Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween! -- An Old Halloween Story

Happy Halloween! To celebrate the holiday, I'm posting an older short story of mine. Originally published within the pages of If - E - Zine(tm) Issue Number 8 (last year's Special Halloween Edition), "Simple Simon" tells the tale of a farmer and his family's annual Halloween party. Enjoy and have a happy, fun and safe Halloween!


“Simple Simon”
© 2006-2007 by Charles Shaver. All rights reserved.


The moon glowed blue, bathing the landscape in dispirited monotones until every blade of dying autumnal grass arcing to and fro in evening breeze, every bough bowing to howling winds, every stone, every scurrying mouse and cricket seeking underground
shelter, every fallen leaf, every bit of September life was dripping sweetly with twilight. The blue light of the moon danced in and out and around hills, trees, homes; shocks of shadows went flying skyward, having spent their day buried beyond the topsoil, while shocks of corn tied to porch posts in celebration of harvest season crinkled and cracked, crying softly, naturally in the whisking wind, whispers of the dying time.

Still other shadows danced with their moonlit partners, hand-in-hand and cheek-to-cheek, in an odd waltz set to the tune of oncoming winter storms, music unheard yet played within the bones of every living thing in the countryside.
While winds chanted shadows swirled forming ghostly shades moving to trick the eye, forming dark creatures dodging between trees. And there, there! Beyond rolling hills, on the highest and farthest hill sat a structure creaking and moaning, moving with nature’s rhythms despite being man-made. Whispering winds, breath of the dead, pierced the sides of the old barn and flowed over its broken wooden back and through its broken wooden teeth to give it a howling voice. The barn groaned under its own weight. Its coughs and shudders sickly as color drained from cheeks, its red paint chipping away under chiseling ghost gusts.

It was a grand, glorious old barn surrounded by a graveyard of headstones made up of the foundations of other buildings long ago fallen and forgotten. While other homes still stood in this country, none were near in age or location to the old, dying barn, dying from a broken heart. It served little use to anyone any more. Except… once a year…

On or soon after the first of October every year Mr. Mulahey would come out to visit the barn with family or friends or farm hands, taking ever deeper breaths, pulling vital air into themselves so they may take up hammer, take up nail, take up broom and breathe life anew into the exhausted barn in preparation for the annual Mulahey Halloween Barn Dance.

The Barn Dance had been an affair for the good people of this part of the country for more than sixty years.

Look now! Beyond the horizon! Just past that ridge! Between those trees! Do you see it? See it coming on at us? A light! You do see it! A small glow… distant, distant… glowing like the moon, glowing when the moon hides behind gypsy clouds… it grows nearer! It comes to us. Closer still! Like an orb, a ball… like a will-o-wisp, don’tcha think? And as we watch it weaving, weaving, growing, glowing, approaching, causing the land to light up white, it descends slowly, disappearing into the old barn.

* * * * *

“How long ya been doin’ this?”

“Over sixty years.”

“No. I meant how long you been doin’ this?”

“Oh,” Simon, dressed in a long-sleeve checked shirt and denim jeans and work boots, said, “Tha firs’ year was ’88. I guess this one here will make it nineteen years.”

“Thassa long time.”

“That’s a long time,” Simon echoed.

Milo Silas, the questioning young man, was of ordinary size and looks. He wore a plain white t-shirt turned gray with work and sweat, jeans and cowboy boots.

“Every year,” Simon said as the two headed across open fields towards the barn, “I think I’m never gonna make it out here ta have another dance again. But then every year, ‘bout the end of September, when the winds shift and the sun cools and the cats seem more riled up, when I breathe in that autumn air it brings into my lungs something a little different, a little more fun and a lot of tradition. I think we need our traditions, ya know? Rituals. Holidays. Fourth of July has long gone and the aftertaste of summer hot dogs has faded. Something happens to the earth and we have to mark it somehow. Do something to show we know.”

Milo silently nodded in agreement.

The noonday autumn sun made the men glow orange as if they had eaten a few too many pumpkin pies, the lands glowed golden brown and the winds swept off the final heat from the land. It was as if the whole world had sighed in its relief from the hot summer sun.

“And I can’t help but ta feel good when I see people smile as they come on inta my barn. People dress up cuz they can. They smile at themselves with painted goblin faces. And somewhere out in that barn between nightfall and home, between punch cups and pumpkin carvings, we secretly, maybe unknowingly, conjure up some kinda magic. We make voodoo. We have fun.

“Now I ain’t sayin’ I’m saving lives out here or nuthin’. But makin’ people smile can’t hurt no one.”

