[Introduction: Melanie Stormm continues her humorous series of posts about the misdirected emails she’s been getting. Stormm is a multiracial writer who writes fiction, poetry, and audio theatre. Her novella, Last Poet of Wyrld’s End is available through Candlemark & Gleam. She is currently the editor at the SPECk, a monthly publication on speculative poetry by the SFPA. Find her in her virtual home at coldwildeyes.com (temporarily closed for update). Wipe your feet before entering.]
THE GHOST OF WORDS UNWRITTEN
Hello All! Melanie here.
The SFF writing life, with all of its arc ships, singing swords, and uncanny terrors, is brought to you by Regularity.
Having dependable places to sleep, dependable food to eat, and dependable friends to laugh with goes a long way ensuring chapters are written and multi-volume sagas are slogged.
Yes, your characters may not know whether their sleep will be wrested by a band of angry goblins, but your writer should. Too little is said in praise of the banal, too few songs are sung about a regular oatmeal breakfast and an evening walking the cat. Three cheers for the afternoon when all you have to do is write 500 words in your latest short story and dry the towels before they get moldy in the washing machine.
It’s been a season of focusing on writing for our heroes in Cradensburg but with that Cradensburg flare. Just a few weeks ago, Tod Boadkins was hunted by a bow-wielding character that escaped a novelette he was working on. Writer X had hunting of her own to do: she hunted down a special flash light that reveals whether a first draft is ready for revisions or needs more time to cool. And Tryxy the demon started two things at the same time: the fall semester at Miskatonic Online University, and a strict diet and exercise program to keep the freshman fifteen at bay. But I like to think that, in all of this, things have been more regular and cozy, and that our heroes are happier for it.
Without further ado…
Subject: A new stor—HALP!!!!! A HAUNTING!!!!
How are you??? I hope you are enjoying this suddenly sunny weather we’ve been having. By the way, I’m being haunted and need you to come over write away.
I’m sure you’re dying to know how my writing is going. Well, this afternoon—OH MY GOD I’M NOT ALONE, I CAN FEEL THAT I’M NOT ALONE!!!! THE SOUND IS BACK TOO!!!!! THERE’S A PRESENCE HERE GLADYS, A MALEVOLENT PRESEN
Oh, it’s gone. What was I saying???
This afternoon my boyfriend, award nominated fantasy writer Tod Boadkins, closed himself in our bedroom away from the television to force himself into editing his novelette “Tasyin of the Wicked Watch.” He’s been dreading the task for at least two weeks and has gotten SUPER GOOD at avoiding it. Just the other week he went hunting baers and got lost in the wilderness and so had an excellent excuse for missing the final edits deadline.
It all started when he went up Shit creek, got in a fight with a baer that had been fishing for salmon, and broke his paddle fending off a swarm of woodchucks who came to support the baer (long story.) Fortunately, he hadn’t lost any of his provisions in the tussle. The canoe drifted into some marshlands and my boyfriend opened up the cooler I had packed for him but discovered he was a few sandwiches short of a picnic. This is because I had left the sandwiches on the counter and ran off to write a short story about a woman that receives a clock as an early retirement gift. The clock tells her how long she has left to live. The woman discovers that certain things shorten or lengthen the time, but at one point, she eats a sandwich and, once finished, she checks the clock and discovers she only has three minutes before death takes her.
Anyhoo, my boyfriend, award nominated fantasy writer Tod Boadkins, being without any sandwiches for his picnic, was forced to abandon his canoe and trudge through the marshes into the bog looking for food. About that time he spied a banana tree in the distance. As you know, Galdsy, it’s not too often that you spot a banana tree growing in the New Hampshire wilderness—I really have only seen one, to be honest—and he knew he was saved!!! A few hours later, he found a path through the bog to the banana tree but discovered that the banana grew at the center of an ancient graveyard with a crumbling stone wall surrounding it.
In the graveyard, mildew-streaked headstones stuck out from the ground like weathered teeth. Occasionally, he glimpsed worn off surnames of the long dead like Luck, Charity, and Cleveland-Banksley-Bauer. Dates such as 1589 and 1703 filled the cemetery, not a year beyond 1713 on any of them. Some of the tombstones had been broken by wind and rain or unimaginable violence, the shattered edges worn smooth by centuries. No one had been in this graveyard for at least 300 years, from my boyfriend’s guess.
He came to the banana tree and, so hungry was he after the woodchuck fight, that he devoured four or five on the spot. When he bit into the sixth, he realized that the graveyard had not been entirely abandoned. On the other side of the banana tree was a freshly dug and deep grave with pale pink worms wriggling in the newly exposed earth. The edges of the grave had not been shored yet and so they sloped inward so that someone who stood on the edge of the grave might slip inside if they weren’t careful. My boyfriend learned too late that he had one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel.
He fell into the grave. It was far deeper than any grave he’d seen before, at least fifteen feet deep and it was a good thing that my boyfriend had attended boy scouts and learned that the safest way to fall is on your face. Still, it knocked him out for a matter of hours. When he came to, the first stars of twilight hung far above him and the darkness made it seem as though the fifteen feet of grave stretched into one hundred, then two hundred.
Then, a figure appeared at the top of the grave. A gaunt, long figure in a wide black hat. The figure stooped with its bone white hands on its knees and called to my boyfriend with a thin voice that invoked the cold of death.
“What ho, traveler there. You have fallen into my grave and so you are bound to do my will or else never return to the world you once knew.”
“What is your will?” cried my boyfriend.
“Have you seen the great wood that surrounds this place?”
