Dark Origins – Nursery Rhymes, Fairytales and Stories: The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allan Poe

Overview

I am kicking off Dark Origins 2023 with an analysis of the origins and historical accuracy of The Pit and the Pendulum. This short story by Edgar Allan Poe is set at the height of the Spanish Inquisition.

The story begins with the unnamed narrator being condemned to death. As the judges announce his fate, the narrator focuses on seven tall candles. The light of the candles initially appears to him like angels and he feels comforted. He is soon, however, overcome by horror at his fate and the candles disappear when he collapses into semi-consciousness.

When the narrator awakes, he is initially to scared to open his eyes. When he does open them, he finds himself in complete darkness and spends some time imagining the tortures of the Inquisition. After some time has passed, he musters the courage to start moving and tries to make sense of his surroundings by using his sense of touch. Falling asleep at one point during his navigation of the cell walls, he wakes up to find water and bread which he consumes. After completing his tour of the cell walls, he attempts to walk across the chamber and almost falls into a deep, circular pit. He discovers more bread and water and falls asleep again.

Awaking from his second sleep, he realises that his water is drugged and also that his prison is much smaller than he thought. He also discovers that the walls are made of metal and not stone and that he is now tied on his back to a piece of wood with only his left hand up to his left elbow free. He is very thirsty due to the salty food but the water pitcher has been removed. Looking up at the ceiling, the narrator sees a painting of Father Time holding a large and slow moving pendulum.

The narrator is distracted by rats scurrying about the floor of his prison and when he looks up thirty minutes later, he realised that the pendulum has a razor-sharp blade attached to it and it is moving down towards his body. The author’s intention with this depiction of Father Time holding a deadly weapon is to remind readers that we are all fighting against the clock which ticks steadily towards our inevitable ending.

The narrator devises a clever plan to escape death by being chopped by the pendulum which was designed to cut into his heart.

The pendulum is withdrawn from the room after his escape from his bonds and death by the pendulum, making it obvious that his torturers are watching his every move. The next torture is a mixture of heat and the walls closing around him and forcing him towards the pit. As death gallops towards him, he lets out a piercing scream and there is a blast of trumpets and the walls roll back. The narrator is rescued and the torture of the Inquisition is over.

Photo credit: https://www.britannica.com/topic/The-Pit-and-the-Pendulum-story-by-Poe

Dark Origin

The Pit and the Pendulum is about the torments endured by a prisoner of the Spanish Inquisition. It is interesting that Poe made no attempt with this story to be historically accurate and there are three areas where his short story differed significantly from historical facts, as follows:

  1. The narrator’s rescuer – the narrator is rescued by General Lasalle who was a French cavalry general during the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars, in particular, the Peninsular War which took place between 1808 and 1814. The Spanish Inquisition was at its height between 1480 and 1530, centuries before this war. The detailed tortures described in Poe’s story have no historic parallels in the activity of the Spanish Inquisition at any time, and particularly not at the beginning of the 19th century when only four persons were condemned under this regime.
  2. The original source of the pendulum torture method is one paragraph in the preface of The history of the Inquisition of Spain published in 1826 by Spanish priest, historian and activist, Juan Antonio Llorente. The paragraph detailed the second-hand account by Llorente of the release of a single prisoner from the Inquisition’s Madrid dungeon in 1820. Llorente included a description by said prisoner of the pendulum torture method. This description has been dismissed as factually inaccurate by modern historians. It is believed that Llorente misunderstood what he heard and that the prisoner was actually referring to the strappado (garrucha), a common Inquisition torture in terms of which the prisoner’s hands are tied behind his back and he is hoisted of the floor by a rope tied to his hands. This method is also called the “pendulum”.
  3. Poe places a Latin epigraph (phrase, quotation or poem) before the story describing it as “a quatrain composed for the gates of a market to be erected upon the site of the Jacobin Club House (the Jacobin Club was the most influential political club during the French Revolution of 1789) at Paris”. Poe did not invent this epigraph as this inscription was composed with the intention of placing it on the site, but the market was not built as intended and did not have any gates and, thus, no inscription.