Milo again agreed silently.

Approaching the barn Milo felt he was making a pilgrimage to a holy sanctuary, a piece of the past left standing by the magic Simon fondly spoke of. A caern, an apothecary of candy smiles and a Stonehenge of country living. This old barn wasn’t just a piece of the Mulahey family history, it was a piece of everybody’s history that ever walked through here or danced here or was invited to celebrate here. It was grand and generous of the Mulahey’s. It was grand and generous. Milo smiled.
The two men entered the rickety barn and stopped, staring. Staring up. Staring beyond the two lofts, up into the rafters.

“By God,” Simon whispered. “How’d he get up there?”

Plump and purple from the rafters did hang by his neck a dusty old man in weather-torn clothes.

“Dear God,” Milo whispered. “Who is he?”

The old man’s head, noose about the neck, hung to one side oddly, crookedly. He was ugly and stained with death, dangling like an overripe berry from a vine.

“Who is he?” Simon repeated Milo’s question.

“Who was he?” Milo corrected Simon and himself.

“Get that ladder,” Simon instructed. “Then run along and get Doc Dearborne.”

* * * * *

A few people had made the trek to gather in the barn, Doc Dearborne and Sheriff Arker among them. Daisy, Simon’s wife, had also come when she heard from Milo some tragic thing had happened out at the old barn. Milo had refused to return.

“Who is he?” Simon asked.

“Some hobo named Dusty Jim,” Sheriff Arker answered. “No clue as to a family name. He’s been through this area before. He loved the hard whiskey. One of my deputies talked with him a little last time he was through here, oh, I’d say about early last summer. Lost his wife near on a decade ago to a younger man. She took the kids. He never saw them again. Lost his job soon after. He was a mechanic or worked in a machine shop or something like that. Told my deputy he was killing hisself with booze cuz he couldn’t work up the nerve to eat a bullet. I guess he finally got the nerve.”

“Why here?” Simon asked. “Why my barn?”

The sheriff shrugged. “Dunno. Maybe cuz it’s away from everything and everyone.”
Eyes watched as an ambulance crew tucked Dusty Jim’s body into the back of their vehicle. Eyes followed as the ambulance slowly made its way across the field. It was in no hurry. No lights were blinding them, no sirens blared.

“Yep,” the sheriff said. “Cuz it’s quiet out here. Far from everything. The rope was here. The rafters. Nice, quiet, safe.”

Doc Dearborne explained, “Looks like he climbed up in them rafters, tied the makeshift noose and then either jumper or fell. Snapped his neck completely.”

“Dear God,” Daisy gasped. “Simon, we can’t have the barn dance this year. Not now. Not after this.”

“Ma’am,” the sheriff spoke, “It ain’t my place but I say don’t let some train-hoppin’ hobo ruin your plans.”

“They’ve already been ruined,” she said. “No one will want to come out here now. No one will come.”

Simon shook his head. “In all my years, this barn has seen many things die. Coupla cows, chickens I remember. Lord only knows how many mice and bugs. Even had a goat die out here once when my granddaddy still used this barn. But I don’t remember ever hearin’ a man losin’ his life out here.”

“I best go,” said Doc Dearborne. Simon shook his hand and thanked him before he left. Then the Doc disappeared out across the field much like the ambulance had.

“I best go, too,” said the sheriff. “Happy Halloween.”

The barn emptied out. Only Simon remained with his wife.

“No one will come,” Daisy whispered.

* * * * *

Alex was a local farmer, much like Simon, but every year he planted a new patch of pumpkins for the Halloween season. Simon bought all his pumpkins from Alex. Like Simon, Alex had inherited his land and occupation from his family. He was tall and young and hard working. A few freckles still spotted his face while age lines hid deep below the skin, waiting to burst out. His red hair blazed and mixed in, fitting in, with the autumn sunsets.

Every October, Alex would load his pumpkins onto a flatbed trailer, pull them out to the side of the road that ran past his house, placed a coffee can with a hole cut in its plastic top and a sign taped onto it that read:

PLACE MONEY HERE
THANK YOU
HAPPY HALLOWEEN

He never asked much for his pumpkins and he always sold a lot. Simon was his biggest buyer. So when Simon pulled his old pick-up alongside the pumpkin-laden trailer, Alex came out to meet him.

“Simon! How are you?”

The two exchanged handshakes and smiles.

“Good, good. And you?”

“Can’t complain.”

“How many you got for me this year?” Simon surveyed the landscape of pumpkins across the flatbed.

“Same as every year: As many as you want.” Alex smiled and smiled.

