killing jars/

©2021 Michael Raven

this little house
of horror i wear inside
brain walls flowing
held faces screaming
on the boardwalk water
flies body mirror
lies, arousal
ache to kiss her
pins and needles
at the other side
of the killing jar
eyes become wings
and the girl starts
to sing
cold steel rusted remains


That scene was “okay” by my estimation for a first draft. It would definitely improve with a rewrite. I’ll have to sit on it and see if it is worth pursuing further. Believe it or not, that is only the first of seven scenes I’d plotted out yesterday.

I should maybe explain “scenes” to me, which are probably not what other people mean by “scenes”. I tend to see the endpoint of a scene being that place where the focus in the story shifts, rather than a wholesale change of characters or backdrop. But you can guess that this chapter, if written, would probably be about 5,000-10,000 words long if every scene is about equal length.

I had intended for it to be somewhat lighter in flavor than the bulk of the story, but I surprised myself with the absurdity of certain elements. I wasn’t trying to force the absurdities, but as I wrote, the whole idea of consulting a corpse in a legal disagreement seemed silly. And then I realized that a resurrected corpse might not appreciate being quizzed about legal matters. Nor did the outlining include revealing what killed our corpse — it just kind of happened as I wrote. I suppose there are worse ways to go…

Anyway — Tucker is about as tired and burn out as I expected. He wants to move up in the world of necromancy, not feel chained by it — and he feels no one appreciates his skills in this out-of-the-way town between nowhere and no place.

So on and so forth. Blah Blah Blah.

We’ll see if I like it enough to return to it after I’ve had a think on the matter.

Come Winter | First Draft: Chapter 1, Scene 1

©2021 Michael Raven

Tucker only did it for the money. He’d be the first to correct anyone who accused him of taking pride in his work — there was no pride in doing what was, by all accounts, grunt work. But it was his bread and butter, it paid the rent and kept the multiple people he owed debts to at bay. But he hated the work with a passion and any pride he might have had in the distant past had evaporated on the hundredth time he undertook this kind of work. And this particular event was far beyond that marker.

Especially when the grunt work didn’t go smoothly. Take, for instance, this current job.

“Alfred!” his patron shrieked at the upright corpse sitting on the table. “Alfred! I know you think this is funny, but it is a very serious matter.”

Another man and woman sitting next to the wall of his basement office chuckled in their chairs. As far as they were concerned, everything was going just fine. Unfortunately, they were here only in the interest of being witness to work that may impact their future and they had no financial stake in the work itself. Making the corpse’s son and daughter-in-law happy would not fulfill the bread and butter requirements of the job and, when things went awry, customers who had little or no money to begin with were less apt to pay when they didn’t get the results they desired. Things happened to be going awry for the person who would be paying his bill.

“Mr. Kadash.” Tucker used the voice he used when dealing with a stubborn child or corpse. Soothing. Calming. The lingering hint of threat buried under a veil or two. “Please, sir, the time for jokes is over with. Answer your wife’s question, if you would.”

“Mongoose!” Mr. Kadash said with a grin.

The court officer was tapping his foot with thinly disguised impatience. “I was under the impression, Mr. Longley, that you were supposed to be a practiced necromancer. Order Mr. Kadash to answer his wife’s questions so we can be on with this.”

Tucker didn’t bother to tell him that’s not how it worked. He was perhaps the best necromancer within several hundred wheels — something the court officer knew well, having been to one of these events more often than either of them could probably count. If a corpse wished to be puckish or intransigent, well, everyone just had to deal with it until the subject tired of the japes. Which might be minutes or years, depending on the spirit’s inclination. In this case, Mr. Kadash was disinclined to be cooperative and no amount of applied will would change his temperament and no one wanted to wait for years to get to the bottom of Mrs. Kadash’s concerns

To satisfy the officer and his customer, Tucker had to at least make an effort to suggest that he was somehow in control of the situation. “Mrs. Kadash asked you a question, Mr. Kadash. Did you or did you not change your will to make sure that she would be financially cared for in the event of your untimely death?”

The corpse considered the question, or at least made gestures that implied a greater seriousness of the situation: a finger on the chin, a cocking of the head to the side…

“He’s obviously avoiding admitting that he did no such thing,” said the daughter-in-law before the corpse could respond. “She’s nothing but a gold-digger and a possible murderess. The ink on their marriage certificate was barely dry before he died. There are rumors that the wedding was not legal.”

