Monthly Archives: July 2010

The Man Who was Tired and Went to Bed Early (story #63)

I am tired.  Yep, that’s the whole introduction for this week.


"Milt and Gifford" by Holly Knevelbaard

Gifford Smalley looked at the clock hanging above the fireplace.  “My word,” he remarked, adjusting his spectacles, “either my eyes are deceiving me, or it’s getting terribly late.”

Rising gracefully from his overstuffed easy chair, he walked the length of the dark, Gothic room to stare at the mantelpiece above the glowing embers that had lately been a roaring fire.  Indeed, it turns out that his eyes were deceiving him for there was, in point of fact, no clock above the fireplace at all.  There was a Garden Gnome named Milt standing there, but he didn’t even have a watch on.  He just stood real still hoping Gifford wouldn’t see him.

“Yes sirree bob,” Gifford said to himself, still mistaking the gnome for a clock.  “Very late, indeed.”  With that he turned to go upstairs.  All would have been well except for Milt’s inexplicable and violent allergy to spectacles.  One whiff of those things and sayonara, sucker.  So Milt sneezed.  Just a regular sneeze, though, not a sneeze of death.

“Ah- CHOO!” he sneezed, sounding nothing like Orpheus the philosopher’s cat.

Gifford turned slowly about.  “Did my clock just sneeze?” he asked no one in particular.

"I'm not a clock, I'm a gnome!" Art by Eric Jansen

Milt wiped his nose and said, “what are you, stupid?  I’m not a clock, I’m a gnome.  I’ve been standing here for seven and a half years wondering how to tell you that you need new spectacles.  Your old ones just aren’t cutting the mustard anymore.  Obviously.  Or you’d already know I wasn’t a clock, but gnome as previously stated.  But you’ve never stood as close to me as you did tonight and so my spectacle allergy acted up so bad I finally sneezed loud enough for you to hear me, so I figured I might as well come clean and tell you everything.  So, I hope you don’t mind me not being a clock, and if it’s not too much of an imposition, I’d really like to use your bathroom now.  I’ve been holding it for seven and a half years, after all.”

Gifford stood silently for a moment.  Finally, he said “did my clock just tell me to get new spectacles?”  At which point Milt realized that Gifford didn’t actually need new spectacles, he was just remarkably dumb.

“Dong dong dong dong dong dong dong dong,” Milt said, shrugging his shoulders.  “Time for bed.”

“Eight o’clock?” Gifford asked.  “That seems a bit early to be going to bed.”

“Yeah, but you’re very tired,” Milt replied.

“Oh.  Very well, then,” said Gifford, and upstairs he went for a good night’s sleep.

“I am a deceptive clock,” said Milt enigmatically.  Then he blew his nose and went to get a sandwich.  By the time he had finished his sandwich, it was actually getting rather late, which disappointed him for he had wanted to go to bed early instead of writing a pointless story about a gnome pretending to be a clock.

Wait, what was I talking about?


Wow, we’ve come a long way since “Kingdom Found,” huh?  Anyway, good night to one and all.  It’s not quite midnight, yet, but it’s not quite evening anymore either.  Tell the moon goodnight for me, because I’m already gone.

See you in seven,

the SotWC

1 Comment

Posted by on July 26, 2010 in Uncategorized


Haunting Sue (story #62)

Howdy, friends and neighbors.  And total strangers, too, if you’re out there reading.  All are welcome.

Ha ha, it’s ironic that I should quote “Poltergeist” (am I the only one who got that?) because, having just rediscovered one of my favorite horror comics this evening, and also given the fact that this week’s artist like monsters and such, I’ve decided to write a horror story tonight.  If you’re squeamish, don’t worry.  It’ll probably be a really silly horror story.  But, I promise nothing.  (Soundtrack shuffle from horror movies on, and away we go.)


Art by Josh Judd

Susan placed her key in the lock and listened to the familiar chatter of old tumblers moving into place.  The library had been closed for over an hour but she often used the time after the readers, researchers and latchkey kids had gone as a time to peruse the stock on offer.  Tonight she had been in the reference section – a clear favorite, for even she was not allowed to take those books home – brushing up on some Latin.  Dead language, indeed; she thought it was beautiful.  She’d taken it for three semesters in college, but when her brother, Charlie, was killed in a car accident, she’d come back home to live with her parents again and given up higher learning.  Until she got the job at the library.  Now she taught herself whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted.

