Still Life with Chattering Teeth and People-Shaped Things (excerpt)

by
Daulton Dickey.

[This is an excerpt from the titular story in the new short story collection, Still Life with Chattering Teeth and People-Shaped Things & Other Stories, which is out now.]

1.

Humming fills the air, but it’s the humming of a brain filling gaps exposed by silence. The lights are out. Colors flicker in space–sometimes near the ceiling, sometimes near the floor.

The brain does the math, and this is another case of the brain creating something where something should be.

But listen: the silence. It’s unnerving somehow. Unnatural.

The ceiling throbs. Cracks spiderweb the walls. From these, insects emerge. They’re miniature heads, human heads, crawling on six scrotums. Sperm oozes in their wake. Sadie throws a shoe at the wall and the insects scream and scatter.

She climbs out of bed and peeks outside: a planet-sized eyeball drifts toward a planet-sized eyelid. Twilight. She throws on her robe and taps her skin. It’s still skin. Thank Cruelty. She hasn’t transformed, not like the others.

She opens her front door.

The hallway is empty.

She tiptoes across the hall and puts her ear below “3F” on Martin’s door. Silence. But that doesn’t mean anything. Those creatures are probably in there. Right now. Fucking each other with those tentacles–or whatever the hell you call them.

More humming.

Is it a lightbulb, or is it her brain doing the math, plugging holes?stilllifedaultondickey

She ties her robe and rubs her stomach and tiptoes down the hall, listening in on apartments 3D, 3C, 3B.

She puts her teeth together and hisses, just to make sure she hasn’t gone deaf.

Hiss.

She hasn’t gone deaf.

Door 3B flings open. A human-sized caterpillar pops its head into the hallway. Snot and cum drips from its mouth.

–Everything okay? it says.

–Fine.

–Why you in your robe? Locked out?

–Stop talking to me. Monster. Continue reading

Women of Horror: An Interview with Author H.R. Boldwood 

by
Daulton Dickey.

H.R. Boldwood is a writer of horror and speculative fiction. In another incarnation, Boldwood is a Pushcart Prize nominee and was awarded the 2009 Bilbo Award for creative writing by Thomas More College. Publication credits include Killing it Softly, Short Story America, Bete Noir, Everyday Fiction, Toys in the Attic, Floppy Shoes Apocalypse II, Pilcrow and Dagger, and Sirens Call.

Boldwood’s characters are often disreputable and not to be trusted. They are kicked to the curb at every conceivable opportunity. No responsibility is taken by this author for the dastardly and sometimes criminal acts committed by this ragtag group of miscreants.

Tell us about yourself: when did you start writing?

I write literary fiction under my given name and horror under the byline H.R. Boldwood.

I live in Mason, Ohio with my husband, Pete, and a black lab named Poe. I have 2 sons, and 2 and ½ gorgeous granddaughters Isabelle and Ava, (and a player to be named later!)

 I began writing in the seventh grade when my English teacher asked our class to write a short story on any topic. Of course, I wrote a horror story! It was titled The Reincarnation of Sir Thomas More. My teacher gave me an A+ and was so taken with the story that he sent it to a college professor at Northwestern University. Continue reading

Home is Where the Horror Is by C.V. Hunt—Book Review

by
Daulton Dickey.

Home is Where the Horror Is C.V. HuntDarkness lingers everywhere in this world. One way or the other, it will find you. Some of us are prepared for it while it blindsides others. The world itself is dark, filled with strange and perverse creatures. The strangest of which? Humans. While we each struggle with our existential slumbers, we try to make the most of it. Sometimes we’re lead to the light; at other times, chaos.

Evan Lansing is down on his luck. His passion for photography leaves little time for work, putting the burden making ends meet on his girlfriend, Naomi. Sure, he works part-time but he doesn’t make enough to help ease the burden. He wants the life of an artist, of a photographer specializing in scarred and deformed bodies.

His luck nosedives when Naomi breaks up with him. He moves in with his brother but his overbearing sister-in-law inspires him to get out as fast as he can. His mother recently died and left a cabin in the country. In need of repairs, the cabin sits and waits for improvements before Evan and his brother can put it on the market. To flee his sister-in-law, Evan volunteers to live in the cabin and work on it. Then the strangeness begins. He meets an odd set of neighbors who both repulse and fascinate him. But the strangeness, oh the strangeness lingers, always on the edge, always ready to change everything. Continue reading

Words are Elusive Bastards

by
Daulton Dickey.

Words are elusive bastards.They disappear the moment you think you’ve wrangled them. Two words float in conjunction with a clause: you see them, reach for them, groan as your fingers brush them. Then the bastards vanish.

“All everyone ever wanted to do was speak.” You hear this phrase as it flutters away from you. But what’s it mean? Does it mean anything?

-BrainChain-_Willem_den_Broeder_2001_

Who knows? Continue reading

The Psychology of Appearances

by
Daulton Dickey.

