Due to the beautiful weather across the nation today, I've decided there's no chance in hell anyone would want to stay online and read an ideological blog. Instead, here's a quick snippet of "Lucky Shot," a story from the lost files. Enjoy!
Any curmudgeon out there will tell you the problem with the kids these days is a sense of entitlement. I think that's what every generation says. "You mean, some bus comes to your house and picks you up for school? In my day I had to walk 20 miles, along a snow mountaintop, to reach the 10-mile-away point . . . ."
The second thing they might tell you, is that more and more youngsters aren't doing their homework. That is, social media ruined our true connection with people & the spoken/written word. If no one's reading and writing, they're losing out big time. However, that's just not the case.
I've roamed around the web a few times, and now there seems to be a combination of recreational social media use and, of course, the homework. And guess what? Youngsters are online and writing more than ever.
I recently stumbled across an article about a bestselling writer who wants to either stop libraries from lending out books or force them to pay a substantially larger royalty.
Terry Deary, author of the children's series Horrible Histories, lashed out in The Guardian about the irrelevancy of libraries & the harm they cause writers, editors, and publishers.
Here's what he had to say:
Today someone asked me whether eBooks and whatever is next will ultimately replace print. I get this question a lot, and I've probably touched on the subject somewhere in this blog. However, I think I have a clearer view as to why print is here to stay, and it's broken down into five fancy smidgens (in no particular order).
Here's another rough draft section of "Armageddon as Expected". Enjoy!
II. The Masked Girl in the Barren City
We wrapped chains around the wheels, Allen and I, and it was a good thing we did.
This morning wasn't going to be easy, but no one expected it to be so difficult. One perk to living in a private community is the isolation from the rest of the word, and a little of the rural freedoms such as immaculateness and seclusion. However, these very benefits are anything but fortuitous once winter solstice proceeds. In other words, little things like road conditions can stand in your way. Normally the area is cleared, but this year we dropped the ball for sure. The high school that never closes closed. Snow plows were stuck in ditches.
And so was I. Everything's fine and the car checked out. The bad part is, I was supposed to work this morning. No matter what I do in life, if I agreed or am scheduled to appear, I do.
Since I'm reluctant to let this day of productivity go to waste, I think I'm going to start up a blog story. Between the threat of armageddon that never flourished and the man-we-thought-this-was-going-to-be-bad-but-not-this-bad weather, I found inspiration.
I don't know what this going to be, but it's going to be something. If you want to write one of the sections, just hit me up.
Otherwise, here we go . . .
Are you guys ready for another edition of what's in Chris' old files? Of course you are. Today is a story about a man and a ghost problem. This isn't your linear sort of tale. It's more of a bizarre twist of events. A cocktail of some fancy adjectives. Enjoy!
By C.M. Humphries
Everyone around me has the same self-depth of a ghost. You might hear one, you might even talk to one, but you never, ever really know one. Pain and desire are equally present. Physical attributions are easy to see. But you don’t ever know one, really.
Edifices, or stacks of mirror glass, shake the hands of the gods they honor, if they are not merely testaments to human achievement. I am buried below, stuck in boiling tar, begging the claustrophobic alleyways between business buildings to widen.
A sensation of sandpaper grinding my neck overwhelms me. I wish I could burn this shirt, or rip off the collar and use it as the fuse of a Molotov cocktail.
Cold sweat floods my face, which is illuminated by a strange blue sundown.
I had this dream that my boss was on all fours, gasping for air, reaching for his neck. The collar tightens, tightens. The thought of asphyxiation scares him. Yanking back on his shirt, one foot brushing the center of his back, I smile. I smile, knowing he feels the sandpaper burn. I had this dream.
“I don’t really know how you’re supposed to get it done,” my fat-ass boss says. A pool of sweat appears in the thin patch of hair upon the ball of his head—a bush hidden in the swamp. “That’s why I hired you,” he says. “If I could do both your job and mine, than I wouldn’t need you, would I?” he asks.
Words elude me with the same massaging comfort of sword swallowing. All I can mutter is, “Sir, I just don’t think I can handle any more reports.”
My job is real simple. I carry bank rolls. I file papers. No, I am a CEO. No, I flip hamburgers. I solicit sex. It doesn’t matter what I do, just that I do it too much. We all do.
