of her name being primarily associated with horror movies. She had been in nearly two hundred films, only a small percentage of which falling into the genre category. A playwright and singer as well as an actor, for her the association was limiting. Marlon Brando was as dismissive of acting in general as Karen Black was of horror in particular. 

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Monday, June 24, 2013



Stewart Kirby presents quite a cast of eccentric, fascinating individuals in these two stories. At first glance, I was skeptical that this book would appeal to my reading preferences; characters include a six-foot flea, Bigfoot, Hippies, and a reanimated corpse. But Kirby surprises and weaves delightful tales using whimsical language and unexpected humor. His detailed and adjective-rich environmental descriptions facilitate immersion into the peculiar world he introduces. I found myself anxiously running from enraged Bigfeet, fleeing in fear from an oddly-controlling weatherman and his cronies, to sitting court with a reanimated corpse as he both terrifies and enchants with his plan for vengeance. Kirby gracefully presents far-out concepts and convincingly transforms them into relateable stories for the reader.


Terry LaBarba, author of WE, THE HIDDEN:

Storytelling That’s Wildly Poetic                     

The story takes place in the small town of Madrani in the redwood forest. There were strange things going on that kept me engaged, the reason partly being due to the interesting narration and the main character’s voice. It reminded me of the descriptive ramblings of Arlo Guthrie doing "Alice’s Restaurant," only with higher octane.

It’s a casual read and then again it isn’t. The eventful but not overly complex story uses descriptive word groupings that, in itself, entertains. You will want to take your time and let the verbal constructs take hold. There were “caves of problematical intricacy,” and a trek through the forest mentioned trees with “boughs outstretched like gem-laden supplicants bearing offerings before the ancient giants.” Truly poetic.

When I read this mastery of words, I had to wonder if it easily flows to the author or does he take the time to labor over the most creative way to put together a concept or description? Stewart Kirby’s literary work comes across as play, seeming natural, yet brilliant. As far as being creative, the funny but creepy little twitching doll in this book is a good example. The names of the local businesses in this town were a hoot. There was also some twisted humor when one character builds the perfect, dirty sandwich (with not so nice intentions). It had me laughing out loud as the deed progressed.

The plot moved forward without a dull moment. I’m looking forward to the next book of “uncanny tales of the redwoods in the hugely Hippie haven of Humbaba County,” as Kirby calls them. I suspect it is just as campy, witty and fun as this one.


Craig Jones, author of GEM:


You know when you've got something too good to read when you plough through it faster than your new born baby can fill nappies! 'Drifting Room' is one of those stories. It is well written, cleverly crafted and incredibly interesting, yes, but then so are many novels and novellas. What made Stewart Kirby's work stand out for me was the smile it put on my face as I read it. A piece of serious fun, in a nutshell.

Why did I like it so much?

Okay, first off was the material. A good sci fi needs certain elements (the unknown, a hero you can take to, believable unbelievability) and what Kirby does really well is to take normal people and put them into very strange situations, which makes the story then become plausible. Then there is the story structure. I was reminded of Dean Koontz and how he used to wield story arcs until, unlike the Ghostbusters, he would cross the beams and bring everyone together in a dramatic conclusion. Many people have tried and failed with this technique, usually one character would have to do something quite bizarre for everything to fall into place but 'Drifting Room' is a tight story and that does not happen here. Then there is the humour. The material may be quite different than say Gaiman and Pratchett but the wit and turn of phrase is there. Cleverly funny is how I would describe it. Like I'd read a line and find myself starting to snigger a few lines I said, cleverly funny Next up are the characters...personally I liked the kind of Irvine Welsh way that the main character (not going to give the plot away) develops as the story progresses. I liked the guy and wanted him to succeed, no doubt about it. And finally, in sci fi there has to be an ending that you cannot guess at fr
om five pages in...why read it otherwise....and Kirby has that down like Charlie Brown!

