Friday, August 31, 2007

Too Long Away ...

I'm sorry for being quiet for so long, blogosphere.  I know you don't need my input to carry on, and I'm trying like hell not to be a traffic whore (thanks to Stranger for that term), but I'd started to garner a readership with my "Ghost Hunters" tale and I'm losing you all now (all three or four of you).

On the bright side, however, I have a job interview today with the company that I've been contracting for since November of 2006.  This is a big day for my family and me, because it's the first legitimate opportunity I've had at a full-time, salary-and-benefits position in more than five years.  Needless to say, we're gun-shy about getting too happy, but we have a bit of hope.  Our hopes have been dashed before though, so we season that with a grain of skepticism and realism.  The pay rate may stand as a minor barrier between me and the offer, but we'll see.  Wish me luck, y'all.

So anyway, stay tuned.  I have every intention of posting the continuing saga of JD, Dillon and Wendy tonight and hopefully a couple of more segments over the weekend.  If you've enjoyed the story, come back and keep reading.  And thanks for your patience.


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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Ghost Hunters, Pt. 7

Just joining us? You may want to start at the beginning.

JD's light snapped back on suddenly, startling him so badly he nearly dropped it. He turned the small flashlight over and over in his hands, heart pounding, studying it as if the reason it was extinguished might suddenly be apparent on the exterior casing. A half second later, he yelped in start and jumped again when Wendy ran up behind him and seized his arm hard.

"Wendy!" he complained.

"JD, what is going on? What was that??"

"Dude!" Dillon exclaimed racing up to the others. "DUDE! That was -- holy crap, dude! Holy CRAP!"

"I know, I know," JD said calmly, holding up his hands to simmer them down, "this is very strange, but we --"

"JD, we just watched a man get hurt! Maybe killed! We have to call the police!"

"Wendy, we can't --"

"JD, man, we gotta! Quit bein' a shit-licker man!"

"Dillon, we don't have any -- did ... did you just call me a shit-licker?"

"JD, we have to call someone! We can't just do nothing!" Wendy was close to panic, her breathing shallow, her entire body shaking violently.

"Wendy, we can't! Look!"

JD shone the light on the scene, revealing empty grass and an undisturbed yard in the red glow of the light.

Wendy reached into her pocket and pulled out a smaller version of his flashlight, and her white beam lit the yard as she panned it in the area.

"Oh my God," she whispered. "Oh my God."

"Yes," JD said to her softly, "I don't think we saw anything."

"Aww, naw," Dillon said shaking his head from side to side vehemently. "Naw you don', dude. We SO saw somethin'. Two dudes wastin' another dude. We SEEN it. All of us, man. You ain't gonna wiggle outta this, bro. No way."

"That isn't what I mean," JD said slowly.

"JD, if you're going to try and tell me there's a natural explanation for this, I'm going to smack you so hard your mother will feel it."

"No, no," JD said patiently, "just listen. That's not what I mean ... well, not exactly, anyway. What I mean is, what we witnessed weren't actual events -- at least, not recent ones."

"Dude, you're bein' a geek again, ain'tcha?"

"Well ... yes and no. There is a theory, held among some paranormal researchers, that events from the past can be recorded and under certain conditions those events can be played back. Like a recording, only the recording media isn't a magnetic tape or video. The mechanism is similar, but not manufactured."

"JD, what are you talking about?"

"Yeah, dude, you're gettin' all nerdy an' crap."

JD shook his head firmly. "Listen. It's possible that this lot, this area, the house, whatever -- something in this particular area recorded the events of some other time and just played them back. It normally takes some sort of release of some kind to make that happen, like a triggering event, but --"

"JD, you're not making any sense."

He sighed impatiently. "The things we just saw weren't live events, they were recorded ones that happened another time. Some time in the past. The energy of the events transmitted through the recording media -- that theory used to be called Stonetape Theory -- but that's gone by the wayside for the most part. But some others believe that it's recorded by water, and there is some research that suggests it may be possible for water to record events in the same way that a cassette tape does or a video tape does. In some circumstances, the location is disturbed -- like this house being restored, for instance -- and the water trapped inside the very material releases the recording and plays it back."

They were looking at him dubiously.

"I'm not making this up! Some paranormal researchers believe that ghost sightings can be directly related to materials in a particular area being disturbed sufficiently that the playback mechanism is activated and the residents in the area, or passersby, or whomever, will see what they believe are ghosts."

"JD, this 'recording' interacted with us."

"Dude, my DVDs don't talk t'me and tell me t'call the cops and pretend they're cops an' stuff, man."

"No, no ... we only think that person we saw was interacting with us. He wasn't. He was only a recording being played back. He probably spoke to someone in that time frame and we just happened to --"

"We just happened to be standing in JUST the the right spot at JUST the right time for the recording to LOOK like it was interacting with us, but actually wasn't? C'mon, Jaded, even YOU can't believe that drivel."

He shrugged. "It's plausible, Wen. Nothing else explains what ..."

"DUDE, IT WAS A FRIGGIN' GHOST!! That explains it!"

JD drew a deep breath, shutting his eyes. "Dillon, I know how badly you want this to be an apparition, but --"

"But nothing, Jaded," Wendy said very sternly. "It was a ghost. We all saw it. You're going to have to admit it."

He shook his head adamantly. "No. Not yet. When I have evidence to verify the veracity of that claim, I will affirm it. Not until."

"Dude, you're a weeny."

"Perhaps, but I'm not going to ascribe this to something supernatural until I have no other choice. If what we saw was an actual replay of events in the past, then the fog, the wet ground and mud, the warm and humid air -- all contain elements of water. The water could have recorded the events. The sudden and unseasonable cold snap may have caused the water to evaporate and release those recordings recently. I'm not ready to cry 'ghost' until I'm sure I've seen one, though."

"As far as I can see you're already past the point of no return on that, JD."

"Maybe, Wen ... maybe. I'm not the most sophisticated outfit around, either. And I'm sure that someone like Benjamin Radford could find a hundred different natural explanations for these events. I'm just not able to do that right now."

"Dude, y'want evidence? What 'bout them prints, man?"

Wendy and JD looked at each other, then whispered simultaneously, "The footprints!"

They raced back toward the corner of the house, rounding toward the parlor windows at a full sprint. JD held his light steadily on the area beneath the windows, in the exposed dirt between the bare, harsh shrub skeletons that jabbed and poked at them as they approached.

"It was here ... right over here ..."

"I can't believe Dillon thought of this first."

"Dude, why you gotta hurt me? I got a brain."

"Huh," JD said as though mystified.

"Ow, man. Just ... just ow, dude. You can so be a dick, man."

"It was right here ..."

"I thought it was more this direction."

They were clambering about in the rustling dead leaves, crawling on hands and knees, looking for the muddy footprint beneath the window of the parlor.

"Dude, it was, like, right by th' corner o' th' window, man, over there."


"Naw, man, more thataway."

"This way?"

"Yeah, but ... naw, naw, back th' other way, dude."

"Where?" JD crawled around in the dirt and leaves, shining his light in front of him and wincing as the twigs and rocks nipped at his flesh. "Do you mean this way?"

"Naw," Dillon said, "th' other way."

"I just was the other way, which way??"

"Back thataway, dude, over there more."

Wendy looked up at Dillon and trained her light directly on his face. "Dilly ... are you just making JD crawl around in the dirt?"

"Um ... nn-ooo ... well ... yeah."

"Dillon, we don't have time for your childish games," JD said irked.

"I know," Dillon grinned. "I'm sooooo sorry, dude. Seriously."

JD shook his head.

"No, I was right here," Wendy said finally. "I can see the depressions my hands left in the dirt where I was leaning over before. I remember commenting that I didn't have any dirt on my hands. This is the spot."

JD and Wendy both trained their lights steadily in the area.

There was no sign of any mud, no footprints, no indication of any kind that anyone had been through the area at all. It was as if nothing happened.

"You gotta be kiddin' me, man," Dillon said. "Whiskey tango foxtrot, dude?? This ghost's muckin' with us BIG time, man. An' it's all YOUR fault, JD."

"MY fault? How is it MY fault??"

"He's muckin' with us 'cause you won't believe in 'im, man. He so wants you to believe, dude. If you just say you believe, he'll, like, split an' stuff."

"Don't be ridiculous ... if that's even possible."

"There's nothing here, JD," Wendy said, standing up.

"Freakin' freaky, dude," Dillon said, and a shiver twisted down his spine, racking his wiry form from head to foot. "I'm hungry, too. Can we get a pizza now?"

JD scowled at him. "This is impossible. That was a physical trace of someone passing through, not some optical representation of the events of ... oh."

"What?" Wendy said, watching his face drop.

"It was all part of the replay, Wen. Every bit of it. Even the footprint. And the man you and Dillon saw in the house. And the assault we witnessed. All of it, from the beginning ... it was all part of the recording."

"No, I don't believe that," she said strongly. "That 'replay' interacted with us, JD. You can try and justify that with a huge series of coincidences if that makes you feel better, but that's nothing but a load of crap."

"Yeah, a load o' crap, you tell 'im, Wen."

"Wendy, we don't have any other --"

"Yep, loooooooad o' crap, dude."

"-- any other explanation for wh--"

"Yessirree, one big looooooooooooooooad o' crap, that's what we got there."

"Dillon, do you mind?"

"Mind what, bro?"

"Not interrupting me!"

"Oh, was you sayin' somethin', dude? All I heard was one big loooooooooad o' --"

"Thank you -- thank you, I understand the point. Please stop it."

"I will if you will, dude."

"So anything I say is now dismissed as a 'load of crap', is that it?"

"Pretty much, yeah," Dillon nodded.

"No, JD," Wendy said, cutting Dillon off, "of course not. But you have a ton of visual evidence and auditory evidence AND witnesses to the events here, and you're being very, very stubborn about this."

"And you're fulla crap."

"This coming from the biggest airbag balloon-head I've ever met."


"Knock it off," Wendy snapped parentally. "Jeez. I'm just saying that there's enough for you to move on the assumption that we have a paranormal event here and to look at it from that perspective."

"All right, Wendy," JD said, beginning to pace. "Let's move on that assumption. Now, what's the next thing we should do?"

