Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Another Excerpt from my short stories.

As a child I found great comfort in the ever-changing caverns formed by the various quilts and blankets on my bed. Not only did they keep me warm in the winter but also they provided a labyrinth of hiding places from the various monsters under my bed and Trolls living in my closet*. They also provided a secure vantage point for me to observe the nocturnal happenings of the nighttime world. From the mouth of the wool caves I watched the singing winds choreograph the branches of the deep woods behind my parents small farmhouse.

On one particular night as the pregnant harvest moon illuminated my tiny bedroom a very peculiar thing happened. The branches of the newly barren trees swayed in the midnight winds, splitting the moonlight and casting my room in a kaleidoscope of shapes that shifted and spun like solid smoke projected across every surface. I nestled beneath the innermost caverns of the mountain of quilts less for warmth and more for the peace of mind that I was in my own secure space. The only entrance to my cave was the tunnel that gave me a perfect view of the wall opposite of the window. A mirror hung next to the opened bedroom door. A collection of books on monsters and lost civilizations sat in a vaguely orderly pile on top of my antique dresser, and may pads of drawing paper and markers lay strewn about my hand-me-down desk.

I slipped in and out of sleep as I watched the shadows play in the two feet between my desk and the top of the pile of books that cluttered my dresser to the top of the opened door. The only sounds in my room were the winds whipping at the window and the shallow breathing of an almost sleeping child.

There was a sound then, like that of a glass sliding across a very short wooden table. My eyes snapped open and my heart began to race. I froze, still in the fear that this new sound was somehow related to one of the many beasties I knew that lurked in the hidden spaces of the world. My heart was beating rapidly in my chest and it took all my restraint to not breath out in short panicked gasps for fear of whatever had made that sound discovering the mouth of my cave.

There was another sound then, closer, and it repeated many times. My eyes stung with tears but I refused to move from my cave. My thoughts were that if it was that something were to do me harm, then it would only react if it knew I was there.

It was then that a part of my network of caves shifted, as if something roughly the size of a soda can had pressed into the fabric and pushed it down. A few inches away another depression formed, and then the first depression seemed to lesson for only a moment before another appeared a few inches away from the last, as if something was moving across the top side of the quilts mere inches from my now completely frozen in fear body. I heard the sound of something hitting the floor in front of my bed. I could not see down into the deep sea of shadow cast by the top of my bed. I was almost sure something was moving in the shadows but I dared not move, else I alert the thing to my presence.

In the spiraling shadows that danced on the wall before me I could make out movement. Something the size of a house cat was moving onto the top of my desk. But it moved less like an animal and more like a hunched over man.

It riffled though some of the things on my desk and in the moonlight I saw a yellowed four fingered hand the size of a doll's hand lift a small Swiss army knife that I had been given months before. The blades were dull from use as a make shift pencil sharpener but the scissors were razor sharp and I almost cried out as I saw them reflecting the moon light like twin blades of mercury. The small hands moved back into the shadows and then after a moment I heard the sound of what I hoped was the knife hitting the desk.

The shadow of whatever it was moved within the forest of two-dimensional branches projected on my wall from the window behind me. It bounded from the corner of my desk to the pile of books, and from the pile of books to the top of my bedroom door.

From the glimpses of its outline I could only assume it was a small man now sitting atop the door, his small thin legs hanging down like two poorly carved dolls legs. It was then that it lifted its tiny, yellowed hand and ignited a small rolled cigar that was held between its needle-like yellowed teeth.

The little creature was truly terrifying for a small child (who had forgotten to breathe) to behold. Its skin was the color of aged paper that had a waxy sheen. Its face was set with two small black eyes and a large hooked nose. A thin white mustache jutted out above the large jagged slit in its face that I could only assume was its needle-toothed mouth. It was the size of a parlor doll; it was dressed in a black coat and short black pants. And its legs ended in hooves that looked like they were made of polished glass.

