Taking demons.

©2021 Michael Raven

The following was originally posted 9 Nov 2019 on social media and showed up in my “memories” feed this morning. Any edits made are for only the most egregious of errors, which might (honestly) be the whole of the piece.

“Every night is the longest night of my life,” she said over the coffee I’d ordered for her. She hadn’t touched the coffee yet but just hovered over it, breathing in its aroma. Her voice was weary, tinged with fatigue and, maybe, just maybe, a little apathy.

“I sleep, but only as much as I absolutely need,” she continued. “But mostly, I lie awake all night.”

I was about to say something, she added without looking up from her coffee but exquisitely timed. “Night is where my demons dwell.”

As far as first dates went, this was going in the direction of the two-stars-thanks-lose-my-profile-cos-I’m-gonna-block-you box. But it was early yet. Maybe my date was just nervous, I told myself.

“Demons?” I mean, what do you say after someone says something like that?

“Demon demons,” she said, looking up for the first time since I’d placed the spider-cracked porcelain mug in front of her. Her eyes were like dark pools of water, an abyss of cold emptiness.

“There are demons, you know. We just like to pretend otherwise. And I’m just fated to have to deal with them nightly. You have demons yourself, or you wouldn’t be here.”

She waited for me to confirm her assertion and shrugged when I did nothing of the sort.

“My guess is you can ignore them,” she added, looking back down at the mug. “I can’t.”

That was it. I’d left my last girlfriend because of her mental issues that she’d refused to take her medication for. I didn’t need this in my life, this gal was obviously cut from the same crushed velvet tapestry. Maybe, I told myself, I should take mom up on that nice daughter her coworker was willing to set me up with as a favor.

It’s best to avoid prolonging the inevitable.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “Not to be mean, but I can already tell this date is not going to work. I don’t want to waste your time or mine.”

She shrugged and finally sipped the coffee.

“I didn’t come here to see if we could date but to take some of your demons. You could thank me later, but you won’t find me. The demons do that to torment me. You will forget my name, you forget most of this evening. That’s okay. I’ve gotten used to it.”

I’d had enough and was about to get up. My companion put a hand on my shoulder and stood up before I could do so. I could feel her cold flesh through my shirt.

“Stay,” she said. “It’s better that way. Less confusing when it fades.”

The strange woman turned to the glass door and let in the Seattle autumn wet and chill to disappear around the edge of the window.

Aside from me, there was only the barista in the cafe after she’d left. I looked up, “Man, I dodged that bullet. I’ve had some weird blind dates, but that one was off her rocker.”

The barista looked at me, bewildered.

“Who? There’s only you and me, man.”

“But the woman who was just here…?”

“You came here by yourself, brother. Hey… Are you okay?”

Photo by ROMAN ODINTSOV on Pexels.com


©2021 Michael Raven

“This has all happened before and it will happen again.”

Though she’d never turned to me to say these words, I could feel her turning once again to stare out over the rolling plains of prairie grasses moving like waves in the sea as the flowed golden over rise and hollow under the steel skies filled with incoming thunder and rain. The thunderbird, it was said, rising from the mountains in the west and riding over the world, crackling like blue lightning, wings sending squalls in every direction. Clouds like wool cities roared towards us as they had been all afternoon, visible in the vast empty of this place. Someone wiser than either of us, or most familiar with the terrain, would have sought shelter at the first furtive white clouds clustering. We were foolish and had no clue about shelter in these lands — and we knew both truths in our hearts and didn’t fight such things.

Love and apocalypse will make fools and idiots of the best of people. The trade-off was more than worth it. I had her and lived with abandon since the first days of ruin of empires. I never asked her what her thoughts might be about the two of us together; I took it for granted she felt the same, else why would she cling to me so?

“You know what happened?” I asked.

She shook her long dark hair that fell in large cascade curls around her shoulders. Mac had always colored her hair before the shit hit the fans, said she’d be damned if she let the grey show until she couldn’t hide it any longer. Then things went sideways with the world and, like everything else everyone had always done that was less about survival and more about youth, she let it fall to the wayside without another word. She hadn’t instructed me, but I knew it was not something she’d acknowledge, even had I the temerity to bring it up in conversation. It was a pointless discussion in her mind.

“Of course not, Logan. I just… know. This is not the first time. Nor is it the last. This is part of the cycle. It will happen again.”

No one knew what happened, only that something had. The world has stopped working. Period. There was no way to find out what had happened as a result. When cars, radio, television and phones went tits up, it was impossible to convey information. Nothing worked except for muscle power. It’s as if the industrial revolution had never happened and we’d been left with a trillion tons of useless plastic and glass. Then, the old enmities, left unfettered in the vacuum, thrived and old scores were settled, old tensions allowed to explode.