Summary

Poe’s intention with this short story appears to be to capture the horrors of confinement and torture and the terrible realization by the victim that he is going to die regardless of the choices he makes i.e. the pit or the pendulum. The Spanish Inquisition setting would thus appear to be merely a convenient setting for the tale. Consequently, Poe was not limited by historical accuracy with his descriptions of the torture chamber and methods or the rescue of his hero.

Quotes from The Pit and the Pendulum

The Pit and the Pendulum is one of the most famous of Poe’s works together with The Tell-Tale Heart, The Cask of Amontillado, The Fall of the House of Usher and the Masque of the Red Death.

Famous quotes from The Pit and the Pendulum are as follows:

“And then there stole into my fancy, like a rich musical note, the thought of what sweet rest there must be in the grave.”

“I call to mind flatness and dampness; and then all is madness – the madness of a memory which busies itself among forbidden things.”

“In death – no! even in the grave all is not lost. Else there is no immortality for man. Arousing from the most profound slumbers, we break the gossamer web of some dream. Yet in a second afterward, (so frail may that web have been) we remember not that we have dreamed.”

About Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Award-winning, bestselling author, Roberta Eaton Cheadle, is a South African writer and poet specialising in historical, paranormal, and horror novels and short stories. She is an avid reader in these genres and her writing has been influenced by famous authors including Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe, Amor Towles, Stephen Crane, Enrich Maria Remarque, George Orwell, Stephen King, and Colleen McCullough.

Roberta has two published novels and has horror, paranormal, and fantasy short stories included in several anthologies. She and is also a contributor to the Ask the Authors 2022 (WordCrafter Writing Reference series).

Roberta also has thirteen children’s books and two poetry books published under the name of Robbie Cheadle, and has poems and short stories featured in several anthologies under this name.

Roberta’s blog features discussions about classic books, book reviews, poetry, and photography. https://roberta-writes.com/.

Find Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Blog: https://wordpress.com/view/robertawrites235681907.wordpress.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RobertaEaton17

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/robertawrites

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Roberta-Eaton-Cheadle/e/B08RSNJQZ5

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s “Dark Origins” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you found it interesting or entertaining, please share.


Resurrection Mixtape by Jeff Bowles #BookReview #GuestPost #BlogTour

Today we are wrapping up the WordCrafter “Resurrection Mixtape” Book Blog Tour over at “Carla Loves to Read”. Join us for a guest post from author Jeff Bowles, a review by Carla Johnson-Hicks, and one last chance to enter the giveaway by sharing your top three mixtape choices.

Carla Loves To Read

Welcome to my stop on the Blog Tour for Resurrection Mixtape by Jeff Bowles. Scroll down for my review, a guest post and a giveaway. Also visit the other stops on the tour for different guest posts and chances to win.


View original post 1,464 more words


Roberta Writes – WordCrafter book blog tour: Resurrection Mixtape by Jeff Bowles

Today we are over at “Roberta Writes” for Day 4 of the Wordcrafter “Resurrection Mixtape” Book Blog Tour, with a guest post from author Jeff Bowles about his music selections for the book. Now we know about the songs on his mixtape for the book. Tell us about yours to enter the giveaway and join in the fun!

Today, I am delighted to host Day 4 of the WordCrafter Book Blog Tour featuring Resurrection Mixtape by Jeff Bowles.

Giveaway

For this tour we’re giving away 3 signed print copies of Resurrection mixtape and a $25 Amazon gift card. To enter, just tell

us the top three songs on your mixtape in the comments. Come on now. We really want to know.

Winners will be chosen in a random drawing.

