Thursday, October 31, 2013



If you want to learn to surf, you'll find ideal conditions at Shelter Cove.

The small, predictable, mellow waves that meet the crescent sweep of the cove are perfect for beginners, according to longtime surfer John Dowd.

I'd never surfed before, so it seemed like a great place to start. But first, surf conditions: You can find out how choppy the water is and how high the waves are by contacting your local surf shop or by going online. The site has up-to-date information, but it's very technical. I checked In with Tsunami Surf and Sport in Garberville and was assured that on my chosen September day the water was fine.

The bucolic, meandering jaunt from Redway to Shelter Cove takes about 40 minutes. Twelve if you're local. As you drive down into town, surfing access is found on the south side.

Whether new or used, purchased or rented, a wetsuit is as essential to cold Humboldt surfing as the surfboard itself. For me, the purpose of the wetsuit is to instill superhero-like feelings of double-extra safeness from sharks. Plus protection from the cold. Mostly though, the sharks.

Salmon trawlers a few hundred yards out from shore might seem like they would attract sharks to the area. White sharks, in particular. Porkers. But Dowd explains that any sharks in the vicinity will linger on the other side of the shelf, far out from shore, waiting to strike seals and sea lions from below.

"In Shelter Cove, the water is too shallow for ambush predators," Dowd says. "There have been only two attacks in 10 years, and one fatality in 20."

Even though the cove is a kiddie pool to experienced surfers, it's not without its dangers. If your wetsuit doesn't include booties, you're likely to lacerate your feet on the rocks in the shallow water without even knowing it. Worse yet, take a spill and hit your head.

To help us stay on our boards, we smear them with Mr. Zog's Sex Wax, applying it with rigorous rhythmic swirls right there on the beach. This creates a textured surface good for standing on, and lends a minty aftertaste for any huge, tooth-filled mouths that come chomping along.

At the end of the board hangs a leash with a Velcro strap for attaching at the ankle. This is to ensure the oneness of surfer and board, a mystical connection that also keeps the surfer from having to play fetch. For most people, the strap will be on the right foot, with the left foot in front. A natural stance with the left foot in back is called goofy foot.

In the water, the first 30 seconds can be a mite chilly, but, incredibly, that's as long as it takes for the body to reach perfect comfort. Chest-high in the water, you lie down on the board and start paddling far enough out to ride a wave back in.

The importance of an accompanying experienced surfer can't be overstated. At all times, be sure to keep the surfer between you and the sharky side of the water.

There's no trick to surfing. All it takes is split-second timing and impeccable balance. Perhaps it's the buoyancy of bobbing in the water, the need to time your actions with the natural flow, the acceptance of a power infinitely greater than yourself that leads the surfing soul to peace and exaltation. A kind of perpetual surf-birth into the world.

Back on land, food never tasted so good. Largely, this is due to the good deli sandwiches at the market up the hill. And yet, undeniably, there's something about standing on a moving surfboard for about a second and a half that sharpens one's appetite.

I recommend the shark fillet.

Stewart Kirby writes movie reviews for The Independent, has authored weird fiction books set in an alternate Humboldt County, teaches Creative Writing at College of the Redwoods, and hosts a radio show on KMUD.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


A horned man I met in the woods told me the country didn’t have a democracy. “It’s a plutocracy,” he said, scratching the hair of his shaggy chin. “Democracy was taken over in a hidden, long-term coup by a totalitarian system of bankers and globalized corporations. It’s a government of the rich, for the rich.”

High in the sky overhead, intersecting lines of chem-trails formed giant white crosses linked like a vast net.

“Looks like it’s gonna rain,” I said.

“Within forty-hours,” the horned man replied.

“I wonder what we’re ingesting.”

The horned man nodded.

From where we were sitting, we could see the long line of limos gleaming on the road thread through the trees. A sickly trickle of river ran below like a varicose vein. The occupants of the armored vehicles hid behind tinted windows with one-way views, but we knew who they were. Slick old whites packed inside entered the redwood forest like parasitic tapeworms in the heart of the host.