I was gripped by terror. The thing just sat atop my door smoking its foul-smelling cigarette. It seemed to be unaware of my presence, and after what seemed like an eternity it stood up on top of the door and stubbed out its cigarette with one of its strange cloven feet. It then hopped down to the desk, strode across the desk, and dropped to the floor. I lost site of it, but moments later I heard a scuttling sound across the floor grate that served as the lid to the floor furnace which heated the house. Moments later I heard soft sounds in the kitchen. I had not moved. I was frozen in fear still: there was a small creature roaming my house, and, while I was twice its size, I could not bring myself to moving to investigate. I spent many hours silent and still, listening as the sounds of the little thing moved about my house. I dreaded what it was doing, its needle-teeth filling my head with ghastly images. I took some small comfort in the fact that it never seemed to move to the side of the house where my mother and father were sleeping. I wanted to cry out and warn them, but I dared not do so for fear of the little man.

Many hours later as the first cry of the morning birds came I heard the sounds of what I could only guess were its hooves on the floor of my room. Soon after, the indention appeared in the ceilings of my caves and then I heard the sounds on the windowsill. There was the sound of glass scraping which abruptly stopped. Then, I heard it: the little man. It spoke with a voice like silk and broken glass.

Child, if I or any of my kind had come for you, I would have taken you, there would have been nothing you could have done about it. Your mother and father would have been helpless to stop me and would have awoken to find your bed empty.

I then heard the sound of the glass scraping followed quickly by silence. Some time later the first shafts of dawn began to fill my room. I heard my father moving from his bedroom to the kitchen and the sound of the coffee pot bubbling to life. I waited until the sunlight bathed my room completely before I ventured from my hiding place. I moved to my desk, and there mixed in the pile of markers, was a small chunk of foul smelling cigar and the opened pocketknife.

I spent much of the next week in silence, my mind flashing back to the events of that night. I pooled over the books in my elementary school library. But between the shelves about aliens and werewolves there were no accounts of little men. It was at that point I made the decision to further my study of the world outside of my understanding. I knew that somewhere out there, someone else had to have encountered these creatures. The more fantastical elements of television and film began to lose there edge - the monsters that were contained in the 25 inch box that sat on top of my parents' entertainment center seemed less aw inspiring, the wires and zippers were more visible the lines of the makeup were easy to pick out. I had experienced real fear, the fear that comes from the knowledge that we are not alone in this world, that there are things out there in the darkness that can come and go as they please. It was at that point I understood that old cliché that ignorance is bliss, because knowing that there is so much you don’t know, is one of the greatest burdens I have ever had to carry. From that day on I have made it a point to study everything I can about myths and lore, because there are things out there my friends, that we can only begin to understand. Even with all our technology, we are still just fleshy beings cowering near the glow of our flat screen fires in our suburban modular caves.

Sleep safely, and as always, believe in everything

* I made sure to single out the Trolls for the Trolls must never be omitted else I offend their court and they stop protecting my clothes from the various other things that stalk the shadows of the forest of my closets.

TMNT - Mouser Time (sample pages)

Just thought I would post the TMNT sample pages and script from the Mighty Mike Exner  III

PAGE ONE – 3 panels

Panel 1.  The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are engaged in furious combat with dozens of mouser robots in their sewer home. The mouser robots are being taken apart systematically by the efficient and deadly attacks of the Turtles as they wield their ninja weaponry. Leonardo is the focus of the panel, as he dispatches the mouser robots with grim resolve.

Would somebody mind explaining how these mouser robots figured out where we live?

Panel 2.  Michelangelo and Rafael are engaged with mouser robots as well, and are fighting side-by-side. Raphael is spearing and slashing robots with his sai, and Michelangelo is bashing them with his nunchakus.

Aw, who cares, Leo? It’s not like this little slice of sewer was prime real estate or anything.