"We should report what we've seen to the police."

"Duh, dude. Duh."

"Report what we've seen? Let's assume you're filing said police report. What will you tell them?"

"I'll tell ya what we say. We go, Dudes, we seen this ghost, man, an' he was whacked by these other ghosts in this yard, see, an' the two ghosts that whacked 'im, they split an' then the fog went away and we had nothin' to show you but we seen it an' this sounds like a load o' crap don' it?"

JD folded his arms across his chest.

"Damn it, Jaded," Wendy said through clenched jaw, "what do you suggest, then?"

"We have to have something we can show them. Some evidence. Until then, we can't do a single thing about this."

"Maybe that's all it wants."

JD knit his brows. "What do you mean?"

She cocked her head in thought. "I think ... I think maybe we're supposed to figure this out on our own."

"Duuuuuuudes," Dillon said slowly, "do you know what this could mean?"

JD looked at Dillon expectantly. "No, what?"

Dillon looked back quizzically. "How the hell should I know? I was asking, do you know what this could mean?"

"Oh, for the love of ... Listen, we have to collect evidence. I don't know if this replay is going to be a one-time event -- in which case we can't do anything, period -- or if it will be something that plays out over a few days or weeks, perhaps even months. But if we have any further opportunities, we need to record what we see, what we hear, what we find, and see if there's any way that we can figure out what's going on."

"So we can't do nothin', right? We're back t'doin' nothin' again?"

"No, we're back to waiting and observing."

"Like I said, doin' nothin'."

"Not nothing, Dillon," JD reiterated. "IF it's possible -- IF -- we can actually do something to demonstrate we're not suffering from mass hysteria, and have something documentable to show the police."

"Hmm. Lotta 'ifs' in there, dude."

"Just like life in general, Dillon. If what we saw recurs, we can be ready to record it."

"How long do you have in the house, JD?" Wendy said. "Won't the homeowners be coming back eventually?"

"Eventually," he said, "but they shouldn't be a problem for now. We should have plenty of time to do this. If the replay doesn't recur before the homeowners return, it's not likely to recur at all anyway."

"Dude, this sounds like it's gonna be a whole lot more boring comin' our way."

JD shrugged. "We'll see. We will see."

"Dude, is it cool if we do all that boring crap AFTER pizza? Seriously, dudes, I'ma die if I don' eat soon. And if I do, I'm so gonna haunt you."

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Ready to go on to Part 8?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Ghost Hunters, Pt. 6

Just joining us? You might want to start from the beginning.

It hit them fast, rolling in like a wave from the ocean that can't be outrun as it foams around the ankles, the fog washing over them and drenching them with moisture and a bath of eerie white as what little light there was diffused throughout the cloud. Draped in its billowing cape was warmer air that dripped over them like sap from the majestic maple trees, now lost in the white mask over the night.

They couldn't see each other any more, standing mere feet apart in the still, the sounds of the night seemingly smothered by the quilt of wetness from the river.

"Duuuuuuuuuuude," Dillon whispered, "this shit's freaky."

"This is weird, JD," Wendy said, reaching for his hand and finding it in the dark. He was surprised by her grasp in the misty dark, but he squeezed lightly and held the pressure there.

"Yes, this is not normal at all," JD agreed. "This fog ... it shouldn't even be here. It is -- or was at least -- far too cold for fog."

"The difference in temp can't be that great down by the river," Wendy agreed.

"So -- JD, dude, if it ain't natural ... then it's ... what? SUPERnatural, maybe?" He chuckled at his own joke.

JD was silent.

"JD?" Dillon said more soberly. "JD, you there, man? JAYDEE DON'T LEAVE ME HERE!" he shouted, groping madly through the fog until his hand clutched JD's shoulder.

"SHH! Dillon, be QUIET!" JD said harshly.

"Oh God, man ... Jeez ... I thought you guys left me. I thought you left me, man ..."

"Shut up already," JD snapped. "We're right here."

"No one's going to leave you alone, Dilly. JD, we should go," Wendy pressed herself against his arm as he held his hand in both of hers. "I can't see my hand in front of my face, and I don't think that guy was a cop."

"I don't either. Not a real one at least."

"He wasn't a freakin' cop? What the flip was he then?"

"That's what we don't want to find out, Dilly."

"We don't? How come?"

"Because if he wasn't a cop, he could be the serial killer you were afraid of before," JD said dully.

"Oh crap."


"We should leave and contact the police, JD." Wendy's voice was grave and serious, hushed in the pea soup fog.


"How d'ya know he wasn't a real cop?"

"He didn't ask us for ID, Dilly."

"Good thing, too. I ain't got none."

"He's been gone for quite a while," JD said quizzically. "He should have been around the house by now."

"All the more reason for us to leave, JD."

"I know, Wen, but ... I think we should try and have a look at him at least. We need something to provide the police by way of description."

"What's t'describe, dude? A freaky, creepy-ass fake cop. How hard's that to find?"

"I really think we should leave now," Wendy was clearly getting concerned. "Who knows what that guy's doing?"

"We have to have more to go to the police with, Wen."

"Bull, dude ... all we gotta do is go inside an' call 'em. Let 'em do their own damn homework. That's what my tax dollars are for."

"Yeah, I agree."

"Okay, okay. We can go inside. Or ... Wendy, have you got a cell phone with you."

"OH! I never thought of that."

"Aw, Wen ... you mean JD thoughta somethin' you didn't?? Dang, I hate it when he's smarter 'n us."

She fished in her jacket for a moment and pulled out her phone, flipping it open."

"Huh," she said. "No signal."

"No signal? Here?"

"Aw, crap! Crap! A ghost is muckin' with our technology an' shit, man!"

"Dillon, please," JD said patiently. "That's ... that's just strange. And where on earth has that man gone?"

"JD, let's just go inside before something terrible happens to one of us."

"Like me," Dillon chimed readily. "If somethin' bad is gonna happen, it's gonna happen to me, dude."

"Don't be absurd."

"DUDE, I already fell in th' bushes, and Wen scared the crap outta me, and I seen the ghost in the house ... it's so gonna be me, man. It is SO gonna be me."

"Fine, let's go into the house and ..."

JD never finished his sentence. There was a muffled sound, something like a startled shout smothered beneath a blanket or hand, from the depths of the fog. The three of them froze, and Wendy grabbed JD's hand hard again, pressing against him in the murk. A half second later he felt another body against his back and two hands grip his shoulders above the collar bone ... Dillon.

"What the -- what're you doing?"

"Dude, what was that?? What was that, man?"

"JD, we should go ..."

"Wendy, we have to see what that was. That sounded like ... someone could be in trouble."

"Yeah, dude, US! I toldja, JASON'S out here killin' people! We gotta go, man! It's so gonna be ME next!"

"Dillon! Be quiet!"

They listened. There was nothing more.

"I think it came from the other side of the house," JD said quietly, nearly whispering.

"JD, this is something the police should handle."

"Dude, please -- Wen's right, man, we gotta call the cops."

"Go on," JD said finally, "go into the house and call the police. I'll see what I can find."

"NO, JD. We've got to stay together. You don't know what's going on out there."

"Dillon, take Wendy inside, please."

"What'm I supposed t'do, carry her?"

"If necessary."

"JD, don't be an ass," Wendy spat. "Don't be stupid. We have to call the police."

"JD, man, she's right, quit screwin'. You ain't like, Chuck Norris or nothin'. You could be killed an' stuff."

"I'll be fine, but we have to see what that was." He moved away and released Wendy's hand, but Dillon was still clinging to his back.



"You're holding onto me."


"Let go, please."

"Dude, I so can't."

"Wh ... all right. All right, let's go in the house."

"I knew you'd get smart sooner or later, m'man."

Dillon let go of JD and turned in the dimness. And JD walked quickly toward the sound into the murk.

"Aw, that is SO not cool, man!"

"Sorry -- go inside and call the police," his voice drifted to them.

"Damn it, JD!" Wendy hissed, "I'm going with you then!" She stomped after him.

"Aw, shit, man!! Don't leave ME out here!!" Dillon scurried quickly behind Wendy, hands outstretched to his sides probing, groping. "Aw, hell, c'mon, you guys! Where ya at?? Huh? Where ya --"

He smashed face first into a tree trunk as it emerged from the heavy mist, and his sudden momentum change knocked him down heavily onto his hindquarters. He whooshed loudly as the air was knocked from his lungs, and he madly fumbled trying to stand, to see in the dark and wet fog.

"JD!!" he called weakly, gasping for air, "JD, Wen, somethin's got me!! Help, somethin's got me!!"

He tried to scream when a hand seized him by the collar and pulled him hard off the ground. He flailed wildly, kicking and trying to scream, arms windmilling blindly, but he could only squeak and gasp as he fought for air.

"Dillon!" JD snapped in his ear. "It's me! Calm down!"

"Dilly, are you all right?" Wendy emerged from the cloud and took him around the upper arm, pulling him away from JD.

He shook his head violently "no", still gasping. "Can't ... breathe ... ugggghhhnnn ..."

"You've had the wind knocked out of you, just relax. I'm going on to see what that sound was ... if I can, now."

"JD, damn it, just wait for us."

"Wendy, we don't have all night. And if this person is someone we should be wary of, there's no sense in all of us being in jeopardy. Just please go in the house and call the police."

"If I don't have a cell signal out here I'm not going to have one in there, either."

"My phone is on the desk with the monitors," JD said flatly. "It does have a signal, because I checked it when I got here. Use mine."

"You're really getting on my nerves. Do you have some reason for playing hero, because no one is impressed."

"I'm not playing hero," he spat. "I'm trying to see if someone needs help. He'll be exsanguinated before we get there if I wait for you two."

"C'mon, Dillon ... can you walk? I don't want Captain America here to get killed."

Dillon wheezed, "Yeah ... you're such a dick du..." but ran out of breath before he could finish his insult.

JD fumed, but went on. Wendy reached out and suddenly clutched his hand hard, pulling him viciously back.

He turned, brows knit in bewildered irritation.

"We stay together this time, ass," Wendy forced her words through gritted teeth.

JD softened. "All right. Do you have Dillon?"