I wondered if it wasn’t the chem-trails that woke me up.

Quietly through the woods we traveled for a spell. Through the dancing branches we moved with roots and the sway of green growth till we came to a place where uniformed interlopers held automatic rifles. 
Protectors of the parasites.

“I hear they got cell phones that shoot bullets now,” one of them said from where they watched the long line of gleaming limos.

“Those have been out for awhile.”

“They got cameras on those bullets?”

“Bullet’s basically a mini-cam. Shows all the details goin’ on when it hits. You get a video of the impact in slo-mo sent automatic to your email.”

“How long’s the video?”

“Most you can slow it down to is ten seconds.”

“That’s pretty good.”

“Yeah, it’s amazing what they can do.”

Stepping out of the trees, the horned man and I appeared behind them.

“Slug ‘em good,” the horned man said.

I had a pinch of dust already in my palm. At my directed exhalation, the powder shot forward and expanded as it landed on the enemy forces. The glistening black and yellow forms of hundreds of banana slugs instantly grew into view. Firmly sticking to clothes and skin, the slugs swelled on contact, completely covering even the automatic rifles. A muffled bubbling churned as the slugs grew bigger than actual bananas and didn’t stop until they were ten times bigger than a big banana slug, all of which took about eight or nine seconds, and then there wasn’t any trace left of the enemy at all, just a couple of smears of dark mucous, mostly from the metal of the gun.

Hundreds of giant banana slugs oozed away, jostling sword fern as they passed.

Brushing off my hands I said, “Let’s go,” and we melted into the forest.

I thought about the things that the horned man told me. What a nightmare it was to wake up to what the world had become. He hadn’t been awake much longer than me. I could see what he said was true.

“When I woke up,” the horned man said, “everything was different. The world was different. I’ve seen all this come to pass. Some say not since the Dark Ages. But that was just an isolated event, and didn’t threaten the entire planet.”

Further elaboration on this point was interrupted by the great gray helicopter that materialized overhead and began firing, indiscriminately splintering the lofty green branches between us in an otherwise ineffectual display, for I had chanted the power of protection, and the meager weapons of the enemy posed no threat to us at all.

Still, the thought counted.

Leaning back and bellowing terrifically, the horned man sent forth from his mouth a blue blaze of flame that enveloped the chopper, shook it, spun it, then dashed it as though with a giant blue glowing hand on the dried up river bar below.

Quaffing a draft from the flask at my hip, I grew ten times my size and charged down the hillside onto the Avenue of the Giants, smashing into a couple of limos.

Bullets everywhere, zing zing zing . . . Reaching into one of the cars I found what I was looking for.

I could hear they had orders to stop shooting. I held the jar perilously poised thirty feet over the asphalt between two tremendous fingers. There was a severed head inside.

The horned man’s voice rang clearly below. “Which head’s that?”

“Not sure,” I replied. “Looks like it might be J. Edgar Hoover.”

“Is it wearing a blonde wig?”

It was so small, I could barely tell through the Formaldehyde. “Yeah, I think so.”

From the torn limo I thought I heard one of the angels of destruction squeak.

I leaned down close.

“You got something to say to me, little man?” I boomed.

“Do not harm the head of Hoover!” squeaked the voice.

Do not harm the head of Hoover. This was intolerable. “Fascist heads,” I intoned, “hear me now!” As if they couldn’t. “If you give this Hoover a damn, stop your totalitarian tide! Bringers of terror to the world, this is your chance to listen to reason. Pull out your fascist heads. Let’s go, on the hoods, pull ‘em all out. I’ll smear the head of Hoover like a goddam booger. DO IT!”

Limo doors opened as one by one the fascist heads inside the limos were reverently and tearfully placed by their unholy acolytes onto the ticking hoods of the cars.

