Skip navigation

Tag Archives: writing

My last horror collection I wrote is entitled The Other Side of Despair. It was inspired by my studies in Psychology as well as the classic weird stories of Robert W. Chambers that was The King in Yellow.

I was posting a link to the book in a thread and happened to see a review. It was refreshing to see someone get the book as I intended it!

Here is the review by Arnstein H. Pettersen with many thanks from me, sir! I’m glad yo enjoyed it:

Using the science and art of psychology to descend from the ledge chiseled by Lovecraft, further into that dyscognitive abyss.
(Also containing the short story collection that amass to the tale of ‘The Scourge of Wetumpka’, which firmly resides within the Cthulhu mythos.)

The horror genre often bring psychology into the mix as it plies its trade; dread does after all reside within the limits of our minds. Yet only rarely does one find an exemplar of the genre as The Other Side of Despair, where the matters of the psyche is at least nine-tenths of the tale. Its eclectic assortment of short stories persists in pitching the perceptions of the fantastical against the fabrications of the mind, leaving the reader lost for answers in a dilemma akin to that of figuring out which one initiated the (seemingly) etrnal cycle of causality between the chicken and the egg. And to present this dilemma as vividly as possible we have to gain a most intimate insight into the cogitations of the perceiver – or if you prefer the imagery: to observe the prancings of the Devil through the eyes that behold him. It is clearly no coincident that the stories consist mostly of monologues, excerpts of diaries, and personalized letters; ways of narration that are tightly bound to the core of the narrator’s world and interpretation thereof. Yet, despite their differences, they belong to a common literary universe, amassing the information of the individual story into something larger, perhaps even into something resembling answers.

The first monologue is titled ‘Shockley House’, and it is these 18 pages who serve as our introduction to the overall theme of the book. It details an attempt to research hauntings as a psychological phenomena – “Ultimately, it falls into the psychological realm because a statement of belief about witnessing something supernatural, […] is a statement about the psychological state of the person’s belief in what their senses have conveyed to them.” – where the researchers utilize a house rumored to be spectrally inhabited in order to coax their patients into believing the haunting to be real. It is a tale that goes to great lengths in attempting to give a scientific rationale for the phenomena, postulating that it is indeed made from mental fabrications; and much of it is, unexpectedly, quite persuasive. Yet, after wholeheartedly attempting to win the reader over to its logic – going so far as to make nearly testable hypotheses – the tale changes. The aforementioned dilemma begins to form as the rationale begins to shows its cracks, through which the fantastical seems to seep out into reality. The resulting horror results as much from the questioning of the world fabric as from the happenings themselves, making it a truly Lovecraftian experience despite lacking a common mythology.

The following short stories do an even greater job of muddling the dilemma, bringing such vagaries as shadows and dreams into the deliberation. Especially difficult is the tale called ‘Children of the Wasteland’, which bases its premise on Zhuangzi’s butterfly conundrum: “Once upon a time, I, Zhuangzi, dreamt I was a butterfly […] unaware that I was Zhuangzi. Soon I awakened […] Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man.” (In fact, the tale is so convoluted that a tip is in order to facilitate the reading. It is not a spoiler and the reader will still have to do much puzzling to make sense out of that one. The hint is: Put to mind Brother Humphrey’s prayer.) Also, the tales are in a sense interwoven through a common world although the clues we are given to this lie discretely placed. The most obvious one is that several of the tales take place in Rathbone Asylum, but closer inspection will reveal others too. This is without a doubt one of the most intriguing works of horror which I have ever come across.