We were idiots in love, but smart enough to leave the cities before that started to happen. We saw enough of it before we left to know it was high time to get the fuck outta Dodge and we started hoofing it out into the countryside. At first, we had no destination, but then Mac began with her talk about being drawn to a place she described from her dreams. At first I thought it was BS. Then, we started to see the things she said she dreamed about and I there was no way to ignore that something was calling her out west.

Of course, everything that happened to the two of us was plain weird.

“Wyrd,” she would correct me when I said things like that, as if she knew I was spelling the word wrong in my head as I said it. Mac had a way with those kinds of things. She seemed to pick up on word choice and how you articulated a word — especially if it was questionable phrasing.

We’d met on accident. Or so I thought. Trading notes, we quickly discovered we knew much more about each other than seemed possible for two people knowing each other for a matter of days. And then the synchronous thinking a month or two into our relationship. Like conjoined twins sharing a brain, we found ourselves effortless finishing one another’s thoughts. I did a double-take for a long time with each time it occurred — Mac accepted it as a new norm within hours.

“Should we maybe try to find some shelter?” I asked, hitching up the frame backpack to make it more comfortable. I’d need to replace a strap soon or the discomfort would get worse. “That rain is looking… pretty fucking much like a downpour for hours straight.”

She shrugged and adjusted her own pack, glancing backwards at me and flashing one of her killer smiles that always made everything alright.

“We can try,” she said with a smirk. “But we won’t find any around here. I believe we are… what’s the technical term…? Fucked.” She started marching toward the mountains, mere ghosts in the distance and only visible against the contrast of the darkening sky. “Yep, I’m pretty sure we’re already fucked.”

I felt the first large drop of rain against my shoulder, looked up and saw a wall of rain heading towards us and had to agree.

Normal caveats apply here, folks. This is first draft with minimal editing, written by the seat of my pants, and I had no clue where I would end up when I started. There may be errors [edit: may, LOL] and I may fix those errors, or I may leave them. This is not intended to be a polished piece.

Photo by Lachlan Ross on Pexels.com

key: spiral-dancing

dead souls —

©2021 Michael Raven

in this lonely place of
pictures' accusatory eyes
we walk, dead souls
shuffling down dusty halls
caught with cobwebbed sighs
every creak drawing faces
staring for source
in the molasses slowly
seeing unchangings
the march focus returns
as we go on and on and on

Someone take these dreams away
That point me to another day
A duel of personalities
That stretch all true realities

They keep calling me…

Ian Curtis (Joy Division), Dead Souls

the graveyard shift
& the jaundiced yellow lights
painting the wet pavement sick
it was him
& the downtown street only
as he walked the

“In his mind, nothing could be more delightful than to live in solitude, and enjoy the spectacle of nature, and sometimes read some book or other.”

Nikolai Gogol, Dead Souls

It was closing time at the bar and the lights had come up. Jan wasn’t about to move his ass just on account of it being closing time as the CC — he still had half a brewskie to finish, and Lori was disinclined to give him a nudge out the door like the manager would have insisted, had he been around. But Larry had gone and done broke his leg and, instead of being at the bar to poke, prod and basically push Jan out the door and it was Lori’s call. And, because part of her still had a residual crush on Jan, although both of them were well past the age where such things as crushes were considered proper, she let him sit there and sip at the beer that she’d served him later than she should have.

Doug, for his part, was spreading the spilled beer and cigarette butts on the floor into a more uniform disgusting for the next day’s worth of drunken reverie. Again, Larry’s absence was acutely felt as cleanliness standards would attest when the doors were locked. Doug added ashes to the swill of his own, smoking as he swished the floors in some pattern only discernible to him.

Lori walked over to the flickering OPEN light and pulled the chain to shut it off. The jukebox played stopped playing something by Black Flag or the Dead Kennedys — Lori could never tell the two apart. She would have felt bad for whomever paid for the songs they wouldn’t hear, but she’d gotten over that after the first year of working the CC. People always seemed to plug the jukebox full of coins at the end of the evening, as they grew maudlin and sentimental about whatever sad things they found in the bottom of their glasses — the lost loves, the missed trains, whatever the fuck they thought they’d missed out. Lori was no different.

She went to unplug the juke for the night, but hesitated as the next song started.

Well a person can work up a mean mean thirst...

Lori felt a hand on her shoulder as she stood in front of the jukebox. When she turned, she saw it belonged to Jan.

“Lor,” he said softly. “Could I bother you for this dance?”

She couldn’t think of a good reason not to, so she gave Jan a clumsy curtsy, wrapped her arms around his neck and they began to sway.

Everybody wants to be someone's here
Someone's gonna show up, never fear
'Cause here comes a regular
Call out your name
Here comes a regular...