Loved this story, off to purchase more from Mr Kirby's back catalogue. I've found a good un here, methinks. I suggest you give 'Drifting Room' a turn too. You will not be disappointed!


Craig Jones, author of WHAT HAPPENED TO RHODRI:


Hidden Springs is the second Stewart Kirby novella that I have now read and I have to now confess to being a fan. I am not, however, going to rush to visit Humbaba County where Mister Kirby sets his stories because no matter how beautifully his prose describes the place to me it is always going to be the home of oversized bugs, fleas, aged Hippies and... well I don't want to give away too much (a good review shouldn't need a spoiler alert) but let me just say that when you read a Kirby you simply do not know what is going to be hiding around the next tree stump.

What I will comment upon is the stylish writing that Kirby transmits so slickly from mind to page. How someone can make the desecration of Mist River with a herd of dead livestock sound poetic I am not quite sure, but achieve it Kirby does. Not since my first introduction to Robert Rankin have I become so hooked on this type of series, stories linked by geography and a particular take on the world as we (don't) know it. Kirby's strength is in his players though, making even those fleetingly involved in the story's progress well crafted and believable. In 'Hidden Springs' my favourite character (and the most creepingly cringe-worthy) is Denny Holmes. This is one disturbing guy. I didn't like it that I liked him, if that makes sense. Think Renfield as played by Tom Waits in the Gary Oldman Dracula movie and you are halfway there to this twitchy, odd individual. Animal lovers are NOT going to take to this guy. Kirby weaves this guy's traits around Bret, Julie and Tim... and a rather large flea... no, not going to give anything away... however...

There is one scene where Kirby weaves his words in such a manner that we the reader are completely unsure who is the hunter and who is the prey and that to me is darn good writing. Anyone can write a 'thriller by numbers' but what makes Kirby stand out is the twists and turns that he builds and builds into his tale. Tense at times, claustrophobic at others, put the Kindle down to wipe away the tears of laughter on numerous occasion. Although very different in content, I was reminded of Asimov's Tales of the Black Widowers in terms of 'the flip' away from what is expected.

And I guess my review of Stewart Kirby and his writing comes down to that simple concept. Think what is normal, think what is expected, think what is mundane. Don't expect them here! Stewart Kirby's tales are the polar opposite. And then some!

“Quirky and charming, Stewart Kirby’s writing filters the places and the people of Humboldt through Dorothy’s tornado and lets them spill out into an Oz-like world where the legends of the North Coast come to life.” –Kym Kemp, Lost Coast Outpost

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Sunday, June 23, 2013


I woke up to snow covering the entrance to my cave. It is July, and yesterday was so hot an ice cube would melt in a second. Not the kind of weather I like. So why was there a blizzard? Not that I don't like it. I like snow.

Well I went outside to check it out and I saw a gigantic metal disk with blinking red lights fly through the air and land about a hundred yards away. I started over to see what it was, and then what came out of the disk startled me because it was not from this planet.

They were ape-like, with either blue or green fur. The skin on their hands and feet was black. They walked on two legs. Their eyes were like two huge almonds. Their teeth were sharp and red, and at the top of their heads were two large horns.

I blended in because my scales are white, and I was okay until I started back to my cave. They noticed the movement and started to come over. One of them pointed a metal stick into the air. Something sharp flew out and exploded. They made a circle around me. They had the metal sticks pointed at me.

Then suddenly one of them jumped on me. It hit me in the head, and I was knocked out.

When I opened my eyes I was in a cage, and was being guarded by a pair of aliens like the ones I saw earlier. They turned around when they knew I was awake. They asked me who I was.

I told them the truth. That my name is Frost, and that I am a dragon.

They told me that they are Sorths, and their names are Qwet and Asud.

Soon the Sorths led me out of the cage and gave me a room. I realized that I was in the metal disk. My room had a window which I often looked out of. It was how I realized we had left the planet.

After awhile, Asud pointed out to me our destination, which was a green and black planet. For about two days I watched the planet get closer and closer.