“Hey,” the horned man said, “the heads talk.”

“Really?” I took a closer look at the jar between my fingers. Gasps of concern for the head of Hoover accompanied arms upraised pitifully like the bobbing beaks of baby vultures. Upon repositioning the jar, I saw that the top of it had some sort of screen portion that looked vaguely like a stereo speaker. Hard for me to tell, being enormous. Inside the jar, the head of Hoover looked in every way sloshed. My shaking it around so much clouded it up, but I could see there was a hose between the speaker on the lid and the back of the head. Some sound was coming from it. It sounded like Hoover was trying to speak.

It was not a human voice, but rather an electronic simulation, a voice-box, which said: “Military warheads brought to you by . . . televangelist snack clown park.”

I thought about that.

“Hey,” the horned man said again, “this one speaks German. Looks a little like Charlie Chaplin. Hard to tell, though. The brine in here’s all murky. Everything’s mostly worn down to a shapeless lump.”

Ten more heads on ticking limo hoods completed the set of twelve.

“The clean little man,” the electronic Hoover voice flatly stated, “with the white plastic smile loves you. Obey.”

The fools, the damned inbred idiots!

And now the things the horned man told me about the public educational system getting dismantled started to make sense. Now I understood why this was the only industrialized country lacking a system of socialized health care. Now I could see why the entire divided nation was shackled with sugar and TV and strip malls and cheap plastic crap caught in a blanket of poison rain. The hidden fascist heads worshiped by the inbred elite had been pickled in their jars for so long, they were completely insane.

Before the spell of size wore off, I smashed the cars and stacked them on the river bar for the horned man to torch down into slug-able lumps. All the guns, cell phones, clothes and credit cards went in as well. Everything, all of it.

“You’re free now,” I said to the people who used to be evil. I had returned to my normal size at this point, and could look at these naked wretches, so newly free, as though we were equals. The horned man had the jars all set up on a long driftwood log. “Now that you’re free, what do you have to say to your fascist heads, hmm?”

At first the nouveau homeless in their redwood Eden didn’t know what to do. They just stood around looking pathetic and beleaguered like dehumanized idiots until one of them finally developed some sensible initiative and picked up a rock. The rock had a gross sort of film left on it from the big business pollution that killed the river. He didn’t seem to like to have to touch that rock, being concerned for his health, but he went ahead and threw it.

The rock bounced away well shy of the mark. Even though this character couldn’t throw a rock worth a damn, the fresher heads in the jars seemed to understand. A few of them became relatively animated and began talking all at once. But who can make any sense of that?

“More of our kind are on the way,” the horned man said, returning a crystalline globe to a satchel at his side. Giant butterflies with black light wings fluttered around high in the trees. The land was waking up. Finally, the nightmare was over.

I told the wretch with the rock in his hand he could scoot up and try a little closer.

Monday, October 14, 2013



WHEN THE PUMPKINS GREW limbs, they started to walk. Then they went bad. Bands of rotting pumpkins hide in the woods.

The rotting rovers are not from any fields I'd ever seen till last week. That's when I found they like to put dead meat inside themselves. They like live meat, too. Sometimes it's a mix. I've seen their rotten orange heads stuffed so much with meat, they could barely even stagger around on their gnarled root legs.

The rotters carve themselves into jack o' lanterns. I watched in my bug from the road while a fresh one was run down. From the great green field it ran, madly dashing from a racing pack. Ten that I could easily count. There may have been more.

They held the mute and struggling thing full in my view and they pulled out a knife and they stabbed. And they stabbed. They stabbed a face that screamed to life.

The rotters skated through the poor thing's innards in the most disrespectful manner. I would have liked to try to do something to help put a stop to it, but the one that got carved up turned its hideous face toward me and spat its pulpy anger in my direction.