"Yes. Move it." She was clearly irked. Her irritation made JD feel badly. Maybe her accusations were right ... he was being pushy and the smarter thing to do was to go inside and call the police.

But something about that sound compelled him. Something about that sound was disconcerting, jarring to him. He had to know.

They went as quickly as Dillon was able, moving in the mist like specters, JD with his arms panning from side to side in front of him, trying to avoid Dillon's mistake. Dillon hacked a bit from the rear, but at least he was quiet for the moment. He saw only the dark and the damp fog as they progressed, trying to gauge their location relative to the house.

"Dude," Dillon whispered, his breathing easier, "we are so lost in this stuff, man. Where are we?"

"I ... I'm not sure, exactly. We should be near the corner of the house by now. We were near the parlor before, and the house went on a bit. We should probably go left at this point."

"I can't remember how far down the cop went before he turned," Wendy said. "Then the fog rolled in."

"Man, I bet we can't even get back t'the house if we wanted to now ... and I do. We are so lost in the yard. They're gonna find us all starved an' skeletons an' shit, out here 'cause JD wouldn't go call the cops."

"Starved and skeletal?" JD retorted.

"Well ... I'M hungry. Anybody else? We should call the cops then call for a pizza."

"Let's keep moving, guys."

They went to their left, feeling their way gingerly through the fog, the stillness only broken by the sound of their steps through the wet grass. JD occasionally shook the flashlight in his pocket, trying to make it come on.

"I can't figure out why my flashlight stopped working," he thought aloud.

"Batteries, numbnuts ... you need t'change 'em sometimes."

"I know that, Dillon," he said irritated. "I changed them just before I got here today. They're brand new. It's not the batteries."

"Then it's a ghost."

"Everything is as far as you're concerned."

"Not everything."

"Most things so far."

"Like what?"

"Like Wendy."

"You think Wendy's a ghost? Dude!"

"Not me, cretin, you."

"I never said Wendy was a ghost."

"You thought she was when she startled you."

"No I didn't, I thought she was a werewolf. Nyah."

"A werewolf?"

"That's what I thought. I didn't think she was a ghost though."

"You thought her flashlight was a ghost."

"I did not."

"Yes you did."

"Dude, I know what a flashlight looks like."

"No, no ... you thought the flash she made with it on the monitors was a ghost."

"Oh, that."

"And you thought the man we saw was a ghost."

"I still do, dude."


"Hellz yeah. He disappeared an' shit, right? Just like a ghost. He was all weird an' shit, right? Just like a ghost. He was --"

"You're weird, but that doesn't make you a ghost."

"JD, do you see anything yet?" Wendy was irritated.

"I can't see anything at all. I never could. I can only guess where we may be in the yard."

"This was stupid, JD."

"She's so tellin' the truth, J-bird. Big time stupid. Major stupid. Stupid royale. Stupid-atouille. Stupid-ala-mode. Stupid --"

"Thank you, I get it."

"Well, it is."

"Wait! I see something!"

The other two crowded closely beside JD, watching.

In the mist, outlined by a weak flashlight beam, were three figures: two standing, one laying on the ground with one arm held up in a defensive posture, an illuminated flashlight clutched in the upheld hand. They gasped as suddenly one of the standing shadows raised an object, like a small club, and brought it down savagely on the head of the prone figure, the flashlight-wielding arm dropping limply to the ground, the light rolling away pointed at the horrific scene. There was a sickening thud as again and again the club fell, until at last the two figures fled into the mist away from the tiny area of illumination cast by the light.

JD sprinted forward, moving as fast as he could, trying to make sure there weren't any objects between him and the still shadow on the ground. The figure twitched, trying to stir, then collapsed again.

And just as quickly as it came, the fog rolled past them, beyond the edges of the house, like a cape trailing away from a fleeting figure in the night, leaving only the dark, crystalline night, the cold collapsing back in behind the vanishing mist.

JD stopped dead in his tracks, staring in wide-eyed disbelief.

There was no figure, no flashlight ... nothing. No sign that anyone had ever been there.

There was only the biting chill of the still night.

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Ready to go on to Part 7?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Ghost Hunters, Pt. 5

Just joining us? You might want to start from the beginning.

They were clearly panicked.

JD remembered his flashlight and pulled it out of his pocket, and when he turned it on the other two ceased their clamoring and clutched one another more closely. He panned the red beam around the room starting from the right, where the others indicated the silhouette vanished. He continued slowly in the cold silence of the ancient house, and ended when he reached the wall adjacent to the doorway.

There was no one there.

He turned to Wendy and Dillon.

"See? There's nothing."

They broke out in unison again.

"Aww, man, there WAS somethin', JD! I saw it!"
"It WAS there, JD! It was a man, a shadow ..."
"He was all movin' and shit!"
"He crossed the room and disappeared into the shadows ..."
"He was FLOATIN', I think! I think he was ..."
"I saw it clearly, JD! I know what I saw!"
"Dude had glowin' eyes and shit! I could see it!"

JD shot Dillon a look, and he fell silent.

"Well ... maybe not that part. But I seen 'im! We both did, man! It was there, a guy was there walkin' across the room!"

"Well you were obviously mistaken," JD said calmly.

"No, I wasn't," Wendy snapped angrily. "Damn it, Jaded, we both saw it. Just because you didn't doesn't mean it didn't happen."

He looked at her, and her sincerity disturbed him.

"I know you saw something, Wendy," he said with measured deliberation, "but it couldn't have been in the house. That's all I'm saying."

"The drop in temperature, the silhouette in the room, and the fact that the homeowners called about something doesn't give you ANY inkling that maybe, just maybe, something weird's going on around here, Jaded??"

JD shook his head. "I think you saw a silhouette, okay? I believe you saw it, but --"

"Damn straight," Dillon said with a single affirming nod.

"-- BUT, I don't think it was inside the house."

"It WAS, JD!" Dillon protested. "He was right in front o' the windows! We seen it! Dude, if he was outside we'd've seen 'em through the curtains an' shit. We saw 'im clear, man!!"

"I still think we need to eliminate the possibility that it was outside first."

"You gotta be kiddin' me," Dillon said, his whole body sagging suddenly.

"You can stay inside if you'd like, Dillon," JD shrugged. "You both can. I'll go check outside to see if I can find any evidence that someone was walking around out there."

"So you don't believe us?" Wendy said, her face a mixture of anger and pain.

"No, I absolutely do believe you, Wendy," JD said softly, cupping her face in his hands. "That's why I'm going out there in the freezing cold to check this out. If I didn't, I wouldn't do that." He smiled and kissed her softly on the nose.

"But you don't believe what I say."

"I do too. I just said I do."

"No, you believe I saw something. But you don't believe me when I say it was in the house."

"That's so not cool, JD."

"Dillon, do you mind?"

"Not at all, m'man."

"BUTT OUT, Dillon."

"Oh ... sorry."

"I believe you, Wendy. I do. I just can see, on the monitors and with my own eyes, there's no one there."

"I know that, JD. I believe I saw a ghost. Do you believe me?"

Her eyes challenged him, and her hands on her hips told him she was defying him as much as she was convinced. He eyed her carefully.

"I believe you saw someone. I believe that you believe it was a ghost. I don't know if I believe that yet. We're going to have to agree to disagree on this one."

She shook her head. "Fine. I'm going out with you. I don't want you to come in here and tell me you found 'evidence' of someone outside when there isn't any."

He sighed. "Why would I lie to you?"

"Because you need to be right, JD."

"You so do that, bro."

"I do not need to be right, Wendy. I believe there is no supernatural mystery here, that's all."

"You want a mystery, JD? You want an honest-to-God mystery?? Figure out why I love you so much, because I sure as hell can't."

As she stormed toward the front door, JD's jaw dropped.

Dillon was watching his stunned face. "What? Oh, don't tell me you didn't know, genius-boy. It's as plain as a ghost in this house."

JD looked at him, still shocked. "I ... I didn't think she was ..."

"What? Serious about you? Don'tcha think a chick like her can have any guy, dude? But she only goes out with you. Why's that?"

JD was contemplating his shoes very intently.

"Oh, I get it -- you're a dumbass and don't know shit like that, right? Well, here's a clue, brainiac ... she loves you. She's been in love with you for a while. I figgered you were jus' stupid not askin' her to marry you an' crap. But that's just me. I guess you figger there's plenty of 'em where she came from or somethin'."

JD looked at Dillon harshly. "Don't be ridiculous. I've never even dreamed of someone like her."

"Then you better start showin' it, jackass," Dillon said heavily, "or she's gonna split for someone that will."

Dillon darted as quickly as he could, snatched his jacket from the back of one of the chairs and yanked his body out of the parlor as if his rump were being nipped at by lions. He disappeared after Wendy into the main hall, leaving JD with his thoughts for a moment. He finally drew a deep breath and went to grab his jacket from the other chair.

"Jaded, are you coming or not??" Wendy harangued from the hallway.

"Yes," he said, shaking his head. "Yes, I'm coming."

They were standing at the front door waiting while JD pulled on his jacket, then opened the door. The bite of the cold from outside seemed worse since they were outside last, even though the heat wasn't on inside. As they stepped onto the porch, Wendy seated her watch cap lower on her head.

"Wow, it's cold," she chattered, hugging herself and shivering violently as she adjusted to the temperature. "We're going to have snow soon."

"Yeah! Then we can go sleddin'! Boardin', skiin', all that stuff! That's awesome!!"

"Shh, Dillon, please," JD chided quietly. "It's night time. Most people sleep at night. Try to lower your voice."

"Oh, right. Sorry. And don't EVEN think 'bout scarin' me this time, Wen."

She giggled and hugged Dillon's arm tightly. "No problem. We want to make sure nothing skews JD's 'evidence'."

JD shook his head as they stood on the wide, railed porch, the hard, frozen boards ringing under their feet.

"Okay, the parlor is to the right of us. We should start that way, and circle the house."

"What're we lookin' for?"

"Things that indicate someone was out here. Or the someone."

"Do you think they're still out here?"

"Probably not."

"Man, dude, what if it's like, some psycho dude like Jason or somethin'? What if he's got, like, saws and axes and big knives and shit?"