One day Asud mentioned that the planet was called Xequa, and that it was the Sorth's home planet.

We landed in a field, but instead of green, straight grass, it was blue and curled. Asud and I got out, followed by many Sorths. At the edge of the field there was a deer-like creature.
I turned my head to look at Asud who was smiling at the look of surprise on my face. From the way she acted, this creature was normal to her. But it certainly was not normal to me. It had a circular body with eight legs jutting out from all sides and four deer-like heads on long deer-like necks. One head was pointing north, another was pointing south, one was pointing east, and the last was pointing west....

Words and pictures by Amber, age 9

For the next installment of FROST,  stay tuned!

Thursday, June 20, 2013


DIEGO RODE his hover scooter through the cool blue morning down toward the store secure in the knowledge that the redwoods would rise miles and miles to the sky infinitely, eternally, and forever without end. Past the restaurant on the right he rode, seafood within advertised by the giant metal swordfish stuck on top of the pole outside. On the way back he would pull off to the grassy rise on the other side and, as was long his habit, chuck rocks at it.
            Diego’s parents worked in neighboring Drakewood four miles down the Avenue, so he had the whole town to himself. He was thirty-six years old, with the wind in his hair, and because he had enough credits to download 3-D hologram versions of favorite old shows, he could look forward to watching Pete Townshend and Keith Moon smash equipment while he stood next to waist-high Tommy Smothers like a god. Diego didn’t have enough credits for life size holograms. Not anywhere near, and his parents weren’t likely even combined to ever get that many credits in their lives. But still, real 3-D was something, and he couldn’t wait to watch, from every possible angle and using every feature option, Kirk battle Spock.
            Noiselessly the hover scooter slid the standard three feet approximate over the road as though in an invisible gelatinous river. His job was to head over to the high school and a few other places at some point in the day and check out a couple things here and there, basically make sure the problem spots in particular never got a chance to freeze up. He took it slow past Madrani Market and Madrani Café. You couldn’t take a hover scooter very fast anyway, and most definitely not his. Past the market, off to the right, the heavily forested mountain rose forever up, green trees growing and going on and on, past the gray wisps of clouds hovering kelp-like over the town.
            Back down below, the high school, neat and orderly, sprawled out like a cemetery. The problem spots there were mostly from water collecting on some wide expanses of flat rooftops where people liked to climb up and hang out, usually at night. So he had to put buckets under drips in some of the rooms below, and if it got to raining really hard make sure the buckets didn’t overflow. But there wouldn’t be any rain today.
            On the other side of the street at The Burl Barn in the wood yard somebody dressed up like a Hippie stood among the chainsaw carvings of striding Bigfeet with his mouth nearly down to his knees. It was agape. He was aghast. Apparently frozen. Except,
Diego knew there wasn’t any Hippie in The Burl Barn wood yard. Bigfeet, bears, totem poles, windmills. If a Hippie needed installing, he’d have had to do it. So somebody must have hopped the fence. Diego veered the hover scooter over to The Burl Barn. He hated having to deal with trespassers.
            The guy really did look frozen. And the getup was completely authentic.
            “You’re gonna have to leave,” Diego said, stopping the hover scooter a little way from the guy in the getup and pulling a fully automatic pistol on him.
            “Holy crap!” the guy in the getup yelled.
            “You armed?”
            “No! Hell no!”
            “Submit to a search?”
            “I need to scan you.”
            “Scan me?”
            “Just to check for weapons.”
            “I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about, man, but I can see right now something’s not right here. I mean like, what the hell is that you’re on?”
            “My hover scooter? You act like you’ve never seen a crappy old hover scooter.”
            “No, dude, I haven’t. It looks like that thing really works. What the hell is going on here? Who are you, man?”
            “My parents cover the area here, and I’m in charge when they’re gone. I’m licensed to carry this. You don’t have any license to be here.”
            “Oh, man, I’ve got a bad feeling here. I think I’m—I don’t think—”
            “Listen, I can shoot you. I’m licensed to protect the town.” Diego’s finger was on the trigger. He really didn’t want to have to shoot, but he was starting to feel like there might not be any other choice. It was a big surprise to him when the gun accidentally went off, sending a burst of bullets ripping down across the street into Just Desserts.
            “Hey man! Do me a favor and put that thing away, okay?” The face on the guy in the outfit was pleading.
            “So now you think I’m some idiot who doesn’t know how to use a gun right. Relax, it’s no big deal, I’ll fix everything.”