Learning was not all she did, however.  Before starting in on the Latin this evening, she had taken some time not to broaden her education, but to examine a book Charlie used to bring home time and again when they were teenagers.  It bore the same name as their town along with a chilling subtitle – Tidesboro: A Haunted History.  Among the articles in the book had been a particularly colorful anecdote about Eustace Cutler, one of the town founders.

It seems Cutler had been leaving this very library one evening (it was, after all, one of the oldest buildings in town, second only to the Presbyterian church on the other side of the square) when he was apparently struck down by a horse and carriage.  After being trampled, Cutler had managed to crawl back to the top of the stairs, but no one found him there until the next morning and, by then, it was far too late.  He had bled to death laying just outside the doors, his hands clutching the ornate carvings.  Written in his own blood across the doors was the inscription, “ego ago hic iam.”  Roughly translated, the phrase meant “I live here now.”  It was said that his spirit had haunted the library ever since.  This small phrase in Latin had led Sue to her tomes of learning, shaking off the fear of death, blood and ghostly visitations.  But now, as she turned from the library doors,  the horror of the ghost story came back to her.

A wind rose, blowing her hair around her face, and Susan was struck quite suddenly and maddeningly with the certainty of being watched.  She stopped on the top step looking out onto the empty town square, lit only with scattered pools of yellow light from whatever streetlamps were still functional.  She was not so foolish (or in shape, she often lamented) as to have walked the twenty-seven blocks from home to get to work, but her car, parked in the side lot of the building, seemed suddenly very far away.

Let this be a lesson to you, Sue, she thought.  From now on, you stick to Latin. “Is anyone there?” she called out as a black shadow floated, unseen, across the door behind her.  Hearing no response, she continued to not move.  She looked this way and that, trying to see into the darkness, still not looking behind herself.  Had she looked there, she would have seen how the doors seemed to breathe for a moment, how the shadows seemed to ripple.

Thinking that only the very stupid, beautiful but expendable girls in horror movies actually talked to themselves in a situation like this, Susan nonetheless stated out loud, “this is silly.  I’m going to walk to my car and go home.  There’s nobody here.  Nobody but me.”

And then a voice behind her whispered, “operor non verto.”

She screamed and spun towards the sound.  As she faced the doors, she realized too late that some part of her brain had managed to translate the phrase loosely as “don’t turn around.”

The shadow stole across the carvings on the library doors, filling in highlights with darkness and smudging the darkness into itself.  There was a bestial growl and the doors themselves shook.  A long, hideous face took shape atop the larger shadow.  Its glowing eyes glared down at Susan and it’s skeletal nose and mouth were warped with a sneer.

“Stultus mulier!” the face shouted.  “Ego orater vobis!  Operor non verto!”

Unable to mentally translate so quickly, Susan simply turned to run, but was quickly engulfed by the shadow.  Not merely a suffocating darkness, it took physical form and wrapped around her legs, tripping her as she fled down the stairs.  She rolled over twice and smacked her head on the sidewalk, bringing more blackness and stars to her vision.

“Vos teneo mihi!” a voice hissed in her ear.  “Vos lego meus fabula!”

“I don’t know you!” she screamed back, understanding some of what was said.  It was a lie, though; she knew whose spirit haunted the library.  “I haven’t done anything to you!” she protested, sensing the malevolent spirit’s disbelief.

“Vos suscitatio mihi!” the thing said, and she felt hot, rancid breath on the back of her neck.  She turned her face toward the feeling and found herself face to face with a goggle-eyed zombie head, its mouth wide open as if to bite her.

“It’s not my fault!” she screamed.  “What happened to you is not my fault!”

The face above her went suddenly slack, and the voice said,  “ego teneo ut, Sue.”

She knew that. She knew what that meant.  But she needn’t have translated mentally for, a moment later, the face melted into a much more familiar and palatable visage before repeating itself in English.

“I know that, Sue,” Charlie told her.  “It wasn’t your fault that I was in my accident while you were away.  You couldn’t have done anything even if you were here.  I know that.  I just had to make sure you knew that as well.”