Yeah, besides--Donny’s the one with the big brain. Why don’tcha knock on his shell and ask him?

Panel 3.  Donatello is thrusting his bo staff through the mouth of one of the mouser robots with enough force that the end of the staff is bursting from the other end.

As much as I’m sure you’d enjoy that, Mikey, anybody lays a hand on my shell and they’re getting the shaft!

PAGE TWO – 5 panels

Panel 1.  Michelangelo is showboating, and dispatching two of the mousers with his twirling nunchakus, smashing them to pieces. But because he isn’t taking the threat too seriously, he fails to notice the mouser descending on him from above, its open jaws aiming for his exposed shoulder.

Pretty nice move, Don--but let me introduce you to a little maneuver I like to call the sayonara spin cycle!

Panel 2.  The mouser sinks its metallic teeth into Michelangelo’s shoulder, drawing blood. Michelangelo reacts to the bite by crying out in agony.


Panel 3.  Donatello’s face is registering his shock at the injury Michelangelo has received. He’s responsible for it, so he should look plenty distressed.

Aw, no! Mikey!

Panel 4.  Donatello uses his bo staff to vault over his two brothers as they continue to battle the mousers in an effort to keep the robots from the collapsed form of Michelangelo.

Coming through!

Panel 5.  Donatello presses a button on a crudely constructed electronic device that looks like a control stick of some kind.

PAGE THREE – 6 panels

Panel 1.  The mousers abruptly power down and cease to function. Raphael is perplexed by the sudden change, but Leonardo is already moving towards the injured Michelangelo.

Hey, they ain’t chompin’ no more. What gives?

Panel 2.  Leonardo is crouched beside Michelangelo, holding a rag over his wound, but both he and Michelangelo are looking in the direction of Donatello. Leonardo has a grim expression, and the face of Michelangelo is registering both his physical and emotional pain.

Ask Donatello, Raph. I have a sinking feeling this was his doing.

Ugh. Sick burn. Say it ain’t so, dude.

Panel 3.  Donatello is approaching his brothers, with a shameful expression on his face.

Guys, let me explain. After our first encounter with the mousers I thought it prudent to study one for purely scientific reasons. Once I’d reverse-engineered the specimen, I found it remarkably simple to duplicate, and--

Panel 4.  Leonardo has jumped to his feet and is poking a finger in Donatello’s chest. He’s snapping at Donatello, and Donatello is snapping back

And what!? You adopted them as pets and decided to sick them on your family?

It wasn’t like that! I reprogrammed them, and figured they’d be useful as a training exercise or something.

Panel 5.  Leonardo and Donatello continue to argue with one another. Standing between and slightly behind them is Rafael, who sees something that his brothers do not because they are arguing so fiercely. Though we cannot see it, Raphael is seeing Splinter enter the room, and he’s trying to warn his brothers.

And this is why I didn’t tell you about it, dude--because I knew you’d get your panties in a bunch! You think you’re god’s gift to reptiles! Leo knows best!

I don’t think I always know what’s best, Donatello. But for as smart as you are, you can be seriously stupid sometimes! In what universe could this be considered a good idea!?

Uh, guys…?

Panel 6.  Splinter has entered the room, and the Turtles have reverted to submissive positions in response.

What is the meaning of this!? One of you had better have an extraordinary explanation for me.

M-Master Splinter.

PAGE FOUR – 6 panels

Panel 1.  Splinter is regarding the Turtles with a firm expression.

I am waiting.

Panel 2.  Leonardo and Donatello both try to explain what happened to Splinter. In the background, one of the disabled mouser robots is lying on its side, with its head facing the scene in front of it. We’re going to start zooming in on the mouser robot, so it needs to be visible in this panel.

An ill-fated and misguided training exercise, Master Splinter. Michelangelo was injured as a result of Donatello’s carelessness.

Master Splinter, Michelangelo’s injury was an unfortunate accident--and if Leonardo was half as sharp as his katana he would realize this.