They say we grind our teeth as a show of affection. I’m so adept at grinding my teeth that I can do it while walking and contemplating the plaque in the clouds. Affection? Hardly. Curiosity, I’d say—at best. But then who isn’t, if not at least slightly, curious about the plaque dripping from the clouds? No one comes to mind.

When I was a child, my father pretended not to care, but it was a vaudeville routine: he’d say, “I don’t care about the goddamn plaque,” while gazing at the sky with shifty eyes. Such behavior taught me two things: 1), don’t take everything adults say at face value; and, 2), never directly confront the plaque. Always pay your respects furtively.

—Dad, I remember saying, when I was maybe three or four. —Why does the sky crack?

—The sky cracks to let in the juice from the sun.

—What does the juice do?

thehumanconditionrenemagritte1933
The Human Condition, Rene Magritte, 1933

—It allows us to see and live, breathe and scream.

—Can we scream without the sun’s juice?

—Yeah, but what’s the point?

What’s the point indeed? I didn’t know it then, but it’s clear to me now that the point of the sun’s juice is to illuminate our deficiencies, a sort of aesthetic truth serum. We wouldn’t know we were ugly or flawed, overweight or weak-chinned or buck-toothed or cross-eyed if the sun’s juice didn’t force honesty into our optic nerves. Continue reading

Does Reading Really Make You More Empathetic?

by
Daulton Dickey.

Most of us have seen it: in 2013, a famous study reported that reading fiction makes people more empathetic. Many of us have even shared the article. Those of us who areimg_3598 readers or writers may even have felt a sense of satisfaction in learning that our hobbies and passions help us become better people.

If you search online for “reading makes people more empathetic” you’ll find countless articles based on that 2013 study, including articles only a few months old. A wealth of articles reiterating this study’s findings might even strengthen our beliefs that reading does, in fact, makes us empathetic. Although they draw on a single source, multiple articles create the impression of multiple attestations.

But there’s a problem: a subsequent experiment has failed to reproduce the results of that original experiment, which could indicate flawed methodology. Assuming the methodology isn’t flawed, we’ve also got to consider the distinction between correlation and causation. As we know, correlation doesn’t necessarily equal causation.  Continue reading

Dead End

by
Daulton Dickey.

20160601-230511.jpgI sit and breathe and think about the sunset floating over waters. Dipping into the abyss, the sun melts and drips to the bottom of the planet, where it reforms and ignites and floats along the planet again. Sometimes I’m indoors when this happens, sometimes I’m outdoors, but the plunge in temperature never ceases to astound me. And when the bowl overhead darkens, and when the air in front of me freezes, and when the goal of the night is to survive in a dreamless state, I know I’ve made it another day. Another day. Where the wind shatters the frozen air and life reboots and I realize I’m a different person—similar in appearance, perhaps, and sharing certain idiosyncrasies—from the person I was yesterday. And whenever the new day forms, and the old me transmogrifies into the new me, I slip into the habit of living in the past and seldom realize the new me is different, and in some cases distinct, from the old me.

The waters ripple, spreading and scattering particles and waves. The bowl overhead signifies nothingness: a void, a vacuum, an entry into a state where our kind perishes. And by “our kind,” I mean “my kind”; and my “my kind,” I mean “bacteria.”

At core, we’re all bacteria, scurrying around and growing and evolving advantages over our competitors. That’s evolution in a nutshell: a competition to dominates the environment. Dominating an environment means controlling resources, making it easier to survive long enough to propagate genes.  Continue reading

Recent and Upcoming Indie Book Releases

by
Daulton Dickey.

Absolutely Golden: A Novel
D. Foy
Stalking Horse Press

Absolutely-Golden-Store-ImageIt’s 1973, and a thirty-something widow has been cajoled by a young hippie parasite into financing their vacation to a nudist colony in the Northern California mountains. The night before their departure, however, she arrives home to learn that she and this man will be accompanied by the stripper on his lap. At Camp Freedom Lake, the trio meet a womanizing evangelist, a bumbling Zen gardener, and a pair of aging drug-addled swingers from Holland. Together, they’re catapulted through one improbable event after the other, each stranger than the last, until finally the woman who was dominated by her fear of past and future finds herself reveling in the great here and now.

D. Foy’s Absolutely Golden is a radical departure from his two previous novels, Made to Breakand Patricide. It’s comic, ebullient, magic, light, gently surrealistic. It’s rollicking, effervescent, slyly profound. But more, this brisk tale offers a kaleidoscopic look at parts of the 1970s we haven’t often seen in fiction—nudism, New Age philosophy, Eastern religion, the occult, swingers culture, California culture, and then some.