            “There’s somebody inside there. Look, there are people.”
            Diego smiled as he returned the pistol to the holster at the back of his belt. He could tell the guy in the Hippie costume wanted to go see. He let him go check it out.
            Glass was shattered at the front of Just Desserts. Some figures stood inside at the counter. But it wasn’t until the Hippie approached the broken glass door, cautiously, concerned, that the figures inside moved. Music came on. The whole place lit up. Tinkling sounds of coffee cups returned to saucers and the clinking of plates and utensils mingled with conversation and laughter. Diego slid over on his hover scooter and saw the Hippie stare in awe at a woman standing at the counter with a doughnut in her hand and a hole in her head. Wiring was revealed.
            “I can’t say I always appreciated them when I was younger,” said Diego, stepping in and examining the damage, “but I’ve grown to.” The plastic doughnut in the animatronic hand rose to the ripped pinkish latex skin and broken circuitry exposed where there should have been a mouth. “We’ll fix her. Get her all good as new. All it takes is shutting her down and ordering some new parts, really. Anybody else hit?”
            The Hippie looked around. “These are all robots? When did they put robots here?”
            “I think you’ve got to be the most confused-looking person I’ve ever seen in my life. You mind turning off that switch back there? It looks like an old light switch on the wall.”
            Fumble, click.
            Music came on.
            “No, that’s Neil Young. ‘Barstool Blues.’ I forget there’s more than one switch back there. Leave the music on, though.”
            All the animatronic people stopped. The Hippie came over to the counter muttering, “I’m tripping. Everything’s okay. Everything’s gonna be all right. Yeah.”
            “What’s this now?” Diego wasn’t sure what he’d heard. “Did you say you were—what did you say—tripping?”
            “What’s delightful? Sir, are you on drugs?”
            “I’m down inside a hollow redwood. A great big redwood in the forest.
It’s like this really cool fort. And I’m experimenting expanding my consciousness. Look at the beautiful world of the future I created all around. My subconscious, anyway. Wow, so realistic.”
            “World of the future, huh? What year is it?”
            “I don’t know.”
            “You don’t know what year this is?”
            “Perhaps my mind will show me a calendar.” The Hippie looked around and saw no calendar on any wall. He shrugged his shoulders. “I guess it’s not important.”
            Diego disconnected the woman with the face shot up. “I don’t understand why you’re in a tree, though.”
            “That’s where I went with my mushrooms. A very rare variety. Glow-in-the-dark, actually. My friend turned me on. I went to the tree because I wanted to be in a safe place, all-natural, you know? And I had been thinking—probably because of my studies in shamanism—about how all time is happening at the same moment, and the thing that separates each moment is, not a linear continuum of time, but levels of vibration. We’re all one. Everything is one. I’ve seen how nothingness becomes matter, man. Think about that. Everything in existence is a fractal of existence. We’re all fractals of the universe.”
            “So what year do you think it really is?”
            “Well, I suppose that’s debatable. Man, look at you. What a freakin’ trip.”
            “What year is it?”
            “Hmm. Something about my subconscious needs to focus on time. Fascinating.”
            “Hey, give me a hand, would you? I’ve got to take this one down to the shop. Could you open that door?”
            The Hippie quite graciously complied. They stepped out of Just Desserts, leaving the people inside turned off, went past Madrani Café, to a little alley, practically all the walls covered with some fantastic trippy mural, everything all blue above, not a chem-trail in the sky, and Diego found what looked like a fuse box and flipped a couple switches, unleashing Neil on the town, so that “Cortez the Killer” resounded. On the west side of the Avenue at the gas station, the animatronic mechanic, which was bent over with the nice vertical smile on display, went into action when Diego and the Hippie tripped the motion sensors, jolting VRRP, VRRRRP sounds with the riveting of sockets reverberating realistically in the garage. Diego and the Hippie took the animatronic woman inside the garage and down hidden stairs to an animatronic work and storage space. Diego put the body on the long slab table, the Hippie marveling at the array of disassembled animatronic body parts arranged in shelves along the walls and hanging from the ceiling.
            “What are you really doing here?” Diego said. “How did you get here?”
            “I woke up in the tree and came up from the woods. How do you control music through the whole town?”
            “Are you aware where you are?”
            “Sure,” he said, brushing his long brown hair behind his ears with his fingers and pulling it back into a ponytail, “of course. I live right up the street.”
            “You do? Where?”
            “I’ll show you.”