The bonus tale, ‘The Scourge of Wetumpka’ – which is quite some bonus since it covers nearly a hundred of the two-hundred and twenty-four pages of the book – has no connection to the tales of The Other Side of Despair. It is constructed from several short stories, each of which present its own part of the narrative; it builds upon H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, not to mention the works of several other authors who have continued his legacy, but most importantly it builds upon ‘The Colours from Outer Space’ to such a degree that the reader should be adviced to read that short story before embarking upon it. Indeed, this tale could be considered a continuation of the excellent tradition of fanfics (a tradition ancient compared to the term ‘fanfic’ and its modern stigmas, even predating our Current Era/Anno Domine), or, if one prefers to describe it as thus, it is a honorific towards one of the inspirations and thus co-creators of any current work of penmanship. Yet, it goes beyond this and brings to light obscure bits of history and actual conundrums, with notes carefully added with the information on what is accurate and what is embellishment, so as to avoid corruption of the facts. I was particularily fascinated by how little embellishment was needed for the author to connect the fictitious cult of ghouls to real historical events. In my opinion, this is a very welcome addition to the Cthulhu mythos. Also, since it consists solely of letters, clippings, recording transciptions, and similar, it would be an excellent piece of source material for game masters planning role-playing forays into the mythos universe.

Before ending the review, I’d like to note that David Maurice Garrett is not just a writer but also a musician (not to be confused with the violinist David Garrett) with currently six releases behind him, all of whom relate to the horror genre and Lovecraft’s works in particular. There is even a soundtrack for ‘The Scourge of Wetumpka’ among them. Whoever intends to delve into this book would clearly do well to check out these releases as well (the soundtrack in particular, of course).”

 

The story entitled “The Children of the Wasteland” that Arnstein mentions was featured on the Podcast Random Transmissions.

David

I am super excited about one of my stories from The Other Side of Despair being featured on the latest podcast episode of Random Transmissions. This podcast is super cool and you should go and check out all the episodes!

Random Transmissions

81171

My story “Shockley House” was published in this year’s Halloween anthology The Yellow Booke.

July 2

I now spend the majority of my day caressing the walls – they are so clean that the shadows roam freely over them. I just sit and hum, and sing, and listen to the things they say.

The wisdom in their whispers is earth shattering. I see so many things that I never saw before. I’m beginning to realize that this illness wasn’t something that originated in me, but was planted in me by the ones out there.

July 8

I can only paraphrase their messages to me. I now see that one must sometimes pass through the fire to emerge on the other side as a new creature. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes after being burned alive. Like a butterfly awakening from a cocoon after a long period of transformation.

I see now that my life encased in this place, encased in my neurosis, my disease, my isolation, was all meant to be a cathartic process. Now, thanks to the shadows engulfing me, I have been purged. Leached of my sickness and given a clear path out of here.

They showed me worlds that shimmer and places of abundant peace where my new form will roam free. Free to wander those other lands only hinted at in their dim, ghostly visions. I know now that my flight above the guitarist was but a prelude to a journey I’m now ready to take.

Across the vast gulf of space and time there are worlds waiting to be seen. But before I can mount up with wings, I must set right the wrongs leveled on me by Dr. Kaplan, Angela, and Jeff. My preparation for tonight’s dinner has been meticulous but I must not falter. I must face this last obstacle with resolution and a steel will. My new friends have counseled me and taught me and opened my eyes to so much new knowledge that I sometimes feel an amazing sense of awe at the things the shadows say.

June 24

Awoke again last night hearing that tune in my head. While I hate the song, I find myself humming it as I clean. I tried to go back to sleep but it was useless so I just watched the wall. As I watched I noticed that the shadow seemed to move. It wasn’t anything startling or even very specific. It was more like breathing. A pulsing to the rhythm of the tune playing in my head and my own breathing.

Now that I’m fully awake I know that it was the tune playing in my head that caused my own breathing to match it and that the shadow only appeared to be pulsing to the rhythm of my own breathing – just an optical illusion, right? But at the time I was certain that it was the shadow leading the whole thing.

I’ve become obsessed with the shadow on the wall and I actually caught myself just staring at it as I was sitting on my bed putting my shoes on.

June 27

I spent the last several days researching memory lapses and became quite overwhelmed with all of the information. I’m sure that the incident with the homeless guitarist wasn’t real. I believe I had an episode of dissociative amnesia brought on by the stress of my doctor’s visit.

I also believe that the hallucination with the man in the alley was of a dreamlike nature – a waking hallucination dredged up from my subconscious. The part that really has me perplexed is the tune he was playing. Did my mind concoct that too? Is the repeated playing of it in my head because I created it, or did I hear it somewhere else?

