Friday, October 26, 2007

Baby Video: Bananas (X2)

Here is a double shot of Laura going bananas.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Baby: Laura Walked!!!

Hooray! She walked! There are no videos or photographs. The only lasting evidence is the memory burned into Erin and my brains for all eternity. I’m just happy we both were around to see it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Movie Review: 1408

1408 is a story about Mike Enslin (John Cusack) who researches the paranormal. He writes books to help people "stay scared," except that he debunks pretty much every ghost story he encounters. As he goes through another pile of offers to stay in haunted B&Bs, he encounters a post card for the Dolphin Hotel in New York that says not to stay in 1408. Of course, he decides that he, in fact, must stay in 1408. We learn, at this point, that Mike has a past that "haunts" him, and before the movie is done he will be forced to confront it despite his best efforts to avoid it.

Overall, this was a good movie. In this day and age, "horror movies" usually fall into three categories. Some are more like bedtime stories for small children with the occasional startling moments. Others attempt to be intellectual, requiring the viewer to think about what is going on. The problem with these is that they shove everything out in plain sight, leaving you nothing to think about. Still others fall into the hack-and-slash bloodfest. Most people have been so desensitized to things in movies of the 80s that these modern horror movies seem anemic in comparison.

1408 was different. I found it creepy and a little bit scary. It was well acted, and must have been well directed. You could really connect with the story alone in the dark. The only thing that left me a little disappointed was the ending. Without giving things away, there is a moment in the movie which completely disrupts the suspension of disbelief. Even still, I would recommend this to anyone who likes a good quality horror-thriller.

Story: The Witch Child of Castle Creek - Part 5

It is a strange sort of feeling being unconscious. It was kind of like a dream, but somehow more real. Michael was walking down the path very quickly… Only, he wasn’t really walking. More accurately, he was flying over the forest floor, as if he was being pulled by some unseen force. He wasn’t entirely sure if something was calling him or he was calling someone. He knew, though, that he must go forward faster. As the trees darted past with increasing frequency, he could hear it now. A tiny voice calling him forward, ever faster. A journey that would have taken days would only take minutes at this speed. The voice continued to call him forward, louder, faster now. The bright spot on ahead told him that he was approaching a clearing. In a moment, he would be standing before the owner of the voice. He could clearly make out the woman’s wispy, smoky voice that was beckoning him. It was saying, “Michael… You must bring your sister to me. I can help you. Come closer now. Faster. Closer.”Then, from somewhere beside or perhaps behind him, Michael heard another voice. It was warm and familiar, wrapping itself around his body, his soul. It somehow seemed more… real. “Michael, wake up. You have to wake up. I need you.” said Arvonia.

His sister was calling him, but how? She couldn’t be here. She was back at the stream and he was about to emerge into the light of the clearing ahead, which somehow seemed much brighter than he had noticed a moment before. In fact, it was so bright that he was forced to squint his eyes to see. As he emerged from the trees, he he broke out onto the soft green grass. The light was so intense now that he was forced to shut them tightly.

His sister was calling him again, “Michael, I need you to open your eyes.” She was crying now. He had to open his eyes, but if he did, he would be blinded by the light. Very slowly, he opened one eye just a crack. It wasn’t as bright now, but everything was blurry. He dared to open his other eye just a little, giving him more focus. He could make out a shadow above him. He was aware, now, that he was lying on his back on the ground. He could smell the earth beneath him. He also realized that his sister’s soft sobs were not the only sounds he could hear. He could hear birds chirping and water flowing. As he opened his eyes a little more, he could make out a fuzzy outline of a tree above him. It was a strange looking tree. As he tried to focus on it, the tree transformed into his sister, crying over him, tears streaming down her tightly shut eyes.

He tried to sit up to hug her. As he did, he felt a sharp throb of pain in the back of his head. He clenched his neck, slumped back down and winced, “umpfh.”

Arvonia’s eyes popped wide open and looked down at Michael. Tears flooded down her cheeks now as she hugged him so tightly that he could barely breathe. Michael felt the same warmth wrapping around his body and soul as he was embraced by his sister.