Three hours after we close shop my face is illuminated golden rod by a small desk lamp in my cubicle. I am searching for fitting demographics. I am distributing interest rates. I am talking dirty on the phone at $1.99 per minute. It doesn’t matter. My job has very little value. In fact, I should be considered legally obscene.
Nonetheless, I sit in the empty building, shuffling, typing, talking smut. Alone. Fearing that I might die in this cubicle one day. In this meeting room. In this grocery store. In this familiar hotel bedroom.
And there’s a wretched stank of cat piss circulating around in cyclones. Cyclones of piss stench smacking my face. Touching my lips with its dirty little finger.
Felma stomps down the hallway in her pale pink, tulip dress—red hair puffed up and all, waving a fucking pink slip. Although I know very little about her, I hate her, All the long hours I spent staring at her, judging. She looked like the kind of person that I could hate. So I did.
She floors it two miles per decade past my office door. She darts her heads back to stare at me. I think her neck finally forfeited. She slides back. And pivots. Pivots her jiggly cankles.
A wide smile forms with her narrow lips. More joy exists within her quarter-dollar grin than has existed in my entire collection of best moments.
“I didn’t really wanna work so late,” her nasally voice honks, “but when he said I could give this to you myself . . .”
He, being my boss.
Felma says, “. . . when he said I could be one to do it, oh my god, I just couldn’t resist!”
Pink slip slapped into my palms. Her wide ass jiggling; a vertical smile chuckling all the way home.
The cage door is left unlocked.
A tall glass of golden brown whiskey rests on my fake oak mantle. The fireplace is electric and therefore also fake. However, most of these things are worth more than me. No one stays on a sex-hotline more than two minutes, anyway.
Through hazy vision, I stare at the robotic flames. They don’t look that real, but they are still aesthetically pleasing to me.
That hazel glass on the mantle is not my first. Or fourth.
It crept out the door, that ghost, and I chased its ass back inside the office.
A crack runs down along the right side of the mirror. A thunderbolt stream of blood runs down the center of my hand.
I am left staring into the mirror.
On the television downstairs, I can hear the echo of the meteorologist making guesses about the wind. “Sunny. Seventy degrees all day long.”
Good weather will certainly make things easy.
Day in and day out for a week, I am a clerk, an undertaker, a pornographer. It’s rainy. The sun is out. The world’s frozen, and then it’s on fire.
It doesn’t matter. It’s all over now.
The only constant is the sweat on cold steel, the greatest investment in the shape of an L. And it plays with the darkness of my filing cabinet’s bottom drawer. Of my brassiere.
My arm reaches over towards the cabinet, and a swift gust brushes my knuckle hair. Snatch my Styrofoam cup of water and turn slowly towards the owner of a pair of black dress pants and those strong legs that redirected the hair just moments ago. The source of the gust.
“Hey, hey!” a chubby thirty-year-old with thick, red, square-framed glasses says. A dime smile contracts under the poor brown caterpillar above the chubby man’s chapped lips.
A problem with ghosts is that they always want to tell you their story. Why their lives were so terrible. How their death came to be. But they never know when to let you speak. And they never really get to know you, really. Not even when they’re still alive.
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Transgressive fiction is nothing new. In fact, although I coin myself a transgressive writer, it's kinda like saying punk rock after the 1980s. To be a true trangressive writer, many would argue you must've been a published pen between the late 1800s and early 1900s. However, many writers of the new and sorta new can be found quite easily today, such as Amy Hempel and Chuck Palahniuk. Oh yeah, James Joyce - you know Ulysses - is a pretty common gem. While we're name dropping: Bret Easton Ellis, Anthony Burgess, Elizabeth Young.
Trangressive fiction started with prose that was often banned or chastised for being too obscene, too vulgar, or just too close to home. These stories brought the social struggles of their times into an honest - admittedly sometimes dark - portrayal. Some people go to the extreme, while others might just rip on consumerism.
The thing about transgressive fiction is that's it's about what's right. Here a 3 points to consider if you ever find yourself bored in a Barnes & Noble and want to count the trangressive writers throughout the entire store.
Today I was spoiled with an opportunity to interview author Andrew Cyrus Hudson, the mastermind behind Somewhere in the Shadows: The Anthology. See, he's the guy who designed the book and had it made.