There’s now another shadowy spot that commands my attention. I can’t say if it’s a completely different spot or if it’s connected to the other spot on the opposite corner of the wall. I spend what seems like hours in my room cleaning the walls or just sitting on my bed humming that melancholy melody.

June 28

Angela called last night to see how I was doing. I told her about Jeff’s visit and how irritated it made me. She claimed to have no idea but I’m not so sure.

She seemed to be pleasant but now I distrust her and Jeff. I tried to be nice back to her but wound up making an excuse to get off the phone. I’m just so confused these days. I miss the times when we were close and could talk.

I had all of these conflicting emotions about the whole thing so I went to clean the wall and became so engrossed in the scrubbing and humming that I began to hear a chant. It had to be a figment of my imagination but it seemed so real.

The lyrics to the weird song were frightening to me too. But now I’m beginning to see Jeff and Angela for what they really are.

image

June 21

I’ve made a concerted effort to quit washing my hands at least every hour but it’s so hard. The urge consumes me. It’s so bad that I feel I have to wash to release the pressure.

I found myself humming the melody to that damn tune while I was cleaning the kitchen and when I realized it, it scared me. I don’t know what happened or how to explain the incident in the alley, but I think it might have just been a dream. It’s so unlike me that it couldn’t have been real.

I started researching memory lapses and blackouts and I’m relatively sure that’s what happened to me. It’s the only reasonable explanation.

June 22

Last night I had a strange dream. At least I think it was a dream. I think it was like when you awaken in the night and you’re in that zone between sleeping and waking where you mix reality with your dream. I must have been dreaming about a mold or some other type of discolored spot on the wall that just wouldn’t come clean. This makes sense because I have such a fear of disease and filth that my nightmares tend to be about my inability to be clean enough or be healthy enough.

Nevertheless, when I awoke I instinctively looked to the wall where the spot was located in my dream and saw, to my horror, that there was in fact a spot on the wall. Groggily I arose and went to inspect the spot but it was only a shadow!

It was so weird because then I lay in bed and watched the spot wondering if I saw it in waking and unconsciously incorporated into my dream, or if I dreamed it first and then it just so happened that the shadow took on the shape of the spot in my dream?

June 23

Jeff came to visit today. At first I was so glad that he had made time to come by. Having my brother visit is such a rare thing that I was quite literally giddy. As it turned out, though, he’s about as much of an ass as Dr. Kaplan.

I knew the visit was bad the moment I let him in the apartment and he said, “Jen, you look terrible, are you getting any sleep? And this place smells like a swimming pool!”

I mean, what kind of greeting is that and how am I supposed to respond? Did he really expect me to be all cheerful and happy after he waltzes in here and starts in on me?

Things didn’t get any better from that point on, either. All he did was chide me for being such a recluse and obsessing over how clean everything is. He has no idea what I’m going through.

To be honest, I don’t even know why he came by. He claims that he was worried about me after he and Angela hadn’t heard from me in so long. He acts like it was my doing but it was he who put an end to Angela’s and my relationship. Does he really think I don’t remember that? And do you show your concern for someone by barging in their home and berating them about their lifestyle?

I was so furious by the time he left that all I wanted to do was work out. I figured a good sweat would burn off some of my anger. I went up to my room to change into my workout gear and noticed something strange. The place on the wall where the spot was in my dream was really discolored. At first, I thought it was a trick of the light, but as I got closer, I saw that it was true. There is something odd about that patch of wall.

I never did my workout. I wound up venting my anger into cleaning the wall.

June 16

My Health Anxiety began with my mother’s illness. I was only 8 years old when she found out she had Lupus. The disease affected her in numerous ways and she battled it for a long time. I was 17 when she died. When she passed away, I felt a ton of guilt. A part of me believed that it was partially my fault. I know that doesn’t make sense, but it was how I felt, nonetheless.

I became so familiar with her disease that I began to believe I was suffering the same symptoms. A rash on my face, fatigue, painful joints, headaches, hair loss – the lists goes on and on. And each time one of those symptoms popped up, I immediately knew it was the worst case scenario. I had my mom’s genes that meant that I, too, was destined to die of Lupus.