After a few minutes his sister released him and helped him slowly sit up. He looked around and only saw Bob, seemingly asleep surrounded by a faint blue glow. All of the other thugs seemed to have run off. Unsure of what had happened, Michael was certain it would make an interesting story during the journey ahead, but that would have to wait for tomorrow, because the sun had set now, he had a throbbing pain in his head, and he was sitting next to a glowing man who had recently tried to kidnap his sister.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Story: The Witch Child of Castle Creek - Part 4

Michael and Arvonia made good progress for their first day’s hike. They had gotten well past the castle and into a nice clearing by a stream. After a dinner of hard bread, hard cheese and some wild berries that Arvonia had collected. Their meal of dry and sour left them wanting a drink and their long hike left them wanting a bath, so they disrobed to their undergarments and descended the bank of the stream for a drink and a dip in the cool flowing water.As soon as they entered the water, they heard a voice call out to them, “You shouldn’t let your guard down like that in these parts. There are gangs of thieves and murderers that roam around these parts.” The sound seemed to come from somewhere above them in the trees.

Confused and panicked at the realization that they were not alone, Michael grabbed Arvonia and started back to the bank. “That’s far enough.” said the voice, as half a dozen men with knives and axes stepped out from behind the trees of the clearing.

As Michael was assessing the situation for a means of safe escape, the owner of the voice swung down from the trees into the shallow edge of the stream. “Allow me to introduce myself. The name is Tarrington. People call me Bob.” said the man.

Now that Michael could see him, ‘Bob’ looked much more refined than his cohorts. While his gang looked like beggars or thieves, Bob looked like he could be a shopkeeper back in the village, although he was quite a bit dirtier than any shopkeeper Michael had ever seen. Michael glanced around, looking for a way out of this situation. Their clothes and food were up on the edge of the bank with the gang. The only way out was back across the stream, but he was sure they wouldn’t make it far. Almost as if Bob was reading Michael’s mind, he said, “If you were thinking of going back across the stream, you will find that there is much worse than us over there.”

Bob continued, “Why don’t you just come up here slowly. You can dry off and put your clothes on too.”

They did as they were told, but Michael made sure that Arvonia was well behind him. As they dressed, Bob said, “I will, of course, be needing your money.” Michael handed over his coin pouch to the nearest gang member’s outstretched hand. “Also, I will be needing one other thing from you.” said Bob. As he said this, the same thug that took the purse, grabbed Arvonia.

She squealed with terror. Michael lunged at him, but another gang member grabbed him by his neck and hoisted him in the air. “Put me down!” Arvonia shrieked. She struggled and kicked. Another thug moved to help restrain her. This was enough of a distraction for Michael to break free of his subduer. Fists blazing, he sprang forward at the man holding his sister. His assault was that of a teenage boy who has never truly fought before. It was fast, but scattered with very little power behind each of the rapid punches, but it was enough to cause him to drop Arvonia. Michael said, “Run!” to his sister as the rest of the gang approached.

Michael saw his sister start to run away, looking back as she did. One of the gang picked up a small club-like stick and raised it over his head. Michael saw Arvonia turn around and yell, “Nooooo!” as he felt a sharp pain impact with the back of his head and everything went black.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Story: The Witch Child of Castle Creek - Part 3

Traveling is usually simple, direct, straightforward and uneventful. Occasionally, the unexpected happens. When one member of the party is a small, yet eager girl with special “abilities,” the unexpected occurs much more frequently. So it went for Michael and Arvonia.Arvonia was a bundle of elation and excitement. She was ready to plow forward to places unknown. Michael, on the other hand, was more reserved and uncertain. A very short time after they set out, they would need to pass by the one place Michael had not been in eight years.

Ever since that fateful night, when Arvonia had come into their lives, all residents of the village were forbidden to go to the castle ruins. If you had business outside of the village, you were required to take an approved escort to ensure you would not venture near the ruins. The escort would then wait for you to return in order to maintain your compliance with the directives on the way back down the path.

Michael never would have needed an escort. He still had a faint scar around his ankle where the rope had worn through his skin eight years earlier to remind him not to go near the ruins. On Michael’s sixteenth birthday he had registered to become an escort now that he had reached the minimum age. As such, it was with apprehension that Michael led his sister up the path past the castle where his sister had briefly lived.

Arvonia, on the other hand was ready to boldly march up the unknown path to new adventures. She had never been allowed beyond the edge of the forest at the village limits. With each new bend in the road, she found something new and interesting to examine. She was constantly running here to there saying things like, “Look at those mushrooms!” and, “Oh, Michael! I found a toad!”