Unrequited Love: The Music of Resurrection Mixtape

I’ve been a musician since I was ten years old. To my mind, I’ve been a writer just as long, though it wasn’t until I was in my early twenties that I found the dedication to pursue adult storytelling with everything I had. It’s funny that the eagerness to do one superseded the eagerness to do the other, but as a creative writing professor once told me, novel-length work is often not…

View original post 1,091 more words


Robbie’s Inspiration – WordCrafter Book Tour: Resurrection Mixtape by Jeff Bowles

Come on over to “Robbie’s Inspiration” for Day 2 of the WordCrafter “Resurrection Mixtape” Book Blog tour, with a guest post by author Jeff Bowles on story origins and inspiration and thoughts about his writing process. Join us and don’t forget to add your thoughts on what songs would be on your mixtape to enter in a fantastic giveaway.

Robbie's inspiration

Today, I am delighted to welcome Jeff Bowles to Robbie’s Inspiration for Day 2 of his WordCrafter Press Book Blog Tour.

Giveaway

For this tour we’re giving away 3 signed print copies of Resurrection mixtape and a $25 Amazon gift card. To enter, just tell

us the top three songs on your mixtape in the comments. Come on now. We really want to know.

Winners will be chosen in a random drawing.

Experimentation and Killer Tunes: Writing Resurrection Mixtape

Resurrection Mixtape represents nothing more or less than a personal dare. Every author has their own special way of producing books. Sometimes it varies from project to project, but more or less, we all have our preferred methods.

But I was interested in breaking my own personal mold. For years, I’ve been writing short stories without an outline. I wondered if I could do the same with a novel, which…

View original post 1,014 more words


Calling All Bakers! Announcing My Second Annual Virtual Cookie Exchange

This is a cool idea for those of us whose creativity comes out in the kitchen, as well as on the page. I’m haven’t baked in years, but I know several of you who do. What a grand way to celebrate the Christmas season.

Staci Troilo

Ciao, amici! Last year, I got the idea for a holiday cookie recipe swap. But I got it kind of late, so participation was a little low. Six bakers fit it into their schedules, and we got tons of comments (and compliments and downloads) by readers. Many of you said you’d have loved to participate but didn’t have enough notice.

Consider yourself notified.

In early December, I’ll be hosting my second annual cookie exchange. The first was fun. Let’s make the second FABULOUS.

Many cookies freeze beautifully, so maybe you’re beginning your holiday baking now. Or perhaps, like me, you refuse to embrace Christmas until Thanksgiving is over (because autumn) and won’t bake until December rolls around. Either way, community members want your recipes!

Like last year, when I bake this year, I’m going to take photos of the steps as I go, then (of course) I’ll take a picture…

View original post 307 more words


Dark Origins – Myths and legends of the Khoikhoi (previously Hottentots)

Introduction

At the time when European settlement began, the Khoikhoi were settled in modern day Namibia, the north-eastern Cape and the south-western Cape. The name Khoikhoi means “real people” or “men of men”. The Khoikhoi are closely related to the San (Bushmen) and are sometimes referred to together as Khoisan. There is a theory that the Khoikho and the San were once the same race. The Khoikhoi broke away to raise cattle, build huts and lead a pastoral life while the San remained true to the wilderness and the elements.

The Khoikhoi were nomadic, moving around in search of grazing land for their animals which consisted mainly of goats, cattle and sheep. They also manufactured animal skins into clothing, bags and blankets and used reeds to make sleeping mats and mats to cover their round and mobile homes. The Khoikhoi also made pottery which could be tied to their oxen or to hut poles when they moved.

All the male children in Khoikhoi families are named after the material side and all the female children after the paternal side. The eldest daughter is highly respected and the milking of the cows is left entirely to her.

God and the afterlife

The Khoikhoi attach special significance to the moon and new and full moons were historically times for rainmaking rites and dancing.

The Khoikhoi deity is called Tsui-Goab and he is believed to be the founding ancestor of the Khoikhoi. He is the creator of the world, of man and of the elements. He provides for man and gives them full bellies and happy hearts. His opposite is Gaunab, who is primarily an evil being who causes sickness or death.