As each test came back negative, I refused to accept it. I just deftly attributed it to either the doctor’s error in accurate diagnosis, or the fact that I really had another disease.

Even today, I still believe that I’m carrying some new strain of a debilitating disease that leaves doctors baffled with how to categorize it. Logically, I know this is crazy. In reality, my days are consumed with worry and despair over my health.

June 19

I’m finally getting around to writing about my doctor’s visit the day before yesterday. I meant to do it right afterwards, but it has left me so exhausted that I’m just now feeling like writing about it tonight.

I made it to Dr. Kaplan’s office without incident. Even with the heat of summer, I still put on a thin wind-breaker and hold it tight about my neck as I dart to the doctor’s office trying to avoid any contact with the throng of humanity on the sidewalks and streets. Still, I managed to navigate my way there without brushing into anyone.

It wasn’t until I saw Dr. Kaplan that things went south. He was the worst and I don’t care if he reads this next time, although I don’t think I’ll be going back to that horrible man! We began with small talk, which was alright, and then he asked about my journal. I handed it over and waited while he read the entries. Then, he removed his glasses and hit me with the most condescending look. From then on it was horrible. He’s so judgmental it just gets right under my skin!

He began by telling me how I pushed Angela away by making her mother’s condition about me. The nerve! I did no such thing! And then he had the audacity to critique my daily routine and tell me it was unhealthy and abnormal! He has no idea!

Oh, there was more. More than I care to vent and fume over. I shut down after we had strong words and let him go on lecturing me while I just sat there seething. In the end, I walked out of there with a script in my hand for some medication called Lexapro that he wants me to try out. I don’t think so. Just some more crap to pollute my body and alter my mind.

But all that wasn’t the real bad part; I mean it was bad, but not bad in the same way. The thing that has really left me shaken is the man from the alley I encountered on the way home.

As I rounded Pikes Peak Avenue headed towards the park I passed an alley and heard this homeless man playing his guitar. Even though I was walking at a brisk pace, I found myself slowing down. There was something about the tune he was playing that was so captivating. It’s hard to describe now, but I just remember that it was so melancholy yet somehow soothing.

What happened next is really beyond my faculties of reason. I literally fell into what I believe to be a state of hypnosis. Somewhere deep in my mind I still had some type of awareness, but I was lost as if in a dream landscape.

The melody continued to wash over me as I stopped and retreated to the alley’s opening. Soft, dark waves of gloomy notes flowing one into the next lulled me into a trance. God knows how long I stood there and my eyes closed as I descended into the music. It was so sad, yet so beautiful. How could such a creature as this make such music?

I had the impression of floating high into the air – maybe it was an out-of-body experience; a dream-state roving composed of bits and snatches of sensations. Whatever the case, I beheld the city from high above as a hive of activity moving at high speed in blurry pandemonium while directly below me in a tiny circle of calm slowness I saw me and the guitarist alone with the music.

I began to descend ever so slowly while I watched myself walking towards the man. He was so engrossed in playing that I don’t even think he saw me. The music still came in soft, undulating waves as the haunting melody pulled me along. Closer and closer I descended still mesmerized by the song and watching the entranced me walking in a languid gait towards the filthy guitarist.

And then I saw, to my horror, that the real, physical me below was intent on approaching and touching the vagrant! But the part of my consciousness that was displaced – the rational me – was not going to re-enter my body in time to stop my hands from touching the horrible creature spinning that wicked, diabolical tune!

I strained with all my willpower to reach my body before it happened, but it was no use. Just as I reached my body there was mad mix of sensations. A chaotic swirl of noises and images and feelings all churned up into a quick torrent that sent a shock through my soul. As I came to myself, the first thing that hit me was the sadness in my heart. The song still swirled in the air about me. Through the hazy blur of my tears I saw that I had reached my hand out and was caressing the man’s face!