Michael was already exhausted from this start of their journey as they approached the castle. He wasn’t sure what to expect. Would the place still look the same? How would Arvonia act when she saw the ruins? She would want to explore it, of course, but would she take, “no,” for an answer?

Fortunately for Michael, it wasn’t an issue. The place did not look like it had eight years ago. With Evelyn gone, the saplings had turned into a stand of small trees. The dark green moss and lichens had helped the walls camouflage perfectly with the canopy of leaves from the copse. When Arvonia went scurrying up the path chasing after a chipmunk, she didn’t even notice her former home.

Relieved at his good fortune, Michael trotted up the path after his sister certain that this was a sign of good things to come on their journey. Time would prove him wrong. In fact, in hindsight, this would be one of the only good things that actually happened on their entire journey.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Random Thoughts: Where did the time go?

I am finding it hard to have enough time to do the things I want. I know it will only be temporary. When Laura is old enough to entertain herself safely for an extended period of time, I will be able to get more done in the day. The problem is that I have current things that I need/want to do now, as opposed to months/years from now. I really need to write part 3 to my story. I would really like to run at least 3 times a week, preferably every other day. I would really, really like to spend some time working on my 38 Cadillac. You get the idea.

I was thinking about ideas to encourage these things to happen with consistency. I am considering getting a treadmill, possibly as a joint thing for Xmas. Also, I have thought about starting an "affinity group" (LM-BigWord for an interest group) for car repair/restoration. Lastly, I was thinking of waking up half an hour earlier so that I can write 5-7 days a week.

I might not do so well with that last one. I have time at night to get things done, but after dinner, baby bath/dinner cleanup, and the limited prime-time TV that I watch, I don't want to go back down to the cold, damp office or garage, alone, to write or work on the car. Of course, with the last story, that is exactly what I did. Maybe I will start doing that. With any luck, I will work on/finish "The Witch Child of Castle Creek - Part 3" before the end of the week.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Story: The Witch Child of Castle Creek - Part 2

Many people who have babies will tell you that things can be trying at times. It takes a special kind of person to choose to raise a baby. It takes an even more special person to not run away screaming when they find out what it is really like. Considering that there is a biological imperative to have children in all of us, it is even more impressive when someone chooses to adopt a child. Given the events of that fateful night eight years ago, there was no other option.The young boy, who is called Michael, had insisted on it. It was, after all, he who found her. While he walked through the doorway and retrieved the baby, everyone else stood around staring at each other. To him, he had found his sister. To his parents, however, the baby was a constant reminder of what had happened.

Michael didn’t know exactly what had occurred. He heard a lot of screaming and yelling, but when he was finally released from his bond, all he saw was a group of the townspeople covered in red paint. He had assumed that Evelyn had dumped a bucket of it on them before she ran away and his parents were not about to correct his assumptions.

Even at the young age of 8, Michael could tell that this little girl was in need of protection. He, being a brave and wonderful child, had taken it upon himself to be her protector. Initially, his father and the town’s people planned to leave the baby in the ruins under the theory that “Evelyn will come back for her baby.” Michael wouldn’t leave the spot. Even with several people trying to drag him, he struggled and squirmed his way free and back to the baby’s side. After a couple days back to a “normal life,” his parents had decided to bring her to an orphanage that was several days travel from the village. In response, he took her from her bassinet and locked himself inside a closet until they agreed to not to send her away. After several more attempts to “get rid of her,” they decided to accept Michael’s resolve to protect her.

The adoption raised many eyebrows in town. People were always mumbling things under their breath as they walked past. The clerk who recorded the adoption must have asked half a dozen times if they were sure they really wanted to do this. One glance at Michael told them that, in fact, they must. For the adoption, it was necessary to select a name. The clerk who was recording the adoption suggested, “Arvonia, after her mother… to remind us all where she came from.” As painful as this was to the parents, it also had a certain degree of logic to it so they agreed.

The name ‘Arvonia’ was a good suggestion. Her eyes were the same brilliant green that her mother had. When it grew in, her hair was a shocking red that filled in to the same perfect auburn colored hair too. Her personality, on the other hand, was perfectly pleasant. Like all babies, she cried when she wanted something and didn’t do much other than eat, sleep and poop. She was a completely normal with one exception. When she was quite upset, and a consoling parent would carry her past a lamp, the light would go out. As soon as Arvonia was consoled, the light would return.