“There was no murder,” Alfred interjected. “I died because of the sex. The mind-bending, animalistic, wild and torrid sex that what done did me in.” He turned to his bride. “That last time was… whew! I have no words for what it was… Just — whew!”

Tucker noticed that everyone’s faces reddened at the shared revelation, Mr. Kadash’s daughter-in-law positively glowed in the dim candlelight of Tucker’s sanctuary. And, though Tucker himself was used to the foibles of the recently deceased, he felt his own face warm a bit as he checked the widow’s reaction and the unbidden thoughts of being in bed with her raced through his head.

He shook those thoughts out of the space between his ears.

The only other person in the sanctuary seemingly unaffected by this pronouncement was the court officer, who was making careful note of the deceased words. Apparently, this was good enough to clear the young woman’s name of any murder suspicion and he was taking note of it. Tucker didn’t think Mr. Kadash’s spirit in particular was lying, but he resisted the urge to remind the officer that a corpse will lie as much or more than the living, depending on their motivations.

“Alfred, dear,” said Mrs. Kadash. “That’s very sweet of you, but I we didn’t raise you from the dead to talk about our, umm…”

“Fucking?” her dead husband offered up.

“…Intimate relations,” she corrected.

Mr. Kadash’s corpse frowned with disappointment.

“I’d rather talk about that. I miss it on this side.”

His wife redirected the conversation with a deft touch that impressed even Tucker, who was convinced he was one of the better smooth-talkers within the same radius as his skills with necromancy.

“We were establishing that you had indeed amended your will to provide for me in the event of your death, but your son and his wife claim that no such document was filed with your solicitor. I know you wouldn’t have overlooked something like that. Would you?”

Tucker had paid good money to block as much sound as possible from the outer world trying to reach the place he raised the dead for such things. Silence wasn’t essential, but it did help keep things focused for the dead and those wanting to talk to the dead. Normally, he could quite easily imagine the world had gone to the Shadowlands outside the double doors at the top of the stairs.

This day, however, normal seemed to have taken a vacation.

[1017 Words]


Well, I feel like crawling into a hole today and pulling in the edges after me.

Between the laceration on my knuckle and joints I wasn’t aware I had screaming, I think I’d be ready to hand Charon his coin if he decided to come ’round, if for no other reason than there is the theoretical promise of relief from pain after you cross. Or, at least, you forget why you hurt.

Also, in theory, I’m supposed to hit another chore in my overflowing chore jar. Instead, I’m gonna beg off and weep silently in a corner, rocking back and forth while hugging myself. With Mare of Easttown playing in the background so I can find out who the next likely suspect is in the murder of a young woman. Or, at least a clue who is more likely than those already proposed.

I still think it was the ex-boyfriend, but I’m probably wrong.

Come Winter

Well, roughed out my test chapter to see if I like two of the primary characters enough to keep writing about them. I sometimes do test chapters just to try things out — milieu, characters, concepts — before committing to a piece for more than that. On more than once occasion, I find that I can’t stand the characters or the backdrop or what have you once I start actually playing with it. I had one novel attempt where I got to a hundred pages of writing only to discover I couldn’t stand my protagonist. Now: I write a chapter or two and look at what I have to see if everything works for me, if I can get into the characters’ heads or if the world sits right. This time, it only took me about three hours to write an outline for something that will probably be read in fifteen or fewer minutes. God, put that way, it can be kind of depressing.

I came up with a very thin version of the chapter while laying in bed last night. I’d decided that the protagonist needed help from the mage, who was attending to monotonous bread-and-butter work and she was impatient for answers. And, being sloppy drunk, she doesn’t give a rat’s ass that she’s interrupting his work, which happens to be in front of his client. To add to it, things aren’t going smoothly for the mage, and he’s have one of those “I always wanted to be a lumberjack” moment instead of what he is. You know — something with fewer frustrations. She interrupts, and ends up solving his current frustrations as well as uncovering something that will set him apart from his peers (if true). He is intrigued, she is passed out. Everyone is happy except for the client’s adversaries, who dislike what they heard because they wanted something else to be said (or nothing at all).

Happy, well, except for the protagonist, who is going to wake up with a epic headache.