Panel 3.  We’re zooming in closer on the mouser robot now, so we should only be able to see certain parts of the Turtles, if any of them at all, as we move the shot away. Since the mouser robot is on the floor, we’ll probably only see their lower legs and feet or something like that. Whatever works best.

Oh, that’s real nice, Donny. And maybe if you’d take the bo staff out of your ass and listen for a change this never would have happened!

How about I take it and stick it up your ass instead, oh fearless leader?

Panel 4.  We’ve zoomed very close to the mouser now, and are seeing the distorted reflection of the Turtles and Master Splinter as he chides them in its eye.

Leonardo! Donatello! That is enough!

Sorry, Master Splinter…

Panel 5.  Baxter Stockman is sitting in a chair in front of a sophisticated surveillance monitor watching the Turtles and Master Splinter as the Turtles begin arguing again.

But Leo started it.

Shut up, Don.

You shut up!

Panel 6.  Baxter Stockman is speaking into a communication device of some kind, and he has a supremely self-satisfied and smug expression on his face.

The rat is in the trap. Are you in position?

PAGE FIVE – 2 panels

Panel 1.  This is practically a splash page. Old Hob is standing on a New York street in front of a manhole cover flanked on each side by large amounts of mousers and his gang of street thugs. The thugs should be armed with various street weaponry such as chains, bats, tire irons, etc. If you want to give a few of them guns, go for it. Old Hob should be the central focus of the shot, and he should look vicious and menacing, hunched over the manhole cover, showing jagged teeth and claws, as if he can’t wait to pounce down onto the Turtles and their master.

Oh, we’re here all right. My boys are itchin’ to tear those green freaks to pieces.

Panel 2. Small panel. Close in on Old Hob. His face is twisted with hatred.

But the rat is mine. When he dies, I want to hear him squeal.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Come away, O human child! To the waters and the wild

Another excerpt...

I have just arrived home from the hookah bar, my body went into convulsions, my legs, already working on will power alone gave out on me and I crawled the 20 feet from the front door to the bathroom. In my 29 years of life I have learned that proud men craw if they want to avoid death. I leaned my head over the toilet bowl and expelled bloody bile into the chemical blue water. My body felt like a furnace, heat radiated off of it like warm asphalt during a summer rain storm.

As I rested my head against the cool porcine, trying to not think of how unclean my room mates are, my eyes losing focus, it reminded me of a time long ago, when I was in Elementary school...

Elementary school was always a little strange for me. There were times when the adults would bring me into these rooms and have me put together handfuls of shapes into all sorts of configurations. Then they would say things like

“Have you taken this test before?” or “How are you doing this so quickly?” or “Are you sure you have not been shown the solutions?”

At the time I had no idea what they were talking about. Things like I.Q., gifted classes, and magnet schools were concepts that I had yet to discover. The only thing that concerned me was the fact that there were seven red shapes, four blue shapes, and two yellow shape one of them plastic and the other was a cut bit if cardboard painted yellow. The thing that bothered me was the fact that there were two different shades of yellow. I could jump through whatever little hoops they wanted, I was willing to be the strange disabled child that was both well spoken and unable to walk without swagger, but for the life of me I could not figure out why in the name of the old ones these people were not bothered by the fact that there was clearly a missing peace, they felt that a cardboard clone would somehow replace it, and while the cardboard clone did a good job of helping complete the shapes so they would form the patterns the adults would ask for every since told me that there was just something not right about it. The feel was not smooth, it smelled like paint and paper, it even sounded off when it was moved across the table.

