Three mornings in a row, immediately upon waking, write down a brief description of your most vividly remembered dreams or nightmares.
Use a wooden pencil and paper—no metal, plastic, or electronics.
Focus on the senses. What did you see, hear, and touch? Were there flavors or aromas? At the end of each summary, list the dominant emotions you experienced.
On the fourth morning, reread your dreams or nightmares.
Circle any nouns, verbs, adjectives, or adverbs that occur more than once in the three descriptions.
Tear a sheet of paper into pieces. Write one circled word on each piece of paper. When all the words are written, rearrange the pieces until a resonant meaning emerges.
Tape it together. Hang it on your wall. What has your unconscious told you?
— from the OCCULT WINTER KIT
Get One on Etsy
Last night at dusk I discovered a sizable wound in my largest pumpkin.
I crossed the patch to examine the damage, assuming a groundhog had ignored the ring of cayenne pepper and gunpowder I’d poured around the fruit, and was surprised to find the shell had broken outward, from within.
The pumpkin is approximately 300-lbs. Three shell fragments lay on the ground, leaving a hole in the pumpkin the size of a dinner plate. The fragments’ edges had the raggedness of fractures rather than the telltale smoothness of a knife cut.
No part of the orange exterior was damaged. The fragments’ inner sides, however, appeared to have been beaten and clawed. Knuckle-shaped divots had flattened the stringy pulp, and a deep set of scratch marks had grooved the biggest fragment. One of the marks was bloody.
I plucked what I believed to be a seed out of the flesh. It was a fingernail.
Continue reading The Hideous Pumpkin
Hey, it’s Claire. I’ve been here all week, waiting for the mysterious bridge jumper. Yesterday I met him.
Recap: Mystery man appears on an abandoned train trestle several times a month, leaps two-hundred feet into a rocky gorge, and promptly vanishes until his next jump. Locals don’t recognize him. I saw him make the jump myself last week.
Continue reading Vanishing Jumper: Part 3
Hey, it’s Claire. I’m in Depressingly-Nowhere County, PA investigating that mysterious bridge jumper Hank emailed me about.
The bridge is a train trestle, built in 1911, that runs a nauseating two hundred feet over a weedy, rocky gorge that’s impossible to easily access unless you’re one of those weirdoes who loves hiking into weedy, rocky gorges full ancient Genesee Cream Ale cans. The trestle’s been closed to all traffic for over a decade. It’s basically the kind of rusty old death structure you’d associate with dangerous teenage dares and mid-Pennsylvania industrial decay.
Continue reading Vanishing Jumper: Part 2
I’ve received word of a man who leaps to his death from a train trestle in rural New Jersey at least once a month.
The man has been seen taking his suicide dive—a two-hundred-foot drop into a rocky gorge—by more than a dozen witnesses in the last year.
He is currently unidentified. Witnesses describe him as approximately thirty years old and six feet tall. He’s Caucasian with curly black hair that three people have independently referred to as “marvelous”. He wears a gray sweatsuit and blue sneakers.
Continue reading Vanishing Jumper
The “Old Woman” sent another letter. The envelope was again marked with esoteric runes that few outside the society would recognize. This woman is unknown to me and my colleagues. I find myself unreasonably disquieted by these letters, as if my subconscious is detecting a dangerous subtext I can’t put my finger on.
Dear Mr. Mahoney,
After telling my granddaughter how I was discovered as an infant, in a hive of violent bees, she mulled the story for a day and asked the inevitable question.
Had she herself been found under remarkable circumstances?
My granddaughter’s name is Lil. She is a precocious seven-year-old with short black hair, black eyes, and a mouth I can only describe as candied. Her lips have the pink, thick fullness of fresh bubblegum. Her teeth are like Chiclets. She speaks with a slight lisp, as if she can’t help licking her own delicious words.
Continue reading The Mushroom Girl
An update about the two ethereal bodies floating in my house, dear strangers.
(Read Part 1 and Part 2)
The first body’s face, looking upward, could be seen through the hole I’d cut in the hallway floor. The second body, looking downward, was mostly hidden directly overhead in the ceiling. Only its ghostly nose protruded.
I Sawzalled a new hole, cutting a wide oval and revealing the second face. It was a woman this time. Like the man below, she was bald and lacked both eyebrows and eyelashes, and even if they hadn’t shared their strange hairlessness, they resembled each other enough to be relatives.
Once the plaster dust settled and my eyes felt clear, I stood on my stepladder, craned back so I could look straight up, and examined the woman’s face.
Continue reading Hovering Body, Part 3
An update about the hovering body in my hallway, dear strangers.
(Read Part 1)
As I described in my earlier report, the body is nonphysical—I was able to reach my hand through his torso—and is pressed face-first against the ceiling, the way an ordinary body would lie facedown on a floor. Because he’s so close to the ceiling, I was initially unable to see his features.
My solution was to Sawzall a hole in the ceiling, cutting a circle around his head, so I could see him through the floor of the hallway above. This was messier and more challenging than expected, but after I cut a crude hole in the ceiling, I walked upstairs, coated in plaster dust, and finished the hole from the upper hallway.
Continue reading Hovering Body, Part 2
A disembodied man is hovering in my brownstone’s second-floor hallway.
The hallway is narrow and long, with a grimy plaster ceiling and a hardwood floor covered by a lichenous carpet runner. Two wall sconces provide a modicum of light in the hall, but the man’s form floats in the gap between the sconces and is somewhat difficult to see.
I’m mostly certain he’s a man. He floats face-up against the ceiling, straight as a plank. From below I can see the back of his head, which is bald, but none of his distinguishing characteristics. He is nude, as many ghosts are—an essential, lingering self without ornament or clothes.
Continue reading Hovering Body
[Read previous report here]
Hey, it’s Claire. Here are the highlights of my interview with Melissa _________, the woman who’s been pregnant with a male fetus for twenty-six trimesters.
ME: Congratulations, I guess!
HER: Thank you. I feel very blessed.
ME: What’s your son’s name?
ME: Most mothers I’ve known start to feel very “get this baby out of me” by the end of the third trimester. How’re you feeling after seven years of pregnancy?
HER: I worried a lot in the first year, but once I understood he was healthy and safe, I made peace with him staying inside. My hormones reached a wonderful balance. I have a permanent pregnancy glow. I’m not in any discomfort. I think a lot of mothers would love this experience. I’m always with my baby. He doesn’t get sick, he’s never alone. He’s growing up in a perfect environment.
ME: He’s not really growing up, though, is he?
Continue reading Seven-Year-Old Fetus: The Interview