Inside the bug I had the engine off. I wasn't even sure if they were aware that I was there till they all started moving toward me. With a seedy look on its fresh wet face, the new one took the knife. Through the open sun roof I could hear quite clearly the rubbery squeak of their limbs as the decrepit pumpkins crept.

I did consider teaching them a lesson. It should be noted, however, that I couldn't simply plow into them. They weren't on the road. Maybe they were attracted to the orange color of the bug. Maybe the sun roof open was like a giant lifted lid to them. Whatever the case, the new rotter seemed to have something to prove, and I had about five seconds to make this determination before I turned the ignition and shut the sun roof barely in time to avoid the stabs of the enraged pumpkin as it jumped up on the hood and slashed.

Immediately I backed up, screaming inarticulate oaths. I heard the sharp unpleasant sound of metal on metal as the unwholesome plant-beast strove and struck mid-roll while I turned the bug sharply, suddenly stopped, and abruptly tore forward over the thing with the knife in its grip and back onto the Avenue of the Giants with the rest of the rotters left running behind.

I had taken the old road through Drakewood. About a mile down the road stood a lone stone chimney on a steep green hill thick with ivy vines. Here cowled figures could sometimes be seen conducting uncanny rites. The glow of a weird nimbus near the chimney reminded me of this as I sped round the winding curves toward Madrani, the second-story hell I called home, and the seedy vicious witch I called my girlfriend.

The room I rented wasn't the only one upstairs in the old Victorian. Meadow, the witch, was living in the other room when I moved in. The one on the dark side of the house. She was behind on rent, and we hit it off quite well at the start, so she moved in with me about six months prior. Then at the end of August some kid moved in the room.

At first I figured I should probably cut him some slack, even though I really didn't like him. He lifts weights loudly at odd hours--intentionally loudly, I think--and he says stupid things in passing that piss me off, always talking about some new record weight he lifted, or the degrees he's reached in the Occult Sciences.

Hoyt. I hate Hoyt. The only thing I liked about Hoyt moving in was his not having a car.

As soon as I walked upstairs, Hoyt opened his door. He's not so big that I couldn't see Meadow sitting in the room there behind him. I didn't say anything. Nobody did. I just went into my room. A couple minutes later, Meadow came in. Till this point I'd been all excited to tell her about the rotters.

"Hoyt's taking me chanting," she said. "You can come along if you want."

"Where's he taking you chanting?"

"Down in the forest at the pit. He's teaching me how to levitate."

"Watch out for rotters," I said.

"And what's that supposed to mean?"

"I just saw a bunch of them. One came after me with a knife."

"You lie."


"Well, we're not worried. What did you do to make it come after you? I'm sure you probably deserved it!" She laughed and said, "Just kidding," but looked at me with this bitter face she gets when she thinks she's being vengeful in a winning way.

I knew she’d pick that moment for her exit. And she did. I stared out the window at the roofing and the trees until I heard the door shut. Then I put on some Penderecki, cracked my last Rasputin Stout, and read up on John Dee.

In the quiet spots of “Dimensions of Time and Silence” I couldn’t help but hear Hoyt’s big-boy voice followed by Meadow’s sardonic snorting. Overdone, for my benefit, though she never would’ve admitted it, to confirm her new affiliation.

Upon finishing my Rasputin, I resolved to boost on down to the market for another wee dram. And then I thought, hey, long as I’m there, might as well pick up a pack of e:yes and see what we could see with those things.


You could find packets of e:yes "eyes" just about anywhere, squishy little gizmos similar to fishing roe that didn't do anything until activated online. It used to be the occasional person you'd see with an e:yes eye floating nearby, one that maybe you hadn't even noticed for the first few minutes. Someone somewhere controlled the device, remotely, same as they do with unmanned planes. What began as mobile drone security cameras--big clunkers existed for years--simply became a cheap way for people to follow each other around on social media. I picked up a packet of eyes from Madrani Market along with another Rasputin four-pack.

"You got any eyes?"

"Any what?"