When I brought this up to the adults asking them why they had done such a thing they told me that the other peace had gone missing and so they replaced it. I was overcome with confusion. My first line of questioning involved their lack of search parties for little plastic shapes, and how long was the little shape missing before they decided to replace it? I was told that because these particular adults move from school to school in an attempt to find students they thought to be gifted they were not in the habit of making the rounds to all the schools but once a year, so it must have gotten “lost in the shuffle.” It bothered me that this was somehow acceptable, the missing shape was given little to no thought, it was so easily replicable, I felt bad for the shape, alone lost somewhere without its clan, left to wander the classrooms or guidance councillor offices of some other school never to see its people again.

The next line of questioning I dove into involved asking them why they had chosen to replace the missing place peace with cardboard and not plastic. I was told that it was easier to just replace the peace with what they had on hand and that it made the set different, they had lost a shape and replacing it with a shape that was the same but slightly different was in a way like me being in a classroom full of “normal” kids.

It was then I felt my world shifted slightly at the implications of that statement.

Was there another me? If so what happened to the other me? Was there a “normal” me who was somehow lost and I was the replacement me? Was there a me that looked and acted like the “normal” me at a glance but upon closer examination would be easily noticed as something not quite like the rest of the kids, not quite “normal”? Was I that cardboard me?

They marveled at the deftness of my hand eye coordination and the ability for me to casually complete what they considered complicated puzzles, my surface thoughts focused on the tasks at hand and my inner mind clicked away at the possibilities that I was somehow a replacement unit for something, or in this case someone that had come before.

Later I would go to the library and research replacement people, and it would be by chance alone that after finding scientific journals on the concepts of cloning, books about working out to a new you and even books about androids that may or may not have been having nocturnal memories of electrical farm animals I stumbled upon an old book of folk stories and poems that made mention of something known as a changeling. A man by the name of William Butler Yeats had written a poem titled “The Stolen Child” that poem told the story of faeries who lured a human child away to there wild places to spare him the pain of dealing with the hard reality of the real world.

Often I have wondered if the “normal” me was spirited off to the happy land of freedom and dreams and a cardboard skin was slipped over some imperfect Fay child and left in the incubator at the hospital….

…It would certainly explain the odd bent goat legs I have anyway, my inability to fit into society in a way that is acceptable on anything more than the role of "What can he do for us?" type of a creature...

Oh well, regardless of if you are the original you, or some other you who is living the other you's life, as always all I ask, is that you, and you, and the other you, believe in everything.

Friday, February 3, 2012

It's Bananas!

A while back I was asked by Dario Carrasco to pen a script for a project he was putting together called "Comics for a Cause". You can read more about it at the link provided, but it was basically a way for me to do my part to help a friend in need. We decided to collaborate on something tentatively called "Banana Gang", a story about an 800 pound gorilla named Kongo that runs around a city inhabited by anthropomorphic animals and regular humans that co-exist in relative harmony with one another. Kongo does the hero thing, but he's not very good at it. So he decides he needs a sidekick, and the one he chooses ends up being Bud, a small, frail, brainy kid that's pretty much the polar opposite of Kongo in every way. The series has a lot of humor to it, but it also has a lot of heart. Below is the 6-page script I wrote for the "Comics for a Cause" anthology, as well as some sketches and designs done by both Dario Carrasco and another talented artist named Fernando Sosa of the main players.





Mike Exner III


Panel 1. Kongo is hanging from the ledge of a building by his toes. He’s looking up in desperation at Bud, who is doing calculations on a calculator in his hand.

Bud, help me up! I’m slipping!

If you hadn’t mistimed your jump, we wouldn’t be in this predicament, Kongo.

You were riding on my back!

Panel 2. Billy and Bobby Goat (two of the Gruff Goats) are running out of the building with bags of loot.

This job was easy, Billy Goat.

You said it, Bobby Goat. Think of all the empty cans we can get for this loot! I’m starting to drool.

Panel 3. The Gruff Goats are heading for an idling SUV with Turbo Tortoise behind the wheel.

C’mon… guys.

Hurry… up.

Panel 4. Bud reaches down toward Kongo. Kongo is reaching desperately for Bud.