"Dillon, try, for once, to control your imagination."

"JD, if you think there's someone here we should call the police."

"No, it's fine. I think there was someone out here though. Let's go."

"This is frickin' stupid, dude."

"Yeah, we need the cops JD."

"There is no serial killer, people. Can we go please? Or shall I do it alone?"

"Alone," Dillon said quickly.

"No one's going anywhere alone until we know it's safe," Wendy said, swatting Dillon on the shoulder.

"Then follow me, please," JD said professionally, and he strode down the stairs to the yard.

The others followed closely behind as he shone the red flashlight around them. The shadows danced and played like nightmare images as they walked slowly past the face of the house, bushes and trees stretching claws and talons down into the dark toward them. The crunching grass betrayed their every step as they moved, heads swiveling to follow the round red patch of illumination about the large, dark yard that refused to reveal its farthest depths to them. It seemed to shift and retreat, keeping a shadowy shield between it and their light.

"See anything yet?" Dillon whispered huskily.

"No, but we're not anywhere near the parlor yet."

"Too bad we don't have snow already," Wendy lamented. "At least we'd have footprints if someone was out here."

"The ground isn't frozen yet," JD said brightly, "maybe we'll have some if we look closely enough."

"Who're you, CSI:Miami? You can get footprints outta the dirt, in the dark, with a red flashlight?" Dillon scoffed, snorting and sniffing in the cold.

JD shrugged. "We'll have to see."

"Yeah, right."

The light continued to pan about, scanning slowly. JD was careful to move the light gradually, and they crept along following it, looking carefully into the dimness. They rounded the corner of the house. Above them, the huge Maple and Oak trees in the yard menaced, their canopy refusing to let the light in and soaking it up to trap it behind their labyrinth limbs.

The wind skittered leaves about the street and sidewalk, and across the grass, making them dance and tease and taunt the seekers as they moved slowly through the tinkling, crisp, frigid night.

"Dude, this is so a waste of time."

"No it's not. It's the only way to eliminate the obvious."

"Well, okay then, this is so creepy."

"It is a little spooky, huh Dilly?" He nodded in the dark, eyes darting about.

"I keep waitin' fer, like, a werewolf to howl or somethin'."

"Come on, keep your eyes open," JD said firmly. "We're nearly to the parlor windows, so look sharp."

"Aye-aye, cap'n," Wendy said her best pirate voice. "Look sharp, Mr. Dillon! Avast me hardies, we be on the look out for Blackbeard's den."

"Arr!" Dillon teased.

"Keep it down, you two. You're like a couple of second graders."

They giggled but were quieter as they pushed forward. JD lowered the light, shining it down toward the bushes and shrubs and the beds of dirt and leaves under them as he approached the parlor windows. The soft red light illuminated the ground as he began the slow, methodical search for some sign of someone having been there.

"JD, look," Wendy said, gesturing at the perimeter of the shrub bed with her arms as though drawing the boundaries with her hands. "Look at the size of this area. There is no way Dillon and I saw someone from way out here."

JD nodded slowly in agreement. "No, that's not possible. He must've been beside the house, inside the shrubs."

"HEY! Look over there!" Dillon was leaning forward, pointing at the ground near the edge of the light's beam.

JD followed with the flashlight.

A series of muddy footprints were filled with water in a sloppy mush of dirt just beside the window of the parlor. The soft material had been pressed hard, and the footprints left filled with brown, opaque liquid that reflected the red light back at them.

"I'll be damned," Dillon said softly. "He was right. The jackass was right. Someone was screwin' around out here. Man, I HATE it when he's right."

JD held the light steadily on the mud for them to see, taking a step closer.

"See? They move toward the window. Whoever was here went behind the shrubs, right alongside the windows. I'm certain that's what you saw."

"Wow, dude. I hate it when you're right."

"JD, something's not right with this," Wendy said slowly.

"What's wrong? What's not right?"

"I ... I dunno. There's something ... off here."

"Dude, I can't believe you were right. That sucks."

JD shot a scowl at Dillon. "What do you mean, Wen?"

"I ... I can't put my finger on it," she said uneasily, hunkering down beside the muddy slop, leaning forward on her hands. "There's something not right about these prints, though. I can't ... I don't know, I can't seem to nail it. I have the feeling something's wrong here, though."

"Dude, you bein' right is like kissin' your old fat aunt at Christmas. It hasta happen sometimes, but it's never good."

"What are you talking about??"

"You bein' right. Ain'tcha listenin'?"

"Not really, no."

"Something's just not right ..."

"Why is my being right a problem?"

"It's not a problem, dude, it jus' sucks is all."


"Well ... 'cause then me 'n Wen are ... not right."

"You mean you wanted there to be someone out here? Just so you could be right?"

"Well, no, but I didn't want you t'be right, either."

"So what did you want?"

"A ghost, numbnuts, what else?!"

"You? YOU wanted a ghost?"

"Hellz yeah, dude. That's why I came with ya inna first place. Dumbass."

"You're scared of WENDY, Dillon," JD said snidely, "how were you going to cope with an apparition?"

"Something's not right, JD, that's all I can say."

"Well ... that's not much for me to go on, Wendy. Would you like to continue looking around? Maybe something else will help you form your thoughts."

She sighed and stood up. The wind brushed over them, scattering leaves that rustled over the yard, making leafless branches and twigs rattle slightly like the bones of a skeleton rising from its grave.

"Yeah, let's keep looking. Maybe I'll find something to help me put my finger on it."

"All right," JD said, stepping forward to help her up.

She stopped then, a quizzical look on her face, examining her hands. JD noticed and shone the red beam directly on them.

"What is it?" he said quietly.

"My hands. They're clean."

"You got good hygiene an' stuff. You smell nice, too."

"No, no -- but thanks, Dilly. I mean, there's no mud on my hands."

"Okay. Is that a problem?" JD said skeptically.

"Well, look at the footprints. They're soft and gooey and mucky. It's like mud at the bottom of a puddle, it's so soft.

"But I was leaning over right next to it, and there was no mud at all. In fact, the ground was firm. It's like ... it's like the mud is only right here."

She slowly, deliberately, reached forward with her shoe, moving toward the middle of the swampy puddle of mud water just in front of her. She moved gingerly, as though the puddles and prints were vipers.

A brilliant flash from behind them made them all yelp in start. Whirling around, JD brandished the beam like a sword, trying to steady it on the target.

"Who're you? What are you doing out here?" the voice said from behind the beam.

It was a powerful flashlight, held beside the head of a man. His commanding voice carried to them and made them freeze in their tracks, huddled together like three mice in a corner. JD's light sputtered out, and he stared into the lens and swatted it with the side of his hand.

"Uh ... we're --" JD began.

"I'm officer Brown," the voice continued. "Are you the homeowners?"

"No," JD said, steadying himself, "we're ... uh ... we're ..."

"House-sitting for them," Wendy finished. "They asked us to be here."

"We got a call about a disturbance of some kind in the area," the voice intoned at them.

"Yeah, dude, that'd be me ... sorry. I was scared."

"You should go back home now. It may not be safe here."

"Uh ... okay. But I have some equipment inside that I need to gather first so --"

"Go inside now. I'm going to have a look around. If you see anyone you don't recognize call the police."

JD knit his brows, then shrugged. "Uh ... fine."

"Hey, dude, thanks for helpin' us out here --"

"Go back home now. Police orders."

The officer turned and strode off into the dimness of the yard, and his light vanished around the corner of the house ahead of them.

"Well ... I guess he told us," Wendy sniped. "What a jerk."

"Yes. There must be something strange going on besides Dillon screaming though. He didn't even ask us any questions. He didn't even ask us for ID."

"When was the last time a cop caught you snooping around with a flashlight and didn't ask for an ID?"

"Dude, I'm just glad he's gone. Cops freak me."

JD watched the yard beyond the house, and noticed for the first time that a very fast, very dense fog was rolling in from behind the house. From the river.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Ghost Hunters, Pt. 4

Just joining us? You might want to start at the beginning.

JD tilted his head to one side, listening, holding his finger to his lips.

"Shh! Shh, be quiet!" he whispered harshly.

Wendy and Dillon were joking around teasing one another, but when JD moved toward the parlor, they both caught his movement and heard his shushing sound. Gradually, they fell quiet with their faces growing sober.

"What?" Wendy whispered, "What's wrong?"

"Shh," JD repeated, stopping. "Listen."

The three of them were silent. Somewhere in the dark distance, an audible beep sounded.

"Oh, God, man!" Dillon softly groaned, his voice wavering with another bout of terror. "What's that, dude? JD, man, what's that??"

"Shh, let me hear," JD whispered again, and Dillon froze like a stature of horror, straining into the dark to hear.

The audible beep again.

"It's the thermometer," JD said glancing at them. "There's been a change in temperature in the parlor."

The other two didn't speak. They stood staring into the still darkness of the house's main hall, windows allowing in what little light there was outside through the Victorian-style lace curtains draped over them like widow's veils. The pale panes were stark against the surrounding darkness by comparison, backlighting the rooms they were in, giving the appearance of baleful eyes watching them from the blackness of the house.

JD stepped quietly toward the parlor, treading softly. Dillon pulled away from Wendy quickly and nearly knocked him down as he hurried behind him, making contact with JD's back.

"What's the matter with you?" JD hissed at him.

"Don't leave me, man!" Dillon pleaded.

"Oh please," JD muttered.

"He's just scared, JD," Wendy said. JD noticed she was alarmingly near his back also.

He closed his eyes and tried to garner his patience. "All right, fine, come on then. But be quiet."

They nodded, even though he wasn't looking at them in the dimness, and followed as he approached the parlor.

The floors didn't creak as they moved forward toward the open parlor. From the hallway, the monitors were casting a tiny white light out through the doorway, framing its outline on the floor in front of them. The high ceiling wasn't visible in the darkness as they approached the little patch of light.

"JD, man," Dillon whispered, "why we sneakin'? Didn't you say ghosts ain't scared o' people?"

"Yes," JD said, "but I want to hear anything coming from that room besides the thermometer alert."

"OOOOOhhhhhh, I get it," Dillon nodded largely, exaggerating his comprehension. "So if there IS a ghost we don' scare it away."

