CONTEST: Tell Us Your New Weird Story, Win Tons of Cool Stuff!

Jeff VanderMeer • February 10th, 2008 @ 1:29 pm • News

UPDATE: Just now visiting and want to enter the contest? Note this update about additional prizes, etc.

In honor of the publication of The New Weird anthology, which we hope you’ll consider buying, Ann and I have decided to have a little contest. Tell us your “new, weird” story–something strange (but entertaining and either PG-rated or with the naughty bits blocked out) that happened to you or you witnessed in the last couple of years. Work-related, fun-related, whatever–go wild. Hopefully some of these will be bizarre but also uplifting, although that’s not a requirement. It’s more about…hey, this world we live in is an odder place than we might think. All of those stories in The New Weird from China Mieville, Clive Barker, K.J. Bishop, Steph Swainston, Jeffrey Ford, Jay Lake, Pual Di Filippo, Michael Moorcock, M. John Harrison, and others–they’re not strange; the world is strange!

What do you win? The three winners, chosen by Ann and me, will win ONE COPY OF EACH ANTHOLOGY WE EDIT BETWEEN NOW AND 2010, PERSONALIZED. Yes, that’s correct. You will get a copy of The New Weird, Steampunk, The Leonardo Variations (Clarion charity anthology), Fast Ships/Black Sails (pirates), Best American Fantasy 2, Best Horror 2009, Last Drink Bird Head, Mapping the Beast: The Best of Leviathan, and various other anthologies currently in the planning stages. Heck, we’ll even throw in the first couple issue of Weird Tales with Ann as fiction editor. We also reserve the right to give out honorable mentions, said HMs to receive a copy of the NW antho.

Contest Rules:
– Must post the incident in the comments field on this blog entry (with at least a first name for now, although anonymous monikers are vaguely acceptable) and also, if you have a blog, we strongly suggest you post it there and link back to us (gives us all more traffic and content!)
– Try not to go over 500 words in relating your true story
– Contest ends February 17th, Sunday, at midnight EST.
– You can be located anywhere in the world and still enter the contest, but we reserve the right to ship books to overseas contest winners using an method other than first class airmail.

Also, check out The New Weird’s connection to Mike Libby’s awesome Insect Lab.

111 Responses to “CONTEST: Tell Us Your New Weird Story, Win Tons of Cool Stuff!”

  1. J M McDermott says:

    Let me just wander over to my just about any day in my blog archives… Oh, my favorite “weird” moment was hearing the story of the city of Tooele!

    A true story about a time I heard a true story!

    from http://jmmcdermott.blogspot.com/2007/05/tooele.html

    an old man with hands like gnobby tree roots scribbled on a napkin the letters “T O O E L E” and he told me a story from when he was in army, in utah.

    he said he was staying in this scandinavian town near salt lake city, but up and over a mountain. he said when the mormons came, their fearless leader told these scandinavian settlers to start this town at that spot on the mountain. they did.

    this one fellow – not the greatest speller or grammarian in the world – had fallen in love with a scandinavian woman. he wrote her letters regular enough.

    town didn’t have a name, but it had a beautiful woman. fellow scrawled the words “too ele” on the envelope, gave it to the guys that he knew were headed that way.

    men wandered up the mountain for their reasons. they had stuff to trade, stuff to do. they walked up the hills with these love letters. they wandered house to house saying “tooele” to all those scandinavians that barely spoke english, anyhow.

    fellow didn’t stop writing his letters, you know. he kept at those letters.

    someday the mapmakers walked over the hills. they pointed at all these men and women in houses and farms laughing in the campfire light.

    the people only knew one name for this place. so they named it after the love letters.

    the old guy with hands like gnarled white roots who told me this story about this time he was stationed at in the army handed me the napkin, and the pen. he had this look on his face like he was thinking about his youth, when he met his wife, and got his first job out of the army, and made something of himself up until today, where we’re sitting in this old church cafeteria on the western edge of urban civilization, and the long prairie a short walk from this church, sipping orange juice as if it were coffee.

    i thanked the man for his story. i didn’t ask him what i wanted to ask him.

    what happened to her: ele? what happened between her and the man that named a town after her?

    http://www.tooelecity.org/

  2. Feeling Strange? It Must Be The New Weird Bug says:

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  3. Larry says:

    Only 200-300 words? This might prove to be a real challenge, considering the six years I’ve taught middle school and high school, but I might write one later tonight or tomorrow, if teaching stories are permitted. Some of those kids were just plain weird.

  4. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    It can go a little longer–I’m just wary of getting stuff over 1,000 words, is all. ANY kind of story is permitted. Don’t edit yourself. Just do it!
    JV

  5. Larry says:

    I have a perfect one then. I’ll have to post the “proof” on my blog, so later tonight then.

  6. Alan says:

    I’m in two minds about entering – is ‘proof’ – of whatever description – mandatory? I’ve two stories in mind, but I don’t think I could provide proof the particular incidents actually happened.

    Other than my word as a gentleman, that is…

  7. Sir Tessa says:

    I haven’t lived long enough to have weird things happen to me. THIS CONTEST IS AGEIST. DOWN WITH THE SYSTEM.

  8. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Proof isn’t necessary. I’m a professional writer. I know b.s. when I see it. :)

  9. Larry says:

    Trust me on this – if I didn’t have the photos of this incident, it’s a bit too much to believe. I’m going to start writing in it a few minutes, once I make sure the cell phone images have transferred to my email account.

  10. Corey Redekop says:

    Holy shit. Do I have the time? Has anything remotely interesting ever happened to me? Think, man, think.

  11. Alan says:

    O.K., good to know. I’ll save my b.s. for people who aren’t professional writers. But I probably won’t offer the story I’d really like to; it’s too easy to write off due to the quantities of alcohol involved.

    Now all I have to worry about in compressing the other one into around 500 words…

  12. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    My God, the number of people putting roadblocks in their way…don’t be chickenshits–post post post! In fact, for now we only need a first name if any of you are shy…

    JV

  13. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    I meant there to be a smiley-face involved in that last comment. :)

  14. Larry says:

    I walked into a diaster zone one Monday morning. The window, already shattered by incompetent workers who supposedly were repairing the roof, looked even worse as the student climographs I had taped there to cover the cracks were all askew. There was a horrid smell in the room, and there were drops of a yellowish chalk-like substance, almost like paint, on some of the desks. I hurried to clean up this foul mess before the 8 AM bell. Later, as the students entered the room, they too began to complain of that almost rotten, fetid odor. A quick search was done after homeroom ended and one of the students found a dead bird, hidden amongst their books. It had apparently succumbed to dehydration, but that was only the first of a whole wave of dead birds that spring semester.

    Around this time, I had decided to add a little “decoration” to my classroom, and as I was lacking in suitable geography and history posters, I decided to use a little gag gift that a college buddy of mine had given me. Little did I know just how powerful of a scarecrow this talisman would be.

    The next Monday, I entered my classroom and again was greeted with evidence of a dead bird and its droppings, all around the room but in a little pristine area in one front corner, towards which the dead bird’s body pointed, as if it had died of fright. The week after, two more dead birds, each in the same area, both also turned up as if the sight in front of them was just too unbearable.

    It took about six weeks (and numerous complaints) for the workers to patch the roof and stop the insane suicidal flights of the starlings. Six weeks, eight dead birds and one that was too terrified to do more than to flap its wings weakly as it gave a terrible squawk as I entered the room.

    Now one probably is wondering what man-made creation could be so terrifying to these poor animals as to make them die under its dire glaze? Well, that classroom scarecrow was nothing more than this:

    Click on the link to see the blood-curdling image

    There, if you want more stories like that, I have a few others I could share… ;)

  15. Charles Tan says:

    Here’s my story and the blog entry (and plugging your contest) can be found at http://charles-tan.blogspot.com/2008/02/my-new-weird-moment.html

    There’s been one story I’ve peddling for the past few years about the perils of wishing for something you don’t really want. This story takes place back in 2003 or 2004, when I was still in college (Ateneo de Manila University) and the comic/manga shop CCHQ was still in existence.

    At the time, I was spending most of my free time at CCHQ, watching comic and manga fans enter the shop (and occasionally helping out when the need arises). Now there’s this clique of girls from the school nearby, Miriam University, and long story short, I ended up befriending some of them.

    Now one of the girls in that clique–who I barely knew but I did catch the name–started stalking me via my cellphone. She made around a dozen 2-second missed calls and when I did hit the “answer” button on my phone, she’d drop the call. There were a couple of text messages though, wanting to talk to me about manga and life in general, but honestly, I don’t want to hold an entire conversation via my phone’s small computer screen and keyboard.

    I didn’t succeed in getting her to stop pestering me that day and so I told the entire incident to my pal Elbert. Now Elbert was busy with his comics work back then and when he heard that I had acquired a stalker, he foolishly said he wished he had one because that was an affirmation of fame (or at the very least some attention).

    Now Elbert had another good friend–I currently forgot the person’s real name so let’s make up a new one such as Louie–who recently changed numbers. Now in the Philippines, we had two Telecom providers back then, Globe and Smart. Now the two companies distinguished themselves apart by the first four digits of their cell numbers: Globe began with 0917 while Smart began with 0918 and 0919. Elbert managed to acquire Louie’s phone number but he forgot which provider he belonged to and so he sent a message to all three possible numbers, identifying himself and apologizing if the recipient wasn’t Louie.

    Well, suffice to say, one of the numbers was indeed Louie. However, one of the other people he contacted was my stalker. Now Elbert hangs out at CCHQ more than I do and was also exposed to that particular clique of girls. Since I was less than enthusiastic to be pestered by my stalker, she instead started calling and texting Elbert. That was one stalker off my back and well, I always did say Elbert was a people person.

  16. Mary C says:

    Here’s one for the Christopher Priest fans. Sorry, this story is not an uplifting one. But it is strange, and thinking about it still gives me chill bumps.

    I work as a nurse in an outpatient infusion center. We administer all kinds of IV meds, including Chemotherapy. One day, several years ago, a young woman walked into our unit for her first treatment. She was 23 years old with piercing blue eyes and short spiky hair with leopard spots. Very cute. She knew she was going to lose her hair, so she decided to have fun with it. I admired her attitude.

    While going through the process of getting her admitted and settled, she told us she had an identical twin sister living across the country. The day she learned her diagnosis, she called her sister and told her, “I have cancer.” Then her sister said, “I do too.” The twin had been diagnosed with the SAME kind of cancer–a rare type of ovarian cancer–on the SAME day.

    The sister came home, and we treated both of them in our clinic. Of course, she did the leopard thing with her hair as well.

  17. Alan says:

    This happened about five years ago, when I was using the Piccadilly Line several mornings a week to get to uni. We’d made it from Sudbury Hill to Alperton when the driver let us know our train would now be terminating at Acton Town instead of Cockfosters, so we’d all have to disembark and wait for another one. No explanation, but apologies for any inconvenience, etcetera and so on. There were the usual grumbles as people reached for mobiles to start phoning in their excuses. I made like a stoic Brit and carried on reading my book.

    I kept hold of my book, though I didn’t do much reading once the train reached Acton Town. It was well after nine but the platform was already fairly crowded. It only became more so as the minutes dragged by and even more commuters trickled down the steps in search of an eastbound train. I engaged in the kind of pointless exercises people do in these situations; staring at my watch, or up at the announcement boards, or gazing into the tunnel for any sign of an approaching train. We’d been stuck there for ten or so minutes before I spotted the girl with the matching socks and umbrella.

    She was about two carriage lengths further down the platform. The first thing I wondered about was the umbrella; it was March, a bit chilly, but there was no sign of rain. Then I thought something to the effect of, who the hell goes to the trouble of matching their socks to their umbrella? Both were a pale, but very bright green, a very ‘notice me!’ colour. The skirt that stopped a little bit above the socks was dark grey or maybe black, as was the jacket above that. I can’t really say what she looked like because I didn’t get a good look at her face ( maybe early 20s, dark hair ) but I did notice a couple of rings – at least three – on her right hand, because that was the hand holding the umbrella.

    She might have been there already, or arrived on the same train as me, or shown up while we’d been waiting for its replacement, I don’t know. She stood out briefly because her socks matched her umbrella, and that peculiar fashion statement made me smile. I went back to my clock/announcement board/tunnel watching, but now I’d mix in a glance or two along the platform to see if Green Socks & Umbrella was still there, and she always was, until she wasn’t.

    She was still at Acton Town though, because as I looked around to see where she’d gotten to, I spotted her again. All the way across the station on the District Line platforms.

    Unless you’re familiar with Acton Town tube station, you’ll just have to take my word for it: there is no way she could have made it all the way over there in the time since I’d seen her on the Piccadilly side. Especially when Acton Town was as congested as it was that morning. No way, couldn’t be done. Yet there she was. Green socks, green umbrella, undoubtedly the same girl even if I hadn’t gotten a good look at her face. The chances of two people wearing bright green socks that perfectly matched their bright green umbrella… forget it. It was her.

    She couldn’t have simply sauntered across the tracks: people tend to notice that kind of thing. And she couldn’t have made it through the crowds, up the stairs, across the walkway and down the stairs again on the other side in, what, less than thirty seconds?

    But there she was.

    I lost track of developments regarding the Piccadilly line service while I tried to figure out what I was seeing and how it was possible, but people were starting to squeezing past me to reach the front of the platform. The announcement board said that the next eastbound train was only three minutes away. Meanwhile, an eastbound District Line train arrived, so I looked over to see if Green Socks & Umbrella was going to take it. The near enough empty platform the train left behind told me she probably had.

    Only she hadn’t.

    Because when I looked back towards the tunnel there she was, standing pretty much exactly where she’d been when I first noticed her.

    Explanations? I haven’t really got one, though a friend once suggested some kind of freakish trick with reflections. Because it’s the way my brain’s wired, I did consider various, shall we say ‘otherworldly’ possibilities, but if you ask me if I’ve ever seen a ghost, I’d probably answer no.

    I’d still like to know what kind of person takes the trouble to match their socks to their umbrella.

    (With apologies for taking liberties with the word limit.)

  18. euphrosyne says:

    Not long ago, on a trip to Tokyo, I was doing some serendipitous urban meandering. I ended up in a cemetery. I don’t remember which one, but like most in the area it was quite lush, with plenty of old trees and other foliage that helped give the entire, rather vast, grounds a collection of private, quiet, contemplative niches–no small feat in the center of the largest conurbation on Earth. It was beautiful, but melancholy. At midafternoon the ravens (how appropriate!) and cats (with their timeless air of ownership) greatly outnumbered the humans.

    Walking among the thickets and elaborate tombs, along which ran strings of pictographs whose meanings mostly eluded me, an appropriately somber mood was naturally adopted. Family names and histories carved in rock and painted on wood. Dates of birth, death. Names of family members who went before, and those who yet persist aboveground to carry the family’s honor. Portraits. Flowers. Incense and offerings.

    My feet wandered on though the high-rent portion of the grounds and my eyes drew me toward a particularly grand construction of polished black granite. This one was clearly new, and clearly not cheap. A respected community elder, or a successful businessman, perhaps. I drew closer, slowed, stopped, and after a few silent seconds burst into a horrifyingly audible giddy laughter, there amongst the headstones and distant mourners.

    Since I had already publicly shamed myself, I managed a snapshot before respectfully hightailing it out of there.

    (click to see) The greatest burial site ever.

    Strange and uplifting indeed. I’d have liked to have met whoever decided on that message (and that typography!) for their headstone. The only dead, anonymous stranger who still brings a smile to my lips to recall.

  19. Timblynod says:

    (well i did my bestest, so here goes)

    A Weird and Freaky Occurrence

    Nearly six months ago I moved back home with my mother on account of her failing health. Our land sits midway between Austin and College Station–deep into the forest wilderness of Texas. At one time this small secluded region of the world was given the name of Black Jack, because of all the Black Jack oak trees peppering the area, but only a small stooped forlorn church and a sullen patch of a cemetery are all there is to show of the place.

    One evening last fall I set out for my daily walk and the strangest thing happened. During the spring and summer everything is beautiful. Softly undulating hills, tree-spackled stretches–a veritable Bag End. Wildflowers proliferate, and the pungent scent of grass and hay is enough to make one dizzy, added with the tangy smell of mustang vines that festoon across the trees and hang like bloated spider webs.

    But in the fall and winter months, the sylvan charm quickly drains away leaving a haunting landscape. The tree foliage is swept up, leaving branches as dour and shriveled as roots, jutting into the air like vulgar insinuations. The sky is bleak and dismal, a gray-brown slab the color of tree bark. And often the wind is carrying on. It doesn’t shriek like banshees or moan like a demon wielding a cello. It begins as a high-pitched whistle and becomes a hiss, then a terrible protracted ululation. The most unholy, throaty utterance made by nature. A wailing threnody. Scary as shit, actually.

    But on this day there was no wind. No rustle of leaves, or whir of insects. The country road leading past my home is the most unfrequented, desolate place on earth. As I slowly ambled along, mentally unknotting a book I had been reading, I glanced up and my insides lurched and I froze in mid step.

    Ten feet away, two naked oaks were barely visible beneath a black shroud of feathers. Perched on nearly every branch were a hundred giant birds with two hundred black beady eyes.

    All two hundred black beady eyes were pinned on me.

    They sat motionless…not even an involuntary lifting of the chest or twitch of the neck. They had massive heads and stout, pointy beaks–unlike any bird I had ever seen out there and I’d lived there for a number of years already.

    There was something sinister in their silence. An ungodly brooding in their stillness. They continued peering down at me, unmoving.

    I began to back up, then turned and slowly walked back the direction I’d come from. All the time a dark terror seized me, that the birds would suddenly rise up in unison and converge upon me there in the middle of the hinterlands with none to hear my life rent and plucked apart.

    But three days later I saw them again. They were near the same place, huddled together in a circle on the dirt road. I spotted them from a distance, a congregation of statues. They stared solemnly at each other, but so vacant were their gazes that their communion seemed to be with some beings from beyond this dimension–I am not certain, but I didn’t care. I turned and got the hell out of there.

    One thing I do know, though. They were not scavenging. I looked. There was no fetid remains of an animal carcass. No bloody leftovers. Nothing.

    That was the last time I saw those things. I can only speculate and entertain wild notions about why they appeared alone near my home. For whatever they were, I do not think they came out of Noah’s Ark, or–if they were on the Ark–they were among those few creatures Noah had never intended to be released into the world again.

  20. John Joseph Adams » Blog Archive » links for 2008-02-11 says:

    [...] CONTEST: Tell Us Your New Weird Story, Win Tons of Cool Stuff! (tags: SF) [...]

  21. Nadine says:

    I don’t know if this qualifies as weird or not, but it was certainly surreal to me. Last summer two of my friends took their families on vacation together to the mountains, whereupon one of said friends promptly went into labor, three or four months prematurely (with twins, no less). *That* story turned out fine in the end, but it precipitated me taking a night off work and going to the mountains, unscheduled, to help my other friend with the herd of kids, while K’s husband spent most of his time at the hospital with her.

    One of the prescheduled items on the itinerary was a day trip to a theme park called Santa’s Land. Oh goody, I thought. The kids’ll enjoy it and it’ll wear them out and they will sleep tonight and all will be well.

    Oh, I was wrong. I couldn’t have been much more wrong.

    This theme park… if Clive Barker and Tim Burton had got together to design a theme park based on the Freddy movies and with a Christmas theme, this would have been it. Word limitations prevent me giving the full details (and I’m still working through them with my therapist) but I will share one example of the horror:

    On the map that one receives, on the back of the brochure, is marked “The Elves’ Bunkhouse”. We visited the Elves’ Bunkhouse. It is a small building…. perhaps the size of the average kitchen. It has a sign on it, telling anyone who cares to know that it is, in fact, the Elves’ Bunkhouse– come and see a slice of life for Santa’s Elves!