Finally! Get a move on, Bud! I think the Gruff Goats are making a break for it!

Panel 5. Bud takes a banana off the belt of Kongo.


What do you think you’re doing?


Panel 1. Kongo is flipping out while Bud tosses the insides of the banana over his shoulder, leaving only the peel.

Hey! That’s my lunch! I can’t fight on an empty stomach. I get cramps!

Think of it as a favor, Kongo. You could stand to lose a few pounds.

It’s a banana, Bud! Not a chocolate cake!

Panel 2. Bud drops the peel off the side of the building.

It’s for a good cause. Trust me.

Panel 3. The peel hits the ground right in front of the SUV with the ani-men in it.


Panel 4. The ani-men speed off in the SUV, but the tire of the car is headed straight for the banana peel.

Step on it, Turbo Tortoise!

Here… we… go.

Panel 5. The car skids out of control, and crashes into something (streetlight, mailbox, whatever), but there’s not a lot of damage done to the SUV.




Panel 1. Bud is finally helping Kongo up. Kongo is not happy.

See? I told you.

Waste of a perfectly good banana, if you ask me.

Panel 2. Bud starts running for the fire escape on the side of the building, but Kongo is lamenting the loss of his poor banana sitting on the roof of the building.

Wait, maybe we can save it. Five-second rule!

No time, Kongo. C’mon!

Panel 3. Bud is running down the fire escape, and Kongo is climbing down the side of the fire escape like an acrobat.

What’s the five-second rule, anyway?

What’s the--?

Your people made it up! Food on the ground for less than five seconds is safe to eat.

Panel 4. The two heroes run out of the alley on the side of the building. Bud is still looking at Kongo. Kongo is rolling his eyes at Bud in annoyance.

That sounds gross. Who would eat food from the floor?


Panel 5. The SUV is beginning to speed away. Kongo is looking at Bud with an accusing glare, and Bud is pointing in the opposite direction, toward the street.

Look what you did! Answering all your weird questions winded me, and now they’re getting away!

But look there, Kongo!


Panel 1. Bud is on the back of Kongo with his arms wrapped around his neck, and Kongo is jumping on top of a yellow taxicab.

You’ve got eyes like a hawk, Bud. Let’s go!

Hey, what the heck are you doing?

Panel 2. Kongo is pointing in the direction the SUV went.

By authority of the Banana Gang, I order you to follow that tortoise!

Yeah, yeah.

Panel 3. The yellow taxicab is gaining on the SUV, and Bud is asking Kongo a question.

So how come Turbo Tortoise drives fast but does everything else in slow motion?

Panel 4. The yellow cab is nearly on top of the SUV now. Kongo is preparing to jump from the taxicab onto the SUV. Bud has a hand up with his finger extended behind Kongo.

How should I know, Bud? Maybe you should ask his mother. Now stop distracting me!

Wait! I have one more thing to say.

Panel 5. Kongo turns around to look at Bud. He’s angry.

What, Bud? What is it this time?

Panel 6. A bag of money hits Kongo in the face. Bud is wincing.




Panel 1. One of the Gruff Goats jumps on Kongo.

You won’t stop us, Kongo! We’re eating like kings tonight! Tin cans will flow like wine!


Panel 2. Bud hits Bobby Gruff Goat over the head with (whatever Bud uses as a weapon).

Would you settle for being crowned?

Panel 3. Kongo kicks Bobby Gruff Goat off of him, and off of the taxicab.

Nice work, Bud! See, that’s how a sidekick is supposed to act.

Panel 4. Kongo jumps on top of the SUV.

Now let me show you how a hero does things!

Panel 5. Kongo reaches into the driver-side window of the SUV.

Hey, Turbo Tortoise. I think this is your turn.


Panel 6. Kongo yanks the steering wheel.



Panel 1. The SUV swerves off the road and crashes again, and Kongo is thrown from the roof.

I’m an ape, not a flying squirrel!