            Passing by the metal swordfish on the way back up the hill toward the south end of town, together on the hover scooter silent as thought through the cool redwood air, they came to a road, and at the Hippie’s indication turned down, sliding by a duplex overgrown with ivy and houses with fences and flowers and gardens, till at the Hippie’s indication they stopped. He hopped off and hit the ground and turned to Diego and said, “See? There’s my house. That’s where I live.”
            “Your house, huh?”
            “Well, I admit it does look a good bit different. Only in the minor details, though. Those are imperfections and embellishments from my subconscious.”
            “Do you really think you’re dreaming right now? Because you’re not, I can tell you that. I’m real. I’m as real as it gets. At first I wanted you to just get out. Now I’m not sure if I should even let you leave. If anything went wrong I’d get in trouble. Thing I can’t figure out is how you got past perimeter security. I think you better tell me your name.”
            “Why should I do that? I already showed you where I live. Look man, I don’t know who you are or what you think you’re doing, and thanks for the ride, man, but I think I want you off our property. I do want you off. I want you to go. Just leave me alone and go away now.”
            Diego produced the pistol and pointed it at the Hippie. “What do you care, right? You still think you’re dreamin’.”
            “Don’t shoot me, man.”
            “What do you care, right?”
            “Don’t do it!”
            “What’s your name?”
            “Chad Perlman. Don’t shoot!”
            “How did you get here?”
            “I told you, man! I went down to—I’m not dreaming. Oh god. I went down to the forest to do some ‘shrooms.”
            “A really rare kind. Glowed.”
            “Yeah! And I just thought it would be a really far out thing to do it in this big old redwood tree I know that’s all hollow at the bottom.”
            “So what happened?”
            “Look man, could you please lower that? It’s really hard to talk to you right now.”
            Diego went ahead and lowered the gun, and just as he did, finger on the trigger, it went off again, sending a spray of bullets into the sidewalk and along a corner of the house. An inarticulate curse tore from his lips and he almost dropped the gun before setting it down pointed away from the two of them.
            “Go ahead!” Diego said, upset at the gun accidentally going off for a second time. “Tell me what the hell happened!”
            “I journeyed inside my mind. I thought about vibrations.”
            “What do you mean, ‘vibrations?’”
            “Well, I mean, you know, it’s like, all matter is solidified thought. I’d been thinking about time travel. How all time happens at the same time. I tapped into something. I tapped into a part of my mind not used before, a part of the mind nobody uses, and I understood, and by understanding I made it happen. It’s not 1975 anymore, is it?”
            “1975? Are you kidding? It’s 2050!”
            Low moans came from the house, followed by agonized groaning and horrific cries.
            “You shot someone. Did you hear that? Someone in the house is hurt.”
            The Hippie raced inside. Diego picked up the pistol and took out the clip. Damn thing was faulty. You couldn’t get quality anything hardly anywhere anymore. The house was a two-story. The big perfect white kind like you used to see on TV. And there was a garden, of course. And a lawn. And flowers. All needing tending. Somebody had to do that.
            Low moans again. Agonized groans and horrific cries. The Hippie came out of the house wide-eyed in his tie-dye.
            “It’s a Haunted House,” Diego said. “The gunshots tripped the sensors.”
            “So the whole town is robots?”
            “Most of the buildings here have some sort of animatronic feature. Not all, though.”
            “Why though? Why? Why has this happened? What happened to my town? Where did all the people go?”
            Diego couldn’t say. “This is Redwoodland. You’re in Haunted Madrani. Usually my parents caretake the town, but they have to work in Drakewood today. So you think you’re from 1975?”
            “Man, I am from 1975.”
            “You got any ID?”
            “Yeah, you know, ID. Like something that says who you are. You got a wallet?”
            The Hippie patted his pockets. “Not on me. I left it”—he looked over his shoulder up at the second-story window—“in my room….” His voice trailed off. He stared at the ground for a moment with his brows knit, then said, “I wonder what happened to my family.”
            “Okay, well listen, man. I’ve got work to do and you’re not supposed to be here.”
            “I don’t understand.”
            “I mean you’re not supposed to be here.”
            “Well, what am I supposed to do?”
            “How the hell should I know? That’s not my problem. Your being here is my problem. Now get out of here before you get me in trouble.”
            “Get out like where? I have no money, nowhere to go, and no way to get there. All I have in the world is everything you see.”
            Ghostly sounds from the Haunted House had stopped. Trees creaked. For no reason he could figure, Diego asked if the Hippie was hungry, and when he said that he was, Diego went ahead and took him back down on the hover scooter to Madrani Café.

