Guest-blogger Will Hindmarch is a freelance writer, graphic designer, and game designer. He also blogs at the game/story outfit, Gameplaywright, at his home venue, The Gist and at the tumblelog, the Word Studio Notebook.
I went into the event with hardly a plan in mind, writing as things struck me, aiming more for mood than story, because I figured only a few people would catch more than a few tweets at a time. Plus, I had to bail before the end of the event, due to Halloween parties and my untweetable phone. Maybe that was an ill-thought plan, but I’d been focused on too many other writing assignments to really devote much time to planning this little riff. So it goes.
What I ended up with is a little less than 700 words of somewhat creepy ramblings with a bit allegory, I think. In hindsight, this reveals more about what I find scary, I think, than it does anything about how to write horror.
What was planned was the notion of taking something omnipresent and trying to twist it towards the macabre somehow. That is my go-to formula for horror, whether it’s in fiction or games or the performance art of running storytelling games. What was also planned was the idea of my character being a melange of the suggested archetypes (Citizen, Artist, Professor, and Cultist) â€” I went with the Citizen’s paranoia, the Artist’s chilling visions, and a trace of the Cultist’s lunacy. You tell me if any of this ended up at all creepy or Lovecraftian.
If I had this to do over (like, say, if another MMOSE happens), I’d create a character that wasn’t so isolated and unraveled, so that I could directly interact with the tweets of other writers, especially locals like @Servantofproces. Instead, I tried to keep my tale small (without giving up the Lovecraftian alien monstrosities).
Here, then, is my #Cthalloween story (“story”), modestly edited but still in the form of its original 140-character bursts, and with a lurid purple title slapped on it:
Branches Beneath The Silver Tower
Bad dreams last night. Yet the further I get from sleep, the sharper the images get. I remember branches, black branches.
Trying to shake last night’s abnormal dreams. Going for a walk to take in some jack-o-lanterns. Neighborhood’s real quiet.
People are just standing at their windows, staring out into the street. Staring at me, as I walk by. Pumpkins are glowing.
The rain has stripped the leaves from the trees. Naked trees arch over the street above me, tangled black branches.
Back home, where the trees seem bare, not like they were when I left. Locking the doors.
Last night’s dream getting sharperâ€”black branches snaking against a sky of pallid clouds, and a sound like chewing.
Trying to work, but when I blink I see serpentine veins pumping black sap. I picture hooves pounding quaggy ground.
Teeth. I remember I dreamed about gnashing teeth pressing through a vulgar slit in wet bark.
Trying to get the silhouette out of my mind. Snaking branches, tipped with beckoning fingers. NPR says more are dead.
Want to sleep, to get out of these thoughts, but I’m afraid I’ll see more. Let the vodka decide if I sleep or not.
Slept all of twenty minutes, woke up, I thought, to a drop of something wet on my forehead. Had a new dream…
Twisted branches reaching down, through our roofs, dipping their nibs in our minds and writing eldritch words in our blood.
Writing it down. Drawing a hoofed, arboreal delineation in India ink, like a dead tree lurching on backward legs. Show someone.
Drawing done, I look up to see something moving down the next street over, like a tree moving amid the trees, branches snaking.
Night’s coming in a gray mist, through which the neighborhood is just gray shapes and black branches. Putting on my coat.
The fog in the dusk reveals handprints on the windows.
My neighbors claim not to know anything about the thing moving one street over. They say they’re not afraid.
You could practically see the places the where the branches had slipped through their skulls and touched their brains.
Neighbors are standing in their yards, staring at the sky. It’s like a dome of smoke, lit by some unrevealed source.
The black branches come out of the ground on great fat trunks and point at the sky. At the stars. At whatever’s beyond.
The branches are like antennae, conveying something down to earth. Carrying signals. Channeling. Something.
My neighbors stare. I dreamt of black branches, needling into their skulls, injecting images. Alien thoughts. Not me.
I’m pressing hard on my eyes, trying to get my dreams to sharpen and cut through my sight. What did I see?
I saw hoofed things on many legs, made of quavering branches, lurching up the streets, plucking heads like bulbs.
I saw… a silver tower made of metal bones, with a triangle crown, lined with spears.
Jacket on, hood up, I’m going back out. Maybe I’ll find the tower. Maybe I’ll be fed to the branches. I can’t stay inside.
Fuck meâ€”the tower. It’s a cell tower. It’s just blocks away. At its feet, a hundred swaying bodies chanting.
Passing a lot of empty cars, windows smashed. Not a lot of blood. Just a little.
People are passing me on the street. They’re headed for the tower. They’ve got tiny holes in their sanguine heads.
Branches, black against the dome of clouds, stretch out like slo-mo lightning, like a photographic negative.
The words coming from beneath the tower are tommyrot. Branches spike down and lance a head. And another.
I wish I could forget what I’ve seen. I wish I didn’t know what I know. I understand less and less. Am I alone here?
They’re coming closer. They look at me sideways. I think I just don’t want to be alone anymore.
I’m going to run. I’m going to run. I’ll write again. When I’m safe. I’m going to run.