He's worked with multiple aspects of publishing, and his passion resides in producing a book from the ground up. He's also the guy who asked me to be in the short story collection.
You know that "Charlatan" thing I've been, admittedly, self-promoting like crazy as of late? That's the short story I contributed.
For now, here are the publishing-related questions and his uncensored response to them all.
C.M. Humphries (C):
C: How did you decide which authors would be in the anthology?
C: What were the overhead expenses for producing such an anthology?
C: What are your future plans for Somewhere in the Shadows or for other story collections?
C: Where can everyone find you online?
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Ask Andrew Cyrus Hudson Anything About Somewhere in the Shadows or independent & self-publishing in the comments - and earn points towards a hand-bound edition of No-Injury Policy!
"And the Zombies Starved"
Zombies were all the rage back then.
It started off with movies like Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland, all the comedic romance stories disguised by those flesh-eating beasts. Cara and I’d watched them all during their midnight releases. When it first began, I was just as much a fool as anyone else. That was true until I remembered my distaste for the film Pearl Harbor. Some said Pearl Harbor was a masterpiece in the way it isolated a personal story from something much larger. Critics said it humanized the United States involvement in WWII. I said it was populist bullshit designed to sell the same old Hollywood love-story. It was a multi-million-dollar rerun masked by something that looked like war in the background—a love triangle and explosions in the distance.
Such storylines could’ve been juxtaposed with any other set of circumstances: an interstellar dilemma, an ominous dreamscape on Elm Street, inside of a failing 50s diner. Back then, it was tongues in throats and, oh yeah, zombies eating brains. But it was all the rage and it had everyone hooked.
One night after work, Cara came home with an atrocious set of heels painted black and green with something I assumed to be a face of a brain-munching undead. “You like them?” she asked. “I don’t think they make too many of them. They’re Zombie Heels.”
I nodded and kissed her before we went to bed.
The next morning, on my way to work, I saw dozens of women pass by wearing green, red, and purple variations of the same goddamn Zombie Heels. When did the undead become so colorful? Even at work, women wobbled in and out of the sandwich shop with the click and clack of cliché until I had my first apocalyptic impulse. That was, I wanted to shoot every last zombie-sporting sucker right through the skull. Zombies were never meant to be cute, colorful, or cuddly. They were—and always would be—a mixture of medical and social experiment gone awry. If Hollywood turned the stories of Jack the Ripper or Jack Kevorkian into whimsical love stories, would women start dropping their day jobs for the glorious life of prostitution or start carrying around their own IV tubes?
My only sense of relief derived from the fact, when the customers ordered their sandwiches, they asked for BLTs instead of brains. And I only discovered sleep when I realized that one day the fad would pass. Be it the end of my beloved creatures as they were in their raw, gruesome forms, but the end of mainstream madness nonetheless.
But it only metastasized. The following morning, I awoke to a thump on the nightstand next to our bed. My eyes peeled open like fresh blood oranges to see Cara hovering over me with a grin that slit her face in half. “Look,” she shouted as she pointed at a book next the alarm clock.
I glanced over and saw a book with zombies on the cover. “Jesus, no,” I muttered. I read the back cover:
Roman and Julia are forced apart by their wealthy parents, never to express their love for each other again . . . That is until a scientific experiment to turn their parents into super humans turns them into flesh-eating monsters.
“Doesn’t it sound great?” Cara asked, truly impressed with her find.
“Do you realize what this is?” I asked her.
“Yeah, it’s a gory zombie book.”
“Gory—No, this is nothing more than Romeo and Juliet . . .”
Something boiled under my skin. Whatever it was, it hid under the façade of anger and consumed me in a matter of mere seconds. I snatched the book and showed Cara exactly what I thought of it by hurling all three hundred pages at her chest. The problem was, I aimed too high. The book smacked against her temple, and Cara dropped limp to the floor.
“Shit,” I yelled.
Back then, the police were overzealous and overabundant, and they didn’t care how or why your wife was unconscious in your bedroom. If you’d hurt her, the police would hurt you. So I ran.
Past all the houses on our street, down through the shopping centers and glass testaments to mankind, I sprinted for nowhere. It didn’t matter where I ended up so long as I was away. On my journey, though, something came over me.