“I think I’ll take the usual thirty.” Simon lowered the tailgate of his truck and the two began picking and loading pumpkins.

“How’s Daisy?” Alex asked.

“Good, good. How’s Marlette?”

“She’s fine. Inside with the kids teaching them to bake pumpkin pies from scratch.”

“God, I love Marlette’s pumpkin pies!”

“Why ya think I married her?”

The two men shared a laugh.

Then Alex said, “I heard what happened out to your barn.”

Simon thumped a pumpkin and smiled at it. “Yeah.”

“It really happen?”

Simon lost his smile. “Yeah.”

“Sorry to hear it.”

“Me too,” Simon placed three fat pumpkins onto his truck to Alex’s one.

“You expectin’ the usual crowd?” Alex asked.

“Not so much, maybe. People get funny about things.”

“Yeah.”

The two worked on, loading plump gourds one after the other.

“How many you expectin’?” Alex asked.

Simon stopped. “I dunno really.”

Alex and Simon exchanged glances.

“Simon,” said Alex. “How long we been friends?”

“Well, I been buyin’ from you since you started growing these things when you was six. That’s what, nearly twenty years? It’s been mostly business between you and me but after twenty years I’d gotta say somewhere along the way we’d had ta have become friends.”

Alex smiled, and then frowned. He picked up another pumpkin and Simon began loading again. “Simon… I don’t think I’m gonna make it out this year.”

Simon kept quietly loading.

“It’s not you, or even the suicide,” Alex explained. “It’s just… my kids got wind of it and it might spook ‘em out right to be there. This year, least ways. But next year… next year you sure can bet I’ll be out that way! We all will!”
“I can understand that. Especially with young’uns.”

Simon loaded a huge, fat, round pumpkin onto his truck, patting it. “This one’s a beauty.”

It glowed fire-orange and had a golden stem with a clean face. It seemed about to burst into smiles without a carved face, smiling while waiting for a smile to be carved. Simon smiled back at the gorgeous gourd.

“Simon,” Alex broke the enchantment the pumpkin had been weaving. “I’ve talked to folks. I… I-I don’t think hardly nobody’s gonna go to the dance this year.”
Simon frowned, patting the pumpkin. His voice grew soft, serious. All the drywall housing that collects and protects a man fell away from Simon’s heart. “What do you suggest I do?”

Alex hung his head. They loaded on the last of the thirty pumpkins. Simon dropped some bills into the coffee can.

* * * * *

For the next three weeks Simon worked alone on the barn. He layered the dirt floor with fresh straw, set bales about for seating, got a big wash tub for apple bobbing, set up tables for food, secured a pulley and rope for a jack-o-lantern piñata; he did everything that needed to be done. And he did it alone.

“No one will come,” Daisy would tell him every morning. “No one will come,” she said every night.

“No one will come,” she said as he went out the front door of the house on All Hollow’s Eve. “No one will come!” she yelled after him as he drove off in the truck, headed for the barn.

* * * * *

Boris Pickett sang on the boom box. The fresh straw crackled under his feet. Oil and battery-powered lamps set the mood. The last few weeks were some of the loneliest Simon had ever spent. Now he stood in his family’s old barn. Alone.

Simon sat on a stool at one of the tables, pulled the big, beautiful pumpkin that smiled before having a smile close, dug in his pocket for his jack-knife and carved.
Early wintry winds howled outside the barn. An owl sounded his night sounds, a moaning, questioning voice carried on and stretched out by winds in ghost tones. Shadows grew into witches dancing, prancing upon a landscape going dead from the great Fall. The barn glowed from within, sending spears of light into the heart of darkness, bubbling blackness troubling the moon, chasing it to hide behind clouds.
And look! A sphere, a sphere, a will-o-wisp bobbing, exiting the barn. Turning, turning, glowing, growing smaller with distance until at last it disappears between trees, behind hills, beyond horizons.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Ghosts, Zombies, Vikings, Bradbury, Kaiju... It's Halloween!

Halloween will soon be here. Does anyone have any idea what they're dressing up as? If you want to share, please do so in the comments! I'll be posting pics of me and my Halloween sometime soon after the holiday.

Please remember to stop by www.TheLordShen.com to check out If - E - Zine(tm): The Free Online Magazine of Thrilling Speculative Fiction! Issue Number 9 was published earlier this month and is this year's Special Halloween Edition. Within it's printable and completely FREE pages are three short stories and a kaiju rpg fighting game called Kaiju Katana: Monster Maker(tm).

Please check it out if you can. It's most appreciated.