    As we enter, we face a v. short hallway, perhaps four or five feet in length, with a door leading off to the left, and a plasterboard figure against the wall facing the door. It’s a cutout of an elf holding up a sign. The sign welcomes us to the Elves’ Bunkhouse. The elf is smiling. It is not a reassuring smile. It just gets worse as we step into the exhibit. The first indication that all is not well is the fact that it is *unlit*. Visitors stand in a short hallway. Before us and to the right is the actual exhibit, in an L shape, behind plate glass. And it is /horrifying/.

    To the right: the bedroom. There are two beds, in the bedroom. In the beds are elves, one to each bed. The elf on the left is freakish. It’s huge. It’s easily two and a half times the size of the rest of the elves in the exhibit, and it looks hydrocephalic. It’s either sleeping or in a coma, and it’s breathing. It is sucking in huge breaths, and letting them out again with a mechanical regularity that speaks of nothing organic. The elf in the bed on the right is the same size as the rest of the elves in the exhibit. It’s lying in bed, unmoving. Not breathing. It’s pale and pasty and did I mention it’s not moving?

    The thing is *dead*. It has to be.

    On the floor in front of that bed, facing onlookers, is a small rocking chair. It’s a cute little rocking chair. In the cute little rocking chair is a cute little teddy bear. It’s rocking. Back. And forth. And back. And forth. Very. Very. Slowly. I do not know why. But rocking. Watching us. Watching it.

    That is the elves’ bedroom. The elves’ kitchen is equally terrifying.

    In the back of the kitchen, perched on the sideboard, an elf sits pumping water from an old-fashioned hand pump. It is doing this at the same speed as the teddy bear is rocking in the other room, which is to say: far too slowly to actually pump water, but just the right speed to appall anyone who is watching. It is staring into the middle distance with an expression that is probably intended to be cheerful but is instead only vaguely horrified.

    At the table sit two more elves. They are, I believe, intended to appear grandparent-y, but they do not. No, they do not. The grandmotherly elf is grinning cheerfully through the plate glass at visitors, and she looks ready to either go for someone’s throat or stab herself in the head. The grandfatherly elf wears the same expression.

    On the table in front of them rests what is, I suspect, meant to be a ham. It is not. It looks like someone took a corpse from a Halloween haunted house show and cut the limbs off and left it on the table in front of these elves.

    Stuck in the ham is a cleaver.

    Grandpa elf’s hand is moving up and down in front of the cleaver as though he is meant to be slicing the meat. The cleaver does not move. There is nothing in his hand. *I* have never cut ham with a cleaver. But then, I am not a deranged plastic elf.

    The final touch to all of this freak show: the exhibit was painted in the most excitingly bright colours- vivid, neon pinks and greens and oranges and blues and lots and lots of black… and was then illuminated by blacklight. It looks like someone bought the thing at auction from a defunct Halloween show and dropped it wholesale in this park, pausing only to cut the limbs off the ham and stick Christmas hats on the mass murderers-cum-elves.

    It was delightful, for all the wrong reasons, and the whole park was like that: just a carnival of gorgeous, magical wrongness. It was probably a very nice theme park when the brochure was printed, which looks to be at a guess somewhere around 1987.

    Now I just want to go back with a news crew.

  22. Felix Gilman - Official Website says:

    [...] win a personalised copy, and also a copy of a whole lot of other anthologies between now and 2010, here. Best three weird true-life stories [...]

  23. Spencer says:

    Can we post links? If so, here’s a true story of mine: http://www.annatambour.net/Night-of-the-living-crickets.htm

  24. Neth says:

    Excellent contest – I blogged about it here. And my entry:

    An American, an Australian, and a Mexican climb into the cab of a pick-up truck for the long drive into the high Sierra Madre.

    I always thought that sounded like the beginning of a bad joke, but it was more than just a bit surreal feeling on a cool February morning in Chihuahua. The drive itself was just over 12-hours long, with the first 4 or 5 on paved roads and the remaining on dirt roads winding through the mountains. Surprised to see snow drifts under pine trees, ice-covered puddles in the road, and a paper town, I kept couldn’t help but think of a John Wayne movie that I’ve never actually seen. After the jarring, ass-numbing ride in a single-bench, standard transmission truck with cranky, jet-lagged Aussie and a young Mexican who didn’t speak a word or English, I arrived to the remote camp just in time to start a 12-hour night shift with a drill-crew of French Canadians who only spoke French and Spanish – it was a long night of wishing I’d remembered to pack my thermos for coffee.

    The bad joke never really had a punch-line…but I’ll leave you with another set-up. A Mexican Archaeologist and an American Geologist sit in the bar car of Mexico’s Copper Railroad after a tough 10-day tour. The language barrier was eased with alcohol as I related the time I was mistaken for a terrorist at Hoover Dam.

  25. Paul Jessup says:

    I was once attacked by a horse who tried to eat my shirt because I smelled like apples. Not weird enough? How about the time I saw a woman come out of closet when I was six. I though nothing of it back then, and later wondered if she was a ghost. To this day I think I was crazy, or maybe it was a half remembered dream.

    Or how about the time I met a crazy man in a bar, who told me he had a secret alien language, and would pay me to write a novel in it, and that I had a destiny in driving a giant submarine at the bottom of lake erie to the moon with the last members of the beatles in it. We liked hangning out with him, he bought us food if we listened to him ramble. He also told me I had multiple personalities, and that each one was named fred.

    Or maybe the time I was at a White Zombie concert, and a friend of mine wanted to start a riot, so he set his shirt on fire, and we all danced around it, and people through garbage on it, and it was a blaze and it smelled awful (like burning plastic) and then I got tackled by the body guards and sprayed with a fire hose.

  26. James Foster says:

    Not long ago I lived in a house on a very busy and noisy street.

    I often had trouble sleeping, despite the plywood and foam barrier I constructed over the huge street-side window.

    One night I tossed and turned, drifting in and out sleep. The buses and cars would rumble by my room. Folks would be pulling in and out of Brothers Liquor Store, directly opposite our house.

    I was dreaming. Behind the closed door was something I didn’t want to see. As the door opened, I tried to let out a cry, some kind of release. At that moment, I heard a prolong, agonizing moan and cry, unlike anything heard before or since. It wasn’t me crying out. I realized the sound came from the waking world, but forced it away and continued my fitful sleep. A short time later my eyes opened and I was aware of a different set of sounds outside – no cars, no buses, but still something going on, an engine humming, the sound of water.

    I swung out of bed and, peering through the bubble peek of the front door, could make out a figure or two and some lights in the street. I opened the door and walked down to the street. A firetruck and a few guys were around. I asked the guy closest to me, “What’s going on?”

    “A man was hit by a car, crossing the street,” he said, pointing to the street corner. I recalled the cry I heard earlier.

    “Where is he?” I asked, unclear of what was happening.

    “Oh, he’s there, there, there…”, the guy said, pointing to spots all over the street. There were plastic tarps scattered about for more than a block, covering the larger remains of the victim.

    “We washing him down.”

    I then noticed the source of the water sound. Another fireman was using a hose up the street, power washing up the blood and smaller pieces of the vicim. This guy was being washed into the sewer system.

    It turns out the car must have been speeding and hit the victim as he walked across the street. His body was torn apart. The car never stopped.

    I looked around, stunned. I walked back up the stairs and returned to bed, creeping out on what was going on outside my window.

    The next day I learned that the guy was a gentleman caller of our neighbor Ada. He’d had his drinks with Ada and was strolling home when stepped off the unlit corner and was hit. Someone posted a homemade sign on the corner uility poll. BE CAREFUL CROSSING STREET. Indeed.

  27. n.fonseca says:

    The day afternooned quietly, unseen from my eyes. I had passed the last 3 hours watching a non-memorable movie somewhere, and though everything seemed merry and calm, my heart was troubled by something as I watched the window of my parents house from the empty street.

    Before I rang the bell I caught myself thinking “What if I arrived home to find that my father had a heart attack?”

    “Perish the thought!” I chastised myself immediately, and still trembling finally rang the doorbell.
    Everything was all right though, my parents lively and in a good mood.

    But late that night I recalled the dream my father told me one week before.

    “It was not a dream,” he then said (and still does). “I was lying on my bed, putting away a news magazine, when I noticed a movement at the end of the bed.”

    “What was it?” I remembered asking.

    “The damnedest thing I ever saw: A little cherubim sort of figure strolling and dancing in the empty air. But it made me scared: it kept laughing and pointing its finger at me, till it vanished near the window.”

    I keep imagining that little devil (“it was a demonic creature, I don’t know why I know it, but I do,” he said) till this day.

    Anyway, I fell asleep, woke up, visited a girlfriend, spent some quality time with her, and went back to my parents at about the same time as the day before. I didn’t think anything this time, but felt a little nervous.

    There was nobody home.

    All the lights were on, there was the smell of food and cigarettes in the air, as if they had just left the house.

    I looked at the telephone in the bedroom (this was before cell phones got cheap and ubiquitous), and found a little note saying

    “Gone to Hospital. Call grandpa.”

    No kiss, no bye, no nothing.

    I called and found out my father had had a heart attack. That I was to go to the hospital since he had already died twice and they didn’t count on him surviving much more.

    I remember asking his battered cyborg figure, in the E.R., “What’s it like in the other side?”

    “Grey,” he said. “I felt suddenly very relaxed and I switched off. And then on. Just like that.”

    Just like that. Too much stress and cigarettes, the doctors later said.

    I wondered about that little demon, then.

    My father is alive and well to this day, and he doesn’t remember the episode unless I re-tell him the specifics, which is a little bit strange.

    But I never forgot. Even as I worry about work, about my kid, or smoke cigarettes aplenty, there’s always a little part of me that watches the sides of perception, the corners of my own eyes, just to check if there isn’t a little cherubim laughing somewhere. I wonder if he’ll ever come.

  28. J M McDermott says:

    I don’t know if our votes count, but I totally vote for Larry.

  29. Nadine says:

    I entirely concur with ^ that post. Larry’s story is made of win.

  30. Caleb Wilson says:

    I got married last August in Missouri. Two good friends of mine, brothers, were flying from Vermont into St. Louis, which is about three hours away from the wedding site, and I drove to pick them up. No problems on the way up, but halfway back, we were driving through this woody, hilly area, very narrow, all twisty roads, and we crested a rise and found a car parked on the right shoulder just over the top, with the door open several feet into our lane. A woman was climbing out of the car, screaming something at us, waving her hands, and as we passed her, I could see a body lying by the side of the road, near her front bumper. Feet and knees and waist were all I saw, but he had that inert look of accident victims. The only scenario that made sense to me was that the woman in the car had hit (and from the looks of things, killed) the man in the ditch. I’ve always been secretly afraid that I don’t handle myself well in emergencies, but my hands and feet worked this time without even conferring with my brain, slamming the brakes, turning the wheel, and in about one second I had pulled the car over, grabbed my cell phone, and jumped out. The brothers got out too, and we started back toward the woman and the body. She was still screaming. But then we realized that she wasn’t screaming at us. She was screaming at the body. Which was moaning. And wiggling. She screamed again: “You’re drunk! You’re drunk!” Just then a car drove by, the third (counting mine and the woman’s) I’d seen in about an hour. In a coincidence I would have blushed to include in any work of fiction, it was a state trooper. He pulled over past my car, and as he got out and walked toward us, I mumbled something to the woman, something like, “Okay, I’m going to let him deal with this now.” The rest of the weekend (including the wedding) went without a hitch.

  31. SE Martin says:

    Almost eight years ago my girlfriend and I decided to get married after six years of silent engagement. Having witnessed our fair share of unwieldy, family-run weddings, we decided to get married 1,500 miles from home with a few unwitting friends in attendance (an annual Memorial Day weekend bash in Hermosa Beach, CA). The rules were straightforward: tell as few people as possible; don’t tell family members. Once we met up in Hermosa Beach, friends were asked to reserve 30 minutes on a Saturday morning for the event they never imagined happening: me getting married to someone who’d never spent time in an institution. . . .

    In the weeks leading up to our wedding, my girlfriend (behind my back) was desperately searching for one of my closest friends with whom I’d lost touch. Dave and I had played in numerous bands together over the years–we were a pretty amazing rhythm section–but when he moved from Dallas to San Francisco three years earlier he simply disappeared. She never found Dave and eventually gave up on surprising me (except for the showing-up bit).

    On the Thursday before the wedding a group of us went looking for a bar in Hermosa Beach showing the Dallas Stars’ playoff game; the first bar we came to wouldn’t allow us in because some were wearing Stars jerseys. After the game (a loss) we returned to our motel to continue drinking. As we were walking through a parking lot mere seconds from our room I heard someone shout my name –Simon’s not a common name in the U.S.; it usually means me. I walked up to the car and was surprised to see Dave’s brother, Jimmy, in the driver’s seat. As I was about to ask him what the hell he was doing in Hermosa Beach he leaned back to reveal my long-lost friend, Dave, who was in Hermosa Beach to help Jimmy who’d just moved from Dallas. (The two had actually been in the bar that wouldn’t let us in, also watching the Stars.) My girlfriend immediately grabbed Dave and made him promise to stay for the wedding, explaining how she’d searched for him for almost two months; not only did he stay, but he flew his girlfriend (now wife) down from San Jose. We haven’t lost contact since.

  32. SH Rangwala says:

    (Big fan of all your work, Jeff. Heard about this on another forum from Larry. I started something a little more fantastical, but then I re-read the instructions that it had to be non-fiction. Apologies for any errors in the French, my skills have deteriorated in the many years since this incident.)

    I liked watching the noon rush at Les Halles, the march of business suits, the women under wide-brimmed hats with flowers in their hands. Giggling clusters of orange and black momos, bright yellow scarves. Where did they come from? Where were they going?
    He was watching me, in a grey shirt and blue jeans. He didn’t seem to have anywhere in particular to be. He was young and I was young.
    I smiled.
    “Vous etes belle,” he said.
    I smiled again. “Merci. Comment ca va?”
    “Venez chez moi.” he continued. Where else would you wish to go? The accent was flavored with the desert and the banlieue. Come live with me and be my love.
    I nodded, still smiling. “Je devrais partir,” I said. “I need to go,” while all around the men marched, the women glided and noone stopped to watch. What was there to see?
    I began to walk toward the platforms. Orange, grey or blue. Where could I go?
    He followed close. “Ou venez-vous?”
    I hesitated.
    “Laisse-moi tranquille,” I said.
    He shook his head. “Venez avec moi.” Come home with me and be my love.
    To the right and to the left, we danced a figure eight.
    And then I ran. The woman wore a wide-brimmed hat, held flowers in her hand. She paid for her bouquet and turned.
    “Il ne me laisse pas tranquille!” I cried.
    “Calm down,” she said, not in French. She gripped my arm, and we marched away.
    He watched, stricken. I glanced back and thought, farewell.
    “You’re safe now. I’m an American. He won’t dare follow us.” She stopped and let me go.
    “Thank you so much!” I gushed. “I suppose I was excited I could understand him.”
    She shook her head. “You go into a store and you practice with the people at the counter. You don’t talk to strangers. Today is May day.”
    I nodded, contrite, and watched my shoes.

    Later, I sat at a fountain on the left bank, squinting in the bright light. He was young, and dressed in red, and I was young. He passed a handsome smile. His eyes were very blue.
    “Bonjour!”
    I turned away.
    “Bonjour!,” he repeated. “Vous ne pouvez pas parler?
    “Non,” I said, sadly. It was May day. “Je ne parle pas.” I do not speak.

  33. Fredosphere says:

    I grew up in a farmhouse with walls made of lath and plaster. One night I was asleep in bed, dreaming (for reasons probably irrelevant to anything else) of rabbits. Suddenly, and involuntarily as far as I know, I sat up and threw my arms over my head. The next moment, a patch of plaster about four feet in diameter broke loose from the ceiling directly above and crashed down on me.

    I don’t want to exaggerate the danger I was in. Had it fell on me while I was lying down, I doubt it would have caused permanent injury; even a broken nose would have been unlikely. Still, the chunks of plaster were heavy, and would have hurt.

    The real mystery is, why did I sit up and cover myself? Given the nature of plaster in old houses, it’s hard to imagine a little bit of it falling before the rest and alerting me (and doing it somehow without me being aware of it). It is also odd that the only time plaster ever broke loose anywhere in that house was directly over my bed while I was sleeping in it.

    After the plaster stopped falling, and I woke up enough to realize what had happened, I yelled “ouch!” Since that failed to get me any attention, I went into my parents’ bedroom and woke up my dad. “Some plaster just fell on me,” I told him. “Uhn,” he observed, and fell back to sleep. I spent the rest of the night on the couch. The next morning my dad saw the hole in the ceiling and apologized for underestimating the situation.

  34. dmc says:

    The summer after my sophomore year of high school, some friends and I were trying to get a prog band together. They knew a guy who could play drums for us–I’ll call him Joe. So one afternoon in mid-July, we went over to Joe’s house so I could meet him.

    Plans with Joe to drum for us fell through, so I didn’t see him again all the rest of the summer. But somehow I couldn’t stop thinking about him–not in an infatuated kind of way, but how you return again and again to something that strikes you as a little strange, a little off, but you can’t put your finger on why. I’d think about Joe’s drum set in the family basement; his nice house with the new, cream-colored carpet; his amiable manner. Nothing specific, just arbitrary memories, the few things that I had seen of him and his life–these images kept appearing in the recesses of my mind at random times, over and over, to the point that I noticed it and wondered why I was thinking of him so much.

    (The next part of the story gets difficult to tell because I only realized it in retrospect.)

    Also beginning sometime in the second half of the summer, I had recurring thoughts about the major road leading to the high school, which I traveled every weekday; I’ll call it Woodlawn. The thoughts would come to me in a specific formula: ‘There’s not been an accident on Woodlawn Road in a long time. It’s about time there was a crash on Woodlawn Road. It’s been a long time since there’s been an accident on Woodlawn Road. It’s about time…’ This would filter through my mind, layered under my everyday thoughts–often enough that I half-noted it, but dismissed it because it made no sense, and was morbid besides.

    One school day in September after the last bell, I passed Joe in the hall on my way up to my locker as he was heading towards the main exit. He smiled and said hi, despite that I’d not talked to him since July; he was a nice guy.

    A few hours later, I got a phone call from a friend–Joe had been killed in a car accident on Woodlawn Road on the way home from school. He was in the backseat, and the vehicle was rear-ended when his ride slowed to make a left-hand turn.

    Beyond the shock of his death, I was floored–the thoughts I’d had about Woodlawn came rushing full into memory. I realized that for two months I had had two sets of odd, recurrent thoughts that directly spelled out Joe’s impending death.

    That event forced me to acknowledge that I had fair amount of premonitory images running under my everyday thoughts, like a stream running underground. Before Joe’s death, I had always believed I was inventing memories of things that happened; but this event was the one that convinced me I wasn’t. Since then, I’ve learned how to coax that subconscious stream above ground. A decade later, premonitions are a regular part of my life…. But that’s a different story.

    I still wonder about Woodlawn Road and the peculiar, repeated formula the premonition took. Was that just how the premonition came to me, or was the formula an articulation of the road’s ‘intent’? Was Joe some kind of cyclical sacrifice? I wonder if my traveling Woodlawn so often kicked a latent prescient ability into high gear, making me privy to the road’s intentions before it struck.

    To this day I don’t know how to feel about Woodlawn Road–whether I foresaw preternatural intent…or just a terrible accident.

  35. banzai cat says:

    (I posted this in 2005 so will post an edited version here to fit the 500 word limit.)