"Packets of eyes?" I set down my four-pack.

"You mean for like online?"


I was kind of stoked the way the girl behind the counter made eye-contact. Timing with Meadow and all. There used to be another girl with the same job who treated me like crap. This one though, she was different. Still new. Hadn't been broken in with shit-talk yet. She craned lithely backward toward the open door to the little room where the manager sat out of view. Something was said. I couldn't hear. A hand appeared, like the Once-ler's in Dr. Seuss's "The Lorax." I was glad no one else was in the store.

The girl behind the counter hustled earnestly over to where the hand had indicated. I turned to follow, trying to hide the fact that I liked the way she looked, but she yanked me a package of eyes and came back over faster than I could do anything.

I had a line ready for her. It came to me in a flash. "Hey, glad to see you have eyes for me," I said. I had hoped she would reciprocate. I reckoned she didn't get that one, though. All she told me was the price.

"You're new here, huh?" I said it, but it came out unexpectedly right when the cash register dinged and I could tell she probably didn't hear me. Still, I wasn't totally sure.

"These those things that float around?" she said, picking up the package and shifting it around without really inspecting it.

"They're so you can spy on people," the voice in the room said, Once-ler-like.

Well, I resented that.

Thought about it all the way back to my room. How could I appreciate the serene majestic beauty of the towering redwoods with so much goddam disrespect all around? Cracking a fresh Rasputin I cranked some Black Sabbath and hopped online to see how exactly one went about activating new eyes.

Tearing the packaging revealed three small gelatinous spheres. The rubbery, semi-opaque devices rolled into my hand like magic beans smelling faintly of formaldehyde. Also inside there was a number on a piece of plastic.

"Huh," I said. I took the first pull from the beer as the page loaded, then let out a long sigh that I was glad no one else heard.

You're supposed to expose the eyes to air for a couple of minutes. The loaded page told me what I knew from the package. If I'd had the right kind of phone, I could've already called in the number. It was a 14-digit number, printed so small I could hardly read it. Overall though the e:yes user interface was pretty good. I liked that you could use one eye at a time, or have all three going and view each perspective on a split-screen.

From the images fading in and out on the website I knew to expect the magic moment of the rising eye. Corny-looking stuff where models pretending to be happy families made faces showing awe. I didn't need any of that. I just wanted the damn thing to work.

"Let's go, let's go," I said, right as the program finished loading. It had taken a couple of minutes and seemed forever.

I had the eyes set out on the flat surface of a book. I didn't want to waste all three at the same time, so I clicked the box to operate only one of the eyes and went into full screen.

Nothing happened.

All I saw was the close-up of a book cover stretching before me on the screen.

"What the hell?" I protested, certain it was all bullshit, barely conscious of my facial features displaying displeasure. Then I remembered to use the mouse. Sure enough, one of the eyes rose right up off of the book. Looked about as magical to me as a magnet dragging a paper clip from beneath a thin surface.

I practiced moving the eye around the room.

It was a hassle at first, I thought. I’m just not that good with all the techie stuff. It’s daunting, until you realize they want it to be easy enough for the maximum number of customers. From the time I first got the eye up to the moment it floated out through my open window, it took probably ten minutes of practice.

I’m not going to be able to describe exactly how every little detail looked, no matter how hard I try. It’ll never come out right. This is stuff that happened a week ago. I’m not what anyone would call a writer, per se. I only write this now because I thought it was pretty interesting even while it was happening. I mean sure, I’ve written some poems and shit. I was editor of my high school paper. I guarantee, if I’d seen any mangy rotten bands of roving pumpkins knock over my garbage cans looking for meat, or stuff any of my pets screaming under those awful lids, that would definitely have made the paper.

Navigating the e:yes brand electronic mobile eye, I observed the roof in its detail, stealthily slipping over the dark side of the old Victorian, it being a lovely fall day and why the hell not, and then discreetly slipping, ever so nonchalantly, right . . . outside . . . the window.