And remember, this Friday I will be posting Part 2 of "Hunter of the Dead" -- a short story from the pages of If - E - Zine(tm) about Vikings in a zombie-filled apocalyptic world!

Now, enjoy the opening sequence of Ray Bradbury's animated Halloween classic: The Halloween Tree!



ADDITIONAL NOTES AND LINKS:

On a side-note, I recently finished the major work on my first novel. It's a science fiction piece set in the future where technology is virtually outlawed. I suppose I'm bragging a bit here, but I also know some of you good people may actually be interested by this little tid-bit. I'll be shipping it off to publishers and trying to get it sold soon.

Also please be sure to check out If - E - Zine's MySpace if you should happen to have a MySpace account yourself.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

BONUS POST! In Search Of... Leonard Nimoy and The Amityville Horror!

Be safe this Halloween!

Part 1


Part 2


Part 3

Friday, October 26, 2007

"Hunter of the Dead" -- Vikings vs Zombies!!!

Today's post comes once more from the webpages of If - E - Zine(tm) Issue Number 9. I offer you the first two pages of "Hunter of the Dead" in which Urdgar, a Viking, finds himself suddenly thrust into a zombie-filled apocalyptic world! This is part one of two. Watch for part two next Friday! Enjoy!


“Hunter of the Dead”
© 2007 by Charles Shaver. All rights reserved.

“It was a time of Vikings. The bitter breath of Frost Giants bedeviled the landscape. On the horizon came the shambling hordes of the dead.”
- From the Tales of Ugarth

A quiet snow fell upon the small collection of huts. Haffdann and Ovbjorn, dressed in furs, busily loaded provisions onto the longboat.
“Ya think Ordak will be out soon?” Ovbjorn’s baritone boomed even as a whisper.
“Give him way,” Haffdann said. “His wife has taken ill. Let him tend to her. We can load this alone.”

“We need more hands. Our men number too few. We’ve not even enough men for the oars.”

“With this air? Feel it. A storm comes and Thor rides with it just beyond our range. We’ll not need oars so long as our hempsails hold.”

A figure exited a small hut some distance away.

“Quiet,” said Haffdann. “Ordak comes now.”

Ordak was a tall man, though not taller than the hardy lot of men he called upon for heritage. The snow packed, crunching beneath his massive feet. His mane was long, brown and like a bear’s. Where man ended draped furs began was unclear. His eyes were emeralds and his skin pale leathers. He showed some youth, though the girth of age was filling him at the waist and cheek.

His voice was like a wolf’s, husky and growling. “What’s the wind tell you, Haffdann?”

“Our viking will be met by Thor.”

“We ride with Thor,” Ordak repeated.

“How’s your woman?” Haffdann asked softly.

Ordak eyed him but said nothing.

More figures moved through the shadows of night. At first three, then ten. Ovbjorn saw them first.

“Ya think our lousy oarsmen are comin’ to help?” he asked.

“Maybe Sigurd drank them stupid and has convinced them all to an early start,” Ovbjorn said. Ordak and Haffdann laughed.

A scream came to them as a banshee’s wail in the night.

“Fredierike!” Ordak yelled compulsively. His muscles tensed, launching him from the longboat and onto the soft snowy sands of the shore. His thick thighs contracted and stretched. He ran towards his hut, Ovbjorn and Haffdann trailing behind.

Another scream, this time from another hut and male. Ordak slowed in confusion before pressing on towards his woman.

He called for his wife once more. More screams filled the night.

“Raiders!” called Ovbjorn, but Ordak was as a hawk. No shape, no form, no shadow filled his vision. Only thoughts of his woman remained. His feet dug at the snow. His muscles churned. Death was on the air, in his nose as his world went red with horror and rage.

He plowed into the hut. There he found three men naked and pale as if with illness tearing flesh from his crying, dying mate. She screamed with frenzy and fear.
He paused in horror, cursed, “By the gods!”, then his muscles rippled beneath flesh, springing him through the air. He snatched one of the pale offenders tight by the head with both hands. One hand came away full of wispy, dry hair. Unthinking, he cocked his enemy’s head back with his still clutching hand and delivered a heavy blow with his fist, hair still in his hand. The man’s jaw broke with a snap and Ordak pushed him away.

The other two pale men looked up, blood spilling and spraying from their mouths. Their eyes were pure yellow with mad black tentacles spearing towards a pupilless center. Their flesh hung loosely from their bodies.

“By the gods,” Ordak cursed once more under his breath. “By what madness hast thou spawned?”

They were on him, each grabbing an arm. Dirty, gray nails dug into his forearm. Ordak whipped about until one fell crashing away. Ordak grabbed the other by the chin and forehead, twisting until its neck popped once, twice, thrice before throwing the creature against a wall of the hut.

