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.”


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