The most horrible part of the whole thing slammed into me then. The man quit playing and turned his face up towards me with the most saturnine smile I have ever seen. It was then that I beheld his face. He had four long scabs running diagonal across his face and my hands were caressing those grotesque, encrusted sores!

I screamed. I ran. I made it home, locked the doors, and then I must have showered and scrubbed my hands for hours. Even after that, I returned to the bathroom at least every hour to scrub my hands again and again and again. Just writing this makes me want to wash again.

As if that all wasn’t bad enough, now I have that cursed melody sounding in my brain over and over.

image

June 13

I have an appointment with Dr. Kaplan in four days and I’m already preparing myself for the trip. It’s not far; the office is only ten blocks away. Still, it might as well be across the Brazilian rain forest as far as I’m concerned. There’s just so many things out there that are waiting to attack me – germs, filthy hand rails, infested door knobs, diseased beggars, street  urchins, ruffians, people jostling me on the street, the riff raff of society all spreading their pestilence. All it would take is one miniscule bacterium to do me in.

I know it is irrational, but that doesn’t change the way my mind works. Hypochondria is not a rational disease. Actually, Dr. Kaplan has requested that I call it Health Anxiety – that’s the new term for it. I still like Hypochondria, though. Did you know that Hypochondria originally meant “below the ribs”. It was a reference to tummy aches. Over the years it became synonymous with symptoms that a doctor can’t cure.

Even though I’m freaking out about the trip to my appointment, I’ve refrained from calling Dr. Kaplan. See, I don’t need to call him every time I have a suspicious looking mole or some door-to-door salesman comes by. I can fend for myself.

June 14

Today I’m going to write about my daily routines since this is something that Dr. Kaplan wants to focus on at our next appointment. To begin with, I must explain that my number is five. This only makes sense to a person with OCD. Everything I do ritualistically, I do in fives. I wake up at 7:05. I should clarify that I set my alarm to 7:05 and that’s when I get out of bed. It’s not like I ever have a full night of uninterrupted sleep. I toss and turn and worry all night long. Many nights I will just lie awake in bed for hours at a time. Nevertheless, I get up at 7:05 regardless of the amount of sleep I actually got during the night.

When I get up I immediately brush my teeth and clean my bathroom – not a thorough cleaning like I do later in the day, but just a cursory cleaning so I can use the bathroom, brush my teeth, and shower. I brush my teeth five times throughout the morning while showering and getting dressed. I do not shower unless the tiles are sparkling clean and the whole bathroom smells like chlorine.

During my shower I perform a thorough examination of my body for any lumps, lesions, or changes to my skin. Anything new, I’ll document on a piece of paper so that later I can research it on the internet.

After I shower, I wipe down the shower and begin to wash whatever clothes or towels are dirty from the previous day. I never have dirty laundry sitting around. After that, I go and check the doors and windows to ensure they are locked. I’ll do this routine throughout the day at certain times. Then, it’s time for breakfast.

My food intake is exclusively Vegan. I will not eat cooked meat because it can lead to disease, especially if improperly cooked. Animals are disease carriers anyway, so I just avoid them. I also refuse to eat any processed food. Again, it just leads to illness and disease. I realize that vegetables are risky too. I subscribe to a whole foods delivery program so that I don’t have to leave the house to shop. The company delivers all my fruits and vegetables and any other Vegan foods I need to my house once a week. Still, I soak all of my fruits and vegetables in a solution of vinegar and grapefruit extract that naturally removes and chemicals or bacteria that might be on them.

Anyway, my breakfast is mostly an acidic-based meal and then the rest of my meals for the day are generally rich with vegetables. For breakfast I’ll have a glass of purified water with lemon, a half of a grapefruit or oranges, a bowl of grapes or raspberries, and an English muffin with jam.

I wash my dishes and utensils before and again after I eat. This can turn into a ritual cleansing quite easily and many days I wind up cleaning the kitchen five times.

After the kitchen is spotless and has a nice chlorine smell, I turn on the T.V. and catch the latest news. After the news I like to listen to a talk show on the radio on homeopathic medicine. I know Dr. Kaplan will not approve of this – nor, especially will my Primary Care Physician Dr. Ramsey. Still, I enjoy the callers’ questions and Dr. Weiland’s philosophy.