Ordak stood over his bloody wife. Crimson bubbles gurgled from her mouth and an open wound at her neck. Her breath wheezed once, twice then faded. Ordak felt some sense of her hover in the air nearby. When the feeling faded, something faded from Ordak’s own heart.

A small shuffling of feet whipped Ordak’s head round. The three inhuman yet human-looking creatures were moving to stand once more.

“How is this possible?” Ordak cried. He leapt from bedside to the fire beside which lay his hatchet. He it up and it slipped into a position of comfort on its own as he yelled, “I’ll rend you with my steel!”

He became a dervish of bladed wind, a wintry whorl of biting death. The hatchet, spinning, lopped off a piece of one creature’s skull. It kept coming after Ordak.
Ordak screamed, swinging, cleaving off the arm of another. It kept coming.

Changing tactics, Ordak swung low to cut the leg off the third creature at the knee. It toppled and had to crawl using it’s hand and one remaining leg, but it kept coming.

With a lifting boot, Ordak kicked at the legless one and sent it flying into a wall. The hut shook with the clangor and blast.

Each time Ordak swung he hit.

The creatures barely bled, screamed none and kept coming.

“Demon spawns of Hel!” Ordak screamed and chopped, chopped and screamed until only bits and pieces of fleshy-splattered ichor covered the walls and the floor of the hut.


Watch for Part Two next Friday!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Friday, October 19, 2007

"A Bit of Chocolate" - Complete Full Short Story!

Today's post is once more from If - E - Zine(tm) Issue Number 9, this year's Special Halloween Edition. This is the full short story. Enjoy!

“A Bit of Chocolate”
© 2007 by Charles Shaver. All rights reserved.

The small bit of chocolate was a perfect sphere wrapped in foil. Donal held it lightly between his finger and thumb, rolling it so as not to apply too much of his body’s heat to any one point and melt the contents.

The chocolate became a star became a world drifting in darkness. Donal sat at the port of a spacecraft, watching.

“Donal,” the voice was mechanically filtered. “Donal. Stop daydreaming. Get to work.”
Donal heard nothing.

In another part of the ship Captain Barris and his first mate, Evelyn Trudeau, watched Donal through security monitors.

“He’s gone again,” said Trudeau.

“For crying out loud,” Captain Barris exhaled in defeat.

“It’s not Donal’s fault. The space sensitive are subject to Space Fever.”

“I know, I know.” Captain Barris depressed a button and spoke through the comlink again. “Donal. Donal. Stop daydreaming, Donal. Donal? Are you with us?”

* * * * *

Captain Barris and Trudeau were floating in a meeting room of a space station with Dr. Iizuka.

“It’s not Donal’s fault,” said Dr. Iizuka. “Some level of stress is bound to affect everyone that comes into space. Even you, Barris. Your levels of excitement and enthusiasm, though typically not viewed as traditional stress, releases chemicals into your body that elevates your heart rate, your blood pressure, your breathing rate, a lot of things. Prolonged exposure to such elevated levels of stress will cause a certain level of wear. Endurance and metal adaptability is key to space existence.

“We try to get people who basically view space travel as a job. There’s no excitement to that which is viewed as routine, no stress. The people we look for are those that see space travel as just another day. The problem is that still relatively few people have actually ventured into space.”

“If I’ve such high levels of excitement and stress, then why keep me around?” Captain Barris asked.

“Because you’re good as a leader and perform consistently in high-stress situations. You have a good deal of endurance and adaptability.”

“What about Donal?” Trudeau asked.

“He’s just another one that couldn’t take deep space.”

“But he did well enough getting to the station.”

“Yes, but here at the station though we may be floating about in weightlessness we are still under the influence of the earth’s gravity, we are still subject in small, subtle ways to our home planet. Here we are in orbit and still attached by an unseen umbilical cord.

“But out there, in deep space, the connection diminishes. We’re all as children taking its first steps: shaky and nervous and capable of falling flat on our faces.
“Again, it’s not Donal’s fault.”

“But he’s the third mathematician that’s gone off on us like this,” Captain Barris said. “And the seventh crew member in total. There has to be a fault somewhere and I’m beginning to think it’s not all physiological.”

“How do you mean?” asked Dr. Iizuka.

“If more than one person is experiencing problems, than its cause is likely to be some common aspect of our humanity. We may each have different backgrounds but we all go through the same rigorous training which means our training is in some way deficient in that its not catching and filtering out whatever is causing us problems once we get into deep space. Our training is not screening for something.”