“Charlie-bear,” she whispered as he smiled down at her.  “I miss you so much.”

“I miss you, too, Sue-bee,” Charlie said, “but you need to get out of here before he traps you.  Don’t stop for anything.”

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“It’s time to wake up,” Charlie replied.

Raising her head, Susan looked around herself.  She wasn’t outside at all, but sprawled face first across her book of Latin in the reference section of the library.

“Asleep,” she muttered.  “You fell asleep, you dope.”  Closing the book and replacing it on the shelf, she mused on the dream she had just had.  Of course it made sense that she would dream in Latin after studying it for the past hour.  Of course it made sense that the ghost story she had read earlier would surface in the dream.  But, Charlie…  That part had been very real.  And something she needed.  She smiled to herself as she gathered her things and lingered for a moment soaking in the relief of not being outside on the cold ground.

“Thanks, Charlie-bear,” she said and started towards the front door.  As she neared the front of the building, she heard a noise behind her.  Something fell to the floor, hard.  Turning, she saw a book laying in the middle of an aisle.

What was the last thing Charlie had said to her in the dream?  It was already fading from memory, but it was something that nagged at her as she walked back to the stray book.  Looking down, she felt a cold fear wash through her.

Tidesboro: A Haunted History lay at her feet.

“Requiescat in pace,” a voice said over her shoulder.


Okay, so it wasn’t a silly story at all.  Sorry.  I dabbled with the idea of having a happy ending, but then I decided (in my sleepless stupor) that I had set out to write a horror story, and it deserved a horror story ending.  Feel free to let me know if this pisses you off.  I’m going to bed.

See you in seven,

the SotWC

1 Comment

Posted by on July 20, 2010 in Horror


Oswald the Magic Bookcase and the Philospher’s Crabtree(story #61)

All right, so in a moment of foolishness, we’ve decided to write this week’s story without eating dinner first.  This may lead to typos, incoherency, and/or a complete disregard for whether or not the story makes sense.  In other words, it’s just business as usual here at the old SotWC.

Having just gotten a shiny (and by “shiny” I mean wooden) new (and by “new” I mean “not new”) bookcase (and by “bookcase” I mean something to keep all my DVDs in) today (no, seriously, that just means today), I have decided to write a story about a magical bookcase named Oswald.  Now, with a nice shuffle of “Harry Potter” music, away we go!


The night was dark all around and there wasn’t a sound on the moors.  These are places, mind you, not people.  It’s not like Othello was standing around being quiet.  Nope, he’s actually a noisy jerk, which is why nobody invites him to parties.  Well, that and all the murder.  But anyway, he’s not the kind of Moor I’m talking about, I’m talking about Heathcliff and Kathy moors, Hound of the Baskervilles moors; squashy English moors.  And, boy, were they quiet.

Suddenly, there was a sound, totally negating the need for the entire first paragraph of the story.  It was a startling, wretched sound, like something from a mental patient’s worst nightmare.  If that nightmare was about someone sneezing really loud.  Because that is, indeed, what happened.  But it was no ordinary sneeze.  It was a sneeze of death.  What does a sneeze of death sound like, you ask?  Well, trust me when I say you wouldn’t want to hear one.  It’s kind of like a cat trapped inside a watermelon trying to eat its way out and sing opera at the same time.

So, anyway, there was this sneeze and then someone said, “bless you.”

“Who’s there?” said a voice in the darkness.

“Nobody,” came the response, also from the darkness.

“I don’t believe you,” said the first voice (which was actually the second voice, but if we look at the question “who’s there?” as the beginning of the actual conversation, then it is the first voice.).

“Well, that isn’t very sporting of you,” said the second voice, “after I just blessed you and all.”

“Well, it’s not that I want to be rude,” said the first voice, “but in light of the fact that we are having a conversation, I find it increasingly hard to believe that no one is there.”

“Perhaps you’re insane,” said the second voice.

“Hm,” said the first voice.  “I hadn’t thought of that.”

“Well, perhaps you’d best think harder before you speak again,” said the second voice.


“Are you still there?” the second voice said after some time.

“Yes,” said the first voice.  “I’m just thinking hard before I speak.  It takes more time and effort than I thought it would.”

“I see,” said the second voice.

More silence.

“Are you still there?” the first voice said after a time.