They sat on thickly cushioned swivel stools at the counter. Behind them some of the tables were redwood slabs on burl bases, rich mahogany marbled wildly with radiating rings and peppered with minute constellations of character, and the entire shape of the slab was irregular and unique because it came from burls with knots and roots and pockets milled into two- and three-inch slabs, no two exactly alike in the world. In front of them stood a blonde-haired, blue-eyed animatronic waitress wearing Daisy Dukes, trim white fringe on her tight cutoff jeans fluffy and clean as if fresh from the wash.
            “So what was it like living when ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’ was on?”
            “Yeah, that’s a pretty good one. I haven’t seen him do it for a couple years, but when my youngest brother was nine or ten, and he’s I guess twelve years younger than me, he used to go around wearing one of those long metal tennis ball cans all the way up to his armpit, and wear a long-sleeved shirt over his arm so that when we punched it or if he crashed into something it would seem bionic. And he used to squint one eye to show that it was bionic, too. And he would move super-fast, pretending to go in slow-mo. I guess he’d be eighty-eight now, if he’s still…you know.”
            “Still alive?”
            “It’s sure not impossible. I know people in their nineties and hundreds. You should try to look him up. Maybe he can help you.”
            “You know, you’re right. That means I’m a hundred. I might not look a day over twenty-five right now, but I feel a hundred years old inside. I wonder if I’ll suddenly start aging on the outside to catch up.”
            Diego had his phone out. It was the size of a corn chip, and at the touch of a very tiny button seemed to expand to a door-sized golden rectangle glittering with possibility.
            “I’m not seeing any Perlmans in the directory,” he said.
            The Hippie saw in the door-sized hologram-like screen which was not actually there clips of advertising firing away, dehumanized women shining and jostled and screaming in fearful ecstasy the names of products, everything on-screen all frantic pulsing color spinning to catch attention, and looking to the Hippie like a jumbled mess of garbage falling constantly apart. Pictures of the world beyond Redwoodland instilled fear and reverence. Famine and flame and deadly disease. You couldn’t look away, and there was always more.
            “Enjoy, boys,” Cheryl, the animatronic waitress said, swiveling over with the orders.
            “I keep expecting to see Yul Brynner come in wearing a black cowboy hat,” said the Hippie between bites of bacon cheeseburger.
            “I know the movie you’re talking about,” Diego said with a mouthful of pizza.
            “Right! But it’s not like that here. There are such things as walking androids in the world, true. They don’t have them here, though. Too expensive. Too much hassle. These ones here are hard enough to keep up.”
            Cheryl just smiled. Nice midriff. Showed a lot of latex.
            The Hippie thanked Diego for the burger when they’d finished. Diego left his pizza crust.
            “No problem,” Diego said outside. “I get it at a discount.”
            “I guess I’ll have to figure out how to start getting some of those credits,” the Hippie said.
            “I guess you better. Where you going?”
            “I think it’s time to take off.”
            “Take off? Where to?”
            “Oh, I think I’ll start by going back to that tree, see if I can’t fall asleep.”
            “You got any more of those weird mushrooms?”
            “All right then, good luck.”
            “Thanks for being cool with me, dude.”
            “No prob, dude.”
            Deep down the Hippie wondered if maybe Diego wouldn’t be letting him go. Wondered if he wouldn’t have to turn around to see while he was walking away Diego with the pistol leveled. But all Diego did was hop on his hover scooter and glide down past the high school.