Best of all, Foy tells his story in the guise of a woman obsessed with the notion that she’ll never find another man until she’s rid of what she believes to be a mysterious curse. As if written in the marriage of Vladimir Nabokov, Renata Adler, and Anaïs Nin, her words transport us from doubt, despair, and dread into states of increasing wonder and euphoria.

Click here to Pre-order or Buy Absolutely Golden

The Abridged History of Rainfall
Jay Hopler
McSweeney’s

rainfall_pb_cover_store_siteThe Abridged History of Rainfall is a finalist for the National Book Award.
Jay Hopler’s second collection, a mourning song for his father, is an elegy of uproar, a careening hymn to disaster and its aftermath. In lyric poems by turns droll and desolate, Hopler documents the struggle to live in the face of great loss, a task that sends him ranging through Florida’s torrid subtropics, the mountains of the American West, the streets of Rome, and the Umbrian countryside. Vivid, dynamic, unrestrained: The Abridged History of Rainfall is a festival of glowing saints and fighting cocks, of firebombs and birdsong.

Click here to Pre-order or Buy The Abridged History of Rainfall

 

  Continue reading

The Call of the Void

by
Justin Burnett.

It has been quite a while now since I first began dissociating from my work. I have finally succumbed to the universal somnambulism. It’s a well-known fact that we anesthetize the domination of our lives by our jobs with sleep. Not literal sleep, of course. I now fall asleep with the optimistic electronic chirp of the timecard reader like everyone else, even though I work, laugh, and chat throughout my nine-hour day like any functioning human. I remember a time when it was different. Once it was worse. Once I wasn’t permitted the cold solace of sleep. Once I had a job that forced me to face the spectre of mortality in all its grandiose contradictions. Like any one of the paradoxical lines in the poetry of John Donne, the job forced me to remain awake.

I was a hospital phlebotomist at the time. I drew samples from patients in their sardine-can cells and took the blood downstairs to the lab in a soul-deadening daily exchange of elevator ascents and descents. This repetitive aspect should’ve kept me sleeping since it was the same lullaby that you find evenly distributed in all the occupational quarters like powdered pesticide. Only one force was strong enough to counter the anesthesia.

I discovered it one morning at about a quarter to twelve. I was on the cardiac floor. It was just before lunch and I was getting impatient. Not that the hospital food was any good—au contraire, it was damn awful (the chicken-gristle sandwich sans-condiments was legendary around that time). And it wasn’t that I was particularly interested in seeing my coworkers—all the same sleeping faces circulated both the cafeteria and the floors with soul-deadening regularity. Lunch was, however, the only period in my twelve-hour workday during which I could read. Only one more patient lay between me and my book. Let’s just get it over with I told myself encouragingly as I opened the door to a heavily curtained room.

“Hello, I’m from the lab,” I said, with as much zest as the particular situation could reasonably call for. “Your doctor wants me to draw a blood sample.”

The man on the bed was in his late fifties. Gray, unwashed hair curled above his pale

egonschiele
Egon Schiele, Self Seer II (Death and Man), 1911
temples. Beads of sweat sparkled under the fluorescent lights across the waxy surface of his forehead. The room simmered in the faintly repulsive redolence of unwashed and unmoved biology, the nauseating sweetness of bodily crevices hoarding soured perspiration.

 

I noted the smell with passive disinterest. Smell, after extended exposure in a hospital setting, only gives rise to the accompanying biological reactions (retching, nose-pinching, actual vomiting, in rare cases) when it is particularly vile—as in, for instance, the unforgettable and infamous case of a particular legless prostitute’s infected colposcopy bag. What was more unusual about this patient was his stillness. Continue reading

A Very True Review of Very True Stories Starring Jeff O’Brien

by
Daulton Dickey.

So I’m sitting in my car outside work. Lunch hour drags when it’s hot outside and you forgot your lunch. I debate driving across town to grab a bite, but I’m neither hungry nor motivated enough to expend the effort.

Voices on the radio chatter, something about an ‘incident’ somewhere over the east coast or New England. I focus on the story but the ‘incident’ remains ill-defined.

Can’t be too important, otherwise they’d issue warnings, make declarations, cut to in-progress news conferences of sheriffs or mayors, FEMA or Homeland Security.

At least thirty minutes have passed since I started my lunch break. Christ, I’m bored. I light a cigarette and check my watch. Ten minutes have passed since I started my lunch break. Fuck me. How am I supposed to kill fifty minutes when I’m this bored?

I pull my phone from my pocket and open the Kindle app and flip through the titles inverytruestoriesstarringjeffobrien my library. One stands out: a woman kneels beside a heavyset bald man, who’s standing and thrusting his arm in the air. The title? Very True Stories Starring Jeff O’Brien.

What the fuck is this?

I have no memory of buying this book.

I download the file and read the opening page: a dude looking to get laid takes home a creature disguised as a woman. Tentacles emerge from her pussy and morph into two women.

What in Christ’s name is this? And who the hell is Jeff O’Brien? Continue reading