    For those who don’t know, Baguio is a small city situated on a plateau in the middle of the mountains of Benguet. Because of its height, the city is an ideal place for vacation during summer. It’s a beautiful place: pine trees can survive in my country there and flowers bloom all year ’round because of the cool temperature.

    Likewise, any city has its own share of ghosts and spirits but Baguio seems to be well-known for them moreso since the Hyatt Hotel collapsed in the 1990 quake and killed 1,300 people. I suppose the primeval appearance of the pine tree forests, combined with the late night mists, make Baguio a choice spot for hauntings– and haunted imaginings.

    Among my friends who went up to Baguio with me several years ago was (Jester). It was on our second night in Baguio that I found out (Jester) has a kind of “second sight”, which was a surprise as he never struck me as a “spiritual” kind of guy. And well, it’s one thing to know a friend can see ghosts. But to actually see him do it…

    After an an incident that early evening involving a fun yet jumpy visit to the Baguio Mansion–another weird story too long to mention here and which I wasn’t present at that time anyway– (Jester) seemed a little nervous when we all trooped back up to the condo where we were staying. For the evening, we decided to hang out and watch TV in the condo’s living room.

    It was only then I confirmed that (Jester) was acting right strangely when he asked if anyone was upstairs despite everyone being right there with him. Later on, I surreptitiously saw (Jester) was looking around the unit from the corner of his eyes. And when I checked to see what he was looking at, I noticed his gaze always kept returning to the top of the stairs, which was in front of us.

    (Jester) didn’t know I was looking at him. It was a weird feeling: if he was just pulling our leg about the “second sight”, he wouldn’t have known I was observing him at that time. But looking at him at that time, I thought he really looked like he was seeing something at the top of the stairs.

    Was it a ghost? I’m still a bit of a skeptic to really believe in that, preferring to trust my own senses. Still, the feeling that these invisible spirits are around you unknowingly has inspired a lot of my own short stories.

    http://estranghero.blogspot.com/2005/11/sixth-sensebecause-inestimable-luke.html

  36. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Hey–thanks and keep them coming. Won’t comment further until after the deadline.
    JV

  37. James says:

    When I was a kid, I spent an inordinate amount of time wandering the halls of my local mall, which was once the major retail center in our city, but was slowly fading into decay and irrelevance throughout those years. The management later tried to spruce the place up by building elaborate sand castles just inside each entrance, which now that I think about it, may in fact be weirder than my story. Anyway, cruising the mall on foot became even cooler when at the age of fifteen I somehow acquired a girlfriend to accompany me; for the sake of this anecdote I’ll call her Dawn, since that was her name. Resting from our peregrinations one day in the Woolworth’s cafeteria, we enjoyed an Icee, as was our habit. Mine was a blend of cherry and cola flavors, as I recall, while hers was a cherry and bubble gum flavored mixture. And that’s the second detail that’s weirder than the actual story–who was it that cooked up “bubble gum” as being a tempting drink flavor, and why was it blue, and why did we drink it when it tasted like wiper fluid? While we sat there gargling these concoctions, an elderly woman dressed all in white with plastic sandwich bags on her hands approached our table, touched me on the shoulder and said, “The LORD is speaking to you, so drink orange juice and listen to his word.” She then walked out of the cafeteria. The two of us sat in silence for a moment, and then leapt up to follow her, but she’d disappeared, although it’s not as though there was a crowd to hide in.

    After that, my friends in school called me the Messiah, but the citrus paradise? That eschaton has not yet been immanentized.

  38. Catherine Cheek says:

    One night, my husband and I were lying in bed, sleeping, when we were awakened by the sound of someone in the kitchen. The voice was unfamiliar, but human, calling out “Hello?” like you do if you want to know if you’re alone in the house. It sounded like an old woman, or perhaps a sick child. We lay in the dark, completely still, trying not to breathe until we could figure out who, or what was in the children. There were only four of us in a small house, and our two children were asleep. We would have heard their door open if they had woken up, and they certainly would have come into our room by then.

    We wanted to believe that we had dreamed it, but then we heard it again, “Hello?” then “Hi?” It didn’t sound like either one of the children. It didn’t sound like anyone we knew. Then, creepiest of all the voice called plaintively, “Mommy? Daddy?”

    By then we were terrified, thinking that something weird has happened to change one of the kids’ voices, that someone had broken in, or worse, that there was a ghost in the house. There were at least two people who died in that house (that we knew of) and one of them had been a child.

    The truth is even weirder.

    As the voice came closer, she said “Hello” again, and then meowed. It was our cat, Chibi. She had learned to imitate human speech.

    We still have that cat. She almost never says “Mommy” or “Daddy” anymore, but she still says “Hello” when she thinks she’s alone in the house. It still sounds just like a human.

  39. Super Doomed Planet » Blog Archive » A Couple of Links says:

    [...] While I’m trying to come up with a real post, here are a couple more links: How would you feel if you were a new SF writer, and on the back of your brand-spanking-new first novel you found this?(Via.)Jeff VanderMeer is soliciting his readers’ weird stories on his blog. [...]

  40. Seth Merlo says:

    Please forgive the heinous crime of going a little over the word limit. I included a bit of background and what turned out to be something of a diatribe on my blog. Good luck to everyone!
    ______________________________________________________________________________________

    In the assumed security of their bedroom, the couple slept fitfully, uncomfortable in the strange, unseasonable humidity. Outside, the night was deep, but alive, and the wind howled through the tall trees across from the house like banshee calling the names of the dead. The banging of loose alsynite on the neighbour’s patio echoed through their tired minds with the ritual clang of muffled cymbals. On the edge of dreams, the night noises turned the woman’s chaotic thoughts to her baby daughter, asleep in the room next door. Too tired to wake, but too awake to settle, she tossed and turned and whimpered in her state of half-sleep.
    For a time, she dreamt of savage dogs. Beside her, her husband now lay awake, listening to the trees amplifying the sound of the wind, making it seem more violent and devastating than it actually was. Without warning, the wind would pick up and send itself screaming through the old eucalypts, tearing the leaves off their branches and whipping them into a furious whirlwind that raced up the driveway and battered against the fences, where they would settle for a short while before being scattered again. By morning, the leaves would lie dying in great mounds, but for the moment they were a swarm of angry imps that kept the husband on edge and his wife unsettled.
    Her mind turned again to their daughter, who slept contentedly in her cot, unfazed by the frantic carnival taking place outside her window. Even in her fitful sleep, the wife’s thoughts were always on her child, always hoping for the best, always protecting against the worst. She could not know that it was herself who needed more attention at this moment than her daughter.
    In the quiet space between whirlwinds, the husband had finally fallen asleep. Exhaustion kept his mind free from the disturbing menagerie of imagery that plagued his wife’s brain, and would have kept him at rest if it weren’t for the sudden piercing crash that burst into his subconscious.
    Next to him, his wife sprang from the bed. In a fit of the purest panic, she screamed incoherently and he leaped across the bed to follow her, fully wakened more by the terror he heard in his wife’s voice than the dreadful noise of the imps. The light went on immediately and she made for their daughter’s bedroom, believing the helpless baby to be in certain danger.
    Her husband, recognising the din for what it was, reached for her arm and held on to her, turning her around to face him in the hopes of calming her down. She could hear herself screaming, and as he reassured her above the clatter of the whirlwind, she came to her senses and he held her.
    As one, they opened the door to their daughter’s bedroom. Sitting up, with a smile poking around the edges of her dummy, the small child waved happily to her mother and, almost as if reassuring her that everything was fine, said “Hi, Mamma.”
    Down the hall and in the laundry, an empty container and can of insect repellent slowly stopped spinning and came to rest against each other. In the light of day, the couple would understand, and laugh together. But the husband would not easily forget the sound of panic and terror in his wife’s voice that the strangeness of night had wrought.

  41. Matt says:

    One day last summer I was on my way to write at my favorite little local coffee shop in a nearby suburb. I managed to set aside some time early on a Sunday morning, which is rare. I was happy, but a bit groggy.

    On the way there, I passed one of the little town’s numerous parks. Some movement in the field caught my eye and I glanced over to find out what it was. There I saw a woman driving a big old conversion van and leaning out the window. What’s more, she was driving the van through the nicely manicured grass in the center of the park. It took me a moment to figure things out, but as she turned the vehicle, it appeared she was trying to corral a small white horse. Had we been in a more rural setting, I might not have thought twice, but the park is immediately outside a very large city, so this was unusual.

    Did I mention it was very early in the morning, and I wasn’t quite awake yet?

    I slowed down and discovered that it wasn’t a horse she was driving along side, but a very large dog. VERY large dog. As it stood, its head was level with her driver’s side window. I’m fairly knowledgeable about dogs, but I had no idea what kind this was. It wasn’t bulky or thick, like a Mastiff or a Dane or anything. It was pure white and thin.

    I can’t be sure, but I think the woman was walking the dog by driving in circles through the park with a leash in one hand, and the steering wheel in the other. She wasn’t really going that slow either, which is what initially led me to my corralling theory. And it probably explains why the animal was so thin.

    Now, from the size of the dog-pony I gather it would need a lot of exercise and I could see how driving might just wear the beast out, but seriously? Cruising through the park? If you bought a dog that big, wouldn’t you realize the amount of work that would go into keeping it in shape?

    So, for the second time (long story) before 10:30 am that day, I had my cell phone in my hand, considering whether to call 9-1-1. I really wanted to tell them about the lady that was potentially tearing up their lovely public park. But I was afraid they would ask questions and I would accidentally start blathering about the pony/puppy thing and I would be labeled a kook. I hate that.

    Anyway, maybe I had it wrong. Maybe the van was out of gas and that nice reindeer was pulling it to the nearest service station.

  42. Phil says:

    A few years back I was living in the cottage behind my mother’s house, which was large and august and very poorly lit. She was renting it from an incarcerated doctor, and wasn’t allowed to take down the voluminous drapes, or install new lights in the narrow staircase on cramped landing on the top floor. She shared the entire building with only my grandmother, and both enjoyed it tremendously despite the gloom.

    One morning over breakfast my mother told us that she had heard awful noises during the night in the landing outside her door. Sounds of somebody stomping up and down the staircase, slamming the closet door, a truly awful racket. Surprised, she’d laid still in bed, and the noises had eventually stopped.

    “Ho, ho!” we laughed. “The house is haunted!” And we thought nothing more of it.

    A few weeks later it was my grandmother’s turn. She awoke to hear a hellish commotion without, and quietly and confidently began to pray. The sounds abated, and she went back to sleep.

    This worried us, because my grandmother is 88. Nobody in our household would play a trick like this on her. Then a few days later my mother heard noises from the attic, noises which sounded like large bags of potatoes being dumped onto the floor. Or bodies, I morbidly suggested. Nobody laughed.

    One day she mentioned these noises to the owner’s mother when she came by to inspect a problem. “Oh yes,” she confided. “My son would often hear somebody following him up the stairs at night when he came home alone. The house is haunted. If you listen, you can sometimes hear somebody breathing in the dark.”

    My middle brother Nick broke up with his girlfriend, moved out, and decided to spend a week or two at my mother’s while searching for a new apartment. He works out a lot, sky dives, runs triathlons, and out of the three of us has always been the one most likely to get into trouble. “Nick,” I said, “If you hear noises, you’d better open that door and see what’s up.”

    “Don’t worry,” he said with a smile, “I’ll kick that sorry ghost’s ass.”

    Nothing happened for a week, and then one morning he came down looking very disturbed.

    “What happened?” I asked, assuming the best and the worst. “What did it look like?”

    “I didn’t open the door,” he said quietly. When I began to protest, he looked down at his plate. “It sounded awful. I pulled the covers over my head and stayed quiet till it stopped.”

    We all sat in silence after that. I couldn’t believe it.

    Nothing happened for roughly a month. We postulated theories, investigated the attic, did research online for murders that might have taken place decades before. Nothing. Could it be raccoons? A drunk neighbor with a key? Nothing seemed likely. I started getting nervous whenever I went upstairs to fetch something, looking carefully about myself as I walked about.

    Finally one morning my mother recounted the last time the house was disturbed in such manner. The noises had started up again, and this time they had been particularly bad. It sounded like the closet doors were going to be torn right off their hinges, like the boards would be split on the steps. My mother, who has seen her fair share of the world and been through more than most, decided that she had had enough. She stood up, belted on her robe, and strode up to her bedroom door. Without hesitating she yanked the door open, and all the noises immediately stopped. The landing was empty, the doors were all closed, there was no sign of any disturbance.

    “Enough,” she said. “This is no longer amusing. Go away and don’t come back.”

    And that was the last time anybody reported ever hearing anything in the house. We moved out six months later, and a couple is living there now. Occasionally when I go back to visit my family, I drive past our old street. And I think: have they heard anything? Has it come back?

  43. WEIRD TALES: magazine of the gothic, fantastic & bizarre » Blog Archive » Win The New Weird! says:

    [...] TALES fiction editor Ann VanderMeer’s new anthology, The New Weird, featuring stories by Clive Barker, China Miéville, M. John Harrison, Sarah Monette, Michael [...]

  44. Eric Grawe says:

    This happened to me when I was in college.

    One evening I was taking the “L” home from a late class (I live in Chicago) to my then neighborhood on the far North Side of the city. During the course of the half-hour trip I became keenly aware that I was looking at my own reflection in one of the darkened windows of the train car, only that there was no possible way it could be my reflection in the window. From where I was sitting my profile couldn’t be reflected at the angle it was in the window. I then noticed that the shirt on my supposed reflection was different from my own. During the course of the trip I watched, thinking that perhaps the individual whose reflection I was studying just looked a little like me and that his visage had been rendered almost exactly as mine through an optical illusion. We rode the train together until the last stop at Howard where we both got off. I alone and he with a young woman. I took a glance at him then just a few feet away as we left the “L” platform and was shocked to see that he might be my twin in just about every detail.

    He did not see me as he was engaged with his companion.

    I had a ten minute walk from the train to where I lived at the time and for every step he, my doppleganger I guess, was behind me though a little ways off with the slower pace of the young woman. It’s an uneasy feeling to be followed by yourself and strange thoughts went through my head as to my own sanity or my possible death and that I was a conscious ghost or something along those lines.

    Finally, I reached the door of my house and stood staring at the lock on my front door with the key shaking in my hands as I heard them go past with sidewalk behind me, halting for a moment and then continuing on up the block and out of sight.

    I’ve yet to see my double again. But other people have seen him here in Chicago. I believe his name is Matthew. At least that’s what people tell me.

  45. Sarah says:

    OK, I never told anyone this story because I am not the type of person to believe stories like this. I am of the “Science will explain this” school of thought.
    I had just moved to LA with my partner after graduating college. Neither of us had a job yet, our apartment had no electricity, and our bed broke in the move so we were lying on a mattress on the floor. I had a lingering sense of dread all week but I ascribed it to all the big changes in my life. I awoke to a phone call–caller ID showed that it was my close friend’s father’s cell phone. He broke down into tears on the phone, telling me that my friend had died suddenly of pneumonia. I broke down as well. I couldn’t think of anything to say.
    I spent most of the day around the apartment, crying surrounded by cardboard boxes. Eventually our electricity was turned on. At some point someone called to offer me a job and I took it. At dinner time my partner dragged me out of the house, telling me that I could lay around crying forever. She said my friend would want us to celebrate her life that night. It was a chilly, clear and still night. We were seated at a covered, walled-in patio with two gigantic martinis. My partner urged me to have a toast. I didn’t want to cry in the restaurant so I sat quietly with my drink raised, staring at the table. “This drink is for our Emma Rose, a true friend” she began-
    And even though we were on a walled-in patio, a gust of wind blew up out of nowhere. The wind was so strong that it blew the silverware off the table and onto the ground. The other diners looked up in confusion at the sound of the falling cutlery. No one else’s napkin was even ruffled.
    I won’t tell you that I had many happy visitations from the ghost of my friend after that occasion, because this was the only time I ever brushed up against the weird.

  46. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Some great stuff here. Please keep it coming. Re whether you can submit something you’ve already posted to your blog–yes, sure. You just have to post it here, too.

    JV

  47. Avi Abrams says:

    River Terror, Soviet Russia style.

    While still in college, my buddy and I went kayaking on a remote Siberian river (this was before perestroika and Gorbachev)

    We were quite wide-eyed and naive at the time, and did not really know what to expect. There were three of us at first, but the other guy decided to head home after we ran out of our food supplies and had to revert to whatever we could find in the local village stores – stale bricks of rye bread, vodka and garlic (the only things they sell, and even then in dire shortage)

    We paddled for days, surrounded by complete wilderness. The only signs of civilization we noticed then was an empty can of Coca-Cola (not available in Russian stores whatsoever at the time) lying in the middle of a pristine boreal forest – we had no idea how it got there, could’ve got thrown out from an airplane, I suppose.

    So one unnaturally quiet evening we were perfunctorily paddling along one such boring stretch, with only high forest along both sides of river, and traces of alcohol and garlic in our clouded minds.

    Suddenly… we something sticking out of the water, probably a half-submerged log – but eerily resembling a human hand, with fingers and all.

    Slightly spooked, we decided to investigate. My pal also remembered that there are some former GULAG prisons in the area, still open for business – and losing inmates sometimes.

    We paddled closer, and sure enough, it was a pale human arm, drifting down the still waters, angrily sticking its fingers to the sky, as though intent on clutching it, and anybody who would dare to approach.

    Well, my friend proved to be either utterly drunk or just incredibly curious, but he began to poke the sinister thing with his oar. I just decided not to look. In the gathering dusk I could only see the dark outlines of trees and a deathly-still mirror of water.

    He said… “could be one of the escaped inmates… wait… he’s full of holes…”

    As it turned out, this was a shooting-gallery mannequin from one of the prisons nearby, a plastic doll thrown into the river after extensive use.

    Somehow, it seemed a fitting conclusion to our daredevil “conquest” of Siberia, a haunting wilderness with a dreadful history, most of which lies deep underwater, with only a ghastly hand sticking out to grab you.

  48. banzai cat says:

    For those who don’t know, Baguio is a small city situated on a plateau in the middle of the mountains of Benguet. Because of its height, the city is an ideal place for vacation during summer. It’s a beautiful place: pine trees can survive in my country there and flowers bloom all year ’round because of the cool temperature.

    Likewise, any city has its own share of ghosts and spirits but Baguio seems to be well-known for them moreso since the Hyatt Hotel collapsed in the 1990 quake and killed 1,300 people. I suppose the primeval appearance of the pine tree forests, combined with the late night mists, make Baguio a choice spot for hauntings– and haunted imaginings.

    Among my friends who went up to Baguio with me several years ago was (Jester). It was on our second night in Baguio that I found out (Jester) has a kind of “second sight”, which was a surprise as he never struck me as a “spiritual” kind of guy. And well, it’s one thing to know a friend can see ghosts. But to actually see him do it…

    After an an incident that early evening involving a fun yet jumpy visit to the Baguio Mansion–another weird story too long to mention here and which I wasn’t present at that time anyway– (Jester) seemed a little nervous when we all trooped back up to the condo where we were staying. For the evening, we decided to hang out and watch TV in the condo’s living room.

    It was only then I confirmed that (Jester) was acting right strangely when he asked if anyone was upstairs despite everyone being right there with him. Later on, I surreptitiously saw (Jester) was looking around the unit from the corner of his eyes. And when I checked to see what he was looking at, I noticed his gaze always kept returning to the top of the stairs, which was in front of us.

    (Jester) didn’t know I was looking at him. It was a weird feeling: if he was just pulling our leg about the “second sight”, he wouldn’t have known I was observing him at that time. But looking at him at that time, I thought he really looked like he was seeing something at the top of the stairs.