Everywhere I turned there were watered-down zombies. Passersby wore tattered t-shirts with cartoon zombie prints. Chuck Taylors and high heels alike boasted some demented aspect of beauty coinciding with the zombie. Was I alone in the world? Maybe all these people were zombies in the Haiti sense; carrying on the last thing they were told or shown. On every corner, marquees contained zombie puns within the movie titles. There were zombies everywhere.
Enraged by the zombie rage, I hurried along my path of uncertainty, brushing by zombies on every crosswalk. I knocked down a woman in her forties when I saw her zombie earrings. I took out some punk on a zombie-themed skateboard and almost cried when I saw blood rushing onto the sidewalk from underneath his head. Right before I took a bus headed out of town, I knocked out all five members of a street band called The Lost Sombi.
Wiping off the sweat from my brow, I found a seat on the bus and tried to regulate my breaths. The bus reeked of cat-piss, cheap cologne, and mothballs. Together it stirred into a brew I’d associated with decay. Although my senses peaked and the bus ride was slow, I kept to myself. During the trip, however, I couldn’t stop thinking about Cara. Did I knock her out, or did I actually kill her? How many zombies did I take out during my escape from town? It wasn’t my fault—It was those stupid movies trying to cover-up tasteless and unmemorable plots with the walking dead. It was the devolution of mainstream society from Barbie to Zombie High.
Just when I thought I’d regained my composure, a little boy turned around and stared at me, before he shoved his Game Boy in my face. He said, “I just got this.” While his mother tried to stop him from talking to a stranger, the boy kept yapping as a remake of Zombies Ate My Neighbors flashed on the screen. “See, you go around and shoot zombies with Super Soakers and kill them, and you can throw soda cans and twin-pops at them, and you . . .”
I punched the kid square in the face.
The mother screamed and swatted at me with a zombie purse, as I stood up and smashed her son’s Game Boy on the grated floor. At once, the bus halted, and one-by-one, the travelers came at me.
Swiping the purse, I wacked and pushed everyone in sight until I reached the front of the bus.
Tossing the purse to the ground, I ran as fast as I could to an old hotel at the end of the next block. Inside, I pulled out all of my cash from my wallet and told the woman at the desk, “I need a room as high up as you’ve got.”
She threw me a curious look and remained still for a moment. A phone resided next to her, a few inches from her anxious fingertips. She tapped along the countertop, her slight movements drawing more erratic by the second. The woman peered up at me, and I stared right back at her. As she started to reach for the phone, she pivoted around and grabbed the top left key from a pegboard behind her. “You’ll need to write yourself in,” she said before she slid a clipboard of forms in front of me.
Back then, time eluded me. I might’ve stayed in the room for a few days, although it felt like months. From time to time, I clicked on the television to see if I needed to find a new hideout, but there was one time when the evening news surprised me with a different sort of newscast. On the screen, a woman so starved she might as well been a zombie reported the tale of a new cult hero. A video package displayed dozens of people boasting hats, shirts, and lunchboxes with my face. Not only did the merchandise depict an unauthorized interpretation of me, but it my hand was a shotgun pointed at a mob of poorly sketched zombies. The videos of my fans cut short when the reporter pressed on her earpiece and said, “We’re now going live to the hotel, where our ‘cult hero’ was last seen checking in. Breaking news, folks: I’ve just received word that police are now in search—”
I slammed my thumb on the power button of the TV remote controller and bolted for the window. The window wouldn’t give as I tried to lift it open, so I grabbed the nearby end table and shattered through the glass no sooner than the police plowed through the door of my room.
Down below, reporters and a swarm of fans with my t-shirts all screamed up at me. There was a way out, for sure. I could’ve escaped through a set of emergency ladders around the hotel, but I hesitated at the sight of at least three hundred people cheering me on. Didn’t they get it? I guessed there were a lot of people who didn’t get it back then. Now I had to choose between escape and perpetuating the very thing I detested. It was either that or I’d have to succumb to the officers’ efforts to arrest me and go to jail as a wife-beater. One more glance at all the zombies below on the streets and I decided to do what was right. The right thing was not the rage back then. Arms straight out in front of me, I dropped to my knees and said to the police officers, “Please."
Somewhere in the Shadows - My Story "Charlatan"