If I’ve discovered any unusual bumps or blemishes, I’ll take the time to research what they might be on my computer. This typically turns into a lengthy bout of reading about diseases all the way up until time for lunch. Before lunch, I’ll clean the kitchen and then usually have a salad with a side of potatoes or rice. After lunch, it’s time to clean the apartment.

Once the apartment is thoroughly clean, I’ll work out, shower again, and then take a nap. My workout usually consists of Pilates or Yoga with some type of aerobic video – I have several that I’ll rotate through. Exercise is very important to good health.

After my nap I’ll have a snack and watch a movie or T.V. show. It just depends on what I’m currently into at the moment. I pretty much spend the evening after dinner either watching T.V., reading, or surfing the internet. I’ll do that until 11:00 or 12:00 at night before finally going around and checking all the windows and doors at least five times before finally going to bed.

So you see, my daily routine is not that out there even though I know that some of the things I do might be considered a bit eccentric.

June 10

I had a visitor today. Looking back on it, I should’ve just hid and let him believe that no one was home; but I didn’t know what he wanted and it could’ve been important. In the end, he was only a door-to-door salesman and I wound up mumbling apologies through the cracked door before shutting the door back and locking it. And now I have become obsessed with checking the locks.

I phoned Dr. Kaplan – of course, he was with another client and didn’t call me back right away. When he finally did, we talked about the salesman and the distress that it caused me. It was his idea to start keeping a journal so that at the next session, we could address the frequency of my calls to him. You see, he thinks I call him way too much, but I don’t think so. Sure, I call him from time to time, but it certainly isn’t an abnormal amount.

Since the salesman left I’ve checked the locks and cleaned the door eight times. I know that is too much. I know that. I can judge what is too much even though I can’t stop myself from checking. Dr. Kaplan is just a busy man and any interruption from a silly woman with OCD is too much for him and his busy schedule.

June 11

I miss having a pet. I used to have a cat named Ajax, but he was too dangerous. I don’t mean that he was aggressive or anything of that nature; he was just too much of a risk to my health. Cats – well, any animal for that matter – are either carriers of disease or attract other vermin that carry disease. Jeff was kind enough to find Ajax a good home, but I still miss having someone else around – even if it is just a pet and not another human.

Dr. Kaplan assures me that my Hypochondria is all in my head just like the OCD is, but I don’t care. I know my body and I know when unclean things in the environment affect my wellbeing. When Jeff took Ajax and I cleaned the house, I felt better almost immediately. Still, I get so lonely here with no one to talk to. I wish it were easier to just get out and go but the world is so fraught with danger and disease. It takes all of my courage just to make it to Dr. Kaplan’s office for therapy. And after I get back safe and sound to my apartment, I’m so exhausted that it takes me days to recover from the venture.

June 12

Angela used to call me at least every other day but I’m afraid that her mother’s illness has consumed her. Jeff is certainly a good brother and tries his best to keep tabs on me, but he never called as much as Angela. I’m really glad that Jeff found such a good girl as Angela to marry – she and I really became close until her mother found out she had cancer. When she called and told me, I became obsessed with her mother’s symptoms. I was only trying to help. But, eventually, it led to me becoming obsessed with seeing the symptoms in myself and all I wanted to talk to Angela about were the similarities between her mother’s illness and mine. I mean, I believed I really had breast cancer too.

Then I got the call from Jeff. He was nice about it but I figured out that Angela couldn’t talk to me about the cancer. It was too hard on her. I went to the doctor and demanded all the tests that could diagnose breast cancer but they didn’t find anything. I’m still not convinced.

The point is, I guess, that I miss having Angela check in on me and I miss having someone to talk to. It’s not like I don’t have anyone at all, just not someone who is regular. That’s all.

Hi! If you’ve read any of my blog and my weird writings, please take the time to post a comment about your thoughts and impressions. I’d love to hear what you think!

Also, here is an interview that I just did that delves a little deeper into my artistic vision.

Interview with David Garrett