    Was it a ghost? I’m still a bit of a skeptic to really believe in that, preferring to trust my own senses. Still, the feeling that these invisible spirits are around you unknowingly has inspired a lot of my own short stories.

  49. Jon Skovron says:

    My seventh grade teacher’s name was Ms. Stranges. She was tall, slim, and the youngest teacher in the school. She had long blond hair, pale freckles, and an awe-inspiring grasp of MS-DOS. In my own nerdy, hormone-crazed pre-teen way, I was totally in love with her. I think we all were, to some extent.

    Until she told us about the grapefruit baby.

    I can’t remember exactly how it came up. I think it may have been one of the jocks in our class (a Polo-wearing soccer player who fancied himself a charmer) who asked her why she didn’t have any kids and if that meant that her commitment to her husband was somewhat tentative. You can get away with a lot in a small Catholic school, as long as your teacher wasn’t a priest or a nun.

    “I did have a baby” said Ms. Stranges. “Sort of.”

    The doctor thought she might have cancer because there was an unknown mass in her ovaries. But what they found during surgery was a mass of embryonic flesh about the size of a grapefruit. It had sparse hair and a single tooth. The doctor theorized that she had gotten pregnant, then miscarried, but the foetus had somehow reattached itself to the uterus, where it was able to absorb some small amount of nutrients. They had no way of knowing how long it had been there, but his guess was close to a year.

    “Because,” said Ms. Stranges, “it takes a while to grow a tooth.”

    Twenty-four pre-teen boys and eight pre-teen girls sat in complete silence as we tried to process this information.

    “Weird, huh?” she said. “Okay, everyone take out your History books and open to page two-sixteen.”

    I have no idea if what she said was true. Like I said, you can get away with a lot in a small Catholic school. But the part I know for sure is that I never had a crush on another teacher after that.

  50. Daneel Lynn says:

    This is a true story of mine. Each time I tell this to friends, they always laugh at me and consider that I think too much.

    It was 2003, I just started my study for MA degree in the United Kingdom. As an unwealthy foreign student, I had to seek for some places to buy cheaper food. One day, I walked in the downtown and found a store named “Exotic Fruits.” As a matter of fact, the fruits in the store were far from “exotic;” I didn’t see any buddha’s heads (custard apples), bellfruits (wax apples), lychees, or anything I couldn’t tell apart, let alone really weird ones such as cubic seedless watermelons. Anyway, I still bought six bananas, whose yellow skins looked smooth and beautiful, whose fragrance smelled delicious, but they were nonetheless the commonest fruits in this not so exotic store.

    Just before paying the money, I noticed something a little bit strange. The shopman reached his hand over the bananas and seemed to chant some words I couldn’t understand.

    Back to my dorm room, I took one banana and would like to enjoy it while studying on my assigned reading. As I pulled down the skin, I was shocked. Although the skin was as beautiful as before, the flesh was completely rotten! Some parts of the flesh even crumbled upon the floor. It was even more amazing that the reading stuff I was studying was the ending of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar.” I checked the other bananas, the results were the same.

    In the early morning of the next day, I walked past the same store and saw the workers bringing in new stocks of fruits. The gestures of the clerk looked like performing some ceremony right before each box moved into the store. I could not help but think about the story I just read and consider that he was mesmerizing the fruits. But, how could the fruits be mesmerized?

    I told this experience to my professor and classmates during the next seminar, they were as amazed as myself.

    I still could not find out the answer until last month after reading Cat & Jeff’s “The Surgeon’s Tale.” In such a world where magic seems almost dead and science has ascended for several centuries, the skill of mesmerizing items could be one of the arts of Preservationists.

  51. Aja says:

    I know this is a true story, because it’s my true story. And it happened more than a few years ago, but it’s new in the telling.
    _____

    When I was thirteen, I was in love with Jesus and Jars of Clay, and my new youth minister and his wife moved into the parsonage next door, along with their two poodles and their strange, fascinating tales of battling cults and going immortal combat on the supernatural antagonists lurking all around us.

    The youth minister didn’t last long at my small Baptist church in the wildwood. But what an impression he made: in two months, he managed to confiscate my cousin’s AC/DC collection, hypnotize us with the story of the demon who followed him home from K-Mart, and challenge all the kids to identify the Unforgivable Sin – while warning us to be extra-careful not to commit it while we trying to figure out what it was.

    He was also singlehandedly responsible for the most terrifying dream I’ve ever had.

    I had skipped Wednesday night bible study one week shortly after he came, and I felt a guilty little thrill of disobedience. Before the new youth minister, Wednesday night bible studies were just a minor nuisance; but now, we were to understand that the fires of hell awaited us, complete with dark lurking monsters in the shadows, if we got careless and didn’t outfit ourselves regularly with the armor of God every chance we got. That Wednesday night, I crawled in bed and lay awake wondering if there really were demons outside my window, like the ones that our youth minister could see and here and expel.

    I fell asleep thinking about demons. Then I dreamed.

    I dreamed I was walking down a long hallway. The walls were painted bright orange-red and the house was old, like our farmhouse. The rooms were bare and the whole house was empty, except for a light from the room off to the right, just up ahead of me.

    I could hear someone crying softly from inside that room, a muffled, terrified sound. I didn’t want to go in that room. But there didn’t seem to be anywhere to go that wasn’t straight ahead; so like every doomed protagonist, I kept walking, pushed forward by the insatiable nightmare force of dreams.

    I opened the door. It was a bedroom. There was a bed but no other furniture, except for a red guitar on a stand in the corner. Sitting in front of the bed was a boy with black hair and freckles. He was dressed in a t-shirt and jeans, and his eyes were black, solid black, like his hair.

    He looked up at me, and he said: “Help me.”

    “I rebuke you, I bind you, and I cast you out,” I said. They were words I had gotten from a Frank Peretti novel, and words my youth minister had told us we could use. They were safe.

    Except that they didn’t work.

    “Help me,” the boy said again, and he stood up and moved toward me. He held out his hand to me, and started to speak again, and I was suddenly filled with a deep, certain knowledge that the thing I was looking at wasn’t a boy at all, but something evil, something dark, something that wanted to trick me, and hurt me.

    “I’m sorry,” I said, and I turned and ran out of the room back into the hallway. Immediately, I woke up, completely terrified, chanting, “I rebuke you, I bind you, and I cast you out,” over and over again, biting my pillow and squeezing my eyes shut.

    I was fine when I got on the school bus the next morning. I sat next to Sarah, one of the few people in my class to whom I wasn’t distantly related by birth or marriage or scandal. “You weren’t at Bible Study last night,” she said. Her voice dropped low, like she too was afraid of it, the what-if-God-sends-us-to-hell part of it that was new to the both of us.

    “I had to go to dance class,” I lied, not wanting to tell her I had stayed away on purpose. Though it wasn’t as if a Baptist dancing was much better.

    “He told us…” she said, and she trailed off and stared at her Trapper Keeper. “He told us about his little brother.”

    I waited for the rest, and she told me.

    “He had to perform an exorcism,” she said solemnly. “His brother had been listening to heavy metal, and he started to worship the devil.”

    The youth minister had waited til his brother left the house, and exorcised the demons from his brother’s room. They’d broken his guitar. When his brother had come back, she said, “he’d spoken to them in tongues while they cast out the evil spirit.”

    I stared out the window.

    “It’s a good thing you didn’t go last night,” Sarah said. “He warned us that if we heard the story, we might have bad dreams.”

  52. Caitlin Powell says:

    I’ve never had any experiences with the supernatural before. But there was one experience that stuck in my mind as being particularly odd.

    One morning, when I was about fifteen, I woke up rather groggily and put on my glasses. I noticed my hands were covered with a brown substance, which I thought was very odd. I went to the bathroom to wash my hands, and saw with amazement that the space between my nose and upper lip was covered in dried blood, apparently from a bloody nose I’d had during the night.

    But how did I get the blood all over my hands?

    Curiouser and curiouser, however, was that when I checked my pillow, there was only a single drop of blood on it. That was it. I had no recollection of the bloody nose, or waking at all during the night, but apparently, I’d had enough sense to use my hands to stop the blood from getting on anything while I was sleeping. I found it bizarre.

  53. B.G. says:

    I was sitting beside a window in a coffee shop of the old student union when I noticed a yellow-jacket crawling along the windowsill. Seeing its slender black and yellow body and its big black eyes, I recalled the story my father had told me of how he had been stung by a swarm of yellow-jackets as a child. This one appeared to be alone, but still I worried. I imagined someone coming along after me and, distracted by her studies, reaching over and being stung by the wasp. Holding the book I was studying, I killed the yellow-jacket, its body crunching underneath the spine of the heavy volume. The thing sat there lifeless on the windowsill. It was dead.

    That night, I was ripped out of my sleep by a sharp pain. Whatever it was kept jabbing me. I rolled out of bed and turned on the light. A yellow-jacket was crawling on the sheets. Not thinking quickly enough, I killed it.

    I had never seen a yellow-jacket at the apartment before or since that night. I moved away. Since then I have been stung twice by a cousin of the yellow-jacket. That is, I hope, enough vengeance for their species. The yellow-jacket hasn’t come for me here. At least not yet.

  54. E.S. Anderson says:

    I was jostled awake by a hand on my shoulder. It was dim, as was I, and there was a dirty face distending and contracting in front of me. I had been watching poorly duplicated horror films with my friend at his grandmother’s house. Most of the titles were third generation foreign films; as such, we were left in the dark as to most of what we were watching. In drifting off in his grandmother’s chair, which was nicotine-stained and far too small, it seems that I came into contact with the VCR remote — pausing the image on the aforementioned face.

    As I had an early shift before my afternoon classes, my friend offered to bring me home. It felt good to leave his grandmother’s as it was cramped and stale. While I could breathe easier once outside, the night was starless which felt as oppressive as his grandmother’s house. So as to avoid the traffic lights, we drove down the one-way street behind our Public Library. The surrounding neighborhoods were rather neglected and most of the lamp posts were either burnt-out or shattered. The lone functioning street light for some ways was on the corner directly behind the Library.

    As we neared the corner, we noticed a figure beneath the streetlight but thought nothing of it. It was quite late, but some people keep odd hours. However, as the distance to the lighted tableau lessened — the details increased. Underneath the lamp post, centered within the yellowed light, a nude man sat in a chair — not a lawn chair, but rather a kitchen chair. His head was inclined forward with his chin down which cast his eyes as shadowed hollows. A mannequin, nondescript but weathered, was situated in such a manner as to suggest that it was fellating him. This was strange, but not unthinkable as our city is little more than taverns and churches. What unsettled us was as we passed him, his head turned with us — but we never saw his eyes as his head was still at a tilt. We only saw black pits and a slight grin.

  55. Divers Hands says:

    I appear to be breaking the rules by not having some supernatural element to this story, but I actually somehow feel this fits more into the spirit of things…

    I don’t sleep much. Never have. Call it insomnia, call it madness, call it years of amphetamine abuse. End result: I sleep very little. Which is why I walk at night. More in the winter than the summer to be honest. This is mostly because I like to be left alone to think and talk to myself while I walk, and – no matter how clear a night is in the winter – most people won’t bother braving the cold to enjoy it.

    I was in my second year at Ohio State (my fifth year of college at my third university) and I was out enjoying an exceptionally fine morning during Winter Break. It was a little after three in the morning, which meant that even the die-hard drinkers (strangely, I was not one of them that evening) had already moved indoors. I was making my way down Neil Avenue just before Victorian Village becomes the OSU Campus. As I was crossing 10th Avenue – the actual street that marks the beginning of the campus proper – a noise began. I still have no real way to describe it, even after learning what was causing it. It was something like the sounds you hear when the wind blows through those weird rock outcroppings in the badlands out West. This primal sort of empty, longing call. It still remains one of the most haunting and strangely beautiful sounds I have ever encountered. Deeply intrigued, I cut across Neil and continued down 10th heading in the direction I suspected the sound to be coming from.

    Half a block down 10th from Neil there is a bus stop for the campus shuttle. Directly across the street from this shelter is the entrance to a parking garage that services the local hospital – itself another hundred yards down from the bus stop. As I came abreast of the bus stop the noise amplified suddenly. Turning, I ended up looking directly into the toll gated entrance of the parking garage.

    And there was my source.

    A man, dressed in green hospital scrubs, a yellow and black scarf, and white tennis shoes was standing in the middle of the empty first floor of the parking garage playing a slide trombone. Not just playing, mind you, he was also doing this shuffling, hopping dance as he played and swinging the slide of the trombone up and down and back and forth. He was completely and totally absorbed with the sound he was producing.

    Not music. Sound. There was no real rythym. No discernable melody. There was just him playing; producing this hypnotic brilliant rise and fall of sound that echoed and bounced in the cavernous concrete structure of the parking garage to produce something that reverberated in my brain with all these images of ancient tribal rites and vast empty spaces. Completely mesmerized, and thinking to myself somewhere amidst the overwhelming awe how much I love the strangeness of college campuses, I sat down on the bus stop bench and just stared at this man, this exceptional bizarre man, producing something I don’t think I will ever successfully describe.

    And this is where the story gets weird.

    After about twenty minutes of watching this man play his trombone, I noticed the dog. It was sitting just outside the lowered stripey barrier of the parking garage and watching the musician as intently as I was. A moment later, I noticed another. And another. And another. All of these dogs, somewhere between six and ten, not entering the parking garage, not making a sound, just sitting around its entrance staring at the man playing the trombone. And then I noticed the cats. And then I noticed the racoons. There were probably twenty animals total (not counting myself) all watching this man play his trombone. The dogs were lined up outside the garage entrance; the cats were sitting on the low wall that runs between the support columns around the garage’s base – not as still as the dogs, though still pretty complacent for cats – and never looking away from the trombonist for long; and lastly about four racoons from who-knows-where sitting on their haunches, little paws held up before them, in a semi-circle on the grassy median between the parking garage sidewalk and 10th Ave.

    All of us just sat there and listened to this man play his wandering, lilting unmusic.

    Eventually, he stopped. Not a trailing off, or a long final note, or anything remotely noticeable happened to indicate he was coming to a conclusion. He just stopped in mid sound. And then he bowed. Not to me. I’m almost positive there was no way he could see me where I was sitting from his vantage. I’m not even sure if he was aware of his non-human audience. He just bowed, straightened, bowed once more, then tucked his trombone under his arm and walked deeper into the parking garage. The gathered animals just wandered away. Dogs sniffed at each other then ambled off, cats disappeared, the racoons ran into the bushes around the dentistry building. And I just sat there. Not quite sure what had happened.

    Ten minutes later, the trombone player emerged from the garage. No car, but he had gotten a long dark overcoat, a scarlet and grey OSU beanie, and a tan briefcase from somewhere. The trombone was carried casually over his shoulder like a baseball bat. He crossed the street and sat down next to me at the bus stop. He took a quick glance at me, and even though I was openly staring at him, he turned away without saying anything. A few minutes later the bus could be seen coming down the road. When it was at the corner I had started from, he suddenly turned to me and asked, “Doesn’t that hurt?”

    I should mention that when this story took place I had my labret pierced with a ring and a stud in the left side of my nose. A little taken aback, but used to the question I answered automatically, “No. It’s just like getting a shot. No worse.”

    The bus pulled up, the man stood up with his trombone and his briefcase, and turned towards me one last time. “People sure do strange things.” he told me with absolutely no trace of irony that I could detect.

    I saw him once more, about three months later walking across the Oval in the middle of the day. He was still carrying his trombone over his shoulder like it was some kind of sporting equipment.

  56. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Um, well, actually, I never expected so many supernatural elements. Weird, to me, doesn’t necessarily mean supernatural. There’s also funny-weird, silly-weird, and just strange encounters.

    Jeff

  57. Larry says:

    And then there’s the very mean-weird, but I don’t care to mock former students or co-workers in a story, as working with the mentally-disturbed has led to some rather odd conversations.

  58. David Wesley says:

    In June of 1971 I was sitting in my seventh grade language arts class and a friend of mine, named Frank, got into an argument with the teacher. Now, Frank was the son of another teacher in the same school (same as me) and was considered one of the “good kids” who never got in trouble. And the teacher was your prototypical school marm, a small, gray haired, little old lady who never had a cross word to say to anybody. So the whole class was a little bit in shock when the argument erupted and resulted in Frank walking defiantly down to the principal’s office. He had never been in any kind of trouble before (and nothing like it ever occurred again).

    But here’s the weird part. About two months earlier I picked up a how-to book on precognition which made the case that the way to predict the future was to practice predicting the future. So all I had to do was make predictions and see if they came true. I guess there was supposed to be some kind of psychic feedback mechanism in place; the more you did it, the better you would get. So, I promptly made a few predictions that had a snowballs chance in hell of happening, like “In two weeks I will have a million dollars” (I’m still waiting) and “Arlen will become Student Body President” (a goofball friend who never ran for anything) and lastly “Frank will be sent to the Principal’s office in June”.

    I never told anyone about it and never tried to make predictions again because avoiding the “freak” label in Junior High took way more precedence over some useless (but really cool) psychic ability.

  59. Larry says:

    I’m not going to count this as a submission, due to already having submitting one, but thinking on what I said above about school matters, there is one story that I want to share that perhaps is more “sublime” than “weird.” And since it happened a year ago coming up this Saturday and since I have a record of this (and I’ll note that the author mentioned here heard about this and we corresponded a bit) and I think some reading this might want to have something to smile about, here goes (copy/paste from the original writing):

    Today [February 16, 2007] is the last day of class before the students are out for three days next week (I am only out for Monday, however). It was also Spring Picture Day, so I didn’t plan much in the way of lessons, but boy was a life lesson given for me to present…and to witness.

    I have a sixth-grader that has autism in my third period class. His name is Nicky. He is almost totally non-verbal, but is in my junior high world history class because of the need to expose him to other people on a continual basis. Yesterday, a boy in that class (not during the time I had them, but another class) had the nerve to mock Nicky and imitate his mannerisms. That boy was chewed out by the principal, the special ed teacher, and some of the students from other grades, leading to that boy being suspended for three days and then having to keep Nicky for three more days when he returns. A most fitting punishment.

    But yet that episode bothered me greatly. Although the other students are usually very protective of Nicky, I have seen them make fun of each other and of situations that they didn’t understand. And since it was indeed picture day and they might be called out at any moment, I decided to read them something.

    The day before, I had brought my copy of Seven Touches of Music [by Serbian author Zoran Živković] to school so Nicky’s aide could read the story. I still had the book there and I thought it would be most fitting to read to them the story about how one day a teacher for the autistic played some Chopin and a child had an epiphany. They were entranced the whole time. Even Nicky was (although to be fair, everything that I read/tell a story to the class, he stops what he is doing and listens with this look of absolute attention on his face). I finished about 5 minutes before the period was over. That was around the time that Nicky and his aide leave to go to the next class. Well, for the first time ever, Nicky of his own accord wanted to say something to me. He raised his right hand, and bent it up and down in the bye-bye gesture and then said “bye” to me – the first understandable words he had ever uttered to me.

    It was indeed an amazing moment. Funny how stories can forge connections with others, even those we think might be lost in such a cloud as that of autism. Thought some of you would enjoy reading this. Oh, and do go out and read Seven Touches of Music if you can.

    (There, a bit of the happy to go down well with all the treacly happenings today.)

  60. Neth says:

    Um, well, actually, I never expected so many supernatural elements. Weird, to me, doesn’t necessarily mean supernatural. There’s also funny-weird, silly-weird, and just strange encounters.

    I’m glad to hear this since my immediate reaction (and eventual entry) was weird/surreal time in my life that had no supernatural qualities whatsoever.

