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Many of you follow this blog because you enjoyed my novels Fellow Mortals (FSG) and Bell Weather (Henry Holt & Co.). Some of you follow me for unknown reasons.

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stories

A Meaningful Stain

Meaningful StainA meaningful stain appeared on my floor. It is a moving stain, approximately one foot wide, on the hardwood planks beside my study’s upholstered reading chair.

The stain is not a shadow; I have proven this with a flashlight and several different lamps. Nor is it a visual defect or hallucination, because I was able to photograph the stain and show it to the manager of the local bookstore, a man of good sense who verified the stain’s existence in the photo.

Its color is that of burnt motor oil. The stain changes shape whenever I look away, and yet despite its apparent fluidity, it is dry to the touch and seemingly infused into the woodgrain…

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I Cried Continuously for Thirteen Hours

cryingI cried continuously for thirteen hours. The tears came not in a deluge, like a Biblical emotion, but rather as a dribble after I inhaled a small whorl of levitating dust.

The dust was spiraling softly in the corner of my pantry, lighted by a sunbeam coming from the kitchen, and when I leaned forward to examine it more closely, I involuntarily sniffed it into my nose.

The dust smelled of coconut. My eyes filled with tears. Allergens, I thought, and then I wiped my cheeks and continued with my morning, assuming the flow would cease once the irritation lessened.

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The Centipede Queen

centipede“My home is teeming with hundreds of house centipedes. Naturally, I am delighted.

Scutigera coleoptrata is a common and beneficial insectivore that feeds on spiders, bed bugs, termites, cockroaches, silverfish, and ants. More importantly, their antennae serve as lightning rods for negative psychic energy.

A single house centipede in close proximity can neutralize the charge of a stressful thought… even one sizzling in the depths of the subconscious. Anecdotal evidence points to infestations significantly reducing anxiety, hypertension, familial discord, and—in one obscure case—a migraine that had tortured a schoolteacher for two full semesters…”

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The Marriage Knife

marriageknifesmallPrior to last week, I had never been in my kitchen at 4:39 A.M., when an unidentified couple daily appears for five minutes, interacts, and disappears.

I normally wake at 5 A.M., eat a banana mashed with cinnamon, and take my coffee carafe from the kitchen into the study. Last week, however, I began to wake at 4:30 A.M. and to arrive in the kitchen earlier than usual.

On the first such morning, I lifted my carafe and turned toward the sink. A middle-aged woman leaned against the counter. I spasmed in surprise, sloshing coffee onto the wall and overturning the mortar and pestle I’d used for my banana.

The woman noticed none of this and calmly smoked a cigarette. She stood barefoot in a nightgown, wearing curlers in her hair and cat’s eye glasses. She held a three-inch paring knife softly at her hip…

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My Mother in the Dark

3The camera I received on my tenth Christmas was tagged “From Mom” but I knew my father had bought it. My mother paid no attention when I tore open the wrapping. Instead she sat at the window, with the tree’s little bulbs lighting up her cheek, convinced the falling snow was falling from the otherworld.

I spent the morning photographing icicles, fire, broken trees, and the other presents I had gotten.

Late that night, my mother woke me in bed and spoke to me for the first time in twenty-four hours. Her eyes were oddly blue, like miniature jellyfish, and the rest of her was darker than the night should have made her.

She told me ghosts were colors on the film between worlds…

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Any House Is Haunted

haunted-house-stories“Living in a haunted house is much the same as living in an ordinary house.

The small square kitchen, with its familiar cabinets and cereal boxes, is normally a room of nourishment and comfort. Then one night alone, I enter and find the space inexplicably fogged with sadness.

The ceiling fixture’s bulbs glow like failing candles and a sorrow from the past—from here in the kitchen itself, or from a corner of my childhood—has bled into the present like color through a bandage…”

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My Bed Unexpectedly Devoured Me

Apologies for my absence. Four weeks ago, my bed unexpectedly devoured me.

I had just made a potent chess move against the Bishop—accidentally, I admit, but one that silenced the Ouija planchette enough for me to sleep—and I slumped into bed still wearing my necktie.

My-Bed-Unexpectedly-Devoured-Me2Swirling tiredness engulfed me after weeks of thwarted effort. I had failed to locate the indescribable cat. I had repeatedly attempted meaningful contact with June, the ghost who shares my bedroom, while fearing she’d withdrawn from my mercurial emotions.

I had hurled my heart and hopes directly at the void, hoping they would flower out and pollinate the gloom. But there is a certain depth of neediness—a spiral in a spiral—that negates whatever goodness it inexorably funnels.

Loneliness. Depression. Self-doubt and desperation. How I pined for the remedy and fantasy of sleep!

I remember a soothing dizziness, a bottomless and widening and endless relaxation. My mattress softly opened in a vulviform embrace…

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The Mysterious Bishop

My Dear Strangers,

I believe the spirit-board entity is male. This is only a feeling, possibly imagined in the vacuum of proof, as thoughts tend to bubble in a mind full of silence.

haunted house storiesHe is strongly single-minded, more like a force or philosophical design than a human personality. He is, in this regard, the opposite of June, with whom I share an almost purely emotional relationship.

Both types of relationship are challenging to me. With June, I have the warm, mystic bloom of deep connection but—because she cannot communicate her thoughts—I am vulnerable to fears about her motives and desires.

Why does she come? Why does she go? Is my belief in our affinity another baseless thought, rising in the silence to alleviate my loneliness?

With the spirit-board entity, I lack any flicker of personal connection, and yet I finally understand his stubborn motivation.

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The Ouija Riddle

My Dear Strangers,

I own a remarkably old spirit board of varnished maple, with wood-burned letters and a planchette made of thinly sliced bone. Popularly known as “Ouija” boards since their commercialization by the Kennard Novelty Company, these artifacts are crude but sometimes effective means of otherworldly communication.

haunted house storiesYesterday I used my board in an attempt to converse more easily with June, the ghost who shares my bedroom, but her ethereal fingers were unable to influence the planchette.

Disappointed but willing to try again, I left the board on my nightstand and went about my day. When I returned to the room at dusk, the planchette moved without my touching it at all.

Continue Reading at EquinoxSociety.com

The Tree Growing Out of My Wall Has Blossomed

haunted house storiesThe tree growing out of my wall has quadrupled in size.

This morning I entered the room and, before my eyes adjusted to the half-light, was speared in the belly by a leafy branch that extended sideways from the horizontal trunk.

Roots grip the wall like a twelve-fingered claw. Down-growing limbs support the tree’s weight like kickstands; without them, the damp brick wall would certainly collapse…

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