Tsui-Goab lives in a beautiful heaven of light and sunshine while Gaunab lives separately in a dark hiding place. Tsui-Goab, meaning the Read Dawn, bring the light and life to the world. The Khoikhoi always pray in the early morning with their faces turned towards the east where the first light of day appears.

Monsters

According to Khoikhoi legend, a man-eating monster called the Aigamuxa/Aigamuchab dwells among the dunes. The creature is mostly human-looking, except that it has eyes on the instep of its feet. In order to see, it has to go down on its hands and knees and lift its one foot in the air. This is a problem when the monster chases prey, because it can’t see when it runs. Some sources claim the creature resembles an ogre.

Another monster legend is Ga-gorib. This creature sits near a deep hole in the ground and dares passers-by to throw rocks at him. The monster’s intention is for the the rocks to bounce back and kill the passer-by, who will then fall into the hole. According to the myth, when the hero Heitsi-eibib encountered Ga-gorib, he declined the monster’s dare. When Ga-gorib was not looking, Heitsi-eibib threw a stone at the monster and hit it below its ear, causing it to fall into its own pit.

Hai-uri is an agile, jumping creature who is partially-invisible and has only one side to its body (one arm and one leg). It is known to eat humans.

Reading of The Night Walker, a Hottentot myth

I recorded an interesting story about the Hottentot myth, The Night Walker, which you can listen to here:

Here is a picture of a Night Walker with a kerrie taken from the book Myths and Legends of Southern Africa by Penny Millar:

About Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Roberta Eaton Cheadle is a South African writer and poet specialising in historical, paranormal, and horror novels and short stories. She is an avid reader in these genres and her writing has been influenced by famous authors including Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe, Amor Towles, Stephen Crane, Enrich Maria Remarque, George Orwell, Stephen King, and Colleen McCullough.

Roberta has short stories and poems in several anthologies and has 2 published novels, Through the Nethergate, a historical supernatural fantasy, and A Ghost and His Gold, a historical paranormal novel set in South Africa.

Roberta has 11 children’s books published under the name Robbie Cheadle.

Roberta was educated at the University of South Africa where she achieved a Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1996 and a Honours Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1997. She was admitted as a member of The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants in 2000.

Roberta has worked in corporate finance from 2001 until the present date and has written 7 publications relating to investing in Africa. She has won several awards over her 20-year career in the category of Transactional Support Services.

Find Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Blog: https://wordpress.com/view/robertawrites235681907.wordpress.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RobertaEaton17

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/robertawrites

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Roberta-Eaton-Cheadle/e/B08RSNJQZ5

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s “Dark Origins” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you found it interesting or entertaining, please share.


Treasuring Poetry – Meet poet and writer Penny Wilson #poetry #poetrycommunity #treasuringpoetry

Which of your own poems is your favourite?

Trying to choose a favorite poem of my own, is like trying to choose a favorite child! Writing is an incredibly personal thing and our creations become our “babies”.  Looking back through poems that I’ve written in the past, I will come across one that really strikes me as being exceptional.  I’m often surprised by what I find on these journeys of reminiscing. 

But to answer your question, today, right now, I think my favorite poem is called Poetry Of My Heart .

The poetry of my heart

spills onto the page

in blue ink

and fervent sighs

The poetry of my heart

is written on the wings

of dreams

and nights

of longing

The poetry of my heart

negate shadows of terrors

not voiced

The poetry of my heart

stands tall

against this world

What inspired you to write this poem?

I don’t know if any One Thing was the inspiration for this poem.  In essence, I’m saying that my poetry will speak for me when I cannot and I find a lot of power and freedom in that. 

What are your plans for your poetry going forward?

I am currently going through past poems of mine, published and unpublished in order to compile them to submit for publishing in a book or Chapbook.

What is your favourite poem?

My favorite poem?  This is a very difficult question.  I have many, many beloved works of poetry.  Since joining the WordPress community, that love has expanded 10-fold and continues to grow. 

My mother dedicated a poem to me when I was very young, called “Ordinary Miracles”, by Erica Jong.  This is probably still a favorite poem of mine.