Fortunately, the curtains were open. Why wouldn’t they be? Nothing but the wavering ends of lower redwood branches outside, as far as almost anyone would suspect.

But now, I could see them. They were in there, all right. Talking. I could barely hear their muffled conversation between Sabbath songs. E:yes, however, was equipped with a lip-reading function. I could see their dialogue translated in real-time messages.


“I’ve been having great dreams.” This was really cool for me to hear, and at some level I think I did feel a little bit like Gene Hackman, because I was privy to this totally forbidden knowledge just when I had changed the music on YouTube to Penderecki’s “Paradise Lost.” Hoyt went on:

“Last night I flew all over the place. I just flew and flew, all around the towns and the forest.”

It was so incredible to me that Meadow even considered this kid. Twenty-eight, for crying out loud, and she was actually considering a nineteen year-old. Hoyt had his face turned from the window for a bit. I had to admit, the oil portrait of Salvator Rosa lent a very nice touch to the room. Can’t see it standing in the doorway. A couple of lava lamps casually churned. One orange, the other purple. The music was getting old. I decided to change it.

“I would be ecstatic to meet a ghost,” the Hoyt-message appeared. Prrfft! I almost spat my Rasputin on my keyboard. What a geek! This was what she was leaving me for. “If I ever met one that scared me to my grave, I’d just rise up and kick his ass.”

I was starting to really not like Meadow. Most of all I was amazed that Hoyt finally shut up long enough to let her talk. She was telling him about the vortex.

“Sometimes I try to picture myself falling in a huge endless vortex where everything is blue and swirling in the distance. I look up and see no limit to the extent of the vortex. The tube. I see no limit in the other direction. I am bathed in an eerie light. I look at my hands, my arms, my legs. I concentrate on falling. It’s a place I’ve gone for as long as I can remember. Sometimes I fall asleep this way.”

“Me, I’m a wolf.”

What an impossible a-hole Hoyt proved himself routinely. Even after everything Meadow said about this special place she goes to, Hoyt ignored what wasn’t in his script and returned the subject to glorifying himself.

“I’m wolf heart, wolf mind, and wolf soul caged in human form, really. It’s all in the chakra. Hold on, listen. Do you hear that?”

“Holy shit, he’s listening to Gustav Holst.”

Early in the summer and a million years ago Meadow loved it when I put on “The Planets.” I was starting to feel really rotten.

Of course, near as I could tell, the whole world had turned rotten.

Everything was all about greed. There wasn’t any innocence left. As a kid I had always loved Halloween. It bothered me now that even pumpkins could go so bad. Wasn’t anything sacred?

I watched while they started going at it. With exceeding ineptitude, I have to say. It was disgusting.

The truly bad part is, I didn’t feel disgust only for her. I felt it for all witches. She became, on the instant, momentarily emblematic of her kind.

And as if in a trance, I could not look away. I kept thinking, “I need to get up to get more snacks right now,” but remained perpetually unable because I was glued to, transfixed by, the sheer seediness, the pure pulp of it. Then they headed down to the pit.

I could hear them stop outside my door. Suddenly I realized: I hadn’t locked it.

Because of the position of the eye outside the window I could see on my screen Hoyt in the open doorway of his room, patting his pockets, and Meadow right outside mine, her hand approaching my knob.

Fortunately, in the moments it had taken for them to exit, I had gotten rid of “The Planets” and cued up the strong magic of an old CrowMag song, “We Went to Town (On a Bigfoot We Found),” and was able to launch into the lyrics just in time to repel the advancing claw of the witch.

The whole time they walked so merrily on down to the forest, just like Henry Fonda in “The Grapes of Wrath,” I was there, baby. I was there the whole damn time.