“But what?” asked Trudeau. “We go through some of the toughest training on earth and in space.”

“It has to be something we don’t yet know about,” Captain Barris answered.

“From what Donal told me he was having trouble identifying an object he was looking at. I think he might have been hallucinating. He says he doesn’t remember you calling to him. He was essentially catatonic which leads me to believe he may be suffering from some sort of schizoaffective disorder. In fact, all of the people that have suffered from ‘Space Fever’ have displayed similar symptoms.”

“Why doesn’t our training screen for such a thing?” asked Trudeau.

“It’s not that easy. While all the elements may be preset within a person, there must be a triggering event for the disorder to manifest itself.”

“The triggering event is then somewhere within the deep space screening,” suggested Trudeau.

“It would seem,” confirmed Dr. Iizuka.

“So it could be physiological, after all?” asked Captain Barris.

“It could be a lot of things,” Dr. Iizuka said.

“What I was getting at earlier,” said Captain Barris, “is that it could be something within our society. Something so obvious that we’ve not thought about it.

“It’s been nearly a century since the first manned space flight. And just now we’re gathering a team for Mars. Why would it take so long for us to be reaching out to our neighbor? Technology doesn’t develop that slowly unless it’s stifled with a lack of interest or funding. The private sector didn’t get involved until cash prizes were involved, then the private sector even spent more money than the prizes were worth.

“That only suggests money wasn’t a motivator. That leaves a lack of interest. Humanity simply isn’t interested in space exploration or advancing itself.

“Dr. Iizuka, you mentioned an ‘unseen umbilical’. Maybe you weren’t far off. Maybe when we feel gravity slip from us we snap, pardon the expression. We’re all birds leaving the nest. Some fly, others fall and die.”

“That’s quite a bit of speculation,” said Trudeau.

“Maybe,’ said Dr. Iizuka, “but we have to entertain every idea until we come up with solid evidence.”

Captain Barris shook his head. “They’re so damned concerned about the politics of the day. I’m glad we’re up here and away from it all.”

“Is that why you became an astronaut, Captain?” Dr. Iizuka asked.

“Actually,” Captain Barris stammered a bit before he decided to be honest, “Yeah.”

* * * * *

Captain Barris rolled his eyes in boredom.

“Seems we’ve lost another one,” Trudeau said.

He watched as another prospective astronaut lolled his head about, unresponsive. Captain Barris closed his eyes. His eyelids exploded with a field of colors before his pupils. Blues and greens and reds swirled themselves into tiny spots before his eyes. For a moment he thought they looked like small foil-wrapped chocolates.

Friday, October 12, 2007

"A Touch of Rust" - Free Short Story

Hey folks,

I've been posting a lot lately. I've been working on that high you get after you've busted your butt for so many months on a project and finally completed it, in this case Issue Number 9 of the If - E - Zine(tm).

I appreciate all the comments and communications I've been sharing with many of you as of late. Feel free to keep them coming.

For today's post I offer the first two parts of "A Touch of Rust", one of the three free short stories found in If - E - Zine(tm) Issue Number 9, this year's Special Halloween Edition.

If you'd like to read the full story, you can find it at TheLordShen.com

Much love and respect,

~ charles, ed.-in-chief

“A Touch of Rust”
© 2007 by Charles Shaver. All rights reserved. No part of this story may be stored, copied or used without written prior permission from the author.

The world had turned to rust long ago. Few saw it happen, yet everyone felt it. Rust was simply too difficult to find in a city of concrete and plasma. The city was home to many things, but vegetation was not one of them.

Little Koji, however, knew of the one unique spot within the vast, sprawling city that held such rare life.

Koji exploded from the school, running through the asphalt playground into the arms of his waiting grandfather.

“Grampa! Grampa!”

“Heya, kiddo!”

They hugged.

“Are ya ready?” Grampa asked.

“Yeah!”

They were suddenly in a small, battered old truck speeding down the road, pressed on by zooming traffic and sounds of Shostakovich drowning out the world.

They passed through valleys of concrete wrapped in two-way plasma screens each stretching several stories high. From the inside they acted as windows, but from the street-valleys every building was a towering, mountainous billboard playing one channel or another, flashing some commercial or another.

They ignored the psychologically designed brilliantly flashing colors. Grampa drove, windows down despite the thick, heavy smog. Winds whipped at their hair. People stared at them from other vehicles, from behind closed glass.
Little Koji smiled at them all.