Panel 2. Bud is tying up Billy Gruff Goat while Kongo tries to recover from flying off of the SUV. Kongo is pretty woozy from his fall. Tortoise is trying to run away, but he’s going really really slow.

You did it, Kongo! But look--Turbo Tortoise is getting away!

Not to worry, Bud. He won’t get far. I’ll just take a little catnap and catch him down the block in a couple of hours.


The heroes of our tale... Kongo and Bud.

The primary foes of our tale. The Gruff Goats steal to maintain their lavish lifestyle... and support their habit of eating empty cans.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Memory sometimes makes merciful deletions

Yet Another excerpt from my collection of short stories

As a kid I traveled a lot to see surgeons and specialists. It was not that I lived in a place that was devoid of medical practitioners, it was the fact that my disability was so out of the ordinary and not many people knew how to analyze and work with it that I had to travel a few states away from where I lived just to find a doctor who was qualified to interpret what was going on with my body.

Lucky for me a friend of my parents lived near the medical university that I was being treated at and my parents and I would stay at his mother’s home. Nora was not her name, but as I have stated not everyone who is mentioned in these recollections will be portrayed by their true name, none the less my love for her was deep and I still look on my time I got to spend with her fondly. She acted as a surrogate grandmother to me and she was for lack of a better word amazing. Nora was small in stature with a deep warm smile and eyes that always seemed to not look at anything but still take the world in on a level generations past hers had forgotten how to. She was always accompanied by a cloud of smoke that issued from her slow burning cigarettes and she would moved about in her slippers and house coat making sure we were all taken care before she would sit and enjoy her cup of lava hot coffee while she played solitaire, the kind with real cards not the computer game, if memory serves me correctly the most modern peace of technology that she owned was an old tube television, her house was not the type of place that seemed to welcome the modern world and as far as I was concerned that was fine with me, after spending so much time surrounded by medical equipment and modern fixtures it was just nice to be somewhere that felt real, a place that had the softness and comfort of a well worn stone.

Her house sat halfway up the side of a mountain. Far below you could make out a rural road that wound its way by and somewhere up the mountain from where she lived past the large gardens of vegetable and herbs, pass the crooked trees, and pass the trellis of grape vines her mother lived. Her home was wonderful. Like something out of a story book. I had a room of my own to stay in. The walls were dark wood paneled and the floor was plush green carpet. There was only one light in the room and it was a small orange desk lamp so when the sun went down the lamp would cast the whole room in an almost campfire glow. I would sit on the fold out cot in a forest of dime store novels and comic books and read for hours uninterrupted. She would have an excuse to walk by the door every hour or so, but she never felt the need to ask if I was okay, or if I needed anything. She gave me the freedom to ask if I needed or wanted anything and to be left alone otherwise. I think on some level the old woman understood that I enjoyed my solitude after medical ordeals and I needed the time to slip into the world of Howard or Lovecraft to just get away for a while. There were times I would read well into the night and find myself shocked by the hands of clock as they read half past eleven.

It was on one particular night where I was following the adventures of a small boy and his newly found pet dragon that the world off of the pages began to get a little strange. From outside the window I heard something strange, it was not quite the sound of a cat, but something larger, more primal, and less natural. I turned off the orange light, and giving into my curiosity I made my way to the small window in my room. Outside I could make out little more than pine trees and moon light, stars littered the sky and the soft glow of the moon off the evergreen trees cast everything in a beautiful unnatural light. But I could not see anything in the darkness. Whatever had made the sound was not there, or at least I could not see it in the darkness.