It was like following them in some toy maze. Frankly, part of me was excited to see the pit. I hadn’t dare venture there in many, many years. The last time I saw the pit, everybody called me Kris. Navigating my e:yes eye wasn’t easy, but I managed to keep in view of my quarry to catch they did on one occasion at least talk about me. Meadow revealed to Hoyt something I had told her. That my older brother introduced me to Penderecki when he said here was a living composer with my same name, Krzysztof. Hoyt kicked a rock and said Penderecki was overrated.

In trying to maintain visual contact while retaining anonymity, I couldn’t help but spin the darn thing around too much. So doing, I happened to see flashes of orange up the hillside in the brush.

Rotters. They were roving, looking for meat. Meadow and Hoyt were oblivious.

A message kept popping up onscreen that I kept canceling because it looked like spam and I was busy trying to navigate my eye. It was my warning the eye’s power was running out. I realized this right when I saw, from perhaps thirty feet overhead, a half dozen dirty ragged rotters charge down the slope. Then the power died.

“Great!” I said, throwing up my hands in frustration at having to activate another eye, go through the whole thing again, and then have to fly all the way over and see what was going on. Instead I saw something in my window, trapped between the dirty glass and the torn screen. It was a little white ball, about the size of a marble, bobbing gently . . . it was an e:yes eye. Somebody was spying on me!

Upon being perceived the little white sphere flitted madly about. Reaching for the nearest receptacle, my hand lit upon an ancient plastic mug from a long-ago box of Apple Jacks cereal. Quickly sliding the window open, I scooped the eye into the cup.

“I got you now!” I said, leaving a crack between my hand and the cup wide enough for whoever was operating the eye to see my mouth and read the words. Bicuspids meeting lower lip, I started with the “f” sound nice and clear…

Pretty soon though, I heard this soft ticking sound. I looked in the window and there were all these colorful little dots bobbing around. I shut the window just as one started to get in. This allowed the one in the cup to get free, and for a couple of minutes I had to chase it around, knocking things over and stepping on my stuff before smashing the eye between two books.

Outside my window looked like the end of “The Red Balloon,” multi-color spheres floating around. The meager curtains were insufficient, so I threw a blanket over the rods, tucking it around all sides and carefully concealing myself from the prying eyes.

I sat down at my computer in the otherwise unlit room and pondered how best to sneak a new eye out of the house and see what was happening with Meadow and Hoyt without these spies outside my window knowing. Little round silhouettes bobbed behind the green blanket. It was like being inside a giant bottle of 7Up.

The chimney, I decided. That was the way.

I had no idea who any of these people were. They could have been my next door neighbors, for all I knew, or living somewhere on the other side of the world. I realized that if I thought of the chimney, probably someone else would, too. Maybe already did. The flue, I knew, was open. The fireplace doors should be shut, I thought, but sometimes they didn’t shut all of the way properly. There might be barely enough room for someone to squeeze through. Maybe other people in other places were saying, “Oh, what’s the harm?” Or, “Besides, they’re pretty.” But for me it was the principle of the thing. I wanted to see what Meadow and Hoyt were doing without anybody knowing.

The fireplace was securely shut. Nor did any eyes pop out when I suddenly opened it up. I looked around, set my eye to be activated inside, quickly closed the fireplace doors again, then went back upstairs to start up my eye.

Slipping my hand behind the blanket covering the window, I flipped the bobbing eyes an ardent bird. Mostly because I meant it. Also though to keep them busy.

Onscreen I saw the interior of the chimney in green night vision mode, then switched to the regular setting when I exited at the top.

“Suckers,” I said, and cracked a fresh Rasputin with my bright blue eye on a bee-line to the forest.


I had the Aqua Velvets on. “Surf Nouveau.” Slicing over the switchbacks winding down below reminded me of a giant dollar sign. It wasn’t just the e:yes corporation. Nobody behind any of the $hit wanted the $hit done to them.

High as I was, I could see the high school, and the store, and the Post Office, and Just Desserts, and Kung Food, and Barney with a couple of customers among the life size Bigfoot chainsaw carvings. I could see the green shimmering sheen of Mist River threading like lifeblood below.