The old truck turned, diving underground, searching for a spot in which to park. Koji watched, counting row after row of vehicles. He thought they looked like sticks of gum packaged tightly, only their wrappings each different.
They found a place to park, slipped in and were off to the elevators.

Once again Koji watched, counting the floors as they passed on by. Up, up, ever up they went.

Koji spilled out of the elevator, his grandfather in tow, on the 132nd floor.
With the swipe of a card, a beep and a whoosh Grampa’s condo door burst wide.

Koji ran in, peeling off layers, spraying himself and his accessories everywhere. Here landed a jacket, there a backpack, as the little boy ran around furniture undaunted and heading for another door.

The door was made of glass and slid open. Koji could see his destination through the door as he drew near.

With a slide and a bang the door made way for the little boy. Koji came at last to stand center-stage of the big balcony, reaching high overhead to touch the golden leaves and bark of a tree all aglow with the fires of Autumn. The tree chattered at him with happy refrain, its leaves rustling on self-made winds.

* * * * *

Later that afternoon Koji and Grampa sat at a small table beneath the tree eating snack cakes and drinking apple juice.

“Grampa?” Koji kicked his feet.

“Kiddo?”

“Teacher says there’s not just one kinda tree in the world, but all different kinds!”

“That’s right.”

“What kind of tree is this one?”

“Oh, a glorious maple.”

“Glorious maple,” Koji repeated. “We read about maples in school.”

“Oh? What’d you read?”

“They’re called Acers and there’s even different kinds of maples!”

“That’s true. This one’s a sugar maple. Did you read about them?”

Koji shook his head.

“The western hall of the palace of one of the dragon gods is filled with sugar maples, all turning gold. Maples also keep bats away from your home.”

“Like vampires?”

Grampa smiled. “And vampires, too, I’m sure.”

“Grampa, why do trees change colors?”

“Well, not all trees change color, but maples do. Did you learn about chlorophyll?”

Koji nodded, smacking his lips over a small cake. “It’s what makes plants green.”

“That’s right, and when that chlorophyll breaks down in some plants, like in maples, the colors start to change.”

Koji snatched up another cake and drank his juice.

“Everyone needs a little rust in their lives, kiddo. It makes us old but… it makes us humble… a part of something bigger than ourselves.”

Koji kicked his feet. He smiled up at the tree. “I like comin’ here, Grampa.”

Laughing, Grampa said, “It’s just another place to live, kiddo. Just another box.”

“A box with a tree!”

Again Grampa laughed. “I like you comin’ here, too, kiddo.”

Koji gulped his juice.

Grampa smiled.

* * * * *

Read the rest of the story within the pages of If - E - Zine(tm) Issue Number 9 at TheLordShen.com!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Old School Cartoon - banned in some parts!

This was one of the few cartoons Walt Disney personally animated. It is the first Silly Symphony.

Titled "The Skeleton Dance", it was released in 1929 and at the time garnered a lot of criticism. The criticism was, in part, due to the 'graphic' nature of the cartoon. Before you judge, put things into perspective a bit: this cartoon was, afterall, quite possibly the first time the public had really seen skeletons rising from the grave and dancing. That's quite a frightening prospect even today! But in 1929 it was unheard of and resulted in many theaters refusing to carry the cartoon. It was even reportedly banned in some parts of the world!

Today it is normally hailed as a masterpiece of early animation. In 1994 it was voted (by a panel consisting of 1000 people working in the animation field) as #18 of the 50 Greatest Cartoons of All Time.

Have a safe and happy Halloween.





The Skeleton Dance on Wikipedia

The Skeleton Dance at Big Cartoon Database

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

How-To Halloween: Ideas to Help You Celebrate The Holiday

Here's some how-to videos with ideas to help you celebrate Halloween. Enjoy!

How-To Halloween Spooktacular with Madeline Merced - Part 1


How-To Halloween Spooktacular with Madeline Merced - Part 2


How-To Make Your Own Tombstones


How-To Make Your Own Floating Head Effect


How-To Make Monstrous Eyes in Your House


Brought to you by If - E - Zine(tm). Remember Issue 9, The Special Halloween Edition, is NOW AVAILABLE and it's FREE!!!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

100th Post! And it's about GUNDAM! Japan officials edited Wikipedia at work

Japan officials edited Wikipedia at work

From Yahoo! News:

TOKYO - Japan's Agriculture Ministry reprimanded six bureaucrats after an internal probe found they spent work hours contributing to Wikipedia on topics unrelated to farm issues — including 260 entries about cartoon robots.

The six civil servants together made 408 entries on the popular Web site encyclopedia from ministry computers since 2003, an official said Friday.