The Hippie went in the opposite direction, back uphill, toward the south end of town, taking a short cut across the bough-laced grounds of the Whispering Woods Motel, where animatronic figures might have acted out his youth, and the short cut led him to the dirt road, authentic dirt, rife with authentic potholes, where houses lined either side of the road, and when in passing he tripped a motion sensor here or there he saw the young animatronic dads with their long thick sideburns and huge pointy collars flashing teeth over drinks at chicks with Farrah hair who were moms and wore halter tops and large colorful audibly jangling bracelets and went heavy on mascara, and in one house he saw, as he peeped and he creeped around like the Frankenstein monster, a little blonde animatronic boy fiddling with Atari tanks, an actual Chuck Connors Tin Can Alley set placed in view behind him, and a Daisy BB gun standing in the corner, Johnny West on a shelf next to Quick Draw Action Sam Cobra. Past some houses farther on downhill he found the old trail that took you down to the forest. Wide, tall, dark, huge. When the presence of the forest began to be felt, the vast sound of stillness broken by sharp pipings of birds, there appeared the haunted house, the real haunted house, the one that he knew in his youth and now again saw, restored before him in all its moldering glory. A couple of animatronic Huck Finns sprang to life for hick fun on the roof when the Hippie broke the beam, but he kept on going down to the bottom of the hill, thereby meeting the furthest limits of a large tract of redwood grove, where the trees were much bigger, and the air far more dark.
            Suddenly, the sound of something moving. He’d tripped a beam, he knew, before the voice came, a voice from above.
            “A decade is no mere number of years.” The Hippie looked up the nearby redwood at the huge talking burl. “A time is a spirit. If the time is a positive one, it needs to be carried on.” The mouth of the big fake burl clacked when it talked. “So be sure to stick to the rules, and remember, anything you can see can see you, too. Our Redwoodland Security family finds the darnedest ways to keep a real good eye on us to make sure everybody stays safe. Lookout for Bigfeet now, be sure to visit our gift shops, and keep on stayin’ groovy!”
            Slowly, the conical brown heads of Bigfeet rose on neckless shoulders from behind fallen logs and large clumps of brush, and as he moved along the trail, slowly they descended. Little woodland creatures lingering unnaturally seemed to the Hippie like camera-laden spies, but he made it at last to his tree, a great redwood with a split at the base revealing a cave-like interior. Trembling, he went inside. Naturally everything he had experienced was all too much to bear. His system couldn’t handle it. If he could just go to sleep, probably he would wake up and everything would be fine in 1975. And he would never do mushrooms again. Inside it was dark, the wedge-shaped opening allowing little of the filtered forest light. The problem now was being wired. He tried to sleep, but was too wired to be tired. When the omnipresent thought of what on earth he was going to do became too much, the Hippie jumped out of the tree and ran through the woods tripping beams that sprang striding Bigfeet to life and made talking burls clack behind him as he ran pit pat down the forest path.
            It was in the wood yard at The Burl Barn that the Hippie saw Diego again.
            “I figured,” Diego said, crunching across the gravel drive, “figured you’d come out at the Old Graveyard, or on the Avenue, or from up behind The Burl Barn here.” The hover scooter was over by a wolf-bear-raven-Bigfoot totem pole, and next to that was an animatronic chainsaw-carving tableau, featuring a plaid-clad carver covered in sawdust releasing from a block of wood a standing bear holding a salmon, and also featuring a guy with an ax in his hands perpetually preparing for the Standing Block Chop.