It was then I smelled the familiar comforting aroma of slow burning cigarettes passing by the door to my room. I clumsily made my way to the door, my lack of leg braces for support and crutch to lean on had me making use of the ancient chest of draws for support. I launched myself to the door frame and poked my head into the dark hallway just in time to see the tail of a house coat slip out of the screen door. It was late for her to be going outside, she had no problem smoking in the house and any ripe vegetables would have been picked by now. I knew she woke up early, but deep in my stomach I knew something was going on. Using the walls of the hallway to steady myself I made my way slowly to the screen door I had seen the house coat disappear through. It was dark but the large window in the kitchen let in enough moon light for me to make my way around tables and odd artifacts of antiquity. Nora had a strange collection in her home old wooden statues, brass animals, and other things with stranger more indescribable characteristics.

Another strange feline sound spurred me to hasten my movement. Swinging from breakfast window to coffee table to setting chair I made my way to the door in three short ungraceful jerks of my body. I peered through the screen into the yard beyond, wild flowers lined the gravel path leading around the front of the house the summer moon illuminated the soft uncut grass that bordered on the well tended garden. To my left there sat an old barn well worn with age the front of a tractor poking out to my right a field that slowly became the thick woods that surrounded the house. But Nora was nowhere to be seen. The sound came again but this time it was louder, closer, I was not afraid but still I was filled with a strange since of dread. Whatever was making this sound was not of this world.

What happened next is a bit of a blur, it happened so quickly, from out of the shadows of the field a great emptiness strode, it looked as if someone filmed a large jungle cat walking out of the thick grass and then removed it leaving only a hole in space where it should have been, to say it was black would be an understatement, it seemed to be formed out of the absence of space itself. My mind felt like it would fracture just looking upon the thing, then without warning something strange erupted out of the left side of the yard as Nora came around the corner of the house. Her hands on her hips the smoldering cherry of her cigarette looked dim in comparison to the smoldering crimson of her eyes.

At the time I was not sure what was happening, what I saw was thick wind, like smoke with a purpose lashing out at this lack of a creature. I fell to my knees, everything was just so much to take in, this elderly woman who made breakfast and cookies while humming silly little tunes, was somehow willing the natural world to lash out at this thing that was just not there and yet was moving about. The thing leaped at her, it was like a cat, huge, but at the same time it was like nothing, just, not there. Nora stretched out her arm and a sound came from her lips that may have been words but they were constructed in a way that I had never heard before. The nothing thing tore into her arm but when it pulled back all it had in its nothing mouth was a few shreds of house coat, it was at that point Nora’s cigarette became white hot and then….

I woke up in my room to the sound of frying bacon. I serched my memory of the events from the night before but I could not find anything more than what I have recaled here. I made my way to the kitchen to see my mother and Nora chatting and not wanting to seem like I had some sort of nightmare brought on by, as my mother was prone to saying, “to many comic books”. I played the part of the sleepy child and sat at the table. My father came in with a few tomatoes from the garden and we all sat down to breakfast. Nora ruffled my hair and asked me if I slept well and I nodded.

“You were up late.” Nora said.

“I was reading a good book.” I replied softly.

My mother piped up “Nora, what happened to your house coat?”

Looking down there were what appeared to be large scratch marks ripped into one of the selves of the old house coat. Nora just smiled and shrugged. “Who knows she chuckles, you know me, always getting into something.” She reached over and ruffled my hair once more and then noticing that there was plate showing through the mountains of breakfast food she re lit her cigarette and launched into her normal dance of filling plates and frying eggs.

The lives that I am lucky enough to have twine into mine are important to me. Nora was always a solid part of my childhood, it was like having a story book adventure that had retired and now spent her days as a simple widow woman making me breakfast and telling me stories about giants and talking fish. People would look at her and just see an old lady, even if behind the haze of cigarette smoke and old housecoat there was so much more. As I grew older and more doctors who were closer to my parents home became aware of how to deal with my neurological disabilities I spent less and less time with her, and many years ago she passed on from this world, but I will never forget the way she made eggs, the kindness she showed me or the things I saw on the mountain that night both the things that were there and the things that weren't.

May you always remember those important to you, and as always all I ask is that you believe in everything.