“Errr…I think so?” my boyfriend replied. “Do you mean the marsh. Or the part with the baers—”
“This great and malevolent wood has claimed the thousand and eleven souls of the town of Unjust.”
“Would that be the mythological town of Unjust whose inhabitants escaped from Roanoke and came to New Hampshire because they were sensitive to sunburn, and created a place in which horrible things happened that revealed the depravity within the human condition and legend has it that a fog settled on the town for a year and shortly after the inhabitants would mysteriously leave their beds and disappear one by one into the woods never to be seen again?” asked my boyfriend.
“Anyhoo,” said the figure with a voice like the gallows. “I was the last of these souls and my punishment was to roam these woods and find the bones of each of those lost—including the parts the animals got to—and carry them back and bury them each fifteen feet in the earth’s hollow beside a banana tree. As you can see, I’ve been at it for a while and still have eight hundred more to find. Now that you have fallen into my grave, you must pay the price and I task you to help me find the bones of those lost in the fog—particularly the finger bone of Madame Cleveland-Banksley-Bauer, it’s escaped me for years—and help me until my task is completed and one thousand and ten souls rest in these cursed grounds.”
“Is there any other way I can help? I kind of like my life the way it is,” said my boyfriend.
“Bury five hundred with me,” was the gravedigger’s counter offer.
And so the man in the hat and my boyfriend, award nominated fantasy writer Tod Boadkins, haggled back and forth until they came to the following terms:
“If I help you from this grave, you must give to me the soul of the first person you see as you leave and they will be bound to the first task they undertake or else the fog will come and take you too into the dark, into the woods, into the mouth of whatever beaver ate Madame Cleveland-Banksley-Bauer’s right hand.”
“Deal!” said my boyfriend, and they shook on it.
About that time I was taking a little break from my story with the clock and had a sudden craving for bananas. Fortunately, I knew just where to find some without having to get dressed in presentable clothes and drive down to Mr. Morgan’s. That’s when I happened to run into my boyfriend and let him know that his editor had called and the deadline for final edits had passed and when was he going to turn in the novelette?? On our way home, he told me what had happened and we both agreed that it was an excellent reason for missing a deadline if there ever was one. Then, we got home and he ate those stale sandwiches and I got back to my writing and Tryxy had gotten on to resuming his Golden Girls marathon.
That’s what I mean when I say that he’s gotten very good at avoiding his editing, Gladys. And so, when he closed himself in our bedroom this afternoon, I took the liberty of installing a deadbolt that locks from the outside on the bedroom door and informed him that he could come out again when he’s finished the edits and submitted the story. Every writer deserves someone who will lock them in a room until they finish their writing.
Anyhoo, what was I saying?? Right!!! I was telling you about how my writing was going today.
With my boyfriend working on his edits, and Tryxy finishing his homework so that he can continue his eighties sitcom marathon and #bestkitten helping by sitting on his keyboard, I was completely free to start working on a short story of my own. I know I haven’t told you about this story yet Gladys, it came to me all of a sudden while I was stuck in that stupid clock story—ACCCK!!!! IT’S BACK!!!! IT’S BACK GLADYS!!! HANG ON, I HAVE TO RELOCATE UNDER MY KITCHEN SINK SO THAT IT WON’T FIND ME!!!!!
Ahem. As I was saying, I got to the spot in the clock story where the lady discovers that she has just three minutes left to live and she has to figure out what to do to save her life or die when the minute hand reaches 11:18 a.m. and I’ve been at it for days and I can’t figure it out. So I decided to just throw it aside and start on this completely NEW short story about a child who discovers they can walk through walls and is kidnapped by an evil uncle who has learned his secret and—OH MY GOD, I HEAR THAT SOUND AGAIN!!!! IT’S A HISSING NOISE!!!! AND THEN THE SOUND OF A CLOCK!!!! AND NOW A DARK BLACK FOG IS CREEPING UNDER THE CABINET DOOR!!!!!
GLADYS!!!!! SOME LONG THIN HANDS HAVE OPENED THE DOOR AND ARE PRESENTING ME WITH A WHITE-FACED CLOCK. THE HANDS ARE SET TO 11:18!!!! THAT’S JUST THIRTEEN MINUTES FROM NOW!!!!! THERE’S SOME TINY WRITING!!!! IT SAYS “TIME UNTIL WRITER X’S SOUL WILL BE TAKEN BY THE FOG UNLESS SHE COMPLETES HER STUPID CLOCK STORY!!!!!”
GALDSY, I NE— hang on, my capslock was stuck. I need you to come save me!!!! I would ask Tryxy in the next room but he finally got settled into his snuggie and has arranged his popcorn into the perfect position on the sofa and the opening song for Golden Girls is playing and if I ask him, he’s going to have to pause the show, wipe the popcorn butter off his hands, get out of his snuggie after he got it perfect, feel like the room is super cold because of the temperature difference after being in a polar fleece snuggie, and come fight off the ghost!!!!! I can’t do that!!!! And #bestkitten just made a perfect fur circle in his lap!!!!!
If you don’t come, I’ll die!!!! There’s no way I can finish the clock story!!! It’s too hard and I’ll die before I do!!!!
Oh wait. What if I make the character…but that would mean I’d have to go back to the beginning and—
Gotta go, Gladys!!!! I have an idea for my clock story!!!!
Pages next week!!!!
P.S. I still need you to come over. I’ve managed to lose the key to the deadbolt down one of the floor vents and my boyfriend, award nominated fantasy writer Tod Boadkins, is banging on the bedroom door. He says he has to pee.