JD shook his head. "Yes, fine, Dillon. That's the reason. Please be quiet."

"JD, do you hear anything?" Wendy spoke. Her lighter, musical voice nearly stopped JD cold. He turned to see her pale skin glowing in the weak light and shook his head. Turning back, he smiled. Not even pitch darkness can stifle her beauty.

JD stopped, holding his hand up to signal the others to halt. Dillon didn't see it in time and bumped JD on the back again. JD signed in irritation and stood up straight.

"Do you mind?" He was whispering, but his aggravated tone was clear.

"Sorry, dude," Dillon said. "I was watchin' for ghosts."

"There aren't any."

"You said there were. That's why we're bein' sneaky. 'Member?"

JD dropped his forehead into his hand. "Dillon, I don't want to go over this again. Just ... watch what you're doing, please."

"Yeah, sure," Dillon said. "Sorry. I already said sorry. I mean it, though, I didn't meanta hitcha."

"All right, thank you."

"No problem."

"Are we going in or not?" Wendy said from the rear.

JD scowled at her from around Dillon. "Switch places with Dillon and this will go faster."

"Why can't we just go in?" she said. "And why are we whispering?"

"FINE," JD snapped, "let's go."

He moved a bit quicker, still stepping carefully but less lightly. He pressed himself against the wall next to the door jamb. Dillon saw his movements and slammed himself flat on the wall, pressing hard against it as though allowing a train to pass without making contact with it, hands splayed against the cold plaster, standing on tip-toes, holding his breath.

"What?? What, dude??"

JD looked at him, confused. "Nothing. What's wrong with you?"

"I ... wull ... nothin', but you ... I thought we ..."

Shaking his head again, JD turned back to peer around the corner of the doorway, staring into the room at the monitors. They displayed a much more illuminated version of the parlor, the furniture and expansive area rug clearly visible through the sensitive camera mounted high up on the wall in a corner beside the doorway. He couldn't see any movement, and didn't hear anything but the occasional beep from the thermometer announcing it had detected a change.

The rest of his body followed his head into the door frame and Dillon and Wendy pulled along behind him as he entered the parlor. He sat down at the table holding the monitors and picked the thermometer up. The display showed the current temperature and the change.

"It dropped something like 8 degrees in here," he said softly, brows knit over his eyes.

"Oh no," Dillon groaned, turning to Wendy, "OH NO. That's a ... that means that ... it's 'cause ... JD, what's that mean, man?"

"It means the temperature changed, Dillon," JD said looking at him, "nothing more."

"Why?" Wendy asked.

JD shrugged. "The thermometer doesn't really work that way, Wendy," he said. "It just shows the difference in temperatures."

"Man, that's bad," Dillon said shaking his head, "I jus' KNOW it. It's bad, ain't it? There's a ghost then, ain't there?"

JD shook his head. "It just means there was a change in temperature, Dillon. That's all it means. Don't read anything more into that. For all we know, the drop was because we opened the door to go outside, or because we opened it to come back in."

"I gu-eessss," Dillon intoned dubiously.

"JD, you can't believe the temp dropped almost ten degrees because you opened the door."

"Sure it can," he said calmly. "The house is poorly insulated, there's no curtains to speak of, there is no carpeting, a lot of hard surfaces ... easily. A draft comes in after we open the door and the thermometer picks it up."

"No way," Wendy was adamant, "that's impossible from this distance away from the door."

"Yeah, dude, what she said."

"It's the only possible explanation. The house is cold anyway."

"Naw, man, you gotta do better 'n that."

"JD, that's really unlikely if not impossible. The rooms are all isolated from each other."

"Dude, what she said."

JD shot his "gimme a break" look at Dillon. "Do you have a better explanation?"

"Aren't you here to investigate paranormal activity?"

"Dude, you're so here t'do that."

"Yes, but if there's a natural explanation for the events --"

"DUDE, it ain't natural!"

"Dillon, please."

"JD, seriously, man -- can'tcha jus' SAY it mighta been a ghost?"

"There could just as easily be a paranormal explanation as a natural one, JD. Why did the homeowners --"

As she was speaking, still as the grave and without warning, a silhouette of a man passed quickly behind JD in front of the tall and narrow windows.

Wendy, mid-sentence, and Dillon standing beside her, leapt into each other, screaming in start. JD's heart tore through his chest wall, making him whirl to look behind him, his posture defensive.

"What??" he barked, taking a step back. "What is it??"

The two of them exploded wildly together, in unison, still clutching one another

"There was a man behind you ..."

"Dude, it was a DUDE!"

"He ran past the windows!"

"Was it inside or outside?"


"Dillon, calm down --"


"Wendy, relax! I'm sure --"


"Dillon, please!"


"Are you sure it was inside the house?"

"YES!!!" they screamed in unison and he turned back to them.

They were clutching each other, wide-eyed and shaking, and he knew something happened. They were clearly frightened, and he was certain they weren't faking.

He turned back toward the monitors, and there was nothing there. The room was empty except for him.

Maybe, he considered, there IS something going on after all.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007


I know this makes me weird and gets me a lot of strange looks, but I love the rainfall.

Right now, in my little corner of the world, it's raining.  It's been raining all day, and was raining most of the night.  I love the sound of the rain as it drops over the ground.  The rhythmic pattern of the tattoo as it cascades on the earth is calming, soothing, serene.  Occasionally, a car will splash through and ruin the illusion.  Part of me is tempted to go find a secluded area somewhere and just ... listen.  There is nothing so placid, so peaceful to me as the sound of rain falling in a yellow wood somewhere.  That not being possible, however, I try to just let the sound of the rain drown out everything else and bring me that sense of ease and rest that nothing else can.

With the heavy overcast and leaden skies, the world feels more like it does in autumn than summer now.  Autumn is my absolute favorite time of year.  The softness of the light and the subdued earth- and jewel-toned leaves as the world prepares for sleep, the crisp, cleanness of the air, the cerulean skies when it's not raining, the way the very earth itself sounds -- it's the time of year to which I look forward most.  The sound of the leaves skittering and rolling away on the breeze, the gentle caress of the temperatures as they begin their decline toward the frigidity of winter, the crunch of the grass beneath my feet ... it makes me long for time when I don't have to work during the day, for a place where I can be alone when I need to, for the joy of just being in the embrace of the drowsy world as it readies itself for a long nap until spring.

The soft padding of the moist ground, not yet frozen, feels so joyous and friendly.  I can forget how full of hatred and destruction the world is in autumn.  I can ignore, briefly, the pressing matters of living which hold no regard for seasons, days and months.  I can be at rest, listening to a crackling fire and smelling the embers.  I can feel the anticipation of nature as it either scurries to make ready for winter or slows toward its slumber.  I love the sight, the very essence of how light is refracted from our yellow sun, during those months when things smell so clean, so fresh, so wet with new-fallen rain.

The rain brings so much to mind as it runs its course from heaven to splash and dance upon the ground before running into tiny rivulets and chasing away to become part of a larger one.  I can watch for hours as it pitter-patters out of the sky, leaving a clean smell, a newness to the places it goes, and I wish when it does that it would never cease, never slow, but continue its soft, steady beat until my mind has solace.

I sit and listen, smiling briefly in my tormented soul.

Then I get a damned sinus headache and have to go get my Excedrin.

Stupid life.

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Ghost Hunters, Pt. 3

Just joining us? You might want to start at the beginning.

The air outside fairly tinkled with the crisp, biting cold. The ground felt brittle and crunched beneath their shoes, transferring cold directly to their feet. Their breath billowed out like huge plumes of dragon's breath in front of them, the slap of the sudden frigidity taking their breath away. Dillon slapped his hands against his upper arms, his flashlight casting a beam of red light across the underside of the tree canopy over them.

JD shone his light around the front yard as they descended the wide steps at the end of the broad porch in front of the old Victorian, laced with its gingerbread decorations and beautifully coordinated colors. The lace curtains hung like specters in the frosted windows, draped like ancient cobwebs to each side of the black openings. The dead leaves and dried grass protested their movements, announcing loudly their approach as they moved down the walk toward the edge of the yard.

The quiet street was poorly lit at best, with a single, yellowing old streetlight languishing in its ornate light post a few houses down. Most of the other houses in the neighborhood were newer than this one. JD wondered if, at one time, this was all one property for the wealthy 19th century family that built the old Victorian. His red beam illuminated the hedges lining the sidewalk beyond, now barren of leaves, its dense tangle of limbs defiantly trying to shield their depths from view. To their right, a gargantuan, ancient old Maple and its companion, a massive and equally aged Oak, stretched their limbs out over the greater portion of the yard, their intertwining branches casting mysterious, sinister shadows over the yard.

A slight breeze rustled the debris on the ground, and from the corner of his eye JD saw Dillon jump in start. He stifled a giggle, and began to move toward the side yard to the right. The houses across the street and in adjacent lots were quiet, some lit warmly with amber glow emitting from curtained windows, or were dark and shut up, as though they didn't want to face their strange, old neighbor who would share her stories of yesteryear.

JD panned the beam around the yard slowly, casting its red circle over the shrubs, dried and sleeping, along the side of the house beneath the tall, narrow windows which bayed out into the yard. The baleful windows reflected the light back at him, with a creepy shifting of shadows and illumination of the interior of the house's maw.

"JD ... why is the light red, dude?"

"It helps your eyes stay adjusted to the dark," JD said softly, almost absently.

"What ... what the hell we lookin' for, dude?"

"I don't know yet."

"How can you not know?"

"What do you mean?"

"Dude, do you know what you're doin' or don'tcha?"

"What are you yammering about??"

"Everytime I ask what we're doin', what we're lookin' for, what you're tryin' to see, or any o' that crap, you gimme 'I dunno'. What the hell DO you know, JD? How the hell you gonna solve shit if you don' know whatcher doin'? Did you get ANY trainin' on this crap before you started doin' it?" Dillon narrowed his eyes suspiciously at JD as he finished his tirade.

JD sighed, shaking and lowering his head.

"Dillon, please listen," he said slowly. "I don't know what we saw in the house. It could --"

"Coulda been a GHOST, THAT's what it coulda been!"