  61. Alex D M says:

    For all I know this could be a common phenomenon at boarding schools, but it struck me as rather weird: one of the boys’ boarding houses in the school has a phantom shitter. That is someone who, apparently for the laughs, takes a shit in the corridor and leaves the turd behind for people to find.

    That in itself is a bit weird (and a bit gross, too), except that the phantom shitter wasn’t just a one-person occurrence.

    Now, the school has five year-groups. I was there for just the last two (and, as a girl, wasn’t in that house). My friends who had been there through the whole five years said that phantom shitting was a long-term problem, it had been going on since their first year there. After I left the school, my brother started in the lowest year and is now in the penultimate year. There is still a phantom shitter. Not regularly, but every now and then the boys will be walking through the house and come across a turd sitting in the middle of the corridor.

    This means that, unless this person is a teacher or cleaner or some other member of the permanent staff, more than one student has been a phantom shitter.

    Also, the turd was apparently always solid, making it less likely to be caused by difficulties getting to the toilet in time.

    Perhaps the notion of a whole bunch of boys deciding to shit in the corridor isn’t that weird at all; perhaps I’m reading too much mystery into the bored minds of teenaged boys. But I wonder if it’s some kind of strange rite in that house (my brother claims to know nothing about it), or a ritual passed on from one boy to the other (I dread to think how). If it -is- a teacher, that’s a bit of weirdness in itself.

  62. Divers Hands says:

    Sorry to call into question the whole supernatural element thing. It was meant neither as an actual question or criticism, but more a tongue-in-cheek response to the general trend in the stories. I just find it interesting that in any discussion of the weird I encounter things always tend towards the supernatural. While I do not doubt the presence of extra normal strangeness in the world (excepting ghosts really; I mean, if there was a way to come back and bitch about things from the after life I am damn sure more than a few people would have done it, and across the two dozen or so centuries that humanity has been mostly cognizant of it’s awareness, at least one of them would have been more successful than managing to bump a few things around or harass random assholes in old houses…) I find that just wandering the everyday world brings an excellent array of just fucking neat weirdness.

    But then again, I’m the kind of guy who gives random strangers small plastic glow in the dark zombies – of which I keep at least a gross in my various pockets at any given time – to random strangers just to see if they get the joke.

    They generally don’t.

  63. Katherine Sparrow says:

    The party, four hours ago, had been super fun with swirling lights, fascinating people, and laughter bubbling up from the gin and tonics. People were crammed seven to a couch, or seizure dancing. The magical party feeling that anything might happen floated through the room.
    But time passed and people started getting sober, and thinking about work. Everything turned sour and a little nasty, and the music gave me a headache. The air smelled like stale popcorn and spilled beer, and all the people still around, maybe fifteen of us, were too tired to leave.
    Then it happened.
    There was dead space in between songs, and everyone, or at least the ones talking, said the same word at the same time.
    Light.
    Or maybe it was like/alike/delight, and other words that sound similar, but to some of us, we were sure, everyone said light.

  64. David Wesley says:

    OK, I reread the rules and saw that it was supposed to be something recent, so disregard my first post and enjoy this tale of an alien world.

    A very good friend of mine (let’s call him Bob) recently reconnected with his estranged sister (let’s call her Cindy). Cindy has two daughters, we’ll call them Denise and Erin, ages 27 and 18 respectively. Bob went to dinner with Cindy and her kids and learned that Cindy had been struggling to keep a job and was currently unemployed. And, with Erin close to turning 19, they were also about to lose a small amount of child support that was being garnished from the father’s wages. It was a sad but rather common tale, made more horrifying with the revelation that both Denise and Erin quit going to school in the ninth grade, didn’t know how to drive, and had never held a job. Their life consisted of watching TV and going online. Bob read the riot act to Cindy, and even more so to Denise and Erin. The most important point he drove home was that if anything should happen to Cindy, the next stop for Denise and Erin would be the local homeless shelter. He told them they both needed to get their drivers license, and then get a job. He offered to show them how to do it if they needed. They declined his help.

    A couple of months later, Bob received a frantic call from Denise and Erin, who told him that the EMT’s had just taken Cindy to the hospital, with what appeared to be a stroke. He immediately drove out to their home to pick them up and brought them to the hospital where they were told that the stroke was massive, and if Cindy survived she would require a high degree of care for the rest of her life.

    Bob drove his nieces back to their house early in the morning. They lived in a single-wide mobile home, in a mobile home “park” out in the middle of nowhere, in which each home sat in the middle of a one acre lot. He’d never been inside their home before. When his nieces opened the door and walked in, he had to hold back for a moment because of the overwhelming stench that sent him gagging. He finally entered the home and found the place was overrun with cats. He saw that nearly every square inch of the floor, and all but a two foot strip of kitchen counter was covered in cat feces. But, the main stench was the ammonia smell emanating from cat urine that had soaked into everything. He asked his nieces if the EMTs came inside the house, or had the two of them dragged their mother outside. They confirmed that the EMTs had come inside and one had also yelled at them about the condition of the house, and said he was going to call the Sheriff’s department. Bob asked if the Sherriff had come out, and they said yes, but it was okay, because they hid out behind the neighbor’s house until he left.

    Bob knew the sheriff would be back, probably sometime that morning, and the place would be condemned. He told Denise and Erin that their life as they knew it had just ended. They were going to come live with him. He would help them become self sufficient so they could find there own place and learn to take care of their mother when she got out of the hospital. They objected because they wanted to stay in their own home. And this was a home where the bathtubs were completely filled with cat feces and urine. His nieces had been cleaning themselves with the occasional sponge bath once or so a week, usually at the same time they would hand wash their one and only set of clothes in the sink. The only household appliance that still worked in the house was the refrigerator. The ammonia from the cat urine was so saturated in the air that it had been condensing out on anything that was warm. So the lights, TV, computers, all had gooey streaks of slime that was disgusting to touch and horrible to smell. When the Sheriff finally came around with orders to vacate, accompanied by righteous indignation at the depravity of conditions, Bob did they only thing he could do at that point. He apologized. Then he apologized again.

    And then Bob set to the task of cleaning up the mess. The first step was to capture all of the cats. He thought about calling the humane society, but knew it would become one of those “Crazy cat lady” stories on the news, and that wouldn’t benefit anyone in this situation. So, he set about capturing the cats one at a time. The eventual number captured was over sixty. To capture the cats, he wore thick leather gloves, but he got bitten through them a number of times and received multiple deep scratches on the arms as well. The worst cat of the bunch actually left four of its nails embedded in his arm before he could get it locked in the cage. As he picked the claws out of his skin and placed them on a counter, Erin asked “Do you want me to make a necklace out of those for you?”

    The cats had also destroyed every piece of furniture and cabinetry in the house. They had scratched holes into the cabinets so they could jump in from the end and walk all the way to the other end passing through from cabinet to cabinet. One set of cabinets was a few feet from the others, but cats would jump from the scratched out hole of one to the scratched out hole of the other, flying across at head level. Some of the more evasive cats had to be captured by grabbing them in mid-air as they jumped. And every couch and chair and bed had cats living in it. When Bob turned his sister’s bedsprings over, ten cats crawled out.

    When they cleared a particular piece of furniture of cats, they couldn’t leave it there or it would become repopulated again. And the furniture also added to the overall stench of the place, so they would haul it out the front door and dump it in the yard. Eventually, Bob realized that the pile in the yard was growing too large and the stench was beginning to bother the neighbors, so he called to have it picked up. When the men in the garbage truck arrived, he paid them and then apologized profusely for what they were about to endure. They assured him, that they were experienced garbage men and there was nothing they hadn’t already seen or smelled. Bob watched them loading the truck from a distance, and wasn’t surprised when about half way through; both men ran to the side and puked.

    After going through the process of capturing the cats, Bob realized that nothing in the house was salvageable. Everything was either completely destroyed or covered with the condensed slimy smelly residue of cat urine/ammonia. The mortgage holder eventually agreed and burned everything in place. But, Denise and Erin begged to keep their computers, their portal to the world, their very life. Bob finally agreed to a compromise. He would take only the hard drives from the computers leaving everything else, and he would purchase a single computer for both of them and put in a removable hard drive bay. When he tried to extract the hard drives, he opened the slimed case to discover that the entire inside of the computer casing was one giant hairball. He had to dig out the hair to find the hard drive in both computers. When he got them back home he had to leave the hard drives in his garage for several days so the embedded stench could dissipate before bringing them inside.

    Bob is helping Denise and Erin reintegrate into society. The first step was to get a picture ID. But post 9/11, adults who have never had a picture ID before and never been employed, require extra signatures on paperwork and a visit to a state investigator a couple of hours away in order to prove identity. The next step is to learn to drive and then make a plan for the future. Bob already had them take the test for their GED. They both passed easily. Denise’s scores were so good that she was told to show her GED scores when she applies to college. And, Bob is encouraging them to take college classes, as long as it directly relates to a chosen career field or immediate job skills. Denise wanted to take a class in Japanese because it would be “fun”. Bob told her they’re not going to be doing “fun” for a while.

    So, progress is being made, but nothing is certain. Bob hopes that his nieces can reclaim a place in society and sees some progress, but at times it’s like trying to deal with aliens; you never quite know if you’re working from the same logic set. So, a couple of months after settling into Bob’s home, it wasn’t a complete surprise when Erin asked, “Can we get a cat?”

  65. Tim Wolfe says:

    I think the weirdest thing that can happen is the most common: our haphazard creation of the world we inhabit, out of the flimsy threads of reflex and senses. But we don’t tend to notice that habit, really, until the fantasy we place so much faith in tilts and jumbles with another reality.

    The college I went to was lucky enough to have around 1000 acres of forest, ponds, and marshes adjacent to the campus, criss-crossed with a maze of trails, that was a great way to get away from the occasional madness of academic life. I loved to explore new corners of those woods, in every season, reliving the kind of rambling I loved in my Vermont childhood. One fall day I was out for a long ramble, pursuing my favorite strategy of getting lost on a new trail and wandering a time before trying to figure out a way back.

    Oddly, my sense of direction seemed to be off. I would try to head the way that seemed it should to lead back to the main entry trail by Gull Pond, but I was getting nowhere — only farther and deeper into terrain completely unfamiliar to me. It was getting on in the afternoon, and I was starting to worry that I might be stuck trying to retrace my way in the dark.

    That was my state of mind, anyway, when I crossed another ridge and descended to find yet another t-junction, with both arms of the trail circling the edges of yet another pond. There must have been at least a dozen ponds in those woods, I think, and this was one more I’d never come across. Arbitrarily I turned left — that seemed closer to the way I wanted to go — wondering what I was going to do, and hoping there would be a trail that led the way I needed to go on the other side.

    There wasn’t. I was starting to get a little nervous; I like being lost, but I also like finding my way out.

    So I continued on around the pond. About 3/4 of the way around, the trail grew wider, muddier, and at once the world shuddered aside, two experiences overlaying themselves. I was at once lost far out in the woods where I’d never been — and I’d also almost completely circled Gull Pond, coming back along the muddy branch I usually never took. It was baffling, and just as I was realizing I’d been walking on familiar trails for at least ten minutes I also couldn’t believe that my former reality wasn’t, in fact, fact.

    Like realizing that argument you distinctly remember having with your spouse was really just a dream from two nights ago — the mind is confounded by these moments of many realities, when it is asked to accept that we do not actually exist in only one.

    But we can’t accept that. Not for long; our sanity requires simplicity. So I laughed at myself — silly mistake! — and went along to get dinner. But I can’t say I’ve ever lost that sense of how fragile our simplicity is.

  66. ann says:

    james foster’s story…terrifying.

  67. Jacob Krotzer says:

    Jake versus the Bat

    Jake and Brenda relaxed on the couch, watching TV while waiting for their dinner to finish cooking. Jake was tired and a little irritable after a long day of writing cover letters and applying for a new job. He wanted to do something but didn’t know what when he noticed movement out of the corner of his eye. A black shape, graceful and slow-moving, flew up the stairs from the lower-level, did a quick circle of the living room and shot back down the stairs. Virginia, Jake’s 17 pound fat cat was in hot pursuit. It was a bat, a big bat, Jake realized as he heard his wife screaming. She was trying to hide under a couch cushion.

    Moving swiftly, Jake leapt off the couch, moved to the door at the top of the stairs and slammed it shut. He hated bats, and all he could think of was the couple times, while he was a child, that his father had gone running from the room, screaming like a school girl, from a flying bat. He locked himself in the bathroom for 15 minutes, both times, leaving his wife and young sons in the house with the bat. Jake didn’t want to do that. Brenda was freaking out.

    “What are we going to do?” she asked in a panic. “We don’t have a net or anything.”

    “I don’t know,” replied Jake trying to think.

    “What are we going to do? What?” repeated Brenda, her voice raising an octave. “Should we go to our neighbors and ask if they have a net?”

    “Who the hell has a net?” responded Jake, trying to figure out exactly what planet his wife was from. He took his long-sleeve, flannel shirt off and began wrapping it around his head in a makeshift turban, evening using a loose sleeve to cover his mouth and nose. He felt like a dork.

    “Where’s my tennis racket?” Jake asked.

    “Downstairs.”

    “Crap. Well, give me something… a sheet, or… something.” Brenda disappeared upstairs as Jake grabbed a broom handle he had in the upstairs closet. His wife returned with a bath towel.

    “What am I supposed to with a towel?” asked Jake.

    “I don’t know,” replied Brenda.

    Jake wrapped one end of the purple towel around the end of the broom handle and stretched the other end away making a net-like, shield type thing. Jake sighed and made his way to the downstairs door. “Open the door for me.”

    “What are you going to do?” shrieked Brenda.

    “I don’t know. Get it somehow.” With that, Jake quickly slipped through the door and crouched on the top step investigating the bags and hats hanging on the hooks by his head. It was clear. “Close the door.”

    Jake quickly moved to the bottom of the five steps and quickly went to one knee, crouching. The ceiling was low down there, barely clearing Jake’s head, and he didn’t want that damn thing flying into him. He needed to stay low. Scanning around into the two rooms, he couldn’t see the miscreant bat. Crouch-sidling slowly, Jake moved into the downstairs bedroom. Mumford, Jake’s other fat cat, exploded out from under a clothes rack, nearly causing Jake to fall flat on his arse in surprise and fright. Dang cat!

    “Ah.” Jake had found his tennis racket. He didn’t know what he’d do with it in the close confines of the lower-level, but he liked the idea of having a weapon. Besides, what was a bat but a flying tennis ball really… yeah, it was just a flying ball and he could hit those out of the air.

    “Do you see it?” asked Brenda who was peering through a tiny crack of the door.

    “No, and close the door.”

    The bat wasn’t visible in the bedroom, so Jake decided to check the unfinished utility-room; maybe one of the cats would be looking at the bat. Still crouching, he moved silently into the utility room, and there it was, the bat. The thing was grasping at the small downstairs window, frantically trying to get out. The poor devil was more afraid than Jake, who happened to notice that both his cats where also cowering under a metal shelving unit. The irony of two fat cats being frightened by a flying rat wasn’t lost on Jake.

    Not wanting to break the window and not particularly wanting to kill the bat, Jake decided that the towel was his best bet. He had to catch it somehow because if he knocked the bat down behind the washer and dryer, he wasn’t going back there after it. Moving slowly, Jake dropped the tennis racket, and crept up to the washer, raising the towel toward the window. The bat was still scrabbling desperately at the window, seeking its freedom. BANG. Jake ran directly into the washer and tried to lunge the towel at the bat without any sort of grace.

    The bat launched itself into the air, flying within inches of Jake’s face. Jake quickly dropped to a crouch all the time swearing in his head. Jake hates bats. The creature flew out of the room, but without being able to go anywhere, swooped back toward the window, directly at Jake.

    Flailing the towel at the bat as he tried to turn to face it, Jake completely missed. The bat, trying to avoid the towel, ran directly into the chest of Jake, who let out a not so manly scream. He prefers to think of it as a battle-cry, thank you very much.

    The bat made another turn at a shorter distance, but this time Jake was ready for it. He swept the towel out from his body, holding it wide, catching the bat in mid-air. Jake swung so hard that the movement knocked him off balance, and he landed on his backside. Moving quickly, not knowing where the bat was… it could be on him… Jake jumped back into his crouch.

    The bat was in front of him. The mighty blow and knocked the bat into a door and stunned it. The pathetic creature was on its back, shaking and emitting a high-pitched squeal. Jake took pity on his foe and gently scooped it up in the towel. He went up to the main level of the house, carried the bat outside and released it into the grass across the driveway. Jake felt good.

    “Did you kill it?” asked Brenda.

    “No. I felt sorry for the little bugger,” replied Jake. “Hey, that little shit pissed in our towel.”

    The End

  68. Ven says:

    My weird story is more an ongoing series of co-incidences.

    My dad died in 2005. There were two main threads to his life. One, he was a musician in his native portugal until he was about 25, where he would sing and play portuguese, spanish and italian songs in various hotels and restaurants. The last 25 years he spent in England, where he met my Mum and had me, and worked on a farm. He started off as manual labor, waste shovelling, etc. He ended up taking it over after ten years and re-named it Rainbow’s End Farm. Painted big rainbows on everything, the side of the delivery vans, the sign at the gate to the farm and of course all over the egg cartons, jams etc that we sold at farmers markets across the country.

    So, latin music and rainbows.

    Since my Dad has passed away one or both of these things show up at low points in my life.

    Example 1 – my Dad died of asbestos poisoning, that sat in his body and bided it’s time for 30 years before deciding to attack the lining of his lungs. Net result of this is that it is classed as an unnatural death and required an inquest. My mother and I attended two weeks after he died, where we had to confirm details and answer questions for two hours regarding the ins and out of his illness. It was not fun. On the way home my Mom broke down. I didn’t think she was going to pull out of it until a rainbow appeared, over the road we were on, so that it appeared we could literally drive under it. There was no rain that we noticed that day. That was the first time.

    Example 2 – I moved to Chicago about 6 months ago. It was stressful, I am under a lot of pressure. There was one point where it seemed my wife was seriously considering leaving me and I was walking home, contemplating simply not going back and getting a flight back to England. On my way home I heard 3 songs that my dad used to sing. “The Girl From Ipanema” was being randomly sang by a fellow pedestrian. “La Bamba” was playing in a car that drove past me. And, a spanish version of “My Way” was playing in an apartment I walked past, which by the way, I swear I only ever heard my Dad sing and didn’t know a recorded version exists. (I’ve since googled it and there are two actually)

    That’s just two examples, there have been about 6 or 7 of these co-incidences so far.

    I do not believe in an afterlife in any shape way or form, even if I’m wrong I still can’t believe that our human consciousness can continue to exist. So on one level, when I think about it these things drive me absolutely nuts. When they happen though, I’m always at a low point where the comfort of them is more important and more tangible than my logic.

    I haven’t shared these incidents with anyone out of some fear that they will stop coming when I need them. Maybe it is simply a case of ‘buy a white car, see a white car everywhere’ or it’s just co-incidences caused by the strange entropic nature of our universe, or maybe I’m totally wrong and it is indeed caused by my Dads spirit or whatever. Whatever the cause, I hope they continue to turn up when I need them to give me strength and also to help keep my memory of him fresh in my mind.

  69. Spencer says:

    I linked to this earlier, but since we’re supposed to post the story here, this is “Night of the Living Crickets” – an entirely true story that occurred a few years ago:

    It is not an average day when a box with five hundred live crickets arrives at your doorstep. Even stranger would be a day when you are not only very excited about receiving a box of crickets, but a day when you are planning to bake one hundred chocolate-chip cookies with the crickets in them. But since I do not live an average life, all of this did indeed happen to me one frosty December day in eighth grade. Perhaps I should explain . . .