            “I recognize this guy’s name,” said the Hippie, reading from a brass plaque. “So little Carl wound up a Timbersports champion.”
            “They say that one’s modeled on what the actual guy looked like. They got a bunch like that.”
            The Hippie wondered aloud if he’d see one of himself. This thought was a big adjustment from having sat in front of “All in the Family” what was for him only a matter of hours before.
            “I don’t think so,” Diego said. “I think I’d recognize you. At least you get represented. Nobody from my world gets that here at all. And now here you are, no ID and no idea what a credit is. You have to be a citizen to get credits, but you don’t even have any paperwork at all. Undocumented, and nowhere to go. Man, you’re lucky if I even hide you out. What kind of skills you got?” This last he said barely retaining a snort of contempt. To his surprise the Hippie said that he was pretty good with carpentry.
            They worked out a deal, stopping on the way back up to the house to chuck rocks at the swordfish. Diego had the master remote control with him now, having left the pistol at home, and they listened to Neil Young’s Zuma again through the motel recreation room jukebox without ever setting foot inside.
            When they got to Diego’s house, his parents, in their seventies, still weren’t back from work. Diego gave the Hippie the tour of the house from the outside, explaining where he was not to go, and basically gave him the lay of the land while he took the Hippie to the van.
            It was a little bit overgrown. Weeds grew up around the antique tires, which were flat. It was a brown van in its time, and yellow. A rusty door squeaked open and a musty smell came out. The carpet inside didn’t look too bad. Shag.
            “I can put some of my credits on another card for you. You can get what you need down at the café. Most days the park has guests, so it won’t look like this all the time, that’s for sure. But I can pretty much always scrape up something for you to do. Like right now if you want to start on those bullet holes in the wood over at your old house.” Diego showed the Hippie where they kept the tools.
            There were still a few hours of daylight left. Together in that time they could get a lot done preserving ancient heritage. At least the Hippie managed to scare up some place to crash. He was the last Mohican now.
            From inside the Haunted House, the screams, groans, and cries rang out as they worked.

 VISIONS FROM THE GUTTER “Resurrection of the Lizard” – A Jim Morrison android living in the redwoods develops a cult following. “I Am Become Celebrity” – In a world where genetically-engineered pop stars reach their peak before they’re even born, unemployed Serling Young finds himself ready and willing to do anything for fame. “Age of Indigents” – Homeless conservative Everett Fagle experiences inner growth living in a hollow redwood. “Rhapsody Grove” – Growing success with Victory Eviction Services rewards Rich Christianson with the coveted chance to attend a prestigious private gathering, but at what cost to his beautiful, dutiful wife? “Trip Van” – A Hippie wakes up one day to find the world is not at all what it seemed. “Redwoodstock” – For desperately unemployed George Hicks, a Woodstock-like concert held in Humbaba offers an out-of-this-world opportunity to get ahead in business. AVENUE OF THE GIANTS While visiting Humbaba, Beau Black encounters a hot old flame desirous of a no-strings fling. When she takes him for a ride in her midnight blue Karmann Ghia, Beau goes on a midlife crisis trip through the landscape of his youth, where a Gothic Convention awaits, and a date with otherworldly destiny.