“No,” replied the second voice.  “I was never here to begin with, remember?”

“Oh, that’s right,” said the first voice.

“What’s your name, anyway?” asked the second voice.

“My name is Periwinkle,” said the first voice.  “What’s yours?”

“I don’t have one,” said the second voice, “because I’m not here.”

“A bit predictable, old chap,” said the first voice.

“Sorry to disappoint you,” said the second voice.

“Not at all,” said the first voice.  “I find predictability rather comforting.”

“You must be Episcopalian,” said the second voice.

“What?” said the first voice.

“Nothing,” said the second voice.

“Nothing said by nobody,” said the first voice.

“That’s right,” said the second voice.

Silence again.  And continuing darkness.

“So, who died?” the second voice asked after a time.

“What?” said the first voice.

“You sneezed a sneeze of death,” said the second voice.  “Who did it kill?”

“Oh, I didn’t sneeze the sneeze of death,” explained the first voice.  “That was my owner.”

“Oh,” said the second voice.  “Well, then who did he kill?”

“Well,” the first voice said sheepishly, “he killed himself.”

“Gee, that sucks,” said the second voice.

“Yeah, I know,” said the first voice.  “He hasn’t been doing magic very long, you see.”

“Oh, is he some kind of sorcerer?” said the second voice.

“No, he’s a philosopher,” said the first voice.

“That’s crazy talk,” said the second voice.  “Philosophers don’t have anything to do with magic.”

“Sure they do,” said the first voice.  “They make magic stones and all sorts of things.”

“No way,” said the second voice.  “Only sorcerers do that.”

“What are you, American?” said the first voice.

“Huh?” said the second voice.

“Never mind,” said the first voice exasperatedly.  “Look, if you’re not going to believe anything I say and you’re not even going to tell me your name, then I might as well just leave.”

“No, don’t,” said the second voice.

“Okay,” said the first voice.

More silence again some more.

“I was just bluffing anyway,” the first voice said after a time.  “I couldn’t leave even if I wanted to.”

“Oh?” said the second voice.  “Why is that?”

“You promise not to scream or anything?” the first voice asked.

“I guess so,” said the second voice.  “I’m really in no position to judge anyone.”

“What do you mean by that?” asked the first voice.

“You go first,” said the second voice.

“Well, I’m actually an enchanted crabtree,” said the first voice.

“Do you mean ‘crab apple tree’?” asked the second voice.

“Nope,” said the first voice.  “I grow crustaceans instead of leaves.”

“Whoa, that’s weird,” said the second voice.

“Yeah, I know,” said the first voice.  “Well, that and the fact that I talk and all.”

“Yeah, that is pretty weird,” the second voice conceded, “but, like I said, I’m in no position to judge.”

“And why is that?” asked the first voice.

“Because I’m an enchanted bookcase,” replied the second voice.

“A bookcase?” said the first voice.

“Yep,” said the second voice.

“Wow,” said the first voice.

More silence again some more in the darkness.

“My name’s Oswald,” said the second voice after a time.

“I know, I read the introduction,” said the first voice.

“Did you see a fourth wall around here someplace?” the second voice asked, whimsically.

“Nope,” said the first voice.  “I can’t see a darn thing with all this darkness.”

“Well, if you can’t see anything, then how do you know the philosopher’s actually dead?” asked the second voice.

“Well, it was a sneeze of death,” the first voice said, “what else could have happened?”

“I don’t know,” said the second voice.  Maybe we should wait until the sun comes up and find out.”

And that’s exactly what they did.

"What the Bookcase Saw" by Libby Barringer


That’s right, friends and neighbors – for the first time ever, we’re letting someone else “finish” this week’s story.  Having spent the entire tale in darkness, there is nothing for Libby, our artist this week, to draw.  EXCEPT an image of whatever it is that Periwinkle and Oswald saw when the sun rose. If there isn’t any art here yet when you read the story, come back in a day or so and find out what it is that they saw. Isn’t interactivity fun?