    I had ordered five hundred, one-half inch crickets for my science fair project that year. The purpose of my experiment was to instill people with an open mind toward entomophagy, or the eating of insects. In case you didn’t know, insects are an excellent source of protein and are eaten regularly in many other countries. To accomplish this goal, I had to make regular chocolate-chip cookies and “chocolate-chip chirpie (cricket) cookies” which people would sample and rate on a taste scale. I hypothesized that seventy-five percent or greater of people will rate a chocolate-chip cookie baked with crickets within a margin of three points on a ten point scale of taste as compared to a regular chocolate-chip cookie. I have long been interested in eating strange foods, and I even own a book with recipes involving insects. So I thought: Why not? It will certainly get me points for creativity. My mom deserves a lot of credit for letting me do the experiment in the first place, since I doubt that many other mothers would be brave (or foolish) enough to allow it.

    It was way below freezing the day the box came; ironically, the box proclaimed in bold letters: “Live Crickets. Keep Warm.” As soon as I got the box, I put it in the refrigerator until my dad got home so that he could help me with the baking process. When we opened the box, we had no idea of what lay ahead of us. We had expected the crickets to arrive in a smaller box within the package, but the crickets were right there in open egg cartons with a rotten potato and a heat pack that had gone cold. As soon as the crickets were exposed to room temperature air, they started to jump around. I had instructions that I found on the internet that told how to dry roast crickets, but I really had no idea what to do with the crickets in the meantime when they were threatening to jump out of the box and take up residence in the kitchen.

    As quickly as I could, I transferred the crickets to a lidded colander and shoved them in the freezer for fifteen minutes to slow down their metabolism. After that time was up, the crickets were rinsed to purge them of any dirt or nasty bits that might be left. The crickets had to be rigorously cleaned, or they might not be fit for human consumption. However, the rinsing only made the crickets friskier. Sticking the crickets in the freezer again only slowed them down a little; when I opened the colander, a few brave individuals tried to escape by jumping into the sink and onto the stove. By the way, seeing a mass of five hundred crickets squirming in a colander is not a pretty sight. My dad helped me throw the crickets on a cookie sheet and put them back in the freezer for fifteen more minutes. Luckily, after this time the crickets were frozen to the cookie sheet, and we could proceed with the dry roasting. I had expected this process to take only a few minutes, but it ended up taking forty-five minutes or until the crickets could be crushed with a spoon. Finally, the “undead” crickets were dead.

    I was up until midnight that night baking cricket cookies and normal chocolate-chip cookies, but the stars aligned in my favor and the next day was a snow day, so I could sleep in. On the following day, I took some of the cookies to school while my dad took some to his work. Volunteers couldn’t participate if they had allergies to shrimp, shellfish, dust, or chocolate, but there were a surprising amount of people who were willing to try the cookies. It was hilarious seeing people’s reactions to eating the cricket cookies–the crickets were very visible in and on top of the cookie, with about 5 crickets per cookie. Some people, like my grandma, were resolute in not sampling the cookies. Others rather liked the cricket cookie, saying that it tasted rather nutty, but you could tell that some students were doing it only for the extra credit that my teacher gave them for participating. My school principal even got into the act. He commented that it was a rather surreal day when his first task of the morning had been to help a student remove her tongue from the frozen flagpole and now he was being asked to sample a cookie with crickets in it! He was a good sport, though, and I even took a funny picture of him as he looked somewhat nauseated.

    The experiment was a topic of conversation at school and my dad’s workplace, so I got to enjoy the publicity and notoriety for days. When I went to the science fair, I had two judges who were actually interested in my experiment and enjoyed my presentation on entomophagy. I ended up receiving first place in the category of Behavioral and Social Sciences and a forty-five dollar check from the Rotary Club. I doubt that I will ever forget “the night of the living crickets,” and to this day there are people that I don’t even know who come up to me and say that they participated in the experiment. The title of my project sums it up best: “Crickets – They’re Not Just for Fishing Anymore!”

    Author’s Note: We never used that colander again.

  70. Sir Tessa says:

    This Is The Tale Of Harry Houdini, Who Died And Came Back As A River Fish In Malaysia

    Some time in early November last year, when I spent a brief week on the other side of the Equator, my father called me out into the paved laundry area of the house. There was a large polystyrene tube on the ground, with my uncle standing proudly over it.

    Look at this, he said.

    The fish was huge. Freaking huge. As long as my arm, and thicker too. Time and the river had coloured it a drab invisible brown. It barely fit in the tub, and sat idle on the bottom, clearly not much impressed with the situation.

    Caught it in the river, my uncle said.

    We used to catch these when we were kids, Dad said, they had teeth like this- and he imitated Tim the Sorcerer of Monty Python notoriety. I crouched down, but couldn’t see any sign of these giant fangs.

    The fish spasmed once, thumping the tub. How did you get it home?

    In the boot.

    My uncle drives a BMW. With leather upholstery and all the trimmings. I didn’t say anything.

    Going to eat it?

    Dad pulled a face. He wasn’t keen on eating what was pulled from the river.

    Again the fish rocked the tub. They put a folded deck chair over it, to keep it from jumping out. I peered at it through the cracks, and it ignored me.

    The next morning I wandered out to have another gander. The tub was as we’d left it, with the deck chair as a lid. I leaned down for a peek, and couldn’t make the fish out. Odd. On lifting the chair, I discovered that this was because there was no fish.

    Dad, where’s the fish?

    There, he gestured at the tub.

    No, it isn’t.

    It is.

    No, really, Dad, it isn’t.

    He came over and inspected the tub for himself. Significant lack of fish. He must have given it away, he said with disgust, to one of his mates. Yeah, he must have. Dad walked off shaking his head, muttering. Why? I don’t know, it wasn’t as though he wanted to eat the fish anyway. I went back inside, disappointed.

    Dad, being Dad, didn’t let it go. As more and more relatives spontaneously arrived for dinner, I heard him asking if my uncle had given them the fish. He asked my cousins and his other siblings, until at last my uncle came home.

    Did you give the fish away? Dad asked, almost before he was out of the car.

    No.

    I could practically hear the questions marks forming in their minds. Where, then, was the giant fucking fish? The deckchair didn’t have any gaps in it large enough for even the most acrobatic of goldfish to leap through, and it hadn’t been moved. It was sitting flush on the tub when I discovered the disappearance in the morning. Suddenly, everyone was involved. Looking in buckets and checking in random pots, as if the fish was hiding in the kitchen, in the tool box, in the pantry. Where was the fish?

    Then a cry; my aunt had found it. Out the front. In the drain.

    Eww.

    The tiled floor of the laundry slopes down into a gutter that runs out of the house into the drain, and presumably that is the path the fish took.

    Eww.

    I mean, ewwwwww. It’s the sort of drain that is deep and soupy. Opaque. Busy.

    They scooped it up in a bucket, flopped it on the tiled floor, and pointed a hose at it. It’s possible I was imagining it, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a fish so relieved to be out of water. The grit and muck and filth ran off it and across the floor in thick streams. The fish just lay there. It didn’t flail and gulp at the air. It let my uncle wash it till it was visibly clean, and went back in the tub without complaint. It didn’t glare so much this time. I think it was pretty traumatised by its stint in the drain.

    There, my uncle dried his hands. Fine. We’ll just change the water every day, clean it out. Good eating.

    You know, Dad said, our shit goes in that drain.

    A couple of weeks later, back on my side of the Equator, I asked Dad what the fate of the fish was. My uncle had changed the water as he’d said, but no one was game to eat a fish that had been in the drain, and eventually, they gave it back to the river.

    So, I ask you, how did the fish get out?

    (Posted here, with a picture of Houdini the fish itself.)

  71. Cassia Venn says:

    The Goat

    There had never been a goat on the table before that night. Likely there had never been a goat in the building before that night. At some time in the distant unknown past a goat may have been on that street in lower Manhattan, before men arrived to erect the tall stone structures that mimicked a goat’s usual preferred environment of precipitous mountaintops here on the banks of the glittering East River, but by this time the squat granite merchant-banks had grown and flourished just as the rounded tummies had grown on the well-fed men laboring within them. The stone idols of buildings with their eyes of shiny glass had now rooted themselves with a steady tenacious perseverance into the island soil of Manhattan like
    an odd form of kudzu. And there were no goats.

    There were men, though. The men entered the room in packs of three or four. Their walks marked who they were. It was a stamp which proclaimed “King of the Wall Street Jungle” every bit as clearly as a lion’s mane and roar defined him as king of his own sort of jungle territory. They moved together in pompous measured rhythms, slightly stiffened legs marching almost solidly, slowly . . . but not quite – just a bit softer like the pads on the feet of the big cats they were hitting the deep oriental carpets in a knowing grasp. The immaculately groomed hands were clasped together behind their backs, or, in the alternate acceptable choreography the arms were held firm, just bent ever-so-slightly close to the sides of the dense dark wool suits covering the flesh that was not goat, but man.

    The table in the room gleamed with glistening stems of wine and water glasses. It glowed with heavy silver of all shapes to lift foods from the table into waiting mouths. It twinkled with a delicate lilt of fine glossy china plates, all of this embracing and held within the ivory linen napkins and placemats, the color as ivory as elephant tusk laid stark on the cherry wood table.

    The men were drawn to the eyes of the stone idol when they entered the room. The windows looked down upon the grey river, the tiny yellow taxicabs and the moving crowds of people who resembled nothing more than dressed-up insects seeking sustenance. The men were becoming hungry. They bounced on the balls of their feet, murmuring in low voices, waiting for the moment when they would be beckoned to the table.

    That moment came when a small round man with a head like the butt of a gun walked into the room, darting his eyes here and there while walking briskly to the table where he threw down a pile of disheveled papers into a sprawling pile. His pride of men gathered round and sat, each in his anointed place.

    There was the barest moment of hesitation when the door opened with a rustling noise and what sounded like hushed giggles in the background. The trolley rolled in, the waiter’s head turned downward towards the brass and silver platter as it trundled towards the spacious round table. Behind him walked the chef with a solemn smile. The goat had arrived.

    The men turned slowly to look at the goat. The one who had asked that the goat be roasted looked pleased. He was thin, intense, and rarely hungry – but he was hungry for goat. Each of the others looked down at their hands, at the linen napkins, at the water shimmering in the glassware set before them. Their leader, bullet-head, spoke.

    “Cottage cheese” he barked. “Now. For everyone.”

    There had never been a goat on the table before that night, as the chef and waiter lifted the heavy silver tray onto the table. And as the roasted goat sat proudly on the table wearing its watercress necklace it watched the men from silenced eyes and well knew that likely, it would be the last.

  72. Anita Marie says:

    In our neighborhood was an abandoned farm house- it was so creepy that despite the fact it stood empty for several years no one busted the windows or snuck in and painted things on the walls.

    All around it seemed like a very good idea not to go in there.

    So of course I did- and this is what happened.

    http://anita64.wordpress.com/2007/06/04/an-abandoned-tale/

  73. GlenH says:

    Being young I have a distinct paucity of weird events to report. There’s the pair of child’s shoes that have been sitting on a windowsill at the University of Queensland for the past week – but I don’t have a story to go with them. The best I can do is tell you the story of my election campaign; Agro for president of the (S)tudent (R)epresentative (C)ouncil at Ferny Grove State High School.

    For those of you who live outside of Australia Agro was a hirsute puppet used by an Australian comedian. He frequently appeared on TV and despite or because of his frequent lewd remarks he was a favourite among children – to the point of being utilised in road safety campaigns.

    The idea of using him as an election candidate came when my friend told the story (for the second time) of a local government election where the community was so fed up with the standard of the candidates that they voted Agro in as their local member (probably an urban myth but please tell me if you know otherwise).

    So I put up several colourful A4 posters with a picture of Agro and the following message:

    AGRO FOR PRESIDENT OF SRC!!!
    Yes it’s true; due to poor placement, bad size and design of posters the previous campaign for school captain failed. However, like Bruce Flegg*, Agro can admit a mistake and take the blame. Unlike Bruce Flegg, Agro can bounce back.

    As you well know Agro is an experienced entertainer. Through his long and successful career he has developed many leadership qualities and in doing so has refined even the most famous words on successful management; Agro talks softly and gets his operator to carry the big stick.

    He is always punctual to meetings and is no stranger to negotiating the troubled political waters that permeate an organisation with a history as long and rich as the SRC’s. He is also the perfect chair. Despite complaints about the supposed “tasteless” or “adult” nature of some of his jokes Agro always knows how to play to his audience and is acknowledged as a vibrant puppet; a jester and a rogue.

    So I call on you to DEFY AUTHORITY, draw YOUR own box and vote for YOUR candidate. Vote 1 Agro.

    It was signed by Agro and his campaign director: Master Prudent.

    Someone who was running for president told me it was offensive – I still don’t know why she thought that.

    While many people told me that they had indeed drawn an extra box and voted for Agro (and I did so myself) there was, sadly, no official response. He didn’t even win the position of PR officer which was created specially for a girl who didn’t get any other SRC role but had desperately wanted a “leadership position”. But I’m not a sour loser.

  74. GlenH says:

    *A Queensland opposition leader who failed miserably in his attempt to dislodge the Government. He didn’t bounce back.

    (Sorry, this was meant to be in the first post.)

  75. J. T. Glover says:

    You’ve heard about houses that are bigger inside than out? I’m here to tell you that I’ve seen one from the inside, and that they are not safe.

    Back in 200-, I was living in Columbus, Ohio, and my girlfriend had just moved into a house on Neil Avenue. It was a small two story affair of wood and blue paint, just shabby enough to fit a graduate student’s budget. If I were writing a short story about this house, I would probably describe its exterior as innocuous.

    One rainy Saturday we decided on a whim to check out the attic, which we’d so far left alone. A little fumbling with the keyring and we were climbing the steep and narrow staircase. I heard a soft gasp as she got her first look. When I came up behind her and got my own first glimpse, I gasped too.

    You need to understand that the attic was impossible. Many tall men could have stood on each others’ shoulders and not reached the apex of the rafters. That great cold space was so large that we had to shout to be heard from opposite corners. Previous renters or owners had left boxes behind, and they held everything from stones to lampshades to plastic spiders.

    We paced the attic off multiple times, front to back and side to side, never getting the same measurement twice. The obvious parallels in fantasy floated through my mind, from snow-laden wardrobes to non-Euclidian temples.

    I’m a pragmatist, and so we took a rough average of our measurements and tried to check them against the inside of the house. And a funny thing happened. Because of the floor plan, there were no straight lines from one side of the house to the other, and we kept losing count when moving between rooms. Yes, we could have written things down, but we just didn’t think of it.

    We braved the rain and tried to walk the outside of the house, but with the bushes and sheds and fences, it wasn’t readily measurable. At that point we began to doubt our senses, we were cold and wet, and the impossible had lost its glamour. We were ready to warm ourselves up using the time-honored method of youthful couples everywhere, and I put it out of my mind for a time.

    There is another, more dramatic story I could tell you about the pests in that attic, but I’m running out of words. Would you believe that a squirrel could make a house shake, that it could fling boxes twenty or thirty feet? I wouldn’t if I were you. The exterminator smiled and told us it was just squirrels, and that we had probably forgotten the layout up there. It’s possible, I suppose. But all I could think of while he was reassuring us was that the attic was impossible, and that where there is one impossible thing, there may be more.

  76. James says:

    I just remembered another odd story. A few years back, I was living in this big, important country. You know, the really powerful kind, you’d almost say superpowerful. Anyhow, things seemed to be going well–most people had jobs and houses and crime was dropping–and people seemed to get complacent and thought that their biggest problem was that the president had been having sex with some Rubenesque girl instead of (or in addition to) his wife. So this other guy ran for office on character grounds, even though he used to drive around drunk and was apparently a former cocaine fiend, and his main qualification was being the son of a different president. The election turned out to be much closer than you’d think. I mean, don’t get me wrong, this new guy didn’t actually get as many votes as his opponent, but it turned out there was this rule that said votes in some states were more important than votes in other states, so it all came down to the results in this one peninsular state where there was a lot of confusion. A bunch of retirees got mixed up and checked the wrong box, and the paper ballots were hard to count, so they had to let the court decide how to figure it out. And the judges who’d been appointed by the new guy’s father and his friends were in the majority, so they picked the new guy.

    Things went along for a few months without going completely south, but then a gang of religious wackos stole some planes and crashed them into some of our biggest buildings and killed a bunch of people. It was horrible, and the new president promised to get the guys who’d done it, but then he sent the army to start a war in a completely different country and thousands more people died and it went on for years. Meanwhile, he used the war as an excuse to start spying on his own citizens, and the country’s bank account went dry, and he tried to distract everybody with a lot of lying and talk about gay people and steroids in sports, but there was a lot of discontent and arguing, as you can imagine. It came time for another election and the guy, who’d used his father’s influence to duck out of an earlier war without fighting, ran again, this time against a certified, beribboned war hero. And unbelievably, the draft dodger warmonger got more votes this time around and won again. There was some trouble with voting machines in Ohio to help explain it, but it was still pretty weird.

  77. TooScary123 says:

    Okay I’m sending this as my contest entry. It’s an email conversation I had last month. I know, I know it’s too long, but it would lose its bling-bling if I didn’t put it this way. You’ll see. I’ll pick it up with a conversation I was having about camping in the woods.

    I wrote:

    I just came back from bringing my nephew to school.

    I would have to get drunk…cause the trees won’t hold my attention for long unless I’m studying them, drawing them, or writing about them. And in between I’d need breaks. I’d feel too restless. On my second day I’d probably disappear into the woods by myself. I’d go and skim rocks by a lake, probably hoping to meet up with a lovely nymph of the woods, who would then proceed to take me to her lascivious elven grotto of sin. lol At night I’d be all scared…probably the most fun time…especially if you’re drunk. In reality if I actually saw a fairy nymph the dark would be the least of my worries. I’d be all perturbed and wondering if i was insane. lol Did I ever tell you i once seen ghosts…or what i imagined to be ghosts?

    My friend wrote:

    Yeah like you would see nymph fairies??? It’s probably one of your ‘special moments’ again very much like when you thought you were an astronaut or a cowboy!! LOL

    No you never told me that you saw a ghost…was this during one of your drunk fest or were you sober? I have never seen ghosts but I have heard them. I don’t think they like to be seen only in very special circumstances. I think they like to make noises to make people aware of something…Tell me your experience then I’ll share mine.

    I wrote back:

    Okay, I’ll write it. It’ll take me 30 min. Yes, that’s how long it is. Though only about 2 min. to read.