Spring, rainbows,
ordinary miracles
about which
nothing new can be said.

The stars on a clear night
of a New England winter;
the soft air of the islands
along the old
Spanish Main;
pirate gold shining
in the palm;
the odor of roses
to the lover’s nose. . .

There is no more poetry
to be written
of these things.
The rainbow’s sudden revelation–
behold!
The cliché is true!
What can one say
but that?

So too
with you, little heart,
little miracle,

but you are
no less miracle
for being ordinary.

Why do you like this poem?

I like this poem because it always reminds me of my mother and her love for me.  To her, I was her “little miracle”.  It has always held a special place in my heart because of that.

***

Thank you, Penny, for being a wonderful guest. I really loved both your poetry choices and am delighted at the idea your mother dedicated a poem to you. What a lovely idea. I look forward to reading your book in due course.

About Penny Wilson

Penny Wilson is a freelance writer who writes in several genres. She has written articles for WOW Women on Writing.  Her poetry has been published in online journals, such as Ariel Chart, Spill Words Press and the Poppy Road Review.  Penny is a member of the Austin Poetry Society. Her poetry has been featured in the publication America’s Emerging Poets 2018 & 2019 by Z Publishing, Poets Quarterly and Dual Coast Magazine published by Prolific Press. You can find more of her writings on her blog at https://pennywilsonwrites.com/ and follow her on Twitter @pennywilson123.

About Robbie Cheadle

Robbie Cheadle is a South African children’s author and poet with eleven children’s books and two poetry books.

The eight Sir Chocolate children’s picture books, co-authored by Robbie and Michael Cheadle, are written in sweet, short rhymes which are easy for young children to follow and are illustrated with pictures of delicious cakes and cake decorations. Each book also includes simple recipes or biscuit art directions which children can make under adult supervision.

Robbie and Michael have also written Haunted Halloween Holiday, a delightful fantasy story for children aged 5 to 9 about Count Sugular and his family who hire a caravan to attend a Halloween party at the Haunted House in Ghost Valley. This story is beautifully illustrated with Robbie’s fondant and cake art creations.

Robbie has published two books for older children which incorporate recipes that are relevant to the storylines.

Robbie has two adult novels in the paranormal historical and supernatural fantasy genres published under the name Roberta Eaton Cheadle. She also has short stories, in the horror and paranormal genre, and poems included in several anthologies.

Robbie Cheadle contributes two monthly posts to https://writingtoberead.com, namely, Growing Bookworms, a series providing advice to caregivers on how to encourage children to read and write, and Treasuring Poetry, a series aimed at introducing poetry lovers to new poets and poetry books.

In addition, Roberta Eaton Cheadle contributes one monthly post to https://writingtoberead.com called Dark Origins: African Myths and Legends which shares information about the cultures, myths and legends of the indigenous people of southern Africa.

Robbie has a blog, https://robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com. where she shares book reviews, recipes, author interviews, and poetry.

Find Robbie Cheadle

Blog: https://www.robbiecheadle.co.za/

Blog: robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com

Twitter: BakeandWrite

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVyFo_OJLPqFa9ZhHnCfHUA

Facebook: Sir Chocolate Books

______________________________________________________________________________________________

Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s “Treasuring Poetry” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you found it interesting or entertaining, please share.


Laughing Along With A Limerick

A fun challenge if you’re game. 🙂

estherchiltonblog

Your new limerick challenge is as follows:

WHIFF

Your challenge last week was to write a limerick using the word TROUBLE in it somewhere. Here are your masterpieces:

Keith Edgar Channing:

Now James Watt is added to Hubble
We can soon spot the first signs of trouble.
Should aliens attack
We’ll push them right back
Using Reagan’s star wars at the double!

Christine Mallband-Brown:

Trouble comes every day and night
When monsters and vampires fight
At dawn and evening
Their shifts they are leaving
Arguments happen in crepuscular light!

Kim Smyth:

There once was a chick who was trouble
She ran from the law on the double
If she’d just get right
And stop trying to fight
Her life wouldn’t be such a puzzle!