Arvonia had an interesting childhood. Her solitary abnormality was joined by additional “abilities” over which she had no control. When she was two, she developed the ability to cause water to turn bright green like her eyes. When she was three, she found that she could have perfectly pleasant conversations with squirrels about all things nut and tree related.

One particular day at the tender age of seven, she discovered the unfortunate fact that if she swirled her left index finger in a pool, frogs would swim to the edge and leap out at her, clinging to her like a frog coat. That proved to be an interesting day when she walked home covered in frogs. She had to explain that it was a costume for a school play. She didn’t think that the passers-by believed her. Most likely because they couldn’t imagine a school play that involved a girl covered in live frogs.

By her eighth birthday, she was becoming a danger to those around her. A tree branch broke and fell at the feet of another child with whom she had been arguing at the time. Another time, a water barrel burst flooding water into the neighbor’s kitchen when he caught her sneaking apples from his tree. The worst thing, though, happened when Uncle Joe, feeling parental, decided to punish Arvonia, for a minor disobedience, with a belt. He somehow tripped in a hole that hadn’t been there a moment earlier and broke his ankle. He was incapacitated for eight weeks while it healed and the whole time, he would insist that people listen to him talk about how Arvonia was evil.

Of course, her parents knew that Arvonia was not evil in any way. Even with this, they felt they had to do something to make sure she wasn’t a danger to herself or others. They decided to task Michael, still her protector even though he was now sixteen, to take her to a ’special’ doctor in a town that was fifty miles away over moderate terrain. Walking with his sister, this would likely take at least ten days so they would need food and provisions to last them a while. All this time, Michael had been developing into a strong and able young man, so this was a perfectly fine opportunity for him to be able to prove himself to his parents.

Three weeks after her eighth birthday, they packed one large pack for Michael and one small pack for Arvonia. Their parents kissed each of them on the cheeks so many times that both children were thoroughly moist. Finally, with many tears from their parents, Michael and Arvonia set off together up the winding path through the forest and onto their journey.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Story: The Witch Child of Castle Creek - Part 1

Near the small village of Castle Creek, up a hill and through a forest, were the ruined remains of a castle. The castle, dark and old, was built over a creek, with a small archway for the water to flow through. Long abandoned by those who built it, the center portion was the only part still covered by a roof, the rest long tumbled down. In this center section lived a woman, named Evelyn Arvon who was despised by much of the village. She claimed that the castle belonged to her, which no one could dispute. It was in these ruins eight years earlier where the events of this story begin.

When referring to Evelyn, it is not explanatory enough to just refer to her as a woman because there was so much more to her than her gender. She was evil. She was vile. In fact, there was not a single redeeming characteristic that was apparent in her words and actions. Her appearance, on the other hand, was another story. She was noticed by everyone who first saw her. She would turn heads of men and women, alike. She was above average height, but not too tall. She had enough fat on her body that she had curves in all the right places. She had the most perfect shade of auburn hair with just enough waviness that it could not be called straight or curly. Her eyes were as green as flawless emeralds with flecks of gold that shone in the sun. In short, she was gorgeous.

One other characteristic she possessed was the plain and simple fact that she was a dark witch. This was known very well by the people of Castle Creek. She made no effort to hide her practice of the black arts. She would frequently be seen buying entrails and blood at the local butcher shop. The light of a fire and the putrid smells of her cauldron were always present at the ruined castle.

Generally, Evelyn kept to herself. She only interacted with people out of requirement. Outside of shopping, her only interaction was chasing and cursing people who would trespass on her land. It was this habit that caused her untimely death and the events that followed.

A young boy had accepted the dare of his teenage brother’s friend. He agreed to sneak up and touch the wall of the ruins and, in exchange, he would receive five silver coins. It was a stupid thing to do. The boy’s brother said so, but the promise of five pieces of silver and the respect that he would earn from the older boys was too much to pass up.

No one had expected him to do it. They all figured that he would get scared and run away before he got within half a mile. Even though he was terrified, the boy walked up slowly and cautiously. The building looked dark and foreboding with the sun hanging low in the sky behind it, but he continued to walk. Finally, he stood within arm’s reach of the wall staring at it both surprised and relieved that he had completed his task. He reached his arm out and touched the wall. With a smile on his face that stretched ear to ear, he turned around and started walking confidently back to his brother and his brother’s friend. Before he had walked ten paces, Evelyn leaped from around the corner of the ruins carrying an axe. She ran, screaming curses as she went, and grabbed the young boy by the back of his shirt collar.