One of the six focused solely on Gundam — the popular, long-running animated series about giant robots — to which he contributed 260 times. The series has spun off intricate toy robots popular among schoolchildren as well as adults known as "otaku" nerds.

"The Agriculture Ministry is not in charge of Gundam," said ministry official Tsutomu Shimomura.

SOURCE

GUNDAM FIGHT!


One of my prized possessions: a Gundam Wing Zero Collectible!


Special thanks to J. Ho for bringing this news article to my attention. Check out his art blog, he loves drawing robots and He-Man. Now if only he'd draw robotic He-Man.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Rocko's Modern Halloween

Here's an episode from one of my favorite cartoons of all time (well, it's in my top ten anyways). Rocko's Modern Life ran from 1993 to about 1996. It deserved more season, in my humble opinion.

See as Halloween is approaching, I thought I'd share a Halloween episode of Rocko's Modern Life entitled Sugar Frosted Frights.

Enjoy:

PART 1


PART 2



REMINDER: If - E - Zine(tm) Issue Number 9, the Special Halloween Edition, is now available and it's FREE!!!

Friday, October 5, 2007

The Mummies!

Just a reminder that If - E - Zine(tm) Issue Number 9, the Special Halloween Edition is now available and it FREE!!! Check it out here.

For this week's post I bring to you the legendary garage surf punk rock band The Mummies. They were founded sometime in 1988 or 1989 and have been going fairly strong ever since. This video is from a cable access show. The song is their take on "Surfin' Bird" by The Trashmen (which, if memory serves, was last popularized in the movie Back to the Beach starring Pee-Wee Herman aka Paul Rubens).






ADDITIONAL STUFF:

Pee-Wee Herman's performance of "Surfin' Bird" from the movie Back to the Beach


The Mummies perform their classic song "You Must Fight to Live on the Planet of the Apes". I didn't post this video because the sound quality isn't wonderful, but it's not horrible.

The Mummies website

Related Band: The Ventures

Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Kaiju Katana: Monster Maker(tm)

Just a reminder that Issue Number 9 of If - E - Zine(tm) is NOW AVAILABLE. Besides three FREE science fiction- and Halloween-themed short stories, it also offers Kaiju Katana: Monster Maker(tm) - a set of rules you can use to make giant monsters like Godzilla and battle them with your friends!

Check it out, won't you? Enjoy!


And remember: It takes a man to be a father!






Monday, October 1, 2007

If - E - Zine(tm) Issue Number 9 is HERE and it's FREE!!!



Hey Folks!

These are exciting times! Not only is Issue Number 9 of If - E - Zine(tm) now available as of today, but the site has a whole new look!

I'm especially excited because this issue is not only Issue 9 and Special Halloween Edition 5 (If - E - Zine(tm) is now four years old and going strong!) but it's also the First Ever Monster Issue!

What makes this the First Ever Monster Issue?

Firstly, there’s quite a monstrous amount of material for you to peruse! There's three short stories:

In “A Bit Of Chocolate” we see three space-faring scientists attempt to discover the roots of the mysterious ‘Space Fever’.

In “A Touch of Rust” a grandfather’s desperation leads him to extreme measures to convince his young grandson that there are still parts of the world where trees exist.

And in “Hunter of the Dead” we're introduced to the character Urdgar the Hunter, a Viking that finds himself thrust into a zombie-filled apocalypse! Yep, Vikings vs. Zombies!

As if that weren’t enough, Issue Number 9 of If - E - Zine(tm) is also loaded with Kaiju Katana: Monster Maker(tm)! This is a set of rules for you and your friends to make giant-sized monsters (like Godzilla, King Kong, the Zords and Ultraman) and pit them in mortal combat with one another!

Now the second reason I call this the First Ever Monster Issue is that I’ve decided to borrow an idea from the original Outer Limits television show. In their initial season the producers of the show required at least one monster per episode. After the first season they dropped this requirement and the shows' ratings diminished horribly.

With Issue Number 9 of If - E - Zine(tm) I promise, dear readers, to provide at least one story per issue (starting with this issue) that includes the appearance of at least one monster!

I also want to take a quick moment and thank everyone who has supported me and my fiction and If - E - Zine(tm) over the last four years. I also want to welcome all the new readers from MySpace. I appreciate all the support I receive.

Also, dear readers, please note that the If - E - Zine(tm) MySpace profile has some new tunes for you to listen to while at work, at home or wherever you can access the internet! It's all science fiction- and Halloween-themed right now. Help me celebrate the Halloween Season and enjoy listening!

Enough talk! Let's get to that FREE fiction!

With much thanks,

~ charles