TanGental:

His love life was in dreadful trouble
When patches of the spikiest stubble
Dislodged her vajazzle
Caused her tassels to frazzle

View original post 161 more words


Bowlesian! – Resurrection Mixtape

Note: for this month’s Bowlesian! I thought I’d share the first chapter of my newest novel, just released on Amazon this week. Please enjoy this sneak peek of “Resurrection Mixtape”. It’s all in the music, man. Press play at your own risk.

Resurrection Mixtape – Available now on Amazon

Resurrection Mixtape – Chapter 1

by Jeff Bowles

Firstly, an epitaph—

A mutual acquaintance introduced us. Years ago, when we were still in school. Emily was new to the city and wary of putting herself out there, which I could align with, because I wasn’t always eager to let new people into my life either. As it turned out, we both had respectable music collections. Her lexicon of rock and country and hip-hop and jazz, roots music, metal, soul, R&B, it was terribly impressive. I told her as much.

“Maybe we could combine forces and start a radio station,” she laughed.

“People don’t listen to music anymore. Not like they used to.”

And she gave me a puzzled look. “Yes, they do. Who on earth told you that?”

Emily didn’t buy the bad in life. Rented it sometimes, maybe. But rarely did she dwell therein. Everything we went through together, and she ended up with a guy named Guy. Stupid name for a guy, right? I mean, Guy. Barely a fucking noun. Guy was a real estate man, loaded, paid for one hell of a funeral. I attended of course. I forced myself to go. All it did was hurt me. I could’ve loved her better than anyone else. I would’ve seen to her every … well, I would’ve seen to her.

Maybe the MC at her wake played Bridge Over Troubled Water or something. I don’t remember. Emily would’ve preferred a more personal touch, perhaps even a song or two from one of her famous mixtapes….

* * * * *

Late Sunday Night—or early Monday morning, if you prefer

Summer in Seattle—KNOCK, KNOCK

Who’s there?

The dead woman standing at my doorstep could not account for herself, how she’d gotten there, by what incredible means. Expression vacant and gloomy, her eyes shifted from the contours of the porch, to my face, to the bright interior space behind me. My dearly departed friend, Emily Greer, almost a year to the day since she died in the fire. Not a ghost or a demonic apparition, not charred to a cinder or desiccated, sticky with rot, disfigured beyond belief.

Nope.

She looked perfect, untouched, like she’d just stepped from one of my memories. Naked and soaked in sweat, she shivered like a Pomeranian, like she’d just come through some terrible ordeal.

“Emily,” I breathed.

To which she replied, “Bluuuurgh.”

I blinked at her, dumbfounded, mind gloppy like horse glue. A soft vodka belch escaped my lips. Clearly, my night had shit-slipped into a different plane of reality. This was quickly and decisively not okay with me, like the music of Jared Leto or those little blonde fucks who sang MMMBop. It was well past midnight, humid and still. I felt hot and tired. Inebriated. Bewildered.

Those we connect with—in whose mental and emotional machinery we become entangled—enter and exit our lives at specific times for specific purposes. After everything I’ve seen, I can come to no other conclusion. But for me and you and everyone else, purpose can cut both ways. Like maybe you only meet someone so they can screw you over, make you feel scared or small, scar you up for the rest of your life (and maybe even your afterlife).

Case in point.

Emily held something small in her hand, just a little thing. Its plastic body reflected the soft, normative glow of my 60-watt porch light. An old audio cassette. Or maybe not old at all, hard to tell. She seemed to perceive its existence the same moment I did. She glanced at it and gurgled. Her hand trembled as she passed it to me.

“You … you want me to have this?” I asked.

Her head lolled to the side.

“What for…? What’s on it?” I said.

I scanned one side of it, Side A, then I flipped it over and scanned Side B. Clear body, bold crimson Maxell logo, its label inscribed in black ink: FOR THE MAN WHO HAS EVERYTHING. Once death and resurrection are on the table, one abandons compelling discriminative thinking anyway. I just so happened to have an old workhorse HiFi system sitting next to the TV in the living room. Tape deck still worked fine, too.