    She replied with:

    Well write the condensed version…

    Here’s what I wrote:

    Okay. In 1980 or 81 I went back home. I was about 8 or 9 years old. I would stay up late into the night listening to the adults talk. They would tell stories and some of them were frightening. I would get scared but i would always listen anyways!!! I remember always being that way. I would like watching scary movies nd then be all frightened at night. My parents told me that was no good, but I would do it anyways. the nights were a terror to me, so was the dark. I would like sleeping facing the wall so i wouldnt have to face the room i was in. one night after a spell of story telling I went to bed. My mom, together with my bro and sis slept in the same bed. i slept alone. My dad hadn’t gone to visit with us. My grandfather had just died also around that time. I woke up in the middle of the night and seen a strange man standing at the foot of the bed were my mom and siblings were sleeping. the room was pitch dark but he was shining. He was dressed in a yellowish suit and he wore a fedora hat. he had a moustache and he was smoking a cigar…all the time smiling. I hid under the covers and sweated and shook half way through the night until I fell asleep. the next night I told everyone but no one would believe me.
    the next night I also woke up and this time I saw shapes materializing in the room. Like half human and the other half blurry and misty, but shining like sparks. no one belived me again.
    the next night I thought I heard someone in the room. I peeked from my blanket and I saw a huge man kneeling by where my head was, inbetween my bed and my moms bed. he was just staring at me and smiling. He was huge. He shone and I think he wore a purple shirt.
    the next night I couldn’t take it anymore so finally my grandmother decided to sleep with me. I slept in her room.
    I didn’t see anything for awhile until one day…now it was day time …in the morning…I woke up and realized my grandmother was gone. I looked up and seen my whole family staring at me…only I could hear them in the other room. it wasn’t them!!! She never left me alone again.
    When we finally left and came back here I had one last encounter. I was sleeping in my bunk bed…it faced the outside passageway. I woke up and seen a man walk down the passageway and into my room!!! He shone and was so tall he had to bend his head a little to walk through the open passageway of the door to my room. since then I’ve always slept with the door closed.
    I never seen anything again…thank God. As you can see, my childhood nights were full of terror. I never got over the fear and hated the dark and night until I was in my teens.
    I think it happened because of a combination of things. My fear, my listening to perturbing stuff and my imagination. though I was a kid…I didn’t know that then. They were real…if probably only in my head. The fear is undescribable. I used to sweat and shake like you can’t imagine. Well, that’s it. That’s the condensced version.

    Her story:

    I understand completely. I felt that kind of fear but I was in my teens in fact this happened when I had just switched schools and I started at the new highschool. My mom was renting an old house off of Wilson and Weston Rd area. It was a very old part of North York. Now these homes are very old and my room had a vaulted ceiling and my mom’s was so low that you can touch the ceiling. Very interesting architecture. We liked the homes because they were different in structure and for the most part it was very cozy. Anyway I use to tell my mom that I didn’t feel comfortable being by myself in the house. I was the last one to leave in the morning and of course every time I would have a shower I was home alone. It was a very creepy feeling. Beyond creepy like someone was watching me and I always heard noises. Anyway my mom didn’t think anything of it and she told me that it was my imagination. Ok well… one night we were all downstairs watching tv and all of the sudden we heard crashing noises upstairs…my mom goes running upstairs and she screamed and came back downstairs. She was pale. So guess what happened? The chairs in her room were dancing around the room and crashing each other as they slid across the floor. They would do this every night to the point we couldn’t take it anymore so we had to sleep downstairs. My mom said we would stay in the house until we can contact the owner and find out what’s going on…my mom is brave. So she use to open the bible and we would all pray because her theory is that someone died in that room and it was probably a pretty disturbing circumstance and so someone is trying to get rid of us. I believe her theory. I think she was right. So we stayed and we all slept downstairs in the living room for a few months. The noise continued and it was only at a particular time so we got use to it and I made sure to shower in the early morning. We contacted the owner and we found out that someone was killed upstairs and to make matters worse there were people who lived there previously and use to practice witch craft. Probably the reason why that ‘someone’ is trying to get rid of us. So eventually we left. The owner said he would have to destroy the house which I think he ended up doing…

    I wrote:

    That’s creepy stuff. I’m spooked! I’m home alone!!!! Did you ever see the chairs moving? How loud did they sound? What’s your theory on it?

    This makes for a haunting short story. Told the way we just told our story’s…with minimal of artifice…makes them sound more scary. More realistic and frightening. i’m spooked.

    She wrote:

    I did once. I had to I’m such a curious person. I want to know everything. Much like you I also use to listen in to adult conversations. I would never leave even if I was told to… The sound was very loud. Imagine yourself hitting two chairs constantly…

    Well I’ll end it there. Pretty weird stuff. And no we’re not crazy. At least I think so?? :) In private I can send the actual log of the emails, with dates and hours et all.

  78. João Ventura says:

    Jeff and Anne, greetings from Lisbon.

    Here is my weird story:

    A few years ago I was in Leeds, U.K., spending part of my sabbatical leave. One night I had the strangest dream I can remember.
    There was this room of people sitting around a table and talking. My wife, my son – although at the time he was a 5 year old boy, in the dream he appeared as a young man – and some of my friends were there. I was observing the group from the outside, not part of it. Suddenly I realized that they were talking about me as gone, I was dead! It was not any kind of “final judgement”, but rather the type of small talk that happens after a friend passes away.
    And I still remember, inside the dream, feeling deeply sorry because I was not anymore part of the “real” world where they were, a sense of loss about everything that had disappeared from (with) my life, and thinking “So that’s the way I’m going to be remembered…”
    Waking up in that small bedroom in a student’s Hall of Residence was a relief.
    But it took me a long time to go back to sleep.

  79. Sean says:

    I noticed that the majority of the stories here focus on the supernatural or frightening aspects of “weird,” but I wanted to convey how it can open doorways of the extraordinary in the ordinary. Jeff, I want to thank you for this contest. I recently hit a dry patch when it cam to my writing, and this provided the necessary impetus to get me going again. Without further ado, below is my true tale:

    It was a balmy July evening in Nurnberg, the darkness enveloping the city in comforting silence. Organized like a wheel, advertisements and signs lit the zentrum in fluorescent splendor. The concrete gods of the corporate world and the venerated relics of ancient times were prominently lit, creating a hybrid pantheon of civic genii. However, the further one strode out from the center of the wheel, the less one felt the encroachment of modernity, especially around the Old City. A multitude of travelers added a cosmopolitan atmosphere to the Old City, and filled it with a refreshing range of foreign tongues.

    After spending the past year and a half surrounded by Americans on a military facility, my friend and I relished the opportunity to wander the ancient city, and marvel at its amalgamation of medieval and modern architecture. We reveled in the muted lighting from the street lamps, allowing the shops and the buildings of the Old City to transport us to a bygone age. We joined in the pedestrian flow and allowed it to channel us into the heterogeneous melting pot of crowds.

    As we meandered through the streets, we came upon a cobblestone section of street, and decided to follow its course. It was at this point that I began to hear a haunting melody, one that scratched at the surface of my memories. At this far distance from vehicular traffic, I was able to hear the soothing music more distinctly. I could tell that it was coming from a woodwind instrument of some sort – something that I could identify as Latin American. Drawn on by this siren song, we continued forward, letting the music wash over us, until we came to its source.

    Seated before us was a group of Andean Indian performers, one of whom was playing a zamponera, the cause of the melody. They had positioned themselves on a bridge, and a steadily growing audience formed a semi-circular ring around this oasis of music. The musicians gave an ad-hoc, open-air concert in the heart of the city, acting as the nexus to a primal age. Those who stopped to listen were carried away by this indigenous American infusion into a modern German metropolis. A drum beat a rhythmic tattoo to the eerie sound of the zamponera, and singers lent their voices to the music’s spellcasting ability. Female apparitions flitted from one side of the crowd to the other, solemnly offering aspects of the music compressed into compact discs.

    The fascinating quality of the music was that it seemed to only affect the small minority that “heard” it. Most people were too caught up in their busy schedules of shopping or appointments to notice the phantasmagorical scene playing before their eyes. It was as if we in the audience had stumbled upon a secret treasure at the heart of this brick and mortar world. At first, the entire experience seemed extremely alien, but then I came to the realization, what better place than a concrete jungle?

  80. Lane says:

    Once a blank faced toddler, naked but for a diaper, threw a hatchet at me. Luckily he had the strength of your average two year old, so even tossing with both hands, the ax didn’t do much but stick in the mud a foot or so in front of him.

    That a homicidal toddler places second among “holy sh–!” recollections of that afternoon speaks to the size of the pig I saw.

    I was working at a day camp for underprivileged kids in rural Appalachia. This particular day was a sort of field trip; we were having a picnic at the home of one of the campers. Like most of the campers, Rachel lived deep in the woods, past paved roads. She also had indoor plumbing and electricity, which though also the norm, sadly wasn’t universal among the camp’s kids.

    “Wanna see a big pig?” She asked.

    “Sure,” I said. Who wouldn’t want to see a big pig?

    Rachel led everyone to her back yard. About twenty feet from the house the yard ended in a patchwork fence of sticks and logs and rough planks strung with chicken-wire. A shed, really just a roof and two rickety walls to make a corner, provided a break in the fence-line. A feed trough ran from the back wall to the fence, boxing in the swine to keep them on their side. On the other side of the fence pigs of various sizes ambled aimlessly or lay on their sides. The farm/zoo smell was significantly stronger than in the front yard.

    “Wow, that’s a big pig,” I said upon seeing the large sow in the shed. She must have been at least two hundred pounds.

    “Oh, that’s not that big,” said Rachel. The pigs close to the house were still somewhat domesticated. They were nothing. The big ones were in the woods. She pointed to the trees, which started about twenty yards from the fence line.

    I saw a glimpse of movement, then the biggest pig I had ever yet seen. It’s hard to say, especially since the distance surely threw off my sense of scale, but the thing must have been at least five or six feet long and three or four feet wide.

    “That’s a big pig,” I said.

    “Oh, that’s nothing,” Rachel said.

    “That one?” I asked, pointing to another pig that briefly walked into view. This one was definitely bigger and thicker. I could barely make out tusks jutting from its mouth.

    “No, that’s not it,” Rachel said.

    This went on for a bit. Finally, Rachel began to point excitedly.

    “That’s him!”

    This pig must have been the size of a Volkswagen. At least two rows of tusks lined his snout. Now, I have since read the stories and seen the pictures of Hogzilla, so I know this pig surely couldn’t have topped that monster; he had to be less than eight feet long. Like I said, my sense of scale may have been off, so I’m willing to downgrade and say the pig was the size of a Mini-Cooper.

    “Yeah, he gored and trampled my dad one time,” Rachel said nonchalantly. “Nearly killed him.”

    And then her naked little brother threw a hatchet at me. Okay, so I don’t remember when he actually threw the hatchet, but for dramatic effect, we’ll say he threw it just as I saw the Big Pig. Regardless of when he made his move though, the toddler was lurking all afternoon, hatchet clutched to his chest. He never made a sound and scurried away whenever someone tried to look at or talk to him.

    Think on that. In the mountains of the U.S., families live with giant feral pigs just out the back door. And in the backyard of those feral swine, half-naked feral children may be lurking with axes.

  81. Wilhem Vondergeist says:

    This one doesn’t count–it’s just for fun. I swear it’s true, though.

    A Kringle in Time

    A curious thing is a fairy. Throughout history there has been much debate and bloodshed over what constitutes a fairy, though it is a little known fact that the main determining factor in identifying a fairy creature from a human is in the manner that fairies expel gas. That is–how they fart.

    Allow me to explain. Some years back I was overseas finishing up my graduate studies when I came across a startling discovery. The university was home to a collection of ancient and obscure texts on subjects equally obscure and ancient. One evening as I leisurely passed my hands over a section of tattered leather-bound tomes, admiring the thick patina of dust that gave everything a dignified aspect proper to academia, my finger made contact with a peculiar volume, and I pulled it down. It was penned by the renowned 18th century ectoplasmologist Wilhem Vondergeist. With considerable excitement I began reading. Partway through the book I came to the following sentence, which translates to something like this:

    “The Sidhe, those airy Wights of Old, neither subtlety nor guile can betray them, save only the roseate Orbs that occasionally come fluttering forth from their Buttocks.”

    This sentence caused a sudden scurry of activity in my brain, and something in my mind shifted to the side and a forgotten memory peeped back at me. A memory from my boyhood. It was Christmas Eve, and everyone was fast asleep but me. I lay awake struggling with the temptation to sneak downstairs and eat the cookies we had left out for Santa. Finally I succumbed and began to slink toward the living room, but halfway down the stairs I froze. There–next to the fire place–stood Santa himself, all decked in red and white with his scarlet velvet bag. I gawked as Santa placed our gifts beneath the Christmas tree, turn and start shoveling the Oreo cookies into his mouth.

    Then, with cookie crumbs still ensconced in his beard, Santa gulped down the glass of milk in a single go. Then Santa belched, and I swear there came a sound like the jingle of little silver bells, and then Santa put his arm to his back and leaned back so that his belly bulged even more. He grunted and I could see he was going to fart and wondered with alarm whether it would cause the Christmas tree to wilt and my family and me to have to evacuate the house.

    But something strange happened then. Instead of the reverberating thunderclap I expected to hear, a pleasant sound tickled my ear.

    Blip.

    It was quite sonorous and resonated like a little chime.

    Blip.

    Blip. Blipblipblipblip.

    That is when I saw the bubbles. They weren’t exactly bubbles but it was the first word that jumped to mind. They appeared by Santa, several translucent spheres hovering near him, the size of large apples, with a slightly pink tinge. They seemed to come from his expansive butt, but my mind revolted then and reason had no meaning. Santa giggled and gave a furtive glance around, as if slightly embarrassed. Then, with a twinkle in his eye, he disappeared up the chimney.

    Somehow the memory got buried and only after reading that extraordinary passage by Wilhem Vondergeist those many years later did I make that monumental, stupendous deduction.

    Santa is a fairy.

    It explained everything. His longevity. His ability to fit down chimneys. Everything. Afterwards I dedicated my life to studying the fairy known as Christopher Kringle.

    For a full account of Christopher Kringle’s life, refer to my forthcoming work “Claus: A Biography,” scheduled for publication next month by Sugar Plum Press. In it, I’ve related many, many episodes of Santa’s life, like how he acquired his fairy bag, and how he used it to save an entire tribe of pygmy elves; how he was banished from his fairy home because of his excessive fondness for humans, and how he eventually settled in the North Pole and thereby survived the destruction of his fairy wood.

    Ironically, though, that for centuries the enigmatic fairy race has managed to elude human detection, yet the most famous fairy that ever existed is plastered on every Coca Cola can and in the heart of nearly every little boy and girl across the world.

  82. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    You crazy bastard, Wilhelm.

    JV

  83. chiles says:

    Crumbs. i really should look up more often. Hope this isn’t too late. Then again, it might as well be. i mean, looking back, it’s easy to see how dull my life has been compared to others. It might only be because of my subclinical autism, my difficulty with engaging with the external world, but here: i spent seven years in medical school, two years as a resident in pathology and the weirdest thing i ever experienced first hand was the ability of the human mind to deny reality. At the Philippine General Hospital and, i imagine, a lot of other provincial hospitals and places back home and around the world, this is actually pretty common: During my OB-GYN internship, i examined a girl, 18 yo or thereabouts, certainly no older, who was obviously term but wouldn’t believe she was pregnant. She told me she was the victim of kulam (witchcraft). She told me that, once, someone, a known mangkukulam (a kind of witch doctor) had put bees in her rectum. So i told her, if you believe that, don’t you think it’s just as possible someone could have put a baby inside you? This appeased her and she let me lead her into an examination cubicle. The baby, as far as i could tell, was doing rather well. It kicked; its heartbeat was strong, easy to find and so very definitely there.

    Her cervix was already beginning to dilate. For a first pregnancy this isn’t necessarily so alarming; labor can take forever. Labor had, however, definitely begun. i referred her to my resident for admission. i summarized the case for her and, as so often happens with physicians at PGH, her eyes immediately lit with righteous fury. Who’s the father?! she demanded; tell us who the father is, you can’t stay here unless you do! i suppose there were legal issues, something about her age as well, but i couldn’t believe my ears. Silly little humans, all of us. The girl got up, turned away from the examination table and put her underwear back on, muttering something about how ‘it couldn’t be’ because they’d been ‘standing up’ as my resident walked away still haranguing her. To be fair, it had been a long day and i could see the weariness on her shoulders, rimming her eyes, frizzing up her hair; we’d been seeing patients all day, the queues showed no signs of abating though they’d been cut-off an hour ago and this girl had already taken up too much of my time. The girl left.

    Later, checking the queues for our progress, i found her sitting outside with her mother. i made one last attempt to reason with her; she would not budge. She was still there when i went home; i imagine they would stay until something happened to force the hospital to admit her, whatever she said about the baby and witchcraft and it not having a father.

    Like i said, there’s nothing unique or unusual about this back home. i once walked by the admitting section when i was off duty to see my girlfriend at the time and saw another young woman walk naked, bleeding, out of the delivery room, through the admitting section to sit at the security desk and wait for her husband to come get her. Even on the table, in the process of giving birth, she would not believe she was pregnant. Some mothers refuse to acknowledge that the baby they’d just given birth to was theirs; i don’t know what they believe instead. That young woman sat there, her mind made up, sealed off hermetically from the reality of her baby suffocating in her womb as it waited to be born.

    i wonder what happens to those children? i’m sure if they’re lucky(?) enough to be born most mothers eventually come to their senses, but what would it be like to grow up knowing your own mother denied your very existence?

  84. Wilhem Vondergeist says:

    Really, Jeff. Such language.

    Think of the kittens.

  85. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Crazy bastard tends to be a compliment coming from me. The kittens have heard much worse, although perhaps not quite such an accompanying stench of b.s. ;)
    JV

  86. chiles says:

    M Wilhelm Vondergeist: hmm. you’ve put me in mind of the fact that maybe there was something else i could have talked about after all: on the way home yesterday, the open air common atrium leading to our lift lobby was filled with resilient bubbles of various hues that floated with what i thought to be a rather unusual lassitudinousness as though they couldn’t be bothered with riding the air currents (there was a decent yet not entirely immodest, certainly less than moderate, summery breeze wafting through the unwalled halls) and instead merely wished to saunter along. i’d assumed some kids were blowing soap bubbles from one of the upper storey windows and the chiming was from a set of those Chinese bell-charms many people hang on their doors here for luck. of course, at the time i had neither heard of nor read a whit of M Vondergeist’s treatise on fairy flatulence. thank you for sharing!

  87. Wilhem Vondergeist says:

    Oh hell, and all along I thought I was doing a good job with the verisimilitude thing.

    Curses.

  88. don says:

    Every other night, I make it a point to ride my bike and go around the neighborhood since we just moved only a month ago. Unlike any other neighborhood, ours has a lot of taverns and bars frequented by foreigners and tourists looking for “recreation”. So as usual, the nights flare up with neon signs and girls in skimpy clothing, even if the night wind from the sea (since this town of ours is by the sea) is cold. Since my first night roaming around the streets, there has always been a favourite of mine. This street has only three bars located around the block. Going past them, the rest of the street are neat suburban houses and a small hospital. I suspect that this hospital is still functional since I still see a security guard and some of the staff in it. I never saw any patient. Next to the hospital is an empty lot with a strange rectangular block in the middle. Scattered inside are faces, arms, bodies and heads of broken down statues weeping of dust and dirt.

    The small hospital is located in the middle of the street. I never followed the rest of the street because everytime I go past the empty lot, a sudden blast of cold wind interrupts the eerie silence. No footsteps, no creaking doors, no tires crunching the dirt. After the cold wind has died down, dogs around the neighborhood start howling. Mad, terrifyingly mad. I don’t know whether if they were warning me or one of the dogs just happened to see a robber or something.

    Last night, because I was a bit drunk, I decided to finally follow the rest of the street. I stopped my bike in front of the hospital and thought if it was really worth the risk. I didn’t think much of ghosts or apparitions but what if there were drunken bastards that would see me and just decide to beat me up into a pulp. I looked ahead and realised that the street was empty. There were only a few lights on. At the end of the street, the streetlamp flickered. I summoned enough guts to pedal on.

    For the first time, I went past the empty lot. Again, the sudden blast of cold wind. My heart is started to race. Hairs stood up. Part of me wants me to turn back but another part of me tried to convince me that I’m not a coward and that the supernatural is only consigned to books. I pedaled slowly and looked inside the lot. The faces of the statues stared blankly at me. Before I looked ahead, I saw a black speck went past across the statues. I didn’t hear anyone go past me or any flutter of wings. I thought that the light was just playing tricks on me.