"Keep your voice down, Dillon. It's late. I was GOING to say, it could have been anything. Neither of us were watching the screen directly -- YOUR fault, might I add -- when whatever happened occurred. I CAN'T know what to look for until we get some kind of clue as to what it is I'm looking FOR. Understand?"

"So you don' know shit, do ya?"

JD shut his eyes and shook his head with a pained expression.

"We know the screens flashed, and that's all."

"We're lookin' for ghosts, though."

"No, we're looking for explanations."

"But it could be a ghost."

"I don't think so."

"But you don' know that, right? For sure, I mean?"

JD set his jaw. "Not yet, no."

"So it COULD be a ghost. Right?"

"Okay, if it makes you feel better, then it could be a ghost."

"I thought you said you don' believe in ghosts."

"I don't."

"You just said it could be a ghost though."

"No, you were insisting it was."

"But didn't you just say that?"

"Do you WANT me to slap you?"

"I'm jus' sayin' is all, you just said it could be a ghost."

"Listen closely: It's not a ghost. I don't know what it is precisely, but it's not a --"

There was a rapid crunch on the ground, and they stopped to listen when a sudden jolt against both of them on the back and a tiny "Boo!" whispered in the cold dark.

Dillon screamed. He screamed loud and long, like a movie murder victim, and JD's heart stopped cold as he whirled quickly with the flashlight, trying to shine the beam on Dillon. Dillon had jumped so hard he fell backwards, crashing into the skeletal remains of a bush, the snapping branches and skittering gravel and dirt as his feet kicked and his arms flailed lost beneath his terrified wail.

JD snapped the light around and shone it directly on a face, laughing and eyes watering with the tears squeezed from them.

Dillon's cry of fear finally faded into echoes ringing down the quiet suburban street, and the sound of the uproarious laughter came through.

"Wendy!" JD snapped. "What the hell are you doing?? You nearly scared Dillon to ... uh-oh."

Lights began to snap on in the darkened houses around them. Curtains parted in those with lights still on, dark silhouettes pressing faces against panes and cupping their hands around them for better visibility.

Dillon was nearly weeping, whimpering in the clutches of the bush's claws, floundering to get up, his breathing shallow.

Wendy was still in hysterics. Her long auburn hair cascaded out from under her watch cap, and in the dark only her face was visible in the dimness above her black turtleneck sweater under a dark jacket. She tried to speak but couldn't form sentences.

"C'mon," JD whispered in mild panic, "we've got to get inside. Someone's going to call the police."

Dillon still couldn't speak while he slowly extracted himself, twigs and branches tugging viciously at his clothes. Wendy nearly fell over, weak in her laughter, as she followed behind JD toward the front door, unable to draw a breath.

They stumbled inside, and JD shut and barred the door behind them. Wendy's green eyes watered and she wiped them with her sleeve, leaning hard against a wall in the foyer while she began to collect herself.

"Oh my God, Wen," Dillon said, throwing his hands outward in disbelieving disgust. "Oh my frickin' GOD, Wen. I can't believe it. Why, Wen? Why you gotta hurt me? Why?"

Her laughter was just subsiding when she started again, and she collapsed against Dillon's chest, hugging him tightly.

"Naw," he said in playful faux anger, not returning her embrace, "naw. Don't EVEN. No way. You scared the shit outta me, Wen. I'm so not huggin' you. Naw."

She clutched him tighter, still laughing but a bit more in control.

"Aww, poor Dilly," she said, her voice captivating JD immediately and pulling his gaze away from the sidelight, where he'd been watching for police. Her voice always pulled him from whatever he was doing. Her touch, her voice, her very scent -- he could not resist her, could focus on nothing but her when she was near. It was slightly annoying to him. He was always very, very focused. He could be so intensely focused, in fact, that he could tune out everything else around him. It was how he got through school, how he did his work, how he said his prayers ... but he could never block out Wendy.

"I can't believe you did that. You're such a bitch, dude. You scared me so bad, I gotta go change my drawers."

Wendy was still hugging him close, her face turned toward his now, cheeks pink and flushed from her uncontrollable laughter.

"I'm sorry, Dilly," she said, stifling her laugh, "I would've sworn JD was going to hear me coming."

JD shook his head. "Dillon was yapping. I couldn't hear anything."

"Did I scare you too, baby?" Wendy said, tilting her head toward JD and winking, smiling broadly. She was so sexy when she did that. He hated it; it made him melt.

"Uh ... no. Don't be ridiculous. You didn't scare me, DILLON scared me."

Dillon laughed. "Scared YOU?? Dude, if it was up to you I'd still be out there gettin' killed or whatever. You just -- took off, left me there!"

"I didn't 'take off', I just saw you were all right. It was only a bush, Dillon."

"DUDE! If Wendy was, like, a vampire or a werewolf or somethin', you'd've so left me there ta die!"

"Well, it was only Wendy."

"Only Wendy?" she said, laughing in shock. "Well, it's always nice to see you too, Jaded!"

She called him "Jaded" whenever she felt he was being too intellectual, too distant, or too ... JD. It also irked him, and she knew it.

"What do you guys have so far?" she continued, still holding Dillon around the middle, laying her head against his chest. His arms went around her now, as he calmed down.

"A ghost!" he said excitedly. "A GHOST, Wen! There was this flash, and JD didn't know what it was, an' --"

"Oh, sweetie," Wendy said slowly, stroking his jaw gently. "No, no ghost."

Dillon was confused. "Huh?"

"It was me, love." She pulled her flashlight out of her jacket pocket and shined it at him playfully. "I flashed this at the window while you guys were arguing to make you come outside and get me."

"You did ... it was jus' ... aw, SHIT."

She giggled again.

"JD didn't know, though." She eyed him devilishly. "He only thinks he knows everything."

JD shook his head.

"You might've ruined a whole night's work, Wendy," he said quietly. "I am trying to conduct an investigation here."

"Dude, we ain't doin' NOTHIN'. We're sittin' around, watchin' boring ass nothin' happen. It's dull, dude. And now that we got Wen messin' with stuff, we ain't even got what we thought we had."

He looked confused for a moment, then looked up at JD. "Yeah. That."

"I told you it wasn't a ghost, Dillon. I never thought it was."

"You thought it was a CAR, dude."

"Yes. So?"

"You were wrong."

"So were you."

"I was?"


"But dude, I don't think I know everything."

"I don't either."

"Sure you do. Just like that Bible thing."

"What Bible thing?"

"You know, where you was sayin' the Bible said somethin' it don' say."

"What are you -- oh, you mean about the spirit being absent from the body?"

"Yeah. You couldn't even remember that, man."

"You couldn't either!"

"That's 'cause it don' say that."

"Say what?"

"That there ain't no ghosts, dude!"

"What are you guys talking about? Did I miss something?"

"Dillon, I can't remember the chapter and verse, but if you read the book of Thessalonians you'll see --"

"Which Thessalonians?"

"Not this again."

"You guys, what's going on??"

"Dude, it's not there, that's why you don' remember it."

"It's there, Dillon, it's there. It says that to be absent from the body is to be present with the --"

"No it don't."

"Yes, it does."

"No, it don't. It says that it's BETTER to be absent from the body and present with the Lord. Second Corinthians 5, verse 8."

JD stared at Dillon, who was sitting on the bottom step of the stairway, tying his shoe. Wendy was watching JD, who was staring agape at Dillon. She smiled.

"Your turn, JD. We're waiting."

"You knew it?" JD said stunned. "You knew it all along and you didn't correct me?"

"Dude, I told you it wasn't there. You didn't listen. You never listen. You jus' ... kept talkin'. That's what you do, man. That's why nobody calls you back, dude."

"JD? Your response?" Wendy said, giggling.

"Wendy, please," JD said irritably. "Why didn't you tell me you knew it, Dillon?"

"Dude, you told me. You already knew I knew. Er ... yeah. You knew ... I knew. Wait ... you knew, and I knew, so you knew that I knew ... yeah. You knew I knew."

Wendy giggled.

"How did I know? How was I supposed to know you knew?"

"You asked what I studied, dumbass. I told you."

"You told me but you never indicated you ..."

"JD, you're a dick, man. If you paid attention to people like you pay attention to all the gizmos you got in the pub, you'd know."

"The pub?"

"What pub?" Wendy said. "You have a pub?"

"I don't have a pub. What pub, Dillon?"

"You know, that little room over there with all your tweety crap in it."

"Oh, the parlor?"

"Whatever. The haunted room."

"It's not haunted, it was Wendy."


JD drew a deep breath and let it out slowly. He was trying to process everything he'd heard. Most of the time, he didn't give a lot of credence to Dillon on factual matters, but he'd just been humbled by his longtime friend. Wendy considered making a smart-ass remark, but refrained.

"SO ... how's the stake-out goin', boys?" she smiled, swinging her arms and rocking on the balls of her feet.

"It was fine until you disrupted it," JD said solemnly.

"YOU ... you're a bitch," Dillon said, waving his hand at her dismissively. "I ain't talkin' to you no more."

"Aw, I'm sorry, Dilly," she cooed, hugging his arm. "I was just having some fun with ya. Forgive me? Pleeeeeease?" She batted her eyes at him.

He shook his head and grinned. "I hate you. I so hate you. You scared the shit outta me."

More eye-batting. "Pwease? Pwetty pwease?"

JD ignored the banter as they laughed and cajoled. He focused his senses ... somewhere in the parlor, there was an audible beep.

One of the instruments said something was happening.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Ghost Hunters, Pt. 2

Just joining us? You might want to start at the beginning.

"JD, seriously, don't fool around, man ... what was that??"

Dillon sounded worried, and JD wouldn't take his eyes off the monitors. He was watching to see if there was a repeat of the flash, something he could record, measure. He wasn't really sure what had occurred; he only knew it couldn't be a ghost.

"JD??" Dillon said, his voice trembling.

"Relax, Dill," JD said impatiently. "Keep quiet. I want to see if it happens again."

Dillon was moving his head rapidly back and forth, his eyes crawling over the other screen. He had no idea what he was looking for -- but if there was anything to be seen, he wanted to be sure he saw it.