As she subdued the young boy, she turned her attention to the older boys who were frozen in shock. She screamed, “I’ll show you what I do to scum like you! You tainted my wall with your filthy hands!” She walked back towards the corner of the building dragging the boy behind her. As she passed around the corner of the building, the two older boys could see the elongated shadows on the ground. They saw her silhouette shove the boy to the ground as she raised the axe. As she did this, the young boy screamed. As the dark shadow of the axe started its decent, the two older boys looked in horror. They instinctively looked away at the last moment, only to hear the awful ‘Schunk’ sound as the blade sunk deep into a wooden chopping block.

In the silence that followed, the two older boys had only one thought in their heads. As they put that thought into action, they turned and ran at a full sprint back to the village. Both boys had no time to think. They were running on pure adrenaline. They reached the village and collapsed at the knees of the first person they encountered. They cried for several minutes. They were sobbing intensely. Occasionally, enough sound would escape their mouths, that passers by could tell there was something seriously wrong. As a crowd gathered, the boys regained some control over their emotions.

As they recounted their horrific experiences, the villagers grew more and more outraged. There was a general sense of urgency to act and seek retribution. People were saying things like, “We have to stop that monster!” and “Imagine what she’s doing to that poor boy’s body.”

In no time at all, a mob had formed. People armed themselves with all manor of blunt and bladed weapons. Some people we carrying torches now that the sun had set. It was a sinister looking crowd of people who were less human and more blood-thirsty animals.

It was eerie how quiet it was. The soft footfalls quieted the surrounding wildlife. No one spoke as they marched through the forest along the creek. The only sounds would footsteps and breathing. After walking for several miles, the crowd approached the castle.

It would seem like the witch had been expecting them. She was standing in her doorway with a large kitchen knife dripping with blood. As the mob came upon her, they stopped in their tracks. Both sides were silent. They were sizing each other up. The mob had the appearance of pack animals. They were ready to drive Evelyn back to the pack, should she try to escape. Evelyn, on the other hand, was like cornered prey. She was ready to fight to the death even though she stood no chance.

In situations like this, no one seems to remember who struck first. Was it the mob? Was it the witch? Did someone sneeze and startle the already tense crowd? In the end, it was only a debate point… Something to argue about when people felt remorse and were trying to justify their actions. This, of course, was a ridiculous idea because of the pure carnage that occurred.

The first strikes came from sticks and rocks. Evelyn made a couple of good slashes with her knife before she dropped it, although none of them were lethal. Surprisingly, she managed to dodge or deflect most of the blows with her hands and arms. Eventually, she dropped her knife and was just swinging her hands and kicking her feet wildly, thrashing furiously at anything that might enter her reach. When the crowd became more engaged, it looked more primal. She was punched in the face, causing her to drop to her knees. Someone kicked her in the head, and another person grabbed her wrist and pulled her to a standing position in the center of the pack. People were grabbing and clawing and biting and pulling at every part of Evelyn’s body like hyenas on a fresh kill. They literally tore her apart, senselessly beating and stomping her various bits of flesh into the ground as if they could somehow kill her more thoroughly.

The pure blood lust didn’t subside until people started to fall back in exhaustion. As they paused for that moment, they started to realize what they had just done. Some stood there feeling righteous. Some began quietly crying, while others were silent. All of them, however, were speechless.

At that moment, the sound of a young boy calling, “Hello? Is someone there? Why won’t you answer me? Please, I need help.” came from around the corner of the ruins.

One of the mob members instantly recognized his son’s voice echo in the night air. Unsure of whether the man should believe his own ears, he walked to the edge of the structure and peered around the corner. What he saw was his son, having been presumed dead, tied around the ankle with a bucket and brush beside him. An axe was wedged deeply into a tree trunk to which the rope was securely tied. The boy had been scrubbing the wall over and over again and his hands were blistered and his ankle was red and raw. The father, unable to remove the axe from the trunk, cut the rope freeing his son.

As the man reappeared from around the wall with his son, the crowd made a sound that was something like a cross between extreme joy and extreme terror. At this noise, a second sound was heard. This sound was so foreign to this group of blood-covered band of people who had just committed an unspeakable act. It was a sound that was so pure and simple that none of them could comprehend it. Only the boy had been unaffected by the events that happened in his name and recognized, at once, the sound of Evelyn’s baby crying.