I told her she’d better come inside, that I had nosy neighbors. No skin off her bare ass. She staggered through the door, knocking into me as she crossed the threshold. The television blared at us from the next room. A Pink Floyd documentary I’d been dozing through. Dark Side of the Moon, spacey and comforting. I shut the door behind her and told her to sit tight while I went to flick it off. I was gone twenty seconds at most. When I turned around to head back, I found her seated comfortably on my sofa.

“How…?” I said.

“Bruglps.”

“How’d you move so—”

“Plurrbsss!”

“Okay, playing it. No need to get prickly.”

Machinelike, I powered up the HiFi, slid the cassette into the tape deck, hit the play button. A slight audio compression noise filled the room, the whir of blank magnetic space, a click when it tracked. A strange voice blasted from my upright speakers.

“Jason Halifax,” it said, “you are called. We call you. Play this cassette in full every Monday for precisely five weeks. Play it in full now and then follow our prescribed schedule for the remainder of the attenuation period. Do not deviate. We cannot stress this enough. Terrible things will happen if you do. Just awful.”

The voice was neither masculine nor feminine, young nor old. It was cold and ethereal, seeming to fill my mind as much as my ears.

“Upon completion of this task, Emily Greer will have regained her faculties in full. Made whole, better even. Quite simply, you will witness the birth of a god among women. You have been advised and duly warned. End spoken word portion.”

A clean, jangling piano flooded the sound field. My heart skipped a beat as it cycled through some pleasant seaside chords. A snare drum popped, a kick thudded, and the tempo changed. Billy Joel started singing Only the Good Die Young. 1978, charted at number 25, track six off his album, The Stranger.

I glared at Emily. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”

* * * * *

For the Man Who Has Everything wasone of a dozen mixtapes Emily gifted me over the course of our ten-year friendship. It was a hobby of hers. She accepted and adored all kinds of music. I’ve never known anyone so universal. Her latest and greatest contained ten tracks in total. A few notable inclusions:

Blinding Lights, by The Weeknd, released in 2019. Driving, dirty synth pop with potent neo Michael-Jacksonian vocals.

My Sharona, by The Knack, recorded in 1979. Energetic and meaty. A pop classic everyone loves to hate or hates to love.

Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me), by The Temptations, released in the year 1971. The ultimate unrequited love song. So many beautiful bits and pieces. A delicate yet powerful composition, poetry in motion.

“You made this for me?” I asked, meaning the playlist itself.

Her head tipped back and then forward.

“Why?” I said.

She looked down at herself, patted her knees, seeming at last to have noticed she was freebirding it.

“You need something to wear. Thank you for that,” I said.

I tore my eyes away and headed upstairs to the bedroom, pilfered the pile of clothes lying on my floor. A t-shirt and some black sweatpants. They’d have to do. The muffled, soulful strains of Just My Imagination called to me. The song should’ve acted as a balm, a healing touch, but no such luck. I was just as busted up and bewildered as the night I heard about the fire.

Contrary to what I’d once believed about us, Emily never was Lennon to my McCartney, Simon to my Garfunkel. We were more like an alternate comic book dimension Rogers and Hammerstein. Like maybe Rogers writes the lyrics while Hammerstein shits in the corner. Repeatedly, just shitting over in that corner he shits in all the time … complete dissimilarity to the actual …you get my point.

Not because of who she was, understand. For what I turned into in pursuit of her. Love is destructive even at its purest and best, complete and all-powerful in its ability to obliterate and violently remake you. I’d become averse to love, superstitious of it, and for what it’s worth, willing to let any and all opportunities pass. I thought about that as I shook loose change from the pockets of the sweatpants. How many times I could’ve gotten with someone but elected not to on her behalf. I could’ve fucked my way into some kind of reasonable mental clarity. You never know. Instead, I chose the way of the lovelorn monk, because there’s so much joy to be had there.