Tale’s working name is “Come Winter”, just because it sounds good. It may not last.

Protagonist: Rain Randell

Mage: Tucker Longley

I’m not sold on either name, but they were the best that came out of the Scrivener name generator tool. I’m using Scrivener 3 Trial to decide if I want to fork over the $25 for an upgrade. So far, it seems to work as good as the original, possibly better. I haven’t delved into the toolbox too far to see if there are any goodies hidden away. I like that you can use Scrivener to write scenes that can be moved around to hide you wrote in a linear fashion, or that you wrote in a nonlinear way and want to make it look linear after you compile it into a single document. That said, I’ve also gotten frustrated with unnecessary limitations that they code into the software (like who you can cloud sync with, at least previously).

Getting my ducts in a row

Nothing will get a guy with combined acrophobia and claustrophobia going faster than a dusty attic crawl space with only ceiling joists for support and loose insulation. Toss in not being able to find the ladder he’d used to crawl into his special hellhole for people like him, a mask on his face to keep the abundant dust from choking him to death, and you have a ripe recipe for massive panic.

I’m not proud, but this happened today.

A few weeks back, just in time for my eldest’s birthday party, the bathroom fan decided it had endured enough and went kaput in about the most undramatic way possible: it just glided to a stop while being used. Fifteen years of use, give or take, so I guess I can see that. It was disappointing, but likely inevitable.

Anyway, I had decided to bring my not-so-mad skills as a DIYer to the table and replace it, only to find out that we hadn’t opted for a “room side” install when a relative had installed it initially. So, to remove the sheet metal duct to put in a new unit required me to climb up into the aforementioned attic crawlspace. It thrilled not in the least, but I was determined not to keep relying on relatives to fix these kinds of things. So, up into the hole I went.

Luckily for me, it was a rainy and cloudy day, with temps in the 60°F range. Perfect weather for being up in what would normally be a sauna. But, of course, the fan had been installed well from the access hole and I had to crawl on my hands and knees to find the box, with only the joists for support, to the place it had been installed and I had to dig around in a blanket of fluff to find the box to try and unscrew it from the joist. Except… the screws were not impressed with my screw-drivery skills and firmly resented my attempts to unwind them all lefty-loosie. Four screw, all stubbornly resistant to my attempts to undo them, even though I offered cookies as a bribe.

Maybe I should have offered brownies instead.

Well, sheet metal does have the thing where I can tell the duct to fuck off and apply leverage with a crowbar to pop the screw through the metal and leave it in-place. Except, I didn’t have one on my person, so I used a screwdriver — which kind of worked — to get the side closest to me, but it did nothing for the far side that I couldn’t reach so I wiggled my way directly backward and… in the dark (power was shut off at the breaker because, well, the previous DIY electricians were not all that talented or trustworthy) and… I couldn’t find my ladder with my feet. And the dust from uncovering the duct was thick in the air and my mask was starting to get obstructed as a result and…

The two aforementioned phobias took hold in earnest and I started crying out for help in a very panicked and unfatherly manner. My eldest finally heard my pleas for help through her earbuds and played the role of spotter so I could find where the ladder was and make sure I slide down instead of fell down from the ceiling hellhole. I actually did lose my footing on the ladder and slid partway down, but I had a claw-like grip on the joists, which stopped my fall, but left my knees scraped up to hell. I crawled down and went out into the rain and sat there until the adrenaline and the shakes went away. To add to my trials, somewhere along the line, I cut the shit out of my knuckle (secret, I probably should go in for stitches, but I won’t). I was bleeding like a pig.

And the duct was still firmly in place, mocking me.

Well, friends, I won’t lie and tell you that I’d overcome my fears — they were actually worse than ever before. So I used the crowbar bottom-side. And I did as much as I could from below once it popped out.

I finally got everything installed and working. I didn’t even have sparks after I flipped the breaker back on.

That left re-covering the new ductwork with insulation… Shudders and shakes.

Because we live in Minnesota and we get quite a bit of snow that will occasionally cause roofs to cave in or build up ice dams at the gutter, I bought a snow removal tool for just such occasions. I saw it in the garage and said screw it. Like I said, I’m not a proud man. I hauled it to the hole entry and I used it to push insulation back over all the areas I’d disturbed it. Fuck crawling back into that hellhole…

Sometimes, I really hate home ownership.