Doug watched, a crooked grin in place of where folks wear a smile, leaning on the mop handle and oblivious to the burned-out remnant of his cigarette as the music played.


©2019-2021 Michael Raven

“If you value both your eyes,” said the old hag with her cataract-clouded gaze, “I would not seek the wisdom of ash, oak, and thorn. I would go back to your woman and give her a life of lust, children and laughter. The path you walk leads only to despair, for that is the gift this knowledge brings.”

He smartly rapped the head of the staff on the table, causing the soils cast for the geomancy to jitter-dance on the surface.

“Damn your caution, spell-singer,” he said, voice gruff with the journey’s fatigue. “I’ll give both of my eyes if it gives my people the means to battle the Rime. Now tell me how to find the answers I seek, or I’ll beat them out of you.”

She shook her head. So young. So stupid. The answers he sought were not the answers, but he had already decided she was clueless, though he’d sought her guidance.

Sighing. “You must die before you get answers, and it will be an eye you shall surrender.”

She showed him a map of the place he needed to visit and watched him leave without so much as thanks or by-your-leave.

Impetuous youths.

Another social flashfict from this day in 2019. Minor revisions and additions. Mostly cleanup. More in the fantasy vein than the new weird, but elements of both. I had plotted out a portion of a longer novel involving some of these concepts — namely the threat of “The Rime”, which is not explained here and not really needing an explanation. Maybe I’ll get back to that novel, however unlikely.

Image Source: https://www.mortusviventi.com/products/hanged-man-patch

Old growth.

©2019-2021 Michael Raven

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Pexels.com

Through the tangled skein of grandeval forest undergrowth, soft with moss and grasping at ankles, we crawled in the gloaming cast by the canopy of tall sentinels: oak and ash tangled in the ancient embrace of warring wood over some forgotten transgression obfuscated by the fog of time. And still, those trees struggled as we writhed to traverse the corpses of their fallen compatriots from the aeons before.

“The map,” said Lucy, her hand opening and closing for its surrender to her possession.

Olivia sighted and pulled it out of her breast pocket, lines and symbols showing where the old road was said to be viewable inside the plastic zip-closed bag. I leaned against one of the ancient trunks and smoked as Lucy sorted it all out.

In my amateur estimation, the map seemed more deception than truth. But nobody thought to ask me and I didn’t bother to offer up an opinion that would be sneered and snorted away. Instead, I drank stale, warm water from my canteen while Lucy examined our progress, or lack thereof.

After several moments of careful scrutiny, Lucy let her hand hold the map drop to her side as she scanned the dense forest.

“I’m afraid,” she said softy, “I’ve managed to get us lost.”

While the admission was a surprise, being lost was not.

Yet another FB flashfict from 2019. Light editing, per usual. Still file under: new weird.


©2019-2021 Michael Raven

“I wakened him from his slumber to bring forth a more teleiotic, a more verdant world, to ameliorate this flawed, fetid cesspit of humankind — to free the Earth and all her children from the shackles of humanity!”

He raged from the mound of wood built around his emaciated body, dressed in little more than rags and ribbons of cloth, exposed flesh crossed with angry red marks sketched on his skin by the rocks thrown by both guttersnipes and more than a few people normally thought to be above such things.

“You may eradicate me from the plane, but I walk with the master!” he shouted, voice ragged from doing this all night. “Yea, I walk with the master and he will repay me by snatching me from this realm and placing me in another as a reward for my actions! You cannot kill me, for the master watches over me and protects me! Y’AI’NG’NGAH YOG-SOTHOTH H’EE-L’GEB F’AI THRODOG UAAAH!”

The torchbearer, at the signal of the mayor, started the slow processional to the man tied to the stake, flames licking the air in anticipation of the feast it was about to consume.

I was apparently a busy guy during this period of 2019, trying to get folks to read my writing on FB and getting mostly crickets. There’s probably a lesson to be learned, but I’m too stupid to pick up on it, so you get to re-read a lightly edited version of the story two years later, to the day. File under: Cthulhu Mythos.

Sitting geometries.

©2019-2021 Michael Raven

More than the alchemical formula he’d found pressed between the leaves of a leather-bound book he’d picked up at an estate sale; more than the elaborate eldritch diagrams he’d cast in salt and pigeons’ blood on the otherwise austere cupula of the otherwise abandoned mansion filled to the bring in the lower levels with needles, addicts, and angst he’d broken into along 4th Street; more than the incense and the words — it was the demands on his sitzfleisch, in his patient sitting as he fell into the world between worlds. Journeys such as these could never be rushed, but merely endured as one watched the geometries align and the universe suddenly fall away on either side.