Sighing, I tucked the clothes under my arm and headed back downstairs. She was right where I left her, on the sofa, listening to the music.

“Emily,” I said, “how is any of this possible?”

She stared at me like I’d just asked her to solve the relativistic mass-energy equation. The mixtape tracked to the next song, Style by Taylor Swift. I wondered if she knew I hated Taylor Swift (I mean, outwardly, anyway—what kind of monster literally hates Taylor Swift?).

I eyed her, resisting my growing resentment of the lack of reciprocal mental feedback. Setting the clothes beside her on the sofa, I noted how doped up and dreamy her big googly eyes appeared. I helped her dress. One arm and then the other, her legs, flimsy as noodles, awkward to stuff down pant legs. My hand touched the inside of her thigh. Still slick with sweat. Up, dude, look up.

Emily gurgled again at me. I offered her something to eat, mimed shoveling food into my mouth.

“Blarrss,” she said.

“Food, Em.”

Her body and expression froze. Her next intended syllable—whatever that may have been—stuck in her throat. She went very pale, rigid.

“What’s wrong?”  I said. “Not hungry?”

A subtle chill passed over the room, a lazy coolness like from long afternoon shadows. The wooden framework of my home creaked and groaned. Emily let out the most godawful moan I’d ever heard. The blood drained from her face, her eyes darting around, lips quivering. She collapsed into my arms, her body beginning to convulse. Worming and wriggling as she was, I couldn’t get a grip on her. The same disembodied voice from the cassette exploded from her mouth.

“This is not a social call, Jason Halifax,” it said. “Contractual obligations must be met. Our conglomeration simply could not turn a blind eye to the situation at hand.”

It dawned on me this voice, this presence, expected a response.

“This is about a contract?” I said.

“Yes.”

“I don’t remember signing any—”

“You signed with your soul, Jason, with your intentions and all your secret hopes and desires. You believed this woman should be yours. Evidently, she did not disagree. Neither could the contract have been fulfilled while she was dead. Obviously so.”

“What do you mean she didn’t disagree? Who are you?”

“God,” the voice said.

“Really?”

“No, not really. That was a joke.”

The most bewildering and unnatural laughter rocked poor Emily’s body. It sounded like demons baying in skanky reverb, a mess of harsh unholy shit-swallowing. And I’ve never swallowed shit before, right? But contextually speaking, it sounded like goats suck-starting an elephant.

“Listen,” I said, “if we’re only gonna talk crazy here, I’m going to need something heavier than vodka.”

“Crazy? You’ve no comprehension of the word. Our true nature strains credulity. To attempt a worthy explanation of who we are and what we’re capable of would doubtless mystify you. Emily loved you dearly. That’s the important thing. It hurt her very much that you drifted apart.”

“That’s not how things were. I don’t believe you, Skeletor.

Skeletor. Ha. Yes, well looks can be deceiving. Make her whole, Jason. Protect this life, her life, her second chance. Love her with all your heart and soul. Isn’t that everything you’ve always wanted?”


And that’s it, folks! Pick up your copy of Resurrection Mixtape now. Thanks for reading, and I’ll be back next month with a December Bowlesian! short story that’ll knock your socks off. Goodbye!

Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative work can be found in God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, Love/Madness/Demon, Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars.


Bonus

Something to think about. Thanks Stevie.

Stevie Turner

Today is my birthday. I am 65 years old. This afternoon with the arrival of the post I have just spent a happy half an hour opening my cards. One friend has sent me a card with a horse’s arse on the front of it – I have no idea why, but she always was a trifle weird.

I have no idea where the time has gone, but it has definitely gone and I am teetering on the verge of being an official old age pensioner. Yes… next year I can claim my state pension, free bus pass, and then turn off my NHS laptop and RETIRE.

Retirement has always been something that happens to old people, but now very soon it will be happening to me. When I started work at the hospital back in 2002 most of the secretaries were older than me. Now they’re all younger…

View original post 177 more words