    Past the last light before the end of the street, the dogs went howling again. A chill shot up my spine. I know I should turn back. But I went ahead and stopped under the flickering streetlamp. I looked back at the street. It was completely deserted, like I entered another dimension or something. I decided to head back home when the lamp flickered and a I saw a shadow at the corner of my eye, it disappered behind me and I felt and eerie coldness in my nape. I didn’t dare look back. I pedaled as fast as I could and closed my eyes when I went past the empty lot. The dogs were still howling mad.

    I went back home sweating profusely. My knees were shaking. I never dared to ask about that street lest I hear another urban legend about someone getting killed there or how that empty lot used to be a dumping ground of human bodies.

    I don’t know if I’ll go back to that street again. Maybe, when I have someone with me.

  89. R. Schuyler Devin says:

    It was difficult to decide what to write about; I have had so many experiences. I have lived the tragic and odd, the humorous and unsettling, the supernatural to mundane, but chose to write a silly reflection regarding an elderly woman and a game. I did not feel like being predictable. I did not want obsess over a cleverly and calculated narrative–attempting to channel the essence of the New Weird Anthology–I only wanted to express a bit of trivial nostalgia. To share something important–yet so very insignificance–that has been on my mind since my grandmothers death. So, here it is. Enjoy.

    Zelda: The Legend of Grandma

    I remember with great fondness the day I finally defeated Gannon in that 8bit dungeon. I was sweating profusely that summer day in the desert near Death Valley; symptomatic of the extreme heat and the urgency of victory. I had been issued a challenge by two of my friends: they could beat Zelda before I could. With confidence I accepted.
    Hour by hour and dungeon by dungeon I pressed on with an unhealthy dose of dubiousness and waning confidence. They were two, and I was one, how could I prevail? I remember standing in the kitchen, jumping up and down and yelling into the phone “I beat it, I won, I finished Zelda!”. With great pride I was first to make the victory call, to perform the first rite of childish boasting; proudly describing (and effectively spoiling) the ending to my friends. An hour later they called to announce their own languid victory; voices disquieted, egos quelled. I remember how happy I was in my unlikely triumph–a boy crowing to the world–celebrating my first victory. Now, many years later, I am aware that I did not make that victory alone. Through many of Zelda’s difficulties, my grandmother offered mysterious advice for locating hidden items and tactics for defeating unwieldy bosses.
    I had not thought about this for many years until I came across a hilarious senior gamer online named Old Grandma Hardcore (If you do not know her, just search the web). In an interview she mentioned that her gaming obsession started way back in the 80s with the first Zelda game: I was instantly floored. I was flooded with memories of my own grandmas advice and peculiar interest with the game. It is amazing to recall memories from your childhood and filter them with adult perceptions: we miss so much when we are kids! Back then, I did not even question my grandmothers expertise in guiding me through certain phases of the game nor did I question why there was a third used save-slot on my golden Zelda cartridge. Now, in my hunt for answers, a family member made the mystery clear when they told me of the countless midnight rendezvous Grandma had with Link on my NES. I think it is easy for us to profile and underestimate our elders, but with eyes open, we can discover the unexpected. I commemorate her as my own unsung Old Grandma Hardcore.

  90. Eric Stoveken says:

    On a recent trip through the dark heart of the Garden State, I was besieged by all manner of strange sights. We were taking I-78 around 3 in the morning after a night spent at the Dances of Vice Festival and my tired state was not helping matters. Acerbating the problem was a fog so dense that its periodic appearance would reduce visibility to 15 feet in the blink of a bleary eye.

    The road seemed to be prepping me for some sort of minor nervous breakdown, throwing bits of surrealism at me the way less vindictive roads might billboards or deer crossings. The first was the sight of a cascading fountain in the middle of the road. Looming up out of the foggy New Jersey night, was a ring of liquid arches shooting from some unseen point in the middle of the road. After nearly veering off the road in reaction to this absurdity, I saw the sign informing me of the interstate’s new automatic liquid de-icing system.

    15 miles short of the Pennsylvania state line, I was plowing through another bank of Hammer Films style fog when I saw a series of hunched over shadows creeping through the mist. It was coming up on 4 in the morning, I had been up for nearly 36 hours straight and my mind was in the habit of imposing all manner of narrative on the sights around me.

    At first I saw only one figure; it was not long enough to be a deer, two slow moving really to be any animal. It occurred to me that it was some idiot trying to cross a 65 mph highway in the middle of the night shrouded in the deepest fog I had seen in years. Soon that first shadow was joined by others There were about ten of them creeping across the road at a slow and deliberate pace which suggested some combination of stealth, ritual or decrepitude, while their rounded shape implied they were wearing some sort of cloaks.

    At that ridiculous time of night I became certain that the proverbial feces had gone down. The fat was in the fire and these strange refugees were mobilizing with a post-apocalyptic disregard for things like roadways and human life. They were traveling in packs, ready for anything. I crawled to a stop in the middle of I-78 running a silent inventory of the supplies in the car and weighing my options in this strange new troglodyte-filled world that had been wrought in the hour or so since we had left the city.

    Imagine my embarrassment when it finally comes clear to me, sitting there motionless in the left lane of a major interstate that I was simply looking at the shadows thrown by construction barrels in the lights of comparably confused (and now motionless) vehicle on the other side of the median strip.

  91. John Wills says:

    True story
    Yanko was a coworker of mine who emigrated from Bulgaria so that his son could go to school in America. One October evening he looked out the window and saw his neighbor across the street setting up a gravestone in the front yard. Considering the time of year we all can safely assume that his neighbor is putting up Halloween decorations. But Yanko has never heard of Halloween, there is no Halloween in Bulgaria so to Yanko this man has taken it on himself to bury his own. Is it to save money, is it the way we sometimes do things in America, he doesn’t know. He does know a gravestone when he sees one though. Yanko thinks to himself, ‘This poor man someone in his family has died’.
    Then he notices the shark toothed jack-o-lanterns on either side of the door, the cobwebs in the eves, the ghost dangling from the tree in the yard, and a scarecrow thing sitting in a lawn chair on the porch, wearing a hockey mask and holding a knife. Not to mention the man setting the headstone is acting almost suspiciously happy about his work. But he thinks this must be okay since no one else passing by is disturbed by it; one car even honks and waves getting a wave in return from his neighbor. Yanko shrugs thinking Americas deal well with grief and goes back to his business inside the house.
    The next morning when Yanko steps outside he glances over to his neighbor’s yard and is shocked. Something horrible happened in the night, three more headstones have joined the first. Yanko thinks, “Oh my God, his whole family.” A few minutes later he finds out about Halloween from local law enforcement on the phone.

  92. Bill Householder says:

    One thing you notice about Stretch is his beard. It’s huge. Alan Moore huge. Hagrid huge. I’d go so far as to say Mad Monk huge. The first thing you notice about Stretch is his straining against the brick column near the reference desk. The third thing you notice about him is that he is homeless. I work at the downtown library in a fairly metropolitan, Southern city. And like a lot of centralized libraries across the country, we have a fairly sizable homeless population. They vary in degrees of strangeness from mildly strange–talking to oneself–to dangerously so–one pulled a knife on a co-worker once. Stretch was in the mildly strange category; a harmless, homeless man who occasionally braced himself against a wall.

    He didn’t just jump up and start pushing on it, either, he had a ritual. He would stand before the support column, about the middle of the building, and stare up at it about halfway, then after a few seconds, he would thrust his hands forward and lean against the column with all his might. Then a few seconds later, he’d stop, relax and go back to the chair he’d been sitting in or leave the building entirely. This didn’t happen every day or even at the same time of day, but it did happen frequently enough that we all noticed. Most of my co-workers just took it in stride and considered him another casualty of a de-regulated mental health industry. I, on the other hand, just knew there had to be some better explanation for his behavior than that.

    One evening my wife and I were in what is termed the “Old City,” a gentrified part of downtown where many new bars and restaurants opened, replacing former industrial and dilapidated retail businesses. It was spring and we were sitting on the “patio” of a chicken wings joint, polishing off a plate of sweet and spicy, when I saw him. He was standing in front of a lamppost across the street from us, just staring at it. Then he leaned into it like he did the support column at work. I tapped my wife and pointed at him; she’d heard the stories. I told her that I was going to find out why he did that and, over my wife’s protests, I hopped over the wrought-iron fence around the patio and strode toward him. He just finished when I got up to him.

    “Excuse me, “ I said. He started then turned his shaggy self toward me. “I don’t mean to bother you, but I’ve seen you at the library doing what you just did to that lamppost and I’ve got to ask: why?”

    He looked at me for a few moments then cleared his throat.

    “Sometimes I see things about to fall, so I try to stop them.” And then he walked away. I told my wife that and she just called him crazy. Maybe he was, but then again maybe he was a seer or a prophet? To see something falling that isn’t, one might have to be a little crazy. All I know is that our 45 year-old building hasn’t crushed us, yet.

  93. B.M. Seeberger says:

    A local gem (once upon a time) near my home in Tianjin, China, is the Great Wall in Jixian County. I was traveling up there with a friend from my school on a small motorized pedicab, winding up and around mountainsides with faux Great Wall road barriers. The whole trip was pretty intimidating. It was winter, so the chill was freezing our fingers, and the small pedicab did not help, as it bumped and buzzed up the mountain road. The sky was a dismal gray, and as we made our way up into the hills, snow began to creep onto the roadside. We passed an alien-looking radio tower (a spire of steel and stone rising up, isolated on the top of a hill), then an abandoned ski resort with overgrown tufts of grass coming out of the earth. Finally, we rounded a corner and came to what was perhaps the strangest site: an entire city buried under a lake of ice. There were some men gathered on the roof of a house, holding various tools and stealing into the attic by breaking apart the beams. On the near shore and the far shore the city continued, tops of houses and buildings poking out of the ice. My friend tried to steady his camera, but because of the pedicab, our pictures were out-of-focus and sheered.

    The following summer I returned to the Great Wall again with a number of tourists. We passed by the lake again with the buried city, and although the builders were still there, the rooftops had been ripped off the tops. There were various boats floating in and around the city, with men fishing in the low waters or hunting inside the skeletal houses. I found out the reason for this strangeness later, when a local told us the government had set up this idyllic village in the bosom of the Great Wall, and then decided that it was not worth the effort and opened the dam, flooding all of the buildings and relocating the villagers.

  94. Alexandra Duhamel says:

    I have spent the last 2 years living in Japan with my husband and children. We had so MANY weird experiences that I have millions to chose from. Here is the first one:

    I took the kids to a Yakult Swallows Baseball game. This is the major league team that plays in an old, open air stadium near our house. Their arch rivals are the Yomuri Giants, who play in the new, Tokyo Dome stadium across town.

    Seats are cheap in the outfield. You have to chose a team to root for. GOD FORBID you were seated in the wrong section. Fortunately (or, rather, scarily) when I looked on-line for ticket information and game schedules I found numerous english language sites that explained the etiquette, cheers and differences between the teams. It turns out that baseball-crazy Americans actually travel to Tokyo to watch baseball games. So from what I gleaned from these web sites, I know to ask for seats in the Swallows section.

    We arrived at the stadium about an hour before the game, bought tickets, picked up our free paper fan and found seats. On old man approached us and took one of our fans and placed it onto the seat next to ours. Why? I had no idea. I thought he was saving a seat for himself. The kids set off to find food and cheering tools (wait until I explain those). Darran ate her body weight in chicken yakitori skewers. You can buy as many as you want. They coat them with teriyaki sauce and put them in a paper cup for you. Steven ate a corn dog. For a semi-vegetarian he sure does love his processed meat foods.

    Darran chose a plastic clapper thing to make noise during the cheering. Steven chose two small plastic bats that you bang together to make noise. I bought a small see-through green plastic umbrella.

    Once the game begins you cheer when your team is ‘at bat’. When the other team is at bat you go outside to smoke or make calls on your cell phone. You do not ‘boo’ the other team. There is a smattering of applause when your team strikes out the other team and now your team is at bat. Now the real work begins.

    First you stand up with your noisemaker. Everyone has a noise maker. As each batter is announced you do the cheer for him. Not just any cheer. HIS cheer. Fortunately their are cheer conductors in every section to lead you in the cheer. You must clap out the correct rhythm on your noise maker. You also need to sing the song to go with that batter. Single, double runs get cheers. Home runs get a different cheer and you have to do the umbrella dance. Since the Swallows have no dome roof, they use the umbrellas to prove that ‘they don’t need no stinking dome’. THAT is why I now own a tiny, green umbrella.

    Steven and Darran really got into the cheering. Steven would take his shoes off and stand on his seat so he could see and cheer. You MUST cheer the whole time your team is at bat. No one just sits and watches the game.

    So why did the old man take our fan and put it in the seat next to us? Well it is what EVERYONE does to give themselves extra space. The cheap seat section was busy but not full so everyone could have an extra seat.

    The stadium is so friendly and homey that EVERY kid that was cheering for the Swallows got their picture up on the Jumbotron. Steven was very impressed to see himself up there!

    The first home-run for the Swallows was scored by the lone American on the team. The fans call him ‘american’ since his name is very hard to pronounce. The old man returned after the homer to give us a high five since we must be american too. He also returned later with a runny Icee and offered it to all of us and the whole row of Shibuya girls behind us. EEEWWWW. Some of them took a sip and handed it back. We declined the offer, perhaps damaging US-Japan relations but at least avoiding any germs.

    Surprisingly the fans were not as drunk as they could be. Their are beer vendors walking past every 5 seconds (not an exaggeration). They do not carry trays of beers. Instead they have a keg strapped on their back and a bar tap snaking over their shoulder. If you want a beer they pour it for you right there. I felt sorry for the two 14 year old boys next to me. They were at the game without parents. Perhaps with parental permission, perhaps not (i.e. they were supposed to be at cram school or something). Either way they might have some explaining to do as one of the beer girls accidentally shot beer from her hose all over their school bags.

    The beer vendors wear lime green or glow in the dark yellow. For a moment I thought I was back at a George Michael concert in 1984. If you are too young to get this reference….who cares…..this was when ‘chose life’ meant something else. “Wake me up before I go go…”

    Enough eighties pop. Back to the game. Swallows won. They beat those Yomuri Giants. (trivia fact: Yomuri is the newspaper company and Yakult is a scary yogurt drink). The kids had a great time and want to go back.

  95. Alexandra Duhamel says:

    Japanese Baseball #2

    http://www.yakult-swallows.co.jp/special/pg20070420_05.html

    We went to the Swallows game tonight. The web site advertised that it was a ‘disguise’ night (using the Babellfish web site translator) or ‘cosplay’ on the actual Japanese site.

    The kids planned their costumes and quickly changed when they got home from school. We brought our noisemakers and umbrellas from previous games and bought the cheap seat tickets.

    Then we started to worry. Not one other person was in costume. Not one. Okay so we will be the crazy gaijin. Again.

    A security guard came and asked what Steven was. Actually the guard just said ‘Star Wars’ and Steven nodded ‘yes’. Then the dude made a phone call.

    I started worrying that the kids were in trouble for carrying fake weapons. Steven, as a Jedi, had a light saber. Darran had a dagger and a sword for her pirate costume.

    After a while a lady behind us showed up in a red santa’s elf costume. Okay so we weren’t the only crazy ones.

    And in front of us a little girl, a toddler really, was wearing pink Minnie Mouse ears with an attached veil. But no one else was in costume.

    Before the game, as the teams were warming up, they announced the umbrella dance. You unfurl your umbrella and get ready to dance. The camera pans across the dancing crowd until it finds someone of interest, then it stops. A frame goes up on the jumbotron, framing the next dance contestant. The announcer tells you to get ready. When the music starts, you do your craziest umbrella dance to the music for about 30 seconds.

    The stands were still mostly empty. The first contestant was the santa’s elf. Then the camera hit Steven, standing on the seats in a Jedi costume waving one pink and one green umbrella. And the frame appeared around him on the Jumbotron. The announcer was being an awesomely good sport and tried to give Steven instructions for the contest in English. He said ‘wave umbrella’. Steven did his best umbrella waving. He did a crazy, jumpy dance with lots of smiles.

    Then they moved on to the Minnie Mouse girl.

    The contest continued, hitting 2 or 3 contestants during every break in the game. I did notice that they were trying to find people in costume but there were very few costumes in the stands.

    After the 5th inning, I noticed the Swallow’s mascot standing in the tunnel that led up to our section. Steven thought the mascot’s dance moves were really cool so I pointed out that the guy was up here. Steven put his shoes on and went into the tunnel to say ‘hi’. The handlers sent him back to his seat.

    At this point, alarms SHOULD have been going off in my head. But not understanding Japanese, I was clueless. Then I saw myself on the Jumbotron. They were trying to focus on the constantly moving Steven. The mascot came up and they showed Steven’s crazy dance again, this time to a much bigger crowd. They presented him with a golden yakult Swallows umbrella and took a picture with him and Darran and the mascot.

    For the rest of the game, Steven was congratulated by everyone who saw him and his golden umbrella.

  96. Alexandra Duhamel says:

    And my final story from Japan…The Turtle and the Monk

    The Turtle

    Many days on our walks about our neighborhood, we pass a Buddhist cemetery and temple. The grounds are beautifully maintained and the hand washing pool has two interestingly carved dragons on it. I don’t usually go into the grounds of this shrine (or at least not past the dragons) because it seems like a working shrine and, except for the occasional funeral, not too many people venture into it. It certainly doesn’t seem to welcome tourists.

    For reference, since I do not know it’s real name, I call it the long eared nazi Buddha shrine. The cemetery has a statue of a very long eared Buddha….his ear lobes almost touch his shoulders. The ‘nazi’ part refers to the gates and fences around the shrine that have swastikas all over them. It is interesting to me that the inwardly focused Japanese have not removed the swastikas. I am sure they were there for many, many years before they became a symbol for the Nazi Party. They were considered a good luck charm. They probably still are to many people. I think the philosophy here is that the swastika was a good luck symbol for much longer than it had negative associations with Hitler so why change it?

    The children and I were on our way to Roppongi Hills and had to pass the shrine. As we peered in through the gate, we saw a monk. He was dressed in sandals and a blue gi. He set something on the ground. Then we saw the something start to chase after the monk. It was a turtle! The turtle was really surprisingly quick! The children have one Japanese phrase that they use on a daily basis. It translates into a very polite ‘May I pet your animal?’. Armed with this they scrambled across the temple grounds and skidded to a halt beside the monk. He seemed so surprised that the children spoke Japanese and were so polite, he agreed to let them hold and pet his turtle.

    A Japanese lady leaving the temple witnessed all this. Turtles out for walks is unusual even to Japanese people so the lady came over to see. She spoke some English. The monk told her that there were more turtles in the koi pond across the courtyard. She translated this for us and the kids ran over to see the fish.

    The pond was small and beautifully landscaped. It had a waterfall and large stepping stones placed through the middle. We stood at the gate and admired the koi but did not see the turtles. The monk and the lady came over and let the children in through the gate. They stood at the edge of the pond but still could not see the turtles. So Steven, then Darran ventured across the stepping stones. When they found the turtles, the lady joined them in the middle of the pond. The monk asked the lady what the English word for ‘koi’ was. She didn’t know so she asked us. The children said ‘carp’. As we were leaving, after bowing and saying thank you (the lady was very impressed by the children), the monk asked the lady what the English word for turtle was. She said ‘turtle’. The monk tried to repeat it but he said it was too difficult for him.

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  98. donna says:

    it was raining one night and i needed cigs , I live 5 blocks from 7-11 so i got in my car and drove to 7-11, it was raining hard , i came out of the store and the payphone was ringing out of no where a man answered the phone and said “is anyone here named Donna?’ I didn’t know what to do , so i just left, but Donna is my name and I wonder to this day what would have happened if I took that call.

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