See you in seven,

the SotWC

P.S. If anyone else wants to contribute an image of what could have happened when the philosopher sneezed a sneeze of death, the floor is open once Libby’s art is posted.  Feel free to submit some art to


Posted by on July 12, 2010 in Uncategorized


The Happy Man (story #60)

Man, holidays screw me up.  I didn’t even realize it was Monday (and all that that implies) until it wasn’t even Monday anymore (it is currently quarter past midnight).  But, I don’t want to give you another “oh, I’m so busy, I’ll try and get to a story later this week.”  Instead, I’ll be giving you one the tried and true staples of the SotWC – the “I don’t have any time, so this is gonna be short and sweet, live with it.”

And remember…  We care.


Once upon a time, there was a happy man.  He was so darn happy that nobody even knew his name; they just all called him Happy Man.  Some folks called him “Happy.”  Some folks called him “Mr. Man.”  Some folks called him “H.M.”  Occasionally, someone called him “dingleberry,” but those were usualy people who didn’t know him very well.

So, one day, this vampire hunter came to town (did I mention this story takes place in Transylvania?  Well, it does.) and started poking his nose into things.  Now, people thought this was weird, because I mean he was literally poking his nose into things.  Butter dishes, candles, soup ladles, dirt, squashes (or whatever the plural of “squash” is), Kate Beckinsale’s leather-clad armpit, and, yes, even a dog’s butt.  This guy was a total freak.  Unfortunately, Hugh Jackman wasn’t around to chew scenery and kick this guy’s fanny out of town, so everyone just had to put up with it.

"Vampire Hunter Sticking His Nose in a Butter Dish" by Maria Gullickson

“Well,” said the vampire hunter after three days of this behavior, ” I, Cecil Carbunkle the vampire killing guy, have determined that there are no vampires in this town.”  Which was funny, because there were, like, seven of them just in the crowd listening to him talk.  They didn’t say anything, though.  I mean, duh.  “Therefore,” Cecil the freak-bomb continued, “I have decided to peddle my skills elsewhere.  Unless you have anything else worth fighting around here.”

Totally ignoring Cecil, a young girl named Riddlemethisbatman Jones looked out the window and said, “Oh, look!  It’s Happy Man, man.”

Cecil stood up straight, eyes wide.  “Happy Man-man?” he said.  “Is that like a wolfman?”

Everybody, in unison, went, “huh?”

Cecil said, “you know, like a wolfman is a man who turns into a wolf in the full moon (unless you like the Twilight series, where they have nothing to do with moons or nighttime and don’t have any rules except ‘don’t wear a shirt for God’s sake’).  Is the Happy Man-man like that?  Like, he turns into a Happy Man when the moon is full, or when the Happy Man-Bane blooms or something?  Cuz, I could totally kill him for you if you want.”

Everybody looked at Cecil a moment longer and then, once again in unison, they all said, “get bent.”

“Well, I never,” said Cecil.

Just then, Happy Man walked through the door.  “Hey, everybody!’ he said happily.

“Hey, Happy Man!” everybody replied.

Then Cecil shot Happy Man right between the eyes with a crossbow.

“My work here is done,” he said, putting his weapon back into it’s case.

“You…  You murdered Happy Man, man!” screamed little Riddlemethisbatman Jones.

“Well, I had to do something,” Cecil replied, heading for the door.  As he neared the body, Happy Man stirred.  To everyone’s surprise, he stood up – crossbow bolt still jutting from his forehead – and looked at Cecil.

“That hurt,” he said, jovially.  Then his head split open and his Happy Man costume fell off and it turned out he really was a werewolf even though it was broad daylight, because if Stephenie Meyer can make up any rules she wants about well-known mythological and legendary monsters, then so can I.  So happy Man was a werewolf who wore a fake man costume (like werewolves do), and never hurt anybody until Cecil shot him (because that just pisses werewolves off).  So he ripped everybody in the place to shreds except Riddlemethisbatman Jones because of course werewolves can’t kill little girls.  Also she was wearing a t-shirt made out of string cheese, and I’ve just decided that werewolves are deathly afraid of cheese.  But only string cheese.  They love other kinds of cheese and will take a nice grilled ham and cheese sandwich over a fat Romanian peasant any day.  Go ahead.  Look it up.


Gadzooks, we’re clever here at the club.  Re-inventing mythologies and all.  Short and sweet, that’s what I said.  Well, it was short, anyway.

See you in seven,

the SotWC


Posted by on July 5, 2010 in Uncategorized