Descending into the sea of trees I perceived several rotters roaming. I followed the direction they were heading and found the pit, unchanged by time, hole of legend, six-feet deep, and Hoyt, goddam Hoyt, hovering over it, eyes closed, cross-legged, in the lotus position. I could see Meadow peeking around from behind the cluster of redwoods at the corner of the pit, peering with eyes full of wonder down into a gray and limitless (((vortex))) swirling and swirling. Now I could also see that the rapacious gleam in Meadow’s eyes upstairs before had changed to betray something deeper than I had suspected, her humanity, a vulnerability that made me forgive her and want to protect her.

Lip-read mode didn’t work on Hoyt. He was speaking an unknown language now. Seeing things, just like me, that no one was meant to see. Only he didn’t do it right.

I suppose somewhat accidentally I rather helped in that. My eye dropped down inside a rotter. The walls of the hollow triangular eyehole advanced around me as a rotter strode forth and unwittingly received a little blue pupil for a moment. I tried navigating out, but too late. The rotter’s stride jostled the e:yes eye so that it stuck to a mass of decaying meat. 

Inside the rotter, everything changed. For one thing, weird sounds crackled through my speakers. That certainly wasn't supposed to happen. Ugly sounds, churning like a river of trash. Whatever strange energy it was behind the rise of rotters, it didn’t mix well with whatever it was in my e:yes eye. I barely had time to see, from within the interface, the pumpkin stumbling toward the pit, pitching into the mad gray spin just as the eye went out.

Fast as I could I dashed from the house. I didn’t give a damn for any eyes following me. I ran to the forest as fast as I could. I knew it wasn’t far. Why had I been screwing around with this shit? I could have simply told her what I had to say to her face.

When I got to the pit I found Hoyt was spinning. Thick gray vapor billowed out everywhere, as though the pit were a giant cauldron, a fog machine for Humbaba County and beyond. All but a couple of the rotters were gone. One tried to menace me, but it didn’t have a knife and I was pissed. Yelling and looking really ugly and primitive I bet, I punted the pumpkin as hard as I could and sent it thudding off my boot way over into some fern. After a few seconds it murkily grunted and scuttled away, its wary buddy reluctantly taking the cue.

I tried to talk Hoyt down, but there was no way. He was stuck spinning like a perpetually retracting window shade. Like meat on a really speedy rotisserie. Like a turning onscreen icon indicating loading.

Meadow and I watched for awhile, wondering what to do. Pulling her close to me, I felt the tautness of her waist. We could see that Hoyt’s face had turned black from being spun around so fast so much. It was over for him. I couldn't help but notice Meadow’s hair smelled so sweet. I looked down into the little liar’s eyes. I’d never seen her so demure. She took this moment to grab my ass. I told her what I had to say.

“Look,” I said, “Hoyt’s a piece of fuckin’ shit. I'm sorry, but that's the truth. I’m very disappointed in you for this business, you know. And you’re gonna pay for it, later.”

“Oh yeah?” she said, squeezing my ass harder.

“Yeah,” I said, flexing cheek. Then I added, “Seedy wench."

“Pulpy bastard,” she replied.

Eventually, Hoyt spun into a mottled, white-ish lump roughly the size of a deformed human brain. I retrieved Hoyt’s lump and his copy of The History and Practice of Magic from the pit the next day.

Walking back up to the house with Meadow, she told me Hoyt had found curious crystals in a cave, glowing crystals that imbued Hoyt with powers far beyond his ken. One of the crystals Meadow kept in her possession.

Back in the room, I still had two Rasputin stouts. I put on some Bartok. Meadow moved around a little bit, then sat on my lap.

I noticed some e:yes eyes had gotten in the room. I told her about it while she bit at my neck.

“Oh, what’s the harm?” she said. “Besides, they’re pretty.”