More social media flash fiction from 2019; another attempt at the “new weird” genre. Lightly edited this time around. OED word of the day used for inspiration was sitzfleisch, which essentially means “buttocks”. It doesn’t fit well, but I kept it in all the same to express the challenges with using the OED word of the day for a prompt.


©2019-2021 Michael Raven

“This day is so full of stronk! I can’t believe this is happening to me.”

Lee kicked the crate full of tribbles threatening to explode in the cargo bay.

“Full of what?” Ted asked, shaking his head in confusion.


“Is that even a word?”

Lee forgot about the exploding tribble population for the time being, for he reveled in those times he could show off his superior knowledge of vocabulary. This was one of those precious opportunities presenting itself and he was not about to let it go to waste.

“Of course. I get daily words waved to my cabin every morning and that was the word of the day just yesterday.”

Ted was unconvinced.

“I still don’t think you’re using it right. Nobody says something like, ‘this day is full of stronk’. I mean ever.”

“Dude… While you are jacking off to girly magazines in your bunk, I’m taking that same time to better myself every morning. You don’t have the authority to judge my knowledge of the English language.”

Ted was about to reply when the crate exploded and filled the cargo bay with love and pink fur.

Yet another social media flash fiction piece originally penned two years ago today and modestly re-edited for this post. For the record, “stronk” was the OED word of the day and I intentionally had Lee misuse it because, as I noted in the original post, my day “needs more cowbell”. The word, according to several sources, is a humorous and unintentional slang misspelling of the word “strong”. Thank you internets.


©2019-2021 Michael Raven

“Why is it that medicine men always choose to live so damned far away from the villages they serve?” Harlow muttered under his breath.

He was tired of the jungle trying to eat him while he walked through it, whether it was bugs, large cats, snakes or tiny fish in the river’s waters with teeth much bigger than made any kind of sense at all.

“Not medicine man,” Alejo replied in his rough English. “Is brujo.”

Harlow’s translator and guide had come highly recommended by the University, but he’d found the man barely adequate and hardly fluent in English. Harlow couldn’t wait to get back to civilization so he could have a real conversation with someone less… subhuman.

“Whatever — the man we who has the formulation I need.”

Alejo nodded briskly. “He have. They all say.” Harlow couldn’t help but think he sensed that his guide wanted to be quit of him as well and was moderately offended by the realization. He let it pass. Alejo would be a distant memory soon.

“Well, let’s hope he’ll trade for it. I’ve waited long enough to explore the realms Alhazred mentions in his damnable book. I grow weary of these false leads.”

“This brujo has; they all say,” insisted the guide. “You dream-walk when we get back to Santarem, you want. Soon.”

“I’ll damned well dream-walk tonight back at the village if I want.”

Alejo stopped and shook his head vigorously, aghast at the idea.

“You do that, the villagers will kill you. They no want you to bring back the hounds when you are done and they think you die in dream-walk, the hounds not come. Santarem is better. There, they not know dream-walk or hounds…”

Another bit of social media flashfict, originally posted two years ago today. I took a heavier hand in editing this time around, as I felt a few things needed more clarification. Please note: while I employed some racial stereotyping from the age of weird fiction (1920s-1950s) in terms of Alejo’s pidgin English, it was an intentional artistic decision based on emulating the feel of that genre, not an actually held bias on my part. As you can tell from these social media flashfict stories, I was writing a lot of pieces at the time that were inspired by weird fiction from the likes of Lovecraft, Howard, Ashton Smith, Machen, etc. In many ways, I feel my weird fiction attempts are largely more successful than my fantasy fiction efforts. I should probably stick to weird or what I call “vignette” short fiction, which I consider to be more “Polaroid” snapshots of daily life — I have not posted many of those types of stories here.


©2019-2021 Michael Raven

He’d barely turned the key when the chimeric visions fell in layered veils over his sight, already hinting at what lay beyond the liminal threshold he was about to cross The gut wretch, a fellifluous and acid burning of the lower chakras, as the tumbler turned and the scribed door swung away from Llew.

He had second thoughts, but knew it was well beyond the time for second thoughts. So he crammed those fears into that place deep within where they could shriek in the silence within, unheard.

The gateway yawned before him, multicoloured and writhing, the angles turning in on themselves.

Llew didn’t believe in Heaven, but he feared his next step would confirm his suspicions about Hell.

Again, it was too late to reconsider. To walk away now would leave this door open and, eventually, something from the other side would notice and come forth. And, tethered as he was to the portal now that he’d opened it, that something would follow that gossamer-thin thread to him and his life forfeit. The price to close the door once opened was passage. So he stepped forth, letting the door slam behind him as he fell in space to wherever he might land.

Yet another social media flash fict effort published two years ago today, with minimal editing once transcribed here. OED word of the day used as trigger was “fellifluous”.

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