"Man ... aw, man ... what do we look for? What am I looking for, dude??"

"Be quiet I said!" JD snapped. Dillon fell silent, but JD knew it was only temporary.

"Just ... be still, okay?" he said more softly. "It's nothing for you to be afraid of. It wasn't a ghost."

Dillon looked at him nervously. "How d' ya know, dude? How?"

"Because there are no such things as ghosts, Dill. I already told you that."

"Aw, dude," Dillon groaned, "gimme a break. I'm supposed to take your word for it?"

"Why wouldn't you?" JD said, never even looking over. He kept watching the monitors, watching the instruments, listening ... he wasn't really focused on Dillon at all.

"Because you're a jerk, that's why," Dillon said chuckling.

"Oh, really?" JD said casually. "Well, I think it was a light from a passing car. I don't see any indication here of any changes in --"

"A CAR? A freakin' CAR?? Do you seriously think I'm gonna fall for that, JD??"

JD shook his head and snorted. "Believe what you want, Dillon. It wasn't a ghost. Nothing else here indicates anything happened. No sounds, no changes in temperature, no EM readings ... just a flash. And that could've been something wrong with the camera, or an external light shining in the room, or --"

"Yeah, a light from hell. From SATAN, man. C'mon, JD, you can't seriously believe that crap you're spewin' right now. You can't."

"You need to think more rationally. When you hear hoof beats, look for horses, not zebras."

Dillon slowly turned his head, his face completely incredulous.

"What in the hell are you talkin' about?" he said, his voice strained. "We've got a damned spook or somethin' flashin' shit at us, and you're tellin' me about ZEBRAS??"

JD shook his head. He set his jaw, took a deep breath and looked Dillon square in the eye.

"Dill, listen. It's a metaphor. What I mean is, when you see something that can be ordinary or unusual, don't go for the unusual first. Natural, logical explanations work best. In my metaphor, I said to look for horses when you hear hoof beats. In the Americas, horses are a normal part of the wildlife, so when you hear the sound of hoofs, you should go ahead and think it's horses until you have a really good reason to think it's something else. Don't think it might be zebras until you know it's not horses, because it's much more likely for --"

"I know what it means, numbnuts," Dillon said lazily, cutting him off. "Really, JD, you think I'm a moron, don'tcha?"

JD sat staring at the side of Dillon's face.

"You said you didn't -- oh, forget it. Listen, you don't really care to hear this for some stupid reason, but the fact is that I've been on a LOT more of these cases than you, and I've never once -- not even ONCE -- failed to find a logical, natural, rational explanation for everything going on in the situation. AND, I've been able to document it, and provide that to whomever called me. And they felt better and accepted the explanation. I've never been called back to a location ONCE, EVER. Investigations closed, period."

"Ever stop to consider that the people just didn't call you back?"


Dillon turned in his chair to face JD, his elbow resting on the table's edge in front of him, eyes dancing in the dim glow.

"Have you ever thought that maybe, just maybe, those people didn't call you back? Doesn't mean they didn't go 'head and call SOMEone -- just means it ain't you."

JD's brows knitted over his eyes. "Why wouldn't they, unless they no longer had a problem?"

"You ever go back an' see if they do?"

"Do what?"

"Still have a problem! NOW who's a dumb-ass?"

"I never said you were a dumb-ass," JD snapped.

"You don't hafta, JD ... you show me you think that, dude."

"Dillon," JD sighed, "this is hardly a time for a 'I'm feeling put down in our relationship' moment."

"It's not just me, dumb-ass," Dillon said, settling back in his chair and returning his gaze to the monitor. "It's Wendy too. And I ain't about tellin' ya how bad you treat me ... even though you DO. I'm about tellin' ya that the people who do have a problem after you leave ain't callin' ya back 'cause they know you ain't gonna believe 'em anyway. I bet they're callin' other people -- people who don't try to make 'em feel stupid for even bringin' it up, and don't try to make 'em feel like Springer show rejects for bein' afraid.

"You're kinda full o' yourself, J-bird, and it comes through real bad sometimes. You should work on that, dude. At least pray about it or somethin'."

"I'm not ... I don't act like ... I've never ..." JD stammered, shocked. He'd never considered the idea that he never got repeat business because he came across arrogant, aloof and superior. He just assumed the problems were resolved with his sound, documented, identifiable explanations and left it at that.

He'd never even made a follow-up phone call to anyone. Ever.

"Okay, I don' see nothin' now," Dillon said, sitting back, eyes darting around the monitor carefully. His words brought JD back from his self-examination, and he shook his head to clear the thoughts swirling there.

"I don't either," he said slowly. "But, that's not to say there isn't anything we can do to follow up. C'mon."

"You're kiddin' me! We're gonna DO somethin'??"

"Well, we need to identify what that was. The houses here are large and secluded; we can have a good look around without getting too far away, and we can make sure things are copasetic in the general area."

"Make sure things are --"

"Make sure things are all fine outside. Grab the flashlight."

Dillon rummaged through a duffel bag under the table where the equipment was set up. He found two MagLites, each with a red filter over the fronts, and handed one to JD as they headed for the door.

"Whoa, whoa," Dillon said suddenly as JD approached the foyer at the end of the central hall to the majestic old house. Behind them was the staircase that wound up the three floors, accessing all the sleeping quarters and eventually the Widow's Walk. In front of them the gorgeous, richly inlaid wooden floors ended at the double front doors, flanked with side lights and topped by a Tiffany glass transom. The foyer stretched up two floors, a huge and sparkling crystal chandelier tinkling above them at its center.

"What?" JD said, stopping, his hand in mid-air as he reached for the door knob.

"You meant we're goin' outside?"

"Well ... yes. How else are we going to see what's there?"

"Couldn't we ... I mean, can't we just shine the lights outta the windows or somethin'? I mean, it's ... cold. And ..."

JD raised his eyebrows. "And?"

"Well ... JD, if there's a ghost, it's prolly out there, dude."

JD shook his head, tried to remain patient, and was mindful of his words.

"There's no ghost out there. If there was a ghost, Dill, it was in the parlor. Do you want to stay here while I go check outside?"

"The ghost was in here?"

"I said IF there was a ghost. There's not, though."

Dillon quickly glanced over his shoulder as he hurried to join JD at the door.

"I'm cool. I'm ... yeah, I'm cool. Let's go."

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Ghost Hunters

The two of them sat huddled in front of the softly glowing LCD monitors, the black-and-white images casting eerie light over their faces and clothes. The house was cold, and the open curtains showing the darkness outside let the chill penetrate deeper. The ancient Victorian had been beautifully restored, but that didn't include insulation or double-pane glass in the sashes. It didn't include new window casings, either, so that the blistering wind from the northeast whistled in through the gaps around them. The thick, opulent decor simulated the time period of the house perfectly, with rich mauves, oriental area rugs over pristine wooden floors, delicate tables packed with articles of pewter and nickel, each covered with a fantastically woven doily. Tiffany glass lamps sat in the midst of each and a large light fixture, designed to simulate a gas light from the Victorian era, was mounted low in the center of the room.

They were dressed warmly, in heavy jeans and a T-shirt over a thermal undershirt and a flannel over shirt. The watch caps they wore protected their ears from the biting chill, and their rag-woven socks did what they could beneath the Chuck Taylors to keep their toes from numbing. Light, fingerless gloves covered their hands, but because they needed to tweak instruments and knobs and keyboards, their reddened fingertips throbbed when they cupped their hands and blew warm air into them. Their words puffed out in wispy, white clouds from their mouths when they spoke, drifting lazily into the void or against the monitors.

"So," Dillon whispered, sniffing and rubbing his red, chilled nose, "now what?" He dragged his finger nails over his jaw, rasping against the three days of stubble growing on it.

"Why do you keep asking me that?" JD said, knitting his brows and glaring at Dillon.

"I'm curious is all," Dillon whispered back, holding his hands up defensively. "It's just that we've been sittin' here doin' a whole lotta nothin', and it seems like we oughtta be doin' somethin'. Ya know?"

JD sighed. "Yes, I know," he said tiredly. "I told you it would be tedious, Dillon."

"You didn't say nothin' about boring, though," Dillon retorted.

JD turned quickly in surprise to look at him. "Do ... do you know what 'tedious' means, Dillon?"

"Look, I'm just sayin', shouldn't we be doin' something 'sides sittin' here?"

"No, this is precisely what we should be doing. Watching."

"I'm sick o' watchin', JD." Dillon put his foot up on the table supporting the monitors and keyboards in front of them.

"Why'd you come then?" JD said, adjusting the EMV to his right, and watching the room in front of them on the monitor.

"You said we were huntin' ghosts, JD," Dillon whispered. "That sounded exciting. This shit's boring as hell, man."

"What did you think was going to happen? 'Ghost Busters'? A room full of flying objects mysteriously being levitated all over the house? Some apparition like on Scooby-Doo cartoons chasing us down the hall way?"

"Well ... yeah. Sorta." Dillon sniffed again, staring at his shoes.

JD looked at him sharply. "You're kidding, right?"

"Well ... no, man. What would you think? I seen you go off day after day, for months, and you never invited me once. That hurt my feelin's, by the way, just so ya know. How was I supposed to know it was like this? I thought you were, like, chasing ghosts, man. It sounded interesting."

"Dillon," JD sighed, trying to marshal his patience, "the reason I never asked you to come along before was just this -- exactly this, right here. You're bored. You have no patience. You don't like to sit and observe. It's not that we're not friends, or that I didn't want you in on my exciting, action-packed adventures, but because I knew this wasn't your thing. It's not something you'd enjoy. Didn't I tell you that when you asked to come with me tonight?"

Dillon was contemplating his navel carefully. "Yeah," he whispered. "Yeah, you did. Jerk."

"Why are you whispering?"

"I don't wanna ... I don't know. Aren't we supposed to?"

"We're not spies, Dillon. We're watching, that's all."

"What if we ... what if they get scared away?"


"The ghosts, ya dildo, the ghosts!"

"Scared away? By what?"

"By us talkin', dude, whattaya think??" Dillon was struggling to continue to whisper.

"We're not fishing!" JD said. "I've never heard of a ghost being startled away by human voices. If that were true, no one would ever see a ghost, doofus."

"Oh," Dillon said, not whispering for a change.

They were silent for a moment, JD continuing to check the cameras placed strategically around the parlor in the darkness. He watched how his adjustments affected the picture, and scanned the other instruments for changes in temperature, motion, infrared light shifts, and sound. The equipment was silent and sentinel in the dark room, and he yawned, billowing a heavy cloud around his hand as he tried to cover it.

"Man it's cold," he said at length, rubbing his hands over his upper arms then cupping his cheeks.

"Hey JD," Dillon said softly, "you ever actually seen a ghost, man?"

"No, of course not," JD said matter-of-fact-ly, never taking his eyes off the instruments and the image of the room on the monitor.

"You haven't?"

"No. Why, have you?"

"I ... No, I don't think so. Why haven't you?"

"Because I'm a very good paranormal investigator, and there are no such THINGS as ghosts."

Dillon screwed his face up into a confused mask. "Whah??"

"I said there aren't any ghosts."

"Are you serious?"

"Yes. Why, do you believe in ghosts?"

"I dunno ... sure, why not?"

"Because you graduated from a Christian college, that's why not. Didn't they teach you about how spirits work?"

"Uh ... like what?"

JD sighed, shaking his head. "You've GOT to be kidding me, Dillon. What did you study?"

"Pastoral Care and Lay Ministry," Dillon said flatly. "I still don't get your point, dude."

JD chuckled. "Why doesn't that surprise me? You did pass your courses, didn't you?"

"Hey, don't get all uppity an' stuff, JD," Dillon said, swatting him lightly on the arm. "You ain't all that, y'know."

"Well, did you sleep through the part about being absent from the body meaning being present with the Lord?"

"Eh?" Dillon looked confused.

JD sighed again, less patiently. "Paul said that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord."

"Paul who?"

"Paul the Apostle, numbskull!"

"He did?"



"Sometime in the first century, Dillon," JD said through clenched teeth.

"Is that in the Bible?"


"Are you sure?"



"How the hell should I know?" JD spat, looking at his friend in disgust.

"You brought it up."


"So, if you're gonna say somethin', you oughtta know where it's comin' from, don'tcha think?"

"Oh for ... okay, it's in the Pauline epistles, okay?"

"Yeah? Where?"

"I don't have a Bible with me, Dillon."

"No? Then how d'ya know?"

JD shut his eyes. "Trust me. It's there."


"Oh, for the love of ... Okay, it's in Thessalonians. Okay?"

"Which Thessalonians?"

"I don't frickin' know off the top of my head!"

"You shouldn't've brought it up, then, man."

"I'm gonna ring your scrawny neck, Dillon. All right. Fine. Okay. It's in FIRST Thessalonians, all right? No, wait -- Second Thessalonians. No, FIRST. First Thessalonians."

"Aw, well how am I supposed to believe ya now? You can't keep your stories straight, you ain't sure of the book -- I bet you don't even know if it's in there at all."

"We can put the theory to the test right now."

"Yeah? How?"

"I'll kill you right now. If you don't go to either heaven or hell you can come back here and let me know."

"Aw, now you're gettin' hostile and shit, dude."

JD glowered at Dillon, opened his mouth to speak ...

... and a flash of light lit up the darkened monitor brightly, catching the attention of both of them.

They stared at the screen, shocked and startled into silence. JD checked the other instruments. Dillon put his face inches away from the screen.

"JD ... JD, what was that, man?"

JD studied carefully, watching the room wide-eyed.

"I don't know," he said finally. Only after he spoke did he realize he was whispering.

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Giving Birth to an Idea

I've been thinking of a story for a new book.  It's been bouncing around in my head for a while, but I've not really given it any serious thought.  As I started to the other night, the tragedy of life swarmed me under, and I got side-tracked.

The basic premise is pretty simple, but I do want to make sure I present it from a certain world view.  Mine, to be exact.  That means that, to be true to that view, I have to do a lot of things that make me uncomfortable, because all of them call to the fore one of my major weaknesses: laziness.

The central character is stationed in a position about which I know little or nothing.  So, there's research involved with finding out how to accurately portray that occupation.  In addition, I need to discover the methodologies, the equipment, the education and the characteristics of the people that do that sort of thing for a living.  Since I don't personally know any, it gets much harder to do.  Now I'm faced with either finding one who's willing to talk to me about what they do, how they do it, why they do it and what they need to know, or doing a lot of blind research on either the Internet or in some other informational repository and trying to make that look and feel real.  The latter sounds easier, but like most things in life, I bet it's not.  And if it is, it's probably not the best way to accomplish the task.

Secondly, I have to find out what the character is like.  Is it male, female; shy, outgoing, somewhere in between?  What about physical characteristics?  While those aren't as important as other aspects of the character, they're not something I can disregard, either.  Personality type, responses to crises and pressure, what are the stressors for the character -- I haven't the foggiest idea at this point.  There is only a rough, loosely assembled skeleton of a person with a job.  Pretty generic, but then, the idea's pretty new, too.

On the other hand, I'm not sure of the nature of my story just yet.  I don't have an outline put together, I don't have a synopsis of any general plot, I don't even have the whole story in a single sentence yet.  I have nothing but a spark, and while some sparks can grow to enormous infernos, they can also be snuffed out by the slightest breeze or tiniest raindrop, too.

So basically, I've got diddly.  Just an idea that popped into my head a few days ago.

With other fiction I've written, I had a general idea what I wanted to do.  I knew the voice that I wanted to tell the story with, I knew the players (because they're all actual people), I knew the setting (because they're all real places, or were at one time), and the characteristics of those elements are easy to put in place because the events are actual, historical accounts (to the best of my recall).  But with a completely fictional account -- and, in fact, with all completely fictional accounts I've attempted -- I end up running out of steam, or losing sight of the story, or changing the direction in the middle ... all because I lose the grip on the initial goal of the characters, the story or the conflict.

My first full-length novel was a joke of an attempt to tell the story of supernatural events as they inject themselves into the lives of people that have divergent beliefs.  It didn't work; I didn't have an underlying plot of any kind, my grasp of theology was at best poor, my understanding of the occult was weak and unsupported with research of any kind, and based primarily on ideas of people that were less than credible.  So the story didn't hold together very well, I had no idea how to write a book, what the processes involved were and the basic principles of fiction were outside my scope of knowledge, too.  I was writing the story on the fly each time I sat at the keyboard.  Every chapter was a cliff hanger, and the trail of events was implausible, and the characters were exaggerated archetypes of actual people I knew.  In short, it was a piece of feces.  I am ashamed to have written it, to have wasted so much of my time on it, and now that it's been lost forever I'm grateful.

In the second piece I wrote, I got through the whole thing.  I started with an idea to tell, in a fictionalized way, the story of events as my wife and I lived through them.  But I didn't get that far; about halfway through my goal word count, I got the idea that the book was boring and lagging.  I'd introduced some characters with one thing in mind, but no real idea of how I was going to make those things manifest themselves in the story.  I wasn't working from an outline, because my life was already laid out and I was just going to retell the tale in a story form.  When I got nervous about it, though, I changed horses mid-stream.  I took the story in a completely unrelated and unexpected direction.  It was an unplanned excursion, and it showed.  I had to go back and insert internal dialog for characters, I had things in it that were only there for fluff and filler (trying to make that magic word count), and the whole thing felt like two books mashed together using the same names.  It was, again, a chunk of steaming fecal matter, and while it has the bones to be something decent, I don't know if I'm a talented enough writer to salvage it.  If I did, I'd have to pick one story line or the other though, and start over from the beginning.

Now, I'm still not a great writer of fiction.  I can tell a funny story, or a poignant one, or a weird one, or a creepy one -- but I don't know about a long, consistent one that builds, slows, builds, slows, and crescendos.  So far, I haven't done it successfully.  I haven't got the skills and/or training to see an idea go from a loose outline to a full-blown novel.  There are so many methods for writing a book, I don't know which one works for me.  And I can't do it the way that I do short fiction.  I've proven that by repeatable processes ala the scientific method more than once.  So, now I've got a conundrum.

So, at this point, I analyze myself into "analysis paralysis."  I can't move forward, because I don't know how.  I can't get the idea out of my head, because I sort of like it, but can't determine how to make it come to life.  I can't do it in short form, because the story would probably require more than a few thousand words to tell.  At least, I think so.  What am I going to do, then?

Part of me thinks that, if I sit and think about it long enough, jot down any and all ideas, I can worry about coherency later.  I can then get a rough outline and see where the little things I've jotted can fit into the overall scheme.  I need a plot, plot points, scenes, and then some people swear by the index card thing wherein they move the index cards around to strengthen the story.

I don't know.  Like I said, I've never done any of that, and that really seems to take the wind out of the sails of the joy of writing.  On the other hand, that's how most good writers work, and I need to take my cues from them.  There's a reason they're good, and published, and I'm a loser that can't even hold the attention of the blog traffic I get.  (Every once in a while, I think Stranger sends people my way.  I can tell when she does it, because I get a big spike in traffic on my Wordpress blog.  She's sweet like that, and I don't know why, but I thank her for her kindness.)

So, how does one go about giving birth to an idea?  How do you nurture it along, massaging it from vague ambiguity to solidified story?  How long does it roll around in your head?  Should it?  Should I be getting it out on paper while it's in my mind's fore, instead of taking a chance that it's going to vanish into the ether or my so-called mind?  All questions that I've no idea how to answer.  It looks like I'm going to be spending some quality time with Google soon.

Meanwhile, I'm not doing anything creative lately.  I'm not sketching much, I'm not writing much, and I'm generally just being a couch potato.  On the upside, my car's repairs aren't going to be as bad as we thought financially.  There may still be a chance, according to my wife, that I can go get that Ph.D. in theology.  (I still say we can't afford it, she's trying to find excuses why we can.  THERE's a switch for you.  Normally, she's the one talking ME out of buying something while I'm the one trying to convince HER it should happen.)

Well, I guess I'll just keep kicking this around, but if anyone reading this has any suggestions about how to get an idea to either concrete itself or go away, I'm open to them.

As always, thanks for taking the time to wade through the tangle.


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